Going On the Account: She Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good…

So, this was passed around on social, with Anna Rose getting the credit for bringing this point up:

Which, yeah, when you put it that way, makes The Santa Clause an entirely different movie.

And, as noted when it was passed around, raises questions about the previous Mrs. Clause, and what she does if Santa’s… “recast,” let’s say…

There’s another possibility, though, putting the focus elsewhere:

+++++++++

The real power is Mrs. Clause, a name we settle on because her original name was lost years ago.

She’s way older than everyone on Earth, maybe older than every living thing on Earth, with more power than a supernova at her fingertips.

As she’s not sure about these humans that are on this world. There are times when we’re only one dark thought crossing her mind away from the end of everything we know.

But, rather than taking out all of humanity, and possibly everything within seven parsecs of Earth, she tests us: She picks a consort, someone who is required to sort the wheat from the chafe, the nice from the naughty. If there are more who are deserving than not, then another year passes, and humanity is safe because her consort showed her that the majority are worth letting them live out their lives, which to her are like mayflies to us. Should there not be enough good people, though, then…

And the consort? On the one hand, she gifts him well with a mere trinket, the smallest of her energies and abilities (around the world instantly, immortality, omniscience) and possibly companionship if she feels she needs something to pass the time. In return, he does her bidding, and otherwise is at her side in a dimension that one needs to find the gate to at the North Pole to enter her realm.

And sometimes, a consort needs to be replaced. Like all parts and tools, wear and tear take their toll, and a replacement must be found from time to time. Sometimes it’s subtle, say a lure placed surreptitiously on the consort in the event an (inevitable) accident occurs, getting the position filled right away. Maybe someone of renown draws her attention, or someone brave/foolish enough to wander through the dimension gate shows up, and the way we’d switch out a bulb because it’s better to do that now rather than sit in the dark or any time, a new consort comes.

And what does the consort think of this? Well, do we ask our tools when they think of their lot…?

+++++++++

Which, yeah: Why is it when we look at Santa and occasionally bring up his wife, she’s essentially an afterthought? What if we’re looking at the wrong character in this story…?

Going On the Account: Everyone’s Weaving It, Coming On Strong All the Time

So, what happens after you finish creating your work?

I mean, beyond waiting for the check to clear…

So, you got yourself something you created. A story or novel you wrote. A song you composed. A film you finished. A business deal that leaves all parties happy.

(Hey, according to Andy Warhol, that last one counts…)

It’s out there, it’s free, or at least as free as your copyrights and executed agreements can allow it to be. You have something you can point to, something you can show the world to say, “Yes, I was here, and this is something I did.”

And…?

I mean, is that all you can expect, that and for the check to clear…?

Is art just one ego trip? Are we actually giving anyone anything when we finish and display our work?

You’re probably expecting some platitude about how anything we create can inspire others and give them something that can be a part of their lives. You might be expecting something about how a creator’s efforts can inspire other creations, making the world all the better.

And yes, that’s being said here, but with verified observations!

MMRTLNC1959.jpg

In 1959, Robert Sheckley released his first novel, Immortality, Inc. Long story short, it’s a novel about someone from 1958 who gets their brain uploaded into a new body in 2110. Yes, it’s expensive, so yes, there are haves-and-have-nots dynamics to unpack, a subject that’s popped up now and again in genre that’s, well…

The novel became a classic, one that ultimately gets adapted in the UK for the series Out of the Unknown. I can’t speak to how good a job they did, as this was a victim of the Great BBC Tape Purges. We mostly hear about lost episodes of Doctor Who, or early appearances of the Beatles, being lost to time when we review probably the most infamous content retention policy ever devised by any network, so a show with a more limited audience is likely to just disappear without a trace.

Or at least not be recalled again until much later, in a roundabout manner…

In the first episode of Get Back, covering the early days of 1969 and a project that would give us the film Let It Be, we watch George Harrison describe what he watched on the telly the night before, describing bits and pieces of the episode of Out of the Unknown that aired on BBC. He mentions what he was watching to give the background on where his head was when he composed the song he brought in to show the band, a piece called “I Me Mine

So from that, we have a clear path from a novel to a TV show to a song. We may not always have the DNA of pieces so neatly labeled like this, but it shows us what happens when someone creates a work, that it doesn’t just stop there. It can touch the audience and maybe even spark a whole new work, something unexpected and wholly apart from the original that won’t touch off a copyright claim, which is probably better discussed in another piece.

