Thursday, October 31, 2019

Horror Roundup

Happy Halloween everyone!

Now, I'm not a huge horror fan (Kyle, our drummer in Second Player Score, is our resident horror expert), but there are still a few things in - or close to - that genre that I appreciate, such as:

Doki Doki Literature Club
I said basically everything I wanted to say about this amazing and terrifying game back in this post from 2017. We didn't write a song called "Just Monika," but we did end up writing something called "Blood Letter," which was directly inspired by Doki Doki Literature Club and will show up on Second Player Score's eventual fifth album. Oh, and for my birthday, my talented daughter drew the Monika portrait you see above.

Black Mirror
I said basically everything I wanted to say about this amazing and (mostly) terrifying series back in this post from January. Since that time, the show came out with three more episodes, which I will slot into my list of favorites at #10 ("Striking Vipers," displacing "Nosedive"), #15 ("Smithereens," displacing "Metalhead"), and #18 ("Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too," displacing "Fifteen Million Merits") - I actually enjoyed that last one quite a bit, but it seemed more like a mainstream dark comedy than an episode of Black Mirror.

The Monkey's Paw
And by this, I'm referring to the original 1902 short story by W.W. Jacobs, not one of the numerous adaptations of it that have come along since then. I first read this story back when I was a kid, and it's stuck with me 'til this day as probably the scariest piece of horror fiction that I've ever experienced.

The 1976 version. Come to think of it, I actually used to watch more horror back in the '70s and '80s, including The Exorcist, The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, and others, but eventually I just kind of drifted away from it for some reason (perhaps the fact that, as an adult, real life is plenty full of horror as it is). I guess I liked Carrie more than others because the killer - the protagonist, in this case - is a three-dimensional character who has clear reasons and motivations behind her actions, as misguided as they may be. Also, telekinesis! (P.S. I drew a lot of inspiration from this movie while writing the script for Nobody's Hero II.)

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Is this considered a horror movie? I guess so...Wikipedia calls it a "dark fantasy action horror film." Either way, I enjoyed this one a lot, and find it hilarious that it got such poor reviews at first (apparently it has since gone on to become something of a cult classic).

Happy Death Day
Is this considered a horror movie? I guess so...Wikipedia calls it a "black comedy slasher film." Either way, I also enjoyed this one, as I've previously said in this post from this past April.

I know, you're probably wondering "What about Get Out? Or The Babadook? Or The Conjuring?" Well, like I said, I'm not the biggest horror fan in the world, so you'll ask have to ask Kyle about those and others. Anyway, hope you all have a fun and safe time tonight!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Volume Five Status Update: Shorter Vs. Longer

The short version: Volume Five, Draft Two is done!
The longer version:

I finished the first draft of Joel Suzuki, Volume Five back in July. At the time, it came in at around 78,000 words, and I said that based on past experience I expected it to grow to around 81,000. Well, you can throw past experience out the window, because the opposite happened - it actually contracted to a little over 75,000 words (roughly 300 pages). But that's okay, because I think it makes for a much stronger story after I cut out all the stuff that I did. It still may expand after further revisions (my esteemed editor usually makes suggestions that end up requiring additional material), but if not, this will be the shortest volume in the series so far. But again, that's okay! Longer is not always necessarily better, and in the case of this particular story, I think a slightly leaner page count suits it perfectly.

So from here, I'll once again let it cool off in the oven for a bit before revisiting it and making any minor tweaks and changes that I feel are necessary. After that, it should be ready to ship off for a first round of editing. I know I said back in July that I expected to be at that particular stage by September or so, which puts me a little behind schedule, but in my defense, I got distracted for a while writing scripts and drawing storyboards for Issues #2 through #12 of Glorified (which, by the way, now has its own Facebook page and Instagram account). At any rate, Volume Five is still on track for a 2020 release, unless something changes (as the saying sort-of-goes: people plan, gods laugh - especially those who are in charge of literary deadlines).

All right, so what else do we know about Volume Five so far?

- Takes place mostly on Earth
- Minor characters from previous volumes will have larger roles
- Will be the "Blue" book
- The picture above is not the actual cover, nor is the subtitle the actual subtitle ("Duh," says Felicity)

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Anime Roundup

That's right, it's time for another edition of Anime Roundup! No real theme this time, just the usual disclaimers: (1) these are not reviews, they're just my random personal observations, and (2) there may be spoilers. Hajimemashou!

March Comes in Like a Lion
Q: Can a show that is ostensibly about shogi (Japanese chess) make for compelling viewing?

A: Yes.

Because really, this show is actually about human emotions and relationships, which it does an excellent job of portraying. It's a great representative of the "slice of life" anime sub-genre in which the viewer is basically like a fly on the wall, watching the characters experience triumphs and failures as they go about their day-to-day lives. There's really no plot per se, and no "Big Bad," but it's extremely heartfelt and relatable. Oh, and it does even manage to infuse shogi matches with all the drama and tension of a championship sporting event.

Hunter x Hunter
I decided to check this one out after hearing someone on a YouTube video say that it was their favorite anime. Personally, I found it a little slow going (especially with the occasional dreaded clip show episode), but as per my stick-it-out-at-all-costs approach to watching anime, I eventually did make it through all three seasons that were available to me on Netflix (and sure enough, it escalated pretty quickly toward the end). One good thing that I got out of it was that Killua sort of resembled what I envisioned one of the Glorified characters to look like, so I ended up using a lot of screen shots of him as a shortcut when making my stick-figure storyboards.

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day
This was a beautiful show that was sort of slice-of-life but with a bit of a magical/supernatural element and a definite plot arc. As an added benefit for me, it also spawned another character template that I used for storyboards for Glorified (in this case, the Anaru character).

Fairy Tail
Oh man, did I love this show. I saw something on the Internet where someone sarcastically wrote that in order to be a true hardcore anime fan, you have to make fun of anyone who likes both Sword Art Online and Fairy Tail, and I thought, "wait, that's me!" So, okay, bring on the hate, 'cause I don't care. What I really care about is where I can find more episodes of this show, because Netflix ran out after forty-eight of them.

Carole and Tuesday
I'm a sucker for just about anything music-related, especially a good origin story like this one that shows the formation of what I assume will eventually be the most popular musical duo in the history of Mars. Wait, Mars? Can Mars really be terraformed that thoroughly? And that quickly, since, based on some of their references, this seems to be taking place in the not-so-distant future? These are nerdy questions I ask myself while watching shows like these. News flash, Brian: it's fiction. Get over it.

A Silent Voice
As you may recall, I always try to include at least one feature-length anime per Roundup. At over two hours long, this one certainly qualifies, although when I watched it, it didn't feel like two hours at all, that's how much I enjoyed it. "Powerful" and "poignant" would be two words I'd use to describe it, and it touched on a lot of subjects that are important to me, like bullying, friendship, redemption, and forgiveness. Highly recommended, and certainly deserving of all the awards since its release in 2016.

That's it for this time! In the next Roundup, I (probably) give some shows a second chance...

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Words and Pictures Festival

Hey-o! If you're in the beautiful Vancouver/Portland area (or happen to have access to some form of inter-dimensional transportation device), please consider checking out the annual Words and Pictures Festival at Cascade Park Community Library this Saturday, October 12th.
It runs from 11am through 3pm, and I will be there along with a whole host of other cool authors, so there's sure to be something for everyone. There will be readings, panels, and a writers's resource room full of all sorts of awesome organizations like the Northwest Independent Writer's Association, Willamette Writers, SCBWI, and more. Hope to see you there! (AND IF YOU REALLY DO HAVE AN INTER-DIMENSIONAL TRANSPORTATION DEVICE PLEASE LET ME KNOW)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

SPSU Status Update

If you recall, nearly one year ago I announced the public unveiling of the Second Player Shared Universe (if you don't recall, go here), a multimedia franchise centered around my band, Second Player Score. Well, today, to celebrate the first anniversary of said unveiling, I'm going to provide you with descriptions and status updates on all the projects contained within the SPSU - including some that were formerly top secret - to give you a better understanding of what, exactly, this whole thing is about.
Graphic design by Dave Born
The SPSU currently comprises ten different projects, each designed to stand alone yet still exist within the same continuity. They are connected by Easter eggs and shared references in a manner similar to Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse or the Black Mirror universe. For example, April Hayashi, the star of one of the projects (who was introduced in this particular blog post), is Joel Suzuki's cousin. Or, the Glorified manga appears as an actual comic book in the screenplay for Nobody's Hero. Also, Second Player Score (the band) is either name-dropped or makes a cameo appearance in just about everything a la the late, great Stan Lee. So, here we go:

Fortress Storm Attack
Our ten-song debut album, we also envision this as someday being an anthology series in a manner similar to Love, Death, and Robots (or possibly this), where each episode - to be based on a song from the album - is written and illustrated by a different creator.

Nobody's Hero
Our sophomore record spawned a narrated flash fiction piece, three feature-length screenplays that we're currently shopping around to management and production companies, and a dozen beer recipes - one for each song on the album (except for the last song, which is so long it needed two different recipes). Of the three screenplays, the first is sort of like Deadpool-meets-Spawn, the second is sort of Carrie-meets-Mean Girls, and the third is like Dogma-meets-The Avengers.

Our recently-released third album has an accompanying manga-style comic book series, the first issue of which is now available. The other eleven issues that make up Volume One have been fully scripted and storyboarded and will be entering the formal illustration process soon. We also have a proof-of-concept trailer for an anime-style adaptation of the series that we've been shopping around to management and production companies.

As previously noted in this blog post from August, Four-D is our fourth album, currently still in the writing stage. There is also a related card game for which we've already designed and tested the gameplay, and the accompanying manga-style comic book and anime-style TV show scripts are in the development stage (the concept illustration of the main characters that you see above was drawn by my talented daughter). The basic idea is a mashup of Pokemon, Battle Royale, and Avatar: The Last Airbender: "A grieving grade school student is given the opportunity to be granted a single wish. The catch, however, is that he must win a dangerous contest involving parallel realities and elemental guardians before someone else claims his prize."

As also noted in that post from August, 200BPM is our fifth album that we are writing concurrently with Four-D. The screenplay for the accompanying film - which we envision as being a series of vignettes that you would watch consecutively to form a single movie experience - is in the development stage, and is sort of a cross between Killing Eve and Dexter: "When an artsy serial killer - think Banksy meets Aileen Wuornos - discovers that she has competition, she embarks on an escalating murder spree in an effort to not only outdo her rival but discover their identity as well. Will they end up killing each other, falling in love, or both?"

Whew! Pause for breath.

Okay, now we move on to the non-album-related half of the SPSU, led off by none other than...

The Joel Suzuki Series
I think most of you already know what this one is about. Volume Five, by the way, is currently deep into the rewriting stage, which is coming along nicely.

This is the project that stars Joel's cousin April Hayashi and her best friend, Lydia Sanchez. When I interviewed them earlier this year, the Seattle Mariners were off to a red-hot 13-2 start, prompting Lydia to make the bold prediction that the team would win the World Series this year. Of course, we all know how that turned out, but the question is: why did Lydia feel so confident at the time? Well, it's because of the events of Jinx, a romantic comedy in the vein of Crazy Rich Asians, Always Be My Maybe, and Fever Pitch that we're currently shopping around to management and production companies: "When a die-hard baseball fan discovers that jinxes are real, she seeks out the man who has cursed her favorite team. Now, though, she must choose between her fandom and her growing feelings for him before she loses everything she's ever held dear." (P.S. the Mariners' subsequent epic collapse has provided plenty of fodder for a Jinx sequel, which is currently in development. Also, I asked April and Lydia to do a follow-up interview this month to talk about the collapse, but they declined.)

Hold My Beer
Here's one you've never heard of before! It's a dramedy series that used to be an idea about a guy whose only talent is making good chili (don't ask me where that came from - I honestly don't know) that eventually evolved into its current form after we realized that we know way more about beer than chili. The script for the pilot episode is complete, and the logline reads as such: "After a middle-aged man loses his wife and job, he turns to the one thing he's always been good at: brewing beer. Now, though, he must prove his worth to everyone - especially his curmudgeonly brewmaster father - before his life falls apart even further." This is where all the non-Nobody's Hero beer recipes that we come up with will show up.

The Author
This is actually an idea for a series that I had been kicking around for a while. It's intended to be sort of like James Bond and Doctor Who, both in story concept as well as in the ability to recast the main character every so often, thus keeping the franchise going indefinitely. The basic premise is that an author is given a special pen that can rewrite reality (kind of like Death Note or Scribblenauts) as well as allow them to change identities. The script for the pilot episode is complete, and its logline goes like this: "When a womanizing, alcoholic English professor is given a writing instrument that can essentially script reality, he must learn to use it to take down the bad guys before his own personal demons get the best of him."

Rider Nine
And now we come to the last and latest, but certainly not least, member of the SPSU: Rider Nine, an adaptation of and homage to all the classic Japanese live-action solo superhero (tokusatsu) shows I used to love as a kid. Basically, this would be to Kikaida and Kamen Rider what the Power Rangers are to Gorenja, with a little dash of Miraculous Ladybug thrown in for good measure. Here's the logline: "After a shy middle-schooler's beloved older cousin dies in a tragic accident, she discovers that he was secretly a superhero protecting their city against an evil organization. Now she must take up his mantle and continue his legacy before the evil organization executes their plan for world domination."

So there you have it: the ten main projects that make up the Second Player Shared Universe. On top of that, we also have four short films that have been written and are waiting to be produced, as well as a podcast (called Second Player Speaks) that we recently launched.

But you know what? That's just the music and media quadrant of an even larger overarching pop culture production house that we call the Second Player Syndicate. The other quadrants include ideas for a beverages and brewpub division, a toys and technology division, and, of course, a charitable philanthropic arm. Our goal is to become a lifestyle and entertainment entity that helps make the world a more positive place through the proliferation of pop culture. We aim to inspire, entertain, and enlighten, with our four major points of emphasis being (1) accurate and respectful representation, (2) themes of empathy and acceptance, (3) creating opportunities for new talent, and (4) giving back to the communities that support us. I know it sounds ambitious, but thanks to you, our fans and supporters, we've been able to build a pretty solid foundation so far, and we have no intention of slowing down any time soon.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and keep watching this space for more SPSU updates!