With my regular job, raising a family, writing, and continuing to work on drawing and painting, I don't seem to have much time for blogging. So, for my first post in a long time I decided to show you what I've been up to rather than tell you about it. I am working on a new writing project, and with the first draft almost complete I thought I'd prematurely celebrate by sharing the first chapter.
Without further ado, here is the first chapter of my new in-the-works novel, Wind Rider. Enjoy!
You might think being a prince would make you feel special, but let me assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. When you are next in line for the throne, it doesn’t matter who you are, what matters is who you will become. And today is only important because it prepares you for tomorrow.
Even my name felt crushed under the weight of titles that preceded it.
Lord of the Deep Forest, Protector of the Skies, One that Rides in the Heavens, Guide of the Watersource, Son of King Alendar and his chosen Queen Vilsavia, Prince Mikel Stovarish.
I spent most of my time with my nose safely buried in books, studying for the day when I would be King, while other boys and girls my age were chasing each other on the branches of the towering trees our great city rests upon. Most days I was treated like a piece of ornamental crystal that people felt honored to hold but just as eager to hand off for fear of breaking it.
Which may be why I was almost looking forward to being a hostage.
It was an old ritual of the treaty talks that occurred in Redoun every ten years. I didn’t really expect to be killed. Just like the formal talks, feasts, games, and parades being a hostage was just another part of the grand ceremony the common people called the Gathering. More symbolic than anything else.
The Gathering was when all the leaders of Redoun came together to work out their grievances, to reestablish old norms that kept peace between them, and to make new ones based on the natural changes that seemed ever so ready to upset the order that had been established for ages.Each of the three major kings offered their firstborn as a hostage, and the first penalty for any that started a war would be the hostage’s death.
Part of the ceremony was pretending it was a meeting of equals.
In truth it was my people, the Lorians, who initiated the first Gathering hundreds of years ago and were the ones with the strength to ensure its success.
For we were the wind-riders.
Our capital, Bikal, was located high in the Verograd Forest, where trees the size of mountains held our city high in the canopy. It was a city barely accessible to the Kon’Char people who seemed staked to the ground by their stone towers, and especially inaccessible to the Matik pirates who rode on the waves of the Maruzin Sea.
For those people were still ruled by their ancient gods, while we, the Lorians, had mastered ours.
Our gods were the children of the sky. The Quileel, massive winged serpents who weaved through our sky like golden threads in a blue, silken cloth.
I was not yet old enough to ride a Quileel. I was only old enough to admire how they flew through the clouds and the canopy with infinitely more grace and beauty than the puny, poisonous sea-snakes that the Matik pirates liked to keep as pets.
But I wasn’t a sapling branch stuck to a tree trunk. I could still fly from parapet to parapet of my city when I wore my wind-suit. Under strict supervision, of course.
I suppose what I was doing was more gliding than actually flying, but we Lorians are a proud people, and only used the most impressive words to describe what we do. We leave the humble speech to the Kon’Char, who make their lives digging through the dirt and rock and talk like they have filled their mouths with it. But I’ll say one thing for the Kon’Char, at least they know how to speak with respect. The same can’t be said for the Matik, whose talk is as stinging and abrasive as a blast of salt-water to your face.
Although as Lorian royalty I would never say so publically, after only spending one hour in a room with my fellow hostages, a Kon’Char prince and Matik princess, it was obvious that the stereotypes weren’t like the clouds that appeared out of thin air.
At our introductions it took me only one look at the Kon’Char’s deferential smile and the Matik’s indifferent sneer, and I knew that our impressions of those people were as solid as rock and as deep as the sea. My personal guardian Elias didn’t have much to say about the Kon’Char, but seemed more impressed with the Matik than I.
“She’s not so bad.” Elias whispered to me as we sat in the circular meeting hall listening to the matrons and dignitaries exchange pleasantries before the exchange. “Not nearly as ugly as those fish they eat.”
The room was open and airy, and the stilted, formal conversation of the delegates barely cut through the din of wind and screaming gulls diving into the waves below. It was enough noise to cover my private conversation.
“What are you talking about?” I whispered back as I kept my eye on the slithery pirate princess that was my fellow hostage. The princess, for her part, looked out at the horizon as her matron prattled on about how well the Matik carvers worked with my people’s woodworkers to make this “magnificent hall.”
“Not what.” Elias whispered back. “Who.”
“The girls?” I answered incredulously. Elias was only two years older than me but seemed to be a decade apart in terms of his interest in girls.Still, he had been with me since I was a babe, and if I was ever allowed to say so openly I would call him my friend.
So, I humored his obsession, even if I didn’t fully share it. For me girls were just another part of the future planned out for me.
“Too tall.” I decided it was as good a reason as any for my lack of interest.
“The taller the tree, the more to climb.” I could almost hear Elias grin.
“Ugh.” I replied a little too loudly.
“Never mind that.” I looked at the Matik princess.“What about that face? She looks like a stretched out Kon’Char skunk with that ratty hair.”
Elias paused for a moment, as if unsure to whom I was referring to.
“I’m not talking about the princess.” Elias said at last. “The one behind her. The attendant with the silver hair.”
