Monday, October 21, 2013

S.H.I.E.L.D: Good Guys or Bad Guys? It Depends on When You Ask

Promo Photo from Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This will probably be evolved and continued over time and may turn into a real, "researched" paper, but for now, I want to get my thoughts down and see where they go.  Further input is encouraged in the comments!

I blame Clark Gregg.

Okay, maybe it's not entirely his fault, but the actor who has done such an incredible job filling what was originally a minor role in Marvel's movie series has definitely made an impact on the way many people perceive the shady organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Named originally Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division, the organization's title changed in 1991 to Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate, and then it was altered again for the Marvel movie release to Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (there's plenty to culturally analyze just in THAT fact).

S.H.I.E.L.D. has a long and checkered history within the Marvel universe. The organization was originally created during the heyday of international espionage in films and books, when 007 and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ruled the entertainment world. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced the organization, fully-formed, in Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and filled in the backstory as stories necessitated.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has always been problematic, in spite of the fact that their main antagonist (HYDRA) is very obviously evil. In the classic response to the question, "is the enemy of my enemy my friend?," S.H.I.E.L.D. often works at odds with superheroes, sometimes claiming they exist to keep heroes in check, but acting in questionable ways and sometimes diametrically opposed to the interests of the people they claim to protect. They almost certainly will lean toward restricting the civil rights of the superheroes themselves in many cases.

I really need citations. They're all in my brain and I promise I'll intersperse them as I spend time researching this idea, because I know these paragraphs aren't the only thing I'm going to write about this.

Promo image for Civil War via Marvel and the magic of the Interwebs.
My first inclination is to suggest that the post-9/11 world created a need for S.H.I.E.L.D to be heroic since our heroes proved they couldn't save us, but I'm not sure this is the correct response. Civil War, which was a response to the fallout from the culture developed in the wake 9/11 in spite of the fact that it was authored years later, established pretty conclusively the fact that even though heroes were dangerous, the government (and, by extension, S.H.I.E.L.D.) was worse. Two years after Civil War, we see Joss Whedon's Dollhouse float the same idea. Greater power inevitably equals greater corruption, which pretty much means that no one is safe. Ever.

(And yes, on an only quasi-related subject, I'm fairly certain that our Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D Coulson is an LMD. But time will tell. How would that cloud the agency's current "good name?")

By the way, Civil War is what really made me love Captain America...if you haven't read it, you'll gain some serious respect for the guy in those pages. Oh, and the story also made me seriously despise Spider-Man. Like to the point of indignation. The side stories vary in their quality, but the core story is a serious page-turner that asks some serious questions about the nature of freedom and how we defend the freedoms of even those we fear shows the true quality of character. But it also shows the deep, almost subconscious, need to relinquish control to authority as a security blanket in the aftermath of horror. And the true horror that can rise in the aftermath of letting go of our most basic civil rights. So, in spite of the sides that are chosen, power is still something to fear, because those in power have no more idea how to handle the aftermath of catastrophe than the average person.

Even the animated series Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes depicts S.H.I.E.L.D. as autocratic and potentially dangerous, to the point that the Avengers actually form outside of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s commission and, while they lend a hand to the agency from time to time, they also actively resist actually falling under its umbrella (by the way, the difference in depiction of Tony Stark between this series and Civil War is fascinating, considering what side he ends up landing on in that series...even more fascinating is the fact that both depictions are believable within the scope of each storyline).

But then, almost suddenly, we get to a point culturally where we want to feel "safe" with the idea of government agencies. When did this happen? Did we forget that these people aren't heroes but people, with foibles and, potentially worse, the spark of corruption in every soul? Did we suddenly miss Mulder and Scully? I don't know. I don't have answers. I'm still trying to formulate all the questions.

Any thoughts out there in Internet-world? Is this all Coulson's fault? Is this what happens when you start to give faces to the people in power, even if they're not perfect?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Life in the Leaves: Reading Update (The Female Man)

The Female Man

by Joanna Russ
Paperback, 214 pages
Published March 17th 2000 by Beacon Press (first published 1975)
ISBN: 0807062995 (ISBN 13: 9780807062999)

I've seen people argue that this book is outdated and no longer topical.

I'm really confused what rose-colored glasses they're wearing, because as far as I can tell, the majority of this book is still far too true. I've been in these places far, far too often to write off the circumstances in this book as some so flippantly have.

"Give us a good-bye kiss," said the host, who might have been attractive under other circumstances, a giant marine, so to speak. I pushed him away.

"What'sa matter, you some kinda prude?" he said and enfolding us in his powerful arms, et cetera--well, not so very powerful as all that, but I want to give you the feeling of the scene. If you scream, people say you're melodramatic; if you submit, you’re masochistic; if you call names, you're a bitch. Hit him and he'll kill you. The best thing is to suffer mutely and yearn for a rescuer, but suppose a rescuer doesn't come?

Sure, we don't have men telling us that we "belong" at home any more (or at least not as often). There are women in the army now, female firefighters, women working in construction and architecture and mathematics. But how many women are in active combat? Zero. How many women run Fortune 500 companies? ALMOST Zero (fewer than 5%). There’s still a significant disparity of women in mathematics and the sciences. We still can’t play “male” sports. We're reduced to breasts and our sex more often than even we want to admit. We're still, after all this "liberation," confined to the role of Chopin's "Mother-women" strikingly often.

In college, educated women (I found out) were frigid; active women (I knew) were neurotic; women (we all knew) were timid, incapable, dependent, nurturing, passive, intuitive, emotional, unintelligent, obedient, and beautiful. You can always get dressed up and go to a party. Woman is the gateway to another world; Woman is the earth-mother; Woman is the eternal siren; Woman is purity; Woman is carnality; Woman has intuition; Woman is the life-force; Woman is selfless love.

"I am the gateway to another world," (said I, looking in the mirror) "I am the earth-mother; I am the eternal siren; I am purity," (Jeez, new pimples) "I am carnality; I have intuition; I am the life-force; I am selfless love." (Somehow it sounds different in the first person, doesn't it?)

Honey (said the mirror, scandalized) Are you out of your fuckin' mind?

But the worst part about this--the most terrifying aspect of this book--is that the sentiment this book calls out still lay barely below the surface of, at the very least, American culture (being American, I really can’t speak to the rest of the world with much knowledge). We claim to be a "post-feminist" society, but patriarchal thinking still lurks beneath, and it takes very little prodding to bring its apologetics to light, in both men and women. It’s somehow worse that we think that this is all past us, I think, because by pretending it doesn’t exist, we’re simply letting it live. We’re letting the monster continue its devouring cycle, eating us all as we go about our lives, like the invisible aliens sucking away human brains in “They Live” that only those with the goofy glasses could see.

I’m a sick woman, a madwoman, a ball-breaker, a man-eater; I don’t consume men gracefully with my fire-like red hair or my poisoned kiss; I crack their joints with these filthy ghoul’s claws and standing on one foot like a de-clawed cat, rake at your feeble efforts to save yourselves with my taloned hinder feet: my matted hair, my filthy skin, my big fat plaques of green bloody teeth. I don’t think my body would sell anything. I don’t think I’d be good to look at. O of all diseases self-hate is the worst and I don’t mean for the one who suffers it!

Women are still considered "inadequate" in so many circumstances. Our own autonomy and ability to make decisions for ourselves regarding basic medical procedures and life choices is still not only questioned, but those rights are actively being stripped on a regular basis. And when we dare to say, "how dare you!" we get slapped in the face. We get laughed at. We get told our concerns are ludicrous.

And that’s without taking into account societies that still exist where women can be jailed for driving. The countries where mutilation of women is still allowed and accepted. Where wives are still bought and exchanged as property, where they can be beaten and bred like livestock.

But sure, we’re post-feminist. Really.

Alas, it was never meant for us to hear. It was never meant for us to know. We ought never be taught to read. We fight through the constant male refractoriness of our surroundings; our souls are torn out of us with such shock that there isn't even any blood. Remember: I didn't and don't want to be a "feminine" version of the heroes I admire. I want to be the heroes themselves.

