Tag Archives: fi

ON STORYTELLING: Why Answering Everything Isn’t the Best Way to Go

28 May

Lost

I had a few readers ask me to do something very interesting recently. Well, perhaps not so interesting to you as it is to me, but the pleas I received definitely did lead to a line of thought which I wanted to go over briefly, and before I get to caught up in digression, let me give you a summary of the request I was given:

Can you answer my questions?

Sci-Fi Bloggers is of course the notable online magazine I am the Editor-in-Chief of and it is our goal to provide original content of our own to include with our (mostly) daily reports on current goings-on in the world of science fiction and fantasy. One form of this we adopted some time back is our Friday Fiction category. There we feature the work of several authors, the two most prominent and frequent being Brandon Scott and myself. We recently did a “Double Feature” special which included a tale I have been criticized for and praised for entitled “Jars”. The thing for which it was criticized by the way was the same thing it was lauded for: its confusing nature.

I was asked to add on to it, to continue it, to make certain it didn’t end on more than one occasion. More specifically, I was asked to “fill in the blanks.” For those who haven’t read it, it’s five pages, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Take a looking by clicking here.

Please read that before continuing. It is quite brief.

Now, here we have a case wherein I believe that I shouldn’t add anything more to this tale. I think the entire thing is perfectly encapsulated by the self-contained incident (or rather couple of incidents). Nothing more needs to be said. And I was asked about adding more and then someone had a proposition, and I smiled and asked to hear what the proposition was. He went on to delineate a storyline in which the woman and the monster chasing her were both servants of Hades, Lord of the Underworld. After learning of numerous atrocities committed by Hades, acts that harmed and ended the lives of millions of human beings in the world above, she joined the ranks of mortal men, committing espionage against her own kind. She was arrested for her crimes and, after breaking out of prison, tried to “lay low” and remain hidden from her newfound enemies.

In the intervening time between then and my story, she has children, mortal children. The creature, the beast that’s after her, is a bounty hunter, and in order to protect her offspring from the horrors of the Underworld, she kills them, for they are without sin and wouldn’t end up there as a result. The bounty hunter, through physical contact, manages to scramble her memory, and thus, “Jars”.

Now, let me make this point crystal clear: I didn’t write any of that. Or at least I didn’t originate the idea myself. Perhaps I reconfigured it in a form that was more consumable, but it was one of my readers who thought of it.

I told him right then that that very thing, what he just did, is why I didn’t answer all of the questions in a tale such as “Jars”, because the purpose of some stories, many of them in fact, is not to solve but inspire. If I had told him my concept of “Jars” and what think the monster is, he wouldn’t have thought of that brilliant storyline, he wouldn’t have created anything. And the funny thing is, the same thing happened to me just two weeks later.

Brandon Scott wrote a story called “Small Town Games”. You can read it here. I immediately thought a whole movie should be made around the concept. Perhaps I was right, but perhaps Brandon was in suggesting that the manner of his construction, his storytelling, led me to the creation of my own idea of what “the games” were. See, that’s an interesting thing.

The single most powerful thing a creation can do is cause further creation. If the actions of one man, woman, child, what have you, can cause another to do something else, that is real powerthat is influence.

I am suggesting that other writers look at this as a possibility. Instead of criticizing Lost for not answering all of your questions, maybe look at it the way you might a show like The Leftovers, where answers are no longer necessary, or like The Sopranos, where implications feeds us the answers, the truth. I know it sounds like I’m excusing authors and directors from solidifying their visions and ending their tales, but perhaps we could be a little more forgiving when they don’t hit that last note on the piano, because sometimes the precipice is all we need. Sometimes, we don’t have to dive into the water below. We can create our own pool, our own interpretation, our own art.

~D.

 

Escaping the Ultimate Garbage Man

10 Jan

The Bottom From Above

It’ll make more sense when you head over to Sci-Fi Bloggers.

(Click it, guys. It’s not a virus. Really? You think I’d do that?)

~D.

