I know I'm mixing my Whedonverse metaphors there, but this is fantastic. I want to see a Firefly version next.
I've been tinkering with the idea of doing National Novel Writing Month this year. I normally don't because I've got other commitments, but I've already written an 86,000 word draft of The Indestructibles: Breakout so far... why not take the NaNoWriMo challenge and see if I can hammer out another book?
Question is: space opera, steampunk, or comedic horror? It's a toss up at this point...
Now I know what I'm doing with the next week... reviewing the proof for everything I did wrong in the last draft! Always the toughest part of the process, because this is where I'm starting to glaze over after having read the story a couple dozen times already. Strive for perfection, though, or as close as we can get to it...
Just realized I never unveiled the cover of the sequel! We're set to receive a proof this week for review as we get ready for the upcoming release. We're hoping to have the book out on Halloween just for kicks.
It's official--we're giving away six copies of the Indestructibles sequel, Breakout, through Goodreads. Visit this link to find out how to enter. And while you're there, I hope you'll follow me on Goodreads as well!
Just a quick post to let folks know I'll be at table A57 Saturday and Sunday (the 13th and 14th) at GraniteCon. This is my first year attending and only my second Con managing my own table, so I'm extremely excited about checking it out. I've heard nothing but great things about this convention.
Stop by and say hello!
A recent piece by writer James Whitbrook over on io9.com made a great case for smaller, more intimate adventure stories earlier this week. It caught my attention because I just sent the sequel to the Indestructibles to the publisher for editing, and while it's most definitely a superhero story, Book 2 isn't about saving the world this time (though there's quite a bit of saving). It's more about how the Indestructibles save themselves, and what happens when heroic figures are backed into a corner.
Don't get me wrong. I love saving the world, or the galaxy, or the universe. But the bar is always incredibly high in stories these days. Everyone's out to save the world, or stop the apocalypse, or prevent the end of all time. But the smaller stories can be amazing as well. The stakes don't have to be that high.
In terms of games, I keep thinking of a couple of fantasy RPGs that have been out a few years. The best example I can think of is Skyrim, because it is so ubiquitous. Yes, the main plot is stopping a Big Bad Thing and Saving Skyrim, but it's a game in which you can skip saving the world for weeks of game play in favor of finding someone's lost family heirloom, or building a house, or going on a scavenger hunt. It is filled with infinite numbers of stories small and large, and you can make your adventure as epic or as intimate as you want it to be.
Dragon Age 2 took some knocks from critics and players alike (many deserved), but I think the idea of keeping it small, making it about a single city and the inhabitants therein, a single lead character and his family and friends, a very bold choice in a genre typically focusing on saving the world. It looks like the series returns to its epic roots, but Bioware's writers have always had a knack for layering the grand with the small. The Mass Effect series is one of my favorite games (controversial ending aside), but what makes it great is how your relentless race to save all living things is so often about saving one person at a time, making one difference at a time. It's a very intimate story for such a huge adventure.
I've been meaning to write about my recent experience rereading Warren Ellis's Planetary and Authority comics for a couple of reasons, but it's worth mentioning here. The Authority (which stands up against the test of time strangely well) was all about bigger--a cinematic series where every adventure was so epic it teetered (and later, under Mark Millar's writing, toppled) into parody. What the book did best while the heroes were repelling invasions from alternate Earths or defeating a creature so big its stomach parasites have developed their own cultures and sentience was to pepper in tiny moments of wonder, where the heroes realized what they were experiencing and wondered at it. Jenny Sparks' smile at seeing a caged baby universe is in many ways better storytelling than anything else in the series.
Meanwhile Planetary, telling the secret history of the world, is massive in scope, exploring the bleeding edge of possible realities. But in the end it's about the legacy one leaves behind and it's about saving one good man who deserves a better ending to his story. It is a wonderfully intimate story.
What are you reading or playing these days? Are you tired of always saving the world? Do you have a favorite game in which the stakes are lower but the storytelling is still satisfying?
Just found out about this latest review, from the website What'cha Reading? It's particularly special to me because I met their Editor in Chief, Chuck Suffel, at my first comic con as a writer (Boston ComicCon in August, just a few weeks back) and it really felt great to meet face to face with someone running such a fun website. Definitely worth a follow on Facebook and Twitter.
Here's a snippet:
"I’ve often said that if a book can grab me in the first chapter it’s got me. This one did it in ten pages. The elevator pitch is somewhere around, a Professor X type builds a new team of young super powered’s to replace his disbanded Justice League style team. Or maybe it’s (a less angsty) Breakfast Club meets the JLA?
"...What makes this book unique and interesting is the interpersonal relationships and the growth of the characters. We all love our superhero trysts and triangles. Who does Wonder Woman really love? Will Wolvie and Cyke ever really get along? Will Jean Grey ever realize Cyclops is an ass? Now Matthew didn’t go too far, but this is YA fiction so I was expecting the drama. He played some of the best of the X-men and JLA personality conflicts out in new and different ways, without pandering or relying too heavily on any tropes."
Salem, Massachusetts-based 16 Degrees Studio is offering free cosplay photo shoots locally to help promote the Indestructibles. The cosplay does not have to be based on the book--all we're asking for is a signal boost on social media (shares on Facebook and Twitter). Feel free to inquire for more details in the comments below or at the 16 Degrees Facebook page (above), or reach me @mattphillion on Twitter. Here's some examples of past cosplay shoots--the Biker Green Lantern concept is a personal favorite of mine.
An interesting situation is developing down in Maryland, where a teacher was placed on administrative leave for for authoring a book about a school massacre. There's a lot of moving pieces going on there, and I'm not claiming any depth of knowledge, but I heard about the story and couldn't help but start digging.
My first thought, knowing nothing else about the case, was that there has been no shortage of authors, some of whom very prestigious, who have written about school violence over the years. A friend immediately pointed out that Stephen King (who was actually a teacher at the time he wrote Carrie), Richard Russo, and Jodi Picoult have all written about large scale school violence over the years.
My second thought, selfishly, was that I had recently self-censored a scene I wanted to include in the Indestructibles sequel because I wanted to stay clear of school violence. Not because I don't want to be controversial. I want to say it was because it just wasn't the right time for that particular allegory, but honestly, I have a rule about certain types of violence when I write--if you're going to touch certain hot button topics, you better mean it, and you better have a purpose for it. Which isn't to say in another scenario I might not broach this topic, but Book 2 goes to some very dark places and I felt like touching school violence would bring it to a darker place than I was ready to go to with these characters.
And then I thought--damn, dude, you're a teacher. You do have to think about these things, in this day and age especially.
But then I saw the teacher's age. He's 23. This is a kid who grew up in the age of school shootings. And so I'm torn. On the one hand, we do have some accountability, as adults, as writers, as professionals (and in his case as educators) to walk with care and sensitivity. But this is a guy who grew up with a school shooting somewhere in this country every few weeks or months.
A few months ago there was an incident at a college near me where a student was brandishing a knife. The school went into shelter in place protocol for safety. I have a few adult friends who work there who were legitimately freaked out. They had never experienced a shelter in place situation. They were truly afraid. But the students--late teens and early twenties, born in another era--were mostly worried about whether or not they had snacks while they waited it out in their classrooms. This is the world they grew up in. It's just part of the day to day life. Should it be? Absolutely not. We want to live in a world where there aren't cataclysmic events every few weeks. But there is no denying that everyone who grew up in the US under a certain age has experienced the very real threat of a school shooting every single day of their lives.
Why wouldn't this effect their writing? Why wouldn't this be a scenario that might lead them to write a dark, futuristic story?
On the one hand, it's understandable why administration and law enforcement might raise an eyebrow. Certainly youthful indiscretion isn't an excuse given the ages of many of the perpetrators in the recent past of extreme violent actions. But by the same token, this launches full speed over the line into censorship and thought police territory. It not only silences one writer, it sets a tone in which the creative process is under attack, where any number of creative students might see what happened to this educator and wonder if their own thoughts might be similarly censored and shut down.
Is there a right thing to do here? Could have have told his bosses he had written this book and explained his reasons behind it? Or would that have simply sped up the process for the investigation? And on the flip side, there would be no forgiveness for an administrator who did nothing if a catastrophe did happen. Their actions are influenced by our culture of paranoia and blame as well.
I don't have an answer. I can say I'm uncomfortable with censorship, and that I am terribly sad we live in a time when reality forces us to be vigilant if not outright paranoid about violence on a massive scale. And that we should all watch how this story plays out. the outcome will be significant.
Matthew Phillion is the writer of "The Indestructibles," part-time actor, occasional filmmaker. Currently on the lam in Salem with his trusty dog, Watson.