Friday, April 25, 2014

Interview with Joel A. Parisi

Yesterday, I had the privilege of interviewing Joel A. Parisi, author of Shadow Play. It was quite interesting for me, and I hope you enjoy it.

Jesse Rice: Hello Joel Parisi. Welcome to my blog. Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

Joel A. Parisi: Sure! I'm a writer, editor, and all-around geek who lives in Tucson, Arizona. I've been writing for the past eight years, but only recently have I actually begun to produce quality work. Shadow Play, my debut novelette, is the first thing I've felt was good enough to self-publish and promote.

Jesse Rice: What first caused you to become interested in writing?

Joel A. Parisi: Hmm.... I would have to say it was Star Wars. My first attempt at writing a novel (which failed miserably) was driven by my somewhat misguided desire to make 'a Christian Star Wars.' But then, I was only twelve at the time.

Jesse Rice: Would you say science fiction is your favorite genre, then?

JAP: Science fiction and fantasy have to share, actually. *laughs* I love both genres for different reasons, but I love them about equally.

JR: In which genre do you prefer to write?

JAP: Again, I split my time about equally between sci-fi and fantasy. (And yes, I consider supervillains to be science fiction, at least the way I write them.)

JR: On that note, can you tell me a little bit about Shadow Play?

JAP: Absolutely. It's a bit of a mashup between your usual superhero/supervillain fare and modern action, specifically black ops. The story revolves around Paul Cantref, an ex-Army Ranger who's been recruited by the Supervillain Handling, Research And Intervention Department (SHRAID) to kill supervillains. He's assigned to lead a team into a very volatile situation in the field, and has to deal with his own insecurities while holding the team together and (hopefully) managing to kill their target.

JR: Sounds interesting. Now, from what I've heard, you are writing in a shared universe. Can you tell me a bit about that?

JAP: Yeah, that's a very interesting part of this experience.... basically, Katie Lynn Daniels started publishing a series of novelettes last year which dealt with the aftermath of the "Supervillain Outbreak" on Earth and the efforts of an alien trained to kill supervillains. She licensed the series under Creative Commons, which means (for me) the universe is open for others to contribute. She had mentioned in passing that the US had a "superhero" program (and one of the central conceits of the series is that superheroes don't exist). My reaction was "Well, we wouldn't be THAT stupid, would we? No, it must be a cover for something else." And so the idea for SHRAID was born.
I talked to Katie about the idea and she was game to not only endorse my writings, but accept them as canon within the universe. And we may be doing a crossover (eventually) where our main characters run into each other....

JR: So how closely tied is SHRAID to Supervillain of the Day?

JAP: Good question. We're still not really sure ourselves.... I know that major events (such as Katie's Season Two finale, and my series finale [sorry, no spoilers!]) will be cross-referenced. But as far as the average reader is concerned, you don't need to be intimately familiar with her series to enjoy mine, or vice versa. Though if you are familiar, you'll notice a few easter eggs.

JR: Sounds fascinating. From what I've read, your series seems to have a story arc over the entire series. After reading Supervillain of the Day, my biggest complaint was the episodic nature of the series. What caused you to choose a different route?

JAP: Well, I should mention that Katie's series does have a unified arc-- it's just a really long one.
I honestly don't think I consciously chose to go a different route. But then again, I've always enjoyed long epics, featuring a meta-story spread over several volumes, so I think I may have just automatically slipped into that mode of storytelling. And then there is the fact that I tend to write plot first, while Katie tends to write characters first. So you'll see that the plot is, to me, the most important consideration (and hopefully my characters don't suffer too much as a result.)

JR: So what are some of your favorite epic stories?

JAP: The Lord of the Rings, of course (including The Hobbit and The Silmarillion). Also the Dune saga, Asimov's Robots and Empire series, The Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, and Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen.

JR: What about favorite authors? Do you find your own writings are patterned after a particular person's writing style?

JAP: Ah, that's a question a lot of authors get. For me, no. I read, and have read, so much that no one author has really 'defined' my voice.
That said, aside from the authors I mentioned above, some of my favorites are Timothy Zahn, CS Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Orson Scott Card, Christopher Paolini, Madeline L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens.... yeah, I could write a several-page-long list of those.

