Bury My Outrage at Geek Creed Knee

I do consider myself a geek.  I started reading science fiction at age 8 (first two novels: Earthlight and A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke); I spent afternoons glued to the TV to watch every monster movie, good or bad, made during the 1950’s (the bad won out by a long margin); in one of the only times in my then-short life I pestered the shit out of my parent until they gave in an hauled the whole family off to see 2001: A Space Odyssey in a wonderful theater with seats that actually rocked, and then, in what can only be called a classic move of almost 11 year old dickishness (just short of my birthday, yo), spent the entire ride home explaining to them what they’d just seen because, as I broadly hinted, they. just. didn’t. get. it!

So, yeah.  I’ve got the card and the secret handshake down pat.  I didn’t date a lot (more due to mental issues than anything else–but then, that just adds to my geekness, right?) and did not lose my virginity as a teenager.  I got my degree in computers, and the first computer language I learned was not BASIC but rather Assembler Language for the IBM 360–written on punch cards!

And even after I married I was still all about science fiction and role playing games and anime, and as a father I passed a little of that on to my stepson and his wife, and I hope I’m passing the geek torch to my daughter as well–and seeing as how she is a big Doctor Who fan and into anime and manga, I have to say I’ve succeeded.

That said, I don’t get outrage.  I should say “I don’t get a lot,” but when it comes right down to it, I’m pretty passive when it comes to being a fan boy.

There can be many reasons why I don’t get outraged.  Part of it is a lot of the outrage happens in geek fields that, frankly, I give less of a shit for than a honey badger gives about ripping off your face.  Like today:  George Lucas is making another change to his trundled up tart of a film series, and it’s got all the fan boys in an uproar, giving them ample opportunity to take to the Internets and talk about how, once more, Citizen George is raping their childhood.

Let me explain why he does this: because he can.

He knows that (1) you will bitch about the change, then (2) you’ll still buy the damn movie, after which (3) you’ll watch them and (4) continue to bitch until the next opportunity comes along to eat his shit.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

For me there is no caring, because I’m not into Star Wars.  Yes, I’ve seen them all; yes, I’m bored by them.  There’s real science fiction out there; move on.

But even stuff I do like, I find I get underwhelmed by a lot of the outrage out there.  About the only times I ever got incensed was when Starship Troopers came out–I was a big fan of the novel and when I heard there wouldn’t be powered armor, OMG!  It’s the end of the world!–and when it was reported that Ted Turner was going to remake Forbidden Planet–which is sort of like saying you’re going to repaint the Mona Lisa.

In the end, however, Forbidden Planet didn’t get remade–not then, but maybe now, maybe not–and Starship Troopers is one of my best liked guilty pleasures.  There just wasn’t any reason to get upset in the end, because there are too many other things going on that affect me more.

And why get pissed about things that are out of your control?  Want more Buffy?  Not gonna happen.  Firefly is stuck in rights hell and is gone except in comics; move on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me: I gotta get into my role playing character’s head and wonder how I’m going to play out the next biggest thing in his life.  Hint: it has to do with girls, but probably not the way you think . . ..

Front Row at the Grand Guignol

It’s character building time again, boys and girls–and by character building I mean a character I’m working on.  Well, it’s always a work in progress–my role playing character I’ve discussed before–and I’m always digging deep into something to make him more real.

So here’s the deal: of late I’ve seen him really doing well in what it is he does–but he’s doing too well.  Dice have been very good to me and it seems like the kid is top of the class without even trying.  With me so far?

Because he ended up in a special school for special people he was pretty much your disaffected tweener geek with few friends, uncaring parents and a massive inferiority complex that often manifested at times into over the top behavior that allowed him the chance to act out and pretty much tell his critics (aka, everyone else), “Yo, suck it!”

But now: he’s doing very well; teachers seem to not only like him, but some feel he shows great potential; he’s in an advanced class where he’s shown he’s got the right stuff; and he’s even had the chance to play the hero for a bit.

Yeah, you can see it coming, can’t you?  A hard rain gonna come, you betcha.

Now, getting into this kid’s head is pretty easy.  After all, when you take his character description and apply it to yours truly–hell, people, you can see I’m drawing on experience.  A lifetime of it, as a matter of fact.

The thing is I know pretty much know what’s driving the character.  I knew it months ago when I wrote up a dream sequence near the end of May, and now it’s 3 months later and everything is coming up roses, so to speak.  If I didn’t know any better I’d say when I wrote up the dream in May I knew I’d be here, right now.

Having to get into his crash and what comes after, though . . . it’s painful.  Really painful.  If and when this thing happens to my character–I’d rather it didn’t, but it makes sense for it to occur–I’m not envisioning this as being a simple case of him having a huge hissy pout and turning pissy and moody for a few days after which his girlfriend pull him out of his slump:  No, I see it as being along the lines of him flipping out and completely losing his shit, after which he goes into a full-on crying jag meltdown.  Because he has a lot of pent up baggage and it needs getting it dealt with, and a lot of times said dealings are messy.

Again, I have a lot of life experience to draw on.  And every time I start to draw on that well, I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach.  One that says, “You wanna keep that door shut, dude,” ’cause I know if I start looking in there, down in whatever scum pit of misery I keep those memories, I’m gonna pull out shit I don’t want to remember . . ..

Like the sort of stuff that I kept with me for decades.  The stuff that used to jump around in my brain and drive me even crazier than I was already; the stuff that turned me to self medication–aka, drinking a few cases of beer over a weekend–in a huge way; stuff that made me keep the numbers of suicide prevention hot lines handy–just in case, mind you.

There’s a reason I don’t keep guns or large knives or razors or a lot of pills of the sleeping variety in any of my homes, and it’s not because I’m worried my kids would ever get into them . . ..

In the introduction to “All the Birds Come Home to Roost” Harlan Ellison talked about how difficult it was for him to revisit his memories concerning his first wife in order to define a moment in a character’s life with a similar women.  If you know Harlan’s then you know about his first wife, and the introduction leaves it pretty clear that delving back into that nightmare was something he’d rather not perform.  But he did, because the paragraphs that came from the introspection helped make the story perfect.

I’m not writing a great story here–or am I?  Am I really creating something incredible with this role playing character?  It’s very possible, though I can’t say it’s a story in the traditional sense.  It has the feel of a great story, however, and it’s something I keep at and, over long spans of time, discussion with my collaborator.

But is it really worth it to get into the dark corners of my head, of my mind, of what probably passes for a soul and think about all the times I was friendless?  About all the times it seemed like nothing I did when I was 11 was any damn good and even then it seemed like there wasn’t any point to what passed as life?   About all the times when I struggled to make friends, to speak to girl, to just accept the fact that I always felt useless?

Sort of like I’m doing now?

Damn, man, there’s now easy way out.  I don’t want to fall back on the old adage that writer’s suffer for their work, because I was suffering for a long time before I ever started writing–and though the suffering is less and the writing a little more, it doesn’t mean I’m not affected by anything of mine that is put out there for all to point at and go, “Really?”

Ah, why do I make myself suffer for a character?

Because it’s the only way to make it real.  Isn’t that obvious?

Sim Hell

Today was not a good day for writing–well, it was and it wasn’t.  For the most part I’ve doing a lot of editing on my last story, and I’ve cranked through a little over half the scenes and maybe 45% of the story.   (I have one scene coming up that’s 8300 words, and that’s 30% of the story, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.)  The edits are actually fun, because after burning through my story in 22 days I’m surprised to revisit and see where stuff needed to be cut, where stuff needed to be explained . . . for the most part, however, the first draft rocked.

So what did I do today?  Game and worry.

I wrote scenes for a game that I’ve been doing off and on and the scenes took up a lot of time.  Most than I thought they would.  It’s strange how trying to encapsulate some minute event in 100 words or so takes up so much of your time.  And I did a lot of those scenes; maybe 40.  So that’s 3000, 4000 words, and before you know it you’ve got a real story on your hands.  If only I did that for money–

Which brings up the worry: money.  Namely lack there of.  No joke that money is getting very, very tight, and after the end of next month operations cash is a true worry.  Need to make some calls in the next couple of days to see if I can fix that, but . . . I need to find something that’s going to bring in cash.

