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?

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.

The Magic in Your Eyes (from my Patreon page)

So, let us talk about magic systems.  I am fairly well read, so I have encountered many magic systems in numerous universes.  In addition, I have played many fantasy video games that can take these kinds of magic systems and make them usable through button pressing combinations.  They range from the simple expressions of inner power to complex rituals requiring particular materials and symbolic gestures.  Over the years I have seen great examples of magic systems and poor examples.

For a poor example, I give you Terry Goodkind who has no rigorously vetted system of magic; thus, leaving himself open for inconsistency in applying the rules his characters follow.  He makes the rules up as he goes so that you feel that what ever magic rules he has are just created to get the results he wants for the scene.  Consistency is left for the reader to rationalize out.

For good examples, I give you Brandon Sanderson who creates some of the most interesting complex magic systems with unique and consistent rules.  Instead of making the rues fit the situation, he writes situations that fit his story based upon the rules of his magic system.  The use of metals to fuel three different types of magic in the Mistborn series is a joy to read.  Each system is well-defined as is how they interact with each other.  So far, I have not noted Mr. Sanderson writing scenes that are not consistent with the restraints he created in the magic system.

So, where do I sit on the issue.  Well, to be truthful, I am a bit lazy and impatient.  While I love the stuff that Brandon Sanderson is doing, I don’t have the patience to work out such detailed magic systems.  In addition, all my work to date has been short fiction with little room to spend detailing the magic rules.  The closest I have gotten is in next months story “Lepidoptera” where each young Sindain that enters the Woods of Calling are marked with a tattoo by their God Sky Father depicting the need they will fill in the Sindain tribe.  Mostly I tend to represent magic as an aspect of the person or the person’s intelligence and imagination.  This way they can create almost anything with reasonable consistency.  In some cases I source power from the land, which in some ways is how we work in our technological society.

Which ever way you chose to go, magic is almost always an essential part of fantasy fiction, maybe the best part.  So feel free to explore the magic in my stories.

Being in Between (from my Patreon page)

Many of my story ideas come from being a person constantly in between two worlds, never fitting into either.  One of the reasons for the title of the collection these stories hail from is that, although most of my life I have been a misfit, I have come to see myself as a mystic.  I have found that many of the ideas I held fast to where indeed correct, more so than a large portion of society.

Another aspect of being in between is that you see that both sides are right and they are both wrong.  Rarely; however, will either side listen to you on the subject because to them you are a misfit.  Mystic/Misfit, Tomato/Tamato.  The stories that are generated tend to be battles against inner demons and identity shaping.  My characters fight to define themselves outside of the strictures placed upon them.  They struggle to free themselves from the conventions of normal.

They feel weak but eventually turn out to be quite strong.  Where others might give up, they find a core of strength and stubbornness that sees them through whether human, alien, or something else.  Come with me and read between the lines of the choices most people would make.

Lights, Camera, Action… (from my Patreon page)

Yes, when I write my stories, I actually visualize them as a movie.  I work on scenes like a movie director by thinking whether I am viewing the action coming up from the ground or down from the sky.  Where is the light coming from and how strong?  Do the characters enter from the right, moving to the left or vice versa?  What important bits of dialogue and background do I need to set up the scene and how far do I need to go to exit same?

I first analyze what I want to achieve in a given stretch of story, whether sentence, paragraph, or chapter, to see the plot point I am trying to get across.  Then I begin mixing elements like time of day, interior or exterior, and characters involved.  Another step involves a definition of the type of scene.  Will I need an action scene to portray the struggle between opposing brute forces or a clever dialogue driven scene to depict cunning battles of intelligence?   Am I just bridging scenes to bring a sense of depth to the story or am I building to a major plot point?  Better yet, am I camouflaging an important plot point with a piece of misdirection?

I have to think about the outfits the characters are wearing.  Clothes do make the character you know.  Is this a business scene or a rough outdoor hike, cold or hot, and daytime or night?  Will their be a change in outfits?  What do the outfits say about the characters?  How long will I ramble on about these things?

All of this plays through my head.  Why?  Because I have watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books and I have had many surprises in both.  However, the most fun I have is when I realize that what I mistook for poor writing by an author may actually have been a clever way to bring me into the world as the character is living it.  I do not mean a fully realized character giving you information about the world they know to put you into the story.  I mean a character as confused about the world as you are by the author’s writing style.  Only as you read further and the character learns the ropes do you begin to see what the world is about.  Sometimes the lingering feeling of confusion, even after finishing the story, was placed there to make you feel like a person thrown out of their depth.  “Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille” by Stephen Brust is a good example of this kind of story.  Someday I hope to pull these kind of things off.