Book Review: The Martian

*Spoiler Free Review*

I enjoy reading and watching stories of a character navigating an extreme situation – being left on Mars, alien invasions, the apocalypse – and hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I think it has something to do with human nature that we want to see ourselves tested beyond what we think we can endure and overcoming insurmountable obstacles.

What would I do in this situation? What would I do to survive? What would I do to help someone else?

The 2011 novel, The Martian by Andy Weir explores the idea of an astronaut left behind on an unforgivable planet and having to figure out how to survive it…for four years. Mark Watney is hit by debris during a mission on Mars and presumed dead. The crew aborts the mission and Watney is left behind, no dead weight. Luckily he has some tools at his disposal from the mission: a habitat, a couple of rovers, and a bit of food and water. Now he has to learn how he can make it all last the length of time it will take for the subsequent mission to reach the planet and hopefully rescue him.

I enjoyed the continued raising of the stakes. If something could go wrong, it did, and although the science and math of figuring out how to fix things and extend the life of equipment, etc. sometimes went over my head, I didn’t study physics or engineering, reading about how Watney calculated how to solve all the problems sent his way was interesting. Given he only had so many resources at his disposal, he had to rely heavily upon his wits and use those things around him in unexpected ways.

There are, of course, a few things that stood out that bothered me at times. Watney keeps a journal, and although sometimes it comes off a bit juvenile in language and context, he’s alone without anyone to talk to so I felt it was a way of keeping himself amused. I let that slide. Once he’s able to establish contact with NASA, we meet all the people who are working towards bringing him home, among them, Annie, the media relations rep who’s been written as the foul mouthed, short tempered female amidst a slew of calm, brilliant men, and this trope always bothers me. Maybe it’s representative of the misogyny that still exists in these types of environments, because there are a few comments made in regards to the looks of one of the female astronauts on the mission, and that is so irrelevant. And in this near future, can’t we have moved on from this?

My only other complaint is how little we get to know Mark. His journal entries are mostly about fixing things and a few personal notes. We get a little information from the crew and the team at NASA that he’s clever, has a good sense of humor, and the mental fortitude to survive such an ordeal, so while I was rooting for him, I never felt like I knew him, and maybe that’s okay. He’s a fellow human, in a dire situation, and in a bit of a moral quandary. What are we willing to do for one person?

I enjoyed this read. It was quick, it was entertaining, and it was unexpected.

If you have a book to recommend for my 2023 reading challenge, please leave a comment below, or join me on Goodreads so we can share what we enjoy.

Happy Reading!

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Writing Prompt #155

I’m currently reading The Martian by Andy Weir. I am also playing Fallout 4. I am fascinated by extreme situations and how people handle them. Why? No idea. And I’m not sure exactly what that says about me. Let’s not delve too deep.

Not too long ago, writing prompt #151 actually, I shared a similar image. It was a close up of a woman’s face within an astronaut-like helmet. The lighting was different, and the overall feel was more positive…or so it could be construed.

This image has a totally different feel, and I like it…for the story ideas it inspires.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

I’ve had a number of ideas percolating for the rewrite of my sci-fi pilot, and I’m hoping the dry spell is over, so when I saw this interesting piece of imagery, it felt right that it become this week’s writing prompt. It has a cool, creepy vibe and encapsulates the isolation my poor protagonist is enduring, in addition to an impending threat – what could it be?!

What do you think? Feeling inspired?

I look forward to you joining me in this week’s writing prompt challenge!

Happy Writing!

The Problem with The Witcher (TV)

When news that Henry Cavill would be leaving The Witcher by season 4, I had to wonder what had happened to make an actor, who had fought hard for the role of Geralt, quit?

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game is still among the best I’ve played. I wrote a review about it a while back, so you can imagine my skepticism when I initially heard a show was in the works. I’ve read all the books too, but that’s a story for another day. Who could possibly fill Geralt’s shoes? Henry Cavill? That pretty boy? Eh…and then I heard his passion for the character and the story.

Okay. I’ll give him a shot.

And he is by far the best part of the show, because there is quite a bit wrong about it.

So forewarning, I had a lot more to say on this subject than I originally thought I would, so this is a doozy, and I think I could have said more, so…settle in.

When the show was in development, creator Lauren Schmidt Hissrich was making the rounds and I remember hearing her say that the writers’ room would be a mix of people who were fans of the games and/or books, and those who may not be familiar in order to add a different perspective.

