Monthly Archives: February 2016

First Show of the Year! Come See Me!

Tomorrow you can find me at one of the coolest comic shops around Full Sail University: ACME SUPERSTORE in Longwood. They’ve got a cool selection of new comics, back issues, toys and other cool stuff. And they have this way cool back room that features floors shellacked with comic art! Which is, I’m guessing, where all the artists will be set up.

Anyway, tomorrow they are having a one-day con, FREE to the public! This isn’t the first time ACME has had a “convention,” but it’s the first time they’ve put on the show themselves. I’m really looking forward to the show. Some of the best shows I ever participated in were one day shows held by the departed Kirby Gee down near New Orleans. They were always either free for extremely cheap (like $1 to get in the door), making it easy for people to come in and meet creators and (hopefully) buy their books!

I can’t get over the number of shows that the Orlando region has—this is like a heaven for comic geeks. While I wouldn’t swear to it, it wouldn’t surprise me if you could find a comic show every other weekend—and one within driving distance! As both a fan and a creator, this is just exciting as can be. Growing up in Mississippi, I was excited when some folks put on a comic show in downtown Jackson! Problem was it was only once per year (and then I discovered CoastCon in Biloxi, but that’s another story).

So, make your plans to get over to ACME SUPERSTORE; come say hi to me; and plan to buy some comics while you’re there!

Click here for the link to the Facebook event (for directions and such).

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Thoughts on Fan Fiction

Not long ago, I had a spirited conversation about the “merits” of fan fiction with a small body of students. For those of you who don’t know or have never heard of fan fiction—don’t worry, you’re not really missing much. I’d encourage you to google the meaning for yourself because ultimately the discussion came down to a disagreement as to the definition of fan fiction. But I will confess that the “spirited” nature of the conversation surprised me…for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost is that I’ve been a working writer for the better part of 25 years. Because of that fact, I know a whole boatload of working writer/editor types. It’s not because I’m special or anything of the such, it just happens to be the circles I walk in. Much like musicians seem to hang around and pal around other musicians, it’s just the way it is.

That said, most of the professionals I know don’t read fan fic…nor do they really even give it a second thought. Period. While I’ve never done a poll or seen the results of one, I’ve always felt the general consensus was that the overwhelming majority of fan fiction is simply “fans” exploring their geeky fantasies. Not writers. Fans.

I sat on a panel once called “Playing in other people’s sandboxes” (catchy title, not mine) in which the writers talked about what it was like to write licensed properties (for those who don’t know the score, I’ve done a handful, including Planet of the Apes, Battletech and The Remaining, a recent GN adaptation of a horror flick). One writer, who shall remain nameless because I didn’t run this by him first, who writes for Star Wars said that his contract required him to sign that he agrees to not read any fan fiction at all. It’s a legal thing to protect him and the company. But the point is that “not reading fanfic” is actually being added to writing contracts!

One of the arguments tossed at me what the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, a work I have not read nor do I intend to. It’s a “fan fiction” of Twilight, an original work that I don’t really hold in high esteem. I’ve read reviews of Fifty Shades from sources I trust and the consensus was pretty much “bad writing.” Yes, but it sold incredibly well. That is a fact that is tough to argue. But here’s the thing: hardly any (if any at all!) of the people in my writing/editing circle of friends/colleagues have any respect for that work. Yes, it sold well, but it’s not very good.

And therein lies the real issue with fanfiction. Do I think that all fan fiction is bad? Of course not. There’s so much of it out there that ONE of them has to be worth reading. But the overwhelming majority of it is crap. And, if you’re a writer who hopes to one day make money writing, why would you intentionally put yourself in that category? Why would you purposely do that knowing that publishers don’t have much respect for it?

As a rule, I don’t read fanfic. Just not interested in it. Are attitudes changing and will it change? Obviously, I don’t know, but if I were to guess, I’d say yes. I think as younger editors who have been raised with the internet always at their fingertips are in charge of more and more, I think it won’t matter so much to them.

I dunno, though. What do you think?

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Filed under Columns, writing

Just Do It!

Boy, Nike’s marketing team really hit something when they landed on this phrase, didn’t they? You can really apply the “just do it” slogan to many parts of life—and many do. And it works!

I’m going to do the same today because of something a student recently said to me.

We were talking about some opportunities that had arisen for the student and they said “as soon as I graduate, I’m going to submit my work.”

I was immediately taken aback and simply asked, “why wait?”

It was the student’s turn to be taken aback and I could see it on his face. After some discussion, I got the idea that he felt he had to wait until then.

But writing is not like that.

So before I go on, let me say that I’m a big believer in education. I grew up in Mississippi, traditionally near the bottom in education. It was something that bothered me in high school… and it was also beat into my head from my parents that I was going to college. I don’t think higher education is for everyone, but I do believe it should available to everyone—but that’s a different blog post.

Selling your work as a writer requires no degree at all. No magazine or agent/editor is going to require a degree before they publish you. When I was an editor I never-EVER- asked someone about a degree. Quite simply, it didn’t matter. If they could tell a story and had a command of the language, that was all that mattered. It remains so today.

Now, I think education is good for the writer. Today’s young writers are in particular need of it because they read so very little. Most writers I worked with professionally were well-read. They don’t all read the same thing, but they read—and that was what mattered. Many of my students today tell me “I don’t read,” to which I respond “be prepared to fail, then.” (Not my class so much as fail as a writer)

When I set out to do my thesis, my director told me to think about it as if participating in a conversation: I’m going to contribute to that conversation, thus I need to know what has been said. My thesis should add something new to the conversation, not retread old ground. Fiction writing SHOULD be the same; you’ve got to know what’s come before so that you can add something to it.

This is partly where the education comes in.

Education forces you (or should) to do those things that equip you to participate in the conversation of your chosen field. I mean, how can you expect to be a science-fiction writer if you haven’t read Dune, or if you aren’t at least familiar with Star Trek. You don’t have to be a fan of either, but you must know them and why they’re important to the conversation.

Traditional publishing was always a pretty good gatekeeper for those who could command the language and tell a story, education or not. Publishing is so easy today that a lot of crap is published.

Of course, we should aspire to be better.

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