What Arrow Can Still Teach Us About Serialized Storytelling

Rule No.1 of Writing Fiction: Have a Back-up for when you are writing crap.

You all know that feeling. That feeling when you watch a certain episode of a tv show and you are truly wondering why you are sticking with something. It happens in TV shows, comics, books, anything that is a long running series. There comes the moment when you are finally fed up with a certain program and look at your hands and ask: “Why am I doing this to myself?”

When it comes to the tv show arrow, that feeling has come to me multiple times over the past three years. All the moments when the show has jumped the shark, all the moments that were just too dumb to believe. Arrow isn’t the only one, of course, it happened to book series, comics I’ve been following, but I always come back to Arrow. And then I realized that this is something I can learn from the show if I ever decide to write a serialized story, and that is to have some live rings to spare whenever one of my plot lines goes south. I’ve watched a lot of tv shows over the past few years, most of which I have decided to quit, but the most enduring show, I have ever followed in its original airing that I still tune into watching, is and remains Arrow. The show knows when to break out of its mold and try something new. More often than not it doesn’t succeed anymore for a bunch of reasons, but the solid foundation it laid four, five years ago at this point, is still strong enough, with enough side plots and one-off ideas that it keeps me invested in at least finding out how that concludes. Continue reading “What Arrow Can Still Teach Us About Serialized Storytelling”

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How To Overcome Writer’s Block

How To Overcome Writers Block in some easy snake oil salesmen-esque steps. Promised.

I thought I might as well get back to writing on the blog more often, if only to keep the fire stoked until the book hits, but also in some way to be my own private little therapy session once a week, so here goes:

If you’re a writer, you probably spend your time in one of three stages 1.) writing 2.) not writing and 3.)thinking about maybe getting back to writing on Tuesday in three weeks fingers crossed. I find myself, more often than not, in stage 2 and 3. I think this is why 2015 is such a blur to me, I have honest to god no memory of that year, it went by way too quickly.

If you’re in any way like me, then you know that writing isn’t the hard part. That’s easy. The Historian’s Crusade was written over the course of seven weeks and edited over the course of another five. The big problem will be overcoming the periods where you are in-between stories and in-between ideas. Maybe something else is going on in your life, maybe you have a new job, or school obligations. What you need to understand right then and there, if you ever want to get back to writing, is to forgive yourself and not martyr yourself on the altar of the writing gods. It happens, learn to move on from it. Just because you are a writer and want to publish your stories, or not, doesn’t mean you have to think about it 24/7. I guarantee you that the people who do hit burnout by 45. I wanna be popular and adored like Hemingway,  sure, but I don’t wanna go out in an alcohol binge or with a bullet in my brain either, so learn to relax. The more you fight your writer’s block, the worse it will get. Once you are in a state of mental ease, your confidence will return.

Continue reading “How To Overcome Writer’s Block”

What I Learned from Writing A Serialized Novel And What’s Next

It’s been eleven weeks but today I published the final chapter of the serialized novel (or novella, I suppose, thanks arbitrary length limits…). I learned a lot of things over the past three months and I’d just like to ramble about that for a while so bear with me please.

First of all: Pick a title beforehand that isn’t a mouth-full. I mean, “The Very Model of a Modern Starship Captain” is a nice little homage to Gilbert and Sullivan, sure, but once you’re done writing it, the entire tweet will already be done and it makes for one lousy hashtag. Also, it doesn’t really tell you anything. So I have since decided that I will rename the book to “The Historian’s Crusade”, though I’m sure it will probably be “A Historian’s Crusade” at some point next week and then “Crusading Historian” once this is picked up as a limited superhero book by Darkhorse or some bullshit like this… yeah, self-publishing is truly a backbreaking job.

All joking aside though, the past three months have taught me more about writing than the previous ten years combined, I believe. Back in 2014 I took a creative writing class during my undergraduate phase that tried to teach you how to write for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. The goal? Write 50.000 words in four weeks. This has ruined writing for me for two years. As hard as it may sound, but I just can’t bring myself to ever vomit up 50.000 words in a month. In the end, you will not be left with a halfway decent first draft on which to build a successful book, you will be left with just that: alphabet diarrhea. What is the point of wasting four weeks on a novel when you will have to completely throw it away afterwards. And that’s exactly what I did, I threw that script away in mid-2015 and only kept a basic premise tangentially related to “What if Archer from Enterprise was a tragic character?” and instead went with: “what if there was a Star Trek history book?”I mean, John Scalzi can do brilliant post-modern Star Trek pastiches and he is only one of the most gifted writers of the last decade so I might as well give it the old college try.

Continue reading “What I Learned from Writing A Serialized Novel And What’s Next”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

NON SPOILER REVIEW

Ah, Rogue One. I’m all prepared. Read Rogue One Catalyst, the prequel book, rewatched A New Hope, stayed away from spoilers. Here we go:

Well, that was… something. I just saw the 6th best Star Wars film.

Rogue One, like its protagonist, is a movie seriously in need of a purpose. It’s a film that wants to be the first anthology film and tell a new story in the Star Wars universe, yet beats you over the head with cameos and characters from A New Hope we didn’t need to see, while completely ignoring its new characters and failing to give them any sort of meaningful depth. It’s almost amazing.

People complained at the “war movie stuff” was the problem, but I thought the war movie stuff wasn’t a problem at all, the real issue is that the movie wasted my time until about 80 minutes in when the actual plot started. It does some stuff to fill plot holes for A New Hope, but then it meanders around in so much unnecessary fluff. The only bits that got a rise out of me where the cameos, callbacks, and the last five minutes of the film, again: ironic for an anthology. But the part where I was bored until the third act is my main problem. It did establish mood in a way, but didn’t earn it. I was hoping for moments of oppression, a reason for these people to make sacrifices for freedom, but it was the same old, same old. Maybe it also didn’t help that I read the book, because they wasted both Krennic and Galen Erso, it’s almost incredible. They spend so much time on the set-up that the pay off comes too abrupt.

Maybe my assessment of it being the 6th best was a bit harsh. With all the problems I had with Force Awakens, and Revenge of the Sith, I was always engaged and the plot was moving forward. I don’t except much from a SW movie outside of being entertained. This wasn’t interesting to me.
And before someone said that it’s because I know too much: I saw it with Mr Casual fan number 1 aka my dad: he turned to me when the credits rolled and said, translated from German: “What was that supposed to be? I already knew all of this.”
There is pathos in the movie, but its all the third act. The trailer was good because it cut out the first 80 minutes or so.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s main problem is that it isn’t a Star Wars story, it’s THE Star Wars story, it’s A New Hope’s prequel, with all that would make this exciting excised to the end. As the servant of two masters it eventually succumbed under its own weight.

 

Online Novel: The Historian’s Crusade

There are no happy endings to stories, only bad research.
Find out more in the new fictional history book written by … someone who exists.

Foreword

This is the first draft of my novel Historian’s Crusade. An updated version can be found on Amazon for 0.99$. The first chapter will remain here on this site though as a sample. 

Changes to the story include different dates, new characterization, continuity clean-up, as well as annotations and a brand new bibliography of all fake future history books. The story on Amazon is also updated to work better with the sequel Disalienation and is the official version of the “Müllerverse” if you will, should I decide to write more.

Thank you very much.
Alexander Reineke, October 2017

 

Continue reading “Online Novel: The Historian’s Crusade”

I Don’t Hate Superhero Movies, Only Hype and Fanboy Culture

Hype and fanboys can ruin everything.

People who know me personally or have seen just a couple of articles I have written over the years know that I have severely soured on the superhero movies that are currently reigning supreme on the American movie market.

