Win An Ad In Cirsova Magazine!

I am giving away a quarter-page ad in Cirsova magazine.  Why? Because I believe in Cirsova and I want to support it, and because I believe in the crew of indie authors who follow this blog and I want to support you.  So it’s a win-win.

Please, only enter if you will be using the ad.  Cirsova is a high quality adventure fiction magazine and your ad will be seen by readers who are looking for Independant Science Fiction and Fantasy fiction.  Details on the requirements are available here, and the winner can contact Cirsova for more information.

The deadline for advertisements is August 1st, so let’s get on with it.

The contest is simple. Below are some Book Of Lost Doors trivia questions. Do not, please, post the answers here–instead send me an e-mail via my Contact Form. The first entry I recieve that has all of the answers right wins the prize. If I don’t get anyone who gets them all right by July 1st, the entry with the most right answers will win.

  1. Who are the authors of Mankind’s Eternal Odyssey? (Two names.)
  2. What is the title of Jenny Noir’s first solo album?
  3. What Delapour & Associates employee wrote and published a novel? (Author and title.)
  4. What was the original name of the riverboat that became known as Scarlett’s Casino?
  5. What book does Stuart Dogs read to Nancy Dew while she is convalescing in the mud-bath? (Author and title.)
  6. What is the name of the magazine that Godiva finds that reveals Dr. Klein’s home address?

The answer to each of these questions can be found in one of the four books that make up The Book Of Lost Doors–Catskinner’s Book, Cannibal Hearts, The Worms Of Heaven, or Gingerbread Wolves.

Good luck!

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

This Ugly Little War

Recently, during a discussion regarding the new Wonder Woman film, a comment was made:

Let me put it this way:

I write a beautiful poem all about how we should nuke New York.

The poem is lovely. Gorgeous. The language is beautiful. The case I make, based on the good of mankind, makes your heart swell with pride at the ability of the human race to make sacrifices in order to aid our fellow man.

But I go out and say that it’s explicitly meant to be an actual argument in favor of nuking New York. I want NY nuked. Furthermore, academia agrees with me and starts pushing the poem for that reason, and SJW’s use my poem as their anthem.

But it’s a beautiful poem.

The implied question from the rest of the thread is, “Would I support the poet and the poem?”

My answer is:

Absolutely.  Without hesitation and without apology. 

However.

In order for it to truly be a beautiful poem, then the event that it describes–the destruction of an American city by atomic weaponry–would have to be a right action. Esthetics is a branch of philosophy and dependant upon metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics. Art is the discovery of truth by means of imagery.

I see no difference between the suppression of artistic truth and the suppression of scientific truth.  Both are wrong. If something is beautiful then it is beautiful because what it expresses is understood by the viewer as being ordinate to reality.

This does not mean “realism” as the term is generally used.  Art can express true ideals without being based on true facts.  To give a trivial example, a story problem in mathematics that states that if John has five apples and he gives three of those apples to Jane then he will have two apples remaining does not become less true if John does not, in fact have five apples–or even if John and Jane do not exist.  A plague of fruit trees may ravage the world and eradicate all apples everywhere, but the truth expressed in the story problem will remain true.

In the same way, the journey of Frodo and Sam to Mordor in order to protect the Shire is no less beautiful and inspiring because none of those persons or places actually exist.  The story expresses a truth that transcends facts. Beauty is how you know that something is true.

To return to the analogy of scientific truth, if one happened to believe a particular theory–say that all planets in the solar system rotate on their axis in the same direction–and then encounters evidence that contradicts this theory–the axial rotation of Venus and Uranus–then suppressing the evidence in order to hold onto the theory is wrong. Either the evidence is bad, in which case further study will contradict it, or the theory is wrong, and to continue to cling to it in the face of evidence against it is an act of willful ignorance.

However, the above analogy is also predicated on the assumption that you understand the science–the math involved, how to apply the theory, how to determine the proper frame of reference, knowing in what way the science is applicable as a model for the real world.

