Mar 26, 2011

A Review: Sucker Punch's a Sucker

When I first saw the trailers to this Epic Fantasy/Action-adventure film, needless to say, I was stoked. The magic of the world of Sucker Punch is purely escapism from a harsh world to one(s) even deadlier.
We have a nameless character only named "Babydoll" as she is sent to a mental institute for girls by her foster father. There, she works at the institute's theatre where men with high money come in and pay for a dancing show with one of the girls. It is also here, that Babydoll and 4 others, make plans of escape by exploiting Babydoll's ability to cross into her dreamworld.
Now, the reason why I give the title "Sucker Punch is a Sucker" is not because it is a bad film, but because I'd would rather have rented it.
I felt that the movie became repetitive with its use of magic and that there was virtually no plot. A few twists here and there, but some are predictable and while the action scenes are engrossing, our heroines are scantily dressed, provoking a healthy dose of sexism in the film. But then again, it may promote feminism, as the heroines fight against men who exude lust and adultery. A matter of debate, this film can be.
So, if your a fan of giant samurai weilding naginatas and rail guns, or a mecha battling zepplins and zombies, then you'll love this film, over and over. But if your the fantasist looking for something philosophical and true to the real world, then, I would say, look elsewhere as *that* theme is clearly expressed in the commercials.
But I was pleased.

Mar 25, 2011

National November Writing Month 2011

I entered NaNoWriMo last year, and failed. The story was going to be steampunk, a genre I knew nothing about, and I entered a week before NaNoWriMo. I had no plot, no plans, no nothing. So, I gave up.
I woke up this morning with an epiphany. Why not enter again this year, plan months ahead, set-up goals, and do this while I'm stable in the Navy?
Then "The Dragons of Venus" kicked in. I have been wondering and been wanting to write Science Fantasy for a while, now. In fact, I looked over an e-mail on the subject sent by Yoon yesterday.
Also, I've been looking for ways to write Science Fiction and have been heavily interested in the genre, reading many shorts in Asimov's, Lightspeed, and some free stories in Analog.
So, I figured why not! Why not write a 50k word Science Fiction novel? But the title bugged me. No way I could just leave a book titled "The Dragons of Venus" without thinking of Dragons in space. It's probably been done, but hell, it's cool to me. I also wanted an adventure.
That's when I remembered a type of story called Pulp. So, now I'm studying Pulp Science Fiction, first starting with ERB's "A Princess of Mars" and reading the chapters of Scott Lynch's "Queen of the Iron Sands" (I'll even try out Tarzan stories) with the goal of writing "The Dragons of Venus" as an epic pulp science fiction adventure. Oh yeah, I've begun A Princess of Mars a long time ago, and I believe it'll be a huge influence over my pulp.

Mar 19, 2011

The Fantastic Bible! or The First Epic

You know, it's funny how I even stumbled on this topic. The other day, I saw someone posted a comment on an authors blog (no link as to protect the commentor's identity)stating that there was nothing fantastic in the bible. As furious as I was, instead, I want to make a few comments on my own, on how I believe that the Bible was the first Epic. From the creation of the Earth in Genesis to the final battle between Godd and Evil in Revelations, the stories in between resonate a sense of Epic Fantasy that we are all aware of. I wonder how many other people see the Bible the way I see it.
Let us take the story of Moses, the begginings of Exodus. The parting if the Red Sea, dividing the sea into two parts? Hail falling towards Egpyt with flames running on them? And how about when God, through Moses, cause darkness to thicken in Egypt, to the point where no one could see. Let us see the Leviathan, described as a dragon breathing fire yet under the sea in the Book of Job. Let us see the story of two mothers and one child. The child is someone's child, yet both claim it, so the person they go to, the king, decides to cleave the child in half, giving each half to the mothers, but the true mother tells the king that the false one can have her child, thus winning the child back in the end. Let us see Moses battlig Giants in Exodus. Let us see Jesus Christ, saving the entire world, Rand al'Thor based on Jesus Christ.
Even Athiests who read Fantasy must agree with the Fantastic presented to us in this huge 66 book Epic. Though, we have more stories in the Bible than those great ones I mentioned. We have Deborah who judged the world, Jesus calming a storm with his mouth. The Bible is truly an Epic in it's own class. No wonder why 2.1 billion people worldwide have fallen in love with God's Epic.

