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Published

Alienation and Evil in Supermen

Superman is a hero routinely derided as one-note. A good boyscout who is always by the books. For this topic the writer should look into the myriad supermen.

Mainly focused on characters such as Man of Steel Superman, One Punch Man’s Saitama, and Watchman’s Dr. Manhattan.

Shared between these characters is a distinct sense of alienation. Not just from their friends but from the people they protect as "heroes"

Understanding the origins of each of their alienations and possibly comparing them to "evil" over powered characters such as Plutonian (Irredeemable), Homelander (The Boys) and Omni-Man (Invincible)

What elements make for a character’s alienation that wouldn’t lead into their collapse into villainy?

  • See also Ultraman from DC Comics' "alternate universe" stories: he's literally Superman with slight alterations in his backstory that made him a villain instead of a hero. Perhaps compare to mutants in X-men as well. Apocalypse and Magneto have superiority complexes pushing them to try to take over the world, similar to Omni-Man and some of the other evil Supermen. Professor X, on the other hand, is just as powerful but does not share that philosophy. – noahspud 1 year ago
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  • Umm i think thats a bit too broadening. Marvel has a bunch of direct Superman analogues such as Blue Marvel, Hyperion, and Sentry. Bringing in Prof X and Magneto and Apocalypse is a bit off topic. – Sunni Ago 1 year ago
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  • I enjoy how Lex Luther and Superman understand each other as being two sides of the same coin, in much the same way that Doomsday Superman can't -- being being an identical polar opposite they are literally two side of that coin in strength, etc and so can only annihilate and not triumph over the other. This is ultimately unsatisfying. Lex Luther adds the dimension of an unfortunate childhood, family, daily pressures and a superior mind which Superman can relate to though never condone. – anthonyzed 1 year ago
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  • I think this would be particularly interesting if one touchd upon Arthur Miller's essay on Tragedy and the Common Man. This kinf of alienation (being larger than life, greater good, not strictly 'human' but more than human) is exactly what Miller speaks about - and why this kind of heroism might be losing its appeal because it's not relatable to the 'Common Man'. – Janhabi Mukherjee 6 months ago
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Published

Why Writers Love Whump

Within the fiction writing community and especially on social media outlets like Tumblr, there is a particular type of writing that draws a subset of writers. This writing type is called "whump." Broadly defined, "whump" happens when one character gets hurt, physically, emotionally, or otherwise, and must receive care from another character, or conversely, endure the trauma alone.

Whump can take many forms and be as innocent or graphic as the writer wants, although most writers will post trigger or content warnings if they intend to go into certain details. Graphic or not though, many writers confine their enjoyment to whump communities for fear of being misjudged as sadists, masochists, or otherwise unstable. Others write whump to the exclusion of other types or scenes, which may raise questions about their growth in the craft of writing.

Examine the many reasons why fiction writers love whump. Are they all looking for catharsis for their own trauma? Are some of them caretakers who enjoy seeing characters rescued and nursed to health? Why do you think these writers get judged for liking and creating whump content, whereas a whump reader is less likely to be judged for reading a violent or horror novel? Are there some forms of whump that take the concept too far? And perhaps most importantly, what does this type of writing offer to the fiction community, that no other writing does?

  • This is an interesting topic because it’s partly just wondering why people like what they like. Of course, it goes deeper than that as I suppose it could with any genre, where naturally like-minded people may flock towards the same plot devices, tropes, structures, etc. I guess someone's opinions on whump diverge from their opinions on other genres (horror, for example) because of its very specific qualities. So, anyone could have an opinion on horror, but someone who has a strong opinion on whump must have a reason for it. The ‘taboo’ around its subject matter sets this trope apart from others like fluff or smut. Between the community where it primarily exists and its content matter, there could be any combination of factors that leaves it open to criticism: 1) It’s an impactful, condensed and sometimes painful (again, how much the writer wants to get into it) piece of writing that exists solely to convey those emotions. Rather than a drama in the form of a novel that might contain similar themes, all that would be spread out is jam-packed into sometimes only a couple hundred words. 2) It isn’t a commercially popular genre, at least not that I’ve seen. Which means that, ignoring the obvious highs and lows in terms of attention and effort, these aren’t always professionally-treated stories. Which means, that for better or worse, people might be writing about traumatic events they haven’t researched or experienced to then properly depict. and 3) It’s not the masses who are reading these stories—unless it’s the type of genre to come under pressure publicly only for everyone to secretly open up their favourite social media site to then read fervently—which means that a lot of people probably don’t know what it really is. And this can be seen with so many things right before something sends them over into the mainstream. So while a horror novel and a whump fic might be pretty equally-footed in terms of mature subject matter, it is infinitely easier to criticize a genre that revolves around obscenity or violence (even to cathartic means) rather than a genre that encompasses much more. It’s also interesting, the point you raise about people questioning people’s ability to write because they choose to write whump. Much like the speculations about why people like to read whump, I like to think that most writers write what they write because that’s what they enjoy writing. And if a horror writer writes horror because he has never felt the warmth of a woman’s touch and couldn’t possibly fathom a contemporary romance, I don’t think that should reflect (negatively or positively) on the genre or the writer. And finally, while I’m not sure I could agree with any statement that tries to prove there’s a genre out there that could be so completely unique in its ability to bring certain things to the table, I do think that whump is really good at dealing with a rawness in human (or human-like) emotion. Of course there are the sometimes exceedingly graphic depictions of pain and various forms of mutilation, but even then, as long as we’re discussing writing as it brings out the best in a genre, I think it inspires creative description and real emotion in terms of connection or isolation. – Zak 9 months ago
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Materiality in Writing Practices: What matters?

A common point of difference in commentary on literary craft is the role of tools: the pens, the paper, the word processors, and other ephemera through which writing actually happens. Some authors, such as Neil Gaiman, famously write in beautiful notebooks with beautiful pens, while others take the opposite approach. Natalie Goldberg, for instance, has written of her preference for a fast-writing cheap pen and an inexpensive notebook, on the basis that such tools put little pressure on the author to produce perfect work.

While it seems reasonable that personal preference plays an important role, how can aspiring writers think more critically about their choice of creative implements? Of the resources at our disposal, which are likely to support the creative process, and under what conditions? Conversely, under what conditions might we consider a writing practice to be ill-resourced, and what are the telltale symptoms of such a situation?

  • The same consideration could be applied to the entire material environment and its consequent impact on the writer's experience. For instance, compare Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in a small cabin in the woods with a fountain pen, to modern digital nomads writing on their laptops in the coffee shops they found in their way. – ivan 5 months ago
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Published

Should modern newspapers publish more poetry?

Newspapers, though changed and challenged by the digital age, still offer a unique platform for community exchange and cultural expression. However, most larger newspapers only actively solicit letters to the editor from their readers—not poetry, art, short stories, or photography.

Are newspapers missing an opportunity to regularly engage in these art forms, or are these art forms meant only for specialized publications and magazines?

Furthermore, if more poetry were added to newspapers, how would it extend or shift cultural conversations? Does poetry invite a dialogue or merely distort facts with feeling? Does poetry belong in a “factual” space? And, finally, on a practical level, how might a newspaper regularly engage with poetry, for the benefit of itself and its readers?

  • This is an amazing topic! And a very topical one as well. I think putting poetry into newspapers would be a quiet but powerful step in giving people the chance to re-explore verse beyond a classroom setting. It is startling to see how far poetry has faded into the background of our world today. Often, it seems like people see poetry as a complicated, puzzling realm of writing that they can't simply read without much poetic expereince. But poetry is the roots of our written words--the foundation of where story and song found their home in our earliest ages. In a way, poetry is a cornerstone of our shared human culture--and incorperating it into the public press might be a subtle but potent reminder of this. It might help people see that poetry doesn't belong to any one group of readers, that anybody can enjoy a poem whether they are familiar with it or not. I also think it's a nice idea to have a small snippet of abstract beauty fixed between a dense forrest of headlines. – mmclaughlin102 1 year ago
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  • Very eloquently said, @mmclaughlin102. I especially like your point about poetry being woven into our cultural fabric as the foundation of story and song. When reading your note, I kept thinking of a phrase, “to democratize poetry”: that is, to widen the voice, participation, and understanding of poetry. If poetry is seen as being only for specialized audiences, newspapers could have a role in widening its audience and accessibility (to re-democratize it, if you will). Thought provoking. – KatieM 1 year ago
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  • In the Victorian era, many writers believed that writers and poets would replace religion and the church. While I do not think poetry will have that much power in a modern context, I believe that poetry has the potential to be highly useful in a medium such as newspapers. Poetry has the ability to invite dialogue about certain topics that are relevant today, such as colonialism in Kipling's "The White Man's Burden". As others have noted, there is this air of complexity around poetry and I strongly believe that by having poetry in the newspapers, more people will gain exposure to this style of writing and be more comfortable around it. Poetry has the ability to tell stories of personal experiences, and important historical events and encourage conversation about relevant modern topics. Without a doubt, I believe that poetry deserves a place in newspapers. – ethan 1 year ago
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Do stereotypes limit roles for characters of color?

