Log in

Heads up

Tomorrow, May 9th, at 1700 GMT, I will be hosting the first in a series of live weekly podcasts along with some friends at wcradio.com

The podcast will be about the storyline of the popular Warcraft franchise, every week we will analyze a specific topic for an hour. If you're into this kind of stuff, check it out.

Fanfiction=distilled disgust

I hate fanfiction. I hate fanfiction, in the same way that I hate humanity- I need to be engrossed in it to be reminded of my hatred, and if I go without it for long enough periods of time, I begin to miss it.

I had two simultaneous conversations today, one with my good friend and mentor Cecilia Tan, and one with the artist for my comic. Both ended up discussing the same thing. Fanfics.

Now, I got my start writing as a roleplayer. And to be quite fair, roleplay can be considered a form of fanfiction, even tabletop roleplaying set in a predetermined world. YOU didn't come up with the imperium of man, and your regiment of space marines are all original characters. And original characters were the only way that I could ever bring myself to RP, or write, in someone else's world.

Of COURSE they were mary sues in the beginning, I was EIGHT when I started. But as I got older I tried to make the characters more interesting, but I became disgusted with myself. As I got older, I also began having aspirations of being a REAL writer, with a REAL world and REAL characters.

And I looked at what I was doing.

I was insulting the original creators. I don't need to like these people to respect them, and, hell, if you're popular enough to have teenagers doing RP and fanfic about you, you're probably more successful than I can aspire to be. But Rowling never intended her stories to be about, say, bitter anti-magic conspiracy theorists who hack wizard radios just to listen to coast-to-coast AM, and as even Stephanie Meyer never intended her stories to feature nihilistic, masochistic immortals who, rather than romancing middle-american titwillows, mutilate themselves in a last ditch attempt to regain humanity (bear in mind, both of these characters were created when I was twelve- at the time most of my peers were just discovering sexuality). Good characters? Maybe. But completely against the spirit of the original work. And as a writer, you've got to respect, if not the intellectual property, the SPIRIT of another writer's work.

And when I was discussing this with my artist, the term "inmates running the asylum" came up frequently in regard to the modern comics industry. Comics, now a days, are quite simply, legitimized fanfic, and each writer takes established characters and twists them according to their whims. Do you think Kane and Finger ever expected Batman to waltz up to a god and shoot him in the fucking shoulder? Did you ever think Lee and Ditko expected Spiderman to get a demon to annull his marriage? Did you ever think Liefeld would expect for any of his creations to be actually funny? Shit like this is why I went from calling Alan Moore "A crazy guy who worships a snake and complains about movies which are made all in good fun" to "right".

But comics aren't novels. You crank comics out on a weekly basis, rarely do they have the blood, sweat, and tears poured into them like other mediums (with the exception of graphic novels, or comics "written for the trade"). And neither is fanfic.

Fanfic is wish fulfillment, and so are modern comics. Quesada WISHED Spiderman to be single. Tara Gilesbie WISHED Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way to be a beautiful "goff" (look it up). But to me, if you're going to wish, write your own fucking story.

To be honest, I've never been the kind of man who wished, because in the real world, wishes don't come true unless you work towards them. That's why so many kids and kids-at-heart turn to fanfic, because in fanfiction, wishes, YOUR wishes, come true.

I want to know why YOU, the readers, write and read fanfic. Is it a love (or hate, as is my case) for the setting and characters that you feel the need to use the world as a springboard? Do you feel some kind of cosmic connection with the theme of the story that you can't help but follow in its footsteps? I can't wrap my mind around it. I just don't see why anyone'd bother writing a fanfic when they can write REAL fiction.

Help me understand.

Minor update

Just got in from a robotics competition in Connecticut. After winning 2nd place in NYC, we won first place there, and we're heading to the national competition in Atlanta.

My global conquest grows nearer.

Change the species to fit the environment.

Today I saw Wall-E. It took me a while, I know. Anyway, something about it really struck me.

Why the fuck are all these humans still human?

By my calculations, Wall-E is set a little more than 800 years into the future. Their robotics technology is amazingly advanced (as someone who works WITH robots, I was stunned about the plausibility within the robots), and they have the ability to either stockpile 700 years' worth of resources on a space habitat, or have a self-sustainable environment. By all accounts, they are a very advanced society, as you would expect from a science fiction story.

