Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's Research, Not Gravedancing

My morning commute has slowly evolved into the Diversity and Comics Roadshow.  For those not in the know, the nameless creator of this YouTube series talks comics.  Usually, he reviews a single issue of a comic book, but he also produces episodes on various subjects, many of which revolve around Marvel's self-inflicted gunshot wounds.  Not only does he provide interesting historical background information, he spots trends, and calls out the good and bad of every issue.  From his analysis of the artwork itself, it's obvious the man knows what he is talking about.  He is also a funny host with a dry wit and often a barely restrained rage that entertains even as it informs.

Most of the information that he provides in his autopsies of what doesn't work does me no good.  The constant litany of SJW and barely past their teens writing mistakes are not the sorts of things that I need to guard against.  But it's darn fun to be able to vicariously experience the dreadful writing and erratic plotting and clumsy left-wing preaching through D&C.  The guy tries to bridge a middle ground, but the egregious own-goals of Marvel are clearly pushing him hard into the welcoming arms of the alt-right.  His SJW takedowns and thorough and professional and hilarious.

The field of comics serves as a useful case study in the cancerous effects of SJW culture in general and feminism in specific.  Comic books themselves did about $1 billion in sales in 2016, compared to a global film market of $38 billion and video games market of $91 billion.  As a content creator in the literary world (the biggest of the four mediums at $127 billion), this serves as a powerful incentive to rein in any impulses you might have to sip from the SJW kool-aid.

With a smaller environment, we can more easily see the market effects of a little thing like erasing the biggest names in the industry (Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Spidey, etc.) and brown-washing them with brand new demographic placeholders.  Spoiler alert!  It's not pretty on either the creative or the financial side.


Or take this classic example of what happens to the sales of a comic book as it's main writer and intellectual shepherd continues to drink from the SJW kool-aid spigot:
 
That's a drop off in readership of 75%, and you can make chin music about dying industries and the death of print media all you want, and you'll still be left with a minimum 25% dropoff in readership due to the quality of the work produced.
 
While comic books are only directly analogous to literature, they are a powerful analogy.  All of the rules of plot, pacing, characters, personality, writer's voice, underlying messages, and so on apply equally to my chosen medium as they do to comic books. 
 
The dearth of quality writer's podcasts has long been a complaint of mine.  Oh, sure, it's easy to find podcasts full of NPR's "Writer's Almanac" style wankery.  It's easy to find writers talking about their own work.  Finding nuts and bolts analysis of what works and what doesn't when it comes to stringing sentences together is a lot harder.  Luckily, D&C doesn't just produce that style of critique, he floods the digital airwaves with it.
 
And my commute is all the better for having him along for the ride.
 



Monday, July 24, 2017

Two Paths Converged


Two paths will lead you to the heights of literary success, and neither of them are free of rocks, wrong turns, and pitfalls.
 
 
One path is paved with hard work and dedication.  Years of long hours, careful study, and constant effort are necessary to climb this path.  Some say a million words must be written before producing a writer worth reading.  If you take this path, the world around you will constantly roll rocks your way.  They will tempt you to turn back, or to stop and rest.  This path is a long and lonely path that no one can walk for you.  Along the way you might meet a few fellow travelers who will point out the rocks, warn you away from dead ends, and offer encouraging words now and then.  But the actual process of climbing is up to you.  Call this path, “What You Know”.

The sign at the base of the other path reads, “Who You Know”.  Instead of dedicating long hours to tradecraft, the hikers on this path opt to spend time ingratiating themselves to those at the top of the path.  They rely on the hard won successes of others, grasping at coat-tails in the hopes that they may be able to ride them upwards.  Lined with fan conventions, cocktail parties, and rigged award ceremonies, it appears to be a life of relative ease, but it is not without cost.  To ascend this path, one must actively discourage fellow hikers lest they usurp your position as the chosen one.  One must carefully guard his speech lest he offend their patrons and be cast back down the hill.  Part of the price of this path is the loss of freedom the author suffers – the author who chooses this path will forever be subject to the whims of his patrons, unlike those who take the former path.  Call this path “Who You Know”.
Naturally, the two paths intersect and intertwine.  Even the most brilliant author must rely on the generosity of publishers, critics, and readers to spread the word of their latest masterpiece.  Even the most unctuous author must at some point put words to the page, and every patron has his limits.  The market will only bear so much incompetence, and every patron’s patience with authors who lose money has its limit.  As a result, every author spends some time on the first path and some on the second.

As for me – that first path looks like so much more fun.  The people I've met along that path sure are fun, I can tell you that!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Unexpected Classical Music

Lately I've been enjoying a lot of saxophone quartet music while writing.  Saxophone quartets are grossly underrated.  String quartets get the headlines because in the small parlors of the 1700s, the lightweight and soft tones didn't blast the audience seated just a few feet away, but I'm partial to the sound of the woodwind, myself - and not just because I came of age listening to the sax-heavy soundtracks of the 1980s.  There's something clean and pure in this particular woodwind that lends itself to a quartet.  The natural blend of the different sizes of a saxophone, and the natural volume you get from them makes these perfect instruments for listening to on the streets and in the concert hall. 

But that's not what this post is about today.  Today's post is about the classic modern masterpiece that is the theme from "Super Mario Brothers".  Check this out:



Four movements.  Three styles.  Peppy, breezy, maniacal interlude, menacing, then back to the original theme with a huge flourish at the end.  That's a real crowd pleaser.

Speaking of which, have you ever been to a concert where the performer broke into this song?  It's electric.  Those first few bars are not just recognizable, they are beloved.  Everybody knows them.  Everybody loves them.  The intro of this song makes the crowd sit up, laugh, and pay attention.  They make people of all ages smile, and it's a safe bet they will continue to do so for the next 200 years.