Something very sad happened to me today. One of my professional colleagues surprised me by telling me of a decision. Because of my recent pivot to this new role as Jackson Allen the Author, he didn’t feel he and I could be friends anymore. I’m shocked and saddened, but of course I respect his decision.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about what happened. I decided that I wanted to blog some thoughts out and share this with you. Blogging gives me a platform for ideas that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. Maybe this is something you’ve already experienced and you have an answer for what I haven’t figured out yet.
As I said in the beginning, this is … like … the third act of my career. My real name isn’t Jackson, I’ve got some baggage and I’m just moving forward with my life now that the previously-planned ‘happily ever after’ became ‘not a hope in Hades.’ There’s some stigma attached to that decision and it sucks. As I travel that path, and circumstances change, all I can really hope to do is roll with the punches while remaining true to the goal.
I want to tell stories that people enjoy and hopefully get paid for it. It’s that simple, but circumstances dictate that I find my own way. Because I’m innovating, I have to be okay with being misunderstood. That’s the thing nobody tells you about the creative life: there are moments of genuine heartbreak. It’s bad enough that the public at large doesn’t understand what you’re doing. But when a fellow creative who is also traveling your path rejects you well, part of you dies. After that conversation, I had to take a few circuits around the block and try to clear my head. Continue reading
I was driving in the car today, listening to an old Oasis B-side called ‘Acquiesce.’ Some songs make me see movies in my head and Acquiesce is one of them. Since the song is supposed to be about friendship and brotherhood, I always see the beginning of a movie, where the credits roll over a montage of pictures that show two brothers growing up together.
But then I got a little depressed and I started thinking to myself, “what do you even know about that? You’ve never had that experience.” It’s intimidating to realize that I’m attempting to put into words a story I’ve never lived … what business do I have telling that story or any other? That’s when an interesting epiphany hit me and so I’m sharing it with you: Continue reading
I found this article and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. A fallacy is a ‘a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.’ Humans have been studying social fallacies for thousands of years; the Argumentum ad Populum is more commonly known as ‘everyone else is doing it.’ Social fallacies come in all shapes and sizes and geeks are guilty of our own social fallacies, too.
As a geeky person, I’ve been guilty of believing all of these geek social fallacies at one time or another. Perhaps you’ve been in an exchange with another person and it’s not going well. It might be because one or both of you is working off of a social fallacy. Might want to look into it.
Well, there you have it: two different movies in the theaters that show the full range of science fiction in all it’s glory.
I won’t spoil either movie for you, but I’ll say this much. If you want to learn how different science fiction can be from itself, you need look no further than the movie theater right now. The Arrival and Doctor Strange show how you can combine elements of the Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy genres to make a basic three-act story or a thoughtful, moving tale that asks ‘if you had it to do all over again, would you?’
I’m happy, because it means we get to experience the full spectrum of sci-fi again. We’ve needed that for a very long while.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against the Marvel Comic Universe. It’s just that, well let me put it this way: I love pizza … But I don’t want pizza every day. I love blues music, but after a while I need something in my life besides Stevie Ray Vaughn. ‘Variety may be the spice of life, but don’t look for it in the movie theater,’ we’ve been told over and over again.
It took directors like Christopher Nolan making movies like ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar,’ to smash through the conventional wisdom that hard sci-fi didn’t appeal to mass audiences anymore. Now we’re seeing more and more science fiction … real science fiction … coming at us and to that I say “Bravo!”
Now, as much as I love real science fiction, I want to add some caveats:
- Stories are designed to be enjoyed, not categorized
- Not every hero has an ‘origin story.’
- Sci-fi doesn’t have to follow the typical three-act story arc
I’m going to talk more about those thoughts later on but wanted to get this thought pushed out to make room for everything else I’m thinking about. Happy Monday, go make something awesome.
I see you.
The nerd. The geek. The forgotten. The ignored.
