After being rendered nearly catatonic by the class efforts to analyze “Romeo and Juliet,” Professor Petit tries again with Shakespeare’s greatest romantic comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.”
After being rendered nearly catatonic by the class efforts to analyze “Romeo and Juliet,” Professor Petit tries again with Shakespeare’s greatest romantic comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.”
The temperatures are rising and it’s almost time to seek refuge in a nice, air-conditioned movie theater. This week, Blake and Erin walk you through all the big releases of Summer 2013 — what we’re excited about, what we couldn’t care less about, and a heck of a lot in-between. In the picks, Erin is getting into the BBC’s Sherlock, and Blake’s favorite new comic of 2012 Danger Club, returns from hiatus. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!
Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.
I hate writing.
This confession will be astonishing to most people, as the sole overriding desire of my entire life, the one constant from about the time I was ten years old until today, is a burning desire to be a writer. This, of course, requires me to write. But as anybody who has ever tried to do it will tell you, writing isn’t easy. Many people (who have never written a complete paragraph and think it’s perfectly acceptable to use “U” when you mean “YOU”) assume that it’s a terribly simple process that any Tom, Dick, or Harriet could accomplish if only they had the time in their ever-so-busy schedules to sit down and do it, because really, you’re just making stuff up. How hard could that be?
The truth is, when someone says they want to be “a writer,” what we really mean is we want to have written something. Because that’s a great feeling. Looking down at a story that feels complete, that feels finished, that draws a little praise and (if you’re extremely lucky) a little money is a feeling that doesn’t compare to anything else I’ve ever experienced. And the act of coming up with an idea, similarly, is wonderful. When a good one hits you like a bolt from the blue, or when a thought that’s been mucking about in your head for a long time finally breaks free and takes a life of its own, it comes with an intense feeling of power. You’ve become a creator of worlds, and that’s awesome.
Everything in between those two stages sucks the big one.
Those moments when you stare at the blank page, trying to figure out where to go next (or even worse, where to go first). You don’t know this story well enough, you don’t know these characters, you don’t know this place. You’re not black/a woman/short/Methodist/a six-tentacled alien from Grimbullax XII… how can you possibly get across in your writing of what it’s like to be any of those people? You’re conjuring it all up and it’s all horribly inauthentic and nobody will ever want to read it and you wish you could just lie down behind the sofa and die before anybody calls you out on it.
Then there are those times when you begin to realize you’re a worthless hack. Okay, this sounds pretty good, but didn’t they do that same joke on an episode of Seinfeld once? This concept is brilliant, but c’mon, Isaac Asimov must have written virtually the same thing. These are the times when you’re certain, at any moment, the Literature Police are going to break down your door with a battering ram and someone will point at you and scream, “HIM! THAT’S HIM! EVERYTHING HE’S EVER WRITTEN WAS ALREADY DONE BY SHAKESPEARE AND EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS AND J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND THE SIMPSONS! GET HIM!” And you will calmly hold up your wrists and allow them to cart you away.
These feelings are awful, most of all, because you know on some level that they’re justified. Every creator in the world is influenced by their experiences — either by what they’ve lived through, which makes you question how you can convey the feeling of being marooned on a desert island since you’ve never done it yourself for any extended period of time, or what media they have consumed, which means that every book you have ever read and every movie you have ever watched is in your subconscious somewhere, and it may well crawl out onto the page without you even realizing it.
Several years ago, a friend of mine read an early draft of a story that eventually turned into Lost in Silver. Upon finishing, she asked me if I’d been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately. I had no idea what she was talking about, until she directed me to the penultimate book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew, where Lewis described a “Woods Between Worlds” that sounded a hell of a lot like my description of Evertime. Not having read that book in about 15 years at that point, I rushed out and found a copy, read it, and immediately began bashing my head against the wall. Clearly, although virtually everything else about the story had leaked through my brain like a sieve, the Woods stayed there and, lacking context, my brain started to adapt it to the story I was trying to tell. T.S. Eliot once said that “mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.” Eliot forgot to mention that theft is sometimes like robbing a bank in your sleep, waking up surrounded by piles of money, and deciding you must have won the lottery.
Ultimately, I kept most of that original Evertime concept, after doing what writers have been doing ever since there was a second one: I rationalized the hell out of it. It was, after all, only a small part of the grand Narnia mythos, while it was a vital part of the story I was trying to tell. And I couldn’t come up with a way to accomplish the same thing that I liked nearly as much. And it wasn’t exactly the same, it was my take on the idea. And part of the main theme of the Evertime stories is that there are enough worlds in creation for everything ever imagined to co-exist, so naturally there will be elements that seem derivative of classic creations. And they’re never going to get around to making that book into a movie anyway.
All writers do this. We have to. Because when the brain creates it needs building blocks, and it gets those blocks from every bit of information you’ve ever fed into it. Every writer is influenced by every other writer whose work they have ever experienced. And this is true whether you’re blatantly copying somebody else by moving Kevin Costner to another planet and turning the Indians blue or whether you’re intentionally throwing away every element that made vampires threatening, entertaining, or interesting to read about and replacing all that with sparkle paint. In both cases — and in every case in between — you’re still reacting to an earlier work. It’s impossible to escape.
So the hard thing about writing, you see, is trying to think of something to say that hasn’t been said before. And when you realize that’s impossible, trying to think of a way to say it that hasn’t been done.
It’s just not easy.
But if you honestly want to be a writer, you eventually shove all that crap out of your brain, sit down in front of the computer, and start hitting keys until you’ve got something that may be worth showing to someone.
Which, if you’ll excuse me, is really what I should be doing right now.
The world is full of comic book nerds, especially in Hollywood… but why don’t we see a lot of original superhero characters outside of comics? Can superheroes only thrive in one medium?
And in this week’s classic EBI, let’s look back at Oct. 6, 2004, when I thought about all the spoilers that were invading the internet… and I… struck… back…
Now that we’ve all had a chance to read Detective Comics #799, wow, what a shocker, huh? I never suspected that Robin’s father, Jack Drake, would be killed by the Joker and a hermaphroditic gerbil on PCP. Talk about a shocker!
What? Oh, you mean you guys haven’t read it yet? You mean it won’t even be available to purchase for several more hours? Oh, gosh, I feel terrible now. Wow, it’s a good thing that everything I said there was complete and total rubbish, isn’t it? But now that I’ve got your attention, this would be a good time to talk about spoilers.
A “spoiler,” of course, is any piece of information regarding the plot of a story that you didn’t know yet, in essence, “spoiling” it for you. The term “spoiler” was coined because “ruiner” sounds funky. And before we go on much further, in case you didn’t get it, I was lying in the first paragraph. Being the kind, benevolent, dashing, callipygian, modest columnist-type-person that I am, I would never actually tell you what happened in Detective Comics #799 because that would spoil it for you. Also because some of you may know where I live.
For as long as there has been fiction, there have been spoilers. If you go back to the 1500s you can find scrolls written by people talking about that startling new play wherein, at the end, SPOILERS AHEAD! Romeo and Juliet both kill themselves. But since the invention of the Internet, spoilers have become a much bigger problem because now people have the ability to opine from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world as fast as the information can be processed in their brains. Or, more frequently, their mouths, since often people on the Internet have found ways to bypass their brains altogether.
This problem, of course, is not exclusive to comic books. Websites like Ain’t It Cool News make their name by giving out juicy spoilers for movies far in advance (and conveniently forgetting about it when the spoiler turns out not to be true), but at least they have the courtesy to stamp a big warning label before the spoiler appears. This, unfortunately, will not stop idiots from e-mailing it to you or blabbing it in a chatroom, but in this day and age, that’s the price you pay for daring to get out of bed in the morning.
You can also spoil books – I’m a big fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and frequently visit a message board devoted to such. When the advance review copies of the last book in that well-loved series began to circulate a month or so ago, there was a massive storm on that board between the people who were hurling spoilers around right and left and the people who didn’t want to know. One jerk actually went so far as to post the entire plot of the book in the middle of a thread where people were congratulating the administrator for pulling the plug on spoilers. Another popped into a chatroom and spouted out the ending to people who hadn’t read it yet. And this is for the end of a series that some people have been reading for 22 years. There is a word for people who do that sort of thing. However, I will not tell you what that word is since the CXPulp.com filter would most likely block it out anyway. (HINT: it ends in “weed”.)
Now some people don’t mind spoilers. Some people are perfectly happy knowing that SPOILERS AHEAD! “Rosebud” was the name of his sled before the movie even starts. And if that’s your thing, hey, that’s fine. But there are an awful lot of us out there, myself included, who prefer not to know the ending. You’re the kids who always snuck into your parents’ closet looking for Christmas presents, whereas we’re the kids who just looked at the 18-inch box under the tree and hoped against hope that a puppy could fit in there somehow. If you want to discuss spoilers, you’ve got every right to, but you should also have the respect and courtesy to keep them amongst yourselves and not go blabbing that you find out in Amazing Spider-Man #512 that SPOILERS AHEAD! Norman Osborne is the father of Gwen Stacy’s children to anyone who hasn’t heard it yet.
Just last week a thread appeared here which started with the phrase “Well, now that we’ve all read Superman/Batman #12…” and proceeded to give away the entire plot. The trouble with this thread was, not all of us had read Superman/Batman #12 yet. This appeared on Friday. The book came out Wednesday. Not everyone gets their comic books the day of release – or even the same week – and you can’t just assume that they have. If I hadn’t finished reading the book about five minutes before, I may have had to go to the guy’s house and hit him with a frozen halibut.
