Posted in Life, Uncategorized, Writing

Happy New Year! And a Quick Overview of My Goals and My Fight with Social Anxiety

Another year will die tonight and the new year will be born. I love New Year’s because I love the ability to start over and renew myself and who I am. I always feel like it is a good time to embrace change and forgive myself for my failings. It is a good time; a new time. And, I usually embrace it.

I feel pretty happy with life in general right now. Sometimes I feel perhaps a bit too isolated due to my constant fight with social anxiety and the ability to enjoy life and working way too  much. It is funny but I love one on one interactions, it is the larger groups of people that make me nervous. I know that the crowd won’t hurt me, but the anxiety can be so intense that I have the desire to flee running from the building, and I have. I have actually ran out of more than one building. If I stay, I must really really care. A lot. Because it is sheer terror, so, if I stay for you, yeah, it is something monumental. It means a lot, I don’t do that for many people.

I have been forcing myself to be braver and take more risks and force myself to sit in crowds in church, and other places. It is a struggle, like always, but dealing with irrational phobias usually is because they are irrational by nature.

Sometimes writing in a coffee shop can be energizing because of the conversations swirling around me but then I am separate from the crowd. I am safely ensconced by my computer while they engage in human interaction as I silently observe and take mental notes for future dialogue possibilities or character traits.

Somehow I can stay, maybe the laptop is  magical. Or maybe it is my shield from the world encroaching on me, suffocating me. I am going to attempt to attend a New Year’s party, wish me luck, and partly I am doing this to attempt to end the phobia by exposure to the cause of the fear. Maybe it has helped, but the anxious feeling seems to always be there, it never goes away completely. Maybe it never will.

My motto for this year and my goals are simple. Write more, at least something daily, stay in shape, and strive to be a better human by conquering my fears and experiencing success. I also hope to find love, preferably amazing true love, but you know, maybe I am asking for a bit too much for one year. To all that pass this way, good fortune, and may your dreams come true and much success for you and your loved ones!

*hugs* from JennRae

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Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Part 2– Dealing with Fantasy and Moorcock

Okay, so part 1 dealt mostly with Science Fiction, robots, reality and Philip K Dick. This part deals with Fantasy, and Moorcock.

This one will be shorter, as I have bought books by Moorcock, but never got around to reading them. In my research of the man though, I am thinking about starting to read them now. He had a lot of good quotes about writing, and the nature of fantasy, and his current view of where it is at. And, I found myself agreeing with him on several points.

One, he sees current fantasy writing as largely stale and derivative of Tolkien. Note, he probably was quoted as feeling this way in the 90s. Whether he thinks this of the current crop of books, I have no idea. But, when his books were the end all be all, the heydays of Terry Brooks, Jordan, Kurtz, and many many others, this was definitely the case. They were all mostly different writing levels of Tolkien some lighter, some darker, some deeper, some more silly, here’s looking at you, Piers Anthony.

Then, George RR Martin came along, as well as some others of a similar bent. Sci-fi authors trying their hand at epic fantasy. Cj Cherryh also wrote a good series about this time which took some ancient lore and spun it in an interesting way. Raymond E Feist I would put here too,  because he managed to incorporate a Japanese type culture into fantasy in a seamless way that was definitely refreshing and different.

The people who had been writing it all along must have felt annoyed at these very experienced writers coming along into their genre and knocking all the tropes and pieces onto the floor, disregarding all the old formulas that had been working since the sixties. You re-wrote Tolkien, or you re-wrote King Arthur, but pretty much stick to the basic hero’s journey, Star Wars but with magic and not in space. Now, you got not just heroes and villains but everything in between. Beloved characters die in horrible ways, the apprentice doesn’t always succeed the teacher, the farm boy isn’t necessarily the chosen one. The good guys don’t always win.

The board and pieces were so changed that the game could not be called checkers anymore, but was more like chess. Fantasy was exciting again. Moorcock was ahead of his time, his novels were written before all this, he was writing Arthurian type fantasy, but with a gritty edge and some politics thrown in. Sure, there were elves, but these elves weren’t supernatural perfect beings but had conundrums and issues and politics. They weren’t the all wise angelic elves of Tolkien.

Although, Tolkien didn’t always portray all elves this way. The forest elves seem more human than the others in that they seem to have jealousy, and pettiness as traits. Still, I give him credit. I bought his books because, I loved the cover art. Guy Gavriel Kay might have the same artist, it is a similar style to his cover art, very stylized, and I liked it. So, I did the cardinal sin of judging a book by its cover and I would buy them on sight at the thrift stores.

I had several of his Elric of Melnibone books, but never got around to reading them. The cover art was stunning. I am not sure if I still have them, they may have been lost in one of the book purges that happened in my life. If not, I may try to find an omnibus volume and devour it. Because I think I would have enjoyed them immensely. Sometimes when you buy more than you can read, true gems fall by the wayside, and I am afraid that is what happened here.

I found a blog post about the cover art, which was by Michael Whelan, I should have known, as he did a lot of the DAW covers back in the day. A great artist. The link is below: http://fantasticflipout.blogspot.com/2009/11/michael-whelan-does-elric-of-melnibone.html

 

Posted in Fiction, Life, Writing

Merry Christmas, Happy belated birthday to Philip K Dick and Michael Moorcock, and of course, Humphrey Bogart and any others I may have forgotten —Part 1

Okay, with the title out of the way, this is my belated post that I mentioned I would write. The one where I go on and on about Dick, and mention Moorcock, but mostly talk about Mr. Dick.  I assure you this post is about writing, and ideas, and fantasy and science fiction.

The reason for the Bogart mention, is besides the fact I am a huge fan of his movies, he was also a huge fan of writers and writing. So, I think a happy birthday is definitely in order, besides the old detective genre of movies has definitely affected how Hollywood portrays some of Philip K Dick’s stories. Blade Runner and Total Recall both have a taste of them, Blade Runner especially, has almost a feel of a Maltese Falcon type of feel with the detective/policeman voice over. My brain which is full of associations paused and just thought, ‘Harrison Ford, Blade Runner, Millennium Falcon, Star Wars, Maltese Falcon, Bogart.’ It can be truly wondrous how the brain works as I have recently seen Rogue One, and binged West World, my mind is just full of interesting connections right now.

In fact, Rogue One resurrected Peter Cushing much like an episode of TV did Bogart, to reprise a role. West World owes much in ideas and even its existence to Blade Runner, more than the original West World, which heavily influenced The Terminator which starred Schwarzenegger who starred in Total Recall, which was based on We Can Remember it For You Wholesale by Dick.

My brain is spinning from the universal connections some of these ideas have. To write something that permeates society so deeply and shows up so unexpectedly in so many different ways is I think many writer’s dream. I would say all writers but that begs an arrogance that I don’t possess.

I can’t know what all writer’s want, but I know what I would like. I don’t need fame, money is nice, but being rich has never been a goal of mine except as a child perhaps, but what I do crave is having a sense of permanence. Leaving something behind when I am gone, a deep carving in the rock saying ‘I was here. I lived, and I mattered, and this is what I stood for, this is what was important to me, this is my contribution to society. to my family, to myself, to the world.’

I think from what I have read of Philip K Dick, that he felt similarly. I can’t say the same because I will never know, but from the quotes I found, from the stories I read, he had a deep philosophical bent, which I also like to think I have in my writing, and meaning and legacy seem to have been a big deal. He had an existential streak that I also have, where the meaning of being alive, what it means to be human, what it means to exist was in the background of many of his stories sharing a strong strand of what does it mean to be real, what is reality, another question that I love to deal with. He was so effective at these two questions that I have found them, along with what is true, or the truth,  are the back bone of every story he wrote.

I received as a present a few years back a great book called the Philip K Dick Reader, it has all the short stories in one place. I know I have mentioned this in other posts, but I am a big fan of omnibus volumes.  I had seen the movies, I think Minority Report had come out sometime before I got the book and I expressed a desire to read the story. It always interests me in where adaptations decide to diverge and what they leave out, and add in. I have read Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and complained throughout the Depp movie  that was based on it because it just shared the name pretty much but not much else, so it is a double edged sword, knowing the actual stories, sometimes it ruins the suspension of disbelief that is required to make it real.

But, with Dick, even when it diverges, it is like the essence, the reason behind the story creeps in. Hollywood cannot get rid of the message, it is in too deep. Total Recall is a good example. It has a lot of 80’s action movie and heavy cussing in it, it is a Verhoeven film more than a Dick story, by far. But the thing is, the actual story is so short and I can honestly say they needed to add more to the plot to make it work. It couldn’t be faithfully adapted into a two hour movie, and that is largely the case with Dick’s work.

In the end, the story has an ambiguous ending, you can’t definitively say whether he actually was a secret agent that went to Mars, or whether he was a vegetable at the vacation place, you can interpret it either way, and the movie stayed true to that. Both interpretations work which makes you question what is real, which is the question behind the story, and the movie itself, despite all the explosions and distractions that were added to make it flashy.

Minority Report I felt was mostly true to the story, I expected it to be further removed honestly because that is the trend with Dick’s work, and in general. The movie Adaptation deals with this quite well, actually. Basically it is a writer’s job and purpose to create, to recreate another person’s dream and be totally faithful to it is hard, because in the end we all want to create something new. It is a struggle because is any idea new, then becomes a question in of itself.

I also binge watched season two of The Man In the High Castle. This is an amazon show, so if you have prime it is easy to watch because you have all ready paid for it in a sense by being a member. You don’t have to buy it again, or pay for it and it is all out there to watch, no waiting each week for an episode to air. I didn’t quite enjoy season 1, so I wasn’t eagerly awaiting season 2. In fact, I only watched it because it came out around Mr Dick’s birthday, so I felt like maybe I should at least see it. And, you know what, season 2 was actually very very good.

It even had some Dick-ish themes going along in the background. What is reality? What is the truth? What is good what is evil? Can doing a horrible deed end up being the right thing to do? I haven’t read The Man in the High Castle, unfortunately, I have heard that the series diverges a great deal, and that isn’t surprising. But, I can say, that I felt the message behind it, the feeling, the questions in the background, are true to his work. So, the writers kept that in. I am starting to wonder if it is possible to remove this quality from his stories, as even the most crazy adaptation has it insidiously there, somewhere in the background, you just can’t remove it.

Back to Blade Runner, because it also isn’t a particular faithful adaptation. I have read Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?, it is a great story. Much like We Can Remember it For You Wholesale, it is short, and I can see the need to add much to the plot to make it a full length film. Dick loved Blade Runner, and saw it as an improvement on his story. The fact that it didn’t replicate his story didn’t seem to bother him, he in fact was honored that the creative team managed to spin this story out of his own. Ultimately, the question behind both stories remain, what does it mean to  be human? What does it mean to be alive? West World the TV show deals with the same questions as well as the movie AI, which was based on a Brian Aldiss story, which I have also read.

Yes, the movie again departs heavily from the source, but it is also a series of short vignettes. So, of course it would diverge by necessity.Aldiss was annoyed by the merging of his story with the story of Pinocchio, but again, Pinocchio deals with what it means to be human, to be real, what makes him a puppet and how he eventually becomes a real boy. When there are no more real boys, will the close approximation of one be a real one as it is the most real one in existence?

The same questions are asked and the story of the other, and how we treat who we regard as the other is dealt with similarly. Whoever is considered less than is seen as a threat, and ultimately considered disposable. The African slaves are an example of this in real life, the American Indians, the Australian aborigines, anytime someone is considered the ‘Less Than’ by others they are treated horribly and sometimes eradicated as a perceived threat. We are threatened by things we cannot understand, and robots, computers, androids are good representations of this fear, of this irrational destructiveness we have toward the unknown or the misunderstood of the perceived ‘Less Than.’

We can use science fiction to look at these problems in a way that gets around any programming we may have received in our lives. You can have false beliefs toward a whole group of people than watch someone mistreat a robot on a TV show or in a book, and just maybe it can open your mind, and cause you to question the very belief that you think of as reality even though what you witnessed on TV or in a book is outlandish and far from real.

By taking it out of reality, it allows us as people to question reality. By being supremely unreal and untrue, we can learn real truth.I feel that Dick knew that, and played on that in his works. A Scanner Darkly deals directly with what is real, perceived reality versus a definitive reality. I think what is real is one of fiction’s greatest questions and it can be asked in so many interesting ways.

“That was my problem then and it’s my problem now; I have a bad attitude. In a nutshell, I fear authority but at the same time I resent it — the authority and my own fear — so I rebel. And writing SF is a way to rebel. … SF is a rebellious art form and it needs writers and readers and bad attitudes — an attitude of “Why?” or “How come?” or “Who says?”

Philip K Dick, From the forward to The Golden Man

Posted in Fiction, Life, Uncategorized

‘Tis The Season–Or Another Update…

Life is now getting kinda hectic with work getting heavier and heavier. Just checking in so that you all know that I am breathing and writing the new novel. Have actually written over a dozen pages and have more mapped out. Still trying to decide on a couple different endings. One is bittersweet and the other perhaps a trifle ambiguous. And, then there is the third more saccharine  sweet option, but unless the characters pull me in an unusual direction it won’t be that one. I rarely do sweet.

Maybe because sweet doesn’t feel real to me. My actual experiences may have started off sweet but they rarely end so. Endings that I enjoy writing and reading are the ones that make you stop and go hmm. They make you think or question yourself, maybe teach you something new or make you look at something in a different light. I also love the ones that make you cry or laugh. The ones that tug at the heart strings. Simple and sweet just doesn’t normally make the cut, but maybe I will take pity on my heroine and give her some love for once.

There’s enough death and destruction in the real world, do I really need to punish my fictional people with it too? Like my other novel, I find I have a plan to follow but the passion takes me in new directions making me question some of the planned ideas. The end result will be a mix between the two as I am determined not to let this one derail. I have some handwritten notes to type up and some decisions to be made and I have to write around work and the kid, so, it will be slow going but I will get there. Thanks to all for the support. I hope you are all writing well and had more success at NaNoWriMo than I did.

I will be returning in January for a profile on J.R.R. Tolkein. I will post a short post around the 18th or try to, to say happy birthday to Michael Moorcock, another of my fantasy finds a la thrift store. I will also do a post around the 16th, I may make them the same post, for Philip K Dick. One of my favorite sci-fi authors, I will probably touch on Blade Runner, and Total Recall as they were based on his short stories, as well as Minority Report.

January birthdays that I will cover also include Edgar Allen Poe on the 19th, and Philip Jose Farmer on the 26th. Both pioneers, one  in horror/suspense, the other in sci-fi. Whew, going to be a busy couple of months! Happy Holidays to any that pass this way, and good fortune to you and your loved ones! *hugs* JenRae.