Update: Creative Content Production

I haven’t been blogging much this month.  I have had my writing energy go in other directions.  I have revved up and continued my “Thelsikar’s Ambition” Pathfinder campaign.  I am continuing to type and write in my private journals.  I have begun cutting and archiving the entries in my computer journal file because Word 2007 can’t handle files over 1000 words long.  Just yesterday I organized, added to and consolidated my fiction files on the hard drive of my current computer.  According to the Properties tab, I have 1.16 Megs of text files in the My Fiction folder.  That’s about half of what I had on my hard drive before the Russian Virus hard drive meltdown of 2006.  Last month I found a cache of old printouts from before the meltdown, so I have begun sorting and filing them into a binder with pockets.  My plan is to manually type them into Word and save them to my current hard drive.

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A Pastiche: The Grayling and Blue Hawk

Sometime in 1980, after I was given an electric typewriter for Christmas, I began not only writing stories longhand, but typing some of them and sharing them with my father.  The first one I was inspired to do was a Fritz Lieber pastiche, based on his Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser characters.  I hadn’t read the first collection in the series, yet, but I had read descriptions of the two characters and their adventures in the first edition of the First Edition AD & D supplement Deities and Demigods.

My creations were called The Grayling and Blue Hawk.  The Grayling was the big barbarian from the far northern lands, of course.  The name has two references.  First of all, he had gray hair, borrowed from the barbarians of The World of Grayhawk, even though he was only in his twenties.  Second, a “grayling” is a rather ordinary salt water fish found in the North Atlantic which has a rainbow stripe of scales on it.  Blue Hawk, was of course named for a color and an animal, like the Mouser.  Blue is one of my favorite colors and I am partial to hawks, when it comes to birds.  I used to watch them when a rare single one would fly over the house.

The actual story wasn’t much of a standout.  It was a typical adventure for two Fafhrd and Mouser type characters, a fetch quest.  They agreed to retrieve a magical artifact for a wizard.  It was held by an evil cult, of course.  They crossed as fantasy continent I had cooked up for the story, nearly killed their horses by riding them so hard and eventually ended up in far southern lands where the cult had their weird, forbidding temple.  You know, the usual stuff for swashbuckling adventurers.  Like Lieber, I added humorous touches to some of the scenes.  The final confrontation was of course epic, dramatic and violent, with several cultists being cut down when the charged the mock heroic pair in attempt to stop the theft of the artifact.

I didn’t write gory details, even then.  That was mostly because I modeled my writing on the pulp fiction I read, starting in the late Seventies.  The pulps from the Twenties onward had to be restrained in what they wrote, or the parents of the kids who read their magazines would wrathfully get them shut down.  For some reason, the neo-pulp writers of the Seventies also follow that convention.

The ending was weak.  The pair get whisked off by a wizard-ex-machina teleport spell to the wizard’s home, back in their home city.  They get their reward for delivering the artifact.  I don’t remember clearly what it was.  I think it was an appropriate reward for swashbuckling heroes as written by someone in their late teens.

On Remembering and Forgetting

One of the most important things I think a person can do is remember.  That is why I started my journal in college.  At first, I had things to do which I needed to be reminded of.  Then I learned things I didn’t want to forget.

I think the worst curse I can say to someone, after “May you live in interesting times” is “I will forget you.  I will forget what you have done”.  Within the past year, I have been doing some more close reading about the written work of several authors and about their lives.  There are some writers whose work I feel is so foul, or worse, their actions while alive were so vile, that I feel they deserve to be forgotten.  The worst thing you can do to someone who leaves a creative legacy is forget them and their efforts.

Reviews of Omission

I have some more thoughts about what I am willing to read and review.  I am generally not indifferent to what I read.  Reading is one of the few engaging activities I have where I can safely indulge a feeling of passion.  I either truly like something or I develop a loathing for it, after I have read it.  That sometimes applies to content creators as well.  I do not separate the art from the artist.  It has been my experience and observation for the past thirty-five years that if a content creator is unethical, or worse, morally corrupt, their work reflects that.  I have decided that I won’t post a negative review of a creative effort here unless I have some informational or educational point to make.  I also refuse to engage in analysis of the sundry content creators I have learned of over the decades since the early Eighties whose behavior available in the public record is of the clearly morally repugnant sort.  That kind of analysis would be a hit piece or character assassination at best or an actionable ad hominum attack at worst.  That is not the purpose of this blog.  I have fewer limitations when reviewing a book on Goodreads, but I am still constrained by policy from posting a personal attack on an author.

Which brings me to the topic of this post.  If you fail to see a review of a work by a content creator who had been or has been active since the early Eighties, then the conditions outline above mostly likely apply.  The exceptions to this are a whole laundry list of authors and their works available on my Goodreads “to read” list.  I am insatiably curious and am willing to give a content creator a shot if I can’t find a review of their work which warns me off.

That reminds me.  It might be useful or even helpful if I make my Goodreads lists available to the general public.  I might have to tinker with the permission on my Goodreads profile, too.  Ah well, I don’t have anything else better to do this morning after I publish this piece.  😉

Work in Progress: The Steppencow

I’ve been doing Spring cleaning in my place and that means I often find something interesting.  In this case, I found a stash of computer print outs of drafts of stories I lost in the Russian Virus Attack and Hard Drive Wipe of 2006.  I just had to share the outline of one of them today.  I’m in one of those moods.  😉

The Steppencow

Barry Ballovitch through of himself as the Steppencow, was a yak of the steppes.  This was a secret he kept to himself.

He had set aside his personal desires to find a good, solid job.  He worked as a clerk in the Department, for the Company.

Once he had settled into his job to support his family he felt content.  Two decades passed.  After such a long period of service, he began to feel the desire to break free from the constraints of his comfortable life.

Barry took his life savings, bought a Sil limousine and toured the Country.  He stayed out late, danced and drank in clubs.

In the middle of the eastern country, among the waves of grass, Barry left his luxury car and bought a horse and carriage.  He rode it into the sky, into the setting sun.

It’s Hesse with a dash of Kafka and Thorne Smith.  😉

On Reviewing Influences

I have three reviewers who have influenced my technique for reviewing creative material.  The first is Roger Ebert, the late movie critic.  I used to watch his televised reviews and the way he got into how a movie worked or didn’t work got me interested in movies in general.  He would praise movies with effective or entertaining elements and he wouldn’t hold back if a movie blew chunks.

The second reviewer who influenced my technique was Harlan Ellison, from his column “Harlan Ellison’s Watching” in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Again, he was a movie reviewer, but he had things to say about broader creative currents in American pop culture, too.  The column that stuck with me was his description of going to a juvenile hall with copies of one of his books for the inmates to read and discuss with him.  The boys in juvie were so educationally impoverished they couldn’t comprehend that Ellison had the books they were holding published.  In their dim minds, they thought he had physically written them.  When asked what kind of media they liked, they responded by starting to describe scenes of extreme violence from movies, getting increasing excited as their descriptions became more vivid.  This was an eye opener for me.  It was the first sign to me that a notable number of parents and Hollywood both were screwing up ethically, being indifferent to the effect of what minors were viewing and finding entertaining.

The third and final reviewer is Endzeitgeist, the RPG content reviewer.  He is my go-to reviewer when I want to find out whether a Pathfinder supplement is cool or sucks hot volcanic rocks.  He goes into detail about what the good content in a supplement is, if any or if there are flaws in the product and exactly what those flaws are.

I’m nowhere as skilled, talented or experienced as these three people, but their work serves as models for my own.

 

Review Schedule and Policy Update

I have recently been reading some good books, but I haven’t finished them yet.  I do intend to review them.  My Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone review wasn’t all that positive.  I find it easier to write a review which points out the flaws in a work than write a positive review.  My positive reviews can be summed up as:  It had cool stuff in it.  When I write a negative review, I am more engaged in the material and more engaged in how it is flawed than I am with a review of a book I liked.

Also, a fairly common response of mine to reading a book which I actively loathed is the desire to write a savagely satirical pastiche of the piece.  I feel it is the least I can do in response to an author committing a written atrocity.

Of the books I have read all the way through this year, a dozen of them, I haven’t read one bad book.  I hope to review them all eventually.