Sunday, 28 May 2017

Wonder Woman, I'll Pass.

There is a minor storm surrounding this film at the moment, mostly down to the fact that a certain movie theatre only offering women only screenings. Radical feminists are celebrating this and the "male tears" at the apparent reaction to it (not as much as made out either, I have seen more mockery than anything) and the fact that the film is being lead by a "strong female character". I've watched this film develop slowly for a while and at first I'll be honest, it looked good, but then I started to change my mind.

First off, I should point out that Wonder Woman was the best of Batman Vs Superman in my opinion. Her entrance into the film is its highlight and I was sold in terms of her being an awesome character on screen. I was one of the many who doubted Gal Gadot's casting as the character but was happy to have been proven wrong when I saw her in action. When I heard of her approaching film, I thought it would be interesting. However, when the story of the film became clear, I suddenly found myself being turned off to the point where I am no longer interested.

First off, it is set in the first world war and that is an overused setting for any story by now. Then there is the fact that the main villains are Nazis.
Give me a break.
Be it video games or films, Nazis have quite frankly been done to death now and for them to fall back on them once again was quite frankly lazy to me. I know that some people will point out this was her origin story in the comics and fair enough, it was the same with Captain America. The problem is that DC has revamped her origin story time and time again and it seems that using the world war origin was again, lazy. Such a big deal has been made over the movie of this character, it is not unreasonable to suggest a better origin story or villain could have been used here.

It bugs me that it is an origin story as I can't stand those things. I do not see the point in seeing a movie where we pretty much know how the story ends, who will live and who will die, and most importantly, that the main character comes out alright in the end. That makes this movie nothing more than a simple popcorn flick to me, and that made me lose interest.

Hollywood has long been on the path of making movies that they know will make money, whilst giving little effort to the content. For those who are going to see this movie and will enjoy it, I hope you really do. Sadly for me, this one goes into the same section as Rogue One; all style and no apparent substance.
I'll pass.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

So I Read... X O Manowar.

Valiant Comics.
Wow, I have not thought about any comics from that company for a very long time.
I was in my local comic shop, talking to the owner, and I wondered out loud what was new. One of his employees recommended the new X O series to me, a character I had briefly been aware of back in my youth. I humored him and picked up the first two issues and then the third the other day. To say the least, I was blown away by what I read.

The main character, Aric or "Urth", lives a peaceful life farming on the planet of Gorin. He has left behind his life of fighting, abandoned the powerful armor that made him what he was and lives with Schon, a woman of the Azure race whom he loves. Sadly, war comes to the planet and he is recruited to fight against his will to fight with Schon helplessly watching as he is taken away.

It is a great story. I always loved the theme of a hero who walked away from the fighting to live a peaceful life and Matt Kindt does a great job telling it. I found myself rooting for Aric as he was pulled away from his home to fight in a war where he was basically going to be canon fodder. The artwork by Tomas Giorello is nothing short of beautiful, I would usually point to a specific example but with this comic, I really can't because his efforts showed beautifully on every page. Be it either a scene where Aric is working the fields of his farm, in bed with Schon, or in the middle of the battle, it is great to look at. Diego Rodriguez's coloring enhances the artwork ten-fold, my favorite scenes are the ones in the night, especially in issue two. The production value is clearly seen with the covers too as so far, the issues have been glossy cardboard and I really liked that.

Sadly though, the series does suffer from the usual problem, of which I am about to complain about here. There are three issues in the series at the time of writing this, but there are twenty different variants. eleven for issue one, five for issue two and four for issue three. The pricing for some of them is pretty ridiculous too, one is valued at $100, another at $65, but the worst of all is the brushed metal variant for issue one that is valued at $1000. I can only look at that and shake my head as I cannot figure out how someone could come up with that kind of a price, so what if there are only five hundred copies available? I do wish that companies could price comics like this a little more sensibly because believe it or not, not all of us can afford something like that.

Forgetting that though, this comic series is really worth picking up because it tells a great story. Do yourself a favor and take a look, you won't regret it, just ignore the variants unless you have deep pockets.

So I Read... Rose.

These days I am always on the lookout for any new stuff from the independent publishers. As I have said before, it is where the better stuff can be found and Rose is a great example of this. I became aware of it after it was mentioned by the Image Comics Twitter account a little while ago and I am glad I did.

