Of all the genres in all the world to write about, why Fantasy? Why do I write Fantasy instead of say Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance, or Horror? Namely because the Fantasy genre is freeing. You can write anything, make up entire worlds based in magic, new races of people and animals. Anything you want can happen in Fantasy. Science Fiction is a close second but even that can be a little limiting do to the “science” aspect of the genre.
I love Fantasy and the people and monsters that populate those worlds. It inspires a sense of wonder in me even if the world has no magic. It stokes my imagination like no other genre could. I still enjoy Science Fiction and I won’t say no to a good Romance or Horror story every now and again but it doesn’t create that perfect storm within me that Fantasy does.
In Fantasy, I can create the world I wish was real. I can create fantastic characters doing awesome things that isn’t possible in the real world or even any other genre of fiction. The people become deliciously complex. They deal with very real, very human emotions that get even more complicated when you push their fantasy element on top of them. Going deep into the limitations that may inflict on the main character and those that surround them makes for a rich story. Writing those scenarios is fun for me, even if it torments the people I create (I’m pretty sure the main character in The Monster of Selkirk hates me for what I put her through).
The biggest problem I run into is putting too many real world restrictions on my Fantasy. It’s easy to base worlds or people on real things and places. Too easy. And there are a lot of amazing places in the world so why not use them as the basis? There is nothing wrong with that. The trick is to not let it limit yourself. Basing your world on a real place then having a great idea and wanting to add it in but stopping yourself because “this wouldn’t have existed at the time” is bad. I do it sometimes and it’s wrong. Fantasy is the genre of no limitations. So always err on the side of awesome.
That’s why I love reading and writing Fantasy. I have some interesting ideas for a Horror story that I may write somewhere down the line but Fantasy is such a rich world to live in, I don’t think I’ll leave it anytime soon.
There has been a lot of fear lately about the diminishing role of traditional journalism. You know, the guys who still write articles for printed newspapers, the thing most of us nowadays probably only use for paper to start the BBQ with (that can’t be just me, can it?). As more of the traditional print newspapers move online and have to contend with diminishing ad revenue, journalists have to write more “click bait” worthy articles to attract more people to their site because showing advertisers that they attract X amount of millions is the only way they can get ad revenue to keep their doors open. And articles and lists about kittens get way more clicks then stories about the military coup in Turkey.
I used to work in advertising. You can say I am partially “guilty” for this shift that is killing newspapers and the reporting they are forced to do to keep their doors open. But if I can get on my soap box for just a minute, it’s not ALL advertising’s fault. Advertisers certainly do not determine what interests’ people and attracts them to a website or article. Advertisers are what keep things free, like the internet. So for them to shell out hundreds of thousands of their clients advertising budget on any one medium in particular, it has to guarantee that a certain number of people see it. That’s how we calculate the CPM (cost per million). If it’s a premium website, or can get an audience deemed more “attractive” because of their relevance to the client, advertisers will pay a higher CPM to get in front of those people. When a CPM can get as high as $30, advertisers have to be very strategic of where they put their clients dollars to work. If the advertiser fails in doing that, it could be a disaster for the client. A big enough disaster can lead that client to moving their business elsewhere. Which means people lose their jobs. I’ve been in a situation like that before and it blows. So just keep that in mind for a second, advertisers are people too and they are not evil. The things we know about people’s consumption habits can be considered creepy, sure, but not evil.
Anyway, back to journalism. Websites like Buzzfeed get a ton of advertiser dollars now because people love clicking their picture heavy lists. Buzzfeed occasionally covers news, reporting on “real” issues but it doesn’t make them money. Their “30 most adorable cats” list brings in the bacon for those guys. So a lot of the investigative journalism, the stuff that uncovers corruption in our politics or conspiracies, gets lost in the shuffle for click bait.
