If you enjoy a good xkcd comic now and then, you must absolutely check out today’s post. Further comment from me would do nothing to add to the sheer magnitude of the experience, which you must delve into on your own. Don’t make the mistake of only going in one direction.
I hate this phrase and all of its variations: “Don’t reinvent the wheel”. It irritates me because I’ve seen some pretty crappy wheels out there. Just imagine what it would be like to ride a long distance in a cart with square wheels. You’re going to get a bruised backside at the very least, and if you are unlucky enough, you’ll bite your tongue, knock your spine out of alignment, or get whiplash. I don’t know many people who would be content to risk bodily harm just because they are afraid to speak up about the square nature on their conveyance’s rollers. It’s not OK for carts, and it’s not OK for other things either. I’m really sorry to break it to you, but if your wheels are square, they have to be reinvented.
“Don’t reinvent the wheel” just smacks of excuses to me. Something like: “It’s already perfect. I invented it, after all. Sure that was some 20 odd years ago, but you don’t fix what isn’t broken”. I get it. There is no place in the world for improvement. Why innovate when you can just be content with old and dependable? That old green 1970 Ford Ranger Buddy gets me from point A to B in an hour so no need for the spanking-new silver 2012 Porsche Boxster that gets you there in half that time…unless you’re delivering $100,000 of pizza and you get a 10% tip if you get them there in 30 minutes. But who eats that much pizza? Go ahead and make your own analogy.
OK, maybe your wheel’s round and fast. Still, here’s what I suggest when someone tells you “don’t reinvent the wheel”. Tell them you’re going to put teeth on it. Turn it into a gear. Integrate it into some old tired system and crunch out some new power. The Swiss do it all the time. Why not you.
Over on one of my favorite sites, io9.com, I read this article: Why are there spaceships in Medieval art? Below is the actual fresco from the Visoki Decani Monastery in Kosovo that the article references. Take a look in the upper right and left-hand corners. This is one of the paintings that often gets cited when people talk about UFOs in medieval art.
OK, let me just say, I don’t believe in UFOs. Sure, I’ve seen one. One night back in the early 80s or late 70s (it’s a bit hazy), my friend and I were camping out in the backyard. We both experienced a rocket-shaped object that flew across the sky, and halfway across, executed a sharp 90 degree turn and took off past the horizon. Since an airplane doesn’t fly like that, the only explanation could have been an oddly shaped, highly maneuverable weather balloon, or more likely, escaping swamp gas from the trailer park on the old highway, not a UFO.
I don’t really think spaceships in medieval art has to do with UFO sitings, anyway. Why then would a medieval painter, commissioned by the church to create a fresco for a local monastery, sneak in a few spaceships? The simple answer: There wasn’t a huge market for science fiction yet. No TV, movies, Xbox games, or mass-produced books – except the Bible, of course. Even paintings weren’t readily available to the people (let alone affordable) unless you wore a crown or some vestments. In other words, the only entertainment medium available to the average peasant was likely hand-produced by a monk in Latin or hung on the church wall.
We know there was a rich oral tradition among the people in the Middle Ages. Remember the bards and the troubadours? I’m sure some of those tales could have been labeled science fiction for the standards of their day. Why then should some imaginative Celt or lyrical Occitanian have all the fun? What would Ralph McQuarrie have painted on the wall of a church if he’d been born in the Middle Ages? I can almost imagine the conversation now…
Father Persecucio: What are these heretical shapes you’ve painted in the sky?
Ralph di Cuore: Why those are just shooting stars. You know, the ones you see at night.
Father Persecucio: Why, my son, are there people inside of these falling stars?
Ralph di Cuore: Oh, those are angels. It’s symbolic, of course. You like symbolism, right?
Father Persecucio: Yes, of course, it does tend to keep people from understanding the truth. But why is one angel chasing the other?
Ralph di Cuore: It’s the whole good vs. evil theme, you know. It works well with religion.
Father Persecucio: Ah, well, I guess we’ll have to find someone else to throw in that vat of boiling oil then.
For some odd reason, I feel like watching The Fountain now.
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One of the hardest things I find about writing is naming my characters. Usually, the process goes something like this: When I first encounter someone in my story, I think for a bit, and then apply the name that I think sounds best among the few options that have popped into my head. After a while, the character inevitably tells me it isn’t right. Sometimes we make a bit of modification in the spelling, but sometimes the character just hates the appellation and wants a new one. It’s a real problem when you can’t come up with one, even after putting some power thinking into it. Nothing sounds right. I’m having this problem right now with the book I’m currently writing. It’s hard because my character complains to me about it on almost every page. I’m trying to be patient, but the further I go on without a rename, the more places I have to go back to later and fix. Makes it hard to move forward. Seasoned writers, creative writing instructors, general know-it-alls, please give me some advice.