William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

The Blog Of A Science Fiction Writer Living Just A Half-An-Hour Into The Future . . . Or Maybe, Y'Know, An Hour And Some Change. Sci-fi, politics, visual arts, music, writing, fantasy, and general weirdness. NSFW. Probably not safe for YOU, either, really. But don't let that stop you.

The go-to site for fans of science fiction writer William A. Hainline. Also the go-to site for non-fans, or anybody else who wants to follow what this curmudgeonly weirdo is doing with his free time.

The Case For the Arts In Times Of Trouble

You know that meme, the one with Winston Churchill, where he's asked about cutting funding for the arts, and he responds with, "Well then, what are we fighting for?" Yeah, that never actually happened. Check Snopes, you'll see. It's an apocryphal quote. What Churchill actually said was this: 

“The arts are essen­tial to any com­plete national life. The State owes it to itself to sus­tain and encour­age them . . . Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the rev­er­ence and delight which are their due.” 

Which, i think, is a much better quote. Because it's so damned true. Also, as a fun historical anecdote, check this out, from ProfessorBuzkill.com:

In 1940, the Battle of Britain was looking bleak. London suffered daily bombings from the Luftwaffe, and German invasion of the island seemed imminent. Kenneth Clark, the Director of the National Gallery in London, wrote to Churchill and suggested that their paintings and artworks be sent to Canada to keep them safe from damage or capture.

“No,” Churchill replied, “bury them in caves and cellars. None must go. We are going to beat them.”

And that’s what they did.

So Churchill was actually more of an Arts-saving badass than that meme gives him credit for. And we need reminding of words and deeds like this in times like these. For now, we are living in the age of Donald Drumpf, the Orange Man, the man who in his version of the federal budget (which I'm hoping gets axed to pieces by Congress and put back together again like some Frankenstein monster, with at least some of the cruelty and stupidity removed from it), which cuts — no, cuts is too light a word; it slashes, it guts — funding for the Arts and Humanities. It completely eliminates the National Endowment for the Arts. Yes, it just gets rid of it. Defunds it entirely. It's gone in Trump's budget. Poof, goodbye. In Trump's world, all that matters is military spending, not writers, artists, poets, actors, musicians, or dancers. Nah, fuck those people. We don't need them. What do they contribute? According to Statista:

The global film industry shows healthy projections for the coming years, as the global box office revenue is forecast to increase from about 38 billion U.S. dollars in 2016 to nearly 50 billion U.S. dollar in 2020. The U.S. is the third largest film market in the world in terms of tickets sold per year, only behind China and India. More than 1.2 billion movie tickets were sold in the U.S. in 2015. There are about 5,800 cinema sites in the U.S. as of 2015. About 14 percent of Americans go to the movies about once a month, seven percent go see movies in the movie theater twice or three times a month, whereas 37 percent go a few times a year. This is a considerable share taking into account 53 percent of American adults prefer watching movies at home.

And...

The revenue from the global book publishing market is forecast to slightly increase in the coming years, growing from around 113 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 to about 123 billion U.S. dollars by 2020. British company Pearson is the largest publishing house in the world as of 2015. Besides Pearson, Thomson Reuters, RELX Group, Wolters Kluwer and Penguin Random House are also leading book publishers in the world. The U.S. has by far the largest publishing industry, followed by China and Germany.

"Yeah," I can hear you saying. "But andy, that's Hollywood. And that's the Publishing industry. That's not government funded!" But oh yes it is. Where do you think big-time Hollywood actors, writers, directors, and technicians get their start? How do you think artists live and stay alive and learn their craft while they're still trying to hit it big, while they're still small-time players, while they're young and dumb and just trying to scrape by? Many do so with the aid of government funding. Many start out in small venues, in local theater, and in publicly-funded venues as well. Many of them get their feet wet in school, in college, or apply for grants to study their craft. A lot of them need the Endowment. Without it, we're going to come up short on talent in this country . . . really quickly. Without the Endowment, in just a few short years, Hollywood and the book publishing industry — as well as the news industry, journalism, and other industries that rely on talent pools from the Arts and Humanities — are going to be coming up short, too, and we as a nation are going to pay the price for it. We will fall behind. This will cost us economically. And it will also cost us a piece of our soul, as well.

Because above all, that's what the Arts give us. Our souls. Neil Gaiman has a famous quote that says that Fairy Tales aren't there to teach us that dragons exist; they're there to teach us that dragons can be beaten. (And right now, we have a dragon in the White House, believe you me.) Art inspires us. It speaks to our spirit. It enriches us inside. It is the one thing that bridges the gaps that stand between out intellects, our memories, our imaginations, and our hearts. It is the language of the soul, spoken universally between all peoples of all nations. Art is philosophy made concrete. It is our values and our metaphysics, and our epistemology, our ethics, turned inside-out and made into physical thIngs that we can see, and touch, and hear. It is our politics, made real and intimate so that we can interact with them in real-time and really see them for what they are, what they represent. Art is a way of closing the distance between disparate peoples. It is what we do when we take our thoughts out of our heads and place them in the context of each other, of society, when we have the courage to take a sample of who we are share it with others for them to learn from, critique, appreciate, and explore. Art is a reflection and a prism of our essential humanity. Without it, we are just jazzed-up apes stumbling around in fancy hovels, tweeting on iPhones about the latest craze in banana fashion. We need our Arts. And if Trump can't see that, then he is the ape.

Like I said — I have hope that at least some of Trump's Republican colleagues are at least not half as backward and regressive as he is. I have hope that at least some of them have half a brain and will see that the Arts are as necessary to this country as oxygen is to the lungs, as blood is to the heart and the body, as food is to the stomach. I have hope that our elected Representatives have not so totally abdicated their humanity that they have forgotten that those movies they like to watch and those books they like to read (if they do still read, that is; some of them make me wonder at times) came from somewhere — from a living mind, a beating heart, a thriving soul, one that was, most likely, nurtured and bore fruit because of the Endowment, because they got a leg up in the beginning. And I have hope that my hopes are not in vain. Because if they are, then a dark day is dawning. One in which we return to savagery, and where the only Art we know is strewn upon the walls of our caves and hovels, and the only thing we know is drudgery and pain, the pain of a People who have forgotten that Art is the gateway to — and the nectar of — the soul.

Maybe Adding A Prologue? Yes, No, Maybe?

Hiyo Everybody. I'm thinking of adding a Prologue to my book. Yeah, yeah, I hear you groaning. But hear me out. Prologues can be good things. They can help "set the stage" for what comes after them. That's actually their whole purpose in life, isn't it? To set the stage, to set up the book itself? Right-O, it certainly is. So here it is, my rough draft of the Prologue to my book. As always, questions and comments are welcome. Please email me with suggestions, ideas, changes, things like that if you think of any!

    Worlds hung in the balance, and anxiety-ridden Angels—well, to Humans they would be Angels, and to them, Humans would be but apes—looked on in what a Human might’ve called “fear” . . . Fear that all their delicately laid threads of fate and time would, at any moment, all come unraveled, and go twirling apart into the void, torn and jagged threads all flying loose, and all due to their misplaced faith in what Humans simplistically called “Free Will.”

    The Girl. She knew how to fight; that much was obvious. She punched and kicked with all the force she could muster, but with the speed and precision of a sniper; she fought like a whirlwind unleashed from a storm, an animal enhanced with cybernetic skills set loose from some mad scientist’s cage. She fought not “as though” her life depended on it, but in fact because her life depended on it; hers and several others’ too. The monster she fought was an Evil unlike any other, and though she knew it not, upon the outcome of her fight, upon her living through it, there depended the fate of many parallel universes . . . If she lost, then so too would all of them be. The threads of the tapestry of fate were wound around her good and tight—the Angels had seen to that—and they branched off in literally a million different directions into the Ether of Time and Destiny, influencing and touching the lives of billions, but the Girl had no knowledge of this . . . All she knew was that she had to win, had to defeat the Evil. The Angels felt proud of her. They had done well when they had crafted her genetics while she still lay in her mother’s womb. Now if only she could live through this moment . . .

