Sunday, April 9, 2017

Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I queued this book shortly after the election, although I had heard of it years ago and had planned to read it. I decided it had to be one of the books in my PopSugar Reading Challenge for 2017, even though I did not know where it would fit. Having read it, I will be using it for the "unreliable narrator" category.

The first thing that stuck out for me was how much the author explored the origins of the dystopian world. This feels unusual. In most dystonia stories I've read the setting is long after the transition (Brave New World, Hunger Games) and no one alive experienced the old world first hand. Offred was already an adult before the fall of the United States and the rise of Gilead. She clearly remembers the way things used to be. For me, this made the world of Gilead feel more real. We don't skip the transition, the narrator recounts it for us to the best of her ability.

Its easy to sympathize with the narrator, an intelligent and educated woman forced into a position where all intellectual pursuits are denied her. The author grounds everything that occurs in Gilead in historical precedent, creating a terrifyingly real world.

Slight spoiler-
The story ends rather abruptly. But, I actually like the way the author wraps it up in the form of an academic lecture. The ending reinforces the idea that the status quo is always changing. Even Gilead will not last.

I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Flash! Friday entry for 8/1/2014: Schism

On August 1st of 2014, the leaders of Flash!Fiction gave us this image and the word "Freedom". My story follows.
berlijncommewijne
Schism
“300 feet or so,” I told Sara, “about the length of a football field.” I can’t believe I still think like that. I haven’t seen a football game, in over a decade. Organized sporting events quickly gave way to combat training and sparring, after the start of the Schism War.
I glanced back to Sara. She usually rolled her eyes, whenever I made a reference to something from the pre-war era, a world that had ended, before she had been born. Instead, she kept her eyes on the far shore, as it disappeared, below the horizon.
The land we approached was overgrown, and the only structures were degraded, but I knew, somewhere, in the distance, was civilization. We’d have to avoid Canadian authorities, and find stable work, but we’d be free of the warring sovereign states, the endless Schism War.
Sara didn’t understand though, and probably never would. She just stared back, silently, at the only existence she’d ever known.

You can read the other contest entries Here

Thursday, November 3, 2016

NaNoWriMo and Book Covers

We're now a couple days into National Novel Writing Month, an annual challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I've completed the challenge for the last four years and have served as my region's municipal liaison for the last three. We are told that participants who complete their novel profile on the challenge website are more likely to win and to finish their novels. So as part of my pre-writing (a.k.a. procrastination) I created covers for the novel I planned to write.
The story revolves around a gay dating app that becomes the platform for a resistance movement in a future where support for the LGBT community disappears. I imagined the cover would feature a smartphone displaying the app's icon.
The first version was completed on Microsoft Paint with clip-art and the paint feature. I was pretty happy with it, but Paint has a tendency to reduce the quality of images if you look at it wrong. Beck Muth, a writer in my NaNoWriMo region, suggested using Canva, a website for editing images. It had templates for crating book covers and in very little time I created the second version of my cover. I wondered how it would look if I added pictures in a grid, like a dating app might display, so I took some free images from Pixabay.com and pieced together the third version.


So, what do you think? Do any of them peak your curiosity enough that you'd flip it over and read the blurb or maybe download a sample onto your e-reader? I appreciate an feedback.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Flash! Friday Entry for 3/27/2016: Blazing a Trail

On March 27th, 2015 this picture was the Flash!Friday prompt:


We were given 200 works within a ten-word leeway. The story I wrote is very relevant to current events.

Blazing a Trail

At first, the grayscale image was just a blur. Pictures took a surprisingly long time to load in her new office, probably, because of the gauntlet of firewalls they had to pass through. After a moment, the image resolved.

Rachel stifled a laugh. Then, remembering that she was alone in her office, she laughed openly. The clothing was so antiquated, especially in contrast to the black suit and pencil skirt she was wearing.

She looked over the women’s faces. Only half of them even noticed the camera, before the photo had been captured. 1911, she thought, long before digital photography and selfies. Looking at the camera, or not, all the women were focused and resolute. They were prepared for the task that was about to be set before them.

If these women could blaze a trail, so could she. The knot in her stomach began to ease for the first time since the official tally had been announced.

Rachel took a breath and pushed back her desk chair. She chose to follow along the curved office wall, rather than step across the presidential seal on the floor. She took one last moment to gather her courage, then left the safety of the closed room. The torrent of press awaited.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 Horror Films 31 Days, Part 2

Here's the next set of movies I watched this October...

#6 The Ring
This is probably the horror movie I’ve heard the most about before seeing it. I remember seeing the trailers when it came out. I also remember kids in my CCD class discussing, and spoiling, the ending. I did like the moral dilemma proposed at the end. Usually, you learn the rules early or about halfway through a story. In The Ring, they are not explained until the end. I plan to watch the sequels, despite mixed reviews, because i want to explore the consequences of these rules further.

#7 The Haunting in Connecticut
This looked terrible, but I watched it because the events that inspired the movie were discussed on the Monster Talk podcast. Oddly enough, the movie strays far from the paranormal events described by the original family. I guess Hollywood decided corpses in the walls and possessed children would make for a better movie than ghost sodomy.

#8 Nightbreed
This movie is basically the Morlocks from the X-Men. Apparently, the version I saw and Netflix has the alternate ending. If you’ve seen Hellraiser, you’ll pick up on similarities in tone and the style of the effects.

#9 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
My brain was not designed to watch a silent film. That is no reflection on the movie, just on my attention span. I did find the movie interesting as a glimpse into the psychology of pre-WWII Germany.

#10 The Purge
Like any Millennial, I love a dystopian story. The set up poses and interesting “What if?”. Then follows it up by forcing us to ask ourselves “What would we do?”.

#11 The Blob (1988)
When I think of The Blob, I think of cheesy 50s horror. I think of the movie playing in the background while Danny laments losing Sandy at the drive-in. This, however, is the late-80s remake. Its surprisingly gory and not afraid to kill off characters that I thought would be safe. They even throw in a Cold War-era moral to boot.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Horror Films 31 Days, Part 1

In my last post, I explained my poor familiarity with culturally significant movies. Last October, in order to address this, I started participating the the 31 Horror Films 31 Days Challenge. I don’t use any formal rules, but I stick to films I have not previously seen. The movie choices are somewhat eclectic: prequels, sequels, and reboots in no particular order. Last year I watched the first three Scream movies in order, but only the first Friday the 13th. In the next few posts I’ll list the movies I watch this month and give just a few sentences on my opinion.

#1 The Re-Animator
Bloody and campy- a great place to start.  Definitely a “so bad it's good” kind of movie, from the decapitated body holding its own head that looked like a costume that would show up on your porch asking for candy to the villain's mind control powers that appear out of nowhere.

#2 The Amityville Horror (2005)
So much beige. We get it. It was the 70s. This was Chosen for three reasons: it was on Netflix, I’d heard of it before, shirtless Ryan Reynolds.

#3 Cell
This movie represents a rare occurrence. I actually read the book before watching the movie. I finished the book off last year so that I’d be ready to watch the movie when it came out... and that was the last word I heard on the subject until I started scouting Redbox for horror films to watch this month. Apparently the movie was released straight to DVD- surprising since it has several big names and was a King novel. I get it though, he final product was not great.

#4 The Legend of Boggy Creek
I picked this one because it was recommended by the hosts of the Monster Talk podcast. I was fascinated by the idea of a horror docudrama. The film was obviously made on a small budget, but doesn’t suffer for it. It's a seemingly honest depiction of a small town gripped with fear of something lurking in the shadows.

#5 The Mist
Stephen King often alludes to another realm full of monsters. Last October I read his short story N, the only short story that has legitimately scared me. In it, a man loses his sanity as he tries desperately to keep the barrier between our world and the monster realm in place. The Mist shows us what the characters in King’s other works were trying to avoid. The monster realm leaks into our own universe in the form of a thick mist. The ending left me a bit shaken, and I’m still unsure how I feel about it.

That's 5 of 31. Stay tuned for more...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Writing Group and Movie Ignorance

Friends in my writing group have recently taken me to task for my poor familiarity with popular movies. This is not a new revelation. I’ve always unconsciously thought of movies as a social thing and usually only watch them with another person. If I’m alone, I’ll opt for a TV series. I’m frequently met with shock when I confess to having not seen someone’s favorite movie.


The subject of this particular meeting was the “plot twist”. I outed myself because I had to keep asking people not to spoil the twists for me. My friend, Becky of www.BeckyMuth.com, took it upon herself to compile a list of movies with plot twists that I needed to see forthwith:


The Shining
Six Sense
Fight Club
Primal Fear
The Village
The Exorcist
Rear Window
Fright Night
Cujo
Psycho
Silence of the Lambs
The Leprechaun
Pan’s Labyrinth
Identity
Shutter


She then set about publicly shaming me in a scathing blog post about my movie ignorance. That post can be found here: Anthony Does Not Watch Movies



She was quite right to do so. I fully acknowledge this is no small sin for someone who wishes to make a living by writing fiction. Some of these movies are integral to modern popular culture.


And yet, there is hope. I not have a job with a lot of downtime so I am able to remedy this situation. I’ll discuss one step I’ve taken in my next post. If you have any movie suggestions that I can’t get away with not seeing, please comment below.