I have a special relationship with ‘Lost in Translation’, as when I watched it, I was going under some personal issues. I recall that I went with my parents to watch it (because no one else wanted to do it and my mom enjoys going to the cinema) and when it ended, as ‘Just like honey’ sounded along the rolling credits I told them: “that’s what Tokyo looks like… and that´s how I feel most of the time.” And they understood. Never a movie so far had explained better for me the level of isolation and need to connect that one can feel on a bad period of life.
As Roger Ebert put it:
“”‘Lost in Translation’” offers an experience in the exercise of empathy.”
It’s often decried that the movie is about nothing, or confused with a romantic comedy. I say no to the first assertion and might agree partially to the second one. ‘Lost in Translation’, in my opinion, is a character study between two people that feel isolated and find a kindred soul to share said isolation, through mutual understanding of their different circumstances. The movie is about both: personal introspection on the dual questions of ‘what am I doing with my life/what am I doing here?’ and the sense of isolation and impersonality created by a being in a foreign place or in a big city.
Anyone that has moved abroad to study or live could agree that the first months there feel like this until you manage to make human connections. An even then, the feeling truly never goes away. Regardless of what Bob told Charlotte in that famous final scene, both made a connection, both grew up as persons and both realized things about them that couldn’t figure it alone, but couldn’t figure it with a relative either. It was through breaking that wall of isolation that they found what was literally ‘Lost in Translation’ in their personal lives.
I was thinking about this movie recently, as I drafted a list of my 10 favorite movies, and recalling it made me think something we, as writers, tend to forget: character’s internal growth or introspection. Due to a variety of reasons, readers and writers –including myself- tend to skip the calmer moments of a story, in search of the next action beat. When I was showing to some friends the outline for the Tempest Blades sequel, one pointed that a chapter describing a training period could cut the flow of the action. But I’m planning to leave for now said chapter. I’m not interested in the training part per se, but in the connection between characters to make the protagonist look inside and realize some things he needs to solve inside his head and heart before moving to the next stage. The whole theme of the book is about that learning.
I have a particular fondness for that kind of bittersweet, slow stories because they offer a window to the soul of a character (or characters) and the kind of inner exploration we rarely give even to ourselves. We have grown accustomed to hectic lifestyles where we forgo the time to look inside and reach outside. And our characters reflect that.
Regardless of whether we add or not quieter, slower scenes of introspection –scenes that some readers can say are about nothing- to our action-packed or politically intriguing stories, we as writers can and have to do it. Even if it’s something that will remain in our notebooks, part of the hinted background of a character. Allowing ourselves to help our characters to go through this introspection, through this ‘exercise of empathy’, I believe, would allow us as writers to create more believable characters.
Characters that can react with a certain amount of believability to what we as might gods of fate throw at them. We write about actions but rarely dwell on consequences. The actions of our characters change the world –relative to scale and theme of course- but are also changed by them, for what’s life but constant change. In ‘Lost in Translation’, Bob and Charlotte are being changed by their current circumstances as well as their previous personal histories. The introspection they are subjected by the events depicted in the film force them to come to terms to what has traversed and move on to the next stage. Our characters, regardless of the genre we are writing (well, perhaps not in horror because odds are they will be dead by the end), need to go through the same process, even if it’s never to be depicted in the story and takes place only in our heads. But by doing it, we can write them better and thus, the story is improved.
We are not cardboard beings, nor should our characters be. Maybe that’s why is taking me so long to start writing the sequel because I need to figure out how much my characters have changed inside by the events of the first book in order to show where they are moving. I did this exercise for the main characters of my short stories ‘Asherah’s Pilgrimage’ and ‘No-sell’ (both to be published this year in different anthologies) and I think it improved them. At least made me understand better their motivations so I could try to portray them as needed. I hope I did achieve that. Because now I want to try that at a larger scale. I’m connecting with my characters in order to understand their particular isolation and thus understand what they are looking for, so the plot is better serviced by that.
‘Lost in Translation’ will always have a special place in my heart. And now I realize, in the list of influences I have.
Earlier today, someone at the FB writers’ group to which I belong, asked (and I quote):
“I have long been assured that ‘Science Fantasy’ is a ‘thing’? So why can’t I find this genre in the BISAC fiction codes?”
It’s an interesting and fair question, moreover, because it is a discussion my publisher and I have had regarding under which genre list my novel at Amazon (ultimately, the distributor opted for Science Fiction, which well, might work, although I still argue it is Science Fantasy or Futuristic Fantasy).
