Well Thanks For The Apology Marvel. Now Shove Off!

So Marvel ‘apologized’ in the typical ‘if you’re offended, we didn’t mean it, but sorry’ kinda way that cowards apologize in for things they laugh at behind your back. The “Oh you caught us! We’re sorry!” Bogus apology, for this little stunt: http://www.publiusforum.com/2010/02/08/marvel-comics-captain-america-says-tea-parties-are-dangerous-and-racist/

Yeah, glad to see Marvel, which has always been hackney leftist, going full bore Obama surrogates to the masses. Right down to using the slur that if I used would be considered homophobe, but when used by ‘tolerant’ leftists to describe the Tea Party is just a play on words. No really. No standards but double standards. I don’t care if Captain America is left of center. I mean, he’s a child of the New Deal, who probably really thinks FDR’s policies got the country out of the Depression, when really it was us being neutral for a few years longer, so we could bring industry up to speed fighting World War II. Popular history does that to people. What I care about is the blatant disrespect for long-time readers it displays. Just like G.R.R Martin can insult his readers with supposed impunity for daring to suggest that maybe Jim Butcher deserves a Hugo too. Or that maybe everyone should be able to  either 1) show a photo ID or, 2) Have a person who can actually vouch that a voter is alive and from that district present when they perform one of the most solemn duties in a republic.

I’m tired of being insulted by people who are asking for my time, money, and attention. I’m tired of them thinking the Law of Supply and Demand doesn’t apply to them. And I’m tired of being lied to with their apologies, when we know full well they’ll do the same thing again.

This is why my Song of Ice & Fire series is in a “Go to Used Book Store” pile. And this is why I’m now done with Marvel too. When they can demonstrate they’re interested in entertaining rather than preaching to low information voters, I *might* reconsider my non-interest. But until then, they can go take a flying leap into their second bankruptcy, for all I care.

Here There Be Dragons

Ok. Not here, on my blog. That would be silly. But in Book 5 of the Epic Fantasy? Oh yes. From the 1st chapter. One of the things I had to deal with when I finished Book 4 was that since the villains unleashed the winged wyrms from their underground prisons, how would our heroes deal with something that could attack anywhere, and ruled the sky, where humans could not go.  Plus I started another messy civil war. Finishing that off-screen would be dubious.

So yeah. That was the outline that took 40mins to write for as many chapters (added a few since, lol). As for how the dragons get fought? What, you think I’m telling here? Inspiration from Greek Myth, that’s all I’ll say. Which, given the Hellenistic inspiration for the story and era, makes sense.

Now for something completely different: The US loss to Mexico the other night…. 😦 Gutted. I don’t agree with Landon Donovan, whose obvious personal animus is getting far too old. But the seat under Klinsmann should be blazing hot right now. To be fair, it’s not the first time it’s been that way for him. At least Sporting KC can win trophies.

Well, I’m Less Than Impressed

It seems Goodreads decided this year to dump Urban/Paranormal Fantasy from its own category into the general Fantasy camp. Because you know, like there aren’t enough nominees or something. So I had to choose between Skin Game and Words of Radiance.

This should not be. The only thing the two have in common is magic. And yes, they are both amazingly well written. So Horror and Thriller are in 2 separate categories. But these aren’t.

Oh well. Butcher FTW. https://www.goodreads.com/choiceawards/best-books-2014

Book Review: Hounded

A fun read, with a fascinating set of characters and an ‘all myths are true’ premise. Atticus o”Sullivan is the last of the Druids, and the narrator of this urban fantasy set in Tempe, Az. It’s not as gripping as Dresden or Kate Daniels, but it certainly got me turning pages.

Pros: The narrator is witty and enjoyable to listen to, a must in any 1st person story. The setting is lived in without being loaded with extraneous details. The secondary cast is filled with characters who are enjoyable even when they’re only scenery for Atticus to bounce his thoughts and stories off of. And when they have their own motives, they’re believable and twisted, without constituting unbelievable obstacles. Nobody trusts anyone. But everyone knows what they need, and are willing to help whichever horse advances their cause. Also, the Druid Magic is described believably and very sensible.

Cons: That same magic seems a bit too overpowered. As a result, there’s never any serious threat level to Atticus. Not only didn’t I doubt he was going to get out of the jam, I never really wondered *how* he would do so. Second, Atticus seems a bit too modern nerdish for a guy whose 2100 years old. Really, he acts like he could be the stoner in the comic book store (a combination of HIS characterizations, btw). It seems rather incongruous for a guy who’s been creeping around longer than the Highlander.

That said, it’s still a fun read. And a very good start to a series I was honestly had some trepidation toward.

What Do You Have Without Genre?

Perhaps this is why Damien Walter has lived for four years on the UK Government dole without producing the novel for which he was fronted. First of all, whether he likes it or not, Science Fiction is a genre.

Here is the definition of genre: “A category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.” From the 19th century French, for ‘a kind.”

Now, what is disagreeable with the idea of Science Fiction as a category of art? It is, most certainly literature. We can debate the quality of each work on its own merits. Are there similarities of form, style, and subject matter? Well yes. Damien Walter could not speak to the return of the space opera (Though Peter Hamilton in particular might ask when it ever went away), if there was not a form Ancilliary Justice was attempting to utilize within the Science Fiction genre. Yes, authors might subvert or turn their forms at places. In fact, I’ve heard some argue that Space Opera is better rightly considered “Fantasy.” And no less an authority than George Lucas considered Star Wars “Space Fantasy.”

This is not a new thing. Nor is it entirely new that it be done solely for the purpose of ideology: C.S. Lewis did this with his Space Trilogy. Like J.R.R. Tolkien, I heartily despise allegory, with its forced symbolism and outside narrative attempting to force the reader to see the world the same way. It’s a cheat, a bore, and an intellectually dishonest approach to writing, IMHO. I find this just as true when the symbolism is one I agree with (Like Lewis), or something I do not. So the attempt to subvert or play with genre norms does not prove something is not that genre. One has to recognize the fact norms exist in order to subvert them. Eric Raymond’s article discusses what they are in some detail.

I would add to his list that typical to science fiction is the question: “What does it mean to be human?” As opposed to Fantasy, where the question is: “What is the cost of Virtue?” Another distinction is that science fiction, as Asimov stated, must both internalize science and form lively prose fiction, or it cannot be both “science” and “fiction.” Fantasy has no external rules on plausibility in its world, only internal coherence matters, both within the worldbuilding proper, and by the characters to the setting. This is true in China Mieville’s steampunk: where Khepri are forced to confront the question of humanity and society as much as the main character. Of course, maybe Walter, considering steampunk the ‘halfwit cousin of cyberpunk,’ couldn’t be bothered to read it, even when the writer is from his own political persuasion, far more clever, and capable of actual character depth in a way Ann Leckie’s work was not. Really, the gender-pronoun confusion issue is hardly new, or innovative, or confrontational. It’s been done. And better.

Unlike some, I do not assume everything at a publishing house can be discounted as if you know what it writes. Nor do I despise any particular house. My favorite current authors are Jim Butcher, Steven Erikson, Ilona Andrews, Larry Correia, Daniel Abraham (and his alternate identities), Sarah Hoyt, and Brandon Sanderson. I used to count Neal Stephenson, but his last two major works (Anathem and Reamde) do not, IMHO, match the standard he wrote from his cyberpunk up through The Baroque Cycle. In that list are authors from Ace, Baen, Orbit, Penguin, and Tor. Given my stance in the Hachette/Amazon controvery, one might assume Orbit doesn’t belong on that list. But there are a number of their authors I enjoy (Gail Carriger is another). And there are Baen authors that do not interest me.

