Monday, December 21, 2015

Introducing Star Wars to your children - Best Viewing Order

Here is the Actual Best Order for Introducing Star Wars Canon to the Next Generation.

I specify canon because there is tons of fun AU and just unofficial Star Wars stuff that is fun for kids, like the Droids animated series, the Ewok adventures, the 2003 Clone Wars series (made by the Samurai Jack studio) and the Lego Star Wars films like "The Empire Strikes Out."

1: The Clone Wars (2008) - This is seriously great. By the time you are halfway into the first season, you will be wishing to god that the prequels had been made by these people instead of Lucas. They are exactly what we all hoped the prequels would be - the awesome adventures of Obi-wan and Anakin. You will find yourself caring about both of them, along with Padme, Count Dooku and several new characters like Ashoka and Asajj Ventress. Even Jar Jar is retconned to be somewhat less offensive. Your kids will love this show and be excited by it, and so will you. They will go into the films knowing about Anakin, Obi-Wan, R2D2, C3PO, Padme and the Clones, and it will only enhance their experience.

2: The Phantom Menace - This is a god-awful racist heap of shit, but watching Clone Wars will make you totally want to go back and see the origins, botched as it indeed was. And it ends with one of the greatest lightsaber duels of all time, so you'll at least have a high note to finish on (and a thing to keep you watching in order to get to). Your kids will probably not hate it (though they might be bored by it at times, as it is far longer than any film that boring has any right to be - If any film can be chopped up and watched 40 minutes at a time, it is this tedious piece of shit). That is ok. They are excited to finally be seeing these characters come to life, and are too young to understand how awful it is. Your job is just to grit your teeth and stay strong until the lightsaber duel.

3: Attack of the Clones - Once again, mostly shit, but your kids will be excited to finally see the Anakin and Obi-wan they remember from the Clone Wars (seriously, that beard makes a huge difference, Ewan), and now they will be less disturbed by Anakin/Padme. Though perhaps they shouldn't be.

4: A New Hope - Unless you are a terrible fucking parent who has isolated your child like a crazy Star Wars fundamentalist, your child has heard of Darth Vader. If you're lucky and careful, they might not have heard "Luke, I am you father" (they certainly haven't heard it from the films, since that line isn't actually from any of them). Either way, most kids accept it at face value when Obi-wan tells Luke that Vader killed his father. They trust Obi-wan, and they will be super sad about Anakin's death, but will totally accept it, and the awesomeness of Luke and Han, combined with the familiarity of R2 and C3PO, plus finally seeing Tarkin (who you constantly want to slap in The Clone Wars) get blown to smithereens will get their spirits up quickly enough.

5: The Empire Strikes Back - Obviously they will love this one, because it is the best. Plus, they will literally have the same reaction as Luke at Vader's Cloud City revelation. Like, they will simply not believe it at all.

6: Revenge of the Sith - Here is where you watch their little hearts break forever

7: Return of the Jedi - And then you all get to see Anakin finally redeem himself! Does he bring balance to the force? Eh, doesn't really seem like it. But still, I think that the prequels (and especially the Clone Wars) actually make RotJ a much more satisfying conclusion.


8: The Force Awakens - Obviously, this comes after. And also, Rey is totally a clone of Padme.

I haven't seen Rebels yet, so I will update this list after I watch that, and again as Disney inevitably wreaks havok on continuity with a Boba Fett film and a Han Solo film.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The #3DNC Plans of Andrew Stirling MacDonald

Every Labor Day, a great many authors and author-hopefuls embark on a mad quest - attempting to write a novel in three days. It's a sort of NaNoWriMo all compressed into one weekend of frantic, don't-stop-writing-no-matter-how-silly-it-gets work. I will be joining several of my friends this year, and I will be trying to write a complete short story, or perhaps novella. I recently read (and reviewed!) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, and came away from the book very impressed with the way he made his city come to life. My goal with my novella is to make a part of my Noose world come to life in a comparable way. I have a few small ideas now, but I think I will be setting my story in the capitol city, following one main character and focusing on the part of the city in which he spends his time. I'm looking forward to the experience, and may publish the story here once I've edited the work.

Media Review - "The Lies of Locke Lamora"

This is my review of the first "Gentlemen Bastards" novel from Scott Lynch. They were recommended to by me someone based on my love of everything by Brandon Sanderson, and although these books might not be for every Sanderson fan, I did quite enjoy this one.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lynch brings a city to life in a way that few authors have. Camorr is as much a character in The Lies of Locke Lamora as any of the people inhabiting it. The book would be a fantastic read for the world-building alone, but it also weaves together a fantastic heist/revenge epic that will keep you up long after you told yourself you'd go to sleep and save the rest for tomorrow. The flashbacks and other interludes can be a little bit jarring at first, but once you get hang of the book's rhythm you'll find yourself looking forward to these extra little bits of juicy character-and-world-building.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lullaby First Draft Progress: 25 scenes to go

I'm using Scrivener to write Lullaby (software I highly recommend to anyone doing any sort of creative writing). In the program, I first outlined my manuscript-in-progress into five parts - five Issues, if you will, as though the novel were a season or an arc of a television series. Each of these issues is then broken down into three or four acts (a beginning, middle and end and sometimes a forward or afterward, depending on the issue). Each of these acts is then broken down into different scenes, which I write one at a time. I haven't decided precisely where my chapter breaks will fall yet; since this story is told entirely from one person's perspective I have a little bit more wiggle room than I do in, say, Noose. Lullaby has nearly one hundred scenes in my outline, though the number has fluctuated to accommodate changes in the story. Currently I have twenty-five scenes to write first drafts of by the end of February. It will be a challenge, but I'm confidant that I will be able to meet the challenge and I'm looking forward to have a full first-draft manuscript to begin revising in March!

In the meantime, enjoy this screencapture of the manuscript-in-progress. I hope that it will give you a general sort of idea about the process I'm using to write. I've blurred/censored out some spoilery bits and highlighted where some of the Issues are in my outline to give you an idea of how it works.

I'm having fun with the writing again! Hooray! Now I just need to buckle down and finish this draft. Two weeks to go!

Media Review: "An Unwelcome Quest"

This is my review of the third "Magic 2.0" novel from the series by Scott Meyer (best known for his webcomic "Basic Instructions"). If you haven't read the series, I highly recommend that you do so, starting with the excellent "Off to be the Wizard." The books are extremely clever science-fiction comedy in the vein of Douglas Adams, and should be read by everyone.

An Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0 #3)An Unwelcome Quest by Scott Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first two novels in the Magic 2.0 series were fantastic, and while I feel that "An Unwelcome Quest" did not quite measure up to the first two books, it was still an excellent read. Meyer is writing some of the cleverest, most underappreciated stuff currently in print (certainly the best current works in the niche genre of Sci-fi Comedy) and he continues to deftly build his world and characters in creative and entertaining ways. It was extremely rewarding to have a whole novels' worth of the Phillip/Jimmy dynamic that we've only gotten tantalizing glimpses of in the past, and the characters of Tyler, Gary and Roy are far more compelling now that I've gone on this journey with them. Todd was an entertaining villain, though I had a somewhat hard time adjusting from "surly teenager" Todd (that we saw in Spell or High Water and the prologue) to the "surly adult" Todd that tormented the wizards through the story. That said, Todd's interactions with Tyler were some of the best moments of the novel, and I was definitely fully on-board with adult Todd by the end.

Now for some of the issues I had: I really missed the Martin/Phillip interactions that I've grown to love over the course of the series. Splitting the characters into two groups did let us see some fun character interactions that we might not have been able to see otherwise, but I always felt that Martin/Phillip interactions were the highlights of the series, and I feel like this book suffers somewhat from their separation. I also felt like having the second group follow more-or-less in the footsteps of the first group made their journey feel a little tedious. I felt that reading the descriptions of places we've already seen and the dialog of NPCs we've already met made their story drag a bit. Finally, I was disappointed by the lack of Murphy and Miller. They were some of my favorite characters in the series, and they were sorely missed in this volume.

I really liked the ending of this book. Jimmy has become one of my favorite characters, and I especially loved the conclusion to his part of the story. I enjoyed the book overall, and I really hope that we will see more in the series.

View all my reviews

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Building with Friends (Lego Tower Bridge)

Those of you who know me well will be aware of my long and storied relationship with the best toy in history: Lego bricks. Last night my wife and I went to help my best friend Jesse and his wife in building one of the biggest, most iconic Lego sets in the modern age: The Tower Bridge (10214, 4287 pieces)

It was a very daunting task, made more so by the fact that the set was developed before Lego instituted the use of numbered bags for their larger sets. However, working in two teams to build the towers simultaneously, we ultimately succeeded in finishing our portion of the build. It was a lot of fun to watch the towers slowly take shape. I would definitely recommend this set to people who are interested in building Lego as a group project, as it is very large and has the two elements that can be worked on at the same time, which helps to cut down on waiting around for it to be your turn to build.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Creative Goals for MMXV

I'm going to post this here so that I can periodically check back and see how I'm doing throughout the year. Here are my creative goals, and a very general time frame of when I'd like to accomplish them.

February: Finish a first draft of Lullaby
March: Begin my workshop draft of Lullaby
April: Work on my workshop draft of Lullaby
May: Finish my workshop draft of Lullaby
June: Edit Lullaby, begin shopping it to agents, begin writing a stageplay*
July: Stageplay writing
August: Stageplay writing
September: Stageplay editing
October: Arrange one (or more) of my musical compositions for an ensemble
November: Record the musical composition
December: "A Christmas Carol" production with Players of the Stage

*I'm torn between two stageplays that I've done a bunch of pre-writing for. One of them is a modern take on Little Women, set in the world of fundamentalist conservative homeschooling (which bears a surprising number of parallels to the world of trandscendentalism in which the original was set) It is a coming-of-age story about making your own place in the world and choosing your own path deliberately. The other play I might work on is a science fiction story set entirely in a small shuttle. It is a small cast - perhaps only two actors, though it might be as many as four when all is said and done. It is the story of a bounty hunter and her captive, and is about the concept of trust. I'm very excited about both of these ideas, and I plan to write them both eventually, but I'm not sure yet which one I want to write first.

Further out, I have lots of other projects planned:

  • Write whichever of those stageplays I don't get to this year.
  • Write and produce a feature with my frequent collaborator Jesse Kalavoda (we're working on developing a road-trip drama picture, hopefully we'll have more news on that soon)
  • Finish writing Noose, my post-post-apocalyptic epic fantasy novel. Noose is set in North America about 200 years after a zombie apocalypse has destroyed the infrastructure of our society. The threat is mostly over, but society has developed into a more-nearly feudal state.
  • Finish writing the sequels to both Lullaby and Noose (both are currently planned as four-book series, though Lullaby could probably be squeezed into three and Noose could certainly be expanded into a larger work).
  • Write the two musicals I have on the back-burner right now. One is set in the Lullaby world. It's sort of a dystopian Grapes Of Wrath meets Finding Nemo. Something like that.
  • The other is a Arthurian musical called "Four Nights." It's designed to have four different storylines happening simultaneously (and with complimentary music) in four different rooms or areas. The storylines converge in one central location several times to progress the story, and then the scenes repeat again so that the audience is able to see each of the four stories play out in whichever order they choose. The storylines are interconnected and the order in which they are watched will have a big impact on your perception of what is really going on.
That's the list of everything I can think of off the top of my head that I'm working on right now. I'll probably also spend some time composing and recording original instrumental pieces, but right now I don't have any concrete plans for those, I mostly let them come when they feel like it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lullaby: The Last Weeks

In 2013, I participated in my local NaNoWriMo group for the first time. Although I didn't win, I did get a good start on a project I've been working on in one format or another since the early aughts. Originally, Lullaby was intended to be a television series, then a stage musical, but in the end (in the interest of ease, since working without collaboration is usually less complicated) I decided to write it as a novel.  Lullaby was a lot of fun to work on during NaNo... Mostly because I wrote all of the fun parts. Now I have a large chunk of the manuscript, and my goal is to finish a first draft by the end of February, have a workshop draft finished by the end of May, run a weekend workshopping session with my artists group Ekphrasis, and then re-edit and begin shopping it by the end of June.

Lullaby is a dystopian novel in which a young musician finds himself leading a group of revolutionaries and navigating a web of secrecy in a desperate bid for freedom.

The novel is written in five acts. Currently act one and most of acts two and four are written, as well as a good portion of act five. Act three is giving a me a lot of trouble, but I have to tackle it sooner or later! Check back here often for updates, and bug me if I haven't written any for a while.

Instabam: Art from The Reckoners fanart contest

I've been ravenously reading the collected works of the person who has quickly become my favorite living author: Brandon Sanderson. A ton of his works are part of a shared universe that he calls the Cosmere (there is a whole forum dedicated to people endlessly discussing the workings of those worlds), but he recently has published the first two books in a new YA science fiction trilogy called The Reckoners. To promote the release of the second book, Firefight, a fanart contest was held. My contribution was this photo I did (using myself as a model, naturally) of one of the villians of the series, an Epic called Instabam. In the series, you never actually see this character, he dies off-screen in between books one and two sometime, but the name gave me a flash of inspiration. I won the contest, too(one of ten prizes)! Enjoy.