So I replied the following. Bear in mind that this is what I recall from several consultations at the usual sites (Wikipedia, TV Tropes), The Complete Guide to Fantasy Subgenres by Best Fantasy Books, my recollections of Issac Asimov’s essay compilation and my own readings.
Currently, it is difficult to get a clear cut classification of Science Fantasy for two reasons:
1) As shown in the Complete Guide to… there are tons of Fantasy subgenres, and if you recall my previousposts on Science Fantasy, I see it more as a grading scale. So they often get mixed between them and with Science Fiction, that has become an umbrella term for the general public and thus, for several bookstores.
2) History. So sit down, grab a cup of coffee and listen to old uncle Ricardo explain it the best he can:
Originally Science Fantasy was published in the same magazines as Weird Fiction and original Heroic Fantasy (think Lovecraft for the former, Robert E. Howard for the later) during the ’20s and ’30s. Often got confused with straight fantasy, being fantasy an umbrella term for non-literary work or noir. That’s why you get things like the Cthulhu Mythos that mix horror, magic and science or stuff like Planetary Romances such as ‘John Carter of Mars.’
Science Fiction as we know it today was a counterproposal of that, encouraged by John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, who as per Asimov’s recollection, was adamant of having sound scientific knowledge behind every story he published (what we now know as Hard Science Fiction). It slowly pushed away from the mixture of genres and laid out the rules of what we know now as classic Science Fiction (Asimov, Heinlen, and Clarke). But if you read their older work, especially of authors like Bradbury, many of them wrote still a mix of Fantasy and SF.
With the advent of LOTR in the later part of the ’50s ( trivia time: incidentally helping to create the environmental movement), the division between Science Fiction and Fantasy became more entrenched. And the weird/horror part of the mix got separated into horror and the new weird (Charlie Stross for example). But if you notice, for example, some of the works of Stephen King go back to those roots (The Dark Tower, The Stand even It). But for many years, authors and readers tried to keep them separated, although there are stories that get them mixed.
You have cases where authors adamantly said their work belonged to one or the other, which was the case of Anne McCaffrey and the Dragonriders of Pern series (she might say it was straight SF, but they read like fantasy to me). Authors that started writing their sagas as fantasy and through connecting them with their other work or as result of worldbuilding created fantasy worlds in post-apocalyptic future Earth, like Terry Brooks and the Shannara series or The Book of Swords Series by Fred Saberhagen. Finally, the third group of authors never bothered with such divisions, instead of looking for the best mix of elements to tell the story at hand, like Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series or Roger Zelazny and his various works, like was the case of Creatures of Light and Darkness or Lord of Light. And then you have authors such as Steven Brust of the Dragaera series that abide by the rule of cool as prescribed in the following quote:
“The Cool Stuff Theory of Literature is as follows: All literature consists of whatever the writer thinks is cool. The reader will like the book to the degree that he agrees with the writer about what’s cool. And that works all the way from the external trappings to the level of metaphor, subtext, and the way one uses words. In other words, I happen not to think that full-plate armor and great big honking greatswords are cool. I don’t like ’em. I like cloaks and rapiers. So I write stories with a lot of cloaks and rapiers in ’em, ’cause that’s cool. Guys who like military hardware, who think advanced military hardware is cool, are not gonna jump all over my books, because they have other ideas about what’s cool.
The novel should be understood as a structure built to accommodate the greatest possible amount of cool stuff.”
― Steven Brust
Personally, I abide by that rule too.
So as you can see, Science Fantasy hasn’t truly disappeared, just mutated, sometimes ignored, sometimes confused. The only place where Science Fantasy has been published continually since the ’20s as it’s own genre is in superhero comics (which started as pulp fiction), but now they have their own sub-genre in the literature (in part, thanks to Wild Cards by GRR Martin).
However, its existence has influenced our pop culture in ways are not that obvious. That’s why we have Star Wars and Saturday Morning cartoons from the ’80s (e.g. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors or Thundercats), because Lucas and those other creative artists grew up watching old pulp serials, reading classic comics. For them, the mix of genres was obvious and useful. But the literary world -always influenced by commercial interests and marketing strategies- changes slowly. I recall as a kid, that fantasy was still considered SF in many places (and I’m an 80’s kid) and bookstores still tend to put fantasy books in SF shelves. I recall a bookstore chain in the UK that puts Patrick Rothfuss’Kingkiller Chronicles’ next to Star Trek novels. Because for the general public, they are the same.
