Thursday, 18 December 2014

Shout-Out: Court of Nightfall by Karpov Kinrade

I've spent my life in shades of grey. It wasn't until I died that my world filled with color.

That night, I still lived in black and white. There was a full moon. Full and looking as if it had been rolled in powdered sugar then plopped back into the sky, so that a white dusting shone around it like a halo.

I've never believed in monsters, or any of that nonsense. Never believed that the dark could be scary. Until that night. Now I know the truth, but it is shrouded with lies. Now I can see the world in color, but it is covered in shadows. Now, I must find the monster that killed my parents. And when I do, I will use my new powers to seek vengeance. A life for the lives that beast stole from me. I am no longer just Scarlett Night, the color-blind girl who dreams of flying.

Now, I am Nightfall—a fallen angel with a lust for blood. And I shall have my revenge.

This is volume 1 of 5 in Court of Nightfall. Each volume is approx. 200 pages. Be warned of cliffhangers.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Video: Terry Brooks, Why I Write About Elves

This is a great talk by Terry Brooks, author of the Shannara series, about why he writes fantasy books.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow

Directed by Doug Liman, 2014

Pros: some great action sequences, excellent special effects, interesting concept and characters

Cons: plot issues

Five years ago an asteroid carrying an alien life form hit Earth.  Humans have faced defeat at all but one battle since then, at Verdun.  Now the army has a major offensive planned that will end the war.  Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is a smooth talking publicity liaison for the army who’s never seen battle.  But a bad decision lands him in the front lines of the offensive, of what for him is a suicide mission.  When he’s killed he unexpectedly wakes up at the start of his personal nightmare, about to repeat the day.

This is an adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill.  While time travel loops are pretty common in SF, it’s done very well here.  You’re given enough repetition to know what’s going on but not enough for it to be irritating.  At times you’re not sure if it’s Cage’s first or 100th time doing each scenario.

The special effects are top notch and there are a number of great action sequences.  The aliens are fast and well designed.  The characters are pretty interesting, with a male and female leads.  Emily Brunt does a great job as Cage’s trainer, while seeing Cage’s transformation from cowardly, untrained prick to badass is both realistic and often gut-wrenching.

The plot's got some issues, but honestly, what movie doesn't.  Turn off parts of your brain, sit back and enjoy the ride.

The film really made me want to read the book.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Shout-Out: Time Bomb by Scott Andrews

New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground.
Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she''s flung through time.
On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall: seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, in search of a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future.
Thrust into the centre of a war that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army . . . all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Movie Review: Maleficent

Directed by: Robert Stromberg, 2014

Pros: beautiful cinematography, great special effects, interesting characters

Cons: predictable

After being betrayed by a human she loved, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) curses the man’s daughter.  But as the years pass, she comes to regret her decision.

This is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the evil fairy’s point of view.  Angelina Jolie does a brilliant job as Maleficent.  She’s got perfectly chisteled cheekbones and great poise in the role.  I loved her wings and the fight scene towards the beginning of the film where she uses them offensively.  Her story arc, while simplistic, made sense, and it’s cool to see her slowly realize the princess didn’t deserve her anger and that maybe she reacted badly to what Stefan had done.

The cinematography on the whole was magnificent.  The sets, costumes, special effects, etc. were all wonderful.  There’s a slight muted quality to the human world, with things taking on a yellowed tinge - except Maleficent’s bold red lipstick.  Contrasted with the brightly coloured fairy land, the human world was pretty plain and boring.

I also enjoyed the performances by the 3 pixies, one of whom was played by Imelda Staunton, whom viewers will recognize from her role of Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter.  Here, she’s part of the comic relief team and does a wonderful job.  I wasn’t sure why the king would entrust 3 pixies who don’t know how to feed a baby with his infant daughter when he’s at war with the fairy kingdom, but oh well.

The transforming crow was a cool touch.  The effect was awesome and his character interesting.  I kind of wanted to see him try the ‘true love’s kiss’ at the end.

I had a few minor complaints about the film, the most obvious being that - as a well known fairy tale - it’s predictable.  My other complaints consist of spoilers and will be detailed below.

Ultimately I enjoyed this film.  The effects alone make it worth watching and there’s just enough action to maintain interest.

*** SPOILERS ***

The kiss that wakes Aurora would have had more effect if Frozen hadn’t used the exact same idea last year.  Similarly, it doesn’t make much sense that Aurora would become known as sleeping beauty (the way her epilogue states) when she’s only in the enchanted sleep for an hour or two.  I also didn’t think it was fair to the fairy folk that Maleficent makes up for her error by making Aurora queen of the fairies.  We’re told at the beginning of the film that the fairies have no ruler, and Maleficent’s time as their ruler has obviously had a negative effect on the land.  Sure, Aurora may be sweet and just, but there’s nothing to show that her descendants will have those qualities too - unless the fairies bless them that way (they way they did Aurora…).  

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Shout-Out: Player vs Player by Amelia Gormley

Pushing for change can be dangerous when change starts pushing back....

Video game writer Niles River loves the work he does at Third Wave Studios: creating games with mass appeal that feature women, people of color, and LGBTQ characters. To make his job even better, his best friend is his boss, and his twin brother works beside him. And they mostly agree that being on the forefront of social change is worth dealing with trollish vitriol—Niles is more worried about his clingy ex and their closeted intern’s crush on his brother than he is about internet harassment.

But now the bodies on the ground are no longer virtual, and someone’s started hand-delivering threats to Niles’s door. The vendetta against Third Wave has escalated, and to make matters worse, the investigating detective is an old flame who left Niles heartbroken for a life in the closet.

No change happens without pain, but can Niles justify continuing on with Third Wave when the cost is the blood of others? If he does, the last scene he writes may be his own death.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Video: Invisible Universe Documentary

M. Asli Dukan is making a documentary called Invisible Universe: a history of Blackness in Speculative Fiction.

Invisible Universe trailer (Documentary feature work-in-progress) from Mizan Media Productions on Vimeo.

From the website:

From the origins of the genres, images of Black people in fantasy, horror and science fiction or speculative fiction (SF) books and movies have been inauthentic at best in the imaginations of white creators. And although there were a few attempts by some white writers to use the genres for social commentary, these efforts were few and far in between.
There is however a significant output of SF work by Black creators. In the 1800’s, Black writers wrote Utopian and Lost World novels imagining better futures for Black people. During the canonization of the SF writing, Black voices were excluded, but Black writers outside the genre utilized the genre to tell relevant stories. Beginning in the 1940’s, Black filmmakers created low budget films exploring the effects of science and fantastical religious beliefs on the Black imagination. Black SF writers formally engaged the genre during the social changes of the 1960s. In the 1970s, Blaxploitation films enabled Black anti-heroes the uses of science and the supernatural to secure Black justice. In the 1990’s and re-emerging in 2010’s the term “Afrofuturism” signaled the arrival of a critical mass of creators, academics and fans, interested in exploring the intersection of science fiction, technology, art and Afrocentricity.
Brought to life via interviews, film clips, archival footage, text, graphics, music, narration and framed via the first-person SF memories of the filmmaker, this documentary will ultimately reveal a canon of work by Black creators in the SF genres, who have been consciously creating their own universe.

This project sounds really cool.  I wish I'd heard of the project in June when they had their Indigogo campaign, but you can still donate to help with post-production costs at Fractured Atlas. (via SF Signal)