Category Archives: Writing

Story Completeness

Last week I did a little jazz riff on the idea of “story space” — where all the stories live — and how the interesting stories we want to hear are all improbable to the point of having zero chance of actually happening (unless, gasp, statistics can lie).

I thought I’d return to that basic story space idea and, in the process, finally deal with a note that’s been on my idea board for years. My problem has been that, while the idea the note expresses seemed interesting enough, I’ve never quite seen how to turn it into a post. I’m not even sure the idea makes any real sense, let alone is worth trying to write about.

However that’s never stopped me before, and it’s (almost) Chillaxmus, so cue the music, it’s riff time again…

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Story Probability

Yesterday I was re-watching Arachnids in the UK, the fourth episode of the latest season of Doctor Who, and a somewhat goofy idea popped into my head about how to respond to the charge that sometimes stories are just ‘too improbable’ to enjoy — or to have happened at all.

That certainly is an accusation that seems to apply in many cases. In order for some story to have happened at all, certain events had to happen just so and in the right order. It’s easy to shake your head and think, “Yeah, right. As if that could actually ever happen.”

For many years I’ve had a generic response to that accusation, but yesterday I realized it can be justified mathematically!

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Idiot Clowns

Nope. Never liked’m.

Watching the Thanksgiving episode of the rebooted Murphy Brown on CBS, where Murphy decides to cook dinner with easily anticipated and well-worn results, it struck me exactly why I don’t find the show very funny. And why I really don’t find any of the CBS comedies since the 1990s very funny: Idiot Clowns.

In general, it’s why I don’t find a lot of comedy very funny. Idiot Clown comedy requires an idiot clown — someone so stupid they are unaware of basic reality, a blindness forced on them to enable a (typically) lame joke. I find it cheap and easy and without much value.

More to the point, I just don’t like idiots or clowns in my entertainment.

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Fans: Not A Fan

Star Trek wasn’t hugely popular right off the bat, or even for a long time. The first series, after all, lasted only three years and had to fight for survival for most of that time. But it did catch on hugely with us fans; many of us fell in love right away.

From an early point even within the fan community, let alone to mundanes, some of us were careful to identify as Trekkers rather than Trekkies. As I used to put it, “Trekkers are grown ups who love science fiction. Trekkies own a pair of Spock ears.”

Then, because of a little movie, named Star Wars, science fiction went mainstream. And so did the divide between two rather different kinds of fans…

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I’m Offended!

I am offended by people who are offended! It’s like how I am intolerant of people who are intolerant. It’s a challenge. Somehow I have to ignore the self-referential self loathing, but life is paradoxical and ironical, and I’ve always embraced both (and chaos) as personal philosophies.

Irony and paradox aside the whole idea of being offended has become an aspect of society today. We’ve turned it into a cottage industry, and both sides of politics have heavy weaponized it into a WMD.

The problem is often the legitimacy of being offended. When is it right to take offense, and when might the real issue be our own perceptions (and we should just STFU).

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Actors Ain’t All That

As someone whose high school and college education focused on writing and storytelling (through stage, film, and video), I’ve long been askance at how much culture reveres actors while not paying as much attention to the writers who provide their words or the directors who control much of what they do.

I do not at all mean to suggest actors aren’t also artists who bring important skills to the table. In college, I had to find people willing to act (for free!) in my productions — I couldn’t tell my stories without them — so I’m well acquainted with their importance and skills.

My point is only that the stories we love owe as much, if not more, to the writers and directors who create them in the first place.

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Texting Subtext

Recent politics makes us, perhaps, overly aware of just how differently from us people can see the world. Recent politics also makes us very aware of how fraught it can be interacting with people who see the world differently. (Although it isn’t the differences that divide us so much as our tribalism.)

Setting politics aside for a moment, I recently stumbled over a difference that I found both bemusing and enlightening. It explains something that’s puzzled me (and caused a degree of head-shaking) for quite a while. What’s cool is how it switches my worldview, because now I understand it’s not a mistake or laziness, but a valid choice.

I’m talking about periods and lower case in text messages!

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Breaking Wrong

For years friends have been urging me towards the TV show Breaking Bad. They tell me about how the writing is so good, and the drama so engaging. The problem I have is that it stars, not just a meth dealer, but a meth maker. For me that’s a deal breaker that no writing is good enough to overcome. Nothing is worth inviting a meth maker into my life on a regular basis.

I see a parallel in how people accept Trump even when they do see him for the idiot and creep that he is. In this case, it’s certainly not good writing (or good governing) they seek, it’s getting their way that makes them support an ignorant, incompetent, greedy, narcissistic racist.

I gotta ask: Have we gotten too willing to embrace human failure?

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Preacher: Adaptation Fail!

Loving art is not the same as loving your children: with art, you’re allowed to have favorites. Within any beloved medium or genre, there are always favorites. Of interest here is a long-time favorite of mine, the late-1990s graphic novel Preacher, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon. It’s a violent, gory, wonderfully original story involving: a southern preacher, an Irish vampire, the Saint of Killers, the off-spring of an angel and a demon, and God himself (not to mention Tulip, the Grail organization, and a, pardon the expression, “host” others).

When a favorite literary work (such as Preacher) is adapted for film or TV one has a sense of both anticipation and trepidation. On the one hand, seeing the work come to life can be wonderful. But on the other, it can be awful if (you feel) the adaptation doesn’t honor the source.

To me, the AMC adaptation of Preacher is the latter: awfully awful.

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I Hate Apple!

Not long ago I wrote a post about not “liking” dinosaurs, and a crucial caveat there was that I also do not dislike dinosaurs — that I was essentially neutral on the subject of dinosaurs. To me they’re seriously old news. Not on my radar, as it were.

What certainly is — unavoidably — on my radar is modern technology, and in particular the ubiquitous touchscreen device and its myriad apps. After being subjected to an Apple iPad for over two years now, I’ve come to have a deep loathing for almost every aspect of the whole thing! And, because of my issues with it, I see no reason to ever own a “smart” phone (although I fear an eventual lack of choice in the matter).

Now be warned: this is me venting. I have very little positive to say here.

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