Book review: Lies of Locke Lamora


I have never liked high fantasy — fantasy that takes place in world with no connection to our own. Inevitably, the author is in love with his world, and explains it endlessly, when none of it is completely original. Even Tolkien, who I admit to enjoying, based his own mythology heavily off of ancient Icelandic, Norse/Scandinavian, British, and a dash of German myths. Most of the rest are just influenced by him, with their orcs and tall, stately elves. It’s just not gripping to read about world-building unless it’s better than the average high fantasy writer makes it.

Luckily, Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora is. Continue reading


Recent happenings – 6/14/13




Here’s a few HackCollege posts I wrote:

How to Relieve Anxiety Naturally with Meditation

Plenty of people have praised meditation as a great way to relieve stress. But now we have the evidence to back up that claim. A recent academic article found that meditation “attenuates anxiety through mechanisms involved in the regulation of self-referential thought processes.” In other words, by calming yourself with meditation, you can beat your anxiety. Meditation is a great tool that everyone should figure out, especially college students trying to handle one of the most stressful tasks around: finding a career. Your heartbeat skipped just reading that, didn’t it?

Here’s how to get started on improving your well-being.

Read the rest.


The Professional Details of Job Searching

Pixar’s Andrew Stanton once said “If you want someone’s attention, whisper.” He means that the tiny details count. To succeed professionally after graduation, you need to stand out from the crowd. And nobody’s perfect, which means that in order to stand out, you need to have a few perfect touches that everyone else misses.

There are plenty of sources of information on the big things – resumes, connections, interview etiquette – but there are also plenty of more obscure details that need to be perfect, and are seldom mentioned by anyone. Here are a few of those tiny things that you need to keep professional:

Read the rest.

My thoughts on settings vs. story.


Now there’s a setting.

And here’s part of an interesting post I found on a subreddit. It explains one of the reasons why I dislike high fantasy (stories set in completely different fantasy worlds) — they very often focus on their uninteresting settings rather than give me an engaging story. I only like world-building if the world is inherently cool. Elves and dwarves were cool once.

One of the main complaints in genre fiction today is the amount of information the reader receives. It’s easy to set a scene that a reader is familiar with. But a new world, or galaxy, filled with strange sentient life? That’s an awful lot of information to throw at a reader. It was an awful lot of information for you as the writer to come up with, too. It’s a big accomplishment, without doubt. But all that effort means nothing if there’s no story to tell within it.

But what constitutes a setting? Most people answer with ‘the time and place a story takes place in’. So one answer could be Victorian Paris. Another could be in an arm of a distant galaxy. But the place isn’t the only thing that creates the setting. The general populace creates it too, and their cultures. Languages. All those things that go into your worldbuilding, before you even decide who the protagonist is.

Which is the problem, right there. To write about the struggle between two cultures isn’t a story. Broad stroke generalizations about the deep-set hatred between dwarves and elves is setting, even if you have one dwarven and one elven character that are forced to team up. It shouldn’t be a situation where you throw two characters together and they espouse for page after page about why their point of view is correct. Or go into the nuances of the conflict every time they open their mouths.

What is your central conflict?

~Tellenue, from “Write a Story, Not a Setting,” found on

Film Review: The Curse of the Golden Flower

I'm not sure they have enough chrysanthemums...

I’m not sure they have enough chrysanthemums…

The style of Curse of the Golden Flower benefits greatly from its connection to Chinese culture and heritage. Everything in the film is larger than life and therefore seems mythic and archetypal. Chinese culture, with its focus on one’s duty to a community rather than an individual’s duty to itself, is ready and waiting to accept the group-promoting agenda of Jung’s “collective unconscious,” which is a prerequisite for archetypes.

Flower’s archetypal leanings are apparent in many elements of its construction, not the least of which is its plot. The dynamics of a very messed-up family take center stage, with plenty of archetypal tropes – poisoning, usurping, brotherly rivals, accidental incest – common to Greek myths and Shakespeare. The story is an epic, classical tragedy with themes of universal corruption and suffering. Visually, the film is also archetypal: an ornate palace takes up most of the scenes, often with hundreds of servants seemingly trained to do nothing but stand around in incredibly straight lines, while picturesque shots of mountainous terrain take up the rest.

There's also an epic ninja battle.

There’s also an epic ninja battle.

It’s all too lush and streamlined to be realistic, and the effect is therefore that of archetypes, those elements of life too true for reality.

Even the soundtrack is archetypal, with pounding drums and hushed chanting serving to build up a rhythmic sense of inevitability. The cinematography heightens the unreal situation at times: several early fight scenes use fast-cut footage to disorient the viewer and to force a focus on individual elements of the scene such as emblems on the breastplates. A fragmented, pared-down view is just as archetypal as a vast, streamlined one.

Flower uses heightened emotions often, in keeping with its larger-than-life style, but also habitually portrays subdued, hidden emotions in all its characters, as every family member is keeping something hidden from the others. Among all the stylized visuals and drama, this element of subtlety keeps the film slightly more grounded. Even so, with all the melodrama so actively encouraged throughout Flower, it was difficult for me to take many overdramatic scenes seriously. As a result, the film didn’t have as deep an emotional impact on me as the director no doubt intended. It was still an experience, though, so the archetypal approach was still a positive, in addition to unique, technique.

The film looks so good I had to use three pictures in this review.

“Nice of you to drop in like this.”