Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CSFF Tour - Faery Rebels Wrap-up

I wanted to get a few more words in about this month's CSFF Tour feature - Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson.

The tours can be interesting. Sometimes we have a book that has a mixed reception. Some of the members like it, and others don't. We have had occasions where the book had lukewarm reception across the board. We've had good debates about all of this.

And sometimes we have consensus that a book is pretty doggone good.

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter seems to be the latter. I missed out on it somehow, but I've watched the other tour members because I was intrigued about this when it was brought up as a possibility for the tour. I especially watched for the reaction of some of our "manly men".

Everyone has had positive reviews of it. The story and characters have been consistently praised. The themes are also noted, although a few folks have wondered where this book comes under a "Christian" label. The consensus appears to be that it is not overtly Christian, but that there are themes of self-sacrifice, especially for those with eyes to see.

I am interested in picking this one up and catching up with what I missed! If you want more about the book from people who actually read the thing, check out this post, as it lists all the participants in one spot.

I'll catch up on the next tour!

Monday, March 22, 2010

CSFF Tour - Faery Rebels

After an unusual month hiatus (in which the secret Narnian overlords of Zeta Prime gave a conference to our members), the Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy (CSFF) tour returns with our latest feature book: Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter. The book is sold as Knife in the UK.

The book talks about a young faery Bryony who is altogether too curious about the dangerous world away from the faery folk. Especially those most risky creatures - humans!

When the faery colony is under risk of extinction due to the sickness called The Silence, Bryony ends up building a relationship with one of the very creatures blamed for the cursed illness, a boy named Paul.

Somehow I didn't end up getting a review copy, and I didn't realize it in time to pick up a copy and review it myself. I may have to get it still. So far some of the manly men of the CSFF (John, Fred, Stacey Dale's husband) are coming out saying they really enjoyed it. So a real man can enjoy a faery book now and again. The book also has mostly positive reviews at Amazon, with many 5 stars, some 4 stars, and only a few 3 stars with nothing lower. That's usually a sign of a good story!

Unfortunately I don't have much more insight at this point. I'll see if I can find something useful to contribute further to the tour. Or even non-useful but fun and distracting. Either way, you can find out more at the author's website, blog, or by twittering with her on Twitter.

And of course there are my intrepid tourmates below, some of them with actual constructive things to say! Be sure to say Jason sent you, that way I get a little credit! Becky Miller always keeps track of those who post through the tour, so she is always a good place to stop.

Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Amy Browning
Melissa Carswell
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Jason Isbell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Mass"-ive Storytelling

In my last post I gave a couple of highlights from a podcast featuring author Dick Staub and film producer Ralph Winter. They talked about a world shown in film (but applicable to novels) that draws in the viewer so much that they would want to live in and explore it. That was a quality of a great movie.

Storytelling has evolved from fire-side epics, to the written word, to immersive 3-D visual films. But what if you could watch AND interact in the story?

An example of a new possibility in storytelling is in the world of video games. I don't think Pong had much of a backstory, but all games nowadays do. However, few offer the type of experience that comes from Mass Effect 2, from BioWare.

Obviously video games have an aspect of interactivity, since the gamer controls the main character. There are also limitations, as the gamer can only do things that are within the parameters of programming.

BioWare has been known for producing some of the highest quality role-playing games (RPG's) in the last decade, including the award-winning Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR). They have been able to evolve the storytelling mechanism to new heights with Mass Effect 2.

The game is a science fiction story where humanity has just recently joined the galactic community by discovering old technology called Mass Relays created by an ancient race. You control Commander Shepard, a human (either male or female) who is Earth's finest soldier, and the first human inductee into the special unit of Spectres, a group that is the Galactic Council's personal force to deal with situations.

The storyline through the first two games is epic, and isn't necessarily the scope of this post. I also don't intend this as a review. The game is listed as Mature, and it definitely has areas that people need to use discernment concerning violence, morality, and how it is played.

My point is the excellent use of storytelling to elevate the game from an exciting action-based shooter (which it is) or a standard RPG where one builds a character up throughout the game (which it is as well, perhaps more so in ME1 compared to the second). The point is that the developers have enabled the gamer to feel like they fully own what Shepard does throughout the series.

BioWare has long tried to explore choices and their consequences, back to KotOR where a player's choices would push the main Jedi character either to the Light or Dark Side of the Force. They've managed a new level in Mass Effect. The gamer can choose to have their Shepard to be a Paragon of virtue, a Renegade willing to do whatever it takes to achieve a goal, or somewhere in between.

In the midst of these choices, it drives how the story unfolds. The supporting characters, especially in ME2, are well-written and rounded personalities with their own strengths and hang-ups. Shepard's interactions drive how they respond, whether they are loyal to the player or not. If a character dies, there are consequences. If you were kind or mean to a secondary character, that can come back to haunt or help. The plot of the game can be altered, up to a certain framework, depending on choices made.

Overall, the settings, missions, and characters make it a unique universe that is immersive and very enjoyable. The alien scientist Mordin became my favorite. He was involved with a very questionable moral decision in his past, and Shepard has to work with him to deal with it. As Shepard I can support it or condemn it, and Mordin wrestles with his decision in such a way that I felt it. He didn't make a giant, easy flip to my point of view, but there was nuance in how he reacted.

The biggest development can be in how Shepard develops, if the player so chooses (definitely players can be calloused and just be in it for the blasting). It makes the story immersive. It creates an intriguing world. I have always been a Star Wars fan, since my childhood. I think the Mass Effect universe has actually supplanted the galaxy far, far away as my favorite sci-fi destination.

I'm not trying to just blow sunshine and rainbows at BioWare. I have a few issues with how some things are handled. Still, the game is an example of what quality writing can do for any medium, be it film, novels, television, or games.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Art of Storytelling

I've mentioned Dick Staub and his podcasts on Kindlings Muse - a discussion of art and faith. He had a recent interview with Ralph Winter, who is a Hollywood producer. He's worked on several highly successful films, such as X-Men 1 and 2. He is also a Christian who has managed to have a long career in Hollywood though the ups and downs of the "culture war".

You can listen to the whole interview here. I just wanted to pull out a couple of points they talk about regarding the art of storytelling.

Ralph is talking about screenplays in particular, but he talks about the importance of knowing who the hero is, and how the most powerful moment in the movie is when the main character reveals "something about themselves they didn't know at the beginning of the journey." He feels this is when the reader or viewer is going to get emotionally involved.

Staub and Winter go on to discuss C.S. Lewis and his statement about a great book being one you want to read over and over. Winter relates this to movies, and talks about some of his favorites, like Ben Hur and Gladiator. He loves the journey, the choices the leads make, and he ultimately says he wants to live in that world.

So, how do we create a world that is engrossing enough we want to live there? How do we make our protagonists engaging enought that the reader is taken along the journey and experiences something when the protagonist has their "revelation?"

I think these are good points to ponder, but they also help me segue into the next topic I wanted to talk time...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

File Under "Ironic"

I have to give a belated thanks to my blogging buddy Becky Miller. She nominated me for a "Prolific Blogger" Award back on 2/15. The criteria is: here’s what the award stands for: “A prolific blogger is one who is intellectually productive… keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content.”

Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling especially prolific at the time, and I didn't feel I deserved the award!

Ah well. I am going on four years of posting regularly, so I guess I have met that criteria. The blog has had ups and downs, and lately I haven't had a lot of original ideas to talk about. Still, I'm grateful that Becky nominated me.

I also put off talking about it as I couldn't really meet the criteria for passing it on. It asks to refer this award to seven other bloggers. Yikes. I don't have time to read that many blogs anymore, and Becky already took a couple of people I would nominate!

Here are the rules:

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!

2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog (A Christian Worldview of Fiction) from which he/she has received the award.

3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to This Post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.

4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners.

So the people that I can say that I read regularly and enjoy, other than Becky Miller's blog, are:

Mike Duran - Decompose

Brandilyn Collins - Forensics and Faith

Jenny Simmons (lead singer for Addison Road) - Jenny's Blog

Check them out if you are so inclined, for each posts regularly with insightful stuff!