Thursday, January 16, 2020

The World Has Gone...

By Cheryl Oreglia

Is it just me or has the world gone mad?

I'm up for a Google search this week and less than eager to share my findings.

Let's be honest, it seems as if everyone is enraged about something these days. It doesn't matter if you are on the right or left, from the North or South, rich or poor, skinny or fat, male or female, religious or atheist, young or old, pigment challenged or not. People are going berserk?

You might be curious as to what all this fuss is about?

I'm glad you asked because what I found was rather disheartening.

People are mad about...politicians, mass shootings, misogynists, terrorist, climate change, taxes, healthcare, same sex marriage, immigration, fires, law enforcement, crime, war, poverty...the list is long and difficult to contemplate.

If you've watched any of the debates you will have seen most of the politicians concur, we live in a chaotic world, in need of a savior (wasn't that what we just celebrated?)

As a survival technique I tend to squint at these controversial issues, shading myself from being over exposed, and then absolutely blow my stack if the toilet paper dispenser is empty, the dog eats my sock, or I encounter a slow driver in the fast lane, sometimes a dusty shelf can do me in.

We are all on overload.

But why?

Mark Mason says violent crime is at an all-time low, international wars are at an all-time low, there have been precipitous drops in domestic violence, steady declines in drunk driving-related deaths, death from infectious diseases, and a rock-bottom child mortality rates. You’re more likely to be killed by a piece of furniture than by a terrorist attack.

So why am I feeling so out of control?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and quote Ta-Nehisi Coates who says, “The violence is not new; it’s the cameras that are new.”

We have all these social media platforms ~ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and a few undisclosed sites that only people under 30 know about? But believe me they are out there.

People like hits on their platforms and guess what gets rewarded for sharing? Controversial, scandalous, and criminal stories, especially if it involves blood - even if they're wildly exaggerated, or worse fake news. The crazier the story the more it is retweeted, shared, and viewed or spread if you will. If you haven't noticed people are glued to their iPhones, we're inundated with data, and we have no way of assessing the accuracy or processing the content.

No wonder we think this is the end of times. As Mason notes we live in an attention economy where extremism and bias are not only indulged but perpetuated. It's an apocalyptic mentality that is celebrated and spreading like the wild fires in Australia.

While we continue to stoke these fires, there is no way for reason and moderation to dampen the rage, it's all smoke and mirrors, because anything else seems boring.

Mark Mason says, it’s this feeling that has consumed the consciousness of millions of people, and caused them to look at their country through the lens of a fun-house mirror: exaggerating all that is wrong and minimizing all that is right.

How do we come to any resolution when we've become so polarized?

Truth is a close relative to fiction (in my book). If I want to be perfectly transparent, which I don't, we could name humor as the proverbial parent, one who loves unconditionally the incarnate story of you (sorry I have Christmasitas - it lingers). Okay, I'm finished with this line of thinking, except to say, when done well, story gives birth to something akin to new life, and I've come to believe after this arduous google search that story is the only way to write us out of this current scenario.

Is there a conclusion?

This is the crazy part, despite the fact that we live in relative safety, poverty at an all time low, we have complete access to all the information we want, and what do we choose ~ The National Inquirer no less! No wonder we think the world has gone mad.

It's as if we're all crammed together in some sort of modern day Noah's Ark, we've been swept away by a flood of negativity, submerging the very structures on which we have built the most successful civilization in human history.

How can we change this narrative? Thoughts?

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

A high level view of the RWA fiasco

As Across the Board's resident romance writer, I feel compelled this week to write about the ongoing situation with Romance Writers of America. What situation, you ask? Well, buckle in. And get ready to follow some links that explain all of this WAY better than I can.

If you spend any time on Twitter, you're probably not unfamiliar with the ongoing drama with Romance Writers of America. Even if you're not on Twitter, the #RWAShitshow has been covered by Vulture, The New York Post, and more recently, Entertainment Weekly, who reported on RWA's decision to cancel the Rita's - the romance industry's annual writing awards. There is a lot of speculation about whether cancelling the RWA National Conference is next. As of yesterday several major publishers - including Harlequin, Avon, Sourcebooks and Entangled - have indicated that they will neither attend or sponsor this year's annual conference. Agents have disassociated and members have left en masse.

I have capital-T thoughts on everything that's happened, but before we get to that...

For a very thorough timeline of events, I've not found a better one than Claire Ryan's here. 

Where Claire Ryan's timeline leaves off, @Romancesparksjoy on Twitter picks up

For specific timelines, I recommend 
@courtneymilan, @Alyssa_Day and @AlyssaColeLit.  
All have been immersed in this situation from Day 1.

Also, Jami Gold's blog post offers an insightful look at the problems with RWA and why
they should matter to ALL writers.

I have NOT been immersed in from Day 1 and as a former member of 
RWA, I have no voting power in the current situation. However, that does 
not mean it doesn't impact me.

When a national association is revealed to be racist, anti-LGBT and ableist, 
that impacts us all. When said national association has received criticism for lack of 
diversity, equality and inclusion in its previous awards and makes award judges 
complete DEI training, but does not embrace those principles at the highest levels, 
that impacts us all. And then when the same national association's first magazine of 
2020 comes out in the midst of this whole controversy and shows a white woman 
pulling a woman of color up a mountain - knowing full well the cover image was 
chosen months ago and no one thought anything was wrong with that image 
at the time - that impacts us all.

I love writing romance and I love being part of the romance community. I love the fact
that so many authors, agents and publishers are taking a stand against this behavior.
What I don't love? That this type of prejudice is still so insidious. 
That there is discriminatory behavior to be called out. That this has reached the highest 
level of an organization I, and many authors, once held in great esteem.

Many more issues have come to light since this whole mess has started, and whether RWA 
can recover is very much in question. One thing is certain, however. If it does manage
to live to see another day, it will be need to be a very different organization.
For everyone.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

New Year, New Novel?

A post by Mary Fan
Happy New Year, everyone! Mary here, and I'm a day late because... well, I don't have a good reason, actually. I've been behind on various writing projects, and I feel like I've been playing catch-up for maybe a year. I've come to accept that this is my life now. I burrowed myself in the proofreading cave last night in an attempt to get back on track and totally spaced on my post. Sorry! #onbrand?

Anyway, it's the time of year when everyone's setting new goals. Many are health-related... my kickboxing gym was so full the other day, me and this other lady kept round-kicking each other by accident because there wasn't enough space between bags for our flying limbs. For those of us who write things, they're probably more, well, writing related.

Some people will set goals or resolutions based on habits -- something like "write every day." That works well for some folks, and if that's you, then I encourage you to go for me. Me? I'm not a creature of habit. Quite the opposite, really. My productivity is feast or famine... either I'm writing 3,000 words a night or nothing at all. But I'm generally decent at hitting my longer-term goals, such as finishing things and meeting deadlines. Well, the ones that really matter, such as ones tied to events... hence why so many of my goals (actually, all the ones below) are tied to events.

So here's what I'm aiming to do in 2020, roughly in chronological order:

  • Finalize and publish WINDBORN, the first novel in my YA epic fantasy series, in time for Farpoint 2020 (this is the thing I was proofreading when I forgot to write my post last night...). Current status: Getting there!
  • Crowdfund and publish BAD ASS MOMS, an anthology I'm editing for Crazy 8 Press, in time for Shore Leave 2020. Current status: Already late, but salvageable...
  • Publish the fifth (!!!) BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthology, also in time for Shore Leave. Current status: Still on track! Mostly because we're still taking submissions
  • Complete and publish SEIZE THE STARS, the third and final book in my Starswept YA sci-fi series, in time for Gen Con 2020. Current status: Also late but salvageable (halp)
  • Write a whole new book in time for my local writer group's critique session in November. Current status: I ain't started *sigh*
There are a few other things I want to do as well, but these are the big ones. What are your 2020 writing goals?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Konmari method for writers

Happy New Year, everyone! Holy hell, it's 2020. A decade ago, I was anxiously awaiting the birth of my first kid. Now I'm planning his tenth birthday party. Time seriously flies and it makes me hella stressed. No one wants to blink and they're seventy, y'know?

Anyway, I saw a ton of tweets from writers bulleting their decade-long accomplishments and rather than rehash that or discuss writer resolutions or goal-setting, I thought I would talk to you today about what I am affectionately calling, decluttering for authors. Very new decade. Very Marie Kondo. And like Marie Kondo, we're going to ask ourselves if something brings us joy. And if it doesn't, we're chucking it. Because a cluttered space is a cluttered mind. And we writers need clear heads. So let's begin with my stuff.

Hey there, Alphasmart Neo. You little internet-less keyboard that I purchased on Ebay to write without distractions. I discovered you via a KBoards thread and I thought you would be the answer to my procrastination problems. Alas, you've been sitting on this shelf for years. You're much better off in the hands of someone else who might actually use you. Thank you and goodbye. 

Hello giant binders with my old manuscripts. The books have been edited and published and I'm no Hemingway. I don't need to hold onto three hundred sheets of paper and red pen notes because it belongs in a museum. Thanks for being there, but it's time to hit the recycling pail.

Oh hey, computer file folder with old drafts of short stories that bear no resemblance to the final product. And how are you FinalDraft1, FinalDraftVersion 2, and FinalFinalDraft3 files that are definitely not the final versions of anything? I think it's time you all go to the Trash. Thanks. It's been real.

And to you fancy pens, highlighters, post-it notes and notecards. I'm not sure why I thought overspending at Staples was going to help me write better or faster. I'm going to pass you along to my kids for their school projects.

And lastly, to you cheap ShopRite notebooks that I bought for ten cents a piece in late August. You, with the scribblings of a mad woman with so many ideas, you get to stay. You are chock full of notes and plot threads and characters that I intend to flesh out one day. You bring me joy. Also you are the most consistent part of my process. I can't let you go.

I've always believed that writers work best when their space is clear. Be it headspace or working space, just get rid of the stuff you don't need anymore. Condense your computer files. Delete duplicates. Chuck old manuscripts into the recycling bin unless you absolutely need to revisit your process.

Get rid of the old. And welcome new ideas and enthusiasm. And write. Butt in chair.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Horror Fiction Redefines What It Means to "Like" a Story

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
In my last post, I sought a scientific explanation for why people like the horror genre, even though it’s repulsive by nature. I don’t believe there’s something wrong with people who like to be scared—they’re still scared, and that’s still not an inherently pleasant thing. But that just brings us back to the core question: if people are repulsed by horror, why do they like it?

Let’s go back to what it even means to “like” something. Feeling joy is certainly one route to liking. When you eat a piece of cheesecake and your tongue tells your brain to leak happy chemicals into its mushy folds, sure, you like cheesecake. However, we humans are complicated, and the range of human experience is much broader than a neural thumbs-up or thumbs-down in response to a given thing.

When it comes to horror, here are a few reasons to “like” a scary story despite your brain often giving it a vigorous thumbs-down:

  • Relief. It feels good to be done with a bad experience. It may even feel better than how you felt before the bad experience. So part of enjoying horror may be chasing a high—not during the scary bits, but during the comic relief, or when there’s actually nothing behind the door, or when the big bad monster is finally defeated.

  • Expression. People like to express themselves, and a person who likes horror may want to express that they are the type of person who likes horror. In my research on the topic, I’ve found certain personality traits that predict self-reported enjoyment of the genre—for example, people who describes themselves as agreeable are less likely to say they like horror, and people who describe themselves as thrill seekers are more likely to say they like horror. However, crucially, they had the same emotional reactions to horrific imagery. It’s more of a self-expression thing—we all construct an image of how we see ourselves, and how we hope others see us. Saying we like horror is one small part of that. And I don’t think expressing ourselves through our preferences is “fake” in any way; it’s core to how we operate as social beings, and as genuine as loving cheesecake.*

  • Connection. Serious academics have named this the “snuggle theory” of enjoying frightening media. It mostly applies to film—two people watch a scary movie together and one acts scared while the other acts brave, which brings them closer together, which leads to babies and the continuation of the human species. I think it applies platonically too, though. The horror community is one of the most interesting and generous I’ve seen, so our shared love of getting freaked out can lead to connecting with awesome like-minded people.

