Previous Posts: Uncategorized / General: January 2012

So Little Time, So Much To Do Dept.

More choices in entertainment means more competition, all against all.


Why Piracy is Not Responsible for 'Ruining' Comics [Op-Ed] - ComicsAlliance | Comic book culture, news, humor, commentary, and reviews

Comic books aren't competing with other comics or being damaged by piracy so much as they're competing with video games, movies, music, and more. They aren't competing with baseball cards or riding around on a dirt bike any more. Is the latest issue of Daredevil more entertaining than Saints Row the Third? In a way, that's comparing apples to oranges. But to consumers, they're both entertainment options.

I suspect this argument cuts in all directions. The range, breadth, and availability of entertainment has broadened to such a degree that competition between all flavors of entertainment has also increased. I'm becoming convinced it's a cycle, and not simply a one-way street.

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Tags: anime comics entertainment manga media movies music video games


Not Selling Out, But Buying In Dept.

Write genre fiction, not just "fiction". We'll be better off for it.


The Little Red Umbrella: Sell Out: An Open Letter To Young Fiction Writers by Andrea Grassi

Writers shouldn't think of adopting a genre as selling out or pleasing the market, but rather as an homage to their heroes, and a small step towards saving society: an opportunity to reinvigorate the calibre of popular fiction by writing it well.

Good advice and thoughts all around, and it's nice to see more folks coming out of the woodwork and saying something that's been unjustly ignored or snubbed for too long: genres are not evil. 

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Tags: creativity writing


Scriveners Dept.

Writer's advice that doesn't stink.


After reading Nick Mamatas's sarcastic advice to would-be writers, I have to agree with him on one point: there is a great deal of advice being flung around for writers, and most of it is little more than a way for some writer to justify what worked for them. From what I've seen, most of the writers out there who have made it are too busy actually writing to bother with such overbaked homilies.

That said, here's my take on his rules. Nothing dogmatic here, just some observations from my side.

1. Don't give up, but don't get a swelled head either.

If you want to write, you almost certainly will continue to do so without any incentive other than the reward of writing itself. What you need to want even more than that — assuming you have it — is the willingness to look at your work as egolessly as possible and improve it.

2. Show what needs to be shown and tell what needs to be told.

There is no golden rule for this; you have to figure out on your own what the thresholds are. Look for other examples of showing and telling that seem to work; compare notes with others whose opinions you trust.

3. Be yourself.

You're a writer, sure, and you want your work to be noticed. But you're a lot of other things, too. Don't crowd that stuff out of the picture, because those things feed back into making you a better writer (and, most likely, a more balanced person.)

Most people are going to be more interested in you as you-the-person instead of you-the-writer, especially if you aren't published yet — and sometimes even if you are. If you're a schlub, work on that first. It'll benefit more than just your writing career.

4. Be yourself on the Internet as well.

See #3. Just remember that anything you type in anger at 2 A.M. is probably not going to help your position.

5. Aim ahead.

Don't aim for the top; aim forward. The "top" is arbitrary. Selling a million copies of something is a very narrow definition of "success" — it's nice, but it's not the whole picture, and it can be misleading.

Finish the work you have in front of you, make it the best possible work you can in this moment in time, learn from what didn't work, and move on to whatever else you have planned. Kurosawa said it best: "When I am asked what my favorite of my films is, I say 'My next one.'"

6. It is what it is.

It helps to be able to see your ego for what it is and what it's trying to do to, and, in, your work. The more you practice this, the better you get at listening to it when it matters (as in when you need that voice to give a story its particular force and energy) and ignoring it when it's just getting in the way (as in when it's telling you to leave in things that simply do not help).

7. Revise as you must.

The more you actually write, finish, and revise, the easier it gets to tell what needs another round and what doesn't. Some things are best left as-is in their first white-hot incarnation. That said, you should always consider anything you produce worthy of a second look.

8. Write every day.

Sorry, I have to dissent on this one. The question of how much is open-ended, though. A thousand words, two thousand, five hundred — none of those are absolutes. Pick something that fits your life. If you find the ideal number is zero, at least then you won't be kidding yourself.

9. Don't think about the goals.

This is my way of stepping around all those other recommendations in one swoop. The more you get hung up on addressing arbitrarily goals (and believe me, they're all arbitrary), the less interesting writing itself seems.

If you dread the idea of sitting in front of the keyboard that much, either confront the dread or get another hobby. You'll be much happier either way.

10. Get out and live a bit.

Writing isn't like anything else, and neither is life itself. Go get some life under your belt so you have something to write about. Watching movies is not life. Reading other books is not life, either. They can add to life, and they often should, but they aren't substitutes for direct experience. Don't draw on the way people interact on TV when you can draw on how they interact right in front of you. And if you're not paying attention to that stuff in the first place, why cheat yourself?

Will any of this work for you? I have no idea. Why not go find out?


Tags: humor writing


Back and Forth Dept.

I've added category-specific navigation to the "Next" and "Previous" links at the top of every article. This way you can easily browse back and forth between movie reviews, books, etc. Turns out there was a very easy way to do...


I've added category-specific navigation to the "Next" and "Previous" links at the top of every article. This way you can easily browse back and forth between movie reviews, books, etc. Turns out there was a very easy way to do this in Movable Type; I thought it required a plug-in or some other low-level monkeying.


More Trouble In Mind Dept.

Sexual violence misused in the arts, continued.


This serves as a good follow-up to my earlier post about the misuse of sexual violence in fiction:

The Bigger Picture: What happens when we find The Line as viewers? - HitFix.com

... at the age of 41, at about 94 minutes into "The Divide," I reached a breaking point, and I realized that I am pretty much incapable of sitting through one more cheap, pointless, exploitative rape in a movie.
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Tags: books controversy literature movies writing


Technostalgia Dept.

The first program I ever used for word processing was WordStar 3.3, which came with the PC clone my father brought home from work one day. For perspective, this machine -- the Panasonic Senior Partner, it was called -- was...


The first program I ever used for word processing was WordStar 3.3, which came with the PC clone my father brought home from work one day. For perspective, this machine — the Panasonic Senior Partner, it was called — was what they called a "lunchbox" or "luggable" PC — a full clone of the original IBM PC with a built-in 9" monochrome monitor, two 5" floppy drives (one of which was replaced with 10MB hard drive later on), a built-in thermal printer, and a power supply so loud you could hear the machine running from the next room. I think I ended up using the PC more than my father did.

I stayed with WordStar 3.3 (later 4.0) until I eventually bought my own PC, when I switched over to WordPerfect. That in turn I stayed with until I discovered Word for Windows, where I remain today. I mention this to some people — mostly purists who still use the DOS version of WordPerfect — and I watch them thrash around and scream in agony. Why, why, why would I want to give up on the purity, the simplicity, the elegance of WordPerfect and replace it with that awfulbad terrinogood abominotrocity known as Word?!

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Tags: technology


Dead Letter Office Dept.

Between bouts of work, work, work and work, I've been straightening up both the house and the PC. Over the years, one's user documents directory becomes a stupefying toxic waste dump of digital effluvia. I've been unearthing half-started projects that...


Between bouts of work, work, work and work, I've been straightening up both the house and the PC. Over the years, one's user documents directory becomes a stupefying toxic waste dump of digital effluvia. I've been unearthing half-started projects that I can't even remember writing, fragments of this and that, things which I imagined looked good in the ten seconds it took to scribble them down, and just a whole farrago of utter clabber that I deleted without looking back.

One thing I did find was a list of full-length projects which I actually completed, and it was humbling to see how many of them were in there. Humbling in the sense that most of them are not worth showing to other people. I've completed at least twice as much stuff as I've actually published or made available, although the ratio of unshown-to-shown stuff has gone up in the last several years. That's most likely due to me finishing stuff, learning from it, and then rolling what I learned into the next project.

A couple of these things are worth dusting off and republishing — like Another Worldly Device, one of my first really ambitious novels. Flawed as it is, it's worth saving. Many of them are things that were cannibalized for other works, like the two aborted attempts at a novel called The Young Gods, pieces of which were recycled into Summerworld. The two projects couldn't have been more dissimilar.

