Monday, August 13, 2012


Hello Reader!  Since I'm writing about teenagers, and I am currently wading my way through those awkward years between adolescence and adulthood where everyone expects me to know what I'm doing as if I'm an adult and then laughs at me when I talk about what I want to do as if I'm a teenager, I figured it would be a great idea to talk about one of the central issues that come up in YA fiction: parents.  And our relationships with them.

With that name, how do you think his momma treated him?

YA fiction either puts the parents and adults in the backseat as buffoons, untouchable gods, or condescending asshats.  The teenagers at the center of the story either rebel, or rebel, or rebel against these authority figures because...well, what else do teenagers do but complain, break the law and cry about their crush not giving them a Valentine's Day Gram.  To put it lightly, this is all very cliche and awfully silly.

Going to school with a ludicrous variety of kids, I've seen the gamut of parenting styles.  You've got the uber hippies who sneak pot for their children, and you've got the Asian tiger-moms who stuff napkins into their purses every time they visit a restaurant.  You've got super successful kids who never once in their life did anything wrong or got yelled at or got into trouble with teachers, either because they were sheltered beyond belief - or they were simply just good, motivated, hard-working kids.  On the other hand, there are kids who are constantly in trouble with their parents, butting heads and getting into conflict, taking their frustrations out on their bodies with vengeful tattoos and awkward piercings, yet still get better grades than you ever will and are wildly successful.

OMG I hated the Muslim guy's arc...why do we always have to impregnate someone to be "relatable"???

When did Degrassi ever address those kids?  Stereotypes are really easy to write about.  Could be because the majority of the characterization work is already done for you, but it's also because authors are in a naturally lazy profession.  You're sitting at home, either with pen & paper or on a laptop, writing down words and stringing together paragraphs into a story.  There's no heavy lifting involved unless you're fond of using absurdly giant pencils, there's no sweating from back-breaking manual labor unless you enjoy moving around reams and reams of scratch paper, and there's certainly very little dirty work involved unless you have a penchant for ripping apart your felt tip pens and pouring the ink all over your face every time writer's block comes knocking.

No, that's still not right.  Stereotypes sell.  Yes, that's better.  When you read interviews with agents and publishers, they want the next new thing.  To better handle the uncertainty of the public's fickle tastes, they want what's already worked beforehand.  This is completely understandable.  It's also lulled writers into complacency.  Especially when it comes to parent-teenager relationships.

I really need to learn how to put .gifs on here...

I don't blame any one television show or novel *cough* Degrassi *cough* *cough*.  I blame authors who can't think of new ways to get things done.  I'm not saying I'm some writing messiah with a innovative writing style that will blow people away - although if someone ever says that about me I'll grin so wide you can see my wisdom teeth.  All I'm saying is that I'm noticing a problem, and when I walk through Barnes & Noble I don't see anyone trying to fix it.

All you ever see are bumbling buffoons of parents.  Honestly, the best parent-kid relationships I've seen in YA fiction are in Harry Potter.  Everyone rags on J.K. Rowling for not being a literary genius, and yes her writing isn't top notch Charles Dickens fare.  But her relationships, the characters' interactions with each other, these are miraculous.  With very little literary prowess, she manages to blow us away with real feelings and emotions and everything in between those two synonyms.  The relationship between Ron and his mother is fraught with overbearing love and wisdom oft-ignored.  Molly Weasley is not a bumbling fool, but neither is Ron a brazen idiot.  Dumbledore is basically Harry's grandpa, and he's always looked to as a source of wisdom and confidence - he is not an authority figure to brush up against rudely and without any motivation other than to move the plot along.

TOO SOON!  TOO SOON!  *sobs in the corner*

You'd expect YA fiction to take a page from the wildly successful J.K. Rowling and her awesome character relationships.  Instead, they decide to settle on this general, very narrow tidbit of wisdom: there will never be another Harry Potter so why try?  They'd much rather go for the small game like the Hunger Games (Lord almighty why does Katniss' mom suck that bad?) or Twilight (Bella's dad is like a teenage boy who decided that having a mustache makes him a man).  These relationships suck, and the parents exist as filler - they had to pop out of something right?  Disney really knows what's up though.  They avoid all of these problems altogether and just kill the parents right from the get-go.  Brilliant people, Disney.  Just brilliant.

But then again, what do I know?  I'm no best-seller.  Here's an excerpt between Sheba, Briok's mom, and her son.  This takes place at the grave of Briok's father.  It's the first time he's visiting it, since he was in a coma when his father was officially buried.  His mother takes him, and tries to console him after he learns that he is half-human and the last Magna Beast.
              After several minutes without moving Sheba took pulled Briok away and looked him in the eyes.  “Do you know why I think you can handle this?”  She smiled and turned to rest her back against the statue.  “Proteus told me what you did, that night.  At that café, when you decided to disobey me and your father.”  She pulled him close to her.  “Briok, you jumped in front of a bullet.  You didn’t know that you were the Magna Beast, you didn’t know that you would probably heal.”  Briok continued to look away from her, but signs of life began to show.  He was fiddling with the grass, pulling at it in tufts.
            “I wasn’t thinking when I did it,” he finally spoke.  “And you’re my mom, you’re supposed to believe in me.”  He pulled his head up, “You're supposed to say all these great things about how amazing I am and support me.”  
             “Briok, you know your mother,” she stopped his hands from pulling at the grass, 
“If you do something wrong, I’m not afraid to tell you.  If you weren’t so wonderful, I 
would tell you.”  She laughed, “You risked your life.  You should be proud.  More than 
that, Briok you proved that you’re a man.  I’m proud to have you as my son.  You don’t 
listen to me, but I’m still proud.”  She hugged him.  Despite his dour mood, he returned her  
hug, burying his head in her shoulder

Like always, let me know what you think.  Until next time then.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Learning to Let Go

Hello Reader!  As I'm drafting query letters for agents and really analyzing the meat of my novel, I frequently come upon an unavoidable fact.  My novel has very little believable science fiction.  A lot of the technology I employ isn't nearly as well researched as something like the Hyperion series, my alien species fall into the two arms, two legs trope of most genre fiction, and while I love the superpowers my main characters have there's little concrete explanation for them.  I rock back and forth from fantasy and sci-fi, often in the same sentence, while expecting my readers to manage the tonal shifts.

Because of this glaring weakness too ingrained in the story to truly rectify, I focus on its strength: character relationships.  Now I'm not saying that the novel has good character relationships, I'm not that boastful.  You can be the judge of that.  I'm just saying that relative to other aspects of the novel (like the sci-fi tech and fantasy elements) it's a much stronger element.  These relationships, between teenagers just starting their adolescence, are of course fraught with angst and melodrama.  But they're also informed by my life.

When you're a teenager, every problem in the world seems like the apocalypse.  You feel alone in trying to stop this immense silent doom that no one else understands.  Sure some of you may not have felt that, and good for you.  La dee da.  But either way, the whole teenager thing provides good drama to write about.  There's nothing like the raw emotions of a fourteen year old to propel a plot.  The problem with me using this aspect of my life, my adolescence, to inform the adolescent relationships in my novel, is that I don't know much about my adolescence.

Yes, this is my rage face.  Beware.

It's not fair to say that I had it stolen from me.  It was very much a two-way street.  But for five years I was best friends with someone who, at the end of the friendship, revealed that a lot of important things that had happened between us was a lie.  A lot of those important things involved my relationships with other people. A lot of those important things involved how I thought I was perceived by others.  A lot of those important things involved how I perceived myself.

I can't begin to tell you how fucked up I was because of it, because I don't know the extent of the damage.  I have no idea how far those lies actually spread.  But lord did it make me angry.  A sort of wrath overcame me, a debilitating rage that I couldn't control.  I know when it comes on too, but it's like a drug.  I always felt better after I roared at someone.  More than once I've alienated and freaked people out by screaming at them like this.  People who care about me and like me.


But who really does like and care about you?  That's the takeaway I got from those five years.  It's all ephemeral, these feelings and warm-hearted grins people give you.  It can go away in an instant, because if you're not careful you'll let yourself get caught in a trap of trust and vulnerability built on lies and social niceties.  Betrayal is around every corner, a wraith ready to prey upon all the good feelings you desperately want to hold onto.

Of course, that's all of my vengeful bitterness talking.  None of that is a healthy way to live.  But the kind of clarity I have about the issue now only happened when that best friend came back into my life.   And told me that all of the lies revealed to me, all of the exposed deceit, all of the torturous arguments that turned me into a blithering lunatic, were fake.  That it was all done to let go of me, because this best friend didn't see any other way to cut off the unhealthy relationship.  DRAMA.

Beware crossroads demons...they like to kiss.

When something this jarring happens, you can go one of two ways.  Either you believe the person, thereby changing everything you've ingrained in yourself for years, or you can disbelieve a person and restart the same arguments you thought you had put to rest years ago when you refused to speak with the person ever again.  Believe, and change yourself, or disbelieve and get wrapped up in all that shit all over again.

I did neither.  I chose not to care.  I chose to accept the notion that I may never know the truth about that part of my life, and just be okay with it.  There's a point where you just get exhausted by hate.  And it's at that point, when there's nowhere left to go, that you just build your own damn street to drive on.  It's that kind of lucidity I want to bring to Briok and his relationships.  Ultimately, Briok's tale is a bildungsroman - a coming of age tale.  But a lot of syfy coming of age tales involve blatantly supernatural confrontations with evil.  It's really cool to read, and I'm guilty of lapping them up just as much as the next person.  But they aren't real, or relatable.  They're just cool.

This pedo clown monster came from Stephen King's mind.  Ya.  Swallow THAT.

What if there was a sci-fi/fantasy hero who dealt with evil not just on a supernatural scale, but on a very personal one too?  What if the true villains of this character's story weren't the evil aliens who want to kill him, but the untrustworthy friends who push him further and further towards bitterness and cynicism.  You and I, we aren't defined by our confrontations with Gollum, or the Dark Lord, or the happy-go-lucky best pals we can sometimes cross paths with.  We're defined by how we deal with bad things happening to us, and whether or not we came out of those situations whole.  No matter the genre, our shitty relationships with people (and yes, our great ones too) should be reflected in literature.  And not in the creepy, pseudo-pedophile way Stephen King does it.  Here's the weekly excerpt:
            “What are you talking about?”
            “What do you mean what am I talking about?  It’s a great idea!”
            Briok sat in his seat, gawking at Proteus.  For his part, Proteus had a crooked grin plastered to his face in an attempt to convince Briok.  “Water?  I’ve been playing football and violin all my life.  What makes you think I’m going to suddenly change everything and do Water?”
            “You’re not going to be changing everything.  You’ve got the body for it!  Besides, what else are you going to do with your free time?  Young prince lessons?”  Proteus turned to Carma, who was busy flirting with Evron Tennyson from afar.
            Proteus rolled his eyes in disgust, “Will you stop eye-raping him and help me out here.”
            She turned around scowling, “What?  He doesn’t want to play, leave him alone.  Besides, I don’t see why he shouldn’t keep doing violin.  You’re really good at it Briok.”
Until next time then.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Hello Reader!  Welcome to the first of multiple blogposts on world-building.  What is world-building?  Click that link and you'll find out.  But a quick and dirty summary of the concept, is that sometimes in Syfy literature you've got such fantastical concepts that they wouldn't fit into the already present world around us.  So you have to build a whole new world around your concepts, justifying them, explaining them, giving them context so that the reader can feel immersed in your story.  And so you don't look like a damned fool for putting proton cannons in the 18th century.  Even if it's a really cool idea that the Revolutionary War was fought with laser guns.

George Washington vs Zombies, a movie I'd pay to see.

What's the essence of world-building?  In fantasy, there are certain rules to world-building that you can't really break.  Science and technology are scarce.  Men must have beards.  If they don't, they're either smarmy weasels or elves.  And swords have to be ubiquitous.  If you can, name them.  In science fiction, you've also got a set of rules.  Don't go outside the realm of science, otherwise you'll look really foolish.  You don't have to include aliens, but if you don't have them, have something scarier to take their place.  And set your story in the future, please.

These rules aren't followed all of the time, but if you pay attention you'll see them in full effect in almost every single Syfy story.  Why?  Who knows.  They'are archaic and extremely limiting.  I took a Screenplay class my last quarter in school, and it was very enlightening for several reasons.  But it was also extremely restrictive.  When going over my plot and my story - for that class I decided to adapt my novel into a screenplay - the TA of the class decided that I could not have the world that I had built.  It would simply be impossible to sell to an audience, much less producers who would be buying my work.

Sometimes I want to punch Syfy authors in the face.

In the year 3096, on Earth, you would expect a post-apocalyptic society that's torn apart by perpetual struggles for resources and plagued by disease.  Or a utopian civilization hellbent on keeping a lid on just how screwed up everything's become.  Neither idea is very appealing for a story, and not just because both are excruciatingly cliche.  They are also really unrealistic.  How many times did people like Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley warn us of our impending doom?  And it didn't happen.  Look at the Cold War.  Everyday, Americans were told that they could be blown off the face of the planet.  And it didn't happen.  Because it works, and it sells, Syfy authors give very little credit to humanity.

But look at us.  We've survived plagues, we've survived genocides, we've survived famine and wars and bloodshed and nuclear crises.  We are a hardy bunch, worse than cockroaches and more resilient than we expect.  So what if we did end up in a apocalyptic war against invading aliens who have superior technology, strength and numbers to us.  And instead of being utterly destroyed, we end up in a détente.  The aliens, their plans and reasoning unknown to us, get a portion of humanity's land and in exchange they lay off the whole command and conquer bit.  So now, instead of a really droll and overdone plot about humanity FIGHTING BACK, you can have something far more nuanced and interesting: humanity struggling with peace.

I've basically revealed the bare bones of the world in my novel.  The wrathful Howlas invaded Earth around 2020, inciting a war that was only eventually stopped by the Decadent - the frightening use of a dozen well-placed H-bombs near the planets atmosphere, setting off a chain reaction that decimated the Howlas' forces.  Over the course of the next one thousand or so years, the Howlas and humanity's allies (Nymphs, and sometimes the Hyths) would clash with each other.  Halfway through that period, the Mags enter the fray, coming out of hiding to fight their ancient enemies the Howlas.  It all ends in the Fourth World War when the Howlas, the Mags, Humans and Nymphs all come to a stalemate.  From there on out it's an uneasy peace for 26 years, which is where the novel starts.

Now that's a world I'm interested in, and not just because I wrote it.  Seriously.  How does society function, when you've got a thousand years worth of cross-species intermingling going on?  Where do the basic functions of society like money, culture, holiday celebrations, education go from there?  How is segregation dealt with?  How is language dealt with?

Can humans and aliens fall in love?  Without the gross implications of alien sex?

