Oct. 4th, 2012 04:06 pm
matt_doyle: (philosophy)

A long time ago I made a post about Tarot and how, for the Hellion Prince, I had assembled a slightly changed deck.  Under the cut are my more detailed thoughts on the new trumps; and if you're a Tarot buff or a Hellion Prince reader I'd be happy to hear your thoughts as well, especially on how the changes would change a reading.  I've put all the in-universe details in context, so even if you haven't looked at Hellion Prince it should all make perfect sense to you.  I hope.

Read more... )
matt_doyle: (Default)
Still vaguely working on Starstuff, the nebulous scifi YA novel I may someday write.  Its rough drafts are much, much rougher than my usual, which tells me that this narrator really isn't done cooking yet, but I wrote something today that might be of interest:  the tech used in this universe for long-distance spacetravel.  For sublight, there's a diametric drive, and for FTL, there's a wormhole-creating machine.

My grasp of astrophysics and theoretical physics is very weak.  So I am not at all sure that I am describing these concepts correctly, and I am certainly not sure if my attempt to give a practical, Bill-Nye-ish explanation to young readers is at all comprehensible.

So if you are an astronomy or physics nerd, and this sort of thing interests you, please, read what i've got here and
Fact-check me, Amadeus: )
matt_doyle: (Default)
I want to get back to making posts with significant content, and I want to make progress on some of my more embryonic writing projects, so i'm going to kill two birds with one stone. The most intensive and unpredictable (and often, the most rewarding) part of writing for me has always been worldbuilding.

Right now, I have two stories I want to build up settings for- the "Neminth and Shisya" story fragments I posted the other day, and the Aspiring Tyrant's Cookbook idea that I may or may not pursue. Fortunately for me, the initial stages of worldbuilding research for both have been working in parallel.

The first concern, always, is the needs of the plot: what themes am I discussing, what kind of story am I telling, and how does that effect the world that needs to surround the story? If my story is about aristocratic characters (and I do love my aristocrats; overmuch, I think, given how socialist my real-world political leanings are), I'm going to set up a culture with a strict social hierarchy. If my story requires worldwide travel or computer access, I'm more likely to base it in the real, modern-day world than invent a parallel earth; conversely, if my story needs dragons, I'm more comfortable inventing a secondary world setting than fudging the facts about Earth. Obviously, these are choices that could still validly be made another way-- Neal Stephenson's Anathem could have been set on a far-future Earth rather than an alternate world, and Laurell K. Hamilton's monster-and-fairy-filled Merry Gentry books certainly didn't need to use this Earth as a backdrop. Regardless, any story will require certain things to be true about the world it is set in.

Next, or even simultaneously, I consider the givens: the things I know about the world not because of the type of story it is and what its logical surroundings are, but because the characters told me the world was that way when they popped into my head, dammit, so now I have to make it make sense.

For example, I know that Neminth and Shisya live in a world that has other humanoid races on it. And yet, Neminth can quote Shakespeare, and Shisya refers to herself as a ronin. So I'm not sure, exactly, where they are: an future Earth that was radically altered by some unknown event? A parallel, magical world where things like language and literature can bleed over? A fully separate secondary world that just somehow has Shakespeare?

I'm not sure yet.

An Aspiring Tyrant's Cookbook is a little easier. It's steampunk/gaslamp fantasy, and the conventions of the genre tend to put it in Ruritanian alterna-Europe. It has a disorganized Evil Overlord's heir, so it's not a democratic, egalitarian sort of place. But using actual European countries and historical settings feels wrong, and so does inventing countries Ruritania-style and plopping them down in the middle of Europe. I also want to be more racially diverse than the setting conventions imply, without the exoticizing of non-European cultures that so frequently occurs. And it feels totally wrong to set this story off Earth on another world entirely, my characters get riled up every time I consider it.

So in both cases, I'm researching Earth, but not Earth-as-we-know it. Location and geography are all-important considerations in a political story, which ATC will inevitably be, so I want a map before I start naming countries and empires.

