Posts Tagged ‘geekery’
Back in 2006, when SJ was coming to a close and I was looking at the whole writing thing, I invested in a copy of Dramatica Pro, a piece of software that hails itself as “the ultimate creative writing partner.” I banged around with it some then, with mixed results… and by “mixed” I mean “not very much in the way of useful.” I did write a lot of stuff– 1200 words detailing the childhood of a character who ended up being cut from the book for instance. Oops. But I didn’t get much actual story from it all, among other things because I kept getting hung up on all the jargon the program was throwing at me.
The software, you see, is based on the “dramatica theory” of storytelling, which is a slippery hodgepodge of narrative structure and pop psychology meant to appeal to the kind of writers who think The Hero of 1,000 Faces is the One True Book of Writing.  So to get the most use out of the software, you have to A) understand, and B) buy into the whole dramatica model, which treats characters as “types” and lays out all stories as an interplay of relationships between those types (and gives you the prescribed “right answer” for said relationships). It’s all very abstract, which it would kinda have to be as a unified field theory of plot, and at the same time comes off as a straitjacket. “If your protagonist is a Perceptive type, then the opposing concept is Fate.” That kind of thing.
As far as the actual plotting of the story goes, it seems to mostly be a modified snowflake method, starting with a one-sentence tag line, expanding to a one paragraph synopsis, and so on. However, I never actually got that far using Dramatica Pro because I always got bogged down in the character section, trying to shoehorn one character into the “Impact Character” role, another into the “Guardian” role, etc. Instead of just a relatively simple list of who the characters are and what they’re about, mapping the characters to the various types is supposed to show how they relate to each other later, guiding the story structure and blah blah blaaaahhh forget it.
So for now at least, I’m sticking with the snowflake method. It worked pretty well for my NaNoWriMo novel, I just need to get better at thinking in terms of more “novel-length” stories.
 For the record, The Hero of 1,000 Faces is a great book and has a lot of useful insight. But it’s a scholarly study of world mythology, you’re not supposed to use it as a paint-by-numbers formula for screenplays, everyone in Hollywood. ¬.¬
We’re [social identity group] and we’re here to say
we do things in a whole new, different way
We’re [social identity group], you’ll hear us shout
that [feelgood catchphrase] is what it’s all about!
You can look the world over but you’ll never see
anybody like [social identity group], ‘cos we are free!
We stick together loyally
that’s the way it’s meant to be
[social identity group] works together through thick and thin
that’s why [social identity group] will always win
Did we mention yet that we are free
thanks to our [social identity group] identity
We’re [social identity group] and we march in time!
To be disloyal to [social identity group] is the only crime!
We love [feelgood catchphrase] with all our might
and [social identity group] never backs down from a fight!
Ooooh yeah, we’re [social identity group]!
We (by which I mean Americans generally, but it’s true of all English-speaking countries to an extant, I suspect) live in a culture which, for the most part, doesn’t like smart people. Smart people are variously considered freakshows, emotional cripples with no social skills, or scheming bastards doing all sorts of devious who-knows-what while simple, honest, hard-working folk just try to get by. Even a movie like 2013 had “weirdo Dr. Chandra creeping out a spaceship full of working-joe astronauts.”
This anti-intellectual, anti-rational streak varies from dismissive comments to outright mania, depending on the context and the mood of the day. The scientist-hero had a brief shining moment in the ’50s and ’60s during the space age, but that eventually faded, relegating the “brainiac” to a support character as “the punching guy” ascended.
(Heck, look at the Star Trek reboot. A show that was once about scientists, engineers, and explorers, using technology and concepts mostly-extrapolated from real science , has been reduced to a hyperkinetic lightshow punctuated by fistfights. Way to go, culture.)
If you are a smart person disinclined to punch people, this tends to leave you short of reader-identification characters, and the characters that do exist have to give you something to latch on to.
This is where the Smug Genius comes in. The Smug Genius has been around for ages; the earliest one who comes immediately to my mind is Daedalus, the guy who created the minotaur’s labyrinth and built wings for himself and his son to escape Crete.
The archetypal Smug Genius of modern times is of course Sherlock Holmes, who set the pattern for Tony Stark, The Doctor, Dirk Gently, Batman, Chris Knight from Real Genius, and so many others. (I note that Smug Geniuses all seem to be guys… Velma or Twilight Sparkle are certainly geniuses, for instance, but they’re not smug about it.) The Smug Genius is not only the smartest guy in the room, he wants to make sure you know it, and he’s always, always way ahead of everyone else.
What is the appeal of the Smug Genius? Honestly, I think, it boils down to confidence.
Smart people, as a group, are often not very self-confident. Why would they be? Besides the already-mentioned “nobody likes smart people” strain of our culture, they’re constantly being praised by teachers and parents for doing so very well on tests, which come easy to them, setting them up with Impostor Syndrome.
Unlike the real smart person, who is still quite fallible and able to make mistakes (leading to comments like “And you think you’re so smart!”), the Smug Genius is never wrong, is never an impostor, and if not liked for their smartness, is at least respected and gains social capital from it. That’s naturally a very compelling thing for somebody who’s got nothing going for them except the ability to take tests well.
PS: Note that the Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses of the world, while financially very successful, are still generally not liked very much. Basically someone said to them, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you RICH?” And they took that to heart.
 Except the transporter. That was always bunk. But it was required because flying around in shuttlecraft all the time would break the budget.
I didn’t talk about it much on Friday because I wanted it to sink in a little first; but on Friday I was informed that my job in its current form would cease to exist at the end of September.
So, yeah. Not a surprise, if you’ve been following the saga of my transition to pro writer, but still A Thing. I had hoped to have a nice, easy transition period where we sold the current house and bought a new one on our own schedule, after which time I gave my notice and all was well with the world. And certainly, “the end of September” is about when I was projecting for that to happen, so Congratulations, me! The universe’s plans and my own are more-or-less in synch!
So what changes? Fairly little, actually. I will probably talk to some folks in the graphics department about taking some part-time or freelance graphic design work as a fallback, but we were on target to have the house on the market by the end of the month anyway, and certainly if we’re actually moving or moved by the time the job goes Pfft! I’ll be just as well off to say my goodbyes and throw myself into the new life.
Good news is, staying through the end of September entitles me to get my yearly bonus.
But Enough of That Pain! Let’s Talk About Gaming!
Ran the third session of my Eberron Pathfinder game on Saturday. The characters had an epic battle in the skies over Sharn as their new would-be menace, Aric Blacktree, tried to kill them all for reasons still unknown (at least to them). For those who don’t know psionics, a word of advice: a 4th level Wilder can do horrifying amounts of single-target burst damage. Beware. By taking a wild surge, Blacktree’s “energy ray” power did 6d6+6 damage as a touch attack. The downside was that he kept suffering enervation (which left him dazed and ate an additional 4 power points), so could only get that shot off twice, and the first one missed. Still… dayum. The second shot incinerated the NPC skycoach pilot on the spot. Fortunately, when the skycoach crashed into a tower, the PCs managed to abandon ship without getting killed in the process.
The second half of the session was basically segueing into another scenario, this time going into the “goth deco” ruined district of Fallen in search of a mysterious statue for an even more mysterious NPC patron. This brought the party’s lack of a cleric into sharp relief, as an exactly on-level encounter with a pack of barbarian ravers (think the inmates from Escape From New York, that kind of thing) dropped two of the characters and severely injured most of the rest. (1st level barbarian, raging, two-handed greatclub power attack: +6 to hit, d10+9 damage. Ouchie.) A healer in the group would have made all the difference. I suspect there will be an investment in potions/wands soon.
And Then There Was WoW
Last night, after working on the whole “pack up and move” thing for a while, I broke down and bought the full updated version of Mists of Pandaria for World of Warcraft, mainly ‘cos I wanted to make a tanky pandaren and the warrior class was just too darn dull. So now I’ve got an up and running pandaren windwalker monk named Akiji (somewhere in the low teens) and a draenei ice mage named Duskgem (somewhere in the high teens), both on the Moon Guard server, both members of the Fortune guild. Look me up sometime.
I don’t honestly know how much time I will spend in WoW, given that I will soon be unemployed and might not have money to blow on a monthly rent-to-pwn fee, and given that I’ve always had a begrudingly-enjoy/hate relationship with MMOs, but for the time being it’s serving fairly well for my “Braindead, me go kill monsters until sleeptime…” needs. I’m also a bit uncomfortable about the “racial conflict is in the world’s DNA” nature of the setting, but honestly that’s a common thread in almost all contemporary fantasy– it’s usually just less blatant about it.
While crunching away on everything else, I have managed to do a few bits of art in-between. And here they are! Because I love you.
Finally, after however many years, I’ve got revised business cards on the way, with new avatar, the current websites, and a new funny bullet.
Graveyard Greg asked me to do up a Ghostbusters-themed badge for BLFC. The theme is ’80s-tasticness in general, with emphasis on pink and purple, so I went with more of the “Real Ghostbusters” style than the movie guys. And of course, with a GB pic, I couldn’t resist a little self-insert.
I have no idea who the wolf gal is, but she’s blonde and she’s got glam stars on her cheek– that’s ’80s enough for me!
It’s almost time for Jenny Everywhere day, 2013! My submission this year has Jenny catching a ride on a handy airship! I decided to make her human, just to be different, using Nichelle Nichols as my inspiration.
If any woman ever deserved a steampunk fantasy action show of her own, it’s Nichelle Nichols!
If you’ve never heard about Jenny Everywhere, check her out: www.jennyeverywhereday.com.
I honestly can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here or not, but the organizers of another con seem to have taken leave of their senses and named me a GOH, specifically FurTheMore 2014. This year’s theme is “Pirates vs. Ninjas” (or is it “Ninjas vs. Pirates”?), so both myself and co-GOH Redcoat Cat are doing covers, with the book flipped halfway through so that each side is “the front.”
So here we see Quoth the Raven (the FTM mascot) commanding a daring raid on a feudal-era Japanese castle… and being met with some unconventional resistance…
Aside from said piece of art, this weekend was spent working on The Escape Plan, which is another thing I honestly can’t remember how much if anything I’ve said about here. But in a nutshell: I am working on going full time with my writing/comics/creative work, and part of that plan involves selling our current house (fond as I am of it) and buying a much more affordable one, as I’m expecting to take a severe financial hit as part of the process. This weekend we rented a van and moved a lot of our more visibly geeky things into storage as step one, so we can stage our house for a more general audience. Of course, it was a babillion degrees out while we did this, because we seem to be incapable of moving during nice weather. (The last time we moved, if I recall correctly, there were torrential thunderstorms for most of it. Or perhaps that was the time before? It’s all become a blur.)
Early on in this process, I had a few freak-outs. The Hobbit Hole is the first house we bought and the first place I’ve ever felt like was really “my home”– even when growing up I was shoved into the guest room because I was an unexpected child– so the prospect of losing that really hit me hard. However, as we’ve buckled down and started working on it, most of that has ebbed. Now I’m getting really excited by the prospect of finding a new place where we aren’t such slaves to the mortgage, and of course at the prospect of doing my writing/comics/art as my day job, instead of the thing I have to hope I have enough energy left for at the end of the day.
Don’t tell anyone but… I even occasionally fantasize… about stopping my writing at 5:00 one day, and saying, “Ah, that was a good day’s work. Now I can relax for the rest of the evening.” Just once! What a rare and strange thing that would be!
Meh, that’s crazy talk, I know. But it’s a fun pipe dream. In any case! We spent the weekend moving. Except for the part I spent drawing. And that’s your Gneech News report.