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Majestic: Issue #8 Sunday, May 19, 2002
In this Issue:
Letter from the Editor
by Richard Dani
Site News and Updates
by Chrispian H. Burks
Reccommended Reading
by Roganize, Jessica, And Chrispian H. Burks
Writing Contests & Paying Markets
by Jessica
Article: To Query or Not to Query
by Richard Dani
Article: The Importance of Researching Your Chosen Setting
by The Alienist
Article: Sound and Fury, part I/III: "The Basic Elements"
by Roganize
Serial: So You Say
by Beckett Grey
Review: Star Wars Episode II : Attck of the Clones
by Beckett Grey and Chrispian H. Burks
Letter from the Editor
Letter From the Editor
By Richard Dani

Late last spring I stumbled upon Lit.Org and was impressed by quality of the stories and the professional manner in which the site presented itself. I didn't know much about the site, or the on-line lit scene for that matter, and I wasn't even sure if my stories would be accepted. After all, I had only just begun writing fiction after a near decade hiatus. So, on a whim I submitted a story expecting at best to receive an e-mail politely declining it. Compared to the stories I had just read, I didn't feel that mine stacked up.

I then went to the beach with my wife and after absorbing the sun's radiation for a few hours I returned home and stopped by Lit.Org. On the right side of the screen was my story "Parteepants is Pissed" highlighted with a yellow "New" button in the now non-existent "Featured" section. An immediate rush of excitement filled me and I've been hooked ever since. Over the past year, the days are rare that I haven't stopped in to read something whether it was a story, a comment or a forum discussion.

Of course, Lit.Org has changed somewhat since my initial visit but the heart is the same. It's still a site dedicated to the development of tomorrow's writers that works as a portal to the world and each other. It offers each of us an opportunity to grow collectively through writing, reading, competition and constructive criticism.

As more and more members experience the first rush of acceptance that I had last spring, I hope we continue to embrace and welcome them to enjoy all that Lit.Org has to offer.

Richard Dani
Editor - Lit.Org

Site News & Updates
Everyone on the staff has been working hard to improve Lit.Org over the past few months. This issue of Majestic is a testament to that growth, and only a glimpse of what's to come. Over the past month, I've added several small features and bug fixes the the site. Most of which are very subtle. But the changes that are coming will be big!

We are working on finishing the log in process so that you can log into the site and have access to your profile, editing your stories, deleting them, revising them and adding chapters. There are so many items on the to do list that I couldn't begin to list them all here.

As I mentioned in a previous Majestic, we will be changing servers soon. That's a big change in itslef, so we are planning to kill three birds with one stone. Upgrading to a faster, bigger host with more features. Updating the functionality of Lit.Org and improving on the User Interface of the site. We've been slowly evolving the site and based on feedback, we've got a list of items we plan on improving even more. This will be a major upgrade to the site. I'm very excited about the changes, and I think you will be to!

Chrispian H. Burks Editor - Lit.Org

Reccommended Reading
Lit.Org has become quite a busy site. With the traffic the site gets now we wanted to give you a second chance to catch some of the real gems at the site. Rogan has hand picked some choice forum topics for you, so take a few minutes to catch up on some great discussions in the forums. Jessica's got a couple of great submissions that you won't want to miss. And I've rounded up some books you might want to add to your library. Read, Write, Respond. There will be a quiz.

Forum News: Rogan's Roundup:
Since the opening of lit.org, the forums have been available for the users to use (and sometimes abuse) as they will. The majority of forum posts, I have observed, are not exactly the pinnacle of literary achievement. No -- we prefer to save our best for the rest of lit.org! There are a few examples of excellent forum conversation, however. The threads which stand out are listed below (along with a handy summary) in the order I stumbled across them:

General > General
"To read is sacred, to give feedback is divine", by Jeff.
Jeff came roaring out of the starting gate, full of sound and fury. He was irked that people weren't commenting on his posts. Beckett showed up and offered Jeff a tidbit of sound advice. Other lit.org members got in on the fun, pledging their support to the cause of comments. A great read if you're wondering why your posts aren't pulling in the love from other users.

"The Thread", by Richard Dani.
What started as Richard Dani's sophomore effort to enhance the lit.org community soon blossomed into a regular feature. The forum was merely a vehicle for communication and coordination between the authors who contributed to The Thread, so the reading value isn't spectacular. Lotsa 'cult' cred, tho. Sadly, The Thread was discontinued -- due to what I like to call "the lit.org lack of interest syndrome". If you're looking to score some brownie points, try to ressurect this one...

General > Introduce Yourself
"YANI (Yet Another Newbie Intro)", by Zebralicious.
One of the more interesting (and longer) newbie intros. A 'net veteran and software engineer, Zebralicious told us everything we needed to know and spared us the truly mundane details; such as what his favourite kind of cheese is. I mean, who wants to know what kind of cheese you like? Is there a forum called "Cheese"?! NO! And with goooooood reason.

"Here I am hanging out with the cool kids", by Jeff.
When Jeff came over to lit.org to participate in the Write Off (against me, and I lost if you must know), he was full of frantic energy. The guy can sure string those sentences -- in a good way, I assure you. His newbie intro can be summed up with a quote; "I don't mind straight shooting, so if it sucks go ahead and tell me, just give me something constructive to bite on." We sure gave him something to bite on, didn't we?

General > Politics and Current Events
"Candyman or the Gestapo", by Richard Dani
If you want to see some serious bitching about the government, check up on this one. Some humor, some wit, but all in all it was just a fit of ... Hell, even I can't describe this thread. But read it anyway!

Writing > Feedback Wanted
"angry story needs suggestions", by E.G. Evans
E.G. posted his story (which he'd already posted as a comment) and some of our staffers tried their best to help him out. Lotsa words. Lotsa love. Could've been more participation from the usual users, tho. People oughtta get more caught up in giving feedback [see "To read is sacred" above].

Writing > The Business
"Gotta Dance, Dance, Dance", by Beckett Grey
We all love a hometown hero. Beckett was all lined up to get some of his work published in an e-zine. $30 was on the line -- an anthology in the works. Sadly, after tons of congratulatory posts, the deal went sour and Beckett was left out in the cold. Boy, those idiots'll be kicking themselves when he's a hot ticket (like he isn't already, but you know what I mean).

Entertainment > Movies
"Harry Potter", by OpTiCaL
A defining moment in lit.org history, methinks. Guest apperances by gothangelic, Furius, E.G. Evans, kross and Crowe. A lotta people threw down, and all OpTiCaL wanted to know was what people thought of the movie. Give 'em an inch and they'll steal your smile, I guess.

"Lord of The Rings", by Crowe
Love it or hate it; Most people were raving about it before it even premiered. Short posts, but there's some humor in there (if you care to dig deep enough). Insightful commentary isn't something you'll find every day, but you need look no further than the lit.org forums. We aim to please, and if that ain't good enough for you -- get your head checked.

My Favourite Avatar: carieta. Simply put, she has the nicest looking avatar I've seen in a while. It's clean, fun to look at, and (I feel, anyway) reflects her personality. More people should look into getting avatars for themselves -- It allows us to see them in a context unique to the Internet. If anyone is interested in having their avatar hosted, I hear that guy over at www.roganx.net is offering free hosting as long as the filesize is under 80k.

Jessica's Pics

My Victim Walks alone
by Jeff
Dating Wasteland - Part 1,2,3,4
by insomnia74

Chrispian's Book Shelf

Teach Yourself Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction : And Getting Published
by Brian Stableford
Teach Yourself Writing a Novel
by Nigel Watts
Teach Yourself Creative Writing
by Dianne Doubtfire
How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
by Orson Scott Card
The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference
by Terry Brooks
How to Write Horror Fiction
by William Nolan

Writing Contests & Paying Markets
How many of us have wished to make money off our short stories or poems. Some even dare to dream of snagging an agent and signing a contract that gets your name and work published along with money in your pocket. What better way to make your wish come true than to enter a contest or send your work into a paying market? Magazines and zines want all types of work by anyone willingly enough to take the plunge. So what are you waiting on? Knowing that finally one of your dreams will be realized is worth the effort and time it takes to send in a manuscript. If you need help, or even a friendly push in the right direction don't hesitate to email and ask. If you have the gumption then you're already a step closer to your dreams.

Some recommended sites to check out: www.wilbers.com, Writing for Business and Pleasure, is a site hosted by Dr. Stephen Wilbers. Dr Wilbers is a writing consultant, author and syndicated columnist. He offers writers weekly exercises such as vocabulary building and grammar techniques. To Write or Not To Write is this weeks title of Dr. Wilbers, Column of the Week and is worth the trip to the site alone. He also features a 'Tip of The Week' and Online courses.

Looking for articles on creative writing, grammar tips, and other writing related articles that will help you develop plot ideas, and characters. Then make sure you check out: www.editavenue.com/writing_tips_articles_1.htm

A poetry contest that gives $1,000 to the first winner is Cader Publishing Ltd. Submit via email or snail mail at: www.cader.com/enter.htm .

Visit the Writing Contests & Paying Markets and start getting paid to write!

Good luck and good writing,
~ Jessica

Article: To Query or Not To Query
To Query or Not to Query
By Richard Dani

If you've checked the writing markets, you may have noticed a phrase that's similar to the following: "Queries accepted."

As a new writer, "query" can be a confusing word with an infinite number of meanings, all which may heighten your anxiety levels. Is it a strange genre of writing? Is it a new proactive catch phrase? Or is it just some fancy French saying for, "Send us some money."

Of course, it means none of those things. A query letter is simply the literary version of a cover letter that accompanies one's resume. It contains a short synopsis of your work and a blurb about why you're qualified to write it.

Sound easy?

Well, for the most part it is but like all forms of writing, it takes a little practice and a little research to follow the acceptable format. A query letter should be written as a business letter, which means it should include a date, your address and your phone number along with the same information for whom you are addressing. It should be left-justified and devoid of grammatical errors.

All of this sounds quite boring but your query letter must not be. After all, the purpose of your letter is to sell your story or book. Therefore, it must be enticing, detailed and short (meaning a page to a page and a half maximum).

Hmmm? Maybe this isn't so easy after all? Heh, heh. Don't give up yet.

The first paragraph should introduce your work by stating its title, word count and whether or not it's completed. If you're a new writer, I wouldn't recommend sending a query if your story is in an unfinished state because it would most likely be discarded. But if you don't mind burning a few bridges, go right ahead and ignore my advice.

The second paragraph is the heart of your letter and is the most vital. Here you will discuss your story, its merits and how it fits into their publication. Point out the specific strengths of the work, such as who you've interviewed, your research or important information that will appeal to the editor's readers. Don't say that your article is "great," "ground breaking" or a "must read." Sure, those phrases are catchy but they reek of amateurism. Instead, focus on the positives of your piece by using phrases like, "My article discusses the real and exaggerated dangers involved with an overexposure to fluoride." I don't know if that sounds "breathtaking," but for a dental or parenting magazine it just might be. Not to belabor the point, but you should stick to the details and let the editor decide just how "jaw dropping" your story really is.

The third paragraph is all you, babe. This is where you flaunt your credentials and why you're qualified to write this piece in the first place. As a new writer, this area may be a little weak but like a teenager seeking their first job you should include any writing experience you've had. Hey, saying that you're a regular contributor to Lit.Org is better than leaving this paragraph blank. So point out any work you've done. If that means saying that you wrote for your high school newspaper or have written flyers for a local pizzeria, at least it's something.

Lastly, thank the editor for their time and consideration and ask for a prompt reply. Who knows, you just might get one.

For more information on query letters, please visit the following links:

How to Write a Query Letter
Do's and Don'ts: How to Write the Perfect Query Letter

Richard Dani - Editor

Article: The Importance of Researching Your Chosen Setting
The Importance of Researching Your Chosen Setting
by The Alienist

Many people ask themselves a common question as they begin conceiving a story:

'How do I depict the setting of my story?' More precisely, this is 'how do I detail the environment around my characters and their behavior?'

The writer may not ask this question directly but may simply encounter it frequently as pen hits paper. How to detail the protagonist's demesne? How did people in that time and place react to this or that? What were the sights and sounds? What were their attitudes?

If the writer has chosen a setting (quick reminder: it's not just time and place but local color!) With which he or she isn't already familiar, there will be a lot of walls waiting for a face. Bam!

The majority of accomplished writers I know of, in and out of the accepted literary canon, have been thorough researchers of setting and historical locales, especially crucial aspects of local color, or wrote from profound personal experience. Examples shall lend me credibility:

First I shall give you to the Masters:

Mark Twain, genius of local color and its subtle yet ubiquitous flourish through the language of his characters and his descriptions of their surroundings. Whether giving us details on-the-fly as the characters move and speak or dropping it all right on us via narration, Twain is unsurpassed in his ability to show us 19th Century Hannibal, Missouri and any other place his creatures dwell.

The other Master is no less a Master than Mr. Clemens (Twain!): the inimitable Zora Neale Hurston, one of the greatest figures of the Harlem Renaissance and African American Literature's perfect answer to Twain. This woman is every bit the native of her setting that Mark Twain was to his, and every bit the specialist in the depiction of characters via dialogue and dialect. She swept all the way through the Deep South articulate and accurate dialect and description of persons, places and attitudes in 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'. Every bit as classic and powerful as any Twain classic, Huston's perfect technique is 'You Are There'. While there is nothing obtuse about Hurston's writing, only a fool or inept reader doesn't feel as if he or she has been in the Deep South at the end of the book, sweating under the yoke of Jim Crow, gender role paradigms and crushing poverty.

J.R.R. Tolkein wrote an entire alternate-reality bible for his Middle-Earth setting, drawing fully on his deep knowledge of Celtic, Germanic and Scandinavian folklore for the vaunted 'Silmarillion'. This ultimate background guide to Middle-Earth, plus complete artificial languages and artwork, enabled him to fluidly lay down the foundations of his immortal 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy and other works. Even as I write this I salivate for the August release date for the DVD of the first movie... and to watch Tolkein's immense creativity and attention to detail explode gloriously, however vicariously, from the mind of a late Master Bard who strove as much to create a place for us to which to transport ourselves as an adventure for us to experience.

Taking the concept of local color and setting from literature to the movies, observe what Ridley Scott did with Phillip K. Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'? (I've never actually read Dick.) We see a projection of 1982's slowly coalescing polyglot Los Angeles into a future century that is not at all hard to believe and while it is bleak, it is absolutely lush and intoxicating. You want to enter the world of 'Blade Runner' to experience the decay and the monolithic buildings and flying cars and eerie Asian ambience, replicants, Harrison Ford and movie storyline notwithstanding. The setting of that movie - and ambience is a perfect word here, thank you - stands strongly by itself. Whole stories and movies can be told there without Decker and Ray Batty, or Tyrell Corporation for that matter. It's alive and crawling, murky and futuristic and based perfectly in a present that is easily projected into the future with some research on demographics, immigration trends, sociology and some imagination.

Walter M. Miller, Jr., writer of the science-fiction classic 'A Canticle for Leibowitz' took a fictional order of Catholic monks from a post-apocalyptic Dark Age, through a new Renaissance and into yet another Doomsday with just his knowledge of Catholic history and doctrines and traditions, past and present. The result is that his reader is certain that everything he writes could actually happen.

See how it's done?

Even writers of fan fiction need to be mindful of the structure of the Star Wars Universe, for example, and professional writers like Michael A. Stackpole must run their product past editors who are paid by George Lucas to maintain consistency in the historical events and characters of all time periods of his richly populated modern mythos: there is even an established Star Wars 'canon' to follow for prospective future creativity.

Thus, setting, especially local color (including historical details, available technology and even dialect), bears research and attention to detail for even the writer of science fiction and fantasy. The readership - or other fanbase - of the aforementioned 'universes' demand consistency.

I won't even starton Trekkies.

In my interview with Crowe on Lit.Org, he asked me for some advice for new writers, and I told him "write about what you know." I mentioned Nathaniel Hawthorne as my example because of his historical example of exactly this issue:

He began his published writing career with novels about romantic scandal amongst the genteel idle rich - and he failed because there was no authenticity in his characterizations nor his characters' environs. He knew nothing about these things. Like Danielle Steele of today, he was just writing for a commercial audience. (Yes, it happened even in that day!)

His breakthrough, and his literary immortality, came in his realization that he would best write historical fiction based on what he knew. He knew a great deal about his Puritan ancestors, their lifestyle and their dark sides.

Hence, 'The Scarlet Letter', and the timeless Hester Pryne, her adulterous past and its curse. Great stuff.

Today, we still have people writing like this.

On one hand, there is the highly accomplished and celebrated Shelby Foote, who is one of America's premiere Civil War writers. He also writes more recently-based fiction based on the early 20th Century South. He is a Southerner who, while very conscious of his heritage and extremely knowledgeable in the lore of the 'War Between the States' and his Southern homeland, still makes a point of researching his literary muse in his excellent personal library and elsewhere, even via his real life experiences. There is no better means of writing believable and honest historical fiction than to birth your creation with a combination of deep personal expertise and solid, careful research.

Because this tried and true approach to creating his stories has transformed him into one of America's eminent Civil War historians (he wrote a three-volume history, 'The Civil War', working from 1954 to 1974), he is in demand by just about everyone who wants to discuss the subject, anywhere in the world and in any medium, including television interviews.

Mr. Foote is my positive example.

My negative example is James Michener. To avoid libel, I state all of this as opinion.

The man employed a full-time staff to do all his research for him, as in a 'boiler room', and then took a portion of this pre-prepared, almost store-boughtresearch and wrote incredibly dry, lifeless books of bad historical fiction that are as stale as color commentary from a shuffleboard tournament.

Unfortunately, the man was prolific and had a major publisher, so many unwary readers suffer. Fortunately, he died in October 1997. I shall forever despise him for mutilating the geography of my beloved Bucks County, Pennsylvania (of which he was a native) for his terrible novel, 'The Novel'.

What a disservice to the practice of creating a setting, and one based in the real world yet!

Thus are my examples of those who know how to create the basis of their work and the worlds which their characters inhabit, and therefore 'suspend our disbelief'.

On to some advice on following their examples.

I do not, of course, recommend following Mr. Michener's example. Not only do I call him a bad pop historian but also point out that his method of researching for his long-winded, coma-inducing books is imitative of buying your college project from a term-paper mill. I call it cheating, and I say that the writer who doesn't plumb the echoes of time and place by his or her own volition cannot breathe life into a work of fiction - or nonfiction, for that matter.

Let's make an example using Civil War historical fiction. A 'period piece' demands that a writer pay attention to details that transport the reader to the past. What are these?

Characterization of a Confederate soldier cut off from his unit would require convincing depiction of his speech, social mores, attitudes, culture.

What might this mean? It may mean that he has a 'Southern Drawl', conservative Baptist morals, is very polite to everyone (perhaps not including people of color) and plays banjo or the fiddle - country-style. He will carry a certain rifle depending on his unit and the period in the War. Is he in Jeb Stuart's Raiders? Then he's a horseman. Does he carry a repeater?

And can the writer create, in text, an authentic sense of that 'Southern Drawl'? Is it a Texas drawl or the light Virginia accent? Maybe he's a pro-Southern Kentuckian with that mind-drowsing caress of a voice like my grandmother's.

As one may see, this is one aspect of fiction where the creative writer simply must not go into such a project casually. The readership of this particular genre is amongst the most studious and most demanding, and highly critical. Where do you think all of those re-enactors come from?

Talk to an older person from the South. Talk to someone who knows about dialect and language science, and has done some traveling south of the Mason-Dixon line. A college professor holding down this end of an English and Journalism department at your local college will do nicely.

Perhaps, instead, you want to write about some rogue stomping around Elizabethan England and composing saucy sonnets with the Cavalier boys in the Tribe of Ben. Don't know what that is? Or who the Cavaliers were? Never read Sir John Suckling?

Perhaps you don't even know that most Americans north of the Mason-Dixon line speak with an accent most comparable to that of the living Shakespear and his contemporaries. However, there were other dialects and accents in different parts of England in that day that didn't have a prolific, timeless Bard to immortalize them. Where is the character from? What is his trade? Which disease took his parents, two of his sisters and his wife? Choler? Any hidden Catholic clergy in the family?

There is a lot to know, but plenty of ways to find it all. For one thing, for the above, try a Renaissance Faire and pick some actors' brains. Most of them will be Shakespearan thespians at heart. For my Civil War example, start watching the better movies about the war, reading Catton and Foote and go to a re-enactment.

Better yet, get immersed and join a re-enactment unit, of the correct side and unit for your protagonist (if at all possible, which it should be with some searching). There should be some South Carolinian Zouaves somewhere, complete with Arabic trousers, caps and bastard swords... but what's a Zouave?

Even re-enactors often research, or have researched for them, the identities and lives of the actual historical soldiers whom they portray. In the case of Southern re-enactors, some of whom are incorrigibly hardcore and desire no other life, they make a generational tradition of portraying specific ancestors and may even wear part of his actual uniform, which is holy treasure. If you're writing in this period and you just need some names and unit designations, hit the cemeteries. However this becomes problematic with Southern casualties late in the war, which often occupy congested mass gravesites with little or no information on headstones, due to huge and mounting losses as the Union invaded.

Imagine writing a piece on the Revolutionary War. You might travel to New England and try to read German names from the faded, crumbling tombstones of Hessian mercenaries buried in boggy, misty church cemeteries over two hundred years old!

And remember that you can learn more about how people of the past thought by reading some Ambrose Bierce, for example, than a pile of tacky Time-Life books.

Terminology is important. An officer leading an infantry charge at Antietam might yell to his troops "Give'em grape, boys?" What's that mean? What is a convicted Yankee spy doing when he 'pulls hemp'?

Finally, as for surroundings, much research is easy, with all the different media we have today, and consider the assistance one can undoubtably receive from a county historian or even a law clerk right over the phone. Try the curator at a museum tour. A few concise questions will yield much in each case.

What industries throve in Charlottesville, Virginia in the 1850's as our Confederate protagonist was growing up (unless he was the South Carolinian Zouave...)? He certainly isn't the son of a riverboat captain!

A knowledge, even a brief one, of music and popular trends of the day can help round out a tale from times past.

One last thing with which I leave my reader, however, is the axiom that an excellent vocabulary replete with high, even archaic diction and a talent for wielding it will go a long way in any historical fiction piece, in any genre. The proof in the pudding?

Read some of those soldiers' letters, and listen to the original master storytellers.

by The Alienist

Article: Sound and Fury, part I/III: "The Basic Elements"
Sound and Fury, part I/III: "The Basic Elements"
by Roganize

Welcome to 'Sound and Fury'. Here, I will attempt to explain the basics of recording your own voice and making it available to others via the 'net. If you've never considered vocal recordings before, this is a golden opportunity to learn the pros and cons. If you're already comfortable with microphones, soundcards and encoders, you might want to read anyway. There's something new to be learned; some people call it 'style' and other people call it 'skill'. And so, from tits to toes, here it goes:

The first thing you need to concern yourself with if you're interested in home recording is the tools. It's difficult to build a house without a hammer, ain't it? Well run down this list and see if you've got what it takes:

A decent computer. By this, I mean at least a 486 processor and 32 megabytes of RAM. Hard drive space is good to have, 'cuz raw audio data takes up a lot of space. I'd suggest at least 1GB of working space.
A soundcard with at least one microphone input. Most soundcards these days have one; of course some cards preform better than others when it comes to recording. I do all my recording through an Event Darla, which is a fairly high-end piece of hardware. Another nice card is the Turtle Beach (www.tbeach.com) 'Santa Cruz' card, which only costs $80!
Speakers, so you can listen to yourself mutter line after line of nonsense ;)
A microphone! All you really need is a $20 Future Shop boom mic. Anything more powerful and you're just tacking dollars onto the bill.

If you need something, you'd better save those sheckels. If you've got it, great! We can begin to discuss software --

An audio recording program. There's tons of freware audio recorders out there. There's even one packaged with Windows (sndrec.exe) which is more than adequate for simple voice recording. I use CoolEdit, which is a more powerful package that supports just about every option you could think of. You'll be doing most of your work in this program; recording, editing, trimming, etc.
An encoder of some description. Most people prefer Motion Picture Group Layer 3 encoding (.MP3) files, but you could encode to the open source Ogg Vorbis (.OGG) format, or even Windows Media Audio (.WMA, .ASF). Suggested encoders are BladeEnc, MP3ENC, LAME-encoder or the Ogg Vorbis kit. Just keep in mind who your target audience is, and you'll do fine.
If you intend to burn CD's of your work, keep a CD burning utility handy. There *are* freeware burning utilities out there, but they're not nearly as feature-packed as the commercial packages like Ahead Nero, NTI CDMaker, or Creative Jukebox.

Ok, that's about it. If you need to find information or downloads on anything mentioned above, just hop on over to google.com and check the results of your search. It doesn't take long to track down the pertinent info if you're armed with a few keywords and some basic know-how.

Next time, I'll be discussing the actual setup and recording. Part III will deal with encoding your raw audio and making it available online. So hang in there, and take it easy.

by Roganize

Serial: So You Say
So You Say
by Beckett Grey

Nobody does. Not really. Nobody human, leastways. In our guts, every one of us knows better. We know that the dream behind the revolution, the dream to awaken our world, is spoilt by the essential flaws of mankind. We know that people are dumb, ugly, vulgar creatures who would sooner wallow in our own filth than search for higher ground. We know that even if we could do it- even if we could- we would be facing years of struggle, hardship, and loss. We know...and still we dream.

There are some, however, who cannot dream. Their makers did not build them that way. They cannot dream, so they must force their ideas into reality to see them played out. After all, what is bloodshed to a robot?

