I am shocked that I haven’t posted anything in almost two months. Life has been very hectic these past few months (I’ve grown to hate summer vacation and having to deal with rowdy nieces and nephew). Thankfully, school starts next week, so I’ll be free of my nieces most of the day and I can get some work done on both the blog and my various writing projects. Speaking of my writing projects, I’ve been frustrated at the lack of progress I’ve had over the past few months. I have ideas. I know where I want to go with several projects. But getting down to writing? No such luck.
As I get ready to finally get some writing done, the mental studio I have in my head is in turmoil. (As always happens when I feel ready to start the writing process). I struggle with the need to write short stories. I don’t know if I should write novels, series, or super novels. Characters are wanting to move to other projects, And I’m likely a grimdark writer.
The portal fantasy(ies) have returned to being a bane for me. There are three project ideas I have: a sword and sorcery/ planetary romance type story that could be a standalone or expand into a series of (maybe) standalone novels, a definite standalone novel that is rather literary, and an epic fantasy that features a (rather) contained multiverse of a few worlds. I like ideas one and three with idea two being jettisoned as something I’m not sure I want to write, too literary I think. The sword and sorcery/ planetary romance project is more personal and deals with some issues I have with the genre. The epic project is more colonial in theme. For a while, I didn’t see the two ideas melding together well. One project has Earth as home to the protagonists, but I want Earth nowhere near the colonial story. I know I’m being skittish. And I have found a way to work the two ideas together. I just don’t know if the combined project will become to unwieldy.
Furthermore, Honor Gale looks to jump ship to the portal fantasy from the magic project. Why exactly? I don’t know. Time will tell, I think.
With Gale moving to Project Portal, I need to find something to do with Jett and Tyler.
Which leads me to Project Redwind, Project Magic, and Project Epic(?).
An epic fantasy featuring superheroes is far more difficult to write than I imagined it could be. I want to emulate, as much as I can, a long comic book run (like Wolfman on New Teen Titans or Claremont on Uncanny X-Men). The problem with this idea is that there are a lot of stories forming a, perhaps not coherent, whole. Can this be done in novel format, even with multiple novels? I don’t know. Furthermore, I want to try and differentiate this epic fantasy from any inspiration it may accrue from Marvel or DC. I know what I want to do, I just don’t know how to do it.
Project Magic is going well. I’ve hit upon where I want to go with this project. I just need to stop myself from researching myself to death. That comes from wanting more realistic and multicultural magical traditions. I also need to decide exactly how realistic I want to be.
Project Magic spawned out of a secondary epic fantasy I’ve wanted to write for years. For a time, I thought Project Magic supplanted the earlier project. That does not seem to be the case any longer. Project Magic has become, perhaps, more traditionally epic than Project Epic (I need a better name). I won’t go into too much detail with this project at the moment. Maybe some other time.
But where should Tyler and Jett go? I don’t know. I need to figure out where each project is going. I’ve already written how Tyler and Jett would fit in Project Redwind. I’m not sure how I’d fit them in Project Magic. And Project Epic will be, honestly, a home coming for the two (under different names, of course).
This is just a small sample of the turmoil going on inside my mental studio. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get everything back on track soon. Time will tell.
It has been a few months since the younger time displaced version of Bobby Drake/ Iceman was outed in the pages of All New X-Men. The resulting controversy is notable not so much for the fact that Iceman is gay (even though there was and is some of that) but the handling of Iceman’s outing. I wrote about this issue briefly in my last post, but I’ve decided to expand on some points. The important thing, though, is that I still have problems with how Iceman’s outing was handled.
There are two main problems at the moment regarding Bobby Drake’s outing (besides Jean Grey’s involvement): One, the lack of a parallel narrative regarding the elder Iceman. Two, the abruptness of the younger Iceman’s outing.
It is important to remember that LGBT people come out at every age. (Having come out at seventeen, it is something I myself often forget. See my issue with Mark Matthews’s coming out in Coming Out on Top for an example). Iceman comes from (if my memory is right) a very conservative background. It would not be surprising that he would be closeted and in denial for a significant part of his life. This is equally true of many other gay and lesbian superheroes and supervillains who have come out like Obsidian and Rictor.
