Happy New Year!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

My day yesterday began with a most ambiguous arrival by message cylinder. One was quite sure for a while that perhaps one’s financial situation was very badly in error, a mistake on the part of the sender, or else a most infortuitous change in its situation of some kind.

After wondering how I could (at all) survive such an outcome, great calamity, dread, and near panic…one calmed down and resolved to take the beast by the tail, to call and find out what in the lowest mahen heck was going on. One did not expect to discover this or get to speak to a real, live person before a holiday.

However, there was an intrepid and congenial and intelligent young lady on duty, and prompt, and one was quite, quite surprised to get quick and smart answers to one’s (rather stunned) questions. One is sitll extremely grateful to have encountered a smart worker, as one has too often encountered the opposite at times.

The young lady looked things over and gave a very satisfactory and inexplicably fortunate (for one) outcome. One is assured, however, that this was likely a one-time adjustment, and that one’s monthly proceeds might not increase any; and further, that if any further adjustment occurred, both positive or negative change was possible. However, the item one had received, in one’s favor, was not in error, most astonishingly; though one had not received any message cylinder with any missive explaining or announcing this eventuality.

One had further questions, to be sure of what was going on. One received good, courteous, thorough explanations. One thanked the young woman profusely. One remained quite stunned the rest of the day, having gone from expectation of extreme catastrophe to equally unanticipated good fortune.

Once the item is cleared, one may pay off some debts, and one need not worry about keeping one’s home for the coming year. One may possibly have certain repairs done. One may actually put into savings for a while. One shall have sufficient time, one earnestly hopes, in order for other income to begin, from font production still in progress, or from other things, such as possibly ebooks or audio work.

So…one is still quite, quite overcome. For the first time in years, one has breathing room for a while. It is not an absolute nor a permanent solution. It only takes care of things for a while. But the effect is quite, quite needed.

Meanwhile, current production has been having some mild upswing in inspiration and productivity. One is continuing to learn, at least, and to create, which is much better this month than had been. So one has a good chance, perhaps, of making the most of one’s good fortune.

So…this has one very much in relieved good spirits. Never mind that the unexpected result will be mostly or completely taken up by paying off some things and perhaps a repair or two. But those, one could not have otherwise done in a great many months. So even though more temporary, it is still…most greatly appreciated. It is…whether it’s random chance or a blessing, one no longer cares to guess such things. But it was most needed and will be very well used and appreciated.

Just…unimaginable for such a positive change to have occurred. But so, so needed, and so very welcome.

So…one goes into the New Year in a much better situation than one has had in some years, and one is both glad and yet still astonished and not quite able to fathom it.

Happy New Year, to all and sundry. Here’s hoping things will improve for everyone in the coming year.

Here’s also hoping all will find someone special, friends, new family, loved ones, a partner, pets, with which to share and enjoy life, as one is still convinced this is a needed and welcome thing. One wishes to find same also, as one remains too lacking in these matters.

Nappy New Year, peace and prosperity and love, for these three are in too short supply amongst all humankind, and are to be cherished and encouraged when so rarely found.

Guards, Get Them! — Starship Excelsior Ep. 402

Howdy, All!

There is a new episode of Starship Excelsior out, Episode 402 – “Guards, GET THEM!” — and I’m in it. I play Turgas, an alien.

Starship Excelsior is an audio drama podcast, the adventures of the Starship Excelsior in the Star Trek: Next Generation era.

The episode is a new starting point in the series, a good place to pick up if you’re just starting.

The podcast is available at:

http://www.starshipexcelsior.com/

Go to Episodes –OR– Click the Subscribe (FREE!) button for iTunes or other podcast feeds.

Or, in iTunes or your other favorite podcast feeder, search for Starship Excelsior, and that should let you subscribe so you get new episodes automatically.

The show is in its fourth season, and the quality is good from the start and gets better as they go.

Audio and Voice Work

Note: Naturally, you’ll find my Audio and Voice Work at: http://www.shinyfiction.com/audio/

Audio people can hear files of my voice acting there, including my lines for released or unreleased episodes, works in production, and publicly available auditions. If something is under wraps, not yet for release, then it won’t appear there, but a credit will. Audio people can click on each series and find my work for various characters. Upcoming, currently in production, are a larger guest role on Star Trek Excelsior, episode 402, and for Star Trek Mirror Universe – Shadows of Tyranny, as a continuing regular.

