Busy several days and weekend, not much blogging time. Some catch-up.
Punching Down, Not Up
I caught Darknight v Punchyman: Rising Dawn Of Something Begins on Saturday, and it was astonishingly crummy — no clear throughline, too long even after being pared down by half an hour from its purported R-rated version, amazingly aimless and dull in its first half. Like most superhero movies in general, it's a lot of setup for not much payoff. I'm getting very tired of this business of movies being used to merely set up franchises, instead of telling succinct, straightforward, reasonably self-contained stories.
I've long believed that one of the problems of commercial popular culture is that the success of bad material sets examples for current and future creators that further debase the art forms they work with (all entertainment is art whether we like it or not), and this is just the most recent and noisy incarnation of that. I've held my bladder for worse things for two-and-a-half hours, but that's not much of a recommendation.
And to think I actually liked Man of Steel.
Made some fairly strong progress on Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. I've got plot markers in the ground for about two-thirds of the story now, but we're still a ways from having an end-to-end outline. On a story-complexity scale of "walk to corner to get milk" (The Four-Day Weekend) to "navigate Tokyo subway without knowing Japanese" (Flight of the Vajra), this one's only a notch or two below the latter. No way I was plotting out something like this without a wiki.
I think part of my struggle with this book has come from two places. One is the way I'm trying to tackle a story that revolves around a specific mechanic, the way a fantasy story might revolve around the intricacies of a magic system or an SF story involves a given technology or scientific breakthrough. (Vajra, again.) I have long resisted getting too involved in the nitty-gritty of such things, in part because they typically bored me whenever I read them in someone else's work, but mainly because I rarely had the patience or discipline to think such things through. Writing Vajra helped wean me from feeling so uneasy about such things; I guess diving in over my head helped break me of the aversion to such work once and for all. That doesn't mean diving back in was easy, especially when the specific logistics of what I was working with were easily twice as complicated as anything in Vajra.*
The other source of difficulty has been coming up with a story that is not hidebound by the idea — one that starts with it, but finds ways to expand on it, grow outwards, encompass ever-larger things. Again, Vajra was like that; I wanted to let the premise serve as a point of departure for things that were not encompassed by the premise alone. With the premise I have in mind for AONO, it would be surpassingly easy to stay on the level of the premise alone and pretend it was, by itself, enough to get me home.
Raise your hand if you remember the terrible 1990s Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Eraser. For those lucky enough not to have wasted time with this thing, it's about Arnie playing a guy who helps people disappear when they're entering the Witness Protection Program. Think of all the cool ideas that might arise from such a premise — the malleability of personal identity, the difficulty of truly vanishing in modern life, etc. Now dump them all into a trash barrel and set them on fire, because the movie ends up being about Arnie doing stuff like shooting an alligator at pointblank range and quipping "You're luggage." This is not where I want to end up.
* Some part of me knows all this sounds irritatingly vague, because I typically decline to go into details of plot, setting, character, etc. when working on a new story. I like to get everything nailed down first, and then advertise only the finished product — or something as close to the finished product as I'm likely to get in this lifetime.