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Archive for June, 2012

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(Shot cut from the theatrical release of Prometheus)

I posted a review about the movie Prometheus last week (http://paulgenesse.blogspot.com/2012/06/review-of-prometheus.html), and wanted to post about some further discussions of what was actually going on in the film, which I still like, despite the negative reactions. I think there is much more going on than most of us realized, which led to confusion.

The main one is a post from Cavalorn, which I found fascinating. The writer of the movie linked to his analysis, so I believe Cavalorn is correct. Interviews with Ridley Scott and the writers have already confirmed much of this analysis.

I’m still a fan of the movie, despite some of the dumb things that a few of the characters did, and certain plot points that seemed tough to understand. If you want to know more about what was going on, read onward . . .

Read this:

*****(Must read) Blog post about the hidden meaning in the movie Prometheus:
http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html#cutid1

Link to the Behind the Scenes article:
http://collider.com/prometheus-images-new-alien/173252/

Link to the information on the possible Prometheus sequel:
http://collider.com/prometheus-2-sequel/172444/

Prometheus promo video clip featuring Peter Weyland:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox1n_InxFyg&feature=related

Prometheus promo clip about David the android:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWmbqH_z7jM

Prometheus promo clip with Dr. Elizabeth Shaw:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9PNTIZeJzY&feature=relmfu

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Creating Conflict Workshop Notes

Hello Friends,

I taught a three hour class on writing for the “Write for the Heights” Cottonwood Arts council yesterday, June 16, at the Whitmore Library. I had a fantastic turnout, 25 attendees. The crowd was really great and we had such a fun time. Below are some of my notes, which I promised to post on my blog. We discussed the main types of stories and the inherent conflict in each story. I went over the plots to illustrate the traditional conflict in each one.

I spoke for an hour, then we took a break. Then a little more speaking (more on micro conflict), and then we broke into small groups for a while. Then back together for my final thoughts and questions.

“Creating Conflict” Workshop Outline
by Author and Editor Paul Genesse for
“Write for the Heights.”

Blurb for the conference about the workshop:

Creating Conflict: Make war, not peace! Ruffle the feathers of your characters. Stir the pot of emotions. Add a fistfight or two. Craft a clever and entertaining argument among your heroes. Not all conflict has to be bloody or increase the body count, but it does have to keep the reader turning the pages. Author and editor, Paul Genesse (juh-NESS) will discuss the art of adding conflict to your stories, and will guide you through a hands-on workshop which will include creating, revising, and crafting fiction that will make your work stand out above the rest.

Course outline: one hour presentation on how to add conflict to stories as detailed in the blurb, going over the importance of tension, and conflict. I’ll go over some basic story structures, focusing on how conflict can be created with each story type, as well as how the plot and characters should be designed to increase the conflict and tension.

I will go over the basics and will discuss the common story structures and the inherent conflict in each:

Seven-element story structure:

1. Character in a
2. Context with a
3. Conflict
4. Tries to solve,
5. but fails until it reaches a (escalating cycle, until things are as bad as they can possibly be)
6. Climax, when she succeeds or fails
7. Resolves, (dénouement or validation)

The three basic stories of James Gunn, Robert Heinlein, and others:
1. Boy Meets Girl (Romeo and Juliet)
2. The Man Who Learned Better (Gran Turino)
3. The Clever Little Tailor (Indiana Jones)

Six Fundamental Conflicts of Aristotle:
1. Man against man
2. Man against nature
3. Man against himself
4. Man against society
5. Man against god
6. Man against machine

Six fundamental story types by Damon Knight
1. The story of resolution (the hero has a problem and solves it)
2. The story of revelation (something hidden is revealed)
3. The trick ending story (surprising twist)
4. The story of decision (ends in a decision, not necessarily action
5. The story of explanation (explains a mystery)
6. The story of solution (solves a puzzle)

Fantasy and Science Fiction Plot Types per James Gunn
1. Far traveling
2. The wonders of science
3. Humanity/the individual and the machine
4. Progress
5. The individual and society
6. Humanity/the individual
7. War
8. Cataclysm
9. Humanity/the individual and the environment
10. Superpowers
11. Superman/superwoman
12. Humanity/the individual and the alien
13. Humanity/the individual and religion spirituality
14. Miscellaneous glimpses of the future and past

Fantasy
1. Far traveling
2. The quest
3. Strange powers
4. People and the powerful/omnipotent other
5. People and or animals
6. People and magic (or other unscientific sciences)
7. The individual and society
8. Wonders we can touch
9. Good vs. Evil
10. Balance
11. Questioning reality

Once I’ve gone over all of these, the class will be broken up into small groups, then we will take a short break where participants can get to know each other for a moment and discuss their own stories, focusing on micro conflict.

