My name is Charlie, but if your looking for my work, I go by C. E. Dorsett. I write scifi, fantasy, and a touch of horror. I like to play with gothic, steampunk, decopunk, epic fantasy, and wuxia. I love to tell stories and talk about books, movies, series, and music.
Fandom as Culture
Back in December, I took on Meg Guroff in my post, Fandom is not Obsessive Weirdoism! for saying:
One distinctly modern form of obsessive weirdoism is fandom: becoming so devoted to a work of art that you want to augment or even inhabit it. Out of this impulse was born the Klingon Language Institute (www.kli.org), the phenomenon of “fan fiction” (unauthorized stories by civilians advancing new plotlines of beloved films and TV series) (The Urbanite Magazine),
She responded by saying:
Hey, thanks for the shout-out, but anyone who reads the essay—or even just the rest of the sentence you truncated—would know that your outrage is misplaced. This passage is not an attack on fandom, it's a defense of it. I'd invite the curious to read the essay for themselves or visit my (built, obsessive, weird) site at powermobydick.com. Best wishes.
The rest of the sentence I truncated simply said: "and also, one might argue, my ever-growing Moby-Dick website, which now includes not only a full annotation but also links to artwork, poems, movies, and even cartoons based on the book (The Urbanite Magazine)." I am glad she enjoys working on a fan site, and I am sorry if I offended her by intimating she had attacked fandom, but the fact remains that characterization of fandom as obsessive and weird obfuscates the fact that what we are seeing is the birth of a new culture, not merely a niche cultural phenominon.
History of Fandom
Hugo Gernsback forged the modern Science Fiction genre in 1926 when he founded Amazing Stories magazine. In the letters section, he published the addresses of the fans who wrote in. Readers began to organize themselves into local clubs. In 1934, Hugo founded the Science Fiction League, a correspondence club where local clubs could apply for membership.
Chicago's Science Correspondence Club published the first known science fiction fanzine, The Comet, in 1930. The first convention was held nine years later when at the 1939 New York World's Fair, when the World Science Fiction Society held the first WorldCon.
Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, members of a New York fan club called The Futurians, wrote the oldest known filks in the 1950's by taking the music from folk protest songs and changing the lyrics.
It wasn't until the 1970 that the conventions grew in popularity as a result of Speculative Fiction taking on the role of mythology. More people found Speculative Fiction gave them a set of values, goals, and practices. Through our conventions, filksings, fanfic, and fanfilm, we have developed a culture that is uniquely ours.
Pattern of Behavior
Fans don't just watch the shows they love, or read the books, they devour them. We take in these stories, critique them, and rush to share and discus them with our friends. We often watch the shows or read the books multiple times to see if we missed something.
We flock to conventions to meet the stars, creators, and authors of the works we love, and to spend time reveling in the series we love. We roleplay, craft fan works, and some even engage in cosplay and LARPing (Live Action Role Playing).
It is not hard to spot a fan. The t-shirts we were, the calendars on our walls, the tchotchkes on our desks, and the phrases we like to use. Many of us use fanspeak around mundanes and not realizing it until we see that confused look on their face, and realize we need to translate into English.
Shared attitudes, values, and goals
The one thing I have always found most intriguing about fans is how a true fan is not hard on new fans, and wants to make sure everyone is having a good time.
Most of us grew up with Star Trek, and took to heart the idea of IDIC (Infinite Diverity in Infinite Combination) to heart. Where ever we are, we try to bring IDIC, foresight, and community with us. Life is to be enjoyed, and nothing cuts off the fun quicker than bigotry, ignorance, or that one guy who is looking to have a good time at the expense of everyone there if necessary.
Fan culture is always developing.
I wish you the best of luck with your Moby Dick site, and I hope I didn't upset you further. My complaint with your article was merely that you used the phrase "Obsessive Weirdoism."
Any culture is "Obsessive Weirdoism" when viewed from the outside. You have a fannish heart, and I think it is time you stopped talking in a way that excuses your fannish tendencies to the mundanes. You are a fan. Be out and proud about it.
At any rate, I am a little jealous, I can see the merit in Moby Dick, and I can understand from where your passion derives, but I don't think I will ever share it. You see something most of us don't. That is a gift. Relish it.
Straczynski Clarifies Forbidden Planet
That report is totally incorrect. It's not going to be retro, and it's not going to be a continuation. When Altair 4 blows up, it blows up. I have, however, found a way to honro [sic] the original movie without in any way besmirching it in order to do this iteration. Once folks find out what we're actually going to do, I think they'll be most pleased. Forbidden Planet remains one of my favorite films of all time, and I wouldn't even think about doing this project if I didn't think there was a way to do it that would not in any way diminish the original...which is why this is the the first development in years to actually get to the script stage. Everybody involved is very excited by the approach (JMSNews).
It feels like he is wiping grease off of a mirror, but he at least cleared up the rumors that the new film was going to be a campy send up of the original. I trust Joe, and believe he will do a great job remaking a great movie.
Fandom, Porn, and a Culture of Dreamers.
When I stumbled across trobadora's The Internet is for Porn? I was initially uncomfortable with the discussion. The frank discussion of fannish sexuality is not something I am used to seeing in writing... but it is all too familiar a topic around the table over the weekends and at the cons. I am not sure why I was so uncomfortable with the subject. It is not like I have not mentioned in on the show or in conversations with others, but this direct approach, insightful comments, and probing questions made me squirm a little in my seat.
In our fannish circles, porn is very much ... normalised, for lack of a better word. It's part of the everyday landscape, and writing it or posting it is not in any way, shape or form remarkable. (Except for the "oooh, shiny!" factor, of course.) It's even an ordinary social gesture – the "bake you cookies and write you porn" aspect (The Internet is for Porn?).
That is the moment that I started squirming. Why is it normal to talk about slash without a thought about what it is we are really talking about? It is not uncommon for the conversation to get started and in the right fan circles, the participants are open about their favorites. Is this because our fan culture is more coarse, crass, or jaded than the mainstream culture?
I don't think so. While I have been accused of having an overly bright view of the fan culture, I think it is a result of the very nature of Speculative Fiction Fandom.
- Fans are generally liberal. It is easier to look forward when you are not tied to the past
- Fans truly love. They do not simply like the characters, settings, and series, they have a deep love for them.
- Fans are dreamers. We are not satisfied with merely watching or reading, we dream up other stories. We are constantly asking, "What if?"
- Fans share. We are not content with these ideas living in our head, we share them with each other
As a result of these things, it is not surprising that we ask ourselves what it would be like if two of our favorite characters hooked up, we write the story and share it with the community.
Why are we not ashamed of the sometime sexually explicit stories we tell? I am not sure. For me, it is probably because I am gay. I am used to people looking down on me for who I love. Why would I care if they found about anything else? They already think I am a pervert. I have no where else to go from there.
Now, many of you are probably going to say, "I don't even know what your talking about."
Say you're participating in one of those other fannish spaces as well, and you're (for whatever reason) writing porn in that fandom. What do you do with it? What would you feel comfortable with?
Would you feel comfortable posting it in its own fandom, even though it would not be a normal fannish activity there?
First of all I would say there is a difference between porn and erotica. I am not parsing words, there is a very real difference. I apologize for the crass language here, but it is better to be blunt than verbose:
- Porn is fiction that contains a lot of sex for the sake of getting you off.
- Erotica is fiction that contains a lot of sex but the story and characterizations "cannot be summed up in diagrams" to quote Stephen Moffat.
Most of the fanfiction I am talking about is erotic because it does the latter and not the former. On that note, to answer the question, I am not sure what fan communities are being discussed where the conversation of slash does not pop up from time to time.
The only time I would not feel comfortable is if there were minors in the conversation. It is not my place to introduce these kids to a discussion of sexuality they may or may not be ready for. Other than that, I am not sure what would prevent me.
What if that fandom were mostly populated by fanboys?
Well, I find popular heterosexual male sexuality to be abrasive and overly crude. It is something that should be discussed. The flirtation present in the stories is something I think most heterosexual males would be bored by. I hope I am wrong.
The types of fanfic we are talking about are:
- slash: male/male erotic fanfic
- femslash: female/female erotic fanfic
- hetslash: male/female erotic fanfic
- PWP: porn without plot
Does it really matter who you're writing for? How much, how does it matter?
I think it does. I know I am not the only one who has wondered about the relationship between Ivanova and Talia or Sirius and Lupin. These questions are unanswered in the canon, so we are left to fill in the blanks with fanfiction.
The audience matters because well written fanfic is about the characters. Whether it is slash or not, if the story is bad, then why would I take time to read it? There are some audiences that just want PWP, and I am not in that crowd.
How much of a difference would it make whether it was an explicit sex scene in a longer fic or an all-out PWP?
Just as the audience matters, so does the content. If the story is good, and the sex is integral to the plot, the better the story will be.
Would it bother you more if the porn in question were slash or het?
A lot of the slash and het I have seen is more of an odd fantasy of the writer than a story worth spending any time with.
What if it were, say, het with a dominant male character?
This is where the problem comes in. A lot of the male dominant fiction, fanfic or not, is little more than a dose of male bravado with a side order of nudity. I prefer stories about equals.
