Monthly Archives: December 2012

Relevant Thoughts From a Visual Artist

On the heels of my previous post comes this succinct bit of wisdom from webcomic artist Aaron Diaz of the comic Dresden Codak.


Making the Unseen Seen

I have a lot of opinions (surprise!) about a great many things.  Cheesesteaks, for example, or how so few people on the west coast seem to know what the word hoagie means or what does and does not constitute steampunk in the realm of fiction.  It should not be a shock, therefore, that I have opinions on H. P. Lovecraft and by extension Lovecraftian fiction and (Cthulhu) Mythos stories.

On a recent visit to a local bookshop, I ran across The Lovecraft Anthology: Volume 1, a collection of Lovecraft’s stories as interpreted by various comic book artists and writers.  Now I’m all for a well-illustrated weird tale–I absolutely love Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics, which I find to be a perfect blend of compelling characters, interesting storytelling, and perfectly atmospheric art–but something just felt a bit off to me about this collection.  While a picture may be worth a thousand words, there are some words that a picture just can’t capture.  This, I’ve found, is the case with Lovecraft’s stories.  So much of the horror in Lovecraft’s fiction stems from what the audience cannot see, and to attempt to capture those things with pictures seems like it would diminish the impact to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the story).

This is the part where I confess that I only leafed through the book, rather than giving it a thorough read, even for a single story.  I did look through the table of contents, and I was happy to see that they hadn’t touched some of my favorite stories, though I suppose that that does deny me the opportunity to complain about their ruining something I like.  On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that they would do a good job–lots of things are possible.

In the end, the thing I most object to in this collection is the same thing that annoys me about many of the movie adaptations of books that are out there–the pictures that other people are showing me are the ones that they have in their heads, and those don’t always mesh with what I’ve imagined.  I find this especially problematic in the context of Lovecraftian horror because static pictures of monsters don’t scare me that often, and in a graphic story, pictures are, by definition, the main way that information is conveyed.

Howard Tayler, in a recent episode of Writing Excuses on the subject of death, related how, when he draws a character’s death in Schlock Mercenary, he usually draws that part of the scene in silhouette, which allows the readers to fill in the details of the death, making the event that much more graphic.  Lovecraft, when writing about the monsters in some of his stories, does the same things with his language, using words to outline the monster and making his readers fill in the details with their minds.  While this technique may retain some of the impact of Lovecraft’s original words, I still think that something gets lost in the translation to a graphic story.  You cannot draw the unseen, and unless you want to fill your comic with walls of text (which you don’t), it’s difficult to convey the unseen effectively.

For all that I’ve written up to this point, I don’t think that this collection, or its sequel, are bad.  For many who are already fans of Lovecraft’s work, they could be a nice companion and a glimpse into what Lovecraft’s stories mean to the various artists featured.  These collections could also serve as a good gateway drug for those who may have previously found Lovecraft’s (rather dense) text to be inaccessible, and hopefully some percentage of the previously uninitiated will go on to read Lovecraft’s stories as they were first introduced to the world.

An Anniversary, a Milestone, and Important News

This month marks three years of Urban Phantasy, and this post is number 100.  Neat, right?  There have been some changes here, and a lot of changes for me since I started writing on this blog.  I started out writing here as an assignment in one of my classes at college during my Junior year, and I’ve kept it up semi-regularly since then largely as a challenge to myself.  In that time, I’ve graduated from college and moved twice, the second time going clear across the country.

I had some ideas for what to devote my 100th post to, and I will get to those, but then I learned that Duotrope’s Digest is going to a subscription model in 2013.  You can read the full announcement straight from the source right here.

I was first told about Duotrope about four years ago and have been using them ever since.  In fact, I was told about the site by the same professor who taught the class where I started this blog.  (You can follow her blog here.)  It’s a valuable resource to writers of fiction, poetry, and, as of this past year, non-fiction, offering a searchable database of thousands of writing markets.  More valuable than that, though, is their submissions tracker, which does what it sounds like, but also offers statistics on acceptances, rejections, re-write requests, and response times for every market.  Since the website was launched, all of these services were offered for free and without ads, though there was a donation button, and every page showed information about how the site’s operating budget was doing for the month.  In all the time that I’ve been a Duotrope user, I don’t think the site’s ever been in the black.

If this were a perfect world, everyone with the means would donate based on what Duotrope was worth to them.  I’ve always donated when I felt I could, and I’ve donated more regularly since I got a steady job, but I’m in a very small minority of Duotrope users who do actually donate.  It’s like public radio, only without Carl Kasell.

How do I feel about this?  Mixed.  As a writer, I’ve come to rely on Duotrope’s Digest–it’s a modern-day version of Writer’s Digest that I can access from anywhere–and it’s something that I can easily fit into my budget.  For a year’s access to all of the site’s features, it’s $50, or if you want to go monthly, it’s $5/month–a few dollars more a month than a subscription to Clarkesworld.  That’s something I don’t even feel the need to justify over the course of a year.  At the same time, I do worry that going to a subscription model could hurt the service–part of the strength of Duotrope is its huge user-base, all of whom help to improve the statistics available.  By excluding people who aren’t willing to pay, the statistics are likely to get skewed somewhat, though I don’t know in which direction.  (As Duotrope already notes, rejections are under-reported, so the statistics for most markets skew towards acceptances.)

Whatever the effect is on Duotrope’s user-base, I’m glad that they’re making a move that will allow them to survive financially.  Whether or not every current user decides to subscribe, I think it’s good that this move will make people ask themselves what this service is worth to them, and that’s a question that should be asked more often, whether the service in question is Duotrope’s Digest or Google or anything else that we too-often take for granted.

Remember, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

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