The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Archive for September, 2010

Is There A Future For DC Comics On The Small Screen?

Posted by BigWords on September 26, 2010

an open plea to DC Comics execs for better television adaptations

DC Comics has struggled with live action television for the last few years. Smallville has faced numerous problems since introducing its’ superpowered supporting characters, and neither of the two Human Target series did justice to the concept. While its’ first season started strongly, Lois & Clark quickly descended into farce; The Flash series disappointed as often as it entertained, while the short-lived Birds Of Prey failed to capitalize on the inherent tension which ran through the comics. There are only so many times that I’ll accept television executive interference as a reason for the poor showing of DC properties before giving up on them entirely – and the high quality of the various animated series’ makes me more frustrated at the fluctuating quality of live-action shows based on DC properties. I expect more from my entertainment post- The Shield, The Wire, Lost, and Battlestar Galactica.

It isn’t as if there is a dearth of quality concepts nestled in the world of the comic titles, yet the simple (and, unfortunately, TV-friendly) ideas keep getting brought forth as acceptable material for these shows, failing utterly to capitalize on several of the themes which tie together the comics. Part of the problem thus far has been the simplification of elements which, when used seriously, could provide an entirely new audience for the characters. The most glaring example of adaptation decay is in the Smallville series, where both Checkmate and the Justice League have been reduced to starring in a series of increasingly ludicrous plots, and are in no danger of breaking out into their own series. There’s hope for more intelligent fare, though only if chances are taken with other series.

Think about the best comics of the last thirty or so years, and a few examples will spring instantly to mind as being suitable, both in tone and being financially feasible, for the rigors of a series. What is acceptable in the funny pages isn’t always suitable for the harsh requirements and standards live-action television demands these days. People in bright clothes flying overhead is something of an anachronism thanks to shows such as Greatest American Hero, the sixties Batman series and My Hero. Beyond the visual problems, we are also faced with increasing importance being placed on films as a medium in which comics adaptations can be best presented. This is an enormous error in thinking, as the serial nature of comics cannot be properly replicated with a single feature film.

Part of the problem seems to be that the characters chosen for television series are often of the superhero variety, and therein lies the major obstacle to a successful series. Another superhero show now would be a misstep, particularly in light of the magnificent failure of Superman Returns and the sup-par showings of various other FX-heavy superhero franchises. The verisimilitude (although still based on heightened and distorted reality) which The Dark Knight and Iron Man displayed has raised the bar for future adaptations, and no less than the very best adaptations will suffice for an audience whose expectations are higher than ever. Looking at the titles which have less fantastic elements, there are numerous potential series awaiting discovery by television producers. Even the characters who are currently without their own titles are worth examining.

Big Business, The Freedom Of The Press & Rampant Crime

DC Comics is peppered with internationally-influential companies – LexCorp, The Wayne Foundation, Queen Industries, Kord Enterprises, plus assorted millionaires and billionaires who have had other interests – run through the titles, so it makes sense that prominence be placed on a business angle. Even though certain aspects of this facet of the comics universe have been played out over the years in adaptations, their portrayals have fallen far short of the depth which their comics appearances have allowed. With various news agencies (from the comics) such as The Daily Planet, WGBS-TV, and The Daily Star, there is a lot of room for stories which examine the nature of capitalism, how businesses work, illegal stock trading, and the encroachment of organizations such as Intergang and other criminal forces into areas of business.

The preponderance of crime families, crime syndicates, street gangs and numerous drugs cartels in the comics – some of which are actively funded by big business – is a good reason not to rule out this avenue for future television shows. A real attempt at fleshing out story aspects which have hitherto been background filler could show an increased maturity, and well as tell some important stories told in the process. It’s an area oft overlooked in the comics these days, which have slowly and steadily moved towards more ‘epic’ superhero battles and flashy crossover events, but nearly everything which depends entirely on the long-underwear types would look ridiculous in a live-action television show. Backtracking to the late 80s depiction of Lex Luthor in Adventure Comics and Superman would go a long way, examining the mindsets of people so ludicrously wealthy that their moral compass has depolarized over the years.

