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The Witcher: Soon to be a Netflix Original

The Witcher! Geralt the Riv! Ahhhhhhh!

Okay. Sorry. I’ve calmed down now.

So here is the deal: Netflix is producing a television show based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s Polish dark fantasy series. I know, I know – old news. But I’ve been out of the loop (aka in training camps) for about eight months now, so it’s new for me since I missed the initial announcements.

The Witcher Assassin of Kings

Promo poster from CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher II: Assassin of Kings.

For those of you who don’t already know, I am a huge fan of The Witcher novels, as well as the critically acclaimed video game adaptations that helped the enormously popular fantasy series gain major traction here in the U.S. The Witcher novels are fantastic in their own right – I’ve read all the books several times and I love them – but they were famous mostly only in Poland because they never received translations into other languages. CD Projekt Red (a Polish video game company) changed all that when it bought the rights to produce a RPG franchise based on Sapkowski’s novels. That could have been the end of it. After all, many ambitious projects have flopped horribly upon release. But CDPR was different. They had great respect and love for the books behind the project. That passion and dedication to stay true to the source material produced one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in gaming history. (The Witcher III alone won over 250 Game of the Year awards). The world, characters, cultures, and politics felt so real, deep, and complex for a video game. RPG gamers around the world were mindblown. The Witcher universe exploded in popularity among English-speakers, and the book industry capitalized on this, rushing to put out translations for the books so that fans could get more Witcher – so they could get the original Witcher.

What fantastic novels. What incredible games. What real characters and what powerful themes. In my personal opinion, from Sapkowski’s first short story about Geralt to the last game, the Witcher universe has been handled very well.

Which leads to my extreme excitement for a television series.

Despite the author’s recent departure from the Netflix project, I have high hopes that this could be one of the best television shows ever. It just has so much potential behind it. (Sapkowski is notoriously hard to work with when it comes to his books, so I’m not terribly concerned that he is not participating in the television production. The fact that he has not completely denounced the project is decent proof to me that the adaptation is being handled with care.) Many of the people who were involved in the book-to-game adaptation process are also at the helm of the Netflix production. They clearly care deeply about the source material, as shown by they’re dedication to bringing the essence of the books into the games, and I can only hope that they will continue to show the same fervor.

The Last Wish - amazon

The Last Wish – The first of The Witcher tales by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish is a collection of short stories about Geralt of Rivia, and a must-read for fantasy readers. (Caution: Don’t give these to your kids. The Witcher novels are quite dark and can be very graphic.

Of course, I’ve been let down by people I’ve trusted before. (Peter Jackson, what happened between The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies? Seriously? Talk about losing sight of the intrinsic soul of a story. I’ve never seen such a 180 degree turnaround. LOTR was a masterpiece adaptation; The Hobbit movies were traditional Hollywood letdowns.) BUT I’m choosing to believe we’re going to get a great translation for The Witcher. It’s all right there on a silver platter in the books.

Netflix, don’t mess this up for us. Geralt is important to many, many people. He is such a unique character. DO NOT turn him into just another macho, monster-slaying, wench-laying, tough guy. Does he have those characteristics sometimes? Absolutely. But he is so much more than that. Such a nuanced, wonderfully-written, complex character. Just like all characters in The Witcher. I can’t wait to see them all brought to the screen.

Anyone else out there Witcher fans? I, for one, am ecstatic Netflix is trying to capitalize on HBO’s success with Game of Thrones. Do you think their adaptation will be loyal to the source material? Or will it be another Hollywood book mutilation? Let me know!

Are We Ready?

“Somebody has to start. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right.” – Dalinar Kholin, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

We all fail sometimes. Right? Or is it just me who never seems to live up to who I should be?

I messed up yesterday. I crossed a line that I shouldn’t have. I did something that was wrong – and that I knew was wrong – all because I wanted something.

How disgustingly selfish.

It wasn’t some horrifying crime. Not according to the arbitrary scale we use to weigh severity of wrongness. I didn’t murder or rape anybody. I didn’t even steal something.

I lied.

I didn’t technically even say anything untrue. I simply didn’t divulge all the information I possessed. A little white lie. That’s all it was.

And that’s what pisses me off.

Because if I can’t be trusted with the little things, why should I ever be trusted with big things?

I don’t know if this is common or not, but I have always felt like I was put here on earth – in this time, in this place – to do great and terrible things. Not terrible as we would use the word, but as Tolkien would. Worldshaking things. Things that make people feel Atlas give a mighty heave beneath them. I am here to move mountains, and I will someday.

“When I think of destiny, I don’t think of a predetermined fate you can’t escape, but rather some sort of final goal. Something you work towards your entire life.” – Pyrrha Nikos, RWBY

Pyrrha NikosBut sometimes I wonder. Why has it not begun yet? Why has the ability to shake the world not entered my grasp? I’m ready. I feel ready. I put in the work, I strive daily to be the best man I can be, and I want it. I want it so bad it makes me clench up inside. I want to change things for people, to make this place better in drastic ways. I know I’m destined for it. Why am I still denied the pebble I need to start an avalanche?

And I think I know the answer now: I don’t deserve it.

With great power comes great responsibility. It’s ridiculously cliche, but that doesn’t make it untrue. The power to change things is terrifying and should be entrusted only with overwhelming caution. That’s something we (as humans) have clearly forgotten.

But God hasn’t, and I’m grateful. Perhaps He doesn’t just want me to change things. He wants me to change things for the good.

At the end of the day, I don’t think either He or I can be sure that’s what will happen if I am afforded that destiny right now.

I can’t be trusted with it yet. I’m too broken and selfish to handle it well. That sucks, but it’s also fortunate. There are few things more terrifying than a man receiving power he’s not ready for. I knew the lie was wrong and I did it anyway. It was just an insignificant, tiny, infantile evil. But…

If we can’t be trusted with the small things, we can’t be trusted with the big things.

It’s that simple and that difficult.

So let’s try to be better. Every day. Not because we might get a payoff in the future, but because it is right. We’re human, and we’re going to mess up. But if we keep reaching for the vision, keep struggling to become that glittering ideal we always wished we could be, maybe someday we’ll look in a mirror and realize that’s who we’ve become.

Am I the only one who often let’s themselves down? Do you have a vision of who you’d like to be? Why can’t we ever seem to get there? Share your words of wisdom below.

 

Commissioning as a Second Lieutenant

Graduation - Family

My parents and youngest sister (Emilie) came to see the commissioning ceremony at Ft. Benning, GA. It was wonderful to see them after months spent training!

Formal - Emilie 3

Emilie and I at the Officer’s Formal, just a few days prior to graduation. She was gracious enough to be my date for the evening.

Formal - Emilie 2

In a venue filled with many a gorgeous woman, there was not a single date more beautiful than mine!

October 31st, OCS graduation finally arrived. It’s been a long, arduous journey, but I am now a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army! I feel quite a sense of relief to be finished with the initial training and moving on to the actual business of being an officer. I made some good friends along the way at Boot Camp and Officer Candidate School. Without both their support and the support of those of you cheering me on from home, I would no doubt never have made it to commissioning. Thank you to everyone who sent letters of encouragement and prayer!

Graduation - Kenah, Laans

Myself and some of the aforementioned friends who’ve been by my side since the beginning. Both James Kenah (center) and Jonathan Laansma (right) will be fine officers. The Army is lucky to have them!

Graduation - Stage, Award 2 (2)

Receiving the Distinguished Academic Graduate Award at the Commissioning Ceremony was a great honor. I’m grateful to have merely graduated, let alone chosen for such a distinction.

Now that training is over (for the time being) and I have some measure of free time, I can get back to working on my writing projects. I appreciate all of my readership who have patiently waited while I did everything except finish the sequels you’ve requested for so long.

Training…and Its Eventual Conclusion

Hello Everyone!

Wow. I know it’s been a long time (approximately four and a half months) since my last post, and here I am just now getting back in touch. The bad news here is that I’ve still got 4 – 5 weeks of Officer Candidate School remaining, so I can’t dive back into writing Ironheart‘s sequel just yet, but available free time is finally on the horizon. The good news is that I managed to graduate from Boot Camp in early August, and I’m well on my way to finishing OCS as well.

