09 July 2013

Ender's Game and Gay Marriage; Or, You Hurt the Ones You Love Because You're an Asshole

This is an unusual Not Review of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game which will on the boycott controversy concerning his new film.

I was going to open this with a little disclaimer, but I decided not to. If dissenting opinions are enough to get me labeled, I intend to ignore that label with the steadfast resolution for which I am so renowned. Get out your big label machine, because this is about to get intense.

For a little background, some of the whinier members of the gay geek and pro-gay marriage movement have declared a boycott on the new Ender's Game film on the grounds that Orson Scott Card disagrees with their political views. It will be the rousing success that every boycott is, and I look forward to seeing the shining utopia it brings about. Nonetheless, while we wait for their crushing victory over the entire film industry, we may as well address this at a more philosophical level.

It is, of course, their right to boycott. They can spend their money or not spend their money on whatever they like, for whatever reason they like. I support them in that 100%, just as I would anyone else. The beautiful symmetry of that reality, however, is that it’s also my right to call them mean names and eviscerate their arguments with clockwork precision.

So here’s the thing.

A book is a projection of the author, his blood the ink and his flesh the paper. It may not be the summation of him as a person, there may be parts of him you like that aren’t in the book or parts you don’t that don’t make the cut, but it is some portion of his soul you’re reading. To love a book is to love the mind that created it. To feel moved by a book is to have your heart changed by another, to be touched at a deep level by part of another person’s mind and soul. It’s like falling in love, like a deep conversation tucked away in a dark corner after a party is long gone, like a moment where you meet someone’s gaze and you realize you both feel exactly the same way in that moment. It’s nothing more or less than a fleeting moment of real, unshakeable human contact with someone you’ve never met but whom you suddenly know better than your own friends and family. And then it’s gone. But it changed you, and you fell in love with him for that brief, shining moment.

And then there’s this.

What that means is, they (or their intended audience) like Ender’s Game, and they like what it stands for, and they like the mind that created it, and they almost certainly felt that deep connection which is at the core of what great literature (and Ender’s Game is most definitely great literature), but they just disagree with him in some ways. In turn, that means that they want to punish someone they feel a deep connection to for disagreeing with them on one specific issue, and they're more than willing to throw away a part of themselves to do it.

Now, those of you who have had that big talk with your family at Thanksgiving probably recognize this attitude. Stop and think. Remember? Yes, you do. You remember exactly what it’s like to have people who love you in every way but one cast you aside to punish you for the one part of you they can’t accept.

So now your idea is to pay that forward onto everyone who has the nerve, the gall, the unbridled arrogance to disagree with you? The almighty you?

Sounds like a plan. Good luck with your boycott.

21 March 2013

Pizza Isn't An Icecream Topping; Or, Why The Fuck Is There So Much Bullshit In Your Stupid Book

I’ve spoken a great deal about genre bending, here and there. One could be forgiven for thinking of this as perhaps my literary raison d’etre, perhaps along with contriving excuses to employ French phrases purely to flatter my ego. Yet at the same time, simply not writing in a specific genre will not achieve the goal to which I attribute efforts of genre-defiance.

This is a Not Review of Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Boroughs, which I’ve only just read, its having slipped through the coarse filter of my youthful sci-fi period. It is a book which jumps around between genres, its beginning being a traditional western, followed by science fiction so soft one could almost call it fantasy, or else simply use it as one would brie, spreading it effortlessly on a bit of lightly-toasted rye, and finally incorporating a swashbuckling romance just for good measure.

Yet, at the same time, it has a whiff of the conventional about it, a sense that it is not so much a unique work of fiction refusing classification to generate an artistic statement as a composition of action-adventure bits and pieces. There are, I almost hope, those of you who are leaping to Wikipedia check your facts in preparation for telling me that it is old enough that it seems derivative only because it was the seminal work in those genres, as is so often the case with these things.

This is, perhaps, true in places; I truly don’t know whether it was the first to write a romance between aliens and humans, the first to introduce sword combat to science fiction, or the originator of something that suspiciously resembles steampunk, and I’m not quite interested enough to go check. What I do know is that without artistic intent, the rejection of genre, like any other literary choice whatsoever, holds no more meaning than the embracing of it, the choice to write your book in 4 different languages, changing from sentence to the next, or embracing bardic verse to create performance art.

Change for its own sake is no less inartistic than change for the sake of sales or ego or whatever else stands constantly on the shores tempting authors to their generic doom with sweet, siren song.

