William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

The Blog Of A Science Fiction Writer Living Just A Half-An-Hour And Some Change Into The Future . . . Sci-fi, fantasy, politics, visual arts, writing, more writing, literature, comics, music, movies, and madness in general. NSFW. Probably not safe for YOU, either. 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 of a writer is currently up to in the depths of his mad science dungeon.

If Ever You Haven't Before, VOTE.

When you vote for someone, you’re not just voting for a person. You’re voting for a philosophy, an ideology. A worldview. You’re voting for a system of ideas and beliefs, a way of looking at the world. And when you vote, you’re taking that system of ideas and beliefs and putting it into action. You’re basically taking someone else’s — and your own philosophical convictions — and casting it out into the world and saying, “Make it so.” You’re programming the System. Everybody says that “You can’t beat the system.” But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you vote. You’re “beating” the System into shape — a new shape, one defined by your ideas and values, and the ideas and values of the person you’re voting for. You’re programming the System to produce a certain result. And if the person you’re voting for has no moral convictions, no compunction about lying, cheating, or stealing — like Donald Trump does — then what you’re going to get is a System that lies to you, that cheats you, and that steals from you. Which is exactly what the Republicans have been building since they got elected to a majority way back in 2010: A System that lies to, cheats, and steals from the People who elected them, and everyone else. And President Trump is their chief enabler. The reason the Republicans will never impeach Trump — or speak out or act against him — is because he is their Useful Idiot. He will rubber-stamp anything they put on his desk, no matter how Draconian or cruel-intentioned or mean-spirited it is. No matter if it steals from the poor to give to the rich, no matter if it cuts the social safety net to ribbons, or cuts taxes on the rich at the expense of students and seniors, or whether or not it weakens protections for women and minorities, or whether or not it takes away healthcare from millions. They don’t care about the People who elected them, they don’t care about anyone else. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. And Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He is a classic narcissist. Hell, his attorney doesn’t want him to testify to Mueller because he’s afraid the idiot will perjure himself; he has no faith that Trump can sit there and tell the truth, even in a mock interview. Think about that; Trump can’t even practice telling the truth. That’s how pathological he is. And this man is our President. He got elected because a lot of stupid people voted for him, out of racial animus and fear. Hopefully, the Democrats will take the House and Senate back in the midterms and soon, we will be rid of him. We can only hope. But that can’t happen unless you — yes YOU — vote. Vote like your life depends on it. (Because with the current administration’s views on healthcare, it just might.) Vote your moral convictions. Vote to put a philosophy into action. Vote to put ideas and beliefs into action. Ideas and beliefs that reflect fairness, honesty, justice, integrity, and compassion. Vote not just for what is easy, or what is “practical”; vote for what is right. Vote to change the world.

Changed The Title Of The Book!

Hey all! Well, I had an epiphany the other day. You’ll never guess what I discovered: The title of the book is too long. Yeah, yeah, I know many of you are slapping your foreheads right now and saying to yourselves, “Well duh, we could’ve told you that.” But I digress. Yeah, it’s too damn long. The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom had a cool sound to it, I admit, but the problem was it was just too long to fit on the damn cover of the book and still have some decent cover art showing! So, I changed it. Are you ready for this? The new title of he book is . . .

“The Guardians Of FantazmagoriCon”

Neat, huh? I just decided that since 80% of the action of the book takes place at FantazmagoriCon anyway, and since the lead characters are sort of the characters who fight to protect the Earth while at FantazmagoriCon, it makes sense to call them the “Guardians” of FantazmagoriCon. Not in the sense that they’re “guarding FantazmagoriCon;” but in the sense that they are of FantazmagoriCon; they’re from there. They come from FantazmagoriCon. They’re a part of FantazmagoriCon. Get it? That’s their point of origin. Because so much of the book is centered on fandom and fan culture, I wanted to make a statement that this is the place the heroes are coming from; this is the cultural origin they originate from and spring from. This is their true home. The castle they seek refuge in. And, the place where the final showdown between good and evil is ultimately fought. I think this words a lot better than the “Technowizard” title, don’t you? It’ simpler, easier to remember, certainly easier to type, and it fits on a log-line better.

So, there ya go. New title for the book!

Hi All! It's Been A While!

