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Cursed Planet


Who knew ghosts could exist in heavy gravity?

Hope Delgado, the galaxy’s only alien ghost expert, confronts her toughest challenge on S.C. Kangjun’s latest mission.

The local aliens, 49ers, blame the humans for a ghost. And they hide a deadly secret. A secret they will kill to protect.

Hope must make a desperate last stand against the aliens and the ghosts—if she fails, her friends will die. A science fiction novel of deep space thrills and adventures.

Pick up Book 3 in the GALCOM Universe series on Amazon!

Space Cats


Because, well, space and cats.

The Shaky Camera


Woman holding a clapper board
Lights, camera, shake!

Every now and then I run into a show where the director used the “shaky camera” filming technique.  It’s where the camera is hand held or simulates hand held.  The camera might be focused on one actor, and it jiggles and moves around.

It probably originated from The Blair Witch Project.  According to stories at the time, the camera was so shaky that people got ill from motion sickness.

I think some directors use it because it creates a sense of urgency.  You get all this camera jiggling–pay attention!  Pay attention!

It also evokes a sense of realism.  If you film a home movie, it’s going to have the same shaky effect.

For me, I don’t like it, except maybe very sparingly.  I could see it in a big action scene where things are moving fast because it fits there.  One of the things producer Irwin Allen did was what was called The Seaview Rock and Roll.  He banged a metal bucket, the camera would tilt, and the actors would all lurch to the left, or even fall to the deck.  It was a very effective special effect.

The shaky camera works here because it’s only a few minutes, and then goes back to the normal stable camera shots.

As an entire episode or movie?  No.

One of the problems with the shaky camera is that if used in excess, it constantly disrupts the suspension of disbelief and reminds us that is a film.  I know that the new version of Battlestar Galactica is highly praised, and I’ve been able to watch it.  Just a few minutes in of shaky camera and I was paying more attention to the camera movement than the story.

Sometimes less is better.

Fall Library Sale Spoils and Con News


Floppy eared dog carrying a trick or treat pumpkin basket
Dog treats please.

This week, we went from hot, humid and uncomfortable to cold and windy.  We got the very edges of Hurricane Michael, which meant lots of rain.  I was in my car, waiting for the light to change.  Rain started to come down so hard that I thought it was hailing!

We didn’t get any damage, though we always have a problem with flooding.  There are a lot of streams in the area, including one that marks the boundary of George Washington’s property.  I might take a short hop over to that one and see how bad it is.  But it really is cold enough to be uncomfortable, and my heat is not yet turned on.

But I did manage a trip to the county library sale this week.

I like looking for research books rather than fiction.  I also try for writing craft books, but I appear to have exhausted the supply (I suspect the ones I got two years ago have been waiting for a home for a long time).  I look for:

  • Hollywood (TV and 1940s)
  • Space
  • Ocean

The last two are generally hard to find.  There are books, but not necessarily ones that will be useful for me.

In no particular order, this is what I got:

  • The Andy Griffith Show by Richard Kelly (I can’t seem to help it after going to Nostalgia Con. I just want to find out more).
  • Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach (an interesting find in the science section)
  • Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Series and Events that Made Us Who We Were, by Steven D. Stark (and somewhat dated by current events; Cosby Show is listed, but it’s likely the show will never been seen again).
  • Ethel Merman by Brian Kellow
  • The Star Trek Compendium by Allan Asherman
  • Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony’s Long Romance with the Left by Ronald Radosh and Allis Radosh
  • Warner Presents: The Most Exciting Years–From The Jazz Singer to White Heat, by Ted Sennett

And some other news.  I mentioned that I was appearing as a panelist at Chessiecon.  I now have the panel names!

  • How Not to Get Published
  • Real Life Military vs SF/F
  • The Effect of Catastrophic Events on Literature
  • Time Management for the Overachieving Creator
  • Put a Pretty Face on It – Cover Design in the Age of Digital Art
  • From Wesley to Wheaton: Celebrities Who Broke Type
  • How and Why People Create Self-Publishing Communities
  • When did Sci Fi Become so Political?

Gender Swapping in Films


I’m not a fan of these shows where they do a reboot and change the gender of the character (usually a woman).  Like the suggestion here to do James Bond as a woman.

(Shudder.)

But first things first: I’m all for having great roles for women characters in films, TV, and books–and a range of ages.  The Wonder Woman movie was huge because it was an iconic character and they did it right.  Some TV shows on now that work:

  1.  The Orville.  Huge cast with a lot of women.  They’ve dressed all the women in the same uniform as the men (Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’m looking at you!).  And the roles are good for all the actors.
  2. The Good Place.  I don’t want to say too much about this one because if you haven’t seen it, it’s way too easy to give the story away.  Again, the whole cast–men and women–have good roles.

Onto my issues with the gender-swapping…

Characters are not interchangeable. 

If a reboot switches out a character with another type of character, it’s going to change the story in fundamental ways and, likely break something that people liked about the original.

Some roles don’t fit the opposite gender

And I know there’s a group of writers out there who think the genders are interchangeable.  But there are some roles where if they were flipped, it would not look good on that gender.  I’d like to do a story about a woman lone gun like Jack Reacher, and I’m having to really think about how to do it properly so people enjoy the story, not hate the character.

It disrespects the old show or movie. 

It’s like saying, “It wasn’t good enough because it didn’t have this type of character.”  There’s been a lot of that conceit from all these reboots, where it’s obvious the studios only saw the title as a moneymaker and made no effort to understand why audiences liked the original.  I still remember discussion about the Fantasy Island reboot where the studios said they wanted to “improve” it by making it darker.  They entirely missed the point of the original show, and it got cancelled pretty fast.

