Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

August 31, 2011

The Dreaded Linkfest

Filed under: geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 5:04 pm

Look, let’s just be open about this. Nobody likes a blog that just throws up a bunch of links to things that the author found either amusing, disgusting, provocative or all three. And yet we all do it, because the only thing an RSS-junkie like me likes even less is a blog that goes more than a week without an update. Right?

Say, is that the sound of coyote-whippoorwills chirruping at some tumbleweeds blowing past?

Well, anyway, this week I’m working on my short story (Teeth still grinding. Words still emerging at an unusability ratio of four- or five-to-one. Proceeding as expected) so I haven’t spent too much time pondering the sort of blood-scorching topics that compel my usual waffling commentary.

I thought about taking cheap shots at the dire quality of what passes for politics hereabouts. However between the Convoy of No Confidence (daft and inconsequential and considerably less representative than most things that get protested in Canberra) and the Craig Thompson affair (which is vanishingly unlikely to bring down the Government, unless there are actual dead hookers yet to be revealed) and the minimalistic reporting about the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office (which should constrain participants of future election campaigns to boring policy-based debates), my heart wasn’t in it.

Instead, here’s some crap from the internets:

Via writer Cam Rogers, The Lonely Island are those incredibly rude young chaps who had that song about being on a boat. Here they present another nautically-themed number, which features Michael Bolton taking the absolute piss out of himself. Warning: contains further swearing, though not nearly as much as pertained to that motherfucking boat.

What with all the walking I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been listening to a lot more podcasts (I have not quite picked up an audiobook habit yet, though I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I add them to the long list of cultural artefacts for which I have an unhealthy and time-consuming appreciation). Two of the better gaming-related shows that have hit their stride over the last year or so are The Walking Eye podcast and the Jennisodes.

TWE is an excellent round-table discussion ‘cast in which the principles first record several of their play sessions of a particular game (usually but not always a recent small-press “indie” publication). They follow this up with a review episode in which they pull the game apart and figure out what did and didn’t work for them, and then finally they get the game’s author(s) on the show for an interview. If you can develop the stamina and tolerance for listening to someone else’s roleplaying session – the actual play recordings sometimes go for a couple of hours – then these recordings are an excellent introduction to games that are sometimes (often) best taught orally. Which is not to say that they don’t sometimes (often) get rules wrong, but they are usually conscientious about correcting their mistakes. It’s a fine show – the presenters are thoughtful and assured, the discussions are free-ranging but rarely stray off-topic, and the combination of actual play – review – interview provides an excellent overview and more than enough of a game’s flavour to inform a decision whether to purchase it. I picked up Apocalypse World on the strength of the TWE review and will likely get Fiasco on the same basis.

The Jennisodes is another roleplaying game-focused show. Its format is a slightly more traditional interview show, but host Jenn has a real knack for (a) getting interesting people on and (b) getting them to say interesting things about themselves well beyond whatever the topic at hand may be.

Getting away from the gaming, I’ve also started listening to War Rocket Ajax, which is a comics-related podcast that sometimes strays into esoteric subjects about which I comprehend little (such as nerdcore hiphop and the varieties of barbecue available in the southwestern USA region). Nevertheless the hosts Chris Sims and Matt Wilson are engaging interviewers possessed of truly inhuman depths of knowledge about Superman, Captain America and even some comics that don’t have superheroes in them. This is a good show – their recent interviews with Mark Waid and Greg Rucka were music to my nerdy ears.

Inspired by the DC relaunch about which Ihave recently opined at length, the DC Fifty-Too blog depicts covers from an alternate universe relaunch with some of the artists and characters that didn’t get invited to the party. Many of them are far more compelling than the actual relaunch titles (I would pay handsomely for a Mignola-style Big Barda series).

Apocalypse World is yet another roleplaying game I would desperately love to play if I could find the time. Instead I console myself with vicarious entertainment like this short instructional animation explaining how the game is played, which I have mostly linked to because it is oddly beautiful.

A good caution on the dangers of writing outside your culture and immediate experience in this ABC Drum article: How to Write about Aboriginal Australia. I have a great fondness for sarcasm borne of weary exasperation. In the past few days a work colleague of mine also posted this inspired rant about the declining  Australian backbone: Snobs and whingers. There’s some good writing on the Drum at the moment, especially now that they seem to have dispensed with the occasional services of Bob Ellis.

August 29, 2011

Winding down

Filed under: administraviata,fitter/happier,friends,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 12:40 am

I’m trashed. We’ve had a big weekend of visitation from Andrew, Von and their adorable little Jade Monkey. The house seemed even more full than usual of loud children demanding constant attention. It was also maxing out on superconcentrated doses of cuteness though, so it’s hard to complain.

Now I am chilling with new Doctor Who and chatting on Facebook with my buddy Rob (who is currently staring down the barrel of sinister weather formation Hurricane Irene, in what must surely be one of the great ill-timed first visits to the Big Apple for some time). He is providing a welcome procrastination excuse, though I am shortly going to have to bite the bullet and sign off  if I’m going to get anything done before I pass out from child-wrangling based exhaustion.

Chatting with Andrew over the weekend has prompted me to think that I need to set myself some writing goals, if only because I work better to deadlines than not. I have a list of projects on the boil – the current Sawl short (which is too long by far in its first draft), the throwaway Unicorn story which I want to edit into shape rather than throw away, the continuation of the Lost reviews, several other short reviews for various things I’ve read and liked, and a novel (of which I have written about 20000 words; I need to start again with a revised concept and a tighter plan, if not an actual outline). I’d like to think it’s not going to take me too much longer to get what I think of as my ‘main’ short story into shape, but then I would also like to think that it’s not going to end up 5000 words long, and yet that’s the territory Draft One has strayed into.

I am not going to do anything reckless like commit to targets right at the moment though. Having just opened up the draft document a second ago and read the last thing I wrote, it’s pretty clear from my total failure to recognise my own sentences that I am not in a fit state to exercise sound judgment.

That probably means I’m ripe to write weird fiction though.

August 17, 2011

The DC Reboot: What I’m Getting

Filed under: geekery — lexifab @ 12:27 am

Warning: this is really very long, and it’s about comics. I’ll understand perfectly if nobody gets to the end of this. I certainly struggled with it.

Edit: My conclusion disappeared, so I’ve rewritten it. It’s just before the footnotes.

I’m a bit of a comics dilettante, mainly because I can’t afford to be anything else. I would love to have a standing order at Impact Comics (my friendly neighbourhood comic shop) of the fifty most interesting titles coming out in a given month. I shudder to think what that would actually cost, leaving aside secondary considerations like when I would get time to read them, where I would store them all and the small matter of the immediate divorce such a decision would guarantee and warrant.

So for going on twelve years now I have cut my comics intake to the bone, surviving on a meager diet of trade paperback collections of what seem like they will be worthwhile series [1]. Occasionally I’ll get to wade through piles of whatever friends have collected, so I maintain a remote but patchy sense of what is going on in the Marvel and DC spheres.

One of the features of DC over the past couple of decades is its (increasingly frequent) tendency to have some universe-shattering event – typically involving the machinations of alien gods, horrors from beyond the dimensions of sanity or irresponsible time travellers – rewrite, erase or irrevocably reorder reality. Shit gets confused, often. So in that sense the planned don’t-call-it-a-reboot of the DC Universe coming in September is nothing new, from a story point of view.

Except that – instead of the usual rigmarole of a wildly-incoherent summer crossover event into which is dragged every character with a monthly title – this time they seem to be following the thinking through with a publishing shakeup. Following a bridging story called Flashpoint [4], DC are cancelling all their titles [5] and launching 52 new first issues in September. That’s 52 new monthly books, almost [6] all of them featuring well-established characters who have been reset to their original state. Superman is no longer married to Lois Lane, Wonder Woman is back to being a fresh-off-the-boat princess new to the World of Men and so on.  Also, everyone’s costume has been redesigned and now they all have sculpted plastic pecs and collars. Well, whatever.

Right. So, now you’re caught up.

The reason I went into all that tedious detail is because, to my great surprise, a small sliver of the mass launch of new titles has actually piqued my interest. I am quite shocked to discover myself buying into some of the hype surrounding the September launches, to the extent that I’ve decided to actually pick up a few of the new number ones. I really don’t expect to be so overwhelmed with excitement that I will revert to the habits of old and collect things month-by-month, but I am going to give a few titles a chance to convince me to pick up the collected editions later.

I have decided that I will buy five comics [7], though I have not quite arrived at a final conclusion about which five. What follows is a not-very-shortlist of titles I’m considering (in order of publication).


August 11, 2011

A discreditable lack of organisation

Filed under: geekery,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 5:28 pm

I don’t manage my time all that well.

Looking at my daily schedule on paper, it seems like there should be at least a couple of hours in every day available for writing. The kids are generally in bed by about half past seven or eight or so. Thanks to our semi-socialist collective living arrangements, I only have to cook and clean the kitchen on one or two evenings per week. I don’t really watch that much television, and of the stuff I do watch most of it is according to my own schedule rather than that of television networks (other than the news). Most mornings are out at the moment – one or other of the kids will generally wake us up around six and then it’s all hands on deck getting them ready for the day (and myself for work).

Yet I rarely manage more than one or two evenings in a week where I can sit down and dedicate time to writing, and some weeks I don’t even do that. What on earth am I doing wrong here? Some culprits:

  • Social gaming – I’m in one weekly and three fortnightly evening games, which eliminates ten nights a month
  • Bookkeeping – the property management stuff takes at least a couple of nights a month. More than that at present, now that there’s heaps to do around taxes. Call that another four nights a month.
  • Reading – After a long stretch of reading very little, the Kindle has (ahem) rekindled my enthusiasm for devouring the wordcounts of others. Overall my reading time hasn’t increased a great deal – let’s say an hour every other day, or fifteen hours a month, or about four evenings a month.

Add in, say, six nights a month for the domestic culinary duties aforementioned (which don’t take up the entire evening, so let’s call it three nights instead) and that makes a total of 21 evenings every month which are more or less spoken for. To be sure I could usually snatch a sneaky hour here or there even on the busiest of most of those days, but at the very minimum I should have eight to ten nights a month, good for at least 1000 if not 1500 words, more or less free to write. At the very least, my monthly output *could* be between 8 and 15 thousand words.

It’s nothin’ like that much, of course. What’s the real culprit? It is, of course:

  • Video games – Uh oh. At the moment I am flitting like a ritalin-addled moth between Minecraft, Portal 2, Team Fortress 2, Mass Effect and, every so often, Half-Life 2: Episode 2. Not to mention the fact that I am trying hard to ignore the fact that I have several other unstarted or incomplete titles lurking about the old hard drive.

Ah, shiny, shiny video games. My bete noir. (Yes, Twitter and Google Reader, I am going to let you off the hook and pin it all on video games. So keep your mouths shut and remember that you owe me a favour). I have literally no idea how much time I am sinking into shooting uncouth young folk online, or smashing blocks with poorly-rendered digging implements, or being the most insanely bad-arse space commander in the galaxy.

Writing is a discipline. Video gaming is a serious distraction, the utter enemy of discipline [1]. I should be using games as an incentive to work harder [2], not reflexively leaping online and loading up Steam, only to wonder four hours later where my one productive night of the week went.

Also, it possible I should start going to bed earlier and just get up before the kids do. It’s much more quiet in the mornings, for one thing.

So, what’s killing your productivity?

[1] Except insofar as I really need to practise if I’m going to master rocket-jumping in TF2. I keep blowing up my own feet. 

[2]  Writer brain: “Just finish a thousand more words and you can go play your little shooting games for an hour.” Reptile brain: “You got it! So, we were working on our short story about capturing the control point with a Pyro rush on their left flank, right?” Writer brain: “…Please stop helping.”

August 4, 2011

The July Experiment

Filed under: wordsmithery — lexifab @ 12:33 am

Having done a successful stint of a couple of months of writing Lost reviews – more or less for the purpose of building the habit of producing an estimable wordcount on a nigh-daily basis – you might recall that I took the month of July off in order to direct those bulging new word-muscles to the task of completing some original fiction. So how did that go?

You can probably guess, but to save you the effort and myself the embarrassment, it went not all that well. I’ll cut myself some slack right from the outset and acknowledge that with the better part of two weeks spent thoroughly trashed by a cold, I was never going to set a personal best. Much of that time I didn’t fire up anything more creative than Twitter, and even that was only to follow the hijinks of Drunk Hulk.

But excuses aside, my output was pretty pitiful all the same. On the fiction front, I did manage to churn out that Unicorn story (1400 words, of a 1000-word notional limit). I also tacked another 400 words onto my novella-or-novel, even though I wasn’t really working on that. And to the short story work in progress – which in theory ought to be something that might be publishable if I get it to work – I slapped a measly 2000 words over the space of a month. Many, if not most of which will have to be excised in editing. Hurm.

The short story is really giving me hell. Every paragraph is like extracting hen’s teeth. I should be following the very sensible advice togive myself permission to let the first draft suck while I just get it finished but even keeping that in mind it seems o be like wading through syrup to get the story onto the page. That’s not particularly unusual for me. What is unusual – kind of unprecedented, actually, at least in recent memory – is that I am actually working from an outline in this case. I know who the characters are, I know what they want and what they know, and I know where the story is going to take them. I almost never know any of that when I am working on a story, which is why I was so keen to try it this time around. Gotta try something new once in a while, right?

Based on the evidence so far it is not a good fit for my style. Then again, I am almost certainly too invested in getting the story right – and frustrated with my glacial progress – to objectively assess whether the process has anything to do with my difficulties. Like I said, it’s not unusual for me to have problems getting the ideas out of my head and onto the page in some kind of coherent form. (That’s really my problem right there, I’ll warrant – there’s an inherent antipathy between the intention to churn out a story as fast as my fingers will allow and the prideful desire not to have it be an incoherent unreadable mess at the end).

The upshot is that I think I will extend the hiatus of the Lost reviews for another month and continue the experiment. I won’t tie the resumption of reviewing to my completion of the short story – mostly because even when I do finish the first draft there will be a ton of work remaining to be done to get it into submission shape – but I think giving myself another month to get the wretched thing completed is probably reasonable.

So that’s me. What-all are you doing with your time?

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