I have done audio recordings since about 2006. I recorded stories and poems, my own work and a few amateur web authors. Links are available on my Audio pages. (Some of that early audio was originally hosted elsewhere and some is currently offline so that I can change out the intro/outro segments for my own site. It’s on the back burner but it needs to be done.)

Then in 2010 through 2012, I first did lines, voice acting for an audio drama podcast, for Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, first as a Klingon Guard, and then later as a Cardassian Glinn Guanar. I did some other ad-libbed lines, crowd vocals, cadet and comms chatter, and so on. I also did lines for an orginal independent series by the same production company, called Frontier Guard.

The Klingon Guard’s voice is rough, very different from my real voice, and might be difficult to sustain long-term. But as a character with a few lines, he was great fun to do.

The Cardassian Glinn Guanar was a character who was a killer, a psychopath, or affected by a strange illness, or both. I played him as a creepy, slightly, very amoral character voice. But I played him as though this was perfectly normal and nothing was wrong, because that’s how such a character would likely think.

A personal note: While doing these, my grandmother had a long-term illness. I told her and one of her friends that I’d be recording voice lines for villainous characters. Because, you know, if you hear someone talking or shouting to himself in a closed room, ominous things like “Kill them!” (a crowd line), or growling (a very Klingon growl) then you might wonder what’s going on. Such as whether I’d finally lost it. Nope, just lines for a fictional character or two. Thankfully, this didn’t scare anyone. I really don’t say things like that, even under extraordinary circumstances. But I could just see my grandmother waking up, not remembering, and hearing her grandson in the other bedroom, muttering or shouting ominous things. Yeah, I could just see her calling her neighbor or the police. Uh, nothing happened. Hmm, which is sort of funny the other way, now that I think of it. Oh, there he goes, he’s finally lost it? As long as she didn’t think I lost it a long time ago and didn’t get it back….

In 2012, I recorded lines that were never released on an audio project that is in limbo. I didn’t hear back from them after that, even though I’d been asked to reappear. Then all contact dropped. The project morphed into an independent pro/fan film which appears to be making progress. I’ve since heard conflicting things about whether the audio project will do anything. But to my knowledge, only the video is proceeding, and so my lines are unreleased. It irritated me that the production people didn’t get back to me to say what was happening, even though I resubmitted my email as requested, publicly and privately, twice. However, the video has some good people involved and I’ll be interested when it’s done.

I did auditions for two Star Trek fan audio dramas during and after that time, including readings of two well-known Shakespeare passages. I liked how both turned out.

Shakespeare’s English did a few things for poetic/lyrical beats that are different from present-day English. Sometimes, a starting syllable would get shortened or omitted, linking adjoining words. Other times, an “uh” sound might get omitted or not, to fit the lyrical form. What is now a final, silent E was sometimes not silent back then, for stylistic purposes, though it was probably silent in daily speech. There were other things with rhyming of vowels, long and short vowels, and a few consonants, that changed between then and now, but that’s getting into fussy historical details. (I’m a language geek. That stuff interests me.) Shakespearean, Elizabethan, and King James English, all from almost the same few decades, are technically “Modern English,” but even college-educated people (and language geeks and theater types) know that it’s very nearly a separate phase of the language now. I almost said a separate stage. Very sorry.

I did a small part, a few lines, for a redshirt, Lt. Rubio, on Star Trek Excelsior 306. You know you’re in trouble when you’re stuck in a broom closet, surrounded by hostile aliens, and the guy in the broom closet with you is suffering from some mind-meld illness. Lt. Rubio has, so far, not been heard from again. If he came out of the closet, I’m sure he’d have a different outlook on brooms.

Excelsior is great, by the way. There are involved plot arcs, large casts, and not every story character gets along all the time. There are dark storylines and there are sly humorous bits and in-jokes. They do specials around April Fool’s and occasionally Boxing Day to  have fun with things. They’re smart enough not to take themselves too seriously. The main stories had a very dark, serious, dangerous storyline for a season arc. Good stuff.

I then did lines that ended up unused for another episode, and I understood and agreed with the reasoning, timing and story sense. I had trouble with the speed or meter of what needed to be in chorus there, and I think I flubbed in places. So it made good sense to me not to use that. The next time I do something in chorus and rapid tempo, I want to get it down perfect. Doing the part was fun, though.

