Superpowered

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? This question is harder than you’d think to answer, because there are so many possibilities. The Dolls have considered their limitations as mere mortals, and we all have a power we’d love to claim, even for a little while:

Steve: The ability to change people’s minds in internet arguments. I realise that’s very fantastical, but indulge me.

Renee: Time travel and/or immortality. I can’t make up my mind. It’d be nice to have both. Although, if you can travel through time, isn’t that a sort of immortality? I guess it depends on the rules of the time travel ability, right? I don’t know. Let’s go with immortality. I’m pretty clumsy and I’m sure my death will be the result of some stupid and/or embarrassing thing that could’ve been avoided. With immortality, I can’t hurt myself too badly.

Katrina: ENDLESS ENERGY. I’m sitting here chugging a Redbull as we speak. GIVE ME WINGS.

Peter: The ability to slow time down so that I could get more done! With the magazine that I put together each month, and Boxes of Blood (horror paperback delivery service), as well as promoting my own work and a huge stack of books to read, there is little time for writing.

Michael: Extreme longevity in peak physical fitness so I could do more things.

Christian: I’d like the ability to travel through time, please. Would that be considered a superpower? It would be much more useful than being invisible or some shit. Imagine the famous historical mysteries I could solve! I’d unmask Jack the Ripper, find out who really killed JFK, and invest all my money in Microsoft.

What about you guys? Any superpowers you’d be stoked to have? What about shitty ones? Are there any you’d think would be more of a burden than a gift?

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Ambition is everything when you have a blank page.

by Michael Keyton

 

Writing is a democracy embracing the great and the lesser, the starting line for all being that first blank page.

A short story sometimes emerges from a single but vivid image in a dream—occasionally two or three. The secret then is to give them time to ferment (but not too long) prod them a bit, and then begin writing. Often the subconscious has done the heavy work and a story emerges with just a little help from: Who, What, Where, Why, and the shit-stirrer, What if? The five darker dwarves Snow White left in the forest. One short story came from a single lit window in a house I’d thought empty—again employing those dwarves that sculpt words into stories.

The novel is an entirely different kettle of fish and there is no one-entry point. The great divide is between the so-called ‘Plotters’ and ‘Pantsers’ ie those who plot everything, key moments, turning points etc etc. This is something I could never do, possibly because I lack the mental discipline, possibly because if I’d written the plot out in such detail I’d likely lose any further interest in it. If you know what’s coming next, why bother? Bit like painting by numbers. And yet people I know and respect swear by it, though I suspect they’ll readily bend the framework when characters suddenly develop a life of their own.

The ‘Pantser’ ie writing by the seat of your pants and not fully knowing what’s coming next, has its own dangers. You may lose yourself in the forest and never come out.

I suppose my method, like many writers, is a bit of both. The first chapter is the kindling, its purpose to start a small fire; if all you get is flicker and smoke, you might decide to start again or just give up on it. Usually though, the instinct is right. You find yourself with a nice, warming blaze you’re invested in— you want to know what’s going to happen next. If you’re lucky, you may get another two or three chapters from that initial blaze, but then you’ll stop, look for patterns, probabilities and the characters that have suddenly sprung to life. Then you’ll begin plotting – a few chapters at a time until a general theme becomes apparent, even perhaps a conclusion.

This was how it worked with The Gift and the two other books in the trilogy (January and Spring next year) In retrospect the books almost wrote themselves, though that was not how it seemed at the time.

This latest book has no title, just a strong instinct it will work but as yet no very strong sense of direction—a feeble tug of a fish or two, but no Moby Dick.

At the moment it’s akin to staring at the lines on your palm, trying to work out a pattern, seeing where and how they might join up. I’m 18K in and it’s more of a patchwork quilt than a novel; a patchwork quilt with several large and promising patterns.

