Spawn of Mars
Don't worry. If you like your religion, you can keep your religion.
Sample the Revolution
And Give My Story a Read
Monday, October 30, 2017 8:40 am
Back in August, the folks at PulpRev put out a call for stories. They wanted stories no longer than fifteen hundred words, and we aspirants were given one week to submit. Obviously, had I a suitable story lying around, I could have simply polished it a bit and leisurely submitted it; but I entered the spirit of the call and wrote a fresh tale.

I took a very old, tiny idea that had never become the novel I imagined — "A king on the run refuses to abdicate" — and combined that with a little pulpy weirdness, and created The King's Portion.

You can get the sampler by buying it directly for all of 99 cents at Amazon or by signing up for the PulpRev mailing list (details here).

Go, now! Become enjoyified!

P.S. As with StoryHack, it was nice working with the PulpRev folks. If nothing else, the Pulp Revolution does not treat little-known authors with disdain!
Why the Pulp Attitude Has Attracted Me
On Becoming a Fellow Traveler
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 10:09 am
You can be shaped by what you will not do. I will not drink. I will not curse. I will not lose my temper. Exclude the vices and you become other than vicious.

But “other than” is not enough. The bad is a privation of the good; but the good is not a privation of the bad. You must also be shaped by what you do. Include the virtues and you become virtuous.

We all know science fiction has become vicious. It is a platform for despising God, truth, men, women, and civilization. It gathers the mentally disordered and celebrates their diverse disorders. I just want to read about the defeat of killer robots and instead I must read about six-way sex on the planet Luvwyns. 

As a writer I can — rightly, wisely, sanely — refuse to serve the vicious. No, I will not bash the Church. No, I will not bash masculinity. No, I will not bash the family. No, I will not bash this civilization or the people who built it.

But in some ways that is easy. It is easy enough to say I will not step in filth. The real question, the thing to ask of my stepping along, is: Quo vadis?

Whither are you going?

Without question, whither I go as a writer should be towards the virtuous. However, I don't want merely to propagandize for the good. Nothing wrong with propaganda, per se; the Gospel is propaganda, after all. But fiction, as we all know, suffers when story is subordinated to the message. That has been a primary lesson of these past dreary years of SF. In writing, as in all art, whither is only part of it. The more pertinent question may be: Quomodo efficis?

How are you doing it?

As you can tell from this blog post, I have a condition that might be called High-Falutinitis. My work can be overdone. Yet a virtuous work is best if it is at ease with virtue; if it is at ease in general.

Pulp is so much at ease.

I've read a lot of commentary from the Pulp Revolution. And what have I gathered? That pulp accepts the natural order of things and just runs with it. Right; wrong. Good; evil. Men as men; women as women. Even when weird, pulp is not deviant. That doesn't mean pulp is simple-minded, or that it foregoes high artistry, or that it disallows moral ambiguity in its characters. Pulp simply starts with story and, hewing to story above all, lets virtue take care of itself; because a good story cannot be in service of the vicious.

Nihilism is never served by a rip-roaring tale.

I have been writing for a long time. I have written my share of more or less nihilistic works. To be sure, even nihilism has a place in art. If nothing else, a privation depicted (but not extolled) can inspire a healthy lament for the good that was lost. But in this age of nihilism ascendant, I've wanted to be more manifestly on the side of good. I wrote The Giant's Walk to accept, against this age, the reality of God, but also to acknowledge how hard it is, in any age, to be on God's side. Since then, as I have watched the Pulp Revolution unfold, I have learned a forgotten lesson, an efficacious way to write on behalf of right:

Tell an exciting story.

Let heroes be heroic. Let villains be punched and girls be kissed! And God will inevitably be smiling in the background.

Now, you may notice that the title of this post refers to a pulp "attitude" and the subtitle to my being a "fellow traveler." I have not actually read lots of pulp and I can't claim to be among the revolutionaries. Of late, and prompted by the enthusiasm of bloggers, I've been exploring authors like Moore and Brackett and magazines like StoryHack and Cirsova, but my definition of “pulp” comes primarily from those bloggers. For all I know, the Pulp Revolution is misapprehending the nature of pulp. But I don't think so. It sounds right, given my independent experience of pulp (such as Hammett and van Vogt).

And I'm being only a little hyperbolic when I say that God smiles at pulp. It's akin to the assessment that pulp presumes a Christian worldview. It's why the Pulp and Superversive movements overlap so much. But in some ways Pulp seems the safer path, at least initially, for those trying to escape the modern modes of writing. Superversive, insofar as it consciously rejects the subversive, risks creating its own kind of message fiction; and whatever its exemplary attitude towards wonder and grandeur, it might be a better second step away from the modern rot.

Anyhow, I'm learning to pulp my fiction, and enjoying it.

StoryHack #1 Is Out
Read My Story in It!
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 9:45 am
StoryHack is the magazine that accepted my story this past summer. Bryce Beattie, the editor, was a refreshingly responsive and professional contact. He did a fine job editing me, too, making things better without undoing my voice. (Cirsova rejected the same story, but its editor P. Alexander was another wonderfully responsive contact.)

Anyhow, StoryHack #1 is out. Buy it on Amazon (to give the publisher money). Review it on Amazon (to increase its rank). Read my story Some Things Missing From Her Profile and be amazed by my superlativiosity. Go, now!

P.S. It's awesome to be in the inaugural issue. Yes, there was a proof-of-concept issue #0, but being in #1 feels nice.
The Rot Is Deep
It's All So Casual Now
Sunday, September 17, 2017 9:03 pm
So, on Netflix, I'm watching The Blacklist, that show starring James Spader. Generally it's just cool and outrageous. Like most modern TV, though, it can't merely deliver its clever plot but must also deliver an Approved Point of View.

It is particularly annoying when Reddington, an amoral killer, goes on some dogmatic rant about, oh, religious intolerance of sodomy. The writers, in their own real lives, hate (or at least must seem to hate) such intolerance, and so they can't help but depict their "hero" as doing the same — even if it makes him, at least briefly, a mouthpiece instead of a person.

Sadly, though, I experienced a more dispiriting moment in the show. Dogmatic rants at least indicate the writers are aware that they are taking positions. What happens when the rot is utterly unconscious? 

In one episode, children who are retarded and mentally afflicted are being given, by their parents, to a loony witch-like woman. The parents are essentially disposing of their children. A member of the FBI task force, speaking of Ethan (one of the children) and his mother Jeanne (who disposed of him), says:
Ethan apparently requires around-the-clock care, medical therapy, speech and language therapy. In fact Jeanne quit her job to be Ethan's full-time caregiver.
Notice the feminist worldview. Ethan required so much care that Jeanne had to quit her job. And for what? To become Ethan's "full-time caregiver."

Or as we used to say: his "mother."

The writers find it obviously tragic that Jeanne had to prioritize being a mother over being a wage slave. A woman is defined by having a job, after all; and caregiving is just an assignable task. There was no rant; no speech. Just a remark — almost casual — by a character explaining the situation.

Indeed, the rot has settled in.

That's Where You'll Find Me
Maybe Dorothy Sings About the Wrong Thing
Saturday, August 12, 2017 12:19 pm
There's a misalignment in The Wizard of Oz.

What is its moral? "There's no place like home." Dorothy has found herself in a land over the rainbow, and yet her ultimate desire — the fulfillment of which she asks of the Wizard — is to return to Kansas. Near the end, Glinda prompts Dorothy to articulate the lesson that she, Dorothy, has learned; and Dorothy replies:
If I ever go looking for my heart's desire, I won't look any futher than my own backyard. Because if it's not there I never lost it to begin with.
This lesson, of course, accords with the narrative facts that the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion each already had the thing he sought. The Scarecrow was already brainy; the Tin Man, full of heart; the Lion, courageous. And Dorothy, in Kansas, already had the place most free of trouble: her home with Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. 

"There's no place like home" has certainly stuck. The phrase is a commonplace. And yet, in the movie, what is the initial counter-sentiment? That there is a better place "somewhere over the rainbow." And this does not persist as merely a phrase. This sentiment was given a song, a song used in the opening and closing thematic music, a lovely song that has been counted among the most popular and greatest songs of the 20th Century.

Nobody sings, à la Dorothy, "There's no place like home." There's nothing to sing.

In other words, the delusion that grips Dorothy, that there is a place where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops, where skies are blue and dreams really do come true, is given the tremendous, emotional weight that only song can impart. While, on the other hand, the truth she finally discovers is presented in a brief speech — which, while not necessarily platitudinous, is certainly nothing worth humming.

This is a great danger in creating a work: That something tangential — or worse, contrary — to your theme is given a greater prominence, a better presentation, a more memorable form, than the point you are trying to make.

When writing, I have often worried about expending artistry on this or that small scene or second-tier character. I fear my reader will like my villain more than my hero, or find the collapse of my characters more interesting than their restoration. It is a hard thing to make the proper alignment; to best present what should be presented best.

Some contemporary critics of The Brothers Karamazov argued that the devilish points of Ivan Karamazov, as given in "The Grand Inquisitor" section, were more compelling, more substantive, than Alexei's Christ-like response. They argued that Dostoevsky had not really addressed Ivan's points. Dostoevsky replied (perhaps with some exasperation) that the entire novel was the response to Ivan.

One could likewise say that, however compelling may be Somewhere Over the Rainbow, it is countered not merely by some speech at the end of the movie, nor by some brief chant with ruby slippers, but by the movie as a whole. Perhaps. Whether The Wizard of Oz successfully establishes that there's no place like home is a bigger question. I'm not sure it does, beyond somewhat artfully asserting the point. In the end, the writers should have worked a little harder and come up with a compelling tune for There's No Place Like Home.

I know that "there's no place like home" didn't originate with The Wizard of Oz (however much the movie has claimed it). And I know that there is a very old and popular song with that very lyric ("Be it ever so humble..."). And so, yes, the writers, had they written a new song, would have been contending with a standard.

Could they argue they were alluding to that standard, which was possibly more well known in the 1930s, and therefore they didn't need to write their own? I suppose. But the allusion, if any, is weak, and still profoundly overshadowed by Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which resides right there in the work and not in some presumed cultural background.

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