One of the delights of Batman Begins, especially, was the depiction of crime families being in control of law enforcement, if only on a regional scale. Tying together the disparate elements of business, the press, and criminals who believe themselves to be above the law, could result in a series which might rival The Wire for its’ depiction of a fully fleshed-out city. Even if only a fraction of the elements were used, there is more than enough to sustain an ongoing storyline about what it means to be a reporter in a world where the owner of one of the largest companies in the world has political aspirations as well as hidden criminal depths. It would be a nice touch to see allusions to the legendary Frost/Nixon interview played out between Cat Grant and Lex Luthor, though that may just be my taste coming through…

Hidden Agencies, Secret Experiments & Covert Research

Where there is big money being thrown at research and development, there are the covert agencies hoping to learn of anything which could possibly threaten the status quo. Checkmate, Project Cadmus, S.T.A.R. Labs, and the Department of Extranormal Operations are all excellent places to look for story possibilities. Without touching on the superhero element, there are questions of genetic research, illegal wiretapping, advanced mechanics, political coercion and tax dollars siphoned off to unaccountable agencies. With examples of real-life groups to play off of, there is a wealth of potential in exploring the interaction (both legitimate and dubious) between the various parties. This presents a safe fictionalized avenue in which to explore issues raised by MK-ULTRA, the Iran-Contra affair and various other exploits governments have partaken in over the years.

Corporate espionage – a very real problem for many companies nestled on the cutting edge of technology – has rarely been done well on television. I’m struggling to think of a single example which stands out, that’s how rare examples are. Within the framework of a DC Universe adaptation, replete with all manner of crazy scientists working on secret projects, there seems to be a real opening for untapped story potential here. A clumsy attempt at marrying the worlds of business and secret government agencies was made in Smallville when Tess Mercer (an ill-advised character to begin with, but that’s a whole other blog post) was revealed to be a member of Checkmate. I suggest something much subtler, and framed within a more realistic world-view, expanding the presence of these agencies only when clues as to their existence is revealed. Subtlety has never been a strong point for Smallville.

The Military Is Always Involved, Even When Its Offscreen

It’s long been established in the comics that various technologies developed by the preeminent companies in the DC Universe have been filtered down to military applications. Oliver Queen’s company was explicitly stated to be in the arms business, Lex’s enterprises are heavily influenced by both defensive and offensive applications for the technology he funds, and many of the agencies such as Checkmate have advanced equipment which raises numerous ethical questions. It follows that at least a few threads from both the business storyline possibilities and the material generated by having secret agencies should touch on the very real effect that large companies have on international military peacekeeping. Having real-world parallels strengthens story, which is why the use of the military alongside superheroes in Smallville has always felt ‘off’ to me. If a man can bend steel with his bare hands, what use is the armed forces?

For a while, back in the fifties, there were very few superhero titles, and military comics flourished. Having a strong storyline about the armed forces in a series based on the world of DC comics would, in essence, be truer to the comics than any costumed adventures could ever be. Plus there’s the aspect of topicality – allowing stories to be told with the characters which would otherwise be consigned to awful Elseworlds exploits, where nothing really matters because it doesn’t count. Embedded journalists could be used to tie in the military strands of the story to the other aspects, and add yet more threads to the story… Threads which could easily be picked up in the main segment as soldiers return home and look for work at the companies which have been providing the advanced weaponry used in the battlefield.

So Many Opportunities, If You Know Where To Look For Them

Some of the best characters in DC Comics are the ones which have no fantastic powers, alien roots or supernatural origins. The Crime Doctor, an old Batman villain, is one of the best examples or a character who could realistically exist in any major city. Characters such as The Question, Richard Dragon, and The Unknown Soldier could all be folded in to a more mundane setting with minimal alterations. Most of the acclaimed Question series by Dennis O’Neil fits in with a less superhero-oriented style anyway, and is an awesome read for both comics fans and anyone who loves well told stories. I would also add that Barbara Gordon’s time in Congress should be considered as a bridge between the government and law enforcement aspects. And just because I loved the idea, the (relatively obscure) the Chain Gang should also be considered for added drama potential.

The era of style over substance is long gone, and any future series should seriously consider the numerous television and films which have failed to capture the attention of an audience in the last few years. We, the audience, need more cerebral product if we are to keep paying attention to comic book properties on the small screen – a medium notorious for its’ harsh treatment of series which do not draw the expected viewing figures as soon as possible, may I add. Maybe there is enough material from the comics to sustain several series without ever feeling the need to introduce costumed heroes, but knowing that the lowest common denominator often trumps common sense, I have the feeling the days of intelligent adaptations are still some ways away.

I’m depressed by the knowledge that there exists a Krypto The Superdog series, yet we have still to see a proper, grown-up television drama emerge from the comics… I can’t even say “Make mine Marvel” at the end of this post because Blade: The Series was canceled. *sigh*

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3 Days Of Writing – Day The Third

Posted by BigWords on September 13, 2010

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

I tend not to write much about children as I don’t have any of my own. Even though I spend time with my niece, there is so much that I still have yet to understand about the motivations, needs and thoughts children have, that any representation of small people would undoubtedly get me laughed at if I were to write them. From what I’ve seen, food seems to be a primary motivating factor in all decisions they make, and that’s too one-dimensional to do much with.