What future is there for a female child who aspires to being Humphrey Bogart?

I wish this book were much more outdated than it is. I wish I didn't see my own experiences in Jeannine and Joanna. I wish I hadn't been to that party where I was called a shrew for saying no. In a society where a white man serves less time in prison for a rape conviction than a black man does for possession of half an ounce of an intoxicant while the woman in the assault is blamed for “inviting it,” something is still royally fucked up, and those who don’t see it are deceiving themselves.

Her secret guilt was this:

She was Cunt.

She had “lost” something.

Now the other party to the incident had manifested his essential nature, too; he was a Prick—but being Prick is not a bad thing. In fact, he had “gotten away with” something (possibly what she had “lost”).

And there I was listening at eleven years of age:

She was out late at night.

She was in the wrong part of town.

Her skirt was too short and that provoked him.

She liked having her eye blacked and her head banged against the sidewalk.

I understood this perfectly. (I reflected thus in my dream, in my state of being a pair of eyes in a small wooden box stuck forever on a gray, geometric plane—or so I thought.) I too had been guilty of what had been done to me, when I came home from the playground in tears because I had been beaten up by bigger children who were bullies.

I was dirty.

I was crying.

I demanded comfort.

I was being inconvenient.

I did not disappear into thin air.

I don't think this is just a story that speaks of the frustration of women, though. I think this is the struggle of the Other in all forms. I see this frustration in my gay friends trying to become recognized as a married couple (as people at all) in a state that has now legally endorsed segregation and discrimination on the grounds that they’re “offensive” to certain parties. I see it in my minority friends, especially those of mixed races, who try to function not as their race, but as individuals. It's the struggle of the Other, not in the 1970s, but EVERY SINGLE DAY.

If we are all Mankind, it follows to my interested and righteous and rightnow very bright and beady little eyes, that I too am a Man and not at all a Woman, for honestly now, whoever heard of Java Woman and existential Woman and the values of Western Woman and scientific Woman and alienated nineteenth-century Woman and all the rest of that dingy antiquated rag-bag?" All the rags in it are White, anyway.

The J's (as they're known later in the book) are each incarnations of the aspects of the Other who tries to remain functional in a society built against her. Some of them are incarnations of wishful thinking--the women or the self we want to be (though Russ shows the flaws in those "idealized" selves, too, much more than Gilman does in Herland), and the others are compartmentalized into the societies of the present or the past, but they make a compatible whole. They are the Same. They are still, for all their flaws and angst, us. The sooner we see the alientation we still allow, the sooner we can actually have the liberty we claim already exists.

How am I to put this together with my human life, my intellectual life, my solitude, my transcendence, my brains, and my fearful, fearful ambition? I failed and thought it was my own fault. You can't unite woman and human any more than you can unite matter and anti-matter; they are designed not to be stable together and they make just as big an explosion inside the head of the unfortunate girl who believes in both.

Russ speaks, in this book, to a demon that still feasts in society. We’re not post-feminist. We’re not all evolved past this shit, and I think she’d still say that today. We’re deceiving ourselves into thinking that we’ve evolved when we’re still clubbing each other about the heads in order to feel morally, intellectually, socially superior. Evolution’s still going retrograde, and Joanna saw it in 1975.

As my mother once said: The boys throw stones at the frogs in jest.

But the frogs die in earnest.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Life in the Leaves: Reading Update (Air, Vol. 1)

Air, Vol. 1: Letters from Lost Countries

by G. Willow Wilson, M.K. Perker
Paperback, 144 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by Vertigo (first published March 10th 2009)
ISBN: 140122153X (ISBN13: 9781401221539)

I was crazy about this book before I even opened the cover. It shows a scene that calls to my mind James Dickey's poem "Falling," which is on my list of top five favorite poems EVER (yes, I have a list). The image gives me the same breathless feeling I get when I ramble through the poem, and that giddiness made this purchase a no-brainer.

