Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Writing the Other in SFF

Rob makes a very valid point in his post.  It seems that Speculative Fiction (in its broadest sense) is somewhat uniquely positioned to take on a bit of controversy.  I believe much of this comes from ability we have to remove the reader from the world they know and place them into a world where anything is possible.

I believe that this is especially important when one considers issues of The Other - that is, the being that is different than I.  We as humans have a tendency to see Otherness as threatening, even evil.  Discussions about reconciliation and tolerance are often difficult, charged with stereotypical baggage and imperfect experience.  

In spec fic, we have an opportunity to talk about what it means to be Other while removing the baggage.  We write of alien races and magical beings, things so far removed from the here and now that the reader has difficulty attach a label or stereotype.  The Other is expected, even embraced (after all, what would a space opera be without an alien encounter?).  As readers, we put ourselves into the position of outsider, insider, companion and enemy, all without batting an eye.  Because it's a story.  And a weird one at that.

Story allows us to plumb the depths of who we are as humans.  Speculative fiction, by it's very nature, forces us to think about how we relate to one another.  As writers, we do a great disservice if we do not consider how our characters relate to one another and how The Other is portrayed.

How do you use The Other in your fiction?  Do you allow your readers an insider's perspective of a foreign way?  Do you allow them to be on the outside looking in?  What does your treatment of The Other in your fiction say about your relationships and beliefs in the Real World?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Two Trends

So I watched the Oscars last night. I had a few thoughts (only a few) but i thought i'd share them in the form of questions. None of the winning actors were american, all of them were amazingly talented but certainly not american. (Daniel Day, Tilda Swinton, Javier Bardem, and Maria Cotillard.) As the world becomes increasingly small and increasingly flat how important do you think it is that fantasy keep up? Another quetion it raised for me was: "why keep tackling social issues with a thin veneer of fantasy over them to make them more palatable as fantasy often has in the past?" I get that the half black half white guy from star trek was a step forward in his day, but isn't it time contemporary fantasy started to kick the walls down like it has historically?Fantasy and science ficiton readers are the smartest and most reasonable i know of, do we think they can't handle it? What are some good examples of this being done if anyone knows of any. Neil Gaiman tackled some great ones in American gods, things about immigration and the loss of our past, but there should be more. What are some issues fantasy stands in a good position to tackle?
On another note, i also saw a lot of the big pictures being 'adaptations' of novels. Anybody in here fantasize about anything of theres on the big screne? How about stuff that ISN'T yours, but that definitely needs a movie treatment?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Shadow Unit

I'm double posting since I mentioned this on my blog, but Shadow Unit is too cool not to plug twice. Earlier this week I read John Scalzi's comments on the site and finally got a couple of hours to read the first episode yesterday afternoon.

Shadow Unit is the fanfiction website for a television series that never was. Emma Bull has collaborated with Will Shetterly, Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette to write the series. The first episode, "Breathe" hooked me from the first sentence and I'm waiting breathlessly for the second episode to go live on March 3rd. It's kind of like Criminal Minds meets X-Files meets Buffy.

They have donation buttons so that you can chip in for the hosting, etc. and since they're doing it on their own dime, making a donation seemed like the right thing to do. I'd never done this before, but if you've ever bought anything on Amazon (who hasn't?) it's as easy as selecting a bullet point and hitting enter.

I know that I should be writing about
  • how the internet is creating new venues for authors
  • whether or not professional writers like Bull, et al. should be giving away their work for free
  • whether or not this is a new form of literature
  • why the hell shows as good as Shadow Unit aren't on TV
But instead I'll end this post saying, "Shadow Unit rocks! Go read it so we can talk."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nice Night for an Eclipse & Missile Defense

Just wanted to remind everyone of the full lunar eclipse tonight. It's supposed to be partly cloudy tonight, but as of 6:45 p.m. in Golden Valley, the sky is clear. Here's the link to the NASA page with the eclipse time frame.


As a side note, the government plans to use the missile defense system to shoot down a spy satellite tonight. Wacky! (Well, that's one word...)


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quotes For the Day

Two Death Pixie thoughts for the day:

"M is for Magic. All the letters are if you put them together properly."
---Neil Gaiman

"The purpose of film-- of any art-- is to engage us, to tweak our synapses and set our chemicals in motion: our adrenaline, our sweat. We should not approach it disaffectedly. We should be on the lookout for a miracle." -- film critic Marrit Ingman

Are you making magic? On the lookout for miracles? Don't you freakin love writing fiction?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Writing in your darkest moments

Earlier this week I had a mental breakdown: I'm getting over being ill, exhausted, in a job that drains me, to make matters worse-the company is downsizing, my dear sister is a special needs child so I travel home (45 miles) to help out, and the reality of my recent break up has finally kicked in. I'm caught in a snowball of trying to balance my desire to create and the realities of life.

In my head on a good day, I am Supergirl, when I'm exhausted, Joan Crawford. When Joan rears her head, its time to call your best friend.

