Thursday, October 22, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: Dirty Pop, the Record Companies, and the "Law" of Social Darwinism

#NaNoWriMo #writers
Lately, my villains have started invoking what they call the "Law of Social Darwinism". What is Social Darwinism? Basically, the game of "king of the hill" turned into an all-encompassing worldview. "Survival of the fittest" and all that, you know. Capitalism is based entirely on Social Darwinism, if you believe the most ruthless robber barons and the fiercest anticapitalists. When you hear the words "Law of Social Darwinism" come out of the mouth of one of my characters, especially if the character gives it a positive spin, you know you've facing a villain, and our heroes are in trouble. Case in point: in Dirty Pop, the ruthless record company chairman, based partly on the Ned Beatty character in Network, who tells our poor heroine Charlie that he owns her.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How Spanner Got Her Handle

Sometime in the late 1990s, I changed the name of the comic I've been working on since 1991 to Spanner, with my character Shira starring in her role as "angel of chaos". But I never gave the origin of the handle "Spanner" any thought. But then came a series of pranks that became #1 trends on Twitter. And suddenly it came to me. Here's the scene in which the handle's origin is revealed:

Shira is in a police interrogation room. It may be on a "guild violation" as she is violating the Police Guild's monopoly on disarming bombs, like those created by the fiendish "mad bomber" known as the Toymaker, which Shira routinely deconstructs. The interrogator is her archnemesis Diana Shockley, police agent of the United Corporations (and a member of the villainous Becket clan, owners of the ruling Dictel Corporation).
Diana: How did you become "Spanner"?

Shira: You wanna know how I got that handle? I'll tell you. You see, I own the Toymaker. I own him big time. I own him over and over and over. I used to jam wrenches into his cruder early jobs. So the trolls and punkers at 4chan/b/ declared me the "Spanner Queen of the Universe". That quickly became "Spanner, Queen of the Universe". The rest, of course, is history.
So now you know. And so do I.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: Characters for Dirty Pop

At this point in my preproduction of Dirty Pop, I think I should give some thought to the novel's cast. After all, the characters make the plot, and I need the right balance of characters if I want the story to work. I have the right balance between our heroine, Charlie, and the archvillainess, her mother Drusilla. But their epic conflict requires various supporting characters as well. So let's see what I can come up with...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Real Life Bad Companies: Trafigura and Carter-Ruck

While reading my Twitter stream late at night, I came upon the mysterious hashtags #trafigura and #carterruck in a tweet about censorship by someone I follow. Turns out that there's this British counterpart to the infamous Enron called Trafigura has been caught dumping toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. So to suppress any and all media coverage of the scandal, the company hires an equally nasty law firm called Carter-Ruck, which specializes in suing the media in order to censor them. The tag team of Trafigura and Carter-Ruck has succeeded in imposing a gag order so comprehensive that the media in Britain are now forbidden to cover Parliament at all, period. The Spectator defied the gag order to post this article.

Trafigura and Carter-Ruck have, in essence, repealed the 1689 Bill of Rights in the UK. This may have been the ultimate goal of the firm's founder, Peter Carter-Ruck, who had been highly impressed by Hitler in the 1930s. Criminal American corporations and their legal defenders can't even dream of repealing the First Amendment of the US Constitution through anything short of a military coup. Sure enough, their censorship strategy has backfired: the blogosphere has declared war. Just click the Twitter search terms above (except "#NaNoWriMo") and you'll get an idea of the fury Trafigura's censorship has unleashed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: Pop Culture Research

I'm not touching my index cards for my NaNoWriMo novel Dirty Pop till just one week before NaNo begins. But that doesn't mean I can't do some Internet research on the pop culture world in which main girl Charlie is trying to make her mark in.

First of all, there's the behind-the-scenes stuff that's going to be the tricky part: managers, crew, labels, legal stuff, etc. What you see on MTV or YouTube has a huge infrastructure behind it, and it needs to be part of the story.

Second: fashion. That's always been difficult for me to imagine, much less draw. In the non-Disney pop music world Charlie is trying to break into, it's important to have the right style — and right now that style tends to be a cross between the outrageous and the science-fictional.

