Pt. Being…

radial-30One of my habits – bad or not – is a tendency toward complexity. In the late 80s my coworkers and I were asked to fill out the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator. It was not made a requirement, though some on the team viewed it as such. I was intrigued by the concept of sorting personality types into sixteen broad categories based on what seemed to be a relatively short questionnaire.

Of the categories, my personality type turned out to be ENTP* which means, according to the “test”, that I could be expected to be primarily interested in understanding the world. The MBTI also suggests that I enjoy debate and playing devil’s advocate.

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Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers did not go on to say that I’d be attracted to intricate charts of relationships such as social media webs** and find visual thesaurus entries fascinating. If they had guessed that I would have these affinities they’d have been spot on.

Etymology and other fields of origin study are a large part of what occupies my musing when not seeking to craft entertaining worlds or unusual sculpture. My great grandmother once told me that to begin gaining a skill or cultivating a talent was to “first admire it”. I cannot remember not admiring eloquence.

But – as it turns out – having a silver tongue does not depend on strict adherence to every rule of grammar or an ever-expanding vocabulary. Effective communication can only be measured in terms of audience comprehension. I’ve always regarded “dumb it down” as a chore for myself and an insult to others. “Make it more accessible” seems more like a mission and a courtesy.

This is not to say that I won’t pause from time to time to hunt down a very precise and/or obscure word. There is a PDF of C. S. Bird’s Gradiloquent Dictionary on my hard drive. Somewhere in my collection of books is a physical copy of The Superior Person’s Book of Words by Peter Bowler. (I was once accused that I felt I was a superior person based on owning a copy of the latter.)

I will probably always find phylogenetic circular cladograms nearly equivalent to sacred geometry. I do, however, have to remain vigilant in keeping the famous advice of Clarence L. Johnson in mind. He, better known as Kelly, was the engineer who headed the Lockheed Skunk Works from during WWII until 1975. It is believed that he originated the principle of “Keep it simple, stupid.”

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The MBTI structure indicates the types are based on preferences. Although my extrovert score is very high, it isn’t a constant. INTP is the introvert mode and that state is described as having the motto of “eschew obfuscation”. Sometimes that can feel like what I’m doing – all while trying to make an actual point. This means a lot of reminders to myself after enjoying the exploration of what may be to return to mission and work of what can be. That is enjoyable too.

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* ENTP people draw energy from interactions with people and tend toward the abstract while relying on logic and objectivity. We also like to keep our options open. That sounds more like me than Sagittarius.

** I haven’t found an app or add-on that can build the “hairball” illustration of 1,672 interconnected Facebook friends.

The Keirsey Temperament Sorter is a reasonable approximation of the MBTI, if you’re curious.


 

Anywhere you go…

In preparation for a bit of professional writing I made a map showing a rendezvous in Asia of two airships – the Copertino and the Wakefield. Once I’d finished getting the time markers along navigationally accurate great circle paths, I realized the work was wasted if I didn’t incorporate more of the data represented in the graphic within the text of the story.

This completely changed the beginning of the tale and, I think, will involve the reader faster. A much more in medias res start. I recently had an unrelated experience that, although it went remarkably well, I would have preferred it went “even better”. Once writers and editors finish with a piece it amounts to the same sort of wishing.

I’m very glad I caught this opportunity and that my habit of maps with stories served me very well in this instance.

Ministry-map-copy


Oh, the places he’d been…

Today is the birthday of a man known as Dr. Theophrastus Seuss. I’ve more of an affinity for his work than I think I’ve reason to do so. It isn’t just Horton Hears a Who! or the one about all those fish that I remember fondly; the particular favorite is On Beyond Zebra!

Criminal Element has published a new essay of mine, in which I cover some of the less well-known details of Mr. Geisel’s life and career. In preparing for the article I discovered some details I’d either forgotten or never knew at all.

Now I want to see a biographical film. In the meantime, please consider reading the post with CE.