Even worse was an incident a few weeks ago in the forum of our own Chris Sotomayor. Soto, one of the best colorists in the biz (and I say that out of genuine admiration, not just because he hosts a forum here), was discussing his upcoming work on the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Book of the Dead. Fans were speculating as to who would appear in that book, since the current Avengers Disassembled storyline was resulting in many casualties. Then someone appeared in the thread and asked Soto if he could post some pictures since, by now, we all knew that SPOILERS AHEAD! Hawkeye was the character who died in the much-touted Avengers #502.
The problem with this? He posted this message nearly a week before Avengers #502 even went on sale!
Oh, I was ticked.
Now to his credit, he’d tried to do something, at least. He changed the font color to white. Unfortunately, since the background text on the site is various shades of gray, that was worse than useless and the book was seriously spoiled for me. And it didn’t help that everybody else was talking about the death like it was common knowledge soon afterwards.
The obvious question to ask here is, how long is information considered a spoiler? Technically, I’d say any time before you, personally (or to be more specific, I personally) have read the comic. But that gets a little ridiculous. I mean, just because someone has never read Avengers #4 doesn’t mean they don’t already know SPOILERS AHEAD! they found Captain America frozen alive in a block of ice, thawed him out, made him a member of the team and he served proudly for at least 500 issues.
So how long is a reasonable amount of time to consider something a spoiler? When do you have to stop putting information like SPOILERS AHEAD! the boat sinks and Leo drowns in those little gray text boxes we use to shield the masses? I know some fans would prefer something remain a spoiler until the trade paperback comes out – this specifically applies to those fans who wait for the trade paperback. But I don’t think that’s always necessary. If you’re writing in a thread about Identity Crisis #3, you can reasonably assume people have read Identity Crisis #2 and know that SPOILERS AHEAD! Dr. Light raped Sue Dibney already.
Rather than cruising on a set period of time, I think it’s fair and logical to assume something is a spoiler until the next issue of that title comes out, whenever that happens to be. When Birds of Prey went biweekly, by the time #74 came out it should have been acceptable to reference how, in #73, SPOILERS AHEAD! Oracle defeated Brainiac.
And if that means you’ve got to talk about NYX #5 in spoiler blocks for the next six years or so before #6 comes out, so be it.
Some people don’t mind spoilers. Some people even like ‘em. And those people have plenty of opportunity to talk about them. But if you’ve got spoiler info, make sure you present it as such for a reasonable length of time. Otherwise, you’ll be like Homer Simpson walking out of The Empire Strikes Back and saying, SPOILERS AHEAD! “Wow, who would have thought Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father?”. This would, by extension, make the rest of us the people standing in line outside the theatre who wanted to kill him for saying it, and since very few of us have yellow skin, four fingers and an overbite, it’s not a fair analogy.
Like so many problems in the world of comics (and the rest of the world too, when you get right down to it), you can solve this one if you just apply a little common sense. Try it sometime. You might even like it.
Favorite of the Week: September 29, 2004
It’s a darn good thing that I had read Superman/Batman #12 before I read the spoiler, because this was a fantastic issue. (And considering how long it took to come out, it better have been.) Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Barda have stormed Apokalips, hoping to rescue Kara from the clutches of Darkseid… but what if she doesn’t want to be rescued? There’s plenty of action this issue, and then just when things seem to have settled down, Jeph Loeb hits you in the gut with a knockout punch, a real shocker. Granted, it’s the sort of shocker that you’re certain will be resolved in one of two ways, but it’s a shocker nonetheless. Now let’s all just hope Michael Turner manages to turn out issue #13 before Kara is old enough to have grandchildren.
Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.
Today was my first day back at work after my (unfortunately late) Spring Break, and you can feel that there’s only a few weeks left in the school year. Students and teachers alike are struggling with that sensation that the end of the year is rapidly approaching, and students and teachers alike are finding it hard to concentrate.
So today, as a special little secret just between you and me, I’m going to tell you what your teacher is really thinking in those “down” moments. At those times when you, as a student, are taking a test, or writing an entry in your classroom journal, or doing virtually anything else that doesn’t require any immediate action from the teacher beyond monitoring the room and making sure nothing catches on fire.
It varies from person to person, of course, because contrary to what many students will have you believe, teachers are organic human beings with different wants, desires, needs, and personalities, and not just mindless automatons that synch up their brains to the schoolboard mainframe and curl up under their desks from 2:30 in the afternoon until 7 o’clock the following morning. So this is the thought process of a purely hypothetical teacher… say ninth grade… English… tired… on the day of a test.
Okay, test papers are handed out. Told thirteen different kids today’s date, which is written on the board in the same place it has been since August. Gave pencils to five of them. Okay, so now I just walk around to make sure nobody is cheating or– oh, geez, Cindy’s hand is up. She’s going to ask me a question that any reasonable human being could find the answer to without a bit of help. Yes, Cindy, today is the third. Yes, write it where it says “date.” Yes, answer all of the questions. Okay, sixty minutes left until the test period is over.
Let’s see, once I’ve got this test graded I’ll have four test grades for the marking period, which means I just need two more to do an average for the class. That’s a relief, I was worried for a while there I wouldn’t be able to fit enough tests in. The kids complain about too many tests, but they should know we don’t actually have any control over that. We don’t have control over a lot of things. The mold, for instance. How many times now have I asked for someone to change that ceiling tile? I didn’t think any of those colors could be found in nature. The kids complain to me as if I can do anything about it. I don’t know where the extra tiles are, and even if I did—
What? No, Cindy, “Montague” is spelled correctly. Yes, I’m sure. No, I can’t tell you if the Montagues are Romeo’s family or Juliet’s. This is a test, you should know by now.
Where was I? Oh, right, theceiling. I wonder what they would say if I just took the tile off and left a hole in the ceiling. And then put a cat up there. Heh. “Ceiling cat is watching you matriculate.” Yeah, that’d be funny. Then I would spend the rest of the semester explaining that joke to people. Maybe not.
I wonder what the rest of the guys are doing this weekend. The Losers is opening this weekend, I wonder if everyone else would want to see that. Can’t really talk about that with the kids, they’d start using it to insult each other. Or me. Not that I particularly care, but once one of ’em starts it’s like a chain reaction, and they still won’t let me have a taser. If they could spend five minutes in this class–
No, Tony, I didn’t see the wrestling match last night. Which has nothing to do with Romeo and Juliet, so please be quiet and get back to work.
What was I thinking?
Mahna Mahna! Doot dooooo-do-dooo-doot!Mahna Mahna! Doot dooo-deet-doot!
That was a great episode of Lost last night. I nearly plotzed when they started playing that Willy Wonka music in the end credits. That guy who was talking about a Lost/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory connection on the internet is an absolute genius. I’m gonna have to remember to blog about that when I get home.
Huh. Chad got number fifteen right. Good for him, that was a tough one. Maybe it’s finally sinking in that he can’t pass this class if he doesn’t start studying.
Cindy’s been on number twelve for a long time now. She’s just staring at it. Now she’s looking up. Now she — OH MY GOD SHE SAW ME DON’T LOOK DON’T LOOK DON’T LOOK IF YOU DON’T LOOK IT IN THE EYE IT HAS NO POWER OVER YOU AND aaaaaaw, crap, her hand is up.
No, Cindy, I promise you, one of those four answers is correct. Because I wrote the question, that’s how. No, I can’t tell you what that word means, this is a test. Use your context clues. Context clues. CON-TEXT.
Joel is already finished? He must have skipped the essay questions again. when are these kids going to realize that’s twenty percent of the test right there? That means if they get more than five multiple choice or three of the short answer wrong, they automatically fail. It’s simple math. I think it’s simple. Oh geez, what if I got the point values on the test wrong again? Okay, no big deal. Let’s just nonchalantly mosey on over to my desk so I can look at a copy… part one worth 60 points… part two worth 20 points… essay questions worth 20 points. Six… two… two… yeah, that adds up to a hundred. Okay, the point values are right.
I know these guys don’t like Shakespeare, but that’s fine. I didn’t really start to appreciate him until college. Maybe if I could show them some videos besides just the film of Romeo and Juliet. The Reduced Shakespeare Company, for instance. Or that episode of Doctor Who where he met Shakespeare.
The new season of Doctor Who has been awesome. I didn’t think Matt Smith could match David Tennant, but he’s been great. And he and Karen Gillan have great chemistry together.
Karen Gillan is hot. There, I said it. We were all thinking it, someone had to say it.
Oh geez, Cindy put your hand down. You know I can’t answer questions like that during a te–
Oh. Okay. Here’s the bathroom pass. Sorry about that.
Fifty-two minutes and seventeen seconds left.
Karen Gillan is hot.
Like I did last year, I’m going to keep a running tally of my reading list this year. This includes both prose books, graphic novels, short stories (if I read them independently of an entire book, that is), and audiobooks that I listen to. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, I’ll place a link to this post on the righthand “Blakestuff” column, and periodically update this page with new material. Also, if I happen to review the book either here, for the Amazon Vine program, at Comixtreme.com, or otherwise, I’ll make the title a link. Because I know you would want it that way.
*-Denotes Graphic Novel or Comic Strip collection
“”-Denotes Short Story
Last Updated on January 1, 2010