Monthly Archives: September 2012

Looking at Myth Part Two: Wendy Doniger and the Implied Spider

I honestly don’t know what to say about this book. I’ve managed to get three chapters in and I’m done. I don’t want to read any more. Over the course of three days, I’ve managed to read a chapter a day. And about five pages in, I need to lay down and take a nap. In other words, this book is boring. Really boring.

Now, that is not to say that Doniger does not have some interesting ideas. Her metaphor of the microscope and the telescope is inspired. And, given how far I got, some of her other metaphors are equally interesting.

But that does not negate the fact that the book itself is tiresome. And perhaps a little sloppy.

Stories and ideas are thrown about in a (seemingly) personal order that does not really add much to the overall thesis. If you ask me.

Before I go on, I should probably take the time to discuss the types of scholarship I like to read.

I like a certain amount of rigor with my scholarship. Stick to the thesis and make things clear for the reader. And do leave the personal out of scholarship. I’m really not interested.

When L.B. Gale called Doniger the modern successor to Joseph Campbell, she hits the nail on the head. Doniger’s style is highly reminiscent of Campbell’s. The only difference is that Doniger tends to use more contemporary analytical tools and a penchant for the personal.

Now, by personal, I’m not talking about Doniger’s own personal life. Rather, what I am talking about is the personal to everyone. The narrative reads like a pop psychology book at times. And I find that style extremely tiresome. Never have been a fan of psychoanalysis.

Despite my issues with The Implied Spider (and the fact that I stopped reading after the third chapter), there is value in this book for sf writers. Obviously the metaphor of the microscope and the telescope comes to mind. And I am sure that there other possible inspirational avenues for readers who manage to read further along than I have.

So, where does that leave this little project? I guess completed for now. I think I’ll hold off on any actual posts on possible routes of implementation when I have some concrete examples.

 

Here is a preview of what else I’m working on this week: A rant I’m building up to. A review of A Princess of Mars. And, of course, a review of Chris Colfer’s The Wishing Spell.

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Novels and Comics

I’ve been thinking about what I want to be as writer. Do I want to write the same basic narrative over and over again? Or do I want to push myself and experiment outside of my comfort zone? And where do I want to go with it?

My answer is firmly in the later camp. My current work in progress can best be described as an apocalyptic- steampunk-southern gothic mashup. After that I want to tackle a heavily fantastic planetary romance. And after that? Maybe an anthropological fantasy crossover?

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’m struggling over whether I just want to stick with novels (which would arguably be the easier route) or work in both novels and comics (perhaps a harder route but also more fun). Honestly, I haven’t decided yet which way I want to go (and hopefully this post will help push me in a direction).

For fun, I wrote a comic book script. To be honest, I really enjoyed that. And there is something about comic books (and manga) that irresistibly draws me creatively to those genres.

The truth is that I want to write a comic book series or two (or more). Despite all of the difficulties involved, I still want to write comics.

But, and here is the big but, I don’t want to write for Marvel or DC. While I have rediscovered my love for superhero comics, I don’t want to write them. Too much of a Scorpio for that, I think. I want to write my own stories that I (and the art team) control.

Let’s forget briefly that I want to write comics and explore why writing a large novel or series of novels will not work.

The omnibus idea I mentioned a while back was an attempted out. My intention was to collect a certain amount of material (perhaps say three novels and some shorter pieces) and release it all at once. The more I look at this idea, the more I think it’s stupid. Seriously, it can’t work.

I’ve also played with the idea of a novel series. But even that doesn’t come close to working for me. I want the feeling of an actual serial not individual standalones that may refer back to each other or those bloated monstrosities.

And that is, I think, part of why I want any long running series idea I have to be a comic book series rather than something like A Song of Ice and Fire. I don’t want to write something like that. With a comic book, I could focus on several projects at once rather than devoting myself solely to a single project for who knows how long.

I’ve already pledged to myself that if I ever write an epic fantasy in novel form, it will be no larger than The Lord of the Rings. Beyond that, I’ll have to get out my authorial Vorlon planetkiller.

But I can, and want, to do several long term comic book series. Including an epic fantasy.

This brings me back to thinking about manga. I’ve been on a bit of a manga break over the past few months. The siren song, however, is starting to get louder. So, I’ll have to indulge in some reading soon.

Thing is, I would love for some of my ideas to be manga (heck, my favored idea positively screams occasionally for it). Unfortunately, that ain’t happening for the foreseeable future (if ever). The main thing is that I want the serialized nature of comic books (and manga). And the more manga influenced American comics don’t really have that due to the fact that the manga market in America is almost exclusively in collected form rather than serialized (excepting scanlations).

All of that does not mean that I cannot be heavily influenced my manga. I’ll just have to condense everything to fit 24-32 pages a month!

Damn, pantsing blog posts can be very therapeutic. But hell, it did push me in a direction. Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say on this topic (for now at least). But if you have any comments, please do so.

