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.
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.
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.
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!
This is the fourth part of a series of entries discussing various books that deeply influenced my writing and outlook on stories. You can read the Introduction here, Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here. Please note that discussion of these books may contain spoilers.
The next round of influential books didn’t come until I entered college. Granted, I found lots of books that I loved between the age of 12 and 18, but truly influential books are much rarer. In my freshman year, I discovered anime and manga. Last Exile was the first anime I ever watched (I’m not counting random Pokemon episodes I saw when I was little), and reading manga soon followed. A six-year obsession with all things Japanese had begun. During that time, I read and watched so much anime that I needed a list to keep track of them all. Three series stick out in my mind from that time that remain favorites and powerful influences.
The first of these was Pet Shop of Horrors by Matsuri Akino. This 10-volume series is a horror manga, not my usual genre of choice. It’s both beautiful and eerie, revolving around a pet shop in Chinatown run by the enigmatic, androgynous, and amoral proprietor known only as “Count D.” Each volume contains about four stories of various people who come into the pet shop and leave with a pet…under certain conditions. Like in Gremlins, disobeying D’s instructions as to the care and feeding of their pets often results in calamity. Sometimes the pets are helpful to their new owners, but most of the time it ends in tragedy. Weaving through these tales alongside D is Leon Orcot, a detective who is sure that D has something to do with the various mysterious deaths throughout the city, but is unable to come up with any proof.
Happy Vernal Equinox (Ostara) to you all! With the increase in temperature and amount of sunshine, my creative instincts are stirring slightly. I haven’t quite been able to get back into writing on a regular basis, but at least the interest is slowly returning!
It’s hard to believe that it’s almost April. Last year around this time I was preparing the script of my graphic novel Astral Rain as my entry for Script Frenzy. Because of that, I’ve been thinking a lot about Astral Rain recently and thought it might be interesting to share the origins of the story.
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!
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.
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!
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.