Before we begin, let me warn you: there are some mild spoilers below for a number of TV shows, and a LOT of spoilers for The Walking Dead in particular. Carry on at your own risk.
Lately, I’ve expressed to a lot of people my absolute disdain for AMC’s The Walking Dead. Meanwhile, I expressed my absolute adoration of HBO’s Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead’s counterpart on AMC – Breaking Bad. I tried to explain WHY I hate The Walking Dead so much in comparison to those other shows, and I think I did a decent job. Still, I’ve given it a lot of further thought, and I thought I’d try to clarify, and to broaden the discussion a bit.
So let’s talk about The Walking Dead, about Game of Thrones, and about Breaking Bad. And to make things even more interesting, let’s throw in another highly influential (and controversial) show from recent years: Lost.
Why do I think Breaking Bad is the best of these shows, followed by Thrones and then Lost? And why do I think Walking Dead has become a heaping mess of dogshit?
It’s all about the planning.
From my perspective, that’s the difference between all four shows – each show’s ability to engage me, thrill me, surprise me, and please me directly correlated to the amount of planning the show’s creators put into it. I get the distinct impression that Vince Gilligan always knew more or less exactly where he was going with Breaking Bad. Sure, there were some gray areas that needed to be filled in, and he had to react to his audience and his investors to some extent. But he had a plan.
On the other hand, I think that the show runners and producers of Walking Dead have so deviated from Robert Kirkman’s original comic book (which I don’t think is that well planned itself) that it’ll take a Herculean effort to turn the mess they’ve made into anything cohesive and satisfying. I see the show petering out into oblivion as other, better shows come to the fore. All it takes is someone producing ANOTHER zombie apocalypse story (or something similar, since zombies are getting played out) which is better written and better structured. When that day comes – and I have a feeling a script is out there somewhere – it’ll be the bullet to the brainpan that puts Kirkman’s creation down for good.
In between lies Lost and Game of Thrones, and I mention them here to demonstrate how varying levels of planning contribute to a show’s ultimate success.
Anyone who’s read the books in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series knows that HBO has done a remarkable job in staying true to the books. Again, that’s a qualified statement – there ARE differences, as there are wont to be when you’re adapting page to screen – but as much as I think they can, the show’s producers are not “interpreting” Martin’s vision, but genuinely sharing it. Thank God for CGI. (On a side note, I think the new Hobbit movies, while enjoyable, are shitting on Tolkien’s quaint little book).
The problem with Thrones lies with Martin himself. I believe in my heart that he, too, has a plan – but he’s writing the series awfully slowly, and I think the scope of what he envisioned now scares the crap out of him. His “plan” is for two more books, but holy cow he’s got a lot of terrain – both figuratively and literally – to cover. And he’s running out of time.
The power of Thrones SO FAR is that there are existing books that will carry the series forward for three, maybe four more seasons. That gives Martin some time. Also, the show’s producers haven’t deviated from his existing storylines, so they’re on track and everything makes sense. Sure, that means those of us who’ve read the books weren’t that surprised by things like Eddard’s execution or the Red Wedding. But so what? It was still great television, and think about all the people who WERE surprised.
The only problem I foresee is if the show catches up with Martin. Then what? I hope to hell that doesn’t happen, but it could derail Game of Thrones, especially if they start making stuff up as they go along, the way Walking Dead seems to be doing now.
It’s been well documented that Damon Lindelof, J.J. Abrams, and Carlton Cuse had a plan for Lost’s early seasons. And it showed. The show was tight, fascinating, exciting, and profound. But in the end, the mythology behind the mysterious island was murky, and the plot and pacing suffered. I personally stuck with them until the end – and what an ending it was – but was it an ending the show’s creators had planned? From everything I’ve read, the answer is no. They had a plan for the beginning, and they stuck to it. But eventually they were winging it, and that showed as well.
Which brings us back again to The Walking Dead.
