S.G. Browne

Less Than Hero: My Super Inspirations

B82pUXECAAAKNl3If you haven’t had a chance to check out the back cover copy for my new novel Less Than Hero, here’s the gist in a nutshell:

A group of professional human guinea pigs who make their living testing experimental drugs in Phase I clinical trials develop unusual side effects that they  project on to petty criminals who prey upon the homeless and helpless of New York City.

So yes, my superheros make people vomit, develop rashes, and suffer from convulsions and rapid weight gain.

Obviously these aren’t your classic superheroes. No men of steel or dark knights. No caped crusaders with superhuman strength or masked crime fighters with spider-sense. No one who is faster than a speeding bullet or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s more like:

Faster than a spreading rash! More powerful than dry heaves! Able to put villains to sleep with a single yawn!

Mystery_Men_film_posterMy superheroes have more in common with the band of crime fighters in Mystery Men than they do with The Avengers. As a matter of fact, Mystery Men is one of the main superhero inspirations/influences for Less Than Hero.

I saw Mystery Men in the theater back in 1999 and loved it. The next year I saw X-Men, followed by Unbreakable, both of which made a lasting impression on my imagination. I didn’t know it at the time, but those three films would be instrumental in the eventual writing of Less Than Hero.

UnliXMen1posterke a significant portion of today’s superhero fans, I don’t have a background in comic books. I didn’t read superhero comics as a kid and I don’t read them now. But I watched a lot of superhero cartoons and TV shows growing up and I enjoy catching superhero films at the multiplex. However, while I’m a fan of the Spider-Man and Batman and Avengers franchises, certain superhero films strike a chord more than the others.

Mystery Men appealed to me because the heroes were just ordinary people with unusual talents who wanted to make a difference. Plus I loved the humor. X-Men hooked me with the concept of mutants and its social commentary on prejudice and discrimination. And I loved Unbreakable because it was about an ordinary man discovering his extraordinary abilities and, eventually, a purpose that gave his life meaning.

UnbreakableposterwillisIn a way, Less Than Hero encompasses aspects of all three films. The characters, while they exist on the fringe of society, are normal people who end up wanting to make a difference, with the main character, and several of the others, searching for meaning in their lives. And while there aren’t any themes of prejudice or discrimination, there’s a definite social commentary on prescription drugs and their side effects.

Less Than Hero is the modern prescription for our over-medicated society, coming to save the day March 17, 2015.

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Filed under: Less Than Hero,Movies and Books,Novels — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 7:26 am

Awesome Mix Vol. 2

I’m a big fan of incorporating songs into my novels, whether they’re playing in the background, referred to by name, or quoted by one of my characters. I’ve done this in my novels Breathers, Fated, and Big Egos. Music helps to set the mood of a scene and can add another dimension to a novel or short story.

When it comes to movies, I love a good soundtrack. The right song can resonate emotionally and leave a lasting impression, creating favorite movie soundtrack moments. Like Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” in the bus scene from Almost Famous. Or “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies at the end of Fight Club.

Sometimes the soundtrack not only helps to set the mood, but is essential to the film. Other times, it’s part of the plot.

In last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy (which was one of my most enjoyable movie-going experiences of 2014), the soundtrack is woven in via a mixed tape called Awesome Mix Vol. 1 that the main character (Chris Pratt) was given by his mother. After her death, he gets abducted by a spaceship and 26 years later, our hero appears on another planet still listening to that same mixed tape.

On 2014 Earth, the songs on the playlist, most of which were popular in the 1970s, might seem retro or dated or cheesy by those who don’t appreciate Elvin Bishop or The Five Stairsteps.

But placed in the context of another world filled with action and adventure and where the fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of a displaced kid from Earth who still uses a Walkman cassette player, songs like “Come and Get Your Love” and “Escape (the Pina Colada Song)” are sweet, comical, and mesh perfectly with the film and the characters. In a way, the soundtrack is like a character itself.

So, inspired by the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, I’ve compiled my own Awesome Mix Vol. 2 playlist, listed below in alphabetical order. I limited the playlist to twelve songs to match the number of songs in the original mix and also stuck with the 1970s era. (Full disclosure: I unabashedly listen to a number of the songs in this playlist on a regular basis.)

 Awesome Mix Vol. 2
“Baby Come Back” by Player
“Boogie Shoes” by KC and the Sunshine Band
“Got to Give It Up, Pt. 1” by Marvin Gaye
“Hello It’s Me” by Todd Rundgren
“Ladies Night” by Kool & The Gang
“No Matter What” by Badfinger
“Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry
“September” by Earth, Wind, & Fire
“Shambala” by Three Dog Night
“Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder
“Sister Golden Hair” by America
“You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate

So what are some of your favorite soundtrack moments? And what are some of the songs you would put on your Awesome Mix playlist?

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Filed under: Movies and Books,Music,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 7:04 am

10 Books That Have Affected Me

There’s a meme on Facebook to list 10 books that have affected or stayed with you. You’re not supposed to dwell on your answer but just list the first 10 books that come to mind that have meant something to you for one reason or another. Perhaps they inspired you. Or terrified you. Or resonated with you in some manner that is personal.

