Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In the Event of a Zombie Emergency

The question:

Are you prepared for a zombie outbreak, or are you just going to wing it?

My answer:

I look prepared. I have the Zombie Survival Guide, I have blunt objects stashed near every window, I have my titanium helmet with padlocked chin-strap and a freezer stocked with brains that have the cunningly deceptive label of 'GENUS: HOMOSAPIEN' but it's not what you think. When the horde finally comes my neighbors will flee - to me. You see I'm already here. I'm ahead of them and I've lived/been undead long enough to use what's left of my rotting brain to cook up my own sweet plan. Humans are much tastier without adrenalin in their system and I plan to keep my snacks safe and warm until I'm ready to dine - to feast!

Till then I'll keep my distance - seemingly fragile and shy, scared of the sun burning my pale, pale skin. I'll wave when they see me. I'll hurry in sunglasses and hat between the car and the cool protection of my chilled interior, moaning my discomfort at the summer sun. Then when the sun goes down and the raid begins I'll open my doors with a welcome and beckon the survivors inside. They'll be so scared they won't notice the mortuary-grade make-up under my concerned expression. I'll defend them from my cousins until they feel safe. Safe and sweet. Then when all is quiet and the horde has moved on, I'll feast.

I always wanted to have guests for dinner.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Week Of Tweets

Here are my tweets for the week, with the most recent first. You're also getting my half of tweet-exchanges with a brief explanation to clue you in. I've included the links mentioned too, in case you feel like checking them out:

  • Interview with 'fail whale' artist http://drawn.ca/2008/07/21/... If only she got a cent for every whale sighting! [SEE BOTTOM OF POST FOR A PIC]
  • My copy of Brave Men Run just arrived! :)
  • @etherius On the up side the city is super dog friendly and lots of doggie-allowed parks (AND people DO clean up after them! SHOCK!) [DISCUSSING SAN FRANCISCO]
  • @PhilippaJane Never mind - I'll try and leave voicemail or send an email. Great Chapter though. [RE CHAPTER 18 OF CHASING THE BARD PODCAST NOVEL]
  • @PhilippaJane Ch 18 - very touching. Did Will ever write about Bess then? That had to have touched his writing in more ways than one! [DITTO ABOVE]
  • @mudsock Was that from Ruscal? Very cute - lets get one. [RE BUNNY LETTER OPENER VIDEO ON YOUTUBE: http://tinyurl.com/6mykfa]
  • Roller skating dinosaur wood block puzzles - me and Og. Happy times.
  • @prindiville OMG that's hilarious and completely TRUE! [RE YOUTUBE VIDEO RE CREATIVE WORK FOR CLIENTS http://tinyurl.com/6qbbcg]
  • Watchmen trailer comparison of book to screen - xlnt! http://www.empireonline.com...

MONDAY: July 21
  • LOL MyNameIsEarl - That writer's room must be a great place to hang out.
  • No DVD player - resorting to watching a free online episode of My Name Is Earl.
  • @scottsigler when in doubt send them to the bathroom... like 24 :P [RE HIS COMMENT DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO WRITE NOT-SO-SMART CHARACTER KEEPING SECRET FROM SMART CHARACTERS]
  • @TezMillerOz Ah -but see it's all about the cookie dough for us... if some gets cooked, that's a bonus! [RE HER COMMENT OF 'ME COOK?!']
  • @prindiville ...The Terrible Twosome.. see? Lame failed supervillains. Clever names are not my strong suit. (What is a strong suit anyway?) [RE ONGOING TWEET EXCHANGE ABOUT AN IDEA FOR A SKETCH]
  • @prindiville Not ignoring ur question. Just can't think of anything better than Major Lee Awful, Doc Deadbeat, Col. Mouse Tache (brain spaz) [DITTO ABOVE]
  • @mudsock Amazon delivery for you! (jealous) [SELF EXPLANATORY!]
  • We found purple Ramone!! Thus ends the 3 day hunt in a magazine holder between books. Og is verrry happy.
  • New pic on my profile page in honor of Sive's upcoming book release. (Free PDF!!!!! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou! @PhilippaJane ) [PART OF THE PROMOTION FOR HER NEW BOOK, 'DIGITAL MAGIC', BEING RELEASED ON 08-08-08 ON AMAZON]
  • A picture of chocolate chip cookies has Og in a tizzy. I know how he feels.
  • Waking up with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang & Lightning McQueen = pillow face with added tire tracks. Thanks Og.
  • Looks like all yesterday's Tweets were eaten - not in my timeline - but they're on my @inkgypsy page. Others I read last night are gone too.

