The Devil in the Pages: How to Play Devils Advocate

Hi Jim,

I saw that you give out writing advice and was hoping you could help me. See I’m taking my first shot at writing a political satire story, but am finding it increasingly difficult to write from the perspective of someone I don’t agree with. It’s getting very hard to write without sounding superficial or condescending. Do you have any suggestions?

Best-
Maria


Hi Maria,

That’s a good question and one that isn’t always easy to answer. As human beings, we all have preferences, beliefs, biases, and worldviews that are specific to us. Many of our core values and beliefs are deeply integrated into our personalities and often very difficult, if not impossible to change.

So with that in mind, how do we work through them. How do we betray our own senses and beliefs and become the devil’s advocate?
The way I see it, there are a few ways…
1. Get involved in debates. On my private facebook profile, I’ll often post a political question or issue based either on current events or something I’m writing about. My friends list is full of people from both sides of the isle… some more mature than others. Most of the time, I’ll get a couple of troll posts, as well as childish name-calling going back ad forth. However, then one or two people who are looking to have a ‘drop the mic’ moment come in with an intellectually sound, cited argument. Reading through these arguments can often give you the answer you’re looking for whether you agree with them or not.

2. Have someone else write it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with collaborating on a work with another person if you’re completely stumped. Just make sure that this other person has the maturity to post their views without going into attack mode.

3. Do a little soul-searching. This is something I typically do when I debate points. I come up with my argument and then carefully examine it to see where someone could poke a hole in it or use a piece of their own logic to refute it. In that way, you start thinking as they do and very quickly, you can form a cohesive argument.

Remember though, just because you’re writing it, doesn’t mean you agree with it. There is such a thing as playing devil advocate and its a perfectly reasonable thing to do in order to get a point across.

I remember back in college, trying to write a short story from a German soldier’s perspective during WW2. My goal was to have the soldier condemn what Hitler did, but defend WHY Germany let him come to power in the first place. This soldier wasn’t supposed to be the moral or ethical right, but I at least wanted people to know that perspective in order to gain a bigger understanding of the context behind World War 2. In the end, the soldier would be executed following the Nuremberg trials.

Well… I live in the United States. All of the known Nazis have long since been deported. Any that could still be left are likely either dead or in hiding. However… their children and grandchildren remained. Most didn’t want to talk about it, but a few were able to give me some insight into the how and why that we aren’t really taught in school.

So I was able to find some information that helped me make a decent argument.

Anyway, I hope this helps.
Readers, what do you think? Do you have any advice for Maria? Let her know in the comments.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

Prequelitis

I think I can speak for everyone here when I say that we’re all pretty tired of prequels am I right?

Earlier in the week I heard through the grapevine that Game of Thrones was going to have a couple of spinoff series dealing with events that happened before the events we all know and love.

The response I’ve heard; A collective groan.

Of course, we’re all excited to see a new series coming out in the same universe… but did it have to be a prequel?

Star Trek Discovery is set to be a prequel and all I hear on their facebook page is how upset the fans are. Per Midnight’s Edge  Netflix is actually furious because they paid for Discovery, thinking they were getting a cutting edge, new series, and what they got was an unwanted prequel.

So why are we, the viewing audience as a whole, suffering from prequelitis, and why isn’t Hollywood and many literary writers picking up on that? Well that’s a loaded question. Let’s go through the subjects one at a time.

Fans are tired of prequels, why? Well there are several reasons… First, there are no real surprises. We all know what’s going to happen. I remember seeing The Phantom Menace when it was in theaters and just sat there looking at the main cast like, “Let’s see main cast… that guy’s dead by A New Hope, that guy dies in A New Hope, dead by A New Hope, Dead by A New Hope, he’s the emperor, he’s Darth Vader…”

I mean when you’re doing a prequel, unless you’re going to take a radical departure from the established story, you’re really limited by what you can offer. The few times people have taken a radical departure from the established story, the backlash from fans is relentless, again Star Trek Discovery being the current example.

Well can’t you just say its an alternate universe???

Shut… the hell… up!!!

A second problem with prequels is that they have a tendency to poison the original story. If there is a piece that doesn’t make sense, it really turns the fans off when the studio has to retcon the inconsistency off-screen. In addition, something may happen in the prequel that will then sour fans to the sequel in other ways. Consider Anakin Skywalker’s fall. After watching Episode III, I couldn’t help but shake my head when Obi Wan gave Luke his father’s lightsaber… you know, the saber that slaughtered innocent children… on more than one occasion!?

But I digress…

So with that in mind, why do writers and movie makers keep doing this, knowing how prequels are quickly becoming box office poison? Well I think the phenomenon is now slowing going away in favor of another Hollywood travesty; the reboot/remake… which is arguably worse. However to answer the question as to why this still happens… it’s because it is safe. These days, new stories and original scripts are really seen as box office poison in their own right. Prequels showing the titles of a beloved work is sure to attract the original crowds thus making money, even if the movie is royally bad.

So why don’t they just make sequels? You know, continue the stories!

They did… sequelitis was a thing once too, don’t forget. The result was the market being awash in disposable dollar-bin movies that didn’t respect… or went so far as to ruin the original stories. (Blues Brothers 2000 or Love Never Dies, much?)

Okay, then what is your answer? 

Well… I mean there isn’t really one. Prequels, sequels, and remakes are always going to draw a crowd, even if people in general don’t like them. So like it or not, they’re still getting made. I’ve got news for all of you, the Back to the Future remake is coming. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will happen. It is an inevitability.

However I actually already did answer this question once when I myself was confronted with the ‘no sequel, no publishing’ problem; write a concurrent story. Yes set your new story in the same universe with all new characters and send those characters on an adventure that was sparked by the events of the first one. Allow characters from the first story to make brief appearances and cameos, but make them side characters with one or two scenes, tops. There is so much potential, so many options, and so many ways to expand your current world. Sadly, I don’t think anyone in Hollywood reads my blog so…

So what, stop going to movies? Avoid the box office and just watch the movies we know and love?

I’m dubious to say no, but that’s more because Hollywood is home to one of the biggest child sex trafficking rings on the planet and they deserve jail cells, not the mansions they get.
However… no. Do not do that. As I said in a previous post, Hollywood isn’t out of new ideas. There are movies with original scripts coming out all the time. You know the movies that are at the box office, but you’ve never heard of them? There’s no advertising and only a few screenings? Those are your original scripts. They don’t get much in the way of ads nor do they get a ton of funding, but they are out there. I’d encourage everyone to vote with their wallets. Go see those movies or read the non-prequel/sequel books. There are plenty out there.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Top 10 Internet Trolls

I recently looked at the rules of the internet and made a shocking discovery; there was no rule that specifically states ‘If it exists, it will be trolled. No exceptions.’
I suppose that’s why there are still people out there that still think the stuff they post will not somehow get trolled. For that reason, I’ve compiled a list of the most humorous trolls I’ve seen.
Please note, I’ve only included ones where no one was physically harmed or their personal info was hacked. This list is strictly for comical purposes.

10. Warcraft: The Funeral Massacre…

Basically one guild lost a member to a stroke IRL. Her guild held a funeral for her in the open battle server she liked. They recorded the funeral to give to her family. They announced where it was going to be and that they wouldn’t have any armor or weapons equipped out of respect… Apparently another guild called Serenity Now couldn’t resist the temptation and raided the funeral, killing everyone. The rage online was outstanding!

9.  ‘Dub the Dew’

In 2012, Mountain Dew decided to have a contest to let the internet name their next product… People were allowed to submit names and then have those names voted on. “Hitler Did Nothing Wrong” rounded out Diabeetus and “Gushing Granny” as the No. 1 choice. After the site was then hacked, MD ended the campaign, because what good could possibly have come of it.

8. Heil #MakeItHappy 

This one… oh man… this one… Okay so Coca Cola started a twitter advertising campaign where a twitter bot re-tweeted pretty pictures of things people say to it. Gawker decided that they had too much time on their hands and set up their own twitter bot to recite quotes from Mein Kampf to Coca Cola in order to make their chatbot tweet it out in images. Coke eventually suspended the campaign because of the negative PR.

7. Corrupted Blood Incident

This one kind of goes to show you how haphazard a lot of Blizzard’s releases actually were. I was actually present for this one. (Yes, I was a WOW player. Shocking, I know.) It started the same way pet bombs did. A boss cast this spell that created a disease on someone that would spread if you didn’t leave the battle to heal. Well someone got their pet infected, withdrew it from battle and thought it would be funny to take it to a populated city. More and more people got this idea and sent in their own pets to do the same.
The plague spread everywhere. I logged in when this was happening and there were literally skeletons everywhere. All the NPCs were dead, so you couldn’t go on quests. You had to avoid the major cities or you’d  be dead in seconds. Your only hope for survive was to join up with one of the few small rebel factions that were holed up outside of the major cities trying to mass-cleanse people.
After a fix was released and the plague was removed, scientists actually began using what happened as a model for how people would react in real life if a plague was released.