Phase Up

Classing up into Intermediate Phase at Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, GA. Boy, was I ever happy to put on that blue ascot!

Squad STX 2

Squad STX training out in Fort Benning’s swamps and forests.

So there’s a brief update on what’s been going on. Thank you to everyone who’s been keeping up with me and sending mail throughout my training stages. Your letters have been a joy to read! I promise to get back on my current writing projects soon. You’ve all been so patient waiting for books that were forced to take a back seat when a chance for service took priority. I’ll keep pushing forward here, and, with a little luck, I’ll be back to writing about Primals, heroes, and villains soon!

 

Announcement – Putting the Writing Career on Hold

I received some exciting news yesterday. Well, news that is exciting for me, but which will prove to be a drain on this blog, my current book projects, and my writing aspirations on the whole. In short, I was selected for a slot in Officer Candidate School in the U.S. Army. That means: A) I will be out of contact for up to a year in various training camps, and B) that even after I finish with training I will be working 40+ hours a week in a profession not particularly conducive to a budding writing career. I may even be deployed for long periods of time with no chance whatsoever to write.

So, both a happy and sad day.

On the one hand, I’ll get to live a life of service to others – something that has always been important to me. On the other, my dream of becoming an influential storyteller will slow to crawl. But that’s life. Sometimes we have to put one dream on hold to fulfill another. I will be able to write for decades to come, but serving my country is something best done while I’m still young and physically capable.

Anyway, the point is that I will continue to write and post and market and build a following while serving as an officer, but it will likely be much slower than before, and may halt completely for the better part of the next year. That being said, I’m considering having a proxy (friend or relative) continue running my blog, social media accounts, and marketing efforts while I’m in training, so be on the lookout for some occasional content from him or her.

Thank you to everyone who has followed and/or stopped by to read my thoughts or support my writing endeavors! You’re all the best. I’ll get back in touch in about a year (or sooner if I’m able).

RWBY Volume 4 Analysis (Part 2)

(This is Part 2 of a four-part post.)

*SPOILERS*

Analysis

Con: Roosterteeth Bit Off More Than It Could Chew

My number one criticism of Volume 4 is this: There are far too many separate story arcs.  Miles and Kerry seem to have forgotten that they have only three hours max screen time to work with per season, and, as a consequence, lost control of their story by trying to cram too many plot threads (some of which were unnecessary) into one volume.  All our girls needed to go through their own, individual growth, as did the remaining members of JNPR, but many of the character arcs seemed to lose any purpose or significance in the limited space of an already too expository volume.  If nothing else, I’ll just come to terms with this volume as a transitional season, doing some dull, but clearly needed, work of returning the plot strings into a cohesive bundle after last volume’s scattering.  In part, it had to be done in order to expand to a world stage from the preparatory phase of Beacon, but, without doubt, it could have been handled better.

Pro: Expanding World

Some of the bad news from this volume is because we’ve left Beacon, but a lot of the good news is that we’ve left Beacon.  As sad as I was to say goodbye to the things we love and the innocence of youth, it is super satisfying to see an expanding, diverse world in which the plot can unfold.  From new cultures to new characters, Vol. 4 makes clear that RWBY will ultimately be a grand epic in a fully realized universe, not just a Harry Potter-esque series that takes place largely in a boarding school.  Here’s to future adventures in one of the cooler fantasy worlds to be created in the past decade.

Con: A World of Black and White: Where’s the Gray?

