Christmas dog would like to talk to you about the joys of the season and goodwill to all dogs but he has some important food to attend to… this might take some time. He says to check back in the new year…
I have had some entries through for this project:
And they are looking fantastic. I have discussed things with the other writers involved and we have decided a couple of things.
1) We are going to up the payment from ‘a pint’ to a an ‘indeterminate amount collected from all writers involved’. Essentially, we are having a whip round to collect enough money to pay who ever has the successful design.
2) We are now setting a deadline. The end of this month (June). At that point we will pick and notify a winner so if you have not sent in your entry by then it will not be considered.
I have to say that I am impressed by the entries we have so far. Hopefully, once a winner is announced, I will be able to share the winning image…
Due to a minor timezone snafu this morning (I scheduled my post notifying you all about my post on amwriting.org a little while before the post actually went live because I forgot that both sites were operating in different time zones…) some of you clicked the link to my article on LRP before it had been posted and therefore got the dreaded 404 error…
Had I been at home and at a PC this could have been rectified immediately with a couple of clicks. However, when the first comments were made I was actually in a school on a break and therefore no access to anything…
Apologies for that, entirely my fault. The article is now live and the link should now work (actually it should have worked from sometime this afternoon… but this is the first chance I have had to tell you this…).
In case you forgot it (or can’t be bothered to click back to find it) here it is:
And yes, the title is deliberate for reasons only LRPers will know (and groan about…)
As before, feel free to comment there or here.
It may say something about my friends that, while at a wedding a few weeks ago, the topic of Zombie apocalypses came up. We sat and discussed plans and tactics for what we intended to do should there be some form of disaster that involved reanimated corpses marching around the urban landscape.
You know, like we do at most parties…
Of course, being Diabetic, I have some particular concerns with regards to my own personal survival. I’d need to acquire insulin from somewhere and while looting a pharmacy or two will help delay things for the initial few months I’d need fresh supply before too long. This was why I spent time carefully researching the methods used by Banting and Best to make insulin in the first place (they used dogs initially but their method works just as well for other species…) and also why it was useful that I had a job as a Protein Purification Technician a while back and therefore have experience of gene transcription, bacterial growth, extraction of proteins from bacteria and the use of FPLC and ion exchange columns to purify proteins… given access to a university, I reckon I could have bovine or porcine insulin manufactured in a very short space of time and, if I can find a stored sample of the right gene, human insulin at some point…
But that is not what I am here to write about today… The above was just the first thing that popped into my head when I heard the term ‘zombie apocalypse’. What I do want to talk about is the way in which the appeal of zombies differs from the other supernatural creatures.
In that they don’t have any.
Yeah, sure, they’re great as an enemy. Hordes of mindless corpses walking the streets in a slow, ambling but inevitable tide* make a great foe for heroes to battle against and wonderful comedy for films like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland**. It’s a combination of the horror at seeing a corpse walk towards you (especially if it is the corpse of someone you know) combined with the knowledge that:
a) The zombies will keep going, no matter how fast you run they will eventually catch you
b) The plague itself is going to overwhelm you, no matter how hard you fight there is a chance you will get bitten or a friend will get bitten and every death on your side is another mindless soldier for the enemy… as discussed by Munz et al, 2009
But the zombie has never made it big. It has never crossed the line that vampires and werewolves crossed over the last few decades to become protagonists. Vampires made it because of the whole sexy vibe thing they have going – even as antagonists, even as far back as Stoker’s Dracula, they always had a way with the ladies which added to their appeal. Werewolves have the whole torn by the two disparate sides of their nature thing going for them. It’s not them that commit the horrible deeds, it is the Wolf within them. Dr Jekyll got away with it, so did Dr Bruce Banner and George from Being Human therefore piggy backs on their success. Even ghosts have got a good PR team they can use. For every angry poltergeist throwing things around the room or being upstaged in the creepiness by a small girl, there’s a sympathetic and heartwarming tale of lost love or unfinished business.
Zombies… well, they’re walking corpses. They have no humanity because they are, well, a walking corpse. Sex appeal? Well, they don’t seem to stop rotting and bits fall off. Important bits that, you know, people might like to have available for any sexual activity. Plus they smell and while girls may go for someone who dresses like a grunge kid who has gone through a leaf shredder they tend to draw the line at the smell of rotten corpse. Not to mention the whole neocrophillia *ew* that even Vampire love stories get sometimes…
Ok there are some exceptions. Being Human (again) had quite an interesting tale of a zombie girl in one of the episodes. That was a sympathetic character but it did not end well and she wasn’t really protagonist material. And Pratchett, who is always looking to subvert cliches, has good old Reginald Shoe (see picture below) who has made it through several Discworld books as something which might approach protagonist status (well, certainly strong supporting character status), not to mention Reaper Man which had a zombie as a hero. There is also Nicky Heath in Mike Carey’s Felix Castor novels who is sympathetic (and also paranoid, obsessive and cranky but these are very human traits). However, I would argue that these exceptions don’t add up to a great deal of evidence that Zombies can cut it in the protagonist role save in very exceptional cases and they do demonstrate that zombies need to change significantly before they can be used as such.
All of the above, for example, are articulate and intelligent human beings who became intelligent and articulate zombies. This is important as you cannot get the sympathy vote if all you can say is ‘Braains’. They were also, with the exception of Reg Shoe who always has bits dropping off, largely ‘fresh’ and, in the case of Nicky Heath, keeping himself that way by the use of embalming and other methods with characteristic obsession. Both of these things matter – the closer you are to looking and acting human the more likely you are to get people rooting for you as a hero. Without this, you are no good for anything other than a stumbling enemy looking for a shovel to the head.
So, in conlusion, I would say that there is little room for the standard Romero zombie in the role of a hero. I would also say that the further you take a zombie away from that cliche, the better they become as characters but they still don’t really quite seem good for the role of protagonist. You could probably take them far enough to make them viable but at that point do you really have a ‘zombie protagonist’ at all? Do you not simply end up with a Vampire who does not drink blood?
Of course, I am happy to be proven wrong so feel free to add a comment about your own ideas about Zombie heroes or examples of Zombies in film or literature which may count as ‘heroes’ which I have not mentioned above and discuss what you think makes them a hero and a zombie…
*Unless it is ’28 Days Later’ or a few other movies, in which case only Olympic grade sprinters get to be Zombies.
** And to a lesser extent the rather excellent zombie episode of series 3 of Misfits where a zombified cat proves to be the most difficult foe to defeat to much hilarity.
This is a blog chain post so you must also, by law, read and comment on all the posts in the chain. It’s international law, too, so you get tried at the Hague for breaking it and no one wants to go all the way to Holland so it is best to just do what the law says. Links are all below…
Participants and posts: dclary – www.hardhobbittobreak.com (link to this month’s image) orion_mk3 – http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month’s post) randi.lee – http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post) Ralph Pines – http://ralfast/wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post) writingismypassion – http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post) dclary (again) – http://www.davidwclary.com/ (link to this month’s post) SinisterCola – http://acgatesblog.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post) PragmaticPimp – http://www.unfoldingmyth.com/ (link to this month’s post) magicmint – http://www.loneswing.com/ (link to this month’s post) SuzanneSeese – http://www.viewofsue.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post) J.W.Alden – http://www.authoralden.com/ (link to this month’s post) AFord – http://writeword.blog.com/ (link to this month’s post) Diana_Rajchel – http://blog.dianarajchel.com/ (link to this month’s post) pyrosama – http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post) Nissie – http://www.paperheroes.net/ (link to this month’s post) MonkeyQueen – http://www.mylifewithmonkeys.com/ (link to this month’s post) areteus – https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ (link to this month’s post) pangalactic – http://sonofflash365.blogspot.co.uk/ (link to this month’s post) Sweetwheat – http://gomezkarla.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post) Penelope – http://poet-slash-writer.blogspot.com/ (link to this month’s post) kimberlycreates – http://kimberlycreates.com/ (link to this month’s post)
This month I have mostly been expanding my geek. In particular, thanks to Christmas related acquisitions, I have been exploring the role of the Chav in geek culture.
