Posts Tagged ‘Firefly’

Can’t sleep.

Browsing internet.

Come across this.

Smile.

I have a happy.

~ Ian

(Joss Whedon: “Ballad of Serenity”)

 

The NFL postseason is (allegedly) underway. I say “allegedly” because this is what I have been told by people who know these sorts of things. I don’t follow football, like I said. The only point where my life really intersects with professional football is on Super Bowl Sunday, which I usually spend skiing. (IT’S THE BEST DAY OF THE YEAR FOR SKIING OH MY GOD YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW. THERE’S LIKE ZERO CROWDS AND YOU CAN GET THROUGH THE LIFT LINES IN THIRTY SECONDS MAX.)

However, this doesn’t mean that I can’t make predictions for the postseason. Of course, since I have no knowledge of football, I simply will choose my picks on a more elemental level. Namely, I will simply choose the teams based on team name. More specifically, if there were a game between the Bears and the Broncos, I would choose the winning team based on the outcome of a fight between an ACTUAL BEAR and an ACTUAL BRONCO.

So, let’s look at the standings:

Screen shot 2013-01-03 at 3.20.59 PM

 

AFC Wild Card Game 1: Bengals vs. Texans. Here we have two groups of people from various parts of the world. First off, we have the Texans, who initially seem to have the advantage in full-scale combat because of their loose gun laws, high death penalty rate, and bottom-ten public education system contributing to creating a state of battle-hardened gun murderers. But don’t count out the Bengals. They’re tough as nails. The Bengali homeland (specifically, West Bengal and Bangladesh) is low-lying, so it gets wiped out by floods on a regular basis, and the slums of Kolkata and Dhaka are teeming with disease, the combined effect of which creates an ethnic group that is about as tough as any other group on the planet. Plus, there’s about 250 million Bengalis, a full ten times the number of Texans. That makes it pretty clear who’s on top.

My Pick: Cincinnati Bengals

 

AFC Wild Card Game 2: Colts vs. Ravens. Come on. This is an easy pick. Ravens are intelligent, scavenging corvids with large brains and a propensity to peck the eyeballs out of young domestic ungulates, while the Colts are just baby horses. Guess who’s going to move on to the next round, and guess who’s going to get their eyes pecked out of their skulls.

My Pick: Baltimore Ravens

 

NFC Wild Card Game 1: Vikings vs. Packers. What exactly are the Packers packing, I wonder? If they’re packing tasteful pastel polo shirts into European leather suitcases for a romantic weekend getaway to Niagara Falls, then there’s no question: the Vikings are going to mjöllnir their asses halfway to Fimbulwinter. It’s a completely different situation if they’re packing heat, though, because while the Vikings may have been handy with the traditional bearded axe, they still had no armor that could stand up to a nine-mil. Even so, I’ve got to give it to the Vikings, because of the fact that the Norse were tough enough to  establish colonies from Nova Scotia to Kazakhstan, and because they were badass enough that the Byzantine Emperors kept a stable of Viking warriors to fight off marauding Crusaders and Turks. History shows us the winner, as usual.

My Pick: Minnesota Vikings

 

NFC Wild Card Game 2: Seahawks vs. Redskins. Wait, what? There’s actually a team called the Redskins? That’s so goddamn racist and outdated it makes me want to spit. What’s next, are we going to have a team called the Los Angeles Koreatown Raundry Wolkers Starchee Five Dolla Extra Prease? No. I will not have this. While actual Indians may have had bows, and could have used them to shoot down birds, I will not be giving a team with their name the win. No. Instead, I’ll be giving it to a team that I can root for.

My Pick: The Full Serenity Crew

 

AFC Divisional Round 1: Bengals vs. Broncos. An interesting choice. Broncos are wild horses, and as such are dangerous and untamed, a vision of the spirit of the free and open West. But I saw Gandhi once, and I seem to recall that the Indians who lived in South Africa (some of which were probably Bengali) stopped the British cavalry by lying down in front of their horses. Apparently horses don’t like to step on people. So the Bengals don’t have to do much to defeat the Broncos. All they have to do is lie down.

My Pick: Cincinnati Bengals

 

AFC Divisional Round 2: Ravens vs. Patriots. This seems like a difficult choice. On the one hand, the Patriots have guns. On the other hand, eighteenth-century muskets were notoriously unreliable, and when the Patriots freeze to death in Valley Forge, I’m sure that someone is going to be on hand to peck out their frozen eyeballs. Nature is patient, and sometimes patience comes in the form of a huge black bird with a fondness for carrion popsicles.

My Pick: Baltimore Ravens

 

NFC Divisional Round 1: Falcons vs. Vikings. At first, you’d expect for this to go similarly to the Ravens and Patriots game. After all, Falcons are birds who wouldn’t turn their beaks up at a little bit of carrion meat, and the only ranged weapon available to the Vikings were bows. But you know what? I’m still going to have to give this one to the Vikings. After all, bows were far more accurate than eighteenth-century muskets, with a better range, and were more reliable, as well. The Falcons wouldn’t have the chance to wait for the Vikings to starve to death in the snow. The Vikings would just shoot them out of the sky, first.

My Pick: Minnesota Vikings

 

NFC Divisional Round 2: 49ers vs. The Full Crew of Serenity. At first this seems clear-cut. The Serenity crew is better-armed, has a spaceship, and can kill their enemies while Jayne makes folksy Western quips. But there’s just one problem. I’m from Northern California, and I know many of the towns that the 49ers actually founded. So, while I do understand that River Tam could just steal a hatchet from one of the grizzled prospectors and go all spinny killbot on them, wiping them out like a whole herd of Reavers, the 49ers accomplished something more brave than Malcolm Reynolds’ unmasking of the psychochemical experiments on Miranda: they willingly lived in Stockton.

My Pick: San Francisco 49ers

 

AFC Championship: Bengals vs. Ravens. Okay, this seems like a good matchup… flood-and-disease surviving superhumans versus implacable scavenger-birds… oh no! What’s this?! River Tam has somehow survived a ten-minute stroll in Stockton and is running out on the field! My god! She’s gone berserk! It seems that somehow witnessing the human suffering and misery of Stockton has triggered a response in the young psychic, and she’s finally gone off the edge! My god… the blood… somebody please… help… *sound of throwing up*

My Pick: River Tam

 

NFC Championship: Vikings vs. 49ers

This is a true battle here, of frost-hardened warriors versus gold-lusting frontiersmen. A battle between nineteenth-century technology and sheer elemental fury. But what will decide the battle here is not force of arms, but navigational skills. The Vikings were able to cross the Atlantic Ocean using only the sun and stars. And what did the 49ers do? Bastards couldn’t even find a route over the Sierras that doesn’t get blocked up with snow every winter. If the Vikings had settled nineteenth-century California, then you could bet that there would be more than a better to get over Carson Spur when it’s closed than driving all the way through Jackson, then Placerville, then all the way back up to South Lake Tahoe. Greedy gold-scavenging bastards.

My Pick: Minnesota Vikings

 

Super Bowl: Vikings vs. River Tam

She stands alone, wide-eyed and innocent-seeming, the blood of birds and Bangladeshis alike covering her hands as she stands on the frozen shores of Iceland. From far off she can hear them, the horns of the warriors, as she gazes out to the sea. The great dragon ships are coming, across the steel-gray sea, their square sails wide against the light of the rising sun. Although it is summer, the air is still chill, and the sun has not dipped below the horizon once in days. She is weary, tired beyond imagining, and there is nothing left she can do.

She has come so far.

The tawny-haired warriors land on the beach, and her hand tightens around her Reaver axe.

This is where it begins.

My Pick: River Tam beats up everyone.

 

So there you have it. My NFL playoff picks for 2013.

If the Super Bowl has a complete lack of Summer Glau, I will be VERY DISAPPOINTED.

~ Ian

There was a sudden short burst of blogging activity earlier this month, when it seemed like I had something new to say every couple of hours. Well, this week, that well has run dry. I haven’t got too much to say, really. Maybe working on “Cassandra” has made my writing gears kick into overdrive, and this means that my cup runneth over with creative fluid (ew) when I’m working on “Cassandra”. But I’ve reached a point in “Cassandra” where I’ve gotten stuck. I know how the story ends, and I know the basic path that I’m going to use to get there. But I’ve hit all the big scenes that I wanted to hit when I made a basic mental outline of the story in my head: the mud wrestling scene, and the underwater Westside Story dance fight scene,* and all the other important ones that I wanted to do. So I’m kind of at a point where the clear path is lost. And because of that, I haven’t been updating my lame blog as much. I’m sorry, to all my followers (all nine of you!).

But I’ve had a good week. So I think I’ll tell you some vignettes from the week that I’ve had:

1

After I finish with “Cassandra”, and work some on Dance of the Dragon: The Erotic Cyberpunk Re-imagining of A Song of Ice and Fire**, I’m considering working on a superhero-related story. Maybe watching some of the Avengers-related stuff online has made me want to do this. I dunno. Whatever the reason, my mind is in a superheroic place.

But there are really only two ways you can go with a superhero story and not make it suck: you can write a dark, postmodern deconstruction of the superhero genre, or you can go so far as to making the story really damn stupid– so stupid that it goes beyond parody, and becomes something brilliant. I’m talking about having a story with a superhero whose power is fart-propelled flight.

The problem with writing the first kind of superhero story is… well… it’s already been written. Alan Moore wrote it in 1985. So you can’t have two stories like that around, because the second is superfluous. You can’t write Watchmen again. It done been wrote.

So I may take the story in a ridiculous direction.

If I ever actually write it.

We’ll see.

2

I have been watching a LOT of LoadingReadyRun lately.

A LOT.

So I’ve found that I have gained a slight Canadian accent as a result.

Not enough to be completely noticeable by others. But I notice it.

So that’s a little weird.

7

It is incredibly hot outside.

I have been forced to don shorts.

never wear shorts. You know those people who wear shorts ALL THE TIME, no matter how cold out it is? Well, I’m the opposite. I love jeans. I’m a jean-loving man. So I am annoyed at the fact that I have been forced to let my hairy pale legs be exposed to the elements.

For a picture of me wearing goddamn stupid shorts, look below:

So that my existential rage at having to wear shorts can be appropriately conveyed, I have created the below picture:

And, solely for my own amusement, here I am making my Mythbuster bobbleheads make out:

Where was I…?

…Oh yeah. Vignettes.

Pickles!

I watched Serenity last night.

Now, here’s the thing about Serenity: I don’t usually cry at movies. I understand why people do, but I tend to be emotionally detached from the whole process: I don’t see the characters as people so much as storytelling elements. Or the movie is so bad that I just laugh at their misery. (Witness my reaction to most romantic comedies.)

Whenever I watch Serenity, I cry like a tiny child.

So much so that this shameful scene once occurred (last year, when I had a roommate):

INT: Room 203 in Stevenson House 1.

ROOMMATE enters as IAN is watching Serenity on his computer.

ROOMMATE: What’re you watching?

IAN: Serenity.

KAYLEE (on-screen): Wait– Wash! Where’s Wash? 

ZOE (on-screen): He didn’t make it.

IAN: *sniff*

ROOMMATE: …Are you crying?

IAN: …yes.

Anyway, I think that’s enough self-humiliation for one night. Have a wonderful evening, wherever you are, and if you’re in one of those time zones where it’s morning already, then… well…

…damn you. You messed up my outro.

~ Ian

* Note: there are no mud wrestling scenes OR underwater dance fights in “Cassandra”. But I don’t feel ready to talk about what happens in the story yet, so I am lying to you. NEVER TRUST A WORD I SAY.

** Not the project’s actual title. But I don’t want to tell you what the project’s actual title is yet. So there.

…Why yes. In case you were wondering, I did turn Patrick Rothfuss into a lolcat.

I am just as shocked and horrified at myself as the rest of you are.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

(The technical term for pictures of this sort is called a lolpat, by the way.)

 

And finally, because I am a Browncoat until death, here’s a picture of Pat’s son with a 100% genuine Grade-A Firefly quote below it…

 

 

Either I am a genius or I am completely insane.

In any case, I think we all win in the end.

~ Ian

WHAT TIME IS IT

OH SNAP

IT’S

CREATIVE

WRITING

WEDNESDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY

I’m in a hurry today, so I don’t have much time to do a lengthy blog post. In the meantime, though, here’s a poem that I wrote about geekery, and being a geek (mainly to practice working with evocative imagery, but still).

Happy Wednesday, wherever you are.

~ Ian

Geekery

In my head there are…

Albino princes with vampire swords, black and rune-carved

Moving catlike through worlds of burgundy and topaz and dark green

Cimmerian warriors, mightily-thewed

And tentacled terrors rising up

From the deeps of the Pacific

Bringing darkness from their house at great R’lyeh.

And there are blondes in graveyards, waiting for nightfall

And square-jawed space cowboys piloting ships named after insects

Saying, “You can’t take the sky from me”

As they pull their sixguns and fire

And lab-coated supervillians

Who just can’t get a break

Pining for the redhead down at the corner laundromat.

And then there are knights and wizards and dragons and imps

And Swords-of-the-Morning and Mountains-That-Ride

And dark riders, thundering down a green country road,

Black towers silhouetted against the baleful sky

A small bright star poking through the clouds,

Light and high beauty beyond reach.

And did I tell you about the millions of people

The bat-people and cat-people and arachnid-boys

The glorious gods riding down Midwestern highways

And dwarves and kender, space marines and scientists

Sky-pirates in their airships patrolling the heavens

And magical schoolgirls, and cyborg policewomen,

Alchemist brothers, questing for their lost bodies.

And there are fair princesses and fat plumbers,

Crazed computers and test subjects,

And beautiful women in suits of power armor

Flying their gunships across the starlit sky.

Oh, the people that live inside my head.

And have you ever wondered about all the places

The planets and realms and galaxies and cities

The bright flags that fly from the battlements

Of the White City, the Dyson Spheres and generation starships

And glorious skyscrapers, art-deco and gleaming

At the edge of the ocean, sunrise kindling them

To towers of fire.

In my head I hold a million people,

A million worlds and a million stories.

An entire multiverse lies within my mind.

And that is why, though the world is gray and dreary,

And I am bound by mundane and pale flesh

To sorry reality, I still keep going

Because to stop going would be to lose these worlds

The future, the past, the never-there-was and the never-could-be

Fading like fog on the ocean in morning.

And that is why

You will never bring me down.

It’s probably no surprise to many that I love Firefly.

Yes, the series has its weak points. Yes, there are worldbuilding inconsistencies and nonsensical retcons and meaningless character deaths (mostly in Serenity, which is a movie I love, despite its flaws). In fact, quite a few people I know despise Firefly.

To which I ask them: why?

Firefly is/was/will forever be a beautiful show– definitely one of the high points of science fiction in the early 21st century. Not because of the acting, or the set design, or the SFX, or the writing, or anything else. (Admittedly, all of those things are great.)

It’s because Firefly, both in its individual episodes and as a (semi-)whole series, is simply one of the best stories ever.

I love Firefly so much that I’m even willing to make a fool of myself on the internet for it.

Observe:

You know… this is probably the first picture of myself that I've put up on Axolotl Ceviche. Huh. First time for everything.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say: everything I need to know about writing, I learned from Firefly.

Let’s step into the TARDIS for a moment and go back to 2003.

I was eleven. The Iraq War was just beginning. The top song was “In Da Club” by 50 Cent (for reasons which I cannot fathom).

I had just begun my first novel.

And I’ll go right ahead and say it: it sucked. It sucked major ass.

It took me a while to understand why this book sucked, but I didn’t realize it until years later:

My main characters didn’t have any agency. They were led around the world map on a generic fantasy quest. The plot had a rhythm as unchanging as the seasons: they would walk some, and then FIGHT; walk some, and then FIGHT; walk, fight; walk, fight; walkfightwalkfightwaaaaaaaaagh.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it: my characters were led around the world by the plot. The PLOT was all I had in mind when I wrote my first novel, and I neglected everything else. Like many newbie writers, I had confused “plot” with “story”.

Now, I’ll admit: plot is important. It’s the engine that drives the whole story. But it’s not everything. You can’t drive from New York to Los Angeles with just an engine. You need a chassis, wheels, a fuel tank, a way to steer, a way to go faster and stop, seats, cupholders, a good navigation system, all of those.

The plot is the engine, but the car is made of story.

There are so many other things that make up a story than plot. Worldbuilding. Dramatic tension. Backstory. Humor.

And, maybe most importantly…

Characters.

Because my characters were being led around by the plot, they didn’t have any agency. They never had a point when they had to make a choice– instead, they simply did what the plot said they had to do.

This is because I had failed to appreciate the first rule of good writing…

COMMANDMENT THE FIRST: THY CHARACTERS SHALL DRIVE THE PLOT, AND THE PLOT SHALL NOT DRIVE THY CHARACTERS.

I don’t think I really understood that, though, until I saw Firefly. In “Serenity” (the pilot episode, not the movie), Mal makes crucial decisions that influence the plot from that point forward. When the Alliance commands him to give up Simon and River, he has to make a choice between getting paid a reward and Kaylee’s life. Later on, his decision to land on Whitefall and do business with Patience, a woman he has a not-so-good history with, forces the crew of Serenity into three completely separate but interlocking climaxes. And that final moment of the episode, where Simon and Dobson the Fed are in a standoff, it’s Mal who steps onto the ship, pulls his gun, and in one lightning-fast movement, shoots Dobson in the head.

Or, look at other episodes: in “Shindig”, everything is going fine until Mal’s hubris and his semi-unrequited passion for Inara lead him to assault her date, putting him directly into the main plot of the episode (Mal gets into a swordfight!). Or when he throws Niska’s henchman into the engine of Serenity in “The Train Job”, leading straight into the events of “War Stories” (and indirectly to “Objects in Space”). Hell, it’s not just Mal who gets to make important choices– just look at Jayne’s role in “Ariel” and “Jaynestown”, or Zoe’s in “War Stories”, or Inara’s in “Trash”, or Simon’s in “Safe”.

In all these cases, one thing is clear: it’s the characters’ choices that matter. It’s not the plot pulling the trigger at the end of “Serenity”– it’s Mal. The characters’ choices mean something in the world of Firefly, and that’s what makes their stories so interesting. Because they make a difference. Because, through their actions, they influence the plot and the world.

Of course, there’s also the fact that we care about the characters in Firefly. Which brings me to rule two:

COMMANDMENT THE SECOND: THOU SHALT MAKE CHARACTERS WORTH CARING ABOUT.

When I wrote my first novel, all the characters fell into the same basic roles as any other crappy Tolkien ripoff: The Reluctant Orphan With A Destiny. The Powerful Wizard Who Has Nothing Better To Do Than Mentor The Reluctant Orphan. The Annoying Sidekick. The Tough Girl With A Heart Of Gold. The Wise Dwarf Warrior. The Angry Dwarf Warrior. The Warriors Who Follow The Hero Around For Some Reason, I Guess. The Beautiful Warrior Elf Chick. The Douchebag King, Symbol Of The Oppressive Old Order. The Nubile Princess, Symbol Of Budding Female Sexuality. The EVIL BAD GUY OF EVILLY EVIL, Symbol Of DARKITY DARK-DARKNESS.

You don’t care about these people. Do you know why? Because they’re not people. They’re archetypes. You already know all about them. You’ve seen them a million times before.

