Amy J. Murphy on Short Stories

Here’s a theory—Chihuahuas have the souls of larger dogs (most likely dire wolves) wedged into those tiny little bodies. It would explain why these tiny pups think they’re big enough to take on a cat twice their size or why they always seem to shake. (The shaking is actually their molecules vibrating with the effort…

via Short Stories: Chihuahuas vs. Dire Wolves — AJM

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Much like John “Hannibal” Smith, I do love it when a plan comes together.  It’s another way of saying I love it when, in a story, a number of seemingly unrelated plot lines come together, and the antagonist’s brilliant scheme is finally revealed.  Say what you will about the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but Emperor Palpatine is an absolute genius!  He so expertly manipulated the Senate to position himself to be elected Supreme Chancellor to rule the Republic, and later persuaded the republic to give him the army he used to crush the Jedi and take absolute control to form the Galactic Empire.  There’s more to it, of course, which makes it even more brilliant.

In a story, if a grand scheme – a plan – is implied as an overall story arc, there better be a satisfying payoff at the end, in my opinion.  I cite Revenge of the Sith, again.  The last 45 minutes or so, from when Anakin turns to the darkside on to the end.  That is the type of payoff I’m talking about.  I feel like the payoff is vitally important when you include something like:  “…and they have a plan” in the opening credits of every episode of your epic TV show.

Such is the case with the 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica.  I hate reboots, but I loved that one.  It was one of the few shows I would go out of my way to watch when it aired.  I loved the characters.  I loved the hell those characters went through, although in the last season, Adama had his breakdown moments every other week and that got kind of repetitive.  It took a while for me to process and adjust to the re-imagination of things in the mini-series.  It took a while to adjust to Starbuck and Boomer being women.  However, the other things done with characters, such as the rift in the relationship between Apollo and Adama and the way the revealed Zack had died, Colonel Tigh’s alcoholism.  I liked that the world they created was relate-able  to the audience.

The first episode of the ongoing series titled, “33”, immediately gave you the sense that these people were going to be in for some serious hell.  How do people deal with an enemy that attacks EVERY thirty-three minutes?  They fight long enough to cover the fleet’s escape.  They hope…no…they pray the Cylon’s won’t find them again.  At the 33 minute mark, the Cylon’s appear and attack again.  Now imagine that going on 24×7.  Brutal.

Now take all of that plot and character greatness and imply the shows antagonists have a  huge plan for the last 50,000 human survivors…

…and not deliver on that promise!

I think the show was engaging enough for a lot of the audience to possibly not notice there wasn’t a “plan” because the Cylons were very calculating in the first couple of seasons so it may have seemed like they had a greater goal in mind.  Except there WASN’T a plan for wiping out the survivors.  Or was the goal of the plan to get the “Final Five” to reveal themselves?  No, it couldn’t have been that because the Cylons didn’t know the five were among the humans in the fleet until late in the series.

I’m aware of the prequel subtitled (ironically enough) “The Plan”.  I haven’t seen it, I’m sorry to say, but I’ve done enough reading on it to know that there was a plan leading up to the attack the wiped out the colonies.  But there’s where it stopped so far as I know.

Impromptu goals for the Cylons popped up along the way such as wanting the first human/Cylon hybrid child for experimentation.  But the pursuit of the fleet did not have an intended endgame.  If there had been, there likely wouldn’t have been a civil war of sorts between Cylons.  The path the story would have taken probably wouldn’t have had a Cylon faction joining the fleet.  The series would have built up to the grand revelation of the Cylon endgame and how most everything that had happened to that point, happened by design, and Adama and friends would have been at their lowest point realizing that they’d had exactly ZERO control over their fate up until the end.  It would have been the type of revelation that would have broken the internet.

And yet there was none.

Having Starbuck’s destiny come to fruition was done very well and the slow-burn of her story arc approaches what the revelation of the “plan” could have been, and the two probably could have been woven together to create something even more epic.  But the lack of said plan was probably the biggest disappointment of the entire series for me.

Is the revelation of “the plan” when one is implied important to you as a reader/viewer?

Comment below.


Till next time…

C.L.U. Was Clueless

The Tron Legacy score, by Daft Punk, is in regular rotation in my writing music playlist.  By far, it’s the best part of that movie.  I wanted to like that movie.  I really did…and I still do.  But the story suffers from huge plot holes, inconsistencies, and too many things that defy logic.

Which is ironic considering C.L.U. was meant to build the perfect system.

It’s C.L.U.’s ENTIRE plan and execution of that plan that just defies that logic.  Now, let me state, for the record, that it has been a long time since I watched the movie.  so it’s possible I might not recall some of the finer details correctly, but this high level review of C.L.U.’s idiocy ought to be accurate.  And that idiocy starts at the very beginning…

(Sigh)  The premise of his plan is brilliant:  He sends signal to Alan Bradley’s pager, trying to lure him into the system so the portal would be open and he could get out.  But we don’t get this until a little later.  The problem is, C.L.U. seems to forget he has a plan in motion!

He’s EXPECTING Alan Bradley – or someone – to come into the system.  I get the impression there is ONE way into the system: the replica of Flynn’s arcade.  Question:  Why is there NO ONE there waiting for whoever comes in?  C.L.U. would want that person caught and brought to him AS SOON AS THEY SET FOOT ON THE GRID because of the limited amount of time the portal stays open.

But there is no one there.

One might argue that Sam IS caught very soon after coming into the system, but that was part of a routine sweep for programs to be brought either to the Gaming Grid or to be put in C.L.U’s army.

So Sam gets taken to the Gaming Grid and forced into Disc Wars.  No knows a user is on the grid.  Not C.L.U, not anyone.  The Sirens know he’s different when they are prepping him for the games, but they don’t alert any one.

So Sam is in the games.  Sam somehow manages to beat an opponent, even though he’s never through an identity disc in his life and has only been on the Grid for perhaps an hour, may be two.  All of this is going and for a bit, no one knows a user is there.  But there’s something else no one notices.

No one, not one of the thousands of programs in the arena…or ANYWHERE ELSE, for that matter…notices the PORTAL is open!.  It’s right there, on the horizon, like a very bright, shimmering star.  AND (as we find out later) it was designed that way, to be a reminder that Kevin Flynn was around or something like that.  I think it was Quorra that said something like that to Sam.  The point is, no one noticed and I would think that would have been a pretty big deal to someone.

During the Disc Wars, Jarvis gives a C.L.U. an update that includes the status of his “private initiative”, which would be the plan to take an army through the portal.  But…Jarvis doesn’t actually know that’s what the plan is!(?).  As a matter of fact, I don’t think ANYONE knew what the plan was except for C.L.U.!  Maybe Tron knew, but he wasn’t exactly a chatterbox.  C.L.U. just had his people round out ordinary programs and ship them off to be reprogrammed to be in C.L.U.’s invasion army.

The army is being assembled and rallied at a base somewhere out in the direction of the portal.  The ship is being loaded and they are acting as though they are definitely going to go through the portal at a scheduled time.  But they don’t have Flynn’s disc.  They don’t have the key to get out and know one even notices the door is open.

So C.L.U. doesn’t have what he needs to make his plan work and when he finally knows Sam is on the grid, his first instinct is to try to kill him???  To show the programs that the “tyranny of the user” will never return???  How does that help him get Flynn’s identity disc?  Flynn doesn’t know his son is there either.  Quorra rescues him from the grid, but it isn’t until sometime later that he’s reunited with his father.

And what about ol’ Kevin Flynn during all of this?  We see him meditating, facing a window that looks out in the direction of the Grid.  In the distance, the portal hangs in the sky…and we don’t get the impression he’s noticed it either!!!

Whiskey.  Tango.  Foxtrot

I would expect Kevin fricken Flynn, of ALL people on the grid would notice the portal! Even if he knows it’s probably a trap set by C.L.U., it’s still the first time in it’s been in the sky for 20 years.  Is he anxious?  Excited?  No.  He’s just kinda “meh”.

I could go on and on about the failures of the plot, but I think you’re getting the idea.  The movie had a plot and all of the characters ignored it.  Except for Sam.  He’s the only one that had the right idea. As soon as he heard about the portal, he had a one track mind about getting the hell out of the Grid.

As I said, I wanted to like this movie and if really force myself to engage my suspension of disbelief, I can still enjoy it.  To me, that final confrontation between Flynn and C.L.U. is a classic movie moment.  The elements of the story they were trying to tell came together in an intense, satisfying way, and the Daft Punk score gives it just the right emotional weight and the result makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  I feel like it’s that good.

For me, personally, the antagonist is usually what gets me invested in a story.  Unfortunately, C.L.U.’s constant mis-handling if his master plan just made him (and his plan) and great big joke to me.

Tron and Tron: Legacy have given me a story series idea that I really like and will try (again) to write this year.  But I know we aren’t likely to get a sequel in the foreseeable future, and I understand why.

Do you agree?  Disagree?  Comment below.


The Disappointment of: The U.S.S. Excelsior

Oh boy.  This one is might hurt some feelings, but if there is any one thing that is the epitome of this series, The Excelsior would be it.  It probably got the least amount of screen time than anything else I’ll talk about in this blog post series, but that brief time was significant.  A possible changing of the guard was implied when the old Constitution class Enterprise limped into space dock, battle-scarred and haggard.  To add insult to injury, the heir-apparent to the Starfleet throne waits in the wings.  You could almost pick up on the new starship smell, even in the vacuum of space dock.

A sad end to an icon is foreshadowed.


The first sight of the Excelsior is held in reverence by most of the bridge crew.  Sulu might of even got turned on when mentioning the trans-warp drive.  Even James T. Kirk was given pause, almost as if to be thinking:  “What if…What if…”

You just knew that these two were meant to tangle before the film’s run time was up and it was going to be EPIC, right?

.If that wasn’t enough, Starfleet made the decision to decommission the Enterprise and reassign her crew before it was even moored back at space dock.  Despite Kirk’s best efforts to convince Fleet Admiral Morrow that the ship still has life left in her, the admiral states “The Enterprise is twenty-years old.  We feel her time is done.” (Or something close to that, anyway.)

***Just for clarification, because I know trekkers will probably call me out on it.  The “Twenty-year old” Enterprise is a continuity error, to the best of my knowledge.  If one wants to be technical, twenty years prior was when Kirk took command for his five year mission according to the timeline I’ve seen.  Christopher Pike and Robert King both commanded the ship for five year missions – each.  But I digress***

To keep in line with his career history of disobeying orders as it suited him, Admiral Kirk and the gang hatch a perfectly executed plan to steal the ship and go back to Genesis.  I say ‘perfectly executed’ because so far as I can tell, the were able to plan and prep this plan to not only steal the ship, but bust Bones out of the Starfleet brig, in about seventeen minutes, it seemed.

But he’s James T. Kirk, and that’s how he rolls.

Lucky for them, Kirk had foreshadowed the need for the ship to be fully automated and had Scotty get to work on that project while they were still on their way back from Genesis.

Fast forward to the getaway.

After brief, inspiring exchange between Kirk and the getaway gang, they power up the Enterprise and make a break for the Space Dock doors.  This, of course, makes Docking Control collectively crap itself and the call a red alert.

huh…always on the move, I guess.


Captain Styles gets the call from the Excelsior bridge.

First, we already know this guy is a pompous ass after his brief exchange with Scotty as he was leaving the ship.  “I’m looking forward to breaking some of the Enterprise speed records.”  He carried a swaggar stick, for crying out loud.  Then he had the audacity to question the yellow alert.  “How can we have a yellow alert in space dock?”  He says, passively while buffing his fricken finger nails.

He’s told what’s going on and then he takes action…while still carrying the swaggar stick (geesh).

Here’s where the tension really starts to build.

On the Enterprise (which is making the slowest starship escape on record, IMO), Chekov intercepts communications and announces to all the very last thing they wanted to hear:  “Sir, Excelsior powering up with orders to pursue.”



After struggling to override the space dock doors, the Enterprise makes it to open space with the Excelsior is hot pursuit (well, its the slowest pursuit for the lowest getaway.)

Captain Styles, ever the confident starship captain, lets us know the best chance for the Enterprise to escape isn’t good enough compared to the shiny new Excelsior by reminding us that if “If he tries to get away with warp drive, he’s really in for a shock.”

Queue the requisite threat from the Captain of the shiny new ship to the Admiral on the decades old rust bucket:  “Kirk. You do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.”

Without out a second thought, Kirk gives the order for warp speed and the Enterprise is off and gives the Excelsior the proverbial finger in its subspace wake.

Oh hell no, he didn’t!  It’s on like Donkey Kong now, right?   Captain Styles is through pussy-footin’ around.  Time to show the galaxy that there’s a new sheriff in town and her name is:  Excelsior.

“Prepare for warp speed.  Stand by transwarp drive.”

The music score ramps up the tension even further with heavy percussion.  This has to be bad ass because the bridge crew has to secure themselves in their stations, right?

A very young Miguel Ferrer, at the helm, announces the transwarp drive is his command.

It’s time!  This is the confrontation we’ve been waiting for up to this point.  Time to show us what thirty years of technological advancement in starship design has come up with.  The Enterprise, as great as she was, stands NO chance!  Hell, we even heard the Enterprise was going to be destroyed before the movie even came out.  THIS HAS TO BE IT!

With a look of steely determination, Styles issues the command:  Execute.

We hear the heavy rumble of state of the art trans warp drive rising up to what is sure to be an earth shattering crescendo.  Then…


It’s an FTL failure the likes of which we hadn’t seen since the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back.

The new pride of starfleet falters like Tim Couch did for the Cleveland Browns.  So sad.

And all it took stop the biggest, baddest, starship ever built was Scotty pulling some fuses or chips or something out of the Trans warp computer drive.  That’s it.  No epic computer hack.  Nothing fancy.  My four-year old grandson could have done it.

Then the Excelsior disappears until the last two minutes of Star Trek IV, and we don’t see it again until Star Trek VI.  In which, it (again) faltered and was left adrift in space dock.

I’m serious, the incident with the Enterprise was such an overpowering embarrassment, this ship sat in space dock for two MORE years (according to the memory-alpha site) until Star Trek IV, then had to undergo a major refit before being put into service after another year or two.

They tried to redeem it, in Star Trek VI, by giving Sulu his command of his starship-crush, but by that time it was too late.

Goodbye, Excelsior.  Your disappointment won’t be missed.

Thanks for sticking around to finish this long post.  If you like what you’ve seen here, please give me a follow.

Till next time…



Music Quiets The Demons

Like most writers, I shut the world out by listening to music while I write.  It works best using a good set of earphones that’ll shut EVERYTHING out around me.  My goal is to get a set of Bose Noise Cancelling headphones sometime.  That ought to quiet the demons, around me, completely.

As for the type of music, I go for an epic score or epic music collection.  If I have a clear enough vision of the type of scene I’ll be writing that day, I’ll grab a score that is reflective of the tone of that scene.  For example, I wrote the scene in which Carson Lyle, Kagan, Dex and Varga stole Carson’s ship back from Authority Impound and escaped from El Dorado while listening to tracks 1-3 of the Star Trek: Into Darkness score.

In general, any good collection of music from AudioMachine, Two Steps From Hell, or anything similar will do.  There are endless compilations and mixes to pick from on Youtube.  but if I’m in the mood for something a little more random, I have a channel for such things on Pandora.

My current favorite collection to listen to while writing is below.  It’s a fantastic mix using a lot more obscure pieces and has a great Epic Action, Adventure feel to it.  Hence, the title.


The Disappointment of: Goro

“The Disappointment of…” is a blog post series dedicated to underwhelming characters and/or plot elements that were hyped within a movie or TV show, by the characters or story world, itself, that spectacularly failed to live up to that hype.  *This is not to be confused with things that were generally disappointing.  These are things that characters both revere and fear.  They could be other characters, places, or anything that characters, within a story world, regard as bad ass…and ultimately wasn’t.

Today’s installment:  Goro

Mortal Kombat, 1995 – A lot of the target audience for this movie already had experience with Goro from the first Mortal Kombat video game when this four-armed behemoth pummeled them into feeding more quarters into the game to continue and get pummeled again.

We had expectations for the game’s sub-boss on-screen.

The quirky animatronic character costume aside, it looked as though our expectations might be met.  At the banquet, Shang-Tsung announces to the combatants that they will have the chance to face the reigning champion, Goro,  and advises them to treasure these moments, implying that they could be their last.

He’s already messing with their heads.  Planting that seed of trepidation about the tournament, and Goro, ahead of them.  It was pee-pee in your pants time for someone in that crowd.

Later we finally see Goro, for the first time.  He huge!  All four arms are jacked and ready to pop heads like pimples (again, silly practical effects costume, aside).  In an expositional conversation with Kano, we learn he’s a general of the Outworld army and Prince of the subterranean realm of Shokon.  Even Kano, who isn’t supposed scared of too very much, quakes in Goro’s presence.  Oh, man, by this time, we can’t wait to see what he can do!

When Shang-Tsung lets Goro loose into the tournament after deciding, “We’ve let these humans win enough”, we get a montage of Goro plowing through nineteen combatants, presumably killing them all.  Impressive!  We begin fear for our heroes when they finally get to face him.  Yet, we still haven’t actually seen what he can do.

After the montage, Goro’s next opponent is Art Lean.  A competent fighter that Johnny Cage knows, some how.  Honestly, I don’t remember what their relationship is.  I don’t think I’ve seen that movie in over twenty years.  But that’s not the point!   We’re waiting to see Goro in action!

And did we ever!  Art gets a beat down like hadn’t seen yet.  Nothing fancy, just a brute force trauma and the (four) hands of the Prince of Shokom.  In the end, poor Mr. Lean’s near lifeless body his held up by two of Goro’s hands, when the monster looks to his master and we are treated to the two most famous words from the Mortal Kombat franchise:  FINISH HIM!  After one more devastating whack across the head, art Lean falls to the ground.  Dead.  No magic.  No special attacks needed.  If a trauma ward was paid by the number of injuries treated, I would expect they’d be sitting on large pile of cash if they were able to fix ol’ Art.

How can our heroes expect to overcome such a threat and save Earth?  They’re only human, after all!

Inspite of what he just saw, Johnny Cage makes a deal with Shang-Tsung to challenge Goro.  GASP!  Johnny doesn’t stand a chance, right?  He shows up in his movie persona, completed with jeans, sunglasses, and attitude.  Didn’t he learn anything from watching his friend get pummeled to death right in front of him?  Goro shows some swagger of his own by snatching Johnny’s glasses out of his hand and crushing them to pieces and stomping on them.

Goro didn’t blink at Johnny’s machismo.  Johnny is out matched in every way.  He’s a dead man!

Shang-Tsung orders Goro to finish him quickly and, by all measures, it should be over in a snap of Johnny’s spine.  But then Johnny drops into his trademark splits and takes a shot at Goro’s Shokom family jewels and while Goro is writhing in agony, he runs off!.  Well, Goro, the biggest badass in the tournament, can’t let a little pain in the junk get him down.  He pursues Johnny, and a leisurely walking pace.  What’s the hurry, right?  He finds johnny.  He’s going to squash him like the bug he is.  Johnny kicks him a couple of times and…

…Goro falls off the cliff and into the abyss.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!!  That’s it!  A punch to the nads, a little walk out on to a cliff, and johnny kicks him a couple of times and its over.  What a fricken rip off!!!  Goro has got to be one of THE most disappointing adversaries that everyone was afraid of…EVER.  They would have done better to have him beat Johnny without killing him and have them fight again later.  Then MAYBE, Goro doesn’t disappoint…as much.

So what do you think?  Agree? Disagree?  Let me know in a comment below.

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Till Next time…

The Disappointment of: Yoda’s Lightsaber Skillz

I had so much fun with previous post about the Azkaban prison not living up to the hype it was given by the Harry Potter universe, I’ve decided to make a separate category for the subject.  I mean, let’s face it, there are SO MANY characters and plot pieces that have let us down over the years, they almost beg for their own post category.  So today, I bring you another one from fairly recent memory.  People went nuts when they heard it was going to happen.  When it finally did, it didn’t fail to disappoint:


After the tragedy that was The Phantom Menace, Star Wars fans clung to the hopes that the follow up would set things right.  I mean, it gave us Darth Maul who was NOT a disappointment.  He was as badass as was expected.  Instead, he was a wasted cool character.  To make up for it, Episode II was going to have to give us something we’ve always wanted, but never seen.  We knew Yoda was a Jedi Master.  Episode I showed us he was the leader of the Jedi council.  But we’d never seen him fight…until now.

Yoda is a beloved character and in the original trilogy, his power is implied.  Obi-Wan Kenobi sends Luke to him because he was the jedi master that instructed him.  A bending of the truth (not the first exaggeration Kenobi and Yodi will tell Luke, but that’s for a different post), but if Yoda was a teacher that would suggest he is more powerful and possibly better in every way over Obi-wan.  But in that trilogy, we only got to see him in his little mud hut in a swamp and spout off carefully crafted bursts of contradictory jibber-jabber…and tell more lies to Luke.  But that’s not what I’m talking about today.

Then Lucasfilm announced Yoda would be wielding a Lightsaber in AOTC.  Dumping that godawful puppet and going with a CGI character would make it possible.  Oh happy day!.

The media buzz about seeing Yoda wield a lightsaber in Attack of the clones caused a lot of excitement.  By default, Yoda should be that badass, right?  In the movie, Obi-Wan hinted at Yoda’s badassery, by telling Anakin that if he practiced saber technique as much as he did being a smartass, he’d rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.  Anakin, of course, thought he already did to which, Obi-Wan replies, “Only in your very young mind…”  Wow even Obi-Wan Kenobi, who we already know to be bad ass with a lightsaber, is in awe of Yoda’s skillz.  Then we get to see him in action.

I quote Austin Powers, here:  “Whoop-dee-do, Basil.”

He’s fast and hell, jumps and flips, attacks from different directions.  Screams like a fricken banshee!  Except…he’s lost every lightsaber duel we’ve seen him in.  Yes, even in AOTC.  Count Dooku got away, therefore he lost.

His fight with Palpatine in Episode III was better, but he never really had the upper hand.  And when it was over, he scurried off into some air vent, like a little green rat.  Upon getting picked up by Bail Organa, he was so dejected by the lost he declared that he had to go into exile.  Exile!  Instead of trying to regroup and taking another run at Palpatine before he can get fully entrenched in his new Empire, he’s just took a ‘whoa is me’ approach, and gave up.

From our perspective, Yoda’s fight record:  0-2.  That is not badass.

Yoda, you have disappointed us, Sir.

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Science Fiction Writer. Cynic of the highest order.

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