The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Casshern - The Guardian Spirit of Humanity

When it comes to visual storytelling (among other things) the Japanese have got style. Casshern (2004) is a live action retelling of an anime (big surprise) originally released in 1973.

Basic Premise:

In a near-future dystopia, the world has been torn ragged by war. For some reason, the Japanese are living in Russia, and have just finished a major battle with Europa, who fought them with a massive robotic army, which now lies dormant. They are still battling with the denizens of Zone 7, which at the outset of the movie is shrouded in mystery, however these people are thought to be freaks and outcasts. The Zone 7ers are later revealed to be the "original humans" and the only ones who possess "neo cells" which can alleviate the spread of radiation-based sickness which is slowly killing the Japanese Russians. These "neo cells" sound a lot like stem cells, with profound regenerative abilities and can differentiate into any body part you like. The ruling council, influenced by the military, reluctantly overcome their prejudices and agree to allow research on neo cells from Zone 7, as they are in desperate need of replacement body parts. The movie becomes unintentionally funny at this point, especially when one considers recent advances in stem cell research, because the science is still back in 1973 and goes to LegoLand in a big way when the cultured body parts are shown. Anyway, the son of the lead scientist had gone to the front lines and died while the organ culture systems were being set up, and his body had just been returned to his father in a casket, followed by his largely unseen ghost. The presence of Tetsuya's ghost acts as a catalysts for some sort of weird techno lightning strike, and the body parts in the culture tanks suddenly pull together into Frankensteiny people covered in grey goop who get up and walk out of the tanks. The army freaks out and decides to get rid of these newly born "Neosapiens", and forces them to flee towards the Zone 7 border. Tetsuya's body is dunked in the neo cell tank by his father, which resurrects him, but of course, the process gives him superpowers. The Neosapiens don't handle rejection well, and revive the robot army of Europa to exact revenge. Tetsuya stands between them and the annihilation of the human race. Mayhem ensues.

The not so good:

The opening of the movie is rather ponderous, and the story is a bit clich├ęd. However, considering when it was written, that's forgivable. If I had a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture and symbolism, I would probably find a lot of hidden meaning in the opening sequences. But I rented the movie because I wanted a slick action film and wasn't really in the mood to look or think very hard. At certain points in the movie, it seemed that having the story make sense was not important – like the stuff with the stop-motion little guy in heaven. I didn't get that at all.

The really good:

The colour and costumes are fantastic. The European robot army brought back fond memories of Terminator, and the voices of the actors are wonderfully reminiscent of anime voice acting. So are the poses taken on by the actors during the endless dramatic sequences and during the fight scenes. When they story moves, it moves fast, and the viewer is treated to a plethora of how-many-cool-images-can-we-stuff-into-a-two-second-interval of artistic eye candy sequences worthy of some of the best mecha anime around. There are a lot of explosions, some katanas, funky spaceships and motorbikes, and the soundtrack kicks butt. On the DVD case, the movie is compared to The Matrix, but I don't agree, aside from some of the robots having red bug-eyes. I'd say it's more like Flash Gordon, and some of the shots of Tetsuya jumping up into the sky during an attack reminded me of Bleach, and the gratuitous techno stuff was a teensy bit like Hellsing or Tank Police. Some of the soundtrack is exactly the same as Bleach and the non-speaking guy is rather Wonderwice-esque. And in case you're wondering about half-way through the movie, the ending does come together nicely and make a lot of sense.


Definitely worth watching, but maybe rent it first instead of buying it right away.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Despite this being an incredibly sad story, I found it profoundly reassuring that true love really is possible:

It also confirms for me that every life has value, and that if pain has any spiritual purpose, it's to sharply enhance joy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Playin' with the graphics tablet.

I think I gotta figure out how to do shading with the airbrush tool a lot better. And pick better colours.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Seven Weird & Random Facts about Jennifer Rahn

OK, seems it's meme time. Nina Munteanu over at The Alien Next Door has tagged me with this little game. I'm not very blogosaavy, so I had to look this one up.

Leftist pseudo-intellectualese or linguistic affectation, generally used in the pejorative, employed to designate a commonly held position, thought or expression as worthy of or susceptible to attack or denigration by superior leftist "critical thought" which the employer possesses in abundance.

Er, no. I don't think that's it.

a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation); "memes are the cultural counterpart of genes"

Hmm. Sort of.

an idea, project, statement or even a question that is posted by one blog and responded to by other blogs. ...

Oh, OK. That must be it.

So anyway, from Nina's blog, her seven weird facts are:

"Okay...well, here are seven (and only seven; I could write a book!) strange and weird facts about ME:
1. I'm an author and I can't spell
2. I speak five languages (none of them very well: English, French, Romanian, German, Swedish)
3. I failed First Year University Chemistry
4. I don't watch TV
5. My high school career assessment concluded that I was best suited to be a sargent in the army (writer was way down the list)
6. I opted out of Grade 11 biology to take typing (then had to challenge the exam when I decided to pursue a science degree at university)
7. I was chased off the Serengeti Plain by a horde of biting soldier ants."

Like Nina, I've got way more than seven tucked away, but the weirdest I shall keep to myself, thanks.

Weird stuff about Jen:
1. My fingernails are so soft that they can be bent around my fingers, no problem.
2. My left ankle pronates so badly that it interferes with the act of skipping by constantly catching the rope.
3. I was named after Jennifer Jones, who acted as Dr. Han Suyin in the 1955 movie Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.
4. I can swear in five languages, but only speak two (and the second one not very well).
5. The lowest grade on my transcript is in undergraduate cell biology.
6. I lost the Canada Scholarship because I refused to change my major from pharmacology and because my GPA was 0.2 points too low.
7. I am an F1 cross and therefore heterozygous at pretty much every phenotypic gene locus there is.

OK, now I'm supposed to tag some people with this. I choose:

J.Y.T. Kennedy
Sigrid Macdonald

. . . and I'll have to think about the rest . . .

Who's weird around here? More than me or Nina, that is . . .

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What Happens After You Write the Book: Perspectives.

I had an earlier post addressing this, which didn't really answer the question, but was more a rambling speculation on what might happen. Now that my mini book tour is all said and done, I can comment more thoroughly. Also, I have been repeatedly asked what the time line was like for getting the book published.

So here it is, in what I hope is easy to digest format:

1990: I wanted to write this really cool story, but I didn't know the first thing about writing a novel. I started making up characters and jotting down some intense scenes that didn't quite hook up.

1996: I decided I wanted this thing done before I turned 30 and made a colossal effort to weave together all my disjointed scenes.

1999: I finished the first draft of what was then called "The Divine Prerogative." It was horrible. Parts of it had extreme coolness, parts of it were unspeakably stupid. All together, it was barf-inducing. But I did not know this. I submitted the book to a publisher, who liked my query + three chapters, foolishly asked to see the whole thing, and was very kind to actually read the whole thing (I know, because there were chocolate fingerprints on the pages right to the end when the manuscript was returned to me). The manuscript was politely refused.

2000 - 2003: I joined the Critters on-line critiquing group. With their help, I rewrote the novel 3 times. Big, huge thank-you to J.D. Williams for a tonne of help. The final rewrite I did on my own, after reading about "storyboarding" in Crawford Kilian's book, and hearing about J.K. Rowling's "grid thing" from a friend. The plot was massively straightened out and the POV characters were cut down to 1/5 of how many there were originally. I queried a few agents who told me they weren't accepting new clients unless they already had a book contract. I gave up with that approach pretty quickly.

Sept. 2003: I submitted "The Longevity Thesis" to Tor, who chucked it inside of two weeks. At least they didn't make me wait.

Dec. 2003: I submitted the query + 3 chapters to Dragon Moon Press.

Oct. 2004: DMP asked to see the whole thing.

Feb. 2006: DMP took it! Contract was signed.

2006 -2007: With a lot of help from friends, I got the webpage up and running, started blogging, got some promotional freebies made up (my infamous bookmarks and fridge magnets), got a promo book trailer made, started posting stuff all over the internet (amazon, myspace, blogger, facebook), arranged for a newspaper interview in my hometown, got an article published on DMP in a local newspaper, did some extra artwork for the PDF version of the book. Started asking other authors for cross-promotion activities (cross-interviews, passing out each other's freebie promo materials in our respective cities, plugs in blogs and podcasts, etc). Started attending conventions -- not as a panelist, just to see what goes on, and how other authors do promo. Passed out a couple freebies while I was there. Worked with the editor and cover artist supplied by DMP to get the manuscript into its final format.

Sept. 2007: The book was released!

Oct. - Nov. 2007: I teamed up with another author from my hometown and we got a second interview in the same newspaper and arranged to do a reading at the local library. I unexpectedly got a truck-load of help from EDGE, who had merged with DMP in August. They set me up for a mini-book tour all over Calgary (author signings in bookstores, and a couple of readings at an official book launch for LT and a group book launch for all the fall titles). EDGE and DMP's distributors did God-only-knows-what, and I saw The Longevity Thesis pop up in book catalogues all over the world in an amazing number of countries. I unexpectedly landed interviews with the organising committee for World Fantasy 2008 and a globally distributed Chinese language newspaper. That's been phenomenal exposure.

Dec 2007: Whew! Now what? Well, I have some new artwork I want to get out of my head and digitized for the webpage (my brother gave me a graphics tablet for my birthday -- it's awesome! No more pencil-crayony crap from me!), and I want to kick my butt into gear and get the prequel finished. I also want to do promo art for that as well.

And now it's today! Anybody have any other questions? I'm obviously no expert, but I can share what's happened for me.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hot Off the Press Party with Dragon Moon Press and EDGE

Last night was the Fall Release Book Launch for the new titles from Tesseracts/EDGE/Dragon Moon Press. It was at Calgary's Historic Fire Hall #6 (currently called The Outdoor Resource Centre) in the hip Kensington area. It's a nice brick structure with the former fire truck bays converted into meeting rooms -- the party was held in one of these.

This is where the fire trucks used to drive out of --->

The evening started off with some munchies and live music, then we heard readings from Randy McCharles and Susan Forest, both of whom have their work published in Tesseracts Eleven, which was clearly one of the best selling titles. I picked one up myself and got it signed. Randy's story was a humorous piece called "Vampires of the Rockies", which he did not read to completion, leaving us wondering how it would end, and Susan read her short called "Tomorrow and Tomorrow", which was a near future examination of being practical in the face of adversity. The ending was a real gut-kicker.

I read last, opting for an abridged version of Chapter 5 from The Longevity Thesis, and managed not to screw it up. I tried to incorporate advice given to me from my last reading, keeping it light, short, not too much intro, starting off with a bio of myself so people knew who they were listening to and trying to work the "tease factor". As Randy explained to me, the whole point of doing a reading is not to explain what you wrote, but to get people to wonder what the rest of the story is, so that they go looking to read the book. I think I got it right. At least I extracted a few laughs from the crowd during the intro.

There were a couple of big names there, including Robert Sawyer and his imprint editor/publisher Kirsten Morrell, as well as Dr. Rebbecca Bradley and the man himself, Brian Hades. I also got to hang out with some friends, my kick-boxing buddy Laura, editor/publisher buddy Tim Reynolds (who finally introduced me to his partner Sue!), Ron from IFWA, who I'd met at ConVersion this year, Brian's vivacious wife Anita, Janice Shoults also from EDGE, and of course Justyn Perry, who was the organiser of this shindig. Nerves aside, I had a pretty good time.

Robert Sawyer and the lovely Kirsten Morrell.~~~~~I get to sign a book for Susan Forest!