Tag Archives: Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271

Impostor Syndrome, Afterschool Specials, & Voltaire

Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien. (The perfect is the enemy of the good)  

– Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet)

There are dozens of ways to interpret the above quote, but the one I’d like to wave around is: don’t let your efforts to achieve near-impossible perfection prevent you from getting your work done in the first place.

Recently I was asked to provide an expert opinion for a fantastic blog on Science in Science Fiction, and Fact in Fantasy. I thought, yeah, of course I could write about that. I have acquired knowledge through sweat-experience and collegiate study. I can totally do that. Then I read the rest of the blog to see where the bar had been set, panicked, and passed up the chance.

This happens to everyone. Impostor syndrome is when you find yourself in the position of a pro, an expert, or any other perceived high level, and you lose your nerve. You don’t believe you belong there, and walk out — transforming that belief into reality.

Could I have provided an article on par with what had been previously posted? Most likely, yes, but we’ll never know, because I didn’t do it.

I’m almost done re-cutting UDI271, which was the show we did last year. Now that I’ve listened to the audio four hundred million times, I have to say — this is not my best work. It is exactly the kind of B-movie meets Afterschool Special you’d expect for cranking out a play at 1am the night of a deadline. When I think about the other stories and books I’ve written, this doesn’t even really feel like it’s mine. The tone is odd. The voice is odd. The bad guys aren’t that scary, and the resolution is so neat and happy a middle-grade audience would be on board. I could Alan Smithee this thing, but I won’t. It’s not perfect, it’s not great; but it’s good.

Why is it Good?
1. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
2. It has interesting characters with complex histories.
3. It dances from complex philosophy and terrible puns with remarkable agility.
4. My lead actors were phenomenal.
5. It taught me how to be a director: to build a schedule, to have a master plan, to accept input and then filter it as appropriate.
6. I learned about audio software like GoldWave and Audacity.
7. I learned how much time and energy goes into producing a radio play, from concept, to script, to rehearsals, to re-casting, to making mistakes in public, to post-production.
8. I was asked to produce work, outside my medium, on a deadline, and we all saw it through to the end, on schedule.

Why did it miss Perfection?
1. There are a lot of skills I don’t have yet.
2. Technical difficulties.

For all of its flaws, I still plan to post it. I have some control over #1, and little control over #2. This work has helped me established a baseline for my own ability so I know to read more, or outsource, next time. If I had waited for it to be perfect, it would never have gotten done.

If I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have learned anything.

There will be times when you think it’s not perfect, but good; and the work actually sucks. You will fall on your face. That happens too. Try, fail, fail better. That was Kurt Vonnegut, wasn’t it? No — no, that was Samuel Beckett.

Was Beckett good, or perfect?

I, for one, will never say.

Worldcon in Spokane is happening.  My schedule might be finalized. See you there!


UDI271: Audacity Is Way Better Than GoldWave

I recently did some voice work for a friend, which led to the purchase of a super-fancy Blue Yeti microphone. (The $25 gaming headset from Radio Shack is gone! Woo!) The Blue Snowball was also recommended, and is much cheaper; but it involved hiding in closets, under blanket forts, as a means to create a soundproof environment.

As far as software, I had previously been using a free version of GoldWave (since 2007 or so) and decided to replace it with Audacity. Audacity feels much more user-friendly to me, especially because I’m still at the novice-stage, and keep looking up what the effects terms mean and how to use them. Audacity is also open source, which is lovely. Because the voice work I did was so much fun, and I feel as though I learned a lot, I brushed the dust off my old radio play and I’m in the process of cleaning it up.

I leave unfinished projects on my desktop to remind myself that they still need work. Some of these might be better left in the trunk to moulder; but I’m tired of looking at the pieces waiting to be glued together.

Exasperation can be as useful a motivator as enthusiasm, I suppose.

Today I’ll be editing. There are tons of irrelevant, behind-the-scenes snippets I want to share, and so when I came across this file I was inspired to re-post with text.

For audio, click here.

C: “Why… does he care if he gets cut out? Can he just jump to another person, presumably not.”

Se: “All of this is a big metaphor for inner demons.”

C: “…Uh yeah, I got that.”

Se: “As far as Marron, there’s a couple things at play. He himself is also conflicted because if he’s her creativity, her artistic side, he certainly enjoys a bit of autonomy — to be free, to say all these things — even if Kara won’t actually let him do anything. So he’s afraid for his own existence, and he wants to maintain that. I don’t think he can jump bodies, but that’s not to say that another force in his position wouldn’t be able to. When some people have really strong personalities, the people around them will adopt THEIR turns of phrase, rather than vice versa… The other part is that on some level Marron does care about Kara. He’s part of her and genuinely wants what’s best for her. He just has a really strange way of going about it.

Sa:”He’s a crappy communicator.”

C: “He’s a guy!”

Se: “Ha! I think that’s the case with all of our inner demons. Even if they’re urging you to, say, suicide — they know that something hurts, and they really care about you and don’t want you to hurt anymore… They just have really terrible advice for how to deal with it because they’re not really human and don’t understand the parameters of human life. They don’t exist outside your psyche. So that’s what’s stressing Marron out in this moment.”

C: “Oh, yeah. That’s complex.  What you need is an actual actor.”

Training Your Inner Demons

I’m in the process of doing sound edits on my radio play, Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271. Despite all the giggling during rehearsals, it’s had me thinking about the inner voice, and what happens when it slips out.

What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever said to someone? Think back. Think hard. For me, the most brutal, arrogant, awful thing I’ve ever said to someone is, “I, like the universe, don’t care if it’s hard. It’s gotta get done.”

This precipitated a breakup, and rightly so. When he needed my care and support most, I slapped him with that. Emotional broken-jaw.

Sometimes our cruelest impulses, our cruelest characters and situations, are really telling about our nature. As writers, all of our synthetic situations come from organic material. All our thoughts and feelings, our views of good and evil, and everything we believe in permeates our stories. The things that shame our characters are things that would shame us. When our characters laugh, or pull that last spark of strength from within, it’s because we are capable of the same thing.

Our stories tell us, just as much as we tell them. If we’re not careful, one of the ballsier people in our head will learn to operate the mouth. As much as I shouldn’t have said those words, as much as I will regret their delivery for the rest of my life; I cannot deny them. They are a core truth of who I am.

A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them – they’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke

How frail the human heart must be – a mirrored pool of thought.
– Sylvia Plath


Discovering Your Voice In Other People


Cast Interview: 10/14.

Mark your calendar and bookmark

After writing short stories and novels for years and years, I’ve made the transition into audio. I’ve had the great fortune to have one of my shows produced by Sherri’s Playhouse and I have to say it’s been an amazing experience. When you finish a piece of writing, you send it off to readers for feedback, and the process can take months. With a play, you’ve got an army of people reading and working with the words immediately. You’ll know within moments whether or not the writing works, and you’ve got all these other people who know your story and know your characters who will help show you why or why not.

That is awesome.

Tonight at 7pm Pacific Standard Time, the cast of Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271 will join me to talk about the play, the process, and inner demons. I’m really excited to be able to chitchat about this kind of collaboration, and I’d like to give some background and context for tonight’s show.

Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271 burst forth in the middle of the night from a number of unrelated elements, the most of which was an argument over whether or not a necklace would be considered work-appropriate or not. This got me thinking about a number of larger issues surrounding dress code, not the least of which was Chimamanda Adichie’s assertion that hair is political. African braids wouldn’t be considered work-appropriate; nor would Native American braids or long hair on men. Who decided these rules? Are they fair? How can you be yourself, and work toward goals you’re truly passionate about, when our industrial-worker system is designed to stamp that out of you?

With all these petty injustices in mind, consider also: what would it be like if your inner voice was real and beyond your control… a separate entity, vying for power over your mind and your limbs ?

Enter Marron, the demon.

My star, Kara is locked in a constant battle with Marron over control of her life. As the writer and director my job is similar; but I have to say it has also been much more gratifying.

In TV, it’s all about the writer. In movies, it’s all about the director; but in theater (and radio plays definitely count as theater) it’s collaborative. This is an effort put forth by everyone. I’m in the unique position of being able to see all the pieces moving at once:

  • each actor’s individual concerns
  • how they interact with each other
  • the point/message/goal of each scene
  • working out the technical aspects

It has all been fun. It has all been challenging. I find myself constantly looking for ways to make the show better, to make the words clearer, and once everything’s in place, how to make it even cooler.

I guide and facilitate, and then get the hell out of the way.

Be sure to join me tonight for the live cast interview — we’ll be taking questions from the audience.  Tweet #UDI271 to @KatanaPen and spread the word!

Cast Interview: 10/14.

Mark your calendar and bookmark

Until then…

Unfortunate Incidents and Behavior at Work

Corporate environments go to great lengths to get metrics on happiness, but only as it relates to productivity. This research directly relates to my upcoming radio play, Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271. Recently I took the Predictive Index test, which asks two simple questions.

1. How are you expected to behave at work? Check as many as apply (below is a list of dozens of adjectives.)

2. What are you really like? Check as many as apply (same list of adjectives)

From there the test extrapolates out how you feel you need to adjust your behavior at work, what your core personality is, and how those two ‘selves’ manifest in your current environment. The closer all the dots are, the happier you are. If they’re spread wide across the spectrum, you’re more likely to be under stress, feel those stresses more intensely, and be unhappy. People mostly get fired for a failure to adjust. It’s a behavior thing, not a competence thing.

But what if your “bad behavior” consists of having a tattoo?

Here are some snippets from my 3-page report:

  • Setsu is a distinctly independent and individualistic person, strong-minded and determined. Venturesome, she will “stick her neck out” and take responsibility for risks when she believes she is right.
  • Setsu is an ingenious and innovative problem-solver and troubleshooter.
  • Authoritative in influencing others towards her goal; will get right down to business with as little small talk as necessary.

Imagine for a moment that your work-self and core self are at such severe odds that your core self has to pipe up every now and again. What would it say?

Would you agree with it?

Is it even on your side?

If you’re on twitter, let me know by tweeting #UDI271 and share your thoughts.

“…I hope all men of good‐will will be maladjusted until the good societies realize. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

We move through life based on acceptance by our peers… when things get emotionally challenging or don’t feel safe, the personality-driven person will panic. Living from your persona rather than your true self is “an agreement with mediocrity.”
Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith

Announcement! Radio Play: Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271

“Some people were born with spina bifida, I was born with a demon in my head.”
-Kara, Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271


Coming soon to Sherri’s Playhouse, a radio-play with all things excellent, including (but not limited to):

  • Lovers!
  • Demons!
  • Grandmas!
  • Salad dressing!

It’s the perfect post-Halloween audio treat.


That’s not blood.