Monday, July 30, 2012

Interview with Sarah Dalton

Today I welcome Sarah Dalton to my corner of the internet. She has a new book named The Blemished that instantly intrigued me. The premise is about a society that has been engineered to be perfect ... for almost everyone. The story revolves around a 'blemished' individual's plight through a dystopian future where the beautiful live a charmed life over those less engineered.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m twenty-eight and British. I grew up in a remote part of the countryside amongst many animals, meeting lots of crazy country-side folk, yet I think I am a city person at heart. I’ve been writing seriously for around three years and have had some success with short story writing, however, novels are what I am far more interested in.

At what point in your life did you realise you had a story to tell?
Possibly always… I used to write terrible soap opera style bits of a novel and read it to my friends at school. They loved it. But I fell in and out of love with writing and it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I became a more serious writer.

If you had to give an elevator pitch about your new novel, The Blemished, what would it be?
If Margaret Atwood wrote Uglies

What did you want your readers to gain from reading The Blemished?
Firstly, escapism. Isn’t that what everyone wants from a book? But also a new perspective on the world, any aspect of it no matter how tiny.

It would be remiss not to discuss the correlations with Gattaca; how does your novel deviate?
Gattaca was a little before my time but when I did some research it came up. I didn’t watch it until after I’d finished the book. There are two main similarities – the idea that parents can buy genes for their children and the classification of people who have genes considered ‘invalid’. But that’s where it ends. The Blemished tackles many other themes and in more depth, such as poverty, segregation and lack of purpose. I concentrated on what effect genetic cloning would have on an image obsessed and patriarchal society. It is as much a commentary on celebrity culture and the beauty industry as it is on genetics. I thought about how cloning would affect women and took it from there, although that isn’t to say that men will not also take something from reading the book. Gattaca seems to concentrate on intelligence and physical strength and the only female character in the movie is both genetically flawed and really quite boring, it seems predominantly interested how cloning would affect men. I’ve flipped this.

I like your premise and story's focus - sounds compelling!

I've always thought that if the majority of people were attractive (relative to society's present perception), that ugly people would be perceived as attractive. Do you agree?
Yes and no. There is a biological reason to find people with symmetrical features and a slim body attractive – these features are indicative of a healthy mate. You could argue that this instinct is something which can never be overridden. Personally, I think humans have evolved to be far more intelligent to be controlled by basic instincts (aside from the obvious!) and as long as our world continues to be complex, artistic and over populated there is really no reason that the human race cannot concentrate on the intellectual. I think, or like to think, that in a world where the average person is considered physically beautiful that personality and intelligence would become far more important. Perhaps then physical attributes would become so secondary that they are barely noticed. Or maybe I am being far too optimistic…

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Dark knight of whatever

First of all, I must apologise to all present Dark Knight fans. This might be a little hard for you to read ... because I am one of the few people who didn't actually like The Dark Knight Rises. Shock, horror! Sure, these films are infinitely better than Joel Schumacher's camp exposition into all that is wrong but, with these new ones, I'm not sure you can even call them Batman films anymore. Well, technically, they're Dark Knight films ... but I digress.

Look on in horror ... if you dare
I really like Christopher Nolan, I like his films and I like most of the actors - especially Tom Hardy (he was great in Warrior) ... up until this film. There is a good reason you never hear him speak in the trailers and it's simply because he sounds quite ridiculous. He speaks as if he is performing an over-reaching and overly-enthusiastic rendition of Sean Connery as James Bond while breathing through a gas mask. Since I haven't done any review for any of the preceding films, I'll just say that the first was probably the best of the three, the second was bad (although I liked Heath's performance) and this one was by far the worst. The only thing that can be concluded is that Christopher Nolan is really tired of doing Batman.

First off: spoilers for anyone that continues reading below - read at your own riskI'm about to summarise the whole film (and point out a whole bunch of sloppy storytelling) ...

All is calm in Gotham, with Batman ousted as the evil vigilante he is (not), with Commissioner Gordon about to address the public about Harvey's (two-face) vision and success to clean up Gotham in remembrance of his sacrifice. Even though he promised Batman that he wouldn't divulge the truth to the general public, he goes through and writes a very long essay detailing Harvey as the real baddie ... and brings it to the speech ... and shows it to the public ... and says the public isn't ready for the truth ... and then goes onto state how pleased he is by the clean-up initiatives put in place by the late Harvey Dent.

Wrong. No one would write this little expose, show it to the public just before giving the speech, publicly state that the public isn't ready for 'the truth' and then go along with the other speech/lie as if he hadn't just told the public that Harvey's public image was a big fat lie.

Anywho, we jump over to the story of some random cop doing random things for some random ungodly reason. This cop turns out to be Robin, apparently.

Wrong. I thought the back story of Robin was that he was an escapee from a high-flying circus act and not some orphan who grew up to be a cop. I guess the orphan bit is still accurate.

Anyway, a bunch of nothing happens and then we cut to some soiree. We are introduced to Cat Woman who sasses her way across the screen like lipstick on a pitbull and steals Bruce Wayne's (Batman) finger prints and his mother's pearls ... that has a tracker in it ... and the battery isn't flat ... despite having remained for decades in an apparently uncrackable safe. Anyway, this is the impetus for Bruce to come out of hiding to get back his Mother's pearls (like he's sentimental or something).

Wrong. If you remember that in the first Tim Burton film, you would know that the pearls are ripped off his mother and go spilling all over the ground. Any sentimentality that he had would have disappeared as they gurgled down the drain or were ham-fisted into Jack Nicholson's pockets as he ran away.

Anyway, Bruce's finger prints are then used by Bane to short-sell on Bruce's behalf while holding Wall Street to ransom. 

SOOOoo wrongIf finger prints are required to authorise multi-billion dollars worth of put options ... and this event occurred while at the stock exchange ... while Bane was holding everyone hostage ... and the cops were outside with the place surrounded... and Bruce Wayne was nowhere to be seen while this occurred,  you *might* have a smidgen of doubt relating to the authenticity of this transaction. Especially when it turns out that these put options result in the bankruptcy of Wayne Enterprises.

Anyway, excitement ensues and Batman joins the chase, whereupon the Gotham Police Dept chases Batman while the real perps get away. Them Gotham folk are fickle, is all I can say. This is where it gets boring. Because he's now 'broke' (while still keeping the mansion) and he knows something's afoot so he decides the best way forward is to finally divulge to 'someone he can trust' that he has a fully-operational fusion reactor (as part of some eco endeavour). Of course, he doesn't want it to get into the wrong hands, and so divulges this secret to a petite attractive young thing that has a tonne of money and also had originally invested in this eco project.

Now who could the big bad of this film be? huh? huh? I'll give you one hint: it's not Batman.

Anyway, Bane has been quite benign to this point - although his accent hasn't. He's just digging and excavating a whole bunch of tunnels and being all secretive. Meanwhile: Robin stuffs around and Cat Woman takes makeup tips from The Joker.
fun for the whole family
'Jeeves' gets all teary and runs off sobbing, Bruce gets his groove on with Big Bad and Commissioner gets shot ... and I notice that the dry-wall I painted has dried ever so slightly. Bane finally makes his move and converts Gotham / Chicago into an island. Or something. He has also managed to mine Batman's toy box and automagically discovered the location of the (super-hidden) fusion reactor ... what a coincidence.

At some randomly-defined moment, the backstory of Bane is told. Of course, it's heavily symbolic and repeated multiple times with twists to the retelling. I'll give you four choices and you can pick which one sounds more plausible:

I prefer luchador Bane
Which one is Bane's backstory?
a) He was brought up by monkeys where his rite of passage was realised through killing a tiger.
b) He was the bastard son of a nurse who was raped by a bunch of patients in a psychiatric ward.
c) He was born inside a prison where the only way in or out was through a large open-air tower. The inmates were free to try at any time, with easy-as-pie handholds to grab onto. Apparently despite the inmates being strong and spry, they had never made it to the top but, of course, he was able to do this ... when he was a teenager.
d) He'd always wanted to combine steroids, cocaine and elocution lessons because he thought it would be cool. And so he did.

Answer: It was a trick question
a) That was Tarzan
b) That was Freddy Krueger
c) Actually, this is Big Bad's backstory ... including the schmaltzy climb to the top. Bane is her protector in the jail. 
d) That's my definition of this version of Bane

Anywho, despite this not being Bane's backstory, he plays it out as if it was, where he spouts the virtues of giving people the appearance of hope even if there isn't any. Ah well. Anyway, Bane breaks Batman's back and ever-so-kindly ships him out to the same prison to let him rot while Gotham is incinerated and Bruce is forced to watch it all unfold on the twenty-four hour Anarchy-in-Gotham TV Channel. Judging by the fact that this film is called The Dark Knight Rises, it shouldn't be too surprising if every audience member instantly realises that Bruce shall have "to rise" from this prison as the first *man* to escape the shackles (after the first teenage girl). Conveniently, this fusion reactor (despite being disconnected from whatever keeps it stable and rigged to work as an atom bomb), has a gestation period of ... about the time it takes Bruce to recover from being in a coma, spoon-fed gruel until he can move, endure a prisoner's remedy for a broken back, train/rehabilitate from his ass-whooping, finally master escaping the tower/prison, work as a man-whore for months, pay for a first-class flight back over Gotham, open the door mid-flight and (finally) jump out while using his inflated ego to safely land next to his camouflaged 'Bat' and ever-ready bat suit. I can only assume.

This part is conveniently left out, but considering he had no money, no credit cards, no friends, no mobile phone, no GPS and so, outside of stealing, he would have no way of getting back. There is no logical way that he could get there unless he had some offshore account with cash ... that he kept away from the IRS. That must be it. All I can say is: shame on you, Batman. Shame on you. You give billionaire playboys a bad name.

From the time that Bane graciously placed him in the jail and paid for his care, the chances of him returning within even a year would have been pretty remote. Anyways, he returns with maybe a half-day or so to locate the bomb and rescue all those that he cares about. He does and all is right with the world. It also ends with the schmaltziest foreshadowed-by-jeeves ending that has possibly been realised on film. Really? You went with the parting shot of cat woman/bat man laughing in Paris while Jeeves watches on approvingly? I'm not sure my insulin levels can take this ...

The sad part is, I don't even remember how Big Bad or Bane died. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. It wasn't compelling ... and that is the biggest travesty of all. I don't think I would have minded this film as much if it wasn't Batman. If it had been repackaged as some sort of coming-of-age for an egotistical billionaire playboy, I would have been fine with it. The fact this is a Batman film and, for the majority of the time he isn't Batman is why I really dislike this film. More Batman, less Bateman. Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

You rock my world

I just thought I would post an update on the reviews I've received for my first novel so far: all positive :)

At of the time of writing this, I've got twenty-six reviews with an overall average of 4.19 or 84% and a 100% like rate (excluding one DNF). I actually appreciate the DNF as I was beginning to worry I had inadvertently written my magnum opus on my first attempt. This provides me the motivation to not rest until *everyone* cannot help but like my next book ... well, that is my nefarious scheme, anyways.

I am chuffed. You like my book, you really, really do. My appreciation goes out to all those who took a chance on reading an indie satirical zombie novel. Thank you all!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why things are serious

So, for those that don't know, the latest Batman has just been released. Alongside this, all the crazies have come out to play, with one particular individual getting a little too riled up and shooting up a cinema. Apparently he was described as dressing like The Joker with red (?) hair. I cannot help but think the way public media has covered this story simply as a way of generating more buzz around this film for the sake of a few more ticket sales. It certainly worked to great effect on previous movies (known as The Brandon Lee/The Crow Effect or Heath Ledger effect). Far be it from me to question the questionable techniques they employ in the hope of maximising their return on investment.

FYI: this is photoshopped
The biggest issue I have is that a civilian of questionable mental stability was able to get his hands on two glocks, an AR-15, a shotgun and head-to-toe armour. This was, and still is, the real issue. When civilians have access to military-grade weaponry under the pretext of "the right to bear arms," something is wrong with the picture. When the other classic excuse used by gun owners is that they have a right to protect their home ... and statistics state that you're more likely to be shot with the weapon you purchased to protect said home, that argument doesn't hold much water. When the true reason that you have a firearm is because it is "cool" or you "like shootin' guns like Rambo," there needs to be a frank discussion on what the public truly needs rather than what it feels it deserves.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Letting go

I have recently made a rather large change: I've accepted a one-year secondment in the US. Alongside this acceptance, I've also given up my apartment and (pretty much) all my worldly possessions. It is quite scary and also quite liberating to be happy to be able to travel so light but logically it made sense as well. It would have cost me a bare minimum of $2,000 to put my stuff in storage ... and probably the same amount to ship it to America. I managed to sell all my furniture, TV, PS3 and stereo for $2,000 and have now (theoretically) made about $4,000 on the deal.

I now have a suitcase full of clothes, my work laptop, roller blades and tennis/squash racquet. Everything else has been liquidated. The few personal items that I couldn't take were shipped to my parents' place and now I have the ability to start again. For those that are following my progress, I also managed to write a bit on the flight over. I'm now at about 14% (note the progress meter to the right) and having a bit more free time and minimal distractions should allow me to quickly put a sizable dent in what remains.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tipping the balance

I am progressing nicely through the next book. I think the pacing and writing is comparable and, now that the mythos of my world has been established, I can focus more on character development and the trials and tribulations of what Zed goes through to avoid unrest-threatening situations.

I have the plot worked out and it's just a matter of painting by the numbers and hopefully injecting the same level of fun dialogue and neurotic musings that the first one did. I think if I had to put the first as a basis of five for the litmus test, I would say this next book would be a seven. There are more characters, more perspectives, more story arcs and more is seen of the world. Of course, I don't want to go all Michael Bay on this book and think, naturally, that more is always better but I do think that the story will benefit from this broader scope.

Random musing:
Feel free (for those who have read my book) to give me suggestions or ideas for what you would like Mr Zed (or Chase) to do next. You never know; I might just add it to the story (and credit you in the book) :) Alternatively, if I'm 100% enamored by your idea, you might even become one of the characters in my story!