Thoughts On FictionPress

I'm sure most of you have heard of FanFiction.net - at least, that's one of the first sites I started writing on. Hell, I still do it to this day. I remember I asked myself, "what if there were a site identical to FF.Net, but for original fiction?". Not much longer, I got my answer. There it was, in it's red/white themed glory.


I wondered what the community was like, initially. One thing you can expect on a website like FP is that it's much more critical. It's also a lot more constructive. Unlike FanFiction.net, the odds are greater a shitacular story will go unnoticed on FictionPress. That alone makes it significantly harder to garner reviews or continuing hits for your chapters. Some of the reason, beyond the more critical community, is that not many people write original fiction and then post it on the web. This is to say there are far more fan fictions available for reading online, versus the original fiction.


Similar to most websites that host fiction and poetry. Notice the favorites, reviews and follows.

There are a couple great sites out there for a similar purpose, though somewhat multifaceted. Wattpad is an excellent site, though lacks some of the features of FictionPress. On Wattpad, it's easier to explore the social aspect of things, though. I'd say this is somewhere harder on FictionPress, but it's there in the form of communities and forums. Both sites allow you to follow an author or story, or like a story or author or a combination of the two. I still prefer FictionPress. The profile feature is also killer and allows for some more integration, though I think the layout could be tampered with a bit to sport something a little more elegant.



Profile of an author.

I brought this up because from now on, I will be posting my rough drafts to the site for everyone to read. When the novel actually goes live on Kindle, I will unfortunately have to take them down (depending on the promotion I decide to treat it with). 


I actually encourage people to both read and write original fiction along with fan fiction. I think it's something that will help you mold and sculpt your eventual literary piece. There's no shame in fan fiction, unless you suck at it, then proudly own your shame.

-M.

Review - Jason X (Film & Novel)

Jason X.

If, somehow, you've managed to grow up without knowing who the hockey mask-wearing, machete-wielding psychopath who has a special place in his blackened heart for Friday the 13th is, then that's kind of amazing.

The short version is that what was once a deformed man who had a thing for killing teens that snuck onto his property to screw and smoke weed ended up becoming an undead, unstoppable killing machine because reasons. And profits.

Here's a quick plot synopsis of the tenth film in the Friday the 13th series: It's the future, and by future I mean 2010, (this was filmed in 2000.) Jason has finally been captured by the government and they're preparing to cryogenically freeze his zombified ass. Only, no wait, some scientist played by, of all people, David Lynch, has decided that Jason's way too cool to just file away and he totally needs to run some more tests. But don't worry, because he's got guys with guns on his side.

Surprise, surprise, Jason escapes and murders everyone except for Rowan, the head of research at the Crystal Lake Facility. She manages to lure Jason down into the cryo bay and put him on ice, but not before he stabs her and traps her in there with him.

Skip forward four and a half centuries. Now it's the future for real. Earth is a desolate, dead wasteland. A team of students uncovers the frozen Jason and Rowan. They bring them back to the ship and, well, you know the rest. Jason unthaws, gets up and gets back to it.

Personally, I loved the movie. For some reason, I've always loved Jason Voorhees. I know a lot of people rolled their eyes and gave up when he got brought back to life by a lightning bolt in the sixth movie, but I honesty think this is where the series hit its stride. Maybe it's just because I have a deep love of Sci-Fi/Horror, but Jason in space just really does it for me.

To be honest, I don't actually have too much to say about this film. I thought it was pretty decent. The characters were actually pretty good, compared to par for the course for the rest of the franchise. Jason was totally badass. It was funny, it wasn't really scary, but it was kind of thrilling. For being the tenth movie in a horror franchise, it did pretty good.

If you have even a passing interest in B horror movies, give it a watch.

Now, on to the main event...

I think most people who are going to watch Jason X have watched Jason X. However...I'm willing to bet most of them don't even know there's a novelization. Let alone FOUR sequels to that novelization. The fact that there isn't an eBook version of any of these books, and that even used, the next book in the series, THE EXPERIMENT, is thirty fucking dollars, lends credence to my theory.

I have bought Jason X - A Novel, I have read it, and now I things to say about it. I think I'll divided it up into pros and cons.

Pros-I was very thrilled to see that the book was written by someone who actually is familiar with Jason and cared about the story. There were basically no continuity errors and Jason was handled pretty well.

-There were some interesting, in-depth passages from Jason's point of view. Not necessarily what he was doing, but more about why he was doing it and the nature of Jason's existence. There were actually some cool ideas explored.
-(SPOILER) There was an error at the end of the film. Basically, Jason has punched a hole in the hull and is coming for the survivors. They close a lot of doors in between them and him as they run, but he keeps bashing them down. When he finally reaches them and he bashes down the final door, the atmosphere should have been compromised, as now there's nothing between them and that initial hole he punched in the hull. This issue is cleared up interestingly in the novel.