Personally, I feel that the elder Iceman should start the realization process (if not the coming out process) concurrently to the younger Iceman’s journey. Yes, the elder “straight” character confronted by his “younger” gay self is an interesting story. But it is also fraught with narrative danger. Especially given the general abruptness of the storyline.
Again, Iceman’s outing should either have been foreshadowed or explored in more depth as a subplot. This is one of the biggest frustrations when it comes to LGBT characters in comics. Creators who genuinely want to diversify their casts tend to out with little buildup or fall out. Characters come out. They don’t start the realization process or build the courage to accept themselves and come out. LGBT characters also rarely get to be explored after acceptance when the weight of the closet has been lifted.
The abruptness of declaring or outing a character as gay with little buildup or fall out leads, I think, to a general trend of pushing LGBT characters to the background. Has Bendis done anything interesting with Benjamin Deeds yet? Has Anole been featured more besides a recent oneshot? Has Striker appeared recently? (I could also ask where the hell the Young Avengers are).
Maybe I’m being too harsh here, I can admit that. Perhaps the push to the background has more to do with which characters the creative teams wish to work with. Maybe no one wants to work with those characters? Maybe in the future a creative team will? (Thinking back to my own Teen Titans idea, I would have favored Gear pretty hard. And I would have raged if I had to use Superboy or Bart Allen’s Kid Flash).
Another problem may be the fact that Marvel, favoring team books, has a general problem characterizing all of the cast members in the various titles. Especially given the nature of contemporary comic book writing.
Regardless, it is ultimately the choice of the creative team to decide who they write about. The buck stops with them and the editors.
I just hope Iceman’s story doesn’t fall to the background. Given the events of All New X-Men 41, I don’t hold out much hope.
It has been a while since I blogged. I should probably update. Many of the updates in this post should have their own, larger, posts, but I’m watching my nephew and step niece at the moment.
Avoiding the Puppies
I wish I could say that I have not near obsessively followed the latest fight of the recurrent plague that afflicts science fiction and fantasy fandom. But I have managed to keep my fingers from writing anything about it. Too many pixels have already been wasted on this seemingly never ending fight.
The only thing I will say is that I am wasting my time on this. I should be writing.
That is all.
Late to Iceman’s Coming Out Party
A few months back, the younger version of Iceman from All New X-Men was dragged out of the closet by Marvel Girl. The revelation did not come without controversy. Thankfully, the majority of the blowback originated from criticism of how the story played out, rather than the revelation that Iceman is gay.
It has taken me quite a while to get around to reading the issue at hand. I follow All New X-Men through the trades as provided by my local library. So, I’m way behind.
Personally, I think Iceman’s outing could have been handled better. It needed foreshadowing. It needed build up. And it needs to go somewhere. Not at the end of a run with the future of the character (not to say the least about the X-Men as a whole) uncertain to say the least.
What I want to know is: what has happened to Benjamin Deeds since his coming out? Anything?
This is one of my problems with LGBT characters in comics. What happens after coming out? Do the characters continue to be interesting or do they fade to the background while other, straighter, characters get more attention?
What has happened to Benjamin Deeds, Anole, Striker, and all the others?
I’ll stop myself now before I go into a full blown rant. But I should return to this issue again, soon.
Primary World Epic Fantasy?
I want to write an epic fantasy set in the real world. I have two options for this: an expansion of my magic project and a return to my superhero project.
Expanding the magic project should not be difficult. I already have a good idea of how I’m going to do it.
My only problem is that I don’t want to create a “real” magical tradition and force all magic into that provincial box. I want to use as many traditions as possible. Which means I’m going to have to do a lot of research in order not to fuck up.
As for the superhero project, I want to write it. I just don’t know what I want to write. I’m not happy with my original plan. But I am, actually, fond of what my Teen Titans idea could lead to.