But they're still human. Why is this a sticking point to me?

Because they have such advanced robotics technology. 700 years before the humans began living in space, they KNEW of the adverse effects that living in space would cause, citing bone loss as the reason behind humanity's amorphous appearance.

So why aren't people cybernetic? Why is there such a large divide between the organic and mechanical? The technology is quite presumably there. In 2009 we have the beginnings of what could be called cyborgs. Yet science fiction stories almost universally makes one simple mistake.

That human is human. It has always been human and, worst of all, it will always BE human.

Fun fact: Like many unwashed, spec-fic writers, I describe myself as a transhumanist. This, obviously, makes me biased towards cybernetic modification. I can understand writers assuming humans would be unmodified before cybernetics was conceived, but after robotic and cybernetic technology began to progress, why is it that few writers posit that humanity will modify itself?

My personal philosophy towards space living/colonization is "change the species to fit the environment" as opposed to "build/change the environment to fit the species". If we were to live on the moon, you'd assume we'd need some form of terraforming process, no? Wouldn't it be easier if you instead modified humans to not require things present on Earth?

The humans in Wall-E are fat, boneless and nigh-immobile. You would think that, perhaps, they would have either modified skeletons, or exoskeletons? They have robots serving them, so why is it that they themselves are not robots? The difference is a very slight one, really, whether or not the robot is outside of or inside of the skin. And from the standpoint of convenience, having robots beneath the skin, being a robot yourself, makes the abilities performed by the robots much more accessable.

I know, I know, ultimately, Wall-E was a Captain Planet episode, a heavyhanded though beautifully performed environmentalist message. But this is a problem inherent to contemporary sci-fi, a bias to the human form. Is it because MOST people cannot wrap their minds around humans-not-being-human? Maybe. I just feel it's something to complain about. Sue me.

What I've been up to

So.  I really, really, really should be posting more often. And I don't. Just like how my book was fueled by my hatred of Christopher Paolini, this blog was created in part due to my utter loathing for Gwarthleb the Galactic Destroyer, known to most of humanity as "Warren Ellis". I'm on to you, Ellis.

So. The most important thing that has been taking up my time? Robots. I'm on my school's FIRST robotics team, an engineering competition for highschoolers. Yesterday was our first competition this year, and we did... okay. 2nd place and a trophy for best control system (which I designed) isn't BAD, but I'm a perfectionist at heart so I grabbed a wrench and started wailing on Freshmen. In two weeks we'll be at the Hartford Convention Center for our next competition.

Anyway. On the literary front, I finished my book in mid-january. 532 pages. And then I decided to take a major subplot and remove it from the first book and use it for my second book, so I cut out about 200 of them and I'm rewriting the middle of my book intermittently. I also read it to myself front-to-back and realized the tone shifts way too much and I needed to standardize this. I want to d all this myself before giving it over to an editor, simply because I already have enough notes to rework the entire thing.

Leading up to the NY Comic Con, I had been talking about friends with the aforementioned comic series, which eventually expanded into an entire project. I'm in talks with a few artists about illustrating it, and I'm writing and storyboarding the whole thing. I've got some "friends" at DC and Darkhorse so I'll probably end up bothering some of them when and if this thing comes to fruition.

Let's see... what else. Oh! I'm seriously attempting to start a band. Kind of a psychobilly/post-punk/metal band called "Raygun Diplomacy" with some friends from school. We just kinda suck at actually playing so we're still in the planning stages.


Sorry for the lack of updates... especially considering I made, what, three?

Yeah. Shit happened.

Built a robot, for one. It's awesome. Deadly.

Decided to chop my book in half, rewrite part of it and save the remainder for a sequel. Turning the planned 3 book series into 5, now. Yay, franchising.

Started heavier work on my comic series, which has a constantly changing name, though it's currently titled "All Zu Ubermenschliches". Concept art coming soon.

If anyone cares. If not, I need to post more often then, don't I?

Education and science fiction

First of all, sorry for the lack of updates. Insomnia combined with a dead grandmother left me pretty disoriented for a while. Anyway.