Nope, not talking about Gray Haddock, though there has been a sad lack of Roman Torchwick this season, owing to the baddie’s disappointing demise.  I’m talking about the apparent viewpoints, legends, and history of Remnant, most of which can be categorized as saintly or pure evil, with little in between.  With a few notable exceptions, the fourth volume sank further than ever into the trap of black and white interpretations, especially in the World of Remnant videos.  I literally started laughing out loud at Qrow’s explanation of “The Great War,” which cast the conflict into the starkest terms of good vs. evil.  Vale and Vacuo good, Atlas and Mystral evil.  Only after they were defeated did Atlas and Mystral learn the error of their horrible ways (kind of) and agree to stop their completely one-sided aggression and racism.  Let me tell you something, kids.  Stories with this much black and white never feel authentic, because they aren’t.  They don’t feel realistic because no large conflict has ever been clear-cut.  Tolkien and some few others get away with it because their stories are written specifically as commentaries on the dynamic of good vs. evil, but what’s presented here is a human vs. human (and faunus) conflict, and those are never simplistic struggles of good against bad.  Black and white explanations of events, however attractive they may at first seem, are always likely to be wrong.  In fiction, just as in real life, explanations of this type are going to feel off, unbelievable, to a discerning audience.  So far, RT has slipped into that trap.  Hopefully it’s something they will correct in later seasons, because right now everything about the backstory feels stilted as a result.  To fix it, they’re going to have to start showing differences in perspective that lead to conflict, not straight-up morality against immorality.  They’ve done, meh, okay with that in a few areas, such as dissension within the White Fang, Ironwood’s hard, practical approach opposed to Oz’s calm idealism, etc.  But so far, the series history is descending further and further into explanations of good, reasonable people pitted against others who seem to have no understandable motives.

Con: New Does Not Equate with Better – Departing the Original Style

The frickin’ animation!  I have a love/hate relationship with this new look.  It’s also listed as a Pro below, where you’ll find what I liked about the Maya graphics.  But I’ll get right down to it on what I hated.

Let’s be clear, the visuals have never been the biggest draw for me when it comes to RWBY.  A lot of anime fans I’ve spoken with have said that they couldn’t get into RWBY because the animation is so strange (which strikes me as comical, seeing as they are already fans of one of the stranger niches of storytelling in the world).  I tend to consider solid plot, characterization, theme, etc. over the superficial parts of storytelling.  To me, having great graphics/visuals is akin to a beautiful icing.  When it’s there on an already wonderfully baked cake, it enhances my enjoyment, turning a tasty snack into a delectable delight.  But it doesn’t work the other way around.  You need a good cake – a good foundation – before icing even becomes a factor.  If a tale has mediocre storytelling underneath the glitter of stunning visuals, I can fit all the craps I give about that tale into a thimble.  Luckily, RWBY does have great story characteristics, so this is my complaint about the frosting.  After all, if you put vanilla icing on a cake, I’ll still enjoy it, just not as much if it were chocolate.

When it comes to the animation, my complaint is this: It’s not the same.  I know that sounds extremely petty, and I am aware that there were many extenuating circumstances recommending the switch, but it doesn’t change the fact that the story and characters feel a little different because the look has changed so drastically.  I don’t know why Monty originally decided to go with Poser, but I would hazard a guess that part of the reason was that it had a decidedly 3D look that lent itself well to his vision of a blend between anime and video game style graphics.  While RWBY, in the fourth volume, is still technically 3D, it looks much more 2D than in seasons before.  It’s a change that admittedly brings it closer to a mainstream anime audience, but one which I consider to be a poor trade.  RWBY is awesome because it is so unique, and its visual style has always been distinctly its own.  I would encourage RT to put a premium value on the things that give RWBY its unique flavor in the future, and not discard them unless absolutely necessary.

Pro: And Sometimes New Is Better

Yes, I may prefer what I consider the canon RWBY visuals of Poser, but that won’t stop me from admitting that the new animation looks fantastic.  Everything is more detailed, from facial expressions to backdrops.  Compare similar shots from the first and fourth volumes, and your jaw will hit the floor from the difference.  We’ve come a long way, Roosterteeth, from the black silhouettes of background crowds.  Sometimes change isn’t for the better – I would have preferred a continuation in Poser – but sometimes pushing the boundaries pays off as well.  In fact, I’m having a hard time figuring out how RT Animation plans to improve on the graphics in later volumes.  Yeah – it looks that good.  Gone are the awkward shots of the lower body (Poser had trouble with feet and leg movements), and each individual character looks even more distinct.  Good work, RT.  I’m not a supporter of the animation switch, but I will give credit where it’s due.  And it is definitely due here.

Con: FIGHT! Fight, Fight, Fight…

It seems like many of my complaints can be boiled down to Monty did it different, and this one is no exception.  You see, the combat this volume was just…disappointing to me. Once again, it didn’t feel the same as it has the past three volumes, and I’m going to point the finger at the fact that Monty is no longer at the helm.

See, in the past three volumes, combat has been governed by silent, understood rules that are never explicitly mentioned in dialogue, but can be observed in the fights themselves.  Concussive shots, as from Crescent Rose or Nora’s hammer, can propel the wielder of the weapon that fired them in an opposite direction, as according to physics.  Auras will “soak” damage done to an individual until their aura is depleted, and only then will they be susceptible to physical harm.  Even semblances have rules that govern how they can work.  For instance, Weiss’s glyphs can hold a person or object at a certain angle until released, allowing someone, say Ruby, to balance on one upside down or run up the side of a building lined with them.

Many of these rules seem to have been discarded in Vol. 4 for no apparent reason.  Nora can now fire her hammer/cannon and fly in spirally circles.  Ruby’s semblance now allows her to not just move super quickly, but also semi-teleport as a cloud of rose petals, disregarding the fact that no one has deigned to explain that.  I mean, people are basically flying, changing direction midair on a whim, without any physical explanation for how.  Monty’s fights made sense.  They operated within defined, if only implied, boundaries that made their enactment plausible and their tactics satisfying.  In Volume 4?  Not so much.  Instead, we get fights where the victorious strategy is: “Guys, we hit it harder.”

Yeah.  Even if such a strategy doesn’t make any sense in that circumstance.

The combat, while a huge draw to RWBY for some, is much like the visuals for me.  I loved the earlier fights in this series.  They are so innovative and well-done.  But at the same time, it’s the story and characters that hooked me.  The fights, like good graphics, are just more awesome frosting on top of the RWBY cake.  However, just because I don’t consider something essential doesn’t mean I’m not going to say something when I see it going downhill.  My final verdict is that combat has definitely declined in this volume from the quality of its predecessors, whether because of the new animation, the absence of Monty, or simply changing stylistic choices.

Pro: Music

The soundtrack hasn’t been released yet (unfortunately), but from what I noticed during the episodes, Vol. 4’s music is as strong as ever.  Jeff Williams has had the tone of this show down since the first second, and it shows, because the music has always been one of RWBY’s brightest facets.  From the fun of FNKI to the creepy drawl of Salem’s refrain to the rocking RWBY title themes, this show can be encapsulated in its music, and Vol. 4 is no different from its predecessors in that regard.  Keep up the good work, Jeff and Casey!  I’ll be on the lookout for the soundtrack release!

Previous Page: RWBY Analysis (Part 1)                                     Next Page: RWBY Analysis (Part 3)

A Preliminary Note on Story Analysis

For the last several weeks, I’ve been posting a lot of content on the nature of storytelling, so it’s high time we took a break for something a little lighter.  We’ve yet to actually dig in to any individual plots, which is as key to realizing the power of stories as analyzing storytelling.  After all, stories are the best advocates of their own influence.

Stories I break down on this blog will be separated into two categories: Required and Anathema.  I’ll evaluate a lot of Required stories, but very few Anathema, mostly because I’m largely a nice guy who rarely thinks it proper to firebomb other storytellers’ hard work.  That being said, it will happen on occasion that I detest a story enough to actively work against its creator.  You can assume one of two things about the evaluations I post.  If I post about a film, web series, TV show, video game, book, etc. on this blog, I either 1) love it and think everyone should partake, or 2) believe it should be mercilessly ripped apart line by line.  I will indicate which at the beginning of the post.  Cons that are listed on the former should be taken with a grain of salt, since I am obviously recommending the story while airing any grievances that (I believe) detract from the possible maximum impact of the tale.  The upcoming evaluation I’ll have out on RWBY soon is an excellent example of a Required tale.

As for Anathema, I’ll generally tell you exactly how I feel, with little mollycoddling to blunt the blows.  An example of something that would go in my Anathema folder would be anything I ever post on the Twilight series.