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We aren’t there yet


This is one of those posts that gets shared on both Tumblr and here on wordpress, so here we go.

I just thought of this while doing laundry.  Yes, I think of the oddest things while I’m doing house work.  Or is it odd?  I tend to think it isn’t.

However, here we go.

There are hundreds of contradictory arguments that arise when the race or gender of a person in a film or comic or book is discussed.  The most recent being the casting of a black man as Johnny Storm in a possible Fantastic Four movie and the remake of Annie with a predominantly black cast.  This goes back further, people might remember the backlash that arose when Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall in Thor.  But these are the same people who cry and moan about that, but at the same time will be the first to announce that when a white person is cast in a role that is clearly described as a black or brown skinned role (I’m talking Hunger Games), those same people will always claim that the casting director was merely looking for the best actor for the part.

It can also be said that these people who make those two previous observations and bemoan about the former, that also the ones who moan whenever someone points out something amazingly racist or sexist or transphobic.  These are also the same people who claim that we all need to just get along and everything will be like a saccharine coke commercial where everyone joins hands and fucking sings “I Want To Teach The World To Sing”.

Here’s the thing.  I do believe that sometime in the future, that when a book or a movie comes out, that no one will care if a character is black, white, red or yellow and is played by an actor who happens to be either black, white, red or yellow.  No one will cry and moan when a role for a film is said to be up for a man but when it’s released it’s a woman in the lead.  No one will care because they’ll be concentrating on acting ability alone, not the race of a person, nor the gender of a person.  And they won’t even care about the sexual orientation of a person.  None of that will matter, because at some point in the future we just won’t care about.  All we’ll want is a good story with good characters we can relate to.

But that’s a future that’s far and away not happening anytime soon.  Therefore, we need to identify when a character is a race other than white.  We need to identify whether or not a character is female, or a trans-woman, or a trans-man.  We need to identify if a female character is a lesbian or a male character is gay (and not written into the side notes of a script during the post production of a major motion picture based on a best selling series of novels).  The reason why we need to know if a character is black, or a trans-man, or a lesbian, is because if it isn’t stated then the current audience will think that the character happens to be a straight, white male (or female).  We are no where near close to the future I described above.  And here’s the reason why.

If we were then we would have equal pay for both men and women, regardless of race.  If we were, then we’d be in a true post racial society (hint, we’re really not, and if you start to argue that we are, then you clearly have your head stuck in the ground or up your ass).  If we were, then there wouldn’t be extremely discriminatory laws being considered which would see LGBT people stripped of rights, even fired, denied basic health care, or denied service in a shop or restaurant.  If we were, then we wouldn’t have news stories about transgender people being attacked, put in prison for defending themselves, or even killed, just because they happen to be transgender.

That future is a lofty goal, and one that we do need to strive for.  And it’s one that MLK dreamed of, where people would be judged based on their character, not by the colour of their skin.  I don’t want to equate the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s to what’s going on now, but that thought can be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identification.  That future would be really great to see.  But we’re not there yet.  And until we are, it’s important to have fictional characters identified as a different race other than white, or a different sexual orientation other than straight, or a different gender identification other than cis.

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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Life, randomness

 

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One awesome thing


Cellphone photos, displaying how shaky my hands are.

Cellphone photos, displaying how shaky my hands are.

One of the great things about working where I work is that each week we buckle down and produce a newspaper.  We spend an entire week gathering news, making advertisements, taking photographs, scanning photos, taking emails and putting it altogether.  The incredible thing is, we get a lot of help from the community.  That doesn’t happen 100% of the time, but we do get a lot of help from people in the area, such as our local community correspondents in places like Glenside, Conquest, Macrorie, Dinsmore, Lucky Lake, Elbow, Strongfield, Hawarden, Loreburn, and Milden.  We even have people from the local care facilities for the elderly, along with the community hall here in Outlook as well as the local schools (Outlook High School, LCBI, Loreburn School) send their news and happenings to us.  This helps bring about an aspect of community to the weekly newspaper.

