masqthephlsphr: (alias will)
January talking meme, Jan 21. From [personal profile] cornerofmadness: what draws you to the urban fantasy type of story lines?

I am drawn to urban fantasy stories because I like stories that show a secret supernatural world existing in what is ostensibly the mundane, scientifically skeptical world we all live in, and characters who lives are recognizable to the average reader, who are nevertheless part of that supernatural world.

Stories like BtVS, Harry Potter, or Dresden Files, make it easy to imagine that the supernatural exists around me in the world I see everyday. Stories like this allow me to think, "Underneath all this drab, dreary mundanity is a fantastic world full of excitement and magic." All I need is the right book/movie/TV show to reveal what's hidden all around me.

And that makes the mundane world I see outside my window seem just a little bit more magical.

Take Buffy, for example. As I understand it, the BtVS/Angel world is supposed to be our world. Not an alternate universe or anything like that. It's our world, but what most of us don't realize is that magic is real if you know how to tap into it. Demons exist, just hope you don't run into one.

Why do I have this need? I guess because I'm an agnostic, and an empiricist, but what I feel compelled to believe is not the same thing as what I wish were true. "Urban" fantasy lets me step away from that for an hour or two.

This is the reason I am not drawn much to High Fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings). High fantasy stories are set in completely imaginary places that aren't Earth, nor even historical Earth. They often contain humans, dogs, oak trees, and other earthlike things to make them more accessible, but the resemblance to our world is usually a pseudo-resemblance to some historical era I have little connection to. I don't mind fantasy or science fiction set in a historical period on Earth, as long as the historical period is genuinely drawn outside of its supernatural elements.

So the "on Earth" is important to me. As is the "secret." I want a story world where the supernatural is considered debunked and its delights and dangers lurk in the shadows, only known to a select few. For this reason, I also don't care much for urban fantasy where the supernatural elements of the story are out in the open (e.g., Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton). Partly because the supernatural being "secret" makes it easier to pretend all this really is going on all around me. But also, I have always had a kink for "the big secret" that only select characters know and the rest of the world is oblivious to.
masqthephlsphr: (HP)
More often than not when you ask me who my favorite character in a book, film, or television series is, it's the hero. Not that I don't appreciate the grayer characters, the morally ambiguous types--tricksters, shady allies and informants, double-agents, self-serving baddies with sympathetic pasts and motivations.

But sometimes I think those grayer characters get overvalued, proclaimed "way more interesting" than the heroes, who are decried as boring and predictable when the do the right thing, and lambasted when they make a mistake. Similarly, fans who like hero characters are made to feel like throwbacks to 1952.

But where would we be without the heroes? A story full of characters whose primary motivations are self-serving or up for grabs may make an interesting read/viewing experience, but an abundance of stories like that leave me feeling ungrounded. Those gray characters are like the icing without the cake. I need to have someone in the story who I can root for without feeling like I washed myself with a dirty rag. Someone far from perfect but who I know is trying to do the right thing, even if they mess it up a lot along the way. Even if, in the end, they fail.

It's a bit embarrassing, though, to be asked who your favorite character is in fandom discussions and have to "admit":

Oh, Highlander? Duncan Macleod
Harry Potter series: Harry Potter
Merlin BBC: well, Merlin, of course
Angel the Series: Angel
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Ben Sisko
Once Upon A Time: Emma Swan
Harry Dresden: Harry Dresden

...and so on.

It's not always the case though. My favorite ST: TNG character was Data. But of course, he was the epitome of the awkwardly sincere trying-to-be-the-best-of-humanity. And my favorite character on Lost was Hurley, but y'know, Everyman with a Heart of Gold, he was. On ST: Voyager, I liked Be'lanna Torres. I have a thing for the fucked-up tough girls. But I'm not sure I would have stayed glommed onto the angry, screwed-up babes if they weren't flawed-but-trying-to-be-a-good-person. To wit: Faith on BtVS/AtS. Although she was never my favorite character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I never really had one, except possibly the foursome of Buffy+Giles+Willow+Xander. The collective heroic.

Do I get points if my favorite Anne Rice vampire was Armand? He was no saint. I could never stand Lestat, but I liked Louis quite a bit. I prefer my vampires with a soul.

The kinks

Mar. 4th, 2013 11:50 am
masqthephlsphr: (ms)
[profile] shadowkat67 and I were discussing some of the more "interesting" fannish speculation and 'ships we've encountered while out and about on the interwebs for various reasons re: Once Upon A Time. We both agreed we have no plans to participate in general fandom again. It is a hairy quagmire of divergent points of view and divisive passions, and we have both been there, done that with the bruises to prove it. Best to stick to the flist.

