Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Some Thoughts on Lost in Space

Here's a fun fact: one of my close friends is also named Abby (though she spells her name without an E, so does it actually count? XD), and we are the exact same age and in the exact same major. We decided to watch Netflix's Lost in Space series together, and let me tell you... when two storytellers who have taken classes in literature and writing for two years watch a show together, boy, do they have opinions.

*These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other Abb(i)(e)(y)'s in the world.
**I try to stay as spoiler-free as possible, but some may still sneak in.

Here another fun fact: sci-fi is my favorite genre to watch, so I had high hopes for Lost in Space. Unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations, and here's why:

Humans have been leaving earth to settle on Alpha Centauri, a far away planet. The Robinson family is en route to their new home when their ship is attacked and they crash on a habitable planet. Will Robinson, a young boy, makes friends with a robot on the planet's surface, but the robot is the least of the family's problems as they explore their new home, try to make contact with other survivors, and meet Dr. Smith, who is not all that she seems.

I have never felt so stressed out watching a TV show before. In fact, I liken the stress of watching Lost in Space to the stress that I felt a few days ago when making a rough plan of what classes I will take during the next two years of college; however, my stress dissipated when the tension became predictable. The plot of Lost in Space is basically Murphy's Law: everything that can go wrong goes wrong (many times because of misuse of common sense). I got tired of bad things happening to the characters all. the. time. Sure, torture your darlings, but give them a break, too! Predictable tension and lack of meaningful, character development time (like the scene in Tangled when Rapunzel heals Flynn's hand while they sit by the fire) made me frustrated and a little bored. The only thing that kept me going was my hatred of Dr. Smith and curiosity at what monstrously foul thing she would do next (but more on her later).

Another thing that I didn't think worked well was the use of flashbacks. They were used inconsistently throughout the ten episodes and seemed more like a convenient way to explain backstory than a meaningful explanation of where the characters came from. Backstory is better revealed in small chunks along the way, rather than, as Abby-without-an-E said, "chucked at you like candy at a parade." The flashbacks in Lost in Space are along the lines of... "bam bam. Have some overwhelming candy," much like when Marshawn Lynch chucked Skittles to Seahawks fans after winning the Superbowl.

Kiro7, don't come for me, please. This image does not belong to me.

The flashbacks would have worked better if they had been in every episode, had been more linear, and hadn't been a plot device only.

You may have noticed that I used the word "meaningful" in correlation with characters twice while talking about plot. That's because I felt like the characters weren't meaningful, which meant that I didn't really care for them.

By meaningful, I mean the writers didn't take the opportunity to develop them through those quiet moments. They didn't show the characters caring for one another after a traumatic event or grieving for a dead team member. (Mild spoiler incoming!) For example, Judy is a doctor, and she looses her first patient in one of the episodes. Rather than experiencing a lack of confidence (or even being shooketh!), Judy is fine and continues as if nothing happened. This would have been a great time to develop her character. (End spoiler.)

By the second episode, I felt a little betrayed by the Robinson family. They had been set up one way in the first episode but seemed to change roles by the second episode. I thought that Judy was going to be the wild, trouble child and Penny was going to be the calm, sensible one, but it turned out that their roles were reversed.
Additionally, characteristics that had been set up in episode one weren't present after they served their purpose. In the first episode, Will froze up (no pun intended) several times when he had to make snap decisions, but he didn't have an obvious problem with that later in the show.

And then there's Don... He was probably my favorite character because he was funny and because he has a chicken named Debbie, but he is also the hugest caricature that I've ever come across. Also, Debbie disappears during the middle of the show, and I was afraid they'd eaten her! Don is a rogue-ish smuggler with a heart of gold and a tragic backstory. He is a Han Solo or a Carswell Thorne but with nothing to make him unique (except his magically disappearing chicken).

Full credit to dsp_eights. You, sir, are a genius.

Now I have to talk about Dr. Smith. First of all, she is despicable, and I hate her. I haven't despised a villain this much since reading Harry Potter (Umbridge, I'm looking at you!). If this were a fantasy book rather than a sci-fi TV show, I would nominate Dr. Smith for Most Nefarious Villain in the Silmaril Awards (coming September 3rd!). Second of all, she makes NO SENSE. She has no motive for the terrible (and sometimes nice?) things that she does. A flashback tried to explain her backstory, but it still didn't explain why she does the things she does. If I remember correctly, there is a scene where she tells Maureen how she was the least-loved child, but it was told in such an info-dumped way (and Dr. Smith is such a liar) that I didn't know whether to believe her. Either way, it is too flimsy a motivation to make her do such horrible things. Honestly, I think she is insane. What else explains her unpredictable nature and lack of common sense? Many times, her goals and the Robinson's goals were the same, but Dr. Smith's interference in plans that would ACHIEVE THE SAME GOAL caused the Robinson's pain and hurt. Grrrrr... She aggravates me. Abby-without-an-E is invested in the show's second season only because she wants to see Dr. Smith sucked out an airlock.

I really liked the robot. He was all around interesting, and I wished that they would have focused on him, his species, and their technology more than on Dr. Smith's evil scheming. I also thought that the planet that they crash landed on and its creatures was super cool.

Lost in Space featured too much suspense at the expense of character development for my taste, but it is an interesting show and prompted much discussion between Abby and I.

Have you seen Lost in Space? Why did you like/dislike it? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Lovely Quotes from a Lovely Book

I know, I know, I said my review of Lost in Space would be my next blog post... Never fear: it IS coming! But I finished the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society today, and I had to share a few quotes with you all because it is such a lovely read.

From Instagram
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society takes place shortly after World War II when the main character, author Juliet Ashton, is searching for her next book idea. Instead, she finds a new group of friends among the Guernsey islanders.
This book is full of history, book love, and general coziness. The characters captivated me and so did the form of the book—it's written entirely in letters! Sometimes, the character's voices blurred together, and some of their actions seemed too modern for a book set in 1946, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment of the story. Plus, the author's prose is snarky and lovely and fun to read. I marked several passages that I wanted to share with you:

"I don't want to be married just to be married. I can't think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can't talk to, or worse, someone I can't be silent with." (Page 8)

"I have gone to them for years, always finding the one book I wanted—and then three more I hadn't known I wanted." (Page 11)

"All the windows we passed were lighted, and I could snoop once more. I missed it so terribly during the war: I felt as if we had all turned into moles scuttling along in our separate tunnels. I don't consider myself a real peeper—they go in for bedrooms, but it's families in sitting rooms or kitchens that thrill me. I can imagine their entire lives from a glimpse of bookshelves, or desks, or lit candles, or bright sofa cushions." (Page 13-14)

"Do you live by the river? I hope so, because people who live near running water are much nicer than people who don't." (Page 117)

"I've shoved a writing table by the biggest window in my sitting room. The only flaw in this arrangement is the constant temptation to go outside and walk over to the cliff's edge. The sea and the clouds don't stay the same for five minutes running and I'm scared I'll miss something if I stay inside. When I got up this morning, the sea was full of sun pennies—and now it all seems to be covered in lemon scrim. Writers ought to live far inland or next to the city dump, if they are ever to get any work done. Or perhaps they need to be stronger-minded than I am." (Page 165)

This book is the perfect summertime read. I read it in two days, and my friend read it in one! I would recommend this book to fans of Jane Austen, period dramas, BBC dramas, and the movie The Decoy Bride.

What's the latest book that you've devoured in just a few days?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Watching // Listening to // Reading // Writing

After watching for more than a year, I finally finished Friends. 

I started it last summer, I believe, but when school started, I stopped watching (we were on a break, okay??). It's not my favorite sitcom ever (that will forever and always be Frasier), but it was oh so much fun to see all the silly situations that Ross got himself in to.

On the subject of sitcoms, my roommate and I are nearing the end of The Office. It's been a fun Netflix Trip.

Some friends and I went to see Incredibles 2, which I thought was incredible (haha). Did you know the movies are set in the 1960s? I didn't notice the time period in the first movie, but it was evident in this one. It adds one more element to an already fantastic film.

This poster belongs to Disney Pixar
My friend and I just finished Netflix's Lost in Space. I have so many thoughts about this show that it will be its own separate post.

Last but not least, I watched the first episode of Babylon 5 last night. My dad and I are watching it "together." Even though we are 1,500 miles apart, we will watch an episode or three a week and then talk about it. My thoughts so far: it reminds me a lot of Deep Space Nine, but Star Trek has much better graphics (and better acting and writing, too, methinks, but I don't want to make a final judgement yet since I have only seen the first episode). I'm excited to keep watching!

I've been on a classical music kick over the past few weeks. I've been listening to a lot of Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky (Pictures at an Exhibition <3), Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Saint-Saens. Check out The Carnival of the Animals—it is so much fun! My favorite pieces are "Aquarium," "Pianists," and "Fossils."

I've also been listening to a lot of Twenty One Pilots. I'd never heard of them before coming to school, but they are now one of my favorite bands. They are coming out with a new album in October and have released three songs with music videos. I love Twenty One Pilots because they have created a whole world and story line within their music, and it is SO. COOL. because it is an extended metaphor for the singer's mental health. I can't embed their new music into my blog for some reason, so here is a link to their music video "Jumpsuit" (which I think is slightly more understandable than "Nico and the Niners," which is my favorite of their three new songs).

This summer, I have been making my way through the Minstrel's Song series by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt. I've been reading them on the Kindle app on my phone, usually in my fifteen minute morning breaks at work. I'm at my grandparent's house until school starts next week, however, so I am reading, reading, reading. I finished Yorien's Hand yesterday. Whooooaaaa. So epic! I am afraid for Oraeyn, Kamarie, Yole, Brant, and the gang, and my intrigue about Kiernan Kane continues to grow! I started Minstrel's Call this morning.

From Instagram
I am also reading a book of short stories by Willa Cather, which I am enjoying. The stories are about the disillusionment that creators sometimes feel. I am re-reading "The Garden Lodge" right now, which is about a practical woman who has a famous tenor to stay at her house. When he leaves, she has a breakdown as she remembers how her childhood was destroyed by over-sentimentality and how she refused to indulge in anything imaginative as a result. I didn't quite catch the meaning of the story the first time I read it; I understand it more the second time. The stories make me sad because the characters are misunderstood and purposeless artists, but it is a good kind of sadness because it reminds me that I do have a greater purpose when I am creative: I reflect God the creator.

From Instagram

I haven't been writing anything, but I do have several ideas floating around in my head... I am going to keep them in my head right now, especially since school is starting next week, and I definitely won't have time for personal projects then. I will tell you that one idea is sci-fi and one is fantasy and one is memoir(ish).
Also, there are exciting things happening on the blogging horizon...


So, what have you guys been watching/listening to/reading/writing? Are you excited for the Silmaril Awards? What do you think of the slightly modified name?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cover Reveal: Finding the Magic

My fellow blogger Jack Lewis Baillot is coming out with a new book soon, and I am participating in her cover reveal! 

Jack is an author, which is why she spends much of her time writing and little of her time editing. She likes to follow characters around and tell their stories even if they don't tell her everything they know about their stories.
She lives alone in a Hobbit hole and spends her spare time with her nose stuck in a book. When she isn't doing that she is busy baking bread and annoying her neighbors with bagpipes. 

The cover (of which I absolutely love the back):

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Belle is sent to the countryside to escape the London bombings of WWII. She knows she will miss her mother and worry about her father, who is away fighting in the war, but has no idea what awaits her in the manor in which she is to live. She finds friends in the staff but the mysterious and elusive master of the house frightens her. Can she teach him to find the magic in a world where magic seems to be long gone?

I read an unfinished version of this story a while ago, and I remember being delighted. If you are looking for a cozy read, check out this story when it comes out!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Brain Dump

Hello, and welcome back to my blog. I've been trying to write a "professional" blog post for the past week, but I haven't gotten anywhere, so here is a raw brain dump of what I've been thinking over the summer.

For those wondering, I did not finish Camp NaNoWriMo, but I did write 30,000 words (exactly) in July and figured out the direction in which to take Daniel and Varina, two of my oldest and most beloved characters. 
I was hoping that Camp NaNoWriMo would motivate me to be creative again, but August has come and I feel discouraged again. Since editing my fantasy novel (you know the one), I have been struggling with who my audience is. Since I started writing semi-seriously, my books have featured adult characters, but I have heard from multiple people that my writing style is more suited for middle grade readers. This makes sense as many of my favorite stories are middle grade novels. These books shaped who I am and made me want to be an author. I would love to inspire people like Sharon Creech, Erin Hunter, Eva Ibbotson, and Jeanne Birdsall inspired me.
That's hard, however, because, in college, I am learning to write literary fiction, which is alien to my natural style. It's good to learn, of course, but it also makes me question whether I am a good writer if I can't write literarily. 

I've never had an audience for my writing. When I was younger, I wrote because I enjoyed it. I liked exploring my imagination, but I've lost some of that whimsy since becoming an adult. If I am to be a full-time author, that means that I have to have an audience, but I don't. I don't have a specific age group that I write for, but I can't write just for fun anymore because I feel like I am wasting time... like I need to be doing something better. I guess writing isn't as fulfilling as it used to be, not to mention that college has sucked away my creativity and time, which makes it hard to do much of anything in what little free time I have.
Which brings me to blogging. I love blogging, and I love reading all of your blogs, but I am so brain dead from homework during the school year that it's so so so hard for me to keep up with a blogging schedule no matter how much planning I put into it. Maybe if I had more willpower, things would be different. I also feel like my posts have to be witty and happy and meet a certain standard of writing, but I don't always have interesting things to post about, or extra brainpower to make the words flow well, or even happiness to pour into a post.

I don't know where I am headed in life. Right now, I lack motivation, confidence, and passion, which makes it hard to do anything, especially if that something is creative. 
That being said, I will be participating in a few blog tours and also the Silmarillion Awards in the next month, so look out for those exciting things!
I don't know where this blog is heading in the future, but I wanted to say that I value everyone that I've meet through the blogging community. You all mean a lot to me, even though I don't always post or comment or keep up with you very well. 
Anyway, that's my brain dump. Maybe since I've gotten those thoughts out of the way, I can start to post more interesting things again.