I guess a really immediate way to relate to this kind of world is to look at Mass Effect.  Yes, the video game does have some elements of the whole "aliens are way better than humans and we're all just shitty shitheads who can't do shit", but overall it's a great portrayal of a society that has fully integrated - to the best of its ability - humans and aliens.  They have wars and they have drinks together.  They don't all speak the same languages, but they've all got the same problems - more or less.  So keep that in mind when you read the bit of world-building I try for here.  Let me know what you think in the comments!
            Residents of The Cliffs gathered along the enormous stone staircases and balconies, children flitting in and out of open apartment doors chasing each other with water pistols and handfuls of sand.  Each apartment was connected to the other through a complex web of tunnels that had been blasted into the stone.  Navigating them could take a lifetime, since very little technology was integrated into the city. 
            Laughter filled the air, one of the few times that the atmosphere was ever festive.  The Cliffs had been designed long ago as a welfare city for Atlantia, but the project had never been quite successful.  A din of music and various quartets vying for a simple coin or two to pay rent or worse mixed in with the general hustle and bustle.  Cars upon cars kept pulling up to the sandy sidewalks, dropping off families as the driver went off, looking for a half-decent spot to park, some of them yelling into cell phones, others yelling at the dog to stay in the car.
Branching off from the Speedway that ran throughout the country, a road led straight into a gorge bound by two cliff faces.  Etched into these monoliths were apartments and shops, an entire cityscape bustling with life.  The Cliffs, as the gorge was called, opened up onto a gorgeous harbor that was normally filled with small ships, rafts and surfers. 
            But today, the sandy shoreline was bursting with families rowdy teenagers who had come to see the Annual Water Exhibition held between Atlantia Upper School and its vicious rival Magna Boulevard Magnate.  The atmosphere was ferocious.  It was always warm in the Cliffs, as if the harbor was a trap for heat from the sun.  This seemed to elevate the tension that was already high between the rival teams, with even their mascots – a shark for Atlantia and a lion for Magna Boulevard – coming to blows.
Is the length too long?  I'm trying out this new thing where I end each blogpost with an excerpt.  Let me know in the comments!  Until Next Time Then!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Darth Vader is Your Daddy

Hello Reader!  As many of you have also done, I watched The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) this past Friday.  No, it isn't better than The Dark Knight (TDK).  And that has nothing to do with the merits of the stories themselves.  It has everything to do with the fact that Bane wasn't as good as the Joker.

Get it?  He's a dog that's chasing cars, so he sticks his head out of the window.

Now it's impossible to resurrect Heath Ledger's performance, and not because his acting prowess is untouchable.  It's just too hard to change everyone's minds about the caliber of his acting.  We've developed this sort of mythic idea about his performance, and Tom Hardy as Bane is just not capable of tearing down four years worth of mythmaking.  That being said, Bane is well-acted and Tom Hardy can emote with his eyes better than a lot of actors can with their whole face.

But Bane is still a one-note villain.  It's a really, really good note.  But he doesn't develop at all.  He starts off as this legend, and ends up as...well, that would be spoiling it.  Suffice to say, that his motivations never change throughout the movie.  All that changes are his origins.  Which isn't really developing a character, so much as fleshing him out.  And no, that doesn't count as a character arc.

The Joker had a character arc.  He began as a mad-man who was filling the mob's power vacuum, and transformed into a very literal agent of chaos.  Goals at the beginning of the film like robbing the mob, getting rid of Batman, morphed into a singular vendetta against everything that Batman personified.  He began with a yearning to kill the Bat, and instead ended up with a yearning to spiritually break him.  That's a wonderful antagonist, and a powerful character arc.  It speaks to the themes of the movie as a whole, and to a wider message.

Basically, the lesson from TDK is that your movie, your story is only as good as your villain.  That's why people remember Star Wars for Darth Vader and not just Luke Skywalker.  People remember the Godfather, because the hero became the villain.  When the villains themselves have an arc, when they change and grow, that's what really draws people in.  Gollum from LOTR is a riveting character because he changes and grows and learns.  His personality doesn't so much progress as regress, but that's still an arc.

What were all those buttons for anyways?

I'm not saying that one-note villains automatically make a movie bad.  The Lion King had Scar, and is considered a modern classic.  A lot of Disney movies are classics and they have one-note villains.  The Dark Knight Rises is an incredible film, a true achievement, and Bane is very one-note.  But for a film to be transcendant - of its genre, of Hollywood rules, of pop culture - then you have to have a villain who grows.  I truly believe that Star Wars, the Godfather, The Dark Knight, LOTR occupy their respective roles in our collective culture only because their villains grew and changed.

What does this have to do with my novel?  I think it's kind of obvious.  I want to create a villain that grows and changes.  If I talked about it, that would be spoiling the whole effect though, wouldn't it?  So how about a tease?  Check out this short segment and let me know what you think.  Yes, the character Tory Cross is the villain of the novel.  And yes, both of the characters here are Howlas, those bi-pedal wolves I talked about in my last post.
“I know someone from Howard’s family came here last night,” Tory sat down on a barstool, his huge frame crushing its cushion.
            “Who?” Jack asked innocently, as he turned on a spigot from the wall nearest him.  Steaming hot coffee poured out as Jack held a pot underneath.  He walked back to Tory, took one of the largest mugs and poured coffee for him. 
            “Crim.  Howard Crim, Jack.  My mentor?  My rabbi?  The one who brought me up from the streets, and is now deciding to stab me in the back.”  Tory reached to his hip and unclipped his gun. 
            Jack backed away immediately, his hands up in the air.  “Tory!  What are you doing?  Put your gun away, I won’t tolerate this in my shop!”
            Tory’s eyes flashed upwards, writhing flames of anger licking at his temples.  “Today is not the day to lie to me, Jack.”  He lazily brought out his gun from its holster.  “I’m a little groggy.  I might not kill you quickly.”
Now I want to watch the movie again.

It's not much, but then again why would you want to read an entire chapter here on a blog?  Hit up the comments section with any critiques.  Until next time then.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What's Your Novel About?

Hello Reader!  Every time I tell someone that I'm writing a novel, their very first question is "What's your novel about?"  And while this is a completely logical question to ask someone like me, a 21 year-old know-it-all with a hard science degree, it is also unsettlingly annoying.

They look just like this guy!!

I say unsettlingly because every person that asks me that question looks to me with this half-condescending, half-curious stare of pseudo-interest.  It's honestly very uncomfortable.  I usually stutter and spurt out a few trite words about the novel being science fiction, about a boy who learns that his father dies, etc.  And I never get the reaction every author hopes for, the indelible, "Oh my God, that's so interesting!"

Of course, the real reason why I'm so uncomfortable with the question may be that I can't explain the damn thing in one sentence.  This is a definite detriment to any and all of my attempts to market the novel.  I really need to get that down.

Proud parents can sometimes translate into embarrassed teenagers

But my own inequities do not negate the uncomfortable nature of explaining my novel to someone.  Especially when my novel includes magic powers, yellow, furry cat like aliens fighting a holy war against aliens who look like bi-pedal wolves, and tons of teenage angst.  All surrounded by really angry, ultra-violent gangsters (who just so happen to be some of those bi-pedal wolves) who are embroiled in class warfare against other, fellow bi-pedal wolves.

It's sort of like trying to sell your kid.  You know what I mean.  What exactly would your parents say about you?  I know my parents would stumble over my litany of extra-curriculars.  Heck, in the beginning of my collegiate career my major shifted from biology to chemistry and back on a weekly basis with them.  My point is that it's not easy to dilute into one sentence something that you put a lot of care and time into - more than nine years worth in my case.

Oof, my worst fear realized.

I'm not sure if my discomfort is shared by everyone.  It probably isn't shared by some of the true greats, or people who have "made it" as authors.  But since I refuse to be a whiny bitch, here's a crack at diluting The Proxy Wars: Dramatis Personae into one sentence:
A kid is given enormous powers and responsibilities but gets in over his head trying to use them to discover the origins of the laser gun, and why the group of gangsters who have been attacking him possess the new technology.
It's way more complicated than that one, somewhat run-on sentence lets on, but who am I to refuse agents and publishers what they want?  Let me know what you think.  Until Next Time Then.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hierarchy of Race

Hello Reader!  The title of the blog post sounds like something you'd see from my other blog right?  And you know, it probably would be a good topic to discuss there too.  But for now, I feel like it's super relevant to the "legend of a work in progress".  It's probably one of the most important considerations I made in creating my characters and shaping the species (be it Human or alien) they come from.

It's stupid how gorgeous he is, right?

In case you don't know what the Hierarchy of Race is, here's a link to Professor Michael Hunt's paper.  He teaches at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and has written a book about how racial ideologies have shaped US foreign policy.  To sum up what he says though, there's a very real race hierarchy in people's minds that informs them in their day-to-day interactions.  This guy is black, thus he is less than an asian, who is less than a white.  And so on and so forth.  While this may not be true for everyone, and I would argue that for the majority of people it is not true, it's apparently a really big part of US foreign policy and you can't deny the fact that it's a huge part of the American legacy.

And it's also a huge part of science fiction and fantasy.  Look back on a lot of the classics in either genre.  You'll see a definite partitioning of races based solely on the fact that they are who they are.  Yes, in Lord of the Rings the Quenya fought a war with the Noldorin and they certainly don't shy away from marrying into the race of humans.  And in science fiction once in a while you see aliens turning on each other politically like Estraven's struggle against his native Karhide in Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness.  But the vast majority of science fiction and fantasy (syfy) novels have a set number, kind, and relationship for the races that populate their books and authors do not deviate from these set standards.  Orcs are always stupid, trolls are even worse, and elves are badass gorgeous people.  Humanity is either in charge of a system of worlds and corrupted, or fighting against an organized system of worlds and pure.

Poor kid...

