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[personal profile] greygirlbeast
Passed out last night as soon as Spooky stopped reading, which must have been about 3:15, or maybe 3:30. So, lots of sleep, and I'm sort of disoriented. We tried a new schedule last night, Rift then movie, instead of the other way round, with reading remaining as the thing that's done just before sleep. I doubt that had anything to do with me crashing like that. I'm just exhausted. But the new arrangement did seem to get us into bed earlier, and I was more awake while we played. Selwyn and Miisya are both Level 41 now.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,720 words on Blood Oranges. Also, [livejournal.com profile] sovay read Chapter One and approved.

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about how this book began (as a joke in the blog) and what it is now. And about comedy. And parody. And such. See, I maintain that it's very hard to do comedy at length. Usually, comedy (in the funny hah-hah, not the Greek dramatic sense) can only be maintained for a short time, after which it simply ceases to be...funny. Example: Back in the late '70s and early '80s, during the Golden Age of Saturday Night Live, I never missed an episode. But, they often had this problem where a skit was fucking hilarious for, say, ten minutes, but it went on for twenty. As though they'd begun a really good joke, but had no idea where the punchline lay. So, that's one reason I fear comedy. Timing is everything. And – if you ask me – comedy should pretty much never be used for "relief," as it often is. Here's an example, from Alien: Resurrection. Number 8 has just torched the lab where deformed Number 7 lay in unimaginable agony. Big, horrific, emotional scene. Then:

Johner (Ron Perlman) looks in at the burning lab.

JOHNER

What's the big deal? Fucking waste of ammo.

CHRISTIE (Gary Dourdan)

Let's go.

JOHNER

Must be a chick thing.


Now, this is exactly what you never do with comedy – or almost never. There aren't hard and fast guidelines, because this is art, not craft. But you do not use it to sabotage a scene this way, to pull the reader/audience back from the precipice of...oh, I don't know...feeling something genuine that might make them uncomfortable? Joss Whedon (whom I generally adore) can be especially bad about this. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) is a study in using the funny to trip yourself up as a storyteller. Comedy has a place, but it's place isn't everywhere all the time, and it's place isn't as an upper in the middle of a downer. Levity should not always be injected. Dilution is not mandatory. Tension may be allowed to build (and often should be), until it is all but unendurable. In a very dark film, comedy should only be injected in very rare, case-by-case situations. As it is, the relationship between horror and comedy is so intimate that they both become, at times, almost indistinguishable – without intentionally shoving one into the other.

All this is relevant because, like "The Maltese Unicorn," Blood Oranges began life as one thing, a one-line joke, and it's sort of becoming another thing. I don't precisely know the word for that something. A lot of it's funny, but I never force it to be funny, and at times it's very grim. It constantly takes jabs at the genre, but is very much working inside that same genre. It's not a spoof, a satire, or a parody (even if that was the original idea). It's more like what Tarantino is doing with, say, Kill Bill. Which gets complicated when you try to explain it, but looks easy as hell on the screen.

Can you imagine a 100-k word one-liner?

I'll come back to this.

Anyway....

Saw Brad Anderson's Transsiberian (2008) last night. A very taut thriller. Which, by the way, didn't constantly pause to shoot itself in the foot with comedic relief. I think it's the best thing I've seen Ben Kingsley do, the best performance I've seen him deliver, since Sexy Beast (2000).

Sunny and essentially warmish today.

Now, I should go. We're having dinner tonight with S. T. Joshi. And there are words in my way.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] unknownbinaries.livejournal.com
Joss Whedon (whom I generally adore) can be especially bad about this. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) is a study in using the funny to trip yourself up as a storyteller.

The other way around was very, very effective in that series, though. The comedic episodes that suddenly got dead fucking serious? Better use of that surprise.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

he comedic episodes that suddenly got dead fucking serious? Better use of that surprise.

Agreed.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cucumberseed.livejournal.com
My house has a similar night routine to yours and recently switched the gaming and the viewing, as well, which did help my sleep. Not a lot, but enough to notice. And, as always, one's mileage my vary, results are not typical.

We're having dinner tonight with S. T. Joshi.

And my envy, though I realize I would probably go through my first meeting with the man in fanboy paralysis.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

My house has a similar night routine to yours and recently switched the gaming and the viewing, as well, which did help my sleep. Not a lot, but enough to notice. And, as always, one's mileage my vary, results are not typical.

It would be interesting if it actually is what helped with sleep.

