How was The Phoenix Project inspired by D.M. Cain’s love of geek culture?

How was The Phoenix Project inspired by my love of games, film and books?

Science fiction, fantasy and general geek culture have always been a huge part of my life. Growing up it was Star Wars, Marvel, anime series such as Death Note, and a fixation with the Final Fantasy game series. As an adult, I am slowly working my way through the great sci-fi and dystopian films and books of our time, and finding an immense love of all things fantasy (especially those which include immersive world-building such as Game of Thrones).

When my debut novel, The Phoenix Project, was recently I decided to delve into the themes and ideas within the book to see which of these geek influences made their mark upon my writing.

  • My protagonist, Raven, always started out as a Cloud Strife/Squall Leonheart lone-wolf type character. Headstrong, independent, steadfastly avoiding others in favour of skulking around alone. He makes no effort to befriend others, preferring his own morose company. Cloud was (and is) my all-time love. Roll on the FFVII remake <3! (Check out my Final Fantasy Pinterest board for lots of cool images)

Squall Leonheart and Cloud Strife

  • Isn’t there always something exciting, though undoubtedly disturbing, about a high-pressure, adrenaline-fuelled fight to the death? Maybe it was my obsession with computer games as a child that led me to use this concept for my first novel. Tekken was my personal favourite beat ‘em up and what really appealed to me about these games was the fact that each character had their individual strengths and special moves, but at the end of the day, the power was really in the hands of external forces (call it fate, destiny or some kind of deity).

Tekken 2 screenshot

  • One of my favourite elements to any type of game is the ‘boss battle’. That peculiar mixture of apprehension and anxiety that accompanies stepping into a fight you probably won’t emerge from (the first time I walked into the final fight with Sephiroth and One Winged Angel started playing I swear my heart stopped for a moment!). That buzz was something I hoped to communicate in The Phoenix Project when Raven is forced to battle some of the near-invincible superstars of the death matches.

One winged angel Cloud and Sephiroth

  • There is also an element of Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and The Running Man to this novel, though I like to think my book is perhaps more psychological (and a wee bit disturbing!)

Battle Royale

  • I can also see the very strong influence of dystopia in my books – Room 101 from George Orwell’s ‘1984’ inspired one section of the book, then there’s the oppressive feel to games such as Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry, Lost Odyssey etc.

1984 George Orwel

All of these influences have shaped who I am as a person, and as such, have helped me to write a book that is very dear to my heart. If you enjoy the same type of things that I have mentioned within this post, why not check out The Phoenix Project and maybe you’ll see something of yourself in it too.

dystopian thriller psychological novel
The Phoenix Project – a psychological dystopian thriller by D.M. Cain

This post was originally featured on the blog of author Wendy J Scott:

http://www.wendyjscott.com/my-blog/introducing-the-phoenix-project-by-dmcain


RELATED LINKS:

The 12 best dystopian movies – by D.M. Cain

Why I’m becoming disillusioned with the Oscars – a guest post by Alex Tipler

The Light and Shadow Chronicles – a unique immersive fantasy world

Is this the most adorable and geeky thing you’ve ever seen?

 

 

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Can Universal Still Build A Monster Universe?

Patrick Jackson is featured on my site today to talk about the immersive world-building of Universal Studios. Take it away, Patrick!

Can Universal Still Build A Monster Universe?

For those interested in expanded worlds and connected universes in fiction, Universal’s Dark Universe has been something to keep an eye on the last few years. The idea was for the studio to use its valuable monster properties to establish a darker version of the Marvel or DC superhero universes (especially after the recent success of Black Panther, and the upcoming Avengers:Infinity War movie). But after The Mummy failed as the first planned installment, the Monsterverse is in peril. Top producers have abandoned the project, and at this point it’s uncertain whether or not the so-called “Dark Universe” will ever come to fruition.

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Answering that uncertainty is difficult. But at least on the Universal side of things it seems prudent to start with the simple question of what went wrong. In this regard we have a few theories.

The first is that there was no real foundation for the Dark Universe, despite the studio’s rights to fiction’s most famous monsters. While there are connections and similarities here and there, it’s not as if there are decades’ worth of comic books, or years’ worth of literature placing these characters on teams or in scenarios together. The closest we can come to placing them all together is the library of slot arcade games produced by NetEnt. Showcased by SlotSource, this collection includes nods to Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and even lesser characters like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This at least places many of the Dark Universe monsters on the same platform. But it’s merely a result of Universal and NetEnt striking a licensing deal, as opposed to any kind of connected storyline.

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The second issue is that the Dark Universe was too openly planned. SyFy Wire did a long write-up on the apparent failure of the universe and made the very interesting observation that audiences might just not have cared about The Mummy (which came out in 2017). This, in theory, was because viewers were keenly aware that everything happening was just to set up a bunch of sequels. That is to say, when Iron Man came out in 2008, we knew that Marvel had more plans in the works, but we didn’t know the full scope of the MCU, or how connected everything would be; we were just watching an Iron Man movie, the way we’d watched Batman Begins in 2005 or Spider-Man in 2002. It was its own movie, and we got a chance to dive into it and embrace its character. The Mummy felt like a steppingstone before we even sat down in theaters.

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And the third problem, as we see it, is that The Mummy simply wasn’t compelling. From the moment Tom Cruise’s character fell out of an airplane in the trailer it was clear that this was a more modern spring action flick. The Mummy of the late-‘90s with Brendan Fraser was no masterpiece, but it was at the very least a fun experience, caught somewhere between Indiana Jones and National Treasure – undeniably silly, but self-aware and engaging. The modern version of this kind of film is one lost in over-the-top action sequences and special effects. And unfortunately, Universal doesn’t seem to have been aware that this style – more in the Transformers vein – is growing tired for audiences.

These are three very serious problems: lack of foundation, the assumption of sequels, and a poor start. But if we forget about The Mummy entirely, the concept of a “Dark Universe” actually sounds like one that ought to work. The way we can imagine it doing so is if Universal has the courage to scrap existing plans, hire new producers, writers, and directors, and start all over.


Related Links:

Poll of the month – Marvel Cinematic Universe

7 upcoming movies for fans of extended universes

9.5/10 stars for Marvel’s Black Panther

Solo: A Star Wars story trailer review

Avengers:Infinity War trailer review

The Light and Shadow Chronicles – a unique immersive fantasy world

9.5/10 stars for Marvel’s Black Panther

**WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS SOME MINOR SPOILERS FOR BLACK PANTHER**

Wakanda is a beautiful and vibrant example of exquisite world-building. It looks incredible – as a stunning fantasy landscape, a technological wonder, but also as a country buzzing with tradition and culture. The costumes, weapons, architecture and even the people’s gestures (the crossing of the arms, the dancing before the duels, etc) all contribute to a stunning world more developed than anything we have seen in the Marvel universe to date.

Part of this is achieved through the outstanding cinematography. There are numerous shots that render the viewer speechless, the beauty and raw power of certain scenes is mesmerising. The music contributes to the overall feel of the movie perfectly, a blend of the modern and traditional – mixing the familiar epic sound of Marvel’s soundtracks with more primitive tribal music.

The real strength of Black Panther is the cast and the outstanding characters they play. Every actor on the screen is exceptional. Chadwick Boseman, of course, is the quintessential Marvel superhero. He is honourable, just and righteous, a perfect king for the nation of Wakanda. Boseman’s acting is both profound and charming, achieving a great balance between the intensity of the fight scenes, and the playful banter he shares with his sister.

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Michael B. Jordan’s Eric Killmonger, though bitter and disillusioned with the world, is charismatic and sympathetic. It is difficult not to relate to him. Danai Gurira as General Okoye is strong and determined, fiercely loyal to Wakanda (and would make an excellent partner to Captain America – just imagine the honour the two of them would ooze on screen together!)

Letitia Wright’s Shuri almost steals the show in her own right. A wonderfully developed character, she is funny and has some of the best moments in the film. Her intelligence, reflected in her ingenious inventions, rivals Tony Stark’s and, as a team, they would be formidable (she would also be more than capable of keeping up with his witticisms). But the best thing about Shuri is the joy she radiates when explaining her creations. This is a woman who shows pride in what she accomplishes and isn’t ashamed to show excitement at her own achievements. She is a science geek, without falling into the typical geek stereotype (she can even seriously kick ass when she needs to).

Shuri-Black-Panther

But all of these things apply to numerous Marvel films. Excellent acting can be said of The Winter Soldier or Civil War. Humour is wonderfully represented in Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. Black Panther has these things, but what makes it truly shine is the maturity of the storyline. This is no simple origin tale of a superhero. Really, T’Challa becoming the Black Panther is only a minor plot point. The true theme at the heart of this film is the plight of African nations.

Black people all across the world, and throughout history, have suffered at the hands of colonialism and prejudice. Relegated to third world status, many of Africa’s countries struggle with poverty, but Wakanda is wealthy, accomplished and more technologically advanced than any place on Earth. If it were to reveal its true self to the world, Wakanda would undoubtedly be ruined and so the rulers of the country have kept it hidden from prying eyes. But doesn’t Wakanda have an obligation to share its resources and knowledge with those suffering around them? This is the true question at the heart of the film – embodied by Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia. As a moral philanthropist, Nakia wishes to see the nation of Wakanda spread its wealth to those who need it most, even if it means piercing the blissful bubble that has protected them for centuries.

Ever since the film’s conception, it has been heralded as groundbreaking for its depiction of black characters. In this it is truly admirable and revolutionary. But the representation of black people isn’t its only triumph. Black Panther also excels in its portrayal of female characters. Instead of a single ‘strong’ woman as a token gesture (as Black Widow can sometimes appear), the female characters in this film are integral to the plot and indeed drive much of the narrative. Female warriors, commanders, scientists, inventors, diplomats are all woven into the plot and, most crucially of all, without the need for explanation. Okoye isn’t the ‘first ever’ female general, or the leader of the ‘all-women unit’ of the army. She’s just the general, because she is. And that is a huge step forwards.

There are very few negative aspects of the film. It is easily a top tier Marvel movie and one that won’t be easy to top (although Infinity War will give it a good try). There are only a few areas in which it loses points. Firstly, there isn’t really a need for armoured rhinos! They look good, but they don’t add anything and seem to be thrown in for visual spectacle and nothing more. The film is already stunning enough without war rhinos!

Secondly, the love story between T’Challa and Nakia seems a little weak and unnecessary. It doesn’t really add anything to the movie (though they do make a gorgeous couple!).

Finally, though Black Panther is a fantastic film in its own right, it doesn’t really feel like a Marvel movie. The recent films in the MCU have all linked together very well, with characters and artefacts crossing paths and interlinking, ready for Infinity War. Aside from a few minor things, this film doesn’t link with the others at all – making it an unusual choice of movie as the last before Infinity War. Civil War or Thor: Ragnarok would have been much better for warming up the fans before the main event.

But, these points aside, there is very little that can be criticized in this outstanding movie. Overall, Black Panther easily achieves a 9.5/10.

Han Solo movie film poster Star Wars dm cain immersive fantasy fiction

7 upcoming movies for fans of extended universes

It’s an interesting time for geeks the world over as science fiction, fantasy and superheroes take over our screens. The Marvel and DC phenomenon has exploded in recent years, showering us with a whole range of excellent (mostly excellent…) films and series to enjoy. Once, comic books were viewed as for the geeky underbelly of society, the single, lonely nerd in the basement, but that has changed drastically. Now, people from all walks of life indulge in superhero adventures and science fiction journeys.

Directors and producers have seen the huge success of these movies and capitalised on the potential, bringing the huge interlinking worlds of the comics to the big screen, drawing viewers in and get the geeky blood pumping around our bodies. The Marvel universe is a fine example of this, with each film cleverly weaving in and around the others, characters crossing paths and even fighting one another (as in the excellent Captain America: Civil War).

For the modern viewer, a single film just isn’t enough anymore. We expect more from our movie experiences and each trip to the cinema gives us not one evening’s entertainment, but rather a small chunk of something that will keep us entertained for years – a glimpse into a wider world.

Here’s a rundown of the extended universe movie treats we have in store over the coming months and years:

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Han Solo movie film poster Star Wars dm cain immersive fantasy fiction
Star Wars spin-off movie Solo: A Star Wars story promises to be a rollercoaster ride of adventure, cocky smirks and general roguish scoundrel antics

Star Wars Episode IX

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Following the outstanding sequel movies, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, episode IX will bring an end to the Skywalker saga. It promises to be a thrilling and yet heart-wrenching goodbye to this incredible story arc.

Avengers:Infinity War

Marvel MCU Avengers Infinity War movie film dm cain immersive fantasy fiction
The culmination of every Marvel film to date, Avengers: Infinity War will bring action on an epic scale

Black Panther

Black Panther MCU Marvel film movie dm cain immersive fantasy fiction
A ground-breaking triumph for the Marvel universe. Black Panther’s early reviews are excellent and the movie promises to bring a mature and complex edge to the MCU

Ant Man and the Wasp

Ant Man and the Wasp MCU Marvel film movie dm cain immersive fantasy fiction
Ant Man is a fun character and his chemistry with The Wasp is great – it will be interesting to see these two together.

Venom

Venom Tom Hardy MCU Marvel film movie dm cain immersive fantasy fiction
Dark, brooding and intense at the best of times, Tom Hardy is an excellent choice to play Venom in all of his terrifying insanity.

Black Widow

Black Widow MCU Marvel film movie dm cain immersive fantasy fiction
Black Widow is an intelligently written character who happens to kick ass too. It’s about time she had her own movie.

Tell me in the comments section, which of these are you most looking forward to?

 

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Avengers:Infinity War trailer review

The new trailer for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ was released yesterday.Here it is if you haven’t seen it yet:

Here’s a quick run-down of what I made of it – the good and bad parts.

PROs:

That music <3

1 - Infinity war trailer review Audrey Horne Twin Peaks

The epic combinations of characters:

2 - Infinity war trailer review Iron Man Spiderman Doctor Strange

Thor and Rocket together (squeeeee!)

3 - Infinity war trailer review Thor Rocket Raccoon

This amazing shot:

4 - Infinity war trailer review Spiderman

CONs:

I’m not convinced by the new style of Captain America’s shield. It has potential but I really miss the iconic circular shield

5 - Infinity war trailer review Captain America Black Panther

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Doctor Strange, so I’m hoping he’ll be used sparingly, and if he is used a lot, he’ll be used well

6 - Infinity war trailer review Doctor Strange and Iron Man

Do you agree with my pros and cons? Do you have different ideas? Let me know what you think!

Solo: A Star Wars story trailer review

The trailer for ‘Solo: A Star Wars story’ was released yesterday.Here it is if you haven’t seen it yet:

Here’s a quick run-down of what I made of it – the good and bad parts.

PROs:

  • This incredible shot:

1 - Millennium Falcon star destroyer Star Wars Solo trailer

  • ‘I’m gonna be a pilot – best in the galaxy’ – this line sent chills down my spine

2 - Star Wars Solo trailer Han

  • Shiny, clean Millennium Falcon interior!

3 - mIllennium Falcon interior Star Wars Solo trailer

  • I do like the look of Alden Ehrenreich as Han – he’s got the little smirk just right.

4 - Han Star Wars Solo trailer

5 - Woody Harrelson and Donald Glover Star Wars Solo trailer

  • Some kick-ass Falcon moves

6 - Millennium Falcon shot Star Wars Solo trailer

CONs:

‘I was kicked out of the flight academy for having a mind of my own’ – This line seems really cheesy to me. A bit like he thinks he’s too much of a maverick to play by the rules

7 - Robert Downey Jr Star Wars Solo trailer

Emilia Clarke looks sadly under-used (though I acknowledge that this is just a short trailer so it’s difficult to tell for sure)

8 - Emilia Clarke Star Wars Solo trailer

Do you agree with my pros and cons? Do you have different ideas? Let me know what you think!

Is this the most adorable and geeky thing you’ve ever seen?

Anybody who knows my family knows that we are enormous Star Wars geeks. My six year old son is already a die-hard fanatic and his six month old sister is well on her way.

So, this Christmas when we should have been making festive footprint art, we decided instead to go for something a little more… ‘us’. This is the result!

Let me know – which is your favourite? I really like Boba Fett and the little porg <3

Star Wars footprint art

Star Wars footprint art
The top row of footprints are by my son, Deacon. The bottom row are baby Lucia’s.

The Light and Shadow Chronicles symbol no. 8 – Valhalla Elite

Chronicle of Chaos 34 final file resized title and shield changed DPI flat

The cover for my newest novel A Chronicle of Chaos features a shield with eight symbols carved upon it. Each of the symbols represents a different army, faction or group of people within the series. Over the next eight days, to complement the release countdown, I will be posting about each of the symbols to give some background on the armies you can expect to learn about in Chaos and the upcoming novels in the series.

The LAST symbol I will be talking about can be seen on the bottom left of the shield:

Repaired shield Valhalla

 

This is the sigil of Valhalla Elite, a small band of elite soldiers within the Brotherhood of Shadow. This battalion of soldiers was set up by one of Vincent Wilder’s sons by the name of Silas.

After suffering greatly at the hands of Raven Lennox and Avalanche, Silas set up a Brotherhood equivalent of the elite faction, naming it Valhalla Elite. Most of the soldiers in this unit are other children of Vincent Wilder and his many concubines.

Characters from this army that you can expect to see in A Chronicle of Chaos include:

Silas Wilder – Silas takes few things in life seriously and instead chooses to indulge in all manner of pleasures. Underneath his complacency, he is intelligent and cunning but his mind is starting to falter, giving way to visions and delusions. After a chance meeting with the Brotherhood’s shadowy adviser, the Bavelize, Silas decides to do everything in his power to exact his revenge upon Raven Lennox, before his waning sanity gives out completely.

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A Chronicle of Chaos is now available from Amazon!

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D4YAD96/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01D4YAD96/

Previous posts:

Cover art and symbols designed by Irina French: facebook.com/irinafrenchdigitalart/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DMCainauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DMCain84

Mailing List: http://eepurl.com/XevZH

Website: www.dmcain84.com

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DMCain/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7888430.D_M_Cain

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzt_E8st1pyfkoTiA4E5jNg

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/D.M.-Cain/e/B00LTTX3PA/

The Light and Shadow Chronicles symbol no. 7 – D.U.S.K.

Chronicle of Chaos 34 final file resized title and shield changed DPI flat

The cover for my newest novel A Chronicle of Chaos features a shield with eight symbols carved upon it. Each of the symbols represents a different army, faction or group of people within the series. Over the next eight days, to complement the release countdown, I will be posting about each of the symbols to give some background on the armies you can expect to learn about in Chaos and the upcoming novels in the series.

The SEVENTH symbol I will be talking about can be seen on the left of the shield:

Repaired shield DUSK

 

This is the sigil of D.U.S.K – the Democratic Union of Separatist Knights.

D.U.S.K. is an independent nation set up by a mixture of deserters from both the Children of Light and the Brotherhood of Shadow. Disagreeing strongly with the politics of the eternal war, these people left Alcherys and Meraxor to set up a nation where everybody would be treated equal, regardless of their background, race or family history.

There are no characters from this faction in A Chronicle of Chaos, but stay tuned because they will be featured in an upcoming novel in the series!

DUSK

A Chronicle of Chaos is now available from Amazon!

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D4YAD96/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01D4YAD96/

Previous posts:

Cover art and symbols designed by Irina French: facebook.com/irinafrenchdigitalart/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DMCainauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DMCain84

Mailing List: http://eepurl.com/XevZH

Website: www.dmcain84.com

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DMCain/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7888430.D_M_Cain

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzt_E8st1pyfkoTiA4E5jNg

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/D.M.-Cain/e/B00LTTX3PA/