JR: What are your plans for future novels?

JAP: Cue sinister laughter. 
In all seriousness, though, I have the next five novelettes for SHRAID to finish before I can really think of doing more. But I do have some ideas.... There's a three-part (or maybe just two-part) fantasy/sci-fi mashup that's been percolating in the back of my head for about a year now. It involves a pair of opposed but complimenting magic systems (dealing with matter and energy), an isolated colony world, and universe-ending danger. And then I also have an idea for a standalone sci-fi novel dealing with an invasion precipitated by extra-dimensional Lovecraftian aliens.

JR: Well, with that to think on, I think I've taken up enough of your time. Thank you very much for allowing me to interview you. I hope your writing endeavors continue to go well. How can my readers find you on the internet?

JAP: Not a problem! Thanks for the interview.
They can check out my website,; and they can also check out my Facebook page (, follow me on Twitter (, and they can find Shadow Play for sale on Amazon and the Createspace eStore.

JR: Thank you very much. Have a nice day!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesse and Rambo - A Conversation on Enemies

   It'd been a while since Rambo and I had talked, due to the fact that we were both so busy. Rambo had been managing the farm and watching the kittens, while I'd been working sluggishly on getting the cats' second adventure on paper. Finally, however, we got together just to talk.
   I started. "Hi Rambo, how're you today?"
   Rambo shrugged, sitting lazily on a table so I didn't have to look down at him. "I'm fine. You?"
   I tried to sit up in my chair so I didn't look unprofessional. "I'm okay." I balanced the laptop on my lap. "You don't mind that I'm writing this down, do you?"
   "Are you writing down what we're saying now?" he asked.
   I paused. "Yes."
   "That's going to be boring."
   I cleared my throat. "Anyway, I just need something to put on the blog and I figured a conversation between me and you would be interesting for the fans."
   "Fans?" Rambo asked. "You mean your grandparents and maybe a bored crow?"
   "Don't crush my self esteem."
   "Whatever. What did you want to talk about?"
   "Well, I was going to talk about enemies, but you seem a bit dour today (dour means grumpy, for anyone who doesn't know) so why don't you tell us why?"
   "Me. And the fans."
   Rambo smirked. "Right. The fans. Well, I've been busy. Watching out for intruders, keeping everything running smoothly, and making sure [redacted] and [redacted] are doing okay."
   "Don't say that: people don't know who [redacted] and [redacted] are."
   "Right. Still, the hardest part of 'that last thing' is keeping track of all the Sasha rumors."
   "Sasha rumors! Okay, now maybe we can get onto the topic I wanted to talk about: enemies."
   "Why would you want to talk about enemies?"
   "Because enemies are relevant. Especially at this time of year."
   "What exactly do you mean by that?"
   "Well, it's Easter time. That's when we humans celebrate forgiveness."
   Rambo looked confused. "What's that have to do with enemies?"
   I paused. "Well, this is the time of year where we celebrate how Jesus came to forgive and redeem his broken creations."
   "You're saying some guy came to tell his enemies everything was fine? What about justice?"
   "What about justice?"
   "Shouldn't the bad guys be punished? Take, for instance, Sasha. She did some bad stuff. Should I just let her go hurt other animals?"
   "No, that's not what I'm saying at all. What Jesus did, and that's who I try to emulate (that means 'try to be like'), was come and die for his enemies."
   Rambo stared at me blankly. "Die... for his enemies?"
   "Exactly. He came and died so that his enemies might be rescued from their shortcomings."
   Rambo blinked several times, trying to comprehend what I was saying. "And you want to be like this guy?"
   It was my turn to blink several times. "Yes. Why wouldn't I?"
   Rambo was speechless. "You don't... that's not how you deal with animals. Don't you know evil? Evil doesn't just... just change. Evil is evil. The only way to stop evil is to kill it."
   "What about back when Seabert was in trouble? You went and risked your life for him when he got kidnapped."
   "That's different! Seabert's my friend! What you're talking about is like me going to stop... Sasha! Stop Sasha from getting her due."
   "Yeah, that's pretty much what I'm saying."
   "And you don't find that crazy?"
   "No. Well, yes. I do find it crazy. But I also think that Jesus knows better about what's right than me. So I just try to follow after him."
   Rambo shrugged and stood up. "Whatever. As for me, if Sasha was about to get what's coming to her, I think I'd stand there and cheer. The less evil in the world the better."
   "I agree. But there's two ways to get rid of evil: kill it, or redeem it. Which would you rather?"
   Rambo was silent for only one second. "Killing's easier." He jumped off the table and walked away.

