Saturday, July 03, 2010

July 3rd, 2010

July 3rd, 2010

So, it’s July 4th weekend, and I decided to go with my family up to their mountain cabin for a couple of days. It’s the first time since I got this little fake laptop that I’ve been to the cabin, so I was excited by the possibilities. Normally my dad starts coming up here at the end of May or beginning of June when the snow's all melted, but I haven't come till now. It's weird, I'm sort of a homebody, but I enjoy the outdoors, and I like the trees and the breeze and the logs and the . . . well, you know.

Not long after I arrived, my brother was putting up a second solar power collector, and I volunteered to help him dig the trench he'll run the cable from the generator to the cabin with. The ground wasn't hard and it didn’t take long, but now I feel like I’ve been juggling elephants. My back is bothering me and it gives me another reason to be grouchy.

Afterward, I took a little walk around the lake by myself, listening to podcasts and looking for frogs. I actually caught a couple of larger-than-normal ones, but this species is naturally so tiny that they’re hardly worth the effort. I think they’re spring peepers, but I don’t know. The thing is, I am consciously aware of the fact that these frogs are going to be nothing but trouble and I ought to just let them go instead of taking them home and trying (unsuccessfully) to feed them, but I’ve got some kind of pathological fixation on frogs, and just there’s no reasoning with me. Maybe someday they’ll make a pill for that.The walk I took was a nice one, probably two or three miles, but I’m pretty darn fat now, and my back is complaining. I suppose I ought to start exercising regularly and trying to lose some of this excess weight, but I just don’t see it happening. There seems to be very little point anymore. Besides, they say that getting in shape gets harder with each passing year. If that doesn't break your spirit, not a lot will.

It's mid-afternoon now. My brother left for home as soon as the work was done. He told me that it’s not the cabin he dislikes, but all the people. I guess my aunt was complaining and being unpleasant and he just had to make a break for it. I totally understand that.

Right now, the children are running around, screaming like they’re in the middle of shooting a kiddie snuff film. It gets hard for me not to hate them when they’re so loud and obnoxious. The only one who is behaving even remotely like a human being is my cousin’s daughter, but she just follows her older cousins around as they try to ditch her or prevent her from playing whatever game they’re involved in that requires them to sound like drug-fiending howler monkeys.

I suppose that my sister will bring over her nephew before long, and I’ll want to rejoin the dog and pony show, but for now, I thought I would grab my little fake laptop and go off on my own and write or play a game or watch an episode of “Doctor Who” on it. I found a little spot at the bottom of the hill where I’ve laid down (my back thanked me by dialing the pain down to simple discomfort), and have the laptop on my lap (who’da thunk it?). Every once in a while, I'll lay back to alternate typing and looking up at the sky. It produces a lot of heat, right on the crotch, and if I said that was unpleasant, I’d be lying. And why lie to you?

In fact, I’ll be completely honest and tell you that I’ve written this twice now, that I was typing before when the computer suddenly restarted (apparently updating some program), losing the blog entry I was typing on. I considered saying the F-word and forgetting about it, but I reconsidered.

I said the C-word instead.

As I said the other day, I'm never sure how candid to be on this darn blog, and my first inclination is to just type away as though it's a journal that only I will see. And that's a recipe for disaster, isn't it? Regardless, I'm carrying on since I hope I've scared all but the most stalwart among you with all the profanity. All those scary, dangerous letters.

In listening to those podcasts while I was frog-hunting, I couldn't help but think about my own show, and my own writing efforts of late. Both could certainly be increased, persisted, and improved upon, and who knows what the end result would be? One of the episodes of Escapepod I was listening to ended with story feedback, and they actually read on the air some of the fan criticism of their work. I could never do that.

Seriously, some author worked long and hard on writing a story, and other people worked long and hard on bringing it to an audio audience--a non-paying audio audience--doing the best they could to present a piece of quality entertainment. Fuck the people who disliked the story, or found it predictable (the biggest, most-oft-repeated criticism by Escapepod listeners). Or if not fuck them, at least have them keep it to themselves. What possible good would it do to criticize a show that’s already done, already out there, and not about to be revised or “fixed” to please them? Oh, and did I mention that it was free?

And maybe I’m wrong, that everybody deserves their say, and if you don’t like something you should be able to say that you didn’t like it and why. But why spend valuable minutes of your podcast repeating that “Walt Flanagan thought the story was preachy and long-winded, with a narrative that used three words to express several one word ideas. And oh yes, the ending was predictable”? I just couldn’t do that on my own show.

First of all, the authors who heard us give credence to the complainers would probably feel betrayed and never send us another story, and second, I know myself and human nature: the one voice in ten who didn’t like our work would be louder than the nine people who did, and I’d repeat the arrogant little barbs to myself over and over until nearly all the fun we had in doing the show would have boiled off.

Recently, Big Anklevich and I have been kicking around the idea of doing a final episode of the podcast, that we’d have on the shelf ready to go the second we decide to pull the plug. In it, we’d tell each other thanks for the other’s work, thank those who liked our show, and say our goodbyes. We’d give our predictions as to why the end had come (whether it was due to my timely death or his usual malaise), look back on the good times, and reveal to everyone that Announcer Man is a lesbian. I even suggested that we let people who donate to the show listen to that episode if they choose to, as a pseudo-reward. Because the day will come, dudes and dudettes, when it’s just no fun anymore. Big began talking about quitting the podcast about two months after we started it, and he reminds me every couple of months that it’s a likely possibility. And I used to talk him out of it, or try to cheer him up, or just ignore the guy, knowing he’d come around eventually.

But he’s right. And recently, I’ve understood at least some of his reasoning. Plus, the guy puts way more work into the show than me, with far fewer free hours of leisure time anyway. If it’s not enjoyable and it’s not productive (ie helping us financially or getting our foot in the door for something that does pay money), then there isn’t much reason to continue. Lately, I’ve come to appreciate that, and we didn’t work on the show for a while because of it.

Escapepod went off the air for weeks this year, when Steve Eley had to step down and a search was made for replacement hosts and editors. He gave a quite impressive and intimate closing speech, talking about the joy that fiction--and sharing that fiction with others--gives him. His words touched a lot of people, and his fans waited with baited breath for the podcast to return. I’m a different kind of host, with a different kind of show and listenership, so my own goodbye would be very different. And I doubt that so much of a hubbub would be made when I close my doors. Not for an old con like me.

The other thing I kept thinking about was my own writing. Dang, Big’s been up in arms lately about writing and sending out his work and making a living doing it, and I’m not one to burst his bubble. I don’t believe that I’ve written about this before, but with no internet access, I’ll just have to assume that I haven’t. He read a bunch of essays about writing, and it’s inspired him to jump up and be a real writer. Yeah, I think I did blog about this recently (sorry).

Me, I’m beyond help. I’m set in my ways, I’m not going to change, and I don’t even want to (it’s like the fatness thing). And I am a real writer.

I mentioned the one thing I started doing to motivate me to write more in a recent post, and I’m still doing that. And yeah, it has produced at least one solid writing session a week for a couple of months now. I’ve finished old stories and worked on new ones, and enjoyed the structured sit-down moments where that’s all I do. I really like to write. That’s one of those things that, unlike the podcast, is fun enough in and of itself that I’ll do it forever. I get a joy and sense of value out of writing that doesn’t require any outside approval or acknowledgement. Nobody else has to read my work for me to be proud of it and feel that it was worth doing. It’s like a journal, I suppose.

Writing is one of three things that I really do well. The other two are in evidence in my podcast. So there’s that.

You know, I was listening to a DVD audio commentary the other day where there were two credited writers for the script, but one of the writers claims that he wrote it all himself, but had to take a co-writer credit in order to get his foot in the door and have it produced. I hear that sort of thing in the screenwriting biz all of the time, and have even experienced it (though probably not to that extent). It made me think a little bit about writing collaborations.

I keep telling Big that we ought to partner up on a story or script together, about the time I came to visit him from L.A. and there was a big snowstorm and I nearly had to stay on his couch, for fear of being lost in the frozen white flurries. Since the two main characters would be based on us, it just felt like a natural, for us both to handle. Part of me wants to just write the story myself, since he has been having difficulty finding the time or motivation to work on it, but the other part of me has no idea how to do it, and wants Monsieur Anklevich around to do some of the lifting.

Collaborations rarely work, in my experience, partly because there’s no way to share the same mindset and attitude about the story. Also, there’s a sense of ownership--a proprietary feeling over a project--that makes it hard for there to be two captains. I once proposed that Jeff and I work on a screenplay together. It was my second-ever feature film script, and I thought I had a pretty fun idea that could be shot for almost no money (in those days, I was under the impression that a group of friends and I were going to form a little production company and make films together, so we’d need to start cheap and easy). So, I told Jeff that I’d write up a step outline and we’d just split the writing of it 50/50, each of us taking the scenes that chance gave us.

But Jeff didn’t go for this. I had already written the plot myself, the beginning, middle, and end, and I guess he felt restrained by this, creatively stifled. It wasn’t our project, it was my project, that he would be working on, and that’s something he didn’t want to sacrifice x number of hours to. So, when I went away to L.A. for an internship, I wrote that script myself (though Jeff did supply one scene).

We did end up collaborating on two more scripts after that, though, in two different ways. The first was Jeff’s baby, and he wrote it, then passed it on to me to, I don’t know, spruce up. Actually, that may have been something I did against his wishes, as he really just needed the support and encouragement to reach the FADE TO BLACK. I don’t know if it bothered him that I added my quirky dialogue and silly movie references, but I loved working that way (since Jeff did almost all the heavy lifting on that one, and my contribution was just fun, like a script doctor in the real industry).

And the second successful collaboration was just the two of us writing together. I typed, he typed, we’d send it back and forth, reading it aloud and making changes until we reached the end. Enjoyable, and practically drama-free. In a perfect world, all of those scripts would have been produced, and I’d own my own house right now.

So it’s for that reason that I wanted this collaboration with B.A. to go well, that he feel invested in the story and characters, and desire to work on it as much as I did. If it’s just my story and me calling the shots, then I might as well write it myself. Who knows what our combined personalities might achieve?

Over the last decade, I’ve done a lot to encourage him to write his bleak and shocking stories, but now that he’s so enthusiastic about writing professionally, maybe I need him to encourage me.

I don’t know how your brain works, but with me, I’m always thinking about stories, or scenes, or reveals, or dialogue, or scenarios, every single day. Wouldn’t it be funny if . . . Wouldn’t it be scary if . . . Wouldn’t it be awesome if . . . And I sometimes remember my ideas, sometimes write them down, sometimes turn them into actual stories. And rarely do I share them with somebody.

Of course, this year I did that share-my-writing-every-single-day-on-my-blog thing, so I guess I’ve done alright with that. Maybe I should do that again.

Hmmm, my uncle wants someone to drive up the mountain with him, looking for cellphone reception. I've been at this for an awfully long time. Maybe I'll volunteer to go on the ride and continue this later.

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