January 4, 2012
I just learned that Glenn Lord, champion ofRobert E. Howard’s writings, passed away on New Year’s Eve 2011. If not for the efforts of Lord then your favorite fictional barbarian may not even be known to you, if, of course, your favorite fictional barbarian is Conan the Cimmerian.
After Howard died, Lord compiled the pulp writer’s stories, which were primarily published in Weird Tales magazine and other periodicals during Howard’s lifetime and championed their publication into collections. He published a fanzine by the name of The Howard Collector during the 1960s-70s, and a final volume in 2011. Lord’s dedication to collecting Howard’s work and providing an outlet for Howard studies and discussion can only be measured through the growing interest in all of Howard’s work, whether it be poetry, letters, or fictional characters such as the swashbuckling PuritanSolomon Kane, King Kull of Atlantis, Celtic adventure stories of Turlogh Dubh O’Brien, the comedic boxing stories of sailor Steve Costigan, the tall tales of mountain manBreckenridge Elkins, the Oriental adventures of El Borak, and, of course, sword and sorcery tales of Conan.
Thank you, Lord, for all you did to preserve the work of one of the world’s greatest writers.
Originally published at:
March 28, 2011
Fans of script consultant Pilar Alessandra’s On The Page podcast will already be familiar with her new book, The Coffee Break Screenwriter, but those who don’t listen to this excellent podcast may not know about this great screenwriting resource and book.
The Coffee Break Screenwriter contains numerous short chapters that contain focused exercises to get your story ideas on the page. The exercises can be completed in consecutive progression, or the writer can skip around and do only the exercises that will be most helpful in your writing journey from ideation to final draft. The objective of all of the exercises is to get your thoughts out of the jungle of your mind and “on the page.”
The book starts with initial things that every screenwriter should lay down prior to writing a single word for a first draft, such as Main Character (MC) motivation, the premise of the story, the film’s logline, etc.
The book then proceeds to a brief chapter on Structure with three exercises to assist with structuring your story into a traditional film story structure. The worksheet for these exercises is good at assisting with breaking down the story into the framework of a 4-Act structure. Alessandra does not dwell on theory drama or screenwriting, and that’s a good thing. There are numerous other books, by McKee, Truby, Vogler, et. al. that are specifically focused on screenwriting theory, and go deeply into the theory of screenwriting. Coffee Break Screenwriter is not a screenwriting theory text.
Alessandra’s book continues with many chapters on various aspects of screenwriting. A couple chapters I particularly enjoyed were on Dialogue and Rewriting. They contain exercises and tools ,such as templates, to assist with organizing thoughts so that the screenwriter can march toward the ultimate goal of producing a final draft.
It’s a good, practical book that makes the screenwriter apply themselves to focused exercises that are meant to last no longer than 10 minutes, hence the title “Coffee Break Screenwriter.” I like the focused technique that the Alessandra espouses since a mere 10 minutes is the most that the majority of us can permit ourselves the luxury of creation in the busy, industrial world. The Coffee Break Screenwriter focused method is similar to the Pomodoro Technique of “getting stuff done.” It’s a method that, regardless of a fancy name, was used by writers of the pulps, whose primary motivation to write fast was the constant calls or knock on the door from a bill collector. It’s a technique that is used every November by thousands of aspiring writers participating in NANOWRIMO. But, it’s also more than writing at a fevered pace. It’s a series of structured mental calisthenics to allow the screenwriter to flex their storytelling talents into short, focused repetitions that build from ill-formed ideas into sharp dialogue partnered with a polished story arc in the form of a final draft. And I highly recommend it.
This post originally appeared on http://walterhisownself.com
August 2, 2010
The thirty-seventh annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Convention recently concluded at the University of Mississippi. This year’s theme was “Faulkner and Film.” I'm excited that there is interest and a concerted focus on the film writings of this American writer. Perhaps it will assist in ushering a renewed interest in the films produced in the past based on scripts by Faulkner.
Faulkner spent many years working in and with Hollywood during the age of the studio system. He was beginning to be recognized as literary master and decided to write scripts for Hollywood due income needed to support his family.
