Where are all the good fantasy films?

Fantasy films

A Dearth of Films

Quick! Choose your favorite fantasy film. Or films.

It was Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, right? Both?

Let’s be honest. There’s not much more than these two franchises that have graced the silver screen when it comes to representing fantasy. At least traditional fantasy.

So let’s define fantasy for this article’s purposes. When I talk about fantasy, I’m not talking about Pixar where toys and cars come alive and rats can control people by pulling on hair. Nor am I talking about fairy tales where true love’s kiss cures all ailments (or doesn’t), although this is closer. I’m not talking about dystopian futures where kids kill each other for entertainment. Nor am I talking about space operas about space knights and space wizards that are supposedly classified as science fiction but have nothing based in science at all. And I’m not talking about people with superpowers who fight crime and other people with superpowers. No, if you count those, then fantasy in films is making more money than all the rest of the genres combined.

Which is why it’s so baffling that Hollywood doesn’t do more of the traditional fantasies, and that when they do, they mess them up. Lord of the Rings was a huge success, both commercially and critically. But while there’s a wealth of book and video game material to choose from, Hollywood has shied away from what you traditionally think of in fantasy, with magic and dragons and swords.

TV has had some moderate success, with Game of Thrones topping it, as well as shows like The Magicians, Supernatural, Once Upon a Time (although this is more fairy tale), and The Shannara Chronicles. If you look into animation, you can find Avatar: The Last Airbender and several anime series. Perhaps the longer format is better for telling the epic stories of fantasy, instead of cramming a large book into one movie (each of the Lord of the Rings) or one small book into several movies (The Hobbit). But putting something on television, unless it’s network television, limits the audience. How many people have HBO? Nickelodeon? SyFy? Yes, you can buy discs on DVD, who buys DVDs nowadays?

There have been attempts at establishing other franchises, but many have fizzled out. Narnia, Percy Jackson, Warcraft (probably), Alice in Wonderland, etc.

So what’s in the making, or what has been done?

Notable series

Game of Thrones has already surpassed the timeline of the books and is doing quite well. It is the poster child of fantasy fiction on TV. But that means we won’t see any movies.

The Magicians also seems to do pretty well for a SyFy show. But this anti-Narnia/Harry Potter is almost parody, not real fantasy, so I don’t know if it counts.

The Shannara Chronicles is a series on MTV, entering the second season. I actually watched it on Netflix, but like its source material, I found it pretty shallow. 

So where are series like The Wheel of Time? Well, that might be coming to TV. Eventually. Maybe? There was an announcement nearly a year ago, but it didn’t give any details. So I’m kind of skeptical on that. And even if it does happen, would it be any good? Would it have the same budget as Game of Thrones, or would it be more like Shannara Chronicles? That is a big issue for TV shows delving into sci fi and fantasy.

http://geekandsundry.com/the-wheel-of-time-is-officially-coming-to-television/

What about The Sword of Truth series? Well, that was made into a TV show called Legend of the Seeker. Most accounts say it’s not very good.

What about Brandon Sanderson’s books? Well, there’s hope for this. He recently had his Cosmere Universe movie rights sold to DMG. So all his books in the Cosmere could become films. But there are a few issues that concern me. First, would they fit into two and a half hours? Second, who’s DMG? Would they actually be able to pull it off? We’ll have to see.

http://www.tor.com/2016/10/27/brandon-sandersons-cosmere-universe-movie-rights-sold-to-dmg-entertainment/

Finally, King Aurthur, which tends to be more psuedohistorical and not magical in film, is getting another movie this summer. Will it be fantasy? More importantly, will it be good? Who knows?

Video Games

Video games are notorious for failing to translate to films. Just watch Super Mario Bros. Fantasy outings share the same fate. Here a a couple of examples:

Final Fantasy created a movie called The Spirits Within, completely CGI. While advanced for its time, the characters entered the uncanny valley and the plot revolved around some mumbo jumbo philosophy, so it bombed. Other films, like FF7 Advent Children and FFXV Kingsglaive were pure fan service. 

Warcraft became a movie, but wasn’t very successful here in the USA. We’ll see if there’s a sequel. 

Conclusion

So in the end, if you look hard enough, you can find some fantasy fare outside of books and video games, of different levels of quality. And there is hope for the horizon, but they aren’t necessarily good. Still, I believe Hollywood as a whole is missing out on fulfilling audience desires of escapism, and nothing does it better than fantasy. What books or stories would you like to see on film or TV?

Biology of Orcs

Orcs

Have you seen the Warcraft movie? Me neither. I don’t even play World of Warcraft. But I did play Warcraft 2 and 3. And the series as a whole has been concerned mostly about the conflict between humans and orcs. But what are orcs? In this series, they’re green. In Tolkien, they’re different. The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy had them as black. The Hobbit trilogy had them as white, even with the same director. Other series have borrowed from the concept of orcs and have their own versions. So let’s try to define orcs, inasmuch as possible. 

Origin of Orcs

Orcs were created by Tolkien as an alternative name to goblins. They share linguistic roots with the word Ogre. Orcus was latin for the underworld and then came to mean demon. So while Tolkien created what we know as orcs, they have been floating around in our mythology for a long time, just under different names. Some works even have them at the side of smaller goblins and larger ogres and trolls. But Tolkien unwittingly solidified them into their own separate race, since the Uruk’hai did not appear like the goblins of Myth.

