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Diversity in media


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Let’s talk about diverse characters in fiction.

The above is a depiction from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.  The series is about Roland the gunslinger in his quest to reach the Dark Tower.  When we first meet him, it opens with the words “the man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed”.  Once Roland reaches the man in black, he learns he must draw forth three people to aid him.

One of those people (in truth, two of those people) is Odetta Holmes.  Odetta is described as the heiress to a fortune her father had built by developing a better way to help dentistry.  She is a civil rights activist in the late 50s early 60s.  And she is disabled, having her legs cut off below the knee when she was pushed in front of a train.  She also suffers from a form of multiple personality disorder.  Odetta is one personality, who is a forthright, logical thinking, polite individual.  The other personality is Detta Walker, a spiteful, harsh, fear filled woman who spits venom when she speaks.  Detta has a hatred of men (mostly white men as described in the book), and often threatens to kill Roland and Eddie (another of the people Roland drew from the doors to help him on his quest).

At the third door, which the reader believes is to be the third person to help, we discover that the person is in fact the man who pushed Odetta Holmes.  At some point Roland gets Detta to look into the door and she sees herself.  Or rather, she sees Odetta.  This causes the two personalities to recognize each other and forces them into a new personality, which becomes Susannah Dean.

Even in a wheelchair, Susannah is recognized by Roland as being a gunslinger.  He does not discount her ability or her tenacity just because she is bound to such a device.  And she proves in the second and third book that she is indeed a gunslinger as Roland teaches her what was taught to him.  He also teaches Eddie, but Roland believes Susannah is the better of the two.

Susannah is also very adept at movement even though she is confined to a wheelchair.  At one point in the third book, she crawls along the ground using her arms to catch up with Roland and Eddie, making hardly a sound as she goes.

Susannah Dean is one character that represents diversity and how it can be done in popular media.

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2014 in Fun, randomness

 

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Book Review: The Dark Tower – The Drawing of the Three


995123Stephen King’s epic series continues in this the second book of the Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three.

In this, Roland has to open three doors and choose three people to help him in his quest.  The first is Eddie Dean, a heroine addict who Roland first meets on an airplane bound from Florida to New York.  Eddie’s in the process of smuggling heroine back from suppliers to an Italian mob boss.  The second is Odetta Susannah Holmes, a wheelchair bound, black woman who is the heiress to a fortune.  But Odetta has another inside her; Detta Walker, a very cruel and spiteful woman.

What originally Roland believes to be the third person is in fact a way to make Odetta’s two halves see each other to become the third person.

Eddie comes from the late 1980s, while Susannah (as she becomes known) is from the late 50s/early 60s.  Neither of them are prepared for the strange world of the gunslinger’s.

As we progress through the story, we get to see each of their lives; Eddie and Odetta’s through Roland’s eyes and through their own conversations.  And little by little, a bit more of Roland’s as he is willing to offer it up.

This second book added another chapter to the series which makes for an excellent read.  Make no mistake, King’s style of writing is recognizable, but he manages to form and interesting world with the narrative.  With each person that joins Roland, it becomes more rich and interesting.  It also brings about questions that eventually get answered in the third book (only to be replaced with more questions).  But one thing is certain, the three join forces on the quest to the Dark Tower.

King’s choice of characters, time periods and even places is interesting.  Usually we’re used to his books taking place in Maine (at least in the horror genre and what was dubbed the Castle Rock stories).  Here, he chooses a black woman who had her legs below the knee cut off from a train accident (which we learn, wasn’t an accident at all).  And a white man, from the projects who has become a pawn in the trafficking of drugs.  Both come from New York City, and while they both come from different eras, Eddie still comes from a poor family and a poor neighbourhood (victimized by the mob that runs the place), Odetta is from an affluent family (although, she is still a black woman during the time before the Civil Rights Act passed and became law).  Roland gets to see all of this clearly, and even though the two come from different eras, he learns as much from one as from the other, and finds similarities.

Through Roland’s eyes, the things from our world seem magical, as he asks about things like Asprin (Astin) and flying coaches, believing alchemists must be sought after in this world.  But we can’t forget; Roland is a gunslinger, so even then he still has a different code.

The second book continues the journey and adds new and interesting characters to the quest.  But questions still remain.  Will the three survive together?  Will Roland find Jake?  What about the man in black?  And just how far are they from the Dark Tower?

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Fun, randomness

 

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Shameless self promotion AND fancast


Several months ago I made an entry giving a fancast of the book I’d written and the series I’m rebooting which gave faces to the names of the four elven characters.  I’ve recently been told that my choices may be a bit too old (which is rubbish, each of those choices is around the same age or slightly younger than I am, so I kinda take offense to that).

However, because of such things I decided that it might be fun to update the list with younger actresses to play the roles of the four gunslinging elves.  In order of appearance:

Shani Wennemein

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My choice for the role of the bullish and often times stubborn gunslinger and shadow walker, is Cara Gee.  Cara Gee was born in Calgary and is no stranger to stage and screen.  She was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for her role in the film Empire of Dirt and this fall stars as Kat Loving in the CBC drama Strange Empire.  A western set on the Alberta/Montana border, Loving attempts to seek revenge against her husband’s killer.  Cara would fit in well as the elven gunslinger, Shani Wennemein, who has a pragmatic and straightforward ideal of right and wrong.

Pania Alow

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My choice for the swashbuckler and herald, Pania Alow, is Natalie Dormer.  A well known actress for such roles as Anne Boleyn in the series The Tudors, Irene Adler/Jamie Moriarty in Elementary, and Margaery Tyrell in the series Game of Thrones.  She also plays the role of Cressida in the Hunger Games movie series.  Having played several roles which involves an outward confidence and even sarcastic attitude, Natalie would pick up the role of Pania quite well.

Wren Wennemein

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For the role of Wren, my choice is Tonantzin Carmelo.  A graduate of UC Irvine, her acclaimed stage roles include Anita in Exmagare, Christina Khalo/Paula in Frida Khalo, and multiple characters in Malinche. She is in national commercials and starred in the feature film King Rikki with Jon Seda and Mario López.  She is an Emerging Voice with the California Indian Storytellers Association and a mentor for the Native Voices Youth Playwright Project. She has recently provided her likeness and voice for the character Kendra Daniels in EA’s survival horror video game Dead Space.  Her likeness would also fit what I envision for Shani’s calm and placid sister, the Consoler and Healer, Wren.

Abisayo Temililou

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For the role of the paladin vowing to free her human cousins from slavery, my choice is Nicole Beharie.  Nicole is known for her roles in American Violet, The Express, Sins of the Mother, My Last Day Without You, Apartment 4E, and the Steve McQueen film Shame, where she starred opposite Michael Fassbender.  In 2013 she starred as Rachel Robinson, the wife of Jackie Robinson, in the historical baseball film 42.  That same year she began her role as Abbie Mills, a police officer from the small town of Sleep Hollow.  Nicole would be do well in the role of Abisayo, the oldest daughter of the chieftan of a Yoruba nation and a paladin and protector of her people, who would eventually become the lover of Pania Alow.

Those are some of my choices to play roles in the series I’m writing based on the book I’ve published, The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider, which is still available in print.

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Lulu.com

Tim Holtorf Author Spotlight the front page store for my books on lulu.com.

Amazon.com (both in paperback and in kindle versions)

The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider

Amazon.co.uk (both in paperback and in kindle versions)

The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider

Barnes & Noble (for the Nook)

The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider

iTunes iBook store

The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Black Mask and Pale Rider, Fun, Writing

 

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Moving!


 
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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Life, randomness

 

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Book Review: The Dark Tower – The Gunslinger


The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

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The opening line of Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series is a powerful and very descriptive line, without going into huge detail.

The Gunslinger is Roland of Gilead, who is based off of the poem by Robert Browning called Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.  Make no mistake, this series and this first book has very fantasy elements to it; talk of mages and sorcerers, dark magic, portals between planes of existence, and even demons and devils that manifest into reality.  But while it has it’s Arthurian aspects to it with the grand and epic quest, Roland of Gilead’s world is also the world of the wild west.  Whereas knights of old would have codes and honours with the blade and sword, in Roland’s world those codes and honours exist but it’s with the way of the gun.

And Roland is an expert gunslinger.

We find this out when Roland has an encounter in the town of Tull, which ends horribly (for the citizens of Tull, and in a way, for Roland too).

While Roland is seeking out the man in black, it is ultimately the Dark Tower he pursues.  Some undescribed place that holds ominous power that is felt merely in the whispers of it’s mention.  Something is there, and we want to find out as Roland goes on his quest.

This first book in the entire series was one I read years ago, but read again just to re-familiarize myself with it.  Originally, I’d only read the first three books in the series, of which there is seven (plus the Marvel Comics compilations should one seek to read those as well).  For those that like the epic adventure that fantasy often brings to the plate, but want to read something that is not in the same sort of backdrop as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (which King himself admits is something he drew on for the Dark Tower Series), then this series is one you should pick up.

This book series is far and away very different from King’s previous works that he is best known for.  But there is something familiar within these books as you read them.  His style is still there and still prevalent throughout the series.  It may not be horror, but there are moments that are horrific.  And that is just one of the things that makes this series worthwhile.

