Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson (Part 9)

So she has a twin, I thought. Big deal. There are at least ten clones of me that didn't make it, brothers and sisters. Sometimes you forget that a perfect clone can be female as well. We embraced before she died. Her developmental process completed perfectly fine, except her immune system. With clammy hands, still wet with bio fluids I held her as she went into anaphylactic shock, completely unaware of who she was. (Neither did I for that matter.) Wide eyed, as I was entranced by the experience, I looked into her trembling eyes. She looked so confused. I wasn't sure why this creature before me shook so heavily, or why her legs kicked out from under her like a fish out of water. Her death taught me one thing however: this was the beginning of my life, and it was the end of hers. Only 2 minutes old I knew death.

In retrospect there are so many things I wished I could do with her. Did we think the same thoughts? What would our personalities have developed into? If we had sex with each other would it have been myself having sex with myself?

"So what do you want to do big guy?" I said, nudging Lief in the shoulder. Still entranced by the sign he looked down, at the ground, disappointed and frustrated.

"Can you get us into the arena?"

"Why? That's not your sister." Slowly I pulled out of my pocket a piece of chocolate I purchased from a vendor earlier that day. I missed chocolate from the continent. There's just no comparison.

"But the one that wants to play castle might still be in there."

"I can't imagine what she might be doing there. There can't be two star captains. Look her name up in the directory, maybe you will find some kind of contact information"

Lief sighed, rubbing his temples in frustration.

"I already did!" he said thrusting his hand toward the sign above. "And that's definitely not her!"

"So why the long face, eh?" In response to this I watched Lief thrust his hand into his pocket, pulling out a photograph. The woman on it was indeed different. She had blonde hair, with red streaks through it. I casually glanced between the billboard and the photo a few times. The two were rather similar, but I still managed to see what my friend was getting on about. The facial structure of the two didn't match up. And his sister's left in turned inward very slightly.

"Mær is not here," Lief pouted, "and I'm not going to go in there and ask Sophia about her."

"Why the hell not?" The idea of coming all this way for nothing horrified me, so I at least managed some indignant response. "If she's a twin, wouldn't that mean that she's also your sister as well?"

"I wanted Mær..."

"I want to die having sex, but we can't have it all, now can we? Good God man!"

I started walking forward towards the entrance way defiantly. In the back I could sense that Lief struggled to follow, but I continued until I heard him hasten towards me with a nervous look about it.

"We are going inside," I said flatly. "We will meet with Sophia, then we will ask about Mær and move along. See? I'm not to bad at planning aren't I?"

"This is a mistake," He said shaking his head. "I have a bad feeling about this."

"Oh hush! What's the worse that could happen?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Academic Theory: Hinduism

Last week we introduced the religions of our next unit into Eastern Philosophies. That considered I will preface that in the following lesson my objective is to cover the philosophical impact of Hinduism in literature, and not it's core doctrines, which are incredibly nuanced and varied. My hope is to take the basic concepts of Hinduism and show how they recycle themselves back into literature. This lesson is not meant to be comprehensive by any means.

Hinduism is regarded widely as the oldest religion in the world by scholars on the basis that it's corpus of holy scriptures predate most modern civilizations. Given that evidenced belief throughout the ages is more a problem of archaeology and history, this understanding of Hinduism is fundamentally flawed. I concede that the roots of Hinduism predate western civilization, but is it the oldest? Hardly. This leads to my second point, however: Hinduism is by far one of the most complicated and nuanced belief structures in the world.

There are no set rules, or "theologies" of Hinduism. Some Hindus are atheists, others polytheists, and some monotheists, but there are some core traditions that universally intersperse themselves through Hinduism. These are the subjects of Dharma, Samsara, Karma, and Moksha. Each subject concerns itself with the progression of the life through the divine. Dharma is the right doctrine one must pursue throughout the continued cycle of rebirth, Samsara. Karma follows as cause and effect, and how one lives out their life brings them further away from or closer to Moksha. Moksha, that is the freedom from the continuing cycle of life, death, and rebirth, is achieved through the different yogas (Jnana, Bhakti, Karma, Raja) each representing different paths to the divine. At this point, most of Hindu thought then diverges in all directions. What the principal yogas bring the practitioner of Hinduism towards is the matter of debate, some believing a theistic afterlife, a destruction of individualism leading to a collective universal consciousness, or complete annihilation. The means by which these themes enter into literature is another question altogether.

Much of how Hinduism is expressed in western literature is unfortunately stereotyped. Many westerners will turn to Hinduism for a nebulous need for oneness, without realizing that they are only gratifying their egotism, which the eradication of the ego is the foundation of Hinduism. Grant Morrison's Invisibles is one of the few modern works that introduces an honorable portrayal of Hinduism, which can be observed in scenes such as when King Mob communicates with the spiritual essence of John Lennon in an effort to locate Dane McGowan. But there are ways to incorporate elements of Hinduism into a written work, or be able to distinguish it without compromising it's core essence. Below is an example of what I mean:

"What does the drum mean?" Chestwick said, taking a long drag on a rolled cigarette. "Jesus... Where do I start?" 
"Beats me," Rodney replied, "That's why I play the bass. I am the soul of the band, man. I am the cosmic rhythm that lays it all down." 
"But I'm supposed to hit the drum right? With these sticks, yeah? How do I do that though? Is there a right way to do something? I could'a spent my entire life, hitting something and never get it right. Fucking mad, man." 
"Maybe that's your problem." The voice was low, gruff. Donald stood up from his corner and walked over, reaching down to grab the cigarette from Chestwick. "Maybe you are just kidding yourself, dig? You're livin' your whole life performing to a standard that is all about you. Maybe you need to get away."
"Can I get that back?"  
Rodney took a drag and tossed it back to Chestwick. He let it fall to the ground. Last time he was fucked up he burned himself.  
"Achieve action selflessly, mate. Detach yourself. Hit that bloody drum in dedication to rock, not yourself. How you gonna play music when you are doing it with the wrong motivation?" 
That is a simple conceptualization, but I hope it emphasizes my point. Hinduism is not about self gratification as it is conceived of in the West. It's about disassociation if anything.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Overwhelmed and Underpaid

So I have this friend who works in publishing. He's a great guy and super professional, one of those heavy hitters that has seen and worked in a ton of different industries, all creative. Lately things have been hard for him. He's lost a parent, a "favorite son," and a few large contracts, and yet he persists. He gets paid to do what he loves the most, and I consider him a mentor.

I've been under his tutelage for some time now, and from what I can tell, in order to do what you love it takes time. Blood, sweat, and other bodily secretions included I must engorge myself on bouts of masochism. If I have learned a lesson on my own, it's realizing that working those 80 hour work weeks come naturally if one just succumb to the reality of one's position in life. What if Sisyphus stopped pushing the rock one day and said, "Woah! Really? What have I been doing all my after-life?" That uphill battle is a mindset, and you will feel the burn and weariness of life if you start thinking that your passion is just a means to an end. I can relate to this on a personal level this year. Steam Games occasionally does their Winter and Summer Sales, which this year I mobbed big time. I picked up all these games and realized that I just don't have the time to play them. I couldn't stop laughing and thinking about how ten years ago I could tear through these things like wrapping paper. Now, if I want to partake, I have to schedule it in like going to a soccer practice.

So that gets me where I am now. I had to opportunity to meet my boss from Sequart at San Diego Comic Con. He's a stand up guy. The encounter generated all the stereotypical reactions to meeting an internet associate, which I find absolutely fascinating. The mood of these situations invoke an uncanny awareness of mind-body dualism, that puts the subject into a scenario of bizarre familiarity. Expectations are enforced and thwarted simultaneously. What this all has to do with my being overwhelmed is simply that I've discovered the mortality of my cause and it makes me question the manner of my support. Consequently, I have a book, now fully detailed in a rough outline, with diminishing motivation in undertaking it.

Work on the graphic novel has just begun with scripts, posting routines, and basic concept, all getting off the ground. I happened to meet an artist at Comic Con by happenstance while recharging my phone. Hindsight is always 20/20 as the saying goes. I believe God is leading me into this industry, but in what manner and capacity? Does my origin story begin in college with my roommate, or at the opposite end of Con recharging a phone? Give me an answer!

All this to say, I am feeling the weight of my life. In horror I watch the invisible, future fat cover my bones, transforming me into a middle-aged, no longer youthful, organism with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. You begin to wonder if someone will ever pay you for your work, and question the very meaning of your existence. I am convicted in my mind that God is leading me to live out a theology that is big enough to have him working in my life, in the industry that I love. Moving that head knowledge to your heart is another thing all together. That is where it all begins.

Struck down but not defeated.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson (Part 8)

Castle was a big drawn at Lyon. Of all the mega civilizations in the continent the arena there wasn't merely just a place to play a game. It was an immersive experience. As we walked into the city gates the attendants were extra attentive to us. Lief received a full cavity search, I didn't. They have to profile somewhat during these events. You never know who's going to bring a weapon when the action heats up.

Now If the way I describe it sounds like getting into a city with 50 million is easy, I admit I embellished some. Imagine entering a city gate a league wide, lined with attendants in white uniforms with body scanners. Picture them standing next to large pylons that are supercharged with neutrons and are neurologically connected to the attendant for maximum response time. One false movement on my part and I am suddenly atomized. I've seen this go both ways though. Once I saw a female attendant get aroused, charmed by her subject. The pylon erupted with energy, vaporizing him. Her friends never let her live it down. Oh well, C'est la vie.

Lief stood next to me vigilantly as he put on some optics and calibrated the lenses. I assumed he did it for added protection. The changes of being harvested by a collector here were slim, but he was rather proactive with protecting us. While he fiddled with his tech, I absorbed the city's atmosphere. Lyon was well preserved underneath the chic of future things added over the centuries. I came here almost 300 years ago, only to find a bombed out city with the plaza operating with a few vendors. Those were the days, before rediscovery, before the collectors.

We walked for a few miles then into the city center. The castle arena was four square blocks and the citadel at least 700 meters tall. It was a massive arena. Lief seemed rather lost in it's size, and I couldn't blame him.

"That's a lot larger than I was expecting," he said after some time. "The grounds of the North are so much smaller."

"And for good reason," I chided. "We understand that size doesn't mean immersion. The games here take so long to finish because of it."

"I agree," Lief added, his words flat and absent of passion. Something caught his eye. With two hands he expanded a construct before him and selected a field of vision to enhance.

"Well, isn't that something," he said, sounding impressed. "It looks like Sog is playing tonight."

"Sog?" I hadn't heard of the place. It must have been one of the backwater leagues in the Northern reaches of the world. "Never heard of them."

