Monthly Archives: January 2015

Review – The Imitation Game

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Like I mentioned in previous weeks, I want to review something at the end of each month. Since, technically, this will be the last Sunday of the month, I decided to review something. And although I don’t have a “genre” of the month, like I will be having in the months to follow, I decided to write about a movie that I had previously seen that I feel as though falls under the Science-Fiction category. The movie I am talking about is The Imitation Game by director, Morten Tyldum.

To be honest, I am not usually a fan of historical movies. I don’t know what it is about them, or why, but I just don’t. Anyways, my friend wanted me to go, so I went. And, well, I was thoroughly impressed.

In short, this movie is about all that went on behind the scenes at a British facility called, Bletchley Park. It starts off with the recruitment of Alan Turing and others who need to break the Nazi Germany transition signal device called, Enigma. All of the people recruited are mathematicians and Turing, as discussed in an interview in the movie, is a “prodigy” at math, having published his greatest piece of work by the age of 24.

The device, stolen out of Germany, is much harder than it seems and has different combinations of ways to transmit an encrypted message—in fact, 159 million million possibilities. In the movie Turing builds a machine single-handedly that will try to outwit this Enigma machine because as he says, “Only a machine can beat another machine.” This quote was one of my favorite because it foreshadows this idea of the future of our society with the advancement of technology. But, I digress. One of his greater lines in the movie is “What if a machine can only beat a machine?”

Anyways, they eventually figure it out but cannot act on it all the time because, if they do, then the Germans will have figured out that they cracked Enigma. So, instead, they strategically plan what battles they are going to win so that they win the war. The idea behind that (and in the movie they use D-Day as an example) is very awesome. This idea, however, may be a little bit fictionalized as a great blog post by L.V. Anderson located here, describes the main differences between the movie and what actually happened in real life. These real life events, and what the screenplay was written off of, is based on a book by Andrew Hodges called, Alan Turing the Enigma: The Book That Inspired the Film, “The Imitation Game.” You can locate that book with this link located here.

Anderson does a great job at explaining what is real and what is fictionalized. As she was going through it, sans a point about sandwiches being a major “plot point” in the story, it was really valuable. And although it’s valuable to understand these differences, I think it’s also valuable to understand why the director chose to shoot this movie the way he did. And that, my readers, is about conflict. If you ask any writer the three fundamental rules of writing are: (1) conflict, (2), conflict, (3) conflict. Without conflict there is no tension and thus we can’t really become involved in the characters’ lives and feel for them when they are going through tough times. Most of what is changed in this movie is done to create a more immediate sense of conflict (probably why I thought the movie was so great) or also to evoke a sense of poetic symbolism. An example of the latter is that the machine that Turing builds is called Christopher whereas Anderson mentions it was called Bombe. Is the name really going to change much in terms of the story-sequences? No. But it does change a lot in the story-telling and gives the readers a sense of “payoff” at the end after the “set-up” done in the earlier parts of the chronology in the movie where we learn that a boy Christopher was Alan Turing’s first true love. It is accurate that Turing is homosexual, although it seems as though he was more open about it in real life than how he appears in the movie says Anderson.

Anyways, with all that being said, this was a great movie. I highly recommend seeing it. It got nominated for 8 Oscars which is pretty impressive. The acting was great all around and Benedict Cumberbatch who plays Alan Turing did a great job in character (even though it’s not historically accurate). Kiera Knightly does another fabulous job as Joan Clarke in this movie. Who knows if the actors are going to get Oscars for their roles, but I definitely think they deserve the nominations.

The only thing that bugged me about this movie was the seemingly random ending. The movie itself is split into two different time periods—present day and past. The present day stuff seems all rather contrived and I was much more interested in the past events and working on Christopher to beat the enigma device.

What blows me away is that Alan Turing died at the age of 41 after being on estrogen pills for a year to try and curb his homosexuality. He committed suicide. Just imagine if none of that would have happened and we would have had his mind for another 20 or so years at least. The advancement we would have seen would have been phenomenal. I already believe that his Christopher is paramount in the establishment of the computer we have and use today.

In conclusion, this is 5 out of 5 stars for me. Go see it while you still can in theaters!!! If you’ve seen the movie, I would love to get your take on it. Comment below. Or, if you’ve read the book, it’d be awesome to see what you have to say on this man too!

Michael E. Thies

P.S. If you want to suggest what type of fantasy or science-fiction you want the next month (February) will focus around, please don’t be afraid to mention it in the comments.

Where Does Fantasy Stem From?

So, as I outlined in the previous blog post, this is going to be a blog mainly about science-fiction and fantasy novels and the genre that is science-fiction and fantasy. Although, I should warn you all, I have a tendency to formulate more ideas on the latter so expect more on fantasy than science-fiction.

When I think of the term Fantasy my mind immediately goes to Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin and even Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. All of these are huge fantasy novels, and all of them different. LotR is High Fantasy, GoT is Epic Fantasy and Harry Potter is a more modernized fantasy. You may disagree with these categories that I’ve placed them in and that’s fine. Much of these blend together to multiple types of fantasy in general. To add to the confusion, here is a definition of the fantasy genre I found from www.findmeanauthor.com

“Any book that contains unrealistic settings, or magic, often set in a medieval universe, or possibly involving mythical beings or supernatural forms as a primary element of the plot, theme, or setting. Something magical is almost always part of fantasy and magic may be seen in the setting or in the plot. It may even be practiced by the characters.”

Because of such a broad definition there are a bunch of subsections of the Fantasy umbrella. These include, but are certainly not limited to,

  • Romance Fantasy
  • Fairy Tales
  • Alternative History
  • Arthurian Fantasy
  • Comic Fantasy
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Urban Fantasy
  • Epic Fantasy
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • High Fantasy
  • Mystery Fantasy
  • Magic Realism
  • Modern Fantasy
  • Sword and Sorcery

To provide the definitions for each here would be very tedious, not to mention probably boring for many people reading the blog. Also, probably redundant you can find much of this information on the internet. Here is a great blog that goes through not only the sub genres of fantasy listed above, but also many many more: http://bestfantasybooks.com/fantasy-genre.php

With so many genres of fantasy it is quite hard to really nail down the starting point of fantasy. Is the Old English tale, Beowulf, an epic poem or fantasy? Or both? If we define it as an epic poem, which it is most often referred to as, then what would the next possible choice be? Perhaps some of Shakespeare’s works like A Midsummer’s Night Dream, or Arthurian Fantasy (as listed above) with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

If not them, then maybe Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein novel (1818), George MacDonald and The Princess and the Goblin (1858) or Bram Stroker and Dracula in the late 1800s. All of these contain fantastical elements and fall into one of the genres listed above and pave the way for other, more modern authors today. Since Stoker there has been a plethora of vampire tales and even the whole paranormal fantasy section has come about since. MacDonald was a serious influence on the likes of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis in the 1900s and it is because of their works that I thoroughly believe that fantasy got the fuel it needed to become the epic (pun intended) genre it is today. In fact, it are the works of these two authors that propelled me to write my own fantasy novel. Growing up with the Harry Potter series my whole life has had an affected me as an individual and I thoroughly believe that that series helped to foster my love of writing and reading even more.

Still, despite these literary classics like Frankenstein and Dracula and Beowulf, I think, to some people, there is a certain stigma about fantasy. Many people claim they don’t read fantasy, but yet, have devoured up works such as Twilight and Harry Potter, that, although are definitely modernized versions of fantasy, are still fantasy. If it’s not the readers, I know I definitely experienced some bias in my creative writing courses at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire as teachers did not let us write and take part in the fantasy genre. I never really knew why this was, and to claim, as it were to them, that the fantasy genre is a “lesser” genre because of those very fantastical elements that make it unique is unfair.

Anyways, the treatment fantasy is dealt in terms of academia is a whole ‘nother topic entirely, and probably something I’ll address further into my teaching career. But, that isn’t what this blog post is about, it’s about showing everyone reading that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact date that the fantasy genre began. Some may even argue the Bible for all of its fantastical elements.

What I wanted to do with this post is to show you that the fantasy genre can’t be pinned down. And, to avoid dragging on this post any more than I have already done so by means of periphrasis (okay that word was a word of the day on dictionary.com and I thought it fitting), I am going to end by telling how to tackle this problem of depth.

What I want to do is perhaps have a fantasy “genre” of the month, suggested by you, the readers. I would take a vote at the end of the month and then announce the winner the following month. So an example would go like this. If a majority of people wanted to learn more about let’s say, Magical Realism, and how it relates to fantasy then I would dedicated a month to Magical Realism. First, I would describe what form of fantasy we would be tackling for the month and I would take suggestions for works in that said category. In the following posts I would discuss more of the history of that particular genre and try to find some interesting info and I think a good way to conclude the month is by reviewing something of that particular genre and taking a poll for the following month. Given the depth of fantasy as I made apparent above, this would definitely be a way to keep this blog lively and new and fresh each month for all of you. And it would also shed more light on the specifics of a genre then merely glossing over it.

With that being said, I guess I would like for your feedback on that idea. J Since we are already halfway through January I am not going to tackle a specific genre now, rather, just merely priming for the rest of the year.

Michael E. Thies

P.S. I would like to thank Leila for commenting on my first post and giving me a good starting point for this idea. So, thanks!

2015 – New Year, New Blog

Hi Everyone,

I’m back. Again. Writing a blog post. I have decided that my New Year’s Resolution is connecting with all of you more–my audience. I have felt a certain disconnect recently and that is because I feel as though I have been letting you all down. And, I’m sorry for that. I didn’t mean to. So, with that being said, this blog post is mostly just going to let you, my readers and audience, know what you can expect from me for this year, as I have some plans for it.

Firstly, I will be posting once a week on Sundays. When I tried posting more than once a week last year, I quickly tired out and I wasn’t able to continue blogging for long, as you have probably noticed. I don’t want to do that. I think once a week will be a manageable task for me to do and it’ll help you all keep in touch with me and the topics I post about.

Which brings me to my next item of discussion, what topics will I be posting about. Well, I have been thinking a lot about this. I have, seriously. What I post about is what I want this blog to be branded as. A part of me wanted this to be a science-fiction/fantasy blog because that is what I write about myself in my novel, The Trials of the Core. Another part of me, wants it to be a “how to write” posts dealing with “Writer’s Block” because as the URL suggests this is Writers Block Press.net. Finally, another part of me kind of wanted to do this teacher thing because I am going into the field of education. Here’s what I’ve decided…

I have decided that at this moment in my life, I am not an educator. I haven’t even done my semester in student teaching, so I shouldn’t blog about education. Not yet. Also, yes I may be a novelist, but only a solo novelist and although my second title is coming out later this year, I am not sure that I have thus earned the credentials to teach people who to write and how to conquer writer’s block. But, what I love, more than anything is anything to do with science-fiction and fantasy. I love movies in that genre. I love books in that genre. And I have been devouring that genre since I was young. So, right now, I will be blogging about that stuff.

Now, how is this going to be different than other blogs? Well, I also really considered this question at good length and I’ve decided that, yes, I’m still going to do reviews, but I’m going to try and focus on more than just that, because you can go anywhere to get a review. I want to focus more on the world that is science-fiction/fantasy. Perhaps I’ll do character analyses. Or maybe some analyses on certain words coined in the genre–I actually saw just a dictionary.com post about 10 words coined in the science-fiction genre which will be a post of mine soon enough (maybe next weeks). But, I will be doing a review (either movie or book) once a month. I would love to have suggestions on what to post about to, or, if you are a fellow blogger out there, if you’d like to guest post, let me know what you’re thinking and we can arrange something.

Anyways, that is what I wanted to preface you all with. This is just a starting post. I will get more indepth with later posts, especially in the topic that i have chosen. And as I grow in my career both as a writer and educator this blog will evolve and I hope you are all there, as my followers, to witness that change as well. If you have ideas for things you’d like me to post about in the guidelines that I have specified, please let me know in the comments and I’ll consider it for a post later on in the month!

Thanks! And consider yourselves newly informed and this blog newly revived!