Alternative Mythologies 6F – The Serer

The Fantasy Genre has long been dominated by the religions and customs of countries touched on by the Crusades. While this makes sense, with the familiar image of a knight wandering foreign lands being key to the genre itself, there has been stagnation in recent times. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to look into the cultures of the world and find fascinating details about other mythologies often overlooked by the genre we so love, seeking out Alternative Mythologies.

During the quest for some interesting details, going through West Africa, it’s become clear that many major patterns begin to form. Almost all of the West African cultures have a single supreme deity which is supported by lesser spirits. Often times this deity will have a love/hate relationship with the people who worship them, but will (outside of some extreme examples) have a general soft spot for the people they’ve created. Generally, the idea is that God loves us but is a little disappointed with our life choices.

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Something all art majors can understand.

But outside of the general similarity of all the supreme deities, the differences between the West African cultures stem primarily from how they interact with that God. In some cultures there is a need for houses of worship, in others it’s a matter of self-improvement, and for others still it requires violent retribution. But what is known in almost all cases is that, even in their attempts to appease or communicate with their deity, they cannot do it directly. God is unknowable, untouchable, and beyond human contact without an intermediary. And, in the case of one culture…that requires a great deal of reverence for trees.

Continue reading Alternative Mythologies 6F – The Serer

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The Continuity Crutch

Recently, I pointed out that one of the major sticking points for a lot of creators and readers is the little details that people start to hold onto as they become bigger and bigger fans. One of the extensions of this is that there’s an ever building feeling that you must defend the “continuity”. It’s a common thing to witness, people who start to argue about the details they know in order to try to defend their particular version of how the universe is supposed to work. And you know what? That’s fine.

What isn’t fine is when you start to use it as an excuse to never ever let anything change. You’ve seen it, you know it happens, there are plenty of people who wanted to get into reading comic books, fantasy stories or sci-fi novels who were scared away by the idea they had to do homework before they could get started. There’s an ever present grumbling whenever someone in the stories gets a new detail added to them that doesn’t mesh with their image of that character. And, of course, who can forget our friend the black Storm Trooper?

star-wars-teaser

Yeah, some people lost their shit over that one, all in the name of “continuity”… Continue reading The Continuity Crutch

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Room to Breathe

It’s the middle of allergy season and I’ll be damned if I let the flowers beat me. I’ve spent the last 5 days so miserably sick that I’ve actually accepted that my afternoons and evenings are forfeit. I used to be stronger than this, but I’ve spent 90% of my life in a place that slowly drains the life out of you. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but that’s only if it stops trying to kill you. Mother nature is pissed at me in particular and she’s not afraid to let me know. But, hey, we can’t let that stop us from moving forward, can we?

I’ve been trying for the past week to promote my blog with renewed energy. Spamming social media like no tomorrow, the only people out there who sent more useless messages out into the internet those days were probably those poor Princes in Nigeria that everyone ignores. And it worked, I saw the traffic of my site quadruple in a day and double again the next. It’s still not spectacular, mind you, but for a short time I felt like people wanted to hear what I have to say.

It reminded me what it felt like to breathe. Continue reading Room to Breathe

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Alterpedia: Pixies

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:

Pixies

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Pixies, fairies, sprites – three terms used completely interchangeably in the modern day but once considered very different entities. The words long lost meaning as time went on and soon all were considered “fairies” in the cultural mindset. But, while the term “Fae” and “Faery” have been adopted quite openly by a large group of benevolent Alters, the question remained – did the original creatures really exist?

The modern interpretation is that they were stories of spirits given form as tiny mystical entities who appeared to be incredibly small but beautiful human figures. These creatures over time adopted traits such as elf-like ears, wings, and child-like features. But the question still remains…

Could humanoid entity that tiny really exist in the world of the Alters? Continue reading Alterpedia: Pixies

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The Wonders of Fukitol

Let’s face it, if you’re here as a writer, either an amateur or a professional, you know that there are just times when you can’t quite feel it. Maybe you’ve got a deadline you know you aren’t going to meet. Maybe you were really excited about a project until you actually got into the meat of it. Maybe you’ve just watched yourself fail miserably a couple times and can’t quite bring yourself to charge that wall again. Hell, maybe you turned to sweet mother alcohol to get you through a rough day, blacked out, and woke up in Bangkok with the realization that you’re reliving The Hangover Part 2 and you’ve officially hit rock bottom.

rock bottom

Whatever the case, we all hit a moment when we just can’t take it anymore and need to change something, never realizing that what we’re changing isn’t usually for the best. Hell, Stephen King’s best work was when he was blitzed out of his mind – and sure, he’s healthier now, but you have to admit a little part of you misses the time when he didn’t know what the hell he was doing but enjoying every minute of it. I hate to say it, but sometimes we could all use a little bit of that.

overdrive
Look upon the face of creation.

But, let’s face it, most things that can reach true King, Poe, or Verne levels of blitzed are fairly illegal and expensive. Sure, you could probably skip ramen for a week and crank out a novella after going without sleep for 7 days, but it’s hard to get a publishing deal from a prison cell (unless it’s low security, in that case your cellmate is probably an executive somewhere).

For those of us who don’t feel like spending the night negotiating the geopolitical landscape of the local prison gangs, I propose another solution… Fukitol.

Continue reading The Wonders of Fukitol

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The Devil’s in the Details

As I pointed out this last Friday with the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the geek community as a whole has a somewhat unique relationship with what we love. We tend to find meaning in it in a way that keeps us going from day to day. We’re not all obsessed by it, but the ones who are have gotten there as a natural progression of finding more and more purpose in what they’ve latched onto.

And as the love for these creations grows you find that it starts to bleed into the real world over time. Every major movie release in the fantasy or sci-fi genres will almost universally have at least one group of cosplayers show up. Whenever a new Harry Potter book hit the shelves towards the end of the series – you found an awful lot of Harry look-a-likes lining up around the corner. In a very literal sense, once you get to a certain point of fandom, you’re going to be wearing that fandom on your sleeve.

Firefly-Cosplay

Once you hit a certain level, once you’re mingling with those people, it’s impossible to deny that it has become part of your world. It’s because of this that you’ll find corners of the fan community where people are willing to argue vehemently about every little detail found in their chosen universes. Trekkies will argue who the best Captain was. Star Wars fans will argue over whether or not Han was bullshitting when he used the term “parsec” wrong. And, of course, fans of Lord of the Rings will constantly bicker over those damned eagles.

But, as a writer, I think it’s time we fess up about something to the fans. Most details that get added to our stories are for three reasons – cool factor, flavor, and pragmatism. And the details we don’t add?

We…didn’t think of them…

Continue reading The Devil’s in the Details

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Your Work Defines Itself

Years ago, when starting as a serious writer, I went to what everyone does for advice in our age – the internet. There’s a lot of it out there, because everyone is willing to tell you what to do (hell, I’m doing it right now), so I amassed a fairly comprehensive collection of posts and links on the topic of being a writer. The advice I got was fairly universal across the board. There were a few outliers here or there, but for the most part they all said variations of the same exact thing over and over.

“Every writer in today’s world has to sell themselves above all else.”

It used to be that publishers did the advertising and writers generated content. But in today’s world the publisher generally doesn’t do as much advertising anymore – they just print and distribute. That’s one of the primary reasons self-publishing is taking off and why eBooks have started to become the forefront of the market. Writers who could generate their own audiences figure they shouldn’t have to use a middle man. It’s far from a perfect system, but if we’re going to advertise ourselves anyway, we might as well get what we’re worth. So I was told I needed to start advertising for myself because that was going to be a requirement no matter what I did. Publisher or not, I was mostly on my own.

I was told I needed to start a blog, so I did. I was told I needed to get involved in social media, so I did. I was told I needed to make sure that the audience knew who I was, so I do. And the thing is, that’s all great advice. Even if you were to go the traditional route, as I just mentioned, you aren’t going to get a publishing deal unless you can show the publisher that you can amass an audience, and it’s always an uphill battle. But one mistake I’m seeing a lot lately is one I made myself, so I think it couldn’t hurt to add one more piece of advice on top of the pile that I think could really help a lot of writers out there (including myself).

You see, when I started my blog and everything else, it was during the initial rise of social media. And when I was told to tell everyone who I was, I looked around and I saw that everyone was interested in the same basic information. We live in a time where Identity politics consume almost every corner of our lives in one way or another. Since the advent of Twitter, Tumblr, and to a lesser extent Facebook – your “identity” is often broken down into a series of labels that tell the world who you are at a glance.

Look around, most of the profiles you find on the internet, even for writers, happen to include at least one identity label of some sort in it. We’ll generally say what genre we write, what we’ve published, and then, usually, some labels to fill in our identity in under 140 characters. They aren’t always the same labels, but they’re labels none-the-less. We’ve been groomed to think that our lives can be boiled down to five words or less.

But, after putting myself under a tremendous amount of stress over the concept for a few years now, I have realized that we may be causing ourselves and what we care about more harm than good…

Continue reading Your Work Defines Itself

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