22 Apr 2014, 5:46pm
The outside world
by

Comments Off

WTF. Doll in video that… I don’t… What?

YouTube embed deleted, because it’s a hoax. I mean, of course it’s a hoax. Of course.

Be sure to watch to the end, because how is this even a thing.

What the hell, people.

22 Apr 2014, 11:41am
The outside world:
by

Comments Off

Little girl goes to My Little Pony Convention and…

It’s not just about the original story; it’s also about the way people responded to that story.

When my son first started going to Pokemon league, I always made sure to sit in the back of the room. The game store where it was held had a cafe attached (a pretty good one) where I could have relaxed with a beer and some fries, but I always hung at the very back and watched.

The main reason was that, for the first few weeks, an older guy decided to teach him out to play the game. The guy gave me the skeevies for a lot of reasons, not least that his shirts were always filthy in back between the shoulder blades, as though he was sleeping outside (now that sex offenders have to register and inform their neighbors of their criminal history, many have become homeless).

Did I know the guy was a pedophile? Nope, but there was no way I was going to take the chance, and I wasn’t going to leave my son’s safety in the hands of the store/event staff.

Now, this is different from a convention-type event. Pokemon League took place in a room about the size of the cafe I’m sitting in right now. In a convention, people range farther, it’s a bigger space, and there’s way more to see. In that situation, the organizers absolutely have to step up.

If the event is going to have little kids in attendance, porn and other sexual materials should be forbidden. If the whole point is porn and sexual material, the organizers should not allow anyone under 18 to attend.

More importantly, if the people attending have zero faith in the organizers’ ability to keep their attendees safe (especially 11yo girls) that’s a huge, huge problem.

Randomness for 4/19

1) Baby noises edited into beatboxing. Video.

2) Every live action Marvel movie from 1998 ranked. I’d quibble with some of the rankings, but who wouldn’t? Also, there was no excuse for Elektra being so terrible.

3) The Ten Most Deadly Rocks And Minerals. h/t Kat Richardson

4) The placebo effects of food labeling.

5) Metal Albums With Googly Eyes, a Tumblr.

6) Time is a flat Family Circus, a Tumblr.

7) The best resignation letter ever.

17 Apr 2014, 8:06am
making books:
by

Comments Off

Two More Things To Say To Young Writers

Yesterday, Chuck Wendig wrote a post called Ten Things I’d Like To Say To Young Writers (the man likes his lists) and I think it’s good, solid advice. Me, I’d like to add two more things. Here goes:

Really study text that works.

Have a favorite short story? Retype it. A favorite novel? Type out that first chapter. There really is no substitute for retyping a whole mess of text–just reading it, even aloud, doesn’t bring the same focus. Then read it through with a yellow legal pad next to you and, every five pages, jot a line describing what happened.

How quickly does the book get to dialog? To the main characters? How quickly does the book describe what the main character is searching for, if it does at all? How much space on the page is given to description of people or places? How soon does the conflict start? Depending on the genre and the style of book, the answers can be quite different.

Best of all is to choose a successful book that is very like the one you hope to write. Study it. Try to get a feel for it, because:

Understanding how a piece of writing makes readers feel is the real prize

The universe is full of writers who crap on a keyboard and call it gold. Those people do not understand the way readers respond to their text; they know what’s in their head, they’re sure that’s what they put on the page, what’s wrong with readers/editors/agents/the world that they can’t see the awesome?

But, in fact, it can be very difficult to judge your own writing the way a reader will. We might hope the scene we just finished will be scary, or funny, or sad, but until we show it to complete strangers we’ll never really be sure.

What move people never say is that the ability to accurately understand the effect your own words will have on the reader is the first (and most difficult) step to becoming successful. So try to get a feel for your own books the way you do when you read the ones written by other people. Revisit stories you wrote the year before. Invite readers to tell you how they reacted to the story (but never what they think you should do.) Understanding those feelings are the way to mastery.

9 Apr 2014, 7:58am
The outside world:
by

Comments Off

Captain America, Anti-Hero?

Now that CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: THE WINTER SOLDIER has had a gigantic opening weekend, people are starting to talk about how it ought to have been done.

Take this post on Vulture, which says that Cap would be interesting if he was a prick. As supporting evidence, the author trots out Millar’s repugnant characterization of Steve Rogers in the first few Ultimates comics, adding this panel to his post:

Captain Freeper

Do we really think a guy who actually fought the Nazis would have the same opinion of France as some random member of the freeper cheetotariat? Yes, the Nazis attacked and occupied France in WW2. You know what we call people who mock victims of the Nazi war machine? Assholes.

