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Nov 27

Why I Hate The Walking Dead TV Show So Much

Posted on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 in Explanations and Excuses, Ramblings, Reviews, Writing and Writers

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.

Nov 6

Yesterday

Posted on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 in Featured Friends of Will, Ramblings

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.

Whew.

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!

So…

Yeah…

Yesterday was a good day.

Jun 3

Martin Comments on Last Night’s Episode

Posted on Monday, June 3, 2013 in Ramblings, Writing and Writers

Mar 20

Last Week’s Trip: Impressions

Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 in Explanations and Excuses, Games and Gaming, Ramblings

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?)

Insult Humor

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.

In Sum

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.

Feb 12

This Is What Happens…

Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 in Music, Ramblings

… when you’re bored, and listening to random 80s songs on Spotify, and reading analytical psychology excerpts for no reason.

carl-jung

Dec 21

Why I’m NOT Cool With The End of The World

Posted on Friday, December 21, 2012 in Explanations and Excuses, Ramblings

Early last year I wrote a piece titled “Why I’m Cool With the End of the World.” Back then I was ready - things were routine, I was treading water with everything in my life - basically, an apocalypse would have shaken things up and made things interesting again. Why the hell not.

The things I was cool with still hold true - except Obama DID win, and I am a little interested in how his second term rolls out, especially since he’s finally showing a little backbone against Boehnhead and the Republican House.

Truth is, though, in these final hours I’m not so sure about it all. You see, 2013 looks very promising for me, and it’d be a fucking shame if we blinked out of existence just as I was hitting my stride and getting off this Godforsaken plateau I’ve been on.

For your edification (and end of the world enjoyment) here’s a quick pictorial of some of the things I might miss out on if Planet Nibiru is for real:

These three stacks are novels. Over the last 12 years, I’ve written all three of them. The one on the left has moments of brilliance, but needs a major rewrite that I’m not sure I can give it. It was my first - call it an exercise in learning how to write a book. The middle one, The Survivor of San Guillermo, is going to get published in 2013. And the one on the right - The Talented Boys - is better than either of the other two.

Twelve years, I’m finally getting a book published. End of the world. Fuck.

This is an intricate, yet highly enjoyable and immersive board game I designed, which is based on a millions-dollar intellectual property that I can’t disclose until the property rights owner agrees to license it. If it gets licensed I’ll be ecstatic, because the IP is one I love, that my friends love, and that I believe is worthy of as much respect as Star Wars and Lord of The Rings. Even if we don’t get the license, I can adapt the game to a different IP and still have a great and highly publishable game.

Unless the world ends.

This is the back of my house. About five years ago, I added a new sun room to the back, with a little help from my dad. It was a project several years in the making, because I had to work on it in the nooks and crannies between doing all the other things I do. But it’s a great room - and it adds thousands of dollars of value to my home, as well as several hundred square feet. I’m almost finished with it, and then Aida (my wife) and I can start seriously looking into selling our house and upgrading to something even bigger. I’ll probably have it done by spring, weather permitting.

Apocalypse permitting.

Finally, there’s these two little ones. As sure as I am that they’d get a free trip to Heaven should the apocalypse prove real, and thus avoid the horrors of teenage-dom and adulthood, it’d be a travesty of Earth-shattering proportions. I’ve invested most of my heart and a lot of effort in making certain these two are happy and wholesome. Having that job cut off before I finished it MIGHT piss me off more than all the other stuff combined.

So yeah. I take back what I said earlier this year. The end of the world can wait.

Sep 10

Images from Dragon*Con 2012

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2012 in Ramblings, Reviews

People asked for some pictures from this year’s Dragon*Con, and I aim to please. I won’t comment on them - but you feel free to say something below via the comments link. BTW, you can click on the image for a slightly larger version, if it pleases you.

Sep 7

Someone Asked For it: My Summation of Dragon*Con 2012

Posted on Friday, September 7, 2012 in Games and Gaming, Ramblings, Reviews

It’s Friday and I think I have all of the Con Crud out of me. I’ve also had time to organize my thoughts regarding this year’s Dragon*Con. I also didn’t sleep ’til noon today.

All of that is to say I’m ready to tell you the highlights of Will Kenyon’s Dragon*Con 2012.

