I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was pretty nifty. (It was even more fun as a segment in later Star Wars video games). But there was some core element of Star Wars I felt was just absent.
It didn’t take me more than a few times watching it to realize that what the film didn’t have was Han Solo.
I don’t mean Han Solo literally. What I wanted was a loveable rogue. (You’ll note that I found a TV Tropes link for the character type–that’s how common it is). It’s all well and good to have the earnest hero in the center of things. That’s kinda their job. But there needs to be someone around with a smirk and a wink and a hard edge—a little too cynical to believe in the mythic importance of everything around them (even if they’re later proven wrong). Sometimes it’s their job to undercut the narrative, to give it a little breathing room so the audience can laugh. Pretty typically, their witticisms are the ones people leave the theater quoting. They’re not in this story for the higher mission of the plot. They’re in it for some selfish reason.
But not really. Because when the chips are down, they show up to help save the day.
Or, actually, they don’t.
Even though I grew up with the Han Solo type of scoundrel and grew into the Malcolm Reynolds kind of scoundrel (as a freelancer, “I do the job, and then I get paid” became a mantra for me), I’ve developed a bit of a taste for the varied palate they can offer. Around the time I was loving Firefly, I was also reading Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” series. Which centers on a character who is, effectively, a crime lord in at least a portion of his novels. He’s an assassin. He’s not a nice man. But he’s affable, the kind of narrator you want to follow on whatever mission it is he’s undertaking. And, even when it’s not really the right thing, you want him to win.
I followed Mark Henry’s “Amanda Feral” series, which is narrated by a zombie socialite. Who eats people. Sometimes they’re not even bad people, it’s just that she’s a zombie, and. Well. It happens. And while the whole experience of hanging out with Amanda is kind of like being a spectator to a train wreck, it’s a glorious spectacle.
More recently, there’s Marvel’s Loki, whose Road Movie-like dialogue with Thor was the best thing about Thor: The Dark World. Never quite knowing what side Loki is on is a big part of his appeal—but, even moreso, that he’s ambiguous with charm. If you want to talk about a fan favorite character—I think it’s probably a safe bet that there’s more fan fiction about Loki on the Internet than any of the Marvel heroes. (I’m not going to actually go count them, but I stand by my suspicion).
And while characters like Kate Daniels and Curran Lennart from Ilona Andrews’s “Kate Daniels” series are absolutely the heroes—they’ve got a bit of a edge on them as well. Kate, a former mercenary, private investigator, and also the daughter of one of the universe’s big evils, isn’t always good at playing nice. Curran, who for much of the series is the leader of all the shapeshifters in Atlanta, creates a code for his own people, but doesn’t always play nicely by the rules of non-shapeshifters. They’re a pair for whom the default response is to hit the problem with a sword, and to do so with a gleeful, maniacal smile that makes bystanders scared for their lives.
Fantasy and science fiction thrive on the morally ambiguous characters who can reel you into their stories and make you want them to win, even when they’re the bad guys. While I’m no psychologist, I suspect there’s something cathartic about rooting for the scoundrel. When you’re part of a community (a family, a town, a nation), it’s important to follow the rules—but it’s not always fun. Diplomacy is hard. Sometimes just getting along with other members of your community is hard.
Rooting for the guy who doesn’t have to follow those rules? Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need. In all the varieties possible.
As Han says, “There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”
Anton Strout is the author of urban fantasy, including the Simon Canderous paranormal detective series and the Spellmason Chronicles. He’s also the host of the Once and Future Podcast. He’s going to have a story in the fantasy anthology Knaves from Outland Entertainment, now on Kickstarter!
There are words and phrases from what one reads that stick with you throughout your entire life. From the moment you read them they inspired or changed you. As a teen, the now clichéd “Carpe Diem, Seize the Day” from the film Dead Poet’s Society was life changing, but it was reading that always struck to the core of my heart when it came to shaping who I was as both a person and as a writer of the fantastical.
No one was as pivotal to who I became in both respects than Douglas Adams. My first exposure was to the PBS import of the BBC television series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Immediately I HAD TO HAVE the books and made my mother take me to buy what was then just the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. I still have the broken spined, falling apart hardcover, coated in dried green slime from a toy accident years ago. Then I consumed the radio plays on cassette, and bought the annotated transcripts to read along with.
There are a million turns of phrase that the late Mr. Adams wrote over the years that stick with me:
- “Don’t Panic.”—the words inscribed on the guide itself, and an obvious choice as a life motto.