As of now, the comic book on which the TV show is based is up to around issue 115. It’s been around for almost 10 years. If you read the letters pages in the back of the comics (I have) as well as other things Kirkman has said about the book, you get the impression that his approach was similar to the one the Lost guys took: he had a plan that would sustain the book for quite a while, but after a point it became really, really vague. Kirkman admitted several times that he wasn’t sure what would be happening a year ahead of wherever he was then. He sort of knew what he wanted to accomplish, but he didn’t know the details.
Now this next part is just my impression, and if I’m wrong, then correct me in the comments: I believe that he had a DISTINCT plan that would carry him up to the prison, and the survivors’ experience with The Governor and Woodbury, but after that… nothing. Since that point in the comic, I think he’s been winging it.
After the prison, I stuck with him, hoping some forward movement would happen. After all, there are only so many people in the world who could become zombies, and over time wouldn’t the zombie numbers grow less? Despite the tyrannical nature of The Governor, wouldn’t other, similar pockets of humanity and civilization eventually rise up and prevail?
I can tell you that as of issue 100, there have been gleams and glints of it, but they were all quelled and destroyed by a horrifyingly bleak outlook on mankind’s capacity for compassion and peaceful coexistence. In Kirkman’s vision, the zombies are only the initial threat – tyrants, demagogues, and murderers are abundantly able to finish what the zombies started.
Kirkman has said repeatedly that no character was safe, with the possible exception of Rick Grimes. Trust me, he meant that. But what THAT means, folks, is that there IS NO POINT in investing emotionally in anyone (except Rick, whom I HAVEN’T been able to invest in because I don’t like him). It is my opinion as a writer that the most engaging literature requires you to emotionally invest in someone. Again, that’s qualified – you can have literature that contains no one worthwhile, but the best literature does.
I quit the Walking Dead comic book when one of the best characters was senselessly pulverized. Not just killed – pulverized. I won’t tell you who.
Adding to the problem inherent to the book itself is what the show’s producers are doing to the existing material. Did you know that at the point in the comic book that the show has reached, Andrea was still alive, and she was one of the book’s best characters? She wasn’t the annoying, indecisive creature Lauren Holden was required to portray. Dale was still alive, too, and he was also very likeable. Sophie, too.
You know who’s dead? Tyrese. Carol. The baby Judy. Lori. Herschel. THE GOVERNOR. Shane died early in the mix – before he became so unlikeable we WANTED to see him die. And every single one of their deaths were affecting and powerful and even meaningful.
At this point, what we’re seeing on AMC is resembling Kirkman’s already chaotic vision less and less. If the show’s producers and show runners had stuck to the script the way the Game of Thrones producers have, you would have been terrified of The Governor. You would have been shocked at what Michonne did to him. And you would have been as horrified and surprised by the end of Woodbury and the time in the prison as so many people were when the Red Wedding happened, when Charlie drowned, and when Todd visited Jessie’s ex-girlfriend and her kid.
All that opportunity for good, even great television? Gone.
Kirkman said that he wanted to change things up, to add a few surprises, but I think it’s gotten out of hand. For instance, I LIKE Daryl, and I liked Merle – he was actually a better right hand man to The Governor than Kirkman’s Sanchez was – but now I think they’ve gone too far. I think they’re spiraling out of control.
And when you let things spiral that far out of control, when you deviate from the plan too much, you lose it. The writing itself gets sloppy. You lose continuity and opportunities for solid story-telling. You have actors who become unsure about how to play their characters. I see all of this happening to The Walking Dead, and just like Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse, there’s no end in sight.
And now I’ve had a chance to play the new board game based on Firefly. It’s fun, and interesting, and worth the money I plunked down on it. Mostly though, I’m glad I played it because it makes me feel really good about my own endeavors in designing games.
While I was playing it, I couldn’t help but compare it to one of my designs – a lengthy adventure game that is very similar to Firefly in many ways. I think those similarities are the reason I was drawn to the game. They’re certainly what prompted me to write this latest post.
Like Firefly, the game I designed is based on an intellectual property. I’ll make no secret about it: the property is a Stephen King novel which, like Firefly, has a large following that would absolutely be interested in purchasing the game based on their love of the source material alone. Right now, my game has been tentatively accepted by a major game publisher, contingent on us getting permission to use the license. Further, I have a lawyer employed who’s trying to cut through the red tape to find out who can give us that permission, if the rights are even available, and how much it’ll cost me and/or the game publisher to obtain the rights.