I would also note that I doubt the politics of that group is monolithic, and to say Butcher, Erikson, Andrews, Abraham, or Sanderson have catered ‘to Right-wing’ at any point is ludicrous. Nor did I know Larry Correia’s politics when I started reading him (at the suggestion of fans on both Butcher’s and Erikson’s forums). Stylistically, the prose of these authors range from the minimalist and action oriented of the International Lord of Hate, to the Iowa-trained “literary” flourishes of Erikson. So it’s not the form of prose that catches me either. It is the ability to tell a story, in any genre. Whether playing straight with the conventions, subverting them, or mashing them together (as Urban Fantasy is famous for doing, and I’ve done a bit in my own writing). You have to know what the norms are to use them. Otherwise, you cheat the audience and turn them off.

It’s telling in Damien Walter’s article that he doesn’t consider entertaining the reader, or even keeping their interest, a primary purpose. It also informs me that if, in the next four government-sponsored years, his attempt at science fiction were to actually emerge, I’d be safe to ignore it. Not because of the politics. Only those on his side of the fandom divide care about the politics over the story. No. It’s because he has no respect for the form, the history, or the nature of the art-form. He is not writing to entertain. But to pontificate.

For that, I say the best place to write is in a political blog. I’m sure Huff Post could use another writer.

Exit Rewrite Mode

Two books, 215,000 words, and pretty much able to stamp “Final Draft” on Aurori’s Blood. I’m pleased with the first two books of that series now. And I have an idea how to focus the fourth book so that it’s still the series I wanted to write, instead of the crazy thing it veered into with the fifth book. Ultimately it will still get to that crazy stage. But not until I’ve exhausted the history that’s the reason I wanted to write the series in the first place. 😛

So now I’m even more in a ‘dead’ time between here and NaNoWriMo. Or at least I would be, except for my vacation in September. So I think I can be at about 50,000 words by November, and then double that in the Month of Frenzy. Maybe even finish book 4, Chosen’s Return. Besides, can I really complain about going to Hawaii? Nah. Used to live there, once upon a time, for three years. That was before donning the tophat and goggles. My writing back then was largely academic in nature. Loved semi-colons. One of the things I had to learn when switching to fiction was to crush them ruthlessly.

I’ve been meaning to add pages on the blog for all the other stuff I’ve dabbled in. That is: The Aurori, my Hellenistic Fantasy, an Urban Fantasy, and a Space Opera. Though the latter may or may not go under Tarien Cole, as such. I haven’t decided yet. Given the amount of blog time I’ve talked about both lately, they need them. 😛

Insects and Insight

This is a snippet from my Sword, Sorcery, and Sandal Epic Fantasy. Strategos Amuhan, the narrator, is the “Hannibal” of my pseudo-Punic Wars plotline. Which is fairly close to the beginning of the arc here. Enjoy!
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If I would have been forced to describe the last day’s march on Trystwy in a single word, it would’ve been ‘swarmed.’ Never have I seen so many ways to be attacked by relentless, blood-sucking insects. Leeches waited in the swamps our march skirted. Mosquitoes and black-winged moths both descended on us in fast-moving clouds, as maddening as Shahrak Horse Archers. Even Shayla, whose ebullient mood had proven infectious since joining us, frowned and muttered, “Khepra Himself must have planted His seed in this bog.”

As a third mass of bugs appeared, thick enough to conceal the sun, Tiernan dismounted from his horse snarled, “Erebus take this!”

“Run faster!” Spiros taunted. “Maybe we can use you as bait!”

When Tiernan arrived at the bank, he didn’t dive into it, instead he reached into the mud with both hands and slathered it over his exposed arms and face. Clumps rolled down his short beard and tumbled back into his hands. The Thunderbolts hooted, but Shayla leaned forward on her pony like a cat being teased until its rump raises and wiggles. He returned to the ranks with a wide, lips-sucked-in grin that resembled a matron’s toothless effort. Even I found it impossible not to shake my head at the bard.

