Sunday Sharing #6: Drawing fictional maps, surviving the world through fictional disasters, Violet Evergarden and more

This week, the end of my day job’s fixed-term contract was brought forward by two weeks, once again leaving me unemployed. I’m okay, though. My future job prospects are positive. However, it does mean that I’ve spent more time working on my CV and attempting to set up a portfolio site, which hasn’t left me much time or energy to be creative.

So here’s what I have to share from my week, including what I have managed to write, read and watch. And then finishing up with a list of 10 things with links to stuff I’ve read/listened to from around the web.

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WRITING

This week’s writing was confined to my daily journaling, which continues to be the best habit I’ve committed myself to. I do all my best brainstorming and thinking here. The privacy of these pages allows me to write uninhibited and embrace the messiness of my writing.

Aside from writing, my journal allows me a place to practice drawing. I’m not very good and have little I’d like to share. However, something I’ve done a few times now that I’ve found relaxing and fun is drawing the outlines of fictional maps.

Outline of a fictional map I drew in my journal

Others I’ve drawn have more details and labels, but I want more outlines that I can photograph/copy in order to add details to them later.

Aside from being a fun exercise that helps me unwind, it serves a few purposes.

  1. It’s a point of reference. I like to write in imagined worlds, regardless of genre. Visualising what that world might look like and where these imagined places are in relation to one another is helpful. It’s also a good way for me to get a rough idea of the scale of an imagined world.
  2. It’s good practice. None of these maps are accurate recreations of what was in my head. But I’ll never get close to what I envision if I don’t allow myself to practice.
  3. To find somewhere unique. In the past, whenever I’ve tried to create a fictional map, it’s more or less easily recognisable as a poor imitation of something you’d find in an atlas or of a pre-existing fictional world. What I’d really love, though, is to come up with somewhere entirely unique. Perhaps if I keep drawing maps I’ll find that place.
  4. For inspiration. Sometimes a creative idea or story precedes the outline of a map. However, a couple I’ve drawn have inspired new ideas now that these imagined places exist. Will these creative sparks ignite into something bigger? It’s too early to say. But finding ways to nurture my imagination and create ideas can’t be a bad thing.

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READING

Continuing from last week, I’m still slowly making my way through the maze of 101 stories in Robert Shearman’s We All Hear Stories in the Dark. But this week I also read Katie Goh’s short but incredible book, The End: Surviving the World Through Imagined Disasters.

If you’re into disaster fiction and want something you can devour in just a few sittings then I cannot recommend this enough. Easy to read and packed with great insights into the appeal of disaster fiction, covering four different kinds of world-ending calamities: pandemic, climate, extraterrestrial and social.

The fictional properties the book discusses covers a good variety of books, films, TV and video games. Those wishing to avoid spoilers need not fear, the book comes with a list of spoiler warnings for each chapter, allowing you to navigate around them. However, I read the book in full — spoilers and all — and found that knowing key plot details of certain works I hadn’t read/watched has not put me off checking them out. If anything, Goh’s analysis of certain stories only makes me want to consume them more.

Her book has also put several narratives I know well into a completely different context. For example, I enjoyed A Quiet Place but had never considered its (accidental?) conservative messaging of conserving the nuclear family at all costs, even at the end of the world. This is just one example, one that really got through to me and has compelled me to re-examine how other apocalyptic fiction portrays relationships, family dynamics and reinforces gender and societal norms.

The book also includes a content warning section with page references, which I think is a perfect approach for a non-fiction book.

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VIEWING

Craving a cathartic cry, I decided to start re-watching Violet Evergarden on Netflix. I’ve managed to get through nine episodes already and a second viewing has not impacted how hard this show tugs at the heartstrings. If anything, knowing the full story and the character so well, the show has been yanking a lot harder.

Scene from Violet Evergarden where Violet attempts to mould her face into a smile

Violet begins the series as an emotionless child soldier, an orphan exploited by the military to become a merciless killing machine. But when the war ends and she has no orders to follow, she must find a way to become a civilian. She takes a job as an Auto Memory Doll — women who write on the behalf of those who need help expressing how they feel. Through her letter writing, Violet begins to learn empathy and gets ever closer to understanding what “I love you” means.

A masterclass in the art of the ugly cry, it’s an incredibly moving show with an abundance of heart. It also does a great job of highlighting the power of words, and it makes me wish to write letters of my own.

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SHARING

Dates stamped onto the page of a notebook, taken from Austin Kleon’s newsletter issue: “Date stamps

Finally, here is a list of 10 things I’ve read/listened to that I felt were worth sharing:

  1. Maria Korolov on how to track daily word counts. | Metastellar
  1. I can attest to the simple pleasures of marking time with a date stamp as Austin Kleon explores in his Tuesday newsletter. Since I started journaling daily, I’ve stamped the pages. The sound and feel of “ker-chunking” the page is oh so satisfying. Kleon’s Friday newsletter is also packed with links to great content. | Substack
  1. Literary scholar Valerie Rohy argues for a transgender reading of Hemingway “whether or not we see him as a transgender author.” | JSTOR
  1. As someone who has been struggling to enjoy what they’re writing recently, I found Kate McKean’s latest issue of the Agents and Books newsletter very encouraging: “How to Like What You Write.” | Substack
  1. Jaime Green asks: “What if we taught writing the way we teach acting?” Having studied some theatre whilst at university, I completely connected with Green’s ideas. Maybe I should consider taking an acting class. | Catapult
  1. Muriel Leung’s essay on erasure poetry: “Erasure in Three Acts.” Also check out “Passive Voice” by Laura Da’. | Poetry Foundation
  1. Susan Orlean offers some writing advice: “Go from good to great using your powers of observation.” | Medium
  1. From Ed Zitron: “The Nihilism and Exploitation of the NFT Industry.” Also worth checking out is his new advice column on dealing with professional problems: “Here Is My Problem.” | Substack

NFTs are the first quasi-mainstream crypto product, and they aren’t good at their core function. NFTs cost money to move, do not exist in real space, do not even necessarily convey ownership, and have potentially huge tax liabilitiesThis is what crypto was going to do? This is what we got after all of these years? All of these people raised all of this money, and for what? A way to sell low-quality art at scale into a market of people desperate for some way out of the hole that society has dropped them in? A way to monetize the greed and desperation of millions, feeding off of those who think they’re smart enough to beat markets that aren’t simply rigged but designed to be rigged in favour of those who created them?

Ed Zitron
  1. Joanne Harris: ten things about anti-heroes. | Twitter
  1. Finally, I’ve been gradually catching up on episodes of the TRASHFUTURE podcast. “John Taliban, Episode 1” was a hilarious highlight. | Spotify