Let’s Talk about Snyder’s Superman

A week ago, I went to the movies and saw one of the first showings of Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice.  I’ve had a week to think about it.  I’ve read other people’s reviews and opinions.  Now I’d like to share mine.

This post will be full of spoilers.  If you do not want the movie spoiled, stop reading here and come back after you’ve seen the movie.

First off, I think the reviews have been a little harsh.  The movie is not that bad.  It’s not amazing, which is probably why it’s being panned so hard.  We wanted a live action meeting of Batman and Superman on the silver screen that would knock our socks off.  This movie didn’t do that.

Zack Snyder reached far, his ambition greater than what he could deliver.  He wanted to give us something akin to what we’ve been getting from Marvel.  He tried to tap into the dark and gritty tone of both Nolan’s Batman and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  He crammed the story with characters and scenes in order to hint at a larger, epic story.  He tried to do all this in one movie, and in his efforts, lost track of making a single, enjoyable standalone movie.

So far, I haven’t said anything that hasn’t already been said on the internet about this movie.  Other things you may have already read… Ben Affleck filled role perfectly.  Wonder Woman looked perfect, and though her role in this movie was small, she’ll probably be amazing in her standalone movie.  Eisenberg did a terrible job as Lex Luthor.  Doomsday didn’t look very good, sometimes.  The death of Superman could have been handled better.

Those things are easy to point out.  Many critics and reviews are saying that Batman v Superman is not a good movie.  I think that might not be specific enough.  The real problem is that Batman v Superman is not a good Superman movie.

What if we didn’t think of Henry Cavill’s character as Superman?  If we disassociated his character from Superman, would BvS be a better movie?

Maybe.  Let’s compare Superman with Cavill’s character.  To keep them straight, I will rename Henry Cavill’s character something more inline with what he portrayed: Ironheart.

Superman is more than just the costume and the powers.  He is the ultimate Boy Scout, honest to a fault, and moral.  He does what is right, because it is right.  Life throws him curve balls, but he rises above it.  He stands for hope.  Though he comes from a different planet, Earth is his home, and he has friends and family here.

Ironheart is weighed down by the darkness around him.  He is on Earth, but he is separate.  A powerful stranger.  He wants to do what is right most of the time, but he’s haunted by the ghost of his father, telling him that no good deed goes unpunished.  Ironheart has two tethers keeping him grounded: Lois Lane, and his mother.  The S on his chest stands for hope, but he doesn’t have any of his own, and he doesn’t know how to inspire it.

As a writer, I like Ironheart.  I like the story potential in a character like that.  I like Superman, too, but I think I’d have an easier time writing a character like Ironheart.  The character Cavill portrayed is vulnerable in ways that Superman is not, and I think that is interesting.

The movie has other problems, no doubt about it.  It is a beautiful, joyless affair, with major plot holes and a villain that is also miscast or misnamed, or both.  But the movie’s greatest sin is trying to take a character like Ironheart and calling him Superman.  The two are not interchangeable.

Hopefully, Zack Snyder learns from this.  He’s good at making pretty movies.    Maybe he just needs to work with someone else that can keep him grounded and focused.


Why Can’t We Share Bathrooms?

Maybe I’m a little late to this topic, but I just don’t understand what is going on in North Carolina.  I don’t understand the arguments.

In summary, North Carolina is requiring people use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate, rather than the gender they identify with.

Here’s a quote from the Washington Post article I just linked:

“Supporters say the new law protects all people from having to share bathrooms with people who make them feel unsafe.”

Do you know what a transgender person feels when they’re going to a public restroom?  A little bit of stress, and an insatiable need to pee.

I just don’t get the big deal.

“But Brian!” cried the Strawman. “Laws enabling transgender people the use of bathrooms they identify with will allow predatory male rapists to go into women’s restrooms.  Don’t you fear for the safety of your wife and daughter?”

If I thought the fear reasonable, then yes, I’d be concerned.  But as far as I can tell, a predatory rapist isn’t concerned with entering a women’s restroom legally.  A law preventing transgender men and women from entering a restroom isn’t going to stop a rapist.

The people in favor of laws like what North Carolina passed refer to the safety of women.  These people don’t voice any concern over the safety of men.  Not only because the whole attitude behind the notion is one of coddling and misogyny, but also, no one is really concerned with gay men raping men in the bathroom.  We’re not concerned with it, because it isn’t a reasonable fear, because public bathroom are not where most of these attacks are taking place.

Here’s another link listing statistics on rape and attempted rape.  It’s full of sad statistics, but there are silver linings.  Rape, like other criminal activities in the U.S., is on the decline.  And, when rape is occurring, it’s not being done by strangers, away from home.  Which means the predatory rapist stalking bathrooms is infrequent enough to almost be mythological.

Yes, I’m sure it happens, and that is sad.  But it is not happening enough to pass laws that discriminate against people that are already having a rough time.

Seriously, we should stop worrying for the sake of worrying, and just let people answer Nature’s Call wherever they feel most comfortable.  I hope North Carolina, and other legislators emboldened or inspired by North Carolina’s efforts, come to their senses.


Writers, Fifty Shades, and a Would-Be Tyrant

I’ve just finished another chapter.  I’m feeling really good about my work so far, so I’ve decided to take a break and talk about the relationship between authors and would-be tyrants.

An author needs readers.  That’s a simple truth, easy to conceptualize.  Without readers, a book has no value.  It may as well be fuel for a fire.  Until a writer’s work is read, it essentially doesn’t exist.

As a writer that is early in his career, I think about this problem all the time.  What will happen when I finish my book, and I’m unable to get people to read it?  Will it all be for nothing?  Do I have the personal strength to move on to the next book?

If you want to hurt a writer, refuse to read their work.  Don’t talk about them.  Ignore their stories, and the writer will wither like a plant denied water and light.  Writer’s need readers to spread the word, so that others will become interested and check out their work.

Not all word of mouth has to be about the quality of the work.  It can be about the content.  When people first started talking about Fifty Shades of Grey, they weren’t talking about the quality of the writing.  They were talking about the content of the book.  It was naughty.  The taboo of the material piqued people’s interest, and the books sold.

If you like Fifty Shades, great.  I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong.  But I’ve looked at some of the writing, and in my opinion, it’s hideous.  And, honestly, it’s not all that raunchy.

Spectacle is what made Fifty Shades taken off.  Without the spectacle, there would have been no curiosity.  Without the curiosity, there would have been no audience.  Without the audience, the book would have faded into obscurity just like so many other stories published independently.

A politician shares this characteristic with writers.  Without an audience, they can scream and shout all the vitriol they can think of, and it won’t make a difference.  A politician needs to be heard in order to be a politician.

If you want to end a politician’s career, don’t show up for his rallies.  Don’t protest him.  Don’t write blog posts about him.  Don’t vote for him.  Ignore him, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Remember… the opposite of love isn’t hate.  It’s apathy.  Love and hate are both extremes of passion.  Love and hate inspire people to do things they may not normally do.  From an outsider’s perspective, without context, the actions of love and the actions of hate can look the same.  So don’t give a would-be tyrant your love, or your hate.  Give him nothing.

We currently have someone running for President that is inspiring hate.  People are showing up for his rallies, some to support, some to protest.  And this candidate is inciting violence, with his words and with his attitude.

He’s generating stories.  He’s in the news.  Every outrageous thing he says is picked up and talked about.  With that kind of interest, it doesn’t matter what he does.  In his own words, he could kill someone on the street, and it wouldn’t change the course of his campaign.

You may notice that I haven’t mentioned his name.  I don’t need to, and I’m not going to.  You already know who I’m talking about.  And you probably already know how dangerous his campaign is for our country.

If you want to end his campaign, and end the violence at his rallies, stop talking about him.  Stop adding fuel to his fire.  As long as the spotlight is on him, he’s in control of the show.  The stories he’s generating are too rich for the media networks to pass up.  So he gets to set the tone, and dictate the message, and we already know that his message is about divisiveness, intolerance, and hate.

You already know what he’s going to say, so quit clicking on the stories that feature him.  When stories about him stop generating views, there will no longer be financial incentive to keep making more stories about him.  His star will fade.  And he will go back to obscurity.

Focus on other candidates.  If you need a little hate and divisiveness, go read about Ted Cruz.  He’s a pretty terrible candidate, too, but he’s not actively trying to get people to beat each other up at his events.

Honestly, it would be better to focus on the positive.  Find the qualities about your favorite candidate that you like, and talk to other people about that.

Just quit giving the would-be tyrant air time.


It’s Hard for Me to Enjoy Books

I recently finished Zero World by Jason M. Hough.  This book has 4 stars with 98 reviews on Amazon, and came highly recommended to me.

