Category Archives: Writing

Going on the Account: Re-publish or…

So, I was considering how to do this.

 

I have some stuff I have/can/have to bring back, thanks to the way things shook out.  Long story, one I’m saving for later, but anyways-

 

Because there’s a music element tied to this,  my first thought was to look at traditional release dates for when music would drop, which used to be Tuesdays.  Then it became Fridays as of about 2010, when things became a bit more organized.

 

And now, thanks to Beyonce and Radiohead, the new drop date for music is more like, “Eh, ya gotta guess…”

 

Which, hey, I’m fine with, so… watch the skies, as they used to say…

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Going on the Account:Looking Ahead While Falling Behind

It’s been how long now since I’ve been here…?

Dang, that’s a while.

I suppose I could state that I’m living by the old statement, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…”

Because these days, it seems like no one has anything nice to say about anyone.  Which is normal for an election year, though this year’s especially nasty the way it’s falling out.

 

It could also be because there’s not been a general conversation that feels like I have anything to add to it.  Some times something comes up, there’s an impulse to spout, but then I take a second and ask, “Is what I’m going to say actually of interest or add anything to this?”  And if the answer after a few minutes is at best, “Eh,” then I move on.

Which is a sad tact to take if you write, because it means walking away from the craft.  It’s like a ball player who doesn’t take the field, or an actor who doesn’t take a role.  But there really wasn’t anything that felt worth discussing through “Going on the Account” during that period; I got some points out through my Facebook page which is to expressing yourself via a blog what dining on fast food and vending machine fare is to eating, but there wasn’t that much to say.

Until today.

There was an article at Motherboard that referred to a report posted at the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies that examines piracy in the modern age.  And a lot has changed even since I started posting Raging Gail here, or for that matter Red Jenny…

For one, the terminology has changed; the preferred term in the paper for the rovers is “Maritime Non-state Actors” or MNSAs.  Which is a little clinical, very exacting and probably a lot more accurate in terms of describing people on the water.

It’s also an effort at re-branding that allows people who think of tri-corner hats and parrots when you hear “pirate” to not associate them with modern sea dogs.  And with such a term, not having to put a face to them makes them easier to think of in more clinical terms, which allows you to consider options that would be more difficult if they were, oh, people…

The big surprise from the piece, however, is bringing up the emerging trend of drones being brought to bear by MNSAs.  (Sorry, pirates…)  It’s not out of character after years of tradition, having pirates get their hands on the latest arms to become a presence out at sea, so the idea that pirates in the future would command a drone or two, or even an entire swarm as they go after a prize, is not out of the realm of the possible.

It is, however, something that suddenly makes Red Jenny seem quaint.  I admit, when I wrote the novel, the idea of militarized drones being in the hands of armed civilians (or, if you insist, MNSAs) was not part of the consideration.  As the world building that went into the work postulated a general economic contraction as climate change whacked the planet, the idea of “exotic” weapons in the hands of pirates who would otherwise have more pressing needs getting their tools together was not a consideration.  The fact that drones could be weaponized so easily and cheaply since the last chapter was posted just makes this omission even more glaring.

In other words:  Dang, whoops.

(And to add to the embarrassment:  The author of the piece, David Rudd, wrote this from the perspective of how the Royal Canadian Navy could best deal with this situation.  Yes, the RCN, the same folks who had they been written into the book would have ended the West Seneca Crew’s adventures within three pages of first sighting.  Damn, talk about irony…)

But that happens.  I remember reading The Third World War: August 1985 when it came out in paperback, being impressed by the author’s projection of then current trends out into a believable scenario.  And I was willing to cut him some slack, as much of what made up his scenario when the book was published in 1978 quickly slipped away thanks to Ayatollah Khomeini, Ronald Reagan, and a number of other events that decided to follow their own course.

So when 1982 rolls around, we get The Third World War: The Untold Story, where Sir John Hackett… whacks the world against the reset button.  Instead of recognizing realty on the ground, he forces the ground to conform to his own will, making the world take a few radical steps to the side so that he didn’t have to rewrite the first book.  Maybe it was Sir John‘s being captured during Operation Market Garden or having to oversee the withdrawal from Palestine which resulted in years of pain left behind that did something to him to make him pull a stunt like that; who knows?  All I can do is shake my head at doing some serious defense of my work in the face of reality like that.

So no, if there’s a follow-up to Red Jenny, there will not be such shenanigans done to that level.  Tempting as it might be to engage in some wishful proclaiming, I would not do that, and just acknowledge that I got something wrong.

Mind you, I do have a few bottom-of-the-drawer projects that involve drones and pirates, stuff that takes place nowhere near Buffalo in the near future; if I get some time, I might do something with that…

In the meantime, I am going to try and come back here more often.  It’s too long since I’ve done some real, home-cooked, get-your-hands-messy-in-the-kitchen-honest blogging, and as much as the quick FB post at the House of Zuck can cover you, no, it’s just not the same.  I need to keep writing.

It’s not like I’m not writing at all; my output at REBEAT magazine has been pretty substantial, including a regular column called “Fantasia Obscura” that looks at older genre films (SF/horror/fantasy) that are in danger of being forgotten, so there’s that at least.

Hopefully this won’t be as easily forgotten as those are, least of all by me…

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Going on the Account: What a Sick Dude

It could be all the antibiotics I’ve been taking this week talking, but I want to revisit some of my old plague fiction.

If I were a bit more subject to assigning purpose to an event’s timing, I’d say my bronchial misadventures this week were Nature’s way of asking me to look outside my normal wheelhouse.  All the coughing, the two-hour-a-night sleeping sessions with nothing to show from those overnight experiences except for a large plastic grocery bag fulled with mucus-encrusted tissues, the multiple visits to the doctors before I was prescribed something where drink plenty of fluids should not mean rum-and-cokes (or in my case rum-and-diet colas, or “R&Ds”) once I started on those, all the time in the world before me but unable to do any writing because of the hacking wheezes every few minutes…

Stuff like that can color your perspective.

Once upon a time, I wrote a few pieces to share in a writer’s group I was in; the first comment I got was, “Congrats on re-writing The Stand.” Not sure if he was kidding, thought it was a compliment, or why he chose that comparison over Camus’ The Plague, but any event, the comment stuck.  And I suppose other than pirates, sickness has been been a go-to point I’ve had for a lot of my stuff.

In fact, I did between fits of blowing my nose think about something that manages to combine the two, along with a few other elements.  It’s not high on the list right now, it’s very preliminary, but it’s something that may get a little more attention when I hit a few walls and want a break on some stuff.

Right now, it’s good to be able to say that I tried to write something and got this produced.  For the first time in a week, I got to run my fingers over the keys, without having to then interrupt myself to get a Kleenex to wipe up the snot that I just spewed all over the screen.  Keep this up, I may be able to call myself productive in ways that don’t involve bodily fluids…

Now, where’s those pills marked with letters that scream DO NOT TAKE WITH ALCOHOL…?

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Going on the Account: Why Don’t You Write Me?

 

Good question; I hope I have a good answer…

 

I do have a few folk who asked me why the blogging slacked off.  There’s a few answers, some of which can be stated aloud without embarrassment.

I can cite the effort to work on a third longer piece, and how that got complicated.  Normally, I don’t like to discuss my work without having done it first; the last thing I need is to promise something that doesn’t like up to the hype.  But there are problems with that, in that I have a choice between showing up to a crowded house and not living up to the bill, versus having something to offer unannounced to empty seats.  That’s not a great set of choices to work with, either way.

The new project, too, has its own special issues:  I managed to pick a body of the Solar System where a recent wave of discoveries made us rethink everything we knew ab out it.  And, because it’s happening as I’m doing plotting and scene set-ups, requires me to do serious rewrites.  Multiple.  Times.

I’m probably the only soul on the planet who sees a headline about learning something new about Titan, shaking my fist as a roar, “Damn you, Cassi-ni-i-i-I-I-I-I-I!!!!!

So in the meantime, I took a spot on REBEAT Magazine.  It’s been fruitful, getting a few pieces up, some historical examinations of pop culture.  The last one I got placed there, about the 1970s’ obsession with the 1950s, I’m particular proud of.

Which is difficult for me to say, because there’s a horrific amount of modesty that I have to fight against if I’m going to get any word out about what I do.  Which brings me back to Ceres and blogging.

Is it expectation, fear of failure, or at the least of feeling like the payoff for the effort’s not worth it?  Which I suppose is reasonable on some level, especially if we consider…

…yeah, I’m going there…

the dress.

It blew up out of nowhere, and just overwhelmed everything; we’d probably still be obsessing if we didn’t get word about Leonard Nimoy’s departure.  Ironically, it took the death of an actor who personified living in a logical manner to snap us out of our crazed obsession.

The one thing the damned shmata did do for us was to help measure how we find out about things now.  Like radioactive iodine injections for a thyroid test, following how this went viral gave a better sense of how to get the word out there.  And the first lesson is, it’s like Captain America’s super soldier project:  It’s not really able to be replicated, so calm down and stop trying.

A while ago, I tried looking at writing in different ways to keep from giving it up get a better understanding of it, and there is one model that suggests any correlation with how writers find readers:

The lottery.

It takes more effort to write a 60,000 word novel than it does to put five bucks on a string of quick-picks, but otherwise the mechanisms are the same:  Attention comes to you if your product meets the dictate of Market, and if your output is in sync with what Market wants, to the point where you have all six digits that She requires, you will be very well off.  (Buy the extra ball for double payout, and you too can insure everyone at the house gets $5,000 as a bonus.)

Work?  Sure, yeah, but when you subscribe to the above model, a LOT of the pressure gets removed…

So it’s time to get up, try not to listen to what’s trending online now, especially if it’s coming in from Saturn, and get back to it.  The writing may well end up going nowhere, or it may play out like last night’s drawing did.  Either way, you keep going.

You drop down the five bucks for tickets.  You find a mag that likes your writing, and keep working on the other projects.  And you keep feeding the beast, like coming back to the blog to keep the content going.

At least until the folks who asked for you start to wonder, “Why don’t you stop already?”

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Going On the Account: Silent All These Years

 

Well, it feels like it was that long…

 

Why the radio silence?  Too many reasons.

 

Part of it was getting involved in a large project that needed a few re-writes.  If I were writing full time, this would have taken quite some considerable investment, and needing to do this during a time when things got busy, it sucked up a lot of time that might have been used to do the blog.  Which was a mistake, because not having something to share here actually stopped up teh gears without an outlet.

 

Part of it was not feeling I could contribute to some of the conversations that were going on.  The last big flap I tried to wade into, the Hachette-Amazon feud, came in the midst of trying to deal with lots of other swirling confusions, and from there it just got nuts.  Add to that the pains  was going through from what I had first thought was an old shoulder injury, that looks like it was actually spinal, and there were days I had to remind myself that yeah, I did have a blog, didn’t I…?

 

At least the pain’s manageable, for now.  I have to pick up some of the flack that fell off during that time, which means try and lose the few pounds I picked up when my activity level dropped, get back to work on the project, and more importantly, figure out how to speak up more.

On things like Kindle Unlimited, for instance.  Yeah, I know that “publish or perish” is an important concept, but somehow I don’t think anyone ever had this in mind…  If I have to divide a novel into smaller sequential pieces in order to take advantage of the new royalty rates, isn’t that going back to the days of Victorian serialized works that went on longer than need be to meet the per-word rate?  Not everyone thought that Peter Jackson needed to tell The Hobbit over three films, you know…

 

The big takeaway out of all this is, it’s time to pay more attention here.  I mean me, of course, but…

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Going On the Account: Paul Simon Was Right…

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

– “The Sounds of Silence”

 

102914 001

 

Well, now…

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Going On the Account: The Horror, the Horror…

I was asked by REBEAT Magazine about my favorite horror film-

 

OK, why would they ask me?  Part of that comes from having started doing some work with them; I’ve already had a piece published with them about looking at The Prisoner today in the wake of the establishment of the surveillance state, and I’ve got another piece they’re considering.  If something happens with that one, I’ll let you know.

 

In any event, I ended up getting asked to contribute to a pick of John Lennon solo songs, and I guess I didn’t make that bad an appearance there, hence the new offer.

 

So while there, I sung the praises of the first Universal Dracula, both versions, knowing full well that that just ain’t gonna cover it all.

Truth is, I like a lot of horror films.

I happen more so to like the genre as a whole.

Why?  It’s not so much the conventions of the form that keep me coming back.  There are certain things you need to make a horror film, and once you have seen enough of them you start noting the seams the way a tailor judges a suit:

Victims: check; division between the ones going to make it to the end versus the expendables, set.  Threat: good, that’s in place.  Category, we, got that; and setting, yeah, let’s go back and look…   Ooo-kay, this should work…

And it’s easy to get jaded about what you could find in the genre.  There can seem to be a lot of bloat in the field, much like you find in SF, and can easily find in mysteries, Westerns, Rom Coms…

So what’s the draw?  How about the fact that we can use horror to approach a subject at an angle that we either can’t yet or never could look at head-on?

Had there been more room to go on, the article could have brought up how Dracula was the perfect embodiment of our fears of the other, especially an other that represented the rich as the Depression deepened.  We couldn’t root for bankers to be killed on screen, but this foreigner buying ruins just next door, well…  Likewise, out of the main source, Stoker couldn’t discuss feminine self-determination or the rise of foreign challenges to the Empire without the Count to wrap his cape over the points.

With more room, attention could be given to the Frankenstein monster, our fear of science getting out of hand, realized with pieces of corpses butchered so soon after the carnage of the First World War cost millions their limbs.  Whale’s version of Shelly’s tale shared many of the same concerns, especially the dangers of not keep track of your soul as you pursue ultimate knowledge.

Going on, there would have been discussions of vampires in general being the evil we invite to come for us, whether we’re weak or just easily flattered.  The lycanthrope, and whether that werewolf we could become is as easily kept at bay as we imagine, or if the line between human and beast is not that strong after all.  The kaiju rising up to destroy our cities, making us pay for our nuclear proliferation and environmental mismanagement.  And if the big monster doesn’t come after us because we can’t clean up the environment, there’s that zombie horde over the hill.  And maybe our inability to connect with each other in a meaningful manner, our lack of humanity, makes us deserve the slasher in a mask with a chainsaw waiting for us.

Even the Hostel films offer their observations; when we see college kids being slaughtered by the highest bidder, we get to confront our xenophobia and feelings about rendition as part of the War on Terror getting together like two drunk guests at a Halloween party getting locked in the closet, getting it on hot and heavy.  And the Purge series gives us a chance to imagine economic inequity taken to levels Fritz Lang only hinted at in Metropolis.

In the end, we scare ourselves, or allow ourselves to be scared, because that’s actually a more comforting place to deal with the deeper flaws of our existence than reality allows.  We need to be in fear because we otherwise might never allow ourselves to be aware of what’s wrong.

And unfortunately, we put down the book, leave the theater, shut off the TV/iPad, and allow ourselves to leave the state of awareness we’re in, and instead of doing something to address what scared us, let it build up again.  Maybe it resolves itself, or it resolves us; more often than not we just adjust and await the next threat to metastasize, let it become enough of a worry to take the form of a monster in the next horror.

 

And it’s that, the ability to just shut it off after we finish looking at and poking what it is that scares us; that’s the part that actually scares me…

 

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