Dragonforce and Final Fantasy X/X-2

Monday, November 22, 2010

Final Fantasy X and X-2 are a couple of my favorites in the FF line of games. I'll probably end up doing a post about them sometime in the future. Here's a couple of my favorite videos from them set to music from Dragonforce: Starfire and Where Dragons Rule. My other favorite, Dawn Over a New World, got taken off, and I don't have time to see if someone else has done one for that song. Just wanted to do something fun and quick, since I didn't get any writing done yesterday thanks to feeling vaguely ill most of the day and working a full shift at work. Enjoy!


Where Dragons Rule

I really wish that they hadn't done the speed metal thing in Where Dragons Rule after the beginning part. That was beautiful, and the speed drumming masks the good stuff in the rest of the song. I think the percussion could have been eased off and still kept the energy. But I love the song enough that it doesn't bug me too much. I just sing louder. Hehe. "In this land we've defended from all things dark and cruel, now we're defenseless in a land where dragons rule!" Raaaa!!

Filk Friday: Do-It-Yourself, a computer song

Friday, November 19, 2010

One of my family friends is a programmer, so when I got into filk, I started collecting computer related songs to share with her. Do-It-Yourself, also known as Mainframe, is a catchy little song about building your own computer from the things you find at home. You can tell Bill Sutton had fun with this song. The snark about the computer companies that were around at the time is smirk-tastic. Especially the cracks on IBM. This came from his tape: Past Due. It's an old song, and I only know about half of the references in the chorus, but it's entertaining anyway.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Drat! I had a fantastic self realization this morning after reading Jai's post about BookTV, and while trying to write out why it was such a lightbulb moment and what it had to do with what triggered it, my train of thought derailed.

Now instead of feeling invigorated, I'm depressed, because it really meant something to me, and I wanted to share it while it was still relevant. Stupid words flashed by too fast for me to catch them, and now I can't explain it without taking so long that the entire point is lost. A messed up sort of genius. I read something, and my thoughts pull up a bunch of things it reminds me of and connections it makes for me. But I have inadequate outflow of my thought process.

I'm sure there's the roots to an interesting alien encounter story I could pull out of how my brain works. Humans meet some race that doesn't have a strong verbal language but one of flashes of insight, references, memories. Maybe transmitted partly by telepathy. Sort of a combination of Juliette Wade's alien stories and that ST episode with that main phrase, "Darmok and [something] at Tinagra." Or something like that. I've even played around with the idea of a code based on song, movie, and book references, information wouldn't be exact, but it's a similar concept to the alien process.

Words just don't keep up. A real communication flaw when trying to deal with people who can think verbally at faster speed. Without telepathy or shared experience, it's tedious to get those thoughts across. And by the time I do, the meaning is lost. I don't even remember names well. Most people I remember their faces and references like "so-and-so from [place], met them at [event]."

Too bad I'll never write that story, because I'm still trying to hack out these other ones, and words don't like me. Not much of artist either. Too bad I can't paint with my mind instead of my hands. Look at that. Another potential idea that I'll probably never be able to utilize.

And in case you're worried about me, this is all just the frustrated flip side of the insight I made this morning about having connections to people. I have lots of connections and friends. And largely because I chose to become a writer. The physical act of writing/typing has kept me close to people I've met in person, through online mediums like chat programs and social sites, and the creative act of writing introduced me to people I now want to meet in person, though the online mediums of forums and blogs.

Yea. Me and words have a real love-hate relationship. I can't live without them, but they make me mad when they won't cooperate. Maybe later I'll try again to get across what I thought was so amazing and feel-good about what I'd realized almost 3 hours ago.

Scientific Progress Goes "Boink"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Raise your hands if you recognized that title. Keep your hands up if you have a kid who resembles Calvin in some small way. Why yes, there's a bit of Calvin in my son. Why do you ask? *wink*

Calvin and Hobbes has been one of my favorite comics since I was a kid. Calvin is someone who would make an excellent writer if he ever applied himself to learning what his parents and teachers have been trying to teach. That imagination is amazing. He goes from seeing himself as a giant T-rex to Stupendous Man to Spaceman Spiff. He believes that his stuffed tiger is real when no one else is around (who likes to pounce on him) and has an evil genius when it comes to snowmen. He can believe in reverse gravity, suddenly growing larger, and that he can build a duplicator machine to make copies of himself to do his work. And he comes up with new stories on the spot to explain why he didn't do his homework.

