Monthly Archives: July 2014

Unwise, Profligate and Passionate

Ah, but I am a passionate writer. There is no reward if there is no risk.

just another self published author

And nothing if one does not believe in the work.

It isn’t all right if a woman says such things. It is lauded if gentlemen like my mentor and friend Harlan Ellison flame pathetic individuals. I have an old Galaxy Magazine from the early 70s in which Harlan wrote one of his 5-page missives destroying a critic who dared criticize his work. In that very issue is one of the saddest, most incompetent stories I’ve ever read — by the very same “critic” Harlan flamed. A Harlan classic.

Bad reviews are one thing. Taste is taste, and one may not please all readers.

Dishonest, untrue ones — quite another.

The common wisdom is that one must not respond to negative reviews. Well, I have been seldom wise and hardly ever, in accordance with the “common wisdom.” Assumptions are the enemy of all rational thought.

It’s not that this review made me angry. It made me laugh. It’s that the reviewer seems to have sped through, looking for ways to flame the work in question. She appears to have hardly been able to contain herself from noting the work was “unedited” (untrue) and “self-published” (also untrue).

Well, here’s the provenance this scholar, critic and writer apparently missed.

Because I do believe in this story. First, the story was written inspired by academic study I was undertaking while a graduate student in literature at Chapman University. This study included a seminar in the work of Oscar Wilde, during which I was privileged to read Oscar’s original typescripts, faxed from the UK by his grandson Merlin Holland. It also incorporated a desire to defend Edgar Allan Poe from the second-rank status he’d been accorded in some literature texts edited by Francis X.J. Kennedy (a well-known poet and pedogogical authority), and my study of Shakespeare’s works, having received the ability to visit the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, as a visiting scholar.

As is usual for me, I thought about heaven and hell. I thought about the egos of writers. And most certainly I shall be found in the “Cave of the Writers,” disputing with all the rest. Let us hope I shall not, like Hemingway, be trapped forever in the permanent critique group.

I thought about love. How it both damns and redeems.

“Dream you other wise.”

That’s what the story is about. We may write our own lives if we have but the courage to do so.

So I write my own life as a woman born out of time, but in no time, for time is not real, only place.

I don’t just respect Shakespeare, I know he is the master of us all. Born he was to be as he was, and his words made him so. And “Shakespeare in Hell” is about how Shakespeare dreamed himself out of hell. And so may we all dream, have we but the courage and fortitude.

And these also I have, madam. This isn’t just the company I founded, it’s about taking writers out of slavery to freedom. It’s about setting the heart and mind free for all those who speak better in the written word than with the mouth.

So set you down this. Whatever you think you are, and what I am, you misjudged. You misapprehended. For 30 years, live you this life. Take you the word and the discipline and the passion and the heart. Write you something of merit and of meat. Think you of the spirit and the heart and the blood these great writers had. I do not pretend myself to that; I know what I said was true, all the same.

And then, perhaps, you may meet me where I stand. Where I live, where I am.

Some of us were born writers; others, perhaps are made.

Harlan Ellison would have told you off differently, as he is a different, passionate, profligate man. I am profligate with my word, with my time, with my heart — to those who need it.

Do you want to go? Because I will go. Come on. Take it off. Let’s go. Lights out. You take me on. You write a sonnet, villanelle, ballad. 5 minutes, sonnet. Ten minutes, villanelle or ballad.  Let’s see who the “self-published writer” who needs an editor is. Let us see who has the most to say. Let us see – who has the word. Let us do it now. Let’s settle it.

More poor fool who thinks they can take this 30 years and a life of pain on. Like that. Just like fucking that. Please, do be my guest. You took the risk of taking on a streetfighter. So let’s go.

PS: yes, Harlan inspired me. Of course he did. “My bright star, ever pointing upward.”