- “Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”—Marvin the Paranoid Android, moping about in his usual depressed state
- From the planet builder Slartibartfast, best known for winning an award for designing Earth’s Norwegian fjords:
Slartibartfast: I’d far rather be happy than right any day.
Arthur: And are you?
Slartibartfast: No. That’s where it all falls down of course.
But the one that has always stuck with me is:
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
To a 12-year old kid, it just seemed funny, but it also made me think. Adults were weird, anyway. Why would they obsess over these little green pieces of paper? The idea was absurd—later causing me to strive in my own fiction to capture even just a fracture of Mr. Adam’s genius/humor—but his words were also spot on about the human condition. These were IMPORTANT WORDS, important thoughts! As I grew up and became an adult myself (a debatable point, I know), I found the words stuck with me.
I’ve been financially stable as well as pathetically poor, but rarely have I suffered at the hand of that ebb and flow. Money is always welcome and nice to have and all, but I’ve never let a lack of it determine my happiness. It’s been a pretty healthy attitude, focusing me instead on what truly makes me happy—family, writing, rampantly consuming all manners of nerdery…
Such a complexly written yet simply logical line transformed my entire attitude about the true answer to life, the universe, and well, everything. Words…powerful stuff indeed.
Last year, some of us discovered the irreverence of Deadpool and are eager to view the sequel. This year, some of us are working with one of the writers from his comics: Cullen Bunn.
But we’re not the only ones fangirling/fanboying. Cullen is wearing his fanboy hat himself as he has love Warlock 5 for more than thirty years.
How did you stumble upon Warlock 5 for the first time?
I discovered Warlock 5 at my local comic book shop (Heroes Are Here in Goldsboro NC) when I was a kid. I picked the first issue up off the shelf.
Why did it capture you?
Right from the jump, that awesome cover of the first issue, featuring the 5 warlocks, had my attention. Then, reading the issue, I fell in love with the interesting, sort of hard-edged cast of characters, the fusion of horror, science fiction, and fantasy was right up my alley.
Did you have a favorite issue?
I think the first 5 or so issues were all pretty great, but that first issue will always be my favorite in the series. It did such a nice job of introducing all the characters and giving me a feel for the tone of the series.
How about a beloved character?
Savasthar, the shapeshifting dragon, has always been my favorite of the bunch, but I have a soft spot for Zania, too.
Did these change once you picked the books up to work on the project?
Not too much. If anything, I like both Savasthar and Zania a little more. In this project, I get to write Savasthar as sort of a brooding hardboiled detective… who can turn into a dragon… so that’s pretty hard to beat.
The original work must have cast a heavy weight, but what other influences did you have?
As with all my projects, I draw inspiration from many different places. Novels, movies, TV, other comics… It’s hard for me to pinpoint any one source. Those original few issues of the Warlock 5 comic were definitely the most vital influence.
The writing process is a collaboration between you and Jimmy Z Johnston. How is it to collaborate with other artists? Is there too much compromise?
I enjoy collaborating with others. Sometimes, writing comics is too solitary. Working with other creators helps to keep me sane.
This is not the only project you two have partnered up for. Why did you start working together?
I’ve known Jimmy Z for a long time now. Ten years, I guess. And we’ve always talked about writing something together.
Are there any specific scenes or narrative developments you want to include in this continuation of the 80’s comic?
We looked at the weird relationships between the warlocks as they were presented in the original comic, and we wanted to honor the way their interactions were depicted. But we also wanted to expand on what we had seen before and deepen those connections.
What are you most looking forward to work on?
I chuckle to myself every time I think of the interactions between Zania, the punk rock necromancer, and Argon, the Terminator-like robot from the future. But from a “big story” perspective, we’re getting a chance to really explore the idea of defending multiple realities from outside threats. And we’re introducing a really, really big outside threat.
The five main characters are extremely different and layered. What was the biggest challenge bringing them to life?
We have to make sure to give each character plenty of “page time.” This is an ensemble cast, and no one character needs to hog the spotlight. That can be a challenge at times.
Is it turning out the way you’ve envisioned it?
For the most part, yeah. Any time you work on a comic like this, especially with a co-writer, there are changes and new angles that arise as you are working on the project.
In these shaken times do you try to embed your work with some subliminal criticism or do you keep it detached from the outside world?
I think people will read something more into the book whether or not I try to include something. But my primary objective with these stories is to entertain. Sure, there might be some subliminal ideas that I’m working into a story based on things that I’m thinking about, but I’m not going to try to hit the reader over the head with any of that.
Anything you can tell us without giving out major spoilers?
