My name is C.E. Dorsett, and I am a scifi/fantasy writer. I have written the books Shine Like Thunder and The Chain, just to name a couple. I am really a builder of worlds from the wuxia inspired, scifi setting Our Solemn Hour to the dark fantasy of Dragons of Night. My writing is influenced by writers like H. P. Lovecraft, Charlaine Harris, Alice Hoffman, Armistead Maupin, Frank Herbert, E E Doc Smith and Robert E Howard. I love to tell stories and talk with my readers.
A Rose by any other name
A new story is boiling in my mind. It scrapes at the inside of my skull like Athena trying desperately to get out. The cast of characters came to me quickly, but they needed names.
Sometimes, I feel like names are the bane of all authors. They have to fit the character and the setting, and work well with each other. That might sound simple, but for me it spirals into a series of questions just short of the Spanish Inquisition.
Eric's First Rule of Naming
No character in the story can have the same name as a member of my immediate family.
That is hard. In this particular story, there is a character that feels like a Christopher and another who feels like a Donna, but my sister's name is Chris and my mother-in-law's name is Donna, so both of those names are out.
I made this rule when I was really young, when family thought characters with the same name were really ways to talk about them. (sigh)
There is a practical reason for this too. Writers can be sued if people think characters in their stories are based on them. It makes naming a bit challenging for me, but it is a wise thing to do.
Eric's Second Rule of Naming
Names must flow together well.
Flow is a hard thing to talk about. The easiest way to think of name flow is that the names need to sound like they belong together. Families and regions have certain naming conventions, and as a Speculative Fiction writer, determining those conventions are important.
Older fiction didn't bother with this, so we ended up with names like Blork, Gort, and Xanthon. Names that sounded outlandish, but were just weird.
H. P. Lovecraft thought a lot about the names of the creatures in his fiction. Cthulhu for example is based on the greek work Cthon which means underground, and he intentionally wanted something that was hard to pronounce and that would be pronounced differently by everyone. He thought it helped to lend the character an unknowable and alien quality.
Eric's Third Rule of Naming
Love the names you choose.
Writing a novel or series is akin to marriage. You are going to spend every moment of every day with these characters rummaging around in your head. It can take months or even years to write and edit a story. It is a commitment. Make sure you are committed to the names you choose so you don't end up with a Dwigt in your manuscript.
Pursuing a Dream
I think a lot about how to find and follow our dreams. At times, I feel like a self-help writer, and I wonder if I am really saying anything that matters.
The Problem with Self-help
American society is rooted in the idea of picking ourselves up by our bootstraps and achieving impossible dreams. We are a frontier nation, young enough to remember the struggles of our founders and frontiers men and women, but finally old enough to start grappling with some of the realities of forging a new world out of one that existed long before we got here.
Our real problem is the stories we grew up with about people who set out on their own to create a life for themselves. It was all a lie. None of these people did anything alone. They only accomplished what they did with the help and support of their community.
Unfortunately, this self-made person myth infiltrated every part of our cultural psyche to the point where we have entire industries built on the lie that if you get your act together, then you will be able to do anything. The truth is, only when we build a community around ourselves will be we able to accomplish anything.
While many of us believe we are alone in our dreams or that we have to achieve our dreams on our own, we are never really alone. Thousands of people want to write a book, or make a movie. The trick is to find other people who share your specific dream.
Blogs and podcasts have helped a many people, but the means is not important. What is important is the connections we make to keep our spirits up, share our knowledge, and support us through the lows and the highs.
Without a strong connection with like minded people, it is difficult to navigate the treacherous waters between us and our goal.
The path to our dream starts with us sharing:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What steps do you see between where you are to where you want to be?
- What mistakes have you made, and what have you learned from them?
- What are you doing right now to achieve your goals.
When you start to share, you will find others willing to share with you their experiences.
Following your dream
Now, you need to make you steps know, continue to share your experience, and work with others to achieve your goals.
Start a Blog over at Project: Shadow, and let’s get the community together. As a group, nothing can stand in our way!
Project: Shadow Manifesto
To mark the 10 year anniversary of the Project: Shadow Manifesto, we thought it was time to overhaul it again, but this time to open up the project to all of the like-minded fans out there who are tired of the status quo, and who are hungry for something new. Brian and I drafted the original Project: Shadow Manifesto in 1999 as an outline we saw in professional publishing. The original draft was heavy on problems, light on vision, and even lighter on solutions. We took years investigating the limited options available at the time, built the original Project: Shadow, and I started writing.
In 2004, we revised the manifesto, and re-launched Project: Shadow. The new draft focused on the solutions possible through new technologies. The world/culture presented us with newer challenges.
We are fans.
