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May 9th, 2010

Fanfic and Oral History

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I've sort-of followed a big kerfuffle over FanFic on a couple of blogs (George RR Martin's in particular). I kind of want to say something about this - mostly because I think there's a spot here to talk about a modern equivalent of oral history, its value . . . and its limitations.

I don't write fanfic, but I kind of write it. It's called 'spec scripts'. You write an episode of a TV show, with the characters from that show, in order to demonstrate your ability to use someone's template of a show in order or make an episode that feels like that show. You do this as a sample, to get a job. No one pays to read it, and you don't get paid to write it (which is what the 'spec' part means - it's 'on speculation').

When you write a spec script, you don't change the template. Cosby doesn't meet Cthulhu. If you change the template, you're not showing what the readers want to see - which is your ability to write that show.

Now this isn't what most people call 'fanfic'. What people mean by 'fanfic' is something to show off to other fans of a series, and it seems to run a gamut from 'let me tell another story of X character, just like those that I love to read,' and, 'let me tell a story that uses all these random characters from random places in order to tell my story, which will be very different from any of the originals'. And I'm not against any of this - mashups can be great art, in my view, as much as anything else can be. If there's a reason I don't read fanfic, it's probably that I've only got so much time, and authors who've gone through the editing and selection process - or worked their heart out marketing their own stuff - are more likely to produce things of sufficient quality as to justify my time.

That said, I think there's an important spot that fanfic fits into: a spot where characters are a collective memory of the audience, who builds on them to create their own myths. A place we've lot sight of since long ago when in The West we mostly left the realm of oral histories behind. So I think it can be *great* that people make fanfic. If I ever make characters that someone wants to use in fanfic, I'll be flattered.

I would suggest, however, that no matter what fanfic writers should focus on being respectful to both the characters they use and the template of the original stories. Gilgamesh, Heracles, and Achilles were characters everyone could write about - but every story we have of them now is respectful of these figures. There's no Heracles-slash-Achilles fanfic from Ancient Greece. Critical commentaries on a character or template are very appropriate. Mashups are all well and good too. But any pastiche should make it pretty clear that you're pointing towards well-known characters, as caricatures - that you aren't trying to use the 'real character' to make a story that doesn't fit the depths of that characters' own nature. To do otherwise is disrespectful of the figures that the very term, 'fanfic', indicates that you love.

May 1st, 2010

AE Micro Runner-Up

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I won as a a runner-up for the AE Micro competition. AE is a pro Canadian sf/f magazine to come, and AE Micro was their promotional micro-fiction contest. All the winning entries are great, as are many of the others. They're available online. Check the contest out here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/aescifi/the-new-face-of-canadian-science-fiction/posts/12532

April 28th, 2010

Got in to Taos Toolbox

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In June I'll be off to Taos Toolbox for a two-week master class in writing speculative fiction. It's supposedly for those in the range of being either on the edge of publishing things, or those who've published a couple things. "A 'graduate' workshop designed to bring your science fiction and fantasy writing to the next level." Sounds like I'm doing alright with this short fiction thing - but I'm really going because of the focus on novels.

I'm so excited! Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to get there. I plan to fly into Taos, and since I hate to drive I hope to take a bus from the airport.

April 26th, 2010

something done

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I got it all done - at least, in first draft form.

My short story for a workshop that I want to do this summer, and a spec script of an existing TV show for an exceptionally competitive 6-month TV writing program that I am ludicrous enough to hope I can maybe get into this year (as I will be every year until I get in, or I guess maybe until I win awards that make it obvious that I somehow jumped from being too weak to get in, all the way to being too good to get in).

So: yay, success! A decent first draft of both pieces.

Now, unfortunately, the hard part.

All the years I've spent learning how to write, and I have yet to really figure out how to rewrite. I don't know what other people do, but I mostly have to go back to my outline. Then if it turns out that I can salvage what I can from my original text, I do that. Some scenes may survive, others I just throw away, and others still are about half-right. Normally the half-right scenes are ones I have to rewrite wholly from the ground up. By 'rewrite', I mean totally write again; when I try to just change some parts, I end up only touching the surface--sentence structure, pacing, all of that.

