Back in March, I wrote about this cool website called Ficlets:
What does "collaborative short fiction" mean in this case? Simple: You, as a writer, post a very short (not more than 1,024 characters) piece of fiction or a fiction fragment on the Ficlets site. People come to Ficlets to read what you've written, and to comment on your piece. If they want to, they can also write a "sequel" to your story or story fragment, carrying the story forward from where you left it. Or, alternately, they can write a "prequel," explaining how you got to where you are in the story. All sorts of people can write all sorts of sequels and prequels -- and of course, other people can write sequels and prequels to those. What you end up with is a story with multiple authors and multiple branchings -- lots of possibilities and surprises.
Sounds like a lot of fun, doesn't it? If nothing else, it'll be a swell place for some of my half-baked fiction ideas to get closer to fully-baked. (yeah-ha-ha-ha, turn it up, man!)
It only took me seven months, but I've recently taken my first uncertain steps into original fiction writing at Ficlets. It has a structure that works for me: I only get 1024 characters, so I stay focused on turning my idea into something readable in a limited amount of time and space. I don't know why that works so well for me, but I feel no pressure (internal or external) when I do it, so I'll just accept that and enjoy it.
Since today is Halloween, I thought I'd share one of my ficlets. It is a scary little piece called They Don't Come Out at Night. Here's a bit:
You have to keep moving. You have to get to the well and fill your skins, because the house is dry and the night is long.
You have to keep moving, because if you stop . . . no. “No!” You tell yourself. “They don’t come out at night! No one has ever seen them come out at night!”
No one who is still alive, that is.
It was the featured Ficlet last week, and a ton of other writers wrote prequels and sequels inspired by my story. It's fun to discover what other people saw when they read my story, and what their own imaginations created as a result. Some of them are really good, and make for some fun, creepy reading this All Hallow's Eve.
Warren Ellis wrote a pretty fantastic short short story called Jack Baby that I saw yesterday:
I dipped the old jar down into the creeping slurry and scooped a pint of shit-water out of the Thames, down where the sewers meet the river. It's come to this, I said to no-one: making jenkem rather than seeing the Jack Baby.
Seal up the jar, watch it ferment for long sleepless days, and then inhale the gas off the top. Jenkem: ghetto drugs. An hour of laying like a corpse and seeing dead things instead of the orgasm-jerking and spacewalk day of a Jack high. But I couldn't afford Jack, and I didn't want to think about the Jack Baby.
There's a lot of atmosphere, character, and story wrapped up in the 200 words or so that make up the entire thing, and I had to read it twice to fully absorb it. It was totally worth it.
When I manage to wring fiction out of my brain, it will be because I am inspired by stories like this. I mean, how in the hell can Warren come up with stuff like -- well, just go read it, and see if you don't have the same reaction.
This is a wonderful little book. I hate to use a diminutive like "little," for fear of implying that THDOOL is less-than significant in some literary way; it isn't. It is a charming, heart-warming, laugh-inducing, tear-jerking, and even envy-inducing read. It is not, however, long. I'd like to argue that this is a plus. Indeed, I think THDOOL is enjoyable in part because of its length (or lack thereof). It is, after all, a collection of short-form writing (blog-posts), collected, expanded, massaged, and served with a steaming side of post-modern nostalgic recollection. This is the face of contemporary introspective non-fiction, and it is exactly what we all like to read and write nowadays. Reading THDOOL is all about getting the quick-fix of checking your RSS feeds in the morning and skimming the new posts, but then getting to take a little longer to sit down and savor something just a bit more significant.
Have I pointed out that everything in this book, though it started online in one form or another, was completely rewritten, updated, expanded upon, and "de-bloggified'? The Happiest Days isn't just a cut and paste, and maybe I should have made that more clear before? Anyway, I'm very happy that Ken noticed that, and mentioned it.
There will be good reviews and bad reviews, and not everyone will like what I write, or how I write it. I've learned over the years to make a conscious effort not to give too much importance to any of them, but I have to admit that getting such a positive review from someone who I respect and enjoy reading every day made me squee just a little bit.
Okay, a lot.
Last year, Anne and I went to a Halloween party as a pimp and his 'ho.
We had an awful lot of fun putting the costumes together, because while it is hard out there for a pimp, as long as your pimp hand is strong, and you can recite Antonio Fargas' poem from I'm Gonna Git You, Suka, it's pretty hard to lose.
Here's me, reminding everyone that my bitch better have my money. Not half, not some, but all my cash:
This year, we went to the same party, as the same characters . . . who had become zombies. Here's me, reminding everyone that my bitch better have my brains. Not a cerebellum, not a stem, but all my brains:
All night long, Anne and I kept singing RE: Your Brains, which was tremendously amusing to both of us. We only paused for a moment, when we won the costume contest award for Best Couple's Costume. Our prize? Wristwatch walkie talkies. Yes, it is the best prize, ever.
Go look at the biggest version of it, and take some time to discover all the different things that are going on in this piece. Trust me. And look at his other work while you're there, because it's brilliant.
And before I go do all the real life stuff I didn't do while I was working on NUMB3RS this week, I hope you'll all join me in wishing WWdN reader Lucas a happy birthday, filled with brains in jars and mysterious aliens approaching the diner.
This year's WWDDGD boasts over 1,000 venues (mainly game stores) and an estimated 30,000 attendees from every continent except Antarctica. The centerpiece is a special Icewind Dale adventure in honor of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the creation of fantasy character Drizzt Do'Urden. There are D&D themed giveaways including D&D miniatures and RPGA campaign cards. Active players, former players and absolute noobs are welcome to attend, and no sign-ups are necessary -- just show up! Check for games in your area.
I love this! What a great excuse to introduce someone -- like your teenagers, for example -- to tabletop RPGs! Wizards is sending out adventure kits to participating game shops, that sound pretty cool:
These come with everything your store needs to turn it into the center of fun you’d expect from such a global celebration. This includes: character packs keyed to one of five different player characters. In each of these packs are the painted miniature, character sheet, d20 and pencil. Basically everything your players need to have an action packed adventure. For the DM there is a, special to game day, adventure and a pack of dice (d4,6,8,10,20,100) and a unique RPGA rewards card offered nowhere else!
My friendly local game shop is running one-shot adventures in the morning and afternoon. I'm not sure what they have in mind, but Wizards says
We are sending each venue a treasure chest of goodies that include an special adventure sent in Icewind Dale a location in the popular Forgotten Realms world. Each chest contains enough adventures, complete with full color maps and miniatures, to ensure 25 players can strive for fame and fortune at the same time.
I looked at the character sheets (they are already posted as PDFs online) and the set-up seems to be: two Dwarves find a map to their ancestral home, gather some friends and a stranger together, and head up into the mountains to find it. Sounds like a classic adventure to me, with some wilderness encounters on the way to the obligatory ruins that I'm pretty sure go deep into the mountain at some point, almost like a dungeon. Yes, a dungeon that you could crawl through.
Whether you're a longtime gamer with a gaming monkey on your back, or a normal person who's always wanted to give tabletop role playing games a try, this is perfect. Just show up, grab a character and some dice, and get ready for adventure. Wizards has wisely created 4th level characters for the festivities, so players won't have to suffer the indignity of being killed by a single kobold. On the other hand, players won't get to enjoy the rite of passage we all enjoyed the first time we were killed by a single kobold, while trying in vain to defend ourselves by casting Light.
I was helping a friend troubleshoot and .opml issue a few days ago, and ended up building the mother of all vanity searches with this thing called monitor.
I was going to delete it last night, but I'm glad I didn't, because I found this great review of The Happiest Days of Our Lives with it this morning:
The book is a compilation of stories from Wil's earlier years. The stories make for a great read. Some will make you laugh, while others will sadden you. And more than one is very easy to relate to. I really enjoyed the book. Reading it caused me to recall some great memories from my past as well.
Yesterday at work, I loaned one of my books to this guy Robert, who is a makeup artist I worked with a million years ago on Star Trek. They'd hired him to do special effects makeup on the background actors playing fans, but wouldn't let him use real pieces, because it would look too good. He ended up using the stuff you can buy at Cinema Secrets, and it still looked great. I'm telling you guys, the authenticity is so great, you'll swear we were at a real convention.
Anyway, Robert sat down with it and started reading between setups. After about an hour, he came over to touch me up and make me look awesome for a closeup. While he put powder on my shiny face, he told me how much he liked the stories in my book, especially Blue Light Special, which he could relate to, and I am the Modren Man, which he said cracked him up.
I told him how happy that made me, and asked him to tell people about the book, because word of mouth is what sells books, not advertising. Think about this: when is the last time you bought a book, DVD, or game because of the advertising? I don't think I've done that since I realized advertising was bullshit about twenty-five years ago. I have, however, bought lots of books, games, DVDs, and CDs because my friends told me how much they loved it, and thought I'd like it.
Reviews are important for books, because they can convince people who are on the fence to take a chance on a book, but even more important is word of mouth, especially from your friends, family, and other people you trust to give you good, honest advice.
I'm not going to be reviewed by Booklist or any of the major newspapers, and it's unlikely that I'll get a chance to go on television and radio to let people know about The Happiest Days of Our Lives who don't know about it already. I'm counting on readers who feel my book was worth their time and money to tell their friends, and help me reach people who I haven't reached already.
If you've read The Happiest Days of Our Lives, and you felt it was worth your time and money, please tell your friends and family about it. It makes me so happy (and relieved) that it's already happening a little bit, right here on the Internets.
I put on Miles Sklar's suit and attitude today for my part of a three page scene where I got to be a serious douchebag. We did a lot of takes on the scene, and over the course of six hours I noticed that it's equally easy for me to commit to being a kind, sensitive, vulnerable person as it is for me to commit to being a complete and total douche. The thing is . . . playing a douche is really a lot more fun.
The camera was pretty far away from me, on a long lens, and the director was watching feeds from two cameras in video village while we shot, so I didn't get any direct feedback between takes. There was a time when this would have made me feel like I was doing something wrong, but I've done this enough now to know that if they're not telling me to do something different, then whatever I'm doing is making them happy.
After we finished the master, a couple of tighter overs, and my close up, the director walked over to me. Background actors headed out of the set, camera dollies were moved around us, and assistant directors talked to each other on their walkies.
He had a big smile on his face when he arrived, and he told me how happy he was with my work. He singled out a couple of acting choices I'd made, and talked at length about how much he liked them. He said, more than once, that I was doing a great job bringing this character to life.
The thing is, directors just don't do this when you're working in television. They usually don't have time to chat with the actors between setups, and they just don't bother praising us, because if we're not fucking up royally, we're doing the job we were hired to do.
So it meant a lot to me that he made the effort to single out some of the choices I made. He didn't have to do that, and it was an incredibly kind thing to do.
Later in the day, I met one of the writers from the show, who is as big a geek as I am. He even reads my blog! We talked about how cool the set was (they've built a scale model of Comic-Con, with a level of detail that should win an Emmy, or at least a Nerdy) and geeked out at each other about the comics we love. It turns out that he convinced the executives to do this episode by showing them Planetary, among other books. How awesome is that?
Tomorrow is my last day. I move from the convention to the interrogation room, and I get to work with Rob Morrow, which should be pretty awesome. Goddamn, I am having so much fun on this show.
I had a great time working on Numb3rs today, but I'm too happily exhausted to say much more beyond that right now.
When I washed my face a few minutes ago -- one of the last things I do at the end of my day -- I noticed that there was some makeup on the towel.
"Gosh," I thought, "I haven't seen that in a long time."
I'll sleep well tonight. I can't wait for tomorrow.