Ex-Machina and Race

I remember watching Ex Machina back in 2015 and falling in love with the film within the first half hour. The film follows a programmer, Caleb Smith, who is invited to test an AI being developed by his  CEO, Nathan Bateman.

By the time it was done, Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of all time. Aside from the great performances, especially by Oscar Isaac, the film asked a lot of interesting questions. There was one question, and one specific line, that still sticks with me. It comes to the forefront of my mind every time the topic of interracial dating ever comes up, with the most recent occurrence being Get Out.

“Accumulated external stimuli” (AES).

Whether it is in person, online or in entertainment, there are a plethora of reasons offered for dating exclusively in one’s race.

“It’s not natural”

Neither are cars and retirement homes. In the good old days humans used horses to travel and the old and sick would perish to make way for the fittest. Some scholars even argue monogamy is unnatural. How many of these things do proponents of this argument which to cut out of society? Of course, these people probably don’t realize how faulty their reasoning is. After all, I am sure many of the people who use the argument have no attraction to other races, and therefore assume that it is natural for them to feel that way.

This also brings up the question of why they view it as unnatural. I grew up with interracial couples in my family, among my cousins, aunts etc. By the time I was ten I viewed interracial coupling as natural. However, I realize my experience is not an objective truth. People who grow up with racially or ethnically homogenous families will be more likely to see an interracial coupling as unnatural if they have rarely experienced it themselves. Especially if their family also actively discourages or criticizes such relationships.

“It’s not racist. It’s just a natural preference.”

AES is the only reason for racial preferences that I agree with. Firstly, it doesn’t view attraction to a specific skin colour or ethnicity as being an ingrained development, where we are born programmed only to date white people, or Chinese people etc.  People who grow up genuinely believing their preferences were pre-programmed (so to speak) often disregard the impact of years of subtle coaching from family and/or friends to stick to their own or “preserve the culture”.  If your parents are guiding you to seek out your own kind once you have your first crush at age seven, it is easy for you to reach thirty and think that the choice was a natural one.

Of course, people don’t always have a preference for their own. Some people will reject their own kind and only seek out others. I know plenty of black people who don’t want to date other black people, or at least not dark-skinned black people. I know people who are neither white or black, but still have a preference for white mates, or lighter-skinned mates that can produce lighter-skinned children. It is a mark of beauty and progress. They see their family moving on up in the world as the generations become lighter. Is this sort of self-hate natural? Or is it a result of what they were taught to value by their own family? Or maybe a result of the dominant images of beauty available in the media they consume? As Nathan says, these stimuli form a sphere of influence that “you probably didn’t even register, as they registered with you.”

Alien: Covenant Trailer Thoughts

I know it’s a little late but since I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I thought I would share my thoughts on the Alien: Covenant trailer.

Prometheus was a disappointment for many people, myself included. I didn’t find it as confusing as most people did but I thought that the film did sport some weak dialogue and some poor writing. However, the performances and the visuals were great. Michael Fassbender’s role as David cemented him as one of my favourite actors and Noomi Rapace was lovely as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. With that said, I am probably more excited about Covenant than the average person.

Ridley Scott is back in the director’s chair, which probably helps to satiate a lot of fan worries. Although I am hopeful,  I also remember Exodus: Gods and Kings. That film is the best proof that a legendary director can still direct a bad film. Whitewashing aside, a lot of the writing, acting and special effects left a lot to be desired.

There was originally talk of director Neill Blompkamp (Elysium, Chappie) being signed on for a fifth Alien film, which would serve as a direct sequel to Alien: Resurrection (1997). Sigourney Weaver also confirmed that she would return as Ellen Ripley, but the project was cancelled in October 2015. Now Ridley Scott has confirmed that Alien: Covenant is the first of three planned sequels to Prometheus. Scott plans to pursue another Alien film once these sequels are completed.

With that said, a fifth Alien film likely won’t happen if Covenant or any of the sequels don’t do well enough at the box office. Michael Fassbender’s presence and my love of the Alien lore guaranteed I would be seeing Covenant anyway. This first trailer also did a great job of building my excitement.