Sure, you can hide behind the idea that these are tropes, motifs, structures that have worked before and can totally work again.  I agree that they're fun, but I also posit that they are outdated.  I'm tired of reading about the same old relationships, I'm tired of reading about the human protagonist saving the aliens because their weirdo ways saved him/her, I'm really freaking tired of reading about the same political, societal relationships between the perennially creepy species and the always beautiful ones.  It's kind of ridiculous how stagnant things have become.

Syfy was meant to be a world of endless possibilities, where the problems and issues of the real world can be explored and extrapolated on a dramatic scale.  Interesting interpretations should abound, not ossified hierarchies that don't even exist.  Why can't the Elves be hoodlums and the Orcs be the dignified ones?  Where does it say that every future society has to be a dystopia ruled by despotic aliens/humans?  Everything is the same same same.  Ugh.

Funny face, lulz

Why is it that after a war between aliens and humans, the political and societal effects aren't explored?  Don't you think that aliens would intermingle with humans?  That humans would influence aliens, that after millennia some of them might even adopt our religious systems?  Why is it a fact that the religions of today die out in the future?  After two millennia we still have Christianity, what's another two?  Often I feel that the attachment to these tropes, especially concerning how aliens or fantasy races are developed and interact with each other, is built off of laziness.

Laziness, however, is a lazy answer.  More probable is the idea that the whole genre of syfy is losing its focus.  People are beleaguered with spectacle and awe, an empty miracle of technology that will only hold a person's eyes without ever touching their soul.  And the easiest way to deliver this spectacle is to not push the envelope, to leave the bells and whistles of syfy be.  There's no challenge for the audience, and none for the creative mind.

Such a badass, so good at world building

But it's a lot less fun.  Maybe, after all of this complaining, I should throw out there what I'd like to do with my races.  Maybe.  I find it to be self-serving, a "Gotcha!" moment that is rooted in arrogance.  I do not think that I have achieved whatever level of creativity is needed to abolish the old stereotypes.  I only ardently wish that the work I am doing now is seen in that light.  I want to shake things up, I want to break barriers.  The Howlas aren't a single, mindless race of beings.  There are Howlas who hate other Howlas, who are Christian and Jewish, who love humans and hate themselves.  Humanity is not weak but burdened, under the thumb of no alien species and in detente with all of them.  Argh, I'm digressing.

Either way, I think syfy needs to change.  Orcs shouldn't always be stupid and ugly, aliens shouldn't always be war-mongering.  It'd be nice if authors and filmmakers and showrunners could have some creativity, and even more so it would be nice if they respected the audience.  Until next time then.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Update to an Earlier Post

Hello Reader!  So I've posted a few excerpts from the novel here online, and I was looking through them earlier today with nostalgia.  I found one in particular that was very, melodramatic?  Ya, that's a good word for it.  A lot of my writing from earlier drafts of the novel was pretty melodramatic I'd say.  I've toned it down a lot, and tried very hard to impress upon the reader that there's actual humor in my world.  So while I've rewritten this specific scene, I've kept it somber.  I wanted to...well, that would be cheating if I told you what I wanted to do.  Let's see what you think of it!  Post up on the comments (I know some of you are very vocal) what you thought of the piece, and if you have the time, please compare it to the previous version of the scene!

Hey!  That's me!

So to give some context, Briok's father was murdered and at his funeral Briok was attacked by the Howlian mafia.  They were after him because he had witnessed a crime they committed, one against a government official and of course the criminal underworld hates loose ends.  In the end, Briok escaped them but wasn't able to properly attend his father's funeral.  In this scene, he's visiting the grave with his mother a day or so after the attempted kidnapping.