Before I get too much into the subject of this post, let me say this: read this book!  You will most likely enjoy it.  This post is about my shortcomings as a reader, and not Mr. Hough’s shortcomings as a writer.  In fact, nothing I’m about to say is a critique of Zero World or Jason Hough.  I’m mentioning the book because it’s the most recent story I’ve listened to, and I want to encourage other people to read it, too.

In case that wasn’t clear: this post is not a criticism of Zero World, by Jason M. Hough.

Okay.  Let’s begin.

I didn’t enjoy Zero World as much as I wanted to.  It is the latest in a growing list of books that I’ve listened to that didn’t leave me satisfied.  I found the story clever, and Gideon Emery did a fine job reading it.  I didn’t hear any inconsistencies, and the descriptions were strong.  Jason Hough did a great job of bringing to life the scenes, and he handled action well.

So why didn’t I enjoy it?

It’s me.  This sounds like a humble-brag, but as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve become more difficult to surprise.  I recognize when details are included for future plot devices, and I accurately predict how those plots will evolve.  I’m no longer surprised.  In fact, I haven’t enjoyed the thrill of discovery in a story in a long while.

I can appreciate the cleverness of the plot, the dialog, and the word choices.  But it’s like all of my Christmas presents have been wrapped in cellophane instead of paper.  I can see what’s coming.

This happened with the latest Mistborn books by Brandon Sanderson.  This happened with the first book of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne.  The list goes on and on.

I have to think that all writers go through this.  I don’t think I’m special in this regard, or have developed some unique superpower/curse.  It must be some natural part of the journey of a writer.  Developing the skills necessary to craft a good story, we learn how to see beyond the curtain, and know the mortality of the wizard putting on the grand show.

If all writers go through this, and all writers are typically voracious readers, then it adds a layer of proof to the idea that writers are masochists.

I don’t think it’s quite as simple an idea as developing a craft makes it more difficult to appreciate the work of others in that craft.  For example, as I’ve grown as a musician, my appreciation for all music has also grown.  I can hear nuance that I never heard before, and know the difficulty involved in making the instruments sound they way they do.  My development as a programmer hasn’t diminished my ability to appreciate someone else’s code.  As I learned more about baseball as assistant coach for my kids’ Little League, I grew to enjoy a game I previously didn’t care for at all.

I’m going to continue reading and listening to books.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have no intention of stopping, even if I’m not enjoying books as much as I used to.

But how am I going to give reviews?  I make it a point not to give reviews or rate books unless I can be honest, and say something nice.  An author has to go out of their way to get a poor review from me.  I want to support my fellow writers, but I want to make sure my support is positive and true.

If I’m stingy with reviews, how can I expect other writers to rate my work?

I suppose that’s a problem to unravel later.  I’m nearly finished with the second draft.  Progress is moving along faster than it had before, and I’m really happy with what I’ve written so far.  A third draft will be necessary, but it won’t be nearly as deep or involved.  I’ve edited about 54,000 words so far.  The first draft ran a little over 60,000 words.  That should tell you how far I’ve come.

In conclusion, buy Jason M. Hough’s book.  I met him at Worldcon last year, and he’s a fantastic, knowledgeable writer that is excellent at his craft.  Zero World is a good book, and deserves to be read.


March Writing Goals

It is March 1st.  My birthday is in a few days, therefore, this is my month.  Every day of March feels special to me.

I have decided, therefore, to make March special.  I’m going to set myself a daily writing goal and really work on my craft.  I want to look back at the end of this month and be shocked and amazed at the progress I’ve made.

I’ve tried setting goals in March before, but with little success.  I have not yet succeeded at duplicating NaNoWriMo in the Spring.  In previous attempts, I’ve focused on word count.  I said that I would write 30,000 words in March, or something like that.  I set goals that seemed reasonable at the time.  Unfortunately, I fell short, and felt discouraged going into April.

This month I’m taking a different approach.  I’m not going to focus on word count as much as time.  Some days, I may produce thousands of words.  Others, I might not produce any.  The goal is spend at least 30 minutes writing or editing every day this month.  Even Mondays and Tuesdays, when my time is most limited.

I may accompany the writing with blog posts, like this one.  I’m not sure yet.  Tonight, it’s too late to get any actual writing or editing done.  I’m going to go to bed soon.  But I can take my manuscript with me and spend some time reading my revisions.  I can prepare.  It won’t increase my word count, but it will keep me involved, and it will make the next time I sit down to write that much more productive.

At least half an hour each day.  I can find a half hour, no problem.

What goal will you set for yourself in March?