NorWesCon, Dragonlance, and the Awesomeness of Fan-generated Media

I wasn’t much of a reader, nor was I really excited about anything until Dragonlance came into my life. Growing up in Kentucky, and with an elementary school where more than half of the books in the library were off-limits (non-fiction, all because they had to be properly sorted, apparently this was a multi-year issue.) I found Dragonlance in the seventh grade thanks to a new kid in my class, who for whatever reason, I thought was cool.

Apparently, my definition of cool was someone with an allegedly high IQ, read Dragonlance, and played Dungeons and Dragons.

I devoured every single book, reading cover to cover in a week or less (this was impressive for me.) I fell in love with characters (Raistlin Majere, mostly.) I started reading Forgotten Realms in addition, and fell for Drizzt Do’ Urden. I look back with cringing pride at my early, nerdy self. Because the cool kid was writing a book (of course, in a spiral bound notebook), I wanted to as well, and I wanted to write about my favorite characters.

I had grown up with the idea that rules were important to follow, and I knew that copyright meant you couldn’t just go using another person’s character for your own stories and publish them (and make the big bucks, duh!) You had to seek permission, and so I did on at least two occasions send letters to TSR asking if I could write about my favorite characters and have them published. I appreciate Marlys Heeszel humoring me, letting me know that it just wasn’t going to happen. My dreams were crushed, and I never knew that there was an entire genre of writing (and readers!) waiting for me in the fan fiction community.

While Ms. Heeszel shot down my lucrative (hah) prospects as another Dragonlance author, what I really wanted was less the remuneration, but the readers. I didn’t simply want to write, I wanted someone else to read and fall in love the way I had fallen in love. At this same time, another friend was telling me about a mysterious world that you accessed through a computer, linking you to people geographically distant, but the similar interests, such as gaming and fantasy. Unfortunately, it required a modem, which I begged my mom for, but never received.

Today, kids not only have access to officially produced fantasy and science fiction, but many American kids also have access to the Internet, allowing them to connect with fan communities in a way that I never knew how in Kentucky. If there’s one thing that I have taken away from NorWesCon this weekend, it is that fan fiction and fan art is legitimate and important, and should not be minimized. Sure, there’s a lot of crap, but I let myself be stifled because I figured there was no reason to write if there was never going to be an audience.

I ask myself, what’s stopping me now? I’ve let myself become creatively stagnate because I feel out of practice, and at a loss to generate entire worlds and characters (not that I don’t have some percolating.) Maybe it’s time to revisit fan fiction and fan art to rekindle my own creative fire? I think I can do it, now it’s all about space and time. Where’s my TARDIS?

Picasso, SAM, and Passive Art

One of my big things, still, is deliberate consumption. Us humans are great consumers. We do it so effectively, and we do it so unconsciously. I really want both myself and others to be conscious of what they consume – because if you’re not conscious of it, why are you doing it? If you’re not putting food in your mouth for nourishment or pleasure, what are you doing it for? I ask this, yet I and others know the distraction from watching TV, or interacting with someone else, and having a once full bowl of food dwindle to nothing in no time.

This post is not about food, though, but about art.

Last night, Jon and I went to see the world-class Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. It was a members-only night, which meant the crowds were less thick, but it was pretty crowded anyway. I noted what another blogger had noted, which was that people were hesitant to get close to the art work. What I noticed more than that, though, were WHY people were not getting close. Many people were standing back about 10-15 feet from a painting, listening to a large cell phone-sized device telling them how to feel about the art. This caused a few alarming problems, as far as I could see.

1. People stood back, away from the art for long periods of time, blocking the flow of other viewers. This means that it was hard to get close to the painting, to move around the space, and to interact with the painting on my own terms.

2. People listening to the devices were not interacting with each other, though they were there with at least one other person. This meant that there wasn’t a discussion between individuals over the paintings, like “How do you feel about all these phalluses that are to make up a woman’s face?”

3. People were not interacting with the art.

I’m going to go off on this third one. My cousin and I had a discussion this past summer when I visited an art gallery in Houston. He has problems controlling himself in public, and has problems minding the signs of not touching the art. He said that he wanted to interact with the art – something that I agree is important – but our fundamental disagreement was how to interact with the art without touching it.

It’s hard for me to describe in words how I interact with art. I do a lot of thinking non-verbally, and my discussions with art often happen in colors and shapes, vs. words and sentences. Some art, like some people, I can have a conversation with (again, not verbal), where some art I’m more than happy to just walk by in a crowd.

Maybe that’s the thing about Picasso. I don’t feel like his art is something you can just stand back and view passively. While there might have been interesting factoids within the audio, I doubt that it did anything to enrich the personal experiences of the novice viewer. I believe that art has to be experienced on its own terms. While there is definitely something great about understanding the history and creation of a work of art, as well as the artist, there is the final experience, the viewer and the work itself, that is also vitally important. I could try to paint out my feelings on a work of art, and that might end up an interesting work in itself. It is part of the conversation. Another person, more gifted with words, could write an essay on their experience of the work. Yet another could compose music, or dance, or argue, or have a long talk over cocktails into the night.

We know the dangers of talking on our cell phones while driving. Our attention is so split, it’s as if we’re driving drunk.

Do we know the dangers of individual audio devices and viewing art? After last night, I’d prefer them to be thrown in a recycled technology heap never tobe seen again. I believe they’re fundamentally bad for art, and bad for humanity.

Comic Art Attempt

Yesterday I was sitting at my volunteer gig at 826 Seattle and decided that I would draw a comic. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I just though I’d start. My husband has taken a Write Like I Do taught by David Lasky, a local comic author/graphic novelist where they did a simple four panel of their day. I just went with a small square and built on it. This was my result. I had a melancholic coffee encounter earlier in the day, so it’s semi-autobiographical, except that doesn’t look like me at all, or something.

I need to draw more.

Centering – Ceramics

Last week I hit a milestone – 50 lbs of clay have been turned into pots (with some loss during the process) since I started class this quarter. Time has flown buy so quickly since March. This means I’ve used about 75 lbs of clay this year. I just bought another 25 lb bag (Seattle Pottery Supply, Pine Lake Red) and last week a friend gifted me about 7.5 lbs of porcelain to try out.

Yesterday, before dipping into my new bag of clay, I sat down to throw porcelain for the first time. I hear a lot of negative things about porcelain for the beginner. It’s fine, it’s temperamental, even if you do throw it, it may crack. All I can say is that I threw off the hump and ended up with 5 cups and one bowl, with very little left over. It was a dream to work with, and I can only hope they’ll survive the drying to get into the bisque kiln.

The downside of success with throwing is that it leaves a lot of pieces to glaze, and I’m getting rather tired of the shop glazes. I mixed up two glazes from recipe a few weeks ago. One called Woo’s Blue and another called Lipstick Purple. I have them on test tiles, and I look forward to seeing how they turn out.

The other downside is that I’m working in a large studio, with a lot of students. That means that the kiln firings are not always on the schedule I want them to be on. I only vaguely know how to run the old, manual bisque kiln. After this experience, I dream of having my own wheel and kiln – though I would sorely miss the community that I work with at my school. It’s a beautiful blend of young and old, new and experienced.

I need to take pictures of the 20+ pots I’ve created this quarter. To say the least, I’ve been keeping myself busy between running and ceramics, not to mention trying to just work on other individual projects, like learning content management systems and becoming even more technically proficient.