Thursday, October 08, 2020

The 100 Season 7 - A Different Take

I was a few years late catching onto The 100, but after checking out the first episode of season one, my wife and I were hooked. The first season is morally and ethically challenging with a great premise. Each season builds on exploiting those dilemmas. Even as the setting develops, the story becomes denser, and the backstory more complex. At the core, this show was always about characters and their hard choices. 

In terms of quality and logic, the show swung mightily. Rather than become a yearly slugfest of repetition and boredom like The Walking Dead, each season of The 100 posited, "what if we do this insane thing next?" I give the creative team props - they explored nearly every imaginable dystopian, post-apocalyptic tangent they could think of, and then threw in some more for fun.

At some point, creating mythology became the primary driver, and wow did the show get bogged down by it. So much so that season seven, the last season, exists to justify all of it to the detriment of the characters. In service of unlocking the mythology mystery box, major characters like Clarke Griffin act completely at odds with how they behaved in the previous six seasons.

When season six ended, my wife and I turned to each other and guessed how season seven would play out. We were both wildly wrong. From various reports, season seven didn't exactly turn out the way the showrunners planned out either because of an unspecified issue with a cast member. Whether that's entirely true, or an excuse, only they know.

What is known? A prequel spin-off series was a part of the reason season seven unfolded the way it did, with one entire episode described as a "backdoor pilot." The eighth episode "Anaconda" was a massive backstory/exposition info-dump to serve this purpose. I'm old enough to remember how another sci-fi prequel turned out - it was Caprica, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica reboot. It got bogged down by family drama and storytelling that slowed to a crawl. Perhaps compared to the weekly adrenaline rush provided by BSG, there was no way the prequel would compare, even with a strong cast.

When season seven ended, my wife said something along the lines of, "that was a mess of a season with a good finale." Does it matter that the season lacked coherence, ignored characters for long stretches while focusing on others that didn't earn it? I guess it depends on your outlook. Are you just interested in the destination, or does the journey matter?

Like I mentioned, I had a much different concept about what would happen in season seven. For the hell of it, I'm going to lay it out. Is it fully developed? No, I don't have a writer's room at my disposal, so it's pretty bare bones.

First, where did we leave off at the end of season six? Shannon at It Start's At Midnight has a thorough recap. Can I tell you how bored I became of the Sheidheda story-line in season seven? Here's my solution to that - Sheidheda "enters" the ship computer when the flame is removed from Madi and "destroyed." Early on in season seven, there should have been a debate - they know A.I. Sheidheda exists in the ship, and cannot remove him. Do they blow up the ship and guarantee they'll never leave Sanctum? Let that play out over an episode or two, they realize A.I. Sheidheda is figuring out how the ship works, is up to an evil plan, and ultimately decide to destroy the ship. But, it's a dangerous mission, A.I. Sheidheda pulls out all the stops to prevent them from blowing up the ship, and a character has to stay behind to detonate the explosion. Dramatic send-off for a longtime character, yeah!

Next, let's deal with The Anomaly Stone and the Octavia back scribbling-business. Since we have established new planets with season six, finding more planets was...fine. What I was hoping for was not just space travel, but the best sci-fi trope of them all - time travel. When Hope is revealed as Diyoza's daughter, that meant time was in play. What we got was a prison planet where the prisoners just age faster. That's not how I was expected it to play out, and I didn't find it particularly successful. It just made everything confusing at times - how old is this person now? How long were they gone? I'm sure there is a big dry-erase board with timelines and characters and such in The 100 writing room plotting this all out, but personally, it went the wrong way for me.

Here's my second idea for season seven - what we learn from Hope (c'mon with that name, btw) is that the future is completely and royally screwed. The Anomaly Stone is connected to similar Stones all around the universe, and also MULTIPLE universes, in which humans just keeping making the same dumb, selfish, violent mistakes over and over again. Octavia's back tattoo is a map they don't understand yet, but is slowly revealed to be a way not only to get home but to travel back in time before the nuclear holocaust. The group don't know who created the map, and they argue about the consequences if they go down this road - if they travel into the past, how will they stop the holocaust from happening? If they succeed and change the future, what happens to their existence? Are they on a singular timeline, or is this just one potential future? Also WHERE THE HELL DID THESE STONES COME FROM?

Will I pretend to have all the answers? No. This was a two-minute discussion with my wife. We didn't sit down and plot out an entire season of television. What I wanted was a "we have a chance to save billions of lives and reset the course of our history, even if we have to sacrifice our lives for it" moment. This group has always made tough choices, and I wanted them to be faced with the toughest choice of all. They could have still used all the bits and pieces of backstory they've learned in order to succeed, and maybe there was a happy ending to be found. But I can't say I'm a huge fan of happy endings as much as satisfying endings.

