Apologies all round (again), it has been a while since I have posted anything. As much as I have wanted to publish another article, I’ve found myself extremely busy recently. My excuses this time are excuses you’ve all heard before and are probably sick of at this point, but I have to cover them so let’s get started.
I’ll start with the work excuse. Farming work is taking its toll, I am a little over half-way to obtaining my 88 days in Australia, soon I will not HAVE to work on farms and can move onto other jobs not to mention acquire my second-year visa. So far, I’ve worked with cherry tomatoes, lemons, chillies, figs, lychee, mangoes and now avocados, the fruit everyone looks forward to picking, because they are numerous, they do not have toxic stems and the climate is a little cooler when they ripen, so you sweat less and can work far more efficiently. If any of you have worked on such farms before, I think you’d agree with me. I’ve worked on several farms where I do a variety of different jobs, ranging from the common fruit picking, to heavy crate lifting, fertilising, weeding, driving trucks, operating fork-lifts and cherry pickers which is very cool by the way. Using machinery is kind of empowering and the hours fly by when you’re having fun, opposed to doing something you do not enjoy, like running a till for eight hours a day or folding t-shirts by the hundreds with a clock nearby forever reminding you of how long you have left. A friend of mine from Scotland who has been working with me pretty much from day one, also drives a cherry picker and has suggested a joust on our last day, which I am totally up for. For those of you who do not know what a cherry picker is, it is a triangular shaped engine with three wheels that supports an extendable crane. It’s from the end of the crane that the driver locks himself into a sort of crow’s-nest and stands, operating the machine with pedals on his feet and buttons from a circuit unit to regulate power and speed. Using this crane the driver can reach the tops of trees and can manoeuvre his or herself into all those awkward places where fruit grows and ground pickers cannot reach. Max speed is about 10 miles per hour and you can reach a height of about 30ft, I think, I may be wrong but it is damn high and can go well beyond the height of your average house. After the farmer left me to my own devices, the first thing I did after asking if there was a model in black, was take myself up to the highest setting, and raised myself above the trees, overlooking the farm land. It was awesome, until I got scared in a gust of wind and lowered myself down back toward the ground.
Moving onto the other excuse, one that isn’t technically a fault, is that I’ve gotten extremely invested in writing the sequel to Episode One: The Utopian Dream. So far, I am up to chapter ten and it is doing what all sequels should do, raising the stakes, improving and expanding upon the strongest aspects of the original. I spend a lot of time on each paragraph, I never move on from a chapter unless I am happy. Last night I could not sleep due to a certain segment of a chapter I could not perfect. I wanted it to hit a certain standard but I couldn’t finish before I had to sleep, so first thing in the morning, I found a quiet spot, re-opened the page and got right back to work. I cannot relax unless the material delivers its message, is understandable and is enjoyable for the reader. There is no way I can just move on unless I feel it’s working down to the core, like a monkey on my shoulder it’s not going to go away until I do something about it. Not every chapter has to be monumental or incredibly epic, some are kind of casual in a way, but each chapter must serve a purpose and be the best it can be, if you’re going to do a casual chapter, do it the right way, if you’re going to do a heated conversation, do it the right way and so on, this also applies to the seriously intense chapters that bring the book to life. It’s a blessing and a curse to be so invested with this world I’ve created, but this is what I do, this is what I am, it cannot be serviceable or satisfactory, it must be as close as it can be to what I see when I shut my eyes.
This project is nothing more than a feeling, it is not something tangible or something physical, it’s not real, it’s just a combination of feelings and images I conjure up, the conjuration is so strong that I am compelled to translate it into words. It’s kind of funny, when I see how much I’ve done over so many years when the source material is coming from somewhere inside my head and is showing no signs of shortage. I know I’m not making much sense and this is part of the problem, but hopefully when this is over, when you see The Ancestral Odyssey in its entirety, when I get around to Episode Five: The Chosen Kindred, you’ll be able to feel it too.
