Review: ‘Road Brothers’ by Mark Lawrence

Disclaimer — All the way back in 2013, elsewhere on this site, I sung the praises of Mark Lawrence‘s Grimdark Fantasy trilogy, the books of the Thorns: Prince, King, Emperor. They’re very good. If you haven’t read them and you like that sort of thing, you should check them out. Unexpectedly, my faint voice of high praise reached Lawrence himself and he has such a commendably fine memory (or perhaps more commendably, fine record keeping practices) that he offered me the opportunity to read ‘Road Brothers’ a little earlier than many and for free. He didn’t specifically ask for a review (I don’t think), but I intend to give one and in the interests of open transparency, I felt you should know about how I came to read it. I judge this a fair & frank review, but you’re welcome to make your own judgement too.

First, the spoiler-free:
This is a collection of short stories set in Lawrence’s ‘Broken Empire’ and featuring characters from the two series he has set in that world.
If you know these characters, you learn a lot more about them, get to spend more time with them, understand their histories, gain insights into the thoughts and motivations which inform their actions… all of which is great if you’ve read the earlier books. I have, and I enjoyed (most) of these stories largely for those reasons. More on that later.
I wouldn’t recommend this collection as an entry-point to Lawrence’s work, but in this I’m in accord with the author himself. It opens with the advice to people who haven’t read his earlier work, and who are picking this up without that existing familiarity with his world and characters, not to buy the book.
The author. Telling potential readers. Do not buy this book.

It’s a gutsy move, but consistent with a similarly gutsy decision Lawrence made at the end of his first series and explained in the postscript of Emperor.
So if you’ve read Lawrence’s other books, this is definitely worth your time and money. If not, look elsewhere first and come back to ‘Road Brothers‘ when you’re ready.
Spoilers ahead:
image via Goodreads

image via Goodreads

You’ve been warned
.
.
.
The positives:
Much of this is exactly what you are expecting, and that’s likely a good thing, because you’re expecting well crafted stories with a strong sense of character and a a bit of black humour and a hard edge and difficult moralities. This book delivers all that. Blood, betrayal, lies deception, the callous and banal cruelties of which humanity is so exceedingly capable. Weak men pretending at strength, strong men worn down, widowers and one-time fathers bearing the great burden of inconsolable grief.

Lawrence has a gift for metaphor and simile. He scatters quotable bon mots and wry observation throughout these stories. He often holds up a critical mirror to our own world in the world of his Broken Empire. He asks if ours is less Broken, after all.

To the complaints:

There are flawed and burdened and broken women here, but significantly fewer of them and cast in lesser roles. In some stories, none at all. In others stories perfunctory or peripheral appearances. This is ‘Road Brothers’ after all, but Lawrence’s female characters are so significant and complex and interesting in his novel-length trilogies that their absence (or at least their lack of centrality) is felt here. It’s not that he can’t write women well, it’s just that here he doesn’t seem as interested in their stories as in the stories of his men.
If binge-reading, these stories take on a sense which might be called ‘consistency’ but is perhaps more a sense of sameness. Again the village raided. Again the murdered family. Again the man’s need for revenge. Again the witty remark, the clever ploy, the fortunate hand of fate. Always, always, burning thatch. Lawrence here burns a hell of a lot of fictional thatch.
This complaint only occurred when I read several end-on-end. When I spaced things out, about a story a week, the problem wasn’t so apparent.
My top three stories (and an honourable mention):
Sleeping Beauty
Know Thyself
Rescue
Bad Seed
To the specifics:
Below, my thoughts story by story. I took these notes contemporaneously, sometimes immediately upon finishing the story, sometimes as I was reading. I’ve cleaned them up for spelling, grammar, etc, but they’re otherwise my thoughts as they occurred.
Rescue –  Makin’s story. Very short. Effectively three scenes and heavy on memories and Makin’s internal thoughts. It becomes, quickly, Jorg’s story, even while Jorg takes no action within it. Makin loses centrality in his own story. Does a good job explaining his back-story and his loyalty/connection to Jorg.
Sleeping Beauty– This was a strong story, and perhaps because of being back in Jorg’s head and in first-person it felt more familiar to the Broken Empire. I got Resident Evil vibes from the bunker. Lawrence intertwined sci-fi and fantasy elements well (as he does in his long form writing) with the additional thread of the fairytales. The Goldilocks diversion wasn’t necessary to the tale, but worked. The revelations about the hook briars was good, but does this retcon his scars from the novels?
Bad Seed – great first line drops always to a slow build, and the little play on the 6th Sense twist is obvious early but confirmed late (in the sense it was confirmed after being obvious to the reader for too long. Guessing the twist a moment before the reveal is exciting. Guessing it and waiting on the ever-more-obviously-inevitable reveal, less so). The gap between childhood and adulthood is well-written. The loss of the family in a manner repetitive to others (Makin’s notably) felt unnecessary. We had no real connection to wife/sons, so would a burnt house not be enough to set him off? If he’s a natural born killer, why does he need the family-loss motivation? Surely the soldiers’ arrivals are sufficient motivation. He wanted to go to war, but war came to him. The scene in the field was very good, but the latter fight (1 v 6) was best when it was general ‘he threw himself amongst them’, rather than the blow-by-blow which slowed things down and made it all a little overly described. This especially the case when those blows rang at odds with a farmer who had done no violence for years. Throwing the perfect sword stab, sliding and cutting…
The skill in the writing elevated the story. The passage on a farmer’s relationship to killing (as contrast to soldiers’), and on tendons and slaughter and such were all poignant and offered depth to the narrative.
The frisson of meeting Jorg through Red Kent was good fan-service, as was the explanation for the name as a growth from the Old Tongue. Unlike Makin’s this was Red Kent’s story throughout.
Nature of the Beast: Sabitha (as with Lynch’s Locke Lamora stories?) It’s interesting that Rike’s story is not in his head (as others have been). The author’s note at the end of the story addresses this. Afemale first person protagonist, but even with a view from within her head, she’s secondary. This is not her story; it’s Rike’s. More burning thatch. Stakes are suddenly life and death and why we should care about either is never well established. We’re not sure if we should care about her curse or her death, and we’re given no real reason why we should. The curse is the link back to the main books, but while thematically ambitious (that compassion is a curse and a cause of suffering) I would have loved more exploration of that theme. Without it, the curse loses some of its gravitas.
Select Mode:
I had read this before as stand-alone.
Now, as then, this seems an earlier effort. I’m not sure where it comes in ML’s writing chronology, but the prose seems an earlier iteration, less practised and assured than he becomes with experience. I like the concepts here, of slow time, of the post-apocalyptic ruins, of meaning created in misunderstanding. But overall, for reasons I’m not sure I can entirely explain, I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I was intrigued by those elements of it.
Mercy
Another Makin story?
Oh. It’s a Gorlan story. Did we head-hop, or was that my misreading from the start?
And that ending left me wondering what was the point of having read it. Some minor tweak late to misdirect the real threat from a known character to an unknown? It then became a climax played out between two characters I didn’t care much about because they hadn’t been made important to me. Both were significant only in how they related to Makin. Put him in and his gravity pulls the narrative toward him. Take him out and the vacuum he leaves is too great.
A Good Name.
Intriguing first line. Concern creeps in that this is going to be mired in noble savage tropes, but I think Lawrence avoids falling for that. The exoticism is filtered throughout the story, rather than dwelt upon or fethisized. Usually, this is done deftly, but sometimes with a heavy hand. Snaga’s introduction is at best a convenient contrivance. I don’t get Harrac’s motivation here. He didn’t want to wait a few hours but then he gives years in service with Snaga. Why? Then a head-hop? It’s Snaga’s story now? Only briefly.
I loved the character in the Broken Empire books and he fascianted me for his (seemingly misplaced) loyalty to Jorg and in Jorg’s dependence on him. Here, with his younger version, I didn’t feel the same way. He didn’t feel like the same character, whereas the farmer who would become Red Kent felt like Red Kent even before he was (that makes sense, trust me). Younger Rike was obviously Rike. Makin too.
Choices:
Lawrence does an opening line really well, but some feel as though they were crafted independently of the story they open and then bolted on to draw the reader in. Gorgoth and… Jane. What were those parents thinking? That’s a strange pair of names to give. The ‘darkness is patient…’ line is a killer line. Lawrence sure knows how to write those lines. The descriptions here are well done, and I like the quest/journey through the ruins. It has a little the feel of a video game. The fight scene with the bot is a bit silly/contrived. Sudden introduction of Jorg feels rushed/forced.
The Secret:
The different structure here offers promise. The narrative within a narrative, interwoven timeframes, flashing back and forward. It’s good to see Lawrence experimenting with form. His novels and several of these stories are first person perspective, so this is a fresh approach.
The ‘lie’ which Sim reveals was revealed far before the narrative means to reveal it, or perhaps was obvious enough that the reader should have been expected to ‘get it’ before being given it. The explanation of Sim’s diversion is unnecessary. Again Jorg twists the piece to himself.
Know Thyself:
Where Jorg’s presence, or even nearness, seemed to drag other stories off their tracks a little, here he is at once absent and central from the start. It is Jorg’s actions which provoke the narrative here and thus he belongs in the gravity well of the story. Where elsewhere (to varying degrees) he felt like an intruder, here he truly belongs.
But it did make me think of the dog (Justice) again and I never wanted to think of the dog again.
Gomst is an interesting character and the hints at an interesting past are deft and full of intrigue.
I like that the focus shifts from Jorg to William, and that it is through Jorg that we get the first earnings of William
Hope you enjoyed the review. If you’ve read this far you’ve probably read the stories already, but if you just skipped to the end for my verdict it is thus:
This is a good collection of Grimdark Fantasy stories which I’d happily recommend to fans of the genre and of Lawrence’s other work.

