As Winter Storm Orlena sweeps through the northwest, I am comfortably ensconced in my library, watching the snow come down, with a stack of books from the James Asher series by Barbara Hambly beside me.
Since my last post, I have gotten even less done than the little I had managed to do before. Each week my living quarters dissolves into a chaos of dirty clothes and scattered papers. I spend the weekend putting myself back together only to repeat the process next week. This weekend in particular I spent mostly sleeping and haven’t even managed to get those basic tasks done. I feel like each week I need an additional week to recover, and I’m not sure how to break out of this insidious cycle.
Stories are carefully crafted illusions that are supposed to make sense in a way that life does not. Most of the time it’s a simple matter of picking up the book, popping in the DVD, or opening up the comic to start the story. You follow it all the way through to the end, and you’re done (at least until the sequel comes out). However, there are some stories and mediums where the lines are blurred and the entry point for the story is not nearly as obvious. The prime example I can think of is comics.
I’m still pretty new to the world of comics and graphic novels, and they can be really hard to get into. I remember after watching the Marvel film Doctor Strange, I wanted to learn more about the character. But when I went to look up the comics, I immediately faced a major problem: where should I start?
Plenty of genres will remain relevant in the future:
Horror, because we still like to be scared. Fantasy, because magic retains its fascination since it can’t materialize in the real world. Romance, because we still love, long for, and lose. Humor, because we need to laugh. Historical Fiction, because we want to experience other times and places.
But what about Science Fiction? During its Golden Age, this genre presented the perfect opportunity to extrapolate on emerging technologies and speculate where they might take us in the future. Some of those postulated futures turned out to be eerily prescient. But now we live in an age where automated cars and soft AI are becoming reality. Where we carry powerful miniature computers in our pockets that connect us to virtually any person on the planet. Where 3-D printers create entire houses in a matter of days and drones deliver packages directly to your home. Everything keeps getting (or seems to be getting) faster, sleeker, and more efficient, changing the social and economic landscape at an astonishing rate.
DISCLAIMER:This entry is onlyathoughtexercise! I am not proposing that one stance is better than the other, nor do I condone extreme positions either for or against the diversification or homogenization of any culture(s).
I recently read an article about NASA testing equipment and programs that will theoretically carry humans to Mars. Part of me was really happy about it, but at the same time, I was also disappointed because the federal space program is pretty much dead due to lack of funds. NASA is getting just enough to play around with ideas and reinvent the wheel, but not enough to actually do anything substantial. The private sector may yet succeed with companies like SpaceX, but the lack of interest in space exploration is so discouraging that I sometimes fear we’ll never reach beyond our planet before the next great extinction.
Recently, a friend and fellow writer told me they felt discouraged about writing. They were upset about so many people being unable to spot the differences between a good story and a bad story. Real gems languish in dusty corners while insults to the English language fly off the shelves. And not just books, but movies too. Their question was: “If people can’t tell the difference between good and bad stories, why put forth the effort of crafting a really good story?” Thinking out the rules of the world, creating three-dimensional characters, filling plot holes to make a seamless narrative…all of that takes work. And if people don’t notice and don’t care, then why bother?
It’s ironic that the three writers I look up to the most are also some of the most prolific. Mercedes Lackeyhas dozens upon dozens of novels. Many are collaborations, but many are not, and even collaborating takes a great deal of time and effort. Oddly enough, she started off as a writer of fanfiction and was a protegée of Marion Zimmer Bradley, one of the mistresses of sci-fi and fantasy. J. Michael Straczynskiwrites for 10 hours a day, every day, except on his birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s. He says, “If I don’t have an assignment, I’ll write a short story, I’ll write a spec script, I’ll write a novel. I just enjoy the hell out of it.” Out of the 110 episodes comprising Babylon 5, he wrote the scripts for 92 of them, plus all of the movies. Joss Whedon has created several cult classic television shows with some of the most unique and memorable mythologies and characters. He worked on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly as writer and director during the 2002-2003 television season, and said that he only feels his best when he’s writing:
“You know, I always get cranky when I’m not writing,” Joss admits. “I’ll be mad and I don’t know why. I just feel like I’m angry with everybody and I hate everything and life is a sham. Then I’ll realize I haven’t written anything. And rewriting doesn’t count. It has to be an original script” (Havens, 158).
I was going to write a more serious entry this week, but decided against it. I have been at the epicenter of some of my favorite shows in the past few days, so that’s where my mind has been. Since I believe in following my literary impulses, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite male characters. (I will avoid spoilers as much as I can.)
Actor: Peter Woodward
Series: Babylon 5: Crusade
Wizard, British, wry sense of humor, and black leather coats…what more could a girl ask for? Galen is a techno-mage, part of an eclectic order that uses an ancient advanced technology to simulate the effects of magic…and is pretty odd and mysterious even by the standards of that order. He’s highly independent and powerful as well as irritating to other characters in Crusade because he “shows up when he’s least wanted and most needed,” not to mention having a habit of withholding information. I love Galen’s wry, often cynical sense of humor, his crisp, precise way of speaking, and his eyes are some of the most expressive I’ve ever seen. He’s also one of my favorite character-types, what I call “the Tortured Soul.” Characters of this type have hidden histories, often tragic, that slowly comes to light over the course of the series. Galen is one of those who tries to be completely self-sufficient, but his efforts only highlight his isolation and loneliness. Which only makes me want to give him a hug. ^_^
I’ve been reading a book called The Cult TV Book: From Star Trek to Dexter, New Approaches to TV Outside the Box. It’s a collection of scholarly essays on the phenomenon known as cult television, shows like Star Trek, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, or Battlestar Galactica that gain a dedicated, and sometimes even massive, following of viewers who are deeply engaged in an ever-expanding and enriched reading of the universes, stories, characters, and themes contained within those shows. I’m fascinated by books and articles like this, particularly when it pertains to media I like or hobbies I participate in. Several of the articles so far have pointed out that the dedication of fans to these kinds of shows and their willingness to consume alternate media relating to those shows, such as websites, conventions, podcasts, fanfiction, and purchasing DVDs and other merchandise have impacted networks. Television networks have begun shifting their focus from creating shows that are (usually) insipid enough to appeal to the greatest number of people to focusing on niche markets of smaller, but more dedicated, viewers on networks such as HBO. The trend that once marginalized cult TV fans is now what helps TV networks make a profit as they design more and more shows to be more like original cult TV and tap into the love fans have for shows that reward attentive viewing.
I say “show” as in a TV show, but really, it can be a single book or a trilogy or an entire series, a movie, a comic, anything that tells a story. Everyone has a story that is very precious to them, characters that are near and dear to their heart, a tale that takes their breath away. Over the years, I’ve had several stories that affected me deeply, stories that I come back to every year that remain fresh and new and alive, no matter how many times I’ve read or watched them.
I apologize, but I’m afraid there will not be a large entry this week due to the fact that I am very ill. I got to battle the unseasonal winter weather this past Saturday. My car died when I stopped to get gas on the way home, I had no coat, no gloves, and had to help my younger brother push my car out of the way for the duration of the storm.
When I returned home, my house was without electricity. No electricity means no heat, since I have been relying on electric heaters to warm my house until such time that my furnace could be fixed. I stayed the night at my parents’ house, and returned home the next day when the electricity returned. (Thank you, Storm Elf, for your lovely quilt. It is soooo warm!) And, yesterday morning, Shipley appeared to make my furnace all better. She’s purring like a kitten now.
However, my little escapades in the snow gave me a sore throat and fever, so I’ve been tucked in bed most of the day with an IV of Sunny D in my arm. Just my luck that National Novel Writing Month began today while my brain was all fizzled. So I’ve been struggling to make my word count between watching episodes of Babylon 5 and napping with a wet washcloth on my forehead and kittens covering my lap. And I did it! I wrote 1794 words today, and the daily goal is 1667! So, despite the fever, I’m off to a good start. Let’s hope I can keep it up.
So, I apologize for the mostly-non-writing-related entry this week, and crave your indulgence until next week when hopefully my brains will be a little less scrambled. Until then, write on, my fellow Wrimos! Write on!