Writer’s block #1: Staring at the words until they melt your brain

This is something every writer experiences at some point. One day the words are flying out, the next nothing comes out, and it’s impossible to get back into a flow state. I imagine every writer experiences this feeling differently, and has their own solution. I’m still early enough in my career, having only really been serious about writing since 2015, that I’m still working out my method of dealing with writer’s block.

I’ve tried alternating between a couple of solutions at this point. The first is to try to press on regardless of the block. Every time I try this though, I quickly find myself staring at the page, trying to figure out what to write next, until my head hurts and I just want to throw out the project altogether. This was the fate of many of my earlier projects which only ever got a chapter or two. The more practical solution was to step away from the project and not work on it for a bit. This way I don’t get frustrated with the project as easily and will often get better ideas than what I had originally planned, thus improving the story in the long run. Now here’s the problem with that approach: stepping away from the project I’m working on generally means I don’t work on fiction for that period, which means by the time I come back I have to readjust myself to the mentality of fiction writing, which is a process in its own right.

This is why I think that working on two projects at the same time will be beneficial overall, because when I get stuck on one, I can work on the other instead, maintaining my routine of fiction writing while not getting burned out on one project. I’m also going to try to make my other project as different as possible from This Book. It’ll be a series of short stories rather than a longer serialized narrative like This Book, it’ll be third person, I’m also thinking about trying my hand at sci-fi again, using a lot of the concepts I came up with when I was younger and doing a lot of world building.

Of course, that can only go so far if I end up getting blocked on both stories, which is kind of part the purpose of this series. Sometimes the best way for me to figure a problem is to just take a step back and look at all the elements at play, and just start experimenting and making lists on possible solutions. Writing out these ideas and having them take physical form on the screen just helps them click for me more easily than just keeping them in my head. I have a whole list on my phone which is just ideas random ideas I have for This Book I jot down occasionally, stretching all the way back to chapter 1.

Over time This Book has become easier to write in some ways and harder in others. I’m far enough along and have enough of an idea of where the story is going that I don’t have to think about story structure too much. It’s more the specifics that get me caught, I know the general idea, but there’s a lot of smaller ones that I have to account for. There’s a lot of characters in This Book, including a bunch who haven’t even appeared yet, and it’s daunting to figure out how to fit each of them into the narrative satisfyingly. This is kind of one of my regrets with the first arc, I introduced a few characters way earlier than I should have, like Aurora, or even Sabreal, when I probably could have held off and had a more straightforward narrative. But hey lesson learned I suppose.

For the rest of the current arc I have a couple of subplots I’m bouncing between, one with Kish, which will be the subject of chapter 31, and one with Grayson and Thalia, which will be dealing with the super demon possessing Christian. I also have a few things I need to set up in the background for the narrative going forward. It’s a lot going on, but I’m hoping by about chapter 50 I’ll be in a position to sort of “let the dominoes fall” so to speak. I love the idea of long form narratives, but god are they hard. Next time I do something like this I’ll definitely do a lot more outlining to prepare.

Revisiting the Joel Schumacher Batman movies

On June 22nd of this year director Joel Schumacher passed away. He worked for over four decades in the industry with a diverse filmography to his name, from Grisham adaptations to movies like Flatliners, Falling Down, Phone Booth, The Phantom of the Opera remake and The Lost Boys. Of course most knew him for his Batman films, Batman Forever in 1995 (which will have its 25th Anniversary next month), and the infamous Batman & Robin in 1997.

Batman & Robin and to a lesser extent Batman Forever have been punching bags on the internet for ages, I myself bought into the hatedom as a teenager, back when I got all my opinions from online reviewers like the Nostalgia Critic. Rewatching the films in 2020, having matured a lot and having experienced a decade of other non-stop superhero releases, some of which I’d argue are MUCH worse films (cough, the theatrical cut of Justice League and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) I find myself quite entertained. Now I’m not going to argue these are hidden masterpieces, I completely understand disliking them, but I will argue that for what they are going for they are mostly successful films, its just what they are won’t resonate with everyone.

Batman Forever might be one of the most definitively 90s films ever made, from the aesthetic to the soundtrack to of course the cast, including Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey in his prime as the villains. Both actors play their roles, Two-Face and The Riddler respectively, extremely over the top, almost constantly shouting and moving their faces or bodies. Most of your enjoyment of the film will depend on if you can vibe with this. Carrey’s shtick will be familiar to anyone who has seen his 90s films such as Ace Ventura or his recent turn as Dr. Eggman in Sonic the Hedgehog. He perhaps would have been more fitting as a character like the Joker, but within the film itself it works well enough, particularly when he has Jones or someone else to bounce off of.

When the villains aren’t on screen the rest of the film feels surprisingly restrained by comparison. Val Kilmer’s Batman gets an interesting dynamic with Nicole Kidman’s Dr. Chase which allows the film to literally psychoanalyze the character of Batman. It’s interesting seeing the film go from these moments to the ones where it fully lets loose, at one moment examinging Bruce Wayne’s trauma, and the next seeing the neon city scapes and the Riddler’s bright green VR machine hideout. It’s an interesting relic of its time, but perhaps not much more.

Batman & Robin on the other hand, is anything but restrained, which honestly makes it the more entertaining film to me. Nearly every frame has something weird going on, even if its in the background. Make no mistake, Batman & Robin is 100% a live action cartoon in the same way movies like Speed Racer or Looney Tunes Back in Action are, complete with cartoon physics and sounds in the action scenes. The heightened tone is apparent outside the action as well though. Gotham is even more neon and over designed, the observatory the film’s climax takes place in has to be the most gloriously baffling designs for a building I’ve ever seen. The whole movie is designed like a toy commercial from hell, and I love it.

The best performances come from the actors who get the tone this is going for. Schwarzenegger as Freeze is the most in his element, unashamedly rocking every single glorious stupid ice pun. No matter how stupid the movie gets the man acts his heart out and it’s amazing to witness, which makes him easily the most distinct performer here. Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy comes close, but can’t land the plant puns as well as Schwarzenegger with the ice, which is why they aren’t as memorable. What is impressive is how continuously ridiculous her costume and hair get throughout the movie. By comparison the heroes don’t quite fare as well. At their best, they capture some level of Adam West esque camp, but for the most part George Clooney sleepwalks through the role of Batman. Chris O’Donnell’s Robin is one of the worst parts of both movies because of how he’s written. They obviously tried to reinvent the character to be 90s “cool” but he just ends up being one of the worst examples of that trend and particularly in B&R comes off as insufferably whiny. Alicia Silverstone fares the best in this film, and probably would have been a good Batgirl going forward, but she has so little relevance to the plot that I wouldn’t be surprised if she was thrown into the script last minute.

Regardless of the issues these films have I can’t deny that I had a smile on my face rewatching them (especially B&R). I can’t even call it ironic enjoyment because it’s so obvious that this is the way these films were intended to be enjoyed, as campy live action cartoons. I’ve been seeing a lot more reassessments of these films since Schumacher’s death (hell it’s what inspired me to rewatch them), and I’m happy these are starting to get a better reputation. They’re hardly masterpieces, but definitely don’t deserve the “worst movies ever” reputation they often get.

Re-branding, This Book, and more updates

The cycle of this blog seems to be that I’ll bring it back every now and then after forgetting about it for an extended period of time. Usually when I do its because I feel the need to rebrand myself and set a new direction for my writing. I haven’t written anything on this site since last year but I have been fairly consistent with writing This Book minus a handful of hiatuses, currently up to chapter 30. Lately I’ve been interested in writing things other than This Book, both fiction and non-fiction, mainly short form works to balance out having such a long term project like This Book (one where the end is still a decent ways away no less.) Thus my current plan for writing in the near future is:

  1. Re-branding the blog: My mindset for the blog up until this point was essentially thinking of it as a dumping ground for miscellaneous writing. I tried a lot of random ideas, particularly when I was doing a post a day back in 2018, so its kind of a mess of random flash fictions, reviews, blog posts, etc. It’s been a lot of things but there hasn’t been a real consistent theme around any of it and I think that’s why I don’t stay active on here very long. Thus why I am re-branding to the “Faustcore Lifestyle Journal.” The kind of posts I’d like to do here from now on are pieces on media which specifically appeal to my aesthetic (Faustcore), pieces about my influences, explaining specific stories I wrote, or just anything random I feel is relevant. Basically I want this blog to be an expression of myself via the aesthetics that resonate with me.
  2. Changing things up with This Book: Since its inception I’ve tried to maintain a set schedule for This Book with… mixed success. I’ve had to change the day around a lot due to scheduling conflicts and other things. Which is why I’ve decided to do away with a set schedule altogether. Make no mistake, I will still try to update it once a week (or even multiple if I’m up for it), I’m far enough in that I can’t simply not finish it, this is just to make the process easier and ensure that chapters are more up what I want them to be. I may also go back and update/fix up older chapters from time to time, in the interest of future editing.
  3. A new webfiction project alongside This Book: I’m not going to go into details until I’m further along on this one, but at the moment what I’m planning on is a sort of short story anthology series, which will be based around and be an expression of my personal aesthetic. This is the kind of thing I’ve wanted to do for a while and I think it will make a nice balance with This Book. I don’t know if I’m going to give it

At minimum I plan on updating at least one of these projects once a week, with This Book still being the main priority. However I will try to update this blog at least somewhat consistently as well. The anthology I will probably take more time with though, so that might not necessarily see weekly releases, but I’ll explain more about that once I get closer to it.

Final Fantasy XIII is ten years old

On December 17th, ten years ago, Final Fantasy XIII was released… in Japan. The rest of the world didn’t get it until March. While Famitsu gave the game a perfect score on release, it quickly became the most divisive Final Fantasy title (until the next one anyway).

I didn’t play this game on release, I bought it used a couple of years after it came out, as my first Final Fantasy no less. If you’re looking to get into this series I would not recommend following my example (though perhaps it does give me a unique perspective on the game, unfiltered by comparisons). It’s not hard to see why the game is divisive, there’s as much to love as there is to hate.

The issues that exist are frustrating to say the least. The game’s progression is infamously linear, the combat is interesting in concept but gets repetitive outside of boss fights, and while I find the story interesting the way it is presented is often dubious.

Still in spite of these issues I’ve found myself growing more fond of the game over the years, admittedly more for the game’s narrative than the game itself. I find the underlying story of the game and its world fascinating, there’s really nothing else like it out there, even if the execution is a bit of a mess and the dialogue generally ranges from not great to borderline memeworthy (this could be attributed to the English translation not being the best). I also love the characters, some of whom start off quite annoying but by the end of their character arcs I found each endearing, my favorites being Lightning, Hope, Sazh, and Fang.

Most of all though, my love of Final Fantasy XIII comes from its aesthetic. The game is absolutely gorgeous, in both a technical and design sense. I love the blend of science fiction and fantasy via maximalism taking equally from each genre, it all looks impractical but it looks so pretty I don’t care. All of this is supported by what is easily the best thing about this game, the soundtrack. Masashi Hamauzu’s music for this is a top contender for my favorite soundtrack ever. The compositions range from beautiful cinematic pieces, (FINAL FANTASY XIII – MIRACLES), Ambient atmosphere (The Gapra Whitewood) and naturally to battle music (Blinded by Light) and it all works so well. It feels like the perfect blend of classical film scores and typical video game music.

If I’m being honest I kind of wish this was a movie as opposed to a game, it almost seems like the developers felt that way too. The actual gameplay involves cycles of walking from one cutscene to the next engaging in repetitive mob fights along the way, occasionally fighting a more interesting boss. I went through it to get the story, but unlike say Kingdom Hearts I don’t think there’s enough that I’d want to revisit it just for the gameplay.

In spite of it’s divisive nature, Final Fantasy XIII ended up being successful enough to get TWO sequels which… didn’t quite do it as well for me, but we’ll get there. First I’d just like to point out the… interesting product tie-ins this had.

Man Lightning was everywhere for a few years there.

Anyway about those sequels. To their credit they actually tried to improve on the lacking gameplay XIII had. XIII-2 and Lightning Returns made strides to be less linear and improve the combat system, and I commend this!

Unfortunately this seemingly came at the price of what I liked about the game in the first place, to the point where I never ended up finishing either. XIII-2 was just a mess, I liked the new character Noel, but I didn’t like that all the previous main characters were pretty much ditched in favor of Serah, the less than interesting damsel from the first game, who even in the staring role was still bland. Worse though was the plot, which introduced time travel of all things. XIII was already convoluted, this just made things ridiculous. The soundtrack was full of bangers though, a bit of a jarring shift from orchestral to lots of electronic music and cheesy vocals, but hey I can appreciate both styles. Plains of Eternity is a bop, and I can’t help but love the amazingly awful lyrics of Unseen Intruder (which were cut for the American version)

After XIII-2 came Lightning Returns, which put Lightning firmly back in the protagonist seat, which I was pretty happy with. Otherwise the game just felt… oddly generic. It had an even more batshit plot than the last two (with an ending that I won’t spoil but seriously look it up this shit is wild), but aesthetically it feels like an asset flip of the last two games, even the soundtrack was a downgrade, I can’t remember a single track! The gameplay was fairly interesting, in retrospect perhaps the best of the series. It had a Majora’s Mask esque timed element wherein Lightning has a set amount of days (thirteen naturally) to complete the main quest. There’s plenty of main and side quests to do and the game doesn’t railroad you into doing anything for the most part that I remember.

The XIII series has largely passed over at this point, the trilogy completed, the fans and Square-Enix moving on to the somehow even more divisive Final Fantasy XV (which I still need to play). I won’t lie and say it was a perfect game, but in a lot of ways it is a game I admire, one that has inspired me creatively, and that I still think about a lot. It’s ironic I suppose, that one of the most memorable games of this decade (in US release dates) is one that I wish had been a movie instead. God bless this stupid beautiful mess of a game.

Gangnam Style: A 2010s Story

“Oppan Gangnam Style”

On July 15th 2012 the world first heard those words from the stylish and sexy South Korean gentleman named Psy, and nothing was ever the same.

Gangnam Style instantly went viral, becoming the most viewed video on Youtube for five straight years (only dethroned by See You Again). As of this writing it has almost three and a half billion views, it spawned memes, parodies and mashups with other songs. It might be hard to remember now but this was a damn SENSATION at the time. Psy was the king of the world, and this was all before KPop really became a thing in the west… before the dark times of “stan culture.”

It’s not hard to see the appeal. While the song itself is epic, the video is even more epic. So epic it is objectively the most epic thing that has happened in the past ten years. Gangnam Style was so epic, that the UN General Secretary declared it a force for peace.”

Alas, all good things must end. Eventually Psy’s reign ended, and though there were many attempts, from competitors like Despacito to follow up songs by Psy himself, none have captured the epicness that the Style did. Though Gangnam Style’s time may be over, it will forever live on in our hearts.

Handheld Consoles in the 10s: The 3DS and Vita

The first video game console I ever owned was the Gameboy Advance. Ever since then I’ve had an affinity for handheld consoles. For a while I didn’t even think I needed a regular console. Why would I need one wherever I wanted to? It took seeing how much better LEGO Star Wars on console at my friend’s house to make me badger my parents into getting a PS2 but I think even after my preference for handhelds carried on. They might not have the graphical power of their home counterparts, but the tradeoff of portability was more than worth it for me. Handhelds make long drives and boring waits that much easier; they gave me something to occupy my time when I had nothing else to do but wait.

Unfortunately it seems like the handheld is probably a dying concept. The Vita flopped, and the 3DS is being phased out, its only replacing being the Switch. Which while technically a handheld, doesn’t necessarily feel like one to me. I can’t fit it in my pocket like I can a Gameboy or DS so I’m not going to take it out and carry it around and risk potentially losing it. Smartphones have also kind of filled the void left by handhelds, but I haven’t really found any phone games I like all that much, so I usually just listen to music or check on Discord or find articles to read.

While they may have been retroactively the last of their kind, both consoles marked a first for me in that they were the first ones where I considered myself a fan of them specifically. I was active on forums for both consoles, interacted with other fans, got recommendations, and kept up with all the new releases. I wanted to be THE 3DS guy, and for a short time I wanted to be THE Vita guy as well (this was unusual at the time, since there was something a minor console war between the two systems, not outright competition like in the Nintendo vs SEGA days, more like a console cold war, if you will).

I guess on that note I might as well start with the Vita, since that story will be a bit shorter. When this thing was announced I thought it looked really cool! You could play what looked like PS2 level games on the go, that was something I’d wanted since I laid eyes on LEGO Star Wars on the PS2 all those years ago. The 3DS game close but there were still some limitations. It didn’t matter to me that the launch lineup was dire (“Vita has no gaems”) something similar happened with the 3DS and it took off nicely. I’d assumed the games would naturally come with time.

Unfortunately after about a year I kind of gave up on the Vita. I’d gotten a few games, I liked most of them, but there seemed to be almost nothing on the horizon. I’d felt like I’d played everything the console had to offer, and so it collected dust while I played more and more on the 3DS. It was kind of sad really. I don’t think Vita games are still made but after I dropped it the console seemed to become a haven for anime games, JRPGs and indie titles. Maybe I should go back and try some of those out someday.

Regardless, as for the games I did play my favorites were probably Gravity Rush, Ys: Memories of Celceta, and Persona 4 Golden. Gravity Rush in particular was a unique platformer with both an interesting aesthetic and gameplay gimmick. I’m keen on playing the sequel on PS4 at some point. Ys was a very fun action JRPG with a great soundtrack. Persona 4 was quite good… but I never finished it. Maybe one day.

I can’t think of too many more standout games for the system that I played. There was the Assassins Creed game which was exactly like all the other Assassins Creed games. I stopped playing when I reached a terrible, motion-controlled ball puzzle. There was also Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, which most probably remember as a PS3 title (if they do remember), but did also make its way to the Vita. It was a pre-Smash 4 world and I was getting my hands on anything remotely Smash like I could. I played the game for a while but it became obvious fairly quickly that it wasn’t going to be a success, support for it ended pretty quickly and by the time Smash 3DS rolled out it had been long forgotten.

The 3DS on the other hand had probably the longest lifespan for me of any console thus far. I’ve had the thing for almost the entire decade and from release up until the getting the Switch I played it almost every day. The 3DS is, along with the PS2 and potentially the Switch, a prime candidate for my favorite console of all time. It did just about everything I wanted, it was a great size to take around, it was easy to use, and it had a library of games in just about every genre I could want with fairly consistent releases over the course of its lifespan.

And how about those games. I’ve gushed about Kid Icarus Uprising more than a few times on this blog I think. It’s a great game, a top contender for all time favorite even. I love the writing and comedic timing, I love the characters, I love the music, it’s just fun, it’s everything I could want in a game. It’s probably unlikely but I’d kill for a sequel or even a Switch remake. That Kid Icarus didn’t end up becoming a household name like Fire Emblem did is a tragedy.

Speaking of Fire Emblem, Awakening was another title I was supped stoked to play. It’s also another one I never ended up finishing for some reason! I didn’t get stuck and I was close to the end so I’m not even sure why. Otherwise I liked the game well enough, I didn’t find the story all that interesting but I did enjoy the “shipping” mechanic and the various different characters. A lot of Fire Emblem die hards seem to hate the game for its changes but that’s not something I can comment on. It’s still the only Fire Emblem I’ve played, though when I can I intend on picking up Three Houses to change that.

Another big title was Tomodachi Life, which caught my interest with the… very interesting Direct which announced it. I showed it to my mom and she was instantly sold so that became the game we bonded over. Checking on our islands and seeing which miis got with who or which ones had a baby together. In retrospect it was a fairly repetitive game in terms of how much content it had but that didn’t mean there wasn’t fun to be had. We actually played it for several years!

And then of course there was the biggest game of all, the one that at the time was the thing I was most hyped for. Super Smash Bros 4. The 3DS version came out a few months before the Wii U on and you better believe I was there launch day. Smash 3DS didn’t have as much content as its console counterpart but it was the one I probably ended up playing more. Just the novelty of having Smash on the go was enough for me. If I had a long car ride coming up, Smash 3DS was my go-to. Smash 3DS is also notable in that it had the superior unique game mode. I ended up playing Smash Run quite a bit and I still kind of wish it had been brought back and improved upon for Ultimate. It had a lot of potential. Smash Tour I only ever played like once and never touched again. Probably my only real disappointment with the game.

Other notable titles I played included Link Between Worlds, Luigi’s Mansion 2, Bravely Default, the Kirby games, Fantasy Life, and many more. (including this Legend of Korra Fire Emblem esque tie in game that apparently only I know exists) There were also a lot of ports of classic games that I ended up playing for the first time on 3DS. It was exciting to finally play Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Metal Gear Solid 3. I still need to finish Majora’s Mask actually, I picked it back up recently. I could go on.

The 3DS had a long lifespan that is only now coming to a close, replaced by the Switch. It seems weird to get sentimental over a video game console but the thing was practically omnipresent for almost the entire 10s decade. I think when I look on this decade years from now the 3DS will be one of the things that most stands out. Hell who knows, maybe I’ll still be playing on it even then. God knows Kid Icarus may never get ported to anything else!

A history of every NaNoWriMo project I’ve attempted (and how I’ve evolved as a writer)

This year will be the fifth consecutive year I attempt NaNoWriMo (and with any luck the first successful one). That also technically makes this the five year anniversary of the original draft of This Book! There’s something weirdly fascinating about unfinished projects to me. I like hearing other writers talk about ideas or stories they started or planned but never ended up making. There’s a certain level of “what could have been.” What if in some alternate universe one of these projects was completed and ended up being a masterwork! Even the drafts or rough ideas themselves have a certain appeal, even in their unpolished state, perhaps even moreso! In that spirit I think it’d be interesting (and maybe even a bit cathartic) to go through my previous attempts at long form fiction written in the month of November, and potentially what these unfinished stories have to say about my progression as a writer.

Naturally our story starts at the beginning with the original draft of This Book, which did not have that or any title at the time I was writing it! I’ve talked about it a bit before on this blog but I don’t think I’ve ever really gone in depth on it. I did mention that the original idea for it was as Kid Icarus fanfiction. That aspect is a lot more overt in this incarnation than in the current one, but I do think I managed to distinguish it enough from its roots. That’s about all the praise I have for it though, otherwise its rather awful. I wrote it when I was 18 as my first attempt at original fiction and I think my inexperience shows. The writing doesn’t really have any kind of style or voice (this is something I didn’t even realize was a problem until more recently), the plot is derivative as hell, the worldbuilding is… questionable. I do still find it fairly unique but I don’t know if I’d say that’s in a good way. In short it’s probably more fanficy than anything I wrote before ironically. And yet… much as I may see how flawed this thing is now, there is still a weird charm. When I reread it I can sense 18-year old me’s misguided enthusiasm throughout the whole thing. That perhaps is the reason I decided to rewrite it. That rewrite has almost nothing in common besides some characters and a few details, but I guess I wanted to finally have closure on this thing.

