Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On the Side of the Human Race

As I read through Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, I was moved by the hero's dedication to his cause. His utter belief in the righteousness of his cause was beautiful and stirring, and I found myself envying his faith. I wonder if, in our current culture of overwhelming ammounts of information, we can really relate to Rico anymore. When I finished the book, I regretted that my government did not inspire me to that level of patriotism or belief.

Either way, I sort admired and resented Heinlein's ability to see force and convenient survival morality as a positive thing. His characters voice the appealing idea that what is right for a group's survival (physically, culturally, spiritually) is what that society deems "morally correct." I don't have time in this post, but I'm not sure his arguments would hold up so flawlessly under heavy scrutiny.
Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms.

Morals - all correct moral laws - derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level...Correct morality can only be derived from what man is.
-- Lt. Colonel Dubois
Heinlein goes on at length about how wars should be conducted and the violent nature of humanity. While he was militant in most of his characters' speeches, I was touched by his belief that (at least in human-to-human relationships) we are a compassionate and loyal species.

(We have) a racial conviction that when one human needs rescue, others should not count the price. Weakness? It might be the unique strength that wins us a Galaxy...The universe will let us know - later - whether or not Man has any right to expand through it. In the meantime the (Infantry) will be in there, on the bounce and swinging, on the side of our own race.
-- Mr. Rico
In my science fiction readings class, our discussion sometimes falls back on the subject of violence and whether or not it is inherant in human nature. I don't like the idea that our species is hardwired for violence anymore than the next guy. But evolutionarily, we are the dominant species on this planet, fighting for the past billion years or so to claim absolute control, molding natural and technological worlds to our will. We are currently the only known species capable of obliterating everything.

While I adored the book, I realized that as a generation of relativists, we try to stand for something and be tolerant at the same time - we're caught in the middle and that makes us indecisive. I think that Heinlein probably conveniently simplified the underlying issues addressed in Starship Troopers. The enemy threatens the entire human species...and the enemy is not human. They're bugs. That makes a difference.

Any thoughts? What's your opinion on Heinlein's ideas or Starship Troopers in general? Are these tropes particular to science fiction or do you think they could work outside the genre?

So say we all.
p.s. I'll tell you about Mass Effect later this week.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Collective Giving of Thanks

While most of you probably spent this holiday with your families, I chose to stay at the dorm and work on my thesis and my writing sample for graduate school. My list of giving thanks is as follows. Forgive its superficial nature: I wasn't in the mood to be sensitive and deep.

To Master Chief, Ellen Ripley and John Conner for collectively saving the human race from villainous aliens and machines.

To Samurai Jack, Clint Eastwood and Roland Deschain for collectively being the coolest lone wolves to ever battle against the forces of evil.

To Office Depot, Keynote and my greatest friend Jocelyn for collectively helping me keep my novel and short stories in some semblance of order.

To Mom and Dad for collectively being there.

So say we all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Technopeasant Webscab or Print-Media Elitist

I will never forget the first computer I ever saw or my adoration of its organizational systems and its ability to hold all of my ideas in one place. I was about six or seven and my dad brought home the most hideous computer. It was a colossal monstrosity that booted up from DOS with pixelated white text on a black background. When I printed my first story, the dot-matrix printer screamed out fifty pages over the period of about two hours. I was so tremendously pleased with myself.

Since then, technology has always been an increasingly important part of my writing life: my documents in Microsoft Word, my plans in Keynote, my playlists in Itunes. Over the weekend, I picked up an article from the NWP site in which most Americans agreed that technology was an incredible aid to developing writers. Of course, I completely agree. Online communities, publication opportunities and research tools have all become readily available to the common user with the advent of the Internet and a massive information explosion.

What is most interesting to me is the widening maw between traditional print-media and the evolving front of Internet and e-book publication. An obvious stench of elitism clouds this discussion, but I find it fascinating how defensive both sides can be. According to one side or the other, Internet publishing either spells the downfall of respectable writing since "anyone" can get published or it is the hammer of justice for the "common people," demolishing those self-serving publishing houses who only favor the educated elite. I have problems with both concepts that I don't really have time or patience to develop in this post.

Just in publishing this blog, I obviously stand proudly with the so-called legion of pixel-stained technopeasant webscab wretches. But, more important (and interesting) than the debate of which is better - ebook or traditional print - is the question of why the split exists in the first place. Any thoughts?

So say we all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Robe of Novas and Other Things

In my sci-fi writing class, we're taking a look at science fiction haiku and other speculative poetry. To be very honest, I don't write or read poetry. Once, I started working, this is what came out.

A Gift
A robe of cold stars,
bright blazing novas, he gave
to the sun-haired girl.

Coming Home
Hail, the Sons of Sol.
Bred in war and brimmed with blood,
They are coming home.

Guard Duty
Weary Norsemen, guard
Titan's lonely methane seas
and long for their fjords.

Writing and Concern for Community
When you work in a Writing Center, you are faced with students who don't want to be there and who generally don't like to write. Their professors tell them to pay us a visit. This is code for I don't want to deal with you. When you've got that attitude from a professor, combined with the student's embarrassment, life as a tutor is very unrewarding.

But, over the past six weeks, as I've observed six Composition 1 classes for my CompTheory class and seen a few very interesting things. Of six classes, only one showed issue with "remedial" tasks. The other five focused on larger, rhetorical problems. All six were concerned with the community they'd created in the classroom and offered insightful critique. I know I probably shouldn't have been surprised, but when you work at a Writing Center and see only those students who don't want to be there, it gets very discouraging, very quickly. Watching these students be so kind and respectful of each other's work was incredible.

How To Play A Game
When I get a new video game, I never play in front of my guy-friends until I've worked out the controls and gotten past the tutorial phase. I want to make sure I'm a smooth customer when the bad guys come running - that I don't look like an idiot. When I started playing Assassin's Creed yesterday, I decided it didn't much matter. I had entirely too much fun scaling buildings, swinging around on narrow ledges and collecting flags for achievements. I heart this game. It's all about patience, about sneaking and about taking your time as you explore the world and complete your missions.

And then I read IGN's review. I decided they probably didn't play the same game I did (or at least that they probably didn't play it the same way I did). They played a "repetitive" game with a "bad story." I played a game where I swooped off of high buildings, saved citizens in distress, assassinated bad guys and picked pockets as I made my way through each city. Don't get me wrong, IGN wrote a very thorough review, but you might want to check out Penny Arcade's post for another perspective. I think IGN probably played Assassin's Creed for fast-paced action, rushing to finish the game to write the review. I played it (read: thoroughly adored) for the deliberate slow-paced stealth experience.

That's that.
So say we all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When Life Gets in the Way

This weekend, I worked on my novel for the first time in about three weeks. Sometimes school and life and everything else gets in the way and I can barely sit and think about where the story must go. After reading Seanachi's post about why she writes this morning, I went to our study room. An outline for the next section of the book followed with absolutely lovely results.

One of my characters and the culture of her clan has grown delightfully sinister. I did not expect this darker side to be so fascinating. The new version of this character makes decisions in an instant, forcing the rest of the characters to react. Apparently, this formula puts my plot on steroids and speeds things up - just a tad.

Over the past few days, I have grown increasingly dissatisfied with my job. I'm not even sure why. I just walk through the door and feel tired and sort of on edge and look forward to the time I get to come back to the dorm. We're going to hope that this will pass.

So say we all.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Difference Between Obsession and Passion

My coworkers informed me today that I am obsessed. At first, I let it go. I shook it off. But it followed me through the day and I can't get away from it. I shouldn't feel the need to defend myself, to justify what I do. But I do.

I adore my novel and develop it scene by scene, chapter by chapter every single day. I'm submitting short stories to magazine and designing artwork for a class I'm taking next semester. I adore playing HALO 3 and the community of players who game with me. I adore my work at the university where I tutor students and create workshops to build up a writing scene on campus. I've carried 18 hours for my junior and senior years. I've kept a near perfect GPA while working +15 hours a week.

I don't discuss these things that I love with my coworkers or my suitemates. Generally, I'm afraid I'll bore them. So I mostly keep it all to myself and geek about it all on my blog. So am I obsessed? Hardly. Am I driven? Most definitely. The difference? A value judgment against my lifestyle.

Do my co-workers make this value judgment against something they can't understand? Against someone else's ability to be passionate about something? Or is this a form of elitism, which allows the few to determine what is useful-legitimate or base-entertainment?

Either way, I don't really have time to figure that out. This post took up enough time. I'm off to write another chapter, to play through the last two campaign missions on HALO: CE and then to eat dinner with the guys. What are you doing this weekend?

So say we all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Snapshots of Downtown and the Rock

Signs from Downtown: Pentacostal Waka-Waka
Our Transient Art and a Painted Door

Beautiful Butterflies, Bathing in the Street and Keeping Watch

Building Pressure, Lady Liberty in a Bar, Lovely Food and Jugglers

Superheroes and StormtroopersSo say we all.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Super Sunday: Stories, Scenes, Sergeant

This past week was horrifically stressful: projects piled up, meals passed unnoticed and sleep drifted by as a figment of my imagination. But then the weekend came. The Weekend of the Miracles.

Swallowing Stories
I drafted out the last half of my novel and got two or three scenes written before I was overwhelmed with loads of tired on Friday night. Saturday, I brainstormed about the other books in the series (a rare and pleasant vice I entertain briefly every few months or so). Every single time I think about what comes next in the story, I sort of want to dance around and tell every single person on earth that they have no idea how much more awesome I can pack into a plot. But I don't. I hold it in. I sit on it. I swallow it whole and it holds through the next three months until I need to think about it again.

At the Writing Center I am helping a wonderful woman work on her novel. We get along fabulously, with her novel progressing with each week. But she told me something on Friday that has bothered me all weekend. She said her family pushes her to finish the book, to hurry.

My response? I told her to make some space, to gently distance her family from her project, so that she might write in peace. Writers should be able to swallow their stories, to accumulate ideas as long as is necessary, until they are ready to write. Not before. You can't rush these things.

Come Back With Your Shield Or On It.
This Saturday, I gained the rank of Spartan Sergeant for HALO 3. I was pleased. We celebrated accordingly (wink) and decided to name our clan Holt Otter. We knew we shouldn't take our name seriously, because while we aren't lousy by any means, we don't really see ourselves as a badass clan. We're friendly. We like to play, to watch out for our own and to work as a team. Otters fit the bill. The other benefit of being Clan Otter is that as we go out in teams of 2-8, we can adjust our name according to team size: Otter Squad/Platoon/ Battalion /Legion.

You can see few of us below, each member photoshopped in from various snapshots. We're a pretty well-rounded team: snipers, shotgunners, along with lite and heavy assault-explosives guys. We may not always crush our opposition, but I always thoroughly enjoy myself. A few of us didn't get into the picture, but I'll try to get a full team roster up in the next few weeks.
From the Rock
V and I went into the Rock on Saturday to the river market. Photos are due from my last trip down there, so Wednesday will be a photo post. Hope you look forward to it! And thanks so much for your suggestions for our clan name, BTW!

So say we all.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Good, the Nameless and the Faceless

This past Tuesday, I turned 22. I actually forgot about it until Sunday night and then suddenly remembered. Bear bought a cake on Tuesday night and we're still munching on it as the week goes on. This weekend the plan is to write, have a HALO 3 LAN party, (maybe) get some homework done and sleep. Also, Vespacian carved Master Chief's face and my HALO 3 insignia into a pumpkin for Halloween. It's absolutely adorable. Pictures will ensue.

The Good, The Faceless and The Nameless
I have various reasons for adoring the faceless, nameless hero.

When a hero is faceless or nameless he is more emotionally accessible to the audience. We love him because he are unknown to us. We fill in the gaps of his past, his childhood, his psyche. Most of the time, we add our own experiences in those gaps and envision a hero more and more like us - maybe to the point of actually being us.

We love him because he is cool and collected. Eastwood's Man with No Name endures as a pop culture icons precisely because of his detachment and his grace in times of crisis. The Master Chief from HALO and Samus Aran from Metroid also share this characteristic. Neither are overly emotional or talkative.

We love them because, at the end of the world, when the lead starts to fly, they stay low and frosty.

Update on Research
As I have previously mentioned, I'm conducting a research project to see if someone could accurately judge a player's gender in the anonymity of HALO 3. I'm focusing on game play, appearance, choice of weapons, player profiles and stats. So far, the only area I'm getting any sort of determining factor is in team vs. solo play.

Apparently, most females enjoy tactical, strategic object-based games, instead of random slayer matches. I'm gathering film and photos for this project and will probably post them here as I go.

I think a "Nameless-Faceless" hero story is due.

So say we all.