Third: What real-life pop-cultural figures do I want to loosely base characters on? No, there won't be any roman à clef type stuff with thinly disguised real-life characters; my imagination is too powerful and strange for that. Knowing as well as I do how I work, I'm likely to mix, match, and mutate characters till they only vaguely resemble their real-life inspirations. Case in point: Charlie's mother Drusilla, a major villain in Bad Company and Black Science as well as Dirty Pop. As a New Age cult guru, I threw together at least half a dozen real-life cult matriarchs into the blender and set it to "puree". Dru has elements of JZ Knight (of Ramtha fame), Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Sylvia Browne, and my family's ex-guru from the late 1970s and early '80s, along with the fictional character Erica Kane (from the soap opera All My Children). (My suggested casting for the role: Cate Blanchett, unless it's Meryl Streep in full "Nuclear Wintour" mode.) This is the kind of character mashup I have in mind.

A good idea to keep in mind is that sometimes even the most frivolous pop-cultural confection needs some intensive research, even if it doesn't need quite the research that a political thriller about an evil military corporation that invades America needs. Of course, it shouldn't be overdone; that way lies procrastination...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bad Company: The Horror, The Horror; or, America Is God and Dictel Is Cthulhu

In my previous entry on political horror, I said that in Bad Company and other entries in the Spanner cycle I would depict governments as gods and corporations as hostile alien lifeforms. But then I read this blog post on how government has annihilated privacy (and, just as important, the comments), and I realized: my political horror scenario is real! It is our reality. So the horror elements of BadCo are in fact realistic!

In the spirit of Alfred Hitchcock, I'm giving out the big spoiler even before the novel is published. Here it is:
  • The United States Federal Government is the Second Coming of Christ, but only in the sense that the cruel and vengeful Old Testament God is returning as the merciless Christ of the Book of Revelation.
  • Dictel Corporation is the vessel of Cthulhu; in fact, the world's largest military conglomerate is the ideal form in which the dread god can reincarnate.
Why am I doing this? Because BadCo's big shock revelation will shock you anyway, even if you know it's coming.

But now I know that when I unmask the US government as Jehovah and Dictel as Cthulhu, I'm being perfectly realistic. We live in an animistic world more terrifying than we can currently imagine. My job in the Dictel trilogy is to show it to you and make you believe it. Is this one objective justification for Karl Marx's theory? Sure, and some people will interpret it that way. But now you will know why libertarians and anarchists believe government is evil, and why Marxists and other socialists believe capitalism is evil.

Now my next task is to figure out exactly where in BadCo to put this big revelation...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: One More Alternate Candidate...

All of a sudden I realized that I have one more alternate novel I can write for NaNoWriMo 2009: the Spanner novelization. If I've been working so hard writing that prequel trilogy (Bad Company, Black Science, and my still unnamed 2010 NaNo novel) and all those side stories (The Jennifer Theory; Dirty Pop and its potential sequels) and yet have come nowhere near to finishing them, shouldn't I go back to the core story of the cycle and start actually writing it? Since I have so much story material built up in the project notebooks I've kept since 1991 (the current, and last, being #14), I should be able to assemble it all, add the new story ideas I've been playing with, and perhaps finish the first book by the end of the year. Since so much of it is in script form already, I could write both the complete script and the novelization in as little as two months (NaNoWriMo plus NaNoFiMo).

Now, Spanner is supposed to be a webmanga. Problem is, I haven't been drawing anything, and I've even neglected the story itself to work on all those prequels. NaNoWriMo, which got me writing the prequels, would be the perfect opportunity to finally get off my butt and start writing Spanner itself. Actually, I did start writing Spanner already — but for Script Frenzy '08. But I didn't follow through on that. Besides, I'm discarding the majority of the script I did write.

There's still 25 days of October left till NaNo. My decision is not yet final. Maybe I've put Dirty Pop on my NaNo profile, but I can always change it. I still have time. My choice of novel isn't final till NaNo begins. Right now, Spanner itself is starting to look like a possible alternate to Dirty Pop.

