A bit more on why fantasy isn’t dead

Oh, no, you might think. He’s not trotting out this tired, old horse again, is he? Yes. Yes, I am. And I’ll keep doing so until voices from behind upturned noses stop declaring fantasy and science fiction as genres that have quietly wandered off into obsolescence. Also: for some reason, I found my brain stuck on this topic again first thing after waking up and so I figured that was a good sign I might as well run with it. Especially since my brain has been, from a creativity standpoint, been reduced to being able to produce little more than Post-It Note short stories during down-time at work.

Someone filled all of the Post-It dispensers with Pepto-Bismol Pink notes while I was away on vacation.

Someone filled all of the Post-It dispensers with Pepto-Bismol Pink notes while I was away on vacation.

Fantasy and Science Fiction are just like any other genre in that they are only limited by the boundaries of imagination, and also in the sense that at least one stuffy academic will point out all of the perceived inherent flaws they hold within.

Before I go too much further, I will admit that there are stories that have been played out a good deal. That’s true of all genres. However, I counter this point by saying that no two writers have identical voices, even if one is trying to imitate another. There will always be some small differences, and as such it could be argued that no two stories written by two different people are ever really the exact same thing. Yes, fantasy has some limitations. If it’s historical fantasy, it’s easy to say that Medieval towns weren’t and were equipped with certain things. Science Fiction has to have some basis in science or it won’t really work. Or we could, perhaps, reflect on these works being of ones of fiction, and their end-goal is to provide some level of fanciful adventure to worlds like and unlike our own. If someone decides, for instance, that the Cloud Dwellers of Stratospheria are why wind turbines are banned in the future as sources of alternative energy as they are perceived as violent acts of war, that’s entirely up to the writer. There’s plenty of room in the world for all variations of science fiction and fantasy, and there will most certainly always be a market for it as there will always be room for escapism.  Continue reading

And so it goes: surviving stress…sort of

I figured this post could use as much punctuation in its title as possible, and also I forgot about having to write a post still because I worked the closing shift at work and had all sorts of other things on my mind. None of those things are worth mentioning.

It is, however, worth mentioning that this week has kicked my ass in a way that makes me hesitate to sit down, albeit not in a literal sense. There have been plenty of problems and surprise-issues and so on and so on. I am, surprisingly, the least stressed about these things that went wrong that I have been in a long time. It’s uncharacteristic of me, but also extremely liberating. In a moment of I-wish-I-were-joking so profoundly stupid it might make at least one person’s head explode, the biggest concern on my mind is “I’d really like to get some more time to play Five Nights At Freddy’s”. This is because I’m still stuck on Night 4, and so help me God I’m going to beat that ****ing game. You’re on notice, Bonnie. No more sneaking into my goddamn office and murdering me. Subsequent thoughts are focused on wondering why places like Pizza Hut and Taco Bell don’t deliver this late at night, as I am both hungry and lazy.

These thoughts are worthy of note because I’m normally, especially during stressful weeks, prone to dwelling on shit like it’s not only my job, but my job, my favorite hobbies, and a surprisingly effective form of nourishment. I am so far removed from feeling stressed that being stressed and I presently exist in two separate dimensions.

I’m also tired, I still feel sick, and I have some more cleaning to do before tomorrow morning, so that’s enough of this post.

Creative fuzziness and beach fantasies

That sounded a lot better in my head than it did in the title bar, but I don’t feel like going back at this point. Laziness wins this round.

Right. So I’m at a particularly frustrating point of stagnation where no new story ideas are really appearing in the murky, soupy goo that is my imagination, but present projects have halted to some degree. I’m continuing to work at them, but I’m also a particular kind of drained that doesn’t want to let up. This is a rare and luxurious time that I am grateful I’m not writing on a deadline or being depended upon by publishers (except for the short Five Nights At Freddy’s piece I need to write after this, which I actually forgot about for a moment there). It’s like turning on the television only to find static on every channel. More easily to relate to: it’s like turning on the television and having a million channels, but nothing to watch. I do have three boxes of Story Cubes (Story Cubes, Story Cubes Actions, and Story Cubes Voyages) that I may start making use of if this dry spell persists. On the plus side, I have returned to writing in my journal. That must count for something, probably.

I’m painfully aware that the best solutions for creative block of any sorts is to keep pushing yourself and creating new content, but that has gotten to be a bit of a monumental task on top of everything else (I’ve been marathon-cleaning my apartment, for instance). I don’t feel particularly guilty for hitting a dry spell and not feeling hugely motivated to fix it so much as I feel frustrated that my brain has chosen to go all soft and empty on me when it did. It’s obviously my brain’s fault, that’s the take-home point here. I really should give the Story Cubes a try, too, so maybe tomorrow will be the day I do exactly that.

As for now, however, I am already thinking fondly of my upcoming trip to the Outer Banks with my family. My mother and stepfather will be renewing their vows this summer, and instead of going on the Alaskan cruise they’ve wanted to go on since the honeymoon they never had they have decided a trip to the beach is in order. Make no mistake: I may be outrageously pale and not fond of the outdoors. Alternatively, I do love going for nighttime walks along the beach, having a private pool where I’m not as self-conscious about being a small hippopotamus, and being in the company of my family in a beach house (where privacy and hiding are both plausible when that company grows tiresome). There will be much reading and writing, too, but also plenty of winding down and enjoying the occasional alcoholic beverage (with or without tiny umbrellas).

Keeping all of that in mind: I still harbor a weird, mostly-irrational fear of the ocean, as I recall one vacation that happened after a hurricane. There were bazillions of jellyfish washed up on the shore and drifting about in the shallow water, and I was convinced they would kill me if I got too close. I never claimed to be a particularly smart person, people.

Phil’s Official Writing Challenge Guidelines

I would have titled this “How to Write In Ways That Will Make You Feel Like Your Soul is Dying”, but I realized that might be a hair melodramatic. Special thanks go to my college pal Andrew Webb for texting me last night with the following texts, as he was inadvertently responsible for this topic.

Phil, I have done a terrible job with writing since I stared working full time, how do you do it?”

I responded by saying I force myself to find time every day to write, even if it’s just a little. If I get stuck working on one thing, I focus on something else. Above all else, it’s important to find time for writing. That resulted in this response:

Do you force yourself to a genre or anything goes including journaling?

My phone had conveniently been switched to Do Not Disturb mode by that point, however, because I had to be awake at 6a.m. and those texts first arrived after 12:30 last night. Feeling somewhat guilty for not answering, and finding this to be a good blogging opportunity, I decided to give a long-form answer in the form of a proper writing challenge anyone can hold themselves to (for the sake of self-destruction, really). Keep in mind that I may be a subject matter expert of sorts, but I am by no means a be-all, end-all source of wisdom on writing and so this is mostly just issuing a challenge to help writing in the same way I’ve been keeping up with my writing. Feel free to adjust it in ways, and let me know what works best for you in the comments below. It can be a sort of note-comparing among creative folks who also like finding their limits and then using those limits to inflict torment upon themselves. I’m joking, mostly.

Also, I really should note how much of a gigantic ego-boost it is to have people asking me advice on writing. Holy shit, folks, that is awesome. Right. Moving on… Continue reading

Another open letter to Mike Pence

Dear Mike,

Can I call you Mike, or are you more of a Michael? Doesn’t matter, now that I think about it. The important part is that I can see you, sir, are a visionary who is acting on behalf of the greater good of the people. Yes, indeed. While everyone else on the Internet is crying about how you most assuredly created a hostile, bigot-infested paradise where the state of Indiana once existed, I can’t help but say you deserve a pat on the back and maybe dessert before dinner. It’s important to put strong, personal beliefs before the overall financial, social, and cultural well-being of a state, and your actions really tell the world “I’m ready to take one step forward, followed immediately by a long road trip, a short flight, and a rocket trip to the moon backwards.” Don’t let those naysayers and whiners get you down, even if you happen to bear a striking physical resemblance to Lord Voldemort.

Praise aside, I can’t help but feel you should take things a few steps further. Continue to be the governor Indiana needs, but not necessarily the one that it wants. First and foremost, businesses should also ban rainbows, high fashion, and anything else associated with, well, less savory culture. These images can easily be replaced with far tamer ones, such as depictions of the sinners of the world being washed away by the Great Flood or perhaps the majesty of Revelation. Nothing quite goes with a trip to the barber shop like images of Jesus descending from Heaven and replacing all of those pesky non-believers’ blood with rivers of fire and snake venom.

The numbers six and thirteen, as well as any permutations, spellings, and similarities to said numbers should no longer be acknowledged, as they are symbolic of the devil. The letter B should no longer be capitalized, as it is a clever means by which to conceal an unlucky number 13. For better help in eliminating unlucky numbers, it may be wise to consult your nearest hotel chain as they have long-since removed all thirteenth floors from their establishments to prevent such mishaps as ghost infestations, spontaneous elevator failures, and other wacky hijinks.

