Sunday, August 30, 2009

Song of Fire and Ice

You've got to love George R.R. Martin. Anyone whose middle name sounds like a pirate laughing (arr, arr) should be a good writer. George is a great one.
I have always loved the Wild Cards series, but he only writes occasionally for it. He mainly edits and compiles the stories (and they rock).
I am reading (for the second time) "A Game of Thrones" from his "Fire and Ice" series and I am reminded just how darn good it is.
It's not just the writing, though his writing style really fits me, it is the storyline, characters everything.
He pulls off some of my favorite stuff.
  1. No character feels safe so you are afraid that, at any moment, your favorite character might bite it
  2. Magic is mysterious and scary, though it follows its own rules so I know the author understands how it works in his world
  3. The good guys have attributes that are despicable and the bad guys are completey understandable so that they make great bad guys. I love it when the heroes are flawed and the bad guys have admirable qualities. Makes the characters seem so vivid.
  4. It reminds me of Arthurian fiction the way it should be written.

So, I will be spending a good portion of my Sunday curled up with "Game of Thrones".


Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy

Just finished reading "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card. I am not sure what makes him such an expert. He's only written about a million short stories and half a million novels. All are fantastic (at least all that I have read - let me recommend the Ender saga and The Tales of Alvin Maker right now). He has also only accumulated 16,000 awards, including multiple Hugos, Nebulas and Locus Fantasy Awards.
Yes, I realize my numbers are exaggerated. That is hyperbole meant to illustrate that Card is awesome and well suited to give advice.
Now, onto the book.
Anyone wanting to write Science Fiction or Fantasy should absolutely read this book. For the cost of a paperback, you get to spend a few hours with a noted expert in the field.
It raised some great points, gives good advice and certainly provides a lot to think about regarding what separates Science Fiction from Fantasy. The two overlap more than you might think and I find I prefer Card's term "Speculative Fiction" which he uses quite a bit.
What I really like about the book is that despite holding some pretty strong (and dwell publicized) religious and political beliefs, Card does not use the book as a platform for that stuff.
This book is about writing. It is easy to read. it is conversational. It is helpful and insightful.
So go get it.

Star Wars: Legacy of the Force

I think I have blogged about this series before. It is written years and years after the Star Wars movies. Han Solo and Princess Leia are married and have kids. Luke Skywalker has a son. In this series, their kids are all grown up and that is what this series is about. The main characters are still around, but they are not main characters anymore. They are major characters, but not the main ones.

Betrayal (pictured left) is the first book. The whole series goes like this:

  1. Betrayal
  2. Bloodlines
  3. Tempest
  4. Exile
  5. Sacrifice
  6. Inferno
  7. Fury
  8. Revelation
  9. Invincible

Invincible concludes the series. I just finishshed reading Fury (#7). They are all written by either Karen Traviss, Aaron Allston or Troy Denning. So far Karen Traviss is my personal favorite, but they are all very good.

I will say this, the series is cool. It has some universe-shattering consequences and major characters go through major changes (one major long-time character dies - and I still have 2 books to go).

The problem? It is 9 freaking books long! I know that we might be going for a trilogy of trilogies idea like Star Wars sort of did with episode I, II and III and then IV, V and VI all being little trilogies in a bigger story. I guess if that were the case, then Timothy Zahn's trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command) would close the 3 trilogies. These three books have become known as The Thrawn Trilogy and according to GGE (okay - in this case, I have not vetted this with anyone, it's just my opinio) the Thrawn Trilogy is still the best series of Star Wars books out there.

The problem with Legacy of the Force is there are not three separate trilogies, just a story that takes 9 books to tell and by now I am just ready to be finished with thing! It is enjoyable and I am glad I read it, but it feels like it is a few books too long.

How to Write a Screenplay

I don't actually know the best way to write a screenplay. Fortunately, I don't have to know. They could fill BOOKS with how to write screenplays...and they have.
My favorite are those by Syd Field, and there are a few of them.
The blog title links to the one I am reading right now.
GGE writes all sorts of stuff, screenplays among them and I find this book to be, not only helpful, but inspirational.
So if you are thinking about writing and selling screenplays, check it out.
It can't guarantee you a sale or anything, but it will give you some good insights from someone who has seen lots of success

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best Made!

I saw an interesting add today for Best Made Axe. It is a company that sells hand made Axes, produced in NJ. They are sold online and exclusively at a single store in NYC. They are made of hickory (from TN) and sell for between $250-$500 dollars. I am guessing, based on price, that they would be very well-made axes. I can’t say if they are the “best” or not as I am not qualified to judge an axe beyond whether it chops or does not chop wood and other items. Perhaps an axe murderer or a lumberjack would be a better endorsement. What interests me though is the business idea itself. Not what many would consider in terms of launching a successful business, but this company reports having done very well since their launch. It’s funny how some businesses toil in obscurity while others hit upon just “the thing” and turn passion into profit and never look back.

Monday, August 24, 2009


By "submit" I don't mean submit as in "submit to being ruled by Martians"...what I mean is submit as in "submit to publishers".
GGE has a couple of items out with publishers right now. Like any other author or creative endeavor, rejection letters don't thrill us, but it seems to be the way the game is played. Submit, submit, submit. Collect rejection letters, paper the walls with them, store them up for future reference, but keep on trucking.
One thing we do at GGE is, while we submit, we also move on to the next project. It makes the urgency to get a positive response not seem as urgent. We figure, well if project A doesn't sell, wait till they see Project B.
Having said that, it still sucks getting rejection...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Captain America's Back!

I know many might expect GGE to be thrilled that Cap is back in action, but instead, his return is greeted with a resounded sense of...ho hum.
First, did anyone know he died?
Well, the comic book community knew. It made some headlines even. Of course, a few years back Superman died. Batman got his back broken. Heck, Spock died in Wrath of Khan and it was all very poignant. Heck, even Captain Picard was "recovered" from the Borg and it is now official canon that Commander Data, who died in Nemesis, has been uploaded into the body of his idiot-savant "brother" B-4. Of course of all of these, Data is the only one I "buy" very well. He is a robot. I have resurrected my own computer a few times.
The problem? They are all back! It is a falacy of modern sci-fi and fantasy storytelling. Heroes fall, but they come right back in a few episodes. It's a time warp or a clone or an evil twin or something.
It has become a pattern and one that is just...well...boring and predictable.
I can speak for all writers when I say that no one wants their storytelling to be mentioned in the same sentence with boring and predictable!
If characters are always inherently "safe" then where is the drama?

  1. GGE promises that our characters are NEVER safe
  2. We will not keep a character around to make a buck if the storyline demands their untimely demise
  3. Once they are gone, they are gone. The barrior of death should be a bit nmore difficult to overcome than our colleagues in other studios have made it out to be.

Okay...enough griping. Cap is back! Big deal.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Work Sucks!

I am reading "Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it" by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson.
It puts forth the idea of a "Results Only Work Environment" also known as "ROWE".
I love the whole notion. No meetings, no schedules, using techology as it is intended and paying more attention to results and time at the desk.
As writers and artists, GGE definitely understands the ROWE. I can sit at a desk all day, but if I don't write something then we don't produce.
GGE doesn't operate 8-5. It operates at midnight, 3 am, just before dawn and whenever inspiration strikes.
Check out Cali and Jody's book or their blog at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Physics and Superheroes

Just finished reading "The Physics of Superheroes" by James Kakalios. First off, let me say, great book! Funny and well-written and I feel smarter just for having read it.
Having said that, I do have to confess that physics was never my strongest subject, whereas superheroes are more my forte.
My original intention for reading the book was to base my superhero stories in a more believable realm and ensure their powers didn't violate natural laws.
As it turns out, this is pretty hard to do. Some superheroes are more plausible than others, but almost all require some suspension of disbelief.
So, rather than suffer analysis paralysis, I have simply decided to try and limit the number of "miracle exceptions" my superheroes need in order to operate and try to make them as plausible as can be with the understanding that we must play a little with the laws of physics to make our heroes exist.

It's probably a good thing superheroes don't walk the streets anyway...with super heroes come super villains and I don't want to be the victim of a death ray or anything like that. I have enough to worry about as it is!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Star Trek: The Experience

Recently visited Star Trek: The Experience at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA. If you're a Star Trek fan, then you should definitely get yourself to this exhibit. I think it is a traveling exhibit. It is at The Franklin Institute for a few more weeks.
Gene Roddenberry, I am sure, would be amazed if he saw how far the script for "The Menagerie" took him. He had a vision and it grew far beyond what he initially envisioned, but the point is, he had a vision.
Along with the vision though, he did something about it. He wrote and wrote and wrote. He crafted his skill on detective shows and "Have Gun Will Travel". He had pilot shows made and then they were not picked up. He didn't let this destroy him. He didn't quit. He kept writing. Then, he finally sold Star Trek.
One would think the rest was history, but not so fast...the show had budget trouble and censorship issues and was canceled. Gene never gave up and eventually, years later, it came back and he was ready to roll again. Now, Thirty years after it's comeback, it is a hit movie and a museum exhibit and has about a million books, comic books, toys, etc.
It started with a vision. Then there was a lot of work and then there was a LOT of "stick-to-it-ive-ness"

So there you go:
1) Dream
2) Work (as GGE says, no one can do your pushups for you)
3) Never give up

Friday, August 7, 2009

The real challenge for GI Joe

I loved GI Joe as a kid. I remember the tall guys where one of the dude's name was GI Joe. Later came the cool team of guys named Duke, Stalker, Snake Eyes, Rock-n-Roll, Breaker, Scarlett. I loved them as a kid.
So now, finally, there is a GI Joe movie (not surprisingly since there is a Transformers movie - everything old is new again). I haven't seen it yet, but I will.
Here is the challenge.
Back in the '80s, I remember GI Joe as being so cool when in fact, it had more cheese than a French wine festival. Today's kids are more sophisticated. Couple that with the fact that many of the movie goers at GI Joe will be former fan boys hoping for the same exilirating experience they had as youths.
So, the movie has to satisfy former fan boys who want to be thrilled but will not be thrilled by the same fare they saw when they first fell in love with GI Joe. So, it has to be different, more modern and relevant while still retaining some of the vestiges we all know and love.
The story also has to appeal to the younger generation if we want to get toy sales, spin offs, comic books, roleplaying games, a comic book (there actually is still a comic book that is pretty good).
Can it be done? Heck yeah. Look at Iron Man. So much more than just a comic book filmed in real life and put on the screen.
The right writer and director can do this for GI Joe. Let's hope they pulled it off

Yo Joe!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Story Greatness

What makes a story great?
Is it the technical quality of the writing? Sometimes, if it is particulary grabbing (like Joe Abercrombie) but good writing is like the cherry on top. Bad writing is like bad breath on an otherwise attractive person. It can add or detract, but a story can be great with writing that is "good enough".
Is it the storyline? Definitely important. Good plot twists and well paced drama is critical. This isn't the end-all-be-all either though. Low budget films often have good storylines, but fall short because of poor technical execution.
A good bad guy? A definite requirement!
Good guys we can relate to? Another critical element! We need to feel for them. We need to be able to indentify with them. They need to be changed in some way by the dramatic elements of the story, unless their rigid inflexibility is what the story is about.
A touch of humor now and then? Doesn't hurt.
Good pacing? Makes the reader enjoy the ride more.

What's the point of my musing? There is no single thing to master in order to write a great book and some do certain parts better than others. I don't know if anyone gets all elements perfect.

So, writing is more like cooking. There is a recipe. All of the elements are important in some degree. Improve your understanding and your ability in each element and watch the quality of your stories grow!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Green Lantern: First Flight

Had the chance to check out Green Lantern: First Flight last night. It is a new movie from Warner Bros. I should stress it is an animated movie. Of course, at GGE, we have no problem with animation, anime, comics or whatever media it might take to convey a cool story. Some folks allow themselves to miss out on some excellent stories because they buy into the misconception that if it is "drawn" it must be "for kids".
Anyway...I digress! Green Lantern: First Flight is a must-see (and a must-own for you collectors out there). Of course the art is fantastic, but we expect no less from Warner Brothers, but the story is great!
Why is the story so good? Well, let me tell you...
Green Lantern has never had a great arch nemesis. Sure, everyone would point out Sinestro as GL's polar opposite, but it is with a half-hearted wave. Not the immediate recognition that you get with Lex Luthor (for Superman) or The Joker (for Batman).
Well, First Flight goes a long way towards remedying this. We have long known Sinestro is an ex-Green Lantern himself (more on this later) but this story shows his fall from grace. It is remniscient of "Training Day" with Denzel Washington in which the veteran Green Lantern (Sinestro) trains a rookie (Hal Jordan - our Green Lantern) before eventually ending up on the wrong side of the power ring. Very well done and Sinestro is very well presented and quickly becomes villain that viewers can love to hate.
Another great thing about Green Lantern is, as with many of GGE's top favorites, that Green Lantern is cross genre at its best. Green Lantern is not so much a super hero as he is a member of an elite military unit charged with protecting the galaxy. There are 3600 of them scattered across the galaxy (sort of like Jedi Knight). So, with any Green Lantern story, you get super hero action and a healthy dose of science fiction as well. First Flight pulls this off really well.
So...go watch this movie!