Monthly Archives: March 2015

Backwards Compatible – Part 6: Enter The Fox

So, after recovering from the single greatest bout of writer’s block I’ve ever had, I had to dust myself off and get back on the horse. During that time in limbo, however, when the main plot of the novel was on hold, I decided to write some sequences out of order.

Normally I don’t do that since it makes continuity pretty tricky to maintain. Still, I wanted at least some words on paper while I tried to sort out the real quandary of the A-story. In one of these sequences, I introduced the primary antagonist of the book, Captain Gaylon Fox.

The Man Himself.

Not even gonna lie, this is my dream casting for the character: Jason Issacs.

Most of the time, villains are more interesting to me, literarily, than heroes. I knew he would be key the story, so this was my chance to show the reader what this particular villain was made of. To be an effective nemesis to the main character, Captain Coeur D’Esprit, he needed have certain things in common with her. I wanted him to be a shadowy double of her, like the dark side of the same coin.

The previous novel, To Dream of Chaos, which I did not write, gave me the perfect set up. In it, the crew of Hornet faced off against ship of the Solee Navy, Royal Vengeance, near a gas giant. During the battle, Vengeance was critically damaged and, in an act of desperation, uses its Jump drive to get away without first getting to a safe distance.

Now, for those unfamiliar with Traveller canon, Jumping while in a gravity well is only slightly less horrible than crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. The ship might be instantly destroyed, or never emerge from Jump space, or appear parsecs away from where they meant to go, and be stranded.

Crossing the streams.

I love this plan. I’m excited to be a part of it.

A situation like that was one of Coeur’s defining moments, which led to some serious survivor’s guilt when only 4 crewmembers (including her) survived that stunt out of a crew of 100. If that weren’t enough, Royal Vengeance returns at the end of To Dream of Chaos, and is once again repulsed, and nearly destroyed.

Now that it was my time at the helm of the story, I decided that Gaylon Fox had been the Executive Officer on Royal Vengeance during that deadly encounter. When his incompetent Captain is killed during Coeur’s initial attack, he was the one who made the call to Jump. Subsequently, he became captain of the ship, and had been jonesing for a rematch ever since.

It felt only natural that Royal Vengeance should play a part in the third act of the New Era trilogy. And now I had a villain who had been in a similar situation as the hero, and forced to make some of the same hard decisions. Where the hero used those horrific events of her past to make something positive of herself, Gaylon Fox has gone done a darker road, using his experiences instead to focus his ambition like a laser to further his own agenda.

Snidley Whiplash

Nope!

Having said that, I didn’t want this guy to be a complete mustache-twirler like Snidley Whiplash or Dirk Dastardly. So, I made him competent at what he does, fearless (though not reckless), polite, and coldly self-controlled. Besides that, he often rewards initiative, and inspires service and loyalty in his subordinates. While he’s no saint, I built him so that he might be viewed as a hero from his own side of the war.

To me, those are the best kind of villains, the ones who  ̶  even if it’s just for a second  ̶  you want to win. After the first scenes with Captain Fox, I knew that’s who I had on my hands. He would naturally be the unstoppable force to Coeur’s immovable object.

Force Paradox

Like that, only with more lasers.

What would happen when they inevitably collided? I would have to wait to find out.

Next time on Backwards Compatible…canon gets murky when another version of The Backwards Mask surfaces.

[Check out The Backwards Mask on Kindle.]

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Bronies and Fan Shaming

Look at any of the ‘about me’ sections here on my blog, my website, or Facebook page and you’ll see that I self-identify as a ‘fanboy.’ I am not ashamed to admit that I, as a grown man, love things like Transformers, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and any number of others.

Back in 2010 we saw the emergence of yet another type of fandom, this one stemming from Hasbro’s G4 reboot of the My Little Pony franchise. This caused a bit of a stir, however; some of the fans of the show were males of college age or older, calling themselves “Bronies.” While the term has since come to encompass female fans of the show as well, it’s not always easy to separate the ‘bro’ out of brony in the public consciousness.

Rainbow Dash

This blog post needs to be about 20% cooler.

So, we have grown men who are fans of a cartoon meant for little girls. Give that a moment’s consideration, folks. Does the idea of such a thing give you a twinge of doubt, or pause, or even make you a shade uncomfortable? If so, you might ponder why that is. I’ve given the subject a bit of thought myself, and here’s what I’ve found.