We love our music, stories, characters, and settings. We know about what we love. We participate in what we love. We support what we love. What we love supports us.
At heart, a fan is not someone who enjoys a movie, a song, a band, a book, or a show. A fan feels an intense connection with the object of their love. Fans decorate their homes, offices, and desktops with items that announce their allegiance with their favorite bands, movies, shows, and books.
The problem with our popular culture is that it doesn’t blink at a sports fan wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with their favorite team, or even a replica jersey, but wear a Star Wars shirt or dress like a goth and they think they have the right to mock you.
What is the difference between a fan wearing a jersey to a game or fan bringing a light saber to a movie? Or for that matter, what is the difference between a sports fan painting themselves up to go tailgating or a fan dressing as their favorite character at a convention?
Perception. Pop Culture has classified sports fans as acceptable and speculative fiction fans as geeky. I have to say, it is just as geeky to now all of the stats for everyone who has ever played for a particular sports franchise as it is to know the stats for every creature in the Monster Manual. The only real difference is one fan accepts they are a geek, and the other pretends their geekiness is proof they are a jock.
The disapproval is the least of the problems facing today’s fan.
From Storytellers to Copyright
Problem: People are natural storytellers. We hear a story, embellish it, and pass it on.
Solution: We tell each other stories, sing songs, write books, make videos, and create art to share these stories with each other.
Every story we tell is not original. We like to tell the same stories over and over. We borrow stories from any where and retell them in our own vernacular. It is intrinsic to who and what we are to share stories with each other.
Problem: The only constant in the world is change.
Solution: We ask ourselves the question, "What if," and share the answer with each other.
Problem: Artists and Writers need to make a living singing their songs, writing their books, making their videos, and creating their art.
Solution: We establish systems of Copyright.
The Cultural Cycle
Before the era of Copyright, stories, heroes, melodies, and lyrics belonged to the people. Stories were told, and retold. Numerous visions of each story competed against each other. The best were remembered, collected, retold, embellished, and built upon. The rest were forgotten.
Who told the first story about Hercules? Or Jason? or Troy? Who started the legends of King Arthur? or Beowulf? The first tales and their countless reiterations have been lost, but the best, most iconic stories survived.
Of all of Shakespeare’s plays, only a few comedies have no obvious sources, and even they rely upon well established patterns and archetypes.
This is the Cultural Cycle that keeps important stories alive. Each generation must retell the tales of the preceding generations in their own context to keep them relevant. This cycle has been broken.
- Problem: Companies lobby to prevent Intellectual Property from reentering the commons of the culture.
- Problem: Companies control the instruments of culture, making it harder to engage culture creatively.
- Solution: Fans retell these stories as not for profit tales, films, and songs.
- Solution: Fans organize themselves into clubs and conventions.
These solutions are are not enough. Fanfiction and film relies on the good will of the copyright holders and the fact that the fans do not make money from their works to slip through the thinnest of loop hole in copyright. As a result, pop culture is unaware of the cultural developments and retelling of these new stories. The subculture may be enriched by them, but the culture as a whole is not.
The Creative Commons and the Cult of the Dollar
Problem: Publishers and producers focus more on the commercial and popular value of a work, and the creative energy of the work suffers. Readers/viewers will not become fans, and fans will not continue to accept passionless works of Speculative Fiction.
Solution: Placing honesty over consumerism, we fans must stake out our own home to create and share the works we love. We must stand between the darkness and the light: This is the purpose of Project: Shadow.
Problem: The Companies and Rights holders lashed out against the fair use of their properties.
Problem: Some Rights Holders have lulled fandom into a false sense of security by not suing and even encouraging those who produce fanworks
Creative Commons is one of many proposed solutions to this problem. Others have lobbied for copyright reform. Neither of these is a solution to the problems.
Copyright reform is a doomed enterprise while corporate lobbyists have the power they do over the congress. While it is a goal to work for, it is just not realistic in the short term.
Creative Commons is closer to a solution, but the adoption rate has not been sufficient to even start chipping away at the problem.
The reason Creative Commons is an uphill battle is that it is a major evolution in the way rights holders handle permissions to use their work, and exists without an intermediary form. Existing rights holders have not adopted it because they are unwilling to give up all the rights entailed under Creative Commons.
I approached the Creative Commons Foundation with a proposal for a Fan Works License:
Some of the rights holders I have talked to are reluctant to use the CC because they are concerned they are giving up too many rights to their works. A Fan Works License would allow rights holders to clearly state what they will allow others to do with their characters, content, and settings.
It would be a bit more complicated than a standard CC, stating whether others may make original text, video, music, or art projects based on their works. It would also allow them to set the content rating they would allow fan works to have. This could be aligned with the MPAA ratings or the ESRB ratings system or an original system. The reason for this is so a young adult novelist could set a max rating of PG-13, allowing others to know what standards they would apply to determine whether a fan work is legitimate or not.
The other terms would be the same as in the standard CC.
You may not think something like this is necessary, but the current state of fan works is hazy. While few have been sued in the last couple years, at any time, rights holders could decide to start suing again. By creating a license that covers works with the same characters and settings rather than a particular book or movie, I believe we could get more rights holders to use the license to allow for the creation of fan works, which is a step on the road to open up works to the commons.
They responded with a simple, “CC probably isn't going to be expanding the license offerings, and in fact, over the past few years CC has been reducing the number of licenses.”
I do not believe that a fanwork or Creative Commons license is the ultimate solution, but as a possible stepping stone toward an open culture.
Progressive Speculative Fiction
- Problem: Modern and Post-modern fiction is antithetical to hope, imagination, and community
- Problem: Success is easier through snark, hate, and discrimination.
- Solution: We will promote, support and create Progressive Speculative Fiction.
What is Progressive Speculative Fiction?
Progressive Speculative Fiction is a story told in any medium which has a "What if" at its core and is filled with hope for the future and promotes a sense of community.
How can disaster fiction be progressive?
Watch a Godzilla movie or either The Day the Earth Stood Stills. If there is nothing worth saving, then there is no tragedy. The heroes must at least try to save someone or something worth saving.
How can horror be progressive?
Watch nearly any horror film made prior to 1990 or for the best example read The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker or anything by Anne Rice. If life is not worth living or there is nothing worth defending, where is the horror. If life is worthless, then death is merely a release from a nightmare. There is nothing scary about it. If there is no free will, nothing is lost by imprisonment or possession. If sanity is not worth preserving, why bother.
What works are Progressive Speculative Fiction?
There are too many to mention all of them, but to offer a spectrum:
- The Matrix/ The Matrix Reloaded/ The Matrix Revolutions/ The Animatrix
- The Dark Knight
- Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within
- The Lord of the Rings
- Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned, and The Tale of the body Thief
Just to name a few.
- Problem: The word "Myth" has become a marketing term.
Homogenized works are released more often by the industry every year. Focus groups and market analysis have replaced quality work, but since the cultural cycle is broken, industry has no alternative. It is safer to release works like the ones that sold last year than it is to seek out new talent/ideas that would be more of a risk.
They know what the fans want. We want myths, stories that speak to us on a deep level while entertaining us. Myths are hard to make. It is easy to add in a wizard or a starship and call it mythology. Fans see through it, but the masses are looking for little more than sex, violence, and humor. Speculative Fiction has been watered down to little more than:
- imitation space opera
- knock-off cyberpunk
- repackaging of the rings
- martial arts boom-boom
- torture porn
They, then, wrap it in a shiny box, slap the word myth, saga, legend, or reboot on it, and wait for the masses to spend their money on it... and they usually do.
We do not need another company driven by profit margins, or another author whose self-important propaganda obscures the art.
We need writers and artists that love what they are doing.
We need fans who are not afraid to speak their minds.
We need places in our towns/cities and online where we can meet and share the few gems that we find from the industry and from the independent artist, writers, and filmmakers who are still following their bliss rather than the dollar.
That is why we are here. Project: Shadow and dashPunk will provide a platform for writers, artists, filmmakers and fans to “follow their bliss.” We are dedicated to finding and promoting the best Speculative Fiction out there: the little/well known writers, filmmakers, artists and works, fostering their talents, and helping them to not only follow their hearts, but to share that vision with others.
But we cannot do it alone!
Fandom Strikes Back
- Solution: We must seek out and support the writers, artists, and producers that encourage and support fan works.
- Solution: We must get writers, artists, and producers on the record about their position regarding fan works.
- Solution: We must live according to our values of hope, imagination, and community.
- Solution: We must build a community around hope, imagination, and community, and reject the rote cynicism that defines the faux-fandom that loves to tear things down rather than build things up.
- Solution: We must spread the stories, videos, songs, and art that speak to us.
Together, We can make dashPunk and Project: Shadow more than an idea or a website, but a vibrant community of fans who share the things we love with each other.
Together, we can make it easier to find and share the things we love and find new things to love.
Together, we can build a community of fans who support and engage one another for our mutual benefit.
Alone, none of us can stand up to the corporate powers who control the music, video, text, and art that we love, but together, our voice will be heard.
Fandom is a vibrant culture with its own music (filk), events (conventions), games, and myths. Until now, we have gathered periodically, or in disparate groups.
Now is the time to bring the great multitude of fan bases together.
Now is your time! Copy this Manifesto. Print it, post it, email it, share it! Tell a friend, and most importantly Make your voice heard.
Project: Shadow Manifesto by Project: Shadow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Based on a work at dashpunk.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://dashpunk.com/about/.
Saving Star Trek
Mixing Star Wars and Star Trek
Wired.com: J.J. Abrams makes no secret that he’s more of a Star Wars guy and not so much into Star Trek, but you two were full-tilt fans.
Orci: In terms of fandom, yeah, and Damon too is a fanatic - we’re not going to drop the ball out of ignorance. Nobody can say that we don’t know Star Trek. There might be some things we do that people could question, where they go, “I hate them for some other reasons,” but they can’t say, “They didn’t know their stuff.”
Orci: And it’s controversial to even mention Star Wars and Star Trek in the same sentence, but Alex said, “We have to bring more Star Wars into Star Trek.”
Kurtzman: (joke-coughing) Original Star Wars.
Orci: Original Star Wars. I want to feel the space, I want to feel speed and I want to feel all the things that can become a little bit lost when Star Trek becomes very stately — which I love about it , but….
Kurtzman: Star Trek is often the space equivalent of sub battles, which is what makes it unique and different from Star Wars, so you can’t blow that away, either.
Orci: It’s somewhere between that the truth lies.
Really? Again with people thinking that Star Trek is suppose to be an action series! It sounds like the new film will be, but that is not the original concept for the series.
I feel like I have to say something:
Science Fiction ≠ Action
I know this is a hard concept for some people to understand. While science fiction can have action scenes in it, one is not equal to the other.
Star Trek was intended to be a Science Fiction show, and many of their best episodes did not have any action scenes at all Like the City at the Edge of Forever.
Roddenberry wanted the show to highlight how diplomacy should be our first resort rather than violence.
5 Ways to Ruin Star Trek by Adding Star Wars
Make Your Heroes Less Perfect
Yeah, that is a great suggestion. Instead of trying to show a future that actually lives up to the ideals you have set for it, and that you are hoping your audience will also aspire to, throw all your ideals out the window and make your characters flawed and while your at it, make the future something no one will ever want to aspire to.
Less Talk, More Action
Diplomacy is overrated, lets just beat the crap out of each other for no good reason. A puerile show filled with hate and violence is better than a show that sets reason and self-control on a pedestal.
There is no way that a Star Trek with more space battles and less attempts to sit down and talk things through like grown-ups would be a bad thing (io9).
Except it would have to sell out all of its ideals in order to do it. For some people selling out seems to come easier than for others.
Ignore the Laws of Physics
Ok, Star Trek was a Science Fiction show. Science Fiction is a subgenre of Speculative Fiction where science plays and integral role in the plot, and it would not be possible to tell the story without it.
Ok, so, we take that away and Star Trek is nothing but a run of the mill Space Opera.
Have At Least One Sequence That Will Make A Good Video Game
That’s right. Think about the merchandising first. Stop thinking about the plot and the characters. Just think about the money you will make with the crappy game based on movie. (honestly, has there ever been a good one?)
Think about money, nothing but money. Nothing matters but money, and entertaining people who are so emotionally dead inside that they could not be moved by anything.
Put Uhura In A Metal Bikini At Some Point
Because, I am sure it is better to turn an important character into nothing but a vapid sex object that only hormonally brain damaged men will care about. What where they thinking trying to give women a role model to look up to. I suppose Graeme McMillan thinks that women should stay in their bikinis and not have all those pesky opinions.
IF this is the new Star Trek…
…then I know it is nothing that I want to see. My snarkiness aside, these truly are bad ideas.
If Star Trek was to be rebooted, I wish people would have listened to J Michel Straczynski and Bryce Zabel who wanted to keep the spirit of the original alive. (see there concept here)
What these people have described is not a reboot for Star Trek, but a different show with the same name.
May the Great Bird of the Galaxy save us all.
JJ Abrams told Entertainment Weekly:
Plus, at heart, Abrams is still more of aguy. ''All my smart friends liked Star Trek,'' he says. ''I preferred a more visceral experience.'' Which is exactly why he accepted Paramount's offer in 2005 to develop a new Trek flick; creatively, he was engaged by the possibility of a Star Trek movie ''that grabbed me the way Star Wars did.'' That meant a bigger budget and better special effects than any previous Trek film, plus freedom to reinvent the mythos as needed. ''We have worldwide aspirations and we need to broaden [Trek's] appeal,'' says Weston. ''Doing the half-assed version of this thing wasn't going to work.''
So everyone involved in the new movie wants to see these sort of changes... Grr Argh.
Check out my Star Trek Review.