World Building Modern Fantasies
As much as I want to write a primary world epic fantasy, I also want to write an epic fantasy set in a more modern secondary world. I like ancient history a lot. Indeed, my portal fantasy is set on a more “ancient” inspired world. But I prefer modern history far more (when I wanted to be an English professor, I intended to focus on modern and postmodern literature). So it goes as no surprise that I want to write fantasies inspired by the times I love. Now what ideas do I have. . .
This is it for now. But I’m going to try and post more regularly.
I am of two opinions regarding Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season finale. My initial opinion, buoyed by the action, was one of “holy shit!”. However, after contemplating the finale over the course of the night and morning, my opinion has changed to one of “this is terrible.” This change may even be enough to make me question whether or not I want to return for a third season.
The biggest problem I have with “S.O.S. Parts One and Two” lies with the character of Jiaying. When she first appeared, she gave off the appearance of being a strong and caring mother figure for generations of Inhumans. But with the final three episodes, she becomes more and more the love child of Magneto and Selene. Her personality changes so radically and drastically, with so little foreshadowing, that one wonders what the show writers were smoking.
I understand why Jiaying is made an ever increasingly more monstrous villain. It is the only way of keeping Skye/ Daisy in S.H.I.E.L.D. and not joining the Inhumans. It is still an example of terrible storytelling.
Rather than the simplistic good S.H.I.E.L.D vs. evil Jiaying and her misled Inhumans we get (mind you the two S.H.I.E.L.D.s story arc has the exact same problem), why not craft a more nuanced and problematic conflict?
The B plot is marginally better than the A plot. My only problem is that Ward is still alive. The show really needs to move on from him. Ward is no Angel. Nor is he Spike. It is time to move on.
Will I be back for season three? I don’t know. I didn’t care for the first season until the HYDRA arc at the end of the season. I’ve watched the whole second season and feel incredibly let down. In the end, I’ll see if I care enough to keep watching.
I have two major flaws as a writer. One, I have a lot of story ideas that demand immediate attention. Two, I, for whatever reason, dislike the possibility that I may repeat myself even in the slightest degree. I have been crippled by an inability to focus on one project to see it through to fruition. Those projects that manage to hold my attention never seem to escape massive textual reconstructive surgery. The perfect example is the portal fantasy I have been struggling with for months (years really). I have had several ideas that I have toyed with. But there can only be one. . . Thank you, Highlander. I am working on the problems I have. I hope I can at least no longer be debilitated by them.
I believe that I have come to a workable solution to my “Portal Quest Frustration.” Each of my ideas are interesting and worthy of exploration. I am going to write two portal fantasies. One of them will be more sword and sorcery/ planetary romance while the other is firmly epic fantasy of the multiple volumes sort. I will start with the ss/ pr story because that one is far better to start a career with. It can be a one and done novel with the possibility that I can expand Tyler and Jett’s adventures. (I may also incorporate some of my comic book ideas into this story as well.) The epic story will be set aside to develop because I recognize that I need to create several worlds’ worth of cultures (that won’t include Earth). This future narrative will incorporate some elements of my Two Cities idea (especially the anthropological focus).
The contemporary magic project has also been giving me problems over the past few months. I have the idea. I know where I want to go with it. But I’m not passionate about it. It is too literary and lacks adventure. There are ways I can make it more adventurous, but I don’t know if I really want to give this project the possibility of a series (though I do think there is an original take on the occult in the real world here). Time will tell, I think, with this project.
Maybe I’ve been so bound by a desire to map everything out that I’m causing more personal harm than good? Why the hell am I even thinking about trilogies and series when I haven’t even gotten off the ground yet? Perhaps I should just write novels that may or may not be expandable sequels. Let the market decide, ultimately.
I like where I’m at. I can’t wait to get started.
Unfortunately, few readers comment on my posts. The comments have, for the most part, been positive, even the critical ones. Given the amount of comments, I did not have a policy to police the comments. All of that has changed, however.
I am going to be policing the comments. Abusive comments will not be allowed. Period. There is far too much negativity on the internet as it is. Let’s have respectful discussions, even if there is strong disagreement.
My post on George R.R. Martin’s comments regarding the possibility of including an explicit gay male sex scene is at the root of the issue. To date, the two reader comments (I trashed the second one) have been abusive. I responded to the first. I trash the second.