Hi-Code


ناظم

 

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”

Hello,

Criminal Element has run my third post. Fans of Mission: Impossible, including the original series, should visit.

Note: This week’s regular blog entry may be delayed by preparations for the forecast storm. Your other mission – if within the region – is to stay safe and warm and well-provisioned. This post will not self-destruct.

Well, why not write?

There are four stories pushing at me (not counting those planned with my coauthor). In pondering each over the past week or so, I was a little surprised to realize that each stems from a different purpose in telling.

For longer than I can precisely recall, I have criticized a lot of films with the label “big, dumb, testosteronedriven explosion movie”. I’ve never been particularly interested in writing a romp. That’s not the objective or, I should say, there is an objective.

Each of the stories I have in progress came from quite different moments of inspiration. Some were like unexpected bolts of lightning while others were the result of prolonged brainstorms.

Comprehension of a lifetime’s factors —

One of the novels began as a spreadsheet for sorting data and looking for trends. It wasn’t intended to be a story at all. Trends in the information, however, began to suggest a narrative. The more I looked, the more compelling and fascinating (to me) it became. There actually was a narrative in the chart and it sprang out of it in an almost parthenogenetic way.

Expanding the perception of courage —

The second book was inspired by a single image. I cannot say if the artist had any story in mind but it made me think of a “band of brothers” situation. The main characters in said band all happen to be young women. For a brief moment it seemed that Sucker Punch might be what I had in mind but the reviews given by friends dissuaded me from that notion and from seeing the film.

The diligence of the heart —

Folklore has many tales that predict the return of a hero or of a force. Imagine such a situation were to transform a part of the world – and everyone in it – almost in an instant. What aspect of human nature and emotion could then be examined? What would prove you were still human despite the change and how far would you go to prove it?

Making sense of nonsense —

Science fiction series, when they include sentient aliens, eventually generate a set of stereotypes concerning them. Even Star Trek and Doctor Who have not proven immune. Examining the Vulcans logically reveals that much of what we think we know about them doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. I aim to explain the contradictions.

For just a little over a year, I have been posting here on a weekly basis. Somewhat prior to adopting that habit this blog kicked off with a simple image. If my reason for writing can be distilled to a single sentence, it is captured in that banner.

Homesteading


Two for flinching…

zombie smearIf I’m honest, I don’t particularly care for the zombie story; I’ve never been able to become a fan.

It strikes me that I should, however, because I did quite like Aftermath: Population Zero (2008, National Geographic Channel) and Life After People (2009, History Channel). These semi-documentary series are not favorites because I’ve a misanthropic wish to be the last man on Earth. I like a little science in my sci fi.

Zombies seem to appeal to our collective sense that – due to responsibilities and commitments – we each have too little time to be ourselves. The wage slave metaphorically trudges from task to task to task in Sisyphean servitude. Ironically, if too late for the zombies, the apocalyptic pandemic triggers the utter collapse of obligations. This may explain the allure of the zombie story. But it is difficult, if not impossible, for walkers to usher us to a Utopian vista. Although freed of duty, the zombie is reduced to mere appetite. Time enough at last but what difference does it make?

Survivors should be completely free to be themselves, their true selves, 100% of the time. To preserve zombies as a threat, however, any would-be exemplars of ideal idealization are reduced to an equally Sisyphean sleep-fight-run existence. There’s never a definitive explanation of the onset nor is there any ever a real chance for a cure. It’s a no win situation. A Möbius stripping of potential.

Popular zombie fiction, in my view, has no moral. It could (and maybe should) be a fine environment in which to outline an eidolon; ultimately, we’re left with heroes that – though they may survive – gradually become indistinguishable from the monsters they fight. And when the characters give up, I follow suit. The closer to Hell a situation becomes, contrast should show how much closer to Paradise the characters might be, no?

