Year of the Shadow

Arched Shadows on Italian Wall
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/shadows-arch-urban-city-sunshade-1456887/

This has been an idea kicking around for a while now, but I haven’t really been able to decide how to make it work until this year. I wanted to start it earlier this year, but was so focused on my preliminary tests that I didn’t really give it the time it deserved, but I finally figured out a way of making this “Year of the Shadow” work, so I’m going to work at it on the weekends and we’ll see what comes of it.

What the heck am I prattling about?

I’m talking about “The Year of the Shadow.”

Year of the Shadow

So what is the “Year of the Shadow.” Well, the short version is that is where I develop a character that I’ve already published in a story somewhere into multiple projects throughout the year. The long version is that when I was talking with Toni, a fellow Graduate Student and a Writing Consultant at the MTSU Writing Center, I felt that the stories that I’d already published meant that there was something there that intrigued editors enough to buy them and publish them and I should probably use those stories as starting points to help me create longer works with those same characters. She agreed and thought that would be a great idea. I started with Tana from my short story “Ship of Shadows.” This is where the idea for the Graphic Novel came from. However, I got stuck shortly afterwards because I didn’t really know where to go with. I thought I was “unstuck” a couple of weeks ago, but when I tried to write it, I found I still didn’t know what the purpose of the story truly was and discovered that I still felt lost in the story.

Year of Tana

I could have almost entitled this the Year of Tana because my goal is now to focus on the character Tana from Ship of Shadows. In the short story, Tana is a “pilot” of a DSRV. My graphic novel will (hopefully) show how Tana goes from a pilot to a captain. The novel that I’m planning for her will show how navigates being captain and being her own independent contractor/small business owner as she struggles with both crew issues, finding ways to make money, and external issues. I intend to branch off and do a “variant” version of Tana for a screenplay where we see an alternate version of Tana and see her parents for the first time. Finally, I hope to finish off the year with a Pilot for a TV show going back to the novel and using Tana’s adventures there as my guide.

52 Weeks

I’m already 16-17 weeks behind schedule, but I didn’t really have plan earlier (or rather, I had a very nebulous plan), so I can’t really worry about the time lost. All I can do is work hard to make sure that now that I have a plan in mind, to devote time each weekend to making the plan work to the best of my ability. So, while I’m about 17 weeks behind, “The Year of the Shadow” has now commenced.

Advertisements

Great Actors in Small Roles: Claudia Black

Claudia Black (from Wikipedia entry)
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claudia_Black

So, I’m expanding this “series” just a little bit to also include under “appreciated” actors who I come across from all genres–not just film, as it had been previously. While, again, I won’t often call out many actors, there are just some who do a great job and don’t necessarily get the recognition they deserve.

One actor whose work I always love is Claudia Black. Having re-“rediscovered” her work in Farscape and having just recently finished the entire Stargate SG-1 series, in which guest stars towards the latter part of the series and becomes a series regular in the last season, I’ve really come to appreciate both her comedic timing and sense of the “ironic” in the characters that she plays.

Farscape

I’ll have a more in-depth review of the show later, but I really like the way Claudia Black imbues her character on the show, Aeryn Sun, with a sense of both sarcasm combined with deadly earnestness. Fitting of someone who was once a commando for the “enemy,” Claudia plays Aeryn with a physicality (and sometimes coldness) befitting of a military specialist. However, even after only about 4-5 episodes, I see the inventive wordplay and playfulness that is the embodiment of Vala (SG-1).

Uncharted

Many people may or may not know Claudia by sight, but most gamers (Playstation at least) know her for her roles in the Uncharted series. She plays Chloe Frazier, a treasure hunter and one-time old flame for the series protagonist Nathan Drake. While her roles were substantial in the games, I really felt the actress and the character come into her own with the release of the stand alone game Uncharted The Lost Legacy which featured two former supporting characters Chole Frazer and Nadine Ross as the lead characters in a new adventure. I thought the pain in which Black exhibited towards her father in some of the more emotionally charges scenes were outstanding and gave true insight into the character.

Stargate SG-1

One of my favorite characters on SG-1 was Vala, introduced as a “foil” to Daniel. While Vala is played as a far more humorous character than Aeryn, she can also have moments of seriousness, and even cold-blooded calculation, although Vala’s overriding conception is “fun.” Again, I really liked the way Claudia Black uses a “grin” to emphasize Vala’s playful demeanor which is reminscent of the way my own family used humor and sarcasm in a playful way, using our facial features and body language to diffuse/disarm any attempt to harm. I think this is why I don’t find “teasing” funny in real life because, in real life, “teasing” is really meant to cause harm to the person–whereas in Vala’s paradigm (and mine), teasing is just a way of playing and being fun without being stupid/doing stupid things. Without the correct gestures and body language, sarcasm and glib comments can do more harm than good.

While Claudia Black may not be a “household name” in many homes, I really think she should be as her ability to play both fun and playful characters along with characters with an emotional edge or more depth make her an actor that I enjoy watching (or listening to for her voice work) everytime I encounter something that she’s starring in.

A handclap of praise to Claudia Black for such wonderfully diverse characters–and for bringing a sense of “fun” and “wonder” back to adventure and science fiction.

Sidney

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




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Goodbye Star Wars: Clone Wars, Hello Farscape

Image Source: https://reelgood.com/show/star-wars-the-clone-wars-2008

So, I’ve been away from the blog for a while due to school and reading for the tests for this semester. I’ve been consuming media on the weekends, but I just haven’t really had a chance to blog about it. There have been several major video game news items that I’ve wanted to blog about (& with luck, I still will), but basically, today I wanted to talk about the “streaming future” and the way it will work in the future.

Goodbye Star Wars: Clone Wars

After trying to get through the series when it was first released and not being able to due to the erratic nature of its broadcast schedule originally, I tried to get through it on Netflix when it first appeared. There was an episode that I couldn’t get through–the one where Padme and Annakin have to use Padme’s former boyfriend to get information on the Separatists–and so I dropped it. This was when Star Wars: Clone Wars (SWCW) had first entered the Netflix catalogue. I recently (this year) finally got past that odiuous episode and was making my way through the series when I got the notice that SWCW would be leaving the service on April 7th. As I was in the midst of studying for tests, there wasn’t really anything I could do about it–no major binges or anything like that–so I was only able to get to Season 3 (first episode) before the show was pulled. Now, it isn’t gone forever–more than likely this show is going to appear on Disney’s new “Streaming” service.

Obviously, I don’t really like this. To the best of my knowledge, Disney’s new service will not be “free.” If it costs money, then I have to decide whether I need Disney’s service over Netflix’s service, or whether I can afford (notice I didn’t use the word need as I don’t need either service, but I want them for entertainment). I don’t really like this idea of starting new services when there are already market leaders in the market. I’ll explain why in a moment. For the moment, the point is moot as Disney’s service hasn’t actually premiered.

Hello Farscape

Farscape is a early to mid 90s Sci-Fi show that, like Babylon 5 (B5), I saw a few episodes when it first premiered. Afterwards, it was one of the first shows on streaming. I managed to see approx. the first 2 seasons before it went away (again, much like SWCW where it went away before I could finish it). I’m starting over again. It has been long enough that I really don’t remember the characters or the relationships well enough to try to pick up where I left off. I will try to finish this series this time around (again, like B5), and if I do so, I will post a review of the series on the blog.

Streaming: Hello and Goodbye

So the thing about streaming is that it is almost a lot like broadcast network: you are at the whim of the providers and licensors as to what you can watch when. It takes away choice. The providers go out and acquire the content and you watch it. However, not all providers have all the content, meaning subscriptions to multiple providers to get a good coverage of old and new content. Now, content provider sees these subscription fees as way of guaranteeing revenue (hence, CBS All Access, Disney’s upcoming streaming service, and the myriad of others who want in on the act, like NBC Sports). However, the market cannot and will not support all these services, so just like all other markets, most will fail until an oligopoly has been established of the main players (usually 2-3, sometimes more, but rarely) and equilibrium will be established. There will always be smaller players (a fair amount), but in the end, there will only be a few major players. The problem is that everyone, no matter how late they are to the party (I’m looking at you Apple) wants to be a part of the oligopoly. And while the consumer may ultimately win through competition, we’re about to enter a phase where the consumer will be the ultimate loser since the only way to get all the content will be to buy as many services as one can afford–not great on the consumer’s bottom line.

Until the shakeup happens and content providers stop there own services and partner with larger companies, the consumer loses. And will this happen? I point you to the immenient shutdown management platforms like VUDU and the like. They wanted to be a place where you dumped all movies that you purchased so as to diffuse the power and domination they felt Apple had in the marketplace. Now they are going away and Apple still maintains its dominance in purchased content, but has seceded its in content to the “streaming” platforms.

My point is that capitalism is NOT always good for the consumer, especially whenever there is market upheaval. The market doesn’t always work in the consumer’s favor and we need to stop gushing over capitalism as if it is a “perfect” system. Like all human inventions and endeavors, it has its flaws, and the fact that I no longer have access to watch a show through no action of my own that I hadn’t finished highlights just one of the many flaws in the system.

I guess I’m writing about this, not to gripe or to propose a better system, but in the hopes that by pointing out the flaws, someone (an economist or theorist) many be able to implement ideas that can correct these flaws.

Sidney

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




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Something Old and Something New

Image Source: https://resoundcollective.org/something-old-something-new/

While last weekend wasn’t as restful as I’d hoped–more on that in a different blog post–I did manage to turn a major milestone for myself this semester (although pretty much most of my professors–not all, just most of them–would be pretty unimpressed). For me, however, it represent a sort of moral victory after the absolutely crudey week that had.

Something Old

So, rather than beating around the bush, I just want to let readers of the blog know that I “finished” the short story “Starlight, Starbright,” and sent it off to the first market in its long trek to get published. I was not able to get it finished in time to send to the market that only opens for 1 week every four months (Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores). Small digression here: I really wish they would change that to the entire month as trying to keep track of the one week they are open every quarter is very hard when you have work, school, and all the responsibilities that I do. I’ve had to set a repeating “appointment” on my phone’s calendar just so that I have a hope managing to catch at least one of their open periods throughout the year. Anyway, I had a friend at the Writing Center (thanks Toni!) read over it to for polishing and to catch my biggest writing nemesis: “dropped out words.” Afterwards, I found a market that does Fantasy and Science Fiction (Deep Magic) to start it on its journey. While I won’t necessarily update the blog with every place it goes, I will definitely update you all on where it ultimately winds up–and I’d love for it to be Deep Magic as it seems like a quality market (but that’s not up to me–I only write the piece as best I can and then hope for the best).

Something New

So, I’ve now switched my focus to my new story, Project Dog. I finished writing the character sketch for the main character and I’ve written out the rough draft (most of it–I need to go back and finish the ending). I’ll keep everyone appraised of its progress. I’ve discovered that I simply can’t work on multiple things at a time. I have to finish one or two things and then move on to the next. I’ve toyed with the idea of “long” and “short” projects for a while now and now I feel I just need to commit to it. I just need to work on 1 “short project” (essentially a short story or maybe an academic essay) that is less than 25 total pages. I then have enough brain cells to spare for 1 “long project” (essentially a graphic novel, novel, screenplay, dissertation, etc.) that is over 25 pages in length. No matter how engaging another project may be, I’m simply going to have to limit myself because I just don’t have the time/ability to do more than this. So work will continue on DSRV Outrider until I finish it and send it off and then I can work on something else. I just don’t have time to do more than this, so as long as I get them to be the best I can, I’ll hopefully be satisfied with the quality of the work if not the quantity of production.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. Have a great day and thanks for reading!

Sidney

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




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

A (Semi) Long Weekend

Image Source: http://fitnesscorner.ca/august-long-weekend-hours/

First of all, thank you to everyone who liked yesterday’s post. I really wasn’t expecting such a positive reaction to a fairly negative–okay, let’s call what it really was–a mini-rant, of a post. I’ve been dissatisfied for a while about the way creative writers are treated at my university and I’ve wanted to speak out, but knowing that several in the graduate school read these posts, I’ve been hesitant to speak out. However, I’ve had such a terrible and eye-opening week at the same time, that for good or ill (probably ill knowing my luck), I refuse to stay silent about it any longer. I’ll call it out periodically, but for now, I’m going to say thank you to everyone who responded and move on to a different topic.

Spring Break (Sort of)

So, my university’s Spring Break has come and gone (and I was sick for every moment of it), but my second job is at an elementary school and they’re on Spring Break this week. While I could have asked off for most of the week, I did not (& I’m glad I didn’t as I needed the diversion of something else to do thanks to the downright crappy week that I’ve had at my university). However, today we’ve finished all our tasks and a new supervisor is coming in on Monday, so we have the day off. Now, normally I would go home on Saturday mornings, but today (hopefully) I plan on leaving early and if so, will do some much needed yardwork on Saturday morning (when I’m normally driving down).

Taking a Break and Planning My Future

So, while I will (hopefully) get a little rest, I would like to also take a moment and decide on my future with the program. I’m 3 years into a 4 year program, so it seems a waste to throw those three years away, but I’m so unhappy right now, it isn’t even funny. I plan on playing a game or two, but mostly I plan on putting on some music and doing some much needed creative writing. After that, I’ll probably cruise the internet and see what my options are in terms of the schools, jobs, and the like. I have a teaching license that doesn’t expire until 2022, but I don’t really enjoy teaching at the K-12 level. So, realistically, I’ve thrown away 5 years of my life getting a degree (Master’s of Education) for a teaching job that I don’t really like (K-12 education). I really enjoy teaching college students, but I don’t enjoy all the extroverted “B.S.” that goes along with getting the degree to allow me to do that and advance. So this weekend is going to be a lot about figuring out what are my options. I’m also hoping to catch up on some movies that I’ve been meaning to watch on Netflix, so hopefully there will be new content on media (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) soon.

Anyway, thank you all for listening and have a great weekend!

Sidney

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




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

The Big Squeeze

Bearded man with a Foot on his Face
Image Source: https://www.nojitter.com/big-squeeze

One of the most frustrating things about graduate school (well, there are many which I’ll probably do individual posts about for the next month or so) is the fact that it is my writing time that gets squeezed in the process of “becoming more educated.” I’m not very appreciative of the fact that, as writer, my time for writing every week gets slowly wittled away as I have to complete more and more assignments which touch on, ironically, writing and the theories and applications of the writing process. My Master’s Degree is in both Rhetoric and Writing and my Bachelor’s Degree was in English: American Language and Literature (with a Concentration in Writing), which just means that I took extra Writing courses on top of the required literature courses. Writing is instrumental to pretty much everything that I am and/or do as an individual and citizen.

We Want You To Write–Just Not What You Want To Write

One of my greatest sources of frustration with the educational process in general, and the way Rhetoric and Writing is treated in particular, is the fact that we privilege the teaching of writing as something that is both special and magical in terms of allowing students to find their own voices/means of expression, but also a craft and requires work through revisions, and yet, the program I’m in does not actively privilege my creative writing endeavors. Only a handful of people in my “community” know that I “Dragonhawk” was accepted for publication and not a ONE of them is a professor. Not to appear boastful or braggadocios, but this is a success that pretty much all my professors of writing should be happy about. I’m able, at a high level, to use the techniques that we teach our students (inspiration, brainstorming, drafting, revision, consideration of audience, and perseverance to see it through to publication) to create and shepherd a work to fruition.

No Conferences = No Credentials

No, I’m not talking about the conferences professors hold with their students. I’m talking about conferences that academics attend to present papers and the like. That’s really the only true measure of graduate student’s success. How many conferences did you attend? How many papers have you presented at a conferences. I both understand and am appalled at the process at the same time. Conferences, let’s be honest, are built for the extroverts who love being with other people. Sure, if you’re an introvert, you can (sorta’) get by just attending panels for the ideas and information. But, to use an old analogy–there’s as much noise (socializing) that occurs at a conference as there is signal (information/ideas). Conferences, while stimulating and fun, are not the end all and be all of an academic’s existence–which is what they are at the moment that I write this.

Value ALL Academic Expression

The main reason why this blog has been spotty this semester and that I’ve had very little time to concentrate on anything writing related, is because I’ve been fully committed to writing, reading, and working for class and for both of my jobs. I’m not really happy as the results for all my hard-work have not materialized the manner that I would have expected after giving so much of myself–and foregoing so much of my creative output in order to do all of this work. I think that if I felt that I could talk to (and get praise from) my professors for the creative work that I have done (and am doing), this would go a LONG way to assuaging the dissatisfaction I feel in that others are being treated better because they are playing the “academic” game, whereas others, who are not, seemed to be “looked down on” (and I’m not okay with this. I’m using the exact same techniques in my own writing life that are good practices (using brainstorming methods to come up with ideas, engaging with the material, drafting–including multiple drafts, getting feedback on my writing, incorporating feedback through revisions, and persevering through multiple rejections until I find a market who is willing to accept the story). The fact that I’m made to feel that my writing endeavors are not worthy in lieu of someone else who simply attends a conference is very distressing to me as a writer.

Hopefully, after this (very) disspiriting semester is over, I can get back to writing (and enjoying the things that I write) more frequently. Right now, I can say that irregularity of the blog is simply a symptom of a larger set of issues and hopefully, regularity will return when I can address the larger problem of being made to feel that my worth as a creative writer is less than someone who just enjoys playing the “academic game.”

Sidney

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




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

The Death of Critical Thinking (or Buy, Buy, Buy!)

Image Source: https://blog.education.nationalgeographic.org/2017/01/20/12-things-we-learned-this-week-8/ultimate-critical-thinking-worksheet/

Okay, so there’s something that I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that has come to a head with the launch of Anthem–the idea of being a “critical thinking” is under assault like never before. Now, this is nothing new–politicians often want to sway public opinion. This has been the case in western civilization throughout history so there’s nothing new there. However, when I was in school, both in elementary school and high school, we (as students) were taught look at a situation, a work (literary or entertainment-based), a problem–whatever it was, and analyze it critically. The goal may be different–how to navigate an unfamiliar situation, how look at a non-fiction work to for its educational properties, how to decipher what is the better value, and so on. However, tied into the rise of the idea of “alternative facts” and “fake news” is this idea that social media knows all and is the ultimate arbitor of who you should be and what you should be doing, irregardless if it makes sense for your life. And–if you can’t tell–I’m not okay with this.

They’re called “Influencers” for a Reason!

Now, “marketing” has been a major for in American capitalism since their ascendence in the 1950s (see Madmen), but before social media, the focus was on the product and on the competition. How can we make our product better (or more competitive–which isn’t necessarily the same as better)? How can we show that our product is better than our competitor’s product? How can we increase our market share? Now, however, the marketing departments are targeting the consumer. For instance, Mike Ybarra, an executive for Microsoft, took issue with the critical reviews of Anthem. Okay, we get it. You would like Anthem to be this awesome game that you can then use to promote the X-Box “brand.” However, ignoring the flaws in the game and spending money on an experience that you will probably dislike doesn’t do you, the consumer, any good, while it does help the company’s bottom line. I’m so incensed about this because there’s this idea that that reviews are no longer relevant–they’re old, outdated. You should be watching a “streamer” play the game. I’ve heard this at least twice from two different people in the gaming industry.

No, No, and NO! Reviews are part of the critical conversation that is essential to the critical thinking process. The best reviews provide pros, cons, and context to the piece being reviewed. A streamer (or influencer) plays the game and the company relies on peer pressure to influence your purchasing decision. Look at how much fun this person is having–or if it is like Anthem, see how pretty the game is, surely the problems can’t be that bad. Rather than allowing you to make an educated decision as to whether something is valuable and/or useful to you, they’d rather use the pressure of your peers and the appeal of the product to sway your decision. And I’m not a fan.

Toe-May-Toe or Toe-Mah-Toe, it Still Equals Tomato, Except On YouTube.

Think this isn’t truly the case–then take a look at pretty much any comments section of a YouTube video, especially one where the speaker pronounces a word differently than others. Beta is something that is usually (in America) pronounced as (Bay-Ta), but some people pronounce it (Bee-Ta). However, there’s no room for individuality on the Internet–everyone has an opinion. For the Beta video that I’m referring to, pretty much every third commentor was focusing on the speaker’s pronunciation of Beta–not the actual news story that the Beta. Social media relies on the idea that all the “cool” people are doing this, so you should be doing it too. Don’t like that movie, what’s wrong with you, don’t like that game, you’re so square, love that show, everyone knows its crap–why are you even watching it?

Others can be swayed by this “death-by-peer” mentality forced on us my the various social media platforms, but I value my critical thinking skills and will continue using them. Corporations–want me to buy your product? Give me a good product at a fair price. If that’s too hard, then no amount “hype” from streamers/influencers is going to sway my opinion. Governments–want me to believe you? Show me, not by your words, but by your actions.

A critical review is a thousand times more useful than social media–and I’ll fight tooth-and-claw for my right to continue to exercise my right to think for myself–as much as corporations and governments may hate it.

Sidney

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




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Starlight, Starbright (Sci-Fi Short-Story — 2nd Draft — “Opening Incident” (2/5 sections)
  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)