But that got me thinking about why fandom is the way it is. Anything that makes us equally passionate--hobbies, areas of expertise, particular people, things of beauty--can lead to divergent points of view and divisiveness. We form strong opinions about those things, then the realities of internet communication exaggerate them: a degree of anonymity makes us bolder, ruder, rasher. The visual and aural cues that come with face-to-face or telephone communication are not there, which leads to unintented ambiguity and misunderstanding.

But there's an additional element to fannishness about fictional books, films, or television shows that also contributes to the potential turbulence of the fan experience: our human response to stories. Read more... )
masqthephlsphr: (OUAT)
I got the first season of OUAT on DVD for Xmas and have been doing a rewatch. Simultaneously, I've been plotting the second draft of my novel using the hero's journey as a rough template, so I had the concept of the hero's Guide archetype in my head while watching.

Assuming Emma is the Hero of OUAT, the first Guide she encounters, at least in season one, is Henry. He has the Book, and he is constantly interpreting events and people for Emma (also, Mary-Margaret/Snow White, and Graham/the Huntsman) in terms of the book so that she can see herself in the larger picture of what she is supposed to accomplish as the "savior."

A lot of fans have a knee-jerk dislike of unusually-bright child characters. I'm not one of them (Wesley Crusher fan. No apologies.) I think I may even have a slight* story kink for bright child characters, especially if the child is part of an emotionally complicated parent-child dynamic, which Henry is in spades. (*slight; this trope can be sloppily done)

There is a precedent to the idea of the child-as-guide. It comes from the notion of a child having "clearer sight" then adults, not being blinded or sidetracked by the assumptions that get inculcated later through education and the disappointments and joys of life. Invariably, though, in this trope, the adults around the child dismiss the child's perceptions as imaginary or naive.

Henry is a smart kid, but he doesn't really know much of anything he didn't read in the fairytale book. What he knows, in and of himself, is simply to trust the book, and that sort of faith is well-suited for a child character. (BTW, where that book came from before Mary Margaret gave it to Henry is a question I don't believe they have answered as of mid-season two).

Henry isn't unwavering in his faith and shows lapses, especially in mid-season when (*gasp*) evil fights back, and even as late as the last episode of season one when even he seems surprised to see Pinocchio reverting to wood.

In season 2, he is allowed to be more of a child, although he was interestingly one of the first threshold figures who could exist between our world and fairytale world.

Reactions and speculations on this week's OUAT (In the Name of the Brother) )
masqthephlsphr: (OUAT)
One of the things I like about Once Upon a Time is that, so far, they are keeping Emma the empiricist and the skeptic who won't believe the stories people tell her about the reality of the "fairytale world(s)" just because they say so. No real OUAT spoilers, just tangential thoughts )

Memery

Mar. 10th, 2012 11:37 am
masqthephlsphr: (disinhibition)
[personal profile] quixotic_crush gave me seven topics to expound: books, vampires, philosophy, music, LGBTQ rights, geeks, fantasy. Warning: me and memes are unmixy things. I give them way too much thought. So I will attempt brevity.

LJ cut for your protection )
masqthephlsphr: (fs)
I was thinking about my complaint the other day about Hollywood's trend of remaking current foreign films and TV shows and doing remakes of (slightly) older American films and TV shows (especially annoying when you are any age of adult and can remember the original like it was yesterday because it was).

This seemed to contradict a stray thought I had later that day in which I was remembering mourning the passing of television shows and film series I had loved (esp. Deep Space Nine, Angel, and Harry Potter) and how I comforted myself with the knowledge that "something new will come along I will love, it always does."

"New", of course, is relative. It can be argued there are no truly "new" stories to tell, but I think it depends on what you mean by "new." If stories are stripped down to their archetypal bones, then no, there probably aren't any new stories out there, but there are plenty of new ways to tell the same archetypal story. Make your Odysseus a female character in the modern day instead of a male. Pile this culture/era/sub-culture's baggage atop the archetype instead of that culture/era/sub-culture's baggage--no one will recognize the story archetype without a lot of wincing, and it becomes fresh again.

Likewise, easily recognizable tropes or characters can be made fresh again with a fresh angle to them. Set the (yet another) vampire story in the American south, or have the vampire share a flat with a werewolf and a ghost. Give your formerly-Victorian characters cell phones and sophisticated 21st-century adversaries to test their skills against.

That said, there IS such a thing as trope-fatigue. And making your "adaptations" too thinly-disguised by your "variations" to be fresh enough.

