sholio: Text: "Age shall not weary her, nor custom stale her infinite squee" (Infinite Squee)
I was inviting people to ask me questions on Tumblr last night, and one of the things I ended up talking about is what makes me fall for things (books, movies, TV shows) in a fandom kind of way. I decided to post that here as well, because it took me a long time to figure it out but I did eventually figure it out, and I thought it was interesting. There are always a few outliers that don't quite fit this, or fit it in unusual ways, but for the most part, this is what makes the difference for me between something I merely like, and something I write fanfic for and can't stop talking about to anyone who'll hold still long enough.

Cut to keep from clogging your reading page )
sholio: Peter from Guardians of the Galaxy looking over shoulder (Avengers-GotG-Peter)
I have been generally sparing everyone here and keeping it on Tumblr, but I've been completely gone for Guardians of the Galaxy for the last month or so. I really, really was not expecting to fall for something else in the MCU after more or less noping out of the Avengers over the last couple of years (although I've been vicariously enjoying [personal profile] sheron having so much fun with Steve/Tony; it's made me feel much warmer and happier about the MCU overall, so thanks for that, [personal profile] sheron!), but GotG is separate enough from the main MCU that, like Agent Carter, it doesn't feel the same.

It's just so gloriously weird. It's been a long time since I've watched a mainstream action movie that was as quirky and strange and almost indy-feeling as GotG Vol. 2 was (it made me think a lot of the zany, IDGAF weirdness of the sci-fi and fantasy movies of my childhood, back when things like Labyrinth and Wizards were popular). It's basically a total love letter to children of the 1970s/80s, and it's got that combination of funny/serious that's common to most of the things I've really lost my mind for in a fandom kind of way (starting with anime of the 90s and early 2000s - I've actually noticed quite a bit of overlap between people who really liked this movie and people who are also anime fans, and I think that makes sense, because this is about the closest thing I've seen to an original, live-action, Western version of shounen anime; it's got a similar blend of heartfelt emotions, slapstick humor, and WTF wierdness).

It also fits really well with a Kismet headspace, so it doesn't even require as much mental track-switching as flipping back and forth between Kismet and my other creative projects (urban fantasy-ish shifter romance, Agent Carter fanfic, etc) normally does.

I've been really enjoying Tumblr fandom for this one, because it's just so positive, in general, and I've been putting most of my thoughts about it on Tumblr, so if you don't follow me on Tumblr or aren't over there, but are interested in this, I'm going to link under the cut to my recent GotG Tumblr posts and fic and stuff like that.

Even the links contain GotG Vol. 2 spoilers, so don't click the cut if you don't want spoilers!

GotG Tumblr and fic roundup (so far) )
sholio: Starlord with raccoon on shoulder (Avengers-GotG-Starlord with raccoon)
... that I love about the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and have to mention now that I've thought of it ...

Spoilers for the new movie )
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Back from the Internetless Wilds! I think it was good for me to spend a week or so in enforced Internet withdrawal -- I actually didn't miss it (much), and it gave me an opportunity to think a lot and not have other people's thoughts getting in the way (as they sometimes do, on the Internet).

The post I made before I left touched a nerve with a lot of people. That really wasn't something I meant to do. Like I said in the comments, I'd been thinking about the gen thing for awhile (the better part of a year, at least), and tossed off a mention in a post without really thinking about it -- that's what I get for posting on not enough sleep, in between packing. Anyway, though, it was a good thing to have space to think about it for a week or so with that conversation at the top of my mind.

And I'm still thinking about the various points people made. Two particular points struck a chord with me:

[livejournal.com profile] xparrot commented that fictional romance is typically an idealized version of actual romance and people are okay with that, so why isn't it equally okay to write an idealized, romanticized version of friendship?
• And several different people made the point that emotionally-intense friendship fic is affirming for a lot of people (it certainly is for me) and dismissing it also dismisses a lot of people's own experience with diverse kinds of love and affection.

Which is not to say most gen fic is a strictly realistic depiction of friendship or other platonic relationships, but then, most romance isn't particularly true to most people's experience of romance IRL, and that's certainly not going away anytime soon. (Nor should it.)

And I do feel like friendship tends to be an afterthought for most people, in media and in real life, even though we need social bonds to other people and function best as part of a community, whether a geographically connected community or one that we self-select. We aren't really designed to feed all our social needs, emotional and intellectual, off a single person, but we live in a society that valorizes romance and tends to suggest other kinds of relationships are disposable afterthoughts.

