Saturday, June 17, 2017

Franco Stays Loyal, No Spanish Civil War?

A long time ago I found a timeline on the alternate-history discussion forum in which General Francisco Franco, who led the fascist-allied Nationalists who overthrew the left-leaning but democratically-elected Spanish Republic in the 1930s, remains loyal to the Spanish Republic. Apparently he dithered about whether to join the planned coup attempt, much to the other conspirators' annoyance, and at one point warned the government the military was disloyal, but ended up joining the uprising.

Here's the timeline, which was written by a Spanish board-member and has all sorts of details an outsider wouldn't know. Here are some highlights:

*Sometimes pushing to get your way gets you the exact opposite response, something Emilio Mola really should have thought about when trying to get Franco to join up.

*Spanish society was heavily divided in the lead-up to the Spanish Civil War. Even though the coup that kicked off our history's war is pre-empted and squashed, there's a lot of political violence from both sides. 1934 saw a left-wing uprising in Spain that Franco defeated with extreme brutality; in this timeline the Spanish hard right makes a go of it in 1936 after the coup is squashed.

*Anarchism (the left-wing socialist sort) becomes a parliamentary party in the Spanish Republic. Although an anarchist political party seems like a bit of an oxymoron, it's not that difficult to push for certain political goals within a governmental framework. Anarchism was very strong in Spain, in particular Catalonia.

*Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini during the early days of the war apparently planned to opportunistically seize the Balearic Islands, but found his Nationalist allies had seized them first. This time around the enmity between the Spanish Republic and the Italian fascist regime remains.

*Exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky comes to live in Spain, much to Stalin's rage.

The timeline is long and very detailed, but it's very interesting. Check it out!

Blast from the Past Movie Review: Dirty Dancing (1987)

Although Dirty Dancing is not the usual type of movie I watch, the good folks at Myopia: Defend Your Childhood chose it for their weekly examination of whether beloved childhood movies hold up. I figured I'd give it a spin, and I was not disappointed. Here's the link to the podcast. And now for my review.

The Plot

In the early 1960s, before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, young Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey), the daughter of wealthy doctor Jake (Jerry Orbach), is vacationing with her family at a resort in the Catskill Mountains. Although Neil (Lonny Price) the grandson of resort owner Max Kellerman (Jack Weston) seeks her attentions, she instead falls for the working-class dance teacher Jack Castle (Patrick Swayze). Complications ensue. Will young love triumph? We'll just have to see...

The Good

*Jennifer Grey does a really good job playing "Baby." Her facial expressions, in particular her eyes, are extremely expressive and she uses them quite well. For example, when the sheltered doctor's daughter stumbles onto the raunchy dance party the resort staff are holding, her expression speaks volumes. She's seriously Adorkable and does a great job in the part.

*The other actors do a good job. Patrick Swayze's Castle is cool, Orbach is appropriately paternal (and, as a doctor, outraged at the "butcher" who presides over a botched abortion), and Weston conveys Kellerman's snobbery (but surprising kindness toward his longtime band leader). Cynthia Rhodes, who plays Johnny's dance partner Penny, does a lot with a part that could have had more depth. Price and Max Cantor, who plays slimy waiter Robbie Gould, do a good job playing the sort of upper-class lowlifes who give fraternities a bad name. Seriously, I referred to both of them as "young Donald Trump" for their attitudes toward women and the resort staff.

*And on the matter of women and the resort staff, the movie deals with some very important social issues without being annoying and preachy. The upper-class waiters (who are doing this as a summer job while at schools like Yale and Harvard) are clearly disdainful of the working-class dance instructors and other resort staff, something the elder Kellerman encourages by telling the waiters they're there to "show the daughters a good time" but threatening to fire any staffer who get involved with a guest. Baby's older sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) clearly fits in with the shallow world of 1960s wealthy people who have few aspirations beyond socializing and marrying well, but it's clear Baby doesn't want that and doesn't really fit in. The class issue ties in with a plot involving an illegal abortion in which Gould tells Baby that some people count and some people don't, complete with showing her a copy of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead for good measure.

And although the abortion plot is something that could potentially derail the film into an issues movie (and aggravate viewers on either side of the issue), it's handled compassionately and respectfully. We see exactly why the character in question goes through with it, how badly it could have gone in the days when abortion was illegal (both the danger of death and, should the woman survive, sterility), and we see Dr. Houseman's outrage toward both the back-alley abortionist (whom he calls a "butcher") and the young man he initially thinks is responsible. The whole situation is just sad.

*The soundtrack's good. It mixes both music from the 1960s when the movie takes place with songs from the 1980s when the movie was made. One of the songs, "She's Like The Wind," was even sung by Swayze himself, who's a good singer.

The Bad

*The movie drags a little bit in parts. I spent a good bit of time on my phone. To be fair, that's because this is not the sort of movie I ordinarily enjoy watching. Someone else--and considering how beloved this film is, that'd probably be most people--wouldn't have that problem.

*The movie has an actual Training Montage when Baby learns to dance. I remarked that this was like seeing a cliche come to life, but the movie is also nearly 30 years old. Back then training montages might not have been so cliched, although Nick tells me that training montages occur in some of the earliest movies.

*Perhaps I wasn't paying close enough attention, but as I said earlier, the characters Robbie Gould and Neil Kellerman are so similar in look and action that I actually thought they were both the same character. Neil claims that he's planning on joining the Freedom Riders (and the TVTropes page for the film claims that actually shows he has hidden depths), but it came off to me that he was taken aback that Baby in interested in studying economics and joining the Peace Corps rather than studying English (aka an "MRS Degree," given the time and her social class) and was scrambling for some way to impress her. Both of them came off to me as "young Donald Trump," with Neil as snotty and pushy toward "the help" and Robbie as a vile cad.

*Where are Baby's parents? Castle is teaching Baby how to dance and the film implies this takes most of the summer, with the climax taking place at the end of the season. Certain events in the film early on strongly prejudice Dr. Houseman against Castle and I imagine he wouldn't want Baby involved with him AT ALL or, if he did allow her to take lessons, he'd keep a close eye on them. There's a deleted scene suggesting Mrs. Houseman knows a lot more about what's going on, but a deleted scene doesn't help much.

*It would have been nice if Baby's actual name is revealed earlier. It's not even in the credits!

