The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

I Hate the Scott Pilgrim Movie and You Should Too

scott pilgrim poster

I hate the Scott Pilgrim movie. You’d think I wouldn’t because it’s all about video games and meet-cutes and boy heroes and martial arts. But it’s just so misogynist and every character’s an asshole. Even the good guys.

Stage 1: Bad Casting

I hate Michael Cera (as an actor, I’m sure he’s a fine person). Some actors just rub me the wrong way and seem wrong for any role they’re in. I feel the same about Matthew Broderick, Kristen Stewart, Tom Cruise, Shia LaBeouf, and Ashton Kutcher. They’ve never done anything wrong in my eyes. They’re just… bad to watch.

And Michael Cera’s top of the list for me. I hated him in Juno. I hated him in Superbad. And I hated him in this. His persona as a mealy-mouthed, soft-skinned, unthreatening teen who has trouble talking to girls holds no water for me. He’s an antithesis of masculinity, which is one of the reasons why he was cast in this movie–to contrast against the toxic masculine stereotypes he has to fight against.

But taking away toxic masculinity doesn’t make you a good guy. Instead, he’s a eunuch. I don’t believe he could fight a snail much less seven evil exes. He doesn’t have the stage presence to make you believe he’s falling in love or mourning a lost relationship or rising above himself to triumph at the end. Michael Cera is a Milhouse, not a Bart Simpson. He looks like a medieval pageboy with consumption or pneumonia. Something where he won’t see his seventeenth birthday.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead just sits there and doesn’t do anything. She’s not the other player in this game, she’s the ball. She sits around and looks pretty with her big-ass eyes and acts as a prize to be won. She and Cera have no chemistry–I’m not even convinced Cera knows he’s supposed to care about her. I think he’s doing it because that’s what it says in the script.

And the rest of the supporting cast underacts or overacts. There’s no in-between. Kieran Culkin, the gay best friend, looks like he’s dying of AIDS (maybe he wandered in off the Rent set). Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza are all right, but they’re playing to type. And all the exes act like clowns by way of DragonBall Z.

Stage 2: Bad Characters

Scott Pilgrim is a mopey, timid, feeble, self-obsessed loser who drags everybody down. The first thing we see him doing is dating a seventeen-year-old high school girl… as a twenty-two-year-old. Yuck. Plus, he’s an absolute shit to her from beginning to end. Nothing he does redeems the way he’s treated her. He’s a self-conscious, sex-obsessed, go-nowhere dweeb with no friends (the friends he does have just yell at him) because he’s manipulative and cowardly and blames everyone else for his problems. He’s me in high school.

His goal is bullshit. It’s not to get the girl, not to form a relationship with her. It’s to defeat her seven ex-boyfriends (and one ex-girlfriend) in combat, so he can date her. What kind of white knight bullshit is this? It’s like the Michigan lockdown protestors and BLM militias–they’re willing to do anything for love as long as it means they get to do violence. Actually talk to the girl? Fuck that. That’s weakness, that’s compromise. True men don’t woo women, they conquer.

I mean, the ending is literally the last ex-boyfriend on a throne with Ramona shackled next to him. I’m half-expecting her to cry out “Mario!” in a high-pitched voice. It’s the kind of thing you see in Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies. I would make a Jabba the Hutt/Slave Leia reference, but even Slave Leia had more agency chained up to a greasy slug.

And Scott Pilgrim’s big character-flip moment is… gaining self-respect. Except that wasn’t his problem. His problem was treating others like shit. It was being a self-absorbed jerkass. If he thought he could win against seven people in mortal combat, he never lacked confidence. He certainly had the ego to date Knives and Ramona at the same time. (“I forgot to tell you I dumped you”… tch, coward.)

We’re solving the wrong problem here. The movie even gives him a chance to fight his internal evil with “Nega Scott”. But then the movie throws that away, and he MAKES FRIENDS with it. They go out for brunch! Does that mean he’s embracing his evil? Does that mean he’s giving in to those negative tendencies? He’s going to keep being a dick? Even Scott says “he’s actually a nice guy”. What does that sound like? (Answer: it sounds like every murderer or rapist apologist out there).

All right, enough about him. Who else is there? Ramona? Blander than Canadian candy. She’s bitter and gloomy, and not in the fun way like Aubrey Plaza. I couldn’t tell you a thing about her personality except that she’s “haunted” by relationships past. She never smiles, she’s never happy, even when she’s rescued.

Then this should be her story, not Scott Pilgrim’s (but asshole that he is, he makes it his own). The movie’s central theme is about moving beyond the jealousy of one’s past relationships. Not judging a person by who they were but who they are.

It’s Ramona’s problem–if she wants to find love, she has to move past the stigma of her past mistakes. It shouldn’t be the job of the boy who wants to date her. Scott is solving her problem, not his own. She has to realize that the past is a part of who she is, but she doesn’t have to let it define her.

Maybe this is why I don’t understand the movie–as much as I judge others, I judge based on the now, not the backstory. I have no moment in my past of “wow, how can I compete with that guy”. I’ve dated women who had nine ex-boyfriends. I didn’t care. She was with me now. Maybe it meant I’d eventually become a notch in her history, but we’ve got to take that risk for love.

Then we get to the Knives Chau. Obnoxious little teenybopper who mimics every J-Pop otaku and obsesses over Scott. She’s like Shampoo from Ranma ½. Is she meant to be that way? I don’t know. But it doesn’t mean I want to see her on screen. It’s like she exists to drain sympathy from Scott, but doesn’t earn any herself. Especially when the movie parallels her to Yoko Ono.

Wallace Wells is a sex maniac and a hypocrite. He’s supposed to be a best friend. The voice of reason. Spock, Samwise Gamgee, Hermione Granger, Donkey. Except he tells Scott not to cheat on Knives when he himself is cheating on his boyfriend. And generally being promiscuous. And he’s constantly insulting Scott.

Stacey Pilgrim and Julie Powers are all right. They have a dark humor and react rationally to everything that’s going on. And they’re always telling Scott off–yelling at him when he keeps doing the stupid wrong thing. I like the women in this cast, but they’re all there to support the male lead. It technically passes the Bechdel Test, but only on insignificant throwaway lines. At no point does the movie care what Ramona or Knives or the drummer or the female exes feel. They’re all fodder for the battlefield.

And notice that I haven’t mentioned the primary antagonists in this movie–the evil exes. That’s because they’re nothing. They’re comic book villains. And not good ones. I’m talking like Stilt Man and Paste Pot Pete. They’re just brutes and comedy relief. The male equivalent of sexy lamps.

The only character I liked was the redheaded drummer (but I may be biased).

Stage 3: Bad World-Building/Effects

I’m not talking about the CGI effects that mimic video game tricks, like points being scored or coins spontaneously erupting. Those are fine. The fighting is good too. They did a good job of melding the martial arts/stuntwork with actors who are clearly NOT physical (e.g. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Michael Cera). The stylization is not the problem.

But everything else looks like it was designed by Hollywood committees. Like the make-up and costumer were white-haired old men with beer bellies and suspenders. They were constantly asking “Eh? Is this how the kids are dressing these days? Is this what they like? The video games and the clothings? Anime? That’s the Japanese cartoons where the women have big boobs, right?”

The costuming looks like someone saw Street Fighter II and Ranma ½, then threw up on the clothes. (Why do I keep bringing up Ranma ½? Maybe because my anime DVD case is right in front of me.) The make-up artists had been to Burning Man too many times (or possibly thought
they were still there). Give the love interest some brightly colored hair–that’s an anime thing, right? Satya Bhabha (Matthew Patel) looks like a raccoon and there’s something wrong with Chris Evans’s eyebrows.

The fighting (and this is as much a problem with the movie’s story as it is the special effects) has all the tension of a WWE match. Scott takes kicks that should implode his chest cavity. But he gets up. And often defeats his enemies with fewer punches than he just took. You don’t know the rules so you don’t know when you should worry about the character. How much damage can Scott take? Does he have a regenerating shield like Halo? He never bleeds so does he have hit points? How many? Yu-Gi-Oh had firmer rules than this.

Final Stage: Bad Story

The story has the same veiled anti-moral of Ready Player One — it rewards the protagonist for a toxic obsession over a thing. Ramona is a maguffin. Scott’s obstacles are “on the way to” the prize rather than what it is. He doesn’t produce anything new, he regurgitates what has already been produced.

If you take out the hipsters and video games references, there really is nothing here. I’ve already talked about the unlikeable characters. Without them, you don’t have a plot. You’ve got a guy who already has a girlfriend who he’s too chickenshit to break up with. He sees someone better, someone he had a “dream-vision” about (which I hate and has no place in a movie like this). Is the universe trying to tell him he should be with Ramona? The universe is a dick.

Everyone at the party can’t stop gushing about what a cool chick she is, she’s got guys groveling at her feet. But all she’s doing is moping against a wall, alone. (Show, don’t tell, movie.) She doesn’t seem remotely interested in him, but she accepts his date because the movie demands it. She even resigns herself to making out with him.

Her next line is “I guess.”

But right before their relationship can move further (and maybe we can get into an interesting love triangle) her ex-boyfriends appear. Then the movie stops so they can fight over and over again. (Except for the Designated Girl Fight between Ramona and her own ex-girlfriend, because our “hero” wouldn’t hit a girl) And the time where it’s actually his band fighting. And there’s two of them (because we’ve got to get this story moving goddammit). BTW, is he murdering these people? Forget it, I don’t want to know. Everyone deserves to die anyway.

And through all this, we’re just accepting the conceit that, in this world, you have to defeat your girlfriend’s ex-boyfriends before you can date her. Like, is that a law? Is it just Ramona Flowers who gets this treatment? Why is she so special? There’s no explanation of why this is a thing.

In the end, Knives proves that she and Scott are better together (as it’s the two of them fighting in tandem, like in their favorite video game, that defeats the final boss). Ramona just stands there until she kicks him in the junk. A cheap shot for a cheap shot. It seems like the ending is moving towards Scott choosing someone who was actually dedicated to him and being wrong for his crush on Ramona. But nope.

By the way, there’s no consequences for his cheating. Everyone just kisses and makes up and goes home.

Ending

This movie is trendy and retro and quirky and became a cult hit. In the same way the Proud Boys are a cult. Who wouldn’t want to defend a lady’s honor with flaming laser swords? What kind of person dreams of fighting teen actors, skateboarders, slutty pop stars, vegans, lesbians, and Japanese DJs?

It’s full of flash and cute icons and distractions to keep you engaged while a poor act plays out with poor characters. Just because you slap Mario on a thing doesn’t mean every nostalgia gen-Xer is going to love it. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is insipid and misanthropic, glorifying toxic masculinity, and depriving women of their agency.

Side note: This movie contains Captain America, Captain Marvel, Superman, Robin, Shadow King, Huntress, and Batgirl.

Don’t Think About It

watching movie popcorn

If you’re wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts, then repeat to yourself “It’s just a show, I should really just relax…”

These are the last lyrics of the theme song to Mystery Science Theater 3000. This caveat exists because the premise of the show isn’t about the setting or characters or universe. It’s about making fun of bad movies. You don’t need an aesthetic for that (and in fact, RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic have proven you don’t). It’s just some pleasant decoration around the content. A wrapper. It’s not meant to be thought about.

And yet people do.

There are countless fan fictions, fandoms, cosplay, puppet construction, books, plays, and FAQs

Remember when Star Wars premiered? (No, probably not.) It was popular, but it was still a movie. A combination of samurai cinema and war films dumped into science fiction and goofy shit like space apes and robots with anxiety and cinnamon bun heads.

I mean, think about Darth Vader without any context. Hard to do, I know, but look at him standing there. Black boots, bulbous helmet out of Mars Attacks, laser sword, and a cape. Kinda goofy, isn’t it? Then thirty years later happened and now the red & white droid that breaks down as Luke and Uncle Owen are walking away from the Jawas has a backstory. It has a backstory!

The coffee maker has an action figure. Jabba’s band has an album. More brain cells have been killed in the name of Star Wars than thinking of solutions for world peace.

The whole reason I’m thinking about this is because of the “Movies with Mikey” video essay about “Bill & Ted” in anticipation of the third movie. He’s a great analyzer but one of his repeated motifs through the piece is “don’t think about it”.

The reason is that the premise is silly. Two stoner rockers need to pass history class with an awesome presentation or the band will break up. This is a problem because, in the future, they write the song which unites the world in love and peace.

So a representative of that future gives them a time travel device so they can retrieve historical figures for their report. Straight from the horse’s mouth, if you will.

Immediately, discerning minds among you will have several questions. Is this really the best way to help Bill and Ted? Will abducting historical figures disrupt the past? Will giving them information about the future affect their work from thereon? Why are there no records of the figures talking about their adventures at the San Dimas mall? Do they need supervision operating a device that could wipe out space and time? Why is it a phone booth? (Besides ripping off Doctor Who.) How can a ten-digit number signify an exact place and time from at least 1 million BC to 2655 AD? Any point on Earth, any point in time, down to the…day? Because Rufus says to get to tomorrow, you have to dial one number higher. But then a clock for “present” San Dimas is still running? And I’m not even going to get into the fundamental questions which plague even the best stories about time travel. There’s very little about the story that makes sense (but that’s par for the course in any story involving time travel).

What does Mikey say? Don’t think about it.

Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me lampshades this specifically. As Austin is trying to understand the causality of time travel before he goes back to 1969, his boss says “I suggest you don’t worry about those things and just enjoy yourself.” Austin himself turns to the camera and, with a wink and a nod, agrees.

But I can’t enjoy myself! Because I do think about those things! My mind is trained to. It comes from all those games like Dungeons & Dragons and Chess and Magic: The Gathering where you have to remember a hundred different conditions and reactions and bonus effects and strategies that are all going on at the same time. It comes from my education as a programmer, where you’ve got to remember what fourteen million lines of code do because it’s all a Jenga tower made of spaghetti. I have to think about these things–it’s what I do!

I’m not a fan of the idea “don’t think about it” axiom when it comes to consuming media. That’s a bad path to go down.

For one thing, it lets bad media “get away with it”. Crap TV and movies only meant to exploit your attention and take your money (stuff like Reefer Madness, Mac and Me, Catwoman, Gigli, Glitter, Showgirls, Batman & Robin, and The Land Before Time 87).

For another, it’s used as a defense against people who say “How can you like this? X, Y, and Z are wrong with it. If Q is true, nothing in the plot works. How can character R be so stupid? All these plot holes and character mistakes make no sense.”

“Don’t think about it.”

For another, people love thinking about it! They must–that’s why there are shows like Nostalgia Critic and Lindsay Ellis and The Game Theorists/Film Theorists and Cinema Sins and Mythbusters. That’s why there are DVD commentaries and “behind the scenes” documentaries. Who thinks about how long Bill Murray was in a time loop in Groundhog Day? Millions of people, that’s who!

Knowing how the trick works doesn’t necessarily take away the magic. If you turn off your brain, you can’t appreciate it when they do get things right. It’s the little touches that show that people put EFFORT into the creation of the piece. That means they cared. And if they cared, you should be allowed to.

So there’s the question: Should you think about it? Should you not? Is it up to you? Does the combination of viewer and thing-being-viewed make the difference?

I think the key to remember is that no story is flawless. (“No movie is without sin.”) Citizen Kane, always considered the best of the best of the best in cinema, has a huge plot hole: the whole movie hinges on discovering the meaning of “Rosebud”, his last words. But Kane dies alone, so how does anyone know what his last words are? None of the movie should have happened.

Gone with the Wind has an electric lamp and It’s a Wonderful Life has a disappearing wreath between shots. How does Andy Dufresne reattach the Raquel Welch poster so securely after his escape in The Shawshank Redemption? In The Karate Kid, the referee explicitly states that hits to the face are not allowed. How does Daniel-san win? A glorified kick to the face. And we shall forever debate whether Jack could have fit on the door next to Rose.

Did any of these mistakes affect your enjoyment of the film? Did you even notice them? You probably will now, but how much will it change your enjoyment? Not much, I wager. Fiction helps us understand reality. Just like kittens play-fighting or your kids playing with action figures. It’s a safe space you can explore ideas or simulate new ones without hurting anyone. Everything from Casablanca to Bill and Ted.

It’s the movie’s duty to create more good parts than bad. That doesn’t mean expensive special effects or complex acting nuances. It means creating a playspace with emotional investment, rather than logical. Movies with nonsensical premises, like Mrs. Doubtfire or Edward Scissorhands or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs don’t get trashed because the story pulls you in. (And if I knew how they do it, I’d bottle it up and make a million dollars.) But I do know that without investment, your attention wanders away to the problems.

It’s like ants in your sugar. One ant can be picked out. But the more ants you have to pick out, the less appetizing the sugar gets. Or like a diamond ring–if you don’t like the husband, you start seeing the flaws in the rock.

Now, you can get TOO emotionally invested in a movie, like Star Wars or Harry Potter where it becomes your whole identity. (Also applies to things like music, sports, YouTubers, female pop artists, and podcasts–anything with a toxic fandom.) A good story brings characters to life. But when you confuse those characters with reality or choose to give up on reality and live in the illusion, that’s a problem. Especially when it starts hurting others. You choose the movie, don’t let the movie choose you.

