Tag Archives: media

On Popular Things

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

A discussion that I and my fellow authors seem to have again and again is “is it worth time reading or watching really popular things?” This is not snobbery, but more a question about using our limited time. Maybe something popular is so analyzed and discussed we don’t think there’d be any value in seeing it or reading it. Perhaps we want to find the less known and bring it to light. Maybe we’re tired of good but overexposed franchises

There are legitimate reasons to ask “do I care about this popular thing?”

As I noted before, you can overdo worrying about “am I consuming the right media.” There are reasons to take a chance on popular media.

First, you may like it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying something popular, no matter how many people tell you your nose isn’t turned up enough. To try to dislike things you like is to turn your back on the rest of yourself.

Even if your enjoyment is minor, you may also desire the social connections. You may be “into” a film series or TV enough that you can enjoy discussing it with others. Humans are inherently social beings, and media consumption is part of it. Don’t indulge in something you don’t like, but I think it’s understandable to “give it a try as everyone else is.”

If you are unsure if something popular is worth your time, then why not try it? You can always drop it after reading a few chapters or watching an episode. It is OK to quit.

Finally, no matter why you partake in popular media you will have useful reactions – as I’ve noted, your insights on any media are uniquely yours. You may learn a valuable lesson, even if that lession is I hate this stuff. Each encounter with media – rare or common – is a learning experience.

Remember, your experience of a media is unique, even if it is “I will never touch this dreck again.”

Steven Savage

Only You Goes Both Ways

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

“Only you can write your story,” is something I and others often tell troubled authors. No matter how unoriginal you feel your work is, your take is unique because you are unique. The world is filled with similar stories, we remiind our fellow creators, but those are at best a framework animated by a unique author’s spirit.

However it seems we get suddenly judgmental when we decide how to spend our time. Is this book truly worth reading? Should we see this movie? We’re ready to encourage others to create, but suddenly far less interested in taking in various creations. This is not saying you have to read and watch everything, but that maybe you can be a little more open to experiences because your reading and viewing is also unique.

You are the only one that can write your story, and in turn you are the only one that reads a book or sees a movie your way.

(Besides, as Serdar notes in a column that semi-inspired this one, you can just stop if something is truly awful.)

Your reading or viewing experience is just as unique as anything you create. You will have insights no one else has, and find inspiration unique to your own creativity. You will find flaws no one else saw, and take away lessons no one else will learn. However you consume an artistic experience, that experience is yours and what you take from it is yours.

As an example, let me tell you about when I read a compendium of Lupin stories, tales of the titular gentleman thief by Maurice Leblanc. I wanted to see what the fuss was about, and I had two takeaways. The first was that I didn’t get the popularity, and figured it was a cultural difference. The second was that the concise writing, even in translation, provided a good example of doing a lot with few words – Leblanc could do in a paragraph what might take another author a page. I didn’t fall in love with Lupin, but the style helped me reduce my own gratuitous wordiness.

That was my experience. Yours might be different, and perhaps if we talked we’d learn twice as much.

Guard your time, definitely. But don’t guard it so much you find you’re in a self-made prison.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It – News, Media, and Worldbuilding

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr. Find out more at my newsletter.)

Why would I do an entire book on news and worldbuilding? Because I was (and am) pissed off at people misunderstanding the importance of news in fiction and life. We’re not talking about my most noble of goals, but it led to a good book.

When I wrote this book in 2019 people were waking up to the impact of disinformation, news-as-propaganda, and internet bullshit. Many people wished this had happened much earlier because plenty of people sounded the alarm, but at least there was an alarm. I was one of the people wishing this had happened a hell of a lot earlier because, look, it is evident that people are tragically deceived between networks like Fox and internet propaganda.

Of course, when I think about real-life issues, I start asking how these issues are portrayed in fiction because it’s what I do.

I realized quickly that fictional settings rarely deal with the questions of how news works. Sure we sometimes get great things like Sir Pratchett’s The Truth, or maybe a reporter character, but I couldn’t recall anything that stood out beyond that. It was time to do two things:

One, keep doing my political activism.

Two, write a damn book on worldbuilding and news.

If that seems petty, it was – I was annoyed and wanted catharsis. However, there were two benevolent motivations:

  • Fiction is a tool to help us understand the world, to think, and imagine. If people who were worldbuilding thought about news, their stories would in turn, make the audience think. Plus, we might get more cool stories out of it.
  • Those reading this book would also think about news and media in general and become more thoughtful. Worldbuilding is very educational, very thought-provoking, and I view it as a form of personal growth.

It was time to write a book on news and worldbuilding – which was also easy.

Remember when I said this age of disinformation got to me? I’ve been a news junkie since I was in my early 20s; I was the guy buying the newspaper in college and turning on 24/7 news on my radio at work. My career in IT has been dependent on information, reporting, and data. You can see why I was annoyed – and that I had a great foundation to write another worldbuilding book.

Yes, some of it felt good to get out.

The result is a pretty good worldbuilding book. It’s got some great questions, some thought-provoking bits, and comes from both the heart and experience. Definitely, one I’d put as high up in my collection because it dealt with something that wasn’t typical to worldbuilding coaching.

It’s also a reminder that a mix of irritation and personal experience is a surprisingly solid start for a book.

Steven Savage