So try to guess how impressed I am by the idea that Steve Rogers isn’t actually interesting unless he’s being some kind of jerk. (Not very.) There’s a weird mentality in comics that treats cynicism, misanthropy, and nihilism are somehow more mature than idealism; it’s a teenage boy’s idea of agency. It’s all about contempt: for people without power, for social rules and bonds, and for compassion. It’s a hero who “Does what has to be done,” which the narrative conveniently frames as acting like a ruthless thug.

But none of these stories are being created by teenage boys: it’s middle-aged adults, whether we’re talking about The Boys, or Wanted, or one of the New 52 storylines (like the much-discussed new Harley Quinn or Starfire, or the bit about the Joker’s face) that rub their hands together gleefully and sell ever-shrinking numbers of copies to their aging audiences. Clearly, the author of the Vulture article is deep into this mindset; why else discuss (and post a panel from) part of a story where Bucky is made out to be the killer that Captain America could never be, as though the American people couldn’t accept a WW2 soldier who kills Nazis? [1]

Nevermind that, based on where Cap was born and raised, he’s unlikely to be the France-mocking conservative reactionary the Vulture writer seems to expect. Nevermind that the big wave of anti-heroes seems to have passed and left us with very few lasting characters. [2]

More interesting is that Captain America has been around, and been successful, for decades. Comic book characters come and go and they always have. Some are superpopular and fade away. Some keep getting reinvented without really breaking out. Some fade into obscurity. How many times has Marvel tried to launch a Dr. Strange comic to middling sales and eventual cancellation? [3]

Most of these characters stick around. They’re ongoing IP, turning up in other characters’ stories, but they can’t sustain their own ongoing series.

Cap is one of those who can. Forget about the ridiculous costume (which they had fun mocking in THE FIRST AVENGER), he’s been popular for a long time, even with readers like me, who are not exactly overflowing with reflexive patriotism. He works in the comics (and has for decades). He works in the movies (as you can see by the box office and rave reviews). Where so many others have failed, he continues.

Instead of saying he needs to be roughed up to make him interesting, it would be worthwhile to figure out why he’s already successful. [4] I suspect it’s because the conflict is not inside him, it’s between his ideals and the distinctly non-ideal world around him. No anti-heroes necessary.

My spoiler-filled review of CA2: THE WINTER SOLDIER here.

[1] Yes, there were years when comics were ridiculous about the death toll that would come from superpowered combat in Manhattan. “Thank goodness the buildings the Hulk just collapsed were all condemned! Someone might have gotten hurt!” When comics became more realistic about the damage their fights could do, that was a welcome development. I just wish it hadn’t gone so far.

[2] Wither art thou, Darkhawk? What about you, Maggot? Shatterstar?

[3] Not that I have anything against Dr. Strange, who ought to be a wildly successful character, with the right writer.

[4] A trade collecting part of Mark Waid’s run is pretty much the only superhero comic my son has ever enjoyed.

Randomness for 4/8

1) What is NeoRealism? Video. Extraordinarily interesting contrast between neorealist and Hollywood movie techniques. h/t @RodneyRamsey

2) The Uncomfortable, a collection of deliberately uncomfortable everyday objects.

3) Sony gets Blender-made animated short pulled from YouTube even though they have no copyright claim to it. You can still watch it on Vimeo, though.

4) Vatican to digitize 41 million pages of ancient manuscripts. Of course, the manuscript pages themselves will outlast whatever file type the Vatican chooses to put them in.

5) Workouts inspired by your favorite fandoms. Heh.

6) What if the moon was a disco ball? Video. A question we’ve all asked at one point or another.

7) The Love Me Letters, Open Letters to Random People.

5 Apr 2014, 4:19pm
The outside world:
by

Comments Off

Captain America 2 and Institutional Power

I was supposed to take my family to see CA2 next Wednesday but, while that’s still going to happen, I didn’t want to wait. So I caught an early matinee on Friday when I was supposed to be writing.

It’s a fun superhero action movie, and Chris Evans is better than anyone would ever have a right to expect him to be in the lead. Johanssen is just as great playing Black Widow as she was in The Avengers, but that’s what I’d expect from her. Evans is a happy surprise.

Spoilers for the rest: more »

4 Apr 2014, 10:43am
The Great Way:
by

Comments Off

How self-indulgent is it to link to my own updates?

Kickstarter update for April.

For the click-phobic, a brief summary. I received story edit notes on the trilogy and have some revisions to do. They will be extensive but not as terrible as I’d originally feared. First up, I’ll be writing a chapter that I skipped in the first draft. Fantasy novels are somewhat digressive, yes? Well, that’s what you’re getting. Plus, the new ending needs the setup.

In the meantime, I work, read Twitter, and watch the final episodes of Veronica Mars with the family. I also strenuously avoid Doge2048. Let us not think about it.

1 Apr 2014, 6:47am
The outside world:
by

Comments Off

A Regression Analysis Comparing Box Office With Meta-critic Ratings

Boom.

Quality didn’t much affect earnings on opening weekend, but after that? The better the rating, the more money. Check it out.

Oh, and I know what day it is, but this isn’t a prank.

26 Mar 2014, 12:53pm
making books:
by

Comments Off

Kindleworlds expands to include Veronica Mars(!)

You guys know about Kindleworlds, right? It’s a system that Amazon set up some months ago to let people write, publish, and sell fanfiction based on established properties like The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, GI Joe (not the movies) or “The World of Kurt Vonnegut” (and so on). All you have to do is follow the content guidelines and not suck. Complicated, right?

Well, today I discovered that there’s a Kindleworld license for Veronica Mars, but only for the years covered by the TV series. The content guidelines make it clear that anything taking place after the end of season three is verboten.

Yet again, I wish I could be prolific. It would be tremendous fun to tear off a quick VM whodunnit, preferably hammering at the class warfare aspects and digging into the private lives of some of the supporting characters. (Like Cliff! “These are my people, V.” I love that dude.)

Alas, I do not have the time for it. Even as a novella or something, it would take too much time.

Randomness for 3/25

1) The inevitable D&D-themed yoga. So cool, Brewster.

2) True Detective as Hardy Boy’s style covers.

3) I have never been as deeply moved by anything as this lady is about curtains. True salesmanship. Video.

4) The High Five Camera. Video.

5) Which pet should I get? A Flowchart.

6) Visual charts showing how people around the world communicate. Very interesting and completely authentic, I’m sure.

7) The ten words in English with the most meanings. Another chart.

25 Mar 2014, 12:36pm
making books The outside world:
by

Comments Off

Sample of new Veronica Mars audiobook, read by Kristen Bell

Posting an audiobook segment to YouTube is a great idea. Give it a listen.

25 Mar 2014, 8:09am
The outside world:
by

Comments Off

Social Media Creates Sleeper Hit, a case study

Last weekend, a new low-budget movie called CHEAP THRILLS opened in LA and Austin, as well as on iTunes, Amazon and whatever. It’s about a guy who gets fired from a shitty job and finds himself desperate for money to avoid eviction… on the night he and his buddy meet a couple willing to pay them to do crazy stuff.

Here’s the trailer.

It looks intense.

It’s also a surprise hit, with great per-theater earnings, terrific VOD revenue, and a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. What makes this movie different from any number of terrific indie films? A great social media campaign. Check out this article on how they managed it. I have a non-academic interest in how this sort of thing is accomplished, of course, but it seems the short version is: great movie, enthusiastic friends with huge social media footprints, and a little craziness to attract attention.

Anyway, interesting stuff.

Let’s face it: these links won’t be getting their own blog posts

Like most people, I follow a link or check out an article and think “I should share that with folks!” Twitter’s good if you have nothing in particular to say about it (or just want to add something snarky), but some stuff deserves to be talked about. Well, I’ve gotten in the habit of leaving browser tabs open that I want to get to later, then leaving them sit for way too long. Blogging! Who has the time!

So, instead of just giving up and closing those tabs, I’m going to list them here with a little note about why I thought they were worth reading about:

To Stop Procrastinating, Look to Science of Mood Repair. Note: this article did not get me to write an extensive response to it.

Amazon-owned Audible lowers royalty rates on self-published audiobooks Is this the first sign of the long-expected rise in Amazon’s sales commissions?

Ian Rankin: ‘It took 14 years for my writing to pay’ Bestselling UK writer talks about how long it took him to find success. Ten books! Funny, after this Kickstarter is done, I’ll have ten books out, too…

From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life? A lament on the fact that nothing is guaranteed for writers, especially sales. No mention is made of the economic collapse, of course.

