Why I Wrote It: Fashion And Worldbuilding

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

Clothes are something people need to think about. I fell down a well-dressed rabbit hole, and I had to share it with people, so I wrote a book about it.

So “Fashion and Worldbuilding” is today’s subject, my book on the role of fashion in setting development. I didn’t mean high fashion, but more clothes and ornamentation and uniforms, all the things we’re used to. Well, used to until you design a new setting – like I did.

When I was working on A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, my techno-fantasy adventure, fashion quickly came into play. Thinking over a space-age world rooted in what is basically a JRPG/mid-level fantasy setting requires you to think about clothes in fantasy worlds. Uniforms and holy outfits, flowing robes and enchanted armors, all require you to ask why do people dress this way? Then you have to ask how did this translate to a modern world?

I had a lot about fashion and clothes.

You’ve got over-organized sorceress Marigold Rel-Domau, a sorceress who is legally required to dress in Guild robes to show she’s a walking weapon. Cleric Beacon Rindle is expected to wear the colors and symbols of his goddess who might send him emails to remind him. A long-suffering team of Military specialists have to dive in and out of “Military Blue” depending on how undercover they’re hoping they’re being. Fashion became important.

So I of course realized it was time to write a book. I’d thought about clothes and fashion in worldbuilding, but not like this. In turn, I then realized how many times fashion had affected my life, my writing, or come up in both fiction and the real world. I’d thought about this alot over the years, from game design to watching Tim Gunn analyze comic book superheroes.

In the end? A book came out of it, turning my own experiences into helpful coaching questions.

A lesson for me here is that you may need a more visceral, hands-on experience to create something. These experiences don’t just inform you or make you aware, they also collect thoughts and experiences to let you write. You might be surprised what you know and what you’ve thought of and what you can do – once you have the right experience.

Steven Savage

After the Coup

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

I write my blog posts a week ahead of time, usually on a Tuesday or Wednesday. On Wednesday January 6th I didn’t write anything because there was a coup in my capitol. You probably saw the whole thing with the screaming, Congress hiding, all egged on by Trump.

It was sad, shameful and very nearly the end of my country. We got close to murder of Congressmembers. Congressmembers encouraging the mess suddenly were melting down in light of what they did. My country was humiliated in media.

I didn’t blog then, obviously.

I spent days trying to track what was going on.

I had flashbacks to 9/11 (there’s a story there: I worked at an insurance company when it happened).

I soldiered on, as did everyone else.

And know what, if you felt you had to push yourself during it? If you felt you had to keep up with everything? You didn’t, and depending on your mental and physical state, you don’t now.

But why are you reading this? Because I love to write. It means something that I write, and I feel better doing this.

Do what you gotta do – and don’t do what you don’t need to.

Regular posting next week, probably.

Steven Savage

Some Writing Experiments And Thoughts

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

Going into 2021, I’d like to quickly round up a few writing experiments I did and am planning to do. I hope it inspires everyone to try them, try their own, or tell me I’m full of it.

So let’s get to it:

The 20 Minute Prime

The “20 Minute Prime” is a habit I created to make sure I keep writing and don’t get distracted – while not pressuring myself. It works like this.

  • 20 Minutes a day I sit down and write – but it can be anything from a blog post to a book to a newsletter. As long as it wasn’t “everyday” writing like email, it was good.
  • During this 20 minutes I do nothing else. No chat, email, etc.
  • At the end of the period I can keep writing if I want to. I don’t have to avoid distractions if I don’t want.

When I do this, I rarely write only 20 minutes. Once I’m going I’m in the zone and I get a lot more done. It also seems to be faster.

So far this has been extremely successful. I make time for writing that’s not distractible, but I don’t pressure myself on what, so I don’t beat myself up over not writing the “right” thing. By doing this I get into the visceral rhythm of writing, making space for it, and often I write much more. Finally I develop a good awareness of distraction, avoiding it, and allowing it.

Deep Dives

I have tried writing books “over time” and it’s a mixed bag – it can be a grind, you can loose the big picture, etc. Also it involves timeshifting and changing focus and keeps you from being “in the flow.” Sometimes you need to dive deep for a few hours.

Inspired by someone in one of my writers group who once wrote for 20 hours on a weekend, I’m going to try marathon writing. I call these Deep Dives.

Now I don’t know if I’ll write for 20 hours over a weekend (I just may) but my goal is to set aside time to spend hours working on books. My theory is as follows:

  • I can get into the zone and write faster.
  • This leads to focus and avoids timeshifting, saving time.
  • Doing writing flushes problems out, so the more the better.
  • Whatever I don’t fix will come out in edits.
  • Sometimes finishing is the only way to fix stuff.

My first test will be my next Worldbook, which will probably write in less than a week (and possibly over a weekend). I’ll doubtlessly let people know how that goes.

That’s The Plan – So Far!

I’ll keep sharing other insights. Maybe folks would like a regular update on what I’m trying and if it worked?

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Conspiracies And Worldbuilding

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

Conspiracies and Worldbuilding is a book that is more than it seems, both in content and in origin. It would seem simple to write a book on “here’s how to put conspiracies in your fictional” world – and that’s the problem.

Conspiracies aren’t simple to write.

I love a good conspiracy in a book, from political intrigue to a murder mystery (which is just a tiny conspiracy). It’s fun to figure out what’s going on, and who doesn’t love a puzzle? The problem is that most people’s ideas of conspiracies come from Conspiracy Theories, and that’s dangerous.

Conspiracy Theories are everywhere because humans try to make sense of the world. In turn, they work our way into our popular culture because they are recognizable and often fascinating. A quick perusal of fiction will find multiple Illuminatis, a heavy dose of Lizard People, and a decent sprinkling of alien technology.

But this isn’t just fun. Conspiracy Theories and taking them seriously (in the wrong way) promotes several alarming trends, and this book was to address that in part.

First, many Conspiracy Theories are just window dressing on biases, old or new. When we recycle them into our fiction, we promote those biases and even give voice to promoters who have ulterior motives. A cursory examination of many a conspiratorial belief quickly uncovers racism, sexism, bigotry, and more. I wanted people to avoid spreading these ideas as if they were innocent.

Secondly, many Conspiracy Theories lead to bad story ideas because they’re so unlikely and impossible. Most Conspiracy Theories suppose impossible organizations, dubious motivations, and terrible resource management. I wanted people to write more likely conspiracies – as those are more fun to read or watch!

Third and finally, fiction too often ignores that Conspiracy Theories and Conspiracies go hand in hand. If you have nefarious plans, the easiest way to get away with it is to turn people against someone else. They’re busy attacking phantoms and innocent people so you can get away with your own dark goals. I wanted more fictional conspiracies that were good at evil machinations and wanted to cover this.

In the internet age, I saw more spread of biased conspiracy theories, more foolish leaps of logic, and more muddling of Conspiracy Theory and Conspiracies. So I wanted to do a book on how to handle these subjects in fiction better. From avoiding spreading bigotry to creating more believable (and thus thought-provoking) settings, I figured it was a win-win.

So far, it seems the book has sold pretty well, and I hope I’m reaching people. Let’s make good stories, good conspiracies, and spend less time promoting bigotry and the unlikely. Please give me a conspiracy that chills me as it seems so real and a story that helps me see how prejudices are puppet strings.

Steven Savage

The (Holiday) Fire Next Time: Holidays in 2021

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

We’re not even through the holiday season of 2020, so I’d like to discuss the holiday season of 2021. No, this isn’t me jumping the gun like every store out there to cram Christmas and such into every mental cranny. Instead, I want to confront three facts that haunt us, the three “Ghosts of Christmas WTF” as it were.

  • This holiday season is not “normal.”
  • The next holiday season will not be “normal.”
  • The next holiday season should not be “normal.”

This holiday season is not “normal,” and it’s even less normal than we realize. We know about the obvious abnormal things – the Pandemic, economic collapse, a president in further mental and moral decline. But there are other things we may not notice because of those things.

Think of all the things that have changed because of the above. We’ve been barely seeing our friends, our exercise routines changed, our diets changes, and so forth. Many of us have come close to tragedy or have faced it. We’ve had abnormal after abnormal flung at us over and over so much we might not be able to acknowledge it.

So let’s acknowledge it and give ourselves a break. Don’t beat yourself up – or bother others – for not doing things “right.” It wasn’t going to be “normal.”

Such acknowledgment let us gear up for next year – because the holiday season of 2021 is going to be different too.

Next year isn’t just going to be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., in 2021. It’s going to be us recovering from the Pandemic and the economic crisis. We’ll be reliving the traumas of this year, on top of whatever holiday stressors we have. Too many of us will have empty seats at the table and fewer holiday cards to send.

The next holiday season won’t be “normal.”  Get that into your head, and you’ll be happier next year. You’ll be able to acknowledge the trauma you and others faced. You’ll know to go easy on yourself and others.

By acknowledging next year’s holidays will be different, that means we can deal with the fact that the next holiday season should not be “normal.”

We will have confronted so many issues about life – the fragility of it, our ignorance of essential workers, grinding poverty, political corruption, and more. We will want to rethink what the holidays mean and what we want to do in light of these unavoidable truths.

We will want to mourn. There will be so much sadness, so much death, and we’ll need to deal with it. During the holidays, sad things often come out – so let us prepare to deal with such things healthily.

We will want to dispense with some traditions.  How many holiday events are horrible mental grinds we never wanted to do anyway – and this Pandemic let us avoid them or ditch them? How many traditions don’t seem meaningful now? What do we need next holiday season – and in the years to come?

We will want to return to or elevate some traditions.  What holiday events now mean more to us than ever? What events should we make the center of our holidays in 2021? I usually did holiday potlucks, and believe me when I say I value them even more.

We will want to make new traditions.  What have we learned this horrible 2020 that can be dealt with by new practices? What deserves to be remembered, or despised, or forgotten? You’ve probably created or taken on other holiday traditions before – what should you make (or just appropriate) for next year?

Steven Savage

Steve’s Book Roundup 12/29/2020

I write a lot and have quite a few books.  So now and then I’m going to post a roundup of them for interested parties!

My sites:

Fiction

I’ve been returning to fiction with a techno-fantasy setting of several planets orbiting a star called Avenoth.  Take a typical fantasy world of magic and gods, and let it evolve into the space age and internet age . . .

  • A Bridge To The Quiet Planet – Two future teachers of Techno-Magical safety find trying to earn their credentials hunting odd artifacts backfires when you’re hired to put some back . . . on a planet where gods go to die!

The Way With Worlds Series

This is what I do a lot of – writing on worldbuilding!.  You can find all of my books at www.WayWithWorlds.com

The core books of the series will help you get going:

  • Way With Worlds Book 1 – Discusses my philosophy of worldbuilding and world creation essentials.
  • Way With Worlds Book 2 – Looks at common subjects of worldbuilding like conflicts in your setting, skills for being a good worldbuilder, and more!

When you need to focus on specifics of worldbuilding, I have an ever-growing series of deep dive minibooks.  Each provides fifty questions with additional exercises and ideas to help you focus on one subject important to you!

The current subjects are:

Creativity

I’m the kind of person that studies how creativity works, and I’ve distilled my findings and advice into some helpful books!

  • The Power Of Creative Paths – Explores my theories of the Five Types of Creativity, how you can find yours, and how to expand your creative skills to use more Types of Creativity.
  • Agile Creativity – I take the Agile Manifesto, a guide to adaptable project development, and show how it can help creatives improve their work – and stay organized without being overwhelmed.
  • The Art of The Brainstorm Book – A quick guide to using a simple notebook to improve brainstorming, reduce the stress around having new ideas, and prioritize your latest inspirations.
  • Chance’s Muse – I take everything I learned at Seventh Sanctum and my love of random tables and charts and detail how randomness can produce inspiration!

Careers

Being a “Professional Geek” is what I do – I turned my interests into a career and have been doing my best to turn that into advice.  The following books are my ways of helping out!

  • Fan To Pro – My “flagship” book on using hobbies and interests in your career – and not always in ways you’d think!
  • Skill Portability – A quick guide to how to move skills from one job to another, or even from hobbies into your job.  Try out my “DARE” system and asses your abilities!
  • Resume Plus – A guide to jazzing up a resume, sometimes to extreme measures.
  • Epic Resume Go! – Make a resume a creative act so it’s both better and more enjoyable to make!
  • Quest For Employment – Where I distill down my job search experiences and ways to take the search further.
  • Cosplay, Costuming, and Careers – An interview-driven book about ways to leverage cosplay interests to help your career!
  • Fanart, Fanartists, and Careers – My second interview-driven book about ways to leverage fanart to help your career!
  • Convention Career Connection – A system for coming up with good career panels for conventions!

Culture

  • Her Eternal Moonlight – My co-author Bonnie and I analyze the impact Sailor Moon had on women’s lives when it first came to North America.  Based on a series of interviews, there’s a lot to analyze here, and surprisingly consistent themes . . .