On top of that, there is the news that’s gathered by our news reporter, who writes not only about news, but also agriculture, sports, and other human interest stories.  In the winter, we’re kind of lucky to get the results from two of the area hockey teams with the Outlook Ice Hawks and the Conquest Merchants.  Our news reporter lives in Conquest and I volunteer for the Ice Hawks public address during home games, so I also take photos (or sometimes give the camera to someone I trust) and keep track of the game and write it up for later.

One thing our news reporter has also done is read and write book reviews about books and authors who are in the area (this has included both of the books I have written).  On top of that, we sell books by local authors at the place where I work, and from time to time, there are a good number of people who stop in and pick up a book or two (today someone came in just before closing and bought three, all new on our shelves).

It’s a rare thing to have authors from an area like this get exposure, and more than likely this is one of the only places that they do get exposure.  One of the more prolific writers we have is Larry Warwaruk, who has written a good number of books, the latest being a young adult novel called Brovko’s Journey.  There’s even a very prolific NaNoWriMo author in the Beechy area who has many of her books in our shelves.  That being T. L. Wiens (I only wish I could hit the 87,000 words in a month as easy as she does).  There are other authors who have just written their first novel as well.  Some who wrote their novel based on night time stories they’d tell their children about fantastic worlds and a fight of good versus evil.  Others wrote their novel because they like maps at the front of books.  There are other novels that are much more true to life; life as a fighter pilot during the Second World War, or how life dealing with a loved one who is suffering from schizophrenia.

Each story that’s written by these novelists in this area are very different and each story is very different.

But it’s incredible that we’re able to offer so many local authors the opportunity to get their story out there, even if it’s only to a very small population like ours in the Lake Diefenbaker region.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2013 in randomness

 

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Seven editing questions to make work sparkle


penandpaper

While scrolling through tumblr’s dashboard, in the writing tag (this is a thing I do early in the morning with a cup of coffee) I discovered this interesting set of rules when writing.

thepalaceofawesomestories:

Writers rarely like to revise, but revision is a reality of the writing process—and more important than the initial draft. Without revision, you can’t realize the true potential of the story you envisioned, and it will likely never be published. Here are seven self-editing questions to ask as you begin revising your short story or novel:

1. Where does the story really begin? Reread the first two to three pages of your story carefully. Where does the action start? A major fault with many first drafts (mine included!) is too much background material at the beginning, before the conflict is introduced and the characters finally take over the story.

In my case, I can almost bet that my story doesn’t really begin until about halfway down page 3, so out go the first two pages. If the material I have cut is essential for the reader to know, I find ways, through dialogue or my characters’ thoughts, to get the information to the reader later. The late additions are never as long as the original two and a half pages, and the story gains needed speed.

2. Is this adverb necessary? Chances are, if you are using a lot of adverbs, you are telling and not showing. Think about the character that has just won the lottery. Rather than have her yell “joyfully,” why not have her jump up and down screaming so loudly that her cat runs under the bed in terror, and it takes her 20 minutes to get it out? Maybe she runs to her closet and throws all of her old clothes in the garbage while blasting “If I Had a Million Dollars” on her CD player. Both of those pictures show how the character reacts instead of telling, and they are certainly livelier than the word “joyfully.”

3. Is this adjective doing its job? Look for empty adjectives and replace them. Instead of relying on “amazing,” “interesting,” “exciting,” “awful,” “ugly,” “beautiful,” “nice,” “scary” and other similar adjectives, use sensory details that bring to life what you are describing. Find places to get the readers’ senses working; it means you are making the story real for them.

4. Whose problem is it? Your main character has the primary problem at the center of your story, and your main character needs to solve it. Make sure that your protagonist remains the chief actor in the story and doesn’t become solely the reactor to another character’s influence. Sometimes, in longer pieces, characters other than your lead can nab your attention and your imagination; this can be especially true of villains and comic sidekicks. Be careful that these characters don’t become so charming that they threaten to steal the book from your hero or heroine.

