Monday 18 February 2019

Nightflyers Review - Book to Big Screen to Small Screen

Nightflyers Review

Book to Big Screen to Small Screen

Nightflyers has had a special place in my heart since I first saw the 1987 movie some time in the 90s. It has spaceships and telepaths and telekinetics, so it hits many, many of my buttons where content is concerned. It also has Michael Praed as Royd Eris and Micheal Des Barres as Jon Winderman - 2 of my favourite 80s actors.

For many years I had no idea it was based on a novella, but when Game of Thrones came out and everyone was talking about George R.R. Martin I discovered it. Once again I enjoyed it, although not as much as the somewhat campy 80s film.

So when I heard that it was being remade for TV I was somewhat hesitant, especially given how I really don't like Game of Thrones. Hence, when it hit Netflix I didn't leap in immediately. However, I have to say that, mostly, my fears were unwarranted. Rob and I sat down to watch it and mainlined the first eight eps in one sitting, then went back for the final 2 last night.

The General Plot

The underlying plot of the story, and hence all 3 versions is, a group of explorers and scientists are investigating a space going entity called the Volcryn. Among their number is a powerful, slightly unstable telepath, who is supposed to help contact the entity if and when they find it. The ship is called the Nightflyer and her captain is a man named Roy(d) Eris who is very cagey about himself and his ship. The coordinator for the expedition is a genetically enhanced woman, and the scientist in charge is a man called D'Brannin. Things on the ship start going wrong and people start dying (what else would you expect from George R.R. Martin?).

The Novella

When it comes to the novella, I have to admit, I don't remember a huge amount of the details, I just remember it being close enough to the film to be satisfying, but different enough to be interesting, and that it ends with less finality. It's worth a read, but it did not stick in my brain. Hence this is about all I will be saying about it.

The 1987 Film

The 80s film is where my love of this franchise came from.

This is more of a grunge sci-fi than a shiny sci-fi, along the line of looking like Blade Runner rather than Star Trek. The Nightflyer is dark and industrial looking, except for the main lounge, and Royd appears as a somewhat scratchy hologram.

Michael Praed plays Royd, with his long 80s hair and dashing looks.

He's all mysterious and reserved, and fascinated by Miranda (Catherine Mary Stewart) the project coordinator.
The whole film is very, very 80s. Just look at Miranda (right) - can you get more 80s than mullet, shoulder pads and mirrored shades?

She is also the definition of "strong female character" as far as the 80s was concerned, in that she is stoic, strong, very, very fit and also a little bit mysterious.
And then there is Michael Des Barres as Jon Winderman, the unstable, often drunk telepath, who really doesn't seem to like anybody very much. As ever Michael Des Barres can be relied upon to be great as the character you know is going to go off the rails and be trouble at some point.

I always know I am going to enjoy a film if Michael Des Barres is in it, if not for just him.

Nightflyers is a movie that is going for dark and gritty and misses and ends up somewhere on the campy side. I love it, but it's definitely not high cinema. The characters are all somewhat stereotypes, but the actors seem to really enjoy themselves playing them, which comes across on the screen.

The plot moves fast, keeps us involved and entertained, and has enough gore and action to be exciting. It is sci-fi with a side of fantasy, because it pushes the whole telekinetic and telepathic parts a little too far too be scientific.

It is very much a movie that fit 80s sci-fi and, hence, I was somewhat confused as to how it could be remade thirty years later, let alone turned into a series.

The Series

As you can imagine the series differs from both the movie and the novella in some very significant ways, since it is basically going from a short tale format, to a longer story idea.

First big difference is the much bigger cast.

In the novella and the movie the Nightflyer is a ship with only one crew member: the captain, and the rest is run by computer.

In the series the ship has a whole crew, which gives the main cast so much more to play off of.

Roy Eris - Melantha Jhirl
Second difference from the movie - more diverse cast. Yay!

Third difference, it feels very much an ensemble cast with no one character being the main player. Different characters are important for different reasons. D'Branin is the impetuous behind the search for the Volcryn. Lommie is the somewhat naive heart of the team. Melantha is the strong, unshakeable team lead (to begin with at least). Roy is the mysterious, possibly dangerous captain. Rowan is the cynical but caring friend to D'Brainin. Etc, etc.

Roy Eris - Thale - Dr Agatha Matheson
Not gonna lie, my favourite character is Thale, the L1 telepath, and I very much like the conflict they introduced by making him quite so incompatible with other human beings at the beginning. It creates great conflict around him.

The work-around for this and how they move forward with his character is also beautifully done.

D'Branin, Rowan, Melantha, Auggie, Lommie
The whole look of the show is somewhere between shiny sci-fi and gritty sci-fi. This is not a ship that runs completely smoothly and is spotless like the Enterprise, but neither is is industrial grunge like many darker 80s efforts. It feels to me like someone took parts of the Nostromo from Alien and melded it with parts of the Enterprise and threw in some bits of a star destroyer for good measure.

There are habitat domes that remind me of Silent Running, a robot spider thing that makes me flash back to Tom Selleck's Runaway, and jacking into computers that starts off making me think cyberpunk, but moves a bit beyond that later on.

The ensemble cast means that the plot is never slow or boring, and all the characters have a development path that makes them more interesting. They are all very much not 2D.