Looking at characters from Firefly, though…

Well, let’s just take one. The Hero of Canton, the Man They Call Jayne.

Looking at Jayne Cobb for the first time, we assume he falls into the Brutal Tough Guy role. But he really doesn’t. He is tough, and not very bright. He has a slightly sadistic streak, as is evidenced by the way he tortures Dobson in the pilot. He’s greedy, too– as is evidenced by his attempt to sell Simon and River out to the Alliance in “Ariel”. And he loves weapons– mostly guns and knives.

But this isn’t all there is to the Man They Call Jayne. He has relationships with the other characters. He looks to Mal as a leader, even as sort of a big brother figure. Mal is the only one Jayne goes to for advice on heroism at the end of “Jaynestown”, at a point when Jayne seems to be at his lowest. And Jayne even wants to be like Mal– in the Serenity graphic novels, it’s revealed that Jayne wants to someday be the captain of his own ship. He cultivates an adversarial relationship with Simon, and seems to be a little afraid of River. He lifts weights with Shepherd Book in the later episodes– a bit of an odd relationship, there, between the preacher and the thug. And there are even hints that he has a bit of a thing for Kaylee.

We know that Jayne has a softer side, too. He names his guns– witness his lady-friend “Vera”. He corresponds with, and receives gifts from, his mother– apparently even sending money home to her. He lusts after women, even if he never kisses them on the mouth. He even has fears. Jayne is terrified of Reavers, and the mere mention of their name is enough to send him into a panic. (While this primarily serves a story purpose– if the biggest, baddest dude on Serenity is afraid of Reavers, well then, they must be terrifying!– the fact that he believes in Reavers is an indication as to his cultural background, since it’s shown that Simon, from the big cities of the Core, doesn’t believe in them at first.)

Like I said. You can’t sum Jayne Cobb up with just a pithy, short sentence. He’s not just a bloodthirsty thug; he’s Jayne Cobb. He’s not an archetype; he’s a character.

People care about characters. They don’t care about archetypes.

COMMANDMENT THE THIRD: READERS CARE NOT ABOUT THOSE WITH NOTHING TO GAIN.

SIMON

(smiles)

Are you always this sentimental?

MAL

Had a good day.

SIMON
You had the Alliance on you, criminals
and savages… half the people on the
ship have been shot or wounded
including yourself, and you’re
harboring known fugitives.

Mal looks out at the black sky.

MAL

We’re still flying.

SIMON

That’s not much.

Mal answers, almost to himself:

MAL

It’s enough.

People want characters they like to succeed. That’s a plain truth.

But what does that really mean?

I think that it isn’t actually about success. I think people want their favorite characters’ successes to mean something. They want their characters to profit somehow– either monetarily, or spiritually, or romantically, or simply by somehow having changed their lives for the better.

And do you know what? It’s hard to do that when your characters already have everything.

I didn’t know this when I started writing. To be fair, most newbie fantasy and sf writers don’t. They assume that their story must be about kings and archmages, starship captains and space emperors.

But kings and starship captains already have everything. If they lose the fight they’re in, then yeah, they lose a lot. But if they win, then they don’t get any noticeably richer. They’re already rich. They don’t gain more power– they’re already in command.

The crew of Serenity aren’t like that. They don’t have power– they’re nobodies. They have nearly nothing. They just scrape by on whatever jobs they can do, never really getting any richer, doing what they can to survive.

And you know what? This makes them more interesting.

We don’t just want Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Simon, River, and the rest to succeed. We care deeply about the outcome.

This is because people with nothing to lose are more interesting than people with nothing to gain.

I could go on forever about story theory and how Firefly is awesome, but I’m sure that this post is going on for way too long. I have a few geeky posts coming up in the future, about Doctor Who and Game of Thrones and other things, so keep watching this space. Happy Thursday, and I’ll see you later.

Love,

~ Ian

P.S. This selection of dialogue from Firefly is ©Twentieth Century Fox. Just letting you know. ~ Ian