With Cavill’s departure, tales of what was actually happening behind the scenes started to come to light. The gossip – none of the writers are any level of fan of the original works. Whether it’s true or not is beside the point because watching the show, as a fan, makes it clear that things were amiss.

Season 1 was hard to follow. The time jumps were confusing, as was the whole set up. I liked Season 2 more, but after I wrote about it, which was literally a line about how it was better than the first season, I became more bothered by some of the ideas presented.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Witcher, the story revolves around the relationship between Geralt, a monster slayer from an old order that serves to protect, and Ciri, a princess who is bound to him by destiny through a quirky old world payment system. I was trying to think of a nice way to say this without spoiling too much for those of you still wanting to read, play, or watch. Yennefer, Triss, and Dandelion aka Jaskier are all integral to the story because of their relationships with the other two, and they all have to traverse a land fraught with war, witch hunts, exiled elves hoping to reclaim their lost territory, monsters, and more.

With so much material to draw from in order to create a lush world full of interesting characters and stories, how did the show go wrong?

So, if the writers room is truly filled with people unfamiliar with the world, that would be square one. Not having an understanding of the large stage that The Witcher moves about is a big problem, and it shows. Game of Thrones is still one of the best shows I ever watched, I just ignore that dreadful final season, but those are BIG books, with tons of history and loads of characters to follow but the introduction to that world, the politics, the looming threat, and so much more were presented pretty spectacularly in the first episode.

This is the template The Witcher tv writers should have followed, to some degree. Geralt is at the center of a great deal, or so he should have been presented.

Not understanding the relationships that develop with all these characters is square two. We learn that Ciri is powerful, but that’s not why Geralt is protecting her. In time, they develop a father-daughter relationship, and that detail is Geralt’s primary motivator. Yennefer, who is barren, takes on the maternal role and loves Ciri like her own. Triss becomes her sister. It is these bonds that drive them to action. Yennefer, for all her bluster, wouldn’t do anything to put Ciri in danger, or do anything that would purposefully hurt Geralt, and actions taken in Season 2 of the show go against this basic premise.

In GoT we follow the Stark family as they move about and this is how we learn about relationships, history, and the plot. While we need context for some of The Witcher’s setup, starting so far back, before any of these characters know one another, divides attention away from everything else.

Let’s round the problems to three. Square number three would be in regards to not highlighting the threats, of which there are many, earlier on. There are the immediate threats, like war and witch hunting, but the greater threat is the Wild Hunt. Like the White Walkers, they are coming, and it should have always been on the peripheral because they are a ticking time bomb.

The reason I chose Game of Thrones for the comparison is because it was a massive success. I am not asking The Witcher to be that, but to emulate the delivery of so much information in a better way. Besides, we’re all looking for the next big thing to be addicted to, and unfortunately, given the circumstances, it’s not going to be this. The fantasy trope is widely established, so much of that setup can be sidestepped, but utilizing the characters differently, to impart the happenings of the world at large, should have been better executed.

Some ideas could have been told in flashback, or just mentioned in conversation to lose all that back and forth in Season 1. In the books, there are repeated references to events unseen, and that could have happened for a number of scenes in the show. We don’t need to see everything to understand what happened and how it affected the characters or the world.

I had high hopes for The Witcher. I think a lot of us did. As I’ve learned, it takes so many lucky breaks to get something made, and it’s disappointing when it just doesn’t work. And if it ends up being true that the writers didn’t care for the material, then not only will that upset fans, like me, it makes me question why they bothered. Writers in Hollywood have a tough enough gig, but with so many opportunities now, I would hope that they would at least want to work on something they like. I know that sounds a bit naive, but I write in certain genres, and would not take a job on a show I wouldn’t watch.

I do not watch procedurals, and even something like Lucifer bored me at times. I actually stopped watching it for a while. I don’t like the solve the case by the end of the show setup, so I would despise working on something like that. Personally. It wouldn’t be satisfying, and while I may need the work, need the credit, etc. I don’t want to find myself unhappy doing the thing that brings me joy. I guess we’ll find out if that holds true.

So what do you think of The Witcher? Do you agree or disagree with how it was presented? Do you have any ideas of how you would have done it differently? Share your thoughts below!

First Quote of 2023

Happy New Year!

I wanted to find a quote that really sets the tone for the year I want us all to have. This is by no means a judgement on anyone other than myself, but I want all of us to be able to create the life we want.

I’ve always been surprised by the concept of how little things seem to change over the course of a year, but looking back how different things sometimes are. This is why this quote resonated with me.

I’m of a certain age now where I’ve come to an understanding of a few things:

  • I’m more comfortable with myself and who I am, like I’m not wildly embarrassed to admit I write fan fiction anymore. ((wince))
  • I’m not as hard on myself.
  • I take better care of myself. Thank you yoga!
  • And biggest improvement, I’m learning to love myself. I take a moment during yoga to thank myself for showing up. It usually makes me giggle, but so often it’s easier not to show up. It’s a small step, I am still learning, but since we’re stuck with ourselves we should be nicer.

The Sis has helped me to be brave. Maybe because she’s the youngest, she developed this strong sense of self. She’s self-aware in a way that’s taken me years to become. I still don’t think I’m there. It’s all part of the evolution of becoming who we’re supposed to be.

Where I need the help is in the discipline arena.

With the gray days of winter, I oversleep. I feel the seasonal depression. I’m way off my routine, and I seem uninspired to do anything about it, but if I want to be in the right position to take on Hollywood in a few months, I have to get in gear, and now. I was going strong for a while, but upon the completion of a couple of projects, I lost motivation. Currently it still feels like a void, and because of this I allow myself to become distracted, and days go by…like this post. I started it on Monday. ((insert eye roll))

I need more discipline.

So that is at the top of my To Do List for this year.

What are you hoping to accomplish this year? What strides did you make looking back on 2022? Remember, each day can be a new beginning. Little steps lead to great strides. And who knows, in a year you could be exactly where you want to be.

Best wishes!

xx, Rach

The Last Quote of 2022

I can’t believe we’re here again.

The end of another year.

2023 is on the horizon, and it sounds like the date in a sci-fi movie.

When you consider where your energy and focus were spent this last year, do you notice a pattern? Do feel it was time well spent, or are you now in the chastising phase at year’s end? As I’ve aged, like a fine wine (ha!), and after the Covid shutdown, it has become more clear what is important and what is not worth my time, like wondering/worrying if people like me.

What a tedious waste of time.

RuPaul says:

What other people think of me is none of my business.

Words to live by.

It used to be my goal wherever I worked to make sure I was liked, by everyone, even the hard asses. Actually, that was the most satisfying win. I would kill them with kindness, and whatever else I had in my wheelhouse. It worked on guests too. While that helped at the time to ensure a positive work environment (and better tips), it hasn’t really mattered in the long run. I’m not friends with any of those people anymore. I wasn’t even friends with most of them after I left the establishment, so what did all that worrying and effort truly gain me?

Deep down, I know it has something to do with legacy. I want people to remember me fondly, but the clincher is, because I haven’t remained friends with almost any of those people, all that energy was spent without any real reward.

What could I have done with it instead, I wonder?

I tell myself, now, that it was all training for working with people in Hollywood. There are a lot of personalities, sometimes all in the same room, and I have a well developed skill in dealing with them.

There’s no reason not to be who you want. There’s no reason not to chase your dreams. There’s no reason not to build the life you desire.

Don’t waste your energy on those things that don’t support the life you’re trying to lead. Take stock of your life and what drains you. You probably already know what those subjects are. I know I do.

So, what does this have to do with a new year? I know I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions, but I’m gonna make them anyway. How about you? Knowing where I should focus my attention will help in creating a more successful goal setting plan, and that’s what I wish for you. It’s about shifting perspective, and taking inventory of what matters and what you want to accomplish.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season! And here’s to spending our energy where we want to in 2023.

Writing Prompt #154

I saw this image and immediately thought, “They say there’s no magic here. Clearly they aren’t looking very hard.” And so it became this week’s writing prompt.

Photo by Arnie Chou on Pexels.com

I like that inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of places, and that’s why writers are such amazing people. We pay attention, we take note, and we create.

So, are you up for the challenge?

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

I wasn’t sure what sort of quote I wanted to share this week.

And then I saw this.

I’m still riding the struggle bus, but I can’t let that hinder me. I just have to keep pushing, and this quote reminds me of that.

With the end of the year coming to meet us, 2022’s resolutions are quickly going to become a thing of the past. When we make them, they should only be used as a measuring stick, but we all know we end up using them as a way to measure our self worth. As many of you know, I have a love/hate relationship with this type of goal setting. We can accomplish any task we put our mind to at any time.

