What do my favourite movies say about me?

I’ve been thinking a lot about stories. Well that’s nothing new. But it took me on a tangent where I thought about my favourite movies, and I realized something: the reason why a movie is one of my favourites has nothing to do with how good it is (although all my favourite movies are unquestionably amazing films) but is all about the experience I had watching it and how it has affected me since then.

Let’s go back in time to the days before VCRs and such. The only chance you got to see a movie was in the the theatre or years later when it eventually showed on TV. Primitive, I now, but that was the 20th century for you.

Logan’s Run always seemed to play on New Year’s Eve on some channel, and we always seemed to end up watching it during the family’s big end of year party. That and playing Spoons. That movie will always be near and dear to me and I honestly hope the remake never actually happens.

It’s hard to say how it has affected me and my taste, but I know one thing: I’d rather be a Sandman than a normal citizen, probably because my siblings and cousins always made me be the runner as they chased me around with a hair dryer.

“Run runner!” is a phrase that will always give me an adrenaline shock to this very day.

It’s shocking how much of my limited memory of childhood is filled with such younger-sibling trauma.

Then there’s Thunderball. If I have to pick a single James Bond film to put on the list, it has to be the 1965 classic. Keep in mind I love all Bond movies, even the really really really fucking bad ones. But this one’s really very good. Honest.

Not only does this movie have everything, it’s pretty much the cliche factory for the genre. Cutting edge tech — the jetpack. Cool car — the Aston Martin DB5 makes an appearance. Thrilling location — Nassau, Bahamas. Hot women: Domino the good girl and Fiona the bad girl, plus Patricia the massage therapist he seduces with caviar and champagne and the disposable cheesecake field agent in Bahamas who drives him around and gets killed. The ultimate Spectre plot: steal nukes and blackmail the world. But stealing nukes from a Vulcan bomber adds class to the deal, for sure. The first sign of Blofeld, the mysterious leader with the white cat. The amazing evil meeting room with the chairs that’ll kill you if you piss off Blofeld. The too cool for school villain Largo and his awesome yacht. Wicked underwater scenes with sharks and a battle between the Marines and the henchmen. Seriously, this movie is the stuff.

And it has the lovely memory of being the movie we watched instead of the series finale of Little House on the Prairie where they blew up Walnut Grove. Man my sister was so pissed about missing that. For years she never forgave us. Probably still hasn’t.

Can’t forget Blade Runner. This one I went to see with my dad in the theatre, and I can still remember leaving in a state of utter shock. I can probably trace my obsession with cyberpunk and bleak futures to this experience. This one left a lasting mark on my psyche.

I need to fill some space here do the graphic lines up, so I’ll insert a Logan’s Run anecdote. I once went to Paris for a conference at the Cité des Sciences, and was giddy for much of the time because I felt like I was in the city from the movie. There’s even this outdoor instillation, or there was, where there’s this set of speakers hidden around you that play in sequence this do-do-do-do sound that’s really close to that bit of score in the soundtrack whenever it’s a wide shot of a city scene — if you know the movie you know the one. You can stand in the middle and moving around you is that do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do sound. Or do yourself a favour: clicky this, and listen for yourself.  (It links to a .ram file download from Screen Archives — you can get clips of the whole soundtrack if you like.)

Back to Blade Runner, I don’t what else to say, really: it’s not like a have to justify this one like maybe I did the previous two.

Next we have to include Conan the Barbarian. The orignal. The Arnie one. Now as a kid I collected one comic book and only one (it wasn’t until university that went crazy for comics.) It was Savage Sword of Conan.

Putting aside the fact that two of my most influential fictional figures were also two of the most misogynist pricks in literature, I was right into Conan, and movie did not disappoint.

It occurs to me now that three of these four movies so far parallel another of my lifelong obsessions: role playing. Conan fits right in there with D&D, the gateway drug. Blade Runner feeds my Shadowrun phase. I was also big into the James Bond RPG back in high school, too. The only one missing is the DC Heroes connection, but as much as I’ve enjoyed a lot of superhero movies, none would ever make it into my favourite films list. One could argue that Conan was a comic and there’s a connection there, but it’s not the same.