(Yes, there was also Freejack, which was based off the novel, which brings in Mick Jagger to the overall story, but there’s more than enough connections for one blog post here…)

The point is, yes, you have more reasons to share what you create than just because you want to see your name out there.

That, and waiting for the damn check to arrive…

Going On the Account: No, That’s *Not* What That Means!

As of this writing, we now have two weeks to go before Thanksgiving in the US, which means we’re six weeks into advertising for Christmas.

Which, okay, the way things have gone as of late, between supply chain issues and the spike in prices therefrom, maybe we do need a little Christmas now. A little something cheerful, even if we do tend to veer away from the reason we have the day celebrated (with a few notable exceptions).

But this year, we’ve got two egregious examples of drawing the wrong lessons from the story.

Not the one you’re thinking about…

"A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens and illustrated by John Leech.

By now, everyone must have had some contact with A Christmas Carrol by Charles Dickens. A few movie adaptations, at least, including ones with Alastair Sim, or Albert Finney, or George C. Scott, or Patrick Stewart, or the Muppets.

It’s worth reading the original. Copies can be downloaded here, and the whole text is online for ease of reading. At the very least, having a quick summary on hand is an option.

Something the ad folks working on these products should have done before these got shot…

This, for example: Marley is visiting Ebenezer to show him the past, the present, and the future, a future where the electric car is a definite improvement over a horse-drawn hansom or the current gas-powered car.

Which… Wha’? The whole point of Ebenezer seeing the past, present, and future is to encourage him to be a better person, but here our Ebenezer is under no obligation to do better. Are we assuming that our protagonist is someone who doesn’t need to consider their past, and can ignore everything they did in their life because there’s a reward for it?

And considering our habits created a need for an electric car, don’t we need to be mindful of what led us there so that we don’t continue to make more mistakes? If ol’ Ebenezer here gets handed a new car and can’t take into account how the power grid needs to change to allow for plug-ins, then he really didn’t learn anything, did he?

(Please refrain from “electric car net zero” jokes; they weren’t that funny the first few times…)

Speaking of failing to learn, we get the above spot from Peloton, where Scrooge snarls at carolers before someone (with a few bucks and no sense) gifts him their bike. We then watch as he uses the product and finds himself healthier and happier (while the instrumental for Danny Elfman’s “What’s This?” plays in the background, because… Okay, I don’t know either…).

Scrooge may be happier and healthier, but there’s nothing to say he’s a better person. There are too many people, likely at least one of them you know personally, who are fit and together and yet still are f’n’ G-d a-holes; the only happy outcome suggested by the spot is that he stays inside on the bike for the rest of his life and is no longer anyone else’s problem.

(Considering Peloton has had issues with their commercial campaigns before, this is probably an improvement compared to that…)

Yes, the original source material is 179 years old as of this writing, but getting a worse mangling in a bad game of telephone than the other tales the holiday is based on, which have been around for far longer, seems at best really sloppy. That the main point in a story about self-reflection making someone a better person would get hurled to the curb without slowing the car down be lost in so cavalier a fashion is at best a misunderstanding, and at worst appropriation for nefarious commercial purposes.

It may be too late to save the original meaning of Christmas, but can’t we at least try to save the original meaning of A Christmas Carol…?

Going On the Account: Does This Add Up…?

You may have run across this meme out on social media concerning Terry Prachett’s writing habits:

This testimonial is made by someone who discovered “The Prachett Principle,” which is an established statement Sir Terry is on record as having made. So, whether he did it or not is not in question.

Why ask if he did say it? Because we live in a universe where people are willing to say anything, because there are too many people willing to believe anything. With truth a more precious commodity than gold or plutonium, and harder to produce than social justice, just about everything needs to be asked of it, “U fr real…?”

Sadly, that’s where we are, the end result of people trying to mine the information superhighway to keep people on a narrow lane where what they want is for them to believe in absurdities as part of their overall plan. So as a result, it’s now part of the process going forward:

  1. Read a statement
  2. Verify that statement

So, at least we know Prachett said that.

