Awesome Frequently Asked Questions about Jurassic World

I’m at work on something right now, but in the meantime, I went to see Jurassic World. Which was fun, especially because it turned out to be a very crowded movie theater, which meant we had to sit in the third row of the theater. You know how you go to a lot of these 3D movies and the 3D doesn’t really add much to the experience if it’s not IMAX? Sometimes I don’t even go to the 3D version because it’s more expensive and really not worth it. But if you sit in like the third or fourth row? Much more effective 3D experience. Things really do jump out at you, which when you are watching a bunch of rampaging dinosaurs, is kind of neat. Stiff neck at the end, but neat.

Jurassic World was nowhere near as awful as Prometheus, Avatar and the utterly horrible The Expendables 2. It had some very funny moments and great action. The CGI and animatronix dinosaurs are still not quite real looking, but they are getting closer with each movie and they did it pretty effectively here. The actors, including the young ones, gave the best performances they could despite the awful script. Howard went for a total 1980’s look, which allows for discussions of retro fashion. There is an utterly horrible death of a minor character that goes on for a horribly long time, but is, gore aside, unquestionably a really creative death. There are many little tribute details to the first Jurassic Park movie, which reminds you that Jurassic Park, for its occasional faults, was a way better movie. And the movie did make me desperately want a robot raptor doll.

And Jake Johnson is in the movie and almost manages to save half of it. He should star in the inevitable sequel (because this movie has already hit a billion dollars.)

For a much better take on the movie than I could give you, here’s io9‘s article by Rob Bricken, entitled, “Jurassic World: The Spoiler FAQ.” It is awesome and sums up the movie nicely.

 

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SFF Books I Have Been Reading

I read the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s The Truth in his Discworld series. This was just before he left us, which makes it a bit bittersweet. Discworld is one of the most amazing series out there, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s in the top twenty sellers in the world. It’s a satiric alternate world fantasy series of linked novels that spins satire both precise and broad, and always on point. The Truth manages to be relevant to the time and tech of when it was written, of the past back when Pratchett started as a journalist, and deeply relevant now, tackling the psychological concept of newspapers and the power of news. Pratchett makes good use of old characters and the new ones in the story are delightful. Pratchett’s writing is so amazingly constructed. It’s like an onion, it has layers. This is probably one of my favorites now of the vast series for its balance of slapstick humor with razor social commentary.

I read Ben Aaronovitch’s Moon Over Soho, the second book in his contemporary fantasy series set in the U.K. about magician apprentice/police detective Peter Grant, which is getting more and more attention and has been optioned for British television. This one dealt with a magical crime crisis in the Soho area of London, natch, and involved jazz musicians, which brought Peter dealing more with his dad, a minorly known jazz musician. The book wasn’t quite as well crafted as the first one maybe, but it was a solid follow-up that expanded the magical world of the story in interesting ways. It was nice to get a better sense of Peter’s multiracial family and background, and the posse of jazz player aides he picked up were a lot of fun. The key with these types of series is the protagonist voice, and Peter is a good one for me — his relationships with the other characters are well done, as is most of the dialogue. I’ve generally been recommending this series to folks looking for a contemporary fantasy one. Aaronovitch is also well known as a former writer for Doctor Who and British television. The first book in the series is called The Rivers of London, (re-titled Midnight Riot in the U.S. because American publishers are sometimes stupid.)

I read Laura Resnick’s latest in her popular Esther Diamond series, Abracadaver. The series is broadly farcical contemporary fantasy about a working actress who helps out a kindly 350-year-old mage fight evil mysteries in NYC. Again, protagonist voice is the thing, especially for the humorous series, and I find Esther’s pragmatic do-gooder a lot of fun in Resnick’s experienced hands. Like Pratchett and Aaronovitch with his dialogue, the book has a few layers working that you can dig into or ignore, as you prefer. This one, unlike others in the series, takes up right after the somewhat cliffhanger ending of the last one, The Misfortune Cookie, and involves Esther’s gang of allies dealing with whether her sometime boyfriend, organized crime task force police detective Lopez, has a new partner who is not what he seems and may have something to do with reanimated corpses and demons. I liked this one having some nice digs at cop shows, with Esther back to work as an actress on one. It’s interesting that Esther is seeing the real costs to being part of a second world, balancing with the ordinary one, and Resnick has the ensemble of regulars down pat with the dialogue at this point. (The first book in the series is Disappearing Nightly.)

