Text to Image…probably

I keep coming back to this one idea: abstract illustration.

  • Why, Emily, whatever do you mean? Are you going to do an art?
  • “…probably”
Let me catch up my new blog group and anyone else who happens to read this:
For my repurposing project I paired 3 original high fantasy vignettes (short fiction) with an exploratory nonfiction piece.
Concept illustration of the Waystone Inn from Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind

So, my idea is to create 3 illustrations, 1 for each vignette. Either that or a short comic, but I’ll come back to that.

These illustrations wouldn’t necessarily be straightforward images of what my text is describing, but they would also ideally be manifestations of my original intents for each vignette. Which is to say, it’d get a little abstract. Of course, abstraction may also be a product of my artistic style and ability.
That’s one thing I’m kind of worried about for this idea, to be honest. The style I art in may not be conducive to the thoughts I’m trying to get across in the context of my vignette. However, if I think about the images outside of the context of my vignettes and only as separate creations within themselves it could work out pretty well.
K. There’s one.

Now the comic option. This would still focus primarily around my vignettes, but it would leave more room for the author-audience direct communication I love so, so much.

Chibi style comic by MartAiConan on deviantArt
The chibi style pictured to the right would make it fairly easy to add a humorous element to my vignettes, which are otherwise pretty serious. Using a comic could take the same content, but twist it to create a different tone for a different audience.
This could potentially be the scenes direct from the vignettes, or a more superfluous interaction between author and the same elements within the vignettes.
Either way, it seems like a lot. Especially since most of this is digital drawing.
That last goes for the previous abstract art option, too. Though I could definitely do something nondigital, I haven’t every really crossed that threshold outside of technical drawings. I’m not sure if I even have the proper equipment and software for that.
Ah well. These are some solid ideas, and I’ll definitely go with one of the two…eventually.

Website, Documentary, Point and Click, etc…

Last year in my writing 125 class, we looked at “Writing Spaces”. One of the pieces we looked at specifically was a stunning example of digital rhetoric. Welcome to Pine Point (I recommend you go full screen for this one) is an interactive web-based documentary about the people and town of a former mining community in Canada. Essentially, it discusses a very niche topic. However, the interaction of the viewer clicking to carry through the story, as well as the in depth personal profiles and anecdotes, helps to impact a broader audience.

This multimodal piece employs aural, visual, gestural, linguistic, and (of course) spatial methods to provoke the audience. I had to catch myself from saying “reader” there. Because really, you need all the parts to get the entire message. The audience takes on the role of a reader, a listener, a viewer as well as a concerned bystander, a younger person listening to an elder relative, and a fellow nostalgic.

Pine Point
Galleries on Galleries enveloped in tranquil sound

Now, this is a very specific example, and I noticed a lot of other people had more sweeping examples. To be honest, I’m kind of in love with this platform. It takes a while to get through, but that’s probably one of the points the author/designer was getting at–it’s strange to think of a whole town disappearing and only surviving in memory. That being said, does anyone know of any similar interactive web documentaries? I’d love to check them out.

Separating Self from Character

For the nonfiction portion of my project, my style hasn’t really had to change. I mean, it is significantly less formal in tone than I was in my original essay (maybe too informal at points). But overall it’s my voice coming through in a discussion with the audience as equals. At least, since peer reviews are impending, let’s hope so!

Far more interesting to me was the persona I took on for my first vignette. I decided to write in a bit of a hybrid point of view—3rd person mostly limited with just a dash of stream of consciousness. This blend allows me to highlight the perspective of the main character for this vignette (an arrogant religious tyrant who wants to stymie progress), while still being able to take in the surroundings as a proper narrator should. Also though, I was trying really hard not to fall into a trope for this character (i.e. hoping it’s not too similar to the Lord Ruler (pictured right) in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series).

lord ruler
“deathless despot of a dying dominion”
Art Credit: Inkthinker
Character Credit: Brandon Sanderson

This was my first “college try” foray into serious character writing/development. It was a little strange writing in a point of view so completely different from mine, as if they were my own thoughts. Not to mention in a completely pretentious register. It was more strange when I had a couple friends read it to make sure it came together alright. It’s really easy for me to get caught up with what I thought I wrote rather than what actually transpired on the page, so it’s always good to take a step back and reread/let someone else read.

All of the frustrations!

So, I’m trying to research my topic. Trying to find a model for class.

This isn’t going very well. I do love this topic and am still very interested in it, but going over my past sources has reminded me just how difficult this topic is to research.

I did find one article that, though unrelated to my specific topic, is similar as far as a possible direction I can take my project. LitRPG: Exploration of a New Genre is exactly what it sounds like. The writer, Nathan Woodbury, is using the article as a means of exploring a new sub-genre of science fiction. He explains the background of the genre, lists elements stories of the genre tend to include, and gives examples. It’s very opinion based, which he clarifies is primarily because it’s so new of a topic.

Now I know those of you reading this are probably like “Hold up, Emily, I thought you were writing a short story? What’s going on here?”. A couple of very good questions.
The way I see it I have 2.5 options:
1) Explore the various ways technology can be found within the high fantasy context in a more ‘op-ed’ way than I previously wrote on the topic. This could involve me either using examples I used previously (The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss, Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien, Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks, The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, The Beka Cooper Trilogy by Tamora Pierce) or I could still keep the more creative side and write up my own examples.
1.5) Write a series of character vignettes, each one set in the same world but at different periods and regions within the world. This would entail at least 3, but most likely no more than 5, very short stories exhibiting various characters as a way of showing the world to the reader without giving only descriptions.
2) Write a single short story, as planned, with focus on the plot (tbd) and less focus on making sure the use of tech come across to the reader as the main point. However, most of the examples I have found span over entire series of novels and technology is usually a reference to a very background element not at all central to the story. I’m unsure if I’d be able to even include references in such a short medium without pushing the topic and destroying the story. If I were to continue down the short story path, it would likely be split into two parts: the first would take place in an earlier time in the world to set a base of world history and give room for tech growth mention sin the second part of the story which would take place in the present time of the world. That is the only way I see this avenue working out.

I’m definitely leaning towards a combination of 1 and 1.5. Using an op-ed as a preface to what I’m trying to achieve will help make my project more accessible to a wider audience, and using character vignettes will allow a more successful exploration while still keeping the creative element I originally intended.

Phew. Glad I could think that out a bit. Now to make this post even longer.

google trends
Disappointing search trend.

Most of the sources I can find, aside from the prior mentioned article, are a couple years old and not the most credible. Meaning they’re from personal blog sites or lesser known forums. This forum thread from 2012 is sort of relevant. At least it shows that someone else in the world is thinking about a semblance of this topic. Unlike Google Trends which shows exactly 2 spikes in the search term “tech in fantasy”. The first in August 2013 right before I wrote the essay in my senior year, and the other this month while I’m searching for everything all over again. This is all very motivational.


Technology in High Fantasy

I wrote an essay in my final year of high school about the role of technology in the genre high fantasy. In it, I explored how different authors dealt with the issue of a stagnant tech system in a world with a vast history. Some authors combined tech with magic, others did in fact come up with ways to use advanced tech within their stories, others explained lack of tech outright or decided to stick with the traditional medieval tech system found in the genre.

Writer Matthew Wuertz suggests that each sub-genre of fantasy, though important for defining the overall genre as a whole, can sometimes take away from the amount of stories for any one sub-genre. I bring this up, because Wuertz may be one of the people who find my short story experiment a bit controversial. Within his blog post on the topic, he defines high fantasy as traditional “storybook” literature. Though he recognizes the intriguing quality of other fantasy sub-genres, he encourages writers to stick with the traditional high fantasy sub-genre and to build a “steady flow of excellent writing”. Though, as a fan of the genre, I will agree with Wuertz that there is never too much high fantasy, I think I disagree with his greater point.

I think that everything needs a certain amount of experimentation to stay relevant in our modern attention-drifting world. Brandon Sanderson, the author of a few books I used in my original essay, is for the most part in agreement. Sanderson thinks the genre should become a bit more experimental, at least for the case of helping individual writers stand out, if not for the betterment of high fantasy as a whole.

Mistborn fan art by watermother2004
Mistborn fan art by watermother2004 on deviantArt.

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson is part of the way he’s accomplishing this. In my original essay, his work spanned over several of my exploratory categories. Mistborn was used as an example of an author explaining lack of technology within the story. Sanderson has a sequel series in the works, with his bridge book being Alloy of Law. This book is an interesting add to the genre. You would think that all books in a series we be the same genre for the sake of continuity, but Alloy of Law (though containing the same magic system as the Mistborn trilogy) is more akin to an American Western.

Sanderson is essentially stretching an exploration of how far he can stretch his genre over an entire series of novels–I hope to do a semblance of this over a series of pages. I think the length of a sing short story, as well as the limited amount of time I have to write it in, will pose serious constraints to what I am actually able to achieve while still trying to have a certain level of nuance in my writing. To be honest, I’m worried it may devolve into a bit of a caricature piece, which though potentially amusing is not where I want to go with this.

Both of the blogs I’ve sited have similar audiences (fans of the writers), but they arise from completely different exigencies. Wuertz wants people to stick to original conceptions of what high fantasy is so as to preserve it as a solid sub-genre. Sanderson is more discussing his own experience as an author and what he hopes to achieve from it by creating his own sort of sub-genre branching off from high fantasy. Both bring up valid points, and I really hope there is a way I can experiment via my short story and still have it considered as part of high fantasy. I don’t want to do anything so extreme as create my own genre just yet, but I do want to help high fantasy stay relevant as a sub-genre in an increasingly tech obsessed culture.


The Rothfuss

I suppose ‘good blogging’ is writing about something personally meaningful. Since it’s a fairly stream-of-consciousness based act, if you aren’t actively invested in what you’re blogging about then a) don’t spend your precious time this way and b) it will probably come off as dry and at least a little boring.

Pat Rothfuss is a pretty great blogger. For that matter, he’s a fantastic author. Rothfuss has written 3 successful fantasy novels (working on a 4th) and started a cool fundraising organization called Worldbuilders that donates to his favorite charity, Heifer International. Rothfuss fans have really come through for this charity. According to the site, “In the first 7 years, [Worldbuilders] raised just over $3.5 million for Heifer international.” A lot of this was largely in part of exposure from Rothfuss’s blog.

On his blog, Rothfuss posts about his upcoming events, his writing process, the aforementioned charity, life in general, and sometimes if we’re lucky, his adorable kids. He’s given them nicknames (the eldest is Oot and the new baby is Cutie Snoo) to protect their privacy. These stories can range from hilarious to surprisingly profound and are probably my favorite part of the blog.

I’ll leave you with a video of him playing a board game on Wil Wheton’s YouTube show.

Re: subjectivity

I feel like it’s easy to automatically add a value judgement when you call something writing or not writing. For instance, in one of my classes last year the professor said that whether or not you consider a false façade architecture (as opposed to just being part of a building) is a personal decision that every architect needs to make for themselves. Maybe it’s just because it’s more immediate to me, but I like to take this as an over arching statement for topics other than architecture (like writing). To elaborate, I’ll rephrase it: whether or not you consider [insert words here] writing is a decision every reader needs to make for themselves.

Admittedly, I struggled with some of the posts to ‘What counts as writing?’ because of this. A couple that stood out to me as particularly questionable were the cereal box, the calendar,  and social media posts. These items are all trying to communicate/inform something, but like we touched on in class though most (if not all) writing communicates–not all communication is writing. Squares and rectangles.

Then again, listening to everyone’s different and at times very similar expectations of what writing is in class makes me want to rethink this. Especially in conjunction with the Brandt reading. There are so many different mediums and forms of writing nowadays. I’m not sure that it really hit me until Brandt was going through all of the various types of professional writing  just how pervasive and nontraditional writing has become in our society.

I suppose this realization (which in hindsight seems like a long time coming) coalesces with my goals for the minor in that I’ve been looking for a way to branch out with my writing in various forms to help create an understanding between internal and external. By which I mean lining up what I’m thinking with what I’m writing without sounding like a buffoon.