There is however one country where Science Fantasy does have its own classification as a literary and cinematic genre: Japan. They do like their eclectic mixes and both their video games and anime show that. We don’t notice because when they get ported this side of the world, they get classified in our rigid system. For example, Dragon Ball started as fantasy (with super advanced technology) and now has aliens fighting deities and androids, with a not so healthy mix of time travel and multiverses. Or Final Fantasy, that started as a somewhat straight fantasy and by VII had megacities, modern tech, spaceships and schizo mix of magic and technology known as magitech.
With the advent of superhero franchises at the cinemas and book adaptations for modern sensibilities, I believe that Science Fantasy is on the rise again, but it will take some time to catch up in renown as its own subgenre.
When I was a pre-teen/teenager and my parents took my sister and me to Walt Disney’s World in the decade of the 90’s, there was a ride I died -pun kinda intended- to ride: The Twilight Zone, Tower of Terror.
Alas, I never got the chance because my family is not into spooky/weird things and despite my dad allowing me to watch the Twilight Zone revival of the 80’s, considered that the ride and the setting were too ‘extreme’ for our malleable minds. In reality, their refusal was mostly, because my sister was afraid of anything spooky and we were there to meet the Disney Princesses and not to be scared. At least I got to spend my time at Star Tours, but that’s another story…
Man, every time I watched this commercial at the hotel I begged to go. I only got as far as the gift shop.
So when my wife and I went to WDW a few years ago for our weeklong celebration of our wedding anniversary, she, in her infinite patience and love, went with me one rainy day to Hollywood Studios and the first thing we did was to enter the Tower of Terror.
Of course, as an adult, the ride wasn’t as shocking as you expected as a kid. And my wife prefers rides that are a bit more extreme -if her back injury allows it-. However, we had a lot of fun. We made a point on going into it, not only due to my past history with the ride as an object of desire, but by that time the California version (to which sadly I have never been to) was going to be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy ride -I admit, GoTG is one of my least favorite movies from MCU- and we wanted to experience the whole Tower before that fate befalls upon it.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a true masterpiece of narrative and worldbuilding. You take a complex concept as the Twilight Zone, through the lens of a haunted house -hotel in this case- and milk it for all its worth to get a good scare from a common nightmare: failing elevator. Add ghosts and its own urban legend about the ghost of a cast member haunting the ride and you have a very unique experience for the lovers of the spooky-kooky.
The lobby looks like a true earlier 20th-century hotel and is cold as hell. The smell of coal and humidity from the boilers downstairs transport you into the moldy feeling of a crappy yet ominous tourist trap hotel. The tv screens that fail, with the ever-present image of Rod Serling and the ghosts, plus the cast members playing the roles supernatural bellboys make you feel like you are actually in an episode of the Twilight Zone. And the view. Once you are in the drop, you can get a wonderful, if brief, view of WDW. If I could, I would write a horror/comedy story about a similar haunted hotel.
From a designer/theme park enthusiast/spooky things aficionado, the whole ride has it all. I personally believe is one of the best rides in terms of theme creation through interior design. And one of the best examples of Emotional design around (like most Disney things).
There are plenty of videos that show you the ride inside and out, in case you can’t visit it. But if you can go, and even better if you visit the park during Halloween season, you definitively should experience it before something happens to it. Like disappearing into another dimension.
Let me preface this entry with the following statement: I love both the original films and the new one (Kate McKinnon as Holtzman is brilliant) as well as the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. Every incarnation brought something different to the table and all are equally good and equally valid so you won’t find any argument to support your ‘complaints’*.
When I was a little kid, one of my older cousins, who worked for a cinema magazine gave me a copy of their latest issue, that was entirely dedicated to promoting the original Ghostbusters film. He thought that magazine would be a good help for me to practice my reading. Which it did. The magazine was mostly composed by interviews with the main cast, the set and FX designers (which I guess was a sign for me to study design) and how they came about with the concept. Later on, my dad managed to procure a copy of the film in one of those rental places and I think I watched the film like 4 times before returning the tape. Then a local channel kept it in the rotation for years, until the cartoon and the sequel appeared (I got to watch the sequel at the cinema). Since then, I try to watch it at least on Halloween every year -now is a marathon of the three films-. I have played the video games, have a couple of toys, comics, and books. I can say that I know the story like the back of my hand. And probably quote the first film most of the time in random conversations.
