Month: December 2011 Page 2 of 4

Zombies vs. Aliens

I’m going to pick on two types of fictional invaders: zombies and aliens.  Zombies seem a lot more popular these days than aliens do, and I have a couple of guesses as to why.

Zombies are people who become unpeople. They go from rational, emotional creatures who do not consume your resources to unthinking, unfeeling monsters who will take away everything you have–your life, your loved ones; they’ll even make money obsolete.  Worse, they have the power to make anyone, no matter what they thought or how they felt before, agree with them.

My thought is that a culture where the different points of view are unable to communicate to each other will find zombies and zombielike creatures a suitable myth.  Anyone who disagrees with you is irrational and insane and is out for your brains, obviously–why not make up stories about that?

When people ask you what you’d do if zombies attack–here’s the problem: zombies cannot, will not ever attack.  There are no unpeople.  In situations where you would expect people to act unhumanely, such as in a tragedy or a plague outbreak, you instead see an intense range of human emotions: fear, generosity, looking out for #1, denial.  You do not see people, no matter how numb or twisted they are, murdering people and eating them.  In times of crisis, we act more like humans, not less.  Even Dahmer didn’t eat people indiscriminately.

The general message of zombie tales is: it’s okay to act unhumanely towards unpeople.  The collary is: Unpeople includes anyone who you fundamentally disagree with or dislike.

Too much traffic?  Fantasize about them being zombies and you getting to kill all of them with a tire iron…it’s okay!  They’re unpeople!  Someone stressing you out at work in your cube farm?  Dream of them getting their throat ripped out…it’s okay!  Everyone (except you) who works at a cube farm is a zombie anyway!  Disagree with another political party?  Dream of them causing a zombie apocalypse by their corrupt ways, then getting what they deserve…it’s okay!  They’re unpeople!  Too bad if your loved ones are caught up in all that…they should have been more careful not to get around those unpeople.  Blam!

Personally, I think that our brains can only contain so many individual people inside our “these are people” mental box.  The rest of the humans on the planet are…”the rest of the humans on the planet.”  Or, in other words, you can only care about so many things (or people), and we’re becoming increasingly aware that people that we don’t know–and thus don’t care about, not really–have a huge affect on our lives.  Our lives are being changed by people we don’t know. What right do they have to do that?  It’s monstrous!  Maybe, just maybe, if there were a terrible apocalypse, there would be fewer people, and our lives would go back to be affected only by people we know.  They might be crappy people, but at least we could know all of the ones that affected us, or feel like we do.

So what did we do before zombies?  Because the infectious kind haven’t been around all that long–the 20th century is it.

Aliens.  People would speculate on the existence of extraterrestrial life over the centuries, but it really started to pick up in the 1500s, during the Renaissance.  We looked out into the stars and said, “What’s out there?  Surely more than dots of light.”

The best aliens start out as unpeople but must be dealt with as though they were people. They don’t have the same motivations that we do.  We cannot truly understand them.  If they try to explain what they want, we cannot accept that they mean what they say, because it’s unthinkable.  I’m not a huge Arthur C. Clarke fan, but I think his aliens are among the purest examples of this:  the incomprehensible invasion.

When aliens invade, we must deal with it as a society, or even as a species.  Alien invasions often force people to work together in a way they wouldn’t, with zombies: often the worst monsters in a zombie tale are the other survivors.  In alien invasion stories, you’ll have the one person who’s persuaded by financial gain to betray other humans, but they usually bite it in the early-last half of the story.  There’s no point in selling out to the zombies.

Sometimes we reach an accommodation with the aliens.  Sometimes, some of us learn how to see the aliens (unpeople) as a kind of people, and mediate peace.  Sometimes the aliens show an unexpected (human? mortal?) weakness (e.g., the aliens in The War of the Worlds).  Sometimes we steal whatever makes them superior (because aliens are, in some way, superior–that’s part of the deal), which often has negative consequences (the Aliens movies).  Sometimes we take a place in a galactic organization, in which some aliens are our allies, and some are our enemies–thus, to a certain extent, people.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like zombies. Given, say, a short story collection about zombies and a short story collection about aliens, I’ll take the zombie one, because I’m pretty sure I’ll find something that I like in the zombie collection.  One of the things that zombie stories do is mock culture, and I love iconoclasty.  But there’s a fine line between breaking someone’s idols and gunning them down in cold blood, and I think it’s dangerous to get in a habit of making the “them” in “us vs. them” be unpeople.

So here’s what I want for aliens, for counterbalance: Stop treating alien invaders like zombies in outer-space clothing (Independence Day)–or even like humans in outer-space clothing.  Aliens should start out as unpeople, with whom humanity must cope.  Less idealism and more complexity: more intrigue.  Learning how to cope with what we don’t understand should never be a quick and painless process.  Alien technology should be superior–well, I suppose you could make it inferior, but then the humans would be the aliens, really–and we should understand it no better than we do the aliens themselves.

Clear “victories,” where we wipe out a race or a planet, should be paid for, because, you know, in a galactic civilization, everybody has friends.

And stop telling yourself that science fiction should be “realistic” when it comes to aliens, because “realistically,” there are none.  Aliens are a myth, that is, a story that we tell ourselves in order to make sense of things.  Just because there might really be aliens doesn’t mean that they aren’t a myth–so a little fun is allowed.

There’s a reason that Star Trek and Star Wars (note–playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic this weekend) have endured for so long, and why Men in Black is having another movie come out, and Independence Day, despite all the money they made, isn’t.  Moral complexity when dealing with other isn’t just an ideal–it’s good storytelling.  “We have met the other, and we killed it” is satisfying…once in a while.  It scratches an itch.  But so does “Humanity outgrew itself and reached the stars”–and, played right, it’s better for repeat business.

Kindle for Kids Guest Blog: 10 Horrible Things You Did Not Do This Year

Kindle for Kids is running a guest post of mine, “10 Horrible Things You Did Not Do This Year.” You know how every year, there’s some adult who think’s it’s oh-so-funny to ask whether or not you’ve been good? Here are 10 answers to give that will make you happy…and prove that you’ve been good. Really good. Muahahahaha…

The LOOKIT Factor

I was restless all last week, not knowing what it was I was restless for, which happens to me sometimes.

Now, when I get depressed, then I need to change something.  But when I get restless…I need something new.  Why it’s taken me so long to figure this out, I don’t know.

What did I need last week?  Something new.  Anything new.  I ended up going to a new restaurant, putting holds on some forensics books, and reading How Pleasure Works by Paul Bloom.  I was also planning to go to the Fine Arts Center, but by the time I got done at the restaurant, I was good.  Twitchy for a week, and that’s all I needed.  A new restaurant and some nonfiction to balance all the novels I’ve been reading.

One of the cool things that came out of the book by Bloom was that people spend a lot of time in imagination-based activities.  I think he said it was like four waking hours a day, but it may have been half–there was a study where the researchers gave the participants buzzers and had them write down what they were doing whenever the buzzer went off (randomly), and half the time, they were doing something using their imagination, from daydreaming to looking at porn.

I disagreed with quite a few things he said in the book–saying that there was no evolutionary reason for people to like bitter or spicy foods, for example, when we’re finding out more and more that bitter compounds include a lot of antioxidants–but it was a spur to imagination, a lookit book.

I think the phrase “just look at it” first came up, as a meme, on BoingBoing, but I could be wrong.  Certainly, they’ve been mocked for using it, then turned around and done it on purpose.  At any rate, I picked up the phrase and turned it into “lookit,” because that’s what little kids say (or “lookit dat” or just “dat”).

Besides spending a good deal of my day in imagination-based activities (being a writer), I spend a good deal of my day in lookit-based activities.  I use social media to lookit other people’s lives.  I use websites to lookit curious things.  I read books for lookit; I eat strange foods for lookit; I go to new places for lookit; I break my routine on a day-by-day basis for no reason other than lookit.  Some days are just lookit days: I get done what I must, then just…lookit.

Some days I only need a little lookit.  Other days, I need a lot of shallow-level lookit.  Last week, I needed some in-depth lookit.

Freakonomics had lookit.

Malcolm Gladwell books have lookit.

Stephen Hawking books have it.

Most novels don’t have lookit, but Neal Stephenson’s do.

The ocean always has lookit.

A new skill or even a new game has lookit.

Where is your lookit?

New interview up at RolePages…

Remember Joseph Gambit from RolePages?  I put up an interview with him last week…and now he has an interview with me up.  One of the job perks of being a writer–talking to awesome people.

 

Fiction: The Exotics Book 1: The Floating Menagerie

Adventure.  Spies.  Magic.

New chapter book/middle-grade fantasy series inspired by…my daughter.  Bored with reading the chapter books available and with a mother who wasn’t going to take it anymore, she’s read the first three books in the series with relish, jumping up and down, and yelling about what was and wasn’t fair.

The main character is eight in book 1 and gets older as the series progresses (thus, the chapter book/middle-grade definition).

Purchase at SmashwordsAmazon.comBarnes & Noble–other online bookstores coming soon.  Amazon and B&N are set up to be able to give ebooks as gifts; contact me personally if you want to send an gift book via Smashwords.

Nobody knows what really happened when second-grader Rachael Baptiste’s mom disappeared a week ago–not her dad, not the police, and not even the members of her hobby group, the Animal Lovers’ Club. So when Rachael’s classmate Raul tries to break into her mom’s computer only to be chased away by giant talking dogs, she follows him into the night and discovers that he–and everyone in the ALC, including her mom–have caught a magical sickness that lets them turn into animals. The ALC is a group of spies that works to defend these people, or Exotics, and Rachael’s mom helps lead them in her secret identity as the Queen Bee. As for Raul, Rachael discovers that he can turn into a wolf as they try to escape a rival group of Exotics, the Shadow Dogs. However, the Shadow Dogs capture them and kidnap them to a mysterious ship, The Floating Menagerie, where a group of Exotic kids waits to be sold into slavery…or do they?

The Exotics Series follows Rachael’s adventures with the Exotics from second to fourth grade as she tries to protect the people she loves in the face of hate, betrayal, and overwhelming magic.

Chapter 1

Rachael, who had just brushed her teeth and changed into green spotted pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers, was almost ready to kill the final wave of zombies on her video game when the doorbell rang.

From the kitchen where he was washing dishes after supper, her dad yelled, “Rachael! Will you check the door?”

“I’m on the last wave, dad!” she yelled back.

“Just push the pause button.”

“Please?”

“It’s your turn!”

That was true. Rachael pushed pause on the game, annoyed because it was never the same when you had to push pause all the time. Meanwhile, the person at the front door had started pushing the doorbell button over and over again and pounding on the door.

Rachael peeked out of the glass beside the door. Even though it was dark out and he should have been getting ready for bed, Raul was outside their door. He looked mad and scared at the same time.

“Open the door!” he yelled.

Rachael liked Raul, but he wouldn’t talk to her at school. They were both in Mrs. Sorensen’s second-grade class. Sometimes they played tag at recess, and she’d let him catch her. He was part of a club, the Animal Lovers’ Club, that met with Rachael’s mom at their house once a week (Tuesdays). Sometimes he would talk to her after the meeting, but mostly not.
Rachael unlocked the door. Raul rushed in, slammed the door behind him, and locked it.

“Your mom—” he said, too out of breath to say anything else.

“Nobody’s found her yet,” Rachael said. Rachael’s mom had disappeared a week ago, but Rachael was an ordinary girl who couldn’t do anything about it. So she tried not to think about it too much.

“Your mom’s computer. Hurry.”

Rachael said, “Why?”

“Just come on.” Raul led her upstairs to her mom’s office.

“What’s the matter?”

Raul still had his uniform on from school, and it was dirty, with bits of leaves stuck to his back. “Nothing,” he said.
Somebody banged into the front door like they had run right into it. Raul said a bad word and ran up the stairs really fast, leaving Rachael behind.

“Rachael,” her dad called. “Would you get that? Please?”

“Don’t open the door,” Raul said. He went inside the office.

The front door thudded again, and Rachael heard a cracking sound as the wood started to break.

“Rachael,” her dad whined.

She ignored her dad and followed Raul into her mom’s office; she really didn’t want to open the door.

Raul was sitting at the computer desk, jiggling the mouse and saying more bad words. Rachael knew her mom’s password (she’d looked over her shoulder), but she wasn’t sure that she should give it to Raul.

Then the front door broke open and slammed against the wall. Rachael started to scream, but clapped her hands over her mouth to stop herself.

Raul jumped out of the chair. “I have to get out of here.”

“I’m coming, too,” Rachael said.

Raul almost growled at her. “Stay here. Hide in the closet, and they’ll leave you alone.”

“I said I’m coming too.”

Something barked loudly from downstairs like a really, really big dog.

Rachael’s dad said, “What is going on, Rachael? Are you messing around again?” Then he said, “Who broke the door? What are these dogs doing in here? Out! Out!”

Rachael opened the window into the back yard, where their gigantic dog, Ox, was barking and growling. “Go down the trellis,” she said. “Dad made it really strong in case of storms. Then jump onto the shed. There’s a big trash can on the other side.”

Rachael pulled out the window screen, and Raul slid out the window. She started to follow him.

“Go back,” he yelled.

Rachael stuck her slippers in the trellis, reached up, and slid the window shut the rest of the way, as quietly as she could. “Shh,” she said. “They’ll hear you.”

Fiction: The Exotics Book 1: The Floating Menagerie

Adventure.  Spies.  Magic.

New chapter book/middle-grade fantasy series inspired by…my daughter.  Bored with reading the chapter books available and with a mother who wasn’t going to take it anymore, she’s read the first three books in the series with relish, jumping up and down, and yelling about what was and wasn’t fair.

The main character is eight in book 1 and gets older as the series progresses (thus, the chapter book/middle-grade definition).

Purchase at SmashwordsAmazon.comBarnes & Noble–other online bookstores coming soon.  Amazon and B&N are set up to be able to give ebooks as gifts; contact me personally if you want to send an gift book via Smashwords.

Nobody knows what really happened when second-grader Rachael Baptiste’s mom disappeared a week ago–not her dad, not the police, and not even the members of her hobby group, the Animal Lovers’ Club. So when Rachael’s classmate Raul tries to break into her mom’s computer only to be chased away by giant talking dogs, she follows him into the night and discovers that he–and everyone in the ALC, including her mom–have caught a magical sickness that lets them turn into animals. The ALC is a group of spies that works to defend these people, or Exotics, and Rachael’s mom helps lead them in her secret identity as the Queen Bee. As for Raul, Rachael discovers that he can turn into a wolf as they try to escape a rival group of Exotics, the Shadow Dogs. However, the Shadow Dogs capture them and kidnap them to a mysterious ship, The Floating Menagerie, where a group of Exotic kids waits to be sold into slavery…or do they?

The Exotics Series follows Rachael’s adventures with the Exotics from second to fourth grade as she tries to protect the people she loves in the face of hate, betrayal, and overwhelming magic.

Chapter 1

Rachael, who had just brushed her teeth and changed into green spotted pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers, was almost ready to kill the final wave of zombies on her video game when the doorbell rang.

From the kitchen where he was washing dishes after supper, her dad yelled, “Rachael! Will you check the door?”

“I’m on the last wave, dad!” she yelled back.

“Just push the pause button.”

“Please?”

“It’s your turn!”

That was true. Rachael pushed pause on the game, annoyed because it was never the same when you had to push pause all the time. Meanwhile, the person at the front door had started pushing the doorbell button over and over again and pounding on the door.

Rachael peeked out of the glass beside the door. Even though it was dark out and he should have been getting ready for bed, Raul was outside their door. He looked mad and scared at the same time.

“Open the door!” he yelled.

Rachael liked Raul, but he wouldn’t talk to her at school. They were both in Mrs. Sorensen’s second-grade class. Sometimes they played tag at recess, and she’d let him catch her. He was part of a club, the Animal Lovers’ Club, that met with Rachael’s mom at their house once a week (Tuesdays). Sometimes he would talk to her after the meeting, but mostly not.
Rachael unlocked the door. Raul rushed in, slammed the door behind him, and locked it.

“Your mom—” he said, too out of breath to say anything else.

“Nobody’s found her yet,” Rachael said. Rachael’s mom had disappeared a week ago, but Rachael was an ordinary girl who couldn’t do anything about it. So she tried not to think about it too much.

“Your mom’s computer. Hurry.”

Rachael said, “Why?”

“Just come on.” Raul led her upstairs to her mom’s office.

“What’s the matter?”

Raul still had his uniform on from school, and it was dirty, with bits of leaves stuck to his back. “Nothing,” he said.
Somebody banged into the front door like they had run right into it. Raul said a bad word and ran up the stairs really fast, leaving Rachael behind.

“Rachael,” her dad called. “Would you get that? Please?”

“Don’t open the door,” Raul said. He went inside the office.

The front door thudded again, and Rachael heard a cracking sound as the wood started to break.

“Rachael,” her dad whined.

She ignored her dad and followed Raul into her mom’s office; she really didn’t want to open the door.

Raul was sitting at the computer desk, jiggling the mouse and saying more bad words. Rachael knew her mom’s password (she’d looked over her shoulder), but she wasn’t sure that she should give it to Raul.

Then the front door broke open and slammed against the wall. Rachael started to scream, but clapped her hands over her mouth to stop herself.

Raul jumped out of the chair. “I have to get out of here.”

“I’m coming, too,” Rachael said.

Raul almost growled at her. “Stay here. Hide in the closet, and they’ll leave you alone.”

“I said I’m coming too.”

Something barked loudly from downstairs like a really, really big dog.

Rachael’s dad said, “What is going on, Rachael? Are you messing around again?” Then he said, “Who broke the door? What are these dogs doing in here? Out! Out!”

Rachael opened the window into the back yard, where their gigantic dog, Ox, was barking and growling. “Go down the trellis,” she said. “Dad made it really strong in case of storms. Then jump onto the shed. There’s a big trash can on the other side.”

Rachael pulled out the window screen, and Raul slid out the window. She started to follow him.

“Go back,” he yelled.

Rachael stuck her slippers in the trellis, reached up, and slid the window shut the rest of the way, as quietly as she could. “Shh,” she said. “They’ll hear you.”

Fiction: The Exotics Book 1: The Floating Menagerie

Adventure.  Spies.  Magic.

New chapter book/middle-grade fantasy series inspired by…my daughter.  Bored with reading the chapter books available and with a mother who wasn’t going to take it anymore, she’s read the first three books in the series with relish, jumping up and down, and yelling about what was and wasn’t fair.

The main character is eight in book 1 and gets older as the series progresses (thus, the chapter book/middle-grade definition).

Purchase at Smashwords, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble–other online bookstores coming soon.  Amazon and B&N are set up to be able to give ebooks as gifts; contact me personally if you want to send an gift book via Smashwords.

Nobody knows what really happened when second-grader Rachael Baptiste’s mom disappeared a week ago–not her dad, not the police, and not even the members of her hobby group, the Animal Lovers’ Club. So when Rachael’s classmate Raul tries to break into her mom’s computer only to be chased away by giant talking dogs, she follows him into the night and discovers that he–and everyone in the ALC, including her mom–have caught a magical sickness that lets them turn into animals. The ALC is a group of spies that works to defend these people, or Exotics, and Rachael’s mom helps lead them in her secret identity as the Queen Bee. As for Raul, Rachael discovers that he can turn into a wolf as they try to escape a rival group of Exotics, the Shadow Dogs. However, the Shadow Dogs capture them and kidnap them to a mysterious ship, The Floating Menagerie, where a group of Exotic kids waits to be sold into slavery…or do they?

The Exotics Series follows Rachael’s adventures with the Exotics from second to fourth grade as she tries to protect the people she loves in the face of hate, betrayal, and overwhelming magic.

Chapter 1

Rachael, who had just brushed her teeth and changed into green spotted pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers, was almost ready to kill the final wave of zombies on her video game when the doorbell rang.

From the kitchen where he was washing dishes after supper, her dad yelled, “Rachael! Will you check the door?”

“I’m on the last wave, dad!” she yelled back.

“Just push the pause button.”

“Please?”

“It’s your turn!”

That was true. Rachael pushed pause on the game, annoyed because it was never the same when you had to push pause all the time. Meanwhile, the person at the front door had started pushing the doorbell button over and over again and pounding on the door.

