Tag Archives: writer

Killed by my Killer Concept!

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Out of nowhere, an explosion goes off in your head and you suddenly have the best idea in the world. It’s a beautifully complex and unique concept that is going to change everything! It’s fun, it’s edgy, it’s intelligent, it’s the Ironman of all ideas. Your eyes widen and you can’t believe it’s your own. Quickly checking to make sure you haven’t accidentally ripped off a Christopher Nolan flick you rush to the nearest sheet of paper, scramble to find the nearest pen and…

and…

Nothing…

Why can’t I write it down?

It’s so clear in my head but…

Just can’t put it into words…

Has any other writer, or any kind of artist, come across this before? When your own concept suddenly grows too big for you and you just can’t handle it?

I say suddenly, but it doesn’t have to be. Rather than a great idea being impenetrable right from the get go, it’s also more than possible, and in fact pretty common, for something to slowly grow and morph into something else entirely. The danger comes when the author of this work can’t grow and morph with it.

I’ve seen it happen a lot before in films or books. When I feel like the idea has run away with its writer and s/he can’t keep up with it, or when characters are so much smarter than the writer that s/he can’t write for them anymore.

Holes start to appear in plots which seem sound at first. Characters start using what I call the ‘Sonic Plotdriver’ (named after Dr Who, who is so guilty of this he ought to be put in a cage made from pure logic and made to think about what he’s done) in which a previously doomed situation will be resolved at a push of a button or some convenient, last minute techno-magic.

I actually stopped watching Who because I felt like anytime he was put in a mildly perilous situation it felt like the writers didn't know what to do so would just come up with an easy get out clause.

I actually stopped watching Who because I felt like anytime he was put in a mildly perilous situation it felt like the writers didn’t know what to do, so would just come up with an easy get out clause.

It’s annoying as hell to an audience member, but I have to confess I can see how it happens. Far too often I’ll suddenly hit on an idea that is so good that I’m sure if only I could write it down, it would be an overwhelming success. However, there just is no way to get it down.

In my head it makes sense, because in my head it doesn’t have to confine itself to any sort of linear structure. It can be as complicated and ingenious as it needs to be when its floating around in a non-formatted, imaginary bubble, but when it has to be trapped and pinned down by words or paint or choreography it suddenly seems as if the idea could never have made sense in the first place.

And then I’m left wondering: Am I having trouble committing it to words because it’s actually such an awesome concept that I simply can’t handle it myself? Or, does the fact I can’t work out how to write it down mean that the concept is actually pretty rubbish?

L and Light Yagami, two characters who I feel, in the tv show at least, got too smart for the writer who wrote himself into a corner and then had to take extreme measures to get himself out of. In a way this created an interesting situation where I as an audience member was genuinely shocked at where the story went, but it also meant that a number of 'quick fixes' had to be established to get the show back on track. I feel that ultimately, the show suffered.

L and Light Yagami, two characters who I feel, in the tv show at least, got too smart for the writer, who wrote himself into a corner and then had to take extreme measures to get out of it.
In a way this created an interesting situation where I, as an audience member, was genuinely shocked at where the story went, but it also meant that a number of ‘quick fixes’ had to be established to get the show back on track. I feel that ultimately, despite pulling the rug out from under my feet, the show suffered.

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Sandwiches and cigarettes with Hayao Miyazaki

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A few weeks ago I wrote a post detailing my first few days in Tokyo, with the promise that I’d follow it up with more details at a later point. A promise that I abruptly failed to deliver on. So, now I’ll try to fill in a bit on something cool which happened.

After our first show in the AiiA Theatre, we had a small meet and greet with members of our sponsors and other interested parties. During the night, we were told that our schedule was being suspended on a certain day because we were to be taken to the actual Studio Ghibli for a small tour. Now this, it may not be commonly known, is relatively rare. Rare enough that they have resorted to placing a very obvious piece of paper on the front door which states; ‘Studio Ghibli is a closed studio. We do not offer tours’.197758_10200499802631282_529193703_n

The studio is a collection of buildings in Koganei, Tokyo. It’s a lovely area and pretty perfect for the studio. It’s very green, very peaceful and very pretty. Jeff (who was showing us around and also happens to be the producer of the English dub of the upcoming From Up On Poppy Hill) told us that for some reason the local area was really badly planned, resulting in oddly laid out properties and lots of space in between them, filled with trees and other greenery. It really is the perfect place for the studio and gives the impression that these people are living the ideal ‘artist’ lifestyles.

It might also be interesting to note that Gainax have their studios there too. Unfortunately despite desperately wanting to meet Hiroyuki Yamaga (director of Wings of Honneamise (which I wrote a blog about here) and writer of Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket) I didn’t get the chance to see them.