In the same way, if a work of art is beautiful, if it moves you, then it is expressing a truth and if that contradicts an opinion that you hold, that may be evidence that your opinion is wrong. It may also be evidence that your esthetic sensibilities are unequal to the task of understanding the work in question.

The way to avoid being taken in by junk science is to develop an understanding of real science. You don’t have to be an expert in a particular field to understand how to tell when a sample size is statistically significant or when a conclusion does not follow logically from a premise.

In the same way the defense against propaganda is not suppression of bad art, but an understanding of esthetics sufficient to recognize it as bad art.  A good grasp of mathematics will inoculate one against pseudoscientific scams, and a good grasp of narrative and story will inoculate one against propaganda masquerading as fiction.

A well-trained esthetic sense will also allow one to understand the applicability of the work to the real world. Just as a trained scientific intellect will understand what a scientific theory does and does not imply regarding reality, a trained esthetic sense will understand what art does and does not imply about reality, and to see the significant parallels while discarding the spurious ones.  The message of The Lord Of The Rings, for example, is not that short people are better than tall people.

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Writing, Poetry, Who I am | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Imminent Danger Now Permanently 99 Cents!

I keep recommending this book–it’s fun, it’s clever, it’s exciting. Get it already. Then get the next one. Then join with me in pressuring Michelle to release the third one already.

Michelle Proulx - Author

In an attempt to create more interest in my books, I’ve dropped the price of Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight Into It down to 99 cents. Hopefully this will encourage people to give it a shot, since I know that I’m much more likely to buy a self-published book if it’s cheaper, especially when I don’t know the author.

It really grates my cheese that books have become so devalued, but at the same time, I get it. I’m a consumer as well as a writer, and it’s a real gamble to spend money on something with unknown quality. Especially in self-publishing. For every excellent book I buy, read, and love (*cough*Catskinner’sBook*cough*) there are three more that turn out to be real duds. So I’m way more likely to risk 99 cents on a possibly-great book rather than $2.99+.

I’ve kept Chasing Nonconformity at $2.99. I…

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Wonder Woman

Let’s forget about the “superhero” universe for a minute. Let’s not worry about continuity and connectivity and just look at this film as a film, as if it exists all by itself.  Okay?

Now, that’s easy for me, since I haven’t really been following the “DC Universe” films.  I saw (in fact I own) the second Nolen Batman film, The Dark Knight. But that’s about it.  I really wasn’t interested in When Batman Met Superman or whatever it was called.

I wasn’t all that familiar with the source material, either–I know the basics of the character concept and I vaguely remember the old TV show.  Okay, I remember Lynda Carter in the amazon outfit. But I can’t recall ever reading the comic book.

So when I went in to see Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman I was able to look at it from a fresh perspective.  And what I saw was historical magical realism expounding upon a mythic theme.

Here I’ll put in my usual spoiler caution. I do try to avoid spoilers in my reviews and media discussions, however I will be talking about overarching themes and hence what I say may give away parts of the story.  For this I apologize. Since I strongly recommend this film, I would urge my readers to go see it first, then read my analysis.

Comparisons have been made to the first Captain America film, and I think some of those are just the nature of the two films–all war movies are going to have certain scenes in common. There are moments that feel like a deliberate echo, though, but I think those echoes serve to show the contrast between the characters.

Captain Steve Rogers is Jack the Giant Killer. He’s everyman–“just a kid from Brooklyn” is how he puts it. He’s inspiring because he’s an ordinary man elevated to extraordinary heights without losing his essential humanity. He is “who we are”.

Diana is exactly the opposite. She is a goddess who has left Paradise to inspire mankind.  She is “what we’re fighting for.”

Which is not to say that Diana is not herself a warrior–she is, and the combat sequences featuring Gal Gadot are some of the best that I have seen in any action film.  A bit heavy on the “bullet-time” upon occasion, but I see that more as a symptom of the current state of the art than a reflection on Jenkins’ filmmaking. It’s like split screen in the 1970s–everybody does it.