I may have done this list previously. I’m sure it varies depending on my mood, or if I’ve read anything recently that became embedded in my DNA, so here is my current list of 10 Books That Have Affected Me (in no particular order):

*      *      *

1) Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

2) Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

3) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

4) St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

5) Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

6) The Stand by Stephen King

7) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

8) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

9) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

10) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

*      *      *

That’s my list. Feel free to share yours.

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Literary Mash-Up!

It’s time to play Literary Mash-Up, the game where you take two existing books and mash them together to form a brand new literary masterpiece, such as: Ender’s Game of Thrones, The Goodnight Moon Also Rises, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Grapes of Wrath.

But coming up with the titles is just part of the fun. In order to give your literary Franken-creations a life of their own, try mashing up their synopses, as well.

Below I’ve listed five new Literary Mash-Ups and their appropriate (or inappropriate) back cover copy. I hope you enjoy these brand new fictional tomes.

 *********************

The Joy Luck Fight Club
In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting every weekend in the basements and parking lots of bars across the country to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they plan for violent revenge on an empty consumer-culture world.

The Perks of Being Lord of the Flies
A story about what it’s like to travel that strange course through the uncharted territory of primitive savagery and survival. The world of first dates, family drama, and hunting wild pigs. Of sex, drugs, and dropping a boulder on a fat kid. Of those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as high school. Standing on the fringes of the collapse of social order offers a unique perspective…but there comes a time to see what it looks like from inside the hunting party.

The Old Man and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
Told in language of great simplicity and power, this classic children’s book celebrates how much fun a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin can be. From the can-opening Zans to the boxing Gox to the old Cuban trawler who can’t make a dollar, the silly rhymes and colorful cast of characters create an entertaining approach to the theme of courage in the face of defeat that will have every child giggling.

To Kill a Mockingjay
It’s the mid-1930s during the Great Depression and against all odds, Scout Finch has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bread lines alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the civil unrest? None other than Tom Robinson, a young black man accused of raping a white woman.

Of Mice and World War Z
Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, George and Lennie hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence as they travel across the United States, clinging together in the face of loneliness, alienation, and the zombie apocalypse. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a fortified zombie-proof shack they can call their own. When they land jobs at a refugee shelter in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems within their grasp. But George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the zombie defense tactics George has taught him.

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Filed under: Fiction,Literary Mash-Ups,Movies and Books — S.G. Browne @ 7:38 am

The Desolation of Smaug: This is Not a Movie

A little background…

I never read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, so when I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on it’s release date on my birthday in 2001, I had no idea the film was the first in a trilogy.This was likely in part to the aforementioned fact that I hadn’t read the novel and in part to the four or five shots of tequila I’d had at Dave & Buster’s while celebrating my birthday beforehand.

None of my friends who joined me knew the film was the first in a trilogy, either. And apparently neither did half of the audience. Or else, like me, they hadn’t read the book, as a good portion of the movie theater patrons let out a collective post-midnight groan when Frodo and Sam set off on the path to Mordor and it became clear they weren’t going to get there before the end credits started rolling.

Anyone who is a Star Wars fan knows this feeling well from the second installment of that series (and arguably the best of the three), The Empire Strikes Back. That was my first experience watching a film where I was left hanging in disbelief.

Wait a minute? The music is rising. Everyone’s staring out through the window. This is the end? It can’t be the end. What about Han?!

Twenty years after that adolescent mind fuck, the initial installment of The Lord of the Rings got me again.

Fast-forward to last year, when I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Now, I hadn’t read The Hobbit, either, but I knew it was a single book, approximately 300 pages, so there was no reason to think this film was also going to be the first in a trilogy. But then it ends with Smaug’s eye opening beneath a pile of gold and I thought:

Son of a bitch! They did it to me again!

So when I went to see The Desolation of Smaug in IMAX 3D on opening day with a couple of friends, I knew to expect an unfinished story. What I didn’t expect was to find a story that wasn’t really a story at all.

Let me explain:

When you’re creating trilogies, be they films or novels, we as viewers and readers know there’s more to come. (Presuming, of course, that we realize they’re trilogies in the first place.) And while I was left wanting at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Empire Strikes Back,  at least those films resolved one crisis as another one loomed. Even The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey got our heroes out of one sticky situation before setting up the inevitable confrontation with the slumbering dragon. But in The Desolation of Smaug, there is no resolution of anything. The film just stops in the middle of the action. Literally stops. In the middle. Of the action. Cut to black. Roll end credits.

So technically, the film has no ending.

And back to my point about the story not being a story. In addition to not having an ending, this film doesn’t really have a beginning, either. After a short flashback to set up a few key plot elements, it just picks up where the other one left off. So with no real beginning and no real ending, it’s not really a story. It’s just an excerpt. Two-and-a-half hours of cinematic connective tissue.

But at least the cinematography is awesome.

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Filed under: Move Review Monday,Movies and Books — Tags: — S.G. Browne @ 9:11 am