He had the last laugh, for as the bugs feasted on us, he rode through them without so much as a flick of the finger. When next we passed a spring with sufficient bank, half the host dove for the mud. I found myself tempted to join them, but as Strategos, my duty was to bear every burden without flinching. No matter how trivial it might seem. So I contented myself with swatting those insects that slipped beneath my hood or up the sleeves. With the low shoulders of Shayla’s gown, I knew that she had to be suffering worse, despite her cloak. So I cleared enough space with a hand for me to talk. Then I asked, in a tone I thought gentle, “I’m assuming Tiernan’s remedy is part of your folklore. So why didn’t you avail yourself to it, Shayla?”

She turned up her nose at me and harrumphed, turning her pony around and disappearing into the ranks behind as I gaped until a moth found its way to my tongue. That cost me much in military decorum. Tiernan covered his mouth and chortled. “The Chief didn’t lie when he said taming that one is like saddling the wind. Be thankful she’s infatuated with you.”

I feigned a blink as we resumed our march. “What convinces you she is?”

“Gods Amuhan!” His chest quivered. “Her eyes never leave you. Even now, she watches your back. Her hand ‘accidentally’ finds yours whenever it can, and brushes your arm or leg when it can’t.”

I tucked my head further into my cloak to hide my blush as another cluster of dried mud fell from the bard’s smirking face. “But you knew this already. Because while most Gods have favored you, Telas did not. You’re no better lying than the child caught with a chunk of bread from the oven.”

Snickering, I looked back at Shayla. Her head turned and dipped, like she was unaware of where I was. But before I returned my gaze to the road, her golden eyes belied the claim of disinterest. “Yes I did know,” I affirmed. “Though hearing you say it encourages me. One never is quite certain if a man’s heart isn’t playing tricks on him when it comes to the affection of a woman. Still, there’s something strange about her family.”

My bannerman’s face narrowed into a line. So I leaned a hand on my knee. “Let me guess: You know because it echoes the story about why you left your mother’s people?”

Tiernan winced. “I’d hoped you hadn’t seen my reaction to your analogy.”

“I did, comrade.”

After glancing over his shoulder to ensure Shayla’s pique hadn’t passed yet, the bard said, “Lord Amuhan, I’ll tell you my story. It’s up to her to tell you how close it is to her own. But I’m certain the same law is involved.”

“What law is this?” I drummed a finger on my thigh. Then flicked at another mosquito.

“Our people have a custom when duels are fought. To prevent retaliation, the victor must take the surviving spouse and any children into their own family.” His eyes flicked to Shayla again.

“That explains why she and Carii are so different in temperament and looks.” I stroked my chin. “So the Chief became her husband to guard the daughter. And she took up her training because Shayla possesses talent as well.”

“Probably,” Tiernan conceded. “I was accepted among the Lexovi because of my Mother’s talent. She had birthed me before becoming Beien Ciall to them. But another challenged and defeated her. All such duels are to the death. If there isn’t a death blow, the victor carves out the loser’s heart. “ He paused and cleared his throat, and I glimpsed a sheen over the big man’s eyes.

“And by law, you had a new mother,” I finished.

He nodded grimly. “Understand, most of the time, such ‘adoptions’ go well enough. However, in my case she didn’t want a ‘half-breed’ for a son. So I became an outsider in truth. And if a boar’s tusks were laced with poison, would any think to look before I died?”

“No, they’d never know,” I replied with a shake of the head. “They’d assume you succumbed to the wounds. So how did you—?”

“I’m not a bard because I have a strong voice and love to collect stories that can be put to song,” he answered dryly. “Mother taught me much of herblore and natural remedies. She also taught me a good deal about ritual magics.”

My eyes rounded. “Why didn’t you say this when Toi was poisoned?”

Tiernan shook his head. “You forget, he walked away. We thought it little more than a scratch. It wasn’t until the Priestess couldn’t heal him that she even thought to look for poison. By then, Toi was already dead. Besides, the chemist seemed to do a thorough enough work in identifying it. And I had never seen it before either.”

I closed my eyes and remembered the yellow ball and black bile extracted from his body. The bones broken from convulsions and contorted expression on his face as the poison killed him. There wasn’t a pit in Erebus deep enough for his murderer. And I wasn’t certain the order to kill me had come from Davos either. “I appreciate you telling me this, Tiernan. It couldn’t have been easy.”

“I’ve gone this far in disclosing the ways of Mother’s people,” the bard said with a deep frown. “You should know, even if Shayla were Carii’s birth daughter, eventually the two would become rivals. And only one could remain in the tribe.”

I hung my head. Rain Dancer sensed my distress, mincing his steps as I looked over first one shoulder, and then the other for the wilder woman. I caught a glimpse of her blond mane near Captain Spiros at the front of the Hundred Hands. A stab of jealousy pricked my side, though if I had been the newcomer, I’d be as curious as Shayla to learn of the new cultures.

“The condor was hers? Or Carii’s?”

“Hers,” Tiernan answered without hesitation. “She’s the curious one. And the birds are already bound to her arms.”

I pivoted and made an interrogative grunt. He shook his head. “Now I am getting perilously close to discussing secrets Mother made me swear I’d never share. If she wishes, Shayla will explain herself.”

With a sigh, I answered, “For an explanation, this isn’t helping me understand her very much.”

Tiernan chuckled. “Lord Amuhan, I may be a bard. And I certainly know the ways to woo women. But I’ve never made claim to understand them.”

I laughed so hard, I nearly swallowed a mosquito.

Shall Cthulhu Be Overthrown?

So the Progressive March through Science Fiction and Fantasy continues apace. Not being sated by ensuring the dreaded Sad Puppy slate was skunked (Despite Toni Weisskopf having more 1st place ballots than anyone and clearly meriting the award on more than one occasion. But hey, anyone who doesn’t support the Group Think abrogates all minority status for their evil independent thoughts.), now the Glittering Ones wish to cast down H.P. Lovecraft as the image of the World Fantasy Award and replace him with Octavia Butler. In true Progressive Fashion, they’ve gone to Change.Org, so we can have the White House talk about things other than what truly matters. Because they’ve done so well at handling the economy, foreign policy, and Ferguson. https://www.change.org/p/the-world-fantasy-award-make-octavia-butler-the-wfa-statue-instead-of-lovecraft

OK. I get it, H.P. Lovecraft is a very problematic person to uphold as a patron. His racial statements were difficult even in the time, and only become more raw in our over-sensitized age. (I have my own issues with his statements on faith and atheism.) Octavia Butler is a hero of modern Speculative Fiction. Both of them are generational talents, though I think only the most desperate Progressive would claim their proposed replacement’s legacy will ever match the foundational impact of Lovecraft on the genre. Personally, Butler isn’t my cup of tea, but I can respect her talent. I can even concede that as important as Lovecraft might have been, he’s not even, in the modern sense of the term, a Fantasy Author (though closer than Ms. Butler).

The problem is this: Nothing that Butler is known for is related to FANTASY. She wrote Speculative Fiction, Alt-History, and Science Fiction proper. The World Fantasy Award, contrary to the Hugos and Nebulas, is specifically not a blanket Speculative Fiction award. If you want to change the patron, then name a candidate that actually represents the GENRE. Of course, the Tor.com blog can’t even be bothered to point out this minor problem in the proposal. They’re too busy carrying the water for the long march of the Progressives: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/08/should-the-world-fantasy-award-be-changed?utm_source=exacttarget&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=tordotcom&utm_content=-na_read_BlogPost&utm_campaign

So here, let me share some alternatives, if the politics of Lovecraft and Howard are beyond the pale:

Tolkien? Only the founder of modern fantasy. And he’s the only writer with a larger footprint in the genre than either of the current patron or the proposed successor.

Roger Zelazny? The Amber Chronicles remain relevant, and his legacy is as rich as any.

Terry Prachett? Ok. This one might be a tad controversial. But it’s in the right way. He pokes at everything, and to be fair, Discworld, at its best, did one of the hardest things in writing: Merged coherent story telling (at least internally plausible) with effective satire.

Robert Jordan? I’m not a Wheel of Time fan. But I can’t deny its impact on the genre.

Any of these four, to me, would have been a better alternative, and one that actually fits the criteria of being a patron of Fantasy, than Ms. Butler. If this is actually about embracing the entire community, and not just giving another sop to political correctness, then we should name a candidate ALL of the fantasy community can support. And it’s best to start with someone who actually wrote in the genre, thank you.

Explaining Away the Magic

Ashley Capes shared an interesting take on “soft” magic systems today. http://mythicscribes.com/?wysija-page=1&controller=email&action=view&email_id=12&wysijap=subscriptions&user_id=712. I’ve had discussions on this in the past, including a rather interesting Twitter exchange with Nat Russo. While in general, I hold to Branden Sanderson’s First Rule of Magic, which is never have a PoV character use it without explaining it, it’s important to qualify that even there, he is talking about the Point of View character.

And even there, he’s quite willing to change the rules, let them learn things piecemeal, or just be flat out wrong on issues. See Kaladin in the Stormlight Archives. Neither he nor Shallan actually have much of the picture with regards to what they’re doing. And they learn more all the time. He did the same thing in Mistborn. So he’s certainly not adverse to having characters surprised by magic.

And I think that’s important. Especially if you have a character that doesn’t use or understand magic. Why should the reader inherently know more than the people living in the world? Let people be surprised. Let them learn by doing and interacting. Even when some things appear contradictory.

Contrary to the article, I don’t think this is a ‘market’ issue. It’s an issue of good storytelling. Whether you mean magic, tech in Sci-Fi, or high-stakes finance in a political potboiler. The rules the characters live under need to be explained as they’re encountered, to the extent they understand them. No more. No less. Neal Stephenson can get away with dropping an author tract that no one but ten people understand because he’s funny as Hell when he does it. But if your name is different from his, don’t get wrapped up in minutiae they haven’t seen. Let them explore, learn, read, and conjecture with the characters.

That’s what Speculative Fiction is about, at its heart, after all. The sense of wonder at finding the unknown, entering a new world and dwelling in it with the characters.

Like a Second Helping of Dresdencrack This Year

That’s what Magic Breaks was like. I did not *read* Magic Breaks as much as *Devoured* it. It was every bit as addictive as Dresdencrack, and I have no hope of an ‘objective’ review of this.

Simply put, this is the 7th book of the Kate Daniels series. And everything that’s happened, everything that was promised, pays off in large here. If you’ve followed to this point, you are rewarded in spades. And yet, it’s not the end. Three more books are promised, and one can easily see the series continuing to grow Kate’s character.

Things I loved: Well, as I said. It’s a fantastic payoff. Without spoilering the whole thing, the promise of Roland becomes reality in this book. The way Ghastek gets served a massive dose of crow, and yet doesn’t get depowered in the process. And the way the choices Kate and Curran have made pay off here.

Things I liked less: There’s one bit before the Great Escape, where Kate doesn’t act terribly Kate-like. She’s been forced to wait for rescue before. But she was nearly dead that time. This seemed too easy a surrender to being caged. Also, Hugh’s choice is even lampshaded as out of character for his strategic mind. Unfortunately, he was rather out-foxed by Curran in the last book, and so it makes him look something like the Worf Effect (TV Tropes will ruin your life: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php…).

Neither of these niggles are capable of dampening my enjoyment for this one whit. But fairness demands they be noted. Still, this is absurdly good. Easily the best in the series, IMHO.