Friday, April 9, 2021

Some Thoughts on Spoilers

Hello, all! So, spoilers are, of course, a Big Deal, both in fandom and in culture as a whole. It's considered common courtesy to take care what you share about your favorite stories, to mark spoilers when you post about them online, and to ask permission before sharing spoilery info in a face-to-face conversation. In some cases, studios and creators have even published official reminders to their audiences to be careful about what they share. On every level, people take spoilers seriously. In fact, I would argue that they take them a little too seriously — that spoilers don't necessarily spoil your enjoyment of a story and fandom culture (and fandom creators) might need to take a collective chill pill when it comes to dealing with them.

Some Thoughts on Spoilers

  1. It's possible to fully enjoy a story while knowing all the spoilers (or all the major ones). Harry Potter, Fairy Tail, Critical Role — these are all stories I've gotten into after learning a lot of major spoilers. Storms, I knew every character who died in Harry Potter before I ever picked up the first book, and I'd heard summaries of half the story arcs and character backstories and character relationships in Fairy Tail months and years before I considered watching it. Knowing those spoilers didn't make me enjoy the stories any less. I watched Fairy Tail until I ran out of English episodes (it's one of only three TV shows I've actually watched sort of all the way through). And, yes, I did sort of drop off with Harry Potter — but my decision had nothing to do with what I knew or didn't know and everything to do with my feelings on certain tropes.
  2. Knowing spoilers can help you enjoy a story more in some cases. Let's talk about Critical Role. I got into this fandom through fanart, listening to the theme song (which showed up solo on my YouTube feed one day and is AWESOME, just FYI), and especially through fan-made animatics. As a result, I came in knowing . . . well, not the same level of spoilers I knew about Harry Potter, but still a lot of spoilers, including everything from the biggest events, reveals, and twists in the game to the best and funniest small moments in the story. And yet I've stuck with this show much, much longer than I've stuck with shows that I went into "clean." Why? Knowing the spoilers meant I'd already fallen in love with the characters, so I had more patience with them when they frustrated me. It meant I had a sense of anticipation and eagerness when I realized I was getting close to seeing one of those big moments for real or when I noticed something clearly foreshadowing or leading up to one of those big moments. And it meant I had twice the fun of seeing those small, fun moments — both the pleasure of watching the moment and the excitement of recognizing "Oh, that's the context for this!" In a sense, it's like having the best parts of both the first-time read/watch and the reread/re-watch at once.
  3. Too much focus on "no spoilers!" can lead to bad storytelling. Look. I love a good twist as much as anyone. I praise authors like Brandon Sanderson and Megan Whalen Turner for their ability to pull off massive twists that you don't see coming but make perfect sense in hindsight. But a trend I'm picking up on lately is that creators (especially TV/movie studios, especially Marvel) are focusing too much on making sure their audience never saw it coming. I have even heard — second- or third-hand, but the source was Tor.com, so it seems pretty reliable — that some recent shows had last-minute changes made because fans had guessed what was going to happen. But the problem with doing that is that now, all your foreshadowing is just red herrings . . . and your new twist may not have the support it needs to make sense. If you accept that sometimes, people will guess what's coming — if you accept that for many people, finding the clues and guessing what's going to happen five minutes or five pages in advance is part of the fun — your stories will be stronger.
  4. Too much emphasis on going in "clean" could make people think there's only one acceptable way to experience a story. This isn't something I've seen happen yet, but it seems like the logical progression of the current cultural attitudes. If fandom keeps obsessing over "No spoilers!" and going into a story "clean," it makes people think that the only way you can truly enjoy a story is if you know nothing about it except the blurb and maybe your friend's favorite character. Which, if you remember point #2, is nonsense. But if someone has that attitude, they're probably going to miss out on a lot of amazing works of storytelling because they accidentally were exposed to spoilery information and now they think it's ruined. But — look. Even if you don't agree with what I said earlier about spoilers improving your experience, you have to admit that there's more to a story than its big twists. Characters, world, themes — spoilers might affect your view of these a little, but they don't have to take away your ability to enjoy them.
  5. Obsession with no spoilers can hinder fans' ability to bring new people into the fandom. Of course, the other side of thinking people can only enjoy a story if they go in "clean" is that you have a much harder time talking about the story. And if you can't talk about the story, how are other people going to get into it? I watched Fairy Tail because my roommate had told me so much about it — careless of spoilers because at the time, I didn't watch anime, and I didn't plan to start — that I wanted to know more. I played Portal because some online friends kept making references to GLaDOS and neurotoxin and cake and I wanted to know what they were talking about. I read . . . well, a lot of books, quite frankly . . . because I'd seen people share favorite snippets or excerpts or fanfics, sometimes very spoilery ones, and was curious about the story they came from. If I hadn't seen or heard the spoilers, I wouldn't have experienced the stories. And that would've been a tragedy.