But if I do choose to make Spanner my NaNoWriMo novel for 2009, there's two things I'll have to do in addition to the prose: 1) write the script, the basis for the prose, and 2) draw. A lot. My script will rely on thumbnail layouts, and I'll need to create character designs. And I'll have to improve my drawing skills so that I can do both much better than I can now. If I commit myself to Spanner the novelization, then I commit myself at last to Spanner the manga.

Choices, choices...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Black Science: Two New Scenes for Desiree (Pre-NaNoWriMo Update)

Sometimes ideas simply come to you. Like these two scenes that emerged pretty much full-blown today. One overwhelmed me in the library. The other emerged out of a conversation I got into at my local guitar shop. Both involve redheaded Desiree, one of the two main characters of Black Science.

The first is a love scene. A new male lover convinces shy Desiree to remove her inhibitions with her clothes (actually, he removes the latter) and make love. This scene — is he a character from Bad Company, or a new character? I haven't decided yet — serves as a counterpoint to Desiree's incubus-seduction by the terrorist villain Rashid in BadCo, so I realized that it belongs in Black Science, which is in part a sort of "Desiree Thomas' Lehrjahre". This new man (if it isn't BadCo's Billy Hunter) in effect initiates her into the true pleasures of lovemaking, at least the heterosexual variety. I'll find a place to put it in the Black Science plot where it will advance Desiree's character arc.

The other new scene for Black Science features a cameo appearance by Desiree's sister Charlie. The sisters are out shopping in some mall in the Seattle area, I haven't decided which one. As you'd expect, there's packs of teenage girls running around, each one representing some conformist school clique. Some of them scowl at the two nonconformist sisters in unison, partly in disgust at Charlie's politically incorrect hairstyle, never mind the clothes (which all but have a whole novel to themselves in Dirty Pop). Desiree, still only 18, is concerned, but Charlie (already 21) shrugs it off. Charlie says to Desiree, "Don't mind them. They still don't know how to think for themselves. We're the cool ones here. They're merely 'in'."

As you can tell, I'm still getting new scenes for my previous NaNoWriMo novels. I'm getting new song ideas too. It isn't till the last week of this month (October) that I'll shift my focus entirely to my '09 NaNo novel, Dirty Pop.

Monday, October 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo Prep: A Savage Plotbunny Attack Creates a Murderous Crime Thriller

#NaNoWriMo #writers
I have a temper. Sometimes it attacks me, perhaps just to remind me that it's there. It likes to latch onto true crime stories and force me to hate the culprits and/or victims (depending). Today it turned a dormant plotbunny into a steroid-crazed Frankenstein's monster that jumped all over my head until it hurt. The story in question is called Mass Murder, and its antihero is an ex-Catholic vigilante who begins by summarily executing pedophile priests, starting with the ones who raped him when he was a boy, and ends up attempting a murderous terrorist attack on Saint Peter's Square during the Pope's Christmas address and intended to take out not just the Pope himself but countless thousands of his followers as well. In the meantime he massacres convicted sex criminals, brutally assassinates Roman Polanski, and firebombs a halfway house for sex offenders while shooting the firefighters and police officers who try to save the house's inhabitants. Out of his self-righteous crime spree, a deadly terror cult is born: the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus that first appears in Black Science. The terrorist calls himself the Sexecutioner.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

NaNoWriMo is coming again, and I've got my novel...

#NaNoWriMo #writers
...only it's not actually part of the Dictel trilogy. Bad Company and Black Science are still so unfinished, there's no way I could get all three novels in the trilogy finished before NaNoWriMo 2010. So I'm writing a side story.

It's called Dirty Pop, and it accounts for Charlie's absence from Black Science. So what has she been doing in 2009? Why, trying to restart her singing career, of course! When we meet her early in Bad Company, she's about to kill herself, partly over the fact that her own mother, the narcissistic cult guru Drusilla Becket, destroyed her career over a forbidden lesbian fling. For Charlie, success is the best revenge.