    The Boy, on the other hand, was in even deeper trouble at the moment. At least from a certain point of view, and it didn’t take an Angel to see it. A deep grimness had engulfed his heart, and a bleakness clouded his vision of the world; dysphoric clouds obscured his sight of the far horizon of the future—any future, and not just his own. His world was all black and grey, with no rainbows at the moment. Had they—the Angels asked themselves—made a mistake when they had touched his DNA in the womb and had given him the gifts of intellect and imagination that they had? Had they gone too far and created too many dangerous side-effects for him to realistically deal with in his day-to-day existence post-pubescence? Had they truly driven him mad?

    Around the Boy too, the threads of fate’s tapestry were wound as though he were a maypole, perhaps even tighter than they were around the Girl. They reached outward from him and became a dizzying network of spiraling, interconnected fractal patterns—fluxing, pulsating, and influencing a thousand worlds beyond him, alive with the energy of Time. And of this, the Boy had no idea, no clue whatsoever. All he knew at the moment was that he hurt, so deeply; he felt a gnawing pain deep inside of his heart that he was convinced he could no longer endure . . . and as he toyed with the gun he held gingerly in his hands, felt along its smooth surface and pondered what a bullet to his brain would actually feel like, his own private world grew dimmer, darker, engulfed in shadow and fear and sadness.

    The time had come at last. The Angels, Archons, and even Demons all watching the Girl and the Boy all sucked in a breath and held it for a moment. The clockwork of the universe paused in its ticking.

    The Boy was about to make his final decision.

Well, Back To The Drawing Board!

Well, my beta-readers have reported in on my novel. So far, Ana is halfway through the first third of the book, and Greg is about a third of the way through the entire book. So far, Greg's review of the book has been mostly positive, which is good, though he has some sharp criticisms of certain aspects (hilariously, one of his problems is with Dizzy's "vocal tic" of sayin "frak" every time she means to say "fuck," which most other readers find "cute," but that he finds obnoxiously annoying), which I do need to address in the next draft. Ana's review has been more mixed, and she has had some seriously critical feedback for me on many scenes in just the first 250 pages alone, which points to the idea that I may be looking at a bottom-up rewrite of the book, at least in terms of a lot of the scenes . . . which would lead me to just say "fuck it," and write the whole damn book over again anew, since so much of it would have to change anyway. A task I would not undertake lightly, since we're talking about a 480,000 word manuscript, here. That's 1400 pages worth of work if you double-space it and put it in Times New Roman. A Herculean task if ever there was one. I'm not sure I have it in me to do that. I mean, yeah, I guess I do. I mean — what choice do I have? It's either do that, or let the whole damn thing — all that effort, all that work previously — be for nothing. So I know I've got to do it. It's just psyching myself up for the job that's the issue. The thing is, I know it probably does need a rewrite. I mean, the book is in "first draft" mode right now. First draft. As in, a second draft needs to be done. So yeah, there's that. I'm just "not looking forward" to it, is all. But like I said — what else is there to do, other than hitch up my big boy pants, dig in, and begin the work?

Now, there are benefits to doing a bottom-up rewrite of a book. Certainly, there are. You change things when you do that, and often for the better. You examine every word of it, every turn of phrase. You switch around your phrases; you change sentence structure; you identify passages that work and don't work; you discover whole paragraphs that are redundant; you think about the coded messages delivered with your dialogue; you re-examine the impact of every scene upon your book's theme and overall philosophical underpinnings; you think about the plot structure more, and how everything you've written ties into that, and you begin to analyze how your book is put together on a fundamental level. You change the meaning of your book, and you hone the book's overall stylistic approach to its message, its story, and it's tone. You really get at the guts of it, because hell, it's the guts of it you're messing with. So, yeah, there are some definite advantages to doing a bottom-up rewrite, for sure. Like I said, it's just about psyching myself up to do it. I mean, I know I can do it. My mom suggested that I simply break up the job into smaller pieces. "You can eat an elephant one bite at a time," or so goes the old adage. Which is good advice, and hey — Scrivener already does that for you. So yeah, I know I can. It's just the firing myself up inside and sitting down to the do the hard work of putting pen to paper and getting it done that's the problem right now. I've got some time to get myself ready for that, at least: Ana won't be done with the entire book for at least another two months' time, and neither will Greg; he's on Chapter Nine, and she's on Chapter Four, I think. So I can wait until they're done giving me their opinions before I dive into the whole slam-bang rewriting phase. Which is good. That gives me time to jazz myself up for the concept of the rewrite, and to experiment with a few ideas I have floating around in my head for what I might like to do with a couple of those troublesome scenes that need work. Because with me, ideas are never the problem; it's their execution where I sometimes falter!

On The Movies That Wake Us Up

I remember the month and year I became “politically aware.” December of 2005. It was an ordinary day, like any other. But it did not end like one. At 5:35 (I think), I stepped into Great Escape cinemas one person, and at 7:50 (or so) I exited a different one.

Let me set the stage: I was a “good citizen.” I was vaguely liberal on a few social issues, and vaguely conservative on others. I supported the President. Sort of. Even though I quietly made fun of his mannerisms here and there. I also “vaguely” supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or the troops. Or something. I was mostly politically unaware of what was going on around me. I had a muddy “both sides do it’ attitude toward Democrats and Republicans, though I really wasn’t sure what “it” was or why I should care. I didn’t know what a “libertarian” really was or what that meant. I didn’t know or really care who was on the Supreme Court. I got my news and commentary from Fox and CNN. I didn’t watch the Daily Show. I stayed away from topics like race and gender and feminsim — because those tended to start fights — and I did not know what “ableism” and “ageism” were. Plus, I didn’t really know enough about any of those topics to have really formed an opinion on them yet. I was ignorant in the extreme, and my ignorance formed a kind of blissful little cocoon that protected me from reality. I knew I was vaguely angry about the way that gay people were treated — because I knew people who were gay — and I knew that I didn’t like organized religion at all . . . but those views had not yet crystallized into actual political positions for me, because I didn’t yet understand how they were connected to the overall political landscape in Washington, nor how they played out across the country in everyday political settings, nor how they factored into the global political playing field . . . and how they were connected to other political issues and voices that mattered. In other words, I was a sheeple, quietly grazing in the fields of plenty provided for me by the mass media and the dominant paradigm.

Then I heard about a new movie coming out from the Wachowski Brothers. I had liked The Matrix, and so I was intrigued. I had never read Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel V for Vendetta, though I had loved Watchmen to death (though again, even in Watchmen’s case, the political messages had blown right over my head; I was very young when I read it). But hey, it was allegedly a futuristic, dystopian superhero film, and that sounded good to me. But I couldn’t get my friend Greg nor my friend Tonya interested in it. So, one evening, I went and saw it alone.

Hoh. Lee. Shit.

It may seem silly to say (and yes, I know the “problem” with using Guy Fawkes as a historical rallying point), but the tone and narrative of V for Vendetta shook me, and woke me up but good. All at once. And in a hurry. It was blinding, like having a pair of sunglasses torn off your face in the blinding afternoon heat. In the space of two hours and some change, thanks to the Wachowski Brothers and their film, my consciousness was ripped open and scrambled like the bowels of a tourist in Mexico who has made the mistake of ordering the spiciest thing on the menu, and then drinking a gallon of the native water . . . and then taking some laxatives. It was an astonishing and awakening moment for me, one in which so many things all clicked in my head at once. Like the tumblers all fell into place at the same time, like the clockwork gears of a combination lock all ticked into position at the same exact moment, and suddenly, I could see.

I left that theatre a changed person. Rattled to the bone, and suddenly very afraid for the world. I knew what was up. I suddenly understood my friends who were more political than I was; what drove them, why they did what they did; what their values were and why they had them . . . and why I now could no longer be friends with some of the more conservative of them. I had a sudden feeling of desperation — of the need to do something about it — all of it — though I had no idea what exactly I could do. I felt powerless and trapped, insignificant in the greater clockwork of the body politic and the greater political machine. I had been galvanized into suddenly giving a shit, about so many things it wasn’t funny, and the more my head whirled and spun with thought, the more things I found I suddenly gave a shit about, suddenly had an opinion on, suddenly had to do some research on in order to find out more, to know more, to realize more. And the more research I did at home that night and the nights beyond it, the more troubled I became; the more the galvanic charge built up in me, and the more of a progressive I slowly, gradually graduated into. The more I was pushed leftward, in other words; the more I studied the issues, the greater sense of wrongness I felt at the then-current situation, and the more I felt in my gut that things had to change, somehow, or else the world would perish from an orgy of corruption and indulgent, ignorant buffoonery on the part of conservative politicians everywhere.

