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Dec. 5th, 2010

The Christmas Machine, Part 1

 Due partly to how busy I will be over the holiday season and partly because I just like this story and wish more people could read it, I'm going to be posting my story The Christmas Machine here over the next two weeks.  Beware, Christmas imagery or not, it gets a little dark.  This story originally appeared in issue number 11 of M-Brane SF.

Part 1 after the cutCollapse )

Nov. 28th, 2010

Making the Sexy Time

 Sex scenes in books have been on my mind lately.

Mostly this is because of various issues with my own writing.  As I've tried to branch out into various subgenres, I've discovered a disconnect between what I want to include and what I probably should include.  See, of the two manuscripts I'm currently working on, one is a young adult novel.  Now it was pretty easy to make sure that nothing too inappropriate got into the book (especially since most young adult novels I've read in recent years are rather lenient when it comes to traditionally taboo subjects like sex or drugs), there is the question of whether everything else I've written will reflect on what I'm trying to write for younger readers.  After all, there's always the possibility that someone rather young might read this one then seek out my other work to find it significantly more adult.

The problem, however, is that sex scenes are just something I keep wanting to put in my writing.  I simply have the belief that sex is a natural thing that we have no reason to be ashamed of and we should explore it.  When I first started out writing my stories were basically just single long sex scenes (although it should also be noted that all these stories were pretty bad).  As I've had more of my work published I've put explicit sex in my work less, partially because the kind of things I've written don't really need sex scenes and partially because a lot of publications out there expressly forbid them.  The consequence, then, is that even when a sex scene actually would be appropriate for the story, I'm no longer comfortable putting them in.

There are a lot people out there that would argue that sex scenes don't have any place in science fiction and fantasy (although horror often seems to get more of a pass), partially because they're just uptight about these things and partially because they think such scenes should only be there if it "fits."  Oftentimes I think that's just an excuse to keep sex out of sf/f, but I, as a reader, actually enjoy seeing it done right and will sometimes seek out books just because I think they might do the sexual aspects justice (and get your mind out of the gutter.  I'm not searching out these books because I need material for "when I'm alone."  If I really wanted that I wouldn't be searching an entirely different section of the bookstore, not the sci-fi/fantasy section.)

When trying to come up with examples of books where the sexual aspects actually "fit," two different series came to mind.  One, I think, treats the sexual material very well while the other I think does not.  The first one would be the Kushiel/Namaah series by Jaqueline Carey.  This is the perfect example of how sex can be an unobtrusive and natural extension of the story.  The series takes place in and around the land of Terre d'Ange (a fantasy version of Renaissance era France) and starts off following the story of Phedre, a woman who is "blessed" by the god Kushiel to feel pain as pleasure.  This makes her highly sought after as a courtesan, but her keen mind and access to the bedrooms of the nobility also make her the perfect spy.  The sex in this series is weaved perfectly in with the fantasy and political intrigue.  Indeed, with a setup like that the series probably wouldn't work without the many sex scenes.  Sex is just such a big and acceptable part of the characters' society that the reader would feel they were being cheated if the sex scenes were skipped over.

Of course, even when sex is important to the plot it is still possible to overdo it, which I believe is the case with the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The series started out as urban fantasy and eventually evolved more into paranormal romance, started with the story of a woman who can raise the dead and is often called on to deal with the problems that crop up in a world where vampires and werewolves are allowed to roam free as a part of society.  I enjoyed the series very much at first, but was frustrated that Anita and her vampire love interest too so incredibly long to actually go to the next level.  The book where they finally did it, The Killing Dance, felt like a breath of fresh air when I first read it, but it also marked a turning point in the series.  Not long after that, the sex became more important to the books than plots, and they simply became a series of sex scenes strung together by stories so loose as to not even make much sense anymore.

So sex definitely has a place in sci-fi and fantasy, I believe, and it should not be looked down upon.  But that doesn't mean I give it a free pass.  And I look forward to any and every book I can find that does it right in my book.

Nov. 20th, 2010

Guest Post: Why I Support Zombie Rights

 Derek's note: As part of the weekly Blogarama challenge, I'm expected to put something on here once a week, but it doesn't exactly have to be written by me. Guest posts by other people are allowed.  Because I have a major research paper that I have to finish up for one of my classes, I asked my good friend Phil, a clerk down at the local OneStop Mart, to write a post for me this week.  For more on Phil, you can read my books The Apocalypse Shift and All Hell's A-Buying Froztees, both available at Amazon.

I would like to thank Derek for giving me the chance to post here, because there's been something that's been bothering me for far too long.  Where I work, I hear a lot of idle talk from dumbasses that seem to think that just because I'm behind the counter means I apparently don't exist and therefore can't hear them.  The other day two customers came in, a girl (I've seen her around before, and I think her name is Mary Sue) and a vampire (not the older kind but the newer prissier kind that sparkles and spends ridiculous amounts of money on hair-care products), and they were talking about something they'd seen on their way to the store.  Apparently a zombie had been sitting against a wall with a sign that read "Will Eat Brains For Food."  The girl was saying how disgusted she had been by the smell of it, and that all zombies should just go back to the grave where they belong.  The vampire nodded at this, since apparently he was too stupid to understand the word "irony," and said it was the zombie's choice to be undead, but why did it have to flaunt it's choice in everyone's face?  He then went on to say he would never ever drink zombie blood because there was no telling what kind of diseases it might carry.  Mary Sue for some reason seemed to think this was incredibly hot and started making out with the vampire over by the hot dog rollergrill.

I'm not even sure where to begin with these two dumbasses.  At the OneStop we have a strict "Don't kill the customers unless they are trying to destroy the world" policy, so staking them then and there for being idiots was out of the question.  I've seriously had it up to here with all this anti-zombie talk.  It's not even just talk anymore.  I here there are actually vigilantes in Tallahassee and Columbus that have gone so far as too shoot zombies on sight.  People, this is just getting seriously sick!  And don't try to give me that "Oh, it's us or them and I don't want them eating my brains" crap.  If you do, you're making the idiotic assumption that you have enough brains to eat in the first place.  And then there's idiocy that the Mary Sue girl and vampire were talking.  Come people, think for a minute.  They should go back to the grave where they belong?  They have the same right to be above ground that vampires, mummies, ghouls, and revenants do, but no one is telling them to go back to the grave.  Why not?  Because they all have skin that isn't rotting.  That's decompositionist, people!  As for the line about it being the zombie's choice to be undead, why the hell do people actually think that?  Who in their right mind would actually choose to walk around in a decayed state while craving the flesh of the living.  The only one who ever made a choice was the necromancer that brought them back to life.

Look, I realize that people fear what they don't understand, but that's no excuse for the pain and humiliation zombies go through.  As the boyfriend of a pulse-challenged woman, I see the kind of discrimination they go through every day.  Please, can't we all just put ourselves in their shoes for just a little while?  Maybe then we will realize that, deep down inside us, we are all zombies.

-Phil

Nov. 14th, 2010

The Unexpected Side of Censorship

 I really debated whether I wanted to say anything about this, but I've seen a lot of knee-jerk reactions and very little critical thinking on the issue.  This week, there was a big internet dust-up over a book.  The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child Lover's Code of Conduct, was available for sale on Amazon.  The instant everyone saw this, the interwebs lit up like a Christmas tree as everyone screamed how deplorable it was and how ashamed Amazon should be for selling it and how everyone should boycott the site until they removed the book.  Eventually Amazon caved, and that means everything is as it should be, right?

Before I go any further, let me make one thing absolutely clear (put in all caps to make sure it doesn't get skimmed over): I THINK THIS BOOK IS SICK.  ANYONE WHO WOULD ACTUALLY WRITE THIS IS A DISTURBED INDIVIDUAL, AND UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES AM I DEFENDING THE AUTHOR.

With that said, I am also extremely uncomfortable with how people reacted to it.  I can understand why initially anyone would want it removed from Amazon, especially parents.  The thing is, though, I saw many people post about it on Facebook and Twitter with the words "I'm completely against censorship, but..." (Remember, using "but" in a sentence has a tendency to invalidate everything said before it).  It's easy for people to acknowledge all the ways having this book out there could be damaging or harmful, but few people take the time to acknowledge the unfortunate issues around removing it.  I'm not going to take the stance of "If you ban one book, what's to stop people from banning others?" because that, as a slippery slope argument, doesn't exactly hold up to critical thinking (what's to stop people from banning others should be obvious: pedophilia is considered one of the worst things possible in our society, and restricting a book on it is not the same as restricting a book about, say, politics or radical social theories).  There are, however, several points I would hope people would consider before they go around screaming for a boycott:

1) Boycott: You're Doing It Wrong:  The word boycott gets thrown around on the internet so much these days that I'm beginning to wonder if people actually know what it means.  Any time anybody anywhere does something that anyone disagrees with, someone says that magic word and tries to get others to say the same.  But guess what?  Saying the word and actually acting on it are not the same thing.  Earlier this year there was a kerfuffle over things happening with my publisher Library of the Living Dead Press, and many people talked about how they would boycott the publisher.  The problem is, most of them weren't buying anything from LotLD to start with.  You can't stop using a product or service you weren't using to start with.  With Amazon, however, I would say there's the opposite problem.  Too many people use it.  In this situation and in a few high profile situations in the past, Amazon did indeed cave to pressure on issues.  But I have to wonder how much longer that's going to continue.  Any attempt at boycotting Amazon for any reason that is not as high profile can easily be ignored by the retailer.  And how many people say they're going to boycott something, and then eventually go back to using it anyway?  After all, the internet has a notoriously short-attention span, and a boycott one day can be forgotten the next.  Using the idea of boycotts too often- and then not following through on them- devalues the entire idea.  Don't say "boycott" unless you truly mean it.

2) Censoring This Book Only Helps the Author:  Philip R. Greaves II.  Heard of him, right?  He's the author of this book, after all.  But had you heard of him before this week?  Probably not.  When looking up info for this post, I was able to find very little information on the man.  One thing I did find, however, is that apparently he'd only sold one copy of the book before the media found out about it.  Now he has stated that he's sold several thousand.  What changed?  He didn't start any sort of marketing campaign or media blitz.  He didn't have to.  Everyone running around screaming how evil he is started the blitz for him.  If people really think Amazon was the one doing the wrong thing in selling the book, what about all the people calling for Amazon to remove it and therefore making the entire world aware of the book to start with?  They are the ones who really sold this book.  

And one more point, one that I think is a really uncomfortable truth that we should nonetheless all look at:

3) Sometimes There is Value in Reading the Most Evil Fucking Books You Can Find:  So I think most people will say this is an Evil Fucking Book (EFB).  When asked what other books out there might qualify as EFBs, the first one most people will think of is Mein Kampf.  Now I have no way of knowing exact numbers when it comes to people who own MK.  You can bet there are quite a few Neo-Nazis out there among its owners.  But I myself have met several people who have read MK, and none of these are people that I would describe as hateful or evil.  They think the book and it's author are just as evil as any other reasonable person would.  So why would they read it?  The reason is that is valuable to know what the people you disagree with and fight against are actually saying.  Reading MK can help a person to see the circumstances that led up to Hitler gaining power, can show the kind of words and rhetoric he used, and can give insight into his methods, and all this information can be used to prevent something like the Holocaust from happening again.  A similar argument can be made for most EFBs, and this book is likely no exception.  Reading the book may give people an insight into the mind of someone like this, insights which could possibly be used to identify sexual predators or prevent them from hurting anyone (please note that I said "read" and not "buy."  Please don't give this guy any more money.  I'm sure by now the text is available out there somewhere, if you're really brave enough to look for it.  Beware, you'd probably have to wade through a lot of unsavory things to find it).

So no, I don't agree with this guy or anything he's written, but I do think the issue should be looked at rationally.  Censorship, no matter how noble the reason, can often do more harm than good.

Nov. 6th, 2010

Blogorama Super Challenge Fun Time!!!

 Well hello there, terribly neglected blog and blog readers.  It's been almost a year since the last time I posted here, because I am a terrible and horrible person or something like that.  However, my friend Tonia Brown proposed a challenge to a couple people to write at least one 300 word post a week for a year, and damn it I intend to do it (and if I fail, I have to send free copies of my books to all the other challengees.)  
 I figured the best way to do the first post of the challenge would simply be to update all the writing projects I've been up to during this time.  So what have I been up to?  Here's what I've got:

-First off, as the last post I put on here indicates, my story collection Machina is out, and has indeed been out for some time.  It's available at Amazon.

-Also, I've released the first collection of Apocalypse Shift stories as All Hell's A-Buying Froztees: Tales From the Apocalypse Shift, Vol. 1.  It contains most of the AS stories to date, although there are a few here and there that haven't been collected yet.  This one's also available at Amazon.

-In short fiction, I've had three pieces appear.  One, a short untitled piece, appeared in the Letters From the Dead, which is a collection of the last letters written by the final survivors of the zombie apocalypse before they died.  My sci-fi story "Have You Seen Me?" appeared in issue number 14 of M-Brane SF.  The last story, "The Woman Who Came to the Paradox," appeared in the anthology Timelines: Stories Inspired by H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.

-In addition to the stories that have actually seen print, I've had three stories accepted for publication.  These include my supervillain end-of-the-world story "Little Janie Earthcracker" for the anthology Doomology: The Dawning of Disasters, "If a Tree Falls in a Forest" for the zombie holiday antho Zombidays (with my story representing Arbor Day), and my new AS story "Cat on a Hot Brass Stripper Pole" for the antho Nocturnal Emissions: Things That Go Hump in the Night (which, if you couldn't guess by the anthology's title, is adults only).

-I've also finished two novels during this time, a young adult sci-fi novel called I Was a Teenage Mad Scientist and my long delayed zombie novel The Reanimation of Edward Schuett.  Both are still in the editing stage, and I hope to submit them for consideration with publishers very soon.

-And somehow in all this, I managed to find time to go back to school to get a degree.  Please don't ask where the hell this time is coming from, because I don't have the slightest freaking clue.

So that's what a missed year of blogging looks like.  Let's see if I can avoid doing that again, shall we?

Jan. 4th, 2010

Machina is Coming! Are You Ready?

It's a brand new year, so it's about time for the countdown to begin to my next book.  I've got at least two that will be appearing in the first half of 2010, both of them collections: All Hell's A-Buying Froztees and Machina.  While there's no firm date yet on Froztees (I'm still working on the edits), Machina will definitely be appearing in April.  I'm very excited for this, especially since I've just received the cover and it is great.  Check it out:

Thanks go out to cover artist Dan Galli, who did a great job.  Please keep an eye out here for more information as Machina gets closer.
 


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Dec. 18th, 2009

Random Story Updatery

I've had a bunch of stories that have come out in the last several weeks, but I've forgotten to say anything about it here.

First, my holiday-flavored story "The Christmas Machine" is in the latest issue of M-Brane SF.   This one has a lot of personal meaning to me, although you probably wouldn't guess that from reading it.  To actually see my thoughts on it, though, you would have to actually read my author's note in the issue.

Second, PegLeg Publishing's new Kindle book Florilegium contains my story "The Jackal and the Bright One."  This story came into existence when I was thinking about old ideas of spirits and fairy folk, who in times past all seemed to have their own special areas of expertise.  I figured that any such spirits would have new purposes in the modern world, and everything, even playgrounds, would have special spirits that patrolled them.

And most recently, my story "Casts a Demon Shadow" is now up at the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine.  I love this story so much, and I'm so happy that it's finally out there after several years of not being able to place it. 

Dec. 4th, 2009

The TOC for TFtAS!

I now have the first draft of All Hell's A-Buying Froztees: Tales From the Apocalypse Shift, Vol. 1 done. Here's a rundown of what will be in it, and a preview of the stories that will be appearing on the blog:

-The All-Night, One-Stop Apocalypse Shop- The story that started it all. Caleb and Gloria are night shift clerks at a most unusual convenience store. Just because they're the only ones who can stop the end of the world doesn't mean they can stop doing their jobs.

-The Power Pastry- There's a new item for sale at the OneStop, a cruller of infinite power. Too bad the only customer that wants it is one of the few things in life Caleb is scared of...

-The Part-Timer- The Hill isn't the only place where strange things happen. The rest of the world needs protecting, too. Perpetual slacker Toby has just answered a want-ad looking for a part-time DHR. Nobody told him, however, that DHR stands for Defender of the Human Race...

-What to Get a Zombie For Valentine's Day- Phil is just beginning to realize that the zombie who keeps following him around may be someone special. But really, how do you show your growing love for someone who's been dead for twenty years?

-The Leek Shall Inherit the Earth- The OneStop crew takes it upon themselves to help a refugee they find in their dumpster. The last survivor of a world where vegetables have declared war on humans, Courtney only wants to go about her new life. But something has followed her from her own reality...

-The Devil and Danielle the Fry Cook- The OneStop isn't the only business on the Hill. A student looking for extra cash takes a job at a fast food joint, only to discover that one of the other employees may have made a deal with the Devil, possibly taking the souls of everyone else at the restaurant with her...

-I'm Dreaming of a White Ancient Fertility Rite of Bag-Hosra- Celebrate the holidays with the newest employee of the OneStop. Just remember that in a place where cultists routinely worship the Great Old Ones, the holidays may just be celebrated in more disturbing ways...

-Spazmatic Magic- A college student has just violated the cardinal rule of doing laundry. Now, if she wants to survive the night, she's going to need a little help from her aunt, a certain bar tender/sorceress...

-The Cozy Little Wild Magic Journal of Annabeth Guye- A hundred years before the events of The Apocalypse Shift, the Hill was not the freakshow it is today. It was a well to-do neighborhood for the idle rich, but it still had many secrets. Widowed millionaire Annabeth Guye suspects there is more to her neighborhood than meets the eye, but even she doesn't realize how different it really is, nor does she know the vast number of secrets her husband hid from her. For her husband Jonathan was more powerful and important than anyone suspects... THIS STORY IS GOING TO BE EXCLUSIVE TO THE BOOK AND WILL NOT APPEAR ON THE BLOG!

Nov. 8th, 2009

Machiney Things


First, I just want everyone to know that Wolves of War, the new anthology containing my story "And the Streets Will Run Red With the Blood of Bunnies," is now available. For anyone out there who is an Apocalypse Shift fan, this story tells the tale of how Gloria originally met the Senator Park Lunatics, and shows just why everyone in the novel is so scared of were-bunnies. This story will not, however, be showing up on the Tales From the Apocalypse Shift blog, nor will it appear in the first volume of the TFtAS book, so the only place you will be able to read it for now is in this anthology.

Second, I have some more big news. M-Brane SF, the science fiction zine responsible for the wonderful anthology Things We Are Not, has finally announced they will be releasing my upcoming story and novella collection Machina.  All the stories in this collection will center around the loose theme of machines, with my story "Dea Ex Machina," (the story that is being adapted as an opera, if you are new to this blog) as the centerpiece.  It will even include a forward by the opera's producer and librettist Mark Streshinsky.  I'm really excited about this and have been waiting for the announcement for a while now.  As I have pointed out before, Chris Fletcher from M-Brane is a great guy with some amazing thoughts on sci-fi publishing, and I count myself lucky to be able to work with him on this.

Nov. 3rd, 2009

The Part-Timer

The newest post is now up at the Tales From the Apocalypse Shift blog.  This is the first never-before published material on the site, and starts a brand new story.  While the last story tied in with the Apocalypse Shift novel kind of closely, this one takes place outside of the normal setting and group of characters, while still giving a few hints to upcoming events in the universe.  Please go check it out!

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