And my envy, though I realize I would probably go through my first meeting with the man in fanboy paralysis.

Heh. My dinner with Joshi has become an annual ritual.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cucumberseed.livejournal.com
It would be interesting if it actually is what helped with sleep.

If this becomes a regular occurrence, I'd be interested to know if it has any noticeable benefit for you.

Date: 2011-05-24 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

If this becomes a regular occurrence, I'd be interested to know if it has any noticeable benefit for you.

It has, yes.

Date: 2011-05-24 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whiskeychick.livejournal.com
RE: fanboy paralysis.

Ditto.

Date: 2011-05-24 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whiskeychick.livejournal.com
I don't precisely know the word for that something.

Creativity and imagination, I'd say.

Date: 2011-05-24 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stsisyphus.livejournal.com
We tried a new schedule last night, Rift then movie...

Ah-ha, that explains how I missed you two.

Selwyn and Miisya are both Level 41 now.

And apparently Selwyn has some fancy new armour. It's a shame I was AFK when I logged on and didn't get to respond to that declaration.

Date: 2011-05-24 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Ah-ha, that explains how I missed you two.

You came on just as we were about to logoff, and I sent you a tell, but you didn't reply.

And apparently Selwyn has some fancy new armour.

Oh. Just you wait and see.

It's a shame I was AFK when I logged on

How is that even possible?

Date: 2011-05-24 07:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stsisyphus.livejournal.com
How is that even possible?

I had the login screen up and walked off, but apparently nudged the button to log in while doing that (or just unconsciously clicked it by rote). I was finishing up with running the dogs at the time. Most of my night was spent cleaning up Droughtlands (Note: Celinn makes a very evil ant-queen) and doing a very tedious wardstone quest which featured some nice tiny illustrations of background story about the zone, but was frustrating to finish. Also, Celinn scares me when she /laugh-s.

Date: 2011-05-24 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] robyn-ma.livejournal.com
In some cases, like Whedon, I don't think he sits there and goes 'Hmm, we need some levity up in here.' I think it's just the way his head works. He's essentially a comedy writer; he started on Roseanne. I tend to believe that when he goes all emo and tragic, that's when he runs into trouble. Nobody can be allowed to be happy for just a little while; people get killed off and it comes across like Whedon being a dick; etc.

My theory is that Whedon started believing his own press for Buffy, and he decided he was going to try to be a great dramatist, something that doesn't really fit well on him. He's best when he just makes with the jokes. But comedians always want to do their Hamlet.

Date: 2011-05-25 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com
In some cases, like Whedon, I don't think he sits there and goes 'Hmm, we need some levity up in here.' I think it's just the way his head works. He's essentially a comedy writer; he started on Roseanne. I tend to believe that when he goes all emo and tragic, that's when he runs into trouble. Nobody can be allowed to be happy for just a little while; people get killed off and it comes across like Whedon being a dick; etc.

I am going to respectfully, but strongly and entirely, disagree.

I've never felt like Whedon's mishandled the death of a character, and it's always forwarded plot and added dimension. And these are characters I love: Fred, Tara, Doyle, Shepherd Book, Wesley, Cordelia (oh, I actually hated Cordy), Anya, and Wash.

Authors have no responsibility to gift their characters with happy lives. And, often, to do so is to lie, especially if one is doing so because one knows readers/viewers particularly love that character and so there are fears of fannish backlash.

Those deaths in Serenity were a shot to the gut. But it was a war, and neither Book's death at the hands of the Federation nor Wash's death at the hands of the Reavers felt false. Indeed, at the climax of that movie, I actually came to believe all the characters were about to die. And as much as that upset me, I thought it would have been brave and brilliant.

I could write an essay about how much I loved Fred, and how I still can't watch her death without crying, and how the coming of Illyria added so much to the last season (and especially the final episode) of Angel. But I won't.

When my life is awash in happy endings, I'll feel obligated, maybe, to reflect it in my own work.
Edited Date: 2011-05-25 01:35 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-05-25 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] robyn-ma.livejournal.com
'Authors have no responsibility to gift their characters with happy lives.'

They also don't have a responsibility to torment their characters with unhappy lives, as if that were the highest thing a storyteller could aspire to. But that isn't really the point I wanted to make; the point was that, in my view anyway, Whedon's simply more adept at comedy than at drama. Which is fine; not everyone can be awesome at everything. His idea of drama is to make things suck for everyone, which is just as false as making everything sunshiny for everyone. When it gets predictable -- when as soon as two people meet and have a moment of happiness, you start waiting for one or the other to suffer some horrid fate because the creator has fallen back on that so many times already -- it becomes, for me, a problem.