Today's entry is one of those 'slice of life' entries, where pompous self described internet personalities, such as myself, go on about the inane intricacies of their lives, such as mine.

My relationship with my English teacher can be described as quite antagonistic. He's quite obviously a bitter man who doesn't wish to be teaching English at this stage in his life and sees no literary merit in anything published after the forties, for whatever reason, and I eat, breathe, shit and on many occasions, bathe in science fiction.

The way I tend to approach fiction, now a days, is by assuming the author was insane. I'm insane. Every author I know personally is insane. All the authors I like are insane, it's a good bet that whatever book you're reading was written by a madman. And highschool English classes have a predisposition to overanalysis... a wiki I frequent, TVtropes (which, despite its name, is far more useful for cataloging written, rather than watched, examples of tropes) calls this "Everyone is Jesus in Purgatory", wherein you are encouraged to extrapolate the strangest of rationales from the most minute and unimportant details, missing the forest for the trees.

You have to wonder why, with a system of learning that is so set up as to accentuate and encourage the bizarre, so many of the stories are firmly grounded in reality. Speculative fiction, as many of you know, is birthed from desire, it is birthed from base instincts of hope and indignation. Yet, here, we have a story that is as bland as the puritans it portrays. Is it so much to ask for a time traveling cyborg from a singulitarian future, or if the Puritans are transported to a world ruled by sadomasochistic insectoid priests who force them to battle other historical fantasy cultures? No?

Part of me wants to go off on an even wider tangent and assume that the shunning of spec-fic in our educational system is in place to stifle creativity, but that part of me is too busy preparing his tinfoil hat. True, I was assigned 1984 at one point, though it is very hard to tell the difference between Oceanian society and those which Orwell saw around him contemporarily.

What really drives this point home is the dichotomy between my english and physics classes, which I have back to back. My physics teacher, literally, taught the class the concept of Centripedal force using examples from Ringworld and the Halo series of video games- both which feature rotating, torus space habitats that simulate gravity. Physics is an incredibly unimaginative pursuit, it is about memorizing formulas and numbers, and only when you spend years and years analyzing them do you approach the expertise required for innovation and creativity. Meanwhile, English, or, rather, literature, is a chaotic mass that can be turned into just about anything... and yet, instead, we read of nothing but minor scandals in a historically agreed upon, quote "totall boring ass period, yo". It is no wonder why young authors do not try anything more than fanfiction in settings created by adults, because they are not exposed to innovation in the classroom.

Phillip K. Dick's VALIS, one of my favorite books, leaves far more open to interpretation and discussion than the works of Shakespeare ever will. And "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" portrays a revolution far better than "A Tale of Two Cities".

It's got "twit" right in the name.

This will be a short post, but am I the only one just... morbidly fascinated by twitter? I wouldn't even say it is a trainwreck inasmuch as I would say it's like... performing an autopsy on a horribly malformed foetus. It's so... to me, at least, so unnervingly vile and yet every fiber of your being can't help but watch it.

I wouldn't call myself an armchair linguist... at best, I'm a "cold ikea plastic chair" one. I can go ass backwards through somewhere in the vicinity of nine languages, yet I'm fluent in one... and I think Twitter, or, rather, the grammatical conventions and modified thought processes used to express information via twitter, marks the turning point from "internet speek" as a slang to the beginnings of a new dialect of English. I know language is an ever evolving thing, far more like an organism than a machine, but I find this just... excitingly disgusting. We're all- especially my target audience- we're all lovers of the written word, to a degree, and whether we embrace this mutation or not varies from person to person, but to just watch it... it's crazy. Like a bolnoy horrorwshow, m'droogs.

Load the canons!

If you're like me, you didn't just start writing out of the blue. You were most likely a fan of a few series before you began writing, in fact, they probably inspired you to emulate them in some capacity. And, as any fan of any series knows, retcons are a necessary evil. But just because they're needed, doesn't mean they shouldn't be minimized... a lot like politicians. Note to self- turn Washington D.C. into Kandor.

In any case, minimizing retcons and determining what is and isn't canon (canon being a term meaning, for the uninitiated, "official lore" in regard to a world) go hand in hand. Because, trust me, you get a group of fans and have a loosely defined canon, and there will be a storm of such monumental proportions that the gods themselves will retreat into their dwellings and cry. Ergo, there are three things you must do.

1. Keep good notes. Every place a character visits, every snippet of constructed language your alien speaks, every rule for magic or technobabble espoused by a professor, write it down. Make a backup, too. I often scan my notes from real paper into my computer, and often email the scanned version to myself. That is a bit excessive, but it means wherever I am, whenever I write, I can access my notes and drawings when needed. Furthermore, you can always make notes when you're not writing. On the bus, see a car crash, and think "hot robot jesus on a plate, that would be an awesome scene for my spy novel!". Jot it down in a notebook, maybe sketch the wreckage. Just because you're writing about the unreal doesn't mean the real world cannot and should not inspire you.

2. Keep things not imperative to the plot vague. If you're writing with the express purpose of making a world, not a self contained story, but something to be fleshed out over multiple stories (with multiple bits of overpriced merchandise), don't go too much into detail about places that don't need it, so that you can change your mind about it at a later date. If your space captain makes reference to "Venusian Rocket Dogs", leave it at that, unless you need to. All we know about venus is that there are rocket dogs on it. That means in the sequel, he can come to Venus and you can go into detail about the deadly rocket cats there, too.

3. I'm a proponent of the so called "tiers of canon" theory. If you're writing in a shared universe with a long history, be aware what is canon now, may not be canon later. Let's use the Warcraft series as an example. Warcraft is principally known for its videogames, but is an increasingly large media empire with books, RPG supplements, comics and more. The further removed from the creator or more respected writers, the less gravitas it has when compared to a conflicting source. If a RPG supplement written in 2003 is compared to a  quest in a game released in 2004, the game beats the RPG supplement, but THAT quest is beat by a book released in 2008. It helps you stomach retcons much better. Some continuities, such as Star Wars, has the "Extended Universe" policy, ultimately, the 6 movies are the law, and the EU is a swirling, chaotic mass of Lovecraftian plasma, which occasionally throws out an important tidbit of information that later gets devoured by another one of its slimy spawn.

A word to the wise- if you become a successful author, figure out how to spot a fan that will call you on a retcon and have him silenced. Preferrably with shuriken.

A brief introduction.

Salutations and welcome, so called true believers, to the inaugural post in my blog. The purpose of this blog, is to, basically, help other young writers (While I am aiming this at the 12-18 bracket, so to speak, that does not exclude any older, first time writers, or anyone else) like myself learn about the writing process, especially when it applies to Speculative Fiction, and, most importantly, how much of a goddamn sadistic, arduous, and, at times, bizarrely erotic process getting your book published is. Trust me, I understand. A few months ago you cracked open the best goddamn book in your life, and afterwords, poured your heart and soul into 300 or 400 or 500 pages of, what you believe, is pure, unadulterated awesome. That's great... but that's only the first step. There's editing, getting an agent, making solicitations, finding the right house, hammering out royalties, and, perhaps the most important step... schmoozing. A word to the wise- learn Yiddish. It helps immensely in any form of mass media.

A little bit about myself, and where my work stands. I am currently about 400 pages into my novel, which I am currently estimating will peter out at around 500 pages. It is... a typical (read: ripped from Tolkien) fantasy world with hard science fiction jammed down its throat. The project, "Paradigm Lost" began when I was eleven, about five years ago, and snowballed into the current pseudo-renaissance novel I have now. In my spare time, I am currently crafting multiple languages for the world in which it is set, a roleplaying system, and, recently, a system of measurements and set of laws governing the use of magic. Note, however, this is NOT necessary for a first time writer to do, if anything, it has hurt me in some ways, detracting from the plot at times and necessitating heavy rewrites so that it doesn't sound like a seminar, and helped in others, making the inner workings of the world far more concrete.

I am also in the planning stages of a superhero universe- how I intend to market it (either as a show, book, movie... I don't know) is up in the air, but it is far back in the planning stages.

In the coming days, I shall be giving other first time writers tips on constructing worlds, modifying our own worlds, crafting endearing characters, grasping the idea of "meta", and more. Stay tuned, same bat-blog, same bat-channel!