Looking In the Mirror Could Summon Evil Fish

Who knew vanity could have such a backlash. I’ve always felt mirrors held another world (very Through the Looking Glass of me). As a kid I pressed my face up to the glass, wondering if I could push through.

Su Blackwell’s Book-cut Sculptures (Alice: Through the Looking Glass)

Su Blackwell’s Book-cut Sculptures (Alice: Through the Looking Glass)

Then I chanced upon the Fish anthology, which offered a chance to realize these dreams (even if in flash fiction form). The goal of the book is creating a dream-like world where surreal and literary collide. No genre limitations, just a single theme: Fish. That’s a slippery topic.

fish cover_FINAL sm (1)

My story concerns a gentleman who’s a little too obsessed with his own reflection, even to the point of ignoring his lovely wife. His reflections morphs, becoming fish-like. It’s intentions are not so pleasant. THe glass cracks and as the fish creature attempts to burst through.

I was inspired by a myth read in Imaginary Beings by Borges concerning how fish plan to take over the world, through mirrors. Check out this excerpt from the myth.

“Both kingdoms, the specular and the human, lived in harmony; you could come and go through mirrors. One night the mirror people invaded the earth. Their power was great, but at the end of bloody warfare the magic arts of the Yellow Emperor prevailed. He repulsed the invaders, imprisoned them in their mirrors, and forced on them the task of repeating, as though in a kind of dream, all the actions of men. He stripped them of their power and of their forms and reduced them to mere slavish reflections. Nonetheless, a day will come when the magic spell will be shaken off. The first to awaken will be the Fish.”

Want to read more? Check out the digital version. (Amazon Kindle version) But wait, this astounding anthology is also available in print version (also Amazon).

Tim Kane

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Survival of the Fittest for Movie Genres

People often complain that movies are never like the book. The movie cuts too much or adds unneeded scenes. Most of this is due to the fact that people don’t understand that movies are alive. Yes, alive. At least in the sense of survival of the fittest.

Movies are created by producers who pump money into an idea. The producers aren’t parents, yearning for their filmic offspring to go onto glory. Awards and accolades are added benefits. No, movie producers want one simple thing: to make money.

Viewed from this perceptive, books adapted into movies make sense. The goal isn’t to transform the vision of the text to film. (The director or the actors or screenwriters might strive for that.) No, producers only want to transform the readers of the book into watchers of the movie. If that means they have to adhere to the story, fine. But mostly, movie producers take liberties because the readers will still flock to the film and see it.

The-Hobbit_01

Why this long tirade about books and films? Mostly the Hobbit. I love the book, but wasn’t wowed by the film. I understand all the additions and changes as it made its way toward film. Ultimately did the film make money? Yes. Will more like it be made? Yes. It’s like evolution in film. If a certain type of film makes money, then more will be made.

Parker Movie Free

Another adaptation is Parker with Jason Statham. The original book, written by Donald E. Westlake, is nothing like the film. (For a more in depth view of the book, check out the Weekly Rot.) The protagonist is unlikable and repugnant. However, the genre of action-movies states that the led be likable and somewhat honorable. Thus the Statham Parker says: “I don’t steal from people who can’t afford it, and I don’t hurt people that don’t deserve it.” There’s little to distinguish this film from the many other Statham action films.

Parker was expected to make money by following the genre formula, yet in this one fumbled.

In the future, when you complain about movie adaptations, consider this: If people refused to see it, then that genre would wither and die.

Tim Kane

4 Steampunk Must Reads

For those of you with a literary bent, here are some amazing, and possibly overlooked, books dealing with Steampunk.

Doctor Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory

Think of it as a Sears catalog for ray guns. Everything a planet-hopping adventurer could need. The author, Greg Broadmore, has thrown in the kitchen sink on this one. In addition to the various rayguns sold by his emporium (Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators) he has armored suits (like the Ignas Fraunhofer III Gas Driven Gadabout), robotic moving couches ( Chairlord 2200), along with straight up robotic servants (Automaitre D’). There are even some comics at the end to exemplify the exploits of Lord Cockswain. Buy it now.

 

Doctor Grordbort Presents: Victory (Dr. Grordbort Presents Victory: Scientific Adventure Violence)

More adventures with Lord Cockswain. The subhead says it all: Scientific Adventure Violence for Young Men & Literate Women. Mr. Cockswain aims to bring order to the galaxy by obliterating anything that personally offends him. And he’s got the rayguns to back him up. Filled with mock advertorials inviting you to join up with the “British Colonial Expeditionary Forces.” It also comes with a complete bestiary of Venus. Such a value!

 

The Omnibus of Doctor Bill Shakes and the Magnificent Ionic Pentatetrameter

Technically not out yet (May 11th) this proves to be a tremendous addition to any steampunk aficionado. Who could beat Will Shakespeare gone steampunk? The dialogue alone is worth the price of admission. Will Romeo have a mechanical arm? Will Hamlet be a cyborg? The possibilities are endless (as long as they contain gears and springs).

 

Bartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol. 1: The Far Away Island

Okay, so technically not a book, this iPad app will appeal to anyone who has a love for gears, levers, and of course buttons. Bartleby collects buttons. In this interactive tale, he sets off to a mysterious island to find a new button for his collection. There’s plenty of button pushing fun with this book. Plus, if you dig it, there’s a sequel: Bartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol. 2: The Button at the Bottom of the Sea.

Happy adventuring fellow gear-heads.

Tim Kane

Hunger Games: Movie vs. Novel

Often people complain that a movie is nothing like the book. Well of course. A movie unspools images whereas a book delivers content through some 70-100 words. It takes me the better part of a week to finish a book, but only two hours to see the average movie. Given the condensed medium of film, there’s no way to include everything that appears in a book. And no need to really.

There are advantages to each media. A smart filmmaker will realize this and utilize the unique qualities of film to not only condense sections of the book, but also highlight others. If you haven’t read or seen the Hunger Games book or film, you may find sections spoiled.

The movie zoomed through the opening chapters of Hunger Games at light speed. I think they did this to allow them to spend more time on the actual arena combat. Many of the thoughts that Catniss used to express backstory or her attitudes could not transfer to film. For example, her whole story about saving the cat and Prim’s love for it was condensed to a single line: “I’ll still cook you.”

One element I felt they didn’t communicate well was the matter of names and the reaping. The film established that Galen had his name in 42 times, but didn’t go into putting your name in extra times to get food. My guess is that the filmmakers felt this wasn’t as crucial and viewers would get the concept as the film went on. It certainly didn’t bother me.

Rather than put the entire backstory of Peta and the bread and Mom’s zoning out at the start, the film smartly incorporated these into tiny flashbacks. The best was during the tracker jacker delirium scene where Catniss remembered how her dad died and Mom tuned out.

The film also solved a few problems I had with the book. I noticed that Suzanne Collins was one of the screenwriters, so perhaps she took a second look at her material. First, the fact that she never mentioned the position of cameras at any time in the novel really bugged me. It go so that I couldn’t focus on the story. The film handled this with one scene. Catniss climbs a tree and a knot twists to look at her. That one moment alone told us that everything could be a camera.

Also, the novel had a conspiracy plot at the end that felt tacked on. The film provided cut-away scenes with the gamemaker and President Snow that expertly delivered this same feeling without distracting from the plot. The best part of this was the final scene with the gamemaker. The key to films is what they can deliver with a single image. The gamemaker is led to a room and locked in. A bowl with berries (the same that Catniss nearly swallowed to poison herself) were presented on a table. The message was clear. He screwed up and was expected to pay the price. This also underscored the tyranny of the Capitol’s regime.

The film added many scenes showing the gamemaker designing and running the game. This really helped me understand how the arena functioned. I liked seeing them comment on the tracker jackers as well as seeing the dogs being designed. (I didn’t miss that the dogs were former contestants as this bothered me in the book.) One of the best added scenes was the riot in District 11. I know the book was explicit about cutting the scene where Catniss added flowers to Rue’s body so that viewers wouldn’t see it. However, I liked seeing the riots in District 11 and the subsequent put down.

The last element that the film added is a technique I saw before in Green Mile: The Song. Catniss sings a song to Prim at the beginning. I knew right away this would be the same song she’d sing to Rue. It served to create an emotional connection between Catniss’s little sister, and her adopted ward, Rue, in the game.

The next time someone whines about how badly films adapt books, explain to them that a film is not a book. Stories you read and the action unfolds in your mind. The film shows you the action, so it will never match the images in you head.

Tim Kane

How Paper and Glue Books Might Lead to Your Next Best Idea

I admit that more often than not, I used the computer to answer my questions. I have a nifty widget that pops up and becomes an instant thesaurus and dictionary. But there are some times that I need to yank that old paper and glue tome off its bookshelf and turn some pages.

A few weeks ago I had an experience that reminded me what writing was like before the Internet and widgets and apps and all those time saving devices. I was doing some world building and needed some specific words to describe people and magic. I wanted the words to be special and my computer widget came up dry.

So I pushed the keyboard back, clunked down the books and started researching. My most favorite book ever, and the one that I turn to when I need some great words: Roget’s International Thesaurus Fourth Edition.

Now, I’ve searched and searched for a digital version of this. I did find a website where you can page through a virtual copy of the book (which takes much longer than the actual book). But no app or other copy of Roget’s Thesaurus has what the fourth addition has.

Most Roget’s Thesauruses are organized like your typical dictionary—alphabetical. Instead of definitions, like the dictionary, you get a string of basic synonyms and antonyms. Useful, but easily replaced by all those fancy apps.

The Roget’s Fourth Edition words differently. It’s organized by subject. This means that to look something up, you have to search twice. Let’s say you want another work for walk. First I look walk up in the index at the back (which is alphabetical). This gives me a series of options for nouns (amble, arena, circuit, gait, path, race, region, route, slowness, sphere of work, vocation) and verb (ambulate, go slow).

Already the beauty of this book reveals itself. It shoots your brain in different directions. What the heck is “sphere of work”? (I looked it up. Walk related to a cop’s beat.)

Next, you look up a number related to the shade of meaning you want. Let’s shoot for race (796.12). This comes under the heading “Contention.” The subsection 12 deals with contests of speed.

But since this Thesaurus is arranged by topic, you can look at the sections around. Section 797 is “Warfare.” The previous section is “Disaccord.” All these lead to new ideas, which is pretty much what this creativity thing is all about.

And these are ideas without distractions. You take a saunter through the Internet to look up words and before you know it, you’re searching for news reports, or checking your Twitter feed, or anything but what you intended to do.

Paper and glue books don’t have an on/off switch. You can’t go off track. So if I’m saying anything here, it’s try to unplug once in a while. Pick up a real thesaurus or dictionary and actually search for something. The time it takes to flip those pages might actually trigger an idea you didn’t even know you wanted.

Tim Kane