Archive for August, 2009

Symbolism and Controversy

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2009 by Jaym Gates

In the wake of a recent post at Fifthwind Forums where I invited controversy about personal opinion and controversy in genre fiction, I’ve been doing some general reading about the opinion of controversial f/sf.

From Jim Minz at SF Signal: Mindmeld, the following quote probably sums up my general opinion about as well as anything I’ve seen.

Certainly, SF has been tackling a number of potentially controversial issues that we as a society are only beginning to explore (e.g.the ethical implications of genetic engineering, which has been the stuff of sf for decades, but has barely begun to be explored legally and ethically on a practical basis), but I don’t see it as controversial. I see it as SF fulfilling its role of exploring ideas, creating fictionalized thought experiments that also entertain. In fact, there isn’t a work mentioned here that I truly consider controversial. Brilliant, inspiring, troubling, or any number of other adjectives, certainly. But I don’t consider them controversial, and that’s the question: What do I consider the most controversial. (No wonder I was unimpressed with “Rent”.)

Yes. Precisely. Although I think that Fantasy has as much of a reason to be exploring controversy too! Gritty themes don’t just belong in Science-Fiction, thankyouverymuch.

Minz:

So perhaps I have the wrong idea. Maybe SF should be all about controversy. How dare we explore ideas. How dare we create new worlds out of our own imagination. Somebody call CNN, we’ve got some freethinkers around here. Isn’t the US government against freethinkers?

Wait a minute, I know: Anybody out there want to introduce me to a cute dragon?

These two genres give the ability to explore anything we damn well want to. Abortion? Civil war? Old religions resurfacing? Stem-cell research? Yes please.

Should a book preach about the author’s opinion? I’d rather not read that thank you. Presented well? All over that!

When I wrote Red Sun, I explored the concept of old gods returning* as real–if diminished–entities, civil war**, and ethics*** in government. It wasn’t proper science-fiction in any form, it wasn’t really fantasy. Firmly speculative, and if I ever get around to rewriting it, possibly the only things remaining will be the themes and a few characters. I botched the writing itself badly, and so it does come across as preachy.

Inherent’s themes are softer, less opinionated. They are certainly still there. In fact, there’s a strong focus on the changing of faith from a female-led spirituality to a male-dominated religion. There’s the idea of *GASP* political and religious leaders taking responsibility for their actions. But it takes a backseat to the story itself.

I haven’t had a chance to read some of the classics of controversial genre yet. That’s the downside of used bookstores, often they don’t have the really great books. I did read Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale and a couple of others, and the themes in them were a welcome change to a bucketload of mindless entertainment.

Commercial fiction is well and good. But true, literary science-fiction and fantasy is all too rare, and I’d personally love to see more.

*I started Red Sun long before I actually got plugged into the worlds of alternative religion. Now it strikes me as amusing, because that is a popular opinion of where we’re headed…Well, popular in conservative religion, which seems to be concerned about the future of every religion but itself.

**And I got the shock of a lifetime when I started seeing the murmurs about civil war rather than a “black, Muslim, socialist president.” Almost as bad as the gas crisis that hit AS I was writing about the first sign of America’s collapse being a fuel crisis.

***Ethics in government? Now, THAT’S fantasy. I should know better.

Villains vs. Catalysts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 28, 2009 by Jaym Gates

In writing Red Sun and Inherent, my biggest struggle was with the villains. I kept creating these great villains, and then falling in love with them.

Red Sun was the worst. I made Alejandro Maduro and Dan Fordon my villains at first. But what fun are a psychopath and a brawler as villains? Been there, done that. So Calvin Playfair became my villain. As I started writing him, he became more and more of a strong character. I liked him, as much as I liked Alejandro and Fordon. Ok, let’s try Taranis as my villain.

Oops, an immortal prince descended from a couple of favorite characters? Yeah right he’s going to be a villain. I still think his story is the most powerful of the characters. In fact, if I rewrite the story, it will probably be from the viewpoint of Alejandro and Taranis.

I finally had to settle on a faceless entity as the villain. Even then I had trouble.

Inherent wasn’t so bad. I only went through falling in love with one villain before I gave up. So she’s still a bit of a villain, but a sympathetic one.

I have a problem with villains, because I automatically try and see the best in everyone. If I don’t like you, there’s probably a pretty strong reason (or else you are an idiot. But that’s not the point). I also have an easier time writing from the point of view of the villain.

Hell, I liked Sauron. I loathed Wormtongue, because he was a weak little traitor, but I actually had some sympathy and interest in Morgoth. Gods help me, if I can like Ultimate Evil, what hope is there? I don’t write morals, I write characters.

And so maybe villains aren’t the end-all-be-all. The concept of hero vs. villain is very past-tense to me, very Christian/Western thought. Usually in life, no one is the hero, no one is the villain. There’s just shades of gray. No, Watchmen had nothing to do with this opinion (well, it solidified the opinion), why do you ask?

Usually in life, there’s a catalyst. An event. For me, it was turning 18 and moving out of my grandparent’s house. There were no real villains involved, just a hell of a lot of opportunities that I’d never have had if I hadn’t moved.

America can’t point to one person for the economic crisis, it was everyone’s fault. But how many people got a springboard in the crisis because they had nothing to lose. Catalysts.

There are evil people. They are fun to write. But I’d like to see the focus of a book be on why the character made those choices, why they are not pure evil. I like villains that I almost want to win.

Anne Bishop’s Belladonna is a great example of this. I hated her villain. It was a force, non-person entity. But she made it understandable, and in the end, she made me feel a little sympathy for the way it was defeated. (In a side-note, there WAS a bit of a cop-out contortionism to get a happily-ever-after out of the story. That kinda annoyed me.)

Villains are people too. Tell their story with as much passion, depth and sympathy as the hero. And remember, it’s not always a single villain, more often it is an event, a catalyst that makes the big changes.

It NEVER Fails

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 28, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I’m supposed to work till 10pm next Thursday and leave at 4am, yes? Yes. So saith the plans.

Best laid plans of mice and men…

My schedule got jacked. So not only am I working until ELEVEN PM, it’s a nine-hour shift. Wait while I whimper please? (I do 9 hours all the time. But not right before I go to a convention, ideally.)

On top of that, we realized that leaving at 4am hits rush-hour traffic in Atlanta. Now I have a grudge against non-rush-hour traffic in Atlanta. So instead of leaving at 4am, we will leave at 2am. Notice something here? Oh yeah, I get home 3 hours before I need to leave again.

Somehow, this strange pattern developed where every big trip/attempted vacation involves at least one all-nighter. This one is worse than most because I won’t be able to catch up even when I get back. So it’s about two weeks of horribly jacked schedule.

Partly because, when I get back (on Monday), I have to go in Tuesday for an overnight construction project at the store. Sleep-cycle? What the hell is THAT?

Oh well. I thrive on challenge, right? Right. I’ll keep telling myself that.

Oh, but I do have the documents now for my press-pass. Nice, official-looking letter from Prime Books authorizing me to cover the event for Fantasy Magazine. Printed off my nice by-lined interview, have photo ID, here’s hoping we’re good. Although, come to think of it, I need to track something else down still too. Right then. Off to do that.

Wastelands: A History of the Breed Empire, Pt. 3

Posted in Guest Blogs, Wastelands with tags , , , , on August 28, 2009 by Jaym Gates

A little late, but here’s the next installment of Wastelands lore!

PART 3: The Fall

Centuries passed, and the Scarab Family kept the Empire united and under a firm control. Much of the progress was through technology, quickly gaining the Empire the position as the most technologically advanced faction on the planet. Programs arose in the fields of space exploration, medicine, fusion and most important to the Empire, blending of magic and technology. This was what allowed the Empire to rise to power in the first place and their understanding of how to do this elevated them even further.