22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not.

Hmm. This is something I haven’t thought about much, as I tend to write down everything (fragmented as any scene may or may not be), so “untold” stories do exist for nearly everything. There are lots of side-stories, analecta and plentiful WTFery running the gamut from hardcore film noir beatings to pages and pages and pages of dialogue. Yes, there is a lot of dialogue, and most of it is very annoying. I would direct you to one of the embarrassing passages from the spy thing I posted over at Absolute Write (deep in the midst of unsuccessful rewrites) but it’s so bad that your eyes may bleed from your sockets if you ever laid eyes on it.

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

I’m quick. Somehow – between holding down a full time job, playing games, smoking and Tweeting – I’m still able to produce staggering amounts of verbiage. Mostly it remains hidden from view (and the worst material is listed in a folder which will be burnt upon my death to provoke wanky literary discussions for generations). The stuff which makes it to public view appears rather briefly after I’ve decided that it is fit for human consumption, with last year’s NaNo being an excellent case in point.

Sure, some of it was so bad I never considered posting it, but the words which did appear were written immediately before I posted the work. Little editing (which shows), lots of caffeine and a lot of guts. For the record, when I say “immediately,” I mean within a couple of hours.

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Most characters end up dead. I have a habit of killing off characters left, right and center, so squeamishness would be silly. There is one excellently insane short about a man being vivisected over the course of five or so thousand words, which led to accusations of gorno, though the fact that I had thought out a plot to explain the situation was conveniently overlooked. I can’t win.

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

Bellamy has a gimp. Does that count?

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

Sensor. Oh yeah. He is everything I’ve ever been told not to do with a comic-book character distilled into one character. The back-story runs hundreds of years, he has a complex power set which isn’t easily explained, there are strong reasons to feel that most of his history is either fabricated or discontinuity, but he is so very, very cool. The simple version is that he is a man who committed suicide, and then reincarnated (twice) only to kill himself again. Twice. Pissed off with him, the gods of order assign him a non-living status, though refuse to let him ascend to a higher plane. Stuck on Earth, he slowly discovers he is able to use his status to do things best not explored in detail

Which is why I explored them in detail.

And yes, before you ask, that is a halo around his head. Don’t think about the implications of that too much, or you will come to conclusions that I can’t expand on. Make up your own explanation for that anomaly if you want.

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

For most of my characters I use tricks to jostle the words onto the page, and part of that is the method (which I stole from a book on scriptwriting) to imagine characters as film stars. The inflection, tone, speech idiosyncrasies and other factors help me push the important aspects to the fore. Naturally, this also affects how I envision the characters themselves. Most (if not all) of my characters are older than I am, usually having visual cues as to their personality. It isn’t noted in the story, but Bellamy’s black jacket has one tartan sleeve, and red velvet lining. He’s also bald, though that is more a reference to the Spider Jerusalem.

For SF, I normally push overweight characters to the center of the action, as it seems to me that developments in technology will reduce the need for people to be so active. Scarred characters are also a recurring theme. I don’t like pretty characters, though that answer runs into the next question…

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

Maureen “Motown” from the spy story is a woman in her late 40s, and is covered in scar tissue from burns. She plays the ‘Mother’ character, so isn’t as involved in the stories as some of the more active agency members. It makes sense in the context of a reworking of the themes prevalent in 60s spy drama.

The Reverend is covered in scars, and his hands are almost always bloodied. A rock star who is sometimes given cameos in my work is covered in a patchwork of scars, and his background states that he is older than he looks – a short story I wrote about him indicated he might even have been active in the first world war, but that story is so very tied into my personal continuity of interrelated works that it may never make sense as a stand-alone. Hell, I haven’t even gotten around to explaining the steampunk robot who he is meant to be friends with…

29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?

I steal a lot of ideas from reality. My life has been cannibalized to the extent that a cursory examination of my stories will reveal more about me than is, perhaps, really healthy. Anyone has the opportunity to get lampooned as well, so there are dangers in befriending me. Just saying… I spend most of my days catching time to write, so there is never any real ‘down-time’ to speak of, ‘cept for when I’m elbow-deep in rewrites that seem to sap any brain activity. There should be breaks from writing (it’s not healthy to be this obsessed with words), but I figure that I should do whatever I can while the ideas are rattling around in my head.

30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

See here to find out if you have been nominated.

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3 Days Of Writing – Day The Second

Posted by BigWords on September 12, 2010

11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?

While there are a couple of characters who seem to have taken on a life of their own (Calhoun and Bellamy, for two), I spend more time playing with throwaway characters as they can be much more entertaining. So entertaining, in fact, that three have managed to escape their origins a walk-on parts to have adventures of their own. If it’s one particular character I have to point to, then Thomas – the nominal hero of the spy stories – is the main character who has had the most words expended on him, even if he appears to be rather dull in comparison to the other characters. He’s the most complex person to have emerged on paper, possibly because he doesn’t conform to any of the expectations the other characters have of him. He’s the ultimate asshole in any of my books, refusing to step in to the fray until his family are killed off – even if it was the heroes who offed them, but that’s one of the more complicated parts of the backstory. There tend not to be many traditional heroes in my work.

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?

Department X / Ghost Bureau / whatever I’m calling it this week. It’s gone through an ungodly number of rewrites, but the fact that I spent time going around the hidden and murky places around London to get a feel for some of the locations (not entirely as they really exist, but close enough). I’m still not entirely happy with the dialogue, but the work I’ve put into the locations is something I’ve never doubted.

13. What’s your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?

Outsiders. All the time, without question. They may be miserable, but the people who inhabit my work shine a little brighter than uptight and utterly predictable movie heroes. They drink too much, smoke dubious cigarettes, drop pills, go on vision quests, use handguns, quasi-magic, technology and anything that gives them the edge. And they have no compulsion about killing, which has always bothered me about some characters. I guess they might be the bad guys in any other writer’s hands, but I have tremendous fun playing against type.

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

Some stories don’t have fixed locations, though the ones that do tend to be rather over thought, with maps, extensive notes, and (in some cases) floor plans for the buildings. I work according to what I need immediately, so here are gaps in the images where I haven’t decided what will go there yet. It’s better for longer works to have some room to change, add or extend locations. There are several useful resources out there, but modding games, Photoshop manipulation and a degree of aptitude with fountain pen and ink is useful. Not sharing them here, but I’ll eventually get around to doing an extensive run-through of all the different images for one of the stories.

I like locations that tend towards multiple stories, as it is easier to open the world up if the foundation work has already been done. Like the film said, “There are eight million stories in the Naked City.”

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

Stephen King. He has the comic-book continuity mastered, and is able to bring back barely seen characters time and time again, killing off some, fleshing out others, and making the world he plays in tie together beautifully – though I’m sure Castle Rock has changed in description a couple of times.
He’s also got some killer dialogue.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? 😉

Everything depends on the overall tone of the story, and the nature of the characters. I’m sure I would get hassle for having The Reverend sleep with his romantic interest (a prostitute, for what its’ worth). Bellamy doesn’t really have any real romantic interests, and the heavy political influences in that story don’t lend themselves easily to a side-story about more recreational activities. Calhoun is slightly different, with a whole array of characters jostling for attention in a story which covers a lot of ground – and features Lovecraftian overtones so heavy that any sex scenes would quickly turn into body horror scenes.

17. Favorite protagonist and why!

Bellamy, as you could probably expect.

18. Favorite antagonist and why!

Bellamy, as you could probably expect. No, that isn’t a typo.

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

There’s a guy in Calhoun’s story who was a plot point more than a really defined character, until I decided that his disappearance would have to be rectified somehow, rather than forgotten as Calhoun delved deeper into the mystery of the island he is sent to chart. He turned out to be a Russian zoologist, and the icky end he was to have received turned out to have a deeper connection to the island – even to the point of having a subtle clue as to its’ origin – if people pay really close attention to the nature of his demise. If there is one example of unexpected story coming from throwaway ideas, then he personifies that in my writing.

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?

Dialogue tends to get changed between characters, so the words coming out of one person’s mouth may have been from another character originally. This means that I don’t fine-tune until I get through a couple of drafts, and even though there are characters who bounce off each other, the dialogue doesn’t really reflect things so much as their actions.

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3 Days Of Writing

Posted by BigWords on September 11, 2010

Yes, you read the title of the post correctly. This is my brilliant idea to get out of any future memes of similar construction, and I will continue in similar fashion for the next couple of posts. Three days, in and out.

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

It is incredibly hard to pick just one of the sandboxes I play in as a favorite (and I guess this is the same for a lot of people), but if pressed on the issue I would fall back on Faerwither. Picking that is, of course, cheating. I’ve mentioned it a few times, though I have never really explained the name or the setting in enough detail to properly convey just how far off into fantasy it is – yet even describing it as a fantasy setting doesn’t convey what it truly is. The basic nature of the realm is a fluctuating physical, though roughly linear, state which exists just off from our reality. Characters are drawn into “the space between places” and remove themselves from it as needed, creating wrinkles in other stories and allowing them to interact in different eras.

