I went to lunch with a friend yesterday, and got a fortune from a cookie that read (between smiley faces) "Keep your plans secret for now." Obviously, this budding Confucius has never been a blogger. I'm so desperate for blog material to keep posting, I'm surprised I haven't told everybody where I keep my pot of gold buried. Then again, if actually I had a pot of gold buried, I would have spilled the beans by now.
But the fortune reminded me of the comic book course I took at the writer's conference a couple weeks ago. It was taught by Peter David, who has written over 1,000 comic books and quite a few sci-fi novels besides, and it would have been a highly enjoyable experience if he could have kept his politics under his hat. I took the five day course because I don't know anything about comic books, hadn't read one in thirty years or so, and I figured I'd be less likely to keep finding fault with the presentation. I didn't count on the four to six hours a day of homework, but that's where the fortune cookie comes in.
Peter offered students a chance at writing an episode for the comic book series "Tales from the Crypt", meaning he would pass along the work to the editor of that series who would then decide whether or not they were interested. Now, I was never a fan of the horror or thriller genre, but I developed the compulsive homework habit in graduate school, and I believe I was the only student who turned in a completed story for a 20 page comic book, laid out in panel and balloon scripting, before the final class. Due to a misunderstanding in the cafeteria when I asked Peter how many panels we should do per page, I came away thinking the number should be between five and nine, rather than the three to four panels per page (manga style) I'd written for the draft. So I redid the whole thing, adding a lot of close-ups and additional panels, changing it from a manuscript that met the technical criteria for manga style to one that missed by a mile.
But the real reason I didn't bother redoing it again to meet the manga criteria had nothing to do with the work involved. The script I'd written was a morality tale, based loosely on the Maugham story about a young man who takes the equivalent of early retirement with the goal of living out a twenty year annuity on a tropical island, and then committing suicide. In order to make it sufficiently lurid from my perception of what Tales from the Crypt would expect, I wrote something that I wouldn't have wanted my name appear on, and where's the fun in that? Oh, and I used the lottery numbers provided by a fortune cookie to make the young man rich at the end of the first act, and the waiter rich at the end of the story. His second dip into the dangerous world of comic book fortune cookies did produce a winning number, but also a cryptic pronouncement of his impending doom by fugu poisoning.
It did strike me that had I been one of the young men in the class who were obviously hoping to break into the world of comic book writing, it would have been an exciting opportunity. On the whole, the various industry professionals at the conference seemed to expect that they'd be asked to give unpublished writers a leg up. Whether or not they were willing or capable of doing so, I didn't see any aspiring authors get their heads bitten off for asking. Now that might have made good comic book - zombie authors who feed on unpublished writers brains to get fresh ideas. Ugh...