What makes Smut
I read a lot of Speculative fiction, and sex is not absent from the "mainstream" fiction. It is hard to miss it in Anne Rice, Christopher Golden, Clive Barker, Anne McCaffrey... most SF not written or inspired by Tolkien.
I think we work ourselves into fits because, as with everything, there are some people who take it too far. Nothing can be down about these people except to ignore them.
There is nothing to be embarrassed about when we are talking about sexuality or erotica. Honestly, I think this has more to do with our popular culture and its perception of us.
In Pop Culture, sex is inherently smutty. It is a tool used to sell a product. Many movie trailers have become little more than "Watch this film and see these people naked." Under those conditions, we tend to allow ourselves to see all sex as smutty. What we have to do is establish certain personal rules:
- Sex is natural.
- Sex is not a game or a contest. It is not about collecting trophies.
- Respect is a prerequisite. If we do not respect ourselves or our characters, it shows and it degrades everyone.
- Sexually explicit stories or scenes without a grounding in character and plot are porn.
Did I make you uncomfortable? I hope not. I think it is time for some frank conversation. Now let's all sing Slash Wallow.
Interview: Chris Cowan and Lex Randleman from Elseworlds
I interviewed Chris Cowan (Cyborg/Cameraman) and Lex Randleman (Mister Teriffic/Writer) from the brilliant new webseries Elseworlds.
Why did you choose to make webseries in the Elseworlds setting? While it is one of the most fascinating DC setting, it is not as popular as their other setting?
Lex Randleman (LR): Elseworlds provided a malleable way to craft a story about a universe I, otherwise, wouldn't have been able to depict. Knowing I could twist and turn things however I wanted gave my imagination some room to wander. We (Cowan and I) would never be able to make a DC Universe like what's seen in comics and other media.
Also, I get a sense of ownership out of this that I couldn't get from another kind of story. Sure, these aren't MY characters, but this is MY vision of them. It's funny to me that your review mentions casting (Praise I TOTALLY appreciate) and what kind of process that must have been for us. It's funny because we didn't match the cast to the characters--we matched characters to the cast. The characters we were confident we COULD portray well are the characters we chose to play out the story. They ARE the story. That was our jump-off point.
Chris Cowan (CC): We’re only planning to do 6 episodes for this story. As much as we love doing this, we also have MANY more projects planned (mostly all original and a few being fan fiction works). But I mean if DC/WB would want to fund a project like this then I’m sure we could do quite a few more episodes <wink> <nudge>
LR: Yeah, 6 episodes. That's not because I couldn't make this story stretch, no. It's because we've set a pace that I can't completely halt. Given free reign, I would basically restart and show SO much more of the action and events that preceded the present action in this story. Cowan can attest to the fact that I've built up a whole history for this world and all of its characters, but reality (a.k.a. $) dictates that I must exercise some restraint.
Are all of the episodes written ahead of time or are they being written as the series progresses?
LR: The episodes have been written one by one as my time allows. I put episode 2 in Cowan's hands. He filmed it. I put episode 3 in his hands. He filmed it. He just got episode 4. I took my time with that one. And he'll film it soon. It's played out that way because this whole project was sprung on me by Cowan (Yes, man, I am taking a dig at you) with the release of the 1st episode (incomplete, at that!) a YEAR after the project had been conceived. Since then, I've had to rethink a lot of the things I had originally intended.
I know it sounds like I'm blaming Cowan like he did something awful. That's not the case. He actually challenged me in a way that I just hadn't expected. In the end, I can't be mad at that. After a long period of not writing the way I should have been, I can feel my blood pumping again. This project has reawakened some of my dormant creativity.
CC: Hey, It’s not my fault that he liked the cut of the first episode. I edited it randomly out of the blue a few months ago and showed it to him and he said “Cowan, that was hot.” Haha. So I said lets keep going with it – and we have. Besides, if I hadn’t, Lex might have never came up with the story that he’s created (which I think is a really good and original one).
But yeah, the episode scripts are given to me one by one. In fact, the Episode 2 script was put in my hands not even 5 minutes before filming hah. We’ve always been a sort of run & gun crew of filmmakers though (when budgets not involved – because it usually isn’t for our personal projects ha).
Episode 3 is over 8 minutes as opposed to the 2 - 3 minute length of the previous episodes, what is the target length for the remaining episodes?
CC: At first, we thought it’d be a good idea to keep the episodes under 4 minutes. One reason being that we were gearing this towards youtube and usually 2-4 minutes is the avg. length of most videos – and I figured that’d be the avg. youtuber’s attention span (because it is for me ha). Not to mention, it would have been a smoother editing flow for me. Now, after seeing how episode 3 came out, we realized that we prefer the 8-10 minute run time. There was a thought to break up Episode 3 into two parts but we liked how it ran all together, so we kept it – and the response towards the runtime was a positive one.
LR: The thing about targets is that you either miss them or they get shot... That's my way of saying I don't know. Even after I write the script and we "should" know how long an episode will be, it all gets muddled in the production. A lot of last minute changes and improvements happen ON SET. That's our creative process.
Do you have any plans to make them available for download/ podcast? (with the abundance of companies like Mevio who offer free hosting I hope you do)
LR: I don't know. Cowan, do we have plans like that??
CC: Haha honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t thought about doing that already. I’ll definitely make them available for download.
What software are you using to make the special effects?
LR: I have this awesome special effects program called Triple C...Christopher Clark Cowan.
CC: Hah and I this awesome special effects program called Adobe After Effects. In terms of any other technical questions that anyone might have – I edit on Final Cut Pro and shoot on the Panasonic DVX100a. I’m hoping to be able to shoot the finale in HD – More on that to come though.
How long does it take you to produce an episode?
CC: It always depends. Script writing and scheduling are the biggest time consumers – even more so than with the shooting an editing. Shooting is fairly easy because after reading the script, I can already see what I want to do (let me rephrase – I can already see what I’m able to do haha). Editing usually takes me 2 days because after we have it all shot, I clear my schedule and sit in front of my computer for 2 days straight and edit. There’s usually food/sleep and some Xbox 360 spliced throughout those 48 hours.
LR: That always varies because of the time I might take to write the script and the scheduling that needs to get worked out for the actors and such. When everyone works for free, it's hard to put a demand on anyone's time-- except, of course, for mine. Cowan is always making demands on my time... I'm so disrespected...
What is your production schedule like?
LR: What's a schedule?
CC: Yeah we don’t really have one. It all depends on all of our work schedules. I call a friend and ask “can you film today?” they say “no.” I say “what about tomorrow?” they say “sure” and then we film. That seems to be the extent of our “schedule” ha.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to make their own webseries?
CC: Just go out and do it. You don’t need a huge budget to do everything (it helps – but it’s not always necessary). One of the most fun parts for me is reading a script and challenging myself to come up with ways to achieve a certain shot and/or effect that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do with out a lot of money. Even if you do have the funds, it’s always nice to keep a “that look for less” type of mindset.
LR: Don't be afraid to do take the time to make things RIGHT. There's no profit to be made, really, but the chance to share your passion and your vision. If you compromise those two things, then you've wasted your time and your project will suffer. I find that when I look back onto our older projects, the things I regret are the decisions we made for any reason other than "that's how we want it." Compromise = Regret.
Also, embrace your dorkdom. I don't write for the masses. I write for myself. I write for other comic book nerds like myself. They're the only people I hope will truly "get me." Everyone else can catch up. That's what Google is for.
LR: Have we thought about it? We did it! X3i is the name of the series we produced in college at The Ohio State University. We diverted our attentions from that series to do a feature based off of the series...Long story short...We didn't finish either the series or the movie.
Don't look at me! The scripts were written! The culprit is always the same: RESOURCES. Resources in the form of money (or lack thereof), casting, sufficient time, and ALL of the stuff that can derail a zero-budget project. It also goes back to our policy to not deliver crap. If it wasn't going to get done RIGHT, why do it?
Here's some good news: even though the project was never finished, I'm sure my dearest buddy Cowan can provide you with some fancy footage of our stuff. ;)
CC: Yeah, we’ve definitely done that already ha. X3i was our first shot at an original webseries – And one of the most fun filmmaking experiences I’ve had. Our crew is actually doing another webseries called “Komikarate” which is a sketch comedy based show (dealing with original skits and fan spoofs). All of which can be found on youtube. If you’d like to know more about X3i, you can visit: www.myspace.com/X3i
Aaaand lastly, to keep updated with the Elseworlds project, you can go to: http://dcelseworlds.blogspot.com
No more links haha.
I am enjoying the series, and will have a review of the first three episodes up shortly.
LR: I'm happy you've enjoyed our work! Your interest and excitement is what makes it all worthwhile.
CC: Many thanks to everyone for viewing and supporting! Also big thanks to Eric and Project: Shadow for the review, interview and overall interest. We’ll have episode 4 out to you all shortly!
Thank you for your time.
LR: If you made it through all 3 episodes, we should be thanking you for YOUR time.
Two nice guys and amazing artists. If you haven’t read it yet, check out my review of Elseworlds. I think we can expect great things from them in the future.
7 Apps Every SF Writer Should Have
A story is only as good as the back story and setting developed for the characters to live in. The hardest part of creating a new/original setting is collecting the notes, establishing the setting, and building an tale that lives comfortably within that setting without imposing artificial limits upon it. I have found seven programs that I cannot live without when I am world building or constructing a new story.
My life was hell before Evernote. Okay, that might be a little melodramatic, but before I discovered the Evernote Beta, I relied on countless handwritten notes and Word DOCs filled with the milieu and minutia of my settings. Piles of notes that I printed out to me consumed into the setting littered my desk and surrounding area. These notes were easy to loose and hard to find.
Evernote allowed me to clip these notes directly from the web and other digital sources, keep them in one program, and edit them to fit the setting they were clipped for. I wish Evernote gave me more hierarchical and webbing features similar to the Brain, but the search is fast and keeps all of my notes right at my fingertips.
The notes sync with an app running on my PCs and my Mac, they are also available through a web interface.
It's Full of Star is one of my favorite bits of software for making star maps, but it has not been updated since March 27, 1998. I keep hoping that a new programmer will pick up where Claus left off. The program is simple and powerful, allowing you to great planets, solar systems and even galaxies that conform to known science. It also allow you to apply original maps to each planet as well as add historical information about the societies that inhabit them.
The program is free, and available from Claus' Geocities page.
As my need for features has grown, I eventually had to break down and buy Astrosynthesis to fulfill my star mapping needs. Astrosynthesis has all of the features that It's Full of Stars does, and adds the ability to map interstellar bodies other than just stars and planets. Maps can be up to 4GB, with Stellar routes, sector definitions, and animations that let you see what it would actually look like to travel between the stars and planets.
The best feature is its integration with Fractal Mapper to automatically generate terrains for every world you create.
Astrosythesis is free to Try, but star sectors and planet surfaces cannot be saved. It is $39.95 on CD and $35.95 as a download from NBOS. They have sample maps, screenshots and animations on their site.
I have tried ever piece of map making software that I have found. Each and every time I hope that I will find the freeware solution that will do all of the things that I want to do, and every time I return to Fractal Mapper.
I have lost track of how many years I have used the various versions of this software. The primary feature is that lines are drawn using a fractal algorithm so coasts and rivers always have a natural appearance. The software also features a nice set of tools to age a map over time to take into account erosion from wind and water. Best of all, you build your maps in layers so it is easy to remove cities or map the evolution of a city over time.
Fractal Mapper is free to Try, but only a subset of map symbols are available and the maps cannot be saved. It is $39.95 on CD and $35.95 as a download from NBOS. They have sample maps, screenshots and animations on their site.
Langmaker is software that helps give depth and context to any setting. The software offer many simple tools to create new languages and dialects based on linguistic rules that add consistency and realism to the language.
Dramatica is the most expensive item on the list, but it is worth far more than the price they charge.
Dramatica is the best outlining software that I have ever used. Honestly, I cannot imagine writing without it. Dramatica is allows you to create detailed character profiles that can be exported and imported into other projects, and helps you create the "story mind" behind your plot, then it has the most powerful outline system I have ever seen.
First of all, there are 3 levels to detail you can choose from so if you are writing a short story you don't waste time creating detail you do not need for the tale, or if you are working on a novel it will remind you of the little details you might forget to come up with.
Secondly, the relationship manager helps you develop the interactions between your characters so their history is shown through their actions without a lot of exposition.
Thirdly, the story forming tools are perfect in the questions they ask to help you remember to include ever detail.
Finally, Dramatica is the best tool I have ever found to defeat writer's block. If you don't know what you want to write about, you can spin the story wheel and it will generate a random storyform that you can write or you can extract the storyform from a favorite book, movie, or television show and build an original story through that form.
It is hard to explain the elegance of the Dramatica theory of Storyforming, but they a free eBook on the theory. You do not need to read the book to use the program, the information is integrated into each step, and it is possible to us the theory without the software, but the program vastly simplifies the process.
If you don't want all the power tools, or if Dramatica is not in the budget, Celtx is good preproduction software.
I use it with Dramatica. When I have finished the story with Dramatica, I put the reports in Celtx so I only have to open one file to have all of my finished work in one easy place.
Celtx was designed for preproduction on films, but can be used for prose as well. It has built in templets for stage plays, audio plays, screenplays, and comic books. If you are writing a script, all the tools are here to format and develop your idea. They recently added the ability to automatically adapt a screenplay to a comic script or any other template they have,
While Celtx is best for media projects, it has a lot of nice tools that will help you capture your vision.