Comics writer Gail Simone has some honest and tough advice for anyone hoping to make it in the world of comics. Her words are good and sound and wise and can easily apply to anyone wanting to write novels or poems or plays or TV or just about anything else.
Here's a key excerpt on something that I wish I'd realized sooner than I did:
... [P]ut away the excuses that are getting in your way. Don’t share them, don’t give them that power. Move around them. No one can clear that path for you. You have to do it. You have to be smart, talented, and determined like a bastard. And you have to put the things holding you back aside. Bury them in the yard and plant a tree over them. Work hard, make art you’re proud of and show it everywhere. Know what you offer and let others know it. Do it now. Start right now.
If her words scare the hell out of you or piss you off, you will probably be happier doing something else worthwhile with your life. But if you're scared and pissed off and yet still somehow hopeful and inspired, then you know what to do.
It doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s something I love to do, and it doesn’t
hurt anybody. And the world probably doesn’t need any more songs, but I
need more songs. It’s satisfying and lovely to do. I feel better, and
as a band—I think I can speak for everyone—we feel better making
something that wasn’t there ten minutes ago. Whatever spirit there is
in the universe, I think that puts you closer to it. The act of
creation, you know, it’s a very powerful thing, and very gratifying. I
wish it on everyone. I wish everyone could enjoy making something that
wasn’t there before.
It's hard for me to admit this about my childhood, but the 1970s was a pretty crappy decade for sci-fi TV and movies. As much I like some of the stuff -- the good stuff -- I can't pretend that much of it was representative of the genre at its finest.
In the pivotal summer of 1977, I bounced straight from the pinball escapism of George Lucas' Star Wars to the dead-serious galactic combat of Joe Haldeman's Vietnam-influenced novel The Forever War. My imagination was stretched like saltwater taffy between those two aesthetic extremes and it was not always a pleasant feeling. I spent part of that summer on the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama, reading and writing and making Super 8mm home movies with spaceships on strings and thinking about these things until my head hurt as if from an ice cream headache. I was suddenly and painfully aware that some of the stuff I liked wasn't nearly as good as some of the other stuff I liked. But dang it, I still liked the crappy stuff!
This huge panorama by artist Dusty Abell captures some of that decade's biggest and silliest characters. You've got master thespian Reb Brown as Captain America, that awful original incarnation of Battlestar Galactica (and yes, it was downright awful, no matter what idiots like Dirk Benedict think), and Cathy Lee Crosby horribly miscast as Wonder Woman.
But you also got the perfectly cast Lynda Carter in the same role. You got Robin Williams at his manic best as the alien Mork. And you even saw veteran actors like Martin Landau wearing bright orange space suits.
Landau's show, Space:1999, was based on a ludicrous premise -- the moon is blasted out of Earth's orbit and its helpless moonbase pioneers careen through space at the speed of light to encounter aliens and black holes. As an avid subscriber to the magazine Starlog, which covered every TV show and movie no matter how terrible or laudable, I was exposed to essayists like Harlan Ellison and Isaac Asimov who, heads shaking, informed a nation of prepubescent young nerds that any explosion capable of blasting the moon out of orbit would certainly shatter said moon and probably send the remaining chunks raining down on a soon-to-perish Earth (and we won't even discuss the stupid light-speed thing). But that show did sport some incredible special effects courtesy of Brian Johnson, who would later work on Alien and The Empire Strikes Back. This show also had one of the coolest, most believable spaceships ever seen: the Eagle.
This workaholic short-range spaceship was the main reason I tuned in each week. Gritty and modular but also sleek and eye-catching, the Eagle had more compelling detail and built-in backstory than any of the show's wooden characters. Maybe it was a little too neat and tidy on the inside, but outside it was as grimy and utilitarian as a tow truck. It looked like a believable, near-future NASA vehicle that had seen some blue collar action. Yes, I had the model kit and yes, it hung above my bed in mid-flight, somewhere between the lame TV show and the better, more fantastic world of my dreams. Today I might roll my eyes at Space:1999, but I still love this damn ship.
All of this stuff -- The Man From Atlantis, Salvage One, Quark, Buck Rogers -- was formative in my appreciation of not just a genre but storytelling altogether. Some of it makes me wince and shake my head (but yes, we can learn from the bad stuff, too). Sometimes while channel surfing, I'll accidentally land on a rerun and watch, cringing and laughing. But deep inside, there's a young teenager totally bowled over by the gosh-wow sensa-wonder of it all. Yes, even the crappy stuff. Dusty Abell's wonderful artwork perfectly captures how perfect and shiny and fun it all seemed to me back then.
As someone who stood in the unemployment line for the past five weeks, I can tell you I'm not praying for Obama to fail. Neither are the millions of other job seekers struggling in these hard times, no matter what their political leanings.
I'm one of the lucky ones. I got laid back onto my old job last week, at least for the time being. The hard truth is that my company, a victim of the worldwide recession, could go under at any time. I've absolutely no idea how much longer this job will last.
During the eight years of his disastrous presidency, I never once prayed for George W. Bush to fail. Well, I did want him to lose the 2004 race, but he won that one fair and square so I had to live with it. As much as I opposed his misguided policies, I can honestly say that I wanted Bush to succeed.
I wanted Bush to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and everyone responsible for the 9/11 attacks. I wanted Bush to succeed in eliminating al Qaeda from Afghanistan. I wanted Bush to adopt policies that would make the Middle East and the world a safer, more stable place. Last but certainly not least, I wanted Bush to succeed in maintaining a healthy and vibrant economy so millions of Americans wouldn't lose their jobs while corporate CEOs raided public tax coffers.
And guess what? Despite my hopes, Bush didn't do a damned one of those things. He was a total fuck-up who couldn't succeed at anything if he tried (okay, to be fair, he does deserve props for increasing funds to fight AIDS in Africa, that continent that so befuddled Sarah Palin). But nobody I know was praying for Bush to fail because that meant that we would suffer the consequences. As we are right now.
Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh (and the spineless political cronies who kow-tow to his hateful brand of politics) would rather have Americans suffer and lose their jobs and houses and self-respect than see the political opposition actually solve the problems facing us right now.
I was in line for hours at my local unemployment office. I saw dozens of frightened faces up-close and while we stood together I listened to some of their stories. I spoke with overwhelmed job counselors and managers who said their systems were hopelessly swamped by the masses of layoffs. Aside from their despair, these people all have one thing in common. They want success from this administration. And as we approach the highest unemployment levels in four decades, success can't come soon enough.
So fuck Rush Limbaugh. If I'm gonna pray for failure, it'll be aimed at Limbaugh's hate-blackened heart, his fatty-laden prostate, his cigar-choked lungs, his illegally-obtained Oxycontin-ravaged kidneys and liver, whatever cholesterol-laden organ wants to give up the game and stop keeping that odious bastard upright and barking. I'm talking to you, Mr. Brain Aneurysm: pop some pressure and drop this fat fuck into a hole.
It would be a good thing for America if Limbaugh's brand of cancerous and divisive politics were to vanish from the landscape. And it would be a boon for that shrinking minority of true conservatives who need to wrestle their tattered party back from the callous anti-American neo-cons responsible for so much of the mess we face today.