A distraught phone call (from the bathroom floor at work) to my best friend, I'll call Mycroft. Almost on cue in true fairy godmother style, Mycroft appears, baring a box of chocolates and words of wisdom. She reminds me that some of the greatest pieces of literature have been penned in the darkest moments for example:  Charlotte Bronte's, Jane Eyre. Charlotte penned Jane Eyre in a dark room, while her tyrannical father lay dying from TB. Charlotte was going blind and her mouth was stuffed with gauze because her teeth we rotting out of her head. JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter while on welfare, the list goes on. Mycroft reminded me that life is messy and if I want to be writer, I must learn to write in the darkest of moments. 

So hear I sit, with a box of mint chocolates, a copy of Jane Eyre, and notes for my novel slowly typing away. Whenever, I feel myself wanting to lay down on the couch and drown myself in a sea of dvds. I page through Jane Eyre, eat a chocolate and keep on writing. Its not easy, however, not writing is far worse.


Friday, February 15, 2008

Why Write?

 Writing is something you do because there is a desire to spread the mythology that lives inside of you.  Personally, I write because my world does not feel complete until I've created a story whether tell it to myself, pen it out long hand, film, or type it, the story must be born. Even in my darkest moments I do not feel like writing is chore. Writing becomes more of a challenge but never a chore. If I do not write, then the words haunt me in my dreams. Characters chase me. I lay awake all night fighting the words never surrendering to sleep. 
How you view your creation process and what you will/can't/won't make time for is all about perception. Perception is everything.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Most of us are writing newbies, and as such we have Day Jobs. Which is really not all that unusual for writers, new or experienced. Now for a Death Pixie, the Day Job can be anything from the traditional 9-to-5 to Mom Extraodinaire, but it's still Not Writing.  It can be incredibly difficult to balance one's need to write with the myriad of other responsibilities that pull us in half a million directions at once.
I recently attended a Franklin Covey 7-Habits workshop, and one of the things that is emphasized is to put first things first, i.e. do what is important and most in line with your mission, roles, and goals.  I find this a very good habit, however, I've noticed something about myself that is . . . interesting.  
Writing for me is a personal thing.  Because it's fun, it feels frivolous - a hobby, a game, an interesting pastime.  Writing means I am ignoring my family/friends/cat.  And subconsciously, this means it is Unimportant.  Coupled with this subconscious downplaying are the hundred other things I should be doing.  Some of the shoulds are important: exercise, feeding myself, interacting with others, the Day Job.  Some of them aren't, like finding new restaurants & redecorating the house.  The end result is that I get less writing done than I'd like, a lot of the time.
I do believe that my writing is important.  It is very much a part of my personal mission and goals.  Spending time writing is not frivolous or wasteful.  But I still struggle with keeping it at the top of my priorities list.
How do you strike a balance with all of your shoulds? What techniques do you employ to ensure that you reach your goals, both with your writing and in the rest of your life?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Writers Block?

Are some stories simply not ready to be born? Here I sit in my space - it's clean and organized. I don't have any pets, children or a partner to distract me. I have pages of chapter notes, an outline, synopsis, character profiles, the magic system of the world - all carefully placed on the table.

Still, I stare at the computer screen, glance at my notes, write a couple of sentences, delete, then write a couple more sentences, delete, another sentence, re-vise it. Then, I trash the sentence all together. Only to continue to stare at a blank screen.

Does anyone else do this? Why cannot write the story that I have so carefully planned? 

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Don't foget to vote tonight!

Just wanted to remind everyone to vote tonight at precinct caucuses. Balloting begins at 6:30 p.m. and as I understand it, you can go in and vote for a presidential nominee without staying for the rest of the caucus shenanigans.

Here's a link to help you find your caucus location

Monday, February 4, 2008

Opening Lines

I love writing beginnings. I bet I start ten stories for every one that I finish. My favorite part of writing a beginning is coming up with an opening line. It feels like a golden opportunity to say something strange or shocking and grab the reader's attention. I always try to pay attention to opening lines when I'm reading, too. I think they are a little like pick-up lines. You have to ask yourself, " Would I go home with this novel? Would I make it breakfast in the morning?" We are asking the reader to take a chance on us, and you only get one opportunity to make a (weird) first impression. What is it they say? How a story begins determines whether you will read it, and how it ends determines whether you'll recommend it to someone else? I think both are true for me.
Did you ever read a story that really "had you at hello"?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

beginnings, endings and cute spirals

To be honest, so far I have never stressed too much about where to start a story. I've tried two different starting places at most, but usually settled for just before things change, which feels natural to me.
At the moment I am worrying about whether to change the ending, whether to force an ending back at the geographical starting point for a cute spiral (which is what I have at the moment) or end where most of the action has taken place.
Do you think that good story should always triumph over form? How much should a novel be like a poem?

Noma, you spelled my name wrong you.

Saturday, February 2, 2008