Anyway, here is a brief look at what I hope to have for next week:

Part two of my myth series where I review The Implied Spider.

A review of Chris Colfer’s The Wishing Spell.

And maybe a few things I haven’t thought of yet.

Looking at Myth Part One: Bruce Lincoln and Theorizing Myth

When we think about the influence of myth on fantasy and science fiction, Joseph Campbell springs immediately to mind due to his influence on George Lucas and Star Wars. But what about modern and contemporary interpretations and theories of myth? Well, here is my review of one recent take: Bruce Lincoln’s Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship (2000).

Before I get to my review, I must thank L.B. Gale for putting up a list of book recommendations on her blog dealing with recent scholarship on myth. With out that post, I would never have heard of Bruce Lincoln (and certainly never have read this book).

Lincoln posits that “myth is ideology in narrative form.” This statement has forced me to rethink and reevaluate my own approach to myth.

No longer can I see myth as just sacred stories, forgotten history, or poetic inspiration. Now, I must question how these myths narrate the ideologies of their communities, their speakers, etc.

And I must expand what I see as myth to include a plethora of new stories and narratives.

On a personal level, I really enjoyed this book. It is academic, but Lincoln adroitly avoids many of the pitfalls of academic writing.

The book is composed of three parts. Part one looks at the history of myth in Greece between the Archaic and Classical periods. Part two jumps forward to explore the renewed focus on myth from the Renaissance to World War II (and especially how mythic studies played into colonialism, racism, and Nazi ideology). Part three looks briefly at mythic studies after WWII before engaging in a series of brief chapters explicating the idea that “myth is ideology in narrative form.”

The only issue I have with the text is that I wish Lincoln and taken more time to  explore various examples of myth= ideology in narrative form in addition to the few chapters at the end of the book.

Now, if one is interested in myth and how myth studies can influence and inform the writing of fantasy and science fiction, then I highly recommend this book.

How can Theorizing Myth inform the writing of fantasy and science fiction? Well, I haven’t had the chance to find that out yet. But when I do, expect me to write a post about it.

That’s it for this post. I’m planning to post something tomorrow. And expect me to have a second post in this series when I finish Wendy Doniger’s The Implied Spider.

I love interlibrary loans!

At Last, Let’s Talk about Politics

I’ve struggled to figure out how I wanted to approach this post for the past two weeks. To say I’m despondent over America’s political climate is a gross understatement. Over the course of my life, politics have only gotten uglier and uglier. And increasingly destructive.

I used to be a political junkie. But over the past few years, I’ve just become sick of the theater. No politician tells the truth. No politician has any solutions. And if they did, well. . .

Now, that’s not to say that there are not voices out there speaking against what is going on. Voices like Amy Goodman and Dan Carlin among others. But those voices are marginalized and their messages simply ignored.

The problem, or at least a part of it, is ideology. While ideology can form a useful structure for one’s beliefs, it can also create an inescapable prison. When ideology trumps facts and solutions, we have a problem. And it’s ideology.

I’ve been listening to a podcast from Common Sense (Dan Carlin) from a few weeks back. He shows in a little less than an hour how Globalization has failed miserably for America and practically everyone else. But does any one see any moves to mitigate or reverse the destruction wrought? No. Why? Because the ideologies of both the Republicans and Democrats are predicated on the belief that it does work (at least for their paymasters).

To keep with Carlin, both parties talk about jobs, but those jobs are going to be low wage. Good jobs, jobs in which one could conceivably live quite comfortably off of well into retirement, are a thing of the past. They’re not coming back. Unless there is a major course correction (which neither party will perform).

Now, let’s shift to a subject near and dear to my heart: Education. I am truly despondent over educational policy. Largely because whoever claims to be an expert on education reform is, I suspect, either an idiot or a fraud. The educational problem in America today is not the fault of teachers. Teachers are just very convenient scapegoats. The true culprit is the community as a whole.

Poverty, parental neglect, disengagement, a lack of hope, and distraction all play roles in why our educational system seems to be failing. Add into that repeated cuts to educational budgets and it is no surprise that the situation looks as bad as it does.

Now, I’m getting angry. And I haven’t even started on the voter i.d./ suppression laws yet. Is it just me or is the U.S. becoming more undemocratic by the week?

I know I should vote and participate. But do I truly have any choices in who to vote for?

A Worthy Successor to the Neighborhood

I’ve been sick with a cold this week, so I decided against posting anything until I started feeling better. Today is the first day I’ve really felt up to writing a post, though not a very long one.

My niece has recently fallen in love with the new PBS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The series is a successor to the iconic Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood created by Angela Santomero (the creator of the equally awesome Super Why!). Personally, I find Daniel Tiger to be a worthy successor.

Daniel Tiger is set in the Neighborhood of Makebelive and follows the adventures of Daniel Tiger, the son of the original Daniel Tiger from MRN. Many of his friends are equally legacy characters, the children of the residents appearing in the original series.

What strikes me most about this series is how the heart and feelings evoked by Fred Rogers is translated to fit more contemporary trends in children’s educational programming.

Each episode is composed of two standalone segments with a common theme. Between the two segments, there is a brief live action field trip that relates to one of the segments.

I’ve seen two episodes and have enjoyed both immensely. And my niece? She was completely enthralled for most of both episodes. Which is saying something for her.

So, if you having feelings of nostalgia for MRN or are looking for a delightful new children’s show, why not give Daniel Tiger a look?

 

 

Thoughts: Observations and Frustrations

I’ve noticed in my writing that I’m torn between long hand and writing on the computer. On the one hand, I gravitate to using pen and paper to jot down my copious ideas, notes, and early prep work. But when it comes to the more in depth  prep work, the outlining, and the drafting, I much prefer working on the computer. Though there are times when I just go for pen and paper regardless of whether or not it makes more sense to use the computer.

There is just something about writing out my thoughts on pen and paper that is more engrossing compared to similar activities on the computer. I don’t think it is the ease of distraction that computers can provide. Today, for example, I went on a seven page idea and prep romp while texting my brother, listening to two podcasts, and occasionally surfing the web. I had intended to do much of this on the computer. But I just went for the pen and paper. Curious, I think.

But, there are certainly areas of writing that the trusty computer wins at. I don’t particularly like having to manually recopy everything out, so I much prefer using the computer for the grunt work. Say I’m outlining something, if I don’t like it, I’ll go in and fix it without having to rewrite everything.

 

The more I think about, the more certain I am that I’m an outliner. The times I’ve written pantsing, I’ve found myself crashing against a wall or going off into very weird tangents. Mind you, outlining does take away some of the fun out of writing. But slogging through is better than staring at the computer in frustration or typing out garbage.

 

I had originally wanted to write a post detailing my frustrations with comic book writing (or at least the initiatory phases of writing for comics) when IGN Assemble got me to thinking.

Now, lets be clear, writing for comics is tough. New technologies are making things both infinitely easier and considerably more difficult.

Pitching ideas, assembling a creative team (if working on creator owned stuff), and the myriad other issues that potential comics writers face can be daunting and dejecting.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I would like to write a comic book series at some point. A good portion of my problem can be solved if I could actually draw. But, honestly, I suck at art. So, I would have to assemble a creative team to start with. And I don’t know how well I could collaborate with a team.

So, I’ve been toying with the idea of omnibusing the comic book idea. It just doesn’t work.

This brings me to another of my frustrations. I have difficulty sticking to a single project for the duration. I get bored, dejected, or enraptured with a new idea. And by the time I get back to what I was doing, I’ve lost the momentum. Probably another reason why I’m best suited as an outliner. It’s easier to pick up where I left off.

 

I’ll admit that I’m still far away from publishing (or submitting) anything. Yet it is important to think about that possibility. I’ve blogged about preferring the traditional method over self publishing (or should that be e-publishing). And while I still feel going the traditional route (agent and publisher) is the right call for books (unless one has a considerably larger platform), I’m not sure I’m right about comic books. That is where IGN Assemble gave me pause to think. Could it be possible that forgoing the major publishers is the right move (especially given that unless you are working with the superpowers there is no guarantee your books will even get picked up by the shops)?

I guess I’ll have to do more research. Which is, honestly, always a good thing.

 

This post has gone on a little longer than I wanted it to, so I’m going to end it here with no real conclusion. But this post has helped me work through some of my frustrations, so that is a positive.

I don’t know what I have in store for next week. I’m tempted to do a politics post. But I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be lucky and something will jump at me.

Podcasting the Craft

Most of the podcasts I listen to have become unsatisfying recently. In large measure, I think I’m wanting more from those podcasts. The question is, of course, why?

I’m the kind of geek who, well, geeks out on learning about the craft of things.

What I mean is podcasts that go beyond just news and opinion (and often fairly stupid at that). The podcasts that look at how a creator (or team of creators) produces their art.

Take, for example, Decompressed by Keiron Gillen. It is a very recent podcast that looks at how (mostly Marvel) comic books are brought into being. The James Asmus episode is amazing, the Kelly Sue Deconnick episode is great, and the Marvel Method Special is highly informative and entertaining. That is what I want more of.

Now, most of the comic book podcasts I listen to don’t do this, even if they include the occasional creator interview. Sometimes there may be hints, but more often than not the interviews serve as teasers for what is upcoming in the creator’s various works.

The less said about manga and anime podcasts, the better.

Part of what brings this subject up for me is a conversation I had with my brother last night. I was finishing up with the Marvel Method episode of Decompressed when I asked him if he knew of any video game craft podcasts.

Now, his answer was an expected no. But, to be honest, I would find a podcast that looks at how video games go from concept to finished product extremely interesting.

While I personally am not interested in writing for video games, I am still interested in how they are conceived, written, and produced.

So, as I end this blog post, my question is: are there any podcasts that focus on the craft of their subject rather than previews, news, opinion, and funny (or stupid) tangents?