Saturday, April 29, 2017

Agents of Shield - Post 4x19 Hangover and The Ward/Fitz Parallel.

AOS writers, you have made me ashamed that after the season 3 finale, I vowed never to watch this show ever again. If I was wearing a hat, I'd take it off to you. Whatever old-timey thing that means.
When season 4 premiered, I stuck to my guns. I just wasn't interested. I didn't care enough to tune in every week when the one character I enjoyed seeing the most had been killed. But then in my travels one day, I saw a promo where *gasp* WARD WAS BACK! So I scrambled to catch up on all the episodes of season 4 to prepare myself.



I have to admit, even without Ward, I enjoyed the first half of season 4 almost as much as I enjoyed season 1. It's just a pity that after Winter Soldier torpedo the entire AOS series premise, it took them two more seasons to claw their way back to greatness (in my sole opinion, anyway).
So, as to the reason we're all here today... And it probably goes without saying, if you're not up to date on AOS, then this post is going to spoiler the hell out of you.
From a story point of view, what the writers have done with the Framework plot line is a kind of evil genius, and it loops all the way back to the end of season 1 when Ward was revealed as a Hydra agent,
Once that little bombshell was exploded, people seemed to be divided right down the line when it came to Ward -- they either loved him or hated him. I fell into the former category. No matter what Ward was up to, whether he was being a complete sociopath, trying to help the team for his own murky reasons, or even when he became Hive, Ward was the one character I wanted to see week after week. He was the kind of character I love -- what I call a gray character. One that leaves us with the question of is he truly a bad person, or deep down a good person who ended up on a dark path?
The AOS writers, I think, have now answered this question in the most brilliant way they possibly could have,
Though I doubt it was this simple, in my mind, the AOS writers sat down and said "if we're going to make one of the team go evil in the Framework to highlight that any good person can go bad depending on circumstance, who is the most purely good hearted, lovable character on the show?" The answer, of course, is Fitz.
Some of the hardcore Fitz and Fitzsimmons fans are absolutely hating this story line, and the unforgiving side of me thinks "well, now you know how Ward and Skyeward fans felt at the end of season 1!"
Fandom battles aside, in many ways it was brilliant of the writers to use Fitz for this plot thread. However, the one reason that stands out the most is the fact that he was one of the people most hurt by Ward's betrayal -- maybe even more so than Skye/Daisy, given that the pain inflicted on Fitz was both emotional and physical.
The writers have gone to great lengths to highlight how easily, with a few changes in past circumstances of a person's life (which, if you're not up with things, is what the Framework is all about--fixing a person's biggest regret, which changes the outcome of the entire world), the path to good or evil can be taken by anyone.
For Fitz, fixing the regret that his father was not part of his life put him on a dark path. Possibly an even darker path than Real-World Ward took.
In the Framework, Fitz killed an innocent woman, and though we did see him question himself over this later, it was still clear he was doing what he thought he had to in order to maintain his beliefs and reinforce his world view. Which was exactly what Ward was doing when he betrayed the team at the end of season 1.
Even though Ward killed people who didn't deserve it (like Victoria Hand, who, incidentally, was responsible for bring Framework Ward into Shield, not John Garrett) at least the people Ward did kill were agents, whose hands wouldn't have exactly been clean, and knew what they were signing on for when they decided to join Shield or Hydra. All's fair in love and war, that old chestnut. Killing an innocent woman for no other reason than to prove a point is arguably far worse.
Meanwhile, the writers have carefully made sure the audience recognizes that Framework Ward is nothing like Real-World Ward -- having him apologize to Gemma over what Real-World Ward did to her, mentioning to Coulson it was Victoria Hand who had brought him into Shield, telling Skye/Daisy outright that he is not anything like the other Ward. Which, I'm sure is only making fans more attached to him. He is the potential realized of what Ward could have been, if not for his misguided loyalty to Garrett.
The way I see it, I (and other Ward fans) are either going to be wildly rewarded and giddy with happiness by the end of the season, or completely heartbroken all over again.
I'd like to make a call on which way it's going to go, but I'm 50/50 on both options.
And I really do think there's only one of two endings for Framework Ward.
One, he'll sacrifice himself to save the rest of the team so they can make it home. This will give him the death of a hero, which a lot of fans wanted after all was said and done with the Hive thing. I'm hoping this isn't his ending, as for a start, people would be expecting it, and secondly, there would be so many missed opportunities for interpersonal story lines going into season 5.
The other option -- with the revelation that Aida is attempting to make a real body (which I had been guessing for a few weeks now), Ward will be able to come out of the Framework, and become a real boy. This of course means the original team will be back together for season 5, which would be like a dream come true. I can only imagine the kinds of turmoil this would cause to begin with -- Coulson having to face his guilt over the merciless way he crushed original-Ward's chest, resulting in the Hive problem. Fitz newly understanding that he possibly judged original-Ward too harshly for the things he did, because Fitz will have a new understanding from the Framework that anyone can all too easily end up on that dark path. Skye/Daisy's feelings for him that possibly never really went away, even though she was with Lincoln for a while. The possibility that they will end up together after all.
I'm practically drooling from the juiciness this could all bring.
Of course, knowing the AOS writers, there's every chance they will come up with a third option completely out of left field that I've got no way of guessing.
Honestly, as long as Ward is in season 5 somehow -- as long as AOS gets renewed and there is a season 5, I'll be one very happy fan.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

So You Think You Can Author

Coming out of a rather long blog hiatus -- same old story. Been super busy with all kinds of things meaning I barely have time for any of the extras, including this blog. Social media? Pft. Pretty sure my computer can't remember how to find facebook. Speaking of computer, mine died, and I'm currently working on my slow-as-shit five year old laptop which hasn't worked the same since it was sneak attacked by the Windows 10 update.
All these things aside, there have been some very exciting things happening behind the scenes, but until they're confirmed, my lips are staying sealed.
But, for some reason, all these happenings have made me a little introspective, leading me to remember why I wanted to be an author in the first place. Would I have still wanted to go ahead with it if I'd known exactly what I was getting myself into? Probably. Ah, who am I kidding. I totally would have still gone through with it, coz I'm stubborn to the point of stupidity.
So, in the interest of putting my experience to use, I decided to compile this list of reality checks for anyone thinking of becoming an author.

#1 - I wanna be famous, bitches. 




Oh sure. This is the hot track to being a Z-grade celebrity. The paparazzi just can't get enough... of everyone else. Last week I walked a red carpet (actually it was red with some blues and greens and golds... it was a really ugly hall runner at a doctor's office. But I totally worked it in my torn jeans, T-shirt that had Vegemite stains on it from grubby toddler fingers and my hair in a messy bun that hadn't been brushed in about two days.)
But look at JK Rowling, George RR Martin, Stephanie Meyer. They're living the dream. Yes, they are, but for 99.9999999% of all other authors, the best you can hope for to gain that kind of notoriety is to piss off a high-profile reviewer or two on certain social media sites that shall remain unspoken and then get trolled for few months. Of course, the cost of that might be any other book you ever write, but if you're in this for the fame, then I guess you technically got what you wanted.
If fame is your only goal, then you'd probably be better off auditioning for the next season of RuPaul's Drag Race or The Bachelortte. At least that way you might end up with more than a thousand twitter followers.

#2 - Dolla dolla bill, ya'll.




Money. Who doesn't like money? Apparently 75% of authors. Hah. We don't need money. We're starving for our art, living on red wine and baguettes like this is Paris in the 1920s.
Seriously, if you want to make money from writing, then get a job writing instructional manuals or political press releases. The likelihood of making a living from your books is getting harder and harder every year. Who can be surprised when something like 5 million books were published last year alone? There are only so many readers out there, and they don't seem to have much more money than authors.
Yes, there are pool of traditionally published authors who can live off their sales, but because of market saturation (among other factors) this small pool of authors is shrinking.
Of course, there are plenty of accounts out there of self-published authors making piles of money, but from what I've seen, it's either luck, or they're social media buffs and the hours they work to make that money requires a huge amount of commitment. Want to work ten to twelve hours a day, seven days a week? Want to churn out eight or ten books a year? Then sure, you'll probably make a bucket load of money. And I'm not knocking people who do this if that makes them happy. Personally I like having a life outside of my computer screen and that's part of my over all career and life choice.

#3 - I love giving shit away for free. Here, take my kidney. 



Pirates. And not the fun kind that say "arrrgh me hearties!" Some authors have committed half their life to campaigning against those who illegally share and download books for free. Some authors stay out of it with the old "I'm just one person, what can I do?" While some authors have gone so far as to argue that pirates are actually good for their sales. Whatever the case, the pirates aren't going away any time soon. Personally, I'm on the fence, but only because my opinion on this swings depending on my mood and what kind of bills I have sitting on my desk. Sometimes  I think "it's great that people are even reading my books and love them, even if they didn't buy them."
Other times, when I need money for something and don't have it, I think if every person who'd downloaded one of my books for free even paid half of what my publisher sells them for, then I could pay for my kid to go to the dentist this week. Whether you hate them or accept them, pirates come with the job description. You just have to learn to live with the fact that somewhere, someone out there is giving your shit away for free.

#4 - I just want to get hit in the face over and over again for like ten years. 




When you were younger, did you ever say to yourself "I want to do a job where people constantly judge me. Where I get told over and over that I'm not good enough. I want to do a job where I'm totally alone and the only one who actually believes in me is me. I want my friends and family to be completely baffled by me and continually ask why anyone would do this to themselves. I want to spend half my life interacting with people in my head and get no medication for it. And I want to do it for free! Where can I sign up?"
Of course, I'm talking about traditional publishing. Sure, if that sounds too hard, then you can now chuck up the first thing you ever wrote on Amazon and wait for the cash to roll in (see point #2). Of course, if anyone ever found the first book (or ever first four books) I wrote, I would sell my own mother before admitting they were mine because they were that bad, even though I was under the delusion for years that they were awesome and I would soon be a best selling author.
It took me almost ten years to get published with even a small, barely known publishing house (that subsequently shut its doors) and then get an agent. Of course, I'm still small potatoes. My publisher isn't considered one of the "big 5." That's a target I'm still aiming for.
When I wrote my first book, I probably would have sat in a corner and cried for days if I'd been told it would take sixteen years (and counting) to get that "big 5" contract. I've never counted all of my rejections, both from publishing houses and agents, but it'd easily be over 300.
Even once you get that validation via your book being published, you'll still get stomped on. Some readers will hate your books. And they'll have no qualms about telling the Internet. If you're really lucky, they'll use gifs and memes to ram home their point of how much your book was like poking themselves in the eye with a spork over and over. So if you enjoy getting told "get lost, loser" on a regular basis, then being an author is definitely the right job for you.

#5 There's a book inside me. Please, God, somebody cut it out.




There are people talking inside your head. You walk around constantly narrating your own life. "As she washed the dishes, her fingers became all wrinkled and prune-like, and she realized it was an apt reflection of her failed hopes and dreams." Stories explode out of you randomly and with force like a geyser, so violent that it's starting to effect your employment, relationships, and sleep. You write fan fiction and hide it from your family like you've got a shameful addiction to drinking Hershey's chocolate syrup straight from the bottle.
This has always been my problem (the story part, not the Hershey's chocolate syrup. That's a whole other issue), and it started while I was still a teenager. I had stories inside me, but I was too young and naive to realize that by giving into these urges, I was effectively boarding a roller coaster that I could never, ever get off.
It's a cliche, but some people say writing is in their blood, and this has been true of me. Writing is more than a compulsion, it's like it's in my DNA. It's not a choice about whether or not I do it. It's more a fact of when, where, and how. Even if for some reason I decide to stop publishing, I just know that I'll still be writing stories to the day I die.
This is why despite years of rejections, despite the fact I'm still not making a living from this gig after sixteen years, why I don't go all cyber-rage over the fact that people download my books for free -- the fame I could take or leave -- despite all this, I'm still here doing this and hopefully will be for a good, long time.

Still here? Didn't run screaming into the night at the horror? No matter your reasons for wanting to be an author, and if you only take one thing away from this, then make sure it's the part about the roller coaster, because it's a pretty accurate depiction. You'll have the highest of highs and lowest of lows. You'll be scared, you'll be excited, you'll be happy, depressed and everything else in between.
And if I can pass on a single piece of advice, then that is something I heard Jennifer St George talk about at an RWA conference about seven or eight years ago. She said if you spend long enough in this industry, then everything will happen to you at least once. Your publisher will close down. You'll find yourself out of contract. You'll get glowing reviews. You'll get horrible reviews that will make you question every word you've ever written. And so much more.
So far, I've found this to be pretty accurate and reminding myself of this has definitely helped me through some very hard times and choices, including my first publisher closing its doors.
And now I'm going to finish by quoting an Aussie hip hop group, the Hilltop Hoods:
"See the haters under rate us and this status takes years. But it ain't where we're at, it's how we made our way here."