Explore how common racial stereotypes have inhibited character archetypes for characters of color. For example, Asian women have been stereotyped as hypersexual in Western media, so many Asian writers have avoided this characterization for their Asian characters in order to defy stereotypes. However, this creates a stigma where Asian female characters are not allowed to be sexual without inadvertently fitting a Western stereotype. Is purposefully writing characters that don’t fit stereotypes really progressive, or is it simply another case of racists controlling the narratives that POC can write?

More specific examples:
-hyper-sexualization of Black characters
– "comedic" de-sexualization of Asian male characters
– Indigenous people as "shamans"

  • Stereotypes do limit the roles of characters, however, you don't need to center their stories on how Western media portrays them. Steer away from viewing them as objects and only catering to the male gaze. – shivzd00 10 months ago
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The curse of originality

A common critique of any new movie, book, tv show or anything, a common criqitue of any new story in the written medium, (whether script writing or otherwise) is the lack of originality. Originality is defined as 1) existing from the beginning, 2) created personally by someone or 3) not dependent on other ideas. But is anything at all independent of ideas, or ‘original?’ One can now start to argue that everything’s been done before, from new world with strange creatures, to magical schools, to a climactic battle between good and evil. I pose three question: Does originality exist any longer? Does originality need to be redefined? Or do we need to change the way we criticize storytelling?