Like Firefly, my game is a mission-based adventure game, where you play a specific entity, and as that entity, you travel the fictional game world trying to fulfill those “missions.” There are cards you collect, there are “ability” checks you have to pass, there are hazards that will impede you, and there are rewards for finishing the missions.
I have a roster of over 50 “playtesters” so far, and any of those people who’ve played my game who also play Firefly will certainly see similarities. To them, I have to say this: even though Firefly is published and my game isn’t, I had my design first. Really, there aren’t any game mechanics which are so similar as to be a “copycat”, and let’s face it, there’s a LOT of overlap in game mechanics everywhere. But I just want people to say that Firefly is similar to MY game, and not the other way around. An ego thing, really.
Speaking of ego, though, and this is where the gist of this post lies: I think my game is a better game than Firefly, and here’s why.
First, my game has little or no “down time.” What that is, for you non-gamers out there, is the time that you spend waiting on other people to finish their turn, without doing anything except wait. There’s down time in most games, and the down time usually increases with more players. Some great games have A LOT of down time (Arkham Horror, Merchants & Marauders, even Twilight Imperium), so it’s not a deal-breaker, but I think it should avoided as much as possible. Firefly has almost as much down time as the games I just listed. Because of a mechanic I have in my game, you have to do stuff during other people’s turns, so you’re not sitting around waiting on them to finish.
Which brings us to number two: my game has A LOT more player interaction than Firefly. A lot of “Euro” games actively avoid having players interact directly with other players – you’re essentially playing your own strategy without interference from others, and the winner of the game is basically the person who has the best strategy. In those games, the only way you “interfere” with other players is by beating them to resources you both need. Again, a lot of great games play this way, and there’s nothing wrong with that style of game – it’s a taste thing, really – but one thing about those games is that there’s usually little to no down time. In a game like Firefly, which has significant down time, I think “playing solo” with little player interaction can be detrimental. In Firefly, there’s a race to certain resources, sure, but other than that, there’s limited ways to interfere directly with what someone else is doing. There ARE ways, but 90% of the time, you’re in the sky alone.
My game has significant player interaction. In fact, there’s a mechanic in which the person who’s losing has access to a deck of cards that does NOTHING BUT screw with other people.
Finally, although my game is long – three to four hours depending on things – Firefly looks to be longer. I played a two-player game, and we finished in just under four hours. That puts it at anywhere from a half an hour to an hour longer.
All this is not to say that Firefly is a bad game. I’ve played much worse. I even like a few games that I consider to be in the same vein but not as strong (I’m looking at you, Runebound). I’m just saying all this because I’m encouraged. If Firefly can get published, then certainly my game was a worthwhile investment of my time and energy, and I think Stephen King and my potential publisher will be satisfied with how the game does if it ever gets to market.
To that end, if anybody out there knows a way my lawyer, my game publisher, and I can get some attention from Mr. King’s literary agency and maybe cut through some of this red tape, e-mail me. It’d be a shame to leave my design in the dark. Especially when it could be out there competing with Malcolm Reynolds and company.
Well, I did have something entirely different cooked up for this next post – I’m trying to get back in the saddle with posting regularly, and all sorts of brainstorming’s going on.
What I had will wait until next time, though, because some crazy good shit went down yesterday and even though you may not give a shaved ape’s ass about it, I gotta share.
Item number one: as of two days ago, my buddy Matt Loter’s game got funded on Kickstarter. Now, while this bodes poorly for keeping Matt’s ego in check, the funding of his game is important to me for two reasons.
First, his success and the success of my friends’ Jason Snape and Matt Link’s game, encourages me regarding the usefulness of Kickstarter. Kickstarter’s been around a couple of years, but I’ve been skeptical of it. I’ve seen a lot of failures there, and I’ve seen a lot of utter crap succeed. Matt, Matt, and Jason have proven to me that cream can rise. It just takes patience, tenacity, and a decent product.