"They hold a little cup every year," Lief said, "They have a local four team league. I knew one of their captains once. He was a strong man, one of the last true players."

"It sounds like you miss him," I said. In front of me a flower pot was overturned filled with orchids. A mother cried in the distance for her daughter to run and retrieve them. For a moment then I felt rather at home.

"I miss the region," Leif clarified. "There are no collectors up there. Its too far north, and the harvesting equipment fails in temperatures below freezing."

 "Heaven forbid working inside."

Lief stopped in his tracks, frozen, myself bumping into him from behind.

"Oh lord, be dramatic why don't you. What is it?"

Lief raised his hand pointing to a sign overhead. On it a woman's image was glazed across: a strong looking brunette, bare shouldered and covered chest high in silver plate armor. Emblazoned across the bottom in gold letters I read, "Sofia Roman, Team Captain."

"That's her, isn't it?" I started. "Why am I not surprised..."

"This is going to complicate things..."

"So that means we now have to sneak into that Godforsaken place, right? I don't know how we will get past the inner guard."

"No," Lief said, rubbing his eyes, "No, this doesn't add up at all. This isn't right."

"What?" I said, turning to Lief.

"Twins... She's a twin..."

Bugger me.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Academic Theory: Introducing Eastern Philosophy

After a pretty successful run into the traditions of western literature it is now time that we deviate and travel eastward. Rather than just jump right into the traditions I thought that I'd shortly cover some of the predominant styles inside eastern literature before focusing on particular philosophies.

In the East there are many philosophies. This goes without saying here in the West, but why this is important to distinguish in the East lies in the fact that philosophy and religion are synonymous. Unlike the western traditions that are structured after popular tropes like the afterlife or a concept of punishment for immorality, Eastern traditions focus on praxis of living. Each tradition is very different of course from one another, and that goes without saying. Whereas Buddhism concerns the freedom and interdependence of the mind from reality, Taoism focuses on the effortless action resulting from harmonizing with the physical world. Shintoism and Hinduism are separate from these religions, which posses a pantheon and a consort of Gods but are still heavily philosophical in substance. Buddhism of course diverges from Hinduism as a rejection of the latter. Shintoism is rooted in the practice of the Ainu which is the original shamanist practice of Japan. It would be later on that Shinto would find it's modern form in the syncretism between immigrating Buddhists and Japanese in the Kofun and Asuka Period.

Why these nuances are important to differentiate between will become obvious to you in the following weeks. Suffice to say, conceive of these differences as cultural in nature, but understand that they are the foundation of what modern identities we see today.

In conclusion I will leave you with the largest difference between Western and Eastern writing. Whereas western writing focuses on the action of the individual and the significance of personal identity, eastern writing does away with these stresses, focusing on a holistic approach to cosmology and existence. This is why in Japanese literature, the hero of the story brings people together in conformity, and the villain or fool separates himself from his family and heritage to his detriment.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Adventures at the San Diego Comic Con

Yesterday I attended Comic Con for the first time. 

For some I wager it's a magical experience, others a job. For me I considered it an adventure filled will peril, obstacle, intrigue, and wonder, the prototypical hero's right of passage from inexperience to experience. I did things that I had never done before. I saw things that I never saw before. I talked with those I never dreamed of talking with. Verily, it was a mind trip.

The day started off for me at 6:30am. My Aunt and Uncle live in San Diego in North Park which is only 5 miles away from the Con. Parking (when I could acquisition it) was 25 to 30 dollars for day passes. I ended up paying about $30 in cab fair there and back so I ended up breaking even. 

Arriving at the Con was a confusing mess. It was like I was having a stroke and imagining all my favorite characters suddenly warped and transmuted surrounding me, pressing in on me, emerging in my consciousness as glandular deficient permutations and suddenly slutty women. To be honest I was at odds with what to think of the women. In comics women are characterized and portrayed as these buxom, thin, stick figures with cantaloupe sized breasts hanging from their chests. At the Con I saw outfits that faithfully rendered these archetypes, revealing rather the horrendous injustice to women in the comic book industry. Watching the derriere of many a female perilously falling out, barely held in, kept at bay against the treacherous forces of gravity and youth, I was at a loss. How can one be filled with outrage when comics render women as such?

Entering the Con was another thing entirely. The line literally went around the building, so imagine my chagrin when I realized I could have just hung out down stairs and waited until the line passed by again. At every turn there was an individual ready to cut in line while wearing a cumbersome outfit. It was a double whammy! I like your incredible hulk costume that you spent 8 months meticulously constructing in Papier-mâché sir, if only you didn't block the line. 

On the floor was overwhelming. Excited with my brand new iPhone 5 I was ready to social media the shit out my my experience, only to realize that my cell service was compromised by the shear intensity of cellular waves entering and exiting the concrete structure. I might be sterile now, and if I'm not I will be next year when Verizon has their LTE booth in the center demoing it's signal strength. (Fingers crossed!!)

I got to experience the Sequart panel. That was a wonderful experience, perhaps for a different reason than one might think. It lowered my expectations for what a grass root following can amass to more realistic levels. That sounds like a bad thing, but it's not. I was told that usually we have close to 200+ people and that day we averaged around 50. It wasn't the best turnout, but one must learn to take victories where available and learn from mistakes. Meeting with  was a treat, and I was able to get some great resources for my upcoming book with Sequart.

The rest to follow was a blur of events. I shook Bruce Tim's hand, met an internet acquaintance Royden Lepp, Talked with the producer of Batman: Arkham Origins, and asked Patton Oswalt a question at the Adult Swim Heart, She Holler panel. 

