A Housekeeping Update from the Critic

Woo, some housekeeping notes!

As you might have noticed, I’m trying to get a bit better about posting regularly around here. I don’t know that I’ll be able to maintain the weekly posting I’ve done for the past month, but I’m going to aim for at least twice a month (and hopefully both of those will be reviews).

Some reviews I’m hoping to have out soon (although not necessarily in this order):

1) Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
2) Voltron: Legendary Defender
3) Leverage
4) Parks & Recreation
5) Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee

As I get further through my reading list this year, I will add other books to that list, and I can almost certainly guarantee that I will go see the live action Beauty and the Beast when it comes out in March.

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Stories Matter: The Critic’s Thoughts on Captain America

If you were on the Internet yesterday, you probably saw the news that, in the new comic run that just came out, Captain America is really an undercover Hydra agent.

Just typing that sentence makes me vaguely sick to my stomach for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Captain America was created by two Jewish guys during World War II specifically because they were “morally repulsed” by the actions of Nazi Germany. But there are so many more reasons I am angry than just that.

Art does not exist in a vacuum. Stories matter.

This is something we forget sometimes, I think.

Everything we choose to create, everything we bring into this world comes with myriad connections we may never have considered. And as responsible human beings, it is our JOB to consider all the implications we possibly can and to be aware of how our art can hurt people.

Because it can, and it does. And unfortunately, the people it hurts are usually the people who have been hurt time and again already.

Art does not exist in a vacuum. Stories matter.

Others have explained why this particular gimmick (it’s a gimmick; I don’t care what the PTB says) is tone-deaf and ignorant at best and downright hurtful and frankly enraging at worst, and they’ve explained it better than I can. (I would encourage you to read all of those links, especially the Twitter threads and the Panels.net article.)

Suffice it to say it doesn’t matter if this is a clone or an impostor or Evil Steve from a parallel universe or he’s being mind-controlled or if Marvel will retcon it at the end of the year (or, hell, even in the next issue). This “narrative twist” goes against everything Captain America has ever stood for, it spits in the face of his original creators and the Jewish community at large, and it does so at a time when we, as a global community, need real, good heroes more than ever. Even if the run finishes and it turns out Cap isn’t REALLY Hydra (and honestly, the editors are pushing the idea that he is SUPER HARD), the damage is done.

I am just so TIRED of this bullshit. I’m so tired of creators pushing the idea that morally gray antiheroes or actual villains are more interesting than people who try their best to do what’s right, no matter how hard it is. I’m so tired of ~edgy~ and ~gritty~. I’m so tired of evil characters being glorified, of good characters being gruesomely murdered or turned into evil characters for shock, publicity, and sales.

Art does not exist in a vacuum. Stories matter.

Right now, Marvel has forgotten both of those things.

Writing Skills – Learning What Not to Do

I am still here! ๐Ÿ˜€

Life’s kind of hit me over the head these past few months, so I haven’t been around as much as I’d like. But here’s my most recent post for the RRFS blog, wherein I combine two of my favorite things: talking about TV shows and talking about writing.

The Rabid Rainbow Ferret Society

Lots of writing advice encourages you to read books you love, to break them down and find out what makes them work so well, and why you love the story so much.

But what about stories that drive you up the wall?

You can learn just as much from writing you donโ€™t like as you can from writing you do. Learning what not to do is a critical part of the writing process.

For a while, one of my guilty pleasure TV shows was Teen Wolf. Eventually, I had to quit watching for a number of reasons, but the biggest one was that the writing went from โ€œsolidโ€ to โ€œmore holes than Swiss cheese.โ€

I learned a lot about what not to do from watching that show, but the most important thing I learned?

Think your story through.

It seemed like the showโ€™s writers had a tendency toโ€ฆ

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NaNoWriMo 2014 – First Update?!?

Participant-2014-Twitter-ProfileIt’s amazing how quickly this month has flown by. I meant to do my weekly NaNo updates as I have every year since 2011, but this year it just seems like it wasn’t in the cards. So here’s where I am so far!

Minimum word count for November 18: 30,000/50,000

My word count: 29,469/50,000

Current story count: 5 drafts complete

Adventures in NaNoing: Why yes, you read that correctly. “Current story count” is a new statistic!

That’s because this year I didn’t have a story I could expand to a full novel this year, so I decided to write short stories and novellas. This also gave me the chance to get a few stories I’ve had in my head for awhile on paper, and it is kind of nice to practice writing in a shorter format than what I usually do.

By “five drafts complete,” I mean I’ve finished first drafts on five stories. Some need more editing than others. ๐Ÿ˜€

If you look at my graph on the site, you’ll see that this year I’m tracking along almost exactly with the daily word count. I think this is in a large part because I’m doing multiple shorter works, as opposed to one giant one. It’s occasionally difficult to get traction on a short story the way I would a novel, because whereas there I’d have one scene that’s 2500 words, with the short stories, that’s my entire word count. Plus, with switching between different stories and characters, it sometimes drains me faster than just being able to immerse myself in a single story, so even my big word count days aren’t as high as they usually are.

That being said, it’s also EXTREMELY satisfying to accomplish little goals in NaNo, not just by hitting my word count, but also by finishing a story draft. ๐Ÿ™‚ I like being able to look over a story and go, “Yeah, this is done!” and then set it aside to edit the first week of December.

So far, NaNo itself has been tremendously satisfying as well. We had 40 (40!!) people show up at IHOP on Halloween for our midnight kickoff, which was a bit of a mess but still so, so much fun. There are few things I enjoy more than getting to start writing with a big group right at midnight. It feels like we start the month of right that way. ๐Ÿ˜€

We also had a mid-month party for the second year in a row, and spent the evening hanging out at a comic shop, eating pizza and cupcakes and talking about random things while one of our WriMos did manicures for those who wanted them. It was nice to have a break from the writing madness and get to see people who hadn’t gotten to come to some of the other in-person events.

Of course, next week is Thanksgiving, which means at LEAST two days of no writing, possibly three. I’m looking forward to seeing my family, but I am equally glad there’s a full weekend at the end of the month so I can catch up on my word count. ๐Ÿ™‚

For you other NaNo writers, how’s your month going? Are you staying on target? Insanely behind? Insanely ahead?

Robin Williams – Rest in Peace

Yesterday evening, the news broke that Robin Williams had died.

I’ve spent so much time trying to think of something eloquent to say, but I just…can’t. I don’t have words.

So, in honor of Mr. Williams, here are three of his movies–well, two movies and a stand-up special–that mean something to me.

Thank you for all the laughs, good sir. You will be missed.

Aladdin
As with most people my age, Aladdin was my first exposure to Robin Williams, and remains my favorite of his films just for sheer nostalgia’s sake. The energy he puts into his vocal performance is amazing, and it’s likely one of the reasons the Genie is such a beloved character. Aladdin wouldn’t be half the film it is without him.

(Apparently he would tell jokes to the cast and crew of Schindler’s List to cheer them up, since it was filming at the same time as Aladdin.)

Live on Broadway
Since I grew up watching Robin Williams in family-friendly movies, I was understandably surprised to learn that 1) he did stand-up comedy, and 2) he did stand-up comedy with swearing. I watched Robin Williams Live on Broadway for the first time when I was a freshman in college, and probably saw it twenty times that year alone. It was hilarious, and is still one of my favorite live comedy performances.

The bit on the invention of golf still cracks me up.

The Fisher King
The movie itself was so much more serious than most of his other films that I’d seen, but his performance in it sticks out in my head, most particularly this scene below. As someone who loves romance of all kinds, Williams’s words here resonate deeply with me and why I love it so much.

Obviously, this is only a small fraction of what he did, so please, let me know what I’ve missed or what I need to see. What are some of your favorite movies of his?