Regarding the World Fantasy Award Trophy

21 01 2016

3c43442056baceb7b53780c4

I’ve just worked up the nerve to express something that’s been boiling.

I believed the trophy needed to be changed decades ago. Why?

Four reasons.
1. My reaction on seeing it as a teenager: “This is the goddamn ugliest award.” It is as hideous a piece of ’70’s kitsch that ever graced a flea market discount bin. How stoned was the awards committee when they approved it? Don’t care that Gahan Wilson was the designer. It looks like strangulation sprayed with chrome paint.
2. No one person should be identified with an abstract. “J.C. Campbell Award for Best New Writer of Fantasy”? Sure, that’s specific. No problem. The World Fantasy Award is supposed to reflect All Of Fantasy in the Entire World. What face could possibly mean that to even a majority of people? Tolkien? Even if we put J.R.R. Tolkien’s head on the award, it makes the award too European for the “Entire World” award. The Stoker Award is a spooky tomb-house. The Nebula is a beautiful lucite nebula. The Hugo is a plastic bullet-shaped rocket. Make WFA award a big dragon or sword.
3. Lovecraft had only a marginal effect on fantasy, because he was a horror writer.
4. Look at it. It is the ugliest damn thing I’ve ever seen, much less wanted to win.

Some want to replace Lovecraft with Octavia Butler’s head. Do not do this! How badly will that sculpture be botched? What conversation will will be huffing over fifty years from now due to either Butler’s shortcomings or the change in values?





Hero’s Journey and The Plot To Romance Stories…Now In Handy Charts!

24 09 2015

I do not own or take credit for these handy reference tools. I was a sap and did not note from where I had downloaded them. But these are quite useful for those who wish to do the Epic Fantasy or to do the Romance Plot in their books. Myself, I am going back to the first novel I wrote (tried to self-publish before Smashwords or Amazon Publishing was available; expensive and frustrating. Then I tried to outsmart the market by using a distinctive cover that was black-and-white with a complex pen-and-ink portrait. This is how I learned I CANNOT OUTSMART THINGS.).

Hero's Journey

Romance Plot

 

 

 





At this moment, I am so glad I write Horror instead of messing with the Hugos.

17 06 2015

Good friends of mine are distraught about the Hugos, about the impending Tor boycott, about the whole philosophical bru-ha-ha in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. If you don’t know about what bru-ha-ha, just google “Sad Puppies” and lose a day in the internet getting caught up.

I have friends who have published or are about to publish with Tor. I hope they are not taking the boycott seriously. The boycott will come, it will go, and the loss will be notable but not lethal. The only threat to Tor’s bottom-line is the publisher having to recoup the multi-million dollar bet they placed on John Scalzi instead of bringing in new writers with new followings.

One side is organized around progressive politics, the other traditional politics. Fans and writers of the first side have received prejudice and abuse for their beliefs at conventions, in forums, and in life in general. The other has too. Generally speaking, each side believes their injuries are the worse of the two and the other side is trying to destroy civilization. Each side believes the other is restricting access to publishers and awards.

Both sides have notable authors and media people in support. Both sides have people who tell of their own experiences with prejudice, even death threats, from believers of the other sides values.

Awards and organizations are cliquish. Here is something I devoutly believe:
In any organization, the boldest and rudest will rule. Periodic elections are supposed to insure responsiveness to need. Until the political organizations become meritocracies, which can be gamed until they stagnate.

I can name a few stories that won Hugos and Nebulas purely because of the writer’s name and reputation; they must have because IMO those stories were pure crap. Ask me and I’ll tell you which ones. Everyone can do that with some story or another that has won a prize. There’re folks who must think something I’ve written is crap. That’s how it is when someone has a mind.

Why not Horror? Does the Horror Writers of America have this problem of politics? I have not noticed. What I have noted is that horror writers tend to avoid discussing politics and keep to making that dollar. Horror writers tend to be cut-throat only in promoting their work. They don’t even tear each other down.

Two reasons for this: 1) insularity: today’s annoying hack is tomorrow’s editor of that anthology you really want to get in. That and there’s lots of fan overlap. Readers of Edward Lee will also read Catherine Valente if the story’s good.
2) WE HAVE VERY FEW MFA DEGREES. Despite Ellen Datlow bringing major mainstream writers like Joyce Carol Oates into the fold, there are very few purveyors of fringe experimental prose and thought in Horror. Yes, there’s Kelly Link and Llyvia Llewellyn, but for every one of the more abstract writer, there are two writers like the Lansdales or F. Paul Wilson. Academics bring academia and deconstruction and the yearning for theory-of-a-better-world-made-flesh.

There are more experimental venues I have a slim-to-none chance of getting into (Nightmare Magazine, for example). But I’ve also read stories I’ve considered truly satisfying in those venues, so I do not feel excluded from them.

Science Fiction bills itself as the literature of the future. Fantasy bears the weight of civilizations past and the magic we yearn to be. Horror wants to scare you and make a dollar.

(The Lovecraft Statue, Tim! They want to change the World Fantasy Award Lovecraft Statue! That statue is the ugliest damn thing I’ve ever wanted to win. Compare that controversy to the Hugos. Big whoop.)

As for HWA, I recognize the officers but have little idea of the organizational workings. Readers vote on the Stokers. Whoever brings more to the balloting wins. The Jacksons have a panel that decides upon a voting jury. I could see problems there, but the Jackson Trust runs it, so it’s theirs to do what they will.

Have gay people felt oppressed at horror conventions? Have ardent Evangelists felt dissuaded from expressing their faith? I’m sure they have. That’s people, folks. Generally, people suck.

There has been some good in all of this. As a writer of Horror, some truly terrible things have come out of various closets that are both appalling and good fodder.

I’ve been following the major players in all of this for years. Items expressed on the sites seem to be core issues referred to over and over that supporrated (sp?) into the rot now erupting this week. These are the questions that the Hugos, the Puppies, the SFWA, and all SF&F fans need to ask and resolve to have peace and quiet:

Why are Marion Zimmer Bradley and her husband known for being child-molesters (look it up) and still permitted to keep their awards? WTF SFWA? Every inconsistency interferes with an institution’s credibility and growth.

How can an industry get more people to use its products without changing the existing environment? More buyers are good, so attitudes must be more open to that change, right Hugos?

How can SF&F experience the growth seen in Romance writing?

How can existing organizations of experienced writers maintain quality while encouraging expression in that growing market?

Because Horror doesn’t seem to have these problems. The growth is there, but it seems to be manageable. The support is there without having the death threats from opposing philosophies.

I’m glad I write horror.





Writing Advice from Poe: So, yeah.

3 06 2015

We all know Edgar Allen Poe invented the modern short story structure, the mystery story, the detective procedural, and also knew how to break the rules and still make great tales.

Open Culture opens a warehouse filled with artful advice, prompts, news, and obscurities.

Here is an article sharing writing advice from Poe.





Obscure Monsters From Folklore: This is such a cool article!

28 05 2015

What’s the most obscure folklore creature you know? That Asian vampire floating-head-with-the guts-hanging? The Icelandic Frozen Baby Chest Crusher? Electric Literature has several severals of little known creatures. This is a great website for any writing in any genre.





Conventions for Writers: Are They Worth It?

26 05 2015

This past Memorial Day weekend, I attended ConQuesT in Kansas City. It was my fourth such visit and it was by far the best con experience I’ve had so far. How did I make that happen? Well, I’ll tell you.

Confluence of Efforts: My novel was out this time and on the table to be sold. And it sold five copies. People liked the texture of the cover stock (no foolin’. It made a difference!). Folks nodded and made DeNiro face at the “Preliminary Ballot of the Stokers.” The back copy and blurbs made people stare and wonder if they could risk reading such a well-received thriller.

So writers: Have your ad copy up to professional standards.

Surrounded By Help: The book sold at the table of my publisher, Noble Fusion Press. My publisher laid out a professional presentation with other authors of note like Lawrence Schoen, who has a Hugo nomination and two Nebula nominations, one Neb nom for his current offering on the table right beside my book.

Writers: You cannot do it all yourself. Find like-minded people like writers groups and coordinate your efforts and skills.

MAGIC ATTENTION-GRABBING WORD: Yes, there is a magic word that will pull in passers-by. No, not that one. Or that one. The word is “chocolate.”
I crooned, “Cho-co-la-a-ate.” I held a gem of Dove Bite aloft between my fingers. The passersby swayed to the siren call, then succumbed.

Writers: Offer chocolate. Good stuff. Quality chocolate means you respect your audience.

Volunteer for Panel Discussions: Concentrate on your areas of obvious expertise. If you contact early and offer to panel, the committee may solicit you for ideas for panels. If you don’t feel comfortable in front of people, offer to help the con committee in setting up. Either way, you meet people who do what you do and want to help you do it better.

Socialize: After programming parties are swell. Even the tipsy people act like grown-ups. Go to the hotel bar and look for a familiar face: “Hey, I really liked your panel…” or even say “Hi, I’m new here. How’s your day been?” Don’t try to sell. Just meet people. Everything is about people.

What did I get from the convention? Lovely face-to-face time with my publisher. Meeting another small press publisher. A regaining of confidence. Encouragement on two novels I will now write proposals for. A possible novel collaboration. A whole bunch of people who will remember my name and think “chocolate” and “nice guy who wasn’t pushy”.

It is a small foundation but it is solid and ready to be built upon.





In Kansas City For ConQuest!

19 05 2015

Here is my agenda:
Friday 5:00 PM Is It REALLY Gothic? (M)
Friday 10:00 PM Body Horror: The Last Ewwww (M)
Saturday 10:00 AM Story in a bag
Saturday 12:00 PM Story in a bag
Saturday 4:00 PM NobleFusion Press Showcase: Readings and More

“Story In A Bag” is a writing session, improvising a story based on a prompt drawn from a bag.
“NobleFusion” showcase is me doing a reading along with other writers in my group. I’ll read from “The Flesh Sutra”.





A Sympathetic Victim: What I Learned from “Unfriended” and “It Follows”

17 04 2015

How do you generate sympathy for your characters? Two movies offer an object lesson.
I watched “Unfriended” and “It Follows” over the last few weekends. Both movies deal with the perils of teen relationships and sexuality using rather rote horror tropes. How the movies differ hinges on culpability and betrayal, and their different treatments of teen community.
“Unfriended” is just as you see in the commercials. A high school girl is drunk-shamed on YouTube which makes her decide to commit suicide. A year later, the girl’s friends are visited during an online chat by the dead girl’s ghost.
“It Follows” features a distillation of all ’80’s slasher monsters: an implacable, mute, supernatural murderer visible only to its prey. The creature is a curse passed through sexual intercourse, making someone truly and well-fucked if caught by the monster.
In “Unfriended”, the ghost reveals the betrayals hidden among a group of friends. “It Follows” shows a group of friends rallying to help a girl being followed by “It”.
The basic difference between the two is that we want the contemporary kids in “Unfriended” to get their comeuppance. They make catty remarks about each other, speak ill of the dead girl, and indulge in lots of booze, drug-dealing, and sex. The kids in “It Follows” live in a more romantic, surreal world. Their suburb is 1960s generic ranch housing with 1980s vehicles parked out front, and their pockets filled with cellphones and e-readers. That romanticism plays out in the kids personalities. They hangout on each others lawns, chide each other gently, even apologize at offense.
It’s said that to make a character sympathetic, give the character a pet. In these movies, I saw that a supportive family made the kids in “It Follows” seem kinder, even more kid-like as parents and cops swoop in to handle break-ins, accidents, and deaths. Aside from an ignored yapping dog, there are no other signs of life or love in “Unfriended.”
So, getting along with others, having others care, and having a pet will get the audience’s sympathy?
Not quite. “Unfriended” is much like “Tales From The Crypt” in that the kids are transgressors (two of the boys are criminals) being forced to own up to their betrayal of their friend. “It Follows” has a group of who are protecting one of their own by passing that curse to someone outside of their social circle.
Depending on how a writer would resolve either situation, either group could be heroes or villains. The ghost wants regret. Does the Final Girl take responsibility for her actions? The monster seems unstoppable. Does that Final Girl contain it to keep society safe?
The assumption of responsibility creates sympathy. Keeping wits and guile creates sympathy. If the characters already have gained sympathy, their failure would heighten their humanity.
Hi Horror! How ya doin’?
So bravery, compassion, and mature responsibility aid in creating sympathy.
I’m glad I thought this out. I found this useful for upcoming projects.
By the way, go see “It Follows”. Its clever, artful, and its soundtrack kicks ass. Wait for “Unfriended” on a small screen. You’ll save money and the movie will actually improve when watched through your computer.





