Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Are Mutant Powers Racist?

Perhaps this is the big pink elephant in the room, but I think it needs to be said.

Every day when I'm at work and I go to the bathroom, I get to see a DC Comic poster full of DC comic characters. It's astounding to me that so many of these people with mutant or superhuman powers are white. I'm not sure what kind of statement DC is trying to make, but it seems to me that this goes pretty across the board for comic books. It might be because more white people read comics (is this true?), or it might be due to inbreeding.

Traditionally, mutations occur in nature when a species procreates with a creature very close to it's own bloodline. Consider the cheetah. Due to disease, loss of habitat, competition for prey and over-hunting of prey (leading to starvation), the overall population of cheetahs is very low. This means there is a very small gene pool to choose from when procreating, leading to many issues for the cheetah community such as a reduction in fertility, loss of immune system in subsequent generations and genetic disorders. Now this is where the connection comes in. Genetic disorders, often considered negative, really are just abnormalities in genes or chromosomes. What else is an abnormality in genes? The X gene, or the part of the DNA which makes a normal person an X-man or villain, depending on their goals, dreams and general outlook on life.

I'm not saying that inbreeding is the only way to obtain an X-gene or any other genetic anomaly which may or may not create mutant powers, but with all these white people running around getting powers while minorities don't, it really starts to make you wonder. Perhaps Jean Grey and Scott are 1st cousins and don't even know it. Either way, I think it's quite odd that if you look at a poster of comic book characters you'll see a lot of white people, a few green people, maybe some blue, silver, or pink people and then a couple (if even) people of other races.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Theme Songs

I'm a big fan of utilizing music while writing. I think that music holds so much inspiritation that it can really help an author's mind develop scenes and charaters. There are many artists and composers that succesfully inspire me and my creative endeavors. One such composer is, unfortunately, John Williams.

I say unfortunately because while he writes decent music, okay better than decent, good music that is very visually stimulating, which makes sense why he's always asked to write for movies, but! he often steals from his own work which really pisses me off. Why should I care about such trivial things? Consider this, I'm watching Indiana Jones and I'm all like "ooh, here's the Nazi theme" and then I'm watching Star Wars and I'm all like: "There's the storm troopers and WHAT?!? it's the Nazi theme from Indiana Jones!" I don't like the soundtrack of a movie to confuse me. So other than the prevasive stealing, Williams is relatively alright as a composer.

I'm not a fan of embedding video in my blog, just like pictures and websites, when these things change I'm not ontop of it enough to go back and fix the broken links and lost videos; but to get my point across I have to share some of his music. One of Williams' best works, in my opinion:

I also listened recently to a Yo-Yo Ma piece that I enjoyed which apparently is written by Williams and preformed by him and Yo-Yo Ma (Williams is the pianist). I couldn't find this easily on the web, but it's on Yo-Yo's CD Appassionato. This piece, after several listens, upped my opinion of Williams although I still rue the day his music suggested that storm troopers (who are really just simple minded clones you know) are Nazis.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why Time Travel?

Why not time travel is what you should really be asking! ;p

With all of the travel shows that dominate my PBS station and the fact that cable even has some travel channels, why is it that we are limited to the here and now? I guess Doctor Who is supposed to be our time travel show, but that show always has aliens and everyone knows that aliens only started "hanging out" in the 1980s (kind of explains leg warmers, Boy George and Karma Chameleon (You come and go, come and goOoOoOo - obviously an alien reference)).

Anyways, in response to the lack of a true exploration of time, I'm going to continue to share some of my time travel exploits here.

Recently, on a boring Saturday morning, I decided to jump into my space time continuum vessel, and visit my old friend Artie Doyle. Since we're both bored, we decide to work on a new character for him, some fellow named Sherlock Holmes.

Now, Artie is convinced that this Holmes character is based on me because I'm so clever and sleuthy, but he forgets that there is a real Holmes that we both hang out with. I already expounded on Holmes in an earlier post. But this post isn't about Holmes as much as it's about Artie Doyle who forgets Holmes for two reasons. One, Holmes is a pretty boring guy and even after you get to know him and his eccentricities, he only becomes a little less boring. To be so uninteresting, you're sure to be forgotten by Artie. The second reason that Artie forgets Holmes the man, instead of Holmes the character, is because Artie is a bit of an alcoholic, and by "a bit" I mean raging, with a continuous amount of alcohol in his system which registers his blood at 90% alcohol content (How is that possible? I don't know, ask a 19th century scientist). Anyways, with the blase feelings about Holmes the man, and the alcohol essentially living in his veins, Artie is forgetful. So we spend a few hours working on Holmes, the detective, and laugh about good times; like the dozen or so times that the doctor at the scene of a crime was familiar with Artie's blood alcohol content (or just alcohol content since the blood was pretty much non-existent) and thought that he could use Artie's blood on a victim as antiseptic because he didn't believe in blood pathogens - remembering this still makes us laugh until tears come to our eyes. Oh how many people probably died from using his blood to save their lives, good times.

Anyways, we originally wrote Holmes the character as a bumbling fussbucket but Artie got sentimental and made him into the best sleuth ever and when I accused him of trying to live precariously through Holmes he got mad and insisted that that is what every writer does.

"Create something wonderful to make up for your failings, build a character that you can live through so you don't have to live your own pathetic life," he said, or something along those lines.

I could see that his tiny speech had exhausted him along with our hours of work so as he fell asleep by the fire I tucked the Holmes manuscripts away for him to find on a more sober day and I returned home to my own bed and my own dreams.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Guest Post: Author Joe Swope On Recording Your Own Audio Book

Having recently published his first fantasy novel Need for Magic, Author Joe Swope produced and recorded his own audio book. Here, he shares how he did it and how other authors can too. Please also check out the audio samples on his website: www.knowyourneed.com/audiosamples.html


Recording Your Own Audio Book

While I am not ready to agree that print is a dead media, I can’t help but notice that most of the people I see not only have a cell phone or iPod on them at all times, they are actively using it most of the time. So how does a writer compete? Simple - turn the book into an audio book.

I did it and you can too. Let me first say, it is not easy. In fact, it can be very time consuming. Still, there is something almost magical about hearing your words come to life with emotion, accents and energy.

There are several things you will need. The first is a voice. While it is perfectly okay to use your own voice, (who knows your story better?) there are advantages to using someone else's. A friend or fellow writer is an obvious choice. An overlooked source of voice talent is young actors. Most community colleges and universities have drama departments. There are tons of students who would jump at the chance to practice their skills and generate the necessary drama that might make your story something special. Of course, there is the issue of compensation. Young actors who do not have a lot of work opportunities might work cheap, including simply the promise of exposure as you promote your work. A percentage of revenue might also be appropriate. Whatever you do, if it involves someone else, get everything in writing.

The next thing you will need is equipment. A surprisingly little amount of equipment is needed. Any computer (desktop, laptop or net-book) will do. Even better than that, there is plenty of audio editing software that is free and easily downloadable. I used Audacity. It was easy to use, flexible and powerful. It allows for detailed editing, deleting, cutting pasting and other functions. The next piece of equipment you will need is a quality microphone. I used a high quality USB enabled microphone by Logictech. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money here. A good microphone will allow your story to sound rich. A bad one will not. After you have a computer, (if you don’t how are you reading this?), the software and a microphone it is time to record.

OK, now that it is time to record, you must find the space to record. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect. Despite the necessity of finding a recording space with good acoustics, remember that you are not recording music and that the bar can be lowered considerably from that standard. The first thing you need to recognize is that almost any room in any modern building has air vents that push air in and pull air out. That quality microphone you just bought will pick up that sound. Once you know the worst culprit of background noise it is easy to eliminate it. Either find a room without vents or turn off the system. The next acoustic threat is echoes. Most tables are hard and you will probably set your microphone on a table as you sit to read your writing into the microphone. Cover the table with a thick towel or blanket. Make sure the floor is covered with a rug or carpet. Hard walls will, of course, echo. Cinder block will echo more than more absorbent drywall. Cover at least half of the walls with sound absorbing material. A thick blanket will work. Check stores that sell bedding supplies. Egg crate foam that goes under mattresses can easily be attached to and removed from most walls. If the table, floor and most of the walls are covered, you are probably ready. The ceiling shouldn’t need to be covered. Of course you might need to experiment. A word of caution here: most audio editing software packages can do a lot of things, but if the background noise is too much, even the best software cannot take out the noise without ruining the recording.
One of the unanticipated but powerful benefits of creating an audio version of your writing is that by reading it or hearing it read by others, you are going over it with the finest tooth comb possible. Typos, grammar issues and other imperfections cannot hide when all of your words are said allowed and examined.

Perhaps the most important tip for writers who are considering this is to listen to audio books. Often writer create stories in genres with which they are familiar. That makes sense and allows for a better story. Take some time, rent or buy a few audio books. Listen to them and enjoy them. More importantly, study them; focus on the voice, the cadence, the sound quality. What about a good audio book makes you forget you’re listening? Find that quality and put it into your own version.

It might take a while to get the hang of deleting coughs, giggles, and other unwanted noises. Have a bit of patience and you will soon be able to enjoy and share your writing in a new and enjoyable way.

Joe Swope
Author of Need for Magic