Category Archives: Culture

He Was Spock

Leonard Nimoy was many things, actor, director, photographer, author, even singer. But above all, for those of us who knew him only by his work, he was Spock.

SpockThe genius of Nimoy was that, when he played Spock, the actor seemed to disappear. There was only Spock. And we loved Spock. Spock was supremely logical, but let the mask of logic slip just enough to let us know when he was angry, bemused or exasperated. He, Kirk, and McCoy formed the perfect trinity of logic, intuition and emotion.

Nimoy made an appearance via Skype at last summer’s Ottawa Comiccon, an appearance that Karl Urban (McCoy in the new movies) crashed, to Nimoy’s amusement. I wish I could have been there. I recently visited Los Angeles, and saw the handprints left by the cast of the original Star Trek. Nimoy’s of course, formed a Vulcan greeting. Though at one time he wrote I am not TOS SidewalkSpock, he came to embrace the role for which he was so loved, and later wrote a  book called I am Spock.

My favourite Spock episode? The Menagerie, in which Spock, still loyal to his former Captain, risks his career to help return Pike to a planet declared off-limits by the Federation. Another favourite was his fabulous return to the role in Star Trek, the 2009 movie. Then there’s the the famous Audi commercial he filmed with Zachary Quinto. What a great sport he was.

What else is there to say except

LLAP

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And Now for Something Completely Different

I’ve talked about fanfiction in previous posts, and to date that constitutes the bulk of my writing. However, I have started to write original stories. One of them is making the rounds of publishers, gathering quite the collection of rejection slips. And so it begins…

I’ve dabbled in story telling before. In fact, I just stumbled upon something I wrote back in 2001 in which a little girl learns the secret her family has passed on for generations. I thought it would be fun to clean it up and post it here, but as it turns out, there was little I wanted to change.

So, here it is, Where the Dragons Sleep. Hope you enjoy it.

Romancing the (Heart of) Stone

Would someone please tell me what it is about romance novels? I mean, what is it about them that makes people actually want to read them?

My latest Castle fanfic is another light-hearted stab at the genre. There’s a lot of romance in the Castle group on fanfiction.net. Stuff like,

“Oh, Castle!”

“Beckett!”

“Oh, Castle, I…”

“I know. Oh, Beckett, I know.”

Researching the genre a bit, I purchased a popular Harlequin Blaze novel, Thrill Me by Leslie Kelly. I was pleasantly surprised by the opening chapter. In fact, I was hooked by the first three sentences:

Sophie Winchester was skilled at only two things. She could type 120 words per minute without a single error.

And she was damn good at committing murder.

Like I said, hooked.

romanceIt turns out Sophie only commits murder on paper. As Richard Castle says, a lot more lucrative, a lot less prison.

She lives in a town called Derryville, a nod to Stephen King’s fictional town of Derry, where Very Bad Things happen. And keep happening. Nice touch!

But all good things come to an end, and we get down to it. The romance part. At the sight of the new sheriff in town, Sophie finds herself weak and dizzy, unable to stand without his assistance, unable to take her hands off him after gripping his oh so manly shoulders for support.

You get the idea.

And people like this stuff? Admittedly, I don’t read a huge amount of romance, but this type of behaviour on the part of the female protagonist doesn’t seem unusual. What happened to the concern one hears about the lack of strong, female characters in movies and TV shows? Are romance authors trying to harken back to an earlier age, in which females waited for their Prince Charming to make them weak at the knees and fluttery in the eyes? If so, what age would that be? Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I would point out, was published in the late 18th Century. I don’t see the women in that novel behaving like silly, limp dolls. Well, except for Lydia, of course.

How about a couple of strong characters with a complex relationship, buffeted by forces outside of their control, having to make life-changing decisions where no matter what they choose, someone gets hurt? Or is that sort of thing not considered a “romance” novel, but just a plain non-genre novel?

Ah well. In the end, it’s easy to poke fun at the romance genre, but at least its got people reading, and that’s always a good thing.

Don’t Be That Guy

As has been noted elsewhere, there’s something about the Internet and its inherent anonymity that brings out abusive behaviour in too many people.

Treat others as you would like to be treated isn’t a particularly profound principle. You can derive it very simply if you accept that a world in which you are treated well is better than one in which you are not. Let’s leave that derivation as an exercise for the reader, shall we?

Sadly, there are so many examples of abusive behaviour online that one can only highlight a few. Relentless bullying of teens, to the point of driving the victim to suicide, is all too well known. Twitter personalities such as John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton are frequent targets. Writer Mary Robinette Kowal was famously the subject of abuse from a fellow writer not long ago. And of course, there’s the recent GamerGate debacle which targeted women in the gaming community with vociferous, hateful abuse.

Oddly enough, writers of fanfiction are also subject to their share of abuse. This is particularly puzzling. After all, people write fanfiction because (a) they love the subject matter, and (b) they love to write. They (we) certainly don’t do it for the money. And for this they receive abuse? Really?

It seems that when you put yourself and your work out there, some of the more misguided amongst us take it as an invitation to hurl abuse. Why is that? Are they trying to make up for their own inadequacies? Does it make them feel good about themselves? Odd if it does, because words frequently associated with these individuals include “troll” and “coward”. Not qualities one would normally aspire to, or so you’d think.

It’s entirely possible to disagree with someone in a respectful way. It’s quite alright to provide a writer with negative feedback if it’s done in a constructive way. (“It might improve the story if you deleted scenes C and E.”) But abuse? There’s no place for it at all, under any circumstances, for any reason.

Do you really want to be that guy?

The Horror (or, The Good Lie Movie Review)

Have you been classically conditioned? I have.

In Psychology, classical conditioning refers to the repeated pairing of one thing with another. You’ve heard of Pavlov and his dogs? He’s the guy that taught his dogs to associate a bell with food. After a while, the dogs would salivate at the sound of the bell. Kind of like I do at the sound of the dinner bell.

Another way I’ve been classically conditioned involves Reese Witherspoon. When a movie in which she’s cast starts up, I’ve learned to run away screaming. In my mind, she’s become associated with that most dreaded movie genre, the romantic comedy. Oh, the horror…

That’s not completely fair, of course. She did give an amazing performance as June Carter in 2005’s Walk the Line.

I’m pleased to report that my previous conditioning was completely shattered by the recent move, The Good Lie. It hasn’t exactly set the box office on fire, and that’s a shame, because it’s very good.

In what way is it good? From a social justice point of view, it shines the light on the human tragedy in Sudan, the horrors the victims faced, and they lengths they’ve gone to survive. The acting was top notch all around, and the script was clever and to the point. The movie covers themes such as survival, family bonds, sacrifice for the greater good, and it also has many funny moments.

This one is well worth looking out for. A small gem that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Martian Summer

Binge watching became a thing when DVD releases of full TV seasons appeared. Got a free weekend? With 22 episodes to watch at about 45 minutes per, that’s about 16 hours. Eight hours a day. Easy peasy. Watching episodes back-to-back really does let you sink into the situations and characters, and it’s a particular boon if there’s a complex backstory that you need to keep straight as the season progresses.

I think our first such binge (not actually over a weekend, but maybe spread over a month) was season one of Heroes, a show dripping with brilliance and originality. Too bad it completely lost its way after that classic first season.

Fast forward to the present: The summer of Veronica Mars. Having only vaguely heard of the TV show, my curiosity was piqued when the Blu-ray of the 2014 movie generated a lot of great reviews. I purchased the pilot episode from iTunes and was hooked. Then I discovered that all three seasons were on Netflix Canada. Score.

Veronica MarsVeronica Mars is the daughter of Keith Mars, a private investigator and former sheriff of the fictional town of Neptune, located somewhere between L.A. and the Mexican border. Veronica, a 17-year old high school student, is no slouch in the detecting department herself. In the setup for season one, her boyfriend dumped her, she was ostracized at school, raped, and then her best friend was killed. But by whom? Sounds pretty dark, doesn’t it? But this a show that is alternately dark and humorous, with three-dimensional characters, great drama, and layer upon layer of mystery. The ensemble cast is nearly perfect, in particular, Kristen Bell as Veronica, Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars, Jason Dohring as the troubled and always in trouble Logan Echolls, and Francis Capra, the motorbike gang leader with a soul.

Creator and writer Rob Thomas, with his ability to handle an ensemble cast and provide high-quality stories with a mix of humour and drama, was starting to make me think he could give Joss Whedon a run for his money. And oddly enough, just as that thought occurred to me, who should make a cameo in one of the season two episodes but Joss Whedon? Maybe Joss was checking out the competition.

Looking for a writer for the Avengers post-Whedon? Rob Thomas gets my vote. Meanwhile, you could do a lot worse than check out this great show. My wife and I are nearly finished season two. Once we finish that and blast through season three, I’m quite looking forward to the movie. And then, well, it’ll be time to get into series-canceled-before-its-time mode (*cough* Firefly *cough*) and pine for the day when they might make Veronica Mars 2.

Potpourri

As I’ve been offline for a while, a bunch of random thoughts have bubbled to the surface. So, onward.

Give Godzilla a miss, or at least wait for it to show up on Netflix. You’ll thank me.

The next 50 years of Doctor Who start in August. While it was probably wise to have a hiatus after the madness of last year, still, one does go through withdrawal after a while.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is well worth seeing. (Minor spoilers ahead.) It strives valiantly to tidy up a number of messy plot threads from the other X-Men movies and succeeds for the most part. It features an unbelievably strong cast, some of whom are limited to little more than cameos. Most importantly, it wipes the travesty that was X-Men 3 off the map.

I’m starting to wonder: Is it any less work to world build for a short story than a novel? I suspect not. Developing the backstory for my original fantasy story, an urban fantasy but with elements of classic mythology, has been a fascinating experience.

Next up on my fanfic list is a sequel to the Firefly/Castle crossover, “A Firefly in the Castle”. This one will be called “Castle Serenity”. And yes, this time Castle and Beckett travel to the future.

I recently spent a night in Philadelphia due to a missed connection. A few people expressed disbelief that I neglected to take full advantage of the layover by not sampling a Philly cheesesteak. Will correct that next time.

The same junket that stranded me in Philadelphia also netted an opportunity to meet Mary Robinette Kowal in San Diego at a book signing. It was quite a treat as I believe she’s the first professional author that I’ve met. And not only does she write very well, she has a rich, multifaceted voice that’s a joy to listen to. It’s a voice that serves her well in her other profession as puppeteer. She also reads audio books.

On the topic of books, I find myself going back to re-read old favourites, mixing them in between new publications. The current old book may take a while, Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. Not just because it’s long, but because I read Dickens very slowly, savouring each beautiful phrase. Ah, to write like that…