The Curse of Greatness

The Curse of Greatness

Greetings all,

I thought I might take a moment to discuss a topic near and dear to me. I love stories. They’re just so amazing, and each one is special for it’s own reason. But what happens when someone truly creates something exceptional? A trend I’m noticing these days is that the greater a creation someone has, the more demand that artist is to create something greater, but that’s not a consistent measurement for any number of reasons. Lately, I’ve seen a number of people talk about how awful something is. I’d be in the middle of asking why they didn’t like it, and, inevitably, the other person would say something like, “His first book was so much better!”

OHHHHhhhhh! You’re not evaluating this story on it’s own merit, you’re comparing it to something else. Is it a completely unreasonable thing? Maybe not. I mean, every author and artist I know truly wants the next project to be better than the last. But I don’t know that I’d want to be judged on my last work, especially if I were ever lucky enough to create something amazing.

So what I’m going to do is look at a few projects to hopefully show what I mean.

downloadThe Star Wars saga: This might honestly be the most beloved story of all time. Even people who hate Star Wars (like, from 1980-something and beyond) still know it. They still get the jokes and memes. The original trilogy was lightning in a bottle. It does so many things well, and it hit people and culture at a perfect point in history. Here’s my statement though, no follow up, ever, could hope to hold up against it. First, we’ve had some 30 years to romanticize that story. We grew up, loving it, watching it, and reaffirming our love for it.

I don’t have statistics to measure this, but I’d be willing to bet money a guy is more likely to meet and marry a second wife before he’d be willing to let anyone touch is beloved Star Wars. Bold statement right? Is it? God forbid, if I lost Julie, I’d be devastated. I love her. I truly believe God made her just for me in the same way he made Eve for Adam.  Still, I’ve already asked her to try and find someone new if I die, and, after time, I might find someone new for myself. But whoever I meet, I’d meet and get to know on an individual level. How fair would this hypothetical situation be if I compared my second wife to Julie? Even more, people don’t really even consider it. Sure, they may recognize things or appreciate things that remind them of their original spouse, but they don’t hold the previous spouse against  the current one.

But make a prequel movie that doesn’t meet the twenty years of expectations I’ve placed on it, and we’ll riot. Make a sequel that doesn’t line up with my fan theory, and I’ll start a petition demanding Disney retcon the movie, and then I’ll lose my stuff because the director lacked the courage to stand behind his conviction of starting an original story line. This isn’t opinion, search #StarWars on social media and look at the hate. My sons actually said, “The sequels ruined Star Wars.”

Star_Wars_The_Last_Jedi.jpgThat gave me pause. “Did you even watch it?”

“Yes.”

“Did you like it?”

“Yeah.”

“Then how did it ruin it?”

“My teacher said so.”

First off, my kids are supposed to be learning skills, not being force fed your own personal opinion on art and cultural issues, teachers. No my sons are TAUGHT to hate a thing just because they want to fit in. (Tangent over.)

Here’s my point. You can say you like Star Wars, or you can hate it. But I wonder, if we had someone watch Episode 8, and make sure that person never saw the originals. What would that person think?  What would happen if we watched that movie just for that movie? Is it a part of a whole, sure, but fans today are measuring against decades of romanticized expectations and anticipation. Disney doesn’t stand a chance. I’m not saying 8 was the greatest ever, but it’s nowhere near the worst, and no amount of Jar Jar Binx can honestly ruin A New Hope.

So why talk about this? Am I trying to justify 8 vs the other episodes? No, like Disney, I don’t stand a chance. Neither does 9. Fans have chosen to love or hate that movie already, and they’ll love it or hate it regardless of the content because they’ve chosen to love it or hate it. It’s like politics. I could say the most hateful things, do the most horrible stuff in accordance to anyone’s opinions, but if I label myself a republican, republicans everywhere love me. Do the SAME stuff, and label myself a democrat and democrats everywhere will embrace me. It’s honestly the same with these transcendent works.

Harry_Potter_Cursed_Child_PlayThe Cursed Child: People everywhere are pretty polarized about this story as well.  I loved it. Now, fans didn’t have the same amount of time to romanticize this story, and I’ve noticed the dissatisfaction is way down. Do a survey, and I’d bet money those who hate it are those who grew up with Harry. I mean that literally. If they started it at 12 and finished it at 20-something, they probably hate Child.  Find those older readers who were more discerning and less impressionable, and at the very least I bet money that group will have a much more standard Bell curve.  Why do they like Beasts? They went away from all those main characters.  Why don’t they like Grimwald? They made editorial decisions on Dumbledore.  The only real way to stay in a universe and not get flack would be to  create a new story with new characters who don’t alter or affect the ones people fell in love with. Solo might be the most hated Star Wars movie (maybe).  But Solo doesn’t stand a chance. We love Han, and if the Han we see doesn’t fit into our romanticized view, we hate him. Frankly, no one can meet your romanticized view of a character.

