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Showing posts from April, 2015

Netflix's Daredevil

Daredevil, the new Netflix series developed in partnership with Netflix is a wonderful, if somewhat frustrating, origin story for one of Marvel’s oldest and most interesting super-heroes. A lot of this story works exactly as designed. Reflecting the gritty source material, the brutal fights have repercussions, and the needs of the characters drive the story. The cinematography is top-notch, creating a world of neon glittering in the damp murk of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.



The entire series functions as one long origin story for Daredevil, introducing quixotic defense attorney Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) as he attempts to fight injustice on the mean streets of Manhattan. The show offers sketches of Murdock's beleaguered father (John Patrick Hayden), his best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), and the semi-love interest of Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) with an economical and wrenching style. One of the advantages of a 13 episode run is that the entire show steamrolls throug…

Late-night Visitor

The noise came from outside. I couldn’t tell you much about it except for it sounded like two cinder blocks scraping together, really loud and unpleasant. I looked behind me because it almost sounded like car wheels on gravel, something that happened when people got hung up on the embankment on the other side of our dead end street. 

No headlights though so I’m searching around the room when I hear the scraping, growling noise again and then this sharp, loud bang against the glass doors to the porch. Now Finn is up, tail wagging, looking out on the porch. I pull aside the curtains and find this tiny black cat on the porch, looking at my dog with burning yellow eyes of pure, undiluted fury. It's looking at him like the force of its glare alone would cause my dog to spontaneously burst into flames.

Finn goes up to the glass all enthusiastic because he thinks he’s just found a new friend. Meanwhile the cat arches higher up on its claws, hissing at the dog, basically taunting my dog WWF…

Paragraphs

When my students ask me “how many sentences should a paragraph have?” I give the standard answer, the one most people give:  as many as you need. And for most writers, as many as you need falls within the three to five sentence range, a good figure for introducing and developing a paragraph without causing eye-strain.



Most writers.

One of the most obvious features of horror writer John Langan’s style is his embrace of long paragraphs, to the extent that his work appears as long rectangles of unbroken text.

I’ve read a few stories from Langan, including his 2009 novel "House of Windows" and admire his work greatly. There’s plenty I could say about his writing technique, but “Bor Urus,” included in the Year’s Best Weird Stories anthology, displayed his effective use of extremely long paragraphs. Bor Urus explores the self-destructive quality of obsessions, in this case uncovering places where our world bleeds into others. In contrast to most writers in the anthology, Langan has n…

"We're Home"

The difference between a good trailer and a great/legendary trailer lies not so much in what the trailer contains but rather in what it does. The new Star Wars trailer does more than simply remind fans of why they might want to see the movie, it creates demand for something they didn’t realize they wanted. The opening shot of the trailer, a land speeder glinting in the desert sun as it passes first a downed X-wing and then the derelict hulk of a star destroyer creates instantly a sense of place and time, it generates a question to be answered. How did the enormous spaceship come to this place. Who is passing in front of it? Where and when is this exactly?



The place is familiar but different (Jakku instead of Tatooine). The time is clearly after, a period moved on from what we know. There are echoes of what came before - the mysterious and already much-disected pronouncement from Luke Skywalker, the storm-troopers, and of course the double cameo in the final shot - but there are also di…

Review of Year's Best Weird Fiction (edited by Laird Barron)

Anthologies like the Year’s Best Weird Fiction are a great place to catch up on favorite authors and discover new favorites. This anthology took a rather broader look at the meaning of weird fiction than I initially figured it would. Not much of the work was explicitly or even subtly Lovecraftian, which probably increased my enjoyment of it honestly. Tim Jeffrey’s offering, for example, was a twilight zone-style puzzle box rather than anything resembling his Punktown stories.



The stand-outs:

"Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks" by Paul Tremblay. I really liked this story, from the compelling point of view character to the dread filtered through a broken soul. The way Tremblay walks up to the edge of an impending apocalypse without ever letting us look straight at it, is masterful.

"Bor Urus" by John Langan: Stylistically Langan’s offering was in keeping with the beleaguered protagonists of other works I’ve read from him, but perhaps the work was slightly…

What I Read in March

March turned out to be a busy month and I fell behind, way behind, on reading short stories. Having caught up, I’m putting down my thoughts on a selection of stories that really grabbed me last month.

- Once Lost, Gone Forever by Gwendolyne Kiste (Electric Spec). Good creepy story about two friends able to disappear people they meet. The theme here is ancient - the ends don’t justify the means - but the horror comes from how thoroughly the casually amoral behavior of the protagonists seeps into the fiber of the story.

- Dogs by Bruce McAllister (Tor.com) Excellently creepy tale of the death dogs of Mexico. Far and away my favorite work from last month. The atmosphere of this story, a visceral and relentless dread, really worked for me. One of those stories that makes other writers very, very jealous.

- Cassandra by Ken Liu. (Clarkesworld) Ken Liu is on fire. I put him on my top five last year for short fiction with "Clockwork Soldier" and here he finds a way of making superhero…

Characters versus Plot

Because a novel is enjoyed over a more extended time period, structure becomes an important component of making sure the experience of reading the novel is, in fact, enjoyable. Structure allows the average reader to follow along with plot, make certain assumptions later borne out or revised, and generally feel grounded in the events of the story.

Novels come in all manner of shapes and sizes obviously but today I’d like to highlight the differences between a plot-driven and character-driven story.
A plot driven novel is one where events drive the course of the story. The protagonist may play an active, even determative role in those events, but the force that compels each page to be turned is the need, on the reader’s part, to see how ‘things will play out.’ We can call this suspense, but I think that suspense is only one thread tying together a novel of this type. One recent example of this is John Scalzi’s very fun “Lock In.” Scalzi’s protagonist, Chris Shane, a well-rounded character…