Making Compelling Arguments through the Power of Story Author (and professional marketer) Kameron Hurley offers great advice on writing blog posts people will want to share.

I thought this was interesting: So What Do You Do Brendan Deneen, Executive Editor of Macmillan Entertainment? Short version: he hires writers to write work-for-hire novels in company properties, which he then sells to Hollywood.

The Internet is Fucked (but we can fix it) An argument to declare the internet a public utility, create real competition, and fix the terrible internet-access situation in this country. I’m sold.

Is Genre Fiction Creating a Market for Lemons? Cheap ebooks as used cars.

Is the “Seattle Freeze” a Real Thing? Science says yes! For those who don’t know, the Seattle Freeze is a sort of chilly demeanor that makes it difficult for new arrivals to make friends.

21 Mar 2014, 8:03am
personal The outside world:
by

Comments Off

More on Veronica Mars

I watched the movie again, mainly because I really like mysteries. Last night, the family finished watching season 2 (It’s slow going getting individual discs from Netflix on a one-at-a-time plan) and I have to say S2 was better than I remember it. Obviously, Lilly Kane was the heart and driving force behind season 1; Amanda Seyfried’s performance was so incredibly charismatic that the school bus explosion–with its numerous but mostly faceless victims, plus Meg–couldn’t touch. Every ep of S1 showed Lilly in some kind of flashback or dream sequence, if I remember correctly; how could sweet, honest Meg lying in a coma compete with that?

Still, watching both seasons all in a rush was very interesting. In season 1, knowing that some viewers would miss episodes, several of the clues and story beats were hit in several different episodes. How many times did they “reveal” that Weevil was having a secret relationship with Lilly, and that he loved her more than she loved him?

In season 2, they talked about the clues they’d discovered previously, but didn’t play them like story beats. What’s weird is that S2 almost completely drops the bus story line for several episodes in a row. The season gets caught up in a bunch of mini-mysteries that are either tangential to the bomb story (At no point did I believe Terence Cook was a serious suspect) or completely separate from it, like the murder of Felix Tooms. Then there’s the whole plot line that takes Wallace to Chicago, or the Casablancas family business troubles…

In fact, there’s a lot going on but much of it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the supposed Big Mystery of the Season. It feels fractured, leaving Veronica to act without the same wrenching need to Solve Everything she had in S1. The driving forces that should have been there–her guilt over surviving and over Meg’s condition, plus her name being written on Curly’s hand making her think the bomb was meant for her–just don’t feel immediate enough.

Another choice that felt weaker was the decision to lose the family lives of Duncan and Logan and replace those characters with Kendall Casablancas and the “Fighting Fitzpatricks”. Yeah, it’s a fine thing to widen the scope so we see more of Neptune, but Irish gangsters aren’t anywhere near as compelling as a fucked up family. Papa Casablancas is only in the first few episodes, Wallace’s mom goes up in a puff of smoke when she breaks up with Keith, and Aaron Echolls mostly turns up in his jail cell. Keith and Terrence Cook are pretty much the only parents on the show, and the Cooks are not nearly as fucked up as they should be for a long form mystery.

Still, the episodic mysteries were as strong as every, and Bell is still amazing as Veronica. I like Logan as a character but I’ve always had zero interest in their supposedly epic love. Seriously. If S1 didn’t exist, S2 would have been one of the best shows ever.

S3 is up next, and I remember it being more soap opera/relationship-focused than previous seasons. I was also Team Piz back in the day and I was even more firmly Team Piz after the movie. Still.

Anyway, the movie: I was sure the show would not work once the characters were adults. There was something incredibly effective about addressing class issues through teenage characters. They’re screwed up by the system but not really to blame for it, either. Plus, school forces everyone to be in everyone else’s spaces; you can’t avoid your enemies if you’re stuck going to school.

It worked anyway, which gives me hope for a sequel. Supposedly Warner has a dollar figure they want to see from the movie before they sign off on a sequel and no, I wouldn’t back another Kickstarter. Whatever annoyance I felt at the Flixster thing has been washed away by the movie itself. Still, Veronica with a cleaned-up Logan, back to work at her father’s PI office? I’d love to see a resurgence of PI stories.

Anyway, the show and the movie are buzzing away in my head, making work on my own stuff seem dreary and unpleasant. Must break through and get back to good things.

