Come listen to Spokane Radio Theatre at the top of the hour (about five minutes from now) to hear my short play “Allergies!” I hope you tune in — and let me know what you think! 🙂
Happy Halloween! I hope you’re staying warm (and dry, those of you who met with Hurricane Sandy), and I wish you all a great night with friends and family… and good fiction.
While you’re looking for the perfect Halloween read, check out Inveterate Media Junkies’ series of posts today about the awesome anthology, Hazard Yet Forward! This collection of short stories sends all proceeds after Amazon’s cut to cancer-fighting superhero, Donna Munro. You can celebrate this evening by reading great fiction, spitting in cancer’s face, AND eating all that candy you couldn’t bring yourself to give away to the neighborhood kiddies. Yeah, I know about that secret Snickers bites bag.
Come on down to IMJ to learn about the amazing writers who have contributed to this anthology. There really is something for everyone!
Which is your favorite story from this anthology? I honestly can’t decide — there are so many amazing ones. Let me know if you have a recommendation!
As a writer, I love to pick apart my favorite books, films, and TV shows to see what makes them “tick.” How exactly did the writers make me laugh, gasp, or cry at the perfect moment? Sometimes I can figure it out. Sometimes I can’t. Almost always I learn something interesting about the story.
This is something I do almost every time I watch Doctor Who. If I had a regeneration for each time I felt powerful, lasting emotion from a Doctor Who episode… well, I’d be around for a long, long time.
Please note that when I say I pick apart a Doctor Who story, I mean I pick it apart afterward. During the episode, I’m involved. The story is real to me. As far as I know, I’m zooming through the time vortex in a blue box, hanging out with awesome people whose vacations consist of saving planets and risking death every day.
But then the credits roll, and I look around. I’m not on the TARDIS. Annoyingly, I realize that I’m on what the Doctor calls the “slow path” through life, and I might as well take some of that extra time to figure out what exactly happened on the TV just a moment ago.
Last night was the fall season finale of Doctor Who, which means we have to wait for Christmas to get another episode, and then we’ll have to wait again for more.
The slow path is so irritating sometimes.
“The Angels Take Manhattan” was the episode we had all been waiting for, anxiously speculating about what it meant that Amy Pond and her husband Rory would be leaving the show for good and that not everybody would make it out alive.
It was a great episode. We laughed and cried. We got to see the Ponds run around New York City with Matt Smith and River Song. We watched some good battles (such as they can be called) with the weeping angels. We…
We were also a little bit confused. There were a few timey wimey moments that, when I began to pick apart the episode to learn what made it tick, didn’t quite seem to make sense. For example —
Well, let me do this in spoilers. If you’re reading on a mobile device or in an email subscription, what comes below may not be hidden from your view. If you’re reading on a regular browser, just go ahead and highlight the space below to read on. Let me know if you agree!
1. First off, can I just say that the Statue of Liberty as a weeping angel was awesome? So super cool.
TIMEY WIMEY: I wasn’t really sure how Lady Liberty managed to get all eyes off of her so she could stomp over to the hotel… and why wasn’t there mass panic on the streets either because the statue was missing or because it was in the middle of the city, showing off horrific monster teeth?
2. Next, the double suicide. I loved this. It was perfect and sad and romantic and edgy and wonderful. I always marvel at how the writers of Doctor Who manage to make me feel for the companions and the Doctor in totally different ways.
TIMEY WIMEY: I’m sure there was something iffy about the paradox here, but, honestly, I was so wrapped up in the emotion that I wasn’t able to focus properly. Clue me in if you’ve found something.
2b. How wonderful was Rory’s, “When don’t I come back to life?” line? I actually laughed while crying. Well played, Moffat.
3. The real goodbye. This was an interesting decision. Steven Moffat actually did kill both companions. Here we are in 2012, and Amy and Rory are dead. In addition to that, we have poor Rory’s dad sitting back at home watering plants and hoping they return soon. Ugh. More Kleenex, please.
TIMEY WIMEY: Okay. Help me out, here. The Doctor explains that he can’t go back to get his friends because the timelines are all scrambled. He’d burn up New York. Here are my issues:
- He already risked burning up New York before, and everything turned out fine. Why is a second time worse than the first?
- When Amy asked whether she would go to the same place and time as Rory, the Doctor explained that there is no telling. So how does anyone know where or when Rory actually landed?
- What exactly is off-limits to the TARDIS now? All of 1938? All of Manhattan?
- Why can’t the Doctor simply zip over to New Jersey and drive in to collect them?
- Why can’t the Doctor arrive a year later and grab them then? I’m having a hard time understanding this, “I’ll never be able to see you again” thing.
4. The book thing. That was really cool. As soon as Rory left to get coffee, I guessed what would happen with the story, and that was fun. However…
TIMEY WIMEY: I have a couple of issues with this one:
- Is River Song able to visit her parents using her time travel bracelet, or not? Was the manuscript a hand delivery or a postal thing? If she can visit them, then why did the Doctor offer his condolences? If she can send them things, then why not deliver the bracelet and collect it from them when they show up in the right time?
- And this one is not my idea, but actually something I saw repeated in blog comments already: why didn’t Amy write a FOREWORD instead of an afterword? “Doctor, this is Amy. Read the book and enjoy, but DO NOT LET RORY CHECK THE TOMBSTONE. Thanks!” Yes, I see that’s a paradox in itself, but, honestly. 🙂
Well, sort of. 🙂
Come read the whole story over at Inveterate Media Junkies! It’s the tragic tale of my broken my D-Pad hand and how The Sims 3 got me through the worst of it. Have you ever broken a bone before? Come share your experience with me!
I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey, so please understand that I’m not promoting it or hating on it in this post. The series by E.L. James is simply a trilogy that lots of people like and lots of people dislike. I belong to a third group of people who just aren’t interested.
Well, okay. I’m a little interested. Any time something gathers that much attention, my pop-culture sensors buzz, and my curiosity creeps up. I’ll admit that I’ve read reviews of the books (some of which are pretty creative and hilarious themselves), and I’ve even picked up one of the paperbacks in a bookstore just to leaf through to see what all the fuss was about. To be honest, what I saw kind of gave me the creeps, but I was reading the middle of the book out of context. And, anyway, to each his own.
Yesterday the Huffington Post posted an article about an anti-domestic violence group in the UK that is planning to hold a good, old-fashioned book burning for the super-sexual saga of Christian and Anastasia. If you want to participate, bring your copies to the Wearside Women in Need office on November 5. There will be a bonfire.
I hope you don’t go.
Let me be clear. I do not support the following things:
- The concept that women are less than human
- Bad writing
- Book burning
While E. L. James’ books may have propelled the author into stardom thanks in part to her use of violence as a turn-on, she has contributed, for better or for worse, to English literature and our current popular culture. She has a right to create these stories, you have a right to read them or not read them, and, yes, you have a right to burn them if you want to.
But, just as Fifty Shades of Grey threatens boundaries that many men and women find uncomfortable, burning books definitely crosses a disturbing line. The Wearside Women in Need staff members aren’t writing fiction about burning books; they’re actually going to do it. What comes next? I rather like the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and there’s absolutely some questionable material with regard to bedroom activities in there. When do we get to the point where, say, Othello has to be taken off the shelves and set ablaze because of what he does to Desdemona? After all, he loved her “not wisely, but too well.” So well, in fact, that he had to kill her.
What do you think? Does burning books set the right example?
Here is an anthology that everyone will want. It offers just about every type of fiction you could need from top authors in their genres — and it supports one of the coolest writer chicks I know who is currently battling breast cancer like a champ. Read on for the press release, and get your copy today!
Seventy-six writers connected to the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program have created a multi-genre charity anthology entitled Hazard Yet Forward. All proceeds from this project will benefit Donna Munro, a 2004 graduate of the program. Munro, a teacher living in St. Louis, Missouri, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. An active member of the SHU WPF alumni committee, Munro helps organize the school’s annual writing conference, the In Your Write Mind Workshop.
To aid Munro and her family, faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the Writing Popular Fiction program quickly responded to compile this massive anthology. The book features flash fiction, short stories and even a full-length novella. In total, there are 75 works from various genres, which makes this anthology one that features something for everyone.
Genres represented in the book range from horror to romance to mystery – and everything in between. Some of the notable writers in the anthology are World Fantasy Award winner Nalo Hopkinson, Bram Stoker winners Michael A. Arnzen and Michael Knost, Bram Stoker nominee Lawrence C. Connolly, ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults winner Jessica Warman, Rita finalist Dana Marton, Spur winner Meg Mims, Asimov’s Readers’ Award winner Timons Esaias and WV Arts and Humanities literary fellowships winner Geoffrey Cameron Fuller.
About Hazard Yet Forward, co-compiler Matt Duvall says, “It’s an unprecedented collection of stories from every genre imaginable.” This large volume is an electronic book for the popular Kindle platform and is available for purchase through Amazon starting August 7. It’s also reasonably priced. The book will be on sale for $9.99.
I am honored to be a part of this anthology. My story “God Corp.” is one that I penned around the time I first met Donna, so it is a special treat to be able to include it in this amazing collection.
I’m thrilled to announce that I’m the newest columnist over at Inveterate Media Junkies, which is basically the ultimate hub of geek culture win. This is a big honor and a lot of fun. I hope you’ll come share in the excitement with me!
Les Misérables has changed. Maybe you’ve known this for a while. I didn’t know until shortly before I went to see the show.
My ignorance of the change isn’t because I’m just a casual fan. While there are definitely theatre-goers who are more well-versed in the musical of miserable French people than I am, my love for this show goes well beyond what someone would call “casual” … or “sane.”
- I have owned the following original soundtracks: London, Broadway, France, Hungary, and the Symphonic. London is the best, by far.
- I had a cat named Eponine.
- I can sing nearly every line of the show – even the ones that aren’t part of major songs.
- I own Stage By Stage and the Dream Cast concert performance with Michael Ball and Colm Wilkinson – on VHS.
- Calling someone a “Cosette” was a biting insult among my friends and me.
- I know what Fantine really sold instead of that necklace.
- I have seen productions of Les Misérables in the following places: London, Broadway, Orlando, and Tampa. Some of these several times.
- I love Forbidden Broadway, Volume 2.
- I saw Colm Wilkinson in concert.
- If you need more proof, here’s a picture from my senior yearbook:
Rabid fan, then, let us agree to call me.
In the past few years, though, Les Misérables has kind of fallen off of my map. I still listen to the Symphonic soundtrack on my iPod, but I haven’t looked for new information online, and I haven’t been to the show, mainly because it hasn’t toured here as frequently as it used to.
This year it came back. I was pumped. My big Christmas gift was two tickets for mid-January, and I was so excited that I have listened to nothing other than Les Misérables the soundtrack and Les Misérables the audio book since I opened the gift envelope on Christmas day.
It was about two weeks ago that I learned there had been major changes to the show. After that I spent hours online researching what exactly these changes were. Here is what I learned:
- There is no more turntable stage.
- Some songs have been trimmed.
- The new backdrops are inspired by Victor Hugo’s own paintings.
- There is a new lighting effect that is supposed to draw more emotion.
- The music has changed slightly.
- Trevor Nunn thinks the revival is a betrayal.
To tell the truth, I wanted to know specific details. Usually I have a strict ban on spoilers of all kinds, but this play has a lot of emotional history for me. I was nervous about going in unprepared – what if they had butchered it? Sure, lots of reviewers said it was just fine, but do those reviewers really love this play the way I do?
No one was willing to spoil the details online. At least, no one I found was willing to spoil enough. The result was that I went in to the theatre on Wednesday, half giddy with excitement, half holding my breath in terror.
So, in case you’re here because you, too, are biting your red and black painted nails before you go into the theatre – or because the tour isn’t coming to your area, and you really want to know – I’m going to post spoilers. In black. You have to highlight to see them.
Think long and hard before you do this, though! Notice that I lived through the experience. 🙂 You can likely make it through without spoilers, as well.
Before I begin, I’ll give a quick, two-sentence review of the play that sums up my feelings:
It was good – not as powerful as before, and certainly not better, but good. Some changes were fantastic, some were awful, and most were just fine.
Now, I’ll continue with spoilers below. The whole thing needs to be highlighted to be seen, but in case you are subscribed through email, or your screen colors are off somehow, or you just can’t stop yourself, I’ll also give you clear warnings when I’m about to describe a specific detail. Please read with caution!
THE MISSING TURNTABLE
This is the biggest issue for many people. You may go through something like what I did: “What?! But that’s one of the most famous things about this play!!!” then, “Well, I suppose it must have been a big, expensive pain to travel with it…” then, “Hang on. There are some important moments that require the turntable!”
Exactly. I mean specifically the moment from Gavroche’s death to the aftermath of the final battle.
For the most part, the sets and backdrops (more about those in a bit) make up for the lack of the spinning stage. Things move comfortably around, allowing for smooth transitions that honestly look like slightly stiffer attempts at the exact same thing we’re used to seeing. The overall effect, for fans of the original version, is fine. The show may seem slightly less alive – as if it has just been thawed out and is still unable to move freely – but twenty minutes in you’ll have adjusted to the new look.
But there is one moment in particular – viewing Gavroche’s death and Enjolras’ body – that cannot be done without the turntable. This is usually the point of the play where I’m in tears, and it does not happen. Here is what they do instead:
Gavroche climbs over the barricade to gather ammunition. He vanishes and carries on with his song unseen. We watch as the students wait in fear, and Grantaire particularly falls apart when Gavroche is finally gone. Then we move on.
Yes, Gavroche now dies off stage.
The final battle takes place, and everybody dies pretty much as usual (slow motion has been removed from the play entirely). Enjolras does his flag-waiving bit when it’s clear they don’t stand a chance, and he falls out of sight the same way as before. In this version, when Javert comes to search for Valjean, the barricade parts, and soldiers walk past rolling a small cart that carries two bodies: Enjolras and Gavroche. Javert, at the height of emotion in the music, brings his torch close to the two corpses and pauses to let us feel sad. Then the cart rolls away, and the play carries on.
This was not very powerful for me. I asked my husband, who was seeing Les Miz for the first time, and he did not think it was all that sad, either. In my opinion, this change constitutes a true loss.
Apart from this, the rest of the play does just fine without the turntable.
Things feel pretty rushed in places, but overall it wasn’t a big problem for me. I’d love to hear what others think about this.
The backdrops paintings are inspired from Victor Hugo’s own art. These are quite pretty, and they do work to add depth to the stage (which is really needed, since we lost the turntable).
In addition, some of these paintings actually move: for example, one stretches to give the effect of the students marching toward the audience through the street; another scrolls to show Jean Valjean crawling through the sewer.
In most scenes I could take this or leave it. They were without debate attractive set pieces, but they neither thrilled me nor took away from the magic. Sometimes I found myself thinking, “Oh, cool,” but that was it. Except for once.
One part of the show worked really well with these paintings: Javert’s suicide. This has changed, again because of the lack of the turntable. Before, you will recall, he stood on the stage and pretended to fall as the bridge flew up behind him, and then he kind of rolled under blue lighting as the turntable moved until he was “washed” off stage. I had always liked that effect, to tell the truth, so I wondered how they would handle this in the new version.
Now Javert stands on the railing of the bridge instead of holding on in front of it. Simply seeing him like this is unsettling and moving. Then the bridge flies up behind Javert, but he remains suspended in the air – I’m assuming he’s attached to something we can’t see – and he flails around for his last note while the backdrops swirl with amorphous colors behind him. Eventually he is consumed in darkness, and the song ends. This was so fantastic I nearly gave a standing ovation right then.
THE LIGHTING EFFECT
That brings me to the lighting effect. At first this will seem pretty cheesy:
bright white spots shine on anyone who either dies or prays. Think about the frequency at which this occurs in Les Misérables, and you’re looking at a lot of Heaven lights. There’s nothing subtle about this; the effect is meant to be obvious. You may even begin to roll your eyes after this happens a few times, but then you realize they’ve just been preparing you for something more powerful: after the students die on the barricade, there is a slight pause, and then – POW! a bajillion Heaven lights shine all over the stage. It’s extremely moving, and it demonstrates the heartbreaking point that somehow a ton of bodies doesn’t quite get across – there are way too many deaths here.
It’s also quite sad when you’re used to this light representing the ascent to Heaven, but Javert instead vanishes into blackness.
This is not problematic. The music sounds a bit different in places, but it feels punched up, and in a few places it adds to the emotional strength of the scene. I’d also love to hear what others think about this.
This play is now very physical. You will see characters punching each other, throwing each other up against walls, choking each other out, and even having gratuitous sex on stage. For me, this felt odd. I didn’t like it, but I could see that there had been a deliberate choice to make the show more physical, and perhaps that works for some viewers.
There you have it! You’ll also notice some blocking changes
(the play opens on a ship – Valjean was a galley slave – and there’s a weird thing at the beginning of “At the End of the Day” where everybody kind of slumps into a large heap and sings… not sure what that was about),
but for the most part this should cover what you can expect. At its heart, this is still Les Misérables. Your favorite characters are still the same, and all of your favorite songs are still there. Yep, even “Turning,” though that would have been first on my list of things to change!
I hope everyone is having a safe and relaxing Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, filled with inspiration and peacefulness. 🙂 Happy wishes from Florida!