Friday, August 29, 2014

Setting The Mood

Having to do with yesterday's post, here's a little something else.

Basically, everyone knows how much I like to set music to what I write. The Mythic Age is no different. Basically, it's fantasy with a rock edge. To that end, I've put together some playlists of the music I'm listening to while I write.

Please, enjoy, and show some support to these artists, who do such an amazing job. They deserve tons of acclaim for being awesome.

There are two, because my original book one is too big, and will be the first two books. Rewrites are fun, aren't they?

War Witch: Rise

War Witch: Blight

Rocking out while writing a fantasy novel. I do things my own weird little ways, I know.

See ya soon!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

While I've Been Away

So, I think we've firmly established that I am not the most reliable of people to have a blog. Which is good. In a way. Mostly because I often have no idea what I want to talk about, so rather than ramble nonsensically, I just say nothing.

That aside, I have actually been up to stuff while I've been neglecting this. I read and reviewed my buddy Michael G. Munz's book, Zeus Is Dead, which if you haven't read yet, you should. It's funny as hell, and has a really cool plot. I've also read another friends book, Cairn Rodrigues' The Last Prospector, and the sequel she was kind enough to let me get into ahead of time, Travelers & Tramps. If you've not already done so, I highly recommend The Last Prospector. She weaves a beautiful, wonderful world, that I love dearly, and hope all of you will take the time to visit.

Though she didn't intend it, she also coaxed me into revisiting my own fantasy world, The Mythic Age. I've talked about it a lot in previous blog entries, and while I'd love to say the second Divine Agents book is going to be coming soon, it really isn't. In fact, I'm planning to pull the first one, so I can rework it a bit, and re-release it later, better than it is now.

Yes, I'm still working on the fourth Bunnypoclypse book. It's coming. Bunny isn't going to get sidelined. She'd never allow it.

What I've been doing the last few months is revisiting the series that was originally meant to precede the Divine Agents books, War Witch. Set 30 years prior to the Divine Agents series, it was what I had planned to introduce the world of The Mythic Age with, as it gives a much better view than the DA books ever could. Where they are anthologies, War Witch is an actual series, following the same characters, and because the world of TMA is a consistent one, effects the DA books.

I started War Witch not long after I originally conceived the idea of The Mythic Age, and planned to write it as a series of novellas that followed the adventures of two women on a quest to find and stop a very evil man. This was about 17 years ago, and I've grown a lot as a writer since then, so the initial draft of the series is clunky, filled with plot holes, and has the characters acting in very strange ways as the plot demands.

Still, I love the story itself, and have been writing an entirely new draft. Book 1 is pretty much done at this point, with just the final edits needed to make it less obvious I can't type to save my life. I can't, either. It's shameful, I know, but there it is. The overall feel of the story is much improved as well. I've rid it of the gaping plot holes that filled the original, but more importantly, I've largely tossed out the idea of the plot being central. This has allowed me to make the characters the centerpiece of the story, which is what I wanted to do to begin with, I just didn't have the skill as a writer to pull it off back then.

Basically, and this will only make sense to anyone familiar already with the basic concept of The Mythic Age, the plot revolves around a woman who was taken to live with the Gods after her village was wiped out by Demon Seed. Now a skilled warrior, and a Blessed of the High Gods, she has returned to hunt down the Dark Blessed who lead the attack, and exact justice for his crimes. Joining her in her quest is the other main character, a young woman from a tiny farming community, who wants to get out, see the world, and experience something more than getting married off to the butcher's son.

What's important about this is that both of the leading characters are women. Very different women. While the warrior is struggling to come to terms with life back among mortals, and her quest, the other is facing her own naivety, and trying to find her path in life, now that she gets to chose it for herself. Neither of them, though, are aware they are getting swept into events far bigger than either of them.

As I've been rewriting the first book, I've gotten to really kind of push the main plot into the background, and spend a lot of time focusing on the characters, which is where the real story happens. Their growth, their relationship, and how the events they are a part of shape and change them. How they relate to others around them, the mistakes they make, and how they deal with them. This, I've learned, is the real story, the one I always wanted to tell.

As I said, the important thing is that the leads are both women, a seriously under represented group in fantasy fiction, especially. Usually cast as the love interest or damsel to be rescued, the woman in TMA don't have time for that sort of thing. They got shit to do. Usually fighting the Demon Seed. Which both of these ladies do extremely well.