This groups entire existence was defined by something they had no control over (the holocaust, the ark, etc.), so make their final challenge, their final test, an opportunity to seize control of their own narrative and existence. Maybe this is too simplistic, but that's what I was hoping for. Instead, they got tested by a mysterious shape-shifting being that turned them into eternal light. Or some of them. The others spent eternity camping together.

So that's my bare-bones take. If you have thoughts, let me know.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Two Word Reviews - Q3 2020

The third installment of Two Word Reviews (patent pending) for tv shows, movies, and music for 2020, covering the third quarter (July, August, September):

Palm Springs - warm funny
Hamilton - as expected

Ament: American Death Squad EP - undercooked effort
Paul Weller: On Sunset - solid grooves
The Lees Of Memory: Moon Shot - all bangers
The Rentals: Q36 - fuzzy fun
The Jayhawks: XOXO - harmonic bliss
Bush: The Kingdom - middle road
JARV IS: Beyond The Pale - needs more
Brad Laner: Only Ghost In Town - dreamy weirdness
Guided By Voices: Mirrored Aztec - more goodness
Erasure: The Neon - bit repetitive
James Dean Bradfield: Even In Exile - quality stretch
The Psychedelic Furs: Made Of Rain - welcome return
Alain Johannes: Hum - gorgeous understatements
Primal Fear: Metal Commandos - awesome rawk
Gang Of Four: Anti-Hero - more curiosity
Massive Attack: Eutopia - occasionally distracting
Semisonic: You're Not Alone - never left
The Flaming Lips: American Head - aching psychedelics
Throwing Muses: Sun Racket - off kilter
Tricky: Fall To Pieces - under cooked

Broad City, Seasons 3, 4 and 5 (Hulu) - yas queens
The 100, Season 7 (Hulu) - troubled season
Taste The Nation, Season 1 (Hulu) - delicious discoveries
The Get Down, Season 1 and 2 (Netflix) - artistically sound
Amy Schumer Learns To Cook, Season 2 (Hulu) - pasta sauce!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Music Inspired By the Novel - The Black Sky is now Available

Because I was not content to just write a book, I also wrote a soundtrack for THE BLACK SKY. I was listening to instrumental music and film scores during the writing process, so it somehow made sense to draw from the inspiration and compose my own score. Each track corresponds with a chapter, but you don't need to sync them up. The album is available to stream, download, and purchase on compact disc.

Bandcamp (Book and CD bundle available)


Apple Music



The Black Sky By The Numbers

It's been a long road to finally publishing The Black Sky. Aside from writing, rewriting, and actually getting the darn thing to people, plenty of other work was involved.

Like any other unrepped writer, I tried to get an agent or publisher interested in the book. That meant query letters, lots of query letters. To my own detriment, I sent out The Black Sky before I should have. The first round of queries occurred before I ended up rewriting the first chapter, which made a significant difference in kicking-off the story. The second round of queries, the book was in better shape, but still had plenty of grammar issues that a quality copy-edit pass would have caught. Overall, here's what querying looked like:

  • 126 total queries sent
  • 64 no response
  • 62 responses
    • 59 rejects
    • 3 read requests
    • 1 offer of representation

You're probably thinking, "holy cow, Tim, you got an agent!" Well, not so fast. Getting an agent doesn't mean getting published, obviously. Having a literary agent tell you they loved your book and want to get on the phone was thrilling, but it is just the start of another process. Over the course of a year, the lit agent sent out the book to thirteen publishers. None were interested, and since we had nothing more than a handshake deal to start, the agent I parted ways when it was clear the book was going that route.

In retrospect, it was too early. I still hadn't re-written the first chapter yet, and there were other edits/adjustments that needed to occur, plus the grammar issues. The fact the agent took a chance on me was, to some extent, validation.

When I knew I was going down the self-publish path, that meant returning to my roots as a DIY musician. Building a press kit, researching outlets for reviews, and all the other work to get the word out on the book. Here's what those numbers look like:

  • 179 review queries (mostly book bloggers with some print and digital media)
  • 127 no response (so far)
  • 37 positive responses
  • 15 flat-out rejections
That doesn't mean I'm done submitting. Some places don't want the query until the book is published. In addition, using positive quotes from advanced copies reviews to build up the press kit will be important not only for new submissions of The Black Sky but also for future books.

There is also the matter of budget.

I didn't set one before I started all of this, I just go to work and built a to-do and calendar, which you can see below.

To get the final versions of the paperback, ebook, and audiobook complete, the total ran about $2500. I had read $2000 was the minimum, and I can understand why. Other folks most likely didn't have to deal with things like building websites, swag for giveaways, compact discs for a soundtrack, etc. I took that upon myself because I wanted a certain experience.

Even with this calendar, I still ran out of time in some respects. The audiobook got done, but it is not for sale yet thanks to a lengthy review period at Audible. I ordered copies of the final paperback, but they are still yet to ship. If I was hosting an in-person book release today, I'd be in big trouble.

It took ten years to get here, from the moment the idea for The Black Sky formed, to it being a living piece of work. I believe I wrote the best version of it, and I'm psyched to keep building on the world I've created. So, here's to The Red Sky in 2022.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Last Emperox

The Last Emperox (The Interdependency, #3)The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very satisfying conclusion to The Interdependency trilogy. These books are all tightly written with plenty of action and palace intrigue. I wish there were three more coming, because I could read about this universe for years to come.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2020

THE BLACK SKY Happy Hour Book Launch 8/28

To celebrate the release of THE BLACK SKY on August 28th, I'll be hosting a virtual book launch event from 5pm to 7pm EST. Broadcasting from "The Dank," the dive bar mentioned in the book, I'll be spinning punk rock records, reading from the book, answering questions, mixing drinks, and giving away books and swag.

You can check it out several different ways, as I'll be broadcasting from Zoom. If you want to hop on there CLICK THIS ZOOM LINK. It will also be on FACEBOOK. Hope to see you then!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

New Music at Soundcloud

I've got some new music posted at Soundcloud. First up is an album of 70s funk/soul built on various samples/loops that was inspired by the Dig Me Out episode we recorded on Big Chief's 1993 album Mack Avenue Skullgame, which is a fake 70s blaxploitation film soundtrack make by a 90s alt-rock band.

Second is a track sampling Malcolm X audio, musically inspired by listening to a lot of Run The Jewels lately.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Two Word Reviews - Q2 2020

The second installment of Two Word Reviews (patent pending) for tv shows, movies, and music for 2020, covering the second quarter (April, May, June):

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw - insane fun
Good Boys - solid laughs
Onward - worthy journey
Beastie Boys Story - interesting format
Extraction - average action
A Secret Love - moving story
Hannah Gadsby: Nanette - shockingly funny
Jay & Silent Bob Reboot - okay nostalgia
Ad Astra - disjointed story
Cosmic Psychos: Blokes You Can Trust - wild ride
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - midlevel Ferrell

Danzig: Danzig Sings Elvis - producer needed
Fu Manchu: Fu30, Pt 1 - killer riffs
Godzillionaire: Negative Balance - fuzzy fun
Local H: Lifers - another banger
Ultimate Fakebook: The Preserving Machine - infectious energy
Fiona Apple: Fetch The Bolt Cutters - welcome return
EOB: Earth - missing pieces
Coriky: Coriky - above average
Michael McDermott: what in the world... - crafted rage
Giants Chair: The Streets EP - more please
Christian McNeill: Trapped On The Planet Part One - big songs
Tim Burgess: I Love The New Sky - cool weirdness
The Nixons: Sonic Boom - surprisingly agile
Moby: All Visible Objects - missing personality
The Vapors: Together - pop hits
Magnetic Fields: Quickies - mostly works
The Lickerish Quartet: Threesome, Volume One EP - mind melters
Shiner: From Schadenfreude - heady excellence
Moviola: Cuss and Scrape - scrappy goodness
Hum: Inlet - holy shit
Silver Sun: Switzerland - killer craft

Schitt's Creek, Season Six (Hulu) - don't stop
Altered Carbon, Season Two (Netflix) - significant improvement
Tiger King (Netflix) - jaw dropping
Westworld, Season Three (HBO) - shifting quality
Avenue 5, Season One (HBO) - occasionally hilarious
The Handmaid's Tale, Season One (Hulu) - difficult watch
Future Man, Season Three (Hulu) - hit landing
Queer Eye, Season Five (Netflix) - strong season
Upload, Season One (Amazon) - defied previews

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Starship Troopers

Starship TroopersStarship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I went into this expecting to love it based on how many of my favorite authors have praised the work. Unfortunately, I merely found it slightly better than average. The biggest hurdle for me was the massive amount of nothing happening. I understand what Heinlen is doing, digging deep into the military training and structure to provide some sort of potential ideal, but the honestly that got old fast. There is a lot of talk about promotions and the way things are done, but it all felt unnecessary when I finally reached the end as if there was plenty of set-ups and no payoff. Maybe the book needed to be longer so I could actually read how these various characters evolve, but as is, Rico felt like the only three-dimensional entity in the whole book, whereas so many one-off characters went on long-winded diatribes with repetitive points between them. Dare I say, the movie is far superior?

View all my reviews