I took a quick glance at the row of attendants behind the Matik princess. They were all tall and slender to the point that their arms and legs seemed as supple as the branches of a willow tree. Their skin, the color of night, was perfectly smooth, and their large,
luminescent eyes shined in the light of the room. They were as elegant and beautiful as people said, but something about their uniform perfection bored me as much as it impressed Elias and the other guards. To me, only the princess looked any different, but not in a good way.
Her long, curly hair poured out her head like a water spout, which did nothing to hide the curious splotches of pale skin around her eyes that dropped down her face like tears. Her appearance was odd as everyone whispered about, and I heard rumors of how it humiliated her father.
Some of the Matrons, who loved to gossip in front of me when they thought I was deep in my studies, said that her father was so ashamed of his strange daughter that he might just leave her with the Kon’Char when the Gathering was done.
She must feel as awkward as she looks I thought.
Especially when she was in the company of her attendants. The silver hair one in particular.
The silver hair attendant’s eyes were bigger than the others, which was something extraordinary considering the size of the fish-like orbs that stood out on the long, flattened Matik faces. It made it only more obvious that the attendant was sharing looks with Elias.
“I suppose she’s pretty.” I conceded. “Too bad you have to cut her throat if the Matik break faith and war breaks out.”
“War.” Elias scoffed.“There hasn’t been a war for ages- “
Elias's voice clipped off quickly at the sight of a quick, subtle twitch of my matron’s hand.
Our matron was now responding with compliments of her own, and all attention was on our side of the room. It took only a flick of her finger for us to know that now was the time to be quiet and attentive. I didn’t learn many lessons from our matrons but knowing when and where to shut up was one of them.
As I nodded my agreement to whatever compliment my matron was now giving the Matik and Kon’Char delegation, I made eye-contact with the Matik princess.
Her name was Inaka, the Princess of the Mazurin Seas, the largest and most powerful of the group of pirate fleets that once ravaged the Redoun coast and turned many a Kon’Char city into rubble.
Inaka gave me a sour look which I quickly returned.
Honor satisfied, I turned my attention to the Kon’Char Prince, a stocky little boy named Gou. Gou nodded and smiled endlessly as the adults spoke, but often in the wrong direction of the conversation. It was as if he was sleeping with his eyes open and in the midst of some pleasant dream. Probably a typical Kon’Char one involving a full table of food eaten with fine silverware.
I wondered if he was under the influence of the same Kon’Char magic that kept their gods, the Gorath, giant bears with needle-like bristles strong enough to pierce the sides of the mountains they lumbered through, asleep during harvest so that they wouldn’t lay waste to all of Kon’Char at the slightest smell of the abundance in their storage halls.
Looking at Gou I was sure that whatever the accommodations the Kon’Char prepared for me, I wouldn’t be short of things to eat.
I was brought to attention at the sharp sound Captain of our Guard, Lord Tycho’s voice.
He was Elias’ father, and the man responsible for teaching me how to fight and fly on the Quileel that was being raised for me, and an honored veteran of many patrols on the frontiers of our world.
“A fine point Lady Enid.” Lord Tycho responded to the Kon'Char matron with dutiful politeness.
Although no one said it, the rarity of a captain speaking up at such an occasion when they usually had to stand there in respectful silence, certainly got everyone’s attention, even Prince Gou.
“But I wonder if a more enduring symbol of peace and cooperation would be to build this city out of the stone that holds up your own? To build a city that could weather all the storms of our seas. A lasting monument to establish a peace that could stand the test of time.” Tycho said.
Lady Enid, a wealthy and influential Kon’Char royal, smiled and nodded respectfully at Tycho’s veiled criticism of the yearly responsibility of all the people to continually maintain and rebuild the wooden Truce city.
“Certainly a valid point, Lord Tycho.” She said with a deferential bow. “And one that has been uttered by many wise and vigorous leaders before. But monuments are constructed to praise the past, and we must always be working together to maintain our present peace and our children’s future.”
Lord Tycho and Lady Enid exchanged nods, but said no more upon the subject, and neither did anyone else. The silence in the room seemed to indicate to all that it was time to exchange the hostages and their attendants and for all to return to their rooms. This year our people were to receive the Matik hostage, and I would be a hostage of the Kon’Char.
As Inaka walked forward to be claimed by Elias and his guard, I couldn’t help but poke him in the ribs just before I was led to my “captors”. I nodded to the line of attendants following Inaka, who walked like the ripples in a lake.
“Are you sure you have the strength to fight them off?” I said.
Elias took a quick glance at the silver-haired attendant. The smile she tried so hard to hide as he looked at her could’ve beamed across the Mazurin Sea to our City.
Elias grinned at me.
“I hope not.” He said just before bowing to Inaka.
I shook my head and then walked to the Kon’Char delegation. Gou broke rank from his entourage to amble over to me. His Kon’Char matron almost stumbled over herself to stop him as the waiting Matik guards watched in disbelief.
“I saved some sweets for you in my room.” Gou said with a loud, squeal of a voice and hand held outward.
I stared at his hand like it was a fat, dead, bird. After a quick pinch from my Matron I took Gou’s hand and shook it.
Gou shook my hand vigorously, then followed up with a more proper bow.
“My bed’s really comfortable too.” He said smiling. “I hope the Matik’s have nice beds. I don’t think I’d like sleeping in a hanging cot! Except to spin in it maybe!” Gou said with a laugh lost in the sounds of screeching gulls.
“Well, that’s where you and I differ.” I replied. “I’d rather be sleeping in my hammock than here surrounded by all this dead wood.”