It starts off with some of the dark (literally) imagery that is reminiscent of Alien  (1979) with its dark hallways and dim lighting, all of which help to disguise the uninvited visitor aboard the spaceship. We see Carmen Ejogo’s character pleading to be released from one of the ship’s rooms, while her roommate’s back begins to erupt in bloody fashion. There appears to be a new xenomorph type, which will burst from someone’s back instead of their chest.I knew the trailer was a red-band version but this shot still shocked me and makes it clear this film, like Prometheus, is embracing the franchise’s horror roots.

The trailer synopsis available on Wikipedia says that The Covenant is a colony ship looking for worlds to inhabit, and that David has been stranded on this world when they arrive. Fassbender also plays Walter, another synthetic (android) that arrives with The Covenant. There is no sighting of Shaw in the trailer, but she has shot scenes for the film. It is likely she could be in flashbacks or that her role is just being kept under wraps for now. Shaw and David were both headed towards the Engineer’s homeworld at the end of Prometheus, so it appears that this film takes place on the engineer homeworld or perhaps some other world that they encountered on route.

One scene that seems divisive among viewers is the trailer’s ending shower scene. While a couple are enjoying some down time together a xenomorph tail snaking between their legs, shortly before its shadow appears outside of the shower. The female of the couple is then showered in blood once the man is killed.

A lot of the criticism is due to the fact that people interpret the scene as something that doesn’t belong in a sci-fi/horror film. It’s slasher territory. I didn’t mind it though since the original Alien had some elements of a shasher film. The antagonist wasn’t a man in a hockey mask but the film did involve the population of a location being picked off one by one.

That scene also gets me thinking that James Franco may have been the one to die in that scene. The actress sprayed in blood looks like it could be Katherine Waterston, who plays Franco’s wife in the film. Franco was announced as the ship’s captain but we see Billy Crudup as the new captain in the film. He also listed as the “new captain” on Wikipedia. Franco’s death could either come before the ship lands on this new planet or perhaps Crudup gets a promotion thanks to a xenomorph. Killing off one of the most famous actors early on would mirror the surprise of Drew Barrymore being killed first in Scream (1996).

Aside from the footage, I am also happy that this film will be using more practical effects for the xenomorphs. Danny McBride has confirmed that every xenomorph is brought to life by someone in a suit, like Alien. If handled well, this can make them much more terrifying than a computer generated image. It is likely the aliens could be touched up or enhanced with CGI as well.

Speaking of McBride, I also wonder how he will handle a more serious role. His presence was one reservation coming out of this trailer. Another is an issue that people still harp on about Prometheus. A lot of people hated the fact that the ship crew seemingly made stupid decisions, such as removing their helmets on an alien planet. Dr. Holloway did this because he suspected the air inside the room was breathable, and the rest of the team followed. At the time I could understand but this trailer does bring up one of the issues of removing your helmet, even if you can breathe. A crew member steps on a plant and released black spores that travel into his ear canal.

Even though they can breathe the air, they didn’t account for alien pathogens. If the ship is specifically a colony ship then this should be a known risk. It does beg the question of why a crew wouldn’t keep their helmets on while they are still learning more about a new world.

What are your thoughts on Prometheus and Alien: Covenant?

RIP Carrie Fisher

Hello everyone,

Hope you all had a great Christmas break and hope that the New Year will bring greater things for us all. I never liked the commercial aspect of Christmas but I have always loved the opportunity to see more of my family. It’s a sad truth that there are people out there who will be experiencing the season without the company of a loved one. Not due to work or travel, but due to death.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) passed  away today at 8:55 AM after complications from a heart attack she experienced on the 23rd. There were early reports that she was in stable condition, but those were taken from more ambiguous statements from her brother. There was an official statement from her mother yesterday stating that she was stable. Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, later confirmed that her mother passed.

2016 has been a grave year for celebrity deaths, taking greats such as Muhammad Ali and Prince. I am not familiar with Fisher’s work outside of Star Wars, although I hear she is great in her other roles. She’s served as a writer for films and television shows as well. However, her role as Princess Leia was enough to make her a true icon in popular fiction. Leia is not only a main character of one of the most popular series of all time, she is also one of the most popular heroines of all time. Whether you are a proud Star Wars fan, a causal one, or someone who thinks they’re too cool for it, you knew Princess Leia. Either you’ve heard the name or you recognize the clothing and the hairstyle.