If you want to debate me on the merits of diversifying characters, especially protagonists, please do so. I look forward to it. Just don’t be abusive about it. I will trash your comments if they are from now on.
If I am honest with myself, the portal fantasy will not be the first of the four projects I wrote about last October to be completed. That honor will, more than likely, go to Black Magic (which has a new and better working title). The frustration is that the portal fantasy is one of my oldest ideas. I really want to write a portal fantasy. But, in the end, I have no satisfactory idea where the hell I’m going.
The earliest iteration of the project was sword and sorcery. The series of stand alone novels followed the adventures of Leo Crowley (Tyler’s antecedent) after he became trapped in a fairly standard Bronze Age inspired world. The main difference between this older version of the portal fantasy is that Leo became merged with a demon shortly after he is summoned to the fantasy world by an evil wizard. At the time, I liked the idea. It was a decent juvenile effort, but too derivative of traditional sword and sorcery. (I want to write a sword and sorcery series, but I want to make it my own). So I abandoned the project for years.
Gradually, I began to wonder what would happen if a fantasy city intruded onto present day Earth, thus was born Two Cities. Characters from the present day (at least at the time of writing) travel through time and to other worlds for an adventure or two (or more), but characters from fantasy worlds rarely return the favor (that I know of). It is time, I think, to change that. I like this idea. There is a domesticity and literariness that calls to me. But where is the conflict (or one that I don’t feel is needlessly stupid)?
Finally, I returned to a modified form of my original idea with two leads, Jett Drake and Tyler Spang. As I wrote in my series of posts on the portal fantasy in October, Tyler had all the action and Jett just hung around. I’ve recently hit upon in interesting arc for Jett, but now Tyler is in the lurch. I don’t want Tyler’s adventures to amount to nothing more than sex tourism. The idea is strong and I like it. But it needs work.
Honestly, I should step back from portal fantasies for a while and figure out fully what the hell I want to do with these projects. What is it, ultimately, that I want to write?
I have an answer. I want to combine both Two Cities and The Journey (for lack of a better name) with a few more ideas into a grand epic fantasy that spans Earth and two or three fantasy worlds. I want to explore how Earth would react to real life fantasy worlds. I want to imagine what types of diplomacy, trade, and tourism could develop. And I want to see how Earth characters would deal with other worlds facing epic conflicts, moments, events, etc.
This is very ambitious stuff. Creating two to three worlds would strain my world building to the breaking point and beyond. I don’t know if I can do it. Nor, honestly, do I know how to make it all work at the moment.
I have a lot to think about.
Mark Matthews, the protagonist of Coming Out on Top, is a senior about to start his final semester at Orlin University. But he’s been hiding a secret from his best friends (and roommates), Ian and Penny. He’s gay and it is well past time to tell them. From that initially nerve wracking yet happy moment, the next few months are a whirlwind of study, tutoring, drama, the search for a boyfriend, sex, and maybe love. Coming Out on Top is a fun, crazy game that I cannot help but be addicted to. I love this game.
I play the game in the manner I promised. I pursue all of the guys at once. However, the game does not allow for going after multiple guys past a certain point. To date, I have completed Brad, Ian, and Jed’s stories. I’ve gotten some way into Alex’s and have yet to get to a third date with Phil.
Brad’s path is endearing and cute. Ian’s route is hot as hell (the final scenes are reason enough to buy this game). Jed’s story is sexy and ultimately sweet (and not what I expected). Alex’s path is, so far, revealing of a vulnerable man hidden behind a hyper competitive facade. Phil’s route, though I’ve read he lightens up, is still hampered by Phil’s initial bad attitude.
I really enjoyed the three stories I completed. But I cannot say I’m terribly fond of Alex’s story so far. And I am still not fond of Phil, even after a second date.
The writing draws the player in and doesn’t let go until he or she finishes the particular path. For a first foray into video games and video game writing, Obscura does a rather remarkable job. The various plots are interesting and well researched. The characterization is good and subtle, though the secondary characters lack depth.