That's one of the things about TMA that keeps bringing me back to it, though. While the young woman from the tiny village is faced with societal expectations that are familiar, once she steps out into the bigger world, she realizes just how backwards her home town is. Women in TMA are every bit the ass kickers the men are, and no one bats an eye at it. That's just how things are in their world, and you never hear anyone make a snide comment about a girl with a sword.

Odds are, if that woman has that sword, she knows what to do with it, and you best be careful.

It's a more fair and equal world in that sense, and a number of others. Much as how women are treated as equals, so are people of color, and homosexuals. Actually, homosexual is a word that never appears in any TMA fiction, because it isn't a word they know. The standard sexual orientation of TMA is bi-sexual. Which isn't to say that there aren't those who veer one way or the other, since there are, it's just that nobody thinks anything of it. That's just how the world is.

Two of my favorite new additions to the cast in the rewrites are both women of color who happen to prefer other women as lovers. One because she's hysterically funny and has a pile of sentient trash for a pet, the other because she's a bad ass mother fucker who beats the bad guys down with fists that are literally wreathed in fire. She's a Blessed of Hepheron, so that's normal, and she's a skilled martial artist. And an Elf. Because I dislike stereotypes.

I've mentioned that I dislike stereotypes before, haven't I? Though so.

Now, all of this, so far, is based in my intention to show women as leading characters, strong, capable, bad ass fighters, and competent people. What I won't do, though, is render them as feminine versions of square jawed hero types who mow down hordes of enemies without a thought. These are people, and the story is about them. They don't always win easily. They get beaten up. They suffer losses. They have weak moments. They cry, grieve, and get back up to fight again, because they must. They are people. They are capable of experiencing a wide range of emotions.

Growth is especially hard for the young woman from the small town. She struggles to make the right choices, and often fails, finding herself forced to live with the consequences. The story is as much about her as it is the warrior. Not to give away too many plot points here, but she, more than any character, faces hardship, adversity, and the very real difficulties of being a woman living in a world where evil is literal, real, and out to get you.

Because, again, there are things I want to talk about. I've said this before, with Bunny, and I'll say it again here. There are real world issues that we can bring to the forefront using fiction, and I am a big supporter of women's issues. There are things, ugly, harsh things, I will talk about in this series. Nothing will be fixed with a hug, a good cry, a solid talk from a male authority figure, or gotten over in a couple of chapters. That's not how real life works, and with story turning to be focused so heavily on their lives, I feel strongly that this is an opportunity to address things that especially fantasy fiction often glazes over.

Obviously, I'm not a woman. Duh. I know that. However, Storm is, and she is very much my second pen in this tale. Her opinion is asked over many, many things. She has helped immensely in directing the story, and the characters. She knows how women are treated, because she is one, and if I'm going to use fantasy fiction to tackle big subjects about women, I'm going to ask a woman's advice. Probably several before this book sees print.

Now, admittedly, while it was Cairn's lovely world that inspired me return to not just The Mythic Age, but War Witch in particular, it's my favorite website on the internet that has inspired me to stand up and deal with the problems that I plan to address in this series. The Mary Sue, a place I spend a ridiculous amount of time anymore, is possibly the first website where I feel not only comfortable visiting and participating in the comments section, but straight up welcome.

I've mentioned in the past how I was always uncomfortable with being told I needed to act Manly. The ways it bothered me, chafed, and often, straight up repulsed me. It comes as no surprise, then, that the place I feel most welcome on the internet is a site dedicated to predominately girl geek culture. More than that, however, is the frank and honest way they discuss things, the community being made up of people who are calm, level headed, and not prone to screaming, flaming rants over even perceived insults. It's a great place, I love their writers, staff, and the whole community. I cannot recommend it enough for all the geeks out there who are tired of the bullshit that's become part of geek culture.

More importantly, it's their willingness to talk about the things that I feel strongly about, the previously mentioned women's issues. It's given me an incredible amount of insight into how the world not only really does treat women, but how they see the world, how they feel about it, and how they feel about how they are treated. A lot of you will remember that I became interested in this issue way back when I was a teenager, thanks to Dungeons & Dragons, something I talked about a while ago on this blog, but spending time at The Mary Sue has shown me that things haven't really gotten better, and that's not okay.

