Friday, August 18, 2017

Epistolary Fiction in the Age of the Geek

I've always been one of those people who enjoys dabbling in different storytelling formats. Epistolary fiction has existed for a long time, but the internet is allowing us to expand and explore it in new and interesting ways.

I recently read a novel-length fanfic told through emails, text messages, images, and GIFs, and it was a really fascinating thing. The authors did a fabulous job of setting up a situation through the emails and texts, then instead of writing out the details of a scene immediately, using a GIF or photo to evoke the feeling and general overview of what the characters are doing. They even got fan artists to help illustrate a portion of the story, and hand-made crafts and food to photograph as part of the details. It was, honestly, an incredible labor of love and was really fascinating as a reader.

My roommate and I just started writing a fanfic of our own with some unusual formatting: we're telling the story mostly through text messages and emails, but we're also writing some full-prose interludes. It's an interesting challenge, getting across a full story (plotline, world building, character development, etc.) via texts with a rare full scene thrown in here and there. Admittedly, it's fanfic, so there's less world building we need to accomplish, but still.

It's also weirdly freeing to dabble in a new (to me) story format. It makes it easier to turn off my critical brain and just focus on the fun of writing the piece. 

Have you tried writing epistolary fiction before? What were your thoughts on it?

Emer has written more fanfic in the last week than she has in her entire life combined so far. And she's not even sorry. It feels great to write again, and immediate feedback and validation from readers is a great way to stoke the creative flames.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Revisiting The Matrix

Not long ago, my wife and I rewatched The Matrix because it was on Netflix. It had been eight years since the last time, and when I watched it back in '09, it was badly written, weighed down with metaphors that beat the viewer over the head with immediate literal representations of said metaphor. The improbable storyline forced its way from one point to the next with highly contrived events that "magically" saved the day in time for the hero to save the world.

Then when my wife and I watched it again a few days ago, it was so good. Not quite as incredible as the first time I saw it, but still awesome. In the same way that classic action flicks from the '80s and early '90s are awesome. Yes, in comparison to today's movies (ignoring the bad writing of many summer blockbusters), the writing in those movies isn't great, but they're still fun. Die Hard is one of the best movies of all time. In my opinion. Compared to Mad Max: Fury Road, the writing is a little lacking. But I still think it holds up.

With some time, and a lot of perspective, I can appreciate The Matrix for what it was when it came out. And now that it's almost 20 years old, I love it for what it is, even if they never released the super-awesome phones everyone carried.

Now if only they'd managed to greenlight a sequel ;).

As sacrilegious as as it sounds, Giles is actually looking forward to the reboot, especially after watching the original. It has a chance of renewing the awesomeness that was The Matrix in the same way that The Force Awakens renewed the awesomeness that is Star Wars.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Do you have comfort media? You know, that book or movie or song you always turn to when you're feeling awful? That short story or TV show or podcast that always makes you feel better?

I do. I have a handful:
  • The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine 
  • Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman 
  • How to Train Your Dragon (the movie, though the book is also adorable) 
  • Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" speech 
  • Song of the Sea 
  • Final Fantasy XV 
  • Yuri on Ice 
  • "Peace and Love" and "Here Comes a Thought" from Steven Universe

Can I explain why these things are comfort media for me? For some of them, sure. The books have nostalgia factor and cute, uplifting messages. "Make Good Art" is just plain inspiring, and the Steven Universe songs are calming and fun. Yuri on Ice is not only an adorable relationship, but also shows a main character dealing with stress and anxiety and failing, so I can watch it and convince myself that if Yuuri can do it, I can, too.

The rest? No clue. There's just something in that media that speaks to me and soothes me when I need it. Back at my previous job, when I had a really awful day, I would come home and play Final Fantasy XV for hours and actually feel like a human again when I went to bed (admittedly, this was just the first half of the game; the second half is pure pain omg). In college, How to Train Your Dragon got me through finals and losing friends (and I can still quote most of the movie). The lullaby from Song of the Sea still makes me smile and calm down almost immediately, and I'll never get tired of watching that stunning animation.

What about you? What's your comfort media?

Emer is currently considering a reread of Odd and the Frost Giants because she misses it. It's been a while since she read it and it's so cute. She also apologizes for the lack of headshot this week, but her computer and Blogger are super not working together.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

All the News That Is News

Ladies and gentlemen! As has been previously discussed, both here and on the show, we have a Patreon up and running. And it's moving along nicely thanks to some amazingly awesome supporters of the show. While we're going to be releasing a lot of exclusive content for our patrons over there, it will also become the home of all upcoming news. Big announcements—like events, conferences, and awesome changes (improvement)—will be made exclusively there (and linked on the socials).

Of course we'll still talk about cool stuff on the blog, especially when amazing personal events occur (can anyone say future agent? or publication???). This is where I'm going to tell the world when I get my first publishing credit, when I get an agent, and if/when I earn any awards.

I can't speak to my co-hosts' plans, but this blog will continue to be where I make personal announcement, and Patreon is where Beyond The Trope will make podcast/company announcements.

Giles is excited for new announcements, and some of them will be coming up very soon.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Back to School

Today I went to my first day at my new job. Professional development days aren't that exciting for teachers–not when you have to hear some of the same material every year for as long as you've been teaching. But so much of it was new information to me that I couldn't help but feel slightly overwhelmed.

The best part of the day, however, was going into a classroom with my mentor, looking around, and realizing that it was ours. As in, partly mine. We staked our claim on corners in the back of the room and started moving student desks and talking about what to put on the bulletin boards. I placed my office chair and sat down, experimenting with how far I could rotate before I smacked into the desk before me or the filing cabinet behind me. Mine.

I don't know anything about the students I'll have in our classes. I'm not even completely sure how to do everything that needs to get done–much less what I want to get done. But for now I'm excited to have that tiny corner of classroom real estate and an endless string of possibilities in front of me. Will I teach Frankenstein or Fahrenheit 451? Persepolis or Maus? I'm not sure yet. Maybe none of them, maybe all of them. The awesome thing is, I get to share my excitement for the written word with people.

Here's to a challenging and (hopefully) successful year of teacher residency!

Michelle has a feeling this year is going to teach her the value of a caffeine addiction.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Last week I mentioned that I was trying to get through Sarah J. Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses. I'll admit that it was a tad difficult for me to get into, but once I hit the halfway point, I found myself not being able to read fast enough.

Let's start with the great things. First, I'm a sucker for anything related to Beauty and the Beast. In Maas' story, the Beauty is a huntress and the Beast is a shape-shifting faerie, but the familiar plot is still there. The setting is at once dark and vividly colored–everything from the landscape to the beings in it seem to have more color and life on the faerie side of the world.

Other elements I enjoyed include the story's tone and the side characters. It's possible I loved Lucien (the best friend to the Beast character) more than the protagonist and her ill-fated lover. Maas made every secondary character seem real and full, which is not always the case in many young adult books.

I personally had very few problems with this novel. In the end, it was alluring and I couldn't put it down. In the beginning, however, I considered not finishing. Feyre, the narrator, had so little to recommend herself to me that I didn't care if she died or not. When I finally met Lucien and had a character to look forward to, I read much faster. And then something changed when I was about 40-50% done with the book: Feyre finally had a degree of likeability.

I won't spoil the ending, as it's a great twist on the typical fairy tale–just don't expect happy little rainbows and unicorns to come out of it. Final recommendation: A great read for lovers of Beauty and the Beast, faerie stories, and sassy female protagonists who don't let anything get them down.

Michelle's next book is going to be Winter, the final installment in the Cinder series. She's so excited to drive to work so she can listen to the audiobook!

Friday, July 28, 2017

When Fan Theories Come True

My roommate and I have been watching the new Little Witch Academia on Netflix over the last week. It's freaking adorable, btw. But I'm not going to gush about it for a whole blog post, I promise. Instead, I'm going to gush about the fact that weird fans like us are now becoming creators, and providing content we adore to other weirdos like us.

Long story short, we were two or three episodes in and my roommate came up with this theory about a character named Shiny Chariot. Neither of us honestly thought her theory was going to be more than this little fan theory to amuse us (and maybe, you know, write fanfic about later). It seemed totally off-the-wall and, while it was entertaining, we've consumed enough media to realize the odds of this actually happening were pretty slim.

But halfway through the season--it came true!

She also called a character development in the second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender on minimal hints.

While this could be dismissed as my roommate just being super good at reading tiny hints in shows and extrapolating, I think it's also a huge possibility that it's a cool little side effect of people in our generation becoming creators and putting their work into the world. There are little things, plot twists and tropes, that people who grew up in fandom tend to enjoy--and those little things are now making their way into popular media instead of remaining relegated to fanfic and fan art.

Those of us who grew up participating in fandom in some way or another are now the ones putting out webcomics, new TV shows, books, and other media--and we're not at all ashamed to use those tropes and ideas and goofiness we put into our fics and headcanons in our 'legit' work. In my opinion, it's super cool to watch as things continue to evolve and change and encompass more diverse ideas.

Emer is still plugging away at her massive fanfic, which is taking up most of her downtime and creative energy. But she's still making time to watch anime, because she's a massive nerd.