On the way to the studio we were shown a beautiful building which was designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself and where all the Ghibli employee’s children stay during the day. As soon as they saw us, all the kids began running wild, shouting and jumping around, whilst their poor carer chased them desperately trying to calm them down. Next we walked passed, if I remember correctly, Studio 5, which is where the background art is done. And a few other studio buildings, but for the life of me, I can’t recall what happened where.

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Studio 5

The one place I do remember pretty well, is Miyazaki-san’s private studio. Stopping outside the building, we were shown where Miyazaki’s car was parked and told how he spends his day before being invited inside. After an appropriate period of suspense had played out, the man himself appeared in all his prolific, fantastically bearded glory.

I guess it comes with being one of the most important artists currently working, but when such a man enters the room, the effect is profound. An excited (and almost fearful) hush falls over the room and you can almost hear the collective hearts in the room skip a beat. I must admit, I’m not the sort of person to get star struck and I had to laugh a bit looking around the room at all the faces filled with so much admiration that they’d lost all control. It was a beautiful moment which I’m so glad I could be a part of.

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That is me in the stripy shirt and spotty trousers.

After he kindly signed and personalised pictures for us all, he thanked us for all our work and cracked out some sandwiches. Saying; ‘please smoke if you like – I’m going to’, he sparked up and we all dug in.

And let me tell you, these sandwiches were completely excellent! I took the box mine came in, but I think it got lost in transit. It’s a shame, that was a memory I’d cherish.

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Cast and crew of Princess Mononoke with Miyazaki and Suzuki.

We had a lovely time speaking to various people around the room and basking in the glory of the situation. Our Asitaka (the lead in the show) showed off riding Yakul (his trusty elk, played by another actor) and we all mingled most effectively.

After a wonderful time we were all hustled out and Toshio Suzuki took us into one of the other studios and showed us around a bit. Unfortunately I have to be a bit secretive about anything we may or may not have seen inside the studio, so I’ll stop there.

It was a wonderful, dreamlike time. We were told that we had somehow reminded Miyazaki and Suzuki of their younger selves and we had inspired them, just as they had us. Hearing that from some of our most respected figures was amazing and people cried and I laughed at them and a great time was had by all.

The next evening Suzuki took us all to dinner and I spent the evening talking about Ultraman G with Seiji Okuda, the executive producer of Death Note.

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My autograph. The umbrella was added because the character I play carries one around in both our show and in the film.

This day really made me reflect on the last few years. I’ve done some amazing things in the past year or two, and this was just one of many. I’ve trained under Gennady Bogdanov, heir to the Meyerhold legacy. I’ve made a show with Andrzej and Teresa Welminski, lead actors from Tadeusz Kantor’s Cricot2 company and wonderful artists in their own right. I’ve performed at a whole bunch of international venues including the legendary Moscow Arts Theatre. And now I’ve met Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki.

All these things attribute to a rather bizarre feeling; the feeling that I actually exist. I’m not getting weird here, I’ve not had some grand existential breakthrough, but it is a real feeling. Not that I exist on a molecular level and not even that I’m someone worth knowing about. But, just that I’m managing to exist in this world that I’ve chosen to be a part of. When I decided that I would be an artist, I sort of meant I’d write in my room and perform to my friends and family. But now, I feel like slowly, slowly I’m actually beginning to exist within the art world.

Obviously it doesn’t actually make a difference to my art no matter who I might have shared sandwiches with. But it does encourage me that I’m on the right track, that I really do exist in the same world as these great things and people, and that I might actually consider myself a real artist sometime soon…As opposed to a pretend one, that it.

The Wings of Honneamise and THAT scene

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honneamise-726389Being involved with the first ever stage adaptation of a Studio Ghibli film, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m surrounded by other Ghibli enthusiasts and general anime fans. Of course, when surrounded by these sort of people and these subjects, one will undoubtedly find their interest in such things re-ignited with more fire than before. This is certainly how I am feeling at the moment and because of this I have been watching a number of anime titles I have up to this point never seen before.

Last night, I watched a fantastic little film called Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise.

Wings of Honneamise was released in 1987 and is the first and only full length feature film produced by animation studio Gainax. The film takes place in an alternate version of Earth in which an industrial revolution is flourishing despite the impending war between two nations (Honneamise and ‘The Republic’). At this time, the Space force is working (much to the amusement of the ‘real’ military) towards putting the first man in space. That man is Shirotsugh Lhadatt, who only joined the space program because he didn’t qualify to join the more reputable air force. Lhadatt is a bit of a slacker, only continuing his work with the space program as a way to ensure he can continue to live comfortably compared to the many homeless and jobless of Honneamise.