But despite the title, Diana is not a woman.  Not a human female.  She is a goddess, in the classical Greek sense of a personification of virtue, like a muse or the classical image of Lady Justice. She represents an ideal, the best that the human race can be, just, courageous, merciful, and strong.  Gadot pulls off that character marvelously, combining innocence and wisdom.  When she charges into battle you want to follow her, because she represents what we are meant to be, and what we are meant to do.  The violence in Wonder Woman is purposeful violence, the strong rising up to defend the weak.

We see this inspiration in the character of Steve Trevor, played to perfection by Chris Pine. He’s the everyman in this film, and his growing comprehension that he is in the presence of divinity makes us believe in Diana. The small but delightful supporting cast of misfits that aids Diana and Trevor in their mission echoes Captain America’s “Howling Commandos”, but with a significant difference.  Diana’s followers are men who have lost their inspiration, men in whom the spark of virtue is all but extinguished until she fans it into life again.

All in all, a magnificent film–an inspiring film.  I left the theater feeling good about humanity.

 

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, pulp revival | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Looking For Adventure And Whatever Comes My Way

A few thoughts on the subject of Pulp Revival.

First, Dominika Lein’s “Still Pulp Rev”.

Then Jon Mollison’s “A Newcomer’s View Of Pulp Rev”, which a commentary on Lein’s piece.

Then The Mixed GM’s “Support Your ‘Local’ Content Creators”, which is commentary on both of the above, plus some Twitter conversations by Cirsova.

I think that Pulp Rev is a work in progress and that it’s too early to really comment on what form the movement will take.  In fact, it is the people who are currently involved in the movement who will shape its final form.  I’m seeing a new literary genre taking shape in a handful of blogs and discussion forums and it’s kind of thrilling. Being a part of that process is pretty amazing–it’s not an opportunity that comes around every day.

However, I do think that I can safely say that the movement has gotten some momentum and is clearly going somewhere. The audience is there, the talent is there, the technology for hooking up the first and the second is in place.

My crystal ball predictions are as follows:

  1. Pulp Rev will continue to be driven by indies.  Not necessarily entirely self-published, but a combination of self-published and small press. While I expect that large traditional publishers will eventually begin to market works using Pulp Rev language, the movement as a whole is based on the freedom to experiment that independent publishing affords.
  2. Pulp Rev will make use of the short fiction format for innovation. The technological earthquake that continues to shake up the fiction publishing market has created as many opportunities as it has destroyed.  I don’t know exactly how short fiction will be published ten years from now–or even next year–but I am convinced that the market is there and that people who are smarter than I am will work the bugs out of the distribution channels.
  3. Pulp Rev will splinter into multiple subgenres, and that’s a good thing. I am pushing for this myself, in my own way.  The “Eldritch Fantasy” subgenre is one that I am particularly interested in promoting, but I also feel that there is definite Pulp Rev style of crime thriller and modern fantasy that will no doubt give rise to their own genre names in time.
  4. The movement as a whole will prosper, but that doesn’t mean that everyone associated with it will be successful. That’s just the nature of the business. Right now we have a self-selected group that is motivated by a love of the work more than financial returns. Some of the writers will find a greater audience for their unique styles.  How that will impact the movement as a whole is yet to be seen, but I hope that we will be able to celebrate the successes among us without too much bitterness.
  5. As the movement takes off new authors will be drawn into it. Again, this is a good thing. I am not concerned about writers jumping on the bandwagon or seeking to cash in on Pulp Rev because I don’t think it matters why someone creates, if the end product is good and because I believe in the wisdom of the marketplace. Readers will separate the genuine article from the fakes.
  6. Pulp Rev will revive other genres.  Already I’m seeing Pulp Rev inspiring Steampunk authors, and there seems to be interest from Dark Fantasy and Grindhouse Horror authors as well. This is a literary movement that can’t be confined to a single genre, and I think the heroic sensibilities of Pulp Rev will find root in all sorts of unlikely places.

These are just some random thoughts, and I thought I’d get them down.  I could be completely wrong about all this.

It’ll be interesting to see, in any event.

Posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing, pulp revival | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Hike by Drew Magary

I picked up Drew Magary’s novel The Hike on audiobook a while back because it was the Audible deal of the day and the concept sounded interesting. I listened to it shortly after I got it, and I was favorably impressed. Today I put it on again, just to see if it was as good as I remembered it, and yes, it really holds up.

I am deliberately not reading anything about the author or any of his social media posts (if he even has any) because I want to be able to talk about this book in a vacuum. I have my observations about this book as a work of fiction and if I read what the author has to say about it I will probably find out I am dead wrong.

That having been said, this is, in my opinion, a contemporary work of New Wave fiction and more than that, it’s a beautiful example of what I love about New Wave. So I am going to put off the moment when I find out that Mr. Magary either hates New Wave or has never heard of it.

This is a story about Ben.  Ben is in his late 30s, he’s married, he has three children, he works as a buyer for some company–he deals with vendors and is pretty good at it, and that’s all we get to know about his work.  It’s a paycheck, it’s not his life.

His wife is a nurse and he loves her, but he’s not really “in love” with her, and he hasn’t been for a while. His children–two boys and a girl–are important to him in a understated way, like the architectural supports for a bridge that you drive over every day but never really look at.

Then everything changes for Ben. On a routine business trip to meet with a supplier he takes a walk in the woods by his hotel and wanders out of the rational world into someplace else.

And here is where I start talking about why I call this book New Wave.

There is no explanation.  There is no big “chronosynclastic infundibulum” moment, no “As you know, Dr. Frankenstein…” dialogue, no attempt to give the events a veneer of pseudoscience at all. Ben is on “the Path”. There is one rule–if you leave “the Path”, you will die. That is all that we need to know and with magnificent restraint, that is all that Drew Magary tells us.

What is on the path? Ben’s life.  His past, his future, his present, in no particular order. This book is less of a character study and more of a character vivisection. It’s a metaphorical vivisection, and the metaphors are taken from popular culture–there are moments where Ben seems to be a character in a video game, others that seem to be inspired by role playing games, and still others that take their imagery from Saturday morning cartoons and comic books.

However, Magary manages to keep the tone deadly serious while running his protagonist through some very absurd scenarios, and that is one of those things that never looks as difficult as it is because on the rare occasions it is done right it always looks effortless.

In the spirit of Gateway Fantasy going back to The Wizard Of Oz, Ben realizes what is really important to him.  His longing to return to his family is honest and sincere and it drives the story relentlessly.  Even in the silliest moments there is a tragic edge of “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”

I can recommend this book.  I think it works, and it works well. There are moments where I felt a particular conceit was drawn out too long, and I have to admit that the “almost ending” was unsatisfying–there is a section where he succumbs to the temptation to spell it all out that I personally think weakens the final sections.  But he recovers from that and the real ending is very powerful.

As I said, I don’t know if this author considers himself a New Wave writer or if it’s just a case of parallel evolution and he happened to run across the same esthetic that guys like George Alec Effinger and Robert Sheckley used so powerfully in their fiction. But I advise checking out The Hike. Sadly, it’s published by Random Penguin, which means the Kindle version is priced higher than the hardback. But you might be able to get it from a library.

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All These Shiny Worlds II

A new anthology has just been released that has one of my stories in it.  You may recall the first All These Shiny Worlds anthology had my story, “The First Man In The World” which was my attempt to write a Larry Niven style Hard SF piece.

This anthology I reverted more to type and sent in “The Silk Of Yesterday’s Gown”, which is a New Wave Horror piece about sex and some very strange people.

This collection is more New Wave in general than the last one and has a couple of very deep stories in it, as well as some more traditional SFF fare.

And you can’t beat the price.

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