“Ray, When Someone Asks If You’re a God, You Say YES.”- Winston
Like now. Yeah, I’m that guy. As for the record, I think that one is the best line of the whole movie.
So as you can surmise, this is one of my favorite films (only topped by the 90’s TMNT film). I wanted to work as Ghostbuster, which explains the eclectic part book collection of physics and the occult. For me the whole explanation of how high energy physics could be used to explain and deal with the paranormal in a very coherent way (within the movie’s universe) made perfect sense. Having an engineer dad that was also a Star Trek fan helped, as he explained to me (or simply gave me the books, like A Brief History of Time) some of the basic concepts of what Ray, Egon -and years later Jillian, Abby, and Erin- were saying.
“Well, let’s say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. According to this morning’s sample it would be a Twinkie…thirty-five feet long weighing approximately six-hundred pounds.” -Egon.
Knowing that the quote was part of a longer explanation of the inflationary universe theory and how it made our reality prone to paranormal incursions, more or less, makes have even more respect for the whole concept of mixing science with magic. This is where my inspiration to make my own mix of science and magic for my stories comes from. The cartoon really expanded onto it, courtesy of the always super work of JMS.
However, the lesson I take from the first Ghostbusters film (a lesson more or less repeated in the 2016 film) is the economy of narrative to present complex worldbuilding and detailed characters, all around a pretty basic simple premise: a pest removal service where the pest is the paranormal.
The original film has a surprisingly short runtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes. Compared to more modern films, it’s at least 15-30 minutes shorter. It might look like too little, but in film 15 minutes is an eternity. So in such a relatively short amount of time, the movie does a lot. Once I read a column by Charlie Jane Anders at io9, about how the way ‘Back to the Future’ was filmed makes it a perfect movie and one of the reasons is how the film efficiently uses its runtime to set up the world, the characters, the conflict, and resolution. I want to believe that the same applies to the first Ghostbuster film.
We’re Ready To Believe You.
The opening, the library scene before the title card -which I consider one of the bonafide great jump scare scenes ever made- sets up nicely half of the premise: ghosts are real and are scary. The following minutes set up the other half: a trio of unconventional scientist that not only believe ghosts are real but are applying the scientific method to prove their existence. Not only they succeed but realize that a) they are ill-equipped for dealing with ghosts and b) there is a business opportunity here (it’s the 80’s, greed was good… for a few).
The following scenes go to introducing Peter, Ray, and Egon as actual characters. Each line they spout is full with meaning: Ray is a dutiful son with the heart of a child (which becomes a key plot point at the end). Egon is, for the most part, the stereotypical aloof genius that comes with the technobabble and equipment… except that he does have a sense of humor, social skills and can explain the most complex topic with ease and /or a twinkie.
Egon Spengler: There’s something very important I forgot to tell you. Peter Venkman: What? Egon Spengler: Don’t cross the streams. Peter Venkman: Why? Egon Spengler: It would be bad. Peter Venkman: I’m fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, “bad”? Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously, and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
And Peter… oh Peter. He is a sleazebag, a rascal, a loveable rogue and beneath the jerkass attitude, the most heroic of the three. Watch the movie, I can’t recall a single challenge he doesn’t want to tackle with dry humor and a can-do attitude.
The movie then introduces Dana and her neighbor Louis Tully, romantic interest and comic relief, apparently. While their roles are not that large, every scene where they appear is full of meaning, both at the character level and as part of the plot, foreshadowing included. They are vital parts of the plot later on.
You then move to the growth of the business, the addition of sassy Janine and the fourth musketeer Winston. I want to stop here for a bit. At the outset, the addition of Winston seems like an afterthought, the kind of stuff you could expect from the 80’s where certain unsavory stereotypes about minorities were still in vogue, especially PoC background as a blue collar worker surrounded by white scientists, just to fill a quota. It doesn’t help that the role was originally meant for Eddie Murphy and when he rejected it, probably was considered to be dropped. It is certainly problematic.
As a side note: this is something I believe the 2016 film improves on just a bit, as making Patty not only part of the team right away, but also a vital part given her encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the city and somewhat of a leader to keep the rest of the team focused on the tasks at hand.