My spec episode is in need of a rewrite. I've got a basic story, it's tight, but it's like every single episode of this particular TV show already. You start to read it, you know exactly what will happen every single moment along the way. For once I've got characters in actual conflict with each other, believably stressing against each other, and there are some almost profound moments in that, and other funny ones - but they're all so damned predictable. So I have to find a way to mix it up. I've got to add a B-story for a character who didn't show up until half-way through the show - and that B-story has to attach to everything else somehow. I have no idea how I'm going to manage any of this. I need the right ideas.

I *really* want in this program this year. But I don't think my application will be good enough by the deadline.

If I don't get in, what else am I going to do after the summer? I have to start to find a real, decent-paying full-time job, so I can deal with my student loans. I've never really had one of those before. I don't see how anyone even gets them.

But it's not like going into this writing program would end up getting me directly into the industry right away anyway. No matter what I think I better learn how to get a real job soon. At least with something in hand for the application process, I'll begin to have sometime to start.

April 22nd, 2010

microfiction by me

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I wrote entry number 23 in the AE microfiction contest. I think it's pretty fabulous, and you can read it here:

April 12th, 2010

OMG, Overload

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Finally finished with enough schoolwork and such to take a break on it, and get writing done.

Two applications due: 10-14 days to write a new beginning for an old novel, and a month to kill myself writing a spec script of an existing TV show. I don't know if I can do it, but maybe having the deadlines will be enough.

Wish me luck!

April 8th, 2010

I want it fun again

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Here's something I can't figure out, and it's really getting to me. I could use some advice.

Why is it that I love writing, until I start to take it seriously? I mean, when I'm just thinking it will be fun to write something then it's fun. When I think that I'll be showing it to someone, who may or may not like it, and that I might want to do something with it . . .. I'm seriously contemplating the Emily Dickinson Route to Success here, people. Recommendations?

November 29th, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox

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It was fantastic, of course (so go and see it). What’s really interesting about this film is how much of a clash there is between the tone of the original author (Roald Dahl) and the adapter (Wes Anderson), and yet the adaptation still works beautifully.

Dahl’s work always has a particularly ironic but unrepentant zing to it (example: the woman who kills her husband with a frozen chicken leg, then serves it to the policeman who comes investigating). Though that zing is potent in his early work for adults, nowhere is it more noticeable (if only by contrast) than in his later work for children. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance, is greatly enriched by the obvious glee that Dahl takes in torturing the adults and bad children alike. All in all Dahl usually comes off as the slightly odd old uncle who tells dirty (but true) stories to the kids while the other ‘adults’ are out of earshot.

Anderson, in contrast, is forthright and plain-spoken in a very wide-eyed Midwestern way. It may be an affectation, but he does not use it ironically – he uses it to tell a story more profound and satisfying for the very plainness of its telling.

So while Dahl (in this context) is a faux adult telling children’s stories, Anderson is a faux child telling adult stories. Yet somehow this film adaptation still works – probably because Anderson makes the project his own as much as he can.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a Wes Anderson film that covers over Dahl’s rough and ready craziness – except for where it peers out through the cracks in the corners. And maybe those corners is where Dahl most safely belongs . . . assuming, of course, that we don’t get to close to them.

Mirrored from West of Wonderland.

November 28th, 2009

Guest post

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Check out my guest post on Dead Things on Sticks. Mostly about indie Internet TV, somewhat about the Canadian TV regulatory system.

Mirrored from West of Wonderland.

November 11th, 2009

Loving it

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I recently gave a critique to someone about their story – which was a relatively funny piece – and then I got an email reply to my comments that was loads lighter than the story they’d written. Why was this? Because in the email they were relaxed. They were just trying to get back to me, not trying to entertain or write something important.

The lesson to take away: enjoy what you’re writing, trust it, and relax! If it entertains you, it will be entertaining. If it’s going to be important, it will be because writing from who we are is always important. Yeah, when you start writing it’s often frustrating – but it should be a fun challenge anyway. If it’s not then you could make lots more money as an accountant, for a lot less stress . . ..

Mirrored from West of Wonderland.

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