Role of Traditional Orcs

In the majority of traditional works using orcs or other creatures of a similar vein, they fulfill the trope of Dark Lord’s armies. Basically, they are the faceless, evil, stupid, or all three. And while they might be physically intimidating, their only real strength is in numbers. If not threatening, then they are at least comic relief.. They are nothing more than an obstacle. And not even the main obstacle. They are the underlings of the true antagonist, like Sauron. They have no culture, no morals, no worth.

These orcs are that way so that the protagonists can have enemies they can kill without remorse. If Gimli and Legolas had to kill humans instead of orcs, they wouldn’t be boasting about how many they killed. Seeing your enemy as human makes them appear less like your enemy. That is why leaders go to such lengths to portray enemies as subhuman, as ‘Others.’ And attempts to make your own army more frightening by deemphasizing their humanity just backfires. See Stormtroopers, the orcs of a galaxy far, far away.

With these orcs, the hero is shown as awesome for defeating them, without the moral stains of spilling blood. Because orc blood is green goo. It’s not a sin to slay them.

Role of Revisionist Orcs

Modern revisionist orcs have taken on a different tone. Where in the first few Warcraft games, they resembled Tolkien orcs in purpose, by Warcraft 3 they were given culture and turned into another trope: the noble savage. They are a mishmash of different tribal cultures, not less intelligent than humans but not as advanced technologically as the humans they fight against. The conflict is more a conflict of cultures than good versus evil, and they are sometimes even portrayed as more righteous than humans, especially when it comes to ecological concerns. They are more connected to the earth. In essence, they are more green than humans, in every sense of the word. 

As a side note, I’ve never liked the Noble Savage trope. It always seemed too patronizing and simplified. Native Americans, for example, were just as complex as the Europeans that invaded their lands, having both good and bad things about them. They may have respected the earth a bit more, but that would have probably changed if they had discovered metal forging on their own. They were humans, just like everyone else.

Biology of Orcs

Generally portrayed as humanity’s enemy, they may be humanized or monsturized, but they are not human. Or are they? That depends.

First of all, are orcs mammals? Most accounts point to the answer being yes. We generally don’t see them laying eggs. They often have hair. When there are females, they are shown with breasts. Seems like mammals to me.

The only thing against them being mammals is the color of their skin, when it is green (which probably only exists because people painted their Warhammer orc models green to distinguish them from other armies). That makes them look more reptilian, since there is no mammal we know of that has green skin or hair. But everything else points to them being mammals. See the video below as to why it’s hard to have green skin as a mammal, but not necessarily impossible:

Aside from their coloring, the biggest difference between orcs and humans are their faces. Orcs generally have upturned noses and sometimes tusks. What does that remind you of? Pigs. Warthogs. The Welsh word for pig is Orc. Orc rhymes with pork. The thing that seems to unite all versions is this: they’re pig men (as if men weren’t already pigs). Just like it’s hard to create something completely original, so people have just been combining animals and humans to create their monsters, orcs are basically human pig hybrids. Pigs are disgusting. Orcs are meant to be disgusting, so you don’t feel sympathy for them.

So orcs don’t appear to be human, but some sort of distant cousin to them, not only because they are portrayed as a hybrid, but because they can often interbreed with humans. Any two species that can interbreed can’t be too far apart. Maybe they are green neanderthals.

Super Powered

The Warcraft orcs are bigger than humans, wielding massive weapons. It’s interesting that they are built so blocky (because of the original overhead view on the computer screen) as they would need to be more blocky to survive at that size. Even at 7 feet tall, with their bulk, they would weigh several hundred pounds, looking more like gorillas than humans. Could something that big survive? Maybe. They would have to eat a lot to sustain that weight, which would be hard as carnivores. But it would make them a lot more powerful than a human. So powerful any fight between them would be unfair. Yet for some reason the human hero always wins.

Future

So were do they go from here? Will they no longer be used as much, because audiences no longer want such simple enemies? Will the noble orcs be replaced by human noble savages? Is there a new branch of storytelling for them to follow, something different than what came before? Will they ever get a chance to be taken seriously, as a real threat to humanity in and of themselves, and not guided by a dark lord? I think that if they do continue on, it will be in a reinvented form that rejects the two mentioned above. Maybe they will be truly alien instead of pig men. There’s the potential for more, or the potential for them to disappear. Only time will tell.

More info about Orc tropes

My Thoughts on E3 and the Future Consoles

E3

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, a place where video game companies show off their future games and consoles, finished over a week ago, but I’m still processing what I saw there, and I only focused on a small portion of the event. It has been an interesting year, including the behind-the-scenes speculation I came across. Here I’m going to focus on what impacted me, personally.

