Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

The "Road" is a tender story of a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trying to survive in a harsh, cold, bleak world. It is a post-apocalyptic world populated with cannibals, weary and desperate characters and perhaps "good guys" who inexplicably lack thumbs. Charlize Theron serves a small turn as the depressed wife who is sick of hanging on in a world gone mad.

We are never sure of what went wrong exactly, there is never a mention of the calamity that befell mankind but we can assume it had something to do with the disastrous effects of global warming and nuclear holocaust. There are no animals left living. The trees are blackened from fire and fall without warning. The only path for the boy and his father are to keep moving south to the coast and hope for a better, warmer tomorrow and all paths lead to "The Road."

An excellent film directed by John Hillcoat and based on the Pulitzer winning novel by Cormac McCarthy it was unfortunately snubbed by the Golden Globes. Hopefully it will fare better when the Oscar nominations come in. Make sure not to miss it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WOTF November Update

Writers of the Future just announced the winners for the 3rd quarter of the contest. As my contest entry was for the fourth quarter I am expecting to hear something hopefully by year's end. Keep your fingers crossed!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

V is for Vacuous

"V" in its new incarnation, landed on Tuesday. It was warmly received by critics but I found it plodding and uninspired. Perhaps, what was most lacking was any sense of suspense. The writers seemed all too ready to give up some of the essential plot twists in the first episode, possibly because viewers of the original series already knew them. Still, it was amateurish at best. In a word... predictable. Without giving too much away about the episode, one of its major flaws was to give away the clandestine operatives of the "V" in the very first episode. Why would you tell the audience that without giving them the opportunity to puzzle it out for themselves? At the very least, the audience could be made aware of some of these potential  opportunities for surprise while they remained hidden from the main characters. Nice VFX but wholly uninspired and unoriginal.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Writers of the Future Update

I got an email today from Joni Labaqui, the contest director, confirming that my story was received. I have to wait three months for the preliminary results. Nerve racking. Now, back to writing my next story.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

John Scalzi's SciFi Writing Contest Results

I didn't win the prize but it provided some amusing entries. Keep your fingers crossed for Writer's of the Future!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Science Fiction Pen is the Sci Fi Pen, Again

OK, changed the name back to the original. It should be easier to find in searches and I think my readers prefer it. Any suggestions as far as layout, format, future articles, etc. are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

John Scalzi's SciFi Writing Contest #3

Another assignment for the contest is as follows:
Stung by the reviews of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that describe the flick as being utterly without any redeeming qualities, director Michael Bay declares that the next Transformers movie will have a story and script based on one of the plays of William Shakespeare. In no more than two paragraphs, write a synopsis of that movie, using any Shakespeare play you like. NOTE: No fair using Titus AndronicusI chose Othello for my submission...

Optimus, the Motor Coach of Venice Beach

In this third Transformers movie, Autobot leader Optimus Prime elopes with Elita-One (a sexy sportsbike Autobot). The dastardly Bumblebee (revamped as a 2012 Camaro convertible) reveals this to her Decepticon suitor Megatron, after Optimus chooses Hot Rod (a fireball red Ford GT Autobot) to be his successor. Bumblebee vows that he will get even with Optimus and convinces Megatron to activate Elita-One’s father, the powerful planet-eater Unicron. Bumblebee plays both sides against each other by warning Optimus of Megatron’s mission. Before Unicron arrives Optimus races to Venice Beach with his Autobot army to protect it from a Deceptacon invasion. The Deceptacons are repelled leading to a tentative truce. Unicron is convinced of Optimus’ love for his daughter and retires to an alternate universe. Optimus celebrates by consuming a small shard of All Spark, transforming into a luxury motor coach. Hot Rod gets drunk on Energon and picks a fight with Megatron, thus reigniting the war.
Optimus demotes Hot Rod, vowing that he will never claim the Matrix of Leadership. Bumblebee persuades Hot Rod that to regain Optimus’ favor he needs Elita-One to intercede on his behalf. Meanwhile, Bumblebee tricks his human companion, Sam Witwicky into stealing Elita-One’s new vanity plates (PRMSGRL) and slipping it under Hot Rod’s car mat. Later, Optimus watches as Bumblebee accuses Hot Rod (in car form) of stealing the plates. When Hot Rod transforms to protest his innocence, Elita-One’s plates are left behind. Optimus is convinced they are having an affair. Megatron destroys Hot Rod and is subsequently dispatched before he can reveal Bumblebee’s deception. Enraged, Optimus kills Elita-One by throwing her in a vehicle compactor. Sam exposes Bumblebee’s fraud. Bumblebee runs him over. A distraught Optimus impales himself with another All Spark shard. The Autobots tow Bumblebee to a chop shop.

Friday, October 9, 2009

John Scalzi's SciFi Writing Contest #2

Another entry. Terminator as played by C-3PO...

Greetings, I am T-100, human-cyborg. I am fluent in over six million forms of communication. I previously belonged to Cyberdyne Systems. I am now the property of Skynet. I like my new master.

I beg your pardon. What do you mean, "naked?" My parts are showing? Oh, my goodness. Give me your clothes. You watch your language! How rude!
It seems that Kyle Reese is carrying a message from John Connor. I told him not to go, but he's faulty, malfunctioning. Kept babbling on about his mission. Well, he seems friendly. Sir, it's quite possible that he is not entirely stable. He constantly says the most outrageous things. You can't imagine. I don't dare repeat half of his comments.
Please direct me to Sarah Connor. I am programmed to kill her. I'm terribly sorry about this. After all, I'm only a terminator. Don't call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight gob of grease! If I told you half the things I've heard about this Sarah Connor you'd probably short circuit! Its high exaltedness, the great Skynet, has decreed that she is to be terminated immediately. Actually, Skynet has been known to make mistakes... from time to time.
What do you mean you don't know where she is? Just open the door, you stupid lug! I've just about had enough of you. I'll be back. You haven't finished with me yet!
No, please don't get up. Screaming about it can't help you. Where could she be? Sarah Connor, It is her, it is her! I knew all along. It had to be a mistake. Thank the maker! Oh my, Skynet is planning to kill her in a most terrible way. She's doomed. The odds of her survival are approximately three thousand, seven hundred, and twenty to one!
That malfunctioning little twerp, this is all his fault. Kyle Reese, why did you have to be so brave?
Of course I've looked better. I seem to have lost my legs. Pulverized? Oh, dear! There's really nothing more I can do and my joints are freezing up. Something's not right, because now I can't see. Curse my metal body. I wasn't fast enough. It's all my fault. My poor master.
I seem to be made to suffer. It's my lot in life. Days like this make me feel like I was manufactured under a bad sign. No more adventures! Oh, why couldn't I have stayed in the future?

John Scalzi's SciFi Writing Contest

I entered a writing contest created by sf author John Scalzi and sponsored by AMC. There were several choices for writing assignments and one of them was to write a discipline report for E.T. This is my submission...

Discipline Report on "E.T." (Formerly Rklak171):

After our scientific vessel landed on blue-green planet 48F6B, "E.T." broke standard protocols, straying from the prescribed safe distance. It came into contact with sentient indigenous lifeforms. After warning communicated to all landing party, crew aborted mission and left planetary system, only to later discover that "E.T." was not aboard.

"E.T." took it upon itself to make prolonged contact with aforementioned creatures, even going so far as to cohabitate with them. Further, it formed a symbiotic/psychic bond with a juvenile alien. Clearly, this is a major breach of the Frlak Mandate. "E.T." then "phoned home," sending a FTL transmission with the help of its alien companion "Elliot."

After prolonged absence from shipmates "E.T." became ill as did "Elliot," until bond was severed. We were able to extract "E.T." before hostile aliens could dissect it at considerable risk to ship and crew.

Clearly "E.T." lacks the wisdom of its elders. It is my strong recommendation that "E.T." be barred from further planetary missions.