SUNDAY: July 20
  • Inklings post: Scraping Bottom of Barrel for Boost http://tinyurl.com/6s35lb
  • Spit-the-Dummy post: 18 Mnth Old Aquarian Makes A Splash http://tinyurl.com/6r8n64
  • Zombie Kitteh http://tinyurl.com/5q5w6x
  • Can't wait for the all-singing commentary on the DVD though. What a blast! They're either very brave or completely nuts.
  • I have the Dr. Horrible s/track in my head - and now I can't watch it to help me get to the next bit!
  • Deleting a writing-prompt response. Glad I realized it was crap-alicious before anyone saw it. Gak!
  • Entering another book competition - getting desperate now I have no book allowance anymore (stupid bills).
  • Og likes Bad Horse's theme song - that's my boy!
  • @mightymur Re "Stop. It's spackle time." - LOL I can see the video now... [MIGHTYMUR WAS PAINTING THAT DAY]
  • Joss Whedon Behind-the-Scenes of Dr. Horrible - a lot of fun! http://tinyurl.com/6fgt9v

  • Og's rain machine sounded briefly like a tardis. Perhaps I'm asleep already.
  • Putting my brain cells to bed.
  • Catching up on Fangs, Fur & Fey.
  • @filboidstudge Thanks for the article! Took me a few days but I read it all. Verrrry interesting... return address: Behind the Lions -story! [RE ARTICLE LINK LIVES & LETTERS: THE LION & THE MOUSE' http://tinyurl.com/6kfc9k]
  • Hair color - goes on purple and I come out blonde. Guess that's good, though I'd be OK with on blonde/out purple too.
  • @PhilippaJane @TeeMonster Really enjoyed the Dead Robots interview too - great to hear all different stuff - very little overlap. More pls! [RE PODCAST INTERVIEW WITH TEEMONSTER & PHILIPPAJANE RE THEIR BOOKS COMING OUT ON 08-08-08 ON AMAZON]
  • @TezMillerOz Watcha doin' that you have to go alphabetical through Amazon? Someone give you an impossible task? [RE A COMMENT ABOUT HER BEING UP TO 'P' ON AMAZON]
  • Blog Post 'When Nice Characters Give You the HeebieJeebies...' http://tinyurl.com/5fg8y5
  • Why does spelling 'dialogue' like this always end up with a squiggly red line when writing online?
  • @feliciaday Excellent work (fun?) on Dr. Horrible! Sorry about your death though. [RE HER ACTING/SINGING ON 'DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG']

FRIDAY: July 18
  • Our teenie houdini just figured out how to pull his t-shirt off by himself. Great.
  • Emptying the kiddie pool, one scoop at a time.
  • Listening to Brave Men Run. [A PODIOBOOK]
  • @prindiville Ooh! While Dr. Horrible is making waves, how about a sketch from 'the society of failed supervillains'? [RE HIS CALL FOR SKETCH SUGGESTIONS]
  • Please don't tell me you'll give me feedback if you don't really intend to. Waiting for nothing sux.
  • @prindiville Love the Billibub Baddings sketch! (lucky Tee :D) [RE A SKETCH OF ONE OF TEEMONSTER'S CHARACTERS HERE: http://www.bryanprindiville.com/2008/07/18/billibub-baddings/ ]
  • Dr Dreadful's Riposte to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog on YouTube http://tinyurl.com/64t7u6

THURSDAY : July 17
  • Blog post: Go watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog http://tinyurl.com/5hyo2y
  • Twitter is NOT fixed! Where are my tweet-tribe and where are my tweets?
  • What the freak? Now I have a French dude in my timeline - what's going on Twitter?!
  • How did Bosso get into my timeline? Me no likely you crashing my tweets Bosso! Anyone else get this?
  • I just realized I wrote 'Doctor' when I meant 'Dr' - I guess I had 'Who' on the brain.
  • @prindiville Late reply - I'm 1/2 way thru Torchwood Season 1 - thx for the tip! [RE HIS TIP THAT IT GETS BETTER IN SEASON 2]
  • @mudsock Mail & chat [RE.. I CAN'T REMEMBER]
  • @TeeMonster Last book you'll ever write? Excellent. My variation - 'the only book that will ever represent you' (which to some is true) [RE A COMMENT HE MADE DURING PODCAST INTERVIEW ABOUT 'WRITE YOUR BOOK AS IF IT IS THE LAST BOOK YOU'LL EVER WRITE.]
  • @TeeMonster @PhilippaJane Excellent Tea & Chat guys! Worth every minute of the 120 (or so) there. [RE THEIR DOUBLE INTERVIEW ON THE PODCAST 'TEA & CHAT']
  • @PhilippaJane Research - you aware of this site? http://www.sacred-texts.com/ [RE HER TWEET THAT SHE WAS HAVING DIFFICULTY RESEARCHING TEXTS PRE-DATING EARLY 1900'S]
  • I am now a Doctor Horrible convert! (I'm late but I'm here!)
  • Also tomato rolling time - to the tune of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang of course (Og is providing the music).
  • And now it's tomato stomping time apparently - a very messy game!
  • While other kids were jumping on the Gymboree equipment Og was busy pointing out all the rips, chips and broken bits.

  • Torchwood is beginning to find its groove for me - not completely won over yet but I'm more interested now.
  • Inklings post: Why Twitter + Today's Tweets http://tinyurl.com/5z9hlc

Want to be part of the conversation? It's free. It's easy. It's FUN! Join Twitter and follow me HERE!

Name: inkgypsy
Location: Limbo, CA
Bio: Human/zombie hybrid who wishes
she had tastier brains to snack on while working,
wears socks made out of old muppets,
grows her own hair.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel For a Creative Boost

It should be no surprise that the zombification both continues and appears to have eaten at my brain, not that this has to be a bad thing...

The last time my brain was eaten I ended up creating a whole human being. (Yes, it's true. Babies eat your brains! Pregnant woman actually lose brain mass while they're gestating. No wonder I couldn't finish a sentence back then! What they forget to tell you is that the brain does regain its mass about 6 months after the baby is born. I think by then mothers are too tired to be concerned about how much space the jelly in their skull cavity takes up so they don't remember to pass this little piece of information on. By then they're worried about all the other things the baby is eating!)

So it's not all bad news. Am I carrying a months worth of luggage under my eyes? Yes. Is my hair doing an impression of a birds nest? Uh huh. Are my eyes hanging out of my head? It certainly feels like it -

- BUT! -

- there are resources available to me to help me keep functioning in a creative milieu. (That's right I actually used a fancy word and put it in the correct context. Not bad for a zombie, hey?) Though it might be a fact that you're scraping the bottom of the brain-barrel (mmm, guacamole anyone?) for ideas and inspiration it doesn't have to be a case for despair.

You see, bottom of the barrel stuff isn't always bad. There's usually something surprisingly good to be found there.

Take vegemite for instance. Vegemite is the notorious black-like spread Australians spread on their toast for breakfast. It's a thick, paste-like substance that tastes yeasty and salty and vaguely like roast beef. While it is, without doubt, an acquired taste it isn't just a weird cultural affectation. As the highest known food-source of vitamin B in the world it's actually REALLY good for you! (Don't ask me what the non-food-sources are - I have no idea.) If you don't know much about vitamin B, just know that if you don't get enough or keep enough in your body you can get sick. Very sick. Days-on-end-paying-homage-to-the-porcelain-god sick. Vegemite eaters never have to worry about this problem - thus the saying 'happy little vegemites'.

Not bad for the scrapings off the bottom of a beer barrel.

Yes. Vegemite is basically what's left in the bottom of the barrel after the beer brewing process. (Kind of makes you want to try some now, doesn't it?)

And what's left in the bottom of our brain-barrels after a grueling time can be just as 'vitamin-filled' for our creativity, if we're prepared to sample it.

Being tired, fed up, and generally run down has a way of forcing you to realize what's important to you and what you love. You retreat to those people and things that give you pleasure or relax you and you have little energy to spare for those that aren't. The Big Ones feature, of course - family, pets, yummy food, sleep - but this is also the time where you find yourself picking up books to read just to escape (not because they're 'good' for you), where you watch shows you really enjoy without having to think too much, where you tinker around with seemingly-silly things that normally you'd consider a waste of time. And this will tell you something about yourself.

