Prequelitis

I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that we’re all pretty tired of prequels am I right?

Earlier in the week I heard through the grapevine that Game of Thrones was going to have a couple of spinoff series dealing with events that happened before the events we all know and love.

The response I’ve heard; A collective groan.

Of course, we’re all excited to see a new series coming out in the same universe… but did it have to be a prequel?

Star Trek Discovery is set to be a prequel and all I hear on their facebook page is how upset the fans are. Per Midnight’s Edge  Netflix is actually furious because they paid for Discovery, thinking they were getting a cutting edge, new series, and what they got was an unwanted prequel.

So why are we, the viewing audience as a whole, suffering from prequelitis, and why isn’t Hollywood and many literary writers picking up on that? Well that’s a loaded question. Let’s go through the subjects one at a time.

Fans are tired of prequels, why? Well there are several reasons… First, there are no real surprises. We all know what’s going to happen. I remember seeing The Phantom Menace when it was in theaters and just sat there looking at the main cast like, “Let’s see main cast… that guy’s dead by A New Hope, that guy dies in A New Hope, dead by A New Hope, Dead by A New Hope, he’s the emperor, he’s Darth Vader…”

I mean when you’re doing a prequel, unless you’re going to take a radical departure from the established story, you’re really limited by what you can offer. The few times people have taken a radical departure from the established story, the backlash from fans is relentless, again Star Trek Discovery being the current example.

Well can’t you just say its an alternate universe???

Shut… the hell… up!!!

A second problem with prequels is that they have a tendency to poison the original story. If there is a piece that doesn’t make sense, it really turns the fans off when the studio has to retcon the inconsistency off-screen. In addition, something may happen in the prequel that will then sour fans to the sequel in other ways. Consider Anakin Skywalker’s fall. After watching Episode III, I couldn’t help but shake my head when Obi Wan gave Luke his father’s lightsaber… you know, the saber that slaughtered innocent children… on more than one occasion!?

But I digress…

So with that in mind, why do writers and movie makers keep doing this, knowing how prequels are quickly becoming box office poison? Well I think the phenomenon is now slowing going away in favor of another Hollywood travesty; the reboot/remake… which is arguably worse. However to answer the question as to why this still happens… it’s because it is safe. These days, new stories and original scripts are really seen as box office poison in their own right. Prequels showing the titles of a beloved work is sure to attract the original crowds thus making money, even if the movie is royally bad.

So why don’t they just make sequels? You know, continue the stories!

They did… sequelitis was a thing once too, don’t forget. The result was the market being awash in disposable dollar-bin movies that didn’t respect… or went so far as to ruin the original stories. (Blues Brothers 2000 or Love Never Dies, much?)

Okay, then what is your answer? 

Well… I mean there isn’t really one. Prequels, sequels, and remakes are always going to draw a crowd, even if people in general don’t like them. So like it or not, they’re still getting made. I’ve got news for all of you, the Back to the Future remake is coming. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will happen. It is an inevitability.

However I actually already did answer this question once when I myself was confronted with the ‘no sequel, no publishing’ problem; write a concurrent story. Yes set your new story in the same universe with all new characters and send those characters on an adventure that was sparked by the events of the first one. Allow characters from the first story to make brief appearances and cameos, but make them side characters with one or two scenes, tops. There is so much potential, so many options, and so many ways to expand your current world. Sadly, I don’t think anyone in Hollywood reads my blog so…

So what, stop going to movies? Avoid the box office and just watch the movies we know and love?

I’m dubious to say no, but that’s more because Hollywood is home to one of the biggest child sex trafficking rings on the planet and they deserve jail cells, not the mansions they get.
However… no. Do not do that. As I said in a previous post, Hollywood isn’t out of new ideas. There are movies with original scripts coming out all the time. You know the movies that are at the box office, but you’ve never heard of them? There’s no advertising and only a few screenings? Those are your original scripts. They don’t get much in the way of ads nor do they get a ton of funding, but they are out there. I’d encourage everyone to vote with their wallets. Go see those movies or read the non-prequel/sequel books. There are plenty out there.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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How ROTJ’s Special Edition Could Have Been Saved

So we all know how most people feel about the special remastered editions of Star Wars that are sadly now the ‘official’ editions. The theatrical versions that we all know and love have been relegated to the bonus features on ONE release of the DVDs due to Lucas trying to erase them from history.

Most of the fans will tell you that Episode 4 ‘A New Hope’ (which I will be referring to as Star Wars from now on as it was the original title, ‘A New Hope’ being added later), was the biggest casualty of the re-edits. I’ll admit that it took a beating; bad CGI effects replacing practical ones at the Battle of Yavin, all of which are easy to spot… Not to mention the scene that has literally driven every Star Wars fan insane for over a decade:

Yes, Han’s infamous murder scene. Fans have long since gone to war with each other over who shot first and which version is the one that is ‘canon.’

Yeah a significant amount of damage was done, but did it really make the first Star Wars the main casualty?

Hell No!

Maybe I’m biased because Return of the Jedi was my favorite of the original trilogy, but I think it suffered a lot worse… how? Well for starters, the two iconic songs were removed and replaced…

The first, known as Lapti Nek…

… was replaced with a 4th-wall-breaking popish song and a mess of bad CGI…

The second song, while much more well-known… I have to admit is kind of an ear moth. Once you listen to it, you’ll spend a decade trying to get it out of your head. From the original, Yub Nub:

It was then replaced with this far more mellow tune composed by John Williams:

I have to admit… I really like that little scene they added in with the planets of the Republic celebrating their Freedom and rising up against the Empire. Minus the appearance of gungans, this was actually pretty well done. This change actually has me very torn. While it’s certainly not something I’d expect to hear at a victory celebration, it’s actually a pleasant musical number. So… I dunno this change has its pluses and minuses… too bad what happens next destroys not only the scene, but the entire movie for me!