Anyway as any misguided young author does I’d planned to make this book the start of a series (you’ll notice this as a running theme as we go through these). This first book was meant to be the first part of an epic series I daydreamed up. The world of the book was divided between the normal “real world” and the “magical world” (original I know), which were separated by the goddesses because humans and magical creatures couldn’t get along. Though apparently sometimes magical creatures still get into our world and angels have to deal with them? Anyway I used whole reincarnating species gimmick I’m currently using in This Book, so that our obligatory young protagonist Grayson could find out he was actually an angel the whole time, and then go partake in the whole skyworld vs underworld war. Predominantly act one involves that process of him discovering, then training with Thalia to become an angel, meanwhile the minions of Sabreal and the Underworld (whom I made dinosaur people for… some reason?) periodically attack them. Eventually they decide to go to Skyworld so they can deal with this and… a bunch of random shit happens. They go underwater and visit merpeople? Then get attacked by a tentacle monster and stranded on an island? And then the climax happens and its dumb. Interesting the ending of this draft isn’t the one I’d originally planned. My original concept was that the real and magical worlds would get merged halfway through, and then the sequels would revolve around the political machinations of everyone trying to figure how to work all that mess out before the big villain of the series kills everyone. That idea is probably the most potentially interesting thing here but I don’t think I was ready for something like that at the time.

I only wrote 20,783 words for this one, but I actually wrote everything besides the very ending of the story (which I filled in last year). I also went to my first writing group for this one, which proved to be a very good experience. In general while I was definitely in over my head and misguided it was an essential part of the learning process. I still have this draft so if you want to read it be my guess if you’re interested or if you just want to cringe. I’ve already used just about every idea I wanted to for This Book and at this point there’s almost no similarity, so don’t worry about spoilers or anything.

Now onto 2016. For this project I changed the genre from fantasy to sci-fi. Or to be more exact science fantasy set in space. That’s right I wanted to write something in the vain of Star Wars and Star Trek, which as anyone who knows me knows, were more or less my first obsessions. The first thing I ever wrote was Star Wars fanfiction when I was like 8. Sounds like a perfect fit for me right? Hell for once I even gave it a tentative title (Avatar of Seraph… which ehhhh I think I would have changed it by the end)

Well I made it 10,001 words into this one, it was going pretty strong, but then I got sick. I didn’t feel like writing the whole rest of the month and that’s how this one died. Interestingly those 10,001 words only made up about three chapters of it! So if it had continued it probably would have been much longer than the 50,000 word requirement. This one I had planned as the start of a trilogy, and I’d spent a good deal of time worldbuilding and coming up with the different races and factions (there was a non-corporeal “host” race, an imperial race ala the Klingons, rock aliens, a machine race that would have come in towards the end of the series that was trying to exterminate organic life, brain parasites that were the rivals of the non-corporeals, and humanity divided between the uber rich corpocratic Earth and inner systems, and the poorer colonials exploited by them in the outer systems). You can probably see where a lot of my inspiration came from. Even though it’s a genre I really like I don’t know if it’s the one I should be writing sadly. I later tried again with my Subconscious Galaxy series but that didn’t really turn out the way I’d hoped either (but that’s a story for another day). I don’t have this particular draft anymore but when I did reread what I had last year I thought the writing held up much better than my 2015 attempt. I thought about continuing it (and perhaps I still could) but I’ve also lost most of my notes on this one so I’d have to rebuild a lot of the outline from almost the ground up.

Next up 2017, which is one I don’t have THAT much to say about, partially because I don’t remember what it was supposed to be all that well and partially because I only wrote 3,370 words for it. What happened here was that I had to focus on my school work and couldn’t commit like I wanted, plus my computer died that month and took what little I had with it. All I really remember was that it was supposed to be a high fantasy novel sort of in the vain of Fire Emblem? I also think it was about siblings (another common thread in… just about everything I write come to think of it) who were both heirs to the royal family, though the sister I think was going to turn out to be adopted and from an oppressed class, thus creating tension. There’s basically no proof this thing even exists so it might as well have not even happened.

Lastly 2018. I don’t have too much to say about this one either because it’s kind of already documented here and I kind of already explained in it the process of writing it. Essentially what I was trying to do was get to the arbitrary 50,000 word count by writing ANYTHING and calling it “postmodern.” I got halfway there and couldn’t do it anymore. What’s interesting here is the stylistic change this marked from my previous attempts at writing. Those drafts while clumsy were sincere to a fault, where this was pretty much the polar opposite. Pure condensed irony, It was this year that I realized that my problem was not having a real “voice” in my fiction but I think I overcompensated by writing a long ass sarcastic ironic shitpost under the guise of “postmodernism.” What I realized after intentionally failing this work was that I needed something more in the middle of sincerity and irony. JUST self-aware enough that it doesn’t come off as oblivious, but not SO self-aware that it eats everything else and becomes some winking abomination. I think that so far This Book represents that kind of balance I’ve been aspiring to since this, even if it still isn’t the perfected form yet.

One final weird note on the 2018 attempt is that I actually intended it to be a sequel to my 2015 one. Continuing the story and characters from where it left off but in a meta way examining itself as it went along. Perhaps the true irony is that this experience of ironically continuing that story ended up making me nostalgic and wanting to rewrite that draft but better. It almost feels like a character arc in a weird way.

Despite having attempted this challenge four times before this year, I feel like I didn’t really “come into my own” as an author until this year with This Book. Before then I was still figuring out what worked, finding my voice, and trying to find my identity as a writer. Don’t get me wrong I still feel like I have a long ways to go, but I definitely feel more confident about it now, more like I’m finally at the place where I wanted to be as a writer, that now I just have to hone my craft rather than just making it up as I go along. Between my 2017 project and starting my blog I think I was close to quiting fiction writing, I had some ideas I tossed around, I thought about writing short fiction, but in general in the back of my head I kind of thought “maybe this hobby isn’t for me.” I imagine every creative probably has that kind of hump at some point or another, but I guess the moral is if you really want something you’ll bang your head at it over and over again until it finally starts to work.

Oh and if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year you can add me as a buddy I guess. Or not it’s up to you.

August 12th (and the future of this site)

Alright so I’m back (again). I’ve finished with all of my assigned school essays and I’m back on track with my schoolwork in general, so now I have more time for creative and personal writing again! And with that I’ve decided to announce my upcoming major fiction project and rebrand this. So here’s the new set up:

Firstly to address the date. I mentioned earlier this year that I’ve decided to rewrite one of my older novel. Well recently I’ve decided to release it as a Web Novel. Right now what I’m doing is building up a backlog of chapters so that I don’t have to worry too much about deadlines. Each chapter will come out about 30 days after it is finished once a week every Monday starting August 12th (there’s that date). I’m not ready to say anything else about the story yet but more details will come as that date gets closer. Incidentally shout out to Thedude3445 whose advice and web novel “ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture” (check it out for him) inspired me to write it in this way. If it goes like I want it I’ll hopefully be finished with it a year from now and be able to move on to new projects.

Now, as for the re-branding. See the Web Novel is going to be on its own site as a standalone work of fiction. Separating the art from the artist if you will. I had formerly used this site as more or less a hub for all my writing but I think in general this would be better as a dumping ground for any non-project related writing. Reviews, updates, random shorts, old projects I dig up, and maybe the occasional shitposts. Basically what it’s always been but hopefully I’ll start updating more.

Anyway that’s all for now, more to come later.

Kingdom Hearts III is Delightfully Overambitious

So my plan to review this alongside the movies didn’t exactly work out. It seemed like a fun idea at the time but I hadn’t thought about how this entailed stopping the game I was enjoying, watching a movie, and then writing about both. Which especially when after playing through what in a few worlds was essentially just the movie didn’t make me feel terribly motivated to do so. In the end, I opted to just play through it at my own pace without worrying about it.

And so that is what I did, and after almost thirty hours I beat the game. On the current hardest difficulty, proud mode, no less. Which is something I almost never do in games, and not something I’ve attempted in previous Kingdom Hearts games (though I’m tempted to go back and play both the ones I already have and finish the ones I haven’t on this difficulty now). I’d seen a lot of talk about how easy this game is and they weren’t kidding. I think I died a total of maybe ten times, possibly even less. Even the final boss was a breeze that only accounted for one of those. This isn’t a dealbreaker for me as I still had a lot of fun regardless (I don’t necessarily play games for the challenge), and when Critical Mode gets added later on along with whatever extra content is planned I’ll replay the game to see if that will test my mettle a bit better.

Taken as a whole a whole Kingdom Hearts 3 boasts astounding highs and baffling lows. This has both some of my favorite and least favorite moments in gaming all in the same package, often happening one after the other. Julie Muncy’s review is the best unpacking of this particular brand of madness I’ve read. In it she describes the game as like if “like if Halo 3 tripped over Fantasia 2000 and Neon Genesis Evangelion and tried to sort the pieces out as Master Chief and Cortana fell into a bottomless pit” which is a particularly apt comparison. Though I’d also describe it as watching your favorite Disney movie but then in the last hour it turns into a cross between The Matrix Revolutions and the last 15 episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. There’s something oddly transcendent about it.

Before I get into the nitty gritty details of this most curious narrative I should finish talking about the Disney worlds, the supposed selling point that is now more or less the expected filler in between the story beats. In spite of their narrative superfluousness, this boasted some of the most fun in the entire series, namely the Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Hero 6, and Toy Story worlds. The Pirates world feels practically made just for me given that it’s based on my favorite of the series (At World’s End, fittingly another final chapter). In retrospect, it might have been a bad idea to fit another convoluted narrative inside this already convoluted one (if you’ve not seen the movie this will be completely incomprehensible) and it maybe could have tied into it a bit more in terms of gameplay. But both complaints quickly feel negligible compared to how much fun it is sailing around exploring the Caribbean. Yes, you actually sail the ship instead of picking locations from a map and it’s awesome. I spent so much time just exploring the random islands, none of it was important for story progression or even in terms of the gameplay rewards, but goddamn was it a blast. Sorry, I’m just a sucker for anything pirate related.

