Join The Chorus: The Blog as a Serial Fiction Outlet

Benjamim Cheah has a good serial story–“Night Demons”–going on at PulpRev this week. You can read it starting here, and it’s a good follow-up to Rawle Nyanzi’s “Enemy at Blood River” (which starts here). Both men have made good use of the blog medium as an outlet for serialized fiction.

If you want to join the chorus, now is the time and using a blog to serialize your stories is a great way to get started. The risk is low, the cost is nil, and you can home your craft by learning and practicing the skills that made the masters great until you are ready to start pushing for people to pay you for your work.

It doesn’t stop there. You can continue to use serialized fiction on your blog to attract and retain your audience, using the stories to advertise for upcoming books while getting readers interested in your growing backlist as your career in writing progresses. Be it just a feature on your otherwise not-specifically-fiction blog, or one you launch for that purpose specifically, it does work. Just look at John C. Wright’s blog if you want a great example in practice.

Be it as a hobby or as a professional development tool, fiction or not, consider using a blog for a writing outlet. I would not have gotten into the PulpRev Sampler if I didn’t blog daily, nor be posting here or at PulpRev (or guest-posting elsewhere, such as Castalia House), so it has benefits that should not be dismissed.

Join the chorus. There’s always room for another voice.

Signal Boost: The PulpRev Sampler

PulpRev released its first fiction anthology late last week: The PulpRev Sampler. This collection has old hands, rising starts, and (like me) totally new authors each putting down something that captures the spitir of the old pulps and brings it forth to an audience hungry–starving–for the quality entertainment of the old days. As no few contributors (including myself) are also Superversive supporters, you that also seek the Superversive will find it here.

I’ve posted here at length, many times, how the Superversive is still out there in popular culture- just not the current Western establishment. As the Superversive and the Pulp Revolution share many common elements as well as participants, you should expect the stories in this collection to aspire to (if not achieve) the Superversive more often than not. If you want to change the culture, you have to get in the arena and fight for it; this is one such entry, and all of us are wanting to make the most of it.

And it’s a whopping 99 cents. Your risk is nothing but one less thing on the Dollar Menu. Just chick through the image link above, make that purchase, and enjoy all of the stories to your heart’s content. Then–please–leave a review and spread the word. Even the old hands who were so gracious as to contribute something could always use a hand in getting the word out, and those of us still ill-known, unknown, or (like me) totally new need that even more. You won’t be disappointed. Give the Sampler a go today.

Big Problems Within Pro Sci-Fi Markets

Jon Del Arroz interviews Kat Rocha, formerly of the Escape Artist Podcasts, about deep problems within their editorial structure. This isn’t limited to just this single professional market, but is an example of how the industry has chosen identity politics over quality stories.

DID THEY REJECT STORIES YOU PUSHED FORWARD OUTRIGHT BECAUSE OF IDENTITY POLITICS, REGARDLESS OF QUALITY?

I sat in on at least five editorial meetings with the idea of becoming familiar with their methods of stories selection. At first, the editors at Pseudopod were even handed in their approach. Stories passed to Editorial by slush readers were judged on quality of the content and nothing else. This was around the time that Escape Artists ownership changed hands, and I believe what I was witnessing was a hold over to when Murr & co still held the wheel. As time went on the focus changed drastically (and rapidly) under the new regime. Editorial wanted more and more attention exclusively on female authors and female-spotlighted events. As slush readers were directed to prioritize stories by women over men. It wasn’t so much a case of editorial outright saying “Women only” but by the time I left male authors and stories were almost never discussed.

Read the full interview on Jon’s blog here.

Kirkus goes bad and other publishing news…

How Never-Satisfied Social Justice Mobs Are Ruining YA Book Publishing

As we’ve seen in Hollywood, television, and comics, young adult fiction audiences have been tuning out of the traditional platforms and seeking independent entertainment.
Jon Del Arroz

By 

 Last week, the professional review website Kirkus Reviews came under public fire after removing a positive review of “American Heart” by Laura Moriarty. They were pressured by an online mob of hate-reviewers who deemed the unreleased book problematic due to cultural appropriation, a politically correct code-term meaning a white person writing about any other race or culture. The book is about a young American who through friendship with a Muslim young woman learns to oppose U.S. government internment camps for Muslims.