15 Mar 2014, 2:27am
The outside world:
by

Comments Off

I watched the Veronica Mars movie

Okay. As much as I was annoyed by the decision to distribute the movie through Flixster, I actually sat down to watch it tonight.

It’s good. I mean, very good.

The portrayal of Neptune is the most winning part of the movie: Everything that was awful about the divide between the rich and the poor has gotten ten times worse since the series ended, the place is more corrupt than ever, and things look bleak. The characters are back, obviously, and they’re great but it’s the noir tone that makes this work. The only real let-down are a few cartoonishly nasty villains taking their three to five minutes to strut their bullshit for old times sake. That stuff doesn’t have the power it did when everyone was in high school.

But that’s easily overlooked. It’s a good movie, and I have to admit that it’s nice to see a real mystery played out in (just under) two hours. I’m not sure how well a Veronica Mars tv show would play out with a grown-up Veronica, but I’m glad I decided to back it.

If you haven’t seen the TV show, the movie would still make sense, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A great many characters breeze in and out, and it can be tough to keep track of them all. Better to watch the show first, if you haven’t seen it. The first season is great, the second season is not as great but still very good, and I haven’t rewatched the third season in a while so I’ll have to let you know. I’m making my wife and kid wait until they’ve seen the whole series before I play the movie; I recommend that for everyone.

14 Mar 2014, 3:20pm
The outside world:
by

Comments Off

Downloading the Veronica Mars movie and feeling like a commodity

Veronica Mars, as a tv show and as a set of characters within a set of plot tropes and conventions, is pretty fucking great. Seriously, I enjoyed the hell out of that show and the famous Kickstarter for it has given me a chance to share it with my son. There are so many things that I really liked that bores the shit out of him (any kind of fantasy, anything I write, Buffy, stuff with spaceship battles, whatever) that it’s a real pleasure to see him latch onto something cool.

So, when the opportunity to download the movie came (which is today, because today is the movie premiere) I took it.

I’m not what you call a movie-buyer. I own a few DVDs (maybe a dozen or so, most bought at yard sales) and I watch Netflix, but I’ve never bought and downloaded a full movie before. Still, I know it’s a thing people do. iTunes, right? Or Amazon? I’ve definitely seem Amazon purchases in my affiliate link reports.

But the Veronica Mars Kickstarter did not direct me to either of those options, nor did they stick a file on a server and send me a link to go fetch it. Instead, I had to sign up for Ultraviolet and Flixster.

Apparently, Ultraviolet is a service created by the studios that lets people download films without the worry of omg piracy, and why am I being forced to turn over my name and email to some third-party service just to get the thing I already paid for?

Because I am a commodity. I’m being turned over to these two companies so they can market to me, and they can add my account to their user numbers when they go hunting for new clients.

It’s disappointing. I’d rather watch the DVD, but that’s two months away, apparently. To get the movie now I had to become someone’s marketing opportunity, and I pledged a Kickstarter for the privilege.

The endless flood of updates into my inbox was bad enough, but this tears it. Not more big media corporate Kickstarters for me.

14 Mar 2014, 2:17pm
making books The Great Way:
by

Comments Off

I am writing rpg gaming stuff now and it is hard

I’m supposed to be working right now but I’m not, and the reason is simple. Work is hard.

While The Great Way is getting an editorial working over, I’m putting together the game supplement for it. (For those who don’t know, I promised Kickstarter backers a Fate game supplement for the setting of those books.) Currently, it’s almost 10,000 words long, and not even half way done. Turns out that explaining your world-building takes time.

What’s more, writing game stuff is giving me major decision fatigue. With fiction, putting the sentences together is comparatively easy: There are characters who want things, places for them to pursue their desires, obstacles to overcome. That talk. They look at stuff. Maybe there’s a smell. It’s pretty straightforward.

In contrast, game material is all summarizing and making careful decisions on how stuff should work. What invokable aspects suit the capital city of this empire? How best to describe this sort of magic? What’s the best way to portray non-human intelligences without doing the xenophobe thing of giving them all a single personality? What if a player wants to play one of those non-humans?

Everything is as spare as possible, while trying to be as interesting as possible, while being as balanced as possible, while not contradicting anything I put in the trilogy, much of which I made up on the fly because shit sounded cool.

What the hell was I thinking?

6 Mar 2014, 8:17am
making books The Great Way:
by

Comments Off

New Kickstarter Update Posted

This morning I posted a new Kickstarter update. It includes a status update and some nice interior art. Check it out.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

  • Tags