Category Archives: columns

Do women or men write better?

I never gave much thought to the question, but maybe a helpful infographic will come along and shed some light…

Oh, look. Here’s one, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood grammar checker, Grammarly.

MenvsWomen_Writers_infographicHonestly, I usually stay away from the battle of the sexes. (I come from a female-dominated family, majored in theatre, and work in an otherwise all-female office. I’d lose.) The above can be a fun statistical experiment, but it ultimately emphasizes generalizations and de-emphasizes the outliers. Lots of men and women are great writers. Lots of men and women are terrible writers. The bottom-line data says 59 percent of men and women believe women write better, which isn’t a huge margin and suggests gender is not a great predictor of a writer’s quality.

The data on sentences did jump out at me, however. Over 75 percent of women are more likely to write long, descriptive sentences vs. about 34 percent of men. That’s a statistically significant difference, and it backs up a trend in my dialogue. My female characters tend to be more verbose or prone to rambling, whereas my male characters use fewer words. Just compare Serissa and Rip in RIP. But there are exceptions, like the terse Mariana in Earths in Space. Don’t want to neglect the outliers.

I love writing those chatty women, probably because I’m not at all chatty. It’s a nice change of pace.

I don’t know if women or men are better writers. I don’t think the question matters all that much. But one thing I do know—men in general can do a better job of writing female characters.

Trust me, guys. It’s fun. And it’s not as hard as you might think, because you’re still just writing people…just potentially chattier people who are more likely to write long, descriptive sentences (but not necessarily!).

Hermione could’ve been a great lead in ‘Harry Potter’

Buzzfeed posted an article titled “If Hermione Were The Main Character In Harry Potter.”Hermione-Granger-hermione-granger-26743720-960-1280

When I saw the headline, I was expecting a story about a muggle-born witch rising out of humble beginnings to achieve greatness no one ever would have expected of her. Maybe Hermione would even going so far as to defy the prophecies surrounding “The Boy Who Lived” that everyone around her was taking so much stock in, and she’d be the one to defeat Voldemort, not Harry, because she built herself into a person capable of doing so, to heck with whatever was preordained when they were babies.

That could be a great self-made person story — and it would serve the cause of gender equality better than that Buzzfeed article about Hermione vs. The Patriarchy (though I don’t recall the actual Harry Potter series being sexist — after all, it gave us Hermione).

I get what the article is trying to do, but if that were an actual series, it would read like the feminist equivalent of Atlas Shrugged. On-the-nose preaching just doesn’t work as entertainment, and preaching doesn’t change minds. Show, don’t tell.

Super Comics: Uncanny X-Men #172 & 173

New post over at Smash Cut Culture!

UncannyX-Men173WolverineLet’s go back to the early days of the super-hero movie trend, to the first X-Men movie from 2000. (Spoilers ahead, but it’s been nearly 15 years.)

That movie featured Wolverine and Rogue as our viewpoints characters, and it built a friendship between, which culminated in Wolverine—at great risk to his own health—allowing Rogue to borrow his healing ability so she could recover from life-threatening injuries. I can’t find that scene on YouTube, but this is the music that plays during the moment.Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_173

I’m guessing that scene was inspired by the events ofUncanny X-Men #172 and 173 from 1983, which were written by main X-architect Chris Claremont and drawn by Paul Smith. This pair of issues serves a double purpose—to follow up the excellent Wolverine miniseries Claremont had just completed with artist Frank Miller, and to establish Rogue as a bona fide X-Woman. By the way, that Wolverine miniseries influenced aspects of The Wolverine movie from 2013, but that’d be a whole other article.

Rogue only joined the team in #171, and before that, she was primarily known as the bad guy who stole Ms. Marvel’s powers and memories—in an Avengers comic, since no competing studios were keeping Marvel’s mutant and non-mutant characters apart. Ms. Marvel was a friend of the X-Men and of Wolverine in particular. In today’s comics, Ms. Marvel has become Captain Marvel and is more popular than ever, and she’s set to star in her own film in 2018. But the ‘80s were not kind to her.

Read the rest, please.

Super Comics: Flash #73-79 (1993)

Attention, Flash fans new and old — I’ve written a post over at Smash Cut Culture that might be of interest. Anyone else remember this storyline?Flash_v.2_75

Barry Allen, like many comic book characters, used to be dead. But unlike most others, he stayed dead for over twenty years. Oh, he’s alive and well now—more so than ever, thanks to The Flash television series on the CW. Nevertheless, DC Comics once killed him off, giving him a heroic death in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries, and he didn’t return until 2009’s Flash: Rebirth.

During that time, Wally West, the former sidekick Kid Flash, took over as the Flash. Wally was introduced in the late 1950s as the young nephew of Barry’s girlfriend Iris. (Unlike their TV counterparts, Barry and Iris were together from the Flash’s first appearance, and they did not grow up together.) When Barry and Iris eventually married, Barry became not only Wally’s mentor and idol, but his uncle as well.

Wally’s series ran for about 250 issues from 1987 to 2009, and his time as the Flash can be read as a coming-of-age story. He progressed from a self-centered, twenty-year-old kid to a family man and stalwart member of the Justice League of America.

A pivotal chapter in his growth occurred in a storyline called “The Return of Barry Allen” in 1993, which spanned issues #73 to #79 written by Mark Waid and drawn by Greg La Rocque. The story isn’t some good vs. evil struggle, but one with very personal stakes. It’s about the balance between idolizing your hero and becoming your own person, the importance of protecting a legacy, and the dreaded possibility that your role model might not live up to your expectations.

Read the rest, please.

Super Comics: The Avengers #19-22 (1999)

avengersv3-022Over at Smash Cut Culture, I’ve started a series looking back at the comic books that inspired the films and TV shows. And where better to start than a great Avengers storyline featuring the titular villain of the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film?

Avengers stories are at their best when the stakes are both huge and personal, and that’s what we get in the “Ultron Unlimited” storyline that ran in The Avengers (vol. 3) #19-22 in 1999, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by George Perez—two top, veteran talents in the comics industry.

The cast includes a few Avengers moviegoers have already met—Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor—as well as some they’re about to meet—the Scarlet Witch and Vision—and even a couple whom they might meet versions of in the upcoming Ant-Man movie—Hank Pym and the Wasp. The Black Panther, who’s got a film in the works, rejoins the team for this adventure. And then there’s Wonder Man, who filmmakers will probably get around to eventually if the super-hero trend keeps up long enough; Firestar, who ‘80s kids might remember from the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon; and Justice, who…well, they can’t all be in the pictures, can they?

In this storyline, Ultron is taking another shot at his usual goal of replacing organic life with robotic life. But this time includes some twists. He actually does destroy an entire small country as his opening salvo, which gives tremendous gravity to the proceedings. And he kidnaps his “family” so that he can use their brainwaves to generate unique personalities for the robotic life he wants to take over the world.

Read the rest, please.

 

The scientific process vs. a preschooler’s imagination

I was babysitting my 4-year-old niece the other weekend, and she posed a deep philosophical question.

“Uncle Danny,” she asked, seriously, “do toys come to life at night?”

That immediately created different philosophical questions within my own mind—What’s the right age to take away that magic? And do I want to be the one to pull the trigger?

Normally for this type of inquiry, my response would be, “Let’s see what Mommy thinks.” But my sister was working, so the buck could not be passed. The kid was looking to me to fill her in on the secret lives of toys, because naturally Uncle Danny is an expert in such matters.

I initially tried to hedge a bit: “That sort of thing might just happen in our imaginations.”

“But I think they do come to life,” she insisted. Continue reading

Veronica Mars lives on…in a fake digital spinoff

VM PIADThis continues to be an eventful year for Veronica Mars fans. First we get a long-awaited movie, then the launch of a series of novels co-written by series creator Rob Thomas, and now…a digital series about a fake spinoff.

Yeah, that last one is especially random, but it’s also kind of fun, judging by the first episode, which was released recently on the CW Seed.

Play It Again, Dick features actor Ryan Hansen playing a fictional version of himself trying to create a spinoff series for his Veronica Mars, character Dick Casablancas. Most of the VM cast members are set to play themselves as well as their characters. It’s all very meta, tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps even a bit self-deprecating.

The first episode runs less than eight minutes. Hansen discusses his idea with an extremely skeptical Kristen Bell and then pitches to the CW. We also see a potential theme song. Continue reading

Should you self-publish?

It might be right for you. Or it might not. I’ve posted some considerations over at Smash Cut Culture.

Here’s the beginning:

The short answer is yes, you should start getting your work out there and building an audience. This applies not only to novelists, but musicians, filmmakers, theatre artists—all creative fields.

unnamedBut let’s focus on books. That’s what I’ve been doing lately.

Advances in technology mean we don’t have to follow the conventional wisdom of decades ago. Traditional publishers are still relevant, important, and deserving of respect, but they don’t have to be the sole gatekeepers of the literary world. Readers can do an excellent job of that, too.

If you’re a writer who yearns for a career in fiction, self-publishing should be your proving grounds. Show the world you’re capable of developing a professional-quality work, and demonstrate the thick skin of letting readers form their own opinions about it. Make connections with other authors, and conduct yourself as a professional.

But becoming a self-published author is not for everyone. Here are just a few considerations, and this list is by no means exhaustive:

Read the rest, please…

Hey, kids! It’s National Clown Week!

Several years ago, I was hanging out with some friends at the International House of Pancakes in Williamsburg, Virginia, and they asked what I had done at work recently.DCFC0077.JPG

I answered, “An Episcopalian church had a ‘Blessing of the Clowns’ service for National Clown Week, so I covered that.”

They couldn’t tell if I was being serious or sarcastic.

“Yes, National Clown Week is a real thing. Richard Nixon signed it into law in the ‘70s.”

That didn’t help.

It wasn’t sarcasm. There is indeed such a holiday as National Clown Week, and it’s observed the first week of each August. Continue reading

Meeting the Doctors

New post up at Smash Cut Culture! And it’s all about Doctor Who, which makes the link 729 percent more clickable.Tennant

Here’s the beginning:

Doctor Who fans are getting ready to meet the latest incarnation of the ancient alien who travels through all of space and time in a blue box that’s bigger on the inside.

A clever plot device has helped keep the BBC series on the air for so many years. Whenever the Doctor dies, he regenerates into a new body and picks up life right where he left off—with some new personality quirks and different taste in clothing, but his core characteristics and memory remain more or less intact.

That’s certainly one way to keep things fresh.

Unlike James Bond, Doctor Who has a valid in-story reason for why 11 (and now 12) different actors have taken on the title role over the past 50 years.

Peter Capaldi will star in his first full episode Aug. 23, and Whovians will get to meet the Doctor all over again. A season premiere is that much more exciting when it basically doubles as a series premiere of sorts, too.

So, let’s take a quick look back in time at the introductions of the previous three “modern” Doctors…

Read the rest (please).