Pictured: The Bluniverse with a splash of red.
The discussion of diversity in creative works is an important and evolving one. I have seen many strides taken in my 40-some odd years towards inclusivity. I have made many of those strides in my life and am always striving to be better.
I’m a white guy, so I exist in a position of privilege. Statistically, I have better odds of surviving an interaction with police than others might. My chances of landing a job are higher, and I would likely get paid more than another doing the same job. It is unlikely that someone would drag me behind an automobile for my choice in partners, or beat me to death because I represent a gender different from expectations. I understand this.
No human deserves violence for their existence alone. As yet, we have no evidence that humans choose existence. Rather, life thrusts it upon them at a very early age (ha!) and they have no option but to accept it. They don‘t deserve injury for this anymore than I deserve a crown for my pallor and genital configuration.
Diversity is not harmful to creative works. The more voices there are, the more variety there is, the less boring the world becomes. If everything in the universe was blue, for example, it would be a bland existence. But add a splash of red? Suddenly things get interesting. In our hypothetical bluniverse that spot of red stands out and screams, “I am here!”
A spot of red does not diminish the blueness. It draws away some attention, but blue is no less blue. In fact, it inspires a few blue bits to venture out and try being purple. Another blue spot tries being yellow. Soon we have a whole spectrum. It is a lot of hard work, but what a wondrous place our universe becomes!
The argument seems to be that if content was being created that was “good” then things would be different. However, great content is being made, and often with little to no support. When support is available (Jordan Peele’s latest efforts come to mind) incredible things happen. We get excellent stories, brilliant images, and amazing music. The whole of creation works harder to shine.
And that is where the problem rests. It isn’t a fear of color or creed, of gender or orientation, but of work. Lackluster only shines when nothing else is brighter. In a diverse field, only the great shines through. That is a good thing, because it means that we must work harder, practice our craft, and make things that people love if we want them seen.
So let us, instead of harping at diversity, get better at what we are doing. Write every day. Paint every day. Study, photograph, film, sculpt every single day. Be better. Help the bluniverse grow into a vast spectrum worthy of your shine.
Weekly Topic Contest Winner: Marc Alexander
My friend Marc posted this as a topic idea: “I can pass messages thru dreams to those who know to contact me, but I get my memory wiped regularly so I don’t remember what messages I transmit.”
Now this sounds like a fun story, so I won’t write it for him. I will touch on the rabbit hole it drew me down: Laser-guided amnesia.
The mind wipe or memory wipe is well covered on tvtropes.com so you can read about it in more depth there. To familiarize you with the concept, Jason Bourne and The Manchurian Candidate are both examples. A person has their memory removed yet keep their abilities. This may seem like movie magic, but it is how amnesia works to some extent. You lose your sense of person, but keep your muscle memory. It is a common plot device that can make for good storytelling.
Most often we see the subject of the wipe perform some immoral act that no “good” person would or could. Jason Bourne is a cold-blooded killing machine. The Chinese military conditioned Raymond Shaw to assassinate various political rivals of his handlers. They usually escape their circumstances and everything works out: the “good guys” win.
In Marc‘s scenario above, the means of wiping would have to be near instantaneous. They could use an implanted chip, a la Total Recall. If the memory erasure wasn‘t instant, they would remember the messages and the premise would fail.
We must also consider the most important question: Why? Why are they transmitting messages? This is an important plot point. When writing this story, the author would need to have that question answered to set it up correctly. The message transmission is important enough to need a memory wipe afterwards. This is doubtless an expensive thing, be it lasers or a memory chip. This could all make for a superb story. All that remains is for someone to write it.
So, to this week‘s winner, I say, “Sit down and write this story I would love to read!”
[ Marc is a writer of compelling and thoughtful comic reviews and recently posted his 150th review over at Bam! Smack! Pow! Check it out here: bamsmackpow.com/2019/02/18/criminal-no-2-review-comics-and-crime/ ]
Those who know me well are aware of my anxiety issues. I fret over social situations more than is reasonable, and always begin them looking for an exit. This can, I believe, be an impediment to writing for many who practice the craft. For me it can throw me out of my zone for several days at a time, particularly if large groups are involved.
This past weekend I went to an event put on by CHOA (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta) for children with congenital heart defects at the Georgia Aquarium. My youngest has a heart defect so we get to go as a family which we couldn't do otherwise (not at $8.95 for a sandwich). The down side is the massive crowd. Beyond the 400+ kids and family members there are the weekend visitors. My heart is racing even now simply thinking of it.
My nerves started their rattling around 10 P. M. on Friday and didn't quit until Monday morning. This got me thinking about how I deal with my anxiety and sit down at the keys. I've found that there are a few things that allow me to set down the unwanted stone of anxiety and punch at the keys.