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For starters, those robes look like they don’t even fit Christiansen. Secondly… WHY!? What was the effing purpose in doing this!? Replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christiansen doesn’t work. He looks incredibly out of place!

Really Jim? This ruined the entire movie for you? A little melodramatic aren’t we?

Let me explain… Darth Vader was an evil man. He murdered children and was responsible for he slaughter of the Jedi. He helped the Emperor rule with an iron fist and was responsible for God-Only knows how many atrocities over the years.

In short, there is NO WAY he was walking away from this. Even after returning to Anakin Skywalker, most of the galaxy would not see a difference and he would likely face charges of war crimes. Even if you can get past this, letting him walk away unscathed is just bad story telling. In short, it was not going to happen.

The writers of Star Wars gave Anakin Skywalker the best possible ending that he could hope for. Look closely at his face…

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This is not the look of joy. This is the look of a man who, while happy to see them, is seeing both of his children for the first time, knowing that his choices have cost him whatever time he could have had with his family. It is a bittersweet, heartfelt, and very powerful moment that is the best that Vader could have realistically hoped for. Indeed Anakin Skywalker was saved, but every victory has its cost. It was a bold move and it worked incredibly well. This was the ending Star Wars needed, it was the one it deserved and it was the one that brought everything together. It wasn’t the happiest of endings, how could it be? But it was the RIGHT ending.

Almost all of that was lost when Shaw was replaced…

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Dude, you’re not even looking in the right God damn direction! Who directed this guy!? This isn’t bittersweet… this is more the look of a guy who’s thinking ‘Okay I’m dead now… Once I get out of here, I am so going to find Padme and get my freaky ghost on…’

Okay okay, in all seriousness his performance here is as bland as the rest of his role as Anakin. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a decent actor who can chew apart a scene when called upon to do so… but in Star Wars… yeah his direction was pretty bad.

I know the scene was 28 seconds long, but to me they were the most important 28 seconds in the movie and they were RUINED! This really messed up Return of the Jedi for me and if you can’t understand why… then I’d advise you to go back and watch both the original and remastered. It makes a huge difference.

Wait a minute Jim, you said that it could have been saved!!!

I lied.

… … … Sigh… okay yes, it could have been saved. It Lucas absolutely had to replace Shaw with Christiansen, there is a way he could have done it that… while it would not have been as powerful, it would have warmed a lot of peoples’ hearts, mine included…

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That’s right, if you were going this route, it would have been good to show that maybe Anakin found Padme’ in the force and the two were able to reconcile in whatever afterlife there is. Plus she’s given so little mention in the original trilogy that it would be nice to knit this in.

But Jim, she’s not a Jedi! She can’t be a force ghost!

One, that’s never really established in the movies. Two, she gave birth to two of the strongest force-sensitive children in existence. Perhaps one could make the argument that she inherited some of their sensitivity? I don’t know, its a spitball, but it could be retconned.

Anyway, just my opinion on how this could have been done so much better… if it had to be done at all. Let me know what you think!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

WTF… Tim Burton…

So now it’s been announced that there will be a Beetlejuice 2, and thus there is now even more evidence, that Hollywood has lost it’s touch. I don’t know about this… I’ll wait and see on this one. However, I’ve had some time to reflect on many movies recently and I have reached one inescapable conclusion…

I CAN’T STAND Tim Burton!

Honestly, to me, he is one of the most overrated directors in Hollywood. His films are extremely linear and seem to only cater to the hipster/hot topic crowd. It’s always the same dark, dismal, atmosphere that only someone who was puffing a peace pipe would come up with. He always seem to cast the same people in every freaken movie. It’s always Helena Bowman Carter and Johnny Depp, in heavy white makeup, playing the same roles they’ve played over and over. I will give him credit, he did give Johnny Depp his start, but that’s really where the fairy tale ends.

You can only make so many sequels to Edward Scissor hands before it gets old… how many are there now?
Edward Scissorhands
Edward Scissorhands 2: Headless in the Hollow
Edward Scissorhands 3:  Edward and the Chocolate Factory
Edward Scissorhands 4: Edward Becomes Barber (again)
Edward Scissorhands 5: Edward Takes on Wonderland
Edward Scissorhands 6: The Vampire Strikes Back

Also, I know people love the whole Nightmare Before Christmas movie. Yes it has a big following… but you… you really don’t know any better people, you don’t. Just because a movie pioneers a new type of animation and takes on a much more adult tone, DOESN’T MAKE IT GOOD BY DEFAULT! It’s not about who did it first, it’s about who did it best. The story is stupid, the sets dreary and the characters are just unpleasant to look at, very often disgusting, and next to impossible to empathize with.
The main problem I have with this is that it’s Tim Burton’s staple for animation.

Finally… HOW MANY MOVIE ADAPTATIONS HAS THIS MAN RUINED? Sleepy Hollow was boring and pointless, and the story wasn’t even close to the classic tale.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory… okay I will acknowledge that it was closer to the source material, but Johnny Depp’s Michael Jackson/Marilyn Manson hybrid Wonka is the stuff of nightmares.

The Planet of the Apes remake was a bad movie based on a bad movie, and was dead on arrival. I can’t really fault Burton too much on this one, but it is what it is.

James and the Giant Peach… I loved the book and read it before seeing the movie, and while Tim Burton may not have directed it, his fingerprints as a producer are all over it. The movie was grotesque and downright offensive to the eyes to the point where I can’t even read the book anymore! They might as well have called it The Nightmare Before Christmas 2!

Many before me have said that what he did to Alice and Wonderland is both completely inexcusable and unforgivable.

But what about classics like Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Big Fish!?

Yes okay… he did have a few good movies… but I’d like to make a few points here. The ONLY real standout that Burton can claim credit for is Beetlejuice, and by the looks of things, he’s about to ruin that.