I then did auditions for an audio drama that’s restarting, for Giant Gnome Productions for The 13th Hour. One part was a fantastic character actor part, voice and accent, and should be interesting to play the part. That was a working-class Englishman, middle-aged or older, a Gravedigger. I really liked doing that one, and I’m proud of how it sounds. It’s a good example for accent and character acting. The others were normal, and two required acting kid’s voices. My voice can go high enough that doing a boy’s voice had a fair chance of sounding like a kid and not an adult.

Although I didn’t get those parts, the producers liked what I did enough to keep me in mind for future roles and for audition calls. They said they keep notes on what people can do, and they might ask for me specifically to do a role, if they have something that needs it. That was encouraging, and I’d enjoy doing voice work for them. (I listen to Star Trek Outpost regularly.)

My normal speaking voice seems high to me and can go higher. My singing voice is in between a tenor and a bass; it’s baritone. I seem to have an upper range and a lower range, and a transition point between them. If I go too high, it goes falsetto. If I go too low for my range, I can’t get enough volume. I can’t reach all the way down into bass tones, and a true low bass, I can’t reach. In my range, though, I’m pretty good as an amateur. I’ve done solo and group choir in church for years, before becoming inactive from church in recent years. I enjoy singing. When I was a kid, I was a boy soprano. When my voice changed, I haven’t had as much practice independently, as opposed to following another singer’s lead, and so I feel my command of pitch isn’t as skilled as I want.

Most recently, I was asked to audition for the part of Turgas, an alien in the upcoming Star Trek Excelsior 402. The part came pretty naturally, once I had an idea what he and the others were like. His voice came with that. I was really pleased to get a call-back to do additional lines. The story needed another scene for good storytelling, to complete things, to fill in what they felt was a missing point in the plot. In other words, it was for story reasons, not for me for more lines. The part will be the largest I’ve done to date for an audio drama, and I’m very pleased. He may be a one-time guest role.

I feel I’m still new at this, still learning, and I’m liking it, so bit parts, ad-libs, walls, effects, or larger roles, guest or regular, continuing or recurring or one-off’s are all welcome. The challenge for me is to grow as an actor, to get across a part as if it’s a real character, right there in front of you. Or behind you.

A new audio drama in planning and pre-production, Star Trek Mirror Universe, now retitled Shadows of Tyranny, asked for auditions, and I was cast as a continuing regular. I researched real Russian accents, both native and speaking English. I wanted to be sure my accent didn’t sound like an American doing an accent, or doing a Russian accent badly, that sounded like some other accent or nothing real at all. I watched two very good films, one so-so film, and various YouTube content. I don’t speak Russian, but what’s needed is an ear for the sounds and a tongue that can make those sounds authentically. I’m good with languages, so that’s usually not a problem.

(Ironically, some accents can be a problem if you aren’t used to doing them or haven’t really studied how they sound. I know, for example, my native accent (Texan) is different from my dad’s accent (which was from the Appalachian Mountains, the Cumberland Gap area. I’d have to study a Boston or Massachussetts accent, because I haven’t done one. I’d probably have to study how Cajun and other Louisiana accents differ, to get them right.)

So doing a Russian accent after studying for a few days was a surprise and a thrill. Getting a continuing, regular part was a surprise. The story arc is currently expected to be six full-length episodes, an hour or so each, to complete the story.

Based on this, I may do other parts for the production company, and it may lead to other things. That’s fantastic, and unexpected. Also the Russian part is a real departure in character from anything else I’ve done and from my real self. So it should be quite something.

When I got into hearing Russian actors, studying the accent, I decided to study a little Russian and see if I could pick it up. That way, if it’s needed for this part, it will sound right (or close) and likewise for any future Russian roles. I have the books and CD’s now, but it’s still on my To Do list.

The result of all this is that, within the last few months, I’ve gained twice the experience and have interest from a few audio dramas, independent and original or fan-based.  I may get chances at both original and fan-based audio dramas besides, including brand new or currently produced or restarting productions.

The other result is that now, I need to look into local voice acting studios in my city. I might have a shot at roles as a non-guild, non-agent, amateur or newbie with some amateur credits to show.