Second, the thrust of a lot of what Matt does is subversion of societal tropes, and his game Glamazon’s Vs. The Curse of The Chainmail Bikini does just that. The days of scantily clad adventuring bimbos in geek culture is almost over, and Glamazons might be one of the nails in its coffin. Nobody can have tits that big, a waist that small, a metal or leather suit so tight, and still survive.
ALSO. Yesterday my mom won her mayoral run, and Earnestine Pittman lost. This was two separate mayoral races, and both results are game changers.
My mom is the greatest woman I personally know. She got off to a rocky start with her life, but some time in her early 40s, she turned everything around and made good on it. She has literally taught thousands of kids in South Georgia how to swim. She’s been a popular and successful school administrator. She raised three kids to be pretty damned awesome adults: one’s a fucking rocket scientist (no shit), one’s an aspiring country musician, and well… one’s me. She’s been a wife and a grandmother that I sincerely believe every wife and grandmother should try to emulate at some level.
And now, in the sunset of her years here on Earth, she’s the motherfucking MAYOR of a little town in South Georgia that better be grateful for the ambition she has on their behalf.
Congratulations, Mom. I love you. I’m proud of you.
After all that positivity regarding my mother, I’d feel dirty listing all the reasons why me and significant portion of the Atlanta suburb where I live are dancing on air because our mayor, the incomparable Earnestine Pittman, lost her re-election bid last night.
“Lost” is a misleading word. She got spanked. And it was a spanking she’s deserved for a long time.
I won’t say anymore. Just… buh-bye.
Finally – and I won’t dwell on this long, because I intend to dedicate several future posts to it – Hallowed Waste Press finally published that novella of mine yesterday. Look down a couple of posts and you’ll see where I’ve already written about it.
All that remains is to encourage those of you who have Kindles and Kindle readers to go buy it, and if you haven’t, buy my other stories, too.
Go! Go now!
Yesterday was a good day.
Last week I teased you a little about an upcoming story of mine based on an ancient Genesis song. The story still isn’t out yet - I think it’s going to be released sometime either next week or the week after that. Definitely this month, which is cool because the last time I got a story published, it was also right at the end of October.
The new story is going through edits right now, but once they’re done it’ll only be a matter of days.
For now, though, I can at least share with you the cover art for the story, designed just like all my story covers are designed, by the indomitable Jason Snape. I’ve given visitors to this site some insight into Snape before, here and here. Once again, I find myself in his debt, for the cover to this story is sublime, evocative, and just about perfect.
And here it is!
As a quick aside, in between doing this cover and the covers for these other stories, Snape and my friend Matt Link managed to get a game of their design accepted by Game Salute (the folks who also did Alien Frontiers and Nothing Personal). The game is going to get Kickstarted next week, so look for it. Here’s an overview of the game.
Consider this a plug for it. So… given all that, next week you can get all sorts of wintry goodness all over you, what with Kickstarting The Great Snowball Battle and reading The Three Trespasses, Part One. Enjoy!
I came to Genesis kind of late in their game and in a way that other hardcore Genesis fans may scoff at - I first fell in love with the Phil Collins song ‘I Don’t Care Anymore’, and that led to me really liking the later Genesis song, ‘Mama.’ That meant that my first real exposure to Genesis was the 1983 album titled Genesis - pretty much the last thing they did before spiraling into pop music banality. There were a few really good songs on their biggest album, 1986’s Invisible Touch, but let’s face it - as much as I loved that record when I was 16, it’s mostly crap.
Fortunately, I loved Genesis so much, and I’m so much a completist, that I had to have every song they made in my library. I also had to have everything by Genesis’s original frontman, Peter Gabriel. And now, almost 30 years later, I truly believe that Peter Gabriel’s music has enriched my life and affected me more than any other artist from any other artistic medium, ever. As much as I love reading, and as much as I love movies, I don’t have a favorite author or director who’s impacted me as much as Peter Gabriel has.
I think that his power over me comes from the transcendent nature of his musical moods and his lyrics. That’s why he’s my favorite artist. Even though I only dabble in playing music, a musician is one of my chief influences.
Peter Gabriel’s songs are cinematic in scope - I think that’s why they appear so often in movies and television shows. (See Birdy, Wall-E, Gangs of New York, Red Planet, Waking The Dead, Babe: Pig In The City, City of Angels, The Craft, Natural Born Killers, Strange Days, Angus, Philadelphia, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Say Anything.) And for me at least, his lyrics have demonstrated that music can tell engaging, inspirational, even rapturous stories.
One of the earliest examples of Peter Gabriel’s genius came at the beginning of his tenure with Genesis. More hypercritical people have said that early Genesis was pompous, overblown, and pretentious. I’ve read those critics. And while I do agree that Peter Gabriel’s theatrical posturing at early Genesis concerts might have been a tad on the gimmicky side, when I listen to the music, it blows me away that songs of this level of complexity and magnitude were written by a bunch of kids barely out of high school, barely out of their teens. Early Genesis songs were, with few exceptions, nothing short of epic. It’s because of early Genesis that my favorite music these days comes from bands like Tool and Elbow and Mastodon. Give me epic over catchy any day.
At the same time, Peter Gabriel’s lyrics were chock full of literary references and adaptations of existing stories which made me have to go to my mythology and history textbooks again and again. My love for referential literature, like that of John Ashbery, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, came from the referential lyrics of one Master Peter Gabriel of Surrey, England.
The influence of Peter Gabriel on me is so high, in fact, that I actually concocted an entire novella based on the lyrics to one of Genesis’s earliest recordings.
In late 1970, when I was just over a month old, Genesis released a 6-song album called Trespass. The second song on it, ‘White Mountain’, was a 7-minute opus about a pack of wolves chasing a lone traitor to their pack across a frozen wasteland atop a snow-blasted mountain. The song may or may not reference Jack London’s novel White Fang, which has characters in it with names similar to those in the song.
‘White Mountain’, along with most of Trespass, had lackluster sales and got low marks from critics.
Except in Belgium. Go figure.
But to a teenage boy coming to the music a decade and a half after it was written, ‘White Mountain’ was an effective and haunting fable which would stay with him for many years, until he became an artist in his own right.
Sometime after that, he’d sit down and write a 10,000-word treatment of the story, fleshing out the background of the anthropomorphic wolves involved, elaborating on their relationships, and giving their story new life. Then, a few years after he wrote the story, a small press would be willing to e-publish the novella. Novellas are notoriously difficult to publish in traditional paper form, but the advent of e-books makes them more attractive and feasible.
So here it comes - The Three Trespasses, Part One, the story of a family of wolves living on the White Mountain, a story first imagined by one of my musical and artistic heroes, Peter Gabriel.
Look at the date of this post. Now, look at the date of the post before it. See that lag time? That’s too fucking long. You can’t have a credible and popular blog site if you start having lag times between posts that are a month or more.
But that’s what’s started happening here at my Little Corner of the Universe.
Now, you gotta understand – the lag didn’t happen because I’ve lost enthusiasm for this particular aspect of my writing “portfolio”. Au contraire – I have ideas for posts all the time; I’m constantly thinking about writing material for you guys, my audience, the loves of my life. For instance: I have another couple of installments of A War Between States. I want to review several book offerings from my friends Collin Kelley, Jay Magidson, and Elaine Burroughs. I have heretofore unvoiced opinions on several games, several movies, and several beers. And don’t get me started on this Benghazi nonsense and Congress voting to end the 40-hour work week.
Truth be told, I don’t actually even lack new material. You can visit other places around the Web and see my presence there. Check out Scribd.com for some free story samples I posted which somehow became VERY popular. I also have a Facebook page for my novel at https://www.facebook.com/TheSurvivorOfSanGuillermo, as well as a web site for the same book. And I’m on Goodreads and Fictionaut.
Nah. The reason I’ve slacked on this web site for a couple of months is threefold, and has nothing to do with enthusiasm or lack of material.
