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Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

You want insults? We got insults! Step right up and see our collection of barbs, jibes, cuts, put-downs, take-downs, and kick-em-when-they’re-downs! All genre-specific and guaranteed to make the geek in your life wish he’d never heard of J.J. Abrams! (Which is all of us, frankly.)

Try these on for size…

You couldn’t shoot a basket if you were guarded by a jawa.

You couldn’t sell a comb to an Ewok (or, if you’re really feeling vicious): You couldn’t sell in Infinity Stone to Thanos.

You’re so dumb, you thought the Captain’s Woman was his cleaning lady.

You’re so geeky that every May you go out and buy a Mothra’s Day card.

You probably watch the beginning of every Superman movie so you came see where he came from.

You’re so gullible, I’ve got a bridge on the Enterprise to sell you.

You’re so clueless you actually believe Sheldon is the smartest guy in the room (even though everyone knows it’s Penny).

You can’t be a Sith Lord because you’re too scared of the dark.

And then, when your target is all softened up and reeling, hit ’em with your Sunday Punch:

I hear you actually liked the last Fantastic Four movie.

Remember, use these sparingly. They can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

 

 

 

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One of the best pieces of advice for a new (or any) author is: “Write what you love. Write the kind of story you would want to read.” The theory behind this is, if you’re going to pour the effort into a work, you might as well enjoy the process. What they don’t say is, you might as well enjoy the process, because the satisfaction of the work itself may well be the only reward you receive.

Let’s face it: No matter how good you are, and no matter how much you love your story, there are only so many outlets, and they are inundated with stories that somebody loves.* Added to the hurdles facing you is the fact that the stories you love may not be in vogue at the moment.

And therein lies the rub: What do you do when the stories you want to write are not the stories that are being published? Granted, there’s a good chance that the kind of stories you like are being published somewhere (and there’s always self-publishing), but let’s assume you actually want to make money and have people read your work–what do you do?

Beats me. I wish I had an easy answer, but there isn’t one. Your choices may be selling to lesser markets, waiting for your kind of story to return to the forefront, or writing things that you believe are more commercial. (Beware–writing to commercial tastes is a very chancy business. By the time you submit your story, the popular current may have changed and you’ve done all that work for nothing.)

In the end, I’d opt for writing the best story I can, even if it’s not what I’d truly love to write. After all, just because it isn’t in your preferred milieu, that doesn’t mean you can’t write a great story. One of the biggest problems with beginning genre story writers is that they concentrate on “genre” instead of “story.” While it’s true that the SF in an SF story has to be integral to the plot (although that rule can be broken later on in your career), the SF should aid the plot, not the other way around. For example, Star Trek is not popular because it’s cutting edge SF (or ever was, with a few notable exceptions), but because people love Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al. It could have been a Western, or a cop show, so long as it had those relationships.

So write a strong enough story and people will read it. If it’s really strong, people will read it no matter the genre or setting. And at that point, as they say, you will be able to write your genre and read it, too.

*Pro tip: Watch for new markets and get something in quickly before the editor becomes jaded. It doesn’t always work, but it has for me.

#SFWApro

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I’ve mentioned more than once that characters have a way of telling the author what they want to do in a story. I can’t count the number of times that characters have intervened in scenes they weren’t supposed to be in, or decided that they want to take up romantically with another character without telling me first. But those things are not so tough to deal with; they can be handled. In the extreme, the author can veto the whole idea. What’s more difficult (and difficult to understand) is when a character thinks he’d better serve the story by being dead.

For such willful souls, characters can be very selfless. In a recent book, I had a character walk into a room and unexpectedly find another character’s lifeless body. And when I say “unexpectedly,” I mean that neither he nor I saw this coming. It was like the one characters said, “Ooh, what if you walked in and found me dead. Wouldn’t that be cool?” Well, yeah, except that all he has to do is play dead; I’m the one who has to explain how he got that way, and more importantly, why.

In this instance (not to give anything away), I had set the character up to be aligned in the reader’s mind with the bad guys–so why was he dead? Why would his supposed allies do him in? This raises possibilities: Maybe he wasn’t who you thought he was. Was he merely an innocent bystander? Was he actually playing for the good guys? I mean, thank you for the chance to mess with the readers’ perceptions and expectations, but come on, I wasn’t planning to do all that extra work! And I thought you were going to be around for the climax!