There are exceptions to this though, and it’s the thing that gives me hope that maybe journalism isn’t dying like John Oliver says (watch the YouTube video if you haven’t, it’s good but incomplete mainly because it does ignore the advertising component and doesn’t even touch why we care more about puppies then news). Investigative journalism has recently moved to places like HBO and Netflix, where these networks, so desperate for content to convince people to pay for their services, allow journalistic filmmakers to follow conspiracies to their conclusions. These people have agendas though, they are sensationalizing the stories to turn it into a drama in order to attract viewers. The meat of it is factual, showcasing the weird and the injustices alike so I don’t fault the drama. People get invested in these stories, they flock to them, showing there is still a deep interest for such things, but maybe not on a global scale… but that may change.
Let me present exhibit A, B, and C. All examples of where dramatizations of real people and real issues lead to change because people were gripped by their stories. Exhibit A.) Adnan Syed of the popular “Serial” Podcast was granted a retrial in his murder case following the outcry following the podcasts investigation of his trial and conviction in 1999 of his girlfriend. Exhibit B.) Brendan Dassay has his conviction overturned less than a year after Netflix “Making a Murder” show is made available and public outcry ensues over the sketchy evidence and the dirty tactics police used when questioning a simple child. Exhibit C.) Robert Durst, the subject of HBO’s “The Jinx” reveals things on the show that lead to his arrest for the murder of Susan Berman and show his connection to other mysterious deaths of those around him.
None of those convictions over turned or arrests would have happened without the podcasts or TV shows that told these stories. But these are small when you look at the world scale. Sure, things like Wikileaks and people like Snowden get the attention and movie treatment for their part in revealing global corruption but more often than not other things get missed or don’t get the attention they deserve, the eyeballs they need, to make change, to end corruption and human suffering. That is the thing people worry about disappearing alongside traditional journalism, and I do think it’s a legitimate fear. But the internet may not be the answer. Things like HBO and Netflix may be the answer, especially when people only care about cats on the internet. Hopefully journalists can adapt with the times, and I am hopeful they can!
I don’t normally like, nor want, to post movie reviews. I didn’t go to film school. I have no technical eye for cinematography. Ultimately, I know what I like and sometimes get a bit critical because I am not so easily won over by pretty explosions and people, not always in that order. However, what I am is a comic book fan. Sure, mainly I focus on the Marvel Universe (it’s a much better Universe, just saying), but I dabble with DC from time to time. So when I saw Suicide Squad this weekend, I had an opinion on it.
First off, let me say I didn’t hate it nearly as much as the Rotten Tomatoes score did. It was entertaining and there were moments where it got so close to being what it should have been all along… But its misses were big ones and that comes mainly because DC is struggling to make their version of Guardians of the Galaxy or even Deadpool. Snarky, hilarious movies about a cast of misfits that don’t fit in well with the powerhouse superheroes of the Avengers or Batman. The problem DC has is that they don’t have the kind of funny, snarky characters that can stand on their own. The majority of the characters that make up their universe are morose and broody and pretty simple from a character arch standpoint. Superman is simple to understand. So is Batman and Wonder Woman. Hell, the most interesting thing about Batman is his moral code to never kill and how that conflicts with his cast of villains. But even Batman’s cast of villains, Joker, Two Face, Penguin, etc. all need Batman or else their motivations start getting flimsy.
That was the starting issue with Suicide Squad. These villains they “recruited” are bad guys. They make sure to remind you of that fact over and over again during the film. You shouldn’t start to feel like they are being redeemed through this ordeal. They aren’t. They are selfish BAD GUYS who need to do a good thing or they will be killed. If you asked them nicely to do something good, they’d laugh and then probably shoot you in the head for good measure. These aren’t a rag tag of misfits united by a common goal but are ultimately decent people like Guardians of the Galaxy and they never will be despite DC needing something a little lighter in their cast of characters. I think that keeping these characters true to their purpose would have been fine, but WB and DC needed a win, not another swing and a miss following Batman vs. Superman.