After the con was over I went with my colleagues Julian Darius, Patrick Meaney, and Jordan Rennert out to dinner (a comedy of errors) and then to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund party on top of the Westgate Hotel. There I met and spoke to Grant Morrison for over an hour with Julian Darius assaulting him with words like "decontrustion" and "sadomasochism." (But hey, we have fun.) It was so surreal meeting Grant, who was, next to Neil Gaiman (who I also met briefly in passing that day), one of the nicest fellows I ever met. I asked him about the cosmic Superman trope in All-Star Superman, which he confirmed for me to be true, and talked about the eventual gay Batman that everybody is waiting for.

Unfortunately for me, Friday and Saturday are both out for being able to attend to Con. I hope to return on Sunday and take my Sequart companions out for one last hurrah before they leave. One day at the con though was enough to show me how great such an experience is. I will return next year, hopefully with business cards and material from my upcoming graphic novel with Phil Kiner

Gotta' love the Con!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson (Part 7)

In Cologne, when Lief told me flatly that we would have to go to Lyon, I should have left. There was nothing for me there but pain, debt, a woman, etc. but I felt obligated to stay. Lief and I had come to an understanding. Like anyone with a mind for business I knew well the cost of a partnership. Traveling to Strasbourg was a calculated risk. It was in the Rhine country, a dark place filled with pirates and anarchy. I hated their kind, but he needed me to track and speak in the region. If I used French, which I rarely did, I made an effort to fake my best accent. I hated feeling like a tourist.

Off to Lyon then, the goddamned megacity, I concluded.

My only experience with a place like Lyon was in North America. Most, if not all of the urban areas had deteriorated, but one could still find a sweet spot out in the middle lands. What was left of the world took shelter there in the great fields and built up cities rooted in the earth like maize. When I entered they scanned me and found me out, which believe me didn't cause as much worry as I thought. It's illegal to harvest in Topeka, but I had to wear a badge. In a city of 20 million people I felt inclined to remove it every so often. Maybe I was just being pessimistic.

Lief had been to Lyon before though. I could tell. I had learned in my journeys that he was a thinking man, and like all thinking men his emotions were hardly veiled or hidden. He sat in the front seat of our decrepit jalopy staring off into the middle distance with little joy. He was thinking about his sister, and I suspected he questioned why she should be in Lyon which lay nearly 500 kilometers away.

"She will be alright," I said picking dirt from under my nails. "Stop worrying."

His focus drifted towards me subtly, his hands gripping tightly on the wheel momentarily while he arched his back. We had already driven the the highways for some time today. Begrudging and cranky, I knew that he would talk. What else was there to do?

"Lyon is just a big place. She must be running from someone."

"Like us?" I grinned, proud of my joke. I did not look back, but I sensed Lief's already stiff body tense in frustration.

"I had not yet considered that," he conceded, his voice even and calm.

"Think on this my friend," I began, leaning forwards in my seat to access the cache of alcohol in the glove box, "It is better to admit folly than pursue defeat... bourbon or the wine?"

"Bourbon," he replied without hesitation as I handed him the bronze etched flagon. Lifting the bottle to his mouth he bit the cork and pulled it out, taking a sip and passed the bottle to me.

"Thank you... yes. I mean we  have come a long way, we know she is safe, why must we then pursue her? What is there in Lyon anyways?"

"Plenty of things that can hurt her," Lief replied. "After all, she is only human."

"And you are a robot?" I countered. "Come now, there must be something bothering you that is more significant than just her being in Lyon."

Lief lowered his countenance, a darkness brooding in his expression. He was hiding something from me. Call it intuition, but I knew. Something was terribly wrong, yet he remained silent.

I sat back in my seat then, and gazed out along the horizon. The sun was rising, or beginning to at least. It was the same glorious hue I had envisioned. Some ninety years ago I saw it, and since it had not changed. Rome strove across these fields once, seeing the same glorious orb rise from the earth to give life. Traveling 200 kilometers per hour across the land, augmented my perceptions of the event significantly, like watching a time lapse of the flowering earth.

"If I were bothered," Lief began, "I would admit that I have some suspicions why she might be going to Lyon."

I inclined my ear, intrigued. Deep down I prayed it was her dream to become a prostitute. I was eager to go back to women, and I felt more capable of expending time in a brothel than in a holy citadel.

"She wants to play Castle..."

"Oh," That's different. Oh God.

"Take A35," I concluded evenly, heaving a sigh of frustration. "That way is faster."

Yes... Indeed. This was definitely bad.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Academic Theory: Postmodern Writing

We are getting to the end of our series but I wanted to discuss some of the conventions in Postmodern narratives before moving back to the basics with Eastern Philosophy and starting anew. What you'll find in this lesson is that Postmodernism is difficult to define, but in taking a broad perspective of the stylistic variances there are some common denominators.

Writing in the mode of Postmodernism typically focuses on the identity of the individual. A lot of the basis of the philosophy works off of the tenants of Existentialism, in which the individual maintains agency in their will. Where Postmodernism deviates from this tradition is by stressing the transience of the individual. Every day the individual wakes, they wake as a new person. What we are one day is not true of the next. Were you to ask me why I wrote about Existentialism a week or so ago, I would answer as a Postmodern, "That day who I was thought it would be a good idea." So, to a certain degree, Postmodernism is about destroying the notion of the static individual. Instead we are the sum of our experiences. This is why most ad campaigns follow a particular formulaic approach of blasting folk guitar music with esoteric percussion instruments in car commercials. The idea here is that when you buy the car you are not buying a vehicle designed to take you to and from work. Instead, it is a consumer experience that is being purchased. Apple Inc is guilty of this marketing ploy. Watch any of their commercials and you will see that they are marketing experiences and not gadgets.

