Christmas has come and gone, and has brought with it the true spirit of the season.
Getting (and giving) kick-arse gifts!
(Yeah, I know there’s some stuff about Jesus and family and peace and so on, but I like the present part best.)
What did I get for Christmas? Well, I’m glad you asked, particularly since almost all my gifts have relevance to writing in some way. Which makes this blog post relevant, rather than just self-indulgent filler.
A new office chair: Well, technically I got two new office chairs from my wife, because the height controls on the first one stopped working after two days, and we had to replace it lest I be left typing with my head level with the PC’s keyboard. But fortunately the folks at Officeworks were very understanding and replaced it with an even better make & model for the same price. Obviously the main thing I do at my computer is writing, and over the last few months, as my old chair fell apart and became awkward and uncomfortable to sit in, I came to realise how important a solid, comfortable chair is for sitting and writing for long periods, or even short periods. I’m not saying that all of my lower-than-acceptable 2011 writing output can be blamed on my old chair, but it’s not here to defend itself, so yeah, it’s all about the chair.
Locke & Key Volume 2: I’ve waxed rhapsodic about this stellar comics series before, and that was just based on the first collection. Now I have the second, and will be reading it tomorrow while hooked up to a platelet extractor at the blood bank for a couple of hours. The interesting point about this title is that author Joe Hill is best known for his prose work, the horror novels Heart-Shaped Box and Horns and the anthology Ghosts. L&K is his first foray into comics, but he doesn’t write it as if it was prose, as too many novelists or scriptwriters do (and yes, I mean J. Michael Straczynski), with an emphasis on captions, expository text and dialogue. Instead, Hill lets the artist do what he needs to do, to lay down visual information and structure so that dialogue and captions add depth and meaning, the two parts working together to tell the story. It’s wonderful stuff, it’s great craft, and it’s a reminder that different forms require different approaches.
Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Yes, another graphic novel, but this one was signed by author Neil Gaiman when he did a presentation at the State Library a couple of weeks ago. There are a few takeaways here. There’s the primarily metatextual nature of the story (it’s at least as much a comic about Batman comics and Batman’s place in pop culture as it is a comic about Batman), and as we know I’m kind of a fool for metatext and stories about stories. There’s the fact that a fictional character can gain and develop so much recognition and complexity over time that a comic about his place in pop culture can actually work as a narrative. And, of course, the point that Gaiman is so successful as a writer that he now spends far more time talking about his writing than he does actually writing. Much like me. Sort of.
A new wireless USB adapter: My old one had terrible internet connectivity and often just stopped working for no good reason. Now I have a sleek black one that holds the signal and is more reliable. Which is important, because how can I write without an internet connection? Um… well, to be honest, I think it would be good for me to get away from the internet and just focus on writing without the constant distractions of websites and MMOs. And I’m going to do more of that in 2012 – getting out of the house with my little laptop and setting up in a cafe for an hour or two. It’s very Northcote. Then I’ll come home and use my reliable connection to blog about doing it. It’s win-win.
The Marriage Plot: I had requested this new Jeffrey Eugenides novel at the local library, but I was 15th in the queue, which is more interest in one novel than I’ve ever seen there before. It’s refreshing to see that much demand for a non-Stephen King, non-Twilight novel. There’s always doom and gloom out there about declining reading rates and the death of literature and wah wah wah, but the truth is that there is a real and thriving market for literary fiction and for rich writing. It needs work and luck to get attention, sure – I doubt so many people would have read Middlesex if it hadn’t won the Pulitzer – but once you find that audience, you keep that audience, and it’s hungry for more of your work. I know I sure as hell am.
Scott Pilgrim Versus the World (DVD): It was a fun movie that deserved more attention, the cast was great (especially Chris Evans, which was unexpected) and I plan on both watching it again and lending it to friends that haven’t seen it. And yet, the important thing is that the original series of graphic novels had a great deal more complexity and depth, not to mention much more consistent pacing and character development. Like I said above, different forms require different skills and approaches, and adapting a work from one medium to another is a difficult task. Something is always lost, and in return something is (hopefully) gained. I think that, on the whole, Scott Pilgrim lost more than it gained in the transition – but then again, nothing was lost, because the graphic novels are still there. So it’s a lesson in the difficulties of adaptation, but also in the fact that the original work endures.
A flashing d20: It lights up and flashes when you roll a 20. FUCK. YEAH. That’ll put the fear of god into the players in my 4E D&D Eberron campaign, which I want to get back to on a more frequent basis in 2012. Is that relevant to writing? Well, yeah – roleplaying doesn’t help your writing per se, but it’s a great way to hone and develop storytelling skills like pacing, plotting and characterisation. Chuck Wendig’s got a good essay here on why writers should play RPGs. But fine, alright, I’m reaching a bit on this one. I’ll try to be more relevant with the writing benefits of the next item.
A bottle of Wild Turkey American Honey bourbon liqueur: Yeah, okay, I’m just gonna drink this. And I’m gonna really enjoy it.
So what about you guys? Any good presents? Anything that’s got a buried lesson about the craft of writing, or that makes writing easier? Or, alternatively, any good booze?