What are you Writing?

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by MikeKardec, Nov 18, 2015.

  1. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    Actually, no. It is led by a lot of women of color: Asian, Black, and Latina.

    And they have a right to grouse. The romance genre stereotyped POC for decades.
     
  2. Fading Fast

    Fading Fast

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    I've read this too.
     
  3. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    I don't specifically remember any that I've seen, but the few I did see were done before the rather contentious present era. I suspect that The Searchers was more controversial in the past when the protagonist was more likely to be a "hero" who was supposed to be some sort of role model.

    Wayne did at least two of these "anti heroes" (a term I'm not crazy about because it suggests everything needs to codified more than I'd like), The Searchers and Reap the Wild Wind. Those are two of my favorite of his performances. Red River was also somewhat in that mold. A protagonist needs to be interesting, she or she does not need to be "nice" or "good." Now, in an era when we do scores of episodes of shows like Breaking Bad and The Shield we have developed a greater taste for off color protagonists, some of whom are specifically tragic. I define tragedy as an upside down hero story. The tragic protagonist would be the villain in a classic hero story. In a tragedy there is usually a true hero, Hank, in Breaking Bad is a good example. McDuff in Macbeth is another.

    As I mentioned above, a lot of times in history the people who went out and DID things weren't the best people, and they didn't do the things for the best motives ... but that doesn't mean that they didn't do stuff, and that it wasn't interesting.

    I'm just discussing this all stuff and working out the details in my head, I don't expect anyone to agree with me ... as I think about it, even I may not agree with me! Also, if I gave the impression I KNEW what TMC was doing, that was a mistake. I just know what happens when you give a production team a mandate to do a job: it gets done ... but not necessarily scientifically. As I said, I'm doing it myself, though not for the purpose of helping anyone make excuses for, or to add disclaimers to, the material. Anyway, it's good to have people to bounce ideas off of.

    Don't get me started on Westerns unless you want a ton of information that we may both struggle to figure out! I know more than I can sometimes express and yet I still know less, or just different things, than most people who are "experts." It gets confusing.

    No kidding!

    I'm not so sure that the US is "behind" Australia and other places when it comes to dealing with Indigenous peoples and the like. I've lived both here and there and spent a lot of my time here living very close to many Native Americans. Australia, when I was there 20 years ago, made rather broad passes at crediting Aboriginal rights but, coming from the US it seemed sort of superficial. Europeans in North America seem (to my so far uninformed eye) to have had a much more complex history/relationship with our native peoples ... but North America was settles several hundreds of years earlier than Australia, so that makes complete sense. As with anything I say this has to be tempered by realizing that I did not explore this situation like a scholar or anything of the sort. I just watched Australian culture for a year or so then left. All I have are half informed thoughts and feelings.

    When it comes to American Indians I have never tried to figure out exactly what is "right." I've just tried to look at the history, particularly the parts no one seems to care about today, like the problematic responsibilities inherited from Mexico, the constant pressure the army was under from civilians going off and doing nasty, non govern-mentally approved stuff, and the early days of Native suffrage in the 1920s. THAT was a complex period, one worth reading about! All sorts of plans were made in Washington to get out from under the responsibility of dealing with Native Americans. However, there were a LOT of sharp Indians who caught on and responded thoughtfully. I've got a comic project I'll find a publisher for someday that deals with the old reservation pass program being similar to internal passports in the Soviet Union.

    Hopefully, I'm making it clear that I'm not taking any sort of simple position on this stuff, I just find all the ins and outs fascinating. Just to cause trouble, I'd be happy to return to Europe to live if someone would clear some of those pesky French and Czechs out of the way. The big question is, does anyone ever write about the original people's of Europe? I believe the Basques have an ancient continental heritage that is shared by only a few others. I suspect that some of my Romany and Jewish ancestors were in Europe before a number of other groups but they were still interlopers.
     
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  4. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    We ran The Searchers in a gorgeous 35mm Technicolor print for a special event a few years back -- it was the favorite film of some artist who was getting a show at the local museum, or something like that, and it attracted a largely, ah, "mature" audience. A representative of the museum came on before the film and gave a pretty blunt disclaimer -- "Wayne's character is a cold-blooded, virulent racist, and that's the entire point" -- and when the audience left, most of whom were people who'd come to see "A John Wayne Movie," with all that that implies as popular culture, many of them left with a deeply shaken look on their faces. "I didn't remember it was like that," said one elderly gentleman.

    It was always "like that," sir -- it's *you* who's changed. A lot of the veiled critique of racism in films of the Era went right over the heads of many in the original audiences, especially those who were not taught the value of constant intellectual self-criticism. But even people like that can change, when they live in a society that's changing right along with them. I think that's a point that a lot of these kinds of discussions always miss. No one's views and attitudes are immutable, and no thinking adult is really the same person they were twenty, thirty, forty+ years ago -- unless, of course, they've been dead that long. Diggers-up of ancient quotes ought to keep that in mind.
     
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  5. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Excepting The Assumption by El Greco. An elixir of the soul, followed by a California chardonnay and Pushkin's
    poetry, How Sweet It Is. Divine splendor, excellemce, and romance. :D
     
  6. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    It's so odd, I see/hear this all the time, especially about Wayne. Actually a lot of "his" westerns (Stars in this era had less to do with the content of their films, although Wayne did produce a few of his own later on) were very complex and insightful. It was the WWII semi propaganda films he made that were often the more simplistic "rah rah just be a patriot and don't think about it" productions.

    Beyond Wayne, I constantly hear from Western audiences, who just LOVE all Westerns, that what they really like is the "simple distinctions between good and evil," more stereotypically put as Black hats and White hats. I think they say this because DECADES of writers, critics, commentators, have told them to ... and they close their eyes and sort of believe it. But a lot of the content they are consuming is not like that.

    Most often what makes a Western a Western is the friction between early and late stage civilization. The harsh ways and harsh experience of the earliest denizens of "the west" vs those who came later and expect or strive for a more "eastern" or civilized experience. There's a few other elements that are worked out in Westerns but that is the one that applies here.

    The Searchers, is a great example because it contains three layers, perhaps even four: the harsh landscape that can kill without thought or morality, the supposed "proto civilization" of some native Americans (actually gradients of that idea because Natalie Wood's character has found a home among them so it's clearly not as different as someone, like Ethan Edwards, thinks.), the rough generation of early arrivals who needed the frontier to be who they were, these were often "outlaws" like Wayne/Edwards. And finally, the civilizers, the non nomadic settlers who are stand ins for the beginning if the world we know.

    Quite often it's the tension between those graduations or others like them that define the Western. Good and bad are artfully intermixed to create drama of all sorts. The whole POINT is that there were no real Black Hats and White Hats. That idea may more have come from material like the Bill Boyd Hopalong Cassidy films and their ilk.

    Even when time or subject matter did not allow for such complexity it's common to see a certain group presented as the "good guys" (the people we are asked to sympathize with) in one Western and then the same sort of group is presented as the "bad guys" in another. The only difference is who the audience is led, by the writer, to identify with.

    Lizzie's experience at the theater is SO telling. It's not really the material, which is often quite complex and neutral in its approach (especially if you look at ALL of the genre in one lump), it's how people have been taught to see or read it.

    The question is, why? How were a couple of particular generations trained to see Westerns in a way that writers and directors of those same generations did not? Why were those writers and directors so successful in selling Westerns, yet so unsuccessful in communicating the ideas that some of us see so clearly ... granted Lizzie and I may have been exposed to more of it than some, but it's still a mystery.

    People have also been trained to define Westerns by the content of Western Genre MOVIES, the literature is less specific in its content, more broad based in its attitude and has always covered more ground historically. There are reasons for that which are unbelievably shallow and specific to Hollywood, but I'll leave that for some later discussion.
     
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  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I think you can track the present view of Westerns to the TV-show Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s. Many of these shows were very well done and contained adult themes and elements that went right over the heads of most of the kids who watched them -- all most of those kids saw were horses, guns, cowboys, and Indians. And many of these now-elderly kids still watch those same shows on MeTV, H&I, and similar oldie-TV channels, thru the eyes of childhood nostalgia. Some of them might pick up on things they never noticed as kids, especially in grittier shows like "Gunsmoke" or "Have Gun Will Travel," but I get the sense, just from the way these shows are packaged and promoted by the channels -- "See The Good Guys At Sunrise!" -- that they're being consumed primarily as Boomer nostalgia more than for the more sophisticated qualities their writers may have chosen to sneak into them.

    I think this is a big part of the reason the TV Western genre died off by the mid-70s. The kids who grew up on them moved on from them with a "put away childish things" attitude and didn't see any reason to look back until, as it will often do as we sense the approach of the grave, nostalgia beckoned. But they're still so tied in with those feelings of childhood nostalgia that it's now hard for them to see these shows -- and westerns in general -- as anything else.

    The other thing, about John Wayne in particular, is that he was already a prominent Culture Wars figure by the mid-sixties, and after his death his legacy as an actor was completely overwhelmed by that role to the point where it's almost impossible for someone who doesn't know his work to separate that posthumous role from the reality of his actual film career. "John Wayne" the actor has been replaced almost entirely by "John Wayne" the cultural shorthand for, shall we say, a certain type of man that varies depending on who is doing the defining. I can't think of another actor who's been so completely separated from his actual, historical self in quite that way, and if I were in charge of Mr. Wayne's estate and trying to market his films and memorabilia today, I'd see this as a real problem.
     
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  8. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    I would surmise that those who know the actor also know the cult icon and vice versa; those to whom
    Wayne's time is more distant or unknown probably ditto/irrelevant.
     
  9. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    You are right about how even these, mass produced shows, explored some important themes. Like Western movies, they are better than they seem on quick perusal. Over saturation, however, became a huge problem. And that led to a furtherance of an issue that has plagued the genre from its middle years on: the fact that Western Fiction and Film harps on the period from the end of the Civil War until around the Spanish American War. An era only 30 years long. It's an interesting period but, if you are looking at American Frontier HISTORY the time prior to the Civil War is also vastly interesting and nearly ignored. Anyway, we were sold on the post Civil War era as being nearly unending while in reality it was very short.

    I agree and yet I believe the more superficial vision of Westerns dates a lot farther back, at least to my youth in the 1960s. There's the smell of the Cold War to it, and while I read stuff where people make the argument that it's all patriotic propaganda I REALLY don't think that is the only or the main factor ... except maybe in a "we can survive hard times if we have to because of who we are/were" sort of way.

    This seems to be true. I did some work with the Hopalong Cassidy BOOKS, which were quite different from the movies/TV show, and ran into many older boomers and silent generation members who had a nearly overwhelming nostalgic reaction to being "reintroduced" to Hoppy. They were always thinking of what they had seen on TV.

    Not long afterwards I had the rather outlandish experience of trying, on many occasions, to talk Burt Reynolds, who I was then working with, out of trying to do a remake. Night after night I carefully laid out why I thought it would be deadly for him to do this ... all the while sensing that there probably WAS an interpretation of both the original character and the Bill Boyd version that might work well for him. I just thought that it was so unlikely that we'd hit exactly the right note, especially since his interest, like the fans, was utterly emotional. He'd never have had the skepticism needed to evaluate a script and see if it was walking that razor's edge that would have kept it from being embarrassing.

    I don't know that this was a visible problem until very recently, and in a multitude of ways it may be too late to try to correct it. The ability to sell the old Wayne into certain generations and certain cultures was always a slam dunk and to a great extent it sold itself without someone being in control. But the family has never really been in control. Studios and the downstream home video and TV markets own most of the movies, and long ago Wayne's identity was colonized by his fans who, to a great extent, tell the rest of us who he is/was. The Wayne family rides the whirlwind. I have great sympathy for them no matter their decisions or the effectiveness of them. I've done the same job for 30 years and it's NOT easy. Thank god I had a few advantages that they did not!
     
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  10. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Have Gun Will Travel in particular always held my interest. A gunfighter who had an epiphany and reformed himself
    from a shirt front poker gambler to a man who cared for the plight of others, and who charged clients more since he
    tried to settle things without recourse to violence. San Francisco based, Paladin possessed sophistication and appreciation
    for the finer things in life; including beautiful women whom he occasionally escorted downstairs to his hotel front lobby.
    Paladin also had an inner life, although his background remained fairly enigmatic, he had graduated West Point prior
    to the Civil War, or at its start, had suffered a family falling out. A man of character and substance.

    Lucas McCain, The Rifleman was a widower raising a son on a New Mexico ranch, used a ring handled Winchester
    to great effect, and only killed when necessity dictated survival. His son was his priority and McCain, a Union Army
    lieutenant had turned the page on the war and successfully built his post war life and enduring the grief of widowhood.

    I admired these characters and other men who lived a life of decency and honor.
     
  11. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I've always been a tremendous fan of the radio version of "Gunsmoke," which was pretty much the foundation stone of the postwar "adult western" series. There is absolutely no "hero" hoop-te-doo in William Conrad's interpretation of Matt Dillon -- Conrad plays him as a man who actually doesn't like his job very much at all, and seems actively resentful of the situations it forces him into. He isn't exactly an anti-hero in the way we understand the word today, but he's a character that men who were drafted into the Army in 1942 and came home very different from who they were when they went in could strongly identify with. You find this figure all over postwar fiction, but Dillion is, perhaps because of the cowboy-and-Indian taint, seldom included in studies of it.

    The TV "Gunsmoke" was my grandfather's favorite TV show, in a "just let me relax after work" anodyne kind of way, so it was omnipresent in our family when I was growing up. But when I went to work at a station that carried the radio version's reruns in the early '80s, I could never take James Arness and his rod-up-the-back portrayal of Dillon the same way ever again.
     
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  12. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Artistic interpretation differ and medium. Conrad I always enjoyed. Radio or television, Canon fit him to a tee
    but I doubt that Dillon's television persona would have crossed the t like it did with Arness.

    Gunsmoke
    always had a strong moral fiber running though its content, much like The Big Valley,
    which featured the always impressive and most remarkable Barbara Stanwyck, a lady of quite impressive character.
     
  13. KayEn78

    KayEn78 One of the Regulars

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    I have finally gotten back into writing after a four-year lull (partly due to divorce, moving, a severe blood clot (which resulted in a hospital stay), and back surgery (another hospital stay). I began, what I call my Dragnet 1948 story, The Big Witness back in 2017 and only now have posted Chapters 10 and 11 to the writing websites. Feel free to check it out at the links provided below.

    https://www.wattpad.com/user/KayEn78

    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12862499/1/The-Big-Witness

    It is May, 1948 when a young woman approaches Homicide Bureau and explains to Sergeants Joe Friday and Ben Romero how she could have assisted her father in murdering her mother five years prior. At home, Joe battles with hauntings of the war, Ma Friday's musings, and his new-found relationship with Policewoman Dorothy River.

    I would love to self-publish my Dragnet stories, but due to copyright issues, I cannot do so. I have also written three Dragnet 1967 stories, which can also be found at the links above.
     
  14. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    Seriously, why don't you change the names, alter anything that relates to the series directly and publish them as originals? Create your own series with enough differences to skirt any issues. You've done the hard work already. There's nothing unique about Dragnet ... that was kind of it's charm. It was the most basic of police procedurals.
     
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  15. KayEn78

    KayEn78 One of the Regulars

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    So, you didn't like my story? :) I would have to change quite a bit because people would recognize Dragnet right away. I know someone who self-published her police drama stories and the main characters are name Jim and Pete. It screams Adam-12. I've thought about changing the names and tactics and perhaps one day I will, but for now, I will leave them as my Dragnet stories.
     
  16. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    I just don't like to see people's creativity stifled! And I've seen Dragnet inspire some pretty interesting stuff. The early (good) James Ellroy novels were a response to Dragnet among other influences. They have very much the same relationship as the Sergio Leone movies do to Hollywood westerns. Mad. Operatic.
     
  17. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    Spaghetti, ravioli, lasagna thin crust cinema. Clint Eastwood as I recall, cleaning his pistol, a .36 Colt revolver.
    Interesting period piece, the same pistol Alan Ladd carried as Shane but not quite right. Though neither wrong.
    Since its post-Civil War time. Like Shane. Still, it all seems somehow out of sorts.
     
  18. KayEn78

    KayEn78 One of the Regulars

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    I really don't think my writing can be as good as Ellroy's, but I'll think about it (changing the names, tactics, yet still keeping it Dragnet-influenced). It's interesting at what does get published. Someone wrote these Johnny Dollar books (I guess that wasn't under copyright) and you can buy them through a website (which I cannot recall the name at the moment). But I will definitely think about it.

    I realize that fan fiction gets a bad rep (and most of it is awful--suddenly everyone is a writer)), but I've been told by readers that my stories (the Dragnet ones) are the way fan fiction should be written. Thanks for the advice! :)
     
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  19. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

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    ^^^KayEn: Just wondering if you have published any stories in Ellery Queen or any other mystery magazines?
     
  20. KayEn78

    KayEn78 One of the Regulars

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    No, I have not. The only mystery-type stories I have written, have been the Dragnet ones. Even that was a surprise a few years ago when I began to write them. I had never written a mystery/crime-drama before then. The only writing I have actually had published in a magazine was my article about radio announcer Harlow Wilcox "And Me, Harlow Wilcox," (think Fibber McGee and Molly) in the Spring, 2017 issue of The Nostalgia Digest Magazine. Back issues can be located on their website. My article can be located on pages 18-21.

    In 2016, I had two non-fiction pieces published in a self-published book titled The Crickets: Six Decades of Rock 'n' Roll Memories by Gary Lynn Clevenger. This can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. My contributions are on pages 76 and 256.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2021

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