Pariah Company (Part 2)

On to part 2 of Pariah Company Le Reject Version. If everything works out and I’m not lazy the real version might come out in Q3 2018. I like to take my time.

Here there be dragons. It had been the first thing the ship’s captain had told him the moment they sighted land. More so than any place in the world, Western Europe had been chosen by the Great Dragons as their favorite home for more than a thousand years and counting. Wherever they went, the landscape changed. Misty mountains, swooping meadows, castles in the mountains long abandoned and now nesting places for wild wyverns. It truly was a strange land of mystic opportunities and possibilities far from which Achilleos had ever dreamed of one day seeing.

He shouldered his sack from the right to the left shoulder as he walked through the forests that still marked the majority of Germania as they had in the days he had last been here. He took a deep breath. Gone was the salt of the sea, the odor of North Africa, the dry heat of Arabia, not to mention the one-thousand-and-one corns of sand still somehow stuck between his toes over nine-hundred leagues from the sands of Arabia Felix. It would do for now.

Achilleos started whistling just then. An old tune learned by heart many hundred years ago. It was the song his mother sung to him of his father, the great explorer, who never returned, a song of love and sorrow that seemed to fit the general mood of this great forest. The road was well traveled, laid out with stone no less, with wagons passing him by left and right, forcing him to dance in between, bringing to mind memories of the great feasts and dances of the Orient. Promptly he stepped off the beaten path, making his way in the undergrowth. The ground was slowly but steadily rising, coming up against the high mountain in the distance on which fate urged him to climb for which he might see the entire region and orient himself properly. He had, somewhat, missed his turn. Reorienting himself would solve this problem right then and there. His sharp eye even saw a small castle high up. It would make for a fine observation post, maybe a way to rest for the night. His walk crouched as the incline got stepper. His tune changed, becoming the call of the adventurer, a strange music played on bongos by the people of China in his honor but fifty years ago. It seemed fitting. His whistling grew louder until the birds in the trees returned his call, making the entire area fill with music.

“Quiet there, you stupid idiot,” a voice hissed suddenly.

Achilleos looked around. The voices of the birds were quickly dying down. Nothing was around him. Could the birds in this region talk? It might be so because of the proximity of Great Dragons and their fascinating magic. He shrugged his shoulders and looked back to his climb, now rising with the need of his bare hands grabbing upon granite as brown earth and trees slowly disappeared behind him. Again he started whistling.

Again came the strange voice: “Keep your fucking hole shut, do you want to get us all killed?!”

Achilleos looked around once again. It had definitely not been an imaginary voice. But he still couldn’t see anyone. He climbed up again, near a pass that wound around the mountain, allowing access to the castle. He could have taken that of course, but he needed some upper body exercise. Bronze muscles sculpted by the finest training the world had to offer had to be maintained or it would bring shame on two millenia of hard work and dedication. As he placed his first foot on the path, rising to stand straight for the first time in twenty minutes of free climbing, someone grabbed him by the shoulder as he was already starting another song, roughly shoving him against the wall with a strength Achilleos, champion of the Gods of Old, found surprising.

“Not one more tone of you, man-bear.”

He stared into the muzzle of a firestick. No, musket they called it in these regions. He had seen them pop up here and there lately over the last two centuries. The mortals were funny creatures. Still, he had no idea if they could harm him, so he quieted down for the moment, if only to be polite. “Greetings, fellow traveler.”

It was a man wearing peculiar robes of green and black, with a small cloak draped over one shoulder, a sword on the side, a small fire stick on his hip, a long one in the hands, currently pointed straight at his magnificent nose. Achilleos’ face lit up, showing his teeth as pearly white as the day he left his island so many years before. “I’m sorry my music disturbed you. I assure you, there are others I have, if they were not to your liking.”

They shushed him again, the tall one pulling back the hammer. “Quiet. Do you want to get us both killed? What is wrong with you, ogre?”

“My name is Achilleos, friend, not ogre,” Achilleos offered nicely and in a hushed tone as to please the man. While he had been taught to be courteous at all times, the had learned the hard way to be much  more so when faced with the possibility of death, as unlikely as it was for one of his standing, of course. But what were manners if none paid any attention to them?

The firestick was now lowered, the hammer slowly pushed down in its resting position. The strange man rolled his eyes and rubbed his stubbled chin. It was graying as much as the hair on his head, reminding him of the offers of a spice merchant he had known in far off Mosul. “You’re not from this region, are you, stranger?”

“Indeed, I am not, friend Greybeard,” Achilleos answered in the quietest whisper his booming organ could muster. “I am Achilleos, nephew to Achilles, son of…”

“Yeah, how you’re doing, save your breath, air’s getting thin in these parts,” the older stranger said, peering up the side of the mountain, taking a knee and going for his water bottle. Continue reading “Pariah Company (Part 2)”

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Star Trek Discovery “Despite Yourself” Review

Captain Killy Strikes Again

Star Trek Discovery is back and they’re in the mirror universe. That was a pleasant surprise. What was more of a pleasant surprise was seeing the reactions of people who had previously been dismissive of Discovery. Now on with the review:

In many ways the mirror universe has always been one of those concepts from TOS that nobody was able to build upon properly in the fifty years since it first appeared. And that’s because it’s kinda camp and silly. And that’s what’s so lovable about it. Deep Space Nine tried to have it both ways by being both campy and serious, but failed at it. So far Discovery seems to veer away from both previously tried approaches and goes with a dramatic serial that allows characters to experience new elements of their personality and travel down a road not taken. Bringing back the Shenzou and the characters that Burnham saw die in the pilot was a fantastic move. Now that Burnham has already made ammends with Saru and by taking down the Ship of the Dead, it was hard for me to tell what would next happen with the character. You can now see that the loss of the Shenzou and her captain is something she will always carry with her.

The episode also benefits from being part of a longer on-going story arc with the T’Rell/Tyler plot and set against the backdrop of having to return home quickly in order to save the Federation from the Klingon cloaking tech. The Tyler plot itself now seems to be exactly what Reddit suspected a good two months ago, similar to what happened with the Man in Black on Westworld the year prior… okay, here’s what I think about it: Continue reading “Star Trek Discovery “Despite Yourself” Review”

Top 5 Things I Learned About Self-Publishing in 2017

Yeah, it has come to this: a Top 5 list. Oh sue me, I need the clicks.

1.) Use your Kindle Countdown Deals and Free Days whenever you can

Cannot stress this enough: you have five days of free promotions per quarter. Use them. I used them all five days in a row this January as a new year’s present and got an amazing 205 downloads out of it. Where there were none before (20 downloads in the tree months prior surely don’t count), there are now more than 200 people who might read it one day and if only a small percentage of these people actually review the book it will have been worth it. For future promotions I would recommend going with a weekend and a long weekend spread out over the three-month period. And stay on Kindle, it is the best way to get anywhere.

2.) Social Media: focus on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit

Social media is the best tool for self-promotion. I mainly use Twitter for link sharing because of the hashtag feature. Facebook and Reddit are even better tools but also multi-functional. I already use Facebook groups to communicate with far-away friends and people of similar interests and thus you don’t feel to bad to do some networking and self-promotion on top of it all. It will also mean that others are more inclined to listen what you have to say. Continue reading “Top 5 Things I Learned About Self-Publishing in 2017”

The Last Jedi: The JJ Abrams-Shaped Elephant In The Room

How Rian Johnson and Justin Lin saved what JJ Abrams almost broke.

Don’t worry: Last Jedi was friggin’ amazing. F– the haters.

NO SPOILERS FOR LAST JEDI, I PROMISE.

I watched The Last Jedi yesterday. Long story short: probably my favorite Star Wars movie after The Empire Strikes back. Rian Johnson managed to elevate the universe and the story of the new trilogy to a surprising level, raised the bar of quality for all SW movies to come. So I truly enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to after the last two films but I did.

Anyway, let’s get back to my favorite dead horse: Star Trek.

I’m kidding, slightly, but Trek and Wars share a common element now: two films directed by J.J. Abrams each. And while Episode IX is not filming yet and doesn’t even have a title, Last Jedi and Star Trek Beyond both have the dubious honor of following in the footsteps of a J.J. Abrams directed movie that really turned me off on the respective franchise.

Star Trek 2009 was the first in the new Kelvinverse and that movie was alright, I suppose. I talked about it before, but after some back and forth and how much or how little I liked it, I eventually settled on it being a necessary movie that didn’t reinvent the wheel but was necessary to bring the franchise back in the public eye. I thought that Abrams was a director who made rollercoaster movies: thrill rides when you’re on them but kinda boring and predictable when just looking at them from the distance. Oh well, there were worst films.

Next up was Star Trek Into Darkness, a film I have railed against before. But here’s the biggest issue: it’s the most useless of all the films. It really didn’t need to exist. It’s Star Wars counterpart is probably Rogue One, another movie that didn’t need to exist, and one that also has huge quality problems in its two halves, just reversed from ID. Again Abrams didn’t elevate the material and the favor he had built up for bringing Star Trek back quickly evaporated because it clearly was just a cash grab with no thought put into it. It didn’t help that he surrounds himself with mediocre writers and producers like Orci, Kurtzmann, and Lindeloff who he is unable to control, be it in content or quality. Once more a movie where his insane pacing leaves you too exhausted to look at the shiny keys to notice the plot holes until the second time round. Continue reading “The Last Jedi: The JJ Abrams-Shaped Elephant In The Room”

The Crown Season 2 and The Problem With Biopics – A Review of Sorts

Here’s a thing:

I was watching Season 2 of The Crown and while I still enjoyed it with its well directed, well shot, well acted, goodness, I also kinda felt like I was wasting my time a bit.

