Archive for September 27, 2017

Easy to photograph…

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

When speaking in favor of fan fiction (see post), I must’ve been writing in the abstract. Several months later, my Wattpad account still only has the three Star Trek stories left over from a brief explosion of ideas from about seven years ago surrounding the last regular publication of the Strange New Worlds anthology that walked in the door when I opened the account. What happened? Brain freeze most profound. 

Okay, Captain Archer bet the ship on a game of chess with a Klingon over a dilithium rich planet. And then we get a weird one where Mirror Picard goes through the portal to jack up (four lights, Asshole) Kirk Prime over access to the Guardian of Forever. Which then leads to the ultimate Star Trek Mary Sue (slang for a talented outsider showing up the crew) story, where the Guardian of Forever (really must like that glowing talking time travel donut) tosses a SEAL and his brother, a Naval Aviator, across the Fiction Divide to save the day. Since then…nothing.

So far no one has paid attention other than my dad and the five other family members following my online presence, but I did try Batman or, rather, Wonder Woman thrust into the Gotham cesspool – Widow Wayne. And then I yanked the story from Wattpad after four sections in a fit of it’s not good enough. I haven’t put it back up despite recently considering using such fan fiction as loss leader verbiage. I weighed using these words a small few hundred at a time to anchor things like TinyLetter email newsletters or to replace unproductive political comments on Facebook.

Well, not if I don’t figure out the brain freeze that leads to a near-total lack of Give a Damn for licensed fan fiction, across several licenses. Let’s see false starts for Star Trek. And equally entertaining nose plants for Star Wars. And I have so far discovered that gravity is a thoroughgoing bitch as I perfect the Tomato Splat Dance with my more numerous DC Universe abortions. Something about the concept either blows up in a spectacular fail leading to the fatal question – Why? – or simply hides in the closet.

For some reason since completing Toys of Forever (the Mary Sue story), my best Star Trek idea has been to punish Kirk for all the dead redshirts by having him do a Henry the Fifth Disguises Himself Among the Troops to Hear Their Opinions story. But, does Captain Kirk really need more of a beating about dead redshirts?

The Internet and most Star Trek themed joke-memes have already beat Kirk’s halting delivery of – “You. Killed. My. Man. Dirty. Klingon. Bastard!” – to hell and back. What do I add? I’ll let you know if Calliope stops hiding behind the winter coats in the back of the wardrobe. Besides, I don’t hate Kirk enough for this story.

Another Trek idea that could still possibly fly for Wattpad or my other unused loss leader venues is an unnamed small patrol ship series. The idea is to jettison the majority of the planetary landing episodes in favor of flying along already charted space lanes acting like the Coast Guard, rescuing people and making safety inspections. Someone has to do the routine work of Starfleet that allows the Enterprise to roll up to the newfound planet, kill redshirts and kiss the green alien girl by the last reel.

So I need a captain of this small ship. Not wanting to completely to reinvent the wheel as Peter David got to with Mackenzie Calhoun, I go casting about for a previously unknown relative for someone we already know. Someone who can cameo for their cousin the way Al Michaels the sportscaster did for his fictional brother, Arliss on the eponymous HBO show from way back. In Star Trek land (my version of it anyway) we quickly land on Lieutenant Commander Henry Picard (Americanized spelling is highly intentional) of the Napa Picards.

I had quite a bit of fun positing a third cousin (their grandfathers were brothers) raised by the Napa wing of the great winemaking family. There was a lot of blovius/exposition about cousins shut out of the chateau and then marrying into California land grants from the Spanish king, a trademark fight between Chateau Picard (France) and Maison Picard (Napa) in the 1880s leading to Henry creating a minor scandal getting caught for demerits at Star Fleet Academy with a beer-making kit. And then, I had my typical fan fiction brain freeze of then what?

No solidified ship name (USS Resolution? USS Bright Nova?). No plot in the sense of Henry either rescuing someone that causes trouble or searching a ship to find improper behavior that then launches into the adventure. Does depicting routine Starfleet operations with neither a big war nor fascinating planet to explore remove the reasons we watch Star Trek instead of Babylon5? I don’t even know how the Klingons will show up.

Or we could talk about Star Trek: Everyone Comes to Lucky’s. Worf’s son Alexander opens up a restaurant near the border between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. He serves fresh targ for his Klingon guests and replicator meat for everyone else. Other than Alexander, named Lucky by his shipmates in the Dominion War, wearing a tux and fussing over a visit from his father and Chancellor Martok…nothing. Crickets.

It’s not like there aren’t adventures to be had doing the Trek version of Casablanca where the man in the tux doesn’t need to look for adventure, it walks in the door in the form of a dame who once upon a time – “the Germans wore gray. You wore blue.” I just haven’t found any yet. Not a single mysterious female, nor shifty-eyed drifter has taken up his seat at the far end of the bar since I first doodled out Lucky serving his father and adopted uncle a targ alfredo. Gee! Wouldn’t it be nice if… Believe me, I’d bomb the establishment if I thought it would do any good. No villains. No why to the piece.

I quickly walked away from a Star Wars project intended to show Rey building her own lightsaber going prospecting in the Yavin Four debris field for kyber crystals. With the First Order, General Hux and Kylo Ren running around, I’ve got all the villains with clear motivations I’ll ever need. But, The Last Jedi is going to cover the majority of my story. I should watch the movie and see what’s left. Don’t reinvent the wheel (unless you really hated the script for Return of the Jedi, a story for another time).

Bringing it around to the DC Universe, this process of coming up with brilliant half-ideas that fizzle in the harsh light of day continues. I still can’t develop a Batman villain that Diana Prince-Wayne could fight as she acclimates to the social warfare of being the Widow Wayne. I have cool moments, like during the transfer of the Wayne Trust a discussion and pointed barb about Clark Kent’s glasses (Diana agrees to dye her hair red to create more divergence between Diana and Wonder Woman). Yeah, I’m not immune to throwing in the Selina Kyle Catwoman as the jealous ex. Or Poison Ivy. Or the current Gotham It Girl, Harley Quinn.

So far, I have an episode of the old Tick sitcom that deals with all the minor conflicts that happen in between the big hero fights. Diana drops a loaded eyebrow on the bitchy society ladies of Gotham silently judging her because she didn’t wear Hermès? Check…complete with bitch slap. Diana comes to terms with Selina Kyle as the equally grieving ex? Check. But, perhaps the main difference between Diana Prince and someone like Alexis Carrington is that she throws hard elbows at…(Joker? Riddler? Two-Face?).

 A friend once tried to assuage my ongoing freak out about not having any good ideas for my favorite superheroes saying – “invent a crime and give it a slightly offbeat and superhuman twist that it could only be pulled off by whichever villain you pick from Batman’s list. It’s not rocket science.” It’s almost cliché to bust out Joker as the Batman go to villain. I’m sure there are scholarly papers about Joker being Batsie’s dark alter ego doing the Jungian duality thing posted somewhere. Unfortunately, this can lead to the cliché and occasionally creatively bankrupt solution of send in the clown.

The question I face with The Widow Wayne is why? With the Clown so intertwined with Batman, why would Joker even show up to make trouble for Wonder Woman? Does he quit? Does he bust out every racist, sexist, violent trope sure to buy the writer of this dark fable lots of heat from the social media peanut gallery? Does he hold back because he’s playing against a girl representing, to his mind, a lesser opponent, buying the writer even more heat from the same social media peanut gallery that humorously gets you both ways because yelling on social media has become a national spectator sport?

If I go with Joker holding back, does it create a sense of a ranked chess player infuriatingly pulling knights off the board to a keep a child in the game? And does that sense of keep the hero in the game wander off into another villain’s wheelhouse (I’m looking at you, Riddler)? My brain freeze is complete across all my fandoms…

I’m reasonably certain that the inability to answer the all-important questions – who is the frakking villain and what does he want? – has its roots in the sheer love my fandoms cause in me. I really want to get Trek right the first time without resorting to slash fiction or busting out hentai that…no, not going there. It’s like I’m violating my own aphorism about take a Shakespearean drama off the pedestal, perform the fucker with actors and shut the hell up about it being “the standard by which all English literature is judged.”

It’s just Batman, Star Trek and Star Wars. But, somehow I’m more likely to do the mild personal deconstruction of Shakespeare and Shakespeare-adjacent projects (Coriolanus in Space, Chinatown in Iambic Pentameter) that keeps these ancient plays relevant than to remember that the same goes for modern franchises. But, the “I’m not worthy” factor that once upon a time kept me from chatting up both Leonard Nimoy and Ray Bradbury also seems to kick my ass trying to find a good plan for scum and villainy. Without the evil plan that the hero responds to, you just don’t have a superhero story. I do okay the minute I remove the pressure of getting Batman or the Joker “right” and ruthlessly steal tropes into an original context (ask me about Funnyman).

