Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Geeky Amazing Race Joke

I couldn't inflict this on the readers at Mightygodking, but if you're reading me here, you probably have a pretty high tolerance for my peculiar sense of humor already, so here goes. This week's premiere of "The Amazing Race" had the contestants racing from Heathrow Airport to Stonehenge to collect their next clue. My comment: "When they get there, they should find a giant metal box that slowly opens up to reveal Karen Gillan, holding their next clue. And she'd look at them and say, 'OK. This is where it gets complicated.'"

Now you see why I didn't inflict it on a large audience.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Bugs Me About "The Event" that I actually had an idea for a comic book called "The Event", that I was thinking vaguely about pitching to CrossGen, during the five minutes before that company imploded. The idea was that there was a guy who developed perfect precognition--not only could he see the future, but he could see every possible future including the futures created by him altering the future as a result of his own actions. And he saw, five to ten years down the line (an appropriate length of time for a sixty-issue series or so) a big, apocalyptic event coming down the line. Something very Cthullhu-esque, if you get my drift. The rising of some ancient evil, that could only be stopped through a very specific and unbelievably complex series of events. Essentially, a one-in-a-million chance to save the world...but this guy could see every single thing that needed to be done over the next five or so years to make it happen.

And so he becomes this elaborate puppet-master, working behind the scenes to ensure that all these different people play their roles in saving the world. Some knowingly, some unknowingly, some even unwillingly (after all, he's the only one who knows the big plan, and he can actually see how big of a mistake it would be to tell the wrong person. Some of these people would suspect him of trying to destroy the world, not save it.) The story would be told not from his point of view, but from the viewpoint of the people he's manipulating: Every issue would gradually unveil the plan and their parts in it, until at the end they come together in the full understanding of how they need to save the world from the creature that would destroy it.

The opening gambit--and the opening scene of the first issue--would involve him getting one of the key characters involved in events the only way he can. He steps out in front of her car. She winds up getting him medical treatment, meets a nurse who's also involved in events...and then he disappears from the hospital. The two of them begin investigating his disappearance, leading them into the conspiracy behind it all... (The opening panel is captioned with, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," with a picture of the guy walking directly into the path of the car.)

I would have fleshed it out a bit more as a serious pitch, of course, but there's no point now. Trying to pitch a series called "The Event", involving a big conspiracy? Nobody would ever take the idea seriously again. Thanks so much, NBC.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Misdelivered Package

Hmm...three interceptions, no TDs, failure to convert a fourth-down in a game-to-go situation...I think we accidentally signed the wrong player. We wanted to sign the Brett Favre who played for Green Bay back in the mid-90s, but we accidentally got the Brett Favre that played for the Jets a couple of years ago. I know they both live in Mississippi...maybe those three Vikings players who went to go get him wound up at the wrong house?

They should probably check. But if they do go back down there, they need to get the Brett Favre who played for the Packers in the 90s, not the Brett Favre who played for the Packers in the 00s. That guy was mediocre, at best.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why Zombie Fans Hate Fast Zombies

I'm reading "Day By Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile", by J.L. Bourne. It's the sequel to "Day By Day Armageddon", which is the tale of a virus that reanimates the blah blah blah civilization collapses blah blah blah lone survivor has to blah blah blah fortified against the living dead. Sorry if I can't seem to work up much enthusiasm for it, but zombie fiction has an unfortunate tendency to the formulaic, much like romance novels. People don't read zombie books for surprises, any more than they really expect the latest Danielle Steele novel to end with the couple deciding they really aren't right for each other, and giving up on the relationship because of all the obstacles in their way.

But I pressed on with the sequel nonetheless, and I noticed something while I was reading about the hero's daring rescue of his sixth and seventh fellow survivor. Namely, he doesn't actually seem to have much trouble dealing with the zombies. And it occurred to me that this is actually a pretty fundamental feature of the genre--the zombies are slow, unintelligent, and suffer from a weakness that makes them easy to defeat. The hero outfights what he can't outrun, outruns what he can't outfight, and outthinks everything else.

Which leads to the question, "How the hell did the zombie problem get so bad in the first place?" The zombies are slower than the walking pace of even a child, they don't use any kind of tactics or strategy, they are exceedingly gullible (in the "Day By Day Armageddon" series, they're attracted to any loud noises...set up a loudspeaker playing "In Your Eyes", and you've pretty much neutralized the zombie threat for half a mile around) and their only weapons are tooth and nail. And as Jonathan Maberry pointed out in his book, "Zombie CSU", tooth and nail are actually fairly sucky weapons in even unarmed combat. It's much harder to break the skin with a bite than it looks. So why is it that in zombie fiction, the zombies always overrun everyone and everything...except the protagonists, who never seem to have serious trouble with them?

I think the answer is that zombie fiction is exceptionalist fiction. The audience is encouraged to identify with the protagonist, the lone man (or, on rare occasions, woman) who rises in the brave new world of the zombie apocalypse. These people who were relentlessly average, stuck in a menial job and an uninteresting life before, they were just waiting for their chance to shine. The crisis might not be a serious one--it just requires a cool head, a steady aim, and a willingness to gun down one's former neighbors--but that's way too much for the sheep-like masses to handle. It takes a real man (or, on rare occasions, woman) to deal with this. A real man like (insert audience stand-in here)!

Of course, not every zombie story follows this formula (originally, Romero made his zombies non-threatening to emphasize the idea that the true threat is our inability to co-operate) but a surprising amount do. As a result, you can see why stories with the zombie as a fast-moving, genuinely lethal and terrifying threat tend to be viewed as a blasphemy against the formula. The harder it is to overcome the zombies, the more sympathetic and understandable the "failures" are and the harder it is for the audience to see themselves as so much better than everyone else. Fast zombies suck because they're a real danger, and that's not actually what zombie fans want.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shameless T-Shirt Plug!

