Archive for November, 2012

Tricorder…coming soon?

They are one of the wonder-gadgets of the Star Trek universe… nowhere near “Sonic Screwdriver” wonder-levels, but not far from it. And I saw this this morning

According to the article, the device will be an accessory, similar to the “wand” device used (usually by medical staff, most notably in ST:tNG), to be coupled with tablets or “smart” phones. There are apparantly two other complimenting devices for testing urine or a person’s spit for possible issues.

There’s potential for a story there… has to be…

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Alpha-Reading, a Primer

Mary Robinette Kowal is all sorts of awesome. I think I mentioned I first “discovered” her at Readercon a couple of years ago, right before Shades of Milk and Honey was released (she had actually just gotten an author copy at or right before the con). (Actually, I wrote a little bit about another con experience with her here, too.)

One of the things that I think is awesome of her is her wilingness to open up some of her WIP’s for “Alpha” reading – allowing people to read along as she is drafting a novel, and provide feedback – specifically reactions about the reading experience (how well the story is coming through).

She recently outlined some thoughts on the process, aptly titled “How and why I use online alpha-readers while writing novels.

I mention this for two reasons. First, for those readers that are interested, hop over to her site and keep an eye out for any “current” projects that may be underway. The second is a little more self-serving while sharing….

Still being in the pre-publication, craft-development trenches, I am always on the lookout for things that might be useful some time down the road. This is one of those ideas, and the explanation behind her implementation makes sense, and is something to keep in mind for when I get to said point down the road. So I’m linking it here for my own future reference (hence the self-serving portion). At the same time, I am sure there are other writers in a similar position as myself that might be interested in the process for some point in their own careers, that may not have found MRK’s blog (yet)…

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Defending Wesley Crusher

Wil Wheaton has, rather famously, gotten a lot of crap for what is likely one of his more famous roles (consider ST:TNG’s Crusher and Gordie from Stand by Me) pre-1995-ish. One of his more famous stories of crap that he has been given involves William “Fucking” Shatner himself (you can check Wheaton’s blog for the story, but I’m not sure which iteration it might be on… but it’s also in one of his books – go buy one!)

Anyway, not that a character on a show that has been out of production for (checks IMDB) about 18 years really needs to be defended, but if I’m remembering correctly Wheaton mentioned still getting crap about the character from “fans” of the institution that has become Star Trek. Glazing past the possible mental issues of those unable to differentiate “role” from “actor,” or the douche-y nature of those that can but don’t make the distinction, allow me a few pixels to suggest why Wesley Crusher is actually a good character (even if some of the scripting was less than ideal).

Caveat: this will contain reasons why I liked the character when I watched it during it’s original run. I’ve not watched  episodes recently, but can imagine a certain amount of generational transferrance will still be valid (you’ll see what I mean in a minute).

1) He was a kid. Hear me out. Science fiction has a rather fanatical fan base. Many of those fans – especially now – are drawn in as children. Any character that can provide even a sliver of kid-trying-to-get-by-in-the-adult-world is likely to be another gateway to fandom for the younger set (at worst), or some kind of empathetic role-model for handling situations (at best).

2) He was smart. See # 1, above. A non-zero number of kids that really get into science fiction/fantasy have bouts of social awkwardness, or grasp at concepts and think in bigger terms than some of their peers. Many might pursue the sciences simply as an extension of their interest in SF.

Where I’m going with this is, for someone watching the show and in a simlar age category as Wesley Crusher, there is a (potential) relatability: a signal to younger viewers that it’s okay to be smart, that it is possible for a kid to keep up with adults, that it’s okay to think in different terms than adults. And that’s not a bad thing.

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Taking You Out… on MVM

I think this song got permanantly stuck in my head after seeing it performed live on one of the Late Night shows… don’t ask me which, it’s been that long ago. Hell, it could have been SNL for all I remember (maybe with Catherine Zeta-Jones hosting? and if I did remember that right, wow…) So here’s Franz Ferdinand with this week’s video.

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Drafting…

I want to share something that resonated with me today, something that I am only now starting to really get over and come to terms with, and accept, and realize that it’s okay: to have multiple drafts.

I think I’ve made reference to this before… I think I cribbed some advice before from David Hewson’s site that touches on a similar vein, but as we are now in the last third of NaNoWriMo for 2012, I think this is something to bear in mind (besides, you know, “It’s okay to suck” or “It’s okay to have a shitty first draft”)…

This note on drafting comes from Steven Pressfield’s site:

The axiom is: You can’t do everything in one draft.

The corollary: Pick one aim for each draft and do that only.

In NaNo terms, the first draft is throwing everything and anything against the walls to see what sticks. Ninjas? Fire Wombats? Dancing girls? Fire Eaters? Muscle-men? Contortionists? (right, cue “Spectacular, Spectacular” from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack and keep on going)

There was a bit of business advice I was given once, in a mentor-based situation: “Go Out. Get busy. Make a mess.” In business, it was so the mentor could then come in a then use the act of cleaning up said “mess” as a way of teaching how to do the same in the future… in writing, it’s the (shitty) first draft.

Then, as Pressfield suggests, each pass through the document the goal would be to focus on fixing a specific element. Rinse and repeat for however many things you might want (or need) to work on. But this approach assumes you have plowed through to the end with no imminent concern about maintaining 100% coherency, as with NaNo (I mean, really… Can-Can dancing fire wombat ninjas? Really?). 

Contrast this idea with what Hewson had described (an almost cyclical approach) where you spend a day writing. The next day, you go back over the previous day’s pages – getting back into the story, but tweaking some as you go – then press into the new pages for the day. Rinse repeat until the project is complete, then make the passes through as above.

Where I am going with this is that whatever your process, a story will invariably be picked over and through several times in an effort to make it the best thing it can be, to ensure it delivers as the writer intends. That’s okay. It will be worth it when the polished story sings.