Obviously (I hope), I'm not saying that we should stop marking spoilers or that it's wrong to want to go into a story without knowing what happens. There are books that I do try to avoid spoilers for because I know half the excitement of the book is going to be the big twists. And I would never knowingly/willingly reveal spoilers to someone who I knew wasn't OK with hearing them. But I do think we need to consider if maybe, just maybe, spoilers aren't as big a deal as we've made them out to be.

What do you think about spoilers? Will knowing what's coming ruin your enjoyment of the story? Or do you agree that maybe we're putting a little too much energy and emphasis into not knowing them beforehand? Please tell me in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 2, 2021

March 2021 Doings!

 

Good morning, everyone! (Or afternoon, or evening, or night, or moment beyond the petty grasps of time, whenever you happen to be reading this.) Wordpress has permanently gotten rid of the Classic Editor, and I am mightily annoyed. Yes, there's the classic block in the block editor that functions the same way, but . . . it's a pure white workspace, y'all, and I am not digging it, even if it does look "clean" and "modern" and "minimally distracting." Give me back my sidebars, storm you! Anyway. All rants aside, March is gone, spring is upon us, and it's time to check in with a new round of Doings!

Writing!

  • Work on the TMS Sequel continues . . . slower than I'd like it to. I ended up having to rewrite Chapters 4, 5, and 7 more times than I thought I would, and though I'm very happy with the end result, it was a bit rough getting there. I've also been rearranging a lot of scenes, which means creating a timeline so I know what's happening when and who's getting how many POV scenes. (The result is that chapters/scenes from one plotline currently heavily outweigh those from the other plotline . . . which is unfortunate. But I'm also not sure I can do a lot about it because there's a lot more happening in the one than in the other. Hopefully they'll even out over time or I can think of something to add to the one.)
  • Anyway. I'm currently sitting at Chapter 15, and I've been averaging two chapters rewritten per week. I'd like to pick up that pace a little next month, but we'll see what happens. I'm trying to make some adjustments to make a certain element of the base fairytale fit better with the story, and it's . . . difficult.
  • On the D&D front, I've finished writing the one subplot, and now I just have finale stuff to put together! I think I'm getting back into the swing of this kind of writing, which makes me quite happy. My current big challenge is "How do I arrange events so the friendly NPCs who my players joined up with don't take over combat?" That's proving . . . interesting. And it's going to be even more important come the actual finale. But we'll figure it out.
  • (That said, I put the finishing adjustments on the details for part of the final boss encounter yesterday, and if it goes even vaguely like I hope it will, it's going to be so cool. I'm super excited.)

Reading!

  • March was a much lighter reading month than February. Part of that is that I didn't have as many snow days; part was that I had forgotten just why The Well of Ascension is my least favorite Mistborn book. It's still a really good book, but . . . it's hard to get through at times. (I also really dislike Zane.) Thus why I paused reading it a bunch of times to read other books.
  • On the upside, I did discover a new favorite series this month: Miss Sharp's Monsters by Suzannah Rowntree! I raved about the first book in the series, The Werewolf of Whitechapel, last Friday, so I won't repeat myself. But to summarize, it's mysteries and murders in an alternate late-Victorian England with a delicious storytelling style and a magnificent heroine, and I can't recommend it enough. Go read it. Seriously.
  • The other new release I read this month was the Wingfeather Tales anthology, which was a reread but still quite good. Again, I covered my thoughts on the book in a Friday 5s post, so I won't go into depth here. It's a good anthology, though I don't love every story in it.
  • Also in short story territory, I finally read H.L. Burke's fun short story "Ghosted," which was a nice twist on the haunted house trope. I can't say a lot without running up against spoilers, but I will say that I very much enjoyed the story.
  • Currently, I'm working through the Unicorn Anthology assembled by Peter S. Beagle (which is ok, but I may DNF because it's coming due at the library soon and I'm not sure I care enough about the rest of the stories to get it back out) and a Warbreaker reread, which is quite enjoyable. I've been meaning to reread this and Elantris for a bit, so I'm glad to finally get around to it. (Yes, I am going to finish my Mistborn reread, but I needed a break.)