Batman back in the 1980s was a massive hit, no denying that.. but can we give Burton credit for that? I think not. Burton considered the film to be a really rough experience with almost obtrusive interference from the studio and producers. Meaning that he was kept on a tight leash when he made this movie. In fact the only way they could get him back for a sequel was by offering him complete creative control over the movie. This resulted in a mean-spirited and dark film that really had fans and critics going back and forth on whether or not it was any good. In fact, it was considered so bad that it lost it’s McDonald’s Happy Meal deal in the process.

As for Edward Scissorhands and Big Fish… Edward Scissorhands was stupid and boring. I know I’m in the minority on this one, but seriously, re-watch it if you haven’t in a while. As for Big Fish… I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched it. Thanks, but I’ve spent enough money on Burton’s movies. If it shows up on Netflix or TV, I’ll give it a whirl, but I’m not giving him any more $$.

So readers, what do you think? Do you agree? Am I dead on or way off? Let me know!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

The Traitorous Main Character

So you’ve written your story. Your characters are beloved, not only to you, but also your reading audience. Well now you’re writing the next part in your series and are ready to do the unthinkable…

You’re going to have one of the characters turn on the others. One of your main good guys is now to become a villain and not just a villain, but one who was the cause of much of the turmoil that the other characters have gone through.

So how do you do it? Up until now, this character has been close to all of the others. They have become well-liked, and your audience has grown attached to that character. How do you suddenly make them the object of scorn?
Well it may not be as difficult as you think and it may not even be necessary. Let me explain…

If you’re going to paint the person as a straight villain, the shock and surprise alone should be enough to turn your readers against the character. If you’ve written it right, your readers should feel just as betrayed as the characters that they are reading about. Having the ability to make your readers relate, and even feel the same emotions that the characters are is a staple of a truly gifted story teller. Just make sure that you provide an alternate view of the events from the past stories so that everything fits into place. This is absolutely essential if the villain role is going to stick.

Above, I said that it may not be necessary to make the traitor the object of scorn. Indeed it isn’t. If you refer back to my Character Complexes thread, you can read up on how to create a villain that may not necessary be evil. Maybe this traitor has family that they are looking for, maybe they’re turning on their friends for what they perceive to be the greater good, or maybe there is a payoff at the end that is enough for the traitor to sacrifice their friends.
The point is, just because the character is no longer a good guy, or on the same side as the main characters, doesn’t mean that they’re bad. Quite the opposite, it just means that their circumstances have changed. That character can still be relateable and even likable.

Now, does that mean that this character won’t come back to the morally ‘right’ in the story? No, there is no rule in place that a character can’t switch sides.

So just remember when writing a traitor, it may be better and even easier at some points to not paint them as a straight villain.

Thanks and catch you all on the flip-side,

Jim

Free Exchange of Ideas…

Can I just ask… what the heck happened?

When I first published my work, I got a lot of comments from readers, both positive and negative. Divinity in particular got positive and negative comments from die-hard Christians and atheists, and I don’t understand the negativity.

I certainly can’t speak for the rest of the world, so if it’s different outside of the U.S. PLEASE let me know.

I don’t mind disagreeing with my views, in fact, I welcome it! I love it when someone posts a comment on Facebook, here, or on my other pages and tells me that they disagree with my message or my assessment of a certain situation or event. I always enjoy hearing about it from the other person’s perspective and then engaging their talking points. That’s fine…

What’s not fine is when people start calling you names or accuse you of racial bigotry. I don’t get that. Nowhere have I ever used racial slurs in anything I’ve written (unless you count sharpy, which many of my characters call elves), nor have I ever said anything about a specific ethnicity or religion that would portray everyone in any of those groups in a negative light.

I’ll provide a perfect example. The other day I was on a newspaper’s website and one person mentioned on the message board that he supported voter ID laws. The next comment accused him of being racist. How is requiring all citizens to prove their citizens racist? Another comment said that it makes it more difficult for poor people to vote. That is a credible argument, but racist? Is the person making that comment inferring that all poor people are minorities, or that the majority of certain minorities are poor? Isn’t the assumption of racism, actually racism itself?

Anyway, I don’t want to delve into a conversation of semantics, so let me get back on point. Why just sit there, yell and scream, and accuse the person of being racist? Why get mad at that person’s viewpoint? What good does that do? Why not instead of resorting to anger, threats, or childish name-calling, you address that person’s talking points. Tell that person why you think they’re wrong and then hear their arguments. You might learn something and they might actually gain some knowledge in the process too. Why is that not a better solution?

By resorting to childish name-calling, you make yourself look less intelligent.

By resorting to misogyny, you make yourself out to look hateful.

By resorting to inserting race or ethnicity into an argument, you make yourself out to be hateful, you water-down justified accusations of racism, and you spit on everyone who actually suffered from racism and fought for equal rights.

All of this takes a negative toll on society. It get’s to the point where Freedom of Expression and Speech take a back seat to people’s’ sensitivity. The problem is that people don’t see the damage being done by this. Someone showing a different perspective on things, as long as it’s factual and historically accurate, should not be met with scorn. Their talking points should be addressed.

Seriously, why get mad? Why break off contact or remove someone from your contact list? Why resort to stupidity? If someone’s opinion truly upsets you, ignore it. Unless they’re specifically saying it to insult you or a group you’re apart of, why get mad? Why not respond and tell them why you think they’re wrong?

All you’re doing is making it more difficult for someone to express their opinions or their views. By accusing someone who expresses a viewpoint of racial, religious, or ethnic bigotry where none was intended or implied, or calling them names, all you’re doing is making another person fear how they’re going to be portrayed by others, including their employers and family, and thus are making it harder for them to put their views to paper, and that’s a terrible, awful thing to do, when the Free Exchange of Ideas is one of the most important freedoms anyone has.

I really don’t want to spend too much time on this, so I’m going to close with a quote from a TV show I loved as a child:

With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably… The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged. 

P.S. Don’t be afraid to post if you think I missed something or disagree, as I said above, I welcome other viewpoints and would love to address them.

