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Preserving our Heritage

I was sitting at my computer doing my usual thing when I saw on twitter that Notre Dame was on fire. I quickly went looking for information, unable to look away as the Forest burned and the steeple fell. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced that the bell towers were saved.

I’m not Catholic. I’ve never even been to Europe. But I am a lover of history and so the destruction of these things makes my heart ache. As I said elsewhere, the best way I can describe my feelings is that certain places and objects are fixed points. They were there long before I was born and I expect them to be there long after.

Notre Dame will get a new roof and a new steeple. The nave mostly held, the organ survived and the old glass remains. In future years there will be an Easter service there again. It may not be done in five years, but it took almost 200 the first time, and I’m certain it will be faster than that.

The world is changing around us. The downside of believing something will always be there is the danger of neglecting it under the assumption that it’s fine. Notre Dame was already in danger; nobody who closely followed was particular surprised that the fire spread so quickly. Renovations themselves are often a danger, which was most likely what happened here.

The Brazil Museum fire is an example of heritage lost due to neglect. Those who worked in the building knew it needed updates for safekeeping, but good luck getting the government to pay for it.

I took a wander through the wikipedia article on destroyed heritage. A church in Russia was destroyed for an open pit mine. Many places have been destroyed for being of the ‘wrong’ culture or religion. Climate change is going to make all of it so much worse.

Preservation takes money and it can be so hard to peel it away from those clutching it in their fists. But it’s vital if we want these things to stand for out children and great-grandchildren.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt. But the Forest is gone. The Brazil museum is gone. Aleppo is ravaged. How much more of our heritage will we sacrifice?

Carol Danvers vs Steve Rogers

I have some Thoughts on our two Captains. The similarities and differences between Carol Danvers and Steve Rogers.

This will probably be a bit long and rambly and there’s a chance for spoilers, so, consider yourself forewarned.

Both Steve and Carol were born with Fight Me in their veins, and dismissed by the world around them.

Now, one big difference is that, aside from boot camp, Steve became a soldier after he got the serum. Of course, his time in boot showed he was different, but aside from that he didn’t really have the army experience until he got the serum.

On the other hand, Carol did join the military, became a pilot. And she did it all on her own, no matter the obstacles. She got powered up AFTER all of that time and experience.

After his brief stage career, Steve did get his chance to fight. After that, I strongly suspect people looked at Steve, saw the physique and just assumed he was in charge. He was expected to lead, so he did.  He was expected to know how to fight, so he did. Most of what he learned he probably learned on the job.

For Carol, people always looked at her and saw ‘girl’ first. People didn’t expect her to be an airman. People certainly wouldn’t have expected her to be a pilot. She probably had to scratch and fight for every inch because nobody was going to give her anything.

Now Steve did have some of that, growing up a scrawny, sickly kid in Brooklyn, but I bet once Steve was buff nobody ever tried to take something from him and try to carry it because it was ‘too heavy.’ Nobody ever told Steve to smile more. Nobody ever assumed he couldn’t do his job.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve had some imposter syndrome from time to time. Because he wasn’t trained for any of this, not really. But Carol has all of the training, US Military and Kree.

So I’m going to be interested to see them work together. Carol was clearly reveling in her newfound powers at the end of her movie. She’s had time now to get used to them. They have some similarities, but it’s Carol with the greater military experience. And the greater powers.

(Plus she can fly a plane)

Fan fic’s not cheating

Yes, there are differences between fan fiction and writing from your own worlds. But you know what? No matter what you’re writing from scratch, you’re still building from what’s come before. Even if you’ve never picked up a Tolkien book, your idea of what constitutes a fantasy novel is colored by him. Your idea of a romance novel is colored by Jane Austen and Danielle Steele.

Sure in fan fiction you’re working from someone else’s framework, but just because you’ve got the bare bones of a world doesn’t mean you aren’t putting in the hard work. People act like anyone can write and I suppose, on a basic level, that’s true. Anyone can put words on a page.

But to tell a story, to paint a world, that takes time and practice and skill. There’s nothing wrong with taking the pieces of something you love and starting from there. God knows there are plenty of fantasy writers who started off with ‘I like Tolkien, so I’m gonna write a thing’. Yeah, they may use other names or imagine another world, but if you scratch at the paint you’ll find bones underneath.

Nobody writes in a vacuum. There are no 100% original stories.

If you enjoy telling stories about John and Sherlock, or Tony and Steve or anything else, it’s still you writing it, it’s still your imagination. It’s you figuring out how Hannibal would react to this time, this situation. Yes, even if it’s a 600 word PWP fic, it’s still your imagination at work.

All stories are built on the bones of what’s come before. Just because fan fiction has a more visible skeleton doesn’t make it invalid or cheating.

Storytelling is a skill, and a valuable one at that, no matter where you’re starting from.

Nanowrimo 2017

I’m a veteran Nanoer. I just hit an official 14 year mark with the organization. For those that don’t know, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, is a challenge to write 50k in the month of November. I’ve ‘won’ it four times, but not in the last decade. Life, school, work, it’s all sort of got in the way.

So I’m determined this year. I even volunteered as Municipal Liason, which means I’m tasked with helping herd others in my local area towards the goal. And I’m realizing as I’m writing, that a LOT has changed in the last decade, in myself, my writing style, and my abilities.

Now a large part of this is down to fanfic. Over the last 4 years I’ve written almost 650,000 words. Nanowrimo has taught me to write quickly, fanfic has helped show me what I’m truly capable of.

Not that this is going to be a sterling first draft that needs no revision, of course. But I’m writing faster, and, I think, better, than I ever have. Just today I wrote 5600 words. I’m finding that in a 15 minute sprint I’m getting over 600. And for once I don’t feel like I’m rushing through a story, but neither am I malingering. I’m going at a steady pace, I have plenty of room and plot to get me to the 50k

It also helps that I finished my degree last year in Film and Media studies. Studying storytelling and screenplay has certainly honed my skills in that area, and given me more tools for my creative toolbox, whether it’s screenwriting or prose.

It’s been said that the best practice for writing it to write, and I’ve certainly been doing that. We’re only four days into the month, and I know I’m going to hit a wall at some point, but for right now I’m feeling good, and confident and I think this is going to be the year to start a brand new winning streak.

Working with Surprises and Mistakes: What the 2017 Oscars Can Teach Us

The Event

As I write this, people are still reeling and talking about what happened last night at the 2017 Oscars with the Best Picture award. The wrong envelope was handed out, the wrong movie was read, and then there was a frantic correction. It almost felt like a plot twist from a Hollywood movie; the underdog coming from behind  to take the top prize after all.

People will be talking about what went wrong and who’s fault it was for some time to come. Warren Beatty clearly felt something was wrong when he opened the envelope, Faye Dunaway just read out the movie name without looking twice. Nobody rushed out until after the people from La La Land were on the stage.

And the La La Land people were gracious. Jordan Horowitz, the producer, announced that they had not actually won and called the Moonlight people to the stage. He snatched away the card with the correct winner and showed it to the audience and cameras. He said he was happy to give the Oscar to the correct winner. And, finally, Moonlight got it’s moment and the chance to make their speeches.

What can we learn?

As we can see, mistakes can happen. Even at the biggest award show with the biggest award. Mistakes can be handled with humor and grace. Sometimes things don’t go as expected. This is true in life and well as award shows. It can also be true in our writing.

In fiction, as in real life, there are consequences for actions. If a character behaves with no consequences, then the audience will quickly grow bored. How someone reacts to a mistake can be as revealing as the mistake itself. Warren Beatty tried to explain what happened with the envelopes. Today the accounting firm in charge of the Oscars is trying to figure out what went wrong.

Oftentimes the best thing one can do is to simply acknowledge the error and move on. It can’t be undone. Life itself gives us plot twists, from time to time. Maybe crack a joke, give a smile and react with humility. The 2017 Oscars give us an example we can follow, as often the best Hollywood movies do.