Kirkus stated: “Kirkus’ diversity collections go beyond grouping by race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or dis/ability to consider the desired reading ‘experience.’ This consideration of experience—categorized as learning, cultural identification, or inclusion—is integral to the effectiveness of Kirkus Collections’ recommendations, as it addresses the demand for contextual information around diversity content.”

 This means the author’s identity is more important than the content he or she produces. By all accounts, including Kirkus’s own original review, Moriarty’s work was about the dangers of internment camps and racial discrimination. It was inclusive and pro-acceptance, tolerance and diversity, everything a far-left ideologue in theory champions. Yet even that isn’t enough in the world of 2017 outrage hysteria. This is the end result of political correctness, and is the most recent chilling example of censorship due to identity politics.

Moriarty isn’t alone. The publishing industry is riddled with discriminatory practices against authors who identify as white, male, Christian, or conservative. However, like other entertainment media that place identity politics over good, entertaining stories, sales have decreased considerably over the last decade. The trend continued into last year, with book sales down 6.7 percent year over year, as reported by publishers.org.

As we’ve seen in Hollywood, television, and comics, audiences have been tuning out of the traditional platforms and seeking independent entertainment. Many of these trends begin in the science fiction and young adult markets, genres that purport to be forward-thinking and youth-oriented, which has come to mean delving into extreme left-wing politics.

As Goes Science Fiction, So Goes All Publishing

Read more at The Federalist

More from Jon Del Arros and Superversive Press:

   

Alt-Hero Launches!

As noted on the blog of the Supreme Dark Lord, Vox Day, the Castalia House comics project known as “Alt-Hero” launched its funding round at Freestartr today.

Vox talks about this in the Darkstream tonight. The video is embedded below. He goes over the goals of the campaign, and the project, there. I encourage you to view the stream, and to check out the project’s page at Freestarter, because if you’ve been disturbed by the anti-Civilizational propaganda put out by DC and Marvel then this is your opportunity to do something useful about it. Here’s the pitch video from the campaign:

You can’t just destroy; you have to fork and replace to complete the victory. To defeat the subversive in comics, it requires forking and building a parallel structure that is intended to supplant and supercede the target. Alt-Hero is that forking and replacing, so if you want comics to be Superversive again then back Alt-Hero.

UPDATE: Alt-Hero met its initial funding goals in 4 HOURS! Fantastic!

What Is Fan Fic?

What Is Fan Fiction?:
How to tell it from the other stuff

Approximately where I was standing,
when I described the fortress filling the horizon.

Here at the Wright Household, this article is legendary.

This is in part because I’ve been talking about writing it for at least a year and a half. It is more, however, because of my now-famous speech—in which I laid out for two of our sons the main points I wished to cover in such an essay.

It was December of 2015, and we stood on the ramparts at Bear’s Den in the Blue Ridge Mountains, looking out upon miles of countryside. As we halted atop the rocks, where the Appalachian Trail passes, I spread my arm, gesturing toward the open valley stretching beneath us and exclaimed:

“Imagine an immense black fortress, stretching as far as the eyes can see. The vast bulk rises up over the Blue Ridges, dominating the landscape. It is made of solid basalt, and it stretches for miles and miles. It has smooth sides with no handholds, crisply-cut crenulations along the top, and looming towers, from which a lookout could spot anyone approaching from any direction.

 “Now, imagine this fortress represents the personality and qualities of impressive characters, such as Dr. Doom, Spock, Snape, or Batman. Pick your favorite.

 “Each ‘stone’ of the fortress wall represents a quality about that character. Each was carefully hand-placed by the creators—writers, artists, actors, etc.—who helped shape the character. Together, these blocks of character developing, backstory, speech patterns, appearance, and actions form, in the mind of the audience, the titanic, solid edifice that make up our favorite characters.

 “Now imagine that in all that vast, impenetrable, solidness, there exists only one window. It is a round window, the size of a porthole.

“On one occasion, once, a candle passed by this window.

“This flicker of light, seen through the tiny window, represents the emotions displayed by our character, a brief glimpse of suffering or hope or love in an otherwise impassive character.

