arachnekallisti: (Science!)
I've just been thinking over the fandoms I'm really drawn to, and it occurs to me that one thing they have in common is incredibly intelligent characters: Sherlock Holmes, Miles Vorkosigan, the Doctor, Batman, the Culture's Minds, Q, Agatha Heterodyne, Willow, Toshiko, Romana...

The question is, how does one go about writing characters like that? At the baseline, you've got the ones who are at the top end of human intelligence, and then you're off into the realm of the superintelligences.

I think it was Vernor Vinge who claimed that authors cannot write convincing characters who are smarter than themselves: if you could work out what a really smart person would do in a given situation, then you are as clever as that really smart person.

The problem with this particular point of view is that authors can cheat. )

Any good ones I've missed? Any more caveats on how to deploy those three?

Why Fanfic?

Sep. 1st, 2009 06:31 pm
arachnekallisti: (Default)
It's a question I get asked a lot. Quite a lot of people can't quite see what the appeal is of working in quite such a restrictive genre, with so very little leeway in terms of setting and characterisation, and no commercial prospects. Quite often, they're expecting some kind of answer about how it's good practice, since having character and setting defined frees you up to work on things like plotting and dialogue, or how pastiche is an interesting technical problem.

The thing about answers like that, though, is that they seem to regard working on fanfic as a kind of necessary evil, a tedious exercise for a writing student who'd really rather be getting on with original work. They don't explain why people who aren't aiming at a writing career would choose fanfic as a hobby, and they certainly don't explain why anyone would bother reading fanfic.

Wild theorising cut to save your Friends page )
arachnekallisti: (comic book villain)
Psychological realism in the superhero genre; is it possible? Is it worth bothering with?

For example, here's an argument* that Tim Burton's Batman films actually work a lot better than Christopher Nolan's, since Michael Keaton's Batman lives in a world so flamboyant and over-the-top that dressing up as a giant bat and beating up muggers really doesn't make him noticeably weirder than anyone else, but Christian Bale's seems to live in a realistic city in which normal people do normal things, but there is inexplicably not as much of a "WTF?!" response to the costumed vigilante as there should be. Definitely got a point here, and there were moments during "The Dark Knight" in which I, for one, was jarred by Gotham City looking so damn normal.

So, are superheroes the kind of genre, like fairy tales or grand opera, which are essentially so trippy and strange that attempting to introduce common sense is missing the whole point, and running with the trippy strangeness is a far better idea? Let's consider a few examples.

- Watchmen is entirely based around introducing psychological realism to the superhero genre, and then following the ensuing geopolitical trainwreck. It works so damn well because we have a historical context for the existence of masked vigilantes, which explains why on earth someone might conceivably end up doing that.
- Heroes has not been doing too badly at it**; I'm wondering if it's managed to do that because it's dumped quite a lot of the genre tropes, most notably costumes, codenames and secret identities.
- Strontium Dog has taken the same basic concept as X-Men, but by playing the anti-mutant bigotry and the mutants' responses to it as something much more like real-world bigotry, has transformed the concept into sci-fi - pulpy, space operatic sci-fi that is not afraid of the crack, to be sure, but not really a superhero story any more.
- Nextwave, on the other hand, has kicked psychological realism in the face and thrown a car at its head, and is pure liquid awesome as a result.

I'd be inclined to say that either approach can work, but has its risks: psychologically realistic superheroes can work, but they either need an awful lot of context establishing for them, in order to make dressing up with a costume and mask and fighting crime look less WTF-worthy, or they just need those tropes quietly discarding. Taking the crackiness and running with it is by no means an easier alternative; it can give you Nextwave, or it can give you the Goddamn Batman.

Personally, I'm inclined to stop worrying and love the crack; it's kind of hit and miss, but it's so damn awesome when it hits.


*Originally discovered following a link from Slacktivist, from what was originally a rather fine take-down of the seething stew of bad writing, bad research and bad theology that is the Left Behind series. The superhero conversation starts on page 2 of the comments.

**Heroes at its height, I mean; leaving aside the regrettable plot lapses in which entire seasons have degenerated into the passing around of the Stupid Ball and the Evil Stick in some sort of game of Stupid-Evil Lacrosse.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
1. Lust Over Pendle: in which war hero Neville Longbottom shocks the Wizarding World by shacking up with Draco Malfoy. An interesting blend of comedy of manners and spy thriller, in a Dorothy L. Sayers-esque writing style.

2. Harry Potter and the Mai Tai of Doom. It has Harry Potter, Voldemort and a tiki bar in it. It is impressively Wrong, and great fun.

3. The Boys of Summer: Harry Potter. Cricket. Sirius Black impersonates Test Match Special. Margaret Thatcher proves to be much, much scarier than Voldemort.

4. Cat Tales: Batman/Catwoman, done as a rather sweet rom-com.

5. Look at the pretty maths!

6. BRIAN BLESSED! On HIGNFY!

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