For me personally, it’s all of the above, and one more thing that I haven’t come across in the academic literature. I’m a scientist myself, so I have a weird need to understand the unknown, but also an attraction to the unknown itself. After all, science shines a light in the pit of the unknown, but there are always more shadows, and we have to be curious enough to jump in the pit in the first place.

For me, the most sublime horror is this poster for It Comes At Night:

Or this video of unidentified howling in the woods:

Or this pie chart:

Or the best cosmic horror novels. Just pure unknown, or unknowable.

I love that feeling of the unknown; the bittersweet unease from realizing there could be anything out there—or nothing. This feeling may overlap with fear, and it may be ambivalent rather than pure joy, but I think it’s worth seeking out. Maybe my attraction to the unknown is why I’m sometimes accused of writing novels without endings.

Human minds are some of the most unknowable objects in the known universe, especially as we're all trying to understand them from the inside, but hopefully this series of posts helped in understanding, just a little bit more, why the human mind would be attracted to darkness.

*Another point under the “expression” theme: when I wrote about horror on Medium, a reader named Caryn wrote this comment about how expressing fear may be taboo in certain cultures, except during a horror movie. Horror can allow people to express themselves in a society where they otherwise can’t.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A Review of RISE OF SKYWALKER with Karissa and Mary
I just literally got back from the theater and I'm ready to hash out my thoughts about Rise of Skywalker. I have to confess, I was less excited about seeing Rise of Skywalker than I have been about the other movies in the newest Star Wars trilogy. I think it's because my disappointment in The Last Jedi was pretty profound, and time had only made it worse. I was excited that J.J. had taken over the reins again as director, but there was a lot of damage control to be done, and I didn't know if he could do it. I know saying that will already have fans of The Last Jedi protesting. As I get farther into this review with Mary, I think my thoughts on why The Last Jedi was disappointing will become more evident. I certainly don't expect people to agree with me, and I'm more than okay with that. I'm a long-time fan, but I welcome the fact that we have a variety of opinions.

I'm so privileged that Mary saw this on opening weekend (opening night?) and was available to talk to me the moment I walked out of the theater.  I'm so glad she was willing to share her thoughts with me for this post. I have a hard time processing movies on my own. Also, my son has turned out to be a great font of Star Wars knowledge and I'm glad he watched it with me. Some of his knowledge also contributed to our discussion. Thanks kid!
Mary and friend on opening weekend
Me a few days later (I hate opening night crowds!)

Now, for warnings. This post is SPOILERIFIC. There will be no holding back, no hedging, no hints. We're going to talk openly and blatantly about this movie. If you haven't seen it yet, stop now. Go back. Run Away, Run Away!!!!!
Karissa: So, Mary, where to we begin?
Mary: Hmm, where do we begin? Let's start with the elephant in the room: REY. Her identity has
been the core of fan discussions since she first turned up in The Force Awakens. Theories abounded afterward, spurred in no small part by the inclusion of the Skywalker lightsaber and how it calls out to her, thereby implying some kind of connection. Then Rian Johnson was like "jk lol" in The Last Jedi, which just made me facepalm.
Karissa: UGH ME TOO.
Mary:And now we have JJ Abrams retconning the retcon.
Karissa:YUP LOL
Mary: SO. Rey Palpatine.
Karissa: So, this is a good place to mention the spoiler I saw on Twitter this morning right before going to see the movies (Assholes!). Someone posted basically saying "Who would have sex with Palpatine? WHO?"
Mary: Ugh, RUDE
Karissa:We knew, or suspected, from the trailer that Palpatine was back. With that knowledge and that major spoiler of a tweet, I knew in an instant that meant Palpatine had offspring and that was going to wind up being Rey. And...I wasn't that surprised.
Mary:That's a real bummer. I went in cold, not knowing anything, but when it was revealed, I just rolled my eyes. I mean, it makes no narrative sense! And it's obvious they didn't plan it from the beginning. Knowing JJ's "mystery box" style of storytelling, I'll bet he didn't even know who he wanted Rey's parents to be (but the visual filmmaking heavily implied that she was Luke's daughter).
Karissa: That was my son's argument. He was so mad. "That just came out of NOWHERE," he said. I said, "Not nowhere. That came out of having to do damage control from the last film". In a sense, I kind of felt like J.J.'s hands were tied.
Mary: I don't know... if he was going to retcon, he could have retconned it to something that made more sense. Now we're left with several gaping questions: Who was Rey's grandmother? Was her father force-sensitive too? And if so, why didn't Palpatine capture him and turn him instead of killing him?
Karissa: I did wonder A LOT about her father. 
Mary: Disney's probably already planning a line of novels and/or comics to explain Palpatine's son. Hey Disney, if you're looking for someone who can write 'em, I'm an expert at patching up plot holes 
Karissa: So much storytelling...such limited time and space in which to do it. And that brings me a little early to another issue. I think J.J. was pressured to pick a non-Skywalker answer to satisfy the Reylo shippers. BUT LETS SAVE THAT FOR LATER. UGH
 Mary: OH GOD
Karissa: Are we ready to go there or do you want to finish talking about "The Problems with Palpatine".
Mary: In hindsight it makes me laugh that she gave him the literal kiss of death.
Karissa: ha ha ha ha ha ha!
Mary: Up to you where to go next! I could ramble on forever haha.
Karissa: Okay we'll circle back around to Reylo later. Another "spoiler" I kept seeing was "Justice for Rose" and I thought that meant she died badly or got jilted by Finn in a bad way or something. I think it simply meant she didn't get sufficient screen time or a satisfying heroic arc.
Mary: Yeah, she was severely sidelined. I'm going to give JJ the benefit of the doubt and say he just didn't know what to do with her character. Some bad-faith tweeters are saying he caved to the racist/sexist trolls who chased her off social media. I don't think that's the case, but I do think she deserved a better story arc. Basically, Kelly Marie Tran's acting transcends how terribly her character was written into the plot.
Karissa: My benefit of the doubt analysis was that it came down to (as many things in this movie did) not having the time or space for it.
Mary: And yet they had the time and space to give both Finn and Poe beards. Don't get me wrong -- I liked Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell's characters! But it was so obvious that it was like "people keep shipping these totally not-gay boys so let's give them girlfriends."
Karissa: Ha ha ha it's so true. At first I was okay with them just being buddies, but by this movie their chemistry is off the charts! And Yes I agree about Naomi and Keri. That was so obvious it was a bit painful. Covering it up with Poe asking to kiss her jokes was funny but we could see what that was.
Mary: Yup
Karissa: And I think that segues nicely into a discussion of Finn. Sigh. I love Finn. Let's talk about Finn's "secret."
Mary: Oh boy
Karissa: There were times throughout this series when we wondered if the writers were going to push
Finn and Rey together romantically. And when they were sinking in the quicksand and he said he wanted to tell her something, it's obvious they wanted us to think he was going to confess his love. I didn't buy that for a HOT MINUTE. And the longer the movie went on, I knew he was going to tell her he thought he was Force Sensitive.That's his secret. Right? And also that he loves Poe. Ha ha!
Mary: According to Abrams and Boyega, yup that was his secret. I gotta say, though, it doesn't make sense in context. Why is it a big secret? Why can't he say it in front of Poe?
Karissa: I agree
Mary: He thought they were going to die, and the thing he wants to say is "I have a power like yours"?
Karissa: It only makes sense in the context that it was trying to tug on romance strings, but that was not a good choice. It didn't work for me. It didn't work for you. Who did it work for?
Mary: It also annoys me how many times Abrams leaves things dangling and explains them away later. A film should stand on its own (he did it with R2-D2's awakening back with TFA)
Karissa: I feel like he was trying to satisfy too many people and satisfied no one, maybe. Unfortunately I have to bring up Reylo again here.
Mary: Let's dig into it!
Karissa: There were basically two camps (well 3). Rey+Finn; Rey+Kylo; or Rey all on her own as most Jedi are raised to be. It's like J.J. tried to make all those things happen. Ultimately, Rey+Kylo got a lot more than I ever wanted them to get. Sigh.
Mary: Indeed. I think JJ felt he had no choice after TLJ because that movie was literally dripping with sexual tension but I think he was setting up Rey and Finn in TFA.
Karissa: Uh...yeah (see my note above about TLJ being a disappointment for me. This was one of the many reasons why.) I agree about Rey and Finn in TFA.
Mary: Weirdly, TROS seems to both pretend TLJ doesn't exist while grudgingly picking up where it left off the whole thing about Rey feels like the two filmmakers flipping each other off.
JJ: Rey has a mysterious parentage that's going to be significant
Rian: Lol no she's nobody
JJ: Whatever, her parents were nobody because they chose to be but actually she's connected to the most powerful baddie in the galaxy.
Karissa: Yup, those were my thoughts exactly. It saddens me that so much energy had to go into undoing what a previous director chose to do. Look, I'm all for burning down harmful institutions. I don't like to think I'm a slave to tradition. BUT… In this case...I dunno. I was mad at Rian for trying to undo, in one movie, a whole world that I was devoted to and had been for almost 40 years.
Mary: Yeah, exactly. Critics were kowtowing the so-called originality. But I say if you want to be original, be original. Let Star Wars be Star Wars. Make your own damn franchise.
Karissa: Yup. I wanted that original story to be finished. Then you could tell a new story that turns the old tropes on their heads and subverts tradition.
Mary: Exactly. Or heck, even a spinoff. I thought Rogue One was quite original and it didn't fuck up the original universe.
Karissa: And I think in the end Finn's "secret" was also an attempt to satisfy fans of the last movie. HE was the "nobody" with the potential to become Jedi. That could have been set up from the start, though. It was obvious that wasn't the intention from the beginning, but it had to be done to make the three movies cohesive. I love the idea of Finn being a Jedi, by the way. I just wish that it had been set up in TFA.
Mary: Yes exactly! I thought it was kind of set up in TFA with Maz giving him the lightsaber.
Karissa: Oh, yeah, maybe. I kinda forgot about that. But it seemed to be forgotten in TLJ, perhaps.
Mary: Oh yeah, it was completely forgotten in TLJ. Overall, the trilogy needed more cohesiveness. Say what you like about the prequels, but at least Lucas was telling a single story.
Karissa: Indeed
Mary: I gotta say, though, the whole 9-film saga is a lot better if you think about it not as the Skywalker Saga, but the Palpatine Saga.I mean, if Rey was a Palpatine all along, and the 3rd trilogy was all about her, then it works!
     Prequels: Palpatine rises to power
     Originals: Palpatine's fall
     New trilogy: Palpatine attempts to come back via his offspring
Karissa: Sure. I'll accept that! Pretty brilliant.
Karissa: We haven't talked much about Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. We'd be remiss if we left him out
Mary: Indeed!
Karissa: So...did any of us doubt there would be a redemption arc for him? I never did. And, I think it went about the way I expected (except for that damned kiss!!!) (I love Adam Driver, by the way. I want to see him in more action films. His physicality is so impressive.)
Mary: 'Tis the Season of Adam Driver.
Yes, I liked his story arc overall. I liked that it was his parents who redeemed him in the end.
BUT. I thought it was incredibly lazy that he died
the whole death-as-redemption thing is as hackneyed as it is... well, lazy haha
imagine if he'd had to fix his mess
he's still the Supreme Leader.
Karissa: Yeah, I wanted to bring up that I had seen grumblings about villains whose redemption arcs were too easy. That death let him off too easily.
Mary: Imagine if he looked at the world he created, regretted it, and had to spend the rest of his life trying to make it right.
Karissa: Right. I would actually have loved to seen that. See him come back and be tried for his crimes and sentenced. Not to prison necessarily but to "community service" basically.
Mary: I remember even as a kid I was frustrated by the whole "death-as-redemption" arc you saw in so many stories. So much so that one of the first things I ever wrote was about somebody who fell to the dark side, regretted it, and had to fix it (and then lived in the end).
Karissa: Yeah, I'm guilty of writing death-as-redemption myself. Oops.
Mary: Yes, the Trial of Kylo Ren would have been a fabulous movie.
Karissa: I'm sure there will be fanfiction.There should be.
Mary:I mean, if you want to give Star Wars some originality...
Karissa: I also saw grumblings about how well all the old ships worked after being exposed to harsh conditions.
Mary: Hah, well never mistake Star Wars for hard sci-fi.
Karissa: Right. That required a bit of suspension of disbelief, but it was one I was willing to make.
Nostalgia is a strong force to reckon with. Especially for those of us who have been fans for the long run.
Karissa: My son, who is more familiar with extraneous Star Wars lore than I am (he plays the video games and such) pointed out an interesting fact to me. I'm glad he was there or it would have gone over my head. The significance of Rey's gold/yellow/orange lightsaber in the end--he explained to me that in the games that meant the force user was neither good nor bad but almost utterly neutral.
Mary: Oh, interesting!!
Karissa:That makes perfect sense because at the end of the movie, Rey is the only Sith/Jedi left
She must embody the balance of good and evil solely within herself.
Mary:I like that.
Mary: Now, how do we feel about "Rey Skywalker"?
Karissa: I'm still processing that! In the car ride home I told my kid that I hadn't made a decision about that.What do you think?
Mary: I didn't like it. I would have preferred she answer "Just Rey" or something.
thereby freeing herself from both legacies. It also doesn't exactly make sense that she would choose "Skywalker". She knew Luke for about 3 days and he was a jerk to her. Leia was her master
and Leia never claimed the name Skywalker. So if anything, it should have been "Rey Organa"
Karissa: Or even Solo because it was obvious she latched on to Han as a father figure right away. But that might have impeded on the Ben Solo romance factor, so...
Mary: oh god, if it had been "Rey Solo," it would have given such Star is Born vibes. I mean, "Rey Skywalker" already kind of did.
Karissa: I 100% understand not wanting to be Palpatine, but Skywalker wasn't right either.
Mary: Exactly.
Karissa: Skysolo? Solowalker? Ha ha ha just kidding
Karissa: Anything else you want to bring up? If not, I'm curious about your overall general thoughts about this movie as the endcap to a 9 episode saga stretching over 40+ years.
Mary: Well, I guess I've spent a lot of time griping about what didn't work for me, so let me just add that overall I did enjoy the movie in the moment. Loved the acting, loved the action sequences, loved the chemistry between the characters. And I really liked what they did with Leia. A wonderful send-off for the character. Also loved Lando's return.
Karissa: Oh yes Lando!!! I was glad he made an appearance.
Mary: Overall I feel like this 9-film saga deserved a better endcap, but it wasn't all TROS's fault.
TLJ really fucked things up. But at least they did their best to tie up all the loose ends and leave the saga in a place where you can comfortably say "the end."
Karissa: I wish I could reply to or comment on that, but you really just took the words right out of my mouth. Feelings are the same.
Mary: Hah! great minds.
Karissa: Oh, I forgot about Hux. Hux was the mole. And then his death was so comic.
Mary: Oh god that was annoying. It was a cool twist, but they did nothing with it.
Karissa: Right? I believed that he could be the mole because he hated Kylo that much but it was such a throw away. 
Karissa: I'm sure I'll have more thoughts as the days wear on (and upon future viewings) but for now, this was a pretty good wrap-up for me. A great way to decompress. I'm not gonna lie. I cried
Mary: Aww
Karissa:I cried when Leia died, although it was right.
Mary: Yes, I like that she died saving her sonan d I understand why she had to die (because there's only so much cut-and-paste Carrie footage lol).
Karissa: I cried when the "cavalry" showed up and saved the day. But that had more to do with me just needing to see good people defeat evil than anything particularly Star Warsy.
I did have one more big thought to discuss... So, I was really bugged by how in TFA it seemed the end of The Return of the Jedi was dismissed. It looked like the Rebel Alliance had not only failed but The "Empire", now the First Order, had never actually been defeated.That still bugs me BUT
I've also gained new perspective on that in the years that have come since TFA's release.
Mary: Sigh, indeed.
Karissa: Because we've been dealing in the real world with proof that history repeats itself--that the evil that you thought had been defeated all those years ago really was just lying dormant, waiting for an opportunity to re-surge. And after the past 4 years...maybe I can believe that Palpatine and the Empire never really were defeated. It just went dormant, biding it's time.
Mary: That's a very good point. I guess that movie was unexpectedly prescient. As were the prequels.
Karissa: Thanks for talking it through with me. You going to watch Rise of Skywalker again anytime soon? Or are you satisfied for now?
 Mary: Satisfied for now. I'll probably rewatch it at some point but I have no need to rush back to the theater like I did with TFA.
Karissa: I think I feel the same. I am, however, ready to see Knives Out again. But that's another post for another day.Thanks for chatting with me. I needed Star Wars counseling, and you're always the best therapist.
Mary: My pleasure!Thanks for the convo! I'm always up for talking Star Wars.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Ghostliest Season of All

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey everybody!  The holidays are already upon us and I am swamped so this will be brief.

Over the last year and a half, author Wile E. Young and I have been working on a ghost story, my first, in fact.  I always attempt (if perhaps not always succeed) to make my novels at least somewhat well, novel.  I know they say sub sola nihil nova, but if I can't at least attempt to write something new, I don't see much point in diving into a story.

We ultimate came up with (I think) a rather clever conceit, which is that our story takes place in a world where ghosts are commonplace, and therefore a house not being haunted would be shocking.  So it's sort of a reverse haunted house story.

Sometimes these new ideas come to me relatively easily.  Other times, as in this case, it takes a long time to come up with something new.  Perhaps that's because ghosts are one of the oldest kinds of horror.  In fact, they're so ubiquitous that folktales and campfire yarns are sometimes just called "ghost stories."

But did you know that ghosts and horror have a long tradition of being associated with Christmas?  Christmas is usually thought of as a jolly, festive time of year, but the dead of winter also has a strong horror component.  There are many classic Christmas horror films, like the recently remade "Black Christmas" or "Gremlins" as well as newer fare like "Krampus" or our good friend Mike Lombardo's "I'm Dreaming of a White Doomsday."

Image result for i'm dreaming of a white doomsday

There's also "The Nightmare Before Christmas," a staple of both Halloween and Christmastide.  In fact, at the balloon shop we've had our Jack Skellington up for the last two months.  :)

In the UK, telling ghost stories at Christmas time is a storied tradition.  On this side of the pond, you'd probably be most familiar with Dickens's A CHRISTMAS CAROL, which is so ubiquitous there are probably at least 500 versions once you count in tributes on sitcoms and the like.  This year, though, the FX remake seems to be making a pointed effort to turn the certainly hoary, sometimes hokey tale into something more like straight horror.  I strongly recommend you check it out.

Image result for fx a christmas carol

So, maybe this year, don't think of Christmas as just a time to bust out "The Grinch" and "Elf."  Think about popping in a nice horror movie, or picking up a horror novel (perhaps from one of your fine young friends here on the blog, even?)  Or, maybe you could go full British style and spend your night telling ghost stories.  But however you do it, enjoy your holidays!
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