Archive for May, 2012

Busy Week, Fast Post

First two days of the 15 minute experiment went great.  386 words and 469 words, total of 855 across the two days.  This morning I did what I was worried I’d do.  I went into zombie mode and did my old morning routine where I didn’t write and left home way earlier than I had to.  There are going to be kinks like that along the way, tomorrow it’s back on track with an eye towards at least 400 more words.

I’ll try to pop up a post this weekend.  It’s a hectic two weeks of my schedule, and my time for internet futzing is at nearly zero.

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An Experiment

Something unusual and entirely unexpected has happened in my neck of the woods.  A long-term road improvement project had the effect of actually improving a road.  I’m sure this is some massive bureaucratic oversight that will be corrected in the coming months, but for the time being, eliminating a pointless bottleneck on my morning commute has shaved fifteen minutes off my drive every morning.  No kidding, one bottleneck, fifteen minutes.

What this means is fifteen minutes of my day that I don’t know what to do with.  Yes, I know this is a good problem to have.  This morning I played a stupid zombie infection Flash game, which was nicely mind-numbing, but doesn’t feel like a legitimate use of that time.  I could set my alarm to go off fifteen minutes later, but fifteen minutes of extra sleep doesn’t seem worth it, especially because I’m sure I’d end up reading fifteen minutes longer each night figuring it balances.

So I’m going to try something really crazy.

I’m going to try writing during those fifteen minutes.

I’ve seen a lot of writers with day jobs suggest morning writing when trying to eek out bits of the day to wordsmith.  Some who go so far as waking up at 5am to pound out a few thousand words.  I’m not sure I’m going to go quite that crazy, but if I could get in a regular habit of five hundred words each workday before hopping in the car and joining the rat race each day, that’s 2500 words a week, and roughly 100,000 words over the course of a year, even if I took every day of leave I earn.  That’s three or four novellas, or a novel, or 20 long short stories, 100 flash pieces, or more likely some combination of those.  Assuming I can actually get my act together and do it.

That’s the rub.  Actually doing it.  Mornings are rough on my brain, and a big part of the experiment won’t be whether I can pound out 500 words before work, but whether those words will be of a quality worth keeping.  That’s why I’m going to focus on rough drafts in the morning, getting down broad ideas, things that can be polished later in the day when my brain is more fully awake and capable of perhaps figuring out why I wrote “larble poop whee” that morning.

If things go poorly and the words I’m writing down aren’t worth keeping, I’ll likely discontinue the experiment.  But not any sooner than two months down the road.  I’m not going to give up just because I have a rough first week, that’s no way to approach any job, least of all writing.  It’s going to take awhile to get one more routine into my brain each morning.

If things go well, I’ll keep going and have a lot of rough drafts that will need editing.

If things go brilliantly, I might try an even crazier experiment and even get up a little earlier and see what I can do with half an hour of writing time each morning.

I’ll be tracking my progress next week on Twitter, starting Tuesday (THREE DAY WEEKEND!).  As always, I find baring my plans and progress create an odd sense of obligation, even if none of you have ever held me to it in the past.

ON AN UNRELATED NOTE

Nostalgia is a funny thing.  The word itself, I mean.  During the Civil War the definition was closer to what we would today call PTSD.  Anyway, I’ve been looking for a word for years that I swear I heard defined once, but have never found again.  It translated loosely to “nostalgia about an idealized past the feeler didn’t experience.”  In the mainstream it would be used to define a typical American attitude towards the 1950s as a time of no evils.  It’s the kind of word that I assumed would be German, but I’ve not found it if it is.

And yes, I realize this could be a definition of nostalgia itself, but I swear I once heard this word.

UPDATE:  My wife has passed along the word Sehnsucht, which fits the criterion of being a German word and describing a form of nostalgia.  It’s about 95% of the word I remember, which likely means it’s the word I heard and I don’t quite remember the definition correctly.  Still, I’ll leave the question up in case anyone has a more likely suspect.  A little further from the definition is the Portuguese word Saudade, which I am certain isn’t the word I heard.