5. Are the grammar and spelling perfect? Yes, I mean perfect. Your story will compete with a host of other stories, so don’t blow your chance with poor spelling and grammar. Of course, publishers have editors who will help polish your copy, but you need to show your best work up front.

6. Have I read my story aloud? One of your best proofreading tools is the sound of your own voice. Reading your story aloud is a great way to find awkward or incomplete sentences, clumsy phrasing, and inconsistencies in verb tenses and pronoun agreement. If you hesitate when you are reading, or if you have to reread a sentence or phrase, then you may need to rewrite that part of your story.

7. Have I applied the Stephen King rule? In Stephen King’s On Writing, he shows a before-and-after example of how editing can improve a story. His revision rule is:

2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%

We have a tendency, as writers, to believe that every word we write is precious, and we are reluctant to cut our material—after all, we remember how hard it was to get it down on paper. However, editing is about making our prose lean and exciting, and compelling the reader to turn the page. See what you can do with 10 percent fewer words.

Finally, consider revision a reward. Remember that if you are revising, you have finished a project—how neat is that? Try these seven questions to kick-start your editing and begin your pursuit of a great final product.

I’m most likely going to add a bunch in the second draft, and then subtract even more in the third draft, mostly because after rereading what I’ve done there’s some elements and characters that need a bit of explaining.  So in second draft, I’ll put that in, rearrange the chapters a bit, flesh out some characters a bit more, and fix a few things (such as Felanus has changed to Felanar and the RVAF Tritan has changed to the RVAF Osprey).  Once third draft hits, I’ll be subtracting a lot of stuff, useless words, long convoluted sentences, cleaning up grammar.  I already think it was a better idea to just write “Senia speaks with a lisp” instead of displaying that lisp every time she talks.

I want the work of Rocket Fox to come about better than Black Mask & Pale Rider (even though I still love that book).  So the amount of work I have ahead of me is a lot, but it’s something that has to be done.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2013 in Fun, randomness, Writing

 

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Modo: Ember’s End


20130315154204-IGG_page_book

I don’t often promote other works here, but in this case there’s a major exception.

(okay, I actually do promote other works here, carrying on…)

Modo: Ember’s End is a proposed graphic novel by Saskatoon author Arthur Slade and illustrated by Christopher Steininger.  Based on Slade’s best selling novel series, The Hunchback Assignments, there’s 13 days left in Slade’s crowdfunding at Indigogo, and over $6,000 of the required $15,000 has been raised.

I could talk more about it, but why not let Arthur Slade do that.

Modo: Ember’s End (Graphic Novel) from Arthur Slade on Vimeo.

Here’s a trailer to get you even more pumped about this project, and go support Slade and Steininger and bring this project to reality.

Wanna help them out?  Click here and help support their Indigogo project!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Fun, randomness

 

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Above Ground: The Interview



A couple of years ago, I was introduced to the web fiction community and found it was huge.  Books, stories, all of it online, of various genres from dozens of authors.  One of those authors was A.M. Harte.  I had the chance to talk to her (or rather, she talked to me) about one of my works in the podcast Web Fiction World, where we talked about my serial series and fantasy fiction in general.  Since then, she has gone on to publish one of her own serials called Above Ground.

First, a little about A.M. Harte.  She writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate. She lives in London, a city not half as foggy as some seem to think.
Her book is called Above Ground, which is a science fiction/fantasy story about a young woman who ventures out into the world above ground for the first time.  The book blurb will explain it so much better than I can.

The first glimpse of sun may be her last.

When Lilith Gray goes above ground for the first time, she hardly expects to stay there — much less be trapped on the surface with no way home.

Hunted by trackers and threatened by the infected, Lilith is on the run, desperate to return underground. Her only hope for survival lies with a taciturn werewolf with a dark agenda of his own.

Lilith’s old carefree life has been reduced to one choice:

Adapt. Or die trying.

I had a chance to talk with her through email and asked her a few questions about her upcoming book, and what some of the hurdles she encountered as she went through the writing process.

Above Ground is described as dark fiction. Can you reveal a little of the world that you’ve set your narrative in?

Above Ground is set in the future, hundreds of years after a genetic experiment gone wrong. Humans live underground; above ground there are only monsters.

The setting is one of contrasts. You have fantasy critters like werewolves, vampires, witches, reptilian creatures and more living above ground. Underground, the humans live in a scifi high-tech environment.

Your main character, Lilith Gray, is said to come up above ground for the first time. There must be a bit of curiosity to her and some sort of exploring nature to make her want to do this. What drives Lilith to go above ground?

Imagine growing up your whole life, locked underground, hearing about all the monsters living above ground. Some people would be happy to stay underground, but Lilith is the type of person who needs to see things for herself.

She’s impulsive and a little reckless, but what drives her above ground is mainly curiosity. The fact that her parents work in highly political roles means that she’s grown up hearing more about the world above ground than the average human; this also contributes to her curiosity.

Above Ground is your first full length novel release, and personally, I’ve seen it on web fiction sites for quite a while. This has been a lengthy process, hasn’t it?

Far too lengthy! I first started serialising Above Ground in mid-2009, so it’s been 3+ years in the making. I finished the first draft sometime in 2010, then suffered from burnout and pretty much ignored its existence for a year. In late 2011, I blew the dust of that horrible first draft and began the lengthy process of revising and re-serialising Above Ground. And now here I am, with it FINALLY done!

Are there any changes with the printed edition from what you’ve offered online?

What’s online now is the second draft, serialised from 2011-2012. (The first draft was far too horrible to leave online!) It’s fairly close to the finished product, but there’s been yet another round of edits and revisions to produce the book to fix those niggling plot holes, smooth scenes, tighten the language, and whatnot.

My favourite change in the final rewrite was changing an entire chapter in Emma’s storyline; the new version’s so much cooler. Not to mention that the print version has an added extra: a map!

Were you fully confident that you’d complete this story, or has there been a few hurdles to overcome along the way?

I always knew I would finish it; I just didn’t know how long it would take. Three years is a long time to be working on a project, and (especially during that burnout period after finishing the first draft) I did worry that it would take me even longer to revise the story properly. But with the support of my online readers, I’ve succeeded!

What forces did you encounter that drew you to write in this genre of fiction?

I’ve always been interested in speculative fiction, and since early childhood the two genres I’ve read the most are fantasy and science fiction. I suppose that I’ve unintentionally pulled it all together with Above Ground, because it straddles the science fantasy line.

Now that you’re seeing this in print, what other plans do you have?

To keep writing! I have 9 other story ideas battling for space in my head. A few might be serialised, and a few will go straight to print/ebook. For the moment, though, I’m happy to sit back and unplug from everything while my muse figures out what she wants to do next.

Let me finish off the interview by turning the question around: What do you think I should be working on?

******

To celebrate the release of Above Ground, there is a give away.  Just hit this link and it’ll take you to Rafflecopter where you can sign up to have your very own copy of Above Ground.  Alternatively, if you want to purchase a Kindle version of the book, there are UK and US versions available.

Kindle US – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009YA879S
Kindle UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B009YA879S

Pick up a copy, add on Goodreads and tell as many people about it as you can.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2012 in Fun, Writing

 

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A novel quote


Portrait of William Somerset Maugham

Image via Wikipedia

This popped up when I hit publish for part five of Rocket Fox, and I felt it was very apropos.  No other explanation needed.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~W. Somerset Maugham

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Fun, randomness

 

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Mary Sue, who are you!


This actually was posted originally on my tumblr blog, but I believe it bears repeating here.  The discussion involves what exactly is a Mary Sue.  There seems to be a huge double standard with regard to how they are perceived.