If he'd just do his homework right away, he could take the time he'd spent dithering to turn all those stories into a book. Makes you wonder how much of Calvin was in Bill Watterson as a kid, doesn't it? Hehe.

What sort of flights of fantasy did you take yourself when you were growing up and have you used any of them to kickstart your stories?

Pep Talkin'

Monday, November 15, 2010

Time for some pep talks for anyone who, like me, has bogged down in their writing and needs some pick-me-ups. (I've got 21,152 out of 25,000 words. That's 3,848 more words to write by the end of today in order to catch up. And I work this evening.)

Since I don't have time to write much for you here if I'm going to clear much of that, I'm going to share links to some of my favorite pep talks on the NaNo site from both this year and past years. (They save all the talks.)

Mercedes Lackey's talk on the value of fanfiction for honing craft.

John Greene's talk on perseverance.

Aimee Bender's talk on experimenting with tangents that could lead to something better than what you'd planned.

Piers Anthony's talk on getting started even when all you have is a wispy daydream. (very funny, much like his Xanth novels)

Lynda Barry's talk on how hand writing your story can be an asset.

Meg Cabot's talk on not giving up on your battered WIP for Shiny-New-Idea.

Brian Jacques' talk on building that spark for others. I especially like the last paragraph.

That's all for now, but if you want to read more of these talks, check out this year's here and archived years over here. They've gathered an interesting group of writers to write the talks from most of the genres from what I can tell. Have a look even if you aren't a Wrimo. You may find something of particular interest to you.

Filk Friday: Star Trekkin Across the Universe

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'd wanted to find an SF song that somehow related to alien life. Something that would go well with what Juliette talked about on Wednesday. But, I had a terrible day with my writing yesterday. The character I was going to use to drive the conflict for the middle third of the book is the completely wrong personality for what I want him to do. By the end of the day I finally decided to quit trying to figure out how to mash the square peg in the round hole and just save him for a later story. So, I'm creating a new character from scratch.

But this means I'm now a full day behind on my NaNo story plus the bit I hadn't finished making up from last week. So, instead of getting a perfect song, you're getting a fun song. Here is Star Trekkin Across the Universe. I first heard it on the Dr. Demento: Songs From Outer Space compilation CD my husband bought a couple years ago. Enjoy!

Guest Post: Juliette Wade

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I am very excited to welcome the lovely Juliette Wade to the library. She just had a third story published in Analog: At Cross Purposes (just look at that awesome picture), and she's here to share some insights with those of us interested in creating alien societies. I hope you are all taking notes.

Using Animal Species As Inspiration For An Alien Culture

Many thanks to Jaleh for inviting me to do this post!

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the idea of using the physiology of Earth animals as inspiration for creating aliens. Catlike aliens have been done by Larry Niven and by Anne McCaffrey, for example, not to mention James Cameron! I've seen doglike aliens, and grasshopper-like aliens, and many different physical models. These models typically come along with a different kind of cuisine that fits the animal's diet - often raw meat in the case of carnivores!

Since I write about aliens a lot, I've discovered that many people have an immediate reaction against using animal models. They figure it's been done before, or that even though the aliens look like other species, they act far too much like humans.

This is sometimes true. However, if an alien species looks animal and acts human, that's usually because the animal model hasn't been pursued deeply enough. An animal model can give you a lot more than simply physiology and diet. If you really dive into your research about a particular species, you can find more information to inspire you in the areas of social structure, culture and behavior.

In order to show how this works, I thought I'd give a few examples from the animal-like aliens I've created.