Another aspect of Postmodernism to consider is that the philosophy of writing changes. Just like the individual, Postmodernism also deconstructs the methodology of writing. Early examples of this can be seen in stream of consciousness prose in Joyce's Ulysses. Additionally, Grant Morrison's early works in comics break down the traditional expectations of comic narrative in like manner, often taking a non-linear approach to story. Employing these methods in writing serves the purpose of expressing emotion or plot in a novel way. Joyce would write sentences that would run all together to create a sense of urgency in the character, or Morrison would take a panel and thread throughout the imagery an entire copy of his original script that he gave to the editor and illustrator to emphasize metaphysical self-awareness. Beyond that, much of Postmodernism in writing will just intentionally deviate from the perceived structure of earlier forms. There are so many varieties in this that cataloging the tropes and forms is nearly impossible.

Here's an Example:
Transcendent beats. Tribal pulses. I am lost in the mire of sound. Sweat and spittle permeate the air that suffocates me. The Shaman that spins the sun pounds life into my soul as the rave ebbs and flows through my consciousness. No longer am I myself. I am the waves of light that feed the mists. Feel my arms. Take them in your breast. Envelop them like a child in the womb. Trails and afterimages surround the skyline. Ants and beasts, burdened with insignificant purpose cling to civilization. I am one with the earth, ground to dust by the bass.
"You want some E? Fuckin' rip your mind out, man!" 
Who are you, apothecary? Drugs alter the mind, but not the soul. I am freed from my slavery in them. She smiles like a Cheshire cat. In the plum haze her teeth are bleached as bones. She is a lie. What are you?  
"Gimmie!" The words tumble out, limping.  
By the masses my soul is compressed to a singularity. I am no longer man, woman, or beast. I am one with the shaman. Nirvana takes me and I am no more. 

This is difficult to categorize, but here you can see that the narrator dancing in the club is a victim of the Postmodern spirit. Lost in a sea of ambient soundscapes individualism is lost on the subject. As with most psychotropic experiences the goal of the user is to escape their own awareness of self and become one with their environment. I would suggest that this is reactionary to the spirit of Modernism which attempted to create a utopia for absolute truth. When this Enlightenment agenda failed, everything that was considered given as truth went out the window, including the essence of the individual. It is this spirit that Postmodern literature attempts to emulate. How this philosophy melds with writing then is made a little more clear, but my greatest suggestion is to consider what you are writing and why you are writing it when using this style. It is possible to just crap something out that doesn't mean anything so I recommend employing discretion in your stylistic choices.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Cons Are A Comin'

A few days ago I was pleasantly surprised by my colleagues at Sequart Research with a 4 day + Preview Night professional badge for the San Diego Comic Con. Yours truly will be there cavorting betwixt the costumed masses. I will not be cosplaying, but this is to your advantage. The first person to recognize me at the Con I will buy them a drink... or something. It'll be like "Where's Waldo: Failure Edition."

I have never been to a con.

I have heard that the experience is unique, and unlike anything that one could ever imagine. Recalling my experiences in college has lead me to believe that when I would find someone with similar interests, it would be comparable to finding a soulmate in Love's cruel ocean. Comic Con seems like an amplified experience complete with hordes of fans that read that thing you love so much. I have heard it to be a diverse experience, some moments riddled with anguish and others, well, joy. You will ask, "How did that twenty-something dumbass land a TV contract for the dumbest show I have ever heard of?" repeatedly, if not countless times. "I've crapped ideas that look more interesting than that!" you will reply. And on, and on.

Conventions serve I suppose to bring people together, but I long for the days when they served to bring the industry together. There was a time when E3 was for developers only, but now it seems that any Tom, Dick, and Harry can waltz into the monolithic thunderdome under the guise of "reporter" when all they do is write a blog about how much they love the Halo franchise. The exclusivity and collected oneness of the Con experience is compromised to serve the plebeians. Am I okay with that? Perhaps. As long as I get my free Walking Dead swag, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

It's funny that I say this though, because I've heard that actually going to a Con as a independent entity gets rather dicey. Imagine dropping a few thousand dollars on your "spot," an adequate location to vend your wares, only to find that you've been sequestered off in some godforsaken corner where the groundlings come to feed on the souls of the damned. It happens, much to the detriment of the people that go. I hear Wonder Con is better for the developing webcomic shmoe. Expect me and my artist Phil Kiner to be there to debut our graphic novel!

Am I excited though? Yes, definitely so! It will be a fun experience, a way to rub elbows with somebodies. My only hope is that Zack Snyder will be there so I can reprove him for his slaying of Superman.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson (Part 6)

A quaint, homely looking figure stared back at me as I sat in a pew, while Leif was off doing his business. He was not a collector, no. Collectors try to talk to you. This one looked inquisitive, but ultimately too sheepish to make the first move. He couldn't have been much older than 30. His face still possessed it's youth, the body on the other hand had grown paunchy, now looking like a rotund bag of rags. Why he watched me I could not decipher. Eventually I chalked it up to curiosity, nothing more.  