Apart from people you love and your nice comfy mattress, what are you drawn to when you're tired and running on empty? What are your retreats? Do you find yourself coming home with extra chocolate-chip cookies in the grocery bags? Do you find yourself looking for re-runs of Friends, Buffy or Scooby Doo? Are you suddenly devouring Star Trek novels, romance novels or other fiction you normally consider pulp?

What do I do? I start reading masses of paperbacks in series - starting with the first one published and continuing to the next one as if they were all one big book, I browse the internet for illustrations and pictures I like to collect into an 'inspirational pics' folder and I find myself rearranging my bookshelves. And there's more than one way to convince myself I could use another piece of chocolate (mmm, chocolate....)

How is this creatively-friendly?

It tells me that I'm more relaxed when there's order around me and yet it also tells me that I get tired of being disciplined the whole time. It tells me I'm a visual person and that my imagination is stimulated by other, visual creativity (also known as 'art'). It tells me I like to be immersed in one world and not pulled in many different directions. (It also tells me I'd better stay active otherwise that chocolate weakness will start making my clothes a bit snug! But that's a whole other topic...)

And how do I use this revelatory-information? When I'm writing and find myself frustrated, the immediate things I can do to get beyond it are to organize my resources and writing scraps, snippets and files for the project, that I should try some random methods and approaches to the project to mix-it-up a little, that I need to go back to the 'charged image' (or images) that got me writing in the first place, that I'll do better if I concentrate on one project instead of many and that a chocolate break may just be the thing to relax me out of my tense state of mind and into a more relaxed and muse-friendly one.

And there's one more very important thing I can learn from this: when I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel and my concentration is scattered, there's a good chance my creativity (i.e. the portion of my brain that enables my synapses to fire together like crackers at Chinese New Year and gets me writing) could use a vitamin boost of it's own - literally. And what's the best vitamin for this? Vitamin B.

Perhaps it's time for some vegemite!

NOTE: Comics from TOONLET by Cloister - make your own webcomic!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When Nice Characters Give You the HeebieJeebies...

Live Journal had a writer's prompt a couple of days ago that I finally got around to writing on. The question was:

Who is your favorite fictional character? Why do you love them? What fictional character bugs you?

Thinking about your personal reaction to a character in a book you're reading or a show you're watching can be very revealing - both those you love and those you can't stand.

As with all writing prompts I try to write the first thing that comes to mind, before I try to be too clever or manipulate my own responses. The answer to the character I love was no surprise, though the more I dug at the reasons why, the more I realized just why she was at the top of my list.

The character that bugged me WAS a surprise. I couldn't think of any immediately, except for Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice but I realized that was me trying too hard. I really didn't feel that strongly about him. When I did hit upon a character I didn't like, there was no doubt. This character has given me the heebiejeebies since I was a kid and it's not someone a lot of people are likely to put down. In fact this character is supposed to be a good, nice and well-loved character. Funny thing is my feelings about her are still as strong today!

We've all come across wooden heroes and heroines while the villain of the story is delightfully complex. We all worry our own hero characters will suffer from the same puppet-master syndrome and be out-shined by our baddies. We work on giving the good guys flaws while we make sure our villains have redeeming qualities to keep our readers guessing and to keep the struggle between the two believable. But it's not often we stop to think: is my good character so 'good' they're verging on creepy?

It's the ones that make you not want to pick up that book or watch that show again that can teach you something - and it's not always the bad guys. I learned a few things about myself doing this exercise and I'll be even more aware of these sorts of issues when I next delve into my writing. I want to make sure the characters I intend to be likeable ARE in fact likeable and those that aren't are still those you want to love-to-hate. The last thing I want is for my book to be the one you never want to pick up again!

If you're curious about my choices (which are NOT shown in the pictures here), go check out my post on Live Journal HERE.

NOTE: To read the article about why Annie Liebovitz is dressing people up like Disney characters click HERE to read the article and see more photos (including behind-the-scenes) or on the images above for yet more Liebovitz-does-Disney-portraits. And yes, I find quite a few of them rather creepy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Creative Detour: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

It seems JossWhedon (creator and director of the TV series' Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Firefly) had a lot of fun during the recent writer's strike. Forced to halt work on his upcoming series 'Dollhouse' he got his family together and, with a few friends, wrote a 'Supervillain Musical'. The idea was to do something on the fly, for cheap but 'professionalish' (Joss' word, not mine) and make it freely available on the web to whoever wants to see it. (That is just SO cool of a famous/professional writer-director to do.)

And he did.

It's here, it's happening and it's online now!

