Going on the Account: Signals to Sight

New York Comic Con

Yes, it’s that time again, to be going on the account amidst the folks at Comic Con.  I enjoy getting a chance to meet other creators at this event, online and otherwise.  Real time encounters with other online content creators whose works I’ve admired out here on the Internet, alongside writers and artists and actors I’ve both known for years and enjoy getting an introduction to, is a joy to embrace.


And like the buccaneers, I will be plying the lanes, calling on ports a’plenty to meet folks at their tables.  And while they’re (hopefully) looking forward to seeing me, I’d also like to meet some of you as well.  Over the entire con, I intend to be there every day, enjoying all it has to offer.


To that end, before I hit the con each day, I will post here and through my Facebook profile what colors I’ll be sailing under, i.e., what shirt I’m wearing.  Hopefully it’ll help anyone who wants to to find me and tell me off say hi.


I look forward to meeting anyone else going to NYCC this year.

Going on the Account: Red Skies at Night…

Last week I probably came across as a bitchy whiner with some choice words about the publishing business and MFA writers programs that I shot out.  And let’s be honest, reading stuff like that and letting it pull you down that far is going to give you damned little to smile about.


So you have to imagine what a relief it was for me (and anybody reading this stuff) to see this account of Guillermo del Toro’s Q&A in Portland via io9 where he said a lot of things about the craft of writing and the act of creation that was a good tonic.


Now this is what we should be seeing more of from content creators.  What there should be is a passion for the work shared in a way that sweeps you along with it, demonstrating as you discuss your craft why we should be paying attention to your work.  There’s a lot of great lines he delivered (some of which could be considered NSFW) that would make great truisms to frame and hang above the desk.  I was especially taken by the line, paraphrased here:


Success is f’n’ up on your own terms.


Well said, indeed.




And in order to keep the good mood going, there’s this personal story about what happened to me this evening:


I was asked to get a book from my convenient neighborhood Barnes & Noble for my son, as I was close by and drew the short straw.  I went to the kid’s section to look for the title in the “Teens” section, muttering a little to myself as I hunted high and low for the tome.


I was interrupted by the sales woman who was stacking titles nearby, who offered with a smile, “If you tell me what you are looking for, maybe I can help you find it.”


“That’s very kind,” I said, “I hope I’m not taking you away from what you were doing.”

“Oh no problem at all, sir.  Which title are you looking for?”

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.”


She smiled as she pointed to the tome, a mere cubit in front of my nose at eye level.


“That was too easy,” she said with a smile.  “You don’t have a harder book for me to look for, do you?”


I smiled back and replied, “The Necromonicon.”


“I don’t think we have that in the kid’s section,” she retorted without breaking the rhythm on the exchange.  “I’m afraid I can only recommend books for people under the age of consent.”



I’m sorry I didn’t get her name, because I would recommend asking for her should you need help with shopping for books for young readers.  Sales, like writing, is also an underappreciated art form…





PS:  I showed the above to James before hitting the “Publish” button, to show him what happened when I went to get him the book.


“Whatever,” he replied.



Going on the Account: Haunted Horribly (or Horribly Haunted)

There was a piece of news via AP Video regarding Disney doing a prequel to their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as a video game.

Putting aside the whole using a video game as a prequel to a set of movies based on an amusement park ride rant, which could get very grating as tails get chased ad nauseam over the same ground until some wildcatters put a derrick over it, there’s other reasons to get worked up.

Namely, the need for magical pirates.

What surprises me is, that there’s enough about the normal travails pirates faced that make for an interesting story.  The rigors of seamanship, the need to keep a few steps ahead of the law, having to forge and maintain relationships in the original cutthroat business, all of these are great elements as they stand and can drive a story perfectly well on their own.

So why did the people behind this feel they needed to throw in ghosts and mythic beings among the buccaneers?  Did they not trust the material?  Or their ability to handle it?

Seriously, was there even a single meeting in the planning stage where mystical elements weren’t part of the discussion?  Did anyone at those confabs have a copy of Treasure Island or Kidnapped handy to give some guidance on how to tell such a tale?  For that matter, had either book actually been read by anyone at those meeting?  Or did they just throw a few keywords in the 5-Minute-Pitch-O-Matic™ and hope for the best?