  • The book 'Reality Hunger' by David Shields is exactly about this, him claiming that everything comes from somewhere and is a type of collage. For this, you need to define originality. Everything we have everseen, heard or lived does influence us. There are tales of people thinking that they've written something original and then being told that their original story is almost identical to another from a long time ago; usually they have just forgotten being subjected to that original story. – heath 2 years ago
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  • I think storytelling should be defined by the depth of the narrative, not strictly the originality of the idea. – BVIS97 2 years ago
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  • in the jacobean era (and probably other periods) people would bring 'commonplace books' to the theatre with them and just write down what they liked so they could use it themselves. obviously there are some plagiarism problems there but it might be interesting to examine how our views on originality has changed – lizawood 2 years ago
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  • I think it’s also possible for works to poorly received precisely for their originality. An Australian writer Michael Winkler was unable to find a publisher for his novel Grimmish, so self-published. But the book got great critical reviews, has since been picked up by a traditional publisher, and has now been long listed for the Miles Franklin award. It is dfefinitely original, but that’s what put it off in the beginning from being published. Writers and artists will often follow their passion to strange places, and publishers may take ‘risks’ and get their work out there. But often work that’s original is also misunderstood, or doesn’t quite find its readership. – MelHall 2 years ago
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  • As far as I can tell, successful art and originality need not be mutually exclusive. You rightly suggest that many that many themes, many topics have already been expressed by brilliant minds. Nearly all great literature could be distilled into variations on a few themes, if one wanted to be so minute. But, just to stimulate some thought, I'll pose you a question: is anything at all NOT original? If art is, as Marcel Proust contended, a reconfiguration of our experiences, and no two people experience life identically (or, at least, no two people have the same frame of reference), then how could a work of art fail to be original, since it is gestated from a particular consciousness which has contents that will never again take shape in a similar way? How could the expression of one's vitality, one's essence, be anything but original when seen in this light? Just a thought. – ethanwatts 2 years ago
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  • This is definitely a topic that is so relevant today because creators lack "originality". Especially since a lot has been written over time, we can never be too sure if a so called, "original," idea that we have had is actually original or if it is something we've been inspired by through the subconscious after having read/watched/heard it already. Originality is so hard to come by these days and is something that is so craved in the media. It really is a sink or swim situation, and, as most have said here, originality should be defined by depth and how the story is actually told. One concept could have so many different ideas and meanings behind it, so therefore each concept can have different means of originality. – saskiawodarczak 2 years ago
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  • One could wonder if a piece's originality must be [pure originality]. Does anything like that even exist? However, every piece has the potential to be original in at least one or more aspects. If it follows the collage format - think about the collage technique used in painting: Are all of these paintings unoriginal? Such a claim is contested by anyone. But what makes them unique in that case? It is not the elements; it is the structure! How the various, unoriginal, little components are put together to create a fresh picture, new system, or unique narrative. A different structure might also imply that the new collection has a different endpoint and objective. That's one scenario! So, to discuss originality, we should slightly alter our understanding. There might not be such a thing as 100% originality. It's conceivable that there isn't such a thing as ultimate originality, yet there is originality in response to one or more aspects alone. Originality is not absolute; rather, it is relative. – Samer Darwich 2 years ago
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  • What's additionally interesting about this topic is an evaluation of whether originality in entertainment is really so different today than it's ever been. I see a note above that repeats a currently popular idea, that right now entertainment is particularly unoriginal. But when I think of movies from 90 years ago, there were countless remakes. Just look at how many Robin Hood and Little Women movies were made! Plus, when we think of really original storytelling from back in the day right now, how much of it struck audiences at the time as original as well? Star Wars or The Matrix might come to many fans minds as original, but there's strong arguments that neither is. All three questions are good, and in particular with the last one, just how useful is criteria of originality? – ronannar 2 years ago
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  • I believe that all new ideas sprout from an inspiration taken from the real world in some way or another. In that sense, I understand how you believe that nothing is "original" by the definition you provided. Therefore, when critiquing another story that definition should not be applied. – Aathi 2 years ago
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  • While arguably every piece of media is a derivative of some earlier piece of media, there is still plenty of originality out there to be had. Look at recent films such as Nope, which very explicitly shows its influences from films like Jaws and Close Encounters, or Everything Everywhere All At Once, a fresh take on the multiverse craze. Nope is highly original in its message and structure. Everything Everywhere is highly original in its world-building and story. I think that there is a big difference between these films and the constant sequels and prequels being spat out by Marvel or the remakes of old films. Sequels and remakes may offer some fresh perspectives--and the ones that do are often the best of these categories, but they do come from the same nucleus of an idea. Nope borrows heavily from Spielberg and others but creates a brand new way of displaying those influences and in some ways critiques them. But perhaps the criteria for originality is also based on how audiences feel. Personally, I am sick and tired of the constant trailers for new Marvel films and I do feel that the movie arena has been saturated. Does that just make the original films more novel or does it mean that originality is shrinking? Keep in mind much of this phenomenon is based on money and the fears of producers and studios that people no longer care for going to the movie theater or watching films in general. The sequels and cinematic universes pump out the most films because they work--they are a known quantity. Especially after the pandemic, it takes a brave studio or producer to splash out on originality. – zrynhold 2 years ago
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  • This is not the first time I read this point that originality must be take down because everything has been already done in the past. Students love it ;-) My favorite answer is : Your struggle is, in my opinion, you can't find where to put the hiatus between common recycling of ideas and true originality (an ideal to tend to). It think this is a dead end because the nature of originality is its own unpredictiveness. It is the result of combination of known objects, it is an emergent property from the interaction of well-known topics or situations which give birth to novelty. Sometime, a change in perspective by itself provide a original, new creative object. And remember, we live in a world of a tremendous complexity and it would be really pretentious for humanity to tell that they already created and thought about everything that is possible. Good luck with this topic, it is a gold mine. – Alexbrn 10 months ago
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Does the Internet increase or decrease the permanence of writing?

The Internet has wielded unprecedented impacts on writing: from methodology, to modality, to publication, to dissemination, to memory. In all of these cases, the Internet has (seemingly) offered expansion. New, inventive methodologies; an ever-changing landscape of modalities; an explosion of publication avenues; a global, instantaneous system of distribution; and endless memory and storage.

However, with the absolute profusion of writing (from documents, to webpages, to web-text, to user-generated content like Facebook and Instagram, etc.), it feels as though writing is getting lost. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become crucial, and writers and companies struggle to craft their content to be relevant and, most importantly, to be seen.

The writing is certainly stored online, but does storage equate to permanence? Does storage equate to memory? Do permanence and memory even matter, if the writing cannot be found?

  • This is very insightful. I agree that the profusion of writing to the web is draining something from the act itself; in the same way that Walter Benjamin saw a loss of aura or essence from the creation of art as a result of industrialized mass production (specifically with photography and film as opposed to painting/sculpting and live theater respectfully). Ultimately, storage does not equal permanence. The internet may disappear, just as many of us book-lovers fear that books may altogether disappear one day (a good example is in S. Delaney's "Nova", in which books are a long-lost phenomenon of the past; something many have attempted to replicate and few have succeeded. The insipidness of the internet, the growth and prevalence of online art, interaction and writing, is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the ways in which these writing forms often present is not healthy. This writing often places value in the perception of the audience over the reality of the writer. Plus, there is no guarantee that the internet is truly permanent. The internet can fail, just like the banks; and the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Banking systems have nothing on the internet in terms of size and spheres of influence. What happens then? We start from scratch I guess. – skjamin 1 year ago
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  • The internet certainly changes our relationship to memory and other forms of communication. Multiple articles and researchers have pointed out that people are relying less on memory and more on the ability to instantly search and find information when needed. Similarly, Plato rejected writing, as it declined the oral tradition and would reduce the amount of information that people would have to memorize, thus decreasing the art of memorization. The internet, with the ability to quickly search for information is taking this a step further, as people store less in their minds and are reliant on quick searches to yield information. Stephen Hawking in “Life in the Universe” notes that the rate at which new knowledge is produced is so rapid compared to times in the past, that it is impossible to become a true generalist a la Davinci, Francis Bacon, and Newton. The age of the “Renaissance Man” may have come to an end. Instead, now we must increasingly specialize our knowledge consumption to become well-read enough to produce knowledge that is useful in that field. We see this through the increasing specialization in the sciences: one is no longer a physicist, but a theoretical, experimental or quantum physicist. In these very specialized fields, individuals certainly have a permanence of knowledge pertaining to their focus areas, but one quickly discards information not related to their chosen field of study. From our understanding of neuroscience, we know that if pathways are not frequently used, they wither and it becomes more difficult to retrieve information stored on those pathways. However, the ability to quickly find information does not decrease the art of composing ideas. The internet, and computing technologies in general, are a tool that reduce our need to memorize hard facts, but still it is a fundamentally human activity to synthesize this information to create knowledge. I think the bigger question is “How has the ability to rapidly retrieve information effected our ability to produce knowledge outside of our specialized focuses/fields of study?” – Solomon 1 year ago
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Past, Present, and Future: Exploring the Literary Effects of Tense

The contemporary popularity of the present tense in narrative storytelling has been critiqued by authors such as Philip Pullman, who have argued a preference for the tone associated with the past tense. Popularised by figures such as Jane Austen, the past tense can be used to achieve a ‘classic’ tone in narrative writing; today, however, authors are freely experimenting with tense.

This article will address how, in today’s world, the aspiring author make sense of tense. Is it a matter of personal preference, or do choices of tense play into more complex sociocultural aesthetics? If tense matters, how important is it to take a stance on the subject? Is tense a purely relativist construct, its validity being subject predominantly to the whims of the author?

  • I've got to say, and it might just be a matter of personal preference, but there are better ways to inform us that the article is going to address something, better than saying it just like that. It's too rigid and academic – Yusra Usmani 1 year ago
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  • I actually really like this topic. You could do cross literary analysis over different genres and compare fiction and non-fiction. Past tense what we're used to most of the time, yes, but I've started to see a rise in present tense. Tense flow and how tense can effect the tone of a story can be analyzed as well. – Ara 12 months ago
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