But you don't have long to see the awesome brilliant silliness for free. Acts I and II are streaming now (or you can download for $1.99 per episode/Act through iTunes) with Act III coming out on the 19th of July. Then on July 20th, 2008 at midnight - *poof!* - it disappears, never to be seen again (until they release it on DVD with a whole heap of cool extras but that, my friends, won't be free).

Despite being done
(take a breath!)
it looks really slick
(Joss has some pretty talented [not-to-mention famous] friends...)
and not-at-all cheap.

So what is it about? We're talking about a blogging supervillain ("I have a PhD in Horribleness!"), his nemesis Captain Hammer, a pretty girl they both want, unexpected musical outbursts (with hilarious lyrics), immediately quotable one-liners, action (with snazzy special effects) and an evil master plan... apparently (Dr. Horrible is still working out the details).

This is excellent quality entertainment people!
Oh yeah - and did I mention it's FREE?!
The clock is ticking...
Stop reading, click HERE or on the posters above and GO WATCH IT NOW!

NOTE: I have no idea whose midnight this is so play it safe and GO WATCH IT NOW! (Feel like you're having deja vu? Maybe the Universe is trying to tell you something,like: GO WATCH IT NOW!)

Why Twitter + Today's Tweets

I've seen a number of bloggers who also use Twitter during the day (a real-time community micro-blogging tool) put their days 'tweets' into a little blog entry every so often and thought I'd do the same - but in case you haven't heard about Twitter yet I thought I'd do a little 'splaining for this first set of 'Tweets'.

The idea is to answer a single question with a single sentence (ie. 140 characters or less): What are you doing?

It's fun getting glimpses into the day-to-day of people you know and keeps you clued in and connected to what's going on out there. Occasionally people will tweet links to interesting and/or cool things too. It's a good way to see what real people are thinking and talking about.

Still thinking it sounds lame and that it has no use whatsoever? I beg to differ. Strangely enough this is the most powerful networking tool I've come across and one of the easiest to use (a.k.a. STRESS-FREE!). It's easy to find people and follow them, to 'tweet' directly to them (and often get comments back), I can tweet the URL of my latest blog post and have people go look at it the instant I let them know (it helps to tease them with a title of course!) and if you have a large enough group following you it's a great way to get lots of instant feedback for questions you may have (eg. anyone know of any good cafes in Baltimore?) and, just as importantly, support (eg. 'the plumbing exploded' will likely result in tweets from 'you poor thing' to 'I know an excellent plumber in your area if you need a recommendation').

If you're a writer (like me) or an artist intending to put your creative babies out into the world at some point in the future, this is a very good way to get known ahead of time and engender support. By the time you put your project up for public consumption you'll have people waiting for it and will get almost-instant feedback too. Both are very important for writers/artists to survive. The key is to a) get involved (sign up) and b) GET INVOLVED! (tweet regularly). If nothing else, you will have made some new friends and/or keep in touch with your old ones - that can only be a good thing!

So here are my Tweets from today (well, yesterday now) July 16, 2008. The most recent is first:
  • Og is recognizably humming Chitty Chitty Bang Bang... not bad for 17 months old.
  • Heri-ro-ro! (Helicopter in Og-speak)
  • My sister just spent 8 days at Club Med Bintan, Singapore. She lives in a different universe to me.
  • I hate it when my file menus disappear off the screen! Why does it do that?
  • Found an author I've been searching for on LJ - Melissa Marr. I like her writing and her tattoos both!
  • Over 5 months later the Valentine's balloon is finally starting to sink.
If you want to be part of my Twitter Tribe, you can find me here. It's free to join and super-easy to use. Tweet you later!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Creative Detour: Inspiration Totoro Style

(Cross posted from Live Journal with additional pics and links)

I'm busy clicking through this website - http://totoroforestproject.org/ - right now. I have been for two - no, three - days now. Not because I'm a little on the slow side due to sleep deprivation but because I'm going through all the pictures again (again, again!). The ones I'm including here a just a tiny random sampling of the wonderful art there!

It seems the movie 'My Neighbor Totoro' is not only well loved but has inspired many to consider the imaginings of their own childhood and return to that sense of wonder. This group of artists have used this inspiration to spring board them into work of their own - work which they are putting up for auction to benefit the preservation of Sayama Forest, one of the world's largest 'urbanforests', also known as 'Totoro Forest' just outside Tokyo.

(Click on pic to be taken to the Totoro Forest Project website)

This forest is dear to Miyazaki's heart (the creator of My Neighbor Totoro) and as such his work is benefiting Planet Earth in two ways:
  • Mother Nature gets a powerful advocate to help preserve an ancient forest
  • Artists are creating beautiful new works that inspire childlike wonder while prompting reflection of one's own connectivity to nature
- both of which help to make us better people and Planet Earth a better place to live.

By Chris Turnham for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Mr. Turnham)

Unfortunately I don't have a spare $2 000+ to bid for my favorite offerings.

But that doesn't mean I'm powerless to help. Before you get concerned that I'm going to rant about the need for recycling (which is important) and finding an alternative to fossil fuels (preferably something MUCH cheaper) that's not where I'm going with this at all.

By Nate Wragg for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Mr. Wragg)

By Emanuela Cozzi for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Ms. Cozzi)

The range of work created and expressed by the artists for this cause is impressive and inspiring. Some of the little 'stories' attached of how the work came to be, are just as inspiring, and thought provoking, as the art itself. All I have to do is think - then act on those thoughts.

What are my thoughts that just might change the world?
  • Finding my own love of nature and being aware of my actions as I go about my day
  • Appreciating that sense of wonder in a child as they come into contact with nature and it's creatures and helping to keep that wonder alive - both in that child and in myself
  • Expressing my own imagination through engaging in my own creative pursuits

By Erwin Madrid for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Mr. Madrid)

By Pascal Campion for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Mr. Campion)

With these thoughts as both a springboard and a focus, the works I do create will likely reflect that to some extent. Perhaps it won't be immediately obvious but ultimately the chances that it will affect others positively are high. For example my writing will probably have themes that support looking after our planet and our children - themes that others will take away with them when they read my words and hopefully be inspired to do their own 'world of good'.

By Nadine Takvorian for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Ms. Takvorian)

And then there's the literal inspiration of the cause: how can a writer who loves Urban Fantasy hear the term 'urban forest' and not immediately have a dozen story ideas she can't wait to sit down and explore? And just when I thought my head was exploding from ideas the art itself, filled with various renderings of fantastical creatures and glimpses of other worlds not-so-far-away-from-our-own, sends my tumbling ideas off in a myriad other directions - one of which reminds me of the forest I've been tending recently - a forest that's central to one of my novel projects.

By Rebecca Dautremer for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Ms. Dautremer)

It seems I was already playing at the edge of 'Totoro's Forest'. It's high time I went to see how my creative seedlings are doing there...

By Paul Topolos for The Totoro Forest Project
(click on pic to be taken to more information about Mr. Topolos)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Writing When I Can't Write - Introducing Live Journal

I've been remiss in putting an announcement here so I apologize...

The Ink Gypsy is now posting on Live Journal!


After reluctantly joining Live Journal to keep contact with an old friend a little while ago I've recently come to appreciate its usefulness and have been adding posts there regularly too.


Why add yet ANOTHER blog (essentially) to an already overworked workload?

It's selfish really. Inklings is my writing-focused blog and while it's been the easiest of all my blogs to keep active I still like to prepare for a post and spend time formatting it so it reads more easily and is, hopefully FUN (as well as informative and thought provoking of course).

BUT, in case you haven't noticed, I'm suffering from a little thing known as 'burnout' right now and the effort to write with any specific structure is often overwhelming. The only thing is I really need to (and want to) keep writing as I recover and to stay active on the web. Live Journal is helping me do this in two ways:

1) It gives me 'writing prompts' which I have the choice of 'replying' to, along with a whole host of other writers/journal keepers/bloggers and we instantly get to see all the weirdly wonderful and different things we're all writing on this one topic - this encourages feedback, which encourages community and keeps you active. This gives me permission to write any old thing I feel lik writing about, without needing to conform to a standard of presentation so there's no pressure, no 'deadlines', no stupid posts and that equals fun!

2) There are a LOT of writers on Live Journal - honest-to-god professional-and-known-to-me-writers-whose-books-are-sitting-on-my-shelf and they encourage commenting and community. It's both thrilling and encouraging to post a comment on a Live Journal community site (eg I'm a member of Urban Fantasy Fans) and not only get comments but get input from authors whose work I'm familiar with.

