Revenge of the SIxth

This past weekend was May the Fourth, a celebration of geek culture in general and Star Wars in particular.  Most observances were small and subtle, little more than the sharing of memes on Facebook and the like.  Others were a bit more involved (if you don’t get it, don’t worry; you have to be a regular follower of the whole site for it to be funny).

I used to like Star Wars – love it, even.  Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, lightsabers, the Force.  It was really rad.  Even though I identify with Star Trek more than Star Wars, I always enjoyed the Holy Trilogy.  But something has happened to my enjoyment of this franchise, something that has marred and marked this icon of geekery.

The franchise itself.

It seems unfair to dump all my dislike on Episode One and the Prequel Trilogy as a whole, but that’s really where it started.  Episode One was so subpar, so mediocre, it hampered my enjoyment of the franchise as a whole.  And subsequent releases only further distanced me from the series.  Once the entire Prequel Trilogy had been released, I found myself disillusioned with Anakin Skywalker and the efforts of Obi-wan Kenobi.  Darth Vader no longer seemed like an elite and revered warrior; he seemed like an easily manipulated goon.  He stopped being the Big Bad and became Oddjob or Jaws from James Bond.  The reverence and awe I once had for Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith, was completely undermined by what I now knew about Anakin Skywalker.

Obi-Wan Kenobi was ruined in much the same way.  Whereas I’d once thought him to be a noble icon of intelligence and mastery, I now had learned that he was kind of a moron.  He was being actively sought the universe over and he hadn’t even changed his last name?  And was living down the street from the family of the guy he was hiding from?  So much respect was lost.

But the Prequel Trilogy only started it.  In the wake of the Prequel Trilogy came the video games.  Unlike pre-Prequel Trilogy games that expanded on the Original Trilogy (tales of the Rogue Squadron or referenced battles in the movies), these games sought to expand on the mythology.  The result after seeing games like Knights of the Old Republic was to dismiss the entire universe as living in a stagnant death.  The universe in KotOR was almost identical to the one in the Original Trilogy, yet it took place a thousand years prior.  If technology was the same across a millennial gap, then how could one take seriously a political upheaval?  That wouldn’t be news; that would be inevitable.  Seeing the story of KotOR unfold, I suddenly WANTED the Empire to take control because then maybe they could get something done!

And then there was the animated series. While I loved Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars series set between Episodes II and III (which very nearly redeemed the Prequel Trilogy), the current running Star Wars: the Clone Wars series was okay, but was just like the movies it was based from: maybe worth a watch if nothing was on but nothing remarkable.

And it was on this most recent May the Fourth that it occurred to me that I really don’t like Star Wars anymore.  Something I used to really love had been retroactively ruined for me by sequels, video games, and an expanded universe that seemed destined – or even designed at times – to ruin these three films.  I couldn’t recall the last time I talked to anybody about Star Wars that didn’t center on Anakin Skywalker instead of Luke Skywalker.  In some ways, it almost seems like the collective geek culture has just decided that the Original Trilogy never existed, perhaps because to do so would be to admit just how much the franchise has deteriorated.
There was a time when sci-fi was ruled by four stars: Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate, and Battlestar Galactica.  And looking at the four now, it would seem the light of Star Wars has burned out for at least this fan.

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Internet Explorer

I had several dozen other things I wanted to talk about today, but given recent events*, I thought it appropriate to tackle this one.

I use Internet Explorer.  I always have.  I like Google Chrome well enough, but it doesn’t do anything IE doesn’t also do, including crash unexpectedly.  I actively dislike Firefox.  I’ve used Firefox on a variety of computers and it’s never run at anything more than a ponderously slow pace, often at a speed that made me feel like I could get faster processing speeds if I was just yelling ‘10101000100100100010101’ through a Dixie cup on a string.

I’ve been well aware that many people look down on IE users and I generally don’t understand why.  There was a hoax awhile back that IE users were proven to have lower IQs than other browser users and that was kind of funny, especially because of how readily everybody who wasn’t an IE user was to believe it.

I don’t quite know why people dislike Internet Explorer so much.  It’s buggy as all hell, sure, but I’ve never used a browser that wasn’t (including Mac’s own Safari).  I’ve seen IE outperform, and be outperformed by, other browsers but never in such a way that impressed me.  They are all means to an end – exploring the internet – and none of them do it staggeringly better than any of their peers.

