Showing posts from May, 2020

Satire: Part 2

The problem with claiming that my book is satirical is that it leads readers to think it’s going to be funny and you may not find it all that funny. Fair enough. If I claimed that The Human Template was a satire, then that’s much a promise of multiple laughs per page. But I assure you, “A book can be satirical without being a satire.” “What’s the difference?” You may challenge, and you probably will, because you’re kinda like that.   In my opinion a “satire” is satirical through and through. Satire is a noun indicating a thing built of satire. Satire is its raison d’etre . Remove the satire and chances are all you have left is words. Word to word and sentence to sentence, they may make sense, but if the plot is as satirical as the style, they may not actually hook up in a way that makes any sense at all. But I merely claimed that my book is “satirical,” an adjective. It’s a science fiction epic that contains some satire. “A generous dollop!” I promise. “This from the assho

Contemporary Satire; Tastes Great - Less Filling.

Contemporary Satire Vonnegut did it!  Committed satire. Over and over in fact. Although some critics didn’t think he wrote satire at all; apparently, even though his work was intended to make fun of modern life and capitalist values, it doesn’t do so with the intent of inspiring action that would reform the system. "Not satire." say those critics.                  "Hahaha," say I.  Any lack of intention to inspire change is merely a technicality –  simply a consequence of the times we live in – where the power structures, corruption, self-delusion and  sheer vastness of our modern world is too embedded, complex and amoral to be changed by a guy with a writing pad or keyboard firing shots at the establishment. It’s about as effective as dropping a bomb in a video game. It may affect the outcome of that particular game, but is otherwise of no consequence at all to life, the universe and everything.  If you do an internet search for Modern Satirists, you will likely f

Don't Go in the Box!

Harlan Ellison famously denied being a science fiction writer and apparently even walked off radio and tv shows when he was introduced as one. At the time it didn’t make sense to me. He was a frequent guest at SF conventions, had won tons of SF awards, 95 per cent of his work contained SF or fantasy elements and appeared in science fiction magazines and anthologies. Over the years, his stance started making more and more sense. I began to see the disadvantages of being put into a narrow box.   It’s less a case of allowing yourself to be put there – than it is of being put there with or without your approval or cooperation – subject to all the unfair preconceptions of the reading public. If you ask the person on the street for their perception of Science Fiction – even in our world where comic book movies rule the box office and everyone is familiar and somewhat tolerant of Star Wars and Star Trek – is that science fiction is formulaic space opera filled with thin characters and

E-Book vs Hardcopy

For all the talk about e-books taking over the world, I can’t help but notice what I consider a serious swing in the other direction. When I was lining up beta readers for The Human Template , I gave most of the local readers a choice between electronic or hardcopy versions of the novel.   Only one of the thirteen people asked for an electronic copy. He turned out to be the only one of the beta readers who didn’t actually follow through and read the book. I will say that a number of people since that time have asked to read it and half of the people who received hardcopies still haven’t finished it. But the scales still definitely tip towards the hardcopy side. A good number of the people who read the hardcopy gave it back when they were done, which is quite understandable given the fact that many of them are condo dwellers with very little space to store things like books. Even as a bit of a book collector, I make a point of thinning out my shelves on a regular basis, keeping only

Walking the Walk

First job I had out of university was copywriting at a small Edmonton office of one of Canada’s biggest ad agencies at the tail-end of the Mad Men era. My boss was a refugee from the cut-throat Toronto market who just wanted to keep his head down and service his handful of big local clients until retirement. If he was hiding a sordid past, he did it well, being one of the most decent and caring people I ever worked for.  Inadequate Answers When we lost a major client, I suggested, “why don’t we advertise?” The look on his face was as though I’d suggested flying to the sun on wax wings. “What? To bring in new clients?” “Yeah. We tell our potential clients that advertising is essential. Worthy of 10 to 20 per cent of their operating budget. If it’s so red hot and we do it better than anyone, why don’t we advertise our own services?” There was a long silence, before he responded in measured tones, “Advertising agencies don’t advertise, period.” “But why? If we’re so good at it

Breaking the Text Barrier

Breaking Writers Block: Part 2 Writing quickly and writing slowly tap into totally different parts of your brain. If you are usually an ordered and methodical writer, you may find it incredibly useful and productive to cut loose.  Different Approaches to Writing Really Fast  Fast mode, for me, is when the ideas are coming faster than my mental ability to express them properly and I desperately scramble to get words on paper or pixels on screen before losing them completely. Coherence, continuity and common sense are the first things to go out with the window as I struggle to come up with strategies to keep getting some value from the technique. There is value there, even though it may not be apparent at first. With practice, you can learn to control the flow. My top speed is probably about 700 words an hour.  I can imagine someone writing semi-coherently at two or three thousand words and hour. I know people who can type 100 words a minute, but anyone who can think that fast is a f

The Importance of Endings

I’ve been working on the final chapter of my novel for a few weeks now. Not that the old one wasn’t working. Of my eighteen beta readers, only one reader picked up the flaws at the climax and they didn’t mention it until literally yesterday. No, I mean it. Yesterday. Literally. The thing that's been on my mind a lot lately is the importance of endings . The other day I tried to track down a Gardner Dozois quotation that made a big impact of me – I think it was from one of his Best SF of the Year anthologies. In it, he mentioned a couple good novels that came out during the year he was reviewing and he paused to contemplate how great they might have been if their endings had been the same quality as the rest of the book. I remember how much it resonated with me because I too had just read several potentially great novels that fell apart or simply petered out when it mattered most – during the climax that ends the book! This is a thing writers do - spend five years writing their

Jetsam and Assorted Ephemera

Do you know the difference between flotsam and jetsam? Flotsam is wreckage - stuff lost at sea as a direct result of a disaster - whereas Jetsam is useful stuff thrown overboard to lighten the load. Flotsam is, at best, useful for keeping survivors briefly afloat, but for the most part it just gives you slivers; while jetsam is the sort of thing beachcombers spend their lives looking for.  Welcome to the Age of Jetsam - where we're all waiting to see what useful things are being jettisoned during the storm we are currently weathering. And what, after all is said and done, might be salvageable.   Even before the pandemic, I heard stories about the sad state of the publishing industry.  Now that retailers in general are in survival mode, with many restaurants, specialty stores, nightclubs, and other businesses surrendering to the economic chaos of the moment, I've started to hear the inevitable stories of authors not getting paid, bookstores and printers going belly up, and publi