Saturday, March 31, 2012

A if for AIRSHIP

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that takes many Victorian/Industrial Age technologies, and then thrusts it into a futuristic world. In a steampunk world, there might be flying machines, computers, and ray guns - but built from copper, wood, brass, and using steam as a power source. It's a unique blend of the future and the present that makes steampunk unique.
If there's anything any steampunk story should have, it's the airship. Some call it a dirigible, balloon, aerostat, blimp. Airships are cool. Why? Because they're graceful and can be lethal at the same time.

As opposed to airplanes which used fixed wings and pure propulsion to fly, airships use some type of air bag (a ballonet) that holds a gas that is less dense than air. When the ballonets are inflated with helium or hydrogen, it provides the lift for the craft to take flight. And when the airship takes to the air, you can use a series of propellers and rudders to steer the behemoth.

Now what makes a steampunk airship a steampunk airship? Duh. It's STEAM. You'll find steampunk airships powered by some sort of combustion: coal, aether (a classical element common in steampunk), or something else entirely. It's not uncommon to see steampunk airships with massive chimney's blowing out smoke, chugging along the horizon.

And steampunk dirigibles might even look very similar to 18th century seafaring ships, but with propellers, wings, and ballonets. These crafts have given rise to another popular steampunk set of characters, airship pirates. Airship pirates terrorize the skies, much like their ocean-going contemporaries. Isn't that just awesome?

Airshps can be used for reconnasance, transport of supplies, or as weapons of kick-ass destruction. And you can bet that these airships are piloted by cocky, arrogant captains...willing to take you to your destination, but only for the right price.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blogging from A to Z, Steampunk style



Against my better judgment, I have finally decided to participate in the Blogging from A-Z Challenge this year. 

I shouldn't be doing this, as my new job is very demanding, and the travel is grueling. But this just makes it even more of a challenge! And that is the point, right?

First blog post will be on Sunday and run daily. I will be writing about everything STEAMPUNK from A-Z.

If you are a blogger and you haven't signed up for this fantastical challenge, click the graphic above and get to it. For those participating with me, I look forward to reading your stuff. Let the challenge begin!

Steampunk's hot.

Monday, March 26, 2012

I Hate Whitewashing

Rooney, you're an idiot.
And no, I'm not talking Tom Sawyer here...

It's unfortunate, but there's a specific term for the whitewashing of Asian roles in film. It's called "Yellowface." Since the dawn of cinema, yellowfacing is a practice that essentially has white people portraying Asian characters on the big screen. This is done through make up, prosthetics, and of course, acting very Asian. Well, whatever Asian stereotypes the director wants to emphasize.

The earliest form of yellowfacing I can personally remember is Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Yunioshi in the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's. But the one that perplexed me the most was the TV show Kung Fu. David Carradine was supposed to be a Shaolin munk. Okay, so they said that Caine's character is the son of an American father and a Chinese mother, because it's okay to portray to the American public a character that is the result of a white man to impregnated an Asian woman. (Don't get me started on this double standard). But still. Geez.

What really pissed me off was Starship Troopers. When I read the book, it was clear that the main character was Filipino (like me). Not only was this one of the first great science fiction books that drew me to the genre, but the main character was finally someone I could culturally relate to. For many people, this is difficult to fully understand. But for someone like me who saw nothing but white people as heroes on TV, movies, and books, it was a big deal.

And when the 1997 movie came out, I was ticked off. They had cast a white dude in the role of Juan "Johnny" Rico.

More recently, you have to turn to M. Night Shymalanananadingdong's piece of shit The Last Airbender. This was such an ASIAN cartoon show, with strong ties to Asian and Inuit folklore. The story was so very much Asian. And M. Night Shymmeltoe goes and just whitewashes the fuck out of it. Seriously? A little white kid as Aang? Katara and Sokku are NOT white. What's going on here?

How about Dragonball Z. Not only was it a crappy movie, you have some white guy playing the part of Goku. What-the-what???

Oh, how about Seann William Scott (who will always be Steve Stiffler from American Pie to me) as the Tibetan character Kar in Bulletproof Monk? That's cray-cray.

Finally, you have Akira.  Akira is SO Japanese. It is the epitome of Japanese anime. Iconic. And Hollywood gets its crappy hands on the rights and wants to cast Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy), Justin Timberlake, or Joaquin Phoenix as Keneda? Are you kidding me?? This is a joke, right???

Why all of this whitewashing and yellofacing of Asian roles? The television exec. of the TV show Kung Fu, which was the brainchild of Bruce Lee, said that "If we put a yellow man up on the tube, the audience will turn the switch off in less than five minutes." Was he right?

And for those of you that believe we've come so far in 2012, you don't have to look too hard to see more whitewashing. Other than the abomination known as Akira, you've also got Mickey Rourke playing Genghis Khan coming up in 2013.

Just for the record, I don't have a problem with taking a movie that originated in Asia (i.e. The Ring), and Hollywood doing an American version of it. That's fine. But to take stories that are so inherently Asian and whitewashing it is my gripe.

You are NOT Filipino!
Do I have an issue with Samuel L. Jackson playing Nick Fury in all the Marvel movies (The Avengers)? Or how about casting a black actor to play one of the Nordic gods in Thor. Yeah, I kinda do. But not in the same way. There isn't a long and consistent tradition and history of casting black actors for "white" roles. But growing up, I knew Nick Fury was a white guy. And I know that Nordic gods are white too. So yeah, I don't like PC casting either.

But I would love for Hollywood to break out of all the Asian stereotypes it is promoting. The only Asian male leads in film are martial arts movies. Other than that, we're either geeky sidekicks or...hmmm. And Asian women are portrayed as sex objects. But only objects for white men.

I acknowledge that we have come far, but we have so much more to do.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

WIP: The Movie Blogfest...A Little Late

These last four weeks have been crazy, and a really cool blogfest was going on while I was traipsing over three time zones all over this great country of ours. Kyra and Rachel hosted this great idea for a blogfest, and many of my buddies participated. Alas, I didn't get to. If you had to cast a movie based on your WIP, which actors would you chose?

I know many writers who have done this in the past, and for me, it never really made any sense. If anything, it kinda bothered me, as I didn't think I could find actors that would fit my characters. But, duh, they are actors - and there is a lot you can do with make up and such. Being a visual person, this was really just a fun exercise. But I must admit that I do not think of these actors as I'm writing. It's still a cool thing to do for kicks.

So my current project is still in revision hell, trying to get it in descent shape before it goes to my publisher's editor. My novel is titled Dragonfly Warrior, and it's the first book in my Mechanica War series. It's an alternative history - steampunk novel that I've been working on for a pretty long time, and it's publication date is slated for the end of July of 2012.

Here are my choices for casting my cinematic version of my WIP:

Matsuda Shota as Zenjiro
This popular Japanese actor is my choice to play the warrior prince of Nihon sent on a quest to the untamed corner of the world. So idealistic, naive, and pretty arrogant.

Richard (Rick) Mora as Enapay
Rick Mora has been in a cool zombie/cowboy movie, and even had a small part in Twilight. He's a great fit to play the airship pilot hotshot that is my foil to Zenjiro's straight-and-narrow character.

Sienna Guillory as Neva
I first noticed this actress in Eragon, and she was the only bright spot in that movie. Then, she got my attention in playing Jill Valentine in Resident Evil. That's awesome, as Neva is a pistoleer hunting down the man who abducted her son.

Ken Watanabe as Kawatoku
Of course, every successful movie needs some star power. So I chose Ken Watanabe to play the part of Zenjiro's father and emperor of Nihon.

Now the bigger question is, would a movie like this even get made? Some would say no, and that I would need to WHITEWASH my casting (i.e. The Last Airbender, Dragonball Z, and Akira.). And I say to hell with Hollywood whitewashing. My novel has Asian characters, and they will have Asian actors play them damnit. No offense to white people, as I love you all. But I could do several posts on whitewashing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

British Invasion

I absolutely love British television. If history is any indication, TV shows across the pond tend to be more groundbreaking - as writers, production companies, and networks take more chances with their programs. Or, should I say, "programme."

Some of my most favorite shows are from England - and here's just a few that are on my all-time bestest list:

TIM, teleport me to Vegas!
The Tomorrow People. Long before paranormal powers and teens was cool, there was the Tomorrow People.  This awesome show was about a bunch of teenagers who have gone through a "breaking out" phase and developed all kinds of cool powers like telekinesis, ESP, and telepathy. The teens worked in a secret facility underground, and defeated all kinds of villains - including extraterrestrial ones.

They were helped by some supercomputer they called TIM that was not only telepathic, but could actually teleport the kids all over the place.

I remember watching The Tomorrow People on my local public television channel, and the show actually aired in Britain from 1973-79. They brought it back in 1992-95 on Nickelodeon. The newer version was OK, but not as good as the original.

Blake looks fabulous
Blake's 7. Take Star Trek, The Magnificent Seven (among other Westerns), and lots of dystopia, and you've got Blake's 7. In this TV show, a renegade named Roj Blake leads a team of fellow convicts in a rebellious effort to thwart the evil Federation. They flew in a spaceship called The Libertator that was not only super-powerful, but seemed to be alive.

The show completely changed when Roj Blake's character was dropped from the line up after the second season, and the cold-hearted computer genius Kerr Avon took over as the groups leader. This fantastic space opera is probably most well known for it's controversial ending. Blake returns and has a showdown with Avon, and what happens next is still debated to this day.

There's been talk of bringing the show back, but nothing has come out of those discussions.

"Trust me, I'm The Doctor."
Doctor Who. Had to save my absolute favorite for last. This sci-fi gem first aired on November 23rd, 1963 - one day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It originally ran from 1963-1990. After a bunch of talk, Doctor Who finally came back on the air in 2005, and has been going strong ever since.

The show is about a mysterious Time Lord everyone calls "The Doctor" who travels in time and space in a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). His space/time machine has taken the form of a British blue police call box. What's extra cool is when The Doctor is severely injured, his body is able to regenerate - which is why there have been eleven actors to play the lead character. Each incarnation has a completely separate personality, but the one constant is that The Doctor is a scientific genius who is unable to merely observe. His curiosity and desire to help others often gets him into trouble, but in the end, The Doctor saves the day.

The Doctor has made a bunch of enemies during his many adventures including: The Master (a fellow renegade Time Lord), the Cyberman (a race of machines reminiscent of Star Trek's Borgs), and the dreadful Daleks - alien beings encased in armor that reminds me of salt and pepper shakers.

Doctor Who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running science fiction TV show EVER.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

People Watching

Sorry that I've been MIA for the last week, as I started a new job that is putting me through pretty rigorous training. I was in Denver last week, and I'll be in Detroit for the rest of this week. I promise that I will catch up on everyone's blogging. I feel so out of touch!

But spending many hours at the airport (four hours alone on Friday), there's only one thing I could do to help pass the time - people watch. I think 99.9999999% of all writers are people watchers. I eavesdrop, watch the mannerisms of complete strangers, and sometimes even take notes.

I find people fascinating, and I find that it's the subtle things that we do and say that makes each one of us unique. In my writing, it takes a lot of work to make characters real and three-dimensional. And I think people watching is a great way to do research.

Here are examples of people I took notes on just from four hours at Denver's airport:

Super Tall Nasal Guy. This dude was easily 6-foot-five. Lanky, but athletic looking. And the man had a really nice head of hair. Not just a lot of it, but well groomed. Sort of longer, combed, probably conditioned. Wearing workout clothes, but his expensive briefcase reeked of wealth. He was busy with his phone, preparing his sinus passages with constant nasal sprays. I think the guy was addicted to nasal spray.

Angry Woman. She was well dressed, professional. Her laptop and notebook were out, but she was having a personal conversation with her ex-boyfriend/husband. Not a good one. She was telling him that he was inconsiderate. Something about forgetting something - I think he had missed a very important occasion, and I believe it was a birthday party. Her voice was sharp, her left hand clutching a pen as if it were a dagger as she berated him.

Soldiers. One guy was maybe in his middle 40s, reading a book about nutrition.  He and the other young man were both in civilian attire, but I knew from their haircuts and camo briefcases they were military. A female in full camo uniform was with them, and she kept reading over the older guy's shoulder and asking how yogurt can help you get skinny. All the while, the young soldier was sucking down a big Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Judging from his lean physique, yogurt and losing weight were the furthest from his mind.

Bad Ass. I ate my turkey wrap sitting next to this dude at my gate. He looked like a cage fighter. Just ripped, and he kept scoping his surroundings as if he expected ninjas to jump out from behind the seats and attack him. His luggage consisted of only an old canvas backpack, which he opened to retrieve a jacket. When we lined up to board our plane, we watched a young couple with a crying infant go on ahead of us into the airbridge. The bad ass turned to me and said, "They're brave."

Drunk Dumbshit. The flight was overbooked, and I had the remaining open seat next to me. The "tardy" passenger came charging up the aisle, his briefcase open and his iPad nearly spilling onto the floor. After sticking his ass in my face as he shoved the case into the final space of compartment room in the bin across from me, he sat down and proceeded to make sure that his elbow spilled into my personal space throughout the two hour flight. He drank a beer, followed by six Bloody Marys. During descent, he decided that he was going to listen to his music despite being told to turn off all electronic devices. He decided to wrap his head with his jacket to conceal the ear buds, but his music was so loud, it was obvious was he was doing. Oh, and he looked absolutely ridiculous. I think he was listening to a John Fogerty song as we landed.

# # # #

As I make my way to the Motor City, I will do the best I can do visit all of you and catch up!