I’m going to break kayfabe here and admit something writers aren’t supposed to admit: we need to be liked. It’s a poorly kept secret, but if you ever ask someone why they write they’ll almost never admit that’s part of their motivation. Everyone, everywhere, has that same answer in their back pocket that can be recited without effort at the drop of a hat, “I do it because I love to write”.
But we need to be liked.
It’s common sense, but writers are trained almost from the start to pretend they don’t. We’re told that you have to write for the love of writing alone and that you shouldn’t crave attention. But none of us dream of being the guy who writes technical manuals, we dream of being Twain, Tolkien, or Rowling. It’s true you should never enter writing for the money, because Ray Bradbury couldn’t afford a car until he was 37 and Neil Gaiman never saw a dime from his first published book despite the fact it was a best seller. But we need to be liked to keep going forward. We don’t need to be liked by everyone, in fact a lot of us thrive off of being disliked by certain groups, but when life gets hard we need that pat on the back to keep going forward.
I jokingly wrote on my bio page that if you’re here and reading this then I love you. It’s only a joke because it’s funny and it’s funny because it’s true. If you’re reading this right now then you’re giving me a little bit of what I’m needing to keep going every day. And I write here to try to entertain you, like a dancing monkey. My goal with this blog, across all of the topics that I write about, is to try to make you fond enough of me to come back and see me dance some more. All of us do this, but we can’t admit it because that wouldn’t be “artistic” if we all admitted the fact we may be dancing monkeys.
And that’s why we have a love/hate relationship with one of the greatest forms of flattery we could possibly see…
It’s 2015 and the internet is full of jokes about how this is the year Back to the Future II was set. Everyone was giddy about the fact someone actually built a semi-functional hoverboard late last year with plans to put together a skate park for it in the coming couple years. Because, of course, when people think about the future, they get most excited about a flying plank than something like, say, fusion reactions powered by garbage.
However, recent stories in the news and the internet’s echo chamber have me realizing just how silly we’ve been about the whole future thing as of late. As sci-fi writers, the goal is to try to envision the little problems of today being fixed tomorrow and see if we can manage to get it close enough that people believe it could happen. But one of the oddities of the last few decades has been just how often we try to credit sci-fi with “inspiring” good ideas. Problem being: good ideas tend to inspire themselves, while good sci-fi is making an educated guess.
A great example of this would be the fact cellphones temporarily looked an awful lot like early Star Trek communicators. During the time when flip-phones were the dominant life-form of the electronic landscape, everyone liked to pass around the image of Kirk holding the old flip open communicator and going, “See? It’s all true!”
But it wasn’t, because we’ve already moved past the flip phone and onto a superior and completely different beast in the form of PDA inspired smartphones. Basically, if Kirk’s communicator were thegood idea, rather than a good guess at what would eventually come, then we wouldn’t have moved past it to better ideas that were never really shown to exist in that universe.
Lately, though, we’ve been trying to force our pop culture into becoming “real”. Sometimes that can lead to good things, other times it leads to wasting time or skipping past better ideas so we can scratch the itch. Which, leads to the question…
As of this writing, it’s once again award season and all of the major film award shows are creating buzz. And, as all of you know, the Oscars managed to piss people off again. Though, honestly, what else is new?
In my opinion, the Oscars are really only relevant for the fact they do piss people off. Once upon a time there was enough prestige to having an award from the Academy that you were likely to see that year’s “Best Picture” also turn out to be one of the most successful in the industry. It used to be that the audience and the Academy had similar ideas of what was worthwhile. But that was long ago, probably because most of the Academy was born back when they were still called “Talkies”.
It’s not a coincidence that the Oscars become less and less relevant the longer the current batch of Academy members continues to draw breath. They were out of touch decades ago and now they’re telling people to get off their lawn. So when they do happen to become relevant again it’s usually in the same fashion your senile old grandfather does when you’re out in public. They did something embarrassing for the industry and everyone’s scrambling to condemn, excuse or get distance from them. It’s like grandpa just screamed slurs at some random people on the street before shuffling away.
So color me unsurprised Selma got snubbed a few times. By this point, it’s par for the course. No, what surprised me was actually something that came out of the people who were angry. One common line kept coming out of every single person who I encountered who brought up the snub, one that irked me more than the snub itself:
“I haven’t seen the movie, but…”
This draws my attention towards a much bigger problem than the snubs…
As I was relaunching the blog recently, I decided that every day of the week needed multiple topics for me to rotate through so I could continue to update at a regular interval without destroying my sanity. In the middle of it, I had a momentary delusion of grandure where I pictured people asking me for advice directly in the comments section. This was a far flung idea and I imagined it wouldn’t happen often, but I still went to the trouble of creating a tag for it and calling it “Workshop”.
Color me surprised when it turned out people actually had questions for me.
In fact, what I discovered was that there were a lot of people who had the same question. So, today, on my first Workshop Wednesday ever, I’m going to answer the question…
As part of my new and improved schedule, I thought it’d be fun if I took some little known details about traditional mythology I’ve learned over the years and share them with everyone. These details can be curiosities, explanations for oddities in folklore, and even explanations for why people believe some of these things even into the modern day. A lot of this is stuff that I learned myself over the years researching my books and the things I could include within. So it’s only fair to spread the wealth of knowledge and share some of the more interesting details I’ve uncovered, since I wouldn’t have known either without that research.
I’m not saying that this will be entirely “new”. I’m not even saying that you’re not going to have some passing knowledge of everything here. But what I am willing to wager is that, even if you know the basic details, there are things involved in what I’m going to share that you just… didn’t know before.
Case in point is an oldie but goodie that people don’t really think about too hard and just accept at face value. For centuries we’ve all known that silver is supposed to strike down wicked forces and, if crafted into a bullet, could kill some cursed creatures such as werewolves. But how often do you stop to ask why that particular metal would do that? Why not something more valuable like gold or platinum? Why is it that this one metal above all others seems to be used more often than any other in protection from evil?
Some of you might know everything I’m about to share here. But, for the rest of you, I’d like to introduce you to the myths revolving around…
In the Alters’ World (and the series of books found here), creatures of legend reveal themselves to the world. Born through genetic abnormalities, defects and mutations, the Alters have lived for centuries as outcasts of human society, hiding their true nature from the world while colorful stories have been written by many to describe what they’ve seen. How are these creatures different from what was described in the stories? What relationship do they have with humanity? Every entry of the Alterpedia will delve into a new creature from around the world. This week we cover:
As the Holiday Season comes to a close, one figure has received some harsh treatment by those who know his name. Krampus, the dark companion of Saint Nicholas, is known throughout many countries as a figure of terror for “bad” children. Carrying sticks or whips to beat wicked children and a bag to potentially carry them off to some terrible place, the Krampus is the stick to Saint Nicholas’ carrot.
But is this reputation deserved? Have Krampuses really been tormenting children unprovoked as a jolly man laughs in the corner? Or is this just a case of propaganda being used to keep an underrepresented class in check?