Yes Yes, I know I know

I have no excuses. I’m just a really terrible person. Anyway, over at my blog where I use my real name, I get really interesting spam comments.  Apparently wordpress.com has stronger filters so I don’t get these beautiful, strange found poems of questionable consumerism.  Enjoy!

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Brave

I’ve recently decided that if you don’t like Pixar’s Brave… if you think it’s just not quite up to the Pixar standard… if you think it’s a little flimsy or slapshod… well then you must be a sexist asshole.

No, I will not defend the statement.

Prometheus

Hello from the land of no internet.  Seriously.

Anyway, it was getting to be far, far too long between posts so I thought I’d respond to a movie review rather than write my own.

Over here are a list of numerous plot holes from Prometheus (oh yeah, if you haven’t seen the movie, look away, look far, far away).  Since the post is over a week old, and it’s too late in the evening for me to read all the responses, I thought I’d simply respond to the author over here rather than in the comments (btw, if the author finds this and doesn’t like that please let me know and I’ll remove it immediately–this is really more me being lazy and figuring that you weren’t interested in more responses so I thought I’d do it in my own little corner of the internet.

Overall I liked the movie.  The science was thin (like there being gravity on the ship for no reason) but some of that is consistent with the lack of science of the first Alien, and the pseudo science of films like The Abyss so I just chalk it up to the language of the genre (SF Film Genre, not SF genre itself).  For me the movie is really more about David, the robot, than anything else so maybe I was just ignoring things which bothered others. Anyway, onto the plot holes and my explanations for them.

1.    Why is David riding a bicycle and shooting hoops? Is he trying to impress someone? I understand why he’s developing language skills, as he’s researching things as yet undiscovered, but what’s with the sports? He’s a robot! – Do you ride bicycles to impress people?  He’s clearly just bored.  I think David is programmed to be more human than he lets on, or that other people understand.  Why else would he watch Shaw’s dreams?  As I said before, I think the movie was more about David than anyone else–he’s the one who triggers most of the events–and these were just elements of his character.

2.    When Holloway sees the lines on the planet that prove the alien presence, why does no-one suggest scoping the area out for a while? Even just a little fly around would have been nice. – Why? They’d flown over a good chunk of the planet and this was the first non natural structure they’d encountered.  I’d be off that ship as fast as humanly possible.

3.    What exactly are the holograms for? David starts one in the caves and another on the Space Jockey deck, but who are they for? They’re useful for him and us, but who made them? They could be some kind of ship’s log, but if so couldn’t someone have said that in one line of dialogue? – This movie had a lot of unanswered questions… things which needed to appear or occur in a certain way but there weren’t easy answers for how or why (like the biggest question: why do you want to kill Earth? More on that down below). Personally I prefer it when things aren’t answered. I could come up with a half dozen reasons why such a thing exists–a system triggered by motion detectors which records certain events so that the next person can see what was going on at the time. But it’s an alien planet with alien technology–I’d rather not know or guess.

4.    When Shaw, Holloway, David and Ford flee the caves, outside there’s two go-karts and a minibus. Two get on each of the karts, and no-one gets into the bus, yet they all drive off (at the time we assume Fifield and Millburn are in there). Who is driving it? You could argue that there’s a nameless crew member that stayed behind as a driver, and headed off to avoid the storm slightly too early for the others to get in, but there’s no proof of this. – Can’t answer this because I wasn’t counting. I was surprised later at how much crew was on the ship though which I hadn’t noticed before. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was someone who’d been left behind on the bus thing.

5.    Once David has rescued Shaw and Holloway, Janek mentions they don’t know where Fifield and Millburn are, but there’s a map showing their position! He uses it in the next scene. Plus, Janek seems pretty lackadaisical about two members of the crew being stranded on an alien planet. He practically says LOL. Also, how convenient is it that everyone has a surname beginning with a different letter? – They were coming in at the height of the storm, so I figured that the map wasn’t working due to the storm cutting out the signal.  It doesn’t work until the first surge passes.

6.    Why does David cave in to Vickers’ threats? He’s a robot, there’s not a lot she could do to him. – He’s not metal. Robots in this universe are a little squishier and he may be programmed to not defend himself against her.

