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Monday, December 3, 2018

Virtual Reality Game Testers Should Always Read the Fine Print: My Review of Ryan Decker's Deadly Realm: Fighting for Freedom

In Ryan Decker's gamelit novella Deadly Realm: Fighting for Freedom, a young game tester is thrown into a fast-paced, virtual reality world that tests not only his survival skills, but his sanity!

The story begins with Paxton Tyler selected to test out a new game that supposedly will help advance autism research. His brother is autistic, so Pax sees this a triple-win: He can help his brother, get paid, and enjoy playing inside a computer game. Pax loves computer games.

Unfortunately for Pax, it isn't that simple. And the experience is more terrifying than enjoyable. He's greeted by a tough, mean-spirited guide who claims she is trapped inside the game. Within a few pages, his guide softens and warms to him. But she's pulled away from him after the first three levels. The nature of her 'reality' is part of the story's mystery. And he faces a succession of monsters that cause him intense pain, panic, and medical crises back in the real world testing facility.

As the story itself puts it: "[Pax] thought living in a fantasy world, battling demons or beasts would be everything he'd ever dreamt of. Instead, it filled him with confusion and fear unlike anything he'd known before."

Deadly Realm is light on game mechanics and RPG elements. Those who enjoy hard litrpg (lots of charts, number-crunching stats, etc) should look elsewhere. It's also quite short. An experienced reader can zoom through this in one sitting. And while short reads are fine (at least for me), the speed with which Pax races through the levels makes the story feel rushed for no reason. The game world doesn't feel very big and certainly not very open. The short length, combined with the story's fast pace, also makes Pax seem more powerful (despite his earnest fear at times) than what the story tries to convey. And the ending is, shall we say, rather abrupt.

Definite language warning on this one. Many of my faith-oriented readers will want to take a pass. I suppose this reflects how a majority of RPG gamers talk, but I find such vulgarity unnecessary and a definite turn-off.

I personally found the story enjoyable overall, though hardcore Gamelit/LitRPG readers will likely see plenty of room for improvement.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Be Zombie Chow-Mein or Play in a Virtual Reality Role-Playing Game: My Review of Jackob Tanner's Arcane Kingdom Online: The Chosen

Clay Hopewell was sentenced to die. His crime: He somehow got infected with the ZERO virus -- a virus that either kills you outright or turns you into a zombie. The details of said virus, including which is more likely, are not really explored or discussed in The Chosen, the first installment in Jakob Tanner's Arcane Kingdom Online. It's just clear that having the ZERO virus is a death sentence.

Only Clay doesn't just face a normal death. Not in this story. Once Clay tests positive for the virus, he is whisked away to a quarantine zone, which is basically a re-purposed airport hangar. An airport hangar devoid of life, save for a crazed, shrieking female cannibal that's ready to make Clay into her dish of "zombie chow-mein" (one of my favorite terms from Tanner's book). Clay is rescued in the nick of time and given a choice. He can die (either as zombie food or when the disease runs its course) or ...

He can play a computer game.

So goes the premise of our story. Arcane Kingdom Online is yet another entry into the emerging subgenre known as RPG Lit, GameLit, or LitRPG. And this appears to be Jakob Tanner's first novel.

According to The Chosen's backstory, Arcane Kingdom Online was a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that faded into commercial oblivion after decades of success. As far as the public is concerned at the beginning of Tanner's novel, AKO is defunct. But our protagonist, Clay, soon finds out that AKO isn't defunct. It just became a top-secret project pushing the edge of revolutionary technology.

Those unlucky enough to contract the ZERO virus and who have the right connections are given the opportunity to "digitally reincarnate" in the online universe of AKO, leaving the cares and troubles of the real world behind. Facing certain death, Clay decides to take his chances in the game (even though, we're told, at the novel's beginning, there's a chance he won't survive the consciousness upload process).

Arcane Kingdom Online provides a compelling, if not original, premise. And The Chosen hooked this reader in at the outset. And it kept me turning (or digitally flipping on my Kindle app) the pages until the very end.

Among the things that Jakob does really well is he serves up a believable main character (MC) -- someone who is not overpowered (OP) and who experiences real danger. His opening sequence, complete with a "save the cat" moment that endears you to the MC :-), is quite compelling. It draws you into the story and keeps you engaged. At least it did for me.

The writing quality is solid. There were no distracting typos or other such issues. It showed the work of an editor - or at least a good proofreading. And that's a refreshing contrast with many of the titles out there in this subgenre.

There are a few minor shortcomings. First, I have mixed feelings about how little explanation is provided regarding the ZERO virus - the whole reason our hero gets uploaded into the game. On the one hand, not going into a lot of detail keeps the story moving. On the other, it makes the whole plot device feel cursory and contrived. (I understand that all fiction is contrived, but a good story shouldn't feel that way). One reason it feels this way is the whole ZERO virus thing is forgotten until the end. In my opinion (and some readers may disagree with me), the virus and the havoc it's wreaking on the earth deserve a little more attention throughout the story (maybe a few more system messages during the course of events in-game). Another is that a couple characters supposedly important to Clay are introduced in the beginning and then dropped. One would think Clay, however strained relations may be with them, would care about their fate. But, again, this is a minor concern. It didn't make the story any less enjoyable. It just made it a little awkward for me.

Second, if the virus is threatening the earth with apocalyptic doom and if digitally uploading souls into a computer game is really a technologically workable solution, there should be a whole lot more interest in that option than the story suggests (at least at the beginning).

Third, if keeping the human race alive digitally is the goal, why (other than to serve the needs of the story) create a fantasy, medieval world full of danger? This is a common sense question that lots of authors playing with this kind of premise love to avoid. But it's a question that I couldn't get out of my mind considering the miserable situation the game thrusts our protagonist into at the very beginning of his online journey. If you're going to entice people to upload themselves (permanently, mind you) into a game, why not offer them the opportunity to endlessly enjoy virtual beach resorts rather than be a prisoner marked for death? But maybe that's just me.

Finally, I should point out, as I must with virtually all the novels I review, this is not a Christian fantasy. Many of my readers don't care about that or prefer it that way. But many of my readers do care, and that's why I feel the need to mention it. So, if you're looking for an overt Christian fantasy novel, this is not it. And if you're looking for a novel free of any objectionable language, this isn't for you either. That said, The Chosen contains no objectionable sexual situations and is thankfully free from the harem craze that has unfortunately infected so much of this subgenre. I therefore give it props for that.

With all the above said, I want to make clear that I found the story quite enjoyable. I don't want any of my objections above to call into question the fact that I do recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys LitRPG / GameLit reading. It succeeded where novels matter most: It entertained me, and kept me reading to the very end. Thus, not only do I recommend the story, but I look forward to the author's second installment.

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For additional reading, be sure to check out these articles...

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Have You Tried Fantasy RPG Literature? Why This Fantasy Fiction Fan Loves GameLit

Do you read fantasy novels? Do you enjoy playing tabletop or computer role-playing games? If so, RPG Literature may be right up your alley.

What is RPG Lit?

RPG Literature (or RPG Lit for short) is a fantasy and science fiction sub-genre combining the conventions of role-playing games (RPGs) with, you guessed it, science fiction and fantasy novels. This subgenre is more popularly known as GameLit (Game Literature) or LitRPG (Literature or Literary Role-Playing Game), however there are some distinctions between GameLit and LitRPG, which we will discuss shortly. RPG Lit is all about following fictional characters through a (hopefully) high-immersion, virtual reality ‘world,’ specifically a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).

In the last few years, I've become a big fan of this subgenre. My introduction to RPG Lit / GameLit / LitRPG was author J.A. Cipriano's World of Ruul series. Cipriano, a New York Times bestselling author, has written three installments in this series thus far - and I've read them all. They are Soulstone: AwakeningSoulstone: The Skeleton King, and Soulstone: Oblivion. I was hooked with Soulstone: Awakening, even though the language was a little rough for this Christian reader. And I have read dozens of GameLit / LitRPG / RPG Lit lit novels and short stories since.

Some of you reading this might find that ironic since I'm a Christian - and a pastor, no less. Not all Christians will understand or approve of my sci-fi and fantasy fandom, but I respectfully see no inconsistency or issue. The Bible certainly condemns “mediums,” “necromancers,” and “sorcerers” (see Leviticus and Revelation). But these passages very specifically refer to individuals consorting with actual witches and demons. These passages are not talking about Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or even the main protagonist in I Dream of Jeannie. It’s important that Christians exercise some discernment, and it troubles me when Christians have a knee-jerk, judgmental reaction to things without taking the time to understand those things.

RPG Lit / GameLit / LitRPG essentially plays on the portal fantasy theme (something C.S. Lewis popularized with his iconic Chronicles of Narnia series), only it’s a portal to a virtual reality or digital world instead of another planet or dimension. Anyone who has seen The Matrix or a few particular episodes of Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, or Stargate: SG-1 will be familiar with the idea. However, with this subgenre, it isn't just thrusting the character(s) into a digital reality. It highlights the need to progressively develop your skills, talents, and powers according to game rules and mechanics that characterize RPG or MMO games.

In a typical MMORPG game, a new player starts with minimal levels (or stats) in things like strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, charisma, etc. He or she also has little to no money and virtually no skill or ability when it comes to fighting, crafting, trading, or whatever occupations the game offers. The player must start from scratch and systematically build his or her character into a formidable warrior, archer, ranger, mage, or whatever.

GameLit vs LitRPG

As I said, the more popular names for this subgenre are GameLit and LitRPG, and there is a distinction between the two. GameLit is basically any story that takes place in a game, whereas LitRPG also takes place in a game (or game-like world) but emphasizes the linear progression of the main character via leveling and other game mechanics. And within that LitRPG umbrella, there are two subsets: hard vs. soft. A hard LitRPG novel is written for number-crunching game fans who love statistics and charts. A soft LitRPG has some stats and charts, and definitely has its character or characters progress through levels, but the emphasis is on the story as opposed to the stats.

Having said all the above, there are some GameLit/LitRPG readers who will take issue with how I've described things. This is still an emerging subgenre and thus, there are lots of disputes, opinions, and unresolved questions throughout.

Why I Love RPG Lit

I love this subgenre, which I'm calling RPG Lit for this article (though, again, GameLit and LitRPG are the more popular designations), for several reasons. One, I love portal fiction in general. The idea of escaping into another reality and having to cope with that new reality is something that's long fascinated me. It's why I've long appreciated The Chronicles of Narnia. Another reason I enjoy this subgenre is the strategy! I love it when players (and characters) utilize strategy to outwit their opponents as opposed to brute force. It is for this reason that I absolutely loved Travis Bagwell's Awaken Online: Catharsis. And it's why I really enjoyed the second installment of Cipriano's World of Ruul series.

If you enjoy strategy or role-playing games and appreciate the charms of escapist fantasy (like Chronicles of Narnia), I suggest you give this subgenre a try. I believe you'll enjoy it.

**Check out my GameLit / LitRPG Favorites.


Friday, November 2, 2018

The Lord of the Rings: Finding Middle Earth in New Zealand (Guest Article by Rene Smith)

This is an older article (dated July 5, 2007) pulled from EzineArticles.com for all those who may be interested in traveling to New Zealand to experience the sites and locations associated with Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings masterpiece. The article is written by Rene Smith. 

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The Lord of the Rings: Finding Middle Earth in New Zealand
by Rene Smith

The Lord of the Rings story has captured the imagination of millions of people around the world. New Zealand has been lucky enough to be involved in this global phenomena thanks to Peter Jackson's critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. The wide-open spaces, diverse landscapes and spectacular scenery of New Zealand were the best place to film the movies, allowing New Zealanders to showcase their country and create a growing Lord of the Rings tourism industry.

The Lord of the Rings back-story

When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the original Lord of the Rings novels between 1937 and 1949, he would have had no idea of the huge impact they would have on future generations throughout the world. The stories have had a massive influence on pop culture and you come across many Lord of the Rings references in songs, movies and other literature.

Tolkien had earlier written a book called The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings novels followed as sequels and continued the epic fantasy theme and have since been reprinted into over 30 languages, making it one of the most popular franchises of the 20th century.

The Lord of the Rings story is based around human like creatures such as Elves, Hobbits, Wizards, Dwarves, Orcs and Men. They live in a sprawling world named Middle Earth, home to mysterious beings, magical rings, the devious Gollum, huge battles, the dark realm of Mordor and much, much more.

Part of the success of the Lord of the Rings can be put down to its complexity and Tolkien's endless work in developing a credible and highly detailed back-story. This back-story is brilliantly revealed as the story progresses, filling in important details and creating a living and breathing world with a rich history in the minds of readers.

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy

After several acclaimed but moderately successful feature films, New Zealand's Peter Jackson diverted his attention to a new project, one that would consume many years of his life and eventually turn him into a star and one of Hollywood's most sought after directors.

Jackson always had a desire to make an updated film of the Lord of the Rings and often wondered why it hadn't been done earlier. After years of negotiating and revised scripts, Jackson and New Line Cinemas finally agreed to film and release the Lord of the Rings is a trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of The King. Filmed entirely in New Zealand, the films proved to be financial gold mine for both parties with the combined profits of the movies, video games and related merchandise easily heading in to the billions of dollars.

The movies were released to much critical acclaim and while some purists felt that Jackson deviated too far from the book, most agreed that it was both faithful to the book and a spectacular motion picture. The three movies combined for 17 Academy Awards with The Return of the King being the most successful, earning 11 of these, including Best Picture and Best Director for Peter Jackson.

The movies created a huge windfall for New Zealand in terms of publicity, tourism, the movie making industry and the creation of Weta Workshops as a leading special effects design studio. Wellington was even chosen as the destination for the premiere of the final chapter of the trilogy, The Return of the King.

Finding Middle Earth in New Zealand

With the Lord of the Rings thrusting New Zealand's spectacular scenery in to the limelight, it was inevitable that a demand to see it up close and personal would be created. labeling itself as "Middle Earth", New Zealand's tourism industry gained a much-appreciated boost thanks to thousands of travelers taking part in tours and scenic trips. Immersing themselves in various film locations, ardent Lord of the Rings fans and casual travelers alike could enjoy the wide open spaces of New Zealand knowing that these were where the movies plot twists, dramatic scenes and great battles took place.

Filming took place throughout the country, with areas surrounding Wellington, the lower North Island and Christchurch receiving the most attention. The Canterbury Plains, Southern Alps and Mt Potts high country station serve as particularly beautiful and inspiring areas to see various Lord of the Rings film locations such as Edoras, Helms Deep and the Misty Mountains. All are accessible with tour groups and you'll have the opportunity to meet new friends with similar interests along the way.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings story has affected the lives of millions of individuals around the world and none more so than here in New Zealand. His epic tale of courage and honour has not only inspired readers but also helped Peter Jackson create his own masterpiece, opening up a whole new generation to Tolkien's wonderful story. New Zealand's film industry has been taken to a new level with the burgeoning local industry talent allowing other blockbuster films such as the Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong to also be filmed in the country. The benefits spread further into tourism and related areas with many overseas visitors coming to experience New Zealand's special link with the Lord of the Rings.

Rene Smith is a travel guru who lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand. Visit his Christchurch travel website [http://www.christchurchholidays.co.nz] for more articles, reviews and information on planning a vacation to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Rene_Smith/105601

Friday, October 12, 2018

How to Write Fantasy Fiction (Guest Article from Rob Parnell)

This is a guest article taken from EzineArticles.com. It was written by Rob Parnell, a prolific author who not only entertains readers but teaches other authors how to write better and be more successful in their literary endeavors. Even though the article is several years old, it still contains useful tips. If any of you are interested in writing fantasy fiction, I believe you'll find Rob's article helpful.

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How to Write Fantasy Fiction
by Rob Parnell

Most fantasy writers have been constructing their fantasy world since childhood. It grows with them; they add to it as they develop as writers until it's so real to them that writing about it feels effortless - even when they seem to have created a huge, sophisticated universe.

But if you're new to the genre, where do you start?

Many professional fantasy writers will joke about 'the formula' for good fantasy because it does exist and good fantasy authors still use it - not because they're lazy but because the fans want it - in fact insist on it!

It has been condensed thus: 'Hero, artifact, quest'. That's it. All you need to start a fantasy novel! Think Froddo, the ring and the journey to Mordor and you'll see what I mean.

I prefer something a little more organic and creative.

Get a very large sheet of paper. A3 at least - that's about 3 feet by 2 in the US. Draw an outline for your kingdom - or kingdoms. Experiment with the shape of coastlines, archipelagos and spits. Maybe put some islands around it.

Use a blue crayon or chalk to shade in the sea and draw a compass somewhere on the paper to orientate the map. Maybe a scale too: one inch equals 100 miles say.

Divide your kingdom into countries or regions - draw in the border lines.

Using different color pencils, add mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, whatever you like. Have lots of fun with this bit!

Cities normally grow up on rivers and ports - so start placing important cities and towns, farming communities, military posts etc. Start thinking about trade routes, badlands and resistance enclaves where nobody goes...

Don't forget that most fantasy is set in an entirely medieval world where technology is limited to bows and arrows, spears and fire, with a liberal sprinkling of magical swords, jewels or articles of clothing like magic capes or belts. Don't take this element too lightly.

I have known many writers who try to insert guns and flying machines into their world and are promptly asked to remove them by pedantic publishers!

Now for some writing.

Invent three major castes of inhabitants. For example: human, elven and dwarves say, or make up your own. One of the caste may be dragons if you want to be faithful to the 'formula'.

Describe the class system for each. Who's the king or the head magician, how the government of Elders work, what the peasants do, whether there are bands of mercenaries roaming the countryside, that kind of thing.

Now think of three characters for each caste - have them related for maximum impact. For instance three characters might be Princess Tumar who needs to regain the crown after her father was killed by the evil Majadon, aided by her younger brother.

Write a paragraph for every character, describing their physical appearance.

Give each of the characters an agenda that is at odds with at least two of the other characters.

Write a few pages describing the scenario you have invented.

By now you should be feeling an attachment to one or more character. Choose one to be the hero and give him or her an important quest that they must undertake to gain maturity, power or enlightenment (perhaps all three!)

Next, choose a magic artifact that the character must obtain during this quest. Don't choose a book!

Then create a huge threatening situation (a war, natural disaster or magical event) in which the characters are all at risk - of losing their power, authority, self respect, lives etc. and then...

Open up a new file and write: Chapter One.

Okay, over to you!

Rob Parnell Rob@easywaytowrite.com Go here to receive free ebooks and free lessons on writing the easy way: http://easywaytowrite.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Rob_Parnell/24710


Friday, July 6, 2018

Life Lessons From The TV Series Smallville

Growing up, I was a huge Superman fan — just as I’ve long been a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes in general. So, when Smallville aired for the first time in 2001, I should’ve been glued to the TV. But…I wasn’t. For whatever reason, I ignored the series for years. And then, sometime in 2004 or 2005 (I can’t remember exactly when), I started renting DVDs from Season 1. (This was before online streaming took off). And I was hooked. I binge-watched my way through the first few seasons, finally catching up to where Smallville actually was. I’ve been a fan ever since.

For those who may not know, Smallville was a TV series about Clark Kent before he became Superman. It starred Tom Welling and ran from 2001 until 2011. The series starts with Clark as a high school freshman and continues forward as he discovers, understands, and develops his abilities. It’s a great concept, though it requires some suspended disbelief to accept Tom Welling, at the time in his mid-twenties, as a 9th grader. The series follows Clark through high school, then college, and then his early career as an entry-level reporter for The Daily Planet. While the series does a halfway decent job keeping Clark and his friends oriented to high school in the first few seasons, the whole college thing is almost ignored. One wonders, in fact, if Clark ever attended any classes!

Some of my readers may not appreciate superheroes or science fiction as much as I do, but Smallville contained some great life lessons that should resonate with all of us. Like just about anything, you have to be discerning. And for the discerning viewer, there were some terrific gems of wisdom — some wonderful life lessons — in this Superman origin TV series.

As a Christian (and those of you who don’t share my faith may want to skip this paragraph), I obviously can’t endorse all the content of every episode. It starts off as a moderately kid-friendly show, but as the series progresses, it gets more “adult.” Some episodes get a little racy, with revealing outfits, lots of drinking, and some characters engaging in casual sex. Some Christians will understandably want to avoid any such content. Others will see it as merely reflective of society overall and look past the objectionable parts to enjoy the good aspects of the program.

I would simply caution you to be discerning and to (as always) make entertainment choices that would not cause anyone (including yourself) to stumble into sin. Speaking for myself, when it comes to entertainment choices, I balance things out on a proverbial scale. And, in my judgment, the good outweighs the bad with Smallville, but I respect those who may come to a different conclusion.

Either way, few can argue that TV shows (as well as movies and books) sometimes contain some inspiring moments or meaningful lessons. And that’s certainly the case with Smallville. So…without further ado, here are some powerful life lessons from Smallville:

“The suit doesn’t make the hero.” -Clark Kent, Season 10, Episode 18 “Booster”

While Clark is trying to keep his identity under wraps and his alter ego’s image (at this point, as “the Blur”) well managed, he comes face-to-face with a flashy, camera-loving superhero named Booster Gold. The episode juxtaposes Clark’s choice to shun the limelight with Booster’s hunger for it. Clark actually begins to diminish his reputation as (well) Clark by transforming himself back into a mild-mannered, socially awkward, and utterly forgettable bystander. By contrast, Metropolis’ newest arrival seeks all the glory he can achieve and presents himself as the city’s new savior (and the Blur’s replacement).

As the episode progresses, Clark learns that Booster came from the future thanks to a Legionnaire’s ring, which he probably stole.  And then Booster messes up a rescue which accidentally leads to an uncontrollable monster threatening the city. And it’s Clark who must pick up the pieces and make things right.

The episode provides a solid lesson in humility, patience, and character. And Clark gets to explain that suits, costumes, and public relations campaigns don’t make heroes. As he explains, “A hero is made in the moment, by the choices that he makes and the reasons that he makes them.”

“Pain is part of anyone’s journey…you can’t escape it.” -Raya, Season 6, Episode 6 “Fallout”

During the Smallville series, Clark (as well as his cousin and a couple friends) spend some time in the Phantom Zone, a lawless and nightmarish abode where Krypton exiled its criminals. In this episode, one of Clark’s friends, Raya, escapes to Earth and comes to visit him. Unfortunately, she isn’t the only one who came to Earth. An evil spirit escapes the Phantom Zone with her and soon inhabits the body of a street kid and comes looking for revenge.

I won’t elaborate any more or risk giving spoilers, but Raya says something in the course of the episode that rings true for all of us. Pain is indeed part of life’s journey. And, try as we might, we can’t escape it. Not in this life. How we deal with that pain fashions and reveals our character.

“Call me crazy, but I’ve always been a firm believer that beauty-it’s on the inside.” -Lois Lane, Season 4, Episode 3 “Fa├žade”

This episode explores what it means to be cool, attractive, and popular – things teenagers (and many adults) wrestle with a lot. Against his father’s wishes, Clark tries out for the high school football team, while a former acne-ridden teenage girl returns from summer break looking fabulous. Her secret? Plastic surgery with a little Kryptonite mixed in.

As one who struggled with acne as a teen and with self-esteem issues for many of my teen and young adult years, I can relate to this episode. And I agree with the lessons it tries to convey. Resorting to desperate, dangerous, or unhealthy measures may give you a temporary boost in confidence or even enhance (for a season) your appearance, but they risk damaging you and others at a level far deeper and of much greater significance.

When it comes to looks, talent, and abilities, people come in all shapes and sizes. But everyone, regardless of appearance or personality, can be something special and make a unique, positive, and meaningful difference in the lives of those around them. To do this, we must pay more attention to what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” -Zod, Season 9, Episode 3 “Rabid”

Sometimes, the bad guys have the best lines. And sometimes, at least when it comes to specific things said, the bad guys are correct. This is one of those times. Zod reminds us that the truth will eventually come to light.

The episode features zombies. That’s right, zombies. Someone in the Smallville writing room must’ve said: “Hey, we need zombies. What could be cooler than Superman vs. zombies?” That’s probably how we got “Rabid” as a Smallville episode.

A virus is unleashed on Metropolis turning its residents, including our beloved Lois Lane, into an out-of-control, rabid zombie. It’s up to Clark to (once again) save the day. Which, of course, he does. Sorry for the spoiler, but back to the lesson…

The truth is something that people will often try to hide from, deny, avoid, or redefine. We see this in the news all the time. We see it in the entertainment world. We see it on social media. We see it in our families. We see it in ourselves. We often don’t like the truth. We often, to steal Jack Nicholson’s line from A Few Good Men, “can’t handle the truth.” But…the truth is always there. It’s objective. It’s persistent. And it must eventually be confronted.

Smallville is a great show. I wish they’d do a sequel show called Metropolis with Tom Welling playing as our hero Superman, but this is unlikely given the CW’s current-running Supergirl (which features a different actor for Superman) and the movie franchise which started with Man of Steel and continued with Batman vs. Superman and Justice League. Still, whenever I get a little nostalgic for Welling’s Clark Kent, I can always fire up an old episode of Smallville and enjoy it. And, with some episodes, I can also learn some important life lessons.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Freedom is Not a Fantasy

On this 4th of July 2018, allow me to break from our traditional fantasy-oriented blog posts and book reviews and wish everyone a Happy Independence Day. Freedom in the United States of America is not a fantasy, thanks to the brilliant and courageous Founders who laid out the foundations of our great nation and the many veterans over the years who have defended it.

Happy Birthday, America!