However, population started to become a problem. The size was getting harder and harder to control and keep track of, so The Emperor, Horatio Scarab III, deemed it was time to expand. This would be a full-scale invasion of Central and South America and come to be known as The Tartarus Campaign, due to the level of chaos that took place during it. Virtually every legion was sent into South America to deal with the resistance. What the Empire expected was for something like the Six Months War. An enemy that underestimated them and would fall quickly. What they were in for though was a three year war against an enemy that knew their land and used it to their advantage.

A benefit that the Empire gained though was through a new Supreme Lord Arbiter named Vradeus Gaump. As the new supreme commander of the Imperial Legions, he quickly turned things around late in the second year and by the end of 2426, South America was under the control of the Empire. Most of this was due to the success of Gaump’s tactics and beliefs for a military force. This lead to him writing a book known as The Griffin’s Tome, which detailed numerous tactics, beliefs and philosophical standings that had led the legions to victory.

The next move of The Empire though was more out of spite, due to the chaos the Tartarus Campaign had caused, though there have been scholars arguing about if The Emperor actually made the right choice or not. This was the decision to commit genocide. To utterly annihilate the humans, orcs trolls and elves in North and South America. This was a controversial objective, which soon caused many of the non-hybrids to start fighting back. The small resistance groups that had existed since the beginning found new blood and soon were committing acts of terrorism against their oppressors.

The final nails in the coffin came when the Emperor ordered the nuclear strike on Boston, combined with the revelation of the genetic degregation. In mere centuries, many hybrids now looked stuck between a human and animal shape, where their once ability to shift between a hybrid and human state was one of their greatest advantages. When information about the genetic problems came to light, Gaump made the choice to leave, due to the fact that there had been no results in over a hundred years. He made the information public, and with his departure, several of the Western provinces joined Gaump’s ideals that these facts were not reasonable for the Empire to work. A clash of ideals ruined the Empire and gave birth to a new power that directly opposed them known as The Garadal Republic.

Everything that the first Scarab had worked for and fought to preserve for his own people, was destroyed that day. The provinces of South America became city states while the East and West of North America turned on one another and war came to the Breed. Despite all their advancements and propaganda stating they were superior then the other races, they had fallen to the human side of their nature.

Next time we’ll be back to talking about worldbuilding and other RP elements that make their way into forum-based gaming. That’s all for now!

-Havoc

Innocently Plotting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 26, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Er, planning? Right.

So I was working on my Dragon*Con schedule and noticed something interesting: Browncoats and BSG both have big Shindigs on Saturday night, right around the same time.

Now, not much of a BSG fan here, but I AM a Browncoat, and I WILL be at the Browncoat shindig. And then a nefarious plan popped into my head.

BSG is just begging for a full-scale invasion. I mean, they look like Alliance, right? And it’s all in the spirit of good fun. But holy HELL that could be shiny. Who’s with me?

In other news, I want to die prematurely. I won’t be going to Atlanta Thursday night, like originally planned, but I might as well be. I work until 10pm Thursday. So I’ll be home around 11. Then I have to finish packing. And lord knows I’ll be giddy. Yeah, well I have to BE UP at 4am to drive to Atlanta.

Why? Because I have fond memories of the I-Ching, I really want the chance to drag out an old I-Ching joke, and there’s a panel at, uh, 11:30am on the I-Ching that looks fabulous. Only problem is, I have to register and get my media pass before the panel. So… earlyearlyearly morning.

But here’s a preliminary Dragon*Con schedule for your’s truly.

Friday Panels: I-Ching, Asian Philosophy and Mythology, Tarot Readings (fortuitous timing, since my current story is largely tarot-influenced), a Writer’s Workshop on ‘Rules of Writing’, Writer’s Workshop on World-building, City of Night, Writer’s Workshop on writing Fight Scenes, and the late-night ‘Tattooing in the Eastern World’. I also have Opening Ceremonies to attend. That’s where I’ll be looking for people! I’d love to see anyone who plans to be there.

Saturday: Tapping Your Psychic Potential (as many stories as I write about Witches, might want to know this stuff a bit more…), What Price Immortality (I don’t write many mortal characters…), then I send my mom off to ‘You Say Religion, I Say Magic’ while I run off to ‘Scary Fairytales’, Mom gets to run to ‘Marketing with Twitter’ while I go to Writer’s Workshop Style and Mood, Writer’s Workshop Plotting, Buffy and Angel Guest Extravaganza, Fun with Demonology while Mom is at Tattoo: History and Art, Goblins Minotaurs and Elves for me and Fairies and Fairytales for Mom, and then we both have to run to the aforementioned Shindig to stir up trouble. After that, Cruxshadows and Hellblinki.

Sunday: The Science of Paranormal Psychology, then the much-anticipated Browncoats: Redemption panel, Tai Chi Chu’an of Yin and Yang, Sherlock for Mom and Writer’s Workshop for me (Editing. Oh gods I need that), Things I wish Someone had Told Me for me and Tarot: Magic and Mystery for Mom. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s production of Cthulu and the Pirate Fashion Show before I head to Creating a Viable Spiritual Base for Fiction.

Monday: 11:30-4: Writer’s Workshops for me while Mom entertains herself in suitably terrifying fashion.

Did I mention there is going to be a LOT of running? And little time for eating? I’m taking a massive financial risk going to the convention, so I’m getting everything out of it that I can.

I already feel the exhaustion setting in.

Oh my god…

Posted in Personal Life, Rants on August 26, 2009 by Jaym Gates

…I am going to be exhausted next weekend. And this day is already odd.

First off though, I went through some ‘junk’ folders on my desktop. Most of them are catch-alls for ideas, unfinished stories, etc. Now, in the days before I started writing short stories, most ideas got tossed in there for the eventual novel.

Well, uh, there are some pretty nice things in there. Things just BEGGING to be short stories. Which means that I have my writing scheduled until the end of the year most like. Woohoo?

In other news… I was told today that I’d make someone a great wife. I’ll spare you my rant, I’m proud of myself for sparing the offender the rant. But that really does make me see red. I mean, is that REALLY the best you can imagine for me?

Oh, and what triggered that comment? “You are always going aren’t you? Always working hard.” Um, yes. So apparently that means I will be great at keeping this mythical husband happy.

Bullshit. And this was a smart, attractive, 30-ish professional woman telling me that. Did I mention bullshit?

Writing Tip: Sonar

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Well, uhh… I had a nice free-write all lined up. Wrote it and everything. Except that… I liked it to much to just post it. Somehow, it came out as a story. Completely unintended! So now I have a nice little piece of flash fiction to submit to Vestal Review tomorrow. Can’t complain I guess!

Anyways, speaking of submissions, here’s a program I’ve fallen in love with: Sonar.

What is Sonar? It’s a handy little tracker/spreadsheet that allows you to enter all your stories, your markets and then update them as necessary.

The Market entries are particularly helpful to me. Address, phone #, editor, notes, a box for guidelines, email, pretty much everything you need to know. Better yet, the program will then print a mailing label for you! Absolutely priceless now that I’ve started building inventory and getting serious about the short-story market.

I had a nice little reminder of how necessary a tracking program is the other day. I mentioned that Strange Horizons mentioned an issue with Gmail, and asked for queries about anything not heard about after a certain amount of time.

How long did it take me to track down which piece had gone there, how long it had been there, and make sure it hadn’t been turned down already? WAY too long. Thus, I’ve been slowly working on setting Sonar up.

Damn it’s slow though. I have about 20 markets that can be put in there right now. Then I have to add the stories. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as my grandmother says.

The good thing about the query? Wind-Loved is under consideration.

Yup. The first short story I wrote and finished (the one early piece just doesn’t count…). It’s not traditional fantasy or science-fiction. In fact, it is very, very much fairy-tale. Even if it doesn’t make it, this is a nice, happy place for me to be sitting.

Oh, and I finished the article for the Fifthwind Forums newsletter today, and am just wildly pleased with it. I actually got humor in it!

So I’m going to go keep listening to CruxShadows, planning for Dragon*Con and working on Fate-Dealer.