You were different, you knew that, but it wasn’t supposed to matter. Chubby cheeks, frizzy hair, funny glasses and ratty sneakers. A nose that goes on for days.You were last to be picked at kickball but the first to get picked on. Who decided that, you asked. No one could tell you why. You wanted to play with them, but you didn’t know how. Nobody had a crush on you in school. You danced to a different drum, but no one would ever join in.
It wasn’t just the kids – the adults were in on the game, too. Silent, cruel legions of moms with warm smiles and cold, calculating eyes. Their children were to be pushed forward while you were held back. Nothing personal, kid, their eyes said, you can get ahead, just as long as you aren’t ahead of me. You saw it happening, but you didn’t know why. You had learn to be strong, to stand up for yourself, on your own.
I saw you when you woke up that morning. You were what, twelve? Fourteen? You knew you were different. The aching beauty of blossoming youth … what was that? Your body wasn’t made for designer clothes. Your budget wasn’t made for expensive shoes. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram filled up with pictures of your peer’s amazing adventures. Parties, ball games and concerts. First dates and camping trips … bittersweet events that will eventually make up the nostalgia of childhood are not to be yours. The adventures and romantic experiences in coming-of-age movies were interesting, academic ideas … but you never knew them for yourself. … someone was having the time of their life, but it wasn’t you.
I don’t know about you but I love those ‘For Dummies’ books. They make so many complex topics accessible and they do it in a non-judgemental format. In fact, I remember buying the first book Dan Gookin wrote, “DOS for Dummies” and picking up other ‘For Dummies’ books as time went on. I know I’m not the only one who likes the ‘For Dummies’ books – they’ve got 2700 titles and they’ve sold 200 million books.
The one thing that got me thinking was the ‘A Reference for the Rest of Us’ tagline. I think this might be significant to the evolution of science fiction. As it stands, science fiction is rigidly stratified, filled with class warfare and there are many cringe-worthy examples of ‘teachable moments’ on all sides. I’m not here to point at the problem, I’m here to talk about a solution. Here goes:
My life is something of a science project, and I think I’ve stumbled onto something. Let me start out by expressing this in appropriate nerd language:
Question: How do you maintain creativity over time?
Background: Many writer friends talk about ways to avoid or recover from burn-out. It seems like you can’t do one kind of creativity forever, you need to switch it up from time to time to remain fresh. How do you do that?
Hypothesis: I think the three-field system of crop rotation can also be used for human creativity
Test With an Experiment: This is where it gets tricky … Continue reading
I’ve been thinking about publishing some sort of snarky rant about the state of the sci-fi community. It’s well-known that we’ve got some growing-up to do, but I don’t think of myself as The Sheriff of Sci-Fi. So rather than laying claim to any position of power, I think it’s fair to say that my job is to apply Ghandi’s famous quote to how I want to interact with the sci-fi community:
“You Must Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.”
There’s a logical fallacy taking place in the world today, which assumes that the only opinions worth listening to are the ones you’re willing to fight for. While I’ll grant you that there is such a thing as righteous conflict, it happens much more rarely than people realize.
It’s also been my experience that the scifi community has a nasty habit of getting distracted from the business at hand. I remember reading the tweets of a recent con and their business meeting … they’re literally bringing together geeks, nerds and auteurs to debate what ‘North America’ means. I kid you not: Continue reading
… William Gibson tweeted at me:
I need to go re-contemplate my life now.
Okay, I don’t want to gush but I do love Stranger Things. There, I said it.
At first, I didn’t want to talk about the show. I felt it would push me into the ‘buying instead of being’ aspect of geek that I want to avoid with Geekquinox. That said, I saw Gaten Matarazzo talk about living with cleidocranial dysplasia and I had to speak up. Gaten’s revelation and the show itself revealed a core aspect of science fiction to me. Here it is:
In science fiction, there are no weaknesses … there are only strengths you haven’t discovered.