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March 26, 2018

A Writer’s Hubris

It was a coin flip between putting “Writer’s” in quotes or not, given that the same qualifier could be applied to me.  But there are times when I like to pretend I have some shred of legitimacy, and this is one of them.  Now watch closely as I proceed to rip that legitimacy into thousands of tiny pieces.

Such is my way.   Take heed of it -- of the aesthetics of justice.

So a funny thing has happened recently in terms of this blog and making posts for it.  It’s not as if I have writer’s block.  It’s the opposite, actually; I can think of many posts, at this very moment, that I could stand to get written.  This was almost a post on Fortnite, for example.  I feel like I can’t rest until I face the looming behemoth that is Sword Art Online, but I’m debating whether I should actually watch the anime (*assorted gagging noises*), grab the recently-released Fatal Bullet to create my gun-toting waifu get a glimpse from a safe distance, or just BSing my way through via cultural osmosis.  Beyond that?  There’s still that project I need to roll out.  Decisions, decisions.

Either way, this slot in the schedule/docket was supposed to be a short, one-off post to try and provide some breathing room.  The next discussion topic is going to be a big one, but I’m hot off of multiple ramblings on Black Panther.  I’d like to have chasers between those posts, both for my sake and for the readers’ (AHAHAHAHAHAHA like I have readers).  But even if I do, there’s no avoiding the three battles I’ve got upcoming.

Of those three, Kamen Rider Ex-Aid is probably going to be the first one to finish up (mostly because Part 1’s been hanging around for months).  But of those three?  If I had to rank them in terms of which I enjoyed most -- not in terms of objective quality, I must stress -- it would go Yu-Gi-Oh ARC-V > Ex-Aid > Xenoblade Chronicles 2.  The first of the three reignited my passion for the franchise, and now I’m fighting the urge to dive into CARD GAMES ON MOTORCYCLES.  The second has confirmed that one of my favorite franchises (warts and all) is still going strong in spite of itself.  The third?  Disappointed.avi.  Let’s leave it at that for now.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  None of them are perfect -- least of all because they’re a grim reminder of how entrenched I am in nerd culture, doomed to drown in the swirling, putrid morass.  While each one has its share of strong suits, even a nerd like me can’t overlook faults and issues -- especially since some of them are severe.  And because I’m a nerd, and a would-be writing hero, my mind keeps jumping around.  I can’t help but imagine different scenarios that, in my mind, would at least stand a chance of getting rid of some of those glaring faults.

TV Tropes calls it a “Fix Fic”.  Granted I’m doing it on a microcosmic level, so I’m not that deep in.  Nerdy as I am, I’ve got nothing in terms of fanfic expertise.  Except for that one time when I used PowerPoint and a bunch of art/sprites from the Mega Man games to jury rig a “story” together.  It was about as good as you’d expect from an 11-year-old.

Given the chance, I can see ways to make changes to each story’s canon -- alterations I can sum up in a sentence or two, but elaborate on both the reasoning behind it and the intended effect.  It’s a prospect that leaves me licking my lips in anticipation -- because while it does make me slightly more likely to dislike a story for not following through on what I envision, it also gives me a chance to follow through on phantom, alternate paths.  I can see the code, and now I’m using it to reprogram the world itself.

Here’s the dilemma I have, though: who the hell do I think I am?  Who or what gave me the right to question, if not outright dismantle, the accepted, canon work of the professionals?  Isn’t it the height of hubris to assume that you, by which I mean I (I.e. some no-name writer with nothing to his name but “hopes” and “dreams”), can do better than what the soldiers in the entertainment industry can provide if the price is right?

It actually reminds me of that manga Bakuman  -- from the creators of Death Note, the cover is quick to note.  Before the two leads can actually start making the manga that’ll catapult them to stardom, they go over what it takes to be a successful mangaka.  Since the main character’s uncle was actually a pro, he has an account that can’t be found in any self-help books.  What did his uncle tell him?  Conceit is absolutely necessary.  Also luck.  Especially luck in the context of Bakuman.  And also real life.  Life imitates art, after all.

In any case, I can buy into it.  The whole premise of becoming a writer, whether it’s on the bottom rungs of popularity or firmly rooted in a throne begging for some blessed liege to carve ass grooves into its cushion, is based on conceit.  In order for Little Jimmy Xbox to become a writer, the first step is to believe that he has what it takes -- that his skills, creativity, and ambition are so top-tier that he thinks he’s earned the right.  That he deserves to have his stories read, his compensation offered, and his name sung by choruses in heaven and earth.