The Law of Conservation of Silliness

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

I would like to propose the Law of Conservation of Silliness.

I do not do this lightly because I take silliness quite seriously. Be it wild cosplay or wacky humor, strange crossover fanfictions or subtle jokes, nonsense is something I appreciate. My history of watching B-movies testifies to that appreciation.

Humans need silliness, you see, much the way we need play – perhaps both needs are the same. We need that space to let our minds flow free in seemingly foolish directions, both to laugh but also to discover. We need to be silly to relax, to take a moment to not be serious in an oft-serious world, else we lose something. Any of us know the sheer power of giggling at something so foolish it might just be profound – and how we might find profundity.

When we can be silly, we also take ourselves less seriously. The world, in my opinion, needs that – and always had.

Thus we need silliness, humor, strangeness in our lives. So what happens if we do not get it? In modern times we can indeed observe that when denied, the silly side of people comes out in strange and dangerous ways.

We all know the people who take themselves too seriously. The uptight and the self-righteous, the judgemental and the hateful. We know people without joy or laughter except, perhaps at the expense of others. When they imagine, they only seem to imagine dark things and make equally dark plans against their imagined phantoms.

Thus these unsilly people build elaborate webs of hatred and conspiracy to fight. Never satisfied because they cannot enjoy, they cannot be silly, they spin silly-looking beliefs of a world against them. Their lack of silliness and humor means they turn that talent to making lists of the tiniest hatreds and elaborate conspiracy theories to explain their own pettiness.

If you do not experience silliness, then it will come out in dark ways. We use that silly side of us to make the world worse when we cannot enjoy it.

One merely has to look at elaborate conspiracy theories being spun on the internet. They are oft silly and dumb in a way that would be funny if people didn’t believe in them. Very serious people – too serious – spend time creating such illusions and making everyone else miserable.

I submit that if such people could relax, laugh, be foolish and wild, they wouldn’t spin ridiculous tales they take too seriously.

Thus the Law of Conservation of Silliness: If we are not allowed to enjoy silliness, we will turn it into believing and doing foolish but awful things.

Do I take this law seriously?

Well, there’s a good question. It does seem a bit silly, doesn’t it? But perhaps a dumb law is the best thing to explain a dark tendency of people.

Steven Savage

Why I Wrote It: Superheroes And Worldbuilding

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

I have a few oddball books in my “Way With Worlds” collection on worldbuilding, and the Superhero one is one of them. It’s the first book of the series to tackle worldbuilding in a given genre directly, and though it may not be the last like it, it’s one near and dear to me.

I love the superhero genre.

The superhero genre is a meta-genre that combines many other genres, tropes, ideas together in one heady brew that wears a cape. Orphans turned detectives team up with godlike aliens and humans transformed by chemicals to fight sentient gorillas and criminal clowns. It takes a few trope frameworks (people with unusual abilities develop specific identities and roles) within which you can go wild.

I even helped run a shared universe superhero newsletter back in the day. The crew created their own characters in a shared setting, we’d often trade-off, and the result was a four-year-plus series of stories and a giant body of work. It went every direction, yet also was still recognizable as a superhero body of work.

Again, I love the superhero genre. That would have been enough to write a worldbuilding book on it – but there was more.

Superheroes are a genre that deserves more exploration as it is a meta-genre, a wrapper for many familiar characters and story types. Because it allows one to write so many ideas while still using an easy-to-access framework, you can make the bizarre accessible. The Grant Morrison Doom Patrol or the anime Concrete Revolutio are just some examples – the former surrealist, the latter a puzzle-box. In today’s grand age of superhero tales, we have a chance to explore.

I was further motivated by thoughts of new caped horizons and masked adventures. Yet, one other motivation came into play.

We’re so inundated with superhero stories, I wanted to make sure people didn’t fall into tropes old and new, so my book is a small contribution to avoiding that. My superhero worldbuilding guide asks hard questions to help people make believable worlds. Because superhero worlds are often many genres, that means such a worldbook inspires people to think through bizarre possibilities – and make them seem real! To reconcile alien invasions, time travel, cybernetics, and a mild-mannered reporting career pushes one to artistic heights.

So my worldbook was born of a love of the genre, hope for more, and fear of stagnation. A small contribution, perhaps, but a heartfelt one, and one I hope inspires others.

Sometimes the best thing you can do when you love something is to inspire others who love it to go to heights you never imagined. That’s where “Superheroes and Worldbuilding” came from.

Who knows what other genres I could tackle?

Steven Savage

Use Your Art

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

In the end, if we want to use our creativity to promote freedom and such ideas, to connect to truth, we may find ourselves asking if our given art is useful.

We may write erotica, and wonder what that will do politically. We create videogames and think connecting blocks in patterns can’t do anything. How will our art make a difference?

First, don’t discount any value that your art provides. If you entertain if you inspire you do make a difference. I’m sure you can think of times you enjoyed something and it made your life better.

At the same time, don’t count out how a form of art can change the world. Erotica can challenge ideas about sex and gender used to manipulate others. The plots of video games can make us think. A seemingly silly story can conceal subtle truths that are otherwise painful poison.

Also don’t discount the other benefits. Money, fame, influence. Well-made art gives you other tools to influence the world. You may change the world not via your art, but via what your art brings you.

Besides, every piece of art you make means you get better at it, and may lead you to other projects more prone to your political goals.

But you may find, now or with practice you can use your art to do directly political things.

Can you write? Editorial columns and social media may be your thing.

Video editing can create documentaries and confound tyrants on social media.

Graphic design can craft websites to get out messages.

And, of course, we all know the power a good performance can bring.

So don’t feel your art is useless. It may bring comfort and joy. It may bring riches and fame you can use. FInally, it may be easy to repurpose to do other things.

You just have to find which way to use it. But you’re a creative – never stop until you dream up the way to turn that power to change the world.

Steven Savage

Thou, the Creator

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

I recently heard a question that led me to understand one of the most significant drivers of creativity.

That question was, “What would your seventeen-year-old self think of you now?

My seventeen-year-old self would be reasonably happy as I had fulfilled many of my youthful dreams, at least partially. I had worked in video games, even if I found it wasn’t for me. I had and continue to be a published writer, even if it’s self-published. I am in a happy relationship, though I have one amicable divorce under my belt. I had done pretty decently.

But that made me realize that many of my dreams were creative dreams, and what had helped me reach them in part was that I had held on to some of my youthful desires to be a given kind of person. I was the writer, the game professional, involved in IT, and so on. I had held on to the dream of being a certain kind of person, even if the hope slept for years.

That’s when I realized a core driver of creativity is identity. When you identify as something, you become that thing – if not in whole in part, if not as a burning hot dream, then a warm reality. Some youthful identities had never left me, and thus I became them, and my further readings on productivity have confirmed that.

When I looked around at successful creatives I knew, it was almost always the same – each person dedicated to being a certain someone. A documentarian who could write with lightning speed scribed books faster than anyone. A creative idolizing people like Kubrik and punk rockers who could always find a new boundary to walk across into wild art. A cosplayer who constantly created as it was simply them.

And me, a person who wanted to be a writer as a kid who just kept writing, an IT geek that did it as he liked it who ended up in Silicon Valley. All that was just me being me.

Identity drives us. It is that which we are and must be, and nothing stops us because it is us. A failure may interrupt us, a crisis may mean a delay, but we surge ever forward because it’s what we do.

Identity keeps us from distraction. When you have a choice between things, your identity helps make the decisions, minimizing distractions. Even when there is chaos and crisis, that identity helps you go around the distractions when you can. Perhaps in crisis, you even find your identity drives you to a solution.

Identity channels our energies.  It is the lens that focuses the light of our adrenaline and power and fear and hope. It tells our energies where to go, and from that, great things can result.

A person who knows “I am this” is powerful as they are something, even if they are not the best form of it – or the best form of it yet.

For you out there, the creative, find your identity, hold to it, act on it. That’s your skeleton key to life, to unlock what you want to do. I am not saying it is easy or without pain – not at all. I am saying it is what will help you make art, and music, and books, and cosplay, and more.

Let me leave you with something that helped me. Write down everything you want to be/think you are – and keep it positive. Out of these, find seven or less – even if you have to drop some that seem little relevant, consolidate others, or even make hard admissions to yourself. Find what speaks to you.

Now ask, if these are who you are and will be . . . what do you do next?

Keep asking that question whenever you need to. Eventually, your seventeen-year-old self may be quite impressed – or you’ll find they already are.

Steven Savage