Is it Science Fiction or Fantasy (from my Patreon page)

As I have noted before, I don’t have a problem mixing non traditional/traditional fantasy ideas with science or science fiction.  My previous examples were of mixing religious views with scientific theories; now I want to mention the trilogy of short stories with the group title of “Dragon Dreams”.

These stories combined many traditional fantasy elements; dragons, magic, and monsters, along with Star Wars level science fiction tropes such as; space ships, aliens, and technology.  However, that is not all.  There is a strong underlying nod to a real scientific theory of parallel universes and extra dimensions.

I know there are many purists out there that do not like their fantasy mixed with their science fiction.  Believe me, I used to be one, but I have over time changed my mind after reading several good examples.  Yeah, I have seen some bad examples; unfortunately, that is part of any genre.  So, later this year when I start uploading the “Dragon Dreams” stories to my Patreon page, I hope you will consider reading my science fiction fantasy series.

P.S.  Anne McCaffery’s “Dragon Riders of Pern” series and Tracy Hickman’s and Margaret Weis’s “Death Gate” series are good examples of genre mixes.

Villainy or How to be Bad Without Really Trying (from my Patreon page)

Well, … huh.  I will admit that I tripped when approaching this subject.  I was going to say that I try to avoid making cardboard cut out villains, but then I remembered using the devil in several stories.  I also remembered that I don’t normally focus on the villain all that much because I usually delve into my character’s reaction to the villain, which may in some ways be a uniqueness to my stories that I did not intentionally strive for.

My characters universally fit into what I view as my reality.  They are people or aliens dealing with situations outside of their control where the villains are not clear-cut.  The villains most often were created beyond their knowledge base.  For instance, King Hadrian in “Sanity” was a manipulative leader used to being one step ahead of his opponents, maybe a little arrogant and foolhardy because of it.  He felt there was no one that could best him.  Unfortunately, he learns the hard way that the villains of this story can destroy his faith in his own abilities.  However, the story also shines a light on a another villain we all fall prey to, fear.  The Thrall, our bad guys in this one, reach into his mind and play with the fears at the core of his being.

In “Sorrow and Remembrance”, the novel I hope to pull together, the villains are the forces set into motion by overly proud and self-righteous people.  Forces that reach out far beyond the immediate area of conflict to engulf innocent bystanders.  Here the forces spread beyond defeating enemies in a war to steal years of life from some and to force others to destroy beauty to protect those they love.  For me this idea is very personal because of my interest in history.  How many of the problems we face today have been created by the choices of others?  How many decisions that we had no say in have become issues that we cannot afford to ignore?

Another enemy I have written about is ourselves.  I wrote a story for my collection called “Stubborn” which details the hellish world the protagonist becomes trapped in that is an externalization of the darker recesses of his mind.  Through the course of traveling this world, without memory, the character must confront the demons he thought he had overcome.  Demons of self loathing, weakness, and guilt.

Finally, in “The Devil’s in the Code”, the obvious villain, the devil, is actually not the villain.  The true villain of the story is human hubris.  Beelzebub is only the catalyst for our penchant for trouble making.  He leads people where they are so willing to go, such as playing with genetics for profit, and lets them hang themselves.  Hell is full of people who thought they were immune to the consequences of their actions, including a pair of investment bankers now living as crows among more powerful hell spawn.  So, yes some of my villains are not very developed in terms of personality, but they are different from the run of the mill.

World Creation (from my Patreon page)

One of the fun aspects of writing any story is creating the world or universe your characters live in.  For example, in “Sensu Learns a Lesson”, while I did not go in-depth into the politics and players of this story, I had to think about a universe that was full of aliens and political intrigue.  Also, I made a beginning into the living and social structures of the Altharians, they lived underground and looked like transparent blue slugs.  The Altharians live in underground structures carved out over millennia by the passage of their ancestors.  They are master spies (their society is completely focused on spying) because of their ability to shape change.  I also began to create a class structure through the mention of royal blood.  If I ever manage to expand this story, I will have to vigorously expand on all these choices.

