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Archive for the ‘humor’ Category

I’m editing The Scent of Death, and it’s going… pretty well. As in, I’m not having to erase large tracts of pages and replace them. There are the usual awkward phrasings, the repetitious words, and some inconsistencies that I am correcting (all of them, I hope). But in the main, it’s going okay.

But it’s not going quickly. It feels as though editing is taking longer than the writing did. This is ridiculous, of course; last night I edited sixty pages. (If I could write sixty pages in one night, I’d be producing a novel a week.) But it feels that way.

The problem is that when you edit, you are rereading a novel you just, in effect, read. And when you write the whole damned thing in two months, you haven’t even had time to forget the beginning, let alone the ending. In my whole life, I have immediately gone back and read a novel a second time exactly once. And I wasn’t reading that one critically.

Which is the other problem, or really, the second half of the problem. You aren’t just reading the book, you’re editing it. You’re deliberately finding all the faults in your own work, and that’s everyone’s favorite pastime, right? How can a project which you tackled so joyfully a few weeks ago be such a pain in the neck now?

It’s kind of like being Victor Frankenstein, and after the first flush of creation, you see all the warts and flaws. You’d like to just start again and fix some of those things in the next version, but you’re still stuck with what you’ve just done. A book, like a seven-foot-tall golem, wants to go places. It wants to be seen by people. It doesn’t like being chained in a dungeon. So you have to let it out, but you can’t let it out like it looks now. People would be frightened. They’d call it a monster–and then they’d call you one, too. Worse yet, they’d call you a bad writer. Pitchforks and torches are one thing, but bad reviews…

So you edit your little monster, and you teach it some manners, and  you let it out, hoping that it won’t do too much damage and that eventually, when the next creation is ready, it will help them forget about your earlier, flawed, attempt. But then, if you’re lucky, to your surprise people start to befriend your monster, and to see in it the beauty you had always wanted to show, but thought you’d failed to do. And you realize that, after struggling through all that editing, maybe you didn’t create such a monster after all.

But by then, you’ve got another little creation coming out of the printer, and he’s all covered in warts and flaws, and his ears are where his nose should be, and you wonder if you’re ever going to get this right…

#SFWApro

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Apparently it’s hard to let a good meme go–especially when you’re desperate to come up with a good meme. And so it is with casting yesterday’s stars as today’s heroes. This time, though, I’m giving it a twist: In the spirit of the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman, we’re going to have some fun with the genre…

The Fantastic Four will be portrayed in their latest film epic, “Dr. Doom Soup,” by none other than The Marx Brothers. See Groucho as Mr. Fantastic, stretching logic to amazing lengths. See Chico as the irascible Thing, and Harpo as the fiery Human Torch, using his flame to do the talking. And as Sue Storm, we feature (no, not Margaret Dumont!), platinum bombshell Thelma Todd.

The West/Burt Batman was, as we’ve always known, not the first theatrical Batman. That honor belongs to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Robin!” (Look for the episode featuring Charlie Chaplin as the Penguin.)

Before there was Daredevil on TV (what, there was a movie? Please, I’m trying to forget.), there was another “daredevil,” a real man without fear who did his own stunts, Harold Lloyd. (The guy hanging off the clock tower in downtown LA? That was him.) This version does tend to play to Lloyd’s comedic gifts a bit heavily, as Daredevil often as not comes across as blind and without powers, but it was an important early effort to bring superheroes into the mainstream.

And of course (a tip of the hat to frasersherman), William Powell and Myrna Loy are at the top of their game playing the super-powered version of The Thin Man, the Elongated Man, and his always-in-the-midst-of-it wife, Sue. You’d think these actors were born for these roles, and if you flipped that reasoning, you’d be absolutely right.

It’s not surprising that these characters took so long to return to the screen (if they have) after being played by such iconic actors. And there are those (including myself) who secretly believe that the older versions, black & white, even silent, were better…

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Today is Errol Flynn‘s birthday. If you don’t know who Errol Flynn was, you can just leave right now, because the rest of this post won’t mean a thing to you. Or, better yet, you can email me for a list of movies that will change your life. Your choice.

Regardless, those of you who remain should follow me: We all know how popular comic book movies are today, and we all know that back in the Golden Age of the 1930s, there were no comic books movies because…there were no comic books (until 1938). Whether this contributes to the 1930s being the Golden Age is left to debate. But what if there had been comic books (and comic books movies) in the 1930s? What if Superman and Batman and Spider-Man had existed during the Depression–and what if all of those superstars had played them?

I have some ideas. Some will be, “Well, of course!” and some will be controversial. But the idea of any of these legendary actors playing any of these roles…that’s just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Errol Flynn: Flynn is first up, not only because it’s his birthday, but as someone dear to me has said, “He put the ‘swash’ in swashbuckle.” On the DC side, I know it’s cliched, but I really can’t see Flynn playing anyone better than Green Arrow. On the Marvel side, however, he was born to play Fandral of Thor’s buddies, the Warriors Three.*

Randolph Scott: Superman. Duh.

Maureen O’Sullivan: Wonder Woman. I know the look is wrong, but I don’t care. Or the Black Widow (where she would fit the look much better).

Tyrone Power: Batman. Again, duh. He played Zorro. Bruce Wayne would never be the same. Or Iron Man. Tyrone Power as Tony Stark? Box office platinum.

Basil Rathbone: In the DCU, he could be stuck in the role of Alfred Pennyworth (whom he would make a headliner). But he might never move over from Marvel, where he would play…Doctor Strange.

Johnny Weissmuller: Aquaman/Namor the Sub-mariner. Typecasting, yes, but he was the best swimmer in Hollywood.

I am wracking my brain trying to come up with roles for William Powell and Myrna Loy, but I can’t. And I really want to. Help me.

 

*Unfortunately, Mr. Flynn was never available to play either of these roles, because he was solidly under contract portraying Han Solo.

 

 

 

 

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Those who have followed this blog faithfully (and I appreciate both of you), know that I am a man of sober mien. I run a factual, serious, and intellectual site.

Except when I don’t.

Everyone knows there are two kinds of people in the world: writers and those who think they can’t. But that’s not the only division–I’m sure if you think hard you can come up with other dichotomies, types of people divided down the middle, each equally certain that their way is the only way…okay, you laugh, but really, they exist.

Just to save you the trouble, I’ve come up with a few examples.

  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like math, those who hate math, and those who failed calculus.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who understand comic books, and those who think the Fantastic Four is a Beatles cover band.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think a man stomping around in a rubber suit is some kind of weird fetish, and those who like Godzilla movies.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think George Lucas should have stopped after one movie, and those who think he should have stopped after three.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who think William Shatner is experiencing a career renaissance, and those who are glad that they do not live in an alternate world where he was cast as Batman.
  • There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who argue the minutiae of the ramifications of time travel in Outlander, and the men who married them.

I could go on, but I’m inclined to believe that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who like this kind of stuff…

 

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I heard about a discussion on a board concerning a very popular book series, where the fans passionately argue each and every minute bit of plot, character, and setting. During a recent conversation, someone asked why everyone was arguing this or that point, anyway? “After all, it’s only fiction. It doesn’t have to make sense.”

Right there I knew the poster wasn’t a writer.

One of the very first things they tell you in Secret Writer School (also known as “the real Hogwarts”), is that your stories have to make sense.* This doesn’t mean they have to agree with reality, that’s an entirely different question. If you write SF/F, in fact, your stories are required not to agree with reality.**

The dichotomy comes from the need for internal consistency. You can write about elves, dragons, and werewolves fighting off invaders from Mars, but you have to set up rules about how each of these characters works, and you can’t deviate from them.*** If your elves are trapped at the bottom of a volcano’s caldera, even if the only way out is to fly, you can’t suddenly say, “So I unfolded the wings the author hasn’t mentioned in 200 pages and rode the updrafts to safety.” (This is precisely one of the reasons I didn’t like E.T. In fact, E.T. is a perfect example, but I’m not here to do a review.)

If you don’t write consistently, then when you fall off the wagon, the reader will be thrown out of the story. More importantly, you will have lost the reader’s trust, and without trust, the reader will not be led where you want him to go.