I’ve been very surprised by this. I didn’t expect I’d get such favorable responses or specific call-back requests. I never had thought I’d seriously be a voice actor. But this has been great fun to do, it’s a real release to play some other character, very different from myself or to look into the character to find out what makes him (or other pronoun?) different from me, or from what I’d expect. What makes that character real, alive (or not?), and one who will make an impression, be an exciting story character?

I had done choir solo and group in church, from the time I was a kid on up. (My parents met in church singles class and church choir. Then I grew up in a small church. So I sang with the adults for choir practice as a kid.)

I have done only a few skits or plays when I was in church youth and young adult groups. This was fun, but the lack of enough practice rehearsals and time pressure, and trouble memorizing lines, hah, meant that I didn’t feel prepared much. However, I did a couple of performances for a full-length play, live theater, this way, and it gave me a better idea what it’s like.

In college and after, for work and personal, I’ve given presentations or public speaking, and dealt with clients enough in a small business, that I had to work off my shyness and find a public persona. I had just enough experience speaking in front of groups from this, or acting, or choir, that I can do it without making too big a deal out of it. (I’d still have pre-stage nerves, but I’d getthrough it.)

In school, I had choir and speech in junior high one year. I didn’t care for the speech class, which was more debate than theater. I liked choir. I was more interested in foreign languages and in English and writing, to become a writer. I took a journalism class in high school. (i had foreign language class each year from 7th through 12th grade and into college.) The journalism class, by the way, was well worth it.

Looking back, I think that because I didn’t much like that speech class, I didn’t try a theater class. Also looking back, that’s sort of odd, because a few of my good friends in school were in theater. I only attended one or two high school plays, but I enjoyed those a lot. They did not, however, look quite as professionally polished, with costume and makeup, as the kids on Glee (TV). But they liked it and I know I did. One of my best childhood friends was in theater, mime, dance, and apparently learned piano besides. (I spoke up publicly for him when an idiot called him out publicly. The idiot said my friend must be a *** because he took those classes and danced around like that. It was the wrong thing to say to me, and to call out my friend and make it look like I was in on it either. It’s one of the few times in life I’ve spoken out so publicly.) — So it seems odd to me, looking back, that I didn’t get into theater in school or in college. And yet it turned into something I thought I’d try, to see if I liked it, later on.

So I’m surprised to be doing audio more, to be getting better feedback and interest than I’d expected, and to think I might have more possibilities here than I’d thought. I don’t know yet if it will lead to paying work, additional income, another line of work, but if so, that would be great too. I’m meanwhile really enjoying doing voice acting for these independent projects, both original and fan-based audio dramas, podcasts. This is fun and a chance to learn and do something different. It’s a form of pretend and a form of storytelling. It’s a chance to pretend you’re someone else for a while, and invite others along to pretend with you. That can be a release from real life restraints and pressures. It can also be a chance to see what makes people the way they are, to look at what it’s like to be someone else, instead of yourself, and maybe learn a little about both in the process. It’s a chance to entertain. I like that a lot.

Writing, storytelling, is a form of pretend for adults (and kids) in which someone makes up an imaginary world, with people, places, creatures, events, and invites people to pretend along with the writer, to jump into the story as if they were really there, doing whatever is in that world, being those people, or tagging along with them.

Acting, whether live or recorded media, is a form of pretend for adults (and kids) in which a group of people all agree to pretend they are imaginary characters in some imaginary place, and the audience agree to pretend along with them, that the audience is in on it too, right there with them in the adventure. The audience can pretend they are the heroes and villains they’re watching, if they want.

It’s curious that adults like to pretend too, and that adults treat it as somehow different, more grown-up and more special or meaningful, than the pretending or the imaginary friends we make up as children. And yet nearly everybody loves a good story or a good show, writing or live performance or media recording. We like the storytellers too, the ones who are good at making up the stories and telling them. They used to be people in front of the campfire. They’ve become a whole group of people, from writers to creative staff who make video or audio, anime or books or manga, or video games. And yet, it’s the same sort of thing. It’s “Let’s Pretend” put into an adult guise. A guise is itself a form of pretend, putting on a mask or disguise, a costume. We do this as adults. It’s a curious thing we tell kids to be realistic, practical, or even not to be such dreamers. What a terrible thing to tell someone who wants to create something new. Yet everybody wants to see the latest movie or TV show, read the latest book, play the new game, and so on. It’s rare those people who do the pretending get paid for it. The movie stars are rare. Most actors, most writers, most other creatives or entertainers, don’t make a lot. It isn’t really about the paycheck, although, hey, groceries, rent, etc. are really good to get paid off. It’s about the value of pretending, creating, inviting others in on the game, to imagine something new and different from the mundane, routine world.