‘Illuminae’ Review

In the interests of full disclosure, the authors of this are known to me: I met Amie at a convention some years ago and have kept contact with her (infrequently and mostly electronically) ever since. I was invited to a launch in Melbourne, where I met Jay. I think they’re both great authors and great people, so to the extent that those opinions affected my reading of their book, I declare my bias.

I’m going to (do my very best to) keep this spoiler-free, so read ahead freely, whether you’ve read the book or not.

 

Credit: amiekaufman.com

Credit: amiekaufman.com

 

Firstly, ‘Illuminae’ is a beautiful book. It is a triumph of type-setting and visual text effects. It is creative and chaotic in a wonderful way, playing with form and experimenting with the construction of each page. It shifts between text-types, one moment you’re reading emails, the next a transcript of an interview, the next a chat log, the next a scientific report. This potentially confusing collision is expertly handled, so that the narrative is formed from each of these things in part and from their interaction and overlap. It’s a method for a modern age, an information age, where a great volume of seemingly disconnected facts are made to coalesce into meaning by their relationship to each other, and the inferences of the reader.

The construction of the novel suits its audience. It is clearly and primarily meant for Young Adults, but I am far from young, and I found it engaging and interesting. It does not condescend. The foul language is redacted by black bars (a conceit allowed by the central conceit that this novel is a collected dossier of documents, and that the person for whom it is being collected has asked for the swearing to be censored) but not entirely absent. Like the narrative more generally, it is hinted at on the page but exists really in the mind of the reader. Other than this allowance to the YA audience, this novel would not be out of place on adult shelves. It deals with deep emotion and the ideas it explores have complexity and meaning: the value of love, sacrificing the few for the many, the strength of familial bonds, the human response to tragedy.

The narrative itself starts as a fractured romance, two young lovers, separated by circumstance, on a quest perhaps to find one another again and make amends for past mistakes. Or perhaps not. With ‘Illuminae’ there’s the sense that it will be free to pick its own direction, should it wish. The threat or promise of subversion runs through it at every stage. As with the different forms it takes, ‘Illuminae’ has a free approach to genre. Strong Sci-Fi elements complement the Romance and provide a foundation for elements of Horror and Mystery. It is each of these things, at various stages, and none exclusively.

The characters are well-drawn, and I found myself invested in both Ezra and Kady, and in them as a couple. It is well-balanced, but ultimately Kady’s story, more than Ezra’s. Of note, the secondary characters are plentiful and support the main cast well. Each is given a sense that they have a story of their own, and a life of their own, beyond the text. They don’t exist merely to serve the protagonists. Details of each life are provided, often to heighten the tragedy of death or to raise the stakes of a conundrum. The author’s drew upon their friends for the many hundred names and identities they needed, but there are also nice little pop cultural references, characters with namesakes from The Wire, or from the author’s favourite bands. These provide Easter eggs which reward the attentive reader.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns, meandering at a relatively sedate pace in the early stages before shifting into high gear and delivering a fast-paced, page-turning, late-night, one-more-chapter-Mum, final act. There are questions to be answered, false leads, double-crosses, betrayals, confusion, misunderstandings. Most impressive were the shifting alliances, the way a character could be seen differently by the different protagonists, or the way a seemingly irredeemable character would be given an opportunity to redeem themselves. The form helps here, in that we can head-hop with relative ease and see from multiple perspectives. This is more so the case in the first half, whereas the last half of the book beds us down into a more traditional (albeit nearly omniscient) narrator.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Illuminae’, and would recommend it without hesitation. Certainly it’s a great book for the teen in your house or in your life. For anyone with a creative mind, or an interest in narrative craft, it serves as a fascinating exploration of the possibilities of form and alternative modes of storytelling.


What ‘The End’ means (to me).

So recently I had the opportunity to write those final two words of a manuscript…

These two words

These two words

…and I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on exactly what those mean, in this context.

The first thing I did after typing those words, was to go back to the first chapter I wrote and re-read it. It sucked. It was about 1800 words long, as a chapter, and 900 of them were dead-boring info-dump exposition back-story. They read like I was writing to myself and still trying to figure out what was going on and how it all worked. Which of course they did, because that’s exactly what they were.

‘The End’ then just meant the end of the first draft, and the first draft sucked in many ways, which is fine. First drafts are meant to suck in many ways. You need–I have found and other wiser writers have said–to give yourself permission to suck in that first draft. Chuck Wendig has said that the draft is where you make the words and the editing is when you make them not shitty (or words to that effect). So having shitty words didn’t bother me so much. I accepted that was part of drafting and that I would begin soon the task of making them not shitty.

Thus, The End is the beginning

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

But it is more than that. ‘The End’ is a culmination of all the work that got you to the point where you’ve written a story. That Wendig link above gives 25 reasons why it’s important for you to ‘finish your shit’ and I can’t compete with 25 (especially when there are, contained in those 25, all of mine and more). So I won’t talk about why it’s important for you to get to ‘The End’. I’ll talk about why it was important for me.

This is the third time I’ve been able to type those words and each time I feel like I’ve put them on a draft which was better than the last draft I put them on. Not only that, this time it was the quickest draft I have written, the shortest length of time between setting down those first uncertain words and concluding the story which grew from them.

I started planning this story on 7th July 2015 and wrote the first 20,000 words or so in that month before putting it aside and going back to the revisions on my previous novel. I picked up on this one again in September 2015, with this story still only 20,000 words. I wrote ‘The End’ on 7th Feb 2016, by which time there was 91,454. That means over 70,000 in under 6 months. Given this was around a full-time job, two young kids, Christmas, birthdays, family visits, life-in-general, I think that’s a decent pace. I can improve on it, but it’s significantly quicker than my previous efforts. Partly this is because of general improvements in my process and craft. Partly this is because of NaNoWriMo.

I had been very skeptical of being involved with NaNoWriMo before. The idea of sacrificing quality for quantity and churning out words for the sake of words seemed at odds with how I wrote, but I decided in 2015 to use it as impetus to get a few more words on this Work in Progress. I never expected to get 50,000. And then I did.

My daily, weekly, and monthly totals

My daily, weekly, and monthly totals

Nano wasn’t too hard at all for the first 21 days or so. I had done significant planning beforehand, I had a really clear idea of where the story was going and who was doing what with/to whom and when and where and in what sequence and why and such.
But it wore me down. That fourth week was a chore. You can see I skipped two days in that week entirely. I basically gave up. But a big day spent sitting for several hours at a cafe yielded over 6,000 words and put me back in with a chance and my stubborn competitiveness helped get me over the line.

I started November with 25,000 words, and that had been the work of July, September and October. By the time December began I was over 75,000 and planning to finish by the end of the year.

I barely wrote at all in December. I was so fatigued by the November efforts I basically did nothing for a week and then I wrote a bit in the second and third week before Christmas etc hit and I did nothing until January was pretty well underway. I decided I’d try and finish by the end of Jan and missed that goal too, but only by 7 days.

Part of the problem was that I felt so close. I figured another 10-15 (on top of my 75) would get me there, and I was writing that basically weekly throughout November, so how hard could it be? But the push to get words down had taken a toll. Those words weren’t always according to the plan, and the plan had to change, and that’s fine, but I found I had lost my direction. I had to go back and re-write and re-shape and then plan again and draft again and cut and create. It was a tough process. I ended up cutting 10,000 words back out over January and the start of Feb. The last three chapters took forever and changed many times.

And so when I did finally get to write ‘The End’ it was deeply cathartic, to know that it was done, and all of that effort had led to a moment where I could feel, briefly, that the story was told.

Thus, The End means a time to celebrate.

Me, celebrating

Me, celebrating

 

So what now?

Now I have sent the finished draft off to beta-readers. I won’t look at it now for a month. Then I’ll print it out, chapter by chapter, make my own notes and consider the feedback from my readers and start the process again. Because ‘The End’ is the beginning. And one day in a April or May I’ll be able to come back to ‘The End’ having revised the draft and ‘The End’ will again mean that it is a time to celebrate and reflect.

In the mean-time…

I started something new today. It’s just a series of thoughts and ideas, a totally different story in a totally different world to the last two I’ve written, but I think it has some legs and somewhere to go.  I have 6,000 words down, of which about half are genuine words and the other half notes and planning and reminders and suggestions.

It’s a near-future sci-fi with cyberpunk influences and it opens with a Hemi-powered Charger, some old lovers, a night drive, a quiet bar, a secretive job offer, a computer chip, an ambush, a knife fight and plenty of gunfire.

So the process begins again. Hopefully in six months I’ll get to ‘The End’ of this one.


My Superman vs Batman film

So I recently launched a bit of a rant on my Twitter and Facebook about the new Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice trailer.

I had a few problems with it, specifically:

I was grumpy

I am not the only one who has had a problem with this trailer, and I didn’t even pick up on my first viewing that Batman has a gun in his hands. A gun. Batman.
Now these represent a kind of frivolous ranting, I understand that. A friend tweeted me a rejoinder from Purple Hippo against which I offer no defence.
Hippo Tweet

Another friend, an unabashed DC fan, challenged me to be more positive about it, and this challenge did strike a chord. It is easy, after all, to be critical from behind a keyboard and launch barbs against the creative endeavors of others. Too easy perhaps, such that one falls into the role of the vandal too easily, tearing viciously at art they do not appreciate. I haven’t even seen the film (obviously), and no doubt my general distaste for Zac Snyder’s films and my bitter disappointment at the last half of the previous Superman tainted any objectivity I may have had. That said, the previous (shorter) Dawn of Justice trailer actually had me pretty hopeful for what this film could be. This most recent one burned that hope to ashes.

Superman is a difficult character to write into a compelling story because so much of narrative depends on conflict and stakes. For Superman, there can be no meaningful external conflict. He can defeat any enemy at will and is impervious to any attack. What threats can he be made to face? And what can be at stake? Not his own life, so must it be those he cares about, must we perpetually have Lois Lane endangered to give Superman a reason to act?

The response to this has either been even more incredibly super-powered enemies (a narrative arms race which quickly succumbs to absurdity), or weakening Superman with kryptonite. This latter approach is the better, but fraught, because if the enemies use of kryptonite becomes inevitable in every Superman tale, it moves from his one vulnerability to a hackneyed deus ex machina.

An alternative approach is to focus less of Superman’s external conflicts, and more on the internal. This is the truly fascinating question of Superman, for me. ‘If I had unlimited power, how would I use that?’ Superman should lead us to ask how we could decide when to act, and in whose interests. We should questions how we would manage the competing urges to altruism and self? He should be forced to choose, for instance, whether to save Lois Lane (a single life he cares greatly for) or the passenger jet about to crash (hundreds of strangers). He should have to agonise over which disasters he prevents, and which he allows. How, after all, could he justify intervening in a bank robbery in Metropolis if he could instead prevent an African warlord from slaughtering a village, or a drone strike destroying a hospital, or a suicide bomber in a football stadium, or a gunman in woman’s health clinic, or a drug cartel kidnapping the wife and child of a good cop?

The best story of Superman, would be one of these moral conflicts. Red Son exploited this by having Superman raised in Stalin’s Russia, and asking how we would feel about his powers if they were in service to that ideology.

Snyder seemed ready to offer us this film in ‘Man of Steel’ (such as when Kevin Costner questioned whether it was a good thing for young Clark to have saved the bus), but then reverted to Supes punching people through buildings for 30 minutes.

