Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Ladies & Superheros

There's a game that Eric and I like to play called "Better If They Were Gay."*

It all started one fateful night a few months back, when we were watching Frasier.**  I said (or Eric said, I can't remember which) that the show would be better if Niles and Frasier were a gay couple instead of brothers.

And that's when Eric and I started talking about other shows that would be better if they were a gay couple. Also mentioned were: Sherlock & Watson, Drake & Josh, Lenny & Carl... I'm blanking right now. But feel free to add onto this list.

It's not that I'm against women or romance. I enjoy both. I just don't like a lady being thrown in for no good reason. Often times, said lady is a 2-dimensional character with very little to offer the scene other than the fact that she is very pretty and is probably mothering/putting leading male in his place, and interfering with the chemistry between the two male leads.

Sometimes I feel like they put ladies in there just to remind you that these two characters aren't gay, because otherwise they totally would be. And to that I say, if the lady isn't bringing anything to the table, don't put her there.

Yes, I think it would be great if all ladies had well-written fully-developed characters. But I would rather see fewer ladies in movies than frequently seeing them appearing as eye-candy and arm-trophies and as some abstract justification for an action.

I was watching Thor the other day, and I quite liked it.*** I love Natalie Portman. She is my third favorite actress of all time (below Anjelica Huston & Kate Winslet but above Bette Midler). But I have never been more annoyed with a female character in a film before. I have no idea why her character was even there.

No, I have not read the Thor comics and I have no idea if her character even exists in them let alone how fleshed out she is in there. She might be the greatest character in all of comic book history, but that was not how she was presented to me in the film. I'm basing my opinion on her solely on that.

This got me to thinking about all the other superhero movies I've watched. Almost all of them have a girl. Almost none of the girls do anything except look pretty and provide some kind of abstract motivation for said hero to do something (often saving pretty lady from some form of distress).

So this is my plea to anyone making these movies: stop doing that. I would rather watch a superhero movie with zero ladies in it than see one more Jane Foster-esque character. The heroes don't need them. Do you know why Captain America wants to save the world? Because HE IS F****NG CAPTAIN AMERICA! He doesn't need a pretty lady to remind him of that.

What I'm saying is that either give me a well-rounded lady (well-rounded equal to or greater than the male lead in the film - I'll work it to scale) or don't have her there. I am sick of it. You can have pictures of Megan Fox in the background. Or maybe a little thought bubble floating above the screen where Natalie Portman winks and waves at you, then disappears.

Give me liberty or give me death.******

And what I'm usually saying when I say "This would be better if they were gay" is: "I am more emotionally invested in the two male characters because they are drawn-out fully formed characters while the female character gives me nothing to root for other than the fact that she is pretty and for some reason the dude seems into her."******

People are going to want to give me examples of strong-leading ladies to contradict the sentiments in this blog, and I encourage you to do so. I also by no means think that every lady in a movie is unnecessary or lame. Black Widow was quite good, and I think that Pepper Potts does a good job of balancing out Tony Stark. 

I'm not saying this a rule or that every film is this way. Or that I don't want to see ladies in films. What I'm saying is that I love Batman and Captain America, and I wish were there were more ladies in movies that I admired and aspired to be like as much as I do them.

I guess I just want there to be more characters like Ellen Ripley and fewer like Jane Foster. If there's no room for real ladies in film, you don't need to just shove one there. It doesn't make it a well-rounded movie. It just makes me annoyed.

Oh, This Means War came out on DVD & Bluray this week. It falls under this heading also. You should read my review: here, and then also watch it because it has Tom Hardy and Anjela Bassett. Also Chris Pine.

*We don't actually like to play this. We played it one time, listed everything that would be better, and then called it a day. I occasionally still play this game by myself, wherein I see something and think, "This would be better if they were gay." Then I quit. Because that's how you play the game.

**Six months ago or so, I was super into Frasier. I still think it's a tremendously funny show, but now I've seen every episode on the Hallmark channel, and I'm done.

***Did you guys know that Kenneth Branagh directed it? I know, RIGHT? It makes so much sense when I thought about it, but I never saw it coming.


*****Please do not give me death.

******Daphne was completely developed on Frasier. Niles and Frasier were just super gay. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 16, 1990

On May 16, 1990, Jim Henson died. It's been twenty-two years, and it's still very sad.

Without a doubt, I would not be who I am or have accomplished what I have without him. Aside from my family that raised me, no single person has done more to shape me than Jim Henson. His work ethic, his creativity, his generosity, and his zest for life and silliness continue to inspire me to try become a better person every day.

While writing Ascend, the third book in the Trylle series, I listened to this song from Labyrinth on repeat over and over again:

Jim Henson remains my inspiration and my hero, and I'm sure that I'll miss him as much today as I will in twenty-two years.

In Memoriam
Jim Henson
September 24, 1936 - May 16, 1990

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Oh, Captain America

So yesterday I finally saw The Avengers. I didn't go see it opening weekend, partially because I want The Dark Knight Rises to win the best opening weekend for any movie since the history of the world, and it would make it slightly harder for it do that if I saw The Avengers.

That's not to say that I don't like The Avengers or I don't want it to do well - because I do. I just like Batman more, and if you didn't know that, then you must be new here, and I want to extend a warm welcome to you.

Anyway - The Avengers. It was a terrific film, as I'd expected it to be. Joss Whedon always delivers, and I love summer blockbuster with superheros more than I love being alive.

I'd seen all the precursors to The Avengers with the exception of Thor. (I just didn't get around to seeing it for some reason. I think, in my mind, I kept confusing it with The Immortals and that other movie that looks exactly like the The Immortals but isn't apparently, and then I would think that I didn't want to see it.) But I bought Thor on Bluray last week, and I plan on righting the wrong of not-watching it very soon.

On a side note - are either of the previous incarnations of the Hulk (starring Edward Norton and Eric Bana respectively) meant to be related to this series? Or are they only connected in the way that Tim Burton's Batman is connected to Christopher Nolan's Batman?

And Spiderman - is he going to be in the future Avengers endeavors? I know the Toby Magquire Spiderman is dead, but will Andrew Garfield end up a part of this franchise?

(Oh! I just remembered. It was Clash of the Titans. I kept thinking that that was part of The Immortals series until Eric set me straight. Thanks, Eric!)

So, yes. I saw  The Avengers. And I liked it. But here's what I don't understand - Captain America was my favorite. It doesn't make any sense.

Tony Stark is sarcastic and cavalier, which is kinda my thing, plus Robert Downey Jr is one of my all time favorite actors (along with Michael Caine, River Phoenix, Sam Rockwell, and Michael Wincott). And Chris Hemsworth - how dreamy is that guy? For real. That long hair throws me off, but those eyes are ridiculous.

And as we've already established, Batman is my favorite thing out of anything. Doing a compare and contrast between the Marvel and DC universes, Iron Man would be the Batman to Captain America's Superman. So using that logic, Iron Man should be my favorite.

(Iron Man's more of a dark horse, playboy billionaire whose only powers are being super smart and the ability to build/buy fancy gadgets, much like Batman. Captain America and Superman are both all-American, boy-next-door-types that possess super strength, and are more likely to play by the rules than Iron Man or Batman.)

So, Captain America is my favorite, and I don't know why. Sometimes I think I just like people when they seem really earnest and nice. Captain America was that way.

Oh, and it's super nuts how the guys look now. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth in particular. They actually look like action figures. They're built like He-Man dolls. The level of their buffness is kinda obscene.

Mark Ruffalo was also in the film. I thought he did a good job. Everyone was talking about how great the Hulk was (note: Everyone is Patton Oswalt one time on Twitter), so I was perhaps a little overly psyched for his performance.

My one issue with the film was Loki. (And to answer the question I've gotten a hundred times over the past week or so - Loki in my books was not named after Loki in Thor films. They were however both named after the same Norse god. Most of the characters in the Trylle books have Scandinavian names since it's based on Scandinavian folklore, so that's how Loki comes into play).

Loki just didn't do it for me as some kind of ultimate villain that needed all these super humans to band together, especially since Thor and the Hulk are damn near indestructible. Like if it had been Loki plus Juggernaut plus Red Skull plus Iron Monger uniting together, that would've made more sense to me.

I know Loki opens a porthole to space-hell and robotic sandworms come out and chase Chrissy from Growing Pains. So it ends up making sense. And the sequels have to room to grow, because you know there will be sequels, not to mention each individual character has their own series with their own villains.

And I do love when monsters attack New York. I don't know why. The only thing better is when monsters attack Chicago. I love battles involving skylines.

As an added bonus before The Avengers, I got see The Dark Knight Rises trailer on the big screen. Full disclosure: I teared up. I'm beginning to fear that I'll probably bawl at the end of the movie, which will embarrass me in front of all the cool midnight show attendees at the IMAX where I will be watching it.

I made a realization, though. I'm very excited about Tom Hardy being TDKR, but I just figured out that I will not be able to see his face or hear or his voice, so it sorta defeats the purpose. Oh well. I'll know it's him, and so will he, and that's what counts, right?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You Mustn't Be Afraid to Dream a Little Bigger, Darling

I finished up Tidal last week, so I'm working on edits today (my own and Eric's), and then I'll send it off to my editor for her to begin her edits.

I wrote the outline for Elegy last night. That's the last book in the Watersong series, and it's weird to be writing it now. Or getting ready to write it, as it were. I mean, I'm really excited about it, and I loved working on Tidal, and I think I'll really love writing Elegy. But it's just weird to be at the end, you know?

My new goal in life is that I will never again publish the first book in the series before I have written the last book in the series. What I mean is that if/when I ever publish a series again, it will be complete before I start publishing. Wake won't hit bookshelves until this summer, and the entire Watersong series will be written by then.

The reason for this two-fold:

1. It is much harder to write when you have the reader in your ear. It's not that I don't think of you guys when I write or try to keep my audience in my mind. But it's hard to think and plot when you're remembering readers saying, "I love Betty but I wish she were taller or smarter and she should totally hook up with Jerry," and other readers saying "I hate everything about Betty except how short she is and if she hooks up with Jerry I'm going to shoot myself in the face." (Fact: I have actually received messages from fans saying they would shoot themselves in the face or kill themselves if the characters didn't do things the way they wanted.)

Part of the reason I've had so much fun writing these Watersong books is because I have no idea what anybody's opinions are on anything. I'm writing because I love it and I like where the story is going. I've taken input from previous books, and I'm applying it to my writing in general. But that's not the same as people threatening suicide over characters.

And it's not that I don't like critiques. I love getting notes back from my editor, and I love working on different angles and improving the book. I just like not feeling like I have somebody standing over my shoulder while I write.

2. The series will be complete, which means that readers won't really have to worry about if/when the subsequent books will come out. It's just a matter of getting them ready and releasing them. And then if something happens to me - God forbid - the series is still complete. (Before Stephen King finished the Dark Tower series, I used to have nightmares that he would die and I would never know how it ended).

Anyway, I'm going to back to my editing, since it's my job, and I want to do it.

But I'm going to leave you with my favorite quote from any movie ever. I'm literally considering getting tattooed somewhere, but since I don't know where I would put it, I probably won't. But then again, I might.

P. S. Ascend was #25 on the USA Today Best Seller list, and the Trylle Trilogy was #3 on NY Times Children's Series Best Sellers list. Thank you to everyone who picked up a copy, and to everyone for being so crazy supportive!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hey, Books

Book descriptions are the worst. My absolute favorite part about being with a publisher now is that I don't have to write to the blurbs on the back of my books anymore. Honestly.

But I don't just hate writing them - I hate reading them. I've read a large amount of books in my life, and I would say a good 90% of the descriptions I've read sound like crap to me. This is even on books that I really love.

For example, my favorite books in the whole world are Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Cat's Cradle (also by Vonnegut). I put off reading them for most of my life because based on the descriptions I thought they sounded stupid. Then a coworker was reading Hocus Pocus (a different Vonnegut book), and he said, "Here. You have to read this." And then I did, and I loved it, and went on to read most everything Vonnegut has written.

Sometimes I read reviews of books, even glowing reviews, before I consider reading a book, and I almost always thing, "This sounds horrible." I don't know why exactly, but that's what always happens. And then, many times, I go on to read books and think, "Wow! This is very enjoyable!"

There is some kind of disconnect, at least for me. And this only applies to books. In movies, I'm always fine. I can read descriptions and reviews. In fact, I've read Roger Ebert's reviews on everything with kind of a fervent devotion.

So if you're trying to sell me on a book, you should never give me a description. Well, maybe a small one. For example, if you're trying to get me to read Jurassic Park, you might say, "This has dinosaurs in it." That's it. Here's It: "There's a clown." And now Silence of the Lambs: "There's a couple serial killers." Slaughterhouse-Five: "It's about WW II." Or possibly "It's about time travel." But don't say "WWII and time travel," that's too much, and I've already decided that it's going to be stupid.

I was just thinking about that today, because I was getting a couple new books. I looked a couple new ones, and I was like, "These all sound dumb." But they probably won't be. Well, some of them might be.

People often ask me what I'm currently reading. Right now, I'm working my way through the complete collection of "Calvin & Hobbes" by Bill Waterson as well as Bodies in the Barrels Murders by Jeremy Pudney, which is the true story about a famous Australian serial killer. Next up, I think I'll read Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, and probably a book about Ed Gein.

For the past six months or so, I've almost exclusively read non-fiction or graphic novels. Or re-read books I've read before. In non-fiction, I prefer biographies or books about murders and WWII. Some of the books I've read recently for the first time are Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli, The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss, God, If You're Not Up There, I'm F*cked: Tales of Stand-Up, Saturday Night Live, and Other Mind-Altering Mayhem by Darrell Hammond, This Is a Book by Demetri Martin, Balthazar: An Evernight Novel by Claudia Gray, Spandau The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer, Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith and Walter Flanagan, Batman: Knightfall, Part One: Broken Bat by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon. Here are some books that I've recently re-read Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk , and half of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

I only listed books I completed reading. I often start books and don't finish them if I'm not enjoying them. So if I listed those books, I think they're good, and you might think so too. Maybe not. 

There's not a lot of YA on the list, and that's not because I don't like it. I go through phases where I read a ton of a certain kind of book. Right now, it's not a lot of YA. Later on, it probably will be.

I do think part of it is because I'm writing YA, too. I want to kind of separate myself from it as I'm working. I spend a lot of time in a dramatic fantasy world with teenagers, and I love it. But I don't want to spend 24 hours a day in the same type of world. So I think I go for kind of the exact opposite, almost as a pallet cleanser.

So those are some things about books that aren't mine.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The SPAM Museum

I have on chapter left to write, and the book is finished, so naturally, I'm doing everything but that. While wasting time on the interwebs, I re-discovered one of my favorite videos ever.

As some of you may know, I was born in and still reside in Austin, Minnesota. What you may not know is that this is also known as "SPAMTown USA." We only one museum in town, and it is a SPAM Museum.

Since most of you don't live here and can't enjoy the tour for yourself, this video gives  you the highlights of what you're missing out on: