Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Say Something

Lately, given my lack of output and the internal questioning that results, I've been wondering if I have anything to say. At some point I think every writer confronts this question. I started writing because it's fun, and I loved creating stories like the ones I was reading. I have written a lot of stuff, but eventually I have to wonder: do I have anything worthwhile to say?
At the moment, the only work I have with any widespread availability is Jack Manley and the Warlord of Infinity. It's a straightforward action-adventure story and that's all I intended it to be. It touches on some deeper themes (which I'm not about to elaborate here; I leave that for the analysts), but at the end of the day it's about a man punching another man in the face.
Still, I've long believed that even the simplest stories have something to say. Take, for example, the average Marvel super-hero story written by Stan Lee. Many of them follow a formula: hero fights villain and is defeated, hero mopes, hero comes back and defeats villain with brains/guts/a-gadget-whipped-up-in-three-panels. The majority of them aren't classics, but they are good entertainment. Yet despite their simplicity, they have something to say. You just have to look at the traits that make the villains villainous, and the heroes heroic. If Ant-Man wins because he's loyal to his ant friends, then his story says something. Not something profound, but something nonetheless.
And here's the thing: I can spot a Stan Lee story from a mile away (you can tell them by the exclamation points). I've read so many of the bloody things by now that his style is imprinted on my brain, and if I read a one sentence plot outline I could safely tell you what the theme would be, and what Lee was trying to say. He's created such a large body of work that it's possible to get a very good handle on how he thinks, and the things he feels are important. (As an aside: you should all go read Lee's Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Thor comics.  They're amazing.  Also check out Silver Surfer if you want to see a silver alien on a surfboard angsting about what a bunch of giant cocks the human race is.)
That's what I think I need to do: just create a body of work, even if nobody is buying it. Even if I'm not trying to say anything, eventually some meaning will accrue through sheer volume, a meaning and outlook thats intrinsically mine. I'd like to think that, at the very least, my son could one day read through my work and get a better sense of who I was, and my views on life. Or that I could write a hollow yet exciting thriller novel that sells millions and allows me to retire to Spain for tax purposes. Or the meaning thing. That would probably be better.
I have three major projects on the go at the moment. I'm nearly finished a first draft of part 1 of The Lightless Labyrinth. Once that's done I might fling it out into the wild to be savaged by vicious alpha readers. I've nailed down a format for the Marvel Guidebook I'm working on, and am now knuckling down to do the writing. I plan on creating a test volume containing all the Marvel super-hero comics from 1961 (all three of them!) just to see how it comes out and whether it actually makes for a good read or not. Finally, I've just about hashed out the story for Jack Manley and the Interchronal Deathmatch Tournament, which will be the opening storyline if I decide to go ahead with an ongoing serial.  Now all I need is a work ethic.
What I've Been Reading
About Time Vol. 5 by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar by Edgar Rice Burroughs
What I've Been Watching
Red Dwarf seasons 7 & 8
The Walking Dead season 4
Pacific Rim
World War Z
What I've Been Listening To
Hello Nasty by The Beastie Boys
What I've Been Playing
Super Mario Galaxy on the Nintendo Wii