Friday, July 03, 2015

I like to think I value love, not marriage, but it's amazing how strongly I feel that marriage is a basic human right. Amazing to me only because those feelings contradict my internal logic (I value love, not marriage). The feeling that marriage is a basic human right shouldn't be amazing to most people in our culture, which fetishizes marriage as the ultimate bond, the end of every rom-com, the authentication of adulthood. Books, films, music, the news, the pulpit, politicians are all relentlessly positive about the value of marriage. Which must be where I got that feeling about marriage being a right. From the very thorough conditioning of my culture, through all of its media filling up the cracks of my neurobiology. Our culture values marriage, and the institution of marriage outfits individuals with dignity.

Heterosexual individuals.

Our culture also values equality, fetishizes equality. In much the same way, but not to the same degree. Obviously, because the American ideal of equality did not include marriage, until June 26th of 2015. It was not extended to same sex couples, not "out of animus" as a couple of conservative legal commentators said on a podcast I was, coincidentally, listening to the morning before the morning of the ruling (animus basically means malicious intent), but because gay people cannot procreate. The procreation argument is entirely fallacious, being that marriage is regularly granted to child free and infertile couples, and that marriage forms adoptive families like my own. Only malicious intent could support it. Malicious intent, or the very thorough emotional (and specifically religious) conditioning that marriage is a heterosexual institution.

And equality is dignity, in that you allow basic esteem to an individual by granting them rights the same treatment their neighbor gets. The right has often confused this issue by calling it "special rights," but it really is a basic right: non-procreative gay men and women look at their non-procreative heterosexual neighbors, and realize that their culture will not afford the dignity of fetishizing, cosseting and cooing over, or ceding rights to, a gay marriage. Gay people are resilient. They have their lovely parties, and lovely, lovely relationships. But they go in to work the next day, or the day after their honeymoon, and realize that their cubical neighbors and employers don't see those relationships as equal because they won't grant them the same rights. Heterosexuals voted against that marriage equality in state elections, refused to extend benefits at work, denigrated same sex marriage in books, films, music, the news, politics, and most especially, most thoroughly, from the pulpit.

Our western, U.S. culture, adoring the concepts of marriage and equality, wouldn't grant either of these things to Gay, Lesbian, or (depending on their situation) Trans people.

Until June 26th, 2015.

And now they can't take that dignity away. Our government has worked, protected a minority, extended a right, and a dignity. It makes me happy, proud to be homo sapiens and an American, and content. I know there's other things to be fixed, but I think I would like to be happy about this for a little while.

The feelings that I was left with the morning of June 26th, at 10 AM, were mixed. There was honest shock. I never expected to see Marriage Equality in my lifetime because people are deeply bigoted. Because twenty years ago, when I was hanging out with an old hippy, she had mentioned that she expected to see revolutionary change twenty years previously. This grant of dignity has been a long time coming. I feel a little disoriented, like I live in a whole new world. In a practical sense, that is hyperbole. In a legal sense, that is very true. There is some anger about this dignity being withheld for so long. Even paranoia, that the conservatives will lash out in anger, that I would run into angry people on the street. That attacks on my Queer friends would increase (which has absolutely happened). There's some regret that many minorities still have a great number of challenges to face. There's some shame that I can't claim full ownership over gay marriage because I am bisexual, and benefit from the assumption of heterosexuality.

And of course, dignity granted by the state doesn't wash away the bitter knowledge that our culture, families, and especially our churches won't grant us that dignity.

But mostly since then I have been happy, and content. And I think people should celebrate. People who fought for and won their dignity, and everybody else. Because that dignity granted grows the dignity of the human race. It is entirely additive. It cannot be taken away. I feel like this should be a national holiday, another kind of shot heard around the world. We've done a good as a western culture in the U.S. to grant people their freedoms. But this is the most sweeping dignity we have granted. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

So, Larry Correia, an author who combines all the worst personality traits of Richard Nixon and Howard Stern, organized a ballot stuffing campaign and got two rabid homophobes (maybe more) on the Hugo slate for 2015. Why should I care? I've been to exactly one Worldcon. But it really annoys me that people who refer to a part of fandom as "affirmative action," because they think too many awards are being given to authors who are POC or queer, want to re-focus the public's eye on fandom in general. I have been looking for a concise article that is sharply worded enough to explain the situation. The Atlantic offered good coverage that eschews hyperbole but illuminates the salient issues very well. It throws in a healthy dose of optimism, of which I am usually in favor.

I like the Slate article too, as a more-authoritative-than-me explanation as to why the Sad Puppies are narrow minded and regressive.

Author N.K. Jemisin has a good (older) post about why this kind of behavior in fandom is especially smelly, because inertia is blocking authors who are queer or POC from fully participating in fandoms that they love, too. I like this post because it guest stars the nasty behavior of one of the right wing nominees.

There are subtleties to the specifics, but Correia is working very hard to monkey wrench a process in the name of a convoluted ideological purity (ie: Speculative-Fiction-Awards-Should-Not-Be-Given-to-Message-Fiction-Especially-Not-SJW-Message-Fiction). His nose is out of joint because he has been snubbed by people he doesn't like, and he has pointed his fans in the direction of the Hugo to fuck things up. He's very entertained by the mess he's made, gloating about what a mean guy he is (but SJWs were mean first). Larry Correia essentially brought in a bunch of carpet baggers, whipping up fear and paranoia about the "direction" of science fiction and the Hugos (cause there can be only one, and it is his, apparently.)

Larry Correia claims not to be a racist or a homophobe. So be it. You usually can't point out aiding-and-abetting without liminal bigots appealing to guilt by association. But people who go around kicking over other people's setups are harassers. Plainer language may be more damning.

Monday, June 02, 2014

I dislike bullshit, in the Frankfurtian definition of language designed to impress rather than communicate. It is circularly meaningless, relying on it's own assumptions to give it weight.
Kevin D. Williamson, a writer for the National Review, scribbled an editorial for The Chicago Sun Times. I won't link to it. It's inflammatory bullshit designed to draw clicks, and I've already given them too many. The editorial is entitled "Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman." The title sums up the attitude, intent and failure.
In order to try and make his opinion a fact, Williamson describes gender as "a very primitive understanding of reality, namely the sympathetic magic described by James George Frazer in The Golden Bough." Sympathetic magic is the idea that one thing becomes more like another thing because it resembles that thing.
There is no quality of gender that is not completely an affectation, that can't be superimposed from one gender to another. Every facet or expression of Williamson's masculine gender identity, or his presumably heternormative partners' femininity, can be completely and thoroughly copied by members of either sex. All of gender is sympathetic magic.
Bullshit imitates information. Williamson closes by saying: “I have little or no desire to police how Cox or any other man or woman conducts his or her personal life.”
However, he still needs to express a largely irrelevant opinion. To deny having authority while at the same time trying to assert authority is indicative of nothing except the author's belief he has authority where none exist. Like a prophet of one of the "old testament mystery cults" he references.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Frankenstein Vs. The Titans FREE-LEASE tomorrow, March 1st

Frankenstein Vs. The Titans, a two color, gonzo-urban-fantasy-buddy-cop novel, will be released for free for one day, MARCH 1ST, 2014.

I respectfully ask that if you have any feelings about it one way or the other, you review it on Amazon. KTHX.

Theo Frankenstein's father refused to give him a name. So Theo made one out of his accidental biographer's most famous work. Audrey Sefton had no clue that his new posting as a detective in special services would mean policing monsters. And he's not sure that he likes keeping it classified. Westhoeven is a small Midwestern city, and a reservation where the U.S. government has secretly located all manner of supernatural entities. Today, something has started killing wizards, threatening to ignite a war between wizards and monsters. Today, Theo must break in his new mortal partner, find out what his monstrous girlfriend is hiding from him, and solve the mystery for his backers in The Agency. Or Westhoeven may get stomped flat.

This is a SUPER-SEKRIT free-lease, largely because nobody but you guys even knows who I am. (I know, right?) I am going to make it free for Kindle to all comers. If you don't have a Kindle reader, you can download the Kindle Reader App for tablets, smartphones and computers.

In order to make it go free, I took it down from Smashwords FEBRUARY 15TH, 2014, which includes all other stores, including: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, PageFoundry, and the Diesel eBook Store.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Pulp Fiction Is Driven By Plot. Literary Fiction is Driven By Verisimilitude.

A couple of times in the last year I've had conversations about verisimilitude in fiction. During one conversation, in my critique group, a friend talked about a theory of fiction that he'd found,  wherein the author stated that characters should have an easily identifiable problem that should be solved by the end of the book. This had been mentioned to me as well by a colleague who gave me an excellent critique of my novel Rock of Aeons and pointed out that she didn't feel Ozzie had a clear through-line.  

Later that week, one of my many readerly friends who rarely reads fiction mentioned that he didn't think neat story lines and tidy character goals were very realistic, because life doesn't happen like that. 

Both times I described a personal theory of fiction, which is the line between what I see as the two major forms - pulp and literature. Pulp fiction is largely driven by plot - things happen, characters resolve them. Many times pulp characters are Mary Sues. Mary Sues are unreasonably exceptional individuals, of one sort or another, characters with extraordinary talents and few substantial weaknesses, just moral failings that are usually vices.  

Literary fiction is driven by verisimilitude. Characters observe situations and react to them, being changed in the process. 

The rule that a character should have an easily identifiable problem is necessary for pulp, but irrelevant for literature, where verisimilitude is important. Now, although much of genre fiction is pulp, genre and literature are not exclusive. Noire fiction is almost certainly literature2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson, is a great example of literary science fiction, driven by character interactions, with plot entirely secondary. And lets admit that literature is another genre - a taste. 

When I think about the kind of characters I like, the ones I go back to again and again, I think of larger than life figures that have an element of verisimilitude, a problem that is not easily resolved, intractable problems that run off the edges of their story. An easily fixed emotional problem is not something I identify with.  I love John Constantine,  Dream of the Endless, Zinzi from Zoo City , and every self mutilating character in a Tim Powers novel. 

I like tragic characterwho cant seem to do anything without accidentally (or sometimes on purpose: can’t make an omelets without breaking a few eggs) fucking over their friends. Those kind of pulp characters seem like an operatic metaphor for middle management, frankly. 

I like pulp and I like literature. I like the novels of Kim Stanley Robinson and Bonnie Jo Campbell because they write character driven stories, with characters whose concerns are deeply personal and small scale and present themselves gradually. I like pulp fiction because I want those characters to kick ass. Frankenstein’s monster? Grievously wounded by his father, but somehow loving him just the same? Eight feet tall with the grace of a chimp? That’s a literary character that can kick some ass. 

It was the monsters remorse that enabled me to project a character going forward, to bring him into a modern narrative. An eight foot tall man, built with a process that regenerates dead flesh. Perpetually. A passionate character who would learn from his mistakes, and after two hundred and fifty years would be sure of himself and world-weary and kind and horribly, horribly pragmatic. And could kick serious ass. A character who needed a first name, and took it from the title of the book Mary Shelley made from sea captain’s letters. That's the direction I took to my monster, Detective Prometheus Frankenstein. Theo for short. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Frankenstein Vs. The Titans, a two color, gonzo-urban-fantasy-buddy-cop novel, is live TODAY!

Frankenstein Vs. The Titans, a two color, gonzo-urban-fantasy-buddy-cop novel, is live TODAY!

Theo Frankenstein's father refused to give him a name. So Theo made one out of his accidental biographer's most famous work. Audrey Sefton had no clue that his new posting as a detective in special services would mean policing monsters. And he's not sure that he likes keeping it classified. Westhoeven is a small Midwestern city, and a reservation where the U.S. government has secretly located all manner of supernatural entities. Today, something has started killing wizards, threatening to ignite a war between wizards and monsters. Today, Theo must break in his new mortal partner, find out what his monstrous girlfriend is hiding from him, and solve the mystery for his backers in The Agency. Or Westhoeven may get stomped flat.

The beautiful cover is by Joe Haemmerle. Joe Haemmerle is a Graphic Artist living in Austin, TX who works part-time as a graphic designer for an apparel company and also as a freelance artist designing book covers, album covers, and also creating web comics. To see his personal site go to: To check out his comic work go to:

Buy it for Kindle, here.

Buy it for other e-readers here.

Buy a hard copy here.

Soon to be released on: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, PageFoundry, and the Diesel eBook Store.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Monster Is Not A Warning About What Science Could Do Wrong.

The pop movie figure of Frankenstein's monster, the creature made of disparate parts, has been with me since I was a monster-movie loving child. When fishing around in my head for an urban fantasy idea, he often popped up. I like the Urban Fantasy genre in the same overly literal way I like Frankenstein’s monster. As an anthro major and keen player of several home brew fantasy role playing game campaigns, I like the idea of an entire world inhabited by monsters. Of entire cultures formed by monsters. We played games in which monsters lived side by side with human beings: Gatecrasher, in humnad lived alongside elves and angels in a half magic solar systeymand d20 Modern, which was Dungeons and Dragons' answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And pop culture has always flirted with a world in which monsters lived alongside humans: Dark Shadows and Wild, Wild West 

But when Urban Fantasy took off for the masses, became a household phenomenon with vampire, werewolf, and eventually zombie, demon and faerie people punching a clock next to homo sapiens peoples, Frankenstein's monster was no-where to be found. This is partially because the monster is a character, not a specie or culture. You can have lots of vampire clans or werewolf tribes duking out with each other. But the monster is pretty much a guest star. 

My Grandmother gave me a copy of Frankenstein for my birthday, one year. I had asked for it. But I couldn't actually read it. Like the Lord of the Rings, it was to dry for my adolescent brain. I still loved the idea of the monster, the Karlofiann creature with bolts in its neck and thick sutures holding it together. I loved the idea of artificial mankind. Of manufactured mankind. 

When I was thinking about doing a pulp pastoral about weird monsters, I wanted to use the monster. So I finally read Frankenstein, to get the background. 

And the monster is a great character. The book itself is difficult to read. It's driven largely by a monolog-ing Victor, who is whiny and irritating, alternately self-aggrandizing and self-flagellating. It moves fitfully, with too much backstory on the front end, takes forever to get to the conflict between monster and creator. It’s definitelnot one of my favorite reads. But I became really charmed by the character of the monster. 

First of all, he is not dumb, nor clumsy, as he is in the common media depiction of him. There is a scene where he first speaks to his father in the mountains, and he is described as moving with the grace of an ape, almost swinging over the crags and precipices like an ape brachiates, swinging from tree to tree. And he's fucking brilliant. He teaches himself language, and to read, by listening to a young girl reading to her blind grandfather. He speaks as eloquently as any Shakespearian character, and with less fumbling and mumble mouthed vacillation than his father.  
Frankenstein is often read as a warning against misusing science. We must sepulchrally intone "beware what man was not meant to know." Maybe that was even the intent. I am not a Shelley scholar. I don't really care. See how blithe I can be when misusing literature for my personal artistic gain? But frankly, I found the scientific themes entirely secondary to a modern reading. 

The monster is not a warning about what science could do wrong. The monster's worst characteristic throughout the novel is that he is ugly. Victor made this magnificent, brilliant, capable creature and abandoned him because he was ugly. Would any modern human being give life and then pass it up because it wasn't aesthetic enough? Not pretty? 

Some might say that the monster is monstrous because of the violence he perpetrates. I will be accused of being a fuzzy thinking liberal here, but he is a product of his environment and his time in that his murders are the result of his profound emotion at being unique and rejected, and his attempts to make his peace with that through negotiating with the only human being who can alleviate his suffering, his absentee father. He did not live in an age when cognitive behavioral therapy, Buddhist mindfulness, and omnipresent social connections allow us to deal with our harsh emotions in a civil fashion. 

I think rightfully, a modern reader will see the monster is a warning against what happens when you abandon your children and your responsibilities to them. He kills Victor's brother by accident and frames the nanny for the crime out of fear that he will be punished, and then murders Victor's friend and fiancĂ© in revenge for his father's refusal to create a mate. None of the murders are excusable by civilized standards, but none are baseless, and all of them are motivated by a desire for justice. It's reasonable to think that if Victor had shown the monster even as much care as his 1940's film doppelganger does, or as much as  Gene Wilder's Frankensteen does his own monster, with the abby normal brain and all, that none of the mayhem that followed the monster's awakening to consciousness would have occurred. 

The end of Frankenstein sealed my love for the monster, showing him a nuanced creation, a tragic hero in the mold that I enjoy characters: at his father's death, he expresses remorse and regret. 

"But it is true that I am a wretch. I have murdered the lovely and the helpless; I have strangled the innocent as they slept, and grasped to death his throat who never injured me or any other living thing. I have devoted my creator, the select specimen of all that is worthy of love and admiration among men, to misery; I have pursued him even to that irremediable ruin. There he lies, white and cold in death. You hate me; but your abhorrence cannot equal that with which I regard myself. "