A new year is not a magic reset button. Yes, I’ve said this a time or five before. I suppose it is some sort of starting line, but the beginning of a new year does not diminish the value of the work we’ve already done, nor should it amplify when we falter.

It’s just a date.

There are often times new deadlines to meet with the beginning of a new year, but beware the annual “set a BIG goal for the year” type of resolution. There’s a reason gyms are busy for like a month. A grand, overreaching goal is hard to maintain. Small, achievable goals that lead to the BIG one are less imposing and more likely to be reached, in all areas of our lives, not just the creative ones.

So while we may be chastising ourselves for not making all the goals we set for ourselves this year, remember, the year’s end does not mean failure for if we choose to continue to work towards our dreams/goals you can be sure that we are going to make things happen!

Writing Prompt #153

I enjoy the unexpectedness that comes from searching for an idea/image and being sideswiped by something else entirely.

I had something else in my head for this week’s writing prompt, but then I found this. The simplicity, the contrast…I like it.

Photo by Jayant Kulkarni on Pexels.com

So how are you feeling? Inspired?

I still have a few flash fiction pieces to complete to make the new goal I set for myself, and I’d be delighted if you’d join me in this week’s writing prompt challenge.

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

I’ve been quiet again.

The thing I didn’t want to happen because I have goals to achieve. The thing I refused to allow even a whiff of to pass me by happened anyway.

It stopped me in my tracks.

The nothing. The barren landscape. The void.

I haven’t had the compulsion, let alone the passion, to write a word. For weeks.

Why? No idea. It all just came to a screeching halt.

I was talking to friends at work, musing over the lack of creating, when they said something quite similar to the quote I’m sharing this week. They reminded me of what I had accomplished this year, and that was only what I had told them about, so you can imagine my surprise at finding a quote that so adeptly surmised exactly that situation; something I needed to hear and wanted to share with you.

I have to remember all the quotes I’ve shared, the words of positivity, and not be so hard on myself. It’s only been a short time of inactivity, and I am fully aware of it. *Not like in the past, when months would fly by unnoticed. Not all days are going to be great strides towards our goal days, so we have to remember to be kind to ourselves and take note of the small steps too.

It’s the season of being thankful, so let’s be thankful for any and all progress we’ve made this year.

And anyway, just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking of things – plot points, new ideas, story rewrites, and new characters. The mind has been active…it just hasn’t reached my fingertips, yet.

As 2022 draws ever nearer to its inevitable end, celebrate the milestones you achieved this year. Each new day offers us a new opportunity to continue to work towards those goals, so if you’ve found yourself in a similar position to mine, take a deep breath, and try again.

Happy Writing! xx

*Side note: before posting this, I scrolled through my previous posts and it turns out, about two months have flown by. At least. Well, sh*t.

Writing Prompt Challenge Accepted #27

I recently read an article in which agents, producers, and managers were asked what they were looking for in a new writer. One mentioned that they wouldn’t even consider a writer without at least 100 ideas, in addition to their 2-3 ready scripts. I found that number a bit disconcerting. I figured, well, I’ve shared some 150 writing prompts so far, perhaps I can build my “idea bank” from those…((sigh)). I guess such a statement was meant to scare off those unprepared. They won’t find me lacking.

Awakening

They thought themselves servants of the old gods. They had built their home in the remains of a fallen one as a way to preserve and watch over the sacred ashes. Every year, when the wind shifted and the air turned, they awaited the awakening. They offered sacrifices and held celebrations in the hopes the new god would be tempted. Would be pleased. There were tell tale signs, moments that would harken the coming, but it had been a dozen generations since the last, they had no way of knowing when the time would be right. This year felt different, mist rolled through the town, blanketing everything in a fine sheen so that the lanterns and the moon glowed with a strange, unsettling aura. Then there was the tremor and the sound of the great god shifting in his long slumber. It vibrated in your chest, it tingled up your spine, and in the distance its arms unfurled. The people stopped mid-action to witness the rising, a mixture of fear and wonder, for how could they ever know if their new god would be a benevolent god, or if today was to be their last day?

For the next image I had two ideas, similar enough, and yet each needing to be told.

Museum

Museums are strange places. I was told that once upon a time, they held relics of other worlds. They were places that held knowledge and history, and allowed visitors to travel to distant lands and connect with people long since gone. Or so they would have you believe. This exhibition wasn’t too different from the truth of what museums actually once were. Organizations that paid exorbitant amounts of money to acquire mostly stolen goods from lands plundered for their riches. This place didn’t feel like an art gallery, more like a zoo. The pieces were described as artist renderings of new species encountered on humanity’s exploration of the stars, but then why did they move? Why did I get the sense that their eyes followed me, pleading for aid? There were other stories I had heard of, ones where people protested animals being tested upon for human advancement, setting them free, and I had the feeling, looking upon the strange figure trapped in a box, that I was going to become one of those people.

~ * ~

When I was a little girl, my parents took me to an exhibit of an inventor, a scientist, a so-called visionary. I don’t recall the details with such clarity any more, but I do remember the feelings of awe and sadness as I took in the subject of each clear box. It was as if they were frozen in time. And there were so many of them. The boxes had to be stacked and platforms were built so that visitors could encircle the room to get a “good view” of all his creations. I remember hearing whispers. I remember the looks on some of their faces as they took in each form. It wasn’t a triumph, it was a freak show. They were said to be designed for a purpose, but whatever that may have been has long since been forgotten. I was drawn to a particular display, number 217. There was something about its form, its face, and when I saw the flicker of movement, I had to stifle the cry that wished to escape my lips. It was in that moment, when I felt small and powerless that I made a choice. It wasn’t long after that the exhibit was permanently closed. Two-ey, as he likes to be called, and I made sure of it. My age and size allowed me to be “unsuspecting”, and that shortsightedness, along with my new friend’s abilities, allowed us to wreak havoc.

Welcome

Earthlings were still a fairly primitive species. They still had yet to move beyond their own planet, but that didn’t make them any less fascinating. They had had visitors since the beginning, those that periodically checked in on their advancement, offering them a helping hand from time to time, others that wanted to discover why so many had been drawn to them in the first place. Eventually, Earth became a destination, a vacation getaway, a chance to observe the natives, and on ocassion, interact with them. The appearances became so regular that the Earthlings built their society around it. They created places for their visitors to land safely, and buildings that offered a more welcoming, hospitable environment depending on their visitors planet of origin. They fashioned places they called restaurants and pubs that did their best to serve food and drink they hoped their new friends would enjoy. Of course not all interactions were so pleasant, but that didn’t make them any less fascinating.

Epiphany

The rain came down in a torrent. Its sudden appearance and forcefulness caused those strolling about to flee and take cover. The pitter patter was like a song to my wounded soul, and it was nature’s perfect response to my grief. It was as if she were commiserating and understood that I needed the solitude. I walked for some time in the quiet. The mist clung to my skin so much so that I could not tell where my tears ran except when they first fell warm upon my cheek. I clung to my umbrella’s handle like a life line, suddenly realizing that the empty world before me was my new life. For a moment I was paralyzed. I stood in the archway, knuckles white, cheeks tear-stained, and took a shattering breath that left me light-headed. And then it dawned on me. The world before me was my new life. It brought a smile to my lips. It felt unnatural, given the circumstances. Then my foot took a step forward, almost of its own volition. My arms slackened and the umbrella fell to the wayside. I lifted my face up to the sky and let the rain wash me clean. And then, again, as if she understood, the clouds cleared and a ray of light shone down upon me. I could not help but laugh.

Red is for Passion

She still remembered the day she was given her red drape, the color that designated her station and responsibility, and her vow. It was a proud moment to achieve such status at so young an age. For years she did as she had been trained, serving as a handmaiden to the goddess and upholding her sacrifice, a vow of silence, until he arrived. They worked side by side in the temple, barely acknowledging one another, tending to their duties. Slowly, over the course of a year, he drew ever nearer. He was drawn to her silent devotion, her soulful eyes, her gentle touch. It was forbidden, and if they were discovered…The first time their hands brushed against one another, she pulled away, angry. The withering look she gave him from beneath her hood made his cheeks burn in shame, and yet a warmth spread through him. In time, the priestess partnered them together on a number of tasks that allowed them to spend more time together, more opportunities for a casual caress that eventually spoke volumes more of intimacy. One day, when they found themselves alone, he took her by the hand and led her further into the shadow of the forest where for the first time he could look upon her face fully and hear her break her vow.

~ * ~

I’d be delighted to read your creations, if you’ve been inspired by any of the Writing Prompts I’ve posted. And I’ll happily share them here as well.

Happy Writing!