Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A New Hop--er, Year

This is my first blog post of 2016.  Every new year makes me sad about my failings of the year that just passed, and this is no exception.  My guess is that happiness is always going to elude me, and the best thing I can manage is to keep on keepin' on.  So keep on I shall.

What should I write about?  I've got nearly a whole new year to write more, do more recordings, perhaps podcast a bit.  Hopefully, I'll not let my usual limitations slow me down.

My buddy Big used to always quote a review of MONSTERS VERSUS ALIENS when it said, "Wildly Unoriginal!" like it was some kind of selling point for use in advertising.  It stuck with me, for some reason, and keeps coming back to me, especially when I write something that's maybe a little too similar to something else.

But you could do worse, I suppose.  In the last days of 2015, I started reading the second novel by a writer whose first book I may have to qualify as Most Overrated Book of the 21st Century.  My buddy Jeff won't even read the second novel, just in case it's not as shiny angelic perfect as the first one, and maybe his reader boner will go flaccid.  My friend Merrill was willing to read the second book, but admitted it didn't quite compare to the pure chocolaty goodness of the first book.

So, I picked it up and started reading . . . and hated it.  It wasn't just that it was so chalk-full of pop culture references and movie quotes as to have been written in the old comments section of Aint It Cool News (though that was tiresome), or that it was suspiciously similar to his first book, or even that it never felt genuine (like some bland holiday movie made for the Hallmark Channel), the problem I had with it was that it was just shameless in how much of a rehash it was of stuff from just a couple decades ago . . . and the author thought he'd get away with it by mentioning a time or thrice that it wasn't dissimilar to "Ender's Game" or THE LAST STARFIGHTER.

At one point, I had to shake my head.  *Can* you do this, just rip something else off but get away with it by having characters observe that it's just like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS or TRON or DEEP THROAT?  Is that allowed?

Because, kids, if you can do that, then all my hand-wringing, all my worry that people will think I'm ripping off "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or THE SHINING or "Percy Jackson" or FRAILTY hasn't been at all necessary.  If this big-time beloved and overrated writer can just shamelessly "borrow" stuff from other works and everybody either shrugs it off or thinks it's cute, well, then I need never worry again how my stuff compares to what came before.

And you probably knew that already.  "There's nothing new under the sun" somebody once said, a long, long time ago.  I think it was the famous playwright Fatty Arbuckle, and if it was true in his day, then it's hella true in this era or rehashes remakes, reboots and reTARDISes.  And I swore on the grave of my Uncle John I'd never say the word "hella" for the rest of my days, so what does that make me?

They say that everybody who's ever decided to become a writer has experienced one of two things: 1) they read something that so profoundly touched them that it made them long to be able to do that with their own art, or 2) they read something that caused them to sit up and say, "Holy Dom Deluise, I can do better than that!"  Which encouraged them to try.

Well, it will sound both arrogant and out of character, kids, but I can do better than that.

So, instead of being angry (with the author and my friends who so revere him), I'm gonna take inspiration from this experience, and use it to fuel my own creativity.  The space opera series I keep putting off partly because it's too similar to "Star Trek: TNG?"  I think I'll write it.  The fantasy book I kept worrying was too similar to "Percy Jackson, the Poor Man's Harry Potter?"  Well, I'm gonna write it.  All that STAR WARS fanfiction I've been obsessing over, even though it's not my universe and Lucasfilm can easily sue me?  Well, I've already written that, but it's beside the point.  I may just write more.

A whole year stretches out before us.  Who knows what you will accomplish in it, and what I might achieve myself?  Maybe I'll write another novel, maybe I'll finish the one I flirted with over the summer.  Maybe I'll put out something in a series, maybe I'll start something new.  Maybe I'll do another audio drama, maybe another screenplay, maybe something for kids, maybe something where people take their pants off a lot.  It's a whole 'nother year, one with myriad possibilities.

A new year for you too.  How will you fill it?

Rish Outfield

P.S.  I'm excited to announce my next story, wherein a girl tells a dude they are just characters in a fictional world beyond their control. "You know, like The Matrix," she tells him.  And then I spend the next chunk of the story freely ripping off THE MATRIX.  Bet you can't wait.


Seraph said...

You didn't like 'Ready Player One' ?

AspiR said...

And here I was thinking, "wow, 2015 was a big year for the Dunesteef, and Rish in particular." It's a habit a lot of people have - some in particular have it more than others (I catch myself doing it all the time) - to ignore your accomplishments, or look past what you've done and toward what you haven't done. This is what keeps us ambitious, but it can also make you miserable if you're not careful.

Maybe it's just because I'm listening to the backlogs so my perspective is skewed, but I reckon the Rish from a year or two ago wouldn't have believed you if you told him that in 2015 not only would the Dunesteef still be around, but it would win a Parsec award. That he would finally win that damned Master of Macabre contest that he was always entering each year. That he would do what at the time seemed outside of his purview, and complete a novel. A fucking novel.

I'm glad that in this blog post you seem motivated for the new year, even if it's just in response to the trend of "bad, but successful" books. But I'm going to ask you to do something more challenging than that. Rather than doing better than a hack, why don't you outdo the Rish Outfield of 2015?

Those accomplishments probably don't seem so small when you think of it that way.

Rish Outfield said...

Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I wrote an effing novel in 2015 (two, if they both count), but who's read them? If I never put them out there (where they can be ignored by potential buyers), then did I really accomplish anything? My problem is not that I don't write, but that I cowardly keep my writing to myself.

But even if I do publish the two books (and make audio versions of them), as is my plan, then I can't just rest on my laurels, and say, "I wrote a novel in 2015!" It's 2016, and what have I accomplished then? I've got to look at when I was productive and try to repeat that, rather than just be satisfied with having done SOMETHING last year.

Which, I realize, is what you're saying at the end of your message. So, thanks, and yes, I will try to keep that in mind in the already-half-gone new year.