So for the moment, I don’t do fan fiction. Ask me again sometime later, if I got my shit together.

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

I write. I write all kinds of ways. I revert back to typing on a word processor on a regular basis. Sometimes I get whiny about writing with a pen trashing my elbow. Certainly tapping out my next chapter crashed out on my couch with my iPhone (pictures absolutely not forthcoming!) takes twice as long. Editing and retyping typewriter product has seemed a little intimidating nearly all the time, but I do it. And I haven’t wanted to risk the voice transcription error rate for Siri/Dragon. So more often than not I type on my traveling computer, which really streamlines editing to the most painless it’s ever going to be. There, that covers the why of a post bloviating/updating you about my process…whatever pleases me at the moment. 

It’s really weird temporarily joining certain writer subgroups when you bust out certain writing methods for the day; usually this is the pen and paper crowd. I flop into a chair open up the spiral and draw one of my five named fancy pens (I come not in disparagement of pens, but for which to…really? Let me a take a moment to kick the shit out of Shakespeare’s ghost. BAM! CHOP-POW! Where were we?). And I start making words.

I look slightly younger than I am where my few gray hairs have made honorable compact to forego spreading across my head. Maybe my fellow writers from the Gen X/Boomer class are surprised when I bust out a pen, because I don’t always look like them (look close and listen, yeah, I was there in the Stone Age when we all rode saber-tooth tigers, soon to go extinct). They must think I care to hear their anti-youth whines about not learning cursive and a few other pen related topics that just seem like an excuse to bitch that “in my day…” Our day was the metaphorical Neolithic Age and how things are now are way better; you can take my computer when you pry it from my cold dead hands!

Without getting into the advanced class topics of reading cursive or the value of teaching useful archaic skills just in case the power goes out, I’ll keep my frustration to the most basic and common assertion – “Well, I hear that writing with a pen makes stronger connections in the brain and that it is better than writing with a computer.” This assertion also surfaces every now and again in my social media feed. The fake movie lawyer I never really wanted to be is already shouting – “Objection, Your Honor, facts not in evidence!”

No, this is not me pulling an anti-science position (not without scorn, derision and slight regard…excuse me, Zombie-Shakespeare is proving hard to keep dead. POW-POW-BAP-THWAP!). This is just me admitting that I just haven’t made the time to look up (the speakers/posters haven’t cited any articles in my hearing, so they’re not helping), read and digest such information. And why not? The assertion runs contrary to my personal experience.

Giving a child in school a pen and wide-ruled three-hole filler paper may in fact be good educational policy using a Training Wheels Work up to the Computer methodology. I don’t know these things getting them secondhand from teacher friends. And people who do make the effort to wade through such journal articles will develop proper educational policy without old timers waxing nostalgic/craptological.

Once you sell out to your muse (Calliope in my case) as an adult writer, I don’t think the supposed benefits of writing by hand matter. Either you pick a method and make words, or you accept that you were distracted by a mostly boring football game the day before (your distractions will vary). So after years and years of living in my skin as a writer, I just can’t tell the difference between the ears when I slash with a pen or scalpel (horrible made up verb there) with a keyboard. I have been given a sampling of mental health/life coaching counseling over the years, trust me, my state when I write is exactly like my state when I type.

My infrequent bouts of writer’s block (last one in 2009 for 18 months, I was extremely angry) likely wouldn’t have changed at all. Neither does the method seem to change the quality of my words or underlying ideas. I recently invented the draco-bear, a worthy beast to obstruct the way of many a stalwart hero on the road to Mordor or North of the Wall. I used a pen. I typed. The results are the same, a beast likely to burn off the seat of your pants unless you bribe it with salmon.

And yet some of my fellow writers, just love to assert that X way is best. We’re already the weirdest people in the room just admitting with a straight face that we write, that we sit around trying to think shit up in a society where three to six million readers determine what the rest of us will see as movies four years later. If writing with a pen had such a great effect all through my early years in school, the similar effects of cutting to the chase and typing have caught up to handwriting that we either write words or watch football.

I typically nod when I hear this assertion and say nothing. It doesn’t pay to get into the silliness of debating pens, keys or Siri. I’ll do me fighting through at least 1,000 words per day. You do you. And let’s keep writing…the rest is silence (Shakespeare for the win! ARRRRRRRGH!).