Thursday, January 12, 2006

Getting the Itch Again (Somebody Stop Me)

I woke up this morning with the desire to write another short story.

"So what," you say, "Sounds great. Go for it." No, you don’t understand. This is an incredibly bad idea. Why? I suck at writing short stories. Worse, to paraphrase Marlin from Finding Nemo, I think I can do these things, but I just can't.

I imagine myself a fairly competent novelist. Certainly, I've written my share of them. I seem to understand the process of writing a novel at least well enough to get to THE END. Starting a short story seems to be the best I can do. I usually stall out a page or two into the thing.

I suspect the reason I don't finish most of the short stories I've started is because of the way I write. I've written to outlines for my novels, but more often than not I feel my way into the story. I dilly-dally for several pages before I really know what the novel is about -- both in terms of plotting, but, perhaps more importantly, in terms of theme, as well.

This is the stuff I have to know when I start a short story. If I don't know what the theme or the plot (especially the ending) is going to be before I start, there's no way I can wrap the thing up in 5,000 words or less.

5,000 words is nothing to a novelist. That's not usually even my first chapter. I'm just getting revved up in those first thousand words, not even thinking denouement, for god's sake.

Plus, for me, writing a short story ends up being a weird kind of time commitment. It takes me months to write a short story, plus then I figure in critique and revision... and suddenly, four or five months have gone by and I haven't written a damn word on my novel due to the publisher in August, you know?

So, like I said. Stop me. For crap's sake, someone stop me.

Monday, January 09, 2006

What Makes a Hero?

I finally saw the last "Star Wars" movie Revenge of the Sith and I didn't hate it as much as I expected to.

This, I should point out, is a major admission from me. I once carried on a year long argument over e-mail with a guy I met at a friend's wedding about how betrayed I felt by Phantom Menace and the subsequent (and, in many ways worse) Attack of the Clones.

Yes, I know I'm a geek and I need a life. Listen, I write SF/F, this *is* my life.

But, I have to give He-Whose-Name-Should-Not-Be-Uttered-(Lucas) a tiny modicum of respect for what I felt he was trying to do in Revenge. For once in a Lucas film, what I liked was the political intrigue.

I wish, in fact, there had been a bit more of it. What was missing for me was a better sense of how corrupt the Jedi had become. When Mace Windu insists that they must kill Emperor Palapatine he says something about how the justice system is completely in Palapatine’s pocket. All we have at that point Windu’s word on that. So, there’s really no conflict when Skywalker-soon-to-be-Vader is horrified.

However, that’s a great moment. It suddenly makes the Jedi into the street wise cops who end up bent because they want justice so badly they’re willing to be unjust to get it.

If only that could have been set-up a bit more... there was even a perfect moment to insert it. One of the first scenes we’re given is the rescue of Palapatine where, when Obi-Wan is knocked out, Palapatine orders Skywalker to kill his captor. I’d have liked a sense of Skywalker’s outrage that that point. I would have liked to see him stand up to the Senator and say, "No, we take him to justice." And then have a small scene where the justice system completely fails Skywalker.

Because then, when the moment comes up, we would know. And, more than that, Skywalker would know. Yet, he could STILL be horrified to hear a Jedi say this.

Especially after having been asked to spy on his friend.

Which is another set of scenes I would have liked expanded. I wanted Skywalker to be a lot less naïve. I thought, in fact, it would have been interesting to see him become a true spy. Playing Jedi off Emperor and visa versa, and in the process discovering the wickedness of both sides and becoming more and more disgusted with the whole political game.

I could relate to that. It would make Skywalker much more sympathetic, in my opinion. And his transformation fairly believable.

On a similar note, I totally dug the way the Jedi treated Skywalker (sorry, I can’t call him Annikin, it’s such a stupid name). I loved the scenes were he’s left behind and left out. That really underscored how much they never trusted him... which again, I’d have played up by having Skywalker really turn spy against them (while also working for them).

The only major problem I had with all of this is that the guy who says he doesn’t want to kill Emperor Palapatine turns around and kills Windu (for wanting to kill Palapatine.) This is not a very consistent philosophy. He then, ten minutes later, goes off and slaughters children in the service of Palapatine, which, in my opinion, makes absolutely no sense given his character up to this point. (Which is why Lucas had to include the stupid subplot about Padme and necromancy -- another Knights Templar reference for those of you who are counting).

As a good counter, I offer you Bruce Wayne of Batman Returns.

I was really enamored of the whole issue of compassion in Batman Returns.

(Skip this line if you haven't seen the movie). There's a major scene when the young Bruce Wayne is learning the ninja arts from his mentor Qui-Gon Jinn, er, whoever Liam Neeson is character is... and the mentor says to Bruce, "Your enemies will show no compassion," and Bruce replies, "That's why it is so important to have."

I have always maintained that a hero need to distinguish himself precisely in this way. The first Batman film shocked me when Batman killed the Joker. As a long time reader of comicbooks (though I'm mostly a Marvel girl, myself), I was very used to the idea that heros are not the killers. Villians (especially long time nemesises, like the Joker) come back and back and back because that's the line which is never crossed by a good guy... that's what makes our heros, well, heros.

Villians are supposed to live, stand trial, go to Arkham Asylum... just like Skywalker says they should.