DRAGON BALL Z #16
"Masters and Students"
By Akira Toriyama
This is how I learned to learn things: just observe wild shit and it will teach you about your art.
I learned to write by watching my dog lie in the sun.
Watching the William Gibson documentary No Maps For These Territories. If you ever feel bad about not being able to effectively convey something in your writing, take this to heart: Gibson admits that when he was first writing stories, he essentially made up a kind of early VR technology where swapping tapes would change where the characters were. Why? Because he couldn’t figure out how to write them going down stairs right.
So when you feel bad about your writing, just remember that the guy who pioneered cyberpunk fiction at one point couldn’t figure how to write someone going down stairs. Then take a deep breath and keep on going.
This is expanding on some thoughts I’d had about the chunky analog look of 70’s-80’s (mainly) science fiction, and how in hindsight it feels different, not dated (or not JUST dated), but kind of stranger, making science fiction of the past. This is mostly me just vomiting things that come to…
To me, that “feel” of ’70s and ’80s sci-fi is incredibly underrated - probably the only time genre movies truly had a sense of immediacy and realness, and an aesthetic that isn’t really explored or talked about nearly enough.
Beyond that wonderful CRT-tastic tech, I think an important part of the equation is the grit of the settings themselves. That 20-year stretch was the heyday (and in many ways, the first and last stand) of what I like to think of as “blue-collar science fiction” - stories where spaceships weren’t populated by scientists, explorers or warriors, but ordinary, unglamorous 9-to-5ers who smoked and drank and died lousy deaths. (Alien being an excellent touchstone, but another good showpiece is the Sean Connery vehicle Outland - a prime example of the kind sci-fi movie that couldn’t get made these days.) That’s reflected in the environments, which didn’t have the optimistic sparkle of the ’50s and ’60s, the overt slickness of the ’90s, or the sterile, touchscreen-happy “Ikeapunk” look post-millennial sci-fi seems to have settled on.
"Analogpunk" to me is about technology that’s used, and used frequently, instead of merely waved at; it gets scuffed, battered, broken. Too much of modern sci-fi puts technology into kind of display case, creating shiny gadgets that seem impervious to human contact and show no obvious sign of wear and tear, Here’s a good example:
The top still is from Alien (1979). The bottom is from Oblivion (2013), a big-budget architectural rendering masquerading as a post-apocalyptic thriller. In both cases, you’ve got a computer interface and a beverage, but only one of these looks like it’s used by an actual human being. (Note the ashtray in the first image, and the ridiculous quantity of little windows and data points in the second. In fact, it’s interesting to see a lot of input options - buttons, switches, knobs - in the first one, but only one highly focused output. By 2013, it’s all output, and the visible input has disappeared entirely.)
As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks 1964-1980, Susan Sontag, as edited by David Rieff, 2012.
“I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet" — in which the author spends the year without the internet thinking it’d cure various problems, only to find "the worst sides of myself began to emerge.”
I did things in my 30s that were ignored by the world, that could have been quickly labeled a failure. Here’s a classic example; in 1974 I did a movie called Phantom of the Paradise. Phantom of the Paradise, which was a huge flop in this country. There were only two cities in the world where it had any real success: Winnipeg, in Canada, and Paris, France. So, okay, let’s write it off as a failure. Maybe you could do that.
But all of the sudden, I’m in Mexico, and a 16-year-old boy comes up to me at a concert with an album - a Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack- and asks me to sign it. I sign it. Evidently I was nice to him and we had a nice little conversation. I don’t remember the moment, I remember signing the album (I don’t know if I think I remember or if I actually remember). But this little 14 or 16, whatever old this guy was… Well I know who the guy is now because I’m writing a musical based on Pan’s Labyrinth; it’s Guillermo del Toro.
The work that I’ve done with Daft Punk it’s totally related to them seeing Phantom of the Paradise 20 times and deciding they’re going to reach out to this 70-year-old songwriter to get involved in an album called Random Access Memories.
So, what is the lesson in that? The lesson for me is being very careful about what you label a failure in your life. Be careful about throwing something in the round file as garbage because you may find that it’s the headwaters of a relationship that you can’t even imagine it’s coming in your future."
Important safety bulletin.
Go to YouTube.
Watch Bob Ross.
Listen to him talk about painting.
Seriously, this guy… this guy is full of advice for a writer who’s having trouble getting started.
He’s not writing, he’s painting, but… okay, like, he can sit there and talk about geology and the diffusion of light and make it clear that he knows what a mountain is and he knows what goes into the interplay of light and perspective, and then you’ll watch him smear some black paint on top of a still wet canvas with a thin metal wedge, and then take a brush and push it downwards so that it mixes with the base in such a way that it ends up lighter at the bottom and eventually just fades into the background.
And then he’ll take some titanium white paint and do the same thing to add snow and light, and you’re thinking… “But… interplay. Geology. Perspective.” and he’s just pushing paint around, talking about figuring out where the north slope lives and how there are no mistakes, just happy little accidents and then he steps back at the end and holy moly, it looks like he painted a mountain.
It doesn’t look like he pushed paint around for ten minutes, it looks like he looked at a real mountain somewhere and copied it.
Is there a real mountain that matches the painting? No. Could he use this method to exactly replicate an actual mountain? No. But he made a mountain that looks real enough, and even if he didn’t have 100% control over the final look of it, he conjured it out of his imagination.
This is the trick that more writers need to learn. It’s possible to create a story or even a whole book through meticulous planning and careful construction, but… most people can’t do that. It’s not that we’re not willing to put in the work, it’s just too easy to get stuck. Too easy to never leave the “Well, I’m still worldbuilding/researching” stage. Too easy to write oneself into a corner or get bogged down in the details.
So this is my advice today for fiction writers:
Learn how to speed paint.
Learn how to work wet on wet.
Learn how to push paint around on the edge of a knife.
Learn how to figure out where things want to live by feel and how to allow for happy little accidents.
There will be places for fine details and intricate sketches. But when you’re staring at a blank canvas and you have no idea where to start… paint the whole thing blue and start scraping up some mountains.
Quick, broad strokes. That’s all it takes to get you started. Quick, broad strokes and a few happy accidents.
Reblogging for myself.
mendelpalace said: You don't have to answer this one public if you don't want, but I wanted to ask... how do you go about writing fiction, whether it be scripting a comic or something else? I know you've had issues getting stuff done, butI feel like I'm so far removed from actually writing fiction that I've forgotten how it works anymore. At best I've had these vague "senses" of a story I want to tell, like a tone or something, but not enough to really make a story and it's driving me crazy.
How it generally works is this:
- I’ll be listening to a song. An image of something will start looping in my head, kind of like a music video. This is the blueprint for almost all of my ideas. Written in the Bones was subconsciously influenced in large part by Laura Knetzger’s beautiful Comics For Dogs series, but the actual idea for it struck when I heard the lyric “January 19th: we buried our son today” in the La Dispute song "I See Everything" and, for whatever reason, I saw a dog mourning his son instead of a person.
- I let the idea percolate for a little bit, since usually once I have an image of something it has my full attention. I find that when I try to write things down without having a solid idea of where I’m going I get frustrated and stop working. I try to let a pretty big picture form before I even write anything down.
- For minicomics like WiTB and Sharkmouth I try to sit down and get the whole script down in one sitting. For longer projects, I outline. For me, personally, characters are the most important thing in a story, so I’ll usually try to do short character sketches before I start a plot. Basic stuff: age, height and weight, etc., can be important, but remember that you’re not writing a baseball card and anything you put down should only be to help you keep the character in mind. Plots I try to keep as general as humanly possible when outlining, since I find that if I put too many specifics in an overview they tend to butt heads and make the whole enterprise less appealing to write. A few paragraphs laying out what happens in a very general sense should be more than sufficient to help you start writing.
- Then there’s the actual writing, which comes to be the bane of every writer’s existence ;-___- I try to keep a groove of writing a little every day, at least a scripted page or two, but here’s the thing: consistency is key even when you’re not writing. If you aren’t writing, make it because that’s a period that you’ve actively chosen not to write in. If you say “I’m not going to write this week,” do it. If you say “I’m going to write at least two pages a day for the next six months,” do it. You’ll probably slip up at least once or twice, but that’s to be expected, and there’s nothing stopping you from doing more the next day if you do miss one.
I hope that helped at all. I’m hardly a Nobel Prize laureate but I’d like to think that these are helpful ways to encourage a little productivity.
whiskyjack said: Sorry to put this on you but I have an honest question about depression an suicide. Isn't it completely possible for it to be a alternative for someone. Can't there be someone out there who genuinely is tired and doesn't want to continue. I know there is beauty and wonderful things in this world. There are things to look forward to. There will be more pain but also more laughter. But what if I'm not interested?
well… well first off, i’d say, seek professional help immediately. because i am wildly unqualified to answer your question with anything but experience. and first off, my experience says, if you are in such a deep and dark place where you say things like this to total strangers on the internet, you need to be in contact with someone that can help you start to heal.
second, i’d say… you’re wrong. i’d say the things any of us don’t know, especially about tomorrow, could blanket every grain of sand on every beach of the world with bullshit. And to simply assume you are done tomorrow because you are done today is a mistake. a factual mistake, an error, a critical miscalculation.
i’d say, read Tad Friend’s piece JUMPERS in which he seeks and finds and talks to people that jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge — and lived. And they all say the same variations this: “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”
And know that this piece has kept me in my seat on more than a couple dark nights.
And i’d say — i’d say i felt that way before too, and i was wrong.
And then i’d tell you something i don’t even think my wife knows. this happend years before we met — shit, more than a decade — and it’s not the first time i came close to suicide was on a thanksgiving night. i’d eaten well and then as the house shut down i went into the bathroom, drew a bath as hot as i could manage to stand, and climbed into the tub with a razor blade.
As i started to cut, as the corner touched my skin and that jolt of pain fired into my head, i stopped and thought — y’know, last chance. Are you SURE?
And i was tired. I sounded like you, that i knew there’d be ups again and downs but i was just so fucking TIRED i couldn’t stand the thought of having to get there. I felt this… this never-ending crush of days that were grey and tepid but for some reason i was supposed to greet each one with a smile. the constant pressure of having to keep my shit in all the time was just exhausting.
I wondered, then — well, is there anything you’re curious about. Anything you want to see play out. And i thought of a comic i was reading and i’d not figured out the end of the current storyline. And i realized I had curiosity. And that was the hook i’d hang my hat on. that by wanting to see how something played out I wasn’t really ready. That little sprout of a thing poking up through all that black earth kept me around a little longer.
I realized then that it had been so long since i’d laughed. I was numbed out and shut down and just… i missed laughing. maybe if i laughed a little i could get moving again. so i’d wait for my comic to conclude, try to find a few laughs, and then reevaluate.
So I’m in the bathtub and i got this real sharp-ass razor, right? And i look down and there’s all my bits floating in the water like they do and i thought okay, let’s get funny and i got to work.
I shaved off exactly half my pubic hair vertically. The end result was a ‘fro of pubes that looked like a Chia Pet that only half-worked. I started to laugh as I did it. And every time i’d piss, looking down made me laugh.
Because JESUS what a nightmare.
Shortly thereafter I got very heavily into Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Way less chafing and way more funny.
jesus. i was still in high school at the time. dig if you will a picture of the chubby weirdo that was always giggling at his dick in the bathroom. that was me.
And then I guess I’d tell you about Dave, who did the same thing as me a few years later, only DIDN’T have my hilarious Chia Dick strategy in mind and got the razor in and up. And as he started to bleed out “Brown Eyed Girl” came on the radio and he realized he’d never get to hear that again so, in a bloody comedy of errors — I swear to god this is true — he got out of the tub, tried to get dressed the best he could, went downstairs calling for help only to find his family gone, went out to his car, and drove to doug’s house only to find doug not home and so, then, finally, he blacked out from blood loss sitting there in his car, playing a van morrison CD on repeat, until, by luck, Doug’s mom came home and found him.
Fucking Van Morrison, y’know?
A song, a comic, something dumb, something small. From that seed can come everything else, I swear to god.
I guess last I’d say… I’d say that, look — if you reached out to me for an answer, than I have to reach back out to you and insist you hear it. Because it means, what, you know me? My work? You read my stuff and thought, well, fuck, if anyone would know why I shouldn’t end my life, if anyone alive is QUALIFIED TO SAVE ME it’s the guy that had britney spears punch a bear? okay — okay, then, so as THAT GUY I’m saying: Get help. Now, today, tonight, whenever — get to a phone and find a doctor that can try to help you heal, that can try to recolorize your world again, that can help you start caring again. All you need is that one tiny thing, that speck, that little grain of sand. the World Series, AVENGERS 2, Tina Fey’s new show, the first issue of PRETTY DEADLY, some slice of the world you’ve never seen, some drink you love, who the fuck will love your dog like you do if you’re gone, what if jabrams KILLS it on the new STAR WARS, the hell are you doing for Halloween, you ever feed a dolphin with your bare hand? because i have and I am fucking telling you IT IS A THING TO EXPERIENCE and oh god WHAT FUCKING FONT WILL STARBUCKS USE ON THE CHRISTMAS DRINK SLEEVES THIS YEAR — i don’t care what or how dumb but i promise you somewhere in your life is that one fleck of dust that can help start you on the road back. That’s all it takes. One fucking mote, drifting through your head.
And because you asked me I am answering you because i know, motherfucker, i know, i know, i know the hole you are fucking in because I was there myself and if you look hard you can still see my writing on those walls and if you stare long enough i swear to god it’s pointing to up
I’ve reblogged this before, but it seems awfully relevant to put it out there again.