There is a lot going on with Episode Two: Rise of The Black Doves, there are new and diverse characters, an array of creatures and the introduction and expansion to some exciting new places within the world of Equis. There are debates to consider, growing and failing friendships, religious feuds, politics, power struggles, magic dilemmas, technological advancements and discoveries, relationship problems, conflicts and complexities within the main theme which outlines betrayal. Episode One: The Utopian Dreams outline is debatable, there are so many topics and messages raised throughout, it could be whatever the reader wants it to be, but I think, that the word change, resonates well with it or better yet you could associate the word, purpose with Book One. What you will notice when the new instalment is released (June-July 2017) is the difference in writing, the writing has improved. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my previous work and can confidently re-read portions and not feel the need to go back and edit, at least not yet anyway, but as a Human being we are constantly learning and forever evolving our crafts, so there is a noticeable difference in the styles, less description, more dialogue, detailed explanations and room for the readers own interpretation. One thing I will say is that this book is being written from a different angle. Book One was written all in one go, there were no Volumes, it was just written in one singular flow over a number of years. This time around, I am working on a single Volume at a time, in this case its Volume Four, Five and then Six to be released one after the other. I could never have done this before, because as many of you know, I was new to this game, ideas and creativity does not come to you the way you want it to, it is sporadic, random and can hit you at any given moment making it hard to control. Depending how skilful you are as a writer, effects the outcome of your work, you need to properly manage your ideas and visions whenever they hit, therefore I ALWAYS carry a notebook around with me, to make a note of ideas I can develop and manage in due time. Like dropping a rock into a pond, it does not matter how small the change is, there is a ripple effect and you must adamantly account for the disruption in the water. Drop an idea into a previous chapter, it influences later chapters you cannot avoid it. Consistency is so important, if your audience detects inconsistencies, it tells them and people like myself, that the author is not fully invested in the project they are working on; If the author is not 100% involved, then why should the readers take your work seriously? So, this next Episode does run a higher risk from a writer’s perspective, of not being as creative than the first. Even though it is and will be, I’ll explain the risks to its possible failings: –
– With the first book I had no deadline, no pressure, no timeline to follow, and I had the ability to go back whenever I chose to insert new ideas, to alter story arks, include new characters and change the course of the story, but for the next instalments, I must be CERTAIN that once I publish, there is no going back, and I don’t work well under pressure, nor is there a dam to cease the course of creativity.
– Episode Two also runs an even greater risk of being a setup story. A setup story is when it has no real story of its own, but is just gearing up for what’s to come. I realised this a few months ago, when looking over an early chapter and it hit me like a slap in the face, so I’ve already begun to re-write its path to avoid this flaw.
– There is also the possibility that I am overloading the reader. In, The Utopian Dream we had two protagonists, Lethaniel and Isabelle, in this next instalment we have about seven story lines to follow. They do interlink, some cross paths and merge into one but there is still a lot more to consider this time around. I am nervous when it comes to writing Episode Two, this is good because if you aren’t making yourself nervous you aren’t breaking new ground or taking risks. Fortune favours the bold.
I want each one of my projects to stand on their own and, work as a series at the same time, this is extremely hard to do especially with a book of this size with so many characters and a diverse world. It is true that The Ancestral Odyssey grows into something unbelievable, the level of epic will exceed your expectation, you will not be able to predict what will happen nor be able see where the story will take you or what you’ll encounter. I say this with 100% confidence because it has destroyed even my own expectations and I am the one behind the steering wheel. Already I am learning about how to let the story take control, how to let the creation lead instead of me paving the way for it, this new technique is something I may write a future article on, once I perfect it. There are moments where I find my characters backed into a corner, where tragedy cannot be averted, and the only way I can get myself out of the situation, is to keep writing and hope something comes along to rectify the circumstance. Some of the characters I’ve created, I love to write about and do not want to see them go, but when the story leads them into a position I cannot get them out of, I sit back and say “Shit.” A good storyline does not make a good story, what makes a good story are the characters involved, and I do believe that you will like the characters in Rise of The Black Doves.
Now, with all that aside, you are up to date and are probably wondering when I will talk about the Alien franchise, well that time is now and please be aware that I do not include Predator in this movie franchise, I will be talking about Alien, Aliens, Alien3, Prometheus, Alien: Isolation and the new up and coming movie, Alien: Covenant, which I cannot wait to see this May. If you haven’t seen the new trailer I suggest you check it out asap because it is fantastic. The AvP film franchise is a separate entity all together in my opinion, which is in need of cauterising and forgetting about completely. If those little red zappy things from Men in Black are ever invented, if given the chance I’d of used it on myself after seeing these movies, they are that bad and left a scar that will never heal. I found them extremely hard to watch, it really does take a special mind to take something so incredible, something so scary and iconic and totally fuck it up within two and a half hours. I have no problem with the games, I remember playing and enjoying the 1995, Alien versus Predator for the PC and some of its sequels released on the Xbox and the PlayStation consoles, I have time for them, I think they adapt well to game. It is fun to play as an Alien and utilise darkness and stealth to scare the shit out of your prey, leaping from wall to wall, or to command incredible technology as a Predator, drawing your wrist blades or charging up your shoulder cannon. I used to love watching my elder brother play as the Marine, wandering silent corridors in the dark with nothing but a motion tracker and half a clip of ammunition in a Pulse Rifle, it’s exciting. Anyway, here is why I love Alien and why I think it is the best franchise out there today. There will be spoilers in this article if you haven’t seen the film, you’ve been warned, hope you enjoy.
