Monday, June 27, 2011

Making the Known Mundane into the Unknown Terror



Don't blink. Blink, and you're dead. Don't turn your back. And...don't...blink. Good luck.

~Doctor Who episode Blink.

What do Alfred Hitchcock and Doctor Who have in common?

In The Birds Alfred Hitchcock takes a completely mundane, ordinary thing--birds--and turns them into something terrible.

In the episode Blink (10th Doctor, Season 4), we meet the Lonely Assassins--terrifying beings that feed on potential energy by zapping their victims into the past. And guess how they're disguised? As common 'weeping angel' statues. "Beware the weeping angels!"

I think that that device--taking something ordinary and turning it into a terror--is probably one of the best fiction devices in use. Granted, it can be overused. I also think it would take a very experienced, competent writer to pull it off because of the factors involved--making it believable (or at least plausible enough in the story-world that the reader's/watcher's disbelief is suspended) and drawing the terror out so well that you're forever afraid of seagulls or weeping angel statues. Ahem...yeah, that's me. *raises hand* But when it works...wow. It works!

Does anyone have a favorite book or movie where this technique is used well?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cue "Melo"-Dramatic Music

My husband & I recently started watching (on Netflix--I love it!) a TV show called Top Shot, about 16 marksmen (and women) who compete to earn a prize and the Top Shot title. As we watched, I noticed that the teams seemed stacked, with almost all the "professionals" (Marines, cops, etc) on one team and almost all the "competitors" on another team--which doesn't mean the teams were unfairly stacked except for in the amount of drama that they created.

(Funnily enough, the one woman on the show created less drama than the 15 men).

The team with the competitors was full of backbiting, whining about equipment, and enough melodrama to make me gag. Which made me start thinking about what all these melodramatic TV shows might mean for the future of books.

Think about it. 100 years ago, readers were content with narrative summary, slow plots, and being told that someone was surprised. Since the advent of television, readers want an explosion and a dead body in every chapter (it seems like, anyway), as well as plots so fast that the poor characters hardly have breathing room and showing surprise with that character's eyebrow shooting up into their hairline.

Not that I'm discontent with the way books are today, mind you. I like lots of action and showing instead of telling.

I'm just wondering what the TV of today will do to the books of the future. People seem to love the melodramatic "reality shows" that are constantly flitting across our TV screens. This isn't to say that all TV shows are like that. (Though, in all honesty, I prefer fiction to "reality shows" because the fiction isn't as melodramatic). But a lot of them are, and those shows don't portray reality--they portray people psyched about going on camera and getting their 15 minutes of fame, and maybe a wee bit more if they wig out. And what will happen if people increasingly accept these melodramatic shows as "real" life?

Instead of an eyebrow going up, a character is going to have to jump out of his socks every time to show surprise. Shock factor is going to go up in value. Even serious adult books could become like the Disney pop-show of the day--full of angst, petty boyfriend theft, admonitions to follow your dreams, and "grown-up teenagers" becoming an icon for the next generation to follow. Melodrama will rule instead of rational thinking. This might even be happening right now.

My imagination just might be going on over-drive here. But still, I have to wonder...

What do you think the shows of today might mean for the books of the future?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Brush and Falls the Shadow

Reeder stared out into the murky sea. It stretched as far as he could see, changing colors the further away it went. Close to the viewing bay, it was a pure, bright teal. A few feet away, the color melted into a dark blue, then a midnight blue, then inky black.
My new short story, Brush, at Avenir Eclectia!

Also, today is the 15th, so it's another post of Falls the Shadow! Here's what my co-author Mary had to say about it:
Chapters 1 and 2 introduced you to the Forgotten Sector, a devastated and shattered world where even your next meal is uncertain; where kids like Libby spend their lives fighting to protect what little the Bug Wars left them; where people like Skylar Bench still dare to dream of something more than scrounging for existence in rubble-filled alleys.
Now, Chapter 3 takes you into the affluent world of the White Tiger, where hunger and poverty are never an issue; where politicians use wealth and deception to insure their status and authority; where field operatives like Galvin Maricossa are used to make certain no uprising or rebellion has a chance to take hold in the conquered city of Shandor Rei.
Don't miss this new chapter--the adventure is only beginning!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Book Review: Hero in Hiding by Mitchell Bonds

Cyrus Solberg is back with more adventures, lame puns, and magic-wielding mishaps in the latest Hero Complex book, Hero In Hiding by Mitchell Bonds. This time around, the hero and his new wife, Kris, are on their way to hide on Starspeak, Cyrus' old home. A run-in with a vicious pirate strands them on Phoenix Island, where a prophet tells Cyrus that in order to defeat his archenemy, Voshtyr Demonkin, he must learn to master his magic. Though Cyrus initially refuses, circumstances conspire against him to set him forth on a quest to save the world.

My apartment neighbors probably heard me howling in laughter at 2 o'clock in the morning and thought that they had a crazy person next door. I love this book! It reminded me of The Princess Bride and the Talking to Dragons series by Patricia C. Wrede. A self-narrating swordsman? A villain who quotes word-for-word from the Villainic Phrasebook? A hero who has a penchant for bursting into flames when he's upset? Count me in! This book is just begging for people with good senses of humor to not take it seriously.

But even amid the goofiness, chaos, over-blown stereotypes, and ridiculous number of Important Places and Things In Capitol Letters, there are some genuinely touching scenes. The characters are likable and sympathetic--with exception of Demonkin, of course. It's also obvious that, if the story isn't to be taken seriously, Mitchell Bonds takes his writing seriously.

For some, the huge amount of magic may throw you off a bit--but don't let it. I've read fairytales with more serious magic in them than this book. Pretty much the only thing I didn't like about this book was the huge amount of made-up "cuss words"--it was just a little over the top, in my opinion.

All in all, another great book from MLP!

Rating: four and a half stars.

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