 “Fan fiction narrows the focus of the camera to that window. Sometimes, maybe, it shows a little bit of the basalt surrounding it. Instead of one flicker of candlelight, it fills the window with flames and fireworks.

 “It then relies on the fan to imagine that the fortress is still present, even though the enormous mile-long basalt bulk of the rest of it is never so much as glimpsed.”

And, this, folks, is—in a nutshell—the difference between fan fiction and the other stuff.

*

Before we continue, let us pause for some definitions:

Professional – a writer who gets paid.

Amateur – a writer who does not get paid.

Well-Crafted Writing – solid writing and storytelling.

Fan Fiction or Fanfic – what we are talking about in this essay.

For the purpose of this article, the term fan fiction has nothing to do with getting paid. Both professional writers and amateur writers can write solidly-crafted fiction or fan fiction.

*

Note: Just because fan fiction, as defined, is not well-crafted does not mean that it is wicked or stupid. It can be great fun to write, and millions of fans love reading it. Some fiction written by fans for fans is well-crafted and does not fit the definition of fanfic used in this article. However, even the badly-written stuff can be great fun.

If you love writing or reading fan fiction, don’t let me or anyone else interfere with your joy!

*

That being said, let us look at our fundamental question: How do you tell well-crafted fiction from fan fiction?

Some people today try to use sardonically apply the term fan fiction to anything that takes place in another writer’s background.

Using characters and locations from earlier works in one’s fiction, however, is an age old tradition. Writers in ages past were expected to build on what had come before them. If it were the case that anything written using someone else’s characters or setting was automatically fan fiction, we would have to refer to Mid-Summer’s Night Dream by Shakespeare as “Huor of Bordeux fan fiction.”

Or label every episode of Batman or Superman that was not written by the original creator of the character as fanfic.

Both of these things would just be silly.

I first started wondering about this subject when I saw someone refer to my husband (author John C. Wright)’s novel Awake in the Nightland as “Nightland fanfic.” I remember frowning and thinking, “Something’s not right about that.”

I doubly thought this when I heard Andy Robertson’s story of discovering John’s Nightland tales when Mr. Robertson was running the Nightland website. He described how he and a few other writers were playing at writing Nightland stories, basically writing Nightland fan fiction…and then, John, this writer he had never heard of submitted the real thing.

Andy Robertson recognized that there was a difference between fan fiction and what John had submitted.

This subject reared its head again with the publication of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The script was approved by the author. Thousands have seen the play, and, yet, the debate rages on: Is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child fan fiction?

The fact that a serious debate can take place on this subject regardless of the original author’s support shows that there is more to the issue than just ownership of the character.

What finally pushed me over the edge, however, was a brief, unpleasant foray into modern Marvel comics.

Marvel has replaced all the original heroes we love with new heroes of the same name who are different. This might not too bad, if the characters were noble and heroic, but they are not. The new set of characters emote. They stand around while others admire or adore them, and they do easily tasks that the real heroes found difficult.

There was something familiar about this kind of writing. I had seen it before. But it took thinking about it for a bit before I sat up and exclaimed, “Oh, I get it! They’re writing Marvel fanfic!”

For all I know, they actually hired fan fiction writers to be their current writers. If so, that would explain a lot!

So what is fanfic?

The key to understanding the difference between well-crafted writing and fan fiction is to remember the fortress and the window.

You can write about the fortress without mentioning the window. But, you can’t write about the window without depending on the reader to be picturing the fortress. Because the whole point of showing flames and fireworks in the porthole is to give the impression that these are the true passions secretly raging in the heart of the otherwise impassive character.

If the audience is not picturing an impassive character, the fanfic doesn’t work.

Fan fiction, by nature, is parasitical. Like mistletoe growing on oak, it cannot succeed without a host story, the work of the original creator, to prop them up. In this case, the oak is the “fortress”—i.e., the work done by the original creator/series/etc. to establish the character.

No one is amazed when Spock falls for Mary Sue—unless they believe the person doing the falling is the one true Spock, the emotionless Vulcan.

Because winning the heart of a Vulcan is exciting.

Winning the heart of Joe, an overly-emotional guy?

Not so much.

No one is amazed Dr. Doom is beaten by Gary Stu, unless they are picturing the character being beaten as the most impressive villain of them all, the tyrant ruler of Latvaria with his vast armies of robot Dooms. Actually being able to finally defeat Dr. Doom, at least without the use of squirrels, would be truly exciting.

