Monthly Archives: June 2011

TBC July Writing Challenge – Poor Hero

A few weeks back, I posted about a German band playing English Folk music in a Rock style, and I mentioned that my favorite song off the album was called Poor Hero. This got me to thinking about the concept of Poor Hero. Is this a hero you pity for some reason, or merely one who lacks the monetary stability that he would, perhaps, prefer? Or both? Or some other interpretation?

You tell me. It’s your story.

The July There By Candlelight writing challenge is to write a 500 word or less story that somehow incorporates whatever the phrase ‘poor hero’ means to you. My own entry will be below (yes, below. I’m posting them out of order so they show up correctly on the main page here).

In other news, we had no submissions for the June writing challenge, which is sad. I thought it was an interesting concept.

My novel Blood Fury is almost finished with the first draft. Then I will give it to some people for critical review, do a beautification pass, and it should be out hopefully by or before August. Cross fingers!

Jennifer and I are beginning to work on the Independent Writers Association. More details to follow, stay tuned.

And lastly, if you happen to live in the Greater Los Angeles area and find yourself near the Culver Hotel at any point, the Culver Jubilee at the bar is delicious.

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New York Hero Blues

July TBC Writing Challenge – Poor Hero

————

It’s not easy being a poor hero. I know, everyone has this image of the superhero as a rich guy living in a fancy mansion or at least a big loft. I live in the room I grew up in at my parent’s house. I don’t have a car since my last one was repo’d by the FTB, and even my police scanner sometimes goes on the fritz. Not that I use it much. Without a car, I have to take the subway into the city, which means by the time I hear about a crime on the scanner and then get into town, whatever it is has LONG been over and it’s just the CSI guys cleaning up by the time I show.

It’s the insurance that kills. Ever since the Costumed Paranormal Insurance bill passed a few years back, we licensed heroes have to take out liability insurance to cover any property damage inflicted in our fights with villains. And of course those guys NEVER have insurance, so it’s all up to us. Yeah, it means that if we manage to catch one, we have yet another charge that can be leveled against them, but putting away a guy like The Unstoppable Titan (aka Joey Pazzorelli) for insurance violations is hardly satisfying. And the premiums go up with every fight you get into. After my last battle with Nuclear Winter, my rates have gone up to over two grand a month. Thus my living conditions.

After insurance, I think the greatest expense I have is my costume. I was never what you call rich even before the insurance thing, just your average working-class hero. So I never got one of those fancy self-repairing suits. Mine’s just plain ordinary spandex, and that stuff rips and tears at the slightest provocation. My friends tell me I should adopt one of those ‘informal’ costumes some of the newer guys are wearing: jeans or cargo pants, tee-shirt with my logo ironed on, leather jacket, motorcycle helmet or balaclava. But I don’t know, that just doesn’t seem very heroic to me. I guess in some ways I’m a hopeless traditionalist. What can you do, right? Besides, I’ve got a heck of a package and I wanna show it off. I don’t stuff  ‘down there’ like some of the other guys.

So yeah, I have to do the ‘patrol’ thing. Be out there, on the rooftops, listening for cries of distress or sirens or whatnot. Taking the subway to a crime scene is just too slow. But then again, I thank god I have at least that. I was talking to a guy in Los Angeles in a heroes-only online chat room, and he told me horror stories about trying to get around on public transit in that town. No thanks, as bad as it is riding the train in my costume, I’ll take it over standing for 35-40 minutes at a bus stop any day.

It’s not easy being a poor hero. People say I should quit, get a ‘real job’. But I dunno. Being a hero, it’s in my blood, ya know?

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At Least It’s A Dry Heat

A second, under-the-wire response to Sonia’s June Writing Challenge about Creatures.

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Consider the desert. An entire world in a palette of browns and yellows. Sand and stone, dead dry chaparral. The dessicated corpse of a lizard as hard as the rock it rests, mummified, upon. The heatwaves off the ground creating the illusion of precious water where none exists. Consider the desert.

Now consider the man. Stumbling, feet dragging in the dust and the sand, he struggles across the desert. The sun beats down upon his brow and turns his fair skin red. Moisture he can not spare to lose forms blisters upon his arms, his shoulders, his face. Soon, they will pop and he will be that much closer to death. Even now, he feels that grim spectre looming over his shoulder, but he refuses to look back as shuffles across the waste. Is he even going the right way? He has no idea. Is there a right way? Does the question even have meaning in this place? Maybe the entire world has gone away and left only this desert, going on for eternity in all direction.

The man crests a small rise and stands, stupefied. Below him, in a shallow valley between this crest and the next, is a boneyard. Hundreds, thousands of bones, bleached white by the merciless sun, gleam like macabre toys discarded the day after Christmas. But the truly fantastical part of it is the sphinx.

Not the Sphinx, the big stone thing in Egypt. This is a living, breathing creature, and it’s man-like head turns to face the man-like man.

“Ah, a visitor,” the creature’s voice is the susurration of sand rolling down the lee-side of a dune. “Welcome Man. I’ve not had one of your kind here in so long. Let us play the Game.”

The man pried his chapped lips apart and licked at the blood that formed there. This whetted his throat enough so he could croak out a word. “Game?”

“Yes, the Game,” the sphinx bared it’s sharp teeth in a wicked grimace of amusement. “I ask you a Riddle. If you guess right, you get to live and I will grant you one wish. If you answer wrong, I eat you and your bones will lie beside those you see here. Are you ready?”

“No,” the man choked out, then “Water.”

“Sorry,” the sphinx shook it’s head. “No prizes until you win. Let us begin. We will use the standard ‘what am I’ format. I will recite some verse, and you have to guess what it refers to. Here we go.”

The sphinx took a breath and then in a louder voice began to speak. “A symbol of eternity, the union of the diverse into the single. Uncorruptible, I have no beginning or end.”

The man glanced down at the wedding ring on his finger, holding it up weakly so the sun glinted off the bright gold. He tried to speak, but his throat was closed again. He coughed several times, and again gasped for water.

Horrible sharp teeth gleamed wickedly as the creature pounced.

Later, as the man’s bones began the long slow process of bleaching for eternity, the sphinx sat back on it’s haunches. “Funny,” it mused to itself aloud, “No matter what I ask, they always guess ‘Water’.”

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The responsibility of critics

Do critics and reviewers have a responsibility to review the material objectively?

 

It is human nature to have an opinion about things, even before you know much about the thing. We call it prejudice, and leaving aside the negative connotations of racisim or sexism or what-have-you-ism, it is a practice that we all, to greater or lesser extents, perform. We judge books by their covers, we buy products based on packaging or word-of-mouth hearsay, we immediately run out to see movies starring our favorite actors or directed by our favorite directors. I am not faulting people for doing this. But I am asking, do critics (in particular, movie critics) have a responsibility on a professional level to either review the source material objectively or, if they find they are unable, to simply not review it at all?

By way of example, the Green Lantern movie opened this weekend here in the US. I haven’t bothered to look at the weekend takes to see how well it did, but judging by the number of theaters it was playing in at the cinema we went to and how crowded the 9 AM showing was, I assume it did at least alright business. This despite having gotten an abysmal 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, I didn’t read ALL of the reviews (there are 180 professional reviews as of the time of this writing), but I did read a few. In particular, I read Maryann Johanson’s review at http:\\www.flickfilosopher.com.

Continue, but be warned. Here there be spoilers. Yar.

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Marketing Fail

X-men radio advert sets Marvel up for potential lawsuits (if Time Warner is sufficiently bored this week).

 

If you live in a major metropolitan area in the United States and you listen to the radio at all, chances are good that you’re at least passingly familiar with those faux-“real” radio bits. You know, the ones where the DJ or on-air personality is supposed to plug a product, and while they are supposed to ‘customize’ the bit a little by saying their own name and possibly relating a minor anecdote, by and large they are simply reading from a pre-prepared script. That kind.

There is one of these radio ads in the Los Angeles region for X-Men: First Class. I heard it first on KYSR where the DJ’s customization included claiming to be a comic-book fan, and then about 15 minutes later I heard it on KROQ where the DJ claimed to have been to three movies so far this week and having seen the trailer for X-Men before each film. After this bit of customization, both DJs them proceeded to the identical part of the script, including the epic fail part which both of them read verbatim.

The script goes on to talk about how the DJ has heard lots of reviews, some of which have been comparing X-Men: First Class to The Dark Knight… and here’s the fail part, “… which is the biggest Marvel movie to date.”

I think that DC Comics and their parent company Time Warner (through Warner Bros) would be VERY surprised to find that one of their two biggest IPs, Batman, is now a Marvel title.

Obviously the script was supposed to claim that the Dark Knight was one of the biggest superhero movies to date. And when I heard the guy on Star (KYSR) say it, I just assumed he slipped up (even though 10 seconds prior he claimed to be a ‘huge’ comic book fan), but when the guy on KROQ said the EXACT same thing, I realized the failure was on the part of the marketing company who wrote the ad in the first place.

Lawsuits have been known to happen over things like this. I just really, REALLY hope that the marketing genius who wrote that bit worked for 20th Century Fox (the distributor) or perhaps an outside marketing company. I would really hate to think that an actual Marvel employee made that mistake. That’s the sort of REALLY easily fact-checked mistake you would expect in-house people to be able to avoid. At least if it was a third party, you could assume they don’t care about comics at all and thus just assume all comics come from the same company.

 

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High Bridge Blues

In answer to Sonia G Medeiros‘ June flash writing challenge: Creature Feature.

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I can always tell how a first date is going to go with a broad when I tell her I work for the New York Department of Parks and Recreation. If her face falls and she suddenly starts looking for excuses to call the evening early, I know she’s just one of the rabble out there that thinks all we do is walk around Central Park in jumpsuits picking up trash. What most people don’t know is that DPR is also in charge of several of the bridges around the city. That’s my job. I’m in charge of High Bridge.

As all you mooks know, High Bridge has been closed since the 70s, ever since it became a troll bridge.

Now, High Bridge is hardly the only troll bridge in New York, obviously. They’re so common, people in a hurry tend to slur the word and thus you end up with ‘toll bridge’ but we all know what’s really going on. The problem is that the particular family of trolls that live under HB are from the Olde Country, and they refuse to give up their ways.

See, while most trolls have adapted to the changes in the times and are willing to take money in exchange for safe passage, these clowns still demand a goat. Who carries goats with them wherever they go anymore? No one, right? So that’s the problem. Back in the 70s, some guy thought he could get away with crossing the bridge with just cash, and he got eaten. Actually, it’s probably happened more than just that one time, but that one made the headlines because the trolls tossed the skull away when they were done stripping the flesh and sucking out the brains, and the skull hit a passing boat. Some passengers freaked out and files complaints with the city, yadda yadda. Next thing you know, bam. The bridge is closed.

Which is fine with me, honestly. As the High Bridge Maintenance Overseer, this meant my job for the last 30-some years has mostly consisted of making sure the ‘Bridge out, no trespassing’ signs are still in place. Yeah sure, the City is talking about renovating the bridge, chasing out the trolls and reopening the bridge in a few years, but I’m retiring in September so what do I care?

What are they going to do with the trolls? Well, I imagine they’ll put them on the reservation like usual. Oh, you didn’t know we had a troll reservation in the city? Yeah, what do you think all them ‘disused tunnels’ are all about?

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The Sword of Light

For the TBC June Challenge

We first saw the Stranger as he walked up the dirt road past the Morrel farm. He wore simple brown robes and a hood to keep the sun off his head as he trudged along. There had been a terrible storm the night before, and although the day promised to be warm with late spring sun, the ground was still wet and the mud sucked at his leather boots.

Visitors are rare in our small town, and so farmers stopped in their fields, wives stopped in their cooking, children stopped in their chores to watch the slow, almost leisurely approach of the Stranger. As he neared the town center, several of the men including the village hetman, Jogen, strode out to meet him. Some carried long-tined hay forks or adzes, but the Stranger merely smiled at these precautions.

The Stranger came to a halt several man-lengths away from the village men and pulled back his hood. He was a handsome youth with lightly tanned skin and sandy hair. Nodding politely to the greeting party, he spoke loud enough for all listening to hear. “I am not here to cause you trouble. I am looking for the Sword of Light.”

Old wives, watching from behind fences, nodded sagely. Why else would a Stranger come to our remote village?

The story of the Sword of Light is an old one around these parts. In my father’s father’s generation, another Stranger had come to town, injured in some battle and sick with infection. He carried the Sword and claimed to be a Knight from a distant land. At the time, our village was troubled by bandits who lived in the hills where now we graze our sheep, and upon hearing of this the Knight, despite the fever that wracked his body, took up his Sword and made his way to the camp of the bandits. When my father’s father and some of the other village men worked up the nerve to follow some several days later, they found the Knight surrounded by the bodies of the bandits. The Knight, miraculously, still lived long enough to give his Sword to the village hetman at the time, and swear him to keep it safe until one would come along to claim it, one who could prove himself worthy of the blade. The Sword has lain in hiding, the location only known to the current and former hetmen, until the Stranger came to claim it.

“We know of what you seek,” called our current hetman, “but you must prove yourself worthy of the Sword. We’ll not give it to any random stranger for the asking.”

The Stranger nodded and spoke. “I seek only to honor the Knight who bore it here. As for proof of my worth…” Reaching into his robe, he pulled forth his own Sword of Light and the pale blue glow that surrounded it wrung a gasp from those assembled.

“Very well,” the hetman nodded. “The Sword is yours Sir Knight. If I may, we never learned the name of the Knight who fell here, but might we know yours?”

“Of course,” smiled the Stranger. “My name is Luke Skywalker.”

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