But, did that actually happen?

To that end, that’s easy to verify: Do the math:

Now, 400 words per day over the course of a year (365.25 days, to take into account a leap year) = 146,100 words.

Assuming he kept this schedule from 1971, when he published his first book, The Carpet People, through 2014, when his health issues made it impossible to attend a Discworld convention, that comes to 43 years, which give us = 6,282,300 words.

Assuming that we look at novels where he was the sole author that average (rough guess) about 73,000 words apiece, that gives us about, oh, 86 novels.

When we try and come up with a rough examination of all of Sir Terry’s output (trying to hold aside collaborations, dramatizations, and adjacent tie-in materials), this figure holds up well. If anything, a back of the envelope count shows us being well below that, and with some room to allow for variances (a longer book here, a collaboration where he built on previously written materials there).

Is it worth it, spending time that could be used elsewise to challenge a heartfelt statement that honors a beloved writer?

Yes, it is; even if what we find is indeed quite true, the fact that it’s verified makes it all the more precious. And better to go through the process and be able to treasure those found than to just let it slide along with the sludge.

Melius est semper ut reprehendo…

Going on the Account: Re-publish or…

So, I was considering how to do this.

 

I have some stuff I have/can/have to bring back, thanks to the way things shook out.  Long story, one I’m saving for later, but anyways-

 

Because there’s a music element tied to this,  my first thought was to look at traditional release dates for when music would drop, which used to be Tuesdays.  Then it became Fridays as of about 2010, when things became a bit more organized.

 

And now, thanks to Beyonce and Radiohead, the new drop date for music is more like, “Eh, ya gotta guess…”

 

Which, hey, I’m fine with, so… watch the skies, as they used to say…

Going on the Account:Looking Ahead While Falling Behind

It’s been how long now since I’ve been here…?

Dang, that’s a while.

I suppose I could state that I’m living by the old statement, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…”

Because these days, it seems like no one has anything nice to say about anyone.  Which is normal for an election year, though this year’s especially nasty the way it’s falling out.

It could also be because there’s not been a general conversation that feels like I have anything to add to it.  Some times something comes up, there’s an impulse to spout, but then I take a second and ask, “Is what I’m going to say actually of interest or add anything to this?”  And if the answer after a few minutes is at best, “Eh,” then I move on.

Which is a sad tact to take if you write, because it means walking away from the craft.  It’s like a ball player who doesn’t take the field, or an actor who doesn’t take a role.  But there really wasn’t anything that felt worth discussing through “Going on the Account” during that period; I got some points out through my Facebook page which is to expressing yourself via a blog what dining on fast food and vending machine fare is to eating, but there wasn’t that much to say.

Until today.

There was an article at Motherboard that referred to a report posted at the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies that examines piracy in the modern age.  And a lot has changed even since I started posting Raging Gail here, or for that matter Red Jenny…

For one, the terminology has changed; the preferred term in the paper for the rovers is “Maritime Non-state Actors” or MNSAs.  Which is a little clinical, very exacting and probably a lot more accurate in terms of describing people on the water.

It’s also an effort at re-branding that allows people who think of tri-corner hats and parrots when you hear “pirate” to not associate them with modern sea dogs.  And with such a term, not having to put a face to them makes them easier to think of in more clinical terms, which allows you to consider options that would be more difficult if they were, oh, people…

The big surprise from the piece, however, is bringing up the emerging trend of drones being brought to bear by MNSAs.  (Sorry, pirates…)  It’s not out of character after years of tradition, having pirates get their hands on the latest arms to become a presence out at sea, so the idea that pirates in the future would command a drone or two, or even an entire swarm as they go after a prize, is not out of the realm of the possible.

It is, however, something that suddenly makes Red Jenny seem quaint.  I admit, when I wrote the novel, the idea of militarized drones being in the hands of armed civilians (or, if you insist, MNSAs) was not part of the consideration.  As the world building that went into the work postulated a general economic contraction as climate change whacked the planet, the idea of “exotic” weapons in the hands of pirates who would otherwise have more pressing needs getting their tools together was not a consideration.  The fact that drones could be weaponized so easily and cheaply since the last chapter was posted just makes this omission even more glaring.

