Defiantly Watching Defiance

Defiance TV Show Poster (w show's main characters standing in alien fauna by the backdrop of the St. Louis arch in the background.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2189221/

I am watching a show that I’ve had in my queue for a while: Defiance. It is a Sci-Fi show (post apocalyptic) that is currently streaming on Amazon Prime (not sure if it is elsewhere, but I know its been on Prime) for a while now, so I thought I’d watch it. So, when my late creative writing professor, Ken Smith, opened my eyes to the fact that Science-Fiction’s antecedent genre was the Western, I was aghast. Star Wars and the original trilogy were my favorite movies at the time (this was in the era where the Prequels were still a couple years away from release and the Matrix hadn’t quite changed the landscape for science-fiction films (although Aliens & Terminator 2 had made significant in-roads). And yet, as I watch Defiance, I can’t help but recall Ken’s assertion as this show is every bit the Western.

Alien Backstory & Mythos + Western Plots and Characterization = Defiance

So far, about mid-way into the show’s first season, I’m slogging my way through it. The show takes the approach to adding aliens to Earth via a “failed” attempt (or maybe incomplete) at an alien race terraforming Earth. The Earth has been transformed into a (mostly) post-apocalyptic wasteland complete with alien species and races complicating life for the remaining human residents. One of the things that I like about the show is that it doesn’t just focus on humans, however, but seeks to show a town (Defiance) that has multiple alien and human inhabitants and how they can survive and life together despite their prejudices and differences. In many ways, it tries (again early times, at least) to present a hopeful, unifying front, no matter the individual prejudices that flare up.

All Western, All the Time

And yet . . . the show really hasn’t grabbed me. Even though there are aliens, what looks like an ancient alien mystery, and quite a few alien cultures that have traditions different from our own, all of the stories so far have had a decidedly Western (genre) feel to them. Their has been a feuding pair of families with young lovers on each side of the families (a la The Hatfields & McCoys–and yes, they are of two different races just to ratchet up the tension). The protagonist becomes the town’s “Lawkeeper” in the “pilot” episode. The episode I just finished had to do with a “Bounty Hunter” friend of the Lawkeeper (a “trope” of many a Western). There are deputies, a doc with a possible bad past, prostitutes with hearts of gold, and the like.

Now, all this to say, that the actors and the story isn’t bad–it just skews heavily into the Western motif, where I might want it to do so a little less.

And this is Why I Like “Space Ship Shows”

Defiance (and shows like it–The Walking Dead comes quickly to mind) is that it devolves into the same tropes that a Western might: be quick with a gun or be dead, protect yourself at all costs because your neighbors won’t, the frontier is the big open space of badness, with little pockets of safety coming by way of cities.

Now, you could say this about my beloved spaceship shows (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dark Matter, Stargate (& spinoff shows), etc), but one thing that spaceship shows do better than their post apocalyptic cousins is that sense of “wonder.” There is the chance that some scientific concept or paradigm will be explored in some unique and awesome way that completely explodes the traditional/contemporary way of looking at the world. For instance, Star Wars has a lot of western tropes early in the movie, but moving to the later parts of the movie, we see the tropes of medieval knights (Kenobi vs Vader fight on the Death Star) and even WW2 fighter tropes (the iconic Trench Run). As a child, this blew my mind. Another example, from the world of books this time, was a scene in one of Elizabeth Moon’s books where a main character walked on the ship’s outer hull while the ship was in freakin’ HYPERSPACE. I’d never read the like and this one scene helped make me a lifelong fan of Elizabeth Moon’s work.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to stick through it to the end and report back with a mini-review. We’ll see–while I like and respect the western, I would prefer my science fiction to show a little less western tropes and a little more wonder than I’m currently seeing in Defiance. But who knows, maybe they’ll lean harder into the “alien artifact” mystery and it will have the wonder I’m looking for in my sci-fi.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

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Biting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face: #OwnVoices

Hands of many colors
Image Source: https://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/agents-renew-call-diverse-books-ownvoices-submissions

Many blog readers know that I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Well, really its a mostly love-dislike relationship. I know that social media can sometimes be a positive force–alerting us to injustices, uniting us against unfair situations, or keeping each other informed (especially where family members and friends are far-flung and this is the only easy way of keeping in touch). However, in many of my own personal use cases, the toxicity of social media and the results that play out in real life often discourage me from adopting it with any great zeal.

