Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Silence is Golden

So, yes, I want to be a writer, which means I plan on using words. A lot. In fact, I usually have a hard time shutting up. That said, I am very fond of films, short and feature-length, that rely on things other than words to tell the story. Pictures, footage, music...anything but actual words.

I think Pixar does a great job at this. In Brave, the mother doesn't speak for most of the film, and the brothers don't at all. But you have no doubt what their personalities are like, and I wouldn't call any of them weak characters. Likewise, the film Wall-E is one of my favorites because Pixar used very little dialogue to tell their story, but you still end up emotionally attached to the characters. Their shorts, of course, almost never use words and are always spectacular. And, can anyone forget that short montage in Up! where you see Carl and Ellie's lives pass by? I know people who have cried at that scene.

In keeping with my topic, I'm going to shut up now. Enjoy these videos.

Feel free to comment on other mainly word-free stories you love. Could be picture books, video games, or even musical score.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Brain Melting, Mind Palace Crumbling

I'm nearing the end of writing a term paper, so my brain is not functioning enough to write a real, in-depth blog post. My paper is about the role of John Watson in modern-day adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, such as Sherlock and Elementary. I'm saying that Watson's character is the protagonist, not Sherlock, and Watson has a character arc in both series that defines what character traits he has. I'm saying Watson is a round character, not a flat narrator like he traditionally his, and I'm saying that rounding out makes Sherlock a round character as well. I have spent the last couple of days doing very close "reading" of a couple of TV shows and writing a 12 page paper on them, so my head wants nothing more than to rest on a pillow and shut down for a little bit. But, alas, miles to go before I sleep.

My mind does not have it in it to write something special. Sorry. But, as you've come all this way, here are some videos to entertain you. Why did I choose these? Because reasons.

Sherlock scenes, set to Imagine Dragons's "Radioactive" (with a few spoilers for those who haven't finished the two seasons):

Followed by Doctor Who/The Proclaimers awesomeness:

And exactly what it's like to be in the Doctor Who fandom:

Last, but not least, the trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, because Tolkien is awesome and so is this.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Adaptation, My Old Friend

I feel like my posts are getting later and later in the week. If that puts you off, I'm sorry. I'll work on getting it together earlier. Summer has a way of making things slide.

This past week I finished a novel (yay!). It's the Jeremy Wilderson story I may have mentioned once or twice, about an eleven-year-old thief for hire. Anyway, it's in the reading-and-revision process now, which means I ought to start working on a query letter for it. I'll write that and see if I can't post it on this blog for all to read. Also, I found my name listed in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. There's not much there, but apparently I'm not authorized to read my biography. Go figure.

I've talked about film adaptation before, but I want to revisit it since I've read some articles on adaptation.One of the articles outlined the different values adaptation has and its troubles. It's not easy for a movie to have a lot of fidelity to the book, as each reader brings some of his or her own experience to the reading. The Harry Potter movies are a good example of this, as almost everyone I know had problems with one scene, setting, character or other because they it wasn't "like in the book." Maybe it was, just not your version.

I generally have no problem with film adaptations of my favorite books as I've made my peace with the idea that no movie can be perfectly faithful to the book. The fact that I love How to Train Your Dragon is evidence of this, as it is nothing like the book. I tend to see film adaptations as essays written about a work, highlighting some aspects and downplaying others to convey the filmmaker's meaning. It's obvious in different adaptations of Shakespeare plays when this is going on.

However, there are some adaptations I don't like. May I get an enthusiastic, agreeing nod for The Last Airbender? Every fan of the TV show I've spoken to either hates that adaptation or refuses to admit it exists. Yet it's closer to the book than HTTYD and that movie is popular, even among those of use who have read the book. Why is this?

Two reasons, I think. One, according to the aforementioned articles, film adaptations are successful if they stay true to the spirit of the original text, if not the details. HTTYD feels like the books, with its dry humor and tension between the loud, brash Viking way of doing things and Hiccup's new, quieter, yet clever methods. The dynamics between Hiccup and his father, Hiccup and his tribe, and Hiccup and Toothless are still there. Even though many details were different (Toothless, in the books, is tiny, literally toothless, and red and green), I recognized the characters and the story.

The Last Airbender, on the other hand, I felt lacked this kind of integrity. Yes, it had many of the same events and characters. However, the characters seemed very different than the ones from the TV show, and the vibe was different. The TV show had a youthful feel, full of jokes and playfulness. The serious moments seemed more serious because of the juxtaposition of the battles and deep wisdom to the bad one-liners and sarcasm. While we're on the subject, Sokka is a good example of how the characters changed: the self-proclaimed "meat and sarcasm guy" did not, in the movie, eat much meat or use, well, ANY sarcasm. It's not in his new personality. Watching this movie, I did not recognize the characters and I did not recognize the themes of friendship, family, and coming-of-age I saw in the TV show.

Also, the closer an adaptation is in events to the original text, the easier it is to see the differences and the greater the tension they cause. That could have contributed.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book Review: Young Sherlock Holmes

I've realized that when I have to make a rule that whenever I go to the library I can only check out as many books as I return, I may have a problem. That said, I have been finding a lot of good books at the library recently. I read book 10 of the How to Train Your Dragon series and then got upset when I realized there's going to be another book and I have to wait to find out how it all ends. Brandon Sanderson came to the library (score!) and I bought his new book The Rithmatist and had him sign it while I asked him how to be a fantasy writer in an MFA program (double score!). He told me to stick to my guns, and I intend to do so.

Okay, so another book that I found that I got really excited about is Death Cloud by Andrew Lane. It's about a 14-year-old Sherlock Holmes staying with his aunt and uncle over the holidays while his brother Mycroft takes care of the family and his father is away in India. Although Sherlock thinks his holiday is going to be dull, he gets caught up in two mysterious murders.

Get this: this book is the first in a series that is the first teen series ENDORSED by the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate. This is legit.

So, my review. I loved it. Sherlock isn't as cold and calculating as we know him as an adult, and he's not as good a detective as you'd expect. This threw me off a little when I first started reading, but when I thought about it, it made sense. As a teenager, Sherlock wouldn't have the experience or knowledge that would make him the world's only consulting detective. But you see the seeds of it. He's good a deducing things about the world around him, he turns to logic when in danger, and he's overly fond of being clever.

I can see why the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate would endorse it. Lane did a great job of piecing together Sherlock's past, or what could have been Sherlock's past, from the clues in the books. Reading about this clever, nosy, yet somewhat socially inept boy, I could see him growing into the Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. It fit.

I also enjoyed Sherlock's mentor, Amyus Crowe. Crowe is a tutor hired for Sherlock by Mycroft, but Crowe teaches more than math and Latin. He teaches Sherlock how to think, how to track someone, how to hide in plain sight...all the skills Sherlock uses later in life. And, if I'm being completely honest, I like that Crowe is American. National pride coming out here.

So, I recommend it, especially if you like Sherlock Holmes. Don't expect the unruffled detective, though, and don't expect Sherlock to have all the answers. Not yet. But as a fan, I enjoyed catching all the little references and nods to Arthur Conan Doyle's works. I'm looking forward to reading Book 2, Rebel Fire.

If you like catching nods and references to literary works, try reading Dodger by Terry Pratchett. Charles Dickens, Sweeney Todd, and of course, Dodger himself, all wrapped up in an intrigue. Good stuff.