(I hate that I have to say this, but this is a fictional account of the history of a fictional world. I do not believe these things, nor should you, as I am making them up. If I receive any comments that I did not do my research into these events, you will be mocked.)
In the Agent of Argyre series of books, there is an organization called the Alter Control Task Force. Though ostensibly an organization for policing activities of the Alter race, an attempt to prevent an eventual race war, they are actually representatives of a city-state on the ocean: The Republic of Argyre.
The Republic of Argyre, an artificial island anchored to an oceanic ridge in the pacific, is a city-state established by Alters for the sake of harboring their kind and establishing a relationship with the mainstream human population. Despite being an artificial island and attached to no primary landmass, the city’s structure is capable of potentially supporting all 12 to 15 million active Alters on the planet.
How did a race of people who’ve lived in hiding for centuries manage to construct such a city? Why would they build their city in the middle of the ocean? Where did they get the resources for such a task? In the Alterpedia Historia, we will answer these questions and discover the history of the Alters. Today we address…
So, as you’ve probably noticed if you’ve visited the blog in the last week, I’ve been trying to ward people away from burning out. It’s NaNoWriMo as of this writing and I’ve known more than one or two writers in the past who’ve gotten behind on their word count and pushed themselves until they declared with an angry sigh, “fuck it.” Even outside of NaNo there’s still that chance you could get caught up in fear of failure and just keep pushing until you fail because of that fear. You’re more likely to crash and burn if you go beyond your limits than you are by to keeping steady throughout.
Still, there’s a damn good chance you’re going to ignore my warnings. I’m probably not the first hallucination you’ve had since you gave up on sleep. You didn’t listen to the last couple, you’re probably not going to listen to me. After all, I’m just some guy with a blog, that doesn’t hold nearly as much weight as when Snuffleupagus was singing to you about what letter to use next. Though that might have been Sesame Street playing in the background… or Good Morning America…
Deadlines, they loom large over us all. Though not all from the same sources, we all have something that has “time sensitive” stamped across it. And, of course, most of us are horrible at keeping those deadlines. Many a soul has spent a great deal of time procrastinating before eventually getting to work at the last possible minute. College students, especially those with challenging majors, probably suffer a soft form of PTSD from the mere mention of an “all-nighter”. Clearly, humanity was not meant to be on time.
The question then becomes, when you’ve finished your procrastination, can you actually make good on the promise of completing the task on time? Most of us have the ability, when pressed, to get things completed just in time, cutting it close like game of chicken with utter failure. Sure, you may not die, but you probably felt like it along the way.
And that’s when we start pushing the red line. The red line, a term I’m borrowing from cars, is when you’re pushing yourself so far that you’re risking a burn out to get ahead. Cars have an indicator on them that you’re running the engine too hard, a little red line showing you the dangerous zone. Generally, we all know that running the car at that rate for long is going to cause major damage. By default, most of us avoid doing that. But when it comes to ourselves there’s rarely a second thought to push those limits.
The Muses, guiding the human race since the dawn of civilization and showing us the path to grand new ideas. Throughout the history of mankind we’ve called on them for their inspiration and wisdom. This has led us from living in simple huts to constructing glistening towers of glass and steel. We’ve gone from struggling to tame animals to being able to surpass their talents with powerful machines. We’ve achieved things never dreamed of, reaching an age of endless wonder and scientific miracles.
But sometimes those Muses are not doing it with our best interests at heart. For every story of inspiration out there, there have been just as many stories of tortured and tormented minds, chasing a dream. Writers, artists, and great thinkers throughout history have been consumed by their goals and driven to the brink of madness. Some of them have turned to drugs. Others have become isolated loners with severe social issues. The stereotype has long held that the most brilliant of minds are often also the most unhappy. This can certainly be blamed on the Muses.
Why do they do this to us? Is it because they have a sinister goal to consume us? Do they want to profit from our hard work and leave us shattered people in their wake? Are we just really neurotic monkey people who happen to need a scapegoat for the fact we sometimes lose our minds once we’re stuck on a thought?
We may never know the answer to these questions. But what we do know is that, when the Muse is upon you, she may drive you to your limits. Certainly you’ve felt it: the thinning patience, the build of stress, doubts and fears beginning to creep through your mind. It’s time to learn how to deal with the Muse, before she destroys you! Continue reading Coping With A Pushy Muse→
Everyone wants to leave an impression on the world. The human lifespan is woefully too short and we all worry that someday we’ll be gone and forgotten. It’s because of this that we spend so much time trying to leave a legacy and try to find ways to make ourselves memorable. We want to be the life of the party, we want to change the hearts and minds of others, we want someone to realize we were here. Deep down, that’s one of the greatest driving forces of human civilization. We will always work to be more comfortable, but we’ll work harder to make sure the next generation remembers us.
I think that’s why it gets so hard for us to reel ourselves back when it comes to our opinions. It has become a common accusation that the modern generation is self-absorbed but that’s assuming there was ever a time where a civilization wasn’t. We may tweet about our day to day lives, but previous generations carved faces into mountains and constructed monuments to their own ego. Say what you will about our need to self-promote, it’s not a new aspect of human nature – just easier today.
So it comes as no surprise that a recent trend in fiction, especially speculative fiction, is that people may overwhelm their story with their message. I talked about this once before, some time ago, and dealt with the idea of being humble. But in the course of talking about humility I left out something else that needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, people can sometimes be humble but still manage to overwhelm their message. The reason for this?
