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.
Testing a Setting
Yesterday, I finished the first draft of a test story for a new setting I am developing. Wow, that was a vague sentence, but it sounded like I really said something didn't it. I liked it. I haven't written an Urban Dark (Gothic) Fantasy since 1996. I blame Emerian for my return to Horror writing. I love the genre, abandoning it only after I felt trapped in the rules and requirements it puts on fiction.
After my near breakdown in November, and the many months of recovery, I realized that I am tired of playing by everyone else's rules. I have always been bound to one system or expectations. The world I grew up in is gone, and there is little to nothing I can do to bring it back. I have to just pick up from the mess that exists now and move forward.
If I can be allowed a cliché: "Be the change you want to see."
A couple weeks ago, I started working on an idea. It was strange and scared me a bit. Unlike anything I have ever written, I didn't have a model, or genre to define it. I am not claiming that it is original. I am sure somewhere someone has written something like it, but it is mine. It is the type of story I want to read.
My biggest hurdle has been getting beyond the structures of the novel and the short story. I agree with H P Lovecraft that the best fiction is pulled off with the same craft as a well devised hoax. So I started playing around with ways to tell a strory directly and from oblique angles. I would love to share some of these stories, but they may be included in the final project, so I don't want to release them early.
My biggest inspiration comes from comics. I love the shared universe, and I would love to find some writers to help me out on this project. The idea of the setting as hero mashed up with characters that readers will really care about excites me. In the end I would like this story to spawn blogs, vlogs, and podcasts set in the world, expanding it holding to the canon.
I have never been accused of dreaming too small, LOL.
If I had any advice for the writers out there it is this. Test everything! If you get an idea, no mater how outlandish, bizarre, or out of the mainstream. Give it a try. See how it comes out, then move forward based on the results. I have found a new setting I love writing in. Who knows what you will find.
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.
Introducing David J. Williams
I am so fortunate to have met David through Facebook. I really wish I had more time to read, his book, The Mirrored Heavens has cast a spell over me, and I sneak a moment to read a section every free moment I can. As soon as I finish, I will post a review. Until then, meet David.
Why did you start writing?
For that I have (at least) five answers. I hate to privilege one above the other, so let's just chalk this one up as "overdetermined."
Answer #1: I was working in management consulting, I'd turned thirty, I was bored shitless with the corporate world, and I could feel time burning down on me like a #$# candle.
Answer #2: I'd done some work on the side with friends in Vancouver, BC in the video game industry, and through a strange fluke got co-writing credits for Relic Entertainment's Homeworld. But the next day I was back at the corporate world, hating it more than ever, and wondering why I was living in a universe where I had friends who drew spaceships for a living while I was stuck staring at profit-loss spreadsheets.
Answer #3: I suddenly had one of those moments like in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy realizes all the Nazis are digging in the wrong place: i.e., I got a glimpse of an area of SF that no one was tapping into (near-future space weaponization across the Earth-Moon system), and I wondered what a novel in such a setting would look like.
Answer #4: I became obsessed with the notion of what cyberpunk would be like if the state DIDN'T wither away.
Answer #5: I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Where do you get your ideas?
I read a ton of history, and that's where a lot of my ideas come from. What's happened in the past offers plenty of rich source material, especially because you can mine all sorts of obscure events and everyone thinks you're being totally original. : )
Also worth mentioning is the extent to which I study the U.S. military, and their planning for future war. The military's under no illusions that the center of gravity of warfare is shifting into space, and they've got a lot of stuff in the public domain tracing the implications. I tried to map that out a hundred years, and ask what would space war be like if it was realistic, and obeyed the laws of orbital dynamics, and didn't just feature spaceships doing physically-impossible dogfights. (don't get me wrong, I love that kind of thing, but it's not what I write.)
What was the process of writing The Mirrored Heaven like?
At first it was like running around in the woods with a flashlight. You think there's something out there, but you don't know what, and you start to think you're going crazy. Eventually I had hundreds of pages of incoherent writing, and at some point during that process I started to realize how badly and totally all of it sucked. It was four years before I managed to find the voice/style I'd been searching for, and about that long before the plot really started to come together. (having an eighty-hour-a-week dayjob from hell might have lengthened the process, but OTOH maybe it made me more focused). But in the last few years, things started to really move, and by 2006 I felt like one of those rock bands that's gotten really tight, and might just get lucky enough to land a record deal. Which I eventually did . . .but sometimes I miss those days when I circled round the far side of Mars and didn't even know what I was staring at . . .
What was the process like to find a publisher?
About as hard as people tell you it is. Agents only want to look at veteran writers, and publishers only want writers with agents. As a general rule, unless you know somebody at a publisher, you have to start with the agents, but the problem is that the query-letter process is a #$# meatgrinder—or at least, one that I never mastered. In my opinion, the key is to somehow meet the agents directly; I met mine (Jenny Rappaport) at WorldCon (LA, 2006) . . . though anyone who knows anything about this business knows that WorldCon is the LAST place to meet an agent. But sometimes not knowing the rules is a big help.
What is it like working with a publisher?
You hear all these horror stories in the blogosphere, but I gotta say, working with Bantam Spectra has been great. Largely that's because of Juliet Ulman, my editor; she made the book heaps better than it was when she bought it, and taught me a great deal across the editing process. Plus I love the cover the artist (Paul Youll) did . . .eighty stories above the burning Amazonian delta city of Belem-Macapa . . .
What has the post publication experience been?
On one level, awesome. To have characters who dwelt for years within my head out in the world being experienced by readers is absolutely #$# amazing.
But on another level, it's humbling. At the risk of revisiting that rock band analogy, most bands that make a debut album never make another. It's the same with novels; this is very much an "up or out" business: you have to break through to that next level, or you won't survive. I'm fortunate in that I signed a three-book deal with Bantam Spectra, which gives me more momentum that I might have had otherwise. Above all else, the thing to remember about post publication experience is that you've got the second book to worry about, and that had better be ten times more insane than the first.
You can learn more about David at his site: Autumn Rain 2110, and don't forget to say "Hi!"in the HQ
Twilight, a book to read or not to read
I have been soliciting opinions about Twilight by Stephanie Meyers through our Project: Shadow Informant Podcast. I have been teetering between reading it or not reading it. After putting the question before a round table of friends recently, I had decided not to read the book out of fear that it would be a waste of my time and that I would probably not like it. Whether it is fair or not, I put a lot of weight on the opinions of other writers, especially when I like their work.
On that note, Emerian Rich wrote
This is to you and anyone else who hasn't read Twilight yet. I felt the same way. Many of my fans wanted and begged me to read Twilight about six months ago. I put it off... feigned busy-ness... cleaned the fridge... anything I could do to ignore it.
Then one day I was ready to record my podcast and suddenly our power went out. AND IT WAS OUT FOR 12 HOURS!
So, I decided to pick up Twilight, flashlight in hand. It started slow... and then, I was caught up in the magic that is Edward Cullen and his family. I read the next 2 books in one week. It's one of those books that you want to read so badly that you find yourself skimming the pages because you want to know what's going to happen next... but then you have to go back and re-read the page because you realize you read it too fast and didn't catch what happened. It’s one of those books that kinda pisses me off because I want to finish it so badly that I put off things I SHOULD be doing. Needless to say, I’m glad I’m ¾ done with the last one because it’s been eating up my time! I didn’t expect to like it so much. All that being said, let me state my disclosure.
This book series is written mostly from a girl’s point of view and may not appeal to men. Although some scenes in the 2nd & 3rd book are freakin’ awesome (like the fights between vamps & werewolves), some men may not give it that much of a chance to reach those scenes. I’m not sure if Edward’s sexual magnetism will translate to men who like men? I would think so, but you never know. He’s got that thing… that “Darcy” thing where you think he hates her, but he’s really overcome by passion for her to the point of making it difficult to “control himself”. She begs him to let go in future books… but does not get her wish until book 4. Also, Jacob (the werewolf) is almost addictive and I even found myself hoping Edward would leave for good, so that Jacob’s hot-blooded werewolf body would get used as it was supposed to be. Excuse me… did I say that?
Anyway—As always, please judge the book separate from the movie & trailers. I don’t mind the actors/actresses for Twilight, but I feel they are doing a film that is much more YA than the book reads. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I get this feeling from the trailers. They could have gone older and darker than they did. They could have stayed young but had a more “Blood & Chocolate” feel. I hate to be one of those people who say someone’s trying to ride on the Harry Potter coat tails, but this movie seems like the studio is trying to do that. That doesn’t mean I won’t go see the film, start a blog, and name my 2nd child after the stars, becoming completely fangirl.
There’s my take on Twilight.
I’m curious on your take. Was I tricked by my girly adolescent dreams of having the prefect indestructible boyfriend who protects me at all costs, lays next to me in bed all night and can hear my dad coming so he will disappear suddenly? Or, is it really all that?
Well, the trailer looks interesting and I hate seeing a movie that I have not read the book upon which it is based. I love vampire books, and after my deep disappointment with the last books I tried to read that was not in a series I was already familiar with, I am a bit nervous about trying out a new book. (my wounds have not healed from the literary wounds yet)
My biggest concern was that the book was a kiddie vampire novel. As a fan of Emerian’s Night’s Knights, I will take her word that it is not. The others that I asked condemned the book for its lack of originality in its setting and story, but I am not aware of an original vampire novel beyond Christopher Golden’s Shadow Chronicles.
On Emerian’s review, I have decided to read the book and give it a try. What are you going to do, and if you have already read the book leave a polite comment here on in the forum.
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.