Spawn of Mars
Don't worry. If you like your religion, you can keep your religion.
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.
Peekaboo
Added to the Library at Speculative Faith
Sunday, January 15, 2017 2:25 pm
My book The Giant's Walk has been added to the library at Speculative Faith. Click here. For the time being, at least, my book is also showing up (with others) on their front page. I invited myself to their library, but they have been kind enough to let me in. Thank you, Speculative Faith.
Do It Again, Do It Again!
Who Doesn't Like a Series?
Wednesday, January 4, 2017 1:45 pm
There's a lot of advice regarding self-publishing. Much of it involves leveraging Facebook or Twitter or writers' conferences and forums; networking, as it were. I am incompetent at networking. I am generally incompetent at peopling. But one bit of advice I can take is to create a series.

I tend not to make separate works that involve the same characters or worlds. I did write several short stories involving Pugnacious Footefake, but those together barely constitute a single book. The idea, rather, is to offer several related books. 

It makes sense. A series encourages the reader to buy another book. A series makes the author's back-catalog attractive. A series creates fans. People like series. I myself, as a reader, like series.

Give the people what they want!

Creating a series would, in my case, be a particularly good discipline. If you look at my books as a collection, you can see that eclectic is the charitable description. I am not in any niche; not really. It's the strange reader who, having enjoyed The Spare Midge, would be attracted to Sideways of the Earth. A series at least creates its own niche.

Fortunately, I have a rich idea for a certain world and a beginning trilogy. And so, perhaps, rather than finish yet another eccentric novel like The Giant's Walk, I should devote myself to creating a series.

Yes. I think I will.

How Quaint Your Tale!
Already a Period Piece?
Sunday, January 1, 2017 1:29 pm
"Aggressively self-promoting" does not describe me. I have made a few bold moves in my writing career (one of which paid off), but I have never been guilty of dogged legwork on my own behalf. My works therefore tend to age, unread.

I have recently retired from my day job. I am still young enough (and not in the self-delusional sense of 60-is-the-new-40) that I now have more than enough time to work a lot harder at getting myself either noticed or traditionally published.

I thought of trying, yet again, to get Noah, Penny published by someone other than myself. Then I reviewed the story in my mind. I realized that it is dated. No cellphones; no texting; no TV on demand; no internet at all. Not one of the characters — all of them in the eighth grade — makes any reference to social media. And how could they? The book was written in the mid-'90s. 

What's worse, the kids communicate via landlines and — gasp! — notes dropped in lockers and at front doors. No texting through the noosphere. Then there's the discussion of a certain VHS videotape — a thing modern children probably can't even identify.

Well. Okay. Does Noah, Penny have a charm as, perhaps, a period piece? Hardly. In what possible way could the '90s charm anyone? The book is not even touched by any particular cultural markers, as if Kurt Cobain makes an appearance. Perversely, it was written to be timeless and instead it just seems off. "Oh, look, a story about two eighth-graders circa 1995. Um. Why should I care about 1995?"

I've flirted with the idea of upgrading the tech in the book. Hey, I'll just pretend it is set in 2015! But we all know how instant access to the noosphere invalidates a lot of dramatic turns. ("What do you mean you can't find Hansel and Gretel? They've got GPS on their cells, right?") The choices my characters make are not likely to survive the possibility of tweeting.

I'll keep thinking about my options; but Noah, Penny may have missed its chance.

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