So, the directors and producers freaked out after Batman vs. Superman and decided to re-shoot massive sections of the movie and it shows. Oh man, did it show… Part of the movie was kind of a silly/serious music video montage of bad guys. The other half was dark fight scenes with supposedly heavy moments. I liked the music video feel. I thought that was done well, was visually interesting, and a great way for someone who isn’t familiar with random minor villains in the DC Universe to get caught up. But the hodgepodge of movie styles had the whole experience falling apart at the seams and suddenly the whole reason the Suicide Squad exists is because the person putting the team together lost control of one of her recruits. Oops?
But all of that, all of it, is beside the point with how the films director used these DC characters. Throwing in random people into the Suicide Squad to blow them up and show “hey, we’re serious about the whole ‘obey us’ thing.” Which I get but it was done so laughably bad that it was just a waste of a moment. The Suicide Squad in the comics frequently have people dying, no one is safe. There is an inherent tension in that. The guys you love to hate may not make it because they are bad guys and if something goes wrong they won’t be missed (theoretically). These are loners, selfish, distrustful villains forced to work together for a cause they don’t believe in. Shit’s going to hit the fan. Except this group became all buddy buddy three seconds into meeting? Bullshit. Great, you have a common enemy. But where is the infighting for how to go about overthrowing these overlords? The jockeying for alpha dog status? Glaringly absent this time around, I’ll tell you that.
Then there was Joker and Harley Quinn. Some of the most anticipated characters in this movie were the ones that hurt me the most. Jared Leto’s Joker was the worst Joker I’ve ever seen. He turned this twisted, evil genius who delights in mentally tormenting his foes as much as physically abusing them into a two bit pimp? Gangster? I don’t know, he had the gold chains and ran a strip club and that is so not Joker. That’s more Penguin or Two Face’s shtick, not the Joker who delights in mayhem and attracts a similar following. Joker is a guy who can still throw Gotham into chaos while behind bars in Arkham. Jared Leto’s Joker was not that. Jared Leto is a phenomenal actor in the right role, his interpretation of the Joker was nowhere near his finest work and makes me yearn for Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s Joker all the more. Those guys got him 100% right.
Everyone was also very upset about the Joker and Harley’s relationship but because of how abusive it was. Well, that was one of the few “comic book” factual things to the movie. Harley and Joker’s relationship is insanely abusive. When Harley was treating Joker as a patient, she thought she was curing him. Instead, because he’s an evil genius, he was driving Harley to madness where her only salvation was the Joker’s love. Except Harley is always a pawn to the Joker. Always expendable and usually is. He’ll leave her to make a quick getaway if he needs to and maybe he’ll come back for her later, maybe. Harley loves Joker 1000x more than the Joker cares for Harley. That’s how it’s always been.
EXCEPT this film positioned it as Harley fell in love with the Joker while she was still his doctor. Just a silly girl with a crush. Then Joker turns her and he somehow gets as addicted to her as she is to him? Nope, just nope. Harley is a brilliant woman, a legitimate doctor. And they stripe that away (literally) to where she’s a 50’s-esque mobster’s girlfriend who has an aversion to pants. Harley is sexy and uses that sexuality when it suits her. But she’s not a doll whose sole purpose is to be eye candy. They got close once in this throwaway line where Harley psycho-analyzes Deadshot, that’s the Harley she needed to be the whole time. Batshit crazy sure, but smart and brilliant. Someone who delights in the chaos and madness thrust on her but who uses the skills she once had to get people to do the Joker’s bidding. It’s what makes her valuable to Joker and she knows that and Harley ALWAYS wants to be needed by her abusive creator.
The rest of the characters… there were too many of them to feel like any were given the kind of air time they needed outside of Harley, Deadshot, and Commander Flag. I liked Diablo. His character and “redemption” story was interesting but ultimately wasted in a movie that didn’t care about this character as much as they did ensuring Harely’s ass was always on screen. I thought Commander Flag and Deadshot’s banter was good though, it felt true to their characters. A trained soldier not getting along with a paid mercenary? Natural. Them finding out they aren’t 100% so different and having a very uneasy, and dare I say, respectful, relationship at the end? I can buy that.