Now, you’d think that Chavs had no place in Geekdom. In terms of social norms, they are about as far removed as you can possibly get. It’s not even a case of Capulets and Montagues, for they are not ‘both alike in dignity’, but rather a case of Capulets and Daleks in that one is a bunch of brawling, blinged up aliens from outer space and the other ones are Daleks*. However, it does seem as if there is a fashion for chav culture in geeky stuff. It may have begun with the character of Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, that is certainly the earliest I remember any reference to it, but it has since grown into other places. Two in particular I would like to talk about are Misfits and Attack the Block.
I’ve been watching the first two series of Misfits (please, no spoilers for season 3!). For those who don’t know, it is a Channel 4 creation covering the stories of a group of young offenders who inadvertently manage to acquire superpowers through the medium of a ‘weird storm’. Unlike classic superhero tropes, where the superpower also seems to bring with it a strange mental disease which makes them think it would be a great idea to dress up in a silly costume and go out fighting crime, our young offenders are more inclined to keep their heads down and hope to avoid being caught for numerous crimes they commit (often by accident) after they acquire their powers**. In this it has similarities to NBC’s Heroes, another example of a trend to ground the superhero in modern clothes instead of lycra, but without the overt wealth and power of the characters in this American series. In Misfits, we have a mix of many classic British TV shows. There are elements of teen dramas like Hollyoaks and Skins***, the ‘scummy underclass’ bits of Shameless, bits that are reminiscent of Queer as Folk and a nice line in sarcastic humour which hits many of the geek buttons (as well as some geek references).
What I found fascinating about this programme from a writer’s point of view is the way in which the characters are portrayed. The writers manage to make them sympathetic without losing any of the edge. They do some terrible things, get into a lot of trouble, have sex and take drugs all over the place and this is all after they have been arrested and charged for ASBO worthy crimes and yet you still feel for them and see them as three dimensional characters rather than thin ciphers. I think part of this is based on the concept of the antihero, which I will talk about in more detail later. They are classic antihero material – managing to come out doing the right thing despite not starting out with necessarily those intentions. As I said above, they don’t want to save the world or even stop people with rogue powers causing trouble for the community but they often end up doing just that in the end. Sometimes, they have to do really bad things in order to ‘do the right thing’ and that is another trait of the antihero – they are often followers of the maxim that the end justifies the means.
Attack the Block was the other chav/underclass geekery I sampled recently. This is an alien invasion story but instead of being set in a far distant, alien planet or somewhere even more outre (like America) this is set on a council estate in London. From the publicity you expect a far more comedic venture. It compares itself with Shaun of the Dead for a start and even has that film’s ‘comic sidekick’ Nick Frost in it. With this marketing, you expect a lot more blatant humour but while there is comedy in this, the overall effect is more Dog Soldiers, with its grim and violent gallows humour, than the occasionally slapstick Shaun of the Dead**** Nick Frost, despite being billed quite highly, for example, is barely in this – gaining less screen time than the female lead (Jodie Whittaker) who gets barely any billing. Instead, the heroic focus falls onto a gang of juvenile delinquents and in particular on their leader, Moses. John Boyega plays Moses with a great deal of talent. He starts off as a fairly unlikable character. He’s the archetype of the ‘hoodie wearing juvenile delinquent’ that the Daily Mail is always talking about. As the film progresses we see the layers of this laconic and brooding character get peeled away and we slowly begin to see him in a more sympathetic light. Finally, as the film draws to a close, he is revealed to be the true hero of the film with possibly one of the best ‘hero shots’ ever as he walks out of a lift, wielding a weapon.
What I found interesting about Moses is how he compares with Shaun of the Dead’s Shaun. The two are typical of an anti hero and a hero. In the case of Shaun, in order to become the hero he has to overcome his middle class uncertainties and focus on a goal – that of surviving a night of Zombie hell. Much of what he has to overcome is fear of what others think of him. This to my mind places him firmly in the role of a hero. Moses, on the other hand, has different internal conflicts. He has to come to terms with the bad things he has done in the past, fight the darkness within and overcome prejudice and assumptions about his character by others before he can be the hero. This makes him more of an antihero, someone who starts out almost appearing to be a villain but who undergoes a process of change which reveals him to be not what was first assumed. The same applies to the characters in Misfits. Again, they begin as criminals with a variety of bad deeds to their names (and continue to perform many of these bad deeds throughout) but, through luck mostly, they are placed in a position where they get the chance to be heroic.
I do wonder if this is the current appeal of the Chav in geekdom. The chance to see what is a fairly well used and rather negative stereotype being subverted by good writing and acting into something actually quite positive.
*Humour. Sort of.
** Particularly, the murder of two probation officers.
*** The explicit sex scenes and rampant drug taking among the teen generation being the main link here.
**** Though there are geek references galore in this from references to Aliens to several subtle nods to famous SF writers in the street and block names. Press pause when you see the map of the block flash up (very briefly) on screen. Someone spent a lot of time and effort designing that map specifically so that geeks would press pause and have mini geekgasms. Do not disappoint them.
Well, I had the response from the Absolute Writer’s anthology this morning. It was a rejection but an encouraging one. There were a lot of stories entered to this anthology (what do you expect when you open a writing contest on a writer’s forum? 🙂 ) and those that made it to the second round were all good enough to be included. However, there was only a limited space in the final anthology. Reading between the lines, I suspect that the stories they did select fit a common theme which can be used to market the final product better and mine didn’t quite fit that theme.
One thing I will say is that those stories that did make it must be phenomenally awesome and so, once it is printed and available for sale, I shall have no qualms about telling anyone who reads this blog to go out there and buy it.
I would like to formally and publicly thank all those involved in the anthology. This includes the public face of the editors (MacAllister Stone), the shadowy cabal of secret readers they employed to sift the many entries and, last but not least, the many hundreds of writers who sent in something to be considered. The endless thread of doom is still ongoing and may well end up taking over the entire universe by tea time tomorrow. It is full of enthusiasm and wonder and advice about continuing to submit stories to other markets. Though, for some reason, the dragon poetry seems to have dried up. Dare I open the floodgates and invite some to be posted here?
This time I have been doing reviews. On this book review site: Publishing books is an adventure. It’s a review site specifically for self published books.
Chances are I will be doing regular reviews for this site (current plan is to do two a month) mostly of small press or self published ebooks. I’m mainly covering Fantasy and Urban Fantasy, I think. So, if you are a self published author with a Fantasy or Urban fantasy ebook out that you would like to see reviewed, feel free to get in touch.
This is just a short post to commend someone I think deserves an award for her ability to create tension and suspense. This person is MacAllister Stone, the overall owner and El Presidente for life of the Absolute Writers Water Cooler forum.
It all began with this thread in August – The Great Absolute Write Spec Fiction Anthology! – in which members of the forums were invited to submit short stories to a speculative fiction anthology. MacAllister was announced as editor and submissions came in thick and fast. I sent in one submission which was Dances with Drums, my Waypoint based short story, and got a very quick rejection (comments were excellent world building, take a look at sentence level construction). The rules of the anthology allowed further submissions if you got rejected before the deadline so I dug out An Element of Desire – the vaguely erotic Urban Fantasyish piece I wrote because Erica Hayes dared me to do it on Twitter – and fired that off.
The response to that one was very positive (even though I feel it is a weaker story than Dances with Drums but then I am biased) and it made it through to the second round. The news at that point was that it now came down to space in the anthology – they had a word count limit and they were basically going to make every piece that made it to the second round fight it out, mano et mano, for the right to survive and take up some of that precious space.