The story of season 2 starts where we left of last season with the impending Suez crisis and the Royal marriage on a bit of a shaky leg. That part of the season is engaging. Then that all gets resolved by the half-way mark of the season and we’re left with Prince Charles’ unhappy upbringing at his dad’s old military school, a situation in Ghana, Princess Margret’s scandalous scandals, and a bunch of kids being born. I might have dozed off in the second half. It didn’t help that, for historical purposes, they had to replace the magnificently played larger-than-life-Winston Churchill with Harold McMillan and Anthony Eden, and while their inability to fill the former’s shoes is a big plot point and leads to their failure, it makes for a bore of a viewing experience.

Point is, the second half is less engaging than the first. And that’s fine, that certainly is life. But here we might already get the main problem with structure of The Crown following the events of real life throughout the decades. Never mind the fact that they can’t stick around till the Queen dies in real life, most of royal centered events just aren’t terribly exciting. What we remember, and what is significant, has at this stage really been covered, with maybe one or two scandals per decade still ahead until we inevitably come to the elephant in the room called Diana. And while that will certainly make for some kinda twisted but still interesting drama from a hoo-man perspective, it highlights one big problem with biopics:

Real Life Does Not Have a Dramatic Arc

For every constitutional crisis, for every King dying and replaced by a successor, there is a reason why Queen Elisabeth II’s life has been described by newscasters as “chugging along”. Sure, there might be some interesting landscapes here or there, but unless you live an action hero life and die young, what’s the point of covering an entire lifetime?  Continue reading “The Crown Season 2 and The Problem With Biopics – A Review of Sorts”

The New Viewer Fallacy of TV

Short remarks:

I think you know this problem: there is this show that’s been going on for a while now and your friends tell you to watch it. You give it a shot, maybe even several episodes, but it is not for you. So you give up on it. It’s simply a bad show.

Then something dreadful happens. No, the show does not get cancelled and reduces your friends who stuck with it to tears. No, the show starts getting good, or at least your friends tell you it has gotten good.

If we are talking about network television this will mean a show that has gotten good in its second season will have 20-26 episodes in the can so far, 20-26 hours of storyline. Even if it is not completely serialized as a cable show with 13 episodes. In many ways a cable show that you are told to watch because it’s gotten really good is even worse, because those are literally 13 episodes of story you need to catch up on.

This is why there are still so many shows out there that are not completely serialized, at most lightly serialized, or have maybe 10 out of 26 episodes that are story related. This allows us to catch up. But is it really worth it? From a viewer perspective, should I need to sit through a season or two to catch up to the storyline and drag myself through all the bad stuff? Sure, you can read a summary on Wikipedia but we all know that this doesn’t give you the emotional connection necessary for the inevitable highs your friends keep telling you about. And from the perspective of a fan or showrunner? Continue reading “The New Viewer Fallacy of TV”

Cutthroat Island: Surprisingly Okay Pirate Film

Stupid article title aside, I spent my previous Tuesday evening this week actually watching Cutthroat Island, the notoriously bad pirate movie from 1995 that heavily injured both Geena Davis and Matthew Modine… ‘s careers for a good long two decades, bankrupted a movie studio, and lost 100 million dollars.

So anyway, I came away liking it quite a bit.

After emerging from the Facebook Messenger of Rage (TM) having just bitched with Jessica aka Angriest Fangirl There Is about Agents of SHIELD like every other week, we (or rather I) talked also about the film. It occurred to me then that many of our generation, those lazy post-1990 born millennial-hipster-commies, have never even seen the film. We were, however, regaled with tales of its awfulness and a steady stream of Hollywood blockbusters getting worse and worse over the past decade, while the genre output of those films steadily shrank down to scifi, fantasy, superheroes, scifi superheroes, fantasy superheroes and science fantasy superheroes. You get the idea. This past ten years also saw the rise, fall, and further fall of Pirates of the Caribbean, a once popular series of swashbuckling pirate movies where only the first one was good.

Cutthroat Island is far from being as good as Pirates of the Caribbean 1. That came at a time just a few years after Cutthroat, looked much better, had better effects, and a once in a lifetime performance by Johnny Depp to elevate what would have been another Cutthroat Island come to think of it now.

In retrospect, watching this film in a post-Pirates era, makes it quite easy to see how a few tweaks to Cutthroat could have elevated it up to that level. It needed a bit more polish all around, a bit more focus, maybe twenty minutes trimmed. It looks ten years older than it should, and yet Geena Davis’ surprisingly good turn as a swashbuckling pirate captain kinda made the movie for me. It’s a role that actresses to this day would kill for, which speaks volumes more about the industry today than about the quality of the film, but still.  Continue reading “Cutthroat Island: Surprisingly Okay Pirate Film”