Hence my request the other day to find maps or mapping software to determine what the Earth would look like with different water levels. An Earth in either mid-Ice Age or with severely melted polar icecaps implies all kinds of un differences, as well as a major change in historical events, which could be the shift and the impetus I'm looking for in either story-world to set things apart, while still leaving myself grounded in the cultures, languages, and (past a certain point, wherever this critical event was) histories of Earth.

One or the other of the stories (not both) will probably be set on such an Earth, once I figure out what might have happened in either world to so drastically change the water level, how much I want it changed, when the change occurred, and so on. After that, the next step (and, y'know, the next post) will deal with the process of fidling with cultures and drawing sensible lines on a map, as well as re-writing history to suit my needs.
matt_doyle: (Default)
Well. If I'm following my own rules, the first thing I need for a superhero comic imprint is a concept, a way in which everyone gets their powers. It needs to fit neatly into one set of rules, while still giving some variety, a way for people to have unexpected powers or rises to power, that sort of thing.

In this world, all superhuman ability comes from interaction with spirits, all of whom dwell in a single otherworld. These spirits started interfering with human affairs just before WWI, and now most major human governments are dominated by either spirit-gifted people or spirits themselves. I like the spirit thing because you have a wide spectrum of powers based on what gifts a spirit might give you, the type and agenda of the spirit and their relationship to the person in question( e.g. people with part-spirit ancestry, or can summon spirits, or have gifts from spirit patrons, etc.), but still a unified source and theme. Plus I can play around with mythology and fairy tales so there's a lot to draw on.

I have two ideas for titles within this world: one hero-team, Avengers or Justice League style, and one lone vigilante, Spider-Man or Batman style.

The hero-team comic would probably be the flagship comic of the imprint, and naturally explore the world, its origins, and its ramifications.

The team in question is called The White Company, an international police force of sorts, with its origin in the history of the still alive-and-kicking British Empire. The first major spiritual incursion came in England, in 1910- after a year of unrest, with the Spiritualist movement in full swing, Halley's Comet growing larger in the night sky, and a disturbing rise in supernatural phenomena, King Edward the VIIth convened a summit of alleged experts in the otherworldly, to see if some cause for this phenomenon could be discerned.

The assembled psychics, spiritualists, and enthusiasts including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, watched in awe and horror as a Manticore materialized in the hall and devoured the King. The creature declared itself as the new sponsor of the British royalty, and that those present who would bear witness to it, and accept its enlightened rule, would be the new nobility.

So it was that Arthur Conan Doyle was crowned king and head of the House of Doyle- and that the power behind the throne was a very visible and very hungry white lion with a bladed mane. As war broke out, across the Empire and across the world, over the new and deadly masters that appeared in nearly every nation, the King created two groups of spirit-gifted individuals to help keep the world stable. The first was the Order of the Manticore, sworn to carry out the will of the King and his Sponsor, to be the champions of the Empire's new era.

The second was the White Company, created much more quietly and with less fanfare. Their mission was less patriotic- to look after the wellbeing of humanity, and make certain they thrived under their new masters, rather than suffered. King Arthur did not forget how he had come to power.

The White Company would explore the group and its mission in the modern day- doing everything from hunting rogue spirits to discrediting vocal anti-spiritists who threaten the status quo, to traveling into the otherworld itself in search of answers. Cold War counter-terrorist politics with countless factions and agendas- within the group as well as without- would be perhaps the defining characteristic, repeatedly asking the question of whether fractious, violent humanity is better off with its new and powerful overseers, from the spirits to the Company itself.

The vigilante comic would be called Pilgrim.

In any case, the only country in the world that entirely bans spirits and those with spirit talents is Deseret, the independent nation that used to be the state of Utah. Most of the state is off limits to everyone except for Mormons and Jews, but those who wish to escape the influence of spirits are allowed into one huge, towering city called Mount Refuge. Pilgrim is about a Erik Buna, a college football player from the Sovereign Republic of Texas who happens to have the ability to see spirits, even when they are nonphysical. After being framed by a group of body-jumping spirits for the murder of a Texas Ranger, Erik runs away to Mount Refuge, concealing his talent from the border guard and entering the city. He's appalled to find that Mount Refuge actually has a denser spirit population than anywhere else he's ever seen- with spirit talents banned, no-one can detect or regulate their activity as long as they stay nonphysical. So, when the same cabal of bodyjumpers starts operating locally, he's pretty literally the only one who can stop them.

Part of the whole idea of this comic is alienation and isolation- the multiple ways that Erik fails to fit in with Mount Refuge society, the way his individuality and identity is marginalized by having to hide his gift and by being possessed by these spirits- in this great multicultural melting pot (which is very carefully maintained and isolated at the border of a very paranoid and centric state), there are a lot of fun ways to play with the idea of boundaries and liminality- which are always classic fairy tale themes as well.


Since making the above post last January in my old journal, I got together a group of like-minded people to start working on White Company - unfortunately, we suffered from the perennial problem of comics work: we had three writers committed to working on the project, and one artist who was constantly overbooked from other projects, so we did a lot of planning and made no progress.

Also since then, I've had time to think a lot about my original theses, and conclude that I was being far too narrow in scope and specific with them - I think that's tomorrow's post.
matt_doyle: (Default)
This is another old-journal repost, made after the Spider-Man: Brand New Day ridiculousness, and my utter weariness with DC & Marvel's year-in year-out spam of GIANT GROUNDBREAKING CROSSOVER EVENTS.  If you're not interested in comic books as a storytelling medium, this post will bore you.  Otherwise ... I'm hoping for a bit of rambunctious discussion.  I have a lot to say on this subject, and this just scratches the surface, so expect more later this week.  Okay.  Too much introduction already.  On with the post!!

I really really really want to found my own imprint of comics. This is not a new thought for me, admittedly- I want to work as a comic book writer, ideally, and after all the shit with DC's infinite crisis, and Marvel's Phoenix titles, I decided that while I'd still jump at a chance to work on any existing comic, under any conditions, there are some things I really want out of comics, and only a new imprint could do them.

Here's my Comics Theses 95, so to speak:

1) One book per team.
No more Uncanny, Astonishing, Extreme X-Men; no more Amazing spectacular Friendly Neighboorhood Spider-Man. One concept, one title. Period. If you have more stories to tell than a one-book-a month rate can handle, publish two a month. Stop this shit where readers have to buy six monthly titles to understand the context of a single scene.

2) A clear timeline. One book per team/character/whatever makes this a lot easier. Start every book off with the date and time of the first scene. A set timeline makes all your continuity juggling easier, because you know, at any given time, where every character is. It doesn't have to advance at a steady rate from book to book- one comic could cover ten minutes and the next a whole month. But there's no going back. Which leads to:

3) No retcons, no regrets. Dynamic characters, changing worlds, storylines that have permanent impact. This is the most important, most central tenet to this list. Make risky choices, change the lives of the characters forever. It raises the stakes of every story, and makes everything more exciting, I think, when there's something real to fear. No magic wand will ever make all the problems vanish. Life will be messy and complicated. Isn't that great? And so, of course:

4) There are established rules for character death. This rule started off as dead means Dead, but honestly I think that robs a little bit of storyteling magic from what's available. What I want is to know that when I see a beheaded corpse, that individual is forever a corpse, unless previously established methods of resurrection are relevant. So maybe there's a place for undead, and definitely when your hero dies in a fiery explosion and nobody sees the remains, you can still wonder. But even a casual reader should understand when somebody's mostly dead instead of all dead, and that the only thing you can do with a guy who's all dead is go through his pockets and look for spare change. And, if it needs to be said, "all dead" should be the more common kind of dead. With clear rules like this in place though, there's only one more (I think logical) step:

5) One source for superpowers. If your superpowers come from cosmic rays, so do everybody else's. If they're a genetic mutation- well hey, there are many ways to mutate genes, from radiation to difference at birth, but nobody's going to pop up who's a god from another dimension, or who got his super-strength from a magic jewel, or what have you. One continuity, logical in its consequences. There's still room for variation, but the rules of the world need to exist, and to mean something. Some things (like erasing twenty years of continuity) should not be possible at all.