All that said, I must admit I was following both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead. When the first debuted, it hadn’t been very long since the pseudo-documentaries on collapse mentioned above. I may have started watching AMC‘s initial show out of curiosity and in hope there might be a similar exploration but with the overlay of fiction. The teasers of the prequel actually included the line, “When civilization goes, it goes fast.” But that’s not actually the theme of either show. Both have become a seemingly endless series of almost literal standees (as stand-ins for true plot) while the living use them as an excuse to be terrible to each other.

Zombie stories don’t have to be about small bands of survivalists wandering between one lord of the flies and the next – ever further from any semblance of civilization, restored or reinvented. If you’ve guessed that I prefer an uplifting end to even the most grim of stories, you’re not wrong. These stories ultimately fail, in my opinion, because they never reach a conclusion. They’re designed not to have one. The fiction itself is undead and mindlessly immortal so long as ratings and reviews permit.

Every crisis passes. We’re not supposed to merely muddle through a chain of largely indistinguishable days. That is not a mission. In essence, it could be said that solving problems – including crises – is our mission… our responsibility.

I’m not particularly satisfied by stories in which a smart hero can’t anticipate and try to avoid dystopia or, failing that, a diligent hero being unable to solve the problem. You might get some red on you but there should be an epilogue showing how life has changed and that life persists. What does it look like 28 years later?
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Beyond the conventional…

Note: You have my apologies for missing a few posts. I had intended to post my Dragon Con schedule of panels and some other important information about that event prior to it. It turns out the world wide web is more of a guideline than a rule. In addition, this being my second Dragon Con, I am still getting my sea legs with regard to the frenetic pace.

Both of the panels on which I was a presenter took place on Sunday (Sept. 6) as part of the Alternate History Track ably run by Enrique Velazquez (a.k.a. “Dr. Q”). The first topic was under the description, Dieselpunk and Raygun Gothic in the Media and we discussed the cousins of steampunk. There have been many attempts to define the line between steam- and dieselpunk but during the panel we linked it to what I feel are two important distinctions:

• Whether the airship is lighter or heavier than air. This is broadly a question of all technological differences between the two sub-genres – airship or not.
• The societal changes of the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. The summary of the Interwar period between WWI and WWII is too vague and simple. Dieselpunk is grimier than Steampunk. The loss of affluence and of innocence, along with a drastic change in social order deserves more attention in the differentiation in history and in fiction.

My second panel was called, Vintage Advice and Accessories for the Modern Gentleman and it began with a discussion of etiquette – as it, if fact, should have. Each member of the panel has a bit of a reputation for being sartorially savvy (including myself, if I may say so modestly). Being known for proper comportment is something to which we should always aspire and diligently work to improve.

The host of the panel, asked us to name an aspect of behavior we would like to see return to daily civil interaction and another that we did not see as having much chance at restoration.

costumesI mentioned that Dragon Con can be hectic. There’s too much to see. Leanna Renee Hieber and Alethea Kontis provided veteran advice and both were far busier than I.

Ms. Hieber was on four times as many panels as I, three of which I was glad to attend. With her impressive career in publishing and her scholarship of Victoriana and the paranormal, she was able to provide a fine through line of the fantastic and magical – leading to Derek Tatum‘s introduction of dreadpunk as a newly defined subgenre.

And for the second year in a row Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow entertained me (and many others). This feature of the Dragon Con YA track has been going on for far longer and based on two shows, I recommend it to all ages.

A fine discussion of creativity involving Ted Naifeh, a talented artist I’ve known for many years. There will be more on that in future posts.

Then came a visit with Randy Reitz and Cathy Cox – my second this year. They both provided some valuable insight on some upcoming projects, some of which readers of this blog know about and another about which I’ll be able to share details next month.

It was then time for Space Coast Comic Cons inaugural. I’ve been to many first-year conventions and this one did so many things right. I was happily recruited by Mark Who 42 as a panelist for two Doctor Who-related hours.

All of this was enjoyable and a learning experience. Now back to art and writing.

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