In other words:  Dang, whoops.

(And to add to the embarrassment:  The author of the piece, David Rudd, wrote this from the perspective of how the Royal Canadian Navy could best deal with this situation.  Yes, the RCN, the same folks who had they been written into the book would have ended the West Seneca Crew’s adventures within three pages of first sighting.  Damn, talk about irony…)

But that happens.  I remember reading The Third World War: August 1985 when it came out in paperback, being impressed by the author’s projection of then current trends out into a believable scenario.  And I was willing to cut him some slack, as much of what made up his scenario when the book was published in 1978 quickly slipped away thanks to Ayatollah Khomeini, Ronald Reagan, and a number of other events that decided to follow their own course.

So when 1982 rolls around, we get The Third World War: The Untold Story, where Sir John Hackett… whacks the world against the reset button.  Instead of recognizing realty on the ground, he forces the ground to conform to his own will, making the world take a few radical steps to the side so that he didn’t have to rewrite the first book.  Maybe it was Sir John‘s being captured during Operation Market Garden or having to oversee the withdrawal from Palestine which resulted in years of pain left behind that did something to him to make him pull a stunt like that; who knows?  All I can do is shake my head at doing some serious defense of my work in the face of reality like that.

So no, if there’s a follow-up to Red Jenny, there will not be such shenanigans done to that level.  Tempting as it might be to engage in some wishful proclaiming, I would not do that, and just acknowledge that I got something wrong.

Mind you, I do have a few bottom-of-the-drawer projects that involve drones and pirates, stuff that takes place nowhere near Buffalo in the near future; if I get some time, I might do something with that…

In the meantime, I am going to try and come back here more often.  It’s too long since I’ve done some real, home-cooked, get-your-hands-messy-in-the-kitchen-honest blogging, and as much as the quick FB post at the House of Zuck can cover you, no, it’s just not the same.  I need to keep writing.

It’s not like I’m not writing at all; my output at REBEAT magazine has been pretty substantial, including a regular column called “Fantasia Obscura” that looks at older genre films (SF/horror/fantasy) that are in danger of being forgotten, so there’s that at least.

Hopefully this won’t be as easily forgotten as those are, least of all by me…

Going on the Account: What a Sick Dude

It could be all the antibiotics I’ve been taking this week talking, but I want to revisit some of my old plague fiction.

If I were a bit more subject to assigning purpose to an event’s timing, I’d say my bronchial misadventures this week were Nature’s way of asking me to look outside my normal wheelhouse.  All the coughing, the two-hour-a-night sleeping sessions with nothing to show from those overnight experiences except for a large plastic grocery bag fulled with mucus-encrusted tissues, the multiple visits to the doctors before I was prescribed something where drink plenty of fluids should not mean rum-and-cokes (or in my case rum-and-diet colas, or “R&Ds”) once I started on those, all the time in the world before me but unable to do any writing because of the hacking wheezes every few minutes…

Stuff like that can color your perspective.

Once upon a time, I wrote a few pieces to share in a writer’s group I was in; the first comment I got was, “Congrats on re-writing The Stand.” Not sure if he was kidding, thought it was a compliment, or why he chose that comparison over Camus’ The Plague, but any event, the comment stuck.  And I suppose other than pirates, sickness has been been a go-to point I’ve had for a lot of my stuff.

In fact, I did between fits of blowing my nose think about something that manages to combine the two, along with a few other elements.  It’s not high on the list right now, it’s very preliminary, but it’s something that may get a little more attention when I hit a few walls and want a break on some stuff.

Right now, it’s good to be able to say that I tried to write something and got this produced.  For the first time in a week, I got to run my fingers over the keys, without having to then interrupt myself to get a Kleenex to wipe up the snot that I just spewed all over the screen.  Keep this up, I may be able to call myself productive in ways that don’t involve bodily fluids…

Now, where’s those pills marked with letters that scream DO NOT TAKE WITH ALCOHOL…?

Going on the Account: Why Don’t You Write Me?

 

Good question; I hope I have a good answer…

 

I do have a few folk who asked me why the blogging slacked off.  There’s a few answers, some of which can be stated aloud without embarrassment.

