Happy Star Wars Day, Everybody

I’ve been a fan since I first begged my dad to take me to the movie in 1977 (I was ten). It is no small claim to say that Star Wars was my gateway drug into the worlds of science fiction and  I’ve yet to kick the habit. So thank you to George Lucas and all the thousands of talented people who made Star Wars possible over the decades. And keep it going strong!

By Clayton J. Callahan

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Avengers Infinity War…Meh

Image result for avengers infinity war

Just saw it and, sorry Marvel, not every little thing you do is magic.

I have been a fan of the Marvel movies for quite a while now. Most of the films have been well-written stories, elegantly executed. But here’s the thing, you have to start with good writing. The special effects, acting, production design, and music can all be top drawer–but if the writing is lacking, go home.

Now, naturally, I am a writer so perhaps I’m somewhat biased. But isn’t that where it all starts? Can you even tell a fictional story on film without a script? And there’s little excuse for Hollywood when you consider that the writer is usually the guy or gal who gets the smaller paycheck and the least amount of credit. Case in point; who wrote Captain America The Winter Soldier? I don’t know either and would have to google it.

What is specifically wrong with the writing of Avengers Infinity War? Well, I am working hard to refrain from spoilers here so I will speak generally. The story is one long downer, heroes are defeated time and again from the first scene to the last. Now, I am not opposed to tragedy as a thing, and I do understand that this movie is part one of a two-part tale wherein the second act can be the uplifting victory the audience now craves. However, even in tragedy, there MUST be levity! Why? Because the audience can easily become numb to the protagonist’s pain and emotionally check out before the movie is done.

For me, that was Avengers Infinity War. The film opens with such despair that one must steel oneself against further tragedy and by the time the movie reaches its horrific climax, I’d ceased to care. I actually regret the three hours I kept my butt in the chair as I was bored ninety minutes in. Yes, great characters that I have come to love perished. Only the sad thing was I didn’t feel anything when they did, and that is a great waste of fine acting talent if there ever was.

So, get it together Hollywood! Focus more on your story and less on your special effects. Just because you can make a big budget movies doesn’t mean you should unless you have a good tale to tell. And good storytelling always starts with the lowly writer.

By Clayton J. Callahan

How Dubgons & Dragons Turned Me Away From Evangilism

This is a story of fantasy vs. truth, and I’ll leave you to decide which side is which.

Now, to the best of my recollections, the right-wing evangelical movement kicked off in the early 1980’s. I was in my teens back then and I clearly recall picket lines outside 7-11 stores protesting the sale of Playboy magazine. Speakers came to my school’s auditorium, addressing us on the subject of Satanic rock music. To be sure, the religious right was on the rise, and with cable TV came the advent of a new show with a new star, The 700 Club featuring Pat Robertson.

Where was I back then? I was the new kid in a town called Kettering, Ohio. Friendless, I washed uppon the beaches of that Midwestern suburb at the hight of the Dungeons & Dragons craze. Suddenly, I had friends and something to do on the weekends, as I rolled dice and vanquished imaginary monsters with other juvenile acne victims.

One of my friends was the son of an Evangelical minister who had gone so far as to burn the lad’s D&D character sheet. I visited that friend frequently and when his dad learned that I was into that horrible hobby he read me the riot act. The game, he claimed, was satanic! He went on to state that by playing the game I was casting spells on my fellow players, and summoning demons that would whisper suicidal thoughts into our ears. To be honest, I had to suppress my inclination to laugh at this guy as he ranted on.

Further “research” into the subject came from watching The 700 Club itself. There, I got it straight from the horse’s mouth; Pat Robertson declared that D&D was the devil’s way of leading this younger generation astray.

And I can now honestly say that watching The 700 Club changed my life…just not in the way Pat would have hoped.

You see, I was young, very young. As a child, I had trusted adults to tell the truth and look out for my best interests. But now in my early teens, I discovered that adults did, in fact, lie and were not necessarily concerned for in my best interests one whit. You see, I’d played the “devil’s game” and read all the rules for over a year by the time all the hysteria came along.

Being a reasonably intelligent guy, I could easily distinguish reality from imagination. The spells in D&D weren’t real. No demons were summoned and nobody in my gaming group was committing suicide. None of us were Satanists, and for the most part, we obeyed our parents, did our homework and made our beds. Thus, I concluded, the Evangelicals who spouted this “devil’s game” malarkey was either ignorant of the game, lying to me or both.