PPS: from a reader and friend, noted the reviewer is a lawyer – “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2)

 

 

 

Reader Focus is the Answer to Gender Bias in Publishing

Earlier this year, Sophia McDougall wrote a fascinating, thoughtful, painful article in the New Statesman about gender bias in UK booksellers, particularly among SF/F books and authors. In the article, she mentions surveying table after table of books of various types and finding among them ratios of 20:1 male to female authors. At-present in legacy publishing, female writers are most-often relegated to YA or children’s writing, certain select nonfiction titles (i.e. Chelsea Handler – who has her E! show because she was sleeping with former Comcast CEO Ted Harbert), certain types of back of the table mysteries, cookbooks, weight loss and diet books, and of course: romance.

Waterstones fantasyReaders and writers alike noticed “issues” with Waterstones SF/F promotional posters. No matter what the subgenre or category, the authors and books listed were, in the great majority, male. Waterstones are a UK bookseller, so it should go without saying they were also all “white.” Apparently Waterstones’ promotional materials for SF/F, in addition to being hideously designed, listed 113 authors, of which 9 were female – i.e. 93% male, 7% female split. They were not even able to list more than a handful of female authors in urban fantasy — despite the fact that in reality, this subgenre’s bestsellers are by far, female.

For a number of years, McDougall has visited bookshops and talked to booksellers about this notable gender bias. According to her, “the bookshops blamed the publishers and the publishers blamed the bookshops, and nothing got better.”

What an instructive statement.

I cannot imagine a more illustrative example than this. When questioned about what is essentially product ossification, as well as selection of product based on limited knowledge and personal preference (Why are you listing long-dead Isaac Asimov and less-long dead, but equally dead Arthur C. Clarke and numerous others as major product categories – ignoring new product?) – the retailers blame the manufacturer, and the manufacturer blames the retailers.

So, a lot of people are writing letters and tweeting, etc.

McDougall says, “If you pick books from what you see around you and what you’ve grown up with and the names you see in the trade press, none of which requires any sort of malice, the monoculture persists.”

I’m not writing about the “monoculture.” I’m writing about the business of writing books, creating books, and selling books.

And again, such an instructive statement and such clear evidence of the lacks in the legacy publishing and bookselling industry, lacks that will not be rectified exclusively through self-publishing. “If you pick books from what you see around you and what you’ve grown up with …”

How about this concept:

If you pick books responding to what the customers desire.

Dear Lord, what a concept.

This has to be carried throughout the enterprise. In what business, when a customer is asking for certain things (i.e. Guess what? I already READ THAT BOOK BY ISAAC ASIMOV – I’D LIKE A DIFFERENT ONE NOW) does the retailer say “Sorry, I have only been sent these same books by the publishers,” and the manufacturer says, “Sorry, we do develop new product but we don’t particularly care about the new product and besides – it fails all the time – so here is another reprint of THIS BOOK BY ISAAC ASIMOV.”

Imagine if this were Oreos, which used to be one of my favorite cookies. “Sorry, we’re out of Golden Oreos but we have regular Oreos — it’s Nabisco’s fault.” Nabisco’s response is, “Sorry, we haven’t made any more Golden Oreos lately — the groceries aren’t ordering them. We got some orders from convenience stores, but frankly, we’re certain customers won’t want them. So we didn’t make them.”

Yeah. Like that.

Chameleon-logo-2

It’s one step at a time. And it begins with valuing the only possible engine of manufacture: the writer. Writers are perforce, also readers. There is scarcely a writer working who hasn’t read many, many books. It begins by valuing the customer: the all-important reader.

People wonder why the industry is struggling in its legacy form? I just told you. And the lessons as to how it may revitalize are all around us.

Launch Pad 2014 Thoughts

As soon as Dr’s Stephanie and Tim Slater from the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research walked into our classroom at the University of Wyoming this morning, I knew I was in the presence of two master teachers. What they had to say thrilled me to the core. The renaissance in human understanding and thought is well under-way and I am so grateful to be able to participate.