I have a mass of hobbies (knitting/crochet, electronics, drawing, painting, etc.) which I enjoy. Crochet, my unlikely hero, provides me with an excellent distraction when my heart is racing and my armpits sting from the stress of the crowd. It may be the numerous focal points, but I think that the counting of stitches and the rhythm of the hook does more to separate my mind from the multitude.
Put simply, counting things and focusing on a beat can distract, so I pick up a craft that has both.
If you don't have a hobby, pick anything that sounds good and head over to YouTube. There are a million crafts and hobbies on display there and many excellent enthusiastic hobbyists ready to teach you. (Just a tip: you can crochet with your fingers and an old sweater has lots of free yarn :D )
2. Temperature Change
This could just as easily be "environment change" (GET OUT!! AAAAAH!), but it is often enough for me to change the temperature. I can touch something cold or hot and think about that spot instead of the chaos around me. I usually have something cold to drink for just such emergencies. In a pinch (like at the aquarium) tiles and glass are often cooler than their surroundings.
I write primarily at our kitchen table, behind which is a bay window. I like to touch the glass when I'm overthinking every single thing. It grounds me and gives me something simple to focus on. When I'm at my desk I can't do that without knocking over a thousand stacks of paper and piles of yarn, which leads me to the next trick.
3. Embrace Your Inner Lunatic
I pace. A lot. I pace and talk to myself. I act out my dialogue, argue with my "inner editor", have the conversations I shouldn't with people I'm arguing with, and generally let loose the bonds of sanity. It is an impossible task to tell a proper story if you have all that clutter in your head, so find a good spot and let it out.
This may sound like a Bad Idea (™) but it is quite cathartic. After a few minutes I find it much easier to sit down at the keyboard and shovel words onto the page. And if this doesn't work, there's always the nuclear (and best) option...
4. Hug Something
Hugs are underrated. It is a Scientific Fact (™ ) that one hug can permanently banish every demon currently haunting your living room. Not really, but it can't hurt to try. I am fortunate in having a wonderful human I can hug almost anytime I want. I also have a dog who probably doesn't mind and several claw marks from the cat. Failing those options, I have a rather depressing stuffed hedgehog that farts when you squeeze it. It reminds me of my dog Shakes, who hopped a westbound a few years back. I miss her, and feeling that pain makes me feel human again when I just can't do it on my own.
All of these tricks serve one purpose: they make you feel human. Anxiety and stress steal your humanity. They convince you to objectify yourself, to look at yourself as less, broken, bad. You're not.
You are human, and if it takes yammering to yourself on the front stoop while hugging an ice cube wearing a sweater you crocheted? Do it. You're worth it, I'm worth it.
(Weekly Contest Winner) Nobody!!
A hearty round of applause for Nobody, because that's how many saw the contest post this week. I am a dummy and posted it in the wrong place. Yay!! I'll try again next week, sorry all! Have an awesome week and do something you love.
[ DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional. Above are listed tactics which I utilize to overcome my own experience with anxiety. Personal experience is not medical advice. If you experience severe anxiety issues, please consider professional help if available. ]
The first story in the Highgate series is in the edit/rewrite phase. I've been sitting on it for a while and it is unfamiliar enough for me to look at with fresh eyes. It needs some love since I tend to just pile words upon the page in the first draft with little concern for the basics (grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.), but over all it looks good. I will be posting the first three chapters *unedited* on patreon this week.
The Highgate series follows Clarissa Tate, a paranormal investigator seeking to understand the events of her youth. The House at Highgate finds her returning to her childhood home to face the original haunting of her life.
Weekly Contest Idea
I want to involve YOU in my writing! My thought is to have a weekly contest. Readers submit blog topics (like the one below) and I pick the topic which seems the most fun to write about. Winner gets to name a character, subject, or location for one of the daily microfictions I post on Facebook and Twitter.
The guidelines: One submission per week. Topics should be related to science fiction, horror, or fantasy. Submissions should be near the "safe for work" zone. The submission thread will be posted on Fridays on the Antitopia facebook page and my personal page. The pick of the week will be arbitrary and subjective.
Han Solo vs. Malcom Reynolds (This Week's Winner)
This week's winning topic was "Han Solo vs. Malcom Reynolds". These are both good guy scoundrel types, so I doubt they would fight unless given no choice (or if it made a tidy profit). Han Solo has a reliable co-pilot and could call upon his buddy the space wizard (Luke Skywalker) in a pinch. Malcom Reynolds has a full crew with an in-house space wizard-ninja (River Tam). If I judge based on availability of allies, Malcom has the match hands down.
If it is a one-on-one fight, Malcom has it, but not without difficulty. He is a veteran and a fine shot, but Han is more sneaky and could get the first shot in. Captain Reynolds is more tactical so I think it would depend on the venue.
In all honesty, I think they would find a way to turn the tables on whomever pit them against one another. I can see Han and Chewie sitting down in the Serenity's mess hall and having a drink with Wash and Malcom as they laugh at the Hero of Canton's love affair with Vera.
That's all for this week, so don't get cocky, kids, or I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you.