My own personal gripes about big budgets ruining creativity in many instances aside, the biggest crux of the issue is not the films themselves. Films are good on a movie to movie basis. One bad movie doesn’t invalidate an entire genre, filmmaker, actor, or writer. No, hype and fanboyisms have ruined my enjoyment more than anything.

As a student of History and Anglistics  and with friends and acquaintances all over the planet, or simply as a cheapskate grad student in my 20s I rely on the internet for information, communication, and entertainment. Thus it is nearly impossible to not be immediately informed about a new trailer, article talking about a random rumors, Youtube videos, or Facebook status updates about upcoming projects. I was never one to go completely blind into a film. Informing oneself before one goes to see a movie is a good way to minimize getting burned on something, and of course you can never account for taste and personal style.

There comes a point, however, when hype and fanboyism can ruin something far greater than just the next movie for you.

The start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe back in 2008 was both a blessing and a curse, as it brought closer-to-the-comics adaptions of the source material into the mainstream as the publisher itself was involved with the films now instead of farming it out to different studios. The merits about that can be talked about and I am planning to write an article about the 90s superhero films at some point, but the crux of the matter is that one of the biggest problems brought forth with this and the DC Extended (Cut) Universe was that it brought the fanboy mentality of the comics, Marvel vs DC, DC vs Marvel, Marvel vs everyone else, DC vs everyone else, and so on, to the mainstream as well. There was a sharp cut in the reception of pre-MCU movies and post-MCU movies from other companies or the output of other studios. The fronts have consolidated, entrenched keyboard warriors are firing at the other position, and all that you’ll get out of it is trench foot. Maybe a bit overdramatic, but I hope you see my point here. Discussing a movie on its own merits or looking at a broader trend is all fine and good and I enjoy it myself, but being accused as a hater or a fanboy for hating or liking something you do not is not fun.

Hype culture is no different. A movie is announced two, three years before it releases, often a sequel is announced a month before the first one hits theaters. After that there is scant a week when we are not bombarded with article after article on rumors, set photos, casting announcements, interviews, and, of course, fanboys talking about something is going to suck years in advance.

In many ways, the negative pre-judging of films such as Fantastic Four (2015) and Batman v Superman (2016) coinciding with the negative reception on release is the worst that could have ever happened to me personally in the realm of hype culture as fanboys are now validated in spewing their irrelevant drizzle years in advance. Yes, the movie turned out to be bad. No, that does not mean you now have carte blanche to rake about the next one for two years and tell me in every single conversation we have that its gonna suck. That is for us to decide once we have seen it. In law one of our greatest achievements was the presumption of innocence.

Not to mention the fact that you’re shooting yourself in your own foot by lapping up everything someone puts out, you are giving them a blank check to pump out any old garbage and screw yourself over in the long run. If you want the superhero movie genre to have a long and prosperous history in Hollywood and world cinema you want quality, not quantity and misleading advertisements.

I urge you not to partake in this. Don’t feel like you have to see a movie simply to be able to participate in water cooler talk. You are under no obligation to see a movie to support something that is “greater than you”. If something looks bad, avoid it if you’re not a professional critic. And, for your own sake, don’t fill your life with this much hatred for something as inconsequential as a two hour movie with the gross domestic product of San Marino. Wait and see, be a good consumer and reward quality. Don’t be an unpaid arm of the marketing machine. You will not gain anything from overhyping yourself and you have everything to gain when you are positively surprised from keeping yourself surprised.

If you want to pass the time productively in between the next obscenely expensive superhero slugfests go and read the actual comics. It’s a medium worthy of exploration and going by the numbers its clear that not everyone watching the movies reads the comics. Broaden your horizon by reading a more varied number of books. My Goodreads list on the side bar can attest to me trying some new things in recent years and it was well worth it. Do anything but remain in a state of perpetual excitement forever. You are not doing yourself a favor and you are only depriving yourself of quality experiences in the meantime.