The one thing I've learned from all this is to not look back. Not in the sense of "don't learn from your mistakes" — who'd want to forego that opportunity? — but in the sense of, don't regret producing those hundreds of thousands of words that you simply can't show anyone because they aren't up to your current standard of quality, or don't represent you at your best. They are part of how you got here.

Whenever I was at a convention, I'd almost always end up at a table next to an artist and watch them at work. The one thing you almost never see when an artist works is the hundred other images they produced that led to them producing the one you do see. You never see the stuff they tore up or ditched halfway through; you never see the dead ends and the experiments that never should have been. But all that stuff leads them somewhere. It's only because we see the 1% at the tip of the 'berg, the finished product, that we never think about the 99% beneath it.

Every time I've made revisions of one of my books, I've made a discrete copy of the draft and set change-tracking to allow all the edits to be displayed. I don't do this under the delusion that it's going to be of historical importance to anyone else someday — yeah, like my papers are going to end up in some university library — but mostly out of a sense of completeness. I like to know how I got here, and what terrain I traversed on the way.


Tags: creativity writing


Pride Before A Fall Dept.

While grousing elsewhere about the Akira live-action adaptation -- which now mercifully seems to be off the table -- I used the term "insider's hubris". This was a phrase I coined a while back to describe the kind of disconnect...


While grousing elsewhere about the Akira live-action adaptation — which now mercifully seems to be off the table — I used the term "insider's hubris". This was a phrase I coined a while back to describe the kind of disconnect that exists in Hollywood between the executives and the actual audiences.

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Tags: adaptation anime Hollywood movies


Trouble in Mind Dept.

I have had an essay in the works for some time where the core thesis is that most SF (and fantasy, but I see more of this in SF than fantasy) is written by and for people who read mainly...


I have had an essay in the works for some time where the core thesis is that most SF (and fantasy, but I see more of this in SF than fantasy) is written by and for people who read mainly because they are interested in ideas and situations, rather than people and feelings. The essay remains unfinished because I have a hard time making it sound like I am tarring and feathering everyone who reads SF and fantasy, and that's not what I wanted to do with it.

Yet over and over again, I get this nagging feeling that I find hard to put into words about both the writers and audience for much of this material. I suspect this feeling, again, does not encompass all of both, but enough of each for it to be noteworthy. And the more I think about it, the more I suspect the things that bother me are not exclusive to SF and fantasy, or genre fiction generally: they are more a matter of bad writing overall than they are of a bad genre.

Some of this snapped into focus when reading an essay by Jim Hines at Apex about the wretched way sexual violence is treated in most SF and fantasy. The things he describes, though, could apply to any story in any genre — but then this sentence jumped out at me:

If you ever run into an editor, ask them how many badly-written, vicious, misogynistic, angry, and just plain awful stories they receive about rape and sexual violence. (Especially if they edit dark fantasy or horror.)

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Tags: fiction writing


So Little Time, So Much To Do Dept.

Deadline has a nice piece in the "what the hell happened to the movies?" category, with the telling headline "Brands, Budgets, & Bankability Still Don’t Explain Why Studios Are In Crisis." One issue that comes more to mind when I...


Deadline has a nice piece in the "what the hell happened to the movies?" category, with the telling headline "Brands, Budgets, & Bankability Still Don’t Explain Why Studios Are In Crisis." One issue that comes more to mind when I read this piece: the closed-ended, suicidal production schedules of most Hollywood films.

Most people don't know this, but a big Hollywood movie has a release date the minute it's considered a go picture. It's pre-booked into theaters from that moment, and is only moved around if absolutely needed (and even the only by a few weeks, tops). This is a reflection of two things: the amount of control the theater chains have as one of the mouths of the distribution pipeline, and how locked-in the whole process is from front to back. It's the ideal process for a business whose entire monetization model is the minimization of risk.

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Tags: business Hollywood movies



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This page is an archive of entries in the Uncategorized / General category from January 2012.

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