However, I’m not a Luddite and I recognize that sometimes various memes and platforms can be a touchstone for change, but after an encounter with it in the field of writing, I still find myself ambivalent, even when the social media movement benefits me.

#OwnVoices: Pros

So, on Saturday, I was trying to find a place to send out a story that I revised: Starlight, Starbright. And one of the markets that I came across was one that wanted stories by authors of the same race/group as the main character–and they were looking for authors of traditionally marginalized groups (People of Color, etc).

Now the main character for Starlight, Starbright is an African-American male, and as I am an African American male, it (at first) seemed like a perfect fit. Here was a market that was looking for the stories that I was writing. So, the pro is that I have (at first glance) a ready-made market for my story. So I sent it to them, right?

No, I didn’t . . . and I don’t think I will.

#OwnVoices: Cons

Well, why the heck not? Weren’t whinging on about not being published/not having enough markets to submit to about 2 years ago on this very blog? Well, yes, that’s true, but the more I thought about it, the more something about the #OwnVoices movement doesn’t work for me.

You see, The Independent has an African American female as the main character, so even if they took Starlight, Starbright, then they’d never take The Independent as they would assume that I, as a male, don’t have the qualifications to write the female point of view and I just don’t believe that to be the case.

Setting aside for the moment that I’ve had several stories published with a female lead (Skin Deep, Sister-Knight, and by the nature of the story, Moon shares equal billing with Hawke in HawkeMoon), the main character in The Independent is an African American female based on my grandmother.

As I lived with my grandmother for my entire life until she passed away in 2013, I feel more than qualified as a writer to base the main character on her–in fact, it is more than just qualification at this point, it is an honor–but I digress. The point is, while I was not her, I listened to her stories, to her dreams, both fulfilled and unfulfilled, her aspirations, and her relating history, both how it affected her, as well as her own personal history, and this makes me uniquely qualified to write from a woman’s POV in this case as the main character shares a couple of very important character traits with my grandmother.

Now, to be clear, Ryn, my main character, only shares a couple of traits and is not a recreation of my grandmother in story form, but to assume that I’m not qualified to sell the story to this magazine that adheres to the #OwnVoices paradigm because my gender is wrong, just feels wrong as (to be honest) The Independent fits that magazines’s mission statement even more than Starlight, Starbright does.

Biting Off Your Nose to Spit Your Face

So, this is probably an expression that won’t travel well. I know it from my grandmother and I (assume) that it is a Southern US saying that basically encapsulates the idea of doing something that ultimately hurts you when trying to hurt someone else or a larger group/context/etc. Unfortunately, I think this is what the #OwnVoices movement is doing. They’re trying to be helpful, but ultimately, they are either doing harm, or no good at all. Yes, I’ve read stories where I know (from the author’s picture) that wasn’t an African American male even though the main character was and I remember how inauthentic those characters were (more ciphers than characters), but I’ve also read moving and touching stories by authors of different races and genders that have affected me deeply.

To refuse a writer the opportunity to explore the richness of characterization by limiting that writer’s choice of subjects doesn’t really seem to be in the best interests of the art, even if it opens up avenues for publication for those who might not publish otherwise.

In the end, #OwnVoices just isn’t for me. While I understand the appeal, I feel that since my grandmother can no longer speak for herself, so it is up to me, her grandson, to articulate what she wasn’t given the chance to articulate in her lifetime.

To deny me the opportunity to do that, is to (in my way of thinking) deny the very voices that movement claims it wants to hear.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 2 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

The Patient Application of Force

Image Source: http://www.thr3escapes.ca/pages/science_pages/rocks.html

Quickly–so sorry for the infrequent nature of blog posts. School has started and I’ve had an absolute nightmare with the financial aid office (and to be honest, I’m still not completely “safe” yet. More on this morass if and when it all get’s straightened out.

If a Tree Falls . . .

So, a tree did fall. Well, several trees. Well, several tree limbs. They fell into my backyard several years ago (2? 3?). Every summer that I’ve been here at MTSU I’ve tried to take a saw (I don’t own a chainsaw) and cut them down as well as cut down the overgrowth that has occurred on the back fence, and one of the two side fences on my property. And every year, I’ve failed.

Until this year.

What was different about this year? Instead of trying to do 4 or 5 massive Saturday “brush runs” where I’m out there everyday (sometimes in the mornings, sometimes in the afternoons, sometimes in the evenings), but it was always huge amounts of time that seemed to make no difference no matter how much brush I cut down and piled up–and those massive tree limbs, well, they never seemed to get cut either. Sawing manually takes a LONG time and is VERY tiring. Why not a chainsaw? Well, let’s just say that I know a former school mate who lost part of a toe in an accident with a lawnmower, so I prefer manual equipment when possible (no, I don’t own a manual lawnmower, but rather a gas one, but because of that incident, I try to be as careful as possible).

This year, I simply have gone out for an hour or two in the evenings and worked until it was dark and in all that time, I’ve cleared two of the three fallen limbs, and I’ve cleared most of the back fence. In other words, I’ve used what has been successful for me in the past, “Patient Application of Force.” I do a little at a time, but I do it consistently, and over time, that little bit adds up to a lot. I’ve put more time into the project of clearing the brush by putting in less time on a daily basis, but doing it consistently week-over-week.

Implications for My Writing

So, what I’ve learned is that I need to use this for my writing. The standard writing advice is to write everyday. Well, that’s not going to work for me because I have school, I have work, I have papers, I have deadlines, and I have reading and other things that simply must done. However, what I can do is find some time, specifically on the weekends (maybe even the time in the winter that I would have used in the summer to work on yardwork) when I can consistently write. For me, even if it isn’t everyday, the true nature of writing is consistency. As long as I’m consistent in what I do, then I tend to finish things and be successful in all the myriad of things. It is when I stop and start and try to do long sessions where things don’t work like I envision.

Right now, I am working on The Independent. While the draft isn’t likely to be the “final” draft, I feel that it is close. I’m 3000 words in and I feel that I probably have about 1000 to 1500 to go. I worked on it last weekend for the first time in almost 2 months and I’m hoping to work on it this weekend as well. I have the Graphic Novel to work on after that. Then I have another short story that I’m planning on rewriting as well.

Basically, what I’m coming to learn about myself (in general) and my writing (in particular) is that I simply need to be consistent in all that I do–otherwise, it doesn’t work. So that’s what I’m working on now–learning how to be consistent in all that I do. The blog returning after a nearly 3 week hiatus is one manifestation of this concept.

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

Mini-Review: Overlord (No Spoilers)

Private Boyce rescues a formerly captured squadmate and carries him down a laboratory hallway.
Image Source: https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/overlord-review-1202954042/

I watched this movie over the weekend and I have to say that it (like the newest Robin Hood) this is another movie that is anachronistic period piece, but unlike that movie, it manages to be both exciting and realistic and actually cares about delivering a fun experience for the movie goer who watches this movie.

I watched this movie over the weekend and I have to say that it (like the newest Robin Hood) this is another movie that is anachronistic period piece, but unlike that movie, it manages to be both exciting and realistic and actually cares about delivering a fun experience for the movie goer who watches this movie.

Anachronism Done Right

Basically, this is a World War II movie where “dark experiments” are taking place during the liberation of Europe. The trailers made this seem like the story was going to take a slightly different path than what actually occurred in the movie, but it is still an enjoyable movie. I really enjoyed watching it as it most definitely was still fun and intense, even if the trailer made it seem like it would be a different type of movie (slightly). It features an African American as the protagonist and he is characterized as “goody two-shoes” (so much so that his squad rags on him for not killing a mouse in the barracks). While not Afrofuturism/Afrofuturistic, it does make a strong nod in that direction while allowing soldiers of multiple races and cultural identities (African American, Jewish, Caucasian, Italian) to be part of a team and to contribute to the ultimate success of the mission. Now, the reason why it is anachronistic is that the movie doesn’t explain its multiculturalism, but just throws them together. While I don’t mind this per se, (and wish society could be like this always), knowing the historical truth of the time period is something that I always have to remind myself when watching these types of movies. Yet, the movie gets the characters right–and that’s the main difference between it and Robin Hood. You really understand each character’s motivations and the plot puts the characters in situations that test them and their morals.

Anachronism Done Wrong

So, there are a couple of problems with the movie–one deals with anachronism itself and one deals with the way the movie was marketed. I’m going to tackle the marketing first. It was marketed as if there was something “supernatural” going on in WWII. This is the case and it isn’t the case. I won’t go into spoilers here, but while technically one could say that is true, it doesn’t match the implication hinted at in the trailers. It’s still fun, but just not what I was lead to believe based on the trailers for the movie. It is the anachronism that really took me out of the movie, however, on routine basis. From what I know of WWII and African Americans, many of the situations and even cool character moments of the protagonist would not have happened due to the way race relations were at the time period. Yes, we pretend this wasn’t an issue (which the movie does), but it makes it far less realistic than it should. What would have been a better response would have been to do what Doctor Who does and quickly reference the race situation in a scene, deal with it, and move on. Both actors of color who have appeared as companions to the Doctor have remarked on their skin color when they went back to the past, the Doctor comments on it (or a scene plays out) and then it isn’t effectively mentioned again for the entirety of that companion’s run–the latest Doctor did an entire episode on it as well, so there are ways of handling that. I think I might have rated Overlord higher if they could have just acknowledged the race issue, quickly shown why it wasn’t a problem/issue in this case, and then moved on.

Overall Grade: B

This is an above average movie for me. I really enjoyed the movie and thought that its anachronism was something that, while pulling me out of the movie, didn’t do so in a way that was so totally egregious that I couldn’t enjoy it.

Hawke and Moon: The Characters of HawkeMoon

Image Source: https://findtattoodesign.net/designs/884-hawk-and-celtic-moon

In celebration of HawkeMoon’s publication and “cover story” status in Storyhack, Issue 4, I’m delving deeply into the story, its characters, my process, and generally doing blowout coverage through the entire week. If you want to read the original Author’s Note for HawkeMoon written when I had just finished writing the story, here is the original blog post.

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Hawke

So, in the issue, Hawke isn’t actually depicted anywhere that I could see–which is okay–but he is very much the protagonist of the story (at least, in my mind). He is the first viewpoint character and it is his motivation to find the King’s killer that drives the story along initially. Hawke is a strange character as he is the fantasy equivalent of an “African American” in a predominately “European” fantasy world. While I don’t delve into Hawke’s backstory at all in the story, he is described as having dark skin. I would imagine in this world that there is a southern region that functions much like Africa/The Middle East (hot, arid, and the sun beats down on the land increasing the melanin of the inhabitants). The two lands probably rarely interact so I’m not quite sure how Hawke would have come into “The Lands” (the European part of the world). I doubt it would have been slavery or any real world amalgam as that concept is foreign to this world, but he was “cast out” by his tribe, so perhaps he was taken in and expected to work for his meals? Not really sure at this moment to be honest. I do know that he is doggedly determined and highly moral and this has allowed him to rise through the ranks to become Captain of the King’s Guard, which is where we find him at the beginning of the story.

Moon

Moon is the character that has really caught the attention of the editor and the artists, I think. Having read The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb and playing (& finishing) pretty much every Assassin’s Creed game from the beginning of the franchise (except for the smaller 2D offshoots), I knew assassins as an organized group were still pretty popular, but I almost made her a thief instead of an assassin due to the moral implications of killing for money. What I finally decided was the Moon needed to be an assassin as only an assassin would risk an attempt on the King’s life (especially with a feared Captain of the Guard like Hawke protecting him), so I gave her a moral code. She only accepted contracts for those she felt embodied “evil.” While I don’t explicitly get into this in the story, you do get an implication that she doesn’t kill indiscriminately. She is more of a surgical tool and works to make The Lands better through judicious use of her skill set. However, making her an assassin came with an added benefit: she became more than a match for Hawke. Moon doesn’t play “second fiddle” to anyone and her skills put Hawke to the test–again, great for tension and challenging the protagonist. Moon would be considered a “European” (i.e., white) in this world, which is where the artists take her. I personally envisioned her as extremely pale (as in “no sun”), but the artists have made her much less pale and more normalized. Again, this is fine–I’m just noting some of the differences between the way I envisioned her and how others envisioned her. Her crescent blades are also different, but I knew they would be–that mental image was very hard to describe in words. I’m no artist by any means, but I had to draw out what I was envisioning–to my knowledge, there is no real world weapon that is analogous to the crescent blades that Moon wields.

