At what point does "doing your own thing" become mere contempt for the audience?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/29 14:00
[Smith] talked about his approach to movies nowadays and how he isn’t aiming to please general audiences anymore. Towards the end of his little spiel, Smith said: “I used to want to make movies for audiences. But if you’ve seen Tusk, and after you’ve seen Yoga Hosers, you’ll see that I really don’t give a shit about the audience anymore.” After posting about this online, many people have taken it as something incendiary towards the people who go to see his movies. However, his position is really one that a lot of filmmakers should have. Smith isn’t saying that he doesn’t want the audience to enjoy the movie or that he’s purposely making movies that they won’t like (though some would disagree with the latter), but he’s simply making the movies that he wants to make.
Exercise for the reader: At what point does "doing your own thing" shade over into -- or fall headlong into -- mere contempt for the audience?
Harlan Ellison is best known for his fantasy and SF work, but he was also responsible for The Glass Teat, a two-volume collection of columns he ran in the L.A. Free Press from about 1969 through 1972. The subject was...By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/26 10:00
Harlan Ellison is best known for his fantasy and SF work, but he was also responsible for The Glass Teat, a two-volume collection of columns he ran in the L.A. Free Press from about 1969 through 1972. The subject was ostensibly television; the real subject was The Tenor (read: Terror) Of The Times.
When does justification for a creative decision fall short?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/25 13:00
Working on the second draft of the outline for Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned today, something occurred to me as I found a detour around a plot roadblock. Time and again I've come up against what looks like plot holes, things that caused me to stop what I was doing and argue with myself. Does this not make sense? Why is it really here in the first place? Should I do something else?
Round and round turns the hamster-wheel, until a day or two later an answer pops out. Sometimes I scrap what I had in mind and come up with something else. Other times, though, I end up keeping what I have, only with a far more detailed justification for it.
The latter makes me deeply uncomfortable. Did I actually figure out how to make the element in question work, or did I just come up with a better excuse/self-justification for why I should leave it in?
How to hear them out when they say you're wrong.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/23 11:00
Further notes on the posts from earlier this week. If our instincts for what kinds of advice to accept or reject are based on our tastes, how can we be certain our tastes are better than someone else's? (This was Matt's question, but it is also mine.)
The way I think about it, it's not a matter of our tastes being "better" than the next guy in the same way that we can, say, achieve a higher bowling score or a lower golf score. What matters is being self-aware -- knowing why we have the preferences we do, and being conscious of the ends to which we use them.
On "pretentious" and "elitist".By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/19 18:00
More from yesterday. I promised I would talk more about the terms "elitist" and "pretentious."
"Elitist" and "pretentious" are such thought-stoppers, aren't they? I suspect that's the idea -- all you have to do to pretend you don't have to engage with a particular thing is to stick such a label on it, and that seals it over as thoroughly as Pandora's Box wasn't.
On ignoring bad advice, part two.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/19 10:00
My friend Matt Buscemi had something sharp to say about my previous post: "You get to ignore stupid feedback when you're read enough and gotten enough feedback to know that the feedback giver's advice comes from an experience narrower than your own."
I think at this point I've earned the right to ignore feedback I think is foolish, because I've had at least some practice at determining what kinds of feedback are suited to making a given thing better.
How to figure out if your way is in fact a dead end.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/17 14:00
At some point in every writer's career, I imagine, there comes a moment when they say something to the effect of "I wrote it that way for a reason."
I'm still on the fence as to whether this is the sign of a writer finally coming into his own, or a mudpit that can engulf the boots of someone at most any stage in their career.
It's good for the soul.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/15 10:00
when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.
It isn't a panacea. I've known creators whose tastes were, if anything, even more narrow and exclusionary than the people they were catering to.
But it's good medicine. For all I know, those creators may well have been fostered in an environment where their creativity was defined more by what they were against than what they were for.
A lot of my earlier creative modes were defined more by what I was resisting, or rejecting, than what I was trying to bring into being. I have a much better idea now of what I'm trying to do than I did before. Not that it's carved in stone; better that it remain just protean enough to change with both the times and the man, if needed. But better to make something, and in doing so re-make yourself, than simply take other things in.
I know it really isn't as easy as all that. But, again, it's good medicine, and a good place to start.
Why we aren't "questioning the legitimacy of a system that confers so much value on to stupid things".By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/08 19:00
Paul Graham's essay about how addressing economic inequalities will only end up hurting entrepreneurs has already been bisected, dissected, and cross-shredded more ways than I have fingers to count on. But this particular line is a winner:
You end up going to absurd lengths to rationalize mediocre ideas because they happen to make tons of money instead of questioning the legitimacy of a system that confers so much value on to stupid things. To stay consistent, you have to defend the logic that the creepy women who founded Peeple contribute more value to society than literally thousands of 4th grade teachers.
Emph mine. We don't, by and large, question the legitimacy of conferring value on stupid things that happen to be money-makers. And by "stupid" I don't mean "frivolous", I mean "harmful to society generally". The problem with that kind of questioning is that it leads us to uncomfortable places -- like, say, the idea that the problem with leaving optimizations of society to the market is that the market doesn't optimize for human beings, but wealth.
The other problem is that we assume any rocking of the boat is going to be a net negative: here's your omelet, too bad about all those broken eggs, right? We're not in the habit of thinking about this problem in terms other than a dichotomy between death by market forces and death by revolution.
I know I'm not 4K, that's for sure.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/05 10:00
When the CD was still relatively new, Steve Albini of Big Black dubbed it "the rich man's eight track". I giggled at that sobriquet, because the popularity of the format, even with indie record companies, was its own refutation of such a snarky label.
Now, I giggle a little less. The compact disc has become something of a historical curiosity, although less because of actual technological obsolescence than because people simply find downloads more convenient than ripping. The massive gains in convenience for downloads trumped the loss in sound quality -- minimal for most people, anyway. (Most of the music I care about is either only on CD anyway, or only worth hearing with as few compression artifacts as possible.)
Two other markets are hanging on to physical media for dear life. One is publishing, where paper books still offer some things their digital counterparts cannot, and most likely always will. The other is high-end home video. To wit: Warner Brothers has just thrown its hat into the 4k video ring with a slew of first titles for that format.
The difference between the outline and the pitch.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/03 10:00
The other week, I finished the first very messy, very crude outline for Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. I've learned not to let such things bother me; the initial steps with anything new (especially something this much of a left turn for me) need to be messy and undisciplined, the better to let them come into whatever full flower they have to bloom into. Let that happen first, then prune.
Next week, and through January perhaps, I'll be rewriting the outline and making it into something that someone other than myself might be able to read. It's tempting to turn that into a pitch for the story, the better to sell alpha and beta readers on it, but that's not how this should function -- it's better thought of as a roadmap with a lot of detail and color, not a sales brochure.
Age of Dulltron.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/02 13:00
The missus and I watched the new Avengers and Terminator movies back-to-back over New Years' Eve, and afterwards I repeated a line I've said to other people quite often: It's not that I don't want this stuff, it's that I don't want nothing but this stuff.
Now you can get signed editions of my e-books -- sorta-kinda!By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016/01/01 18:20
A service called Authorgraph allows what they describe as "personal, digital inscriptions for ebooks". I've decided to give them a whirl, and so have added them to the sidebar. If you want to get digitally signed editions of my works, either click the link in the sidebar or go here.
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind