Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Seduction of Archie Andrews

Current Reading: Marching As To War, by Pierre Burton

Inspirational Quote: "In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth." -- Mahatma Gandhi

I see Archie is planning to propose to Veronica.

I'm not quite sure how to feel about this. I mean, I've known Archie for a long time... way back when he was in high-school. Never an over-achiever, he was there for a number of years so I had plenty of time to get to know him and Jughead, Reggie Mantle, Veronica Lodge, Betty, Moose, Dilton Doily, Midge, Ethel and the rest of the gang. We've lost touch the last few years though, and I hear a lot's been happening. He's finally gone to college, although I wonder if he's left behind Mr. Weatherbee and Mrs. Grundy or whether, without Archie in Riverdale High, they've finally been allowed to follow a career path into higher education.

Regardless, I was shocked to hear that he's planning to propose to Veronica. I mean, yes, she's beautiful. Sure she's rich. But she's also shallow and indecisive, and her father's an indolent control freak who does an awful lot of paperwork but never seems to have a job. I suspect he's an accountant for the Mafia.

Wherever men get together over beer and run out of conversation, the question always arises: Betty or Veronica. Well, okay, usually it's "Ginger or Mary-Ann," or sometimes (as in Red Dwarf) "Wilma or Betty." I've always been firmly in the Betty camp. She's smart, sensible, and dependable in addition to being beautiful. She's always struck me as the kind of gal you'd be happy to take home to Mom, and you'd be pretty darned happy to have her around when your pigheaded stupidity got you into trouble you couldn't handle yourself. She's resourceful and forgiving, and when she shows her temper, you know it's because you've done something genuinely worth her getting angry over.

So Archie's been seduced by big money and sex appeal. That's the way I read it. He's not the first college boy to have fallen for it. So I hear, anyway. I went the sensible route and only occasionally wonder what would have happened if I'd lived a little less settled an existence. And I didn't know anyone with big money.

Still, marriage is a big step. Although, now that I think about it, maybe not that big in this modern world. Out of my wedding party of eight, four have been divorced and one has yet to get married. It's common enough that failed marriages may almost be considered a right of passage into true maturity. Again, I have no practical experience. I've been married almost twenty years. Of course, I make no claims to maturity either.

Which makes me believe that I've stumbled on to Archie's plan, one worthy of Reginald Mantle himself.

He's marrying money, you see. It won't work out. It won't last. There's been no word of a pre-nup, so odds are good that a divorce court will order dissolution of the common property and a fifty-fifty split. Archie comes out of the deal comfortably well off and free to marry Betty.

On the other hand, Veronica will end up owning half of Archie's jalopy. I think there's a moral in that, but I'm not wise enough to figure out what it could be.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Revelation and Epiphanies

Current Reading: Marching As To War, by Pierre Burton

Inspirational Quote: "Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." -- Peter Ustinov

I don't trust revelations and epiphanies. I don't believe they happen in real life. I don't know anyone who looked in the mirror one day and suddenly realized... anything, except possibly, "I need a shave." If that's a revelation, then I have one every morning.

However, I'm gradually coming to a conclusion that is relevatory in its content if not its form: writing a funny story is a skill I do not yet have.

Oh, I can write funny things. Given a topic, I don't have much trouble seeing and giving voice to the absurdity inherent in it. But building a story is something quite different and considerably more involved. I've been trying, stretching and exercising by way of anecdotes and vignettes, some of which have been dumped here in leiu of better-quality content. I've been trying, but I haven't been succeeding. I'm getting laughs from readers, but in the end they set down the pieces and forget about them. There's no story there to hold them. There are characters and events, but no meaningful changes and no plot to spur their interest.

It's all very frustrating.

It can be done. I have my Pratchett addiction to prove that a humorous spin can be applied to a serious topic in such a way as to make readers laugh and think at the same time. I just don't seem to have the knack. Yet.

So I think for a time, I'll abandon trying to be funny in my work and concentrate simply on telling a good story. I'm sure humor will crop up in places. The way my mind works, it's inevitable.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Looking For a Ball of Yarn

The title is an oblique (obscure, actually) reference to Theseus, who would have perished in the labyrinth had not Ariadne supplied him with a ball of yarn which he unwound as he penetrated the maze, then followed back to the entrance on his way out.


I've got another couple of weeks before I dive into an edit of the Magnus Somnium. I've revised before: short stories, the coffin novel (it's like a trunk novel, but I'd like to bury it), etc. However, I've never really had an efficient system and I've often wondered if, in revising using my own subjective techniques, I've inadvertently made my work worse instead of better.

So I'm looking for some tips on finding my way out of the maze of revision.

1) What's the best book out there on revision technique?

2) What's your approach?

3) What's for lunch? (unrelated, but I've just finished off some leftovers from last night and they're not sitting well).

Star Wars vs. Star Trek

Current Reading: Marching As To War, by Pierre Burton

Inspirational Quote: "If we let people see that kind of thing, there would never again be any war." -- Pentagon official explaining why the U.S. military censored graphic footage from the Gulf War.

"Captain, we're facing the Death Star!"
"Target the exhaust port, Sulu."
"Full spread of torpedoes and phasers, sir?"
"Nah. Won't need 'em. One'll do just fine."
"Aye, sir. I'll ready self-destruct too, just in case."
"Good idea. It's nice that the designers threw in that little feature in case we wanted to remove a strategic advantage from our side and destroy any possibility that we might recapture it. Blowing up old ships and then building new ones keeps the economy strong and builds morale within the military-industrial complex."

"The Enterprise will be in range in five seconds, Lord Vader."
"Power up the main gun."
"That's for destroying planets, Lord."
"I know, but it's survived everything everyone else has ever thrown at it."
"What about in the Search For Spock?"
"Self destruct doesn't count. I mean, who in their right mind builds a warship with a self destruct? The ship's massive and terrifying, armed and invincible... oh, except for that little red button that'll blow it to smithereens after a nice, conveniently long countdown. Personally, I figure if you're going to build a dreadnought and want to keep it from falling into enemy hands, don't build in a self-destruct, build in an autopilot programmed to collide with the nearest enemy ship. That way they don't get to keep your ship, and they don't get to keep one of theirs either."
"Yes, Lord Vader."
"And while we're on the subject, someone should throw a cover on that thermal exhaust port. That thing's just begging for a torpedo enema."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chaos Ain't Just a Theory

Current Reading: Marching As To War, by Pierre Burton

Inspirational Quote: "Discontent is the first necessity of progress." -- Thomas A. Edison

Things that have been on my mind:

I'm 5 days behind on my writing. I'm not concerned, just chagrined.

Reading about the stupidity that permeated Canada's involvement in the First World War has convinced me that, when we look back on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, historians will realize that we have learned nothing in eighty years.

Miss California may soon lose her title because she appeared without clothing in a few pictures. Beauty pageants, as I understand them, are all about selecting a winner based on physical attractiveness. I find it absurd that she can appear with her full attractiveness concealed in evening gowns and bikinis, but not with said charms fully visible. This is because beauty pageants now present contestants as paragons of intelligence and virtue instead of just eye-candy. This is also absurd. Her views on same-sex marriage compound that absurdity to the point where I can only shake my head and pray we Canadians never come to take such things seriously.

Elizabeth Edwards, husband of one-time Presidential hopeful John Edwards, has penned a tell-all book, "Resilience." In this book, she candidly discusses discovering her husband's affair with a video producer while he was campaigning for the Democratic nomination. I'm conflicted on how to feel about this. On the one hand, I figure a writer's life is fair game for their work. I have read that Mrs. Edwards wrote the book herself, without benefit of a ghost writer, and if this is true, then she qualifies as a writer and therefore is allowed to recycle her personal garbage in literature. However, I question the purpose and value of a work that airs dirty personal laundry in public.

In related news: apparently the National Enquirer was the first to break the story of the affair. That says something about the state of modern journalism. I'm really not sure what conclusion one can come to on the basis of this evidence, but it can't be good.

The new Star Trek film is a lot of fun. Before seeing it, I spent some time wondering if there was any way they could integrate the "canon" of a forty-year-old failed television show (it was canceled twice) with a story that would appeal to a modern audience. I think they did a good job. This prequel is neither Enterprise, nor The Phantom Menace. It starts with a bang (several dozen, actually), has lots of good character moments and humor. It's a story which calls back to episodes of both the original show, the Next Generation, and the movies, but takes a logical twist which makes it clear that this ain't the same Star Trek that's been re-run for the better part of half a century.

Children. Quantum theory and Schrodinger's work indicate that for each and every probable event, a universe exists in which that probability manifested. Thus there is a universe in which Ulysses knows exactly how to raise children in such a way that they grow up happy and healthy. He does not guess. He does not fudge. He does not agonize over the road not taken or the road that should be taken. I hate the bastard.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Exchange Rates

Current Reading: Marching As To War, by Pierre Burton

Inspirational Quote: "Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something." -- Thomas Edison

In physics, work has a mathematically precise definition: the force applied to an object over a distance. In the human world, work is a little less... definitive. And that's where I'm having theoretical trouble.

I've set myself a daily word minimum in an effort to increase and stabilize my production. Doing so gives me a goal. If I'm on a roll (which happens), and I don't feel like stopping after I've achieved that goal, then I can continue. If, however, every word is dragged out of the pit of despair howling and flailing and fighting to remain in the dark, I force myself to soldier on until that minimum number of words has been committed. Then I can say "I've done my work," shut off the computer and go do something else secure in the knowledge that I have accomplished a reasonable amount.

This is fine for draft writing, during which I'm producing new words. It's not so great for revisions, during which I sincerely hope I can progress at a greater rate. It's even worse for more business-related activities like cover letters, manuscript formatting, submissions and related correspondence. How can I tell when I've done enough of that?

I like the feeling of accomplishment I get from knowing that I've reached my daily goal, so I've got to work out an exchange rate. An evening's work consists of X number of words of new material, OR a certain amount of revision (Words? Hours? Corrections?) OR a different amount of administration effort (Hours? Pages?), OR some combination of these things. They should all represent more or less the same amount of progress and effort.