And this is where the tension comes in… every person on the forums who got a piece through to the second round is now, as we speak, on tenterhooks. The announcement was made that anyone who gets an e-mail from the anthology is likely to have gotten one because they were rejected rather than accepted, then an announcement was made that some had been rejected and that more would be rejected soon and in the meantime the thread discussing the anthology has grown into a vast behemoth of a monster of a thread, spanning 60 pages and ranging in scope from serious topics like cover design of the anthology or what the submission process feels like to the bizarre trivia of dragon poetry.
Yes, you heard me. Poetry. About dragons. There was elf poetry too.
Oh, and someone threatened to bribe the editors with pints of Hobgoblin. This offended me because I did not think of that plan first.
Then the references to the Rocky Horror Picture show started and my brain decided that a holiday would be nice.
The latest news is that a final announcement will be made on Friday and with this there came the unearthly screech of nerves being tightened even more on the rack of anticipation. Every writer involved in this thing is nervous, dreading the inevitable rejection letter…
Now, my experience of other submissions to other places has been less tense than this. I write my piece, send it off and then forget about it until I get the rejection or acceptance. For some reason, possibly due to the constant reminders in the thread about it, this submission process is far more fraught.
This is why MacAllister Stone deserves some form of award for suspense and I vote that she is issued with one forthwith!
Hmmm…. Twitter seems to be down at the moment, which is annoying as I was planning to post my word count for today. So, instead, I will post it here and maybe transfer it across later by the magic of ‘cut and paste’
Today’s word count is 468 words. May write more later but taking a break #amwriting.
There. Now you know that I am not just sitting here slacking off and just randomly surfing. I am actually doing work. I am, of course, also sitting here randomly surfing because I learnt the trick of having more than one window open many years ago but at least I am not *just* doing that.
About two weeks ago, in this post https://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/finding-the-time/, I talked about the pressures of modern life and how it is sometimes difficult to find the time to write when there are loads of other calls on an individual’s time. As a result of this post, I decided to test out a way of improving productivity. The rules were simple:
* 200 words a day minimum
* This included work on any writing project or submissions to guest blogs. It did not include any writing on forums, Facebook, Twitter, this blog or my own personal blog.
* Weekends were exempt from this and I was allowed to take an occasional holiday if there were special circumstances.
*Daily word counts had to be posted on Twitter under the #amwriting hashtag.
Well, today I am reporting that the experiment seems to have been a roaring success. I had two days off due to being in the Lake District without a laptop for the weekend (and so missed Friday and Monday’s counts due to travel) but other than that I have managed to exceed the minimum count on each day. Not only that, yesterday I completed a story that had been lurking on my hard drive for months with no progress and got it sent to a beta reader for assessment.
I think the key here is the low minimum word count. Now, every writer is different and therefore has different ideal working patterns. For some a high target word count may be beneficial – an impetus to strive for greater things. However, from what I have seen, it seems to be full time writers who follow that philosophy – those who not only have a pressing impetus already in the form of ‘do this or you don’t get paid’ but who also have more free time in which to achieve higher targets.* For part timers like myself, I am not so sure this approach is as useful. A too high a target in an environment with lots of other demands on your time might be off putting and lead to you not doing any writing at all in favour of the more important tasks. Psychologically, setting a low target has given me a series of easy wins, each one a boost to the ego and a spur to keep going. On days where the muse has struck or I have lots of free time, I have managed far more words than I even managed when I set higher targets and on my busiest recent days (including one where illness and an interview scuppered most of my free time) I still managed my 200 and therefore felt like I had achieved something.
I am therefore going to carry on with this method, starting with another project tomorrow and maybe some more guest blog entries. I am currently pondering what to write for a guest blog about horror. Succubi and aliens are currently clamouring at my brain’s door for attention.
*And, yes, I appreciate that even full time writers don’t have all the time they would like to spend writing because they also have editing, publicity, research and so on but many part timers have to do all that AND other things as well.