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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OP-ED: Can I Be Blunt? I Can’t Stand Modern Cover Design

There, I’ve said it. This post has been a long-time coming (it was actually planned for the week after LTUE, but then that big bit of metal fell …) but today we’re finally getting to it. And the title pretty much sums it up.

I don’t like modern cover design for books. At all. And the more books move toward this modern design, the less I enjoy it.

What’s not to like? First and foremost, the size of everything. There was a time when a book had three primary things on the cover, in addition to some smaller things that could sometimes appear. You had the name of the book. You had the name of the author. And you had the cover image itself. And these were displayed with a decent hierarchy in mind. The cover image was usually foremost, followed by or sharing equal billing with the title.

Now, however … that’s not the case. One of the trends right now is that the author’s name has to be AS BIG AS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE, dominating as much of the cover as it can. At first it was just under the size of the name of the book. Then it became the same size. Now? On a lot of books, it’s even bigger. You can find book covers with the author’s name taking up over a third of the cover. Or more.

Personally? I can’t stand it. I get that there are “reasons” behind it (I heard about them at LTUE, and you’ll definitely hear them from the Indie crowd), but even with those “reasons” I still can’t stand it. Especially as the driving force behind it is … well, it’s kind of childish personally. It’s the old “Bigger is better” idea.

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OP-ED: Disney’s Star Wars Doesn’t Understand Strong Female Characters

Hoo boy. I know this topic is getting tagged with “Controversial” without even having finished it. Crud, it’s controversial just from the title. Discuss anything to do with female characters, strong or otherwise, and you’re painting a gigantic target on yourself.

Which is why I’d like to point out, for those sharpening their pitchforks before they were even finished reading the title, that I’ve had some experience with strong female characters of a wide variety. Yeah, it sucks that I have to lead with a disclaimer, but people are just that trigger happy these days. But I’ve written some very well-received female protagonists who are strong and capable, whether they be Meelo Karn, the Imperial Inquisitor of Shadow of an Empire, with her quick, deductive mind and talent for investigation, or Samantha, a young journalist determined to be the first to interview her city’s elusive superhero.

Crud, I’ve written Being a Better Writer articles on here before about gender in stories, and in those admitted that I have a fun habit of flipping a coin for secondary characters just to keep things fresh and fun. I don’t have a problem with strong female characters. The world needs strong women and strong men. Neither should be excluded.

Which, in a way, is where Disney is getting things wrong. And with that, we get to the point.

Disney’s Star Wars, as well as the company itself, has come under fire as of late. Once maligned for being a house proposing (generally) only a singular type of female character, Disney has in recent years worked to round themselves out, giving us characters like Moana or Rapunzel that are more varied than their female protagonists of the past.

Unfortunately, some aspects of Disney have shown they don’t quite understand what this approach entails, and have simply flipped everything as far the other direction as they can manage. The result is, well … bad. And I don’t just mean cringeworthy, but flat-out showing that the folks making the decisions don’t understand A) What a strong female character is and B) How to make one.

Still puzzled as to what could have made me write this post? No, it wasn’t The Last Jedi, though that movie falls into many pitfalls that are only expanded on what you’re about to see. And yes, I do understand that this now means there needs to be a BaBW post on strong female characters. It’s now on the list.

But that’s for a Monday in the future. For the here and now, I want to talk about Disney’s new Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures.

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Op-Ed: Keep Calm, Be Patient, and Think!

Good news! I am 99.5% better. Just some residual tiredness and stuffiness, but fading fairly well. Huzzah! Today I can work on A Game of Stakes!

But first I wanted to get this out there: Keep calm, be patient, and think.

All three of these things seem to be a lost cause for many these days. Patience is for those who “don’t care about the issues.” Keeping calm is “for the uncaring.” And thinking is something done by those who “just don’t want to face the ‘facts.” Instead, the social sphere would have us leap forward as quickly as possible, acting on immediate emotional reactions and snap judgements.

Why am I talking about this? Well, because of the last month. In my country, there was a massive mediastorm revolving around a man named Kavanaugh. For those who luckily missed all the controversy, Kavanaugh was nominated to a position on the Supreme Court (one of the three branches of the US government). And, almost immediately, had sexual assault allegations issued against him. A number of women came forward claiming that he had visited all sorts of horrific sexual acts against them, which clearly made him unfit for the position. The media (and one prominent political party) latched onto these allegations with a deathgrip. They were everywhere. A senate hearing was called, in which several of these women testified under oath. The FBI and Department of Justice got involved.

And the public? Sands and Storms, they lost their minds. As far as many of them seemed concerned, Kavanaugh was guilty until proven innocent. My Facebook wall became such a tirade of people calling for his imprisonment and even execution, without any sort of trial, that I flat out made use of the temp-block feature to silence some of these folks for 30 days because they were acting insane. Any calls for them to calm down from their baying for blood? To wait for an actual investigation into things? You were trying to cover up Kavanaugh’s crimes because you were sexist. The biggest concession any of these raging, emotional individuals could make was that Kavanaugh should be investigated … wait for it … but not any of his accusers, as they’d already had enough stress put on them by coming forward.

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Thoughts on Some News: Tor VS Libraries, and the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Relationship

Hey there, readers. I hope you’re having a good weekend! Mine is looking up. I’ve got some writing to do today (when do I not, right?), but before I dove into it, I really wanted to get a quick post up on some recent news items that have hit recently.

The first one is Tor’s (sorta stealthy) announcement that they will no longer be allowing Libraries to purchase ebook copies of their books following the first four months after release. You can read one of the first breaks about this happening here, but the gist of it is that Tor is no longer allowing libraries to purchase ebook copies of their lexicon for the first four month of a books release, their stated reasoning being that these library copies are cutting into Tor’s profits, and so they’re seeking to mitigate this. According to some, this it Tor ‘thinking about the authors’ and acting in their best interest.

Bull. This is Tor being, well, Tor. As some of you might know, I haven’t bought a Tor book in years. I actually boycotted them after the last book I purchased from them, an ebook titled Silentium, tried a different underhanded scheme, this one being cutting the last chapter of the book from the ebook copy and making it a “physical copy only bonus chapter.” If you wanted to read the end of the book, you had to either buy the hardcover or wait for the paperback!

This move? It’s that kind of thing again. Someone over at Tor seems to have a serious dislike of ebooks and those that read them, with this latest marketing tactic being their newest move to drive people away from them.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen the way they think it is.

But let’s step back for a moment. I mean, could Tor’s assertion have any real weight? Personally, I don’t really think so. It sounds more like an excuse to try and scrabble for cast than any sort of decision with real weight behind it.

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Op-Ed – Giving Star Wars: The Last Jedi a Second Chance

So about two weeks ago I wrote a post concerning some of The Last Jedi‘s flaws and how they could have been fixed.

Suffice it to say that some disagreed with my view on things. One reader, in particular, made a long, lengthy, passionate comment about how I was incorrect, and how they felt I needed to go back and give things a second look.

So you know what? I did. And I went all in.

First, I sat down and watched The Empire Strikes back. Oft regarded as the series’ best film, ESB is usually the golden standard of “Hey, this is a great Star Wars flick.” To the degree that the director of TLJ has stated many times that TLJ was to be compared to ESB, both in tone and in what it did for the series. Many have made the case that if one wanted to criticize TLJ, they needed to do so through the lens of ESB, based on the director’s comments.

So I did. I sat down and watched ESB, enjoying it, and then I switched to TLJ, coming at it anew with what I’d just seen and the admonition from said reader that it deserved a second chance. And, by the end, I’d reached a new conclusion.

The Last Jedi is even worse than I’d thought.

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Op-Ed: Fixing One Small Part of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

And with that title, I already feel the eyes of the internet upon me. Which is kind of the point. I wouldn’t be posting this otherwise.

Plus, it’s my website. I can post what I want. So there (despite a few internet commentators who have actually posted, in pure seriousness, the XKCD strip about “being shown the door” regarding content on my own website, without any trace of irony or acknowledgement of the ridiculousness of their demands).

Enough navel-gazing. This editorial is about The Last Jedi, specifically about what went wrong with one small part of it, and how it could have been fixed.

Because let’s be honest: There was a lot wrong with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It definitely wasn’t Star Wars Holiday Special levels of bad, but at the same time … Well, let’s just say there were a lot of Star Wars fans out there who had thought that they’d never seen anything in the series that could possibly perform worse than the prequels.

Yeah, talking about something that didn’t work in The Last Jedi is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Suffice it to say, its creators pretty much set the bar about as low as it could possibly be set without reaching Holiday Special levels. I remember seeing Facebook and Twitter posts from people I knew, dedicated fans, talking about how they’d gone back and seen it a second time, hoping they’d missed something critical the first time around.

Yeah, you’ve probably seen some measure of this controversy. Personally? It’s not at all without merit. The Last Jedi kind of came across as a film that didn’t understand what Star Wars was about past the visual element. And sure, we got some great scenes—the battle with Snoke’s Praetorian Guard is a six-minute slug-fest that is absolutely one of the more fantastic Star Wars fights—but we also got some stuff that really dropped hard.

One of these, which I want to talk about today, is Finn’s butchered character arc. Actually, butchered isn’t the proper term. More … grossly mishandled character arc.

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