Something I’m often asked in interviews and by readers is what inspired me to write a book. Where do I get my ideas? It’s a difficult thing to pin down because there are so many elements involved, but I’m going to try to answer as fully and honestly as I can.
My source of first inspiration is myself. Not that my life is so very interesting, but what I mean is I’ve been a lover of stories for as long as I can remember. So when I’m brainstorming for a new book, the first person’s approval I seek is my own. What kind of story would I like to read? Because if I’m not writing stories I enjoy, then there’s no point.
My second inspiration is always my readers. This is the “performance” side of my writing. I’m not comfortable on stage or behind a microphone, but for some reason crafting a story to tell the world is my niche. In a way it feels safer than standing on a stage, all alone and vulnerable. Yet one of the first lessons you learn when you’re published is that not everyone is going to love your baby as much as you do. I always tell novice writers they better have thick skins because the world can be cruel. However, for all the slings and arrows lobbed in my direction from time to time, the experience of hearing from a happy reader is thrilling beyond words.
I’m also inspired by all the great writers who have come before me and those working now. I don’t think there’s ever been a time since I was eight or nine years old that I haven’t been reading fiction. I finish one book and pick up another. I also enjoy re-reading my favorite books/series. Glen Cook, Robert E. Howard, Robert Heinlein, Leo Tolstoy, H.P. Lovecraft, and many others — these are the foundations of my universe.
As some of you know, I just finished a seven-part blog on this site about the Firefly television series. We laughed, we cried, we stared at Jayne’s hat… and now it’s time to move on to the movie.
I consider Serenity to be part of the television show. Like the second season we never got, but compressed into a feature film.
It begins with a little voice-over narration telling us about this fictional world, centering on the war between the Alliance and the Independents. Then we see River as a child in school, but it’s a dream. She is back in the Alliance lab that messed with her brain. Simon is there, posing as a VIP on an inspection tour. He breaks her out of the facility.
I’m glad the movie starts with this scene, because although we’d heard about how Simon freed River in the TV series, we never got to see it. And this makes a terrific set-up for the rest of the movie.
And then the movie does something clever. The scene of Simon and River’s escape is paused in mid-action, and shown to be just a recording. It’s being viewed by the Operative (he’s so cool he doesn’t even need a real name) at the lab where the escape happened. The Operative wants River back because she may have learned the secrets of the Alliance leaders and that cannot be allowed. So the chase is on.
Hey Independents! Well, today we get to the end of the first and only season of Firefly. Alas, it’s a bittersweet experience, but let’s load up and dig in for the last three shows.
The Message (Episode 12)
The crew is at a bazaar, with Simon and Kaylee having a date until Simon ruins it by being Simon. Mal is having a hard time finding a fence for the Lassiter pistol (see last week’s installment, episode 11). They check the local post office, where Jayne has a package from his mom – it’s the hat!!! (You Browncoats know what I mean. For everyone else, just Google “Jayne’s hat.”)
Mal and Zoe receive a crate. A sarcophagus, actually. Inside is the corpse of a young man. His name was Tracy. Mal and Zoe fought beside him in the war. In a brief flashback, we get the distinct impression this kid was kind of a dunce, but a lovable one.
Mal takes the coffin onboard Serenity and finds an audio recording. It explains that Tracy got into trouble and expected to be killed. He wanted Mal and Zoe to take his body home. While the ship and crew take off for the kid’s homeworld, some scruffy-looking federal agents bust into the post office looking for the sarcophagus. The post master tells them who took it.
Hey there! I’m back this week with part 6 of my examination of the Firefly series. So far, we’ve covered the pilot in Part 1, episodes two and three (“Train Job” and “Bushwhacked”) in Part 2, “Shindig” and “Safe “ in Part 3, “Our Mrs. Reynolds” and “Jaynestown” in Part 4, and “Out of Gas” and “Ariel” in Part 5.
We’re into the second half of the season, where I really feel the show finds its stride.
First up, War Stories!
War Stories (Episode 10)
It starts with Simon and Shepherd Book (who was absent last episode during the hospital heist) discussing River’s condition. Simon thinks he’s closing in on what the Alliance did to her. River is struggling, though, because the treatments aren’t working all the time.
The crew is feeling good after their last job, though Wash gets irritated with Zoe for not backing his plan to cut out the middlemen when selling their loot. Instead, she takes the captain’s side in the discussion, and Wash feels Mal and Zoe are too close. Meanwhile, Inara’s attractive female client arrives on the ship. Jayne sees them and announces that he’ll be in his bunk. Classic Jayne!
Good day, fellow Browncoats (and Alliance moles). So far, we’ve covered the pilot in Part 1, episodes two and three (“Train Job” and “Bushwhacked”) in Part 2, “Shindig” and “Safe “ in Part 3, and “Our Mrs. Reynolds” and “Jaynestown” (episodes 6 and 7) in Part 4.
We’re zooming into the second half of the season and coming up on some really great episodes. So make sure your six-shooter is loaded and let’s go.
Out of Gas (Episode 8)
This is one of my favorite episodes of all time, from any show. There is symmetry and a poignancy that we seldom see on broadcast television.
It begins with Serenity drifting in space. She is empty of crew. All is quiet. Then we see Mal fall to the floor with blood coming from somewhere. Next we are flashed back to Mal and Zoe checking out the ship for the first time. He is excited by the possibilities this little Firefly-class ship offers; she is not impressed.
Back in the “present,” Mal struggles to his feet with a piece of machinery in his hand and staggers off. Then we flashback to the crew sitting around the dinner table and sharing some laughs. It turns out to be Simon’s birthday and they surprise him with a cake. He’s about to blow out the candles when the lights flicker. A moment later, fire explodes from the engine compartment.
Oh yes! We’re reaching the midway point of the first, and only, season of Firefly. I covered the pilot in Part 1, episodes two and three (“Train Job” and “Bushwhacked”) in Part 2, and four and five (“Shindig” and “Safe “) in Part 3.
If you’ve been reading this far, you know my feelings about the series. Some have postulated that perhaps we hold it in such high esteem because it was taken from us too soon. Well, in re-watching these episodes again, I was even more enthralled and entertained than the first (or second, or third…) time I saw them.
Today, we’re going to dive into two more episodes. Rev up the engine, Kaylee. It’s time to be a leaf on the wind.
Our Mrs. Reynolds (Episode 6)
A man and his wife driving a covered wagon are ambushed by bandits. The couple turn out to be Jayne and Mal (in drag), posing as settlers. When the bandit leader demands some personal time with the missus, Jayne replies that he married “a powerful ugly woman.” Mal and Jayne pull guns on the desperados.
A firefight ensues and Zoe pops out of the back of the wagon, gun blazing.
I’m back with my third installment of this series about the Firefly show. I covered the pilot in Part 1, and episodes two and three (“Train Job” and “Bushwhacked “) in Part 2.
This week we’re up to the fourth and fifth episodes. Sit back, put your starship on autopilot, and enjoy.
Shindig (Episode 4)
This one begins with a familiar sight: Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are in a cantina, this time playing pool with some traders while Inara watches. It turns out these friendly traders deal in transporting slaves, so Mal lifts their money clip and, naturally, starts a bar brawl.
Next, Serenity stops at the planet of Persephone, which we last saw in the pilot episode. They’re here to find work. Inara is in her shuttle looking for clients. She chats with Atherton Wing, a blueblood who invites her to a fancy party.
Mal comes in and they banter about her work, and his brawling. This scene sets up the rest of the episode, which mainly focuses on their budding relationship.
Hey gang! I’m back this week with the second part of my look back at the Firefly TV show. Last time, I talked about the pilot episode; this time I’ll be discussing the second and third episodes.
Train Job (Episode 2)
If I’m not mistaken, this was the first episode to air. As I said last week, I think this was a major mistake.
It starts in a cantina where Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are drinking at a table. Some drunk makes a toast to Unification Day, the anniversary of the Alliance’s victory over the Independents. Well, Mal doesn’t take kindly to that. Words are exchanged and a good old-fashioned bar brawl ensues.
Now this is just fine and kinda fun, and I can see why an inexperienced studio executive might think this is exactly the sort of opening a new series needs. But here’s the problem: we (the audience) can’t get invested in this fight because we don’t know the background. You remember. That background we were supposed to see in the pilot that explains how Mal and Zoe fought for the Independents to the bitter end and they still harbor resentment toward the Alliance…
When I think of the TV show Firefly, I often compare it in my mind to the original Star Trek series. I wonder if all the Star Trek movies and spin-offs through the decades would have ever occurred if that original show had only run a single season. Yes, I think Firefly is (was) that good. And over the next few weeks, I’m going to be re-watching the episodes and sharing with you because I think this show still has a lot to teach us.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it was a “western space opera” created by Joss Whedon, which aired in 2002. The series is set five-hundred years in the future, after Earth has become uninhabitable and mankind went out to find a new star system to call home.
The western vibe comes from the planets on the frontier, which are not so civilized and fancy as the high-tech core worlds. There was a war a few years before the show begins between the system government, the Alliance, and a handful of Independent worlds who wanted autonomy. The Alliance won. The comparisons to the American Civil War are many.
The show’s cast are the crew of a transport starship called Serenity, trying to scratch out a living on the edge of space.
The first episode, or pilot, came in two parts. Titled “Serenity,” it actually didn’t air until the very end of the season. Because this episode sets up so much of the story world and the relationships of its primary characters, I find this criminal. I’ve heard that Fox didn’t think this episode was suitable to open the series, and for that they should be flogged in public. I always insist on watching the episodes in the order they were originally intended. So here goes.
I love weapons. No, not guns and rockets (although they can be cool, too). I prefer the weapons of ages past. Swords, axes, spears, arrows, and maces. Just like Napoleon Dynamite, I remember drawing them in my notebooks when I was in school.
When I was younger, the weapons were part of what drew me to fantasy. Science fiction has its laser guns and starships. Horror has axe murderers and vampires. But fantasy takes me back to earlier epochs in human history when people (and nations) settled their differences with bronze and iron.
Fantasy also adds an element of the mystical to these trappings, and one of my favorite literary devices are weapons so famous or powerful they have their own names. There’s just something… well, magical… about these weapons. Just saying their names evokes a world of pageantry and adventure.
I have some that are my favorites, which I’d like to share with you today.
If you’ve been reading my blogs here for a while, you already know how much I love the ElricSaga by Michael Moorcock. So it should be no surprise that this fell blade ranks among my top fantasy weapons of all-time.
A huge, black, rune-covered vampiric sword that sucks the souls from those it kills and transfers a portion of that energy to its wielder, it is the perfect (albeit evil) companion for our tragic hero Elric. Sure, in the end it devoured all life in the universe, but hey, you can’t blame a demonic sword for following its heart.