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Echoes and Mirrors » fiction

Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

Late Inspiration

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Seven or so years ago, before I went to college, I began writing an awful, sad attempt at a novel. (I posted it to my MySpace blog, if you need any clarification on how much of an amateur I was.)

A few of my friends, in real life, pestered me for years about finishing it. I think I managed to get three or four chapters completed before I realized it wasn’t going anywhere (and, looking back, was basically bleakness porn).

Today, while driving to work, I thought about it and suddenly knew where it could go.

I’m not about to start writing it again, but I did scribble the idea down for later. And I’m damn glad that it didn’t come to me then, as I may have actually kept on with it instead of devoting my energy to better projects.

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Brief Encounters with Ben Fountain

Monday, April 21st, 2014

I suppose it should go without saying that I read a lot. I think I do, but sometimes I realize that I don’t read nearly as much as I ought to. Or, more specifically, I get a paranoia about not reading enough when I actually do. One thing I know I don’t read enough of is short stories. I don’t have anything against them (what could I possibly have against them?) and generally tend to enjoy the fact that I can read one while I wait between classes or any other 20 minute bit of downtime I find myself in. I can read one before going to sleep without facing the nagging questions about what’s going to happen next? They’re great.

And reading Ben Fountain’s Brief Encounters with Che Guevara reminds me of the power of short stories. The opening story “Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera,” is one of those stories that probably won’t leave me for a long time (much like Alice Munro’s “Child’s Play,” or Jess Walter’s “We Live in Water”). The ending, specifically, is so artfully done that my reaction is to simply blink at the page and say, “oh, wow.” Because it satisfies an expectation in the exact opposite way that I would expect and exactly in the way that makes the most sense: John Blair (the humble hero of this story) is rescued, but only grudgingly so, and only because he’s become more of a nuisance to his captors than he is worth. It really tips toward his being shot, instead.

Even more beautifully, his guard’s humanity is exposed through his generosity (I won’t spoil the how) in comparison to an otherwise Colombian-lensed but very Cormac MacCarthy-esque outlook on life. That is, one that is full of brutality and is washed out, desensitized. This makes his act mean more than anything John could have done and becomes more important than John’s own disillusionment and joy, if only because it is the cause for how John feels. And be cause it’s an act that’s completely organic but slides itself in unnoticed until the very end.

I think maybe I’ve become a little too complacent with what I read. It may be the case that this story is just that much better than what I’ve been reading. I’d like to think so. Because this is intimidatingly good. It sets a high bar, and one worth striving for. Certainly higher than the attempt at a clever title I used for this post, at any rate.

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A Couple Random Literary Notes (And One Shameless Plug)

Friday, August 12th, 2011

First, a shameless plug: I have a poem in the new issue of Used Gravitrons. Check it out, the whole issue is quite wonderful, really.

Second, and maybe a little late, but Miracle Jones at The Fiction Circus posted a wonderful guide to writing fiction: How to be a Fiction Writer. And I’m not sure which step I’m on, but I have a rough idea and my head hurts.

Third, be on the lookout for the first issue of ILK Journal soon. I’m not in it, but it is run by at least one very good poet and I’m looking forward to it.

I realize I don’t post a whole lot about literature, writing or anything like that here very often and, honestly, I’m not about to start. This place exists for my virtual fist-shaking at the world, absurd philosophical digressions and other miscellany. All of which is without schedule or purpose. I can go months without posting a damned thing. And that won’t stop either.

So carry on, you silly gooses, stop looking at my wacky blog and do something productive.

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I’m glad I don’t have cable anymore

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

If only so that I won’t be constantly pissed at SyFy. What used to be, in my youth, a go-to for Science Fiction programming has been replaced with bullshit camp, paranormal reality, a cooking show and wrestling. The only redeeming show they still have is Being Human, which will remain successful (and good) for the same reasons SGU failed.

I waited to post this until I finished up watching the second and last season of Stargate Universe. Ever since the Battlestar Galactica reboot ended, the channel hasn’t had much to stand on for really great sci-fi content. Caprica and Stargate Universe were the last two really great shows they had. And they have stood by their decision not to renew either show by citing ratings. It’s a specious argument, at best:

Another lie recently told by Syfy is that for SGU to continue it would need 2.5 to 3 times as many viewers as it currently has.

That means SGU would need to hover around 3 million viewers to survive. This is absurd to suggest when Syfy dramas like Sanctuary and Haven have been renewed averaging around 1.5-1.75 million viewers. Eureka hasn’t even been averaging 2.5 million viewers.

I’ll never believe that it was purely a numbers game, so much as they want us to believe it.

No, I blame this on the fans. Well, on SyFy’s audience, anyway.

Warehouse 13 is not a particularly great show. Neither is Eureka. Haven and Sanctuary are even worse. But they’re still around.

What’s the difference between the shows that stayed, with lower ratings, and the shows that got canceled? Depth. SGU was tonally dark and at times disturbing. It was dramatic and had a series-long plot arc, not just season-long plot arcs. No single episode can stand alone. Compared to the other shows, of which almost any episode (not counting the rare two or three part episode) can be enjoyed all by itself, without any prior knowledge of the show.

Star Trek was like that: there was no long story in it. Once in a while, a reference from a previous episode would pop up, but that was essentially novelty. And there was a little bit of character development throughout, but if you look at the characters in episode one and in the last episode, they’re basically the same.

Closer to home, SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis followed that pattern, essentially. They did setup slightly longer plot arcs, but the characters never changed. They were heroes on day one, and they ended as heroes. They had, essentially, no major flaws to speak of. The characters on SGU did. I wish I could find a link to it now, but a comment I read was that they had no appealing virtues. They fought with each other, made morally dubious decisions, were sometimes petty. They were pretty real. But they grew as characters throughout the shows run.

The characters on the previous SG shows never failed to accomplish their mission, even when things were absolutely hopeless. And they’d do it in 42 minutes. The characters on SGU often failed and one even had to be euthanized (and not in a pleasant way). They were fuckups, but they managed.

It was a lot like the wonderful dynamic on LOST and Battlestar Galactica. It was clear that the show was meant to be as separate from the previous franchise shows as it could be. Honestly, if they could have done it without it being a SG franchise at all, I think it would have been even better.

Which is why SyFy is full of shit. They’re pandering to the lowest common denominator. It’s the SyFy fans that are assholes. They like the shows with pristine, morally-upright and, so to speak, perfect heroes as the protagonists. Neither Caprica nor SGU could deliver that. It’s just not the way they were; they relied on the flaws. They were character-driven shows. The rest are driven by whatever can make a dazzling bad guy for one episode, or a half-season arc. I am talking about the same channel that killed Farscape before it’s time, so it really shouldn’t come as much of a shock. Train your audiences to be lazy, and they’ll be lazy. Then they’ll reject shows like SGU and Caprica, proving that you were right to give them Marcel’s Fucking Quantum Fucking Kitchen instead.

Here’s a prime example of the asshole SyFy fan whose opinion matters more than people who like real content:

I wasn’t shocked at all, quite the opposite. SyFy, ruined the SG series with SGU. SGU consisted of a bunch of soap opera drama that most of us simply weren’t interested in. Not to mention the “stones” with “lovers quarrels” and even sexual contact were completely absurd. I could go on and on about how absolutely retarded that show is, but canceling it proves what so many of us said from the start. What was really funny is that they tried to contain the damage at gateworld by censoring complaining posts and even suspending complaining user accounts. We all told them that wouldn’t work either! All they had to do was fire their writers’ and get back some of their old direction. Instead they abandoned their known fan base and tried to force feed us that crap. HA HA HA HA HA HA! I personally canceled SyFy LAST YEAR in protest.
Moral of the story?
If your existing franchise is working, leave it alone.
If your entire fan base starts rumbling about changes you’ve made, LISTEN.
If your show starts dealing with raping people that are not “IN” their bodies. You should probably re-think was the hell you are doing..

They alienated their fanbase? Sure, but I don’t think it’s too big of a deal when that fanbase is a bunch of dicks like this. What’s funny is that he thinks that the SG franchise pre-SGU was working. It was a miserable situation, at best. There is a response to this that pretty much sums up how I feel about it:

first off you’re a moron, and an idiot, probably why sgu didn’t appeal to you, you want boobs, guns, and explosions. sgu was broadcast as a drama, not a action show, it was heralded as a drama, something completely different from previous stargate series.Stargate universe isn’t a show where you always know the good guys from the badguys, and that the good guys always always prevail miraculously.And always have english speaking alians. sgu is a deeper and far more realistic show centered around each characters, you end up with a attachment to every person on sgu.and the alians are actually strange and alian. both sg1 and sga were entertaining series, for kids, as well as adults, but sgu is the much darker adult version of the stargate universe. and as Joshua said, “Not to mention the “stones” with “lovers quarrels” and even sexual contact were completely absurd.” when i can speak from experience, months away from family, and friends can and will lead up to love affairs, and even just “sex friends” and being confined within a preset amount of space when such thing happen can also lead to “lovers quarrels” sgu was a much more down to earth and gritty stargate series, i for one loved it, and i am a fan, i actually watched the movie back a little while after it came out, and ended up watching sg-1 and sg-a back to back when i was in Iraq.

all in all, stargate universe was the adult version of stargate, and because they ended up without the shallow idiots who make up the fanbase, as their basis for deciding either the show is a success or not, is the reason why it’s being canceled, it has nothing to do with the quality of the show, but rather the quality (or should i say quantity) of the viewer base. thank you, you shallow retards who only enjoy breasts, bangs, and bombshells, enjoy the wrestling, and bullshit unreality show that will overrun the channel, all because sgu wasn’t breast and explosions.

You sir, win. I’m glad to know that at least some people feel the same way about the state of televised Science Fiction that I do. But given SyFy’s recent actions, apparently we’re in the minority. More people want the shlock.

