Welcome back everyone! Sorry it took so long to get this next entry to you. I’d gotten really into working on Ravens & Roses during the original day this entry was supposed to be done and didn’t want to derail myself. Then life threw me a family health emergency curveball during the follow-up date, so I’ve been handling that instead of writing. Things are finally calming down and everything is fine, so here we are with the next installment of my “Spoiled By Supplements” blog series. Enjoy!
I think that, once a story gets big enough, it’s inevitable that it will start to creep across mediums. Some of that may be due to creative curiosity, to see what kind of take on the story will come out of the medium. Some of it may be from commercial pressure to reach a wider audience or different niches within a potential audience. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with that. A feature length film has different creative restraints from a novel, which is different from a comic book, and so on. It can be interesting to see how the medium shapes or highlights different aspects of a story or further explores the world within that story. It also makes marketing sense to try to reach as many people as possible, and everyone has different mediums they prefer their stories to be in, so why not satisfy everyone?
The problem is that sometimes it can become too sprawling, too widespread, and too muddled for anyone to follow the story properly, or even access it. This can be a real problem for new or more casual fans.
Today I want to talk about the first issue that pops up regarding supplemental material, one that plagues pretty much every writer: research.
Unless you are a personal expert at a particular craft or profession, chances are that if you write anything, you’ll have to do some research. Whether that takes the form of interviewing those who do have that knowledge, spending hours following the rabbit hole of Wikipedia links, combing through physical books, or actually going out and doing the thing the characters are doing… it all counts as research. And it can be pretty interesting, although many times it’s a hard slog through reams of material, searching for that one fact that will make your story ring with authenticity.
But there are two traps within the larger trap:
a)Procrastination, and b) Oversharing what you learned.
My brother Daniel had to do a sanity check while I was perusing Ebay: “Sis, are you sure you want to buy that? I mean, you did get to watch it online already… Are you going to ever watch it again?”
The item in question was a new DVD copy of an anime from 1996 called Master of Mosquiton. It’s an OVA with only 6 episodes and the price was about $70. And Daniel’s question made me pause. It’s true that I did find an English dub online, although it took several very frustrating hours to find all six episodes in full and in English. Why was I considering spending so much money on something I had already found for free?
That got me thinking about hard copies and why I am so dedicated to filling up my home with tangible media. Why take up all this space with row after row of books when I could keep an entire library on an e-reader? Why spend $20 to get a Blu-ray or DVD when I could stream them on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime? As digital storage gets cheaper and cheaper, and the number and quality of online streaming continues to rise (not to mention the ubiquitous Cloud), why spend valuable resources collecting and maintaining hard copies?
Three reasons: Availability, Preservation, and Tangibility.
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.” You can read previous entries in this series, which discuss the Scientist, Bad Boy, and Alpha Male stereotypes.
Audio Edition Coming Soon!
We all love stories about underdogs. We like hearing tales of right and justice and the forces of good beating evil and injustice, no matter what the odds are against them. We like stories about lone wolves who find out the truth about “the system” and fight against it. We love our Rebel Alliances, our Neos, our Team Avatars. We enjoy following the stories of characters who are outgunned but still pull through with cunning, bravery, and a hefty dose of luck. We admire the vigilante characters like Batman, Zorro, and V who uncover the truth or see injustice run rampant and refuse to follow protocol in order to do what is right. We’ve all read those stories, seen those movies and TV shows, played as those video game characters. The fact that we can be outmatched and still come out on top is a heady, even addictive, feeling.
Whenever I get into a fictional universe, be it books, movies, TV shows, or video games, I dig deep. Those characters with shady or mysterious pasts are the most intriguing; we want to know how they became the person we know now. If you’ve read (and enjoyed) The Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon, you probably want to know Achmed’s full backstory more than anything else. We get tantalizing hints, but no more. Tolkien’s book The Silmarillion explores the history of the elves and Middle-Earth in almost excruciating detail. People clamored so much for more stories about Drizzt Do’Urden that R.A. Salvatore gave them the drow ranger’s backstory in the form of The Dark Elf Trilogy. Amazing RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age cover the history of their worlds, the aspects of the places explored there, and the characters you encounter. And isn’t that what a lot of modern RPGs are all about? Exploration? How was this world created? What happened before the story that we see? A good origin story is a fascinating and rewarding journey.
Of course, the key word here is “good.” Not knowing parts of a universe’s history or the origins of a character leads to all kinds of juicy speculation, head canon, and fan fiction. Sometimes the creators even deign to answer those burning questions for us. That’s fine and dandy, but there is a dark side to it. No matter how much I may want to know, “What happened?!” a part of me is always a bit wary when official works drop in to fill the gaps.
I’ll admit that I haven’t actually read the book this time. (But I do own a copy.) I did watch National Geographic’s video version that has the author, Jared Diamond, as its host covering the same material that was in the book…so I think that counts. The book, and movie, is entitled Guns, Germs, & Steel: The Fates of Human Societiesand takes an in-depth look at why there are haves and have-nots in the world. Why did European societies rise to such great technological heights while African societies, for the most part, remain under-privileged? It is not because one race is inherently superior to another…every derivation of human has its share of the talented and the talent-less, the smart and the stupid, the weak and the strong…so what caused some societies to develop rapidly while others did not? As a writer, this is a fascinating and complex question to be answered and does a lot to advance one’s world-building.