My friend with the minister dad often invited to come to his pop’s church any time. It seemed his father (after the rant incident) had taken a liking to me and was eager for me to join their family on Sundays. I declined and am still glad I did.

Because once somebody lies to you, trust goes out the window, and without trust you have nothing.

But there is a positive lesson to be gleaned from all this as well. In my life as an adult, I have endeavored to be as truthful in my dealings as possible. If I don’t know much about a subject, I admit it and ask questions. If I am in a position where a lie would yield some temporary advantage, I decline to fabricate.

Once trust is gone, it is gone. If you lie about the small stuff, you will lie about the big and why should I waste my time in such company.

By Clayton Callahan

What Is It About Wargames?

Hey, I’m a peace-loving guy, right? Sure, I served in Iraq, but I certainly didn’t have much fun over there. So what is it about miniatures wargames that I have always found so darn appealing?

Well, actually their fun in lots of ways.

For one, I love the modeling. I find it very relaxing to just sit at a table with a bunch of plastic bits, some paint and a bit of glue to create something cool. And unlike playing a video game, I get a sense of accomplishment when I’m done. Where before there was nothing remarkable, now there is a platoon of British 8th Army troops ready to battle the Nazis in North Africa!

Then there is the social aspect of the games. I quite enjoy sitting around a game table with like-minded fellows over pizza and beer as we plot each other’s demise.  Sometimes, I’m not even all that concerned with winning as much as seeing how a particular maneuver works out. That’s right, I make decisions out of novelty as much as out of strategy just because I enjoy playing with possibilities.Thus, my experience is the very definition of “friendly competition.” I enjoy winning, but I also enjoy the interaction with friends and the escapism of it all.

I’ve been at this hobby since about 1981, which makes me a “grognard,” and if you don’t know what that means, you aren’t one yet, kid. And I intend to be at this hobby until I’m dead and buried…and maybe a little after. Heck, I’ve even published a couple of miniatures wargames that may be played long after I’m gone.

Harkening back to the “good old days” of gaming, my wargames are simple, quick moving and inexpensive. The hobby has changed a lot in the past couple of decades, but I suppose I haven’t. Give me a good set of models, and some good companions and I’m ready to roll dice any time, and I hope you are too.

Best Bad Review Ever!

 

Image may contain: 2 people, textSometimes you just want people to be honest. Like this fellow who said of Passion Pirates, “Oh, dear and holy God of Ceilings, that was awful! So awful I might have to buy it anyway just for the 9.5 on the camp-o-meter!”

Seka Heartly cheerfully admits the likelihood that this guy actually read her book is quite high. Passion Pirates of The Lost Galaxy was never meant to be a “good” book, any more than The Toxic Avenger was meant to be a “good” movie. But that’s often the point, right?

Sometimes we are in no mood for serious literature or dark, edgy fiction. Sometimes we just want to have a good laugh and yuck it up with an author who is winking at us at every page turn. Seka is thus proud that her book is finding an audience that appreciates it.

And remember, Seka Heartley is NOT Clayton J. Callahan (it says so on the title page of her book).

RIP Ms. Le Guin

My respects to a fellow Portland, Oregon SF writer (with deservedly higher accolades). May she rest in peace.

IN REMEMBRANCE

Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018

We are saddened to report that acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin passed on Monday, January 22nd, at her home in Portland, Oregon as confirmed by The New York Times. She was 88 years old.

Le Guin is internationally known for lending her distinct feminist voice to science fiction and fantasy, and was writing even as a child. At age 11, Ursula Le Guin submitted her first short story to Astounding Science Fiction. In 1964 her first Earthsea story, “The Word of Unbinding,” was published. The series continued over six books and eight short stories, including A Wizard of EarthseaThe Tombs of AtuanThe Farthest ShoreTehanuTales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind. In 1970 The Left Hand of Darkness won both the Hugo and the Nebula, and the sequel, The Dispossessed, was also so honored when it was published in 1975.

Her upbringing in a house of anthropologists influenced works like the Hainish Cycle, with its tales of contact between futuristic human species. The Left Hand of Darkness envisioned a radical speculative future of sexual identity and gender identity, raising the bar for subsequent SFF works.

She received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1995; the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inducted her in 2001; and in 2003 The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named her the 20th Grand Master. Her life-long contribution to the shape of genre fiction cannot be understated, and that is the legacy she leaves behind to fans and readers across the world.

Le Guin is survived by her husband, son, two daughters, and four grandchildren. All our condolences go out to her family and friends. She will be deeply missed.

We leave you with words of wisdom from the incomparable author herself:

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”