#AtoZChallenge — W is for Watch

WA small note: not all weres are necessarily werewolves. In Sunshine by Robin McKinley there are mentions of weresquirrels, wererats, and even werechickens… and it’s implied that the latter are probably the most embarrassed.

465 words. Fantasy, the same monster hunters from J is for Journey, and things that go bump in the night! Please leave a comment if you like what you read. 😊  Continue reading “#AtoZChallenge — W is for Watch”

The Tale of Alderch of Treath

musingtopieces

Hey followers! Please check out my entry, The Tale of Alderch of Treath, for this week’s #ProseChallenge and let me know what you think.

It is a short side story (maybe full length someday) to a novel I am currently working on, set in an alternate universe with some supernatural ongoings.  I hope you enjoy it!

– Jasper

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NaNoWriMo Declaration

In the past few days I have made some decisions.

First, I am using my bullet journal to keep track of my finances. Like a checkbook but tracking three accounts at once: individually, in total, and in total by month. I’ve done this before but now I’ve got a much more sophisticated set-up… and I’m putting it in a spreadsheet so I can use formulas to do the math for me, heh. F**k math.

Second, I am going to sign up for NaNoWriMo again.

Last year I won in the sense of word count but did not win in the sense of getting to the end of the novel. Not long after November I decided that draft needed so much work that it made more sense to switch to extensive rewrites rather than trying to finish it, and spent most of this year (by turns actively and passively) working more on my world building. I came up with some new sub-plots and some new characters that might plug up some of the gaping holes in the first draft. In short, instead of starting a new novel I am going to force myself to buckle down and write a second draft.

Over the next month or so I want to get a basic timeline down for this story. I want to figure out what happens when the main characters visit the Sea Queen, and then how/why they go north and encounter dragons. I want to really think about a sci-fi element lurking in the back of my mind, and whether or not I ought to incorporate it into this fantasy story.

Starting with this model of 9 Steps to Build a Strong Plot.

Pet Peeve: “Humanity” in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 7.28.04 PMOne thing that becomes clearer and clearer to me as time passes is that my parents are huge nerds and raised me to watch a lot of very nerdy things, including all the original Star Trek movies. I have seen Star Trek The Motion Picture more times than it deserves because it is, simply put, not good. (My favorite was The Journey Home — neither the best nor the worst, but I liked the whales.)

This is only relevant because bits of these movies sometimes filter back into my everyday life. The quote pictured here is from The Undiscovered Country, when the Americans and Russians… Ahem, I mean the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire try to get together and negotiate an end to the Cold War… Sorry, the whatever the heck it was they called it while the no-mans-space Neutral Zone was still a thing. During an awkward as fuck diplomatic dinner where the crew of the Enterprise visibly judges the Klingon delegates for not knowing how silverware works, there’s one point where Chekov hesitantly attempts to extend an olive branch and the daughter of the Klingon ambassador calls bullshit.

CHEKOV: We do believe all planets have a sovereign claim to inalienable human rights.

AZETBUR: Inalien… If only you could hear yourselves? ‘Human rights.’ Why the very name is racist. The Federation is no more than a ‘homo sapiens’ only club.

The reason I’m writing about this… let’s call it human-normative prejudice is because I’ve caught that human-normativity in other works of sci-fi and even fantasy.

In The Sword of Shannara, when Flick Ohmsford is sneaking around in an enemy camp of gnomes and trolls, at one point I recall a line that went something like, “It was so quiet, without the sound of any human voice.” Well of course there aren’t. Why would there be? He and Allanon the only human for miles!

That book was written in 1978. The Undiscovered Country was released in 1991. I guess in the gap between those, both the sci-fi and fantasy camps began to think a little harder about anthropomorphization — defined by Wikipedia as “attribution of human traits, emotions, and intentions to non-human entities and is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.” Because, yeah, we all do it. But as authors and creators, we should be thinking beyond those knee-jerk attributions. At the very least, we need to acknowledge that words and phrases like “humanity” and “human rights,” in a story where other sentient beings are known to exist, is the interspecies version of white-washing.

Then again, what does humanity even mean? An anthropologist might argue that “human” is not the same as Homo sapiens. They might be right, technically, but in layman terms I don’t think that applies. “Humanity” and “what it means to be human” very much bear our stamp of ownership because “human” is what we call ourselves.

What do you think? What examples of human-normativity have you seen?

Monday Musings #10 — What just happened?

So… April is over? Apparently? Even though I was doing the April A to Z challenge and hyper aware of where was (or was supposed to be) in the alphabet at most times, the end of the month still managed to sneak up on me.

What did I even do this month?

I listened to four audiobooks:

  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which I’d read before but a while ago. I really like the patchwork feel to it, consistent with how London itself is sort of a patchwork of small towns that the city expanded to and assimilated as it grew.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. I’d seen and been confused by the movie from a fairly young age, so I found this book both fascinating and a revelation.
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, which… I liked the spiritual aspects of, but I sort of still have lingering “sigh, heterosexual women” feelings. And I didn’t particularly appreciate her disapproval of anti-depressants. Sure she took them, and benefited from them, but she kept broadcasting this “I don’t want to be on these forever” feeling and made a point of explaining that she got off them asap. I don’t know, it just rubbed me the wrong way. At the same time, I really appreciated her handling of the fact that not all women want to have children, and not all those that do have them responsibly.
  • And The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. I am still digesting how I feel about this book. It didn’t have the amount of Quentin fucking up as I’d grown used to.

I went to Indianapolis on my first business trip.

I got my first sunburn of the year, at a really awesome cider festival.

Counting my Sunday Gratitudes, I wrote a post for ever day of the month. They didn’t get posted one per day, exactly, but who’s counting.

All in all, I have gotten a lot done this month. I feel okay about that. Now on to May, and turning twenty-eight…

A to Z Challenge #15 — Omnipotence

Do you know what it feels like to be aware of every star, every blade of grass? Yes. You do. You call it ‘opening your eyes again.’ But you do it for a moment. We have done it for eternity. No sleep, no rest, just endless… endless experience, endless awareness. Of everything. All the time. How we envy you, envy you! Lucky humans, who can close your minds to the endless deeps of space! You have this thing you call… boredom? That is the rarest talent in the universe! We heard a song — it went ‘Twinkle twinkle little star….’ What power! What wondrous power! You can take a billion trillion tons of flaming matter, a furnace of unimaginable strength, and turn it into a little song for children! You build little worlds, little stories, little shells around your minds, and that keeps infinity at bay and allows you to wake up in the morning without screaming!Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32; Tiffany Aching, #2)

I think it would be terrible to be omnipotent. The quote above is not about omnipotence, exactly, but it suggests an interesting question. How could any human, given that we are so good at tuning out the world around us not only it will but sometimes even without making a conscious decision to do so, understand omnipotence? How could we understand or begin to contemplate infinity?

Because we are so far from omnipotence we create stories to explain the things we don’t understand. As it says in another Terry Pratchett book, the sun doesn’t come up, a big ball of burning gas rises in the sky. We write what we know, and when we don’t know we fill it in with something that. Because what is a single fantasy novel if not one author’s answer to a self-posed “what if” question?

total-perspective-vortex

One of my characters in Growing Magic is omnipotent on his own ground, meaning he is omnipotent but with limits. So he’s not really omnipotent. He doesn’t know everything. And that puts writing this character right back in my wheelhouse, because I am an expert at not knowing everything! He no longer usually has a corporeal form, so when he appears in the story that way it’s difficult for him to be so limited by that form. I’m drawing on ideas from Hitchhiker’s Guide, Discworld, and even a little bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey to help frame my ideas for this character concept. (Is it weird that two out of three of these examples aren’t fantasy?) To be aware of so many things all at once, 360° in 3D, and to only focus on one spot and one conversation, one or two threads of sound amongst a massive symphony of the world around you must be very difficult indeed. And yet this is a character who would never be able to tell a story, or write a song, or distill any of the beautiful things that he knows into a painting.

A to Z Challenge #14 — Names

Who else has trouble coming up with names for their characters? Especially in fantasy? There’s a fine line in fantasy between two ordinary into ridiculous. It is possible to toe the line of ridiculous if you have a well thought out system of rules — if there’s a common naming scheme within your story so that if you have a name with three vowels in a row or something it both doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb and pronunciation is explainable and not a complete mystery.

I am not good at this. (Do most of my posts this month include this statement? Oops.) But what I do have is the post apocalyptic world of my WIP novel, Growing Magic, that still has ties to old names that we would find familiar. So I wanted at least the last names to be different, and let that thought percolate in the back of my brain for a while.

Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #14 — Names”

A to Z Challenge #5 — Earth

MAN: [Blood-curdling scream]

ZAPHOD: The universe does that to a guy?

GARGRAVARR: The whole infinite Universe. The Infinite sums. The Infinite distances between them, and yourself. An invisible dot on an invisible dot. Infinitely small.

~ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, radio series, Fit the Eighth, by Douglas Adams

total-perspective-vortex
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The Total Perspective Vortex was invented (fictionally of course) in response to the phrase “Have a sense of proportion.” I’ve noticed a similar concept mentioned in some of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books — that people have, amazingly, the ability to be bored, and completely ignore the infinite stream of stimuli that is constantly available to their senses, including the certain knowledge that there is far more out there than any individual could hope to process. Continue reading “A to Z Challenge #5 — Earth”

A to Z Challenge #4 — Dragons

stick dragonThis was a silly little one panel comic I did on scrap paper (as you can sort of see) in college. I’ve lost the original, thus the poor quality of the image. If I knew where it was now I would scan it with my phone and it would look a lot cleaner. (CamScanner app for the win.)

Anyway, I’m not so great an artist that I could draw a dragon, but I wanted to. As stick figures go, he’s pretty cute.

I love dragons and fantasy. When my younger brother and I were kids, my parents would read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy to us at bedtime. My favorite Disney princess story was Sleeping Beauty, and in retrospect I think it was because Maleficent’s dragon form was really cool. I grew up with my nose in books like The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede and the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce. I didn’t read exclusively fantasy, but it was usually either that or sci fi, or both. 

As an adult, one of my favorite author finds that came out of my random audiobook adventures were the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and everything I’ve read so far by Robin McKinley. The first was a random find, and after reading through all that was published at the time I put out a call to my online friends for an recommended books that included dragons. One of the resulting book recs was The Hero & The Crown, which I cannot recommend highly enough. (McKinley’s vampires in Sunshine are, similarly, just fascinating.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is that dragons are cool. And also, does anyone have any good dragon books they’d like to recommend?