My Fanfiction Origin Story

The title is more epic than it actually sounds, but when I think about it the entire thing had been a story long in the making.

Some writers believe that fanfiction is a waste of time. Certainly, you can’t really profit off of it unless you have the original writer or creator’s permission, and you do not want to run afoul of copyright infringement. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. I’m partly here because it’s been a while since I’ve put anything on this Blog, my Writer’s Blog, that hasn’t been a repost from my Sequart work, or elsewhere.

I suppose I’d … always written fanfiction. In fact, I did it ever since I even learned how to write. Often I’d watch the 1990s Peter Pan cartoons and attempt to write the further stories of Captain Hook, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and more. In the eighties and nineties though, as a young child, I was mostly interested in horror stories and mostly rehashing the old urban legends and Hammer film derivatives of horror classics more than anything else.

I don’t know if I remember it properly, but I think it really began in Fine Arts Camp. It was at the MacDonald House in Thornhill, once owned by the Canadian Group of Seven artist James Edward Harvey MacDonald. At the time, in the 1990s, I fancied myself something of a graphic artist. I was really passionate about drawing and creating cartoons. It made sense given my interests and my immersion into old DC and Marvel comics and a lot of the stuff coming out in the nineties. Certainly, I wasn’t all that interested in landscapes or other forms of graphic art. Just cartoons. Just comic books.

To be honest, Fine Arts Camp for all its fascinating old MacDonald House that was a good place to tell children urban legends and horror stories near a church and a community swimming pool, wasn’t always so ideal for me. For one, I had terrible allergies and being almost always in the middle of a woodland, surrounded by many trees, did not do me or my lungs that felt like they were getting kicked by horse hooves at night any favours. Also, well, when you are a child and generally an indoors one you have to understand that for all a camp will call itself a Fine Arts Camp, they will still force you go outside in various temperatures and play sports more than you will want. It was the same in the Computer Camp I went to, thinking I’d learn about animation and programming, and it was the same here before it.

Also, when you are extremely introverted like I was, you don’t tend to make a lot of friends: especially not from children your age or, worse, older. To make a long story short, aside from arts and crafts, and even some walks, I didn’t really always like being at Fine Arts Camp. But, I did discover something there that has sat in my head, with me, for the rest of my life.

I don’t remember his name. I’m not even sure he was the same person. But I knew a kid there, a few years older than me. He had in his hands, at the time, something I coveted the most. It was the Wizard Magazine: X-Men 30th Anniversary Special. In that magazine was all the information I’d been looking for about the X-Men and more, so much more than the Marvel cards and their lore that I had been collecting then.

For all the little squabbles we all had there, being kids, this guy was generous and he let me actually read parts of the Magazine. And, even though the other campers really thought I was weird for doing this and it probably gave them more fuel to push me around later, I was actually taking notes on all the information I could find. It wasn’t enough and eventually, after much pleading on my part and my grandmother’s reluctance to spend or let me spend all of twenty dollars, I got my own copy: which is still somewhere down in my basement somewhere.

But the important thing I want to note here is that this same guy, and may not necessarily be the same guy, liked to write. He told us that he would type up his stories on an old computer. Somehow, I remember him saying he had the Internet and frequented BBSes looking at stories based on franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. I might just be projecting that, as I had no idea what the Internet beyond school was or what a BBS even was at the time. But I remember him saying that he liked to write stories where Star Trek and Star Wars crossed over, and perhaps something about Locutus of Borg meeting the Empire.

It blew my mind.

I don’t remember all the details, but I recall the way he described his ideas and his stories. I think he even brought in some old computer paper with rings on the sides and clunky font. And I definitely remember wanting to write franchise stories.

I wanted to make those crossovers. I wanted to write Star Wars. I wanted to write comics and all the things.

That’s how it really started. There was an attempt at a Star Wars expanded universe story in my Seventh or Eighth Grade Writer’s Club anthology: where Luke Skywalker and the others meet a Dark Jedi fighting against the Empire and the Phantom Fleet. But you can imagine how well that was written at the time, and even more so how it aged since.

But I roleplayed out original Star Wars, X-Men, and Power Rangers episodes with my best friend Sean, and I kept writing. I still attempted to write my own works, but they were derivative of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps and Fear Street, along with some Christopher Pike, so you can imagine what those might have been like.

I think my writing skills started to be honed after high school, after reading more and writing an original short story in which I won a Senior Literary Award in 1999. I joined TheForce.Net again in 2005 and wrote what I thought were clearer iterations of Prequel stories. Unfortunately, despite all their assurances that everything would be saved, a lot of my works were lost when the Board attempted to transfer its data to a new server and most of my old works were heavily truncated.  It’s something I never really got over, after all this time and, frankly, it’s kept me from really writing there as much anymore.

But I learned a lot out of writing in different pre-made worlds.. I learned about what writing I liked and what I didn’t. They gave me ideas and frameworks for them. And sometimes they gave me an outlet to tell stories I wasn’t prepared to tell when I didn’t have a voice for them. Yet I think, most of all, fanfiction keeps me writing when I don’t feel inspired to write my own work, or when I’m getting overly critical and analytical.

Recently, I’ve joined AO3 to give some of my fanfic pieces a broader audience. I didn’t really like the freeform administrative style of Fanfic.Net, and TheForce.Net’s administration can be … sporadic and highly dogmatic in terms of poster interaction at best. But AO3 has a lot of variety and also maturity at times with regards to their work. So far I am liking it. And I cross-post all the time. Right now, in-between writing critical and opinion pieces for Sequart and thinking of some of my own original pieces, I’ve been writing a Fate/Stay Night fanfic I’ve been pondering over for a while and a few other shorter vignettes as well.

They keep me going, and I don’t think I realized how I missed it until I stopped. In addition, they also keep me writing new things and attempting stuff I hadn’t thought of or had the metaphorical balls to dare try. At the moment, this variance helps keep my mind fresh: and, who knows, I might have some of my own creative breakthroughs.

Some might even say that this how literature itself continues, minus all of these labels and copyright issues. Someone creates something and others want to emulate it: with perhaps reading and interacting with the materials that the original creator made to understand it better and eventually find their own voice.

Even so, fanfiction allows me to interact with the material that I love on a creative level without the pressure of feeling like I have do it professionally or for a need for money. I think there is a lot to be said about it, if you learn and grow from the experience, and even just have fun. I don’t know. I do know that I have come a long way from coveting wanting to write a Star Wars story, which I thought was beyond my ken at the time. With time, research, and will I can write almost anything now.

I guess that, in the end, I just need to remember that. After all, I think it is always useful to pursue inspiration: wherever you can find it.

What’s Going to Happen

I’m not sure when I’m going to be on here next, so I thought I’d stop by and tell you about some of my plans and perhaps a few upcoming events.

A little while ago, I decided to write full-time for Sequart. This means that I write 15000 words a month: including integrating graphics into those articles that talk about comics and sequential art. When I made this decision, it was part of my plan to supplement my writing and keep generating content while I spend time on my more creative works.

Something happened though. I began writing about LGBTQ+ issues through specific works. Then the 2016 American Election happened, and I have been writing about that a little bit. These have been areas that I have skirted around and didn’t really engage beyond acknowledgement as they weren’t in my area of lived experience, or my comfort zone. But this crop of articles has challenged how I write and I’ve realized since then that I do have a non-fiction writing style: something I cultivated on this very Blog.

The Editor-in-Chief of Sequart, Mike Phillips, gave me the following LinkedIn recommendation:

“Matthew is a great writer. One of the best Sequart.org has ever had, actually. Some smart people don’t know how to successfully, stylishly convey their intellect to the written word, but Matthew doesn’t have this problem. His non-fiction is meticulous, yet prose-like. That’s no mean feat! I’m so glad to have him on board here, and any publication would be better with him on their team.”

It really hit home for me that I am particularly specific in what I write about, what terminology I choose to use, and that I put in a little bit of flippancy and no small amount of geek references into my writing. But even when my writing is non-fiction, I write it as if it were a story. I particularly honed this after reading a few key books in a course at York University called The Literature of Testimony by Professor Sara Horowitz. I noted the power of their narrative voices and tried to emulate that and bring my own experience into it. It was on Mythic Bios, though, that I really started to let my voice come publicly into my own and put my ideas where my keyboard is.

But lately, with regards to Sequart, I feel like I’ve really been challenging myself. And I’ve realized that I’m actually fairly good at what I do. I was burned out from academia and I vowed never to go back to it after completing my Master’s Thesis. But when you make an article for a magazine, depending on what that magazine is, voice, relatability, your audience, and your enthusiasm can matter more than footnotes.

It’s been almost two months already and it took me a while to realize that I can actually do this, and if this is what I can do — along with making contacts along the way to keep doing it — then I can more than live with that. It’s funny. If you’d told me years ago, when I was a kid and I just read superhero comics that I would be writing articles on Sandman, LGBTQ+ issues, some politics, and Alan Moore I would have no idea what you were even talking about. It’d have been beyond my ken. I wouldn’t have understood what I was even making right now: even if a few years later some part of me, after discovering Philosophy, would do my damnedest to try and figure out just what the hell my future self was talking about and why it was so important to me.

Some things still get lost in text and you can only really figure out in experience. I wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing some of the things I do now. It’s funny how that works.

I’ve also applied for another writing job and we will see if anything comes from that. And I want to finish my comics script, possibly adapt a story of mine into a novel, and keep working on something that is the equivalent of a novel. I also have a lot of ideas for more articles.

But right now, I can’t focus on any of that. For the next two days, I’m going to be busy. I’m going to the opening night of Rogue One tomorrow and then the next day I will be roleplaying more Star Wars with my friends.

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Some of my life is still not ideal right now, but it does feel like a few steps in the right direction. I may well be onto something if I keep up this groove.

If you’re interested, you can find my Sequart articles right on my profile.

I think, really, I wanted to write here about how far I’ve come: if only a little bit more before next year starts. I might have one or two posts on here before then, but if I don’t, I hope you all have an excellent New Year better than 2016 and that this amount of progress will continue. Take care all.

