Leave George R. R. Martin Alone!

Oh God, really??

Leave George R. R. Martin Alone!

I guess the Harvey Dent was right: You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Some people are maniacs online. I read how angry fans are trashing George RR Martin’s release schedule, and it left me spitting with anger. Then I sat on this blog post for over a month. Life is too short to get into petty squabbles, I said. Now I’m reading this … ‘Game of Thrones has lost its way.’

You people (I’m speaking to the fans that can’t enjoy a show or a book without turning into armchair pundits) need your head examined. I’ve met GRRM and he’s a sweet guy. He doesn’t deserve this.

Leave George R. R. Martin Alone!

Here’s the thing: We’re all trying to make it as authors here. Is this is all we have to look forward to if we’re lucky enough to achieve his level of success? We’re conditioned to spend our lives trying to tap into the id of our readers, understand them and write stories they love. George R.R. Martin did that. Now you’re turning on him? Are you crazy??

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Snark Has Always Existed

I was just reading this interesting story about a high-schooler in 1963 who sent a survey to 150 well-known authors of literary, commercial, and science fiction. The story is worth a read unto itself, but my takeaway comes from Ayn Rand’s response to the boy, enshrined in the picture on the right.

“This is not a definition, it is not true,” Ms. Rand says, “and, therefore, your questions do not make sense.” Using a classic ‘forest for the trees’ argument, she derails the discussion and dismisses the topic. We’ll never know how she feels about symbolism in fiction, but we do know that she was as ethically egoist in real life as she was in Atlas Shrugged.

Ayn Rand’s response reminds me of the million-or-so arguments discussions I’ve had on the Internet. If you don’t want to hammer the facts, hammer the law, as they say. It sucks, because someone who isn’t invested in the outcome can torpedo your search for truth at almost any time. Yet, that’s the truth that faces any one of us who attempt the Bard’s life. It was true back in 1963, and it’s true now.

Dark Deco and Neo-Noir for Kids – Batman: The Animated Series

Just found out that my Comic-Con submission for the 2018 Souvenir Book wasn’t accepted. Stings a little, but onto the next … always. Meanwhile, you might get a kick out of it. They asked for articles on Batman: The Animated Series. I loved that show as a kid and I still do. Ended up writing an 1100-word love letter to the Dark Knight. Hope you enjoy it:

 

Dark Deco and Neo-Noir for Kids – Batman: The Animated Series at Twenty-Five

Lights down, TV sound up. It was four o’clock in the afternoon, and Batman: The Animated Series was on. Time stopped during those thirty minutes. After years of Hanna-Barbera animation and toy shows like G.I. Joe and the Transformers here was an honestly *good* TV show coming at us every weekday afternoon.

Batman: The Animated Series was launched in the fall of 1992 and ran until I graduated high school. Other cartoon series’ were exciting – you can’t help but celebrate the fourth-wall breaks that happened in TMNT – but B:TAS was different. It was special. I watched every one of the eighty-five episodes like my life depended on it. The Dark Knight had been rebooted in a unique way. New characters like Harley Quinn took their place among classic villains and the famous film actors who provided their voices. Neo-noir ‘dark deco’ art blended without seam with the slightly futuristic technology that Batman used in fighting crime.

It’s not surprising that we still talk about Batman: The Animated Series two-and-a-half decades later. As teens and  tweens, we not only loved the show, we crossed the threshold into a strange new world. Here was a new series to fall in love with, and we did. We quoted it to each other; we plumbed the depths of the DC comic canon to which we had been exposed. We watched afternoon programming raise its bar, as Batman: TAS redefined what a kid’s cartoon show was supposed to be. Continue reading

Should Authors Do a Patreon?

I’m posting this because I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I should consider doing a Patreon to fund my writing. You may not understand what a Patreon is, so let me bring you up to speed. According to Wikipedia, Patreon is ‘an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service, as well as ways for artists to build relationships and provide exclusive experiences to their subscribers, or “patrons.”‘

In other words, if you like a particular artist and you want to help encourage them to make more art, you’ll sign up to fund their work, either once or on a recurring basis. Sounds good on paper, and yet … that’s not how art works. I’ve never been completely on board with Patreon, anyway. Something never sat right with me about the process. After all, if Steve Jobs is right, and real artists ship, then we need to finish the product and ship it. I followed my gut and backed away from doing a Patreon, and now it turns out I made the right choice.

If you read through this Reddit post, you’ll understand why Patreon is a bad idea for authors. It’s not that Patreon is bad, the math of the Internet is against us. You can’t produce quality writing if you’re writing on a model that only works for viral video-makers and other like-minded individuals. Viral video-makers are people like PewDiePie … is that who you saw yourself being when you started writing?

So in summary, skip the Patreon. Your money comes from selling, and shipping, your work. Real artists ship.

 

Yes We Can – Madeline L’Engle – ‘A Wrinkle in Time’

Just read this post regarding Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and thought ‘this is me. This is us.’ I can’t think of a better case for perseverance on the part of brave new authors than Wrinkle in Time, since it took so many attempts and so much time in order to bring the story to life.

It’s no secret that science fiction is the community of the underloved, and underknown. Frequently, it’s also a community filled with hostility and suspicion, and I think the reason why is simple. When you take a bunch of people who have been marginalized their whole lives, who have through science fiction experienced this a-ha moment of ‘this is where I belong, this is my spot in the universe,’ you also get people who are afraid that by opening doors for others they will be shutting doors for themselves.

These are the people that Madeline L’Engle had to make peace with, and be accepted by, when she wrote ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ That’s our job, as authors, too. We must overcome, with love, the same small-minded arguments against the universes we create. We must persevere through what the movie ‘Angus’ called ‘The Bathune Theory.’

We must be different, we must deal with the outside pressure to conform, but we must remain true to ourselves. In that perseverance, we have faith that like Madeline L’Engle, our dreams will eventually be accepted by the community. It’s a scary exercise, looking down the dark tunnel and imagining there will eventually be a light, but that’s our journey. ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ made it out of the tunnel successfully, and we can, too.

Stanley Kubrick: Beautiful Insanity

Stanley Kubrick: Beautiful InsanityWhen we write, we dream of what success looks like. Then success happens and we’re left wondering where we went wrong. This is an interesting write-up of what it was like working on A.I. with Stanley Kubrick. It seems that the strange worlds of his films were matched only by the strange world of himself.

I don’t know how long I could have maintained self-control in the environment described by Ian Watson, but I give him much credit for both surviving and then writing about it.

I Take It Back – Neill Blomkamp is a Genius

I know I said I have problems with dystopian and post-apocalyptic sci-fi and that comment still stands. That said, Neill Blomkamp is doing some amazing things with sci-fi right now, and these little short films in particular. Go check out his latest, ‘Firebase,’ (not for kids under 14!) and then come back for comments:

I’m loving these short films – well shot, big ideas, unique execution. The best part about them is how Blomkamp is employing a bit of the old ‘pasta test’ when it comes to film-making: he’s throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. In a world where trying to convince studio execs that there’s a market for your original story, this idea incubator may be the most powerful tool of all.

Why Wonder Woman Isn’t Just a Superhero Movie

Here’s the moment when I knew superhero movies have changed forever.

Before we get to that, let me just say this. Every time I announce my work, I feel like I split a fine line between spitting in the ocean and coming across as self-promoting. I got some suggestions on Reddit, and if you have something to add I’d love to hear it.

As I was saying, superhero movies have changed, and changed for the better. A few years from now, people are going to still be talking about this movie, and here is my take on why that will be. Mild spoiler alert – there’s a scene in Wonder Woman where Gal Gadot runs across No Man’s Land as part of her journey through the horror of World War One.

As she’s climbing a ladder to enter the battle, the camera gives us the standard detail shot. The lens lingers over her armored wrists, her tiara, and her boots. I sat there, watching, and instantly my cinematography/male brain goes “Here’s the booty shot, here’s the booty shot.” Then it happened; no booty shot. You know what I’m talking about: the booty shot. Wonder Woman has no booty shot.

Up ’til now, it was accepted that every major female character’s screen time would include some moment where the camera remains focused on their bum. That has to be annoying, not only to the actress but to every girl who sees this and the sloppy grins of every boy in the theater. It’s become a thing that every girl has grown to accept, to the point of parody. Objectification and unnecessary sexualization have been sore points in the sci-fi and superhero fan communities. Now here comes Wonder Woman (WW).

At the moment of battle, Gal Gadot climbs the ladder, the camera shows everything about her that tells us visually that she’s a strong, fierce warrior, and then poof, she’s off into the war zone. Not only is she fighting the bad guys on their terms, she’s defeating them. Everything we’ve come to expect from a Captain America or Iron Man, in Amazonian form. Booty shots are off the table, and the gloves are off for us.

I applaud Patty Jenkins for this decision. With two seconds of film, she turned Wonder Woman from another superhero movie into a culturally significant film. Movies have the power to motivate thought, action and change. At the crossroads between art and commerce, many compromises are made in the name of pragmatism. Toxic ideas fester in the gray areas between liberty and license. In one fell swoop, Wonder Woman resets the dials to zero. This film shows us that a movie with a female protagonist, helmed by an underknown actress, can succeed in Hollywood. This story shows that girls can be powerful, gentle, brave and resilient. But then, Wonder Woman gets even better.

Any other ‘girl-centric’ movie seems to sell us short. Case in point: the Ghostbusters reboot from last year, but there are other examples, too. Fight scenes that pull punches. Sexy misunderstandings. Tired speeches that try to marginalize the male characters instead of just being themselves. Wonder Woman pours gasoline on all of these cliches and drops the match.

We’re so invested in the story, the characters and the action that all of these issues fall away. As a former member of the IDF, Gadot puts a startling amount of realism into her fight scenes. WW exits the first act having navigated the treacherous worlds of sexuality, mother-daughter relationship dynamics, Mean Girls, and child bearing with equal amounts of strength and sincerity. Throughout the rest of the movie, WW is equally comfortable whether she’s throwing punches or pitching woo. When she isn’t throwing shade, she’s throwing tanks. You come out of the theater cheering for her as a person, and I think that is why Wonder Woman isn’t just a superhero movie.

Sitting in my chair, I was thinking about how readers and viewers *must* be invested in the story. This is an important point for me, especially if I want to be a successful storyteller myself. WW reminded me that if I’ve connected with the reader or viewer’s emotions, nothing else matters after that. Think about this: old blockbusters are famous for having plot holes and film goofs, but Star Wars is a classic *because* it connected with our emotions. Jaws is a classic *because* it connected with our emotions. WW connects with the audience’s emotions using grace, and style. One day, we’ll look back at this moment and realize that we were witnessing history.

In a world where we’re fighting to be ourselves, to be appreciated for who we are, WW steps out and does just that. It’s got heart, it’s got action, it’s got fun. A lesser film-maker or actress would allow themselves to be sucked into the pointless battle of gender issues. WW relegates those issues to the dustbin where they belong, saying: “watch the movie and have fun. That’s all you should have to worry about.”

Darn right.