Sunday, May 21, 2017

All The News That's Fit To Link

H/t to Jesse at

I just saw the news that Anne R. Dick has passed away. I've meant to read her book to get her side of their crazy marriage.

Also, just saw that the 2017 Nebula Award winners were announced. While I haven't read a single book on the list, I did just hear the Science Fiction Book Review Podcast's review of Yoon Ha Lee's  Ninefox Gambit and am considering adding it to the list of books that I wish I had time to read.

Arrival clearly deserved to take the award for Dramatic Presentation. I'm not sure how Doctor Strange (a.k.a. Tony Stark in a silly cape), was nominated yet The Expanse didn't make the cut.

Among other things I'm a bit behind because I've been working on putting my nearly completed science fiction novel, a nearly completed sequel to The Comeback, and collection of science fiction short stories together. Thank you and much praise to my crack team of Beta Readers for their feedback. Your efforts are most appreciated.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

On the Contempt of a Small Man for Great Art

Recently, an old annoyance came back to visit in the form of yet another clickbait-y whine in a publication that specializes in clickbait-y whining. The whine: "I don't like (X) work of canonical art because it is canon and accepted and I'm a hurt little hipster doggy."

Yes, every so often someone is out of ideas and decides to dump on a classic. I've seen this approach applied to Citizen Kane, the works of Mozart, modern art, and, well, anything that paints a big enough target for some ball-fisted crybaby to crap on. This is how "writers" make a name today, by calling great art "trash."

I'm not going to grant clicks to the whiner or his publisher by adding a link, but the article more or less amounts to a one-star review of The Great Gatsby. If you really want to read his contrarian rant, get thee to Google.

What really got me, however, was that his reason for trashing Gatsby was that there are no likable characters in the book. That he misses the point is to be expected, but what is this whole thing with people demanding that characters be likable? I have seen writing advice from authors, publishers, and pundits suggesting that books have likable characters for some time now and it's a troubling trend pushing cookie-cutter books.

Yes, if you're trying to write a successful escapist series book just like every other successful escapist series book you should have likable characters. I agree. No argument. Publishers love those cash cows.

However, escapist series books are not the only books to be written or the only stories to be told. What, for example, would Breaking Bad, one of the most praised and successful television series of all time, have been if it had been filled with likable characters? Did we still root for those contemptible criminally-flawed jerks Walter White and Jesse Pinkman? Of course. Philip K. Dick spent a career writing about unlikable characters.

The Great Gatsby may not be a likable story, but it is a human story. It's a story that was worth telling and telling well.

Beyond the desire to homogenize fiction, there's a bigger problem with this writing seminar school of thought: It plays to the "us vs. them" divide so dangerously pervasive in our world right now. If we can't find the humanity in Fitzgerald's racist Egg-ers, how will we see the humanity in our flawed fellows? How will we push past the denial that keeps some of "us" believing that they are superior to "them?"

Daisy's crowd and Gatsby's are unlikable, it is true, just as some of us are unlikable. We are a mixed bag, we humans, but the answer is not knee-jerk nationalism or a childish desire for "sameness." It is understanding,  compassion, and acceptance. This is a lesson of great art.

"Great art is the contempt of a great man for small art." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Monday, May 8, 2017

Saturday, April 29, 2017

This Word Gets The Bird

A downside to Facebook's "Memories," or "On This Day," feature is that, like targeted ads, it is incapable of distinguishing between what I want to see and what I don't want. If I look up something for research or bought a gift, I don't want similar items shoved in my face all day.  If I posted something to Facebook because it infuriated me, I don't want to revisit it long after the memory, and my attached ire have subsided.

On the 24th Facebook took me back to 2015 and my first encounter with "humblebrag." The Facebook reminder was my second encounter with this deplorable oxymoron. I'd have been happy to have left it at one.

I get it. Our American English language is rooted in usage, not in rules. That can lead to gems like hate-watch or uttered garbage. Humblebrag, however, had me walking around for days in 2015 muttering it disdainfully under my breath. Here I am again.

Thanks for nothing, Facebook.

What words do you hate? Feel free to share. I promise to hate-read them all.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Nagware Made Me Write This Post

Having been productive in a few aspects of my life lately has me wondering how other authors obsessively tweet and blog on a daily basis (I'm looking at you, @GreatDismal), and still get other writing done. Something has to go, doesn't it?

As I'm writing this there are lists of things waiting for my attention and I've already had a day full of still other things. Honestly, if it wasn't for nagware I wouldn't stick to my weekly-ish updates. This isn't my first blogging rodeo. I know. I know. Updates rule. Slackers drool. I get it, but the time I'm taking away from oh, let's say, writing the stories this thing is meant to promote could also be dedicated to a million, million other things which, most of the time, take priority anyway.

Oh, this under-valued thing we do and the little time we have to do it in.

The Mind Does Strange Things When Stuck in Traffic

The San Diego Freeway is like a desert today.
Dry, dirt-laden air blows hot across lanes of crawling traffic.
Potato chip bags roll like tumbleweeds.

Four more miles to go.

I remember the plight of the pioneers,
and carry on.