The Difference Between a Convention and a Conference

Audio Edition Coming Soon!

It’s been two months since I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, so I’ve had time to mull over the experience. Going somewhere new for the first time is always stressful, as one cannot know what to expect. The information I learned there was good, the speakers engaging, and my fellow attendees were both kind and polite. I don’t really regret trying out this new opportunity when it arose.

However, I also don’t think I’ll be going back.
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Permutations of the Soul

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“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

— Jedi Master Yoda, from The Empire Strikes Back

 

Souls permeate fantasy. You find them everywhere. In books like the Vlad Taltos series; in movies like Crimson Peak; in television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer; in video games like Jade Empire; in anime like Soul Eater; and manga like Fullmetal Alchemist. Even if souls are not the focus of the story, it is almost always assumed that souls exist. In some universes, all living things have souls, while in others only sentient races have them. In a few, only humanity is granted this unique ability to transcend oblivion.

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The Power of Children’s Cartoons

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“Who would have thought that child could win a children’s card game?”

— Seto Kaiba, from Episode #11 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series

I think a lot of people underestimate the power inherent in children’s cartoons.  When they hear the word “cartoon,” they picture something light, fluffy, and utterly vacuous, filled with loud noises and sight gags. Or they might think of the painfully awkward and cheerfully grating tones of newer “edutainment” shows, most of which are not nearly as good as classics like The Magic School Bus or Wishbone.  (Or maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking.)  Either way, cartoons tend to serve as a kind of temporal placeholder to keep little kids occupied while the grown-ups go do important grown-up-things.

This woefully misrepresents and denies the kind of narrative impact that cartoons can possess.  After all, cartoons are a staple of childhood, often giving kids their first real taste of serial storytelling.  Obviously different age groups will be drawn to different types of shows; one can’t expect a two-year-old to have the same attention-span as a six-year-old.  And to be fair, there is a place for cartoons comprised of stand-alone episodes and humor, both physical and verbal, like Looney Tunes, Rocky & Bullwinkle, or Tom and Jerry.  Such cartoons don’t require a viewer to invest a lot of time in order to get the payoff, and with no over-arching plot to worry about, it’s very easy to introduce newcomers to the show.  But I do believe that longer forms of story-telling can and should be presented to children at a young age so they can come to appreciate the art in all its forms.  Unfortunately, animated story-telling gets ignored because a lot of people still think that anything drawn, and in some cases even CGI, as a “cartoon” and therefore “just for kids.”  I have heard people refuse to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the greatest TV shows ever made (in any style) simply for the sin of being animated.  And that’s a real shame.
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Houseboats in Space

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At the beginning of the July 2016 Camp NaNoWriMo, I was in the mood for some old-school anime.  During Camp NaNo in July 2013, I’d inter-spaced bouts of writing with episodes of an anime called Black Jack.  Every so many hours, words, or pages, I would reward myself with an episode or two.  It got me through the month and it was an enjoyable show.  This time, I decided to start watching an anime I’d been eyeing for a while.  It’s called Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and I cannot express how hooked I currently am.  It’s got that gorgeous old-school look that only anime from the late 70s and early 80s have.  The drama is totally over-the-top, the science is out of whack or non-existent, and the plot lurches around like a drunken sailor.  But the characters are so endearing and the adventures are so fun that I don’t even mind it.  That’s just part of the experience.  In fact, I’ve actually had to stop watching it for now because it makes me want to write about pirate ships and space operas, not steampunk or romances.  (Oops.  Wrong choice for this project’s inspirational material.)

Captain Harlock

Still, as I was watching the first several episodes of Captain Harlock on Crunchyroll, I started thinking about all of the other science fiction anime and TV shows that heavily feature nautical themes and emphasize the tight-knit family unit that the crews of these ships become.  In Captain Harlock, this takes place on board the Arcadia.  In Last Exile, the first anime I ever watched, it’s the Silvana.  In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, we have the White Base.  (The power of the Bright-slap compels you! …*ahem* Yes, well, moving on.)  In Space Battleship Yamato it’s… er, well, the Yamato.  (Yes, I know that was redundant.)

Then you have all of the English TV shows and films, like the Enterprise from Star Trek, the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, Serenity from Firefly, Battlestar Galactica from… um, well, Battlestar Galactica. (Yes, yes, I know, more redundancy.)  And to top that off there are good old-fashioned ocean-going vessels: the Defiant, the Albatrossthe HMS Surprise, and Captain Nemo’s submarine the Nautilus, to name a few.
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Dangerous Stereotypes: Bad Boys

I’m going to tackle some stereotypes present in modern fiction that I think are dangerous when used irresponsibly.  Any entries part of this series will be labeled as “Dangerous Stereotypes.”  The previous entry on this topic is about the Scientist stereotype, which can be read here.  

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God of Mischief

Image via desktop-wallpapers.net

People have interesting ways of coping with scary things.  Some deny their fear.  Some avoid what frightens them.  Some seek it out.  And many people, often women, seem to be taking what should be scary and try to make it cute.

I’m talking about the “bad boys.”

There are so many villainous characters out there with cute, sorrowful, gentle, loving, or chibi-fied pictures of them out on the internet.  Sometimes they are anti-heroes like Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z or Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Sometimes they are villains like Voldemort from Harry Potter or Loki from the Marvel Comics.  Sometimes they are someone who flickers in between like Mr. Gold from Once Upon a Time.  And sometimes they are like Alucard from the anime and manga Hellsing. Alucard is the opposite of cute.  He’s one of, if not the most, badass, psychotic, murderous vampire in modern literature.  He’s fucking terrifying.  He’s murdered and drunk the blood of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, human and vampire, and enjoyed it.  The only think that keeps him under control is the special spell that binds him to the will of the leader of the Hellsing Organization.  And he’s one of the GOOD guys!

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Pictures and Apologies

Sorry everyone, but there will not be a more substantial entry this week.  I was at Katsucon 2012 over the weekend, so I’m still really exhausted and trying to readjust to real life.  The con was great, although it was more stressful than anticipated and not very vacation-like.  Still, awesome panels and I debuted two new costumes:  Botan from Yu Yu Hakusho and Dark Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If you are interested in reading about my con adventures, please check back on this entry in a few days or so.  I should have a link up at that point.  Until then, enjoy these pictures!

Botan from "Yu Yu Hakusho"

Botan from “Yu Yu Hakusho”

My brother cosplaying Himura Kenshin from "Rurouni Kenshin"

My brother cosplaying Himura Kenshin from “Rurouni Kenshin”

Dark Willow from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Dark Willow from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

FCs vs. OCs

In the world of writing on the internet, there are two terms that are often used interchangeably but are actually quite different.  Those two terms are “FCs” and “OCs.”

“FC” stands for “fan character.”  A fan character is a character that is created for fan fiction.  The character itself may be a completely new creation on the part of the fan fic writer, but the universe that this character is being placed in was NOT created by that writer.  For example, in my Fruits Basket fan fic “Crane Dancer,” I have an FC named Tsuru Odoriko.  She is not part of the Fruits Basket canon, or even a side character.  She is entirely my own creation, but the universe and other characters she interacts with were made by Natsuki Takaya, the author of Fruits Basket, not me.  Thus, Tsuru is an FC.  An FC can be well-developed and able to stand proudly or it could be a blatant self-insert or overly-perfect Mary Sue.  A Mary Sue is a specific kind of FC, a character that is so overly perfect or powerful that they do not feel like a real, flawed human being.  I know that some of my own FCs like Lyra Whitefall Palgrave started out as Mary Sues, but I’ve been working to correct that, to make FCs like her less powerful and perfect and more like real people.  Self-inserts can be over-idealized versions of the author dropped into the story.  Many amateur fan fic writers do this because they lack practice creating characters.   (“Mary Sue, Mary Schmue” by Birde Williams is an excellent article about the proliferation of Mary Sue characters in fan fiction.)

“OC” stands for “original character.”  A lot of times FCs are incorrectly referred to as OCs since the FCs themselves are “original” within the context of the fan fic.  However, there is a distinction.  OCs are characters created for a world that the authors has also had a hand in creating.  For example, Irene and Matthias are OCs because they were created by me for my own story Astral Rain.  Any character that you create for your own worlds are your OCs.  Obviously OCs can run the gambit of cardboard to three dimensional with their own mix of Mary Sues and author-self-inserts.  A writer has a lot more work to do with OCs since they have to create the world as well as the characters and be sure that everything makes sense.  Sometimes FCs can even become OCs.  In my Harry Potter fan fic “Sundered Blood,” I have an FC named Samantha Halfward.  Right now she is an FC because I created her for the Harry Potter universe.  However, since I like Samantha, her background, and other creations that I made for her story so much that I’m planning on eventually giving Samantha her own universe to play in.  If I do it right, Samantha will transition from a fan character to an original character.

Regardless if your character is an FC or an OC, equal care should be taken in their creation and execution throughout your story.  One is not inherently better or worse than the other, although keep in mind that the tales of OCs can be published for money but the tales of FCs cannot.

 

A Few Words on Character Deaths

PLEASE NOTE:  

This entry may contain spoilers!  Proceed at your own risk.

I recently watched the anime Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and loved it.  The story was interesting, the characters engaging, even the secondary characters (a trait the early Gundam shows are famous for), and a great mix of comedy and melodrama.  I followed the characters on their journey, through trials, tribulations, daring plans, narrow escapes, joys, sorrows, and maturation through 48 amazing episodes.  Then, the final episodes 49 and 50….everything fell apart.  Within those two episodes, half the cast was killed off and one was left alive, but rendered absolutely flippin’ insane.  And the story ends.  Just like that.  No time for me or the survivors to mourn, just stare at the rolling credits going, “What?!  That’s it?!”

I sent a text to my friend Fullmetal, who had lent me the series, that said:  “Well.  I just finished watching Zeta Gundam. The show was AWESOME…up until the last two episodes.  Those last two sucked.  An unresolved cop-out!”

His response:  “But everyone dies.”

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A Quick Apology

I apologize, but I’m afraid that there will not be a more substantial blog entry this week.  I was away at Otakon in Baltimore, Maryland this weekend and I’m still catching up on sleep and dealing with a severe case of Post Convention Depression.  I’m very sorry to disappoint any of you who were looking forward to an entry this week, but I promise to make it up to you next week.  Stay tuned!

(Here’s a consolation prize to show you what my brother and I were doing this weekend🙂

"Team Rocket is blasting off again!"

“Team Rocket is blasting off again!”

The Benefits of Fan Fiction

Fan fiction has a bad reputation on the Internet.  It’s usually looked down upon as a pass-time of rabid fangirls living out their fantasies with or between their favorite characters.  Poor spelling, poorer grammar, Mary Sues, and slash abound.

I’m not saying that fan fiction doesn’t have these elements because I’ve seen enough to know it exists.  What I am saying is there is a lot more to fan fiction than just that.

I used to think that fan fiction was the last resort for people who couldn’t write.  A cop-out for people who weren’t original enough, creative enough, or talented enough to be “real writers.”  Ironically, no one had defined fan fiction or even explained it to me at that point, so I had only the vague image of teenagers with no lives mangling someone’s characters because they couldn’t make their own.  What I didn’t realize was that I had been creating fan fiction ever since I could read.  I just didn’t know that’s what I’d been doing.

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