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

November 6, 2014

NotNaNo Days 5-6 – The Kid is Still Sick

Filed under: news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — Tags: — lexifab @ 11:08 pm

Several consecutive days of kid-wrangling have burned a great big hole in my productivity. Never mind. I managed to get a bit of work done yesterday morning, planning to write more in the evening, but instead I crashed at about 9 pm. Now it’s Thursday, after 10 pm and for one reason and another I still haven’t started work. I’m debating whether to crank out a desultory effort as I type this recap of yesterday’s effort:

  • Tally: (Wednesday) 690 new words (no idea how long it took, but probably something like an hour)
  • Total fiction word count for the month: 3165

As I’ve been totting up those numbers I’ve decided I will go and do a quick sprint of 30 minutes or so, so [invokes the magic of internet] there, that was a quick 30 minutes or so.

  • Tally: (Thursday) 380 words
  • Total fiction word count for the month: 3545

And here’s an excerpt from Wednesday:

Not all of a Cassandra’s prognostications are mind-blowing revelations of hidden truths. Sometimes they just talk complete rubbish.

And her’s an excerpt from Thursday:

I’d made a keenly-felt pact with myself not to cause the Acorn any further inconvenience, and so spare both of us the modest effort on his part that it would take to accomplish my final irrevocable end.

May 10, 2014

Tick tick tick

I know this blog looks neglected lately, but that’s just not the case. Why, I delete several hundred spam messages practically every day. (Seriously, what is up with that? Somebody out there in Russian or Lithuania is under the very mistaken impression that I can help them shift metric shitloads of what I presume are knockoffs of brand-name sunglasses, handbags and antidepressants. Boy, have they ever come to the wrong place).

Jobstuff

As I continue to cruise gently towards  graceful exit from the APS, with the first intention to make a complete career change, weird doors have begun to open. On Thursday I went to my first job interview in years (or decades, if you make the reasonable assertion that within-public-service promotion interviews are a different beast). Since it was a job I had absolutely no knowledge of thirty hours earlier, in a field in which I have plenty of experience but almost no emotional investment, for a government department that I have never considered working for, it was a pretty cushy interview.

I think I crushed it – whether I get the job will probably depend more on whether they have money than whether they have interest in my services (although there would be more hoops to jump through to actually land the position). Not feeling that anything important is at stake is a great help in calming interview nerves, that’s for sure. If nothing else, that interview has given me a bit of confidence that I should not feel intimidated by the next one. And the fact that the opportunity emerged unbidden from the ether has given me at least a little confidence that I needn’t be discouraged by early failures, because something will probably come up.

Writingstuff

I’m still ignoring the novel in favour of getting a few short stories under my belt. I finished a strange, literally-episodic little piece about high school ghost hunters last week, and this week I am drafting a story that has been percolating for about three years. I’ve rededicated myself to the idea that a writing streak keeps me at my most productive, that is, making sure that I achieve a minimum word count absolutely every day. The actual minimum I’ve set myself is 400 words, which is usually in the vicinity of an hour’s work and normally not difficult to achieve. Most sessions I crank out a little more than that, and so far on the current streak of 14 days (not counting today) I’m averaging a shade under 700 words. I’m pretty happy with that.

The other thing that I am trying now is writing from outlines. Instead of using a dot-point “this happens, then this happens, then this happens, then explosions, then The End” methods, I am trying a method that I got from listening to the guys at the Self-Publishing Podcast. They call it writing story beats, which involves (at least as I’ve interpreted it) writing the story out in a shorthand summary fashion, noting the plot and setting elements and describing the characters’ emotional arcs, scene by scene. Outlining, in other words, but by telling myself the story rather than trying to develop an architectural design.

The main advantage of this approach is that it helps (far more than a sterile dot-point plan) to identify where the slack or boring bits of the story might be. It makes fixing those much easier than doing a structural edit after the fact – 100 words of outline is a lot easier to fix than two chapters of misconceived fiction. And because it’s a relatively easy commitment to write two or three pages of outline, I don’t feel any anxiety about ideas that aren’t working yet. I can just put them on hold and turn my attention to something else, tinkering with the outline when I get a new idea or figure out a fix to a problem.

So far it’s working. Whenever I sit down for a writing session I can glance at the story beats and know exactly what I have to write. That helps me to cut through my usual procrastination rituals and get straight to writing. Writing the story beats out beforehand satisfies my inclination as a pantser/discovery writer, by letting me explore the idea and tell the story without committing to five or ten or ninety thousand words first. At the same time, a loosely sketched-out outline with which I have told the story to myself leaves plenty of room for discovering the tone and the characters and the smaller nuances of the piece. It seems to hit the right balance for me.

It’s a method I aim to experiment with more. I have a rough idea for a three-novel science fiction adventure that I plan to develop using story beats. Unless I have another idea that jumps the queue in the meantime, I’ll probably make that the next project in the pipeline, starting with developing the characters and figuring out the story beats, and then (if and when I have the energy) seeing how long it takes to turn that into an actual story.

…probably a long time though.

March 14, 2014

Review – The Gate Theory by Kaaron Warren – AWWC14

This is my first review for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014.

I get the idea, reading the five stories in Kaaron Warren’s 2013 collection The Gate Theory, that Kaaron might not quite see the world the way other people do. In these stories in particular, she seems drawn to broken characters who don’t seem to know how – or perhaps whether – to fit in.

The stories often seem to be about one thing before wandering off in an unexpected direction like an easily distracted burglar going through linen closets instead of a safe. And stories that feel safe if a little strange at the outset take weird and usually unpleasant turns, leading away from examinations of the lives (or post-lives) of characters somewhere near the fringes of society and pushing into genuine darkness. Outright gore is not often more than hinted at, but the horror is always there, coming into sharp focus as the characters stray out beyond their depths.

In ‘Purity’, Therese lives in squalor with her mother and brother, neglected physically and emotionally, which leads her into the embrace of a group with some very unusual habits.  ‘That Girl’ a Fijian ghost story, turns an unblinkingly critical eye from its white Australian cultural tourist protagonist to sinister undercurrents in the Fijian social order. ‘Dead Sea Fruit’ is a supremely creepy story that begins with the dental hygiene and shared mythologies of girls with eating disorders and gets more horrifying from there.

‘The History Thief’ is the only story in the collection whose supernatural element is evident from the beginning: protagonist Alvin death leads him to the discovery that he has not, as he thought, lived a particularly worthwhile life. He discovers he has the power to connect with people and make a meaningful difference, but dealing with people means dealing with their very nasty secrets. Finally ‘The Gaze Dogs of Nine Waterfall’ returns to Fiji for a cryptozoological expedition that gets out of hand.

These are five extraordinary stories, though I will confess I didn’t particularly care for ‘Purity’. Warren’s prose is beautiful, imbuing the ordinary with grandeur and horror in equal parts. Her flawed characters never quite register the moments that seal their fates, and Warren is content to quietly watch them amble off into horror and doom.

Somehow I can even see her holding the door open for them.

February 24, 2014

In-betweening

Filed under: news of the day,Uncategorized,wordsmithery,workin for the man — Tags: , , , — lexifab @ 4:22 pm

I’ve been a little quiet lately because things have changed at work. Instead of my previous employment as full-time layabout with literally no responsibilities, I have moved to a new office and team and have started what is effectively a new job (though with nominally the same old tasks). It would be fair to say that the adjustment process is ongoing, not least because I am still waiting on financial advice as to whether I can afford to quit and do something else with my life. I am anxious for a change and ready to move on, but at the same time I’m conscious that if I can’t make the numbers work, I need to stay where I am. The Canberra job market is becoming actively hostile to the archetype of “the Commonwealth public servant found excess to requirements”.

We just bought a new-to-us car: a 2009 Nissan Maxima. Ordinarily that might be a cause for celebration but in this case the imminent self-destruction of our old car forced our hand at a moment when we could have done without a big expense. Which is, I know, the story of everyone’s life. Still, it would be easier to make big, important life decisions without being feeling like our finances are holding a gun to our heads. Well, never mind, moving on.

I’m on the final stretch of my revision of the Sawl novel. I’ve given myself until the end of the month to get to The End, though in practise I might also give myself until the end of the weekend as well. At that point it still own’t be done, nor even close to it. I have structural problems all over the place (too many exposition scenes, too much slow introspection, not enough setup for action scenes, too much information withheld until the last third of the book, and at least one major character who dies in entirely the wrong place in the narrative, to name most of the big issues). Once I’m finished the draft I will put it away again for a month or so, to work on a couple of short stories and to flesh out an outline for the next longer project. then – I promise myself – it’ll be back to Nyssa and Rachel for a manuscript cleanup, for however long *that* takes.

I won’t say this book is taking forever but I will say that I look forward to refining my process.

November 6, 2013

TMoRP Day 13 – Captain Marvel

There are a lot of Captain Marvels out there. Over the past eighty-ish years of superhero comics, it’s a name that gets trotted out with fairly routine regularity.

DC Comics have the Big Red Cheese version, the Captain Marvel who’s really a ten-year-old newsboy named Billy Batson who speaks a magic word given to him by an ancient wizard whose name is an acronym of six old gods who bestow their legendary virtues on a suitably heroic champion. Yeah, and he sometimes fights a super-genius bookworm who speaks through an old-fashioned wooden radio he wears around his body like an invertebrate Flavor Flav. That Captain Marvel – whose name recently got changed to Shazam, which is what everyone always calls the character anyway but seems like kind of a stupid name for him to call himself since that’s his secret word that he uses to transform between invulnerable superhero and slightly polio-afflicted juvenile, and I’m sure there’s a perfectly sound explanation for all that but I’ll never know because I’m fucked if I’m going to read more widely in the execrable DC New 52 universe – is dumb. Dumb costume, dumb Superman knockoff, dumb roster of villains.

I’m not talking about that Captain Marvel.

Nor am I talking about the first version of the character from Marvel Comics, the Kree space captain named Mar-Vell. His main claim to fame (at least to me, who came to comics in the late seventies and early eighties, after his heyday) was his death from cancer. It was the first major character death in the Marvel universe, and almost the only significant one (apart from maybe Gwen Stacey) that has actually stuck. Mar-Vell’s never come back, but his legacy – as a guy who flies around in a red and blue costume with yellow highlights, blasting this with his hand-beams, saving people from stuff – lives on the Marvel continuity.

There have been a few other Captains Marvel between then and now. Go skim the wikipedia entry, because honestly most of these characters, with the exception of Monica Rambeau (who took the name but otherwise doesn’t have much to do with the alien Kree) and Noh-Varr (who is a Kree exile and is currently starring in the Young Avengers, about which I will probably rave before too long), aren’t really that important or good.

The Captain Marvel I like – the current Captain Marvel – is Carol Danvers. Also known for most of her time as Ms Marvel but also as Binary, Warbird and probably half a dozen other names I don’t know about. Each eclectic identity came with a different implausible and borderline-porny costume, with the only unifying feature being her trademarked hip scarf (a distinct if impractical accoutrement for any superhero outfit).

Danvers, an Air Force officer who picked up her powers back in the 60’s in an encounter with the original Mar-Vell and some Kree bad guys, has about the most convoluted and horrible back story in comics. Over time she has lost her powers to the mutant Rogue, been experimented on by the Alien-knockoff aliens the Brood, been kidnapped and impregnated by an interdimensional sociopath (then later that somehow never happened), and she’s been an an Avenger and an agent of SHIELD and sometimes a Guardian of the Galaxy and –

oh, look, forget all that. It’s the usual comics bullshit. Some of her backstory is great, some is unbelievably awful, and much of it is banal and forgettable.

Carol Danvers is among my favourite Marvel characters, but I’ve only come to that conclusion relatively recently. She’s been on the periphery of my awareness, mainly as Ms Marvel – but c’mon, that’s a pretty terrible name, right? Anyway, I don’t think she really started clicking for me until I began reading Brian Bendis’ vast run on The Avengers. Danvers, as Ms Marvel, is a constant presence in that book – still off to one side and in the shadow of the bigger players like Iron Man and Captain America. And in fact it’s the Civil War event that brought her to the foreground in my mind. While I have very mixed feelings about the Civil War storyline’s ham-fisted, authoritarian triumphalism, it was at least interesting to the Marvel roster of characters decide which side they were on. As a a SHIELD-adjacent serving military officer, she unsurprisingly picked Iron Man’s government-registration side and was immediately put in charge of hunting down everyone who refused to sign on.