Well, I always wondered what would happen to the five warlocks if one of them died.
As we cruise into the middle of 2018, it might be difficult, surrounded as we are with great kaiju novels and anthologies, comics, and Pacific Rim Uprising rampaging across theater screens, to recall a time when kaiju fans were at a loss for good material. And while there have been few gaps in the cinematic history of kaiju, when it comes to prose, things were pretty sparse until 2012.
Just how sparse? Well, there was a fairly steady stream of comics from the Marvel Godzilla issues of the 1970s. Dark Horse got the Godzilla license in the late 1980s and continued publishing their comics into the 1990s and acting as prologue to the abysmal American Godzilla film from 1998. IDW’s comics started in 2010 and became some big sellers, and along the way we had artist superstars like Matt Frank and Bob Eggleton become well-known names associated with kaiju. There were also a handful of other kaiju comics (i.e.: those not starring the Big G) or things that could charitably be called kaiju comics, too.
But when it came to actual prose—novels, novellas, and short stories—the scene was pretty thin. And beyond Godzilla? Not much.
In the 1990s, a series of Godzilla YA novels began with Marc Cerasini’s Godzilla Returns. But sales on the series probably were not what the publisher hoped, because it was cancelled after just four books (with a fifth written but never published).
A few random fits and starts occurred over the years. Monster Makers, Inc. (1987) by Laurence Yip, predated the YA series, but was more of a one-off thing. The Buzzing (2003) by Jim Knipfel was a detective story with its inspiration in kaiju stories. MM9 (2012) by Hiroshi Yamamoto was certainly a full-on kaiju novel by a Japanese author, but the translated edition appears to be the last book by the author available on Western shores. (I should also point out here that this brief history of kaiju prose is strictly looking at novels in the English speaking world. I would expect—and hope—that there are plenty of kaiju novels available in Japan).
Although MM9 was released first, it didn’t have half the impact of the next kaiju novel released. And I know a little something about this next one. I was partly responsible for its existence. In 2011, I was freelance editing and working on my own novels as time permitted. One book I planned to write was a YA kaiju adventure set in Vermont (sadly still not completed). I talked about it with my most frequent editing client, Jeremy Robinson. It turned out he was a huge kaiju fan, and had always wanted to write a kaiju novel. Most of his novels up to that point featured large creatures—aliens, dinosaurs, sea serpents, the hydra, and stone golems—and the book he was working on at the time even had a creature/character named ‘Kaiju.’
I encouraged Jeremy to go ahead and work on his kaiju novel idea and release it. The time was ripe for self-published novels and if anyone could do justice to a kaiju novel, it was Jeremy. That novel, which I edited for him, was 2012’s Project Nemesis, and while Jeremy opted to self-publish the book, he had actually received an offer from a major New York publisher for it. He turned them down though, and he promptly made more money self-pubbing the book. The book came adorned with a label that read ‘A Kaiju Thriller’ and a novel subgenre was born.
Nemesis was huge. The novel was (and perhaps remains) the highest-selling original non-licensed kaiju novel of all time. Jeremy became an international bestselling author and among many other novels he also wrote four bestselling sequels in the Nemesis Saga. The character was licensed to appear in an indie video game. The book was reviewed in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and when they launched their comic book publishing arm, American Gothic Press, Project Nemesis, written by Robinson and with art by the stellar Matt Frank (hot off the heels of Godzilla: Rulers of Earth) was their flagship title. The character has even had major Hollywood interest lately.
Following Nemesis, though, and seemingly all at once, kaiju were everywhere. It helped that the Pacific Rim film was coming in 2013 and a new American Godzilla film was on the way for 2014. But suddenly there were authors writing kaiju novels. Matthew Dennion (who wrote a Nemesis short story for G-Fan magazine in 2014), Jake Bible, JE Gurley, and Eric S. Brown were all putting out great stuff. Handfuls of other authors were diving in, many utilizing the ‘Kaiju Thriller’ tag line, loud and proud.
Then there were the anthologies. Robert Hood and Robin Penn had edited a trio of kaiju-themed anthologies in 2006-2007, Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales, Daikaiju! 2 Revenge of the Giant Monsters, and Daikaiju! 3 Giant Monsters Vs. the World. Once the dam broke in 2012, however, many more followed. Monster Earth by James Palmer and Jim Beard. Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters by Tim Marquitz and N. X. Sharps came about via a kaiju-sized Kickstarter campaign that was so over-funded it brought on illustrations for every short story and even a few additional stories (including one from yours truly).