1) THE CROWDS. I was having breakfast with two good friends (and partners in crime at the Con) Wednesday, when one of them - Eddie - asked if my concerns about the noise and chaos had been justified. I’d expressed some trepidation, you see, about how prohibitive the massive crowds were to getting around, and how the constant noise level could make even a social animal like me look for silence and solitude. Here’s my wishy-washy answer, and little factoid for you: Yes, the crowds got on my nerves. But no, not as badly as I anticipated and not as much as last year. You see, this year the Con and the host hotels were much more strict about letting people without badges or hotel room keys into the hotels themselves.

That means there was likely more than 10,000 potential onlookers - people who wandered in off the streets to goggle at the costumes - who were NOT in the walkways, nor crowding the bars, nor taking photo ops in the middle of high traffic areas.

And you could feel the difference. Sure it was still an adventure to cross from the Hilton to the other side of the Marriott Marquis. But you could do it, and in decent enough time, too. (As a side note, the elevator wait times were down, too - less party crashers hitting buttons for every floor.)

My friend Jay, who works for the Hilton, seems to think there were probably less incidents which required a visit from the police, because the “football” crowd couldn’t come in. Of course, this reflects poorly, but I think accurately, on a certain type of football fan. (I’m sure you’re not that kind of person, dear reader who happens to like American football.)

2. THE DECATUR BOOK FESTIVAL. This is not to say that the crowds didn’t get to me. Au contraire. On Saturday morning in particular I had to fight them, and I almost gave up and just went back to the gaming pit. You see, I had decided to go to the Decatur Book Festival that morning to visit my friend Jason Snape and to hear my friend Collin Kelley read. I’d neglected to take into consideration the parade, however. So it was that I found myself a salmon swimming upstream - one guy trying to get AWAY from Dragon*Con while literally THOUSANDS of people were converging ON IT. Add to that the problems MARTA was having (don’t get me started on MARTA tonight)….

I got to Decatur an hour and a half later - sweaty, hot, and irritable. I was too late for Collin’s reading, so I just hung out with Snape until I was less sweaty and irritable. And until I thought the parade crowds had dispersed back to the suburbs. Then I headed back.

3. GAMES. All in all, I played a lot less games than I usually do. My trip to Decatur took up over half of Saturday, and being tour guide for my friend Eric Sasson took a chunk out of Sunday. And being an old man now, I only stayed up until 3 a.m. one time. ONE TIME.

Unbelievable, I know.

I did get in games of: Runewars, Shogun, 7 Wonders, Dominion, Twilight Imperium, Al Hambra, Dreadfleet (fully painted!), Lord of the Rings LCG, Mage Knight, and Deadwood.

I didn’t play (and I wanted to): A Game of Thrones, War of The Ring, Battlestar Galactica, and Descent 2.0.

4) PICTURES. People have requested pictures from me, because Dragon*Con IS an opportunity to see some pretty amazing and amusing costumes. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a picture taker, and after 14 straight years of going to the Con, I’m rarely amazed - not because the costumes aren’t still amazing, but that I’m jaded. So I don’t take many pics. My friends DO, however, and I’m in the process of combing their Facebook pages for the best ones. I’ll compile them, resize them and post them as a gallery in the next couple of days. So look for them. As a teaser, there’s one at the top of this post… Avengers Assemble!

Aug 27

Another Year, Another Dragon*Con

Posted on Monday, August 27, 2012 in Ramblings

Yep. It’s that time of the year again, when tens of thousands of people descend on downtown Atlanta and indulge themselves in a celebration of things that most people looked down on when I was growing up: comic books, superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, RPGs, cosplay, and games. This is my element, folks, and I love it. Dragon*Con marks the beginning of my favorite time of year - the months of September through November - and I can’t think of a better way to ring it in.

Admittedly though, after last year I was a little bit ambivalent about Dragon*Con this year.

Until this morning when I sat down to write this little tribute to it….

You see, last year I had a little trouble with Dragon*Con - something that, unless they were blowing smoke up my ass, other people also had a problem with. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was simply the AMOUNT of people who are showing up to my favorite party. The number is nearing 100,000, and last year I could feel it. Every time I went to go find food or drink that was better than the foil-wrapped burgers and hot dogs the Hilton provided, the path was blocked by literally thousands of people. Many of them were the “face of Dragon*Con” - the costumed cavorters who spend the day giving photo ops, and spend the night drinking flavored vodka out of plastic cups.

I’m thankful for those people in a way, because they have contributed significantly to the pop culture legitimacy our particular subculture can now claim. But when I’m trying to go pee, the last thing I want is to have to push my way through a cadre of Starhip Troopers posing with styrofoam Poke-creatures. They need to get the fuck out of my way.

Also, there’s the noise. I am not an introvert by any stretch of the imagination, and I LOVE crowds. But days and days of shouting to be heard gets old. And I get hoarse. And I don’t like having to say HUH so much.

So yeah. Ambivalence.

But this weekend, as the number of hours until Dragon*Con begins (it begins for me the minute my best buddy Jay Elgin’s plane lands at the airport tomorrow night and only escalates from there) slipped into single digits, I started getting really, really, really, really excited. And I realized as I started writing this that the reason I’m excited is not because of all the gaming and partying and people-watching I’m about to engage in. It’s because of all the people I’m going to be seeing and hanging out with. For instance, I haven’t seen Jay in almost a year. And there’s others - I’m not gonna list any other than Jay because the list is looooong and I don’t want to leave out anyone - but they’re coming, and I’ll see them, and it’ll be like we just saw each other yesterday. (And yeah, Jeff and Ken, I know we did just see each other yesterday.)

If you’re coming to Dragon*Con, come see me. I’ll be the one with no costume other than a big, fat grin.

Jul 13

The Editor Next Door

Posted on Friday, July 13, 2012 in Ramblings, Writing and Writers

My friends Rob and Elizabeth and I were chatting last Friday, and our conversation turned to a bit of merchandise that another friend of ours sells in his shop. Elizabeth and I had bought a couple of his items, and we were reading the “back matter” on the… well, the back. It was amusing, as it was supposed to be - and then I got to the glaring grammar/spelling error toward the bottom of the copy. My gut reaction - as it always is when I see stuff like this - was, “Sumbitch didn’t edit this enough. Sumbitch.” Then I thought, “Oh no,” because this is a product that our friend is likely to sell A LOT of, and to have a glaring error in the copy on the back is kind of embarrassing. Or at least it is in my mind.

Yeah, I know. I’m a Grammar Nazi - I get called that all the time. And yeah, I know - ninety percent of the people who see this thing won’t notice the error, and ninety percent who do notice the error won’t care. I know.

Still, I believe that if you are going to put forth a public face, or create a publicly consumed product like this, that you ought to put forth the best face or product you possibly can. Our friend can be somewhat excused because proper grammar isn’t really necessary to sell his product. But I see this sort of thing happening all over the place nowadays - I even see bad grammar in books by authors who are vastly more published than I am. And I’m not talking about just bad writing. I’m talking bad grammar. The absolute inability to put forth something comprehensible. There are LOTS of so-called writers who simply aren’t able to put together a decent story, but I still consider them writers because they can, at least, put together a reasonable sentence. And then there are those who call themselves writers who… can’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong - our friend’s error wasn’t that bad. It was the simple misuse of a homonym which is fairly commonly misused. Still, I think he could have and should have avoided the error.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. How could he have avoided the error?

It’s actually quite easy. He could have asked me to take a look at the copy before it went to press. I’m here. He knows what I do for a living. We’re friends. He could have asked, and I would have said yes, and his error would not now exist. Also, I might have tweaked a couple of the sentences in the copy and made the whole thing just a tad better. It was pretty good, and pretty funny, so I couldn’t have helped it that much. But better? Yes. Indeed.

Also, I probably wouldn’t have charged him, per se. You see, I have clients that I charge - people I don’t really know who give me the cold hard cash to edit or write their copy. I believe, however, that among friends a sort of barter system can work out - kind of a limited form of communism, wherein I do something for you and you do something in return for me. I have friends who are lawyers, computer geeks, designers, clothing and jewelry makers, artists, musicians, electricians, carpenters, lawn care maintenance guys, bartenders, chefs, chemists, and more. I have friends who sell things I love - beer, games, travel, books.

Already, I’ve tapped into a few of my friends’ skills and talents, and I’ve been very happy with the things they’ve done for me. Now I want to offer to return the favor - or to initiate a reciprocal relationship with a friend who needs me.

And don’t just assume you can do what I do. This may sound like a bit of hubris, but I’ve seen the results of people thinking they too can write well enough to get by, and I’m embarrassed for them. I don’t claim to be able rebuild a car engine or create a topnotch investment portfolio, so neither should you claim to be able to create a good marketing brochure or advertorial.

Basically, I think that if we paid better attention to what each of us did, and communicated more, we could probably work out any number of trades. Consider this, my friends, my offer to give you my writing and editing services in exchange for whatever we can work out. And of course, if all you can offer me is the cold hard cash, I’ll take that.

You don’t ever have to have something less than (nearly) perfect go out your door, at least wordly wise. Because I’m right here.