And along the same lines, I read the fourth book in Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie contemporary fantasy series, How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back. While the series is kind of satiric at points, it’s not a straight out satire series. This book I enjoyed for the character development of the protagonist, morgue worker and recovering addict Angel, who happens to be a zombie in Louisiana. A lot of new developments and discoveries came up about the zombieism of the series, which twists between SF and fantasy in its existence. This one was also fairly action packed, as it was a rescue mission when several members of the organized zombies in her area are snatched, traitors are suspected, and Angel and several of her comrades have to travel to NYC. This opened up Angel’s world and strengths further, but contemporary fantasy suspense, like regular suspense, is very much about sense of place, which meant losing that aspect — ruralish Louisiana and the morgue environment — in this series entry. So not my favorite of the series, but interesting, and again, a lot of good action with all the paramilitary/spy characters of the “Zombie Mafia” and there’s lots of disturbing set-up for the next one. (Rowland is a former cop, morgue attendant and CSI forensics investigator, so all her procedural stuff is spot-on. The first book in the series is called My Life as a White Trash Zombie. She also has a demon summoner cop contemporary fantasy series, the Kara Gillian series. I haven’t tried that one yet, but I would like to see Karen Gillan play Kara Gillian in a t.v. version. It would be better than her last t.v. series.)

I also read Max Gladstone’s Three Parts Dead, the first in his Craft Sequence series that got so much buzz. And it was deserved buzz, for me. It’s a secondary world fantasy with many different elements and cultural bits packed into the text (and a very subtle strain of dark satire as well.) In Gladstone’s mix of modern and archaic world-building, gods exist and power cities, magicians have abandoned the gods for a different type of magic that involves the legal courts, and everything is for hire, including vampire ship captains and necromancy. This book centers on Tara, a scrappy junior associate necromancer brought in to help resurrect into a new form a dead fire god, and Abelard, a junior priest of the fire god, who becomes Tara’s detecting partner when they discover the god has been murdered and a bigger conspiracy seems to be unfolding. One part legal thriller, one part action spy mission, and one part wondrous fantasy, it’s a nice launch. Gladstone’s subsequent books in the series reuse some characters but follow different wizards in different parts of his very complex world.

 

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Game of Thrones Gloriously Helps Out Red Nose Day Campaign

In case you didn’t get to see it/knew about it on the Internet, here’s the preview teaser and then whole video documentary of Game of Thrones, the musical, for fund-raising for the Red Nose Day campaign. I imagine views still help them out with revenue from YouTube and such, and believe me, it’s worth seeing.

 

 

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No, Fantasy Fiction is Not Being Destroyed by Mega Multi-Volume Series. Or Deadly Octopi.

Yes, I’m alive, shut up.

Recently, folks on SFFWorld.com brought to my attention a new column in The Guardian newspaper by Damien Walter on the current tyranny of the mega sized, multi-volume series in fantasy fiction. I.E. Game of Thrones is ruining everything! And sidelining anything that isn’t a mega-sized, multi-volume fantasy series in book publishing. Because fiction publishing is run by underwear gnomes apparently.

I like Walter, I do, but this article (and to a lesser degree, an official counter “response” composed by new author Natasha Pulley, which was equally tone deaf about the actual fantasy field,) is an excellent example of why more people don’t find and read good books — because writers like Walter tell them that the field is overrun with whatever has been designated the current trendy “problem” that is killing everything off, so why bother. If the media would stop sounding death dirges as the only thing that ever interests them about fictional works, we’d have twice as many fiction readers, rather than a population that is continually taught that they’ll hate most fiction out there.

Nothing ever kills anything off in fiction publishing. (Or for that matter, in most forms of art.) Popularity is not a death sentence for everything else and one thing being popular doesn’t mean that other, different things are not equally or more popular. Also, authors are not herded by publishers like camels. Anyone who has worked with authors know that they are worse than cats.

Anyway, I thought I would reprint my response below here. But despite my ire, do check out Walter’s short fiction work where you can find it and Pulley’s debut historical fantasy novel, The Watchmaker of Filligree, due out in July from Bloomsbury in the U.K. (See, now was that so hard, Guardian columnists?)

It’s not a very accurate reading of the fantasy market. Which given that it’s coming from Damien Walter, who should know better, is annoying.

Mega-sized, multi-volume series are almost entirely the domain of alternate world “epic” fantasy. Because they are epics, which is supposed to be a sweeping, big story by definition. Other alternate world novels are shorter, serial series or stand alones like Katherine Addison’s award-nominated Goblin Emperor, which barely qualifies as mega-long, if that.

Contemporary fantasy uses long running series that are on average not mega in size, like mystery series, as well as various stand alones. Only once in a while does it do mega sized series books. Historical fantasy also does stand alones, shorter serial series and occasionally mega-sized multi-volumes. Comic fantasy does either shorter serial series or stand alones. Dark fantasy and horror are usually stand alones, although if it’s a dark fantasy involving a multiverse or alternate world, it might be a mega series. Some horror novels that are standalones are very thick, but that’s just one book. Multiverse usually involves a series, but often not very large ones. Futuristic fantasy can be large, either as a series or standalones, but is not routinely so, being mostly serial series and trilogies.

YA fantasy contains all the various sub-settings of fantasy. They have few stand alones in fantasy — they tend to all be series. They range from fairly short, and usually contemporary set serial series to larger epic alternate world series. But because the contemporary fantasy setting is more popular in YA than the alternate world settings, YA tends to average on the shorter side. Some of its most popular series, Eragon, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, are thick epic series, but many others are not.

Fantasy published in general fiction tends to be stand alones and may be long or short, depending on what it is. For instance, Touch by Claire North, put out by Redhook, a general fiction arm of Hatchette, is a medium sized standalone dark fantasy thriller.

So basically “fantasy” authors don’t have to move away from mega multi-volume series because not all of them are doing mega multi-volume series. In fact, it’s rare that an author manages to do one past three books. The ones who publish in alternate world fantasy have routinely experimented with different forms — one long series like Song of Ice and Fire, multiple shorter trilogy series in the same universe or a mix of stand alones and trilogies in the same universe like Joe Abercrombie does, shorter serial mystery-like series like Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, multiple trilogy series with different publishers, large duologies, stand alones, etc. David Gemmell, who wrote a lot of historical fantasy, as well as alternate world fantasy, did everything from stand alones to his 9 volume Drenai series.

But that’s inconvenient for the hook. The hook is that because Game of Thrones, five years in, is still a very popular t.v. show, and based on a nearly twenty-year-old series written by an author who was already a bestseller when he started it, (and from whom his publisher originally wanted only four books,) that clearly this is only now warping the entire field of fantasy fiction because some other lower rung bestseller guy got a book deal for a new trilogy. Because the fiction market is symbiotic and so publishers slap that it’s like George Martin on anything epic fantasy, they must be hounding authors for only that as the only thing in fantasy that is selling or getting made into a t.v. show. (Pay no attention to Vampire Diaries, or Bitten, The Leftovers, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Outlander, etc.) Because only one thing in any field can be popular at a time and it wipes out everything else, really it does. So anything else is “sidelined” right now because also a nearly thirty-year-old epic fantasy series that was supposed to be seven books in the nineties ended up being fifteen books that took more time and lost its author. And because a twenty-five-year-old epic fantasy series briefly had a t.v. series that flopped several years ago.

Because trilogies! That they’ve been doing since the seventies. And which consist of three books, technically multi-volume but please.

The reality is that the contemporary fantasy bestsellers, like Kelley Armstrong’s shared universe series, some of which were adapted for t.v. show Bitten, routinely outsell most alternate world fantasy fiction, as does for that matter bestselling fantasy romance, most of which is contemporary set. And that setting also means they have better odds for being turned into a t.v. series or a movie, especially if it’s YA. Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series is coming to British t.v. and Daniel Jose Older’s new series Bone Street Rumba just got optioned. That’s hardly sidelined. Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant isn’t sidelined. Neil Gaiman’s latest bestselling short story collection is not sidelined. Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs aren’t sidelined (and Butcher had a short-lived t.v. series that did establish a cult following before being axed.) Lauren Beukes’ bestselling stand alone The Shining Girls did just fine. And the late Sir Terry Pratchett is still kicking most authors’ asses in sales.

What Games of Thrones is actually doing is bringing in a flood of new readers, who are reading the books in Martin’s series and then many of them, especially with the series unfinished, going browsing and picking up not only alternate world fantasy but lots of other fantasy stories too. And science fiction, horror, suspense, romance, YA. None of which publishers expect to perform like Song of Ice and Fire. It would be nice, they want breakout hits, but they aren’t idiots. And the break out hits in fantasy aren’t necessarily coming from alternate world fantasy. (Though Kingkiller Chronicles is also coming to t.v.)

If he really wanted to help authors he thinks are getting sidelined by Game of Thrones, talk about some of those authors then. Media coverage of fiction books is so rare, any little bit helps. But nobody has actually been sidelined by Game of Thrones. Instead, Martin is helping to fund half the category field; certainly everybody else on the list in Penguin Random House (which is half the publishing industry at this point.)

*The response by author Natasha Pulley that asserts writing short fantasy fiction is hard is equally silly, given that fantasy authors have been doing it for over a hundred years. And that her up-coming debut historical fantasy novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree, is only 336 pages long. But we won’t hold it against her or Walter on the fiction side. If we had to reject authors for all the silly things they say about the market, we would have little to read.

 

 

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Oracle by Susan Boulton

My pal Sue is having her first novel debut this year from British publisher Tickety Boo Press and it’s a pip. Oracle is a secondary world gaslight fantasy, chock full with train crashes, riots, politics and magic both poignant and malicious. It’s a world undergoing radical social change as it becomes industrialized, a world in which wandering mad prophets are made with magic out of those who have died. I interviewed Sue about her new work and her future plans for SFFWorld.com. You can check out the link here below, and the book is available as an e-book internationally, and a print book in British bookstores, Amazon U.K. and from Tickety Boo directly, including international shipping.

http://www.sffworld.com/2015/04/susan-boulton-interview/

Sue has been publishing short fiction and has had a devout quiet cult following for some time. I’m delighted her work is now being made available to a larger audience, and in such a fun and imaginative novel as Oracle.

 

 

 

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Little Note/Up-Date On the Women in Film

So it’s been a bit hectic. The Hugo Awards drama I’ve commented some on at Whatever and SFFWorld, and then had to re-think some of it as weirder and weirder information keeps coming into it. So I’ll probably post some links to articles about it in the Social Equality section by others, but otherwise, I’m moving on. When things get more equal in society, there will be this sort of blow-up reaction from some.

As expected, I did miss at least one woman fronted action film for 2015 — Survivor, starring Milla Jovovich, so we do get some of her despite the next Resident Evil film’s schedule delay. It’s a spy thriller where Milla is a Foreign Service Officer in London who has to go on the run and deal with Pierce Brosnan’s baddie. It’ll be hitting movie theaters in the beginning of June. Angela Bassett is in it too. Looks like a lot of action:

Also missed, a prestigious bio pic, Suffragette, about the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S., and a thriller based on the novel by Laura Lippman called Every Secret Thing, starring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks and Dakota Fanning.

The first, sleepier part of 2015 had a hit with spunky version Cinderella (not unexpected,) with $494+ million box office so far, the animated Home with $326+ million, and Insurgent, #2 in the Divergent franchise, taking in over $272 million. Not a bad start, and women have been helping the more ensemble giant action pictures too, such as Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Did I see any of those? Only Age of Ultron so far. I’ll probably see most of the others later. I’ll give an Avengers #2 review in a bit.

Also, books! What? Stop laughing. Really, I’m going to talk about some books this week, I swear.

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Women In Film, Part 2 — 2015 Analysis

In this Part 2 of Women in Film, we are moving on from 2014 to our new year 2015.

2015 is going to be the year of big returning franchises. Some of the biggest of the biggest are set to hit from now in April through December this year: James Bond dusts himself off, a re-booted Mad Max, a new Jurassic Park, an alternate timeline (reboot) Terminator, Mission: Impossible V, and the big daddy of them all, the return of Star Wars, the final chapters, now that Disney bought out George Lucas. All of them are male-centric, and added to them are the starting films in Marvel’s multi-studio plan for world domination: Avengers 2, Ant-Man and a reboot of the Fantastic Four in the ancillary Marvel mutant-based universe owned by 20th Century Fox. Marvel has plans for the ladies (see below,) but they don’t really start this year (unless you count the wonderful show Agent Carter on television.)

So it doesn’t look like an ideal year for women film stars and I’m not going to pretend it will be a female showcase, but it’s not going to be a down-tread either. It’s kind of interesting what they’re doing. The new Bond film, Spectre, has been playing up its women more than usual – Monica Bellucci especially, and Lea Seydoux and Stephanie Sigman; and Mad Max: Fury Road has gone to enormous trouble to market having Charlize Theron kicking ass as a one-armed cyborg commander, with a bevy of young actresses playing major roles: Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, and Megan Gale. The Terminator franchise knows a warrior Sarah Connor goes over better, so in their new alternate timeline restart, Terminator Genisys, that’s what we’re getting with Emilia Clarke, backed by a possible android-playing Sandrine Holt.

Jurassic World has thrown their marketing focus understandably on having red hot Chris Pratt star, but the film is also featuring Bryce Dallas Howard in the co-star role, along with Judy Greer, Katie McGrath, and Lauren Lapkus. Mission: Impossible V returns, having disappointedly dumped Paula Patton’s very interesting character from the last movie (she’s off doing a t.v. series now,) but has substituted in up and comer Rebecca Ferguson. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been very closed-mouthed about their cast, but we do know that Carrie Fisher returns as Princess Leia and that Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o and Maisie Richardson-Sellers have major roles. And Furious 7 also returns this week, with its multi-ethnic cast in which Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Elsa Pataky, Ronda Rousey, and Nathalie Emmanuel play central roles, an aspect that they always market.

Moving to the female-led action films, so far this year, in what is considered the “dead” period at the start of the season, we’ve had Jennifer Lopez produce and star in the soapy psychological thriller The Boy Next Door, with a tiny budget that produced a solid hit. Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis, from the Wachowski siblings, was yanked from the summer blockbuster roster last year and dumped into February. While the movie is a bit of a hot mess, it made more sense than Prometheus and was a lot of fun. Its big budget special effects meant it wasn’t likely to be a hit, given the circumstances, but it’s breaking even and still doing world box office.

The big female-led action movie of the year will again be Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, the last film in the hit franchise. As such, and coming out around Thanksgiving a month before Star Wars, it’s likely to do pretty big. Also just coming out now is the sequel to Divergent, called The Divergent Series: Insurgent, with Shailene Woodley, which has already shot past its production budget in a week and is well on its way to being another big hit for that series. Disney is continuing to monetize its park rides with Tomorrowland, a big budget special effects sci-fi movie for the summer, starring Britt Robertson, who gets helped by George Clooney in saving an alternate world from destruction.

Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig again team up in May to produce and McCarthy to star in Spy, a comic spy thriller in which McCarthy plays a pencil-pusher analyst who has to take on a field agent role, backed by Rose Byrne, Jason Stratham and Jude Law. If successful, it puts McCarthy on a three year winning streak. Reese Witherspoon is also doing more producing and starring with Sofia Vergara in a comic buddy action film, Hot Pursuit, in which Witherspoon plays a cop protecting Vergara’s witness in a drug case.

Natalie Portman stars in Jane Got a Gun, a western about a woman trying to save her outlaw husband. And we have a whole passel of women-led thrillers: Selma Hayak produces and stars in a quirky film about a woman staving off assassins in Everly. Halle Berry seeks her stolen son in the film Kidnap. Emily Blunt continues her upward moves by starring in Sicario, as an FBI agent working with the CIA to take down a cartel. Viola Davis produced and stars in with Jennifer Lopez again the revenge thriller, Lila & Eve, in which two mothers go after the killers of their children. Olivia Wilde, Hailee Steinfeld and Nicole Beharie play three women surviving attacks by soldiers in The Keeping Room. Sanaa Lathan stars in the psychological stalker thriller The Perfect Guy, and Margot Robbie returns in the sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie Z for Zachariah, only very loosely based on the 1970’s novel.

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