Friday, January 31, 2020

PODCAST LAUNCH HAS STEEP TRAJECTORY


One of the parts of my blogging job I like best is reviewing movies and television shows. In fact, if I hadn’t grown up to be an author (to the extent you can say I am), I would have worked hard to find a job as a film reviewer. As dream jobs go, that one is at the top of my list. 

In this age of the “gig economy,” I figured I wouldn’t wait to find an opportunity for someone to pay me to do what I wanted to do; I would just make an opportunity to do it myself. After all, I’m already not getting paid to write SFR. I might as well not get paid to review movies, too.

Of course, my interest in movies and television goes well beyond science fiction and SFR. I’m at the multiplex at least once a week watching all kinds of films, and my TV habits are pretty wide-ranging, too. So I’ve had to take this idea beyond Spacefreighters to another platform—this time to the brave new world of podcasting.

A podcast, for anyone who has somehow missed it, is an audio program produced on a website, with episodes that can be listened to at any time, anywhere—on your computer, on your phone or on your tablet. My podcast is called My Moviehouse My Rules and can be found here.
 
The podcast logo for My Moviehouse My Rules

The tagline for My Moviehouse My Rules is New Screen Reviews with Old School Attitude. I get tired of reading film or TV reviews that show an ignorance of film history. So many reviewers write as if they haven’t seen a movie made before 1970 or a television show before 1990. If a film is a remake, they never mention the original. If a technique or a plot device is used, they never understand who used it before, or first. It’s not that I want every review to be a lecture, but a little background is useful, especially for people who love movies, or TV, like I do.

Then there’s the problem of everyday folks who don’t have time to go to the movies at all. They have a tough choice when it comes to spending their hard-earned cash—either on date-night or for on-demand on their TVs. They don’t need a lot of blah-blah about avant-garde cinematography or directorial POV or modern angst. They just need a few simple words about character, pacing and plot. Is it worth watching or not? I have a feature on the podcast called the Lightning Round that distills the essence of my review down to a few quick minutes to help you make viewing choices for your weekend.

I have to say learning to get my point across in a podcast has not been easy. Podcasting has a steep learning curve. Who knew it took so many words to fill up ten minutes? (On the blog or in my novels I’m always cutting words!) I struggle to get the tone right. And I’ve had to become a sound engineer to make sure the audio sounds professional using the computer software it requires. Then there was the website to set up. So bear with me if there are glitches—I’m still learning!

But if you want to be a radio star, let me know. I’d love to have you on the podcast to talk movies or television with me. I haven’t figured out the mechanics of recording interviews yet, but that’s just another technical hurdle to jump. It’s my dream job, after all. Can’t let the little things stop me!

Check out my take on the Oscar nominations, my first Lightning Round, and reviews of some of the Oscar-nominated films in my first episodes on My Moviehouse My Rules, and LIKE My Moviehouse My Rules on Facebook.

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

ARCs and Reviews

An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy of a book. They are usually given out to readers before the book is available for sale in order to generate reviews and early buzz. Sometimes authors give out copies after the book is published in order to generate reviews.

Why are reviews important to readers?

 

In addition to reviews helping readers find books they'll enjoy and warn them off of books they may not, reviews can also give more information that may not have been in the product description including tropes, characters, world-building, and writing style to aid in their purchasing decision.

Why are reviews important to authors?

 

Reviews generate buzz and excitement for the new release. This is important, especially in the first week a book's release when higher sales can translate into hitting a list like the NY Times or USA Today.

Reviews also help an author's discoverability. There are millions of books to choose from, making it difficult for an author, especially newer authors, to find an audience. Many authors resort to free and $0.99 books or box sets to entice new readers into giving them a try, which I believe contributes to the devaluation of all books (but that's a blog post for another day). But, the more reviews a book has, the higher the probability that the retail site will suggest the book to other readers, leading to more sales. I'm sure you've seen this before on your retail sites: people who bought "ABC" also bought "XYZ". This helps the book and author get discovered by new readers.

Why is an author's discoverability important to readers?

 

Let me start off by asking you this: how many times have you started reading a series only to have the author discontinue it in the middle? It's frustrating, right? Many times an author stops writing a series because sales are low and they need to move on to another project or sometimes *shudder* they have to stop writing all together to take a job that pays the bills. Writing a short review may help that author's sales, which may help that author keep writing the books you like to read.

So why doesn't the author just buy ad space to get the word out about their books?

 

Did you know many promotional book sites and email lists won't allow an author to buy promo space unless they have a certain number of positive reviews for their book? This is very frustrating for authors, especially new authors who don't yet have an ARC team - a dedicated group of readers who will review their books.
Reviews are also important because they can help a writer better learn who their target audience is, can help them create stories their audience will enjoy, and can help them see where to improve their writing. I will admit to using the criticisms from the first edition of Captive to improve the story for the second edition.

Why am I telling you all this?

 

For two reasons:
1) Your favorite authors need your support. Reviews don't have to be long. They aren't book reports. They can be a few sentences explaining why you liked or didn't like the story, as if you were telling your friends.

2) To be blunt and selfish yet honest, I need reviews for Captive. If you've read the book, please consider leaving an honest review at your favorite book review site (like Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, BookBub, or Apple Books).

Thank you and happy reading!

~ K.M. Fawcett

Monday, January 27, 2020

A Message of Hope Sometimes Falls on Deaf Ears

I stumbled on a tweet and it got me back into commentary mode after our joint SFR Brigade blog about Rise of Skywalker: The Brigade Speaks Out last week.

Yeah, I realized I'm not done speaking my mind yet.

Besides that, I had an opportunity to see the movie again, and I absorbed so much more the second time, and I genuinely enjoyed it. It seemed a very fitting end to the saga. But considering the push-back this film has received, I'd like to explain why it worked so well for me.

Rise of Skywalker has had some serious negative feedback online, but let's be fair. Star Wars (later titled A New Hope) opened with NO expectations in 1977, a different time and era. But the film was so far beyond anything that had come before, so visually sweeping and huge onscreen, that it ignited the flame of fandom that would burn for four decades.

These were some of the initial scenes from the first of the franchise (borrowed from Twitter) that will be with me forever. How about you?

Those images! That score! You could sense that this was the beginning of a great journey, a great story, that would span history. The young seeker always looking to the future, forever longing to be a part of something bigger, something better, than the simple life he knew.

Yeah. Be careful what you wish for, Luke Skywalker. :)

Someone recently commented that Star Wars would never have become what it was without that amazing score by John Williams. I agree it was (and still is) an essential component of the whole that made Star Wars such a monstrous blockbuster when it first hit the threaters. NO ONE expected it to do what it did. Not even George Lucas--who later admitted he thought the film would bring in about $16 million like all the Disney-esqe "kids" films.

But Star Wars wasn't just for the kids. It was for everyone, and the box office numbers and subsequent merchandising reflected its mass appeal in some HUGE numbers.

The original Star Wars was then followed by two sequels that are probably the most famous and successful sequels in cinema history. But after that, the expectations for future Star Wars fare were so high, that the prequels were doomed to fail the fandom's expectations in a big way. And, for the most part, they did. Nothing could live up to the initial stunned amazement that the original Star Wars trilogy inspired.

Fast forward forty-two plus years to the last episode, Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, which opened with the MASSIVE weight of expectation of the fandom as the wrap of the trilogy of trilogies. With all the controversy--and let's face it, outright hatred--from some of the fanbase for the first two films of the final trilogy, it was swarmed by negativity before it even unveiled its first scene.

The film was set up to fail, being forced to satisfy a standard so high that there was no way it was going to live up to those lofty expectations. No way it was going to please everyone or appease a rabid fandom who wanted it to be the do-all and end-all of all stories. Popularity-wise, in the words of C3PO, it was doomed. It now has the distinct infamy of holding the worst Rotten Tomato score ever. It felt flat on its cinematic face.

But did it really?

The last trilogy was the story of Rey and Ben, their conflict and their struggles with both the light and the dark side. The former characters of Star Wars -- Luke, Leia and Han -- all played major roles in their internal battle to rise, but they weren't the key to their ultimate outcome, only the catalysts.

And the outcome of Rey and Ben--their triumph or failure--was tied to the fate of the universe.

I think this video does a great job of capturing the evolution of their relationship through the final trilogy. (There will be spoilers--be warned).



The Rise of Skywalker again did what all the Star Wars films had done, and left us with a message of hope. Yet a legion of fans seemed to want something more, something better, something different. I have to admit I haven't read their many arguments against the closing story. Maybe I just don't care anymore. I went into it thinking "Please don't be another Game of Thrones" and I came out of it with a bit of a wistful smile. So it my mind, it succeeded, and it was an epic piece of entertainment. It lived up to it's original theme--rebellions are built on hope, and the strong bonds between the underdogs can overcome a powerful tyranny.

I dunno. With all the depressing and downright ugly films coming out of Hollywood in the last three years, to me it was a breath of fresh air. A story that left me feeling that not only had the tale been completed, it had a satisfying ending.

Maybe in this day and age a message of hope simply falls on deaf ears. We live in an age when we can no longer buy into hope or happy endings. Everything must be doom and gloom and darkness and struggle with no reward. I'm glad this franchise stuck to the message that it had carried for so long.

I know a lot of fans probably wanted to see Ben and Rey get together at the end. And so did I, to a point. Still. Ben--as Kylo Ren--had committed murder, mass genocide and maybe most horrific for the fans--patricide. He'd killed his own father. He'd killed Han Solo. And that, in many eyes, was unforgivable and damning.

I admit after the pain of seeing that scene for the first time, I didn't know if I could stand to watch another episode. But time passed, I processed and found I was wrong. Because this story is bigger than even a giant icon like Han Solo.

I loved how Ben channeled his father after he turned, using some of the same mannerisms, expressions and gestures that were so completely Han Solo.  Loved. It.. And I loved the very unexpected scene between father and son, with Han appearing as Ben's memory. And their bit of dialogue, where Ben says, "Dad...." but he can't say the words that he loves his father. And Han replies, "I know." That was a classic. And I love how Ben charged to Rey's aid, and how the two of them, as a rare Dyad, confronted the Emperor side-by-side.

Yet Ben Solo could not right all the wrong that Kylo Ren had inflicted on the universe. There had to be a price for his actions. And when he paid that price, it set the universe right again. And gave Rey and the Resistance the key to overcome their many failures.

So at its heart, this story was about redemption, about getting up again and again, every time you fall. Every time you're knocked down, getting your feet under you...to rise once more. Every single time. It's about the power of history and the "light side" being behind you and giving you the strength to do the unimaginable. I think that's a pretty strong message to carry out of a theater.

So, yes, for me it was all about hope. And Rey and Ben together, creating that hope. They created something stronger than evil and darkness, no matter their sacrifice. And that, in this storyteller's eyes, makes for a great story.

Just perhaps not the perfect story that the world expected.

I'd like to offer this in closing because...This. Was. Glorious! That incredible soundtrack once again underpinning our emotions and inspiring a sense of wonder, something that we seldom get from a  motion picture this days.

In Rey's words: "I am all the Jedi!" (Turn on sound.)



May the Force be with you...always!




Thursday, January 23, 2020

LOTS GOING ON, SO . . .

Enjoy the beginning of Spring Festival, Lunar New Year and Lantern Festival! Remember to wear red, decorate with red and shoot off your firecrackers. Be positive in all things and start off the Year of the Rat (the first and fastest of the animals in the Chinese zodiac) with all possible good luck.

And, if you really want to have a lasting impact on your life in this New Year, maybe take up taiji or qigong!


Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Rise of Reylo: A Mother & Daughter Take on #StarWarsIX

Me: so, your thoughts on Reylo in RoS?

Eldest: well, you know I always wanted them to get together. They both had this similar inner kind of conflict, but Rey didn't know who her family was while Ben did. He was kind of under a lot of pressure maybe to live up to being a Solo and a Skywalker with Vader as his grandad, while Rey was struggling to figure out who and what she was, her place in everything.

Me: so they were sort of running in parallel but from different starting points.

Eldest: yeah they were definitely running in parallel but Ben started knowing who his family were and therefore following the path of his grandad while suffering the conflict of being a Solo, while Rey started with no idea who she was and then battling with the conflict that surfaced from finding out who she was and how her background was similar to Ben's.

Me: one thing that bothered me about that was Luke and Leia both knowing her ancestry and not telling her. In the original trilogy, Luke was frustrated with Kenobi for not being told Vader was actually his father, and finding that out while in the middle of a battle with his dad seems particularly cruel. Yet Luke was okay with Rey having to do the same thing - I felt like despite seeing her spirit, they didn't have faith in her, maybe because when he finally took on training her, she went straight to the Dark Side. Is that why he was afraid to tell her? Instead, he left her to find out the hard way like he did? Even Leia went along with that? Seems harsh.

Eldest: it was harsh. If he was so bothered by the fact he found out the identity of his father so suddenly and in a way he didn't expect or want, then surely he wouldn't want the same for someone else? Obviously he had a background with Ben, knowing that his grandad was Darth Vader and then seeing him turn into the villain that he did must've motivated him to hide it from Rey. But he must've known Rey would find out eventually, especially knowing the bond between her and Ben and the knowledge that Ben had as part of the First Order, which suggests that he didn't have as much faith in her as him and Leia suggested. If he and Leia saw her spirit and decided to train her despite her grandad, they would have told her the identity of her grandad since they would have known it wouldn't affect her morals and attitudes. In the end, she still ended up on the right side despite knowing who her grandad was, meaning they should have had faith in her all along but that's also one of the reasons I like Reylo so much.

Me: tortured heroes are always my favourite! And I have to say, Kylo/Ben had a far better redemption than Vader (whose redemption in RoJ was later ruined by the prequels in my eyes). For me, Kylo started out as way too similar to Anakin, a brat having tantrums, to an appreciation for his sneakiness in TLJ (which otherwise I hated), to being the kind of hero I adore in RoS. But I feel seriously cheated. I disliked TLJ so intensely and RoS spent so much time undoing so much of TLJ that I feel we didn't get a complete trilogy. I really would have loved more than that one amazing kiss for the two of them (and I know you agree with me on how awesome that was and how we all deserved so much more. So much better for them!).


Eldest: they deserved a better ending that that. They spent the entirety of TLJ (even though RoS undid it) finding out about and figuring out their bond to then spend RoS figuring out what to do with that bond and what it meant only for them to end with one kiss that was instantly shattered by Ben's death. He had an incredible redemption arc and by the end of the trilogy became my favourite character because of it but it deserved to be developed more because it didn't seem an entirely redeemed or happy ending for Ben. And yes, the beginning half of the film was borderline ruined by the decision to undo the actions of the last film, which then made for a slow and disjunct beginning half where the acting was below par and it didn't seem to have a definitive storyline. Despite the disjunct first half, though, it did bring the trilogy to a fairly satisfying close, for me at least, and it provided the Reylo I'd wanted in TLJ. Some of the character developments were questionable, namely Po and Rey (who previously was my favourite character) but I liked some of the new characters and thought the second half was far better and more satisfying. The Reylo was an added bonus.

Me: Reylo saved that last film for me, but in so many ways I've been disappointed by Disney's decisions on Star Wars, and in some ways that makes me feel relieved that the saga is ended. And that's heartbreaking to me after a lifetime of fandom. A New Hope was eye opening for me as a youngster, taking me from writing fantasy to scifi. Of course, some of it was forced by the death of Carrie Fisher, stealing a story focussed on Leia from us, and to a degree I can understand how that had a drastic impact. I cannot understand the changes to Poe's character, especially making him a drug smuggler - did we need that? To me, it set his character back in an unnecessary way, and his bitchy bickering with Rey just made him look like a jealous boyfriend. I don't feel the new characters really got a chance to develop either being as it was the last of the trilogy. So it leaves me unsatisfied in a lot of ways.

Eldest: unfortunately, that's true. The new characters could have been so much more but were rushed and almost forced into the film and Poe's character was turned into a man who experienced a lot of bitter jealousy and resorted to pettiness too many times. The final battle redeemed him slightly but other than that it was disappointing they portrayed him in that way. It wasn't the greatest of conclusions, especially considering the vastness of the fandom and how long it has existed and I can see why many were disappointed but I don't think they did all that badly considering how much pressure they were under to create a good finale.

Me: yeah, I do think they were trying too hard to please everyone and ended up pleasing very few. I don't hate Disney for it but my overall feeling is disappointment, and after my initial thrill with Rogue One (still love it), I honestly can't muster any enthusiasm for any of the current (Solo) or upcoming extended universe with the end of the Skywalker saga. Thanks for talking it over with me here today (I know we'll probably have more to say about it to each other again).

Eldest: we certainly will. But for now, may the Force be with you and goodbye.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Rise of Skywalker: The SFR Brigade Speaks Out

The Saga Will End...The Story Lives Forever

That was the tag line for the final motion pictures in the 40+ year old Star Wars main saga, a cultural icon for three generations.

How did members of the SFR Brigade feel about the wrap? A few are here to share their thoughts on the final installment.

Spoiler Alert! 
If you haven't yet seen Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, don't read on!


_________________________________________________

The End of the Skywalker Saga 
by Patty Hammond 
Beta Reader, Editor, Blogger and Podcaster
EverydayFangirl.com     TheFutureofTheForce.com
Fanthatracks.com      TheBeardedTrio.com

How do you start summarizing something that has been part of your life since you were six years old in just a few words? I am still processing everything that I saw in The Rise Of Skywalker, even though I have seen the movie a total of two times. There was so much that happened and the emotions these evoked in me that I am not sure where to start. Therefore, all I can do is try, even though I am sure Master Yoda would not agree with that approach, huh?

It is true that we have reached the end of the current Star Wars saga and the story of the Skywalker family has completed. I know this ending may not have fulfilled the hopes of a happily ever after that many wished for and are struggling to deal with this. However, I believe that the ending of TROS is better than some other endings, like The Game Of Thrones, because it left me with a feeling of hope. For me the heart of the Star Wars saga has always been about hope.

I believe The Rise Of Skywalker gave this to us in spades. From the lack of hope being presented as ‘fact’ due to the First Order and of course the most evil being in the Universe, Palpatine and his Final Order. To the presence of hope as a rallying cry and a weapon wielded by the efforts of many characters including Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose, Leia and even Ben Solo. This ending gave us hope that a brighter future lives on in all the surviving characters, especially Rey, who is now the spiritual heir of the Skywalker family and the keeper of hope into the future. Overall, I left the theatre with this feeling of hope and I hope that when others left the theater after watching this film will feel the same hope that I did.


The Return of Hope
by Debra Jess
Author of Blood Surfer: A Thunder City Novel (Book 1)
https://debrajess.com

Hope, like comedy, isn't easy. The dramatic, the sorrowful, the angsty stories always seem to get more attention over happier, more hopeful ones because well-told stories with happiness & hope appear too simplistic, too easy. Star Wars is about hope. It's always been fast, lightly touching the darker emotions before spring boarding off to the next space battle. Every time I see a fan bemoaning about how The Last Jedi was a better film than Rise of Skywalker because Luke was morose and depressed and turned his back on the Force because of all of the tragedies in his life, I just want to scream: "Did you miss the huge parties at the end of A New Hope and Return of the Jedi? Medal ceremonies! Dancing Ewoks! New sister! New friends! Fireworks!" Even Empire Strikes Back has an ending that promises a better future despite all the shocking revelations that went down in that film.

I was happy to see all of the past threads brought together and tied into a nice neat bow. My jaw dropped when Han Solo appeared (how many souls did Kathleen Kennedy have to sacrifice to bring Harrison Ford back?) However, I will always believe that directors and producers showed a complete lack of understanding of what Star Wars is about when they chose to deprive the legacy fans of the one small story point they wanted more than anything else: a few minutes of screen time with Luke, Leia, and Han together as the heroes that we remember.

I was surprised at how much screen time they constructed for Leia. I know it's not perfect, but then Tarkin wasn't perfect in Rogue One and his rendering didn't bother me or distract me from the movie at all.

The twists were a pleasant surprise. I can see Hux spying in an attempt to get revenge on Kylo. Adam Driver made me believe in Kylo's re-embracing of Ben's soul. His whole stance is looser, his manner less strained. I'm still glad Kylo/Ben died, because you don't get to commit patricide and survive. His kiss with Rey was a bit queasy, but at least Rey is now free to choose her own destiny with no ties to the dyad, her bloodline, or her past. Her loyalty belongs to her newfound family and friends.

Rose, however, got screwed. There's no way to justify her lack of screen time. I believe the director kept Zorii's helmet on to cover for the fact that he downgraded Rose in favor of another white woman. Rose deserved so much better.

As for Rey taking on the Skywalker name? I was torn because I hate the whole bloodline legacy idea because it ties in with the need for midi-chloridians to touch the Force. Midi-Chloridians don't exist in my universe. However, the fact that Rey chooses the Skywalker name at the end shows that bloodlines really don't matter if she's the first in a new generation of Jedi.


The Digital Necromancy of the Mustache Twirl
by Marlene Harris
Book Blogger / Librarian
Reading Reality   Twitter @readingreality

I saw The Rise of Skywalker over the holidays with my husband. Our experience of the Star Wars universe is different; I was in college the summer that the original movie came out and he was born that summer. He doesn’t remember a world without Star Wars. For me, it was the opening of a bright if occasionally unstable wormhole to a place where nothing would ever be the same. Suddenly my love for all things fantasy and SF, including a lifelong love affair with Star Trek, thankyouverymuch, had a big audience and acceptance beyond a snicker.

So we’ve seen all the movies, one way or another. But I remember when Han really did shoot first - and he doesn’t. Still, it’s been a wild ride on the Millenium Falcon, no matter how fast or slow the Kessel Run.

Now the saga, or at least the part of it wrapped so tightly around that original story, has ended. And not with the bang we hoped for, but with a whimper. Your lightspeed, of course, may vary.

As the wrap-up to an epic, The Rise of Skywalker managed to tick off a reasonable number of the required boxes. But it missed the boat in a big way. Several of them.

For him, the digital necromancy required to get Leia into the picture just didn’t work. It felt flat and contrived and obvious. But then, he didn’t have tears in his eyes blurring the screen just enough to make it work - as I did.

For me, it came down to villain fail. It weakened the story for the villain to be Palpatine himself, instead of, oh, say, a bastard child or a deluded follower. Instead we got the undead Sith himself, making speeches that sounded like echoes from the past as his formerly creepy and haunting presence got reduced to a whole lot of prosthetics and an affect that felt like the equivalent of a mustache twirl. He seemed like a caricature of a villain rather than an actual one.

And what was up with all those really tall and creepy statues? He must have been seriously overcompensating for something, which leads to some really unfortunate questions about exactly how Rey’s father was conceived.

Last, but not least, at least for me, was that the story seemed to be missing its beating heart - possibly because that’s the element that Leia was supposed to have provided. I wanted my heart to soar as it did when Luke made that impossible shot in the first movie, and sink into my toes the way it did when Vader cut off Luke’s hand and he fell into the dark.

I just didn’t feel for these folks as much as I expected to. And the movie missed its opportunity for a truly crowning moment of awesome. When Rey ground out “I am ALL the Jedi” they should have all been there with her. Not just disembodied voices, but actual Force ghosts. They should have been standing at her side. If they had, we would have known that we were there too.


Thanks for Forty Years of Skywalker
by Lea Kirk 
USA Today Bestselling Author of the Prophecy Series
Website   Facebook    Lea Kirk Author Newsletter

As one of my besties & I took our seats in the theater to see The Rise of Skywalker, a sense of finality came over me. This was it, the last movie of a surprise franchise that began over forty years ago. I was a skinny, bespectacled seventh grader when A New Hope released. I was also living in Japan, and at that time new cinema releases were out for a year in the U.S. before they were sent overseas. (They did send Mark Hamill to visit his old high school, which was on the same Army base as the middle school I attended, but that’s another story.)

All we could do was wait. As fate would have it, my dad was transferred stateside and we left the week before Star Wars arrived at the base theater. The first thing my mom did after we arrived in California was to take my sister and I to see the movie—a whole week before my friends got to see it! It was awesome, and it seemed like the story (like the lines) would never end.

But, it has.

Did The Rise of Skywalker live up to my expectations? Overall, yes. Do I have questions? Most definitely. Would I change anything? Yes! The most glaring issue to me—which started in The Force Awakens—is the relationship between Poe and Finn. OMG, people! These two should’ve gotten together!

Now, I’m not a Rose-hater…I actually love her character. And since the powers that be did not see fit to romantically link Poe and Finn, then why not let Finn and Rose hook up? All in all, it would’ve been great if they hadn’t even tried to force that relationship to begin with, but to turn around and cover it up in the latest movie like it’d never happened? Messy loose end.

My biggest heartache was that Rey and Ben will never get together. He dies, she lives, minus the greatest love of her life. This is, of course, my internal romance writer soul crying out at the injustice of them not getting their happily ever after. How-e-ver, there is always a price that must be paid, and Ben’s death—his separation from the woman he loves—is his price. And most of me is good with that.

If I could, what one thing would I change in this movie? Simple. When Luke and Leia appeared to Rey (beautiful and touching, imo), Ben should’ve been with them. He found the good within himself at the eleventh hour, much like Anakin did. And, he quite literally gave his life for her. (Tell me you didn’t cry about that! I did. Like hormonal teenager.)

Bottom line: Despite the still unanswered questions, J. J. Abrams did a phenomenal job wrapping up the Skywalker saga. I wish it could go on forever, but after forty plus years, I’m happy.

I wonder if Abrams would consider going back and remaking parts 1-3…?


Saying Goodbye to the Saga
by KG Stutts
Author of the Mirror trilogy and the Amethyst Chronicles
Blog: My Creative Desk    Amazon Author Page   Facebook Author Page

Like most of us sci-fi fans, I grew up on Star Wars. I watched the movies, read the comics and extended universe books, and played the games. I knew the backstories of characters and could have whole conversations with my brother using quotes. That love for Star Wars grew with each installment that came out.

Unlike most fans, The Last Jedi didn't bother me. I actually liked it more than The Force Awakens, which seemed to do too much to try to remind fans about the original series, as if we didn't already know it by heart. Granted, I didn't love the second installment but I also don't get the complete hatred some have. So with that said, I held my breath going into Rise of Skywalker. I sat in the theater incredibly nervous as to what was going to play out. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised.

There were moments I expected, and still some surprises. I cried more than my share of tears at two parts (staying spoiler free to be safe but you probably know what I mean). To me, it was the perfect send off for our favorite characters and still left it open at the end to explore more if they choose to (and let's face it, they will). Carrie Fisher will forever be my Princess and General and her moments were so beautiful and moving. To me, the story wrapped up this saga incredibly well.

I was nervous and scared as to what this installment would cover. It did feel like they were trying to get three films worth in so at times it both dragged and moved at lightspeed. Overall though, I felt like I could overlook that because the emotion was there. Saying goodbye is always hard, but my heart did feel a little lighter as the credits rolled.


Closing a Four Decade Dynasty
by Laurie A. Green
USA Today Bestselling Author of The Inherited Stars Series
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I found Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker to be extremely fast-paced and almost non-stop excitement. I'd have to watch it at least twice more (and I will) to catch all the subtle and not-so-subtle wraps of themes and story lines. So for now, I'll only comment on the main character and the conclusion.

So Rey is a Palpatine, not a Skywalker. Adam Driver's interview slip several years ago about her being "a princess" was apparently in error, or else writers moved away from the original plot idea after The Force Awakens. I think many of the fan base still suspected she was somehow Luke's daughter, but that never played out. I'm a bit melancholy that it didn't. The title Rise of Skywalker didn't foreshadow any amazing reveals at the end, after all.

About that end. After all the battles, clashes, visually-stunning and gasp-worthy scenes, Rey returns to Tatooine--the beginning of the epic journeys for both Luke and Anakin. She buries two lightsabers in the sand near Luke's childhood home--the moisture farm once owned by Luke's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru...before they were taken out by Stormtroopers in a desperate search for R2D2 and C3PO so long ago.

And at the finale, Rey claimed the name of Skywalker for her own. I got a certain "calm after the storm" feeling from that scene, but I also felt a huge void. All the galaxy-changing Skywalkers were now gone--Anakin, Luke, Leia and Ben--and even though Rey honored them by taking their name, as a character in the franchise once said, "Their fire has gone out of the universe." Certainly that fire has gone out of mine, now that this epic has ended. I'm sincerely going to miss this "story of a lifetime." But was there any way to end this saga that would have pleased everyone? I think not.

I'd just like to add one final thought. The original trilogy is--and will always be--the best of the franchise for me. That first-experienced magic and wonder and awe that drove people to the theaters in droves in the late 1970s and early 80s was never recreated again in later films, though each and every one of them is exceptional, and will always be worth watching again and again. But Star Wars became what it was all because one man had a powerful vision and the genius to pull it off in a way the world had never seen before. Thank you for what you started, George Lucas. We may never see the like again. 
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Spacefreighters Lounge would like to thank the SFR Brigade participants who took the time to compose their entertaining and thoughtful individual commentaries on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final motion picture in the triple-trilogy saga.

We realize that opinions may vary for every fan, and we invite your comments and discussion of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker below.

Friday, January 17, 2020

LITTLE WOMEN, THE 'MEN PROBLEM' AND SFR


There’s a lot to talk about in this week’s Oscar nominations, but one controversy, in particular, should make science fiction authors think twice. Because if Greta Gerwig’s film LITTLE WOMEN has a “men problem,” as Vanity Fair asserts and Constance Grady in Vox explains here, then SFR has one, too, for a lot of the same reasons.
 
LITTLE WOMEN: A uniquely feminine POV.
As Grady points out, this latest film adaptation of the beloved novel by Louisa May Alcott has a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 91 percent Metacritic score and earned $60 million at the box office even before garnering a Best Picture Oscar nomination and a Best Actress nomination for Saoirse Ronan, who plays aspiring-author-sister Jo, a role previously, and famously, taken on at different times by Katharine Hepburn and Wynona Ryder. Yet director Greta Gerwig herself was passed over for Best Director nominations not only by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but also by the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild and the Golden Globes. Indeed, all except the Oscars ignored the film as a whole. (The Academy gave LITTLE WOMEN six nominations in total.) Only the Writers Guild recognized Gerwig herself with a nomination for the screenplay.

The problem—the “men problem,” if you will—is that two-thirds of those 60 million bucks being spent to see this film were being spent by women. Guys, apparently, were outright refusing to see the movie, or were being dragged kicking and screaming to the theater by wives or girlfriends. And because men still dominate the film industry, not only in production, but also in marketing and, most especially in this case, in the awards voting process, no “girly” film like this was ever going to get the recognition it deserved.

Other films with women in the lead have attracted a male (or a mixed) audience. WONDER WOMAN comes to mind, a film after our own hearts, or MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. But as Grady so well explains, these are heroines who act like male action heroes. TERMINATOR’s Sarah Conner, ALIEN’s Ripley, every Marvel superheroine, all share these same masculine characteristics—physical strength and agility, stoic determination, a square-jawed lack of words. The only difference is they look better in tight clothes (or bustiers, or underwear, as the case may be).

Part of this is a function of "fanboy" culture, the result of the influence of comic books and video games, long the purview of teenage males, on the wider film world. The avatars in those types of media accentuate unrealistic female physical characteristics coupled with supernatural male abilities. 
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The male POV, despite all efforts to broaden it or open it, is still dominant. Girls are expected to read and relate to Huckleberry Finn, Call of the Wild, Red Badge of Courage, but boys are no longer expected to read and relate to Heidi, Black Beauty or Little Women, as they once were
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But Grady argues the problem runs deeper and further back, to the way we are taught to embrace or reject “masculine” and “feminine” ways of viewing the world. (And, even though I frame this discussion in stark binary terms, it shouldn’t go without saying that the real sexual world is NOT binary at all and any attempts to squeeze real life into that framework are doomed to failure.) The male POV, despite all efforts to broaden it or open it, is still dominant. Girls are expected to read and relate to Huckleberry Finn, Call of the Wild, Red Badge of Courage, but boys are no longer expected to read and relate to Heidi, Black Beauty or Little Women, as they once were. Perhaps this change was a result of mid-twentieth-century sexual stereotyping or maybe it was just plain laziness. But a book like Little Women, centered as it is on uniquely female interaction, has lost popularity, even though as modern and muscular a writer as Stephen King counts it as a seminal influence.

This “female-blindness” is a big problem for us in SFR, not only because men think because there is romance in our books, our books must be for “girls,” but also because some of us play into that stereotype by creating one-dimensional “kickass” heroines that are no more than Mel Gibson-in- leather-with-boobs. I admit I love my two most kickass heroines—undercover Rescue agent Rayna Carver (Fools Rush In, Interstellar Rescue Book 3) and FBI Special Agent Lana Matheson(Trouble in Mind, Interstellar Rescue Book 2)—but the heroines of my first novel, Asia Burdette (Unchained Memory, Interstellar Rescue Book 1), and my most recent one, Charlie McIntyre (Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Book 4), are more nurturing, communicating types. And in all cases I try to make my heroines genuine full-featured women, with all the talents and flaws a real person would have.


Kickass heroine?
Nurturing heroine?
  I have always found that if I can get men to pick up my books, they really like them. They like my heroines (and my heroes), because—guess what? –the women in their lives are multifaceted, too.  Grady says this, too, in her article on LITTLE WOMEN. If you can just get the men to see the film, suddenly the scales fall from their beady little eyes.

Still, it begs the question. We may lead the horses to water, but what in the universe will make them drink? 

Cheers, Donna

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.