First reason is obvious, if you know me: I don’t have enough time. Writing new material is time consuming, and I’m generating A LOT of new material these days, just not for this site. My novel, The Survivor of San Guillermo, is on the verge of getting published, and I have to work on editing it hard to make sure that happens. I also designed a board game based on a hot intellectual property, and it’s fairly text intensive. A major game publisher has agreed to take it on – IF we can score the license. Finally, fortune dictates that the economy is picking up a bit, so I have client work for the first time in months. When I started this web site about four years ago, my client work was dying off, San Guillermo was in a slough, and the board game was just an idea I had. Now, things are different. And though this web site’s content has suffered, I believe all these other changes are good.
That’s just the writing-related stuff which occupies my time. There’s also the work on my house, getting it ready to sell, and there’s dealing with the kids – they’re at an age where they require a lot of attention and help.
My next reason for not updating The Little Corner is that staying up to date with my Internet presence takes a toll. These days, unless you’re lucky – which I’m not – you have to maintain an almost constant presence on social media and among your target audience. Part of that IS this site, but it’s also Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and all those other places where you can find me. It’s called “micro-blogging” and I’m fairly proficient at it. But it takes time and energy.
The MAIN reason, though, that I’ve slacked with The Little Corner is way more complicated: it’s because my Wordpress overlay is out of date and I want to update it, but I’m scared to. My hosting service assures me that everything I’ve written is backed up on databases somewhere, and my web savvy friends say chances are updating the Wordpress on my site probably won’t cause any problems. But I’m not so sure. Shit’s never that easy. I have this sinking feeling that when I update Wordpress, it will create all sorts of compatibility issues, and that all that data simply won’t be readable. I envision the site coming out looking like a Microsoft Word doc that’s been opened in an incompatible word processing software – the words will be there, but so will a mish mash of odd symbols and wing dings. Things will become a jumbled mess. And I’m fairly certain several pictures will be lost.
Or not. But I’d wager on 50/50 odds.
“Well, Will,” you say. “Why don’t you just do a back-up of all your content on an external hard drive or something? Then you know you’ll still have it all.” To that I say YES!!! I believe I will! But… backing up four years of posts on a hard drive takes what, ladies and gentlemen? That’s right… time. And it’s tedious, repetitive work.
So… enough with the excuses about why my web site has been inactive. Instead, here’s where I make a transition and tell you about an exciting plan that stems from all this, and then invite you all to come back regularly to see how far my plan has gotten.
Should the Wordpress update in fact really erase my data or render it unreadable, or even if it doesn’t, I think I’m going to use the back-up as an opportunity to review and reboot my content. Here’s the thing: I have over FOUR years of material I’ve written for this site, and some of it is really great stuff. Also, over the years my audience has grown, and a lot of you simply haven’t seen some of the fantastically genius posts that appeared on The Little Corner a couple of years ago. It’s there – you can go looking right now if you want to. But with a reboot, I can bring it to the fore again, and you won’t have to work so hard.
For “old-timers”, it’ll be like visiting friends you haven’t seen in a while. You’ll be able to sit back and say, “Oh yeah. I remember that nonsense. Will Kenyon is a big dork.”
Of course I’ll write new posts, but by reusing some older ones, some of the pressure I put on myself every week to “write something” will be lifted. I see it as a win-win for all of us.
I’ll likely start the back-up next week. When THAT’S done, I’ll install the Wordpress update. Then we shall see.
Keep coming back. Don’t miss anything. M’kay?
I just got back from a trip I used to make more regularly - to New York City, home of one of my alma maters and the place I lived for a chunk of the 1990s.
This time I also went to Connecticut (I went to Connecticut last time I visited New York as well, back in November, but I didn’t write about it for some reason) to see some friends that I’ve made through gaming: the “Fantastic” family, Josh Look, Bernie Frick, Jeff Luce, Michael Fralish, Peter “Tootsie” Putnam, Al and Shellie Rose, and Zev “Z-man” Schlesinger.
A lot happened. Many games got played, many beers and bottles of liquor and cups of coffee got drunk, many good times were had. Josh Look killed six or seven banshees with his car. Strangely, though, as I sat down and decided what to write about regarding last week’s excursion, I came up with the following three things. These aren’t game session accounts, or tales of drunken bawdiness, or even shout outs to people I met and will only see when I head up north again. But these are the things I’ve been thinking about now that I’m home.
New York’s Lack of Color
Isn’t New York supposed to be one of the most fashionable cities in the world? If so, then what’s with the decades old INSISTENCE on wearing black from head to toe? Did I wear that much black when I lived there?
It’s been many, many years since I lived in New York City, and recently quite a length of time passed between visits. At the same time, I’ve added color to my wardrobe - specifically different shades of blue, gray, and green, which are colors that look good on me (as does black). When I got out of my cab near Times Square last Wednesday, wearing my subdued but definitely blue sweater, my blue jeans, and my light blue shirt, I must have stood out. Around me was a sea of black, punctuated only occasionally by people who dared wear something else. Sure, their cuts and fabrics and weaves were fashionable and modern. But everything was black. And unlike every other time I visited New York, and unlike the years I lived there, I noticed. In other towns across our great nation, they say again and again that X and Y are the “new black.” Apparently, no one told New York.
Now, I like New York as a city much more than I like Atlanta, but now I have to say that at least Atlanta has people dressed in all the colors of the rainbow. And I rather like the variety.
The Cigarette Generation
We were sitting on the couch in Matt Loter’s mom’s house on Thursday when Matt made an off-handed comment. I’ll paraphrase: “Man, the generation before us - everybody smoked. Now, even though people smoke, it’s NOTHING like they did before.” For some reason, that struck me.
He’s right, you know. When I think about how many people I know who smoked when I was a kid, it’s overwhelming. No one thought anything of it, even when it came out about how bad smoking was for you. People just shrugged and said, “Quitting smoking is more difficult than the crap I’m going to go through because I smoke, so fuck it.”
Really! That’s what they said! More or less.
I see my generation as the one that did the most quitting. I never smoked, but I had a lot of peers who did. MOST of them don’t any more, and the ones who still do really are saying “Fuck it.” But I’d be willing to lay hard money on the probability that if they have kids, they will ACTIVELY discourage their kids from taking up the habit. Way I see it, it’s only a matter of time before cigarette smoking becomes a novelty pastime. The rules are finally in place to control it, and even people who smoke admit that the drawbacks are steadily outweighing the benefits. (And what are the benefits, anyway? The euphoria? The perception of coolness?)
When you get a bunch of us together over alcohol and games, smack talk will occur. I am a proud talker of much smack, and that includes pointing out the foibles in someone’s gaming skill (ask my friend Jay Elgin about his math). This past week, much smack talk occurred, and we laughed good-naturedly at it. BUT, as Josh and I were tooling around post-gaming on both Friday and Saturday, we were laughing even more - without resorting to insulting anyone. What we were laughing at was just a silly bunch of non sequiturs and absurdist observations, but they had us giggling like little boys looking at their first girlie magazine.
Now, by insult, I mean latching onto something genuine about a person - something about the way he looks, or acts - and milking it for its humor. Insult humor can be funny, but I think it takes a special way of doing it to make it funny. Otherwise, it’s just… insulting.
There are people who are funny - they have comedic timing, a way of saying things, a certain something in their voice - which makes you smile when they tell you a story, or makes you laugh at yourself when they do even a shitty imitation of you. When those people make a joke, you laugh.
But let’s face it, there are also people who simply aren’t funny. When they tell you a “funny” story, you usually get bored after the second sentence. When they make a comment, you CAN help breaking into a smile. And when they employ insult humor, they really only succeed in insulting their subject.
I think it comes partially from the delivery, sure. But I think a big part of it comes from WHY the person is attempting humor in the first place. I’d be pulling your leg, or outright lying, if I told you there was not a narcissistic motive behind anybody who tries to make a joke. We ALL like it when people laugh at us (as long as we’re trying to make them laugh at us). But if you think belittling someone, and failing to respect that person at the same time, will lead to comedic success, well… you’re really no better than those kids who poked fun of the fat kid in fourth grade.