            It was early morning Monday, the first day of school for Atlantian children.  Briok’s swollen red eyes were boring into his father’s grave.  “Briok?  Briok, it’s time to leave,” Sheba Cwartel gently touched her son’s shoulder.  Time was showing its heavy toll on his weary face.  His brow was creased, his eyes full of both contempt and sorrow.  His hair was unnaturally dull in color.
            Sheba tried pulling her son up, but he pushed her off, still staring at his father’s grave.  Straightening her black coat, she looked at her watch.  It was nearly noon, and they had spent several hours at the grave already. Her wary eyes scanned the surrounding area, dark sunglasses hiding her own pain.
            The Burial Mound was at the top of a hill in Atlantia sitting on the edge of Atlantis’ craggy coastline.  Waves rolled back and forth against the slope where six Atlantian monarchs, Magna Beasts all, lay dead - dispatched at the hands of the Howlas.  The grass grew green atop the buried coffins, and the flowers had bloomed beautifully.  But a pall persisted.  A constant wind blew across the dewy grass, ever-present clouds clapped together from time to time, and the quiet never lifted.  Each gave the Burial Mound an exquisitely sad character.
            Sheba turned her gaze to the stone eyes of her husband, his likeness erected in beautiful marble over his grave.  He was holding a sword in one hand, an olive branch in the other, and his face was looking into the distance as it always did.  She barely contained the gasp of pain that escaped her lips.  Looking away, she caught sight of her son silently repeating something to himself.
            He was reading the tombstone with such intensity, his eyes burning into it,
Only among the aisles of the cathedral, only as we gaze upon their silent figures sleeping on their tombs, some faint conceptions float before us of what these men were when they were alive. – J.A. Froude”
            “That was your father’s favorite quote.” She crouched down to Briok’s level, “He lived his life by that quote.  He wanted very much to mean something.”
            Briok quivered.  Sheba tried to tame his hair, giving up after a few tries. “Your ambition is not the only thing he gave you.  You have his ridiculous hair,” she ruffled it gently, “you keep everything to yourself, just like him.  You even inherited his beautiful smile.”
            Briok seemed to have sunken into an even deeper depression with this litany.  “I even inherited his curse.”
            Not one inch of her flinched, but Sheba’s silence spoke volumes of a mother’s fury for her child.  “Briok,” her voice was caught in her throat, “It doesn’t have to be a curse.  You aren’t going through this alone, I promise you.  Whatever Amar does with you, I will be here.”  She pulled him closer, “You are my son.  You are not cursed.  And even if you are, I didn’t raise you to give up, now did I?  You can be the greatest one to have ever lived.  You can be the best, better than any of them!” When Briok’s eyes did not meet hers, Sheba gently took his head and pushed it in her direction.  “Where’s my happy Briok?  Where’s the strong man that I raised?”
            “I can’t, Mom,” he pushed her away, slumping to the ground, and burying his head beneath his arms.  Sheba could do nothing but sit next to him, silently cradling her grieving son.  He wasn’t even crying.  He was hiding.  From pain.  From burden.
            After several minutes without moving Sheba took control.  Slowly, with effort bridled, she helped Briok rise and the pair left the memories behind.  They drove away in silence, seeking only the company of their own minds.  When they had both finally arrived at the Villa, Briok hurriedly removed his shoes and threw them into his cubby in the garage.  Forcing the door open, Briok dragged his feet up the stairs to his room.
            The Villa, a cozy abode in a quaint neighborhood, was the de facto home of the royal family.  Of course, the anonymity of its inhabitants was of utmost importance.  The Villa was flanked by homes filled to a bursting point with guards who were on call every minute of every day.  Behind its sprawling backyard, almost an acre in size, the Villa had a small army hidden in the building that posed as a community center for the neighborhood.  And the street in front of the idyllic home was patrolled constantly by rotating squads of Atlantian guards, driving by sleeplessly in their inconspicuous vehicles.
            Sheba walked straight to the kitchen, closing the overwrought wooden door to the garage behind her.  Her heels clicked against the wood-tile floor, decorated with ornate rugs from all over the world.  The kitchen was a spacious area, with granite countertops and a large, impressive island in its center. Sheba took to the television in the adjoining living room, a unique contraption built for all the necessities of a home but also equipped with the daily reports and news that only queens were privy to.
            In one swift motion Sheba turned on the TV set, flipped to her briefings, and began cooking.  Her hand touched the top of the island twice, her eyes poring over the reports on the TV screen, saying “Next,” every time she was done reading about a report.  Four panels lit up on the countertop, each with concentric circles.  The panels were surrounded by a larger, black box that had four dials at its bottom.  Sheba’s hand trailed to one of these dials and set it on high.  She then took a pot out from the cupboard, filled it with water, and set it atop the stove.  “Get out of your clothes and take off that silly bandage the doctor put on you!”  Sheba yelled.
            Throwing all of her skill into it, Sheba made a ludicrously large meal for her son.  Pasta was the quickest menu item, with a heavy addition of pesto to satisfy Briok’s ravenous teenage stomach.  Sheba waited for the noodles by slicing chicken, absent-mindedly moving the knife up and down.  Decades of practice with her father had left her terrifyingly competent, to the point where much of the work had become cathartic.
            Briok never partook in cooking with his mother, most of the time being shooed out of it for fear he may accidentally blow something up.  Sitting down in the dining room just outside, Briok waited patiently while Sheba worked tirelessly.  With not a single sign of fatigue, Sheba plated her feast and put it to Briok’s mat.  But all that time waiting had distracted him from his hunger.
            All the normally appreciative Briok could do was stare at the gold chandelier hanging from the ceiling.  Its intricate design held ten bright lights in them, three of which had gone out.  “I should change the lights huh?” Briok asked, his tone deadpan.