WIRO visit 07 17 14

I have been so privileged to attend the Launch Pad Astronomy and science workshop for science fiction/fantasy writers this past week. “All of my friends” have gone, and I have felt somewhat left-out. Well, before I attended, I didn’t know what I’d missed! Launch Pad is a week of intensive learning in astronomy, basic science methods, and other science-related learning that can benefit creative professionals writing science fiction, fantasy and science fact across all platforms: games, television, print fiction, film, nonfiction, new media and more. The workshop is the brainchild of astronomer Mike Brotherton, assistant professor at the University of Wyoming. Mike is pretty specific about the outcomes of the workshop. After eight years of the workshop, well over 100 sci-fi and fantasy creative professionals have attended and have been able to enrich their work — and write more accurate, scientifically correct work — as a result.

As to goals and objectives, Mike modestly notes, “We want to change the world.”

The less-quantifiable goals of Launch Pad are to change the way people think about science, increase interest in and knowledge of science and the universe we live in, and perhaps, engage and motivate the next generation of great scientists.

wyoming 2

On Tuesday, Mike gave an example of a science-based planet he described for a story in the Kepler’s Dozen anthology. He talked about the process he followed to determine the appearance of the light on the planet orbiting Kepler 42, a red dwarf star. Considering both physics and biology, Mike decided that the light would appear white, not red, under most circumstances. “You can’t leave out the biology,” he said.

I nearly fell out of my chair. After years of hearing that “biology” isn’t even science fiction, here was a hard scientist and author saying he’d combined disciplines in order to understand this far-away world and create a believable story.

This interdisciplinary approach comes naturally to me, but I have an MFA, not a Ph.D. As I commented to Mike and others, I’ve been told for years that my sci-fi is “off.” In many cases those doing the telling haven’t even read the work in question.

This reminds me of some things we’ve studied this week … such as firm conclusions of scientific fact based on inadequate data, aka “Scientists got it wrong.” A simple “We don’t know” or “We don’t know yet” would easily put a stop to such problems.

And one of the great beauties of this week at Launch Pad is that I now know that today’s real scientists think much more like me than, well, old-school science fiction writers and other “authorities” and pundits of the past. A spirit of discovery, wonder, and shared journeys are the themes of this week.

Life is blending with science — all of life. The kind of things that Tolstoy and Faulkner wrote about.

So, my epiphany came this morning when Stephanie Slater spoke about one of the Hawaiian graduate students in her program, who learned Hawaiian in order to recreate the long-held traditions of Hawaiian astronomy, and whose young son was already knowledgeable in Hawaiian skills in navigation. Stephanie then spoke of Martha Beckwith, a famous ethnographer, who had translated and written down Hawaiian mythology, including Hawaiian knowledge of astronomy. She then described the development of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, which discovered the farthest, oldest images of galaxies known, and said that Steven Beckwith, who had announced the Deep Field discoveries, was a descendant of Martha Beckwith, who had recorded the traditional Hawaiian knowledge.

And that was when I about figured I was going to cry. Because we are not alone, and we do build upon what those who came before us worked so hard to achieve. Because what people knew in the past was not worthless. Because it isn’t just “what we know,” it’s who we are.

Stephanie spoke about how traditional Western science education turned many different types of students off. She left largely unspoken the result, which is a narrow, self-selected group of people doing science. Already we had learned from our class work together that different, diverse people took different approaches to investigating and discovering information. The system Stephanie described, which the CAPER Center seeks to improve and change through research and development of effective methods to teach science and engage students, was about as rigid, wasteful, cumbersome and ineffective as . . .

Legacy publishing — in all aspects, including educational and trade fiction and non-fiction.

Science, like writing, should be alive. It shouldn’t come out of a spirit of certainty, but rather a desire to discover things we don’t know. Science shouldn’t come out of a desire to “be right” or find the “ultimate answer” because there is no such thing. There will always be new discoveries, new frontiers, new areas of investigation and learning.

“Most scientists aren’t very good at formulating good questions,” Stephanie said.

I’m sure this is true. It sounded like they were pursuing similar paths in their work to the paths of most writers writing to editorial preference or to what they think might be public taste.

“I write,” Toni Morrison said, “in order to find out what I know.”

And isn’t that just exactly like science? At least, science done right? A journey of investigation, uncompromising honesty even in the face of failure or unwanted surprises, and eventual uncovering of the truth.

Oh, but my sci-fi is off, the experts and pundits say. It’s so off regular people can read and understand it.

What a joyous, magnificent journey we are all on. Last night we went to the WIRO on Jelm Mountain. On the way, dozens of pronghorn antelope, grazing. “Little Teddy” the dorm squirrel was cavorting outside the dorm with a donut as big as he was. From atop the mountain the view — endless vistas of green valley, deep glade, rolling dales, rivers, mountains, snow, trees.

We were able to pick a star and observe it using the many different vintages of WIRO equipment and programs. I pressed the button to open the wind shield on the enormous dome.

Outside in the dark Wyoming night, above our heads, countless stars and the soft angled brush of the Milky Way. The night spoke, and I heard. They say we are such stuff as stars are made of. Though most of us cannot see our galactic home because our lights are too bright and cities too big, it is there all the same, protecting us, showing us the universe, guiding us home.

 

 

 

Rant for Real Food

My friend Dario Ciriello, who has Panverse Publishing, was born and raised in the UK, and ranted a bit on Facebook about America’s obsession with food that’s anything but real. Dario inspired Jacques, a character in Like Fire, who is described thus by Keile the Sparrow:

Jacques’ eyes, an expressive deep umber mixed with sienna, gave the answer. No. She held his glance a long while; she had always found his eyes beautiful, though he was far too old for her.

Dario is a slim, handsome, healthy and sophisticated man and it’s obvious he’s been eating no poison.

Amy July 2014

Dario’s rant was a response to my urging people on Facebook to avoid food additives, dairy, wheat (gluten) and high-fructose corn syrup. He eats as a European, and all it takes is one quick trip to Europe to see that they aren’t half as fat and diseased as Americans are. I don’t use those terms loosely.

Fat as in FAT, and diseased as in “diseases of civilization.” Not all civilization; there are few 11 and 12 year-olds in the south of France or the Greek islands that are suffering from heart disease. Other diseases that have a clear dietary component include diabetes, many forms of cancer, atherosclerosis (which took the life of Alan Rodgers at only age 54), and even Alzheimer’s disease.

I have myself been dairy-free six years, HFCS-free about three years, and wheat and other food-additive free for well over a year. I basically don’t work out (though I’m active – hiking is my “sport” and I prefer to spend lots of time outside).

I am 52 years old and have had no cosmetic surgery. I do not dye my hair. No picture that you will find of me is photoshopped – at least not by my hand! Doctor (which I try to avoid) would be proud that I have a BMI of 21.8. They don’t see that too often in my age range — there are people who are very thin due to illness or very fast metabolisms. And then there’s all the other middle-aged people. Made it safely through without gall bladder disease (I’d heard years ago the fair, fat, forty, fertile and female – 5 Fs for gallstones). No heartburn. No other unpleasant digestive symptoms.

Yes, just as Mr. Pettigrew, a well-known Baton Rouge denizen of the night, commented to Bruce and me earlier this year, “You don’t often see people in our age range looking so happy.” Pettigrew, by the way, was well over 70. “Oh, not you ma’am,” he amended his assessment.

So here’s my rant.

Food is the most powerful drug you will ever put in your mouth.

It’s stronger than crystal meth. It’s more addictive than crack or cigarettes.