7.    Millburn the biologist is supposedly cowardly, as he is easily convinced by Fifield to run away at the site of a decapitated body (understandable), and later when he hears there’s a lifeform somewhere nearby, he says he’s heading in the opposite direction. So why, when he and Fifield go to the vase chamber, does he suddenly want to make friends with the alien there? He can’t even see the entire creature, so for all he knows it’s some giant beasty with a strange proboscis. Why did they even decide to stay in the cave full of weird bubbling vases anyway? It’s the exact room, with the dead decapitated body outside of it, that they ran away from earlier. – Unseen threats are a lot scarier than those in front of you. He’d estimated the length of the creature in a transmission based on its movement so he clearly doesn’t find it large enough to be threatening. And when you see it wrapped around his arm, it’s clearly  not very  large. It’s just unusually strong. The only real reason to be afraid of it is because it’s in an Alien franchise movie… but the characters don’t know that.

8.    Millburn and Fifield die when no-one is watching the monitors, because Vickers and Janek are getting it on in her quarters, right? Firstly, how come Janek didn’t order someone else to watch the monitors, and secondly, even if no-one was there, don’t these guys have TiVo? Just rewind the feed and see what happened. We have it in 2012; I’m guessing it’s still around in 2094. – Why would someone need to watch the monitors? I think the ship pretty much runs itself and the only reason Janek was in the room was boredom.  And yes, TiVo exists now.. but I seriously doubt it’s on ships now recording all transmissions as they occur. Could be wrong though.

9.    Why did Janek, the captain and pilot of the ship, go to investigate the disappearance of Millburn and Fifield? Surely he’s pretty integral to the running of the ship. -I disagree–I think the ship pretty much runs itself.  They’re not in a threat situation and he probably left someone just below him in charge.

10. What exactly was David’s plan with the black goo? He gave some to Holloway in his drink; did he know he would have sex with Shaw and impregnate her with an alien? If so, why did he do that too? Was he curious, or trying to kill Holloway? Why? – I think he was expecting Holloway to turn into an Engineer. Or change genetically for the better–he was looking for something to help Weyland. The black goo was all he had.

11. Why did the infected Fifield come back to the ship to try and kill everyone? He was the one character I really wanted to die, and he’s the only one who came back to life! Typical. I thought Millburn would have come back with a chest-burster in him, seeing as an alien went down his throat and Fifield had his face melted with acid. Also, why did they go out and investigate Fifield’s clearly dead body (the helmet is smashed with a deadly atmosphere, and his legs are bent over his shoulders) seeing as there’s no way he could have just turned up there on his own, being dead and all. – Again, they’re not a in a threat situation (that they know of). A body has suddenly turned up at their doorstep, of course they go out to investigate.

12. Why does David tell Shaw she is pregnant? If he wanted an alien specimen, surely telling her will just make her try and abort it, and if he wanted to kill her, then not telling her will result in the alien bursting through her stomach and killing her that way. Being pregnant with a baby alien was probably the last thing she was expecting, especially seeing as she was barren and had only had sex 10 hours ago and not before for 28 months. – Why wouldn’t he tell her? He probably assumed she was pregnant before the ship left. If not (because he’d been monitoring her during stasis), didn’t he tell her as a way to get her to admit having intimate relations with Holloway? Also, he tried to prevent her from aborting it. Just not very well.

13. After she wakes up from being sedated by David, Shaw finds it pretty easy to escape from the medics and run to Vickers’ quarters with no-one chasing her. No-one comes for the entire time she is in there. – Yeah, this made no sense to me either. In general I liked the surgery scene for its intensity, but from the moment she wakes up when David is examining her to when she goes with Weyland to see the Engineer, everything was very, very weak.

14. After the impromptu caesarean I could have done with a scene of Shaw breaking down from the intensity of what she’d just gone through. In the past few hours she’d lost her husband, found out she was pregnant when she thought she was barren, discovered the ‘child’ was in fact a killer alien, had a caesarean whilst fully awake and watching it, had the cut literally stapled shut and then fought the creature that had just gestated inside her. I’d say that warrants a little exasperation. – Having been through a couple of traumatic/intense situations I can attest that continuing to move and do things is the best way to prevent breaking down. Because breaking down is the opposite of what you want to do because you can’t process it at the time.