Link to all my published works: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Genesse
Which include a dozen short stories and three novels, plus two anthologies where I served as the editor in chief.

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Review of Prometheus

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(Spoiler free review)

I saw Prometheus at midnight with four friends. It was a really great movie, and director and producer Ridley Scott created a fantastic prequel to Alien and Aliens. )Prometheus is the name of the ship that the crew flies into space).

First, this movie is beautiful. The cinematography was amazing. The writing, acting, and directing were incredible and all the actors gave masterful performances. You need to see this movie on the big screen. Don’t wait for the DVD or Blue-Ray. I didn’t see it in 3D, but I’d like to, and will soon.

Charlize Theron as Vickers, was the biggest star in the film, and she was cold and fierce, playing her character brilliantly. She is not the main character. That role goes to Noomi Rapace, who played the Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, though she looks nothing like that character in this film.

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Noomi Rapace is half Swedish and half Spanish, and grew up in Iceland by the way. This is her film in many ways, (like Alien and Aliens belonged to Sigorney Weaver). Ridley Scott chose the right actress and “Shaw” is such a strong character and Noomi gave a gripping performance.

Below: Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw
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The whole idea is that Dr. Shaw and her boyfriend, have discovered an invitation to the stars, and go there looking for the beings who left the message on Earth.

What they find is of course, not what they expected. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s worth the price of admission for sure, just to find out what’s really going on.

The other standout performance is by Michael Fassbender as an artificial person. He was incredible, and almost stole the show for me.

Michael Fassbender as “David” in Prometheus
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The movie had many twists, turns, surprises, and terrifying moments. It all came together brilliantly and left me completely satisfied.

It’s got some pretty terrifying/grotesque scenes, so do not take young kids for sure.

Overall, I was extremely impressed and think this is a great sci-fi movie that ponders the big questions, has awesome special effects, brilliant performances, and great writing and directing.

It’s going to be a blockbuster, so go and check it out. Now, I must watch Alien again, because that movie makes perfect sense after seeing Prometheus.

***The writer of Prometheus said there is talk of a sequel to this film with a working title of “Paradise.” The project has not gotten off the ground yet. We’ll see what happens after the box office totals come in for this film.

Remember, in the Greek myth, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it mankind. Most of the gods believed he made a mistake and tortured him for eternity.

The tag line for the movie is: We came from them. They will come for us.

The question is: When are you going to see it? I’m going again Saturday night.

Paul Genesse
Author of The Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series

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Review of Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

Bitter Seeds is a great novel. I was pulled in right away by the beautiful prose and the compelling storyline. I couldn’t put it down and read it in three days, wishing I had the time to read it in one. It’s an alternate history set during World War II with fascinating characters and gripping action. Here’s the blub:

* * * * *

“It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between.

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in the opening of an epic of supernatural alternate history, the tale of a twentieth century like ours and also profoundly different.”

“A major talent… I can’t wait to see more.”
—George R. R. Martin

“Mad English warlocks battling twisted Nazi psychics? Yes please, thank you. Tregillis’s debut has a white-knuckle plot, beautiful descriptions, and complex characters– an unstoppable Vickers of a novel.”
–Cory Doctorow

* * * * *

As you can tell, this book has received a lot of attention by major writers and reviewers, and deservedly so. There are many positive reviews online and I agree that this is an exceptional book. I was so impressed with the way Tregillis unfolded the plot, and revealed the characters, of which there are three whose point of view we get to see.

Raybould Marsh is a British spy right in the middle of things; William is a British nobleman who was secretly taught to be a warlock by his slightly insane father; and Klaus is one of the German’s “supermen” with wraith like abilities. All three add a lot to the novel, and there are quite a few other secondary characters that are quite fascinating as well.