That was one of the reasons why I liked Legends of Tomorrow so much, incidentally -- because the non-romantic relationships got their own mini-arcs, and most of them got nearly as much narrative weight as the show's love triangle.

And one reason why I latched onto the Jack-Peggy friendship in Agent Carter so hard is because it really nailed the whole feeling of an experience I've actually had, an intense bonding experience causing a sudden falling-into-friendship with somebody you never saw that way before. In my case it wasn't antipathy to friendship, it was more like indifference to close friendship in a matter of hours. I remember wondering in the beginning if it was going to fade, because it was a startling feeling to go from being near-total strangers to almost as close as family in a single day -- but it didn't; we're still close friends 20 years later. So I know you can have those intense, transcendental experiences in relationships where romance and sex aren't involved; I know you can fall suddenly into friendship the way people fall in love, because I've done it.

And besides, even if I hadn't -- and even if friendship wasn't one of the biggest driving emotional forces in my life, which it is -- I still know that human relationships are endlessly complicated. I think fiction should reflect some of that complexity, and I love getting to explore it myself. Sure, it's often idealized to hell and back, but that's what cranks my engine, and romance gets to have that all the time, so why not do it with gen?

People mentioned in the comments to the last post that they get affirmation from this kind of fic (in an "I am not alone, there's someone else out there who feels this way too, there's someone who's had these experiences too" kind of way). I certainly did, when I first discovered that gen h/c was something that existed on the Internet. And I like the idea of being able to help offer that feeling to other people.

Basically I came back from my wilderness isolation feeling much more like "screw it, I don't care what anyone says, I'm going to write what I want." And I made the conscious decision not to worry about it as I have been. Because, honestly, in the grand scheme of things, there are WAY bigger things in the world to worry about than whether I might be ~teaching bad lessons~ by writing about people loving each other in a socially-unapproved way. Besides, fandom also contains unrepentantly titillating rape fic (I've written some of that too, believe it or not, back in the day of anon SGA fic memes), underage, and basically a whole WORLD of things that are not okay in the real world, and I don't think fics like that shouldn't exist, or that they don't have valuable things to offer people who write and read them. So I cannot and will not bring myself to believe that a PG-rated gen fic about people cuddling each other is something to feel terribly guilty about -- not for me, and not for anyone else.

ETA: I really do appreciate the intelligent and reasonable discussion in the comments to the last post. You guys made thoughtful points, and it gave me a lot to think about.
sholio: Jack and Peggy from Agent Carter (Avengers-Jack Peggy)
So I didn't really plan it this way, but most of the meta I've been posting lately has been in the form of replies to other people's reblogs on Tumblr. Here's a rundown of my recent additions:

Whether Daniel was an officer or an enlisted man.
A fairly extensive exchange about Whitney Frost's relationships with Manfredi and Chadwick, segueing into talking about Whitney vs. Dottie.
Thoughts on Jack in the "dinner orders" scene in 2x10.
Handicapped modifications for amputee WWII-veteran drivers. This one is SO COOL - I had no idea that modifying vehicles for disabled drivers was a thing that early. (I mean, individuals figuring out how to do it, yes, but not customized kits/mods from the dealers.)
Rambling about Jack's motivations in sending Peggy to L.A., Jack making friends with Daniel, etc.

Feel free to strike up a conversation on any of these in the comments!

One thing in particular that I was thinking about last night is that the fandom seems to have latched onto the idea of Daniel having been an officer in the Army, but he really doesn't read that way to me. Admittedly my experience with the military is adjacent rather than from the inside (various relatives in the Army, no personal experience myself) but between that and reading, my impression is that the social climate for officers vs. enlisted is very different, and Daniel really does not read to me as having been on the officer side of that divide. Jack, on the other hand, almost had to have been a case of a college kid being dropped straight into a lieutenant's commission with no field experience. Daniel, though ... I don't see it. It's possible he could've worked his way up to sergeant and gotten a field commission to lieutenant; I don't really headcanon it that way, but it's definitely not impossible. And there's no canon either way, so clearly anybody else's headcanon on this one is as good as mine. But, idk, it's not how I see him.
sholio: Jack and Peggy from Agent Carter (Avengers-Jack Peggy)
... about Agent Carter. Yes, I'm sure you're surprised.

It was something that occurred to me watching a vid for Riza Hawkeye from Fullmetal Alchemist. She's one of my favorites, in large part because I've always adored badass normal* characters in scifi/fantasy/superhero canons. I love the powered ones also, but I frequently have a special soft spot for characters who go up against fantastically powerful enemies armed with nothing but guns (or swords or whatever the local tech is). They're often my favorites or at least my "noooo, please don't kill them" special-baby co-favorites in whatever canon they appear.

*obligatory TV Tropes warning

And Agent Carter is LITERALLY ALL badass normals. That's what they are. It's Team Badass Normal vs. supervillains.

I know it's not the only show out there like that (Agents of SHIELD is largely that way too) but ... it is just another way in which this show feels like it's Written For Me (tm).
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Decided to make a separate post for this, rather than lumping it into the other links post, because I found it really interesting and wanted to talk a little more about it: this post by Ilona Andrews on the "alphahole" trope in romance (i.e. alpha jerk heroes). It is, I believe, inspired by this post at Book Smugglers on "why alphaholes are terrible", but the Andrews post is 1000% more interesting to me because it talks about what's appealing about the trope, and why people like it.

What I particularly liked about the Andrews post is this part:

The modern definition of alphahole has evolved, but it does retain some of its primary characteristics. Modern alphahole is generally aware he isn’t a good guy. He is, before all else, competent. He excels at his chosen profession, whether it is making billions, being a Duke, or running a ragtag crew of immortal werewolves trying to guard the world from horrible evil. By extension, alphahole is often rich, because he manages his money well. Alphahole delivers. If he invites you to dinner, you can bet your life that he has made a reservation; if your car breaks down, he will either fix it himself (points for additional competence) or make a mechanic appear nearly instantly out of thin air; if a monster is demolishing downtown, alphahole will run toward it; and if a sick child requires rare medicine that isn’t available at any pharmacy nearby, alphahole will find it. Alphahole has no chill and takes no crap.


... which was food for thought for me, because I think it nailed why I tend to like characters with alpha traits, as long as they have some basic decency to go along with it. I don't usually like characters who are irredeemable bastards and have no decency or niceness to them -- I like the ones who tend to do the decent thing, most of the time, even if they won't admit that they want to -- and the amount of assholishness I can tolerate is often in direct proportion to the narrative's willingness to acknowledge that the character is an asshole and deal with that. And there are many characters I adore who are basically just nice. But I have a huuuuge competence kink, and competent and assertive snarky jerks are definitely a type I go for.

Key emphasis on the competent, though. Just a jerk? No. Snarky jerk who's really good at what s/he does? Yes please. (Not specifically as a male-character thing, but there are a lot fewer female than male characters who really nail the specific elements that get me -- the Luideag in Seanan McGuire's October Daye books is a good example of one who does, or SL Huang's Cas Russell.)

Actually, "competent and smart" might be the one big, overriding thing that makes me fall for a character. It's not just competent jerks; I also adore the ones who are super competent but are so quiet about it that nobody tends to notice until they're backed against a wall, or the ones who are competent but play the fool so no one realizes until Sudden Surprise Competence happens.

ALL THE COMPETENCE, BASICALLY. ;D
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Writing about writing ... instead of actually writing. But I figured out a plot problem today and the solution was interesting, so I decided to make a post about it.

There was this interesting post about the "mid-book slump", i.e. writing middles of books, at [personal profile] marthawells today. This isn't quite what she was talking about, but it got me thinking along similar lines.

On my current novel (poker players on a cruise ship) I've been stuck for days on a particular chapter. There are two things I wanted to happen in it, during the Big Game that is currently taking place: a supporting character is accused of cheating, and the protagonist runs into somebody he hasn't seen since he was a child.

And I just couldn't get it to work. I'd written part of each scene, and they were just lying there, flat. I could've just slammed out something terrible and moved on to the next bit, but these scenes were going to influence the details of the next one, so I felt like I had to get them nailed down before I could move on.

What I realized was that I could switch around the order of the scenes -- instead of the current "meeting, then cheating", I could make it "cheating, then meeting" and have the childhood-friend meeting result directly from that character's attention being drawn by the altercation that came out of the cheating accusation. The problem, I think, is that in the original version, the two scenes just happened, as opposed to one being directly caused by the other. Which meant they both had equal weight to the reader, so there was this stuttery "event! -- then relax -- then event!" thing happening.

