Sorry that I am a day late with my yearly re-post of this essay from 2012. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
It’s that time of year again.
This was originally published here on 7 December 2012. In what has become an annual tradition, I am re-posting it today in honor of its subject, my buddy Frank.
This was originally published on 7 December 2012. I am re-posting it today in honor of its subject, my buddy Frank.
Frank died at 87 1/2 years old. Picture this: When he was a tow-headed little boy, just a toddler, his parents dressed him in short pants and a striped shirt and posed him on the hood of the family Model T, grinning. Feisty. He was named after a prominent ancestor, Benjamin Franklin, and they shared more than a name: both were brilliant, larger-than-life, charismatic. Actually, he came from a long line of characters: a grandfather who died, in his 90s, as the result of a bar fight, a father who was an early aviator. That family bred their men big, bold, and memorable. Frank, my Frank, my friend, came of age during the Great Depression. He had an older brother, equally brilliant; when it came time for Frank to attend college in ’37 or ’38, there was no money left. None. His brother had the degree that Frank…
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When I was fifteen, I learned the truth behind Norma Desmond’s famous Sunset Boulevard assertion: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!” Six decades of repetition has eroded this cutting indictment to a fragment of its original self, denuded of meaning even as it has become a pithy pop-culture sound bite that the least film savvy person can repeat with cocksure swagger. My enlightenment came in the form of a dusty, jacket free old book crammed with its fellows on a shelf at the public library. Subject: silent movie star portraiture. Impact: sudden, immense, striking. A well-established love of the arts, history, and old movies hadn’t prepared me for what I found in this neglected volume of photography. Questions rushed my senses: Who were these women and men? Why was their beauty sung not to the heavens but inarticulately whispered of in a suburban teenager’s bedroom? What happened to them? When did mystery and imagination leave entertainment photography, resulting in the garish, empty images that had engulfed my recent 1980s childhood?
TWO OF MY EARLY FAVOURITES:
The trajectory of my life changed the day I checked out that book. A passion for old movies expanded to include silent films. I watched as many as I could find, and read everything available on the subject in our large library system. Result: hooked, permanently. Bonus: growing up to write about what I love, including silent movie culture.
Amidst the flavors of the day and luckless publicity seekers, the stars whose fame flamed into the sky with the spark and longevity of an uncontrollable firecracker, and those with fleshy charms but little talent, there stood performers with skill, magnetism, and dedication to a craft that was being forged as the cameras rolled. Some are remembered-if only for the persistence of their images in twenty-first century advertising-but most are forgotten, their work rarely seen by the modern masses. In a world where Mary Pickford has been reduced to the curve of her curls and Lillian Gish to her shy, arcane smile, where Charlie Chaplin is nothing but the sum of the sartorial trio of hat, cane, and shoes, what chance does Mabel Normand stand to be recognized and appreciated as a first-class artist? Even her lovely face is a fading footnote. Continue reading
I am covering the year 1918. Check back tomorrow for my contribution.
Fan to Pro by Steven Savage
The engineering major gazing at the movie screen, wishing he had been at the computers of WETA studios when Gandalf took on the Balrog. The retired warehouse worker with his Steelers jersey, hat, socks, beer mug – and faded fantasies of being on the gridiron during the big game. The overworked store manager who had been told her singing voice was angelic, but that her dreams of singing for the masses were impractical and childish.
From an early age, we are told that our various fandoms – be they for sports, entertainment, recreational sciences, art, whatever – are just silly wish-dreams that should be put aside for the rigors of the seemingly more practical day-in-day-out of work. We may find no joy in ‘work’, in fact, we may even hate it – yet, we attend our duties faithfully while dreaming of more desirable activities.
Why do we do this? Sure, we have to keep from starving, but why are people always encouraged to relegate their fandoms to their off hours, always warned against turning their passions into paychecks? Are we obligated to condemn that which brings us happiness the joyless realm of Never-Everland?
Fan-to-Pro: Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies is a work that doesn’t merely seek the answer to that question; author Steven Savage and editor Jessica Hardy intend to help you get past it.
Fan-to-Pro is a book that revels, praises, exults, and joyfully rolls around in the world of fandom. Though he has a background in science-fiction and fantasy fandom (as well as extensive experience in IT and career recruiting), Savage makes it clear that fandom covers any number of celebrated subjects, from the aforementioned sci-fi, to sports, and even art.
As the title implies, Fan to Pro refers to turning your hobby into a career that you would love. What makes the book special is how much it puts itself in the corner of the fan. A touching element of Chapter 3 is where Savage delves into “Fandom Edges”. These would be common traits seen among die-hard fans that give them a particular advantage when striving for their goal. In these fans, Savage sees qualities such as experience, knowledge and passion, tools inherent in any successful artist, football player or entrepreneur. The goal is to get the reader to recognize these qualities in themselves and fan them into confidence to move forward, improve their skills, and excel in their endeavors.
The book lends itself well to being read. It is written in a straightforward, informal and funny tone in which it presents sage advice and several exercises meant to help the reader get past the common hurdles, both physical and mental, of making their dream come true. It’s not simply focusing on what you like that matters; it’s important to look at what you like from different perspectives and see practical ways to turn it into a profession.
The reader is implored to turn away from the disheartening, ultimately empty criticisms of how futile and unprofitable fandom can be, and instead is advised to focus on the actually pragmatic benefits fandom can provide. Organizing a convention would be a fantastic way to network, for example. The author himself mentions that his math skills were greatly enhanced from having to work with math while playing RPGs in college.
Fan to Pro, however, is not simply a warm-fuzzy meant to make you feel that all the hours you spend chatting on a Skyrim forum is actual work. In addition to the exercises mentioned, important topics such as learning about the industries you’re interested in, connecting with others, and even the particularly tricky subject of relocating is thoroughly addressed.
Savage and Hardy have comprised this short (127 pages) work from a series of blogs that had explored the world of fandom and fandom-based careers thoroughly. Through gentle, good-natured humor and encouragement, the reader is instructed to take their passions seriously. History has proven repeatedly that no great writer, inventor, physician, linebacker – geeks all, in their own way – could have ever made it otherwise.
Fan-to-Pro: Unlocking Career Insights With Your Hobbies is available to order from www.fantoprobook.com in print, Kindle, ePub and PDF format. To see the blog that brought about the book, check out www.fantopro.com.
I am not a great writer of place. This is not laziness : it is a real necessity if I am to give birth to my particular vision. In order to make way for the intimately universal, I do not set my fiction in instantly recognizable locales, nor is any regional influence obvious. My characters do not speak in dialect, do not exhibit traits characterized by a specific city or state. They are merely, inescapably human: a condition experienced by every soul the world over. There is atmosphere and description to be found in my stories but they are peculiar to individuals and their personal surroundings: there is no wider, deeper imprint of place. I respect and enjoy many writers who are profoundly connected to their home turf, and carry it into their work: Austen, Joyce, Faulkner. The passion and intensity that they imbued their novels with remains a strong pull across the tumble of so many years. Yet, a lack of specificity can be an equal lure for readers, and this is what I attempt with my words, however humble. The drive behind what I do, and how I approach the career that presents my artistry to the light, is another matter: it is an unbreachable combination of the local and the universal, and always as grassroots as possible.
The Internet has opened up a heretofore unimaginable amount of venues for the selling, marketing and discourse of artistic product. What someone writes in Russia can be read in North Dakota as soon as a button is pressed. The possibility is breathtaking and would, likely, be unfathomable to the writers of even 50 years ago. This means that networking can be done on a scale as vast as the world itself. You can, with surprising ease, craft a sounding board or support group made up of individuals of many nations without ever going through the hoops of old-fashion and exhausting legwork. This may sound impersonal but it can be truly valuable, and genuine connections can be formed. Yet to use this as the sole means of contact ,and the only form of self-promotion, is sadly limiting. At the heart of it, nothing surpasses getting your hands dirty at a local level–the place where, perhaps, the most difference is to be made. This kind of approach is my life’s passion, next to the actual act and offering of writing itself. I am enraptured with words, in love with history and dedicated to thanking those who came before me. I will briefly boil this amalgam down to the bone: Small press literary publications were the unheralded backbone of American and European literature in the earliest decades of the 20th-Century. They were a mouthpiece to some of the finest efforts of writers great and small; writers whose poetry, essays, critiques and stories would otherwise not have been published regularly or at all. These artist-helmed publications were their way to immortality, even if they did not know it at the time. Combining the above elements is where my devotion to the local becomes active.
While working for a Columbus-based art-and-culture start-up a few years back, my passions turned to convictions, and from there ideas sprang into being. One of the things that I set out to do as Literary Editor of The Atomic Tomorrow was to turn many of the pages over to the work of local writers, of all ages, genres, and voices. I was honoured to give others the same chance that I received, and continue to receive so generously from various sources. The literary section of that paper gave seed to what I am attempting to do with A Small Press Life and the ‘zine that I have in production.
While I love blogging and lending my work to other on-line publications, where there is a true sense of community, I enjoy the change and challenge of crafting something from the ground up and then physically putting it together. In our techno-sated world, there is almost a sense of rebellion, even anarchy, in laying out, printing, and hand-assembling a magazine or book. The artistry seems to be of a higher order, and the satisfaction is beyond anything to be gained from hitting a “Publish Post” button. When done by professionals, especially, the end-product can be a masterly gem of vision, talent, and individuality. Zining is, for me, the perfect balance and blend of the modern and the classic.
There is something lovely and primal about creating a ‘zine: the process, for me, is an organized yet organic exploration of what I am capable of. It stretches my talent in new directions. I do not indulge in the awkward, car-wreck known as the perzine, which is a glorified diary. I gather art and writing from my always-expanding circle of professional creative friends. My ‘zines are a breathing, pulsing tribute to those little Literary Magazines mentioned-above, on a scale not significantly smaller than those put-out by my mentor-muses. The advantages of modern technology walk into the picture after an issue has been completed.
The wonders of Etsy and Papernstitch, coupled with electronic word-of-mouth, are the best free-marketing-and-selling venues available for hand-made goods. Your product reaches around-the-globe almost instantaneously. You can have fans in Australia or Iceland, without actively advertising there. I am an enthusiastic proponent of this concept: the local-gone-global. Still, nothing beats the giddy, visceral thrill of placing your work in your own city. Whether it be at a coffee shop or farmer’s market, having something that I have worked so diligently at and for available in my own neighborhood is the biggest kick of all. These outlets will always be vital to my art: spreading it locally is always a heightened accomplishment.
I do not imagine, at this time, that I will drastically change course and become a writer of local colour and inflection. That is not a goal that I embrace: doing so would seem oddly foreign to my voice and viewpoint. I remain, however, a daughter-in-spirit to this place:I truly love Ohio’s artistic urban vibrancy, and am proud to call the Buckeye state my home. We have both an outstanding artistic heritage and a lively, forward-thinking present. I choose to embody those ideas where the difference is greatest–through my actions, convictions, and life-style–rather than on the page. This way, my words and life are local-global, and remain my own.