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Vanguard Prime: The Movie

One of the questions I get asked the most is whether Vanguard Prime will ever be made into a movie. And from what I’ve experienced, I’m not the only author to be asked this. I know Stephen King was particularly puzzled when he was asked what the film prospects of Vanguard Prime are, given that he’d never heard of it before.

I may have made up that last part.

In any case, book-to-film translations are always a hot topic of conversation. People don’t seem to feel a work has been truly successful until it’s been rendered cinematically with a running time of 2+ hours, and they get the chance to complain about the filmmakers completely missing the point.

But to answer the original question; the chances of Vanguard Prime ever being adapted to the screen are, safe to say, slim to none. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be excited to have it happen, but I’m not exactly pinning any particular hopes on it. After all, it took about 30 years for Ender’s Game to be made into a film, and though I’m quite proud of Vanguard Prime, it’s not exactly recognised as a classic of its genre the way Orson Scott Card’s book is.

So now that I’ve couched all of this in a thick blanket of self-awareness, let’s pretend that a Vanguard Prime movie is something legitimately possible. Who would I cast in it, you might ask. And even if you wouldn’t ask that, I’m going to tell you anyway. That’s just the kind of guy I am.

Goldrush

This would be the trickiest part to cast, given that there’s not really much physical description of Goldrush/Sam in the books. I wanted every reader to formulate their own picture of him…which was kind of defeated when it came time to design the cover, but that’s beside the point. The other issue with casting Sam is that it’s a very time sensitive role; anyone I nominate now would probably be too old in just a couple of years. But if we were going with who I had pictured in my head, it’d have to be Jordan Dang, probably best known for his role as Tim Okazaki in Chris Lilley’s TV series Angry Boys.

Jordan Dang Picture

Machina

I think I’ve discussed this before, but one of the visual inspirations for Machina was Brie Larson, of Scott Pilgrim vs the World and 21 Jump Street fame. She’s not English, and at 25 she may now be a little too old for the part, but between her roles in Scott Pilgrim and The United States of Tara, she’s what I imagined Machina to be.

Brie Larson Picture

Major Blackthorne

There were a few different actresses who informed my image of the Major, with chief amongst them being Charlize Theron (particularly because of her role in the music video for Brandon Flowers’ song Crossfire).

Charlize Theron Picture

But there were a couple of other faces floating around in my head when creating her, which included Stephanie March of Law & Order fame, Australian actress Emma Lung and, most recently, Haywire star and MMA fighter Gina Carano.

Agent Alpha

Everyone wants Idris Elba cast in everything. Who am I to deny them? And why would I want to?

Idris Elba Picture

The Knight of Wands

David Bowie’s appearance in the video for China Girl was very inspirational for the Knight’s appearance, as was Guy Pearce in Memento, but it comes down to two actors for this role. Either I stick with the Prometheus theme that’s developing and say Michael Fassbender, or I go the Jedi route and nominate Ewan McGregor. Either way, everybody wins.

Michael Fassbender Picture Ewan McGregor Picture

(I can not get these two pictures side-by-side for some reason. Clearly they’ve had a disagreement.)

Gaia

Outside of a cameo on 30 Rock I have no idea about Padma Lakshi’s acting ability, but she was highly influential when it came to envisioning what Gaia looked like. But I think Freida Pinto could just as easily make the role hers (and once again, their photos are fighting with each other).

Padma Lakshmi Picture Freida Pinto Picture

So that’s the team, but what are heroes without some villains to fight? Here’s a small selection of who I’d pick to be the Big Bad.

The Overman

Alexander Skarsgard. Because obviously.

Alexander Skarsgård Picture

Big Brother

The lead antagonist in War Zone was inspired by singer/actor/general awesome guy Henry Rollins, who may now be a little too old and grey for the role but…well, who cares?

Henry Rollins Picture

I always pictured Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Emperor, the Knight of Wands’ brother and chief adversary. Obviously, and very sadly, that’s no longer a possibility, and given that I can’t wrap my head around it I figured I’d nominate the next member down the food chain in the Major Arcana. Namely…

The Magician

And this is a bit of a weird one, because I imagine it to be Doc Hammer, the co-creator and one of the lead voice actors from The Venture Bros animated series. He plays a variety of characters on the series, and I’m sure his skills would translate easily to live action. Plus it would amuse me immensely.

And that’s my list. Hopefully this doesn’t contradict too much with what the readers of the series have pictured, and if it has then just bear in mind that this is only my opinion. If you have a completely different vision, I’d love to hear about it. Otherwise I’ll be over here. By the phone. Waiting for that call from Hollywood to come. Which I’m sure will be any minute now. Especially given that international superstar Doc Hammer is attached to star. Box office gold. License to print money. Third salient point.

Fin.

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‘Vanguard Prime: War Zone’ Full Cover Reveal

The title for this post pretty much says it all, huh? I mean, there are times to be ambiguous and, clearly, this is not one of those times.

You may have noticed that the banner image above has changed. And if you haven’t seen the image before, allow me to very proudly say that it’s the artwork from Vanguard Prime: War Zone. As with the previous books in the series, illustrator Chad McCown has delivered a beautiful, energetic piece of wraparound artwork which this time features the Vanguard Prime team on the front battling it out with the [unnamed mysterious bad guys] on the back.

You can see the finished product for yourselves when War Zone is released on August 29, but in the meantime you can enjoy the full cover image by clicking below;

Pretty awesome, huh?

Pretty awesome, huh?

But that’s not all! I also have Vanguard Prime: Red Alert news! Penguin has now set up a landing page for the eBook, which means you can find links to it in all its various formats in one handy spot. Click here now to check it out.

If you haven’t had the chance to read it as yet, I highly recommend it as it’s a bite-sized adventure featuring the whole Vanguard Prime team, as well as a variety of new, exciting villains. This is in addition to the first two books in the series available in digital formats at $4.99 – a bargain if ever I saw one!

What else has been going on? Well, for one thing I participated in the pop-up library that Werribee Plaza set up for Book Week, where I got to read one of my favourite picture books (Instructions by Neil Gaiman, if you’re curious) as well as talk with the kids in the audience about writing and storytelling. I’ll make sure to post some pictures when they become available.

I mean, how often do you get a picture of yourself sitting on a giant storybook throne?

‘Til next time.

I’m Not Racist, But…: On Race & Genre Fiction

I have to admit, I was a little hesitant in writing this post.

Race is an incredibly sensitive topic and it’s very easy to come across as either self-righteous or horribly misguided…especially when you’re a pasty Australian guy who’s so pale he’s practically blue. But I’ve had this idea brewing in my head for quite a while now and I thought it was best to express it. If that expression comes off as a little garbled or preachy-sounding, I hope you’ll bear with me.

Growing up a white, middle-class kid – and a boy, at that – I never had to search very far to see myself reflected in the fiction I consumed. From He-Man to James and the Giant Peach, there were white, fair-haired representations of heroism in plentiful abundance.

In fact, every main character in just about everything I read or watched contained a white male hero facing off against the threat of the day. Quite often he’d be aided by something as exotic as a girl, equally fair-haired, or perhaps a talking animal sidekick. People of colour, however, were few and far between…though sometimes they’d be included in a villainous capacity by especially dunderheaded storytellers.

As I got older, I started taking notice of race a bit more. My preteen brain was blown when I discovered that Spawn, the Image comics character created by Todd McFarlane, was a black man…or at least he had been before he’d been killed by his employer and resurrected as a soldier of Hell (long story).

Not only was Spawn black but so was his supporting cast, including the wife he’d left behind on Earth and the best friend who’d married her in Spawn’s absence. Though I’m embarrassed to admit it now, I was a little confused at the time as to why McFarlane, a white guy, would make all his main characters black. Didn’t that make it harder for him to relate to them? Didn’t it make them harder for him to write?

I also remember loving The Lion King around the same time, and being frustrated by the critics who denounced the racist and homophobic overtones contained in the film. How could The Lion King be racist? It was all about animals, not people! Of course, it didn’t occur to me that if you take a bunch of negative cultural stereotypes, apply them to your villain characters and get those characters voiced by actors of colour, you’re practically begging to be accused of racism.