Now, in the age of Donald Trump, I feel that the message of V for Vendetta — both the movie and the book, for they are very different creatures, owing to the fact that the movie is very much “inspired by” the book and not strictly “based on” it — is more timely and prescient than ever. It speaks to the days we live in now. Even though the film takes place in a dystopian England of the near future, it might as well take place in the America of today. Neo-Nazis run riot in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, killing an innocent woman, and the President issues a lukewarm response; the Russians might have been directly responsible for his election to the Presidency, and yet we have an electorate where 35% of the voters literally do not care that this is the case . . . and in fact still cheer his so-called “victories” when he champions police brutality and the denigration of our Muslim and Hispanic citizens. Yes, V’s immortal words — “these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition!” — though whimsical, are a fitting description of Trump and cronies like Steve Bannon and Jeff Sessions. Never did I think I would fear my own government as I fear this one; never did I think I would have to. I had my beefs with President Obama — contrary to popular belief, he was not every progressive’s “dream come true”; he had a lot of warts that we progressives were not happy about — but never under his watch did I go to bed wondering if World War III was going to break out because of his Twitter feed, nor did I fear that due to his encouragement — or his lack of discouragement — Neo-Nazis might decide it was a good idea to set up camp in my home town and throw a big ol’ book burning party. We know, after all, that Trump doesn’t like to read.

So perhaps it’s time to dust off those books, movies, and TV shows that first “woke” you. Revisit them. Pay homage to them. Revel in them once more. Look upon them with fresh eyes in this age when being woke matters more than ever, and also, try to see them, once again, through the eyes you once saw them through . . . the eyes of a Sleeper. Let them wake you all over again, perhaps in new ways. And then — share them with someone who needs waking up. You probably can’t wake that person up on your own. And the movie, book, TV show, or comic book you share with them probably won’t do the job all by itself, either. But who knows? It might open the door a tiny crack. It might nudge them toward awakening just a little bit. It might push them closer to the edge of awareness just a tiny, small fraction more than the were the day before. And before you know it, you might just have a woke person on your hands. You never know. You can at least try.

Good luck. And remember, it’s like V said: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

The Novel Is FINISHED!

It's DONE! I'm done! The novel is finished, at long last! 481,758 words of it, to be precise. All done, with a proper ending and everything. I feel as though a major chapter in my life has at long last come to a fulfilling close, the final words "THE END" marking the finish of a long journey that I started twelve long years ago in a different apartment, in almost another life. I was a different person then, almost a totally different writer, with different goals and a different mindset about the work. It shows in the evolution of my style, I think; that's why I had to go back and do so much rewriting over the years that I kept working on it. But now, it's finished, finito, and the grand finale has played at last in this singular concert of the mind that was this epic story that just had to come out of me. I stretched and strained, grunting and groaning, pushing and stressing . . . wait, you know what? This isn't a good metaphor, so I'm just going to cut it short, turn things around, and say that producing this novel was a lot like giving birth. There, that's better. Yeah, giving birth. That's it. I'm not a woman, and I've never actually given birth, so I don't know if it's really a fair comparison to make, but boy, it sure felt like it at times. There was rough going for a few years in the middle there. Times when I thought I was finished, and so I would put something out, only to be mortified by my hideous lack of judgment later on. Times when I thought i would never be finished, and I would despair, hopeless, and would want to throw in the towel. Luckily I had friends and family who kept me going, kept me on the path, who stood me up and slapped me in the face with fresh motivation to keep me moving, keep me writing, keep me sane. There were times I didn't know if I was going to live to see the thing completed, when I struggled with depression and anxiety so badly I thought I was going to up and follow Gadget's path that he struggles with at the book's outset ‗ that's right, suicide. But thankfully, my friends and family came to my rescue there again. They kept me on the straight and narrow, kept me alive, kept me writing. And so it has come to pass that now the book is finished, and I . . . Don't know what to do. I feel strangely free. Strangely at odd-ends. Is this what happens to all writers once they finish pushing out a huge brain-turd — er, child! I mean CHILD! — like this?

Above all, I feel proud. Proud of the work, proud of the achievement. Proud to finally stand back from the laboratory table, cackling with mad glee as the lightning strikes and the creature rises from the slab, and I intone in my best evil voice, "It's alive!" I feel good about this book. Better than I ever have about any other creative project I've embarked on. Better than I have about any other foray into the arts I've tried. I think it has to do with the fact that I planned it. I sat down about two years ago, rolled up my sleeves, and drew up blueprints before I got started, and decided how I wanted the story to flow; I built a foundation first, and then erected the house on top of it. And now that I've finally finished the whole structure, I feel that its beauty is in part due to the planning that went into it. It was a lot of work. Now the really hard work is done; now comes the next phase — the editing, the beta-reading, the fixing all the little problems and the sanding, the polishing, the fixer-upper part, the part where I go through and twiddle with all of the knobs and hook up all the cables into just the right sockets, so that the whole machine hums along as it was designed to. So that the engine runs just right. So that the house lights up just the way I want it to. WHICH SHOULD BE THE REALLY FUN PART!

I am so glad i wrote this novel. It gets a lot of things down on paper that I've always wanted to say, but didn't know how to say until my characters said them for me. It gets a lot out of my system that I didn't know how to get out, until I found myself writing it there on the page. It tells a story that I think I always wanted to tell, but didn't know how to tell until I found myself writing it, found myself letting it unfold before my eyes, found myself living it right alongside my characters and letting myself experience it alongside them and their whacky hijinks. I think it's a good book. Whether the rest of the world thinks so, or not, will be the icing on the cake for me. What matter is I wrote it, and I meant it, and it will always be a triumph because dammit, I started it, and I finished it. And that's good enough for me.

 

The Second Act Is Finished!

Well, I've finished the Second Act. That is, the major Climax of the book is over and done with and resolved. That means we're on to Act III, the Resolution of the book. The last two chapters. It's all literally down hill from here, folks. The final chapters where the characters take their final bows to the audience, and leave the stage, and where I finally creep up on those two ultimate words: THE END. I still have no real clue how I'm going to end the book. Well, that's a lie. I have sort of an idea of how I'm going to end it. I know how I want to end it, at least. I know what I want that last scene to look and sound like, and I have a pretty good idea of what I want the last words to look and sound like. I think I even know what they will be, and who they will be spoken to, and whom by. I also think I have an idea for a rousing final speech by one of the characters, to sort of sum things up, as it were, and I think I know which character to give that speech to. And I think I know where all of the major characters are headed to in their new lives; what direction their fates will take them in after the book is over. So, I think I've got a good handle on THE END, and where it will leave the characters.

The only problem is — you guessed it — bringing myself to actually write it. I find I don't want to. I don't want to let go of these characters. I don't want the story to end for them. I want it to go on forever. I want it to keep on trucking, on into eternity, because I like spending time with these guys. I like who they are, who they've become over the course of the story, and I like writing about them. But, I guess, to all good things must come an end at some point, right? Right. And this story has gone on a LONG time. When you put it in standard manuscript format, the thing's page count balloons to over 1500 pages. That's absurdly huge. I'm not even sure my editor won't laugh me out of the country for sending it to her. But I'll give it a shot anyway.

So, that's where I am. Writing THE END. The final punch. Wish me luck, won't you?

Only Two And A Half Chapters To Go!

Well, I'm down to the last two and a half chapters, folks. I'm in the midst of writing the big, climactic battle sequence — the big one, the enormous climactic battle sequence that will be the final, epic struggle between the forces of good and evil in the book, the final showdown between the good guys and the bad guys — and everything is going very well. So far the good guys have a tough fight ahead of them, but so far, no one else has died (yet), and it looks like there have been a few unexpected developments that have set up some interesting resolutions for some of the characters that, if they play out the way I have planned, will end the book on a very satisfying note. I can't wait. I actually know how it's going to end, now! Before, I had no real clue of how it was going to end . . . it was all up in the air, and I had no feel for how those final words on the last page were going to look or sound. Now, I have a definite idea in my head for what they're going to be like, and it's wonderful. The ending I have in mind will be sure-footed and feel great, I think, and be really rewarding . . . for one character in particular, I thInk. Maybe more than one, too. If all goes according to plan, each of the surviving characters will see their arc fully completed, their story come full circle. I'm so excited!

The story's themes all seem to be coming together, too. Originally, I had no idea of how i was going to blend the story's three main themes together — Gadget fighting his mental illness and the idea of accepting yourself for who you are and not who you wished you were . . . the notion of finding your place in the world, finding where you fit in even if the rest of the world didn't seem to want you . . . and the theme of the Mundanes vs. the "Special" people, the geeks and nerds of the world. Now, I have an idea of how to blend those three things together seamlessly, of how to bring them together into a harmonious chorus with one another, make them really sing together. I won't blow it for you here — you'll just have to read the book to find out how I'm making it all work together, of course — but I promise, it will be something special to behold.

The book will also be shorter than was originally planned. Originally, I had estimated it would be around 500,000 words. Well, before I went back and started rewriting the first seven chapters (a project I embarked on about a month ago), it was going to be around 520,000, actually. Now, it's only going to be around 480,000. That's because when I went back and did the rewriting, I chopped out around 40,000 words of unnecessary noodling around in the beginning that delayed a lot of major plot-points from getting going. In other words, the book was too slow to get started, the plot took forever to jump start itself, and so I sped things up a little. I took out a lot of unnecessary backstory that didn't need to be there, and removed a lot of build-up that I found just got in the way of the story. And lo, 40,000 words just disappeared! So yay, the book will be shorter, and the plot gets going a lot sooner than it did. Which is a good, good thing. I'm updating the sample chapters here on the website to reflect the changes.

All in all, things are going swimmingly. The book should go to the editor sometime around Aug. 30, if all goes well, if not before then. Catch you on the flip-side, brahs and sisters!

And So Progress Upon The Manuscript Continues . . .

Well, I've reached—and surpassed—the 400,000 word mark on The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom. Right now the book sits at around 430,000 words. I'm closing in the on 500,000 word goal, folks! According to Scrivener, all I need to do is write about 800 words a day from now until August 1st—and I plan to write a lot more than that and finish early, of course—and the book will at long last be finished. It will probably come in either a little under or just over the initial word count goal, unless I miss my guess; I never hit the target exactly, as I suspect few writers actually do. (C'mon; who writes exactly 50,000 or 60,000 words? Nobody I know, except robots, and I don't see Commander Data or the Enterprise bright computer publishing anything these days, do you? Yeah, that's what I thought; of course you don't.)

But, you might ask, other than word count, how's the story going? How are the characters shaping up? What's the plot of the book looking like these days? Well, I have to say—pretty damn good. I think that readers will be pleased. The book really winds up into high gear in the final five or six chapters, kicking into some high-octane action sequences and really revving up the pace, and gets into some serious "cyberpunk" territory, with the construct of the NeuroScape becoming much more important, as well as Gadget's "dreamworld" becoming much more center-stage, as well. It's here in these final six or seven chapters that everything in the book finally really comes together, everything that's been built up so far: The Vampires, the villains, the Elder Gods, the cyberpunk stuff, Gadget's dreamworld, the aliens . . . everything just collides and explodes in a big ball of awesome. I wish I could describe it in more detail, but, like Dr. Riversong says: "Spoilers." I wouldn't want to ruin anything. I will say, however, that the gang finds themselves having to do battle with Aleister on multiple levels of reality simultaneously. If you've read any of the sample chapters that I made available in the past, you might remember that he exists in more than just one place . . .

But, that's how it's going so far. Work continues apace. I should be done with the book in another couple of months. Hell, if I keep going at the pace I've been going at this past week or so, I'll be done in just one month. (Huzzah!) Wouldn't that be something. I'll of course keep you all posted on all the latest developments. Cheers!

The Official Book Trailer For "The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom" Has Arrived!

Well, you all knew it was coming, and the day has finally arrived! After about four weeks of work in DAZ Studio — including some insane render times producing the 3D animations required — and Autodesk Maya (producing the custom 3D content for Dizzy's Exosuit and Guitar, and Gadget's Mind-Weirding Helm), along with about two weeks' worth of work in Apple's Motion, and then about a day's worth of editing in Final Cut Pro X, I've finally completed work on the book trailer for The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom. To top it all off, my excellent friend Rommy Driks agreed to provide me — free of charge! — with some voiceover narration, volunteering to read aloud the excerpt from the book that appears at the beginning of the trailer. There's been some discussion on my writer's group on Facebook about whether or not the text at the beginning goes by too quickly or not — my friend Ana and I think it's fine, but there are some detractors who think it flies by a little too fast for people to read — but other than that, reviews so far seem pretty positive. Take a gander at it below and see what you think!

A Quick Flash Fiction Piece Inspired By Some SciFi Art

Hey all. I recently posted a flash fiction challenge on the writer's group I run on Facebook, and I wanted to share my entry here on my blog! Here's the scifi desktop wallpaper I used for the inspirational prompt, with the instructions being to write a 100 to 300 word flash fiction piece to go along with it:

And here's my entry in the flash fiction challenge:

It was dead. She had killed it. The creature, part blue-sparking machine made of servo motors and circuits, and part gristle and flesh, pumping crimson blood, now a sliced-up corpse made of severed muscles and limbs, lay before her on the street. Who had made it, and who had sent it after her? It was a custom job, that was for sure; she had never seen anything else quite like it. Nature didn’t make animals with teeth that big, and she sure as shit didn’t make them with PX-91 servos stuck inside their hindquarters, driving them after their quarry at fifty miles per hour while the cyber implants in their brains overdrove their amygdalae and adrenal glands. Lyxana sheathed her katana and stood there for a moment, thinking. It had to be someone with money, someone with connections, and there had to be a reason for it. Who else had she worked for recently who might’ve incurred the wrath of the rich and powerful? Whom might she have been Running for and not have known what she was Running? You didn’t send a biomech like this one chasing after a low-level Runner like her unless you thought that said low-level Runner had seen something they weren’t supposed to . . . had maybe dipped their sensors into whatever next-level shit you yourself were wired into brain-deep. Had maybe glimpsed the truth of whatever it was you were trafficking in. Lyxana shivered. She, personally, hadn’t seen shit. Until now. Until this . . . thing . . . had chased her down and almost mauled her to death on the street. But now that she had? She wanted—no, needed—some answers. She hoped back on her trans, and fired up the engine. It was time to hit the streets.

"The Technowizard Guardians" Secretly Has A Theme Song? Who'dA THOUGHT?

Well, I didn't really know this, but it appears that The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom has an unofficial theme song out there. I found it by accident. It's by a singer named Delain, who is pretty freakin' awesome. She's a hard rock singer from overseas, and this song of hers is absolutely the perfect theme song for The Technowizard Guardians. Why? Because it speaks to one of the core themes of the book, and that is that being "different" is a good thing, that standing out from the crowd is awesome, and deserves to be rewarded, not punished; that being a square peg in a round hole can be a beautiful thing, worthy of celebration. It's perfect. And, it's got an undertone that addresses bullying, as well, which is something that one of my characters has struggled with in his past. So there's that, too. My friend Greg introduced me to Delain and her work; he's a total metalhead, so that figures, right? Go check her out on YouTube if you get the chance; most of her stuff is pretty damn rad. She's enormously talented. But for now, enjoy We Are The Others:

I've Started My Own Writer's Group On Facebook

Well, the apocalypse has finally arrived. No, FOX News is not being unbiased and honest. No, Kim Kardashian is not studying quantum physics. And, William Shatner has not become a really fantastic Shakespearean actor overnight. No, I started my very own writer's group on Facebook! I did this for many reasons . . . not the least of which is that I noticed that on Facebook, there seems to be a lack of really good, engaged writers groups. Every group you find there seems to lack heart and soul, or seems to be there just to engage in either endless self-promotion, or seems to be so caught up in strict rules and regulations so that all creativity and life has been squeezed out of the proceedings entirely. So, I decided to create my own writer's group, and made a couple of good friends of mine a pair of admins along with me. So we'll see how this adventure turns out. It should be really exciting! For those who would like to join up, here's the link:

~—> Fantastic Writers And Where To Find Them <—~

 

Going From Pantser To Plotter

When I first began writing, I was a pantser. That is, I flew by the seat of my pants. I wrote as the will of the winds took me; I wafted on the zephirs of pure inspiration, letting the story take me wherever it wanted to go, allowing the narrative to grow organically from the seeds of the idea into a writhing mass of vines and branches that would, often, get out of control and need to be trimmed back a bit like an unruly rose bush. I had a lot of fun that way. It was often exciting to see a story bloom out of control, its buds opening to the rays of my imagination and intellect, flowering and blossoming and coming into its fullness over time as I watered it and gradually let it become its own thing. Every story I wrote was unique, too. No too were alike. I liked doing things this way, because it always seemed I was surprised by what I created. And, I always told myself, if I didn't know where the hell the story was going, then by gods, the reader sure as hell didn't know, and that made it exciting for both of us! I figured that this was the only good way to write. I didn't need outlines — no sir, I didn't need a carefully synopsized plot, or an organized plan of attack. I didn't need a story structure set in stone ahead of time. Where was the fun in that? Where was the spontaneity? Where was all the gooey deliciousness of seeing where the story went next, of seeing what surprises lay in store around the very next corner?

And then I tried to write my first "real" novel, The Reality Engineers. I finished it within a couple of years, and I hit the "publish" button on CreateSpace, and dutifully waited for the praise to roll in from the no-doubt-glowing Amazon reviews to come. And I waited. And waited. And then, finally, the reviews started to trickle in. Trouble was, they weren't all glowing. Some of them were downright awful. Mean, even. Even some of my friends didn't like the book. They told me privately, of course, sparing me public humiliation. It was then that I knew I had screwed up. Big time. But where? How? How on Earth had I gone wrong? I honestly thought that I had written the best book I knew how to write. And I was correct in that thinking. But notice the fine print, there: That I knew how to write. It was the best book that I knew how to write, given the methods I had used to write it.

Then I bought a book called Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks. I got it at Half Price Books for only $8, and let me tell you, that's probably the best $8 I ever spent. In that book, Larry enlightened me and showed me what I had done wrong. He opened my eyes to the idea of story structure, the fact that a book, a story, like anything that exists in the physical world, has a set of rules that it operates by, a set of physics, if you will, that holds it together and makes it run, the same way that the laws of physics dictates how an atoms works, or how an engine runs in a car. He showed me that a story has to have a certain structure in order to work properly, in order to have its intended effect; showed me that in order for a story to achieve its goal — that of being emotionally satisfying and hitting all the right notes for the reader — it has to fire on certain cylinders at certain times and points, in certain places, and that it has to do things in a specific order. He showed me the importance of organizing a story into its constituent components, and of planning my story one piece at a time. Of organizing my novel into scenes, with each one building upon the next in order to achieve specific goals and set up specific ideas in certain and specific places. In short, he introduced me to the world of outlining my novel, of drawing up a blueprint before i began writing. Of becoming a plotter rather than a pantser. 

And to this day, I am a plotter. When I have an idea for a story, my first thought is to recall Brooks' argument of concepts versus ideas — the notion that a complete story concept involves a specific character in a specific situation, trying to achieve a specific goal, versus an idea, which is just a "what if" scenario or situation — and try to coalesce my thoughts around a character who's doing something versus just a nebulous "what if." Then my thoughts turn to the crucial inciting incident, the thing that gets the character going on his journey. Then I start thinking about structure. Do I want to use Larry's six-part structure, or do I want to use Joseph Campbell's "monomyth" structure, also known as the Hero's Journey? Do I want to "save the cat?" Do I want to use the most common structure, which is three acts? I think these thoughts now automatically; then I start outlining. I start with the inciting incident, and I always think in terms of characters now, in terms of what roles they might play, what duties in the story they might serve.

Of course, I would be lying my ass off if I said I still didn't let inspiration sweep me off my feet. Of course I do that. Of course there's room in the process for that. There has to be. That's why while I outline the overall structure of the work — writing an outline of which scenes go where and what role they play in the overall story — when it comes to writing the individual scenes themselves, I'm all about cutting loose and letting my imagination take over the keyboard. I let it all fly, then. Anything goes. I will imrpov-write the shit out of those scenes, and enjoy the hell out of myself as far as anything-goes  inspiration is concerned. And as far as the connective tissue between those scenes goes — the other scenes that glue the main scenes together — well, I improv those as well, totally pantsing the shit out of them like I never left the pantsing school to begin with. I have great fun with them; I liken them to the cartilage and tendons that hold muscle tissue together, and I am a god, designing whole new lifeforms. I have total berserker amounts of giggly fun doing it, too. Like a writer should. Because in the end, it's all about the fun you have with your craft. If you're not having fun with it, you're doing something seriously wrong.

So that's how I went from pantser to plotter. It was a revelatory journey for me, one that began with me wafting on the breezes of inspiration, but where the transformative moment came in the form of a rude awakening from dewy, creative bliss . . . and a subsequent moment of enlightenment given to me by an old master of the craft. Larry taught me a good set of lessons with his book (a book a highly recommend to anyone who's just getting started writing; I only caution that Larry can be a little full of himself and a bit overbearing at times; try to take his ego with a grain of salt . . . several grains, if you can). I don't recommend that everyone start out as a plotter, though. In fact, I caution against it. I think everyone should start out as a pantser, because you learn a lot of valuable lessons that way. You learn what works, and what doesn't. What's good, and what's not so good; what's effective, and what's not. You learn a lot about your own style as a writer, and you develop a sense of your own plotting abilities and your own sense of narrative development that way. Being a plotter from day one cheats you out of a lot of hard-won experience. So, I recommend that everyone go through at least a year or so of being a full-time pantser . . . and then make the transition to being a plotter. It will help you be a better writer, and you'll learn a greater appreciation of plotting's lessons.

And that's my writing advice for today: Pants first, then plot. But if you're a pantser now, please consider doing some plotting. It will, in the long run, save you frustration. Plotting is a wonderful tool that will open up whole new vistas of the writing world to you, whole new worlds of organized fun for you to play in and explore. So plot away. Boldly go where you haven't gone before!

Democracy 2.0?

So, Donald Trump's edition of the federal budget is out, and it's as Draconian and cruel as you might expect. It slashes programs that poor people depend upon, right when they need those programs the most; it is hateful in the extreme, and it does away with funding for the arts and sciences alike. Oddly, and in perhaps a cruel twist of fate — and cue the Schadenfreude in the extreme — the people who will be most affected by Trump's latest display of malice and cruelty are going to be the people who voted for him. That's right: The people who are most likely to be affected by Trump's proposed budget cuts are the same people who voted him into office, the poor and those in rural areas. It would be funny if it weren't so goddamn inhuman and tragic, so horrible and evil. And yes, evil is the word for it. And, what's worse, is that these will also be the people most affected if Obamacare is repealed, which is terrible. These people will first be subjected to cuts in programs that benefit them and that they need in order to survive; and then, they'll have their healthcare either stripped away from them, or, have their premiums raise so high that they'll be unable to afford them; even if they get their healthcare from their employer, they'll still be affected negatively. The truth is, a lot of people are going to die because of this evil man's evil policies, and he doesn't care. And, he doesn't give a tinker's damn that the people who are going to die in the highest numbers are the people who put him in office, the people whose good will he rode into power upon. He doesn't care one bit.

But that's also what happens when you have too many people dependent on "the System" for subsistence. I should know; I'm one of those people. (I'm not one of the people who voted for Trump, mind you; I voted for Hillary, because I believe in sane and compassionate leaders, not sociopathic ones.) No, I'm one of the poor folks who is stuck on public assistance and who is hanging on by his fingernails for survival. Trump thinks I don't deserve to do so, though. No, he thinks that I deserve to die. Obviously he thinks this, or he wouldn't have released a budget — or crafted a "healthcare" plan (more like a "doesn't care" plan, if you ask me) — that explicitly tells me to go screw myself and die in the gutter.

According to Trump, and the current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, I don't deserve to live. I don't deserve the meager existence I am allowed to achieve on public assistance. Instead, it would seem he thinks that I deserve, intrinsically and inherently, simply because of who — what — I am, to have less than everyone else. Not because I didn't try to work (I did, for years) and not because I don't want to work now (I would've liked to continue working, and would love the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society). It's not because I don't have a lot to offer the world (I think I do). No, simply because. I don't fit in with their Ayn Randian view of the world, where only movers and shakers get to survive and prosper. They tell me with their budget and priorities that I am less; I am worthless; I am nothing. Therefore, I don't get to live. I am a drain, a burden on others, a useless thing. They tell me I am deserving only of death, and of being tossed under the wheels of society and ground into fine powder. I am to be discarded and thrown away, because I am differently-abled. I am different, and therefore, I have no place in their world of big fat cigars and crooked congresscritters.

Which brings me to my next point.

Our elected representatives — including the current President — do not understand that we demand honesty, integrity, and transparency from them because they WORK FOR US. They don't understand that they're SERVANTS. They truly don't grasp the concept of civil service, and that their job is to PROVIDE that service; to do what we ask of them; to look out for our best interests in addition to their own. They don't comprehend the concept that their job — their whole purpose in going to work every day — is to cater to the needs and desires of the people who elected them. That's us.

Instead, they spend all of their time catering to special interests and corporations. These are fictional people; in other words, people who only exist on paper. The real people — the people who, by and large, pay their salaries with their hard-won tax dollars — mostly live in paycheck-to-paycheck, go without healthcare or basic necessities, and suffer enormous deficits in fair credit, lending, job opportunities — oftentimes on the basis of sexual and racial discrimination — while they sit there, catering to corporate will, the rich, and others in power. They ignore the plight of the decent, hardworking men and women who voted them into office. It's disgusting, unfair. and morally repugnant . . . and it's broken. The system — our government — is broken. It needs fixing. And the only way to do that is to update it. To attack it at the level of the source code, the most basic level. But in order to do that, we need to change that source code; we need to go back to our founding document, the Constitution, and change that, at its core, in order to update it so that our government once again works for us instead of against us.

One of the problems with our current government is that it was never meant to grapple with many of the social issues facing us today: The rise of the mass media and the speed of modern journalism; instant communications between individuals and groups; the idea of the never-ending political campaign; corporate personhood and corruption; identity politics; political factions run amok; the rise of global capitalism and globalism in general; the Internet breaking down so many societal, regional, and national barriers; the demise of gender, racial, and other social barriers; the rise of feminism; the corruption of law enforcement; the growing specter of white nationalism and other fascist movements; the radicalization of various religious sects and movements; I could go and on, and on, and on. Our Constitution and our Founding Fathers' vision for our country was brilliant, and, well, visionary . . . but it was not all-encompassing, nor was it the be-all, end-all solution to every conceivable problem we might encounter in the present day. It needs improving. It needs a makeover. It needs us. It needs revisiting and revision. For instance, with the rise of the Internet and secure online transactions, there's no reason why we can't have more of a direct democracy now; a world in which everyone votes, referendum-style, on a plethora of issues facing our communities, our cities, our states, our federal government. For another instance: Congress still uses paper to do almost everything. Let that sink in for a moment. Paper. They still use paper to do almost everything. This is the twenty-first century, and they still use paper to do almost everything. Can you tell me what could be more wasteful and time-consuming? What could be more arrogantly wasteful and time-consuming? And that's just two examples of things that need changing. There are others. We are living in the future, right now. We can change this. We can change the system we've engineered. Because it is an invention. it is, after all, a piece of engineering, a machine. It's all a big device. "Society" is the applied technology of the theories of political science. That's all it is. All we need to do is change the implementation protocols. It's all right there in front of us, if only we have the courage to come together and get some crap done. We must re-engineer our government, from the bottom-up, from the code-level up, if you will. Because if we want to change the System, we must start with the source code.

Luckily, our Founding Fathers left us a way to do that, via the process of Constitutional amendments. Over the years, there have been many amendments to our Constitution. The Bill of Rights is the most famous set of them; it enshrines our most important freedoms — such as the right to free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable search and seizures, the right to due process, etcetera — and the other amendments do other important things: There's one that ended slavery, one that gave women the right to vote, and one that gave us the right to elect our senators rather than have them appointed by state legislatures. What we need now is a whole new set of amendments that grapple with modern social issues. First and foremost, we need an amendment that sets forth a set of Principles of Equality, wherein we declare that every man and woman on Earth — not just in America, but everywhere — is equal to every other, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, gender identity, religion, creed, color, economic status, or nationality, and that we affirm that we recognize the freedoms guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights as belonging to all people, of all nationsperiod, full-stop . . . and that we brook no compromises on that idea. All people, everywhere, equals. Further, we need an amendment that sets forth a standard of protections against discrimination based on the standards of equality set forth in the previous amendment — just in case there's any misunderstanding about those principles, to act as a double-safeguard against infringement. However, we would need an amendment which leaves the right to decide how those protections are implemented up to the individual states, on the condition that they were implemented to a reasonable minimum standard. This would ensure that a standard of federalist separation of powers between the states and the federal government was maintained.

We also need amendments which re-engineer certain aspects of our political society. Starting with the duties and responsibilities of our congresscritters and their loyalties to the People first and foremost; rules that govern the proper roles of lobbyists in crafting legislation; new guidelines that enshrine the freedom and the sacrosanctity of the press as the "fourth estate," to curb the abuses that we've seen administrations like Trump's carry out against the press. We also desperately need an amendment that ensures the continued freedom and openness of the Internet and our telecommunications systems. One important distinction that we need, that I feel an amendment could provide, is one that separates individual from corporate personhood; such a definition could also have important bearing on the never-ending "abortion" debate, as well. (I'm strongly "pro-choice," if you're wondering; I simply feel that we need to cut-off the deadly "pro-lfie" people before they can use this wedge issue any further.) We further need an amendment that further guarantees the right to peaceably protest, in addition to the protections which the first amendment already offers, and that preserves the proper role of — and protects against the overreach of — law enforcement; this would help law enforcement and protestors respect each other's roles when it came time for the two to meet on the playing field of political action. We need an amendment as well that preserves the sanctity of our elections from interference by corporate power — in other words, one that combats the influence of the dreaded Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court — and one that ensures the fairness and openness of our elections and that protects us from the corruption of "big money" being involved in them. Hell, if you ask me, we also need mandatory voting in our country, and to declare Election Day a national holiday so that everyone is guaranteed the right to vote, barring no one from participating in elections, even convicted felons. (Yes, I believe in second chances, and I believe that everyone should vote. Everyone.) These are just some of the changes we need to make to our Constitution.

However, the process for amending our Constitution is a long and messy one. One way to do it is for two-thirds of the state legislatures to agree to a Constitutional Convention. If the states vote to call a Convention, then they do so, and can vote on an amendment directly. If they vote and the amendment passes, then voilà, we have a new amendment to the Constitution. End of story. But to date, no amendments have been passed this way. The usual way it's done is thus: First, any proposed amendment has to go through both houses of Congress; either house can propose the amendment as a joint resolution. And, in order for it to pass, said joint resolution must be approved by a two-thirds supermajority in both the House and the Senate. Since the President has no role in the amendment process, the joint resolution, if Congress approves it, does not have to go to the White House for approval like a normal bill does. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) then forwards the newly-approved amendment to all fifty states. Next, the proposed amendment, along with any information prepared by the Federal Register, is mailed directly to all fifty states' Governors. The Governors then formally submit the amendment to their state legislatures (or, the State calls for a Convention). Now and then, one or more of the state legislatures will vote on proposed amendments before receiving official notification from the Archivist. If the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 out of the 50) approve, or “ratify” the proposed amendment, then finally, it becomes part of the Constitution. Huzzah!

Now granted, that's a lot of hurdles for any potential amendments to have to clear. Especially when you consider the number of amendments we're talking about, and the nature of those amendments. These are not small issues, nor are these trivial ideals which we're attempting to enshrine into Constitutional law. No, these are lofty goals to set our sights on, and they require us, as a People, to be acutely aware of our moral alignment as a nation, of where we want our country to go now and in the future, of the direction in which we want our nation to travel, insofar as its general character is concerned. To that end, before any such amendments can even be considered, we need to change the political landscape in Washington considerably — meaning that we need to elect a far better Congress than the one we currently have. Our currently Republican-controlled House and Senate need a good cleaning-out party, and at the very least, need handing over to a Democratic (or even Independent) supermajority with strong Democratic (or Independent) leadership coming from a Democratically (or Independently) controlled White House (even though the White House has no real role in the amendment-making process, it would help to have them in our corner). In order to do this right, we first need strong Democratic and Independent House and Senate candidates who are eminently electable, which means grooming those candidates at the local level first. This means that we need to run candidates for everything from local mayors, to school board leaders, from defense attorneys to judges, from county clerks to sheriffs, and from various administrative staff to state legislators. We need to groom progressive Democratic and Independent candidates at the local and state levels and run them tirelessly, and then prep them for federal office and then run them at those levels later on. Rinse, repeat. This is a long game that needs to be played with an end-goal that is years in the future, but that is kept firmly in sight and focused, on-target, at all times, that goal being to elect a forward-thinking, progressive government, purging regressive thinkers and getting rid of old-guard conservative thinking. Then and only then can we begin the real work of reforming our government at the source-code level, the work of amending our Constitution so that Democracy 2.0 is possible in reality.

Because it is possible. We can change our government and make it work for us again rather than working for just the rich, the corporations, and special interests. We can take back our country from the moneyed interests that have stolen it from us, who have hijacked our senators and congressmen and who have wrested away control of the System from those who rightfully should control it—"we the People." We can once again steer our ship of state for ourselves, and make our congresscritters answer to us, and not the corporate world that currently directs and commands their attentions and political fortunes. We voted them into office; let's remind them of who their bosses really are, shall we? Let's take back control, starting at the local level, starting with our communities and municipalities, our cities and our states. Then let us move upward, and take on the federal government, and then, let us attack the source code, the actual foundational principles of the government itself, and make lasting changes to the System itself so that it works for the People and their "general welfare," not against it, just like Article One says it should.

The goal is not just getting "fired up, ready to go," to use Obama's words. The goal is firing the useless politicians and bureaucrats who have rigged the system in their own favor and who have stacked the deck against the common good of the People. The goal is being able to one day look the corrupt politicians of our current System in the eye and tell them, “STFU. We have something better than you, now. Clean out your desk. We don’t want or need you anymore.” And so we can tell the occupant of the White House, “Hey. You. You’re fired.” Because that really would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? To tell him that? To fire his orange butt, to kick him to the curb, to cut him out of our collective anatomy like the useless appendix that he is? We could, you know. (Fire him, that is. I'm not in favor of cutting people out of our collective anatomies, because . . . eeww, gross.) We hired him, after all. He is a public servant. He serves at our pleasure, at our disposal. I mean, I get why he was elected. He was elected because people were fed up. Angry. Pissed off and hungry for change. The trouble is, when you elect a bull to manage your China shop, crap's gonna get broken. Bigly. And that’s what Trump is — he’s a bull managing a China shop. A rampaging, angry, senseless bull who’s horny and looking for a cow to get busy with. And he’s headed for the granny in the spotted dress who’s currently shopping on aisle six. And he must be stopped. The only way to do that is through action. 

So for now, though, as pertains to the current President, what can we do but Resist and protest? We have no other choice. His weakness is that he thinks we will roll over and just take it. Let's not do that. Let's speak up, and let our voices be heard. Contact your congresscritters. Call the capitol switchboard and contact your representatives and senators; tell them to vote "NO" on Trump's budget and on Trumpcare. If they get enough of those calls, they'll sure as hell listen to the volume and the numbers even if they don't like the message they're receiving. Also, write to your senators and representatives. That helps, too. Express yourself with eloquence and logical argument. Use facts as weapons. Organize friends and associates.

And—run for local office. Run for school board. Run for county clerk. Run for Congress! Hell, you’ve got a shot. Anybody’s got a shot. (Hell, if Trump can get elected… anybody can get elected.) And if you don’t want to run for office, volunteer to help somebody who does want to run. Offer to run a phone bank, or print up signs, or go door-to-door and knock. Offer to gather signatures. Put together petitions for worthy causes that you believe have a chance. Or start a political blog and try to gain some traction that way for a cause that you’re interested in, and try to maybe put together a mailing list for like-minded people. Get together with friends and discuss issues and develop a plan of action for resistance that includes maybe some or all of the above. Download the Indivisible Guide to Resisting Trump, and read what it has to say. There’s all kinds of ways to change the System from within, if only you know how to get started. By working together, one person at a time, one connection at a time, we can set the roof of this mofo on fire, and once it’s burning, well . . . we don’t need no water.

So that’s my two-cents. Constitutional Convention maybe later, positive political action right now. Resist. Do what you can to make the world brighter. And remember: He’s a bull in a China shop, headed for the granny on aisle six. Yank the bull’s tail. Give granny a fighting chance.

Now Reading "Leviathan Wakes" by James S.A. Corey, And It's Badass

The pull-quote on the front of the book, by George R.R. Martin, says "Interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written," and I'm damned sure having a hard time debating that. So far, I love this book. It's taught, well-written, and suspenseful. It's got great world-building, and the characters really crackle. I love the dialogue, too. And, it's great hard sci-fi; it's set in a world where Mars and the asteroid belt — not to mention a lot of the moons of the outer planets — have been colonized, but where the stars are still, sadly, out of reach. But thanks to a brilliant invention called the Epstein drive, a type of fusion rocket, man has finally conquered the solar system, and we live in a robust space economy in this brave new world that the authors (for whom Corey is a pseudonym) have imagined for us. I haven't finished the book yet — I'm only about 60 pages in so far — but from what I've read, I love it so far. The science is great, and so is the story. These guys really know how how to write a crackin' good yarn, I tells ya.

The story concerns several characters in this wild new world: Julie Mao, the sole survivor of a pirate (we think) attack on a ship called The Scopuli; Holden, the XO of an ice-mining ship; and Miller, a police detective on Ceres, a space station situated on an asteroid, tasked with locating Ms. Mao for her rich parents. So far their lives have not intersected, save for Holden's ship being redirected to search for the wreck of The Scopuli, and finding a strange beacon there that doesn't make any sense. I'm hooked. I gotta find out what's gonna happen next. I think the thing I like best about Corey's writing is that it's the opposite of my writing. My writing tends to be very florid, with lots of adjectives, rich description, and tons of flowery ornamentation . . . a lot like — and I hate to say this because it sounds l like I'm criticizing myself, here — a lot like Lovecraft's writing, or at least the things he's sometimes criticized for overdoing. I tend to be heavy on style a lot in my writing, maybe too reliant on it at times. But Corey's writing isn't like that at all. His writing is lean and mean. Not Hemingway lean and mean . . . I couldn't take that; I don't like Hemingway, as I've been very vocal about in the past (just ask any of my literature professors about that), as I find him boring and way too clipped . . . but I do admire the art of sparsely-decorated prose that gets the job done, in the spirit of Arthur C. Clarke or Robert A. Heinlein, two of my sci-fi idols of years gone by. And this book totally nails the Heinlein vibe, much like John Scalzi did, only without Scalzi's trademark sarcasm and witty sense of Joss-Whedon-like humor. No, Corey is all-business, rather cutthroat, if you will . . . this story is serious, dead serious, buster. But it never feels forced or like it's heavy-handed, which is very good. It feels compelling, but not claustrophobic or cloying. Yet it still has that awesome, "there's nothing between you and the vacuum but three inches of metal" feeling that you really need with hard sci-fi, and it gets that tone and feeling just right, in just the right dose. Not too much of it, but just enough.

And again, OMG, the science accuracy. Of course, there's no hyperdrive or FTL in this book. (I understand that the aliens they eventually meet have FTL, but that's supposedly not until Book 3 of the series.) And I thought that, you know, that might be boring when I first picked it up. I mean, what's space opera without FTL, right? Well, I was totally wrong on that. It's actually really compelling to read about space travel that sticks to the solar system and that plays by strict Newtonian and Einstenian rules. Because you know what? Without FTL in the mix, you're reminded of just how HUGE and EMPTY and VAST the depths of space really are. How utterly devoid they are of life, and of how inimicable and hostile space really is to human life. Which is really easy to forget when you're cruisin' on the Starship Enterprise with its cushy, plush interior with its warp drive, its replicators, and its holodecks. It's not so easy to forget when your ship works and operates more like a clunky-ass giant submarine that crushes your body to the seat whenever thrust is applied by its giant fusion rocket engines  . . . when the fusion reactor at its core can melt your face off at twenty paces if even one tiny thing goes wrong with it . . . whenever radiation from the thruster assembly is a thing you have to really, really worry about . . . and whenever the atmosphere could vent at any moment if even a tiny ice-crystal pings the hull, and whenever it's just one inch of steel between you and the total vacuum of space. Yeah, it's hard to forget the cold reality that space is fucking terrible when you're not drivin' by at warp speed on a cruise ship with artificial gravity, like the White Star from Babylon 5, or like the Prometheus from . . . well, Prometheus. Shit gets real, real quick, when you have to fire breaking thrusters to slow down so you don't hit the goddamned planetoid in front of you because you're going too fucking fast. Basically, what I'm saying is that real science can be just as sexy as the fake science we sci-fi writers tend to like to employ in our made-up fantasy worlds. Every bit. And Corey knows how to manipulate it like a master in the telling of his (their) tale.

I'll let you all know how the book turns out. Should be fantastic. I'm already planning on buying the other books in the series, so that I can have them for when I finish this one. I love a good sci-fi yarn well told, and Corey is great at this. Hats off to these fine young authors and a tale deftly spun.

I Edit My Novels In Sweeps And Passes; Here's Why

Going through my manuscript looking for occurrences of "passive voice" led me to a bit of a revelation about how I edit my work. I don't do it the usual way. The normal way that you're supposed to edit a work is by going in "drafts" — that is, you finish a version of your work (like, say, the "first draft" of the whole thing), and then you go back to the beginning and you read it all the way through (some people prefer to read it backwards, paragraph by paragraph, as that helps you divorce it from story structure and just see the prose), and find your mistakes, one by one, and fix them. And then you do that again, only with maybe an eye toward fixing different things. And, I've found that I can do that; I can . . . and it works. But, that's not the way I usually start out doing it. No, the way that I begin editing is a bit different. Here's how I do it.

It starts when I begin writing on a project, not when I'm finished. I'll finish part of it — say, Chapter 1, maybe fifty or sixty pages — and then I'll go back and revise that fifty or sixty pages, looking for mistakes, errors, and so forth. Trying to make it the best it can be. But I don't fret over it or obsess over it, or try to make it perfect. Just try to get it in better shape. Then I write the next Chapter. Then I go back — to the beginning. And I revise from Page 1. Then I write Chapter 3. Then I go back —  to the beginning. And I revise from Page 1. This is a lot less efficient than going by Draft, as you can imagine. If the book has, say, 30 Chapters, I can wind up revising Chapter 1 over 30 times. (But, dammit, you can bet that Chapter 1 will be fucking perfect!)  Then, once that is done, I let my beta-readers have it. My friends Greg and Ken, Ana, and others who've volunteered to subject themselves to my tormented variations on the English language. Once they're done pointing out everything that is wrong, I go back and try to fix what they've pointed out without damaging too much of the overall vision. Then, when all of that is said and done, I go back over the whole thing and do the normal "3 drafts" thing: First draft — story structure, plot, character, dialogue, theme, overall ideas and concepts, "what am I trying to say with this book," things like that, the big picture stuff. Second draft, copy editing — nuts and bolts stuff, things like passive voice, punctuation, spelling, grammar, and sentence structure, and so forth. Third draft — polish and spit-shine, final coat of paint, minor details, final grammar and spelling check, "is this what I really want here," etcetera. Then, I let my editor have it. Once she's done with it, and has made her suggested changes — 90% of which will, likely, be adopted and incorporated — I go back and revise the sucker one more time, just to make sure everything jibes and that everything is copacetic. If it is, then congratulations, Mr. Hainline, it's a bouncing baby book. If it's not, well, I hammer and wail on it until everything is copacetic, and until everything does work. If it doesn't, it's my fault anyway, so I'd better fix it. 

I find that doing it this way works well for me because when I edit in passes, it allows me to go back and change things to better fit the new material that I've just added, adding an extra layer of continuity-protection to the work. That way, what I've "already" written will match closer with what I've just added . . . the "new" material will always jibe with what I've put down before, and all the edges will line up perfectly. After all, if i go back and revise from Page 1 each time I add something new, then everything I've written up to the new material will all fall in line each time. Also, each new addition gives me the chance to see what I've already done in a brand new context. I can go back and look at what I've done and see it in a new light, see it as it builds to the new material and not just as it is, isolated in the vacuum of its own independent existence. It's one thing to look at a piece of writing as a chunk extrapolated from a piece of an outline. It's another to see it as a living, breathing piece of a finished work that has context, shape, and definition given to it by other living, breathing pieces. That, and also, if I can see how the edges of the pieces all fit together, it informs how I approach writing the next piece, as well, and how I approach the rest of the outline. Which piece I write next. Because I don't always write my books in sequential order. Sometimes I write scenes that go later on in the book, and sometimes I write what comes next in sequence. I do it this way because sometimes, I'll get inspired by an idea, or an image, which fits better with a scene I know is coming — or that I have outlined and so that I know will be coming eventually — and that I know I will eventually revise to fit better with what comes right before it and right after it, so it doesn't hurt to have a rough draft of it lying around, waiting for that eventual revision to come. In this way, my editing process and my creative process tend to bleed into one another. I will admit, I tend to create when I edit, and I tend to edit as I create. It's not always a clear-cut line of division between the two things. Sometimes, when I'm editing the "big picture" stuff — stuff like plot, story, character, theme — I'll get an entirely new idea for the entire book, and will go back to Page 1, sigh, and dig in, and start hacking it into the overall framework, plugging in the new concept or idea where it will fit, and massaging the newly-inspired into the old. This process isn't always pretty, and sometimes I make a lot of work for myself. But it almost always yields something that, in the end, I like or am proud of. It's also a slow process. It's why The Technowizard Guardians has taken well over nine years to write and perfect.

But, the cool thing is, when I'm done, I'm fucking done. It's finished. When I type "The End" at the end of this long, drawn out process, I'm really and truly finished. There is no going back yet again and starting over once more. I know that when I finally type those fateful words, I am absolutely, positively turning in the best possible work that I can do. I've hacked it to a dozen pieces and then Frankensteined it back together again a million different times by that point, and that's when I pronounce it as perfect as it can be. Because we all have to have that point — that point when he say, "Okay, you know what? No, it isn't absolutely perfect. But it is good. It is the best I can make it. It will do." And that's that point for me. At the moment when I've taken it apart and put it back together a hundred thousand times, and have revised from page 1 a zillion times since starting — and then I do one more spelling and grammar check with MS Word just to be safe — I pronounce the patient "alive and kicking," and then I send it out the door of the hospital in a wheelchair and wish it a good long life and many happy returns. The Technowizard Guardians, when I finish it (which should be in July of this year), will be going out the door just like that in a few more months, and when it does, I know it will not be perfect, but it will be as good as I can make it.

And so that's my editing-slash-creative process. That's how I work. The Technowizard Guardians is gonna be tough because it's such a big book. 450K is not a word count to sneeze at when it comes to getting everything right. But, I'm confident I can pull it off. Trust me. I'm a professional. Well. Not really. But trust me anyway.