Friday, 29 February 2008

Buffy - an alternative take

Credit: Martin Rebas Thanks to a sick day yesterday, I have now finished watching Buffy. Fantastic show, as I've already said, with a great finale.

I think this essay goes too far, but it does make several valid points - especially with regards to the characters of Spike, Anya and Willow. The author, in her intro, acknowledges that she is a Spike fan, which clearly comes across in the essay. Definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Wait... I do know you

Even Darker SparkleI now know who the author of Darker Sparkle is. I'd love to tell you that I tracked them down with my trademark cunning and detective abilities, but - hard though this may be to believe - I didn't. They read my blog post and enlightened me and called me a doughnut.

Brummies, eh?

Interesting point to be made, though, about the ease of anonymonity on the internet. The person running the aforementioned blog is someone I lived with for six months, worked with for near two years, and with whom I still keep (sporadic) contact. There were subtle clues in her writing - her current location, for a start. But remove the pictures and change the name (Lily? Que?) and suddenly you have a complete stranger.

It's a well-trodden subject, so I shan't harp on about it. But this is relevant to my writing; one of my stories in the SINS Anthology touched on the idea of internet personalities, and it's very much a subject I'd like to return to at some point.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Why I hate vampires, and why I want to write about them

Buffy the Vampire SlayerI’ve been thinking recently about vampires.

As monsters go, I don’t consider vampires particularly scary. In fact, I tend to think of accepted vampire mythology as ridiculous: vampires are hampered in so many ways that it seems to be almost impossible for them to operate as effective killers – which is what most vampire fiction attempts to depict them as.

Of course, the word ‘vampire’ doesn’t always suggest the supernatural. We use it to mean a number of things: ‘parasitic’, ‘pale’, ‘bad’. It’s a lovely word; it has a richly evil sound, thanks to its Eastern European etymology. However, early vampire myths – particularly from Romania – stem from a fear of deviance from normality: people born with physical abnormalities (such as a caul or tail) or who were conceived out of wedlock were shunned as vampires.

I’ve been watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer again. Despite the fact that it’s a show from my school days, I didn’t see more than a couple of episodes until about two years ago, when I was lent a series at a time by a friend. Since New Year, I’ve been collecting the DVDs, and – more than a decade after it was first aired – the show is still fresh and modern when compared to some of the tat on the box today.

Mostly, it’s the writing. The dialogue is warm and genuinely funny, and the characters – insane and stupid though they often are – are believable despite the fantastical settings and stories. For me, however, the most interesting characters are not Buffy, Willow and Xander. I find the vampires much more interesting.

Spike and Angel are the obvious examples in this. But even discounting these two, you’ve still got the Master, Harmony, Willow’s alternate self, Drucilla and a ton of minor characters. Vampires in Buffy are more real to the audience than half the regular cast of good guys. Just look at Riley Finn.

Vampire fiction – Hollywood in particular – tends to miss the point. Okay, there are a few gems: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Interview With A Vampire and The Lost Boys: films that deliberately humanise the vampire characters. But for every one of these, you have twenty films where the vampires are boringly disposable. Underworld, From Dusk Till Dawn, I Am Legend, Blade. Even when they attempt to give their vampires character, they miss the humanity because they’re so focussed on making the vampires evil.

Vampires are not interesting when they want to eat people. They are interesting when they are different, when they survive and prosper despite their limitations.

Anyway, I’ve started writing some vampire fiction. I’m going for a mix of pop-culture and traditional fare, but the major difference is that my vampires will not be playing second-fiddle to a group of less-interesting ‘good guys’. My vampires, in fact, aren’t even going to be evil. I’m picking out what I feel is most interesting: the idea of vampires as social deviants.

They’ll be fucked-up, depressed, stupid and weak. In other words, they’ll be as human as the rest of us and – hopefully – all the more interesting for it.

Public Service Announcement

I think I was a little over-optimistic about how much TV I was going to watch when I started this blog. It wasn’t long after I wrote the first entry that I stopped watching the box entirely – again – which is going to make writing about it a little tricky.

So I’m changing the point of this site. TV will still play a part, but I’m expanding the remit to include some of my other interests.

You have been warned.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Darker Sparkle

While I'm aware of the internet's propensity for spam, I didn't get the impression that I was under attack by the makers of meat produce when I received an invitation to read a blog called Darker Sparkle.

It's invite only, so the link probably won't work. But I'll keep it on this post so that Lily (if that is indeed your name!) knows I'm talking about her.

Lily says:
You might have only met me once, fleetingly, you may know me really well, we might not even have met. You might realise straight away who invited you to read this, you might gradually work it out, you might never realise.

Of course, my point is that I don't know anyone called Lily. However, my memory is terrible at best, so it's very possible I met her once. From the quality of writing, I doubt very much it's my ex-girlfriend from my first year at university ten years ago. That's a compliment.

Anyway, I got an invite and enjoyed the ramblings and would love to leave a comment and can't because the comments have been turned off. Lily: if you read this, turn them back on or send me a message. Please.

Lies, damn lies and pot plants

In the last post, I suggested that I would be updating this blog fairly regularly.

Evidently, I lied.

I'm not known for being a liar. I've fibbed from time-to-time, mostly in order to get out of going something I really don't want to. The problem is that I'm a terrible actor - really, really bad - and you need a bit of the thespian to pull off a good lie. I don't have that.

Of course, I could be yanking your chain and talking bollocks. Wouldn't be the first time.

The point is, I haven't updated this blog. But I will, and soon.

That's not to say I haven't been writing. I have, in fact; fairly prolifically if you don't count the stuff I'm not paid for. Even if you do count personal wordage, I'm still not doing too badly.

Case in point:
Content Formula newsletter

The guy in the really cool hat? That would be me.

Inevitably, one of my friends accused me of David Brent-ing when I wrote the main article. I sent him an email back which - I think - said something along the lines of "Bollocks to you". This response, I feel, doesn't defend me well enough.

That article was written in that style for a good reason: someone paid me to do it. Now, you can get all uppity about the nature of money and selling out as a writer, and in some cases I might even agree with you. Fact is, I write for a living, and it's not a bad living as they go. It's better than reading newspapers on a Saturday night or making plastic boxes or picking up litter in High Wycombe or any of the other jobs I've had. So when someone tells me to write an article for a certain audience, I kinda have to.

I work for a company that builds intranet and internet sites. They wanted me to talk about intranets. The subject is - for me - interesting enough (certainly more interesting than some of the other articles I write on a weekly basis), but it's drier than a nun in the Gobi. You have to dress it up a bit to make it readable.

Not only that, but I work for a company that builds intranet and internet sites. This article was meant to reflect the style of that company, not necessarily my own. Like it or not, I'm currently a cog in someone else's machine.

Hence the pot plants. Yeah, I'm selling out, but I still get to put the word 'writer' on my CV. Which in three months or six months or a year or whatever might come in pretty handy.