It wasn’t until uni that I started looking beyond the surface details of plot and the knee jerk defensiveness of saying “It’s just a story” (four of the worst words to ever say about storytelling; stories are more than a series of events told to keep us entertained. Stories can be weapons. They can be balms for the soul. They can enlighten and broaden the mind. Stories are never just stories).

At uni, I learnt about post-feminist and post-colonial theory. I learnt to analyse the themes of a work, to look at it from angles other than the straightforward. But it was outside of uni – in fact, it was an essay I found online – that really opened my mind to the issue of race.

Shame by Pam Noles, written in response to the TV adaptation of the Earthsea books, is a deeply personal piece where the author ruminates on the depiction of race in science-fiction and fantasy. When I read it in 2006, it changed my world view.

Vanguard Prime doesn’t come out for another two weeks (July 25th! Bookshop near you! /shamelessplug) so the characters I’m about to discuss won’t mean much to anyone at this stage, but when I was creating them I kept in mind the story Pam Noles told about being a child desperately looking for a depiction of herself in the stories she loved.

Sam Lee is a 14-year-old kid whose sudden manifestation of superpowers forever changes his life. Invited to join the superhero team Vanguard Prime, he finds himself rubbing elbows with the idols of his youth. Those idols include Agent Alpha, the VP universe equivalent of Superman or Captain America.

When creating Agent Alpha, I initially went to the obvious place of picturing a white male with a shiny white smile and slick blonde hair. Very vanilla. Very predictable. Very boring. In this post-Obama world, wouldn’t the more interesting thing be to take the Superman paradigm and place an African-American in that role? And so Agent Alpha became, in his secret identity, Michael Malik Khalid.

And then there’s Sam himself. The name “Sam Lee” generated quite naturally. The thing that kept repeating in my head when I was trying to work out who the main character of the book would be were the words that Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, said about what made the world famous Wallcrawler so popular; that, beneath the mask, he could be anybody. Black, white, Asian. Anybody. It doesn’t matter.

As noble an idea as that is, it lasts about as long as it takes for Spider-Man to remove his mask…and then you discover that his name’s Peter Parker and that he’s another middle-class white guy (at least, that’s still the case in the mainstream Marvel universe. In the Ultimate imprint, Peter’s recently been replaced by Miles Morales, a half-black, half-Hispanic kid. When the announcement of this change was made, it was sadly met with a great many accusations of it being due to “political correctness”…I think the same people who use the excuse “It’s just a story” are the same people who rail against “political correctness”).

I wanted to offer kids from any background the feeling of inclusiveness that Stan spoke of when he talked about the notion of Spider-Man being “anybody”. Partly in tribute to the man himself, but mostly because of its ethnic ambiguity, I chose the name ‘Sam Lee’ for my main character. The majority of the book is written from Sam’s point-of-view, and beyond his clothes he never describes his appearance. Prose could provide the ambiguity necessary for any kid, anywhere, to place themselves in Sam’s shoes.

Of course, I couldn’t help but slip in a sly reference to what I felt Sam’s cultural background was…a reference that the editor who read the manuscript picked up on and asked me about when we sat down to discuss the book. That information would eventually be passed onto the book’s designer and illustrator; you can keep things as vague as you want in the text, but the reality of the situation is that you’re going to have to put an image on the cover, aren’t you?

Not one but two people close to me commented on Sam’s Asian appearance. They asked if that was an attempt to sell the book overseas, specifically to the Asian market or to manga fans. And I can’t think of a more perfect example of why we need more racial diversity in genre fiction, if not fiction in general, than that.

Not thinking about race is a luxury that’s afforded to white people because we’re the ones on top. We’re everywhere, and so are our stories. Try and subvert that, even just a little, and it results in consternation, if not outright hostility. You need look no further than the response to the mere suggestion of Donald Glover being cast as Spider-Man, or the actual casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor, or the racist rumblings about the casting of The Hunger Games film, as evidence of that.

I have one more phrase to add to the list alongside “It’s just a story” and “political correctness”. It’s “I’m not racist but…”. Is there any other phrase that’s more likely to preface a racist statement? The only way I can think of it being used in anything but a bigoted fashion is “I’m not racist, but I really think we could use some more ethnic diversity in this story.” Then I’d agree. And I’d probably get accused of being PC as a result. Not that I’d mind.