Along the way there were a couple of eps that I found did not make a lot of sense in the scheme of things. It's the fact that there does not seem to be a why about them. I don't want to add spoilers to the main review, so I won't say what they were about, but there were two that stuck out as not like the others. One of them seemed to have nothing carried forward, and the other did have some consequences, but the reasons behind the plot of the ep just didn't hang together.

The ending was also a bit of a let down. It's clear they're going for a continuation, which left the end of this season not quite as exciting as the rest of it. Given that George R.R. Martin's name is associated with it, I will say, more people survived than I thought would ;).

There is one bit in the last ep that made me go "Seriously!" very loudly at the screen. I can't help wondering if it was a nod to Game of Thrones, but I also can't say anymore because that would be spoilers. If you see it, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Mostly I found it a very cohesive and well plotted season. Please tell me it has been renewed because it's ends on one hell of a cliff hanger and I want more.

One last thing: it made me so happy to see Josette Simon in Nightflyers because I got all sorts of Blake's 7 feelings seeing her in sci-fi again - I only ever seem to catch her in police procedurals. Mostly I kept thinking, ooh Dayna is playing Servalan :).

Have you seen the movie or the series, or read the book? What did you think?
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Wednesday 13 February 2019

Fun fun fun! Re-Editing eBooks for 2019

Image of lined paper with 3 tablets showing eBook covers, with "Writerly Wednesdays" "eBook Editing" and "Fun, Fun, Fun!" over the top.

Fun fun fun! Re-Editing eBooks for 2019

It's time for some spring cleaning! As well as writing a new novel, adding to another novella to turn it into a novel, and writing my Open Novella Contest entry for 2019, I had a brainwave and decided it was time to go back and take a look at all my currently published eBooks.

First thing I did was create a spreadsheet and check when each of them had last been updated.
Some of them haven't been touched since 2011!
Boy is their back-matter going to be out of date if nothing else.

I also discovered several that never made it to Google books, ever. Not that's it's overly surprising, I never sell anything over there anyway, it's just I'm a completist and like to have all my bases covered.

So I have three check boxes on my spreadsheet:
  • needs a new cover
  • needs reformatting
  • needs new back-matter
Let's just say, I have my work cut out for me. I was hoping for more with ticks just in the back-matter col, but there are quite a few that need reformatting too.
I've decided to go with Kindle Create as a standard start, because it converts easily for Google and it's easy enough to apply a different template for Smashwords to take out anything their converter can't cope with.

FYI - if you, like me, decide to go from the Modern Theme in Kindle Create to Smashwords - the ePub converts fine, but the PDF does not because it doesn't know the font used for any of the page/chapter titles. I subbed in Verdana.

Had lots of fun (can you hear my sarcasm) yesterday, converting Cat's Call to the new Kindle Create format. It is really useful, but it has bugs. Usually I can find a way round them, but not this time. I added numbering to the chapter titles and it screwed up the formatting of my table of contents. No matter what I did I could not make it consistent, even in when it messed up.

I can only assume it's adding in things I can't see, because it has some background processes running, since it's a plugin. If it didn't save a huge amount of time I'd go back to doing it manually so I know exactly what was going on when. Had to number the chapters manually so it would work - which is so against my instincts!

Anyway, so that's what I'm up to at the moment.
What are you up to? Anything fun?

Monday 11 February 2019

New Public Patreon Blog Post

New Public Patreon Blog Post

I have a new blog post up at Patreon:

This is a public post for everyone to enjoy, patrons and casual surfers alike, and is all about the start of writing my new novel.

I'm having a lot of fun documenting how I am going about writing the new novel and will be sharing lots of juicy details and exciting previews on my Patreon. Some of it will be public, some patrons only, and there will be patrons only podcasts to go with each one as well.

It was very frustrating last week because I was all ready to go on the first podcast, but I needed to record one more little thing and I had no voice. This cold made me sound like a tenor or high and squeaky mouse! While amusing this was not conducive to recording anything sensible. ๐Ÿ˜‚

My voice still isn't top notch, but I hope it will improve soon.

Friday 1 February 2019

My Patreon is live! & Free Fiction Friday

My Patreon is Finally Live!

So after all my posts about the trials and tribulations of setting up my Patreon, it is finally live. I have pushed the go button.

I have my about section, my tiers and my intro vid all done and they are now there for the world to see.

It was very nerve wracking hitting launch, but I managed to make myself do it.
This is worse than publishing my first book - I feel like my child has just gone on stage or something!

Anyway, please go check out my Patreon - LMK what you think.
There are lots of options and thank you in advance for any pledges. 


Free Fiction Friday

It's that time of the month again as well - no, I'm not about to go all furry and grow fangs and howl at the moon, I mean it's Free Fiction Friday.

If you would like to know the password, simply sign up to our Newsletter:

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No spam and your details will never be shared.

by Natasha Duncan-Drake
Genre: epic fantasy
Length: 8.8k words
Timon's home suffers under the rule of the magical, despotic Queen and her son, the Dark Prince. But Timon has power of his own and an unusual advantage: he looks almost identical to the prince. He and his friends have plans to use this and end the tyranny under which they all endure.