Category Archives: Writing

Wouldja Believe Lovecraftian Horror?

Zounds! After many a voiceover self-promotion, I get to do a writing self-promo!

All seven or nine regular blog readers know that I do write plenty of audio fiction, given my periodic but consistent mention of my space opera Rogue Tyger, the implied adaptations of various folk tales and spooky tales, and occasional rampant, all-around silliness.

But amid all these screenplays and essays here (and endless posts about Star Trek), there haven’t been any short stories.

Until now.

I’m happy to announce that my story, “Final Delivery” is part of a new anthology just in time for your reading pleasure this Spooky Season. I’m in some great company of other indie authors, including: Russell Nohelty, Samuel Barnhart, Drue M. Scott, Blaze Ward, April Steenburgh, Elizabeth Davis, Pierre Demery, James Palmer, Jessica Maison, J.D. Oliva, L.S. Johnson, Bruno Lombardi, L.K. Ingino, Richard Quarry, Ann Gimpel, Sonia Orin Lyris, Pierino Gattei, Rebecca M. Senese, and Amy Campbell.

The collection goes on sale this coming Saturday, October 1st, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble which should cover most of your e-reading needs (Apple should be coming soon).

What’s the anthology about, you ask? One of my favorite themes: the apocalypse.

In a snap, the apocalypse descends, wiping out almost everything.

Almost.

A few survivors struggle in the ruins, fighting until the bitter end.

After The Fall (A Blaze Ward Presents Special Edition) brings together twenty different visions: some hopeful, some desperate, and some just plain weird. Many different takes on what the world might look like after aliens came down. Or the Elder Gods awakened.

Or if Darkness itself just fell.

Come join USA Today bestsellers and rookies alike as they show you what life might look like After The Fall.

You’ll have to find out if my tale is hopeful, desperate or weird. I will say that it is Lovecraftian and a kind of horror that would be quite at home in an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Enjoy!

Banned Books Week Wrap-Up: Thoughts on Maus

So, I finished Maus before the end of last week. It was a fast read both because the graphic novel format and because it was an absolute page-turner.

I knew the book was autobiographical to some extent, but I didn’t realize how much the story of the author’s father during the Holocaust and the story of the author talking to his father about that story would be interwoven. It was very affecting, understated, and real. In fact, I’m hard pressed to make any comments on it that beat what’s on the back cover. I agree with all of them.

Ditto.

Also, last week was also when the documentary The U.S. and the Holocaust premiered and it seemed to make sense to watch it at the same time. That turned out to be a few too many Nazi atrocities to comprehend at once, even when I took a break for Space Nazis. Watching Moonfall proved to be the unrealistic palate cleanser I needed before I came back to watching the documentary (which was excellent). So, lesson learned: pace your horrors when you can.

Banning Books? Process Schmocess

In the video post from Monday, John Green briefly mentioned how one of the challenges to his book Looking for Alaska amounted to a person talked to a school official about a page in his book.

The problem is, this kind of scenario happens a lot for challenging books. A single person is bringing this to the attention of a single official and there’s no process in place to review requests, challenges, or concerns. And even when there is a process, many of the school districts or other governmental entities aren’t inclined to follow their own process, as was the case for the Waterloo, Iowa school district back in 2015.

There’s actually plenty of great orgs out there fighting the good fight, but I’ve always enjoyed the work of these folks.

Not only did only one person challenge the book (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), the school district pulled the book without following their own process for challenged books. And more often than not, many groups don’t want attention paid to any process (I guess it’s uncomfortable to admit you erroneously acquiesced to someone’s discomfort).

And lest you think that this was just some isolated case from seven years ago, would-be censors are still at it. And it’s not just a book being in someone’s course plan. It’s books in libraries and even books being sold in commercial book stores per this lawsuit filed in Virginia.

And if a decision has already been made to keep the books in libraries, well you can always have a re-do and remove those icky books from school libraries as they did in Keller, Texas recently. In fact, when the regular public library decided to let it be know that this week was, in fact, Banned Books Week, the city government thought that was very improper and had that social media announcement deleted. Adults or even kids might know books that made other people uncomfortable are available to read… at will!

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about the kids. I mean, really: what’s going to happen to the kids if they read these books? Will they have nightmares for weeks, requiring medication or hospitalization? Will they need therapy for years and years from reading these books? Where is the documentation about these horrible, book-inflicted maladies that strain our medical infrastructure to the breaking point?

What’s that you say? There isn’t a health crisis from reading books? There might be (gasp) questions about the world?

Then we know what to say to censors, who stridently insist they’re protecting the children. Keep the disinfecting sunlight shining.

Video

If a Worldview can be Destroyed by a Novel, the Problem is not the Novel

You may wonder what authors think about when their books are banned, so why not frequent vlogger and author John Green who found his book, Looking for Alaska, in the crosshairs of censors. I should note this particular video is from 2016, referencing the top challenged books of 2015. There’s usually a lag time compiling the data: while it’s interesting, it’s not necessarily pressing.

However, the video is also under 3 and a half minutes and –assuming you’re not put off by the editing style that presents him as a hyperactive Q flitting to either side of the video frame– he covers a lot of philosophical ground in that time.