Bellamy (from the spy story) spent time there before the beginning of that story – which explains why he is written as being much, much older than he is – and The Reverend from my western has existed there from around 1900 onwards. He’ll get out eventually. I’m not sure how, exactly, the epic-fantasy-novel-by-way-of-superhero-war fits in, though a bunch of characters (including Heracles and Erinyes) made their way to the present via Faerwither. It’s my version of the ultimate Deus Ex Machina, and I overuse it sometimes when I run out of reasons to viably keep a character alive past any sensible timeframe. This means that everything I’ve ever written is included due to the crossover nature of the location. Like I said, I cheated with the answer…

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

There are thousands of characters. Literally. I have never sat down and counted them out (which seems an utterly insane prospect given that some of the characters have clones to add to the confusion), but I’m sure there would be in excess of two thousand. No, I’m not going to sit down and count them. On the gender breakdown I’m probably split roughly evenly, though I figure that on a story-to-story basis there are some that have many more males than females and vice versa. The Reverend is a very male-oriented story, while a silly airport-based side-scene/separate story from Ghost Bureau has an almost entirely female cast.

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

Names are easy for me, as they normally have extensive, though often obscure, references to real places and people.Bellamy, for example, is in deference to the maker of veal pies. Faerwither is named because it always rains there (and it is based upon the geography of the Downs), while the more mundane agencies involved in behind the scenes activities take their cue from old spy shows and movies. This happens a lot, with references to fictional companies turning up in slightly altered guises all the time. I dislike using existing companies as it seems too on the nose, so using obscure references to other books, films and television shows works better. I don’t have a lot of easy answers for this, and it would take a few blog posts worth of step-by-step explanations to show how I got from a reference to a homage to a joke, burying it under several layers of other, unconnected, references.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

Really? You honestly want to hear about that? Okay, so the first one I can remember was a big mash-up that consisted of a bunch of differently-sized characters wandering across a planet. That description makes it sound shit, but there is no way to make it even vaguely interesting or engaging given its’ origins – which, thankfully, I’m under no obligation to reveal again.

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

Heracles may, possibly, be the oldest, though I’m not up to speed on the continuity of mythological beings. He may be older than Erinyes, and I know he’s got a few years on most of my other characters. The youngest is harder to answer. I use characters at different points in their lives for different stories, so at any one point in time I may be writing them then they are 8 and in their 60s in different stories. Best not to contemplate the problems that can lead to… There are also a couple of clones which complicate matters further.

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper?

I’m happy with either the computer, the laptop or pen and paper. The funny thing with choosing the way I create the story is the ability to alter the feel of the prose. Pen and paper makes for very stark, minimalist material, while the stuff I’ve written on the laptop comes across as more active and rushed. The desktop computer manages to balance out a lot of the bad habits with much deeper research into the worlds I play in. Time of day also affects the words, with night being when everything seems to come together for me.

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

Each character has their own playlists, while each universe has its own tone. I’ll probably expand on this at some point, but I have plans for this in relation to some of the more complex elements I’m playing with – again, it gets very complicated, very quickly.

8. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?

Genre-blind, remember? I like anything which move outside of the comfortable, label-friendly genre constraints, so a horror-western, comedy-SF, or twisted political-fantasy would appeal more than something that doesn’t veer far from the mainstream. The well-worn paths are boring once the essential components have been read, and the best of the genres been understood and filed away for future reference.

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

I don’t create the characters. They’re there already, and I just find them. Mostly I find them doing things they shouldn’t be doing… They also tend to talk back to me.

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

The weirdness factor is off the scale. Cursed gold, ghosts who solve crimes, the hunt for the charred bones of an angel (or alien posing as an angel) under a cathedral… The tightly-packed multiverse of characters and events seems to run on the weirdness sometimes, with pauses for random acts of violence. Here’s something else – I consider everything I’ve written (no matter how contradictory) to be canon. The fact that most of my characters exist in-between the things normal stories would focus on helps this, allowing for very strange things to seem almost workaday.

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Thirty Days Of Writing

Posted by BigWords on September 10, 2010

If you have been reading either Ralfast‘s or Beth‘s blogs recently, you will have seen this done in the manner it was meant – one post per day for thirty days. Being contrary and eccentric, I thought I would skewer the traditional, eschew the sensible, and generally carve out a lesser trodden path. Ah, but before I can begin, I have to do the utterly perfunctory task of listing the questions which require answers. Fine. Here are the questions which everyone expects:

01. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.
02. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?
03. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?
04. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!
05. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?
06. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper?
07. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?
08. What’s your favorite genre to write? To read?
09. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.
10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!
11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?
12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you’d like to share?
13. What’s your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?
14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?
15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!
16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing? 😉
17. Favorite protagonist and why!
18. Favorite antagonist and why!
19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!
20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?
21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?
22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you’ve never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not.
23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?
24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?
25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.
26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!
27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.
28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.
29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?
30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

Jeez. That’s a lot of words right there, and in answering all those questions I’ll probably reveal more than is sensible to reveal. These memes are like alcohol, because before you are even aware of the fact, you’ll be revealing something that all logic dictates should remain locked away in your brain. Information about the process of creating characters – and no, any talk of me wearing pink panties to get into female characters’ minds are just that… Loose talk. No photographic proof exists, so I can safely (and hopefully finally) let that particular rumor die.

Did I just reveal something? Oh, fuck. See what I mean? Memes are BAD. They are evil, and I shouldn’t be made to do them…

But I know that I’m not going to be let off the hook that easily. The only question I had was the means by which I would twist the nature of something so simple into a crazy idea I could play with. Something interesting and which won’t overrun the blog for what would seem like an eternity. Yeah, I might be overstating things, but really… Would you keep reading the in’s and out’s of the way I mangle together disparate things into a cohesive and (hopefully) logical progression of events for a month? No. At least I hope you wouldn’t be so masochistic. In any event, I quickly discovered how hard it would be to do something which played with the wording of the meme.

Thirty Dias Of Writing?
Thrifty Days Of Writing?
Thirty Doses Of Writing?

It is a lot harder to break these kinds of questionnaires than you would expect. I’m not so sure I would have contemplated embarking on this if I hadn’t found the perfect way to do so, though you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to discover just how I have managed to make it work for me. And no, before you ask, the way I’m handling this won’t take up an entire month of the blog. In fact, it may be over before most of the people who started at the beginning of the month are done. I can’t say more about it, or I’ll be told off for being contrary by those who are doing it properly.

Yeah, I know. I’m taunting you with the promise of something which may or may not be amazing and insightful. Deal with it. In the meantime I’ll be busy coming up with ways to torture you further.

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A New Star Trek Continuity (By Wold Newton Means)

Posted by BigWords on September 5, 2010

Star Trek. One of the most successful science fiction properties of all time, and one of the universes which gets a disproportional representation within the SF community, has always had problems. I’m not referring to the twisted around ideas which led to stardates (there is a certain logic to the notion that relative time can be kept, then squared against a central database), nor the mess made of warp drive numbering (that is covered by Science Marches On in-universe), but more esoteric aspects of the timeline which cannot be easily reconciled without heavy editing of the facts as they are presented to us. Having never been the most obsessive nor reasonable fan of televised SF, I’ve often looked outside of canon for explanations to the things which bug me, but this time I think I may have crossed a line in my attempt to rationalize some of the things which don’t make sense, or which need greater expansion.

This has taken me a while to work out (and there are still bits and pieces that I’m adding, changing, tweaking and blatantly ignoring), but I think I know most of the reasons that Star Trek doesn’t work for me. This is, of course, pushing my interpretation of Star Trek farther from the one which most viewers will be familiar with, but if it makes sense to me, then I can live with any irritation I raise in others. First and foremost amongst my problems with the universe is the timeline, which has been so completely screwed over by multiple re-tellings, contradictions, reset button-pushing and blatant lies, that it no longer resembles a stable progression of events as much as it does a hodge-podge of ideas thrown together by various disparate groups within the controlling group of writers, making a mockery of how people appreciate the events which led to the creation of an interstellar society able to function independently of Earth.

Lets see if I can shed some light on how I perceive the world of Picard, Sisko, and Captain ‘Crazy Janeway’ as filtered through a Wold Newton-inspired interpretation of things which might make up for the problems in the accepted history. It’s going to annoy the hell out of purists, but it is the only way that I can watch the show and not feel the need to to scream profanities at the screen. I’ve ignored some elements considered canon by both the show and the fans, and introduced things which are possibly heretical but which are very, very cool. This may turn the bright, happy future envisioned by Gene Rodenberry into a Crapsack Universe, but it is one in which I would much rather spend time. The dates are rough, though I’m sure someone with a tad more patience could make it all hang together if they consider the events I have decided to include – some of which actually make sense of the logic which Enterprise and the recent film reboot have thrown out of the window, fetched back inside, crapped all over, then thrown out of the window again.

Before anyone decides that the following is entirely too dumb, spend five minutes flicking through the reviews of DS9 and Enterprise episodes on The Cynic’s Corner, and try to reconcile the multiple given histories of the Federation. Try it. You’ll go insane in the attempt. Better to start afresh, and use all the basic story points as a way to fold in some of the better ideas from outside of Star Trek canon, because the franchise is in desperate need of a shot of adrenaline. It’s more apparent when you watch episodes back to back, but even a casual viewer there are problems. Consider this along the same lines as Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, where things are similar to the original stories, but told afresh and with a more coherent ethic – well, at least as Ultimate was in the beginning. The Ultimate Universe managed to contradict itself mightily as it went on.

The Pre-History Of Space Travel

1969 – 2025

In the two-part Voyager episode Future’s End it is shown that Henry Starling has had access to 29th century technology from as far back as the 1960s, which he has been using to push Earth’s software and hardware knowledge far in advance of where such knowledge should be. This, more than any other aspect of Star Trek‘s timeline, is the crucial point at which we ought to separate from our own history – the “real” history of Earth. Voyager‘s only notable contribution to either entertainment or logic was this one story, as Starling’s existence suddenly makes a lot of other things fall into place neatly. It is with his mangled understanding of 29th century technology which allows both the creation of the experimental S.A.I.N.T. robots [1] (which eventually leads to the T-1 [2]), and – eventually – the technology necessary for the integration of mechanical elements into Officer Murphy [3]. The robots were nuclear powered at this point, as the advanced power cells had not been completely understood.

While many of the elements of the future technology were able to be reverse engineered by in-house scientists, some of the advancements were so esoteric as to preclude direct understanding of the way they operated. A significant amount of the research into matter transportation was given to Seth Brundle through a dummy corporation named Bartok Industries [4]. His interpretation of the software would result in his untimely death, and his research would not be continued until Dr. Emory Erickson (in the Enterprise episode Daedalus) perfected the means by which to transport living tissue.

That doesn’t mean that there weren’t subsequent accidents, though. One of the most notable situations erupted on a Mars “mining” station, when a transporter opened a portal to another dimension, which led to the deaths of a number of researchers continuing their exploration of future technology [5]. At some point in the early 1980’s, an Antarctic research team is attacked by an unknown alien which has been extricated from its’ ship [6]. It was whilst searching for the remains of this vessel that a group of researchers would later encounter the frozen remains of Borg.

During the 90’s, a salvage operation mounted on a Russian naval vessel resulted in the crew of the tug being attacked by a disembodied alien presence which used human parts and machinery to create a physical presence for itself on Earth [7]. Later investigation would associate this entity closely with the Borg hive-mind, though notable differences would be recorded for further study.

After 2000, with advances far outstripping ‘real’ history, the US government, seeing the valuable technological advancements being made by Starling’s Chronowerx Industries, requests assistance in coming up with solutions to some of the problems it is facing. Researchers who have studied the advanced database use their knowledge to create a stable wormhole which allows for a limited  glimpse into the future [8], and an AI to interpret massive data input now being collected by the military branches of the US intelligence community [9]. It is the spectacular failure of the AI which leads to further advances in AI being halted until more is understood about the technology, though one last-ditch attempt to integrate AI leads to the creation of a satellite defense program dubbed Skynet, which is one of the primary reasons for future problems [10].

The medical database from the future also provides for the creation of a breathable liquid, which plays an important part in one of humanity’s early extra-terrestrial encounters [11]. Spurred on by the existence of beings living on other planets, more of the future technology is plundered to create the ground-work which will lead to the genetically-engineered Khan and his followers. This is also around the time that things start to go seriously wrong with society. The slip into anarchy begins with a few minor problems, but left unchecked the mysterious Quitters, Inc [12] and Consumer Recreation Services [13] soon lead to rampant anarchy in the streets as people release tension created by the existence of genetically superior individuals being created. It is from these dark days that the Eugenics War erupts into full-blown war.

The Deep Space Nine episode Past Tense shows what has happened to the US by 2024, with large sections of cities cordoned off to provide housing for ‘undesirables’ – a technique replicated in France, among other countries [14]. Some cities, such as Detroit, prefer to deal with their social unrest by handing over their policing to corporations, which results in the creation of the RoboCop program [3]. Other locations fall into complete unrest as “entertainment” such as The Running Man [15], Death Race [16], and other shows allow the population to be kept entertained and (largely) kept under control. The foundation for these openly-violent shows being broadcast is the underground snuff shows which were broadcast (and circulated) by Lionel Starkweather [17]. It was during this time that Scotland was walled off from the rest of the country so that the inhabitants could die off due to a plague that was threatening the UK [18].

