Last week, I promised a friend of mine would be taking over the blog this week. They were unable to and so now you must suffer my quick and dirty scramble.
The question is ‘what sort of dreck can a hack writer toss out there on limited time and resources’? Luckily, my brethren in the field of TV writing solved that long ago: a clip show!
There might be some readers, born in an age of better-planned series, who are largely unfamiliar with this concept, so let me explain. Occasionally, a TV production will run low on money or time to shoot a full season of episodes.
There are several options you can go with here, the best being the Bottle Episode, which is a low-effects, low-guest star episode that doesn’t use any new sets. These often turn out to be great episodes because they’re forced to focus on the main characters and not on guest stars or gimmicks.
But a bottle episode still requires a lot of heavy lifting on the writer’s part and sadly, a lot or writers are really lazy. For these guys, the best solution is the Clip Show. A clip show is an awful thing. No one likes them up to the point that they’re often left out of DVD seasons.
As for what one is; well, it’s usually a very simple Frame Story used to set up clips from previous episodes. It’s usually as contentless and boring as it sounds.
My one defense in doing this to you guys is that I’ve been blogging for the past two years, which means there are well over a hundred blog posts that I honestly don’t expect a newbie to dig down to get at, so think of the newbies.
And if that’s not enough Friday entertainment for you, I might suggest such free games as Dwarf Fortress, Dungeon Crawl, or Kingdom of Loathing. Or hey, how about some old school arcade games?
Alternatively, you could buy Rune Breaker: The Complete Saga, which is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and DriveThruFiction (sorry Kobo, folks, but it’s still stuck processing there). This is the complete, edited tale of Taylin and Ru; all four books, plus the much-asked-for pronunciation guide. And it’s all yours for $8.99USD. Print books of the Descendants are also on the way, btw.
Anyway, on with the laziness! The best of my various ancient rants!
A Halloween Message to Hollywood
I don’t think I’ve made any secret that I love Halloween and monsters despite not liking horror in general. This was the first in a tradition of posting ideas for more creative monsters than zombies and vampires to put on the silver screen (because I hate zombies).
It’s really a mix of parodying the depth to which vampires have sank (being basically a sexy person nowdays) or honestly suggesting movies I want to see.
This of course isn’t the only time I’ve critiqued monsters here, but it was the inspiration for another recurring feature:
This Old Monster
Some monsters… aren’t very good. You have to give some allowance to the fact that they’re cobbled together from the legends, fever dreams and drug induced hallucinations of our ancestors, who were neither the most imaginative, nor the most sane people. That, or some of our other ancestors took a perfectly good monster and ruined it.
This Old Monster is where I take those monsters into the shop, strip them down and rebuild them like top gear with magic. My original post with this idea used The Unicorn, a monster not known for being scary and making it into something that’s both a direct threat and a pervading one that corrupts communities with its own twisted sense of morality. Recently, I took a second swing at it with The Griffin, turning it from a generic large flier to a psychological horror and pack hunter.
Of course, this kind of behavior doesn’t always go off without a hitch. Sometimes ‘revamps’ or new monsters are even worse than boring-ass zombies, as the author starts to care more about being original than they do about being, you know, interesting. Thus was born…
The Originality Trap
This is my most-referenced article because as it turns out, the phenomenon I labeled as such is behind so very, very much of the bad speculative fiction out there. It was triggered by a truly horrid book that ended up making me more angry than any other work of fiction I’ve ever read thanks to this trope leading to so much missed potential and just plain stupid plot twists.
It was a painful read and I will never be able to hurt it as much as it hurt me.
Oh, and speaking of stupid writer choices, here’s an oldie but a goodie that also centers on a phenomenon I gave a label to:
Dissecting the LOL Death
A lot of you are aware that The Descendants exists because of my reaction to the frothing caldron of awful that was The Marvel Civil War and Decimation events. Part of that was due to killing off characters for no literally no reason and in ways that had no meaning other than to point at the audience and go ‘LOL, ur fav char iz ded’.
The article in question endeavors to explain the difference between a well done, respectful death that audiences can buy… and the things that happen in every single comic event and which is somehow tolerated in GRR Martin’s work.
It exists because the ISO standard response to complaints about this is to accuse the complainer of not liking any death in stories and wanting rainbows and unicorns or some other idiotic strawman to avoid thinking critically about the actual problems.
