30 January 2011

Microfiction Monday (1)

Susan Carleton hosts something called Microfiction Mondays. A picture is given and you must write a story for it in 140 characters or less. This is my first time participating; we'll see if this becomes a regular thing here in my Chair.

"It's simple, Cap'n. The soap makes the ocean bubbly and then all the fish are cleaned."
"This is why you're still cabin boy, mate."

29 January 2011

My Plan for World Domination

I wrote these steps on the white board in our kitchen, and they're too amusing to go un-shared.

1). Take Suomenlinna.  For those who don't know, Suomenlinna is a sea fortress very close to the city of Helsinki in Finland. It's a prime location in the Batlic Sea to take Stockholm, from which I can rule Scandinavia.

2). Conquer St. Petersburg. From there we march to Moscow. Once we have Russia, we have a giant chunk of Asia. Then we can move on.

3). Take over Germany. Conquering France is a sub-step for this. Sorry, France.

4). With a significant portion of Europe under my belt, it's time to move into the Big Leagues. By making alliances with the Scottish and Irish, I'm pretty sure we can overthrow England from within it's own government. This will take time. "Keep calm and carry on" and all that.

5). Nuke China. Because once we do that, America's economy will take a turn for the worse. And then I can

6). TAKE AMERICA! Really, once you have that, you really do have the world.

7). ??? I have the world. Now what?

8). Profit. Well, why would you take over the world?

List your plan for world domination below!

26 January 2011

Spec Fic or Fantasy?

There's apparently some sort of battle between terminology in terms of genre.  There's speculative fiction, which is a term I just learned that might get me a creative writing degree without ever saying "I write a specific genre."  

For those who don't understand, the creative writing department at UW-Madison, and other institutions of writing, don't want their students to write genre fiction because it's not literary.  I did have a creative writing professor explain that they want students to write character-based fiction, so the goal is to write something based on a character and not focused on an entire world that's not our own.  She went on to say that science fiction takes away from character and focuses more on world development, and it usually takes an entire novel to develop a world where it only takes 10 pages to develop a character.  While I don't agree with this, I felt that I should at least nod my head and agree seeing as she was in control of my grades at the time.

Back on the main topic.  I've just read a series of blog entries involving this Sci-Fi/Fantasy vs. Spec Fic argument.  Here is a post by Cat Valente explaining her hate for the term speculative fiction.  She also mentions a podcast she was referencing.  This is the official website of the podcast mentioned, but I haven't listened enough to find the correct podcast.  Seeing as both podcast and Ms. Valente's posts came out today, I assume the podcast is for January 26.  

One of the main arguments of Ms. Valente's post is that fantasy is a sub-genre of science fiction and thus doesn't gain the recognition of science fiction even though it is just as big.  I've never thought of fantasy being lesser than science fiction.  But I'm going to point out the comment by Pocketnaomi, who explained to her young daughter that science fiction is the sub-genre of fantasy.  This I can agree with.

Because fantasy, to me, deals with the Things that Can't Happen.  This includes all types of fantasy: paranormal, urban, epic, etc.  Among these Things that Can't Happen are various forms of science fiction, like Victorian-era steampunk that takes place during the Great Depression and space operas that span across a make-believe galaxy.  Therefore, Fantasy also includes science fiction and the sub-genres of that: space military (such as Halo), cyberpunk, etc.  So science fiction being a sub-genre to fantasy makes more sense to me than fantasy being a sub-genre to science fiction.  

On the other side, there's Kat Howard who prefers speculative fiction as opposed to science fiction and fantasy.  Ms. Howard mentioned being within academia, and the academics in creative writing prefer the term Speculative Fiction as opposed to fantasy/science fiction.  This caught my attention because I am a student within this academia and if they accept speculative fiction, then that's what I'm going to say I write.  At this moment in my life, I'm powerless to emphasize which term I prefer to use.  If Speculative Fiction allows me to get away with space ships in terms of school projects, then Speculative Fiction I write.  Since I'm too low on the totem pole to make an argument that would be heard, I'm forced to subtly find loopholes in the current mode of academic thinking.  

Which do you prefer: speculative fiction or fantasy/science fiction?

First Paragraph Contest

Nathan Bransford, former agent of Natalie Whipple (see blog list) is hosting a sort-of annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Contest.  This is a just for fun contest, but the prizes are still really cool.  The grand prize includes getting a partial manuscript looked over by Catherine Drayton who represents Markus Zusak, John Flanagan, Becca Fitzpatrick, and others.

So, naturally, I entered.  A new year's resolution I have is to research and enter a few writing contests, and I say this counts.

This is the paragraph I entered.  Please critique it as an opening paragraph in the comments below (if you so desire).

I broke away from an important conversation to walk down the strange corridor. The walls were sterile white, decorated with closed doors of the same color, and stretched to infinity. My feet carried me forward and yet I went nowhere at the same time. Still I kept walking, never realizing the counter-productivity of the action. My focus was on the end of the hallway, where a door just like the other doors waited. A woman stood in front of that door, her back to me. She repeatedly opened the door as if to enter, and every time she opened it, she was opening the door for the first time. In a way, I was at both places, but I couldn't walk through the door unless the me walking through the corridor arrived at the door. I wondered why I couldn't just teleport directly to the door; this is a dream after all.

24 January 2011

Terminology of Significant Others

I am waiting for one of two things.
1).  The term "partners" toovertake "husband/wife" in heterosexual couples
2).  The term "husband/wife" to overtake "partners" in homosexual couples

If heterosexual couples continue to use the terms "husband/wife" for our significant others, why can't homosexual couples use the same terms?  Is it still too weird for a man to take a husband, or a woman to take a wife?

As such, I'm not too big of a fan of the term "partners" when "husband" and "wife" are still floating around out there.  It's not demeaning in any way, but "husband/wife" still kind of dictates a sense inequality.  If they are truly on equal grounds, why not refer to each other with the same terminology?  The term "partners" at least denotes a sense of mutuality.  When you are partners with someone, you split the work evenly between you.  If you are someone's husband or wife, the work split tends to be previously dictated by past roles.  With today's society (or counter-culture) being as focused on equality as it is, the terms "husband" and "wife" are slightly outdated.  

However, I do not like the distinction wrought with the use of "partners" and "husband/wife".  It denotes that separation between homosexual and heterosexual.  People are placed into certain labels (white, black, Pakistani, Asian, South American, etc.) because those labels exist.  In a world where more people want equality, we should take away these labels and just live with everybody knowing that they are people and nothing more.  This extends beyond ethnic background.  The world need not give a damn that you like your own gender.  A husband is a male who is married; a wife is a woman who is married.  What difference does it make that a wife can have a wife and a husband can have a husband?  More importantly, why do you care?

"Husband/wife" have a longstanding history in time.  Their meaning is cultivated by the old couples who have been together for 62 years and counting, by a young couple still enamored by their wedding vows, by a family suffering through two pre-teens and an angsty teenager.  What does it matter that couples are single-gendered?  They are still going to share the same amount of love for each other.  They are still living a lifestyle similar to yours.  So why must "partners" separate them from the terms "husband/wife" or something similar?

Your opinion is important.  Please continue this discussion in the comment section below.

20 January 2011

My Semester this Spring

Started classes at Madison this week.  Also started work.  My weeks so far include leaving the house at 8am and coming home past 8pm.  Which makes for long days, but there's quite a bit of downtime in there.  Of course, with the semester just starting out, I'm using the downtime to do other things, like run errands and compare book prices and such.  For those interested, here's what my academic schedule includes:

Introduction to Production
Communication Arts 355
- Two lectures and two labs per week
- Light Journal (1 min, 16mm, black and white)
- Found Storyboard (approx 12 frames, photographed or drawn)
- Observational Documentary (5 min, digital, color)

American Literature
English 217
- two power lectures and a discussion per week
- 2 written responses (1-2 pages each)
- 2 papers
- midterm and final

American Film After 1970
Communication Arts 552
- two papers
- midterm and final

Intermediate Fiction Workshop
English 301
- 2 short stories (10 page and 15 page minimum)
- critique letters to peers
- reading responses

I'm most looking forward to the Production class and the Fiction Workshop class, mostly because they're hands on crafts and I like doing stuff instead of just learning about stuff.  But American Literature should keep be busy on the reading front and American Film should keep me occupied in terms of films.  We're going to be watching some awesome movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner and even The Hurt Locker.  That one I'm excited about.

And of course, my extra curriculars!

Working Title
Student Creative Writing Workshop
- weekly critiques
- weekly Inspiration Trips

WUD Publications Committee
Student Union committee involvement

I've been in Working Title for a while, and I intend to get more involved in PubCom (what we call it).  Working Title is a sub-section of PubCom.  A little more than a year ago, I was informed about a FlashFiction website PubCom was hosting.  I did submit something to this site, but I never really got a response from them.  So my plan is to revive this site and give students on campus more opportunities to get their work published.  I also wouldn't mind backing raising awareness about Illuminations and Souvenirs.  I may have some qualms against Illuminations, but they're still a good opportunity for students.  

It may not be a professional publisher, but at least it's getting student work out there.  And it's also something to put on a resume that you were published somewhere that gets views.  Of course, that will involve an entire campus-wide marketing campaign and asking professors and TAs to promote the site.  But I can talk to some people in the English department, I'm sure they'll be on my side.

And, of course, I have a job.  It fits somewhere between all of this.  Actually, it's the reason I'm getting home so late in the evening.  At least in the middle of the week.  I don't work Fridays to Mondays, so that's four days off for other things, like homework and writing.  I'm trying to see the positive of that but these past two days have been long and hard.  I wanted to make homemade stir fry last night, but that's going to have to wait until tomorrow.  I can wait.  I'll make myself.

Semester Goals:
- Write more short stories to create a repertoire to submit to various online magazines and publishing companies.
- Direct a lot of time to academic studies

18 January 2011

One More Reason to Love Japan

Do you want to know what's awesome?  Of course you do:

Japanese researchers have proposed and started work towards reviving the Mammoth.  They found usable tissue cells to use for cloning in frozen Mammoth samples, so they are taking the DNA of the frozen tissue cells, inserting that into an elephant egg that has had previous DNA samples removed, and insert that into an elephant uterus.  If this proves successful, they will use this knowledge to learn how Mammoths lived and why they would have died out.  They will also look into how to breed the Mammoth and whether or not it will be on display for the public.

The full article can be found using this fine and elegantly crafted link.