Let’s Talk About Consistency. (from my Patreon page)

Let us talk about internal consistency in writing science fiction or fantasy.  One of the more egregious mistakes I see in science fiction television and movies is a lack of consistency, which is why, to me, Star Trek the Next Generation does not hold up nearly as well as Babylon 5.  Also, by not maintaining consistency on such things as alien natures and historical events in your writing, you miss out on spontaneous ah-ha moments that can make memorable scenes.

One of the things that kept me away from re-watching Star Trek the Next Generation and some of the following series (except for Enterprise, which many fans panned) was the episodic nature of the shows.  For the most part, each episode was like a stand-alone movie that did not necessarily depend on anything that had gone before.   Yes, there were a few things they would remember from earlier episodes and would from time to time give a nod to or reference, but for the most part it was as if the slate had been wiped clean after each show.  The strongest episodes to me were the ones where they came back and explored aspects of earlier episodes from another angle.  Examples of that are when they spent time exploring the aftermath of Picard’s capture by the Borg while the Enterprise was being repaired and Tasha Yar’s Romulan daughter from the episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.

Babylon 5; however, spent a lot of time on consistency, mainly because it was a fully planned story from season one to season five.  Yes, there were a lot of changes during the course of the series, but the overall plan helped to minimize the problems.  I believe that they even had plans set up to cover situations like losing a lead actor.  What is more important is that aspects of character’s personalities, species histories and natures, and episode histories were kept consistent.  Unlike STNG where characters who were portrayed one way in an episode suddenly are portrayed another way just for the sake of the episode.   I don’t mean to jump too hard on STNG because at the time I did enjoy many of them, but as the series and then DS9/Voyager continued, I saw a phenomenon that really turned me off.  To me it seemed that major characters would fall deeply in love with a different character every few episodes.  It felt like the producers were watching the internet, checking to see who fans felt show be couples.

Look at the Worf, Riker, and Deanna relationship.  First it was Riker and Deanna while Worf loved a Klingon, having a child with her before she died.  Riker and Deanna moved on and Worf moved into a deep relationship with Deanna.  Then when Worf moves on to DS9, Deanna is just gone and he ends up marrying Jadzia Dax.  Just because you may not be able to get the former actor for a role doesn’t mean you should just drop the history you created.  For example, look at how J. M. Straczynski handled the loss of Richard Biggs and Andreas Katsulas in Babylon 5: The Lost Tales.   When asked about G’Kar, President Sheridan says “He is off exploring beyond the rim” and is later told that Dr. Franklin has gone with him, handled simply with a line that fits the characters without changing or warping other characters to fit into some new reality.  Also, in the final episode “Sleeping in the Light”, Garibaldi, Sheridan, and Franklin shared a funny story about a Pak’ma’ra that takes advantage of the species traits established much earlier in the series.

Another good example, so far, of consistency comes from Brandon Sanderson’s Mist Born books.  In creating the world, he set down very specific rules for the system of magic used by the people.  In some ways this codification of magic rules could have tied down what characters could do, but Sanderson found ways in later books to accomplish new actions using the same rules instead of ignoring them to write the scene he wanted.  In other words, he allowed the limitations of the world he created to define how he wrote the scenes.   Another example of attention to details comes from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies directed by Peter Jackson.  Just watch the extras to see how much time was spent catching continuity errors.

Consistency can have a strong effect on people who watch movies or read books a lot, possibly damaging their opinions over time by confusing them or forcing them to make rationalizations for errors.  Star Trek and Star Wars are ripe with those.  I find myself cringing every time someone says how good Rogue One was because I want to say “but did you see…”   So, while I still mostly enjoy many commercial science fiction and fantasy offerings, even when consistency is an issue, I find myself irritated more as I grow older.  I even choose to forgo some offerings because I just don’t want a good memory tarnished by sub-par efforts, even from the original creator.

Houston, We Have a Problem! (from my Patreon page)

Hello readers, no this post is not about a problem I am having with work or life … well maybe a little.  Courage, the cowardly lion begged for some and I have often wanted to seek out Oz the Wise and Powerful myself for a dose.  Why am I discussing this now you ask?  Well, because I just spent the last hour watching a lecture the creator of my favorite television show (Babylon 5) gave for the second annual Julius Schwartz lecture.  J. M. Straczynski has had a very successful career working in television, movies, and comics much of which I have become aware of over the years following the end of Babylon 5.

The biggest thing I have taken away from his speech and life, besides the fact that he his a great person, was that he intentionally pushed himself into situations where he could fail.  Not because he was a sadomasochist, but because pushing beyond the safe zone of living was a way to grow, live, and achieve his goals.  If you get the chance, watch the lecture on youtube because it is well worth it.  What he talks about is the fact that many people do not reach out to grab their dreams, or even lives, because they are afraid of failure.  I can attest to this in my childhood.  When I was young, I played baseball, like many other American boys my age; unfortunately, I never excelled.  I did not become a good player because I was afraid of being hurt, well not mainly, but because I was terrified of embarrassment.  From family life and school interactions I learned the costs of not measuring up.  Thus, I decided to avoid being embarrassed.  In baseball that translated into not being willing to dive to catch a fly ball and risking messing up.  I feared the shame of it.  In practice I could make all kinds of great catches; however, when it came to a game, I backed off.

Oddly, in several areas of my life, I actually pushed myself into unknown waters.  However, in my life overall, I generally chose the safer paths.  Then some heavy things happened that shook my foundations.  That is when I started pushing harder for a creative life, which is something I always held onto tooth and nail throughout everything I have been through.  Again, why am I bringing this up now?  I guess it is because I need to push outside my boundaries again.

Up to now, I have always taken the safe path of never seeking professional training in my creative endeavors.  What you have seen at my various sites is my raw untrained talent.  Yes, some of it is pretty good, but I have not taken steps to better it except through what I can search out for free.  I tell myself that my writing is as good as any of the authors I have read, but I am kidding myself.  It isn’t bad, but I can learn alot from others and greatly improve it.  I have always heard about scifi writers attending Clarion seminars to hone their work.  Maybe it is time for me to do so.

The same is true for my art, especially my digital artwork.  I believe I have managed to do very well for learning on my own, but I sure could benefit from other methods for achieving more polished paintings.  I would like to see about taking courses in digital painting.  The problem with both of these choices is that they cost a lot of money and take time.  Money I do not have and time that costs money.  I will need your help.  By supporting my Patreon page, you will help me reach the goal of providing thoughtful and thought-provoking works of literature and art.  I know that this is asking you to risk investing in me; however, I hope to continue sharing with you the fruits of my labor, as well as, some of the methods of making them.  I still plan to share the process of creating my next painting with my Patrons in hopes of giving any who want it a beginning in digital art.  In addition, I have always been willing to discuss in detail any of the stories I have written.  The only thing is I may caution about my sniping back on occasion to bad reviews.  These stories and works of art are all passionately loved by their creator.  Usually I calm down and see the review as a means to improve my work.

So to close, the creation of this blog and my Patreon page are steps toward reaching the goal of growing outside my boundaries.  Taking the next few steps, with your help, will take me further.  J. M. Straczynski had more challenges than I have and yet he has had the life I could only dream of.  Please watch any videos of interviews or convention reels about him to see what he is about and help me walk onto a similar path.

Face Studies ($5 reward for my Patreon patrons)

Here is what I wrote for the post:

Here are some pencil face studies I did of characters from the Babylon 5 tv series.  I was using some techniques I was learning from a book on anatomy drawing.  I most definitely have done better, but this was a crucial learning process.  Each drawing I do helps me get better.

A Little Wisdom from My Favorite Narn, G’Kar

G’Kar: “We live for The One, we die for The One.” Interesting that you put all the emphasis on the second half of that sentence.

This quote comes from a scene in the movie “The Legend of the Rangers:  To Live and Die by Starlight”.  G’kar makes these statements during discussions about a Ranger who chose to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds instead of foolishly sacrificing his crew in a meaningless gesture.  The Ranger leadership were of the opinion that the Ranger should have fought to the bitter end because their coda emphasizes a willingness to sacrifice their lives for the protection of others.

G’kar politely reminds them that there are two parts to their oath and that the leadership is focusing too strongly on the latter half.  In point, G’kar is reminding them that by living, the Ranger in question may be of more value than if he had died out of an over zealous sense of honor.

Second Amendment to the United States Constitution:  A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Well, I thought it might be interesting to look at another oft used quote where many people over emphasize one part in conversations.  G’kar would probably point out that we were only focusing on the part about infringing upon our right to bear arms in our public discourse.  Very little mention is made, in arguments, about the fact such ownership is pursuant upon a Well Regulated Militia.  In other words, citizens have a right to bear arms as part of a well regulated militia to be called upon in times of need to defend the country, not as a right to create personal arsenals to rival that of the local police forces or military bases.  Not as a catch-all Amendment for ownership and use of any and all firearms, including military grade weapons.

Now, before any Gun advocates blast me for daring to twist the meaning of the second Amendment, let’s consider why the founding fathers may have phrased the Amendment this way.  When the Constitution was created, the country was still in infancy.   The structures for creating and maintaining a regular army were not agreed upon yet as to the methods and strength so the militia were a vital part of the national defense.  However, especially at the time of our countries birth, there could be a threat to the government by these very same forces if they were allowed to become too strong, since not everyone was happy about the change in government from the Revolution.  America still had to prove itself worthy.  Basically, the founding fathers chose to ensure the continuation of the militia system through the right to bear arms but left themselves room to regulate the collecting of arms with respect to the maintenance of the militia.  They did this against the possibility of coups and civil war.  Unfortunately we did not avoid the latter but the former never happened.  Of course, living in an America as divisively split by the forces of intolerance, greed, and pride, where Politicians promote the use of “Second Amendment Remedies”, the chances of a coup seem much more likely.

So please think about the wisdom of G’kar when you talk about or spout off your thoughts on the Second Amendment.

The Path Less Taken

Yes, I know it is blurry.  It was taken with an older camera, but it is still a cool image.

Yes, I know it is blurry. It was taken with an older camera, but it is still a cool image.

Seems this is the path I have taken.  Basically, the experiment into reader supported writing is not panning out.  I don’t blame you, my small group of followers, I just have not reached a large enough audience to gain the level where donations from a small percentage of readers can amount to something usable.  To that end, I am not adding downloadable content to this blog.  I have not given up on the idea, but I don’t intend to focus on it as much.  I am still hoping for the first download of a story so I can get some feedback.

Instead, I am going to focus more on growing viewership.  I have noticed that the posts that get the most attention are about writing science fiction and fantasy or comments about the genre, so I am going to try, try I say, to add more content of that type.  The reason I say try is that it is a struggle for me not to comment on the outrageous activities in the world today.

I have always been one of those people who is slightly out of kilt with the world at large, always looked at things with a different view.  Most of my childhood was spent trying to be like others, which never works no matter how hard you try, and sublimating my personality.  The Misfit side to my nature.  One of my chiefest problems was my deep love for SFF in all its guises.  My predilection for such entertainment was considered juvenile by my mother and geeky by my peers; thus, had to be buried.  I constantly struggled to separate myself from the Trekkies and over zealous Star Wars fans.  Not that I condemn their lifestyle just that, while I deeply love the stories, characters, and ideas behind SFF, I am not so interested in the minutiae that I fly into a rage over an argument of whether Kirk or Picard was a better Captain.  I was always more interested in continuity and story execution, which is one of the reasons I don’t like the Star Wars prequels and have no desire to re-watch Star Trek the Next Generation.

More than a decade ago, I came to a crossroads in my life.  I could either continue to hide my personality and opinions on the world or I could throw away the illusions I used and hated, the illusions of interest in subjects that bored me to tears.  At that time, I joined SFFWorld.com and began to express my views on the genre, as well as, life in general.  I had found a place where I fit in better and people were less likely to dismiss me as a geek or loser.  My voice grew stronger as a result.  I may have even gained a measure of respect for what I represented.

I began to trust my instincts and thoughts more.  From that period, I came to understand that my views were no less valid than others and that, in a lot of cases, were closer to the reality of the world, the Mystic part of my personality.  While I do apply the moniker “Mystic and Misfit” to myself, it is as much meant for you the reader whom finds truth in my writings and those I have gleaned truth from in their writings.  These truths are what I find hard not to fight for.  The truths that are hidden by years of assumptions, traditions, and willful misdirection.  Anyone who has read this blog regularly has readily seen this battle in my posts and may even have seen their influence on my stories.  I have no love for the blindness of self-delusion.

However, in most cases, you will notice that I try not to attack the person, but the idea.  I want to show the illusions that make certain ideas absurd or cruel, break down the walls of lies and self-interest.  Basically, I am blunt.  I don’t believe in beating around the bush unless useless harm would ensue.  I see many of today’s beliefs are based on assumptions or fallacies hidden under years of blind faith and once striped down to their historical facts are just plain wrong.  Now we come to the point.  While I want to refocus my efforts on this blog, I will probably still express an opinion on the wide world around me and ask for your patience.

Whew!  I can be long-winded like an Ent.  Anyway, I am hoping that you will find something interesting to read here and continue to come back.  I am hoping to soon create a link to my library.com page so that you can see all the books that I have read.  Only a small percentage have reviews by me; however, I am willing to open discussions on any particular book.  You can leave me suggestions and I can make a post where the discussion can be held.  Also, if you would like to see why Star Trek the Motion Picture is my favorite Trek film or why I think Babylon 5 is superior to Star Trek the Next Generation, as well as, observations on viewer’s patience with story development, just ask.  Finally, please, please, please…will someone listen to one of my stories.  I am just looking to spark some interest in my writing and strengthen my storytelling muscles.  Artwork is not out of bounds either.

Something Old

Something I should have done a long time ago was update my profile to give visitors to my blog a better idea of me and my reasons for blogging.  The passages below are now part of my profile.

 

Who am I?  I am a forty something American raised in a family and country where appearances were more important than facing the truths that were slowly damaging my families happiness.  The blog that you see here is my way of shouting to the world that I will be heard for who I am, not for what others would have me be.  It exists to give voice to the way I see the world and my need to create things that are important to me.

My blog has two main goals.  One, to express my point of view on events shaping the world around me; to tell you, the reader, about the ideas that rattle inside my skull and their many origins.  You may even be lucky enough to see the quirky sense of humor hidden behind my repressed personality.   Second, I wish to show you my creative efforts in writing and art and ask for your support on this journey.  Sometimes I will even highlight the creations of others, or more accurately, the creations that became a part of me, so that you can see the foundations for my own works.

Come one come all if you have an ear to hear.  Most welcome though are the mystics and misfits, those who refuse to blindly follow what others say is the truth.  Come see if there is a reflection of yourself in my ideas and writings.  As Dukhat said on my favorite TV show “Will you follow me into Fire?  Will you follow me into darkness?  Will you follow me into death?  Then follow.”  Of course, the death part is totally not expected.

Mystics and Misfits

Hello everyone.  Haven’t posted for a while because of changes at work, remodeling the place, and getting old, you know, the usual.  Anyway, I just watched the documentary about the fans of “Firefly” who banded together and created the ground swell that resulted in the movie “Serenity”.  All I have to say is that I am jealous of Josh Whedon!   Let me say that I am a fan of “Firefly” and “Serenity” even though I came to it late; however, I am still jealous.  I am jealous that he has found people who can appreciate what he is passionate about saying through his stories.

I am a writer and an artist who has no fan base yet.  Of course, I realize that my work may not be as good as others in the field and that I might be deluding myself, but I do think I have stories to tell.  The title for this post is one I hope to someday use for a collection of my short stories and also says a lot about how I have felt all my life.  Troll through my blog and you will see many examples and references to my writing and artwork.  I continually strive to improve both; unfortunately, the struggle for survival usually sucks up the time I would love to spend on each of these endeavors.

In addition, several of my stories would not find homes with publishers because they challenge many popular religious and secular ideals, including the greatness of America.  Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I was born an American, but I don’t believe that gives me the right to coast on our past and allow government, corporations, and private citizens to condone atrocities and injustice just because it is America, love it or leave it.  Also, if you have read a lot of this blog, you will note that I refer to Catholicism often, usually in a negative light.  It is not that I am either hyper-religious or atheistic but more something in between.  My stories tend to mirror this nature by showing my belief, doubts, and fears about God and my disgust with any religion that blinds itself to the evil they do through dogma and zealotry.  Again, not popular subjects for money hungry publishers who fear alienating customers.

Of course, I understand that publishers need to earn money to survive; however, I have also watched the erosion of American moral values as commerce and profit have become the driving force behind our policies making us not into a nation, but a group of individuals clawing each others eyes and hearts out to support a lifestyle that is not sustainable.  With a focus like that, it is no surprise that stories with any substance have to fight so hard to be heard while dribble gets thrown at us daily.  Basically, dribble makes loads of cash while something more substantial is far more risky.  Our society has become so much about the money, that we are willing to drown ourselves in dross instead of taking a risk on greatness, which I believe is one of the things that has destroyed our education system.

Suffice it to say that I would love someday to move people the way Josh Whedon,  J. Michael Straczynski, and Gene Roddenberry have.  Any encouragement in this endeavor is greatly appreciated.