So, here I am, revisiting a world I love, and tackling the massive rewrites of a novel that brings women to the forefront as the leads, and as relatable people. Because I can. Because I feel like I should. Mostly, though, because it's just good storytelling. And like I always say, a good story, told well, is worth not just writing, but reading.

Last thing. Storm insisted that if I was going to do this, that I include the reality that women enjoy sex, too. So, there will be sex in these books. A fair amount of it. Because, hey, did you guys know that women enjoy sex, too? They totally do.

Just not always with you, or me. Because it isn't about us.

War Witch: Rise will be coming soon. Keep an eye out for it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Todays Blog Is Brought To You By....

Sometimes, one of my author friends from Twitter or Facebook will ask me to give them a hand with promoting their work. Because I'm a nice guy, I always agree.

Today, we have my pal Michael G. Munz, and his new book, Zeus Is Dead, available July 21st.

 
THE GODS ARE BACK. DID YOU MYTH THEM?

You probably saw the press conference. Nine months ago, Zeus’s murder catapulted the Greek gods back into our world. Now they revel in their new temples, casinos, and media empires—well, all except Apollo. A compulsive overachiever with a bursting portfolio of godly duties, the amount of email alone that he receives from rapacious mortals turns each of his days into a living hell.

Yet there may be hope, if only he can return Zeus to life! With the aid of Thalia, the muse of comedy and science fiction, Apollo will risk his very godhood to help sarcastic TV producer Tracy Wallace and a gamer-geek named Leif—two mortals who hold the key to Zeus’s resurrection. (Well, probably. Prophecies are tricky buggers.)

Soon an overflowing inbox will be the least of Apollo’s troubles. Whoever murdered Zeus will certainly kill again to prevent his return, and avoiding them would be far easier if Apollo could possibly figure out who they are.

Even worse, the muse is starting to get cranky.

Discover a world where reality TV heroes slay actual monsters and the gods have their own Twitter feeds: Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!



 “Delivering us from a sea of endlessly morose and self-important supernatural fiction, Zeus Is Dead understands that Greek mythology is more than a little bit insane and—rather than ignore the unseemly aspects—embraces them with the appropriate level of snark and style. Munz’s tale echoes the bureaucratic insanity of Douglas Adam’s creations, the banter of Grant and Naylor’s Red Dwarf, and the cynicism of Ben Croshaw in order to bring us a clever, hilarious tale of adventure and grudging heroism. I guess what I’m saying is that unless you really like your supernatural fiction all mopey and dull, you’ll find something to love here.”
—Jonathan Charles Bruce, author of Project Northwoods


Check is out when it hits the store, and if you need more convincing, go check out an excerpt.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hope Gleaned Via Grimm Circumstances

I make no illusions about the fact that what I write is not mass market friendly. I've always known that finding a major publisher willing to give me, and my odd style, to say nothing of my off the wall characters, a chance was asking for a miracle. I've also always know that miracles don't happen for writers that often.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am a realist underneath my fantastical imaginings. I know how the world really works, and I know that people like me don't get the big breaks. I never learned to play by the rules, and for that, I've lived with the quiet ostracization one gets for not abiding the status quo.

Zombie slaying lesbian strippers. Insane Elven Druids and the disfigured mercenaries who love them. Ass kicking Halfling monks. Princesses who save themselves. Italian werewolves cruising around in Ferrari’s. Non sassy Latinas. Unicorns with anger management issues. Shy Minotaurs. Necrotic dragons with a fear of heights.

The list of my characters who color outside the lines is lengthy and numerous. I have said on many occasions that I do not accept set in stone rules, and I mean it. Beyond that though, is the simple fact that my imagination is not limited by what others what or expect. I can't write according the guidelines, for when I do, I end up not writing at all.

Because I get bored. Standard characters and plots, the ones that check the boxes on what is currently acceptable, bore me. I lose interest in them almost as soon as I type the first words. I can't help that, nor would I want to. It's the way my imagination operates, and I enjoy every minute of it. I wouldn't trade it for fame and fortune, even if I could.

However, it also means I'm never going to break into the mainstream. That market, and the money that goes with it, is reserved for those who can hit all the right marks on being typical. Normal, acceptable, ordinary. These are things I've never been able to achieve, in my writing, or my life.