Watching!

  • About midway through the month, my dad says (paraphrased), "Hey, so there's this Star Trek episode, 'Spectre of the Gun' that apparently partially inspired/influenced the people who made The Matrix. It's on Amazon Prime. We should watch it." And because I was tired and figured I wasn't going to be productive that night anyway, I said sure, I'd watch it too.
  • So we start watching it, and my first thought is . . . didn't we see a multicolored flashing object giving off weird warnings in another episode? Is this a thing that happens? Or am I just imagining things?
  • (I was not imagining things. The episode I was thinking of was "The Corbomite Manuever," and it has some interesting similarities to "Spectre," but also pretty much an opposite resolution? Sort of? I digress.)
  • Anyway. We watch the episode. And, yeah, you can see how it influenced The Matrix, but I was too distracted to really focus on that because — look. Spock, at least, should've figured out the situation within the first five minutes. Storms, they all should've figured it out within the first five minutes (except maybe Chekhov, who seems to be a bit easily distracted — Chekhov fans, if I'm misjudging your fave, sorry; I'm pulling from limited data). And, yeah, if they had, it wouldn't have been the same story, but there could've been a story and more done with the particular idea that the episode was exploring.
  • The moral of this story is . . . I don't know. If you're going to have your characters make assumptions, at least make those assumptions reasonable? Or possibly "When dealing with powerful telepathic beings, doubt everything in front of you."
  • (Now that I'm thinking about it, the concept actually would be a pretty cool concept for a D&D party to face. And it's pretty interesting in general. I just feel like the Star Trek writers could've done a better job with it.)
  • Moving on from my uncharitable analysis of classic Star Trek, we also watched High Noon, which . . . was not what I expected, really. It's a Western, but it's really more of a character drama wearing western clothes and a gunbelt. It was very well done, just not what I usually think of when I think western.
  • And, of course, I'm still watching Critical Role. I've made it up to Episode 57, and I've finally met Essek. I feel like I already have a pretty good idea why he's such a fan favorite. I've also learned that probably the most stressful thing that can happen in the entire show is Jester and Nott being the party's face for dealing with authority figures. I had to pause or go down to one earbud and lowered volume so many times because I was dying of "No, no, no, why are you like that you are going to get yourselves killed." Like, it made perfect sense in context for them to be in that position. And it certainly makes for a good story. But it still stresses me out more than any combat has up to this point. (Even so, the last two episodes were SO GOOD.)
  • Also, this isn't exactly watching, but it's sort of tangential — Amazon Music (which is one of the two apps I mostly listen to music on) has apparently come to the conclusion that I'm into musicals? And so it's been sprinkling miscellaneous Broadway and off-Broadway musical soundtracks into my mix? But they aren't big-name everyone-knows-this musicals like Les Mis or Phantom or Wicked. (Well, there've been a few Les Mis songs. But not many.) They're . . . I don't know if they're niche, but it's stuff like Six and Come from Away and the Percy Jackson musical? And something about Shakespeare that I can't actually remember the name of? And I have no idea how this happened, but I've actually discovered some good stuff from it, so I rather hope it keeps happening.
  • (Well, except for the Dear Evan Hansen songs that keep popping up, which I actually dislike — I've tried to listen to the musical twice and couldn't get past the first song either time. I'd like it if those stopped appearing. But the rest of the random musicals are good.)

Life!

  • For those curious, my paladin did not have a breakdown or get pushed over the tipping point by family drama. (She did have a little bit of a breakdown for other reasons. But that's because she still hasn't fully processed the fact that they can just call/talk to some pretty powerful beings. Including a literal deity. You'd think she'd be used to that one by now, or at least more comfortable with it since she's, y'know, a paladin, but nope.) Anyway. The family drama was actually considerably less dramatic than I expected — both in and out of character, I was fully prepared to have to disown someone. And I didn't. So that was nice. And I got some nice roleplay moments with my character's family members (including one I've been hoping my DM would bring in for ages). And all in all, much fun was had, even if we only met twice again.
  • I did end up trying to make the chocolate-raspberry biscotti like I said I was going to, and it went much better than the butterscotch biscotti I did in January did. It held together very nicely and was just generally so much easier than the first batch I made. I actually preferred the flavor of the butterscotch, though, so . . . yeah.
  • Probably the most exciting (or at least out of the ordinary) thing that happened was a weekend trip to see my grandpa on Palm Sunday weekend — our usual weekend commitments got canceled for a variety of reasons, so it seemed like a good time to go visit. We didn't do much while we were up there, but it was nice to get to spend time with him after so long.
  • At the office, most of the month has been relatively chill. I'm quite well settled in (still no decorations, but I have a kettle and a routine), and I'm still enjoying the work. I've been learning a lot about livestreaming as the church is working on getting that going — since I do a lot of the media, it's close enough to my job description (and my interests in general) that a lot of the setup and "figure out how this works" responsibilities landed on my plate. (That also meant I got to revisit my documentation design skills — I haven't done that in a while! It made a nice change of pace, though.)
  • And then Holy Week hit and everything got much busier for everyone. I had my first run of putting together a Sunday bulletin (the church hasn't been handing them out because of COVID, but they wanted to do one for Easter), and there were slides and social media graphics and promotional materials to put together, plus normal stuff . . . Even with all that, though, I might've been the least stressed person in the office. Most days, anyway. And I think everyone's happy with how everything turned out.
  • (I also learned that I want to learn Visual Basic for Applications sometime. Maybe next month, if I have time and can find a free course on YouTube or something with an instructor I like.)

April Plans

  • So, yeah, April is typically Camp NaNoWriMo. And I wasn't sure if I'd do Camp or not this year, what with the whole "having a job" thing. To be honest, I kind of forgot that it was happening (well, more accurately, I forgot that April was happening) until this last Monday. Whoops. But the theme for this year is NaNoFinMo — National Novel Finishing Month. And I do need to finish editing the Midnight Show sequel. So guess who made her Camp goal two days before the event started? Yep. That's right. This girl. It'll be good, though. (Or it'll kill me. We'll see!)
  • Other than Camp NaNoWriMo, things will probably be quiet. We don't have much planned for Easter . . . or for most of the month, really. Things may start ramping up at work, now that warmer weather and looser restrictions mean more church events to promote. But I imagine it'll all be pretty manageable. I will start working on the first newsletter I've done without someone watching over my shoulder/training me, though, so that's exciting.
  • The one other semi-exciting thing: a lot of book releases that I'm involved with in terms of either being on the blog/social media tour or having ARCs or having been a beta or all of the above. I think I may have something going on somewhere every week, actually, or every week except the last week . . . (Also, I GOT AN ARC OF ANARCHIST ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS! Otherwise known as Miss Sharp #2. And also an ARC of A Thieving Curse! I am SO EXCITED.)
  • In terms of D&D, writing will probably go a little on hold unless I decide that I can count both it and TMS towards Camp NaNoWriMo. But I think I have enough material to keep things moving, especially if sessions remain short as they have been, which I expect they will. And in terms of the campaign I play in but don't run, well . . . we have an underdark adventure and then a face-off with a dragon aberration (or at least its followers) ahead, so that's going to be interesting. (I'm actually really excited for the underdark bit. And kinda worried about the aberration bit and the chance that we'll have another player death. Or semi-death. From the same player as the last one. I mean, I finally have Revivify, so we might be OK? But also . . . concern.)

How was your March? Any exciting plans for April? TBA? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!