After looking around a bit, I decided to go with CafePress after all. So for those of you who want to go ahead and buy yourself some geeky T-shirts, here's my brand spanking new T-shirt sales site! I'll be adding designs as inspiration strikes, but here's the initial line-up. I hope everyone enjoys them enough to buy one.

And I mean EVERYONE. In the world. Six billion sales should set me for a while, right?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Question for the Internet Hive Mind

I've been thinking about leveraging my lack of fame to sell some geek-themed T-shirts, but everything I have heard (and, for that matter, experienced) about Cafe Press suggests that it actually kind of sucks for selling product. But I still want to do this; I have quirky sayings in my head that must be printed on fabric and sold to smart, pop-culture savvy sci-fi fans, dammit! So I figured I'd ask my readers about their experiences with online custom clothing, what they've seen for themselves and heard elsewhere. Is there a site you really like? Please, then, mention it in the comments section!

Oh, um, and obligatory controversial opinion, witty topical reference, strange and goofy pun. You know.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Inevitable Star Wars Remake

It's going to happen, right? I mean, we all know that sooner or later, someone is going to remake "Star Wars". They remade "Psycho", they remade "The Manchurian Candidate", they remade pretty much every iconic horror movie of the last's only a matter of time before someone says, "Hey! 'Star Wars' was good for its time, but that was almost thirty-five years ago. Who can relate to this Mark Hamill guy nowadays?"

And I figure, let's go ahead and embrace it. If it's gotta be remade, let's have a good remake. One with a good cast and a good director who can handle the material well. My choice for director is simple: J.J. Abrams. He did a good job with "Star Trek" (lens flares aside), he's got some solid sci-fi chops apart from that, and I think he'd make just the right changes. (Which, frankly, are minimal. It's a good movie that holds up even now.)

As to the cast...let's go role by role, shall we?

Tobey Maguire as Luke Skywalker. You need someone with that air of youthful naivete, and Tobey Maguire does that very well (as evidenced by the fact that he's my age and still playing high-school kids.) The only question is, would he be able to pull off the cockiness that Hamill displays? After all, Peter Parker isn't exactly Mister Overconfident.

Maggie Gyllenhall as Princess Leia. This is actually the genesis of the post; I saw her in "The Dark Knight" and thought, "She would be perfect as Princess Leia." She's smart and pretty, which is absolutely vital to the role--the last thing you want is some eye-candy starlet who's reading all her lines phonetically. The thing that set Leia apart from every other sci-fi heroine at the time was grit, and Gyllenhall can play grit.

Chow Yun-Fat as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yes, I know, he's not Toshiro Mifune. But he's awesome, and the perfect age to play the Old Master/Wise Mentor figure for the movie. And if you could level a single criticism at the original "Star Wars", it's that it wasn't exactly a model of diversity. Having a major character played by an Asian can only help.

Leonard Roberts as Han Solo. Not exactly a marquee choice (but then again, the only big names in the original "Star Wars" were Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing) but he's charming, suave, charismatic, and has made a good career for himself in TV (if you've seen "Heroes" or Season Four of "Buffy", you know who he is.) This could be the break-out role he needs, and he's exactly the kind of person needed to play the part.

Alan Rickman as Grand Moff Tarkin. Let's face it, it's the role he was born to play. A lifetime of being suave, sneering British villains has been leading to his destiny, that of reprising the role of one of the greatest British character actors ever to politely condemn his enemies to death.

Jason Statham and Samuel L. Jackson as Darth Vader: Yes, I know, Statham's not quite as tall as Prowse; but I'm picturing a slightly sleeker re-design of Vader, one more in keeping with modern action-movie styles that makes him into a lethally quick cyborg Sith Lord. Less of the "massive and powerful" and more of the "across the room and cutting his way through six guys before you can blink." For that, Statham works better. As to the voice...part of me is tempted to just say, "Heck with it," and stick with James Earl Jones. But I am determined to recast the major parts, and so Jackson it is. (If the remake goes all the way to "Jedi", I'd pull a Sebastian Shaw and put a different actor into the suit for the final reveal. Probably Daniel Day-Lewis.)

David Tennant as C-3P0. Oh come on. How can I resist?

Of the other parts, most of them would probably be unknowns and character actors. And of course, I'm open to suggestions...after all, that's what comments sections are for!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Horror Tropes That Could Probably Use a Rest

1) In "found footage" horror movies, where the camera is actually being held by a character in the movie, I think you'd probably surprise more people by now if you didn't have the camera-person die horribly at the end, usually right as they discover something shocking. (e.g. "Cloverfield", "The Blair Witch Project", "Quarantine", "The Zombie Diaries" (three times in that film), and others.)

2) It does not make your zombie movie a new and different zombie movie if your cast of characters is trapped in a different location than a farmhouse. Ripping off "Night of the Living Dead" is ripping off "Night of the Living Dead", no matter where they're trapped. (Putting fast zombies in was innovative...twenty-five years ago.)

3) Cell phones exist. Please get used to it, or else set your movie in an era where they didn't. Constant refrains of, "Oh, no! My cell phone doesn't work!" get old, fast.

4) There is a small, but significant difference between "the serial killer is very intelligent and has a good knowledge of his target's behavior" and "the serial killer has a precise understanding of every conceivable event that will unfold over the course of the movie, right down to minor and inconsequential acts of chance such as the way water flows down a drain." (See the first "Saw" movie, which would literally have been five minutes long if the killer's taunting gambit had played out even slightly differently.)

5) M. Night Shyamalan. Really, who does this man have pictures of?