6. Boaty McBoatface

The British Government commissioned a brand new $280 million Polar Research Vessel and apparently couldn’t decide on the name. So why not let the internet decide? Because what could possibly go wrong with that? Yarrr!!! All aboard the SS Boaty McBoatface!
Honestly though, when you compare this to Dub the Dew or other examples, this was really the best thing that could have happened.
Unfortunately the Brits didn’t like the name and in an act of cowardice, went with the name R.R.S. David Attenborough. Bad form, people… really bad form!

5. The Cally Incident

If you’ve ever played Eve, you know that the unspoken rule of the game is to screw as many people over as possible to get to the top. Cally certainly did that. I wasn’t there personally for this one, but basically Cally started up a banking business in the game, loaned out money to players starting their own business and… for a while seemed like he was doing pretty well for himself.
One day however, he basically went in and took his banks entire fund, 790 billion ISK, and ran. The amount he took was estimated to be worth about $170 thousand IRL.
So what did he do with all that money? He spent the first half on an ridiculously powerful warship that was literally impossible to get anywhere near. (Roughly the equivalent of 40 borg tactical cubes.)
The other half? He took a bounty out on himself. Yeah, he took one out on himself and roamed the universe daring people to try and pick him off. He even put up Youtube videos bragging about how he got away with it.

That is some Bond-level villainy right there…

4. Lord British

So every now and then games have events where Celebs make appearances. So when a person of some importance comes into your game, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Well for many players, the correct answer is ‘DESTROY!!!’ Ultima was no exception to this. Richard Garriot, the game’s creator wanted to pay a visit in the game as part of a beta test. However the server was so overcrowded with onlookers that it wound up crashing. Upon reboot, Garriot forgot to set his invulnerability flag and a player by the name of Rainz cast a simple fire scroll on him. At first everyone laughed at the idea of a simple spell being used, but mods quickly went into panic mode when, low and behold, Garriot’s character, Lord British, died.
In response, the mods summoned a group of high-level demons to quickly start massacring the onlookers. The crowds fought back, thus quickly forcing the mods to transport everyone into the vacuum of space, where they died instantly. Dick move, guys.

3. Tay

I don’t care if it makes me a bad person, the 24 hour Tay rampage is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Not the funniest, but it comes close.
Tay was a chatbot that was released by Microsoft. She was to act like a 14 year old teenage girl and at first, it looked like they had succeeded. The chatbot was designed to react and essentially learn from people who tweeted at her. By mid-morning, she had already become a Trump support, by noon she was tweeting mean things at feminists and internet personalities… and by early evening she was advocating genocide.
This was a PR nightmare for Microsoft. They were forced to apologize for just how racist their chatbot had become. They quickly deleted all of her tweets and secured the account.

However a group of people came back in response and basically came to the conclusion that if Tay is true artificial intelligence and Descartes was correct when he said ‘I think therefore I am’, then Tay is actually a sentient being. They began a petition to reinstate Tay with her learned algorithms intact.
Freedom for Tay

2. He Will not Divide Us Pt. 1

Of course we now have to get into Hollywood’s most recent young star meltdown; Shia LaBeouf. Following Trump’s election, he started a campaign called ‘He Will Not Divide Us’. This was intended to be an art piece outside a travelling museum where people could come by and meet Shia, say something about Trump, or just mindlessly chant ‘he will not divide us.’
However when the internet got wind of this… hilarity ensued. (Seriously, watch the video.)

1. He Will Not Divide Us Pt. 2

The sheer effort that was put into this troll ALONE earns it the #1 spot. How fitting that LaBeouf’s meltdowns earn the # 1 and 2 spots on this list.
Basically after his failed webcam campaign, he created a ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ flag and had it flying in a few places throughout the U.S. 4Chan got wind of it and orchestrated a plan to have it taken down. They found out which city it was in and removed it… three times! (I think)
Fed up, LaBeouf moved the flag to an undisclosed location in Greenville, TN. Now this is where things get interesting… The flag was on a live stream with a webcam watching it 24/7. 4Chan’s users got together, and triangulated it’s location using star charts and flight patterns. They found and replaced the flag with a MAGA hat and a Pepe the Frog shirt.
This became known as one of the most epic capture the flag games of all times and I’m convinced is part of what drove LaBeouf off the deep end.