-Most of the characters got back stories and reasons for why they were on the ship, whereas in the film, the reason for them being there was barely referenced at all.

Cons-When I first got ahold of the book, I realized it was decently hefty. It clocked in at 400 pages, which is roughly 100,000 words. I was impressed. Normally when a movie gets novelized, especially a B horror movie, we're lucky to get anything past 250 pages, if that. Even legendary films like The Thing and Event Horizon just barely made it to the 200 page mark. Not that that's necessarily bad, I loved both novelizations, but more content would have been nice. Unfortunately, in this case, more is not better. Essentially, every single scene was dragged out for as long as conceivably possible. In the film, there's a scene near the beginning that's less than sixty seconds of a solider throwing a blanket over Jason, who's hanging from the ceiling by chains. In the book, this single scene dragged on for about 12 pages. Now, I don't mind reading lengthy books, but only if the writing is good. This writing was not very good. It wasn't terrible, but it was filled with obvious tricks and filler whose only purpose is meant to draw out the length of the book. Scenes drag on and on and ON.

-There were a few points in the beginning that struck me as extremely amateur. It felt like a thirteen year old who had just watched a Sci-Fi movie and was now trying to write his own SUPER COOL story. He wants to make something big and showy happen, so he shoves in a massive event but ends up only making passing reference to it, giving it no real impact on the story. In the novel, the author gives a very brief history of humanity, focusing on the evacuation of Earth as it became uninhabitable. The author mentions, in passing, that Humanity finds an alien race and basically trades a dozen human corpses in exchange for faster-than-light hyper-drive engines, which allow them to explore the galaxy at a much faster rate. Nowhere else is this mentioned in the slightest. It has no impact on the story at all. Possibly the most monumental event in human history is glossed over in passing over the course of half a paragraph. I know this is a seemingly small detail, but it, combined with the C average writing style, really brought the book down.

-I think it may follow the film a little too closely. Essentially every single scene is put into the book and drawn out with excruciating detail. I think an extra sub-plot or extra scenes would have been nice.

If I had my way, I'd trim about 100-150 pages of excess words from the novel, then lay in maybe 20-40 pages of extra scenes not in the film to help balance out the story. It feels bottom heavy, as nearly 200 pages pass before Jason even re-enters the story from the beginning. That's nice, but the last portion of the book feels strangely rushed, despite being drawn out...it's kind of hard to describe. Basically, more content, less drawing-out of already existing scenes.

Ultimately, I'd suggest the book if you're a really hardcore fan of Jason, specifically Jason X.

-Sean

Found Footage

I've been thinking about the Found Footage genre lately. I know this isn't exactly about writing, but it is about horror, and I'm more than willing to take a detour if I still get to talk about horror.

I'm reasonably sure that there hasn't been a found footage movie made that wasn't in the horror, or at least the mystery, genre. But hold on, let's back up a minute.

What's Found Footage?

Basically, it's a concept for a film. The idea being that what you're viewing is footage that was found by someone, usually either the government or just some random person. Typically, the cinematography is very unprofessional and filmed from a single view-point: an obviously handheld camera. The reason for this is because usually the person holding the camera isn't a professional, but just happens to be a regular person who has wandered into a terrifying, unreal situation.

But if the quality of the film/cinematography is so shitty, if it's meant to be shitty, then why bother with it? What makes Found Footage worth watching? One, simple thing: it's incredibly gripping. The loss in quality adds infinitely to the immersion of the film. Ridiculously amazing things can be done with traditional cinema, especially with the bigger-budget ones, but there's nothing quite so gripping as feeling as thought you're really there.

It's why the First Person Shooter genre is among the most popular in gaming. So why isn't it so popular in the film field?

Nowadays, the popular opinion seems to be people bemoaning 'not another found footage movie, come on! It's like training wheels for new directors!' Which may be true, but at the same time, I think people don't appreciate how much effort goes into making a movie, let alone making a good movie.

I'd just like to offer my thoughts on the genre as a whole. But before I get into that, a little history. Where did Found Footage come from, originally?

In 1980, an Italian director by the name of Ruggero Deodato released a little movie called Cannibal Holocaust. The basic concept of the film was it had been recovered from the Amazon Rainforest and brought back to civilization to be viewed to determine what happened to those who had shot it: a small film documentary crew who intended to film a documentary about rival cannibal tribes in the Rainforest. So what was the result?

The film was so convincing, so realistic that the director was brought up on murder charges. They thought he had actually murdered the actors and filmed it. That's how realistic it was. It didn't help that he had paid the actors to basically drop off the grid for a few months as part of a marketing effort to make the film seem that much realer.