Does all of this make sense? I can be a bit inarticulate some times, and since my objective here is to inject some sane world-building into comics, it would be a shame if that were the case here. If it makes sense, then, tell me: does it sound as good to you as it does to me?
matt_doyle: (Default)
Thinking about it, there's not much more I can discuss in any meaningful, interesting way on this topic - my point, I think, was simply that I tend to think of parents as figures of great ambivalence, and that in my mind, they are rarely ciphers in a character's past. Thought gets put into who they were and how they shaped the person we see. Likewise, that the ambivalence of those relationships is a recurring theme in my work. There's No Rainbow Bridge Across the Generation Gap isn't really about that sort of issue, but echoes of the thought are present, even in the title. Self Loathing is much more focused on issues of identity construction, but as a story about clones, the figures we model ourselves after and the ambivalence with which we regard them is pretty obviously packed in there.

As the original subject line says: it's something that I like to write about. It interests me.

Now to get to work on my actual post for the day. I have no idea what it's about yet.
matt_doyle: (Default)
In either the first or the second season of Lost, there's an episode entitled "All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues." Just seeing it made me laugh, more with wry self-recognition than humor. Write what you know is the mantra, and boy, am I familiar with this subject.

My father is one of my heroes. During the Vietnam War, he took part in the second-most successful draft action in US history, burning tens of thousands of draft cards. As a result, he did time in prison, and he met my mother while he was on probation, when both of them participated in the Continental Walk for ... either Peace and Social Justice, or Nuclear Disarmament, I can never remember that part. I am proud of him - he gave years of his life to serve his country and save American lives, if in a different way than any soldier. I'm proud of veterans, too, even if I'm not proud of the wars they fought in, but I fully embrace the pacifist and activist traditions of my family. My father has also written a staggering number of newspaper articles on nuclear disarmament and on the abortion issue, though his uncompromising use of language has meant that few of them are accepted for publication. I identify with him as a writer, too, even if my own writing is very different.

And yet.

The reason I'm writing now as Matt Doyle is that my father did not want his last name attached to any sort of writing that would sanction gay marriage or gay adoption. Despite his peace-movement past, my father currently identifies himself as a Republican, and despite not attending church with any frequency, draws a pretty hard line of conservative Christianity. All my life I have been subject to verbal abuse, criticizing my every flaw or failing, yet almost never responding positively to any significant accomplishment or achievement. He introduced me to science fiction, got me hooked on Star Trek and Star Wars before I could read, then spent my teenage years deriding the genre as garbage and a waste of my time. He has never hit me or any of my family, but sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me is a damned lie anyway.

In cat macro, the title of this post would be My Issues: Let Me Show You Them.

And yeah. This works its way into my writing and my gaming. Parental figures are important to everyone, of course, because they're a foundational part of everyone's identity, whether by their presence or their absence. It's an issue I go back and explore, again and again. In Running In Her Veins, the main perspective character, Jordan, is adopted, and the plot centers around the fact that her biological father wants her dead. Exploring Jordan's construction of self in relation to her family - the biological, the adopted, and the self-chosen - would more or less include recapping the entire plot and giving away several key twists in the story, so I won't do that here. But the other perspective characters have parents too, and though none of them are so much as mentioned in this book (at least, not more than peripherally), I've thought about them.

matt_doyle: (Default)
Sometimes I actually believe that Rasputin is still alive. Given the history of mental illness and paranoid schizophrenia in my family tree, maybe I should worry and shy away from this thought, but mostly I just think it's cool.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist of any stripe, and while I keep an open mind, my belief in the supernatural is minimal, save for my religious convictions. But I have always found the concept that there is something going on behind the scenes fascinating: something epic, dire, and sinister, something magical and very deliberately hidden away. That was originally part of my fascination with vampire novels and the like - I wasn't terribly captivated (then) by vampires themselves, but the thoughts that these secret, deadly immortal creatures existed in hidden cabals and manipulated the minds and sometimes politics of humankind? Wicked awesome. I read everything I could about the Illuminati (I first heard about them on Gargoyles, which definitely includes some Secret History in its world-building), the Freemasons, on how Princess Anastasia had survived, on Tupac Shakur's fascination with Machiavelli and why that meant he faked his death.

I think the research side of it is what really appealed to me. I'm a library geek and proud of it; spending hours piecing data together by cross-referencing half a dozen or more books is my idea of a good afternoon, and maybe even a hot date. If you assume there's a secret history to the world, there has to be evidence, and someone clever and dedicated enough could figure it out and prove it simply by reading between the lines.

A lot of this fascination has worked its way into my writing, and most especially into the Romance of Blood books. Running In Her Veins, the only one, er, actually written so far, doesn't show it as much - most of the perspective characters are just entering into the backstage area, so to speak. But some of it should still be evident - the villains are, after all, a hidden cabal of blood-drinking demonic immortals, even if they're not vampires per se. And while I don't know if he'll ever appear in the books, Rasputin is still alive - and I know how, why, and what he did to fake his death, and could show you a chain of evidence going back to the Roman Empire that would support my claims. Secret History stories have always seemed to me to be the most science-fictional that fantasy gets; because while there might not be science extrapolated upon and projected to convincingly shape the world, the principle is the same with rigorous historical research.

Though I still can't stand The Da Vinci Code.

So: what are your favorite Secret Histories?
matt_doyle: (Default)
"I don't want to write the Great American Novel," was my refrain throughout college when I introduced myself as a writer. "Besides, Neil Gaiman already did that. American Gods. Read it. Me, I want to reinvent the dime pulp novel. Cheap, exciting, and all about story. I want the reputation for lovable hackwork that Stephen King has."

Naturally, like any claim any writer makes about themselves or their ambitions, that should be treated with suspicion. The truth is, of course, that I plan to be the most prolific and celebrated author in the history of writing, with parades and holidays and such in my honor, universally acclaimed a creative genius the likes of which has never been seen. I wish to simultaneously be the next-generation brainchild of Alan Moore, Gene Wolfe, Joss Whedon, and Neil Gaiman.

I have also, you know, repeatedly told people that by the ten-year reunion of my high school class, I will be living in a refrigerator box tucked in a dead-end alley somewhere, and work my art in haiku form on the wall of the McDonald's men's room.

Writers lie to you. That's what we want to do for a living, after all.

Concretely, though, there are three different types of writing that draw my interest above anything else, that I have focused on so far and intend to continue my efforts in.

First, role-playing games. I learned to play Dungeons and Dragons back in the fifth grade, using a mix of first and second-edition books and five d6. The fact that the rules were utterly incoherent when we attempted to apply them that way was lost on me - honestly, my friends and I had been focused on make-believe games of fantasy worlds, swashbuckling adventure, and hot demon women in chainmail bikinis already; some arbitrary rules and things to roll on the carpet didn't change too much.

But it stuck with me. You can say what you may about high art versus hackwork, but I will tell you that the most rewarding damn storytelling I've ever done has always been sitting at the head of a table of half a dozen creative and impertinent people, trying to keep them spellbound and razzle-dazzled so that they don't out-think my nice neat plot and go off in a direction I haven't prepared for. And in the best games, of course, they always do. I DM two games a week right now, something that's been pretty constant since about my sophomore year of college. I have presided over the rise and fall of armies, empires, and gods, and it's taught me more about solid world-building and fool-proofing my plot holes than any class I ever took. If I could find a place to work professionally writing games, I'd do it in a hot second.

Of course, that wouldn't keep me from writing other things, too. Like comic books. I was never interested in comic books as a kid, and even in high school, until a very pretty and devastatingly intelligent girl who sat next to me in study hall showed me a drawing one day, and started explaining the awesome epic story it was part of. I was smitten, by the story as much as the girl (who is still my best friend), and I still am. I do, however, have Distinct and Literary Opinions about comics, which come not from too much exposure to the works of Alan Moore and Scott McCloud, but from being a long-time Spider-Man fan having to put up with Joe Quesada.

And if what I just said there made sense to you? Tell me, so we can talk about it!

I have also, as you may have heard me mention (six dozen times, if I had you friended on my old journal), just completed my first novel. I have gradually come to conclude that when it coems to books, I am going to be an author of dark fantasy. This was not a conscious decision on my part; I just looked down at the big list of Novels I Needed To Write one day, and realized that they were all lurking somewhere in between YA Fantasy and Gothic Horror.

Except for the Western. But that's different.

Who am I?

Mar. 13th, 2009 09:53 am
matt_doyle: (Default)
Given how many new people I've friended over the past few days, I should probably establish a few points of reference about who I am. Matt Doyle is the name I intend to write and be published under, but it's not my legal name - it's my middle name (which is what I go by in casual conversation, whether on- or off-line) and my mother's maiden name. That picture you see as my default icon is me, circa October 2004 - one of these days I'll get a better picture taken and use that instead, but it's a reasonably good image even now.

I am a 24-year old white liberal bisexual lower-class Christian male with a bachelor's degree in English Writing and Classical Studies (and a minor in Sociology). Some of that is going to be more relevant to my writing, and some of it less, and some of it really needs multiple posts to unpack and discuss. I'm going to resist the urge to dwell on it now, and keep talking.

I've been passionate about science fiction for literally longer than I can remember. One of my earliest memories, dating back to when I was three or four years old, and suffering from a really terrifying and head-splitting earache, my father told me to be strong and endure, like Luke Skywalker. I don't remember having seen Star Wars already back then, but I must have, because I had a dream about Luke dangling from the vanes beneath Bespin, and being picked up by the damaged Starship Enterprise (as seen towards the end of Wrath of Khan).

These were formative moments.

Growing up in a geeky, extremely literate household, I think it's safe to conclude that I was a lost cause, even at age four. I was never going to fit in with the other kids at school, never going to be satisfied with the world around me, never going to stop imagining or to stop examining everything with "what-if" goggles and a finely honed sense of wonder.

That's what got me where I am now.

Where I am now, exactly, is a trickier place to articulate. I'm not really a writer with a mission statement or a particular high literary ambition (not that there's anything wrong with that). But with every filled notebook, every dead-end customer service job, it becomes a little more obvious that whether I ever get paid to put my work in print, telling stories is my life. Which brings me, I suppose, to a point veering off of "Who Am I?" and into "What Do I Write?"

And that, I think, is tomorrow's post.
matt_doyle: (Default)
I've stopped reading my old friendslist. I've stopped logging in to my old journal. I'm not actually done there yet; before finalizing this move I have to finish typing and posting the rough draft of my first novel over there. Already, though, I'm thinking differently about what and how I read, or post, or comment. I have friends who have switched or renamed blogs half a dozen times in the eight years since I came to LJ, but this is a first for me. I felt that I needed to construct a different headspace in which to interact with the Internet (or at least, the blogosphere), and I was right.

In part, it's a question of priorities. A lot of the posts on my old journal were friendslocked, filtered, or privatized, because they were talking about things I didn't want to share with everyone. My old journal was an intimate personal space. This journal is more of a cubicle, or a roll-top desk. There may be the occasional extraneous newspaper clipping or family photo giving insight into who I am and what I'm doing offline, but it's first and foremost a space for me to work in. It's a place to present myself publicly as a writer, to post and discuss my fiction, or literature, philosophy, and pop culture in ways that are relevant to writing fiction. It's a place to practice, criticize, and dissect. Hopefully, it's a place to network with other friendly and like-minded writers (who am I kidding, you don't actually need to be like-minded, so long as you're friendly!).

It's a kind of change I've thought about before. I've talked about the slow process of looking back and realizing, after the fact, that a watershed moment in life has come and gone, and that archiving what I've said in the past, here on LJ, is a lot like preserving that past self - like examining a shed skin.

Thinking about it that way lead to what I think is one of my better efforts at poetry, and I think I'm going to end my virgin* post here with that.

*well, to me at least, it does feel realistically clumsy...

Metamorphosis )


matt_doyle: (Default)

January 2014



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 20th, 2017 09:23 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios