Wednesday June 19, 2013
I saw Man of Steel with Brandon Sanderson on Monday as the two of us recovered from the Out of Excuses retreat. We were both roundly disappointed.
We both agreed that a space opera in the style of the opening scenes would have been excellent. That was not the movie we sat through, however. By the end of Man of Steel both of us were bored and suffering from action movie fatigue. On my "how much fun did I have" scale, Man of Steel comes in at #11 for the year. Behind Burt Wonderstone, if you're keeping score.
On Twitter I said the following: "Man of Steel is grimdark Superman done badly."
There were lots of things I had issues with, and if the conversations I've overheard are any indication, some of these things are pretty polarizing. Pa Kent's characterization felt wrong, Jor-el's hologram undermined the sense of peril while over-expositing, and much of the dialog was predictable, trite, or just silly. Horrific destruction was wrought upon mortal combatants and civilians alike, but nobody (not even Supes himself) expressed sorrow over the damage done. I loved the Krypton prologue and the scenes that flashed back to Clark as a youth in Kansas (in spite of the wrongness of Pa Kent,) but they certainly weren't enough to carry the film.
My final complaint, and it really should be the first one: shaky cam. Stop that, Hollywood! Don't you know we hate shaky cam? Aren't you listening? It's not artsy, it's not edgy, and it's not entertaining. It's overdone, it looks like a cover for sloppy choreography, and it fails to advance the story because we can't see the finer points of what's happening. Why do you even do this?
[UPDATE] I hadn't added an image for this post by the time it went live, so I headed out to IMDB to grab the movie poster. I found this unofficial image in grey and red by Martin Ansin. It really captures the spirit of the film -- grim and bloody. I can see why Martin did the poster this way, and I can also see why the studio would choose never to use such a thing. It tells the truth about the film.
Monday June 17, 2013
The first ever Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat has drawn to a close. The last of the attendees have been seen off, and Brandon and I will be vacating the premises after a final debrief with Mary this evening.
We know this much already: It was a success. The attendees learned a lot and had a great time, we got eighteen episodes of Writing Excuses recorded (including two with special guests who happened to be in town,) and the event broke even in spite of some cost overruns. I debriefed some of our attendees as I dropped them off at the shuttle station and the airport, and while there were suggestions for improvements, everybody raved over how wonderful the event was. We'll be making a few changes the next time we do this, and we'll be taking attendee input into account. Especially since there were a lot of things they insisted should not be changed.
One of those things was the Croquet LARP. We had sixteen players on two teams: paladins, rangers, wizards, clerics, thieves, and barbarians all striving together to claim the other castle's Macguffin. There were cacophonous battle cries ("IN BUSTER'S NAME!"), magic wickets, lightning bolts, and attacks from a pair of Bocce-ball giants and the Raging Dragon of Danmallet.
Perhaps you had to be there, but if you speak to anyone who was you will know I speak truth.
For me, the event was a delight on almost every count. The non-delightful count was the word count. I only hit 10% of my 25,000 word goal, and while it was a high goal, I should have been able to get to at least 10,000 words, even with the extended breakout sessions, extra one-on-one time with attendees, and the hours spent cooking dinner on Friday. There were a number of factors working against me, but I have to own up to the fact that when I did manage to get some uninterrupted writing time, I floundered. I will, however, blame the Microsoft Surface for me not getting as much uninterrupted writing time as I could have. A device that won't sit on my lap and let me type comfortably is patently useless at a retreat. where the best writing time is to be found in a comfy chair on the porch. Some of our most prolific attendees could be found out there hammering out words while the fireflies flicker and danced, and Buster the Dog chased squirrels. In order to write this post, I'm sitting at a table in the basement. Let's be clear about something: I can do that at home, and will enjoy it more.
But I have to take responsibility for bringing a new device with me and hoping it would work. Stupid. Next time we do this, I will bring a tool which I have rigorously proven will work for me in this sort of setting. I don't know what it is yet. I have research to do. Rigorous research.
The next Out of Excuses event has not yet been scheduled. It's not easy getting Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells and I into the same place at the same time these days. Publishers control book tours for three of us, and all of us have conventions to attend. Once we know when we're doing it, we'll announce it over at WritingExcuses.com. Then we'll give you a couple of weeks to assess your schedule and your finances before we open registration. When registration opens, you'll probably need to be hovering at the computer. The inaugural event sold out in 9 minutes. We won't be letting any of our 31 alumni register for the next one, but this event had over 90 people on the waiting list..
Wednesday June 12, 2013
I'm at the first ever "Out of Excuses Seminar and Retreat" this week. I am deliberately paying less than my usual amount of attention to all things Internet so that I can teach stuff, learn stuff, and write stuff.
Still, today, June 12th, 2013, is the 13th anniversary of the first appearance of Schlock Mercenary on the web. So, "happy birthday to Schlock Mercenary." I'm glad I decided to make it, and glad I decided to make something of it. I'm especially glad so many of you enjoy it.
End of update! I have a class to teach, barbecue to eat, and some episodes of Writing Excuses to record.