Another example comes from my story “Lepidoptera” coming up next month.  By the way, for anyone that does not know, lepidoptera is the order name for butterflies (technically moths and butterflies).  I began the world by creating a society of elves similar to Tad William’s Sithi in the series “Memory, Thorn, and Sorrow”.  I wanted that mix of age, wisdom, and magic which his Sithi had.  I also wanted to give the sense that when you entered the lands of my Sindains, you entered a world separate from the rest of the world.  In their lands, the forests move and living spaces are made from the living plants around them.  When Sindains enter the Woods of Calling, the outside world disappears and time runs differently.  Basically, they live constantly with magic.

My final example comes from my story “Sanity”.  In this story I focused on a single world with lots of political intrigue between kingdoms and a powerful outside race that dabbles in this plotting for their own unfathomable reasons.  All the players know something about this race, but none have hard evidence of their goals or methods of achieving them only that they are powerful.  The race is non human, which leaves you wandering if they are part of the world or come from another.  The world in general is a metaphor for our political nature of playing for power where each dog thinks they are at the peak until some bigger dog takes them down.

Half the fun of writing a story is deciding what the underling facts of the universe is then seeing how these affect the interactions of the characters.  An example of world building that affects the actions of the characters is Brandon Sanderson’s Mist Born novels.  The principals set down for the universe are consistent and interesting.  Also, the world is not static as his new books in the series show, meaning that he introduces growth in the society with the introduction of technology.  However, the underlying magic still exists.  Mr. Sanderson seems to enjoy seeing how the invention of technology changes how society looks at those with magic.  How fun is that?

Concept Art Junkie (from my Patreon page)

I admit it whole heartily, I am a concept art junkie.  Movies, video games, and book covers, I love seeing the images that were part of the process in creating them.  Any major science fiction or fantasy movie is loaded with renderings of ideas considered for locations, creatures, and clothing.  “Lord of the Rings” directed by Peter Jackson is a great example of the amount of quality artwork produced to help visualize the story for other artists to create the sets, costumes, and digital creatures.  I love watching all of this on my extended edition extras.

One of my favorite games from my Xbox was “PowerDrome” released by Electronic Arts.  Besides being the best alternative on Xbox for Wipeout, one of the rewards for winning races was the opening of concept art files.  The art for the race track designs turned out to be some very nice science fiction art, in my opinion.  It was full of atmospheric renderings of alien worlds and futuristic race tracks, which were distinct for each world.  Not only were areas of the world worked out but the varying racetrack equipment and vehicles too.

Finally, being a fan of Michael Whelan, I have seen much of his work, including alternate versions of covers he created as part of the process of submitting book covers for approval.  One of my favorites was “Dragon on Board”, which was an alternate cover for Anne McCaffrey’s novel “All the Weyrs of Pern”.  Interestingly enough, this became the cover for another book I believe.  In addition, my collectible card sets art book for Michael Whelan contain several pencil sketches and color studies he did while pondering different projects.  I love looking at them all.  I highly recommend searching out concept artwork from your favorite sources of entertainment.  You might be surprised by what you find.

Color Pencil Study (New $5 reward on my Patreon Page)

This is the explanation of the image I attached for my $5 patrons.

Here is a drawing I did some time ago when I was trying to figure out color pencils over large areas.  This is one of the few color pencil drawings I worked on until completion.  Considering how long ago I made this piece, some parts actually hold up pretty well to what I am doing now, while others fall flat.

The image is from a magazine photo, don’t remember which, of a small bird grasping a branch.  The bird was the focal point with the background being out of focus.  I believe that the bird and branch turned out well, but trying to create the rest of the background over the remaining paper proved to be too challenging for me.

Working on this particular drawing, using the techniques I had learned with lead pencils, was not happening and is the reason so many of my color pencil drawings are left unfinished.  On small detail areas I am good but large areas stump me.  I have since seen many artists use color pencils to great results, but I am not one of them.  However, all in all, this is not a bad picture.  Unfortunately, it is also not a great picture.

Lighting the Scene (from my Patreon page)

I will admit that I am jealous of artists who can depict sources of light credibly in their artwork.  I am not talking about the sun, although this is challenging too, but mechanical forms of light.  Light strips, dial illumination, or screens are examples of what I am talking about.  Strong sources of light in situations where there are lots of reflections and/or atmospheric effects.  I remember many Michael Whelan paintings where the light source had a well-defined shape and yet still depicted the softness associated with the glow most light sources have.

I still work hard to achieve such effects in my paintings.  The easiest way of creating a bright light source is to take a light color and surround it with a very dark source.  But what do you do when you have a strong enough artificial light source to still be seen in a daylight situation?  I haven’t tried that yet, but I have been amazed by artists that can pull off such complex lighting.

I will share one trick that I have learned from using Gimp 2.8.  In my painting “Juliette and Josephus” the diffuse halo of light around the sun was achieved by painting the light color of the sun on a transparent layer above all the layers and then using the smudge tool to thin the color.  If you looked at the layer with a white background, you would hardly see anything.  However, if you put it against a very dark background like I did, you see a soft wash of bright color or a halo around the more solid image of the sun.  The contrast brings out the light color.  I hope to further explore using light washes on layers over different backgrounds after seeing how well this worked.

Got a Second?

Well, I think it is time for me to take a look at this issue.  No, this is not a post about the current American government, at least not in a direct way.  I promise to do my best to keep such commentary out of this post.  The issue I wish to breach is authors and politics.  Yep, I went there and so do many writers in the field excluding those that actually write about politics.  The reason this is on my mind tonight is because of a reply I saw to a post by one of my favorite authors where the commentator said “Just lost bunch of sales for your books”.

My first reaction is what a jerk, But I had to stop and think about the way I have been looking at the world lately.  I will admit that I am not very friendly right now toward people who are unwilling to respect my point of view.  If you are strongly advocating views that run the polar opposite to mine I dismiss you as you dismiss me.  Because of that I have become somewhat reclusive.  In addition, I have struggled with reading certain authors that I have become aware of their politics.  Luckily, I don’t know the views of many.

For example, I will not read one popular author who I believe I have heard has politics that run opposite of mine; however, in this case I learned this after reading one of his books.  Basically, after reading his book and not liking it, I found out about his politics, which did not surprise me.  Another author that I love was born into a Religion that I have come to find extremely questionable and at times questioned whether I should continue reading his books.  But they are very good, which brings me to another point.

By closing my mind off to writers because of their politics, what great stories might I be missing out on.  It is a fact of the human condition that people can act, think, and create in ways completely different from the persona they show the world.  For example, while acting as the chubby, lovable half of the comedic duo Abbott and Costello, Lou Costello was actually known as the un-nice person, while Bud Abbott who always played the conman was actually the friendlier of the two.  What I am trying to say here is that people are an odd mixture of hate and love, which may be something far more surprising than politics alone can illuminate.

Will I continue to struggle with authors with sharply opposing politics?  Yes, I am only human.  Will I be aware that it could be me as much as them?  Certainly.  Will I miss out on good stories?  Quite possibly.  What do I want you to take away from this post?  The sense that maybe giving other points of view a chance by at least being willing to read an author’s work even though you are aware of their politics.  I liken it to your parents telling you to at least try food before you don’t like it.  Most authors have multiple series out there, try one book and if you still don’t like them then okay.  There are numerous authors I had not read and quite half way through the book, while others became favorites that I search out now.   If you start limiting you diet, you may find yourself without new material or becoming bored and unsatisfied.

Finally, some food for thought.  Should you read an author vigorously champions political views opposite of yours and thoroughly like their writing, stop and think about it.  The fact that someone can write a book you really enjoyed believes differently then you.  In other words, something that you love came from someone you would despise.  The source is the same.  It is your viewpoint that is being challenged.  Open your mind to the possibility that their may be common ground.

As for me, guess what, I am an author.  If you have been coming to this site for some time, then you know where I am coming from.  With the launch of my Patreon page I have been struggling to find a balance between what up to that point had been my place to voice my feelings on the world as well as my creative endeavors.  One thing you would find from talking to people who know me is that I don’t sugar coat things.  What you see is pretty much what you get.  Unfortunately, I can not deny that I haven’t seen the drop in viewership in recent days.  Will I stop being who I am?  No.  I have lived to long trying to fit into other people’s worlds for that anymore.  What I can promise is that this site will be a mix of post from my Patreon page (mostly) and my feelings on what happens around me (not always about politics).  If you want to only see things about my creativity, then go to my Patreon or Deviantart pages.

To close, I would like to ask those that do not agree with my views to at least try one of my stories and if you don’t like it, unsubscribe.  It will only cost you a dollar to try and you can quit any time after the first month.  I won’t be offended or rail about you.  You may find that there are some you like and others you totally hate.  There are creators that have left me feeling that way over the years, yet I am still willing to give them a chance now and again.  Thanks for listening.