My mood was not helped by something I read on The Corner, which is pretty Mordor for the Conservative Batshit Insane.  Gee, I was surprised to discover that, according to the writer (who I refuse to name on the grounds dicks don’t deserve press), if I would only stay married, get a degree, work hard, and maybe go to church once in a while I’ll never be poor!

Hummm . . . let me see.  I’ve got a degree in computers and worked in the field for 25 years.  Sure, I’m on a second marriage, but my first one lasted 13 years and my current one is 13 and counting, and my daughter is a straight A student in middle school.  I don’t do church, but I do know the difference between right and wrong–and between the truth and mendacious bullshit.

In short, the “author” (and by that I mean someone who long ago discovered that “gai” is a legitimate adjective) can kiss my shiny white ass.  Try being 50+ in an age where companies view their employees as a necessary evil and are praying for the day when Chinese-style slave labor (only with less suicides because, lets face it, we do have fewer people) becomes the norm.   Anymore I’m all for lining CEOs up along Wall Street and putting them out of our misery.

Am I being mean?  No.  If I was really mean I’d swear a lot more.

And if anything, I’m all about keeping it SFW.

Next Stop, Everywhere

In your imagination you can go anywhere–as long as you have an imagination, that is.  If you are hide-bound into your mindset of living within a narrow boundary you’ve created for yourself, then you have no imagination, and you are never going to soar.  That’s a fact.

You have to be willing to take a chance.  You have to be willing to push into places where you are not comfortable.  You have to avoid the easy way of everything and look at things in ways that might just turn your mind sideways.

I did that with my last story.  I set it in a strange land, dealing with legends that don’t make sense to Westerners, and the main characters are a male Hindu healer and a female Muslim scientist, and damned if there isn’t a lot of blood and gore but nary a kiss in the whole freakin’ story.

Yeah, but man, is it good.

I like to get into my character’s minds, and I do so by talking to them.  No, really.  I’ll carry on conversations as my characters with other people, or as other people with my characters, or as other people talking to other people about my characters.  Yes, it makes you strange, but it also lets you work things out because it doesn’t become a mind game; it’s all about how you see that person, and how others see that person, how the actions of both fall together and interact to bring about events.

I did that today while I was walking through a mall, and later when I was shopping for groceries.  I not only talk about them or of them or as them, but I do so with emotion.  I do so with intelligence.  I keep it, so to speak, real.  I’ve done this with stories, I’ve done this with games, and I’ll keep doing it because it’s something I like to do.

Every so often I get scenes in my head that I feel out trying to pick up the mood of what’s happening and then see how my characters fit into that scene.  How did they get there; what are they doing; where are they going.  I’ve got one that’s been with me for a few days–almost a week, really.  Or maybe longer.  I can’t say, but I can see . . ..

It’s a couple, man and woman, lying in bed.  It’s one of those days where you’re on the cusp between spring and summer, where the mornings are cool but as the sun rises the heat comes up quickly.  They are both naked; he is behind her, spooning her.  Their legs are covered from the hips down with the comforter.  She’s hugely pregnant–8 months along with triplets.  (Hey, the best things happen in threes.)  He’s got one arm over her and is lightly running his fingers over her tummy, not saying a word, just touching her tummy and somehow making out the forms within.  She smiles, uncomfortable but content.  She sinks back into him and he slowly runs the palm of his hand from the bottom over her gravid form to the top–

I know why I like that scene: because it really affects me personally.  I can so see my character there, because they want to be there.  There is no where else, right then, they want to be.

And I am there because I put them there.  I went to that place and said, “Yes, this needs to happen to these people.  Because . . . it is their life.”

Make is so.

When the imagination is open for business you have so much before you.  All you have to do is stick out your thumb and say, “Ride?”.

Next Stop, Everywhere.