13 March 2013

Love Thy Plot as You Love Thyself; Or, How Focus is Only a Good Thing in Real Jobs

Today we'll be covering a book called Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, which I picked up as part of the recent(ish) Humble Indie Ebook Bundle, and through it discuss the topic of plot and concept. Zoo City is an en medias res exploration of a world in which people are given superpower-granting spirit animals as evidence of their misdeeds in life which begrudgingly contains a gumshoe-style murder mystery plot. I know that description of the world makes it sound kind of silly, but it's actually a very coherent and serious one which deserves a lot of attention

Therein, however, lies the problem. The concept behind the book is fascinating, a deep world which demands to be plumbed, and the glimpses of it we find were enough to get me to finish the book (and get it a couple respectable awards, to boot), but exposition seemed to be the entire point of the book. The author was so in love with her concept that she forgot to actually write a story taking place in it, instead tying together a string of expositional points with a half-hearted story arch.

There are those who would distinguish between stories ‘of ideas’ and other kinds of stories, and the former category tends to suffer much the same issue, from another perspective. By creating a novel ‘of ideas’ one must necessarily take a larger point, usually philosophical, and weave it into a narrative. The narrative often suffers from this, as in the case of The Fountainhead or Lockpick Pornography, to pick a couple I’ve touched on in the past. A story which leans too heavily on its concept and its universe is in danger of the same thing.

The problem with complaining about this is that it’s necessarily a problem that will be experienced by the reader rather than the writer. The writer’s bliss very likely comes in the explication of their vision, their world, and the plot is a secondary sensation for them. Can we really say that the author owes us anything beyond what their own artistic vision surmises?

I would say not. If you want a book your way, do it your-fucking-self.

Nonetheless, the universe seems to be crying out for a larger story, and it’s my sincere hope that it will get it.

08 March 2013

The Mores Cover Analysis; Or, Why the Fuck Am I the Only One Doing This

The Mores cover contest winner shown at right was a shock to me in many ways. At first glance I didn't fully grasp the meaning behind it, the depth of it, but it caught my eye and made me do a double take. When I examined it further, I found what can only be called a work of art. It has a depth to it, a meaning, a sort of vital spirit that a cover just has no right to. I said in my award post that it makes me want to see the story behind it, and the fact that Mores is that story, that the idea of it was the inspiration for another work of art, is amazing to me.

If ever there were an argument to be made in favor of the cover contest model, for letting people’s minds run wild rather than contracting with a designer to do a specific model drawn from my utterly unqualified mind, his would make it. The Rmnce cover, as well, would make the point beautifully

In the end, that’s the real reason I risk (and indeed incur) the wrath of the touchier professionals; my work is meant to be art above all else, to convey meaning, and Mores in particular is near and dear to my heart. It carried itself away and in doing so it carried my message and my meaning in a way my planning and plotting and essaying could never have hoped to. To then attempt to plan a cover is contrary to the nature of the thing, and since I can’t do it on my own, letting the community do it is the next best thing.

Maybe the best thing.

The beauty of this lays in the pairing. By taking a cover which flirts with ancient and modern themes without explicitly depicting the story, one allows the story of Mores to be accented by the cover rather than imitated by it. The central theme is kept constant, the trick of Mores being in the dualistic nature of having one story set in ancient times and another in modern, but the distinct realities and execution of the two deemphasize the specifics in favor of the underlying concept. With it, the artistic expression inherent to both pieces becomes mutually complementary, a duality in itself.

All in all, perfection could demand little more. Look for Mores on March 29th!

19 January 2013

Mores Cover Contest

Question.jpgIt's time for another cover, and another cover contest! Mores is in need of your help, and I have 150 reasons for you to come to its aid...

Mores is going to be released in March, and that means its time for the final capstone to be added: The cover. With my Rmnce cover contest having been such an astounding success, it would be foolish to go another direction, now wouldn't it?

That in mind, I'm offering $150, all of my published works, a selection of other books that have served as an inspiration over the years, and of course Mores itself, to whomever can create a cover that embodies what Mores is about and gives it that little push to succeed.

What Mores is, is a pair of tales running in parallel. One is set in prehistoric Ireland, the other in modern New York, two women seeking identity and bliss in wildly different circumstances. A cover should convey this chronological dichotomy and humanistic emphasis. How it does that is up to you. More general information on Mores can be found here.