Then, the first page makes a Satanic Verses reference. Which is one of my favorite books of all time. Double love.

From the second page, though, I fell out of love a little, at least for a while. Pushing so quickly into the action without establishing the characters on some identifiable level for the reader is difficult. I realize the medium implies a "nonstop action" flavor, but my favorite comics have been those that manage to use the action to establish the character in some sly way, and I didn't think that Wilson was terribly adept at that for at least the first third of this volume (which would be a couple full comics, had I been reading it in the serial form--would I have had the patience to continue with it if the first couple issues had been so disappointing?). And Blythe's "dysfunction" doesn't count as character establishment. In fact, her disorder just made me think she was stupid for taking the job as a stewardess to begin with.

The dialogue is stilted and unrealistic in a lot of places, to the point that it took me out of the story a few times, especially in Blythe's first encounter with the Estian Front (not too much of a spoiler, as this happens in the first couple pages). The "Two-Face" style bad guy is in balsa. I'm not sure that he's going to hold up as anything interesting in the future.

The art is...I think another reviewer said that it's very eighties. For the most part, I'd agree with that. The artist has a great eye for composition, but the art itself feels a little rushed and cheap, like he or she was trying to get panels cranked out without much care for the actual artistic integrity overall.

But, hang in there, passengers. There's some turbulence, but, like any pilot (as in the show, not the captain of an aircraft), it manages to hang together by the end of the volume. The magical realism in the world Wilson establishes and the way it weaved its way into the plot dazzled me, and the layers that were established saved the narrative by the end.

The story also raises some really nice questions about the nature of reality and how that reality, or lack thereof, affects our own identities. As some of you know, I'm a bit of a sucker for good philosophical questions being raised in my comics, so this has earned a pass from me. I still don't give too much of a damn about Blythe or her mysterious friend (...what's his name again...?), but the story itself is at least compelling enough for me to want to snag the next volume and give it another chance.

So, the jury's still out. Maybe Volume 2 will manage to breathe a little more life into the characters and keep me hooked for Volume 3. We'll see.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pauline Saves Mario! Now in your neighborhood arcade!

As some of you probably know, a father re-programmed Nintendo's Donkey Kong game a few months ago to feature Pauline as the hero, rescuing Mario from the great ape, for his daughter. And gamers everywhere, male and female alike, ooohed and aaahed at the awesomeness that was an inverted version of an unquestionable classic with a  female protagonist. Other stodgy real-life versions of The Simpsons' "Comic Book Guy," with no sense of humor or understanding what it's like to be a minority in a genre, trolled and bitched and moaned about why it was unnecessary and how people were corrupting a classic game...but we don't give a damn about those losers. Though a YouTuber created a video compiling the best (worst) of the troll comments that will, in turns, make you laugh and lose all hope for humanity.

Well, Clay Cowgill, the owner of an arcade in Portland, Oregon, has hacked the original arcade version of the game to re-cast Pauline as well and is making it available to patrons at his arcade. Here's hoping that Nintendo will take the hint and actually begin offering this awesome inversion more universally, hopefully without biting their thumbs at their fans like Fox managed to do last week when cracking down on "unauthorized" makers of Jayne hats, sending cease and desist notices to infringing knitters everywhere (don't even get me started on that...or maybe you should, since I have some actual legal discussion to make there). Yeah, I think that'll be a topic coming up shortly. I've studied IP enough to have a unique perspective to offer there that I've not seen presented elsewhere. And I have LAW to back me up. Watch out, Fox! The little guy knows how to read, too!

Anyway, I'm digressing. Donkey Kong is awesome. And more awesome with Pauline as the hero. Now, can we get Princess Peach to save Mario from Bowser sometime soon? Or! Even BETTER! Zelda needs to save LINK, dammit!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Life in the Leaves: Reading Update (The Man in the High Castle)

The Man in the High Castle

by Phillip K. Dick

Paperback, 249 pages

Published September 6th 2001 by Penguin (first published 1962)

ISBN 0141186674 (ISBN-13: 9780141186672)

This novel comes with a rather noble science fiction pedigree, and I'm not just talking about the last name that launched a thousand movies (many of them, unfortunately, absolutely terrible). The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award in 1963, and continues to be considered one of the quintessential "alternate future" sci fi epics (in spite of the fact that no one's executed any movie rights yet--unless you count Iron Sky as some sort of "inspired by" space thriller--but please don't count Iron Sky. Please.).

And yet...and yet. I really haven't been terribly impressed by this. I've been wanting to read it for probably almost a decade now, and after finally picking it up, I'm left wondering if I over-hyped it to myself. Did I turn a book that has the quality of Pan's Labyrinth into a Daredevil simply by telling myself what a great book it would be for so long?

I don't really care about many of the characters. To the point that I don't remember most of them when Dick shifts back to them after being away for a while. I'm tangentially interested in Juliana Frink, Robert Childan, and Frank Frink, but I'm not really invested in them. I think I can only call my feeling "interest" due to the fact that I remember who the hell they are when I go back to reading about them. If he killed one of them off, I can't even imagine putting the book down with a terse slap, much less throwing it across the room in an angst-ridden fit (yeah, I've done it more than once).

He's alluded to the differences between their world and ours, but it's always such an obvious and drawn out, "oh, this is how it is" reveal that I don't even care anymore. The only really compelling difference so far has been (SPOILER! Highlight to read:) the fact that the average person lacks television well into the sixties.

And, on a related note, I'm really not a fan of being in people's heads for so long as they go through the obvious reflection and flashback that is a rather lazy vehicle for expressing the current state of things. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Annoyingly fucking LAZY. You should know better, Phil.

Correction: I HAVE wanted to throw this across the room. But throwing a book across the room due to the laziness of the author is an entirely different problem. And I'm reading this on my Kindle. I don't have the heart to destroy it, regardless. My sweet Kindle has given me too many great and amazing books to throw it all away on one frustration.

Really, the only thing that's compelling for me is the book-within-a-book that everyone's reading, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. The author, as well, has my attention, as the great mystery of the novel. How he's managed to live in the conquered world and write such incredible dissent is pretty fascinating. Hopefully that will develop into something to calm my disappointment (and infrequent rage) at a book that I'd built into something amazing in my head, only to read the literary equivalent of celery.

Ugh. Give me back my Vonnegut. I'm going to finish this one, but only under protest.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Random Internet Inspirations

As this blog progresses, I'll periodically post links to websites and other things I find inspiring or interesting that I want to pass on. I'd commit to doing it weekly, but then I'd have to get on a schedule, and some of you know what a pain in the ass that is for me. So I'm sorry, but you'll just have to live with "periodic" rather than "on Saturdays," okay? Good.

Batgirl from this week's Batgirl #19.

  • In case you are a luckier soul than I am and actually have a friend, enemy, or eight-year-old girl off the street willing to DM for a D&D campaign or six, you'll want to know about this amazing site that actually sells PDFs of EVERY EDITION of the old D&D games. Play it right. None of that swanky fifth edition bullshit here, no sirree! And if you're lucky enough to have snagged a few friends and a DM, are you looking for another? Please? I miss me some D&D.
  • The Great Gatsby. As a video game. You're welcome. Sadly, it lacks an opportunity to mow down Tom Buchanan.   
  • There can be almost nothing better than a Tumblr called Fuck yeah, manuscripts!, because, first of all, who couldn't love that amazing name!? Second, as a writer, I tend to fetishize the handwritten  notes and manuscripts of my favorite writers, as if seeing or touching something they saw or touched brings me closer to them(I have a thing for pens and blank books, too...DON'T JUDGE ME!). So this website is , for me, pages and pages of fangirling of epic proportions. Seriously. Writers, you get this, right? I'm not alone in this, right? Right?
  • And, because I'm feeling like an evil bitch today, get ready to have your childhood illusions completely shattered. I've gotta say, the Courage the Cowardly Dog theory makes complete sense. I can get behind that, partially because it makes the show that much more awesome. But Wall-E was a sweet and innocent robot. Screw you, theorists.
  • In case you need a nice, retro cover for that great American (or European, or Indian) pulp novel you're working on, here you go. Prepare to lose hours of your life tweaking. Your writing will hate me, and for that I'm sorry. But SO MUCH COOL .

Friday, April 12, 2013

FIG...Take 1...

Okay, so let's get the ball rolling with a random Plot from the FIG app. When I post a FIG idea, I'll also post my first "scribblings" (difficult to call it that when I'm typing, but whatever) about the idea. 

I'm going to post my actual first draft--the VERY FIRST thoughts that come out of my head as I process the idea presented--so be gentle. This isn't expected to be Beloved. Hell, I'll be elated if it turns out to be King of the Hill.

So, here we go...

Tense: Past
Narrator: Epistolary Voice (Yeah, there might be some situations that will force me to recall long-forgotten comp terminology--"epistolary voice" is a narrative written in letters or other documents)
Period: 9 Days Ago
Situation: Grief
Protagonist: A female therapist who is creative (I like the fact that they add a quirk of personality with the "who is..." part to keep you from being too stereotypical with the characters)
Supporting Character: A female interior designer who is hyperactive
Their Relationship: Misery

3 April, 2013

It's begun. I knew it would happen, but I didn't think it would be this soon.

When he left, I thought we'd have time. I thought that she'd progress through the stages of grief somewhat naturally, that I could help her grapple with it and maybe emerge with some measure of success. That maybe we could still be together, somehow, on the other side.

But when has my profession ever done any good? When has Elvie ever followed anything resembling a typical psychological path (if there is such a thing, anyway) that I could predict or even manage? No, she's erratic even for a manic-depressive.

The free interior design has been a nice bonus. My apartment is like her homework, with each room living in a different era. Right now my kitchen is mid-century modern, my living room is Rococo, and our some sort of modern-steampunk-Victorian on speed. The Rococo is giving way to south India, however, and I'm fairly certain that by the end of the week, the cherubs and chaises will be traded out for henna and Hanuman.

Yep, there's the Shankar now, blowing into the kitchen like a monsoon in August.

4 April, 2013

"But's your heritage," she whined when I made the mistake of asking about the new design. She bent down from her perch near the ceiling where she was hanging the fifteenth south Asian lantern.

She reminds me of those shinning, dark birds who take over the parking lot at the grocery store. Greebs. Like the birds, she's wiry and anxious and pushy and a little too bright for her own good.

I can only hope she doesn't light any of them. I don't trust her around fire.

"If I wanted heritage, I'd make some roti, maybe some biryani. What I really want is to talk to you about all this." I crossed my arms from the floor. I felt fifty miles away. I felt like I wouldn't be able to catch her if she fell.

She flashed me that smile. God damn I hate that smile. That quivering, pleading upturn of her lips that begs me to love her handiwork so I'll drop the subject.

Her lips, with the shape and natural pout of an opening alstroemeria.

Her lips, that haven't touched mine since he left. Since before the diagnosis, even.

She doesn't even have time to sleep anymore.

It's three in the technically the fifth, I guess...and she's still in the other room, ripping and pounding, and Anoushka singing tirelessly for her, a captured songbird inside the circuits of her cell phone.

Maybe if he'd left some sort of a note...something other than the stack of divorce papers sitting on the dining room table of their ranch house in Cottage Grove. Left behind as if he didn't care about the result.

But I can't say I entirely blame him. The papers were dated 17 March. She discovered them, and his absence, on the twenty-third. That says enough, I think. I'm sure he assumed that she wouldn't want to be dragged through the myraid therapies and treatments that were inevitably in his future. The death. Or maybe he assumed that she wouldn't stick around, which is probably true, and figured he'd beat her to the punch.

He left her everything. Everything but what she wanted, which was him. So I'm sure he assumed she'd sign without protest.

But gods, let's be fair. She wanted both of us. She wants what she always wants. Everything. At once.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Finally Giving a FIG!

I discovered something fantastic today at the Google Play store. It's an app called the Fiction Idea Generator. This is easily the most inspiring app I've yet discovered, and will probably become both the best friend and worst enemy to my writing, because it will give me mountains of ideas that will probably result in the opposite of writer's block--so many inspirations that I won't have any idea where to start.

Generic writing prompts usually drive me batty and seem far too much like writing a grade school paper to me. "Write about the first time you were kissed." Oh, FUCK that! I tried to get behind those stupid prompts so many times, and so many times, I found myself wanting to slam my head into a wall until either my skull or the plaster gave way (and not caring much about which gave in first) that there were times I even doubted whether I was a writer at all. Long story...okay, a little less long...writing prompts were more demoralizing than they were useful.

But THIS...this is different.

This app is flexible enough to allow you to follow your bliss and pursue the type of format that inspires you most. Are you in a place in your writing where you just need a good location that will add fire to that confrontation? What about a word that could break your character out of her ennui? Maybe a masterplot (which IS something like a typical writing prompt) is more your style? There are a wide variety of idea options on the Home screen: Plot, Masterplot, Character, Word...even 1st Sentence and Location. When you select, for example, Plot, a screen pops up that looks like this:

Now tell me how you can NOT be inspired with a starting point like that!?

My one quibble with the FIG is that the fantastic randomness that comes up is "use it or lose it." There's no way to save the really epic concept that shows up (selecting that fig in the middle of the screen retrieves another random plot), aside from writing it down in a journal. And if you accidentally flip back to another screen, it's lost forever, like that brilliant idea you had at 4 a.m. last week that you now couldn't remember even with the prompting of a rousing round of waterboarding. If FIG manages to figure out a way to save "Favorites," you can bet I'll be in love for life.

So look for this to be used on my blog. Probably regularly, if only for the fact that I can mock up a quick draft on here and maintain the best of my random plots. I hope it helps you create your own brand of brilliance, too.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Woman in the Machine

We're all cyborgs.

If you're reading this, you use a machine to communicate, to get your news, to listen to music, to play games. You probably use a machine to get from one place to another (yes, a bicycle counts). The banking system, negotiation and trade--almost all business--takes place over fiber optic lines, with terabytes (probably even peptabytes...exabytes?...yeah, I had to look those two up) of data floating in the Cloud. Some use machines to help them see or hear. We don't have to talk about nanotechnology (in our pants?), artificial intelligence, robots, or biotechnological implants to see how completely we are linked to our data.

The way in which we are weaved within our technology has fascinated me since childhood. I've read stories of cybermen and Martians as long as I can remember. Star WarsGargoyles and The Hobbit are just a few examples (since, as Arthur C. Clark famously argued, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic").

Chuck & Beans, from the Shoebox Blog
And now, as a writer, I have a very odd relationship with my technology. Not only is it the mechanism by which I create, it's also my greatest distraction. I can sit down, with the best intentions to be productive, and end up sucked into the Siren spell of Facebook, cute cats, geek memes, or even YouTube for hours instead. Not probably what Philip K. Dick had in mind when he talked about the machines taking over in A Scanner Darkly or one of his other quasi-dystopic and tripped-out novels (or maybe he was), but these distractions still serve to keep us from making progress on our own projects. Sometimes it can feel like this collection of circuits and light actually sucks away creativity.

So this is my resolution (yeah, I'm a little late--deal with it): I'm going to use this platform as my own leverage for my writing process. If I don't write or edit another project, I will spend at least a little bit of time each day working here, ruminating on ideas that move me (probably of a geeky/sci-fi/artistic/literary nature), writing out bits of contemplation or ideas, reviewing a book or two (or maybe even a website or movie!), or maybe even encouraging discussion once my readership allows for it. I'm going to spend some time putting my brain in that writing space each day, and this will be one of my many outlets for that process. I look forward to sharing, to thinking, to plugging in with you, and hope you enjoy the ride.

Ready for launch?