Magnifica: The Lost Sequel Pt. 4

IV

 

Tom kept himself in seclusion during the next few days. He went to class as much as he needed to in order to get by, but other than that, he barely came out of his room. Both Greggor and Jayme came by to see him often, but he almost never opened the door. He slowly became oblivious to the world around him.

On Monday September 23rd, Tom was roused by the sound of frantic knocking on the door. He immediately jumped up and ran to the door. Jayme was standing on the other side with Greggor. Both of them looked pale with eyes wide in a state of panic.

Tom looked at them both oddly, “What the hell is going on guys? This better not be some fucked up intervention or something.”

“You mean you don’t know?” Jayme asked.

Tom’s eyes narrowed, “Know what?”

Jayme pushed by Tom and turned on his TV. Tom’s back hit the door as she moved. He flashed her an annoyed look, “Excuse you!”

She ignored him and turned on the TV. The screen flicked on to Channel 5 News. Images of decrepit people climbing out of their graves appeared on the screen. It looked like something out of a horror movie

Tom shrugged, “What is this, some kind of early Halloween spoof?”

Jayme shook her head, “No, this is real. This is happening right now! It’s been on the news all morning. The dead are rising and heading north. The National Guard has ordered an evacuation of Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. We need to leave.”

Tom didn’t believe a word of it. He figured that this was some kind of ploy to get him out of his room, “Very funny guys. This is pretty good… what did you get the campus TV station to play this for me or something?”

At that moment, a police car drove by the campus with its speaker blaring, “Attention, this is not a drill or a test. You are hereby ordered to evacuate. Anyone without suitable transportation may proceed to the campus center where you will be taken away from the city! This is a mandatory evacuation.”

Tom shook his head, “Oh my God… this is real.”

He immediately picked up his phone and scrolled down his contacts until he reached the name Kristen. He pressed on it and brought the phone up to his ear. The speaker clicked on and slowly began to connect.

Jayme looked at him oddly, “Who are you calling?”

“My sister.” Tom replied. “If we’re leaving, I’m going to pick her up. She’s at Emerson College, so it should be on the way.”

At that moment, the phone beeped and an automated voice came over the speaker, “Your call cannot be completed at this time, all circuits are currently busy. Please try your call again later.”

Tom groaned as he lowered the phone. Jayme frowned, “No luck?”

“No.” Tom replied. “The lines are dead.”

Jayme nodded, “Figures…”

Tom grabbed the keys to his car and and turned to the door, “I’m going to go find her.”

“Okay.” Jayme replied. “Mind if we tag along?”

Tom looked at Greggor, who had remained silent, “I don’t know that my car will fit his fat ass!”

“Oh very funny!” Greggor shot back. “Like this is the time for this!”

Tom shrugged and pushed past him, “Whatever. Come on, if you’re coming.”

Tom ran out to the parking lot. Most of the cars were already gone with the exception of a few stragglers who were trying to pack up a few odds and ends before leaving. The entire place was in a complete state of panic.

Tom pushed his car starter, making the green Jeep Cherokee come to life. It was an old SUV out of the late 90s, but it was Tom’s first car and he refused to part with it. As far as he was concerned it still ran well and he owned it outright, so there was no reason not to keep it.

Jayme hopped in the passenger side while Greggor got in back. The interior was rustic, as one would expect from an old utility vehicle. The interior was tan with a black lining.

Tom got behind the driver’s seat and put the car into drive. The old engine roared as it came to life and jolted forward. The Jeep pulled out onto the main road and headed towards the highway.

The moment the jeep reached the on ramp for Route 1 South, they were met by gridlocked traffic that wasn’t moving at all. Cars were bumper to bumper and looked frozen in place.

**

Tom and his friends waited almost six hours in the traffic. They had barely moved five miles. The tension inside was getting bad and Tom was ready to explode.

Greggor sighed as he looked out the window, “I knew you shouldn’t have gotten on the highway. Why would you do that? It’s bad enough trying to get into the city on 93 on a normal day!”

Jayme shook her head, “Like the back roads would have been any better? Listen to the radio, it’s gridlocked everywhere!”

Tom shook his head, “This is bullshit.”

“Well what do you expect?” Jayme asked. “Everyone is fleeing in the opposite direction of those zombies. Sadly, everyone is fleeing in the same direction.”

At that moment, Tom’s engine made a sputtering sound. Thankfully, he was in the right hand lane and was able to pull off onto the Carter Street exit before the car’s engine died. With what little inertia the car had left, he pulled into the Chelsea High School parking lot and brought the car to a stop. He then looked down at the gas gauge and saw that it was firmly on empty, “Fuck…”

Jayme shook her head as the palm of her hand found her forehead, “Out of gas?”

Tom nodded, “I wasn’t expecting to be on the highway for six hours.”

“Oh great!” Greggor shouted. “So what now?”

Tom shrugged, “We can’t go back, and I won’t be able to relax until I know that Kristen is safe. I’m going to hoof it.”

“You’re going to walk to Emerson from here?” Jayme asked, surprised. “That’ll take hours!”

Tom pulled out his Samsung Galaxy and input walking directions into its GPS. The phone worked to compile the information before a map appeared on the screen with a blue line to indicate which way he needed to go. A voice began giving directions, “Continue on Everett Ave towards MA-16E.”

Tom looked up and shook his head, “Another 2 hours by the looks of it, and that’s if we don’t stop.”

Greggor sighed, “It’ll be dark by then, and I don’t like the idea of running around the city at night with these zombies on the loose!”

Tom shrugged, “You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to. I’m going to head that way though.”

“I’ve followed you this far,” Jayme replied, “might as well go the rest of the way. My family is out of state, so I can’t get to them any way.”

Greggor sighed, “All right, I’m in too.”

“Thank guys.” Tom replied with a smile as he turned and began walking down Everrett Avenue.