Hi hi! Kermit the frog here! Just kidding, it's just me. Whew. It's been a while. Sorry I've been away. Have you missed me, world? No? Well that's good. I haven't missed you, either. You're all a bunch of pains in my asses. Just kidding, I love you all. No, for real, I've been in a massive amount of physical pain these past two months from an apparent spinal cord problem . . . I had to have corticosteroids injected into my spine in order to fix the problem . . . but now the problem is fixed, and I can actually sit at my computer again for long periods of time without any excruciating pain setting in! Whoo hoo! Which also means I can write again. Thank the gods! I can work on ye olde novel again, which I've been neglecting these past few weeks or so. I wish i hadn't had to take so much time off from writing, from you, but alas, it was necessary. Anyway. Here is my latest attempt at 3D rendering, using PBR shaders, PBR stands for "Physically-Based Rendering," and you can really see the difference, can't you? The metals look like freaking metal, don't they? I'll be writing a more lengthly blog post on self-care and writing and the need to take time to care for oneself during the creative process in a little while. But for now, feast your eyes on Dizzy's new exosuit below! Iit took me FOREVER to model this in Autodesk Maya, folks. Really it did.)  

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Latest Render!

Hey folks! Thought I would share my latest adventure in 3D rendering with you. Here it is, in all it's glory! It's a render of Dizzy in her Exosuit, standing next to The Fangirl, her trusty, tricked-out car that she drives around. Notice that the engine is bigger than the windshield. Not to worry; the driver sees by using a holographic heads-up display. And yes, the things on the back are warp nacelles, and the thing mounted in the trunk is an Engine. The thing on the top of the cab is an oscillation overthruster, just in case she needs to drive through solid matter!

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Writing A Second Draft

Well, I've decided to pursue writing a second draft of the book. Why? Didn't I just oh-so-proudly unveil the major, finally-finished draft of the book just a few months ago? Wasn't that the version that was finally "going to the editor after the beta-readers finished it?" Well, ye-e-es, and no. See, I let my beta-reader Ana read through the first three chapters of it. And I let my friend Greg read through it, too. He had less problems with it than she did, let's just say that. Well, no, let's say a little more, shall we? Yes, let's. The problems Ana uncovered weren't just prose-related, or structural. They were conceptual. There were problems with the characters. Problems with the way I'd written them. Problems with the way I had set up and executed the plot. Problems with the way I had handled the conflict, and problems with the way I had handled the fight scenes . . . and yes, on top of all that, there were problems with the prose, and the structure, and the way I had gone about certain other stylistic choices. So all in all, the book was full of problems. And I didn't just take Ana's word for it, either. I read through it with her, and we had many conversations where she would walk me through the text, and she'd show me specific examples of things, and we'd talk about why they worked or didn't work, and why or why not. And then she'd show the meta-examples, and the meta-data. And how this affected that, structurally, etc. Together, we went through those first three chapters and I made a list of everything that was wrong, everything that needed to be corrected. it was a long list.

And man, at first, I was so bummed. So completely torn up over it. I had failed. Worse, the book had failed. It was an utter crapfest, the whole thing. It needed to be rewritten. Again. What a waste of . . . well, now hold, I told myself. Not a "waste of effort." It was a good effort, i told myself. And besides, like Stephen King had said: The first draft was you telling yourself the story; the first draft was you getting it all down on paper for yourself, downloading it from out of your head and down onto the paper . . . saving it from the RAM memory of your skull and onto the "hard drive" of the written word. Exactly. So now what I needed to do . . . was write the second draft. Which, I told myself, would be much different. Things would have to change. A lot of things. Characters would need to have their backstories rewritten; some characters would have to be eliminated altogether; new characters would need to be created; the entire story arc of the book would need to be altered somewhat; the plot would need to change a bit; the climactic scenes could mostly be the same, if I maneuvered my puzzle-pieces into the right places beforehand, if I was careful enough . . . so yeah. Second draft, here I came. I was actually psyched for it. I could do this. I knew I could. I just needed to get revved up, "fired up, ready to go," like Obama used to say. I had this. Hell, I have this. I just needed the right kick in the butt to get me going.

And then I saw the next trailer for Ready Player One. And that finally clicked everything into place, for some reason. I realized just how hot geek culture is right now. And then I got the last little bit of inspiration I needed. I logged onto io9, to read some geeky news for a moment, and there, I saw a discussion thread absolutely trashing the new fan-art posters for RPO. Why were they trashing RPO? Because they are geeks, and geeks love to have wars over things sucking and not sucking, and RPO is just about the most polarizing book/movie in the world right now. But, as a fan of RPO, I was incensed. I was furious. And that spark of anger ignited the creative fires. I had the last little bit of inspiration I needed.

