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Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Friend-of-the-ferret and fellow Columbusite Chris Sprouse is interviewed by Newsarama. It’s mostly about his latest Tom Strong mini-series being in limbo after the dissolution of the Wildstorm imprint, but he also talks a bit about the various writers he’s collaborated with, and that’s where I caught this interesting tidbit about Grant Morrison:

“[Grant’s scripts] are very loose, not a lot there…”

and this, specifically about the Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne script:

“There wasn’t a lot of dialogue in the finished book. There was none in the script,” Sprouse said. “Grant wanted to do all the dialogue after he saw the images, so he could match up or riff off the expressions that I gave him. So that was interesting, to not know.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I always enjoy these little glimpses into the process of creating comics by various writers and artists.

My fellow PANELista writers and I entered our 350-word stories into this year’s New Scientist flash fiction contest, and the winner and runner ups have now been posted, as selected by none other than Neil Gaiman. Unfortunately, it seems we all misinterpreted the theme for this year’s contest, so none of our short stories made the short list. Their entry pages said “Send us your very short stories about futures that never were.” But apparently what that really meant was “we asked for very short stories about worlds in which scientific theories we’ve long since dismissed turned out to be true after all,” as they noted on their site after the fact, when the winners were announced.

Oh well, it’s just like being in school again. You not only have to know the material you’re being tested on, you also have to read the test questions properly. Or maybe our stories just weren’t good enough, I suppose.

Anyway, the winning story “Atomic Dreams” and the two runners up, “Gaius Secundus ER” and “Starfall” can be read here. Interesting to note that this year’s winner and last year’s winner “Body Search” (as picked by science fiction writer Stephen Baxter) share something in common, in that they’re not told in the traditional way, but rather as a collection of headlines and search result topics, respectively.

Oh, and don’t forget that every Friday, we’re featuring our our flash fiction here on the blog. You can read the previous posts by selecting the PANEL 350 category on the right.

On the occasion of getting his first rejection letter from a publisher:

“I felt pretty good, actually. When you’re too young to shave, optimism is a perfectly legitimate response to failure.”

From Stephen King’s On Writing.

New Scientist magazine is having another “flash fiction” contest this year. Write a short story (less than 350 words!) about a “future that never was”.

Deadline is November 19. Winner’s story gets published in their end of the year issue.

Neil Gaiman is the judge. Yes, the Neil Gaiman.

Got it? Good, then go hit the word processor and send in your best fiction. Short, short, short fiction, that is.

On Twitter, someone asked William Gibson the obvious question:

Sometimes the direct approach is best.

The past few weeks I have obsessed over where LeBron would end up. Would he stay in Cleveland or leave for greener pastures? In the end he chose to go to Miami, and many in Cleveland are upset that he would abandon Northeast Ohio where he grew up. While most Clevelanders probably didn’t know Harvey Pekar, and he didn’t have a huge economic impact on the city, his loss this week was much bigger; he made the city a much more interesting place and touched everyone who knew him.

And everyone who knew him seemed to have a story that could have fit into an issue of American Splendor. I worked with a woman who lived in a downstairs apartment from Harvey and had many stories about his eccentricities. I’ve run into people at conventions who wanted to share Harvey stories. I even have my own Harvey story:

In 1994, I moved back to Cleveland after transferring from University of Buffalo. I had been a comics fan my whole life, but between a lack of money and a growing disinterest in superhero comics, I was looking for something else. My local library had the first two American Splendor collections, and I was hooked. Later that year, a sociology professor at Cleveland State invited Harvey into speak.

There were only about 20 of us in small classroom in Rhodes Tower when Harvey shuffled in, pulling a hand cart filled with books behind him. He gave a short talk about his experiences self-publishing, getting kicked off the Letterman show, working with Crumb, and his lack of financial success in the comics industry. After the talk, he offered to sell the books he had.

I hung around and picked out four of the old magazine sized issues and asked how much he wanted for them. He told me the price for three of them and then hemmed and hawed on the fourth. “This is one of my last copies of this book. I won’t have any more Letterman books after this. I probably shouldn’t sell it to you.” It was the legendary, curmudgeonly Pekar complaining about money! I didn’t care what I was going to pay; I was experiencing Harvey as he was in the books.

He finally settled on a price and I handed over the money. I asked him to sign the books and between the two of us, all we had was a stubby #2 pencil. “To Sean, from Harvey” he scratched in the narrow margin on the bottom of page 1 of each book. Those books, along with my Amazing Fantasy #15, are the only books in my collection I won’t sell.

A few years ago, I had an idea of doing a tribute book to Harvey. I mentioned it at Panel. I’d approach a number of artists and writers who knew, met, worked with , or were influenced by Harvey and ask them for stories about Harvey. Then I’d get Harvey to write the introduction to it. I figured he’d get a kick out of it. I don’t think he felt he got the recognition he deserved.

Unfortunately, I never acted on my idea, nor did I even write out the script for my story above. Even in the few hours since his death, I’ve seen a number of tributes from people I had no idea were influenced by Harvey and I expect more over the coming days. It is a shame that he isn’t around to see them and realize how respected he is.

It is easy to forget now how influential Harvey was. He basically created the autobiographical, quotidian memoir that any number of indy comix creator are milking to this day (including myself!). More importantly to me, he showed that you could just be a writer, not necessarily and artist, and still create a unique style.

Recently he had spread his wings even more and moved away from autobiography toward a number of diverse subjects: The Beats, Vietnam veterans, Studs Terkel, the Students for a Democratic Society, Macedonia, Michael Malice. They weren’t all great–in fact an artist of one of the books was surprised when I asked him to sign one; he didn’t think anyone had bought it–but they all showed his varied interests. I believed he had even more written and waiting for artists. I hope these see the light of day in the upcoming months.

As Matt said earlier, he was “true Clevelander”–not great looking, shabby, beaten down, the lovable underdog, overlooked by the elite in major metropolitan areas. He was often disappointed in his city, but you know what? He never left and was loyal to it until the end. He was the anti-LeBron. Unlike LeBron, he will be missed.

The AV Club interviews Grant Morrison on Batman, Joe the Barbarian, and etc., with some pretty sharp questions. Here’s a sample:

AVC: In Batman And Robin, you have Dick Grayson as Batman, not Bruce Wayne, but it still reads as “Batman.” When you’re writing the character, do you think of him as Batman, or Dick Grayson?

GM: No I always think of Dick Grayson, because I think of him as younger, skinnier, more working-class. Because for me, coming from Britain particularly, I think there’s a big class element in Batman. I like the idea that Dick Grayson was a carnival kid and kind of lower-class specimen. And Batman’s an aristocrat, a blueblood from the higher echelons of Gotham City society. But the two of them work really well together. So I saw the character in that light, and in that way, Damian the orphan is very much an aristocrat and privileged kid, so you kind of get the same dynamic, but in reverse. So when I write him, I always think of that. It’s a little more colloquial than Bruce Wayne might be.

Click on that handsome devil above to read the whole thing.

The New York Times has an interesting perspective on the whole Hollywood writers’ strike.

“So after a long and bitter strike, the writers won, right?

On points, yes, probably. On principle, certainly. From a practical perspective, maybe not so much.”

It goes on to say:

“It is equally true, however, that the strike was bad for writers in the short term. The delays caused by the strike prompted the studios to ask themselves a fundamental question about the need to finance all manner of pilots for a traditional upfront extravaganza followed by a traditional introduction in the fall. That system, fairly unchanged through the years, has historically been lucrative for writers.

Some 70 development deals in which writers were essentially paid lucrative stipends to come up with shows that might not ever be broadcast are now gone, and they will not be coming back any time soon. “

The big question remains: just how much revenue will be generated by “new media” in the upcoming years? While everyone seems to agree that that’s where TV shows (and movies, and music, and…) are headed, nobody yet knows exactly how the business model is going to work.

Interesting times ahead. But I’m glad my livelihood doesn’t depend on it.

From fellow PANELista, Tony Goins:

“I read a fair amount of nonfiction. Fiction teaches me how to write, nonfiction gives me something to write about.”

Both of these links are via boingboing, and they deal with the art of writing. They’re very quick reads, and well worth it:

  • British author M. John Harrison has a short blog entry on why “worldbuilding” in science fiction and fantasy books is usually a bad thing. “Worldbuilding numbs the reader’s ability to fulfil their part of the bargain, because it believes that it has to do everything around here if anything is going to get done.”
  • A LiveJournal snippet reprinting of Kurt Vonnegut’s advice on writing short stories. “3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. 6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”

Writers, here’s a real news story that can serve as a springboard for a fictional crime tale:

“More than half the world’s diamonds are traded in Antwerp’s gem district, a maze of tiny streets hugging the main train station. Its turnover of $23 billion a year makes it one of the densest concentrations of valuables on earth.”

I meant to post this earlier, but forgot. In his column a couple of weeks ago, Steven Grant lead with this bit of news about my (formerly) favorite show of all time, Lost:

“Word came down last week that ABC’s former hit series, LOST (Wed 10P), one of the handful of shows credited with turning the network’s fortunes around a few years back, is in trouble. Seems viewership, already down this year, dropped off badly for the return episode two weeks ago – it was supposed to be calculated to bring everyone up to date and jumpstart interest, and generally got good reviews from TV critics – and lost about a quarter of that audience by last week, prompting open if unofficial suggestions from ABC that all mysteries might be wrapped up by season’s end, with the implication it could also be the series end as well if things don’t start looking up.”

He then goes on to lay out this concise analysis of what’s been turning fans off about the show:

“Too many storylines, too many questions, too few resolutions.”

That, in a nutshell, is why I’ve become quite disillusioned with the show as well. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to pan the show because it’s still light years beyond the majority of the crap on TV. The creators deserve a lot of credit for concocting an amazingly intricate and fascinating mystery, a fantastic cast of multicultural characters with rich back stories, and just really solid, skillful writing. But the show has become a victim of its own success. In order to keep it on the air for years to come, they’ve fallen into the The X-Files trap of stretching out the main storyline infinitely, constantly introducing new plot elements, but never answering any of their audience’s questions.

“Structurally, here’s the problem with stories like LOST. It’s what I call the “Master Of Kung Fu” concept: catch or kill Fu Manchu, and the series’ reason to exist ends. Don’t catch or kill Fu Manchu, and the protagonists ultimately come across as impotent, whatever minor victories they might achieve. “

If the ratings drop really is accurate, and there’s any truth to the rumors that the show might be winding up by the end of this season or the next, then I’d welcome that as real good news for the fans. Because frankly, I’d rather have a planned exit, tying up all the loose ends and bringing the story to its intended conclusion, than an unceremonious cancellation or worse yet, a painful decline into irrelevance, a la The X-Files.

By the way, Steven also writes a bit about the “parabolic arc” nature of a story, using Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow as an effective analogy. Good stuff, especially for you writer types.

Saw this on The Pulse, thought I’d share with everyone. Moonstone will be publishing comics based on the old Captain Action line of toys (and a DC comics series) from the 60s.

“Moonstone wants to give CAP his due in comics!

We’re looking for proposals of no more than two pages.

The premise is entirely up to you!

Create a NEW “back story” as well as set CAP on a course for new adventures! We’re looking for that one GREAT IDEA, and we know it’s out there! (Please remember that CAP is a licensed property, and as such, if approved, would be considered “work for hire”.)

All proposals will be subject to review. You can e-mail proposals to contact_us@moonstonebooks.com”

Not much info there, to be sure. But what the heck, give it a shot if you’re up for it.


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