**

An hour and a half later, the three friends found themselves following the Freedom Trail. The GPS directed them down North Washington Street as they crossed over the Charles River. It appeared that they still had a long way to go as they crossed over the bridge.

Night had already fallen his phone said it was 7pm. The only light in the city came from the cars that were trying to get out of Boston and the undead could still be seen walking through the streets. It gave the group an eerie feeling.

Greggor breathed heavily as every nearby sound made him jump, “Look, this is crazy! The college is still a ways away and it’s too dark to even see where we’re going!”

Jayme nodded and turned to Tom, “Greggor’s right, Tom. I know how badly you want to get to your sister, but it’s too dangerous to be out like this. If the zombies don’t try to kill us, some looters might. We need to find some place to hide for the night, at least until the sun comes up.”

Tom sighed as he looked at his GPS. He was extremely resistant to the idea, but he knew that his friends were right. He wasn’t going to do his sister any good if they were mugged or killed by someone lurking in the shadows. He sighed, “Well there are hotels in the area, but I can’t imagine that they’ll be open.”

“We could break in.” Greggor replied. “I doubt that anyone would blame us.”

Jayme looked like she was deep in thought and remained silent. Tom looked at her oddly for a moment, “What is it?”

Jayme shook her head, “No… we shouldn’t go to the hotels. I can’t explain it, but something tells me that we’ll be safer if we head somewhere else.”

“Where?” Tom asked.

Jayme thought hard for a moment, “The Old North Church…”

Tom and Greggor looked at each other oddly for a moment before Tom turned back to Jayme, “Why there, how could that old building be safer?”

Jayme shrugged, “I don’t know. Like I said, I can’t explain it, maybe because it would be considered hallowed grounds?”

A frustrated look came over Greggor, “You and these damn feelings you get. I swear they get damn annoying at times!”

“Annoying, but accurate.” Tom shot back. “She’s never been wrong before.”

He then turned and nodded to Jayme, “All right, if you think we’ll be safer there, that’s where we’ll go.”

Tom switched the end location from Emerson College to the Old North Church. The map quickly switched, telling them to turn left at the end of the bridge instead of right. It took them on a straight path down the main roads.

At the end of the bridge, Tom led his friends down Causeway Street, passed the Ducali Pizzaria & Bar. Tom looked at the dark windows of the restaurant and remembered going there on a date. He quickly turned away as the thought was making him hungry.

They continued walking and headed down Commercial Street, crossed the road and headed right up the incline that was Hull Street. This was even darker and looked like nothing more than a small alley. The pitch blackness and inability to see the end of the road, gave Hull Street a far more menacing look.

Greggor was a wreck, and it didn’t help matters knowing that they were passing by an old cemetery that was barely a block up from the church. From what they could see over the brick wall, the graves were destroyed and the ground was ripped apart. It was a scarey sight, knowing that even the graves that were hundreds of years old hadn’t been spared.

The group moved on and finally made it to the Old North Church at the end of the street. It was little more than a black structure in the night and just as menacing as any other. The black gates were open, but the red door was closed.

Tom stepped out into the street and slowly walked up to the doors and placed his hands on them. To his surprise, they gave way and opened, allowing the group inside. The stale smell of air passed by them as the dark hall appeared.

The hall was as dark as the outside street was. Even the moonlight coming through the windows from outside didn’t make any difference. They had to feel their way down the isle to avoid bumping into anything.

When they reached the alter at the opposite side, Tom stepped over the felt rope and grabbed one of the candles that adorned the back wall. He then turned to his friends, “Anyone got a light?”

Greggor reached into his pocket and pulled out a stainless steel lighter, “Here you go!”

He tossed it to Tom, who looked at it for a moment, “You’re still smoking?”

Greggor shrugged as Jayme turned back to Tom, “I told you he didn’t quit!”

Tom nodded as he lit the candle and the church turned from black to white with red carpet on the floor. He nodded as he looked around, “Well that’s a little better… so where do we sleep?”

Jayme’s eyes narrowed and she stepped past Tom, “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Tom asked.

“I… I don’t know…” Jayme replied. “It almost sounds like someone’s pounding on a door.”

Tom looked at her oddly. He had no idea what she was talking about. He remained silent until he heard it. The sound was little more than a muffled thud that kept repeating itself.

Tom nodded, “I hear it too, now… but how could you…”

“Let’s go see.” Jayme said, cutting him off. “Someone could be in trouble.”

“Or it could be a horde of zombies trying to get in.” Tom replied.

Jayme shrugged, “Maybe, but its worth finding out.”

She quickly turned and led Tom and Greggor down the stairs at the back of the church. The landing gave way to old wooden stairs that curved around until they reached the ground level. They looked worn as though a million shoes had trodden over them. The floor on the basement level was dark red, similar to the color of blood. Like the stairs it was also badly worn.

Tom understood why everything looked the way it did. The city had gone to great lengths to see that everything was preserved in its original form as much as possible. Unfortunately because of the passage of time, much was beginning to wear away.

The group followed the sound through the door on the right next to the stairs. The door creaked open slowly as they entered the first chamber of the basement. There was a hallway off to the side, but it was too dark to see anything.

Above their heads in the direction the noise came from was a sign that read, ‘Watch thy head.’

Tom and his friends proceeded through the narrow doorway into the next room. The walls were old exposed brick on both sides. On the left was a lot of debris, while on the right, large pipes protruded from the ceiling and ran the length of the room. Below them, was a worn out section of the wall that was in the shape of an old grave stone.

The group proceeded even further down the hall past more debris in the pitch darkness. They slowly moved around another group of pips until they reached the next hallway. It was there that the pounding was the loudest.

Tom brought the candle close to the wall where another grave-shaped slab stood. The faint light from the candle revealed old writing on the wall and a latch below it. He quickly inspected the writing and instantly pulled back in horror.

Jayme looked at him oddly, “What? What does it say?”

Tom breathed heavily as he pressed himself against the opposite wall, “Shubael Bell and Robert Fennelly, 1808!”

Greggor’s eyes went wide and he began to tremble, “Oh my God… this is a crypt! Jayme, you’ve lead us into a fucking crypt!”

At that moment, the latches on the tombs collapsed and the small slabs slowly creaked aside. A sound of old wood breaking apart accompanied the creeking of the stone slabs. The group watched as a skull appeared out of the nearest tomb.

Jayme shreaked as a skeleton stepped out, draped in rags that looked like they were once stylish colonial clothes. The skeleton looked at them for a moment before turning and limping down the hall. The bones rattled as it moved.

A second skeleton in no better condition exited another nearby one and walked passed them as well. More and more skeletons exited their crypts and began heading for the door. The only one that even seemed to notice Tom and his group was the first one.

Jayme’s eyes darted around as Tom put his hand on her shoulder, “Shh, don’t move! I don’t think they see us.”

Greggor nodded, “Either that or they just aren’t interested.”

“Well either way don’t give them a reason to attack us.” Tom replied.

More and more skeletons exited their tombs. Some had to break through the old brick walls to get out. Tom wasn’t sure how a skeleton had the strength to do this, but after seeing a walking skeleton, he was willing to let a few things go.

The group waited as the last of the skeletons passed them by. Tom looked back down the hall and nodded, “Okay, that looks like it’s the last of them.”

“Hold on.” Jayme replied. “I hear something.”

Greggor rolled his eyes, “The last time you ‘heard something’ we ended up down here in the crypt.”

Jayme glared at the dwarf, “Oh shut up, it’s not like I knew that this was down here!”

Tom nodded, “What do you hear?”

“I… I don’t know…” She replied. “It sounds like a heartbeat and light breathing. I think someone living is trapped down here.”

Greggor shrugged, “Or it’s a less decomposed corpse.”

“In a tomb from the 1700s?” Tom mused. “We’d better check it out.”

The group proceeded even further into the crypt until they reached an unusual opening in the wall. There, they saw a small storage space. A single shelf adorned the wall with a small plaque, what looked like a tiny coffin lid, and two glass urns. On the left was the remains of an old coffin that looked like it hard partially rotted away.

Jayme looked at it oddly for a moment, “Whatever we’re looking for is behind these.”

Tom stepped back, taking the candle light with him, “I… I don’t know about this…”

Jayme gave him an annoyed look, “It’s just old wood. Help me…”

Tom and Greggor moved one piece while Jayme pushed the other one aside. The brick wall under it looked severely corroded. The cement between them had broken apart so badly that the bricks were on the verge of collapse.

The three friends dropped to their knees and moved the bricks out of the way, revealing an undisturbed coffin undernieth behind them. The metal latches on the side appeared sturdy enough to aid in moving the wooden box.

Tom took one handle and nodded to Greggor, who had taken the other. Jayme watched from behind as the two guys worked. They slowly pulled the coffin out of the wall until it was completely exposed.

The coffin looked different from the one that they had just moved. This one was intact and beautifully adorned with hand-carved symbols. The wood was polished and still glossy.

Tom looked up at Jayme, “How is this possible?”

Jayme shook her head, “I don’t know… those bricks don’t look like they’ve been disturbed in years and the coffin obviously hasn’t been touched. Look at the dust.”

“Is this where the sound is coming from?” Greggor asked.

“Yes…” Jayme replied hesitantly.

The coffin was nailed shut with a bronze plaque on the cover. Tom held the candle over it and inspected the writing. He read it aloud as he inspected it.

“She sleeps in beauty,

Beauty that will never die.

The eternal soul that dwells within shall rise as a phoenix flies.

May she find happiness in a world that once scorned her,

And suffer not as the others who lurk in the shadows now do.”

Jayme’s eyes stared almost transfixed at the plaque, “Beautiful words…”

Greggor nodded and grabbed a metal rod that was on the floor behind him, “Yeah… so are we going to open it or not?”

“Whatever’s in there, is what’s making the noise.” Jayme replied.

Tom shook his head, “How can you possibly hear that? I can’t hear it even now.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She said softly. “Let’s just get it open and see what’s going on.”

Greggor nodded and jammed the rod into the lid of the coffin. He pushed hard on it in an attempt to get it open. The wood crackled as the ancient nails gave way to the force of his push. Greggor then handed the bar to Tom so that he could work the other side.

Once the lid was successfully pried loose, Tom pulled it off and shined the candle in. To his amazement, inside was a woman no older than he was. Her eyes were closed, but she was clearly alive. Her hair was straight and shiny black. It was parted on the right and came down slightly over her cheek. Her cheekbones were very pronounced and it appeared that she had a slight overbite.

Unlike the other corpses, her clothing was intact, but clearly not from the same time period as the crypt. She was wearing chainmail under a black and purple tunic and black trowsers. It was another mystery that Tom would have to unravel.

Tom looked her over in awe. She was absolutely beautiful, “Beauty that will never die…”

Jayme smiled, “Hey Tom, you might want to wipe some of that drool off your chin before she wakes up if you even want to have a shot.”

Tom looked up at her annoyed before returning his attention to the enigma that was this woman, “How is this possible?”

Jayme shrugged, “Either she was put there recently, which makes no sense just looking at the coffin… or the fact that she herself is covered in dust. Are her ears pointed?”

Tom parted her hair and looked at her right ear, “No, they’re human… why?”

“I’d heard stories that elves were able to live for several centuries at one point… but that was back during the days of the Alliance.” Jayme replied.

Tom started tapping her on her cheek to see if he could wake her up. Greggor noticed it and backed away, “Whoa man… you think that’s such a good idea?”

“I want answers.” Tom replied. “Whatever woke up those skeletons is also responsible for her, I’m sure of it.”

The woman didn’t respond to his tapping. Her breathing was steady, but she was otherwise lifeless. Her skin was also extremely cold.

Tom could see that his candle was about to go out. They needed to get out of there before it did or they would not be able to see. He quickly grabbed the woman and hoisted her over his shoulder before turning to his friends, “Come on, let’s get the hell out of here.”

Jayme and Greggor looked at each other oddly for a moment, but quickly followed behind Tom. The group made their way back around to the staircase and made it back to the altar before the candle died. The group was once again in complete darkness.

Tom shook his head, “Fuck this, I don’t want to spend another minute here. Let’s head over to Langone Park. It’s a little more open and hopefully there won’t be any zombies there.”

The group exited the church and ran up Salem Street, heading for Charter Street. When they neared the end of Charter Street, they saw a light heading in their direction. They quickly ducked into a small walk way and hid behind the stone wall on the opposite side of Chater Street from the graveyard that they had seen earlier.

Tom watched as three men dressed in military gear, carrying assault weapons passed by. The marines? Looks like the cavalry has arrived.

Once they were gone, a confused look came over Greggor, “I don’t get it, why’d we hide from them? Maybe they could help us.”

Tom looked back at him, “One, because I haven’t found my sister yet. Two, how would you explain the living dead girl we just found by grave-robbing a national landmark?”

Greggor nodded, “Good point…”

Once the soldiers were out of site, they made their move down the walkway on their right. They ran down the path, down a flight of stairs, and across Commercial Street. The street was busy with activity from military personel who had turned the area into a makeshift base.

Tom noticed a black SUV sitting idle in the middle of the road. He quickly dismissed it as the group made their way through Langone Park. They ran out to the grassy area that was obscured by the playground, so hopefully no one would see them.

Satasfied that they were safe, Tom gently rested the woman on the ground in front of them.The gentle sound of the harbor was a nice change from the creepiness that they had been dealing with all day. At least now they could probably catch their breath.

Tom looked down at the woman lying in front of him. A gentle breeze flowed through her hair and over her skin. It looked like her features were slowly becoming animated as the breeze touched them.

Her eyes winced and her head slowly jerked to either side. She broke out in goosebumps and began to tremble. It looked like she was fighting to come out of her sleep.

Tom looked up at his friends, “Guys, I think she’s coming out of it.”

Jayme and Greggor turned and looked at her. Jayme’s eyes narrowed, “Her heart rate has increased and her lungs feel more animated. It must be the fresh air out here.”

The woman began coughing as she turned on her side. It only last a moment, allowing her to take in a deep breath. When she was ready, she slowly opened her eyes.

To everyone’s surprise her eyes were very different and clearly not human. Her pupils were shaped like cat’s eyes. There was no white either, just a dark orange that seemed to glow in the night.

Tom knelt down next to her, “Take it easy, it’s okay/”

She looked up at Tom with an odd expression on her face, “You… your words…”

She slowly shook her head as she sat up. She spoke with an accent that was most likely from Eastern Europe, “Your voice is unfamiliar to me.”

She sniffed the air as she looked around, “Am I still in Boston? I recognize the smell… at least some of it, but it looks so different. What year is this?”

“It’s 2013.” Tom replied.

A look of shock came over her, “2013… Two hundred ninety years… no…”

She grabbed Tom’s arm as a look of desperation came over her, “Who sent you, my father?”

“Your father?” Tom asked.

“Lord Drapekin.” She replied. “He was an advisor in the kings court before he was found out… is he well?”

Tom shook his head, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. We found you in an ancient tomb undernieth the Old North Church. We heard you breathing.”

The woman shook her head, “So you don’t know my father…”

Tom shook his head, “Miss… um…?”

“Oh forgive me.” She said, realizing that they had not been properly introduced. “My name is Tersa, daughter of Lord Drapekin, advisor to George I, King of Great Britain and Ireland. Might I have the honor of your name?”

“Thomas McConnel.” Tom replied.

Tersa smiled, “Irish…”

Tom then turned to his friends, “This is Greggor Iksan and Jayme Woodsum.”

Tersa looked Greggor over for a moment, “You… so the legends were true. I’d heard about the prowess of dwarves.”

Greggor smiled, “Nice to meet you too.”

She then turned to Tom, “You’re human… I can tell by your smell.”

Her eyes narrowed as she looked at Jayme, “But you… your blood is different. You’re human, but not entirely.”

Jayme shook her head, “That’s none of your business.”

Tom looked up at her oddly, “Not entirely human? Well now a few things make sense… so what else are you?”

Jayme turned her back on them, “I don’t want to talk about it. Mind your own fucking business.”

Tersa was taken aback by her words, “Such anger… it does not compliment you my lady.”

Jayme didn’t reply as Tersa turned back to Tom, “What is the current state of the Empire?”

Tom shook his head, “The Empire?”

“The British Empire, man.” Tersa replied.

Tom couldn’t believe what he was being asked. Had this woman been asleep for over two hundread years? She clearly wasn’t human, but she wasn’t dwarven or elven either. He shrugged as he spoke, “Tersa, what’s the last thing you remember?”

Tersa lowered her eyes to the ground, “My family was being hunted. We were found out for being…”

“Being what?” Tom asked, finally certain that he was going to get his answer.

Tersa shook her head, “I’d rather not say right now. I’m sorry, but I just don’t know you well enough yet to trust you with something like that.”

“It’s okay.” Tom replied. “What happened?”

Tersa continued her story, “I… My family was found out and we fled hear to the colonies… all thirty of us. We spent the next few years being hunted. One by one, I the people I loved get burned at the stake.”

Tears formed in her eyes as she spoke, “My father still had a few friends though. One of whom was a man named Timothy Cutler. He agreed to help my father hide me before the townspeople came for us. The last thing I remember was being placed in a wooden box. My father told me to go into hibernation until he came for me.”

“Wow…” Tom replied, “and that’s where you’ve been for three hundred years.”

Tersa nodded, “Almost, it seems.”

She looked around at what little she could see in the darkness, “The city… I’ve never seen structures like these before. Everything is so different… Tell me, what is the state of the Empire? Who currently sits on the throne?”

“There is no Empire.” Tom replied. “The colonies rose up and threw off British rule in 1776. After that, the Empire slowly declined due to war and rebellion over the next two hundred years. Pretty much the final breaking point was World War 2 when Britain withdrew from most of it’s colonies. The country still exists, but it’s now a small island nation in Northern Europe. Queen Elizabeth currently sits on the throne.”

Tersa couldn’t believe it. The British Empire was gone? This was hard to take in, “Then… who rules here?”

“No one rules.” Tom replied. “Well… not exactly anyway. We have a government that the people elect.”

“A democracy?” Tersa asked.

“Not exactly,” Tom said, “but close. The people elect the people who vote in the president here and power is regulated to various levels of the government. Our current president is Barack Obama.”

Tersa looked at him oddly, “Such an odd name… from where does he hail?”

Tom shrugged, “Well that depends on whome you ask, though most people would agree that he was born in this country. His father was Kenyan.”

Tersa’s eyes narrowed, “Kenyan?”

“African.” Tom replied.

“Really?” Tersa asked. “Incredible… so after three hundred years… the slaves now have the ability to become a ruling power?”

Tom smiled, “They haven’t been slaves in 150 years.”

Tersa placed her hand on her forehead, “I’ve got so much catching up to do…”

Personal bias, dislike, and hatred.

I admittedly was a little hesitant to address this one because of the weight and political biases that go with it. So let me preface by saying that I don’t care who’s a republican or a democrat, man or woman, black, white, asian, etc. If you enjoy reading, you’re all right by me.

In Magnifica, Lia’na is often abused for being an elf. Both dwarves and humans hate the slowly-dying race for reasons dating back to the pre-historic Alliance of their people. At one point she asks why and the only answer that Toby can give her is that she is an elf. In this case, Toby’s assessment is quite accurate. I made it fairly clean cut that most of the people attending college with her, don’t know her and most have never even seen an elf before because they’re so rare.

As a result, these people take out their hatred, or racism, on her because the stories that they’ve been told in their history classes have fueled their biases without any point of reference to refute it. I made this pretty clean cut as I wanted Lia’na to be a nice person, one that was kind and who, when people gave her the time of day, would be very friendly.

However, there are often times when said biases, hatreds, or racism, are not so clean cut and unfortunately, the assumption of bigotry is becoming more and more prevalent whether it’s appropriate or not. Allow me to illustrate my point with three examples…

George Bush – During his administration, immediately following 9/11, if you disagreed with him or his polices/actions, you were pretty much automatically labelled anti-american or unpatriotic. We saw this happen with Dixie Chicks.

Barack Obama – You can go to any news source and in the comments section now, or on facebook, in almost any thread dealing with President Obama, when criticism arises, there will almost 100% of the time be an accusation of racism. Reading comments like this, one could draw the conclusion that you can’t dislike the president because it was racist to do so. Jimmy Carter perpetuated this in a few of his statements.

Lena Dunham – So I bring her up because she was a more recent example. She faced a huge storm of controversy following the release of her book because of a section in it dealing with her and her sister when they were younger. I’m not going to get into the subject matter, because I personally find it distasteful,  but a lot of people, arguably majorly conservative, but also parents and others, came forward and unleashed a war of words on her. Well… a simple Google search now will yield a plethora of results saying that all of her criticism stems from misogyny, or because she’s overweight, or other outstanding reasons, and not because they just don’t like her.

I’m going to use the last one as an example because I’ve followed some of her work. So I am just going to come right out and say this; I do not like Lena Dunham. She’s a fellow artist and an activist for women, and of course I respect that, but I don’t like her.

Is it because she’s a woman? I think most of the women I know would tell you otherwise as, by sheer numbers, I have more female friends than I do male.

Is it because she’s overweight? I’m overweight, and I’m pretty sure I don’t self-loathe… no usually anyway…

Is it a combination of the two? Again, no, my reasoning is covered above.

So why then? There must be a reason…

Well yes there is a reason. I don’t like her because I don’t find her amusing or entertaining, I find her politics misguided, her activism methods to be unnecessarily blunt and somewhat suspect, and if I’m being totally honest, I find her somewhat pretentious.
Does this have anything to do with her gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or personal appearance? No. I dislike her because of the content of her character.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well too often if someone dislikes another person or philosophy, we automatically jump to the assumption that there is some larger deep-seeded personal bias. The question is… is this appropriate and are we as a civilized society better off for it?

Honestly, no. I really don’t think we are. Our society is one that has thrived on the free exchange of ideas and opinions, but by automatically jumping to the above conclusion, we create a society where people are hesitant to speak their mind for fear of being labelled.

Is political correctness to blame? Yes and no. Political correctness is often blamed, but if we go back and take a look at the original intent and structure of political correctness, we can plainly see that it has been taken out of context and badly misinterpreted.

Now, are there people out there who dislike Ms. Dunham because she’s a woman? Yes. Because she’s overweight? Conceivably. However, is that the majority of the people who find her objectionable? I’d be willing to bet a bottle of Blue Label scotch that the answer is no. But to jump to the conclusion of racism, misogyny, or other bigotry, creates a society of timidness, resentment, and victim mentalities.

I remember what I was in college, I was in open debate with a professor over the definition of racism and I’ll never forget his words,

“The oppressed cannot by definition be racist.”

I can honestly say that I’ve never heard anything more bogus in my life. Humans of any color can be racist, misogynistic, or bigoted. Humans hate, it happens.

So as warped as it may sound, it’s okay to dislike someone or something… as long as that dislike is on the basis of the content of character and not anything superficial, and to make the assumption of the latter, is a slap in the face to everyone who lived through suffrage or any equal rights movements.

Anyway, let me know what you think. I remind you all that this is just personal opinion, so don’t get mad if you don’t agree, just feel free to tell me why. I do my best to keep politics out of my posts.

Catch you on the flip side,

Jim.