Category Archives: Writing

Beverly Cleary: An Appreciation

Beverly Cleary at home in Carmel Valley, California in April, 2006.
Christina Koci Hernandez | San Francisco Chronicle | Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Author Beverly Cleary has died at the astounding age of 104. There are remembrances and obituaries all over including:

While the comic creations of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Goscinny & Uderzo, Carl Barks, and HergĂ© loomed large in my childhood, I’m hard pressed to think of a single author whose chapter books I read more as a kid than Beverly Cleary. This fact was probably aided by the fact that my mom was, like Cleary herself was back in the day, a children’s librarian, and I am of an age that some of the Ramona books were still coming out new when I was of prime age to read them. I also read all the Henry Huggins books, my favorite probably being Ribsy, and also quite liked the tales of Ralph and his motorcycle, which at least one of my kids has now read as well.

If life is indeed something that happens while you’re making other plans, it’s nice to know you can create some magic along the way.

Your Next Favorite SFF Sitcom?

With the release of WandaVision, we got to see a new genre mashup from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: superheros and sitcoms.

Certainly this isn’t the first time there’s been a mashup of superheroes and outright silliness (The Tick is the one that pops in my mind most concretely as it has had several TV incarnations). And the sitcom backdrops in WandaVision actually lay a foundation for some distinct non-comic plotlines (that’s the limit to how much I’ll spoil things).

However, it did get me thinking about other science fiction and fantasy treatments of sitcoms — and Leah Schnelbach over at Tor.com takes that same thinking and has a bunch of suggestions. I’m partial to Steam and SpaceNewsSpaceRadio myself, but what do you think?

(Personally, I’d also love to see an Ambush Bug animated series).

Cue Rockin’ Blogiversary Music

Wait! How is this Star Trek-themed?

It’s been six years since I re-launched my personal website, which evidently is the “iron” anniversary, hence good ol’ shellhead above. As I mentioned in last year’s blogiversary post, I was going to try and make this more annual and — especially because last year felt like at least five years — it felt right to do a post.

So here are some highlights and personal favorites.

Star Trek

My series Crisis of Infinite Star Treks lasted the first five years of the blog. As it happened, there was also a Star Trek-related project that I worked on over that same five years. It came to fruition thanks to the pandemic — and to quote a certain Klingon, it was glorious.

Every Episode of Every Star Trek Series, Ranked

As I kind of expected, the traffic I get to this post and its related pages dwarfs just about everything else on the site. It’s like people are interested in Star Trek or something!

The pages that had the comments (with spoilers and snark) got far more hits than the pages with only titles — and of those, the “Whole Enchilada” got far and away the most traffic. Breaking it down by show, these are the pages that got the most traffic:

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  2. Star Trek: Voyager
  3. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
  4. Star Trek (the original series)
  5. Star Trek: Enterprise
  6. Star Trek: Discovery
  7. Star Trek: Picard
  8. Star Trek (the animated series)
  9. Star Trek: Short Treks

Mind you, I don’t think this tells me anything more than which series Trek fans most want to see some guy on the Internet’s ranking of — which reminds me: the fact that Voyager is right there at the top doesn’t surprise me. Based on conversations on Reddit, some of my fellow Trekkers love that show and, just like Enterprise, if you haven’t checked it out there’s a whole slew of episodes that are really good.

In fact, just as I’ve done a “Viewing Guide for Enterprise,” I will be doing a “Viewing Guide for Voyager” and some of the others later this year (if all goes well).

Theater and Creativity Amid Coronavirus

Many of my creative colleagues are depend on being physically on sets and on stages for their ducats, so I’ve been tracking how those industries are doing and posting about them this past year:

And more COVID

While I didn’t want to focus on the pandemic endlessly, I did find it cathartic to share some articles and videos and events related to it, so I created a tag, COVID Craziness, which has a little bit of crossover to theater coverage above. There’s plenty of joy and introspection.

Check it out when it seems right. I suspect for some people it’s too soon, but other’s it’s just right.

Most Visited Posts (apart from Trek)

Apart from the Star Trek ranking, in honor of this, the sixth blogiversary, these are the top six visited posts from the year (not necessarily written in the past year):

  1. Schedule Management: The 0-50-100 Method for Tasks
  2. The Nightmare that is 2020, Expressed in Sugar
  3. My 50 Favorite Films, 2020 Edition
  4. The Worst Derelict Spaceships to Board
  5. Voices Behind the Scenes of Atlantis: The Lost Empire
  6. The Differences between a Policy, Process, Procedure, and Work Instruction

So, it could be that Trek-loving project managers who also watch a lot of films are my niche.

Whatever the case, thanks for visiting and reading, and here’s to another year of maybe (just maybe) useful information.

