Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ender's Game Review and Novel Comparison

I had a rare opportunity to watch a movie on its opening weekend.  This adaptation of one of the best known science fiction novels/series had its successes and misses.  I'm deliberately not saying "failures" because I think many were understandable.  I'll start with some differences from the book and then mention some other spoilers further down.

If I was going to question something in the book it would be regarding the battle (in the spoilers below).

Overall, the movie did what was intended - it entertained.  However, I don't see a sequel as a huge probability.

The book had a more detailed side-story where Ender's siblings played a key role by creating fictional characters who debated the war.  This set them up for gaining power back on Earth, which was Peter's goal all along.  While it was interesting and led to Orson Scott Card branching off the Ender brand through them, including that could have overcomplicated the plot for this movie.  It would have needed at least another hour.

This may be a bit of a spoiler but everybody knows there was an epic space battle in this movie.  In the novel, when Ender was working through various final battle simulations it was interesting how in come battles, the human ships were decades old while in others, they were the latest technology.  They didn't go into an explanation of the ships in the movie but they all looked same era.

Although it didn't have a lot of coverage, I liked the use of the game in the book. 

As I recall from the book, there was a bit more character development with Bean also.  He had more strategic importance than Petra, but I guess for a movie it was better to develop the female character.  But in the book series, this story was retold from Bean's POV in Ender's Shadow.  Petra's role in the movie battles was very different from what I remember in the book - see the spoilers for more on that.

One other interesting component for the novel was that Ender was groomed to be a hero, he was going to be a hero everyone feared.  When the battle was over and humanity no longer had a common enemy, factions would fight for all of the battle school children, but none more than Ender.


First.  My reference to the varying ages of the ships.  That was a clever way to show how humanity has actually been sending waves of ships to the alien's outposts and home world for years.  By going near the speed of light, months seemed to pass for crews when years or decades passed.

Another clever, and subtle component was when Harrison Ford turns to the display that gives a warning of an approaching invasion fleet.  They don't go back to it, but I thought it was odd (knowing that there was never an enemy fleet approaching).  Then in the battle scene I realized that it was estimated time for the human fleet to reach the enemy world and fleets.

Bean and Petra.  The movie didn't really do enough to develop Bean.  In the books, he was being groomed to potentially take over if Ender couldn't finish.  Bean was important enough to have a spinoff of the series. 

Petra seemed to be developed in the movie as Ender's right hand person, but when they went to the actual battle, she ran one ship.  Didn't it have a crew?  She had enough importance to be transferred to Dragon Army and be part of Ender's final team, but then she just ran one ship that only had one chance to fight or shoot?  It seems like the had her on the team just because she was Ender's girl friend.  Seems a bit sexist and condescending to the character.  Oh well.  It was entertaining.  I'm glad Ender found the queen at the end even though I'm not itching for a sequel.

Friday, September 6, 2013

RIP A.C. Crispin

It is a sad day for the science fiction community.  Author Ann Crispin (A.C. Crispin) passed away this morning.

Star Trek fans probably know her best for books like Sarek and Yesterday's Child.  She wrote many Star Wars books including the Han Solo Trilogy.  Her last novel is a prologue/prequel to Pirates of the Carribean titled:  Pirates of the Carribean:  The Price of Freedom.

Star Trek and other fans can read her farewell at:

Ms. Crispin taught at many writer workshops.  In fact, I participated in one at Atlanta's Dragon Con in 2007.  I'll never forget her personal critique of one my submission and a question she asked about one character in particular.  "Does she pee?" 

No, I'm not joking.

Ironically, this year was the first year I have been able to participate in Dragon Con since then.

RIP Ann and thank you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dragon Con 2013 Recap

For the first time, I was able to get out and go to the Dragon Con in Atlanta.  I am so glad that I did.  It rebooted my desire to get back to writing.  Being divorced for a year now and a single father doesn't leave a lot of writing time, but I want to get back into it again.  Not to say I've totally slacked.  I have re-written and re-edited a military sci-fi/space opera novel that I am going to start pitching this fall.  But I haven't really started anything new.  That's going to change.