Lizard fashion?
In my Analog 2008 story, "Let the Word Take Me," the Gariniki were based on geckos. I wanted them to be cold-blooded, and I wanted to see if I could make that have consequences for culture. An individual traveling the desert therefore took along "sun armor" to protect herself, rather than looking for rocks to hide under (they are a bit big for that!). A leather coat with air holes in it, covered with white feathers, would be a culture-based way for an individual to protect herself from overheating. And it looked nice, too!

Wolf language, wolf architecture?
In my Analog 2009 story, "Cold Words," the Aurrel were based on wolves. Wolves operate on a social model with strict rankings within the pack, so the culture of the Aurrel elaborated on this. Their language had different dialects for those claiming a dominant social position (Cold words) and those accepting a lesser social position (Warm words). Their language was also presumed to have evolved in a hunting context, where messages to other wolves on the run would have to be preceded by attention-getting barks - and I structured my English rendering of their language to reflect this. When dogs meet, they sniff out one another's intentions, often with very active confrontational behavior (whether or not they are friends), so in each home I put an entry room called the "confronting room" which would be essentially unfurnished to allow space for such greetings and potential fights. I also made the door into the "den rooms" of the house have slots, so that occupants of the house could smell who had come to visit.

Otter technology?
My current Analog story, "At Cross Purposes" (out now!), has an alien species, the Cochee-coco, based on river otters. I wanted these guys to have technology better than the humans in the story, but also to have technology very much unlike ours. I figured it would be too human-like to have otters sitting in chairs with keypads in front of them to control a ship... so I went back to otter physiology and behavior. A high metabolism means lots of frenetic activity for short periods, followed by intervals of rest and eating. Furthermore, a species accustomed to snatching fish underwater would easily re-adapt this to other purposes. So I had the bridge contain resting couches where otters could take breaks and sleep between their short shifts; I gave it an adjoining water-room full of fish for snacking and keeping up energy. And I had the ship's controls be three-dimensional, tactile holograms that swam by and could be grabbed (like fish) and manipulated by the individuals in charge.

This is just a small taste of the opportunities for culture that you might find in an animal species. If you're setting out to create an alien culture from an animal model, here are some steps I recommend.

1. Begin with physiology. Change it.
Take the basic animal appearance and make sure to modify it in systematic, obvious ways so that it's clear not all of the assumptions associated with the animal species can be imported without question.

2. Make a list of interesting physiological traits.
What you consider interesting is up to you. Metabolism might give you inspiration; so may diet and digestion. The physiology of the mouth is full of possibilities for alien language phonology. If the species has super-sensitive hands (as raccoons do), or excellent eyesight, make a note of it.

3. Make a list of interesting behavioral traits. Separate those that influence individual behavior from those that inform community behavior.
The body language typical of the animal species can give you a lot to work with when you have individuals talking and expressing their emotions. You can also find information that will help you create a larger society and its features, such as information about where and how breeding happens, or how many individuals typically live together, how much mixing there is of the sexes, etc.

4. Once you've compiled the animal features and behaviors that interest you, extrapolate.
Think about clothing and what its use might be. Think about what kinds of houses your people would live in, and how they would be structured. What do their special senses allow them to achieve that might not be possible for humans? How would small details of animal physiology be relevant to manners and other forms of cultural behavior?

5. Check the integrity of your system.
This is an important step to keep your animal features from taking you in twenty different directions and creating chaos. Just as animal behaviors intertwine and create a whole, so should the behaviors, activities and artifacts you create. Cultural systems interconnect in a myriad ways, and one behavior leads to or relates to another in a systematic way that makes sense to the individual and to the group as a whole.

I hope these thoughts give you some ideas for your own projects. Have fun!

Thank you so much for sharing your expertise in linguistics and anthropology, Juliette. It really shines in your stories and articles. Those of you who don't already have her on your blogroll or in your bookmarks are really missing out even if you don't write SF. Check out her personal blog and her writing blog. I've been following TalkToYoUniverse since shortly after I started this blog. She frequently amazes me with some sort of insight that I can apply to my own writing.