Anyway, Conan. Yeah. The soundtrack. The storytelling that is almost entirely visual, except when it couldn’t be. And if you have to put a chunk of exposition in there, who better to deliver than Max von Sydow. I mean honestly.

Aliens. I was this in the theatre with my dad and sister. She sat between us with her knees in front of her own eyes and arms thrust out either side with her hands in front of our eyes. The first movie I was every scared all the way through, in the very best way. One of only two movies I ever left the theatre with my shirt clinging to me with nervous/excited sweat (the other comes later in this list.)

Aliens is kind of a perfect movie. Another one I need not justify, or if I do then you just don’t know me very well. Space Marines. Tentacly aliens. Evil megacorp. Non-stop thrills. Endlessly quotable lines.

Perfection on film.

Raiders of the Lost Ark. Damn, how I loved this movie. And there is absolutely no need to rationalize this. Ever.

As a matter of fact, it’s so clear to me that this movie changed my life I won’t even bother filling the space to make the graphic fit.






There. Good. That oughta do it.

I think I’ll do one more.

 Back in 1999 I went to a lot of movies. Single, working, you know how it is. Disposable income, disposable time. Much of the time not going to see a specific film, just going and seeing whatever’s playing.

One Friday night I went with friends to see a movie. Opening night of some movie I’d never heard of, but my friends said it was sci fi so I was in.

I left with my shirt clinging to me in excitement sweat. I grinned and bounced through the whole thing. I saw it in the theatre nine times, for pity’s sake. I really loved it.

Ah, The Matrix. It was like they looked deep into my heart and made a movie just for me.

Pity they never made any sequels, but ah well — it’s really a story that stands alone anyway. Any sequel would probably really suck anyway.

I wonder whatever happened to those Wachowsi bros, and if they ever made any more movies? Probably not. After The Matrix, anything else would probably suck too.

So there. A compact list of some of my favourite movies, all of which have had an inordinate impact on shaping me, my tastes, and my storytelling style.

And interestingly, the memory of my experience seeing them is as important to me as the movies themselves. Hmmm.


I Find a Shoggoth Makes Any Story Better, Don’t You?

How about another story?

Mayan-CalendarThis one is a couple of years old, written in 2012, to be exact. It is called, appropriately enough, Mexico, 2012.

It features a wonderful protagonist: me. Well, an alternate version of me if I was sort of like Indiana Jones, only cooler. Way cooler. He saves the world a lot.

This alternate Mark Hand features in a number of stories, including an unfinished opus novel that takes a short novel I wrote for the 3 Day Novel Writing Contest (called “The Crack of Venus: The Utterly True Story of how Galileo Galilei Saved the World in the Year 1633”) and layers it as the background for me saving the world. Again.

The world does seem to be in jeopardy rather often in my stories. Hmmm.

Anyway, read Mexico, 2012, the story of how I discovered why the Mayan calendar ended in 2012. It features exotic locations, cools cars, cultists, ancient artifacts, divine cappuccino, a bag of mushrooms, a Lovecraftian monster, and an end of the world party that very nearly was.



An Early Start

I find it’s often hard to make that time each day to write, and above everything else, it is essential that a writer writes each and every day. Doesn’t have to be a lot, it just has to happen.

But it hasn’t been, so steps had to be taken.

I’ve taken to adjusting my day to make the time. I’m getting up a bit earlier each morning to sneak in a solid half hour of uninterrupted personal writing. It’s not a lot, but you can do quite a bit in half an hour, and those half hours quickly add up if they happen every day.

So what have I been doing with that half hour each morning? Lately, I’ve been working on a children’s book along with the novel. It’s a project to work on with my sister, who is an illustrator. “Write me a girl power book,” she told me, so I am. It’s about  a girl who helps her little sister overcome fear with the help of a little bit of daddy magic.

Working title: The Magic Marble.

On the Starting of a Novel

It begins with a blank page, and what a daunting page that first one is. All pages are hard, but that first one is the hardest. Where to begin?

sound-of-musicYou know, nothing anywhere says you have to start with page one. You can start anywhere in the story you wish. Maybe it’s better to begin somewhere in the middle, then fill in before and after as you go. Or perhaps you have it all planned out and starting at the very beginning remains a very good place to start.

Me, I always have stuff planned out, so I’ve always done as Maria says. So right now I have a new file open to page one, and all it says so far is: Inquisitors¹ Volume 1: Prologue.

That blank page is daunting.

I know the scene I need to write, I know the characters in it, I know the action that happens, I know the exposition that unravels during it, I know a lot of a the dialogue that takes place, and I know the exciting conclusion that sets things up for volumes to come. What I don’t know is that first line.

The firs8e9a2f072c4a77d0acdec0aff1a7d539t line is important. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can sure
judge it by its first line.

Here’s the thing…it doesn’t matter what I write now, it’s going to change anyway.² The only important thing right now is to kill that blank page by writing something. Anything.

Ok, time to stop procrastinating and begin. Wish me luck.

¹ “Inquisitors” is a working title. The real title has not yet revealed itself to me.

² Consider this foreshadowing for a future post about writing called “The Art of Writing is the Act of Rewriting.”

hand print

A Little Bit of Writing

poblog 035From time to time I’ll be posting some bits of creative writing onto the site: short stories, scripts, TV bibles, chunks o’ novel. Some new stuff will make it up here, but a lot will be blasts from the past, like this first story I originally wrote back in aught-three, but revised a few years ago and sent out to a number of publications. It came close, but never quite made it into print.

It made the final cut for publication in On Spec magazine, but they felt it was too young adult for their readership. So on their advice I sent it to some YA magazines: Scape e-zine also said it came “very close,” and Cicada also liked it but felt that the protagonist was too young.

Read Kinderex™, the story of Hannah, a young girl who sees monsters. Fortunately there’s a new drug on the market designed to deal with troubled children; unfortunately, Hannah has other ideas about how Kinderex can help her cope.

(I promise, the graphic above will make sense if you read it.)

hand print

A New Beginning

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong. This is not a resolution.

calvin resolutionSure, it might seem like quite a coincidence, starting this on January 1 and all, but that’s all it is. Coincidence.

It just happens to be New Year’s Day as I start into this new thing. A new focus. A new website. A new blog. A new novel.

After 8 years as a freelancer with a crummy 1 page website built using the now-defunct Google web-o-matic page maker, I’m finally putting something real onto my URL. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for, oh, about 8 years, but always put off because I honestly couldn’t figure out what I needed to put here.

Ironic, I know, considering my freelance career up to now has been a lot about helping other people figure out what their websites need to be. Ironic, but not uncommon for people in my field.

Also, my sister told me she’d help me build it, so you know.

NYE-R2So the time has come to do something new. This site reflects the new focus to my work. A re-branding, if you will. It is my intent to direct my energies into consulting work, establishing myself as an expert in the new realities of digital broadcasting. It’s a logical next step in my career progression that I’ve been working towards at the same time the industry has been working towards it.

A lot of what appears on this blog will be professionally-oriented posts about the broadcasting industry and the very real challenges — and opportunities — it faces with the switch to digital media.

At the same time, I’m also directing my energies towards completing a new novel. I also consider this a professional activity, and I hope to chronicle the act of writing through this blog as well.

The rest of what appears here will be personal stuff that I can’t resist writing about. It’s been many years since I had a blog — I used LiveJournal to do it, so that should tell you something about how long it’s been — and I could use the catharsis of maintaining a blog again.

And I’ll forgive you if you think that all this sounds an awful lot like a new year’s resolution. I suppose it does. But it’s not. It’s a new beginning.

hand print