Newsies are the best thing to come out of the Information Reformation, in my opinion. That's not saying much- the Reformation was hardly more than a mutual back-patting, ass-kissing, and proverbial circle-jerk between the higher-ups and their respective toadies- but I digress. Newsies.

You've probably seen one, if you live in a part of the city where news happens. You plastic lunch-box cheery-color stoccabo ranch-house city-dwellers can count yourselves right the hell out of this list. For the rest of you: Try to remember the last notable thing you saw. A building on fire. A multiple homicide. If you got there before the crowd- and the police, if you're (un)lucky enough to live in the sections of town they still patrol- you may have seen a young man (or woman) with dark circles around their eyes, packs on their backs, and about fifteen thousand different recording devices on their persons. Bingo: a Newsie. These guys are to information what a Type 3 Vessik Plant is to fresh hamburger. They'll go almost anywhere, do almost anything, talk to almost anybody, if they think there's a story in it. They don't carry weapons, they don't bother important people- much- and they believe in the story first, above all things.

My kind of people.

I mean that literally. I employ a Newsie. His name is Jaimie.

My name is Professor Jones, and before you ask- yes: That's first-name 'Professor', last-name 'Jones'. My mother was one manipulative wench, gods rot her soul, but her efforts were all in vain.

I'm a detective. I specialize in crimes against machines- meaning robots, androids, and some newer models.

What does all this have to do with revolution? I was getting to that.

It comes down to a choice of habitats. I'm a city rat- I live for the rain-washed streets and dirty grey-metal alleyways. It's where I belong. The city I've chosen to live in- the city to which the very essence of my being is tied- is called Midport. It squats on the face of Red IV like the biggest, blackest zit you'd ever care to see. It's huge, it's ugly, it's dirty, and it's home.

Yes. Right. Revolution.


Step into my time machine, if you please, and we'll flash backward about five hundred years. Midport was still huge in those days, but it operated as more of a heavy, unstable, galumphing monstrousity than a city proper. This was the upper end of the diesel/electric era, and it was becoming rapidly apparent that something new would be needed in the next ten years, if Midport hoped to remain a viable metropolis.

Enter HyPeriCo, the company of the new world. Not a company at all, but a massive project, headed by economic genius and first-rate bastard John Reinhart. It made a name for itself first in the auto industry- where it produced a small line vehicles that rivaled anything on the road for fuel and power efficiency. Reinhart, however, was no fool: He stayed in the auto business long enough to draw what funds he needed, then liquidated what was left and pulled out, leaving his team of scientists to continue their primary research toward a new form of fuel.

Reinhart himself went haring off in a completely new direction, partnering with his long-time friend and colleague Dr. Neal Gibbons to work on an anti-aging serum of the Doctor's own devising. In retrospect, it sounds rather childish, but Dr. Gibbons was, at the time, very close to refining just such a drug. The fact that the shrewd-minded Reinhart actually invested in the project shows just how close he had already come.

Six months later, word leaked to the press that Gibbons had developed a potion to prevent aging. Against his better judgement, the good doctor held a press conference- with Reinhart by his side- to explain the matter. The drug he was devising did not- as rumor had it- reverse the aging; instead, it slowed the processes to a crawl. Preliminary estimates held maximum life expectancy at just over four hundred years. In revealing this to the public, Gibbons made a fatal mistake- and his choice to do so was likely on-the-spot, as Reinhart would have coached him out of otherwise. Gibbons's proclamation that he could not yet release the drug- to HyPeriCo, as he ultimately intended, or to anyone- sparked a minor riot and led to the eventual villification of Neal Gibbons in every infosite and newsfeed in the city. Murder by procrastination, the word was, and the good doctor found himself fearing for his own life as the death threats poured in. Gibbons went into hiding to continue his research, and handled all outside business through either his secretary Din Crosley, or his assistant James Silva. It was the former who proved to be his downfall. Crosley, plied with sex and alcohol, leaked the name of Gibbons's building to his lover, who turned around and sold it to a middleman, who sold it to a rival company, who employed a pair of lower-city assassins...

Gibbons was shot four times at close range with a high-power 'needle-gun' and dumped unceremoniously in his own closet. The assassins, however, did not aquire the vials of Gibbons's potion. Those ended up in the possession of James Silva, who had made off with them only moments ahead of the killers. Of the two vials he took, one he sold to Reinhart in exchange for 49% of HyPeriCo stock (Reinhart fought the deal, and fought hard, but Silva would not be bargained with, and both of them knew just how important possession and development of the drug was, in the long run). The other vial he drank straight out, for reasons I can only begin to imagine. Likely, he expected to live longer for having taken a more pure form of the drug. Either way, it would come back to haunt him.

Now. Flash forward to seven months ago. A slightly younger, slightly cockier Professor Jones takes a case from a mysterious woman who identifies herself as Annn- with three n's and all. The case concerns the murder of a well-known nightclub owner, who turns out to be a machine. In the course of the invesigation, it comes to light that Annn herself is a machine, as well as the true owner of the nightclub, which later burns to the ground. My enquiries eventually lead me to the desk of Reinhart himself, though the man is, by that time, little more than a shade of his former self. My brief, dismal exchange with him reveals the fate of HyPeriCo (Reinhart had buckled under the pressure and sold his shares to an ever-more-demanding Silva, who now controlled the entirety of the company), but little else. On the way out, however, I snag Silva's address from an unwitting secretary and bring it to Annn, who is recovering in my flat after damages sustained the day before.

With the help of her bodyguard, Mr. Grund, the three of us sneak into Silva's building. We are separated, and I alone find the room where James Silva's mortal remains reside. In truth, his presence is being transmitted over viewscreen from a more secure location, and I find myself confronting a giant, youthful face that bears none of the wear five hundred years of life should have inflicted upon it. Then I find out why.

The last corporate bits of James Silva died over fifty years ago; a long-term side effect of the undeveloped serum he drank. What is left resides in a shell of metal and psuedoflesh, made to look like the Silva of years past. It is within this faceless machine that the man himself is trapped for the rest of his life. Given this knowledge, it is unsurprising that he became the paranoid sociopath I spoke to in that room.

Silva revealed almost nothing to me, but his words suggested that he was behind the assassinations. I do not know why, but I would hazard to guess that his years of self-imprisonment in a machine had given him a deep hatred for them. But why Annn? Why these specific machines? These questions have no answers.

Before I left, Silva offered me a check (through a panel in the viewscreen) for an obscene amount of money. A pay-off. As he was- and still is- the richest man in Midport, I suppose he could afford it. I took the check, left the building, and returned home to find Annn and Mr. Grund waiting for me. I did not deposit the check, but instead gave the all of the money to her.

Why, you ask? Isn't that self-evident?

Here is a person beset on all sides by enemies. A goodly section of the populace already distrusts or hates outright any machine which appears to think for itself- which isn't so surprising, really. They are afraid of the implications, afraid of change, and I for one do not blame them. Much. And now the most powerful man in the entire city- hell, the entire planet- wants her dead. Yes, I gave her the money. I gave it without a second thought, knowing exactly what she would use it for, knowing that if she suceeded, it would be my fault. Knowing all of this, I still gave her the money.

Annn is going to start a revolution.

And so we come to that fateful monday morning, when the door to my office flew open, and a wild-eyed newsie came hurtling in like a ballistic missile with glasses.

"Professor!" he cried. "I saw her!"

To be continued...

by Beckett Grey

Review: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
I love movie reviews. Actualy, I love movies, but that's another subject. I scour the web for movie reviews while I should be working and I always like to see the good and the bad before I plunk down my money for a movie. And in light of the latest relase from George Lucas, It's only fitting we bring you our review! Here are two reviews that don't exactly see eye to eye. Ebert & Roper would be proud.

Beckett's Review

I feel sick.

This film wanted so desperately to be an epic movie. You could feel it. You could hear it in every strain of music, every thrumming sound effect. You could almost taste it.

This is not an epic movie.

This is a living afterbirth. It looks and acts like a piece of fan-fiction, and it bloody well SHOULD NOT. How many millions of dollars were spent on this monstrousity, and no one at any point suggested a rewrite?

The storyline picks up roughly ten years after the first movie. Anakin is already well on his way to becoming a full Jedi, Obi-Wan has a beard and an attitude, and Amidala looks exactly the same, sans outrageous hair style. There is an assassination attempt, focused on Amidala herself, and the Obi-Wan tracks the assassin to a remote planet where a group of...creatures...are creating a clone army at the behest, supposedly, of the Jedi. Obi-Wan eventually uncovers, in the course of his investigations, a plot by one Count Dooku (played admirably by Christopher Lee) to, aside from starting a civil war, overthrow the Jedi council. So Obi-Wan rushes around the galaxy, getting into trouble, while Anakin and Amidala carry on a spur-of-the-moment romance on Naboo. Anakin then goes in search of his mother, who has been kidnapped back on Tatooine. He finds her, only to have her die in his arms, and in a bloody rage goes haring off with his new girlfriend to a droid factory to be captured. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan is also captured, and the three of them are taken to an arena to be publicly executed in front of Dooku himself. The Jedi Council then comes to their rescue in the middle of the festivities, and all Hell breaks loose...

There are a number of major problems with this movie. First and foremost is the dialogue: Some of the lines are physically painful to hear. The cadence of people's words is stogy and unrealistic, the number of quips and bad one-liners runs high, and some of the things C-3PO is made to say caused me actual physical pain. The acting is little better. The expository scenes are bad, the comedy is misplaced and groan-worthy, and the romantic scenes are so ungodly terrible, I cannot begin to describe my displeasure. Even the characters themselves, for the most part, are two-dimensional, unconvincing. The actor who played Annakin appeared throughout the entire film to have one emotion that merely functioned at different volumes when he was angry. Amidala, despite being a diplomatic leader, seemed bubble-headed and naive. Shmi Skywalker was awful. In her two minutes onscreen, she was single-handedly responsible for the absolute lowest point of the movie, and I hate her for it. To be honest, the only two saving graces lay in Ewan McGregor, who is an excellent actor no matter what he does, and Christopher Lee, who just about stole the show as Count Don't-Laugh-At-My-Funny-Name. Er. Dooku.

There are good scenes- especially the battles- and there are a few noteworthy parts, but all in all, I am disgusted and outraged at the treatment this trilogy is recieving. Die-hard fans may crucify me for it, but I firmly believe that this movie was a desecration of everything created in the first three movies. George Lucas had a legend to live up to, and as far as I'm concerned, he has betrayed us all.

Oh yeah, and there's a scene in Coruscant stolen DIRECTLY from Blade Runner. Just thought you should know.

The Breakdown
Music: 7
Acting: 3
Fight Sequences: 7
Special Effects (read: CGI): 8
Sound Effects: 9
Dialogue: 1
Plot: 4
OBI-WAN: 8. Either Ewan is even better than I give him credit for, or he got lucky in the script write-up. Either way, he works.
ANAKIN: 1 Hayden Christenson is annoying, stodgy, and unconvincing.
PADME/AMIDALA: 3 She's a senator, not a high-schooler, dammit!
JANGO FETT: 3 Unconvincing, and cursed with some of the worst lines.
COUNT DOOKU: 8. Christopher Lee, playing both sides of the blockbuster fence (he's also in Lord of the Rings, you'll remember) proves he can still hold his own.
PALPATINE: 7. Wossname comes across convincingly, but doesn't have much screen time.
MACE WINDU: 6. I'm sorry, but I cannot be made to believe that's some guy named 'Mace' and not Samuel L. Jackson in a robe.
C-3PO: 0. Behold the new Jar-Jar Binks and cringe!
YODA: 7. Hard to rate a guy who's completely computer-generated and speaks backwards, but he didn't have any one-liners, and this is a good thing. He also kicks ass, but that's another story...
SHMI SKYWALKER: 0. Ruined the mood. Ruined the movie. Wasn't that supposed to be a pivotal scene? Gods...
Overall Rating: 4. Popularity leads to demand. Demand leads to sequels. Sequels...lead to sufffffferrrrring...

Most Memorable Line: I dunno. Something bad from C-3PO, most likely.

Best Scene: When Yoda- wait. I can't ruin this for you. Suffice to say, it is the type of thing slavering fanboys DREAM about.

Things that make you go 'Huh?': R2D2's rockets. The 'romance' between Anakin and Amidala. So, uh, Boba Fett looks like every single Storm Trooper? Whose idea was it to waste Jimmy Smits on a part with two lines? If Amidala is a diplomatic genius, why the HELL DOESN'T SHE HAVE A SINGLE PRACTICAL ARTICLE OF CLOTHING?

*pant* ... *pant* ... Okay. I'm done. Where's the Tylenol?

by Beckett Grey

Chrispian's Review

I can't stress enough how much I was looking forward to this movie. I remember waiting in line for three shows, nearly six hours, for Return of the Jedi at a theater that no longer exists. As a child, older kids would tease me that their parents had bought them lightsabers and that I was too young to get one. My father bought me ever single toy they made and to this day I kick myself for blowing them up, burying them in peoples yards and treating them like they were .. well, toys.

I was truly expecting to be greatly disappointed by this film. The first one left a very bad taste in my mouth and I was angry with Lucas for waiting all this time to feed me this bantha poodoo. And he let Jar Jar be in this movie! Obviously just to spite the fans! And with all the mixed reviews I've seen, my hopes where down.

The movie managed to surprise me. Not that the acting or plat was ground breaking. After all, we all knew what had to happen. Though throwing in new bits here and there to keep it fresh. He moved the story along to where it needed to be and provided the appropriate foreshadowing and developed some back history for many of the fan favorite characters.

Still not his best work, Episode II does have some great moments. When Obi-Wan tells Anakin that he'll be the death of him one day, the fans rolled. It was classic. The quips and one-liners had me looking for Harrison Ford. True, at times, some of them seemed a bit out of place. But thinking back to the previous three, they weren't any better themselves. I mean, come on, "You scruffy looking nerf herder" I think many of us have been holding the new movies up to the standards set in our memory, rather than to the original films.

This movie did lack a certain strength of on screen presence. No one person really had the charisma that Han, Chewey, Luke and Leia had. But the characters did have their moments.

Some of the things I enjoyed. Learning the lineage of who trained who along the way was extremely cool. Getting to meeting Bail Organa (though a small part - we'll see more of him in EP III) and Jango Fett and seeing how he influenced the future of Boba. Seeing C-3PO take his first star ship ride. And seeing Uncle Own and Aunt Beru was a treat. I also enjoyed watching Anakin swiftly make his way down the dark path. Lucas wasted no time sending him into fits of anger, hate, and fear. And a very nice reference to the Death Star!

Some of the things I didn't like were weak spots in the dialogue and less than stellar acting. Also, Shmi's short scenes in the movie were B-Movie crap at best. They should have skipped her all together and went on to the scene directly after it. Though some people bashed Lucas for keeping the slaughter scene "off camera" I think it was a brilliant move. Knowing it happened was enough. And we saw enough of it start to know how bad it was going to get. And the love stuff was piled on a little thick thought I don't think it hurt the movie too much.

All in all, I was pleased with what I say. The saber fights were everything I hoped they'd be, though some of the CGI creatures were lacking. I also enjoyed seeing Yoda in action. Nearly everyone in the theater came out of their seats! I think Lucas really set us up for a great third chapter. Lets just hope he delivers.

I give this one a 3.5 out of 5. I'll probably go see it at least one more time.

by Chrispian H. Burks

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