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Cover Art: Ed Valigursky

I just finished The Sun Saboteurs, half of F-108, a story written by Damon “To Serve Man” Knight and previously published as The Earth Quarter.  This isn’t the review, I still have The Light of Lilith  to finish first, rather it’s looking at some rather interesting similarities with To The Tombaugh Station.  Not in the story, in the cover:

Fortunately I found a site that lists the artists behind many of the Ace Double covers, which confirmed what I thought.  These are both from the same artist, Ed Valigursky.  According to the site, he also drew both covers of the last double I read, Delusion World and Spacial Delivery.  In total, he drew the covers for at least 100 Ace Doubles and Singles between 1954 and 1965.  He wasn’t their only prolific artist, he’s just the one I’ve first noticed as odds would have it four of the first five books I read featured his cover art.  Ace wasn’t his only client, either.  He also did trading card series and numerous magazine covers during that period.

Since I picked my first batch out based on covers, should it surprise me that one man was involved with so many of them?

What really strikes me, though?  See those two covers above?  Both of those scenes happen in the book.  The cover for Spacial Delivery?  Represents a scene that happens throughout the book.  Delusion World wasn’t a specific scene, but did match the overall feel for the book.  As I’ve worked my way towards publication, I’ve often seen the warning that an author, especially a new author, should count themselves lucky if the cover artist even reads the blurb of the book.  Much less the whole thing.

That Sun Saboteurs cover?  The scene is from the last 10% of the story.  Even if Valigursky himself didn’t read the entire story, someone involved in the process of making the cover cared enough that it represented a scene in the book, and picked a powerful scene both emotionally and visually.  Someone picking up the book is presented with an intriguing cover, then can get to the scene itself and say “oh damn” when they realize what, exactly, is happening.

Valigursky’s career strikes me similar to many of the authors he drew for.  He just worked.  He kept producing and made his mark on a series of books that are collected as much for the work of the cover artists as for all those words sitting in between.  He worked commercially until the 1990s, and still painted on commission for years after.  He passed away in 2009 at the age of 82.

I suppose, in the end, this is my nostalgia for a different era in cover art, the hand painted covers that occasionally even cared about the contents of the book.  The covers that made collectables out of books sold for 35 or 40 cents, a pittance of a price point even adjusting for inflation.  I can’t say that modern cover are will never be collectable in the way these stories were.  In fact, we may be in the last great age of cover art due to the rise of the eBook.  It’s an appreciation of an artist I’d never know about except for finding that box of old Doubles in ziplock bags at the back of a library sale.

It’s a shame I’m learning of many of these writers and artists only after they passed, but it’s nice that the books and covers live on to a new generation.

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Without Context

I will never presume that my audience doesn’t care about grammar, about spelling, or about such simple things as sentence structure.  I will never for a moment believe that, just because the devices they may read books on are getting smaller, that their minds are doing so at the same time.  I will never suggest that it’s not worth the time nor the energy to present the finest version of my vision possible.  I will never take short cuts, and argue that these short cuts are what my readers want.

I am a reader too.

I know this to not be true.

I will never presume that commas do not count.  While it is true I may over use them, under use them, and even misuse them in a fit of writing, I will always listen when I am told of where they are supposed to be, and move them around as necessary.  I will never consider them a luxury that only industry people care about, that can be flung around without affecting how readers will enjoy the story.

I am a reader too.

I know this to not be true.

I will never quote sales to win an argument.  I will never wave around royalty checks like they provide my voice any more credence than someone else’s.  I will never mistake the ability to write massive numbers of words that are connected together into the same file as a mark of the quality of those words.  I will never consider doing so over and over again as any form of validation of my skills.  I will never consider editing a sign of weakness.  I will never dismiss drafts as a frivolity.  I will never think that my words are sacrosanct to never be touched or questions, and that my readers want them that way.

I am a reader too.

I know this to not be true.

I will not be a dick.

I will not be that guy.

I will merely write to the best of my ability and make it better through the abilities of others.  And I hope to be held to this, because if I cannot be these things, if I become the dick, if I’m ever that guy, I deserve everything that is coming to me.

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Ace Double Review: F-119

It’s time for another Ace Double review.  This time up it’s serial number F-119, a double dose from author Gordon R. Dickson, better known for his Childe Cycle, inspired by the same poem that inspired The Dark Tower.  Some of these Childe stories appeared in the Ace Doubles, but not in F-119.  Instead we’ve got giant bears and quasi-imaginary people as we look at Spacial Delivery and Delusion World.  Published 1961.  Original price: 40¢.

Spacial Delivery

“Rendezvous with a double-sized Goliath.”

Posted to a monster’s mailbox.

The Dilbians were humanoids with a difference.  They were over nine feet tall and built more like bears than like people.  But they weren’t bears…and it was important to the Ambassador from Earth to see that they and their planet remained good friends.

So when one of that feuding race of highly rugged individualists kidnapped an Earth girl, the problem called for a trouble-shooter with the patience of a saint and the agility of an acrobat.

John Tardy, who hadn’t thought of himself as having either of those qualifications, learned them fast when he found the only way to reach that monstrous criminal was to be sent to him by mail as a registered packaged marked SPACIAL DELIVERY

As these reviews evolve, things will change around.  For example, I’d actually like to start with the covers on these two books.  Largely because they combine to be my least favorite pair of covers in the bunch.  Which is odd, as an online database of Ace Doubles suggest they are both by the artist of the Tombaugh Station cover I was enamored with in my last review.  I’ll talk more about him next go round, as he’s also drawn the cover of the Double half I’m currently reading.  Spacial Delivery’s story offers little by way of the exciting cover imagery, because this really is the book.  It’s a guy riding around on the back of a giant bear-like alien.  That’s a good 60% of the book.  40% is him sleeping, and 10% is him engaged in the actual political undercurrent of the book, which is never quite thrilling enough to be called a “thriller,” but does underpin all the action.

Yes.  I’m aware those percentages add up to more than 100.  That’s not a failure of math, it’s a recognition of the fact that occasionally he’s sleeping while riding around on the back of a giant bear-like alien.  John Tardy is just that kind of crazy multitasker that he can be passively involved in the story in two different ways.

The bits of the plot not involved with riding on bears and sleeping center around John Tardy, human decathlete, being drafted as an ambassador to Dilbia in an attempt to open up relations with the massive ursine creatures of this world.  Working against the humans are the Hemnoids, squat muscular creatures from a high-gravity world that are more physically similar to the Dilbians.  Tardy is sent to rescue a human who is being held captive by a Dilbian with a nasty personality and the name Streamside Terror.

That’s the fun of the book right there.  Streamside Terror.  Dilbia is, in many ways, an inherently silly place.  The society is based entirely around nicknames.  John Tardy becomes Half-Pint Posted to the Dilbians.  The woman he is sent to save is Greasy Face due to the Dilbian confusion over make-up.  He is sent out by Little Bite.  His escort through Dilbia is the Hill Bluffer, and one of the prime antagonists of the story is Streamside Terror’s girlfriend Boy Is She Built.  Dickson clearly enjoyed the world he’d built, as he revisited Dilbia two more times in his novels Spacepaw and Law-Twister Shorty.  All three have since been published together by Baen under the title The Right to Arm Bears.

Between naps and bits of bear riding, the plot of the story is about humans showing Dilbians they can be strong, while learning at the same time that the Dilbians can be crafty.  It’s about saving the damsel in distress, who really ends up with no defining characteristic other than damsel in distress.  But the fun in the story is seeing John Tardy with his implanted knowledge of Dilbian society trying to make his way among the bear-like creatures.  I’m seeing a real pattern in these books.  It’s the third story I’ve reviewed, and it’s the third one where I’ve fallen back on the world building when the story line left me a little flat.  In this one it’s hard not to.  The book exists as an excuse to show off this inherently silly culture, and the ultimate conclusion isn’t about saving the girl, it’s about how these apparently simple creatures were the actual chess players within the story.  Which I  gather is the underlying theme of the entire Dilbian series.

It felt like a story written with tongue firmly planted in cheek.  I suppose in the end I wanted either a little more or a little less out of the story.  It exists in an odd middle ground, and thus gets a middle grade.

3 out of 5 giant space bears.

Delusion World

“If you don’t look, she’ll go away!”

The disintegrated damsel and the disbelieving spaceman.

There had to be a reason why that isolated human colony had been able to survive right in the heart of the stars held by mankind’s implacable enemies.  But nobody had been able to get to the quaintly named Dunroamin to find out.

If they had a secret defense, it could be the answer to a hundred planets’ prayers.  And Feliz Gebrod realized as he came in for a crash landing that he’d know the secret sooner than he’d expected.

Except that what he encountered was a life-and-death riddle that had nothing to do with stellar defense.  It was this: how can two mutually irreconcilable Utopias occupy the same space at the same time.

I’ll admit, that might no be the best scan of the cover.  I bought this book in slightly worse shape than the other Ace Doubles I’ve gotten my hands on.  It suffered a little water damage, which you can see in the crinkling.  However, the cleaner versions of the cover still don’t grab me in the way that giant floating heads and chessboards in space do.  Yes, I know, don’t judge books by their covers, but part of what has drawn me to the Doubles (and I’m not the first) are the fantastic covers.  I picked this particular Double up to read on my wife’s insistence because both halves are Gordon R. Dickson.  So I tucked in.

Delusion World is a fantastic example of what I like to call the in-and-out story.  No, that’s not a sexual reference, nothing like that.  The story is just 95 pages long, which means it gets in, it stirs around an interesting premise that wouldn’t work for a novel, and it gets out again having not over stayed its welcome.  This story is what I’m looking for when I said above I could go for a little less out of Spacial.

We’re back to another world lost during humanity’s expansion into empire.  This is a trope that I’ve never come across before reading these Doubles, but has now shown up in two of the first four.  I don’t know if that’s coincidence, or if I’m going to come across more of these lost planets.  They make for good story settings, as their isolation allows for odd cultural evolution within a technologically advanced culture.  In the case of Dunroamin, our hero Feliz Gebrod comes across two societies that occupy the same plot of land while each seemingly unaware of the other.  One wears only black, the other is dressed in bright colors.  Gebrod is compelled to stay by the psychic nature of the leader of the color-wearers, so the book follows his attempt to escape.

Which, oddly, resembles building a fountain in the center of town.  Because that’s what most escape plans typically look like.

The secret to the coexisting societies comes from a political disagreement generations before the book took place.  The two sides simply refused to acknowledge each other, then fully ignored each other, and finally grew up with a mental block that wouldn’t let them even see their opponents.  Which let the authoritarians be comfortably authoritarian, and the anarchists to be anarchic.  The built in delusion even allows for the complete disintegration of people.  Those who are cast out are ignored and never seen again.  It’s one of those things it’s best not to think about for too long, because it becomes more and more horrific.  We only see one disintegrated individual, our requisite silly woman to run through the book allowing the male lead to show off how above frivolity he is.  She’s a character I didn’t come across in the first Ace Double, but found in both halves of Dickson’s writing.  She ends up being a trope, an archetype, or even just a prop, rather than an actual character.

Both halves of this Double feel like stories that exist entirely to show off the worlds Dickson created.  Each throws an outsider into the insanity and watches them cope.  I like the execution better in Delusion World.  Perhaps its because both the world and the lead character’s goals are inherently sillier.  The world survives internally by lying to itself, and externally by refusing to acknowledge that they have any enemies.  Gebrod survives by building a fountain to power a device that will vaporize everyone’s clothing in an instant, making them see each other and creating enough confusion to escape the psychic bonds holding him.  It’s a suitably ludicrous plan for a ludicrous setting.  It’s also the first of the four halves I’ve read that I would consider re-reading, largely to see if my positive opinion of it holds up as I read more of these Doubles.

4 out of 5 nude bombs.

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Four Humors in The Avengers

I’m working on my next Ace Double review, so it’s going to be a longer post that requires extra time.  So a quick post today.  Finally saw the Avengers, and what I suspected before I went to the movie was confirmed by the movie itself.  There are four superheros, there are four humors, and they map quite well.

  1. Choleric.  The natural leader.  Captain America.  His own movie was subtitled “The First Avenger,” and he’s the one giving orders when the group is actually working together.
  2. Phlegmatic.  The emotional follower.  Bruce Banner.  It’s hard to assign a personality to the Hulk, but Banner is chock-a-block with personality quirks.  Which is why everyone is raving over the portrayal of the character.
  3. Melancholic.  The introvert.  Thor.  The natural outsider, being the only of the four not from Earth, he’s accustomed to being self reliant and independent.
  4. Sanguine.  The fun one.  Iron Man.  He’s the easiest of the four to pin down, he’s the charismatic one.  The billionaire, playboy, genius, philanthropist.  Those are all sides of the sanguine personality.

It’s interesting, I’ve seen comparisons of the movie to Lord of the Rings, and there is the same fellowship of nine characters.  The listed four, plus the SHIELD characters: Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, and Maria Hill.  In this analogy, I supposed the superheroes would be the four hobbits, most of the SHIELD characters would be the other members of the Fellowship, and Nick Fury would be Gandalf, the overarching Choleric who brings them all together.  I’m sure someone much more versed in film deconstruction could really pull this apart in-depth, but I’ve got my other post to focus on.

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Kickstarter Postmortem, Part 1

I’ve decided to split this postmortem into two halves.  This first half will focus entirely on my thoughts.  Part two, sometime next week, will include a back-and-forth with the editor of The Memory Eater anthology to talk about the decision to go Kickstarter, and what he thinks of it as a way forward for fiction and anthologies.

First and foremost, I want to say thank you.  From the absolute bottom of my heart, thank you.  I recognized several names on the donors list that I know are followers on Twitter, readers of this blog, friends in real life, or who I otherwise pointed to the Kickstarter.  It’s been overwhelming each time I see one of those names come up.  If you are reading this and you donated, or you helped spread the word, or you simply put up with me becoming a single-focused Kickstarter monster for 40 days and 40 nights, I cannot thank you enough.  I hope that the end product of our campaign justifies your faith in the project.

I didn’t want to go any further without saying those words.

The Kickstarter experience was a hell of a roller coaster, and I wanted to give people a look at what it’s like to be part of a project that doesn’t have A Name attached to it.  What do I mean by A Name?  Let’s look at some of the most successful projects on the site.  The same day we got funded, Steve Jackson was funded just shy of a million dollars to resurrect his classic game Ogre.  During our campaign, Amanda Palmer hit her $100,000 goal in a matter of hours.  The classic example, at least until someone beats its $3.3 million haul, is Double Fine Adventure, which got $300,000 in just eight hours.  In all of these cases, we’re talking about individuals (Jackson, Palmer, and Tim Schafer) who have rabid and devoted followers.

Who were we?  We were a rag-tag collection of authors and illustrators who combined didn’t have the prestige that any of Jackson, Palmer, or Schafer have in their pinky fingers.  In the end we became the 84th most funded Publishing/Fiction project in the site’s short history, well behind juggernauts like Dinocalypse Now and Steampunk Holmes.  Compare that to the three projects above, which all had two things in common when compared to The Memory Eater.  Both had more backers than we had dollars backed, and both had, and sold, rewards worth more than our entire project.  Hell, then some of our stretch goals, even.

There’s another Kickstarter postmortem out there, as web video legend Ze Frank broke down his experiences in funding his new show through the site.  His project and ours have a few differences, namely just about everything except that we both used Kickstarter.  He’s an established name online, with an established fan base, and he chose to go for an 11 day project largely because Kickstarter itself was interested to test short-term projects as they saw most money raised in the first and last three days.  In his postmortem he has a hunch:

:: HUNCH :: My guess is the shape of the blue curve is mainly defined by pretty basic network properties of information spread – a short period of exponential growth followed by exponential decline. The initial spike has to do with novel interest and many overlapping points of broadcast (initial marketing, retweets, blog posts, sharing) Once you are in the phase of exponential decline, you will have to fight to maintain interest, either by enlisting larger broadcast nodes (news articles, bloggers) or by creating shareable events (new reasons to share your campaign.)

My hunch, before our Kickstarter opened, was that the initial spike seen at the beginning of a Kickstarter from a known quantity, A Name, is due to a period before the information about the project is saturated.  It doesn’t take nearly as long for Ze Frank, Jackson, Palmer, or Schafer to largely exhaust their ability to mobilize an existing fan base.  The long tail is due to funding goals being reached, so there’s a decreased excitement.  Those trickling in at this point are those who are curious or somehow missed the opening blast trickle in, then the big finish is from those who were holding out but decided they really wanted to be in on the whole thing.  The concept of exhaustion and diminishing returned interested me as we went into a project where we were reliant on hard fought word of mouth and people stumbling upon our project being curious.  And one that likely wasn’t going to get 72-hour funding.  So, since I like being obsessive, and I like charts, and I like numbers, I put together The Infamous Graph.

Each morning at as close to 7:55am eastern time as possible (the time we launched, so our Kickstarter midnight) I grabbed the total contribution from the Kickstarter and scribbled it down.  They all went into an Excel spreadsheet, and I tracked the overall progress (blue bar, left axis) and the daily change in pledges (red bar, right axis).  The other extraneous lines are a green line tracking our overall goal and a purple line representing an even progression towards the goal, so I’d know if we were ahead of or behind pace.  Please note, this is unofficial in every possible way, and I know it’s flawed as I somehow ended up with 39 data points coming out of a 40-day Kickstarter project.

Yes, we did have two days where we lost money, including nearly $50 the last Saturday of the campaign.  We had three more where there was absolutely no movement.  Ze Frank raised 2/3 of his total in those first three days.  We raised just shy of 20% in our initial push.  Ze Frank had a “slight increase” in his last three days.  We raised over $1000, nearly 1/4 of our final total, in a frantic and wonderful last four days.  Ze Frank had a comparative drop off (though his worst day far outstripped our best) and never really shot back up.  Our project kept experiencing fits of activity that kept the blue line right around the purple line.

The projects, in short, couldn’t look much different.  Then again, they couldn’t be much different.  One wanted $50k, the other just over $4k.  One was a single person, the other was a team of artists and creators.  One was a known quantity, the other was more of a gamble for the contributors.

So we experienced some giddy highs.  At the end of that first week when we were on pace to double our money, we started talking stretch goals.  I like stretch goals, and we all had visions of The Memory Eater 2 swooping through our heads.  Yeah, we never even came close.  We were never in as good shape as our best days looked, we were never in as bad shape as our worst days looked.  I’ll be honest, after that bottom out there on day 33, I didn’t expect we would be funded.  Yes, I’d heard of last minute pushes, but I didn’t think they could be as powerful as I’d heard.

They are.  And then some.  I suspect it helped that we were at 80% when we started showing up on Ending Soon pages.  The last 96 hours featured people who were holding on to see if their support was needed, and those Kickstarter regulars who like to push a project over the top.

The project went largely as I expected.  We had a strong start, a strong finish, and some setbacks in the middle.  It took longer for us to reach a point of saturation, because it took our voices so much longer to spread.  We experienced some diminishing returns, but not nearly those represented by Ze Franks graphs.  But then…we also funded on the second to last day, not on day three, so there was never a point where we weren’t in danger.  Hell, up until about 7 hours left in the project there were two backers who could sink us by virtue of the size of their donations, and even up to the finish line there was still just one.  I didn’t expect they actually would, that would take an amount of spite that I would like to think doesn’t exist on Kickstarter, but worrying about things like that is one of my various unhealthy hobbies.  I don’t smoke, so this is what I get.

In the end I wanted to let people see what a Kickstarter project looked like when it had nothing but tenacity and the promise of some excellent short stories going for it.  Plus a couple dozen people who really believed in a thing and wouldn’t say die.  In the end, 166 people joined us for the ride, which is all flavors of exciting.  Where do we go next?  Well, our fearless leader CP has some questionnaires to put together and the rest of us get to take a deep breath and stop spamming our Twitter followers.  Which is one more thank you I owe, to everyone who simply put up with me talking about this project so endlessly.  Especially my wife, who got the best view of my mania.

I’m not sure I’m excited to go through another Kickstarter project.  I liked getting somewhat dragged into one, having a stake but not being the key figure.  It was fun, but it was also nerve-racking, exhausting, and focus drawing.  My writing productivity dropped precipitously near the end.  This isn’t a reason for writers in general not to do Kickstarters, it’s a reason only for writers who are me to never spearhead one.  Which…honestly…if this had gone a lot bigger and better, if we’d hit those stretch goals, I was considering two different projects I’d like to do that might benefit from a Kickstart.  Now, I might still do them, but they won’t be crowdsourced.

I’m looking forward to talking with CP a little more next week.  We’ve been in touch through most of the campaign, I know some of his thoughts on it, but I’ll be interested to get some more formal answer to what he thinks we did right, did wrong, and what lessons other writers and anthologists might take from our experiences before launching their own Kickstarter.  Keep an eye out, I hope to have it up by Friday of next week, but mine is not the only calendar for that.

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Flash Fiction: Escape from Io

This week Chuck Wendig has challenged us with pulp.

Crazy pulp shiznit.

Because it’s awesome.

So!

Your task this week is to go apeshit.

To go moonbat.

To go cuh-razy with the over-the-top pulp weirdness.

Whatever that means to you — “pulp insanity” — just run with it. For up to 1000 words.

Perfect, this let me work out a few, uh, issues that I’ve had while listening to an audiobook version of A Princess of Mars.  So join interplanetary adventurer Jack Lincoln in his Escape From Io.

Read the rest of this entry »

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An Ode…

…To The Final 48 Hours of a Kickstarter

By DL Thurston

F5.
F5 F5 F5.  Woo!
F5.  F5 F5.
F5.
F5 F5 F5 F5 F5.
F5.  Woo!
F5 F5.  F5.

 

F5.

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On Men and Heroes

I do what I can to avoid politics on this blog.  Oh, not completely.  Anyone could find my posts about SOPA and PIPA and see where I stood on those issues.  But if I’m going off on an opinion, it’s more likely one about corn shuckers in the grocery store than anything that the Republicans or the Democrats have done.  This is entirely a personal decision, one made for myself that I don’t think all writers could/should/would follow me up on.  I do plenty of political opinioning in real life, it gets me riled up at times, and it’s nice to have my blog as a place for calmer discussion.

There’s also that one sticking point when it comes to political opinions.  Lots of people have them, and not everyone agrees with them.

This past week has seen two very prominent writers delivery two very impassioned editorials.  The first was Stephen King when he called on the government to “Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake!” and the other comes from Orson Scott Card asking “What Right Is Really At Stake?” with regard to North Carolina Amendment 1.  Neither man has ever shied away from the political spotlight in the past, and these editorials are both well in line with their previous opinions on these subjects.  King does not hide his liberalism, nor does Card hide his conservatism.  I’m going to just state, because I think most people who know me know where I stand on these things, that I agree with Mr. King and disagree with Mr. Card.  This entire post is going to be so much easier to write if I don’t pussyfoot around that.

Even though neither man has made a secret of his politics in the past, both surprised some readers and fans with there editorials.  If you peruse the comments for both articles, each include several examples of “you’ve lost me as a reader.”  Those six words scare the shit out of me.  Certainly King and Card, both stalwarts of genre fiction, can sustain a few losses in the readership department without any major changes in their royalty checks, but I’m still trying to win people over as readers, and the thought of losing them before I even have them?  That’s what keeps me away from getting too political in my posts.

But what are we as readers to do when we learn that our literary heroes don’t share our personal opinions?

It’s a tough question, and one that I’ve been churning over in my head this past day.  I’m going to be honest, I’ve only read one Orson Scott Card novel.  I recently found a hardback of Wyrms at a thrift store and thought I should give it a try.  It was neither in the top ten or bottom ten of books I’ve read, and ultimately stands out in my memory for the rather, ahem, interesting climax the story reaches deep within the bowels of the post-industrial planet.  I’ve not read the Ender series.  I haven’t actively avoided it, it’s just one of those things that has never made it onto my pile.  In that way it’s like The Godfather, which I’ve never seen for no reason other than I’ve never seen it.

This editorial hasn’t made me any more likely to read Ender.  Perhaps it’s made me less, that’s hard to say.  He hasn’t lost me as a reader, per se, but he’s made it that much harder to win me as a reader.  I don’t know where I would stand if I were an existing fan of his work.  I’m certain that a percentage of the readers he has “lost” with this opinion weren’t his readers to begin with, but some of them were.  And it’s left them in a very difficult position, seeing a world that they potentially grew up with colored by the opinions of the author, even if those opinions may not translate to the page.

Does that mean that Card shouldn’t have said what he did?  Absolutely not.  Orson Scott Card is entitled to have and speak his opinions, just as Stephen King is.  I doubt anyone reading this blog is going to question that fact.  I’ve never understood the notion that celebrities aren’t supposed to use their celebrity to promote political opinions.  Especially because what people tend to be saying is that they shouldn’t use their celebrity to promotion political opinions I disagree with.  However that freedom of speech goes every which way, and I’m just as much in my right to be less interested in picking up his books, and someone else is well within their rights to put them down entirely.  To stop reading the Ender series because they believe that firmly in marital rights.  To stop reading the Dark Tower because they believe that firmly in tax reduction.  There are also liberals out there who will go right on reading Card and conservatives who have no problem picking up King.  It is neither a failure of character to walk away from these writers because of what they said, nor a failure of conviction to stay with them in spite of what they said.

This is a hard post for me to write, because I do feel like it exposes a part of me I’m not entirely comfortable with.  It’s the part of me that doesn’t talk about politics because I know I’m the kind of person who might put an author down if I learned his politics varied too greatly from my own.  It also forces me to look straight in the face of the part of me who disagrees categorically and completely with just about every word of Orson Scott Card’s editorial, and yet sees a certain bravery in it.  Perhaps more so considering the general trend towards liberalism within genre writers.  Or is that only my personal perception based on who I follow on Twitter and G+?  A man who makes his living on selling himself to others through his fiction and who believes thoroughly enough in his convictions to use his significant megaphone even when he knows they’ll make him unpopular to many.  It doesn’t change my opinion on his position, change my likelihood of reading him, but it is an odd moment of clarity.  Which is uncomfortable and makes me twitchy, but there it is nonetheless.

Writers aren’t heroes.  They’re people.  They will, at times, disagree with us or even disappoint us in their opinions.  Perhaps to a point that those words of theirs we read before are forever changed in our minds.  This is the risk that always comes when people put themselves out there, and one of those odd bits of collateral about deciding to write.  One of those things we might not all think of when we’re putting word to paper.  I still stand largely where I did before on expressing my own political opinions, you’ll see them few and far between.  But there is an argument for letting the chips fall where they may.  No writer should ever be forced to be what they aren’t to attract or keep readers.  As long as they remember they are not entitled to readers, either.

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