I made peace with this a long time ago, choosing to toil in near anonymity rather than sacrifice my rather strange way of going about things. I did it because I felt it was the more honest path. Being true to yourself is never easy, but I'd rather be able to look myself in the eye than afford a mansion.

Then, I saw something that gave me hope.

Not just that my particular way of writing would gain appreciation in the mass market, but that my rather unique characters would as well. It's a hope I've been in need of lately as well, for I have struggled to write anything at all for months, my creativity sapped by a depression I've not been able to shake.

This hope came from the last place I would have expected, but it has made me feel more optimistic. It's fired my creativity again, and I'm feeling that old familiar urge. That sense that anything I do that isn't fingers hitting the keys is a waste of time.

To be direct, this source of hope comes from the NBC series Grimm, and more specifically the character of Monroe, played by actor Silas Weir Mitchell.

For those who have never seen the show, allow me to explain. Monroe is a cello playing, clock fixing, pilates doing, '79 VW Bug driving, slightly neurotic, vegan werewolf.

I'm sure you get where this going.

He's an oddball. A character that shouldn't work in the mainstream. Everything about him goes against the standard. He's different.

Yet, he is a fan favorite. Reading peoples reviews of the shows episodes is to read nothing but love for Monroe. Across the board, he is adored, and is in no small part what makes the show so successful. All while being everything that he shouldn't be in the mainstream.

He gives me hope.

It helps so much that such an excellent actor as Mr. Mitchell plays him. He brings this strange character to life, making him instantly relatable, warm, and the kind of person you wish you had as a friend. All while being everything I've been told won't fly.

I can't begin to express how this makes me feel. Seeing the walls of convention be steamrolled down. Seeing the kind of character I love to write adored, beloved, and on a major network. It's exactly the sort of thing that makes me feel as if there is a place for me, and my crew of weirdos, in this world after all.

I'm 40 years old now, and been actively writing since I was a teenager. I've been submitting since I was eighteen years old, and have gained some few publications in magazines with my choice brand of out there writing. I've also faced a lot of rejection. So much, in fact, that for several years, I gave up and didn't write at all.

Even now that I've dived back in, and gone the road of self publishing, I still try and submit things. I still meet with lots of rejection, and have not had a single yes from an editor in close to fifteen years. Almost without fail, it is because of my characters. They are too weird, too different. One editor flat out told me he wasn't sure how to market me and what I do.

We are told from an early age to be ourselves, but nobody really means it. We are told all our lives that being different is okay, but it really isn't. There is nothing that makes that shame at not being like everyone else go away, except being accepted.

For writers like me, that means publication. Legitimate, big publisher publication. Anything less, and you still carry that feeling that you aren't good enough. That being yourself, being unique, is something to be ashamed of.

Yet, thanks to the guys behind Grimm, NBC, and Mr. Mitchell, I see now that the walls can be broken down. Out of the box characters will be accepted, even loved, by the world over, if they are given but a chance.

I have a chance.

My thanks to NBC, the producers and writers of Grimm, and Mr. Silas Weir Mitchell, for making non-standard characters the new standard. I'm coming to join you guys, in my own time. I know that now.

I have hope.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Market Trends, Schmarket Trends

Anyone who has read more than a few posts here will know how I feel about stereotypes. For those who aren't aware, I really, really don't like them. At all. Almost without fail, they are false, and even when they do touch on truth, it's in a distorted manner.

This is why I pay no attention to market trends.

Now, I know this may seem like a bit of a leap. Most of you are probably wondering what stereotypes have to do with market trends. Not to worry, I'm going to explain that.

Market tends stereotype books.

When a book becomes really popular, authors are urged to rework their own manuscripts to make them more like that successful book. Never mind if their manuscript was ever remotely like that other book, it's one of those things we're told we need to do if we want to get our manuscript noticed. It's a form of stereotyping.

Here's how it works. Book A becomes popular, and now every publisher wants to cash in on that books popularity. They sort through manuscripts, looking for one that can be similar, then urge the author to rework it to be even more similar. This is based in the idea than books are all basically the same. That ideas can be swapped around easily.

Change your happy go lucky werewolf lead for a brooding vampire lead, and you've got the next Twilight. It's not like it's hard. It's all the same thing. Nobody cares. Right?

Don't misunderstand me, I get how publishers are more or less slaves to the idea that market trends will boost their sales, especially these days. However, I've noticed over the last several years that it's become something of a problem as they dive deeper into the belief that if you don't have the next carbon copy, they aren't going to bother talking to you.

More and more, I see sites on the net telling authors to watch the market trends, know what's hot, and strike while it is. Forget originality, just rip off someone else. Tip sheets for how to rework your manuscript as quickly as possible so you can get in on the popular trend now abound.

What none of them ever mention is that the trend wasn't popular until someone made it so by having a fresh take on something, or an original idea. They also never mention that trends tend to fade quickly. What's hot now will be passe in a year.

The reason this is important is because it can take a lot of time and effort to rework a manuscript. Regular editing is a time consuming process, to say nothing of massive rewrites. By the time you manage to make your manuscript exactly what publishers want right now, they'll probably want something else entirely.

Not to mention, you are suddenly competing with every other author out there who is tweaking their work to be exactly the same. The odds of your manuscript standing out grow ever more unlikely in this scenario.

Sorry, guys, but that's just how it is. When everyone is trying to be the next J. K. Rowling, nobody is going to be the first themselves.

This matters because books are not filled with easily interchangeable ideas, characters, or concepts. Each book is a unique expression of the authors imagination. Character arcs can't be swapped out with a push of a button, and plots should grow at least halfway out of the characters story arc, making them impossible to click on and off to meet a constantly fluctuating system of trends.

This isn't to say that trends have no value at all. That manuscript you wrote years ago could suddenly be what every publisher is looking for now, and that's great. It often requires a bit of patience, but that's one thing every author should have an abundance of anyway.

Spend a year working with a cranky character who wants to go left instead of right and you'll get it.

What you shouldn't do, ever, is kept reworking your manuscript until it's something completely different than what you started with just in the fleeting hope you'll slide in on the latest market trend. Stand by the story you've written, have faith in it, and keep pushing. It's better to be the trend setter, than a follower, any day.

Make no mistake, either, because this exactly what we're talking about. Trend setters versus trend followers. I don't know about you guys, but I'd rather be the former than the latter any day.

Because I don't believe books can be stereotyped. I don't accept the idea of set in stone rules, genres, or formulas. I can not accept them, or I'd never write another word as long as I lived. Creativity and imagination are what matter most, regardless of whether or not they lead to a product that is trending or not.

The two most important words in the world of writing are not 'market trends'. They are not 'focus grouped'. They have never been, nor will even be, 'winning formula'. The two most important words in the world of writing have always been, and always will be, 'what if'.

This not something you can get a grasp of by watching the market. You won't learn it from anything but doing, by writing, through the creative exploration of the limits of your imagination. That is the only trend I mind, the only formula I adhere to, and the voices of my characters are my focus group.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again now; I do not care about fame, wealth, or popularity. I care about what I write. As writers, we should all put the story first. If the market trends are ready for that, then great. If they are not, then it is our job to make them ready for it.

It may take me the rest of my life, but I'm going to set the trend, blaze my own trail, and be known for being me, not a bad copy of someone else.

You really should to.

That's the trend that matters most, in the end.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Testing, testing...

A while back, I became aware of this thing called the Bechdel Test. If you aren't aware of what it is, that's okay, I'm going to explain it to you. If you are aware of it, then I'm going to explain it to you anyway.

Just play along for the ones who don't know, okay?

The Bechdel Test is a series of three questions that is meant to determine if a work of fiction, originally just movies, is women friendly. I say originally just movies, because the Test is now being applied to television, books, comic books, and all fictional mediums. The three questions are as follows:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. Who talk to each other,
  3. About something besides a man.

Now, right away, I want to point out, possibly for the millionth time, that I'm the first person to say women don't get treated even remotely fair in any medium of fiction. Regular readers of my blog, and anyone who has read anything I've ever written, will know that I'm not okay with that, either.

I feel I need to say that, because I'm probably going to make a lot of people mad in a minute when I point out everything that's wrong with this test.

Which isn't to say that I don't agree with it. In a lot of ways, I do. It raises all the concerns and brings to light all the problems women face in the fiction arena. Namely, the role of love interest or damsel in distress. In other words, The Object.

This is true of most all fiction, too. Fantasy has a bad habit of making the women the object of entire quests. Rescue the Princess is a particularly big infraction that comes to mind. Pretty much all genres and mediums have a similar grievous breech of belief that women are capable of being anything other than objects for a man to acquire or protect.