Who Wants Your Fiction? Be Sincere With Yourself.

28 01 2015

For beginning writers, I cannot say loud enough or enough times: read the publications. All of them. Including Cat Fancy.

It also goes for published, aspiring professional writers. Read all the professional level publications. Not all the way through; just enough to know what their editors are looking for.

Everyone else says this, too.

I don’t recall ever being told what I’m about to tell you.

First, here’s what I learned and how I learned it.
I was tempted for years to go out and conquer all the pro level publications. If I am a professional, I figured, I should be able to published anywhere. So many big names seem to swagger from ToCs of “F&SF” to dark erotic anthologies to cute YA publications! Surely that flexibility is a hallmark of the true writer.
Such things are not working for me.
There are publications I would not read for fun. There are publications which I find to be holy shrines where I slap myself in the forehead and say “Oh God, what is this?” Plots where little seems to happen, or are lists broken by typesetting and layout, or blatantly not in their professed genre.
Many times I thought “Ha! The style of this pub is such piddling stuff! I can write a story and show them up!”
Don’t do it! Don’t! I wasted so much time doing this.
While spite has gotten me out of bed more times than I can count, I can only write what I want to read.
I found through enough rejection letters and workshop crits that if I didn’t like writing the story, no one will like reading it.
The first ten years of writing for me was not only finding my style, but also finding my audience, then becoming comfortable with the results of that style.
You will find an editor who will respond to what you write and give you advice. Keep sending to that editor. If that editor buys what you write, keep sending to that editor. Do not bother to send to others just to see if you can “get in”.
Learning to write publishable work means finding what you like to write, the ways to write it, and what rules you can break to create your own style. It also means finding the venues which best suit your style.

So: Finding your editors will be just as important as learning how to seize attention with your opening line.





I Have A Goal & It’s Boss & Challenging!

26 09 2014

It is said among the writers that one could make a living if one has ten novels in print.
I’ve done research and found writers who have made that work.
Why them and not me?
I will write six novels in the next three years. Each novel will be from 50K – 80K words. So, a half million words in the next three years.
I am outlining three novels right now. I’ll let you know how they are going.

Novel 1: Haunted House Big Box Store
The alienation found in haunted house stories like “The Haunting of Hill House” can also be generated through anomie, or being lost in a crowd. I already have jokes in here. I will be using experiences gained through my part-time job at the Big Box store.

Novel 2: Real Politik Black Satire Fantasy Fiction
Set in the world of “The Mad Earl’s Homecoming”. The main character is an anti-hero who is part Elric and part Blackadder.

Novel 3: “Sour Crude Dead”
A new take on post-apocalypse zombies. The first chapter is done and I hope to sell it as a short story.








%d bloggers like this: