Archive for February, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau – A Review

“You got your romance move in my sci-fi flick!”

“You got your sci-fi flick in my romance movie!”

Either way you feel about these two great tastes and how they may great together, these aren’t exactly the kind of sentiments one would expect to express about a movie based on a Philip K. Dick story, but there you go.  The Adjustment Bureau centers around charismatic boy-man Senate candidate, David Morris (Matt Damon), who is dubbed “the GQ Congressman” by media, but who is also “inquisitive, curious, burdened by questions.”  He loses his initial bid for the Senate, but as he rehearses his concession speech in the men’s bathroom, out from a stall pops beautiful stranger, Elise (Emily Blunt).  They share an immediate connection and chemistry and it takes only a few minutes of witty banter, fueled by her British accent, and an impulsive kiss before he is hopelessly smitten.

“You can’t outrun your fate.” –Harry

Well, what’s a good romance story without an obstacle to overcome?  In this case, the obstacle is the will of the universe itself, which as problems go, seems to be a pretty big one.  David encounters a team of mysterious men in gray, who have frozen reality to make a few corrections.  As their chief, Richardson (John Slattery, Mad Men), is forced to reveal, they are the Adjustment Bureau.  Their job is to engage in nudges—from a spilled cup of coffee to car accidents—which have butterfly flapping its wings type long-term ramifications for all humankind.

“All I have are the choices that I make.” –David

Basically, David is presented a choice they could be great or they could have love, but “the plan” wouldn’t allow for both.  So the movie becomes a tale of one man determined to master his fate, question the plan of The Chairman, and question/doubt/defy all for the sake of true love.

“The book … what if I can find who wrote it?” –David

As a writer on Ocean’s 13 and The Bourne Ultimatum, writer-director George Nolfi wrote The Adjustment Bureau with Damon in mind.  He incorporated known aspects of Damon’s personality, from his political interests to his athleticism, into the role.  This custom fit played to Damon’s strengths.  His portrayal of this wounded character with persistent hope against Blunt’s free-wheeling, unpredictable dancer supplied the central pinning of the film.  And though they head up an excellent cast, the light touch of the fun first hour gives way to a more stilted, expository approach. The movie also goes the opposite narrative choice as Inception:  whereas Inception front loaded its story with the “rules” of the universe it inhabited, The Adjustment Bureau back loads it, thus weighting down the story.  It was as if Nolfi was set on beating everyone over the head with the theme until everyone understood it rather than live into the intelligence speculative-fiction audience.  Once everyone has been spoon-fed not only the questions but the answers to the conundrums of free will and destiny, the movie becomes just another breezy romance movie with aspirations of headiness.

“You don’t have free will.  You have the appearance of free will.” –Thompson (Terrance Stamp)

Obviously, The Adjustment Bureau has many spiritual themes that it touches upon.  How relationships can fill our empty spaces, the holes in us we try to fill with applause, fame, or service.  How we encounter The Chairman in the ordinary and how His plan adjusts when He’s inspired by love, like Moses and his entreaties on behalf of Israel.  How most people live life on the path set for them without asking some pretty big questions or wondering what we were put on this earth to do.

There is the whole idea of The Adjustment Bureau, who agents “have been called angels”—who can come across both creepy and stalkerish—but they think of themselves as case officers for Upstairs, working for The Chairman.  They nudge people back on plan, rarely seen, providing the training wheels for humanity to get through life.  Peeking behind the curtain and asking those questions may result in red pill type moments, when reality unwinds and you never see things the same afterward.  You can no longer live as you were and have to turn from empty ways of pursuing life.

“The Chairman has a plan, we only see part of it.” – Richardson

Fate.  Destiny.  Chance.  Coincidence.  Connection.  Meaning.  Determinism.  Free will.  Somehow The Chairman has to navigate these notions, operating within certain parameters while at the same time, protecting peoples’ free will.  To do any less would turn the choice of love into an act of coercion.

One way to look at it is that God is in charge of everything without controlling everything.  God allows all choices, using his foreknowledge to move things toward his greater purpose/good.  In His sovereignty, He gave us freedom of choice.  To preserve that gift, God self-limits His sovereignty, cooperating with human freedom.  Even choosing to turn evil into good—the epitome of this being Christ’s sacrifice on the cross—rather than not to permitting evil to exist.

“Do you ever wonder if it’s right?” –Harry

As you probably guessed, there was no such romantic angle in the original Dick tale.  We’ve come to expect visually extravagant adaptations from Dick’s work, such as Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly, and The Adjustment Bureau gives us some of this.  This is mostly relegated, however, to the agents ability to travel through doors.  This pullback from what could have been is actually pretty consistent with the movie.  David and Elise’s relationship is so earnest and simple (because I can’t think of too many women being that forgiving of a guy who waits three years to call her back or frankly, has a habit of dropping out of their lives for a year or so).  Seriously, the only thing missing was a montage sequence of their romance.

Still, one doesn’t usually get to wrestle with ideas about free will and the nature of love and God’s sovereignty in the typical date movie.  I’d probably see more if they did.  It’s not often one gets to watch a romantic fantasy thriller science fiction suspense movie.

Random Tidbits & Tentacles

The first Crossed Genres Quarterly is now available for sale! More than 75,000 words, this issue collects the previous 3 web issues of Crossed Genres, as well as 3 exclusive stories, 1 nonfiction piece and 1 interview. Guess who the interview is with?

A Pornokitsch Golden Tentacle award winning writer!

Stone Skin Press recently announced the table of contents for The New Hero, their first short fiction anthology. Look what kind of great company I’m in:

Ezekiel Saw the Wheel, Julia Bond Ellingboe
Better Off Not Knowing, Jeff Tidball
Warrior of the Sunrise, Maurice Broaddus
The Midnight Knight, Ed Greenwood
The Thirty-Ninth Labor of Reb Palache, Richard Dansky
On Her Majesty’s Deep Space Service, Jonny Nexus
Cursebreaker: The Jikininki and the Japanese Jurist, Kyla Ward
Against the Air Pirates, Graeme Davis
Fangs and Formaldehyde, Monica Valentinelli
Bad Beat for Aaron Burr, Kenneth Hite
Charcuterie, Chuck Wendig
Sundown in Sorrow’s Hollow, Monte Cook
A Man of Vice, Peter Freeman
The Captain, Adam Marek

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And we’re looking to Kickstart funding for this year’s Mo*Con. Check out the video.

Job Hunting Update

So for those wanting the update on my life in Funemployment, I went back and did the math:  last year I sent my resume out to 110 places (not including the resume “blasting” sites and networking and job fairs) and received only two interviews (one of which was a complete debacle on the part of the would be employer).  You have to keep in mind, for the last twenty years, the lab job I had was the only place in the state that did what it did, so it’s not like there were a bunch of places to choose from.  Plus, it was like spending twenty years in suspended animation:  my how the lab tech landscape has changed in my absence.  Which is fine, because I wanted to get away from science anyway as it wasn’t where my heart was to begin with.

Still, prolonged unemployment can lead to moments of worthlessness as so many of us are vested in what we do rather than who we are.  For one thing, it can lead to “dark nights of the soul” as you wonder whether or not you have anything of value to offer anyone.  For another, our work is where many people find their identity.  My lab job wasn’t who I was, nor did it especially match my skillsets and inclinations.  It did, however, pay the bills of my life and provided stability and security and that’s all many of us can ask for.

So as I’ve been plotting my future course, I’ve been walking a tension between being choosey and being pragmatic.  It’s not like I don’t know that work is meant to be hard and often sucks, I just live in the hope that it doesn’t have to be draining.  So it’s not so much being picky as much as tired of living in empty ways.  It shouldn’t be too much to ask for to want to do something that makes a difference and matches my calling and gifts.

I am also quite cognizant of the fact that I have the luxury of using my free time to pursue being a full time writer.  That’s the only way I’ve been able to knock out so many projects in the past year.  But all freelance writers have “that date” where they can no longer sustain doing what they’re doing (that is, when the last job has come in, with none on the horizon, and bills threatening to overwhelm).  I’ve also been setting up a non-profit organization that would come alongside other non-profit groups who work with at risk kids to expose them to the arts and help them find their creative voice/ways of expressing themselves.

That’s pretty much how I fill my days between turns at Scrabble, plus connecting with folks from our church community – which, I won’t lie, we’re all kind of spoiled on.  With “that date” quickly approaching, I’m trying to wrap up as many projects as I can.  Because I’m not too proud to start wearing a paper hat and asking “do you want fries with that?”

Being Real Part Deux

Dear Theodora Goss,

I read with great delight your recent blog
on Being Real
. It is something I have often struggled with. It’s
part of the dissonance created when you, the writer, have to start
thinking of yourself in terms of a brand. Funny things start to
happen as you begin to talk about yourself. Especially in the third
person.

“But it’s also a thing to manage, a thing that can make you feel
quite strange about yourself, as though you’re not really you.”