Male power fantasies, in essence, a strapping young lad, with chiseled good looks, unfailing wit and charm, and can do no wrong, seems to be considered the norm.  Take those same qualities, however, and apply them to a female power fantasy (yes, they exist, women have power fantasies as well) and suddenly it becomes a Mary Sue.  A trope.  Even if one takes all the positives seen in someone who is feminine, translate those into how that person gains their incredible power, and it’s still seen as a trope or a Mary Sue.  Take all the male aspects and use the positives to describe how he gains his abilities?  Well, that’s just good writing.

Here’s a prime example that I shall pluck from the discussion.  This was originally posted by adventuresofcomicbookgirl on tumblr, but I liked this one description she gave of a female character that many would call out as a Mary Sue.

So, there’s this girl. She’s tragically orphaned and richer than anyone on the planet. Every guy she meets falls in love with her, but in between torrid romances she rejects them all because she dedicated to what is Pure and Good. She has genius level intellect, Olympic-athelete level athletic ability and incredible good looks. She is consumed by terrible angst, but this only makes guys want her more. She has no superhuman abilities, yet she is more competent than her superhuman friends and defeats superhumans with ease. She has unshakably loyal friends and allies, despite the fact she treats them pretty badly.  They fear and respect her, and defer to her orders. Everyone is obsessed with her, even her enemies are attracted to her. She can plan ahead for anything and she’s generally right with any conclusion she makes. People who defy her are inevitably wrong.

The reactions would be, invariably, that the character is such a Mary Sue.  However, if you look closely at the above description, adventuresofcomicbookgirl just finished describing the back story for Batman.  For men, this is normal, to have these reaffirming power fantasies set before them, but for women, it’s not normal, and in many cases there are those who say such power fantasies are dangerous.  Unhealthy.  But why not, why can’t women have their own power fantasies, giving proper role models to young women and girls everywhere.  They have just as much right to have such stories as the other half of the human population on the planet Earth do.

To read the entire conversation, just open up adventuresofcomicbookgirl‘s thread and start reading.  Below is my own take on it, as added to the thread of discussion.

I actually got an email over a year ago, regarding the serial series I posted called Black Mask & Pale Rider.  One of my characters, Pania, got called a Mary Sue.  Which, at first I found hilarious, considering the fact that I’m a guy.  And from what I am familiar with of the concept of Mary Sue is that such a character is similar to a self insertion.  If I were to do that, then I’d be crafting a male character.  But anyway, more to the point…

Pania Alow is quite feminine.  She’s a singer and a dancer, and the latter she uses to help with her sword play.  She comes from a family that is incredibly interested in discovering the history of a culture through their stories.  Not to recreate them or write their own songs about them, but to simply learn about them.  Pania herself tries very hard to view each person as a unique individual, though there are times she will formulate an opinion on face value.  She’s a very attractive woman, curvy and sensuous, with a playful smile and a knowing look in her eyes.  She likes fine fashion in her clothing, but attempts to mix it with practicality.  She’s also a lesbian, and rather vocal about it, so much so that her partner in crime, Shani Wennemein, has to remind her of the stigma that people in 1863 Earth view on “oddities” they may find.  Pania is a helpful person, sacrificing her own needs for the needs of others, more often than not.

There’s a great deal more to Pania than just that.  But even with all of that, Pania ended up being called a Mary Sue.  As if using that for an insult.  Now that I’ve read this, though, the only response I can now come up with is sure.  If Pania is viewed as a Mary Sue, what I would consider to be a positive role model for a young woman, then by all means.  Pania is intelligent, understanding, helpful, attractive, not afraid of her sexuality, and eager to learn all she can.  At the same time, she can be judgmental, quick to anger, sometimes headstrong, forcefully opinionated, and a bit of a tease.  She has as many faults as she has positive abilities.

If those are qualities of a Mary Sue, then I guess they just happen to be.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in randomness, Rants, Writing

 

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