Her publications:
"Let the Word Take Me" in Analog Magazine, July/August 2008
"Cold Words" a novelette in Analog Magazine, October 2009
"The Eminence's Match" Eight Against Reality anthology, July 2010 (see my review)
"At Cross Purposes" in Analog Magazine, January/February 2011 issue, in stores now

October reading list results

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yes, I'm a bit late on posting this. I've been typing madly on my NaNo project this past week. My super speed anyway; I'm still a few hundred words behind. (I hope to make that up today.) But here is the list of books I finished in October and how I rated them on Goodreads.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (4 stars)
Wired by Liz Maverick (3 stars)
First Rider's Call by Kristin Britain (4 stars)
Dust by Elizabeth Bear (2 stars, got bored and took too long to understand what was really at stake, but not totally bad)
Blue Fire by Janice Hardy (5 stars)
Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (5 stars for each)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (1 star)
The City and the City by China Meiville (4 stars)
Intrigues (book 2 of Collegium Chronicles) by Mercedes Lackey (wasn't on list, but it was a new release I'd been waiting for, yeah for more of Mags and his friends)

These ones will have to wait until December.
Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn
The Mermaid's Madness (Princess novels-book 2) by Jim C. Hines
Red Hood's Revenge (Princess novels-book 3) by Jim C. Hines
The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson
Fantasy Lover (Dark Hunter series-book 1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse series-book 1) by Charlaine Harris
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip

And remember to check out the guest post from Juliette Wade on Wednesday.

Filk Friday: A tribute to Evil in the comic Looking For Group

Friday, November 5, 2010

I just started reading the comic Looking For Group, but Richard is one hilariously evil dude. He burns up bunnies and cuts off gnome heads, all while delighting in the slaughter. Classic chaotic evil by D&D standards. The comic rips on online rpgs (especially WoW) for the character types and settings. I shouldn't be laughing, but he's got some of the best dialogue I've seen in an evil character. In strip 3 he formally introduces himself to the blood elf type character.

Richard: [booming voice] I am Richard, Chief Warlock of the Brothers of Darkness, Lord of the Thirteen Hells, Master of the Bones, Emperor of the Black, Lord of the Undead, [normal voice] and the Mayor of a little village up the coast. Very scenic during springtime. You should visit sometime.
Blood elf: Your name is Richard?
Richard: You were supposed to pay more attention to everything after that part.
Blood elf: [turns his back] Sure thing, Dick.
Richard: [glowers] H-uh. That's pretty funny. [fireball grows in his hands] FWOOM!
Blood elf: [now a pile of ash] I think I require the services of a healer.
Richard: Walk it off, you pussy.

This comic is gory but funny. On to the filk about Richard. {I don't recommend watching if you're squeamish, but otherwise let the laughter ensue.}

When You're Evil

Slaughter Your World (to the tune of Part of Your World from Little Mermaid)

Oh and sorry about Wednesday's post. I was busy working on my NaNo story. I'll put it up on Monday. And be sure to check out the post on Wednesday the 10th. Juliette Wade will be here to talk about using animals as a basis for creating aliens. It's a great article to accompany her latest story in Analog. "At Cross Purposes."

First day of NaNo 2010

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sorry I'm so late with posting. I got dozy this morning after a bit of writing, took a nap, then awakened by kid's school saying he was feeling bad and needed picked up. Turns out they were being a bit paranoid. He's had a rash all weekend, but it was nearly gone. It flared up a bit from him scratching, and with his temp being up slightly and his throat looking red, they were afraid he had strep.

Doctor said nope. They can test throat swabs in 5 minutes now. Did you know that? I didn't. I remember they used to take a few days back when I was a kid. His doctor said that when kids are on an antibiotic, sometimes they get rashes from funky viruses and not to worry. He didn't need any other medicine. He also got the A-okay regarding the ear infection he'd had. That's all better.

Despite all the time eaters I've had today, I've managed to write a thousand words. After I put my son to bed, I'll get back to work to knock out another thousand. So far my writing stress level is still low. While I'm still using the delete key more than I probably should, I'm doing pretty well with not obsessing over phrasing, which slows me down.

Best of luck to my fellow Wrimos.