I do have problems with the narrative. The explanation for why Mark waited so long to come out to his friends is still problematic for me, given that he has known Penny and Ian for years. Another problematic poor explanation is Mark not knowing that Penny’s extended family is biracial with all of its attendant baggage (not that this is the only moment where Mark comes across as being racist).
The dialogue is problematic at times. Conversations between characters are often well written. But there are moments where the dialogue bogs down in trying to be so hip that it plunges into artificiality. The worst offender, so far, is Jed’s story line where the argument for independence and authenticity comes across as cliche (I would not be surprised, however, if Phil’s story doesn’t come out as the worst offender. The second date is a pain in the ass to read through).
The biggest problem I have with the writing is the amount of text. Yes, this is a visual novel, but the amount of text, especially descriptive text, and the usage of the second person takes away from the enjoyment of the game. Especially when the reading experience is more akin to telling than showing. Again, more cut scenes would have been preferable.
Turning to the art, I’m actually torn by the cutscenes (by Doubleleaf). The scenes I have seen have all been hot and well done. But I don’t know if the anime style is really the best. Alex, Ian, Jed, and Brad are all very well done (barring Ian’s beard in some scenes). But I cannot stand how Alex looks in the cut scenes. He looks too young.
The game rocks, but it can use a more interconnected story. If you play for all the guys, you will get Alex. If you decide that you would rather swim or run the treadmill at the second gym scene, Alex’s route is cut off and you will move on to Brad. I assume if you refuse to tutor Brad after the first tutoring session, Phil’s path will open up for further advancement. If you refuse to go on the second date, Ian’s route becomes available. Finally, if you don’t go to the frat party with Ian, Jed’s story becomes available. The order of the romantic options is determined by events following the second gym scene (and if you attend the second date/ tutoring session). The fact that the various romantic options do not interact is, honestly, a disappointment. A minor disappointment.
I still love the game. I am proud I bought it. I am about to play it again after I post this. Hopefully, this game is a success and we can look forward to many sequels or follow ups to Coming Out on Top from Obscura.
I should be reviewing Coming Out on Top right now. Or, if not that, playing the hell out of the game. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to wait a few more days before I can purchase the game. Which sucks. I want the game now.
While I wait, I’ve been reconsidering my game play plan. I originally wanted to play the game by selecting the options/ answers that I would give first before breaking the game down into specific love interests. (From the comments I’ve read so far, it does not appear that any other player has taken this route. They have, is seems, played the game targeting a single love option to “good endings” before moving on to the next love option.) I’m also looking forward to checking out the Brofinder (if that is an option for the just released version of the game and not an extension).
Next week cannot come soon enough. Look for the review to come about a week after that.
In the wake of my National Novel Writing Month collapse, I’ve been busy digging myself out. I am pleased with the progress I’ve made over the past few weeks. But, as always, there is still much work ahead of me.
Though project Black Magic did not collapse, I didn’t really understand the project until a few days ago when the theme came to me in a flash of inspiration (and was there the whole damn time in hindsight). The theme brings all of my disconnected ideas and dreams for this project together in a way that it wasn’t before. I wanted an epic fantasy set on contemporary Earth, and now I’ve got it.
I also admit that I didn’t do enough research when I wrote about the project in October. Reading Soulstealers by Philip A. Kuhn and A Guide to Mexican Witchcraft have been revelations. I know what I’m going to write. I know the story.
But I’m not done with the research, yet. There is still so much I need to know before I feel comfortable writing this story.
The biggest problem arising from the November Collapse is project The Journey. I want to write this story. I have to write this story. I will write this story.
I just need to figure out where the hell I’m going with it without making the world building look silly.
I have an idea but I need to work on it more.
And, ultimately, I need to just take the plunge.
But, The Journey is not alone as a possible portal fantasy. What about Two Cities? I, honestly, think I can do both.
The Journey is, by design, an adventure novel, a quest. Two Cities, by contrast, is a novel of adaptation and community. So, writing both projects probably will not lead to overlapping or repetition.
I know now, too, that the story I want to start with is The Journey. Now, I just need to figure out a new title and get to work world building.