Should Old Acquaintance (and 2017) Be Forgot…

2017.

Yeah. We all know where this is going, right?

I wasn’t even sure if I was going to bother with an end-of-the-year post this year. Yet, here I am, mostly out of a sense of obligation: I pay for this site, and I’ve barely used it this year, and that (like so much else) needs to change.

I’m certainly not sure that I have much to say here beyond what many others have confirmed: this was a rough one. We thought 2016 was bad — losing beloved artists, and the gut-punch of the worst third of our nation saddling the world with a fascist government in America.

2017 was worse. We can now all say with certainty that we know what it’s like to live through an entire country having a nervous breakdown. It turns out that having the fight-or-flight response of our brains constantly firing through out an entire year isn’t good for us. Outrage after outrage, constant, desperate pleading with our elected representatives to not destroy our health care, our incomes, our lives. It takes a toll.

Every colleague I have whose job involves creative endeavor — books, games, comics, music, art — all reported the same thing. They dragged through this year, barely able to produce. Constantly in existential dread of what they’d lose next. Daily worry about just staying alive. Through it all, the barbaric minority brayed their triumph, even when the government they inflicted upon us enacted policies which kicked *them* in the face, too — they sneered through the bloody, broken ruins of their mouths, taking their pleasure in the fact that WE were hurting. And the media continued their ridiculous assertion that we need to somehow reach out and try to understand that kind of unreasoning hatred.

It would be easy for me to assemble a list of the violations of this past year, and the people that have been lost. Far too easy.

As I sit here, I instead try to summon up those things which were shining stars of happiness in the darkness of 2017. Another year cancer-free. My younger daughter’s wedding. Getting the opportunity to do official work on properties which shaped me as a child — Star Wars and Star Trek. My eldest starting her career with a prestigious law firm. Continued progress, through the invaluable support of my business partner Eric Trautmann in getting our publishing operation, Adamant Entertainment, back on track with regular releases. Being able to help my son figure things out.

In a lot of ways, just making it through the year seems like no small triumph.

A line in Star Wars: The Last Jedi sums up my feelings about the past few years, and the future: “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.”

I have plans — I guess they could even be considered resolutions — for 2018. But generally, I prefer to think of them as hopes. Hoping that things work out. Hoping that my resolve to accomplish things stays strong at a time when the world seems to batter down our defenses daily. To fuel that resolve, I’m taking the fact that we made it through 2017. To look 2018 in the eye, and say “I faced down worse than you.”

Last year, I said that I was taking David Bowie as my Patron Saint for the year, as a reminder to never stop creating. I didn’t stop — although I certainly didn’t accomplish everything that I wanted to. But I kept treading water, and didn’t drown. This year, though, I need to do more than that. Getting through isn’t enough. To reclaim some sense of normalcy — personally, professionally, politically — will require that we be heroes. To actively drive back the dark. We spent a year on the ropes, covering up and taking the punches. Now we come out swinging.

Here’s to 2018, everyone. Get ready.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgcc5V9Hu3g

The Traditional Christmas Post

Christmas, 1939, in Lawrence, Kansas

We all have our traditions — this has been one of mine since I started blogging, fifteen years ago.

A quote from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which sums up my feelings regarding the holiday:

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round — apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that — as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

One of the greatest achievements of Dickens’ classic is the nearly single-handed creation of a sense of reverence in the secular aspects of the holiday season — a celebration of love, family, fellowship and charity, appealing to everyone regardless of their faith. A call to treat each other better, and to value the relationships that connect us to one another. That’s powerful magic.

Merry Christmas, all.

(Photo: Downtown Lawrence, Kansas — Christmas, 1939.)

Star Trek: Discovery – Initial Reactions

SPOILERS MAY APPEAR.

Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in the Fall of my Freshman year in college. I missed the first airing, but watched a VHS copy with my roommate, David Melton, a couple of days later.

For the premiere of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, there was a watch party at my friend Matt Harrop’s place. I remember mostly being annoyed that, while NextGen used Goldsmith’s title music for Star Trek: The Motion Picture as it’s theme music, DS9 did NOT use Horner’s brilliant main theme from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, my all-time favorite piece of music from the franchise. (I was pre-disposed, even as a Trek fan, to dislike DS9 at the time, as I felt that it was a blatant lift of the concept of Babylon 5, a show that I was hugely into.)

When Star Trek: Voyager premiered, the watch party was at my place. I wasn’t that impressed. I ended up barely watching (only finally going through the whole series via Netflix a few years ago).

I don’t remember watching the premiere of Enterprise, and didn’t really watch the show (another gap that I addressed via Netflix fairly recently).

So here we are, at the premiere of another Trek. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure where I am on this one. I’ll give it more time (I mean, hell, I Netflixed Enterprise fer chrissakes), but I’ll admit that my problems outweigh my interest, at least so far.

First, I remain irritated that CBS keeps Trek looking backward, instead of forward. There seems to be NO reason to set Star Trek: Discovery in the past of the franchise, and, in fact, as I said to Laura this morning, if they’d set it in the future of the Prime universe, decades after the destruction of Romulus (the last event mentioned canonically occurring in the main setting), it would eliminate pretty much all of my canonicity nitpicks: the tech designs, the look of the uniforms, even the new design of the Klingons. (Tell me that the Klingons now have shed the last of the Augment Virus, and this is what they really look like, and I’m there.)

Second: The writing. Flat as hell. Lots of characters telling each other things that they already know. A ridiculous amount of info-dumping exposition in the form of subtitled fucking Klingonese (seriously?). Worst yet, two episodes spent telling very little story at all. I’m sorry, but in the age of Game of Thrones, The Expanse, and Westworld, that’s just not good enough.

(Also: I saw a comment by a friend this morning where she said that if this was Kirk and Spock, Kirk would’ve come out of the ready room, and ordered the attack — trusting that if Spock had taken so serious an action as mutiny, he had to be sure of his reasoning. Yeah, I never got the “we’ve served together for 7 years” level of connection that we’re supposed to between Captain Georgiou and Commander Burnham.)

The music — doesn’t really do anything for me. I love the re-apperance of the Alexander Courage “call to action” fanfare, but generally, the opening music is just meandering staccato strings which go nowhere. Coupled with the “production design” style opening, and I’m immediately drawn to make comparison to HBO’s Westworld.

Lastly — I suspected, given things I’d heard, that people praising the presence of Michelle Yeoh were going to be disappointed by what I’d assumed (correctly) to be her fate… but I have to say that launching a series with two women of color as leads, only to end the pilot with one dead (soon to be replaced with a white guy as Captain) and the other being stripped of her accomplishments and position, and headed to prison? Comes off as massively tone deaf on the part of the producers.

But we’ll see where it goes. Trek has always had weak pilots — hell, weak early seasons, for that matter — so hopefully it improves.