Goodreads | Joshua’s Year in Books

via Goodreads | Joshua’s Year in Books.

My favorite new books I read:

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  2. The Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
  3. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
  4. Sage by Brian K. Vaughn
  5. Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  6. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
  7. Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe
  8. Half the World by Joe Abercrombie
  9. The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
  10. Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K Jemisin
  11. The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Age by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  12. The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes
  13. Super You by Emily V. Gordon
  14. A Dark Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

In no particular order.

Biggest disappointments

  1. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  3. Wildwood by Colin Meloy
  4. Half A War by Joe Abercrombie
  5. The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
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A Muppet Family Christmas Blew My Mind As A Kid.

Still my absolute favorite Christmas special. When I was a kid and saw it the first time I couldn’t believe. This was before  I ever saw comic book crossovers, Flintstones Meet the Jetsons, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so when the Muppets walk into Emily Bear’s farmhouse and meet Doc and Sprocket from Fraggle Rock I had a lot of questions.

“So, wait, Fozzie’s mom knows Doc? Does that mean…” I didn’t have time to process when carolers soon showed up at the Farmhouse door. The Sesame Street gang? Wait, THEY  ALL KNOW EACHOTHER? Even as a kid I remember thinking “Oh yeah, Kermit is on Sesame Street. That makes sense he’d know them.”

So the Muppets and Sesame Street are all together with Doc and Sprocket. Does that mean Fraggles are part of this world too? Soon enough, Kermit and his nephew Robin meet the Fraggle gang. Then they all meet to carol at the end. All my favorite characters together at Christmas? All this needed for me as a kid was the Ninja Turtles and I would have passed out.

Before fanboy was even a word. Before Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Doctor Who, or anything else I currently am obsessed with it was Jim Henson’s creations, Disney movies, and Ninja Turtles.

I still watch this every year.

When Star Wars: Episode I Came Out I Didn’t Hate It, I Was Bored By It.

With Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens four days away I was trying to remember how I felt after I saw The Phantom Menace. As evidenced by this video, a lot of people thought they liked it.

The thing is, when The Phantom Menace came out I liked Star Wars, but I was not the fan I am now. As a kid, I had watched A New Hope, back when it was just called Star Wars, repeatedly on channel 11 movie night. I mean, it felt like they played it every month, but that’s probably an exaggeration. I knew the other two movies existed, but it wasn’t until a shocked friend lent me his Original Trilogy box set on VHS that I finally saw Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Even then I had thought Empire Strikes Back was an amazing movie but Star Wars to me were just good movies.

So when I saw The Phantom Menace opening week with a group of my friends I had no horse in that race. It was me, Brian (who had lent me the tapes, Mike, Chris, and one other person though who that was I can’t decide between two people.

Here is what I remember: I thought the movie was boring. I remember eating my popcorn intently just for there to be something to do to make time go by faster. I didn’t care about little orphan Anakin, the political landscape of Naboo, or the silly antic of Jar Jar Binks. I didn’t think he was funny, but I wasn’t immediately like “Oh god, he’s the worst character ever.” That came years later. I was interested when characters I knew came on like R2D2 and C-3PO, but the pod racing sequence nearly put me to sleep. I wasn’t outraged by the introduction of midichlorians  because I wasn’t paying attention. Oh look, Yoda, I know him. Oh, Padme’s really the handmaiden, that’s a twist. The lightsaber fight was cool, probably the only part of the movie  that caught my interest,

The movies end and my first reaction were that I didn’t care.  I remember Mike being obsessed with the movie. He thought the pod racing scene was the best part, even buying the terrible Star Wars Episode I Racer game. I remember him convincing me to rent from Blockbuster and being annoyed I had wasted my five dollars on such a boring game.

I don’t remember Chris and Brian’s reaction, but I believe Brian was the first to turn to The Dark Side of the Force, hating the movie as most do today. I just wanted to get back to Brian’s house to play more Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64 and trade Pokemon to evolve my Haunter into Gengar. I didn’t care about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I probably told my friends I liked it, wanting to fit in, but I really had initially thought it was just okay.  I would feel that way initially about the other two also.

Most dislike the prequels because it waters down the mythology of Star Wars. The unstoppable villain, whose presence of unlimited powers has us scared for our heroes in the original trilogy is now a whiny brat and dumb teenager. The mysticism of the flow is now midichlorians in the blood stream. The Order of the Jedi was like an ancient order of knights long since gone turned into a bunch of ninjas who jump around that can’t sense a clone trooper about to shoot  them in the head.

I don’t like those things either but what really makes me angry with the prequels is how damn boring they are. Where’s the snark? Where’s the fun? Where are the jokes?

For my Shakspeare nerds, we go from having Bendick and Beatrice to Claudio and Hero. No one likes Claudio and Hero. There just part of the plot for the real romance of Much Ado About Nothing. Han and Leia’s sexual tension is fun, lovable, and full of insults. Anakin and Padme are just gross. Hopefully, and judging from the trailers it does, the new trilogy balance that fun and seriousness like the originals do. Having the original cast certainly helps.

I’m far too used to Doctor Who and Comic Books to angry with screw ups in the     mythology. With science fiction, there’s always a way to make new continuity that fixes the mistakes. There already starting to do with what we know of The Force Awakens. The prequels made Darth Vader a joke, so how do you counter react that? You make him a myth. That is what he has become to Kyle Ren and his new order, or, at least, that’s the theory.

The problem I have, in hindsight, with the Star Wars prequels is the problem I always pretended not to have when they were being released. I didn’t have any fun watching them.

A Problem: “It’s Game of Thrones. They’ve got to kill someone.”

Recently, Ian McElhinney voiced his disappointment about the fate of his character, Barristan Selmy in season five of Game of Thrones. One of the top comments I saw on social media stated “It’s Game of Thrones. They’ve got to kill someone.”

That might be a problem. After watching season five, you could imagine that same comment coming from the writer’s rooms. “Well, it’s Game of Thrones. We’ve got to kill someone.”

Let’s leave the differences from the books out of it for now. Focus on that perception of the show. If you’re constantly trying to raise the stakes and shock the viewers by eliminating characters, you’re entirely missing the point. What you want to do is put your characters is more dire consequences.

Okay, I lied, I’m going to talk about the books. This is exactly what happens to Barristan Selmy towards the end of the A Dance with Dragons. Daenerys is missing  and as the Lord Commander of the Queensguard he left not only to uncover a conspiracy by her husband Hizdahr zo Loraq (Also killed off) but prepare for oncoming armies head for Meereen.

The show should be building tension and not desperately trying to shock. That is what felt off about season five of Game of Thrones. They’re are, in a sense, desensitising us all to the shock that shook us in all when Ned Stark and Khal Drogo died in season one. No one is going to care anymore if all you do is kill off characters.

Featured image: Ser Barristan – by Mike Capprotti ©

Author Sam Sykes Tweets About Writing, Characters, and Emotions (Plus My Two Cents).

You should read Sam Sykes’ The City Stained Red, Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles Series, and Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law trilogy.

You Should Watch Jessica Jones Even If You’re Suffering From Superhero Fatigue.

Jessica Jones, the second Netflix series leading up to The Defenders premiered on Friday, November 20th, starring Krysten Ritter as a super-powered private detective with a penchant for drinking whiskey, swearing, barging in without asking, and wearing the same jeans, boots, and leather jacket throughout the thirteen episodes.

She’s complicated and she’s not alone. She’s rounded out with a slew of side characters with their own complications and what may be Marvel’s most compelling and scariest villain.

That’s right. David Tennant, who might be yours and is my favorite iteration of the Doctor from Doctor Who take Zebediah Killgrave a.k.a. The Purple Man and makes your skin crawl with his mind controlling powers. He’s a killer, a rapist, and under it all he believes he’s the nice guy with impeccable taste.  Like any good villain, he believes he’s doing the ring thing but what makes Tennant’s Killgrave interesting is that he’s clueless to what right and wrong are. He’s been using his powers for so long he’s only figured out now as an adult that getting what you want all the time isn’t as satisfying as earning it. He’s a petulant child in a man’s body who can control minds. This has made him a complete and utter monster.

Luke Cage, on the other hand, I can’t get enough of. When is the Luke Cage series premiering? Not until after Daredevil season two? Jesus, I can’t wait that long. Mike Colter’s Cage complements Jessica Jones’ brash, blunt and snarky attitude with a quiet stoicism. While Jessica says exactly what she wants when she wants to Luke says  so much with his body language that he can be careful with his word choice. I need that Luke Cage series now.

Luke Cage and Jessica Jones romance, relationship, fling or whatever you want to call it played well. You want it to happen. You want to find out if you’re in the know about his character if this takes place before Cage gets his powers or after. Then when you find out he does, you want Cage and Jones to get together but it gets complicated. These complications are part of the story without overtaking Jessica’s plot. Their relationship is part of Jessica’s life. That part of her life does not consume the entire story. It remains just a part and the series is better off for it.

Jessica’s line, speaking about her powers, about not hiding them but not advertising them either perfectly sums up the approach to powers in this street level. There’s no complicated retelling of her backstory. We just get bits and pieces of it as the story moves forward which is how exposition should be delivered. Over food, Jessica says she got her powers in an accident and Luke explains he got it in an experiment. Done and done. Killgrave’s origins are used as a motivating factor for his behavior, but he’s not constantly bringing it up.

The cast is filled out by Trish “Patsy” Walker, Jeri Hogarth, Will Simpson, Hope Schlottman, and Malcolm Ducasse all going through their own stories that spread out to introduce minor characters and wind up interconnected with Jessica’s. Not every character makes out of this first season alive. Jessica Jones has a high body and two deaths, in particular, are incredibly troubling, choice wise.

Do you remember Ben Urich in Daredevil’s first season? One of the best non-superhero characters in the Marvel Universe played by the brilliant actor Vondie Curtis-Hall and they killed him off. A waste and one of the biggest missteps of Daredevil’s first season. As a result, it is a bit strange that Jessica Jones has a similarly grizzled old black man, a detective this time, killed off for not a fucking good reason whatsoever. Played by Clarke Peters, whose character Lester Freamon on The Wire was one of the best, should have been a mainstay, just like Ben Urich, but is used as a plot device to further Will Simpson’s subplot involving a different kind of morality in regards to how Killgrave should be handled. Again, what a fucking waste.

Speaking of more waste, why does Marvel kill off all of its villains? Is it trying to tell us in the “real world” the only choice when dealing with these kinds of characters is death? That’s ridiculous. Obadiah Stane, Laufey, Whiplash, Red Skull, Malekith, Baron Von Strucker, Yellowjacket, Ronan the Accuser, Dr. Arnim Zola, Ultron, Alexander Pierce, John Garret, Daniel Whitehall, Jiaying, and now Zebediah Stane have all been killed off. For a company trying to build a cinematic universe that’s going to last for years killing off all your villains isn’t going to work well moving forward.

That being said, I’ll take season one of Daredevil and Jessica Jones over The Avengers: Age of Ultron any day. Jessica Jones is a mish-mash of the superhero genre, detective noir, and horror. It has mental health issues, relationship issues, knock-down drag-out fight scenes, women’s issues, drug issues, alcoholism, superheroes, supervillains, superpowers, sex, love, and most importantly of all complex characters and stories. What are you doing reading this? Go watch it now.

Why does Warner Bros. and DC Comics Think Their Audience Are Idiots?

It’s been happening for years ever since Christopher Nolan began working on Batman Begins, but Warner Bros. thinks its audience are not nuanced enough to get multiple iterations of their characters.

It started with the Bat-Embargo that was placed on the cartoon Justice League Unlimted. The creators of that show were no longer allowed to use any ancillary characters from Batman including Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn, two characters that were created in their animated universe. Their reasoning was that children would become confused by too many different versions of Batman characters in Justice League Unlimited, Batman Begins, and their developing cartoon The Batman.

First of all, this is highly underestimating the intelligence of children. Speaking from my own experience, I had no problem differentiating Mark Hamill’s Joker with Jack Nicholson’s Joker. It was very clear there was a difference between the animated Batman that appeared on Fox and the version that appeared on the WB network. Let’s take it outside of superheroes. It was clear there was something different about Dan Castellaneta’s Genie in Aladdin: The Series and Robin William’s version in Aladdin: The Movie. This was at an age where there was no internet and I only learned why the Genie’s voice was different by reading the back of Return of Jafar’s case. Kids now have information at their fingers. There would be no confusion.

Oh no, my head. There are way too many Batman's!

Oh no, my head. There are way too many Batman’s!

Warner Bros. still doesn’t see it that way and now they’ve spread this idea to not only children but adults as well. Deadshot, a character slated to appear in the Suicide Squad film and played by Will Smith has already appeared in on Arrow as a member of their version of Suicide Squad. Once the movie was firmly into production suddenly the character had to be removed so there was no “brand confusion.” In other words, sorry audience but you’re too dumb to tell the difference between these:

Clearly they are the same, therefore I am confused on how to take in the media. Sorry Warner Bros.

Clearly they are the same, therefore I am confused on how to take in the media. Sorry Warner Bros.

This spreads out to other obvious characters such as Batman, Superman, and Wonder down to characters like Harley Quinn. It even goes as far as to spread to characters that haven’t even be slated for a film yet. In season three of Arrow, we are introduced to Ray Palmer a.k.a. The Atom. This was originally intended to be Ted Kord a.k.a Blue Beetle but because Warner Bros. might have plans to use him in a film he was not permitted to appear on the show.

Now, with the premiere of Supergirl, Warner Bros. is sticking to their plan of avoiding all “brand confusion” by only mentioning Kara Zor-El’s cousin and vaguely showing Superman blocked by sunlight. Obviously, whoever plays  Superman on the new CBS show would be confusing to those watching Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The audience might say “Hey, wait this guy look different from this other guy,” because no one else has played Superman before. Oh wait:

I'm so confused.

I’m so confused.

The worst part is that they’re not even consistent. Blue Beetle and Booster Gold both appeared in Smallville with the latter also having a prominent role on Justice League Unlimited. Development for a Suicide Squad film began as far back as 2009 yet they allowed Deadshot not only to appear in Arrow, which wouldn’t premiere for three more years after, but also in Batman: Assault on Arkham along with Harley. Harley appears in all three of Arkham games developed by Rocksteady along with the Joker. The first game in that series came out the year after Heath Ledger appeared as the Joker in The Dark Knight. No brand confusion there.

The most prominent example of this is CW’s The Flash premiering while they’re simultaneously announcing Ezra Miller being cast as The Flash for the movies. How is this not an example of “brand confusion?” Warner Bros. makes the announcement just as their Flash TV series is beginning.  You might be asking, “what if this is DC learning their lesson?” but you have to remember that this announcement was made before Arrow was forced to kill off their version of Deadshot because of the Suicide Squad film.

Marvel, on the other hand, has no problem having multiple version of their characters in film and television. They seem to be doing just fine. For writers of fiction, one of the basic rules of storytelling that is taught is never to treat your audience like their idiots. Warner Bros. needs to learn this lesson before their audience gets tired of being talked down to.

If You Want To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions Start Them Now.

People don’t like seeing Christmas decorations when Halloween hasn’t arrived. We all hate hearing about Black Friday before Thanksgiving has even arrived especially when stores try to convince us to shop the night of Thanksgiving. Christmas ends and suddenly we’re thinking about our New Year’s Eve plans and how we can make it less disappointing than the year before. It’ll always be disappointing because it’ll never be as magical as it is in your brain.

Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions, including the people who say there New Year’s resolution is to not have one. The problem is the majority of us don’t keep them. For most of us, January is cold, we’re still broke from Christmas, and goddammit, every treadmill at the gym is taken up again. We decided on that one special night when we countdown to the new year that the next will be different but different can be difficult.