I’m not the gamer I used to be. When I was a teenager, I used to play each day. I was mostly into RPGs, but would still play multiplayer games with my brothers. Now, though, I don’t have nearly as many opportunities as I used to. I have a job, a wife, a baby, am going through a masters program, plus I’m writing a book and the content for this site. All of these things get in the way of playing video games. Plus my interest has waned. FPSs never interested me much, and a lot of RPGs are getting more gritty, something I don’t care for. So I’ve focused my attention this conference on two main titles that interested me, a throwback to my first gaming experiences. These were Final Fantasy XV and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Neither of these blew me away, but they do look interesting.

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV didn’t really seem to reveal a whole lot of new stuff. I think we’re at a point that not much new stuff will come out, you’ll just have to experience everything in the game. So far the story doesn’t look fantastic, but I optimistically think that they’re just hiding it so you can experience it in-game, which I don’t mind. Better than revealing everything like recent movie trailers have done.

I saw some new stuff for Kingsglaive, the Final Fantasy XV tie-in movie. Square produced two other movies for the Final Fantasy franchise, Spirits Within and FFVII Advent Children, but neither came close to the games in terms of quality storytelling, although the graphics looked beautiful for their time. Kingsglaive might have the same problem. It looks nice, but I don’t know that it’s really necessary and I doubt it will draw many newcomers to the franchise, so I question the need to do it. It’s supposed to tell parts of the story that couldn’t be included in the game, but I would rather just have the game itself tell everything. I don’t really like the trend of storytelling through multiple platforms, because if you don’t go through each platform, then you miss out on content. We’ll see how this strategy works out.

There also was a little bit about a VR version of XV, but it looked stupid, just a way to ogle the character Cindy (who I don’t like because the whole point of her seems to be eye candy. I’m married, and if my wife sees me playing and she’s around, things would get uncomfortable. I wish they hadn’t designed her that way).

Zelda

Nintendo had the opposite position with Zelda at E3. Instead of nothing new, everything was new. This was the first real look at the new Zelda game, coming to Wii-U and the NX in March 2017. I thought there were some nice ideas, but as others have pointed out, if you take away the Zelda title, they’ve all been done before. Weapon stats, breaking weapons, camping, and clothing is not really new and I feel like it’s lost its uniqueness by going that route, even if this was the original vision of Zelda.

Both Final Fantasy and Zelda have adopted the open world feel for the first time, in order to save the franchises. But the open world games have been out for a while now, so it’s more of “It’s about time,” than “Oh, wow.” And I personally don’t mind a fairly linear story line (as long as it’s not like the extreme example of Final Fantasy XIII). I felt the demos of Zelda showed a game without much purpose. The gameplay seemed to get caught in the details and lose the overall story, whatever that is. But we’ll have to wait and see.

Consoles

Of course, at the moment, I can’t play either of these titles, because I don’t have either console (Wii-U and PS4 or XBox 1). So the information about the consoles at E3 has interested me.

I found a lot of this information in this Forbes article, so you may want to take a look:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2016/06/23/the-very-different-problems-facing-xbox-scorpio-playstation-neo-and-nintendo-nx-in-2017/#25fd985c59b4

From what I can gather, Microsoft only planned on showing the XBox One Slim at E3. But then leaks forced them to reveal their work on the Scorpio (a more powerful version of the XBox One, but would still play the same games) before its time. So Microsoft left a muddled message of: Buy the XBox One Slim! But then buy the Scorpio! Or just keep your current one, because they all play the same games! It seems the Scorpio would be useful if you have a 4K TV, which I know I don’t.

This announcement in turn disrupted the Sony announcement of the Neo. If rumors are true (4 teraflops instead of 6), it wouldn’t be as powerful as the Scorpio. So instead of announcing it at the end of their conference, they put in some filler trailers and ended weakly, possibly to go back and improve their machine before it gets released, based on what they learned about the Scorpio. So we still don’t have any official announcement.

E3 didn’t tell us much about the NX, Nintendo’s new console, so we still know very little. Rumors before told of a system more powerful than the current generation. Then  Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé said something at the conference, in reaction to the news on Scorpio. He said they were focused on content more than teraflops. This makes me think that the NX was more powerful than the current versions of the PS4 and XBox One. It just doesn’t compare to the new versions. Still, if so, it’s not that bad, because supposedly developers will still be developing for the current versions and the new versions will just have bonus power, and so they could theoretically develop for the NX as well. Which is what I’m hoping.

I’m hoping the NX gets a lot of third party support, especially from Square Enix. I hope to play both Zelda and Final Fantasy XV on it. Then I wouldn’t have to choose between the two games because I can only afford one console. I think that is how Nintendo could win out. If they have the games people want to play on other consoles, as well as their own first party games as well, from Zelda to Mario to Smash Bros, people will buy it. That’s what gets me excited. But only time will tell how things turn out.

So who won E3? I don’t know, there’s still too much unrevealed. But it certainly made things interesting.

 

City of Stairs Book Review

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Review

I have some mixed feelings on this book. For the most part I liked it, but some things didn’t work so well for me. So I’m going to do a pro vs con list for my review.

Pros

The setting is different from most fantasies. Set in a semi modern analogue to Russia, conquered by an analogue to India, it makes things a bit more diverse, especially when the heroine is a little brown girl with big glasses.
It has an air of mystery and wonder to it throughout the whole novel, juxtaposed to the aforementioned setting.
It has a rich mythology.

Cons

Shara, the heroine, feels like a Mary Sue. She seems just a little too smart. Her companion, Sigrud, is a Gary Stu when it comes to fighting. Between them, there isn’t much suspense when they get to the action.
There are some parts that go deep into exposition, especially one part where Shara explains everything while cooking. While there was a lot of stuff to explain, some of it should have been parsed out more.
Along with telling too much, there was some showing too much. One time when a monster attacks, we see several viewpoints telling us basically the same thing, just how powerful it was. After the second or third, I was like, “I get it already.”
Some of the mythology seems to be a critique on organized religion, especially religions like Catholicism and Judaism. It seemed like the message was, “You don’t need God, nor should you follow any rules religions proscribed.” It kind of rubbed me wrong.

I see that this is book number one of The Divine Cities, but the ending pretty much wrapped itself up, so I don’t know where any other books would go with it. Not that I wouldn’t mind returning, but the way it ended, I don’t know how much more there is to explore. We’ll see.

View all my reviews

What Makes a Good Monster

Roc Monster
Monsters don’t exist, just in case you were wondering. You’re free to look under your bed now.
But why don’t they exist? What makes something a monster?
In old India, surely they thought of tigers as monsters who would take down anyone that wandered out of the safety of the village. Sailors seeing whales for the first time probably thought them monsters. But are tigers and whales monsters? No. They are animals, more specifically mammals. No matter how fierce, dangerous, or powerful they are, they can’t be monsters. Why?
Because they’ve been classified.
They’re no longer a mystery. They’ve been studied. They’ve been placed into zoos and aquariums. We kill many more of them than they of us. And they present absolutely zero threat to human civilization at large.
So again, what makes a monster? The mystery.
In some fantasy worlds, there are fantastic creatures, powerful, scary, and even threats to humanity. But many of them wouldn’t be monsters, because they’re too well known. So orcs and dragons may or may not be monsters, depending on how well they’re understood. On the other hand, in a sci-fi story, if aliens come to invade and we have little knowledge of them, they would be monsters. Frankenstein and Dracula are monsters because no one really understands them, and they’re not a species of animal.
There’s the old cliche that we fear what we don’t understand. While not really true in all cases, in some things, our lack of understanding gives it power over us. The best horror movies leave whatever paranormal creatures in the shadows, not fully understood. Their motives are alien, their biology uncertain.
But what happens when we create monsters out of each other? When we talk about serial rapists as monsters, it’s not just about the heinous acts they commit, although that is a big part of it, but because most people don’t quite understand what drives someone to do those acts, to bypass all moral constraints we’ve had in place since our childhood.
Sometimes we make a whole people we don’t understand into monsters. Muslims, Communists, Nazis, Native Americans. All these groups had both good and bad people (even the Nazis, who were mostly convinced that everyone else, and especially groups like Jews and homosexuals, were the monsters).
Many of the grand scale atrocities in history came because one group dehumanized another, making them ‘others,’ or a monster, and pitting us against them. George R. R. Martin even calls his monsters the Others in the Game of Thrones books.
So ignorance isn’t bliss. Naivety might be, but ignorance is just fear. Fortunately, we have so many resources with the internet that ignorance is willful as well. If you’re ignorant, it’s your own fault. So get out there and try to understand other people, customs, religions, and politics.
And if you’re writing horror, keep us guessing, don’t reveal too much about your monsters.

Why Fantasy Worlds Suck if You’re Not the Chosen One

Chosen One
At the heart of many fantasies is the idea of the Chosen One, one who is prophesied to destroy evil, bring balance, etc, etc. Harry Potter, the boy who lived, is one famous example. Anakin Skywalker is another, albeit with a twist. Then there’s Aladdin, Neo from the Matrix, Katniss, Rand al’Thor, Garion, the Pevensies, Richard Rahl, Eragon, Thomas Covenant, Percy Jackson, Emma Swan, King Arthur, Link, Sora, and others who fulfill (or sometimes subvert) this trope. Even Kung Fu Panda does it. Here’s a more complete list: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheChosenOne
There’s also another trope in fantasy: you’re either born with magic or not. Not every story does it, but a lot do, which is strange in a way. What abilities in real life are people born with that other people can’t do? Sure, some people seem to be more talented, but practically anyone can learn any ability (just not all of them). Yet in fantasy worlds, that’s not the case. Maybe because it would be hard to imagine a society full of magic users. Either way, it makes a tough life for the characters who are neither the chosen one nor have magic.
But then again, we never think of these characters, because we are meant to identify with the chosen one. Because the biggest fantasy in the fantasy genre is that we are somehow special. That’s one of the main motivators in reading/viewing fantasy. The idea of magic, at its heart, is of being special. In science fiction, there can be technology that’s so advanced it appears magic. But it’s available to everyone (might need some training, though). Magic takes you to an exclusive club, you might even be the only one with it, even if it takes training to master. It is much more about the individual than a society.
This is true even without magic, per se. Superpowers are the exact same thing, just usually in a more modern context. And then there are the people who get sucked into a new world *cough* Narnia *cough* that they have to save, even though they have no expertise, no knowledge of the area, no magic, nothing qualifying them for the task at hand, but they have to do it, just because. And of course they’re successful, even if they didn’t really do anything. Frodo had to sneak into Mordor because…for some reason, only he could resist the ring’s lure? Not some super stealthy ninja, just a hobbit.
So how do you think that makes the Chosen One’s friends feel? Suddenly Mr. Nobody is Mr. Hero because…no real reason. Either he was born with some power and is just now manifesting it, or he got chosen by…prophecy? Who exactly is in charge of these prophecies in the first place? It’s not very fair. They didn’t actually do anything to earn their place. And even if they go on a big, scary adventure, they’re the chosen one, they can’t die (or if they do, they come back to life).
Now you may argue that they’re like Christ figures, if you’re a Christian. He was chosen before birth, given a special destiny. But the characters in these books aren’t perfect (or if they are, they’re boring) and Christ earned his chosen status through his perfection. The Chosen Ones in stories are doofuses.
Either way, the Chosen One is usually not very qualified (Harry vs Hermoine), not the most powerful (Frodo vs Gandalf (or anyone)), and is usually pretty boring, aside from occasionally being able to provide snarky commentary or gallows humor. Yet they are chosen, while the rest of the world languishes without magic or destiny, serving only as orc fodder when the dark lord tries to hurt the hero by striking at their home.
So to all those non-Chosen Ones out there, who are stuck in dead end jobs, bad relationships, poverty, and bad health, and who don’t get a magical break from their sad lives:
It sucks to be us.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Thoughts

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy 7 changed my life.

I played the original Playstation version a few years after it came out, getting the Playstation in part just to play that game. I was introduced to a demo of it, and while it was only the first 20 minutes of play, I was amazed at the scale. The whole story managed to exceed my expectations. I had no idea video games could create such a profound sense of storytelling. I played the other Final Fantasies and liked them, but this one remained special.

There was just one problem. The graphics were horrible. They could give you headaches just looking at them. You basically had to imagine what it would really look like, as if reading a book, but with all the crazy hairstyles, even that wasn’t easy. Things like Advent Children came along and recreated the characters in life like detail, but they didn’t really feel like the original. I felt like they lost the spirit of FF7. I wanted the story retold, remade.

I had been hoping for this game for so long that I never believed it would happen. So I was stunned when the announcement trailer finally came out. Stunned, and wondering if it was an April fool’s day joke (despite not being April).

News has been pretty scarce, but then this trailer came out, focusing only on those first twenty minutes I saw in that demo so long ago, and I have hopes that they will be able to faithfully recreate the game.

I try to be optimistic, but there are a few details that keep my expectations down. Barret with sunglasses? His voice (are these going to be the actual voice actors?) Wedge’s squeaky voice was especially jarring. And I fear battles might get a little too Kingdom Heart-y, with sparkles all over the screen. But the trailer also lost the loftiness and mumbo jumbo of the compilation of FF7 games and media and went back to the roots, which is good.

I’m glad the battle system is not turn based anymore, it would look especially out of place with the new graphics. I just hope it doesn’t go over the top (although FF7’s summons could do just that, basically destroying the world to hurt one bad guy. Or the solar system.)

I am a little disappointed by the announcement to make this episodic. I just hope that each part doesn’t cost $60. I don’t even have a PS4 yet, and don’t want to add substantially to that cost. I also wonder how long we’ll have to wait between episodes. If it’s too long, some people might not stick around long enough to see the ending of a game they’ve already played.

Still, I’m cautiously optimistic.

More info here.

Triforce of Gaming

I mentioned that FF7 changed my life. Two other games did so as well, although not as much in the story telling department. They are The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Super Smash Bros. So imagine my surprise when Cloud was announced for Smash Bros. I could now use Cloud against Link or vice versa and have them battle it out. I only have Smash Bros. on a 2DS, but it’s still fun. And there’s the possibility that this means Final Fantasy 7 Remake will come for the Nintendo NX, where I could play Smash, Zelda, and Final Fantasy all on one console!

 

10 Easy Ways to Become a Millionaire

Millionaire
Ever see mansions or Mercedes-Benz and wish that you were a millionaire and could buy those things? Do you scoff at the old saying that ‘Money can’t buy happiness’? Do you want to not only keep up with the Joneses, but leave them eating your dust? If so, thank your lucky stars because you’ve just found the perfect article!

The 10 Steps to Become a Millionaire

Below are ten easy ways to become a millionaire. They are fast, require little work, and are guaranteed to make you rich.* So stop feeling sorry for yourself and go get ‘em, tiger!
*Some conditions apply.

1. Go for the gold!

Literally, go find some gold. I mean, it’s worth a lot, so it will make you rich in no time flat. Why do you think California is the richest state in the union? The gold rush of ’49, of course! Helpful items when searching for gold include, but are not limited to: sifters, metal detectors, and pirate treasure maps (silly pirates, they should have just put their money in a bank and let the interest accrue). Once you have your gold, sell it immediately! We all know that shiny metals have no intrinsic value, but the stock market analysts seem to have other ideas. Show them how wrong they are!

2. Start up your career

Mark Zuckerberg’s baby is probably richer than you are, and Mark’s a college drop out. So what are you waiting for? Drop out of college, get some investors to back up your awesome tech idea, and get ready to roll in the dough. You don’t actually need to run a business, just have a simple idea. Hire analysts, business majors, accountants, and social media experts to do all the work for you. Stop wasting time wherever you are and get out there, now!

3. Inherit the riches of the earth

Face it. Your parents are holding back on you. How much money does it take to stay alive these days? Not much. Why? Because the government will take care of you. Not you, you, but your parents. Now I want you to demand all the money they have saved up for retirement, and transfer it to you posthaste. They’ll be fine, but you won’t if they don’t. And frankly, they owe it to you. I mean, who made those cute faces and said adorable nonsense? You, as a baby, that’s who. You just can’t hire that kind of talented entertainment. But did they pay you anything for that? I don’t think so! What kind of horrible people are they, expecting pro bono work all the way up till you turned 18? That breaks so many child labor laws, you could sue them. And do it, if they don’t cough up the cash. Just make sure your parents aren’t dirt poor already. Get some that have lots of money.

4. In it to win it

Now what are you doing, sitting at your phone or computer, reading this? Get up and get to your nearest gas station! Do you know how much money the power ball will get you? Enough to buy a small island, that’s how much! It’s like a no-brainer. I don’t know why the millionaires out there don’t go and buy up as many tickets as they can, but their stupidity is your luck. Now go out, buy your ticket! Or you could get down to Vegas, stay in a fancy hotel, and bet, bet, bet like your life depended on it! Bring the whole family so you can cover more ground! What place is more family oriented than Las Vegas, anyway?

5. Just do it!

Those people at Nike, they’re geniuses. No wonder all of their employees are millionaires with mad sports skills. Get a job with them. But if you don’t make it past the first interview, never fear! Buy a pair of their shoes and become a pro-athlete! They make the big bucks! Michael Jordan, in retirement, still makes more money than your whole extended family. So be the rich, eccentric uncle/aunt you always wished you had, and spoil those nephews and nieces (just watch out for your own kids, see #3).

6. Sing your heart out

#5 not working out for you? Then upload a video of yourself singing in the shower and you’ll be contacted by recording studios in no time! With auto tune, they can make anyone into a superstar! Just look at Justin Beiber.

7. Pot of Gold

Live in a state where marijuana isn’t legal? Then there are citizens clamoring for an untapped market. Or you could choose any other drug. The important thing is to give the people what they want. That’s what I call community service.

8. Kickstart your career

The internet makes these things so easy. Just go to Go Fund Me and make up a sob story like your rosebush having cancer. Then wait for the money to flow in. You’ll be a millionaire in no time. ‘Nuff said.

10. Know thyself

What could be more important than knowing your own identity? Stealing one, of course. Think of all the money you could make when someone carelessly leaves their computer open, their cellphone on the bench, their taxes in the mail, or uses a silly password like 1234? You can make bank while still teaching someone a valuable life lesson. It’s win-win.

 

Wondering where #9 went? Ask Microsoft. I’m still waiting for Window 9. But while we wait, start implementing these suggestions to be a millionaire. And if they work out for you, don’t forget the source of your wisdom. I’d love a cut of the profits. After all, this article did take a ton of research (and so far, nothing’s paid out yet). Thanks for reading.

Heroics part 2

Heroics

If you haven’t read Heroics part 1 already, go here first.

Within fifteen minutes, he arrived at the gates. With the help of some of his guards, after dispatching Jadek’s, he pushed open the doors in a dramatic gesture. Light from the cloudy sky filled the hall. His footsteps echoed all around him.

Going in deeper, dispatching more guards, Brom entered the hall to confront Jadek. He wanted Arabella, and no one would stop him. Clenching his sword until it hurt, as well as his teeth, he scanned the dark room. At the back facing him was his nemesis.

“You have broken the treaty, Brom,” came the voice from the shadows. Brom’s vision adjusted to the darkness. Jadek looked like he wanted to jump out of his throne and strangle him. Brom almost wanted him to try.

“The treaty was meaningless once you kidnapped my wife,” Brom said with deadly calm.

Jadek looked incredulous. “That is what this is about? You pillage my city for a girl?”

“You brought this upon yourself. Now where is she? Locked away?”

“I’m right here,” Arabella said, coming out of the shadows to the right of Jadek. Lush golden hair, delicate face, cherry lips, swaying hips. Brom lost his breath. “You should have left us.”

“Let her go free!” Bloodlust threatened to take over Brom.

“I want to be with him, Prince Brom!” Arabella yelled, becoming even more beautiful. “I never wanted to be with you!”

Brom couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She was to be his wife. She couldn’t hate him. He had done so much for her. No, this was a mistake. She had been manipulated. This wasn’t her talking. He knew it. She would never say something like that in her right mind. Jadek had some leverage on her.

“What have you done to her?” Brom cried out. “Face me now!”

“You’re insane!” Jadek yelled. “Guards, stop him.”

Thus began the battle, Brom’s guards versus Jadek’s. Brom helped, giving the advantage to his side. The fight lasted several minutes, and Jadek escaped with Arabella, but Brom couldn’t get through. His own side suffered several losses before he disabled the last of them.

As soon as possible, he took off after Jadek and Arabella. He wasn’t sure where they had gone, but could guess. The castle wasn’t unfamiliar to him. Because Arabella wore heels, she slowed them down, and Brom found them trying to escape in the back entrance.

“Jadek, it’s over.”

“Why are you doing this, Prince Brom? What did I ever do to you?”

“You took my wife.”

“She’s not your wife yet, and she came to me. We love each other; she didn’t want to get married to someone she couldn’t love. Will you not allow us happiness?”

Brom sheathed his sword, breathing hard. He walked up to Jadek, each step a battle. Glancing at Arabella with regret, he held out his hand. Jadek took it, hesitantly.

Grabbing onto his hand, Brom took out his sword with the other and impaled Jadek, pulling him closer. Arabella screamed and ran to Brom, hitting him with her fists. Brom ignored her. Jadek’s eyes grew lifeless and he coughed blood.

Brom pulled out the sword and let Jadek drop to the ground. Tired of hitting him, Arabella dropped to the ground as well, putting her body over his and crying. Brom left them, sighing.

A month later, they were married. Brom was crowned prince of Thromwell as well, ruling in absence of his father. Arabella promised she would hate him forever, and did not let him in her rooms ever, not even on their wedding night. He didn’t have the will to argue.

A few days later Brom was on the throne in a pose of deep and sad contemplation. Trumpets started blaring, shaking him from his mental fantasy. The doors opened and in strode a regal figure. someone with a purpose. It reminded Brom of himself so recently, coming in on Jadek.

“Father,” he said simply.

“Brom Filmor,” his father, Reginald, said. Although he said it pleasantly enough, undercurrents of anger were manifest. “I have come for an accounting of the stewardship I left you.”

“Leave us,” Brom ordered everyone in his court.

“Let Hadrian stay,” Reginald said. “I do not wish to be completely alone with you.”

Hadrian stayed, but did not look pleased.

“Well?”

Brom sighed. “Hadrian, if you please.”

“Remember your promise, my prince,” Hadrian began.

“Yes, yes,” Brom said, waving his hand and turning around. He clasped his hands behind his back. “Hadrian counseled me against all of this, and I didn’t listen.”

Reginald stayed silent, but put his chin in his hand. Hadrian cleared his voice and began the report. “There was an…altercation. It ended up in a battle between Thromwell and Filmor. In the end, we lost two hundred and twenty three soldiers. Thromwell lost many more, mostly civilians of fighting age. Also, Jadek, king of Thromwell, was killed. Without heirs, and in the confusion, Brom declared himself king of Thromwell.”

“Prince,” said Reginald, signaling Hadrian to continue.

“Prince Brom took Lady Arabella Faus as wife, and they were married three days ago. I have nothing more to report.”

“Very succinct,” Reginald said. “Thank you for the report, Hadrian.”

“Thank you, majesty,” Hadrian said, bowing. “If I may be so bold, how fared the war with the Mithics?”

“Let me put it this way. After the heroics of my son, now with so few soldiers to call upon for reinforcements, you need not call me majesty much longer.”

“You lost?” Brom shouted, then remembered himself. “Father?”

“We had to resort to the defensive. The Mithics will be coming to invade soon. I had hoped to recruit from Filmor and Thromwell to put together one last defense of our kingdoms, but with the needless losses you caused, I don’t know if it will be enough. Plus, we cannot count on the morale of Thromwell’s troops, now. They might prefer Mithic rule to our own.”

“I’m sorry, father!”

Reginald took a step forward, his anger finally showing. “Is that all you can say? Sorry? You destroyed the kingdom while I was gone! All you had to do was nothing! Was that so hard?”

“I didn’t want Jadek to steal Arabella away!”

“Oh? And how did that work out? How’s the marriage?” Brom didn’t answer for a few minutes. “Hmm?”

“You obviously know, so don’t taunt me!”

They stared at each other. Reginald finally spoke up. “Hopefully the Mithics will allow our family to continue ruling under them. Even though it’s unlikely you’ll be producing heirs anytime soon. I hope you enjoyed being the hero, son. You conquered a kingdom, now we will be conquered. We need great leadership in this time of change. Which means no more heroics.”

Heroics part 1

Heroics

“My liege, Prince Filmor, we hate to bear bad news, but we have just received word that the Lady Arabella has been abducted in route to the city.”

Brom straightened up on his seat, situated by his father’s throne, empty as usual. This was the first tiding in days that had interested him. In fact, he had been caught up in a daydream about his future wife. He had only met her once, but that had been enough to leave him smitten. Declared one of the beauties of the land, Arabella’s smile, so timid but so knowing at the same time, enchanted him. His thoughts had wandered to the wedding night when the unfortunate news came.

“Arabella!” he said, rising from his seat and whisking his cape in back of him. “Something must be done. Who kidnapped her? Where were they heading?”

“To the west,” one of the quivering messengers said, kneeling at his feet. The man was scrawny, unlike Brom’s own physique.

What lay to the west? “Jadek,” he said, that one name taking on power.

“It would seem the logical conclusion,” one of his advisors, Hadrian, said. “What course of action would you suggest in the absence of your father? Diplomacy? Espionage?”

“Heroics,” Brom said, ignoring the messengers kneeling uncomfortably on the hard floor. “There will be no tolerance for such an audacious act. Prepare the military.”

“My prince, I would advise against such drastic terms. We have a trade agreement with the Thromwells, and marching an army into their territory would be an egregious break of trust.” Hadrian, with his balding head, furrowed his brows, making him look more ancient than his forty years.

Brom remembered the messengers, waiting to be addressed, and waved them away. Most of them left, but one stayed near, half bowing, looking hesitant. Brom waved him away more energetically; annoyed he had to waste so much energy on the man. The messenger smiled and left, running after his coworkers. Hadrian and Brom were alone now.

“Any treaty Jadek Thromwell had with us is null in light of this kidnapping.”

“But Brom, you have no idea it was Jadek in the first place.”

“I saw how he was looking at her in the feast. Father Morander would be ashamed to have someone so full of lust attending the event in his memory.”

“Perhaps, but I know your father was ashamed to have his son drooling after the same girl.”

“I was not drooling. Anyway, I saw how much he wanted to have her for his own, and how jealous he was of me when my father announced our betrothal.”

Hadrian sighed. “You are the regent while your father is gone, and you have every right to be concerned about the welfare of your future wife, but remember that I recommended against it. Only you will answer to your father when this is over.”

“And receive all the praise,” Brom said. “Really, this won’t even be an issue. Don’t fret, I will cast you in the best light possible.”

“As you will, my prince. I desire the best for your journey. I will notify the general of your decision. But please, do not make enemies lightly.”

“There is nothing to fear,” Brom said, fearing he would be the same when he was older. “The princess will return safely and we will soon be wed.”

“Assemble the men,” Brom ordered from his horse. The flag bearer raised the horn and blew. Brom felt the vibrations pulsing as they reverberated through the valley. His men offered up a cheer as the march began. He smiled down on them as a loving father would. He yelled out as loud as he could, hoping his thousand men could hear him. “Your future queen, Arabella, has been kidnapped. We must rescue her. We believe she is held captive in Melfor with the Thromwells. Once we arrive, leave no house, no store, no alley unsearched.” Thinking about Hadrian, he said, “Avoid violence, but use it as necessary. And do whatever is required to save the princess’s life.”

The city of Melfor stretched before them, vast as the clouds in the sky. In the distance stood Thromwell castle, where Brom was sure he would find Arabella. In case Jadek, the elder son who recently inherited the throne after his father died of the yellow fever, saw Brom coming and sent Arabella away into the city, he would have his men enter in and search every house. Luckily, most of Jadek’s men were with Brom’s father, fighting in the alliance against the usurpation of the Kingdom of Grim by the Mithics.

They made it to the gates of the town before getting any response. One of Jadek’s guards came out to meet them, dressed in violet finery, but looking annoyed. “What is the meaning of this, Prince Brom? Just because your father didn’t bring as many troops with him to war as we did doesn’t give you the right to trample into our fair city.”

“You know why we’re here. And do not insult my father, who is actually fighting, unlike Jadek.”

“As well as you,” the guard replied, sneering.

“Someone needs to run the kingdom!” Brom said, losing patience.

“Exactly.”

“What is your name?”

“I am called Firion, son of-”

“Firion, if you can’t give me Arabella right now, I am going to take over this city and burn down every house until I find her.”

“Arabella? Who is she?” There was a look of such confusion on the man’s face that for a moment Brom thought he might not know. Only for a moment, though.

“Put up your guard, because I am going to rescue her!” Brom charged Firion with his sword raised. Firion barely had time to take out his sword and block the strike which left him trembling.

“You’re mad!”

“That’s right!”

One of the men escorting Firion backed away and pulled out a horn. It took him a few tries, but it sounded throughout the city, while Firion and Brom fought. Brom’s army marched forward, ready to take on the opposing host.

Brom had to admit, the guard was a good swordsman, but that was no surprise, given his position. Still, Brom was bigger and used his brute force to his advantage. His troops marched past him.

Swords clashed, ringing nearly as loud as the horn. Thrust, side slash, feint, parry, thrust again. Brom pressed down, hoping to break Firion’s stance. When that didn’t work, he slid down and slid his foot in an arc, trying to trip him, but only managing to unbalance him.

So he jumped on him.

Firion fell down, Brom on top. Not about to take any chances, Brom plunged the sword into Firion’s chest, pushing through the armor. Firion just gurgled in surprise, eyes already going blank.

Taking his sword out, blood dripping, he stood up and shook it before wiping it on Firion’s clothes. Red specks covered the ground.

Inside the city, people were running out of their houses, screaming. This only encouraged Brom’s army to chase after, pillaging and plundering. Brom hadn’t meant for this to happen, but getting control of them now would be nearly impossible, and he had to get to Castle Thromwell. Taking a unit of disciplined soldiers, he left orders with the general to round up the army and he took off.

A few peasants tried to stand up to him, yelling, calling him names, but he just cut them down. The castle stood like a white beacon, and everything else in sight was just a distraction. Arabella was waiting for him.

Read Heroics part 2 here.