He notes one of the challenges to the book involved one person reading one page and raising high dudgeon on that basis alone. I’ll delve into the phenomenon of how flimsy many of these book challenges are later this week.

In the meantime, enjoy his thoughts on books, society, and what goes on in school superintendent offices.

For Banned Books Week this year: Maus

Next week is Banned Books Week, and as longtime readers may know, I always make a point of reading a banned or challenged book at this time of year. You can check out the most challenged books of 2021 or just do a bit of web searching to find historical lists and find something that might tickle your fancy in a way that scolds and censors feel your fancy should not be tickled.

The books I’ve read during the time of this blog have included The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Persepolis, Beyond Magenta, and It’s Perfectly Normal. This last one, a great follow-up to It’s Not the Stork, is a tremendously useful resource for kids and parents (often reading together to facilitate discussion).

And although I just linked to an online store (actually a coalition of independent bookstores), I found just about all of these at my local library, either in physical copy or electronically.

Having said that, this year I’m going to dive into a copy of Maus which I was inspired to order when a school board decided to ban it from their curriculum — and evidently, I was not alone. Like many of the books I listed above, Maus has been one of those works I’ve meant to read for years –I even recall reading sections of it in school way back when– but I’ve never sat down and read through the whole thing.

So why now? Because my kids have already asked me about evil in the world and how it can happen and what happens next and what one can do. Because they know the stork isn’t gonna bail them out. So I have a copy, ready and waiting for those sorts of discussions.

Because I’m thinking of the children.

May your reading selection send scores of scolds and censors to their fainting couches.

Prep for Banned Books Week 2022

Next week, September 18-24 is Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of, depending on who you ask, the freedom to read, sticking it to The Man, both, or perhaps all of them and so much more.

Odds are I read challenged or banned books throughout the year, but for the life of this blog, I’ve tried to make sure to do so during the coming week. In part, the most challenged books of a given year are often new ones I haven’t had to check out (though I have gone to classics I somehow missed growing up like The Catcher in the Rye and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings).

In case you’re wondering about what to read, the Banned Books website has some top challenged books, but if you want more options the folks in Collier County, Florida labeled a list of 115 books that have “… been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”

Thanks, “Some Community Members.” Kids: your reading list awaits.

Neil Gaiman on Writing

Considering I shared some interviews of Rod Serling on writing earlier, what are the odds that I’d share an interview with Neil Gaiman after last week’s post?

Pretty darn good.

So here’s a good 100-minute interview with Tim Ferris from 2019 where Neil Gaiman goes into all sorts of things from his formative years to fountain pens to his writing process (and I have to say, I do like the change in format enforcing the editing phase).

Video

Neil Gaiman here. What is the Nature of your Mythological Emergency?

I had a lot of reactions when I first read The Sandman in the previous millennium, but one of them was noting how clearly Neil Gaiman adored mythology and storytelling through history. American Gods, Anansi Boys, and more recently Norse Mythology all cement this observation. The connection between Gaiman and mythology isn’t exactly a secret these days, which, combined with the debut of the TV incarnation of The Sandman, is likely why Wired decided to have him field a slew of mythology questions from Twitter. Enjoy!

A Lot More Q&A with Rod Serling

After watching the Rod Serling video compilation back in July, I’ve gone down a modest Rod Serling rabbit hole looking for other videos and talks and interviews he’s given.

As you might imagine, YouTube does provide.

This nearly hour-long entry is essentially a long question-answer session from UCLA circa 1971. As with many of the other videos I’ve come across, many of his answers and references are very topical to 1971, so be warned that you may need to fire your history synapses for some of the shows and events cited.

Nevertheless, I found many of the answers –even though they were very much of the time regarding the recent departure of Star Trek from the airwaves to Serling’s displeasure at his current gig Night Gallery– to be interesting enough to share.

via UCLA

Now, while this is a video, it’s simply a recording of the session at UCLA… and because there wasn’t any presumption of broadcast, you’ll hear some salty language from both Serling and some of the student. Also, and this is something I’ve found in some of the other videos I’ve watched, Serling can be irascible and prickly with some of the questions… which is interesting, because he seems remarkably self-aware that he is being irascible. Perhaps the most poignant aspects of this self-awareness is when they discuss his addiction to smoking, which he knew was not good for his health.

The Showrunner Role in Transition

Thinking of Monday’s post regarding Rod Serling, I’m continuing to read up about showrunners and industry trends in the wake of COVID. And if you’re wondering what a ‘showrunner’ of a TV show actually is, well, that’s changing too — as covered in this very long form article for Vice by Katharine Trendacosta.

Perhaps from my time studying anthropology and perhaps my dayjob role of analyzing business processes, but I love detailed articles like these that delve into the art and craft of running a show (and yes, I’ve got some self-interest there too). Trendacosta intereviews a wide gamut of writer-producers to give you multiple perspectives on the industry… and one thing I note that is quite common in so many industries I read about: there are massive changes in how they are doing business and many people aren’t trying to figure out what is good and bad about it until the reality hits them in the face.

Add to that, the rise of streaming, the business practices adopted with COVID, and you have a lot to chew on. I really hope they find ways to add that mentoring and production experience “scaffolding” to the newer models, because I’m pretty sure we won’t be getting back to 22-episode seasons anytime soon.