So instead, let’s just start our New Year’s resolution now that way when January 1st hit we’ll already be on track during the regular days of our lives instead of making promises we can’t keep on the tail end of the Holiday season. Here are some of mine.

But wait, I’m not going to do this alone. So for all of mine I’m going to make some suggestions of resolutions some people who I’ve encountered should make for themselves.

We did it you and me liquor

  • I’ll either figure out how to “fake it until I make it” or just give up on faking it entirely and dedicate endless amounts of time researching on how just to make it.
  • Drivers, when making a turn, you will go completely in your lane rather than staying halfway in mine blocking me from going forward.
  • I’ll keep the words in mind “You can only control yourself” whenever my life feels out of control.
  • When you see someone reading a book you won’t ask them “What are you reading?” or strike up a conversation especially if you don’t know them. If you’ve read the book, you’re permitted to say “great book,” and continue walking when they don’t engage.

YesAndNo

  • I’ll completely shut off once a week. Desktop, laptop, tablet, television, and smart phone completely turned off. I’ll write in notebooks and read on the floor if I have to keep my devices out of view.
  • You will stop playing videos and music out loud in public places with no regard for the people around you.
  • I’ll take a walk once a week and not to work out or lose weight but just to be outside.
  • Fall and Spring in New York, you will have those moderate temperatures you’re known for instead of flip flopping between being too hot or too cold all the time.
  • I’ll say yes just as often as I say no and vice versa.
  • You will take no for an answer.
  • I will go to BookCon, NY Special Edition, New York Tolkien Conference, and New York Comic Con.
  • Con-goers, you will shower, wash, and put on deodorant before a convention. It’s already hot enough.

Sogood

  • I will find, pitch, attempt, or whatever I have to do to find some freelance writing work. It’s something I have to try to do.
  • You will stop asking English Majors “But what are you going to do with that?”
  • I will go to Madison Square Garden. I will go to a stand-up comedy show. Not just some random night at Carolines but for a comedian who is touring that I love.
  • Stand-up comedians living on West Coast, you will come to New York.
  • When I go to BookCon, NY Special Edition, New York Tolkien Conference, and New York Comic Con I will say hello and talk to new people.
  • New York Comic Con, you will have more authors coming to your con.

theandys

  • I will think better of myself.
  • You will also think better of yourself.
  • I will only buy one book after I’ve read three I’ve never previously read.
  • Favorite authors, you will release the next books in your series in 2016.
  • I will write every day. Five of those days will be for four hours each day.
  • Everything else, you will stop distracting me from writing.
  • I’ll give up coffee for one month, maybe two, and deal with the caffeine headache.
  • Coffee mugs, you will stop tempting me with your bad puns and pop culture references.
  • I will write and submit a short story, even though I hate short stories.
  • Words, you will stop before my short story turns into another novel.
  • I will follow and comment on someone’s WordPress blog including someone who follows this one.
  • Pizza, you will stay exactly as you are. Maybe be fewer calories.
  • I will fill at least four notebooks front to back.
  • Pens, you will stop running out of ink just as writing is going so well.
  • I will allow only ten minutes to take it personally when friends and family criticize my book or just plain don’t like it.
  • Game of Thrones season six, you will be better than season five.
  • I will talk less about writing than actually writing because “talking about the thing isn’t the thing. The doing of the thing is the thing.”
  • Time, you will stop passing by so quickly.
  • I will break out of more comfort zones.
  • Comic book readers, you will stop being so afraid of change.
  • I will spend less money on things and spend more on experiences.
  • Experiences, you will stop being so expensive.
  • I will draw a map of the world from my book whether I can do it well or not.
  • Knicks, you will at least have a 27 win record this season.
  • I will communicate better with friends and family.
  • You will keep asking me when my book is going to be finished, it reminds that I need to get my ass in gear.
  • I will start my second book.
  • New Year’s Resolutions, you will stop making people feel guilty when you become unrealistic goals that no one can keep. Instead, you will become goals that people work towards all year to better ourselves.

snoopdoggheadshake

What’s So Exciting About Book Adaptations?

Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Kingkiller Chronicle” was recently optioned by Lionsgate for not just a movie, not just a TV, and not just a video game but all three. This has caused a stir amongst fans of the book all across the social media landscape while people who’ve never read the books are shrugging as they read this.

Put your favorite book in place of “The Name of the Wind” and imagine how you would feel. Are you excited? Finally, that book you fell in love with is going to be a movie, a television show, and a video game. It’s exciting news! Why though?
The readers who make up a fandom around a certain series have become savvy to how books become movies, TV shows, and video games. We’ve also seen how those adaptations can disappoint. I’ve written extensively on why our expectations for adaptations can be harmful, often expecting too much or maybe too hard to it without understand how these adaptations are made.
I don’t stand alone with the knowledge of the arduous process of making these projects nor have I entirely kept my Sword of Adaptation Criticism sheathed in regards to the last two seasons of “Game of Thrones.” The news of Patrick Rothfuss’ deal did beg the question, once my own excitement died down, why do we get so excited for news about adaptations in the first place?

The reality is: Do you have a favorite character? There’s a chance he or she may be cut from the script. Do you have a scene that cry every time you read it? Or feeling a swelling in your chest when that satisfying moment comes on the next page? It might not make it in there at all. That line from the book you quote all the time? It might be said by a completely different character because the one that originally said it was cut and now one word of it was changed so it’s just a little bit off from the original. That line though is of course everyone favorite who has seen the movie / show so you have to hear it said wrong all the time and attributed to someone completely different. Lucky you! That subplot you thought really developed the protagonist, the one that really got into his head, well there’s no time for that anymore.

These are just some of the pitfalls of adaptations. It’s not like the author can write the scripts, pick the casts (though sometimes they have a hand in that), designs the settings, costumes, and props. He or she is too busy writing their next book. Even if the author took the first crack at the screenplay there could be three others who rewrite next, and all of them have their own perspective on the series.

Just look what happened with the screenplay adaptations of the Harry Potter books. Steve Kloves may have set JK Rowling at ease when he told her Hermione was his favorite character, but he made the trio completely unbalanced by giving Hermione all of Ron’s best moments and dialog in addition to her own shining moments.

The fact is there is going to be change when it comes to the adaptation, and a lot of fans of the books are not going to like it. So why do we get excited at the prospect?
Because, and I think a lot of readers will agree, when you love a book you want others to love it too. Adaptations are the easiest gateway to that. I have many friends who decided to read “The Lord of the Rings” and “A Song of Ice and Fire” because of the Peter Jackson’s trilogy and the HBO series. As a result it has led to many great discussions and conversations about them to an English Major like myself, nothing is better than discussions about books.

Also, there is a bliss that comes when they get it right. I remember that feeling watching the pilot for “Game of Thrones” from the beginning when the gates to Castle Black opened to the end when Jaime Lannister lamented the things he does for love. Imagine that opening scene when we’re introduced to the Waystone Inn in whatever “The Kingkiller Chronicle’s” adaptation becomes is exciting. We want to see the world we imagine for so long.

The second question I asked myself after I asked why do we excited is why do we need adaptations? There’s a reason why writers need adaptations. Financially, being a novelist is chaotic. There is no steady pay but peaks and valley. If you’re a writer and you are entering that valley period an optioning deal may be what keeps you afloat. For readers, though, why isn’t the book enough? I’m speaking generally, of course, because there are definitely people out there that don’t feel the need for the adaptation and they’re self-aware enough to not indulge. If the story is still ongoing, it’s a chance to get more. If the story is over, it’s a chance for it to be revitalized for a new audience and for the reader to relive the experience.

It may not seem like it, but we want to like adaptations. Who doesn’t want new favorite movie or show? How nice is it to turn on the TV and see a story we love on it? We want more of the story and the world. That’s why it is exciting, the prospect of more of that story that make us happy.

Featured image “Wise Man’s Fear” by Marc Simonetti.