And our American corporate food isn’t just laden with ordinary addictive foods like unprocessed dairy or basic whole wheat flour. Every single thing in the center of the supermarket is nothing but highly-refined, exquisitely-designed packets of addictive poison. Philip K. Dick wrote about Can-D and Chew-Z. My writing has been compared to Phil Dick – for the simple reason where the heck were both of us from? No I haven’t used anything like the substances he used, but he had it right when everybody got connected to Palmer Eldritch the industrialist by dropping vast amounts of Chew-Z.

We are all connected with the corporate ubermind as long as we’re dropping vast amounts of Mountain Dew, Chee-tos, Doritos, “Healthy Choice” frozen dinners, Chips Ahoy, or the majority of fast food. There are 59 ingredients in a typical fast food “strawberry” milkshake, but of course, no strawberries.

I used to say this was “personal,” and be easy-going, and suggest to people that maybe it was “okay” for them to eat dairy and wheat. Maybe it was “just me” or unlucky people like me who couldn’t tolerate those delicious 59 ingredient concoctions, who got sick after eating “Healthy Choice” (and still felt hungry) and who craved stuff like pizza.

It’s not just me. It’s everyone. Just because you’re not dead yet doesn’t mean you haven’t destroyed your taste buds for real food. It doesn’t mean you’re not doing ungodly things to your internal organs, your precious skin and hair (eczema and psoriasis? WHAT DO YOU THINK THOSE ARE? Immune system reactions to the poison you are ingesting on a daily basis), and yes – your mind. Phil Dick, that drug-addled visionary, had it right. People really were and are “taking drugs” all day long every day and really do not see/comprehend the world as it is, but rather a bizarre, funhouse mirror version of the world controlled by someone else (a mega-corporation …). I call it “corporate food.” This stuff doesn’t just kill your body, it kills your mind and spirit.

Give up dairy first; it will cleanse you. Then give up wheat. You can eat corn tortillas – I do. Don’t bother with the substitute gluten-free stuff. It’s just as poisonous as all the rest. Try not to buy any food with more than 4 ingredients and make sure you can pronounce the names of them. Avoid high fructose corn syrup – you will find it quite challenging to buy condiments, because it’s in nearly 100% of them. That means “no soda pop.” And don’t buy “diet soda.” That’s just another form of poison.

Does this make you angry? When was the last time you told someone with a drinking problem about it, and they got angry? Told a smoker they were killing themselves, and they lashed back at you?

That isn’t you being angry. It’s the addiction.

 

 

A Woman’s View of Classic Pulp Sci Fi Illustrations

John C. Wright offered an illustrated definition of science fiction that according to him, is “the final, complete and exhaustive definition.”  According to John, “Not to lose the thread of the argument, let us consider Trenchant Question Three: if these girls are so glamorous and so good looking, and have perfect complexions, perfect hourglass figures, shapely legs, sultry red lips and not much by way of clothing, why in the world would they even look at an overweight basement-dwelling troglodyte with mushroom-colored skin like me, the fan-dude reader?”

Hmn.  Well really – if a girl’s got one choice, and one only – who’s she going to choose?  The human fungus or . . .

Amazingst194005 This guy.

Come to think of it, he probably is fungus of some type.  And he’s got all your friends including Betty, your sorority sister, and those cutups Rex and Chester — living in a glass dome on top of his head.

Actually, fungus boy might have potential if he did something about that hair and complexion and got some veneers like any self-respecting guy would do.

How to choose . . . what’s a girl to do?

Amazingst195005_2

She needs a man of substance, a man of brains.  Her mother always said, “It’s just as easy to love a rich man as it is to love a poor one.”  Here’s a fine candidate.  So what if he’s a little . . . old.  A girl can’t fault this guy for being honest.  He’s got his estate all laid out in a glass dome on top of his head.  Even if there is something a little Trump-like about him — he looks like he’s about to yell, “You’re Fired!”

 

 

A woman wants a man who’s in-charge.Astoundingst193906

 

You know – the kind of guy who knows smoking is bad for your health, and isn’t about to put up with something like that in his space pad.

A few bruises are obviously worth what’s in store for you, ladies, if you get into it with Mr. Anger Management.

 

Amazingst195209A girl really appreciates a man who’s in control of the situation.  It’s the biggest turn-on ever to have him order dinner and drinks, and later, pick out just the right moment to lower your naked, heaving body into a vat of boiling tomato juice.

 

 

 

 

Fantasticadv194006 Girls like smart men, too.  This gentleman here is clearly well-established, with a number of studly man-slaves doing his bidding.  He’s got to be RILLY RILLY smart – just look at the size of that melon head!  So what if he seems a little . . . what’s the word . . . wizened.  Yes, that’s it.  You can put up with those skinny, freaky old fingers pawing you for a bit, and you know EXACTLY how to wake up those man-slaves later on, when Master is tending to his space gerbils.

 

 

 

Fantasticnovmag195307 I’ll let you in on a secret.  It’s every girl’s dream to be sleeping peacefully, dreaming of an overweight human mushroom, at the verge of being rudely awakened by a pink-eyed, blue-skinned peeping tom who’s just crossed over from passive to active sex offender.

 

 

 

Fantasticadv195201__aaaaa Girls love to be watched, as a matter of fact.  The bigger the eyes, the better, and two are definitely better than just one, as you can see right here.

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasticnovmag194901_covers3 Yes, girls adore being watched, but most guys think that they only want one fella at a time.  Au contraire — think of this lucky gal, after the minions of Satan finish their satanic ministrations and Mister Visine gets hold of her.

 

 

 

 

Uncannytales194207 Everyone knows that women love to have attention showered on them.  The more, the better — 24/7  And they love jewelry, too.  Kindly Doctor Fetish has a goody for this little (I always choose my words carefully) brunette.

 

 

 

 

Fantasticadv194501_2 Women love to be wooed.  They adore being approached with manners and subtlety.  Cap’n Pinhead here might have a bit of a weight problem, and his face leaves a bit of a chin to be desired, but clearly, he’s charming her panties off.  You can see it in his body language.  Just a bit more flattery, and . . .

 

 

Fantasticadv194602Guys, remember, though — this flattery and attention thing can go too far.  Mongo here should back off and let the little lady make the next move.  But then again, maybe she’s just upset because she’s got another boyfriend.

 

 

 

 

Fantasticst195309_covers3 There’s just something about getting carried away that needs no real explanation.

Swept off your feet by a tall, green egghead.

 

 

 

 

Planetst1945wi Those tentacles can come in handy.  Mighty handy.  Where no hand has gone before handy.

But sometimes a girl just wants to get down and nasty.  The basic stuff.  No extras, no talking, just hot, wild sex.  No commitments, nothing to get in the way.

And I do mean – nothing.

It’s every girl’s dream:

Planetst1942sp

 

Mister Stiffy. A giant green tentacled penis with a mouth and lips.

 

 

 

 

Then again, women’s fantasies can be varied.  Sometimes, they go like this:

Planetst195109

She is Me: Intro to INSTRUMENTALITY OF WOMEN

I’m working on a new collection of stories with all female protagonists, THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF WOMEN. The book contains previously-published and never published before work.

Here’s the intro as it stands …

SHE IS ME

Mothers Day hiking

More than a decade ago, I noticed that the quality of the stories I wrote featuring female characters, especially those older than 18 or 20, must have been terrible.

I couldn’t sell them for the same professional rates to the same publications where I’d sold stories about doctors taking care of little disabled boys with pumpkin-shaped heads, real-life clown boys, dads with liver cancer considering harvesting their cloned sons’ livers or thinking about murdering their genetically-modified teen boys, or aliens who cost Mad King George “the Colonies” due to their raging addiction to curiously-strong peppermints. And then there was the talking horse, and the vampire who spontaneously combusted due to an overabundance of blood cholesterol.

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