Although my blogs have more people reading them than I realize most of the time, not being a big web-celebrity or politically-controversial and notorious writer I don't get a lot of comments. The lack of comments makes you feel like you're writing in a vacuum sometimes, even though your stat counter is telling you that you have in fact had 50 new visitors today. Posting a comment on a Live Journal community forum often generates instant feedback and in turn results in people adding you to their 'friends' list. That's good for the soul!

So if you want to read random things I've been thinking about - or have been prompted to think about like today's post titled: I, the Object - go visit.

The nice thing is that I've managed to surprise myself with what falls out of my brain over there - and it's sparking some nice discussions in the places I'm visiting.

While I'm working on recovering from my insane tiredness and my posts aren't as frequent as usual, it may just be that if I'm not writing much here, there's a good chance I've been writing over there.

It's the writing I can do when I can't manage to write and that ain't a bad thing!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Urban Fantasy Lacking In Social Commentary?

(cross posted from Urban Fantasy Fan)

I read a book review this evening (thanks Tez Miller!) that included the statement:
"... social commentary in urban fantasy (whether intended or not) often seems strangely absent."

She was remarking on the difference this novel* had because it DID include social commentary and is most definitely classified as Urban Fantasy.

But it got me thinking. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are often rife with it and the 'genre-apple' of urban fantasy really hasn't fallen SO far from that tree. Why IS social commentary "strangely absent" from this genre?

Before you get all ruffled and feel the need to defend Urban Fantasy from including anything other than compelling story telling of an 'other' kind, let me just say I'm not advocating that UF novels should have some sort of didactic purpose or deep political agenda. Not at all! I'm simply interested in the statement and wondering if this is in fact true, why this is the case.

Social commentary in literary circles can be defined as stating one's opinion with a view to causing societal and/or governmental change. In other words it's when authors write about the problems they see in society, hoping to wake up the general public to take notice and do something about it.

Now right there I can almost hear people say "well there's your answer! Who wants to be preached at?" But this is where fiction shines - because it can communicate messages without being preachy. Well known authors throughout history who engaged in social commentary in their writing include Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and, of course, Jonathan Swift (thin Gulliver's Travels). In Sci-Fi we have Gene Rodenberry's vision of Star Trek and the currently popular New Battlestar Galactica TV shows. In fantasy circles it can even be argued that Tolkein's Lord of the Rings includes a level of social commentary.

So what about Urban Fantasy? Is it really so bereft social observation and a call to take note and take action?

Although I read a lot of urban fantasy I still have a lot to get through before I've read everything out there, or even a sampling of it all there so I am no expert by any means. It seems a given that social commentary 'a la The Colbert Report' won't have a place in fiction but the idea that Urban Fantasy is for the most part lacking in any form of it has made me rethink my recent reads, so I'll start there. I've just completed the Dresden Files series from first to most recent and personally I would argue that the White Council/Black Council issues could be regarded as social commentary, though granted they are more of a 'B' or 'C' plot than the main one. And Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series could be argued to hold a double whammy of social commentary about how we use the earth and its resources as well as the racial/class issues of the Djin.

Perhaps the reason Urban Fantasy doesn't appear to have much in the way of social commentary is because it's busy being really good at functioning as a metaphor for our personal lives, our relationships and where (and how) we fit into the larger societal whole, rather than focusing on the 'macro-issues' of things like governmental control and societal structure.

Thinking about this question of 'lack or not' has me looking at Urban Fantasy's potential for social commentary, whether or not the genre as a whole is currently a good representation of it or not. As far as getting my attention goes, Urban Fantasy is a good way to do it. Give me a pertinent issue to deal with (looking through the eyes of the heroine or hero) that's socially relevant and you can be sure I'll be considering it with regard to my real world too. And if you think about the popular protagonists of Urban Fantasy inspiring females to stand up for themselves and speak their mind (also known as 'empowerment' in social circles) that's already having quite an impact on everything from communication (beware the blog!) to consumerism (sexy, smart, sassy and savvy is definitely 'in' right now).

I'm only just starting to think about this. I haven't gotten off the fence yet and decided on one side or the other. Perhaps it's not important where I land but it IS interesting to think about and it's making me consider seriously about how I approach writing my UF worlds too. That can't be a bad thing!

Yes I'm playing devil's advocate here but since this is the place for smart and savvy people I'm putting it to you: what do you think?

* The novel is Blood Lines by Tanya Huff. Read Tez Miller's review here.

NOTE: Illustration copyright of Nelson Colon. Click on the pic to go to his website.