The Formula:

Let’s break this down to its elemental components. The factors that play a part here are gender, age, and fandom. Let’s explore a few examples:

Female + Age 8 + My Little Pony = Totally okay.
Male + Age 3 + My Little Pony = Okay, but he’ll grow out of it.

Female + Age 36 + Transformers = I wore parachute pants, too!
Male + Age 36 + Transformers = Oh, you’re a collector?

Female + Age 36 + My Little Pony = I still have my stuffed animals, too.
Male + Age 36 + My Little Pony = Ewww…pervert.

It’s that last combination that doesn’t jive with many of our notions of gender roles and age appropriateness. While a boy might be able to like a girl’s show when he’s little and doesn’t know the difference, he had better be playing with Tonka trucks and action figures by about age 7 and beyond.

The Manliest Brony In The World

This man builds Harley-Davidson motorcycles and is also one of the biggest Bronies in the world. Can’t you just hear the preconceived notions shattering like glass?

Ask yourself: is it really fair to think of female Transformers fans as an interesting anomaly, while male My Little Pony fans are somehow an aberration? Where is it written that you can only like something if you’re part of the target demographic? It’s a double-standard that fandom in general doesn’t need, and it should be eradicated whenever possible.

Why is that?

Apples to Apples:

While I can understand why the general public might immediately balk at the idea of Bronies, the most unsettling part of this story to me is the negative treatment Bronies have received from members of other fandoms.

Nerd/geek/fanboy demi-god Wil Wheaton once said, and I’m paraphrasing: “Fandom is about loving something, and not being apologetic about it.” If you’re a die-hard fan, it means you love something much more than the average person sitting next to you on the train. Maybe it’s the Philadelphia Eagles, or comic books, or Stars Wars. It doesn’t matter. One type of fandom is not inherently better or worse than any other.

COEXIST

There’s enough room in the ‘Verse for all of us.

Who knows why you love it so much. The reasons why are irrelevant; you love it, and as Wheaton said, you shouldn’t be apologetic about it. It is absolutely absurd for a bare-chested man, painted in green and yellow, sporting a headpiece shaped like a wedge of cheese, to look down on a woman who cosplays David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. The same goes for a man dressed as a Klingon ripping on another man for attending a con dressed as Rainbow Dash.

It’s all a kind of silliness when we step back and look at it, so why do we feel the need to judge anyone for it? There’s also another aspect to this to consider.

We Get Enough Shame As It Is:

Story time: when I was in high-school, I used be made fun of for being (amongst other things) a Star Trek fan. I won’t lie, it hurt. At the time, I couldn’t understand why my love for something was of any interest to them. What did it matter? Why did they feel the need to belittle me over something I liked? I just didn’t get it.

Wil Friggin' Wheaton!

For he IS the Kwisatz Haderach!

But now I realize that they were all simply outsiders to the fandom I cherished. If they had had any inkling of what the franchise, the characters, and the lessons in humanity meant to me on a personal level, or better yet, if we had shared some of those experiences in some way, perhaps they would understand why I was winning Trek trivia contests at cons by the age of 14.

Truth is, if you’re a huge fan of something, someone out there will not hesitate to tell you how stupid it is and why you’re an idiot for liking it. If we as fans are already going to get shame from outsiders, why would we ever consider doing that to another group within fandom itself? It’s pointless and self-defeating. We Whovians, Warsies, Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you prefer), Tributes, Gaimanites and Whedonites, et al. have got to stick together.

Final Thoughts:

If you still don’t know what to make of the Brony phenomenon, the best thing to do is actually check out the show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s on Netflix. Start from Season 1 and work your way up from there. Educate yourself about it, I dare you. Go listen to the songs “Winter Wrap-up” or “Hearts Strong As Horses” or “Play Your Part” and tell me there’s not something to it.

MLP:FIM

This is the logo. Before you judge, check it out for yourself.

As I said, I was skeptical of it at first, but then I realized I was guilty of the same crimes against fandom that I described above. So I watched it – all of it – and found that it was a show with well-developed characters (portrayed by a stellar VA cast), great world-building, fun and engaging adventures, and more than a little commentary about the nature of friendship itself. I think those are things that any age group or gender can appreciate.

We live in the era of dark, Nolan-esque, gritty reboots, a product of our post-9/11 society. You can see it in James Bond, The Man of Steel, Batman, oh and Transformers. In amongst all the needless collateral damage and blaring “Bwwaaaahhs” in the soundtrack, is it really that hard to believe fans might seek out something more positive and inspirational?

And, in the end, why should we deny anyone that?


Brian’s Comic Contemplations – Of Regeneration and Sloppy Writing

Since no one who reads Matt’s blog knows me from Black Adam, I’ll give you a quick profile: I’m in the advertising business, and I’ve been reading comics (Marvel) for around 49 years. ‘Nuff said. (I don’t want to bore anyone with the gory details of my Paris to Dakar failure in ’98, or my savage war with the peanut butter industry – I’ll simply leave that to your imagination.)

Anyway, Matt – being quite an intelligent fellow – often regales me with his detailed knowledge of Greek history, movies, and comics. (Notably the DC side of comics, of which I am intrigued by, but largely ignorant.) So when he encouraged me to throw in my two cents on his blog, I was anxious to oblige.

I figured, in an effort to foment some fun thought and discussion, I’d start by hitting a few comic-world opinions you may, or may not agree with.

Here goes:

Wade Wilson

The Merc With A Mouth.

Deadpool – Is it just me, or has the writing for Deadpool become lazy and cyclical? I LOVE Deadpool. The character, the irreverence, the cheeky format that allows them to go to places most comic characters can’t go. But lately, every time I pick up a DP title, the story seems to include some sort of dismemberment for Wade.

Wade sets into “whatever” plot. He encounters a baddie. And the baddie (no matter what his skill level) eviscerates, or disembowels, or amputates, or shoots & stabs him. Naturally, because of his miracle healing power, he generally (arguably?) prevails.

But isn’t Deadpool supposed to be some kind of expert fighter/swordsman/assassin/marksman? Why the inept bumbling with EVERY villain? Every time? I present the following from Marvel’s own Deadpool profile:

Deadpool is an extraordinary hand-to-hand combatant and is skilled in multiple unarmed combat techniques. He is a master of assassination techniques, is an excellent marksman, and is highly skilled with bladed weapons (frequently carrying two swords strapped to his back). He is fluent in Japanese, German, Spanish, amongst other languages.

(For laughs, let’s juxtapose Deady’s stats with say… Hawkeye, who, despite having no real super powers, has (mostly) managed to dodge fatal attacks and dismemberment.)

Deadpool

DEADPOOL

Hawkeye

HAWKEYE

Deadpool’s natural physical attributes have been enhanced. Deadpool’s musculature generates considerably less fatigue toxins than the muscles of an ordinary human being, granting him superhuman levels of stamina in all physical activities. His natural strength, agility and reflexes have been enhanced to levels that are beyond the natural limits of the human body. Deadpool’s agility and reaction time are superior to those of even the finest human athlete.

So how come Mr. Pool keeps getting shot in the face? Is it just for our amusement and titillation? Are the writers so lazy they can’t think of situations where Wade might actually show enough skill to NOT get his arm chopped off? Or is it simply because Wade is so crazy he doesn’t even try to avoid injury?

I’m not saying I never want to see Wade get abused, but once in a while I’d love to see him take care of business without being mutilated. (Sigh) Am I just gettin’ too old for comics? GOD forbid… but maybe.

BONUS CONTEMPLATION:

Marvel-Comics-Classic-Wolverine-Costume-Yellow-Blue

WolverineSee Deadpool rant. I have the same issue with Mr. Howlett. (Loss-of-healing-factor issues notwithstanding.) I know he comes at enemies like a weed whacking tank – with little thought but, OCCASIONALLY, I’d like to see Logan’s vaunted “Samurai training” and 100-year fighting experience pan out BEFORE he takes a sword/bullet/laser to the gut. JMO, of course, but is it too much to ask?

Again, if Spidey, Cap, Clint Barton, Daredevil, Batman AND Robin can dodge fatal knife, bullet, and death-ray wounds successfully for 50(+) years, why can’t Wolverine and Deadpool once in a blue moon? Throw a little love to character profile continuity.