Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Ranking of 2015's Science Fiction Movies.

As I have done the last few years, here is my review of the 2015 science-fiction films I managed to catch up with last year. Compared to 2014, last year was a huge letdown for science fiction. In 2014, there was the wonder of Interstellar, the cleverness of Predestination and the action packed thrills of Edge of Tomorrow. All of them are better films than anything released in 2015, except for perhaps the one that topped my list.

2015 was the year of the sequel, only one of them was good, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To my surprise, a tear nearly crept into my eye when the Star War’s logo hit the screen to the fanfare of the original music. But gee, wasn’t the film derivative of the first film and thus very predictable. I knew what was going to happen as soon as Hans Solo stepped onto that bridge. Still, with all its similarities to the first film, I found if fun to watch.
Of the other sequels, Jurassic World was okay, because all I was expecting was dinosaurs chasing stupid people, and this is what I got.

I went and saw Mad Max: Fury Road primarily because it was sought of Australian made, and I hoped it would return to the world building and character development of the original. I never thought much of the second and third movies. I am not much into car chases, especially when they are all computer generated and look so fake. My main memory from the movie is wondering how eleven or was it twelve people fitted onto five motorcycles, especially when Max and his saviour got bikes of their own. I really could not have cared less whether Max or anyone in the truck survived, as what was the point of them surviving? In 2014, Australia made four science fiction movies – Predestination, Infinite Man, The Rover and These Final hours -  that were, in my opinion, much more original and therefore much more interesting, and fun to watch than Fury Road.

The last sequel was Terminator Genisys, a film that I struggle to remember. It was a pathetic attempt to wring more money out of the franchise.

For most of last year, Chappie was easily the worst movie of the year. It was a childish story with childish acting. The story was suitable only for tweens, but then they swore a bit and had a bit of violence to give it a MA rating. So its director Neill Blomkamp has now made an all-time classic in District 9, an okay film in Elysium, and a turkey in Chappie.
But near the end of the year, I finally watched the CGI mess Jupiter Ascending. A film that hoped its many unconvincing CGI battles would distract the viewer from the stupid plot, stupid ending, and cartoonish acting of Eddie Redmayne.   

I thought there were two stand-out films for the year. The Martian was what I have been wanting from science fiction, a story of survival and discovery. But it was a bit predictable. To up the ante, I just knew that something was going to happen to his potato crops, and I knew the crew of the ship would turn back as soon as they found out about his survival. But to watch an astronaut use science to survive was engrossing.

Just before the end of the year, I finally saw Ex Machina. I had been really looking forward to seeing it, but the local cinema did not put it on. It’s about a computer programmer who wins a prize to go to an out of the way laboratory to test an AI to see if it is sentient. At one stage during the film I started to wonder if the guy doing the testing was an AI himself, which the film did a great job of answering. The ending surprised. It was definitely not a predictable film. And there was not an explosion or laser pistol or alien in sight. It’s a thoughtful film. The type of film I would like to see more often. It was my pick of the best science-fiction films of the year.

This is how I rank what I saw last year:

1. Ex Machina
2. The Martian
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
4. Jurassic World
5. Infini
6. Project Almanac
7. Self/Less
8. Wyrmwood
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
10 Terminator Genisys
12. Jupiter Ascending
13 Chappie.

The first three are must sees. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Writing Efforts in 2015.

2015 is over. I won’t miss it. It was a year when tiredness had me questioning, more than usual, my writing abilities. In April, I had a bit of a writing breakdown when I realised my writing was going nowhere slowly. I simply wasn’t writing enough. I still aren’t, but my word count did go up after April, at least until I finished writing a first draft of a novel in October. After that, it was onto redrafting, editing and proofreading.

I wrote about 113,000 words for the year, an average of 300 or so per day. At the beginning of the year my goal was to average 500 words a day, and if I had just been writing first drafts and redrafting I might have come close. I wrote on all but nine days of the year.

I wrote a 6,000 word short story for a Christmas anthology for the Australian Writer’s Forum. If you want to read it, there are links to the free ebook on a previous post.

But my major writing effort was finishing the first draft of a novel called Branded. I originally wrote the first two chapters of it for a writing for young adults subject in my masters and then put it away for eight years. I pulled it back out for 2014’s National Novel Writing Month, and about 130,000 words later, finished the first draft in October. I am currently about a quarter of the way through redrafting it, and so far I have added an extra chapter.


One of the issues that really concerned me in April was the lack of critiquing of my writing. I did get two and a bit critiques of my short story. No one said they loved it. But that has rarely happened in all the years I have been writing. So either my writing sucks or my stories are crap, or they fail to connect with the average reader/critiquer. The story could have a better ending, which I will add if I ever think of one.

I do hang on to the positive responses to a few bits of my writing from lecturers in writing courses. I received one such positive response for the first two chapters of the novel I am working on.

In an effort to find more writers on my wavelength, I joined The Australian Writer’s Forum, and rejoined and started critiquing for both. From May, I critiqued 20 stories and a 66,000 word novel for, and three stories for the anthology for the Australian Writer’s Forum.


Did I mention I was tired? I started the year tired, and then, in about August, another dose of one of my various chronic illnesses made me even more tired. From August to the end of this year, I read three-quarters of a novel. Before that, I had read about seven books for the year.


In April, grumpy me has a hissy fit when my editor at Divine dared to do her job, and ask for changes to an article so it would conform to government guidelines (Divine is funded by the Office For Disability and hence the Victorian State Government). Fortunately, I pulled my head in and edited the article. After a two-month break, I wrote another four articles for Divine and I and currently working on the first for the new year.  

My Writing Goals for 2016. 

Get more sleep. If I can get on top of my chronic tiredness, both the quantity and quality of my writing should improve, as well as my general demeanour. I have been a grumpy bastard all year. And I also am going to spend less time on Facebook and more time writing or learning about writing.