So, I’m hanging out the Gone Fishing shingle again.
I set out to write 25,000 words on my five days off last week. My total was closer to 20,000, which means there’s still a ways to go if I want to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat this month and hit my 50k total. I have to write 3,750 words a day for the last four days of April and I’m golden.
This is not impossible. Not easy, but not impossible, especially if I put my head down and refuse to look at the internet/go see the Avengers/get distracted by wrestling between now and Thursday. To this end, I will probably listen to my favourite hit the fucking deadline song on repeat:
I woke up this morning to find the publisher’s notes for Crusade in my email. I’ve got a week to go through things and get it back to the fine folks at Apocalypse Ink, then they go and do their arcane voodoo that transform it from a word file to a books.
The e-book for Crusade comes out in June.
(Out of curiosity, I went over to cover artist Mark Ferarri‘s site this morning. There’s previews of the Crusade cover and the cover for the print edition of Flotsam in his online gallery, for those who are curious, and allow me to say, well, holy shit I’m looking forward to seeing that print compilation. It’s so fucking pretty.)
Coincidently, starting tomorrow, I also have five-straight days off from work. My goal – gods and sleep apnea willing – is to get about twenty-thousand words down on the next novella on my list, which is all about ghosts and werewolves and boxing and some particularly unpleasant underworld types.
To borrow a line from L.P. Hartley: “The past is foreign country; they do things differently there.”
This line has been haunting me for most of the weekend, since I was down on the Gold Coast to man a booth at Supanova and it involved seeing parts of the Gold Coast I don’t often go to. While I frequently went down there to visit my parents over the last few years, it was relatively easy to ignore the vast bulk of the city while doing that – I barely had to get off the highway to reach their house, and there was never any call to go toward the beach where the bulk of the Gold Coast lives.
The Gold Coast Supanova, on the other hand, takes place in Broadbeach – right next to the Casino and Pacific Fair shopping mall, right across the road from the Broadbeach mall where I spent a lot of Friday and Saturday nights in my late teens and early twenties. It’s where one of the handful of game-stores on the Coast existed, so I went there a lot to buy copies of D&D and Vampire and, if I’m remembering correctly, one of the first attempts to create a Babylon 5 RPG.
Basically, it’s a part of the Gold Coast that’s loaded with memories, which is why it shows up in the Flotsam series so much.
It’s also a reminder that I don’t remember the past well.
I don’t forget things that happened, necessarily, but I’ll hit a place like Broadbeach and suddenly remembering periods of my life that seem like they happened to someone else. It’s lots of that time when we all went through our Goth phase and that time I was engaged, how the hell did that happen and that time I accidentally ended up doing theatre and all that time I spent at university, pretending I really wanted a PhD.
Anything that happened more than decade ago just seems unreal to me, like I was just treading water while I figured out what I really wanted to do with my life.
And the memories bubble up, again and again, transmuted into fiction in one form or another.
So I missed a blog post yesterday, but in my defence I was squirrelled away writing a little over 4,000 words on various creative projects. That represents nearly a third of my wordcount for April thus far, so I’m feeling pretty happy about that.
Yesterday was also the point where I added the words “FUCK THE APNEA” to the top of my spreadsheet where I’m tracking my yearly wordcount. One of the reasons I feared admitting there was something wrong was the self-knowledge that I am a lazy, lazy writer. Give me a good reason to not write, and I’ll take it. I’ll happily prioritize other things ahead of writing goals.
(For all the people who mentioned CPAP machines when I first posted about the Apnea – after consulting with my doctor and talking over how serious things have gotten, I’ve been booked into a sleep clinic later this month to begin a home assessment. That should be the beginning of my doctor offering non-diet-and-exercise type solutions to help with the process. Thanks for the prod folks – I would have left that process a lot longer without our advice)
TWO: COME VISIT QWC AT SUPANOVA
If you’re at the Gold Coast Supanova this weekend, I’ll be working the Queensland Writers Centre’ booth in the publishers area for most of the day on Saturday. Feel free to drop by, say hello, and talk writing for a bit. Ask me questions about the upcoming GenreCon and how cool it will be. Admire the passing cosplayers, who form of geekdom I don’t truly get but am always impressed with.
‘Cause, believe me, this is fucking kick-ass. I’ve read the first book of this series in draft for and I say, with all due acknowledgement of my bias as Angela’s friend, that it’s a damn impressive book that’s going to catch people’s attention.
One of my favourite webcomics, Girls with Slingshots, finished up its run a few weeks ago. Some of the others that make up my regular weekly reading have announced their conclusion is coming up in the near future.
This means I’ve got some gaps in my weekly reading schedule that I kinda want to fill in, since I’m a fan of the webcomic format and interested in seeing what people do with it. And since I am old and set in my ways, I don’t really go searching for new comics all that often.
So I’m turning to you, dear peeps – recommend me some of your favourite webcomics in the comments and I’ll go check ‘em out.
To save some time, I’ve already got a regular reading list that I hit pretty consistently: PVP, Something Positive, Questionable Content and XKCD are habitually daily reads; Dumbing of Age, Girl Genius, Least I Could Do, Weregeek and a handful of others get a weekly read-through when I’ve got the time.
Strips that do awesome T-shirts in addition to being consistently entertaining get bonus points.
It’s been a long time since I watched a TV show at the same time it entered into the cultural Zeitgeist, but the combination of Netflix coming to Australia and the recent release of Daredevil, Season 1, means that I’ve inhaled thirteen episodes of comic-book awesomeness at the same time as everyone else is watching it.
For those who are wondering: Daredevil is good. Very good. Very dark, at times, but Daredevil was always the character to do that with. For all that Batman has a reputation for being grimdark these days, largely courtesy of the Nolan films, Daredevil is the original hard-luck film-noir superhero. Nothing good happens to him in the comics. Like, seriously, nothing. You need both hands just to count the dead girlfriends, you know? Or the times he’s been driven crazy and started to think of himself as an actual devil. Or the times he’s actually been possessed and turned into a devil.
Well, you get the picture.
Good as the series is – and it’s very good – my favourite part has been Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as the antagonist, Wilson Fisk. D’Onofrio’s one of those actors who is excellent with the right director and script, and Daredevil gives him both. He’s over-the-top violent and crazy, but highly empathetic, to the point where even though Daredevil is basically rehashing the same grand master-villain plot as Arrow’s first season, Daredevil’s comes off feeling fresh.
What makes Fisk such an effective bad guy? Let’s take a look.
ONE: NO-ONE IS VILLAINOUS 24-7
The first four episodes spend a lot of time setting up Wilson Fisk as the big-bad of the series, through many of the conventional methods of building up a big-bad: people are afraid of saying his name; lots of people who work for him do terrible things; the bad-ass who almost kicks Daredevil’s butt kills himself rather than betray the Kingpin. It’s good set-up for an season-long villain and the show is content to make you wait.
Then, when it showed you Fisk for the first time, he’s chilling out at an art gallery, staring at a painting. There are little twitches in the performance that suggest how much it’s affecting him, but there’s nothing violent or criminal in that moment. Then, when we come back to him in the next episode, he’s flirting with one of the Gallery employees (and not doing it terribly well).
Only later, once you’ve had a chance to get to know him better, do you get to see Fisk do something criminal (and, when it happens, it’s one of the most violent things you’ve seen in the first few episodes).
In The Weekend Novelist Re-Writes the Novel, Robert J. Ray points out that there’s a lot of power leading into the firsts of a novel: the first time you see the antagonist; the first time you put the antagonist and the protagonist in the same space; the first time your antagonist crosses a line; etc. They’re moments of big reveal and smart writers figure out ways to space them out.
By giving Fisk a life outside of being the leader of a criminal underworld, the screenwriters of Daredevil get to build the anticipation: first we’re anxious to see him; then we’re anxious to see him actually be the Kingpin and confirm he’s a criminal; then we’re anxious to see him behave like a villain.
It would have been far less satisfying if the first time we’d seen him, he’d been seated behind his big desk in a corporate tower while flunkies tell him about the problems Daredevil has been causing to his criminal enterprise (and yes, I’m looking at you 2003’s Daredevil movie, and your criminal waste of Michael Clarke Duncan).
TWO: PUSH THE VILLAIN TOWARD A MOMENT OF CRISIS
Stories are all about bringing your protagonist to a moment of crisis and forcing them to make a choice. Luke Skywalker chooses to accept the force. Rick Blaine chooses to let the love of his life get on a plane ’cause it’s the right thing to do. Superheroes in every superhero movie ever end up choosing to be superheroes, despite the personal cost.
But to make those moments mean something, you have to drive the characters to a moment of crisis – generally the climax of your film.
Daredevil does that, following in the grand tradition of fucking with Daredevil as a character, but the real strength of the series lies in the fact that it’s doing the same thing with its villain. Just as Mat Murdoch is learning to be a hero, Wilson Fisk is finding his grand schemes of rebuilding Hell’s Kitchen are being undermined because he’s fallen in love.
He is a man caught between two worlds – Wilson Fisk the lover and Wilson Fisk the Kingpin – and as those two worlds start to interact his entire life falls apart, to the point where he must finally choose which one to embrace at his own moment of crisis as the series heads towards its climax.
THREE: EMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
Daredevil frequently crossed lines that made me uncomfortable as a viewer – to the point where I commented on the dark-and-getting-darker tone on Facebook while I was watching it – but I can’t deny that they made spectacular use of their more graphically violent scenes. First, because they were relatively sparse, and secondly, because they were all in the service of illustrating exactly who Fisk is.
Fisk is a highly humanised villain – we see glimpses of his background throughout the series, showing you why he becomes the man be becomes – and he has the trait that all great villains share: a sense that there, but for the grace of god, go I. Any one of us could have done the things he’d done if we grew up in a house like he did; any of us could go over the top like he did if we were sufficiently embarrassed in the one situation where we wanted to avoid embarrassment.
Fisk is enormously powerful, physically, but highly vulnerable emotionally, and it makes it easy to empathise with who he is. And the series never lets up with this: little things, such as his love of the white painting be buys on his first appearance, take on new and horrifying implications as the series goes on and you suddenly get why he’s so entranced by this piece of art. It adds little moments every episode that makes you feel for him.
Over thirteen episodes, Daredevil does a phenomenal job of creating a very human villain who is simultaneously evil as hell, so when he’s eventually toppled by the series namesake it is both a rational triumph and a subconscious tragedy.