15. Did I miss a scene where everyone on board found out about, and was cool with, Peter Weyland being on board the ship? After Shaw’s surgery the rest of the crew seems OK with him being there. It was pretty damn obvious he was going to be onboard too, seeing Guy Pearce was highly billed in the opening credits. Stop doing that kind of thing. And making Vickers his daughter is pointless, unsurprising and ridiculous. – Why would they care? He’s just the financier. It’s his ship. Who cares if he decided to come along?

16. Ripping David the android’s head off is a nice nod to Ash’s fate in Alien, but is it possible for a robot to survive one of these films? Please? – Well, not to be nitpicky, but technically he did survive. And she also lowered his body to the ground so I guess she’s planning on reattaching it eventually.

17. When Vickers and Shaw are running from the crashing spaceship, why in the name of LV426 do they not run sideways? I hate when films do this. There’s something rolling behind you in a relatively straight line, so instead of getting out of the way you decide to race it. Insane. Shaw only survives because she trips and rolls out the way. I did like that the last two alive were the two main women, just like in Alien, and similarly the blonde dies and the brunette survives. – Because people are stupid. I also think it may have to do with being unable to tell which direction is the best way to really run so you just keep going in the first direction you start out in which is simply ‘away’.

18. Shaw’s air supply is supposedly running out at the end of the film, yet she’s barely been away from the ship. Earlier, Fifield and Millburn were away for longer, and were expected to survive overnight when they got stranded. Yes, they were in the chambers with breathable atmosphere, but they had to keep their helmets up because it was going to get cold, so they must have had to survive on their own air supplies. -Your Surface Air Consumption Rate increases dramatically when stressed, injured, or running for your life from an alien ship about to crash on top of you. Anyone who cave dives can tell you that.

19. The alien that Shaw had aborted grows pretty fucking huge seeing as it’s had no organic matter to feed on other than a little blood Shaw left behind. -Well, that’s not entirely true. The alien had clearly been loose in the pod for a time and there’s a 2 year supply of food and water in the pod separate from the ship. On another note, the aliens in this universe just grow up ridiculously quickly without a biological reason for it

20. At the end, Shaw is told that there are other ships. Does she check them all for surviving Engineers, or just leave in the first ship she finds? I’d have much preferred that the final shot be of her silhouette, with an axe in one hand and David decapitated head in the other, heading off to take out the surviving aliens. -I like your idea. But I guess she headed for the first ship she found and assumed all others were dead. Also, Engineers on this planet were from the time they decided to kill Earth. Going to her home planet, she may find Engineers who are less ‘LET ME KILL YOU!’ on first sight.

Okay and at this point the author posted more plot holes from comments but I’ll lay off answering those except for a few:

Pod being calibrated for men: Actually I thought this was a beautiful subtlety. In one of my Women’s Studies classes we talked about how for a long time most medical studies were for men only even though the drugs or whatever were given to men and women. The reason was that women have things like menstrual and hormonal cycles and it made the studies too complicated–ignoring the fact of course that those hormonal cycles may make the drug react differently in women which really makes the separate study necessary. I also think the pod is only calibrated for men in the sense that the auto surgeries were for men–so anything specific for women needs to be manual. The machine can probably differentiate between the sexes, it just only has things like Vasectomy or whatever on speed dial.

Co-pilots killing themselves: I thought that was just a sign of camaraderie. Plus spending 2 years with the Queen Bitch may not have sounded like a great option.

Engineer no helmet: The atmosphere is toxic to humans only because of the Carbon Dioxide. It’s perfectly possible to breathe it for a few minutes and not die (line from beginning of movie as they state the atmosphere’s gases). Same must be true of the engineers.

Why did the map lead them to military installation: We assume (because the characters assume) that the map was a guide from the aliens, AND that the planet is the planet they were referring to in the map.  Except it’s perfectly possible that the aliens were referring to the military installation as the place that those aliens came from OR that the installation planet isn’t the only planet which can be found using that map.  Also, the alien head was 2000 years old. Some of the maps are 35,000 years old (or was it just 5,000? I heard both I think). Anyway, that might be enough of a time gap for things to get a little wonky.

Earth Hologram: It looked like Earth from 2,000 years ago… which was when the hologram was made.

My brother has a theory about that last scene with David, the engineer, etc. He thinks the Engineer went nuts because David grabbed him. He’s also not entirely convinced that the Engineer was heading to Earth to kill it–he may have just been looking for a nice place to live.

The movie flat out did not answer a lot of the questions it initially raised, and raised many more questions at the end. But I really liked that about it. As I said earlier, for me the movie was about David–trying to be human, but not too human. Trying to help his father but at the same time hoping his father would die. He’s clearly drawn to Shaw–he finds her to be a kindred spirit as they’re both searching for answers.

The intensity of the movie was in knowing that it’s an Alien film. It’s wondering when the face huggers are going to appear, or when we’ll get a chest burst. A shiver went down my spine when David walked through the ship and we knew it was the same type of ship.  When the Engineer sat in his Captain’s chair and we *knew* that chair. I loved that this movie was *not* the lead in for Alien. It was some other ship–where things had gone terribly wrong and the quarantine beacon had gone out.  But this was the true origin of the Alien. And I was happy.

In other words, I loved the movie.  It was a different kind of Alien movie–a different pace and focus. Flawed in many ways, but still exactly what I wanted it to be.

What Not to Do

Writer sells story.  Editor violates story. Writer is angry.  Publisher behaves insanely.

Editing is a skill.  Good editors do suggest changes to improve the flow of the text. I don’t know what the original story looked like, so I can’t definitively say that changing the gender of a character or adding creepy, sexualized animal abuse *didn’t* improve the story, but based on the fact that they inserted a grammar mistake in the title twice (once in the TOC, once on the title page), I’m going to give the author the edge here.

Also, if you’re going to accuse a writer of being unstable and writing so roughly it’s unfit for professional publication, maybe you should make sure that your email isn’t riddled with typos.

In my view, you really shouldn’t submit to for-the-love markets absent extraordinary circumstances.  When I started submitting my work I decided I wasn’t going to submit to semi-pro markets until I had a pro publication.  My reasoning was that if I couldn’t write a story which could get me into a SFWA market, I didn’t have any business publishing yet. The side advantage is you don’t deal with new, upstart publications with more unusual definitions of ‘edit’ until you’ve been around long enough to sort the good from the not so good.

The Greatest Writing Advice You Will Ever Receive Anywhere Ever. For Serious.

A writing forum I frequent started a thread on unhelpful writing advice. Writers like these types of discussions because we have all received bad advice from time to time and now that we know that it’s bad advice, we like to point and laugh at all the silly rules. I’m starting to wonder now though if all the bad advice was really the best advice because it’s through the bad advice that we figure out that no one knows what the fuck he or she is talking about. To that end, I present to you the greatest writing advice you will ever, EVER receive:

1.  Never start a sentence with a conjunction. You should also try to avoid other little words like or, the, a, I, we, they.. in fact don’t start with a word which is less than five letters long. You should also try to stick with nouns.  Explosions is a good word to start a sentence.  See how long it is, and exciting.

2. Character names should be memorable so avoid common names like John or Mary.  But you should also avoid names which are *too* memorable like Ishmael.  If you have a character named Jasmine her friend should have a name with fewer syllables which starts with a different letter, preferably a vowel like ‘Ann.’  The same goes with Jasmine’s boyfriend who should be called ‘Oliver’ who, based on the same rules, should have a friend named ‘Victor.’  In fact you should probably plan out all these names before writing the story so you know the entire cast of characters you’ll be dealing with down to the gas station attendant Maximillian and his wife Una whose names would be unknown to the reader completely if not for your clever way of having a character read their name off the nametag silently to themselves to show how deep and introspective you they are.

3. Have a memorable signature.

4. Don’t write in first person. It’s dead.

5. Also dead: present tense, adverbs, adjectives which don’t engage the senses, disco, fishmongering, third person omniscient point of view, space elevators, second person, nice little girls who turn out to be evil, mean little girls who turn out to be nice, kids playing in a field and discovering the ancient sword of the once and future king, ebay, the internet, traditional publishing, self publishing, and sarcasm.

