I Like What I Like

Some people think that your given name influences your personality. If you think changing your name will give you better fortune, these people are willing to take your money to give you the best name possible!

Or, you know, just get them free.

Anyway, if Marie is a traditional name, maybe that’s where I got all my hobbies. Or maybe I just read too much as a kid. But uncool as reading is, I managed to get even more uncool as I got older and then went to college. I love picking up the unpopular hobbies.

Not like the hipsters people always make fun of but that I’ve never actually met outside of high school (isn’t everyone in high school a hipster?). But just the quiet stuff other people are tempted to make fun of especially on the internet. and not usually to my face. Another thing about the internet though is that it’s hard to tell, because lots of people have those hobbies, even there aren’t all that many in a given area and anyway you’re aren’t allowed to talk about such things with strangers because then you’ll be really weird.

So knitting, uncommon, much like the other crafts. Reading (obsessively) more common than tv-watchers think it is. Fan fiction reading a big, big thing, and also probably one of the biggest no-nos, aside from maybe playing the Sims games (which sadly, I hardly have time for, spending so much time online—and work of course. Work takes time away from everything interesting!

At any rate I’m not skilled enough with computers or math and not into enough manga and science to be a geek. As far as playground insults go I think that leaves me with dork.

Anyway,  I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed by the fact I read fan fiction. Because it has such an awful reputation—deservedly so, in the broadest strokes. As in any other subject, 90% is crap, but there are some real gems in there. Like the rest of web 2.0 (or wherever we’re at now), you have to do your own gatekeeping. You have to find your own meaning of culture and your own framework. <- Look, another, reference to Powys! And people aren’t ashamed of reading the Star Wars continuations when they come out in hard cover. Star Trek has the same, and having read those, they can be as bad as some fan fiction (if with slightly better grammar).

So there’s my justification for fan fic.

I think the only other one I don’t tend to bring up with people is the Sims and I haven’t been playing that often lately. And I can’t really justify it.

Because I really only play to take advantage of my control-freak tendencies.

Artificially Black and White

Reading yet another spork, I realized that almost every spork I’ve read recently has similar complaints about fairly standard elements of fiction, especially in the fantasy genre.

Let’s be honest: For readers to connect to a story, they have to identify it as a story—something has to be recognizable to the audience. A completely “original” story, if it isn’t built with the constraints of fiction and the human brain in mind, may well be incomprehensible. Which you might say is what happened in the modern era of Literature and is why no one reads anymore. But that’s a different issue.

Ultimately, it’s the execution that counts, that makes the difference that turns a cliché into an imaginative world. Because they may often have two similar plots, ideas, or even scenes.

Compare, for example, the Harry Potter series and the Inheritance Cycle.

A skilled author will convince her readers that they don’t need to question this world; while it doesn’t conform to ours, it has it’s own set of internal laws and limits of ability. I admit I couldn’t finish the later books of Harry Potter and have little interest in doing so, but couldn’t start Eragon with any integrity because so many readers lashed back against the only given law of “it works because I said so”.  And I accept their opinions because they coherently argue this conclusion with textual evidence, I’ve seen their other articles on works I do have familiarity with, and I can understand how their opinions skew—whereas many defenders of cheap, popcorn novels nearly always respond with “U cant say anything bcuz u dont publish” and I am being generous.

Now occasionally perfectly literate fans will confess that they enjoy those works, almost always with the caveat

I know that it isn’t very good objectively, but sometimes I just want to read pulp.

Since that spork, I think of the preview chapters of Bran Hambric: the Farscape Curse, I’ve been thinking about the “tropes” of fantasy fiction, and trying to come up with an argument to prove they aren’t necessarily bad—go back to the difference between idea and execution. Then I watched the newest fantasy-movie-based-on-a-book-so-it-will-be-a-blockbuster-and-make-lots-of-money, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole—the owl movie.

Whether it’s an issue with the film or it started in the books, I certainly can’t use this movie as an example of what works. First, because Godwin’s Law should not be invoked so easily, which I want to avoid so as not to completely invalidate the rest of my argument, but there’s no denying that the antagonists call themselves the “Pure Ones”.

Then again, even the king and queen of the guardians are snowy owls and the whitest in the movie, much like the queen of the evil empire—who *spoiler* flies off in the end so as to return for the sequels.