Similarly, all goats should be made to wear costumes resembling other, far less Satanic animals. Goats that do not comply with this should be immediately incinerated, and their remains scattered along the Ohio border. This will prevent any possibility of the Dark Lord rising up, possessing his iconic beast, and wreaking havoc upon local business establishments while also encouraging creative family fun in the form of decorating the family goat. Based on my limited time passing through the great state of Indiana, I can only assume most every family has a family goat. I didn’t see any indication to the contrary, after all, which seems to be the same logic that fuels your decision in passing the religious freedom bill. Black cats and other possible witch familiars should also be sent away, as should their owners. A good, old-fashioned witch burning would be ideal, but those are generally frowned upon by the federal government and so you’ll probably have to make a few concessions there.

I know it must be very stressful for you, Mike, to see all of the businesses and big-name celebrities who are slinging hurtful names like “bigot” and “backwards-thinking fuckstick” at you, especially since those sentiments have no basis in reality. Besides, what do those people know? I mean the ones who help funnel revenue and tourism into the great state of Indiana, of course. Who needs them and their money? Plenty of other people will travel to Indiana for such great memories as using a turnpike restroom on the way to a vacation in some other state, or perhaps getting into a major traffic accident in one of the dozens of construction areas along the many wonderful highways. They’ll, at they very least, spend money at tolls, and if you really want to make use of those tourists in place of the ones who just don’t quite see things your way you could set up exit tolls. Make people regret leaving Indiana in the same way many people already regret living there.

My advice, in closing, to you is this: nobody doesn’t know what’s best for the well-being of Indiana quite the way you do, so to Hell with anyone who disagrees with you; I mean that literally, of course, as they will no doubt spend eternity in a sea of fire and regret. Should their shouting of bigotry and discrimination prove too loud, you can always turn to your favorite book in the Bible, tear a few pages out, stuff them in your ears, and go back to the important things like figuring out just how God managed to play such a great practical joke on all of those scientists who insist the Earth is a day older than six thousand years.

Warm regards from Pennsylvania (where a similar visionary to yourself only recently did wonders for our higher education system),

Phil

Stumbling ineffectively towards goals

Life as a writer and day-to-day life typically intersect in ways that could be considered overlapping, more or less. I add “more or less” to that sentiment because there are times when those two things feel like they exist instead in parallel dimensions. I’m offered glimpses of one or the other in fleeting moments, but the two lifestyles never quite line up in the ways I hope they would. Or in the ways my delusions wish they would. I’m fully aware that I’m only 27 years old, and that great things have been accomplished later in life than that, but I’m frustrated and so I’m bemoaning my–and a common enough–fate. Deal with it.

The novel-project better known as A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders is at an unfortunate stalling point, as I have reached one of a small handful of segments of story that aren’t particularly fleshed out yet. This wouldn’t be so bad on its own, but the deeper regions of my brain feel like some sort of fictional waiting room where a number of very impatient characters are sitting around doing a whole lot of nothing while I try to resolve my combination of misplaced motivation and uncertain destinations. I’m looking at you, Tick and Tock from Joshua’s Nightmares. Only compounding upon this problem is that I have an editorial I haven’t even started yet (for shame, me) and a few short stories that keep poofing in and out of existence at odd intervals.

Not helping: this One Hundred Days of Blogging and the various other changes I’ve got going on (my tattoo not included; that was a great idea, damn it). And I keep piling on projects, which then don’t get proper attention until later. Whoops?

Mostly, when I get in moods like this one, I go from dwelling on how great it would be to write for a living–how it would be nice to do what I love as my career, and so on–to thinking it would be shocking if I could even manage to do this as part-time work. It’s not a cheerful place in my brain, to be sure, but it’s one I’ve come to terms with because that’s better than just failing to acknowledge it.

Alternatively, this and the chocolate donut I’m eating seemed to have gotten me where I need to be mentally to at least write my damn editorial, so that counts for something. Right?

Sunday Spam Mailbag

Happy Sunday, everyone! I know, right? How the Hell could Sunday possibly be happy? Totally legitimate, reasonable question to ask in response to this post’s title. Two themed weeks later, and I’m slightly more dead as a result. I also have an editorial I need to start writing, as it hasn’t chosen to write itself. This means today’s post will be both easy and delightful(ly lazy).

I enjoy getting comments on here, as anyone with any form of web site probably does. I love getting to interact with other bloggers, people on Twitter, and so on, so this isn’t exactly shocking. However, I do occasionally feel compelled to check the comments captured by the Spam Blocker. They are surprisingly kind and genuine at times for things probably written by robots bent on selling me things that no one will ever need. Though I’ll never make those comments public, as I refuse to give spammers an open forum for their dubious links, I do feel compelled to respond to some of them. For comedy’s sake. Continue reading