Star Trek Into Darkness (Re)Review: Abrams Strikes Again

The Nostalgia Critic thought Into Darkness was a good movie ruined by a terrible ending. Oh boy, set phasers to obsessive fanboy reply…

Next week a new Nostalgia Critic editorial will appear to the general public. I know this because I’m one of the clever and handsome people… who happen to have a free year long subscription to Vessel, the early access service. Sucks for you, eh?

All joking aside, the video is about movies being ruined by the ending, and while I surprisingly agree with most that was being said, my one pet peeve, Star Trek, is not among the films that were bad just because of the ending.
(For those interested and with an account: https://www.vessel.com/videos/XapZBKqZE)

A bad ending to a good film is merely getting cut with a kitchen knife or stepping on a lego brick. Sitting through Into Darkness, however, was a serious of paper cuts followed up by stepping on a lego brick. Memetic humor aside, this means that you are already so num from the previous stupidity that you don’t really care about one more insult, one more dumb element.

I never said a definitive piece on Into Darkness. We once did an hour long angry rant podcast that came close to it, but in hindsight that seems more and more like I was getting swept up in the hate on the movie. It doesn’t deserve it that bad. The acting was good, the effects were good, the score was amazing, in many ways everything worked about the movie except for the writing and the the direction.

Like I stipulated in my Star Wars article from a couple of weeks back, JJ Abrams hides the flaws in his movies by speeding you by it, Into Darkness is very similar and you can tell, because not much happens. Benedict Cumberkhan attacks, Enterprise goes to revenge, capture, twist, fight, fight, fight, don’t give into revenge even though that is what Khan did and it got his crew to safety and he lived. That would have been fine had there been more to flesh out these few elements, but they served merely as set-ups for the action scenes. It’s a big problem in most action films now, and even the superior Star Trek Beyond, one of the best Trek movies ever surprisingly enough, was not exempt from it: scenes that should not include an action beat have one to keep the audience invested, distracted even, from a mundane scene. Into Darkness makes the cardinal mistake though, of interrupting interesting drama scenes with action beats or twisting them in such a way that action becomes inevitable.

By now everyone should hopefully have noticed that Into Darkness was a thinly veiled rip-off of Deep Space Nine’s “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost” two-parter, with Peter Weller playing the role of Admiral Leyton. And yet that story worked and Into Darkness didn’t, because it wasn’t a character piece, it was an action piece that happened to have some characters in there with badly written motivations that were supposed to trick you into thinking there was depth. Admiral Robocop’s plan was dumb: if you want to engineer a crisis to get your military budget raised so you can prepare for a war with the Klingons you don’t go and tell Kirk to fire torpedoes at the Klingon homeworld. Admiral Leyton is one of the best villains in all of Trek because he did everything bloodless and made sure to not harm anyone and the moment that happened he surrendered himself voluntarily. Admiral Buckaroo Banzai is just another kill crazy Admiral.

That’s not even mentioning small stuff that starts to gnaw at you throughout the film: a cold fusion device that was used to freeze a vulcano even though its a method of generating energy, Kirk shooting his horse-thingy even though that’s where he had parked it, hiding a starship under water even though that would inevitably lead to discovery and breaking of the prime directive, all the admirals meeting without security, for some reason injecting a Tribble with human blood… not even mentioning the fact that the character arcs from the last movie are re-used, which is probably one of the greatest missteps: there is no reason to watch this film because it only repeats the last one and is inconsequential to the next one, which starts where 09 ended. This is one of those mid 90s Disney sequels like Lion King 1.5.

For a movie so meticulously set up last time to make everything new and exciting the film just went nowhere and stayed with all the Trek cliches and reused plot lines, which is arguably its biggest problem.

So yes, an ending can ruin an otherwise decent movie, but in the case of Into Darkness there wasn’t much left to ruin because of the number of things already wrong with it.

Remember in your rebuttals: Twitter hashtags #stillnotoverit #trekfanboy #ohmygodcanyoupleasestoptalkingaboutit