NaNoBlogMo, Day 25 – They’re not dolls! They’re action figures! WE’VE BEEN OVER THIS, MOM.

I took the plunge this morning, gentle Reader. I did that which I’ve thought about nearly every day this year, but have been actively avoiding for months.

I cleaned my room.

Now, I understand that revelation may seem unremarkable in the grand scheme of the Universe, but consider: where once I tripped over papery debris, the path is now clear. While I previously was forced to stack books on the floor, now they have a place of rest. My shelves have room. It is a new day, and that day smells like store-brand disinfectant wipes.

Part of the process meant unboxing and arranging the Funko Pops I’ve collected this year, a decision that essentially created two super-teams.

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The Happy Accidents Contingency (L to R:  1966 Batmobile, Purple Tentacle, Bob Ross, Dr. Jillian Holtzmann with ECTO-1.

On an initial glance, you might conclude that this team has some disadvantages: the Batmobile is a car, Purple Tentacle is obsessed with world domination, and Bob Ross paints bushes and sticks. However, you would be wrong.

With a persuasive-enough argument, Purple Tentacle’s preoccupation with conquering the Earth can be channeled into productive team-building tasks. Need a computer system cracked, a rent in time repaired, or a villain distracted?  Simply convince Purple that helping you will further his own means!   As for the Batmobile, even the 1966 version comes equipped with “wonderful toys,” as Jack Nicholson’s Joker put it. It’s both a transportation system and a weapons arsenal, and with a touching of reprogramming, it probably wouldn’t even require a sentient driver**

**which is fortunate, because Batfleck isn’t joining this outfit.

Further down, there’s Bob Ross, whose voice is so soothing that he can lure evil to sleep. Prior to his career as an artist, though, Ross was a drill sergeant in the US Air Force who spent most of his time hollering at soldiers for infractions like being late and not making their beds. When the mission requires it, the man can be forceful. Pair that with Holtzmann’s wit and technical genius, and The Happy Accidents Contingency will cut a fool.

BUT WAIT. What of the OTHER team?

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Justice For Barb (L to R:  Octopus wearing a fez, Tulip O’Hare, Alana, Marko, Heimdall, Barb.

As readers of Saga know, Alana and Marko are battle-tested soldiers, although they’d much rather just curl up with their daughter and eat some toast. Heimdall is an Asgardian warrior who can see through time and space, and Tulip is such a badass that she once built a bazooka out of coffee cans. Barb brings common sense, practicality, and fierce glasses to the team. Also, there’s an octopus wearing a fez, for the love for Pete.

Either of these teams would be formidable enough on its own–but imagine a crossover. We could call it Justice for Happy Accidents.****   There’s no skirmish from which it couldn’t prevail–or IS THERE?

****We’re definitely not calling it that.

Part of me is still 7, and I’m glad for it.

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NaNoBlogMo, Day 20 – Who told you this was a good idea, and could you stop listening to them?

Listen, TV executives:  I know Game of Thrones is popular, but you can’t go on this way.

Two weeks ago, we learned that Amazon has greenlit a multiple-season Lord of the Rings TV series. It’s set to occur either before the events of The Hobbit or in-between that book and the LotR trilogy. ** Imagine being the writer who’s got to sift through dialogue like this passage from The Silmarillion and translate it for television:

And Iluvatar spoke to Ulmo, and said: ‘Seest thou not how here in this little realm in the Deeps of Time Melkor hath made war upon thy province? He hath bethought him of bitter cold immoderate, and yet hath not destroyed the beauty of thy fountains, nor of my clear pools. Behold the snow, and the cunning work of frost! Melkor hath devised heats and fire without restraint, and hath not dried up thy desire nor utterly quelled the music of the sea. Behold rather  the height and glory of the clouds, and the everchanging mists; and listen to the fall of rain upon the Earth! And in these clouds thou art drawn nearer to Manwe, thy friend, whom thou lovest.’

**The first option is more likely, since placing the show in-between the two franchises would set up the audience’s expectation to see some of our elven, dwarven, or hobbit-y friends from Jackson’s films, and frankly, those folks are probably both too expensive and too committed to other projects.

Then today, I woke up to the news that Damon Lindelof, showrunner of Lost, is working out a development deal with HBO for a Watchmen TV series because “we need dangerous shows.”

