And so it goes.

I did a lot of planning to write yesterday and today. Perhaps planning is my worst enemy. I finally sat down to write, and after about 350 words, I sat back and realized I felt like I was drowning. I like building characters. I like building worlds. Unfortunately, I like the details in worlds. I like the minutiae. I could get lost in trying to make sure that every little detail makes sense, is self-consistant, etc. This means that if I want something scientifically based, I have to research it.

So now I have more research and plans and notes than I have actual words on a page, and then other parts of the idea start to unravel. Maybe this is why I’ve had a preference for fantasy over science fiction, at least when I was younger. I like consuming hard science fiction. Fantasy? It’s so great because you can make up the engines that make things go. You don’t have to know about nuclear reactors, or combustion engines, or steam or whatever. You can just say, “magic that works in phases of the moons” and “fairies!” and other bullshit.

I know that the first thing you do is WRITE IT DOWN. I hate that. I hate that about as much as I hate just sitting there and doing a sketch and having it look far from what you envisioned, knowing deep inside there’s some kid out there who draws better than you.

The way you get there is practice. Does that mean I just write whatever gobbled-gook that doesn’t make sense? Filled with logical fallacies, bad science, bad geography, and worst, bad character motivations?

It’s Game 7 of the World Series tonight. Perhaps I should focus on where I’m going to watch it.

NaNoWriMo 2016: You Have to be Kidding

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-5-02-46-pm I’ll admit that I really don’t think I have the time to write anything these days.

That’s not entirely true. I now have the time, but I’ve been in a creative slump for a decade, and writing and drawing are the two most daunting things in my day. Diapers, and the never-ending cycle of cleaning dumped out containers of whatever in my house, are preferable to the soul crushing experience of trying to create something. The thing is, I know I can do *something* – what, who knows. Of quality? Who can say. I’m brilliant in my own mind, but there’s nothing like a blank screen or sheet of paper to make me whither inside. The presence of a mere paragraph that is somehow not up to my own standards makes me want to shut my laptop to never revisit again. And that character drawing? The one that makes the store mannequins look dynamic and animated?

Yes, as I said, soul crushing.o

Today, though, I did something different. I allowed all these ridiculous story fragments lodged in my head to converge on a story, and a loose outline was created combining parts of a remembered dream from seven years ago and my personal cosmology.

I didn’t get actual writing done, but I got organized! A plan, at least, to fill in the blanks. I should probably add a few dream sequences before I close Scrivener for the night.

Anyhow, folks. In 30 days, if I have something to show for it, I’ll consider it a minor miracle.

Bad Art, or Why Did I Stop Trying?

butterfly fantasy

A bad recreation of a painting that I have a complicated relationship with.

I’ve been in a slow, painful decline of creative output. This is not entirely true, but it’s the story I tell myself. The truth is, that I still have sporadic creative output, but it’s shifted to more ephemeral experiences, such as cooking, baking, sewing (which never seems to be completed), and musing on these pursuits on the daily.

In preparation for my mom moving to Washington, I’ve had the opportunity to revisit my past, whether I’ve wanted to or not. Part of that includes remembering those things I used to do regularly. Draw, paint, write, play music. I’ve tried many instruments. I’ve belted out song with a guitar I mostly taught myself how to play. I used to play the piano, even, though not very well. My music reading is basic, at best, but I had aspirations. I have stacks and stacks of stories and poetry. Piles of paper and canvases, including those two years at a prestigious art school. I had friends back in Chicago who would creatively set fire beneath one another.

I lost that, and slowly resigned myself into being a former aspirational artist.

I even start blog posts that are unfinished. This one promises to be rambly, but I’ll publish it anyway.

*deep breath*

What was the big turning point? Where did I start to finally doubt that I couldn’t actually hack it and become the professional artist of my dreams?

It wasn’t when I left art school in 1998, which I often excused as a money-saving venture, but it really didn’t save me anything other than the complete decline of faith in myself.

It’s that fucking painting (see above). The real painting was part of my final for my Freshman 2D art class. It was to be my finest moment. I had decided that I wanted to finally do a large-scale emulation of the work that I’d been so excited about over the past 6 years – the art of great fantasy illustrators like Larry Elmore and other cover artists doing work for TSR. Though we were to base something off of sketches we did on a field trip to the Field Museum, I decided I’d use that as a thin pretext for a Celtic fantasy butterfly magical romp.

To be fair, what I turned in was unfinished. It lacked polish. It needed work. I was disappointed in the perspective and the depth of the piece. My classmates and teacher were unimpressed, and I took it home to my mom, thinking I’d finish it one day. Instead, I spent every visit taking it off the wall where she proudly hung it, and trying to hide it behind the couch. I told her I hated it. I told her to throw it away. Then she moved. Then she framed it. She FRAMED that piece of shit. Now she’s moving to Washington, and to my dismay, I gave her the OK to throw out so many other things, but I wanted to tell her, “PLEASE don’t bring that painting.”

Art school didn’t work for me on a few levels. One was the fact that I lacked internal discipline, and wasn’t prepared to develop it yet. Then there was the fact that I was in way over my head. I wasn’t mature enough to handle some of the work that needed to be done. I needed mentorship, but didn’t know how to get it. Then there’s the work I wanted to do. As much as I loved making abstract art, anyone can do that without art school. The work I revered were comics and illustration, but it was a challenged to do, and instead of trying over and over again to get it right, I gave up.

It’s 20 years since I started art school, I’ve got two kids, and I’m a bit terrified that I’ve given up all my opportunities. I’m having to restructure how I think about things, but after this long post, I think I’ll save that for another time.

Reposts and Attribution: the “White Aurora” or “The Hem of His Garment”

One of the things that bugs me about Facebook is the picture re-posting, frequently without attribution. Pictures can be really cool photos, pieces of art, “memes” (whatever the hell that means), or worse, picture of famous person with some inspirational quote. Not only can the picture and/or attribution be bogus, but the account posting the picture that is subsequently reposted can also be a bogus account, meant to gather followers and shares. This issue isn’t limited to just reposts of photos, as that I’ve seen recipes without attribution also “shared.” I’m sticking with photos/pictures for this post.

The one I notice the most are supposedly radio stations, obviously reposting something they found from somewhere else. Then there are the multi-level marketing (MLM) representatives that when you click through, you see their account is all about promoting their business. And if MLM’s weren’t bad enough, you have the pseudoscience quackery of types like David Avocado Wolfe.

That being said, the reason I got all bothered about this one is that I don’t have a habit of making friends with white supremacists.

screenshot of fake aurora from Facebook

Screenshot of Misattributed Photo

The person who posted this, who has a “Keep Calm and Proud to be White” picture on her profile, originally posted to a group of specifically descendents of white colonialists that were pretty much exiled from the African country they once lived in, in part, because they were white colonialist. (There is much more to be said about this, it’s complicated, like geopolitical history often is, but that’s not the topic of this post.)

Anyhow, as I’ve said, I’m always curious about more than just “original” posters that raise eyebrows (this one caught me because of reference to a former name of an African nation whose former, colonialist flag was among those that Dylann Roof was seen sporting in a photograph.) I’m also curious about dubious scientific claims, such as an aurora being discovered and named, “The Hem of His Garment,” a specific Christian allusion, and a “white aurora.” I took a multi-step, multi-minute trip down a Google rabbit hole to find where this photo originated, and finally arrived to a post, in Russian, from July 16, 2010.

Google Translate to English from Russian - Fluorescent Light and Electromagnetic Field by NeverSmile

Google Translate to English from Russian – Fluorescent Light and Electromagnetic Field by NeverSmile

Not “The Hem of His Garment” (which I could find one attribute easily on Google from an Evangelical site, years after the original post), not a “white aurora in Finland,” which also seems to be a common attribution. Instead, it is light art done deliberately by a photographer.

For a piece of art with more than 100,000 shares, I think this deserves better.

Why is Cosplaying the 12th Doctor So Hard?

Douglas Herring ©2015

Douglas Herring ©2015

I have now cosplayed/crossplayed three times. The first time I did it, it was at Orycon 36 and I won 3rd place in the Masquerade. My wig was a bit horrible, so in retrospect I’m not sure why I won except maybe their standards just weren’t that high. I entered the Masquerade at Norwescon 38, and despite having a more appropriate wig, didn’t even rate (and felt a bit silly and put out about the whole thing.) I decided that Masquerades weren’t for me, so I set on developing a female version of the 12th Doctor, based maybe on Dame Judi Dench as M in James Bond.

I did my last cosplay of the 12th Doctor as a woman at Worldcon/Sasquan just this past week. I seem to go around unnoticed, and I think I was actually mistaken as the grandparent of my own children in the process. I guess I make a convincing old lady, even without the old-face make-up.

It occurred to me, though, that the 12th Doctor is lacking a quirky bit that makes him so lovable to cosplay. He doesn’t have a cape, a sprig of celery, clown colors, an obnoxiously long scarf, an out-of-time velvet jacket, a question mark umbrella, a fez, Converse shoes with more conservative businesswear. Instead, #12 is meticulously dressed, mostly on the edge of formal, with his quirk perhaps being more subtle, yet very fashionable. A Navy Crombie coat with red silk lining with Dr. Marten-style black Brogue shoes just looks great, but it’s far from quirky. Maybe the reason I love this Doctor (and he’s so disliked by others) is he’s SO GODDAMN SERIOUS.

I’m hoping that I’ll see more Twelve cosplay at future cons. I’m worried that I just can’t pull it off because maybe the old-face is poorly done or ridiculous looking, or I just look like a well-dressed grandparent. Twelve isn’t fun or pretty the way that Ten and Eleven are, and he’s not quirky in the lovable pixie-nerdboy way.

Just once I want to be cosplaying in the hall of a convention and someone say “Hey, Twelve, you’re awesome!” Anyone can put on a goddamn fez. Try stitching red lining into a jacket and making things look more tailored than you have the sewing skills to do.