And with that, I set to work.

I don't know when the second draft will be ready. It could take anywhere from six months to nine months, to a year. Probably closer to eight or nine months. Somewhere in that area. But I do know that so far, it . . . is . . . awesome. And you guys are gonna love it.

Vote!

I’ll say it again: We are living under the most wildly criminal, corrupt, and attempt-at-fascist Presidential administration ever in this country’s history. We have a President who wants to be “President for life,” who wasn’t able to successfully pay off a porn star and who “isn’t a big reader,” but yet somehow thinks he should be allowed to control the Internet, free speech, and womens’ uteruses; spout racist dogwhistle rhetoric; fail to condemn white supremacists; negotiate with a nuclear-armed madman across the ocean; piss off our allies left and right; doom our economy with unnecessary trade wars; do nothing about gun reform; and use the office of the Presidency for his own personal profit. He is an admitted sexual predator, a verified liar, has a history of being a con man and a fraud, a failed businessman, and a charlatan. He has a history of marital infidelity, something Republicans practically tried to crucify Bill Clinton over. And, we now have enough evidence to conclude that he did, in fact, collude with the Russians to “hack” at least the public's consciousness during the 2016 election process and to tilt the scales of public opinion in his favor with their added help. We also have a cabinet full of corruption and vice; cabinet members who elbaorately decorate their offices at the expense of taxpayers and break ethics rules left and right. And lastly, we have a Congress who stands idly by and does nothing about any of this, and in fact vocally supports the President and his cabinet, and meanwhile passes a tax law that only has the support of 29% of the public, and that strips healthcare away from millions, and that adds 1.5 trillion dollars to the national debt (not the deficit; the actual national debt; our sons and daughters will have to pay for that) in order to transfer that same money to the rich elites and powerbrokers who run their party. This all must — and, hopefully, will — stop this November when the Democrats take back control of both houses of the Congress. But it cannot stop if we don’t remember to get out there and VOTE this November. So to all of you young people whom I know lean Liberal and Indepdendent: Think about the choices you really do have; think about the future you can start building right here, right now, with one simply action: Voting. And to all of you of my generation: Do the right thing. Vote these immoral ass-clowns out of office this November, and let’s give The Donald the righteous kicking to the curb he deserves.

On Opinions . . . And On Doing Good Deeds

It's not that I don't value other opinions — I actually do; their critical in honing one's work and craft — it's just that I've received, in the past, such extremely, wildly, sometimes insanely-vitriolic negative reviews of my work that it's driven me to the conclusion that what it really comes down to, sometimes, in the end, is matters of personal taste that somehow touch a very deep nerve in people. As in, it not only "doesn't appeal" to them . . . but it so strongly offends their intellectual taste buds that they immediately projectile-vomit it out and across the room so hard that it sticks to the wall. Other people read my work and they love it; they love it so much that they squee about it and it makes them smile, and they fall in love with the world and with certain characters I've created. Still others are level-headed about it; they read it, identify its flaws, see its potential, see what works really well — and congratulate me on it — but they also point out the weak spots and tell me what needs work and what could use improving.

These last ones are the opinions I value the most, because they're honest and forthright without being condescending; they're useful, and above all, they're practical. They don't say, "cut half of it and it will be better" and leave me floundering. No, they specifically tell me, "Cut this, and this, and that (and here is why), but whatever you do, don't cut this, or this, or that over there." They are good readers, and even better feedback-givers. They are the people I turn to when inspiration is lacking, because they are always at the ready with ideas for what to do next, or what to work on doing better. I don't turn to the people who say, "This is too much," and who leave it at that, because that's not really useful, is it? No, I turn to the people who say, "You can cut this part; this just paraphrases what was said earlier." I turn to the people who say, "Describe his blood with a more robust adjective other than 'crimson.'" I turn to the people who say, "Try to punch up the dialogue here by using a tag other than 'said.'" And I turn to the people who say, "I love this part right here; Dizzy always makes me laugh when she does this to someone." Or, "Why do you always do X with your characters' expressions? You need to give us more variety in your characterizations, Hainline. I suggest having her smile devilishly here."

You see what I mean? Useful stuff that actually helps or encourages or points to a solution to a problem. This is what I — and other writers of all stripes — need in their critiques and feedback. Not condescending, half-witted slogans or half-hearted, one-sentence quips about cutting half of it, or that tired, old, oft-repeated schlock about "killing your darlings." No. They, and I, need practical, useful, work-specific and targeted advice on what to do to make the work better. Do you get this? Does this make sense to you? It does to me.

I post this in the hopes that some of you, as in, other writers, will read it and have an "Ah ha," moment where it penetrates your skulls and sinks it, and you get it, and it makes an impression. That you understand that the others of your "tribe" — that is, the rest of us — are out here, and we, like you, are struggling with our craft on the daily, and that we work just as hard as you do to "do the heavy braining to make the words go," as the famous Twitter meme goes. You're not alone, and we'd like to feel like we're not alone, too.

So the next time someone posts a story snippet, or their cover art, or their blurb, or their sample chapter, and asks for opinions or critique or feedback, try to follow this idea; try to give them work-specific, practical, editorial advice on exactly what to fix, how to fix it, and if possible, and time permits, tell them why it needs fixing. Offer to leave comments in a Word document if they have one or can send you one. Go the extra mile. Don't just sit on your haunches and say, "Oh, someone's work, that's nice." No. If it looks interesting, if it shows any promise, and if the person is nice, and especially if it's someone whom you know — and of course, if you have the time and you're not swamped with your own work and family crises and job stress — then go ahead . . . take the shot and help that person out. They will be appreciative, and they will thank you. And it will be worth it. Hell, I tel you this: It's worth a lot more than some crappy-ass Facebook comment that reads, "Cut half of it and it will be better." Because it actually helps someone grow as a writer. It helps them hone their craft, just as you once honed yours. It makes the world a better place. Just a little. And the gods all know we need that now more than ever, in this Age of Trump and Robot Apocalypses.

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.

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.”

This Is Halloween!!!

Ah, Halloween. I love Halloween. It's the one night a year when adults everywhere are allowed to don cosplay without any social consequences. Any other day of the year, if I dressed up as an Earth Alliance officer from Babylon 5, or a Starfleet Officer from the bridge of the Enterprise, and walked into Kroger to do my grocery shopping, I would be mercilessly teased and laughed-at, mocked and made-fun-of. Halloween is the one night a year where I can express myself creatively in terms of exotic, sci-fi inspired fashion choices, and can even take it a step further and into the realm of theatre by portraying a character with it, as well: I can don a pair of latex Vulcan ears, put on a blue tunic, black pants and boots, dye my hair black and tweak my eyebrows, and carry around a tricorder-looking thingie and tell people how "illogical" they're being and tell them to "live long and prosper" without being made into a laughing stock (Leonard Nimoy is dead — long live Leonard Nimoy!) So let's take a moment and ask ourselves why this is; why is it that we permit cosplay — creative expression through extreme and imaginative fashion choices — on Halloween, but not any other time of the year? Why can't a girl go shopping dressed as Sailor Moon? Why can't a guy dressed as Constantine walk into a mall? Why can't you wear a Catwoman costume to Walmart? And why can't you be Spock when you go to work at the office?

I think that the answer is, we simply don't tolerate or have the patience for imagination in our run-of-the-mill, ordinary daily lives. We have no use for it or place for it, no time for it, no appreciation for it or justification for it. It's impractical and it serves no "useful" purpose in our utilitarian pursuit of efficiency and productivity. It makes us uncomfortable — it troubles us — because our expression of it reveals too much about us to the rest of the world. Our imaginative choices — the creative decisions we make about how to express ourselves imaginatively — show us for who we really are inside. They tell others things about us that we would rather keep hidden. And, our appraisal of the creative choices that others make — our critical and personal appreciation of their designs, their execution of those designs, their skill-level, their use of materials, and their choice of subject matter — also reveals things about ourselves to ourselves; it forces us to confront truths about ourselves that we may not be ready to face just yet. Our appreciation for the imaginative expression of others, our critical response to their work, shows us for who we really are, to both the rest of the world and to ourselves, and that is why we do not tolerate imagination in our day-to-day lives. Except perhaps in Hollywood, but that doesn't count. Not only do we not have "time" for critical reflection on imaginative creation — and that is a real restriction that we must sadly face the fact of — but also, we do not want to have time for it. For if we did, we would find ourselves hopelessly confronted with the truth of who we really are inside, and that truth would shatter us into a million pieces. The reason we have zero tolerance for imagination in our ordinary daily lives is because we cannot face up to who we truly are. If we allowed the imagination out to play in our workaday settings, we would soon find ourselves awash in reflections upon who we really were as people, what we were really afraid of deep inside, and what we were really made of . . . and not a single one of us is ready to face that potentially-ugly truth. And so we lock the imagination away, and keep it under house-arrest until Halloween, when we let it out to roam free in the streets . . . and until Christmas, when we allow its gentler, kinder side to dream dreams of candy, snow, Santa, Frosty, flying reindeer, and for some, angels.

I think the world would be a better, kinder place if we allowed the imagination out more. If we allowed ourselves a greater freedom of imaginative expression in our day-to-day lives, except perhaps in Hollywood, but that doesn't count. Let people cosplay all the time; let them wear their expensive and time-crafted costumes out in public! Hell, let Sailor Moon go to McDonald's and eat lunch with everyone else! Let Constantine go to the mall or to the movies! Let the Ghostbusters or Spock or Superman go to Walmart! Let Batman go to the office for a day or two! Maybe not everyday, mind you . . . all of these things would get old very quickly if we did them every day, and the novelty would quickly wear off. Thus, they should only be done sporadically, or spur of he moment. But still . . . let these things happen. Let us not fear fandom or passion. We shouldn't mock or protest, jeer, disdain, or fear the imagination in our day to day lives. Same goes for artwork or things that you create. If you're a writer or an artist, be proud of your work. Display it in places of honor. On your computer's desktop at work or on your desk there. On your refrigerator if it's your son's or daughter's creation. On the walls of your home if it's yours. On your lawn if it's a sculpture or something like that. Don't hide it — show It off, and tell the Homeowner's Association to go fuck themselves.

And while we're on the subject of passion: Everybody's always against the idea of "public displays of affection." Why? I don't see the problem. If you're passionate about something — or someone — you should be allowed to display your passion. So hug. Kiss. Make out. In public if you want to. Don't be afraid to show your love for one another, and as far as other people go . . . well, if they don't like it, so what? Let them be offended. Let them sneer and walk away. it's their cynicism and their problem. And to the people sneering: Why are you doing that? Is some part of you ashamed for them? Why? Is some part of you maybe upset that you're not loved like that, or that you can't love like that? Or that you have no one to love like that? Or that you, yourself, are somehow incapable of a display of passion like that, because you lack the courage, the fortitude, to display your love so publicly? Is there something perhaps missing — or worse, present — in your social DNA that forces you to conform to other people's expectations of behavior so stringently that it exerts control over how you and your partner — if you have one — indulge in your passion for one another . . . assuming, of course, that the fire hasn't gone out of your relationship, and your love for one another hasn't cooled down to a dull ember that glows but doesn't burn. Assuming of course that you can love, and that you aren't just a hollow shell of a human being who stumbles through life expressing cynicism and disdain for those who still can and do. Assuming you haven't gone "full Mundane" and aren't just a societal drone, humming along like a robot without any emotion, incapable of being moved to any display of such, and are uncomfortable with any expression of that which you once had, but now have lost forever. Think about it carefully the next time you see a couple throw their arms around one another and engage in a passionate love-fest on the sidewalk. They deserve that. Because they love one another, and that love is powerful enough to compel them to thrust themselves into one another's embrace. They are alive with love. And they shouldn't be made to be ashamed of it. Never be afraid to show that you love someone — or something. If you love science fiction, or fantasy, or comic books, or geek fiction in general, or toys, or role-playing games, or card games, or collectibles — then DON'T BE ASHAMED OF IT. Thrust your passion out there, for all the world to see. Let the world know who you are, and don't hide it or lock it away in a closet. Be proud. Fly your flag. Engage in public displays of passion and affection for what thrills you and excites you, and never mind the nay-sayers and the haters. Because those people are dead inside, and they cannot know the love that you know. They can never see with the eyes with which you see, can never be excited in the way that you're excited. They can never know what it is to be into something, and that's sad . . . but you can't let them infect you with their Mudanity and their their dour cynicism. Your passion is an explosion of light, a supernova. Let it shine in the darkness.

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:

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!