15 January 2010

Fictional Living (an introduction)


If you've ever watched the Mighty Boosh then you may be familiar with Howard Moon's lasting hope of being a "famous writer". Writing is in his blood; if you cut him, be bleeds ink. Not so with me, though for as long as I can remember I've been writing stories. To this day I have probably shared five of them in my entire life and only kept the ones that somehow made it onto Google Docs. That's at least 16 years of writing with next to nothing to show for it. That sucks.


It has been only recently that this realization struck me, though the reasons are quite clear: I have never been terribly proud of the things I've written. Not they were poor quality or inappropriate, I was simply not proud of writing silly fantasy stories. The closest I've come to reckless sharing of my work was when I was on a bit of a spoken word kick and did some poetry at a few local events. My stuff is/was actually quite good. I think, in my strange little world, poetry was somehow more legitimate than fantasy fiction. But since late elementary school I've been a fantasy nerd and since about that same time I have written a lot of short stories (and long ones) set in my own little worlds with my own little characters and adventures. They were always typed and were subsequently lost when that computer copped it or I deleted them. Not that I cared much; I was actually slightly embarrassed and had little-to-no intention of ever sharing the work. This continued, and has continued, to the present day.

Fan fiction is what has kept me going for some time. I reckon it picked up steam with my old WoW addiction where, piggy-backing on my Warcraft III habit, I got really into...well the world of Warcraft (which I'm told has been tossed aside for game mechanics and silly gimmicks). It was fun. There was a good roleplaying community, which can always go either way, and lots of people who read my stuff. I kind of stopped writing other stories because I had a venue and an audience through which to vent my fictional wont. All of those stories are gone now, a victim of my severance from WoW.

Things picked back up, however, when I started playing LotRO. Tolkien was my new drug and I loved writing stories that, I felt, fit nicely in the spectrum of his feigned history. Again, I had a receptive, low-risk audience with whom to share my silly writings. I had little inclination to write non-fiction or other stuff that was more "acceptable"; I just didn't have the time or interest. I am quite happy with the stuff I've written for my LotRO characters, some of which can be found MyLotRO site. But I still had big ideas and still felt a particular calling to just write stuff, even if it was about Orks and spaceships.

So last year I started writing again. Two stories emerged: one a silly and fun tale about an unlikely dwarf going on a vast adventure, the other a post-apocalyptic, pre-utopian scifi epic. I was writing more regularly and even shared the work with my wife and one of my close friends, both of whom were very encouraging. The words came sporadically but at least in some kind of interval. I have and had no goal of being a published author, though it could be a fun job, I just wanted to get the stuff out there. Then tragedy struck.

If you are an IT professional, please don't take this personally, but IT people can be stupid. They're a rushed, overworked, undersexed lot who probably get a lot less appreciation than they deserve. I can say this with confidence because, at work and home, I'm a makeshift IT support technician. I've built my own computers and been a computer hobbyist for some time, so while I'm far from a genius I know more than the average john out there in the world and get recruited to fix stuff when my coworkers and family members are in a jam. I had been using my work laptop to do my writing because laptops are convenient. I can write on the couch, on the go, even sneak in a few paragraphs or more on the job. It also had Word on it, which my desktop does not, so I could edit if I needed to, though I mainly write in Notepad thanks to some wonderful tips by a certain writer. The lappy had been giving me grief, overheating and performing very poorly so I sent it off for another go with our resident IT fellow. The poor guy works for several schools within the district, though he is housed at mine. He's the most popular fellow on campus.

He took his time with the job, as I told him he could because he's like a pack mule with a degree and I didn't want to stress him out further. The poor, sweaty hulk said he'd run a diagnostic and try a few thing. What he didn't tell me was that he was going to reimage (format) the thing without backing my stuff up.

This was problematic. Actually, it was disastrous: besides losing all of the writing I had done for LotRO and my own stories I lost four semesters worth of graduate school work and an impressive collection of animated gifs. So I was left with fragments of my stories that I'd had on Google Docs and a lot of anger. I've not seen the guy since but I've forgiven him so I doubt our next meeting will come to blows. Luckily, I was going through one of the shared folders on the laptop and found that, lo and behold, some of my dwarf story had survived; actually, most of it. This was grounds for celebration and so, taking no risk, I promptly dumped it into Google Docs, my new writing tool of choice.Yes, I'm taking my chances with the the Cloud. Sometimes I think I should be writing and printing stuff out, or even doing it by hand, should the End come swiftly and Google go under. But I suspect we're all polishing the brass on the Titanic; it's all going down sooner or later. Even if I kept stuff in some sort of paper journal there's as good a chance of me losing or inadvertently destroying it as there is Google servers exploding and losing all of work.

With renewed vigour, I'm writing again. And I'm over myself so I'll be sharing my words with the world (or at least whatever poor souls stumble upon this blog). I mean to post the first part of my dwarf story here in the next few days or so. It's the story of an unlikely adventurer and is an unabashed twofer ripoff of Tolkien and Dwarf Fortress with at least some input of my own. I will post it in parts. It has no official title, only a working title of the main character's name: Gram.

I hope you like it when it arrives.

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