A Business About Storytelling, Game Development, And Other Promises

Aside from the fanfiction I posted the other day in a previous post, it’s been yet another long while since I’ve posted on this Blog. Obviously, a lot has happened since I last wrote here so I will try to catch everyone up.

The LDEEP Workshop actually took another week longer than I’d originally thought. Now I am seeing the head of the program every Monday and Thursday. What we’re doing now is we are working on a plan of self-employment. It is going to be centered around two aspects: assisted storytelling, and the creation of some collaborative works. Basically the idea is that I will be helping other people with their writing, or telling their own stories while making my own with fellow artistic collaborators.

In retrospect, I’d been heading in this direction for quite some time even before LDEEP. Even before it had a name, even before I had a Patreon account, I knew this was something that I had to do. And if all goes well, I may even be able to get assistance for this. But it will take time and effort on my part. I am still not home free yet and, honestly, even when this becomes a reality I still won’t be.

There have been challenges even now. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I am doing the right thing or if someone as numerically challenged as myself has any right attempting to run a business. There had also been times when I was frustrated with LDEEP and how many of its workshops, while informative, didn’t really apply to my ultimate goals. And very recently I had to turn down a job offer that, while it might have given me some money, just wasn’t feasible for me due to distance and misunderstandings.

Yet these things have worked in my favour when I really think about them. I was having a lot of trouble articulating a good business plan. The head of our program told me to “make a story with numbers.” And I struggled with it. I admit, it slowed me down a lot. I wanted to create actual content. I wanted to keep writing on this Blog. I didn’t want to be bogged down by details. And I was looking for someone full time who could help with future administrative duties: to leave me with time to create.

But right now I am the only one that can make this happen. And I realized I was going about this all the wrong way. I’ve mentioned many times before that I have a learning disability: specifically in the realm of mathematics. So, one day after dealing with a lot of other issues, I realized that what I should be doing is writing out “the story” first and add the numbers, with assistance, later on. Basically, for lack of another better analogy, I am working on the thesis of the thing and gathering the research and evidence afterwards to back it up.

It was still work but I managed to create a first draft of a plan. And it is still, like everything I do, a work in progress. And I will definitely keep you posted once I finally make something a little more substantial to work with.

I have also been working on a collaborative game with a team of people who happen to also be made up of some of my childhood friends. And I have accomplished a lot. I have not only created a sample list of pre-generated character names and six factions, but also an extra seventh faction that I hope to use in a tutorial along with a creative event scenario. There is, like everything else, a lot more to do but I am pleased with mine — and my teammates’ — progress. So while I am not a programmer or a graphic artist, I am a writer for a game and so this is actually some game development on my part: which makes me really damned proud.

I also can’t wait to say more about the actual game itself, but I will wait on that until we have more done and when our team leader thinks it appropriate.

The graphic story collaboration I am making with Angela O’Hara is still happening, but we have both had to take time to deal with our respective workloads. But I know we are both still interested in its creation and I look forward to sharing that work as well.

So many promises now, I have to say. I feel like, for all the challenges and tribulations I’ve faced, I have been doing some good work. And that in itself is a reward. But I plan to do so much more: just as I also plan to share so much more with you, my faithful friends and readers.

Until next time.

Looking Outward

Week Two, Hell, Awareness, And Readjustment

The title is not what it seems especially when you take into account the graphic that you’re, no doubt, seeing at this time. It’s funny: I could have written this post up earlier in the weekend but one thing I’ve noticed in having a set schedule in the morning now is how much more tired I am when I finally get home, or finally get to the weekend.

There are a lot of things I wanted to do this weekend: like work on my “Serpent and The Fox” or more background material for the game I’m collaborating on: especially the latter after my sessions at LDEEP.

It’s still taking a while for my body to adjust to being up and functioning again at daylight hours: especially during what is now pretty much the summer time. It feels weird. It’s hard to explain really. Sometimes I feel the stress taking over my body and it seems to react on its own. Having IBS also doesn’t help matters and, to be honest, I could really do without it. It can make travel … interesting: especially in traffic.

At the same time, though, it’s not an exaggeration to say that my head has been light and airy. For a few years now I’ve generally only gone outside later in the day and in limited bursts. My interactions with other people were cursory or perfunctionary at best. Sometimes, even now, I need some space and I find that I need to move around in order to feel comfortable in my body in another space as well. I’ve always had that last element in the form of fidgeting: and it manifests through needing to express excitement and channel nervous energy. But I have also been taking it in stride and working through my body to get my tasks finished. I mean, if I have to deal with matters I might as well get as much from doing so as possible. That is my philosophy now.

Right now I have something of a functional resume and cover letter that I plan to use as a foundation to network and from which to create other elements. Chances are, again, I will be looking for collaborations and contract work, but I wouldn’t rule out using these resources from which I would create my own job. It wouldn’t be the first time.

One other nice thing about LDEEP is the fact that a lot of the work we do stays at the centre. This allows me to come home, rest, and even do some of my own creative work. It isn’t always in my face and it has its own place where I can engage it with help. So that structure does help a lot. And I am dealing: still trying to find a balance of work, rest, and eating as I finished the second week of my program.

