Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell


Let me give you the short version first. I have no idea what is wrong with audiences or critics who have been complaining about this film. It is very timely. It is gorgeous, and it is a good movie.

Actually, I can very directly tell you why this movie has been torpedoed by critics. It has essentially been plagued by issues with typecasting, whitewashing, etc. that have been blown way the heck out of proportion, e.g., in reviews like this. I’m not going to go into that. It’s a waste of time. Instead, let’s focus on the film itself.

My first point is that the film is timely. It’s about your personality and your privacy in the digital age. Republicans are pushing a bill that allows for your personal data, history and possibly even content to be sold by ISPs. Similar to how Major has no real rights to her mind, her thoughts, and even her own body. We’re incorporating devices into our lives that are going to be even more personal than smartphones. Implants, though they seem so farfetched, are not that far off in our future. There is already so much pressure on teenagers and young people to conform to a certain type of beauty and a certain type of online, social intelligence, that it is not farfetched to believe that a social pressure might be exerted to enhance beauty with implants. In South Korea, the rate of plastic surgery is astronomical to conform to beauty standards within the society.

As more of our job market is taken over by robots, there is going to be an incredible amount of pressure on the next two generations to push themselves scholastically to be able to get a job. Is it so farfetched to believe that people might resort to implants to store more information, help them process data faster, and learn faster? Do jobs faster? Be stronger? Be smarter? Be better? And who owns that data? According to our current congress, it’s going to be the companies. So, this movie is extremely timely. You should watch the movie if for no other reason than to keep that idea fresh in your mind.

Second, the movie has a solid flow and is comfortable to watch. The characters are reasonably well-defined on a sci-fi concept that is markedly different from our world today. World building in a 2 hour movie can be a hard thing, but the director did a good job of not just world building but also character development and story plotting (editors I’m sure had a lot to do with that).

Third, the movie is downright beautiful. The robots, such as the geishas, are really well done. It presents the ugliness in humans as well as our softer features and beauty, in a way. It presents the scenery of a Shanghai or Hong Kong or Tokyo built to the extreme that all anime and cyber punk books have pushed since the 80s. My wife didn’t like the 3D projections on buildings, but it’s not that far off from what you would expect to see after visiting a major Asian metropolis right now.

The movie is a solid 4 out of 5 stars. There is absolutely zero reason to avoid it in theaters. My wife and I both enjoyed it, and she absolutely hates anime. I doubt she could have sat through the original movie. This movie SHOULD have opened up American audiences to these important themes about digital privacy and self in an age of implants and cybernetics (which is fast upon us), but because of whitewashing conversations run amok, we’ll have to wait longer to have that conversation on a large scale. I would still recommend seeing it.

Covers and Updates, oh my!

If you’ve been following my blog here, then you are probably aware that I’ve been looking lo_oldcoverfor a new cover artist to finish my novel series. Believe it or not, this has stressed me out since 2012 and was one of the reasons I had put Shadows of Our Fathers on the backburner. On that note, I’m still looking for a beta reader or two, so if you would like to get an edited draft in your hands, please let me know.

Anyway, foDamonza_Lucifers_Odyssey_1r the cover redesigns, I’m going with Damonza as they are very reputable, have great work, and I took the plunge. So far, I’m extremely impressed with their work. Let me show you one of the first designs they sent and the design I am moving forward with (but with adding Lucifer’s wings).

I cannot speak more highly of working with Alisha and Chrissy at Damonza. Since this first image, I’ve asked for modifications to make it fit with the book, and they’ve come through with flying colors. It’s amazing what they can do with images these days. I seriously couldn’t be more impressed, and I’m looking forward to the designs for The Goblin Rebellion and Shadows of Our Fathers.

There are two other big updates to make. The first is that I plan on writing different prologues for the release of the third book Shadows of Our Fathers. These will be notes from Archimedes lectures to his students on primal patterns and will help readers visualize the primals and how they project universes, shadows, souls, etc. I may put some drawings in here to help.

The second update is that my short story “Remembrance Day” was accepted into the final consideration list for the PARSEC Short Story Contest covering “A hidden underlying truth”. I’m really excited about this hard sci-fi short story, and I hope it reaches a good audience. In bad news, my story “Shelly and the Contessa” was rejected by the Triangulation Short Story Contest for “Appetites” theme. The rejection letter was really generic and literally just said “Thanks for sending ‘Shelly and the Contessa’ our way, but I’m going to pass”. “Shelly and the Contessa” was written specifically for the contest, and was sort of written more for a female audience so my wife would read it ;D. I’ve included the short story below. Who knows, maybe I’ll make the story into a novel one day. Hope you enjoy!

ShellyAndTheContessa (complete short story submitted/rejected from Triangulation)

Help! Need back cover advice!

My cover artist stopped responding to requests for new work, and I am in the process of redoing all of my novel covers in the series. I plan to go through Damonza for the cover design, but I am also planning on redoing the back cover content as well as the bookseller descriptions at Amazon, B&N, etc. Here is what I’m working right now. Feedback/guidance is appreciated.

Lucifer’s Odyssey

lo_oldcoverWhat if the war between angels and demons had a much more ancient history that spanned three universes and many billions of light years of space? What if humanity’s vision of apocalypse was really a glimpse into the mind of a god whose thirst for vengeance was only matched by his unique, omniscient intelligence?

The Lucifer’s Fall trilogy of the Primal Patterns series is the story of the most celebrated demon warrior and king in history, and the birth of a moral and intellectual renaissance in the Chaos Universe. The first book, “Lucifer’s Odyssey”, traces the demon prince Lucifer from his imprisonment on Earth to the betrayal of his parents in Chaos and a shaky alliance with the Elven people. Filled with irreverent humor and fast paced action, Lucifer’s Odyssey beckons you to take a journey through space and time into a story where elven technology meets the ruthlessness of the demon race and the potential of Jehovah’s great creations.

“Lucifer’s Odyssey” is the first book of the Lucifer’s Fall trilogy, and book one in the Primal Patterns series

The Goblin Rebellion

thegoblinrebellion_webLucifer has become King of Chaos, and the elves and demons have repaired their relationship. To those on the outside, Jehovah’s plans for the multiverse may appear to be in peril. But the Lord works in mysterious ways…

Jehovah imprisons Lucifer’s son and enlists the support of elven dissidents who have lost loved ones to Lucifer’s past deeds. Lucifer’s reforms in Chaos spark controversy at home and abroad, and the bond between the elven king Elandril and the demon king Lucifer grows stronger despite the protests of political elites in the elven capital of Arnessa. To get at the demons, Jehovah must isolate them. An enemy alliance is only as strong as its weakest link.

“The Goblin Rebellion” is the second book of the Lucifer’s Fall trilogy, and book two in the Primal Patterns series.

Shadows of Our Fathers

Angels and demons fall as the Great War between Order and Chaos comes to a close. For those who thought Jehovah’s days of smiting stopped in the Old Testament, it’s time to give the devil his due.

In the face of democratic and social reforms, the Chaos Universe struggles with its past while pursuing the future that King Lucifer promises. While the demons thrive, the creator of the Elven universe looks to his own past for the salvation of his favorite immortals. Jehovah’s wife Gaea and son Isaac seek asylum in Chaos as Lucifer and Jehovah have their final, apocalyptic battle.

“Shadows of Our Fathers” is the last book of the Lucifer’s Fall trilogy, and book three in the Primal Patterns series.

What do you guys think?

Updates on the workshop and Mary’s talk

So, if you missed me and Mary Robinette Kowal at CMU in Pittsburgh yesterday (Sunday, 2/12/2017), then you missed a really great time.

At 1:00 p.m., I gave a writing workshop called “The Art of the Character Study”, which talked about a technique I use to break out of writer’s block, deal with the dilemma of show vs tell, and write interesting characters. We had 16 people signed up, and I think the workshop went really well. If you missed the workshop, but you’d like to see the slides (not the example Character Studies I brought, which I think everyone liked), you can see the slides here:

The Art of the Character Study (PPT | PDF)

kowal1-500x496At 3:00 p.m., I introduced Mary and she talked about her career in puppetry and how it has influenced her science fiction and writing career. She also talked about diversity in science fiction, the obligations of being a writer, and a lot about the industry. Afterword, we had a book signing with both authors, and I gave away several paperback versions of Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion (if you haven’t picked up these covers, know that I am going to be changing these very, very soon). We then had dinner at the Union Grill with students, writers, and artists and talked about all kinds of fun subjects. Topics ranged from the Nebula awards to the future of robotics in science fiction and the real world. It was a lot of fun, and Mary is of course a fascinating thinker and speaker.

Other updates: I submitted a short story called “Remembrance Day” to the Parsec Ink – 2017 Parsec Short Story Contest – A Hidden Underlying Truth contest. The story is about a boy who learns about the real reason behind humanity’s collaboration and harmony in the near future. If you have your own ideas about “a hidden, underlying truth”, feel free to submit your own!

Two new short stories

I have written two new short stories that are intended for contests. I’m very, very excited about these right now. Each time I read them, I think they are the best short stories I have ever written. I love the messages, and I can definitely see me expanding one of them into a novel or series of novels (as if I needed more distractions).

One of them is a hard science fiction story called “Remembrance Day”. I wrote it as a response to the 21st Annual Parsec Short Story Contest, and I intend on submitting it after my wife looks over it. The other is not really firmly titled yet. It started out as “Shelly, the Mana Vampire” but it is currently trending toward “Shelly and the Contessa.” It’s more of a paranormal fantasy work, and I think it’s a lot of fun. The Shelly story was written for the Triangulation anthology for this year, which has a focus of “Appetites.”

Have your own ideas for these? I encourage you to send your stories in. Writing short stories is great practice. At least, I think so!

If my stories make it into these contests/anthologies, I’ll let you know. I think the first decision is Triangulation, which should be decided at the end of March. The Parsec Short Story contest will not be finalized until June or July of this year. I may forget all about these by then, but hopefully, it will be good news!

lo_oldcoverOn the novel front, I’ve decided to go with Damonza for a cover art redesign for the Primal Patterns series. I need to get some new back cover material in place (I’m planning to just say what Lucifer’s Odyssey is about, rather than the vague back cover that I went with when I was scared to death of stories about religious characters while living in the Deep South). I also need to think what I’m comfortable with in terms of covers now. The covers for Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion have been in place for half a decade now. That’s a long time to get used to something. Time to move on.

If you want to keep a copy of Lucifer’s Odyssey or The Goblin Rebellion as they are right now, you may want to pick one up now. Very soon, you will not be able to get that cover art again.

Writing Workshop in Pittsburgh

rex-jamesonI’ve been asked to host/present at a writing workshop in Pittsburgh on Sunday, February 12th at Carnegie Mellon University. I’m calling it “The Art of the Character Study” and it’s really more of an informal approach than a formal one (thus the “Art” part). I’m also going to be introducing the amazing Hugo award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal for her talk on the Intersection of Puppetry and Science Fiction. I’m expecting a really fun time, so if you’re around, the workshop starts at 1 p.m. and Mary’s talk starts at 4 p.m. There will be a book signing at 5 p.m. where you can mingle with Mary and me.

You can read more about venue, times and locations here:


Shadows of Our Fathers Update 2

I have received a copy of the novel back from Derek at Homunculus Editing Services, and I am working on the 2nd level of story and line edits to the draft. The content should be ready by the first quarter, but I’m still needing to locate a cover artist to help me finish the series.

There are two options, really.

  1. Hire a new cover artist who can match the style that Christopher Steininger did for the first two novel covers in Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion. This has been a rough job trying to find someone who can do this. I’ve had estimates between 500-1200 dollars, but the styles have clashed a bit with the first two books. How important is consistency in the series covers for readers?
  2. Go with someone like Damonza to redesign the entire series covers for 1500-1800 dollars. This is a huge investment on top of all the other costs of this final novel (story and line editing a 110k+ word novel is a big expenditure), but if it is the best option, I really don’t have much choice.

Anyway, regardless of which path I take, the novel is almost ready. Beta readers are appreciated, so let me know if you would like to take a look at the 2nd draft when I’m done. Your feedback would be welcome! Also, if you have any opinions on cover artists or redoing the whole series covers, let me know!

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