Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dear Mr. Lucas

One of my only complaints with the re-release of the Star Wars films, and what almost every Star Wars fan has chimed in on, was George Lucas' urge to rewrite Han Solo's shootout with Greedo in the cantina. At the time, he explained that he wanted kids to understand that Han had no choice and had to shoot Jabba's thug.

Well, since then the fans have been in a constant state of  revolt and in a recent Hollywood Reporter article, Mr. Lucas added salt to their wound by saying that Greedo had ALWAYS shot first. That the fans were just confused by camera angles and Han's true motivation.

"The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down."


See the problem with revising something that works, to make it more politically correct, is that you screw up your story. And I know this debate has been done to death with Mr. Lucas being the only one arguing in favor of poor Greedo. But, come on, George... don't you think you're stretching it just a bit? It's just a bad revision and I think you're in serious need of a writing group. If I tried to pull that kind of motivation with my crew, I'd be hoisted on my own petard and so should you.

Your problem is that you're so stinking rich, you think you don't need an editor or readers to make a great story (And, honestly, you're not alone). Maybe saying that is a bit over the line, but how in the heck did you think this made any sense? If it wasn't you, I'd be interested to know who told you, "You know... its a terrible thing for Han Solo to shoot someone before that person has a chance to kill him first. What will the children think?"

I'll tell you what the children thought. They thought Han Solo was pretty damn smart to shoot the guy before he got shot. Han tried to talk him out of it, but Greedo was there to collect a bounty, not play sabacc. To think that someone who defends themselves is cold-blooded killer... well... that's dumb.

And for a guy who grew up thinking you were a genius, that's a bitter pill to swallow.

Somebody should have caught you before you tripped into this one. The whole reason for alpha and beta readers, is to prevent you from being disingenuous with your characters. And lets face it, you are fortunate enough to have millions of readers telling you, "No, Mr. Lucas. This doesn't work in your story. If you write it like that, nobody will believe it."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Heroic Cover Art

I'm a big fan of cover art and really appreciate it when someone does it well. For me, my golden age of cover art was in the 70's-80's. During that period, the movie, book and album covers really seemed to speak to me. Maybe because, back then, they were actual paintings instead of Photoshopped women with swords wearing tight leather. And while some of today's dross may be okay, they lack a whole lot of style and panache.

Princess of Mars
One that I thought did it well was the Barsoom series (John Carter of Mars) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. First published in 1917, the covers were revamped by artist Michael Whelan in 1979. Whelan's covers sucked in prepubescent boys with their vivid colors (even though everyone knows Mars is red), heroic heroes, and yes, chicks in chainmail. Sometimes not chainmail, just a strategically placed hand or... what was that little slip of cloth?

Regardless... they did their job. They got me reading the books.

One of my favorite examples of film cover art is easily the Star Wars Hildebrandt. It's so epic that it gave birth to many a fanboy and fangirl on the spot. There's no vague guessing at who the hero or villain is. The hero is the brightest light. And for a simple painting, there's a lot going on. It fueled my imagination for decades.

 As time went on, I even gained a great love for the... well... I call it the 'smeared ink' style.

A lot of sci-fi novels had covers like these. With this style, the edges of a figure are streaked. I don't know if it's meant to convey movement or what, but I've always thought they were kinda cool. And if anyone knows what the actual name of this style, let me know. 'Smeared ink' sounds... silly.

So anyway, with regard to cover art, if I had to pick my absolute favorite thing I like to see, then I guess that would be that I wanna see a hero being heroic. Just some average schmuck standing up against something wrong or evil. I don't care if it's a boy or girl. Just give me a hero. If you want me thinking about your book even when I'm not reading, then skip the simple photo or design cover and paint me a picture that my imagination can play in.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Make Mine Nook

                       Sexy Nook Tablet

For the last two years, I've considered asking for an e-reader for Christmas. Either the Kindle or Nook. Usually I end up getting bogged down in system stats and app options before finally deciding to get something else. But in the most recent podcast of Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, I heard something that settled the argument for me. They discussed the recent dropping of 4,000 e-books by Amazon after a pricing dispute with Independent Publishing Group (IPG). Apparently, IPG wasn't willing to meet Amazon's demand to cut their slice of the publishing pie and fork it over to Amazon.

As a result of Amazon's decision, Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) is redirecting all of their links away from Amazon to other distributors for these books. Any SFWA authors with books still available exclusively from Amazon will retain their links, but when available, purchase options are being directed away from the Amazon site.

Now, I understand that no one made the affected authors sign with IPG, one of the largest independent distributors in the United States. And certainly you can't blame anyone from wanting to make money from book sales. But this recent price war has dropped Amazon, in my mind, from Robin Hood status to knuckle-dragging thug. It's one thing when Amazon attacks the publishing price structure to lower e-books to prices under $10, entirely another when they slash at a distributor (punishing the authors who signed with them) to increase their own profits.

Maybe I'm not entirely understanding the issue, but when Amazon drops 4,000 books, it looks a whole lot like a strong-arm tactic over who gets the cash. Publishers do have to account for the value added features they bring to a book, but believe me, I don't for a second think that Amazon has spent one dime to get these 4,000 books ready for publication. They are exclusively going after more money that, frankly, I don't think they deserve.

So I've decided a few things:

1 - When I can help it, I won't be purchasing anything from and encourage you to do the same.
2 - I'm going to write Amazon and let them know their decision has effected my purchase dollars.
3 - When I buy an e-reader, it'll be a Nook.

That said, now I have to worry about the life of the Nook. Back in January, Barnes and Noble announced it is considering selling off their Nook division. This really makes me worry about why Barnes and Noble would sell off their biggest cash cow since... well... Harry Potter and Twilight.

It could be a good thing and might improve current problems with the Nook. Mainly, the time it takes to e-publish on them and app diversity. But overall, will the new owners have the cash to fund the Nook's power struggle with the Kindle and the gorilla in the corner?

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