Setting

This story takes place in The Lands. In my mind it is a loose confederation of nations ruled by a King. The level of technology is about mid 1500s to early 1600s society–with burghers and the like from Amsterdam and that area. Again, none of this is explicit in the story, but I wanted to give readers of the blog a peek into what I was thinking when I wrote the story. The Lands have older medieval civilizations, but are much more modern and moving towards more enlightened society. I don’t think there will ever be a full-on renaissance in this world, but I could be wrong.

As mentioned earlier, The Lands represent a “European”-like society, but there is also a Southern area that has people of darker colors. This society and The Lands trade with one another and do not have any animosities towards one another. I haven’t really nailed this part down, though. This would be the first thing that I would work on if I choose to expand this out into a longer work (graphic novel/novel/screenplay).

Well, that’s all that I have for now! I hope you enjoyed this deeper look at the characters and setting of HawkeMoon.

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = December 30, 2019

HawkeMoon is the “Cover Story” for Storyhack and is Available Now!

Storyhack, Issue 4.  HawkeMoon by Sidney Blaylock, Jr. in stylized font.  A picture of a scarecrow like monster in a hooded cowl menacing an Assassin (Moon) who is holding her trademark scythe-like blade with a dead brown tree in the background.
Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

Wow! Just Wow! I honestly cannot believe it. If you’ve been a long-time reader of the blog, or even if you’ve just joined, you’ll know that I’m a “semi-pro” writer. I write (and hopefully, receive payment & get published), but I’ve not yet written any long works, such as novels, so I don’t yet consider myself a true “pro.” The blog was my way of both promoting my work and talking about things I like (in the interim when I had nothing currently in print), but I am also using it as a motivation/springboard to “level up,” so to speak, to get comfortable writing longer, more intricate works. While I’ve been published before (and every time is an awesome feeling!), this time my story is the cover story for Storyhack, Issue 4! This is the 1st time that I’ve ever had a “cover story!”

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Cover Story

What I can’t believe is that the editor chose my story as the cover/featured story! I knew it was first (based on the galleys), but I never once considered that it would be the cover story! Wow! I almost can’t express myself. I never expected that one of my stories would be chosen as a cover story/featured story. Not only is the cover sweet and presents a really cool and dynamic imagining of Moon, but the story also includes a interior image of Moon as well.

And it isn’t just my own work that’s cool! The whole issue looks really nice and the artwork for the other stores looks awesome. I can’t wait to read the other stories by the other authors who were selected based on the intriguing and awesome artwork included. I can say that this is truly a quality magazine and I am so happy that the editor, Bryce Beattie, selected my work for his magazine.

A Week of HawkeMoon

I hope I don’t wear out my welcome, but I’m so giddy at being selected as the cover story that I thought I’d do a week’s worth of coverage on the story. Specifically, I want to talk about the inspiration for the story, the characters, where I see it going in the future (any sequels, etc.). I’ve pushed back a couple of blog entries that I’ve already done to next week, so (fingers crossed), you might actually get two whole weeks of blog content from me this time, even though school is starting soon. I’ve actually already done an “Author’s Note” blog on HawkeMoon when I finished the initial story, but I intend to go more in-depth about the creation process and the finished product, now that it is available.

Please, please, pleasseee, consider purchasing either the print or the eBook edition–not for me, but to show support to the publisher. This is how we reward quality work and make it possible for people like me to continue to have opportunities to publish. Large corporate publishers are only interested in authors like Stephen King or J. K. Rowling who can reliably deliver large returns of investment, and so they’ll never even look at me, or someone like me, no matter how good our work is because we can’t give them huge audiences. However, if we support small presses like Storyhack, then we give opportunities to good and talented writers to find their voices and get publishing experience to perhaps become the “next” big-name writers–and I’m not talking about just me, but for all those like me who are suffering rejection after rejection for the one Acceptance/Publication that makes their dreams of being a published writer a reality.