What did you think of our conversation? Should I transcribe more of them? Or maybe I can get a guest on and converse with them! Comment below if you have any suggestions, thoughts, or (duh) comments. What would you do to an enemy?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thoughts on Captain America: Winter Soldier

   Last week I went to see Captain America: Winter Soldier. The film was, to my mind, one of the better Marvel films. While there is violence, if you are a fan of superhero movies you will probably like it.
However, that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the theme of the film. Namely: choice. Winter Soldier wonders whether giving humanity a choice is worth the risk of losing security.
   This is a question that I have often wondered myself. Is giving humanity the choice to do evil necessary? Would it not be better to avoid suffering, even if it ended up in creating humanity robots?
   This is a question that theologians also must ask themselves. Why did God give humanity the ability to turn against him in the Garden of Eden? If God was all loving, why even give us a choice? One might compare this to holding chocolate in front of a dieting man. Why even tempt him with the option? The answer is a simple one:
   Love requires choice. Robots cannot love. Love is not mere chemistry in the mind. That is infatuation or instinct. Love is making a conscious choice for the betterment of the other person. And, in order for love to exist, there must be the option for the one who is loved to walk away from the lover. God, in order to show his love and be loved by humanity, had to give humanity the option not to love him. If there is no choice, then tyranny is all that remains.
   The majesty of God's grace, however, is that not only one choice is offered, but many. If only one test was given, then all of us would have failed at the Garden. However, God gives us multiple chances for redemption. This, too, is shown in Winter Soldier (to some extent). Captain America encounters his enemy and, instead of destroying him and thereby saving his life, he chooses instead to risk his own life in an effort to redeem his enemy (much like Luke in Star Wars). 

What are your thoughts? Did you watch Captain America: Winter Soldier? What did you think?

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Point

   Two weeks ago I talked about why I don't like message-less stories. I mentioned that a reader likes to think while they read. At that point, I nearly said, "The point of a story is to make you think."
   Yet, I wasn't sure if that was completely true. I knew that the point of a parable was to explain an idea through story. The main point there was the idea, and the story was just a mechanism to explain it. Yet, what was the point of story? Logically, I eventually fell upon the idea that the point of story is to tell a story. That seems obvious. And it is. Yet, the point of a story is not that simple.
   A story tells us the story of a person. Or it tells us what happened at a certain time. It chronicles the stories of those in history. Or it takes us somewhere to other worlds. The point of a story is to tell a story, to explore themes through story, to show us what life is, was, or will be like.
   And yet, the story in itself is not an entity. Few people like a novel for the story alone (though if there is a bad story, that decreases a novel's enjoyment considerably). A novel must also have compelling characters in that story. Throwing a character into an action scene may grab a reader's attention, but why should they care about the character if they don't know him or her? Again, why should a reader care about a character if life is just cookies and roses? There must be conflict to a story and deep characters inside the story.
   That is what makes up a good story, but what is the point of the story in itself? The point is to tell the story. And this is where the truly difficult part comes in, because I want to get a theme across. I want to show a character's redemption. I want to make the reader gasp as I reveal a shocking twist. I want a good story, good characters, and a strong theme. And yet, if I exalt one of those elements above the others, I have something that has a great theme, but lousy characters. Or I have a great story, but its pointless and soon forgotten. Or I have marvelous characters in a plot that doesn't make much sense. The balance is the most difficult, yet the most vital part of the story.
   The point of a story is to find a way to tell a good story, explore a good theme, and detail how real people would react in those situations. There's no one to exalt above the others, and that is the point.

Any thoughts? What do you think is the point of a story?