Oh, well, he’s dead (Jim). Deal with it and move on. But I wish he had warned me. I was going to put him in a sequel. Yeah…you didn’t see that coming, did you? You could’ve been a star… Well, let that be a lesson to the rest of you. Writers write, characters act.

And preferably, not on their own.

#SFWApro

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If you know anything about me by now, it’s that I’m all about the work. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Respect the reader. You aren’t Amazon or Facebook or a cable company (unless you are), with a near-monopoly and the assurance that people will use your product regardless, because they have little choice. You are one creator among thousands, and a button-push away from oblivion (at least as far as any individual consumer is concerned).

Which is why is makes me so angry that concern with craft is going the way of the dinosaur. I’m not talking about self-publishing; that’s an easy target. True, the attention to details varies wildly, but it’s the Wild West, and anyone venturing therein knows that he’s taking his chances. I’m talking about people who not only know better, they have lines of defense against such things: editors and proofreaders and continuity-checkers.

More and more, the big players are getting away with throwing whatever garbage they want on the page or screen and calling it “art,” whether it’s re-making a classic movie with new characters (The Force Awakens), or re-booting an old series with a “new timeline” and forgetting everything that made the old series worth re-booting (Star Trek), or just the awful writing in a best-selling series of thrillers (where do I start?). And the reason they get away with it is because people will buy into a big, splashy franchise simply because it is big and splashy.

Now, such franchises aren’t invulnerable–unlike some of their stars. The DCU has suffered badly (by its standards) for its treatment of Batman, Superman, and the Justice League. (This year, it is appropriately ironic that Wonder Woman saved the day for the boys.) And maybe enough losses at the box office will effect change, although it will be slow, if it comes.

I’m not asking that every book, TV show, and movie be a classic, or even good for that matter. All I’m asking is that if you want my money, you respect me for more than my wallet. I have a brain. I appreciate entertainment created by someone who cared enough to do it right (e.g., the scrolling prologue of Star Wars).

And if it’s big and splashy as well as smart, I’ll gladly be your fan.

#SFWApro

 

 

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I have been given my tentative panel assignments for Loscon, at the LAX Marriott November 24-26, and as I know that my appearances have long (well, since last year) been a highlight of the early holiday season, I wanted to list them here. They are, of course, subject to change, but if they do, I’ll let you know. (We don’t want a repeat of last year’s near-riot at the Star Trek panel when I didn’t show up!)*

I self-published my first book, and I didn’t die! (11/24, 5:30pm) I believe this panel was specifically named to exclude posthumous-American indie authors from attending. I will be taking this up with the committee on behalf of all of my writer colleagues who feel like zombies (which is pretty much all of them).

Blending mystery and speculative fiction. (11/25, 5:30pm) As far as I’m concerned, everything was speculative when I was trying to become a published author. It’s how I did that which remains a mystery.

Writing & Intuition: What happens next? (11/26, 2:30pm) As faithful readers of my blog know, it’s really the characters who write the story and the author simply takes the credit. So I’m going to allow one of my characters to sit on this panel for me–as soon as I can find one who lives in this century…

Given my schedule, I should be around for most of the con. Look me up and ask me to autograph your e-book. I’ll sign a piece of paper and you can tape it to your Kindle.

 

*Oh, wait, there was nearly a riot at the panel because I did show up. If I’d realized Star Trek was that popular, I wouldn’t have said those things…

#SFWApro

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I recently, in the course of another discussion, asked parenthetically how authors can estimate their final word counts tens of thousands of words ahead (or even when they’re starting a story)? I guess the easy answer is that if you know roughly how much more plot you’ve got to shovel in, and you’ve done this long enough, you can figure out vaguely how many more words you’re going to need. And hey, it’s not like anybody’s keeping score. Like every other aspect of the writing process, it’s just you.

But that led me to a bigger question: How do you write a novel?

I don’t mean physically, and I don’t even mean by plotting v. pantsing. I mean–how are some people able to create stories that are tens (let alone hundreds) of thousands of words long? And even more to the point, how am I able to do that?

Let’s face it, big numbers usually means math, and I suck at math. I started having trouble when they introduced long division, and it hasn’t gotten any easier since. Any equation with more than one variable is a struggle, and taking calculus in college is, to this day, one of my greatest regrets. (And this is with a roommate studying engineering, and friends who majored in chemistry, astronomy, and physics.)

I understand that mathematics is a language, one that I don’t speak. At all. And yet. If you were to ask my science buddies (up to and including Ph.D.s) to write a 4000-word short story, their brains would fizzle like an android in a logic contest with Captain Kirk. I went to school with people who discovered planets, but write a short story? That ain’t happening.*

And yet I, who couldn’t master the first class needed to discover planets, can make them up wholesale. I can create worlds out of nothing. I created an entire future of the Earth from my own head. Nothing I create existed before I wrote it down, and I am almost 50,000 words into my latest creation. Think about that. Fifty thousand words.

And yet, I have no idea how it’s done. People ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” Like that’s the hard part. Ideas? I’ve got lots of ideas. Except how to stretch most of them into a story. Because I have no idea how that’s done. I do it; I’ve done it almost all my life, but I haven’t a clue how. And still, here I am, chugging away at 1500 words a day. Which is really mystifying, because a year ago I would have been satisfied with 500 words a day, 1000 on a real hot streak.

In the end, of course, some people are good at one thing, others another. This seems to be what I’m good at. But I grew up wanting to be a scientist, and that inner scientist isn’t going to rest until he figures out this problem.

Maybe if I keep at it, someday I’ll write a story that explains it all. Kind of like the programmers in “The Nine Billion Names of God.” I just hope it doesn’t end up destroying the universe.

 

*Yes, I know there are scientists who are also writers. I’m acquainted some of them. They require no explanation; they’re simply geniuses.

#SFWApro

 

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It occurs to me that except for blaming the lost weekend for my lapse in productivity (yeah, like that’s the only reason), I have said very little about Comic-con. This seems odd, since the very scope of Comic-con would presumptively lend itself to having a great deal to say. This is true, and yet not.

Let me emphasize here that I like the idea of Comic-con. I grew up with comics. I own a lot of them (and the ones I’ve lost that would be worth a fortune today?–don’t ask). I love that they’ve finally hit the mainstream.

But.

My personal experience inside Comic-con was largely limited to one room (Hall 20), which in and of itself does speak volumes about the event. We were only there one day, and we were there to see a particular panel (Outlander), which did not premiere until late. Under the rules by which Comic-con operates, however, this meant we had to sit in the room all day. And that is where the concept of blame, of which Comic-con bears much, comes in.

You see, Comic-con’s large halls (H and 20) feature panel discussions all day. Hall H is where the infamous “movie reveal” panels happen, where you can see the entire cast of “The Avengers,” for example, on stage. Hall H holds 6000 people. It caters to movies and some very popular TV shows (like The Big Bang Theory). Hall 20 is the smaller venue for TV shows of somewhat lesser, but still significant, popularity. It holds, if memory serves, 4800 people.

The problem with these rooms (and thereby hangs the blame), is that they are not cleared after each panel. Once you get in, you stay. You can try to maneuver your way to a seat closer to the stage once people vacate on their own after seeing the panel that they came to see, but given the high standard of events in Hall H, I doubt that happens much. (It did in Hall 20.) This is why people camp out all night to get into Hall H. (Kind of a waste of a hotel reservation, wasn’t it?) In our case, it meant sitting through several hour-long panels we cared nothing about.

Now I understand that clearing a 6000-seat (or even 4800-seat) auditorium and re-filling it every hour would be a mammoth task. Notwithstanding, this policy is garbage. If you don’t want to empty the hall six times a day, do it once. People can come in for the morning sessions, or the afternoon sessions. Force them to choose what they want to see, and give twice as many people the chance to see something. At least allow people to pre-register for Hall H the way they pre-register for the convention so that they don’t have to camp out all night.

Comic-con is big. Really big. It shows no signs of slowing (to my knowledge), but a lot of events now happen outside the convention center. I saw Star TrekBladerunner, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones events, among others. This trend will grow. Exhibitors are already complaining that the traffic in the dealers’ room is declining. Part of that is the outside events, and part is because anybody who wants to see a panel in the latter part of the day cannot do anything else that day. You want to see a 4:00 panel in H or 20? You’re stuck from 9 to 5. (And for Hall H, that’s 9 PM.)

Like any monster, Comic-con moves slowly. And like the dinosaurs, even if it lasts millions of years, it carries the seeds of its own destruction. “Really big” is only a short step from “too big.”

And who would be to blame for that?

#SFWApro

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