He created scripts for director Howard Hawks, and for Warner Brothers and other studios. Faulkner began working in Hollywood in 1932 and finished his last film script in the 1950s. He also wrote for the emerging television industry.
The screenplays that Faulkner penned for Hawks were: Today We Live (1933), The Road to Glory (1936), Slave Ship (1937), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), Land of the Pharaohs (1955). He helped write other scripts, but received no official credit. Additionally, Hollywood has produced numerous film and television adaptations of his original work.
I have hoped for many years for a published collection of Faulkner's screenplays. Here's my ultimate dream: a complete collection of William Faulkner's screenplays published by the prestigious Library of America to accompany the five volumes of Faulkner's novels which they currently maintain in print. It would be a great way to (nearly) complete Faulkner’s oeuvre in a beautiful Library of America volume. I say nearly because the LOA does not have a collection of all of Faulkner's short stories in print. (hint)
Sam Thomas, in the introduction to volume one in his three volume collection of “Best American Screenplays” stated that he believes the screenplay is just as important as a novel, short story or a poem. He sees the day when literature classes will study scripts as an art form on equal grounds with the recognized works of in the Canon of world literature. I completely agree.
A screenplay is just as important as the blueprints and architectural models created by an architect. The public is interested in exhibitions that display architectural drawings, concepts and models just as much as we are in the final structures themselves.
One of my favorite books on Frank Lloyd Wright is only about his drawings. A similar book I enjoy in the same vein is "Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters" by Robert Hale. In these two books the reader is presented with the sketches, notes, and unfinished drafts of master artists, architects, and designers. To me, the insight gained by looking at "blueprints" is, in a sense, more important than the final work. We are able to see the modifications, the erasing, the considerations and mistakes that the artist made while working out the details of the final product. It’s a rare glimpse into the thought process going through the artist’s mind as they worked out the final work of art (or building, in the case of architects). It’s simply fascinating stuff to behold.
A few years ago the High Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. Already enthralled by the art and engineering creations of da Vinci, I was thrilled to see actual drawings by the master. It was a chance to peer into the mind of the Renaissance genius, and to say I was enthusiastic was to say the least. I was mesmerized and ultimately enriched by the original drafts, sketches and blueprints on display. It was an enlightening experience and granted me newfound appreciation for his work.
I hold the same stance about screenplays. A screenplay allows us an opportunity to peer into the mind of the screenwriter that grants newfound appreciation for the final product, the film. It’s an opportunity that no writer should turn down, whether you are writing for film, television, theater, novels, or poetry.
Perhaps the Faulkner and Film theme of the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference will encourage scholars, publishers or other interested parties to publish a collection of the Nobel Laureate’s screenplays for us to examine, consume and study. We'll all be richer because of it.
This post originally appeared at Walterhisownself.com
February 17, 2010
February 2, 2010
January 24, 2010
It frightened me as a child. I saw it on broadcast television nearly every year. It contained fantastical images of Winged Monkeys and the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West. The shriveling legs of her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, as the black-and-white stockings curled beneath Dorothy’s house, was a particularly scary scene. As I grew older I became less and less frightened of the images from the “The Wizard of Oz.” In fact, to this day, it’s one of my all time favorite films. I especially like the scene where Dorothy and her companions discover the “man behind the curtain” is really the Wizard. And, I’m now particularly fond of the Flying Monkeys. There’s something sinister behind their goofy guise that I like.
So it was with baited excitement and honor to have my family join me and hundreds of other Wizard cinephiles at the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta for a special showing of “The Wizard of Oz.” The film was accompanied by numerous events that were headlined by a special ninety-one year old guest.
Karl Slover was the guest of honor at the Plaza Theatre’s 70th Anniversary Celebration. You know Karl as one of the Munchkins in the “The Wizard of Oz.” He was 1st Trumpeter, and also one of the flower petal babies.
He lead the audience in a sing-along of “We’re off to see The Wizard” He introduced the film and it was an honor to meet him.
“We're off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
You'll find he is a whiz of a Wiz! If ever a Wiz! there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz! there was The Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.