So in the interests of positivity, here’s my attempt. I have assumed a few elements as required. The central trio of Bats, Supes and Wonder Woman. That Lex and Doomsday appear as villains. That this follows on from ‘Man of Steel’ so that the events of that film are present as background to this, the characters in this must act consistently with a world post-‘Man of Steel’, a world in which Kryptonians have fought their way through Metropolis, and in which Superman broke Zod’s neck. I think the casting of the film is pretty good, I have no particular problem with Batfleck, Cavill is a good Supes, Gadot perfect for WW, Adams as Lane, Eisenberg should be a good Lex, for all he annoyed me in the trailer. If I needed to cast Catwoman, Emily Blunt would be amazing. I have added a few elements, and considered how this would set up subsequent films on a trajectory toward Justice League.

Lois Lane and Clark Kent have come to Gotham to attend a journalist award ceremony. She is being recognised for her work on an investigative feature for the Daily Planet exploring issues arising from the revelations of extraterrestrial life life, particularly Kryptonian. She will later speak at the UN about the issue.
At the award ceremony she and Kent meet Bruce Wayne, who is a corporate sponsor of the event. Wayne Enterprises owns the hotel they’re staying in.
When they return to their (separate but adjoining) rooms they find they have been ransacked. It soon becomes clear that this is true of several attendees to the award ceremony. Lane reports the theft. Wayne excuses himself, deferring Lane to Lucius Fox, who promise that action will be taken. Wayne, as Batman, follows a trail of clues from the building across Gotham’s rooftops. Kent, as Superman, is unseen above. He follows Batman, suspecting that he is the thief. He closes the distance, but Batman senses him and escapes. Supes returns to the hotel, and as Kent begins his investigation into the Gotham vigilante.

Batman returns to the batcave, his pursuit of the thief interrupted by Superman. He begins his own inquiries into the Kryptonian, which lead him to Lexcorp, a private contractor for space-faring tech which has been brought in on a private consultancy with US govt on the matter of Zod. He knows Lex Luthor’s reputation in corporate circles: a young entrepreneur with an air of the eccentric genius. He shares with Alfred his concern at seeing the Kryptonian in Gotham’s skies, and decides to prepare a defence. But first he returns his attention to the theft from his hotel. He has a suspect. On the screen we see a shot of Selena Kyle.

Lex is still in Metropolis. We see him reporting to government agents on what he has learnt from his study of Zod’s corpse. He has become fascinated with Krypton, and has been searching everywhere for more signs of their presence. He reveals that he has detected an asteroid with traces of Krypton, likely a fragment of that planet, having traveled through space since the planet’s destruction. But when he plotted its trajectory, he saw that its approach to Earth is too perfect to be chance. He plans to intercept it as it approaches Earth’s atmosphere.

At the UN Lois Lane gives her speech to the assembled world leaders. Among them is Diana Prince, an employee of the UN. She requests a private audience with Lane, and there asks how Lane knows Kryptonians can be trusted. Lois tells her tale, and Diana tells her about the asteroid Lex is tracking. She is worried that the US gov’t, and that a private company in Lexcorp, will keep the study of the asteroid from the rest of humanity. She’s concerned that it may be weaponised, either by the US, or by Lex. Lane sees a story in it and decides it’s worth investigating.

Batman has tracked the theft back to Selena, and he confronts her. She tells him that she has sold what she stole on to Gotham underworld. Batman is about to let her go, on the promise that she will leave town, but Superman descends from above and insists that she face justice. Batman challenges Superman’s idea of justice. He accuses him of being a tyrant. Calls him an executioner for breaking Zod’s neck, blames him for the damage to Metropolis from the fight. Superman calls Bats a vigilante, accuses him of disregard for the rule of law. Batman argues that he does so to ensure order, that law is not always the moral good. Superman says that people as powerful as he and Bats can’t afford to think that way, that they become tyrants if they consider themselves above the law. They fight: Superman alone vs Bats and Catwoman as a team. Bats pulls a trick, escapes with Selena.

Superman briefly pursues, but allows them to escape because Batman’s criticisms have touched him and he decides that he doesn’t want another fight, as with Zod. Instead he decides to use more official channels. He has, through his super senses, established that Bats=Wayne. He goes to the DA, Harvey Dent, and together they hatch a plan to bring Bats in legally. He doesn’t reveal Bats’ secret identity, because he doesn’t want to prejudice Dent’s investigation.

Later, Lois tells Kent of Diana’s fears about Lexcorp. He is supposed to be meeting soon with Dent to enact their plan to catch the Bat, but he decides that it is more important for him to stop this fragment of Krypton falling into Lex’s hands. Once away from Lois, he becomes Supes and flies into low-orbit to interfere with Lex’s plans. As a result, he’s not present when Dent needs him.

Dent follows through with the plan he had to catch Bats, but without Superman’s assistance, it back-fires disastrously. He is badly wounded in an explosion. Batman saves Dent’s life, and takes him to hospital. He makes his way to the roof, worried that his efforts to do good in Gotham have inadvertently hurt one of the city’s good guys. He sees shooting stars above.

In the upper atmosphere Supes is trying to stop Lex from getting to the meteor. He gets caught in a dogfight with Lex’s aircraft and with US Air Force fighters. He defeats them, breaking away in one instance to save a pilot whose ejector seat fails. When he gets close to the meteor, in his attempt to deflect it back into space, the Kryptonite it contains robs him of his powers. He falls, with it, but away from it, and as he falls farther from it his powers regain, so that he survives his landing in a Gotham park. Some blocks away, the meteor has also landed. It is a capsule, the same sort as the one by which he, as Kal-El, escaped Krypton. Doomsday steps out.

Superman is still weak, and is weakened as he gets closer to the capsule, but he still tries to fight Doomsday. As it seems that he has been overwhelmed, Batman (in his anti-Supes suit) comes to his aid. When Doomsday gets the better of Batman, WW arrives as well and joins the fight. Between the three of them they subdue Doomsday.

Afterwards, Lex reveals to the media that Superman actively prevented him from intercepting Doomsday’s pod in orbit. Lex blames Supes for Doomsday reaching Earth and for all the damage done, first to Metropolis, now to Gotham. Public backlash against Supes increases. Lois Lane is an increasingly isolated voice in a media calling for increased accountability and regulation of Superman’s actions. 

Batman returns to the batcave, badly beaten and facing a crisis of confidence. He tells Alfred that he must upgrade his defences. He needs Kryptonite, because of what might yet come down from space, and because he needs to be prepared in case the Kryptonian already on Earth turns bad. He knows now that there are greater threats in the world than Gotham’s criminals.

Dent awakes, as Two-Face, blaming Batman and Superman for the injuries he sustained. He swears revenge on both.

A scene with Selena and Diana reveals that she was the recipient of the info Catwoman stole from Lane. She returns to Themyscira, knowing more now about the Kryptonians, and determined to prepare her people against them.

The final image is of Doomsday in restraints being delivered to Lex, who has been working with the Kryptonite salvaged from Doomsday’s pod. He slots one of the green crystals into his mech suit, climbs in, and lifts Doomsdsy easily.

So there it is. My attempt in the space of a few hours of my spare time to outdo the combined efforts of several professional script-writers and film-makers who have been at work for months on a multi-million dollar budget. What ridiculous hubris I have.
Please feel free to endorse my vision, or to feed me a taste of my own medicine by way of scathing comments below.


Genrecon 2015

So this is long overdue. Just insert your own joke about neglected blogs and tumbleweeds and author platforms and such. I made the point at the con that I happily prioritised my writing over my blogging, and here I am, walking the talk.

But Genrecon 2015 could not be allowed to slip past unremarked.

GenreCon2015Banner

 

Indeed, many others have already remarked upon it at some length, doubtless more thoroughly and eloquently than I shall here:

Peter Ball, organizer extraordinaire, collected his thoughts on the massive project he has undertaken, to deserved acclaim, and had some interesting statements to make on the line-up.

Kat Clay shared her detailed notes and images from the con.

David Witteveen tweeted heaps and storified and shared and gathered together a wealth of knowledge and experience. He has continued to interview attendees. Have a little browse through his Twitter.

Lisa L Hannett found joy.

Angela Savage came as a guest and found herself a learner.

From that sampling (and it is merely a small sampling) you can follow down the various rabbit holes of the multi-faceted experience of Genrecon, but it is these which most resonate with me. Genrecon was well-organised and well-run, it was such a full program that you couldn’t possibly see everything you wanted to see, it was a weekend of fun and joy, and it was a weekend that taught me so much.

This was my third Genrecon. The first, in 2012, was in Western Sydney. 2013 and 2015 have been in Brisbane. I came to the first because I had reached a stage in my writing where I had become prepared for some select few others to know that it was something I was doing, and I was encouraged by the partner of an old friend to contact Peter Ball and seek advice. He was generous with his advice, and he mentioned Genrecon. I heard that there would be the opportunity to pitch to a NY agent, and then heard that Joe Abercrombie would be the guest of honour. I am a big fan of Abercrombie’s work, and so I was sold.

I came to the second Genrecon invigorated by the first, pitching the same book but now much improved. Again the guest of honour was a writer I greatly admired, Chuck Wendig. I had actually tweeted at Peter to invite Chuck, so I will boast that I inspired the choice—the truth be damned.

In both cases what impressed me about Genrecon was the sense of community. It was a family, made up of disparate and quite different parts, but coming together in a mutually supportive whole. Before my first Genrecon I had a clichéd and dismissive attitude toward Romance. That shames me now. It was naïve at best, and certainly ignorant. The Romance writers I have met at three Genrecons have been among the most forthcoming, encouraging, supportive and savvy writers. An author with dozens of published books to her name will happily sit with a doe-eyed ingénue like myself and talk about plot and character conflict, and painstaking research of history, and the importance of a good contract, and the frustrations of bad cover art (or the elation when it is good). Romance is the biggest genre, the best-selling genre, and a genre in which talented writers work damn hard on their craft and their business. I have enormous respect for their work.

Likewise Crime, which I once had associated with airport newsagencies and the dusty bookshelves of late-middle-age. These assumptions were shredded by several crime fiction writers, and a coup-de-grace delivered by John Connolly in 2013, who held an engrossing hour-long conversation within the Genrecon program, and with whom I had an engrossing and increasingly drunken conversation well into the early hours of Sunday morning at the hotel bar.

This year it was karaoke (where Alan Baxter channelled Lemmy and Patrick O’Duffy left a lasting impression) and laser-tag. It was talking to CS Pacat (whose website is a work of art in itself!) about her growing awareness of the power in the story she was telling, and of the value in the words she wrote. It was conversations with Mary Robinette Kowal about dialect, accent, phonology and puppetry. It was talking with Nathan Farrugia about martial arts, or Justin Woolley about zombies, Steve Vincent about the Hoover Dam control room, Emma Osbourne about growing up in a small town in central Victoria.

Photo credit to Lisa L Hannett

Me, on the right (Photo credit to Lisa L Hannett)

I volunteered to chair a panel this year, and I’m so glad I did. I was fortunate enough to be on stage with three extremely warm, wise and intelligent panelists. Kim Wilkins I knew from previous Genrecons (Genres-con?), but I hadn’t met Keri Arthur until I sat down beside her at lunch one day and after some minutes chatting she mentioned that she would be on a panel, and I mentioned that I would be chairing one. ‘Which one?’ she asked, from which we discovered that it would be the same one. Angela Slatter (now ‘World Fantasy Award Winner’ to go along with the many other well-deserved honourifics in her bio) I didn’t meet until we were onstage together and the crowd was filing in. The nerves were short-lived though, and the panel soon became an open and easily moderated conversation, from which I learnt a great deal.

I also pitched my new novel to Alex Adsett, whose reputation as an agent of genre-fiction in Australia is unsurpassed. It went well, despite my feeling that I rushed a little and fumbled over words. Alex was very enthusiastic and requested the full manuscript, which I happily submitted. I could not have hoped for a better outcome from the pitch, but now the waiting game to see what comes of it. A good pitch is a helpful thing, but it doesn’t matter unless there’s a good book behind it.

The next Genrecon is 2017, and I can’t wait. I will definitely volunteer to be involved again, in whatever capacity I can be. It is a wonderful convention, where the unpublished can rub shoulders and raise a glass with NY Times Best Sellers, and where International guests are scribbling down notes and advice given by authors whose debut is not yet on shelves.

If you are in any way connected to the Australian genre writing community, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

A huge thank you, and a congratulations are due to Peter and all his many helpers, to the State Library QLD and the Australian Writer’s Marketplace, to all the guests and panelists, and to everyone who made it possible.