'And, often, to do so is to lie, especially if one is doing so because one knows readers/viewers particularly love that character and so there are fears of fannish backlash.'

I suspect, though, that Whedon's aim is exactly the reverse, which is equally a lie: 'Let's kill this character readers/viewers particularly love because it'll get a fannish backlash.' As to killing off Wash and Book, christ, even Star Trek waited until the second movie to kill off Spock (only to resurrect him, of course); Whedon gets rid of two of his most likable and intriguing characters and then wonders why the movie didn't make enough money to justify sequels. He kills off Tara as part of that ham-handed Willow-as-magic-addict storyline, which I found stupid and offensive on a lot of levels.

Whedon reminds me of the comic-book writers who want to do dark and depressing things within a superhero format. 'Let's rape and kill the Elongated Man's wife,' as if that were profound in some way. Miller and Moore did the grim superhero thing to perfection and then moved on, while the entire industry aped them, and it was like taking Disney characters and turning them into addicts and gangsters because that's Dark and Edgy. You can really only achieve a certain level of 'adult' plotting with characters that were conceived as entertainment for children. (Here I'm not talking about the comic-book form, but the superhero genre.) Similarly, you can only achieve a certain level of high seriousness with a weekly television show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- I mean, it started as something clever and fun and gradually became something I could no longer take seriously, a treatise on Whedon's muddled ideas about heroic sacrifice. People are always dying for the greater good in Whedon; thanks, but I'd rather live for the greater good.

All of what you're saying is accurate, but I don't know if much of it applies to Whedon, who's more an entertainer than an artist, I feel. It may apply to you, because you're more an artist than an entertainer. Whedon's one real claim to art was 'The Body,' which came out of something real for him instead of 'Who can we kill next and really emotionally wreck the fans?', and we haven't heard from that writer since. There's someone by the same name making an Avengers movie, but it ain't the same guy. I think that might be his true level.

Date: 2011-05-25 06:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

Again, respectfully, I can only say that we are viewing these things from fundamentally incommensurable worldviews.
Edited Date: 2011-05-25 06:02 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-05-25 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] robyn-ma.livejournal.com
Yeah, sorry 'bout that, I didn't actually mean to crack down on Whedon at such length. I actually like much of what he's done.

But hey, I'm the one whose all-time favorite directors are Kubrick, Lynch and Cronenberg. Our worldviews aren't so far apart. We just diverge on Whedon and whether he succeeds at what he tries. And your original point was that you wished he wouldn't inject levity into otherwise tragic moments. My point was that he's more an entertainer at heart than an artist -- you really can't do art in a corporate-owned TV show that has to observe certain beats and tropes; you can only take a shot at it here and there* -- and that he may be wired to reach for levity. He might be the guy who, in real life, breaks uncomfortable moments with a joke. That may be how he deals with bad stuff in his life, and that may be how he deals with it in his work. I always kind of felt that Xander was his avatar on Buffy, Wash on Firefly, and so forth. That's Whedon. The putative heroes, Buffy and Mal, are kind of remote and unknowable by comparison.

*I don't consider Twin Peaks art, either; it was a very cool experiment that really should've been conceived as a finite series. It wasn't Lynch's fault, it was ABC's. Long-form American network television isn't a good home for art.

Dinner

Date: 2011-05-24 10:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] captaincurt81.livejournal.com
I enjoyed Joshi's informative introductions to Lovecraft in the Penguin editions.

Date: 2011-05-24 10:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jessamyg.livejournal.com
While writing comedy I find that the longer I go on the worse it gets, basically it meanders away, then I have to cut all the crap out. No matter how easy comedy looks when it is done well I find it to be one of the hardest things to write.

Sad to hear about Jeff Jones. I loved the old covers to the Fritz Lieber books, so much better than the covers to the reprint volumes.

Date: 2011-05-25 01:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] greygirlbeast.livejournal.com

While writing comedy I find that the longer I go on the worse it gets, basically it meanders away, then I have to cut all the crap out. No matter how easy comedy looks when it is done well I find it to be one of the hardest things to write.

Exactly.

And the 1970s were a Golden Age of F&SF covers.

Date: 2011-05-25 01:29 am (UTC)
sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Can you imagine a 100-k word one-liner?

I think it's called Portnoy's Complaint . . .

Date: 2011-05-25 01:30 am (UTC)

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