Wow

21 Dec

Cross Current

Well, it has been some time, hasn’t it? Two weeks, at least. Gosh, I can’t believe I’ve been gone this long. There’s so much I have to tell you! But I shouldn’t tell, I should show, yeah? Sorry if this isn’t filled with the cynicism you’re looking for, but I go back and forth between that and, well, this.

So, first off, it’s Christmastime, my absolute favorite time of the year. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, yule tide carols being sung by a choir, all that great, great, great stuff. I don’t think any will understand how much I love Christmas. initiate most of the decorating in my family, I devour cookies and milk throughout the week, I volunteer at any local holiday shows I have the time for (I played the Grinch this year for a bunch of kids; it was splendid). I have a Christmas music station on Pandora, which, from my pocketed iPhone, plays aloud while I shop for friends and family. Every time I go to Starbucks I buy that little snowman cookie, unless it’s unavailable. Then I jut harass the manager for being a moron. My favorite song of all time is a Christmas song you may have heard of (I usually like it best played on a piano). Although, it’s funny, on a strangely placed side note, the aforementioned song is actually being challenge right this second by a song I’m listening to on Pandora called The Planets. Fantastic music, but still just a challenger.

So yeah, lovin’ the winter. What else to talk about? I’m now the Editor of Sci-Fi Bloggers. Long story–which means it’s really a short story I don’t feel like telling. Needless to say I’m having a blast doing that as well. If any of you want to contribute to the site, head over there and click the “contact” button. Throw us an email (or just leave a comment here and I can talk to the people upstairs)!

What? I’m a fiction writer? Oh, here you go.

I guess that’s everything, really. I want to get back to writing Fight Club style metaphors about the world, but it’s been really tough getting around to it. Also, there’s not much more to write about Earth: it’s great, but it sucks, it’s light, but it’s darkness, it’s depressing, but it’s Christmas. Y’know? That’s pretty much the simplicity of it. Go start a business that helps people in some way and you’ll make a difference. Go die, and you won’t. Simple. Everything’s really simple, guys. To add complexity is to distort fact. Just go out, say, “I’m going to help,” and do it.

Merry Christhanawanza, folks!

~D.

Okay, So…

3 Dec

Evil?

…a lot’s been going on in my world lately. I’m sure a lot’s been happening on your end as well. Things are shifting, changing. People are calling this a “very exciting time.” I think every time is that way. Think about it, when has there been a time in history that wasn’t reallyokay, maybe there were a few years that weren’t so great. But we pushed on because we new something would come out of it, we knew our strength would be rewarded. Oh, crap, not another speech. All right, let me give you a little something for being a good listener/reader. I’ve been writing a lot for this website and I’ve got an article coming out on it soon. It’s about Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know the crowd over there will enjoy it, but…

…YOU GET TO READ IT, FIRST!

So, I won’t keep you any longer. The piece is just below. Read, and enjoy. Unless you hate The Next Generation, in which case…

…nope. Nothing clever.

(Beware, this isn’t fully edited, so it may contain mispalliegnerignerigniaengs.)

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The First Year

“Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

                                          —Captain Jean-Luc Picard

I avoided watching this show for far too long. After finishing the first season, two words come to mind: no regrets.

Right away, I was hooked. I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m just telling you how I felt, and how I currently feel. I knew there would be “Talky and Techy” stuff, the warp core discussions and dilithium crystals, some political intrigue and conspiracies, the Prime Directive being tested, probably broken even, and a little action. What came out of left field, for me at least, was the spirituality, the love (not romance, love), and even the series’ fascinating sense of life. Every character is well crafted and valuable, and every episode—every episode—is not only entertaining, but memorable. It’s something you have to see to experience, so, for those who haven’t, head over to Netflix (as of December, 2013) and start watching.

I’ve got more to say, but this is mostly for those who’ve already seen it. And remember, I’ve only watched Season One, so don’t post a bunch of spoilers in the comments.

A New Beginning

Immediately, one of the biggest things that caught me off guard, in terms of character development, was that Captain Picard wasn’t just some calm, precise, flawless leader who had all the answers when problems came his way. Picard made mistakes, was often too forceful, too aggressive even and, most notably, wasn’t very good with children and more  “lax” adults. He had to evolve over time, and I saw his evolution occur in a natural, believable way. This process was simultaneous with the growth of Wesley Crusher, who I personally feel is a severely under-appreciated character. Yeah, he isn’t perfect, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’ve seen the first episode of Season Two, and there’s this scene with Wesley in it that had me absolutely riveted (a conversation he has with Guinan). It’s great, and it might change a few people’s minds about him, if viewed a second time.

(I honestly think a lot of the “Wesley hate” comes from the fact that he isn’t cynical, aggresive and rude, as teenage boys often are, and some people think that’s unrealistic. I personally think he’s an ideal to be looked upon, right, curious and creative. If that annoys some people, I guess they just don’t like that sort of character.)

Riker is great, especially after having played the Mass Effect series as much as I have (male Shepard’s personality seems to be based loosely on Riker and Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek series). He’s the one with the sharpest eyes, the cleanest hits and the boldest tactics, acting often as a model for Picard. I expected it to be the other way around, the young first officer learning from his captain. And, while that does happen, it’s definitely very balanced, having the captain and Riker acting as both teacher and student, back and forth. I like that, as it shows that everyone can learn and change from one another, and not just the many from the few.

Us, the Crew

The entire cast has this amazing synergy, and the writing doesn’t hurt. Yeah, in the beginning some characters were a little melodramatic, even forced at times emotionally, but by last two thirds of the season, they all stick with you, since they all have moments that make you go, “Damn, they even—*sniff*—got me to—*sniff*—TASHA!” (For anyone who cares, I’m among the few who think Natasha Yar’s death was perfectly appropriate. Not everyone has a glamorous demise. In real life, some people just get offed and that’s that, no slow motion, no sad piano music, nothing. The briefness of Tasha’s death is offset by her touching funeral, which got me right in the gut. This scene’s impact was only helped, not hurt by the fact that she died so quickly and in such a non-romantic fashion.)

Of all the crew, I think my favorites have got to be Data and Worf. They’re just so funny, and yet have some of the more dramatic episodes dedicated to them (“Datalore” and “Heart of Glory” are great episodes; do not skip them). They’re attitudes match and contrast their physical/species personas very well. Data is just as much a calculator (match) as he is a curious youth (contrast), and Worf is just as much a beast (match) as he is disciplined, loyal member of Starfleet (contrast). Again, it all comes back to the writing. The characters have received such praise, as well as the cast that brought them to life, but someone had to conceive them, someone had to have the idea, “Let’s have him see in a way we can’t, a way that may be even better than our normal vision,” and give birth to Geordi, and Dr. Crusher, and Troi.

The writer creates the foundation. Without a story, there is no show.

Beware What Awaits You!

The Next Generation doesn’t just have great characters. it also has intriguing worlds to visit. From a planet where the mildest of crimes can mean the death penalty, to one where the physical manifestation of Evil waits for its next victim, there’s plenty to see and plenty to do. The governments and societies vary widely and, because of this, have to be interacted with carefully. When dealing with a civilization that’s women are superior to its men, who will be selected to discuss diplomacy? A woman, for her strength, or a man, for his ability to seduce the alien race’s leaders? How about species so close to extinction they need to steal the children of your ship’s crew? Do you give them what they want? Is there a substitute? Why do they need the children so badly? What’s causing them to die out as they do? These are the situations that make this show so interesting.

One in particular, “Coming of Age,” was one of the better character related episodes, addressing the overall growth of the crew, as well as their loyalty to Picard, who has improved as a leader. It examines the danger of witch-hunts and how easy it is to simply say, “Something must be wrong here, because it’s bad everywhere else.” And this seems like a “simple” lesson, but complexity isn’t necessarily depth. See, we can have a uncomplicated idea with many levels. Isn’t that how life works? “All men can do great things.” Really? Can they? Why? What gives them this ability? Is it innate? Is it given to them by those around them? Is it necessary? Are these questions even necessary? Do they matter? Does any of this matter? Do “great things” matter? See, that’s a simple concept with depth, and Star Trek: The Next Generation appears to have mastered this in its clever writing (again, it all starts with the pen).

The slow introduction to the universe gives new people like myself time to adjust to everything that’s going on, while also giving veteran fans something to chew on as they look back at old episodes (I know, I watched the show with someone who has seen every episode of it multiple times). It didn’t take me long to understand the relationship between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, the importance of the Romulans, the reason for the Prime Directive, etc. Everything was accessible, without sacrificing the attention to detail that Star Trek as a franchise is known for. Great work on the part of the writers and directors, the latter having a just as difficult job, if not more difficult, than the writers (bringing all this to life must have been a daunting task).

Q

One thing I’m really glad about is that the Q aren’t overused as a race. Their power would be way too much of a deus ex machina in some of Season One’s scenarios. If you’re going to make God (or something very close) one of your characters, better not have him abuse His powers in a story about human beings. He might take away some of the fun if he appears too many times. Now, that is not to say I’m against the use of spirituality in writing, quite the contrary. The spiritual side of Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the things that kept me going. The creative use of the soul and other incorporeal forms as storytelling tools and devices blew me away, and I can’t wait to see what they do next with it.

All in all, Star Trek: The Next Generation was a blast to watch. It’s something I think every up and coming writer/director of science fiction, or even an actor in sci-fi television and movies, should take a look at, if only to see where many concepts in the genre came from. It’s fun, original, intelligent, thought-provoking, and powerful. It has a few rough spots, but get through them, because every geode has a pile of crystals.

Until next time, this is D. Alexander wishing you a happy It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Day!

Trek Holiday

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That’s all, folks! Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving me good things to read, too! I love you guys, really.

~D.

The Other Path

29 Nov

Man

 

Tor.com is holding a fun little six word story contest that I decided to submit to. This is my entry:

Fire engulfs Man. From ashes, monsters.

You can view more entries, or submit your own, here.

~D.

Bird

22 Nov

We Like It

Fire, we like it.

No, this isn’t a metaphor piece on birds, I’m sorry. I just wanted to let you all know that Path to Nowhere is on Sci-Fi Bloggers right now and you should all check it out.

That is all.

~D.

FIRST LOOK: Path to Nowhere

11 Nov

Nowhere?

You’ll be able to read my weekly series, Path to Nowhere, on Sci-Fi Bloggers soon! Here’s a quick taste of what you’ll be reading:

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Fire, she likes it. It’s warm, filled with life, capable of death, known for both. It’s bright. She’s been up all night looking at it, and the stars, and the moon, and the glowing eyes of watchful beasts. They dare not draw near. They’ve seen her before. They’ve seen her fire.

She looks to where the horizon will be when the sun finally creeps over World’s End, calculating how far her next stop is. How long has it been since Krimwald? Three days: first day running, next two walking and hiding. At the rate she’s going, it should take another day to reach Reager. Hopefully they followed her false trail to Black Rider Canyon.

They’ve got to stop following me. They keep coming for more, ruining everything. There has to be an end to their search at some point, doesn’t there? No, there doesn’t. She’ll keep running, she’ll keep fighting, and she’ll keep searching for it. It is everything. It is all that matters. Everything else is either a barrier or a band-aid. It is the only way to fix it all. I need it.

That switch. It keeps happening. Her, me, her, me. Why can’t I just—ugh! It hurts to do it sometimes, most of the time really, just thinking it, I. She shivers, letting out a nervous sigh. Maybe she should just let it go, not try anymore. What’s the point, anyway? Why try at all? To heal? Everything else is either a barrier or a band-aid. It is the only way to fix it all. She needs it.

Her, me, her, me.

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Can’t wait for you to see the rest!

~D.