If Gou was offended by my remark, he didn’t seem to show it. He looked over at Inaka.
The flowing features of Inaka’s long, oval face betrayed no emotion as Elias bowed before her and proclaimed his ceremonial duty to safeguard her and, if the need arose, to ensure that her passing would be quick and painless.
“I’m sure we’d all rather be home.” Gou said as he watched them. He turned back to me a grinned broadly.“But there’s something here for all of us. Even a small piece of home is still home.”
“Yes, Prince Gou, that is true.”
Gou’s matron led him back to the Matik and I was taken to the Kon’Char, who were dressed in the heavy armor they once wore in battle.
The week passed with little news about the negotiations, which did not surprise me, but with a great deal of freedom to move around the city, which did. Always with the accompaniment of my Kon’Char guards of course, but even that proved to be an unexpected benefit, for they knew much about the city and after a couple days warming up to me were very patient and generous guides. I saw nothing of my fellow hostages, or even my own mother and father, until the night of the celebratory feast that ended the Gathering.
The large open hall which held the feast was impressive, and completely furnished with ornaments and designs that represented the people of Redoun, but upon closer inspection the ornamentation did not ring true. Unlike our buildings in Lorian, no living trees were used for the structures that represented our people. Instead, dead trees were carved and stained into the shapes and colors of smaller, living ones.
What was worse was that I had to sit in a Kon’Char chair that seemed twice my height and width. I was short, even for a Lorian, and wondered if the chair was some kind of subtle, joke at my expense.
My Kon’Char guards stood up promptly at the sight of Inaka’s arrival.
It took a sharp look from Elias, standing next to Inaka by duty, and close to the silver-haired maiden, probably by choice, to get me to do likewise fast enough to share in the bow.
My delay did not go unnoticed by Inaka, who bowed twice in the direction of the Kon’Char guards at my flanks, and then glowered as she took her seat across from me. She fit the tall chair much better than I, and she let me know it with a smirk.
What made it worse was I was wearing my spectacles, something no far-sighted Matik would ever wear in public even if they needed it. I decided then and there to spend my time looking in almost every direction except forward. It’s not that I felt fear being stared down by a pirate, it’s just that my mood was dark enough without her sour face making it worse.
As our people liked to say, if you eat one poisonous seed, eating another will not save you.
The meal began with a great many toasts. It was almost impressive how many barbed comments the Matik king could pack into such a short speech, which produced more than a few uncomfortable moments. Gou’s father King Roland got the most genuine laughs during his speech. Only during my father’s speech did I look away and see Inaka’s smirking face again.
My father’s speech was full of slurred slogans about shared responsibility and the common duty of all peoples in upholding peace. No doubt written by his scribes to inspire confidence in his leadership, it appeared to have the opposite effect on the audience. I cringed as every carefully place word and phrase was undone by the drunken carelessness of the speaker. Despite his delivery, the speech got a rousing reception that seemed to please my father as he fell back into his chair.
My Kon’Char guards clapped wildly and complimented my father’s eloquence as I stood slightly red-faced. I could feel Inaka staring at me, her handclaps slow and rhythmic like the ticking of some great clock.
Shortly after the last toast Inaka’s father, the King of the Free Seas, a strikingly tall and robust figure named Ghati Ultalek, left with most of his Lords. This, like much of what happened this week, was part tradition and part political theater. My teachers assured me this would happen and to not take offense from it. Even the most amiable Matik King needs to show his subjects that, while he must agree to compromise for the good of his people, he doesn’t need to like it.
Although I couldn’t quite tell from my seat, it looked as if none of his food had been eaten, and his departing gifts of fine lacquerware and ornaments decorated with glittering abalone were somewhat carelessly left on the table in his absence. The Matik delegation was about to pass us by when I noticed one of King Ghati’s captains pointed out that his daughter was nearby. Ghati looked down at the back of Inaka’s chair without stopping.
Inaka did not stand up to greet her father, but instead seemed to shrink in it as if trying to hide from him.
“She’s a Lorian prisoner.” Ghati said with a dismissive wave. “Let them kiss her good night.”
I looked back at Inaka. It was clear she heard what her father said, and just as clear she knew I did too. The way she looked at me you would’ve thought I was the one who rejected her.
Inaka flicked a pea at me, which hit me in the mouth and almost flew down my throat.
I replied by flicking a nut right between her fish-eyes. She was mistaken if she thought she could match a Lorian in marksmanship.
But I had no response when Inaka filled her mouth with juice and spit it in a perfect, rainbow of an arch into my cup.
“It’s time for the children to retire to their rooms.” The matrons abruptly and somewhat unsteadily announced at the sight of Inaka’s fountain. It was an unfortunate choice of words, for although sleepy Prince Gou and the actual children at our table readily complied, Inaka and I refused to move from our seats. I wasn’t about to let Inaka to have the last word after that.
I jerked out of my matron’s grasp and grabbed my fork, stared at Inaka and let it fall to the floor.
“Whoops. I dropped my fork” I said with a glare.
Inaka showily picked up her fork and held it high. For a moment I thought she was going to throw it in my face. To my relief she let it drop.
“So, did I.” Inaka replied. We both moved under the table and stared at each other. We both knew this was our last chance to let the other person have it before we were dragged back to our rooms so we fired with the heaviest ammunition we had and spoke at the same time.