Lessons Learned: Trilogy-writing Edition

Book one in the trilogy (image via JohnAugust.com)

In traditional project management, the last phase is closing. It means the project is accepted as ‘completed’ on some level of formality. Not only that, what with project managers loving to document things, they like to document ‘”lessons learned.” In other words, what will you do better next time? What might you try to avoid doing altogether? What definitely worked? While users of agile and lean frameworks may think of continuous improvement, a good concept to bear in mind, sometimes you only have the chance to really step back and evaluate what the heck happened at a bigger milestone.

“Post-mortems” in theater and film projects are where I first encountered “lessons learned,” so when I later crossed over into the office environment, they were not unfamiliar and something I’ve encouraged for both their pragmatic and cathartic benefits. This has also meant that I’ve always known it’s good and necessary to do lessons learned for creative projects.

So I was thrilled to see screenwriter and all-around storyteller John August detail some of his lessons learned after completing his foray into middle-grade fiction. (That’s the Arlo Finch series pictured above).

Long-time readers may recall I listen to the screenwriting podcast he and fellow scribe Craig Mazin do, called Scriptnotes. Long-time listeners of that podcast will already know August approaches most things with a thoroughly methodical, yet joyful frame of mind. You’ll see that on display in this list of 10 lessons learned. I’m not writing a trilogy per se, but a lot of the lessons here apply to my writing. Hope they work for you all as well.

Little (Mobile) Theater on the Prarie

The events of last Wednesday are still dwelling on my mind, so it was nice to catch this article by Lia Kvatum in the Washington Post Magazine about an itinerant creative who’s connecting communities to their history through theater. It provides some much needed light and joy… and the notion that we can communicate with one another.

Theatrical portraits of Hanson in Granite Falls, Minn. (Caroline Yang via the Washington Post)

Reading about how Ashley Hanson has been traveling to different communities and talking with the people reminds me of both how the Federal Theatre Project had a whole “think national, act local” approach to productions as well as the more recent Playback Theatre‘s attempts to translate personal experiences into short plays.

When it comes to theater, I am biased, what with it being a “non-trivial” portion of my working life, to say nothing of participating in some of the “walking theater” mentioned in the article (although my part got to be on stage). I believe live theater has a way of connecting and impacting people in a way that will make it just as relevant 100 years from now as it was 1,000 and more years ago. So I wish Hanson and others great success in hundreds more towns across America, because it means connecting and deep listening.

Public Domain Day, 2021

Since I’ve written about it before, I suppose I should make a habit of celebrating the fact that New Year’s Day is also Public Domain Day, which in the U.S. means that, as of today, any copyrights from works released or otherwise published in 1925 have expired and said works are now in the public domain.

Montage via the Center for the Study of the Public Domain

I should mention that I’m not an entirely disinterested party in these matters. As the head of Jabberwocky Audio Theater, I have a keen interest in stories that might make good adaptations for audio fiction. I mean, we can and will continue to find works from the 19th century and earlier to use (adapting “Prince Prigio” last year was a lot of fun). But “new” old stuff would be fun to do as well.

We’re not likely to do an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, but as Ian Carlos Campbell argues over on The Verge, the Muppets should totally do a version of that quintessential novel of the Jazz Age.

Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, not surprisingly has a nice rundown of many noteworthy works available sans copyright — and also explains why it’s great to have many non-noteworthy works available as well.

I should also note that Public Domain in the U.S. is a bit different than worldwide rights, which vary widely. But it’s certainly worth exploring. What books or films do you want to see new adaptations of?

Aaron Sorkin Gives Screenwriting Support

Purveyor of hyperreal –and immensely satisfying– dialogue, playwright/screenwriter Aaron Sorkin jumped online last week to give a few really choice answers to some Twitter questions. Enjoy.

Banned Book Week, 2020

Librarians, archivists, and bibliophiles are well represented in my family, so I’ve always enjoyed Banned Book Week.

Since many library systems are closed due to the pandemic, many of you probably can’t saunter over to your local library and see their cool “Banned Book” displays. The site does have plenty of resources to read and download — as well as the always interesting top 100 books challenged or banned.

That list also provides me with one of my annual activities: reading one of the books on the list that I haven’t read before. This year, it’s Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, one of those well-regarded books I’ve missed.

If you are looking for something insidious to do this week that will possibly expose you to some new perspectives and definitely piss off The Man, I highly recommend it.

Video

2020 Emmys: In Memoriam

TCM usually gets my nod, but the graphics in this one were very well done… (and these are grim times, so I suppose it’s where my head is):

Video

Wait, Tolkien was Working on a LOTR Sequel?!?

Many of you already knew this and (spoiler alert), there’s good reasons why he abandoned the ideas as the video goes into, but I was not aware — and it does touch on some of his writing process and his motivation to write in any case.