Mar 15, 2011

Golden Age of Fantasy and the Big Three

I remember Orson Scott card saying that this is the Golden Age of Fantasy. I'm inclined to agree.
In today's genre, we are finally beginning to see writers of color and Epics steeping away from the eurocentric enviroments and mythologies. With Chris Kastensmidt, I'm seeing Brazil/Africa. With Aliette de Bodard, I'm seeing Mexican fantasy come to life. But it's not just the racial and enviromental contexts that have changed.
The familiar tropes have "bent" as well. We all know of the dark tones that Epic Fantasy has decided to turn, and how Brandon Sanderson turned one of Fantasy's traditional tropes upside down, but we have more authors. Joe Abercrombie twists and tears at the role of the hero with his (dar I say?) anti-heroic heroic fantasy trilogy "The First Law". Scott Lynch comes out with an interesting way to use the well-loved thief trope in his "Gentlemen Bastards" sequence. Even Sam Sykes and N.K. Jemisin have discussed on the role on the chosen one.
Yes, the shelves are still shadowed by Tolkien's influence, but THIS IS the Golden Age of Fantasy.
Which leads me into an interesting question. I was looking a A Dribble of Ink the other day, reading an interview Aidan Moher did with Daniel Abraham for his forthcoming book, The Dragon's Path, and noticed how he said that the Big Three in Fantasy were Rothfuss, Lynch, and Martin.
Now, I did not criticize, but I pondered, who did I think were the Big Three? Well, I thought Rothfuss, Sanderson, and Abercrombie were today's Big Three.
Who do you think are the Big Three?

Mar 14, 2011

Goodbye, Short Stories

With the advent of the Nebula Awards, I decided to take a peek at the list and read some free stories. Now, the first stories I've read (but alas, I am not close to finishing any one), "Ponies" and Amal El-Mohtar's (May she win the John W. Campbell award!) "The Green Book", I decided to hold of on the novellaa and novellete.
I've always been one for short stories and flash fiction, and as you guys might know, Epic Fantasy. I can tolerate the length of an Epic Fantasy depending on the quality of the story, but me and works over 4000 words...its always been a bit of trouble. But then I read two stories on that list, remembered a few novellas/novelletes that I loved, and am eager to read more.
Christopher Kastensmidt's "The Fortuitus Meeting of Gerard von Oost and Olodura" had my mind running as I'm essentially reading a Sword and Soul story by a non-Black man (needless to say, I friend requested him on Facebook immediately)! Aliette De Boddard's "The Jaguar House, in Shadow" was another great read! Today I will download "The Sultan of the Clouds", read Ted Chiang's Nebula nominated novellete, and all the others on that list. I also read Tobias Buckell's "The Fall of Alacan" on Subterranean Magazine, which is a prequel to his novella "The Executioness" (it should be noted, that Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Alchemist", a novella set in the same world, is nominated for the Nebula for best novella). I remembered the thrill I had reading Ted Chiang's "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", Yoon Ha Lee's "The Territorialist" and yesterday, read her story "Ghostweight" for a second time.
Needless to say, I'm beginning to love novellas/novelletes.
Which brings me to the fact that now I want to write them. I feel grounded in short stories and flash fiction. Also, in sorts, I feel limited. I've never written anything decent over 3000 words, and, honestly, the thought of writing something between 7000-20000 words scares me. But, I have to write it sooner or later, right? If I want to write novels, one day, then I must try for a novellete, and then a novella, right? I've thought that my attempts at a novellete be at 7000 words, max (the original plan was 8000 words as per SFWA requirements for "Best Novella", but I'm not even professionally published, so who am I kidding?). Reading more novelletes/novellas will also help me understand structure and most importantly, how to keep an audience interested. So, for now, it's goodbye to the short stories until I feel grounded in novelettes. Till then!

Mar 13, 2011

Fan Fiction kills Creativity

I have several friends who are into anime (I myself am not a strong anime/manga fan as I was in my earlier years). At my old high school, we had a "Japanimation" club-everything Japanese, but mostly anime. These were my friends. Many of them, I included for a short time, have written fan fiction. I know one girl who continously creates "projects" for her fan fiction. I recall asking her why she does not just be original. I guess this was the wrong question to ask as I should have asked why does she not be creative and stay away from pre-created works.
Now, I am not all against fan fiction, however, if you are earnestly trying to become a *real* writer, then you must rely on your creativity and imagination. It does no good to write in pre-conceived ideas. How then can you work your literary muscles? A story by you is much memorable than a story in another person's setting.

Mar 12, 2011

Not *the* definition of (Epic) Fantasy but *my* definition of (Epic) Fantasy

Last night, a friend of mine asked me what Epic Fantasy was when I mentioned Patrick Rothfuss to her. She knew what Fantasy was, but did not know what Epic Fantasy was. This got me thinking. More or less, the first essay I had in mind which attempted to define Epic Fantasy was by Vox Day here, and I found it appalling and slightly offensive to what I stand for: creativity and imagination. Consider the following definition from Vox Day and his girlfriend:
"An epic fantasy is a very long and fundamentally serious story set mostly or entirely in a fantastic secondary world, typically defined by the existence of magic and often fleshed out with maps, appendices, and other paratextual devices; it's usually an encyclopediac, stylistically direct, structurally uncomplicated story in which characters notable for their active agency combat (against) a defined evil, often by forming an alliance, and generally are involved with a world-transformative event."
As a veteran reader, an aspirant writer, and an aspirant academic fantasist, I see this definition as the answer of why Epic Fantasy suffers as it does, but that is a different discussion.
While thinking of ways to explain what (Epic) Fantasy was to my friend, I thought of some of the memorable Epics in the genre such as "A Wizard of Earthsea", "The Wheel of Time" and "The Chronicles of Narnia". I thought of Epics that are large in volume, but worthy of reading without wasting words. I thought of how we writers and readers should begin calling our genre "Fantasy Literature" instead of "Fantasy Fiction". I thought of the sub-genres of Fantasy which plays on an Epic scale. I thought of people of color such as Yoon Ha Lee, Saladin Ahmed, David Anthony Durham, and Nnedi Okorafor. I thought of how fantasy can change the minds of people. I thought of Maya Angelou's quote. Thinking on these things, I created a definition which implies to what I stand for on a humanist scale, a racial scale, and a speculative scale.
Consider *my own* definiton of Fantasy; Epic Fantasy, Steampunk, etc. :
"Fantasy-Speculative literature which aims to both entertain an audience while simultaenously educating said audience using either a created secondary world or an alternative Earth in hopes of changing an individual's perceptions of some part of the real world."

Mar 4, 2011

Aaaaaand THIS is why Fantasy is Conservative!!!

Looking at Mark Charan Newton's website, I've found a wonderful discussion on race aand sexual preference in Fantasy fiction found here and I've even made a comment here Have you ever considered to wonder why Fantasy is always the same? As an African-American, I believe that writers are too afraid to write a black man or a gay man only because the characters do not fit into the "Traditional" Fantasy, thought traditions is what is hindering writers and readers to fully grasp the potential of Epic Fantasy. Think about it, how many Mexicans do you see in Fantasy fiction including Earthsea's Ged? Besides of Charles R. Saunders Imaro or Black Charlton's Nicodemus, how many black characters can you really think of that take the position of primary character, or better yet, the chosen one? Besides from Robert Jordan and Saladin Ahmed, how many Arabics in Fantasy ARE NOT the enemy race? I guess I can throw in the Parshendi too.
I don't make these topics too piss people off, I just want to change my genre to something EVERYBODY can enjoy.