Announcing: Against Stupidity – the Webcomic

Heya readers,

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new public project, a webcomic named Against Stupidity. From the summary:

Meet Jesse Grunwald.

He just finished two years at community college in Santa Fe. In a fortuitous coincidence, earlier this year, he got offered a four-year scholarship at a Denver university and inherited his grandmother’s estate–a vintage victorian right by the lake in south Denver. Now it’s fall, and he’s moving in. He’s prepared to balance the quadruple demands of keeping up his GPA, holding down a job, making new friends, and keeping repairs up on the undoubtedly shitty car he’s about to buy. Unbeknownst to him, he’ll have to add two more demands–taking care of grandma’s pets, and holding up his magical karmic duties as the only grandchild of the powerful witch Clarita Grunwald.

I hope you’ll join and follow his adventures. Here’s the cover for Chapter 1, Over The River and Through The Woods:

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Literary Ledes

I was talking with somebody about the recent bee heist story out of Sacramento and they linked me to the great maple syrup heist of ’12, a Bloomberg article that begins thusly. 

On the morning of July 30, 2012, an accountant named Michel Gauvreau arrived at the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, housed in a huge red brick warehouse on the side of the Trans-Canadian Highway in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, about two hours northeast of Montreal. Inside, baby-blue barrels of maple syrup were stacked six high in rows hundreds deep.

The question for me, when I’m evaluating a first paragraph, is whether it makes me want to read the second. If a novel started like this I would. 

Tattooed Characters

As you may know I love procedurals and mysteries. Over the summer and fall I watched a lot of House, which is essentially a police procedural set in a hospital, and then when that ran out I wanted something lighthearted that I could stream before bedtime. For now I’ve settled on Rizzoli & Isles, which is sometimes dreadful but always soporific.

Anywho, the episode I watched last night involved a character who had a tattoo of a QR code. (It was actually a pretty good episode, too.) It got me thinking about tattoos on characters more generally. Marked bodies have relevance in all kinds of fiction, though the one I’m most familiar with is Germanic mythology and Norse sagas. In both, but especially in the sagas, very little physical detail about characters is given. When a detail is given, it’s one of the ways that you know that a character is not only important but different somehow. For instance, Odin only rises to his highest level of significance after he trades an eye for a look into the future.

This is an extreme example of conservation of detail, where you only mention things that are, in one way or another, relevant to the story. These can be scene-setting details and grounding details, or a way of getting to know a character better. In some genres, like historical fiction, a lengthy depiction of the setting is part of the form. In a Victorian Briefroman, an overly-formal description of characters and customs, even if not at all related to the plot, is expected. (I don’t care for the latter specifically because of this, but that’s merely a matter of personal taste.)

This is especially true in time- and space-limited formats like an hour-long mystery. You literally only have time for clues and red herrings and a bit of verisimilitudinous detail. So when this character was tattooed, it was important, especially because it wasn’t the sort of person you’d usually associate with a tattoo. A QR code is also something that contains explicit data, and probably isn’t just an asethetic throw-away. Unless it’s part of an extensive description of Maori tattoos or something else genre- or setting-relevant, then, a tattoo is a pretty important thing to put on a character.

I don’t currently have any characters with tattoos. I’m sure that I will soon, especially in the urban fantasy story that I’m working on (more on this to come!).

Finally, some random questions.

  • If you had a tattoo of a barcode, a normal barcode that represents a number, what would it be?
  • What about a QR code, which (usually) represents a URL?
  • I’ve long thought that a regular expression would make a fun tattoo. What pattern would you match?

Privacy Changes and a Word Cloud

Now that my big fish story, The World Beyond Eels, is coming together in novel form, I’ve gone ahead and set the zeroth-draft serial version that I was posting here to private. I’ll be instead taking selections from what I have now and putting a few of them up in the coming days, but just a few. I’m also going to start on a new story some time soon about a wizard named Dennis, and I’ll be putting those up, hopefully serially, since I find that it helps motivate me to write more. This will be especially valuable now that I’m largely in revision mode on Eels, since that can be a slog and remembering to create! is always good.

Anyway, I made a word cloud for Eels that I think is fun, so here’s that. (Made with Tagul)

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Lampshades

I had an episode of House on in the background last night on Netflix while I was messing around on the Internet. After what would have been a commercial break, it shows House and Kal Penn’s character doing a walk-and-talk and Kal Penn summarizes what they’ve learned about the patient over the last ten minutes or so of story. House looks at him irritably (though does he do it in another manner ever?) and says, “what is this, some sort of recap?”

I find these things amusing. I also find them annoying if they’re overdone, but this just happened once, so it’s fine.

The end.