(I’ve just realised that I’m going on a bit. Hard habit to break when talking about comics. You always feel like you need to explain the context, which means delving into backstory. No. No no. That’s a rabbit hole, deep and full of poisoned baits! Long story short, she eventually learned to be a leader as well as an arse-kicker).

Anyway, finally after nearly four decades of playing second-row to a dead character, Carol Danvers is now Captain Marvel, with her own title courtesy of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy. The first two collected volumes are available now, and I recommend them unreservedly. While the first volume combines a time-travelling, alien-bashing romp with serious themes about women in the military and relationships between women of different generations, the series really hits its stride with the second volume.

“Down” features Monica Rambeau, the first woman to take the name of Captain Marvel (though she also frequently abandons it for other generic superhero labels like Photon). I love their sassy, sarcastic interplay and the fact that their bantery rivalry does not paper over the fact that they are friends who will call each other on their shit. It’s a refreshing breath of fresh air from the trope of catty, spiteful female friendships that have plagued comics for a long time.

Check out Captain Marvel. She flies planes even though she can fly under her own power. She has a more messed up personal history than almost anyone in comics. She punches dinosaurs because they’re there to be punched.

And while her costume is now more practical and less swimsuity than ever before, they kept the sash. Because, hell yes.

 

October 27, 2013

Quick note

Filed under: Uncategorized — lexifab @ 9:17 pm

Knackered. Finished the story in time. Sleeping early. Will catch up tomorrow. Good night.

Yes, I could just have Tweeted this.

October 25, 2013

TMoRP Day 9 – Review – Nine Flash Nine by Patrick O’Duffy

I like flash fiction, even though it’s not always done well. By my lights, good flash fiction gets in with one shining idea, fleshes it out with humour or at least sparkling prose, and gets out before anyone notices how thin the concept is. One thousand words or less, all boom.

I like weird fiction. The more off the wall, creepy and surreal the ideas presented, the better as far as I’m concerned. It’s one of the few areas in fiction where I’ll give ground on decent characters and something resembling a plot, if the weirdness is weird enough, or fun enough, or simply something I haven’t seen or thought of before.

Nine Flash Nine, Patrick O’Duffy’s collection of nine flash fiction pieces are mostly a bit weird, even if not all of it could be defined as weird fiction. Or at least very weird mutations of the rather traditional story types they are emulating.

There’s the touring band rocked by murder but more rocked by internal dimness.

There’s a ‘Dear Penthouse Forum’ letter which is epically explicit and hilarious, but decidely unusual.

There’s an invasion by impossibly giant monsters who don’t give a rat’s arse that physics forbids their existence.

There’s one about a ghost moustache.

There’s five other stories. One simple idea per story, executed well. O’Duffy’s a writer who has fun with his language. These stories gleam with his trademark wit and insight and the occasional moment of well-directed snark. Like all good flash fiction, they’re gone way too soon.

The other thing is – look, the collection is a buck on Smashwords, so it’s not a huge investment. Personally I would recommend browsing his entire self-published catalogue. There’s good stuff in there, of which I’ve reviewed several pieces. (I read this back in March, and I feel kind of bad that it’s taken me this long to recommend it. But I do recommend it, because it’s a delight).

October 31, 2012

MRP Day 31 – Writing every day

The Month of Relentless Positivity comes to an end in a few hours and, wow, I caught up. I came into the month with the plan to write a blog post every day, and on average I succeeded. This Halloween entry brings the tally up to the requisite target number, even if I did have to double up over the last couple of days to make up for some slow days.

To be honest I expected to fall short. Not because it was an especially hard target to meet, but because I knew there would be days when I was too busy or tired in the evenings for writing. I had a further cunning notion that I might not stockpile a few extra entries ahead of time, and what do you know, I’m more cricket than ant.

No surprise there.

I got what I wanted out of the exercise though. I got back into the habit of sitting down and hitting the keyboard, more or less every day, and pumping out words to some specific purpose. Sure, there were probably a few days – okay, probably more than just a few – when I was more or less going through the motions to meet an artificial goal.

I’m okay with that. I don’t know how it works for anyone else, but some days I’m happy just to put down the words, and I’m learning to be okay with the fact that there will be days when they’re just not very good words.

Tomorrow is the first day of November. National Novel Writing Month. I have a novel to rewrite that I don’t think is going to get any better-thought-out for further procrastination. It’s probably going to be about 90,000 words or so. If I enter and ‘beat’ NaNo, I’d have it more than half-finished. If I kept that pace up, it’d be done by Boxing Day.