SF editor supreme Sean Wallace put together a reprint anthology for the Constable & Robinson (and in the US, Prime Books) Mammoth series: The Mammoth Book of Kaiju. Ragnarok followed up their successful Kaiju Rising anthology with a giant robot companion, called MECH: Age of Steel, and the book contained its fair share of mechs beating down on over-sized monsters.
In short, the last six years have been a second golden age for kaiju fans. Two Pacific Rim films, two Godzilla films (with more coming, including a Kong rematch). Animated films. Kong: Skull Island. Cloverfield sequels. The upcoming MEG. Even the black comedy Colossal. Comics have been bountiful, and there’s been plenty of good stuff beyond Godzilla and Pacific Rim comics, including Kaijumax, King of Zombies, and the upcoming Redman with kaiju-riffic Matt Frank art. Fantastic novels like Robinson’s Apocalypse Machine, Raffael Coronelli’s Daikaiju Yuki, Lee Murray’s Into The Mist, and Greig Beck’s Primordia series are becoming the norm. A cursory look at the search term ‘kaiju’ on Amazon will yield plenty of releases just in 2018 or scheduled for later this year.
About Kane Gilmour
Kane Gilmour is the international bestselling author of The Crypt of Dracula and Resurrect. His short stories have appeared in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters and MECH: Age of Steel. SNAFU II: Survival of the Fittest, and Dark Discoveries magazine. He also writes comic books. He lives with his significant other, his kids, her kids, and three dogs in Vermont. He’s thinking of buying a farm to house them all. Find him on the web at http://kanegilmour.com/.
Naming a character is like naming your first-born child. You agonize over very detail, even go so far as to pronounce the name under your breath to test the inflection. Lucky for you, you’re more concerned with how it looks on paper rather than how it sounds spoken in the real world. Who would ever have you pronounce these names out loud anyway?
You agonize over whether the character will be made fun of at the school of Goodreads and Amazon, or even on book review blogs. Maybe the clever internet will turn it into some kind of pun that you’ll laugh and smile about…until it wakes you up at 2am with anxiety and you kick yourself mentally, mulling over how you could ever think that would be the right name for your character. Especially after all the pronunciation work you did in the beginning.
The character’s name can’t be too confusing either. Your reader might read Amieriel and just settle on Amy, instead, for ease of comprehension. It’s a delicate line to balance, especially in the science fiction/ fantasy worlds of Lothlórian and Arrakis and Cthulhu. You desire to use that sweet name you uncovered in the depths of lore you spent hours researching. The one with the Latin root and the Germanic ending, but with the accent of the French. You want to ensure the character’s name has meaning and is central to the plot as an Easter egg for your most enthusiastic, devoted fans.
You name her Amy after all. Amieriel gets hard to type after a while. Is it i before e?
You find the name doesn’t fit. You try different ones on like clothes, writing long paragraphs to test them out. Something just isn’t right. The other characters won’t cooperate. The dialogue doesn’t flow. They stand around the battleground of your imagination, hands on their hips, saying, “Amy? Really? Is that the best you can do?”
You end up using a simple letter to denominate the character’s name so you can keep writing. The most basic thing—a name—can’t stop you, the proficient writer that you are. Yet, 2am creeps around, keeping you up pondering the truth behind a name, mulling over the meaning behind what you call someone you created out of thin air. How can these characters be so defiant, so demanding of your poor brain?
You find the most glorious name of all the names. It means “titan of the dawn.” There’s even lore behind it that ties in with another facet of your tale—hint, it has to do with resurrected split personalities—and then later on down the road when you’re mid-way through your 100th novel revision, Canon comes out with a camera sporting the same name.
Stupid cameras. You’ve come this far. You can’t rename your baby, now. Eos stays.
You utilize names that correspond with legends. You delight in the background of the names. You learn that the main characters in your book end in an “-el” which means “of God.” You find that the one angel who’s been cast from grace, who has become more of an elemental being rather than God’s creation of fire, has lost this important, yet small, name ending, You delight in how the names all seem to fit together, how things begin to come together. You uncover an old martyr, somewhat forgotten, and can’t stop the smile that spreads across your face when you understand the possibilities of a once-minor character. This prince of the realm has so much potential, now.
You pick up baby name books at the grocery store while you wait in line. Sometimes, those standing in line with you will pat you on the back with smiles and you grin back, never thinking for an instant that they might be congratulating you. You’ve just uncovered your next character’s first name—and it fits like a perfect puzzle piece.
About The Falling Dawn: Celestial Scripts Book One
Emerging from the dregs of society to become a celestial warrior, Eos soon becomes immersed in a world of ancient texts and falling angels, tasked to find the sacred Book of Raziel and stop a war in heaven. The secrets of the Book will lead Eos down a path of betrayal, pitting her against those she loves. All the while she must cling to her own crumbling sanity as her psyche is split by the emergence of another entity, heralded by the onset of Eos’ new powers. Soon, Eos finds herself in the clutches of the Master of the Oceans, where she must convince him to give her the sacred book. His price? Her soul.
The Falling Dawn is available online wherever books are sold! Find your copy here.
About Gwendolyn N. Nix
Raised in the wilds of countless library stacks, Gwendolyn N. Nix has forged her skills in writing and science in the shark-infested waters of Belize, by researching neural proteins, inducing evolutionary pressures in green algae, and through the limitless horizons of her own imagination. A born seeker of adventure, she saw her first beached humpback whale on a windy day in New York, met a ghost angel in a Paris train station, and had Odin answer her prayers on a mountain in Scotland. Her short fiction appears in The Sisterhood of the Blade anthology. The Falling Dawn is her first novel. She lives in Missoula, MT.
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her author website, www.gwendolynnix.com.
In addition to wearing the Editor in Chief hat here at Outland Entertainment, I also write about pop culture in enough places that I’ve found it useful to follow the news. While this is particularly relevant for geek news, there are some headliners you just can’t miss. In this case? It’s the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry of Wales and American actress (ret) Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018. While I’d love to get swept up in the romance of the moment, I’m also a fan of mixing my real-world with some SFF—which is why I came up with these four ways to prep (with a side order of geek).
- Watch Meghan Markle’s SFF works
Although she’s best known for her role on USA drama Suits, the princess to be has also dabbled in SFF appearances. She appeared as a guest star on the 2008-09 revival of Knight Rider. Catch her as Annie Ortiz in the episode “Fight Knight.” She also appeared as Junior FBI Agent Amy Jessup on Fringe in the 2009 episodes “A New Day in the Old Town” and “Night of Desirable Objects.” And though this film itself isn’t SFF, Remember Me features Markle with in scenes with star and SFF regular Robert Pattinson.
- Get hooked on Royally Yours
If you love a good prose serial the way I do, the obvious choice for royal wedding prep is the new serial being launched by in tandem Serial Box and Rakuten Kobo, Royally Yours, which launched May 2. This six-part feel-good romance mini series intertwines relationships of several different characters in the style of Love, Actually as a fictional royal wedding takes center stage. The serial is created by a team of writers, including Megan Frampton, Kwana Jackson, Liz Maverick, Kate McMurray, and Falguni Kothari, in a television-like environment.
- Get the latest on podcast Spilling Royal Tea
If you’re more interested in the real-time news TMZ style, you can tune in to Sean Mandell (TMZ) and Craig Robert Young (British actor) as they cover the latest wedding developments and put them in a historical perspective. Are Harry and Meghan sticking with tradition or striking it out on their own? Sean and Craig answer the questions with commentary in every episode of Spilling Royal Tea. Episodes drop every Thursday until the May 19 wedding celebration, and the series is very bingeable. There’s a “Best of” playlist through Spoke, where you can check out the season’s highlights. Of particular interest for our readers might be “Old Royal Weddings Were Shady AF,” because sometimes the real world totally beats fiction when it comes to being ridiculous.
- Check out the best SFF royal (and seriously cool) weddings
If you’re not really following the upcoming nuptials, but the romance puts you in the mood to revisit other happy couples, it might be time to reread or rewatch some excellent weddings from SFF favorites. I wrote an article for Den of Geek that’s chock full of suggestions (and summaries), but here are a few I didn’t fit into that post:
- Pick up that classic princess bride story, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, or rewatch the classic film. “Mawwiage… Mawwiage is what bwings us togeva today…”
- Worf and Jadzia Dax’s wedding plans don’t always go smoothly in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 season 6 episode “You Are Cordially Invited,” but even though the Klingons aren’t initially a big fan of Dax, by the end, even the staunchest opponents from Worf’s House welcomed Dax into the family.
- Another Star Trek couple married in Voyager season 7 episode “Drive”: Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres.
- While this one doesn’t last, it’s always fun to return to the Firefly episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds.” There’s a sweet ceremony in which Captain Mal unknowingly gets married to con-artist Saffron, making for great comedy while endangering the whole crew.
What are your favorite SFF weddings? Give us a shout out on social media and let us know!