Monday, September 17, 2012

The Good and the Bad of Fanfiction

Gentle Reader,

I used to write a lot of fanfiction when I was younger.  This is something that I admit to with more than a little embarassment.  It is widely thought that writing fanfiction is one of the nerdiest things that you can do, and frankly, I don't disagree.  It is also the case that most fanfiction is really, really terrible.  A quick Google search will confirm as much.

With that being said, I don't think my experiences with fanfiction were a waste of time, because they were a perfect opportunity for me to practice my writing, and hopefully to improve it, too.  The way I see it, fanfiction provides a lot of little crutches that can be very helpful to a writer-in-training.

1.) Many of the details of the fictional world and its characters are already established.  The writer can skip a lot of fatigue-inducing exposition and instead move right into the meat of the story.

2.) Since fanfiction is based on existant works, there are certain "rules" already in place as to how the fictional world operates.  Fanfiction is a playground, but it's a structured one.  Having a structure enforced upon the apprentice writer (even if only loosely) can provide good lessons, as well as a good challenge and a healthy dose of plain old fun.

3.) Regardless of what work fanfiction is based on, that work is bound to have an online community of fans.  These fans, or at least a portion of them, are a built-in audience for fan works.  This is great, because it allows writers to get immediate feedback on their work from other people who love the source material just as much as the writer does.  On the flipside, this can also mean exposure to critics, including very harsh ones, and this is important, too.  Writers need to develop a thick skin, because even the most brilliant writers encounter people who just don't care for their work.

A lot of people consider fanfiction a total waste, both to create and to read.  To that I say... well, maybe, but sometimes, maybe not.  I don't regret my time spent writing fanfiction.  Even if nobody reads it, and even if I look back on some of it and cringe, all of it helped me to hone my craft.  There's never anything to regret in that.  And besides, once in a while I will encounter a piece of fanfiction that really captured the spirit of the source material, or took it in a thrilling new direction that didn't seem to "break the rules" too much.  And since when is a good read ever a waste of tme?

Ever Yours,

Monday, September 3, 2012

Atheist Prayer

Gentle Reader,

I used to be a Christian but have become an atheist over the course of my life.  Being an atheist, however, does not mean that I have lost certain behaviors or patterns of thought that came naturally to me in my previous existence.  For example, I find myself wanting to pray for the safety of a friend or loved one who is in a potentially dangerous situation.  Or, I might find myself wanting to pray for answers or for a sense of peace when confronted with an especially difficult problem.

This impulse to reach out to something beyond ourselves is a natural part of the human condition.  In many aspects of our daily existence, we repeatedly call upon experts, authorities, and others who have knowledge or access that we do not, as we work to resolve various situations.  It isn't difficult to imagine how this impulse can lead to "calling upon the ultimate" when we are faced with the deepest and most important questions in life.

A theist is comforted by the belief that he can call upon the almighty governor of the universe in pursuit of answers, but an atheist does not have this option.  With this being the case, I think it can be helpful to have some other thing to focus one's hopes and intentions upon when working through stresses.  This "other thing" is by necessity something of our own imagining, and is therefore not a real god, being, or presence of any kind.  Even so, having this "other thing" to focus on can help to make us feel like we made ourselves heard, even if only to ourselves, just as having a strong vocabulary can make it easier to make our thoughts specific and definite, both when communicating with others, and also when talking inside of our own heads.

For me, this "other thing" takes the form of the old Greek pantheon.  Obviously I do not believe that the Greek gods are real in any sense of the word.  However, because there are so many of them, and because each of them represents certain specific things, they are useful as something to focus on when confronting various issues.  Again, it's not that I expect anyone outside of myself to hear my call and respond to it.  The "gods" simply give me something to focus on while I crystalize my hopes and intentions.  There is a certain peace in saying to one's self, "I explored my feelings, and this is what I truly feel, and I sincerely hope that however it turns out is for the best," and then sending that intention out of one's self into the world.  It's releasing an emotional burden.  Sure, it's just a trick of the human psyche, but it's a powerful one, and probably part of the reason why theistic belief developed in the first place.

Which gods relate to which areas of life is a pretty flexible question, but here is how I would summarize it.

Aphrodite - beauty, love, romance, sex
Apollo -  art, creativity, hobbies, self-improvement
Ares - competition, conflict, fitness, sport
Artemis - independence, introspection, perseverance, self-determination
Athena - academics, justice, philosophy, reason
Demeter - horticulture, moderation, nutrition, wellness
Dionysus - entertainment, food, frivolity, pleasure
Hades - death, loss, mortality, separation
Hephaestus - advancement, finances, obligations, work
Hera - communication, empathy, relationships, understanding
Hermes - change, emergencies, planning, travel
Hestia - community, domestics, family, friendship
Poseidon - animals, balance, nature, resources
Zeus - questions of the ultimate and the existential

I don't know if this idea will resonate with anyone else, but I was thinking deeply on it today, and decided to share my thoughts with the world.  Take it or leave it, and use in good health.

Ever Yours,

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Transformers Decoys

 Gentle Reader,

Boy, does this take me back!

I absolutely adored Transformers as a kid. Transformers:  The Movie came out just a couple of weeks before my seventh birthday, and my dad took me to see it.  That ended up being the best birthday of my childhood.  I had just fallen in love with the new characters introduced by the movie, and I ended up getting almost the entire cast!

The movie characters remain my favorites to this day.  I know that many fans of Transformers are kind of ambivalent about the movie and its cast, but dammit, I imprinted on them or something.  So I was delighted when the 1986 core characters continued to play a central role in the overall storyline, as shown here, in this 1987 mini-comic for the "decoys" gimmick.

Featured are Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Blurr, and Springer, as well as Galvatron, Scourge,  Cyclonus, and some random Sharkticons.  That is most definitely NOT First Aid, however.  It is clearly Ratchet, who was no longer available in 1987, due to having been rather cavalierly killed off in the movie the year before.  So, they had to flub and just sort of pretend that it was First Aid.  Lame.

Arcee is nowhere to be seen, unfortunately.  Poor Arcee, she could get no love back then. Not from Hasbro and not from whoever drew this comic.  But I loved you, Arcee!  I remember searching shelves for your action figure, and hoping against hope that they'd release you as a Headmaster.  They never did, but I still love you anyway!

Wheelie and Wreck-Gar are also absent, but... does anyone really care?  Yeah, didn't thnk so.

Ever Yours,