But if Gary Stu merely beats Steve the Thug?

Not so much.

Basically, well-crafted fiction tells a story that is true to the characters and setting. Fan fiction puts the personal desires of the writer and the fans above the needs of the story.

Jason Rennie, publisher of Superversive Press, described it: “The bad stuff feels wrong because it is forcing characters and a universe into a direction it won’t naturally go. You need to do violence to the universe like some incompetent interventionist god to make it bend the way you want.

But the good stuff, like the [Monster Hunter International] add-on stories work because they fit in the universe and don’t do violence too it. They feel like they belong.

Lady Thor and Black Chick Ironman do violence to the universe to fit, as does Mary Sue etc.

But good “fan fic” like Star Trek Continues doesn’t do that.”

 Mr. Rennie defines fan fiction as “doing violence to the [fictional] universe.” What does he mean by that? What is the kind of violence that is usually done?

The first kind of violence is emotional.

I mentioned the tiny porthole through which a single candle passes as an analogy for the emotions showed by some stalwart characters. They act out of duty or purpose and do not let their emotions come between them and their goal.   Only rarely, at moments of high tension, do they occasionally reveal the single crack in their fortress-armor.

Fan fiction rips open that crack and makes the whole story about emotions—emotions that the character would never ordinarily express.

After prohibition ended in America, it became popular to have movies that glorified drinking, such as Philadelphia Story, where partway through the story, the dignified main characters would drink too much and suddenly blurt out what they were really thinking.

Or they would kiss someone that they would never otherwise have kissed.

Emotional fanfic treats the our characters as if they are perpetually drunk…or worse…so that they act without inhibitions, saying or doing things that the real character—the one that has to live with the consequences of their actions and who, usually, has some modicum of dignity—would never do.

Fanfic characters blurt out their loves, hates, romantic longings, and fears…personal things most characters would never reveal come pouring out of their mouths. Even worse than never reveal, things they would never feel come gushing out.

Other types of violence include:

Talking about nothing real—conversation limited to things like relationships, how awesome they are, and other simplistic conversations

Overly simplistic relationships: everyone is so buddy buddy, without the real differences of personality that every human relationship faces.

Super-cool wow wonder—a lot of time is spent on how much other people admire the character.

The ability to easily beat anything…quickly.

Years ago, John and I used to watch Star Trek: Next Gen, which we, for the most part, enjoyed very much. But they had one tendency that used to drive me crazy. In order to show how tough an enemy was, they would have the enemy beat Worf the Klingon.

Only, they never spent any time building the fortress that is Worf—ie, showing him using his great fighting prowess to win the day. They merely traded on the viewers knowledge that Klingons were tough in order to demonstrate how much tougher others were.

This went on for a while, with Worf being tossed around in a number of shows in a row. Then one day, emotional counselor Deanna Troy was possessed by an evil power, and—to show how EVIL the power was—she picked up and tossed…Worf.

And I jumped up from where I sat on the couch beside John and shouted at the TV: “That’s not Worf! That’s a Worf-shaped balloon!”

 And that is what happens in fanfic. It’s not Snape who falls in love with Hermione, it’s a Snape-shaped balloon. It’s not Sabertooth—the baddy who used to beat Wolverine to a pulp—that Wolverine’s adopted daughter beats up with one punch, it’s a Sabertooth balloon. (Wish that was fanfic. That one was Marvel.)

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with most fan fiction pieces. Sooner or later the reader looks up from the porthole where all these wild emotions are happening and exclaims, “This isn’t a fortress! It’s just a fortress-shaped balloon!”

Essayist extraordinaire Tom Simon offers both a historical perspective and additional terms that could be useful to future discussions on this topic: “Puts me in mind of the flap between Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding. Richardson more or less invented the epistolary novel with Pamela, which was a shamelessly sentimental and long-winded tear-jerker that even most aficionados of eighteenth-century novels now find unreadable. Henry Fielding wrote Joseph Andrews, a novel ostensibly about Pamela’s brother, but in a completely different tone – lighthearted, humorous, and salted with picaresque adventure. Richardson was furious, and called Joseph Andrews a ‘lewd and ungenerous engraftment’ on his own novel.