Please feel free to reblog this post as/where necessary! Have a great week!

Storyhack, Issue 4 (Print): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1686240082

ebook version: https://books2read.com/storyhack4

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019

ReRead: Myth Adventures One Graphic Novel

Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Adventures-One-Robert-Asprin/dp/0898654149

So, today through Friday, I will be in orientation for the upcoming Fall semester (all of the Graduate Teaching Assistants are required to do Orientation every year). It generally lasts all morning and all afternoon with a break for lunch, so I thought I’d just catch on Mini-Reviews and Re-Reads to have a little fun with the blog for the rest of the week. These entries will be shorter and a lot more “fun” since I’ll be tied up pretty much all morning and afternoon for the next few days.

Funny Fantasy

Myth by Robert Asprin is a late 70s/early 80s phenomenon where writers took the uber-popular fantasy tropes of “First Wave” Fantasy Writers (such as Tolkien, Lewis, and the like) and “Second Wave” Fantasy Writers (such as Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and the like) and parodied and/or satirized the tropes in the Fantasy field up to that point. While the Myth series was fairly popular in this sub-genre for a while as was Pierce Anthony’s fantasy series based on puns, Xanth, it was really Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series that grabbed the lion’s share of attention for the “funny fantasy” genre which has only seemed to abate in the past few years to the best of my knowledge–for a time Discworld was as popular as was “Epic” (Doorstopper) Fantasy.

Myth Adventures One

In addition to prose books, the “funny fantasy” genre also branched out into the realm of graphic novels and comic books. Myth Adventures One is an early graphic novel (1985) that collected issues 1-4 of the Myth Adventures comic. I found this graphic novel in a Friends of the Library Booksale several years ago, and I really liked the story, even though “funny fantasy” isn’t a sub-genre that I read regularly–although I do enjoy the Discworld novels that I own. I’d only read a couple Robert Asprin titles before getting this one (a Thieves’ World anthology that he co-edited with Lynn Abbey), but I do like Asprin’s writing. It’s very much in the vein of Shrek (way before their was a Shrek), but still, it is that very broad humor that would appeal to kids–very into visual gags.

Do You Like Cartoony Art?

If you do, then you’ll love Phil Foglio’s artwork. Me, well, there’s some things that I love about the artwork and something’s that I dislike. I love the exaggerated facial expressions–many times the comedy is sold by the expression on the face alone. However, a lot of times, the body/figure is also exaggerated, and this often results in the character looking out of proportion or (more commonly) posed in anatomically impossible positions that draw me out of the story. Even in the cover, it looks like the main character is a giant, but the cover image is meant to convey that the main character is flying, but the sense of perspective is off, so much of your enjoyment of the story is going to come from how much you like (or can tolerate) Foglio’s art.

Overall Grade: B (85 out of 100)

There’s nothing really wrong with the story (it’s a bit complicated to follow which is why I didn’t provide a plot synopsis, but ultimately follows the trials and tribulations of a magician and his apprentice). The art, again, depends on how much you like Foglio’s cartoony artwork (think Loony Toons level of abstraction). I liked it better on the first read rather than this reread, so the humor is something may only work when it’s fresh, but I still enjoyed it.

Have a great day everyone!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration

Image Source: https://meshgh.com/2015/10/18/weekly-quote-genius-is-1-percent-inspiration-99-percent-perspiration-thomas-edison/

Before I start today’s blog, I just wanted to say thank you to the many readers who read and responded (and “Liked”) yesterday’s blog entry. It was really gratifying to see that others responded to what I was trying to express. Thanks again, everyone!

Today, I just want to take a moment to talk about what makes writing (this blog & creative writing) so much fun for me. And it comes down to a simple quote that was attributed to Thomas Edison, an American inventor who, famously, invented the light bulb. I basically follow this particular formula for every major project that I work on.

1% Inspiration

This is my favorite part of the writing process. For me, getting that initial idea is one of the best feelings that I can experience. When I’m figuring out plot, characters, themes, emotions, and the story world is both invigorating and fun all at the same time. I love coming up with ideas in my writing and I love seeing how wild and outlandish I push the concepts that I write. For example, in 20s I used want to be a Role-Playing Game designer. Every summer, I would sit outside in the scorching 90+ degree (Fahrenheit) heat and just work on a section of the RPG that I’d come up with that year (I also did the same with short stories–this is how The Ghost and the Shadow was written). Obviously, I never did anything with these RPGs, but that wasn’t the point–I was more than happy to just work on the “cool” concepts that I’d come up with for the games. Even now, I have folder after folder of concepts that I want to create stories, novels, comics, movies, etc. from because I absolutely enjoy sitting down and coming up with the ideas and the world and all the things that make the story world so exciting. This feeling lasts (for me) all through the concept phase, the creation phase, and even into the “rough draft” phase–where I put a simple version down on paper. This even applies to blog entries–I currently have 14 “drafts” in my drafts folder in various stages of completion (more than enough to have put together enough to have put out during the previous two weeks) So, what happened, where does the writing process go “wrong” for me? That (of course) is the next phase.

99% Perspiration

Okay, once I get to this stage, the enjoyment of the project wears off quite a bit. I guess, for me, its because at this stage that I realize that the project is never going to reach the actual “potential” that I have in my mind for it. No, that’s not true. Reflecting back, I think that it is more that now I have to continually “shape” the work in order to get it to match the potential that I think it had when I created it and I that “refinement” process isn’t nearly as easy and as “fun” as it was during the inspiration phase. In the inspiration phase, ideas seem to flow, like water from a fountain, and my pen/pencil, or my computer can barely move fast enough to get the ideas out. However, once we move to the perspiration phase, then its really like work, trying to “dig” ideas out and get them to work correctly. For the most part, I push though this phase, but it is hard. This one isn’t nearly as fun nor as enervating as the inspiration phase. For example, Dragonhawk was based on a book cover that I’d had since childhood and I had the idea for ages. However, I did a lot of work for that story: I wrote multiple outlines for it, I “built” it from the ground up (sentences to paragraphs to sections, meaning that the outlines went from bare sentences, to more elaborate paragraphs, to still more elaborate sections), I wrote character sketches for the two main protagonists, I revised it heavily to get its word count down, I stuck with it even when there were sections that didn’t seem to be working well and fixed those before sending it out, etc. (all which speaks to the quality discussion of yesterday’s blog). I remain convinced that it is the only story that I’ve ever had accepted on the 1st try because of the work that I put into making it into the story that I’d envisioned in the inspiration phase (and tangentially because I actually took the time to write out my characters and created a character sketch for them). This happens in my blogs as well–I don’t just treat these like “tweets” and quickly throw them up on the site just to get them done, but craft them like mini-essays. While necessary in order to get anything done and not be a “dreamer” like I was in the days of my (many) failed RPGs, this phase is simply work and isn’t as much fun as the other phase.

1% Catharsis

So, yes I know, this now adds up to 101%, but (for me) this is also a necessary step that Edison didn’t articulate, but probably should have. This is the phase when the project is complete and has been published (or turned in or posted). The sense of catharsis that I feel is akin to the euphoria that I feel when I originally began the project. The release of tension and the successful completion of the project is something that a writer is always trying to capture. I can only say that it is probably akin to the “runner’s high” that marathon runners experience as well. I felt this after my first publication of The Ghost and the Shadow and I’ve always trying to recreate this experience. I will say that it never quite reaches the level of when I first start a project–I suppose because of the tedium that I go through to actually get the project written in the first place, but still, this final phase is an important part of why I chose to write in the first place. The euphoria of beginning a project and the euphoria of finishing a project help to give me a buffer to get through all of the hard times actually working on the project. Without the inspiration and catharsis phases, I doubt I enjoy writing nearly as much as I do.

My goal now is to take what I’ve learned over these past two years and to apply them to longer and longer works so as to move into the realms of novels and books and become the writer that I always dreamed I might become. Crossing my fingers that it happens, but I’m also putting in the 99% perspiration to try to actually make it happen as well.

Hope you have a great day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Unintended Vacation

Image Source: https://me.me/i/when-youre-overworked-broke-with-no-social-life-and-someone-3cb5624d1d1b41ef8a97ec1e8d5378c7

Sorry for the last two weeks. I haven’t actually been on vacation–far from it. I’ve actually been simply overworked in the last two weeks of the Summer semester. I’m great (no false modesty here folks), but I’m slow. I’ve discovered that when I blog, I essentially must do one of two things: 1) set aside an hour every day in which to blog (not ideal, but the way the blog mostly gets written) or 2) write the blog entries over the weekend and set them to “pop up” on a daily basis (ideal, but at an hour an entry that usually means 5 hours out of my weekend–which after a rough week like last week, is hard to do).

Why So Slow

In a word: QUALITY. That’s the one thing that my friends (those who know me) can’t understand about me. I like to take my time with things in order to make sure that I get them right. Yes, I’m an American, but you wouldn’t know it. This is going to seem like a slam on my nation, but it’s true: Americans prefer speed over quality. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but it’s true. If Americans can get both, then they will, obviously, but as someone who’s dealt with the public for 17 years, I can say that many (obviously not all) prefer the quick answer to the right answer. Americans hate wasting time and are always rushing hither and thither and they hate to be slowed down by anything, even (in some cases, by the truth/correct answer). Sure, if the quick answer is wrong and costs them money, then most of my countrymen and women will be angry, but just as likely, if there’s no money involved, then they’ll take the wrong answer just because its quick.

That’s just not me.

Advantages and Disadvantages

So, in American society, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages to being slow (or preferring quality over quickness). The advantages is that I tend, over time, to be as good, if not better than others in whatever I put my time into. Doesn’t mean that I’m automatically (automagically) going to be better, but because I take my time, start from the ground up, learn deeply, take the “hits”/”mistakes”/disappointments, and then keep going, I usually have a better average than others. Of my circle, I’m the only one who is technically a “professional” writer. Sure, others have publications or who have written full novels, but none have actually faced rejection upon rejection, revised their stories, or dealt with the realities of the publishing world, over and over again until their work sells. They dismiss the level of difficulty of what I do because, since I’m so slow, they never actually see all of the hard work and the stages that it takes to get things done. For instance, I have to teach an English class in about 2 weeks; first day of class is the 26th. However, my final paper is also due on the 26th as the professor wanted a paper that would be great and one that we could use to present at a conference. So, instead of doing 1 thing like my contemporaries, I have to do 2 things. There are some who have already finished their one thing (prepping for school or finished their paper). I, on the other hand, am in the middle of working on both of them. They will be ready on time and will be at a high level, but I’m sure there are others who would look at me and think that I’m not capable of doing the work–everyone else is already finished, they would argue, why aren’t you? Nevermind that I have a blog, a short story, reading (personal and school), yard work, housework, a weekly 4 hour commute, church, errands, and any number of other commitments in addition to trying to rest and recover from the work week–and that doesn’t even cover the work I’ve done to get set up in my school’s brand new class Doctoral Readings (which could be its own blog entry).

The Price of Quality

There is a price to be paid for quality, though. It means that there is never enough time to do everything that you want to do, in the manner that you want to do it.

The editor of Storyhack sent a link to the proofs in a dropbox file about 2 weeks ago–just before my inadvertent vacation from blogging. I glanced over them and told myself I’d get back to them as soon as I could, but wasn’t able to do so. I’ll look and see if they’re still available to edit (I doubt it mightily, but I just didn’t have the time to do it properly until now), so if it gets published, it probably won’t be the way I wanted it. Again, this is a source of frustration–why couldn’t it have been sent earlier in the summer when time wasn’t at so much of a premium? I don’t know, but I do know that it came in at exactly the wrong time for me to give it my full attention, so I’ll just have to shrug and have it printed not like I wanted.

Still, there’s not a whole lot that could be done. If I’d done the edits on time, then I wouldn’t have completed my Annotated Bibliography (which earned an A, btw) or the Final Exam (haven’t gotten the grade back yet), so I have to prioritize. And if that ticks people off, well, then I’m sorry, but that’s simply the way my life works. I’m still working on the Work, School, Life Balance and maybe one day, I’ll get it figured out.

Well, I’d better wrap this up. I’ve been writing now for almost an hour and a half (this one is as long as 2 normal blog entries), but I thought I should explain my absence. To be honest, it will probably happen again sometime around Aug. 26th or so, but hopefully it won’t be as long this time.

Have a good day!

Sidney


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

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