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Firstly, Watchmen is the best-selling graphic novel that’s been published up to this point. It’s won a Hugo award. It’s been deemed by several critics to be one of the most significant literary works of the 20th century. It was dangerous when it was published 30 years ago, but the world has changed. What about epics starring people of color? Women? LGBTQA characters?

In the early 2000s, I was working at Blockbuster** while attending college, and I watched a flood of LotR knockoffs pollute our proverbial shores following that trilogy’s success. As ever, the studios didn’t seem to understand why the films had resonated so soundly. We therefore got dozens of movies with dragons, men on horseback fighting epic battles, magic swords, and lofty speeches. It turned out that distilling a complex story people loved to a few items on a checklist was not a winning strategy, but Hollywood had done it many times before. The lesson never clicks.

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Dr. Manhattan’s tie is having none of this Watchmen TV series nonsense.

**I’m already having trouble remembering that was a thing, and I shelved VHS tapes for nearly 2 years.

I think that to many of us, this sort of expansion that no one asked for reminds of us how we felt when it was announced that Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit–a book that clocked in at only three hundred pages–would become its own trilogy. You can argue about whether or not all the additional material served the films well, but it was first and foremost a cash grab. “We made $3 billion–we can give these people ANYTHING with a hobbit on it and they’ll buy the lunchbox.”

Branding takes top consideration. Earlier this year, it was announced that the Kingkiller Chronicle, an excellent fantasy trilogy by Patrick Rothfuss, is being adapted for television, and when I did a Google search just now, every headline I found mentions Lin-Manuel Miranda, not Rothfuss. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of Hamilton and of Lin as a human. But it’s made me angry to watch outlet after outlet attribute the books to a man who didn’t write them and only mention Rothfuss as an afterthought. You only do that when you think it’ll result in more clicks and thus more cash, and authors deserve better.

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NOPE. Lin’s a brilliant writer, but it’s not HIS anything. He didn’t write a word of this series.

Fans know when they’re taken for granted. Story matters. The LotR and Watchmen shows appear to be in development solely because HBO has a hit with Game of Thrones, and the networks are hoping we’ll support anything that has a franchise we like tied to it.

And that’s simply not good enough.

 

NaNoBlogMo, Day 18 – We’re all just bones with stories on

Last night was my best in some time.

Back in 2015, I wrote about Marian Call’s cover of “The Sound of Music,” which unintentionally featured a sassy marmot. She is, in addition to being my favorite songwriter, a wonderful human; her shows always have a strong sense of that familial, “we’re in this together” vibe that really only comes from a certain type of artist. That feeling was party because @snarke and I had several friends in the crowd and partly because it’s sort of the nature of house concerts, but also that’s just the sort of ambiance you get when nerds congregate and get to be thoughtful and sad and joyful and silly all in 90 minutes.

We heard the classics we love–“The Volvo Song,” “Good Morning Moon,” “The Avocado Song,” “Nerd Anthem”–but also some deep cuts, and a new track that’s made possible by her patrons.** She and Seth, who has new album out, have such a wonderful vocal blend.

**Marian’s Patreon helps her to create music year-round instead of every few years.

I managed not to choke up during “Highway Five” and the end of “Grandpa Had It Right,” but just barely. On the opposite side of the emotional barometer, we laughed during “The Elements: Expanded” and bobbed our heads to the beat of “Like This,” which is as close as many of us get to dancing. One of the things I love about attending concerts from artists I’ve previously seen is that there’s a flavor of giggling that says “I’m hearing this for the first time, and I love it!”, and another that says “Ah, there’s the joke that I love,” and the two of them together are harmony. It feels like the emotional equivalent of this.

I looked over at @snarke and @kmlawrence, saw the happiness on their faces, along with other Sea Monkeys and Monkey Adjacent friends in one small room, enjoying amazing music and being together.

What’s better than that?

NaNoBlogMo, Day 10 – Heimdallrok (contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok)

So @jillwebb and @snarke and I watched Thor: Ragnarok yesterday for the first of what will likely be multiple times. I laughed. I cheered. I was worried for a bit about the lack of Heimdall.

But as Legolas once said to Aragorn: “We have trusted you this far and you have not led us astray. Forgive me. I was wrong to despair.” For Hemidall there was, dear Reader.

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Superfluous nerd reference is superfluous.

Heimdall, for those not familiar****, was the sentry of the Bifröst, watching for any attacks against Asgard. He has the superhuman strength, speed, etc of a typical Asgardian, but is much stronger than most. However, he also possesses powers of vision and hearing that can traverse time and space. It is said that he can hear sap running through trees and the flap of a butterfly’s wings from a thousand worlds away. His weapon of choice (as well as the key for operating the Bifröst) is an enchanted sword that contains, in his words, “all the cosmic force of the universe.”

****Why would you be unfamiliar? Get on that.

I love Thor as a character. And Loki. And Sif. But Heimdall is a special kind of awesome, and I desperately want him to have his own film.

This tweet from 2013 was most likely sparked by perhaps the most badass takedown I’ve seen on screen, from Thor: The Dark World.

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Racing a CLOAKED ship, jumping off a bridge, and bringing it down primarily with two daggers (yes, there was also some sword action in there, but the daggers did the majority of the work)?    I YELLED IN THE THEATRE, READER.**

**I mean, really respectfully and such. I’m not THAT kind of fan.

For his loyalty to Asgard and to Thor, Heimdall is stripped of his position during the events of The Dark World.

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To his credit, Heimdall does not strike some fools down or write an angry Tumblr post about his employement situation, although he totally could’ve.

But he doesn’t just go off to a beach and order quesadillas and tiny umbrella drinks for the next thousand years. NOPE. In Ragnarok, he manages to steal the sword that controls the Bifröst and hide it from Hela, while also secretly collecting Asgardian citizens and stowing them away, like a Hungry Hungry Hippo to a tasty marble.

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It works if you don’t think about it too much.

While he may no longer have access to the golden armor, Heimdall remains an incredible formidable fighter throughout Ragnarok, spending most of his time thwarting enemies with his smolder.

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I mean, come on. 

At the film’s conclusion, we learn he’s also an instant spaceship pilot for some reason, because why not?  He’s had the time and resources to watch virtually anyone do virtually anything. To Heimdall, all the worlds are a giant YouTube channel.

All hail The Guardian of the Gate.

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NaNoBlogMo, Day 9 – City of Books

Last night, @jillwebb and I attended a book release party for Jade City, the latest novel from @FondaJLee. It’s The Godfather with magic and martial arts, set in an Asia-inspired world. Fonda has previously written two YA sci-fi novels (I’ve read and quite enjoyed Zeroboxer, and I look forward to reading Exo).

I went to the release party for Exo as well, just a few days after I arrived in the Portland area. Fonda’s events / readings are always particularly interesting to me because she likes to talk about her process. She gives presentations showing how the book evolved from an idea to a complete story and a finished world, and she does so in an entertaining and engaging manner. As a writer myself, I enjoy seeing the construction and evolution from a few pen strokes to an entire mythos.

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Fonda guiding us through her new universe. Photo credit @curtiscchen

“City of Books” is the tagline for Powell’s, the famous city-block-wide bookstore here in Portland, but I think it also can refer to Portland itself. In the 10 months I’ve lived here, I’ve seen a number of authors read from their work, both at Powell’s and Barnes & Noble (including Ryan North, whom I’ve wanted to meet since Dinosaur Comics).

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North also currently writes The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, perhaps my favorite Marvel title.

Off the top of my head: there’s also regular readings hosted by our local Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America branch, readings held at several indie bookshops, and at least one convention dedicated to sci-fi and fantasy writing.**

**Orycon was the reason I initially visited Portland back in 2014. I returned the following year, and the workshops I took were the primary inspiration for me to begin writing again. There’s a very strong writing community in this city; most of the authors who attend the con are local.

SWFA hosted an event last week and has another next week. John Hodgman was interviewed by Matt Fraction a few days ago, which I’ve written about elsewhere. Fonda’s reading was last night, and those are just the events that appeared in front of my face without any effort.

This was something I craved in Upstate New York and never had. I’m grateful, City of Books.

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Actual photo of me in Powell’s.

Paintober, Day 31 – The Weather Always Feels This Way

I’ve really enjoyed this project, y’all. It’s going to feel strange to wake up tomorrow and realize there’s no Paintober Day 32. I highly suspect November will involve a different “create something every day” initiative.

Let’s hear it for blogging!

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Since today is Halloween and I wanted to paint something theme-appropriate, my last painting for #Paintober is “The Weather Always Feels This Way,” based on Jonathan Coulton’s “Blue Sunny Day.” It’s a cheery, jaunty tale of a vampire who hates himself.

Birds are singing, bees are buzzing, sun shines overhead
I’d be there to see it, but I can’t get out of bed
Since the day you left, the weather always feels this way
One more blue sunny day

This is the first piece I’ve done that was almost entirely painted via sponge, except for the bat (which probably looks a little too much like the Batman logo, but I don’t imagine he’ll mind).

How did the door get placed in the middle of that field?  Why isn’t the vampire’s hidden room larger?  Why doesn’t he at least have some furniture or something?  Since the only handle is on the OUTSIDE, how is he going to open the door once the sun goes down? For that matter, how will he KNOW when the sun sets?

It’s a Halloween mystery. 

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Goodnight, dear Reader. Goodnight….whatever you are.

Who is 007?

Bartlet: Can I tell you what’s messed up about James Bond?
Charlie: Nothing.
Bartlet: “Shaken, not stirred”will get you cold water with a dash of gin and dry vermouth. The reason you stir it with a special spoon is so not to chip the ice. James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it.

–The West Wing, “Stirred,” 2002.

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In the end, Charlie is the victor here because he’s watching James order that weak martini on a digitally-enhanced picture with theatre-quality sound.

I’ve been thinking about James Bond lately.

Our eponymous hero has never held residence longer than a moment or two in my mind, so the experience is mostly foreign; I suspect that I might’ve seen Tomorrow Never Dies in theatres because that particular title looks familiar. I can’t recall anything specific, but I can safely assume there was an intricate murder scheme, an expensive car chase, and Pierce Brosnan nonchalantly walking away while buildings and / or helicopters exploded in his swarthy, smouldering wake.

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You know how we do.

This week, though, the latest episode in Bond’s seemingly perpetual saga was released, and I saw this fantastic and decades-overdue quote floating around Twitter, taken from an interview Red Bulletin conducted with Bond’s current iteration, Daniel Craig.

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Shortly thereafter, I wrote a list titled “Things I Know About Bond.” It was almost embarrassingly brief, but among the principal tenets was the fact that the secret agent been played by several different actors spanning a 50-year period.

Remind you of anyone?

Guys, I think he's talking about US.
Guys, I think he’s talking about US.

I submit to you, Dear Reader, that somewhere between losing Rose* and “The End of Time,” The Doctor regenerated into every version of Agent 007 and executed the plot of all twenty-four James Bond films, plus three future ones and the 2019 holiday special.**

*Don’t think about it.

**I realize that such an endeavor would result in The Doctor far exceeding his allotted twelve regenerations, but showrunner and infuriating scriptmonger Steven Moffat has (reluctantly) offered conflicting answers regarding how many faces of the Doctors there have been and how many remain. Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is now supposedly the first of a new cycle, which implies at least twelve more regenerations, and back in 2010, dialogue in one of the show’s former spin-offs suggested that the number could actually be infinite.

You will want evidence, of course.

Things I Know About Bond

He prefers proper adornment.

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Yes, it’s the coat that gets most of the attention, but Ten is a dandy in his own right. An overabundance of buttons, the matching vests, the perfectly-knotted ties. Risking the Earth in order to save it may be part of the job description, but that’s all the more reason why his dress shirts need to be fully pressed. Autons and Weeping Angels are one thing, but wrinkles are unacceptable in any universe. Naturally, his Bond regenerations would continue to abide by Ten’s example.

He is fastidious regarding food preparation.

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Bond likes his martinis “shaken, not stirred.” In “The Girl In the Fireplace,” Ten advises Rose to “always take a banana to a party.” Both display a commitment to upholding strict culinary standards.

Where he treads, bright lights inevitably follow.

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Granted, Ten usually doesn’t INTEND to affect chaos and destruction. AND YET.

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

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If memory serves, Bond has access to a seemingly endless supply of technologically-advanced gimzos and thingamadoodles. PERHAPS MI6 spent a gajillion dollars and developed weaponized deus ex machina in approximately 37 minutes, but isn’t it more likely that The Doctor simply constructed those fancy doodads from a leftover toaster or something?

He maintains a stylish ride

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Bond drives an Aston Martin. The Doctor sashays about in a phone box that can traverse time and space. No one can accuse either of lacking panache.

*****

“But The Doctor and Bond are two very different characters!”, you say.

Are they? Time Lords have a stressful occupation. Who’s to say The Doctor hasn’t earned a forty-seven-year vacation?

And as Moffat reminds us: the first rule is that The Doctor lies.

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