As a side note: it was King’s Dark Tower Series that helped with the inspiration for my own Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider, mixing the backdrop of the wild west with a pair of elven gunslingers who were adept at magic.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Fun, randomness

 

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Annie Oakley was a gunslinger


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Born Phoeby Anne Mosey on August 13, 1860, became an incredible target shooter and an expert marksman.  Her talent was so good that she toured as a part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.  Because of her showmanship and her ability to handle a gun, she became known as the very first women in the United States to be known as a superstar.  Oakley also was variously known as “Miss Annie Oakley”, “Little Sure Shot”, “Watanya Cicilla”, “Phoebe Anne Oakley”, “Mrs. Annie Oakley”, “Mrs. Annie Butler” and “Mrs. Frank Butler”.

But Annie was a gunslinger, a gun fighter, just as good as any man was, if not better.  This was proven when she won a contest against Frank Butler who bet a Cincinnati hotel owner he could out shoot any fancy shooter.  Annie, only fifteen years old at the time, did so with ease.  It wasn’t long after that Butler began courting Annie, and they were married in 1876 (it should be noted, Annie was only 16 years old, and that’s kind of creepy by today’s standards).

Annie Oakley wasn’t the only woman to wield a gun and be branded a trick shooter.  Martha Jane Canary, who wasn’t involved in a traveling wild west show, became known as Calamity Jane.

calamity jane

Jane’s bigger claim to fame was he claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok.  But she was a professional scout and frontierswoman, and helped Wild Bill fight against the Indians.  While many may have heard stories of a brutal nature, Jane is said to have been best known for her kindness and compassion, especially to the sick and needy.

While Jane was older than Annie Oakley, Jane’s exploits didn’t begin until Annie began her life in the showman’s circuits in the east.  Jane was already in Wyoming and South Dakota by this time.

The point is, we often hear stories of women like Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane and the first thought is that they are trick shooters.  When in fact, they do exactly the same thing that men are already doing (in Annie’s case, even better).  These two aren’t the only gunslingers of their kind; Belle Starr, Pearl Hart, Harriette Tubman, Kitty Leroy, and Sally Scull just to name a few (to read more about some of these women, click here).

For the longest time, the only gunslingers that were taken seriously were men.  This was even reflected in the media we consumed.  From books to television to movies (and even radio serial series) gunslingers, or the heroes of the story were always men and the women were there only to be saved or the love interest.  It`s taken a very long time, and there`s still a great deal of resistance, to portray women as gunfighters in their own right.

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The Quick and the Dead starred Sharon Stone as `The Lady” and she co-produced the movie that came out in 1995.  The premise was a reversal of the old story of the gunfighter who would roll into town looking for the man who shot his family.  Instead of it being the lone gunman it was a woman who lost her family as a child, and came back seeking revenge in a contest of quick draw between combatants in a lawless town.

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Bandidas starred Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz as two Mexican women who sought revenge against a cruel gunman who worked for a New York bank (played by Dwight Yoakam).  The gunman used intimidation and murder to get his way to have a rail line built through farmer’s lands.  Hayek and Cruz’s characters go onto a series of bank robberies to thwart the efforts of this gunslinger.

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True Grit that came out in 2010, is based on the novel of the same name, written by Charles Portis in 1968.  The book was adapted to film in 1969 and starred John Wayne.  The 2010 version includes Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper.  The story is another about revenge, where Mattie Ross hires the assistance of Marshal Rooster Cogburn in hunting down the man who killed her father.  Mattie is an intelligent and even stubborn young woman who tries to dictate the hunt for the killer.

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This CBC series is being released shortly in October of this year.  Strange Empire is a story who’s heroes are women.  Set in the 1860s along the Alberta-Montana border, three women set to act out revenge when the men in their town are all killed and the women forced into whoring.  It stars Cara Gee, Melissa Farman and Tattiawna Jones.

The trope of revenge is used in each of these examples, but it’s a familiar one when it comes to westerns.  The difference is that when the trope is used it’s used for men who want revenge against a cutthroat gunfighter.  It takes on a different light when it’s women who are the ones seeking revenge.  Often when it’s women thrust into the roll of a gunfighter seeking revenge, it’s treated more like a comedy (such as the feel from Bandidas) than an actual drama.  This idea needs to change.

Women are just as capable of seeking revenge as men are.  They are just as adapt at gunfighting as men.

Annie Oakley wasn’t a trick shooter.  She was a gunfighter.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Fun, randomness

 

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Rape Culture is pervasive in every culture


I’ve been spending some time watching an interesting video about men and rape culture.  Moderated by Eve Ensler, with panelists Peter Buffett, Jimmie Briggs, Joe Ehrmann, Tony Porter, Dave Zirin. I’ve seen a few of Tony Porter’s talks, there’s TED talks I’ve seen with him talking about the man box and how to tear that down.  Here’s the video, make some time to watch it as it’s two hours long.

There was a comment that Tony made that struck home in something that I’ve heard before in another aspect of culture, and that being in the media.  Tony mentions that men are not taught to be interested in women’s interests.  If you see a man or two men in a college environment that happen to be enrolled in a women’s studies class, there’s an assumption that either those men are trolling for a date (especially if there are two or three men in a class of thirty women), or that they happen to be gay.  There’s an automatic need for men to question that aspect.

And we see this in another area; comic books.  We have this very ingrained and stereotypical view of women who enjoy and read comics.  Women are questioned and grilled and forced to justify why they read comic books.  A woman walks into a comic book shop (for this shop, it may be her first time even though she’s an avid reader).  The men in that shop will automatically justify the reason why she’s there.  Say there’s ten men in the shop, chances are that only one will think “she’s here to pick up some comics or reserve a pull box for comics for the week”.  The rest will think she has either A) come in to meet her boyfriend B) come in to see if there’s some crappy indie comic C) has come into the wrong shop D) needs to get out of the rain/snow/wind and the shop was the closest.  There’s probably other automatic instances that come to mind, but for me those things are things I’ve actually thought of in the past.

Take that stereotype of women in comics and how readers and creators who happen to be women, and now exam the reactions to seeing men taking an interest in women’s interests.  It’s pretty clear that those men who question the validity of a man in a women’s studies course are exactly the same men who question the validity of a woman who reads comics.

This idea is present in every aspect of culture.  Rape Culture is merely a sub culture throughout everything.  And it starts with idiotic preconceptions about women, and idiotic preconceptions about men taking interest in women’s interests.  Which also goes hand in hand with homophobia.  Which also goes hand in hand with sporting events and athletics.  Which goes hand in hand with movies, television and books.  Which goes hand in hand with advertising.

Now at this point, someone is screaming “Whoa, hold on!  That’s too much!  We’re talking about rape culture”.  But rape culture isn’t a single thing you can point at.  There’s hundreds of venues where rape culture lives.  It’s lives in NFL stadiums, in CFL stadiums, in NHL arenas, on NBA courts, on the mound at the local ball park and in the MLB,  It exists at comic book conventions, right from San Diego down to Brandon, Manitoba and Humboldt, Saskatchewan.  It exists in Hollywood.  It exists in the business world.  It exists in high school.  It exists in the church.  And it exists in the home.

You might say that rape culture and violence against women doesn’t happen in the locker room, but the athlete doesn’t stop existing once they leave the locker room.  Look at what happened with Ray Rice.  Look further back to what happened to the young men that were sexually molested by their head coach who played with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL.  Look at the case of Ben Roethlisberger charged with rape.

If you say that violence against women isn’t pervasive in movies, tv and advertising, you need to crawl out of the rock you’ve been living under.  If you say it isn’t pervasive in the church, you’ve been ignoring years of abuse committed by Catholic priests.

This aspect of culture becomes worse when you look at race.  Black women suffer a greater deal of violence than white women.  First Nations women, even worse.  In Canada, there is a call to launch a public inquiry.  That’s how bad violence against First Nations women and children is in this country.

I can hear that lone cry, which happens to be really loud, coming from the opposite corner of the room.  “But men get raped too”!  I’m not saying they don’t.  But men don’t live their day to day lives in fear of being raped, sexually assaulted, or beaten.  Women do.  Men go on a blind date and think “I hope she’s not fat”.  Women go on a blind date and think “I hope he doesn’t kill me”.  Men may be victims of rape.  Boys may be victims of rape.  Women definitely are victims of rape.  But the primary perpetrator of rape is men.  A woman who rapes is nearly unheard of, even though it does happen.  But it does not happen nearly often as men who commit and promote acts of violence and acts of sexual violence.

Rape culture isn’t just one place that we can solve with something magical.  We have to understand that it exists everywhere.

I’m not gonna say that I came up with this all on my own.  This has come from the past few years since I wrote that little book about gunslinging elves.  I’ve listened to men and women talk about the male gaze, the female form in media, rape culture, the objectification of women, the issue of women of colour and violence perpetrated against them, women who discuss popular culture, and men who have discussed it as well.  But the key is not just repeating information, the key is listening and understanding what’s going on.  Take the blinders and remove them.

It’s scary when you do, but you’ll be able to move forward and work to improve it.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Life, randomness

 

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