The Tao of Bill/The Te of Ted

People tend to forget all about that shit nowadays, most only dimly aware that The Matrix was not Keanu Reeves’ first movie. But to the best of my knowledge, being excellent to each other hasn’t been criminalized yet. Party on, dudes!


The Green Grass of SILVER BROWN

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

I was eight years old when the feature film The Dark Crystal was released in theatres way back in 1982 (and from there you can calculate how old I am, if you must). Easily one of the movies that defined my childhood. Certain aspects of the premise were confusing as all shit, and it was both criticized and praised for being noticeably darker than the rest of Jim Henson’s body of work up until that point. But the movie’s visuals were striking for the time and continue to be so, especially considering it came out well before Tinseltown began its love affair with CGI.

For those of you who haven’t seen The Dark Crystal, the story is set on another planet. One whose name is curiously never mentioned in the screenplay or credits of the film itself; we only know what the planet is called from the derivative works that were released after the movie. Thra orbits a triple star system, and is home to a host of delightfully strange creatures. Among them are jet-black murderous crabs the size of rhinoceroses. A Lhasa Apso-like mammal that curls itself into a ball and rolls along like tumbleweed as its primary means of locomotion. An old woman with bighorn sheep-like protrusions growing out of her head who has the ability to pull her own eye out of its socket and use it like a periscope. A beast that looks like a cross between a colossal moth (sans wings and compound eyes) and one of the elephants depicted in Salvador Dalí’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony which is astonishingly easy to tame and can be ridden on like a horse. This doesn’t even touch upon the plant life, which is interesting in itself. It’s a world that has stuck with me over the years since I first visited it as a wee lad. But I couldn’t stay on that planet for long. No sequel was ever made. The movie only pulled in modest returns at the box office during its initial theatrical run.

Thirty-seven years later (gadzooks, has it been that long?!), just when I had all but forgotten about the planet Thra, it aligns with Earth once again. This time on a medium whose very existence was unimaginable to the common folk of 1982 – Netflix.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is not a sequel to the original movie, but a prequel. In the feature film, the heroic Gelfling race were portrayed as a hair’s breadth away from extinction, having been all but wiped out in a genocidal campaign embarked upon by Thra’s villainous ruling class, the Skeksis. Age of Resistance takes place at a time well before that, when Gelfling society was thriving. Across the ten episodes, we get a slew of insights into Gelfling politics and social customs that were largely absent from the movie. A living goddess by the name of Sigourney Weaver narrates their history to us, which by itself adds several layers of kickass to the whole production.

giphy (5)

Filmmaking technology has obviously advanced considerably since the day Mr. Henson drew his last breath – a factoid that has not gone unacknowledged in the series. The Skeksis dining scene in the original film struck a prepubescent version of yours truly as amusingly disgusting. But Age of Resistance takes the disgusting to a whole new level, to such an extent that it makes the Skeksis of the movie look like proper gentlemen with impeccable table manners. The striking and fantastic of the movie is also taken to new levels as well as the disgusting. Hypothetical life forms that would be next to impossible to capture on celluloid with even the most sophisticated Hensonian puppetry are very possible with 3-D modelling software. We see quite a few digitally rendered creations in the series. Impressive ones, too. Ones that would come pretty damn close to making James Cameron blush.

Even more impressive if you watch the entire series after a couple of bong rips. Which I did. Twice.

Riding that enchanted canoe through the innards of outer space, I elected to live-tweet my first impressions of Age of Resistance, as a nostalgic throwback to that quainter period of human history when people regularly used Twitter for something other than douchey political ranting.


The Soundtrack of SILVER BROWN

My Characters Have Visual Leitmotifs

Previous generations before mine grew up on Bible stories. For my generation, those Bible stories instantly became obsolete the second the first Star Wars movie debuted on the silver screen back in 1977. I must’ve seen all these movies at least a hundred times by now. All the different versions of them! In different languages! Backwards and forwards! With and without the pre-movie bong hit! (or edibles, if you’re referring to the first time I saw The Force Awakens). I’ll even commit the ultimate mortal sin here and say I enjoyed the prequel trilogy. It certainly could’ve done with a better actor in the Anakin Skywalker role and the complete elimination of everybody’s least favourite Gungan, and the scripts were in dire want of additional finessing in several key areas. But overall, the prequel trilogy has a certain charm to it, to say nothing of the stellar performance of Ian McDiarmid throughout. It admittedly took me a few viewings to warm up to Solo, though. When I first saw it, Lando Calrissian’s SJW droid co-pilot ruined it for me. She handily outdid the aforementioned Gungan in the obnoxiousness department; at least Jar Jar was way too much of a simpleton to have any kind of political agenda. Her only redeeming factor was that she only wasted about twenty minutes of the movie before she was destroyed.

John Williams’ musical score throughout the main saga (and the scores composed by worthy imitators for the Anthology films and the various spin-off TV shows) has been as indispensable a part of the Star Wars experience for me as lightsaber duels and the Force. In apparent homage to Wagnerian opera, every major character and organization within the saga has their own leitmotif in the musical score, and Mr. Williams, for his part, didn’t disappoint. I would personally opine that if you don’t have at least a passing familiarity with the Imperial March, you probably aren’t human…

If you’re an artist†, whatever you feed your head with on a regular basis has a way of inevitably manifesting itself in your own work. The chapters I’m editing at the moment are notable in that they are the first chapters in the book to be told from the viewpoint of a character other than Florys MacNab. Part of the challenge of writing a story from multiple viewpoints is the need to make it absolutely clear as mud to the reader which character is doing the narrating at any given time. I use a number of methodologies to accomplish this. For starters, every chapter of Silver Brown is titled and subtitled. If the viewpoint shifts away from Florys, this is usually indicated or implied in the chapter’s title. Or, in the case of Chapter Twelve, its subtitle.

Secondly, the characters have distinct personalities and use language in very different ways. Florys has led a very sheltered life and has a pronounced fascination with opulent luxury, and her choice of words and her particular manner of describing things is filtered through that lens. In contrast, Kent Fairholt’s narration style is earthier and generously peppered with vulgarities and sexual innuendo, and any chapter with him as the narrator (almost?) always begins with the phrase “Howdy, all you ugly motherfuckers!” – the word “motherfucker” in this context being a term of endearment, of course.

Third, in what I believe found its way into the manuscript as an unconscious nod to Star Wars, my major characters have their own leitmotifs. Sort of.

The “leitmotifs” in Silver Brown are visual as opposed to musical, and appear in the form of ornate section breaks of the type that frequently occur in narrative literature to indicate a transition from one scene to another within the same chapter. Florys MacNab has two such leitmotifs. If she’s in a good mood, or otherwise has a glimmer of optimism, a section break will look like this:


…but if she’s annoyed, frustrated or generally not in a good mood, it will look like this:


Kent Fairholt only has three moods: irritated, horny and fully contented, this last mood usually only occurring after he’s taken a long, satisfying drag from one of his cigars. But regardless of what kind of mood he’s in, his leitmotif always looks like this:


There is also another chapter I’ve written in epistolary format, which depicts a thoughtmessage exchange between high-ranking members of the SAAZMOL lawyerpriestly class (SAAZMOL being the Galactic Empire of this story, if there was ever one to be had). They’re discussing an utterly dastardly plot to have a certain someone bumped off, which I won’t elaborate on here and now. You’ll just have to wait until the vernal equinox to learn more about that. There’s a section break in that chapter, and it looks like this:


These are all the leitmotifs I have in the manuscript so far, although I’m sure there will be a least a few more of them. There’s another major character in the book called Sherman, who is a talking ferret. He might have a leitmotif too, but I haven’t decided what it will look like yet. Sherman has been programmed for combat and his way of thinking is very Mr. Spock-like, so his leitmotif will likely reflect that.

† If you create art of any sort, even if you only do it as a hobby, you’re an artist. Period.