So I fear ever writing that transcendent story. Because people forget what it means to truly create something transcendent. It’s notable specifically because it’s unique and original. I think a lot of directors, writers, and creators are unfairly held to a transcendent standard, and it takes away one’s ability to simply enjoy a story on it’s own merit.

books-1245690_960_720I very carefully didn’t give too many opinions on what I thought of these things because that’s my point. There is not fair comparison. There is no fair opinion. The very nature of an opinion is based on emotion and thought more than any measurable standard. I challenge readers and viewers to think about this the next time you watch or read something. I’ve seen things I didn’t enjoy as much. My wife asked if I’d watch a remake of Krull or a sequel.  I’d probably see the sequel, but I’d have to work very hard not to be unreasonable. I’ve had decades to imagine how I thought the story would go. My life as a writer even began with my work to pen a sequel to the story. So anyone else’s vision would just be insulting to me on a personal level because of my own filter and not because of the actual work, which really isn’t fair.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Do you disagree? I’d really like to have a civil discussion on this.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

I Have a Youtube Channel!

I Have a Youtube Channel!

I had an idea a while back. I love this blog, but the primary function of my posts are analytical in function. I love it, and I’m honestly a very analytical person, but I love geeking out too. So I figured it would be fun to create a Youtube channel designed to cater to the more “fan” side of me. That’s why I named the show FanTalk. I’ve done two episodes so far. I plan for them to be weekly episodes.

I’ll offer top 5 or top 10 episodes. I’ll talk about movies I just watched or TV episodes that caught my eye. It’s different because I’m really just having fun with it. It’s new, and there’s work to be done, but I wanted to share it with you all.  Feel free to head over here and have a look. I hope you like what you see, subscribe, and comment.

Just a quick update this weekend. I hope you had a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

I’m just Saying I Told You So

I’m just Saying I Told You So
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Cover and feature image taken from TOR.com for reporting of a newsworthy event under Fair Use Doctrine.

My first post on this website was one where I discussed books I felt would make a great Cinematic Universes.  I was elated a few weeks ago when I learned that DMG Entertainment made a licensing and film deal for Brandon Sanderson’s Comere Universe.  Here’s a link to TOR’s announcement.

The team has already selected screenwriters for The Way of Kings. It also appears as if The Final Empire is on the horizon.

My reaction:

First off, I’m totally geeked out about it. I didn’t just select this book because I thought it’d make a good universe; I selected it because I WANT to see these movies. If I ruled the world, I’d rather see the Mistborn movies first, but I trust Sanderson as a creator. He wouldn’t just hand his work to anyone for any reason. Everything this man does is done with purpose and the desire to tell the best story possible.

So that’s it for today.  I just wanted to be a smug SOB for a moment and celebrate the news. No, I don’t think my blog had anything to do with it, but it doesn’t devalue the idea.

So now that we know what movie is coming up first, any dream casting? Who would you cast as Kalidin or Syl? Do you think they made the right call going with Stormlight first?

Thanks for reading

Matt

The Chaos Walking Trilogy Review

The Chaos Walking Trilogy Review

Dave (At Dave’s Corner of the Universe) brought up an interesting point about first person narrative, and I thought of the Chaos Walking Trilogy.  I read this about a year before I got published and posted my review on Facebook, but given the relevance to my blog about narrative, I though it appropriate to post here on blog now.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness:

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I simply love the audiobook.  The narrator was brilliant!

I can’t in good conscience give Knife the rave review I want to. I enjoyed it. Book one of the Chaos Walking Trilogy was exciting, emotional and intriguing. I immediately bought audiobooks 2 and 3 for the series when I finished Knife. So why can’t I rave about it? Because the end of book 1 was in the prologue of book 2.

 

A friend and I talk a lot about ruining endings, and I hope this doesn’t, but as far as recommending books, he was right on the money. I really liked it, but if I had bought Knife and read it, the cliffhanger ending would have P’d me the F off, and do you think I said F? (Have I mentioned I love the main character Todd Hewitt?) So I’m not a fan of this as a stand alone novel.  It doesn’t end, nor does it have any resolution.

f8fe5b46dabfb2d0ec9cc2d9661b54fcI understand that it was part of a trilogy, but I don’t understand why it couldn’t have ended with the prologue of book 2. Had they done that, I’d have thought way better of this as a stand alone.  It’s still amazing.  This book had my running the gamut of all my emotions. It’s touching, funny, tragic and beautiful, but unless you’re willing to buy all three (which I was), Knife, on its own disappoints. So while I feel forced to to not recommend JUST this book, I do so only as a stand alone book. I’ll grade the whole trilogy once I’m done (three chapters into book 2 now) and I have a feeling the trilogy as a whole will be great.

I then quickly finished the trilogy, and here are those thoughts:

Audiobook Review: The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

I’ve previously reviewed “The Knife of Never Letting Go,” book one of the trilogy. I simply burned through the other two books to quickly to review them one at a time.  I love this series.

For one, it’ll just annoy the hell out of you because the first two end in a cliffhanger, though book two is pretty complete in my opinion. The other reason is how beautiful the story is. The depth of characters, the scope of the issues and the emotion each moment brings is too strong not to recommend. It’s been labeled young adult reading, but I wouldn’t really want my niece reading this, and she’s reading at something like a high school level. (NOTE:  At the time of writing this, my niece was barely in junior high)  I’ll resist the urge to talk about how well the story was written as it relates to the way the trilogy ends.

chaos_walking__by_musicizzy-d4x1zfuThis is a series about hope, love redemption and sacrifice. It’s prose and point of view is touching and compelling. I would even go so far as to say (in entertainment value alone) it’s better than the John Cleaver series (but not by much) and I’ve already raved about that.  (AUTHOR NOTE:  I did, and I will because my review of “Over Your Dead Body” is coming.) I should warn you that the two stories aren’t similar in plot or scope, I just wanted to establish a baseline for comparison.

I will say that I would ONLY recommend this for audiobook. The cast is fantastic. I absolutely HATE 1st person, and the only thing I hate more is present tense. These books are written 1st person, present tense, but it’s done right. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you buy the actual book, but you’d be missing out on some great audiobook narration.

Film Adaptations and Cinematic Universes

Film Adaptations and Cinematic Universes

We all know about the MCU and DCEU.  Screenrant recently released an article about other cinematic universes currently under development, and that got me thinking about fantasy fiction and what books I’d like to see as a cinematic universe:

The Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey:

To begin with, this is my favorite all time fantasy series.  The characters are amazing.  The world is unique, and, well, dragons.  Every time I see a movie that discusses dragons or even creatures that maybe, in the right light with enough alcoholic assistance could be dragons, I’m baffled that this hasn’t happened.  Someone more knowledgable than me might know why, but I’d be the first guy in line to see this world come to life in the form of a cinematic universe.  Like MCU and Star Wars, this world has a lot of great characters that beg for independent films.  It sits atop my list of dream movies.

Books-to-Read

Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere:

First off, this is already a multimedia universe.  His stories span graphic novels, RPGs and even a video game.  This universe is so deep and trawling, the potential for movies is endless.  There’s even potential for other media-related products.  Knowing Sanderson’s work, he’s probably finished a novella while I was working on this blog.  He’s already given us 10 years of glorious storytelling, and we can only hope we receive many years more.

Weeks

The Night Angel Trilogy, by Brent Weeks:

Don’t close this browser!  The Lightbringer series is wonderful, but the key to great cinematic universes is a diverse range of characters that can hold their own in a movie.  I won’t deny there are a handful of powerful, interesting characters in Lightbringer, I simply think this trilogy is more suited for the big screen universe than Lightbringer (which I’d LOVE to see Netflix or HBO take on).   The thing that drew me to the Night Angel Trilogy was that this book honestly felt like pretty much every character could be his or her own main character in a book.  That’s why I’d choose this one.

ageoffire

Age of Fire, by E.E. Knight

This might be a reach in comparison to the others, which have much deeper worlds and larger casts, but the right mind behind this universe can take advantage of some of the characters and cultures and simply have fun with it.  Others may clamor for the Vampire Earth saga, but that seemed to taper off for me.  I can’t argue it has more scope and more powerful characters, but this is the more complete story at this moment.

terry-pratchett-discworld-video-game

Discworld, by Terry Pratchett”

I’ve read a few of these.  The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky are simply beautiful.  I don’t care for whom they were written.  This has the sort of scope Sanderson’s Cosmere has, but I don’t think people see it.  I’d be first in line for a Tiffany Aching saga, let alone the whole Discworld library.


I absolutely want you to comment below on what you think I’ve missed out.  I won’t lie, I left some out for simple bias and others because I felt they’d be better suited for the small screen.  I could clog the internet with all the sagas I think would be great cinematic universes.  These are just the first five I could think of.  (Shout out to Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle!)  My point is, as production companies are beating down the door for potential cinematic universe fodder, why not look at the genre that’s inherently designed for such a purpose?


CoverRevealAs for my books?  First off, if anyone wanted to produce anything based on my books, feel free to shoot me an email!  I’ve been asked how I feel about adaptations.  I’ve always felt The Journals of Bob Drifter would be better suited for series.  There’s a balance between what would make for a good series and what would make for a good cinematic universe.  You haven’t seen the last of Harmony and Kyle, but I still think I’d prefer to see that as a series than a cinematic universe.  I was ecstatic to hear Wheel of Time was tagged for a series.  I think that’s the right call.  I feel the same way about Bob.

Caught is the first in a trilogy, and each character, I feel, could hold his or her own in a movie.  For those reasons, I’d feel this project would be better suited for the big screen.  I have other books, deeper and more expansive in scope as I grow in skill, that would be even better suited, but this is what’s out there (or scheduled to be out there) for now.

Did I miss something?  Do you have ideas on project managers or cast members for any of the series I mentioned above?  Feel free to make a comment below and share your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Matt