The most interesting other character is the sister of Klaus, Gretel, who has also been mutated via diabolical processes and now she can predict the future, and warp it to her will. She’s the most powerful of all of the Nazi “supermen,” and is on the cover of both the mass market and hard cover editions for good reason. I wish Tregillis would have let us into her mind, but that would be too telling I’m sure, as she knows what’s going to happen and would ruin the mystery of what is to come.

This is a trilogy called the Milkweed Tryptych, and Bitter Seeds came out in 2010. The sequel, The Coldest War, is coming out in July of 2012, so I/we don’t have long to wait now. I feel late to the party, but at least I got there eventually. I’m stoked about reading the sequel, and have just pre-ordered it on Amazon. The cover is awesome and shows one of the “supermen” in great detail. Their abilities are powered by horrific surgery, which connects their brain to special batteries they wear around their waists. The “superman,” Klaus was forced into being a Nazi soldier, and he is extremely sympathetic, and his chapters are always interesting.

Every chapter was finely crafted, and the big time span gaps between some chapters really added to the coolness of the story. All the chapters have a date on them: month, day and year, which helped a lot. Anyway, this is not a large book, and only spans about 350 pages, but so much was accomplished. It was so impressive how little Tregillis told about what was happening in the actual wider war, but still incorporated a huge story in between the pages, as he focused on the three main characters and their experiences as wider events played around them. They are a huge part of those larger events, but this is not the alternate history of World War II in detail. There are lots of hints, but Tregillis doesn’t go into detail much at all. I would have liked more about how certain battles were going and such, but those issues weren’t the point of the book.

Some of the wider war was actually shown in incredibly written interludes from the point of view of flocks of ravens and crows that feast on the dead after major battles. The interludes from the birds point of view were so awesome. Tregillis has a flare for brilliant description, and his ability to be brief, and yet powerful, is amazing.

The book opens with a chapter from the ravens point of view. Here’s the first line:

Murder on the wind: crows and ravens wheeled beneath a heavy sky, like spots of ink splashed across a leaden canvas.

It’s a great first line.

Bitter Seeds is a little bit X-Men, a little bit James Bond, with a core of brilliant darkness that pulls you in page after page.

Highly recommended. Check Ian Tregillis’s awesome blog for more.

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series

The Coldest War
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Review of The Straits of Galahesh written by Bradley P. Beulieu

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I just finished reading The Straits of Galahesh by Bradley P. Beaulieu for the second time. Wow, I love this book. It’s the second novel in the Lays of Anuskaya trilogy and is epic fantasy at its finest. The Winds of Khalakovo, book one, was awesome, and this one (set five years later) is even better.

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This series is a cross between George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series (you know HBO’s Game of Thrones, right?), and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series, but with a Czarist Russian flavor.

I really enjoyed the sword fights, ship-to-ship canon battles, and all the gunfire—with muskets of course. There is also a Persian influence (The Aramahn) and in this book we get a Turkish-like culture, led by the Kamarisi (the emperor), who is the most powerful man in the world, and is the overlord of the freezing, windswept islands where the Anuskayan (Russian) culture lives.

The Kamarisi is going to crush the islanders and take over, unless the heroes are able to find a way to prevent war. There is also the problem of the wasting disease and the rifts that are opening all over the world, slowing destroying it and threatening the ley line trade routes that the windships use to navigate from island to island.

The worldbuilding is top-notch, and the strength of the setting really anchors the book and makes it feel real. The characterization seals the deal, and I was swept up in the turbulent winds that blast through this novel leading to an epic conclusion that left me wide-mouthed and in awe.

Few finales are as remarkable as in Straits. Beaulieu (pronounced: bowl-yer) writes three character threads and they come together brilliantly and go in unexpected directions. There is a serious body count in this book, and no one is safe. The large cast of secondary characters is painted expertly, making you care, then they are . . . well, killed off with gusto. Sigh.

All the action keeps you riveted to the rich, detailed, and unfolding storyline, and the fascinating world. As the book goes forward the confrontation between the Kamarisi, the Anuskayan islanders and their windships, the powerful Sariya and Muqallad who are trying to tear open the rifts, and our protagonists, Nikandr, Atiana, and Nasim build and build until the mystery of the rifts and the antagonists plans are slowly revealed.

This is an expansive story told through the eyes of three main characters. Nikandr Khalakovo, heir to the Duchy of Khalakovo is one. Atiana Vostromo, a strong woman and princess who will do anything to save her people, even if it means sacrificing her love for Nikandr, and Nasim, a teenage boy who is the reincarnation of a man who once wanted to bring about the destruction of the world.

In Straits, Nikandr is trying to stop the rifts from spreading, as they are tearing the world apart. He is a dynamic and complex character and his chapters are my favorite. He spends a lot of time on the amazing windships and I very much looked forward to Nikandr’s chapters. He is actively trying to save his islands He is in love with Atiana, and their first chapter together will leave you in shock.

Atiana is one of many strong female characters in this series. Her chapters, especially the ones where she goes into the drowning basin and her spirit wanders the aether, are incredible. In Straits she has become a Matra, and her abilities to navigate the aether make a huge difference in the book.

The third story thread belongs to Nasim. He is the reincarnation of Khamal, a master of the elemental magic, who along with his two friends, Sariya and Muguallad, wanted to bring about a tremendous change in the world. Nasim/Khamal), Sariya and Muqallad, are the reason the rifts have begun to destroy the world and it is they who have brought about the Wasting disease that has claimed the lives of so many, and ruined the land itself.

The Nasim chapters are the most challenging to understand, and the most obtuse. Not all of them are hard, but the memories/dreams that Nasim has of his previous life are purposefully hard to decipher. Luckily there are many Nasim chapters side by side, so you can understand them better and get into a flow with them before Beaulieu switches to another storyline.

The Nasim chapters are written in such a way that you will mostly understand, but this series is not spoon fed to you. It made me think hard and sometimes I had to just pass some things by and hope I figured them out later. Even Nasim didn’t understand it all, as he struggled with remembering things from his previous life as Khamal. He’s a very interesting character, and he’s like a villain who is turning over a new leaf in a new life. He’s young (a teenager) though he really has the experience of a much older person buried inside him, but he is impetuous and kind of annoying with his stubbornness at times. He doesn’t like what he did in his past life, and escaped that life to fix things that he did in this one. A hard road to follow.

Understanding this book can be a challenge, but the glossary in the back is a lifesaver. When I was stumped, I would look at it and be reminded of what I’d forgotten. There are a lot of unfamiliar names (Persian, Turkish, Russian) and they don’t stick in my mind that well, but the glossary helped a lot. Also, there is a great summary of book one before chapter one, which really reminded me of what had gone before, as it had been a year since I read Winds.

It was great being back in this world, and one of the big features in this book is The Spar, a bridge that will connect the two halves of the island of Galahesh (from the book title). The Spar made my imagination soar. It would be an awesome painting, golden light reflecting off the titanic arches that connect the sheer cliffs on either side, and the raging sea beneath.

So much of the imagery in this novel blew me away and Beaulieu is a very gifted writer, worthy of the accolades he’s achieved and all the great reviews. He’s attempted an extremely ambitious trilogy and book two delivers on the promises made in book one. The Winds of Khalakovo (link to my review of Winds) was an incredible achievement, and Straits makes it clear that Winds was no fluke.

There area a multitude of epic fantasies set in white, Medieval European settings, and if you’re getting a little bored with those, and want a flavor you’ve never had before, please check these books out. I love how Beaulieu broke out of the mold and created such a unique world. I love the cultures, the windships, the mysterious and cool elemental magic, and all of the action. Mostly, I love the characters, especially Nikandr, and Atiana.

If you’d like to take a ride on windships, see the amazing elemental magic of the Aramahn, fall in love with strong characters who drive the story, and lose yourself in a fantasy world the likes of which you’ve never seen before . . . explore the dangerous and mysterious Straits of Galahesh.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by Paul Genesse

Author of the Iron Dragon Series & Editor of The Crimson Pact anthology series

View an interactive map of the Lays of Anuskaya World here. Zoom in to learn more and watch little videos and much more, including Brad reading from his books. I’ve never seen a map as cool as this one.

View the book trailer or download the 15 chapter sample of book 1, The Winds of Khalakovo here.

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