Category: backstage

Staying In Touch

Scuttlebutt has it that old @Jack is up to his usual tricks these days.  The House Un-Twitter Activities Committee is hard at work preparing yet another purge list for their latest pogrom.  For a site dedicated to helping people communicate, they sure do love to make it harder to reach people.  As a well known associate of such crimethinkers as Vox Day, Mike Cernovich, the Gamergate crowd, and now the ComicsGate crowd – to say nothing of a crimethinker in his own right – it’s a safe bet I’ll be swept up in the night of the Long Mutes.

To that end, I’m adding an email list/newsletter to JonMollison.com.  There’s a form over there to the right of the words you’re reading now, or you can subscribe here:

Email

Don’t worry, this list will only be used a few times each year to make the big announcements about new releases, upcoming signings, and those rare occasions where I want to reach my select fans for information too time sensitive or too personal to warrant a blog post.  I’ll send out a free e-novella to anyone who signs up over the next week, so don’t wait too long or you’ll miss out on the fun.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me over the past year – next year is going to be even better than this one!

The Company He Keeps

Looking down the length of the barricades in the culture war on which I stand, I see nothing by faces I’m proud to fight alongside:

Makes me feel like one of the Gondorian knights standing behind Aragorn and Gimli and Théoden King at the Black Gates.  How the heck did I wind up standing behind these guys?  Eh, I survived the disaster at Osgiliath and Pelennor Fields.  I might be just a swordsman, but these guys can always use another writer at their back.  Every swipe at the enemy, every purchase denied the Narrativists, serves the cause of the alt-west, and I’m proud to stand among such luminaries.  There isn’t a name on that list I’d pass up a chance to read one of their books.

Two Paths Converged

Two paths will lead you to the heights of literary success, and neither of them are free of rocks, wrong turns, and pitfalls.
 
 

One path is paved with hard work and dedication.  Years of long hours, careful study, and constant effort are necessary to climb this path.  Some say a million words must be written before producing a writer worth reading.  If you take this path, the world around you will constantly roll rocks your way.  They will tempt you to turn back, or to stop and rest.  This path is a long and lonely path that no one can walk for you.  Along the way you might meet a few fellow travelers who will point out the rocks, warn you away from dead ends, and offer encouraging words now and then.  But the actual process of climbing is up to you.  Call this path, “What You Know”.

The sign at the base of the other path reads, “Who You Know”.  Instead of dedicating long hours to tradecraft, the hikers on this path opt to spend time ingratiating themselves to those at the top of the path.  They rely on the hard won successes of others, grasping at coat-tails in the hopes that they may be able to ride them upwards.  Lined with fan conventions, cocktail parties, and rigged award ceremonies, it appears to be a life of relative ease, but it is not without cost.  To ascend this path, one must actively discourage fellow hikers lest they usurp your position as the chosen one.  One must carefully guard his speech lest he offend their patrons and be cast back down the hill.  Part of the price of this path is the loss of freedom the author suffers – the author who chooses this path will forever be subject to the whims of his patrons, unlike those who take the former path.  Call this path “Who You Know”.

Naturally, the two paths intersect and intertwine.  Even the most brilliant author must rely on the generosity of publishers, critics, and readers to spread the word of their latest masterpiece.  Even the most unctuous author must at some point put words to the page, and every patron has his limits.  The market will only bear so much incompetence, and every patron’s patience with authors who lose money has its limit.  As a result, every author spends some time on the first path and some on the second.

As for me – that first path looks like so much more fun.  The people I’ve met along that path sure are fun, I can tell you that!

Dancing Around in a Suit Made of Pulp’s Skin

We were analyzing the submission guidelines for one of those modern day pulp magazines that just doesn’t seem to get it.  A few objections were made, speculation ran wild about what sort of stories they would wind up with, a good time was had by all.  Then the astonishingly well read Kevyn Winkless threw out a heck of a summary.  It’s one of those comments that the world needs to read, but would normally disappear into the black hole of G+ comments.  This comment deserves a better fate, as it so succinctly (and amusingly) sums up my own beef with so much of the people milking the term “pulp”.

Kevyn writes:

Actually, I think what’s going on here is a bit more complex:

  • they think they like pulp when really they like 1980s era DTV pastiches of 1960s era B-movies.
  • not actually grokking the nuclear power core of pulp writing, they view it as akin to a downloadable skin for their fruit based communicator
  • viewing the elements of pulp as being no more than a set of decorations they not unreasonably want to specify which decorations they want and which not.
  • but they haven’t thought deeply about either pulp or their own convictions – this leads them to both fumble when it comes to praxis and to lack confidence that writers will/can give them what they seek.

So much insight I can see my own gall bladder from here.

Modern Pulp Adventure

Not the official mock-up cover,
but a man can dream…

It’s been done before, but never quite like this. A G-plus discussion on the suitability of the pulp ethos for tales set in the modern world got completely out of hand over the weekend. Somebody threw down a gauntlet and Misha Burnett scooped it up with a call to keyboard arms:

We are looking for 21st Century Pulp Revival stories. Who’s we? Well, there’s me, Rawle Nyanzi, Kevyn Winkless, and Sky Hernstrom. There is also a good chance that, once complete, the anthology will be published by Superversive Press.

Take a read through the submission guidelines, and if you think you’ve got what it takes to show the word there’s more to pulp than fast action and empty adventure, throw your hat in the ring.  I’ve already written a 4,500 word Karl Barber adventure, so you might just wind up having your work beta-read and amateur edited by me.  And the chance of that alone is worth taking a stab at Misha’s project.

In all seriousness, this is an important project for the #PulpRevolution.  We talk a big game, stirring up hard v. soft pots, shouting “you’re doing it wrong” at other pulp practicitoners, running serious analysis of why the old pulps worked, and so on.  What we don’t have much of right now is proof that the concepts work.  We’ve got Rawle Nyanzi’s under-priced Sword and Flower, my own Sudden Rescue, and the works of Brian Niemeier and Misha himself*, but churning out the works is a glacial process. 

Misha’s elegant solution is to share the load.  If everybody throws in 2K to 10K words, we can pump out a collection much faster than anyone could an 80K book alone.  Not only does this give a unified title to point to show that the Pulp Revolution works, it also gives a single point of contact where readers can read a sampler of the different writers.  Not all will appeal to everyone, but everyone can find a few writers that they’ll enjoy.  Even more, it’s a way to showcase the depth and scope possible within the pulp revolution, even when it is constrained to a near-real modern world.

Misha’s a treasure, and I have no shame in riding his coattails, because I know they are going more places than I could ever go on my own.  I’d like to ride your coat-tails, too, so be a pal and throw a work into the pile, won’t you?

* The latter two really pre-date the birth of the revolution, but we’re claiming them anyway and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.

My Current Writing Project

The Pulp Revolution loves itself some pulpy fantasy and science fiction.  It’s currently undergoing a long and protracted conversation about where exactly the genre took a left turn for the worse.  There are a lot of theories and finger pointing, with some rather elegant defenses of particular styles.  Loud mouth zealots make grand, sweeping gestures, then retract a bit when others point out exceptions.  Writers and editors of yesteryear get smeared and then have their reputations rehabilitated.  For example, Karl Gallagher’s erudite analysis of Campbellian sci-fi softened my stance on Campbell.

With the exception of the New Wave authors.  Aside from a few gems in the cesspool, nobody likes those guys.

Of course, as readers and open minded sorts, the Pulp Revolution looks outward and analyzes information from other sources.  Whether it’s showing respect to somebody like Rick Stump for his excellent analysis of why Hollywood can’t get Conan right, or mocking the mockable mockeries of analysis like this prize pig, everything is fair game and nothing is off limits.

A number of commenters have pointed fingers at Damon Knight, the man who founded the SFWA and who is most famous for writing a story that ends with a man shouting that “To Serve Man” is a cookbook.  I hesitate to name names, because I’ll forget to mention one or get those mentioned in trouble, but “Cirsova” Alexander and Nathan Housely are the primary culprits here.

Intrigued, I started doing some legwork, and everything fits together nicely nicely, thank you very much.  Damon Knight was a mid-tier author who bullied his way to the top through hubris and vindictiveness.  He did everything he could to assume command of the genre from writing amateur and biased reviews (Really, Damon?  Blish is a great writer and Robert E. Howard a hack?  Yagottabekiddingme,) to starting workshops to teach gullible writers “How it’s really done”, to founding the SFWA and conveniently serving as its first president, the better to determine who really counts as a ‘the right kind of author’.  Of all of the gatekeepers who have made science fiction worse over the years, he was the original and so far as I can tell, the worst of the lot.

I started compiling notes and putting the pieces together, and have been forced to change directions a few times during this process.  While my overall thesis has not changed, certain pieces needed to be shuffled around, and looked at in new contexts.  As new information comes in, and as the conversations continue, I expect other changes to occur as well.  I will probably even post a few chapters here for open criticism and stress testing before declaring it ready for prime-time.

Right now the analysis clocks in at about 8,000 words, and it looks like I’m about half-way done.  So expect a quick read sometime in April/May.  Right now, I’m not sure where it will wind up.  Stay tuned, I’ll keep you posted.

2017: The Year I Come Out of the Box

Even my wargames are pulp.
This rocket ship was built for
15mm sci-fi miniature battles.

If you direct your eyes to the left, over there on the sidebar, you can spot a tag in the cloud called, “wargame related“. It’s no secret that I’m an avid wargamer from way back. I played D&D back when I still had baby-teeth in my mouth, and even dabbled in a bit of ASL from time to time, but my true love has always been miniature wargaming.  I haven’t talked about it very much on Seagull Rising because I have another outlet for showing off my painting, modeling, and wargaming talents.

It’s a little blog called War In A Box, which I published under the nom de jeu de guerre, Warren Abox.  You can read a little bit about why I’m coming out of the box in this post.

The year of our Lord 2017 looks to be an incredible year. The opportunities presenting themselves to me right out of the January starting gate are mind-blowing. In addition to collaborating with one of my favorite authors on the background for a skirmish wargame, I’ll be hosting a semi-weekly column over at the Castalia House blog alongside such luminaries as Jeffro Johnson, P. Alexander, Josh Young, and Morgan (the man with no last name).  The first one went live yesterday.  They’ve got big plans for that blog, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

To make a long story short, thanks to Jeffro, it’s growing increasingly difficult to maintain a separation between my thoughts on gaming and on literature.  While I’ll hang onto the moniker “Warren Abox” for the purposes of forum continuity, that alias will pretty much be an open secret between you, me, and anyone else who really cares about these things.  To be frank, I don’t have the energy nor the time to sustain multiple internet personas, and opening this up should simplify everything for me on the back end.

Understand, this blog will remain largely unchanged.  I’ll leave the wargame heavy posts over at War In A Box, while this blog will stay largely focused on writing, literature, and general cultural critiques, with only the occasional forays into role-playing games, board games, and wargames.

Meanwhile, that semi-weekly column that I’ll be contributing to the Castalia House Blog kicks off on Wednesday.  If you’ve ever thought about attempting to take up the miniature and brush, but been intimidated by the front-end effort at starting a miniature wargame, you won’t want to miss out on this series.