My Top Picks – Part Two

Part two of my series on my biggest influences covers some lesser known things that have moulded who I am today. I will continue to cover some of the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me.

The Call to Ktulu:

Music plays a very large part in getting my creative juices flowing. Music can stir emotions that other mediums fail to. In many ways it requires you to really utilise your imagination as there is no visual stimulus. Metallica’s instrumental piece ‘the Call to Ktulu’ is one piece of music that is very important to me. I am referring to the version presented on their S&M album together with the San Francisco Symphony.

Why is this piece of music so important to me? Because it could be seen as a trigger for my choice to become a writer. Sitting on a bus for up to 8 hours a day whilst travelling through central Australia on a school trip, I was given ample time to listen to my Walkman. Metallica had opened my eyes to hard rock a year earlier and my tape got a good workout. None more than the Call to Ktulu. As soon as this track began I was taken away from that bus. Transported to a world of clashing armies, knights and demons, magic and mayhem.

I played out scenes of an epic tale in my mind whilst staring out of the window at the endless red blanket that is the aussie outback. The music fuelled my imagination. With every repeat of the track the story grew larger, clearer. By the end of a two week trip, I had to pick up a pencil and write the tale. And that is what I did when I got home. That story became the basis for the Valerious Chronicles. I have no doubt that without the Call to Ktulu to keep me company, Christill and Thibalt’s tale would have never been told.

X-Men (Comics and Cartoon):

One of my fondest memories as a child was going with my mother to the local shopping centre and finding that a new volume of the X-Men animated series had become available on VHS. This was well before the days of the internet and the only way for me to watch the show was through waiting months for the next cassette to become available. It was shown very rarely on TV in Australia giving me little opportunity to tape it.

I shudder to think how many times I watched each episode, glued to the TV to watch Wolverine and the X-Men fight the most dastardly villains ever to grace the TV. Much can be said about why X-Men is so popular. Strong characters, relevant themes and great writing perhaps to name a few. Its popularity is still on the rise. For me it was the first fictional universe to draw me in and create an obsession. There are few things that I liked as a child that I am still passionate about now. X-Men has stood the test of time.

My brother collected X-Men comics which I eventually inherited. They opened up to me the greater marvel universe and showed me how much more there was than just the animated show. I came to realise that there were thousands of people out there who liked X-Men as much as I did. It was my first introduction to true fandom. One could say it was the beginning of my transition to teenage nerd.

Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

Will Game of Thrones Lose Fans?

(Don’t read ahead if you are not up to date with the show. No spoilers for future episodes contained.)

I have heard numerous people this week cry out that they are only one character death away from never watching Game of Thrones again. This has caught my interest. I am one of those smug people who has read the books and likes to give people those all knowing grins whenever they cry outrage at a new twist. I kept reading the books after every setback, every shocking death. It actually only made me want more. 

However, I too was shocked at the end of the latest episode. I knew what was coming but I felt the same profound sense of loss that others felt. I can only tip my hat to the producers and applaud their ability to arouse such feelings in someone who knows what is going to happen. However knowing what is coming makes it easier for me to keep watching.

Those who are pulling their hair out at last weeks events and cursing to the old gods and the new have a right to be doing so. The show isn’t heart-breaking, it’s heart-shattering with a side of disintegration. But have they gone too far. How many more times can viewers be shocked before they throw in the towel and declare their constitutions can take no more? For many people I know they probably only have one more shock in them.

I am very interested to see what happens next season. Whether the producers can continue to keep the gigantic viewer base or whether people will slowly break off, nursing their wounds and saying to HBO, Not today! 

Have you seen that Movie? It totally sucked!

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many movies or TV episodes have let you down? It seems to be an ongoing trend at the moment. I am constantly hearing from friends, or reading online that people are disappointed with something they have watched. It has grown to such a state that I am beginning to wonder if it is a result of the ‘critical’ society that the internet has spawned in the last decade. It is cool to rag on a movie these days, Or to talk about how terrible a TV show is. I’ve even had conversations with people about a movie to have them complain about how bad it was, later to found out they haven’t even watched it. They simply jumped on the rolling band wagon started by an internet troll in a basement somewhere.

The crumbling state of society aside for a moment, I was having a long discussion about this with some individuals who agree that expectations are the killing factor. And expectations keep rising. Movies from the past, which have become cultural hits, are now being remade or receiving sequels, prequels and re-imaginings, at an alarming rate. (Original thought is a thing of the past you know!) As a result we are flocking to the theatres (People still do this yes?) or the internet, in order to see the next instalment.

The Hobbit is a great current example. The Lord of the Rings was accepted by most to be a fantastic adaptation and top quality set of films. However the Hobbit has seen a significant amount of criticism, especially by nerd fandom. When I spoke with individuals who complained about the Hobbit I asked them to explain their dislike. They did so and, but for some valid points, much of it seemed to me to brew down to, “but the LOTR’s was so much better in the way it did…” I then asked them, what if the LOTR’s movies were never made? What if you couldn’t compare this movie to them?

Star wars is another great example. We could argue for a long, long time about what they did wrong with the star wars prequels, but I often ask people to think about how they would feel about the three prequels if they had never seen the original saga? Jar Jar binks aside, would you give them a better rating? Would you be less critical of Hayden Christiansen’s acting? (Mark Hamill’s was just as bad really.)

Surely one of the best things about art is the fact that it is subjective and that people like to critique it. I just feel that it has become more socially ‘Cool’ to badmouth something than to say, I loved it! It is also easy to say that something sucked when you weren’t the one who made it. If you gave 99% of the people who complain about a movie the same training, budget and capacity to remake it, they would likely make something utterly unwatchable. And I feel for the people making these shows. At the end of the day one harsh word will have a greater influence on them than ten good ones.

I wonder what it would be like if, rather than foster a culture of disapproval, the internet bred a culture of talking about what we liked about these films. It would be a strange world indeed.  

 

Give us more Red Weddings!

blood

One could not even begin count the collective gasps and jaws that dropped upon watching the infamous ‘Red Wedding’. As soon as the episode had finished, social media and the internet were ablaze with comments ranging from outrage to hilarity to anguish and everything in between. Over 5 million individuals in the US watched this particular episode as it aired on HBO, and millions more watched it around the world thereafter. The response was universal. “That didn’t just happen!”

Even those who had read the books before watching the show watched on with wide eyes, mesmerised and horrified by an intensely graphic depiction of a famed literary event. And though so many people cried out in anger, the Red Wedding only drew more people in to watch the next episode and read George R R Martin’s books.

It is a little bit of schadenfreude that draws us to continue to watch and read or is it a futile hope that somehow things will turn out for the best. It could be that society has shifted its taste in literature and media to allow for the more debased and extreme elements of life. One only needs to look at the most popular television shows of the last few years. Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, the Walking Dead and Boardwalk Empire show us over the top violence, sex, drug and alcohol abuse and general indecency. Yet they do so with gripping storytelling, and we love them.

The current trend in television is towards the long story arc that leaves a viewer hanging for more at the end of each episode. And viewers are now so saturated with content that they are seeking new thrills. We are all searching for the next high. The Red Wedding was essentially an overdose and now everyone is waiting for that next hit.

So what does this mean for the writers out there? What is the true power of killing off a main character? Does writing need to adapt to the changing marketplace, or is this a fad that will work its way out over time? My answer is write what you feel will help you best tell the story. We should not need to turn to extreme violence and sex to sell, but if that helps you to convey your message in the best possible manner then do not shy away from using them.

Shock and awe is a powerful creative tool but must be used with care. Give us more Red Weddings but don’t make them the norm. Sometimes the tried and tested formulas are the way to go. Why? because they are tried and tested. And I ask all those writers out there currently plotting their next story, when you do choose to include that jaw dropping event, provide a warning to all those out there with heart conditions. Not everyone has the constitution to survive such a scene.