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Reflecting on Losses

Note: I started this post back in July, so I realize it’s a little disconnected… bear with me though, there is a point…

It’s weird what can trigger emotional reactions when surfing the interwebs… Here are a couple of things that I saw recently that made me pause, wind momentarily taken out of my sails.

The Death of Sally Ride (image cribbed from Tor.com)
Funny, as I typed it there is sounds like it should be a story title… She was the first woman in space, paving the way for Christa McAuliffe (selected to be the first civilian/teacher in space), as well as others.

The Death of Donald Sobol, creator of Encyclopedia Brown (image cribbed from Tor.com)

Encylopedia Brown was one on my early entry points into mystery fiction (and yes, I remember when HBO optioned a series based on the books, not that I watched it often, I did catch a couple of episodes).

[start November content here]
I was aware of the Sobol and Ride, in varying degrees, as a child. But they weren’t especially significant for me (fine Sobol a bit more than Ride, just because of the books), but they weren’t omnipresent people in my life. They weren’t people I obsessed over and thought about on a regular basis. Much like my thoughts on Maurice Sendak earlier this year, since I only had fringe awareness of them I can only mourn their loss based on the contributions they made.

Recently, however, Death paid a visit a little closer to home – in the office where I work. What makes this sad, two things actually, is that this person: a) was only 38, and b) had only been in the office for less than two months.

When it happened (last week), I began thinking of a more contemplative post, but since it’s taken this long for me to peck at a keyboard let me cut straight to the chase.

Show some sense of appreciation for the pepole in your life, no matter how tangential. If you can’t quite bring to do so for everyone, at least do it do it for those that were a remotely positive presence. Let them know, if you can. You never know when they may move on.

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Moving Along… on MVM

I’ll admit not being too up on some more current groups. I got into this song mostly from its selection & inclusion on a Lance Armstong iTunes Celebrity Playlist  that I downloaded some years ago. It’s got a nice, punchy refrain that does make it a good song to turn up while working out. It’s one that lives on a “frequently grabbed” list ofsongs if I’m putting together a travelling playlist.

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On the Failure of The Hulk

Or, “Why the Incredible Hulk doesn’t translate as well to the big screen.”

The other night I landed on a cable channel that was broadcasting the most recent (Edward Norton) Hulk movie. I was reminded of how, while it was better received than the Ang Lee version, it still didn’t really hit the sweet spot with audiences like certain other superhero movies. Which is sad, actually, because I think it’s actually a good film. And I was wondering why it didn’t connect, and I came up with a few possibilities.

Jekyll & Hyde isn’t sexy. Obvious enough, right? What, you don’t quite get the logic? Try this: the central character conflict is Bruce Banner walking the razor’s edge between staying human and going Hulk Smash. Audiences want the Hulk Smash moments, but they may not like the downtime between them.

Bruce Banner is neither an Everyman nor an extreme outlier. Batman, Superman and Iron Man are extreme outliers – inexplicably rich, intelligent, or (as with Superman) alien. Spiderman is a type of Everyman. All of them maintain their innate characteristics, all of the time. Except when Hulk Smash. Where Banner is intelligent, Hulk is the antithesis. See previous point. The point here is that Peter Parker gets his powers by pure lab accident. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark inherit/build their wealth in order to develop their crime fighting toys. Superman is a boy scout. Banner (depending on which origin you follow) self-exposes himself to the radiation that creates the Hulk.

Hulk worked as a TV series because it effectively played on the “running” aspect, of Banner being chased as he tried to figure out how to reverse the effects. The Noton movie did it okay, but most people don’t enjoy the idea of their “hero” giving up their powers.

Did I mention that Jekyll & Hyde isn’t very sexy?

So, what are your thoughts, if you’re into the Hulk story, why it fails to translate as well to the big screen?

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More Words from the Wendingo

I’ve mentioned Chuck Wendig here before. While he may not be as much of a household name as, say, Steven King, he does a lot of what many rappers claim they are doing: spitting the truth. Writing is hard, it’s a skill and ability that requires investing time and energy to improve. There is a secret, though, to this writing thing. This secret is a general, ephemeral thing, something that can safely be applied to all writers of all genres anywhere in the world.

Right, that’s it. I’ve clipped a different image before, but this one is newer and shiny-er. And mentions a converence.

But about the “rule.” The graphic above is from a recent post (just click the image for the link) where Wendig provides another of his “List of 25” – this time of Motivational Thoughts for Writers. Since we are now in the thick of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this seems like a good thing to share for those that are participating.

To encourage you to slip down the rabbit hole, I offer you this snippet from his list – something that I have struggled with for years.

5. Abuse the Freedom to Suck
Writing is not about perfection — that’s editing you’re thinking of. Editing is about arrangement, elegance, cutting down instead of building up. Editing is Jenga. Writing is about putting all the pieces out there. It’s construction in the strangest, sloppiest form. It’s inelegant. And imperfect. And insane. It’s supposed to be this way. Writing is a first-time bike-ride. You’re meant to wobble and accidentally drive into some rose bushes. Allow yourself the freedom — nay, the pleasure — to suck. This is playtime. (Or, as I call it: “Whiskey and Hookers” time.) Playtime is supposed to be messy.

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Happy Birthday, Devil Dogs

As someone that grew up in a USMC household (and learned to tune out Harrier fly-overs), allow me to extend birthday wishes to all those that wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.

Semper Fi. (And Semper Gumby!*)

*A former USMC Captain I knew once used this in a speech… Always Flexible. Reminds me of the scene in Heartbreak Ridge, at the water obstacle, where the Major, because his team lost, says the other man cheated. “It’s not cheating, it’s improvising.” Semper Gumby.

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