Book update!

About a year ago, I and my compatriots at Radio Free Skaro were guests at Westercon 66, a science fiction convention held in Sacramento. Westercon and a variety of other “pure” scifi cons tend to skew a little older and more towards things literary rather than out-and-out fandom. That’s obviously not a hard and fast rule, given that I was down there as part of a fan podcast focused on Doctor Who, but it is a noticeable difference from events like Gallifrey or San Diego Comic Con.

The upside of the literary bent of Westercon was that the dealer’s room was filled with books, many of them astonishingly cheap. I bought something like thirty paperbacks for around thirty dollars, and I was able to grab many of the sci-fi and fantasy books (classic and otherwise) that I’d missed as a youth.

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Elder Gods and Edmonton: my stab at Lovecraftian fiction

I wrote a short story a couple of months ago as an attempt to get into an anthology of Canadian post-apocalyptic fiction. They ended up passing on it, so I’m posting it here for you to read and criticize/comment on. I’m also using the Wattpad embed widget thingy, so if there’s a way to rate it on there or otherwise interact, please do so.

 

Getting back into filmmaking

Recently I’ve posted about getting out of making videos and moving more towards writing. Since then I’ve been doing a bunch of writing (you may have seen a couple of whimsical fanfics) but in the warm-up to the Radio Free Skaro live show at Gallifrey One, I put together this little number:

It got such a good response, with people cheering and laughing in the audience and Doctor Who fans saying such nice things about it online, that it’s encouraged me to rethink my previous trepidation towards filmmaking.

But it’s important to note that filmmaking will not be the dominant thing I do. I think the best approach is to tackle creative work in as many mediums as possible; comics, prose, film and audio. Not only will I learn more but it’ll expose my work, for better or for worse, to a wider array of people.

I would like to thank everyone who emailed or commented on how much they liked the video. It really means a lot.

P.S. I can’t take all the credit. The opening “Thames” ident was the work of Mel Siermaczeski.

more fan fiction and what I’ll be up to for the rest of February

Thanks to encouragement and support from both fellow fans and other writerly types such as J.M. Frey and Deb Stanish, I’ve kept at it with the fan fiction scribblin’. My newest is Head Cases – Episode 1, a bit of cranial nonsense involving Handles, Davros, the brain of Morbius and a few surprises. 

I’m also working on a couple of short screenplays and an original horror-themed short story…and a comic book script and some other ephemera. In other words, I’m keeping busy. 

Since I have a day job and occasionally freelance video work on my plate, I have to carve out time for writing, as every writer does. My routine for the foreseeable future is heading home from work, hitting the gym in my building and writing for an hour or two before bed. Glamorous? No. But it does mean I’ll be Getting Things Done. 

And speaking of getting things done, in a few days I’ll be heading off to Hawaii for a week to cover a conference for work. I’ll likely be way too tired after a day of blogging, tweeting and shooting video to get any writing done…which is why I intend to spend most of the flight to Maui glued to my new Macbook Air. 

After Hawaii, I’m heading to Gallifrey One, the biggest and best Doctor Who convention in North America. I’ll (despite a chronic lack of sleep thanks to a red-eye flight) be one of the three hosts, along withe the mighty Steven Schapansky and Chris Burgess opening the convention with the Radio Free Skaro: Gallifrey Stands live show (technical direction by Chip, the Two Minute Time Lord), followed by a weekend of friends, nerdery and probably a little booze. Then it’s back home to Vancouver and another marathon session of coverage for a big conference in town. 

Phew! February is going to be mighty busy. Wish me luck. 

Writing, fan fiction and getting over oneself

I’ve made fun of fan fiction writers for a long time. Mostly this was due to the more extreme behaviours and subject matter tackled at the edge of the hobby, but I realize now it might have been a defense mechanism on my part as well. 

Even though I get paid to write non-fiction for a living, I’ve spent a good long time avoiding writing anything fictional, at least in prose form. If I think about why that is, it probably boils down to fear. I’ve written a few screenplays for short films, but prose is an entirely different beast, and  think subconsciously I always regarded fiction writing as the pinnacle, the place i probably wasn’t good enough to even attempt. 

The only way to break that cycle is to actually write some fiction, and the easiest entry into that milieu is through fan fiction. Knowing full well I’d probably get called a hypocrite, I pressed on regardless, and put together a little tale involving the Fourth Doctor, Y2K, and homicidal computers. 

I published the story, Metal’s Eve, on Archive of Our Own, the leading fan fiction repository. Much to my surprise, nobody has looked askance or raised an eyebrow at me. Instead, just under 200 people (so far) have read the story and I’ve received two “kudos,” which is basically the equivalent of a Facebook like or a favourite button. 

In fact writing this fanfic has been enormously encouraging, and I’ve been writing original stories and submitting them to various anthologies, as well as trying my hand at comic book scripting. I’m still interested in filmmaking, but the older I get, the less appealing it is to tackle every single aspect of the production process. Comics, by contrast, only need a writer, a penciller, an inker, a letterer and maybe a colourist. Prose only requires the writer, and that’s probably the direction I’m going in as time goes on.

As stories get rejected or accepted, I’ll post links to them here. Watch this space!

Visual effects we still can’t get right

For all the razzle-dazzle of current CGI, there are still a few areas where we’re left wanting. New York Metro details four things movies still can’t convincingly pull off.

My own additions to this list would include some creature effects, as only top end digital beasties like Gollum or…well, Gollum seem to be utterly convincing. Creature animation has always been the toughest part of VFX animation and that won’t change no matter how many petaflops you throw at the problem. Andy Serkis is the reason Gollum works..or at least he’s a component of the hard work everyone puts in to make you forget Gollum isn’t there.

But even when effects are utterly convincing, as they are in Man of Steel or Avatar, you still check out a little bit. It’s all just so “big” that you brain slides into apathy. Alien jungle? Check. Entire city collapsing? Meh. You don’t want to, or at least I don’t, but you care a little bit less about the goings-on because it’s all stunningly common-place.

I think it might also have something to do with the overriding subject. Gravity has two characters and a very simple goal; survive. It also employs stunning effects that you don’t question, because you care more about the characters than you do about pixels flying around. It’s a very thin tightrope, and to maintain that tension the effects have to be both invisible and impeccable, but Gravity pulls it off. Minus an Alfonso Cuaron at the helm, the likelihood of that combination declines sharply.

The world of digital comics

Comics, like the rest of the publishing industry, have undergone a huge shift in the last decade. There was a time not so long ago when you had to march down to a specialty comic book store, make sure you had a “pull list” so you wouldn’t miss the latest foil-cover collectors edition of Hawk & Dove, and dedicate physical space to a growing set of boxes containing your favourite 4-coloured funnies.

The emergence of tablets has changed the game. You can now easily download conventional comics through Comixology, DC and Marvel apps, and other means. More than that, people are using the malleability of digital to create new forms of comics, from Batman ’66 where you can reproduce the “BIF! BAM! POW!” of the old show to guided reading and augmented reality.

I have no idea where all this is going, but if it’s anything like the rest of media, there are a few likely outcomes. For one, a lot more independent and self-published content will become available, just as happened with webcomics in the past and is happening the e-book space at present.

On the other end of the scale, bigger companies like Marvel, DC and others they partner with can continue with new ways to use tablets and other platforms. The Big Two also have the advantage of huge stables of beloved characters, which they can (and will) exploit in as many ways as they can. Can’t really blame them.

Of course, a slice of humanity will always want to read a comic on paper, to feel the pages run under their fingers and smell the ink. I can understand that, and I sometimes feel the same way, doubly so when it comes to books. But there’s something to be said for having an entire library in a tablet, and having an entire run of a comic series in a virtual folder.

I think it’s inevitable that this convenience will win out over nostalgia, just like it did with movies and music and books. We may lose the physical aspects of reading, whether its words, pictures, or some combination of both, but I don’t think we’ll ever lose the love for the medium, no matter what form it takes.

Things you should listen to on the internets

It’s been a while since I’ve run through my list of podcasts I listen to (and, less often nowadays, watch) so here’s a compilation of some of the newest and greatest:

Canadaland: Jesse Brown’s new thing takes aim at the Canadian media. About time somebody did.
Nerdist Writer’s Panel: The Nerdist network’s flagship podcast with Chris Hardwick can be pretty hit and miss. When he has a good guest, it’s gold, but sometimes it’s just kind of meh. Not so with the Nerdist Writer’s Panel, which is almost always chock full of interesting conversations with writiers of tv, film and comic books.
Inkstuds: Speaking of comic books, this local offering is a cornucopia of great interviews with comic book creators from the strictly indie end of the spectrum. Definitely worth a listen.
Cinema Sewer Podcast: Robin Bougie is a local filth merchant and the publisher of Cinema Sewer, a zine that celebrates the best in sleaze. He’s just started a podcast covering the same material, and it’s remarkably polished.
That Post Show: Kanen Flowers is an indie filmmaker out of Portland, Oregon. The show has a cast of regulars and can get very technical, which depending on your familiarity with the tools being discussed, but if you’re into post-production it’s well worth a listen.

All these audio entertainments cost you only your time, so go check them out.