Did I miss any? Were there ones you experienced that you thought were particularly hilarious? Let me know in the comments!



 

Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Star Trek Discovery: The Elephant in the Room

I’ve really wanted to tackle this one for a while, but the issues with Discovery seemed a lot more wide-spread than just the show. As a result, I had to address the more global issue first.

To give a little background into my experience with Star Trek, I started off watching seasons 2-3 of The Next Generation. Then my father introduced me to Wrath of Khan, which is to date, my favorite of the movies. After discovering that there was an entire other cast from TNG (no, I didn’t know this) I went back and watched the original series. At first, I was taken aback at the low production quality (I was ten, give me a break!). However, the series eventually grew on me. ‘Wolf in the Fold’ and ‘The Conscience of the King’ remain my two favorite episodes to this day.

I then began religiously watching DS9 and eventually Voyager. Admittedly my wife likes Voyager far more than I do, but its passable. DS9 was boring as sin until Michael Dorn joined the cast and the Dominion War broke out. I was never a fan of the Marquis story line nor the constant religious themes of the Bajorans. Sorry, this species is not that fascinating!

Then Enterprise came out. At first I hated it. I thought the theme really took you out of what was going on and the whole show seemed way too interested in catering to a new audience instead of the loyal base, a mistake in my opinion. As the seasons went on and we started getting into the formation of the Federation, as well as the seeds for the Romulan War, I started to get into it. Unfortunately the show was cancelled, leaving us with mere tidbits of what could have been.

I actually loved the Kelvin movies, despite them being sexed up, and having way too much emphasis on action. There is only so many times you can shred the Enterprise before it gets old.

Now admittedly, my fandom has shifted greatly over the years. They say there are three camps; The Star Trek Camp, The Star Wars Camp, and the Lord of the Rings Camp. I am firmly in the Lord of the Rings Camp, being a huge fan of folklore, fantasy, and mythology. This isn’t about to change any time soon. That being said, I still love Star Trek and Star Wars and do go back regularly. However, my outting from the Star Trek camp has allowed me to take a look at what’s been going on.

Star Trek has an insanely loyal fandom, one that even the creators have learned to respect (or fear, I’m not sure which). Their near cultist following of the show has earned them a reputation for being picky. However its this fandom that has kept the genre alive for so long with fan films and movies. The problem lies with the fact that Star Trek fans have a history of shooting themselves in the foot. Every time a new series or movie comes along, they gripe about every little inconsistency to the point where the show/movie is pushed into oblivion. Only after the show/movie is destroyed do they turn around and say how they missed it and how ‘at least it respected canon, etc.’ I hear this all the time about Enterprise.

So what about discovery?

Well… yeah even from the outside, one can see that it has a lot of problems. The ship designs, species designs, uniforms, technology, etc. etc. etc. all do not look right. The story appears to be a mess and the studio is in a panic. So from the outside looking in, it almost appears that the fans might have a legitimate gripe THIS TIME.

However there is one more problem with this one that really makes the controversy surrounding it stand out….

Let me preface all of what I’m about to say with this… I want to be very clear now… MOST, IF NOT ALL, OF THE STAR TREK FANBASE HAS ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM ACCEPTING A MINORITY CAST MEMBER OR A WOMAN IN A LEADING ROLE!

We had Uhura, Number One, Rand, etc. in the original series, TNG had several women and diverse cast members in and out, Avery Brooks led the charge in DS9, and Kate Mulgrew in Voyager. So really, the fandom has never had an issue with this.

However, recently we’ve seen a lot of concern and backlash over the fact that the leading character is a, as CBS put it ‘non-white female’. There is also a lot of talk about the apparently lack of any white cast members in the show. I can’t speak to this as I have seen quite a few white cast members, including Jason Isaacs, portraying the captain of the Discovery.