Finally…

Why can’t they create new original works?!! 

Seriously.  We don’t need gender swapping in reboots or ongoing franchises.  Create new stories with the characters they want and make new films and shows that might be one day be loved the same way.

 

Escaping the World


It’s not been a good two weeks because of all the hysteria and nastiness in the media.  And it’s toxic, especially for my creativity.  After reading the book Your Happiness is Hacked (and highly recommended!), it was very eye opening to how we’re being manipulated by social media.

But the book also mentions that people spend their time on their SmartPhones and don’t get out in nature much any more.  So I thought a trip out to have some fun was in order.  Nature is one of the greatest things for refreshing me.

I found Occuquan Regional Park.  It’s a  park with boating ramps and some nice paths following along the Occuquan River.

This is a view of the river.   Though it looks like it’s about to storm, it never did.  I’m still waiting for some rain.  And it’s humid!

View of Occuquan River from Occuquan Regional Park

Some fall colors.  We’re still about a month off from all the trees turning, so these are some early birds.  I think these are oaks.

Some of the trees are turning orange!

And a historical sighting.  This is called the Beehive Kiln.  Some of the history is here.

Round brick kiln and brick smoke stack

 

 

 

 

The Wrong Lessons on Marketing


Marketing has become big news, partially because it’s not working any more.  No one can figure out how to compete with the internet.  A local K-Mart is closing down.  Barnes and Noble can’t figure out their market.

And TV…?

They keep cutting more of the shows to add more commercials.

Most notably, the show’s opening credits.

Why is that bad?

Well, if the music catches on, it can provide word of mouth advertising for the show (and by virtue of that, the sponsors).

L.A. Law is one of those where the theme music hit the radio stations and was everywhere.  I still hear it sometimes today.  Show seems to have faded into obscurity now.  But the show was enormously popular, and people were talking about it.  The license plate in the opening credits belonged to a Los Angeles lawyer, and the crew filmed it every year.

One for The Greatest American Hero.  This showed up on radio stations all over, and still can be found on the radio today.  The impact on the show?  Not as much.  I think Steven J. Cannell (the producer) tried to make it cops with a superhero costume.  They weren’t able to pull it off, and the show had some retooling going into its second season.  Wasn’t helped by the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan either…the character’s last name was the same as the assassin, so there are a bunch of episodes where his name changes, then changes back.

And a very iconic theme, Mission: Impossible.  I think it’s so iconic that Hollywood couldn’t not remake it, except into movies.  The show also used as part of the validation at the end (the validation tells us the episode is over).  In the final minutes, the team comes back together and walks away as the music plays and we know they were successful.

Now?  There are no more opportunities because Hollywood wants more commercials.  Seems like they learned the wrong lessons.

The End of Filming on Location


During the filming of Star Trek, the special effects people used miniatures for the spaceships.  This is a photo I took of the miniature on display at the Air and Space Museum.

Front view of enterprise
Warp Six!

With the new technology, a lot of science fiction shows and movies went to digital instead of building miniatures because there were so expensive.  And you can generally tell the difference.  There’s a flatness to the images that the miniatures don’t have.

Now there’s talk that movies might be headed for filming in a studio against a blue screen and adding the location in:

I watched a TV show recently where they added rain via special effects.  It didn’t look real…it was kind of like it was raining in front of the actors, not on the actors.

Yes, you can build an island paradise with computers, but it’s not the same as going to the real place and shooting there.  There are some things you can’t and shouldn’t create out of thin air.

Rendering Book Reviews Meaningless


When I was in college, we had this really great library of film.  Included was a set of reference books of movie reviews so I could read reviews of movies I’d seen. It always amazed me how different the viewpoints could be.  The reviewer wouldn’t like a film that I’d immensely enjoyed.

Social media’s made reviews a flashpoint.  Netflix recently dropped their existing system in favor of a simple up or down.  Amazon is still struggling with this issue and has been trying to figure out how keep fake reviews.  But one of the biggest headaches is the five star system.  The selection of the stars is based on personal taste, and all the readers have different definitions!

Anyway, I’m in a social media business group.  The owner, like most business people, did a book on the system they’re selling.  All pretty routine.  I bought the book, I read it.

Then the owner pops up into the group with a post about her first one star review.  So it’s become this big event, and to her credit, she was trying to use it as a teaching point to not let negativity get you down.

(Uh, that’s why you don’t read the review.)

The problem: She called the reviewer a “hater.”

Thud.

Another person popped up and said that if she did research into who had given that one star review, she bet they would be a negative person who hates everything.

Double thud.

When the word hater was used, even in jest, I was very glad I hadn’t done a review.   I’d have probably given it three stars.

I don’t like the way hater is bandied about today.  People seem to use it when you don’t give an opinion they want to hear, which renders any opinion pretty meaningless.  I enjoyed reading those movie reviews in colleges because they were opinionated, and sometimes I had to see a film to find out if I agreed or disagreed.  I’ve bought books for the same reason.

Rain is a Fascinating Thing


I woke up to rain this morning.  Since I grew up in Los Angeles where the sky is clear most of the time and rain an infrequent thing, it’s fun watching, or listening to the rain.

Especially at night, watching it spill over the street in the halos of the street lights.  I sat at the widow seat as we flew over thunderclouds and watched the lightning flash below (flying through thunderclouds…not so much).

Still I had business at hand, so it was off to the farmer’s market for fruit and vegetables.  It was raining enough that I had to be careful not to have water dumped down my back at the edges of the tents the vendors set up.

Me in a rain coat against a rainy street background