LeVar Burton Reads!

April 24, 2019

A couple of big things this week. What am I saying, LOTS of big things this week!

First, my short story “The Best We Can” is featured on the podcast LeVar Burton Reads.

That’s right, LeVar Burton reads my story. Not just that, he gets my story and what I was trying to do with it. And he links it back to Star Trek. I’m gushing over here.

And next, I can finally announce that my novella, “The Ghosts of Sherwood,” and a sequel has been acquired by Tor.com Publishing and will be out next year. See, all that Robin Hood obsession was being channeled and now has an outlet. Working on these has made me so happy and I hope you like them too.

And… my next blog post will be about Avengers: Endgame. I rewatched Infinity War last night. I’ve been pondering. I’m not going to make any predictions. Well, not too many predictions. Two things:  I think Thanos interpreted the instructions to get the Soul Stone badly. The instructions were “lose what you love,” not kill, and I think this is going to bite him in the ass. And second:  the Tesseract. Carol Danvers is linked to the Tesseract. This might be important.

We’ll just have to wait and see. Two more days…

 

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I’ve been analyzing Infinity War. Not in depth, not in detail. Mostly, I’ve been looking at how it successfully manages this huge cast of characters, basically folding several ensembles together and having it all run smooth. (At least I thought it ran smooth.)

Here’s what I’ve got:

As you can see, this is bare bones and not too pretty. I’m not so much interested in plot details as I am in how the characters get from point A to point B, until every single one of them ends up in one of two places, Titan or Wakanda.

The answer is, the characters almost all move in clusters. Captain America never appears by himself, Iron Man never appears by himself. The characters who do move independently — Thor, Gamora, Bruce/Hulk, Thanos — are the glue that holds everything else together. They’re the linking components.

I’m setting the end of Act 1 as when Bruce calls Steve/Cap, and the end of Act 2 when Gamora dies and Thanos acquires the Soul Stone.  If you want to arrange it so that this movie is only two acts, and the third act is the whole of Endgame (I’ll know more about that after Thursday), then the end of Act 1 is Gamora’s death, and the end of Act 2 is the Snap.

The film has two major settings:  Space and Earth.

Act 1 Space:  All about scattering Thor and Hulk to their various next steps. Thor stays in space, Hulk gets to Earth.

Act 1 Earth:  All about getting Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Dr. Strange into the cluster that leaves Earth.

Act 2 Space: The Guardians of the Galaxy meet Thor. They split up:  Thor, Rocket and Groot head to Nidaveller, the rest to Knowhere. After Nidaveller, Team Thor heads to Earth. Team Quill splits again: Thanos takes Gamora, Team Quill heads to Titan. (Nebula is a wild card here and I kind of love her. She’s super important I think — Gamora basically hands over the Soul Stone to save her life. But she also isn’t part of any group — yet. She heads to Titan to join Quill & Co.)  Team Iron Man arrives at Titan.

Act 2 Earth: Begins with Vision and Wanda, which is appropriate since the whole climactic moment of the movie begins with them as well. They’re joined by Cap, Black Widow, and Falcon, who move as a unit through the entire film. Next up they’re joined by Bruce and Rhodey. As a group, they head to Wakanda, where the climactic confrontation takes place. There, they’re joined by Black Panther and the entire Wakanda contingent, and Bucky Barnes.  (They’re like this amoeba of Avengers, gathering up characters as they travel through the film until they’re one big giant team.)

Act 3:  So, at the start of Act 3, everybody has arrived (or is about to arrive) either at Titan or Wakanda.  Team Iron Man and Team Quill + Nebula are all in one place. Team Thor joins Team Cap at Wakanda. The stage is set for the final battles. Thanos clears out the good guys on Titan, then heads to Earth.

It’s weirdly simple when you break it all down. SNAP, as they say.

In a sense, all the Avengers movies are about bringing disparate characters together. Moving them around in these clusters guarantees the interaction and character moments that so defines the MCU. These aren’t movies about lone wolves.

Taking Infinity War and Endgame as one sequence, we’re at the start of Act 3. Our heroes have been moving as teams through the whole series, until now, when they’ve been completely destroyed in ways that are nigh incomprehensible. I think in Endgame we’re going to see them building new teams as best they can, and incorporating the big new player on the stage. It may be that, in the bigger picture, the end of Act 2 is the Snap. But the start of Act 3 is going to be the arrival of Captain Marvel. And she will change everything.

 

Look, I’m on the cover!

“Gremlin” is a novella, my family saga about women pilots from 1943 to 2003 and far, far into the future.

