Star Wars

The Fourth is not with me

I forgot that today is the designated Star Wars holiday - the anniversary of the first film's opening.  Hence the saying "May the Fourth be with you."

Ha.  Ha.

There was a time that I shared the joy and love of Star Wars, as readers of his site (or my works) know.  That time has long since passed.

Like many relationships, this one died gradually rather than all at once.  There wasn't a hateful renunciation and clean breakup so much as a growing sense of weariness and a desire to just get away.

There were fights along the way and we tried to hold it together, but Star Wars and I just got tired of each other.  As I've always said, love and hate are two sides of the same coin; the opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference.  I'm indifferent to Star Wars.

The only reason I'm writing this post is that well-meaning friends (who think I'm still on good terms with my ex) keep bringing it up.

I'm reminded of the way Evelyn Waugh describes this process in both Brideshead Revisited and the Sword of Honour trilogy.

At first, there is passion and completion and contentment.  But gradually the excitement fades and is replaced by routine, and the desire slowly disappears.  He obviously knew a lot about failed relationships, but that's how it is with me and Star Wars.

Still, the memories of my first love sometimes come back, and I think back to all the good times we had together.  Ah, to be young and watching the original trilogy on the big screen in first release! 

Those were the days.

 


Some Thoughts About Prequels

I've written at great length about the many problems with the Star Wars prequels (including of course the Man of Destiny series), but one area I've neglected is the problem of creating tension within the story.

Yes, it's possible to keep an audience's interest in seeing how a character gets out of each scrape.  This is the foundation of the James Bond franchise.  No matter how bad things look, somehow Bond survives for yet another adventure.

I'm not particularly interested in those kinds of stories, however. 

I think the best way to pull off a prequel is to relegate the known main characters into supporting roles.

This allows other people (who don't have script immunity) to come forward and provide the proper dramatic tension.  It can be interesting to see how events formed a future hero, but for those who want actual suspense, you can have that with all the additional characters getting bumped off (or looking like they might get bumped off).

I will say that if you are going to make the future main characters take center stage, the demands for a very good story become that much greater.  And as noted above, that's hard to do when physical danger is categorically out of bounds.

In fact, emotional danger's also largely taken away because they have to come out reasonably intact.   I'm tempted to say that prequels are by nature locked into a static characters, but that's not entirely true.  You can take a beloved character and show him as a complete dope who will turn into something more familiar.

But even there, with the outcome known, it's critical to make that path of that progression really interesting.

I've been asked a couple of times to write a prequel to Man of Destiny and the natural thing to cover would be the Deimos War.  It's vague enough that I'm not giving anything away and any "crossover" characters from Man of Destiny would be children.

The thing that holds me back is not just the potential scope of the project, but the fear of giving in to "fan service" type call-backs.  If I were to do it, I think I'd have to write it as a standalone book, explaining everything anew.  I think only then would it be worthwhile.


No Love for the Luger at Bleedingfool

My 20th Geek Guns column is now live and it's interesting to see what draws interest and what doesn't.  Older movies don't get much commentary, nor do classic weapons - unless they have a contemporary tie-in, like Captain America.

Even something I figured would surely get interest given all the attention The Mandalorian has been getting - Boba Fett's Blaster - was largely ignored.

This isn't a particularly profound observation, but it does show something of a generational shift.  The demographics at Bleedingfool lean strongly to the newest hardware, so anything used by John Wick is likely to draw interest.

And since the first rule of being an author is knowing one's audience, that's probably the direction I need to go.

 

 


Geek Guns at Bleedingfool.com

Over the past couple of months I've been doing a new feature at Bleedingfood.com on firearms featured in various pop culture media like comics, movies and television.

Unlike the Internet Movie Firearms Database, I also provide a review of the firearm in question - what it's like to shoot as well as how much they run for people who want one of their own.

This post will be my ongoing archive of those articles and updated as they appear.

Geek Guns Part I: Han Solo’s Blaster

Geek Guns Part 2: El Mariachi’s Twin Ruger KP90s in Desperado

Geek Guns Part 3: The Desert Eagle

Geek Guns Part 4: Deckard’s Blaster from Blade Runner

Geek Guns Part 5: Hellboy’s Hand Cannon

Geek Guns Part 6: Sean Connery’s Guns – Walther PPK, Webley-Fosbery

Geek Guns Part 7: Battlestar Galactica’s Beretta CX4 Storm

Geek Guns Part 8: Army of Darkness – Ash’s Double-Barreled “Boomstick”

Geek Guns Part 9: “Welcome to the Party Pal!” John McClane’s Beretta 92F

Geek Guns Part 10: The Rollerball “Incinerator”

Geek Guns Part 11: Indiana Jones’ Revolvers

Geek Guns Part 12: Malcolm Reynolds’ Sidearm from Firefly

Geek Guns 13: DEATH WISH – Paul Kersey’s Colt Police Positive

Geek Guns Part 14: Rambo’s M-60 Machine Gun

Geek Guns Part 15: John Wick’s Glocks

Geek Guns Part 16: Kate Beckinsale’s Walther P99 from Underworld

Geek Guns Part 17: Boba Fett’s Blaster Carbine

Geek Guns Part 18: Captain America’s Colt 1911A1

Geek Guns Part 19: Burt Gummer’s Remington 870 from ‘Tremors’

Geek Guns Part 20: The Sleek and Sinister Luger P08

Geek Guns Part 21: John Wick’s Heckler and Koch P30L

Geek Guns Part 22: Rifles of ‘1917’ & ‘Enemy at the Gates’

Geek Guns Part 23: Deadpool’s Mark XIX Desert Eagle

Geek Guns Part 24: Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum

Geek Guns Part 25: Gun Safety and the Movies

Geek Guns Part 26: Examining Alec Baldwin’s Colt Single Action Army

 


Music to write by

Last night I was bit by the writing bug, and cranked out 500 words on a new project, but I have no idea if it will go anywhere.

I seem to do a lot of that lately.  It isn't exactly writer's block, since I'm not under any obligation to write anything at the moment.

A big part of writing is mood.  With each book, I've had something of a soundtrack to facilitate creativity.

Battle Officer Wolf was written while listening to Enya's Amarantine album, over and over again.

For much of A Man of Destiny, I had a Star Wars mix of the darker ("imperial") pieces playing.

I had a special mix as well for Vampires of Michigan, which drew heavily from the Blood and Chocolate soundtrack.  (Yes, I know that movie was about werewolves, so sue me.)

Long Live Death didn't really have a soundtrack.  I just wrote it in a manic frenzy perhaps sensing the parallels between the faltering Second Spanish Republic and our own.

As for my other books, there was nothing specific, though Three Weeks with the Coasties sometimes caused me to look up the music that was popular at the time.

In any event, 2020 is winding down and so it will soon be time for me to start my 2021 book. 

Perhaps instead of thinking about topics, I need to think about music?


The difference between a movie and a genre movie

The other night I watched You Only Live Twice and followed it with For Your Eyes Only - sort of an oddball Bond-fest.

What struck me is that the former had already embraced the "Bond genre" while the latter differed from it considerably (which is why it is the best Roger Moore Bond film).

This reminded me of my occasional rants about Star Wars and how it's transitioned from a superb space fantasy epic to just another genre, replete with its own conventions, in-jokes and so on.

The thing is, genre movies are often diminished - they're judged on being faithful to the genre rather than simply being good in their own right.

To put it another way, it's a rare thing when a genre breaks out beyond its core audience.

For example, everyone agrees that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is by far the best film in the series, but does it make sense to anyone who doesn't know anything about the genre?  I don't think so.

This brings me back to the Bond films.  Originally they were just spy stories based on some racy books (which I keep meaning to read but haven't yet).

The whole conventional format of the title sequence, ritual visit with M and then Q to get gear - none of that was a given.  The early films are a little jarring in that sense.

By Goldfinger, however, the pattern was set.  It was reinforced in Thunderball and by You Only Live Twice the concrete had hardened.  Indeed, that's what struck me about You Only Live Twice - the series was already descending into something approaching parody.

The opening of For Your Eyes Only was also pretty bad, but the way the wheelchair bound Blofeld was dispatched was almost like a purification, as if the producers were saying "Okay, you're kind of expecting this stupidity, so let's get the yucks out of the way so we can be serious."

It's very different from the other Bond films - no supercar, no bunch of gadgets to be discarded, just Bond following a trail.  There are Bond girls of course, but the movie has some fun by having Bond put off by the young sex kitten and preferring the jaded countess, who is more his style.

Bond himself is also more serious and the tension more personal.  I'm not saying it's great drama, but it's quite different from the cartoonish exploits of Moore's earlier films.

At any rate, I see the same thing happening to Star Wars.  The prequels had a chance to broaden the story and fill in its gaps, but instead they simply recited the same tropes, providing Jedi-worshipping fan service and little else.  The sequels were even worse, and will age about as well as the AMC-sponsored car chase in The Man with the Golden Gun.

They'll be part of a growing list of films, but each one will be diluting the original formula.  The best of the lot will still be hemmed in by the need for potential viewers to know the back story in order to make any sense.


The uncanny parallels

I try to keep this blog free of politics, but the last few weeks have brought out a series of very alarming parallels between the current situation in America and that in pre-Civil War Spain.

As Stanley G. Payne pointed out in great detail in his Spanish Civil War, by 1935 the Spanish Left reached a point where it believed that no other party should be allowed to govern Spain.  This repudiated the constitution that they themselves had written only recently.

Time and again, they broke laws, ignored customs and always chose to escalate rather than calm.  Payne goes through an entire checklist of "off ramps" the Left ignored, any one of which could have avoided the resulting carnage of war.

The fact of the matter is that it is difficult to push a war on people who don't want one.  The Man of Destiny series was written in calmer times, but I recognized that one of the fatal flaws in the Star Wars prequels was how arbitrary and random the start of the Clone War was.

Thus when I began telling my story, I spent all of the first book and half of the second chronicling the downward spiral, including opportunities for both sides to de-escalate.

All historical parallels are inexact and one can rightly note that the standard of living, technology, international reach of modern American cannot be compared with that of Spain in 1936. 

Still, I cannot deny that part of the frenzy that drove me to write Long Live Death was a desire to get out in front of events and supply the book as a cautionary tale.  Spain's leaders in 1936 did not have many examples of how a seemingly united and peaceful society can disintegrate into conflict.  We do, with not just Spain but the breakdown of Yugoslavia serving as grim reminders that the bonds that keep nations together can collapse with frightful speed.

I will conclude by asking those of a religious bent to include a plea for reconciliation, forgiveness and renewed unity in your prayers.  We need all the help we can get.


Another harsh take on Star Wars

I've already written my latest Star Wars anti-review, but over at bleedingfool.com, I go a bit farther and ask the question that leaves me increasingly frustrated:  When will people stop making excuses for these terrible Star Wars movies?

There's a bonus reference to Rise of the Alliance, since the movie's title is so similar. 

Check it out!