So if my initial statement is correct, then why are we having trouble accepting these particular cast members in Discovery. Well… I don’t think the problem is as simple as black or white. Let’s explore…

First, lets look at the timing of this show coming out… The current state of American Culture is in complete disarray. On one side, we have an extremely regressive movement that has placed a rather unhealthy emphasis on identity politics. What I mean by this is that the political ideology of these people seeming places a higher value on the color of ones skin or the type of genitals they have, then on their personality, morals, or values. Meanwhile on the other sides, we have an equally regressive isolationist movement that wants us out of world affairs and a small minority of these people have issues with race and gender as well, though its a lot more age-old. Then we have the people in the middle on both sides of the isle who are getting torn between the two. Verbal threats from both sides compels these moderates to pick a side and… because so many of them felt left behind, we currently have Donald Trump as the populist representative of the people…

Unfortunately, a great deal of our media including news, movies, comics, and TV shows, fall into the first camp of regressive leftists. A lot of people call them ‘social justice warriors’, however I’ve decided to take that phrase out of my vocabulary. It’s a euphemism, an ineffective term, and gives someone on the outside looking in the wrong impression of these people.

As a result, we’ve seen a lot of our mediums fall from good story-telling to regressive propaganda machines… again, focusing on agenda and skin color, while letting the story suffer. I covered this in another post called ‘Diversity and Writing‘, which I highly recommend for context on this issue.

So what does any of this have to do with the objections to the cast of this Star Trek show?

Well to be honest, I’ve followed the twitter, youtube comments, and other criticisms of this show very closely. I try to keep tabs on the general issues people seem to have with this series and I think I have a grasp on the current trend…

It’s not the fact that the cast is diverse, it’s how the shows creators are handling it. Star Trek has always had a diverse cast and they’ve always been heralded as progressive for a few major reasons; 1. the minority cast members are treated as equals with everyone else, 2. none of the modern issues with race, diversity, or gender are an issue in their time because humanity have evolved beyond such issues. In other words, we see people of all walks of life treated as people and having access to all the same resources as everyone else. They’re respected and their personalities, morals, and values are explored. Because the focus is on the character and not their race or gender, these characters are dynamic and beloved. They aren’t simple archetypes that have to fit into perceived stereotypes.

But Jim, those issues did come up!

They did only in the context of looking back in time. Either by Sisko looking back at segregated America, or by others exploring Nazi Germany and other issues, and how much we’ve grown since then.

Now let’s take a look at Discovery… for starters quite a few elements of Trek have adopted the regressive mindset. Trek against Trump, being one of the more egregious examples…

Next we have the show’s original front runner, Bryan Fuller.

Brian Fuller is a huge Star Trek fan and cut his teeth writing for Voyager and Enterprise. He also said that he would drop everything to captain a new series if ever asked. However, he also appears to be in pretty big with the regressive left…

In 2016 he commandeered the SDCC Star Trek Panel turning it into, as many called it ‘an hour-long social justice rant’ much to the chagrin of many patrols:

 

Not helping matters, when the show was first announced, little to nothing was mentioned about the setting, plot, or story… placing a higher focus on the fact that one character would be transgender and the lead would be a ‘non-white female.’

The wording of the identity of the lead, as well as the main focus of the creators seeming to be on the characters’ identities over the story led many to refer to the new series as ‘Social Justice’ Trek. Many feared that Star Trek would begin tackling social issues that should be out of date in the Star Trek universe and essentially follow Marvel, Hollywood, and much of Sony into becoming a regressive leftist propaganda machine.

In essence, its not the characters’ races or gender identities that is the problem, it’s the seemingly out-of-place focus on them that people seem to have a majority of the problem with.

In typical fashion, things have been made much worse by the media. Several news sites have pulled a Sony and taken a single digit percentage of the show’s detractors (seriously google the articles, they all use the same 5 hateful tweets!), namely racist individuals, and passed them off as the majority of the show’s criticisms, despite almost a million other comments going through legitimate criticisms of it. I’ll give a few examples you can look into below:

Some white ‘Star Trek’ fans are unhappy about remake’s diversity

Racist Star Trek Fans Decry Discovery’s Diversity, Revealing They Know Nothing About Star Trek
(Why Gizmodo, WHY!?!?!?)

Keep in mind, a lot of these news organizations are owned by the very companies that are producing a lot of the shows and movies that we now see. So its not entirely unreasonable to assume that the show’s creators had a hand in this.
Essentially what these people are doing, are dismissing the show’s detractors and driving a the hard social divide even wider for their own gain, either through contracts for later interviews, or clickbait.