There’s a more detailed rundown of the whole cancellation debacle here. It’s worth reading and pretty frustrating. But the big take-away is here:

Other than BSG: Blood & Chrome, which has not yet been granted a full series order, Syfy has announced no such “traditional” science fiction shows on its development slate. Perhaps the closest would be Sherwood, produced by the team behind Sanctuary and described as a sort of Robin Hood meets Firefly. So far that one is just an idea, however, and hasn’t been given the go-ahead to cast and film a pilot.

SyFy’s audience might want scripted shows, but they don’t want anything too cerebral. They don’t want drama. They want action and boobs. (Well, I like those things too, but get real.) They want infallible heroes. That’s where the problem is, but SyFy will give that too them. SyFy would have canceled LOST if it had been their show (thankfully ABC was a little smarter than that). They’re appealing to the mental midgets, to the child-like capacities of their shithead viewers and they’re doing Science Fiction a grave disservice. It’s probably better that they rebranded their name away from Sci-Fi, because that is no longer what they do all that well. Also, would it kill SyFy to actually hire a goddamned military advisor and buy decent, matching uniforms for the soldiers in their monster of the week movies? Fuck SyFy. I have no use for poorly written, over CGI’d, intellectually-vacant bullshit. I’ve seen Vin Diesel movies with more brains and better acting in them.

Being Human will do well because it is expected to be a drama and it has a fresh fanbase that wants that. But it already diverged from the BBC show and in a bad way. It’s still a good show, but why is it that a show about vampires and warewolves can have character driven drama while a show about space-travel can’t? Because the fans are mostly idiots.

I’m way off into drunken ranting land, but here’s the recap: SGU was too dark, too smart, and too fucking deep for the audience SyFy wants. It scared them. It was edgier than most anything they’ve done in a long, long time – even more so than Being Human is – and it was uncomfortable for the fucking retards that want wrestling on Friday nights.

There, fuck you, SyFy. I don’t have cable and I won’t watch your bullshit.

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Kaprekar Number

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Essential for any budding numerologist. Wolfram has a number of quirky math tricks that can be useful in sucking patterns out of nothing. Apply a little statistics, and viola, numerology.

Numerology is one of those things that has come from the human brain’s need to impose order on an otherwise chaotic world. It also makes great fodder for fiction due to its nature of seeming quite normal in one sense (because we all do it, every day, whether we want to or not) and quite mad on the other (when taken to extremes and obsessively applied).

They say that truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case, the world provides something that is so normal that it can be turned into something fictitious and still not seem stranger than the world around us.

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How completely rude of me…

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

I never bothered to point out that Discharge 5 started up some time ago. Really good stuff from these cats. I was kind of sad to see the end of Discharge 4 (except, you know, I never really did like much of cocainejesus’ art. just sayin’).

I will be getting the chapbook if I can scrounge enough change out from under my desk.

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Dead-Alive Cats

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

It wasn’t the purpose or the function, but the style and that didn’t make sense to me. I counted style as a secondary objective. It was a matter of importance, but less importantly a matter of interest. Some days, he did nothing but write, and man, his work fucking howled. Other days he got carried away, pacing the living room while ranting about Schrödinger’s cat.

“Fucking dead-alive cats roaming the streets, meowing and unstoppable,” he was frenzied, “they are/aren’t there/gone. They won’t play or kill mice, because they don’t know where they are.”

According to him, the world would be overrun with dead-alive cats and we were all headed to that same fate. He had never been more sure of anything in his life. Superposition, he called it. I called it groovy and decided that it would be fulfilling to experience superposition. I checked the cupboards and found two bags containing Psychotria Veritas and Syrian Rue.

I heated up the stove and began to prepare for the weekend. Being interesting and having a purpose is always more important than the style in which you do it, but style is necessary to avoid being dull.

“If you’re dead-alive, do you care about getting hurt?” It seemed like a pressing question, which presumably made him think I was crazy. I stood in my kitchen, brewing a pot of that Amazonian tea, and by god that bastard was going to drink some. We would see whether the style overcomes the function, and whether or not you can be alive and dead at the same time.

That night we witnessed the collapse of the wave function, returned and were vacantly aware of the cats’ demise: they’re minds just could not handle it.

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fifty-five words #3

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I arrived in Savannah on Friday, relishing the coastal air, sipping local beer and eating conch fritters. Saturday night I found the mark, took aim and fired. He fell quickly, bodyguards scrambling, yelling into their radios.

Early Sunday morning I returned to the church, caught some quick sleep and rose to deliver the early service.

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fifty-five words #2

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Harold was born in a barn in 1901, his mother on the run for the murder of his father. I met him in a cafeteria in Van Nuys, a notebook tucked under his arm and a cigarette in his mouth.

I asked if he was a writer. He said only when he felt like it.

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fifty-five words

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Gingerly, he took her hand into his, squeezing it softly, and looking at her soft-featured face. They had met only thirty minutes prior, an incident that amazed him still: arguing about the best video games of their youth.

“I have to go,” she said as she pulled away, “my husband is waiting for me.”

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