BookBar appearance Friday

April 17, 2019

Late-breaking appearance!

An anthology I’m part of, Mechanical Animals, ed. by Selena Chambers and Jason Heller, is up for the Colorado Book Award in the Anthology category. I’ll be representing it and doing a reading at the Colorado Book Award Reading Series at the BookBar in Denver this Friday, 7 pm. See you there?  Books and wine, people! Books and wine!

All the info is at the BookBar website.

Thanks!

 

Monday update

April 15, 2019

I’m sure I had something pithy to say but it’s gone completely out of my head.

I recently saw what was actually a pretty awful viral video of a parrot and hamster:  the parrot grabs the hamster, shoves the hamster into an exercise wheel, and spins the wheel around at blinding speed while the poor hamster is tossed around, with a caption that says something like, “But I don’t want to play. . .” The hamster appears to be okay, but this is seriously abusive and whoever was filming it should be ashamed of themselves for letting it happen. Actually, they probably trained them both. I hope the critters got lots of treats.

Meanwhile, I spent some time trying to decide if I was the hamster or the parrot. Like, if I’m the hamster who is feeling more than a little out of control, then who is the parrot? Or am I the parrot and the hamster is my brain? Or the hamster is my motivation and the parrot is my sense of obligation?  Or the parrot is what I want to accomplish and the hamster is my anxiety?  Or should that be the other way around?

So yes, there’s a powerful metaphor contained in that awfulness, I just haven’t figured out what it is yet.

 

A new Terry Gilliam film is always cause for celebration in my world. This one is famous because Gilliam has been trying to make it for going on thirty years. How strange, to finally have it exist, to finally have seen it. I thought it was beautiful and very sad (like a good number of his recent films) and very Gilliam.

All of Gilliam’s movies are about the collision of reality, imagination, and madness, and I love his films because no one tackles that topic quite like he does. Don Quixote, which is also about reality, imagination, and madness, should be the ideal story for him to adapt. The difficulties around it seem so laughably, ironically on point.  Art mirrors life mirrors art mirrors life and it never ends. (Maddeningly, the film’s lack of a wide release, or any release, appears due to legal wrangling with a former maybe/maybe not producer. I kept wondering why this wasn’t on Netflix or the like, even if there wasn’t theatrical distribution. I saw it on a one-night-only Fathom Events showing, and am apparently lucky our showing went through – scuttlebutt says other showings were cancelled at the last minute. And we wonder why Gilliam is so cynical about Hollywood.)

This is the story of Toby, a filmmaker who’s kind of a douchey sell-out and the walking embodiment of everything wrong with Hollywood. A decade ago he came to Spain to make a student film (and honestly, that early version of himself was also kind of a douche and a walking embodiment of everything wrong with film school pretension), an artistic black and white retelling of Don Quixote using local villagers in the roles. He’s back in Spain now filming a commercial, it’s going badly — and then he finds a local peddler selling DVD’s of his student film. He decides to return to the village where he filmed — Los Sueños, the Dreams — and discovers that the elderly shoemaker he cast as Don Quixote really believes that he is Don Quixote. And Don Quixote believes that Toby is Sancho Panza.

Reality starts to disintegrate for Toby in the most Gilliam-esque ways you can imagine. This is what Gilliam does best, the depiction of reality and fantasy bleeding into each other in ways that are terrifying and heartbreakingly beautiful.

Adam Driver plays Toby and Jonathan Pryce is stunningly perfect as Don Quixote, and I might be forgiven for being grateful that the film was delayed and stymied so many times so that we could get these two playing these parts, and the version of this story we have instead of the one that might have been.

This is not a perfect movie — it’s long, weirdly paced, dark and even ugly in places — but it is a Gilliam movie, and since no one makes movies like he does, and no one puts the kinds of images on screen that he does, I am still grateful to have seen it.

I keep waiting for something as full of joy and wonder as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and that’s not at all fair. But part of what makes me sad is how Munchausen was so full of joy, and some of these more recent Gilliam films, particularly The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Don Quixote, seem to be saying that that joy and optimism is impossible. After this film’s long, long journey to actual public release it’s hard not to see both Toby and Don Quixote as somewhat biographical, somewhat bitter, and awfully cynical. But then that’s also very much part of Don Quixote’s story.

 

 

recent walk

April 8, 2019

I’m trying to get out and walk more. Here’s a scene from this weekend — you can just make out Long’s Peak, covered in snow. I like the way the light and sky and water all converge in this picture.