By the way, while it might seem like I’m always complaining about mainstream comics, and that I’m always negative, I want to point to this:
Dawn of a New Age
In it, I remarked on a period two years ago when pretty much every comic coming into my pull box may me happy enough to sing their praises. Yes, I even expressed my joy with the New 52. Oh those bright and heady days before Teen Titans: The Culling and Villain’s Month came along and made to world burn.
Also note that I don’t usually call these things out as being ‘not Superhero (though Punisher isn’t super or a hero or a good guy) I’ve done a number of articles about the genre itself.
I also talk about writing in general. I read a lot and often on story depository sites where novice writers put their stuff out. I’m a big community guy (we are NOT in competition with each other), so I try to offer constructive criticism to other aspiring writers from my place of slightly greater experience:
Dear Aspiring Writer…
There are a few of these where I don’t just tell people what they’re doing wrong, but explain to readers why it’s a thing that happens to foster a bit better understanding of what kind of thought goes into the process of writing. Yes, there are some that are pet peeves, but I do make an effort to explain why and not just make it into ‘you’re stupid because’.
I take the same tack when I talk about the pitfalls of love in…
This is one of my best received posts, where I talk about the ins and outs of romance subplots (I’m a bit hard on erotica writers in that one, fair warning to the erotica writers I know nowdays) and how they can go very and terribly wrong.
Aaand it’s one hour until I have to have this online right now so… that’s it for this week. I’m really sorry for the crummy ‘clip show’ deal, but I was desperate and not thinking. Hopefully, my friend will have the guest post next week.
If you’d like to help a Vaal out, post in the comments about why topics you’d like to heard me talk/rant about and I’ll probably take them to heart.
Questions, comments, verbal abuse? Please post them below in the comments, or the forum.
You can check in on what Vaal’s working on or just what’s on his mind by following @ParadoxOmni on Twitter, checking out his new (incomplete) Facebook Page or using the hashtags #TheDescendants or #RuneBreaker. Sign up to learn about new book releases by Vaal by clicking here.
Vaal now has many of his books available in multiple platforms in his bookstore.
Of these posts, my favorites to read were probably the ones on the superhero genre, deaths, and to aspiring writers; “the originality trap” was also a nice one. Can’t speak for anyone else, though.
On the subject of deaths and GRRM, I think part of the reason people like it or tolerate it in his books is that he did it (and how he did it) in the first one. It might have been surprising the first time, but that made it more dramatic and impactful, especially since the most noteworthy death claimed a character people generally liked, who was a good guy but still flawed. In subsequent books, more people die because there’s more war, which just makes sense, but people understand what they’re in for and they don’t have to keep reading if it’s not their cup of tea. I’d say that his story is internally consistent enough in how it treats death that anyone who doesn’t like it can say it’s not to their taste without it necessarily being bad writing, whereas if someone else started butchering characters the same way without establishing that tone from the start, it would be an unacceptable break from their established style. If you look at, say, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, he’s killed some people off but not generally those closest to the main character. At the same time, the series works in such a way that I, as a reader, don’t feel like knowing Harry gives them an automatic “get-out-of-death-free card”. So death is less cheap than in GRRM, but still happens, and being a major character doesn’t make you immortal as in many other works.
I think it’s a very different case when looking at an ongoing comic universe (or multiverse) where there are theoretically infinite stories to be told with each of the characters. Given the rate GRRM going, it’s not likely we’re going to see a Song of Ice and Fire sequel series ever, so the death of a character does not close off hypothetical future story options the same way. While I have no idea whether Butcher would want to write non-Harry Dresden stuff in his universe, there’s a similar sense that the story he’s telling now is the focus of the setting, rather than the reverse. In the Marvel or DC universes, the opposite is true; the settings have taken on lives of their own that outweigh the merit of any one story. Killing a character rarely has any real impact, especially with the amount of retconning, universe rebooting, resurrection, doombots, and related plot devices that detract from the staying power. Frankly, I think that’s one strong argument against the idea of the infinitely continuing universe, and in favor of stories with clear start and endpoints.
I think it’s safe to say now that you’ll never see the END of ASoFaI at this point. Martin is content to watch football and talk about how he’s not writing these days.
As for infinite universes, I think there is a lot of merit to them purely because they’re the modern version of mythology. These are tales we’ve been passing down for 60 years and show no signs of stopping. I feel like the problem is the ego of some of the writers. They want to make THEIR name and leave THEIR mark by making big changes while the editors encourage it for the same reasons and as sales gimmicks. The stories pretty much don’t matter to a lot of them; it’s all about what they can get out of them rather than what they can put in.