Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Book Two Posts: Ep. 13, The Pop Culture Conundrum

 Okay, dear readers, I'm just going to be real here.

I have been on the outs with my writing as of late. It was going really, really great. Really. I was on about Chapter 20 of the edits and re-calibrating my trajectory as I edited my way through. There were some major plot changes, but it was still going pretty well, and I felt that what I had so far was SOLID. Like, granite solid. I was pretty certain that any other changes to those chapters would be very minor. I could see the checkered flag waving in the distance. But then, something happened in the real world. Something that sent my writing into an out-of-control spin, hurtling through the air with the grace of a broken toilet seat.

Pressing pause so you can observe the full glory of this toilet seat flying through the air.

Notice the bewildered, bug-eyed wonder of the driver of this toilet seat craft. I'm not going to give you the impression that I have everything under control. I'm not going to pretend that unicorn poop has not hit the fan. I'm not going to turn this into a perky how-to-adapt-to-unicorn-poop-hitting-the-fan blog post. Honestly, I'm handling it better that I would have expected. I haven't had a meltdown that involved throwing things. Yet.

Not that that's how I normally handle things.

Resuming toilet seat visual as the driver clenches teeth and braces for impact, then skids, bouncing over rocky terrain, jarring teeth with each bump, until thrown clear of the craft and landing in a heap in deep grass.

But seriously, folks.... I love pop culture references, and my contemporary writing is full of them. Often it's a movie that many have seen, but sometimes, it's just a song. It's the music playing in the club or on the car radio or that little radio/CD player in the corner of the kitchen at Rosewood. It's a thin, silver thread from the real world to the magical world of Gnome. However, lately, it's been very brutal trying to separate music and politics in the real world. I want my stories to be an escape from this world and for the reader to be able to momentarily push back the worries and hectic pace and go somewhere else. I don't want the threads from the real world to be ones that bring real politics into my creation and rain toxic waste all over my imaginary parade.

It's hard. It can be very upsetting.

It's a lot like growing up, which kind of sucks, if you ask me. If I had my way, I'd have never grown up. My family and loved ones would still be right there. I'd have never gotten my heart broken. Santa would still be real, and, every year, I would relive the best Christmas ever, when I received my first easel and set of oil paints. My hardest chore would be making up my bed every day, and I wouldn't have to do it alone. Life would be a series of trips to the grocery store in a Pontiac Grand Safari and comic books and paper dolls. The world would still be small, ending just beyond the places we traveled on a regular basis with occasional, temporary extensions for those road trip vacations where Dad never stopped driving for any reason. I would never have needed to create a portal to an imaginary world. Although, even at that age, the world had already sank a talon in me and gnawed away part of my childhood, proving that there was no age during which monsters did not exist.

I probably don't have to explain how much of a role that state of mind and emotions play in my writing. It's probably true for lots of writers, in varying degrees. I'm not going to say all because some authors may actually be cyborgs or robots or aliens or people who have somehow managed to sever the task-oriented part of their brain from their feelings (which sounds painful, btw) in order to get the job done. However, I am one of those writers who can be, at their best, fairly awesome, and at their worst, a total nightmare, which might work for horror, but not if they can't finish anything.

Along that same vein, I may have mentioned previously that I planned to make changes to Book One before re-releasing. There were some choices that I made, based on someone else's advice, and I'm going to remake those choices. If only we could do this in the real world, right? In addition to those choice changes, I'm overwhelmed with the number of pop culture references in that book. So I'm wondering, how far do I go in extracting toxic pop culture? How important is it to have everything unique and not found in the real world, isolated and impartial? I'm imagining the black and white "no frills" store brands next to the fancy packaging. The music would be basically generic, no frills music. There would be little point in movie references to fake movies that no one would get. Is it just certain references, or do I have to be completely unbiased and ruthlessly eliminate all of them? I've been going through the twelve-step program with anger, acceptance, denial.... Did I put those in the right order? IDK. Anyway, right now, I'm in full-on procrastination mode because I've only barely accepted this change and am still analyzing and brainstorming how to do this with a few bouts of ranting thrown in here and there.

I would have to recreate some things from the ground up, which would take some creative off-roading before I can get back on this writing Interstate. Naturally, I'm dreading it. Hence, the procrastination frustration.

All that being said, I've been coping with painting and movies. Specifically, I watched a movie with a Swedish giraffe deity and an Irish movie (or a movie SET in Ireland) called Without Name. This is where it gets kind of weird....

I know. You thought the giraffe god was weird. Surprisingly, not the weirder of the two.

I'm honestly still not sure what the plot was, but the takeaway was this: if you take enough hallucinogenic drugs, the theory was that you could understand trees, which I suppose... in some reality somewhere... might be helpful?? Please don't try this at home. It's just a movie, but that's not even the weird part. (It's not???)

First, as a little background to put this into context. If you read my earlier blogs, such as the Scary Edition one, you may recall that I liked the video game Rhiannon The Curse of the Four Branches, which was a 2008 point-and-click adventure game that blended Welsh mythology with various other topics, such as trees, kirlian photography, history that the place had been used as a commune for activists in the 60s, elements, in addition to other topics? Wellllll.... keep reading. (The game got a bit of flack for seeming outdated, but I am finding that's part of the charm. What ground games have gained in smooth graphic technology, they seem to have lost in atmosphere.)

The first weird thing is when the main character arrives at the cottage provided by his client. The exterior reminded me of the cottage in the game Rhiannon. The game Rhiannon was based on Welsh mythology and set in Wales. This firm was set in Ireland, which isn't that far off, only a handful times wider than the English Channel. But I was surprised that it looked like the same house, to me, anyway.

I'm including some pretty low-quality, cropped images from the movie and the game. Hopefully, the size and quality of the photos used for reference here will not result in any copyright strikes. I just wanted to show you a bit of what I saw for the sake of comparison. I had to brighten up the shots from the movie because it was so dark.

House, Without Name:

House, Rhiannon:

Then, there was a shelf of books, and I was reminded of the bookcase in the video game. A book fell off of the shelf in the movie, and, as the main character stooped to pick it up, I said, I'm going to laugh if that book is about trees.

Tree book, Rhiannon:

You guessed it. Trees. 

Tree book, Without Name:

Okay, the house could be easily explained as the style of that time and culture and general location, and, although curious, even the tree book could be a coincidence.

Finally, there is a room in the game where the owner experimented with Kirlian photography, which is using a special camera to take pictures of the auras of objects. 

Kirlian Photography, Rhiannon:

Well, you've probably guessed... in the movie, there's a dark room, and the author of the tree book took pictures of the auras of things.

Kirlian Photography, Without Name:

At this point, I was wondering if the creator of the movie ever played the game or heard about the game or was in any way inspired by the game. The game is from 2008, and the movie is from 2016. I just found that bizarre, although I admit that I have found surprising similarities between my work and the work of others, including characters and plots, when I had no knowledge of the other work before I wrote mine. So, odds are that this is just one of those crazy wild coincidences, but still funny to me.

Sadly, the movie didn't have any of the mythology that was used in the video game, and events played out in a vague series of flashing scenes that are not recommended for anyone prone to seizures.

In a nutshell, you had this comparison between people who often used hallucinogenic drugs and a person who tried hallucinogenic drugs while researching trees. As it turned out, trees could really mess you up. So, if you go walking through the woods or the park, or even if you have your own little oasis in the back yard, beware.

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