After her village is burned down by the forces of an evil queen, the titular heroine of the story flees for her life and meets up with a band of rebels who know the queen's evil. Rose wants revenge, and the rebels want to help her.

Granted, the story is only two issues in at the time of writing this, but I really enjoyed what I have read so far. The first issue started with a note of thanks from the writer, Meredith Finch, something I don't see that often. To me, when a writer puts a thank you note like that in their comic, it says that they really care about the product they have produced. I like that, I really do, because that is a writer who's work I want to follow. When it comes to the artwork, IG Guara does a brilliant job, either with the queen's evil looks or the look on Rose's face when her home burns around her. It is a far cry from the cartoony crap being peddled by Marvel comics these days.

Variant covers will always be a gripe of mine because some companies really overdo it. With Rose, there has been sensible with the amount done with only three for each issue so far. It must be noted that one for the first issue was a second print so that does not count. First off, two variants for issues one and two have been done by Dave Finch, the writer's husband. I have been a massive fan of his work since the days of CyberForce and Ascension, so I was really pleased to see that. One of the other variants for issue one was a gold logo edition, something we really don't get enough of these days and I find that a shame.

I will be collecting this series because it has started with a strong opening. It has a great writer and a great artist to keep it going, I will certainly be in it for the long haul. Want a good reason why the independent companies are doing it better than the big ones? Rose is a good place to start.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

So I Listened to... Hatred Day.

This story summary is a hard one to write, as it is a story I really don't want to give any spoilers on. What I can say about it, is that it pulls you in easily and does not let go until the end. The characters are varied and engaging, the setting is both familiar and futuristic, and the writing is fantastic. That is all I will say out about the story. The purpose of this piece is to talk about the audiobook, something I will take great pleasure with.

T.S. Pettibone (the identical twin sisters of Brittany and Nicole Pettibone) certainly made a brilliant choice when they had Joe Calarco narrate their story. I would go as far as to say that it is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard; hands down. There are voice effects for certain characters, musical pieces between the chapters, awesome sound effects, and a nice finishing note from Calarco himself. The narration of this story is awesome, each voice Calarco plays is wonderfully convincing and not once was I thrown by any of them as I have been with previous audiobooks.

The length of the audiobook is fourteen and a half hours long, one that you will take great pleasure indulging yourself into. I look forward to the next installment of this series and hope they bring Calarco back to work his magic again. Check this one out, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Audiobooks: A Counter View.

My friend and fellow indie author, Mr. Brian Niemeier wrote an article for his blog in which he talked about his views on audiobooks. I agreed with what he said in the article, people want audio versions of books but do not seem to realise the cost involved in making them. Due to the costs involved and the ACX profit sharing scheme, it can be off-putting for indie authors like him and I to make them. I had the dream a long time ago of recording my own versions of my works but I had certain factors working against me. First off is that there is nowhere in my home that I can go to record properly in where no unwanted sounds can leak in. It would be either the sounds of my children playing, cars going by outside, the TV downstairs, or the sound of my neighbors screwing rather loudly; thanks to the thin walls. Another reason was that I did not have any of the equipment needed to make this happen. It is pricey and so is hiring a studio for the day.

When it comes to audiobooks and indeed Audible, I am appreciative of the market and the demand for these versions of author's material. As I have written before, my brother is a truck driver and does not have time to read so he makes great use of audiobooks; especially when driving. I like to read after I have finished writing but there are times I find it difficult to go from the screen of my laptop to that of my Kindle, so I go with an audiobook so I can relax and just listen. Brian also mentions in the article that narrators overcharge by a lot. He has a good point there.

I have seen authors have to turn to Kickstarter in the past to get audiobooks done and have a certain narrator perform them due to such a high cost. It is very disheartening because as Brian breaks down in his piece, it would cost him twice as much as it did for him to write a book for someone to perform it. He also raises objections by having to share the profits of his work with a narrator via the ACX scheme, I can see his point here totally but I do have some differing views on the whole thing of which I will now go into.

I have heard some great narrators do their thing with someone else's material. Adam Baldwin did a fantastic job with Larry Correia's Tom Stranger, Mare Trevathan also did a fantastic job with Nick Cole's CTRL ALT Revolt!. But sadly, I have also come across a couple of bad ones too. I won't name them but with the first, I had a job to finish the audiobook, and with the second... I couldn't finish it and deleted it half way through. These amazing narrators, especially the likes of Trevathan, I would consider it a compliment, even an honor, to have them read my material. When it comes to the ACX profit sharing scheme, if I were making just as much, if not more than a sale of the ebook of my work, then I would be happy with the whole thing. This view can be criticized or debated, sure, but it comes from the place that I do not rely on my writing to earn a living wage, I work full time and often write when I have gotten home but I understand Brian's dislike of it as he is a full-time writer; every penny counts.

This, to me, comes down to a case of each to their own. It can certainly be suggested I am coming at this from a biased position but I guess it is a debate that can rumble on for a little while. I respect Brian's opinion on the whole thing and I know he and I can have a healthy debate about it. Either way, Brian and I share the most important point and that is that our readers matter to us and if they have chosen to spend their money on our works, we will certainly listen to them.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Crash for Controversy

These days I like to think of myself as someone who will support writers that are struggling to make a name for themselves. It is not a competition as far as I am concerned because if there are more of us out there, with good stories to tell, then it will be the reader who benefits. However, I am always wary of when someone publishes a book based on a scandal of some kind as it comes across as an attempt to make money from the whole thing. This year we have had two examples of this and it still boggles my mind that someone thought it was a good idea to publish them.

The first is Rachel Dolezal's book, In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World. I still cannot believe that somebody thought was a good idea to publish. For the handful of people out there who don't know the now famous story, Dolezal was a woman who was born white but then decided she wanted to be black and set about changing herself to achieve this. The whole thing came crashing down after she pissed off the wrong person and he hired a private investigator to dig for dirt. The PI knocked on the door of her biological parents, saw the family photos, and the game was up. Today, she cannot get a job anywhere and is one step away from being homeless. She has managed to write this book (with help) in an attempt to "set the record straight" but it doesn't look like many people are convinced by this. The bulk of the reviews on Amazon are one star, 61% of them at the time of writing this. What is more disgusting is the price, roughly four or five times that of a regular ebook, leaving me to hope some of those who brought the book in the hardcover format have found a better use for it, such as to prop up a bed, table, or hold open a door somewhere.

The second example is none other than the queen of professional victims herself, Zoe Quinn. She has a book due out in September, Crash Override: How Gamergate Nearly Destroyed My Life. It is available for preorder and only in hardcover so far, even Anita Sarkeesian advertised it in a tweet a little while ago. Quinn was held up in high regard by the media as the best example of the damsel in distress after her ex-boyfriend published his blog post about her. She used the whole thing to build a career for herself as an advocate for fighting online abuse with her company, the Crash Override Network and has been seen as a hero by many out there.

However, hardly anybody in the media really tried to get both sides of the whole thing, Eron Gjoni has had various nasty things written about him whilst living under a gag order he had to crowd fund to fight, the only fair interview he sat down for was with Cathy Young for HEATSTREET (disclosure: I know Cathy over social media) and it was a well-conducted interview. It was later revealed (in the smaller press outlets) that the Crash Override Network (or CON) had actually been compiling dossiers on people it disagreed with as a way to take them down, one of her employees, Robert Marmolejo, was exposed to have been using his position in the company to harass over twenty different women and admitted to this before disappearing from Twitter. A series of chat logs from CON were leaked in which members discussed how to take down people they didn't like, either with police reports or doxing. Most notable were some of the members of that group, such as Katherine Cross, Sarkeesian's secretary, and Randi Harper, creator of the now infamous blocking programs Twitter uses. Notice though that the links I provide here are of the smaller online sites and not the more mainstream media out there? That's because not one of them covered it, not one of them, and that speaks volumes to me.

With regards to Quinn's book? Time will tell if it sells well or not, but due to the reporting of her being so one-sided in the past; I have a pretty good idea. This video sums the whole thing up quite well, check it out.

I support any writer out there who has a good story to tell, but these examples are ones that I will criticize and stay well clear of. There are writers out there who are struggling to build a platform for themselves, to put content out and be recognized for it whilst holding down a full-time job. I will respect them far more than a couple of con artists who use their name to make money when their five minutes of fame ended a long. Time. Ago.