            “You need to eat your food first,” Sheba spun her fork in the middle of her plate, but she too had seemed to lose her appetite.  Briok nodded and began poking at his food again.  The random clanking and clattering of forks went on, until Briok finished his third cup of water. 
            “I need to go to the bathroom,” he didn’t bother with asking for permission to leave the table.  He ran up the stairs and slammed the door.  Sheba merely stared at her plate, her hands frozen.  She could hear the pipes groan a little, and the wood beneath his feet creak as he stepped into his room.  Sheba wiped her mouth and rose from her chair.  She walked to the stairs, taking a grip of the polished wood rails to steady herself. 
            When she arrived in Briok’s room she found him sitting at his desk, fiddling with a ring.  “Where did you find that?” she asked as she stepped towards his bed.  The walls around him were painted in two shades of blue, a light shade on the top half of the walls and a much darker shade taking the bottom.  Molding divided the two, running the length of the room and into Briok’s sparsely decorated door.
            Sheba sat on Briok’s bed, ruffling the white sheets.  It was nearly half the size of the room, dwarfed only by the desk nestled between two windows.  One could see into the distant mountains to the north, the other looked down upon the radiant backyard and the multiple fruit trees Briok and his father had planted together.  Briok sat here, between the two windows, ignoring his mother.
            “Briok, I need you to talk.” Sheba turned his chair around and made him face her.  His brilliant green eyes flashed at her, his gaunt face and furrowed brow an almost exact copy of his father’s face when he felt sorrow.  Sheba could barely breathe.  She grabbed the ring from Briok, who cried out in anger.
            “Give it back!” he reached for it, but Sheba held it back. 
            “Do you know who gave this to your father?” Sheba asked.  Briok immediately calmed down.
            “No,” he replied.
            “My father,” Sheba held it up in front of her, letting the light from the ceiling reflect off it.  “Before your father left Nizam with me, my father gave him this ring.  It’s made from lythe steel, only mined on Nizam.  It can’t be melted once purified, and it never loses its shine.”
            “Why did Abar give that to Dad?”
            “Well, your Abar was a proud man.  When my brothers died, he was broken.” Sheba brought her hands down to her lap, as she began her story.  “I was the only one left by the time your father came and asked for my hand.  Your Abar wanted me to marry a Nizami, someone who had worked in the mines just like him.  But what could he say to the King of Atlantis?  So,” Sheba smirked and lifted the ring up to Briok’s eye-level, “he gave your father this ring as a promise.  To take care of me the same way a man from Nizam would.”
            Briok stiffened, “Did you want to leave with Dad?”
            Sheba nodded, “Nizam wasn’t the best place in the world.  I’m not sure if it was because it was a colony, or if it was just the kind of people that had settled there.  But I did want to get away.  And your father was such a powerful, charismatic man.”  Sheba looked up into Briok’s green eyes.  His were like a doe’s, wide-eyed and hopeful.  “Your father’s eyes pierced me.  The first time I met him, well you know, we were in college here.  I was shaking, his eyes were so intense.”  Sheba smiled, caressing her son’s face.  “You’re the spitting image of him in everyway, but your eyes are different.  There’s more hope.”  Sheba smiled, her eyes grim.  Briok leaned in and took his mother’s hand.
            “Mama, are you okay?” 
            Sheba nodded quickly, “Of course.  Here,” she took the ring and put it on Briok’s finger, “Your Abar made this himself.  It’s an heirloom, something we pass down from father to son, over and over.”
            “I’m not getting married Mom,” a faint hint of a smile peeked past the curtain of fatigue and loss.  Briok massaged the ring now resting on his finger. 
            “It’s not just for that,” Sheba also smiled, “It’s a token of trust.  That whoever wears this ring will be a man, not a boy.”
            Briok’s fist clenched tight.  “Mom, what happened to all those times you told me not to be like him.  To be a better man than him.”
            Sheba laughed, a disconcerting noise that made Briok flinch.  He didn’t think what he said was funny, “What did I say?”
            “Nothing.  You’re right, I do want you to be a better man than him.  But not everyone’s perfect, and not everyone’s evil Briok.  Your father had many good things in him.  He was brave, he was charming, he knew how to talk to anyone and everyone.”  Sheba’s eyes were in another place, recounting on their own a fond memory of her husband.  “He would walk into a room and without even speaking, just by looking at people, he could make you feel as if you were his best friend for ages.  I want you to have those things Briok, those things that made him great.  And everything that made him less than perfect, you do the opposite.”  Sheba touched the ring on Briok’s finger, it’s silver warmed by the heat of his hands.  “This is also a reminder of everything good about your father.  Your Abar trusted him with me, and now I’m trusting you.”
            “With what?” Briok’s voice was quiet.
            “To be a man, no matter what happens to us.  Now come on, let’s eat.”  Briok was about to fight back, questions almost escaping his lips.  But Sheba pressed a single finger to his lips, tried taming his unruly black hair, then walked out of the room.  Briok sat there, his hand rubbing the ring idly while his mind floated to the legacy of his father.
            Seeing that he was glued to his seat, Sheba carried a large tray with his dinner to Briok’s room, setting it down quietly next to him.  Stroking his untamed hair, she whispered to him that she was going to the Palace to take care of some ambassadors.  “Tomorrow I’ll be gone to the Senate building.  Promise I’ll be back before dinner.  Eat your soup, and get some rest.” When Briok did not reply, Sheba gently squeezed his shoulders, “You can’t forget that you are still alive, Briok.  You still have things to do.  You’re fourteen years old, you are not a child.  When I come back, I want to see you cleaned up and in bed.  You of all people need the rest.”  Exiting the room, she turned on the lights.  Sundown was settling itself in, the deep shades of dusk spreading their fingers across the nighttime sky.
Hopefully this suits your fancy!  I hope it's at least better than the previous version, I definitely think it is!  Until next time then.