Fisher’s death brings up a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to write this post to delve into those. She apparently finished filming Episode VIII already so there are no worries about the next installment. Episode IX is another issue, since Leia was allegedly supposed to be in the film.  However, it seems callous to focus on that right after her death. For now, let’s wish her family and friends the best as they get through this time.

Episode VIII

Spoilers for Rogue One and Episode VII

Rogue One is still on my mind, and feel free to check out my review. While Rogue One managed to be a prequel that had its own style, Episode VII was pretty much a remake of Episode IV. We follow a young orphan, Rey (Luke) who must come to terms with her Jedi powers and combat The First Order (The Empire). We get Kylo Ren (Darth Vader) , who is revealed to be related to one of the protagonists. We even get another death star (Starkiller base).

I discussed all the similarities with a friend and he argued that J.J Abrams would be hesitant to deviate from the original trilogy much, after the backlash that the prequels received. Episode VII played it safe, relying on the return of the old cast to generate hype and satiate the droves that turned out to see the film.

The prequels had some great moments, with Episode III being the strongest. However, the prequels left much to be desired. The performances by Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, the overuse of CGI, pod-racing etc. With that said, the prequels were not bad simply because they did something new. Rogue One is a great example of how the new star war films can respect the past and continuity, while also giving us fresh characters, locations, conflicts etc.

Kylo Ren’s character seemed like a metaphor for Abrams’s fears of not living up to the original trilogy. Ren is a character who wants nothing more than to live up to Darth Vader (the original trilogy) and is worried that he is seen as nothing but a unworthy imitation. One oft-cited piece of wisdom is that one should not try to replicate something that is deemed as great or untouchable. Sometimes, the only approach is to try something new.

Let’s hope we can see something new with Episode VIII.

Rogue One Review

After I saw Episode VII: The Force Awakens I took some time to analyze the film before launching into a  review. I was initially committed to doing the same thing for Rogue One, but since I got back I have been re-watching any scenes I can get my hands on, visiting IMDB and fighting the urge to watch Episode IV. I figured I would put this mood into something more productive.

I liked Episode VII, especially since it showed us the old cast again, but was disappointed that it was a rehash of a New Hope. Rogue One could have been a rehash as well. A prequel can seem like a money grab but the film may be my favourite Star Wars film, showing us new characters and new worlds that we don’t see anywhere else in the trilogy. Episode IV began with an opening crawl that tells us that rebels stole the plans for the Death Star, which is what led to the rebels knowing about the Death Star’s weakness.

Rogue One takes place only a few days before (with the exception of flashbacks) and tells us how the rebels acquired the plans. Firstly, I will say that the squad of new characters do not get that much development. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the central figure and gets the lion share of backstory. Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor comes the closest to Erso’s level of backstory. With that said, the film still managed to make me attached to this new crop of characters. Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is sure to become a fan favourite and is one of the highlights. Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO is also a scene-stealer and is my favourite droid in the Star Wars universe. After his performance as Sonny in I,Robot it’s pretty clear that Tudyk is a chameleon. Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook and Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus bring up the flank for our main rebels and are both highly competent in their roles, even if they may not be as memorable in comparison to their partners.

Jones and Luna both carry the film well as two morally grey characters attempting to navigate their mission. They are also supported by Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the villainous Krennic.

Krennic reports directly to Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry), which brings up one issue with the film. Peter Cushing originally played Tarkin in Episode IV but since he passed away, his face was digitally added to Henry’s body. The friend I saw the film with didn’t realize Tarkin’s face was digitally created but since I knew going in, it did bother me at times. The film did a much better job with this task than Tron: Legacy did with Clu, but it could have been improved as well. Most of the special effects in the film are amazing, with Tarkin and one scene in particular being the only stand out for subpar effects.

Forest Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera, a militant rebel who is at odds with the rest of the rebel alliance. He is also a central figure in Erso’s backstory, which makes him a pretty important character for the film. Whitaker’s performance is somewhat hampered by an accent that affects his line delivery, making some lines clunky and harder to make out. The character was also in the Star Wars: Rebels series and the character doesn’t have a similar accent in the show. With that said, I will say that the film left me wanting to find out more about the character.

Saw was involved in over a decade of combat with the empire, and this film brings some exciting combat of its own to the screen. Yen’s fight scenes are an obvious stand out but the film also creates great aerial and ground battles throughout. The last act is especially riveting and helped to clear up one of my biggest concerns about the movie.