And that’s the beauty of a ‘Work in Progress’. You’re under no obligation to start at the beginning and end at the end. There is a beginning, though it’s not set in stone; there are several well developed characters with aims and antagonists. Some are singing loudly in their invisible cages surrounded by airless voids, not yet in contact with anyone else but themselves. Some are more fortunate, singing to each other from interlinked cages. Others are less canaries than embryos waiting to be born—names and rudimentary functions but little if anything else.

If it comes to life, it will be a dystopian Trollope, Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of Vanities set in a world falling apart.

Ambition is everything when you have a blank page.

 

 

TV Time

Christian had this idea that you guys might enjoy knowing a few of our favorite things. Maybe he was wrong, but we’re going to tell you anyway. This week, let’s all share our favorite TV show. Some of us have a bit of an addiction to television (that would be me), so this question was pretty tough to answer.

Christian: Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I remember watching re-runs as a kid (the two movies preceding the TV series came out before I was born) and being terrified and captivated in equal measures. It’s about a newspaper reporter, played by Darren McGavin, who investigates inexplicable crimes. It’s probably fair to say this show sparked my twin obsessions with writing and the supernatural. It was never very commercially successful, I think it was cancelled after a single season, but has since attained cult status. Well-deserved, too.

Mike: Frasier. Incomparable.

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Liam: This is going to date me, but I’m going to have to go with M*A*S*H*; this only because the ancient, black and white Maverick would really make me seem older than dirt. Today’s television just sucks.

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Renee: I think Liam hasn’t been watching the right shows. Yes, back in the day we had some excellent television, but a lot of it was sugar-coated, because you just couldn’t cover topics and show content we can now. Maybe some people see that as bad, but I don’t.

There are a ton of fantastic series from “today” that I’d list as favorites, including Lucifer, Ozark, House, Ray Donovan, Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who (I like the modern shows more than the original, sorrynotsorry), Banshee (first couple of seasons only), and Bosch. Right now, my ultimate, all-time favorite as to be The Handmaid’s Tale. Probably because it’s one of my favorite books. Elizabeth Moss’s portrayal of June Osborne (Offred) is FANTASTIC. I’m often disappointed with film adaptations of books I’ve loved, because the way the actors play favorite characters don’t match what’s in my head. Moss is better than anything I could’ve imagined.

Steve: Three million years into deep space- the mining ship Red Dwarf…

Red Dwarf is the greatest sci-fi comedy tv show ever made. There are slicker, there are better produced, but Red Dwarf stands out precisely because of its embracing of English crapness. When the last human alive is a ludicrous slob, and his only companion is the holographic resurrection of his uptight bunkmate, you already have a great premise for a sitcom. But the show rarely rests on the laurels of its high concept. The best humour is the banter between Lister and Rimmer, possibly one of the greatest comedy duos in TV history. Not only that, but the offhand references to life on earth in the not too distant future belay the low budget and tight sit-com dialogue, creating the kind of casual world building most sci-fi authors take books and book to achieve.

Katrina: I feel like there need to be categories here. One can’t just lump Keeping up With the Kardashians (my favorite mindless television) with Elementary (my favorite crime series) and expect to choose one or the other. However, if I were forced to watch one TV show for the rest of my life, I’d have to go with Doctor Who.

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Peter: This changes all the time, as I discover new things, but most recently I’ve really enjoyed Happy!, 13 Reasons Why, and Ozark. The only show I’ve watched more than once is The Wire which is awesome in my opinion, and I did love Dexter until that last ever episode destroyed everything.

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Tony: Without a doubt, Game of Thrones. Even though this is epic fantasy, something I don’t often read or watch, the series is so well written and played with second-to-none special effects, this is a clear winner. I watched the series twice and enjoyed it so much more the second time through. Runner up is Westworld, which again plays into a common theme I write. Honorable mention, The Wire. This is a genre I don’t often watch but I found this gripping. The portrayal of crime and the inner city culture, for the most part, was honest and revealing.

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We know you guys prefer books. I mean, TV? Pfft. It’s for ignorant heathens. Pick up a book, for crying out loud! Still, most of us have a guilty pleasure and TV is often in the list, so what’s your favorite show?