Sometimes, what I really want is to curl up and revisit the same story told the same way I remember it. Sometimes, what I really want is a story trope/archetype/kink that's deep in my bones told in a way so different from what I've heard before I don't recognize it at first. Sometimes I want a film/show that was done forty years ago, and not too well, to be given a decent (and fresh) treatment.

But I rarely want to see the same story told in just a slightly tweaked way ten years or one year after I saw it before.




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masqthephlsphr: (merlin)
I had a long Thanksgiving break and little or nothing on the DVR to watch due to Thanksgiving week hiatuses, so I decided to start in on a new show (new for me) that I had read about on my flist.

One thing I think about now when I watch a show is, "Is this just something to pass the time (Dexter, True Blood), or is this a show I want to share with the Sculptor (Lost, Being Human)? Merlin, so far, has definitely fallen into the latter category.

Spoilers to 2.11 )

Merlin

Nov. 24th, 2011 08:10 pm
masqthephlsphr: (a wizard named harry)
Finished Season 1 of Merlin. This will probably be one I eventually purchase on DVD.

It has lots of things that hit my story kinks: destiny, myth, inborn traits that must be kept as a dangerous secret (wonder where I got that one from), an ugly duckling/Cinderella protagonist, magic, legendary creatures, strong women characters, fabulous medieval décor (I want to redo my living room to look like that castle), and bonus Anthony Head!

hits counter
masqthephlsphr: (CrankyHarry)
New words: 1,670
Total words: 38,730
Goal: 50,000

38730 / 50000
(77.46%)



As my story fleshes itself out, I see myself taking an approach that I can only call the fantasy equivalent of "hard science fiction." Hard science fiction attempts to bring scientific accuracy to the speculative elements of a story, either by basing them in actual contemporary scientific fact, or extrapolating from that fact to theoretical ideas that are likely to be confirmed in the near future based on what we know now.

The "fantasy equivalent" of this, for me, is to have the fantasy elements in my story--whether it is strange beings, their powers, or the "magic" humans do to interact with/effect these beings--be, not supernatural, but natural phenomena. I am only straying from the "hard" line by saying these fantastical elements are natural phenomenon that scientists at present just don't have the theoretical concepts or observational techniques to deal with yet.

I sort of can't help this naturalistic approach. Although I am perfectly comfortable with the supernatural in fiction, there is something I want to say with this story that makes taking this approach important to me.

But as a result, it is feeling a bit like I've sucked all the sense of wonder out of my novel. I did a Harry Potter marathon this past week since I got the final movie on DVD/Blu ray, and the thing that makes HP appeal to so many people, I think, is you can see and do so many fascinating things in his world, whether it is turning a loathed relative into a human balloon, or riding over a lake on the back of a half-bird, half-horse, or visiting someone else's memories inside a sink full of mist. Magic is afoot in his world, and there is so much more to his world than an ordinary muggle ever suspects.

Similar case with Buffy, or the Dresden Files, or Star Trek, or anything like that. There is an element of each of these story worlds that is beyond escapist and actually transcendent, because, for a short time, these stories allow you feel as if you are touching something beyond the mundane. They do this by starting very much in the mundane, and taking you on a gradual journey to fantastical places where you can do and see these amazing things.

I have to figure out how to do that, to make my world more interesting, without turning it into a cartoon version of itself.

I don't want to write "just another fantasy novel" with elves and magic and evil sorcerers and whatnot. I need to find a way to take my more "serious/rationalistic" approach and imbue it with a sense of magic.
masqthephlsphr: (a wizard named harry)
So I finally, finally finished the latest Dresden Files novel, Ghost Story. I think I am the last one on my flist to do so. Some folks gave it enthusiastic reviews, others were less than impressed. I have to admit to slogging through some tedium at times, which is part of the reason I took so long to finish it. The other part is, I only read non-interweb stuff for a short while before bed each night.

But see, there is a reason this book wasn't the Best!DresdenFilesNovel!Ever! It was a bridge story. And bridge stories are traditionally kind of mediocre. Thar be spoilers beyond here! )
masqthephlsphr: (peter pan)
1829 words this week. And given that I had to work two 12-hour days at work (8 hours the other days), I am trying to figure out how I did that without collapsing. I remind myself I clocked nearly that many words on a daily basis during NaNo, but I'm still kinda impressed with myself. Especially since my story has been less inspiring to me of late.

But see, last weekend, I took some time to try to figure out why.

The problem, I think, is that my story has gotten very prosaic in tone, like it's hardly a fantasy story anymore and more a scientific take on fantastical concepts, like you might see on Star Trek. So this week, I've been brainstorming ways to bring the "sense of magic" back into the story.