However, with all its warts -and this is not an apology, that part of the film has not aged entirely well- the role Winston goes to play becomes one of big importance in current narratives: the common person point of view. At some point in the story, if you kept only the three founders of the GB around, you would have faced a wall with all the technobabble, after all, they all know what they are talking about, but not the audience, which would be confused or would have lost the suspension of disbelief. But Winston helps to ground the story, not by dumbing it down, but by providing the shady commentary that complements the technobabble and lampshades the ridiculousness of the film’s premise with well-delivered zingers. That makes the story more relatable and the insufferable geniuses more palatable. He is us in the film, the regular person thrown into a wider, incredible and mysterious new world and has to learn to navigate it fast. Those characters help a lot to create world building without using info dumps.
Winston Zeddemore: Hey, wait a minute! Hold it! Now, are we actually gonna go before a federal judge, and tell him that some moldy Babylonian god is gonna drop in on Central Park West and start tearing up the city?! Egon Spengler: Sumerian, not Babylonian. Peter Venkman: Yeah. Big difference. Winston Zeddemore: No offense, but I gotta get my own lawyer.
The movie never wastes a minute waxing lyrical about the world they are or with not-so-necessary setups for jokes -a problem the sequel does have-. No, it moves at a neck-breaking speed introducing a complex world full of ancient cults, crazy architects, Babylonian… Sumerian deities and spiritist guides that can describe pretty much anything paranormal in the world (which makes you wonder who or better say WHAT wrote the Tobin’s Spirit Guide). All with tight packed dialogue that takes you to the ‘End of the World’ Scenario where the heroes, in order to beat a god, use guile rather than blunt force and explosions. Kinda…
Egon Spengler: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways. We could reverse the particle flow through the gate. Ray Stantz: How? Egon Spengler: We’ll cross the streams. Peter Venkman: Excuse me, Egon, you said crossing the streams was bad. Ray Stantz: Cross the streams… Peter Venkman: You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client. The nice lady who paid us in advance before she became a dog. Egon Spengler: Not necessarily. There’s definitely a very slim chance we’ll survive.
What is most interesting of the Ghostbuster film is how the climax and the end pay off every single bit of foreshadowing from the beginning, ties all loose ends -Slimer notwithstanding- and at the same time leaves the door open for potential sequels without leaving anything hanging out. If there were not a film/video game combo sequel or an animated series (both with different canons), the original GB film would have been a perfect stand alone movie.
The animated series and the 2nd film/video game took different directions with the plot. The animation went for the ‘monster of the week’ approach, featuring every corner of the paranormal -including, yes Cthulhu-, strange episodes like the Agatha Christie inspired one or even heartbreaking ones like the ghost dog of the circus that helped them to beat a bigger monster while sacrificing itself (I cried when I watched it as a kid). The 2nd movie and the film tried to create a more coherent narrative where the video game -seriously, play it, especially the PS3 version- ties every plot from the first two films to create a mytharc.
Both are nice, but they don’t surpass the excellent narrative execution of the first film. In a world full of interconnected franchises and multiple sequels, the fact that you can pack so much story in so little space and deliver a satisfying ending that can be as closed or as open as the audience wants is the biggest lesson to take from the 1984 film as a writer.
For me, it’s one of the ways you could approach writing your novel, no matter if it will be a stand-alone or a series or a series of stand-alone movies interconnected -which is what I’m trying to do-. Give the reader a conclusion to that particular arc, with well-defined characters and great dialogue, leaving yourself the door open for a continuation, but without leaving the reader hanging up. I don’t know if I’m making sense or if I might achieve it with my novel. But I think as a writer is an interesting challenge. I undertook it because one of my best friends, who is an avid reader told me once that she yearned for a fantasy book where she didn’t have to wait for the next book to know how the story of the first book ends and yet be part of a series. And also don’t be a doorstopper. In my opinion, it’s a healthy way to do things, self-contained arcs that can work as parts of a bigger arc but can be read independently.
That’s why I’m using the GB films as a guide for writing my novels because I believe -especially the first one- its a good template for an interesting arc based in a simple premise, efficient pacing, world building, a mashup of genres (in this case horror, comedy, science fiction and a bit of fantasy), good character development and sly, quotable dialogue. The materials for a classic story are there. The trick, like in cooking, is in the execution as to achieve balance rather than get one of the elements to overcome the other. I sincerely hope I achieved it in my novel.
Rarely has a movie this expensive provided so many quotable lines. Roger Ebert, Review of Ghostbusters (1 January 1984)
I agree. And they ain’t afraid of no ghost.
*I also liked The Last Jedi. It is the best deconstruction of the fallacy of the ‘happily ever after’ ending in a setting that thrives in conflict and a reality check to many people about managing our expectations as we grow old. So take that.
To be honest, I’ve had some shitty days (mostly at work, some part as a writer), so I really needed something to cheer me up. Somehow, the Force listened and provided and I managed to watch the ending of Rebels. I could wax lyrical about it, but a) that would be too spoilerish for those that haven’t watched it and b) I don’t think my words can make it justice.
Suffice to say that the final episode was a masterclass in closing up. Every beat was earned, it fitted continuity (for those inclined to nitpick about that) and it leaves you with a sense of closure mixed with hopes for the new adventure hinted at the end of it. Plus hearing the classic soundtrack from the OT at the end made me tear up a bit.
While Rebels, in general, had a slow start and a few clunkers among its episodes, the whole show is proof of tight plotting, endearing characters, intelligent villains and serious work behind scenes. This is how Star Wars should be done, this is how the magic of the Force, what the Jedi originally stood up for and the true power of the Rebels are about. This is Star Wars well done, pure and simple. With this ending, Rebels has cemented its place in SW canon and in my personal Top 5 tv shows (I might write about this later on). If you are an aspiring writing (like me) or an SW fan (like me), then you MUST have to watch the show. It’s a tour de force (pun intended) on how to plot a series (given that it is the most common objective for an SFF author) and make it a rewarding experience. I know once it is in a box set or complete at Mexico’s Netflix I will binge-watch again and will be taking notes.
And while I liked TFA and TLJ, I wish Filoni had been the one writing the New Trilogy story instead of each individual director. Because he gets it. He really understands the core essence of Star Wars. I can’t wait for his next SW related project (which I really hope involves that ending teaser).
Here is the latest in the mayhem of thoughts that’s my head:
-I had planned to write a lengthy entry on why I liked The Last Jedi, why is a good way to break with the fan pandering and a possible reason of why the detractors hated it -which reminds me of the vitriol spewed online after the prequels. But so much has been written that I would hardly add anything meaningful to the conversation. I will just say that this is not a movie for my generation but a Star Wars for the new one and that the thing that weighs heavily in fans minds is that is a movie that, for us that grew up with Luke Skywalker, confronts is with our mortality and with what legacy we are leaving behind. I suspect that some detractors are having troubles to come to terms with that.
-I got a new rejection, this time for a short story that mixes alternate history and fantasy. I did get a personalised letter explaining what they liked and what not. I resubmitted it to another market.
-I just finished two fantasy stories and I’m working on finishing a science fiction one, this later for an indie publisher planning to release its second anthology. My story has dogs, so you know it will be awesome.
-I’m also working on a horror story aimed to be submitted to a SFWA market before the end of the year.
-There is no current movie me and my wife wanna see this month. We will wait till Black Panther.
-Talking about movies, ‘The Greatest Showman’ is a pretty good musical with a strong cast and good songs. But to enjoy it you have to forget for 105 min what a piece of shit was the real P.T. Barnum and how he mistreated animals (which by the way in the movie are all CGI.
-If I have to recommend a series to binge watch on Netflix is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. It’s highly addictive and has it all: action, mystery, intrigue, great world building, main characters that fight with their smarts as much as with the fists, secondary and tertiary characters with defined history and a plot where everyone collaborated to save the day. Everyone. And what’s more important and an oddity these days: an ending that feels entirely earned and justified.
-I really need to start writing my novel’s sequel or it will take another decade. G.R.R. Martin I’m not. Sadly something called da job tends to mess with said plan. Bills have to be paid and I’m not a famous author to live from it. J.K. Rowling I’m not.
-My wife got me several action figures I was looking for as Christmas presents. She knows me so well and I love her so much. And this Turtle additional expression is perfect to portray my usual mood with life:
Life is a tower of jenga. It tends to collapse on you. And you have to start anew. You are allowed to yell.
I’m testing a new ‘section’ on the blog. I realized that not every entry has to be a deep discussion on a given topic. Sometimes it’s just as good to let random thoughts out of your head. Or in this case, my head. So it will be a semi-regular feature here for what’s good to have a blog if you can’t talk about whatever you want.
-I was talking with Brent about who would play our novel characters in a hypothetical film if money and time weren’t an objection (he wants Richard Armitage for Washington, I say that Jason Issacs would be a good Benedict Arnold and Lin-Manuel Miranda should do the soundtrack). Now considering the setting of my story, I think more than live action it would be an animated film so these picks could be the Voice Actors. Nonetheless here is my hypothetical cast:
Fionn: Chris Evans (Brent and my wife say that it should be Chris Hemsworth)
Gaby: Natalie Dormer or perhaps Daisy Ridley
Alex: Diego Luna (the accent is key)
Sam: Auli’i Cravalho or perhaps Caity Lotz
Harland: Peter Dinklage
Sid: Ryan Reynolds (I need someone that can portray sarcastic and hysteric with a hight pitch at the same time).
Wild dreams man!
-I will be traveling with my wife next week to the city of Vancouver for well-earned rest. As a side effect, I won’t be on the web as much as usual and I won’t be watching Star Wars: The Last of Us the Jedi until later this month, so please try to spare me the spoilers (I know, an impossible task, but had to ask).
-I’m dashing to get a few pitches for the last PitMad tweet contest of the year. A good take could mean getting noticed by literary agents. Fingers crossed.
-On the topic of querying agents, I sent four queries, three haven’t replied, the one that did ask for a partial sample of 50 pages. Good sign I hope.
-On the final querying news: I sent my alt-history/steampunk/fantasy story about Romans, Greeks and trains ‘Steel Serpents’ to an SFWA magazine: ‘Beneath Ceaseless Skies’. Let’s hope it gets in.
-And finally, with the news of Disney buying 20th Century Fox film division (and all its properties), most people are talking about a potential return of the Fantastic Four to the MCU. But am I the only one that would actually prefer a Deadpool v. Spidey crossover? Just picture it:
I recall a time when I was a kid, during the height of the ‘Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles’ craze (of which I’m still part of), that I wanted to study genetics so when I grew up, I could create my own group of mutant turtles. I was a lonely kid back then so I wanted friends. Never came through because I suck at organic chemistry (much to the chagrin of my parents, both chemists). So I became the second best option, a writer (well, technically the third option, as you might know, I’m an industrial designer transformed into lecturer/researcher by trade and writer by passion, but I digress).
Beware, this might end being a rant.
Now that my science fiction story about bioethics in space “What Measure is a Homunculus?” is being published and available on Amazon on the 19th of October, in the Quantum Soul anthology, I can discuss about the topic of the story. No, I won’t tell what’s about beyond the rights of artificial humanoids used as weapons/foot soldiers, you need to buy the anthology.
But I can talk about what inspired me to do so. First, there was this article that talked about how scientists were trying to create a living being from stem cells without a father and mother (in terms of DNA donors whose reproductive cells create an embryo, not actual parents). From there to the creation of synthetic living beings we could a few generations removed, but it is still a possibility. And that made me think about the lack of legislation to protect the rights of such beings (even if it is just an amoeba).
There are few times when I can mix my day job, my Ph.D. and my real job as a writer in the same thing, which is the case of this particular short story.
Most of my sustainable design students know that I loathe Monsanto, as the epitomize most of what’s wrong with our current economic system. And that loathing is supported by the fact that companies like that think is right to patent the DNA of a living being. But it is not. It might be legal, but that doesn’t make it right, even if is the DNA of a mouse or a fly. DNA is what makes a living being it. It shouldn’t be beholden a property of a faceless company. For me, personally is tantamount to creating the precedent for a new form of slavery. Look, I’m not against researchers patenting stuff (I work as one after all), but while I see the case for patenting the technology to create such advances, I still think that is wrong to patent the DNA of a living being just for coins.
This makes me think that there is a need right now in literature and other media, one asking for more stories that put in the collective consciousness, on the debate table the discussion about bioethics. We need to sit down and discuss what we are doing, if we should be doing it, who should be doing it and for what reasons, instead of just using economic excuses. I think it is the time we redefine what we consider life and its intrinsical rights.
This whole rant, if you want to call it that, makes me recall what Michael Crichton wrote in the first pages of Jurassic Park, how the technological development moved from governmental labs into private sector labs and moving at such pace that there is virtually no oversight about what we are doing with this technological might. We don’t stop to consider that the question is not ‘can we do it?’ but ‘should we be doing it?’.
It’s not a discussion on technological progress. I think that progress is needed if we aim for a better world. But progress for the sake of it or the sake of the purses of people that don’t give a damn about the state of the world is madness. Science Fiction has always been a window to our potential futures, good or bad. Just like there is a recent wave of climate fiction, there is a need for a resurgence in bioethics fiction. Let’s as writers raise awareness of the topic because it relies upon society to do the changes needed. Let’s bring bioethics to the debate table before it is too late.
Upsss. I think I went into lecture mode. Sorry for that. My point was to explain from where it came to the inspiration for this story, so when you read it you know where I’m coming from. In any case, I invite you to acquire this new anthology by the fine folks of the SciFi Roundtable: Eric Michael Craig and Ducky Smith. I had the opportunity of reading several of these stories and I can assure you they are a good option for the science fiction fans looking for new voices in the genre. So go, give it a chance and read it.
As Season 7 of Game of Thrones just wrapped up and we start the watch for the final season that with any luck will be on our screens before some idiot president decides to end the world, I have a few predictions of my own of what will happen in that season and how might the story end. Be aware of some potential spoilers if you are not updated with the season finale episode. I’m focusing on the show, because who knows how (or when) the books will end. However, there are bits from the books that have to be considered for the sole reason that Martin gave Weiss and Benioff the overall plot of the story just in case.
So without further ado, these are my predictions. This is of course just pure speculation. And I’m not meant to cover all the characters, just a few ones that come to my mind with plausible futures.
-Cersei will die. Well yes, that is obvious, but instead of Jaime killing her (Tyrion at this point is beyond caring, he is just trying to keep Dany alive), it will be her baby. She won’t even reach childbirth. She will lose the baby and the blood loss shock of that will finally end her. It fits the ‘valonqar’ prophecy as well as the subversion of expectations that Martin is famous for. Now, will she die before or after the Great War? That’s the question. I suspect it will be after the war, in some sort of coda like in Lord of the Rings (the books) with the Hobbits returning to the Shire and dealing with Saruman.
-Jaime Lannister will survive, but won’t be the heir to Casterly Rock. When all things are settled and done, Jaime will have earned (I hope) his redemption during the Great War. He will become Lord Commander of a reformed Night’s Watch, depending who sits on the Iron Throne (if there is a throne left, that is). He is far too damaged, his crimes too many to go out easy, but his military experience and fighting prowess will be handy to have around. Brienne, if she survives might take his place a Lady Commander of the Kingsguard.
-The Night’s Watch will be reformed into something else. The Wall won’t be repaired, as the magics that brought it into place are long gone. Thus the Night’s Watch will be reformed as a new kind of army ready for any possible supernatural enemy.
-The wildlings won’t be seen as enemies anymore. There won’t be many survivors either. Tormund, if he survives may be their new leader.
-Neither Jon nor Dany will sit on the Iron Throne. That one of them is on borrowed time (as much as I hate that), is almost certain, maybe both. None of the legends of the Long Night mention what happened to the heroes that stopped it afterward. The end will be bittersweet but if Dany’s vision and the House of the Undying are true, there will be someone ruling Westeros after the Great War and settling the disputes with Cersei. My guess is if someone becomes ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, will be Jon and Dany’s child. Hence the title of the story ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.
-There won’t be an Iron Throne anymore. Not as we know it. The wheel will be broken and maybe a new government system (a parliamentary monarchy is my best guess) will be put in place. Thus the Great Houses will disappear as we knew them and instead become figureheads, at least in the South. Odds are that the North will be separated into its own semi-independent region along the Wildlings or dispensed as ‘A Stark must always be in Winterfell’. People like Gendry will become leaders in their respective regions to work as representatives of the smallfolk, as Dany wished.
-Tyrion will become the Prime Minister and regent of said child and will help to carry further into the future the legacy of both Dany & Jon. He might or might not remarry Sansa, given how the North ends after the War. Sansa will become one of the new leaders of Westeros, along with Ser Davos.
-And in that regard, neither King’s Landing nor the actual Iron Throne will exist anymore. I think Cersei might go Mad Queen on us and set everything to blow the place when she sees the army of the Living coming back home.
-Both surviving dragons will fly towards the sunset and disappear to never be seen again (there is a precedent of this in the books, with the Cannibal and Sheepstealer).
-The same will happen with Arya, who I suspect will become some sort of folk hero, maybe alongside the Hound (in a homage to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber), traveling along Westeros.
-Bran will be Bran the Builder, due time warging shenanigans. Time is circular and things repeat over and over. I doubt the battle against the Walkers will be completely done so something might return in future centuries. In any case, he is far too detached from humanity to remain at Winterfell. He either goes back in time or back to Beyond the Wall.
So these are my conjectures. Do you have one? Share it below in the comments. If I have more of my own I will edit the post.