All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in The Sprawl

All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in The Sprawl

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned by reading the Sprawl Series by William Gibson. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in Matrix, where knowledge hits you like a video game.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything – unless it’s from the Wig. It usually brings a good price
  • You don’t have to play fair if you have Hideo
  • Don’t hit people unless it’s with a recoilless rifle and a box of incendiary shells
  • Put things back where you found them – unless you’re the kind of jockey who tangles their gear
  • If your name isn’t Lady 3Jane, clean up your own mess  Continue reading

In Memoriam – Carrie Fisher – 1956-2016

I know I’m the last person you want to hear from on this, but like you I’m affected deeply by the loss of this talented and classy lady. I posted this tribute on Imgur and am passing along to you:

More than a princess

She was a survivor, a mensch, a powerful actor as well as writer. She moved mountains, plumbed the depths of hell and lived to tell the tale. Rest in peace, Carrie. It won’t be the same universe without you.

You’ve Been Waiting for This Kind of Sci-Fi: Passengers

You've Been Waiting for This Kind of Sci-Fi: PassengersHere’s the highest praise I can give Passengers: I started the movie in a really bad mood, I finished the movie in a really great mood. The best films take you to another place for a while. Passengers does this neatly, with elegance and charm. Make no mistake, this is a love-letter to authentic science fiction masquerading as a big-budget star vehicle.

So as promised, here’s my review of the movie. I’m fascinating by the craft of both storytelling and science fiction. I don’t mind celebrating when somebody does it well. Passengers has enough going for it that both mainstream audiences and hardcore scifi nerds will find things to love. The scifi orthodoxy may find fault with the lightly-handled technology questions, everyone else will settle in to enjoy the ride. Jon Spaihts, straight off his success as the writer of Prometheus and Doctor Strange, knocks it out of the park by taking an otherwise tired ‘what if you were the only human alive’ trope and using the natural charm of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence to breathe fresh new life into the concept.

You've Been Waiting for This Kind of Sci-Fi: PassengersThat’s one thing that Passengers does well: blending concept with character, ideas with action. Chris Pratt pulls a great turn in the first act, playing the outer space version of Tom Hanks in Castaway. Then, with the help of amiable android bartender, Michael Sheen, he dives headlong into several’what-if’ survival scenarios you pray never happen to you. Jennifer Lawrence enters the picture, and then we’re hooked until the very last frame.

The chemistry between Pratt and Lawrence approaches Bogey / Bacall levels of critical mass. Even as they muster the courage to save the day, both characters wrestle with the baggage of impossible choices and unforgivable sins. Morten Tyldum uses the talent he displayed in ‘The Imitation Game‘ to pull tremendous amounts of gravitas from Pratt and Lawrence. Everyone is completely invested in their roles and comfortable in the skin of the story.

You've Been Waiting for This Kind of Sci-Fi: PassengersPassengers is chock-full of stunning galaxy-sweeping visuals that line up neatly with quirky, human moments. I loved Laurence Fishburne‘s character. He arrives later in the film to provide necessary plot development and conflict resolution as we go into the third act. He deftly judges and forgives character’s mistakes as neatly as a surgeon performing open-heart surgery. We’re so invested that we forget that it’s really our heart being played with. Passengers is reaching in to remind us that we matter. Science fiction has been treating its audience like a walking cash register for too long. Passengers is telling us that we matter, both as the audience and as human beings.

Fishburne and Sheen supply the emotional core of the movie, driving the ‘To err is human, to forgive, divine’ message home with everything except a jackhammer. The quiet genius of Passengers comes through how it takes otherwise disposable roles and makes them indispensable. Those characters give Lawrence and Pratt – and us – a chance to view the universe we’re trapped in through wiser eyes. By the time the credits roll, we’re thoroughly pleased and entertained.

You've Been Waiting for This Kind of Sci-Fi: PassengersPassengers is a rare treat in the modern landscape of science fiction. It’s a one-off, a non-franchise, a movie that takes interesting concepts out to play for a few hours and then puts then back in the box in better condition than they were found in. We haven’t seen movies like this in a while, but in a world where the outside world is looking more and more like a sci-fi dystopia, it’s a welcome tonic. People need the ability to escape from the bad scaries creeping across our TV screens, and Passengers does this for us. In closing, go see it; it does not disappoint. Passengers may not be the best sci-fi film you’ve ever seen, but it’s a perfect movie.

Score! Got a Screener for Passengers – Review on Tuesday

Score! Got a Screener for Passengers - Review on TuesdayWell that was cool! Called an industry friend the other day to catch up. He knows I love scifi but that going out in public is positively excruciating for someone with a crippling social anxiety. Therefore, he was kind enough to lend me a screener for Passengers. He wasn’t going to watch it, so he said I might as well tell him what I thought. “I don’t want to see this up on Youtube, dude,” was all he said. Screeners are difficult to send around so he’s doing me a huge favor by doing this. Classy guy.

Anyway – that’s my big news for the week. I’ll post my thoughts on Passengers on Tuesday so you know what you’re walking into.

Choice

Something very sad happened to me today. One of my professional colleagues surprised me by telling me of a decision. Because of my recent pivot to this new role as Jackson Allen the Author, he didn’t feel he and I could be friends anymore. I’m shocked and saddened, but of course I respect his decision.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about what happened. I decided that I wanted to blog some thoughts out and share this with you. Blogging gives me a platform for ideas that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. Maybe this is something you’ve already experienced and you have an answer for what I haven’t figured out yet.

As I said in the beginning, this is … like … the third act of my career. My real name isn’t Jackson, I’ve got some baggage and I’m just moving forward with my life now that the previously-planned ‘happily ever after’ became ‘not a hope in Hades.’ There’s some stigma attached to that decision and it sucks. As I travel that path, and circumstances change, all I can really hope to do is roll with the punches while remaining true to the goal.

I want to tell stories that people enjoy and hopefully get paid for it. It’s that simple, but circumstances dictate that I find my own way. Because I’m innovating, I have to be okay with being misunderstood. That’s the thing nobody tells you about the creative life: there are moments of genuine heartbreak. It’s bad enough that the public at large doesn’t understand what you’re doing. But when a fellow creative who is also traveling your path rejects you well, part of you dies. After that conversation, I had to take a few circuits around the block and try to clear my head. Continue reading

Broken Authors Make Beautiful Stories

Broken Authors Make Beautiful StoriesI was driving in the car today, listening to an old Oasis B-side called ‘Acquiesce.’ Some songs make me see movies in my head and Acquiesce is one of them. Since the song is supposed to be about friendship and brotherhood, I always see the beginning of a movie, where the credits roll over a montage of pictures that show two brothers growing up together.

But then I got a little depressed and I started thinking to myself, “what do you even know about that? You’ve never had that experience.” It’s intimidating to realize that I’m attempting to put into words a story I’ve never lived … what business do I have telling that story or any other? That’s when an interesting epiphany hit me and so I’m sharing it with you: Continue reading

State of the Art – 12/11/2016

Been a while since I posted – it’s time to get back to doing this. Here’s what has been happening in the last two months, in a nutshell:

I’m cutting this now so I can focus on writing ‘Best Night of Sleep.’ I’ll talk to you soon.

Geek Social Fallacy

I found this article and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. A fallacy is a ‘a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.’ Humans have been studying social fallacies for thousands of years; the Argumentum ad Populum is more commonly known as ‘everyone else is doing it.’ Social fallacies come in all shapes and sizes and geeks are guilty of our own social fallacies, too.

A Handy List of Geek Social Fallacies

As a geeky person, I’ve been guilty of believing all of these geek social fallacies at one time or another. Perhaps you’ve been in an exchange with another person and it’s not going well. It might be because one or both of you is working off of a social fallacy. Might want to look into it.

Those Who Wait … ?

The writing game appears to be fraught with long periods of silence while you wait to hear from publishers on the acceptance or rejection of your work. As frustrating as that is, nobody has discovered an answer for it. ‘First thing you learn,’ as Lou Reed was fond of saying, ‘is that you always gotta wait.’  I’m cranking on ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater’ while I wait, and ‘Planet Ugh’ has been drafted and is out for comments.

So while all that is going on … there’s just silence. Will they love it? Will they hate it? I don’t know. The suspense is supposed to kill my audience, not me. I comfort myself with a couple of quotes … you might find them useful:

Be patient, but never idle – Franciso Alvarez

and

I learned that all things come to those who wait-provided they hustle while they wait. – James Cash Penney

These little mind-bombs encompass where I’m at right now. I have some adulting to do while I wait for my dreams to come true. Go make something awesome!

Full Spectrum SciFi – ‘Arrival’ and ‘Doctor Strange’

 

Well, there you have it: two different movies in the theaters that show the full range of science fiction in all it’s glory.

landscape-1459632762-benedict-cumberbatch-doctor-strangeI won’t spoil either movie for you, but I’ll say this much. If you want to learn how different science fiction can be from itself, you need look no further than the movie theater right now. The Arrival and Doctor Strange show how you can combine elements of the Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy genres to make a basic three-act story or a thoughtful, moving tale that asks ‘if you had it to do all over again, would you?’

I’m happy, because it means we get to experience the full spectrum of sci-fi again. We’ve needed that for a very long while.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against the Marvel Comic Universe. It’s just that, well let me put it this way: I love pizza … But I don’t want pizza every day. I love blues music, but after a while I need something in my life besides Stevie Ray Vaughn. ‘Variety may be the spice of life, but don’t look for it in the movie theater,’ we’ve been told over and over again.

It took directors like Christopher Nolan making movies like ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ to smash through the conventional wisdom that hard sci-fi didn’t appeal to mass audiences anymore. Now we’re seeing more and more science fiction … real science fiction … coming at us and to that I say “Bravo!”

Now, as much as I love real science fiction, I want to add some caveats:arrival

  • Stories are designed to be enjoyed, not categorized
  • Not every hero has an ‘origin story.’
  • Sci-fi doesn’t have to follow the typical three-act story arc

I’m going to talk more about those thoughts later on but wanted to get this thought pushed out to make room for everything else I’m thinking about. Happy Monday, go make something awesome.