6. Commas are like elephants,

7. If you can’t write a decent first draft in one sitting, well, maybe writing just isn’t for you.

8. Always know the end before you write the beginning.

9. You don’t need an outline. Sometimes the best ideas come ‘organically’ from the text. Kindof like how the best coffee has the label ‘organic’ right there on the bag.

10. The opening paragraph of your story should really grab the reader. Like, imagine the reader is a person on the subway platform and your story is the psychic Starbucks barista who is about to take the train home when suddenly she has a vision and she knows anyone who gets on that train is going to die and she needs to tell that anonymous subway platform individual that he NEEDS TO TAKE THE NEXT TRAIN OR HE WILL MISS HIS SON’S BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

11. The opening paragraph should also answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, how, how long, to what extent, why not, wherefore, why is this significant, who is John Galt, do you agree that, how would you classify, is that you, Bob?

12. Your characters should be so expertly drawn that they are the ones that decide what it is that they want to do and say. You should indulge them. They are your children after all.

13. “Don’t allow your character to remain inactive for more than 2 hours.” –Gareth Jones

14. Writing is writing. And also revising and rewriting. And rewriting is writing with a writer’s eye towards restitution. Editing is still editing except when it’s copy-editing which is like copy writing without caffeine.

15. Use the following formula to determine the optimal number of words you should be writing every day:

Words in WIP                     | 2x – 64 |

__________    x    _______________

Hours in Day             Words written in WIP

Where x = number of professional markets from which you have collected more than two rejections.

16. You should avoid reading as much as possible in order to avoid accusations of copyright infringement.

17. You should only read things in the genre you wish to write in so that you can become familiar with the tropes and not accidentally confuse your epic fantasy readers with a grizzled cop mourning the loss of his partner.

18. You should read outside your genre as much as possible because reading is good for you.

19. You should only read stuff which was published 50 years ago because anything old is ‘classic’ and therefore better than anything which has come out since. Don’t worry if this results in stories which emulate old fashioned ideas about sex, race, equality and other irrelevant things.  It was called the golden age for a reason, right?

20. You should make your stories as long as possible since most markets pay by the word and that means you’ll get a bigger check.

21. When a critique group says it’s too long, what they really mean is it’s too short because you haven’t spent the time to make them really care about the character and they lose interest. Thus you should get into the habit of doing the opposite of what people suggest. If they say it’s too short, make it shorter. If they say it’s too confusing, put in footnotes to all the academic articles from which you cobbled together your explanation of faster than light cloning time travel elevator technology. If they say it’s bad, they probably mean they don’t want you to submit it because you are the competition after all.

22. A lot of people say that writing is a job and you should treat it like one. This is untrue. Writing is more like an unpaid internship in a really non-prestigious field where you’re subjected to a hostile work environment filled with narcissists, misogynists, racists, and other people of a loud and uncouth manner. And if you don’t love every minute of it, clearly you are DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

23. You should maintain an active online presence even if it cuts into your writing time.  Everyone knows that name recognition is the single biggest factor when it comes to buying something. This is called marketing and a lot of people get paid a lot of money to do that in other fields.

24. Everyone remembers what you wore to that convention that one time. Everyone.

25. Be an asshole. Everyone respects an asshole.

26. Show, don’t tell. Except when you need to tell, don’t show. You know webcomics? Writing a novel is exactly like that, so you should go watch television and see what other facets of the visual medium you can incorporate into your art. Also, learn to draw. An illustrated version of your story is a great way to get an editor’s attention in the cover letter.

27. If you don’t know, make it up. Research is for non-fiction.

28. If someone tries to tell you that what you wrote was offensive in some way, you can ignore the criticism and win the argument instantly by claiming it’s all subjective.

29. Never ever ever ever ever ever ever under any circumstances use a word other than ‘said’ to describe dialog.

30. No word should repeat more than 5 times in a single page. Zero exceptions.

31. If it doesn’t rhyme, then it’s not a poem.

32. Rules are stupid and you shouldn’t follow any of them.

Wow, I could go on like this all day but I have an exam in the morning so I leave it to you to add your favorite bits of writerly wisdom in the comments.