mv5bnzczmdgzodytyji4os00ytlklwe1mdqtztewotrmmduyywq3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg2mjuxnjm-_v1_sx1777_cr001777975_al_

I like Underpants…

I never grew up reading the Captain Underpants book series by Dave Pilkey; they were as us old-folks say “before my time.” Still, something about the trailer spoke to me, and I found myself watching the film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017).

Spoilers throughout.

In the film, best friends Harold and George, a storyteller-artist tandem obsessed with creating comic books, find themselves at odds with their fascist Principal Krupp. The Principal is obsessed with order, structure, and efficiency; all of which come at the expense of his student’s creativity, and innovation. With the use of a cereal-box hypno-ring, the two hypnotize Principal Krupp into believing he is the embodiment of their comic book magnum opus, Captain Underpants. With Captain Underpants as their principal, their harmless pranks become a welcomed addition to school, and art and music are returned to the school curriculum. They spend their day helping the Captain blend in as a convincing principal, and making sure he does not accidentally return to his natural Krupp state.

(more…)

blood republic

Libertarian Thriller Predicts Demise of Two-party System

SmashCut Culture is proud to highlight the work of creatives who share a passion for a freer society. Please consider the following when deciding which book you will sink your teeth into next. 
Blood Republic - Ebook SmallPRESS RELEASE

James Duncan is the author of Blood Republic, arguably the first-ever “Libertarian” political-thriller. Published by Primal Light Press, the highly praised work of fiction has arrived just in time for the current-election cracks within the two-party system, leading many readers to the question, “did the author have a crystal ball?”

Corrupt politicians, crazed generals, biased media, NSA surveillance, and viral hate; Blood Republic examines current extremism through a heart-pumping thriller with the fate of the country at stake. Will America survive its next election, or collapse into a 2nd civil war of conservative versus liberal?

During the closing hours of the tightest presidential election in US history, firebrand Annie Daniels is a Democratic-socialist senator determined to win the White House. She dreams of eradicating injustice, and hopefully, saving her dying daughter’s life. Major Amos Daniels, her conservative Green Beret brother, might have something to say about that though, if her plans go against his faith. As an Electoral College tie nears, the country erupts into rioting, and Annie and Amos are thrust to opposite ends of a constitutional crisis with guns drawn. Will the Daniels family find common ground above ideology to prevent a second civil war? Or, will an unknown enemy-of-the-state escape justice while pushing the nation into chaos?
(more…)

bubbahotep

From Page to Screen: Bubba Ho-tep

This post introduces a new theme in addition to page to screen adaptations. That is: things you may have missed. In case you don’t know, Bubba Ho-tep is a movie, and a short story, where neither Elvis nor JFK are dead. They are both in a Texas rest home and have been robbed of their identities by fate and the powers that be. To make matters worse, an Egyptian mummy has started to raid the home and steal the soles of residents. Elvis and Jack are the only ones who know and therefore the only ones who can do anything about it. You can watch the trailer here, though it doesn’t do the movie justice.

He's gonna take care of business.
He’s gonna take care of business.

I think a lot of people view this movie as a silly B-movie send up, and I had a similar opinion before I watched it. Now, it might just be my lifelong affection for Bruce Campbell, but from my first viewing I was in love. Sure, it has a ridiculous premise and outlandish characters, but I have only ever seen a beautiful portrayal of aging and the struggle to maintain one’s identity and dignity. Why else would the cast feature such American icons as Elvis, JFK, and the Lone Ranger? When I found out the movie was based on an existing story I was the most excited to see more of the world.

This adaptation was interesting because I have more experience with novels being adapted into films and this was a short story. As such it means the expansion of the world as opposed to the reduction. The film allowed for more time with the characters and the introduction of the funeral home workers who pick up the bodies of residents. They, in particular, brought the “youth” perspective of the plight of the rest home residents and the lack of empathy and interest the rest of the world have for them.

(more…)

Pinocchio

From Page to Screen: Pinocchio

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I even knew Pinocchio was a children’s novel and not a fairy tale out of Grimm’s or the like. And, boy howdy, is it a doozy; thirty-six chapters of absolutely bizarre Italian children’s literature circa 1880s. Granted, the chapters fly by like in Moby Dick, with each only being about three or four pages long. The book actually reads like an epic fable with very simple moral that is omnipresent: go to school and mind your parents.

Pinocchio-1940-poster
You deserve everything coming to you.

The main differences between the book and the Disney film (I’m sticking with that adaptation for brevity’s sake) consist of a larger role for Jiminy Cricket in the film, who is only referred to as the Talking Cricket in the book; a smaller role for the fairy in the film, who is the Blue Haired Fairy in the book; and the actual character of Pinocchio, who is sweet and naive in the film as opposed to an amoral ass in the book.

(more…)

sheepbladerunner

From Page to Screen: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner

I have had an inkling for a while to make this a thing. There are two things I love in life: books and movies. Actually, there are a lot of things I love in life, but those two are really high up on the list. I’m especially fond of considering the translation of books into movies, and now that I have a public platform I can stop bothering my friends with this all the time.

So, to begin, we’ll throw in a third thing I love: dystopia. Thus we have our discussion of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner. It recently occurred to me that I had never read Philip K. Dick’s book, which is reason enough for me to read most things. Coincidentally, just as I finished the volume the theater near my apartment started a classic sci-fi series with the opening film being Blade Runner and a discussion following the film. It was an electric dream come true!

I know that you can never get everything in the book into the movie, but I was surprised to find in the first paragraph that book Deckard has a wife. Unfortunately, she is inextricably linked to some other very big ideas that had to be omitted, like Mercerism, the religious treatment of empathy, and all the real animals. Though I understand their exclusion, it is a shame nonetheless. The religious aspects of the people left on Earth were fascinating. Empathy is the only thing that separates humans from androids and empathy, through Mercerism, is the only thing that most people have to get them through the day. The androids of the film seem to have genuine affection for each other and Roy shows Deckard mercy in his final living act, but the androids of the book are clearly lacking in this most human experience. Reading along as a book android methodically snipped the legs off a living spider to see if it could still walk with four was bad enough, I can’t imagine how John Isidore felt. Especially given the reverence of life and the importance of taking care of living animals that is present in the book.

(more…)

man thurs

Literature You Should Know: Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday

We’ve been hearing for years–decades, really–that art must be transgressive, deliberately breaking rules and flaunting that defiance in the face of stuffy conventionalism. Of course, such transgressiveness must align with standard liberal notions of “tolerance”; one need look no further than the furore over Pamela Gellar’s Draw Mohammed art contest and the college student who dared to lecture Jerry Seinfeld* on the nature of humor to find out that even those who say there are no rules insist that everyone else follow the rules they impose (and keep changing… it’s rather like Calvinball). Conversely, as discussed here this spring, a number of conservative artists find such a view repulsive. So it might come as no surprise to encounter the following exchange between two poets:

“I tell you,” went on Syme with passion, “that every time a train comes in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and that man has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuously that when one has left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the sense of hairbreadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the word ‘Victoria,’ it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of a herald announcing conquest. It is to me indeed ‘Victoria’; it is the victory of Adam.”

gkc2001largeGregory wagged his heavy, red head with a slow and sad smile.

“And even then,” he said, “we poets always ask the question, ‘And what is Victoria now that you have got there?’ You think Victoria is like the New Jerusalem. We know that the New Jerusalem will only be like Victoria. Yes, the poet will be discontented even in the streets of heaven. The poet is always in revolt.”

“There again,” said Syme irritably, “what is there poetical about being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea‑sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I’m hanged if I can see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is—revolting. It’s mere vomiting. [. . .] It is things going right,” he cried, “that is poetical! Our digestions, for instance, going sacredly and silently right, that is the foundation of all poetry. Yes, the most poetical thing, more poetical than the flowers, more poetical than the stars—the most poetical thing in the world is not being sick.”

“Really,” said Gregory superciliously, “the examples you choose—”

“I beg your pardon,” said Syme grimly, “I forgot we had abolished all conventions.”

What may surprise you is that this exchange was written by G. K. Chesterton… in 1908.

(more…)

follsassassin

Reading For Writing – Fool’s Assassin

th_b_Hobb_foolsassassinUKFool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

An entry in a long-running fantasy series, Fool’s Assassin brings us back to the story of FitzChivalry Farseer, a man who has seen enough trouble and tragedy to fill several lifetimes. His happily-ever-after is interrupted by the birth of a much-longed-for child with his aged wife. But a dark web closes in on the family and the peculiar, tiny little girl who seems trapped into the same courses of fate that have caught her heroic father.

What I learned, Part 1 – The power of exploring different facets of a character’s nature to keep a series fresh. Robin Hobb’s work is my favorite in the genre, and she has achieved something memorable, a world that keeps expanding and deepening with every book. FitzChivalry is thrust into the role of father at an advanced age (though his body seems far younger based on his use of magic), and seeing his happy home-life threatened while he struggles to connect with his strange daughter feels very different from the earlier books of the series.

(more…)

wool cover

Reading for Writing – Wool

Wool hugh howeyby Hugh Howey

One of the first major success stories of the self-publishing revolution, Wool is the tale of a post nuclear war dystopia where what remains of the human race is confined underground in a giant silo stretching deep into the earth. The silo lives under strict protocols which begin to unravel when a new Sheriff investigates a recent series of murders.

A large part of what made this book compelling was its surprising twists, so SPOILERS AHEAD:

What I learned, Part 1 – Bold choices early in a story can give a reader a sense of uneasiness which can carry through the whole book. The first two main viewpoint characters, the original Sheriff and the original Mayor are both killed within the first 1/3 of the novel. Because they are both quite likable and resourceful, as a reader we can never be quite sure that our newest main character is going to survive. It was a risky choice because it may have alienated readers, but I found it to be very successful.

(more…)

neddiad

Reading for Writing – The Neddiad

51iEr0WWlDLThe Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater

In the late 1940’s, a boy and his quirk-tacular family take the train from Chicago to Hollywood. Along the way the boy, Ned, is entrusted with a sacred turtle and the fate of the world. Only “the guy with the turtle” can stop the machinations of a demon, present location the La Brea Tar Pits, who seeks to reverse time and bring back the age of the dinosaurs.

What I learned Part 1: It is possible to write a successful book with a passive protagonist and without tension; but brevity, wit and charm become paramount. From the get-go every line of the book lets you know that it will end well (as does the subtitle), still each moment feels so alive with fresh, weird details that it keeps you reading. An example, the family’s entire move from Chicago to Los Angeles is predicated on Ned and his father’s desire to eat regularly in “a restaurant shaped like a hat.” I would highly recommend this book as a case study of an author breaking core storytelling rules and getting away with it.

(more…)

Photo Credit: Tim Sackton

Literature You Should Know: Tolkien’s The Hobbit

At semester’s end, professors and teachers everywhere face one of their least favorite tasks: grading exams.  Seriously, it’s hardly ever fun for anyone.  J. R. R. Tolkien was no exception.  In fact, one day, he got so bored that on a page that a student had left blank, he wrote what surely seemed like an inconsequential and fairly silly line: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

Little could he know then that he’d just written what was to become one of the best-loved first lines in all of literature.

hobbit coverLike a number of his other books, including Letters from Father Christmas, Roverandom, and Mr. Bliss, The Hobbit started out as a story Tolkien wrote purely for the enjoyment of his children.  But at the encouragement of C. S. Lewis, Tolkien revised it enough to pursue publication, and it was accepted by Allen & Unwin at the recommendation of the editor’s ten-year-old son, Rayner Unwin, who grew up to become Tolkien’s chief publisher.  In announcing the book’s publication in 1937, Allen & Unwin hailed it as “the children’s book of the year,” and C. S. Lewis’ first review states, “Prediction is dangerous; but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.”  Yet apparently, almost no one was quite prepared for how successful The Hobbit would be or what would follow when readers clamored for a sequel—least of all Tolkien himself.

(more…)

Should You Self-Publish?

The short answer is yes, you should start getting your work out there and building an audience. This applies not only to novelists, but musicians, filmmakers, theatre artists—all creative fields.

unnamedBut let’s focus on books. That’s what I’ve been doing lately.

Advances in technology mean we don’t have to follow the conventional wisdom of decades ago. Traditional publishers are still relevant, important, and deserving of respect, but they don’t have to be the sole gatekeepers of the literary world. Readers can do an excellent job of that, too.

If you’re a writer who yearns for a career in fiction, self-publishing should be your proving grounds. Show the world you’re capable of developing a professional-quality work, and demonstrate the thick skin of letting readers form their own opinions about it. Make connections with other authors, and conduct yourself as a professional.

But becoming a self-published author is not for everyone. Here are just a few considerations, and this list is by no means exhaustive:

1 – Can you resist the temptation to rush to publication? You don’t want to publish prematurely. Readers will see the plot holes and typos, and unless your book has other qualities that are so incredibly amazing that they’ll forgive any other flaws, they probably won’t pay any attention to anything else you publish. So make sure you’re willing to take the time to revise, revise, and revise several more times. Finish the manuscript and put it aside for a few months. Let other people read it and offer feedback. Make more revisions. Are you still excited about the project? Then hire a professional editor. Then proofread again. You’ll never get it perfect, and eventually you’ll need to take the leap, but patience will improve your product a thousandfold.

2 – Are you at least 25 years old? Along the lines of #1, I’d advise against self-publishing until you have at least 25 years of life experience. Even if you’re an incredibly talented 19-year-old, just think how extraordinary you’ll be with those additional six years of practice before you make your first impression on the world. So promise yourself: “I will not self-publish before I turn 25. I will use my early 20s to sharpen my skills, make a bunch of mistakes, and learn all I can.” Of course, still make sure you’re writing constantly. The earlier you start practicing, the better.

unnamed3 – Are you willing to invest your own money? True, Amazon charges you nothing for putting your book up for sale. But unless you’re also a talented graphic designer who also possesses the rare skill of being able to objectively edit your own work, you’re going to need to engage the professional services of freelancers. Be ready to shell out hundreds of dollars for editing, and at least another hundred (probably more) for a quality cover. And then you’ll probably want to set aside some money for marketing, too.

4 – Will you bother to market your book? Whether you publish independently or traditionally, you’re going to have to be involved in the marketing process. By going the indie route, most if not all of the work will fall on your shoulders. Be prepared to embrace social media platforms, get a table at book festivals, and constantly seek creative opportunities to spread the word about your book. The good thing about self-publishing—it’s just your own money on the line, so no one’s rushing you to achieve immediate success. A trial-and-error approach is fine as you figure things out, provided you don’t alienate any potential fans along the way.

5 – Are your expectations realistic? If you think you’re going to be an overnight success, or if you even think you’ll earn an extra few thousand dollars your first year, you’re in for serious disappointment. It’s possible your debut novel will reach the right readers and take off, but assume it won’t. Assume you’ll need to publish several titles before any of them start catching on. The process is a marathon spanning years, with each year full of hard work and perseverance. It’s a crowded marketplace, and readers don’t even know to look for you yet.

Aren’t I a ray of sunshine? I could go on, but that’s a decent starting point. I’m still learning about the world of self-publishing myself. I published my first e-book at age 29 in late 2012 and my first paperbacks in the fall of 2013. My sales are nothing to boast about, even though I’ve gotten some strong reviews from readers and bloggers.

But I can be patient. I’ve got more books planned. What I’ve done so far is only the beginning.