Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Dork Review: The Hexslinger Series

I'm going to do something a little different with this review. I've been so busy with writing, work, and the holidays that I've actually been able to read both books currently in the Hexslinger series, so instead of reviewing them individual I'm going to put up a combined evaluation.

Let's see how it goes.

Okay, first book is A Book Of Tongues. Second is A Rope Of Thorns. So first off we can see a common naming convention; they're both a something of something. The next in the series, A Tree Of Bones is now available for pre-order. Gotta love consistency.

Another thing that's consistent, the books are pretty good. At times a bit dense with their descriptions, but filled with monstrous and interesting characters. Chess, the main character, is a prime example. At best he's a protagonist, and even that's a stretch at times as it could be argued he's the worst monster in the series. A lawless, murderous fiend with a dark secret even he doesn't know about, Chess is a force of nature contained in a red-haired, purple clothed dandy wielding two pistols.

I read elsewhere that Gemma Files creates characters that are monsters and then makes you care about them. In this case she's successful. I won't go into details, but let's just say you can almost feel it when Chess has his heart ripped away. (I'll let you guess if it's figuratively or literally.)

I recommend this series with one major caveat; be prepared for gay characters and more sexual detail than you may desire. This threw me for a loop when I first came across it. Outside of works specifically directed to a gay audience it's unusual to find that level of detail, and at first it can be uncomfortable for the reader if they're not prepared. You may be tempted to put the book down. Don't. Try to understand why your feelings and move past them, as the sex is part of who these characters are and removing it would leave a gaping hole in the narrative.

These scenes do border on erotica. The only reason they don't reach that level is because they are brief and not the central theme of the books. They surprised me for two reasons, their level of detail and because I normally don't read erotica, gay or otherwise. If any part of this is going to upset you, you may want to pass on this series. However, before you do, consider why it bothers you. If it's because the sex is man on man, ask why that upsets you or strikes you as wrong. I know I had to do some soul searching because of it, and I'd like to think I've become a bit more aware of myself. (And for any family members who may be reading this, no, I'm not gay.)

So, with that warning, off you go. Find the books on the Chizine website. (Not recommending Amazon right now due to recent business practices.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Dork Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

It's been awhile since I've done a movie review. Chalk it up to the normal autumn slump where there are few movies worth going to see.

So what did I think of it? A Game of Shadows comes very close to matching the first Holmes movie, both in content and in quality.

I was greatly impressed, but there was something missing, some unknown or unknowable quality the first movie had that this movie lacked. That's not to say this was a bad film, far from it, but I still think the first one was the better of the two.

I think what might be the problem was the use of slow motion, or rather the overuse. As in the first film it was used to breakdown certain scenes, such as when Holmes fights or when he explains his deductions. In addition to this there is a long scene of the characters running through the forest shot in slow mo that I think goes on for far too long. I discussed this with my friends after the movie and I get the idea that this scene was supposed to show the horrors of war (it makes sense in context), but I do think it could have been trimmed back a bit and still had the same impact.

Aside from that the movie hit all he right notes. Robert Downey Jr. remains excellent as Holmes, and Jude Law as Watson is the perfect companion. Both are very close to their literary counterparts without being caricatures.

I recommend going to see A Game of Shadows. It was fun, clever, and exciting, and only suffers in comparison to the last Sherlock Holmes film.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Cheapening of The Word Friend

Yes indeed. Facebook is doing it's best to kill the word "friend".

The other day I found a post about 10 Myths About Introverts. Now, for anyone who knows me personally it's no surprise that I'm an introvert. I think a lot of writers, published or not, are. Hey, we spend plenty of time in our own heads dreaming stuff up, and more than one pro at SFContario mentioned on panels that they need time away from people to decompress. Of the 25% of the population that is identified as introverted I'd be interested to see how many of those work in some sort of creative capacity.

So what does this have to do with the cheapening of the word "friend" or Facebook killing it? A lot actually. See the following:

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.
On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

That pretty much describes my attitude towards my friends. There are maybe three people I hang out with on a regular basis, and only a few people I'll go out of my way to run into at conventions. Not that there aren't a large amount of lovely people whom I've met and would love to run into again, but few of them would I call friend. I like them, but that's about it.

Friends are people I feel comfortable around, who I don't have to be "on" with, meaning I don't have to worry about every word that comes out of my mouth or who will think I'm weird if I say something odd. In fact, quite often I'll make an obscure joke about something fannish and my friends will be the first to pick up on it.

So what does this have to do with Facebook? Well, to connect with someone on Facebook you have to "friend" them, and each time you do it cheapens the word just a little bit.

I do what I can to counteract this. Everyone I've added on Facebook I've either met or interacted somehow, even it is just through the medium of email or instant messaging. I'm "friendly" towards them, in most cases, but I wouldn't necessarily call them friend. More like "friendly acquaintance".

I've added those people either because I find them interesting or pleasant to be around, even if I wouldn't say we're friends. And to those few people who I truly call friends, thank you for being in my life and I hope we have many more years of knowing each other.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I Will Never Plagiarize

Over on Whatever by John Scalzi is a post on Quentin Rowan's response after being caught plagiarizing the works of multiple authors in order to get published. It's a fascinating example of complete and utter doucebaggery (Quentin's response, not John's post. John's post is pretty much spot on and very fair and balanced.). I recommend reading both.

I've already made a brief entry in the comments section of John's post, but I thought I should elaborate a bit further here on why you will never find me plagiarizing the works of others. There are a few reasons, from least to most important:

1. I could get caught.

 I'd have to live in fear of getting caught and exposed to the whole world. My career as an author come to a crashing and unrecoverable halt. At this point, Quentin Rowan's name is mud in the publishing world. He will likely never work in the field ever again. Heck, he was even fired from the bookstore that employed him because of this. No publisher would touch anything he produces now, and even if he uses a pseudonym he's done if anyone ever connects his real name to it, which is much more likely nowadays.

2.  I would lose friends.

I've been fortunate enough to make friends within the writing and science fiction\fantasy communities thanks to attending conventions. If I got caught as a plagiarist those friends would disown me so quickly I'd have whiplash. Now, don't get me wrong, these are good people. My crime would be so great they'd have to do it, and rightfully so.

3. I'd always know I cheated.

This is the most important reason for me. Ruin in the publishing world I could live with. Losing friends would hurt, a lot, but I've lost friends in the past through moving and drifting apart so I know it's survivable. Knowing that I got success by stealing and cheating would be what would kill me.

I was raised to take responsibility for my mistakes and give credit where it's due. They are two of the central tenants of my life. Plagiarism breaks both of these.

The comments section of John's original post provides many more reasons that I agree with. In the end, I want to recognized for my work and not something I've stolen. Getting published will be even sweeter when done by my own mental sweat and not thieving from others.