 “In the same way, we could fairly call 50 Shades a lewd and ungenerous engraftment on Twilight; lewd, especially. Wicked is an engraftment on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Fan fiction of the Mary Sue or slash types could be generally described as engraftments; whereas a genuine contribution to a canon grows organically from the characters and situations already developed.

“Perhaps we could reverse-engineer a terminology for this. The original source material would be root stories; sequels and prequels and shared-world stuff, if done competently and with respect for the root, would be branches; stuff that really does not belong, but is forced on out of fan-service, moneygrubbing, or sheer self-indulgence, we can call by Richardson’s term –  engraftments.

“This not only takes the pro-vs.-amateur question out of the equation, it is also independent of the authorized-vs.-unauthorized issue. For instance, The Phantom Menace may have been an authorized part of the Star Wars canon, but it is so different in tone and intention, and does such shameless violence to the previous canon, that we may fairly call it an engraftment on Star Wars – even though it was done by the same writer and director.”

 An author of well-crafted fiction is the servant of his muse. He listens to the words and wisdom the Divine Muse sends. He writes a story that honors the characters, plots, and themes he has been given.

A fan fiction author expects the plot and characters to perform for him. He, as we heard above, does violence to the source material. Or, at the very least, he leans on the source material for the force of his story, without himself adding to the “fortress.”

You have heard of people who are tone deaf.

Fan fiction is muse-deaf.

 

The Iconic Hero and the Superversive

I make no bones about the fact that I prefer Sean Connery when I’m talking about James Bond movies. It’s not merely that his take on the character is consistently entertaining, but that it’s consistent period from film to film. This is a man who knows who and what he is, does not apologize for it, and has no issues with what he does; he lives for the mission, and believes in the mission. It’s nothing like Danial Craig’s Bond at all. Robin D.
Laws identifies this as “The Iconic Hero”, and explained in this 2012 post why this is a valid characterization choice:

While a dramatic hero follows a character arc in which he is changed by his experience of the world (examples: Orpheus, King Lear, Ben Braddock), an iconic hero undertakes tasks (often serially) and changes the world, restoring order to it, by remaining true to his essential self.

Prevailing creative writing wisdom favors the changeable dramatic character over his serially unchanging iconic counterpart, but examples of the latter remain enduring tentpoles of popular culture. It’s the clear, simple, elemental iconic heroes who keep getting reinvented every generation. Each such classic character spoke to the era of its invention, while also evoking an eternal quality granting it a continuing resonance. We are going to create a new set of heroes who speak to the contemporary world while evoking the inescapable power of the iconic model.

An iconic hero re-imposes order on the world by reasserting his essential selfhood. The nature of his radical individuality can be summed up with a statement of his iconic ethos. It is the ethos that grants higher meaning to the hero’s actions, and a clue to his creator’s intentions. An iconic hero’s ethos motivates and empowers him.

The first paragraph in particular is the mission of a Superversive hero: to restore order to the world. What he does is how he makes that happen, that assertion Laws speaks of, is where the variation lies. In the quoted post, Laws goes over several iconic characters and shows how you can summarize their stories in a sentence by identifying their ethos and how they assert it to restore order to their world time and again. What he doesn’t identify, but nonetheless shows, is that this summary also serves as the basis for every story outline you’ll need in writing stories about those characters that are true and faithful additions to their literary corpus that the readers will accept.

There’s something else that this post, and the concept in it, reveals: how the Enemy subverts the culture. They do resort to making Iconic Heroes into Dynamic Characters, putting them through “arcs” that denigrate their ethos and thereby degrade the characters into agents of subversion to further the Enemy’s agenda. (One need only look at what goes on at Marvel and D.C. Comics to see this in action.)

While stories that have characters changed by the experiences of the narrative are necessary and valuable, this is not a universal requirement. Just look at what’s been done with the Arthurian Mythos to see (a) that it’s not necessary and (b) it’s often done to subvert, degrade, and destroy a targeted culture- and therefore, not to be trusted anymore.

Consider an Iconic Hero when you’re next sitting down to create something, especially if you’re looking to do so as part of a series–writing, gaming, etc.–because you may find it better suited to your objectives than you might think.