But, especially to emphasis this fight is against GOOD and EVIL, the movie relies entirely on tropes (in this case, we can validly call them cliché) to move the plot forward, shoehorning the characters into their roles with effectively no development whatsoever—the mystical blue-tipped Hedgehog even names them: Soren “the leader”, Twilight “the warrior”, the small female who first is spunky-damsel-in-distress but ends up contributing nothing including getting kidnapped “the token girl who isn’t a mother figure”. The nursemaid snake gets to be “the heart”. Also a snake as a nursemaid to owl kids? And they are to be the Nine Walkers—wait, “Five Flyers” to save the world.

And then poor Clyde (at least that’s what it sounded like and I missed the credits). He is the designated EVIL because he is OMG!JELUZ!1!!111! of his super-talented GOOD brother, Soren. Not that Soren ever seemed particularly concerned about what his brother was actually feeling or thinking—he’s completely oblivious. Clyde evilly tells him *spoilers* at the end “Then you don’t know me at all” (paraphrased). That’s never been said before, right? But he’s right…from this movie, Soren has never had the faintest interest in getting to know his brother.

Just as Clyde’s “you don’t know me” speech might ring just slightly familiar, so does much of the dialogue. There were a few gems; inauspiciously, none of which I can remember—and even more revealing is that I can write this review in the theater while actually watching the movie, I can follow so easily the characters and story because they are so familiar. Like a fill in the blank.

I will grant most of these issues are probably the medium. Not having read the books, I don’t know how much ground is being covered (too much). It’s more a summary than a story on its own terms—critical failure for a standalone movie.

Since the movie is never as good as the book, the creators should think of it as such.

It is a beautiful movie. If you don’t have a brain that automatically analyses everything to death, more power to you. Most everything is well-rendered (if the snake looked a bit odd) and the owls are gorgeously and generously detailed. They paid full price for every feather, and it works. Even I have to admit the fight scenes were actually cool, and fun to watch—and unlike the rest of the movie, how owls might fight (even with armor), because like Alpha & Omega, it was mostly a story about humans who happen to superficially look like animals. The fighting however was in “3D” and not just in terms of having to wear special glasses because I watched it in 2D and it still worked (movie-wise instead of story-wise). But the owls used right and left and up and down when fighting and not limiting themselves to one plane. That was fun to watch.

Also, I the soundtrack was generally strong, if at times it got a little generic. They also had the odd idea of using Owl City music for a scene and for credits. Beyond the word, one of these things is not like the other. This is a dark movie, with very dark themes and the sudden intrusion of Owl City’s cheerful optimism jarred. Keep your theme in mind next time.

Just the Last

The small class on the highlight of all Rockland High School field trips take notes as the manatees bob roundly in the water. When Molly remembers how they have those fat little fins, she wishes she could give the big one a hug, and leans over the edge a little to catch a glimpse of the cow-sweet eyes.

“Heh, look how many scars they have,” her boyfriend says, nuzzling her hair like he always does. “Bet if I had a boat I’d go fly’n if I hit that fat one.”

“You are so immature, Howard,” she answers. And pulls away.

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Writing to Prompts

This particular prompt was:

Write a 100-word story using these words: envy, manatees, and Texas.

And I don’t know that my answer is particularly awesome or anything, but today’s prompt was to write a 100-word story about ninjas and pirates, which is such an internet meme I’m positively sick of hearing about them.

Not that I didn’t love the joke in college, when my friends and I played with the idea (I was on the ninja side, by the way). But it’s not something I want to try to write one hundred words on. What would those words be? Nothing that I’m particularly interested in writing.

Not What I Wanted to Post

That would be a review of Inception, since I’ve seen it twice now, and Witches’ Children (by Patricia Clapp), because it’s simply a beautifully written novel and just…just…well, awesome is all I can say here, because I’ll definitely have to finish the review for that one: it’s too good not to. I’m going to campaign for that book.

But I’m still distracted online, reading/watching reviews of Twilight, and Harry Potter fan fiction, and also just generally looking at other web-culture type things.

Mostly because I have a two stories and two poems that I almost, kinda, sorta want to submit to Watershed, but though I reworked them a bit a few days ago, I’m rather afraid of looking at them again. I only have a few days before I have to send them off, and I can only think of what they are not. For instance, good.

And the problem is really that I just can’t evaluate my own work in any objective way…which is fairly typical as far as I can tell. But not a helpful insight. So I’ve resorted to avoidance.

Maybe I can work on them tomorrow, to distract myself from the other Big Deal, the rehearsal for The Curious Savage.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice


Teasing a Sleeping Girl

Originally uploaded by Maulleigh

Having written some 4000 words on Killing Time—a book that I can’t stand, less because I hate it, but because it has so many of my pet peeves—I’m suddenly questioning my reasons for posting it online.

Not that it isn’t practically tradition online to do so. There are several websites dedicated to nothing more than poking fun at badly written, plotted, and conceptualized stories. Sometimes published works like the Twilight ‘saga’, the two series of Laura K. Hamilton, and even the later Harry Potter books. Sometimes, and more often, the focus is on awful fan fiction or other online stories.

Killing Time wasn’t meant to be published, but it was published, so I think I’m covered. It’s started to seem kind of mean though. Which I don’t like to be, I think it’s a bad habit.

While I’ve thought before while reading some sporks that they go too far, I allow myself to be seduced by the amusingness. In some cases. For example, I generally don’t read the websites making fun of fan fictions. They aren’t as funny, to me, so I can’t claim a virtue here, but they are also generally working with avereragely bad fics. As opposed to those, say, Rose Potter. Which are well-known in sporking circles for their exceedingly awful badness and creepiness. So fandom itself will sort out the worst of the worst, and those are funny sporks.

Anyway, I think I might continue with my various reports on Killing Time, but only likely if I can continue to post more short essays about the tropes that I dislike rather than an actual spork. Although maybe later I’ll find time to do so, if on a more appropriate medium.

But this whole thought process came about because Laurell K. Hamilton recently made a blog post. Another author wrote a response. A link was posted on amazon.com and discussion continued for several pages. Naturally, this ended up on FandomWank. Well, I don’t really remember the wank report, but I was, intrigued, let’s say, buy the other author’s response.

Now I’ve never heard of Jennifer Armintrout, the other author, but I thought her blog post rather well-reasoned. As did the person who posted it on amazon, unless they intended to cause a kerfluffle (which is entirely possible). However, the thread really got going when someone, called R. Harinandansingh (R.H. and given the masculine pronoun, because the shes are confusing already), objected to Armintrout’s calling out L.K.H. Because it’s ‘unprofessional’. When I first got to his comments, I immediately dismissed them. First they were inflammatory, and secondly ridiculous. In what way does being a published author take away your right to critique? How does being any kind of career-artist (as he seemed to imply) mean you can’t have an opinion on others in your field?

Then I started feeling uncomfortable about having dismissed R. H. so readily. It’s not like the original post was an attack on Armintrout. As another poster brought up, yes, there is a long history of author’s taking pot shots at each other—see Mark Twain’s “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses”, and Twain is vicious, though witty—but it’s never been nice.

Of course, Armintrout never claimed to be nice. And though L.K.H. may not have directly addressed any specific author’s in the post, she was talking about the craft of writing. And as another author, and especially a published one, she has a right to respond to a post that essentially demeans authors who don’t write the same way L.K.H. does. Also, when it’s online, it’s public. As far as I’m concerned, when it’s published (and a blog is a form of publication), it is, by definition, published. Now, if L.K.H. had written this in a protected, private journal, online or otherwise, I might take more issue with the propriety of responding like that. But she made her opinions public.

I just don’t see why the response by Armintrout, however emotional, is less than professional. R.H. makes a point of saying that only artists can’t critique each other (or he seems to) and that lawyers and doctors should because their professions actually make a difference. (Or so I recall, it’s been a few days since I read the thread.) However, I very much enjoyed the beginning of Armintrout’s first (only?) response on the amazon thread, defending her original post:

1. I did not write the blog because I have a problem with LKH’s writing. I have adored all the books I’ve read from her…My blog was not a criticism of her as a writer.

3. I didn’t write the blog out of professional jealousy or “cattiness”. I would love to have the word “catty” removed from any discussion of female authors from now on. When Nicholas Sparks routinely slams the romance genre, no one calls him “catty”. They call him “outspoken” and “opinionated”. “Catty” is a word we use to describe women who aren’t acting like sugar, spice, and everything nice, and it’s bs.

I wrote the blog because I don’t like it when people who are feeling insecure for whatever reason decide that the only way to bring themselves up is to attack others. LKH has a lot to be proud about, and other authors do not threaten the success she’s made for herself. You may find my blog unprofessional. That’s fine. I’m really, really unprofessional. I approach my career as one approaches their first year of college: too much partying and running of the mouth and not enough work. But I get really p.o.ed at the idea that LKH gets a free pass to sling passive-aggressive attacks at every other author who puts a pair of fangs in their books in order to make herself feel smarter, more successful, more like an innovator, or whatever she was trying to accomplish.

Can I say, firstly, that I love number 3 wholeheartedly? Spot on, and also, Nicholas Sparks strikes me as an obnoxious idiot. And, actually, fits the definition of “catty” to a T. So perhaps it just needs to be a cross-gender insult. But it isn’t and so should be given up.

And the only way any profession keeps itself going is by discussion. Authors don’t write in a vacuum either. Perhaps all the cutesy niceness has done nothing for the quality of writing produced. Perhaps a good challenge once in a while might do some people some good.

Fandom

Pssst…I stole this from my myspace…just to have something here.

This is not a review of the book named below…for one thing, I didn’t read it.  This is not a critique of so-called “fandoms”…for another thing, I don’t belong to all that many. This is…random thoughts that have been percolating in my mind for awhile.

Disclaimer: The author is not responsible for any mental confusion that may result from the reading of this “web log”, or the attempted comprehension thereof.

I recently picked up a book at the library: The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter, I think.  I stopped reading Harry Potter years ago now, and really can’t bear to go back. Whatever lingering interest I had was killed by the over-commercialization of the series–not to mention the movie trailers.  So I don’t know why I picked it up, and even checked it out, before realizing I seriously had no interest in reading anything along those subject lines, much less that long.

At any rate, I did end up carrying it around with me for about an hour, and in the meantime, the section about the “fandom” of the series caught my eye. And I read it of course.  I also flipped through some of the rest.  One of the first things I noticed overall was how overwhelmingly skewed it seemed to be to the positive of the series.  I don’t have anything against Harry Potter other than my lack of interest, but it seemed that The Ivory Tower had no other purpose but to defend it against all comers.  Seemed odd to me, for an academic perspective.  Then again, I didn’t read all of it, or even much of it, so I might be wrong.

But in the chapter on the Harry Potter community, the author discussed going online to read the websites and forums devoted to the series.  Apparently at the time (2002 or before) the series was (mock quote) “mature and intellectual for the age of the participatants” who were usually young and female.  Which is true, online fan groups do seem to be made up of younger female fans.  Or at least many of them are…others are composed of much older people, etc etc.

One thing that really caught my eye, though, was that the author thought this characteristic (maturity) was unique among Harry Potter fans.  Well, it’s fortunate that he/she got the chance to write their article so early because, while I never (fortunately) got too involved in the HP fandom (one word: twincest.  two more words: middle school), I can say that that peace did not last long.  Awhile ago…at least several months…I found a 5 page livejournal post just about how someone in the fanfic hp community had several identies and had real-life death threats…and that does it no justice at all.  It was awesome…and apparently is gone now.  Although I’m still looking for it, naturally.

In the looking though, I found this quote that sums up how badly the author misjudged the fandom:  “In terms of sheer quantity, this fandom outwanks them all. For batshit insanity, perhaps only the LOTR fandom surpasses it. So often is it featured on Fandom Wank that some FW readers’ idea of heaven would be a world without Harry Potter.” link Also, look up wank, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  But the point is, many Harry Potter “participating” fans…I specify participating, because I can’t comment on those who don’t…come across as completely crazy.  I’m sure they’re not. But many many sound like it.

This brings me to remember at least one thing I had intended to mention though:  this article, and most discussion of fan communities in general discuss it as though its some strange feature of crazy people, and bears no relation to “us” as normal people.  It’s what the weird people do.  Except, and I’m stealing this idea from somewhere I can’t remember, it makes a lot more sense and is a lot more rational than middle aged men taking of their shirts, painting their chests green and yellow, and standing with thousands of others to yell at much younger men sweating and fighting over a ball.  So there.  Liking sports is fine, and there’s nothing wrong with liking them, but there’s really nothing different about the impulse to talk to others about the books/games/movies you really liked, except for the most part, if you tried to strike up conversation in an elevator, people are either less likely to know what you’re talking about, or less willing to talk about it.  Stigma, you know.  Messes with people’s heads, it does.

Anyway, I think to wrap up, because my fingers are tired and it’s late, online forums devoted to books/games/tv, etc, are really just everyday conversations written down.  And those not involved think it’s stupid, because most things you say in person are stupid when written down.  Like this.

I’m not ashamed!  (Sorry)

Dang, there was a lot more I wanted to say…but that would mean writing it ahead of time, and actually working on it.  So this is all.

MsScribe hilariousness here.