Friday, February 27, 2015

Sci Fi Friday: If Sigourney's In, I'm In

Movie Poster for original Alien, 1979
When I first heard that there was going to be a reboot of the movie Alien, I yawned. Reboots are always ... Well, reboots. If a remake is faithful to the original product that we love so much, then it is predictable because we've already been there, done that. If it's not faithful to the original, then we complain because it changes the thing we love so much.

And then there's the magic of a first. Some movies, like music, have a synergy that only exists the first time around. Any art that become phenomenon has this synergy. It's complex and is about more than the artists but also includes the audience.

When Alien appeared back in 1979, it came on the heels of the comparatively childlike Star Wars. Hans Solo, the bad boy of the film, is a cartoonish space pirate compared to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley. 

If the two were in a fight, I'd put my money on Ripley to kick Solo's ass.

Star Wars gave us R2D2, C3PO and Ewoks. Cute, sometimes cuddly characters.

Alien gave us this:

Alien art from Neill Blomkamp's Instagram
Alien ushered us, not so gently, into an age where all kinds of things come out of the sky, hellbent on destroying humankind (Thor, Transformers, Independence Day, Mars Attacks ... just a few that came to mind - please add to the list in the comments section). Star Wars was our age of innocence. Alien was our coming of age.

I saw the original Alien in the movie theatre when it first came out and can still remember yelling out with surprise (as did most in the theater) when that alien popped out of the guy's stomach. I've seen it several times since and I still jump at that moment - even though I know it's coming. The movie has a pervading dark tension that builds and builds up to that moment. You know bad shit's going to happen. You just don't know what or when.

And then there's Ripley. Smart, sassy, mother of all bad mother f***in women who will kick your sorry ass ... Ripley.
Sigourney Weaver on the set of the original Alien movie, 1979. Corbis
Sigourney Weaver pretty much invented the strong female lead for Sci Fi media. Sure, there are plenty of strong female characters in the world of story before Ripley. But I can't think of one in film prior to Alien that had a female character that could kick ass the way Ripley did.
Linda Hamilton (with cut arms to die for) in Terminator II:Judgment Day (19991) owes her bad assedness to Weaver paving the way for this type of character.

In fact, Weaver paved the way for a lot of us. Seeing Ripley on the screen back when I was a kid allowed me to see that a woman can save herself. Ripley looks that alien bitch with two sets of teeth in the face and says eat it.

So Neill Blomkamp wants to give us his take on Alien? And media touts it as from the director or Elysium and Chappie. Well, that made me snore. I wouldn't exactly call those two movies a great sci fi pedigree (some of you may disagree and if you do, feel free to tell me so in the comments).

But somehow or other, Neill convinced Sigourney to come along for the ride.
If Sigourney's in, I'm in. I look forward to seeing how she'll fit into the Alien world (re)created by Blomkamp nearly 40 years after the original (damn, that's a long time!).

Just please, Neill, don't try to make her more "feminine" - more likable - like they did in the second film, Aliens. So typical of Hollywood, they had to give her a kid to take care of (1986 Aliens, written and directed by James Cameron). So many Hollywood stories give us female characters that have a kid slung to their hip, even if they're toting a gun with the other hand (and typical of Hollywood too to put kids, dogs, and  yes, Ewoks, into movies to cuteify them, perhaps thinking it will make the franchise appeal to a larger audience).

So go forth, Neill Blomkamp, and revision Alien. But please, while your re-envisioning what Alien can be, don't take away from us the strong, self-reliant Ripley that we love.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Taking a Bite out of "Teeth" with Author Chele Cooke

I'm happy to welcome Chele Cooke back to the blog. We're celebrating her new release, Teeth: The First Bite. Please make sure you read down to the bottom of this post to enter Chele's giveaway :-) And please stop by Chele's other tour stops (list at bottom of post).

Here's the blurb for Teeth:

Medical intern Thomas awakes in a blood-drenched basement and the realisation that his life must change forever. After all, how can he practise medicine when the smell of blood turns him into a vicious killer? 

Spencer thinks being a vampire is better than any teen movie made it out to be. Now he must train Thomas and make his mentor proud. 

One mistake risks more than either are willing to lose, and a single broken law could turn them from predators to prey.

She had me at blood-drenched basement! 

Here are the details about Teeth:

Author: Chele Cooke
Title: Teeth (Teeth #1)
Genre: Paranormal Horror
Publisher: Self-Published
Format: Paperback
Pages: 208
Published: 8th January 2015

And without further ado, a guest post by Chele: 

My Top Ten Places to Write
by Chele Cooke

It used to be that I could write anywhere. I don’t know what changed in the last ten years, but when I was a teenager I could write with the television on in the background or with people talking around me. At that point, one of my favourite places to write was at open mic nights. I would listen to the music and jot down my thoughts.

I can’t really do that anymore. I need a certain amount of control of my surroundings to get into a writing frame of mind, even if it’s just by putting on my headphones with a playlist I’ve picked out. Still, even with this need for control, I have a number of places I find great for writing.

1. My bedroom.
I live in a shared house with four other people, so as you can imagine, our house gets quite busy at times. When I really need to concentrate, there is no where better than my bedroom. I have my desk and comfortable desk chair set up. When I sit there, it is like a switch turns in my head to say “this is writing time now.”

2. Our living room
When the house is quiet, I like sitting in the living room. We have a corner sofa, so I’ll sit right in the corner, stretch out with my laptop, and get to it.

3. Big Green Bookshop’s Literary Lock In
Once a year, the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, near where I live, have a Literary Lock In for NaNoWriMo. It starts at 7pm and ends at 7am with forty people crammed into a small bookshop. It’s crowded and uncomfortable a lot of the time, but I find that I can write really well with lots of people around me doing the same thing. Generally I’ll get about 10k written in those 12 hours. Knowing everyone around you is working hard is a great motivator.

4. Blue Danube, San Francisco
From the ages of 14 to 16 I lived in San Francisco with my mother and step-father. Whilst I was there I met three people who would turn into my best friends. I don’t see them very often, but when I do it’s like we’ve never missed a beat. They’re all very creative, and so when I get to visit them, we’ll often go to a great little coffee shop called Blue Danube and get some work done on projects. Whether we’re writing, knitting, cross stitching, or drawing, we’ll chat and have great refreshments whilst we dip in and out of working. I do have to put on my headphones to do a writing sprint, but knowing they’re there feels so natural to me that it’s easy to get writing done.

Blue Danube is actually the inspiration for the coffee shop in Teeth where Paige works.

5. Trains, airplanes, and busses, oh my.
There is a great anonymity on public transportation and writing is a great passage of time. As I said above, I visit San Francisco semi-regularly, and that ten hour journey is a great excuse to get a lot of work done. I find it much easier to do this on transportation with tables, (trains and airplanes) but a bus will work when I need it to.

Plus, you never know what sort of inspiration you’ll get from the people around you.

6. Writing Group Write-Ins
I attend a writing group on Wednesdays and I’ve become quite good friends with some of the people there. We decided to have monthly write-ins under the same vein of the write-ins that are organised for NaNoWriMo in November. However, instead of going to a coffee shop, we all go to each other’s houses and spend an afternoon doing writing sprints and then having breaks for refreshments and chatting.

7. At Work. Shhhh!
Don’t tell anyone, but I actually get a lot of editing done at my day job. When it’s quiet, of course. Being set up at a proper desk with a good chair and a desktop is really helpful for getting work done. I can’t get fully into a ‘do not disturb me’ writing zone, as I need to answer the phones and help students/contractors/etc, but I can at least do a lot of planning and editing.

8. On my commute
This is especially true in NaNoWriMo when I’m trying to hit the desired word count every day. My journey to and from work takes about 45 minutes and I can get about 600 words done on a good day. That, of course, depends on whether I get a seat on the tube or not. It’s hard to type on your phone when you’re also trying to stay upright.

9. My old bedroom
I lived with my dad until I was 25. I moved out for University, but when I graduated I was back living with my parents whilst working for Holiday Inn as a receptionist. I have a lot of nostalgia for that bedroom, as it was my bedroom from eight years old. Plus, I’m very close to my family, so having them close by whilst I write is comforting to me.

10. Night time
Not really a place, but it’s certainly my favourite time to write. I’ve been a night owl for years, and even though I now have a 9-5 job and can’t often stay up until 3am, on the weekends I will often stay up late and get a lot of work done after 11pm.

I think it’s that the house is quiet. It’s just me and my imagination awake in the house. I really like that. Not to mention that when writing about vampires, it’s always helpful to do it when the sun isn’t shining. Call it mood writing.

I love that - "mood writing". I think Chele just coined an awesome phrase.

If you're a writer, where is your favorite place to write?

If you're a reader, where is your favorite place to read?

Thank you, Chele, for sharing Teeth with us. I'm looking forward to reading it :-)

Part time author and full time fantacist, Chele Cooke is a sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal author living in London, UK.

While some know they want to write stories since childhood, Chele first started writing as a teenager writing fanfiction and roleplaying. Before long playing in other people's worlds wasn't enough and she started creating her own. Living in San Francisco at the time, she found a lot of inspiration in her favourite city, some of which can be found in her books.

With a degree in Creative Writing, Chele's first novel was published in 2013. She currently has three books published: two books in a sci-fi series, Out of Orbit, and the first book of a vampire serial, Teeth.

Author Links:
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Announcing FREE and 99 Cent Morgan Wylie Books!

This Writer Wednesday I welcome back to the blog author Morgan Wylie. Morgan's new release, Fractured Darkness, is now available! And if you haven't already read the first two books in the series, you can snag the first one FREE and the second for only 99 cents! A true bargain. Click the Amazon links below to pick up your copies. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Manic Monday: Lindsey Stirling fights Dragons

Isn't it amazing when you find music that you love? I love violin music and especially enjoy violin with a beat. I can't believe I just found Lindsey Stirling and now find myself hunting down her music in every format.

Those of you who follow the blog may know that I am also a gamer. My all-time favorite game is Dragon Age Inquisition. Dragons, mages and templars. What's not to love?

I just about had a nerdgasm when I found this video on YouTube that combines two of my current favorite things: Lindsey Stirling music and Dragon Age. Fighting a dragon with a violin bow made of flame - why not?!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sci Fi Friday: A New Look at the Farside

Of all the strange things in the known universe, I find it truly odd that we see only one side of the moon. When I first heard that, I thought for sure it was some made-up BS.

But in fact it is true. While the moon orbits our beautiful blue, she never shows us her "dark side", keeping a part of herself forever secret (as all women of mystery do).

But thanks to NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the lady's secrets are being revealed. We can now see the "far side" of the moon thanks to the lunar mapping.

While it is lovely of course, I must say I prefer the familiar face the moon we're used to. The far side, once revealed, lacks the pizazz of the "man in the moon" features.

Perhaps, as with a woman, the mystery was better before it was revealed …

What do you think?

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