I’ve thought it over. I’m not entering. I wrote about 20,000 words in October, chunked into unrelated articles  of about 600 words apiece. I don’t expect to have all that much clear air in November – by which I mean the freedom to do whatever I want after 8 pm until sleeping every day – so the thought of hitting wordcounts of three times the size every day for the next thirty is…daunting, yes, but also unrealistic.

That doesn’t matter. If I can match even the pace that I’ve set myself over the past month, I could have this novel done in five months. Maybe it’ll take a bit longer than that, or maybe I’ll hit a groove and get it done sooner.[1]

So I am not doing NaNo, but I am going to try to keep myself honest and at least track my progress here. I’m probably not going to blog much, but I will check in once in a while with updates. Tomorrow I start writing the second draft, this time keeping themes and endings in mind and the dead end, go-nowhere plotlines excised. I take it as a good sign that even after spending months on the first draft only to finish with a frustrating incoherent story, I am jazzed and excited to take another shot at getting it right.

Now to go off and spend a little time tinkering with Scrivener to get it all set up.

Good night. Stay positive.

 

[1] And as soon as I wrote that, I realised that the first cricket test match against South Africa starts in a week or so. I’m doomed.[2]

[2] But in a positive way.

October 27, 2012

MRP Day 24/25 – Back to the Island – Season 2 Review (long)

Filed under: the month of relentless positivity,Uncategorized — lexifab @ 12:24 am

Finally we arrive at the end of Lost Season 2, with the Hatch blown comprehensively to bits and the Others manifesting as something more complex and sinister than the sharpshooting jungle ninjas we have assumed them to be. Did the followup to the tremendously popular first season meet expectations? Were our burning questions anwered? Have our favourite characters changed? Who lived and who died and what made no sense at all? Read on!

It’s been over a year since I wrote the wrapup review of the first season and I look back on the detail of that essay with a certain amount of horror. I really wrote over 3000 words on stuff like ratings? Eesh. That won’t happen this time, let me tell you. Unless it does. So let’s get to my ratings!

The ratings

Counting the two-part finale as a single episode, my average score for the season was 7.43. That’s slightly up on the 7.3 I rated Season 1. I think that Season 2 cemented the show’s rythmn. Smoothing off some of year one’s rough edges helped to avoid complete stinkers, with the exception of the dreadful ‘Abandoned’. On the other hand, there weren’t too many episodes that reached for the stars either – for me the only real standouts were the Hurley psychodrama ‘Dave’ and Sawyer’s ‘The Long Con’. Everything else ranked from okay to pretty good. A flat curve seems about right. Season Two of Lost was remarkably consistent in terms of quality – the show found its feet, paced its character development out a little more evenly and introduced new ideas and mysteries at a steady rate.

The new characters

Boone’s corpse was hardly cool before we had a whole swag of new characters join the cast – and to complete the deck-clearing, one of them shot Shannon to death on sight. Trigger-happy boozehound Ana-Lucia, sweet neurotic Libby, calmly seething spiritualist Mr Eko and Bernard the dentist (not counting the brief return cameo of Oceanic flight attendant Cindy, who only hung around long enough to remind us she was in the pilot and is still an Australian). Desmond Hume became something of a framing device for the season, abandoning his post in the Swan Station in the first episode and returning in the finale to (eventually) save everyone. And before we forget him, Henry Gale the fake balloonist was also a commanding presence.

The barrage of new characters was an interesting gambit which could easily have gone wrong. Despite my aggravation about the method in which she was written out, I don’t think the show suffered for losing Shannon at all – although following her death Sayyid played a remarkably low-key role for most of the season. Despite the fact that Ana Lucia and Libby were both bumped off before we really got to know them [1], I think the addition of the Tailies was a good play, if for no other reason than it spared us from even more angsty backstory episodes. Jack and Kate’s pre-Island stories in particular seemed to bottom out during Season 2.

A couple of the character arcs worth noting: Locke finished another season with a crashing collapse in his self-confidence. It’s apparent at this point that if Locke is Lost‘s Man of Faith, then his faith is possessed of both overweening arrogance and a glass jaw. The man goes to pieces faster than a hand grenade and with much the same result – other people tend to get hurt. This is an arc that will get old fast, I think – Locke finds something new on the Island to believe in and dupes at least a delusional few others into buying into his nonsense, Locke looks more closely at the miracle and finds it has feet of clay, Locke goes bugshit nuts and tries to break everything with hammers. I guess we will see in Season 3 whether this is a pathological condition with him.

Another character who goes through the wringer a bit in this season is Charlie. He makes some bad choices, true, but mostly everyone just assumes the worst about him and ostracises him to be on the safe side. I can see why the producers of a primetime network television show might not want to portray a heroin addict too positively, but apart from getting tetchy and strung out early in Season 1, I don’t recall any reason for the other characters to assume he’s dangerous. Why not, in fact, just shrug and let him have his junk? Who was he hurting, exactly? Worst case, he’d have OD’ed and died, but more likely he’d just wander round with a dumb smile on his face most of the time. I can see why Claire might not want to let him carry the baby around but still, everyone freaks the hell out about his supposed addiction when they could just have chilled. It was pretty sanctimonious, really, and I’m glad that Charlie recovered at least some cred by the end of the season. Mind you, terrorising Sun to help with Sawyer’s gun-stealing plan was still a major dick move, so no credit there.

The deaths

Having firmly established at the end of Season One that Lost is not a show where characters can expect to be safe, no time was wasted in get Shannon into a shallow beach grave right next to her brother. Add Ana-Lucia and Libby to the list of shooting victims, and what do you get? Well, for one thing you get three of the six regular female cast members gone gone gone [2]. That’s…hmm, a bit problematic, isn’t it? All three were shot for sudden and horrible dramatic effect, unlike all the male regulars who were dramatically not shot dead at all. And really the only one of the three deaths I thought had significant emotional impact at all was Libby’s – and that was mostly because she seemed to have an intriguing story that we still don’t know. I think it’s a little unfortunate that the necessity to cull the burgeoning entourage cast came at the expense of the women.

Come to think of it, Michael and Walt aren’t dead, but they did get off the Island, which probably means they’re not coming back. And those guys were two of the three black people in the cast [3]. Sigh. Maybe the show runners should get the benefit of the doubt – but if Sun and Jin end up buried on the beach in Season Three, we may have a problem…

The changing mystery

Not much changed about the format of the show – by and large each episode centred on one character and showed flashbacks to some time before the Island. Claire’s flashback episode conspicuously broke the mould – her flashbacks were to events that occurred during her kidnapping in Season One. The purpose of that kidnapping is still unclear, although it’s obviously something to do with the fact that Claire was pregnant and now has a child. The Others are still up to something (maybe more than one thing).

Obviously Season Two was focused mainly around the various Dharma Initiative stations and what purpose they served. The finale suggests the path that Season Three will take – exploring the Others and getting to know (partly) what they’re about. Hopefully someone will remember there’s a Smoke Monsters roaming about the Island as well, and maybe we’ll find out what’s going on there.

As for the Others, we have a few hints – Henry Gale says they work for a great man and have what sounds suspiciously like a religious fervour for some task he has set. Then again, if we know only one thing about Henry, it’s that he’s an accomplished liar and nothing he says should necessarily be believed. It’s likely we’ll see more of what makes him tick as well.

But the big central mystery remains – what (and where) is the Island? Why is it that you can only leave if you sail on a particular bearing? What’s the problem with babies? What is the weird electromagnetic energy pocket that builds up and builds up until it is released in a burst of powerful magnetic attraction/repulsion and turns the sky loudly purple? Why did the Dharma Initiative build the Swan Station on top of it? Who came up with that clunky Numbers-computer-every-108-minutes-or-the-world-ends procedure? What the hell kind of cockamamie psych test were they running on the poor bastards in the Pearl Station? Why do the Others have a fake primitive village setup, complete with fake Hatch? Why does the statue only have four toes? WHY DOES THE STATUE ONLY HAVE FOUR TOES? And how is it that Penny knows to watch for the crazy electromagnetic signature of the Swan Station explosion from the Arctic, no less? We don’t know any of this yet.

Conclusion

I guess the conclusion I come to is that Season Two changes things up from Season One, but not much, and more in terms of cast than format. Desmond and the Swan Station provide the backbone of the Season. Desmond with his unhinged flight in the first episode and despondent reckless return at the end. But the real star is the Swan Station, which throughout the series not only provides a change of scenery and a new source of firearms, but also goes from being an intriguing question to what we assume must now be a gigantic smoking crater. Along the way we learn about a lot of new concepts – Dharma, Hanso, the food drops, the network of underground stations, the Others – but we’re still wondering about a lot of stuff from before, not the least of which is the Smoke Monster.

It was an interesting departure to do away with the survival imperatives – food, water, shelter – as a dramatic device, by having the Swan and the food drops essentially supply everything (pretty much by magic, if you want to get all cargo cult about it). It’s obvious that the producers think that they have a compelling enough mystery underway now that the audience doesn’t need to see Locke hunting boar any more [4], so they felt safe in taking the spotlight off both the natural hazards of the Island and the confrontations over limited resources (although there were still a couple of instances of that, most notably when Sawyer got all the guns).

As a whole I think it worked well, though there were definitely lows and highs. Michael and Charlie both went through pretty dark character arcs, and only Charlie emerged with his reputation (and then only arguably). Several new characters were alive long enough to whet our appetite for their story, but not long enough to give us a good meal. Shannon died even more uselessly than she had lived. Most of the central cast stuck to their usual guns of arguing, waving guns and going on poorly-planned jungle expeditions.

Season Two demonstrated that the degree of interconnectedness between the characters is both fantastically complex and unlikely to be a coincidence. CIA spook Kelvin is a good example of this – he has direct ties to Sayyid’s past, indirect ties to Kate’s (through her soldier father), he was on the Island with Desmond and in fact his death contributed to the crash of Oceanic 815. He and Christian Shepherd and other lesser-profile characters are woven throughout the crash survivors’ stories, binding them together in some significant way we can’t see yet. The coincidences and the connections point to a new and probably important series of questions:

Who are the survivors of Oceanic 815, what is important about them and have they been brought to the Island for some reason? And why?

On to Season Three…

[1] And how suspicious is it that the two characters written out just happened to correspond to the two actors who were picked up by the Hawaiian five-oh for drink-driving? My guess is not very suspicious at all.

[2] I don’t count Rose. She’s not in most episodes and anyway, she’s obviously a favourite character of the producers. Nor Rousseau, for much the same reason.

[3] Not counting Rose again.

[4] Alhough come to think of it, having all their needs supplied by the Hatch meant that the survivors no longer need to depend on Locke’s skills for their lives. That might actually help to explain his otherwise somewhat unconvincing emotional collapse towards the end of the season.

May 30, 2012

Wednesdays are linkspam days

Filed under: geekery,the interweb she provides,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 3:43 pm

I’m halfway through a bunch of things and coming up on my self-imposed deadline to finish things. So instead of starting something new to post up here, I’m just going to flag a bunch of things that caught my interest when I was supposed to be paying attention to something else.

Recently Neil Gaiman did a speech to the 2012 graduating class from University of the Arts in Philly about living a life in the creative arts. It’s wonderful. But at 15 minutes it is rather too long for my internet-atrophied attention span to follow [1], so instead, here is a rather awesome cartoon version.

Ticonderoga Press has announced the table of contents from its upcoming The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2011 anthology. Having read four of the stories from a list of 32 and found all of them to be top-notch, I have already decided to pick this one up (due in July) and am hunting around my local bookstores for the 2010 collection.

Stunning (and completely spoilery) plot analysis of The Avengers: http://exurbe.com/?p=1368  If you have seen the movie and came away with the infinitessimally faint hint of dissatisfaction that perhaps the cunning and complexity of the villain’s scheme was not quite up to the standard traditionally ascribed to him, then read this essay and marvel at its subtle genius [2]

Next week I am going to plug a bunch of podcasts. You have been warned.

 

[1] Not really. Go watch the vid. Or just listen to it. Gaiman is terrific.

[2] Which goes almost wholly unrevealed amidst the witty snarking and multi-‘splosion hijinks [3]

[3] By the way The Avengers is making a serious play in my head for the best action movie of all time, though I suspect on subsequent viewings it will again lose ground to the masterwork that is Die Hard. But it is, I contend, better on every level than any of the Indiana Jones or Star Wars movies.

 

 

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