Rogue One’s Diego Luna

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I saw ROGUE ONE last night for the second time. I saw it earlier in the week as well. It really is an amazing film and is probably the best of the series after the first one. The writing is so good and the performances are superb.

Among the cast is Diego Luna, a Mexican actor who plays Cassian Andor, a Rebel Alliance Captain.

As I watched I realized that Luna would be perfect casting for a character of mine, Poet from my Ka Sirtago series.

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Poet is companion to Sirtago, Ka (or prince) of the southern kingdom of Trigassa. Sirtago is a giant of a man, hideously scarred, constantly angry, brawling, drinking and whoring. Poet is his lifelong companion, his best friend who keeps him out of trouble or, if he can’t, at least keeps Sirtago pointed in the right direction.

The Sirtago stories are unabashedly sword and sorcery in the tradition of Robert E. Howard and  Fritz Leiber.

And in my personal fantasy, a Hollywood film made from the stories would star Diego Luna as Poet.

My Ka Sirtago stories are available on Amazon.com

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Winter is coming

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If you think you’ve read today’s post before you may very well have. It’s recycled.

I used to blog over at the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE website. I wrote posts for years for them in anticipation of the magazine being renewed. (I eventually got tired of waiting and stopped writing. I’m told that they are publishing fiction now, but I have long since stopped caring)

Either way, I have dusted off this old ditty about the coming of winter, a topic that is becoming more and more depressing to me as I shuffle off into old age.

Winter is coming.

If you’re a reader of fantasy, particularly of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (or you just watch the series on HBO), you’ve heard that phrase, usually said in long, Yorkshire tones by actors like Sean Bean and infused with much dread and despair. Winter is only one of four seasons but it can also be a feeling, a state of being.

There are a lot of fantasy and science fiction works set in winter environments. There are works where the winter is not just a climactic condition but an overall feeling or mood. Winter is much more than just the presence of snow and ice.

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Winter Landscape by 88grzes

It is December first today and, yes, winter is coming.

In some places, mostly in the south, winter is not a big deal. But in the north its different. And if you live in the Great White North (a.k.a. Canada) as I do, then winter is more than just a season, it is a state of mind. Canadians identify with winter. Indeed, in some parts of our country, winter defines who we are as a people. In the province of Quebec, for instance, there is a song called Mon Pays, which was composed by Gilles Vigneault in 1964. The song became kind of an anthem for Quebec and for Canadians as a whole to some extent. “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” the lyrics say. “My country is not a country, it is winter.”

 

In fantasy and science fiction, winter is never usually just a setting. If there is winter it is usually symbolic. In George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, winter, the season that always seems to be coming, represents a return of the fearsome supernatural creatures that once held sway in Westeros. They were defeated and held back by the wall, a huge barrier made of ice. The people of the north make a philosophy of being prepared, of guarding against their return. Indeed, in the land of Westeros, winter, when it comes, can last for hundreds of years. Winter in Martin’s books is not merely a characteristic of the north. It threatens to claim the entire world.

Again, Martin’s winter is not merely climatic. Winter in Westeros means a return to the dark age of superstition and terror and an end to a world built by reason and prosperity.

mdjackson_winter_the-left-hand-of-darknessAnother world where winter holds constant sway is Gethen, or Winter, as it is called by the citizens of the Ekumen in Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Gethen is a planet where it is constantly winter, but that’s not merely a quirk of setting. The constant winter is symbolic of the state of the planet’s inhabitants. Neither male nor female, Gethenians live in a state of asexuality, only adopting sexual difference during brief periods called kemmer. The climate of Gethen mirrors the sterile nature of the planet’s inhabitants and society.

Le Guin doesn’t just use winter as an interesting backdrop against which her novel’s narrative can play out. The nature of Gethen’s climate serves an important metaphorical purpose to the story.

Sometimes, though, an icy background is merely that—background. In the second Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back, the ice planet of Hoth serves as a background for the rebels’ battle against the Imperial armada. I suppose one could stretch the setting of Hoth to represent the frozen hopes of the rebellion against the might of the evil empire, but, as I said, it’s a bit of a stretch. This is only Star Wars. One can’t expect sophisticated metaphors. The winter setting is visually stunning, however, particularly in regards to the planet’s creatures. The tauntaun on which the rebels ride while patrolling, for instance, is an interesting creature. They are sort of a cross between a mountain goat and a kangaroo and seem relatively easy to domesticate for the rebels’ purposes. Then, of course, there is the wampa, a huge, shaggy, deadly creature who captures Luke Skywalker and puts him on ice (pardon the pun) in preparation for eating him (we can only assume).

The wampa is kind of like another creature from the frozen north—the yeti.

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The yeti are ape-like creatures that live in the frozen mountains. I have used the yeti in my own artwork. This image was featured on the cover of Issue 1 of The Dreamquest magazine.

Or perhaps it is just a typical day in the Great White North? Naked yeti fighting is a popular Canadian activity. I am confident that it will soon be an official event at the Winter Olympics.

Winter as a setting for science fiction and fantasy is usually more than just backdrop. It usually serves a greater thematic purpose. Winter can represent sterility, bleakness, death, or worse. In real life there is some danger in the wintertime, but when you live in the northern part of the world, you adapt. You bundle up. You buy snow tires. You light a fire and sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and wait for it to be spring again.

Winter is coming. But it won’t last forever.

*No yeti were harmed in the writing of this post.

Images

Some of you may know that as well as writing as Jack Mackenzie, I so artwork as MD Jackson. As artist M. D. Jackson I also write for the AMAZING STORIES website.

A recent post I wrote required me to gather up some images from the web and, as usual, I collected far more than I could use. So I’m going to share them here without any explanation or context, just posting them for fun!

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Amazing Stories Feb 1939

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Star Wars: The Force AwakensPh: Film Frame

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens

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Taking a break from reviewing Netflix movies because I FINALLY got in to see STAR WARS: The Force Awakens

So… STAR WARS… yeah, well, I liked it.

It certainly got a better shake from JJ than Star Trek did. You can`t watch it and scowl and say: “That`s not Star Wars! Star Wars would never do that! That’s not what the original Star Wars was all about!”

So… in that respect… yes! Big success.

Do I sound a bit bitter? Never mind.

I love the new characters. I love Finn and Rey. Rey especially! Daisy Ridley is just so damned cute! She reminded me of the heroines from the french SF comic books I used to read and love when I was a kid. I can’t think of any specific titles. I’d have to go hunting for them, but… you know… Metal Hurlant, Pilote, those sorts of titles.

Yeah, sure a lot of the film felt like a kind of “Getting the band back together” sort of tale, having to find Han and Chewie, then Han and Leia with their utterly predictable dialogue, then finally Luke (with absolutely NO dialogue! Presumably he’ll have a more substantial role in the next installment).

It hit all the right notes. It delivered. And no matter how much George Lucas complains it doesn’t matter. This is the sequel that fans clearly wanted.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say.

Except this: The last film I reviewed on this blog was EX MACHINA. When I selected it to watch I had not idea… NO IDEA… that Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson were BOTH in The Force Awakens. I have been avoiding spoilers like crazy and paying no attention whatsoever to stories about the movie that it completely escaped my notice. So when I randomly decided to watch EX MACHINA it was a complete fluke that the two male leads also happened to be in this film.

Anyway, that just felt kind of trippy to me.

I know a lot of people are going to see Star Wars over and over again, and I probably will go see it at least once more before it leaves theaters, but for now I will get back to reviewing SF movies on Netflix. Maybe tomorrow.