Okay, the only way these "drawn in 20 seconds on my Wacom" graphics could be worse would be if I'd figured out how to do them in ASCII, but ...

Sometimes you'll run into stories where the plotting basically has this choppy staccato feeling, like this:

graphic1

You get it in chaptered WIP fanfics a lot, for example. A thing happens ... and then another thing ... and then another thing. Each of them might be an interesting thing by itself, but after awhile it starts to feel very self-similar and dull, because it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. There might even be a plot progression happening (for example, the main character finds a clue, then another clue, then yet another, and now they have enough clues to put the mystery together) but the scenes still feel repetitive because the emotional stress and plot tension is roughly the same in each one.

As opposed to the first thing directly leading to the second thing, and the second thing causing the third thing, which feels more like this:

graphic2

... because it's subconsciously cranking up the plot tension on each iteration. #2 couldn't have happened without #1, which in turn causes #3, etc.

Which, when you see the graphic, is basic plotting 101, right? Like this. But it's hard to see it in practice, when you've got a number of different events plotted out that are supposed to happen, and the connections between them might not be obvious. You might have to create those connections, especially if you're shifting back and forth between different storylines, which is what I was doing here. And it helped me a lot to stop thinking, as I had been, "how can I make this scene happen, and this other scene happen" and instead start thinking in terms of, "I have these two scenes happening together in the same chapter; how can I make one of them directly result in the other?"

It doesn't even have to be a big, important connection. This definitely wasn't. But it made the whole thing feel like a unified whole, instead of some different things that just happened to occur in the same chapter.
sholio: Rey and BB8 from Star Wars (Star Wars)
Aside from the things in the previous post, everything else is Star Wars right now. I've fallen back into it hard.

Cut for nattering about Star Wars - lots of talk about the new movie, but no significant spoilers )
sholio: Hand outlines on a cave wall (Cave painting-Hands)
I mentioned in the Kavalier & Clay post that I have a mental list of things most writers get wrong about artists. I decided to go ahead and elaborate on that. The #1 thing on my pet-peeve list is: ARTISTS USE REFERENCE MATERIALS.

Yes, even good artists! Even professional artists!

I have absolutely lost track of the number of times I've run across scenes, on visual media like TV/movies especially, but also in books, of an artist drawing a spot-on, detail-perfect representation of something (portraits of people are a particularly common thing, but also an object, a scene drawn from memory, and so forth) straight out of their head.

This is not impossible. Some artists (though not a lot) are especially talented at drawing out of their heads and can actually come pretty close to what you see on TV. But it is a particular talent! And it's kind of a rare one!

Possibly the reason why non-artists think that all artist can do this is because most artists have a limited repertoire of objects and sometimes people which they've drawn a lot and can therefore draw reliably from memory. This is usually not real-life people -- like, most artists probably COULD NOT draw a photo-perfect sketch of their spouse from memory, unless their spouse is also their main model and they have drawn them frequently in the studio, and/or they are a particularly talented caricaturist. The kind of things artists might more commonly be able to draw accurately and quickly include things like characters (for comics artists), particular kinds of cars and planes for people who like drawing vehicles and have drawn them a lot, ditto for guns, etc. I can draw pretty good spruce trees, certain objects (especially ones my characters carry around on them, such as Fleetwood's bomber jacket), and most of my own characters without needing a reference. I have also drawn the human figure enough that I can draw a number of poses without needing visual reference (but I have to resort to it if I get into complicated foreshortening and so forth, and I think my figures almost invariably look more natural and 3D when I use a reference). Some people are really good at buildings, scenery, and perspective.

What you see on TV, though, is more like people drawing photo-realistic representations of their first boyfriend, street they grew upon, particular model of car they only saw once, etc. Like I said, that IS a thing some artists can do, but most can't.

Instead, most artists are going to have photos taped around their drawing surface of whatever they're working on (or, in a modern context, on their phone/computer). That is how the process WORKS. The particular scene that made me think about this in the book was one bit where Kavalier (the more talented artist of the two main characters) starts to draw a particular kind of war plane on his drawing board, sans reference. Okay, I can handwave it as: he's drawn it a lot, so he doesn't need to open a book and look up details. And Kavalier actually is the kind of person who would spend a ton of extra time drawing a particular thing over and over in order to get good at it (which is just about the only way you can end up being able to do this, unless you have a rare talent for visual eidetic memory, which some artists actually do). But in general, what you'd see in real life is Kavalier, or his RL comic-artist equivalent, drawing the plane from a photo taped to his drawing board.

Similarly, there's a bit in the book that mentions Sam Clay, the other character, is a lousy artist when he can't refer to his swipe file (collection of cut-out pictures he uses for reference material; the book doesn't call it that, but that's what it was called by the comics-industry people I knew). This is accurate up to a point -- some people are very heavily reliant on visual references and can't easily do the little alterations to make the drawing their own. However, what the book leaves out is that MOST people use a swipe file. The book gives the impression that Sam's portfolio of clippings is a crutch, rather than a tool that almost everybody, in the pre-computer era of the book, would have kept on hand.

(This should not be taken as a condemnation of the book, because I think it's something that's so common in pop culture it's one of those things people literally don't think about unless they actually ARE professional artists. If all you ever see on TV is people drawing things out of their heads, then of course you would think that's how artists do things! And it's exacerbated by the fact that SOME artists can draw MOST things out of their heads, and MOST artists can draw SOME things. But in general, artists use reference.)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Heh, so, neenaroo on Tumblr asked me if I have any tips for writing wilderness survival stories, and I completely overran the ask box and basically wrote a NOVEL about it (apparently I do!).

This is also posted on Tumblr.

I feel a little weird giving advice because I'm not really an expert on any part of this, including the writing part; I'm just a person who really loves stranding characters in the wilderness and having horrible things happen to them. :D On the other hand, I've written quite a few of these by now, so I guess I've sort of got a system.

Stories which are referenced below:
Running on Empty (SGA) (website link)
The Killing Frost (SGA) (website link)
Survivor (White Collar)
Black Water Rising (MCU)
Wing and a Prayer (MCU)

Writing wilderness survival stories - long! )

So, a summary, in bullet points:
  • Research
  • Think about what your character plausibly knows and would have with them
  • Do some kind of equipment inventory near the beginning so both the reader and your characters know what they have with them
  • Keep making things slowly but steadily worse to increase tension (they lose stuff, they get hurt, more enemies arrive, the weather worsens, etc)
  • Space out important events (make a list of possibilities if necessary) and save some of the worst stuff for last
  • Throw curve balls at the characters every time a status quo starts to be established (rainstorm! lion! rocks fall, everyone dies!)
  • Give them new stuff or new people whenever things start getting repetitive and/or you accidentally write them into a "but they could not possibly survive this" corner, but make them earn it and/or give it a major downside to make things more interesting.


And remember rules are made to be broken, and not all stories will have or need all of the above. :D
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
There are two things I wanted to talk about in more depth, one thing I liked and one I did not.

The happy thing )

The nonsquee part )
sholio: Sebastian Stan as Bucky (Winter Soldier Bucky)
I'm rereading The Rook by Daniel O'Malley, which is still just as excellent the second time around. As an additional plus, I can't remember the solution to the central mystery, which means I'm weirdly unspoiled considering I've read this book before!

The first time I read this book, though, was before I watched Winter Soldier and subsequently spent most of a year in a fandom that's largely focused on a character who is defined by amnesia and identity issues. That's pretty much what The Rook is about too, and it's just really fascinating to read it now, because what it does is different from what nearly all Winter Soldier fic does. (At least, I should say -- the fic as it existed when I first got into the fandom, when I was reading just about everything. Now that I've drifted away from it, while I do still dip back into reading in the fandom occasionally, I burned out utterly on Bucky recovery fic, so I'm not sure what is out there now.)

Anyway, without getting into spoilers beyond what's in the first couple of pages, The Rook begins with the protagonist, Myfanwy, becoming aware of her surroundings in a park. She's surrounded by dead people, which circumstances suggest she killed, and has no memories before this moment. All she has is a letter in her pocket, written to her by her (or her past self, rather) before she lost her memories, telling her what her name is and giving her instructions for what to do next.

Cut not for spoilers - there are some for both canons, but they're mild ones - but rather for length, since this turned into a fairly lengthy ramble )

ETA: While I was writing this, MY SORRY EXCUSE FOR A LOVING HUSBAND STOLE MY BOOK. This is what I get for telling him it was good and he should read it. I meant after I was done.
sholio: Peggy Carter (Avengers-Peggy in cafe)
I am crushing so hard on the Agent Carter show right now, you guys. I think it helps a lot that it's only a self-contained 8 episodes, so there's a complete story arc and I can kind of just tuck it into my brain and give it some happy space there. I really hope there's a season two, but at the same time I almost feel like a season two would be a mixed blessing, because it gave me so much of I wanted already, and I would hate another season to leave it in a much worse place. (But I could have another season of their FACES! I am torn.) Let's face it, I will be sad if it's cancelled, but I'm also very happy with the 8 episodes we got.

I've been thinking about the aspects of the show that appeal to me, and while there are many reasons why I like it so much, I think part of it is that ... let me see, there is literally NO way to phrase this without sounding (for me) uncomfortably buzzwordy, but it's woman-centric and non-male-gazey not just in a way that most superhero stuff isn't, but even most genre shows starring female characters aren't. I think the big thing I kept feeling watching the show is This show feels like it's written FOR ME. I feel like I, me, my demographic is the target audience of this -- and I don't mean just "women generally" but "women like me"; this show appeals to me in a way that, say, Sex in the City type shows which are also aimed at a female demographic simply don't. I feel like I can relate to women like Peggy and Angie in a way I can't to women in most sci-fi stuff -- I love the female geniuses and leather-clad action heroes with impeccable makeup and so forth, but I don't really feel like "hey, that's me!" And while I don't have any particular problem empathizing with characters who are not like me, I can't remember the last time I've identified with a woman in sci-fi media as hard as I do with Peggy. I love many, many fictional characters, but there is a sort of coming-home comfort to this show (in spite of all the terrible stuff that happens on it) that just makes me feel like this is a sci-fi action show where PEOPLE LIKE ME are welcome and wanted.

That's not even a feeling I go around craving in particular. I literally don't care about that stuff most of the time! I just like what I like, and since I'm a female fan of sci-fi and superhero stuff, a ton of what I like is technically aimed at boys. But in all my many years of loving superheroes, and particularly throughout however many movies and shows I've enjoyed in the MCU, this is the first time I've really felt like somebody made a superhero thing FOR ME, and I had no idea how good that feeling is.

This obviously is not the only reason I like the show or even the main reason(s). It's more like something that snuck up on me and became a substrate underlying everything else I like about the show, if that makes any sense.

And now the spoilery stuff - illustrated with screencaps! Many spoilers for all episodes herein. )

Ephemera

Feb. 22nd, 2015 10:30 pm
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
I was thinking today about Internet and ephemera and archiving ... specifically, thinking about it in the context of my realname blogging. I want to start blogging more on my website. I used to use [personal profile] layla/[livejournal.com profile] laylalawlor for that, but whereas the purpose of this LJ/DW is just to hang out and chat with people, the purpose of my realname blog is at least partly to be noticed, or to do stuff careerwise, and with the general Internet population migrating away from LJ clones as a platform (and also away from blogging, but SHHHHHH) I figured I'd start doing more on Wordpress for the time being.

Anyway, one of the things that's been stopping me from writing Serious Author Posts is the idea of putting all that work and effort into writing a thing, when it stands a very real chance of being gone in five years due to yet another site upgrade or a Wordpress crash or migrating to yet another platform or god knows. I want to write stuff that I can archive and go find fifteen years from now ...

But then I got to thinking about how much is still around from fifteen years ago, let alone how often I have the urge to go looking through it, and realized the answer is "very little" and "almost never". Most of my online presence prior to when I got on LJ in 2006 is gone now. The Sequential Tart message boards, where I spent so much time in 2000-2004, were deleted awhile back. Some years ago I deleted the Trigun Yahoo group I used to run in the early 2000s, because it'd been dead for years, was getting overrun with spam and I was sick of dealing with it. (I don't think I've ever felt bad about that, either.) The Talkaboutcomics message boards, where I ran a Kismet board for awhile, got deleted after the site owner died. I suppose the archives of some of the mailing lists I was on in the '90s still exist, if they were hosted on a relatively stable site (I know the World-Building mailing list archives were still being saved as recently as a few years ago) but I don't care enough to go find out.

.... and that's the thing, really. I don't think I realized how little I mind all of that old stuff being gone, all my old message board posts and emails and so forth. For the most part, I just don't have any desire to go reread any of it. Conversations are things of the moment, and rereading what basically amounts to transcripts of old conversations is just something I don't find myself doing, like, ever. Actually useful web pages and blog posts are something a bit different, or my own posts about my projects and fiction (I save all the stuff I've ever written, too, because that's still interesting and useful to me). And sometimes it's fun to rediscover an old joke I haven't read in ten years, or stumble across an old comment exchange and go, "Oh, that's the first time I ever talked to so & so!" But mostly ... I dunno. Those old conversations are dry as dust to me now. I don't recognize myself in them, for the most part -- actually, no, it's worse than that; running across an old comment thread involving a younger me is mostly a squirm-inducing exercise in second-hand embarrassment.

Number of times I have reread my teenage diaries as an adult: never.

It seems like the general trend online at the present time is towards more ephemeral modes of communication: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and various Twitter-like chat things that operate via phone (I feel so terribly old saying that; I don't even know the names of the current hangout hotspots!). They're difficult or impossible to search through; once things drop off the current page, they're gone, for the most part. And I think a lot of us older folks feel a bit threatened by that. I know I do.

But actually, conversations are ephemeral by their nature. Conversations in real life certainly are. I think those of us who got on the Internet during a particular time in its history (mid-90s to mid-00s) ended up with a skewed sort of idea of the Internet as this thing that was constantly archiving us, freezing all our correspondence, taking continual snapshots of our social lives from day to day. And we thought we'd want to keep that stuff around forever, but ...

But I'm starting to think it's no coincidence that the generation that grew up steeped in a ubiquitous Internet are also the ones who view Internet text as a transitory thing. And I'm pretty sure they're right. Conversations are things of the moment. They're to participate in, not to reread in detail. There are some conversations that are worth saving (working out plot details, say, for me as a writer; some particular memory-archiving; stuff like that) but most online conversations aren't any more worth saving than you'd bother going around tape-recording every conversation you have with your friends just in case you want to listen to the tapes again someday. There might be a certain amount of nostalgia in it, but even when it's some sort of irreplaceable social experience like, say, rereading the words of a person who's now dead and gone, trying to recapture how you felt when you were with them back then, it's just kind of sad, more than positive. They wouldn't want you to be rereading all your old conversations with them! They'd want you to go out and have new conversations and find new things to be happy about.

I dunno if this is just me. Maybe other people go through their old LJ archives more than I do? I guess I've spent most of my life obsessively hoarding anything that had any sort of emotional value to me -- old letters, papers, diaries, emails -- only to realize, now that I'm approaching (help) middle age, that I almost never look through it and I don't think it would actually be a positive thing if I did spend a lot of time looking through it. For me I think it's more beneficial than not that most of my old online correspondence -- the old message boards, the archives of the email address I had in college, etc -- is all gone now. It's hard for me to throw it away myself, but I don't miss it once it's gone.

ETA: Talking about this with Orion, I think the paradigm shift here, for me, might be from thinking of the Internet as a thing that's full of stuff you keep, versus thinking of it as something you do.
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
1. At some point, someone told me that Facebook doesn't show you when you have messages from non-friends, it just sticks them in a folder somewhere. I finally went looking for that folder, and I discovered someone trying to contact me about a freelance opportunity A YEAR AGO. Needless to say, it is no longer an opportunity, and I feel a bit like an idiot about it (though she was quite nice when I emailed her, and said they'd keep me in mind for the future). Anyway, thanks for the professional support, Facebook. Just go on being awesome.

2. I found myself tonight trying to figure out if it would have been possible to lock a door from the inside without a key in 1930. This is surprisingly difficult to google for! What do you call those keyless door locks, anyway, the kind where you push a button or press in the knob? I ended up reading a bunch of pages on the history of doorknobs, and finally googling for "push button door lock" got me to a page in which I learned that Schlage patented one in 1924 (apparently the first) and started selling them widely. I still don't think they would be widespread enough to be available in a low-rent office building in 1930, though, which is what I need for this scene. Maybe if the doors were recently upgraded, perhaps due to a rash of burglaries or something ...? (Of course, I could also just tweak that scene a bit, so I don't need it ...)

3. I'm still reading Diana Wynne Jones, with essays from Reflections: On the Magic of Writing interspersed between her books. I realized something else I absolutely love about her books is the way that ... I'm trying to think exactly how to phrase this ... her characters' thoughts and feelings on other characters do not necessarily reflect the author's feelings about that character. Does that make sense? I was noticing this particularly in the Dalemark books, since they're in omniscient third, which means you get everyone's opinions on everyone else, and even among a cast of mostly-very-sympathetic characters, there's still a tremendous amount of variety in how everyone feels about everybody else. Then I ran across one of her essays where she's talking about having the same character, or facets of the same character, pop up in different books, and one she mentioned is that Tacroy in The Lives of Christopher Chant and Torquil in Archer's Goon are facets of the same character. Now that she's said that, I can see it (in a way, Torquil is a sort of a "through a glass darkly" Tacroy, or vice versa), but it would never have occurred to me before -- and this is what's interesting to me about that from a writerly perspective -- because the way that the narrator reacts to the two characters is radically different. Christopher likes Tacroy immediately, so we get his sympathetic view of him, whereas Howard hates Torquil, for reasons that are entirely obvious in the book. It's just really interesting to me, because yeah, authors tend to have the same characters pop up in different books, which is something she's discussing in the essay, but I think it's rarer for very similar characters to turn up in different books but play radically different roles, which seems to be what's happening here.

And it made an impression on me because it is remarkably hard to do. This is one of the things that chases me off a lot of mediocre fanfic, because instead of the characters acting towards each other as they do in canon, you get everyone behaving as the author wishes they would behave (i.e. everyone hates X because the author hates X, even if they get along just fine in canon, or X and Y get over their differences even if they really shouldn't be able to). Obviously it isn't always that extreme or obvious, and I've been guilty of it myself, I'm sure. I think it's more insidious and harder to recognize in original fiction, since there's no baseline to go back to. In particular, there's a tendency for the writer to just end up with everyone getting along (the writer likes all the characters, so why wouldn't they like each other?!) or else everyone ganging up on the one who represents the Wrong Viewpoint. This is something I really need to keep in mind in something like Kismet, say, where there are a bunch of characters who have dramatically opposed viewpoints, and they really need to look very different when seen through each other's eyes.
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
Okay, apparently I have more thoughts on this. (Since I'm trying to do weekly book-related posts at my realname blog now, I might have a go at cleaning this up and turning it into something more polished later, but right now I'm just kinda getting my thoughts out there.)

No specific plot spoilers, just general worldbuilding spoilers )
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
One of my favorite kinds of character relationships, that tap-dances all over my id, is "badass teen girl and surly older male mentor". Best of all possible worlds is if they're both surly, distrustful, and broken, team up with extreme reluctance, and spend as much time fighting with each other as uniting against a common enemy. Frances Hardinge is good at these; it's one of the reasons why I like her books. (See also: Manji and Rin in Blade of the Immortal.)

It took me awhile to realize that it works if the mentor is female too; it's just that you don't usually get female versions of that kind of character. The Luideag in the October Daye books fits the "surly mentor" role perfectly, though her relationship with Toby is really too equal to hit this particular button in my head, not that I don't really enjoy them. (If someone saddled her with an angry teenager, though, the needle would probably go off the charts.) But basically, this kind of relationship is one of my favorite things.

.... aaaaanyway, yesterday I finally got around to reading the first of the Hunger Games books, and while I was enjoying it enough to keep reading, it wasn't until about halfway through the book that something in the back of my brain went "*zing*" and then "♥ ♥ ♥ OMG ♥ ♥ ♥" and, er, then I basically read the entire series in about a day and a half. I had no idea this series had one of these in it, especially one which turned out to be pretty close to my Platonic ideal of that kind of thing.

Spoilers for the end of Mockingjay )

Frustrations with the worldbuilding - no specific book spoilers )
sholio: cup of cocoa with a swirl of whipped cream on top (Autumn-cocoa)
[personal profile] theladyscribe asked: What are your favorite tropes to read and/or write?

TROOOOOPES! :D (This is a fun one! Thank you for asking!)

I have some trouble here figuring out where to draw the line between trope and narrative kink and just plain "what I like in fiction", so I'll lean more towards the idficcy stuff here. Not that this is limited to fanfic specifically; it applies across the board, though some things work better in fic and some work better in original stuff.

Cheerful tropish chatter under cut )

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