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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Words from the Wizard World and an Interview

Young man wearing a costume resembling the character Doctor Octopus.
An attendee in a costume resembling the Spider-Man villain, Doctor Octopus, at the 2015 Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento.
Photo Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.



Last week I talked a little about Wizard World Comic Con  and said it wasn’t all comics but other forms of popular media such as movies, television, video games and, to a certain degree even literary fiction. It ran the whole weekend, Friday through Sunday, but I only attended Sunday. But the one day alone still had more than enough to see. Because I wanted to look through the dealers’ room, which covered nearly the entire convention hall of the Sacramento Convention Center, I had to limit myself to three of the 14 panels scheduled for that day. All three were about storytelling to some extent, but I found one particularly helpful to writers such as myself. It was entitled “Where the Synergy of Video Games, Books and Films Collide”.


Wizard World Synergy

“Where the Synergy” was a panel of artists and writers, including screenwriter Adam G. Simon, photographer Denys Ilic and author Genese Davis who was panel hostess. The discussion was about how story is behind all media types, including books, comics, film, television and video games. There was a lot of talk about how these media types are coming together and influencing each other and how opportunities for fiction writing are opening up more in non-literary media such as video games and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).

One of the most important points that were brought up was one by Simon who said that he normally does not write for other franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek because he believes a writer should create his or her own stories using original characters. To sum up his point, he said, “Write what you know and write from your heart.” This is something I’ve always believed in almost more than anything else about writing. There is so much franchise-based fiction out there which much of is written by really good writers but they are writing other people’s stories as far as over-arching storyline goes. One of the biggest examples is the Star Wars novels, in which, in many instances, the authors can’t even write their own stories within George Lucas’s story arc. That’s because under contract they have to develop the stories by certain standards that stay true to the franchise’s overall storyline. It’s almost like a form of fan fiction only at the professional level.

That’s why I never write fan fiction and never plan to regularly write for a movie or TV franchise. However, off and on, I’ve dreamed about writing an X-Files or Doctor Who episode. This was especially so with the former, especially when it was really big back in the ‘90s and I was in my X-Files phase. (But don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a great series and wish one of the TV networks, such as SyFy, would air reruns.) A lot of well-known and really good speculative fiction authors have occasionally written for television episodes, authors such as Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and, more recently, Neil Gaiman  (for Doctor Who). But I’m more into writing my own stories with characters I create. So I like to tell my own stories inspired by my own experiences, beliefs and perceptions on life. Which is the other point that Simon brought up: each of us has our own unique story to tell based on our life experiences. If written well and sincerely, these stories will attract an audience.

Davis also brought up an important point which was that it’s not so important what you create as what your creation does for other people. This lead to the discussion of the affect art and storytelling has on an audience. Davis’s point was generally agreed upon by the other panelists, although two said that certain movies can get “too” close to reality to the point of affecting someone in too negative a manner. Personally, I’m not sure if there can be such a thing as any kind of art affecting a person too much, at least not as far as the technical function of art goes which that function is to emotionally connect with the audience. I believe that’s one of the most important points of any art whether it be writing, painting, film or even video games. It should affect the audience to some degree, giving them a new perspective on life. But what I think the two panelists were really saying was that movies can get too close to reality in that they don’t put an audience in a world other than their everyday one. This particularly goes for the speculative genres in which the panelists did say audiences turn to in order to escape everyday life.


But no matter what the genre is, whether speculative fiction or realistic, the best storytelling is that which will affect the audience emotionally regardless of those emotions being negative or positive, as long as it gives them a new perspective on life. Perhaps the minimum effect on the audience should be the age old pathos, which the panel also touched on, in which by the end of a story the audience realizes they don’t have their lives as bad as they often think they do when they see characters going through so much worse.

One of the other neat ideas talked about, particularly in light of today’s multimedia storytelling, was what Ilicit referred to as the immersiveness of story particularly in games and that because of this they are becoming more cinematic. He said that for this reason video games are “the future” and so there will be a lot of opportunity for writers to write for video game companies and startups. And because of the emergence of more cinematic video games and V.R., there’s going to be a need for more stories and creativity in storytelling for these media types. So the heart of the discussion was not just story as the basis of all media types, but how these media types are influencing each other in light of storytelling.

Some of these points I’ve heard before at past convention panels, both at last year’s Wizard World as well as other conventions, but the great thing is that they serve as good refreshers and motivators. They help you to ask yourself, “Am I doing these things in my stories? And if I am, how can I do them more and better?” Plus you have the opportunity to ask the panelists questions that elaborate on these points.


Interview

To go off topic a little, I just wanted to let everybody know that I was interviewed by HorrorAddicts.net’s David Watson, particularly in light of my contribution to The Horror Addict’s Guide To Life. The interview is up at the HorrorAddicts’ site now, so feel free to check it out.