So let’s pretend, because there’s value in it. Or because it’s fun. Or because there’s something in there to think about that maybe we haven’t before.

And for all those kids (and adults) out there who like to pretend, who want to come up with a new story and tell it, and invite others to pretend with them — Go for it!

The idiot who thinks it’s stupid or sissy (and so on) to do that, to act like that? I can guarantee you he didn’t know anything, and he was too small-minded to learn better. That’s too bad. It’s also Ironic. I’m sure he watched TV and movies. He might’ve read a book. What did he think those actors and writers and entertainers were doing? They were taking those same classes he thought were too ***, that’s what.

It’s much better to enjoy being in on the pretending instead.

(Endnote: Yes, it’s probably silly to write *** instead of the actual word. But that word was and is used on purpose, to make someone feel less than human. I don’t buy the argument that it’s OK to use a word within a group for “empowerment,” if it can’t be used outside the group without being offenseive to them. That would be a post in itself, but it would be a rant. That said, I don’t think it makes sense to bleep out a word, to be unable to use it, in a show or book, when it is used in real life. How else would we see how bad something is, if we don’t see it brought into the open for what it really is? That also is probably another post on the purpose of drama or fiction. I should really quit this note before it’s longer than the post, or any ranty-er. So.)

 

Toy Box Tales – Behind the Scenes

Last year, I began a project called Toy Box Tales.

Friends had gotten me very curious and interested in posable figures, like action figures or dolls, called BJD’s, ball jointed dolls. Fans often create photo stories on their blogs, show off their artwork and craftsmanship on YouTube or Vimeo, and generally have a fun time with this hobby. Some artists make money creating for these BJD characters, the dolls themselves, their costuming and props, all sorts of things. I was surprised that there are guys in the hobby / fandom too. Oh good, I wasn’t the only one who thought it looked cool.

I began thinking about telling stories using these guys and girls and critters. How far could I stretch that? Would it work, beyond what I was seeing in brief photo stories?

So I got a BJD. Hmm. These guys don’t arrive all dressed up. The idea is, you customize them yourself. I started and discovered it takes skill and hobby money to make this look good. I didn’t know a darned thing, and I can’t really sew because of my eyesight, and I’m a guy who’s never really done theatrical or science fiction and fantasy makeup, so…wow, I was tackling a lot. But it was really interesting and it takes time and skill and money.

As I began to get into it, I realized I’d need to get better at a lot. Taking photos of small things close up and with good lighting. Getting the figures posed just so, to show what was going on. Puppetry, theater, sets, costuming, in some ways.

There were also frustrations: I quickly found I really wanted to show more emotion and movement. There were a few limitations I saw. But I thought that I could get either an illustration for each chapter in a story, or I could get something like a manga or comic book design or photo novel.

Writing photo story scripts or audio dramas is not at all like writing regular fiction. How it works is a different angle.

There was also the Attack of the Budget, when I overspent, and had other expenses on top of that. Ouch. Then it looked like I wasn’t getting much response to early efforts. I got very discouraged.

However, friends continued to show interest and support, and one friend offered to do doll clothes for the smaller characters. Oh, wow, she outdid herself.

I began to get enthusiastic again and I’ve restarted. There’s still a lot to do to get things ready.

In the meantime, I had been getting ideas on how the backstory might work, and that has kept growing. I’m still a beginning fiction writer. But I think this is shaping up, both for the Toy Box Tales, and how it could be a fun hook into my other writing.

Early on, I had the idea of including characters who were very different from usual. In some ways, they don’t quite fit in. In others, they do, but it takes extra work. I wanted to include a character in a wheelchair, for instance. I wanted to include a gay character. I wanted to include minority characters. But these needed to be realistic, not stereotypes, and these aspects of their characters, such as being physically challenged, needed to be things they couldn’t fix or undo with the touch of a Reset button. (Though they might wish or dream or run into an alternate reality now and then.) In other words, they had to change and grow and live with things, like real people do.

The original concept had been something rather different, involving imagination of being inside the stories of favorite books, TV shows, movies, and so on. I still really like that.

But then as I began planning and writing, I saw I needed to tell stories about the characters themselves, and I saw what I thought was a neat way to get them into each story. That kept growing, and soon I saw a hook to connect several things I had in mind and….

It was starting to become the Blob, the story idea that ate the planet. Because the ideas kept getting bigger, morphing, and getting into other things. Ack! It needed to be manageable.

I’m not sure where I am with that. – I like both approaches. It might split into two things.

There was also the issue of the name itself, the Toy Box Tales. Would that sound too childish, too silly, for teens and adults, the audience I was aiming for? I wanted to tell stories that teens and adults could relate to, with sometimes teen-level and adult-level content suitable for that audience. So how was I going to handle that? Also, how was I going to handle that, because my name goes on it; would I be embarrassed somehow for others to read or watch or listen, if I put anything out there? Would it be good enough, would the stories be suitable, would anybody…like it?

So, here I am, still working toward the Toy Box Tales and how they may grow into their eventually public form.

 

Sci-Fi Critters, Makeup, Muppets, and BJD’s

2013-11-11: This article was first posted on my first blog, then republished on my web site.

So I’ll admit it. When I first saw BJD’s, ball jointed dolls, I wasn’t sure what to make of them. And…me? What would an adult guy want with one of those? Wasn’t that for girls or kids?

Never mind that other guys have similar hobbies, or that I’m a science fiction fan and wannabe writer and so forth, and so I have a few science fiction collectibles, or other things I like, hobby-wise or keepsakes. Never mind that lots of boys grow up playing with “action figures,” because girls play with “dolls,” right? Now how does that little semantic rationalization make sense? And what does it have to do with being manly, masculine? It’s mental, a gender or sexual role we are trained into from early on, and folly, when you think about it.

Somehow, I was resistant to the idea. But friends were having a great deal of fun with their BJD dolls, posing them, doing photos and stories, costuming, and it was getting more interesting to me. I could see possibilities there. It was firing up my imagination.

I succumbed and in a fit of something or other, I ordered a BJD. (Notice I didn’t say doll? Hmm….) It arrived. Or he arrived. It’s a bit disconcerting, when you get a package with an action figure / BJD doll, not wearing anything, a sculpted figure that may or may not be “anatomically correct,” because we’re also trained that male parts are too…something…to be shown except as an indefinite “bulge” or a fig leaf. (Real fig leaves itch when your hands brush them. Wearing them there would not be a good idea!) The BJD also arrives with its head separate. Disconcerting. Not how a boy buys an action figure of some hero. But that’s soon remedied.

You put on the head, the wig (yes, a separate item) and eyes. And if the head isn’t already painted, you paint a “faceup,” like “putting on a face” or “putting on makeup,” but more permanent. This is a challenge, for most guys, who aren’t used to makeup. (Unless they’ve had on stage experience or maybe the goth or club scene, or that science fiction thing again.) Painting on a three dimensional object, doing a realistic head’s looks, is a challenge.

Well, that somehow grew, for me, into the idea to use these to tell stories in a photo story or a format like that. These? Yes, because then I ordered another. And it had sparked my creativity. Getting to play, to pretend, with a silly little action figure was something new, not really done since my teens. (I did keep a few things from childhood, stored away, though.)

And…how was this different than being a writer, who dreams up stories in his head, pretends, with imaginary friends, characters? How was this different from a bunch of people dressing up and pretending a story with other people watching, which is acting, theater, movies, TV? Stars get paid to do this. Authors get paid to do this.

How was it different from having fun at a con (science fiction convention) with costumes and gaming, even if you’re just watching? How was it different from laser tag or a LARP (live action role playing) or paint ball enthusiasts?

Uh…it isn’t really, is it? So why was I resistant? — I like reading and writing. My “professional life” (translation: paid jobs) have used words and images, writing and editing. I went to college, wanting to be a writer. I like science fiction. So why did I resist getting a BJD and letting my imagination go and pretending, playing with…dolls…action figures? Was it a “guy thing?” Was it because I’m gay but have had trouble throughout my life accepting that? Aha, could be. Or it could be because, as a boy, a kid and teen, I wanted to be accepted as a grownup, an adult, mature, instead of just a geeky smart kid, the kid with the weird glasses? Might be all those things.

But it had started my creativity going and had started getting me out of a long slump, active again. Much needed. It started getting me excited, enthusiastic again, about writing, drawing, arts and crafts, even to try things I hadn’t done in years, or never had. That was needed and very good and welcome and it’s been fun. I went over-budget. My wallet isn’t speaking to me still. (I’d be worried if my wallet ever actually spoke to me. Much more than this thing about playing with dolls or action figures or BJD’s.)

Then something else happened. I’m a Farscape fan. It’s a science fiction show from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, four seasons plus a miniseries movie. I was asked to host a fanfic challenge, mostly because I hadn’t before, and I’m active on the forum, and people knew I’ve written and edited, but not much within the fandom. (Other fan writers have gone on to be professionally published with original stories, something to be proud of.)

I agreed, thought up a challenge story prompt, and in doing so, realized I needed to rewatch to get my facts straight. Story research. Hey, that’s good stuff! I hadn’t rewatched in a while.

Also for those who may not know, Farscape was produced by the Jim Henson Company and the Henson Creature Shop did the creatures, aliens, robots, and others in the series, other than the live actors. The Henson Creature Shop, Jim Henson Productions? But weren’t those…muppets? Uh-huh, that’s right. And Yoda from Star Wars. And Labyrinth and Dark Crystal movies, and the Storyteller TV show. Among others. In other words, they do more than the muppets, which were themselves a big advance in puppetry presentation and design. So I was rewatching Farscape episodes with Rygel and Pilot and other creatures, and these were animatronics and muppets, very realistic, in some of my favorite science fiction. There’s also the long history of the Muppet Show and movies and the Sesame Street I grew up with. Who wouldn’t like Kermit and Miss Piggy and the gang? Or Snuffleupagus? Or Grover?

There they were, Rygel and Pilot and other Creature Shop creations, alongside live actors in real time, live on set. There they were, these characters, operated by super-skilled craftsmen and puppeteers and robotics engineers. Adults playing with puppets and dolls in a big way, along with other adults pretending a story. These people get paid and have a lot of fun and hard work doing this, and they do it so other adults can relax and enjoy a story, get lost in a pretend world, for a little while each week, and they pay in some way for the privilege of watching and listening.

Kinda blows that reluctance out of the water, doesn’t it? — I grew up as a teen, an avid science fiction fan, keeping up with movie and TV science fiction and fantasy, including effects, actors, music, muppets, creatures, makeup and prosthetics, through Starlog, for instance. Because, for one thing, I wanted to write stuff like that. Because, for another, those shows and books were wonderful, a chance to live in another world for a little while, a world where I might be who I wanted to be, a hero, not that geeky boy with the weird glasses and all.

These people I’ve admited all my life, they write shows and books. They do voice acting and live acting in front of the camera for TV and movies. They use makeup and masks and prosthetics. They come up with creatures, combinations of puppetry and robotics, radio control, muppets, animatronics, grownups playing with puppets and dolls. All to produce art forms that thrill people’s imaginations. They do this for the joy of making art, and they get paid, sometimes a lot, to do so, by a worldwide audience who follow these things as fans.

And I’m someone who went to college for one of those impractical daydreamer degrees in the liberal arts. I’m someone who’s spent his working, paid, professional life, such as it is, dealing with words and images, not usually in the fiction and poetry areas, but more mundane ones. But on the side, for enjoyment (and occasional non-profits) I’ve done projects, volunteered, and done things on my own, for fiction and poetry and those other very impractical things. My mother was an artist, a painter. My father was an engineer. I grew up with the idea that arts and letters and music were a fine way to make a living, but hardly ever a way to be rich; you needed a day job until you could make enough from art to do that full time.

So it seems my reluctance about the BJD’s was again just some nonsense in my head, when once examined, not something to let limit me.

Oh yeah, and the people who design and make and sell those BJD’s? They are artists and artisans, and they sell their art to an audience of eager collectors who go out and do incredibly creative things with the dolls.

