Posted in Monday Mayhem

The Star Wars Universe

There was a time I didn’t like Star Wars. I was in my teens. All my friends, who were nerds, by the way, were into the whole Star Wars universe thing. I didn’t care for it. In fact, I went one step further. I used to tell my friends Battlestar Galactica was better. Boy, did that go over well.

Star Wars characters
Star Wars characters

Thankfully, as I’ve grown older, I had kids of my own. My first introduction to the entire Star Wars universe wasn’t until I hit my mid-thirties. Yes, you can call me deprived. Coincidentally, it was also when my kids experienced their first introduction to the sci-fi saga.

For those of you wondering what it was like watching it on TV, and all we had back then were thirty-two inch CRT TVs and a VHS tape that rendered the film in a pan-and-scan format—life couldn’t have been better. You may think this is crazy, but if you didn’t have today’s standards to compare the picture quality, you would have thought the presentation was phenomenal. And back then, it was. The kids loved it.

Once the Star Wars prequel trilogy hit the theaters, I couldn’t help but take my kids to watch it. Somehow, the films were so amazing that other films in the sci-fi genre had trouble keeping up with the visuals, creative motifs and gorgeous backdrops.

Darth Vader
Darth Vader

And this brings me to the reason why I’m writing this Monday Mayhem post with Star Wars on my mind.

I have found that other than Star Trek, the Star Wars universe is where I would enjoy living. With so much talk about how bad or how wrong this world is right now, isn’t it refreshing to know hope exists in the movies we watch? I don’t know about you, but when I die, I’d like to think the world I’m leaving to my kids would be a world filled with hope. I don’t think I’ve ever thought that until I began watching Star Wars.

And although the Star Wars universe has meddling Sith Lords wanting to bring about the death of all humans, akin to a zombie apocalypse, the Force, which holds everything together, reigns supreme. Even with the Dark Side wanting to corrupt a good heart, the Force, living in every Jedi can overcome evil, and bring about real change to a heart.

Imagine the Force now, living in us, able to help us overcome the pulls to the Dark Side. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I sure wouldn’t think life would be all that bad after all.

Yet, as fictional as Star Wars is, some truth exists within its universe’s tales. Perhaps to see that truth we have to look closer. Or, perhaps, the Force is something real we have yet to experience.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What do you think of Star Wars? What do you like about its universe?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

From Utopia to Dystopia

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately—benefits of having a Netflix subscription. So far, I’m halfway through Season 4, and by the time you read this, I will have blown past Season 5’s premier. Having watched the series during its first run back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, I’ve come to appreciate all the hard work that went into the show. From props, makeup, set design to story, music and characters, there is a bit of everything for everyone.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew
Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew

First, I will have to agree with you that it’s a strange conversation to talk about space, aliens and worlds from a far distant galaxy for my Monday Mayhem post. The thing is, I’ve always found something interesting when I watch Star Trek in that it has appealed to my sense of optimism. No one can say The Next Generation wasn’t way ahead of its time.

For instance, tablets of every size grace the hands of all those aboard. Many scenes with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) features him in his ready room reading a report on what looks like a prototype for an iPad. He then quickly switches to a small device that looks like an iPod touch. From there, he scans the small display standing upright on his desk—again, another prototype for LCD monitors.

It is evident Star Trek is forward thinking in design and intent. Even today, the show does not look dated in any way. It still has lessons for all of us who are looking for something that would put life into perspective.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Captain Jean-Luc Picard

My biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from many of the show’s social commentaries is that the Prime Directive rules. For those unfamiliar with the Prime Directive, it is a moral code devised by the United Federation of Planets to prevent members from interfering with cultures, either at the cusp of development, or unwilling to have outsiders to work with them in any way. The idea is meant to discourage Federation members from imposing rule on a less than developed civilization against their will.

Funnily enough, many civilizations, in the context of progress and time, are not looking to change, but want to remain stagnant—drawn in their own ways, unwilling to progress from the ameba stage—whether intelligent or not.

One of those civilizations in the show, for example, is the perfect utopia. Visitors to the planet notice the difference immediately. The stark contrast of it citizens wearing a minimal amount of clothing in comparison to their visitors is intentional. Also, their laws are simple to follow and provides a sense of security to all those who follow the law. The planet, however, has one flaw. It isn’t immediately visible. If anyone breaks the law, even the least of these laws—perhaps accidentally stepping on a flower in a greenhouse—the sentence is quick and immediate. Death.

For this planet, the Prime Directive is a no-no. They will handle their own affairs in their own way.

And that’s what I’ve learned most from Star Trek—you cannot help those who do not want help. Try if you may, a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you watched any of the Star Trek shows or movies? What have you learned from the series?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Clara Murphy

Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is the cop who had it all, a loving wife, a beautiful son, and a job, even though dangerous, he enjoyed doing. When multiple injuries in the line of duty nearly kill him, science comes to the rescue. Rebuilt from scratch, he becomes a criminal’s worst nightmare. As cliché as that sounds, his life becomes worth living again as an organic robot bent on destroying crime without pity.

Abbie Cornish as Clara Murphy
Abbie Cornish as Clara Murphy

Women Who Wow Wednesday presents Clara Murphy (Abbie Cornish), RoboCop’s wife who stands by her man during his darkest days.

This 2014 film, a remake of the 1987 hit RoboCop featuring Peter Weller as crime’s mechanical nemesis, contrasts the original by delving into Alex’s relationship with his wife who ultimately makes the man inside the armor better. A better man. A better husband. A better cop.

Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish
Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish

After his injuries, all Alex has on his mind is the thought of his wife, and if she’d accept him for the new man he has become. Clara doesn’t have to think about it, he will always be her husband. Her willingness to overlook his appearance and go beyond the shell makes her responsible for Alex’s future actions as a powerful crime fighter.

Beyond being Alex’s wife, she’s also her son David’s inspiration, leading him to accept his father’s new life. Through her constant vigilance of David’s welfare, she manages to protect and guide the boy without her father’s presence in his life, always reminding that his father loves him, no matter what.

Abbie Cornish and Joel Kinnaman
Abbie Cornish and Joel Kinnaman

Clara’s role doesn’t end there. Her bravery surpasses all expectations when she stands in the middle of a street, stopping RoboCop’s motorcycle as it screams toward her. For months, she hadn’t had contact with her husband and she wanted to know where he had been hiding. The man in charge, Dr. Norton (Gary Oldman), kept Alex from her, but she couldn’t deal not having access to him. When she stands in the middle of traffic with her hand out, she does it knowing she could lose her life in the process.

The hardest thing Clara has to endure is not knowing. Not knowing what happens to her husband in the care of Dr. Norton. Not knowing if she’ll ever see him again. And not knowing if Alex would be the same person as he once was when they first met.

Clara’s strength comes from inside. Where others would have given up on their spouses, she stayed with him through it all without ever wafting from her center.

If there ever was a character with the resilience to fight back, Clara Murphy is that character.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think of the movie RoboCop? How does it compare to the older version?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Why I Like Zombies

Have I ever told you why I like zombies? I mean, I write my Monday Mayhem posts, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned the reason why I’m drawn to these ill-fated, putrid-smelling, bile-seeping maggot bags the media affectionately calls zombies. I have a number of reasons for liking them, and today, you’re going to find out.

Asbury Park Zombie Walk 2010 (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)
Asbury Park Zombie Walk 2010 (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

As many of my regular readers know, I have an affinity for 80’s movies. Because of that love for all things retro, Terminator has always been at the top of my list of sci-fi/action flicks for a cold Friday night. Why? You see, terminators keep coming after you. No matter how many bullets you pump into them, two-by-fours you break over their head, and knives you use to gut them, they still keep coming after you. I like that idea. Zombies are like that, too. If a zombie does not sustain a bullet to the head, it will drag, pull and follow its way to you until you are dead. They don’t know pain. They don’t know exhaustion. They don’t even have a clue they are undead. But one thing’s for sure, they will not give up until they see you screaming in absolute terror, awaiting your fate under their feet.

Apart from my enjoyment of seeing the zombie inclination to persevere, I have fun with the idea that their walk, in a subtle sort of way, embodies the afterlife. Who doesn’t want to know what happens to them when they die? For years, vampires have shown themselves as Horror’s answer to everlasting life. In all truth, though, all things have to end. Enter the zombie. Not much different from vampires, the zombie life depends entirely on the consumption of human victims. The difference being, zombies hunt as part of hordes. Humanity’s fascination with the afterlife has created these creatures as a way to understand what it means to die. What will happen to us? What is the purpose of this life? Why are we here? I don’t know about you, but if I die, I’d rather not imagine a life befitting a zombie. Sounds like a messy affair to me.

The biggest reason I love zombies, and this is purely from a writer’s perspective, is that they can represent anything a writer wants to convey by way of metaphor. In other words, if I want to talk about how oppressive a society is of its people, I can simply write the zombies as a depiction of that society and of its willingness to destroy its victims, eating them to the bone. Same goes for cults that have a way of controlling their brethren. You know the kind, where the members can’t do anything without church consent or recommendation. The zombies in that story become despicable demons bent on absolute destruction of its family members.

The possibility of using metaphors is endless.

So much of what goes on in the media becomes fodder for zombie stories. I can’t dispute the fact that the undead have a way of bringing people together. One day, I’m sure I’ll find out what it all means. Until that day, I’ll keep enjoying movies featuring zombies in thrilling chases, stories about the undead living forever, and of life’s little metaphors.

Now do you see why I like zombies?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Why do you like zombies?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Carmen Ibanez

Before Ender’s Game came Starship Troopers. And before Petra Arkanian came Lt. Carmen Ibanez, leader of a ragtag military team set to destroy anything that crawls—literally. Women Who Wow Wednesday celebrates this dynamo of aggression following in the footsteps of the film’s motto: “I’m doing my part.”

Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez
Denise Richards as Carmen Ibanez

Much like Ender’s Game, earth is on high alert, raising a youth army in the mobile infantry to combat bugs from outer space. There is training. There is testing. Then there is deployment to a far planet where the bugs reside. That’s where the similarities end with the films. Starship Troopers’ armies fight the bugs in brutal episodes of dismemberment. The film’s bright and vibrant colors lend to a retro 60’s feel in the midst of dark comedic scenes.

Setting the tone to the film, a history lesson in high school highlights the class rivalry between two attractive students, Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) and Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer). In the middle of instructor Jean Rasczak’s (Michael Ironside) speech of how “violence is the supreme authority for which all other authority is derived,” this interchange develops:

Dizzy: My mother always told me that violence doesn’t solve anything.
Jean Rasczak: Really? I wonder what the city founders of Hiroshima would have to say about that.
Carmen: They wouldn’t say anything. Hiroshima was destroyed.
Jean Rasczak: Correct. Naked force has resolved more conflicts throughout history than any other factor. The contrary opinion, that violence doesn’t solve anything, is wishful thinking at its worst; people who forget that always die.

Carmen at the Fleet Academy
Carmen at the Fleet Academy

Aside from being quick with her answers, Carmen also has an astounding ability with math, scoring a 97% in her finals fulfilling Fleet Academy’s first requirement. Her dream lies with piloting a half a million-ton starship. But she would need nerves of steel if she wanted to accomplish such a big dream.

Unfortunately, her weakness may be her downfall. She possesses a soft stomach, unable to watch the dissection of a bug in biology class. The dead bug measures two by two and a half feet. Its long green intestines and slippery organs leave her squeamish until she hurls her morning’s breakfast.

Oh well, at least her friends understand and respect her for her strong convictions and her smarts.

Not wanting to spoil the film, Carmen Ibanez becomes an important figure in the fight against the bugs. Her strong will and temperament saves the lives of many and her natural ability to drift out of tight situations makes her a strong influence to those who look to her as an example.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Have you seen Starship Troopers? What did you think of Lt. Carmen Ibanez?