"You are not human are you?" He said calmly.


My heart began to race, and I looked around in panic. Where in the hell was Lief? 

"There is no need to fear brother," the robed man said sedately, "I do not wish to hurt you. I just was making an observation. You are not human, and yet you are. I can tell."

I eyeballed the man, suddenly curious. I leaned back in the pew, pretending to get comfortable and look at ease, but slowly my hand found the hilt of a construct stun. 

"You are perceptive then. Why?"

The monk turned his head to the ground, blushing with embarrassment.

"My father was a Collector, and trained me in the ways to spot and discern the immortals that walk among us from the rest of us. But when I saw what he did to them, when he caught them, I could bear it no longer. Immortal or no, we must, above all else, treasure life. So I decided then to abandon him. Ten years later, I am here, alone but happy."

It was an impressive story. While he spoke, my eyes scanned him, sought any hint of subterfuge. Yet in my searching he clearly was no longer a collector. I could tell by the virtue that every collector carried a metabolic metering device, and he was empty handed. They were very particular about the ages of those they collected. Myself, personally, I was the chief find of the century, perhaps one of he oldest specimens in the world. If he really was a collector, my life would already be forfeit. 

Staring on ahead of the monk I saw Lief chatting busily with a woman, girded with heavy cloth and garments, covered from head to toe. Rose, which he assumed was the identity of the woman in question, was a talker. I had time to kill, and curiosity got the better of me.

"You must be wondering then why I haven't already stunned you and escaped from this house," I said turning my attention back to him. I was expressionless, a blank slate. My indifference caused the monk to readjust himself to a position of uneasiness. This was favorable. 

"I know, well, I am aware that people like yourself can be wary about others. Me, I'm no longer a collector you see. Well, I never was to begin with..."

"So what are you now then," I pressed forward, turning my head away to watch a parishioner get up to leave the building.

The question caught him off guard, uttering a bewildered stream of unformed words in rebellion. His befuddlement was charming, if not endearing. I resolved then to give him a chance, and relinquish a portion of my suspicions. 

"What I mean to say," I began, "is what do you do now that you are a citizen of the Kingdom?"

Expressing his relief, the monk heaved a sigh, and spent a moment in thought. After his meditation was concluded, he pulled out from his pocket a small construct generator and, when cycling it on, revealed to me the image of a water processing machine. 

"This is pre-war, a anti-microbial water purification system. Before my stint as a collector, I was in charge of the technology in the town of my youth. Now I am the operator of the Order's unit. It is all simple levers and pressure gauges, but there is a true art to the process. My mineral traces give the water a very distinct flavor that I myself am very proud of."

"You indeed are passionate," I replied, amused by his articulate energy.

"It is a family trait I assure you." 

I looked behind once more, watching Lief embrace the shrouded woman. Things were wrapping up, thankfully. Though, I admit I would miss the inquisitive monk. It wasn't long after that Lief returned to me, approaching myself and the monk. He looked uncomfortable, as if something grave had happened. Keeping the monk in my vision, I turned to face Lief. 

"Why so glum, my friend?"

Lief shook his head in frustration, looking between myself and the monk. 

"My sister is gone."

"That's unfortunate," I said, "be more specific."

"She's in Lyon."

My heart plummeted in my chest.

"Oh... That is... troubling."


Monday, July 8, 2013

Academic Theory: Marxist Criticism

Today we will be discussing the attributes of a style of criticism. This may seem odd given that we have been discussing philosophies the past few weeks, but, in learning how to critique a work, we are attempting to understand it's philosophy. Marxism was a driving philosophical ideology in the latter 19th century. In the wake of Existentialism, individuals began perceiving themselves in how they existed in context to society. This is where Marxism comes in, and how we critique it will embody the focus of today's lesson.

As a society we are industrious, and at any point of human civilization, we as a race have produced goods or have valued goods as a commodity. Those that possess a commodity, like a fish, or a field that produces crops, maintain the ability to leverage that product to their advantage. The greater the commodity one possesses, the greater ability one can leverage power over another. Hence, Marxist Criticism deals with the social structure of a society in which a ruling class, the Bourgeoisie, leverages power over a working class, the Proletariat. In each era, the rationalization for how the ruling class carries out their exploitation is referred to as an ideology. The ideology is considered the foundation of society and civilization. On top of this ideology, the ruling class structures society to the detriment of the lower and poorer classes they take advantage now. A good example of this now, is globalism and worker exploitation in developing countries. In this case, American companies have created a false economic prosperity that is dependent upon enslaving workers from across the globe. Rich Americans enjoy relative splendor, while a Vietnamese child works 16 hours a day making the shoes they wear, for a dollar a day.

How this relates to literature is interesting. Our goals as writers is to emulate realistic characters as well as understand the philosophies that influence our works. Consequently, in Marxist Criticism, a story is one of two things. First, a story substantiates the oppression of any era to the working class subconsciously because the ruling class's influence determines the mindset of the un-awakened worker still in dogmatic slumber. Second, as more moderate Marxist writers have allowed, the author unconsciously (through his/her characters) will express the need for justice and plight of the worker. Even though the author is dogmatically writing to express a particular view, characters in the work will subconsciously rebel against the author's intentions. What all this means is that you, as an author, will write something invariably influenced by your class association.

For example:
Six days. Six days on the calendar. Holstein month. Cows of the twentieth century. Made in China.  My wife got it for me as a stocking-stuffer for Christmas. Call me a cow connoisseur. 
A vacation I have been planning is six days away and I can't stop thinking about the beaches. Those golden beaches for miles on end. My mind disappears into the wet aqua fantasy, warming me like an infant in the womb. Some brown person gives me a tropical tonic. The Tequila elixir washes my cares away. Thirty years, I've chased this. I traded a family for the promotion. Got the kids Saturday. Like father like son. Six days, it will all go away. Six days I will be free. 
Here the unnamed narrator is a business man in yearning. He profits off the success in his life, which he learned from his father. This dedication to work and industry is the instrument that has divided himself from his family resulting in a divorce. Living in the wake of his father's influence he has successfully continued the legacy of fiscal prosperity at the expense of his own identity. He and his family are both exploited in this instance by class distinctions. His family is neglected at the expense of pursuing capital, while he himself is also the victim of class organization, having given up true happiness for superfluous wealth. Just like the Holstein cow on his calendar, he too has become a beast of burden, milked dry and forced to produce without gratification or happiness. He longs to do what the ruling class has done to him, which is exploit another. As a product of his environment he has been conditioned to crave power over another. If I can step back and look at my own writing, I'd say that subconsciously I have written into this scenario an oppressive atmosphere that I myself feel as an american citizen. This would then be the honest and redeeming article of my work, in light of Marxist Criticism.

Take a look at the example again and see what I mean.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Waid's Birthright, Thought, and Reflections on the Future of DC

I had my suspicions.

Mark Waid's Birthright narrative is something I've never seen before in comics, and it's beginning to make me wonder why he's not DC's Editor in Chief. I haven't finished the comic yet, but what I find so compelling about it is it's refined simplicity in the mythology of Superman.

I enjoy the addition that he can see the life energy of living things. Not only does it fit into the mythology of Superman's advanced perception but it substantiates his motivation for not taking human life. Also I think there is really something to Superman's motivation to be Superman. A reviewer, Ben Kuchera from Penny Arcade pointed this out a few weeks ago, and I wish I had noticed it myself. Superman's chief motivation to coming out of the shadows is fearful submission to Zod's forces. He doesn't reveal himself in the act of saving people, he does so out of fear. Birthright's conceptualization of Superman has him making a difference as a journalist, and while he isn't directly intervening in the conflicts at hand, he still is attempting to make a difference for those that can't help themselves. This is what the Man of Steel should have been, and it wasn't to it's shame.

Reading Birthright though is refreshing in an unexpected way. It's not that I find myself going, "Yes! This Superman lives to my altruistic expectations." That's hardly the case. What I'm discovering is that a good writer has always the capacity to add something, or tweak an origin to make a story better. I read through the first 8 issues of the New 52 Flash series last weekend and it's all garbage, which is hard for me to say. I love the Flash, and he's my favorite of the second string DC heroes, but for the love of gawd that writing is awful! DC can't expect Grant Morrison to keep taking their money and get gold in return forever. One day he's not going to be here. One day Neil Gaiman won't be here.

Hell, the day Alan Moore dies, DC will have to release a one shot issue called, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow" where Alan's contributions are eulogized into the cannon. He redefined comics, changing them indefinitely. No sane individual can stand tall behind that. He is the Man of Tomorrow.

I'm just disappointed though. It seems that DC is losing themselves to the biggest rookie mistake in the comic biz. They are placing an emphasis on art work and stylized action sequences rather than the stories underneath. Sandman has never been known for it's incredible artwork, but the story is one of the best (if not the best) narratives in comic-bookdom.

It's true that my dream job is writing for DC, but I get worried sometimes. I fear that very soon they won't be around anymore. The golden days have past and the future looks grim for the mega-stars of the comics industry. I want to write for DC, but they are on their way out, and I'm watching them die like a relative with cancer. Sometimes it's unfair, but I have to remind myself that these things are inevitable.

I'm going to change things with my story for the graphic novel though. Just you guys wait. It'll change everything.



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Adventures of Reynard Olfsson (Part 5)

The interior of Cologne's ancient city was a quarry of lesser structures, all made of stone. Even the most modern of structures could not withstand the fury of time without the assistance of technology. Humanity lived on in these stone buildings. Cologne was a new Rome, the apex of human civilization. I was excited to watch humanity grow out of the ruins of Germany. What would civilization come to? I hope the food is better.

I followed Lief closely through the thick crowds instinctively. It was never expressly stated that he would lead us through the city, but his presence was that of a king and I couldn't resist. Even those around us thought we were different. This became unnerving after a while however. Cologne wasn't a place where those gave in to fictions, and I didn't expect to be hung somewhere for being a wizard exactly. But there were collectors. Lief knew this too, and eventually we took a small alley off to the side to take another route.

"So why Cologne?" I asked, looking up at his thick neck.

"There is someone here who can help us." His reply was calm, but a mixture of uncertainty and apprehension rose to the top of his voice.

"What happened back there... do you think it's wise to be walking around like this?"

"I don't think so."

I gulped. Earlier that day when he shot the bruiser, the event began a steady change in him. He began to speak and feel like he was absent. I thought about doing something about it, but the thought quickly disappeared from my mind once I imagined the moment when he gouged out my eyes with his bare hands. We were walking towards the cathedral, and my heart began to race.

"Why are we going there?" I said in a hurried, nervous voice. I knew I was in no obligation to be with him, but I still dreaded what he'd do were I to flee his company. "I don't do well in those places."

He looked back at me curiously, and smiled a bit, not in a friendly way mind you, but mischievously.

"Rose is there." It was all he said. I gave in to him then. Clearly he wasn't going to let me escape and I wasn't going to run. We were meeting somebody, probably a woman. A little flame in my heart flickered hopefully that Rose was his sister, that by some odd premonition we were drawn to her prematurely in our plans. I really wanted to get out of continental Europe. Germany, at least what was left of it, was always somber, and it took great effort to keep me here. France wasn't much better. They had Lyon. Jesus! A developed modern city in the armpit of Europe? Unthinkable. I expected better from the Germans.

I looked around to pass the time, inspecting the old ruins of the prewar buildings. For all their spectacle they had crumbled, and had nearly disappeared into nothing. A few stone buildings, some a thousand years old, still operated. Some were bakeries, others internal marketplaces. The Cathedral I was aware to be still host to superstitions. I was not a follower of the White Christ, but his houses always put me on edge. All I had ever heard were stories. I wasn't willing to press my luck.

For an hour we walked along the train tracks, whose gnarled rails had rusted with time to become nearly unrecognizable. Though Cologne was not a modern city by any means, their wall was. From where I stood I could still see it. Once it had been white, but now was a lonely grey. I actually saw them put it up come to think about it. But that was a long time ago.

"I bet you want to know who Rose is?" he finally spoke up.

"Oh, wow... you're still here..."

He looked at me funny. His face was patient.

"What was that for? Have you been grumpy this whole time?"

"No." Yes. "I would just like to know where we are going. I don't do well in those kinds of places."

"What, a cathedral? Go along with it! It's just a building. what is there to fear?"

"Yeah... just a building. You know, I was kicked out out of one of them once." Leif turned his head back, his face contorted into confusion. I think he was more surprised that I had even gone near a church.

"That's too bad," he said in a low voice. "I'm afraid we are going to have to go in this one. That's where rose is."

Hearing this my head sunk gravely. Calmly, and perhaps to rile me up, he comfortingly put his arm around my shoulder.

"There there... Don't worry."

"Oh, shut up..."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Academic Theory: Existentialism

So I promised you all that I would do a post on Existentialism right? I thought it prudent to discuss other things before I got to this subject but it is important to know before going into these things that philosophy is like an onion. It has layers and every one stinks and makes you want to cry the deeper you go!

Existentialism has no true definition. This makes it difficult to ascertain what it really is then as there is no established litmus test. However, in literature Dostoevsky is considered to have written the first Existentialist novel, so taking a look at his work, Notes From the Underground will give us better understanding.

Notes From The Underground is one part treatise, one part narrative, creating a holistic picture of the unnamed protagonist, who recounts his struggles with his own existence. Part of what Existentialism is pertains to how responsibility lies in the individual to take action. Ethics, morality, social expectations are out the window, because they no longer define the individual. The combination of having the conscience of the individual being solely responsible for actions, and declaring those actions free from any constrictions of moral or social expectation create the Existential mood in the story. The protagonist of Dostoevsky's novel is constantly struggling to understand what being good can accomplish in a society where people will inevitably act out for evil. Rather than living up to expectations that will only bring him angst, he declares that he is his own man and takes up his mission to declare his independence from society. There is a moment in the novel where a strong armed military figure meets the protagonist on the street and bumps shoulders with him to the effect of not even taking notice of the Underground man. The outrage of not being noticed, sparks a prolonged two year battle to get the military man to acknowledge the protagonist's existence in which the Underground man, attempts to bump shoulders with the military man. He eventually does, but still feels trapped in his ennui.

What makes existential novels so interesting I would wager is that the protagonist's actions lie outside of expectations. They also aren't defined by a moral compass or anything else. They just are what they are. This is where the flawed narrator originates. So then, in writing under this style the possibilities are opened up dramatically for what one can motivate the character to do. Remember, they adhere to no moral authority or expectation, because they act independently from society. "God is dead, and we killed him." That is the mantra of Nietzsche. To see this in action helps though, so here is some dialogue to give you an idea of what Existential writing looks like:
I don't understand what I did, or why I did it. That's not my purpose. I shouldn't have to justify myself. The Authority, my benevolent overseers, they have no right over me anymore than myself. Maybe that is why I did it then. That's why I torched the state building. My world, as I look around, as the bystanders gaze as my grizzled face, my can of petrol and the welding torch, siphons judgement upon me. They say, "how dare you!" I am the dissident sowing chaos in the known universe. When the Authority arrives, asking me what happened, and when they inquire why I did it, I shrug. I didn't have an answer. I don't explain myself. Why should I justify myself? Clearly they are the fools. I have unlocked my mind, and they still see in the darkness. I take because I want to, and it feels good.
Here, the protagonist is an arsonist. Why he is an arsonist is not specified, but that's the point. He doesn't need to justify himself at all in light of his actions because he is freed from what would be considered social constraints. Were you to write your own Existential protagonist, that character in question wouldn't conform to any specified expectations. What they do only serves to prove to themselves that they exist. So they can be dark, or flawed. It can't be seen as a bad thing if they steal because they want to.

Like I said before, the Existential novel is difficult to define. That being said, when understanding its basic characteristics, the main idea that can be distilled from the genre is purity of motivation and will. As long as your character does what they want for his/herself to their benefit, they are acting out of existential motives. Acting alone substantiates their personal choices.