Friday, March 13, 2009
On that which lies between (and The Watchmen)

I have an undeniable tendency to overconsider things. That means that sometimes, some of the things I want to say here end up becoming obsolete before I actually say them.

Like Coraline, for example. I really liked the movie. I wanted to post a blog about why I liked it, and recommend that people check it out. But movies come and go so fast, and I missed my window of opportunity for that one.

Part of the problem with writing these posts is that it's hard for me to shift gears. It's hard for me to post up something serious and involved, then two days later say, "Hey, y'all know what movie is really cool?"

Similarly, a day after I post up a humor column, it doesn't seem really appropriate for me to post up the story of what I thought when I felt the pain in my chest and the tingling down my left arm.

You see, a novel needs continuity, pacing, consistency. I strive for these things, I'm hyper-aware of them. A novel can have funny bits and sweet bits. It can be romantic, dramatic, and horrible. But all those pieces need to come together to form a coherent whole.

It's my belief that this coherency is one of the most important parts of any story. Comic, movie, or book, the medium doesn't matter. I think that strange intangible element makes the difference between a story that's satisfying, and one that isn't.

In fact, now that I'm thinking of it, I think this strange something might actually be the soul of the story. It's the difference between something that is a story, and something that just looks like a story.

You can't just throw together a plot, some characters, some dialogue and some humor onto the page and get a real story. Not a true and vital story. It doesn't work any more than throwing two arms, two legs, a head and bunch of organs into a sack makes a person.

Sure you need a plot, mostly. And you need characters and all the rest. But the story, I think, is the thing that connects these parts. The story is that which lies between.

Bigger stories need more of it. A novel needs it in spades.

Sometimes I wonder about what I write here. Does this collection of musings and anecdotes that I only reluctantly call a blog need that same coherency? I think not. Maybe. Probably. I think.

Still, old habits die hard, and so a lot of times I think of writing something for the blog, but it doesn't seem timely. Other times I actually write something with the intention of posting it up, then decide that the time for it has past. Or I don't post it because it seems odd or incongruent with what I have posting lately.

Hmmmm...

What was I talking about? Oh yes. The Watchmen.





In brief, I liked it. It was fun to watch, largely true to the spirit of the original, and I'd be happy if someone did that good a job bringing something I wrote onto the screen. Not ecstatic, perhaps. But very happy.

Did I have quibbles? Of course I did. The Watchmen was the second comic I read as an adult. I was 22 at the time, and it was a large part of what convinced me that the medium of comics wasn't just a mess of childish bullshit.

I don't believe in spoilers, so I won't give anything away about the plot or the changes they made. Instead, I'll just make some general comments.

I liked...

...the casting. Whoever was responsible for the casting in the movie deserves a full, passionate kiss on the mouth. The acting was brilliant, and the portrayal of many of the characters was truly exceptional.

... the fact that the movie was subtle and clever. I am a fan of subtle and clever.

... the visuals. Normally I could give a care about things like that. But many of these were truly fantastic. Very true to the comic while at the same time adding to the overall tone of the movie.

... the acting. So good on all fronts. I can't remember the actor's name who played the comedian, but he rang my bell. Every role I've seen him in he's been great.

... seeing Dr. Manhattan's great naked blue dick dangling all over the place. Huzzah.


I disliked...

... the loss of moral ambiguity the original story possessed.

... the portrayal of Ozymandias. Not the acting, mind you. The overall portrayal.


As I've said I don't go in for spoilers. So that's all I'll say here. Maybe I'll chime in with a more specific comment or two below. If you hate spoilers, you'll probably want to avoid the comments section, as I expect there will be some heated and specific discussion.

Is the movie worth seeing? Absolutely. But you should really read the graphic novel too. It's brilliant. It's clever. It's full of that which lies between.

Later all,

pat

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posted by Pat at 64 Comments



Saturday, February 14, 2009
My Trip to LA: Part One

So, it's been about a month since my trip to LA.

Now some folk will quibble and say that I was in *Pasadena,* not LA. But that is a distinction that matters primarily to folks who live in the LA area. To the rest of us, that entire gob of city there in Southern California is all LA.

It's best not to split hairs about these sorts of things. If we're going to get technical, I would have to explain to people that I'm not originally from Madison proper. I'm actually from the Town of Burke, right next to Madison. And right now I'm not in Hayward, hiding from the world and writing, I'm in the nearby township of Lenroot, or something like that.

These are pointless little truths that don't do anyone any good.

This is the art of storytelling, you see. Telling small lies in pursuit of a larger truth. The art of being a reader is being willing to work a little to get at the meat of the story, while at the same time accepting the occasional bent technicality and comma splice.

Anyway. LA was awesome. I was flown out by the lovely folks responsible for one of the winning pictures in the photo contest. Not only are these ladies lovely and willing to get naked for my book, but they are also rocket scientists. Seriously. So while I was out there, I got to take a tour of JPL and look at cool spaceship stuff.

I got to see oranges growing on trees. Which might not seem like a big deal for most of you, but for me it was pretty cool. I also saw lizards running around wild, and can now identify a eucalyptus tree. I got to play some new board games and walk around outside without wearing a coat or hat or anything.

The book signing itself turned out to be a marvelous success. We had a surprising number of people show up, I'm guessing 100 or 120. They had to bring out a bunch of extra chairs, and even then people were standing in the isles and sitting on the floor.

It was a good crowd. I read a few Survival Guides, a poem, and a snippet of book two. I told some stories, answered questions, and got a few laughs. Afterwards, I signed a buttload of books and got to chat one-on-one with folks. Someone brought me wine, someone else brought me an entire care package including memory sticks and tickets to Disneyland.

Though I love the swag, I feel obliged to remind folks that the "Something Cool" rule only applies to books you're mailing in for me to sign.

That said, if you have something you'd *really* like to give me, far be it from me to stop you….

Of particular interest was something that happened halfway through the reading. I was answering some question or another, and I looked out and saw Felicia Day sitting at the back of the crowd.

Now this is the point in the story where I don't exactly know what I should say. Normally when I'm telling a story out of my real life, I go with the truth, even when it's embarrassing or unflattering. I don't know exactly why I feel obliged to do this, but I do.

But for some reason, as I tell this story, I want to lie. I want to pretend I was laid-back about it. Pleased, of course, but also nonchalant. I'd like to portray myself as relaxed… cool. Like the Fonz from Happy Days. Or like the modern-day fantasy author version of the Fonz: Neil Gaiman.

I've seen Neil Gaiman a couple times. He's a great public speaker, funny, insightful. He knows how to work a crowd, and he's irritatingly good at reading his own work out loud.

Even better, he's terribly gracious in person. I once watched him get ambushed by a fan who was desperate to have Gaiman read his manuscript. The guy clung to Gaiman and wouldn't take no for an answer. I found it irritating from a distance of fifteen feet, but Gaiman was unfailingly polite through the whole exchange.

I'm not graceful in that way. I honestly don't know how I come across in public, but sometimes I expect that it's something like the way my old dog, Pup, used to behave.

He was a big liony mutt that I grew up with as a kid. An outside dog who never knew a fence, as we lived out in the country and let him run wild. He a smart dog, and a vicious hunter. He patrolled our house, protecting us from pretty much anything.

Despite the fact that he was a great hunter and defender, he was also very friendly. Unfortunately, it was like he never figured out that he wasn't a puppy anymore. When someone came over for a visit, Pup would jump up on them, putting his paws up on your chest (or your shoulders, if you were shorter) and lick your face.

This is fine behavior if you're a fluffy puppy with milk-breath, or if you're an adult dog hanging out with your family. But Pup treated everyone that way, even when he was full grown, shaggy, and smelling of whatever interesting he had found to roll in.

I suspect that's what I must be like when I'm in public most of the time. I'm this great shaggy beast who gets excited about meeting new people, and does the conversational equivalent of jumping up on people and licking them in the face.

This means that when I want to be socially graceful, I need some sort of internal touchstone about how I should act. So when I see Felicia Day sitting in the back of the room, I think to myself: WWNGD?

I'm guessing he would not, for example, stand up at his own reading and say: "Holy shit everybody! Felicia Day is here!"

So I didn't either. But I tell you, it was a near thing. I'm pretty sure I kept my game face on, and kept answering whatever question I was in the middle of. But the truth is, inside I was standing up and pointing, shouting: "Holy shit! Everybody! Felicia Day!" with all the enthusiasm of a four-year-old who has just seen his first real firetruck drive by on the street.

(Re-reading this, I think I need to add another item to my ever-growing list of Things You Should Never Compare a Woman to Under Any Circumstances. Number Seven: Firetruck. Perhaps any type of truck.

For the record, please note that this particular use of firetruck is being used to describe my reaction to Felicia, not Felicia herself.)





Anyway, after the reading, I managed to grab Felicia and chat for a bit before I started signing books. By this point I'd settled down a bit and was able to behave like a regular human being.

But still, every once in a while, my head would spin around a bit and I would think, "Wha? Who is this? Holy shit. I'm talking with Felicia Day!"

*****

Well folks, due to my tangential nature, this particular blog has ended up being WAY longer than I'd intended. I'll post the rest of it in a day or two, how's that?

In the mean time, if you don't know what the big deal is, you can go check out Dr. Horrible, where Felicia plays Penny. Or The Guild, which Felicia writes and produces in addition to playing the part of Codex.

Later,

pat

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posted by Pat at 23 Comments



Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The End is Nigh

So last night I was singing in the shower, and I had a wonderful idea.

Yeah. Feel free to take a moment. The image that was just branded into your occipital lobe will fade with time. Take a deep breath. There you go. And another. Better? Just avoid thinking about it for a while and it will go away. Whatever you do, don't add that fuzzy pink cat-ear hat to the picture, or you'll never....

You just did it, didn't you? Man, I'm sorry.

Heh heh heh.

Awwww.... Now I feel really guilty. What if the Hadron Collider blows up the world later today and the last thought on someone's mind is my naked, soapy body wearing in a Kawaii-pink catgirl hat? If that happens, I'm definitely going to pay for it in the afterlife.

Anyway, as I was saying, yesterday I had an idea.

It doesn't really matter where I was when I had the idea. Don't think about it.

As is the case with most of my ideas, it was about writing, and it was awesome.

Over the next couple hours, the idea rolled around in my head. Finally I decided I'd be better off just writing it, and getting it out, than to try and fight it. This is the writer's equivalent of giving your child the candy they're begging for, just so they'll shut up and leave you alone.

So I wrote this thing. This story. It was fun. I was excited. It had some terribly clever bits. It had humor. It had a good ending.

Most interesting was the fact that this story is much shorter than what I usually write. In fact, I managed to finish it in just a couple hours.

It was only after the story was finished that I realized what I had done. It honestly, HONESTLY never occurred to me while I was thinking about it or writing it down. In fact, it didn't occur to me until I woke up this morning.

I had written fanfic.

I really don't know what this means. I don't know if this is a sign of the endtimes, or merely the first step in what will quickly become the downward spiral of my life.

Either way, I felt that y'all had the right to know.

pat

P.S. It's really good. Seriously.

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posted by Pat at 37 Comments



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