It was time well spent, because even though it felt like I wasn't accomplishing anything poking around the internet reminding myself of the stories I found "magical", or researching legends and fantastical creatures I felt had nothing to do with what I was writing about, voila, a week later, almost 2,000 words.

A lot of that, of course, is me just giving myself writing exercises that may not ever become part of the story, but that forced me to "write outside the box" I've shoved my story into.

And it gave me an interesting insight that is relevant to my story.

Much of the "prosaic" feel of it, I think, comes from me being conflicted about what point I'm trying to make in the story, and this goes back to a conflict in me as a person. I am one of those people who wishes every day that magic were real and that I could live a life where magic things happened. But I never see any evidence of the supernatural out in the world, and that frustrates me. I am not the sort of person who takes things on faith; it is in my nature to believe only in what can be proved, and withhold judgement on what can't.

But more than that, there's another part of me that doesn't actually believe in the supernatural at all, and I guess that is the closest I get to an article of faith. I think there are plenty of things out there that cannot be explained by science, but that doesn't mean they never will be; it just means they have a natural explanation that's beyond our present level of scientific knowledge.

So on the one hand, I want magic to be real, and on the other hand, there is a real sense in which I don't believe any magic could be real. And that's where my story gets muddled. I can't write about the supernatural and not have this urge to make it just "the natural that's beyond our present understanding." And that takes the "magic" out of the magic in my story.

I have no problem enjoying the supernatural in somebody else's fiction: Buffy, Dresden Files, Harry Potter. But in my own?

I need to figure out a way to encapsulate my own conflict into my main character's conflict, because I think that's what I'm struggling to say in this story.

Meme-age

Jan. 26th, 2011 06:28 am
masqthephlsphr: (Sisko)
Ganked from [personal profile] butterfly

List fifteen of your favorite characters from different fandoms, and ask people to spot patterns in your choices, and if they're so inclined, to draw conclusions about you based on the patterns they've spotted.

In no particular order (other than the order they occurred to me):

1 Connor (AtS)
2 Angel (AtS)
3 Faith (BtVS/AtS)
4 Be'lanna Torres (ST:Voyager)
5 Sisko (ST:DSN)
6 Data (ST: TNG)
7 Ensign Ro (ST: TNG)
8 K'Ehleyr (ST: TNG)
9 Harry (Harry Potter)
10 Susan Rodriguez (The Dresden Files)
11 Richie (Highlander)
12 Spock (ST:TOS)
13 Hurley (Lost)
14 John Connor (Terminator)
15 Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
16 Armand (Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles)
masqthephlsphr: (compgeek)
Since last Saturday was a holiday and next Saturday is a holiday, this is going to suffice as my writing check-in for this couple of weeks.


Garbage in, garbage out: I'm as bound by culture, class, education, and personal experience as anyone is. And though I try not to forget that, sometimes I have to be smacked upside the head by what should be obvious.

I became aware during NaNo of an emerging theme in my story, something I wanted to write about that had me quite engaged. I was all excited about it until a few days later when I realized it was very much a Western liberal intellectual's problem, one that a lot of other people probably couldn't relate to, or wouldn't find problematic at all. I had a main character inextricably locked up by scientific skepticism entering a world of the apparently supernatural.

That particular quandary is not by itself a bad problem to base a character on, but I had pretty much built up an entire plot/story mythology concept around it (the details of which I won't go into here), and though the concept made sense for some of the Western World, A.D. 2010, it didn't make much sense for a fair fraction of the Western World, and, you know, the rest of the globe, to whom it was supposed to apply equally.

Rather than scrap the whole thing, I've been working on refining my idea so it makes more sense as a global state of things. I've been reading extensively in world folklore, philosophy, science, and the borderlines where cutting-edge science becomes speculation.

I can get quite caught up in that, and forget I'm doing it to write a better story.

But I think it will be a better story in the end because of that.
masqthephlsphr: (NaNoWriMo)
New words: 1,668
Total words: 41,178
Goal: 50,000

41178 / 50000
(82.36%)


NaNo notes: I was writing a blurb in my new Less Boring!! main character's POV, when suddenly this idea for a title of the novel came to me. It's kind of thematic connection between the idea of discovering deeply hidden parts of yourself and the actual, literal job of archeological excavating.

I don't know if it will remain even the working title of my story; one thing about giving something a title while it's still in a nebulous state: it starts to un-nebulous it. It starts to inform what you think your story is about, and you make choices to fit the title rather than to fit that thing you want to say you may not be fully in touch with. But the fact that it *felt* like it could be the title? Reassured me I may see the light at the end of the Tunnel of Nebulousness some day.

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