Those people who make dolls, or model kits, or things like that? They are adults who haven’t lost that love for playing, for using their imaginations, who want to bring a little art and happiness to others, both adults and kids. Adults are usually the ones who make kids’ toys, after all, to bring a little enjoyment and stretch a little imagination and creativity and learning for them…and just for the fun and art of it.

(If that sounds like the Santa Claus story or Pinocchio, it’s no accident. That’s one of the points of those stories.)

So, hmm, it seems my reluctance, as an adult male, to getting a BJD (a doll, an action figure) and to let myself play and pretend, to fool around with them…my objection was just smoke and mirrors, a false construct based on several preconceived notions by other people, who weren’t right.

My budget’s getting back in line gradually, but for the boost, the restart, for my creativity and the enjoyment from it all, the price has been more than worth it.

And if you’re a guy, either a kid or adult, who’s not sure if he wants to get caught playing and pretending with some silly dolls or action figures — don’t let that stop you. If people will watch the latest blockbuster movie or hit TV show with alien creatures, either actors in makeup or animatronic puppets, dolls too, then it’s OK for you to play and pretend too. Just maybe, you might be the next guy making hit stories, creating those great effects, or the star actor, and oh yeah, getting paid to have fun doing it.

Not so geeky or uncool after all. Plenty manly enough.

 

 

A Special Item

2013-09-16: This article was first published on my first blog, then republished on my web site.

Don’t dis the ability. It’s the person, not the chair.

Aha! A special item arrived today for a BJD character. (Hmm, the male ego is still insisting on that instead of, y’know, calling him a doll. Ahem.)

This arrived in great condition, and turned out to be a better bargain than I would’ve thought: It came with a Ken doll and a Barbie doll. Well, how would I know if they’re actually Ken and Barbie. I suspect they are friends of theirs. The guy, though, for some reason doesn’t have movable knees. Odd.

I got this on eBay for a good price, better than expected. Still a good deal. — Didn’t think at the time to check new at Amazon. It turns out I still got a big bargain. Though I wound up putting something in the cart for later. I found one option that was too cheap and too cheaply made, per the reviews. Another was very…pink…which wouldn’t suit this character unless he had to. (I might play with that notion, though, story-wise.) What I did find was good, but pricey. Still, might be worth it.

What is this item, you ask?

A character is going to be in a wheelchair. It was the most obvious way I could think of to get a message across that the character was permanently handicapped, that he has to live with it, and that, no matter what the situation our heroes are in, they all have to cooperate to get him out too, and that he can contribute, he’s capable.

The other limit is, no, he doesn’t get a miracle cure. Even with other assistance, which will enter into the plot, I don’t anticipate a reset where he’s cured somehow. But dream or fantasy sequences where he can still walk, etc., will happen.

I considered a cane and sunglasses, a blind character. I still might do that with another character. But I wanted something immediately identifiable.

I didn’t set out to do this. I started out thinking it would be a few characters, fairly regular. But when the idea popped up, it was too important not to pass up.

The idea that, whatever happens, real or imagined, to our crew, we have to deal with this very real physical issue, and that he is valuable, equal, among the group, seemed too good, story-wise, to pass up.

I think, currently, that each “scene” will not feature all the regular characters, but each “episode” will. I won’t know until I’ve tried it how much I can do per session, and therefore how quickly I can get a full “episode” done. But I’m going to try for every 15 days, twice a month.

A little research turned up that the girl (young woman) is Becky, a light red haired friend of Barbie, who uses a wheelchair.

A friend clarified that some Barbie and Ken dolls, especially the older models, didn’t have joints at the knees and elbows, and this was a big thing when they were movable.

 

Hello, World!

Welcome to the ShinyFiction.com Blog. Here, you will find news and discussion.

  1. Original Writing: Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction.
  2. Artwork: Handmade and Digital Drawings, Paintings, and Photographs.
  3. Font Design: Text and Display Fonts. Coming Soon.
  4. Web, Print, and Media Design: Form and Function.
  5. Voice and Audio Work: Voice Acting on Fan-Made Podcasts.
  6. Fan-Based Media: About Other Authors and Artists I Like.
  7. Toy Box Tales: A Story Writing and Art Project.
  8. Opinions: On a Variety of Subjects.
  9. Miscellaneous: Hobbies and Stuff I’m Doing.