Archive for November, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises – A Review

It would have been real easy, after the critical and commercial success of The Dark Knight (not to mention Inception) for Christopher Nolan to play it safe with the conclusion of his Batman trilogy.  Instead he defies audience expectations and turns in an even more ambitious movie, The Dark Knight Rises.

Once again writing with his brother Jonathan, from a tale conceived with David S. Goyer, Nolan draws on key plot points from the Dark Knight Returns, Knightfall, and Earthquake comic book storylines, resulting in a nearly three-hour long production.

“I wanted something more for you than that.  I still do.” –Alfred

Gotham City is apparently enjoying the justice of the king, a period of relative peace going on eight years, since the disappearance of Batman, presumed responsible for the death of Harvey Dent.  The deception weighs on Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) as well as Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).  Bruce now solely wanders the halls of Wayne Manor while being tended to by the ever-loyal Alfred (Michael Caine), who has known and cared for him since he was a boy.

Two strong women pop into Bruce’s life to draw him back out into the public to tend to his various responsibilities:  Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who’s heading up a clean-energy initiative and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar channeling the Black Widow, who’s caught mid-break-in of Wayne Manor.  Also entering his life is a young cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who shares many of Bruce’s childhood traumas.

However, it takes the appearance of Bane (Tom Hardy) to draw out Batman.  The geek community grumbled with the selection of Bane as the features central villain (though after the Joker and Two-Face, not to mention a deft use of the Scarecrow, it’s not like there was a huge clamor for the Penguin or the Mad Hatter).   In Nolan’s tale, Bane, under the seeming Sean Connery impersonation, is a mercenary who wears a mask to neutralize the pain of his wounds.  Rather than injecting venom to give him strength (ala his comic book role), he’s a former member of the League of Shadows, the same group that taught Bruce/Batman.

As part of Bane’s convoluted plan, buildings and social structures collapse under attack.  Anarchy reigns, with prisoners (including the Scarecrow) being released.  They hold court, judging various political and financial leaders for their crimes against the underclass.  Evoking 9/11 trauma as well as the Occupy Movement, the movie touches on a lot of hot spots, but at its core, it’s also about the emotional and physical cost of being Batman.

“You’re not living.  You’re just waiting.” –Alfred

Everyone has to find a way to deal with the pain, suffering, and tragedy that comes with life.  It’s all about moving on.  For Bruce, having to learn to hide the anger, putting on the mask, has been his way of coping things.  Being Batman was his self-medication.  He fought the decadence of Gotham with/under his own moral authority.

But now Bruce has reached a point where he is tired of fighting, worn out by the struggle to do better.  He’s been wounded by the failure of his life’s plan.  He’s lost hope that he may ever find wholeness or the light, feeling broken, beyond repair, as if something is fundamentally wrong with him and he doesn’t know if he’ll ever be fixed. Afraid to be around others for fear of saddling them with all of his baggage, letting them see him at his lowest, or worse, letting his disgust and anger with himself pour out over them.  He’s burdened by the weight of his story, his history, and how he is now seen.  By the time Bane has broken him and left him in hell, he has literally hit rock bottom.

“Batman could be anybody.  That was the point.” –Bruce

Bruce/Batman has to come to understand the depth of his failure of doing life his way.  He can’t outrun his demons anymore than he can outrun himself.  Every man has looked up at the light with the hope of freedom.  His situation can’t be true despair without hope.  Hitting bottom means he has reached the end of his self.  That sense of independence and need to control everything about him.  The way out involves a journey inward.  Internal journeying isn’t a matter of thinking one’s way out of something.  It’s about getting his identity straight.  About escaping the walls he’s learned to live within, because continuing to live in the literal and figurative pit of his despair, he wouldn’t be of any use to anyone.  He’d have to risk giving up the masks he carries.

The thing is brokenness can be redeemed.  Bruce/Batman, Gordon, Catwoman (like the Joker and Two-Face before her, offers an equal counterpart and reflection to Batman), Tate, and Bane are all looking for a clean slate, for redemption of sorts.  They each come to their own moment of crisis, a crossroads, and have a decision to make as far as who they are going to be and how they are going to live.  Finding redemption means washing their own wounds and past, giving them up and letting go of them.

“I see the power of belief.” –Alfred

He has to rebuild himself, inside and out.  And even as Bruce goes through the process of shedding the lies he’d wrapped himself in and other people’s expectations of him; at the same time, he (re-)discovers who he is and what he was meant to be.  It means finding forgiveness, for himself as well as others. In so doing, his wounds become occasions for new visions.  It means he may suffer failures and setbacks in his climb, but he has the light of hope and freedom to carry him.  It means taking a leap to freedom, becoming as a child, in order to repair the soul.

Also, in his weakness he has a reminder that he can’t do it alone.  Eventually he needs the support of others to walk alongside him on the path.  In short, sometimes a new man rises from the darkness.

“Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day.” –Alfred

Dark and heavy, The Dark Knight Rises comes full circle, tying together all of the plot strands coming out of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.  Against the landscape of urban terrorism and class warfare, there is a deeply resonant emotional tale of the hero in sunset.  It’s not perfect, having to live in the shadow of its predecessor.  However, it continues to stretch what a superhero movie is capable of being and is as fitting a conclusion as anyone could expect.  Just in time for the entire franchise to be re-booted.

Come on Hoosiers, you’re better than that

Some Hoosiers who apparently didn’t like last week’s election results are ready to call it quits.  Indiana citizens are among those from 41 states — including all 11 from the former Confederacy — who in petitions sent to the White House are advocating secession.  As of Tuesday evening, about 15,000 people had signed Indiana’s online petition at petitions.­whitehouse.gov.

I thought I’d give it a few weeks before wading into any reactions after the elections (other than my tweet about “Once you go black…”).  But, wow, some of my Republican friends who have simply lost their damn minds. There are reports of people who are opting to unfriend anyone who they even think may have voted for President Obama.

I get the universal butthurt when your team loses.  It is one thing to think this country is “moving in the wrong direction,” that direction being any direction away from the direction you wish to go.  (Mind you, the country seems to have survived, no matter what side of the aisle you fall, President Reagan, President Clinton, and President Bush, so I think we’ll do just fine.)

Still, there are the calls decrying the “welfare state” our country is becoming.  How our economy is being drained by welfare queens and people without a work ethic.  Some of my friends have called shenanigans on the entire election due to voter fraud (obviously not an issue, mind you, during the Bush II/Gore election, however).  All of these are myths clung to in order to make themselves sleep better at night, along with their empty declarations to move out of the country.

Why do I sound more than a little irritated?  Because entire classes of people are being dismissed.  The poor are those people driven by on the way to work from their houses in the suburbs.  Cut spending, cut taxes and let the wealth that results trickle down to the less fortunate always sound like a great idea on paper.  When you have no plan for the poor other than they can get the scraps from everyone else’s excess, you lose the battle of compassion.  Folks know when they have been trickled upon.

Political and economic policy choices have a moral dimension and life is more than an intellectual pursuit with rhetoric and stances that lacks heart, compassion.  I’d feel more comfortable if the remains of the “religious right” put their money where their mouths are:  where conservatism falls short, the churches making their mission to have concern for the poor, those who fall through the cracks of the system, should be their mission.  Not repping for Republican Jesus.

Hopefully there will be some serious soul-searching in the coming years.  That maybe the Republican’s “Southern Strategy” has finally heard its death knell.  That maybe they can’t show utter disdain for the working class and the poor.  That maybe America is made up of more than white men and that their party ought to reflect that.  That maybe they ought to find a sense of empathy along with their intellectualism.

Democracy is a “difficult experiment” and doesn’t always turn out the way we want (even when the officials we want get elected).

With that, I’ll leave you with this open letter from white people’s best friend:  Dear Angry White Conservatives Mourning Romney’s Loss: Chill Out (It’ll be okay!)

War on Christmas – Pre-emptive Strikes

I thought I’d go ahead and establish a beachhead between Halloween and Thanksgiving in order to solidify our hold against further incursions.*  Last year, I was completely unaware that we were at war and was totally confused by all the references to this shadow war revolving around the celebration of the birth of my savior.

I will not be caught unawares again!

This is a war on two fronts:  those who want to secularize Christmas (by referring to it as “holidays”) and those who wish to stretch Christmas into Halloween.  So we must have a careful deployment of our forces.

Granted, my savior knows how to rock a party.  We see that from the Scriptures:  do we see Buddha changing water into beer?  No!  Turning water into wine demonstrates that my savior knows how to keep a party going.**  So I’m positive it was his intent to turn the occasion of his birth into a two month commercial spectacle that demands absolute fealty.***

First they take prayer out of school.   Then they continue to persecute us by now allowing us to be the sole occasion being celebrated this time of year.  Absorbing Yule and declaring December our base of operations is not enough.

Take that you solstice-stanitas!

 

*Cleary I am not under deadline for anything at the moment.

**My attempts to go from celebrating my birthday to celebrating my entire gestation period have so far gone ignored.

***Personally, I never understood the whole 12 days of Christmas thing.  I just chalked up folks fascination with birds as gifts as one of those “cultural differences”/”white people things”, much like their love of cheese and NASCAR.

No More Broaddus Family Truth Times

Today is my dad’s birthday.  As such I was thinking of fathers and sons and the legacy of being a Broaddus.  So I thought I’d share this story (which I could’ve sworn that I put this online, but apparently I actually told this story but didn’t tweet it out).  This provides a snapshot in a “day in the life” of the Broaddus household.  Anyway, a couple years ago, I was having a Bill Cosby/One to Grow On type moment and called my sons together.  We were having issues with dishonesty (I know, I was as shocked as anyone that little boys, especially sons of min, were have truth telling issues), so I thought I would apply my sage wisdom to the situation.  I called for a Broaddus Family Truth Circle ™ in my attempt to emphasize the need for truthfulness in relationship.  For the purposes of this conversation, I’ll refer to my oldest son as R and my youngest as MX:

Me: Anything you confess right now you are under amnesty.

MX: What does that mean?

Me: That means you won’t get in any trouble for it.  Nothing you confess here will get you into trouble.

MX:  Really? Okay, I stole R’s toy when he wasn’t looking.

Me:  See? Now you know where that toy went.

R: Can I hit him?

Me: No.  No one gets trouble for anything they say in the circle.

R: You’re telling me that I can tell you anything that I’ve done and I won’t get in trouble for it?

[I probably should have waved off this experiment at this point]

Me: Absolutely not.  The truth is what matters.

R: Okay then:  when I get mad at you, I go into your room and spit on your pillow.

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Do you know that feeling when your brain seizes up somewhere between wanting to impart a life lesson while resisting the urge to choke the life out of your firstborn?  Yeah, that moment.

Thus our first and last “absolute amnesty” version of the Broaddus Family Truth Circle ™.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Mo*Con 8 – May 3rd – 5th (SAVE THE DATE)

May 3rd – 5th, 2013

Official web site

Schedule

Accommodations

What is Mo*Con?

In a nutshell, imagine a room party held in a con suite, and that’s Mo*Con.  Brought to you by the Indiana Horror Writers, if you enjoy writing, horror, fantasy, food and great conversation, you’ll find plenty to enjoy at this convention.

Some of our special guests:

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Jim C. Hines

Photo © Denise Leigh

Jim C. Hines began writing in the early 90s, while working on a degree in psychology from Michigan State University. His first professional sale was the award-winning “Blade of the Bunny,” which took first place in the 1998 Writers of the Future competition and was published in Writers of the Future XV. After completing the goblin trilogy, Jim went on to write the princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. In 2010, he signed a contract with DAW Books for the Magic ex Libris series, which follows the adventure of a magic-wielding librarian from northern Michigan and a certain fire-spider… http://www.jimchines.com/

 

Saladin Ahmed

Saladin Ahmed was born in Detroit and raised in a working-class, Arab American enclave in Dearborn, MI.  He holds a BA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College, and an MA in English from Rutgers. His poetry has received several fellowships, and he has taught writing at universities and colleges for over ten years.  His short stories have been nominated for the Nebula and Campbell awards, and have appeared in Year’s Best Fantasy and numerous other magazines, anthologies, and podcasts, as well as being translated into five foreign languages. He is represented by Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON is his first novel. www.saladinahmed.com

 

Gary Braunbeck
Gary A. Braunbeck is a prolific author who writes mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mainstream literature. He is the author of 19 books; his fiction has been translated into Japanese, French, Italian, Russian and German. Nearly 200 of his short stories have appeared in various publications. He was born in Newark, Ohio; this city that serves as the model for the fictitious Cedar Hill in many of his stories. The Cedar Hill stories are collected in Graveyard People and Home Before Dark.  His fiction has received several awards, including the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction in 2003 for “Duty” and in 2005 for “We Now Pause for Station Identification”; his collection Destinations Unknown won a Stoker in 2006. His novella “Kiss of the Mudman” received the International Horror Guild Award for Long Fiction in 2005.  Gary is an adjunct professor at Seton Hill University, Pennsylvania, where he teaches in an innovative Master’s degree program in Writing Popular Fiction.

 

Publisher Guest of Honor

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher located in Lexington, KY.  SSP specializes in speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, and horror).  The company  was established in October of 2008.  Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker, whose literary works include the epic urban fantasy series The Rising Dawn Saga, as well as the epic medieval fantasy Fires in Eden Series. The Exodus Gate, Book One of the Rising Dawn Saga, was Stephen’s debut novel. His novel, Crown of Vengeance, received a 2010 Pluto Award for Best Novel in Small Press. Further information on Stephen Zimmer can be found at: Website:www.stephenzimmer.com

With more guests and surprises to be announced!  Keep an eye on the web site!

Me Around the Web Part II

As I wrap up my promotion blitzkrieg for Dark Faith: Invocations as well as the newly released Knights of Breton Court omnibus, here are my latest stops around the web, starting with a guest blog:

Many Sources

The whole idea of inspiration fascinates me. In my quiet moments, I believe that I don’t have much of an imagination. So many of my stories and characters spring from my own life that I often feel that I’m not so much “writing” as I am “transcribing.” Also, I consider myself a spiritual person, thus created in God’s (the ultimate Creator) image, thus I could say that the Holy Spirit is my Muse. So in a sentence, life is my ultimate inspiration and writing is my mission.

When I wrote King Maker, the first book in what would become my Knights of Breton Court trilogy, it sprang from those two things coming together.

(Continued on the Fantasist Enterprises blog)

 

If you miss the sounds of my sultry voice, you can hear me on a few more podcasts:

BOSS FIGHT: Maurice Broaddus – Dark Faith Invocations

In this special boss fight for “In the Month of Madness” we talk to Maurice Broaddus the editor of ‘Dark Faith Invocations’ by Apex Publishing. From how to get your start in the writing world to the books that influence us we have one hell of a mini episode in store for you. Toss your earbuds in and settle in for this amazing interview.

 

20 Minutes with Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus – author of the “Knights of Breton Court” series, editor (with Jerry Gordon) of the newly released “Dark Faith: Invocations” anthology, speaker of the pompetis of love – joins me and guest co-host Ryan Stevenson for an remarkable Showcase interview. During our 20(ish) minutes with him, Maurice discusses the writer’s lifestyle, explores theme and genre, and presents an amazing personal insight into the power of genre fiction. There’s so much writerly goodness here, we can barely contain… so take some for yourself!

 

Workshop Episode 34 (Guest Host: Maurice Broaddus)

Maurice Broaddus – author of the “Knights of Breton Court” series, editor of the “Dark Faith” anthologies (with Jerry Gordon), crafter of worlds and tales of wonder – returns to the Big Chair at the Roundtable to help me and co-host Ryan Stevenson workshop an alt history fantasy by podcaster and Guest Writer Zach Ricks. Zach’s tale – described as “James Bond in Harry Potter’s world during the time of Downton Abby” – launches us into a frothing brainstorming session, dealing with alternate global politics, romantic triangles, nefarious plots, and a huge dragon slumbering under Yellowstone Park. Literary gold abounds!

I keep a running list of all of my stops for the Dark Faith: Invocations net tour here.