The Wandering Earth

So the biggest, most successful film ever in China hit Netflix earlier this month. To … little fanfare. Which some people online immediately took issue with, as The Wandering Earth is based (very, very loosely) on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem which, even if I wasn’t a huge fan of, did win a bunch of awards and was a huge deal in the Sci-Fi world.

So for The Wandering Earth to release without much fanfare on Netflix, there were a number of cries I recall reading in the news that it was an attempt to “downplay” China’s triumphant entry into the Sci-Fi film world. Or recurrent contributions to, depending on where you were reading. Opinions varied. China being a political hot-topic however, as you can imagine there was a lot of internet flame being built up around this film.

To be fair, some of it is justified. China is … not a great place. Their surveillance and their “social programs” aren’t exactly out of 1984 only because they’re honestly better at it, something that many have attributed to the success of The Wandering Earth in China (so I hear, if you went to see the movie, you got a few extra points put on your social score, which was one of the reasons the film was so big A reader from China has let me know that thankfully this was not the case here. PHEW!). China is headed by a now life-long dictator. People disappear. So when that government backs a big film, well … some people get cagey.

Anyway, I don’t want to dive any further into that side of things because it just flat-out gets messy, and re-education camps don’t have much to do with The Wandering Earth, which yes, I sat down and watched. Because it was the biggest film in China’s history, I’ve enjoy a number of other Chinese films, I do love Sci-Fi, and well, it was right there on Netflix. So … how was this film adaptation of The Three-Body Problem?

EDIT: Another reader let me know in the comments below that despite what I’d read and been told, this film is an adaptation of a short story by Cixin, and not Three-Body. Which makes a bit more sense. However, upon checking, not even the credits of the film point this out (in fact, they continue to refer to the material it is based on as a novel rather than a short) so the confusion may have some root in that.

Clearly, this changes the theory in the next paragraph. END EDIT.

Well, it has nothing to do with Three-Body. And I do mean nothing. I’m fairly certain that the only reason the book is mentioned at all in conjunction with this movie was marketing. I’d even venture to say that the script for Wandering Earth was probably already written, and the writers/producers saw it as a way to get their project green-lit. So they snapped up the rights to Three-Body, started work on their film, and put “Based on” in the credits.

But it’s not. To put it another way, Wandering Earth is as similar to Three-Body as Terminator is to Star Wars. They’re the same overall genre yes … but they’re pretty much unlike one another in every other respect.

Which was fine by me. I found the characters and plotting of Three-Body bland and predictable through most of its length, the only redeeming bit being the alien sequence at the very end. It was a novel written to explore ideas, rather than have character or plot. So I was alright discovering that Wandering Earth didn’t have any of it.

Again, none. I cannot stress this enough: If you are planning on watching The Wandering Earth because you loved The Three-Body Problem, you will be extremely disappointed with it. Because if it is similar to any Sci-Fi at all, Wandering Earth is much closer to Independence Day than anything else.

But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Not at all. You just have to have the right expectations.

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The Captain Marvel Kerfluffle

Or, How Captain Marvel‘s Writing Team Showed They Really Don’t Know Their Craft.

There wasn’t supposed to be a post today. In fact, I am slamming this out in-between a work shift, a very important errand, work on book projects (my email box is FULL of comments, fixes, and changes from the awesome Alpha and Beta Readers I have), and then a big social event tonight. But this warranted a post.

Okay, backstory: This last weekend, with Marvel’s Captain Marvel about to come out on Blu-Ray, the marketing team released an extended version of a scene from the film.

Okay, fine, not worth commenting on so far, right? Well, this came with an additional caveat. It was marketed as “see a hero taking on toxic masculinity.”

Oh. Oh no.

As I pointed out in my thoughts on Captain Marvel, the largest weakness of the film by far was the writing. And … that’s come back to bite folks again. Badly.

As you can imagine, the internet exploded.

Hang on though. We’re still in backstory. The scene in question is an extended version of the scene in the film where—minor spoilers—Vers steals a guy’s bike and some clothes. In this new version, rather than her simply eyeing the bike and stealing it (which is justifiable in character at the moment), we instead get a scene where the biker hits on Vers in a pretty sleazy manner, only to get his conceptions crushed by Vers. She shakes his hand, then crushes it (you can hear bones crack and pop) and tells him to give her his bike and jacket or she’ll remove the hand.

Again … a bit more sinister, sure. Except … then the writers had to step in and explain that this was Captain Marvel being a hero and striking a blow against toxic masculinity. And … well, you can imagine how the internet has taken it. Both sides have, as you can predictably guessed, gone up in arms. Both make some good points, and both make some bad points.

However, the reason I chose to take some time out of my crunched day to post about this was because at its core, the argument Disney’s marketing team and the writers of Captain Marvel have claimed is … well, wrong.

Vers isn’t a hero in that scene. Not by any definition of the term. And to see people so aggressively defending Vers actions as “heroic,” even the writing team? Well … I think that’s in part why the Captain Marvel had the problems it had.

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Memorial Day

There will be no Being a Better Writer post today in honor of Memorial Day.

Or this week really. After recovering from exhaustion this weekend, and with a hefty load of editing fixes, changes, and whatnot to get to as soon as my work resumes tomorrow, slipping another spinning plate into the rapid juggle just is not possible. I need the break.

On the plus side, there’s a lot coming down the pipeline (hence the exhaustion; I worked a little too much these last few months).

But for now, folks, enjoy your holiday. And don’t forget the fallen.

How Marvel’s Movies (and Others’ Products) Have Changed Storytelling

Pop quiz for you. Don’t worry, it’ll be easy to answer. Have you ever read any licensed literature? Like Star Wars books, or Star Trek, or Warhammer, or … Sands, really any licensed property? Or maybe seen a tie-in TV show to a movie? Played a game of a movie or a book?

Basically, anything that could be considered “secondary canon?”

Right. I can already tell I’ve lost some of you. So let’s back up. Let’s say you are a movie producer. Better yet, you’re one of those producers like James Cameron who often writes, produces, and directs your own movies. And you’ve just made a hit.

Now, with this hit on your hands, someone has come to you and asked for a chance to expand on the universe! They want to write a trilogy of books that tie into the movie and extrapolate a bit after it! Awesome!

But … you don’t want to write a trilogy of books. You want to keep making movies.

“No problem!” says the publisher with the contract. “We’ve got an author lined up! They’ll write all three. We just need some notes on the movie, for you to answer some questions, and that’ll be all we need!”

So you sign the paper, and the trilogy comes out. You collect a small licensing fee, and a bunch of fans of your movie go on to read the book and form excited theories and ideas.

Except … a year or two later, when you sit down to write the sequel, you’ve got a bunch of ideas that don’t quite mesh with the world and liberties the author of the book trilogy took to flesh out their story. Not that you know this: You probably haven’t read them. Or, if you did read them, you’d know the score as being thus—

The movie came first, therefore the movie is the final word.

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Being a Better Writer: Character Voice

Hey readers! Welcome back!

I know. It’s been a slow week from your perspective. The last major post here was another Being a Better Writer post last Monday. I said nothing else all week.

It’s because I was keeping busy. I’ve thrown myself headlong into Jungle edits, currently on  chapter … 37? Of 42. I think. Not important. The vital detail is that I edited something like 120,000 words last week. This week will see every single chapter up for the current group of Alpha Readers.

Oh, Hunter/Hunted beta calls will go out this week, too. I gotta finish up some of these plates so I can stop juggling them. And then pick up more.

This week there will be more than just Being a Better Writer, so check back. Got some thoughts on things here and there, as usual. But that’s for later.

For now, I want to talk about character voice.

Character voice is one of those unique elements that can make or break your story. Imagine, if you would for a moment, that you’ve gone to see an animated movie. The particular film doesn’t matter. Picture a favorite. You pull out the Blu-ray, walk into the theater, whatever, sit down, and the first character comes up and speaks. There’s their voice. Cool. Whatever.

Then the second character opens their mouth to respond … and it’s the same voice. The same VA, clearly the same person who did the first voice. And they do the third voice. And the fourth. And the fifth.

No changes. No switches to pitch or inflection, or any of the standard talents voice actors use when fulfilling multiple roles. Just the same voice for every character.

I’d imagine a viewer would find that both difficult to keep track of and outright annoying, wouldn’t you?

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Being a Better Writer: Taking the Lumps

Hello readers! Welcome to another Monday! I know for many Monday is seen as a bit of a drag, being the start of the workweek and all that, but for me? Well, I always get to look forward to them because it means another Being a Better Writer post! And I kind of hope that in a way, a lot of you look forward to, if nothing else, at least this part of Monday because of BaBW.

Really quick, I do have some nice news, too, which also helps. Hunter/Hunted? Going into Beta. Look for a cover and a release date soon, fans! And Jungle? In Alpha, with a release planned for end of summer/early fall depending on the speed of editing. All I’ll say on that one is … dang. Rereading it and polishing it up, I’d forgotten how tense it got!

While I’m on the subject, Colony picked up two more Five-star reviews over the weekend across Goodreads and Amazon! Woo-hoo! One step closer to global domination!

Okay, got the news out of my system. So let’s talk about improving your writing. “Taking the Lumps?” What does that mean?

Well … interestingly enough, this is kind of, in a way, a related follow-up post to an incredibly popular BaBW post from two weeks ago on the Strong Female Protagonist. Not 100%, but … well, you’ll understand in a moment.

See, what inspired this post was a news article I read elsewhere on the internet. Well … read half of it. I started skimming when it got foolish, and then didn’t finish. Why? Because … it was bad. Terrible, actually.

I’ll give you the rundown. And, fair warning, it’s a bit of a socially charged article, which was the root of part of the overall problem with it. Just go with me for a moment.

The article was in effect a complaint piece. And half rage. And what it was complaining out—or at least, thought it was complaining about—was misogyny in a story series the author’s article followed.

Long story short, this was one of those “We want strong female characters articles” (and yes, this is putting it very simply and bluntly). The author really, really wanted all the male characters of this series stripped out and replaced by women characters.

Pitchforks down. Though that is a topic, really, all in and of itself, it’s not one we’re discussing today. Because in this case, they’d gotten their wish. The male characters had been sidelined, the female characters were the new leads … and the article writer was upset and offended.

Why? Because the female characters were suffering losses, injury, and even death, just as the male team had. And as the article writer felt, that was ‘misogynistic and sexist.’

Yeah, that’s why I stopped reading. It was a pretty dumb article. However hyperbolic it was, though, it was something that got me thinking, because the mentality behind it isn’t something that’s unusual or new. In fact, it’s been around for a long time. Regardless of the reasons we’re beholden to a set of characters, from gender to backstory to … well, any number of things that make a character appealing to us, there’s a constant we should never forget.

Struggle means risk. And risk can—and should—mean loss.

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Jungle Races Forward

I know that I’ve been kind of quiet lately. Two posts per week, one of them Being a Better Writer. But there’s a good reason for it.

Jungle is surging forward. And I mean racing. I’ve been throwing a lot of work into it as it has entered the Alpha, and currently, that means I’m getting about 20,000-30,000 words of it edited per day,

Yeah. Blasting. Granted, it’s a 457,000 word draft. But I’m over the halfway point currently. Another week, week and a half, and it’ll all be done.

By which I mean my pre-Alpha edits will be done, and the full book will be up for the Alpha readers. So I won’t have to worry about them catching up.

Speaking of which, if you’re a prior Alpha Reader for Colony and still waiting for your invite, check your e-mail box. The invites are out.

But anyway, until that point, I’m probably not going to be posting too much on here outside of Being a Better Writer for maybe another week, unless something really out of place happens. Just reassuring you guys that the silence means I’m hard at work, rather than mysteriously absent.

However, I will take this opportunity to plug Colony, since the sequel’s release is going to be soon. If you’ve not picked up this Sci-Fi Epic and found out why so many have called it one of the best Sci-Fi stories they’ve read in years, now is pretty much a good time to pick it up and start working your way through before Jungle hits later this year!

Go ahead! Grab a copy!

As for me? I’m going to get back to work. Have a great weekend!