It has been a while since I thought about how I first got introduced to the 1979 movie Alien, it was indeed a very long time ago now, remember guys, I am 29, nearly 30 years old. Alien, directed by Ridley Scott, was getting on a bit when I was born in the middle of July 1987, which was a year after the release of James Cameron’s sci-fi action horror, Aliens, and it wasn’t until I was about 9 where I watched the trilogy over three weekends. Now before you start judging my parents who I love very much and could possibly be the best parents in the world, please remember how it was when you were a child, when you wanted something, one way or another you were going to get it, weren’t you? I haven’t actually had this talk with my Mum or Dad about this, maybe they had other reasons for letting my elder brother and I watch this film late at night, but regardless, we saw it being advertised to show one weekend and we did not let up, we hounded our parents so much that eventually they caved and let us watch it under supervision. The weekend came and I had no idea what to expect, we didn’t live in the age of spoilers, trailers and the internet then, nor in the age where there was a television in each room of the house like there is today, technology was very limited. All I knew was that this movie had a creature in it and it was set in space, that was all I knew and more than enough to intrigue me. I didn’t know what it looked like, didn’t know any of the actors, had no idea that eggs were in it, I knew absolutely nothing! In a way, I was lucky I experienced this movie the way I did, I mean imagine if you knew that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father before seeing Empire Strikes Back, or getting a good look at the shark in Jaws before the famous line “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” I feel like this movie is somewhat ruined if you already know what the Alien creature looks like, not knowing what is out to get you is far scarier than knowing all the details, any real horror fan knows this and great directors take advantage of it. This is why the games Silent Hill, Silent Hill 2 and Amnesia: The Dark Descent were so successful, they toyed with the player’s imagination rather than revealing the threat in its entirety under lights. Looking back now I am so happy I went into this franchise the way I did, because when I saw John Hurts chest explode, and a worm like creature crawl out of the bloody mess slithering over a dinner table, I was speechless, I was immersed, I was aboard the Nostromo along with the terrified crew getting hunted down by something hellish, relentless and soulless, I quote “the perfect organism.” You quickly learn that you don’t fight this thing, you shouldn’t go looking for it especially in the fucking air vents! Come on Dallas, why go in there? You are pretty much screwed under such circumstances, your best option is to run and hide, sealing yourself in somewhere and hope the creature can’t get to you, but it is a Xenomorph we are talking about here so hiding is only temporary, eventually it will find you and it will kill you in a horrific way. It is stronger than the strongest man, it can adapt to any environment, the creature can scale any type of surface, it needs very little sustenance to survive, it has no feelings or emotions of any kind and is built to kill, everything about it has evolved (or has been constructed) to kill other living beings. The best thing you can do is what the crew of the mining ship Nostromo do end up doing, and that is getting the fuck out of there, abandoning ship. The Xenomorph truly lives up to its reputation as a fictitious, nightmare creature on screen created wonderfully well by H.R Giger and adapted expertly by film studios who understand what horror is and how it works. Clearly it has withstood the test of time and has provided us all with at some point, huge amounts of entertainment, whether it be on film, in novel/comic or in game. I for one have an Alien marathon at least twice a year, I still play the games and even listened to an audio book I found on Amazon out of curiosity last year.
The great thing with Alien, is that you barely see the creature, it is never shown under any good lighting or is revealed for a very long time, say for the ending when it is trying to crawl its way back into the ship though the thruster. The reason for this is because your own imagination usually conjurers up something scarier than what is depicted on screen, 9 times out of 10 this would be true, but in a Xenomorphs case, nothing you imagined prior is scarier, so this method of terror works extremely well and is almost impossible to replicate nowadays because I cannot remember the last time I felt this way about a creature horror movie. I have seen hundreds of movies and played a large amount of games that borrow from this franchise to try and re-create the atmosphere and that impending sense of dread. In some cases, they spark my imagination, but never end up comparing to what Ridley Scott did with Alien or even get close to James Cameron’s heart racing action packed horror sci-fi. Incredible movies.
