New Releases (May and June)

The People's Necromancer - Ebook SmallThe People’s Necromancer will be released on May 7, 2018. The second book The Dark Paladin will be released on June 4, 2018. For a very limited time, each of these books will be 99 cents. Due to advertisements slated in June, the People’s Necromancer is going to be 99 cents for a few weeks into June. However, I’m not going to make any guarantees about how much longer than that the price will hold.

For those who managed to pick up a copy of The People’s Necromancer, this will be a slightly different version with an additional prologue and tighter story and flow (as well as fixes to typos and the addition of an inline map). I’m incredibly excited to share these stories with you, and I hope you’re excited to read about Nirendia and Ashton Jeraldson’s journey across Surdel. You’re going to meet the dark elves as their civilization is dying beneath the mountains. You’re going to ride with the paladins as they smite their way back into the good graces of the people. You’ll watch the murdered commoners come back from the dead for vengeance. Elves, orcs, humans, undead, demons, and even dragons make appearances! Get ready for a tale that throws you into the battles, love affairs, politics, highs, lows, and chaos of The Age of Magic!

The Dark Paladrin - eBook small

You can find fantasy maps of the kingdoms on the Maps page. You can find descriptions of the books on the Novels page.

 

Movie Review: The Shape of Water

Guillermo Del Toro has had a string of questionable movies, but I believe I’ve watched them all since Pan’s Labyrinth (which is a fantastic movie, btw, definitely check that out). My wife was really, really interested in seeing this movie, and so, without looking into it at all, we went to our first theater movie of 2018 to see “The Shape of Water.”

I really, really recommend just going to see it without seeing any spoilers. It’s not that the story is especially surprising. It’s mostly predictable once it sets up the characters and the plot moves on at a perfect pace. Humor is here. Love is here. Danger and violence is here. Nudity and sex is here–including some really bold ways to being a movie, I might add. And bold is probably a word I should use liberally in this review.

This is, quite simply, the best movie Del Toro has done since Pan’s Labyrinth. Is it better? I wouldn’t say that. I would say that he’s more accomplished now, and I think he is simply back in form as a dynamic, interesting storyteller of the fantastic. As a somewhat creative person myself, I was so happy to see this movie. The pacing allows you to think about what is going on, and the character and powers and everything else are revealed very intuitively and convincingly. You feel the frailty of the character. You feel the desperate situation that this creature, and really the entire cast of characters, is in.

The atmosphere is interesting and both a throwback and something new. The actors are perfectly cast, and really just a joy to watch–including a pretty convincing and yet sympathetic antagonist. The story ending will leave you satisfied.

My wife and I loved the movie. I would say this is as good a movie experience as I could have expected. Jenny and I both really enjoyed it. I’ll say 5/5 stars. It is a genuine triumph for Del Toro. I hope he gets to make more like this.

Wrath and Ruin is a USA Today Bestseller!

usa_today_bestseller_ranking

My fourth novel, The People’s Necromancer, has been released exclusively in the Wrath and Ruin box set, and our promotions and social media outreach has been highly successful. During a two-and-a-half-month preorder, we sold 7780 units on Amazon, 667 on B&N, and 372 on iBooks. That was enough to make it on the USA Today Best Seller list on its own. However, we did really well during our release week as well thanks to some focused BookBub ads, other ads with pretty much every major indie author push site (KND, ENT, Book Rebel, OTOH, etc.), and a lot of social media engagement and FB ads. Our total numbers ending on January 8th were 10,228 Amazon, 576 iBooks, and 1026 Nook.

I believe the publisher is keeping the box set at 99 cents until Tuesday, January 16th. Afterwards, I believe it is rising to 4.99 (which is still an absolutely amazing deal for 24 edited, quality novels). So, definitely pick up a copy.

Other News

The-People's-Necromancer - 05The Dark Paladin (the 2nd book in the Age of Magic) is through initial drafting, and I’m starting my editing passes. My current plan is to release it in May. I am currently deciding whether I will release it wide for a short period (possibly 1-2 weeks) before putting it in KU. The People’s Necromancer is probably going to be released as a stand alone after the limited release of the Wrath and Ruin box set is over in April.

I will be commissioning artwork for the Dark Paladin soon, and I’ll be sure to post that cover as soon as I can.

 

The Age of Magic is Released!

The-People's-Necromancer - 05Title: The People’s Necromancer
Purchase: Exclusive in Wrath and Ruin Box Set (ebook: Amazon | Apple | Nook/B&N | Kobo)
Series: The Age of Magic (1)
Genre: High Fantasy
Release: January 2nd, 2018 (Release Week @ 0.99, after which is at the mercy of the publisher). Edit: The box set is coming down April 19th. The book will be re-released on May 7th
Word count: 60,000
Status: Preorder
Maps: Surdel (Black & White | Color)

Amidst the darkest days of antiquity, mankind discovers a new kind of hero.

For thousands of years, mankind warred without magic. Peculiar abilities were buried in history along with the storied paladins and the mysterious dark elves who rarely ventured into human towns.

That all changes at the end of the Tranquility Era, when a young man named Ashton accidentally raises his murdered best friend Clayton from the grave. Because of his mistake, Ashton becomes the focus of manhunts, armies, and the King’s judgement, but Ashton is not the biggest problem in the Kingdom of Surdel.

The golden age of man is coming to a close and enemies surround the civilized world. Lulled into a false sense of security by isolation and pervasive peace, human lords hatch petty schemes to weaken their rivals and gain favor with the throne. Meanwhile, an ancient darkness stirs beneath the Great Northern Mountains and the orcish hordes grow restless just beyond the Southern Peaks. Out of the chaos at the end of the Tranquility Era, a new breed of hero arrives to forge an age of sorcery and mayhem. And into this chaos comes the Necromancer!


The second book in the Age of Magic series, The Dark Paladin, is almost through first drafting. The expected release date is late April or early May 2018. Here’s the story summary for The Dark Paladin:

Sometimes, you have to fight fire with fire. Or demons with demons.

The paladins have a storied history, but one tainted by a twisted sacrifice. To fight the demon lords intent on taking over their world, they had to make a deal with one.

Under this pact, paladin Cedric Arrington is forged into a weapon. Wearing his signature black armor to signal to all of Nirendia his dark allegiance, he is a man beset by shadow on a quest to send all demons back to the Abyss.

As a demon lord named Orcus emerges from the underworld, the foundations of the human kingdom of Surdel begin to fracture and weaken. Undead rise without the Necromancer. Demons pour out of Mount Godun at the heart of the tranquil realm, and no one but the paladins can smite the fiery creatures back to where they came from.

Cedric is joined by Prince Jayden of the dark elven Etyria Empire, who have fought their share of undead and evil creatures under their ancient, fallen cities for thousands of years. They search for hope. They search for a weapon capable of defeating a demon lord.

As King Aethis Eldenwald searches for answers to his demon and undead problem, old enemies from the south seek vengeance for recent wrongs. Meanwhile, in the capital Kingarth, the Necromancer Ashton Geraldson is held hostage by a father grieving the loss of his famous son. When Ashton’s pleas for release fall on deaf ears, he is given a tantalizing choice: stay prisoner while the world burns or make his own deal with the darkness.

Movie Review: The Last Jedi

the-last-jedi-theatrical-blogThis is probably the most conflicted I’ve ever been leaving a theater. Usually, my reviews are either overwhelmingly positive (4+ stars out of 5) or just irredeemable (1-2). It’s rare for me to really give anything a medium grade. However, for Star Wars The Last Jedi, I find myself feeling that way on the first viewing. Let’s talk about the positives first.

I loved the character development for most of the main characters. Kylo Ren totally redeems himself as a villain here. He’s complex. He has external factors that have really driven him over the edge, including Luke, which is amazing and fantastic. Rey is interesting and emotional (I mean, maybe a bit too teary-eyed at every opportunity), but a fun arc. The total letdown of her heritage is forgivable. It’s not even a big deal. Finn? Man, I thought he was going to die here, and it was such a beautiful scene that the ending of it left me feeling totally robbed. I’ll go more into that later. Still, all of these had great character arcs. Rose had a good arc, and her sister’s death was beautifully done.

After this point, SPOILERS ARE HERE.

Some of the fight scenes were well done. I’ll go into one that I have major issues with, but the Snoke ship fight will be well remembered. Though, I did feel it was contrived and missed a huge opportunity to show the power of the characters. Specifically, Kylo is much more powerful than he’s made out to be in this scene. He uses force choking and pushes on almost anyone outside of fights like this, just as you might expect with Vader. Force Lightning. Rogue One introduced a Vader who used some of these while hand-to-hand fighting. Man, Kylo could have showed himself to be a total badass here. There are so many things at his disposal, and he uses none of them, opting instead to grapple with people. But it’s done for tension and, for the most part, this is well done.

Might I remind you that Jedis and Sith are so attuned to the force that they can react to light-speed blasters and deflect them with lightsabers, but they have issues avoiding simple grapples. Let’s put that aside for a minute, and just instead admit there are opportunities missed here to show just how powerful Kylo and Rey both are instead of constantly at the mercy of whatever reactionary events are around them and wanting to hit everything with lightsabers. I think we’ll see an even more dynamic fight scene, hopefully with actual force magic, in the third movie of this trilogy.

OK, we’re already bleeding into my issues with the movie. Let me try to just summarize some more good things.

I loved the Leia scene. Some people have made a negative thing about this, but Leia was always known as force-sensitive, and I think it’s an interesting arc to present that the force itself may have protected her from space because it had especial affinity toward her. That was pretty cool. I thought the porgs were fun, even if some of the puppetry was low quality. I remember a scene where a porg flies in the Chewbacca encounter where I found myself kind of thinking “ew, that didn’t even seem remotely real”.

I liked the tension and teases about a potential shift in both Kylo and Rey. It would have been really fun to see a full shift with the characters, with either Rey going full dark or Kylo going full light. This could have been a crazy interesting love plot too, but that’s unlikely to happen now.

Now, let’s get into major and minor issues that reduce this movie to a 3/5 and caused me to feel constantly uncomfortable, especially in the last 40 minutes or so of the movie.

My major problem with this movie is Luke

The major issue for me here is Luke’s arc and how it doesn’t mesh with any of his actions from the first trilogy. Luke is a man who literally went into a room, knowing it was almost certain death, with the two most powerful Sith in existence (Vader and Sidious) to fight them. In this movie, he remotely projects himself, keeping himself out of harm’s way. Some reviews have tried to tout this as some huge deal that obviously showed his power. Meanwhile, in the same movie, Rey and Kylo are remotely viewing and touching each other with the force across the same distances but safely. Wait, that’s apparently wrong. Snoke claims to have been the one who made that connection possible. Holy crap, Snoke must have been amazingly powerful right? No one even knew that was possible. We’ll get to Snoke in a moment. Let’s talk about Luke first.

Luke knows Leia needs him, and he knows he created Kylo. Rey has told him that there is still good in Kylo, and he can be saved. Do you remember how hard Luke tried to get his father to redeem himself? And he succeeded. His father, who had literally killed hundreds of children in Jedi temples, redeemed himself. Kylo killed a handful of people at the Jedi temple, and he’s irredeemable to Luke. And again, Luke knows he created Kylo, but he hides from him and his responsibilities. This remote projection thing? There is no indication that Luke knows he is sacrificing himself. In fact, at the very end, as he’s crawling back on top of the pedestal, he seems to finally realize what he has done. “Oh… right… I guess I’m fading away. Can’t help the resistance any further. Good luck, sis and galaxy!”

star-wars-759

I mean, it’s not like fans hadn’t been dreaming of Luke fighting off Kylo and his cadre of dark knights and sacrificing himself heroicly to save Rey or something…

This is a huge missed opportunity to create a cohesive narrative and fitting conclusion to Luke. OK, so maybe he’s lost, but Yoda helps him really find himself and stop his childish antics. The director/writer chooses to put Luke in a situation where he sort of redeems himself but out of physical harm. This felt incredibly out-of-character to me. I’m sure we’ll get Luke as a force ghost in the third movie in this trilogy, and maybe, just maybe, he’ll teach Rey some of the amazing things he has learned since. All of that was wasted here though and the movie feels hollow.

That being said, I’m hoping to watch this movie 3-4 more times at the theater because I really, really want to like it. If I can just completely forget everything I thought I knew about Luke, I think I can enjoy this movie the second or third time around. There are some other problems though, and these might nag me too much for me to really want to raise this above a 3/5 rating.

My secondary problems revolve around illogical decision making, rationalization, and strategy

I’m not going to go into the casino scene. Believe it or not, it wasn’t that much of a problem for me. Yeah, it was drawn out, and yeah, it was ultimately pointless, but so are most actions in a resistance. For that alone, I saw points to keeping it in, just to show how sometimes you try something and it fails in its objectives but brings characters like Finn and Rose closer together.

There were some things that bothered me about the casino scene that you might not have even noticed. The first was how it was declared that everyone at the casino was an arms dealer to either the First Order or both factions. If you found this logical, you probably haven’t thought this all the way through. Or maybe you’re just better than me at letting little things go.

The richest people in existence will always be landowners and commodity traders. Even during war. If you control basic necessities, especially during war, you are going to always be rich. The richest person in history was not a weapons manufacturer. It was John D. Rockefeller, who supplied oil products for people at ridiculous markups, which just so happened to also be a lucrative industry during war. People still pay rent, and the galaxy has a lot of people living everywhere, even in the Outer Rim. People need food. People need oxygen, water, energy, etc. People especially need fuel and power. Weapons manufacturers often have really high overheads, but yeah, they can make a lot of money during wartime because the demand is so high. However,  the movie kind of put an ultra-liberal ideology into play here that made me roll my eyes a bit, and I’m an independent, liberal-leaning guy myself. It just seemed contrived to negatively designate everyone at a casino with arms sellers since they were so rich. How the heck does that make sense?

Version 2Which leads me to another thing that bothered me: men are really dumb in this movie and natural male tendencies are punished throughout the film. Women are overpowered and hyper-rational and guys are really stupid. Luke is childish and cowardly. Poe is headstrong and testosterone driven in all the worst ways. Kylo is a bit childish and irrational, and easily led astray and distracted (e.g. with Luke). Even Finn, who is probably the most relate-able male in the film, is ultimately saved from doing something that a woman deems to be stupid (because she cared for him). Nevermind that what Finn was doing was courageous and noble and might have saved all of the resistance hierarchy, including maybe even Luke, by destroying the device capable of busting through the armored bunker. Apparently, Rose knew it would all work out and Finn was being silly for risking himself–despite the fact that Holdo had literally just done something similar in what was obviously hailed as a hero moment.

Women literally know everything in this film. Men contribute no knowledge or useful leadership. Rey is Kylo’s equal with no real force training (some street-based training on her home planet, but if you think a person with street skills is equal to someone with formal weapons training, try convincing an expert in martial arts of this). Leia is cautious and thinks of all the things, unlike Poe who leaps before he looks and almost ruins everything, all the time.

Holdo has everything under control and knows way more than Poe. But it apparently took her her entire lifetime in command to figure out that a single flagship pushed to light speed at just the right moment would take out an entire fleet of star destroyers and Snoke’s mega flagship. OK. Why didn’t you just do that as soon as their fleet showed up, sacrificing yourself, and saving tens of thousands of people, including Akbar and everyone else? Heck, why not just put it on autopilot? Even our pathetic human civilization (in comparison to the advanced tech of Star Wars) has autopilots. If you were ready to sacrifice yourself for your people and you knew this would work, then why not do this right away to save your people? Why was there this super smart plot to run away for hours and lose every ship in the resistance fleet if you could just nuke the bastards and save a medical frigate and other ships? Why did dumb old General Hux not light speed just a bit ahead of the resistance, wait for them, and blow them out of the sky at any point in this slow chase scene?

Why? Because boys in this movie are dumb. We’re apparently overconfident idiots, all the time. I felt a bit insulted by this movie, especially after the first couple of times the theme kept coming up. Women and men think in complementary ways. We should all be working together. What exactly is going on here?

Other than Finn, I don’t think I like or empathize with any male character. I empathized and liked almost every female character. To me, this is poor writing. I’m not even going to chalk this up to an overtly liberal agenda, as I’ve seen others doing. I just didn’t think the male characters were portrayed well, except for Kylo Ren, who finally started to become a good villain.

To be honest, by itself, none of this was a problem for me. At least there were good, developed women characters. Combined with other minor problems, it all just started eating away at my enjoyment of the movie. It’s highly possible that I became overcritical of certain things because major satisfaction points were not earned at key points in the movie. I felt like so many major opportunities were missed that little details began to accumulate.

Minor problem: backstory and minor arcs

Both Rey’s and Snoke’s backstories are laughably bad. You might argue that you didn’t know much about Palpatine, and the treatments of Snoke and Palpatine were similar, but were they? Palpatine and Amidala were both from Naboo. Vader was from Tatooine.  Darth Maul was apparently from Dathomir. We learned this in the prequels. Palpatine has a pretty well developed arc, especially in that you know what he’s been up to. Meanwhile, Snoke seems more powerful than Darth Sidious (Palpatine) ever was, even creating tunnels between a Light and Dark avatars (Rey and Kylo) through space. He must have been alive while Vader and Palpatine were in existence. He must have been powerful and brooding and waiting. Doesn’t that sound interesting? We could have learned this with a short montage. Something. Anything. Nothing. Huge missed opportunity here.

Rey came from nothing. OK. That’s cool. Not a problem, but what about the first contact of Rey with the Dark Side? Let me note something that bothered me right away here. The Dark Side is alluring throughout the entire Star Wars series. If you need something, especially something emotional, man is it ever there for you. Remember when Anakin was having bad dreams about Padme dying? The Dark Side had an answer. Be like Plageis. Find a way to prevent your loved ones from dying. Vader tried luring Luke with a family connection and the promise to rule together as father and son. Did you notice what Rey wanted? What she asked the Dark Side on the island?

Who are my parents?

So what if they were nobodies? She wouldn’t have cared. It’s obvious that she wouldn’t have cared. The Dark Side could have traded for major brownie points here by trying to lure her over with any answer. Show a common junk trader and his smiling wife. Show a lie. That would have been even more appropriate. What did the Dark Side show her? Herself? Are you kidding me? The Dark Side is lame. It’s not even trying to win her over. What the hell? Like Luke, this felt really out of character for a side that has been characterized as powerful and alluring throughout the series. Here, it’s just lame. I wouldn’t want to join you either.

At least the director sort of made up for it after Snoke died by having Kylo appeal to Rey to join him. And there was an emotional connection that might have worked. For that reason alone, I was with the movie and forgave this problem with both the Dark Side’s original lack of overtures and Snoke’s lack of interest (which mirrored Palpatine’s initial disinterest in Luke). This did not really diminish the movie for me. I just thought it was a wasted opportunity to show the lure of the Dark Side and to, I don’t know, provide some consistent character portrayal in at least how the Dark Side interacts with people. The Dark Side plays with emotions. That’s literally what it does throughout the series. Oh well, first impression. Maybe The Dark Side was just really nervous. Poor Dark Side.

BTW, what happened to the Knights of Ren from the Force Awakens? If they really are students of Luke Skywalker turned to the Dark Side by the story of Luke’s betrayal of Kylo, then I’m hoping we see them in the next movie. I hope they don’t just drop out of existence.

Wrap Up

The movie had some fun fight scenes. The CGI and visuals were great. The emotional ties to most of the characters were great. The storyline was, for the most part, good. Kylo’s story here is significantly improved and he’s a villain you can really root for and against (perfect for villains). I’m looking forward to the third movie, despite the problems mentioned here.

On the con side, Luke’s character arc doesn’t really make sense, and he is very uncharacteristically cowardly here. Deus Ex Machina devices are introduced without foreshadowing. Leia’s scene has foreshadowing from other movies that she might be capable of extraordinary force usage, so that’s fine and I’m definitely giving her force scene here a pass. If anything, she should have used force gifts again. Oh well, no chance of that now (RIP Leia). Holdo’s novel usage of light-speed to destroy a fleet is so weird that foreshadowing would have been appreciated (such as a small scale example of this happening in the opening battle, for instance). I would expect both sides to start weaponizing this kind of tactic at scale, but I have a feeling this will never be used again, which makes this even sillier. Luke’s projection thing? Man, would have been great to see him do this at a shorter distance in front of Rey or something and show what he’s capable of so we’d all be prepared for it. I’m not a fan of Deus Ex Machina devices at all, especially in the 9th or so movie in a series without any warning.

Plot devices used here are sometimes ludicrous, especially the light speed martyrdom and when it is finally used–instead of at a time that would have saved most of the Resistance. The male characters in this movie are stupid (in that they are literally dumb and make all of the wrong decisions) on both sides of the battlefield. The only smart people seem to be women or men who know their role (e.g., Chewie just doing his job). Meanwhile, the “smart” decisions made by the resistance hierarchy seem more reliant on luck than some kind of super smart vision or strategy. Ultimately, many small problems made me like the movie less than I should have.

Still, 3 out of 5 is not a horrible score. It’s just that, for a Star Wars film, it’s not a good score either. After The Force Awakens and Rogue One, I was expecting a truly remarkable film. The trailer had me going nuts. The thought of Luke fighting again and even dying heroically was so much fun to think about, and I feel major opportunities were missed here that could have driven fans absolutely wild and made us all super excited about the next movie.

I do plan on going to the theater at least a couple more times to see this. I feel like I’m missing something or maybe my expectations were just too high about Luke and Kylo’s battles. I expected Luke to die. That’s not even close to my problem. The way he lived and died in the last thirty minutes, especially, just seemed really out-of-character for me.

Like me on my second viewing, I would recommend completely forgetting who Luke is and what has driven him in the past. Pretend like this is the first time you’ve ever seen him and maybe you’ll be ok. That’s what I’m going to try. I’ll add a comment to this post after my second view.

The People’s Necromancer Release

PeoplesNecromancer_WrathNRuin_BlueFantasyThe People’s Necromancer is finished and set for release on all vendors as part of the Wrath and Ruin box set. 24 exclusive sci-fi and fantasy novels from award-winning and USA Today Bestselling authors for just 0.99 during preorder. This is a limited edition set that is only going to be available for sale for 3 months (down by April). We are trying to get this out to as many people as we can. Our goal is to hit New York Times Bestselling status, which requires tens of thousands of sales (we’re actually inching our way toward 10,000 total sales during preorder alone). We’re quite a bit short on the Apple and B&N sales though, so if you have $0.99 and you want to help us reach our goal of possibly hitting NYT Bestseller status, we would REALLY appreciate your help! Please, oh please!

Anyway, here’s the final info on The People’s Necromancer, my new high fantasy novel which is being released exclusively with this brand new set.  4 cents per novel during the preorder period. Amazon bestsellers, USA Today bestsellers, and award-winning fantasy and sci-fi! It’s an absolute steal. Help us out!

Here’s the info on my novel as well as purchase links to Amazon, Apple, and Nook/B&N!

The-People's-Necromancer - 05Title: The People’s Necromancer
Purchase Preorder in Wrath and Ruin Box Set (ebook: Amazon | Apple | Nook/B&N | Kobo)
Series: The Age of Magic (1)
Genre: High Fantasy
Release: January 2nd, 2018 (Preorder @ 0.99)
Word count: 60,000
Status: Preorder
Maps: Surdel (Black & White | Color)

Amidst the darkest days of antiquity, mankind discovers a new kind of hero.

For thousands of years, mankind warred without magic. Peculiar abilities were buried in history along with the storied paladins and the mysterious dark elves who rarely ventured into human towns.

That all changes at the end of the Tranquility Era, when a young man named Ashton accidentally raises his murdered best friend Clayton from the grave. Because of his mistake, Ashton becomes the focus of manhunts, armies, and the King’s judgement, but Ashton is not the biggest problem in the Kingdom of Surdel.

The golden age of man is coming to a close and enemies surround the civilized world. Lulled into a false sense of security by isolation and pervasive peace, human lords hatch petty schemes to weaken their rivals and gain favor with the throne. Meanwhile, an ancient darkness stirs beneath the Great Northern Mountains and the orcish hordes grow restless just beyond the Southern Peaks. Out of the chaos at the end of the Tranquility Era, a new breed of hero arrives to forge an age of sorcery and mayhem. And into this chaos comes the Necromancer!

Review: Godless and Longmire on Netflix

So, I’ve been busy with drafting the second novel in the Age of Magic series, but not so busy that I haven’t immersed myself in several Netflix series this month. I dove into several binges, but I’m going to focus this review on the Westerns. I fell in love with Westerns with Sergio Leone’s body of work, and I’ve branched into many Westerns since then. If Westerns are a guilty pleasure of yours, then we’re cut from a similar cloth, and I may have some series recommendations for you to look out for.

The first Western I finished up recently was the final season of Longmire. That series was satisfying and ended on a pretty good note. It was a bit predictable, but not in a bad way. I knew what to expect with Longmire, so I won’t say much more about it. If you liked the first five seasons, you’ll appreciate this Western/Detective hybrid’s conclusion.

GodlessBut Longmire’s not really what we should be talking about. We should be talking about Godless.

Let’s go ahead and start with what I feel is the obvious. Scott Frank, the creator of Godless. Damn you, you amazing bastard! What a well crafted story! I’m jealous I didn’t write it, and probably never could have. I mean, I was totally hooked. Whitey and Louise. Roy Goode. The Mine. The spirits of Indians in the Old West. The natural love stories amongst the women of La Belle. The savagery. The realistic shootouts. The fate of the brave. The complicated villain. The brother who waits on the Pacific.

If you are a fan of Sergio Leone, you will love this series. If you love Westerns, you will love this series. If you hate Westerns, you’ll probably still love this series. The cinematography is superb. The soundtrack fits perfectly. The pacing in regards to emotion and dread and fear and bravery is just amazing. I can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Jeff Daniels is fantastic. I’m trying to imagine anyone else in this role. This is the type of villain I aspire to write. Complex. Damaged. Heroic, terrible, and doomed. Vulnerable physically and emotionally. Well done.

godless-trailer

The backstories in Godless were so expertly done. There was just enough to jog your mind, and not so much that you forget the present.  The pacing and storytelling here is just phenomenal. Like I said, damn you, you magnificent bastard! Well done, storyteller. Well done.

Godless: Five stars. Familiar yet unique. Sweeping and deep. Powerful female characters and solid storytelling.

Longmire: Four stars. If you’ve enjoyed the first five seasons, then you’re going to enjoy the last season. Everything wraps up in a satisfying way. Jacob Nighthorse was probably my favorite character in the series. Not too good. Not too bad. Malachi was a bit too over-the-top. Henry and Walt are a unique combination of buddy cops that are both quiet and stoic. Kind of interesting that the combination still actually works after all those seasons. I’m not sure what to say about the Vic arc. I mean, sure, it was obvious. I’m still trying to figure out if I liked the arc or not. The series may just be too Vanilla for me to give it five stars.

 

Why is Lucifer’s Odyssey So Weird?

Lucifer's Odyssey - eBook smallNow that I’m finally moving on to a completely different genre and series, I thought I would go back and address some of the most common questions I’ve gotten from others and myself, the origins of the series, what’s going on, and why I’ve been disappointed in the series. If you have other questions that I don’t cover here, feel free to comment or send me an email (rexjameson @ gmail.com).

I want to make very clear that I do not intend to keep writing the Primal Patterns series, especially in regards to the interactions of Lucifer and Jehovah. If the series is ever picked up again for a fourth novel, Jehovah and Lucifer are simply going to be gone. If you’ve read the first three novels, then you know why and how. If you haven’t, just know that any philosophical questions regarding Christianity are tabled forever. There’s quite a bit to still talk about in regards to Lucifer and Jehovah because I had originally arced out 7 books and not just three. However, it does appear to be time for me to focus on other, lighter fare, and mull about whether or not I should continue the series in any way. This should result in more novels released per year because the Primal Patterns series was a bit of a nightmare to plot and build meta-story layers into and took a lot more time than a novel purely meant for entertainment.

Anyway, let’s get cracking!

Is this really an alternative theology/mythology? Why?

I grew up in the Bible Belt. I was born in Alabama and lived most of my teenage years in Tennessee. Christianity was a huge part of my developmental years. My mom took my siblings and I to church every Wednesday and often to two different services on Sunday (morning and evening). By the time I was five, I was speaking in tongues at our services, and my mother frequently moved us around to different churches for reasons I still don’t understand. I was a true believer.

Something really big happened when I was 11, and this had a seismic impact on my acceptance of biblical stories and lessons as absolute truth, as written. However, from the time I was a teenager, I thought a lot about two key issues:

  1. What happens when babies die? Why does anyone die?
  2. Why are the old testament and new testament so different, and relatedly, why are some of the lessons learned from the old testament so appalling?

These are hardly new questions. I’m just explaining why the heck Lucifer’s Odyssey was written in the first place. To answer as succinctly as possible: I wanted it all to make sense in a universe at least as big as what I knew about the universe right then. We’re talking about something massive and billions of light years across, and I had to resolve how angels and demons move around the galaxy, and then the universe, and then a multiverse. There were a million things I put into backstory and scientific foundations of this series, but it all hinged on one thing I had been told by adults and clergy in regards to the two issues above.

God has a plan. It’s all part of God’s plan.

The more I thought about this idea, that babies die according to God’s plan and that every life and death has some kind of purpose, potentially across billions of light years of space and possibly targeted evolution of many different alien civilizations, where all of those births and deaths matter, the more I wanted to write about this plan. And the more I thought about why a plan involved so many mistakes or just atrocious behavior (genocide, rape, murder, cannibalism in lots of different species, etc.), the more I probed into fields like chaos theory, quantum mechanics, emergent behaviors, and swarm intelligence. I ended up working as a researcher in distributed AI, and that’s probably in no small part due to this overwhelming curiosity.

If God has a plan, what is it? If God is fighting the Devil, how exactly would the Devil pose any kind of significant threat to something so smart as to literally have even a high level plan for an emergent system from something as small as cellular interactions to as complex as Earth, much less all of the systems of the universe? Then the question naturally came of where does God come from?

The series explores some of these things and pitches a plan that kind of makes sense to me. Again, this is the fiction. Demons existed before the firmament and creation process. God came from demons, but hated their existence and wanted to change the universe to order instead of chaos. Souls needed to matter. Life needed to have an ultimate purpose.

Now, let’s get down to the question. Is this an alternate mythology? Yes. It presents something that deviates from the literal text of the Bible. Now, more importantly: is this meant to be an answer to any of these questions and issues? No. It’s not an alternate theology. It’s PURELY fiction. I am NOT criticizing Christianity. I am NOT converting you to a new religion. I am simply going on a spiritual journey in a fictional setting in a way that tries to make some sense of things from my limited perspective of the universe.

God’s plan in the series: Why do babies die? What possible purpose does this serve?

When I spoke to clergy, I was often told that babies die because God needed them in heaven. My next question tended to be why? What possible use does a baby taken before it can even develop conscious thought have in God’s plan? If our purpose is to fight the Devil, and this baby died before it learned anything about fighting, how could it possibly be useful to God in his fight against the Devil?

The answer in the Primal Patterns series is the Hall of Souls, which was directly correlated to the Jewish concept of the Guf (Treasury of Souls). In the Bible, the Guf is a source of souls. Once it runs out, the Messiah must fill this Guf with more souls to be born. However, there was a twist I wanted to do here that ties into “Why do babies die?”

What if the reason babies die is because God had created this Guf to not be a one-shot source of souls, but a renewable soul mechanism from an initial soul creation (the equivalent of the Tree of Souls in the Jewish creation myth)? In the series, God takes martyr demons who believe in his cause, a group called The Intellectuals, and he fills the Hall of Souls with their existing, very powerful souls. These souls can be fragmented and reassembled into angels later, if God wanted, and these fragmented souls can each be a human being in almost infinite number. The Hall of Souls provides a method of reincarnation and progress of souls towards God’s plan by constantly making souls evolve, in addition to the evolution of physical creatures.

In the series, God hated the manner of creation and death in Chaos. Everything was born and then died permanently. He saw this as wasteful, and in the series, God was a kind of spiritual scientist who wanted knowledge to be more permanent so progress toward his goals could be guaranteed. Why did a baby die? It doesn’t matter to God in this series, because the baby is going to be reborn in a different body. It will learn something or nothing, and it will be recycled into the Hall of Souls. Progress is either not improved or improved slightly. The souls in Order, the thing Jehovah has created in the series, will be making progress toward fighting the huge demon army that exists in the multiverse and helping to accomplish God’s plan. Lucifer messes this up somewhat, but Lucifer is meant to be a formidable agent that Jehovah has reason to fight.

The Hall of Souls is also a type of afterlife, and if you physically visit the primal patterns, you can sort of experience it, as Lucifer’s child did. All the knowledge of the universe passes through you, as well as all of the emotions (which is obviously very intense).

God’s plan in the series: What is up with the primal patterns? Why do you wait to show them until the second novel?

The-goblin-rebellion_4_BThe Lucifer’s Odyssey you can read online is not the original, for better or worse. Lucifer’s Odyssey went through extensive rewrites with a developmental editor and even before the editor. The developmental editor forced a rewrite that focused on story telling. He wanted me to preach/soapbox less if never, and I think many of the changes we did was for the best for storytelling, but it also removed a lot of explanation that might have helped people understand that I wasn’t making fun of their religion or that I wasn’t just an idiot.

In the second book, I started bucking my editor’s advice and providing a lot more internal dialogue. But the real answer to these questions posed above is: it was my first novel, and I probably should have picked an easier subject matter to convey in my first series. I’m just the kind of guy who always goes after the hardest problems. If it’s not challenging, a lot of times, I get bored. This was a challenge I took on, and I will admit that despite hiring developmental editors, I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.

And part of that is not my editor’s fault. I was incredibly scared of how the public would receive this book. I was terrified that this book would ruin my career if I discussed tweaks to Christianity in a fictional setting as part of a spiritual journey. I thought people would hold all of this against me, and maybe they still might.

But let’s get back to the first question. One of my favorite all time authors was Roger Zelazny. Reading The Great Book of Amber gave me ideas, years before I started writing Lucifer’s Odyssey, that a bit of science fiction in multiverses might go a long way. So, I researched and I thought, and I came up with something I thought could explain the faster-than-light travel by bending space-and-time without resolving to a card deck with people’s pictures on it (Zelazny fans know what I’m talking about). I also implemented a way that God might introduce emergent evolution into his designs that were reflected in the universe around us.

Why the tonal inconsistency? Why is there humor everywhere in Lucifer’s Odyssey, even in serious situations? What were you thinking with Sariel?

First, the jokes and humor are meant to admit “This is fiction. Please don’t take this too seriously. I’m just going on a journey here. Try not to get too offended. Please don’t crucify me over this. Etc. ” It was also meant to show how an immortal kept in a subservient role, despite his power, for a million years might grow hopeless, reckless, and obviously jealous of his brother who was treated as the chosen one by both his parents and the entire demon population. Sariel starts out with no real responsibility, despite his amazing potential. He loses his rock and foundation in Batarel, and he becomes the strongest demon wizard in existence. The whole arc was planned that way.

However, to many people, he’s annoying. To people who get through the first book, he tends to be their favorite character, and for good reason: he has the best arc.

As for the comments and reviews about humor being completely out-of-place in combat, I know a lot of soldiers. They joke all the time. I’ll never forget a particular story one of my best friends told me about his tours in Iraq. He was joking with his best friend in the service on top of a tank in Iraq when a sniper blew his friend’s head off. He was looking at his friend and laughing with his friend when his friend’s head liquefied. This was not the first time they had been shot at. This was probably not even the thirtieth time. They had just grown used to the danger, and life goes on in war. You still have to keep your spirits up and people laugh during gunfights sometimes, especially if they feel invulnerable or just don’t care anymore (or maybe more accurately, they’re tired of being scared of death and want some normalcy).

I have three brothers and a sister. When we were kids, my brothers and I had rock wars and BB gun fights with other kids in the neighborhood. In hindsight, this was stupid and really dangerous. Whenever someone actually got hit and started crying, the whole neighborhood participating in the fight would scatter like cockroaches in the light. But while this fight was going on, before anyone got hit and we felt invincible, we laughed and trash-talked all the freaking time. We didn’t think we would die, and we were idiots.

The “tonal inconsistency” comes from those experiences. And yes, I’m well aware that boys are dumb. God, we were stupid.

Why is violence so prevalent in the series?

Because the universe is violent. The Earth is violent. Animals kill other animals. Animals kills plants. Plants kill insects. Supernova destroy all creations within light years of distance of the exploding star. Literally all life and even unlife (planets, moons, etc. all disintegrate and become something else). And all of it in the series serves God’s plan.

The violence in the series is meant to be a reflection of the violence I see around us. Instead of attributing death to God punishing a creature. It is instead a part of the renewal of life and the continuation of God’s plan.

Why does the series not stick to the Bible verbatim?

Part of trying to apply Jehovah versus Lucifer to a fight across a multiverse is that you have to overlook certain parts of the Bible that aren’t possibly true, probably because the person who wrote the chapter of the book simply didn’t understand how the universe works at the time (and if they were having a vision, they may have misinterpreted the message). For instance, verses like Revelation 6:13 where all the stars of heaven fall to Earth. Anyone who knows what stars are and how they compare in mass and size knows that a single star getting close to Earth, much less hitting it, would cause the Earth to disintegrate. So, I had to basically ask two more questions.

1.) What might these verses actually be trying to say?

2.) Is there any reason the Bible might need to lie or exaggerate something?

In the series, Lucifer can read the Bible. He sees these problems in the texts, and he immediately dismisses most if not all of it as a lie or a fabrication by humans. He doesn’t realize much of it is written in such a way that an omniscient being might be planning Lucifer’s demise. What if Lucifer wasn’t the biggest deceiver in the universe? What if God was better and smarter than Lucifer in every conceivable way?

The Bible seeming wrong is literally part of God’s plan in the series. It shows God’s intelligence not fallibility. Again, fiction. Don’t send me hate mail.

Why are there two Gods in Order?

The more I tried to reconcile lessons from the Old Testament and the New Testament, the more I felt like these two instances of God being worshiped and described in the two testaments were two different beings. The Old Testament God, the one with the big plan, saw nature and humanity as things to take sides on and simply part of a much larger mechanism with long term goals (such as in the story of Samson and Lion and the Bees, him being justified in going out into the streets of his town and killing dozens of random Philistines and not only it being right with the Old Testament God but also serving as a moral lesson about cheating riddles in the story of the Lion and the Bees). God had chosen sides: the Jewish people over the Philistines, even though he had created both. The New Testament God didn’t have Philistines. There was no evil side in regards to race. There was simply right and wrong, good and bad, and ultimately, love and forgiveness. These seem like different gods.

Clergy I have talked to have traditionally said something like “God changed when his son Jesus died on the cross.” And while that may certainly be true, there’s a certain interpretation of modern Christianity that glosses over this in the following ways. First, Christians in America tend to believe in Old Testament punishments instead of forgiveness for almost all crimes. Even petty crime is given Old Testament, eye-for-an-eye-style punishment guidelines, and Christians are generally ok with this (despite the Bible talking about forgiveness and God being the ultimate judge). I’m not saying I disagree with eye-for-an-eye in most cases. I’m simply stating an observation of our preference to have significant punishments for often trivial crimes with no thought to a  person’s potential rehabilitation in our own eyes, much less God’s perspective and judgement.

Second, from the perspective of most modern Christians, God still takes sides, and he still smites for transgressions. The Old Testament God still smites people who offend him. Floods sometimes are attributed to human cause in offending God. Accidental deaths are a part of God’s plan, whether punitive or for some higher level purpose. We’ve all heard stories from certain preachers about how gays and lesbians brought on God’s wrath and things like that. OK (definitely not OK, but I’m talking out the issue with the single God structure for both testaments). This creates a problem in the model of forgiveness for most transgressions against God’s code and the cleansing martyrdom of Jesus. Though, I’m well aware of the counterpoint to this argument that clergy might argue if a person asks forgiveness but doesn’t really mean it and keeps up with sinful ways, then perhaps God has to punish those people to show them that true forgiveness is only possible when sinful ways are abandoned. And again, this is not my viewpoint. I’m just talking about a journey here.

Anyway, for the series, an Old Testament God (Jehovah) and a New Testament God (Gaea) seemed to be coexisting. One smites. One forgives. And since this was completely meant to be fiction, why not go with a simpler explanation for the seeming confusion between God’s forgiveness. What if the son of God was actually the son of two Gods, and he preferred the mother’s point-of-view? Again, fiction. Not real. Please do not send me hate mail. This is about my own spiritual journey, and how I expressed it. It would be great if others want to take their own journey with me, but I completely understand if you hate the very thought of even trying. It’s ok. I’m moving on from the series.

What is up with the elves? What the heck is that about?

There are multiple reasons for the elves to be in the series. First, they show the single-mindedness of the demon race and how they view other immortal species. They are an example of why Jehovah should be afraid of demons, even though he is one of them, because he is fundamentally different from other demons. Second, they are a showcase of part of my research into distributed AI and my thoughts on some of the future and problems with the future, masked as a fantastical crazy idea so it wouldn’t seem as scary. Third, the series is not just about Christianity, and is also about how the Hall of Souls churns knowledge and how some of our favorite stories may actually be sourced on some realistic, possible truth in this sci-fi universe of primal patterns. Again, fiction though. Not theology.

Why do you feel like Shadows of Our Fathers is currently your masterpiece, and you will never top it in terms of storytelling? What does this say about you as an author?

Shadows-of-our-fathers_4AObviously, no one asks me this question. This is just something I feel like I should address because these are thoughts I’ve had.

The final installment of the series took a long time to write. There are so many meta-stories going on that I wanted readers to peel away like an onion while reading. The title itself is reflected in many stories in the tome.

Kisha is in the shadow of her father’s malice and legacy. Her pursuit of marriage with Sariel is in the shadow of how she believes her father failed her mother before and during marriage. Sariel’s pursuit of greatness is in the shadow of his father figure Batarel and in the negative shadow cast by his own father. There’s also a literal shadow of his father who is giving him and Lucifer advice. Lucifer’s son is in the shadow of his father’s greatness and in his actual shadow cast from somewhere inside Hel. I could go on and on here. You’re supposed to read this book and think about these things, because it was certainly a part of my plan.

The development edit and other edits of Shadows of Our Fathers cost nearly 4,000 dollars, and I was very disappointed in my development editor because he didn’t care to reread the series or understand what I was trying to say here. He didn’t even remember the style manual we were using in the series, so I spent months combing over changes and cross referencing them with the other two books and getting really disappointed and depressed with each chapter. I did this edit knowing the series would not make back the costs, but I saved up for it in my main job. Because my previous cover illustrator stopped responding to requests for new work, I saved up for redoing all three covers in a consistent style to give people the final versions of the series that I would write. The last book in the series took roughly 6,000 dollars to bring to market, including editing, covers, etc, despite knowing there was no way in heck this was going to break even. I felt I had an obligation to those who did read the series to finish it in a strong and reasonable way, despite the limits of my own abilities as an author and a thinker to finish this first series in a way that people would like. I think I accomplished at least that much.

Why do you view yourself as a failure in your first series?

I bit off more than I could chew, and I wrote something that I knew many people would hate without even understanding what I was trying to do. I knew it might poison my brand. So why did I do it? Because I couldn’t get the story out of my head. Because I was on a spiritual and scientific journey, and I wanted to write something that I felt might show how amazing Christianity might be if you tried to apply it to the vastness and craziness of the cosmos, instead of focusing on only the events of Earth. Because I wanted to write something complex and honest, and I really loved the idea, characters, and plot.

Ultimately, I think it’s fair to say that I failed to accomplish my objectives. The series reached around 28,000 people, mostly through free downloads of Lucifer’s Odyssey, but it is a net loss of many thousands of dollars. Only around 565 people bought the 2nd book and 115 bought the 3rd book, which was released in 2017. I had arced out seven books of material and introspection and I obviously blew it. I had to shorten it to three books. I don’t like the first book because my developmental edit convinced me to remove most of the exposition and internal dialogue, and I didn’t know any better. I didn’t say no, and I think that caused quite a bit of the failure to launch for the series.

There are reviews by people, especially other authors, who believe I just made up random events instead of meticulously planning how all of this wrapped up into an omniscient god’s plan. They didn’t see Lucifer’s tendency to leap before he looked (he literally met his fiance this way) as a reflection of the randomness in the churn of the Chaos’ primal pattern. They saw it as laziness, and they reviewed accordingly.

In short, I was dumb, but I was stubborn enough to push through the obstacles and end the third book where the planned seventh book had ended. I’ve been told by many that the series got better, and this is a good sign that I grew in confidence as a writer and learned some kind of lessons that will hopefully carry into future series. I am now smart enough to move on to a new genre and series that should be more fun for readers and helps me avoid some of these pitfalls. I’m ready for the journey.

If you read through the Primal Patterns series, thank you. It means a lot to me. I’ll keep writing and getting better, and one day, I hope to give you readers something truly amazing to read. I’ll admit that my first series fell short. Unfortunately. For this reason, I’ve decided to keep Lucifer’s Odyssey permanently free.

If you have gained a new appreciation for these novels and would like to try them out, see the Novels page for individual links. Or click these links for Lucifer’s Odyssey, The Goblin Rebellion, and Shadows of Our Fathers. Otherwise, stay tuned for The People’s Necromancer and the Age of Magic, a high fantasy series set on the world of Nirendia. I’ll get to awesome fiction that is more broadly palatable and soon!

Movie Review: Justice League

justice_leagueAfter the really impressive showing with the standalone Wonder Woman movie by Patty Jenkins, my wife and I were really looking forward to Justice League. How excited were we? We decided to organize a family movie day with relatives visiting us for Thanksgiving, and we took the time out of our PTO to watch this movie with my brother-in-law. My other relatives went to see Murder on the Orient Express (which is good, btw, and very faithful to Agatha Christie–worth seeing, but Jenny and I had already gone the week prior). Before going, we discussed the Rotten Tomatoes score for Justice Leagure (currently 39%), and I read some reviews. This allowed me to temper my expectations a lot.

It didn’t help.

Justice League is simply irredeemable on any level, as a movie. Before we even get started, this is a solid 2/5. If there is a 3 hour Director’s Cut, I might watch that to see if Zach Snyder had even tried to do enough backstory before the editors cut out too much. How bad was it? When the movie finished, my wife and I looked at each other and just laughed. She left after watching the first end credit scene (which was really early in the credits). She asked me to watch and tell her if anything interesting happened. The thing was, I was already leaving my chair after we had exchanged a look.

So why a 2? Flash’s humorous one liners for me, maybe. For my wife, we talked about Jason Momoa’s naked torso. You know what? If that’s what you need, here are some images. You don’t have to see the movie.

#MomoaForTheLadies

Henry Cavill also gets shirtless screen time. The Cyborg gets shirtless but his body is metal, so you’re not getting a treat for that, sorry. Some of the Amazons have stomachs showing instead of breastplates, but the media frenzy over this is hardly worth mentioning. It’s not even close to what kills this movie. So what’s the problem here?

Zach Snyder is the problem. Now, before I go on, I know that Zach Snyder is still dealing with a family tragedy, even months later, and he will always be dealing with this tragedy. As a fan of movies, and as someone who has literally watched every DC movie to date, that shouldn’t impact my ability to like this film.

I’ve also watched all Zach Snyder films. I loved 300. I really, really liked Watchmen, which many people do not. I did like Man of Steel also. But as far as pacing and exposition go, he just seems overwhelmed in many of his recent movies especially. Justice League is an absolute train wreck of storytelling.

If you watch this movie, please try to tell me what Steppenwolf’s actual powers are. It’s only in hindsight, and after reading people who love the comics describe Darkseid, that I had any idea that Darkseid’s potential arrival was the real menace. Do you remember the Batman fantasy of Darkseid in Batman vs. Superman? No? Me neither. There’s no reintroduction of the threat.

The only flashbacks you’re going to get is to a previous fight with Steppenwolf where he actually had these three devices that when put together cause a mystery scenario, and that apparently did nothing. It literally just called in a Green Lantern who apparently got killed with no backstory, united the Atlanteans, humans, and Amazons and they beat back Steppenwolf. So, you find out Steppenwolf is defeatable by lightning-wielding Atlanteans, but he apparently didn’t get afraid then. Why is that important? I don’t want to give that away, if you’re actually going to watch this.

As with many Zach Snyder films, he gets too engrossed in the original material, and his editors can’t chop, cut and frame the movie in a way that makes cohesive sense. The villain is not at all menacing enough to warrant this team. This is not in any way an equivalent matchup to Loki and the Avengers or anything else really. Steppenwolf attacks a random deactivated nuclear power plant in Russia, instead of a major metropolis to make this seem like a real threat. Sure, he was going to destroy the world… or was he? It was only after the movie that I realized the Darkseid threat. There was NO introduction of this threat. There is no cutscene of Darkseid. There is no real ominous warning about Darkseid. Apparently, Zach Snyder and his editors believed that we all know the comic source and we understand the real threat is bigger than Steppenwolf.

No. No, we do not. My poor brother-in-law kept turning to me and asking me questions. Who is that? Where does he come from? What is going on here? That’s Cyborg. His dad appears to have made him, but we don’t even get a minor genesis story. He’s apparently mad at not knowing what’s going on with him. I’m mad about not knowing what’s going on too, and I’m an author who prides myself on being able to predict and understand things quickly. It wasn’t that I was completely lost during the story. I got a lot of what was going on, but I was also super disappointed in the lack of storytelling, drama, suspense, or anything else.

Everything seemed forced. Did Superman struggle with his rebirth? No. He came out, no holes, ready to fight with good guys, despite the fact that he obviously remembered some of them. And the Batman thing? Remembering him and what happened and not remembering that they teamed up? The whole Louis Lane thing? For it to work, it would have needed more time, and it’s not like it needed a lot. Maybe some very dramatic pauses where she is looking at something and is interrupted from dreaming about Superman. Just constantly. Then this would have been more emotional. It seemed forced though. The whole movie seemed forced. One bad transition after another. No backstory.

You kind of needed origin stories for both Aquaman and Cyborg. Even a short 5 minute backstory for each would have done this. My brother-in-law shouldn’t be confused about who the heck this guy is. Neither should I. I don’t read the comics. Why should I HAVE to read the comics to understand what is going on? Guide me through it. “What’s Aquaman’s deal?” I’m not even sure he was introduced as such. I just knew Jason Momoa was going to play Aquaman because who hasn’t watched trailers and read into this before seeing it. And even with all of my research and understanding of the basics here, I wasn’t just lost, I was really, really disappointed.

And remember, I had tempered my expectations. If this would have just been spectacle and fun, then I would have been fine. That was literally my expectation, but it wasn’t even that. The grave digging scene was a bit chuckle-worthy with Flash. Him tripping over his feet was funny. He was basically the affable side kick in comics–the humorous guy. But like my brother-in-law said later,

“Wasn’t he in X-Men?”

“No, that was Quicksilver, but Marvel and DC have many similar characters. I mean, even Deadpool has a counterpart in DC.”

“Oh, really? Who’s Superman’s counterpart?”

“Um… maybe Hulk or Thor? The problem with Superman is he’s just all powerful. He gets more and more powerful as his adversaries grow powerful.”

And this is a REAL problem in this movie. Holy Geez. In Man of Steel, Superman has some vulnerability. He’s taken to his limits and he is even taken to a moral/ethical limit. Like it or hate it, it was a powerful scene at the end. In this movie? Superman is not at all kept in check in any way. Even Flash can’t keep up with him in terms of speed, his real gift. Superman can’t even be distracted. That’s why there really hasn’t been a pure Marvel counterpart to Superman. You created something ridiculous, and although Superman has faced real challenges in comics, it doesn’t translate in this movie. This was a laughably hollow climax.

I’ve seen reviews from “critics” or “average reviewers” who claim that everyone stood and clapped at the end of their showing. That absolutely did not happen with ours. No one clapped. Most people left without staying to watch the final end credit bonus screen where you learn that a man with no name is showing up. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes this works. The X-Men ending where the four horsemen and the Apocalypse preview? That was actually really interesting. I wasn’t as interested in Lex Luthor’s vision of the future. I didn’t even know why or what he was doing.

Apparently, staying true to the comics means you have to just view Lex Luthor as chaotic evil and just against Superman no matter what. In the original Superman movies, you at least understood what Lex was doing. He had a plan, and it was self-serving. Even in later movies, you still felt something for Lex. Now? I feel nothing for Lex. He’s not menacing. I don’t understand him, and I really, really don’t care.

The next Justice League might be the first DC movie I don’t see, and that’s saying something. I sat through Batman vs. Superman. It was ok, but I didn’t like it and won’t watch it again. Suicide Squad I would watch again for Harley Quinn, who is an amazing character, and some of the other characters were kind of fun. After so many Zach Snyder films that I’ve been disappointed in, though? I don’t find myself very interested. Maybe if Rotten Tomatoes has a great rating for a movie he does, I’ll take a chance. Even Uwe Boll had Rampage, and I haven’t been able to make it through any of his other movies (never tried to see one in theaters, only at home when I was bored).

Again, Justice League is a solid 2/5, and it is really rare that I can’t find enough good in a movie to give it at least 3/5 score. Pros: Jason Momoa shirtless for the ladies. Flash is a fun character and should get his own standalone without Zach Snyder. Cons: Zach Snyder. Poor exposition. Bad storytelling. No backstory. Most people will be lost. Bad guy not very menacing. Team not really as interesting together as they could have been. So much lost promise. I mean Superman’s resurrection? Why is that not amazing? Movie not what it could have been.

Stranger Things and the Demogorgon

First, the obvious. My wife and I love Stranger Things. Season 2 might have even been better than Season 1, and we’re very much looking forward to Season 3.

asc-demogorgon-hero.jpg

Demogorgon in Stranger Things Season 1 (Photo: Aaron Sims Creative)

However, there’s one thing that’s been bothering me about the mythology surrounding the show, and it revolves around “Demogorgon”. The reason why this warrants a blog post right now is because Demogorgon is not only a specific Dungeons and Dragons reference (which makes sense for Stranger Things), but D&D actually lifted the character from Biblical discussions (and even discussions of the Greek pantheon before that). There’s actually a lot of history around the Demogorgon character, and I thought readers might find a discussion of its roots and how it relates to the show interesting.


Demogorgon in Stranger Things

First, let’s talk about how Demogorgon has been used in the Stranger Things Netflix series and why this is a bit confusing. For those unfamiliar with D&D, the name Demogorgon is being thrown around and tagged on many things. The kids are using the name as a catch all for basically the worst evil that they are currently laying eyes on. In Season 1, it was the face-splitting monster that drags people into the upside-down. In Season 2, the kids start calling the feral dog-like creatures mini-demogorgons. These creatures appear to be controlled by the Shadow Monster.

So what’s the problem?


Demogorgon in D&D

Demogorgon[1]The problem is that as far as baddies go, Demogorgon is generally the baddest of the baddies in D&D and beyond. In D&D, Demogorgon is literally the Prince of Demons. He fights with other demon lords for dominance, and he always wins. He’s the Big Baddy, with capital Bs. The Stranger Things kids are D&D enthusiasts, so with that understanding, each time they invoke this name, it almost needs to be something bigger. However, in Season 2, they actually label subservient creatures (the feral shadow monsters that Dart turned into) mini-demogorgons. This is going backwards a bit. Demogorgon is something you really need to save up for, in my opinion, rather than wasting it on the little guys.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the name “Demogorgon” might stick with the first monster we see in Stranger Things Season 1, which as you may have noticed in Season 2, is nowhere close to the biggest bad guy we’re likely to see. Things tend to get bigger as seasons progress. The Shadow Monster in Season 2 is a lot scarier and more powerful than Demogorgon. In fact, the “Demogorgons” in Season 1 seem like they are controlled by the Shadow Monsters.


Demogorgon in Human Mythology

What are the origins of Demogorgon? Believe it or not, it’s not Dungeons and Dragons. It’s from ancient Greek and was typically used to describe the chief deity in the Greek pantheon. The only surviving scrolls and works we have from this period (BCs to early ADs) have the term first show up in the works of Lactantius Placidus (350-400 AD). In his work, he said “Dicit deum Demogorgona summum, cuius scire nomen non licet“, which translates to “He is speaking of the Demogorgon, the supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know”. When Christianity first took hold, this could have been taken to mean that Demogorgon was not a demon but another word for the Almighty God, whose true name we’re not supposed to know. However, that’s not what actually happened.

By the tenth century, Demogorgon was cited as a primal god and the chief primal god in various texts, including Adnotationes super Lucanum to Lucan’s Pharsalia. By the Middle Ages, it begins to morph from the Super God over Pan and Hermes to “Demon-Gorgon”, “Terror-Demon” or “God of the Earth”. It’s these former two labels that really stuck, and some would argue was a targeted campaign to demonize the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons.

Demogorgon was associated with such things as being “Master of Fate” in Hell’s hierarchy by Johann Weyer (~1560s), and it was kind of finalized in its transition with Milton’s Paradise Lost (~1674 AD), where Demogorgon is named with Orcus and “Ades” (Hades) as a “dreaded name” in “Hell”. It’s all downhill from there. Demogorgon became not the “supreme god, whose name it is not permitted to know” but instead became the “Prince” or even “King” of demons, which got kind of confusing when comparisons were being made to Lucifer/Devil. Most Christian scholars appeared to make Demogorgon separate from the Devil, and Demogorgon was somehow placed underneath the Devil, in whatever hierarchy was appropriate.

And this is where we come full circle to D&D and the mythology of Stranger Things. In D&D, Demogorgon is a self-styled Prince of Demons who fights with other demon lords for dominion over the levels of the Abyss. In the biblical scholar realm, Demogorgon is at the very least a powerful prince of Hell and at the very most the Devil himself. So, you kind of want to save this label for something really, really bad.

I’m kind of hoping Stranger Things relabels a creature even worse as Demogorgon in Season 3 so the show eventually ends up pointing at the real Demogorgon from D&D and mythology. In D&D, Demogorgon can mesmerize anything by looking at it with one of his two heads. In mythology, he’s a supreme god and maybe even the creator, or a prince of Hell, depending on which point of the historical arc you are looking at. There’s a lot of possibilities here. I think the creators of the show have great talent, and I’m excited to see where they take this thing. Demogorgon or not, Jenny and I will definitely be watching Season 3!


Demogorgon and The Age of Magic fantasy series

wrath_and_ruin

Wrath and Ruin Box Set

Why have I researched Demogorgon? I’m a fan of Stranger Things, but I’m definitely not a fan of him.

Demogorgon is actually a character in my new high fantasy series The Age of Magic, and he’s not a puppet or subservient creature of anyone in my books. He’s the most powerful demon in the Void or the Abyssal Plains, and he fights with Orcus and the mysterious demon lord Mekadesh under the world of Nirendia. He’s such a big baddy that he’s never been defeated, and you really almost have to trick him into leaving for him to ever be defeated, especially by mortal hands.

Book One, The People’s Necromancer, introduces the fight of the demon lords but focuses on the interactions of humans and elves in their squabbles outside the battle raging in the underworld between the demon factions. Book Two, The Dark Paladin, talks about the influence of Mekadesh and Orcus and really introduces them to the human population of Nirendia (the world this takes place on). Book Three? That’s where Demogorgon is going to be first presented to the readers, because this is an ancient, powerful creature that is really unrivaled in the demon world. He’s a physical, imposing threat that is really a final boss for humanity, the elves, and even the orcs of this world.

If you’d like to read the first novel The People’s Necromancer, it’s being released for 99c as part of the fantastic Wrath and Ruin box set with 23 other fantasy and science-fiction novels. This box set will be released on January 2nd, 2018, but it is available for pre-order. There are USA Today Bestselling and award-winning authors in this set, and it’s especially a great deal given the preorder price.

As for the Age of Magic series? The second book is being drafted. Both novels should be released in 2018. Stay tuned on this blog or my newsletter.

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