*How much older is Castle than Baby? If the resort staff are all in their 20s and 30s and "the daughters" are all teens, Mr. Kellerman would have reasons beyond class snobbery to want to limit guest-staff romances to the wait staff, who are all college students and are consequently more appropriate age-wise. Patrick Swayze was in his 30s when the movie was made, for example, while Frances' character would have still been in high school if not just graduated and college-bound.

*It's my understanding that going to the Catskills for extended summer vacations was a primarily Jewish thing (hence the "Borscht Belt"), but religion or culture is never touched on. This article in Tablet Magazine suggests Dirty Dancing is "the most Jewish film ever," but if you're not already familiar with the cultural milieu, you wouldn't get it. Some indication that the characters are Jewish would have been nice, plus if Castle is a Christian (or at least simply isn't Jewish), that's another reason for Dad to be bothered.

The Verdict

It's not my type of movie, but it's very well-done. 8.5 out of 10.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Review: The Mind's Eye (2014)

A couple years ago, I promised to purchase and review Chris Nuttall's then-new novel The Mind's Eye, but life got in the way and that promise fell by the wayside. I don't abandon promises lightly, so at long last here's the promised review. Caveat: I agreed to the review as part of a swap for a review of one of my own works, but this will be an honest review...

The Plot

Marine Lieutenant Art Russell is on a mission in Afghanistan to capture or kill a major terrorist leader when he develops a severe headache and loses consciousness. When he wakes up, he discovers he has developed telepathy--the ability to read minds. He uses these abilities to foil a terrorist attack and is soon transferred to the CIA and promoted to captain, where he's tasked with preventing another, bigger attack in New York City.

However, more and more people are developing telepathic abilities and this is causing major problems for society. Many people are fearful of telepaths and want to control or kill them, and although most telepaths mean nobody any harm, some are willing to misuse their abilities. The stage is set for a violent showdown...

The Good

*The book starts in the middle of the action with a group of U.S. Marines on a mission in Afghanistan. No excessive info-dumping, no boring buildup. It doesn't start with a bang 100% only because the shooting hasn't started yet, but that doesn't really matter.

*The book is a quick and entertaining read. It's never boring and it's not too long. I finished it in two sessions on the elliptical.

*Each chapter begins with a news article providing the broader context for events in the narrative or describing something happening elsewhere in the world. Those could be a good source of spinoffs or areas to be explored in future sequels.

The Bad

*The book suffers from two many characters in too many places. It would have been better to follow Russell and a couple other characters throughout the early days of the new Telepathic Age rather than have so many diffuse POVs.

*A character starts out as a smarter-than-thou nerd and soon after developing telepathy and escaping from an anti-telepath terrorist attack starts blatantly espousing master-race theories, including ideas of superior bloodlines. This comes out of nowhere, although it's revealed later that he was under the influence of another character. That other character isn't named and mentioned until much later. It would have been better if there'd been more scenes from the perspective of the POV character for that subplot, watching him fall more and more under the influence of this bad influence and/or processing his trauma by reading lots of books with...dangerous the home of the professor they're staying with. By the final quarter of the book, he turns in a full-blown Evil Nerd with a whole lot of internal hatred of women, something that wasn't really foreshadowed either.

*Pursuant to my above comments, it would have been better if the early plot featuring Russell's investigation of a planned Islamist terror attack in the United States is the main plot of the book. The climax could be a battle with the jihadi commander known only as the Emir...and it's revealed that he too is a telepath. That could be the shocking sequel hook...Russell is not a freak and there are more telepaths out there. The discovery of more and more telepaths, the popular reaction to the presence of telepaths (attempts to kill them, attempts to exploit them, etc) could be the plot of the second book, with Evil Nerd guy going rogue at the end. The third book could deal with the rogue-telepath plot. This way, Evil Nerd's fall from grace is spread out over a more realistic time-frame and we see it happen rather than him going from a know-it-all to a racist to a perverted murderous monster in what seems to be only a few months.

*The ending seems rather difficult in light of both the U.S. Constitution and the contributions the good telepaths made in the fight against both radical Islamist terrorists and evil telepaths. At the very least, the resulting court cases should play a role in any sequel.

*A character who has sex with a woman but doesn't know what role his telepathy played in her consent thinks the only way he'll know if it was consensual or if he was a "filthy rapist" will be when he dies, but never before expressed any belief in God, an afterlife, a Judgement Day, etc. It kind of came out of nowhere.

The Verdict

It's okay. There are good concepts that could have been developed further. 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Christian Themes in the Movie "Hellraiser"

In a couple previous posts I've made on the movie Hellraiser, I've discussed the character of Frank Cotton and the theme of godly versus worldly sorrow (see 2 Corinthinians 7:10). Seeking Biblical truth in a horror film centered on sadomasochism may seem quite strange--and many will see it as just as excuse to justify watching a movie with gross and immoral content--but there's actually a good bit of thought in there.

Below are some Christian themes I've noticed in the film:

Godly vs. Worldly Sorrow

2 Corinthians 7:10 states the following:  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. The article above goes into more detail, but I'll summarize a bit for the TL; DR crowd or for those who might not be interesting in visiting a Christian website. "Godly sorrow" is sorrow for the immorality of one's actions--the disrespect shown to God and harm done to others. "Worldly sorrow" is regret for the personal costs of sin only.

And in Hellraiser (and the novella it's based on, "The Hellbound Heart") "worldly sorrow" is epitomized by Frank Cotton. Frank is an unrepentant hedonistic pleasure-seeker who in the book describes having smuggled heroin and in both the book and film seduced his own brother's fiancee. The book elaborates by describing how the only reason he doesn't "snatch her from under her would-be husband's nose" is that he would soon tire of her and have his vengeful brother after him. He grows bored with "dope and drink" and endless fornication and seeks out the Lament Configuration, which promises wonders and pleasures beyond human comprehension.

Well, the ones bringing said wonders and pleasures have some very different ideas of what constitutes fun. Frank is abducted by the Cenobites and subject to gross physical and sexual abuse, which he escapes purely by accident. He regrets his involvement with the Cenobites--this early draft of the "Hellraiser" script shows how deeply the Cenobites have traumatized him--but not the immoral lifestyle he has led. This same early draft of the script depicts him attempting to rape his own niece when he sees her for the first time in years, and in both the book and the film he treats Julia as a means to an end, disposing of her when she is no longer convenient. In "The Hellbound Heart," he seems interested in applying some of what he learned about pleasure and pain in Hell to Julia if only she would set him free, which implies he intends to go straight back to sleeping around if not worse once he's fully reconstituted.

And in the end, Frank's worldly sorrow leads to death. In his desperation to rebuild his mutilated body, he and Julia murder several people so he can feed on them. When Kirsty threatens to expose him, he murders his own brother, and when he and Julia attempt to kill Kirsty, he accidentally stabs her and then feeds off her remaining life-force rather than trying to help her. He attempts to kill Kirsty (his niece in the film, a friend of his brother in the book) and is ultimately reclaimed by the Cenobites, dismembered alive and returned to Hell. In Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, he ends up getting killed by the damned Julia, who uses the exact same words he told her before he tried to consume her.

Conscience and Universal Knowledge of Morality

The first two chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans are something I have always had problems believing. Romans 1:18-32, which states outright universal knowledge of the nature of God and universal human rejection of what they know to be true, is what Carl Sagan would call an extraordinary claim needing extraordinary proof. Furthermore, many conservative Christians, especially Calvinists, have taken it so far as to claim that everybody knows the Christian religion specifically is true and simply rejects it out of desire to sin. Seriously, we're talking about people who call ISIS "God-haters," never mind that they're fanatics of a different religion rather than irreligious. Romans 2:12-16 describes how the laws of God are written on the hearts of Gentiles and in particular suggests the human conscience is divinely ordained. The conscience in my opinion is more malleable than that.

Frank's life before he's taken by the Cenobites is not discussed much in the film at all (beyond the whole "seducing/semi-raping his brother's fiancee" part), but the book describes his imagination as "fertile" when it comes to "trickery and theft" and among other things he smuggles heroin. He apparently owes a lot of people money, which he probably spent on "dope and drink" and prostitutes. However, and this is the important part, he knows what he's doing is wrong. The prologue refers to him growing bored and dosing himself with whatever opiate "his immoralities had earned him." This is from his point of view, not the narrator's, so even if he had "suppressed the truth in unrighteousness" (i.e. convinced himself superficially his behavior was not immoral despite knowing better), on some subconscious level he knows that his lifestyle is evil.

In Which Frank Quotes the Bible

In the film, when Frank is speared repeatedly by the Cenobites, his last words are, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35). That's the shortest verse in the Bible, in which Jesus mourns for His dead friend Lazarus, whom he later resurrects. I'm not sure what Frank is referring to in that context--according to some Googling, the line was ad-libbed by the actor and Barker decided to keep it.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Awhile back I saw Friday the 13th VII in order to prepare for a live podcast with some friends. Sufficient to say I didn't enjoy the movie that much, but one thing that stuck out to me was how they did nothing with a potentially intriguing implication villainous psychiatrist Dr. Crews knew more about Jason Voorhees than he was letting on. This reminded me a heck of a lot of Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 in which heroine Kirsty Cotton warns the director of the mental institution about the horrors of the Cenobites...who it turns out the director has been researching for some time.

So here's how I would have written Friday the 13th VII if I had to follow the same basic plot. Beware spoilers...

Act One

*No opening recap of the earlier films in the series. The camera starts on the lake floor and pans up around Jason's body before we meeting young Tina and her dysfunctional family. The death of Mr. Shepherd plays out like it does in the canonical film.

*Flash forward ten years later. Tina, her mother, and Dr. Crews arrive at the cabin and the events of the film proceed roughly the same. However, we start getting hints that Dr. Crews knows more about Crystal Lake's bloody history than is quite healthy. In the canonical film his binder of news articles about Jason Voorhees is discovered relatively late, but here we'll see him reading it and hurriedly putting it away when Tina or her mother catch him. He'll still continue his emotionally-abusive "training" to force Tina to manifest her powers, which will be important later.

*The teens having the party next door are still there, but there are a lot fewer of them and they're more developed. I'd keep Nick as the male lead and Tina's love interest, the rich snob Melissa, the nerdy writer guy, the Robin-Maddy-David triangle, and leave the rest out. This means the two black characters aren't there, but the fact the Teen Slasher Meat don't have any black friends at their party could be used to imply they're racist. They're not supposed to be sympathetic, right?

*Tina still frees Jason from the bottom of the lake like in the canonical film.

Act Two

*As Tina and Nick grow closer, Jason begins stalking the partying teens, killing the guest of honor and his girlfriend en route like in the actual film. Dr. Crews still hides the evidence Jason is present (I think it was a blade of some kind left embedded in the door), which combined with his earlier reading about the Crystal Lake murders from the previous films makes his actions a lot creepier.

*Jason's rampage continues, picking off another late-coming couple (if there absolutely must be a skinny-dipping scene, perhaps it can be here) before moving on the main house. Tina is aware of this due to her visions, which Dr. Crews uses as "proof" to her mother Tina needs either further "treatment" from him or she'll need to be returned to the mental hospital.

*Tina overhears this and runs away like in the film. Dr. Crews and Tina's mother pursue as Jason heads off through the woods toward the party house.

Act Three

*When Dr. Crews and Tina's mother find Tina's wrecked car, she finally has enough and browbeats Dr. Crews to explain his behavior or they're done. From what I know about mental-health law, Dr. Crews can't have Tina committed against her will on his word alone, so I imagine a lot of his threats are just bluff. He finally reveals that he wanted to use Tina to free Jason, which has already been done, and now he needs her to kill Jason. This will not only destroy Jason permanently (he'll know he's been "killed" before and thinks something supernatural is needed to get rid of him in the long term), but he thinks will finally giver her control over her powers. He points out that it took psychological stress to get them to manifest before--this is the ultimate make-or-break.

Well, Tina's mother isn't having this and tries to ditch Dr. Crews. Dr. Crews in turn uses Tina's mother as a human shield like in the canonical film, leading to her death at Jason's hands.

*The fleeing Dr. Crews runs into Tina and tells her that Jason Voorhees has killed her mother and only she can avenge her death. Tina sees through his bullshit immediately and her powers manifest, crippling him. She then realizes that Jason is making his way to the party house and abandons Dr. Crews. Jason arrives, Dr. Crews tries to bargain with him (claiming that he deserves credit for freeing him from the bottom of the lake), and Jason kills him anyway. Karmic Death?

