Monday, October 2, 2017

Rocktober: The Hanging Gardens Of Hell

What I would come to name The Hanging Gardens of Hell coalesced into a story around a year ago from loose elements hanging around my notes. I combined these elements with a setting I'd created at the end of 2014, hoping to create a story that would introduce that setting and its characters. Last February I started a novella, running completely out of energy after around 11,000 words when my outline stopped supporting me. Ideally I should have re-outlined and continued. We'll see if I can pick up better habits this time.

In this post I'll summarize the story as I have planned it so far. Later posts will get into the outlining and restructuring process.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Rocktober: Live Outlining Project

I am not an intuitive writer. I can't start with a blank page and watch it take me through a novel. My imagination works in dream-logic, with poor illustrations and few words. Concepts and structure come to me more easily than personalities and relationships; the natural form of my storytelling is summary.

That's not to say that my writing can't take me in unexpected directions. It usually does. That's where I stop because the ramifications of those new directions are varied and interesting and I don't have the brainpower to work those out in real time.

The best compromise I've worked out is to outline in advance, to feel out my story as comprehensively as I can, to know how things are going to happen so I can riff off of that.

For the next month leading up to NaNoWriMo I'll be exploring my most advanced work in progress, a piece currently titled The Hanging Gardens of Hell. It's part of what I plan to be an ongoing setting, and was originally meant to be a novella, but from my first attempt at it in February it's obvious that it needs a higher word count.

This live outlining will be partly me thinking out loud, developing these ideas, connecting themes, building characters. It will contain spoilers. The ultimate goal will be for aspiring writers to have something to look at, a window into how I approach the writing process.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Literature For Heroes By Romantics

I wouldn't call it an inferiority complex, it's not something that's on my mind much, more an itching kind of curiosity that I've been reading the wrong books all along. See, I'm a smart guy, and that's not a moral judgment, just an observation that I was one of those eight-year-olds who thought he was hot stuff because he'd read Hitchhiker's Guide, and so there's a part of my identity based on being more literate, more aware than my peers.

As I've grown truly more aware I've had occasions to worry that I should have been reading Serious Novels like precocious kids in my genre novels. There's an idea rattling around in the back of my mind that I am to true Novel Readers as Baenkiddies and xianxia fans are to me, that by generally restricting myself to genre I'm cutting myself off from a world of beautiful truth, just because the few Novels I've read have been boring and slow.

I've never taken the time to test it, though. I have a few recommendations stored away for Novels that match one part or another of my experience or philosophy, but in general I just read genre, and not Serious Genre like Atwood either, the last few books I've read were Poul Anderson's Fire Time and the two translated Rocket Girls novels. I'm not likely to be mistaken for an excessively literate person like this.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Showing vs Telling vs Presenting

One book that's recently made its way to my hands is a book on criticism called The Rhetoric of Fiction, by Wayne C. Booth, and while it takes for granted a knowledge of Important Novels that this poor genre peasant just doesn't have, I've been able to glean some insights anyway.

Mr. Booth begins with a discussion of showing and telling, which has trickled down to our ghetto as a parody of itself, Show Good Tell Bad, and can be occasionally seen used as an attempted panacea for bad writing. Apparently it's a relatively new concept, about a hundred years in common use, and it was pushed dogmatically by the early Modernists until it's all we've got now, it's weird to read books where the author addresses us. Feels archaic.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

PulpRev: Oda Nobuna no Yabou

There's a narrative in modern anime criticism that we're currently in a dark age, after the shock of the real estate bubble and a later, smaller crash in the anime market in general ended the days of high-budget, high-violence OVAs and 200-episode fantasy series, all lovingly rendered with hand-drawn backgrounds and three-toned faces. What's left are cashgrabs for the disgusting tasteless otaku who are willing to put money down for those shows that pander specifically to them, which are stereotypically cheap, ugly, and focus more on cute girls doing cute/sexy things than manly men doing manly things, as was common in days of old.

A commonly cited example is 2012's Oda Nobuna no Yabou. It looks like a perfect example of what's wrong with the world: The premise has a modern transported to the Sengoku era to find famous figures of the era transformed into cute girls. If you go no farther than the poster in forming your expectations, you might expect harem antics, boring and sidelined action, dirty jokes that fall flat, the protag walks in on a girl in the bath and gets slapped, a twelve-episode nothingburger that leaves a nasty taste in your brain if you push through it hoping for something good.

That description does not apply to Oda Nobuna no Yabou.

Monday, May 1, 2017

1000x1000 Challenge

I am going to write one thousand short stories of close to one thousand words each. This will produce around a million words and will take some time. Respond in the comments or in social media with pithy ideas and I will write stories based on those.

Note: This is an old version of this page. Go here for the current version.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Seasonal Anime Dropping Party: Spring 2017

My quadriannual ritual where I give new anime the three-scene rule.

Apparently it's a card game anime or something.

The OP sucks, and the OP is the only reason to watch this.

Lots of lights and sounds. A girly friendship or something. I don't care.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

William Carlos Williams, with punctuation added and line breaks removed

According to Brueghel, when Icarus fell it was spring. A farmer was ploughing his field. The whole pageantry of the year was awake, tingling, near the edge of the sea, concerned with itself, sweating in the sun that melted the wings’ wax. Unsignificantly off the coast there was a splash, quite unnoticed; this was Icarus drowning.

So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens.

I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox, and which you were probably saving for breakfast. Forgive me. They were delicious, so sweet and so cold.

A stand of people by an open grave underneath the heavy leaves celebrates the cut and fill for the new road, where a man on his knees reaps a basketful of matted grasses for his goats.

It was an icy day. We buried the cat, then took her box and set match it it in the back yard. Those fleas that escaped earth and fire died by the cold.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Undated poem, recovered from an old water-damaged notebook (poss. Oct-Nov 2011)

King Arthur's prophet Merlin
Once moved backwards in time, as we
once met the prophets' King
Met him backwards, first the stern,
Red, Terrible Redeemer
As he dons the robes of Armageddon
Overwhelming and swift, next
Meet the Lord in glory returning keys
Last powers and strength
Then watch the Lord withdraw
And from a distance steal your toil
Shoulder your burdens, lift your labors
Exalt you quietly. But the promise said,
Fire, and water, and the Spirit, as
miracles become commonplace
a freshly resurrected Lord
closely guides his apostles' acts
move quick, step fast, of course
this time would come
the grove's ahead
now walk softly, past sleeping apostles,
to Judgment Day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

N-Words: When Your Metaphor Gets Away From You

Writing parables is a tricky business. No metaphor can survive intense scrutiny; if it could it wouldn't be a metaphor. When you do write parables it's good to write parables that don't undermine your point.

As part of an ongoing quest to locate a very strange short story I read in 2012 I've been getting my hands on various contemporary SFF short story collections. A story titled "N-Words," by Ted Kosmatka, caught my eye; I found it in Hartwell and Cramer's Year's Best SF 14.

It's told mainly in flashback, beginning with a funeral surrounded by protesters, cast from the Westboro Baptist division of the Straw Christian Agency. The narrator's sister wonders aloud what kind of people could do this sort of thing, and the narrator thinks to herself that you'd be surprised. This is a story about racism, and stories about racism are never about obvious racism. Kosmatka wants to make a point about real-life racism. This is important.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Short Fiction: Frontier Economics

"I don't like it," said Big Jim, and he took a swig. "We didn't move out here to smith. We moved here to get rich."

"Mind the liquor," said Mack. He made another swipe with his threadbare broom. He could almost see the floor now. "We need at least a finger to trade for laundry."

"We could have made more money smithin' in Cairo," Jim continued, with another deep gulp of whiskey. "We could have saved up. And bought some gold."

Mack scratched at the dirt with a fingernail. "You just need to be patient," he said. "Sure, we don't have much of a plot, but we've got something, don't we? The mayor's gonna give plots to as many folks as show up until the river's full, just the same as ours, and there's gonna be plenty of smithing work then. We'll get half the gold that comes out of that river, you just wait."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017



This book has drama attached, and it's pretty funny, latest rundown on it here. It's a parody of a book that was actually published the day before its subject, thrown together in a hurry more to show off the mobility of Castalia House's Kindle-first strategy than to poke fun at any aspect of Scalzi's new series. It's not a parody of The Collapsing Empire, it's a parody of Tor, who gave millions of dollars to an author to get, over a year behind schedule, a parody of a much older book.

In that respect it's great, just great. It's a sign of a healthy market, feuding companies playing pranks. It lets you know there's a human in charge. The issue, though, for someone wanting to spend their time in a book is is it good?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Trial of Daddy Warpig

SCENE: A gray morning in Paris. Smoke rises from the wreckage of the Bastille and the Governor’s palace. A COURT has been set up in the main plaza, with planks set on barrels forming the benches. To the side a guillotine has been erected, by which an EXECUTIONER glowers. Surrounding is a horde of angry PEASANTS in rustic, picturesque clothing, clutching farm tools. At the center of the court, sitting on a fine velvet chair raised on a platform of cobblestones, sits the JUDGE, played by Jesse Lucas in a powdered wig. To the JUDGE’S left sits the DEFENSE ATTORNEY, played by JESSE LUCAS in a ragged officer’s uniform, chewing on a licorice-filled cheroot. To the right sits the PROSECUTOR, a disheveled aristocrat with an off-centered ascot, also played by JESSE LUCAS.


BAILIFF: Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! May it please the Court and the Revolutionary Council that charges are to be brought against one DADDY WARPIG, also known as JASYN JONES, that said Mr. WARPIG has engaged in acts of treason against the Pulp Revolution, by knowingly and in violation of honored statute engaging in foul practices of declaring those who are having fun to be wrong, and by leading the public to believe that such are the acts of true Pulp Revolutionaries, by repeatedly and wrongfully declaring hard science fiction and its readers and proponents to be enemies of the revolution, thus casting out the very fans the Revolution was engendered to protect. Mr. 

PROSECUTOR, do you recognize these charges as those you are sworn to determine the truth of, before the JUDGE, the PEOPLE, the STATE, and ALMIGHTY GOD?

PROSECUTOR, closing a hand mirror: I do.

BAILIFF: And you, the DEFENSE, do you also recognize these charges on the same terms?

DEFENSE, sighing: Yes.

BAILIFF: Mr. WARPIG, how do you plea?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Night underfoot
Back creased, mouth dry
Clouds part, sun breaks
Won't stop

Overhead glory
Inferior are right and left
This temple is motion
This frame shifts

Madness writ gold
I speak with the tongue of holy men
My dust is the dust of ages
Worship crawls my skin

Afterward, fades
Crunch of gravel
Whistle of wind
Road, again, road

Day ends
Sun breaks, clouds close
Mouth creased, eyes dry;
King's progress.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Stalin in the Soul

In light of the pernicious fiction that science fiction started with Mary Shelley and proceeded to oppress women until Ursula K. Le Guin, it's fitting that Le Guin is herself a prolific essayist, giving us eyes into the pseudogenesis of SFF in the 60s-70s. The collection The Language of the Night has essays that show Le Guin getting it in ways no one else has - "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" is the best explication of Fairyland from anyone not an Inkling - as well as laughably boneheaded mistakes ("Why Are Americans Afraid Of Dragons?").

What's most relevant to Pulprev (aside from "Poughkeepsie," which everyone who wants to write fantasy should read) are her observations on the state of SFF and what she wanted to happen to it. "The Stalin in the Soul," dated 1973-77 with snarky footnotes from 1989, highlights both her naming sense and the irony that Stalin isn't persona non grata in her circles anymore.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Why The Ender's Game Movie Failed

Somebody just read that and thought, "it didn't fail, I liked it!" They're probably coming up with reasons it was a good movie to try to prove me wrong, but they know there's just something off about it that they can't put their fingers on.

Let me help you with that. The novel was not a middling-good novel that barely broke even. It was a phenomenon. It's in every school library. It was put on military required reading lists. It won the double crown of Hugo and Nebula when those meant something the year it was released and shines so bright it overpowers everything else Orson Scott Card wrote, including its also double-crowned sequel. Fans were reading it and saying, "now this should be a movie" and putting it on top of their personal this-should-be-a-movie lists since it was released in 1986. To put that in perspective it's way older than me. And I'm an old man.

This is a AAA+ story. It was in development hell for so long some people said it was unfilmable. Maybe it is. I've got some ideas about it though.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tokyo Ravens

Came across an article recently about the fall of Japan's Dragon Magazine from a trend-setting training camp for classics to a trend-following generic fiction magazine. I won't try to contest the main point, because I don't really know much about Japanese publishing, but I generally come out against what I see as nostalgic chauvinism in anime, which Mr. Cowan (who's giving up social media for Lent, so I guess this will be a spread-out conversation) uses to shore up that point.

Basically, if I may, he brings up a list of absolute legends - Slayers, Patlabor - incubated in Dragon Magazine, and then a list of duds that have gone nowhere that they're currently running. My contention is on the process of legend creation, and how much bearing that has on the quality of the original work. In particular, he mentions Oda Nobuna no Yabou and Tokyo Ravens, which I absolutely loved.

I firmly believe that both of these could have been legends if they had had Slayers resources poured into them. Oda Nobuna, while somewhat leaden and cliche-bound in print, was adapted by the fiery Kumazawa Yuuji and Madhouse Studios into a high-energy stampede through a color-bursting Sengoku period with enough manly men, cliffhangers, death-defying heroics, and real conversations about the morality of changing history to put it up there with the greats Cowan mentioned, if it hadn't been intended as a thirteen-episode light novel advertisement. And Tokyo Ravens, well, that's the sort of story that's so great even when it's not being great that I can't help but gush about it, so I will.

Transfigurism: Explanation and Response

Some time ago I published an emotion piece on transhumanism, passion in religion, and the lack of fire I felt from the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Much to my surprise, as I am not a popular blogger, I was contacted by two members of that society. Its founder, Lincoln Cannon, held a conversation with me via Twitter, and its current president, Carl Youngblood, left a comment. I found that not only had I failed to coherently express my feelings about those three subjects, I had underestimated the ideological distance between myself and the MTA.

I'm going to post some of their comments directly, attempt to express their beliefs as if they were my own, and then respond with, I hope, a more logical declaration of my thoughts on this matter.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sword and Flower by Rawle Nyanzi

So. Right. Sword and Flower by Rawle Nyanzi. Rawle's a dedicated fan who seems to be coming to to the Pulp Revanchist movement from the 90s anime/D&D side of things, I see him on Twitter a lot, and now he's published a novella that has good claim to be the first direct literary output of Pulprev as such, not something backclaimed even with as much authority to do so as Jon Mollison.

If Mollison is Pulprev's kindly wizard figure, Rawle is its young protagonist. You'd especially think so if you look at S&F's Amazon reviews. They're all about his growth potential. I'm not going to talk about his growth potential, confirm or deny, I'm going to talk about his book, as she stands, and also about the movement some.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Wyrm's Bane by John Mollison
My good friend Jon Mollison seems to be some kind of kindly godfather to the PulpRev movement. He writes encouraging reviews for new authors, records audiobooks for Castalia, and does a lot of reading on his own - he once told me that if the big publishers were doing their jobs, he'd be content with just being a fan.

He's not just a fan, though, he's published a series of four loosely-linked dragon-themed novellas that are now bundled with an extra short story from the dragon's perspective as Five Dragons. I picked "Wyrm's Bane," the second story from that collection, to review for the 3/3 challenge.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Weird Western: Fangs of the Dragon by David J. West

 I don't know much about David J. West. We follow each other on Twitter and he posts on the Castalia House blog, so I guess he's one of us. Out of the three author's I'm reading for the three for three challenge he seems like the one who needs the least help, as this novella and his novel, Scavengers, are pretty highly ranked in the Western Horror section of the Kindle store. Maybe that just means there isn't much Western Horror, I don't know, if so that's a good section to write for, but it's no stretch at all to believe that people just like his stuff and pass it on.

"Fangs of the Dragon" is a Porter Rockwell story. If you're not familiar with Porter Rockwell he was a gunslinging Samson figure in the early days of Utah settlement. You can look him up, he's real, but this novella is a decent introduction to him. It's a nicely structured story of Porter coming to a frontier town to deal with a lake monster, with refreshingly straightforward twists and turns after it. It's 54 pages as Kindle sees them, so it's not a long read. It was previously published in the Monsters and Mormons anthology, but I didn't really get into that one.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Edge of the World by Michael Swanwick

We did a lot of reading when I was growing up. If we had grown up on the set of a movie about precocious children we would have been reading classics to each other, referencing lines the audience would be able to pat themselves on the back for remembering, but I have to admit that a lot of what we read was pretty generic, all things considered, and while the Fantasy and Science Fiction shelves of the public libraries in the Kansas towns of Augusta and El Dorado held great treasures of wonder, there were greater treasures that I missed¹.

One library book, and I can see the bunk bed I read it on right now thinking of it, was called "Full Spectrum 2." There was another Full Spectrum close by but I don't think it hit me as hard. Two stories especially landed in my mind with such power that they still make their way to the front. One was about an RPG group (something we would have had if we had grown up on the set of a movie about precocious children in the 90s) that used drugs to hallucinate their sessions, and an Asian domestic servant who used their drug to astrally project instead; the other was about some Cold War Army brats and a bottomless cliff.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

FeNoWriMo: A Retrospective

So I can't write 30,000 words in a week, even if I clear my schedule.


I made over a third of that target, a longer narrative than I've ever completed before. And this is Jesse Lucas copy, just excellent stuff, you're going to love it. It will be completed and it will be completed soon, this I promise.