Tag Archives: writing

Star Trek Movie Commentaries!

This week I watched commentaries for the first six Star Trek movies, the ones with the original cast. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be watching The Next Generation, but I suddenly realized I’d been sitting on collector’s editions of the movies from 2004 and had never even checked to see what kind of special features they had. Turns out a lot of behind-the-scenes documentaries, but also commentaries for each movie, which my fellow fans might find interesting. Summaries first, then overall thoughts:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture: Commentary with director Robert Wise, special photographic effects director Douglas Trumbull, effects supervisor John Dykstra, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and Stephen Collins (who played Decker). This commentary is almost entirely about special effects and how things were created. This is presumably a combined result of the commentator choices and the movie itself, but it’s just not that interesting unless you’re a budding effects wizard. They’re basically silent during any character conversations, which strikes me as more of a “meh, waiting for more effects to talk about” than a stylistic choice. That itself is more interesting as the movie progresses though, because that is really what this movie was about. It made me appreciate the beauty of the designs and the time they took, even if the overall movie ended up, er, bad.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: I knew seconds into this commentary that it was going to be way better than the first one. It’s just director Nicholas Meyer on his own, so it’s much more chill and relaxed, but also much more revelatory. At times it sounds like a rambling monologue, and yet it’s all supremely relevant to what’s onscreen and how the movie became what it is, demonstrating again why Meyer’s are the great Trek movies but also extending beyond them in significance. He’s talking about the movie, but the commentary gradually becomes an extended meditation on writing and how to put a story together, and its brilliant.

 

nicholas-meyer-leaonrd-nimoy-william-shatner

Nicholas Meyer, Leonard Nimoy, and William Shatner on the Wrath of Khan set.

 

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Commentary by Leonard Nimoy, producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis (the second Saavik actress). It’s a relaxed chat about the movie, but I don’t think they were talking to each other, it sounds more like they recorded statements independently. The main focus was on how they managed to make the movie on their budget, with a sub-theme of the characters’ motivations and how the actors worked. So, most of the information I already knew from Leonard Nimoy’s memoirs, but it was nice to hear him talk about the movie.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Ah, this is Nimoy and Shatner in the same room watching the movie, so it’s a pleasure. They jog each other’s memories of what word they’re looking for, they laugh at jokes in the movie, they express their feelings at watching DeForest Kelley after his death. They share some behind-the-scenes stories and insights into filming, but they’re also quiet for a lot of the movie, and it creates a kind of intimacy. I just love how entertained they still were at the humor here.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: This is William Shatner and his daughter Lisabeth, who served as his chronicler during the making of the movie. They mostly just describe what they see onscreen, and the tone here is much different from Voyage. Frequently Lisabeth reminds Shatner of a story or anecdote, and he just repeats what she says. I did, at a few moments, get a glimpse of the movie Shatner wanted to have made, and knew he hadn’t, and there’s something very poignant in that, especially combined with the “forgetful older man” dynamic he’s showing in the conversation, but otherwise there’s not much insight here.

 

William and Lisabeth Shatner

William and Lisabeth Shatner, in this case discussing Star Wars.

 

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryBack to Nicholas Meyer, this time with his co-screenwriter Denny Flinn. So, there’s some of the pleasure and depth from Wrath of Khan, but a little more chat. I also enjoyed getting more details about the then-contemporary political allusions, because while I can follow “this is the Cold War and the Klingons are the Russians,” they actually had a few more layers and references that I didn’t catch because I wasn’t alive when that was the news, so it was cool to hear those and see how they added those resonances to a sci-fi plot with existing characters. Neither of them knew much about Trek before they got started, so their thoughts on writing longstanding characters, and now characters who aren’t young anymore, was really interesting.

In this collection — which is sometimes expensive but can also be found cheaply if you strike at the right time — Meyer’s Wrath of Khan commentary is absolutely the standout. The Undiscovered Country is a great complement to it, and The Voyage Home is a pleasure. The other three aren’t terribly compelling on their own, but I did enjoy watching them all as a unit. I especially noticed the difference between Meyer’s “constraints make the work better” attitude and the other directors’ litanies of what they couldn’t afford, and I’m fascinated by the way the commentaries matched up to the movies in terms of tone. Overly effects-laden and kinda boring, brilliant, technically good but not transcendent, funny and a bit touching, sad, and brilliant but a bit chattier. That’s the cycle of the movies, too.

These aren’t must-watches, certainly, although I recommend that second commentary to everyone. But if you’re a fan, I think you’ll appreciate the experience.

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A Pause, A Reflection

Happy Birthday to me!

It’s my birthday, and has become our tradition, I am just writing whatever I want for my birthday. Which, as has been fairly pointed out, isn’t much different from any other day of the year.

Except lately, it is different. A little while back, I finally broke down, gave in, and stopped putting out articles, blog posts, and fillers, on a daily basis. I was keeping the dream alive, but with Holly dealing with pregnancy, and one by one our contributors having other parts of life to contend with, it was down largely to me – and I wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

It being my birthday, I am in particular doing the sort of “what am I doing it for and what are we accomplishing by it?” thinking that comes with the passage of time. It’s a reflective time.


I wanted to get started with Comparative Geeks – something we did back in January 2013 – to get myself into a regular habit of writing. Here more recently, however, the focus had fallen onto the “regular” part of the equation, rather than the “writing” part. I honestly haven’t written much of anything resembling an essay in some time, and my poor webcomic has languored since March.

Since we’re hitting a big reset moment here soon – with a baby expected in a month’s time, and us planning to take the end of the year off from the site – the questions I’m asking myself are really, what do I plan on doing when we come back in January?

The pop culture and geek culture stuff that we talk about was always about the content. It’s served us well all this time, it’s what we consume, what we’re interested in. At this point, our consumption is way down, and I think our two podcasts are covering that nicely. We’re consuming far more news than content, for instance, and Week in Geek gives us a nice outlet to talk about the stories of the week. Meanwhile, for more topic-driven and review-based content, Comparative Opinions is a lot of fun to do, and it matches roughly our current ability to consume the culture and commentate on it!

What’s funny, though, is that while these podcasts have been accomplishing the goals of Comparative Geeks, they still haven’t been meeting my writing goal.

And when you get down to it, the writing goal is about content creation, about me taking some of my stories and getting them out there. In the long decision making process of choosing whether I’d prefer to pursue non-fiction or fiction, I leaned to fiction, and I need to get back to that. I’ve missed it.

So if we’re back in January as mainly 2 podcasts a week, an ongoing webcomic story, and the occasional essay or review post, with the occasional piece by contributors, I think the biggest thing is just to feel okay with that. Being happy with what you are doing in life has a lot to do with setting expectations, and I’m currently dealing with changing expectations.

And that’s okay. Because pushing this further to pursue what I want out of it – rather than enforcing some sense of what “ought” to be happening – should lead to something better for everyone.


In closing, I want to say that I don’t tend to think that we – people, humans, individuals, societies – ever have to “peak.” We can be constantly improving, constantly bettering ourselves. Nonetheless, as a personal thought that isn’t quite in line with conventional wisdom, there’s plenty of doubt. But hey, sometimes that doubt is a great song, so it’s worth it, right?

Update on the Astral Chronicles

Hello faithful readers! I wanted to give an update on the Astral Chronicles, since I’ve been spotty on updating it recently. Even though I know the story and know where it’s going, it can take quite a while to go from “this is what needs to happen” to visual concept to something-I-don’t-hate drawn to “inking” it via tablet to piecing together a full page to published.

I could list a whole lot of things that have been standing in the way of me feeling like I have that sort of time, and without feeling I have the time, I don’t seem to even start the process. I won’t bore you with excuses. But at other times, I’ve had weeks of art drawn and story crafted. I’d like to get back to that, which might mean taking a short hiatus on posting any of it – rather than posting every other week or randomly like I have been.

Also, because I have the story pretty well sorted, and because I would like to progress the story faster than a page-a-week has allowed for, I am considering going to two posts a week instead of just the one. This might lead to me changing up my process a little bit, and I also feel like it might simultaneously lead to slightly less quality in the art (not that such would be noticeable) and slightly better quality in the art because I would be working on it more. But I’m also wondering if I can move the “inking” step to actual paper… my problem was that my technology at hand wasn’t working well for converting sketches into inked finals, short of doing so digitally.

Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking. Short hiatus, coming back with a vengeance, all that. I’m sorry I’m not breaking at a chapter end! Also, I would like to integrate in a webcomics functionality to the site, so that it’s easier to navigate through the story from page to page. Time to step this up!

So let me know in the comments below – what would you like to see from me for the Astral Chronicles? Any questions or advice on my process? Favorite plugins for comics? Talk to me, dear readers!

The Astral Chronicles – an Introduction

Hello and welcome to the Astral Chronicles! Before diving into the story, I thought I would give a bit of a history and an introduction.

A Little History

What has become the Astral Chronicles began as a successful NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) story, as in, I made it to 50,000 words. Immediately afterwards, as I imagine a lot of NaNoWriMo authors do, I reflected back on my large body of work and realized, though I had met my storytelling goal, I had done so with a minimum of characters and without fleshing out the world much. I proceeded to start to do so…

That was in 2003.

Since then, I have been world-building. Brainstorming. The story became the setting for a D&D campaign I ran. It grew and blossomed and changed some. I have an outline. The characters I had originally written about became secondary characters – very early on I thought up a new main character.

Somewhere in there, I started blogging, too. And got back into reading comics. Met a bunch of writers and great people online. Looked at what they were doing, what I was doing, wondering about writing. Because writing is why I got into blogging, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do… but I’ve realized, even more than that, I think maybe writing comics is what I want to do.

Unfortunately, that also includes drawing comics, or at least it means so for me right now without an artist to back this project up. I had not drawn for a long time when I picked it back up to explore doing this story as a comic. I’ve explored working with technology a bit. I’ve sketched and doodled. Is it perfect? No. Great? I dunno. Mine? Yes. And having my own style for it is at least something I can bring to the table.

Now that we have a full website where housing a webcomic makes sense, it seemed like the time to finally get this started. I’m aiming for one a week, and looking at Thursdays for that. If there’s enough support and call for it, I could work on expanding that over time.

So that’s where I’m at now – a decent story, a number of characters and settings, and for now you’re stuck with my drawing (which should improve with time!). Which means now, let me tell you a bit about that setting and story!

An Introduction

The Astral Chronicles began its life with me wondering what it could be like to explore the whole history of a world, from a fantasy beginning and towards a more modern and even science fiction later period. To tease a bit about how I was accomplishing this, the working title originally was Immortal Coil

The story opens in a modern-day sort of setting, but it is not our world. There are similarities – and there are differences. There’s a whole group of characters to meet, then, centered around a place – Astral. That word, astral, has a lot to do with the psychic and the thought of another plane of reality, and that is no mistake! The thing that’s maybe hardest to say in the work itself, so I guess I’ll say it here: this is a society with a mild level of psychic ability, that people are born with, and that as a thing is taken for granted in the same way we might take something like an opposable thumb for granted. So especially for technology, we have interfaces and such that interact in a certain way, and they would have a different way of interacting.

I also think there are things I want the audience to know that society in general does not know, because the audience is going to be getting to see the whole history – while in the modern day, much of that history has been lost. As such, you have both science and religion trying to find and present their view on what that history is and was. I wanted that tension as well, the thought that science and religion might both have some good points – and that they both might have some things wrong and some prejudices that are going to cause trouble.

I hope you enjoy! I’ll be happy to join in conversation and to take critiques. I’m sure I will improve with time, but the time to get started is now – so check back next week for the beginning of the Astral Chronicles.

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I’m One Year Closer to 30, and the Fear of Failure

The tradition here at Comparative Geeks is to write whatever we want on our birthdays, and today is mine! When David first mentioned this tradition to me, I felt instantly overwhelmed with what I wanted to write about. Did  I want to discuss my reaction to the news of the Xena reboot and its part in continuing the trend of bisexual erasure in our culture? Did I want to talk about how I’ve been reliving a huge part of my adolescence by revisiting my favorite Final Fantasy games? I figured I can cover those later, they’re not necessarily birthday-worthy material.

Instead I realized that the way I treat this blog, personally, is an outlet for my need to write. It’s been a way for me to give myself a weekly deadline and force myself to sit down and write at least something, even if it’s just an analysis of the last thing I binge watched on Netflix. I’ve been taking the last five months, almost six, off of working so that I can focus on writing. So that I can give my stories an actual chance to turn into something. Writing for Comparative Geeks has been an awesome way for me to make sure that once a week, I’m at least writing one thing, which should hopefully keep me fresh, which should hopefully lead to writing more.

Over time, though, it’s become the only thing I’m writing each week. I had a breakthrough a month or so ago in the writer’s block I was suffering from, and I thought that would mean more work on the story I was pursuing. But the breakthrough just led to crippling doubt and anxiety. And more writer’s block. Which leads to less writing, even here.

This essentially sums up my weekend so far:

Which is funny, because I’m currently feeling like I’m continuing the existential crisis I started to go through last year when I turned 25 (or as I kept saying to myself, 1/4 of a century). I thought I’d already had a quarter life crisis, when I completely changed my life plan right as I was graduating college and gave up on my plan of moving to Hollywood to be a director. I realized too late that wasn’t what I really wanted.

Last year, though, was even more challenging than anything I’d been through, and made me realize the awful fact that we spend our lives trying to avoid: we’re only temporary. In the face of parental health issues and beginning my very adult life with my husband in a new state, I found myself faced with my mortality in a very real way. A way that challenged how I was living my life and treating my health, a way that challenged what I was doing with my time, and a way that challenged what my overall goals were for my life.

This year more than ever, I’m finally taking my age seriously. I’m taking my health seriously, and no longer living the bartender lifestyle of subsisting off of coffee, booze, and fries. I want to start taking my time more seriously, too, but that’s actually harder than focusing on health. It’s taken me a while to figure out why, but I’ve realized I’m paralyzed by fear.

Fear of wasting my time, wasting my life, fear of failing…but also fear of succeeding. Honestly, I can’t decide which is more terrifying. Finishing a book and either having it rejected or flop, or finishing a book and having it be a success. Because after success, you’re expected to keep writing. What if your next book isn’t a success? Or, what if it is and then you have to write a third? A fourth? My fear of failure is almost paralleled with my fear of success. Once your writing is out there, it feels like a very personal part of you is being shared and dissected by the public. I figured out that thrilling and terrifying reality when I started sharing my writing more publicly, both here and at Lacuna Loft. When I saw that one of my posts was quoted by a stranger on Twitter, I was elated. And oddly that elation lent itself to the fear. It’s the oddest feeling, which I cannot describe fully.

I guess this birthday I’m wondering if it’s worth it. Maybe I’m like too many other Millenials who are questioning whether or not our life should be defined by our work. I’d much rather spend time with my loved ones, enjoying all of the things I like to do than slave away at a job. Because life is short and I’d rather do my best to enjoy every minute of it. Maybe a part of me is concerned that I’ll lose that time if I succeed at writing. Or maybe I’m just overthinking everything (that happens, a lot). My goal this year is to finish a draft of a novel. I suppose if I can achieve that goal, what I do with that novel after is up to me.

For today, though, I think I’ll just ignore my self doubt and appreciate all the birthday love. And mimosas. Because life is always better fueled by mimosas.