Of Movies & Books

I do love watching movies and reading books, which tends to get me into some trouble when I over do it.. this does happen from time to time. When reading, I’m able to ignore all my surroundings and dive into the book to experience all that it has to offer me. I can immerse myself into movies as well, but they’re usually for a much shorter duration, as most movies tend to end within 2 hrs. This immersion into books and movies sometimes bewilders my friends and family, because they don’t understand how someone can lose themselves deeply into such things. My perspective is that I’m using them as a form of escape from this world, and exploring these fictional works with my mind, which is fascinating as I’m working within the parameters set by the writer of the book or show.

When it comes to Science Fiction and Fantasy, books have a huge lead over movies or TV for me. Books have a depth that allows my mind to explore and extrapolate the what-if scenarios, that movies can’t always do so in as many details, as you can already see the actors involved and follow the story lines fairly closely for the time allotted for each show. Books also have the added benefit of being part of an ever-expanding series, with a huge cast of characters that are not limited by a budget per episode. TV series can do a similar job, but have a drawback that they’ll need to deliver episode after episode, so that they can retain viewership and improve their ratings over time, which will provide them opportunities to expand the storyline across to the next season. Some shows can do this,when they have the right casts and storyline that can draw viewers in. However, even when these shows have the x-factor to be a critical success, studios have a very fickle mentality and can/will cancel these shows on a whim.

‘Firefly’ is one of my favorite TV series that lasted only 1 season, but garnered  a huge following that are still around years after it went off the air. It was also released as a movie: ‘Serenity’, which didn’t do as well in the box office, but provided fans with an expanded view of the people and worlds of the show. Another series that was cancelled before could make any impact on viewers was ‘New Amsterdam’, which can be greatly expanded on to many seasons across many different timelines, seeing that the main character is practically immortal, until he finds his true love. What better concept can there be than a character’s search for his one true love across many years, countries, and wars. It allows the audience to take the time to look at things and relationships from the eyes of someone who longs for is effectively immortal, but one who yearns for something that all of us fight against and take for granted: our final rest.

My current favorite fantasy/paranormal books are The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Why? It’s a brilliantly written book, with a great main character, who is witty and funny, as well as brave, and who happens to be a genuine Wizard! Wizardry in our present age, with mythical beings and creatures living amongst us, where the modern world is kept out of the loop of the mystical one.. what more can one ask for? The storyline in each book is woven very tightly across all 13 books, as events in one will have repercussions to characters, factions and places across all the books. They’ve created a TV series for this book as well, but didn’t last beyond the 1st season. Why? I’m not sure, but its most likely because for a world of wizardry to translate into TV, a larger Special Effects budget would be required. So if you have a cast of characters that needed to be filled up, that you’ll need to carry the show, you’d be stretching your budget is other areas very thinly.

It’s not surprising that Firefly and Dresden Files have Role Playing Game (RPG) books out, that fans can read and play out their favorite characters, plan jobs or undertakings and travel to exotic locales in the worlds that they’ve only watched and read out. Getting immersed in RPG games is definitely another way of diving deep into these worlds as players would read up and memorize everything about their favorite shows and books anyway. So they’re more aware of how to function in these worlds sometimes than the real world that we live in. Everyone does role playing at one time or another, and at various stages in our lives. When we were children, our active minds and imaginations would conjure up worlds, wonders and fantasies that we would play in, playing the part of cowboys, indians, knights, dragons, princesses, flying aces, firemen, astronauts,aliens, spacemen and many many more. As we get older, most of us are pulled into the general direction of being part of the masses, but role playing still is relevant as computer games and simulations offer an immersive environment where what you see is seen by others as well. Its very much a shared psychosis, where we’re actually participating in someone else’s dreamscape or nightmare – but we pay to play and be entertained.

When I think of it, Media has a huge impact on our Role Playing lives, via mediums such as Movies, TV, Music (through Radio and TV) and Books. From movies we have: Star Wars, which epitomizes everyone’s dream of role playing and dress up. You’ll find stormtrooper clones everywhere around the world, especially when there’s a comic or toy convention. Closet Jedis are also a huge hit, one must possess a lightsaber to be a Jedi Knight or Master, coz it’ll go nicely with any robe that you may have. Yes, even that baby blue bathrobe and the bunny slippers. Star Trek is the other SciFi show that sets people apart, coming from TV, it has made transitions to movies, computer games, pen and paper RPGs, novels and comic books. These 2 ‘Universes’; for want of a better description, have drawn lines in the sand between 2 groups of fans. Both have their costumes, weapons, vehicles, and races, with the most interesting part of all being the costumes. The most diverse and extreme costumes have been from the Star Wars universe, as they offer a wider variety for fans to play with, due to the frontier or planetary culture settings that we see. Whereas the ones from Star Trek offer the most diverse versions of uniforms for fans to procure commercially. You can tell the uniforms are from which era of the show, just by looking at the uniform design, coloration and the variation of the communicator pin worn. At least most of the fans can make that differentiation, I’m a fairly amateur fan in comparison, so I can only differentiate from Original to Next Generation and Voyager TV Series of uniforms.

The most interesting thing about Role Playing, is the language created for the Movies and TV Shows. Klingon is fairly obvious to most non Trekkies, but the most interesting language that came out from a movie is “Elvish” from the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies. Sword and Sorcery is a constant staple for all Role Players, being derived from history and also the early Dungeons and Dragons role playing games. However, the Lord of the Rings movies have taken it several levels higher, through the production of Orc masks, Elven ears (already available as Vulcan and Romulan models), costumes, armor and weapons. Now everyone can take a side, don armor and prepare for battle or a convention with the right gear. Just wearing the costume doesn’t do anything for you though, the pressure from all peers will be to ensure that everyone knows what it is they’re doing, speaking, how to wear, move and sit with the armor. Including how to wield said sword or ‘Naginata’ like weapon that those elven soldiers carry. So classes in fencing, kendo, aikido, karate, kung-fu and even horseback riding are also picked up, so that they can get the real experience. Now there’s a business venture to go into, the training courses for elven warriors or Rohirrim calvary. For Elves, we’ll need to look into sword work, Spear, Longbow and specialty weapons, while the Rohirrim will need to focus on sword work, spear, and short bow, but all while astride a horse – while standing still, walking and galloping. All of these in addition to learning the history, language and living practices of that world. This is very much like those who participate in Re-enactments or Renaissance Fairs for medieval battles and pageants.

Role Players spend an inordinate amount of time preparing to live, work, fight and play in a world that is quite different from the one we live in. However, I believe that they’re actually very honest in what they’re focusing on, as most of us drift from one fantasy to another, without trying to learn anything from them. What is the benefit of learning a language that only friends and allies with like minded interests will understand? What is the benefit of learning sword play and armor usage in this day and age? Well, with language, even make believe ones, you open your mind to nuances in a language, which will also allow your mind to be flexible enough to learn an actual foreign language, since you already have allowed your mind to accept a make believe one as a foreign language. Sword work and armor usage helps in exercising your body and mind, through routine practices that train muscle memory. Role Players are usually geeks, but the serious ones don’t look like geeks, because they know that wielding a sword is hard work, wearing armor is draining on your strength. So all these trainings will definitely build muscles and stamina, thereby improving health. Another health incentive is: if you’re weak, you take longer to heal and recover from a training bout, even with padded weapons.

I find that diving deep into movies, TV shows and books, that have a good  storyline and characters will definitely help a person. If they feel that the current world and their situation is not to their liking, and want to do something about it . This shows that they know that there’s something better to aspire to, and are willing to take necessary steps to try and reach that goal. The first step is always important when making a change in your life, but the main rule to follow is, to make sure that you follow through with the next step. I noticed that people who Role Play are not lazy, they’re willing to learn whatever materials is available to understand and know about their character, the world and the languages in it. Perhaps there is an opportunity after all for people who are offering training for skills and crafts that may be considered outdated in this modern world, as fans of both SciFi and Fantasy genres become more interested in developing skills to accommodate them. Sword play is equally at home in both settings, as it is a close range combat, be it with steel swords or lightsabers. Archery may seem more archaic, but with modern compound bows, it is still a relevant alternative as a long range silent weapon. Hand to Hand combat is still one of the most widely used and popular form of fighting in both SciFi and Fantasy settings. It provides an outlet for all hero and villain characters, as they are totally unarmed while in combat. Form, technique, speed, agility and strength make up a large part of this, thus making it one of the toughest skill to pick up by all. For those serious enough to dive this deep, the universe in their mind is no longer personal, but a shared one. In which they now have other people who may think differently, but participate with you in the training, sparring and learning processes. It isn’t that they’ve learnt to eventually live in this world, rather they have made the world more livable through their focus on changing their world to suit them, through their mindset and training.

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