Also my flip-phone, which was nearly a decade old, dislocated its head and I had to get a new phone. Last week I wrote a GeekPr0n article on the Netflix series Sense8: which might as well be an extended metaphor for wireless, online and long-distance relationships. My new phone is, by necessity of my career plans and current work, linked to the Internet and while the process of getting and programming it — and sometimes unlocking the damned thing — has been stressful, I feel a lot more connected to some of the people I know. It makes things a little better for me and sometimes that’s all you can ask. That said, I’m also getting to know people in my course and even though we are different, it is still nice to get to interact with other people face-to-face.

And now, for the Hell element of this post. It’s not living in daylight again, or going out more, or doing a ton of work, or even readjusting my body. Rather, it is more information about my upcoming published story. Allow me to reintroduce you to DOCTORS IN HELL.

Doctors In Hell Advertisement

It is a beautiful advertisement and I just thought I’d share it with all of you: to show you I am there and that this is happening again. It’s also nice to see my name, with my fellow Hellions, all front and centre. A lot of last week was me filling out an interview and biographies and other minutiae after my days at LDEEP. Each interaction left me with a sense of accomplishment.

My story in Heroes in Hell Volume 18: Doctors in Hell, “Let Us Kill The Spirit of Gravity” continues just after Nietzsche runs into Lilith for the first time. It can be read on its own, but “When You Gaze Into An Abyss” from Poets in Hell is also a nice read, in my relatively biased opinion, before you start this one.

And you can order it on Kindle today. 🙂

In this sense everything here is not so much that a road to hell paved with good intentions, but rather that an idle mind (read an ever-busy mind) is the devil’s workshop. And I am going to keep working in it, and at it. I promise.

One Week, Doctors In Hell, The Serpent And The Fox, and The Se’reti Empire

Here is my update for this week. I got through the first week of LDEEP. Right now I am still in the place where I’m trying to figure out where to go from here. The major challenges for me are waking up early and the differences it’s had on my bio-rhythms.

But I think what has really gotten to me is the fact that I’m adjusting to being in something of a classroom setting again and being around people in the morning. I’m lucky in that the people I’m working with, my peers in the program, are very nice and we are trying to figure out similar issues together. Our instructor and advocate is doing a good job relating the government-mandated material to us and giving us extra information and personal anecdotes that can come in handy later down the road.

Yet this last week, it was difficult for me. I had to remind myself that it was okay for me to get up from my chair around the table if I needed to do so. Usually I spend time on my own on my bed with my laptop and I’m generally not around people. Another issue is that our work space is somewhat out of the way for me to get to so I need to rely on my Dad or public transportation to get there and it: causes me some stress.

It’s strange. I’m still hoping that I will get some contract work and flexible hours so I won’t have to wake up so early after my time in the program is done, but after my body was really adjusting to this new schedule last week I also realized I somewhat miss being around people and, when I have the energy to not be so introverted, socializing and helping others can be nice. Just as a part of me would be relieved to have time to myself again as I had before, another part is terrified at losing a sense of structure and getting bogged down in the fog of war in my head again.

I’m also not sure if a job can be found for me: one that can pay reasonably and that I’d actually like. One thing you learn as a learning disabled person is that sometimes you need to find a different criteria for yourself and make your own way. If you have an excellent helper, then they will work with you. Very soon, I will be working with our instructor for one hour to determine what it is I can do and what I want to do. I mean, I want to be a writer. That is not going to change. And I have some ideas. I think what I will do is I will write them down when I get the chance and we can see where to go from there.

So aside from the fact that I act on negative modifiers, especially for motor skills in the morning, I feel like … something is happening. We will just have to see. However, I do have more news.

I am getting published again in Janet Morris’ shared Heroes in Hell universe Doctors in Hell. In my story “Let Us Kill The Spirit of Gravity” we get to meet a fallen angel and the Earth Beast of the Apocalypse. But the most important element will be how Friedrich Nietzsche and Lilith, the First Woman, actually come into an accord that they hope will get them out of hell. I mean, good luck on that you guys. You are going to need it. The book isn’t out yet, but I will let you know when it is. In the meantime, here is a link to the book as a Kindle on Amazon.

Doctors In Hell

I also mentioned that I am working on a game with some friends. But what I haven’t yet is that I’m working with Angela O’Hara on some projects as well: including my Twine “The Serpent and The Fox.” Angela is an excellent illustrator and artist and it is my hope that we can make my story of interlinked haikus have some appropriate and beautiful illustrations to go along with it. I really want to get to work on that Twine, but I am also learning that with something like a “day job” like LDEEP, I have to pace myself accordingly.

However, I have another excellent bit of news for you. A few days ago, I got my copy of Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages of MYST and Beyond.  It is a table-top RPG based off of the world of Myst and its Ages. Scott L. Hamilton, C. Eleri Hamilton and their team did an excellent job creating this book and I look forward to reading it and hoping others will play in the sandbox that Cyan Inc. has authorized for them. But I … actually wrote a sample Age in this book. You can find it on page 196. It is called “The Ser’eti Empire.”

Unwritten

It’s funny … I actually created the Ser’eti in 2000, when I was nineteen years old. I always wanted to write an Age for Myst and learn D’Ni Writing. Years later I got to be a part of the Guild of Writers for this project and now I got credited again in print. It kind of feels like I’ve gone full circle in a lot of ways. And it was totally worth it. I also love the illustration that Miguel Santos did for my Age. Thank you Miguel, wherever you are.

So there you go. I am still getting out there and I am working relatively hard. The funny thing is, being out from nine to three five days a week has gotten me tired but I still have energy to write things when I get home. I don’t know how that happened or if it will continue to do so, but I like that aspect of this part of my life so far: and this positive and creative energy that will hopefully not lag too much into exhaustion and nerves.

All I can add is this: thanks for continuing to read and let’s see what’s going to happen next.

Changes and Collaborations

So last week was my Orientation Day for LDEEP: the government assistance program that will help me find some work appropriate to my skills. Starting tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, I’m going to be attending workshops from nine in the morning until the late afternoon.

Am I nervous? Yes. It’s been a while since I have had my time structured in this manner. To be honest, I would have preferred to keep more flexible hours. I am definitely not a morning person and, while it’s occasionally a lark to be up in the morning, I am much more of a night-owl. I do a lot of my thinking and writing at night.

I am used to keeping my own hours and, hopefully, I will be able to do so again with perhaps the added benefit of having excuses to go outside, socialize, and get a job that is appropriate for me. This is definitely going to take some getting used to with regards to my routine and I hope I will be able to ask the right questions and take note of advantages when I can.

Things are changing. But they are not all stressful: or at least not stressful in a bad way. I am getting another story published soon — which I will keep you posted on as I get more details — and I am actually working on another creative collaboration. This time I am working with some friends of mine on a video game. Again, I can’t go into too many details as we are still conceptualizing a lot of the world and its minutiae, but I am really excited about it.

Perhaps more than the potential of getting some pay of my part in the collaboration, I get to work with some people whom I’ve known since high school. I will be honest with you: I’ve looked forward to working with these friends of mine for years on a project that could go public or, indeed, any game project at all. We are all talented in our own ways and I know I will do my best to flesh out what we have.

When I am working with them, working on material for the game, I actually feel enthusiasm and a sense of purpose that I don’t get often. For a while now I’ve been working on critical articles or within the sandboxes of other established worlds. This time I am helping to make a world and its background. It’s that feeling of this is what we should be doing. This is what I should be doing. It is my hope that we will continue working on this project and that we will have something awesome to show the world: or at the very least to ourselves and our other friends.

And there are other things I am planning to do besides.

That is pretty much my most recent update. I’m not sure where I am going with all of this. We are just going to have to see. I hope that some of you will join me in the journey.

High School

If My Mind Were A Movie

Not too long ago, I made an argument that The Room can be seen as the inside of a mind or perspective of life made into a cinematic experience. But as I finished that line of inquiry, two other questions came to mind:

What would happen if I made view of reality into a film? And what would it look like?

I don’t really plan to get all intricate about this but I think the film that represents how my mind works, and how it attempts to relate to reality goes a little something like this.

It would start from different time periods. Some parts would have voice-overs while others would have words on a screen. In fact, voice-overs will be reflections of the past and words on the screen will be internalized thoughts. I would have epic video game electric body music play, in addition to some John Williams and Murray Gold, for some of the most pivotal moments in the movie while the more uncomfortable moments — such as dealing with bureaucracy, breakups, public transportation, and loneliness — will be filled with complete and utter stifling silence. Internalized subtitles here will have ellipses.

There would be scenes of wandering and scenes where I play a character that sits in one place almost all the time. I will have my character in long-shot views of his own life. He will particularly be in the background of his past when he is a child, a teen, and a younger adult. Maybe we can go for blurry after-image effects here. Each version of him will attempt to tell the other something about their future. One might try to change something, while another might say nothing at all. I think I’d also play an antagonist to my protagonist: who enjoys breaking things.

My narrative would be tangents. There would be epic, almost wuxia level, duels and combat with understated special effects. Epic speeches ranging from “the reason you suck” to philosophical digressions all the way to lots of swearing and profanity will happen. There will be intermittent, but gratuitous, intimate sex and a focus on the pull between connection and distance. Human kind would be depicted somehow as ignorant, self-involved, and small, individuals as fascinating, and the whole humanity as sometimes frail and sad and impermanent with a few motes of true self.

That all said, many hijnks will also ensue. There would be melodramatic screams and explosions in the background as punctuation. And budgies: sometimes as pets but also attacking the populace at large. There might even be a budgie totem of imitation and mimicry in a strange version of an Australian Dreamtime involved. My character will find himself walking into different times in the same places. He will get lost a lot in all manner of different interpretations.

I’d have books and comics and, copyright permitting — though most likely through having to create analogues — have my character immersed in a world of them. He lives in there and entering it is this permeable membrane of reality: a portal that gets harder and more narrow to access as he gets older. I’d be tempted to, but probably not use CGI effects, to show a piece of his soul splintering off for every year he gets older.

I think I would design the film like a multiverse of different spaces and times: a kaleidoscope. I would make it so that there are worlds where all of his dreams happened, places where none of them did, some others where he died, and others where he never existed to begin with. Sometimes my character will be a complete bastard, other times weak and wishy washy while spending most of his time remembering his future while another lives in the past. And all of these tangents will circle round and round each other, closer and closer until they collide and everything goes completely crazy and my character jumps from one fractured reality into another: navigating a grand plan gone to chaos … something built up just to be destroyed and rebuilt again.

I also think there would be a reality where concepts are people and they shift around too: and unfinished artwork will be their own entities and have their own world. Maybe they will eat people.

There would be friends on the phone and friends online. Some of them will have strange avatars. And maybe for the end, they will all come together, or perhaps he’ll go to them.

Of course, like a certain other director I won’t name I’d probably keep adding stuff the film as I go along and take stuff out and have constant director’s cuts. If I had to sum this all up, I’d say that my film would be an independent, tragic comedy of a mythic cycle with meta-narrative, nerdy references, and a whole lot of poignant moments and what the ever loving fuck. And crisp, witty dialogue. I can’t stress that enough.

And a good ending. Maybe my film, filled with regret, passionate anger, suffocation, cackling joy, fidgeting anxiety, headaches, serenity and the whole gamut of glorious insanity that we call human experience would be a multiple choice ending situation: if such a cinematic narrative is possible.

I might call it Not My Magic Eight Ball.

Because why not?

But I will leave film directing and script-writing to more capable hands. I’m just describing what my film world would be like if it existed. It’s been a while since I’ve been personal and creative and I just wanted to try something new today: or write about something old that keeps growing.

Writing this actually felt kind of good.

So tell me: what would a film of your mindset look like?

Of Serpents and Foxes

Hello again everyone. I’ve been away, and busy, for a change but I want to start writing again on Mythic Bios at least once a week as I originally planned. I didn’t actually feel like writing anything until I got another Project of mine finished, but I feel the need to you updated on some of the things that I’m doing and to keep a record of some of my work as well.

It’s been tough for me this past while. I’ve had this Twine idea in my mind for some time and it was only at this year’s Toronto Global Game Jam that I’d been able to even start on it beyond the modest notes I’d researched and taken.

Unlike last year, I didn’t force myself to stay up until twelve or two in the afternoon to finish off my game. Aside from the fact that I had a headache during the Jam, even when I was better I realized that rushing through it and making something out of pure exhaustion would only give me sloppy work and very little to show for it: never mind the fact that it wouldn’t have even been a working narrative.

I’d gotten as far as creating an entry for it on the Global Game Jam site. At the moment, my Twine creation is called The Serpent and The Fox. I spent a whole night trying to think up a good abstract summary and a title for my creation in progress. Unfortunately, the late first night of the Jam cost me in stamina: to the point where I couldn’t even create an outline.

In the end, though, it was just as well. Most of my creative works each have their own unique processes and this one didn’t really want a pre-existing outline. Rather, it wants to use the fragments I’ve written down or have in my mind and flesh itself out from there. However, what’s really interesting about this interactive narrative is that it may well be the most structured Twine game that I’ve made to date.

Each part of my story is going to be an interlinking series of haiku: a poetic structure of five syllables, then seven on the next line, and five on the last. Of course, for the sake of storytelling — and sanity on my part — they are probably not all traditional haiku. They don’t all deal with descriptions of nature, and while I attempt to capture emotion in them, sometimes I need to use them to detail other matters. And while haiku apparently aren’t supposed to utilize metaphors, I might have to break those rules: if only to make them part of a metaphorical structure themselves. And while I will be using the five/seven/five schema when I can, I will vary up how many lines I use in each section and take essential creative liberties.

This brief discussion of poetic structure aside (and years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of talking about this, never mind finding it remotely interesting), I am particularly focusing on the perspective of the story. I can tell you right now that my story seems to start from a third person perspective, but depending on the choices that you make as a reader — on where and what character you click on — this will change.

What I am pondering at the moment is whether to follow the usual Twine and interactive choose your own adventure tradition of the second-person perspective, or go right into the first-person.

If I make it first-person, then you can see into the minds of the characters themselves even as you can choose their actions. However, ironically enough the perspective of “I” can be alienating for a reader: it’s just another divide between them and the character even if it might provide more insight. One of the texts that inspired me to make this Twine uses the first-person and I can see its strengths in that.

On the other hand, the second-person flat out, through its use of “you” makes you — the reader — into the character. It places you into their mind and body. When you make the choices that the game provides you with, you could feel a greater relation to that character. But then there is the issue of what happens when the character feels something and narrative attempts to claim that you are feeling it or thinking it too.

Either way, there is going to be some audacity involved. Another issue is that I wonder if I can get the different character perspectives to intersect again at some point and become unified depending on what the reader-player chooses: without being totally boring and repeating myself. And would the second-person, would “you” be able to relate to another character and feel the beginnings of some kind of relationship compared to whether or not you are an “I.”

I will have to find a healthy medium and keep exploring this issue further. I was reluctant to talk about this, link my entry to Mythic Bios, or even mention the name of a work that isn’t finished yet. I generally like to either link to finished works or just hint on the unfinished. It’s been weighing on my brain for a little while and taking up a good portion of its memory (I am also a less than closeted perfectionist).

Me and my Head

 

But it’s been a while and I thought you’d find this digression interesting in some way.

I hope I will be able to continue and finish this. I want to see how people react to it and I want to move on with my writing and other plans. I hope the world is treating you all reasonably. Hopefully I’ll be back next week. Until next time.

What I Want To Twine

While I’ve going through some personal and bureaucratic issues lately, I thought I would take the time — late at night and recovering from a cold — to write about some of the things that I’ve been wanting to do.

Both of the projects that particularly weigh on my mind are Twine games. I haven’t made a new Twine narrative since The Looking Glass for the Global Game Jam and I meant to do more before other responsibilities and projects came my way. I don’t want to reveal too many spoilers at this point, but maybe this is as good a place as any to voice out some of my “workshop talk,” as it were.

There is one narrative I’ve been thinking about for a little while. It combines Near Eastern, Far Eastern, and some children’s literature. I’ve gathered notes, done some basic research, and even wrote down my own quotes and sentences that I want to use: those structures that often evolve or become centralized into larger stories. Remember: something always comes from something larger, even if that larger thing doesn’t exist yet … even if you haven’t made it. I’ve really wanted to work on this one as something of a response to a piece — a chapter from a story — that I keep on getting sent to me for some reason which has evolved in my brain into something else entirely.

The other Project I really want to spend at least some time on is my Twine novel. For those of you who have followed this Blog for some time, you may remember what I am talking about. For those of you who don’t know or recall, before I even had a basic working knowledge of Twine I wanted to make an epic story that dealt with some ideological and very personal ideas. I still haven’t finished all of the “chapters” or “worlds” and I have to remember and keep track of which world links to what and how to get them to do so after I’ve written them out.

Yes, I have been writing this Choose Your Own Adventure narrative game by hand: or at least I did for a while before I had to seriously focus on my work for Poets in Hell. As for my game, I know there are three worlds I want to write out. After that, I can take a break from it for a while and do something else and eventually complete it all.

I’ve been so terribly busy and fighting to keep focus and motivation. I just wanted to let you know that although I’m facing some challenges and difficulties, it is not all doom and gloom. I’m glad I got to write a bit about my creative processes again, even as I look forward to actually working on these creations and showing you all what I intend to do.Looking Outward

What Scares You Will Be Its Soul: My Dead Girlfriend and Project: Dark-Seed

This post contains horror, disturbing images and, worst of all, *spoilers.* Reader’s discretion is advised. 

When Dream created the Corinthian a long time ago in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, his original aim was to construct a sentient dream that represented humanity’s fear of its own darkness. In the end, of course, he became more like a simple serial killer than anything as grand as a being that could make dreamers face the worst parts of themselves.

Corinthian Uncreated

The Corinthian’s initial failure as a dark mirror in which humanity could see the other part of its soul is a fitting metaphor when you hear discussions about the horror genre: particularly how gore and spectacle can take precedence over slow, creeping, uncanny elements out of the corner of your eye and the fear of the unknown or the forgotten.

And then you have creepypastas.

Kris Straub is already doing a web series called Scared Yet in which he looks at and dissects creepypastas: examining how they work, and how they don’t. He said once, in his now defunct Ichor Falls Blog, that many creepypastas fall into a formula or a series of tropes. You know: Jeff the Killer that is the result of bullying and acid being thrown on his face becoming ala the Joker analogue, a whole series of cursed video games bought from a creepy old man who may or may not vanish after a purchase, every story about Disney symbolizing institutionalized and secretive evil, and all the rest of it.

Many beginning writers can do this: they find stories that appeal to that part of them and they imitate them. Even so, many of these pastas have somehow become viral memes as they tap — sometimes even in a shallow manner — into that sense of universal horror and dread in humanity.

But then there are others …

There. Are. Others.

I have talked about Candle Cove before: created by the aforementioned Kris Straub. But a few days ago this little gem manifested itself:

My dead girlfriend keeps messaging me on Facebook. I’ve got the screenshots. I don’t know what to do. It is a story that was created on a subreddit called r/nosleep: where people seemingly write stories that commenters respond to as if they are real accounts. You can find a more polished version of it right here. But in many ways the original is much more diabolical and I will explain why.

First of all, like Candle Cove, it uses its medium to effect. But while Candle Cove emulates a Message Board, complete with user typos and all that loveliness, My Dead Girlfriend is already on a subreddit: a forum that functions as a series of comments stacked up on each other in a grey background with faded white fonts.

But goes further than that. My Dead Girlfriend also has links to what seem to be screen captures of Facebook Private and Public Chats. It utilizes Tags in empty spaces. And then there is the writing style to consider. While Kris Straub utilizes typos in Candle Cove, natesw or Nathan — which I suspect are personas — writes this from the first-person in something of a epistolary format: a series of journals or reports of the phenomenon occurring. Moreover, the writing from natesw’s persona on r/nosleep is clear, with no typos whatever, and possesses proper sentence structure, spelling, and grammar.

Yet the Facebook Chats he has “screen-captured” have the typos and fragmented sentences. And the dialogue between him and his dead girlfriend gets juxtaposed and played with like a twisted form of poetry. These two modes, the first-person of the subreddit text and the third-person and visual aids of the Facebook images complement each other. Unfortunately, if you go by the subreddit the ending could be lost: if it is indeed the ending.

Read the second, cleaner tickld version though: and look at the very last image that it shows you.

Creepy, no?

Remember, you have to find Candle Cove. My Dead Girlfriend finds you.

Ghost Writer

It’s still finding us. When Candle Cove was first sent to me, it had been around for a few years. Right now, though, My Dead Girlfriend is still spreading.

And the story had me before that image too. My friend and I were talking about this into the wee hours of Sunday and she told me that it had her at “FRE-EZING.” This was the only original word that “Emily” was able to construct, or revealed. You see, we never know whether Nathan’s torment is the result of a sick hacker, Nathan’s own subconscious mind projecting the grief of his trauma into messages from Emily, or … the fragments of Emily’s traumatized essence not completely realizing that she is dead and going to the place and person that she knows more than herself: perhaps even trying to make up for the reluctant displays of affection that she showed Nathan in life before she died on her way to their apartment.

Basically, the story is left open-ended. And there is the challenge in the recipe right there. You have to basically know that balance between detail and that open-endedness. If you have too much detail, people will question the specifics and your creepypasta will deflate into skepticism. On the other hand, if you are too grandiose and you try to encompass everything your structure will either never grow or will fall apart at the seams.

I think one element to know what medium you want to use and how you want to structure it. At the same time, you need to know what story you want to tell. Images, photoshopped or otherwise, help too. Another advantage that My Dead Girlfriend has is the fact that it has many commenters either playing along (being the poster’s friends or general fans of the subreddit) or are so taken by the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds Effect that they are genuinely giving the poster natesw advice. But this story also manages to tap into the general and the specific. The characters and personas have names. There are dates. The accident that took Emily is revealed in slow and painful detail. The uncanny is tapped.

And that is the difference right there: that last ingredient. You can study the remnants of a miracle, but you can’t really reconstruct its soul from what is left. Or, in my case and in the case of other writers, you can’t create an original soul of a new story by purely examining leftovers alone.

I can tell you how these stories work, but it’s like deconstructing a joke. It’s just not funny after. It’s just not horrifying. And anything that I make from this, as it has been a long-term goal of mine to create a viral horror meme after my girlfriend had showed me Candle Cove, would just be a shallow or empty form.

I have many ideas for a creepypasta. It was the very aim of my Project: Dark-Seed. But after that conversation with my friend last night, I realized something. I realized just why the Corinthian was such a failure to Dream.

Dream even admitted that the fault was his own. Dream created the Corinthian to embody humanity’s fear of its own darkness, but despite the fact that Dream is an embodiment of the sentient impulse of imagination and dreaming, he isn’t human. Until his imprisonment in Preludes and Nocturnes, and slowly before with his human friend Hob he never tried to get close enough to humans to actually understand their perspective.

Dream could observe human darkness, but he didn’t really know how they experienced it. He couldn’t relate to his audience. The Corinthian, who was intended to be a classic horror tale became a gory spectacle because he only engaged humans on that superficial level. Unlike Dream’s other stories, other dreams and nightmares, the Corinthian wasn’t made from a pre-existing concept or a sentient being made into something more. He was Dream’s attempt at original creation and imitation of life and he failed.

He was an empty shell that tried to fill himself with gore and eyeballs and attention. As Dream’s creepypasta to humanity, the Corinthian falls short. That is the same reason why some creepypastas and horrors stories fail because the creator doesn’t try to relate to their audience. In terms of comedy, the joke doesn’t amuse them.

The story doesn’t scare them.

But what would have happened if the Corinthian scared Dream? What would have happened if Dream thought about what scared him and made the Corinthian in that image? What happens when a horror writer creates a monster that scares them, that makes them feel goose flesh at the mere thought of it: of that thing at the corner of their consciousness that they logically know can’t happen or exist, but deep down knows?

Who knows. Perhaps Dream’s re-creation of the Corinthian after his own imprisonment and exile changed the model. Perhaps he just needed a catalyst to tap him into that deep black pool of universal horror and white noise, take a piece of it, and fashion from its substance a soul to fill the emptiness.

Static

Perhaps a creator only needs to find something to be scared of in order to create a nightmare that can be shared with the world.

Now if that isn’t the beginning of a story of one’s descent into creative damnation, I don’t know what is. The powers help me. I think I have been writing too much in hell. But the moral of this story is that some people like their pastas filled with gore or emptiness.

I like my pastas to be filled with darkness: from the heart.

Corinthian