As a brief exercise, I tried to imagine a few genres that have pretty set track records as is to see if they needed or were enhanced when they got the “PotC Treatment” (for lack of a better descriptive), and with a little thought came up with the following snap judgments:

  • Mobsters – A few ghosts might be needed if you were doing a La Costa Nostra version of Hamlet, maybe, but otherwise, fuggedaboutid
  • Westerns – I thought there was an episode of Bonanza that had some, though I’m having trouble recalling it; with fourteen seasons of the series produced, that’s a lot of legwork called for to recall something half-forgotten, and frankly I didn’t think that much of that one
  • Crime Procedurals – Before any of you throw Medium in my face, I’m going to ask if anyone has any other programs or properties
  • Detectives – This one has a few that have proven it can be done, like Ghost Whisperer and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), but then again detectives are like Type AB blood in that they can take in a lot of additions and still work with it, as the large number of AltHis works being presented with characters solving a mystery can attest to
  • SF – Your Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me…

And as an aside, if you want your pirates to be something other than the usual Brethren of the Coast, what’s wrong with taking them as they are, tropes intact, to a new environment?  It’s already been pointed out that pirate tales like Cobra – the Space Pirate and Captain Harlock are great examples of pirates who would not be out of their element were they sailing here on Earth on wooden ships, in environments where you can introduce something unusual without losing much.  These work because at their core they are pirates, upholding ideals and behaviors that are universal regardless of the environment, as opposed to freebooters whose environment has been compromised by the PotC Treatment; big difference that needs to be kept in mind here!

So, am I full of it?  Are there examples you know of in any of the categories above, or in places that I hadn’t looked at, where adding mystical elements worked?  Please, school me; I have no problem being proven wrong, and would love to see something where this actually worked…

Going on the Account: More “No Traspasando” Than “Prepárese Para Ser Aborador”

The AP filed a report about pirates on Falcon Lake, an artificial body of water between Texas and Mexico created by a dam on the Rio Grande.  The report from the San Antonio Express-News states that the gunmen may have been drug runners, though by the time Gawker got to sharing this with everyone they were pirates again, with hysterical hyperbole cranked high.

OK, let’s take a second here:  Pirates are by definition thieves that prey on commerce over the water, not thugs that kill for their own end.  Yes, pirates that kill first and then take whet’s left from the bodies do count as such, but according to the reports here it’s hard to imagine that these two jet skiers had that much booty on them that could be seen from the distances that they opened fire from.  If there’re no cries of “Your money or your life,” or in this case “Su dinero o su vida,” then we can’t make assumptions.

And if they’re drug runners, as assumed on the ground down there, then it would be a damned silly business decision to branch out into piracy on an inland lake.  The costs-to-revenue ratio is always pretty dicey for anyone going on the account, which is why pirates throughout time have always been committed to this as their sole line of support, often because there’s no other way available to make a run of it, and once a new income line with less risks and surer profits comes along it’s often time to move the operations.  Somehow, I can’t see Mexican drug cartels seeing much hope in inland piracy, sorry…

More likely, the thugs in question were providing cover for another operation, and they had orders to keep anyone away.  These were probably not pirates, just watchmen; would that the facts could occasionally be given some thought before they were relayed wildly…


Speaking of relaying the facts, a few developments among real pirates:

  • Kenya is no longer hosting pirate trials.  This is going to make it a lot harder to prosecute crimes on the high seas and could set back the effort to bring order off the coast of Africa.
  • There’s news of privateers being hired now to escort vessels through the Red Sea and northern Indian Ocean.  Try to ignore the tone of the author in this one for the facts presented, about JLT Group now providing mercenaries.  While they claim that the forces sent along will follow the rules of engagement as set by the navies operating in the theater, it’s too easy to imagine a moment when an engagement where “things just happened,” which could be quite tragic.
  • We’re coming up fast on the first anniversary of the seizing of Paul and Rachel Chandler off the coast of Somalia.  This is one of the saddest episodes of the Modern Age of Piracy, and one that I wish more attention were paid to; this couple in their 60s should not have been held this long and should be released if for no other reason than on humanitarian grounds.