If you watch the movie Alien closely, the creature does appear when it’s not in action, revealing itself for a matter of seconds at a time, but because of its unique structure and with the use of the clever camera work, your eyes see it but never have the time to register it, so there are moments when you can’t be sure what you’ve seen. Of course, we all know what the monster looks like nowadays, I am talking about my experiences before it was all over TV, depicted in games and on the internet. Watching this movie with people who have not seen it before (yes, such people do exist) is a thrill, it reminds me of my first time and feels like I am watching it through the other person’s eyes. Before I left Oxfordshire, I watched it with a friend of mine, I loved seeing if she had the eye to spot it, before the Xeno came alive, as it hangs motionless among dangling chains or nestled in with the clunky monitors and machinery of the Nostromo. This is just one aspects of the Xenomorph besides its demonic facelessness features, that make it so fucking frightening. It is better than us primates in every way, even when we are loaded up with artillery. Sending in the troops explored by director James Cameron and Alien versus Predator 2 for the PC, is a pointless endeavour, because Aliens work as a hive, similar to that of a bee hive as mentioned by Colonial Marine Vasquez who wields the iconic self-aiming Smart Gun in the film. The Xenomorphs are intelligent, capable, fearless problem solvers who are loyal to their Queen and relentless in the hunt against the powerful but over confident, Colonial Marines. Interesting thing with the film Aliens, is that it relates to what happened in The Vietnam War, you had over powered Americans with all this fire power and confidence going up against ill equipped men in the jungle. One question I had when going into Aliens was; “How can we possibly lose?” It wasn’t until later when I began to gain a little bit more of an understanding, where I was able to answer the question. Yes, we have the guns, yes, we have the technology, the heavily trained badass Marines and yet, we get utterly, annihilated within the first encounter. If it wasn’t for the atmosphere processor exploding at the end, then it is a fair bet that the Aliens would have won. The reason the Americans/Colonial Marines were outmatched was for a number of reasons, but for the most part it was because the Vietnamese took away the advantage of the firepower, used their surroundings, employed stealth tactics, fought on a home field advantage, blended into their environments and put the Americans in unwinnable situations, forcing them into traps and ambushes they could not escape from, no wonder it was a slaughter. This is almost exactly the same situation our Marines find themselves in against a species with no technology of any kind and to this day, it is one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever seen.
Not only is the military involved but you get a strong female connection between mothers and their children, creating a curious dynamic to the film. Ellen Ripley, who was the only survivor from the Nostromo, is persuaded by Carter Burke, a company man working for Weyland Yutani, to return to the planet where the Xenomorph was originally discovered, inside a derelict spaceship. These derelicts belong to a race called Engineers as shown in an early prequel movie called, Prometheus, directed again by Ridley Scott, starring Noomi Repace as Dr Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender as the android David. Ellen Ripley, quickly finds herself trapped on LV-226 (a Bible passage that describes new life and new beginnings) along with the last few marines after their first encounter and a survivor on the installation named Hadleys Hope, a little girl named Rebecca Jordon (Newt), who form a connection with one another through the event. If you’ve seen the extended cut of Aliens, you’ll know that Ellen Ripley had a daughter, Amanda Ripley aged 11, who dies at the age of 66 while Ellen was in cryosleep for 57 years, floating away from the wreckage of the Nostromo. The survival horror game Alien: Isolation, explores Amanda’s story and what she went through to find her long lost mother, and the developers behind Rome: Total War, a strategy game, do a terrific job of building atmosphere and tension as you explore the Sevastapol Station. If you haven’t played Alien: Isolation I suggest you do, it is a first-person survival horror game that has gone through enormous lengths to capture the same atmosphere as delivered by Ridley Scott in 1979. It is well worth a play through, well worth your money and serves fans and newcomers of the franchise well. Check it out, play in the dark with headphones it will have your palms sweating and your heart rate racing…So, Ellen sees Rebecca as a daughter and Rebecca, sees a mother in Ripley. You really gather an understanding of this when they meet the Queen in the egg chamber who is also protecting her own as Ripley is wielding a flamethrower. This element to the film makes it something more than just another sci-fi action horror, the theme resonates steadily throughout giving it a little more depth and more of an emotional weight to the characters who aren’t just disposable grunts that are just there to die for our own entertainment. The Marines especially those in the second half of the film, you actually care about their well-being and you want them to live. You can see a father figure in Dwayne Hicks played incredibly well by Michael Biehn, one of my favourite actors of all time, I loved him in The Terminator, I find him extremely watchable and I found it shameful when they killed him off right at the start of Alien3, set on Fury 161, a desolate planet full of violent, male prisoners.
Every scene in Alien and Aliens is worthy of a discussion, from the conversations between Parker and Brett moaning about bonus’s, the study of the creatures between Bishop and the Marines to Ripley and Newt and of course every battle you see between Human and Xeno. It is all well written, thought provoking, the visuals still hold up even today and the franchise, after suffering major setbacks due to AvP and the shocking release of Aliens: Colonial Marines, is as strong as ever and people still look forward to anything Alien related. But this is not a review, so far all I’ve done is praise it, which is easily done with anything that is deserving of praise, the question I have to answer is; Why I think it’s the best franchise? The is a little harder to answer, but I’ve been thinking long and hard about it for some time now, a few years give or take, and I have come to a conclusion which I hope will satisfy. This is not to say that I do not find other franchises interesting, this is not to say that I do not place any others onto a pedestal, there is so much out there worth exploring and creating if you are such an individual, but Alien, above all its ingenious, deals with a story on a genetic level, this was explored more so in the story of Prometheus, released in 2008, it being a prequel trilogy to the Alien Trilogy. Genetics involves us all, everything is genetic and genetic power is not only one the most awesome forces the world has ever seen, but the most mysterious and unsettling. I am not a scientist but I can differentiate the differences between good science opposed to bad science. Alarm bells always start ringing when bullshit is present, whether I will be able to break down the bullshit depends on the subject matter and I’ll remain sceptical until I research it in my own time after the conversation. I am a critical thinker and argue with logic, reason and evidence, I’ve never claimed to be a scientist so please do not quote me, refer to science books and scientists, so with that said I will keep this next part extremely brief. What I do know about genetics is that they can tell us everything we need to know about a species and an individual, simply by analysing the data we can detect patterns, hereditary traits and more so. This is what the Alien franchise has started to explore on a cellular level, answering the most fundamental questions we’ve asked since day one when we were emerging from the caves; Where have we come from? Prometheus and from what I can tell Alien: Covenant also explores space exploration, terraforming planets and A.I (Artificial Intelligence). All these topics may be being portrayed in a science fiction movie and may well be a little far-fetched in terms of ever becoming real or plausible, but I remember a time, a time where I watched similar sci-fi movies and was told that no such technology would ever exist in our life time, but now some of it does. For example, I hate to bring it up yet again but at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke is show getting a robotic hand fitted after it got chopped off by Darth Vader, I was always told that that would never happen, or that technology would never work, but it does. Where once upon a time amputees had to be paired with wheel chairs and canes, that time is coming to an end and it happened within my somewhat short life time. Check out what is happening in John Hopkins University, they have created prosthetic limbs powered by thought. So, such ideas previously mentioned are not in my opinion thousands of years away, it is good to be playing with the ideas of space travel and exploration and this is what the Alien franchise does best and on top of that it throws in A.I constructs and genetics coupled with some serious scary shit and amazing action sequences which can leave you entertained and thought provoked.
Those are my reasons. If you think another science fiction movie, book or game does it better, please feel free to write me a message expressing why or perhaps send me a link to an article or a video, this stuff is interesting to me. You can get in touch using the list below, thank you for reading. I know I promised you a top actor list but I have run out of time, I have a lot of work to do today but I have enjoyed talking about one of my favourite franchises. I will be talking about it again and will refer to it in the future I’m sure, but for now I’ve said all I can. The picture I used for this article clearly does not belong to me.
Before signing off I want to say how sad I am about the death of Bill Paxton, he was a talented guy and from what I have been hearing he was an extremely caring and very nice person. Easily One of the most quotable characters in Aliens, watching the movie again will never quite be the same, he had this tendency to say what we were all thinking in the movie, partially becoming our voice which made him relatable. My favourite quote from him is “Yo! Stop your grinning and drop your linen” or “Smoking or non-smoking.” My thoughts are with his family at this time. One of my favourite other Bill Paxton movies is Haven, starring along side Orlando Bloom in a very realistic film about drugs, money, love and life. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you do, because it is well worth a watch.
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