Monday Musings: The Feedback Loop

There are some fears among the writing community that are prevalent across all levels of experience. From the earliest of writers to people who’ve actually pulled the trigger and published something, you’ll find shared angst. First, of course, is the fear of rejection, a haunting little notion that someone not liking your work means they hate you. Second is that you may finish something and see nothing of value in what you sunk so much time into (effectively meaning you wasted your life). And third, of course, is the dreaded task of editing.

It’s not everyone and it’s not always expressed in the same way, but edits are generally painful. They’re basically sitting down and determining how you messed up, over and over, but then having to convince yourself that the same asshole that broke it can fix it. Somewhere, deep down, every writer fears the moment where they have to say to themselves “maybe this time I do it sober and/or well rested.” And the worst part is that any good editing process involves getting the opinion of another person – and that means opening yourself up to rejection at the same time.

Understand, if you have a hundred people reading your work and 80 of those people are positive, it’s easier to take the 20 in stride. But if you have only 2 and one of them has corrections to make – that’s gonna hurt. Sure, it’s only two people, but 50% of all people who read my work hate it. But the good news is that it’s natural, so there’s no real shame to the fact that people need to learn to cope with it. In fact, the mark of greatness is generally finding a way to deal with that feedback process in stride. Countless writers thank their editors as being the one who “does the real work”, and most of them are being genuine. Unfortunately, not all of us can be that level headed and that sting sticks some people into what I’d call the “feedback loop” – searching for positive feedback until they ruin the work.

But, you see, the feedback loop is stupid, because it requires you to forget that people are stupid. Continue reading Monday Musings: The Feedback Loop

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Proxima b Hype

You would think being signal boosted into orbit means I’ve had a pretty good couple of weeks, but you would be wrong. Recently I’ve had to deal with ash falling from the sky and family members temporarily disappearing while angry Trekkies were questioning my intelligence. The Trekkie thing isn’t too much of a bother but anyone familiar with me and the blog will know the ash thing left me in a bad place.  In fact, I was pretty positive I didn’t want to live on this planet anymore. Unfortunately, Mars and Venus aren’t great places to live yet and my personal (imaginary) spaceship can’t go anywhere else. Man, if only there were some closer exoplanets.

good news

And that’s when it happened, they confirmed that there’s actually a planet only 4.2 lightyears from here. All joking aside, I’m incredibly hyped and you probably should be too. Not only is it the closest exoplanet in the universe, it’s also only 1.3 times the mass of Earth and in its star’s habitable zone. Even if it turns out it’s not actually covered in life this will go down as one of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century so far next to the Higgs Boson and that “bwaahh” sound everyone uses.

And I know a lot of people are really hyped based on this off chance there might be aliens. But me? I don’t care if we find life, because we finally found one we can shoot stuff at! Continue reading Proxima b Hype

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The Legality Of Fan Works

(Edited on 8/26/16 to make a couple points clearer. Lesson to the kids at home: if you’re on medication, don’t forget to have someone check your work.)

So, an interesting thing happened last week. During a hazy day where I didn’t really feel like doing my planned blog I instead decided to shoot from the hip. Throwing together a blog on a topic I’d recently discussed with friends, I published it and figured that would be the end. Turns out, according to people on Twitter, mentioning Axanar is like yelling fire in a theater. Suddenly there was a swarm of people unlike anything this blog has ever seen before. As I was publishing last Wednesday’s post I looked up to see that a post I figured wouldn’t go anywhere suddenly had more traffic than the rest of my blog combined.

lol
Whups, kicked a hornets’ nest

Now, half a lifetime on the internet has taught me three very important lessons about expressing personal opinions. First, never debate people in a format with a character limit, there in lies the path to madness. Second, never jump into the middle of a heated debate in a comments section, they will eat you. And, third, if you do see someone make a valid point, acknowledge and respond to it in a controlled setting. Thankfully, I own the setting.

Continue reading The Legality Of Fan Works

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Politics, Ideology, and… Comic Books

Any long time reader of comics knows that any major event that happens in the world is inevitably going to be reflected in comic books. Marvel and DC’s golden age of comics were based primarily in the war-time propaganda surrounding WW2. The civil rights movement in the 60s got a lot of references thrown into the X-Men comic books and other silver age works, to great effect. A memorial comic of sorts was published in response to 9/11 (to slightly lesser effect). And Obama becoming the first black president even got a shout out in Spider-man,

Obama Spidey

Given that, you’d expect recent world events to fall into these things and, generally, they do. The rise of terrorism has been addressed repeatedly in different titles, especially as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were at their peak. Even the movies based on them have had clear undertones of certain events, even if the countries they represent are fictional and distinctly not Middle Eastern. And, a few years ago, Frank Miller tried to pitch a Batman comic where he’d go to fight Al-Qaeda. DC thankfully pulled that one (but couldn’t stop him from self publishing as an original IP). But as of right now there’s one political element in the US that’s running strong which, given past events, I imagine someone in the comic book industry is chomping at the bit to get to.

trump

And, I’m going to be honest, I really hope they just leave it alone. Because, for all the great stories you can probably think of, the truth is that comics really suck at politics. Continue reading Politics, Ideology, and… Comic Books

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Discovery and Axanar

There are times I can admit I’m wrong and I’m happy to say I was wrong about the future of Star Trek. For a while, after watching one of my favorite shows die a slow death, I figured the franchise was done. Even when it was given a film reboot, I expected a cheap cash-grab to cap it off before the thing flat-lined. Needless to say, I’m actually kind of surprised that Star Trek is back on its feet in time for its 50th anniversary. It’s probably one of the few times a reboot has actually successfully relaunched a franchise. And it’s especially surprising given the guy who pulled it off.

Anyone who has followed this blog over the last few years will likely remember that I’ve taken a few quick shots at JJ Abrams and his ideas of storytelling. I’m not against mystery plots in speculative fiction worlds, I’ve written two so far myself, but the way he goes about it is less like telling a well crafted story and more about telling a story, leaving out half the details, and then telling you that was the point. He’s basically three flops away from being the next M Night Shyamalan.

shyamalan-newsweek-cover
For those who think the comparison is unfair

But, I’ve got to give him credit for this: he did manage to revitalize Star Trek and it was looking like that wasn’t going to happen for a while. After Star Trek: Enterprise suffered an ignoble death at the hands of UPN and Nemesis gave the movies a shot to the kidneys, there really wasn’t a lot of reason to hope for the future of Trek. The 2009 reboot, in a lot of ways, was a Hail Mary to keep the property running. Need evidence? The 11 years since Enterprise went off the air has been the longest time without a Trek show on TV since the gap between TOS and TNG. And what made TNG possible? The Star Trek movies did damn well in the 80s too.

So for all the things I disagree with Abrams on, I have to admit that he gave the franchise a shot of life it needed at a fairly dark time. Now, Star Trek news is all over the place and people are actually excited about the property again. Star Trek Beyond is getting pretty solid reviews despite the turbulence involved in getting it together. There’s a new show coming to air in 2017, Star Trek: Discovery, and a lot of fan communities are getting excited about it – even new viewers, which is something the franchise hadn’t had for years before Abrams’ movie. And recently, as of this writing, the internet is buzzing again with news about Discovery’s showrunner, Bryan Fuller, giving us an insight into what he plans to do with the series next year.

Oh, and Fuller also might have accidentally confirmed why CBS sued Axanar. Continue reading Discovery and Axanar

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Monday Musings: Derailed Productivity

You had a plan, not a good plan, but it was a plan that most certainly existed. First, you’d wake up, groan and shamble into the kitchen in search of Colombia’s greatest export. Grinding it up and snorting it, you’d take your caffeine as Satan intended and would be strong enough to face the day. Guided by the Tulpa of Juan Valdez, you would then sit down and grind out 2,000 words on that manuscript you’ve convinced yourself will be the path to fame and fortune. After all, you heard once that’s how Stephen King did it. And that guy looked amped in the 80s.

overdrive

Just one problem – getting up isn’t happening. You tried for a moment but stopped once you felt your soul trying to escape yoru body. Everything hurts in ways you didn’t think were possible. Every muscle aches, your head is pounding, your stomach is churning and you’re pretty sure something is going to explode if you disturb it any. You weren’t partying last night, you had too much procrastinating to do on the manuscript for that. There’s only one explanation… you’re dying.

Oh god, you were so young, you’d done everything right, and now you’re going to melt into a pile of goo in your bed and be remembered by no one. Some poor bastard is going to find you face down on the pillow, glued to it by whatever the hell it is coming out of your nose right now. And what do you have to show for it? What have you left to the world? Stephen King wrote 12 books by the age of 35, what have you done with your life?

Wait…what if he was doing the other Colombian export? Oh god, you’ve been so stupid, spitting up black phlegm for months over nothing. Every day you’ve been walking around like some jackass from the old west looking for a spittoon!

Wait, focus, you’re dying, damn it. You need to get that manuscript done right now and make sure that you leave something for the people! You’re going to force yourself to get up and get your work done no matter what.

But that raises another question: how are you going to do that?

Continue reading Monday Musings: Derailed Productivity

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Monday Musings: The Line Between Shallow And Fun

Sometimes, we all get caught up in a touch of nostalgia and go back to an old guilty pleasure that gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling. Maybe it’s a trashy romance novel, maybe a “so bad it’s good” movie, or maybe a show or game that really has very little substance at all. Recently, as I made jokes comparing myself to Kirby, I found myself in the same place and went wandering back to Dream Land to play as the pink puff ball. I picked up Kirby Squeak Squad and was instantly hit with just how shallow the plot was – and proceeded to not give a damn.

inciting incident
Legitimately the inciting incident

This isn’t too uncommon in games, especially in platformers where you really don’t have to give much of a shit at all. For the longest time no one had any idea what the plot was to Super Mario Bros. How could you? It only came with two lines of dialogue and a plot that required you read the manual. And, let’s be honest, no one ever read videogame manuals, that’s why they stopped getting included. As time’s gone on, those sorts of games have slowly been reeled back as more intricate games have stepped forward. Still, occasionally, you get the urge to play a game that doesn’t really seem to give a shit what the plot was in the first place – that’s why the most recent release of Doom was so well received.

doom

But it doesn’t just hold true for games. Every form of entertainment has this pocket of “should be garbage, but isn’t” and it’s known by many names. Guilty pleasures and popcorn flicks are so common to people of all walks of life that they’re part of the everyday vernacular. And the thing is, in some cases they become so beloved that everyone agrees that their flaws are perfectly clear but don’t matter one damn bit. Hell, some productions even go out of their way to hit every single trope they can to try to become one of these on purpose.

fuck-thats-a

So, question: what’s so different between these and something that everyone agrees is legitimate garbage?

Continue reading Monday Musings: The Line Between Shallow And Fun

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