It is here that I am forced to disagree with you. That belly pride blog of
ours
notwithstanding, we in the Broaddus family firmly believe in
being really us at all times. There’s no strangeness about it. Allow
me to give you a rare glimpse into the real life of the Broaddus
household:

Here, our secret network of cameras
captures my wife Sally as she goes about her daily routine of
vacuuming and dusting. Luckily, she was unaware of the cameras.

Or how the camera catches me as I go about
cleaning the bathroom and doing dishes. (Why yes, that is a framed
version of an article a local paper did on me a couple years back
hanging over our sink. If you look REALLY close, the cupid on the
cover is my son, Malcolm.)
Whether our nightly quality family time of
playing video games with my oldest, Reese, (curiously, Malcolm wanted
no part of our realness exercise … still scarred after that Cupid
episode) or our bedtime reading of Steampunk II, we strive to be real,
at all times.

As you can plainly see, there are no vanity issues here and we are
clearly unconcerned about image here. I don’t know what your hang up
may be.

As a writer, we are always out there. Through my twitter, my facebook
page, my blog, people interact with me and get glimpses into my
thoughts and my life. Which is ironic because, I think, most times it
is through my stories that people get a glimpse of my heart. Though I
love that we are all about story and controlling story, especially the
myth of our own lives.

Your ardent fan,

Maurice

P.S.

I wonder if a similar dissonance is created among artists who are
Christian, as they are told by one camp to pursue humility, yet as a
brand, they are told to constantly be promoting themselves. A
not-necessarily-insurmountable problem, but a fraught one nonetheless.
Then again, in most of the images of Christ I see, he’s either
quite buff or has rock star hair.

P.P.S.

This is certainly a much better idea than me threatening to tape bacon
to my kids as a way to out-Scalzi John Scalzi’s blog. Though I
haven’t entirely ruled that out yet.

Nothing to Say?

It’s funny how, as a writer, I can feel like I have nothing left to say.

It’s not true, of course.  It’s almost like that silly worry when you’re a single person and you wonder what married people talk about after they’ve been married for ten years.  Or twenty.  Like they will have exhausted every anecdote and original thought so they just sit across the table from one another reading the newspaper or watching bad television just to fill the silence.

That’s kind of how I feel about the blog every so often.  There’ll be these long gaps on the blog when I’ve simply got nothing to say.  Nothing going on in my life.  No current events which have pricked my muse enough to spur me to write.  I get this … guilt … whenever I leave the blog unattended for too long.  Luckily, I always have the occasional review.

It’s funny, this is another reflection of the writer’s hubris, that something we think is worth committing to paper, much less worth being read.  And while the blog is nice, it was mostly a place where I spun together thoughts between projects and of late, I’ve had plenty of projects to be working on.  And, frankly, I didn’t want to overwhelm readers with stuff in my head and heart while I work through stuff.  (Yeah, yeah, I know, that’s what blogs are for.)

I mentioned that I loved the idea of inhabiting space of our characters, the downside is that that’s where my head is usually.  Which means that toward the end of last year, when my blog fell silent during my “this book’s almost done push”, I was focused on the Hero’s Journey.  What does reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration look like in pursuit of the greater mission?  I did jot down a lot of notes for what would have been potential blogs, but then as I was wrapping that project up (yay, King’s War!) I began a non-fiction book project involving the book of Hosea, so all of those notes went into that.  Of course, the blog is still fairly silent because I’m now on the “this book’s almost done push” for that project (two chapters this week, then the last two over the next two weeks and I’m done).

Think of it this way:  I’ve put about 60-80K worth of blogs into a book for your convenience.  Don’t breathe too much of a sigh of relief as on tap I will be working on:  a post apocalyptic novel with Wrath James White (examining the nature of God … who seems to be the cause of our post apocalyptic setting.  This will not be confused with Left Behind, you can believe that); a children’s book that’s Coraline meets The Velveteen Rabbit (because that’s how a horror/urban fantasy writer follows up a series); and a steampunk novel (because I need something to help keep me balanced between horror and a children’s book).

And I’ll go ahead and hit post on this bit of whiny self-indulgence, even as I keep in mind that no one’s been saying “Maurice, remember the days when you were posting six blogs a day?  Yeah, we miss those days.”

Gen Con – The Writers Symposium

The Writer’s Symposium has a new dedicated web site up and running.  For those who have slept on GenCon (August 4-7, 2011, in Indianapolis, Indiana) in the past, dismissing it as just a “gamer’s convention”, the writers’ tracts feature 77 separate seminars, for beginning writers through areas of professional interest, covering about 85 hours worth of programming.  Plus, many of the 30+ writers and editors can be found either in Author Alley or, well, “what do you call a gathering of writers?  A bar.”

Thіѕ year’s panelists include Anton Strout, Brad Beaulieu, Daniel Myers, Dave Yυсkу, Don Bingle, Dylan Birtolo, Elizabeth Vaughan, Gregory Wilson, Jason Sizemore, Jean Rabe, Jennifer Brozek, Jerry Gordon, John Helfers, Kelly Swails, Bob Farnsworth, Kerrie Hughes, Lawrence Connolly, Linda Baker, Marc Tassin, Matt Forbeck, Maxwell Drake, Mike Stackpole, Monica Valentinelli, Pat Tomlinson, Paul Genesse, Ramsey Lundock, Richard Lee Byers, Sabrina Klein, Steve Sullivan, Steven Saus, аnd Tobias Buckell.  Wandering the halls you will find bestsellers lіkе Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Ed Greenwood, R. A. Salvatore, James Lowder, аnd many more.

Here is my schedule for panels at the convention (though you can probably find me at the Apex Books table when I’m not running my mouth):

Thursday

8:00 a.m.

Pick Our Brains: We’re early risers. If you are too, come get a jump on the Writer’s Symposium activities and have a chat about this and that. From publishing and writing to the weather in Chicago and vampires in Toledo, we’ll cover whatever strikes your and our proverbial fancy. Science fiction, fantasy, romance, thriller, and horror authors Donald J. Bingle, Maurice Broaddus, and Elizabeth Vaughan

9:00 a.m.

Writing Your First Novel: No more excuses! It’s time to write that novel you keep talking about! But what does it take to move the story from your imagination to the page? Our panelists have been over that proverbial hump and are willing to give you a nudge.  Maurice Broaddus, Donald J. Bingle, John Helfers, Elizabeth Vaughan

Friday

8:00 a.m.

The Sword is Mightier:  A rousing sword fight can get the reader churning through the pages of your book. But you better know how to make it feel real. Our master wordsmiths share their expertise in writing the good fight. Dylan Birtolo, Maurice Broaddus, Jerry Gordon, Maxwell A. Drake

Saturday

1:00 p.m.

Make it Steamy—a Look at the Steampunk Genre: Some say it’s what the future would look like if it had come along earlier . . . say, in the Victorian era. Steampunk has been around for quite some time, but it’s risen in popularity over the past few years. Our panelists look at the genre and discuss how to get published in it.  Anton Strout, Lawrence Connolly, Gregory Wilson, Paul Genesse

Sunday

8:00 a.m.

Care and Feeding of Your Editor: You’ve got the acceptance letter, but now what? How do you keep your editor happy and asking for future manuscripts? What can you do to make their life easier, your writing more attractive to them . . . and what can you expect from them in return? Jennifer Brozek, Gregory Wilson, Maurice Broaddus, Jean Rabe,  William Horner

9:00 a.m.

Gender-Bending–men writing women and vice-versa: We’ve brought this session back because it was so successful last year! How can a man write a female character . . . and do it well? Can a woman get in the head of a male protagonist . . . and make that character believable?  Maurice Broaddus, Donald J. Bingle, Jennifer Brozek, Paul Genesse

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!!

Free Preview Samples!

King’s Justice, the second book of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy will be available next month.  To whet your appetite, Angry Robot has made available a sample chapter.  (I won’t lie:  I keep playing with it just to watch the pages flip.  In fact, I’m only doing this blog post as an excuse to play with it again.)

As a huge fan of sword and sorcery tales which take place in ancient Africa, the anthology Griots is a project that I’m excited about.  Not just because it’s a chance to highlight “sword and soul,” but it’s a chance for me to be in the same table of contents as one of my heroes, Charles Saunders (author of Imaro) as well as my friend, Carole McDonnell.  You can read an excerpt of my story “Lost Son” here or go here to sample other stories from the antho.  Available soon.

On the less than free sample front, my story “Pimp My Airship” has been reprinted in the anthology Descended from Darkness vol 2. Not only do you get great stories from Mary Robinette Kowal, Jennifer Pelland, Alethea Kontis, Ekaterina Sedia, to make it seem like even more of a Dark Faith reunion, the stories from the Dark Faith issue of Apex Magazine are in here, too.  This means you get stories from Jerry Gordon and Paul Jessup.  Available now.

For my gamer fans, I was part of the development team for Leverage:  Grifters and MastermindsEvery job needs a plan, and every con needs a player. This sourcebook for the Leverage RPG includes expanded rules for staging heists, planning capers, and putting one over on the mark. It’s the ultimate resource for both players and Game Masters, including more classic con frameworks, new twists, a host of cover identities, criminal masterminds, and plenty of scenario ideas. Available February 8th.

Mo*Con VI: The Lowdown

Mo*Con is coming up on us again, May 20-22.  Brought to you by the Indiana Horror Writers, Mo*Con is a convention focused on conversations revolving around horror literature and spirituality (two great tastes that taste great together!). If you enjoy writing, horror, fantasy, poetry, and food, you’ll find plenty to enjoy at this convention. Basically, imagine a room party held in a con suite, and that’s Mo*Con.

As always, there are a lot of moving parts to what I essentially a hangout weekend.  In addition to being able to spend time with our spectacular line up of writer and artists, here’ how the weekend lays out:

*For those coming into town early, Jerry Gordon will be leading a pub crawl through Broad Ripple on Thursday night, but you all need to get with him*

Friday

(At Trinity Church) – 6151 N. Central Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46220

6:00 p.m. Doors open

7:00 p.m. Dinner (Chicken marsala and fettucine alfredo)

9:00 p.m. Open mic – flash fiction and poetry readings

Saturday

(At Trinity)

10:00 a.m. Doors open

11:00 a.m. Conversation #1:  Alternative Markets:  examining comic book, gaming opportunities, and other places to sell our stories  (Cullen Bunn, Brian Keene, Bob Freeman, Lucien Soulban)

12:00 p.m. Lunch (seafood etouffe, lasagna)

1:00 p.m. Conversation #2:  Homosexuality, the Church, and the Arts (Lee Thomas, Gina Ranalli, Danny Evarts, Lucien Soulban, Brad Grammer)

3:00 p.m. Art Gallery

-Danny Evarts demo

-Steve Gilberts demo

*3:30 p.m. Comic book store signing (Cullen Bunn, Brian Keene) – at Comic Carnival*

5:00 p.m. Conversation #3:  Writing the weird (Andy Prunty, Gina Ranalli, D. Harlan Wilson)

6:00 p.m. Dinner (Indian/Jamaican cuisine)

7:00 p.m. Concert – there are a few bands, Grave Robber with Calabrese and Harley Poe

Sunday

Goodbye brunch

There will be a silent auction to raise money for charity.  For those threatening karaoke, there will be room parties at the main hotel (Quality Inn & Suites – 5011 North Lafayette Road, Indianapolis, IN 46254).

The early bird registration rate ($50) deadline is April 1st. Slots limited to 100 folks.  Basically, you know the drill.  We can’t wait to host you all.

Broaddus vs. Mamatas – LET THE BATTLE BEGIN!

I just found out earlier this evening that Dark Faith made the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards in the category of Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY.  Congrats to all of our fellow nominees:

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY

  • DARK FAITH edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon (Apex Publications)
  • HORROR LIBRARY IV edited by R.J. Cavender and, Boyd E. Harris (Cutting Block Press)
  • CTHULHU’S DARK CULTS edited by David Conyers (Chaosium)
  • HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas (Tor)
  • THE NEW DEAD edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Griffin)
  • BLACK WINGS edited S.T. Joshi (PS Publishing)
  • EVOLVE: VAMPIRE STORIES OF THE NEW UNDEAD edited by Nancy Kilpatrick (Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing)
  • NULL IMMORTALIS edited by D.F. Lewis (Megazanthus Press)
  • DEAD SET: A ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY edited by Michelle McCrary and Joe McKinney (23 House Publishing)
  • SCENES FROM THE SECOND STOREY by Amanda Pillar and Pete Kempshall (Morrigan Books)

In addition to that, Catherynne Valente’s story from Dark Faith, “The Days of Flaming Motorcycles”, has also made the preliminary list for Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION.  Jason Sizemore, big kahuna of Apex Books, is making Dark Faith readily available for Active members of the HWA to consider for the final ballot.  So please contact him at jason@apexbookcompany.com for the hook up.

(Apex Books had a pretty good showing on the preliminary ballot, as Gary Braunbeck’s book, To Each Their Darkness, also made it as a nominee for Superior Achievement in NONFICTION.)

I notice from Mr. Keene’s blog that Nick Mamatas has a book coming out from Apex Books:

Starve Better is a no-nonsense survival guide by a professional writer who knows how to use small press publications and writing for everyone from corporate clients to friends and neighbors to keep himself out of the soup kitchen line.

Yes, this is the same Nick Mamatas who is my competition for the anthology Stoker.  The same Nick Mamatas who my children, MY OWN FLESH AND BLOOD, still refer to as “Uncle Nick” as his turn as a guest at a Mo*Con.  Luckily, I’m assuming that it was my son’s Halloween costume from 2009 which inspired his book cover.

Click here to pre-order it if you must … BUT YOU BETTER VOTE FOR ME IN THE STOKERS!