Oh yes, please.
The next iteration of cyberpunk-awesomeness is here. The latest installment of the Deus Ex gaming franchise was released yesterday and my bytes are all aflutter.
Immersive world, excellent voice acting, multiple paths/game play methods, RPG elements, deep story line, these are great games, and I mean ‘great’ as in ‘like a good book’. This is far more than a SF-flavored Run n Gun with a dash of grit, cybernetics, and lens flare. These games draw you in, force you to think, make choices, get lost in the story’s implications, complications, and conflicts. As a cyberpunk fan-boy, I’d love to hang out with the creators and writers up in Eidos Montreal for a week to just listen and take notes.
I am resisting the siren call of Mankind Divided because I’ve set aside September to revise the first section of my next novel, Beneath the Broken Moons. But it calls to me from my Steam Cart. Oh how it calls…
Have an excellent day.
Fellow writer types – this is worth a read. Art hard and watch your back.
Scammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial.
An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters.
With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities in the publishing business might be doing as well as Amazon if they also treated books like toasters and attempted to sell the bloody things, but I digress.
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Another ‘Near-Future’ short, The Stones Remember is about NATO units caught up in a massive Russian invasion of Poland and the Baltics. Exhausted, out-gunned, and out numbered, they find themselves at the site of an old battlefield and have to decide if some history is worth repeating.
Available in electronic format right now, it’s a quick, cheap read. (less than a cup of coffee lasts longer) Thanks much. I’m hammering away at two full-length novel projects but wanted to get this out in the meantime. Hope you enjoy it.
Another near-future military action short coming soon. Doing final proof-read now.
Have a good day.
Back to Writing and Fiction because Real Life is so unbelievable right now.
A few years back, William Gibson said he veered away from cyberpunk SF because ‘the future got smashed on the windshield of the present.’ Razor-sharp Gibson-ese. An example of why I admire him.
I think it touches on the geometric progression/proliferation of technology as well as the simultaneous unpredictability and weird deja-vu familiarity of the future. Some dynamics of civilization are moving at a frenetic, methamphetamine-fueled pace while others are as ancient and rooted as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
In an odd twist of futuristic prescience, I see diced and commercialized slices of Pattern Recognition’s virtual art installations in the current Pokemon craze. (Apparently the US military had to advise folks not to wander into Restricted Areas chasing VR anime creatures – a statement I find deeply strange.)
I also notice the gap between my own futuristic imaginings and current events shrinking to quite literally 15 minutes in the future. Point of fact, my current Mil SF/NF short focuses on the remnants of a US Mechanized Infantry company caught up in a massive Russian invasion of the Baltics and Poland, which, if you’ve been following the news, is a thing that might actually happen. Especially after Putin’s shenanigans in Georgia, Estonia, Crimea, the ongoing fight in the Ukraine, and now the massive Russian military build-up in Kaliningrad.
Now I imagined the opening scenes several years ago, mulling over the old ‘Cold War turned Hot’ RPG Twilight 2000. Back then, my speculation was rear view mirror daydreaming. Common sentiment was the Cold War collapsed with the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. Now I’m hammering the story out by the end of the month before it literally becomes old news.
I would prefer to spend my energy on writing, not intense self-examination. There is a synergy, a mystery to making art that is only realized in the doing, not in the debate. I recognize value in discussion, but you can’t pin the process to a board like some specimen of exotic butterfly. It too easily morphs into Delaying Activity. Plus dissection has a tendency to kill its subject.
With that caveat, I confess the inspiration/motivation for this current short story is different. There’s an urgency and not the usual entertaining escapism behind it. I have this odd sense the Sun is shining right now but the wind has shifted. The barometer has dropped. (what Cape Codders call ‘a sea change’) I’m no prophet, but I think something nasty is just over the horizon and we might want to batten down the hatches. Salt that warning to taste. I hope I’m wrong.
In terms of larger fiction projects, once I release this new short, I’ll have to decide whether to pursue the three-part Fantasy novel or the contemporary supernatural thriller, “Dead Saints.” I’m also considering seeking out agent representation for one or both of those novels to publish via a traditional route. It would be nice to be commissioned to write in the same way I’m commissioned to make stained glass windows. All that has been added to my prayers, so we’ll see.
I’ll should have Pre-Release copies of this this short story available soon. If you’re interested in a freebie, let me know.
Thanks much and take care.
FEAR AND LOATHING IN – well, Everywhere.
The Blacks. The Whites. The Spics. The Chinks. The Ragheads. The Jews. The Gays. The Cripples. The Cops. The Liberals. The Republicans…
Toss that stuff you learned in Grade School about being kind, not stereotyping and judging people by their looks or the actions of a few. Forget our common humanity – it’s the era of the ‘Other’ where Partizanship, Polarization, and Contempt are the order of the day.
BBC interviewed a young black man in Dallas who said a common sentiment among protestors was the white cops ‘deserved’ to be shot. WTF?
That makes as much as shooting Alton Sterling or Philando Castile because they’re black.
I’m not suggesting injustice doesn’t need to be addressed swiftly and severely, but it’s like some kind of Stuxnet virus is loose in our society; component parts are being isolated from the whole, stressed to the breaking point, all as inaccurate, dated information keeps it from being fixed correctly. It’s getting out of control and we’re tearing ourselves apart.
Elie Wiesel just died. Not like I have my finger on the pulse of Global Media, but my impression was his passing went strangely unremarked. Did everyone spend their quarterly mourning quota on Muhammad Ali? (It was like that with Mother Theresa/Princess Diana back in the day, IIRC) Scanning news, the net, and social media, I had this weird vertigo sensation. I was unbalanced like gravity changed or tectonic plates shifted.
Seems to me there’s an urgent need right now to bring the lessons of Mr. Wiesel’s life and legacy to the forefront, to remind ourselves of the consequences of the hideous philosophy of dehumanizing the ‘Other’. I’m not strumming ‘Kumbaya’ or glossing serious problems; I’m saying if we don’t smarten up, find common ground, and start working together to fix them, this story won’t have a happy ending.
As Elie Wiesel would tell you.
Side Note: The Stuxnet Documentary ‘Zero Days’ is available as of today. Here’s one place you can watch. Google Play
Short Story “Sozo” Free for Father’s Day.
Starting now through the 19th. At Amazon HERE
Thank you and have a good weekend.
My new Mil SF short is now available at Amazon.
A word of explanation here. I cleaned this short story up and kicked it out the door while I wrestle over my next full-length project. Strictly speaking, Hard Kill is more ’15 minutes in the future’ than science fiction, but its definitely military action.
The story is born from three things: headlines, a trio of current history/political titles, and a gnawing unease. The headlines you know: Afghanistan, Iraq, drone strikes, Snowden, ISIS, Syria, etc. The books are Mark Mazzetti’s ‘The Way of the Knife’, David Rothkopf’s ‘National Insecurity’, and Jeremy Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’. Those books detail the increasingly murky government and military action over the past decade and a half in what has become known as the ‘Global War on Terror’. The unease is mine.
Now the question of the ends justifying the means is as old as it is constant and there isn’t one magic answer. I get that. My concern is in facing this present challenge, our government has consistently answered ‘Yes’ to the point they violate the very principles they seek to defend and preserve. However well-intentioned, it appears that fear, along with institutional myopia, are the underlying currents driving current policy and practice. Equally troubling to me are the sacrifices so many have made- and are still making – to enact these policies.
Now anyone with a sense of history would say ‘Thus has it always been’ which may be true, but is little consolation. I submit history would also show we are capable of learning, albeit slowly. By the grace of God, we are not obliged to repeat our mistakes.
No doubt we are in an ugly, tangled mess. I don’t have an answer – just a need to write about it, founded on the strange, lingering hope we can extricate ourselves.
That’s what Hard Kill is. I hope you take a moment to read it.
And if you’re one of the handful of gracious, patient souls who received an advance copy, would fire off a 4 or 5 sentence review at Amazon so the poor little thing doesn’t enter the world naked?
Thanks much. Have an excellent day.
Been a while here. The last three months have been crammed with work deadlines, disability/health issues, the birth of grandchild number 4, writing-related adjustments, plus the usual Real Life grind, and in all that, writing and blogging were put on the back burner on Low. Real low.
I apologize to any of you who glanced this way for new work or posts. Certainly don’t mean to disappoint folks who are kind enough to spend time here or with my work. Apologies to Dave Alderman in specific: my promised read and review fell off the edge of my world. (There be dragons) It’s next in my reading queue.
I’ve managed to beat back the tangle and started in again. After all, forward is the only direction we’ve got. More stuff coming soon.
I am sincere here, but this was too funny not to post.
Have a good day.
“A prophet gone wrong is almost always more interesting than your grandmother…”
- Flannery O’Connor
Been on the perimeter of yet another round of Believers Brick-Tag, i.e. the “Spec-fiction is a stumbling block/supernatural and,or worldly elements are a grievous offense” discussion, and I feel the need to stake out what seems incredibly obvious yet damnably elusive.
First off, let’s reiterate the distinction between theology and speculative fiction. One is the systematic study of God and religious belief, the other is – by definition – made up stories.
Now I know atheists would say this is true of the Bible itself, but that’s a different discussion. To repeat my mantra: a novel is not a sermon. It’s one of those ‘apples and orangutans’ things, people. Similar raw material (words and ideas) but different modes, different purposes, different content.
You don’t get into an elevator for the music. You shouldn’t look for theology in a dystopian YA novel or an urban fantasy series. I know they make truth-claims and worldview statements either overtly or obliquely. EVERYTHING DOES. You must have heard the phrase ‘spit out the bones’. It’s time to exercise discernment – the same level one employs when selecting kitchen utensils to say, scramble eggs. “Put away the corkscrew and tenderizing mallet.”
If you want Christian theology, read the Bible, church history, and apologetics. Don’t get it from a Wachowski movie or a K-pop hit or a Marvel comic book or a “Left Behind” novel. That’s akin to making life-choices based on fortune cookies. Which would be bad. That some people do in fact cobble belief systems from Star Trek and Pink Floyd, then Quick-Pick their Happy Panda Lucky Numbers constitutes a severe failure in their judgment. (I suspect LSD and alcohol is a factor in such cases)
Second, let’s remember the distinctions between the artist, their art, and their audience. Souls are saved, art is not. Art is a product of a remarkable, mysterious synergy, but it is a construct nonetheless. Painting a night sky means you’ll have to break out a tube of black paint. It doesn’t mean you’re a ‘dark’ individual. Just don’t expect to sell it to folks who are partial to sunrises.
While the call to genuine character, sound thinking, and the fundamentals of Christian doctrine apply to every believer, the vocation of an artist – in this case, writer – is not that of the preacher or theologian. One employs drama, metaphor, allegory, and myth, while the other expounds on biblical spiritual truth and (hopefully) delivers an inspired rhema for a particular time, place, and congregation.
Both engage with the transcendent. Each borrows from the others toolbox. I’m not elevating one over the other- I’m simply noting they approach it from vastly different angles. See the C.S Lewis quote on Reason and Imagination. (Incidentally, doctrine is how we engage with the transcendent – not beat it into submission; directions to the doctor are not the doctor. Dreams about the doctor aren’t either.)
I happen to be a Christian who writes spec-fiction for a non-Christian audience. Part of my obligation before God is to recognize the conventions of the genre and the expectations of my readers. I have to be faithful to those dynamics too, then do the work to the best of my ability. And to echo Dorothy Sayers, work must be good work before it can be God’s work because pious trash is still trash.
Last, let’s distinguish between Realistic and Gratuitous, between being Sensitive and Pandering.
Let’s face it: “Christian gritty” is pretty tame. Many Christian fiction writers try to genuinely honor the conventions of their genres as well as strive for credibility, consistency, and realism, but we don’t come close to reality. Not really.
Not that our gold standard is Triple X Snuff Porn with a dash of Corporate Avarice and Ethnic Cleansing, but it’s worth remembering ‘worldly’ content is taken from the real world – a real world that is definitely not PG-13, that God still loves, hasn’t abandoned, and meets precisely at its shameful, broken, ugly point of need. That’s what the Cross was and Salvation is.
When writing fiction, I’m certainly not for inserting cruel, coarse, or lascivious content for shock or titillation. But realistic themes where and when they’re organic to the characters and story line? Absolutely. It’s mandatory, in fact. Anything less cheapens the work, and strikes me as inherently duplicitous and dishonoring to God.
Now that kind of content may well make some readers uncomfortable. Shock them even, to the point where the alarmist ‘stumbling block’ phrase gets volleyed about loudly and frequently.
Look, I’m all for being sensitive to someone’s weakness or struggles. I’ll refrain if I know someone has a problem. That’s basic human compassion and consideration. But I’m all done pandering to the ‘professional weaker brother’, those tedious brethren who make a habit, a career, a ministry of taking offense, then running around telling everyone. It’s deliberate immaturity, demanding everyone bend down because they refuse to grow up. We’re walking on eggshells while they stomp all over personal convictions, choices, and liberty. I’m going to make a lot of mistakes, but I’m not going to second guess myself into paralysis, mediocrity, and anemia.
Over thirty years as a believer, a majority of them in full or part time ministry of some kind, it’s my experience too many in the church prefer tidy affirmations to hard-edged hope. Christians in any walk of life or vocation have to reject the notion that the call to be ‘in the world but not of it’ translates into a license to be ignorant or insular. The root meaning of “holiness” is not sterile separation but the notion of being set apart for a particular use. We cannot hide from ugly realities or contradictory philosophies (or worse, ridicule, reduce and sanitize them) then think we can be effective in addressing them with any meaningful offer of God’s redemption.
I’ll end with this thought from Harry Dreyfuss, actor Richard Dreyfuss’ son. (Good find, K.C.)
“If you can’t stand to listen to an idea, it does not prove that you oppose it. Refusing to show interest in a different perspective should not serve as a badge of pride in your own ideas. It actually serves the exact opposite function. It proves that you don’t even understand your own opinion. If you can’t understand the argument you disagree with, then you don’t have the right to disagree with it with any authority, nor do you really have a grasp on what your own idea means in its context.” – Harry Dreyfuss
Have a good day, and in the words of Chuck Wendig, “Go forth and art hard.”