Whilst wandering the streets one night he meets Riquinni Nonderaiko, a kind hearted religious girl who is preaching against the many injustices and sins of the world. The two become friends and Riquinni’s enthusiasm about what the space program symbolises rekindles Lhadatt’s pride in the program. This is why he volunteers to take the role of first astronaut, despite the obvious danger to himself.

And this is pretty much the basis of the film. From here on we learn about the characters, we see the effect the space program has on both the people and the governing body of  Honneamise, we watch the conflict between the two nations build, using the space program as a catalyst to wage their inevitable war, and we see the growth of our main characters.images

Wings of Honneamise is generally considered one of the finest examples of Japanese adult animation. However, most reviews are often worded something like this:

‘One scene short of a masterpiece.’

‘One of the best animes I’ve ever seen, despite ‘that’ scene.’

‘A beautiful film ruined by one ugly scene.’

Many, many people agree that there is a single scene in the film, often referred to as ‘that scene’, which soils the overall experience the film offers. If you have seen the film, you will instantly know which scene I’m referring to. If you haven’t, then you should know that I’m about to start giving away spoilers for the film, so if you intend to watch it, you might not want to read on.

The scene in question comes about two thirds into the film, when Lhadatt attempts to rape Riquinni in her home. The scene is very coldly realised and unrelenting in its portrayal of the act. Lhadatt attacks Riquinni as she is undressing, pinning her to the floor before he realises what it is he’s doing and stops himself. At this point Riquinni gives him a well deserved braining with a candlestick, knocking him unconscious. The next morning, as Riquinni is leaving home, Lhadatt runs after her to apologise but instead she insists that she be the one to apologise for hitting him. ‘You’ve done nothing wrong,’ she says, ‘You’re a wonderful person and I shouldn’t have hit you. Please forgive me or I shall never forgive myself.’ Well, that all sounds pretty awful and misogynistic now doesn’t it? But  y’know…I’m  not so sure.honneamise3

Now, before I go any further, allow me to explain myself. I despise the way rape is used in media nowadays. It seems to me that whenever a story requires a female character to be hurt, traumatised or damaged in any way, rape is the first port of call. Whenever a man has to be shown as being evil, he’ll rape, or threaten to rape someone. Websites such as Women in Refrigerators exist as a reminder of our frighting and frankly disgusting preoccupation with rape. However, when I was reading reviews of Wings of Honneamise after having seen it, I found myself disagreeing with people’s disgust at this scene. I felt that a lot of people didn’t understand why the scene was in the film at all, and many think the film would be better without the scene. So, I’d like to offer my point of view, what I think the scene’s function is and why I think it is important that it remains.

Right, so, from the outset I am very very surprised how few people mention the scene which comes before ‘that scene’. Some background first: When Lhadatt first comes into contact with Riquinni she is living in a small house outside of the city. Throughout the film we see her life systematically destroyed by the commercialist world they live in; first her electricity is shut off, then her house is demolished to make room for a power plant. She moves into a seemingly unused church after this, which is where ‘the scene’ takes place.

Just before, the two of them meet outside in the rain and rush home together. When they get inside Riquinni takes off her wet boots and some money falls out of them which she shamefully picks up, whilst Lhadatt and Manna (a little girl living with Riquinni) pretend not to notice. For the rest of the evening Lhadatt ignores Riquinni, refusing to look at her until he begins watching her legs from beneath the table. Now, for me, the whole money in the shoe thing was an obvious sign that Riquinni had been prostituting herself to make ends meet. This is reinforced later when Lhadatt mentions that Riquinni ‘must be at…work…’. I’m very surprised that so few people seem to have picked this up.

This fact sort of changes everything. For a start, it goes towards explaining why Lhadatt is so angry with her, and why he allows his frustration to take control. Whether or not Lhadatt is in love with Riquinni is up for interpretation, but it is plainly obvious that he cares for her and that he is attracted to her. The fact that he tries to befriend Manna and offers to give Riquinni the money for a solicitor after her home is destroyed shows that the attraction is not purely physical. So when he learns that she is whoring herself, but still will not consent to anything other than a platonic relationship with him, he is deeply hurt. His anger at her for selling other men the sort of attention that he would have cherished from her sparks his anger and he takes on a certain ‘if they can have you, so should I’ mentality.

But this is not all. Riquinni acts as a pillar of strength for Lhadatt. She renews his pride in his mission, and that what he is doing is right, that he isn’t simply part of what she considers a sinful, unjust world. This is extremely important given that before he goes to visit Riquinni he undergoes a press release in which someone tells him to make up something about why the space program is important and what it symbolises for mankind. By his reaction it’s plainly obvious he is loosing any faith in ‘why’ he’s doing it. Directly after this a news reporter tells him that 30,000 people could be re-homed if the space program cut its funding by half. The reason he goes to Riquinni after this is for some kind of support and reassurance. Instead, he finds out that the purest, most innocent and righteous person he has ever met is prostituting herself. This feels like a betrayal to Lhadatt who is not smart enough to notice the necessity of her actions. He simply feels like she is making a ‘compromise with God’ which is exactly what he suggests earlier when asking why she wont be with him. She replies by saying ‘it’s that sort of compromise that made the world what it is today!’, so it hurts Lhadatt to find her making exactly that sort of compromise. I also wonder, even though it’s never said, that Lhadatt might be able to provide for her if she let him. The main problem of course, is that Riquinni sees no romantic future with Lhadatt whatsoever.

Earlier in the film, Riquinni gave Lhadatt a holy book which he has been reading, trying to understand her point of view. When he finds out she has given into the harsh, sinful side of reality, he looses all will to be anything else and so too gives into his temptation.

During the attack he pauses. As he lies on top of her he suddenly realises what he is doing and stops himself. This moment acts as a symbol as well as a literal event. Lhadatt’s realisation is not just the realisation that he is capable of raping a woman, but that he is part of the military driven society which has forced her into prostitution. It’s only at this moment that he really hears the words of the news reporter. Well over 30,000 people, like Riquinni, cannot afford homes, and are being forced to find ulterior methods of securing income simply to survive because of large scale projects such as the space program. In many ways, the rape of Riquinni has already been carried out, and she had already been defiled by the society they live in, a society which Lhadatt plays a lead role.

None of the above defends Lhadatt’s actions, and in fact shows that he is no better than anyone in the film. He does an awful thing which shocks both the audience and himself. Many reviews I’ve read criticise this scene for destroying a character who had up to this point been rather likeable. I would argue that this is the point of the scene, in which we are shown that nobody, not Lhadatt nor Riquinni are without sin, and are affected by the state of their society.

The later scene, in which Riquinni apologises for hitting Lhadatt backs this up as soon as we realise that Riquinni is not really saying sorry for clocking Lhadatt over the head with a candlestick, but that she is saying sorry for giving into sin. Just as Lhadatt cannot see the necessity of Riquinni’s work, she can not see the righteousness in it. She understands she must do it to provide for herself and Manna, but she sees herself as sinful and wrong. There’s also the possibility that Riquinni is in complete denial about the whole thing. This leads on to something else people have criticised.

Lhadatt doesn’t seem to feel much remorse about the whole thing. It’s never mentioned again, he doesn’t seem to brood over it. In fact, it seems to be almost entirely swept under the carpet. This is generally considered to be bad taste on the part of director and writer Hiroyuki Yamaga, and a sign that the scene served to real purpose other than to shock. I think it’s something else though, I think it’s firstly another example of one of the films main themes; denial (the denial of sin, the denial of being a part of a corrupt government, etc) Lhadatt is denying the event just as much as Riquinni is. It’s also a cold reminder of human nature. I suppose in Lhadatt’s head it is easier to pretend it never happened than to face up to the fact, especially if Riquinni seems content to do so.

These are the films darkest moments, and show our characters in the most negative light. It also comes just in time for the final part of the film in which the action really picks up. Lhadatt is pursued by an assassin in a somewhat rather absurd chase scene, and then we’re onto the final stint in which the rocket is finally launched into space. Then effect it has though, is that we can never really shake the feeling that the scene has left us with. Our connection with Lhadatt has weakened and we cannot wholly root for him any more. This, being the desired effect. Once Lhadatt has reached space, we are left wondering if it was really worth it. If Lhadatt is the kind of man who should be named a hero and an innovator, which is likely to happen, and we wonder if the space program was worth the poverty and conflict that it caused. It’s actually quite hard to feel good for the people of Honneamise.

This is really important given the final prayer of the film.

Just a quick note – I watched the film subtitled, and have realised that it differs a fair bit from the dub. So my understanding of the end is based on the sub translation.tumblr_mbehctdXq51qj7fjto1_1280

‘Is anybody down there listening to this broadcast? This is mankind’s first astronaut. The human race has just taken its first step into the world of the stars. Like the oceans and the mountains before, space too was once just God’s domain. As it becomes a familiar place for us, it’ll probably end up as bad as everywhere else we’ve meddled. We’ve spoiled the land, We’ve fouled the air. Yet we still seek new places to live, and so now we journey out to space. There’s probably no limit to how far we can spread.

Please. Whoever is listening to me. How you do it doesn’t matter, just please; give some thanks to man’s arrival here.

Please, show us mercy and forgive us. Don’t let the way ahead be one of darkness. As we stumble down the path of our sinful history, let there be always one shining star to show the way.’

