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About jdvollans

  • Birthday 09/03/1988

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  1. I do like a metaverse, and I've played with the idea of it somewhat a couple times, in both fantasy and sci-fi. My more successful approach has been science-fiction and mirrored more the 'future history' of Heinlein and Asimov, where everything happens on a scale and ideas crop up again and again. This has worked best in short stories especially. However, on a broader scale I tend to be in to too many things for a shared metaverse to embrace any particularly big portion of my work, and trying to fit a story I want to write into the framework ends up taking me more time than writing the story in the most effective way. So I think I'll always end up having a fractured canon, myself.
  2. Oh, that's me! Thank you. I'm happy people enjoyed it!
  3. I flatter myself that I've perfected the process of brainstorming, and it's not just boasting to the extent that I can't recall the last time I didn't have an operable project, or one within an hour of realizing I had exhausted by previous list. Last time I described my process to a friend they described it as being very systematic and I don't think that's wrong. For the most part I don't bother with intentional prompts, though I've never turned down a prompt if it sparks something, obviously. I have three major methods: audio method, puzzle method, and music method. I alternate between them as much as possible so none of the three become stale. Audio consists of me finding an old radio show, or segment of found audio from my archive (I'm a rabid audio archivist. I download and record all kinds of weird audio files.) and, putting myself into a receptive state, just listen and wait for clips and phrases that I feel like writing down. When I'm done, I've usually already shaped out a story from them, and from there it's just working out details. The sweet spot is about one hour of audio. Puzzle method has me sitting and doing a crossword, usually though I've used logic puzzles and others in the past. This is a little more direct, but what I'm writing down here are favorite words and juxtapositions of words from the puzzles. Non-themed, non-cryptic crosswords work best for this because the clues and answers are more arbitrary. Music is the most straightforward of all. While I've conceived of doing stories built from specific albums, generally I use a randomly generated or found playlist. Stumbleupon used to be great for this, and I miss it very much. This method sees me building a story a scene at a time, based on order of songs. This is my most thoroughly methodical style of brainstorming, and requires either simultaneous outlining or straight up writing as I go to be effective. Most of all, I think it's just a matter of training your brain to see the story potential in anything, and to open yourself up to so many kinds of stories that you don't miss one just because it isn't what you're already doing. So finally, and this isn't a method, I just pay attention to everything. More than just sometimes a story just pops out of the chaos of every day existence.
  4. I dig this. When do we start?
  5. I actually don't disagree with most of your points, and I'm no great fan of Donaldson myself. The whole rape thing is a big part of that, and I bring it up again and again -- fantasy is a very unfortunately rapey genre, and the 'classic' era of spec is full of weird sex shit that makes me very uncomfortable. One day I'll write up my treatise on the subject for the forum. It's extensive. I definitely don't think portal is only for children, only that it lives a very comfortable life in children's literature, and that children appreciate it on its own merits without twists or subversions. I also agree that urban fantasy has done a lot to displace it, and I hadn't really thought about that, and altogether I don't have a problem with it, I think. I also think that rather than suggesting that there's still an appetite for portal fantasy, though, that it suggests why portal fantasy might be on the outs: readers are less interested in escaping to a magical world than they are in having our world be a little more magical. It might be a subtle distinction, and I might have changed my mind on Donaldson entirely, and suggest that J.K. Rowling put the nail in portal fantasy, when she suggested to a pretty much unprecedented genre audience that magic might be a little closer than Narnia. The north of England may suffice. I also didn't mean to suggest that Donaldson invented grimdark, or that the term was in use then. I'm familiar with its origin, though its current use is pretty disconnected from Warhammer, which is actually a pretty bright and colorful game that tends to lose any serious gravity as soon as the Orcs get involved. It's not actually a subgenre of dark fantasy though -- dark fantasy is a cross-genre of both horror and fantasy, and is generally used to describe stuff like Clive Barker's, whose Imajica you mentioned but whose Weaveworld and Abarat novels are also pretty relevant. Dark portal fantasy may still, in fact, be a rich vein very much worth tapping, but which is also very much a subversion of what most people are asking for with portal fantasy. Tangent there aside, what I meant was only that Donaldson had a clear effect, frequently expressed by authors and critics, on the books we generally think of as grimdark now, authors like Martin, Cook, Erickson, Goodkind (who is worse than Donaldson.) There may also be a disconnect between author intent and what people actually embraced the Covenant books over, which was the moral ambiguity of the protagonist, the less than positive effect he had on the world and characters around him, and the general lack of optimism found in the series. Maybe Donaldson didn't intend it to come across that way, but it's how the books were read, and a certain subset of future authors ate it up. The one thing I've got to disagree with you on is this: as far as I can see, traditional publishers have never been less risk averse than they are right now*. The pop fiction exists in abundance, but that fact - there are so many books being published now - has cushioned a lot of high risk books, and allowed for some pretty major coups. For the first time in history, it's really not an either/or problem. There's never going to be a point where everything gets picked up for publication, and personal tastes of editors will always come into play, but I read an awful lot, and the way I'm seeing it, a lot of the stuff I'm seeing would not have gotten a second look before the last few years. I think the publishing industry, for the most part**, is in really great shape. * YA twitter shows the obvious counterfactual to this. ** See previous note. Anyways, hi! I also overthink things a lot.
  6. So I guess since it's camp anyways, I should go ahead and pledge my goal of 50k? That how this works?
  7. I don't think portal fantasy has gone anywhere in the place it's most comfortable -- middle grade, introducing children to new worlds of fantasy by bringing them along with characters they can already identify with. It bleeds a little into early YA too, but as an adult genre it's definitely been out of vogue, and for a really long time. I blame Stephen R. Donaldson. To the extent that all of literature is an ongoing debate between every author that has lived and ever will, his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever seem to have proved an irrefutable closing statement on the portal subgenre. They were both a culmination of the storytelling style and a condemnation of the naivety and childishness that subgenre represented. The series is generally held to have deeply impacted the next twenty years of major fantasy authors and shepherded in the grimdark era of fantasy that we've been living with for some time now, all while not being widely known or loved by readers in general. I think we're at a far enough remove now that we can see it start to come back, and I have seen some of the shadow come off of the genre in general, so I'm hopeful. I think it will take writers who have something really meaningful to say, though, that can only be said with portal fantasy. Until then, though, don't think for a minute the kids don't have it still. My eldest daughter especially reads tons of the stuff, and some of it seems very interesting. They're the ones who need it most, and I suspect it will always be there for them.
  8. I think generally the only tropes I actively dislike are ones that present as major structural problems, and I'd guess any of them could get one over on me if they didn't mess with the structure. So I really tend not to like stories where, for example, nobody tells each other anything important. That's really frustrating. I also dislike Time Travel Bandaids, especially where time travel isn't introduced early on. But there is one that really gets on my nerves, and it's so petty, but I can very rarely get over it once I notice it: Fantasy Characters Do Not Ever Use Contractions. Really, any situation where characters in a fantasy setting are speaking like they're in a low budget Shakespeare production put on by a drunk director. Other than that, I'll defend most tropes, under specific circumstances. A couple mentioned here: One Guy: This is kind of the essential fantasy element of escapism that pervades most spec genres, but it's the Heroic Monomyth in action. It's the belief that an individual can make all the difference, and the belief that there are those who would save us when we cannot save ourselves. It's the essence of the superhero, and of religious faith. It can definitely wear on when paired with more troublesome follies, like the 'white savior' and the 'one good noble' and 'chosen ones' can get a bit tiring, but when it's someone who rises up from the underclass it's still amazingly satisfying. It does bother me though, when the 'one guy' is on the other side: a load-bearing boss. See: Arya kills the Night King. White Walkers all die. All Orcs Are Evil: When played completely straight, this is annoying, although kind of par for the course for traditional fantasy. However, it doesn't take much of a bent for it to be extremely relevant social commentary, and that bent is perception. When your soldier characters fighting the war on Orcs only ever see evil orcs bent on destroying them, they extrapolate from what they perceive. It becomes part of their world-view, and it gets transmitted to others back home, who never having encountered a single orc believe what they're told. If you've ever thought to yourself 'Canadians are nice', 'Southerners are kind of racist', 'French people are stuck up' or 'Australians are literally venomous', you've indulged in the trope in real life. Everybody is Related: Most people live in a pretty small world, and I think this trope can really drive that point home when applied well. All the drama takes place between people with already close bonds, or established connections. You can really see how a perceived dynasty or the concerns of a single clan can swallow up objectivity, blacking out concerns of the larger world around them. This is arguably what Game of Thrones did really well in its first half, where the political dramas and in-set biases of a bunch of interrelated characters kept them from dealing with a much larger problem. It's harder to defend when the Fate of the Universe seems to ride on a relatively small family's shoulders though.
  9. If there's space, I'm interested. My cabin was dead in April. I'm JD Vollans there.
  10. I'm JD Vollans, and this is an introduction. I'm 30 years old, a married parent of three, and a full-time spec fic writer. I stalked PB over here, but was too lazy to sign up for a while. I think I've had this tab up for two months, at least. Figured I'd settle in before July camp starts. I won't spend a lot of words here, but I look forward to getting to know you all.