It was a dark and pulpy night. Dark because it’s nighttime. Pulpy because of the hordes of disemboweled pumpkins that will be lined up in front of houses all over the world, like heads on pikes as you enter a town to let you know they don’t take any shenanigans lightly.
Well, either that or because the month of October is dedicated to two of my favorite topics. Dark fiction, from horror to splatterpunk to atmospheric creepiness. Pulp as in the old pulp magazines from the mid-twentieth century. Magazines like Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, If, Galaxy, and Astounding Stories.
For the month of October, some of our Fictorians and honored guests will be providing you with articles about adding dark elements to your writing, while other authors will focus on the old pulp magazines, stories, and authors. Guest posters include Dr. Amanda Faith writing about dark fiction and avid fan/author/publisher Ron Fortier of Airship 27 combining the dark and the pulp to re-introduce us to the classic hero Brother Bones the Avenger. I will join in by chatting about one of my favorite science fiction pulp authors, Harl Vincent.
At the cusp of Halloween, we will have another interview with a Fictorian. The interview series runs once a month and introduces another person behind the enigmatic curtains of the Fictorians.
With that, I will creep back into the shadows and carefully unwrap my brittle copies of Astounding Stories and Weird Tales so I can enjoy more classic adventures.
About the Author:
Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award® nominee; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, third-party D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.
Sergeant Johnson didn’t fear combat drops anymore. He pressed the button and entered freefall. Ten jumps, and him the last survivor of his class. Groundside, everything was blood and lead, but in freefall there was…freedom. The retros fired, his capsule released him, and the parachute would have taken over. If, this time, he wore one.
First off, let me be clear, I’m a consumer. Not a critic. When it comes to movies, I watch for one reason—entertainment. And when it comes to said entertainment, I have very specific tastes. I like big adventure flicks, full of explosions, gunfights—or even better, swordfights—and the occasional one-liner.
So, as you can imagine, DEADPOOL was my jam.
But that’s a blog for another day.
Today, I want to discuss a different, imperfect film full of weak character motivations, structural issues, and plot holes big enough to accommodate a Mondoshawan spaceship and a giant black ball of skull fire.
That’s right, people. I’m talking about THE FIFTH ELEMENT.
A few weeks ago, I watched an interview with Gary Oldman about his most iconic roles. When THE FIFTH ELEMENT came up, he admitted that he only did it as a favor to the director, and that he didn’t even read the script. When the interviewer reminded Oldman that the film is now considered a cult classic, he laughed and said, “I know. That’s the wacky world we live in.”
Now, I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Oldman (or his political views) but I will freely admit that the man is a great actor. And that interview started me thinking. Why would someone so talented denigrate one of my favorite movies? Was I wrong about THE FIFTH ELEMENT? After all, it had been a while since I last watched it. Could it be that my memory—faded by too much time and tequila—was ascribing greatness to something that wasn’t all that great?
So, I dug out my old copy and popped it into the VCR. (Yes, I still have a VCR. Don’t judge me.) And I found, to my surprise, that the movie still held up. The costumes were just as outrageous, the comedy as broad, and the action as blood-pumping as I remembered. I laughed. I cried—mostly from laughing. And I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over.
Now, I’ve seen plenty of action movies in my time. And, on paper, they all have the same attributes—swordfights, gunfights, explosions, and at least one gratuitous shot of a sweaty, muscular hero sans shirt. What more could a gal ask for?
Just one simple ingredient—fun. Remember this guy? (If not, you can watch the scene play out in the link below.)
See what I mean? Sure, THE FIFTH ELEMENT may have some major logic and pacing issues, and the acting is hardly Oscar-worthy. But, if you’re looking for a goofy, gleefully over the top movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then this is the one for you.
Don’t get me wrong, as an author, I know that movies are great resources that offer valuable insight on story structure, character development, and visual storytelling. But in the end, for me, it’s all about being entertained.
So, whether you’re outlining, writing, revising, or editing, always look for the fun factor—that special bit that gets you excited or makes you smile. Because, just like movies, novels are meant to be entertaining.
And if you’re not having fun…then what’s the point?
About the Author:
Jacqui Talbot is a book worm, devoted Whovian, and certified fantasy geek. When not pursuing her dream of becoming a full-time writer, she spends her time learning different languages (six and counting) and being a nuclear chemist. Her current projects include SPINNERS, a YA supernatural thriller set on the Choctaw Indian reservation where she grew up, and KARMA AND CHEMISTRY, a MG fantasy adventure featuring a twelve-year-old protagonist who uses science to battle dark magic.
Hero is exactly what the title and poster suggests. It’s about a hero and his incredibly difficult quest that will bring joy to the masses. What isn’t depicted here is that there isn’t one hero, but two — each with their own quest.
It took multiple viewings for me to figure this out. At first I was so blown away by the amazing fight sequences and gorgeous scenery. It’s clearly Zhang Yimou’s masterwork. They didn’t spare any expense or effort and the results were worth it. It’s the most stunning piece of cinema I’ve ever seen. Here’s a taste:
The story is told from the hero’s point of view as he recounts to the emperor the events that earned him an audience and the sizable reward for eliminating the emperor’s enemies. Each stage of his journey is shown in a different color and each color has a corresponding emotional theme — red for passion and anger, blue for logic and sadness, green for fear and desperation, black for resolve, and white for hope and mourning. Each stage of the tale bring another level of depth to the story, makes us care about the hero as well as the assassins he brought down. However the emperor knows the assassins well and sees through all this as an elaborate plot to kill him.
Which it is.
This is where it becomes clear that the man we’ve been led to believe is the hero is actually the villain. The real hero is the emperor. The emperor, who is a warmongering self-appointed ruler, deserves the enemies that he’s acquired. However everything he did was for the greater good, not for that generation but for all those to follow. When the hero/now villain realizes this he has a change of heart and despite being given the opportunity to kill the emperor, chooses to spare his life. When he leaves the palace the emperor’s guards execute him.
Death by pincushion. Ouch!
This is why I find this film so fascinating. Only in the East would they think to make the hero a villain, who then redeems themselves in the end by becoming the hero at great sacrifice. The additional twist of making the villain a hero once we’ve learned more about them is a powerful storytelling tool; one that I think is often overlooked. It also provides a deep moral that can be interpreted many ways. It keeps the audience thinking long after the story is over… and lures them back again, and again.
As writers isn’t that what we want to accomplish? To write a story that’s so unexpected and compelling that the readers return to it and discuss it many times? To create something that changes the way they see the world around them?