This is a great achievement from a flawed species. It could spell new hope, or new disaster. Is it a good thing Lhadatt finally reached space? The answer is simply yes, because it shows that through everything, human perseverance has won through. It is also positive because the men and women of the space program were working towards the betterment of mankind, not a political leg up. However, it is what comes next which would tell.  Reaching space may fill many with hope of a bright new era of innovation and perhaps peace, or, as is suggested earlier in the film, if taken into the wrong hands it may spell new and inventive ways for the two nations to bomb each other.

It is neither an optimistic nor pessimistic end to the film, and this is important. I think if the film and the characters had not reached the lows that they had, then the ending would not have been so poignant.

One final note:

I found an article here that describes the scene and says that anyone who defends it is ‘intellectually dishonest or just human filth’. Well, I guess I fall into this bracket, so, human filth it is. But, the writer did include a few things that made me raise my eyebrows:

Apparently, in the commentary track the assistant director, Takami Akai, says that ‘Riquinni reveals herself as a “strong woman” by completely forgiving Shiro and saying that it was her fault’. Well…I don’t really know what to say about that. Obviously I’d argue that it suggests the exact opposite, and that she, like Lhadatt is in fact shown to be very weak. This doesn’t change my analysis of the film, but it does make me wonder just what were the original intentions of the film makers, and if they were consciously aware of all these interpretations people now make.

Another thing that really shocked me was that Akai apparently mentions that he wanted to use animation rcels from the attack as promotion material. Fortunately, people hid all of the production materials from him. Obviously, this can in no way be justified and that all this paints Takami Akai in a very bad light, but I haven’t listened to the whole commentary track myself, so I can’t say anything for sure.

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And so there you have my 2 pennies worth! Whatever the film makers intentions may have been, the fact is that ‘that scene’ is not merely one scene among many, but feeds into the whole rest of the film, and I think it has to be viewed this way. To many people seem to take the scene on it’s own, as a horrible and shocking piece, which it is, but when taken as a part of the whole it is not completely gratuitous or unnecessary. Are there other ways the film makers could have portrayed this? Probably. But they chose this way, and instead of just booing it, it’s important to see why it’s there.

Another meaningless coincidence…

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I have read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy many times, and I am sure I will read it many times more.

Recently, at work I have been getting rather annoyed at the amount of time I’m wasting listening to Smooth Radio and the repetitive noise that is Karrang (which is still playing the same songs I used to listen to when I was 15). And so, instead of sneaking books around in my pockets and swearing under my breath every time I have to put it aside to actually do some work, I have decided to try listening to a few audio books.

Today,  I decided to start listening to the Hitchhikers Guide, read by Douglas Adams himself. I was instantly reminded just how perfect this book is and how the introduction pretty much sums up my entire world view in roughly 600 words.

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Tonight, I arrived home, plugged myself into the matrix and the first thing I saw was the Google main screen, which today features an animated image of a computer desk, along with moving dials, a window looking out into space, an automatic door which opens to reveal a certain paranoid android, a travel bag, a towel and of course the great guide itself.

Completely unbeknownst to me, today marks the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams, and I couldn’t help but laugh thinking to myself ‘How like Adams to present me with such a marvelously pointless coincidence’.

So, to celebrate his birthday and to honour the book, I thought I would post the aforementioned introductionwhich I think is a small masterpiece of literature in itself.

If you have not read the book then I sincerely urge you to do so, if you have, then let’s read it again to mark the day…or simply just to re-read it once again.

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Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy, lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.

Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realised what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.

This is not her story.

But it is the story of that terrible, stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.

It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or even heard of by any Earthman.

Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book. In fact, it was probably the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great cooperation of Ursa Minor – of which no Earthman had ever heard either.

Not only is it a wholly remarkable book, it is also a highly successful one – more popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-Three More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid’s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person, Anyway?

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.

First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words ‘Don’t Panic’ inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

But the story of this terrible, stupid Thursday, the story of its extraordinary consequences, and the story of how these consequences are inextricably intertwined with this remarkable book begins very simply.

It begins with a house.

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, copyright © 1979 by Douglas Adams

Invader Zim vs The Lloyd of Dirkness!

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I’ve been reading quite a few children’s books recently. The other day I picked up one called Dark Lord: The Teenage Years and proceeded to devour it over two long train journeys .

I quite enjoyed the book in a easy-to-read pass-time sort of way, but I was more intrigued by the similarities and differences it bore to one of my favourite kid’s TV shows, Invader Zim.DL-ding

The two are relatively similar in story, style and at times, tone. Firstly and most simply is the story. In one, an alien is sent to Earth to conquer it. While there he must disguise himself as a human “worm baby” and attend school whilst finding a way to conquer the planet, enslave the human race and destroy his sworn enemy Dib. The other sees The Dark Lord (AKA Dirk Lloyd) ruler of the Darklands propelled to Earth and trapped inside the body of a “pitiful human child”. He must attend school whilst finding a way to restore himself to his former glory, reclaim his home land and maybe enslave the human race if there is time. The differences are in the details: Zim seeks to disguise who he really is where Dirk seeks to prove himself. Zim makes enemies where Dirk makes friends. Etc.

But the very basic premise is almost identical: ‘An alien Invader/Dark Lord takes on human form, attends school and deal with the mundane day-to-day problems of human life whilst continuing with their evil plans and dark purposes in secret.

The biggest similarity is in character. On the surface Zim and Dirk are very, very alike. So much so, that when reading Dirk’s dialogue I couldn’t help doing so with Zim’s voice. Every cry of “Cower before me pitiful humans!” rang around my head in Richard Horvitz’s wicked tone.1-invader zim-wallpaper

However, surface likeness aside, there is also a huge difference between Dirk and Zim which I found extremely noticeable whilst reading Dark Lord. That difference lies in the level of malicious intent, or ‘evilness’ if you like.

So the big question is; who would win in a fight between Zim and Dirk?

Well, Zim has his advanced technology, but this usually proves to be less than functional, and to counter this, Dirk had his magic, which one can only assume will grow stronger after the close of book one. Also, Dirk is far more intelligent than Zim, who let’s face it, is as thick as two short planks.

So far, the odds are stacked in Dirk’s favour. But there is one more very important factor to consider. When the battle is done, and the victor stands tall over his fallen opponent, what then? Both Dirk and Zim would chant an evil Mwa ha ha! I’m sure. Both would taunt their enemy and proclaim themselves the glorious victor. But I think it is only Zim who would crush his enemy under the heel of his boot. Only Zim who would kill Dirk.I-am-zim-invader-zim-2879951-1023-768

Throughout reading Dark Lord, I have been given no reason to believe that Dirk is actually capable of any sort of evil act. We are told that in the past he has crushed cities, enslaved entire races and driven some creatures to extinction, but we are never given evidence of this. I think the mos evil act Dirk is guilty of in book one is petty theft, gluing someone’s shoes to the floor and sending his unattached arm to shave the beard off of someone’s face.

Zim, on the other hand, constantly gives us examples of just what he is capable of. In one episode he harvests the organs of all his class mates, replacing them with inanimate objects. In another, he brainwashes a child by ripping his eyes out and replacing them with robotic ones, the child is then attacked (and presumably killed) by a squirrel. And the absurd list goes on. All these things may be completely obscure and ridiculous but they are without a doubt, pretty evil. They really do solidify Zim as a particularly nasty character and allows for to be quite scary when he wants to be also.

Dirk unfortunately lacks this. The closest we get to any sort of evidence that he is capable of anything even remotely nasty, is in the first few chapters where he attempts (without any effect) to summon various spells of destruction on people.

Unfortunately, without this evidence, we just can not believe or give any credit to Dirk’s being anything more than a slightly mischievous child.dark-lord--da-gibts-nichts-zu-lach-1

What’s more, the Dark Lord’s evilness is again called into question during the tail end of the book, when he scrys his army of Orcs and Goblins being executed by his enemy’s army of white paladins. He states that even he would not stoop so low, that even he would show mercy, only killing a few of them to set an example, that even the so called Dark Lord, ruler of the Nine Hells  has more honour than the supposed good guys (because remember; Dirk is supposed to be the bad guy! Even if he is the protagonist!) But now, we’re not even following the exploits of the bad guy!

In Zim, it’s always apparent that although stupid and incompetent, Zim is the bad guy. It’s why we love to see him fail and are secretly delighted to see him victorious. It’s also why it’s a genuine surprise if he does anything even vaguely noble. With Dirk, I was never surprised to see him express feelings of happiness or compassion because I’d never really been given any real evidence that all he usually feels is hate and anger.a3ef7b86_htf_imgcache_39698

There is a scene in every James Bond film where we see the bad guy kill somebody who was powerless to save themselves, in Bond, this is usually a woman. This scene exists simply to solidify in our minds that he’s a horrible person, and this is all we actually need to justify James dispatching him as violently as possible.

In any story which features a bad guy who finds redemption, or even becomes the good guy we’ll be shown something similar, so that we have something to compare his new found goodness to. For example, Zuko’s transformation in The Last Airbender, wouldn’t be convincing if he hadn’t hounded the Avatar so ferociously to begin with.

Dirk needed something like this. He needed than one act which makes us think ‘Ah yeah, he is pretty evil actually’. It’s not enough to simply mention something that he did in a former life when he was a giant demon. We need first hand evidence that he is what he says he is, and we need it now, while he is in the form we know him in.

I don’t know exactly what it is Dirk should do to prove this, and Dark Lord isn’t as absurd as Invader Zim, so I doubt it could get away with some of the things Zim does, but even so, we really do need something.

NaNoWriMo Volume Two – Now to set our own deadlines

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Winner-180x180Check it out!

My own personal ‘You’re a winner’ badge.

This little thing tells me that I have officially completed the ‘National Novel Writing Month’ goal of hitting 50,000 words in just 30 days! This wonderful little pdf tells me that I can write, and, that I am a writer. It might seem a little pointless because, well you know, I knew I was a writer…right? But actually, that’s not true. I knew I had aspirations to be a writer and that technically, I can write. But I didn’t know what it felt like to actually write as if it was a career. That’s something I learnt a lot about this month.

Right from the first of the month, I knew that I had a target, and a deadline. Then, I made it happen, as if it was a job, making sure I wrote everyday, and if I failed to do that, making sure I made up for whatever time I had lost. The result is that I hit my deadline, and came out of it with a finished story. That’s something else I haven’t done before; actually finished a novel! But now, I know that I can.

Now though, lets face the harsh reality:

What I have written isn’t actually much good. This is because of a few reasons. One, because I didn’t plan it, and I never really had much of an idea what or why I was writing. Two, because it’s all a bit rushed (no surprises there). Three, because I was concentrating more on my word count than the bloody story itself!

So now I’ve revealed these little home truths, let’s talk about NaNoWriMo. I really enjoyed this month. I loved writing mostly everyday and I loved having a deadline. The only problem, as I have said above is that I was defiantly writing to hit the word count rather than to write the story. This is partially okay, and actually the whole reason I took part was to do this. I wanted to use NaNoWriMo as an exercise in writing everyday, in writing a lot without editing, and in actually finishing something. I was never super concerned with what I was writing, knowing that it wasn’t likely to be something I would try to publish or even give out to people to read. I think also though, it’s something about NaNoWriMo that made me so concerned about the volume of words. I wonder if I would still be like that if I was working on something a little more precious?That’s another negative; as I said, I really enjoyed the month, but there were times I didn’t enjoy writing this particular story. Because I had no real plan or aim, there were certainly times where writing became a real chore. nanowrimoThere’s another blog post about NaNoWriMo here, in which we are asked how we measure our own success. For me, I feel successful because even though I know that what I’ve written isn’t fantastic, I’m still very proud. I’m proud firstly because I did it – I started and ended it without once planning ahead what was going to happen, and did so within a month. I’m proud of some parts of it because I think they’re genuinely good, well written and witty. I’m proud of other parts because they’re absolutely mad – Because I was writing without a plan, and usually without any idea of what I was writing, I often slipped into a sort of NaNoTrance, where my fingers were writing but my brain wasn’t. Through these NaNoTraces I found myself writing things I never would usually. I was able to sort of brain dump things onto the page and then enjoy reading them back.

Mostly I’m proud because now I know I can write a book, and I know I can write a book that’s damn well better than this one!

For anyone who is thinking about doing NaNoWriMo next year, or for anyone who just fancies trying their hand at writing and think this might be the way to go: Do it. It’s a great month and it really helps knowing that you have goal, deadline and most importantly; other people backing you! It’s enough knowing that 300,000 other people are doing it, but the actual communities are great. I was part of a small facebook group, and it helped an awful lot to feel as though I was part of a group of like-minded people working towards the same goal. There are also, from what I understand, actual flesh and blood meet ups between WriMos, who meet and write together.The-writer

But now the question is; where do we go from here? Well, now I guess it’s time to start setting our own deadlines.

My project ‘Sketch’ has taken me about a year and a half of writing haphazardly, now and again, whenever I felt like it. Currently it stands at about 25 thousand words. I just wrote double that in a month. I am now filled with new confidence that I can finish ‘Sketch’ and that I can do so soon. Thus, I am setting myself a goal: I want to finish a first draft of Sketch by New Year. That’s a month to finish another 25/30 thousand words along with all the research that is necessary for this one. It’s a pretty tough goal seeing as how December is a happy, jolly, super-joyful, fun time of year which usually involves a lot of travel and a lot of work. But I do think It’s achievable. Just to add some suspense to the whole thing I have promised that if I fail this, my friend Dom can throw a bucket of paint over me. I will also film and upload this humiliating yet potentially enjoyable experience here, if it comes to it.

And just a final note: November has been a bloody amazing month! I have written a novel, acquired 2 (part-time) jobs, done 2 exciting auditions (results pending) with a 3rd lined up for tomorrow, and performed 2 different shows in different London venues. I was bang on the money when at the beginning of November, I said there were exciting times ahead. November = Excellent.

I hope all your November’s were excellent also, and I’m going to do something I usually try to steer clear of…I’m going to wish you all a fantastic Xmas period! Genuinely, I wish you all the very best of success. Hopefully December will be awesome too.

Now, I shall end the post before my good spirits get the most of me and I start weeping gently onto the keys of my laptop…

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

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Hello all, I hope you’re all doing well today.

As I am writing this, it is the 17th November, which means I’m actually a couple of days late for writing a post about the NaNoWriMo halfway point. So, lets all do me a favour and pretend it’s the 15th all over again.

November every year is an exciting time for thousands of writers. That is already established and published authors of best-selling books, those who aren’t quite there yet and those who have never written a word before in their lives. All these wonderful, creative people will spend the month, bent over their computers in coffee shops across the world, attempting to write a minimum of 50,000 words in just 30 days. This is National Novel Writing Month; “Thirty days of literary abandon”.

This year is my first time participating in NaNoWriMo, so I thought I’d share some of my experiences up to this point.

I came into the month with a single goal; to hit the word count goal. I’m not too worried about what it is I’m writing, I just want to write. For me, the month is an exercise in writing as often and as much as I can, so that after the month is done I can attack my other projects with vigour. Because of this goal, of course, some of what I have written is rather good, and some of it is an absolute, unresolvable mess! But that’s okay. And actually, that’s kind of the point for me, that it’s okay to produce something messy, unpolished and possibly a bit crappy, the point is to write without holding back, without endlessly editing yourself and without spending 3 months on a single chapter! The editing and fixing stage comes later, beyond November.

In order to test myself in this way, I decided on a very basic idea for my novel, but did not plan it. The idea was vague. It would be based on my character from my theatre company ‘The Same, But Different’, Gylligan the Traveller. Now I say character, but really Gylligan is more of a persona than anything else, and if we want to deconstruct what exactly it is I mean by persona, we’ll have to read the first chapter of my book! Anyway, the book is sort of part auto-biography and part nonsense. I had the idea that it would have a vague narrative which follows my own life in the most basic of ways, (ie; I left home and moved to London), and then is filled out with ridiculous ideas, (ie; London is facing a large scale but harmless zombie epidemic). As well as this, the book is littered with random thoughts, ideas and philosophies that Gylligan has made up throughout his life. So pretty much, I can write whatever I want without having to make much sense. This I thought would work as a platform for me to be able to simply write without any plan, foresight or strict format/style. It also works as a way for me to experiment with how I’m writing, as I’ve only tried telling linear stories before.

This is working out pretty well for me so far. As I said, some of it is utter rubbish, but some of it is okay, and either way, I’m managing to keep up without any plan or worry about what the book should be.

So, lets talk a little bit about the logistics of NaNoWriMo. As I said, I’m pretty much keeping on target. I’ve been about a day behind since I began and every now and again drop even further back, but somehow, I’m finding time to catch myself up. That’s the best thing about the month. The fact that I know I have to keep on writing otherwise I’ll fall too far behind. This fact lurks in the back of your mind and compels you to carry on writing, and before you know it, writing has just becomes part of your daily routine. It’s funny, that before this I found it hard to make time for writing, and now that I have a goal and deadline I’m magically able to make time. This is something I’ll take with me from beyond this month, and when I go back to my other book it’ll be with a clear deadline in sight.

Another thing I’m enjoying is the community. I’m not a very social person in the digi-shere, but I’ve found great joy in the odd forum comment and other bits. The NaNoWriMo website is really good, keeping track of your progress and helping to make you feel as part of a group. I’ve read that groups of people have weekly meetups, in which I can only presume they all sit in silence, writing. This to me, sounds like a great idea, and perhaps next year I’ll try to get in on some of that. It’s good to know that you’re one of many taking part in the event, and this also helps you to carry on going.

But it is hard. I’m finding it very hard actually. Maybe because I’ve been relatively busy, maybe it’s due to my lack of a plan, but maybe it’s more to do with the fact that quite simply, writing is hard. It is horrible writing without editing as you go, and actually the knowledge that you have to write everyday can become quite stressful. I find myself fretting over word counts and forcing myself to write a certain amount, even after all inspiration has dried up for that particular day.

Overall though, it’s great to be a part of it. I’m really enjoying writing every day. I’m enjoying experimenting with what I’m writing and the way I’m writing it, but sometimes I do worry about the quality of work. Finally, I enjoy knowing that I’m just one of thousands taking part in the month.

I will write another post on NaNoWriMo at the end of the month. In the meantime, if anyone fancies it, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences of the month with me. How you are doing, how you are enjoying it, etc. It would be good to hear how fellow Wrimos (that’s what we are apparently) are doing.