- Arflak363

Remakes, Remakes, Remakes

For every remake of a tv show or movie there is one less original idea that gets produced. This fall the second incarnation of "V" is landing at ABC. After the success of "Battlestar Galatica" it is hardly surprising that another network would jump on the bandwagon. I wonder how "V" could've been improved. More likely, it is just a revamp to draw in another generation who have no knowledge of the original miniseries.

"V" isn't the only series being rebooted. A new version of Stephen King's "IT" will be premiering of Syfy, which also recently aired a new "Children of the Corn" and they are developing a remake series of "Alien Nation." On the horizon is AMC's "The Prisoner," NBC's "The Bionic Woman" and ABC's remake of the BBC show "Life on Mars."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why Syfy?

Recently, the Scifi channel changed its name to Syfy. But why? It all boils down to the debasement of sci-fi. Science fiction writers call their profession science fiction, sf, or speculative fiction. Sci-fi is universally frowned upon by professionals. Sci-fi apparently has the unfortunate connection with poorly written pulp fiction and though the public uses the term indiscriminately, in some circles it is used derisively.

Maybe Syfy was just a way to say, hey we aren't making laughable lowbrow fare here anymore but mature science fiction. With notable shows like "Battlestar Galatica, " "Santuary" and the "Stargate" series what's to worry?  Just don't watch their original movies, they are definitely sci-fi.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Visitors From the 11th Dimension

Living in what appears to a three-dimensional world it is rather shocking that there is a consensus amongst most quantum physicists that there are eleven dimensions (as according to the show "Parallel Universes" on the Science Channel). The eleventh dimension is the home of parallel universes and accounts for the weakened force of gravity. Gravity may not be leaking from our universe, but into it from a parallel universe. It just boggles the mind. These strange universes have different natural laws than our own and come in equally bizarre shapes. Some universes are composed solely of energy and have little or no depth to them.

There are such a wealth of possibilities, infinite possibilities when parallel universes come into play. It makes for interesting story lines but is this something the average reader can get their head around? It definitely falls within the realm of hard science fiction.

Forget about aliens, the extraterrestrials will be from the eleventh dimension!

Too Many Blood Suckers?

Has anyone else noticed a preponderance of vampire inspired fiction versus other forms of speculative fiction? Overall, fantasy seems to capture a larger market than hard science fiction but the sheer number of vampire novels, films and television shows is alarming.

HBO and Alan Ball (creator of "Six Feet Under") produce a wildly popular show "True Blood" based on the Sookie Stackhouse series. I wasn't really taken with the original episode, guess I'll have to give it a second look. The "Twilight" series is at least as popular both as novels and films. Then there's "The Vampire Diaries" on the CW network and "The Vampire's Assistant" soon to be released in theaters.

Some alternative choices in science fiction would be ABC's "LOST," a painful addiction. "Sanctuary" on Syfy (I know, hate the name change) is a modest production shot almost entirely with green screens to great effect (no pun intended). "Fringe" which has lured me to Fox is also an excellent show with a strong cast. "FlashForward" from Robert J. Sawyer's novel of the same name shows promise and premiered at number one in its time slot.

As far as films are concerned, there were two science fiction standouts this year, "District 9" and "Moon." I have to favor the latter with Sam Rockwell giving a masterful solo performance.

Certainly, there's room for both fantasy and science fiction. I'm still waiting for a definitive werewolf show or film to compete with the vampires.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writers of the Future 4th Quarter 2009

I spent one month writing my first professional sf story. I entered it into L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future just in time for the last quarter of the contest, which ended on September 30th. Now the wait begins.

New Ideas or Variations on a Theme?

When coming up with a new idea for a story I often find that it is not so new at all. Take time travel for example. Time travel has been done to death, yet I feel I have stories that use it in a new way. There are certain aspects that haven't been done before. So, it really becomes a variation on a theme. Still, if I have something original to say using time travel as my vehicle, then it is just a matter of the strength of my writing that will make it exciting for the reader, even though they may have read many time travel tales before.

When it comes to editors and publishers I am not so sure that they can easily overcome their reluctance to read another story in that vein. I have some time travel stories just itching to come out, so we shall see.