And where you want the reader to go, of course, is to the bookstore to buy your next book–which is a consistent desire, no matter what kind of writer you are.

*One of the great things about the Secret Writer School is that, it being “the real Hogwarts,” genre fiction enjoys its proper place.

**This is also a requirement if you plan to work in the White House.

***I see you there, reaching for your pen. Hands off! Come up with your own ridiculous ideas.

#SFWApro

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I’ve heard that actors like to play villains, because it really lets them get into a part and play it to the hilt. Besides, an enjoyable villain is rarer than an enjoyable hero. But there are some villains you enjoy not because they are so bad, but because they are so annoying you just want to slap them. So I’m running a poll: Who do you most want to slap? Or is there someone else in genre films/TV you think deserves it more?

  • Walter Peck (William Atherton), Ghostbusters (1986). You remember, the mayor’s flunky who wants our heroes locked up?
  • Professor Jerry Hathaway (William Atherton), Real Genius (1985). No, this is not going to be a William Atherton marathon. He just plays these jerks so well. (We could include Die Hard, but I’m trying to limit it to genre films.)
  • Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), The Force Awakens (2015). Seriously, even if you don’t hate the movie, you have to agree that somebody should spank this kid!
  • Syndrome (Jason Lee), The Incredibles (2004). I know he’s supposed to be annoying, but he’s Kylo Ren with money, so he qualifies. And it’s so satisfying to see him get what he deserves.
  • Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), Lost in Space (1965-1968). There were many reasons this show fell far short of what it could have been (and was at the beginning), but in my mind Dr. Smith was no. 1.

So please give me your responses in the comments section. Does anyone on this list really make you want to say, “Oh, grow up, already!”?

 

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Generally speaking, the best way to immunize yourself to a disease is to have the disease.  The exceptions to this rule are legion, of course, so we won’t go into that, we’ll just stick to the principle. And apply it to writing, of course.

The disease involved with writing (other than writing itself, which is a mental disease), is called Rejectionitis. It is characterized by a widespread lowering of self-esteem brought on by an editor sending back a story. The more you loved this story, the more you thought it was perfect for the market, and the level of desire you have to break into this market all affect the severity of the symptoms. In a slap in the face of our guiding principle (see above), there is no immunizing yourself to Rejectionitis by actually getting the disease.

You can, however, immunize yourself somewhat by exposing yourself to carriers (i.e., submissions). In the best case scenario, you start out by being laid waste to by the disease, but then you find a magic bullet called Acceptance. (Acceptance has a long latin name which describes its ingredients, but fortunately you never have to suffer through a TV commercial listing its side effects. If Rejectionitis ever becomes a disease suffered by a large number of baby boomers, though, you might.) Acceptance works by propping up your writing immune system to the point where you believe that maybe, just maybe, you have something to offer that people will want to read. If the dose of Acceptance is big enough, and the timing is right, it may carry through your next bout of Rejectionitis. Or it may not. Your results may vary.

There is another, less efficacious treatment, called Submissions. Yes, the same submissions which are carriers of the disease are also a form of defense against it. Since Rejectionitis is a disease of the mind (like writing), you can guard against its worst effects by having a lot going on in your writing career. (“That story came back, but there are eight others out there who have a chance!”) And of course, re-submitting the same story that was just rejected is the best therapy. (“Take that, you illiterate editor of a Nebula-winning magazine!”)

I am currently exercising this latter defense. Lately I have been on a tear, submitting stories like crazy, to where I have only a half-dozen viable candidates sitting on the sidelines, and one of those is just awaiting a submission window to open. I re-submitted a story yesterday that has been rejected three times–in the past week. (There are some fast editors out there.) But I believe in this little piece; it just needs to find the right spot to land. You’ll be hearing about it soon enough.

Of course, none of this will completely or permanently cure Rejectionitis. Even the biggest authors sometimes suffer from it (so they say, but I’ve not seen their medical records). It’s a lifelong struggle. But writing itself is a lifelong struggle. That struggle usually manifests in a syndrome called “Writer’s Block.”

I’d like to go on about Writer’s Block, but I honestly can’t think of a thing to say…

#SFWApro

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