I can cite the effort to work on a third longer piece, and how that got complicated.  Normally, I don’t like to discuss my work without having done it first; the last thing I need is to promise something that doesn’t like up to the hype.  But there are problems with that, in that I have a choice between showing up to a crowded house and not living up to the bill, versus having something to offer unannounced to empty seats.  That’s not a great set of choices to work with, either way.

The new project, too, has its own special issues:  I managed to pick a body of the Solar System where a recent wave of discoveries made us rethink everything we knew ab out it.  And, because it’s happening as I’m doing plotting and scene set-ups, requires me to do serious rewrites.  Multiple.  Times.

I’m probably the only soul on the planet who sees a headline about learning something new about Titan, shaking my fist as a roar, “Damn you, Cassi-ni-i-i-I-I-I-I-I!!!!!

So in the meantime, I took a spot on REBEAT Magazine.  It’s been fruitful, getting a few pieces up, some historical examinations of pop culture.  The last one I got placed there, about the 1970s’ obsession with the 1950s, I’m particular proud of.

Which is difficult for me to say, because there’s a horrific amount of modesty that I have to fight against if I’m going to get any word out about what I do.  Which brings me back to Ceres and blogging.

Is it expectation, fear of failure, or at the least of feeling like the payoff for the effort’s not worth it?  Which I suppose is reasonable on some level, especially if we consider…

…yeah, I’m going there…

the dress.

It blew up out of nowhere, and just overwhelmed everything; we’d probably still be obsessing if we didn’t get word about Leonard Nimoy’s departure.  Ironically, it took the death of an actor who personified living in a logical manner to snap us out of our crazed obsession.

The one thing the damned shmata did do for us was to help measure how we find out about things now.  Like radioactive iodine injections for a thyroid test, following how this went viral gave a better sense of how to get the word out there.  And the first lesson is, it’s like Captain America’s super soldier project:  It’s not really able to be replicated, so calm down and stop trying.

A while ago, I tried looking at writing in different ways to keep from giving it up get a better understanding of it, and there is one model that suggests any correlation with how writers find readers:

The lottery.

It takes more effort to write a 60,000 word novel than it does to put five bucks on a string of quick-picks, but otherwise the mechanisms are the same:  Attention comes to you if your product meets the dictate of Market, and if your output is in sync with what Market wants, to the point where you have all six digits that She requires, you will be very well off.  (Buy the extra ball for double payout, and you too can insure everyone at the house gets $5,000 as a bonus.)

Work?  Sure, yeah, but when you subscribe to the above model, a LOT of the pressure gets removed…

So it’s time to get up, try not to listen to what’s trending online now, especially if it’s coming in from Saturn, and get back to it.  The writing may well end up going nowhere, or it may play out like last night’s drawing did.  Either way, you keep going.

You drop down the five bucks for tickets.  You find a mag that likes your writing, and keep working on the other projects.  And you keep feeding the beast, like coming back to the blog to keep the content going.

At least until the folks who asked for you start to wonder, “Why don’t you stop already?”

Going On the Account: Silent All These Years

 

Well, it feels like it was that long…

 

Why the radio silence?  Too many reasons.

 

Part of it was getting involved in a large project that needed a few re-writes.  If I were writing full time, this would have taken quite some considerable investment, and needing to do this during a time when things got busy, it sucked up a lot of time that might have been used to do the blog.  Which was a mistake, because not having something to share here actually stopped up teh gears without an outlet.

 

Part of it was not feeling I could contribute to some of the conversations that were going on.  The last big flap I tried to wade into, the Hachette-Amazon feud, came in the midst of trying to deal with lots of other swirling confusions, and from there it just got nuts.  Add to that the pains  was going through from what I had first thought was an old shoulder injury, that looks like it was actually spinal, and there were days I had to remind myself that yeah, I did have a blog, didn’t I…?

 

At least the pain’s manageable, for now.  I have to pick up some of the flack that fell off during that time, which means try and lose the few pounds I picked up when my activity level dropped, get back to work on the project, and more importantly, figure out how to speak up more.

On things like Kindle Unlimited, for instance.  Yeah, I know that “publish or perish” is an important concept, but somehow I don’t think anyone ever had this in mind…  If I have to divide a novel into smaller sequential pieces in order to take advantage of the new royalty rates, isn’t that going back to the days of Victorian serialized works that went on longer than need be to meet the per-word rate?  Not everyone thought that Peter Jackson needed to tell The Hobbit over three films, you know…

 

The big takeaway out of all this is, it’s time to pay more attention here.  I mean me, of course, but…

Going On the Account: The Horror, the Horror…

I was asked by REBEAT Magazine about my favorite horror film-

 

OK, why would they ask me?  Part of that comes from having started doing some work with them; I’ve already had a piece published with them about looking at The Prisoner today in the wake of the establishment of the surveillance state, and I’ve got another piece they’re considering.  If something happens with that one, I’ll let you know.

 

In any event, I ended up getting asked to contribute to a pick of John Lennon solo songs, and I guess I didn’t make that bad an appearance there, hence the new offer.

 

So while there, I sung the praises of the first Universal Dracula, both versions, knowing full well that that just ain’t gonna cover it all.

Truth is, I like a lot of horror films.

I happen more so to like the genre as a whole.

Why?  It’s not so much the conventions of the form that keep me coming back.  There are certain things you need to make a horror film, and once you have seen enough of them you start noting the seams the way a tailor judges a suit:

Victims: check; division between the ones going to make it to the end versus the expendables, set.  Threat: good, that’s in place.  Category, we, got that; and setting, yeah, let’s go back and look…   Ooo-kay, this should work…

And it’s easy to get jaded about what you could find in the genre.  There can seem to be a lot of bloat in the field, much like you find in SF, and can easily find in mysteries, Westerns, Rom Coms…

So what’s the draw?  How about the fact that we can use horror to approach a subject at an angle that we either can’t yet or never could look at head-on?

Had there been more room to go on, the article could have brought up how Dracula was the perfect embodiment of our fears of the other, especially an other that represented the rich as the Depression deepened.  We couldn’t root for bankers to be killed on screen, but this foreigner buying ruins just next door, well…  Likewise, out of the main source, Stoker couldn’t discuss feminine self-determination or the rise of foreign challenges to the Empire without the Count to wrap his cape over the points.

With more room, attention could be given to the Frankenstein monster, our fear of science getting out of hand, realized with pieces of corpses butchered so soon after the carnage of the First World War cost millions their limbs.  Whale’s version of Shelly’s tale shared many of the same concerns, especially the dangers of not keep track of your soul as you pursue ultimate knowledge.

Going on, there would have been discussions of vampires in general being the evil we invite to come for us, whether we’re weak or just easily flattered.  The lycanthrope, and whether that werewolf we could become is as easily kept at bay as we imagine, or if the line between human and beast is not that strong after all.  The kaiju rising up to destroy our cities, making us pay for our nuclear proliferation and environmental mismanagement.  And if the big monster doesn’t come after us because we can’t clean up the environment, there’s that zombie horde over the hill.  And maybe our inability to connect with each other in a meaningful manner, our lack of humanity, makes us deserve the slasher in a mask with a chainsaw waiting for us.

Even the Hostel films offer their observations; when we see college kids being slaughtered by the highest bidder, we get to confront our xenophobia and feelings about rendition as part of the War on Terror getting together like two drunk guests at a Halloween party getting locked in the closet, getting it on hot and heavy.  And the Purge series gives us a chance to imagine economic inequity taken to levels Fritz Lang only hinted at in Metropolis.

In the end, we scare ourselves, or allow ourselves to be scared, because that’s actually a more comforting place to deal with the deeper flaws of our existence than reality allows.  We need to be in fear because we otherwise might never allow ourselves to be aware of what’s wrong.

And unfortunately, we put down the book, leave the theater, shut off the TV/iPad, and allow ourselves to leave the state of awareness we’re in, and instead of doing something to address what scared us, let it build up again.  Maybe it resolves itself, or it resolves us; more often than not we just adjust and await the next threat to metastasize, let it become enough of a worry to take the form of a monster in the next horror.

 

And it’s that, the ability to just shut it off after we finish looking at and poking what it is that scares us; that’s the part that actually scares me…