Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Right-Wing Pundit Political Thriller Fad

Some articles on and reviews of Glenn Beck's The Overton Window mention that before Beck, Bill O'Reilly wrote a political thriller of his own. In the last few days, I've noticed political thrillers by Oliver North and Ralph Reed in the remainder piles at my local Barnes & Noble. It hit me that right-wing political thrillers by Fox News pundits have become the latest fad. They're bestsellers, of course, with the Conservative Book Club playing the role of the Church of Scientology (which bought most of the copies of L. Ron Hubbard's later books) by gaming the sales figures. I acknowledged this in one of my short stories intended for print publication: a publisher complains about right-wing pundits jumping on the political thriller bandwagon when their left-wing counterparts have enough sense not to join them. These thrillers have two things in common: 1) they're ghostwritten 2) they're badly ghostwritten. This fad runs the risk of ruining the political thriller subgenre forever. But will these guys realize that writing stories is best left to real storytellers? I think not. Meanwhile, I'll go back to writing mine...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Panic Time, AugNoWriMo 2010 Edition

It's that time of the WriMo again: Panic Time! As I'm currently under 10,000 words this AugNoWriMo, I'd better start panicking if I want to win my first AugNo. Will the third time be the charm? Only if I get off my butt, stop procrastinating, and start writing!

Currently, my word count is 8,234, and that's including the AugNo Anthology short story I've submitted. Getting to 50,000 might require a 10K day or two, but who knows...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spanner: Morality Is Not the Point

Lately I've been paying too much attention to a site called Television Tropes & Idioms and listing the tropes relevant to Spanner in a Microsoft Word document. When I got to Character Alignment, I realized, for the first time since I started my first preliminary work on this story in 1992, that in a story about a revolution sparked by a monkeywrencher against an oppressive technocracy, morality is not the point. In most stories, the vertical axis on the alignment chart (good vs. evil) is the focus, and most writers (and moralists) conflate "order" with "good" and likewise "chaos" with "evil" (hence the trope Anarchy Is Chaos and its twin, Democracy Is Bad, which Spanner puts in the mouths of Lawful Evil villains but utterly rejects). Spanner is about freedom, not morality.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

AugNoWriMo: The Muse Gets Off Her Duff Again

Once again, it took me until the middle of the month to really get started. No problem, really; I'll still win AugNoWriMo. After all, I won JulNoWriMo the same way, almost. But the key turned out to be, once again, a completely different story. It was the short story I want to submit to this year's AugNo Anthology. I wrote it in two hours and edited it in two hours on Monday (the 16th). Yeah, that did the trick.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Future Shock

Remember future shock? It's the shock that overcomes you when you can't handle what you perceive as too much change in too little time. The term was coined by futurist Alvin Toffler, and it's the subject of the book that made him famous. If anything, the speed of change has accelerated since the book came out in 1970, and the shock registered by those who can't handle it has become more extreme, to the point of madness. The ultimate expression of that madness is 9/11 — so far. But far more people have come to adapt to the accelerating rate of change; some of us can even be said to surf evolution. The 21st-century world we live in today was nothing but science fiction in the 20th century.

In this entry, I'll be dealing with fiction as well as society. We tell ourselves who we are through the stories we tell.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Spanner: When Power Corrupts

Lord Acton famously said: "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Sure, he was writing to a bishop about the then new Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, but it applies to any organization. If someone gains too much power, they are bound to become corrupt. The famous Peter Principle explains why: In any hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence. The mechanism is groupthink, or collective narcissism resulting from the leader's delusion that the fact that he is in power makes everything right and his increasing intolerance for negative feedback.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Spanner: With Great Power...

Last entry, I brought up one of the major themes of Spanner: the never-ending conflict between those who try to raise ordinary people to their level and those merely content to oppress them. That's the basic conflict, and I'll write a few more things about it later in this post. The theme I'm concerned with, though, is closely related and should be familiar:

With great power comes great responsibility.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spanner: Why These Big Family Things? There's A Theme In It.

That last entry was me going too far. I do that sometimes. Much of Spanner is all about either the characters or their author going too far. But the whole Wold Newton Universe thing? You know the old Arab proverb warning against letting the camel stick its nose into your tent...

Anyway, there's a purpose behind that "Grail Family", "Wold Newton Family", and "House of Dracula" stuff. Margaret Starbird introduced it and Laurence Gardner (who included the genealogy of the House of Dracula in his Realm of the Ring Lords) echoed it. It's contained in the Hebrew words anakim and anawim.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spanner and the Incident at Wold Newton

On December 13, 1795, a meteor fell near the village of Wold Newton in the Wolds of East Yorkshire, England. According to the late Philip José Farmer, science fiction author (of Riverworld fame) and genealogist, these people were nearby at the time:
  • John Clayton, third Duke of Greystoke, and his wife Alicia ( Rutherford), sister of...
  • George Edward Rutherford, eleventh Baron Tennington, and his wife, Elizabeth Cavendish;
  • Honoré Delargardie and his wife, Philippa Drummond;
  • Fitzwilliam Darcy and his wife, Elizabeth Bennet;
  • Sir Percy Blakeney (the Scarlet Pimpernel) and his second wife, Alice Clarke Raffles;
  • Sir Hugh Drummond (Philippa's brother) and his wife, Georgia Dewhurst;
  • Dr. Siger Holmes and his wife, Violet Clarke Raffles (Alice's sister);
  • Sebastian Noel, a friend and student of Dr. Holmes; and
  • four coachmen: Louis Lupin, Albert Lecoq, Arthur Blake, and Simon MacNichols.
The radiation from the meteor mutated these people, who became the ancestors of several of the greatest heroes in literature and pop culture. Farmer focuses in particular on three of them: Sherlock Holmes, descendant of Siger, and two Greystoke scions: John Clayton-Wilder, the eighth Duke of Greystoke, better known under the name Tarzan; and Dr. James Clayton "Doc" Wilder, Jr., whose adventures were fictionalized first as "Doc Ardan" (in French) and then, more famously, as Doc Savage.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Project Notebook Search #1

Now that I'm writing Spanner (and its side stories), it's past time for me to start searching the nearly two decades' worth of notes I wrote into fourteen Project Notebooks. I'll start by delving into the massive Notebook #13. I called it "The Production Notebook", but by the time I switched to #14 in 2007 (after I'd already started NaNoWriMo and shortly before I switched my attention to the Spanner prequel Bad Company), I'd failed yet again to teach myself how to draw comics, like a New Year's resolution that fails over and over but continues to haunt you. Anyway, I'm gleaning from the notes in Project Notebook #13. (Note: If my Project Notebook entries resemble blog posts like in this very blog, consider the Notebooks the private-journal predecessor to "Spanner's World".)

Monday, August 9, 2010

AugNoWriMo: First Week (or so) Progress

Things are continuing to get interesting in Spanner land during AugNoWriMo. So far I've got two days of writing under my belt. (Of course I'm behind, but because of Panic Time I have no worries about losing AugNo.) I've managed to find more places for more of the scenes I've been planning since the mid-'90s, and I've even discovered a creative way to reuse one scene that was made obsolete by the switch from analog (and CRT) to digital (and flat-screen) TV.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Spanner: What Is Leila Doing?

Shira's gorgeous girlfriend Leila Shelley is a very important character in Spanner — but you wouldn't know it from the JulNoWriMo incomplete draft. Right now, if I remember right, I've only written two scenes for her. They're very big scenes, but still just two. The pivotal one has Shira catching her by the hand when she tries to jump off a bridge. After that, the two girls are stuck together for the rest of the story, at least.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

AugNoWriMo: Spanner the Novel, Phase 2, With Short Stories

Now that I've won JulNoWriMo with Spanner, the next step is — you guessed it — AugNoWriMo! I've signed up and declared my intention to write 50,000 more words. Soon, I'll be ready to write again, and this time I'll keep track of my progress here, even if only every week or so.

Now, here's my plan:
  1. Read what I've written and figure out what plotlines I'm using.
  2. Map out the plotlines for book 1 (and some of book 2; scenes from the end of that are already coming to me today) with these plotlines and the new ones I've written out this week.
  3. Reorganize the scenes some. (Not too much; this is not the time for serious editing yet.)
  4. Write!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

JulNoWriMo: How I Won Without Writing "Bad Company"

I failed at JulNoWriMo. And yet I won. How did I pull it off? Simple: I abandoned Bad Company. I hardly even wrote a word of it. In fact, I might not even finish it at all.

What saved me, then? Well, on the afternoon of the 14th, I was napping in my recliner. I had a vivid dream. But it was not really a dream; it was the first chapter of Spanner. My muse had already decided to throw out the prequels and work on the original project. At once, I got onto a 5,000-word pace and wrote several chapters. When I slacked off, I invoked Panic Mode in the final week and got back up to 5K a day, finishing with a 10K day. And so I won.

Spanner, remember, is the story I started planning as a manga in 1992. Bad Company and its projected sequels were intended as novel prequels to the manga. However, 2014 is fast approaching and I still haven't been able to learn to draw comics. So, I'm writing it as a novel. Spanner's still very much cyberpunk, and it will still remain as controversial as I've always planned it. However, instead of the pretty (and ugly) pictures, what I'll be delivering is wild wordplay — at least for now.

The result is that I have 13 chapters and one prequel short story in various stages of completion. Before I start writing again, this time for AugNoWriMo, I'm going back and straightening out the plotlines. I have several plotlines from several years of the Spanner Project Notebooks (15 of them since '92!) that I want to incorporate into the story. I've already included several of the scenes and set pieces I've scripted since at least '99, if not all the way back to '92. I'm also developing the character arcs of several characters more. I'm working out new ideas in new Notebook entries (I use the Project Notebook as a workbook now that I have this project blog). I'll be scanning the Notebooks for ideas, scenes, characters, and storylines I missed last month. Then, I'll rework the plot and start writing again. Once again, it's 50,000 words.

My goal is to start serializing Spanner the novel online by the time NaNoWriMo begins in November. Watch for it!

Real-Life Bad Companies: The Empire of the Banks

(Note: The first two "Real-Life Bad Companies" posts were originally written last year. This was written first, but posted after the second entry, on mercenary corporations like Dictel.)

Sooner or later, I'll resume the hard work of editing Bad Company into something resembling a readable novel. Also, I've started drawing again for almost the first time in about 2 years, and I hope to reclaim my skills so I can draw Spanner myself. So I figure now is the time to write another little background entry. It's about "future history" and its history, so to speak. Recently I've noticed how so many "apocalyptic" novels are billed as "historical novels set in the future", and that future is supposed to be inevitable. I don't just mean various science fiction attempts at future histories (and not by the good writers, either). I mean especially the evangelical authors rewriting the same John Nelson Darby scenario. All these people have to support their claim that their scenario is inevitable is sheer blind faith. My advantage is that the events behind Spanner are already happening. My prediction: by the middle of this decade, the US, the EU, and all the other countries of the "Western" "capitalist" world will go bankrupt and get repossessed by the banks they're hopelessly in hock to. Thus the "Corporate Empire" is born, a pure corporatist dictatorship ruled by a tyrannical synarchy of not corporate bosses but of banking institutions led by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which inflict their "austerity" on the whole "Western" world. (Synarchy, remember, is Greek for "junta".) Spanner begins when America ends.

Real-Life Bad Companies: The Mercenary Corporations

In the first entry of my "Real-Life Bad Companies" series (Note: "Empire of the Banks", also written last year but not yet posted; I'll revise and post it soon), I introduced you to the thieves: the "bankster" predators who crashed the world economy and are now sucking it dry, vampirically. Now you'll meet the terrorists: the mercenary corporations the banksters intend to use against the nations they're about to repossess. These are the infamous and feared Dictels of the world: Blackwater-Xe, DynCorp, and so on. Right now they have more soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan than all the NATO governments combined. Eventually, when the banks repossess the nations, they'll privatize all the police agencies and military services under their control and consolidate all the public and private mercenary corporations into the all-powerful fist of Corporatism.

The problem with using national armies as colonial occupation forces serving corporate profit is that they run the danger of running away when the nations' voters turn against the occupation. Mercenaries like to say that government soldiers all too easily lose their will to fight. Duty, therefore, is not a strong enough motivation to oppress foreign nations. There is a force far stronger than duty, one which can drive a man to murder his mother: greed. The profit motive is a much better reason to wage unjust wars than fickle duty.