Charles Bronson in “Death Wish.” Promotional poster image. | Courtesy of Wikipedia.org. This image is displayed under Fair Use.
The AV Club must have heard of my recent squawking about Death Wish, because they just hit the full series with the sledgehammer of a close reading. And of course, they did better than I did. Check it out.
I’m still yakking about Outlaws, which still stands the test of time as #2 in the Top Two Western Video Games That Have Ever Been Made. Seriously, game industry, I’m pretty sure people would buy more of these. This video does a quick tour of Levels 1 and 2 and sums up Level 3 with the words “Ah, fuck, a train level.”
A train coach based on Abraham Lincoln’s funeral car is restored in Springfield, Ill. for the sesquicentennial of his death. | May 2015, Kenneth Lowe
So, I had originally meant to post about why Westerns are generally a funny thing for a guy like me to like. I’d also like to tie it in a bit to some of the distressing stuff I hear from the modern fandom these days, and by that I mean the white guys who I grew up identifying with.
You’ve read about Gamergate and you possibly also heard about how some misogynists hijacked the Hugo Awards because they didn’t like that some women justifiably won a bunch of them last year. The controversy has become way too politicized for bizarre reasons. If you go read Breitbart’s site, you’ll find conservative guys claiming that feminists hate games and if you go to Gawker, you’ll be convinced all Gamergaters are not-so-secret rapists. Even one of the online comics I read at The Escapist Magazine treats the subject lightly, while the site itself, if you look, advertises the works of Vox Day, the fellow who is in a sense behind the great Hugo heist, and who blogs about how gay marriage is bad and insists that a bakery taking backlash for refusing a gay couple a cake is an attack on religious liberty.
How is all this tied in to Outlaws and Westerns? Bear with me. Read more…
Thanks to my brother and his wife for their Christmas/birthday gift of Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, he of Scott Pilgrim fame. It’s not nearly as epic a read (in the sense of length), but it had things to say that resonated with me. Sometimes you need that more than another paperback about dragons and magic. (Which I’m also currently reading, guiltily.)
I needed a break from writing about stuff for the past month, since it has been pretty crazy. I have work-coming-to-an-end-stress, family stress, holiday stress, and creative stress, so the blog just needed to not happen for a bit. I plan to unveil a bit more about what I wrote about my grandfather in the near future, but for right now, I am much more excited to be embarking upon a new project with somebody who has been a great help to me in crafting a keepsake for friends. I have to mention something about it here, because it is just plain ludicrous the degree of labor I’ve put into it.
A great long while ago, I ran a Dungeons & Dragons campaign with some good friends downstate. We had a ridiculous amount of fun, and I even met several new people through it. Since it came to an end a couple of years ago, I have felt nostalgia like no other. In part to give a keepsake to my badass party members and in part to assuage these yearnings, I slowly set about creating a book of the campaign. Key to this was the addition of some art. Sadly, none of our players really drew any of us while we were playing, so in addition to sketches of maps and notes I’d made about the adventure already, I figured I should commission some art revealing our characters.
I’d love to reveal some of the art I used, but the fact is I paid for single-use for it and I don’t want to make it available to anybody on the internet who can Google Image search. The point, however, is that I partnered with a few great artists to illustrate the work, including one who I am pleased to say I will be working with on an upcoming project.
Peter and Lilia Yee, ca. 1953. | Photographer Unknown
It has been a trying past couple of weeks. I plan to write a bit more about it very soon, but my grandmother passed away last week. It set me on a long period of rushing back and forth, which was compounded by the wedding I then had to go to the day after her funeral and a looming medical procedure. Through it all, writing has fallen to the wayside, but I’m hoping to find the endurance to get back into it this weekend. More updates to come.
And so, it is complete. I have defeated NaNoWriMo for only the second time in my life. Yesterday I rather fittingly decided to hunker down at the same Panera Bread where I beat it a day early all the way back in 2008, though this was one of the few times when I could have done so over the past few years – I’ve been all over the place since then. Last November found me in Colombia, the several before that found me in Central Illinois as a reporter. The very first one I defeated happened just as Barack Obama won election to the presidency the first time, and now here we are miles into his second term.
I have a few observations about this go-round. Firstly, I feel okay about what it is I wrote. I have the distinct feeling some things will ultimately be done away with, but I also feel as if the greater majority will remain. This writing also helped me get through a deeply muddy time in the book, when literally every character is moving in concert and it becomes difficult to keep them all straight. That is going to be a major difficulty moving forward, but it’s also important that it be done: The story is partly one of a town, and not just the three main characters. Some advice a girlfriend (at the time) told me was that I should peel back the other stuff, and she’s right. I think I overdid it in some scenes, but cutting is easier than producing, and if we must cut later, then we will.
Writing this in concert with reading The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub was also weirdly instructive in a few ways:
One of the few lines I can remember verbatim from my own damn book. | Kenneth Lowe, via Notegraphy
I keep composing these on my phone instead of when I have my manuscript in front me, so the result is I haven’t posted excerpts lately. Last night was the perfect exemplar of how stunningly tired I am of the whole enterprise – I wrote maybe 1,000 words, just enough to be over the Day 24 goal, and then called it a night.
It did not help that the heat in my apartment is out and that I could barely think straight it was so cold. I am resolutely sick of Chicago, sick of a winter that hasn’t even properly begun yet, and sick of hearing of the awful violence in the wake of the Ferguson grand jury as I simultaneously get grief from family members about the possibility of going back to Colombia after this is all over. Which country is more dangerous, I have to wonder?
As I compose this, I am on my way to an official function where the president will be speaking. I am excited, but also exhausted, and an ice-cold apartment and this relentless novel await me when I do finally get home from this thing that is only going to start at 4:30. (Update: Turned away at the door… it was so packed they were declining VIPs.)
Fatigue, I have been assured, is a real thing when it comes to writing. More and more lately, I have come to appreciate that writing is work and not solely diversion. I am fiercely determined to finish though, so tonight I am going to push back ahead.
And then tomorrow I’m going to my fucking mom’s house, where the godshitting heat works, possibly until this tedious fucking return to my blighted homeland is blessedly over with.
So Cuban, Andy Garcia is playing on the TV. 90 Miles Cuban Cafe, Chicago, Nov. 2014 | Kenneth Lowe
I had a truly grueling writing experience last night, literally lying in bed with my eyes closed and composing 2,000 words I am truly surprised make any sense at all.
This was after a flurry of activity at work and a long train ride home. Those scenes were mainly filling in earlier parts that have only now come clear to me as the writing begins to shape this prolonged second act of the story. So the result was, I squeezed scenes into the middle rather than tacked more stuff onto the end. This lead to truly perilous situations where I was scrolling through past sections adding stuff that had never been there before. Somehow, it made sense when I opened my eyes to look at it.
I am now imperiling my 200-word goal lead, which I only won by writing above goal for three straight days, by going to a writer’s workshop. I have never been to it and know only one person there, and there is a long train ride ahead of me at the end of the evening and it sure would be nice to play Diablo III.