*Jason beats Tina to the house, cuts the power like in the movie, and kills off most of the remaining teens. Tina then confronts him and apparently kills him with the power lines and the rain puddle like in the canonical film. I would emphasize how surprised and frightened Jason is--per TVTropes, this is an Oh Crap moment from him. With Jason apparently neutralized, Tina makes her way back to the house where Nick and Melissa are. I liked how Melissa lived longer than the others, so that stays.

*Jason arrives, kills Melissa, and the prolonged battle between Jason and Tina takes place. In the process the house is blown up. Jason is apparently killed again, only to attack Nick and Tina again.

*However, instead of Tina's dead father somehow coming to life again to save the day, Tina uses her powers to impale Jason on something big and heavy and toss him back into his watery (living) grave. Goodbye until Jason Takes Manhattan.

*There's an epilogue in which Nick and Tina ride off into the sunset. As they leave, the camera pans back to the lake for an ominous ending...

Monday, May 15, 2017

An Early Draft of HELLRAISER: Script Review and Commentary

The other day I found this early draft of the script for Clive Barker's horror film Hellraiser. I read it and liked what I found, so here's some commentary...

The Good

*The opening is much better than in the canonical film. It's very scary and vivid, while at the same time leaving a whole lot up to the imagination. It also avoids the canonical film's problem of having Frank getting the hook-chain treatment as soon as he solves the box but Kirsty able to wander about and actually talk to the Cenobites. We don't see just what exactly happens, although once we meet Frank and he tells Julia what happened, we know that it was him who solved the box and is the particular victim you can hear screaming over the others. The opening script also keeps the Cenobites mysterious--you don't really see them at first, unlike in the canonical film where you see the Female Cenobite and Pinhead full-on.

*The Cotton family drama, like the canonical film, is shown rather than told. Neither Larry nor Julia say their marriage is unhappy, nor do Kirsty or Julia say they dislike each other.

*Frank's tale of his suffering at the hands of the Cenobites is much more interesting than in the canonical film. He's showing Julia the box and reflected in its shiny surfaces we can see what Frank experienced in Hell. The thing that comes to mind is the Nightmare Fuel flashback to the destruction of Sandleford Warren in the animated Watership Down film, and some kind of animation might have been the only way to really get some of the trippier aspects of it done. Accomplishing this with the limited special-effects budget Barker had might not have been possible...hence Frank's "pain and pleasure, indivisible" spiel with the images of him spinning around covered in blood.

*Speaking of Frank, he's more developed as a character. His evil is amplified in the attempted rape of Kirsty (his own niece!), but at the same time he's so clearly traumatized by what the Cenobites did to him that he's actually sympathetic. Also, that Julia is nothing more than a means to an end to him is made clearer much earlier in the film, foreshadowing how in the climax when she's accidentally mortally wounded Frank feeds on her rather than making any attempt to help her.

*Steve, Kirsty's British boyfriend, is much more useful than in the movie. In the script he visits her in the hospital and is, unknown to him, taken hostage by the Cenobites who Kirsty can see but he cannot. When they sneak her out of the hospital however it was they did it (I think they used the portal Kirsty opened to transition her out of the hospital), he finds her gone and takes the puzzle box for himself. He then makes his way to Larry and Julia's house and, however ineffectively, helps her battle Frank.

*I liked Kirsty's "what took you so long" take-down of the Cenobites. She's been at their mercy for a time, but now that she's fulfilled her end of the bargain, she can (to an extent) give them the what-for. And the Cenobites actually explain their rationale.

*There's no Puzzle Guardian character, whom I thought didn't really add to the story and whose sudden transformation into a dragon at the end of the film ate up money that could have been better spent elsewhere.

The Bad

*Some of Larry's discussion with the workmen goes on for a little too long. He doesn't really need to explain everything about his family situation to them. The workmen are also blatantly rude to him. Maybe British movers are a rougher crowd than I'm used to, but mouthing off to the guy who signs your checks is not a good idea no matter where you live.

The Verdict

Had Barker went with this, Hellraiser would have been an even better film than it already was. 9.0 out 10.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Preserving the "Nicor" Cover for Posterity...

This past weekend I signed a contract to have my short Viking horror story "Nicor" included in anthology. Part of the contract was that it be exclusive to them for two years. That meant removing the Kindle edition from Amazon. Since the story is available for free online it wasn't really a great seller, so this was not something I had a problem with. I don't anticipate putting it back up.

That said, I would like to preserve the "Nicor" cover, created by Alex Claw, for posterity. So here you go...

By the way, if you want to get this story and a bunch of others, you can chip in on the Kickstarter. Not only can you get cool prizes, but you will also make sure the collection will be well-advertised and that there will be plenty of resources available for the third anthology.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Future of the Afrikanerverse

One upon a time, a young man (I'm assuming) on the Web's premiere alternate-history discussion forum whose handle was Reddie posted a challenge--write a scenario in which there's a cold war between the United States and "the apartheid juggernaut." Instead of S.M. Stirling's Draka, the Africa-centered white-supremacist regime would be of Afrikaner stock and instead of a Nietzsche-wannabe master-race ideology, their ideology would be Afrikaner Calvinism.

Well, I took that challenge. Instead of the Domination of the Draka facing off against the Alliance for Democracy, I created a world in which the traditionalist-reactionary Afrikaner Confederation and a motley crew of allies like the Sikh Empire in India, Tibet, and Thailand faced off against a League of Democracies encompassing the rest of the world. I wrote multiple versions of the timeline as I went along (here is the current version) and even sold some short fiction set in that world. My first story, "Coil Gun," I sold to Digital Fiction Publishing in 2011 for $0.05 a word, my first "pro" sale. The story appeared in their anthology Pressure Suite and in fact inspired the cover art. DFP eventually bought the reprint rights for another story set in that world, "Picking Up Plans in Palma." That one appeared in their collection Cosmic Hooey as well as the stand-alone.

(Both stories also feature in my independently-published short story collection Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire.)

I've been working on a lot of projects since then, including a military science fiction novella set in Lindsay Buroker's Fallen Empire universe, but my brain is an idea generating machine. I've pondered many possible ideas for stories to tell in this world in the future. Here are some of them:

*The "Armageddon Trilogy." The novelette (it's not long enough to be a novella) "Palma" is at its heart a family saga. Journalist Katje de Lange emigrates to the United States with the reluctant blessing of her father David, against the strong opposition of her Theonomic zealot brother Thomas, as a result of the Confederation growing more authoritarian and more hostile toward women having careers. In America, where she's actually rather conservative despite being a flaming liberal by Afrikaner standards, she ends up romantically involved with Irish Catholic intelligence analyst Connor Kelly. Kelly ends up being sent into the Confederation in a harebrained scheme to retrieve some vital data, which is the main plot of "Palma." The proposed trilogy of novels picks up a few years later as World War III looms and follows the extended Kelly-de Lange family through it.

(This is a long-shot project considering how the acceptance for publication of my teen horror novel The Thing in the Woods means my next finished novel will likely be its sequel and how, owing to Ms. Buroker's huge fan-base, writing Kindle Worlds stories for her will likely make me lots of short-term cash. However, it never hurts to have many irons in the fire.)

When combined with some other ideas for stories featuring various de Lange ancestors as the Confederation is built and Kelly's own forebears in different versions of the American Revolution, the Mexican War, and the Civil War, this could be something like James Michener's generations-long stories. Think Michener's Covenant (South Africa) or Poland (guess) or James Clavell's Tai-Pan and Noble House, which both center around wealthy European-descended trading families in the Far East. Considering how the Draka series is a family saga of the von Shrakenbergs (and a spinoff branch fathered by one raping an enslaved Frenchwoman, who gives birth to twins after escaping to America), that's appropriate.

*Screenplays for "Coil Gun" and "Palma." I've actually written 85 pages or so for a "Coil Gun" spec script. This isn't the 1980s anymore, so villainous South Africans aren't in, plus it offends the zeitgeist in other ways like depicting a nuclear war as survivable with sufficient anti-missile weapons and good civil defense. I'd pondered pitching it as an animated film to reduce production costs. "Palma" might be easier to handle, as it's basically a run-and-gun you could film in Florida or somewhere else similarly warm to mimic East Africa.

*Another short story entitled "Killing The Rijnsburg." I promise I came up with the title before Bill O'Reilly started writing his historical books. I started writing this long ago, but abandoned it after failing to find a first-rights buyer for "Palma." The Rijnsburg is the Afrikaners' major orbital battle-station and taking it out is a major part of the WWIII battles in space. This battle is mentioned in "Coil Gun" and the plans for it are the McGuffin in "Palma," so it's thematically appropriate the third story be about the battle-station's destruction. Maybe when Digital Science Fiction starts accepting new stories again...

*There are various other individual story ideas I haven't really developed. One follows the neglected son of "Palma" antagonist Eugene Visser (seriously, Visser never even mentions him in the story, although be fair he has no real reason to) as he tries to do his dead old man proud by committing terrorist attacks against American occupation fores after the Confederation falls. Another features a dug-in Afrikaner regiment dying to a man to the tune of "In Christ Alone" to allow some women and children to escape an oncoming army.

Per that last point, although the Afrikaner Confederation is objectively an authoritarian, semi-theocratic (especially later) racist evil empire, there is much to admire about their culture. Things like faith, duty, honor, and bravery, all of which are held in far less esteem these days. My Afrikaners are less blatantly gross than the Draka, so it's easier to write them as protagonists. Given how the Afrikaners' evil especially offends the zeitgeist (they're racists and religious bigots), I could imagine that would grind a few folks' gears, even if I make characters like David de Lange (and not his zealous son or the sadistic Visser) the protagonists.

Friday, April 21, 2017

My New Military SF Novella Is Here!

This past Wednesday evening, my first original Kindle project in years (if you don't count the audio version of my horror story "I am the Wendigo," since that was a different edition of an older work) went live. Behold my science fiction novella Ten Davids, Two Goliaths, set in Lindsay Buroker's FALLEN EMPIRE universe.

Here's my Amazon blurb, which I wrote myself...

The Tri-Sun Alliance has been nibbling at the edges of the Sarellian Empire, attacking isolated patrols, supply convoys, and even civilian supporters of the regime. But now Alliance intelligence has learned of something worth gambling their limited combat power--a pair of Imperial escort cruisers on a training mission near an isolated world.

Helping command the attack is Lt. Geun Choi, a former Imperial fighter pilot disgraced by an act of mercy. Serving under him is Tamara Watson, another ex-Imperial with demons of her own. But whatever their pasts, the two must improvise or die when it turns out the intelligence that sent them on the mission wasn't complete and the carefully-planned ambush develops complications.

Taking place before pilot Alisa Marchenko met her future engineer Mica Coppervein and well before the Empire fell, this tale set in Lindsay Buroker's FALLEN EMPIRE universe explores the early days of the Great Rebellion. Fans of STAR WARS, FIREFLY, WING COMMANDER, and the tales of Honor Harrington will enjoy this adventure.

If you're into military sci-fi or space opera, or just want to see Billy Mitchell's theories on air-power vs. ships tested out IIIN SPAAACE, then you might like this. It's around 10,000 words long, so it won't take very long for you to read and enjoy. There's one small problem in that Kindle Worlds is for some reason limited to American (USA) readers only, but there is a way around that. Visit this link here for more.

This story (and some consulting work I did for Ms. Buroker) would not have happened if I weren't a regular listener to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. So if you're looking for some advice on how to sell and market your work, check it out.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Fan-Fic Idea That Made Me Tear Up...

I have very little interest in watching the show Life After People because it's my understanding that the early episode(s) devote a great deal of time to the grim fate of pets left trapped in houses after all humans mysteriously disappear. Like, "Let's look at a hungry dog trying to tear through plastic into a loaf of bread" or "let's watch this cat try to open a door" level of detail. Seriously people, it's supposed to be educational, not a freaking tear-jerker.

However, I came across the LAP Wiki and found this article about U.S. Marine Corps German Shepherds. Basically they'd leave Camp Pendleton and form a dog pack called "The Last Marines" and survive for years, out-competing the local coyotes.

I'm a member (and technically an admin of) the S.M. Stirling Appreciation Society Facebook group, which is dedicated to the works of S.M. Stirling. Stirling himself is a regular participant, offering his fans behind-the-scenes details of his works. His most successful series is known as the Emberverse and begins with the novel Dies the Fire. Basically one day in 1998 all technology fails--no electricity, no internal combustion, no firearms. Within a year, 90% of the human race is dead. Most of California ends up a Death Zone where nobody lives except bands of cannibal savages.

This inspired me to write up the following proposal for a fan-fic, since many members of the group write semi-canonical fan-fic in this world. I don't have time to write it myself and I don't have the technical knowledge, but if anybody wants it they can have it.

Me: The story follows a pack of military K-9s (with or without their human handler) who survive the collapse of civilization and live in the wild. Heck, tell the story from their POV (xeno-fiction) and call it "The Last Marines." Heck, if you want a heartwarming ending, I'm imagining years later a descendant of one of those dogs raised in military K-9 ways by previous generations of dogs encountering surviving (human) descendants of US Marines from elsewhere (say a training detachment in an isolated area hooks up with/protects a group of survivors) and recognizes them as kin.

Another person, who is familiar with German Shepherd dogs, wrote the following:

This is cool. I have had GSDs for a few years. They would probably go looking for humans - they like the companionship. It would be interesting if a few were intact - then they could breed with coyotes. My GSD has a prey drive - he has, and would, eat a prey he can hunt. So far, rabbit was the largest one he caught and ate. But if they team up - the sky is the limit.

My response:

If they're naturally inclined to look for humans, perhaps "The Last Marines" wander California during the die-off, helping, say, catch runaway livestock or wild animals for a starving group of refugees under a bridge, ambushing and massacring a group of Eaters about to attack a "clean" survivor band, etc.

They could become the subject of legend among the survivors, as a sort of group of canine knights-errant. Perhaps that's how they come into contact, years later, with a group of human Marines (or their children raised in that culture)--the human Marines recognize obvious Marine stuff (do K-9s have "dog vests" or a particular habit or quirk they're trained into?) and seek them out.

For a heartwarming moment, set the contact with the human Marines in a years-later epilogue in which the oldest dog in the pack, the last of the original K-9s, lives just long enough to encounter the human Marines before going off to a long-deserved rest.

I'm not crying, you're crying.

Yes, that story brought tears to my eyes. I don't want to own a pet because I recognize the awesome (in the awe-inspiring sense, not the "AWESOME!" Ninja Turtles sense) responsibility it involves, but I do rather like dogs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


A little bit ago I blogged about the Walking Dead season finale. We've got a few months to keep ourselves occupied until Season Eight begins, so I'll get us started with what to do next if I were in charge of either Rick's alliance or Negan and the Saviors. The Walking Dead comic covers what happens in the "All-Out War" story arc, but the show has already deviated from the comic and furthermore, the comic doesn't have the Scavengers and Oceanside is rather different.

So here goes...


The Good Guys have just inflicted a defeat on Negan and his allies, the treacherous Scavengers, but as far as they know, the enemy leadership is intact. Furthermore, the Saviors have massive numbers and thanks to Morgan, the Kingdom has lost its most capable military leader.

First things first, bite off the low-hanging fruit. They know where the Scavengers are, they know the Scavengers aren't very numerous (120 tops and they took losses in the attempt on Alexandria), and the Scavengers are significantly weaker than the Saviors. March on the junkyard, leaving a screening force between the Sanctuary and any known Savior outposts to interfere with any relief or attacks on Alexandria, Hilltop, etc. while the army is gone, and wipe the Scavengers out completely. Put the head of Jadis (the leader of the group) on a spike and claim the junkyard's resources for the war. Punishing the Scavengers for their backstabbing also shows Negan cannot protect his subordinates and allies, a lesson the leaders of other communities under the Saviors' thumb would do well to learn.

(Speaking of subordinates and allies, now Alexandria has more guns from the Saviors killed in the battle in the finale, they should send a delegation to Oceanside to give them a few, with their old arsenal to be replaced in its entirety once Negan falls. Rick and friends took EVERY SINGLE ONE of Oceanside's guns, which was very Neganian of them and, in the immortal words of Negan himself, "not cool." Returning too many wouldn't be a good idea, since they'll probably need every gun possible for the coming war, but maybe two or three. Another "repayment on the gun loan" can be made once the Scavengers are dealt with. Not only would this be the right thing to do, but by showing Oceanside the Saviors can be defeated, it might be possible to recruit some of them.)

Destroying the Saviors' outposts in detail, hitting each one with overwhelming numbers before they can gather up into an overpoweringly large force, is a good idea, but Rick and friends don't know where all of them are. The Kingdom might know where the one they were paying tribute is, so that's a start.

One strategy to counter the Saviors' numbers would be to use the dead as a weapon like the Wolves did. Find ways to lure swarms of the undead onto Savior outposts or the Sanctuary itself. Rick and friends are probably too moral to use the dead to destroy surviving centers of civilization, but the outposts aren't large population centers like the Sanctuary and the zombies don't have to overrun them completely, just keep the Saviors busy and reduce their manpower. Considering how Rick and friends have stolen explosives from the Sanctuary's explosive anti-zombie defense, this wouldn't be that hard to implement. Even if the Sanctuary can repel a zombie swarm a few guys with bullhorns can funnel through the gap in their defenses, it'll definitely interfere with Negan's mobilization.

A high-risk high-reward strategy would be to do to Negan what Caesar did to Vercingetorix at Alesia and lay siege to the Sanctuary while laying an outer line of defense to keep reinforcements from the outposts away. A murderous donut, if you will. A strategy this aggressive would put Negan on the back foot and allow for re-establishment of contact with the traitorous Dwight or the weak Eugene, who'll probably flip back to the good guys if it can be done safely. Dwight mentioned joining forces with the workers at the Sanctuary, so it might be possible there are more allies to be found.

(One problem with trying to get help from Eugene is the fact that they tried to blow him up in the season finale and Negan knows this.)

However, Alesia was a pretty near-run thing (it took Caesar himself leading the last of the Roman reserves to prevent a breakthrough at one point) and Negan has shown himself able to think two steps ahead of Rick and friends. This is on full display when he used his superior numbers to progressively block the routes to Hilltop in "Last Day on Earth" before trapping Rick and his crew outright and again in the season finale when he had the Scavengers turn traitor at the worst possible time. A strategy that aggressive might be too risky.

Negan and the Saviors.

Negan knows that Hilltop, Alexandria, and the Kingdom are in open rebellion against him. He also has the Scavengers as allies.

If I were in Negan's position, I would start by keeping a very close eye on Eugene. Negan is clearly suspicious of him, based on the conversation they have at the end of the episode. He might need Eugene's technical skills and so isn't going to throw him into the oven or take Lucille to him yet, but he's clearly not trustworthy. I would have someone who is definitely loyal, like Simon, keep an eye on him.

(Negan would be insane to trust Dwight, given how he raped Dwight's wife Sherry and, as far as he knows, she ran away and got eaten by zombies. If I were Negan I wouldn't know Dwight was a traitor but I'd be a bit more careful with him on principle.)

I would also emphasize to Eugene that Rick tried to blow him up when the latter tried to negotiate Alexandria's surrender and save lives. Eugene is weak and cowardly, so using this as a lever to set him against his friends is doable.

Secondly, I would provide military support to the Scavengers. You don't win wars by letting your allies hang and the Scavengers are vulnerable, given the losses they took in the failed attack on Alexandria and the fact Rick and friends know where they are. It might also be the perfect chance to ambush a significant part of the allies' army, if they go for the Scavengers first and don't guard their flanks.

As far as the first target for an offensive, I'd go for Hilltop. The Hilltop community doesn't seem to be particularly large (unlike the Kingdom) and it's not the primary base of operations for the rebellion's leader Rick (unlike Alexandria), so it'd be a relatively easy first target. Furthermore, Negan knows that Maggie is still alive and that Rick had gone to great lengths to conceal her from him (the whole fake grave thing). If the Hilltop in general and Maggie in particular were under threat, that might be a way to draw out the rebels for the type of battle that favors Negan's superior numbers.

(Plus if Maggie were taken alive, she could be useful as a hostage or bait given how important she obviously is to Rick and friends. A postcard or radio broadcast of Negan's typical gross sexual comments about Maggie and Rick might do something stupid. Negan doesn't even have to abandon his policy against--forcible--rape to do this. In the comics, he made comments about some of his goons "running train" on Carl only to return him to Rick unharmed, so it's in-character.)

Alternatively, going for Alexandria again in order to cut the head off the snake (kill Rick) and this time make sure of it, is a viable strategy. The longer the war goes on, the more likely other communities under Negan's thumb or the workers in the Sanctuary might get restless, so this would be a chance to end the rebellion early. With Rick dead, Hilltop might surrender (Gregory can be restored to power for status quo ante--just blame Maggie and her entourage for the whole situation) and the Kingdom can be negotiated back into line. Throw on the blame on Rick, claim he and his troublemakers deceived Ezekiel to let the King save face, and try to get status quo ante there too.

As far as broader policy is concerned, I would lighten up on "half your shit." It's my understanding that Negan regularly taking half of Hilltop's supplies was driving them toward extinction and pushed them to ally with Rick in the first place. A tax rate that extreme is killing the goose that laid the golden egg. The communities under Negan's thumb could have lived with a much lower tax rate, or a tax payable in something less precious than supplies. A group of workers from a community for a day or two corvĂ©e labor restoring old roads, clearing out zombies from strategic sites, etc. instead of the supplies they need to survive would be much more in Negan's interest than taxing communities to the point it's rebellion or death. It could also provide evidence for Negan's claim that he's "bringing civilization back to this world" as opposed to just extorting everybody.

Finally, I would take pains to deter treachery by vassal communities. One article said it made no sense for Negan to leave existing leaders in place, or at least not have garrisons in towns under his rule. Negan can spare a few soldiers to keep whatever other equivalents of Gregory he has out there in line while maintaining a solid defense of the Sanctuary and a mobile force to deal with Hilltop-Kingdom-Alexandria.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Movie Review: Friday the 13th VII: New Blood (1988)

The podcast We Hate Movies is going to do a live show this Thursday in Atlanta covering the film Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and I'm planning to attend with some of the Myopia crew. Since I have not seen this one (I've only seen most of Friday the 13th Part IV,, Jason Takes Manhattan,, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, and Freddy vs. Jason), I figured it's time to hit up Amazon Instant Video.

Here goes...

The Plot

As my friend Daniel (or maybe it was Nick, but I think it was Daniel) put it when telling me they were going to the live show, this is the one where Jason meets Carrie. Serial killer Jason Voorhees has been chained at the bottom of Crystal Lake and the camp is back to normal, until he's accidentally unleashed by telekinetic teen Tina Shepard (Lar Park Lincoln). Can she use her powers to send him back to whence he came before he wipes out love interest Nick (Kevin Spirtas) and his friends next door and before her odious psychiatrist Dr. Crews (Terry Kiser) has her forcibly sent back to the mental institution? We'll see...

The Good

*I will give this one props for originality. Instead of just "Jason butchers sex-crazed camp counselors vol. 10," they have him face off against a more powerful opponent, a teen girl with psychic powers. And with the original Carrie coming out in 1976 and both the delayed sequel and the remake coming out much later, it's clear the 1988 movie was not a blatant cash-grab on a more successful film.

*Many slasher films from the 1980s were criticized for the prolonged, often sexualized killings of female characters, while the male characters were killed quickly. Jason's opening killing reverses that--the woman is ambushed and killed immediately, while her boyfriend is chased down, impaled on a thrown knife, and then lifted off the ground by the knife embedded in his back. This movie was made at the end of the decade, so possibly the people behind it had been listening to the criticism.

*The details of Jason's costume are quite well-done. Jason has been killed, buried, decayed, resurrected by lightning, and trapped at the bottom of a lake for a prolonged period. You can see his skeleton through his rotten flesh in various places at at one point, his teeth through a hole in his cheek where the mask doesn't cover it. The makeup department was certainly detail-oriented. TVTropes states that the specific wounds from the earlier films were taken into account.

*One of the scenes where Jason stalks a victim manages some suspense.

*For a rotting undead corpse with a machete, Jason displays some strategic sense, including at one point cutting off power to the house before commencing his attack.

The Bad

*The opening consists of a montage of clips from previous Friday the 13th films to introduce just where Jason is now. I understand the need to introduce the film to a new audience, but it was a bit info-dumpy. Maybe just depict Tommy Jarvis sinking Jason into the lake and be done with it? A "cold open" consisting solely of that would be at least tolerable.

Let's be realistic. Who starts with the seventh film in a series? Realistically whoever is seeing this one has seen the previous ones, or at least knows who Jason Voorhees is.

*Another alternative would be to scrap the entire "meet Jason" beginning and start with the image of Jason chaind at the bottom of the lake while the camera pans up to the scene introducing young Tina. That way the threat of Jason is introduced, but the focus is on the new character Tina and her psychic powers.

*It's hard to tell most of the supporting cast (a group of young people staying at a cabin near Tina's) apart and rather than develop them, they just keep adding new characters. They're just a bunch of what I call "teen slasher meat." Although they have a fig leaf for why the group keeps getting larger (they're all gathering for a friend's surprise party), the guy's friend group could be smaller and more time spent on building them up. It risks turning into Twenty Minutes With The Jerks considering how many of them treat Tina, but if it was also trimmed down a bit as well, it wouldn't eat up too much screentime.

*Does NOBODY ever hear Jason coming? He's a big burly guy walking through the woods with lots of twigs and the like to crunch on, but he's always able to sneak up on people. Most of the movie's kills consist of him taking people by surprise and killing them immediately without any real creativity. And he can just show up wherever he's needed for a fight scene, even though there's no way for him to get there.

*Tina seems to have New Powers at the Plot Demands--when it's convenient for the story she has clairvoyance, but the primary focus is telekinesis.

*Apparently there's a much bloodier cut than the one available on Amazon. It looks like it was edited to minimize the blood, and in some cases the cuts are very abrupt. Jason's killing one character cuts away in the middle of the death, just when the blood shows up but before we can see a lot of it.

*There's a missed opportunity for comedy involving a couple stoned characters and a flashlight.

*There's another missed opportunity with Dr. Crews. He's clearly manipulating Tina and her mother for his own ends and based on some articles he has stashed away he knows about Jason, but it's never fully developed. He could have been like Dr. Channard from Hellbound: Hellraiser II who has a hidden agenda related to the supernatural foe, but this never goes anywhere.

*I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the absolute end, but it doesn't make sense on multiple levels.

The Verdict

They tried to shake up the formula by having Jason face off against a teen psychic, but it wasn't very good. It's not scary, it's not funny (Freddy vs. Jason worked just as well as a comedy), it's just lame. Formulaic and it was like they weren't even trying. At least it's not very long.

5.0 out of 10.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Guest Post: An Alternative, Happier Take on PASSENGERS

I'm Facebook friends with Van Allen Plexico, who I met through James R. Tuck at DragonCon awhile back. He's friends with Jayme Lynn Blaschke, who wrote the following post about the science-fiction semi rom-com Passengers on Facebook and graciously allowed me to borrow it.

So take it away Mr. Blaschke. Beware spoilers if you haven't seen it...

Okay, PASSENGERS. The Wife and I saw it last week. You all know about the controversy surrounding the Chris Pratt character's actions. I'm not going to talk about that. I'm going to talk about something that has been overlooked amidst the hubbub: This movie just isn't very good. At it's heart, it's a rom-com, with all the requisite story beats that go with the type (once Jennifer Lawrence arrives on the scene, that is). 

Trouble is, there's no comedy. There are a few jokes, sure, but the story type depends on humor to carry the narrative. That's missing. Instead, the script compensates by replacing the comedy elements with Serious Bleak Interpersonal Trauma, which doesn't work with the established structure. It *could* have worked, had the film been intended as a "ship in a bottle" type story about mortality, gender issues, consent and free will... but it isn't. Those issues are pulled in to the story for cheap emotional resonance, with no intention of examining them in any depth. Instead, all that is chucked out the nearest airlock for an absurd, action-packed 'splodey finale. Lawrence's character is instantly back in love with Pratt, her bitter hatred and feelings of betrayal completely forgotten. They live happily ever after.

There are four separate movies fighting for supremacy here, and none of them triumph. It's a mess. Jon Spaihts is the screenwriter, and it's hard to judge his ability as few of his scripts have made it to production, despite buzz as to how great he is and almost the entirety of his output coming in the SF genre. Still, I get the impression that this is a guy who learned everything he knows about science fiction by watching Armageddon, Event Horizon, and the like. Bester, Clarke, Dickson and Simak are absent from his reading list, I suspect.

Case in point: HUGE SPOILER WARNING! The denouement comes when Pratt (who should've been vaporized 20 minutes earlier, and killed a dozen times over afterward, except rom-com, remember?) figures out that the "Autodoc" robotic healing chamber aboard the ship can induce a suspended animation-like state in subjects. But there's only one Autodoc on board the ship with more than 5,000 passengers and crew. So Pratt can put Lawrence under, so she can complete her trip, undoing the grave injustice he inflicted upon her earlier. He would die alone, however. Being the Love Of Her Life, she refuses, and they (presumably) grow old and die together during the 88 years of the voyage remaining. Isn't that romantic?

Which is fucking stupid, pardon my French. They didn't have to die. According to all the information given to the viewer, there was nothing to prevent the two from *alternating* their use of the Autodoc. Leapfrog, as it were. Assuming Chris Pratt's character is 30-ish (he's 37 in real life) and Jennifer Lawrence's character is 26 (her real age) or slightly older, and that human life expectancy is somewhat longer in this high-tech future (reaching 100 is reasonably common, I'd expect), then they potentially have decades left they could live on the colony world. Follow: Pratt puts Lawrence under for six months. She wakes up, they spend a month together making mushy sweet love, then *she* puts *him* under for six months. Repeat. 

By the time they arrived at Homestead II, they'd be in their 70s, roughly. Barring any injury or illness the Autodoc couldn't fix, they should be healthy and fit, and due TREMENDOUS compensation from the parent company for saving the gazillion-dollar colony ship and all the liability it going BOOM! would've created. And Lawrence should be independently wealthy in her own right, transmitting breathless, harrowing non-fiction accounts back to Earth to be consumed by rapt audiences (presumably, she still has an agent to handle that--The film's complete amnesia regarding her entire career at the end was another big annoyance for me). Point is, they'd have 30, maybe 40 good years ahead of them, and they'd set foot on the colony world as the richest, most influential people there. They'd arrive as celebrities. Pratt could build Lawrence a MILLION houses and be romantic as hell. Instead, the screenwriter had that final vision of the little wooden house under the tree, and didn't think beyond that.

Human beings want to survive. Want to live. The course this film took was defeatist and doomed. This film could've been so much better. It wasn't. The end.

I admit I hadn't seen the movie due to concerns from friends of more feminist inclinations about how creep-tastic the "I'm lonely to the point of suicide so I'm going to wake this hottie up to keep me company" part was. However, having read more about the movie, it's my understanding they do acknowledge how bad and selfish Chris Pratt's call was, even though he does have some very extenuating circumstances.

About the references to money, it apparently is possible to communicate with Earth--it just takes 13 years to get anything back. So with some creativity, the financial arrangements might be doable.