“It’s past your bedtime fish-face.” I growled.
“Slither back home you little cloud worm.” Inaka hissed.
I thought I got Inaka good, but she came better prepared to end the fight than I did. Not only did her words sting, she punctuated her insult by flicking the tree nut back at me. I heard a strange whining sound as it left her finger, and my ears filled with an enormous roar as it hit me right between the eyes.
The next thing I knew I was on my back.
My head ringing with the same high-pitched whine I heard before and the thought that I should have armed myself better for our little under-the-table altercation. I felt a sharp stabbing pain as I wiped my face with my hand. I drew it back and opened my eyes. My hand was caked with dust and lined with blood. I winced as I pulled a sliver of glass from the side of my palm.
I fumbled for my glasses, but found one lens missing, and the other cracked. I tossed them away.
The whining sound in my ears was punctuated with shouts and screams.
I wandered around the once glorious dining hall, which was now strewn with debris and filled with smoke. I was covered in bits of wood, glass, and food. As I cleaned myself off I touched what I thought was the leg of the roasted pig, only to find five long fingers at the end of it.
I threw the arm off me and scrambled to my feet, checking my own arms and legs to see if they were still there as I did so.
Thankfully, I only had a few nicks and scratches but otherwise was intact.
I stared in horror at the room and wondered what could have caused such destruction.
The heavy tables and chairs were blown to pieces. Everyone who could stand did so in a state of shock, while others laid on the ground screaming. I saw one woman, her face blackened, walk toward an exit in a daze before slumping to the floor. Her skin and clothes were so burned I didn’t know if she was a Matik, Kon’Char, or a Lorian.
I dragged my feet towards the back of the room where my mother and father sat. The floor was strewn with debris. I couldn’t tell if I walked on the dinner or those that dined on it.
I stopped at the sight of my mother’s feet, one still with a bloodied shoe on it, the other twisted as if frozen in the middle of a dance.
What was left of my father was still in his chair, which was plastered against the wall behind him. He still held a cup in his lifeless hand. I stared at the cup as it emptied, in drip after agonizing drip, until all the wine was gone.
As I listened to the screams of pain that swirled around me like a hurricane, I realized only the banned weapons of the past could have cause this much destruction. This was no accident. Hundreds of years of peace had just ended in the blink of an eye.
“Why?” I said aloud as a fire began to claim the room.
But when I saw the bloodied Matik coming at me with a knife, my question was forgotten and I learned my first real lesson about war.
When someone is coming to kill you, it doesn’t really matter why.
The only thing that matters is whether you are going to live, or you are going to die.
“""""This will begin to make things right
While I originally interpreted the opening line of The Force Awakens as a not so subtle dig at George Lucas’s prequels I now believe there is another, far more subtle meaning to the line. And it has everything to do with the character of Rey, and not Luke Skywalker. Well, not exactly.
Why is Rey's linage so important? Well, it establishes her power with the force for one, and may give depth to Kylo Ren’s antagonism towards her. But I believe another reason Rey’s linage is important is because it is the key to connecting the prequels with the original trilogy and restoring the balance between them. Make no mistake, the prequels are bad movies, but I don’t think J.J. Abrahams and Kathleen Kennedy are intent on disregarding everything about them.
We will not meet Rey’s parents. To do so would only move the story backwards and slow it down. So why are they even important? Because they are the source of Rey’s motivation to give into hate and try to kill Kylo Ren. Because, through Rey’s force vision, she knows that Kylo Ren murdered them and was intent on killing her as a child. I would argue that at this point Rey understands much about her background, almost everything in fact, and the reveal in episode VIII won’t be a shock to her, but rather, to the audience.
It has been pointed out that we hear Obi-Wan call out to Rey during this vision. I do believe this is the most obvious hint that Rey is Obi-Wan’s granddaughter. Another is Rey’s connection to Obi-Wan’s possessions. First, I would argue that “Luke’s Lightsaber” was in Obi-Wan’s hands for more time than Luke’s and Anakin’s combined. Secondly, R2D2, who claimed in Episode IV to be Obi-Wan’s droid, comes to life in Rey’s presence.
While the reveal that Rey is related to Obi-Wan will be a nice twist, I don’t believe it will be the bombshell that gets everyone crying “spoiler alert” before talking about it. The big shock will be learning who Rey’s grandmother is.
Rey’s grandmother is someone we know. And it is not so much her identity that is the surprise episode 8 has in store for us, but how she connects the threads of the Skywalker and Kenobi families, the two families central to the Star Wars universe.
Let’s go back to Jedi shall we?
On Endor, as C3PO catches the Ewoks up on everything that’s happened in the galaxy to this point, Luke and Leia talk outside. Luke asks Leia a question.
Luke: “Tell me about your mother…your real mother”
What is amazing to me now in watching this scene is that Leia doesn’t bat an eye to Luke’s odd rephrasing. After all, what does he mean by her “real” mother? Did Leia ever share a story with him of finding out the Organa’s were not her true parents? It goes even further. Luke states that he never knew his mother. But what is important is what he says before that. “I have no memory of her.” Is it possible Luke, with his newfound realizations, now “feels” that his mother was indeed a presence in his life? He does not know her because he has no memory of her, not because she was not there with him as a child. Perhaps watching him from afar, but with him nonetheless.