Rachael peeked out of the glass beside the door. Even though it was dark out and he should have been getting ready for bed, Raul was outside their door. He looked mad and scared at the same time.

“Open the door!” he yelled.

Rachael liked Raul, but he wouldn’t talk to her at school. They were both in Mrs. Sorensen’s second-grade class. Sometimes they played tag at recess, and she’d let him catch her. He was part of a club, the Animal Lovers’ Club, that met with Rachael’s mom at their house once a week (Tuesdays). Sometimes he would talk to her after the meeting, but mostly not.
Rachael unlocked the door. Raul rushed in, slammed the door behind him, and locked it.

“Your mom—” he said, too out of breath to say anything else.

“Nobody’s found her yet,” Rachael said. Rachael’s mom had disappeared a week ago, but Rachael was an ordinary girl who couldn’t do anything about it. So she tried not to think about it too much.

“Your mom’s computer. Hurry.”

Rachael said, “Why?”

“Just come on.” Raul led her upstairs to her mom’s office.

“What’s the matter?”

Raul still had his uniform on from school, and it was dirty, with bits of leaves stuck to his back. “Nothing,” he said.
Somebody banged into the front door like they had run right into it. Raul said a bad word and ran up the stairs really fast, leaving Rachael behind.

“Rachael,” her dad called. “Would you get that? Please?”

“Don’t open the door,” Raul said. He went inside the office.

The front door thudded again, and Rachael heard a cracking sound as the wood started to break.

“Rachael,” her dad whined.

She ignored her dad and followed Raul into her mom’s office; she really didn’t want to open the door.

Raul was sitting at the computer desk, jiggling the mouse and saying more bad words. Rachael knew her mom’s password (she’d looked over her shoulder), but she wasn’t sure that she should give it to Raul.

Then the front door broke open and slammed against the wall. Rachael started to scream, but clapped her hands over her mouth to stop herself.

Raul jumped out of the chair. “I have to get out of here.”

“I’m coming, too,” Rachael said.

Raul almost growled at her. “Stay here. Hide in the closet, and they’ll leave you alone.”

“I said I’m coming too.”

Something barked loudly from downstairs like a really, really big dog.

Rachael’s dad said, “What is going on, Rachael? Are you messing around again?” Then he said, “Who broke the door? What are these dogs doing in here? Out! Out!”

Rachael opened the window into the back yard, where their gigantic dog, Ox, was barking and growling. “Go down the trellis,” she said. “Dad made it really strong in case of storms. Then jump onto the shed. There’s a big trash can on the other side.”

Rachael pulled out the window screen, and Raul slid out the window. She started to follow him.

“Go back,” he yelled.

Rachael stuck her slippers in the trellis, reached up, and slid the window shut the rest of the way, as quietly as she could. “Shh,” she said. “They’ll hear you.”


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-12-18

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Indie Editing: Typesetting and reset

Okay.  I have had to rethink my series on how to edit your ebooks.  One, I was getting down in the weeds with how to do grammar, rather than sticking to the grammar-related checklists I had originally envisioned.  Two, I’ve come to think of there being three real areas of formatting for indies:  POD, HTML conversion, and .doc (Smashwords-type) conversion, plus how they interrelate.

I do use these posts to do more research in areas that interest me (as well as to be helpful), and because I really have no interest in teaching people how to use commas, I drifted off from the series.  But formatting just floats my boat, so I will be shifting gears soon.

Typesetting

What is typesetting?  There are lots of different technical definitions, but for our purpose, it’s “dealing with letters as letters.”  I’m going to separate out choosing the font as a concern of typesetting, although it really is–but I want to write about it separately.

Here’s what I’m (currently) doing for typesetting as I take an edited ms. and turning it into a POD/ebook.  I’m assuming all grammar, punctuation, and italics are correct.  Also, unless an item is marked as POD, I do the step for both PODs and ebooks.

I have a lot to learn about typesetting, so this is just my initial list.

  • Remove all double spaces.  Unless specified for submission to a particular market, kiss them goodbye.  This battle has been lost (or won, depending on how you feel about it).
  • Ensure all double quotes are curly quotes and all single quotes/apostrophes are curly, except for units of measurement, which take straight quotes (primes).
  • Change all “–” or ” – ” to m-dashes.  I am not in favor of n-dashes with spaces being used in place of m-dashes.  It may be pretty, but it is illogical and fries my brain.  I may change my mind, but…m-dashes were made for a reason [insert woman standing bravely at edge of cliff here].  I don’t usually see n-dashes, but I keep an eye out for them.
  • Change all “…” to actual ellipses.  A) Pretty.  B) No breaky.
  • Add all required special characters, like accent marks and umlauts.
  • Insert any symbols, like the copyright symbol.
  • Ensure no leading spaces before paragraphs ( “What?” he said).  For some reason, this crops up ALL OVER THE DAMNED PLACE.
  • Check that all symbols are super/subscripted properly.
  • Making sure rows of numbers are aligned (tabular).
  • Making sure any hyphenation isn’t annoying or misleading (POD).
  • Adding non-breaking spaces as necessary to avoid confusion (POD but may start with ebooks, too, after I find out how to do it, note to self).
  • Thin spaces between ‘ and ” in a ‘” or “‘ pair (“He said, ‘Dammit!’ “).
  • I haven’t decided whether to remove the space between people’s initials, but I probably will (W.H. Auden vs. W. H. Auden).
  • I may do ligatures in the future, but I’m not there now.
  • I don’t do kerning yet, and I’m convinced that yes, true small caps are pretty, but I’m still learning when to use them and HOW to get them to work in Word, if at all.  I’ll get InDesign eventually if I continue on this path.  I don’t have it now.

Want to see a real typesetter’s checklist?  Try this.  A lot of stuff I hadn’t even thought about–but looks extremely fun.

Please note, I don’t bother with this stuff for blog posts.

Update:

I forgot–make sure all scene breaks are formatted consistently:  right now, with a centered *** in ebooks and three spaced bullet characters in POD.

Interview with RolePages creator Joseph Gambit

I was recently invited to exchange blogs with the creator of RolePages, Joseph Gambit.  RolePages is a…I don’t know that there’s a word for it.  Maybe there is.  An in-character place to game without the bother of rules, but with an overarching story arc.  It’s like stepping into a little multiverse, a text-based MMORPG.  A MUSH without code.  On the site, it says it’s an experimental role-playing site.  Well.  I had to know more, so I begged for an interview…

First, give us a summary of what RolePages is all about and why you made the decision to set up the site.

RolePages is a community website that is part social network, part writing group, and part roleplaying game. The mechanics are very similar to Facebook, except instead of signing up as yourself, you sign up as a fictional character that you create. You then tell the story of that character’s life by interacting with other characters across the site.

I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy, and I have experimented with a number of different websites in this genre. A few years back I started getting interested in Alternate Reality Games and the way that they could take a fictional experience, such as watching the popular TV series Lost, and make it even more real by bringing elements of that story into the world around you.

These are games that featured characters that had real Twitter accounts, with videos posting on YouTube, phone numbers that you could call or text for clues, and even in some cases real-life meet ups or clues left in physical locations. The idea was to take the gaming experience and make it as “immersive” and realistic as possible.

At the same time I saw the explosion of networks such as Myspace and then Facebook, which were essentially social games and personal storytelling devices. When I started RolePages, my idea was to take those same basic tools and use them to allow groups of people to tell stories about fictional characters, worlds, and situations that they created.

What’s your background in gaming? That is, what made you start gaming, what kind of games do you play, and–I gotta know–did you MUSH, back in the day? If so, what/where did you play?

I assume by gaming you aren’t talking about me playing Candyland as a toddler.

But seriously, my experience with gaming started about 15 years ago. The internet was relatively new to consumer households at the time, and I, like many others back then, discovered and fell in love with chat rooms. Being able to talk to and interact with people socially without having to be face to face was really important for a shy, awkward teenager like me.

I was on the Prodigy ISP when I stumbled across a small group of rooms that were labeled as roleplaying chat spaces. When I entered, I found something that was truly amazing.

Rather than chatting with one another about the latest music video, these people were playing a game that was made up entirely of written words. They were all acting like these crazy characters and were interacting with one another in a writing style that was very much like reading a novel, except that this was a novel that I could jump into and help write whenever I wanted.

And because it was entirely word-based, your character could be absolutely anyone, and they could do anything that you could imagine.

I spent several years there “gaming” with an amazing group of people before Prodigy failed and the rooms were closed down. After that I tried a number of different interactive games, MUDs, MMORPGs, and even spent some time on Furcadia, one of the first graphic-based interactive RPGs back when it was still a new concept. I also dabbled in D&D and White Wolf with friends locally.

However I was never as taken with any of these games as I was with those original chat rooms because I always felt restricted. They were usually based largely on numbers, stats, and points, which often made the game feel like math homework. I was also dissatisfied with the AIs, which seemed to get in the way of the kind of storytelling that could happen between two or more people. Even now, with all of the advances in programming, graphics, and AIs, I still find things like World of Warcraft to be a little restrictive.

How do you feel RolePages comes out of your gaming background?

Over the years I’ve played numerous MUDs, MMORPGs, Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), graphical adventures, and social RPGs, as well as a variety of chat and forum games.

RolePages is my attempt to take what I consider the best parts of those experiences–the creativity, the interactive storytelling, the art, and the beauty of the narrative–and bring those elements together in a way that facilitates the creation of fictional tales.

What is the itch that RolePages scratches, that no other gaming system/site does?

For one thing RolePages offers a fairly unprecedented level of freedom to be creative. With an AI or graphic-based game, there are going to be some inherent restrictions. Even if you have a millions choices as to how your character looks or where they are going to go, you are still relying on the creativity of the game designer for the final feel and function of the experience.

On RolePages, the entire experience is supplied by the players. The adventures, quests, and events are not operated by AIs and do not rely on a certain set of graphics or programs. Rather, these are player generated situations, which are designed to tell the best stories possible through the unbridled creativity afforded by words, pictures, and on occasion videos.

There is also an artistic element to RolePages which isn’t present in many other games. When you go raiding for hours, you get virtual gold and experience points. When you spend the same amount of time telling stories about a character that you have created, you end up with blog posts, artwork, and written interactions that detail narrative elements of a work of fiction that you are creating.

Where’s the best place for new players or interested guests to start?

I would suggest that new players check out the instructions to get a brief overview of how the site works.

We also have a community newspaper that is crowd written, detailing the overall story arc that is created by the many threads of story that are woven into the tapestry of the site.

Finally, I’d suggest people take a look at the role-playing chat. It acts as a sort of center stage for the site, with live improvised stories being written by a variety of author-actors all the time.

Where do you see the site going in the future? And have there been any extensions/coincidences into RL?

The future of RolePages will involve refining the mechanics of the social game. We have planned events several nights a week which involve the creation of fictional narrative stories in interactive ways using chat rooms and shared documents. There are also at least two independent group efforts being made to crowdsource RolePages novels.

As far as extensions into real life, we just had our first official community meet up at DragonCon 2011 where we marched in costume in the parade. Small unofficial groups also meet all the time and a number of important friendships, romantic relationships, and even a couple of weddings have come from people meeting across the community.

What’s the most inspiring work by your members to come out of the site?

We sometimes refer to the entire site as a living novel, because all of the different stories being told by all of the different characters are woven into a larger, over-arcing storyline that provides a rough backdrop for the entire experience. This is a story that is changing, expanding, and deepening every second of the day.

We started weaving these disparate tales into a single broad narrative when the site opened in 2009, and over the course of two years we were able to tell a single, cogent, logical story arc, with a beginning, middle, and even a climactic end. This was a story with thousands of characters and hundreds of plot lines that stretched in every direction imaginable, and yet was able to be contained within the backdrop of the overall narrative that we provided.

The climax of the story occurred just this past August, and since then we’ve toned down the scale of the overall narrative somewhat. However, I will always be proud of the infinitely subtle and complex story we told over those two years. You can read about that in the community newspaper that we kept detailing the events.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I think I’ve babbled on the other questions quite enough. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I hope I wasn’t too verbose, but I am passionate about this site, so when you get me started it’s often difficult to stop.

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