When there was news of rewrites, it was rumoured that the rewrites were being done to lighten up the script. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney truly did that since Thor 3: Ragnarok was changed for that same reason. The last act makes it clear that the writers didn’t care about making the film light-hearted. Since the old trilogy never showed us the characters who stole the death star plans, you can guess what happens to them. Rogue One shows us. One issue from the rewrites is that a lot of scenes appeared to have been cut. Some of my favourite shots from the trailer were conspicuously absent from the film. There may be an extended cut but it is likely that some scenes were simply removed all together.

The Death Star’s weakness has been lampooned mercilessly, but Rogue One actually clears up the reason for the weakness. Rogue One also has several easter eggs and nods to the rest of the franchise. At one point Erso bumps into the same duo who accosted Luke in the bar in The Cantina, and we see Erso’s parents drinking the infamous blue milk. By the end of the film you’ll also want to watch Episode IV since Rogue One ends right where that one starts.

Speaking of the franchise, we see its most famous character in all his glory once again. Darth Vader is in the film for less than ten minutes, but every minute is glorious. There has been some criticism online for one of his lines, which many people saw as a corny joke. Maybe I was just happy to hear James Earl Jones again, but I didn’t mind the line at all. One thing that definitely wasn’t cheesy was Vader’s final scene in the film. It is filmed like a horror movie and deftly shows why he is such a feared figure.

Rogue One may not give us the most fleshed out characters but I give the film credit for making me care about the characters anyway. I also appreciated how well it tied in with the series’ continuity. I enjoyed it from start to finish and it leaves me wanting to watch the old trilogy all over again.

Rogue One

I have missed out on seeing Arrival, which was one of my most anticipated films due to the director’s previous work with Prisoners and Sicario. A big issue has been my schedule so far but I am hoping to have more free time later this month to see Rogue One, ideally during opening weekend.

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The original Star Wars trilogy wasn’t perfect by any means, with episode IV featuring some weak acting from Mark Hamill. However, his and Harrison Ford’s skills developed as the series progressed. The story was creative and executed better than the prequels, with less time devoted to a tepid love story between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman), played terribly by both parties. The effects for the original trilogy have obviously aged, but many of them were groundbreaking for the time. With the prequels, we got cartoonish special effects in many places where sets, actors and makeup would have been better. I have no problem with special effects, but the prequels overused them and also had poorly rendered special effects in numerous places.

The special effects were much improved in Star Wars: Episode VII and the filmmakers made better use of motion capture to create more realistic CGI characters. Episode VII was also aided by better performances from its entire cast. Less Jake Lloyd, less Hayden Christensen, less Natalie Portman. Portman has been great in other roles but Star Wars was not one of them.

Getting to see the original cast and characters again was pretty much worth the price of admission for episode VII and was probably the greatest appeal. I also loved Daisy Ridley and John Boyega’s performances. Kylo Ren wasn’t as great as Darth Vader but I did like him as a villain, even if he was slightly disappointing. I expected the world, and the character fell short of that, but was still a good villain. As I look back on the film, or watch parts of it on Netflix, I empathize with one of the main criticisms: It is a rehash of a New Hope. Finding a young orphan on a desert planet (Rey) who comes to grasp with her Jedi skill to help defeat an evil empire. We even got our third death star and another revelation about unexpected familial bonds.

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Once I finally quieted the fanboy in me, and looked at the film more subjectively, I was disappointed by all of the rehashed material. Rogue One could obviously end up being the same since it is a prequel, but the trailers already show us some interesting new characters and new worlds. There are also other star wars spin-offs in the works such as Han Solo, with Donald Glover cast as the lead. Initially, I saw these films as a sign of greed and excess by Disney. They still could be, and obviously money is a factor even if it isn’t the main one. After Episode VII I do appreciate the chance to see a new crop of characters, new villains, new plots and new worlds. Maybe even some heroes and villains who aren’t related to one another.

I won’t begrudge Disney their profit if they hire a team that brings new, exciting and skillfully crafted Star Wars stories to a hungry audience.

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Logan Looks Like The Conclusion Wolverine Deserves

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The final Wolverine solo film now has an official title and its first trailer. I uploaded my thoughts to YouTube yesterday, but I also wanted to discuss the trailer on the blog. Attention spans are short when it comes to blog posts, but they can actually be worse with YouTube. I try to aim to make videos less than seven minutes long so I often have to condense all my thoughts and points. The blog gives me a little more breathing room, even though there may still be plenty of people who think “TL:DR”.

Wolverine: Origins was terrible, I think most people agree with me on that. A butchered version of Deadpool is the film’s most infamous creation but there was plenty more to hate. Terrible dialogue and CGI as far as the eye can see. Let’s not forget the boxing scene with the blob.

Wolverine was an improvement, although that is not saying much. I loved the idea of wolverine losing his powers and the question that the film raises: How much suffering can one man take? However, the film is brought down by a weak third act and some weak characters. I’m looking at you Viper.

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Not only is Logan the last Wolverine solo film, it is also Hugh Jackman’s last outing as the title character. He was the first character to portray Wolverine in a live-action Hollywood film and by the time this film comes out, it will be  seventeen years (2000-2017). Hugh Jackman is a great actor and regardless of the quality of the films, I believe he has always delivered a great performance. I have no doubt he will be remembered as one of the best comic book film castings. With all that said, I am hoping this final film gives the actor and character a strong finish.

The first trailer gives me hope that my dream will come true. Director James Mangold has said that he was aiming for a Western vibe with the film, which is also aided by the song choice. Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt”, originally by Nine Inch Nails, conveys the loneliness and grief that is omnipresent in the trailer. Although we know that the film will not closely follow Mark Millar’s “Old Man Logan”, there are plenty of similarities.

In Old Man Logan, an aging Wolverine escorts a blind Hawkeye as he delivers cargo across a post-apocalyptic US that is controlled by super villains. After one coordinated attack, the super villains were able to eliminate most of the heroes. Years later, Logan has settled down with a new family with his days of heroism long behind him. His family is bullied by his landlords, inbred children of Hulk and She-Hulk, and his healing factor has greatly diminished.

In the trailer, Logan says that mutants are gone, implying that he and the Professor are the few ones remaining. We see an older, scarred wolverine who is helping an ailing Professor X transport a young girl to safety. Additionally, plot synopses do say that a group of mutant-hunting cyborgs called “Reavers” will serve as the film’s antagonists. The “Reavers” may serve as the super villains that lead to the near-extinction of mutants in this timeline.

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There is one shot of Professor X laying in bed, and another shot of Wolverine carrying someone who appears to be the Professor. With how much older Wolverine looks, the Professor is likely near the end of his days.  Additionally, the last shot in the trailer shows Wolverine holding a shovel and standing over what appears to be a grave. There is already a lot of speculation that he buried the Professor. This also seems likely since the words playing over this shot could be the Professor’s last words.

Logan also sports numerous scars, and Mangold has confirmed that this is due to Logan’s aging. Like the comic, his age is taking its toll on his body and it can’t repair itself as well as it used to.

X-23 ( a female clone of Wolverine )will likely introduced as well. From what Professor X says the young girl is “very much like” Wolverine. I already know that Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman will be great in their roles, let’s hope the actress for X23 doesn’t bring the film down. Child actors always make me wary.

We still don’t know what X-23’s purpose will be. She is clearly the person being escorted, but we don’t know for what purpose. That is fine with me. IMDB is already swarmed with people asking why Wolverine has scars, why he looks so old etc. Some people need all their answers in the trailer and seem unable to give a film a chance to answer some questions. The teaser got me excited without giving away too much. The red band trailer also showed a glimpse of the R-Rated footage that many fans have been craving. Mangold and Jackman both acknowledge the importance of ending strong so I think that we finally have a Wolverine film that will live up to the hype.

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My Next Stop On The Road to Publication

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Analytics show that most of the people reading my blog posts are registered users of the site. Therefore, most people reading this will know that I have been trying to get my first novel published for a while now. For the past few years I have relentlessly pursued the goal of getting traditionally published, where I try to get an agent, who then tries to get my book published a major publisher (Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster etc.). I rejected self-publishing because I knew the struggle I would have as another nobody trying to get recognition for his work. With traditional publishing, there is still a very small change of huge sales, or even profit, but it always seemed like a worthwhile struggle. I think I held onto the possibility that I would be the 1 author in a million that becomes a bestseller, even if that meant years of struggles trying to get an agent.

Now, I’ve exhausted the list of agents that represent science fiction in the US and Canada. A new one might pop up every few weeks, but I’ve been rejected by the bulk of them. I have dozens of copies of the same generic rejection letters. I even spent over $1000 to attend a writer’s conference in New York last summer. I was in no position to spend this money frivolously, but I understood that the value of some experiences can exceed a price tag. I was excited about the opportunity to network with other writers and learn from published ones. I was also excited about the opportunity to pitch my book to agents in person. I got 4 offers to send queries, and I finally felt hopeful again. I edited my story, sent it off with high hopes, and got 4 generic rejection letters again. They weren’t form letters at least, but they still lacked any insight on how to improve: “Thanks for the opportunity…not right for me.” The opportunity to pitch to agents, the “pitch slam” was an extra $200. I don’t want to come across as entitled, but if people pay extra for the opportunity to pitch their letter to you, instead of just sending an email, then I think they are entitled to some constructive criticism that can actually help their writing. It doesn’t have to be an essay but even a sentence saying “starts too slow”, “opening is cliched” etc. can be a big help to an aspiring author. I guess the agents figure getting to pitch to them in person was more than enough reward.

 

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Me after my 4th rejection

I haven’t tried to take an easy route with getting published. I originally finished Elseworld in 2008 and after my initial attempts to get an agent failed, I went back to the book and rewrote it. Every time I got an idea of how to make the book better I did whatever I deemed necessary, eliminating characters, subplots, changing the ending, adding more character development etc. I finished this current version of Elseworld last year, and was confident that I finally cracked the code to getting published. I felt more confident about it than I ever had, which made me confident I could get an agent. Maybe I sound delusional but I always hear that self-confidence (to a certain extent) is necessary to succeed. I edited my query letter (a short pitch that is emailed to agents), changing it to resemble the pitch I gave at the Writer’s Conference. Although the book was rejected, I at least knew that my description of it could pique someone’s interest.

Armed with an improved book and query letter, I took on the task of getting an agent. The same pitch that worked on four agents, failed with a horde of them yet again. Two of the agents who were intrigued by my work at the “pitch slam” were two who previously rejected email pitches. I guess being face-to-face made an agent less likely to say no. Unfortunately, this meant that my email pitches (the standard method) were dead in the water again. More form rejection letters and more questions of what it was going to take to get an agent. I interned with one, and she agreed to take a look at my work. The agency didn’t represent science fiction though, so that plan died in the water too.

It’s been months since my last email query, and I completed another book in the meantime. My original plan was to forget about Elseworld for now and try to get this book published instead. At this point, it still requires editing before I will be comfortable submitting any queries. One option is to complete editing by the end of November, in order to get a polished version of the manuscript and start submitting queries. It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months for an agent to respond with a form rejection letter, or perhaps a request to see more material. If I go with this plan, another year could pass, and I could be in the same position by the end of it.

My other option, is to bite the bullet and attempt to self-publish. I am not interested in independent self-publishing, where I print the book myself and hire artists for the book cover. There are plenty of platforms that supposedly offer decent readership and the chance for more exposure. Of course, blogging is one, but that hasn’t exactly paid big dividends yet. Medium is another, also little impact so far. Wattpad was recommended to me by a friend, who is considering using it himself, and it may be another avenue I pursue.

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Like any tool, I am cautious of using it. I already shared my brief experience with Inklitt, which is nothing but  a scam. After looking into Watpadd it does appear to be a legitimate platform, where readers can post their work online, typically chapter by chapter. From what I have researched it also has its faults. Its main readership are female teens and young adults, who gravitate most to romance, teen fiction and fanfiction. Genre fiction, like science-fiction is also pretty popular but gets overshadowed by the latter genres. From what I hear, a lot of the writing is horrible, so my work could be overshadowed by a wannabe E.L. James. I’m not saying I’m Ernest Hemingway but that is a disheartening concept. Yet it may still be one of my best options.

Originally I was considering putting Elseworld on Wattpad but I think I’ll put The Visitor on there instead.  As I’ve mentioned before, The Visitor‘s length would make it more difficult to publish traditionally anyway. Taking inspiration from a friend, I might upload The Visitor under a pen name and then continue trying to publish Elseworld traditionally. If The Visitor manages to get enough traction with Wattpad, and attract publisher attention (like it has for some people) then I could use that to better market Elseworld. That is the next goal. Success is obviously not guaranteed but I’ve got to make a plan to move forward.

Update on My Second Book

Hello everyone,

I have previously discussed the conundrum of completing my second book, The Visitor. I have finished telling the story I want to tell, but the word count (54,000 words) falls short of an acceptable length for a novel. Most publishers want 60,000 – 100,000 words, and at least 80,000 for science-fiction. Very few publishers accept submissions directly, you normally need to go through a literary agent, who then helps you get a publisher. I could try to submit The Visitor to agents as a novella, but many agents do not represent novellas. Additionally, many publishers don’t accept novellas.  Keeping The Visitor as a novella would only make the difficult task of getting an agent even more difficult.

I am still trying to get Elseworld published but I worry that I have nearly exhausted the list of literary agents in America and Canada that accept science-fiction. I have rewritten and edited the book numerous times and can honestly say that I am happy with the book the way it is now. I’m not arrogant enough to think it’s perfect or that an agent or editor wouldn’t have a lot of suggestions, but at this point I am not sure of what else to do to make the concept and the story more appealing for agents. One agent advised that she thinks, editors will think, that the story starts too slow. Perhaps it is my ego but I truly liked the way the story started off and I worked hard to make it far more captivating than the previous opening I had.

Apparently, I still have a long way to go. I found the agent’s feedback very insightful since it also revealed how important marketability is for a book. The agent didn’t say that she thought it started too slow, she was worried about what an editor (at a publishing house) would think. Even if she liked the opening, she can’t represent a book unless she is sure it will sell. After all, reputable agents only get paid off commissions from book sales, so they need to spend money marketing a book and have faith that their years of effort will pay off. Yes, I said years. The timeline between getting an agent, and seeing your book published, can range anywhere from 18 months to 5 years. This is a statistic quoted by numerous writing industry professionals at a Writer’s Digest Conference I attended last year, and the professionals emphasized that new authors can expect it to take closer to 5 years.

When I was more naïve, I thought I would have my book published by the time I was 18, then I aimed for 22. Now I am turning 25 later this month and realize I might not be published by the time I’m 30. Maybe I need to re-write Elseworld  again before I can progress. Maybe I need to add 30,000 more words to The Visitor. Maybe I will do all that and still be an aspiring writer when I’m 50. There were plenty of people at the Writer’s Digest Conference older than my parents; still aiming to get a literary agent and publish their debut novel. That is a possibility but it is not inevitable. All I can do is believe in myself and keep working at my dream.

Parasite

Hello everyone,

The below piece is similar to Worms, which is one of the first creative writing pieces I posted to the site.

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The pain kept building over the last hour,

It was an inconvenience,

Then an annoyance,

And then agony,

It forced me out of bed and to my bathroom mirror,

The pain seemed to move throughout the night,

But now it was firmly planted on my back,

I pulled off my shirt,

Twisting my torso to see what pulled me from my slumber,

Once I saw it,

I knew my next slumber would be my last,

There was a black lump to the left of my spine,

Pulsating,

I shuddered involuntarily,

The lump followed suit,

But it didn’t shudder,

It moved,

Gliding halfway up my back,

Until it was resting just beneath my left shoulder,

The mirror showed that my mouth was hanging open,

I wanted to scream,

But no sound would come,

I saw saliva drip from my mouth,

Yet I barely felt it,

I was hoping I would wake up from the nightmare soon,

It was a clichéd thought,

But a comforting one,

The lump started to disappear,

As if it was being absorbed into my skin,

Maybe my prayer was answered,

Once the lump was gone,

I held my breath for a few seconds,

Worried it would surface again,

I scanned the rest of my body for any signs of it,

Nothing,

I was safe,

For a few seconds,

The pain returned,

It was behind my eyes this time,

Pressure,

I looked in the mirror,

My vision was becoming blurry,

I could barely make out my eyes expanding,

Two white balloons that looked like they were ready to pop,

Everything went black,

Just before I felt my eyes burst,

Just before I heard them splatter against the mirror