But to say about any movie “don’t think about it” is to let others get away with poor quality and low effort. It gives carte blanche to bad actors, malevolent producers, maniacal writers, and anyone who uses story-telling to exploit people and gain money. If you don’t care about the obvious distracting flaws, why should they? That’s why people get away with The Human Centipede and Caligula and Old Fashioned (or any Pureflix movie) or The Oogieloves. They advertise nasty sex or gore-riffic violence or reaffirmation of your Christian values or 90-minute distractions for your kids.

I’m going to watch Bill and Ted 3. And I am going to think about it. And it’s up to the movie whether or not it’s earned the right to rise above the flaws & mistakes. To create give & return in the characters so that I’m no longer looking for the strings holding the flying saucers.

You can think about it too much, but you should always think about it.

Another Crying Writer

crying baby mario

Waah, waah

What’s that sound?

Waah, waah

Why, it’s the sound of another writer that can’t take criticism.

The vast majority of writers, ones who are serious about their craft never say boo anytime they receive a critique, no matter what sort of language is used. If every sentence comes with “I feel” or “Most sources say that you should…” it doesn’t matter. If they’re smart, and they are, they know not to look for how it’s phrased, but what was phrased. That’s why I do at least.  I’m looking for the things that more than one persons says.

But there are those trolls out there who believe that their shit doesn’t stink. It’s not that they believe their work is great, but they react badly when someone tells them in a manner they don’t agree with. I’m sure they’d like some fluffy mom telling them “that’s okay, honey, you tried, you’ll do better next time,” when in fact, that’s not reality. There’s a reason we’re not all pirates and astronauts and presidents. Only the best of the best of the best get past that 98% rejection rate. And you’re going to have to endure some harsh trials to get there.

Like I’m enduring now. I get so tired of having to defend myself all the time. It’s not that I need people to accept who I am. It’s beyond that. People need to not tell me how to behave. I am my own person. My way is a valid way. It works. And it’s the blending of all these ways that make America great. But no, there’s always that one guy that no one likes who makes enough of a stink to be heard.  And the leaders listen to him because, diplomatically, they have to.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

I’m just not feeling the love these days. Roll the Bones screws up my story. I haven’t sold anything since September, and the one before that was in March. I’m not even getting rejections from agents these days for Black Hole Son. The Penny Arcade debacle has got people from all sides ripping on two of my favorite guys, talking and not solving anything. I can’t get my video games working. I finished my short stories, and now I’m back to rough draft composition, which is always the hardest part of writing. I get the flu. The kids won’t stop crying (they’re 1 and 3). People are all in my ass.

Sometimes I wish that I could live on a boat. A houseboat somewhere in the Atlantic, all by myself, writing, playing video games, and eating. And not being around people. Of course, I’d have satellite Internet and television. But the centerpiece would be my “room”. I was about to call it the “writing room” or “office” and then the “media room”, but basically, it’s “my room”. It would like one of those 19th century parlors with lots of brown/sepia stuff and everything in oak, and all the walls are bookshelves. Books, books, books (although I wouldn’t have any rare or expensive books, in case of water damage).

It would look something like this, but more books and more couches

I could get a cup of gourmet coffee, go down to my study, put on some classic jazz or soft rock, enjoy reading my book on my couch while the waves bob me up and down. Then I could play a video game, do some writing, some fishing, watch a movie, drink a glass of port, watch porn. You know, typical stuff. I could just meld into a different world.

And of course, I need one of these

It would be the perfect escape–nothing to do but my own thing. And I would be completely isolated from everything–traffic, taxes, crime–just a storm here and there. Also scurvy. I could play all the games I could never get involved in — World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy. I could create an online persona, where no one really knows where he is, but he’s mysterious… very mysterious.

But I live in the real world. A real world that I don’t fit into.

The Final Word on The Shine Journal

I sent my last blog entry to said editor of The Shine Journal. As you could read, it wasn’t an apology, it wasn’t a redaction. It was a re-evaluation. I don’t know what I was expecting for a response, if I was expecting one at all, but I would have liked it to be a bit more magnanimous than it was. Her tone was extremely defensive and proud. Maybe it’s all the Lamebook I’ve been reading, but it feels like adolescent behavior–can’t leave an issue alone, attacks all forms of disparagement, always has to have the last word, uses too many exclamation points

The first thing she said was that she doesn’t send any contract information because it’s already there on the website to read. So the onus is on me to find all this stuff? You can’t remind the reader? You can’t even include a link to where this info is? Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to be paying me? Is it the employee’s job to find out how he’s going to get paid? Or is it the employer’s job to indicate how he will be paid? I know which job sounds better.

I don’t get what I said that was so insulting. The Shine Journal was plenty big for me… until a bigger magazine came along. Surely these people don’t believe they’re the biggest fish in the pond. They might act like you are, but if you have a simultaneous submissions policy, you have to expect this sort of thing to happen. And I might note that the big fish all have contracts. Does she know that not having contracts is not the norm? That not having contracts is kind of dangerous? That the whole point of contracts is to protect both the author and editor legally? And she said “I won’t help you out-read for yourself”. What does that even mean?

Before I regretted my words and the result they brought. Now I really don’t care if I’m blacklisted. This is not the sort of people I want to work with. And further justifies the decision I made. I have no regrets about putting The Shine Journal on my ignore list. I’m done with this immature back and forth. And that’s my final word on the subject.

Aftermath With The Shine Journal

I may have made a mistake. A big one. Maybe.

This refers to the last post I made where I compared “The Shine Journal” and “Sorcerous Signals”. First, I want to say why I said what I said. To me, the name of the name game is to get published. To get published you have to get noticed. You get noticed by getting into the big magazines. To get into the big magazines, you get into the small ones first. At least that’s my battle plan. The purpose of this blog is to track my progress and leave an account of what I did or how I did it. However, in doing so, I may have seriously sabotaged my ambitions. I made… a ‘boo-boo’.

What I wrote about “The Shine Journal” offended someone at… “The Shine Journal”. The editor wrote back to me, cited some lines I had written that described said magazine as being unprofessional. She told me that I should not judge the credibility of a magazine based on how it responds to acceptances, and should have been grateful for the acceptance. She said that “The Shine Journal” has been online three years, won awards, and was putting together a “best of” anthology. She said she does not send out contracts because she does not want to waste paper. She closed by saying that I was blacklisted from ever submitting to “The Shine Journal” again.

Of course, I never expected said person to come to this site. I always wrote this blog as if no one was reading. And unless I’ve got my Google Analytics set up wrong, no one is. The site got only 26 visits last month. Total. And yet, this one entry found its way to the editor of “The Shine Journal”. If I had published it a day later, maybe she never would have seen it. But it doesn’t matter.

What I’m saying is–everything you write on the Internet is there for everyone to see. You must expect that everyone is reading it. And thus, you must be careful of what you say. Visit Lamebook for some real life examples. A writer’s tool is his words and words can hurt. Perhaps using the word “legit” was incorrect. I did not mean to imply that “The Shine Journal” was a scam site. I’m sure it is not.

But words tell the truth, and I, as a fiction writer, have a duty to tell the truth. I never sought to besmirch “The Shine Journal”. What I did was I make an opinion. I had to make a judgement call and I called it like I saw it. That “The Shine Journal” would read such an entry, not to mention take action on it, never entered my mind. And it shouldn’t.

I thought a lot about it, whether or not I should reconsider what I post, my blogging style, in case someone doesn’t what I have to say. Someone with power. But that would be a policy based on fear, not on knowledge. I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I told the truth. I thought the way “The Shine Journal” handled my acceptance was not as professional as “Sorcerous Signals” did. I did not feel that they regarded me as an author, just as a contributor. I did not receive any form of contract or instruction on how I would be paid.

Think about it. If you have two job offers for the same position–one sends you a nice e-mail welcoming you to the company, here’s the company website, here’s a copy of our application policy, here’s a map of the campus, you go here to sign in, there’ll be a 2 hour tutorial before you meet your boss–and another e-mail that just says “you’re hired, see you on Thursday”. Which one sounds like the better job?

So I stand by what I said, although I’ve recast it here. You can disagree with it. You can take action on it. But you cannot and will not affect what I have to say. I find it ironic that the editor of a literary journal couldn’t handle criticism. I believe I made the right decision, both in which magazine to go with, and how I conduct myself on my blog. I can’t let the potential opposition stop me from saying what I want, as long as I’m honest and composed.

So what have we learned? Am I going to stop talking about my experiences with magazines and how they make me feel? Well… I don’t know. I’m definitely going to think more carefully about how I word my criticism, not just for the sake of my own career, but because word selection is an important skill in a writer, and should not be taken lightly.

Fairy Kingdom Rejected From FlashQuake: Didn’t Hold My Interest

Fairy Kingdom got rejected from FlashQuake. And it looks like they give you some feedback. Two editors. One voted no. Comments: I lost interest in the first two paragraphs. Another voted no. Comments: It didn’t hold my interest.

First, let me say it’s pretty awesome that they let you look at what the editors were thinking while they’re voting on your piece. I intend to look closely at the first two paragraphs of Fairy Kingdom to see what I did wrong.

Second, the words “didn’t hold my interest” is the most useless piece of feedback you can get. In no way does it help me improve the story. What do you want to see? Explosions? Gratuitous fairy sex? It sure held my interest. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written it. Not every story has to start with a daring motorcycle chase, or a steamy sex scene. It’s a narrative, it’s a style.

Exactly what am I supposed to do to make it more interesting for you? How does that information help me? How would you like me to write it so that it does hold your interest? Can you go into any more detail maybe? Maybe I should’ve mentioned all the fairies have big hooters (relatively speaking) and during their society’s degradation, fairy strip joints popped up all over the place, covered in sparkle dust and skimpy leaf outfits. But then there was a gas leak, causing a massive fireball (again, relatively speaking) to consume half the kingdom, and Prince Faraday gallantly swings in on a vine, shoots the spreading fire with his AK-47 (modified from a G.I. Joe accessory) and drives his red blazing Cadillac out just as the building smolders to the ground.

Okay, rant over.

RFDR Killed

Well, I did something I never thought I’d do. It took some thought, because it would probably make me come off as an asshole, but there really was no way around it.

I prematurely stopped an RFDR of someone.

The simple fact was that there was too much wrong with the manuscript. The narrative meandered all over the prairie. It threw character after character after character after character at you. And I never understood who the protagonist was, what her goal was, what was at stake, what she needed to do to accomplish her goal, or who was trying to stop her. Those are fundamental problems that have to be fixed before I can start talking about plot development, characterization, pacing, and overall reader experience. No matter how much you polish a turd…

So I stopped reading. My primary reason was that I’d already said enough about the manuscript. Any more and I’d be repeating myself. The excess would not mean the author had learned anything new, and I myself wouldn’t be learning anything either. Reading the novel was arduous – I knew this thing wasn’t going to be any good unless it was rethought and rewritten. Why say in a hundred words what I can say in three? (I think there’s a quote to go along with that, but I’m too lazy to look it up).

So I sent him a polite, professional letter, explaining my reasons and actions. I said I didn’t need credit, I just wanted him to use my advice. I hope he understands, and doesn’t report me. We’re all in this game to improve, to better our writing. I hope I did that.

Remember: The Critiquer is not your friend

Some writers can be douchebags. I am one of them. Some writers are civil – nary a unkind word passes their lips. I am one of them.

I’m basically however you treat me, however you regard me, however you respect me. And I don’t mean solely in direct communication – this is in anything you do. If you treat me like a king, but shit on your friends, you will earn my ire. If you slack off in your work, or behave like a Nazi, then I will treat you like the lazy-ass or holier-than-thou moron you are.

And if you write terrible prose, and act like you’re the shit, I will treat you as such. I have no tolerance for bullshit.

Come on, jerk-off. What do you think’s in it for me? To take the time to read this, give you advice and feedback, and then you just ignore me? Do you think you’re impressing anyone by calling your drafts “Test Type” and “Prototype”? Do you think anyone’s going to read a rehash of the canon material, long paragraphs, and little dialogue? You’re failing, and you don’t even know it. I am the football coach grabbing the nine-year-old who’s not listening by his helmet and shouting “I am trying to help you!”

Arrogant? No, just realistic. You’re the arrogant one, because you think you’re above simple instructions. Those weren’t even my words. They were Orson Scott Card’s! You know, “Ender’s Game”? Multiple Hugo and Nebula winner? Better writer than you’ll ever be? (or me, to be fair).

I told you exactly the type of beta reader was. I told you I showed no mercy. I told you I had no time for etiquette or fancy wording. I told you I pull no punches. I told you I don’t get paid for this, I owe you nothing. But at the heart of it all, I’m still following a good reason – I’m trying to help you become a better writer.

But if you want to ignore me. Fine. Saves me time. I can’t wait for your reviews to pour in.

On a Monday, There’s a Funny Post Title

Ah, I’m done with revising a 100,000 novel that someone sent me. I had a lot of changes to make for it, and let’s just say it reminded me of a lot of fan fiction that I read. And I wonder, whenever I get done looking at someone’s work, what do people see when they look at my work. Do they see something juvenile? Professional? Do they imagine they’re reading this in a paperback form, or as someone living out their video game dreams and television wishes.

My goal here is to write like the real writers write – without overwriting, or scenes that don’t go anywhere or meander – where the reader is hooked and compelled to continue for some reason. I always wonder where Black Hole Son fits into that category. Do they see it as too wordy (it is 140,000 words), or did I keep the action going enough so that you don’t notice? Would an editor throw up at 140,000 words (not that I plan to keep it at such a length – my goal here is to get it under 120,000 – standard “long” novel length).

By the way, I’m now thinking of changing the title to “NK”, but I still haven’t decided. Fortunately, titles are one of those things that can be discussed with the editor, and I’m flexible on it. I wanted a title that’s marketable, that’ll make people raise eyebrows. I got the idea from “Heart-Shaped Box” by Joe Hill – a book with the same title as an awesome song is intriguing. And Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden sounds a lot like the mood I was striving for, as well as some of the content.

I also have yet to choose an opening quote (I love quotes, I try to put them in as many places as possible), and the biggest thing is thinking of the right names for Character A and Character B. I’ve got to finalize them before I start Draft 3 and it’s the hardest thing ever. Next time, I’m just choosing their names right away.

There are no Employment Reviews when you’re a REAL Writer

After six months at my new job, I find myself under a performance review time, and I’m worried. Why shouldn’t I be? I haven’t quit a job since I graduated high school, and I’ve had quite a few since then. Plus we recently had layoffs (3% of the company) in response to the economic crisis. And my peer evaluations were less than stellar. Most of my negatives came from my interpersonal communication or lack thereof.

Welcome to the problem that has persisted me all my life. And you know what, I’m sick of being told to change it. It’s just who I am. Get used to it. I am sick and tired of being told I have this problem. It’s not a problem. It’s me. You simply interpret it as standoffishness because you’re used to people gabbing about nothing. I don’t need to make those connections. You know why I don’t talk? Because it’s exhausting. It taxes me mentally. It’s the equivalent of going for a jog, every time I have to get up and talk to someone I don’t know, or try to make a friend, or do anything social. I tortured myself all throughout high school and college because I believed that I had to get over this, that I had to approach strange people and think of something to say. It never got any better. And you know what, I’m done with that. I’m 27 years old, I’m not getting any better.

You know what, I’m comfortable with who I am. I’ve accepted that I’m not a talker. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’m sick of being told that there is. “Oh, why doesn’t he talk?” “He should talk more.” “Why doesn’t he ever say anything?” I have nothing to say. The end. I don’t need to get people to pay attention to me by blathering. I am an introvert – I need time to process what’s being said before I can process a response, less I say something inconsiderate. We’re a small minority, but we are who we are. And that won’t change. I’m tired of being sorry for who I am.

This is why I say to peer evaluations, really, what’s the point anymore? For one thing, there’s no peer evaluation that can maintain professionality. They’re all personal. They’re always personal. Everything is personal. It’s time people realized that. It’s like trying to separate church and state, and then have the word God plastered over every government document. The two co-exist, and that co-existence must be acknowledged. Do I expect companies to do much about it? No, they’re not into match-making. But if you want to know how your employees are doing, then why don’t you spend time with them. The people conducting the review haven’t spent an entire business day with me in the entire six months.

What does this have to do with writing? (gotta keep this a writing blog, you know) It has to do with criticism. You can’t criticize the person, you have to criticize the work. Peer evaluations don’t do that. Imagine if you had to write a peer evaluation for Hemingway or Stephen King during his drug addict days. I imagine they’d get low marks. The work of writing is like programming – they are both founded on individual achievement. The difference is you’re writing a story for someone else, and you need to make sure the story goes right.

I’m most worried about whether or not I was too negative in my review. I had two options – “everything is fine, move along”, or completely unload on them all the negatives. The safe tactic might have been option number 1, due to the layoffs and economic crisis. It might have been smarter to keep my head down and not make waves. But, there seem to be a lot of problems both in regard to my negative comments, and areas needing significant improvement that I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut for. I wasn’t bitchy, I used the jargon and double-speak to make it seem like it was everybody’s problem, not just mine. I guess I’ve just always got to bite the hand that feeds. I guess that’s a problem that’s persisted me all my life too.

Maybe I’m feeling over-criticized lately because of this and the Vampire Family Story critique. I feel like everyone’s on my case to “get it done”. There’s always going to be standards that I’m never going to measure up to. I’m not going to be the perfect employee. I’m not going to reach for what your goal for me is. I have my own goals, and they don’t include improving my interpersonal skills.