Listen to “The One True”

In these troubled times, would we even recognize a hero if one walked among us? Such is the premise of “The One True.” Part social commentary, part magical realism, this is a story that will resonate deeply.  Listen at Podbean, Amazon Music, or by clicking the player below. You can also read it in my short story collection called Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad.

Listen To “Thumb War”

Hannah Cane has taken the underground competitive thumb wrestling world by storm. Her intellect, improvisation, and unrelenting willpower plays a role in defeating her opponents with such efficiency that she’s been nicknamed “The Machine.” At the championship match, however, she’s accused of fraudulence. Is there any way an average sized woman could somehow cheat her way to victory against men twice her size? Find out the answer by listening at Podbean, Amazon Music, the player below, or read it in my short story collection titled Happy, Sad, Funny, Mad.

Netflix’s The Sandman – A Few Thoughts

I had my doubts when news broke that Netflix would release a series featuring The Sandman. This particular piece of literary greatness has been the focus of many, many would-be screen adaptations over the years, and none quite reached fruition. Furthermore, of late, Netflix has not bolstered my confidence in its overall quality.

Honestly, even the trailers did not stir any excitement in me. I loved this comic book series, I love Neil Gaiman, and I really, really didn’t want The Sandman to flop. If the show proved terrible, I didn’t want people to assume the books are also terrible, and the creator is also terrible, and all of the people who have been devoted to Dream and his siblings are also terrible. I didn’t want Netflix to taint something so special to so many people.

Fortunately for everyone, The Sandman is absolutely fantastic.

I found myself hooked within the first fifteen minutes. And once that initial episode ended, I couldn’t wait for the next. I haven’t felt that enthusiastic for a show in quite awhile.

When I describe the show to people, I say it has a “mood,” which is one of the things I love most about it. Morpheus, the main character, also know as Dream, is not necessarily nice, but he is good. He is honorable. He is even royal. But he’s also stubborn, and sometimes off-putting, and very often passive aggressive. (Though he can certainly be active aggressive when necessary.) In other words, despite Morpheus’ stoicism, he’s always in a mood, and so the show is as well. (The exquisite soundtrack definitely assists with this.)

Netflix’s The Sandman encapsulates everything I loved most about the comic book series while modernizing elements both appropriately and to the show’s benefit. It truly found a way to stay loyal to the source material while also feeling fresh and in the “now.” The world is no longer the same as it was when the comic book came out, and I’m personally glad the show adapted accordingly. Of course, if you know anything at all about The Sandman’s creator, Neil Gaiman, this should come as no surprise.

I’ll admit that the last half of the season didn’t exhilarate me as much as the first, but know that the latter half laid the groundwork for numerous stories to come. Everything is important–everything is connected.

If you enjoy epic storylines full of mythology, literary references, high-brow concepts, good old fashioned horror, and a huge touch of magic, I highly recommend The Sandman.

Star Wars | The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray – A Book Review

This is the third novel I’ve read in The High Republic Star Wars series. The High Republic is set about 200 years before Star Wars: A New Hope. It may be important to note that these novels are just a small facet of the overall The High Republic campaign. There are also comic books, YA novels, children’s books, and soon-to-be-released streaming shows and video games. I only call that fact out because this book marked the first time I honestly felt like I wasn’t getting the whole story. Perhaps this is how casual MCU moviegoers feel as they sporadically bounce in and out?

I’d also like to make it very clear that I generally enjoy Claudia Gray’s writing. Star Wars: Lost Stars proved my first encounter with her and it is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars stories. Keep in mind that she was the sole author on that endeavor and that it only tangentially connected to A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of the Jedi. Otherwise it focused on two original characters.

This is important because The High Republic is a story by committee. There are a lot of different authors helping to deliver the installments and, in fact, each of the three The High Republic novels have been written by different people. For me, this results in a total lack of voice. Gray has a writing voice, I know this to be true, but it was muffled in The Fallen Star.

Furthermore, I simply can’t connect to The High Republic characters. I’m having trouble envisioning them, hearing them in my head, and separating them out as individuals. Is this because there are just so many of them, especially in regards to the Jedi?

Plus, to be blunt, this particular book’s entire plot is revealed in the title. The Jedi space station falls. The majority of the book leads up to that point, and then the last quarter of it deals with the ramifications of it falling. Getting to that last quarter was a long, long slog and I actually resorted to skimming.

However, I will give The Fallen Star respect in this regard: things definitely happen in that last quarter of the story. Characters are killed off, significant changes in other characters occur, and the Jedi are certainly challenged.

Which leads me to my final note: the Jedi simply don’t look good in this series. The same antagonist has outsmarted them three books in a row now. He’s inflicted major damage over the course of saga thus far. They thought they beat him the first two books, but they obviously did not. The High Republic Jedi come off as naïve, ill-prepared, and unimaginative. If I remember correctly, this was a complaint about the prequel Jedi as well.

I’m afraid I may be out on this series. After three books, the Jedi have failed to capture my attention, the stories seem strangely repetitive, each book lacks a unique voice, and the stakes seem both monumental and inconsequential at the same time. I love the concept and the major effort put into this gigantic enterprise, but it’s simply no longer for me.

Accountability: A Short Story

In 1997, while attending Illinois State University, I decided I wanted to be a business major. This shocked no one more than me because I’d spent a lifetime (up to that point) cutting every corner I could in my math classes. Numbers were like the afterlife, I believed in them, but they didn’t make a whole lot of sense. You know what did make sense? Cents. And dollars. And big amounts of those two things combined. Sure, literature always proved to be my specialty, but who ever got rich off of books?

So, there I was, a newly minted business major struggling through my first semester, and sitting in Accounting 101. Class occurred in a large lecture hall that could seat around 200 people. I opted to sit in the fourth row from the front. I was all-in on this business thing. I wanted to look like a good, conscientious student without also seeming like a kiss-up. I don’t know why, but the fourth row struck me as the sweet spot I sought.

The professor—I can’t remember his name. It had something to do with an animal. Dr. Katz? Dr. Byrd? Dr. Gil! That was it. Anyway, on the first day of class, Dr. Gil alerted us to the fact that we each had a number on the front of our table. (Mine was D9.) He made it very clear that he would call upon us by those numbers since there were too many names to learn. We were to memorize our numbers for when that day arrived. Foreshadowing, anyone?

About halfway through the semester, I found myself dead in Gil’s waters. For the first time in my life, I had a “D” average and simply could not grasp accounting’s fundamentals. I’ll admit that I didn’t go out of my way to help myself. Maybe I could have found a tutor? Perhaps I could have studied on a nightly basis? I don’t know—who knows? Hindsight is 20/20, right?

So when Dr. Gil would pose a question to the class and ask us to work on it for a few minutes before he called on someone to answer, I would often stare off into space without even trying. I knew this business dream would not reach fruition. I already envisioned the next semester surrounded by my fellow English bookworms who had no aspirations of wealth, much less a reasonable income.

“D9.”

Huh?

“D9.”

I shot to attention and found Dr. Gil’s eyes staring straight at me. I pointed to my chest and said, “Me?”

“Yes, you,” Dr. Gil grumbled. “D9. Tell us your solution.”

“To …?”

Dr. Gil squinted before saying, “To the equation.”

I looked to the students on either side of me. I didn’t know the girl at all. The guy lived on my floor and we sort of knew each other, but he suddenly needed to study his table’s surface. Neither of them would even glance in my direction. I was alone.

“I don’t have a solution.”

Dr. Gil said, “A wrong solution is better than no solution. Tell us what you have.”

“I don’t have anything.”

“You didn’t even try, D9?”

“I mean, that’s not my name. My name is—”

“Inconsequential. You have nothing. You attempted nothing. You’re doing nothing. Is this correct?”

I could feel the sweat forming on my brow as Dr. Gil and 199 other people gawked at me in disbelief. “Um … yeah. I guess that’s correct,” I said. “I don’t have anything.”

Dr. Gil folded his arms, looked down his nose at me, and barked, “From now on … shape up, D9!”

“That’s not my name,” I mumbled. Of course, because I sat so close, he heard me.

“I don’t care what your name is!” Dr. Gil shouted. “You are wasting my time! You are wasting a seat! From now on, you will attempt to participate in this class, or you will leave!”

At that point, I set my chin, glared into his watery eyes, and said, “You can’t talk to me like that.”

The whole lecture hall gasped.

Dr. Gil seethed, “What did you say?”

“You heard me,” I replied. My voice remained steady. I had complete control over my emotions. But I needed to let this man know that he had no control over me. “You may be the professor, but that doesn’t mean you can talk to me like that.”

Dr. Gil unfolded his arms before methodically stretching one of them out and pointing at me. He hissed, “Leave.”

“No.”

“Leave … now!”

“You can’t make me leave.”

Dr. Gil truly lost it. He shrieked, “Leave or I will call security!”

I stood, folded my arms just as he had done, and lectured, “I’m a student paying tuition. I’m essentially your customer. Yes, I’m here to gain knowledge from you, but you’re not my boss, my supervisor, my manager, my superior, or my parent. You have no authority over me other than to assess my comprehension of your material. You can fail me if you want, but that is where your power ends, pal.”

At that point, Dr. Gil fell over and we could no longer see him behind his podium. Imagine my shock when seconds passed and not a single person moved from their seats. Since I was already the star of the show, I raced to the end of my row, flew down the steps, and found Dr. Gil on the floor. High school health instantly popped into my mind allowing me to realize that Dr. Gil suffered a heart attack.

I ordered, “Somebody find a phone and call 911!” (Remember, this was 1997.) I then dropped to my knees and initiated CPR. I don’t want to brag, but after they arrived, the EMTs credited me with saving Dr. Gil’s life.

He obviously couldn’t finish the semester, so the school decided to excuse us from the course while awarding all of us A’s. Even though I didn’t learn jack squat, I still managed to score an A in accounting!

I visited Dr. Gil regularly in the hospital and, against all odds, we actually became friends. After I graduated with an English degree, he pulled a few strings and helped me find work in the corporate communications department of a large accounting firm.

What a great story, right?

Of course, that’s all it is.

A story.

I wish that was how things had happened.

The truth is, he told me to shape up after he caught me daydreaming. I turned red as an apple, muttered, “Yes, sir,” and then, from that moment forth, only showed up to class on test days. I failed, ruined my overall GPA, and promptly switched majors at semester’s end.

I learned a lot about myself that day.

I’m still thinking about it all these years later.

_______________________________________________

Copyright © 2022 by Scott William Foley

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews or articles.

Thor: Love and Thunder – A Movie Review

Maybe I’m a prisoner of the moment, but Thor: Love and Thunder is absolutely one of my favorite Marvel movies.

First of all, even though the special effects are completely epic, the storyline itself is fairly straightforward and each character’s motivations are clear. This goes a long way with a mainstream crowd. On the one hand, I’ve seen every MCU movie and witnessed Thor’s evolution in real time. On the other hand, my wife has barely seen any of the Marvel movies, yet, thanks to flashbacks and addendums, she completely understood Love and Thunder and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. That’s quite a feat for a fourth installment to achieve!

Secondly, even though this is comic book movie full of larger-than-life events, the acting really is superb thanks to incredible actors. Let me throw some names at you: Natalie Portman. Christian Bale. Russel Crowe. Tessa Thompson. Bradley Cooper. These are big names with real acting credentials. Let’s toss in sheer star power as well with Chris Hemsworth (obviously), Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, and Vin Diesel. Furthermore, there are some very big cameos that I won’t spoil for you. And the person who helped write the story, directed the movie, and even acted in it as well? Taika Waititi.

Third, it’s just plain fun. The tone, the costumes, the jokes–it’s all a blast. Screaming goats, people! Screaming goats!

However, that brings me to my fourth and final point. Even though the jokes are fast and furious, I’ll also admit to you that this is one of the few MCU movies that truly gave me the feels. I teared up on several occasions. Is that the quality of the story, the acting, or the combination of the two? I’m not sure, but I was definitely invested in these characters, particularly Thor and Jane Foster.

Speaking of whom, I was thrilled to see Natalie Portman back as Jane Foster/Mighty Thor. I was also so relieved that they treated both Jane and Mighty Thor with the utmost respect. They nailed her story, they got the costume exactly right, and they let Natalie Portman have a little fun even as she also had to do a lot of the emotional heavy lifting.

Finally, I never would have guessed they could keep Thor interesting, but they keep finding ways. Chris Hemsworth has truly captured something magical in this character, merging the buffoonery of the Norse myth with the heroism of the Marvel comic’s character, and Taika Waititi has found a way to let Hemsworth walk that very fine line.

Obviously, I highly recommend Thor: Love and Thunder. It’s an entertaining two hours that brings both the laughs and the emotions while closing plotlines from the past and opening more for the future.