These days, I sympathize with Little Jimmy Xbox more and more.  I’m increasingly aware of my conceit and hubris, whether it’s with my writing projects (all written up, so it’s rejection submission time) or just putting together posts for this blog.  Though I guess in my case, it’s even worse.  My brother even called me out on this at one point; what right do I have to complain about the problems with a movie when the most complete, complex film I’ve ever made was with PowerPoint slides, Windows Movie Maker, and a ridiculous amount of patience?  (Also, wow, I get a lot of mileage out of PowerPoint.)

My counterargument was, and still is, that you don’t need to be a filmmaker to be able to criticize a film.  A basic understanding along with a fair amount of introspection can offer up at least something worthwhile.  But the counter to the counter is that there’s a divide between the pros and the amateurs.  Assuming that their work is up to snuff, they’re a lot harder to take down a peg.

But maybe that right there is the clincher -- and the only shot I’ll have at getting a good night’s sleep for the rest of my life…relative to how often my dogs opt to wake me up in the midst of a pitch-black morn.

I’ve taken shots at all sorts of games, TV shows, movies, and the like since I started this blog.  Not so much the people behind them if I can help it, though there’s some overlap.  (Companies are fair game, though, so Squeenix beware.)  And while I’ve clearly drawn my battle lines, let’s not pretend otherwise: there’s stuff out there that’s genuinely bad.  Whether it’s with entire productions or just elements in the midst -- characters, events, endings, themes, subtext, what have you -- there’s more than enough justification for a person -- even a nobody -- to stand up and shout “No, that’s wrong!”  Authority is no substitute for quality, be it objective or subjective.

That’s what I tend to do.  And because I’m the sort that would rather put up or shut up, the onus is on me to provide something more than just impotent screams of “this is stupid and I hate it”.  Evidence, reasoning, and a glimpse into my thought process usually see me through, but in some rare and special cases, I get to provide alternative scenarios.  As a wannabe writer, there’s no way I can put others’ feet to the fire without doing the same for myself -- or, in other words, providing a solution to a problem instead of pointing out a problem and leaving it at that.

And if you don’t mind me saying?  I actually enjoy coming up with those alternate scenarios.  It’s fun.  It gets me amped up like no other.

It’s probably as close as I’ll ever get to writing a fanfic.  But for sure, the prospect of coming up with alternate paths and endings for the stuff I take in is always an interesting exercise for me and my brain.  How well do I understand the canon?  What would it take to resolve the issues that have cropped up?  What would I do differently, given the chance?  It’s not as if my revisions will ever matter or see the light of day.  

And of course, because all I have to do is dream up and type out what I imagine, that puts my credibility at an immediate low point.  Millions of dollars and hundreds of man-hours go into the production of this stuff, so it’s a safe bet that the crews are working within their means and with the resources available.  I don’t have to deal with that, so “impractical” might as well be tattooed on my forehead.  On the other hand, not having those physical or financial limits is just as liberating as the prospect.

Writing, storytelling, and everything in between -- they’re all representations of freedom, and the infinite possibilities provided by even a shred of creativity.  I don’t blame anyone for wanting to get in on that, because doing so on my terms is pretty much how I’ll prove I have the right to exist.  What can I do with the work of others?  What can I do with my work?  The specifics may vary, but the individual answer will always boil down to the same thing: whatever you want.  It all depends on your skill.

I think, then, that a writer’s hubris is necessary, justified, and even admirable.  It’s pretty hard to deny that it makes said writer (pro or amateur) seem like a colossal ass, but the end justifies the means.  Going all in with any story, self-made or borrowed, is how impassioned artists take hold of infinity.  Is it any wonder that there are people out there -- including me -- who think they’re worthy of sticking out their hand?

Hubris in anything else?  Not so great.  Hubris in the world of fiction?  Go full throttle.

The world is yours.

And that’ll do it for now.  See you next --

Wait, no, I changed my mind.  I wanna start watching Yu-Gi-Oh ZEXAL.  I’ve heard some unkind things about it, but the same happened (somewhat, and still happens) with ARC-V.  So I might as well dive in, least of all because I have a blooming appreciation of XYZ Summoning.  I don’t know, there’s something strangely exciting about seeing these guys “build the Overlay Network” by spontaneously creating a swirling galaxy.  I mean, it’s no Pendulum Summoning, but it’ll do in a pinch.



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