My thoughts on J.J. Abrams and Star Wars: Episode 9

I have loved Star Wars my entire life. I was fortunate and lucky enough to have been a little kid back in 1999 when the prequel trilogy began, and am now even more lucky that the sequel trilogy is in full force. I would have loved to have been around during the run of the original movies, but I will let my parents have that privilege.

I went with a friend to see The Force Awakens on opening night back in 2015, and saw it multiple more times after that. I thought it was a really good movie. So far there has only been one trailer released for the next movie, The Last Jedi (which is surprising since there’s only a few more months until it comes out) and I am really excited to go and see that.

The other day it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be back to direct the third movie after Disney and LucasFilms let go Colin Trevorrow. Already there is a petition going around by some of the more hardcore Star Wars fans calling for his removal from the project, over what they feel was a failure on his part to deliver a true and good Star Wars movie the first time around. Never mind that it grossed over $2 billion worldwide and helped renew the franchise after an even greater backlash against George Lucas and the prequels. In some fan’s minds Jar Jar Abrams is not the man for the job and want him replaced by any number of directors who could potentially make a really good and original Star Wars movie.

Naturally, I signed the petition.

Do I really think it will do much good? Of course not. Since when do online petitions to Hollywood ever do anything good?

Barring personal tragedy or pissing off the wrong people at Disney, we can fully expect Abrams to remain at the help of Episode 9 until the end.

Why, then, would I sign something if I know it might not do any good?

To make a statement. I really did like The Force Awakens, but the more I watched it the more I realized that instead of being the start of something new and grand, which I was expecting the sequel trilogy to be, it ended up being a big-budget remake of the first Star Wars movie in many, many ways. I’m not going to go into detail about that here, as I am writing a separate essay about the similarities between the two movies that will be finished sometime in the near future. The total lack of originality when it came to plot and conflict was a big let down for me.

Thankfully, Abrams is not the director of The Last Jedi, but it is clear even from the one trailer we have that TFA’s influence has crept into Episode 8. Like it’s predecessor borrowing heavily from Episode IV: A New Hope, The Last Jedi appears to be taking many pages from the book of the second film of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. A young novice is on a deserted planet learning the ways of the Force from a powerful old master. A main character is in a medical tube awaiting revival. A small band of fighters are zipping forward to combat a line of giant walkers in the distance. And as the trailer closes Luke Skywalker, taking the place of Yoda from the original trilogy, stands in the shadows casting doubt on the Jedi Order, similar to Yoda’s own reservations about training Luke over thirty years earlier.

If all of that can be gathered from a single teaser, it really shows that plan that LucasArts has going forward with the series. It is quite understandable that fans would want–even demand–better from the producers. But by the look of things, history looks like it could be repeating itself.

There is always the chance that someone at Disney will see the petition (which, at the time I signed it this morning had over half of the required signatures) and be like, “Oh, a lot of fans aren’t happy that we asked J.J. Abrams to come back. Why is that?” and then at least maybe Disney will try and calm the angry cloud and at least make sure that Episode 9 is not a 21st Century Return of the Jedi. But if the first and second movies are rehashes of the originals then it would be completely out of sinc for the third to be an original idea.

In the end, Disney is there to make money. J.J. Abrams made for them a smash hit and sent their newly-purchased Star Wars empire on a great new course. Combined with the “success” he had with the Star Trek reboots and they have a man who will deliver them the gold.

There may not be any tiny exhaust ports for our little fan rebellion to fire proton torpedos down, at least where J.J. Abrams is concerned. But at least we tried.

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Back at it

A few weeks ago I ended a very long pause in my writing. Three weeks ago I completed my very first full-length short story totally at close to 13,00 words.

A week after that, I resumed writing for Amazing Stories by writing a review of the latest edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

And today, I finished a second crime story of about 4,500 words. In total, that means that I have written more fiction in the last few weeks than I have in my entire life. To top it all off, I decided to finally start writing a novel that I have been pondering about since Marine Corps boot camp–almost ten years ago!

This novel project will be going by the working title “The Wall Watcher,” which will not work as the final title for a number of reasons, which I will discuss later on.

In the meantime, I decided to resume blogging and trying to rebuild this site to keep me focused on my writing and to try and hold myself accountable. In the past whenever I’ve started a blog (like this one) it lasts up to a week then I forget about it. Same thing has happened time after time again with my fiction writing. In fact, after the first story was completed I realized that I had taken three or four days off from writing the second one, and if I didn’t do anything right then then months or years would go by before I typed another word of anything.

Regardless, it’s good to be back.

An Experiment

When I decided to start writing again, I was bound and determined to write at least 1000 words every single day. So far this week, that’s actually happened. My word count since I restarted my writing journey has yielded just over 5000 words in just five days.I feel like I can do more, though. However, sitting in front of my computer and forcing myself to not get up until I hit a certain number of words has been what’s doomed me in the past. I can get out 1000 words with little difficulty, but anything more usually starts to feel tedious very quickly. 
So tonight, when I get home from visiting a friend and before the Detroit Lions kickoff, I’m going to try something different. 
Tonight, to start the New Year off right, I am shooting for a goal of 2000 words. I’m going to break my writing into little chunks of 500 words a piece and see if I can’t double my output.
I will let you know before I go to bed how that turns out.

The Hunt for Metaphors

I’ve written about this several times before, most notably in one of my posts for Amazing Stories years ago, but one of my favorite YouTube videos is a lecture given by Ray Bradbury at Point Loma Nazarene University in 2002. (I’m watching it as I write this piece.)
In it, he gives beginning writers a treasure trove of advice on how to get started and how to improve one’s writing ability, and one of the main points he stressed upon early in his talk was the importance of metaphors.
In order for someone to really get good at identifying metaphors in books and stories and to be able to write good metaphors he gave a challenge. For the next 1000 nights he told the audience to read one short story, one poem, and one essay. To my knowledge, at least for those who would post about it online, no one has ever completed this task. I myself have attempted it twice already, managing to go a little over a month before eventually giving up.
Now that my passion about writing has come alive even greater than it ever has before and I’ve begun writing every night, I’ve decided to give it one more go. In the past I’ve called it my “Bradbury Diet” or my “Bradbury Program” but this time I’m not going to give a name to my challenge.
Instead, every night I’m just going to log what I’ve accomplished for the day reading and writing. Hopefully in 1000 nights I’d have read more stories, essays, and poems than most people ever will.
And hopefully I will have my name in print somewhere, too.

End of 2016

In years past I would write myself long lists of New Year’s Resolutions, many of which involved reading or writing. I know better than that, now. I never ever follow through with any of them, so instead of calling my goals “Resolutions” I just decided to call them goals, and instead of waiting until the New Year to get started I started right after Christmas. 

For the first time, I experienced my first success.

I had three writing goals for myself that I really wanted to accomplish. 

1) Write 1000 words a day minimum.

2) Finish one short story a week. And

3) Read every day.

I started these things on Wednesday. Here it is Saturday, New Year’s Eve, and already I’ve achieved these three things for the week. Last night I finished my first full-length short story. It’s not very good, and even if I polished it up I’d never want to publish it or anything, but what’s important to me is that I FINISHED a story. I didn’t give up half way through, I didn’t start writing it one night and never touch it again. I stuck with it for four days straight and finished it. 

On top of that, I wrote it in 1000 word increments–in other words, 1000 words a day, fulfilling the second goal of mine. Both of these gave me a major boost in confidence, let me tell you.

I’ve also been trying to cut back my gaming so I can read more. I’m almost through a second read-through of Philip K. Dick’s Solar Lottery and also a little over half-way into Stephen King’s On Writing. Today I’ve been reading the November/December issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, so I have three things going on right now. At the rate I’m going with my reading I should have all three, and possibly even a fourth, done by Friday. I have the next two days off of work and plan on being up late tonight so maybe I can squeeze a fifth book in this week.

So that’s my plan for the year 2017. If I keep up this pattern I should have at least a hundred books read, at least 52 short stories, and roughly 400,000 words written, not counting my blog entries.

Happy New Year, everybody!