A New Ginger

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new Ginger in town. Unfortunately, I’m only a ginger in spirit. You might be asking yourself, “If he’s not a ginger, won’t the name have to change? Won’t everything have to change?” Nope, it’ll still be the same Ginger Collect you’ve come to know and love, except you’ll be sending your art and photography to me.

Jonathan G Nickles

Editor – Illustration and Photography

Jonathan received a Bachelors of Art in Visual Art and a Masters of Art in Visual Art from Morehead State University. He currently works as a Media Specialist at Kentucky River Community Care, a community mental health center. On the side, he spends most of his time hanging out at comic conventions and drawing geeky things to sell at comic conventions. He has a leather jacket signed by Don Dokken and tries to let everyone know about it.

Twitter: @Jonjamo

Instagram: @Jonathannicklesart

-Jonathan

Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation and the Mystery Box

We’ve all felt it before, the anticipation as we watch numerous characters in a movie fall victim to an offscreen monster. Wondering what exactly this monster looks like and how horrible it will be. It’s a play on our fear of the unknown, which most of you already know because you are excellent writers. Which, before we go on, you should go check our latest issue instead of reading this garbage.

The ability to create tension with the unknown, when done correctly is a wonderful tool that leaves the audience somewhat satisfied. I say somewhat because we’re not naturally happy with living with the unknowable. We build giant metal rockets and hurl them into the darkness of space in search of answers, or we build giant metal submarines to dive deep into the ocean to find out what exactly lurks in the murky depths. Hint: ITS CTHULU, DON’T WAKE HIM UP.

The magic of mystery is just that; it is a mystery. When you talk to most about a movie where the monster is revealed in the last scenes, their excitement drops a little and sometimes you’ll hear them say that they were a little disappointed. Usually this happens when they discuss the monster in The Thing or IT. There’s just something about the storyteller playing with our imaginations that makes it better than any reality ever could.

J. Abrams has been a believer in this forever. I must talk about him for a moment because I should introduce the concept of a mystery box. He has this idea that if you create a mystery box within a story, it will drive the audience to follow along in hopes to find an answer. He then goes on to explain that once the mystery box is opened, then the magic is destroyed. So, what we’re supposed to do as writers, is preserve the mystery box if possible. And this, folks, this must be one of the hardest thing that anyone has ever tried to do.

I’ve already talked about Stephen King’s The Mist and this is what he does in that story. But I have never come across someone that was able to keep the mystery box intact throughout the entirety of the story. And I don’t mean there are answers and reveals at the end. Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation does something completely unexpected with this idea and it works.

Just to give a brief overview of how he starts it out I’ll summarize the opening. If you don’t want it ruined (which it clearly won’t ruin anything) please just wander off somewhere else. The story has four characters including the main character. The entire thing is told in first person and there are no names, only titles that define their jobs. On top of that, the location takes place in Area X which is surrounded by an unknown boundary that is talked about never mentioned.

Everything that is delivered to the audience is wrapped in a thousand questions that Vandermeer doesn’t ever promise to answer. And though the characters discover things, it only brings up more questions and the mystery box becomes stronger. There were times when my imagination ran rampant during a scene where there was something that the main character had to deal with.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that the answers were never fully given. They were delivered just enough for me to fill in the rest with my imagination. There’s even a scene that reminds me of a twisted version of Dante’s Paradiso, which makes me always happy.

But if you’re struggling to keep that tension with a mystery box; Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation is a perfect lesson on what to do. From beginning to end.

Insert Inspirational Quote: How Exercise Influenced Writing

Wait a gosh darned minute here! You may be shouting. This isn’t an exercise blog and you need to get your garbage out of my face! But I beg you, my sweet summer children, to hear me out and just follow along. This does have to do with writing. Because, though I never thought it would be possible, I have found a correlation between the two through my own experience.

I’m not going to spend time giving you numbers or talking about workouts. That’s not what this is for. Nor am I going to tell you that once you finally start exercising, you’ll be bursting with energy and nothing will stop you. You know what stops me? Peanut butter patties and sleep. Two of the worst things in this world. But if you ever want to talk exercise, please, feel free to contact me on the numerous forms of social media. I’m not an expert (at anything but sleeping and Skyrim) but I will sure as hell talk with you about it.

All of us are guilty of sitting in front of a screen and staring at the keyboard wishing all the words would just come out in a torrent so that project would finally stop ruining you every waking minute that you’re not working on it. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I have an entire folder of half-finished ideas that are like warm glasses of water; a waste to throw away, but unappealing to try again.

My perspective changed a few years back that has improved my writing. One of my closest friends invited me to the gym on campus and I figured What the hell? It’s free and I’ve got nothing going on. It was a nightmare. The pain, the sweat, and delayed muscle soreness. Two weeks into the process I was ready to set myself on fire. But I continued and soon, over a long span of time, I started seeing progress. It was small and no one else seemed to notice, but I began to physically change.

We moved the weights up gradually. Though we’d stand there in the gym and watch these behemoths of people lift a vast amount of weight or run for what seemed for fucking oh my god ever, we knew that we weren’t ready for that kind of stress. Instead, we continued at our low weight and tracked our snail-paced progress. We learned that slow and steady was the safest way to be.

And then one day, when discussing this slow pace with someone who was pretending to care about exercise because I was waving my arms too much, it hit me that this was just the same with writing. Oh yeah, I’ve read all the guides and advice and they do keep me going or give me a boost of energy, there’s nothing that’s going to speed up the process. It’s going to be painful, long, and unrewarding. Like in the gym, I found there were days when I’d finished writing a single page and though it was hard work, I knew half of it was garbage.

But you continue to strive forward to the end.

And then you make it to the end and that’s when you can breathe for a moment.

Because then the worst part happens; revising.

Without spending time in the gym, I would have never recognized this. Most have developed this perspective. It wasn’t until I found something outside of writing to show me what I needed to do about writing.

It sounds like I don’t enjoy either exercise or writing. That’s true. Sometimes I loathe both equally. But you know what? We do it because we need to. Not because we want to. When we realize that, then we can set about processing and determining our own fate.