 

And, yes, I picked tonight’s title because Doctor Who was on tonight and it rocked.  And I like the idea that I can go anywhere.

Pine Grove Whispers

Last night I threw some thoughts together that, I admit, made only a little sense.  Might have been that I’d had a hard day and my reflections were colored by a very poorly given interview  or it might have occurred because my eyes were heavy and my mind muddled.

(And for the business dweeb who gave yesterday’s interview: software isn’t some mysterious Ark of the Covenant that’s going to melt your face when you open it–it’s a tool that is easily mastered by someone with 25 years experience.  And it doesn’t matter if it’s coming from XML or a PDF: input is input.  Leave the programming to the programmers and you continue doing whatever it is you do–which is very much the same things a chimp does.  Okay, I’m ghost–)

I’ve told stories for some time now.  Sometimes it’s on the written page, other times at the gaming table.  But it’s always been about the stories.  (As you can see here.)  I like telling stories because it’s a great intellectual release and it gives you the chance to put yourself front and center and entertain others.  (Or piss them off, but that’s another story–)

Now, telling stories at the gaming table usually meant being the Game Master, and that was and is an interesting gig.  Gamers can be . . . emotional.  Flip outs can occur at any moment, and can often result in furniture being overturned and fists flying.  (The spillage of soft drinks and snack foods is a given.)

One of the things I always found interesting was how attached to a character a player could get.  I’ve seen players cry when their character suffered an in-game death, leading to many a great future gaming story.  I’ve also seen players throw their gaming books in the trash–which was probably a good thing all around, considering the majority of those players were assclowns.

Writers can fall into the same trap.  You start in on creatin’ great characters, but they’re just your imagination.  They ain’t real, it’s just shit you made up.  And that might be true.  I’ve seen enough bad stories and movies filled with people who vanish when they turn sideways, so it’s completely plausible.

Even so, there are stories about writers who get so tied up with their characters that when it comes time to do something very dramatic to them, they have a lot of issues pulling the trigger.  Most people know all about the suffering J. K. Rowling endured when it came time to turn her young adult series into something akin to a snuff film (owl killer!); one of the stories I used to hear concerned why it took so long for manga artist Kikuchi Michitaka (aka Asamiya Kia) to finish Silent Möbius, and the answer seemed to be as he drew closer to the final confrontation, he didn’t want to do “bad things” to his characters (though I believe drawing all the ‘plody things in Dark Angel may have played a part–).

The more I write the more caught up I get in the characters I develop.  I recently finished a story that involved a battle between my two main characters and several supernatural beings.  As the battle progresses the characters get more and more messed up, and one gets maimed before it’s all over.  The maiming isn’t that bad–like there’s a good maiming–but as drew closer to that point where I knew I needed to deal some damage, I discovered it wasn’t easy to bring the pain.  In my mind the story could have turned into a real blood bath, but in the end I decided to take the story in a direction that allowed for one of the characters to see the world in a much different light–minus a few appendages , but what they hey, right?

My gaming character Kerry is having the opposite issue: he’s sharing a very nice love story with the girl of his dreams (literally), and sometime I find the story complicated to develop because I’m trying to bridge a generation gap this side of the Grand Cannon–and he is really, really, really in love with the girl in question; he just can’t express those feeling completely as of yet.

And it’s frustrating for me, as a writer and gamer, to keep that “can’t express yet” mode where I need it, because I know where the story is going.  And to get to “that point” in their relationship is going to take time, and that’s time I really want to blow to right to now.

But to do so cheats the character, if that makes any sense.  Because it’s hard to do massive jumps in a character arc like that and hope when you go back to create the back story Jar Jar Binks doesn’t jump out from behind a corner and go, “Meesa so happy see you!”

‘Cause if that happens I’ll be unhappy.

Not because I’ll have to smoke Jar Jar’s ass–no, that’s easy–but because what it does to my character is screws him hard.  He’ll loose out on growing up.  On all the strange things that happen to people at that age . . . and, oh, yeah, you can’t imagine how screwed up I’m gonna drive him.  And, as well, there’s all the things that will probably break his heart.

It’s all going to hurt . . . not him: me.

But you know what?  I’m used to suffering.  So bring it.

It’ll be fun.

Stepping Through to a Better World

This probably won’t make a lot of sense, but sometimes it makes you feel very strange having to make your characters grow up.  I’m going through this right now, and it strange, wonderful . . . and depressing.

Strange because you remember all the stuff that came before, and you try to see if you can get all that stupid clumsiness down pat.  Wonderful because you are trying to get it all right this time, and if you do your character is going to be a hell of a lot better than you.

And depression because you see all this missteps in your own life.

I know I shouldn’t do that, but it can’t be helped.  When you write you are examining your own existence, and when you do that you see all the good times, the bad times, and every flaw that you felt fostered upon your self.  It’s not pleasant, but it does make you learn more about yourself.

And, in turn, learn how to make your character a much better person than you ever were.

Today started shitty, but it got better later.  And tonight . . . it’s ending good.

That’s me.  My characters . . . oh, man.  They got it made.

They are at least happy.

 

More to come on this, I think.

Wedding Nights in White Satin

Crazy things happen when you collaborate; you start doing and saying things you might consider holding your tongue on otherwise.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . ..

Between the edits of my story I’ve spoken with my Partner in Crime, sweet, sweet Annie of our Witching School, and as often happens we began discussing the progression of our characters.  This is something we do quite often, and it’s a fun activity.  For one, it lets me stretch my gaming imagination, letting it go places I wouldn’t normally let real life wander.  Two, it fits in with character building associated with stories, and that helps for those time when I want to create characters for any idea that pops up.

So what were we discussing yesterday?  Well, romance, and how they are going to handle an advanced class in magic, and–

Oh, yeah: their wedding night.

Notice I didn’t say “the wedding”.  Yes, we know at this point our characters get married.  And they do it young.  And they enjoy being married.  And they have kids–lots of kids.  We have close to 15 years of history we’re working on, and the more we discuss, the more we turn them into believable individuals.

So knowing there is a wedding, it is a given there will be a wedding night.  And we’re not shy about discussing what’s going to happen.  The good thing is the place they will stay has HBO and Showtime, so it’s going to be a toss up between watching Real Time or Dexter before falling off–

I’m just yanking your chain . . . only lame-os are going to spend their wedding night watching pay-per.  Trust me: these characters will be doing something else.  Though the idea of my character getting way drunk and passing out after vomiting in the fireplace did come up . . ..

I’ve spoken about romance in our writing before, and the feeling we came up with for this . . . oh, let me tell you, it’s so right.  Darkened windows, a nice fire illuminating a bedroom loft; two small glasses of brandy and a wedding dress lying in a puddle at the head of the stairs . . . it’s what Disney Princesses want right before they become slaves to their husbands and wonder why they didn’t finish night school–

The interesting thing is when we discuss this night, there’s never the feeling of “wink wink” about what’s going to come.  We’re both adults: we know what’s coming.  And you there, reading this: stop snicking and saying, “I know what’s coming!”  Get your mind out of the gutter, ‘kay?  There is sex, lots of it, and the way we see it there’s going to be oh, so much emotion behind it.

For if there is one thing we have figured out about our characters, it’s that they are growing into their passion.  Sure, it’s not something that teenagers normally do, or even contemplate, but our Annie and Kerry are not normal teenagers–almost teenagers.  They are special, and that’s because we’ve made them special.

There can be a tendency to over-romanticize your characters at time.  The guy is too much of a hero; the girl too much the damsel.  With our characters, that’s not the case.  They feel real, and as such they are.  Sure, maybe we think they are real because we are over-romanticizing them, but I don’t think that’s the case.  I’ve gotten to where I can call BS on a character, and I’m always aware that with this character there is a huge possibility of going Mary Sue with him.    Besides, I’ve got someone to keep me honest.

And she doesn’t want to end up with Mary Sue on her wedding night.

Though she will need to get used to Kari in time–but that’s another story . . ..