Live Long and Prosper, Peace and Long Life

I haven’t updated in over a week. Life got in the way and I spent the last week knee deep in grass clippings and mud. Suffice to say, I was deeply touched by the message of Odinani about paying proper respect to Ala and got a little swept up in it. Or I just had to do some lawn care that became progressively more complicated as time went by. It was one of these, and I’ll never say which.

But as I rose from my tormented slumber, I found the internet ablaze with news that was causing tremendous outpouring of emotion from all corners of the internet.

Seriously, have you seen this fucking dress?

dress

And of course, Phil Robertson apparently said something outrageous again, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone anymore.

robertson

But then something actually important happened: Leonard Nimoy died, and for a brief moment… everyone stopped talking about that damned dress…

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Good Fan-Fiction 102: Why Mary Sue Is Bad For You

Fan-fiction, as a concept, shouldn’t be seen as a detriment to literature. As much as writers may deride fan-fiction authors, we should appreciate that there’s something good in inspiring someone’s personal creativity with our own. If the literary bug is infectious, then infection would probably look like someone writing a story with our characters before going on to create their own. But sometimes they do start to create their own characters and, before long, they’ve stumbled into a bad place.

bad

What many don’t realize, because we’re taught to scorn it, is that fan-fiction is the place where you can go when you’re not confident in your own work. When you create a world all to your own, you’re opening yourself to being judged on every single detail. It’s terrifying to consider being that exposed to people. So when you enter into the world of fan-fiction, you’re already a little insecure. This doesn’t apply to everyone but, to those it does, there’s always that nagging itch that needs to be scratched.

Before long, you feel like if you don’t add something you’re going to be considered a simple thief. You need to put your mark on it to make people recognize you put effort into it. But, as you put it in, you find yourself insecure about the character you’re creating. This character needs to be loved by everyone because if they aren’t then the only thing you really added to the material is being disliked. They have to be interesting, different, special – they have to be worth being there. Unfortunately, that’s how Mary and Gary get written into your story.

ken_barbie

And then they wreck the place…

The problem is, while the community is eager to tell you not to do something, they rarely take the time to explain why. Quite a few people don’t even understand why we should stop to explain it to the “offenders”. But the fact of the matter is, we keep writing articles like “how to know you wrote a Mary Sue” and “steps to avoiding a Gary Stu”, while these characters continue to be made regardless.

Of course, the assumption is that these people are just full of themselves or too immature to listen to our advice. But maybe the problem isn’t with the newbies. Maybe the problem is in how we explain it. Maybe they don’t understand…

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Writing Fantasy: Alternative Mythologies 6e – The Igbo

After relaunching the blog, getting a few cute holiday articles out of the way and getting past one hell of a seasonal health problem, I’m back and ready to dig back into the world of Alternative Mythology.

For those just joining, the premise is simple: our fantasy genre, especially epic fantasy, is determined in large part by the mythologies that originated out of countries touched by the crusades. The dragons and ghouls that grace our pages are essentially just one version of thousands we could be drawing from. So, in an effort to inspire some diversity in the stories we tell, I’ve made a point to start learning about new religions and then take some time to shine a light on the alternatives I’m finding along the way.

As we last left this series, we were deep in the mythologies of the major West African cultures with the Efik and their not so friendly creator deity Abassi, may he never notice we invented the internet. The Efik, as a result of their beliefs, have traditionally had a fairly violent relationship with each other and the other cultures around them. And one of the cultures most impacted by the Efik in this region were their neighbors…

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A Brighter Future

As someone who puts what I think online as an occupation, I’ve been insulted a lot. This isn’t new to me, but it has been a bit more common since I started a blog and opened a twitter account. I’ve been called many things, from “fraud” to “Californistan Idiot”, and most of them are just knee-jerk reactions from knee-jerk people. But the one that I’ve often heard throughout my life is a common impression that I “think too much”.

I try to laugh and not get sad about the fact that’s apparently an insult in today’s society.

It’s taken many variations over the years, but the common thread is that if I stop to think and really analyze something rather than get swept up in the emotion of it – I’m an asshole. It’s not just random people on the internet either, I’ve been informed of this by friends a few times. I often joke that I’m just a robot who is trying to understand what humans call “love” – and a couple people have implied that I really am just a machine.

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I have no idea what they are talking about.

However, one insult of this variety recently came in the form of someone calling me “cynical”. Ironically, this man then proceeded to show he didn’t know what cynicism was as he went on basing his entire argument against me in his own personal cynicism. But it was the same old argument that I’ve had with almost everyone I’ve ever known: “why can’t you just let me be angry/sad/happy about this thing without making me think about it?!”

The simple reason? Because I’m not cynical, I have a lot of hope for where we’re going. I expect better of us, and more importantly, I expect…

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Alterpedia: Arachne

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:

Arachne

Natalie Mendoza, as Arachne in the musical "Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark," at the Foxwoods Theater in New York.

Around the world there are creatures which are universally known by humanity to symbolize conflicting emotions. It is no mistake that in each of these regions you find mythology which, in turn, connects to these creatures. For instance, snakes are a common symbol across many human civilizations – from the Naga of India to the Grootslang of Southern Africa. In similar fashion, spiders are a symbol of both fear and creation the world over.

In Japan they are known by the names Tsuchigumo and Jorōgumo, in Africa there is the famous trickster Anansi, and in Greece there was the story of Arachne. But regardless of the location, the primary trait remains the same: these are creatures which appear to be a hybrid of humans and spiders. The stories change depending on the relationship the locals have with the spiders in their area, but many of the aspects remain the same.

So are these creatures really just giant spiders, lurking in the shadows and tormenting the humans around them? Was Anansi really a profound trickster or just a misunderstood soul? Am I valid in contemplating burning the whole planet to purge these people from the world?

Probably not the last one, but for the rest, let’s take a look…

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Writing Someone Else’s World – Good Fan-Fiction 101

Last week I came to the defense of fan-fiction and the people who write it. As I said then, many of us have written it in the past, including many professionals, but the entire thing has been stigmatized to the point that every former fan-fiction writer I’ve known talks about it with shades of shame and a dose of self-deprecation. I have yet to speak to someone talk about their old fan-fiction and then tell me something they did right.

Think about that. It’s common enough to hate your old work, but everyone remembers their first truly original peace (with just as many flaws) with at least one good memory. The fact that we remember the fan-fiction solely for our mistakes shows that we’ve scorned the entire practice to the point that it’s like admitting that you touch yourself at inappropriate times.

Though, considering a lot of the sub-genres within fan-fiction, they may related for some.

The point is, I’ve seen fan-fiction act as a gateway drug – a chance for people to enter writing in a safe place and with the pieces already laid out for them. But, as is so incredibly clear, the better practices of writing aren’t something that people start to learn until they exit the fan-fiction stage because…who are they going to ask? Everyone who knows enough to teach them is generally laughing at them. And, frankly, that’s part of that barrier of entry they’re trying to edge around.

So let’s drop the scorn for a bit and try to be constructive…

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