But if you actually like and respect the person you’re making fun of, it somehow comes across differently. You don’t come off as one-upping them. You don’t come off as a bully. The object of your ridicule may actually feel affection coming from you, and not derision. THAT’S when you know you’re doing it right.
Oh, and people laugh, too.
Even so, there are people - I could name THREE right now off the top of my head - who are WAY sensitive. As good-natured as your ribbing might be, they’re gonna take offense. Also, you have to be careful. If there’s a subject someone is sensitive about - her weight, his hairline, his height, the fact that she’s 40 and single - then it’s best to learn early what that subject is, and to avoid it. Find something else.
And if you come across an overly sensitive person, avoid THEM.
I don’t mean avoid making fun of them. I mean avoid them altogether.
Fuck those people.
So, yeah. That’s what I came away with. Insults, cigarettes, and the color black.
Next time I go up, I think maybe I’ll come back and write about chimneys, salt and pepper shakers, and whether or not farting in elevators makes a good occupation.
… when you’re bored, and listening to random 80s songs on Spotify, and reading analytical psychology excerpts for no reason.
As many of you know, in 2011 I self-published a couple of stories, just to see what would happen. I did it strictly eBook, because eBooks cost nothing except time to produce, and reading books on electronic devices is becoming more and more ubiquitous every year. Soon we’ll all have eBooks, and “real” books will be to publishing what vinyl is to recorded music.
Anyway, “what happened” was a I sold a respectable amount of copies - enough to encourage me to do it again, and enough to encourage a small publishing company, Hallowed Waste Press, to throw in with me. About six months later we published another, slightly larger set of stories, and over time that small collection sold about as well as the first.
Sometime last fall, I found out about a document-sharing web site called Scribd.com. And yeah, Scribd has been around a couple of years and for someone who’s supposedly as aware of places like Scribd as I am, I was a total idiot for not looking at them earlier. They came to my attention because I was looking for a good place to put teasers up for my upcoming novel, and maybe for my existing stories as well. The guys over at Hallowed Waste said they were going to use the site to tease a story from a new writer they’d just contracted with, and suggested it to me.
I figured why not, and on December 13th put up a free copy of one of my self-published stories, ‘The Littlest Goblin’. I tweeted that I’d done so, put a link up on Facebook, and then went and enjoyed my holidays.
When I came back a few days after Christmas, I discovered that ‘The Littlest Goblin’ had almost 15,000 reads! Curious as to the impact 15,000 free reads on Scribd had on my performance at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I immediately went over to my reports pages there and saw that indeed, my stories had picked up steam again.
I mean, think about it: the typical literary magazine in America has an average circulation of 1000 to 5000 readers. A “no name” writer like me MIGHT get paid anything from contributor’s copies (effectively, nada) to MAYBE $200 for a story, and that story will be seen by 1000 to 5000 people. ‘The Littlest Goblin’ has already made me around $50 by itself, AND has now supposedly been seen by 15,000 people (actually, though new reads have fallen off, as of today I’m up to 17,000).
To follow up that momentum, I posted another story, ‘The Thrall of Fate’, my homage to Edgar Allan Poe. Over the last month, though ‘Thrall’ didn’t hit as hard as ‘Goblin’, it’s still garnered 2700 reads, which is still formidable, considering the comparative exposure short stories get.
And to follow up THAT momentum (and maybe cash in, because it’s possible), I took both collections that I had previously published and whose sales momentum on Amazon and other sites had slacked, added another previously published story called ‘Galahad’s Message’, and posted all six stories as one collection in Scribd.com’s store. Sales of that larger collection have already begun to trickle in, and the number of people sampling it is already pretty impressive.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say with this post is that I think Scribd.com is an awesome tool for hard-working writers who are willing to take a few risks. The chance of exposure is there if you have something attractive enough to get noticed (which it appears with ‘The Littlest Goblin” I did). I’m not saying it’s the end all and be all, but it looks pretty good from where I’m sitting.
I’m also saying that 17,000 people can’t be wrong: there’s probably something worthwhile on Scribd.com written by a certain writer we’re all familiar with that MIGHT, just MAYBE, be worth looking into.