If you have any questions at all about the book, the contest, the artistic purpose of my existence, or anything else, don't hesitate to email me. The most important thing is that the artistic purpose of your work mirrors or compliments the artistic purpose of mine, so lean towards more questions rather than fewer.

The contest ends March 1st.

General Requirements are as follows:
Digital Format
No Porn (Yes, I know, I’m sorry; I love you, my dear pornographers, but you can’t fight city hall)
Legally yours to sell
Contains the book title and my name

Size requirements are as follows:
>2,500 pixels tall (greater than)
Height 1.6x greater than width
Total file size <5 mb (less than)

Apart from that, let your mind wander. I have utmost faith.

Legal stuff: artists retain full and unconditional rights to any work not chosen; the one I do choose will become my sole property with no expectation of payment or royalty over and above contest prizes. Submitting gives me right of refusal at the prize amount for the duration of the contest + 1 month, or until the contest ends, whichever comes first. I reserve the right to reject all offered covers and select no winner, in which case I will terminate all right of refusal. 

15 December 2012

Dialects of Modernity

I'm going to be reblogging the posts from my blog tour earlier this past October, just in case anyone missed them in their original locations. They discuss writing generally, but are all tied back into Rmnce, my most recent release which tells a story of new love through the text messages and letters between characters.

The third post of the Rmnce blog tour was hosted by the delightful Brooke Johnson. Brooke wrote the steampunk novel The Clockwork Giant.

I have been on both sides of the prescriptionist/descriptionist divide over the years. On the one hand, its undeniably maddening to see things that were patently wrong when you learned the language embraced as the new normal. That being said, in my experience changes to the language tend to be for the better, at least insofar as better is defined as more usable, convenient, and relevant.

The extreme of this, of course, lies in full-fledged dialects. Perhaps 15 years ago America saw a brief push to have Ebonics declared a legal dialect, with the potential for school curriculum to be altered commensurately to both teach it and teach in it. This movement was, as one might imagine, roundly defeated, but it brought up the issue of whether dialects can be considered valid evolutions of the language. Certainly Ebonics has a number of expressions which serve purposes traditional English needs served; this in itself gives validity to the existence and perpetuation of it, no matter what opinion one may have of its general appeal.

By the same token, text speak, the other principle American dialect of our time, also adds to the English language, albeit in a very different way. By taking words and sentences and hyper-simplifying them, condensing them into an utterly optimized form, it sacrifices the structural beauty, and a degree of the expressiveness, in favor of efficiency. The irony, of course, is that the very people for whom efficiency is a nearly overriding concern are those who dismiss text speak as the domain of children and imbeciles.

In evaluating a dialect’s usefulness and hence broad value, one must ask oneself if it adds to the language as it stands, and in most cases dialects which do not simply die out. Any which has stood the test of time must be looked at closely in terms of applicability. Rmnce demonstrates that art and meaning can be carried by this strange new configuration; beyond that threshold nothing more ought be required.

06 December 2012

Composite Characters

I'm going to be reblogging the posts from my blog tour earlier this past October, just in case anyone missed them in their original locations. They discuss writing generally, but are all tied back into Rmnce, my most recent release which tells a story of new love through the text messages and letters between characters.

A.M Jenner is the author of the Sci-Fi book Assignment to Earth, and hosted my post on composite characters. If you didn't catch it there, here it is!

They say that creating characters from real people lies at the vertex of laziness and subliteracy. And when I say “they,” I mean the Bitchy Goblins That Live in my Head. Yet at the same time, a composite of a dozen people becomes more than the sum of its parts, or else less than the sum of its parts. In either case, there is art in it, beauty of an open and apparent kind. More over, in an attempt to capture the mind of a generation, it pays to take a few pieces from the individual, as well as from the collective.

Britney Morgan, the female lead of Rmnce, is one of those characters. She combines a sequence of men and women whose mannerisms were unique enough to remain steadfastly in my mind, some of them for years past our parting, whose tendencies and paradigms were both a product and a mockery of those people. The irony in this is that the character came out decidedly unlikable. She demonstrates the point of the work as well as I could ever hope for, serving her purpose flawlessly and without alteration.

Yet she exists in my mind, a personality which I could almost put in place of my own were I to choose, and perhaps part of the reason she eats at me like a Herculean poison is that she exists as an unnatural aberration, a creature of a certain sort of beauty which nonetheless simply ought not be.

Beauty in all things. So chew on that, Bitch-Goblins.