Big Hero 6 offered a similar feeling of openness. There wasn’t AS much to explore but the big city was impressive to look at in both day and night and was mostly a big open area. Even in the story sections, you could often run through the city in whatever direction you prefer, sometimes even branch out if you prefer. There’s even a train line you can grind on to get around. The Toy Story world is just a pure nostalgia rush, like the whole thing. The familiar characters, the music, the childlike whimsy and excellent use of the toy theme. What can I say it just gave me the warm and fuzzies. The same is true to a lesser extent of the Monsters Inc. World, though that was a bit less interesting gameplay wise. Both also have my favorite Disney character moments in the game, Woody telling Young Xehanort that no one’s ever loved him before, and Sully throwing Vanitas cartoon style through one of the doors, and then throwing the door into other doors. The juxtaposition of the evil monologuing villains and these characters is exactly the kind of hilarious nonsense you’d expect from something like this.

And then there are the other half of the Disney worlds. I still think the Hercules world is mostly whatever, its a prologue, it does the job. Tangled is pretty much just average. I’ll admit this is the only one where I’ve never watched the movie, but it kind of has the same problem as all the worlds which reuse the movie plot. You’re just watching the movie but sometimes the original characters are there. And then for the gameplay you’re mostly just running around the forest. Not bad, just it probably could have stood out more if it wasn’t obliged to include scenes from the movie. Frozen is an even more egregious version of this. They literally have the entirety of Let it Go play and it looks pretty much exactly like the scene from the movie, except that Sora, Donald, and Goofy are in a couple shots. I get this because it shows off how good the engine is by directly comparing it to a relatively recent animated feature. Sora has even less to do with the plot this time though. Almost hilariously so. Sora interacts with Elsa a grand total of ONE time, then Larxene puts the gang in the admittedly cool ice labyrinth, then they run around the snow some more, fall down the mountain like twice, meet Anna and Kristoff, spend a hot minute reassembling Olaf (I am not a fan of Olaf) then they run around the snow some more (other than the labyrinth most of the levels look identical) then they just happen upon the ending of Frozen already happening, complete with villain Hans who has not so much as been mentioned until this point, who I think dies and turns into a wolf heartless or something. Then the ending of Frozen happens, Sora changing literally nothing about it. I get the feeling this was probably because of Disney, like Frozen is one of their hot IPs and they probably had it in the contract to not mess it up with anime shit or whatever, but I think they could have found at least some wiggle room, at least had some more unique environments. Maybe I should just count my blessings that those abominable trolls weren’t included.

Oh and then there’s the Winnie the Pooh world, which is just superfluous. Like I’m pretty sure you can skip over it and not miss anything. Like in previous games it’s a minigame hub, and Kingdom Hearts minigames are not great, but this time there’s only one minigame and its the most mindnumbing match game thing you’d play on your phone for like a minute in the dentist waiting room. You play this minigame three times and nothing interesting happens until the last cutscene.

After the Disney worlds are done the true game begins where basically all the plot stuff happens. Spoilers might still be sensitive around this one and I might do an analysis later, so I’ll just say it gets kind of nuts. Almost every important character from the series is there, borderline Evangelion level things happen, there are emotional reunions, not everything works and some things are left hanging but if you’re invested in any of these characters you’ll probably have your heartstrings tugged. Sitting here writing this I realize how much is resolved too quickly or even left hanging, but in the moment I was too mesmerized to care. It showcases both the very best and worst of the series in terms of writing but I can’t help but love it. Those highs are worth the lows. This is also my favorite section in terms of gameplay, as its essentially a boss run where you fight pretty much every antagonist this series has had, including the big bad Xehanort himself. Twice. This is the part I’m most eager to experience on critical mode.

I also can’t neglect to mention Yoko Shimomura’s work on the soundtrack as per usual. My favorite new tracks are the Arendelle field theme, the Toy Box and Caribbean battle themes, Scala ad Caelum, The Sea Salt Trio medley, and Oscuritá di Xehanort.
So, that’s Kingdom Hearts 3. Back when I really got into gaming this was one of those big games that got memed that it would never actually came out, but now we live in a world where it exists, where I have beaten it. This is far from a perfect game, nor is it my favorite Kingdom Hearts (2 holds that title) but in this regard, and in the emotional highs it stirred, it is something of a special one, and it will be interesting to see how it evolves as new content is added.

Now if only Donald would shut up about those ingredients….