Ruggero was forced to reveal how he had achieved such realistic special effects in a court of law, and luckily managed to find the actors and have them appear before the court as proof that he hadn't butchered them for the sake of making a realistic film. But why did it seem so real? Surely there were more violent movies at the time. This was the age and era of Exploitation Films. Blood and guts were basically run-of-the-mill at the time.

So what set Cannibal Holocaust apart?

It was Found Footage, arguably the first of its kind. The unprofessional, hand-held nature of the cinematography lent it an air of previously unseen authenticity.


Now, often, I hear two complaints about Found Footage. They are: "It makes me sick to my stomach!" and "I fucking hated Blair Witch!"

I can't really argue against the sick to your stomach problem, because hey, it's just one of those things.

Now, I've never seen the Blair Witch Project. Chances are, that's what tainted a lot of people on the subject of the genre, despite the rave reviews it got back in the day. Blair Witch seemed to be the first major, mainstream project of the genre, thanks primarily to the internet. And everybody I've talked to about it seemed to hate it. I think this was because of two reason:

#1. The marketing campaign attempted to pass it off as a real movie, as in, this all factually, legitimately happened and now we're showing it to you. Obviously, this was bullshit, because...

#2. They paid a trio of college kids to wander around and pretend it was all real.

To reiterate, I believe that the absolute strength of this genre is its ability to immerse the viewer into the world it is portraying. To make it feel real, as though you're really there. However, as with every other genre, technique, etc., just because you're making a Found Footage movie, doesn't automatically make it gripping and immersive.

On the flip side, here are some great examples of Found Footage that I've come across. Found Footage done right. (Spoilers.)

Cloverfield: I had the pleasure of seeing this in theaters. My. God. I fell in love with this movie. The basic concept is this: a group of friends in New York are throwing their good friend a goodbye party, as he's moving out of the country for a job promotion, and he also has an awkward relationship with this girl he slept with but...WHO GAVE TWO FUCKS ABOUT THAT?! This is a monster movie at its best. Right in the midst of the party, (spoiler alert!) a giant fucking monster starts tearing the shit out of New York! What made this movie so great is how real it felt. For about an hour and fifteen minutes we're treated to people running through a crumbling New York City as a Godzilla-sized monster goes on a full-blown rampage, bringing down entire skyscrapers. Seeing this movie in theaters was one of my best movie-going experiences.

Quarantine: Another one I saw in theaters. While Cloverfield was more about the action, Quarantine was all about the horror. The synopsis here is that a small news team, a reporter and a cameraman, are hanging out with the local firefighters for two days to do a story and get a lot of footage. After about fifteen minutes of dicking around in the firehouse, they get a call in the middle of the night. They drive out to an enormous, ancient apartment building and meet up with some cops, who tell them that an elderly woman is locked in her apartment and won't answer the door. They kick in the door open only to find the women ravenous and insane. After being forced to attack and kill her, the news crew, firemen, police officers and the tenants of the apartment find themselves mysteriously locked in, and any and all attempts to escape are met with lethal force. To make matters worse, there seems to be a strange infection in the apartment building that turns the living into insane, murderous psychopaths that attack anything on sight. This movie was great. I had a fantastic time with this one.

The Tunnel: Wow...okay, I found this one at random, browsing Netflix. It looked cool, and after a bit of research on it, I decided it was worth a view. Oh boy, did I underestimate this low-budget horror flick. The plot: In '07, in Sydney, Australia, amidst a terrible water shortage, the local government unveils a plan to harvest water from a massive network of old train tunnels/WWII shelters directly beneath the city that had since flooded. However, for seemingly no reason, they shut the project down and refuse comment. Enter Natasha, a journalist desperate for a big break. Against all warnings by the government, she and her film crew of three additional men break into the tunnels beneath the city. There, they encounter the true terror that forced the government to lock down the tunnels.

I loved this! This is the perfect example of less-as-more. You hardly ever see the thing stalking them, only enough to give you a vague idea of what it looks like, what it's capable of, what its motivations may be. By the end of the film, you never learn what it actually is.

A side note: Some people may argue against The Tunnel being considered Found Footage, mainly because the footage is cut with interviews done with the survivors after the fact, making it more of a documentary. I'm not a hundred percent on where I stand on this, other than I feel it's a fine addition to the Found Footage library.

So, in conclusion, I'm not exactly sure why the people seem to be turning against the Found Footage genre. I think it may be because of the Paranormal Activity series, which has brought the genre back into the spotlight as never before. To be fair, I've never seen any of the Paranormal Activity movies, but I've heard great things about the original trilogy. Now, there's a fifth film, and they're already preparing a sixth. I think this is indicative of heading into the 'milking it' territory, which people often bitch about...and yet, they keep going back to see the sequels...

But that's another topic for another day.

-Sean