The rest? The other characters and how DC allowed the director to butcher them with "creative license" and the suffocating desire to have a lighter hearted movie? I’m sorry, no thanks. Suicide Squad could have been extremely interesting and amazingly good. The content for it is there. They just need a better director. One who understands the source material and respects it while putting a modern lens on it. That never happened which is ultimately WB and DC’s failing, not Suicide Squads.
I’d like a do over, please and thank you.
I should probably explain how I go about rating the books I read. I had a long conversation with some close friends and family and, generally, they were very confused when I said I would most likely read the next book in a series after giving the first book a 2 out of 5. I have my reasons.
Let me start off by saying I enjoy reading series. I like big and complicated worlds with deep characters. Generally, people and places like that mean you need more than one book to cover everything and I like that. I do read one off stories occasionally and enjoy those as well (The Martian and Ready Player One were awesome). But more often than not, the fantasy/fiction books I enjoy are series and if there is one thing I hate, it’s not finishing a series. So unless a book is god awful, I’ll usually slog through the whole series even if the first book gets a 2.
So what does my star rating really mean? It’s pretty simple, which is why I stick to 5 rather than 10 stars. I also don’t usually rate books based on the writing style unless the writing is just so bad or the grammar so off that it ruins the story. There have been two books I have read like this in the past and the bad writing and switching of the tenses was so aggravating that I was never really pulled into the story. Despite those being long series, I won’t read another. And no, I’m not going to mention the books either. Despite me personally not liking them, there are tons of people who do and the author put a lot of work into it. I didn’t enjoy it sure, but I’m not a fan of just bad mouthing authors either.
Those kinds of books by the way, are automatic 1 stars. The rest is usually based on how much I enjoyed the book as a whole. This means its characters, its world building, how relatable I find the protagonist (or antagonist), how original the book was, and the style (mainly that means if the author has a style that starts bugging me then it may affect the rating – like over using italics. That’s meant to emphasize words but if you use it every sentence it loses its impact, just saying).
Books I give 2 stars to have weak or shallow characters, the world is not original (nor is the conflict), I don’t relate to the main characters or find them to be people I want to root for… depending on how many of these elements are present or how much certain missteps bother me will dictate if it’s a 2 or 2.5 stars. Because I’ve read books that were solid 2’s but something about them made it so I didn’t want to put the book down. That’ll bump it up a bit and then I’m reading the next in the series (and probably regretting it after).
3’s are all around solid books and I’ll recommend them to friends who I am familiar with in terms of their reading style and genre preference. They aren’t the best books in the world, but enjoyable and worth the money for sure.
4’s have wonderful characters, interesting new worlds, unique stories, the style is refreshing, and I’m rooting for the main characters. I tend to give a lot of 4’s these days because I know the kinds of books I like and stick to that genre. It does mean that I don’t branch out much so if you have some book suggestions outside of my tried and true genres, please share!
I hardly give a 5 rating though. To me, this means perfection where everything comes together in a wonderful kitten and puppy wrapped package and maintains that all the way to the end. In a series, this is hard to do as some books are just about getting a character to a particular place and they fall into a bit of a slump.
5’s are unicorns for that very reason. There is always something we can improve on, no one is perfect. I learned that in college when my university maintained that no one gets an A+ in anything because no one is perfect. I’m not bitter, really.
I gave more 5’s when I was a bit younger too. I’m probably just cynical now or read too much (who am I kidding, you can never read too much!). It’s been a long time where I’ve found a book that was so good it had me reading it in one sitting. I can’t say for certain if life is more to blame for that with its endless torrent of adult related responsibilities. I just can’t read all day long anymore. But I genuinely feel like I haven’t found a story in a long time that holds so tightly on to my heart that I am desperate to keep going and then sad when it is over because it feels like I am saying good bye to friends. I have had experiences like that before and long for them again so, once more I implore you, if you have run across such a story, please share!!