To me it comes down to a simple question: why would I bother downloading a product that does the exact same thing as what already came pre-installed on my computer by the people who wrote all the programs I use as well as the operating system I’m using it on?  I’m not an elite computer user.  As a writer, my computer is largely a glorified typewriter and jukebox.  The most demanding website I visit (as far as processing power goes) would probably be Youtube or Facebook; maybe Crunchyroll.  I don’t need a super-elite browser; I just need a browser that works.  And having tried all the common ones, IE worked just as good as any of the others but had the added benefit of being right there when I first turned the computer on.

So Internet Explorer is what I continue to use, and will probably keep using for the foreseeable future.

* – The recent events in question was installing an Adobe update that automatically downloaded Google Chrome. That has had a deleterious effect on my computer and I’ve spent several hours today, performing every computer trick I know, just to remove this one program I never wanted to begin with.

Project Update

Last night, I received the first draft of the cover art for my upcoming book, Rhest for the Wicked.  It’s still in the early stages (thus, no teasers, sorry), but it looks very promising and I think it will pair well with the book itself.

I’m quite anxious to return to print publishing.  As many of my long-time fans can probably attest, I’ve been unable to find a comfortable niche since the Fall of 2009.  Having signed with my new publisher, things are starting to ‘get back on course’ as it were.

And in theory, they’ll get back on course quickly.  After Rhest for the Wicked, several more books should follow in short order.  A cyberpunk lovestory is slated for release in September, while the re-publication of Ghee (my oh-so-infamous gay ninja book) should see release this December or January, and lastly Teach The Sky will be in print for the first time around this time next year.  All these dates are tentative, of course.  Publishing, especially in this day and age – and especially with a small press – is a unique and unpredictable beast.  But with each subsequent book that is released, the process should become hopefully smoother.  And from that experience, hopefully more ambitious projects shall follow.

A lot of people have wondered about Crossworld Saga and if it will see redistribution and the short answer is ‘yes’.  The long answer, unfortunately, is ‘yes…in a while’. Crossworld has been released twice.  And the entire Saga was rewritten as a serial.  But both versions were aborted short of their finale because of industry and professional evolution.  My current publisher is quite interested in seeing the Crossworld Saga back in print, and I am too, but it’s a story I first wrote in 2001 and have largely worked on almost continuously since then.  It’s been developing over more than a decade and, quite simply, I’m not eager to go back to the starting point yet again.  This will be the third time I’ve restarted the Saga, and the fourth time I’ve rewritten Crossworld and it’s just a task that I don’t take lightly.  But it will see print again.  I just want to get a few books down first before I start tilting at that particular windmill.

The publication of the serials remains a big unknown.  Writing the Teach The Sky Continuity online constituted a massive undertaking and transferring that to the printed realm is no small task.  I doubt the entire franchise will see print, but what doesn’t see print will be re-released on here as the story unfolds.

It’s a very exciting time right now, professionally and artistically.  I owe a lot of these opportunities to my publisher and their team whom have given me a chance to return to the print world.  There are a lot of exciting projects in the works, with still more waiting in the wings.  I hope you’re going to enjoy them!

Criminal Inequality

It was brought to my attention over the weekend that Tiger Woods has steadily been one of the most hated athletes in the country, the result of his highly publicized philandering and infidelity in years past.  No problem, I understand.

What I don’t understand is that four slots down on that list is Michael Vick, who pled guilty to brutally executing dogs in the process of running a dog-fighting ring.  I don’t understand how these two charges are even remotely equitable, and the killing of an innumerable number of dogs is the more-forgivable of the two besmirching done to these men’s character.

I can understand people taking a dim view of infidelity, especially in a marriage that involves children.  I know some might debate it even being called a crime, but that’s a personal and ethical matter for debate.  What isn’t up for debate is the lives of dozens of animals being viciously and painfully exterminated because they were poor performers in a vicious underground pitfighting ring.  These two things are not the same.  These two crimes are not even on the same scale.  I’m sure the former Mrs. Woods was hurt by her husband’s actions; I’m not even beginning to question that.  But infidelity and mistrust are a far, far cry from the murder of animals.

Even if you aren’t the most staunch animal-rights activist, you must see the inherent cruelty in what Vick was doing for a protracted period.  And if you can honestly tell me you believe the death of dozens of dogs is less serious and more forgivable than marital indiscretion, then you do not have a heart.

I was truly stunned to learn that the stigma of Wood’s cheating lingers to this day, while the reaction to Vick’s animal cruelty is ‘Are we still talking about that?’.  These two crimes are not even remotely similar and to cast them as such, or Wood’s infidelity as the worse of the two, is simply beyond reasoning.

The Need For Good Guys

Long-time readers probably know that I’m a wrestling fan.  And every wrestling fan knows yesterday was Wrestlemania; the Super Bowl for the professional wrestling world.  And the main event at the ‘Grandest Stage of Them All’ was a championship match between John Cena and The Rock.  Both big-name characters, both icons of their business, this was their second meeting and was poised to be the stuff of legend.

But surrounding their meeting were the rumors that John Cena was going to pull what in the wrestling world is known as a ‘heel turn’.  This parlance means he was going to go from a good guy (a face) to a bad guy (a heel).  Cena has been the goodie-goodie of the WWE for close to a decade now and such a turn would have been industry-shaking (much like Hulk Hogan’s heel turn in the 1990s).
Many fans – John Cena detractors and proponents alike – called for such a turn.  They felt his boy scout persona had run its course and it was time for him to take on a darker, edgier, meaner character that would be more in-keeping with a villain.  In Cena’s early days, he had been a heel but since he began his first steps towards his ascent to the top of the industry, he’s been an incorruptible good guy.  And it is my opinion that shouldn’t change.

Sometime around the 1980s, the dark and edgy characters seemed to come to the forefront.  In comic books, it was the arrival of the seminal works ‘the Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘Watchmen’ which vaulted comic books not only out of childish fare and into the adult world (with the gritty realities and very mature themes injected into these fantasy tales) but they would also serve as the harbingers of comics’ mainstream acceptance today.
In video games, it was probably the mid-90s when the Sega Genesis would go on the offensive against the more family-friendly Nintendo/Super Nintendo with more brazen advertising and more mature games at their forefront (the equivalent to letting their PG-13 titles do the talking against Nintendo’s G and PG titles).  This would be further exacerbated when Sony’s Playstation would enter the field and would aim their marketing squarely at 20-somethings and largely ignore the kids’ market entirely.  And they did this by emphasizing darker, more mature, and more morally ambiguous stories.
Films have likewise embraced this approach.  The James Bond franchise, once about world-saving and high adventure, has for the last three movies been based on themes of betrayal and paranoia.  The famed Dark Knight Trilogy by Christopher Nolan, one of the most successful comic book film franchises of all time, worked so hard to embrace it’s gritty crime aesthetic that two of the three films avoided even having the name ‘Batman’ in the title.  One of the most successful adventure franchises of the past decade – Pirates of the Caribbean – places pirates as not only the protagonists but as iconic heroes fighting against tyranny.
Even animation has moved in this direction.  While other factors were at play, no doubt, the romantic interest in Disney’s most recent fairy tale ‘Tangled’ is a thief and a liar, which is far removed from the tradition of princes and knights.

Please don’t mistake me, I’m not asserting that darker tales are bad.  Quite the opposite.  They’re wonderful.  Watchmen and DKR helped deflate the egos of the pomp and silliness of comics and added some literary credibility.  Nirvana broke the rock world with a much-needed dose of reality, and NWA would do the same with the music world as a whole.  But not every title and franchise benefits from that grit and edge.  Not every movie needs to be realistic and ugly.  Not every character needs to have a dark side.

It’s for this reason that I believe John Cena shouldn’t make a heel turn.  Because some characters need to remain idealistically – maybe even excessively – good.  Every time they’ve tried to darken up Superman, fans have never embraced it.  Superman remains an unapologetic boy scout.  And Cena serves that same role in the WWE, in professional wrestling.

A heel turn can do wonders for a performer, no doubt, as well as for a story and for an entire company.  I am not opposed to well-done heel turns at all.  But not every wrestler needs one, and Cena definitely doesn’t.  Wrestling is a surreal, escapist fantasy.  And if there’s one thing our fantasies should always have room for, it’s a true-and-through white-hatted good guy.