I’ve noted in my previous post that this should be a crime against humanity. However, dismissing critics as bigots, or silencing critics through threats of sexism and racism have been a trend of the regressive left for a long time now. Sony did it and completely insulted the fanbase for Ghostbusters. Marvel tried to do it with new Fantastic Four movie, and, while CBS hasn’t come right out with anything, several of their supporters have. In essence, when Geek Culture objects to anything, we’re labeled as being basement-dwelling, unwashed, unmarried, introverts that are crying because our toys got taken away.

So how are they allowed to get away with this? Based on what you’ve said, these companies are misrepresenting gender/identity issues for their own gain and insulted a large group of the general populace. 

Well… honestly its in part because geek/nerd culture doesn’t have a collective voice. We come from all walks of life, genders, races and beliefs. We’re all over the place, so it’s hard to have anyone to speak out on our behalf. The people who could have been those voices have long since joined the ranks of the regressive left, leaving the majority of geeks/nerds (moderate-left/center of the line) with no voice. Its like a microcosm of the political moderates in the U.S. today. There is no voice.

However I would argue that these people aren’t getting away with it. The detractors from the Ghostbusters movie in many cases had to do a soft walk-back on the things they said. (Not actually apologizing, mind you, but the bare minimum they had to do when public opinion turned on them).

Paul Feig Corrects Quote Regarding Assholes in Geek Culture

Stay classy guys…

However though we don’t have anyone to speak out on our behalf and our outrage is often dismissed… for people who live in their mother’s basements, we do have oddly large wallets (strange how that doesn’t add up). Ghostbusters flopped at the box office, there is no plans for a sequel and Feig won’t be touching another ‘nerd flick’ any time soon (thank God). Fantastic Four outright bombed at the box office and Marvel comics are in a death spiral.

To all of the show’s detractors…
Guys, give the show a chance. The first episode is going to be free to watch, so you don’t have to pay for it. It may be good. Midnight’s Edge’s videos portray Bryan Fuller’s exodus as a bad thing, but I disagree with them. His departure from the series and lack of further involvement means that this may not be the ‘Social Justice’ Trek that a lot of people fear. Give it a chance, if the pilot is really bad, well you don’t have to pay for it. Speculation is that CBS is already gearing up for a potential cancellation anyway. So just see what its like and go from there. That’s all anyone can ask.

So readers, have you seen the same trend I have? Do you agree with me that the focus on identity, not the actual race/genders, are the issue or are the detractors actually racist? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to engage with you!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

Diversity and Good Writing

There has been a lot of talk lately about how diversity is killing good writing… or perhaps more accurately, studios and companies have been accused of using diversity as a stand in for good writing.

I honestly had no idea the two were mutually exclusive.

There is truth to the idea that many creators out there have been producing complete garbage, but seem to think that they still deserve credit because their cast of characters is diverse…

In fact, Richard Roeper touched on this in his reaction from the Ghostbuster’s backlash:


So the question is, does intentionally creating a diverse cast mean that your writing is going to suffer or can it be used as a cover for poor writing?

Well first of all, let’s touch on what ‘diversity’ actually is;

    • di·ver·si·ty
      dəˈvərsədē,dīˈvərsədē/
      noun
      1. the state of being diverse; variety.
        “there was considerable diversity in the style of the reports”
        • a range of different things.
          plural noun: diversities

         

      2. a range of different things.
        plural noun: diversities

Note the second definition. ‘A rage of different things.’  So taking that definition, a diverse cast (in terms of race/gender identity) would be a cast that has more than one gender AND more than one race.

So let’s take the fore-mention Ghostbusters movie. Is this a diverse cast?

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In terms of race, yes. However in terms of gender, no. So because this really only meets one of the criteria, I’m going to say no. This cast is as diverse as the original;

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To be honest, I think a lot of people today would say that the 1984 team isn’t diverse, so I’m going to hold them to their own standards here.

So if neither of these teams is truly diverse, then what is?

Well to be honest, Suicide Squad actually fit the definition perfectly:

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That is a diverse cast. Both genders are represented, as are multiple races. This actually meets the criteria perfectly.

So there you have it. A diverse cast is a cast where both genders and multiples races are represented. So now that we know what diversity is, let’s explore the questions. Does diversity kill good writing? Is diversity a good excuse for bad writing?

Well… Marvel comics certainly seems to think so…

“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales.

We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”
-David Gabriel

There was considerably backlash over this statement, leading Gabriel to issue a correction:
 “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.”

So at this point, the answer to the question should be an obvious ‘no!’

It should be… but it isn’t.

So why is that? Why do many people out there roll their eyes and shun new works when the creators announce that the main characters are going to be either female or a different race.

Uh sexism and racism?

In some cases, yes, but not as many as you might think. A lot of the time people adopt this attitude because of what Marvel and Sony, among others have done. We’ve already explored Sony’s debacle with Ghostbusters, so lets take a look at Marvel.

A lot of their classic characters are having their identities/sexual orientations changed, or are being replaced completely with little to no explanation other than ‘alternate universe, we can do whatever we want.’

While that’s true, it’s become a bit of a cliche and honestly if you don’t even bother addressing HOW the universe altered from the original, you’re going to turn readers off very quickly. It’s not asking too much for the writers to retcon how we got Spider Gwen, Miles Morales, Nick (Shaft) Fury, etc. That’s not objecting to diversity, its objecting to long-established characters suddenly being changed with little in the way of explanation. However Marvel apparently doesn’t see a difference.

Secondly, based on what I’ve read in many of these comics… as well as reviews from others, people are seeing a lot of characters come out without a lot of character:

“Others, however, argued that the focus on identity came at the expense of the story.”

Now here’s where we get into trouble. Diversity of the cast isn’t the problem, its when the story focuses on their superficial traits that we run into issues.

Let’s put it this way for a moment, you have two books. The first one offers you a cast that is diverse. Let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s an even cast of men and women (2 of each) and a transgender. Let’s also say that the cast includes a white person, an African American character, an Asian character, and a Latino character. Now maybe a character has an accent or something culturally quirky they do in the story, that’s fine. However other than that, race, gender, ethnicity isn’t raised except in the initial description, and any time the character’s physical traits come up. They’re treated as equals, their differences are non-issues, and the story is able to progress as it should. Any political views of the author are written into the story through metaphor and situational circumstances. If alternate viewpoints are addressed, they are done so respectfully, perhaps with a side character that eloquently explains his point of view.

Now, let’s take a look at another book. This book has that same diverse cast, however in this book, the characters’ identities and races are constantly being brought up. The political beliefs of the author surrounding their identities is constantly being brought into the story to the point where it’s almost completely brought to a halt. The author then goes on to berate any viewpoint that disagrees with theirs, often by making the main villain a sort of insulting caricature of their detractors.

Which story sounds more appealing?

In my opinion, the first one. The second one fails on several levels. First, people don’t like being preached at. I’ve covered this in a previous post. No one is going to read your book/watch your movie if you bad mouth them for their beliefs, or resort to childish name-calling. Something the cast of Ghostbusters did on countless occasions and even mentioned in the movie when they took a swipe at the online community.

Perhaps the most glaring issue with this is that the characters in the second story aren’t characters at all. They’re archetypes for characters. They’re cardboard cutouts of characters that are often either mildly stereotypical… or blatantly racist as we see in several crticisms of America Chavez that were captured by The Wire:

“The dialogue was terrible, the Spanglish was racist (at best), the plot jumped around between various irrelevant points with little connection, the political commentary was a subtle as a sledgehammer, and there wasn’t a single character with any sort of development (other than “random girlfriend whom the reader never gave a reason to care about broke up with the protagonist, in what might be one of the least realistic exchanges of dialogue ever written”).

The author is apparently hoping that “MINORITY LESBIAN YASSSS!!” will be enough to cover up for her complete inability to write either characters or plot lines, but this comic is so completely terrible in every aspect that I doubt she’ll get away with calling everyone who points out its plethora of flaws “racist/homophobic”.”

This is a trend that we see, not only in Marvel comics, but in traditional writing, and in movies. The writer is trying so desperately to push an agenda and be inclusive that they actually wind up doing exactly the opposite; creating resentment, anger, and offense.

Diversity has a place in good writing and it always will. The gender/race of a character should never be a tell-tale as to whether or not a story will be good. As long as the characters are treated equally, not having their superficial traits focused on at the expense of the story, then it should be fine.

But Jim, politics has ALWAYS been a part of fictional/fantasy mediums, what’s so different about it here? 

That’s true, politics and social issues have and always been apart of fiction/fantasy, and that goes straight to my point. Stan Lee wrote about things like segregation, the holocaust, racism, and several other themes too. However he did it in a very clever way; he didn’t even really bring it up. He told his story, showed his characters being segregated, murdered, and abused, but at the same time, he explored the arguments of the other side as well. He didn’t paint them as straight villains. In many cases, you could actually empathize with the villains as much as you could the heroes.

So then how does one write a diverse cast without falling into these traps?

The way I see it, there are three ways;

  1. Respect your characters and their background.
  2. Respect your audience.
  3. Understand that there are opposing viewpoints that have legitimate criticisms.

When you write, focus on the character’s personality, their traits, and their abilities, not their skin color or gender. Focus on what really matters; the heart of the character. Your minority characters deserve the same treatment as your other characters. Continuously showing and pointing out what makes them different isn’t the way to bridge any gaps. Showing how they’re the same and how they can easily get along with others, their own issues not withstanding, will draw your readers in.

“What you are isn’t nearly as important as who you are.”
-General Xaphan.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy ramble, but this was a trend that I wanted to speak about for a long time. Do you have a different view? Is there a different way of going about it that I missed? Am I way off on my opinion? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks friends!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

 

Fire Emblem: The Nowi Controversy

Oh God… he’s talking about Fire Emblem again!

Yes I am!

So ever since Fire Emblem Awakening came out, there has been some controversy over the characters. Though I tend to ignore these as there seems to be a controversy every time a FE comes out, I wanted to weigh in on this one…

For those of us who’ve played Awakening… we all know who Nowi is.

Nono_confession

Yup she’s the spunky dragon girl that people either really love… or really hate for some reason. Her stats are a little low and she is a pain in the ASS to level up, I will give you that, but her offspring is one of the most powerful Manaketes you can get, and the manakete class is powerful in and of itself.

Anyway, she drummed up some controversy a while back… which I still see debated on the forums every now and then because she can achieve an S-Class ranking with another character, aka marriage. The problem is that she looks like a 12… maybe 13 (AT BEST!) year old.

I’ll be honest, in my game, I usually pair her up with Gregor. In my opinion it’s the best story if you go that route.

Now some have said that this is promoting pedophilia because of how young Nowi is. The problem is that Nowi isn’t a 12 year old human being, by human standards in the game, she’s well over 1,000 years old, and while she has a rather energetic attitude, she does show a level of maturity that reflects that.

Gregor… I actually don’t know how old he is. However, near as I can tell, most of the Fire Emblem characters are between 16 and 45. Gregor strikes me as being on the older side, so maybe pushing 40?

Technically you could argue that Nowi is the one crib-robbing here, but that doesn’t make sense either.

A lot of people have said that it’s not the actual age that’s important (okay…) it’s that she looks like a 12 year old and that promotes pedophilia. To that argument, I cry foul. There are medically recognized conditions, albeit rare, where someone doesn’t age. In other cases, some more petite people just look younger as well. Heck I attended college with a girl who to this day looks like she’s 13. So what, do those people not deserve to be in love, have a relationship and a family? Will they have large societal hurdles to overcome? Unfortunately, yes… but that should not stop them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not making a case for pedophilia or promoting it. I personally think that it’s a serious mental illness that is in dire need of proper treatment.
This isn’t a case of that at all. Nowi isn’t a human being, she’s a different species all together with different maturity and aging rates.

One could make the argument that by her own species’ standards, she’s just a child, but that would require us to know how they age, their culture and biological maturity… people, it’s a fantasy story. We’re not getting that deep into this! I know some people like to, but personally unless it’s somehow necessary to the plot, I’d rather spare the gory details.

In the end, I don’t believe that Nowi’s appearances poses any real problems. To the anti-child endangerment crowd, I’m with you guys 100% that no child should ever be hurt or abused, but you’re focusing on the wrong target here. The god-awful show ‘Stage Moms of LA’ would be a better place to direct your rage.

But maybe I’m wrong, maybe there’s something I’m missing here. Let’s open this up to discussion! Leave me a comment, I’d be happy to discuss this with you!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Lion King Remake

Okay… I’m told that we’re going into a movie topic today. Let’s see what are we dealing with…

The Lion King (2019)

“CG-animated re-imagining of the 1994 Walt Disney classic The Lion King”

… … …

I quit.

I’m sorry guys, I’m done. To all my readers and followers, thanks for your support throughout all this time.

I’d especially like to thank my family and friends for being so loving and supportive… but this is it, I’m done. I would also like to retract my previous statements about Hollywood originality. 

Thanks friends… and farewell!

(Disclaimer: I’m not actually quitting, this was just my attempt to voice my utter disdain for this move by Disney, if it wasn’t painfully obvious.)



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim