Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Crossing the (Creative) streams

It used to be that not only every genre, but also every industry had a wall around it. If you video game writing, that was about all you did. Now creatives are jumping from fiction to tabletop RPGs to comic books, etc.

Let me introduce you to workaholic, Shanna Germain. Part owner of Monte Cook Games and full on writer/editor of ficiton and RPGs. A talented profession who knows no bounds.

Shanna Germain

Grow my little geeklings, grow!

We seen it already, from Superheroes taking over the cinema to realizing that many cosplayers were in diapers back when we were suiting up for convention.

My podcast mates and I chat with author, columnist, and mother, Genese Davis, about what it take to keep the flame alive and add new blood to our geeky passions.

Genese Davis

Monday, October 19, 2015

Crimson Peak Kryptonite - Lit Critics

As a writer, one thing that stood out to me was the times when someone wanted to hurt the heroine, they went straight for the figurative jugular. They dissed her manuscript.

Seriously, it might have been kinder to go literal instead.

Perhaps del Toro was channeling his own angst at having his off-kilter style judged or maybe I’m projecting. I’ll take either, or both, truth be told.

Western culture takes a different stance on writing than it does the visual and performing arts. The stereotypes, regardless of the reality, is that when individual artists and performers reach a true level of mastery after years of practice, there’s no true way to deny their achievement. And if you don’t see the true mastery, you’re a bumpkin (don’t point at the painting John, you’re embarrassing me) and there’s whole genres of art that only an acquired taste can appreciate (as in like improv jazz, interpretative dance, postmodern art, and etc.)*

Writing, on the other hand, surely can be done by anyone and thus surely anyone can be a valid critic. And genre fiction itself has long standing history where many "valid critics", both on the street and ivory tower, agree to not waste their time reading it.

While every type of creative needs a coach, writing is ultimately a collaborative art. Some writers need an Alpha reader, others need a few beta readers and almost everyone needs some proofreading help. This is before the publisher comes in with their own team of copy editors (who do the actual line-by-line editing) and editors (who are advocates who focus on the story with — or in spite of — the author.)

A beginning writer who hasn’t found a solid collaborator, someone is more than just a cheerleader, is lost — especially those who know the deck is stacked against them. For them, an unkind word cuts most deep. And in Crimson Peak, that effect was weaponized by the Sharpe family. (In this context, I’m debating if that surname is more pun or irony.)

The Internet has been a boon too young to writers in the recent past. Fan fiction is now considered a legitimate part of a career for writers, it allows for faster feedback and access to receptive audience that might embrace your work.

But these days we also know that the Internet’s evolved into a social weapon. This goes double since writers are constantly baring their souls when their work is read.

So what’s my call to action? Honestly, I don’t know if I have one in a time when stories are judged from multiple angles and agendas.

If you find that a book you read is new writer to you, or just new period, then take a little care when you do your review. If something didn’t work for you, tone down on the snark; but build up the case on why it worked in other novels. Expound on what you enjoyed, yet examine why that put a smile on your face.

As a final word, I’m not advocating that every new writer get a medal for their first effort. That first effort is going to be a horrible first pancake, but how you couch those can make a world a difference. It might give them just a ghost** of a chance at finishing that first novel.

*Side note: I have heard of an award-winning genre writer who left the field to enjoy dancing. She found the immediate appreciation of an audience to be much more rewarding than the years it took to sell her shorts.
**Sorry. Couldn’t resist. I’ll be leaving now.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Until next week ... the cliffhanger story lives on

One of the first tales about a professional storyteller has some pretty high stakes. Shahrazad is trying to keep her wits — and her head — by creating the first cliffhanger. One Thousand and One Arabian Nights later and history was made. The serialized story was born.

After my podcast with Mur Lafferty and Brian Francis Slattery, I realized how much today’s geeky/pop culture has its foundations in serial storytelling. From the newspapers that featured Sherlock Holmes and a whole city of Dickensian characters to the cliffhanger reels that directly inspired Star Wars and Indiana Jones, there’s a lot of that pulpy DNA going on in there.

And there’s still a bit of a class war going on when it comes to admitting love for the serialized story. For a long time, the man on the street’s reading diet came from the aforementioned newspapers and the pulpy magazines of the day, while the upper class enjoyed “true” literature that merited the cost of a hardback. The vectors that crossed that class boundary were the paperback novels given to WWII era G.I.s so they could enjoy “true” literature in the foxholes.

But that sparked a hunger for content that the paperback market had to fill, giving quite a few pulpy and serial writers got a second, healthier, career by repackaging their short or serialized stories.

That repackaging, though, hid the serialized origins of those stories. So while the obvious serialized story seemed to fade a little the mainstream, quite a few anthology magazine fans can point you to great serialized stories from the 70’s onward.

That paperback boom made some characters, like Philip Marlowe, become immortal while others, like Doc Savage, cling on to life support as cult favorites.

So at this point, you wouldn’t be the first, or the last, to think that we’re going through another content boom thanks to e publishing. And right now we’ve got talented, big names like Emma Bull and Elizabeth Bear as well as Mur Lafferty and Brian Francis Slattery are tackling the format to bring us a new generation of protagonists. These writers seem hell-bent to prove that the Internet seems to be a natural medium for the serialized story.

And they’re probably right. So that begs some questions:

Out of the new generation of serialized protagonist we see and fall in love with, which ones are destined to become permanent fixtures on our pop culture wall while others crumble away?

Will we be able, thanks to the interwebs, to finally ascertain what gives a heroine/hero lasting appeal? Or will it all still turn out to be the same gamble on being the right voice with the right story at the right time?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What is this "TV" you speak of ...

TVs aren't going to go anywhere, but the content delivery for them has radically changed in the last 20 years. My 'Ganza co-hosts and I go on a binge (see what I did there) as we look over streaming, TV recaps and the hope that some channels can get back to their original programming.

Because wrestling on SyFy and Ice Truckers on History make perfect sense for reasons.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

And because this is the Internets, we'll wrap up July 4th with this bit of silly cuteness.