My problem with the Bechdel Test isn't really the test itself, but rather, the utter lack of common sense that is displayed in how people use it. I think the Test is a an excellent guide, but without a little common sense, it becomes a set of rules that severely limit what can and can't be done within the confines of writing.

The largest breech of common sense comes in the form of context. As most of you will no doubt agree, context is everything. Things heard out of context can sound truly horrible, but in context, can be quite mundane. So, applying a set of rules without using a bit of common sense to judge the context is not just absurd, but unfair.

Allow me to give an example, taken from something I've written myself. Three reasons I'm doing it this way that I need to cover to shut up all the twatwaffles that love to argue. First, it's my blog, so I'll use what I want. Second, it's a perfect example. Third, I know the context, because I wrote it, so I don't have to listen to anyone whining about how I'm misinterpreting someone else.

Okay, here we go.

"Can I ask," Bunny said as they headed down. "What's the deal with Marco. I mean, he is one of them, isn't he?"

Rosa stopped and looked back up the stairs. "He is, yes. I don't know why he's different, but he is. Saved my life when everything was going insane last night, too."

"Can you trust him?" Bunny asked her.

"Marco? Oh, I'd say he's pretty safe. All things considered, he seems to have whatever this is under his thumb. Regardless, it's not him you should be worried about," Rosa admitted as she started back down the steps.

"Who should I be worried about, then?" Bunny asked as she trailed after her.

Rosa looked up at her, eyes dark. "Peyton."

So, without any context, at least for those who have never read the book this comes from, that is a clear fail of the Bechdel Test. While it does have two female characters, and they are talking to each other, they are talking about a man. Not just one, either, but two. So, it doesn't make a total pass.

Now, I grant you, two out of three is not bad. Most people would call it good enough. That isn't the point, though. The point here is how context changes the entire exchange. Allow me to fill in the blanks.

First thing is Marco, the guy they talk about at first. Yeah, he's a zombie. To make it clearer, he's a very intelligent zombie, but he is a zombie. He's a dead guy, who is still the same person he was, just more dead than he use to be. He's also missing half his face, in case you were wondering if he's a pretty good looking dead guy. He's not.

The reason this matters is because the point of the Bechdel Test is to measure how much women are being used as objects. To that end, most conversations women have with each other are about the men in their lives, or about The Man the story revolves around, usually in the love interest capacity.

Which brings me to my second major point of context. Bunny is a lesbian. Like, very much so. Not on weekends, or when the 'right guy' isn't around, but all the time. Like most actually are.

Out of context, the excerpt only gets a two out of three on the Bechdel Test. In context, it's suddenly not such an easy matter to judge it. Bunny isn't interested in Marco as a love interest. She and Rosa aren't discussing how cool he is. Bunny wants to know if the guy is suddenly going to try and kill and eat them.

Forgive me, but I think that's a valid conversation to have. In fact, I'd go so far as to call it a necessary one.

Which is where the application of the Test falls down. It does not take into account necessary conversations. Like when a friendly zombie is wandering around inside the safe haven you've made against not friendly zombies. That sort of necessitates a conversation about him.

So, in context, and with necessity being a factor, does the conversation still fail to pass the Test? A lot would say it does.

The problem here is that while the Test itself is trying to do the right thing, too many people are applying it blindly, using zero common sense, and not even attempting to measure whether or not there is necessity or judge things within context.

Likewise, Rosa was right to warn Bunny about Peyton, who turns out to be dangerously psychotic. Does that make her warning a failure of the test? Should I have not written that? Seriously, a little common sense would be nice.

Sometimes, as a writer, you have to have these sorts of scenes. Two women can talk about a man and it not be romantic. It is possible. It is often needed to advance the plot or develop the characters. If we are suddenly not allowed to do those things, we aren't writers anymore. We are bureaucrats ticking off requirements.

Last point about the above excerpt. It's taken from my book Bunnypocalypse: Dead Reckoning. Bunny is the central figure of the story. She's in every scene. If it doesn't happen when she's not there, the reader doesn't know about it until she does. Marco appears in about half or less of the book, while Peyton is even less. The guys are the supporting characters.

Does this change anything? The Test doesn't make it clear if it does or not, and people slapping the 'rules' down without a thought don't either. Context, necessity, and common sense go right out the window in the frenzy to measure everything against a yardstick that isn't even a yard long.

This doesn't help. Slapping a pass or fail mark on something without even weighing the extra factors isn't advancing the cause of equality. It's limiting writers.

Before I get to my next example, I'd like to back up a moment and talk a little about the history of the Bechdel Test. This is relevant because my next example is a movie, the very thing the Test was originally meant to measure.

The first instance of the Test being mentioned was in the 1985 comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel. In the strip, one woman explains to another her three rules for whether or not she is going to watch a movie, setting the basis down for the Test. At the end, she mentions that the last movie she was able to watch was Alien.

Not to be a party pooper, but I've seen Alien. Ripley and Lambert do discuss some of the other cast members, all of whom are men, so technically, that movie doesn't pass the test either. That's neither here nor there, but it is something that bothered me.

The movie I really want to mention is Pacific Rim. It's taken kind of a beating because of the Bechdel Test, and is again a victim of nobody applying a little common sense. This is something I do not think is fair, and as you all know, I'm big on fairness.

The argument against Pacific Rim is that while it has more than one woman in it, they never talk, giving it a generally failing grade. What nobody ever asks or even looks at is the question every writer has to deal with when crafting a story. Namely, was there a compelling reason for them to talk.

Every scene in a work of fiction has to develop the characters, enrich the story, or advance the plot. These are the only three considerations that go into writing every single scene in any work of fiction. It's the Holy Trinity of Writing, you might say. If a scene does not fulfill at least one of those requirements, it's a wasted scene and needs to be cut. It is not doing anything but bogging down the story in useless words.

So, with that in mind, lets look again at Pacific Rim and ask, was there any good reason for the two women to talk? Only one comes to mind. Right after Mako and Raleigh have their first Drift. It is reasonable to me that Mako may have wanted to talk about it with someone beside Stacker or Raleigh. Another woman perhaps, since she had just shared not only minds with a guy, but exchanged first person narratives of both of their past traumas.

Oh, wait. They would have been talking about a guy. Nope, that won't work.

Except it should. There is no compelling reason why she wouldn't seek another woman to talk about this experience with. Well, there is one, and it's kind of a big one. She didn't know that other woman at all. Like, not even a little.

Which brings me back to my original question, what would they have talked about?

Now, to be clear, I'm not saying there couldn't have been more women in that movie. With the exception of Idris Elba, Burn Gormen, and Ron Pearlman, I think they could have swapped out any other cast member for a woman and been fine. The reason I say except those three is because the actors did such an amazing job, I can't seem the characters being played by anyone else.

I mean, come on. Who would you trade for Idris Elba and Ron Pearlman? As for Gormen, he's just such a wonderful actor. I adore him.

That's not what they did, and the movie is what we got, though. So, within the context of that, inside the confines of the film we got, what possible reason would Mako have to talk with another woman she had only met in passing?

Because, outside of some small scene that's over in a moment about the state of care the Jeagers are getting, I didn't really see any good motive for it. Nothing that would enrich the story, develop the characters, or advance the plot. Which it would have to do, because in movies more than books, anything that doesn't do that, gets left on the cutting room floor.

The biggest problem with the Bechdel Test, however, comes in the fact that it just isn't very realistic. As a tool for trimming out outdated misogyny in fiction, it's a great scalpel, but as an actual set of rules, it misses the mark very badly. Mainly because real life can't pass the test.

Ladies, how often in life have you had a conversation with another woman about a man? Raise your hand. Yeah. You just failed to pass the Test. Your life doesn't pass the test on gender bias.

Let that really sink in a minute.

This is the problem. There exists an excellent tool for weeding out ingrained misogyny, but due to the lack of common sense in application, appreciation for context, respect for the three major rules of writing, and a basic understanding of reality, it's being abused and misrepresented, which is not helping anything, or anyone.

I'm really not okay with that. I don't get how anyone is.

Before I close, I want to mention the Russo Test, a derivative test that was born out of the Bechdel Test. It applies to gays instead of women and goes like this:

  1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
  2. The character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  3. The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.

In a twist that is possibly ironic, while Bunnypocalypse doesn't quite pass the Bechdel Test, it passes the Russo Test with flying colors of rainbow stripes. Go figure that one out.
The world is such a strange place.