As of this writing we are a good two weeks into the annual National Novel Writing Month. It’s about now that the people taking part have neatly divided into four categories. Some people who are just doing it for a lark are going to be well on their way to finishing 50,000 words and never looking back. Others are just realizing that what they’ve started is going to take a lot more than 50k to be “finished”. A third group is realizing they have no damn clue how they’re going to finish what they’ve started. And the fourth group has, unfortunately, spent half of the month struggling through the beginning of their project.
Those last two groups aren’t just part of the NaNoWriMo tradition, they’re part of writing as a whole. Throughout the community you’ll find people who struggle with beginning and ending their work. A lot of writers even debate as to which is harder, a good beginning or a good ending. I’ve rarely met a writer myself who didn’t have an opinion on the topic and have strong feelings towards one of these things. So, with so many people struggling with it, you can easily understand why this would be the debate they have.
However, like with character vs. plot, I don’t really think that people are considering the actual problem. People have an instinct to become upset with something without stopping to understand why it’s an issue. Even those educated in the art of writing will usually have only a vague grasp of why these things are challenging to beginning writers. But what if I told you that the thing you’re having a problem with isn’t beginnings or endings?
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:
Source of inspiration, guidance for mankind, often invoked in the modern day by the likes of writers, the Muses were the goddesses of inspiration in all fields where creativity was helpful. Covering fields such as art, science, literature, and anything else where instructions weren’t clear – Muses could be credited for much of what we call “civilization”. Though rarely used in serious fashion today, the belief in them has left a mark on who we are as people in the western world. Even the term “music” comes from their name.
But who were the Muses, what was their goal, why did they leave such a mark on us? Why would “goddesses” deign to give us their attention? For that, we must take another look into the world of the Alters… Continue reading Alterpedia: Muses→
So, it’s a bit of time into NaNoWriMo and, if I’m familiar with the community as much as I think I am – a lot of you have fallen behind. Generally, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen behind at least once over the course of a NaNoWriMo. It even happens to the professional and semi-professional writers I know. So for those of you who have, fear not, many of us have done it and you’re far from alone. As for those of you who haven’t – well aren’t you just perfect?
Seriously though, keeping up on your word count can be a challenging task and a lot of us end up psyching ourselves out by saying it’s somehow harder for us than for others. It feels strange, when you think about it, that the NaNoWriMo challenge is only 50,000 words when Stephen King insists every writer should hit 2,000 a day. If we were keeping up with Stephen then no one would lose. But a lot of us struggle to get beyond 1,667 words a day (the average that people need to hit to do it in November) and it’s usually for the same damn reason… Continue reading NaNoWriMo – A Trial of Focus→
So as I mentioned recently, it’s NaNoWriMo time and there are a lot of first time writers out there trying their hand at it. Hell, there’s a lot of second or third time writers too. So it’s also time for me to give some of the basic advice that could be helpful to those people. After all, getting started is usually the hardest part of the hobby and is definitely the hardest part of the profession. So why not give a little help?
For a bit I was stumped as to what to write, I’ve spent a lot of this year providing writing tips regardless. With a regular feature on this blog being exactly this, it can be a little rough thinking of something unique to NaNoWriMo. But then a friend pointed out something that would be tremendously helpful to everyone, especially on a month where everyone is aiming for 50,000 words or more. It’ll even be helpful once the month is completed and there’s a chance you’ll find this down the line. What is it?
How do you avoid getting stuck and frustrated enough to want to quit?
It’s easy for more seasoned writers to take for granted how hard it is to break past that inertia. We all have writer’s block, but it’s really not common after a point for you to have writers block in the middle of an idea. Time and again I’ve had it hit me before even starting only to find that everything’s smooth sailing once the work is underway. Rarely is the same true in the other direction. So what about the people just starting or haven’t developed that ability to just plow ahead? Well, this post’s for you… Continue reading Finding Your Way Through The Block→
Ah, November, the weather is becoming cool and crisp, the leaves are falling, and everyone’s using pumpkin spice to wake each other up from sugar comas. The Candyocalypse has passed and all of us are trying to figure out what to do in the time before Turkeygeddon is upon us. For many people it is a time to appreciate pumpkin spice, watch leaves fall, and take in some Football. However, the writers are going another route. Those writers among us have been stirring for a while, their mating calls echoing across the ‘net to ring in the annual season. Should you listen carefully, some of them may be heard right now:
Yes, National Novel Writing Month is back and this time it’s personal. Not that it wasn’t always personal, no one is going to twist your arm. The tradition is something of a vendetta that some writers have imposed on themselves. After all, Jonathan Franzen admitted just recently on Colbert that he only aims for 6,000 works a week and yet there’s a sea of people right now declaring they’re going to average that roughly every 3 and a half days.
The number makes sense, it’s totally doable, at only 2,000 words a day you’ll find yourself done before the month is through and that’s what Stephen King tells all of us to do. The problem is, as many of you know, that number can be hard to hit consistently every single day. Still, as far as it goes, this is a good time for new people to get into the art of writing and for the old guard to have a sense of community that we sometimes need desperately. It’s okay, it’s NaNoWriMo, we can admit sometimes the only people we talk to are our pets and our growing psychosis.
But for those new people, it’s time to warn you a little about what you’re getting into. You see, there are a lot of colorful characters out there and some of them may draw some ire out of you. That’s fine, but it’s best we warn you now so you see them coming… Continue reading NaNoWriMo Wildlife→