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con Returns to Sacramento

A Wizard World Comic Con in Manhattan, NY
Photo Credit: © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons




I know I said I would have a review of a Philip K. Dick short story for you soon but my writing project schedule has become a little jumbled this past week. I was especially held back when my Internet went out on me yesterday afternoon for no apparent reason. And it came back on, also for no apparent reason, but not until the evening. It was really frustrating, but the most important thing is that it’s back on so I can write and post this entry for you. So I’ll have to hold off the review until a later date because an event I want to tell you about is already going on. It is Wizard World Comic Con and it has returned here to Sacramento.

If you are not in the Sacramento area to attend Wizard World, there’s good news. This is a touring comic convention that hits several cities throughout North America so there may be one near you in the upcoming months. If you’re not in the U.S., well consider doing some traveling to see a new place because if you’re a big comic book or pop culture fan it may be worth a plane ticket.

Even though Wizard World specialises in comics, it also features many other areas of pop cultural interest--such as TV, film, video games, board games and animation--most of which cover speculative genres and some even non-speculative genres. For example, one of the celebrity guest speakers scheduled to make an appearance is actor Henry Winkler who played the “Fonz” in Happy Days.

The neat thing about this con is that it’s not all just cosplay and vendors. Several, what are called, “industry” panels are offered there. These panels consist of  presentations and discussions by and with professional artists and writers of books, comics, TV, film and games. These pros talk about their work and how to get into or move up in a field of specialty. No matter where we are in our writing or art careers, these experts are great to listen and talk to because they can offer new tips and, at the very least, inspiration and motivation to continue pursuing our own careers in the arts. And if you’re not an artist or writer but just a fan, then they can still be really interesting to listen and talk to because they often offer insight into their work and even give updates about it, such as upcoming movies or graphic novels. These updates may not have been announced in the press yet. So if you’re a journalist like yours truly, this may be the perfect event to get that breaking story on, who knows, a future Star Trek series or movie!
 
The last day of this three-day con is tomorrow (Sunday 21 June) and tickets may still be available. For more details about this convention, check out my preview at Examiner.com. I myself have not been to this year’s Wizard World but will be attending tomorrow. So you might see me there. If so, feel free to stop and say “hi”! I don’t have a table there but I’ll be wandering throughout. 

I’ll try to have highlights for tomorrow’s Wizard World events next week. Also, if you want a list of other cities this comic convention will be visiting, check out WizardWorld’s website


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Week In Review: June 7 through 12

Because there have been a lot of things going on this past week in the world of sci fi, fantasy and writing, I thought it would be a great time to do a week in review.

Sunday 7 June: Christopher Lee Dies at 93 Years

When I heard about this only a few days ago, I was both shocked and sad. Sir Christopher Lee has been one of my favourite actors since childhood. I first found out about him when I was a kid, around six or seven, on a hosted horror movie show called Creature Features. The host, the late Bob Wilkins, talked about Mr. Lee all the time, let alone featured his horror movies, and interviewed him on the show. Lee’s Dracula movies always inspired me in everything horror. He’s one of those actors right up there with Lenard Nimoy (who sadly also died back in February) who you wish were immortal. You even get kind of mad at the fact that death exists when famous actors like him die. Well at least in his movies he’ll be immortal and not just in his Dracula ones, which his high quality acting extended far beyond. May he R.I.P.


Actor Christopher Lee grins evilly, showing bloody fangs as Dracula.
Sir Christopher Lee, 27 May 1922 - 7 June 2015
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Monday 8 June: Writing a New Short Story

After several weeks without writing any new short stories, I finally wrote and finished one (first draft). Because I filed it away, as I normally do with my new stories for at least two weeks before revising them, I resumed revising two other stories. One I actually started revising only a couple days ago. But then I realised I had to slow down. When I work on too many projects at one time, especially projects of one kind (e.g. several short stories) they take forever to get done. So I’ve realised that I better take it one at a time and so since I save the weekends--especially Saturdays--for mostly working on my short fiction, I’m concentrating on one story this weekend hoping to get it done and ready for critiquing before Monday.

Friday 12 June: Jurassic World Releases

This is the latest sequel to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name) that came out in the early ‘90s. And to tell you the truth, as great as the original was I haven’t seen it since then. I’ll have to watch it before I go see this sequel. Maybe I can check it out at one of the libraries in the area. In fact, I haven’t even seen any of the other sequels. Maybe I’ll do a Jurassic marathon (private). Finally, after years of mostly directing historical dramas (please don’t get me wrong, I’m a big history lover) Spielberg is rolling out the sci fi films again. Hopefully he’ll continue doing so for a while.
 

Back to the Drawing Pad

I also finally got back to work on the concept sketches for my book cover illustration for my second short fiction collection that I plan to release by fall. So far, I plan to call the book The Hidden. I’ll try to have a photo of one of the final concept sketches by next week. Realistically speaking, I’m more of a writer than an artist and so my writing has taken up so much time to where I keep missing my allotted time to work on my book cover illustration. But, because I have a background in art, since it was what I first majored in in college before switching to English, I don’t want that training and studying in the subject to go to waste. I’m not so much talking about tuition money than talent, skills and passion. To tell you the truth, I’ve had a passion and talent for art even before I started writing, which is probably natural. We often don’t learn to write our ABCs until kindergarten (maybe some kids start in nursery school, I’m not sure). But kids will start doodling at least by the toddler stage of their lives (about 1 or 2 years old).

Throughout the Week:

I’ve been working on non-fiction/technical writing for clients, mostly relating to apps and software. As much as I like doing this type of writing, it can really be trying and wear a person out since some clients are very specific about what they want. The more specific they are, the harder it is to research the topic. There tends to be less content and resources out there for a topic that’s narrowed down so much. This is even the case when researching it on the nearly infinite Internet.

I don’t just go for any source. I want to put my best work into a client’s project and so, when I do research, I need to consider the credibility of the source. That’s because I want the client as well as the client’s audience to rely on my own credibility. But the Internet can be like the 19th century Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge’s poem, “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”:  “Water, water everywhere yet not enough to drink.” Except in my case it’s info, info everywhere, yet not a piece of it to rely on (or at least it seems). When you think how big the digital information sea is, there’s probably more unreliable amateurish sources out there than there are reliable ones. It’s a good thing I like to learn new things because if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t be writing research articles, if I would be writing at all. Even us fiction writers have to do our research if we want our stories to be taken seriously. (If you missed it, see my post on researching for world-building.)

Preview of Coming Attractions (No set dates for yet)

  • Philip K. Dick short story review (No, I haven’t forgotten.)
  • Possibly an Examiner.com article or two (link to) of sci fi related material. Now that the revenue seems to be picking up at Examiner, I can find it worthwhile to write more frequently for them again.
  • Sacramento Wizard Con highlights: especially look out for ones of writing and literary panels.
  • And I already mentioned the photo of a sketch for my book cover illustration.

I’ll leave you with that for now.

Until next time . . .  


Monday, June 8, 2015

In Search of the Missing Arabian Nights Page


A fisherman sits on his carpet on a beach as he looks up at a giant genie.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons



I apologise for posting so late. I normally have been posting on a Friday or Saturday, but this past Saturday I had a family event to go to and was there a little longer than I had intended.

Earlier last week, I was in bed reading a used copy of the Arabian Nights only to find out a page was missing. It was a missing leaf to be exact; the actual pages were 41 and 42, front and back. It was right in the middle of the story about the fisherman and the genie. I was really mad when I discovered this because I didn’t want to continue until I could replace the missing page. Even though the Arabian Nights is a compilation of stories, they are told within one overarching story. The book begins with the Princess Scheherazade’s tale that she tells to the king in order to hold off her execution. Even though she is the chief story teller in the book, within her stories are other stories told by the characters. So they are stories within stories, like boxes within boxes and the Asian figures that come inside each other where each is smaller than the one encasing it.

Well anyway, I was originally going to just skip around to the different stories in the book, and begin just reading the ones I’m most familiar with such as the Aladdin and Sinbad tales. I’ve seen Disney’s Aladdin (which I’m sure is nowhere as good as the original Arabic story). I grew up watching the old Sinbad movies that the late Ray Harryhausen did the special effects for, particularly the stop-and-go creature animation.  But after I read the opening and the initial tale and saw how it and the other stories were interconnected under Scheherazade’s telling of them, I decided to read the book straight through. So I wasn’t going to go on to the next story without finishing the one I had been reading and to do that I needed to get a hold of a copy of the missing page.

The next morning I did a search for a free ebook copy of Arabian Nights on Project Gutenberg’swebsite. The version I found that came closest to my version was a 19th century copy of the Richard Burton translation, which the Signet copy I have is based on.


Well I printed a copy of the missing passages from Project Gutenberg’s website, and had to read/skim carefully for them since the website’s edition was the original Burton translation and so the dialect of English that was used is much different than today’s. In fact, the style he translated it into was closer to Elizabethan English and so was already archaic for his time. Therefore the translation was somewhat more dense as beautiful as it was, phonetically speaking. But I printed out the passages on one sheet and because the text was too difficult to shrink to fit the Signet’s paperback edition’s page size, I folded the sheet in half and inserted it into the book (for my own use, of course). Pretty crude, I know.

So that evening I continued where I left off of my reading and it was a bit awkward because of the differences in the styles of English but still interesting and gave me the gist, if nothing more, of that segment of the story. So it allowed me to continue on to the rest of the book without missing out on anything (except maybe one of the beautifully inked or etched illustrations that are found throughout the book).

But that’s what is so great about Project Gutenberg: it makes available free copies of the literary classics. You can go there anytime and download a copy of a classic. Project Gutenberg offers classic books in almost any genre you can think of, including sci fi, fantasy and horror. I strongly suggest you check it out.

I believe Arabian Nights was on last summer’s reading list for me, but as I do with so many reading lists I didn’t get around to reading it until this summer (more like late spring). So I’ll have the entire summer to read it.

I’ll try to have another summer reading list here in the next week or two. But I said I would write a review of a Philip K. Dick short story last week and so I’ll probably have that here for you first.


Until next time . . .