Last night. . . Part of my brain exploded. *makes poof! noise* And no, not because of the ridiculous decisions being made in places of power (we’re just going to set that topic down over here, rake some leaves over it, and leave it be) but because I hit the cinema and watched Alien Covenant. And I think, now that 24+ hours have passed, that maybe, just maybe enough time has gone by where I can try to pick up and mold the pieces of grey matter back together. I’ll try to do this with the littlest amount of spoilers possible but if something slips through well *POSSIBLE SPOILERS*
On the subject of warnings: quick reader beware, if you’re not into the Alien series or listening to me ramble you may want to skip this one. Don’t worry I won’t be offended :) Second, regarding a point of contention - I loved Prometheus. . . I mean loved it. So yeah, just throwing that out there.
There’s two big things here: Alien Covenant as a whole and then the Alien series. Hmmm. Where to start? Where to start?
So Covenant. Covenant was a decent movie. Okay, it was a good movie. In ranking order of the series I would say my love goes like this:
Covenant was shot in the typical Ridley Scott fashion which can be summed up in one word: gorgeous. Cinematography really is Scott’s strong suit and I would gladly watch anything he is behind simply because of this. The premise of the story is what you would expect: a colony mission receives a rogue transmission and after some light debate decides to investigate. After a string of poor choices bad things happen which lead to even poorer choices and so on and so forth. I have to admit, when I watched the first trailer for Covenant I was a little hesitant because it is a story that’s been done before, but then again I was pumped because it’s something to do with Alien.
So how do you balance nostalgia with a new story? J.J. Abrams was able to pull it off with Star Wars The Force Awakens, but I don’t think that’s a fair equivalency with Alien because, well, it’s Star Wars.
A few years back, when rumors and stills from Prometheus came about, people were stoked. It was the first new movie in the Alien franchise to come out in years (decades?) and Scott was being completely cryptic about whether it would be a prequel to the original movie or it’s own entity.
When the film finally came out it asked more questions than it answered. People weren’t happy. They wanted (at least it seemed) a concise Alien origins story in a two hour time frame. Kind of hard to do I would imagine. Now, Prometheus would have been a fantastic three-part movie explaining the origin of Alien and the Engineers.
Side note - I mean we can split the final Twilight and Mockingjay movies into two parts but people expect Scott to explain the origins of a fucking universe in two hours? Really?
Okay, *clears throat* sorry about that. Anyways, so when the majority public opinion said that Prometheus was filled with plot holes and didn’t really answer any questions (which I LOVE - I mean ambiguity am I right? Leave a little to the imagination) it appears that Scott went back to the drawing board and emerged with Covenant.
**After thinking about it I can’t do this without spoilers so SPOILERS ** MAJOR SPOILERS **
Let’s look at a few things in regards to Covenant:
Story - the story picks up after Prometheus and we get solid answers to what happened to Elizabeth Shaw, the only surviving member of the Prometheus and her synthetic buddy David.
P.S. David - fuck you, you scumbag piece of android garbage. We also get a long awaited answer to where our beloved monstrous, rabid, space terror comes from. A concrete - undisputed answer that completely rips apart previous ideas set down in the Alien universe (more about this later).
Characters - I loved Elizabeth Shaw in Prometheus. She was a fantastic, real character. The diverse crew of the Covenant? Eh - they grew on me. But throughout the two hour movie you really only get to know / connect with three of them: Daniels, Tennessee, and Walter. That’s fine, because by the end of the movie Daniels and Tennessee were just amazing, but I have to admit that the good feelings put forth by these characters were kind of offset by the other utterly moronic members of the crew. I mean come on. . . Stay together for God’s sake. You are on an alien planet that you have--no, nope, nevermind.
In my opinion, Covenant is Scott and Company’s attempt to walk the thin line between delivering a much wanted Alien movie and cultivating the sense of wonder regarding where we come from and our search for answers that was sparked in Prometheus. The problem is *and again my opinion* that I don’t think you can do both. Or, at the very least, if you do both, each side will be lacking.
Alien and Aliens was pure horror / action / adrenaline and dread. I mean almost every scene in the original movie was chest tingling (see what I did there), and that scene in Aliens with Newt in the water and the xenomorph rising up behind her - yeah. For the second half of Covenant I was brought back to this nostalgic sense of space horror where no one can you scream and I loved it. The only issue? It was about ¼ maybe even less of the entire movie. So, while I was given enough to wet my appetite and leave me drooling, it was barely enough to be considered an appetizer. I mean come on, Scott could start the movie with the alien on board the ship and spend two hours trying to kill the damn thing and I’d be hooked.
. . . On the Alien side of it.
Prometheus, as ambiguous and open ended as it was, laid out and blatantly asked one of the most difficult philosophical questions we can ask - where do we come from? Assuming you follow Weyland’s personal opinion of biological luck not being the answer. It laid out the discovery of the Engineers, the virus, and some kind of tragedy. But it didn’t really answer anything. Just laid the groundwork to where the xenomorphs came from.
Covenant answered several questions that Prometheus, in it’s quest to answer the big one, inadvertently asked. We learn what happened to the Engineers and we learn exactly where the xenomorphs, the demons in our nightmares, came from. . . and let me reiterate one more time . . Fuck. . . You. . . David.
The thing I don’t like about the final reveal on where the alien came from is twofold. One - I loved Shaw. So it kind of sucks that she was the first experiment in David’s primitive lab. But also, think of this - go back to the first Alien movie (assuming all of this is canon). The crew of the Nostromo. They inadvertently discover an engineer ship and on it they find the egg with the facehugger curled inside. Horror ensues. Ripley finds out that the company wants the specimen. The crew expendable. But she overcomes, dominates and blasts the nightmare into space.
Okay, still with me? Now rewind (in the movie timeline that is) to Covenant. And we finally learn where this deadly being came from. . . David created it. After we created David. So, inadvertently, we created the xenomorph. . .
Really? I mean - it kind of throws everything on it’s head right? Assuming we came from the Engineers who developed the virus as a weapon which David then used as the biological base for creating the xenomorphs and all our searching for answers leads right back to ourselves. We’re Gods and Devils. Far too close to reality wouldn’t you say? I don’t know. I think in Prometheus’s asking of where did we come from - I didn’t think the answers laid out in Covenant would kind of circle back to ourselves? Is the universe really that small that humanity’s destructive reach can terrorize everything?
*sigh* Regardless, the next Alien, Prometheus, Covenant, whatever movie that comes out will find me in the seat. One of the few occasions I actually go to the theater.
My brain is on the verge of melting again. I can feel it. Warm, and threatening to slide out of the side of my skull. So before it seeps into the spaces on my keyboard I’m going to head out. Feel free to shoot me an email or anything if you saw Covenant and want to BS about it and my completely subjective opinion which, despite all this, still puts this menacing beast as the number one badass in the universe (right behind Doom Guy).
So, after a long week there was a mutual decision to hit Redbox (despite the fact that I have an ever growing list on Netflix but hey). I picked up two movies: Office Christmas Party and The Girl With all the Gifts. Before I head into this post let me just throw out that Office Christmas Party was pretty funny and it is just another addition to the idea of never seeing a Jason Bateman movie that I didn't like. Seriously, is there anything he does that is not just fantastic? Okay, side note filed. I wasn't planning on posting anything today but it's cold and raining (favorite kind of New England day) and I figured why not spark up the debate of movies versus books.
It's an age old argument: what was better the book or the movie? And there is no shortage of examples weighing in on either subjective side. Pro movie? Fight Club, The Martian (yeah I'm going to get shunned for that but whatever opinions are just that) Dark Places. Pro book? The Girl With all the Gifts, Gone Girl, pretty much every Stephen King adaptation ever.
Anyway, the point of this jumbled ramble was to talk about adaptations and whether you can really judge if the book was better than the movie (yes, yes you can) or if they should be judged as two separate creative pieces across two different mediums (yes, yes the should). Wait? How can you do both? How does that work? Well, like everything, it depends on a variety of factors.
I listened to the audiobook of The Girl With all the Gifts last year. First, let me say that Finty Williams is such a fantastic narrator that I can still here her saying "Good morning Miss Justineau" and I plan on listening to her read the follow-up that just came out: The Boy on the Bridge. Part of the reason that I think I enjoyed the book so much is that I went in blind. I knew nothing about the book, plot, or characters except for the fact that it was supposed to be a zombie story unlike any other zombie story. It was. Long story short, the book was great. I loved it from beginning to end. Last night, I watched the movie. The movie was great. Strong acting, stuck to the basic story, but like most adaptations it cut out a lot of material. This is perfectly fine, movies have time constraints. They cut out a lot of The Martian too, and again, it was fine. Nothing cut was pivotal to the story. This is important because this is where we must differentiate the movie and the book as two different pieces across two different types of multimedia. At the bedrock of a recommendation we can lump books and movies together - this was better than that, don't watch this read it. But, when you change the story (even slightly) by removing pieces of the book or adding things to the movie you now have a different animal. One that was visualized by a different creative team and should be thought of and rated as such.
So what makes The Girl With all the Gifts book better than the movie and what makes The Martian movie better than the book? Well mainly my personal opinion. But! This ridiculous ramble wouldn't exist if that was the only thing. So, it boils down to which one packs a bigger impact. I picked both of these books/movies as examples because they are both about survival and they are both about working together for the greater good. The difference between the two - despite what planet they take place on - is which one captures this better.
When I was listening to the The Girl With all the Gifts there were certain parts where I hit pause and just thought Jesus, this is intense. Boom, impact. When I watched The Martian I almost lost it at the end. The way it captured what we can achieve if we work together. Bam, massive impact. So barring a technical analysis of each piece, for me anyway, it boils down to which one had the bigger impact or as my Dark Souls friends can relate when talking about Sif and Artorias - which one kicks you right in the feels.
I probably could have saved you fifteen minutes by just saying: between the book and the movie pick whichever one hit you the hardest but hey, you enjoy listening to me ramble. At least I think. Otherwise I just wasted a bunch of your time. Just remember when recommending a book or a movie or answering the question which was better that it's a two part question: which one was better and were they both good? It's kind of like when a band releases a new album. They catch flak if they sound the same and they lose listeners if they change their sound. Album vs album or books vs movies - weigh in on which was better but remember to look at them both in individual lights. And, regardless of your stance - go read The Girl With all the Gifts and go watch The Martian.
Well, there's quite the dramatic difference between the two articles, but hey. The Neighbors Paper a local paper in Northeastern Connecticut threw in a spot for Jack Be Quick and it looks great! Never thought I'd see something in print like this.
I keep finding myself saying I never thought I'd . . . and despite the repetitiveness of it, it's true. There's been so many firsts while going through this whole process that I still don't believe it. In a week Jack will be on shelves. . . Well, I just tucked my copy away on my own shelf, right between Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan and a faded antique copy of Alice in Wonderland.
So what next? The book comes out next Tuesday and the launch party is next Thursday so there's always that. But more than those two big events . . . What's next? Will reviews come in? If they do will they be favorable? Will I see it on shelves in local bookstores (cheating here but I know of a few where it will be), but the point is that I have no idea what's next and I think I'm more excited about that than anything else. It probably goes right along with my infatuation with traveling. A true love of the unknown. I mean, what's the worst that could happen right?
No matter what does happen next week and the weeks and months after it's been a hell of a lot of fun. Thanks for taking the ride with me. Hopefully we get to do this again down the road.
Fiction. It's fiction. But it's fiction based on fact. There's two weeks to go until Noah squares off against someone hellbent on imitating Jack the Ripper, and while working on a few final things I stumbled across a picture I had taken when I was writing the first (or second or third) draft of the book and it made me chuckle so I figured I'd share it.
There's always a huge debate in every community about something or other. In writing, one of the big ones is whether or not to outline. I'll be frank - I hate outlining. I think it's annoying and I just don't like it. That being said, I can see where it has its benefits and I know plenty of writers who swear by it. Once again this highlights the key idea of: find what works for you and just do that. But, in order to keep some semblance of a coherent post let's just focus on the debate between writing with an outline and then just typing whatever words come into your head as you go.
That ridiculous mess you see in the picture is not an outline. In fact, if I had used an outline I probably could have avoided aforementioned ridiculous mess and spent a lot less time making sure everything made sense and a lot more time writing fresh words. It's not that I needed an outline for Jack Be Quick, I needed a calendar.
See, Jack the Ripper killed 5 women in Whitechapel London during the year 1888. I knew from the beginning that if I was going to have an antagonist who wanted nothing more than to be dear old Jack then I needed to have the dates in my book reflect the dates in real life. Well that's all fine and great until the other layers of the story start building. Events need to happen, plot twists (maybe) ; ) and a few other things, but they needed to happen at certain times and in ways that made sense. Hence, my scribbled calendar notes above. If I had used an outline, well, this calendar page would have been done before the book was drafted not during. My choice not to use an outline however led to an extensive rewrite of over half the novel. I don't consider that a bad thing though. Rewriting parts of the story allowed me to spend more time with it, which in turn allowed me to see things a little differently, and hopefully make them better. But, that is for you to decide.
And just a quick little note: thank you to those who have pre-ordered Jack Be Quick. Your enthusiasm is amazing and I love every bit of it. If you haven't and you're interested head over to this link: Jack Be Quick Pre-Order and do it. The good folks at Owl Hollow Press have some pretty slick bonuses up for grabs.
Until next time.