We're off to see the Wizard. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”
The audience applauded when he appeared during the Munchkin Villages scenes. He was in his early twenties in 1939 when the film debuted. Karl also spoke about Margaret Hamilton and a conversation he remembered between he and film director, Victor Fleming, about her reluctance to have her young son see the film and his mother portraying the Wicked Witch of the West. She feared he would run away from home.
The film has a special place in my heart as something that once scared me and caused fitful sleep, but has grown to be a film I truly cherish and recognize as one of the greatest that Hollywood has ever produced.
Aunt Em, Hate you, Hate Kansas, Took the dog. - Dorothy”
“Things haven’t been the same since that house killed my sister.”
A couple of bumper stickers on a car.
This post originally published at: walterhisownself.com on January 23, 2010.
October 30, 2009
Years ago I read William Gibson & Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine and immediately loved the steampunk milieu. It's a work that divides fandom into those who feel that The Difference Engine is a fractured novel, and the others, like myself, who enjoyed the narrative even toward the gimmicky end. It is worth a read, twenty years later, if you've never experienced it. Since then, there have been numerous other authors who have grown the subgenre. I'm not saying that Gibson and Sterling where the first, that honor should probably go to James Blaylock, but The Difference Engine was the first steampunk novel I had ever read. And since it was written by two well-know authors at the time, it could very well be the initiator of the steampunk zeitgeist we are experiencing today.
This month, near its end, marked science fiction & fantasy publisher TOR's "Steampunk Month." They have a few titles available for sale at a discount and I'd like to offer my brief thoughts on the ones that I have read:
Freak Angels by Warren Ellis & Paul Duffield: They're a loose band of superheroes, or something akin to being more than mere mortals, and they live in an England after the world ended. It's been a free web comic for quite a while, and has recently be collected into two volumes. Well worth a read. Try out the web comic if you're hesitant or not deep into steampunk.
Girl Genius by Kaja and Phil Foglio: A fun-filled comic filled with mad scientists, steam mecha and a heroine not to be missed. This is a great comic. Don't miss it now that it's being collected into omnibus editions.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: A rich, atmospheric novel where the mere setting breathes with life grander and more haunting then the residents. I recommend this and all of Mieville's work.
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot: Experience Victorian sensibilities in the hands of comics artist and writer Bryan Talbot and the hero Luther Arkwright in a multiverse of secret agents and villians. I love it.
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers: Powers is one of my favorite authors and I don't miss any of his writings, and neither should you. Start with this one, you won't be disappointed.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore: Moore's work is simply profound. You shouldn't pass this one up. It includes a group of fictional characters who band together to fight forces of evil and fully captures Victorian attitudes while telling a great yarn.
The Steampunk Trilogy by Paul Di Filippo: After I devoured The Difference Engine during my college's exam week (it was a great stress reliever), I immediately went on a search for more steampunk. The Steampunk Trilogy was what I encountered next. It's collection of three novellas and blurs the lines between fantasy and steampunk scifi. I was hooked and didn't look back.
Then there's also the others, the early stuff, that could be called the early-works, though great works none-the-less, like H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, and Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea ("20,000 leaguessss! That's pretty deep, Captain!"). These books are to modern era steampunk as the New York Dolls and The Velvet Underground are to late 70s punk rock: they set the stage for the punkers like The Clash and Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers and The Buzzcocks.
Well, enough brief reviews for now. Next time, Steampunk Games.
October 29, 2009
It seems that NaNoWriMo has inspired those with a technical, and pragmatic, bent to declare November "Prag Pro Wri Mo."
Are you a technical writer, software developer, project manager or just a "git r done" practitioner with several ounces of hacker spirit? If so, then "Prag Pro Wri Mo" just may be the writing challenge for you.
October 28, 2009
It's a rapid fire, fun-filled challenge to produce a 175-page (50,000 word) novel in the spirit of the "24-hour comic," or the "48-hour film project."
Are you up to the challenge?
Participation details are here.
musings, random thoughts, bursts of creativity, fleeting glimpses of... whatever.... or something like that.