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

2025 – 2200

(note: I’m pushing the Eugenics Wars to the 2020s to preserve some sort of cohesion in the timeline)

Taking refuge in the stars was not the sole preserve of the genetically engineered super-soldiers, as others decided to abandon Earth. As Picard pointed out in the TNG episode The Neutral Zone, cryogenic stasis had long since been abandoned as a means of interstellar travel, but in the early days of space travel it had been employed routinely. One of the mining vessels which was operating in deep space encountered an alien life form which killed the entire crew save for its’ Warrant Officer [19]. Another cryogenic vessel was considered lost, with its’ occupants awakening after hundreds of years, submerged under the ocean of an alien planet [20]. Yet another ship was considered lost, though later turned up having traveled into a region of space that had sent its’ occupants mad [21]. Occupants of other ships were not so lucky [22]. These disasters resulted in tighter controls being made on the design of astronavigation systems.

Zefram Cochrane’s warp flight brings the attention of the Vulcans, but also alerts a race of predatory aliens that the mildly interesting hunting grounds on Earth had become immensely more interesting. Taking to the still-devastated city of Los Angeles, the alien manages to evade both police and a secret agency under the directive of Section 31 [23]. It is also around this time that the full horror of what Skynet has become is made clear, and with the assistance of Vulcan technology the rise of the robots is prevented [10]. From this point on, all research into advanced robots is banned in an international treaty. (And you wondered why there were so few instances of cool robots in Star Trek, didn’t you?)

At some point before 2100 the world is pushed into a fully-blown war due to the unbalanced resources available on Earth, ending only when nuclear weapons are deployed. In the utter devastation which follows, mankind is slow to rebuild, though a few individuals take it upon themselves to give hope to the communities which have gradually coalesced. One such person dons the uniform of a postman [24], whilst another, shattered by his experience at the hands of a biker gang, decides to take revenge on the evils plaguing society [25]. Yet another wandering force for good makes use of his extraordinary martial arts abilities to destroy a gang which has overrun a formerly-peaceful region [26]. The Vulcans once again step in to take care of mankind, before we untimely destroy ourselves.

The NX-01 is launched, though the dedication ceremony is marred by some truly awful music…

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Additional notes:

With the technology required to pass themselves off as aliens, I would also fold in the IMF to the WN Star Trek timeline, as their lifelike masks seem to possess all the requirements needed for covert operations on alien planets. Backtracking to a point where they could conceivably be placed in a position to take part, I would suggest them being the groundwork for Section 31, renamed as of a point somewhere before the year 2025. (Mission: Impossible)

The increased time travel related episodes of Star Trek, where the Starfleet Time Police, or Temporal Investigations (or whoever Gary Seven and Daniels were working for), seems to suggest that they began as a much simpler organization. It makes a sort of sense that the events of Timecop could be the shaky beginnings from which the Federation would spin out its’ time protection force. Not sure where that would place events of the film, though sometime after the stable wormhole was created [8] seems about right.

It seems likely that there is room to fit Barb Wire in somewhere around the 2020s, though I didn’t think about it until I had already written most of this up. It’s such a minor film that I can’t be bothered re-numbering everything, so just pretend I added it.

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The Pre-History Of Space Travel

[1] Short Circuit (1986) dir: John Badham
[2] Terminator: Salvation (2009) dir: McG
[3] RoboCop (1987) dir: Paul Verhoeven
[4] The Fly (1986) dir: David Cronenberg
[5] Doom 3 (2004) id Software / Activision

[6] The Thing (1982) dir: John Carpenter
[7] Virus (2002) dir: John Bruno

[8] Déjà Vu (2006) dir: Tony Scott
[9] Eagle Eye (2008) dir: D.J. Caruso
[10] Terminator (1984) dir: James Cameron

[11] The Abyss (1989) dir: James Cameron
[12] Quitters, Inc. by Stephen King (1978, Doubleday)
[13] The Game (1997) dir: David Fincher

[14] District 13 (2004) dir: Pierre Morel
[15] The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) (1982, Signet)
[16] Death Race (2008) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[17] Manhunt (2003) Rockstar North, Rockstar Games
[18] Doomsday (2008) dir: Neil Marshall

The Fallout From The Eugenics Wars

[19] Alien (1979) dir: Ridley Scott
[20] Pandorum (2009) dir: Christian Alvart
[21] Event Horizon (1997) dir: Paul W.S. Anderson
[22] Dark City (1998) dir: Alex Proyas
[23] Predator 2 (1990) dir: Stephen Hopkins

[24] The Postman (1997) dir:Kevin Costner
[25] Mad Max (1979) dir: George Miller
[26] Fist Of The North Star (1995) dir:Tony Randel

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