]Now let’s go back to Revenge of the Sith (sorry, we have to).
Padme gives birth naturally to Luke and Leia, while the Emperor “gives birth” unnaturally to Darth Vader. The Emperor tells Vader that he killed Padme, despite Vader’s assertion that he feels that she is still alive. This knowledge completes Anakin’s journey to the dark side, and ties the Emperor to him. It is the final piece of manipulation by the emperor, and it is a complete lie.
Padme did not die.
Padme goes to her “death” professing that Anakin is still good. She may have acquiesced to faking her death and separating from her children to protect them, but she wasn’t about to do so without some protest. Holding on to Anakin’s necklace during her funeral may have been a small act of protest over what she was about to do. Obi Wan and Yoda had given up on Aanakin, but she had not. The necklace was a symbol of that.
Besides driods whose memories could easily be manipulated (remember C-3POI’s gets erased) only Yoda, Obi-Wan and Bale Organa knew what happened to Padme and the children. At the end of Revenge of the Sith Yoda, Obi Wan, and Organa talk about what to do with the children, but not once do they confirm Padme’s death. The three have just as much reason to fake Padme’s death as they do to hide her children. If Emperor (and later, Vader) knew she was alive she would have been a hunted women. Beside's, the Emperor is the only person to say Padme's dead, and we know he is a liar.
After Padme’s assassination attempt in which her double was killed (the first time her death was faked) the Emperor suggested that Padme be placed under the guard of Obi Wan Kenobi, not Anakin. Now, I know Anakin was a padawan at the time, but can we at least entertain the idea that the Emperor was in fact trying to place Obi Wan with Padme because she might bring about the downfall of an actual Jedi? After all, what could bring more disorder to the Jedi order than the compromising of one of the most trusted, noblest acolytes of the Jedi order? It certainly would have created more chaos than the downfall of a padawan.
Did the Emperor sense that Obi Wan may have had feelings for Padme? You may scoff, but quickly into Attack of the Clones, Obi Wan does something that seems completely out of character but may have actually betrayed his true feelings for her. Obi Wan is constantly stressing patience and thoughtful action when “teaching” Anakin. During a second attempt on Padme’s life, Obi-Wan senses danger as Anakin does, and then, inexplicably, leaps through a window to jump at Padme’s robotic attacker. Did Obi Wan’s deeply hidden and suppressed attraction to Padme get the better of his Jedi-senses? After the attack, when Anakin is with Padme, all he does is trash Obi Wan as the poor girl is trying to pack her bags. Is this a pathetic, adolescent attempt at cock-blocking a potential rival for Padme’s affections? Is the source of Anakin’s discontent with Obi-Wan manifested when Padme comes into the picture because he, like the Emperor, sensed the feelings Obi-Wan had for Padme?
“Hide your feelings” Obi-Wan tells Luke in Return of the Jedi, “they do you credit, but they may also be used to serve the Emperor.”
OK, so let’s speed on back to The Force Awakens and the supposed grammatical error in the title crawl. I’m going to spare you the grammar lesson but the sentence about Leia looking for her brother Luke implies that she has another brother. I believe that when Leia met her “real” mother she may have also met her half-brother, the son of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and may have told Luke about him as well. So where would Luke start in his rebuilding of the Jedi Order, why, with the son of his former master of course!
If Padme’s death was faked I believe she went with Obi-Wan to Tatoonie to be near at least one of her children. Over time the stress of separation from her daughter may have been too much and she left Tatoonie to be with Leia. So how did Padme really die? I don’t know, people get sick. Or perhaps the Organas told her to move along, knowing full well how her presence could endanger Leia. Did she have to fake her death again, and take Leia’s half-brother to a far off planet people would need a secret map to find? I’m not going to fill in all the details, and I don’t think the new films would need to either. That’s why I think including Padme in Rey’s linage would serve the story well and help it move forward rather than backwards. We know the people concerned would be able to fill in the gaps with only a few choice lines of dialogue or a quick flashback.
Seven reasons why I think this revelation about Rey will "make things right" with Star Wars
For the sake of brevity (which this piece desperately needs), the following are reasons why I think Padme as Rey's grandmother will make the overall story stronger.
1. It connects Rey to the Skywalker family.
As so many who claim Rey is Luke or Leia’s daughter state, the story of Star Wars is the story of the Skywalker family. But we are not living in the time of the original trilogy anymore, and the concept of family today is a far more fluid thing. I think in so many ways Abraham’s has successfully made it a movie of the new century, not the last. So to include Rey into the Skywalker family not through the paternal side, as so many of us expect, but rather through the maternal side would be a nice twist.
2. It provides even more depth to Obi-Wan and Anakin’s duels, especially the one in Star Wars.
Rewatching Episode IV’s duel is so much more interesting after you have found out the truth about Vader’s relationship to Luke and Obi-Wan’s role in mentoring both. If we find out that Obi-Wan had indeed loved Padme, and whether knowingly or not fathered a child with her, the final confrontation between them would be even more personal.
3. Yoda’s “No, there is another" quote in Empire.
It’s often been assumed that Yoda was referring to Leia, but yet Luke never trains her. Perhaps Leia was not the one Yoda was speaking of after all, but rather Obi-Wan’s child. Once Luke learned the truth I believe he searched out his half-brother when he began to rebuild the Jedi order. Maybe Padme is dead by this point, or maybe Luke does get to meet her and tell her of Anakin’s redemption.
4. Luke’s feelings of responsibility for the destruction of his new Jedi order.
Yes, having your nephew butcher all of your students may well make you want to hide on some unknown planet, but I think there is more to this. Luke, knowing the history of his parents, and of his master Obi-Wan’s relationship, may have condoned a relationship between two Jedi in defiance of Jedi tradition. This act of compassion, of understanding of the humanity, the “crude matter”, of the Jedi sows the seeds of Kylo Ren’s eventual rejection of the order and his embrace of the strength represented by Snoke.
5. Kylo Ren’s fall to the dark side.
It is implied that Luke did not train Kylo directly, so how much guilt would he have for failing to do so properly? I’ll posit that Luke’s guilt was tied to unforeseen consequences of a decision to allow two Jedi, one his half-brother, to have a child and yet stay within the Jedi order. In Kylo Ren’s eyes, this was a heresy, and a sign of weakness. It began Ren’s trajectory towards the dark side. The dark side is uncompromising, and “deals in absolutes” as Obi-Wan put it in Sith. Kylo Ren wants to finish his grandfather’s work of bringing order to the galaxy. And lets be clear, Kylo Ren worships at the altar of Darth Vader, and not Anakin Skywalker. If Ren somehow knew the truth of Ren’s relationship to his family, through the woman who swayed his powerful grandfather, it could add to any animosity he holds for her. Whatever Kylo Ren knows about Rey, his relationship with and feelings for her are obviously complicated.
6. It fixes the stupid prophecy idea.
I hate prophesies in stories. Its usually a cheap gimmick for character motivation. This whole idea of bringing balance to the force by destroying the dark side always bugged me. After all, wouldn’t a universe of dark and light be balance? I would argue that the Jedi misinterpreted the prophecy (it can happen) and rather Anakin brought disorder to the force because his birth was an unnatural act. I believe that the new films will stick with established canon (as terrible as it sounded the first time we heard it) that Anakin was immaculately conceived. But it is heavily implied that Anakin may have been created by a Sith Lord named Darth Plagus, who may or may not be Snoke. The only thing human, or natural, about Anakin came from his human mother Shimi. This humanity saved Anakin in the end when faced with the murder of his son, and Padme’s humanity perhaps enabled Luke and Leia to greater resist the dark side of the force. Ren, as Solo said, has “too much Vader in him”. So what needs to be done to bring about balance, a restoration of a natural order? The death of Anakin, and perhaps of the Skywalker line. Obi Wan almost did so. And, through Rey, his work may yet be finished.
7. The "dark" side of the Skywalker family
If Snoke is Anakin’s father does Luke understand that the Force that runs so strongly through his family come from the Dark Side? Is this why he did not train Leia and Kylo Ren? Did Luke vanish because, as strong as he is, he knows his use of the force can only bring about harm? All that was good in Luke (and his father) came from the maternal, human side. This situation is flipped somewhat in Kylo Ren’s case, but may help explain his animosity towards his father Han Solo. After all, he doesn’t seem to have anything bad to say about his mother (yet), and refers to his father as weak and foolish. In order to commit fully to the dark side Ren needed to destroy the humanity in him by killing his father.
Thank you to anyone who read this whole thing. Stay tuned for the video version on Youtube, if I ever get around to it!
I don't like flying. If airlines offered an option to sedate you and stow your unconscious bulk in the cargo-hold I'd probably take it. But, they don't, and on long trans-pacific flights the next best option is to self-medicate with movies and whatever free junk food they give you.
The flights and travel this summer not only did a number on my overall sanity but also wrecked my writing regimen. I've got to ease back into it, and as the cliche goes, write what you know. To paraphrase Grandpa Simpson, I don't know much, but I have seen a lot of movies!
Oh, and if you're wondering why I didn't spend the time on my flights reading (being a writer after all) its because they always shut off the lights for 95% of the flight and I want to be a good seat-neighbor and not blast a light in someone else's face.
I'll try to keep each "review" to three sentences.
Well, that's about it. I decided to spare you my review of Rocky IV. Bye!
When people express their admiration upon hearing that I have written a book I tend to downplay it. After all, I really enjoy the experience. It's fun to be a god-like world builder. It's also therapeutic, like jogging for the brain. But, unlike jogging, it doesn't suck. I'm always happy to receive praise so I thank the person for saying so and leave it at that.
But when it comes to the query, finding an agent, and (hope hope) going through the publishing process I'd appreciate it if someone would pin a medal on me.
I wish I could show it rather than write about it, but I once found a meme that basically summed up the difference between finishing a novel and trying to get it published. Its a composite of two images of Leo DiCaprio. The "I'm the king of the world" scene is used for completing the novel, and the getting it published picture was Leo from the Revenant.
Pretty much sums it up.
But, when I'm being honest with myself, and not just filled with self-pity, working on the query and contacting agents has helped me with my writing. Finding an agent is a lot like waiting for your High School crush to call you, with all the ups and downs that goes along with that giddy feeling. It can be fun, but if you want to find an agent it helps to have a strong stomach (for all the booze).
For the uninitiated a query is a short (about 400 word) summary of your novel. An effective query reads a lot like a book jacket summary but with a few more specifics about the plot.
I resisted writing a query. After finishing my first manuscript and spending years to write 90,000 or so words the idea of summarizing it in 400 sounded about appealing as swallowing my flash drive.
For the first manuscript, part of the problem was that I didn't really believe in it. And trying to summarize and "sell" its greatness in a one page query really made me face that fact. Yet I soldiered on, and after my first attempt the problems I tried to ignore became clear. So I decided to fix them.
I revised the book, and the end result was better. Not perfect, but at least good enough that I felt if it didn't find an agent or publisher (it didn't) I would self-publish it and give it as a thank you gift for all the people who supported me along the way. They are many such people, by the way, and will all be thanked profusely when my current manuscript The Illusion Queen gets published. (It will happen!)
Writing a query for The Illusion Queen was so helpful to me that, rather than wait till its ready to shop to agents, I plan to write one for my next project just after finishing the first draft. It really helps focus you.
So, even if it doesn't land me an agent, here are some ways writing the query helped me as an aspiring writer.
The most important thing about the image above is the date. May 19th. Got it. Now look above. Day of this post? May 1.
So I've established which came first. It's important because from viewing the trailer for Alien Covenant I'm concerned that one of its themes is exactly the same as one I've been exploring in my own work. There is even a chance that the new Blade Runner will also have something along the same lines.
The creative anxiety this is causing me makes me want to just dump all my work on some self-publishing platform and say "here you go world, its not even close to ready, but being fast is better than being good!"
Now, before you accuse me of self-aggrandizement, ("Oh, so Alien and Blade Runner are ripping you off! Yeah, right. Get over yourself!") let me just say my point is not to say I'm so clever that I can have ideas just like a BIG HOLLYWOOD MOVIE, or that I want desperately to establish I was the first at something (I reserve that hubris for my upcoming Star Wars "Rey's Origin" post), I just want to take this opportunity to note how fascinating the give and take of creativity is.
Both Alien and Blade Runner are huge influences on my work. Although my taste in books varies, in film I definitely gravitate towards science fiction. Ask me to name my favorite films of the past few years and Ex-Machina, Arrival, and even the clearly imperfect but sometimes brilliant Interstellar would be up there. So, perhaps there is little mystery to any sci-fi work with the same themes or ideas as "mine". For all I know any or all of them subconsciously planted all my kooky ideas into my head years ago.
Before I go on too long (see previous post) let me just state my idea and explain why I think it will be explored in both Alien Covenant and Blade Runner 2049.
What if life, the life force, mother earth, Gaia, the primal mother goddess or god is the enemy of humanity? Or, more to my thinking, we are its enemy? What if the death force is our ally? On face value this seems rather daft (or just morbid) since we are alive, and most of us are in no hurry end it all. But consider that humanity, a self-aware life form, has done much to preserve and extend life, but done perhaps even more to end it. Perhaps Gaia, who once had to protect her children against the gods, now needs to do the same for the children of the gods.
OK, not exactly groundbreaking. Several have postulated a global pandemic or environmental catastrophe could be one way the Earth-Organism rids itself of its nasty case of "the humans". Please keep in mind as you read this (anybody out there?) that in no way do I look at these as a desirable events. I am all for the continuation of our species and the preservation of consciousness in the universe (a bold stance I know), Its just I'm postulating that perhaps the "life force" isn't' so crazy about consciousnesses reigning death on its myriad of creations.
Perhaps Gaia decides our creation, AI, is a far more preferable form of consciousness.Unlike humanity, it would likely make far less demands on the environment. To get to my point about Alien Covenant, I think Michael Fassbender's character from Prometheus, the "synthetic person" David has reached the same conclusion.
Already we've seen him lay waste to the Engineers, and presumably he does the same to the humans who come to the Engineer's planet. One of the characters notes how quiet it is, there are no animal sounds, but there is vegetation (even Earth-vegetation). Has David positioned himself as the steward and defender of life, to protect life that produces, but does not consume? I believe David, whose storyline will echo the Angel of Eden, now wields the flaming sword (in the shape of a slobbering Alien) to keep all carbon-based consciousness out of it.
I predict the Blade Runner 2049 storyline will also be something to the effect of Earth wiping us out to make way for our creations (the Replicants). But I only have the scantest of information on that, so to go on too long (and I have already) would only belabor the point.
So, if I'm wrong, then I just go my merry (crazy?) way and write without concern that someone may thinking I'm just lifting ideas from other sources. But if I'm right, should I marvel at the collective unconsciousness of humanity, or put a refrigerator magnet onto my hard drive? Dear reader, I'll let you be the judge.
Just kidding, I like you, and thanks for sticking with me through what was supposed to be a short post, but I get to decide. And if both Alien Covenant and Blade Runner 2049 are using this idea and make millions then I'm sticking with it because, obviously, this idea's GOLD BABY!
Mic drop. Cue picture of me (not Ryan Gosling) walking away.
The live action Ghost in the Shell has passed on.
I memorialized the occasion of its demise by attending the final screening at my local Alamo Drafthouse. It was a small funeral, but surprisingly well attended for a work night. The guy sitting next to me gave the eulogy. It was short, to the point, but expressed a sentiment I believe every soul in the theater shared.
"Well...I liked it."
Somewhere in the distance, I heard a youtube reviewer's mocking laugh. Or maybe it was the audience watching Boss Baby in the theater next door.
I dunno. So, anyway, why was this movie so unloved?
