Category Archives: altworld

Despondent saith not


I gave up blogging in favor of Facebook posting years ago, but I’ve come full circle and am back to blogging instead. This form has a little more permanence, I think, and if I’m gonna be ignored, I may as well own it.

Though my first published story was in 1977, I’ve been a full-time writer for just a couple of years. I attempted to go full-time just after coming hope from the illness that caused my disability, with a big backlog of material that I fondly imagined was ‘good enough’ and a lot of ‘belief’.

Didn’t work out that way — one, I didn’t have the energy or stamina I had been used to and couldn’t maintain that schedule, and two, the material desperately needed reworking — which I’m still doing, six years later.

Hard to keep going in the face of such massive apathy. I haven’t written anything that has galvanized people into talking about it for years, though that doesn’t stop stuff from getting pirated. I’ve sold more than 5000 kindle-copies of my chapbook, mostly through direct sales. But I have four reviews on Goodreads/Amazon.

Gotta trust in the process though. I know my stuff is good enough. No editor has ever returned a piece saying “This really sucks.” Instead, “this really doesn’t fit what we’re trying to accomplish here. But good luck with this story. I’m sure you can sell it — somewhere else” is the common response.

I resist comparisons…and some of this is sour grapes probably, but I see people whose work isn’t real good selling consistently, and it chaps my ass. But I’m a middle-aged white male, and I guess I should just get used to being marginal. Isn’t like my imagination is inclined to the mainstream.

And I’m not gonna stop, though it gives me pause (and yeah, there are times when I want to stop because working in a vacuum sucks). Friends and even some objective critics have told me they enjoy the work…it’s just that it doesn’t reach enough people. And I don’t know how to get that to happen, other than to keep throwing spaghetti.

I’m not alone. There are lots of us pasta-throwers.

But I ask you — if you’ve read a thing of mine, how about some feedback? Just “I liked it” would be fine. I think you have to write a couple more words than that, but it doesn’t have to be in-depth…that’s the point. People who write for themselves rarely try to get public.

Yeah. I’m having a minor crisis. Not ‘impostor syndrome’, but ‘invisible man’ syndrome…brought on by lack of success of worthwhile material. Help a brother out if you can.

Thanks for reading.

Accepting Authority


The final two pieces of the “Area X Trilogy”: I’d have to recommend reading the series at least once, but I’m not happy with the level of resolution.

Authority (Southern Reach, #2)Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t like the main character’s nickname. It’s as bad as Hiero Protagonist. “Control” is cutesy. It’s a shorthand way of imputing that the mc is the normal one, the one that doesn’t get the drugs or the treatment or whatever, and misleading in that regard.
A good part of this book seems based on department infighting and the other half goes a little Rogue Moon if Algis Budrys had written the Manchurian Candidate into the story.
It’s odd, and there’s enough conflict on various levels to be effective, and yes, weird stuff happens and characters undergo mindbending changes…but it’s a bit numbing to me because I didn’t really like any of the characters. They all seem to operate at a remove, and the narrative works at arm’s-length too.
And there’s little exposition in a narrative that seems to call for it. I’m gonna go with Aliens did it.

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Acceptance (Southern Reach, #3)Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a lot of trouble getting through this book, the second time. I found it unsatisfying, ultimately. The reason why Area X exists is never explained. What Area X actually is remains mysterious. Some of the character arcs are completed, and there are hints of resolution, but they’re only hints.
The tone continues to be the same scientist-as-hero that gives this series its Golden Age echoes. Events unfold, to a point, but one gets the idea that the author is holding back a lot of information, and also setting up for more stories in this milieu.
It’s effective enough, but I was left wanting.

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annihilation nation


I couldn’t sleep. Strange things happen when I’m sleepless, which happens entirely too often. I am very bad at sleeping and have periods where I might sleep two hours at a time for weeks, or stay up three or four days.
It’s been that way since I was very young. I missed about two weeks of third grade because I wasn’t sleeping well enough to move around safely on my own.
Reading has always been my fallback. If I can’t sleep, I read, first. I like a little noise when I read, but just a little, and it has to be familiar, comfortable. Old sitcoms or crime shows will do. I need the rhythms. Talking-head shows work too.
annihilation_by_jeff_vandermeerI’ve been re-reading the Area X trilogy, these last few days. I have the kindle versions, so I can turn out all of the lights except the tv and greedily drink the words. Jeff VanderMeer is one of those practitioners of the “weird” that comes from sf, like I do, and I very much enjoy, in fact prefer, that approach. Jeffrey Thomas, too, has those echoes, the clanking rhythms of cyberpunk informing his harrowing parables. VanderMeer is the co-editor of the Big Book of SF, about which more will be said, in another post. His stuff has more New Wave in it…the world of the Southern Reach being a fine example. Annihilation, the first book of the trilogy, is not the first of the author’s books that I’ve read, but so far, it’s the best. I put it on my ballot for the Hugo nomination. We all know what happened there, and I’m not going to get into it…anyway, I thought it the best work of the year.
I loathe using comps to make my points, but I’m going to have to either resort to that or do out-and-out spoilers, which I hate worse. So comparisons it is….Michael Bishop’s anthropological pieces, especially Death and Designation Among the Asadi, his 197- award-winner, have this same sort of straight-up Scientist-As-Hero, performing-a-survey trope going, and deploy a similar air of strangeness, of menace, just offscreen, or in so strange a form that it goes unrecognized. I am  minded, also, of Kate Wilhelm’s The Clewiston Test, and Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, which had similar main characters.
Of course the mc is also exploring the interior landscape at the same time. It goes with the territory. Even though the biologist is working with others, at least initially, she’s always alone, remote.
It turns out that some of this anti-teamwork is the result of hidden persuaders, in a nicely-Dischian. way. Good. Very subtle. The second read reveals the process of hints and allegations that lead to that conclusion, but on the first encounter, it’s almost subliminal.
It takes a practiced hand to do that. Reader manipulation on that level isn’t done often.
Outstanding book. Really good. The main character is interesting enough to listen to, the story has psychological depth, strange detail, interior travelogue, and an inevitable if slightly maddening conclusion. Five stars.
Another tomorrow.

Madness


I got a little bit exercised today by this article, about the “8 Tribes of Sci Fi.”
Rubbish, absolute rubbish. An ill-considered word salad.

To start with, it considers “sci-fi” which I consider to be the z-movie mentality that pervades tv and pop movies. And it calls the wrong things “sci-fi”. The article might fare better if it were said to be talking about “fantasy”, the umbrella term for science fiction and other related imaginative fields, or about “speculative fiction”, a higher-brow way of saying the same thing.

Read the thing for yourself. Feel free to regale me with your version. Or not. Continue reading

Method


Though I conduct my fictional affairs with a good bit of handwavium and a helping of deus ex machina, because that’s the nature of the beast, still, I’ve railed against such use in the past. And I was probably right, then.

Context.

Heh. Yeah, right, you say, and rightly so.

But boundaries, fuck ’em. I was wrong, plus it’s addictive…to be unleashed, to not worry about what hard-sf fans are gonna say, or what plot twist came straight out of tvtropes. To just tell the story as it occurs to you. Er, me. Because pov.

That’s a fun plaything, too. Perspective.

Just tell the damn story. I was good at that when I was young. I would just write until I was done. Wrote a 67,000 word novel in one day, on notebook paper, in pencil(s), longhand. It was awful. Only three people have even read part of it. They’re all on Facebook. *ducks* Continue reading

Of a mind to…


Nightmares from a Lovecraftian MindNightmares from a Lovecraftian Mind by Jordan Krall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Smooth, polished, professional. Disturbing, subtle, and definitely nightmarish. The stories in this volume are not so Lovecraftian as the title would have you believe. There is a dollop of cosmic horror, but none of the usual suspects are present. No hooded cultists, octopus-headed monstrosities, cyclopean ruins, non-Euclidean space.
Headspace is more the issue. The Lovecraftian “mind”, indeed. Some of the matter-of-factness of JG Ballard, the inventive weirdness of David Lynch, the slightest hint of Philip Dickian mindrape, a tinge of the existential, a small infusion of the Gnostic. The reading of strange texts informs the text. Mr. Krall has been turning some strange pages indeed, and he melds all of those disparate elements into a surreal collage all his own.
These are pictures of minds after “experiences”, continuing to try to function in mundane space, and largely failing.
Recommended reading.

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More to come.
I really enjoyed this book. It kept me from sleeping soundly, both by engaging my attention while reading late at night, and then speaking to me in my dreams.
This was not my introduction to Jordan Krall’s work but it is the first full-length book I’ve read of his. I have seven more, which will appear in these pages at some point.
I also have another nine bearing the name of his small press. And I’m not a serious collector. I just buy the best that I can find.

Son of the Big Dumb Object


EgoOne of my very favorite things in the world of fiction is that cosmic force, the presence that is imposing just because of its size, the very Big Dumb Object itself. An example, seen below, adds consciousness to the mix. The presentation is excellent. I love the image. But not enough was done with it, plotwise, back in the day.
One of the things that makes me create is the desire to see a better version of things, at least in my eyes. My first writing was done in response to a comic-book villain I thought terrible (the Stilt-Man, as in DD#48). So I come by it naturally. My art is, at least initially, imitative.dd48 It always has been. I like a certain amount of structure, a framework to stand on, before taking the great leap into the unknowable seas of imagination. My first drafts, first versions of things, almost always have a large portion of synthesis, of combining previously-known ingredients into a new stew, stirring it up, and then improvising over the changes. Continue reading