Friday.  I went downtown immediately after dropping my son off at school.  I waited in line for about an hour and got my pass.  Since I had to get back home in time to pick my son up from school, I left shortly after noon, but spent enough time walking around to familiarize myself with where most things I wanted to attend were.

I spent a lot of Saturday going to writer workshops.  Some had some decent information but others seemed geared more for people who either haven't finished any projects or are just getting started.  I didn't really go to many panels.  At least not the ones with the biggest names that you have to wait in line (outside in the heat) for about an hour.  One panel I went to included the author of my favorite current series - The Lost Fleet.  Jack Campbell was part of a Military Sci-Fi vs. Space Opera panel.  Other well known sci-fi writers included Mike Resnick, John D. Ringo, Jean Marie Ward, and Timothy Zahn.  For anyone who's seen these authors it should come as no surprise that John Ringo was the comedian of the group.  I also splurged on getting a cool looking light sabre for a Jedi costume that I hope to have together by Halloween.  Since I'm practicing a sword form, I should be able to make a pretty convincing Jedi.

There were three real highlights for Sunday.  One was the charity auction.  Not exactly something you'd expect to be really exciting, but I got a copy of Jack Campbell's newest novel (an uncorrected proof of the novel which is to be released in October).  The other highlight was participating in Dragon Con's attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for most people gathered together in Star Trek costumes.  I'm not a real cosplay type, but I did have a 2009 Star Trek movie-style red shirt (I know).  So I grabbed black pants and joined the group.  Although we didn't break the record we had fun.  I even allowed myself to be photographed being "killed" by a Gorn, Borg, eaten by a Horta, and Bat'lethed by a Klingon.  I was the South Park Kenny of Star Trek (Oh my God.  They killed red shirt!).  I also went to a panel discussing what editors and agents are looking for.  I even made some contacts with agents who gave me their cards and I will try to submit my sci-fi novel to some time in the next week.

Monday, I attended a time travel panel Jack Campbell was on to get his autograph on the book I picked up at the auction.  I'm not a real autograph hound, but this was irresistible.  I also went to a writing hard sci-fi panel with Timothy Zahn, Bob Mayer, and Stephen Antczak.

Overall, it was a fun experience and I'm looking forward to 2014.

That's all for now.  After a long con weekend, I have laundry to finish!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel. Entertaining but no "Super"man.

I went to see Man of Steel over the weekend with my 8 year old son.  He actually started getting a bit bored after about 1-1/2 hours.  In general the movie was entertaining and the flashbacks showing Clark growing up weren't bad.  The explanation of why Krypton was being destroyed and how Kal-El was different from other Kryptonians wasn't a bad twist either.

Although Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were the top billed stars, my favorite was Russell Crowe's portrayal of Jor-El.

Overall this reboot had one of the same major flaws that Star Trek Into Darkness had.  Plot direction.  When you are trying to create a new direction and new vision, don't go back and re-use the same villain from a previous version/movie.  Zod was a great villain in Superman II.  There are lots of other superpowered enemies Nolan and Goyer could have used to guarantee action:  Brainiac, Darkside, Mongul...  Doomsday would be good for a sequel. 


The scene where Clark's mother, played by Diane Lane helps him start to learn focus so his super hearing and x-ray vision was good and it helped create a temporary vulnerability in other Kryptonians - who were overcome by the sounds picked up by their super hearing and got a bit freaked by the sudden onslaught of odd sights with uncontrolled x-ray vision when their helmets were compromised.  I get it.  Their suits/armor and helmets create a filter, but ONLY for those powers?  They still flew, has super strength, and super speed? 

Also, I wasn't fond of how easily Lois Lane tracked down Clark/Kal-El based on stories and rumors and then called him Clark throughout the movie, went to his mother's house...  Makes it kinda hard for him to setup a secret identity.  Superman himself doesn't make it any more discrete at the end when he knocks down the spy plan tracking him and then tells the General "I grew up in Kansas.  What could be more American?"  Did he have to be that specific?  He could have just commented on his growing up in the U.S. and never trying to seize power.  Zod had helped confirm that mentioning that Earth had been "sheltering one of his citizens." 

Bottom line.  Man of Steel was entertaining, but not super. 

So, 3 movies about Justice League heroes in recent years and only one really measured up?  If the movie powers that be are really thinking of a Justice League movie to match up with X-Men or Avengers success, they need a new direction.  Maybe hire the team that handled Smallville?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prometheus in Black III (two movies for the price of one blog) Minor spoilers

Over the weekend I had a chance to see both Prometheus and Men in Black III.  Bottom line, both were entertaining, but I'd give the edge to Prometheus just because it was the fresher of the two.

Previews and trailers hint about how the mission of Prometheus is based on ancient astronaut messages found by scientists.  Not a bad premise.  (MINOR SPOILER) It gave an entertaining twist on the creation vs. evolution story with a brief discussion about aliens who may have influenced our evolution.  Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (always wearing a cross) has a great line about the aliens when asked about the religious implications - "Somebody had to create them." 

Now, I'm a Christian, but I have some reservations about creationism vs. evolution.  Maybe they're both right.  Maybe God did it all in 6 days, but 6 days from God's POV could be very different and people during biblical times probably couldn't have understood the idea of anything taking millions of years.  Anyway, back to the movies.

I liked Noomie Rapace as female lead Elizabeth Shaw.  But in many ways, the one who stole the show was Michael Fassbender as David.  He was creepy from minute one. 
Charlize Theron gave a good performance as Meredith Vickers.  Definite Alpha female material with a chip on her shoulder and not trying to hide that she had her own agenda (but keeps that to herself - she just wants to put everyone on notice).

Entertaining, but I'm hoping this will be the last of this series.  (Spoiler ALERT).  No Zed or Frank at all.  While Frank would probably have gotten annoying, I loved Rip Torn as Zed in the first two movies.

Josh Brolin did a phenomenal job as young K.  Kudos for the casting there.  There were times I wondered if they'd dubbed in Tommy Lee Jones's voice.  That said, I think they could have picked a better villain than Boris the animal. Oh well, nobody's perfect.  It was also fairly clever how they explained (or hinted) why J wasn't effected by the timeline change when Boris goes back and kills young K.

The character Griffin had some interesting abilities, but his babbling got a bit annoying.  He could have easily become the Jar Jar Binks of the movie.  Fortunately it didn't come to that.

Also, the tech downgrades to 1969 were funny (especially the neurolizers).


When Meredith Vickers invites our two heroic scientist to talk and there is the brief discussion of her quarters/lifeboat and how self-sufficient it is, they might as well have just said that would be a critical means of escape.  It wasn't as subtle as Ripley's skills with the loader in Aliens (her coming out at the end using it to fight the queen was a great twist in that movie).  Maybe if they'd made Vickers more of a germaphobe or something it wouldn't have been so obvious.

One "plot" problem I had was that if the world Prometheus went to was a launch site/bio weapons lab that was creating weapons to destroy Earth, then why leave the clues so it could be found?  Was this a subtle example of the super villains monologuing their plan because they didn't think the humans could ever stop them?

I was also puzzled a little about David's first victim.  I didn't get a full sense of why he did what he did.  Maybe just scientific curiosity.

When J and young K met up with and got assistance from the Colonel back in 1969, it took about 5 seconds for me to figure out who he was.  Some of that was hinted by older K.  Just how many African American colonels were there back in 1969?  I may catch some flack for this, but the rank seemed a bit too high for an African American for that time.  Perhaps a lower rank would have attracted less attention (NCO or a lower ranking officer, like a captain). 

I started laughing when young K pulled out the 1969 portable neurolizer and tried to boot it up (dial tone/login sounds that anybody who's had dial-up Internet would recognize). 

That's all for now.  And please remember to always tip your servers.  It could save lives.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Last night I attended the openning night of Avengers.  Unlike some, I wasn't jumping up and down about how absolutely fantastic, perfect, and awesome it was.  Keep in mind that if you listen to too many of those comments, you could hype it up too much.  That said, I really just have good things to comment on with the movie.

Warning, I may post some minor spoilers, but I'll try not to give too much away.  The one that I will give right now is that some rumors are true.  There are TWO (2...1+1...doubles...) end credit scenes.  The first after the first part of the credits showing XXXXXX (personally censored), the probable villain for an Avengers 2.  Now some comic collecting ultra-fans of mine commented that they see no way to integrate this villain into a sequel.  To that I say, it's based on comic books (sci-fi/fantasy stuff).  Nothing is impossible.

For writers, here are some of the things that worked.  First, the Avengers were a diverse group of characters who form a team.  I've commented on this in the past.  It's a great formula for books, TV, and movies.  Why?  Because one hero may not always appeal to everybody.  So what do you do?  Bring in different personalities.  Even the less-than-super characters like Agent Phil Coulson have an important place. 

What else worked?  A great mix of action, interaction, and humor.  Tony Stark delivered great action and comic relief (as you would expect).  But the best jokes were the ones you didn't see coming (hint - the second end credit scene was purely for fun.  It had no teaser, but it was worth waiting a couple extra minutes).  Black widow showed some vulnerability (real or not - you decide).  You also really see how clever she is.  She uses some femininity and sexyness, but not quite in the traditional way.  Definitely not just another pretty face. 

I had a mixed opinion of Captain America.  In some ways, I think most people were expecting Tony Stark's overwhelming presence to lead the team, but I was a little surprised when he basically asks Captain America for the battle plan when they get ready to face the enemy.

If I was going to point out one thing I think could have been better.  The circumstances around the second transformation for the Hulk for the last battle.

Speaking of the big green.  Tony Stark had the funniest lines, but some of Hulk's actions really got the best laughs.  Particularly with Loki (nuff said on that).

Summary - lots of fun and it will be very difficult for a sequel to be better.  I hope they realize that just adding bigger explosions won't make a better movies.  We know the actors and director can rise to the occasion.  Let's hope for a good script. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Protagonist Might Have Aspergers

Sorry I haven't been able to post for so long, but it's been even longer since I've actually been able to work on my story.  Life can get in the way, but I've been thinking about some critiques I've received regarding one of my characters.  Some have commented on his lack of emotional range. 

Originally, I intended to write him as somewhat reserved, maybe emotionally withdrawn.  If you haven't read any of my descriptions, my protagonist is a partial telepath - he can detect all thoughts around him that pertain to him.  Consider how many close friendships you would make if, throughout your life, you always knew the truth about what everyone around you thinks about you? Add to that the fact that he genetically inherited his mother's memories - including her being attacked and stabbed just before his birth.  He's not too quick to trust.

I thought that would be his main character/personality limitation, but last year, something changed.  My son was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic.  Like most parents, I started researching it and started making some correlations with my protagonist.  I'm continuing to review some basic material and compare with my character's personality.  I believe that I've inadvertently given my protagonist Aspergers traits.  Since this is science fiction, I decided to work that into the story.  Since the story takes place about 500 years in the future, I'll assume a cure for Aspergers/Autism would be found.  My protag's affliction would be like Aspergers in almost every respect except for the fact that it is brought on, largely, due to a severe trauma pre-birth or at birth.  This affliction gives tendencies for the brain to reduce or shut down part of their emotional processing because they were effectively overloaded at birth.  The symptoms will mirror Aspergers so much that he'll be misdiagnosed and treated for Aspergers. 

One thing I know is that I still have a lot of work to do to make this work but hopefully, this will become a good character development.  More importantly, I would love for this story to bring more attention to Aspergers/Autism.