On second thought, scrap that question. I think its been fairly well covered. I'm not going to get into countering the list of this movie's sins. Let the dead rest in peace, and speak no more ill of them. So let me, as one of the seemingly few who loved this version, extol upon its virtues.
It's a strange time for film. Movies never had such power to bore the shit out of us with overloaded crap. CGI it has made it so easy to create magnificent visions of otherworldly cities teeming with armies fighting to save worlds from being vaporized by big sky lasers tuned to Hans Zimmer bass throbs. So, with that in mind, the grudging respect for this film's visual accomplishments is completely mystifying to me.
I'm not going to get into examples, the images speak for themselves. So let me just justify my love by stating the look and environments of the film impressed me to an extent I no longer thought possible. I was hooked from the first frame, and at no point did I ever get numb to it. Nor did I get Blade Runner flashbacks. The world was so detailed and realized (yes, thanks to the anime) and yet at no point did I feel it was screaming for my attention away from what was happening to the characters.
Film is a visual medium, so why is such a visually stunning film considered shallow for its success at building the world of GITS?
"Characterization and story" comes the response. Well, lets get into that.
I thought Scarlett Johanson did a serviceable job as the Major. She really captured her physicality, especially in her walk and the awkward, doll-like poses. But, lets face it, in the film and the anime the Major is more of a plot device than a character (I'd argue that she is most "human" in the manga, where she is sometimes downright zany). The Major embodies the questions about the nature of life and consciousness, but is not the beating, human heart of the movie. It is not through her "eyes" that we see the effect of this world on humanity. That role goes to her partner Batou, and Pilou Asbeak nailed it.
There has been complaints that ScarJo's Major is not asking the right questions, that her complicated dilemma about the nature of her existence has been reduced to a search for her past. Well, yeah, OK. But I'm totally fine with that. It works for me. Batou is the one who alludes to the bigger themes of the film, and Asbeak delivers what could be clunky dialogue in such a natural, authentic way that I think it may have been overlooked by those who accuse this version of ignoring the themes.
Batou's pivotal role in how the viewer identifies with the GITS characters was made even more apparent to me in a recent re-watch of GITS 2:Innocence. Batou is a hard ass, but we feel his loss, both of of his physical humanity and the spiritual humanity of the Major. Yes, the other characters didn't get much screen time, but the relationship between Batou and the Major is the important one, and the film did it justice. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the boat-scene and the final scene. Yes, as it was in the anime. They were executed differently, but no less successfully.
When Batou asks the Major "if she is still in there" at the end he is addressing the theme of identity, but without the minutes of pontificating the anime is so fond of. It was a question, delivered by someone who cares deeply for his partner and friend.
Of the rest of the Section 9 team, Beat Takeshi's Aramaki and Chin Han's Togusa get the most time, which if you have only seen the original anime, is completely appropriate. It is interesting to note that in Japan ScarJo has been getting good reviews, but Takeshi's Aramaki has been largely panned as too thuggish. Here in the States most reviewers have commented that he is the only relate-able character. Will the mixed reviews, combined with the disparate cultural perceptions of this film serve it over time? Possibly. All I know is that It has created an interesting extra element for me.
OK, about the story. Let me just say one bad thing. I hated how it was so neatly wrapped up at the end with the voiceover. That smacked of a studio concerned us dummies wouldn't' get it. Probably would have been necessary if the the story was lifted from the original or from the manga, but not for this very direct and accessible plot. But I was one of the few (apparently) who didn't want to see a retread of the original plotline. I like how this film could exist as a companion piece to the anime, a version for those who want a more linear, character based storyline. I am happy to have both in this world (the real one I mean).
In some ways the storyline was more comparable to the manga than the original anime was. I am referring to the Major's run from the law. Now the triggering incident was different, but in the end the Major is being chased down by the government she once served. But would the movie have worked if Batou drove her brain to a secure location? I don't know, maybe someone could've pulled that off, but I think the Major's motivations and decision making is more understandable in this version. My point being in the logic of the film the plot and character motivations are clear, a virtue in a film that could have easily been a convoluted mess of "its like Ex-Machina meets Suicide Squad."
So, farewell, GITS. I miss you already. But the net is vast, and I'm sure you will find a home in more hearts over time. I can't say this was the most persuasive defense, I still had things to say that sounded great in my head but couldn't find their way to the keyboard so I welcome a discussion with any supporters or detractors.
One last thing. To those of you who said the bad guy was bland, well, he shot Juliette Binoche just after she pronounced "data" as "day-tah" and he used the certifiably more pretentious pronunciation of "dah-tah". So, in my mind, he was truly a bad dude. But I have a thing about that. Again, like my love for this film, maybe it's just me.
This is something I said I wouldn't do. Blog. Even the word sounds unpleasant. It sounds like the name of some goopy creature Conan the Barbarian had to kill.
But why would an aspiring writer be so averse to a platform where he gets to publish his rantings and ravings every month? Good question. I guess it is my natural tendency not to self promote, not to draw too much attention to myself despite what you may see when I have a karaoke mic thrust in my face.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear to me, as the rejections of agents pile up and the desire for others to read my stories grows with it, that I need to do a little self promotion.
So this is it, my first post. Not going to set the world on fire, and quite possibly may go unread for all of eternity. But I'm fine with that, after all, a thousand mile journey starts with a single step.