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.

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.

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!

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.

How The Technowizard Guardians Began Life

It was the year 2005, or sometime around that time, when I first got the idea. I had just watched the movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, which I had remembered from my childhood in the 1980's — hey, the 1980's were weird, okay? — and which had made quite an impression on me in my formative years. So much so that it had stuck out in my memory, and the combined forces of nostalgia and cinematic intrigue had commanded me to go to the movie store and buy myself a copy of it. (I wasn't yet buying my movies digitally in 2005; i know, I know, I'm kinda slow on the uptake when it comes to new-fangled techno-stuff.) Having just watched the film, I found myself thinking: Damn. I wish I could create a hero that cool. Sort of maybe a cool-as-ice mad scientist who's the good guy, for a change; a science-positive hero who takes no shit and who's really wild and out there, maybe like a Willy Wonka for the twenty-first century. I then promptly went to bed for the night, and — no shit, I swear — proceeded to dream one up. First things first, she surprised me in that she was a she, and not a he. She had blue hair, which was kinda surprising as "blue" isn't a color you normally associate with hair. Kind of a punk rock sort of thing, I guessed. Okay, so far so good, I thought. Punk rock chick. In my dream, she was running around a Frankenstein's-lab like setting, throwing switches and turning dials on all sorts of arcane machinery, with electricity flying everywhere and sparks going "pop" off the various devices surrounding her. Okay. Punk rock mad scientist, cool. And there were these three whirling gimbals — like the machine from Contact — all spinning around this blurry figure in the center: A cat. Her cat. A white Persian cat, to be precise, whose name I knew was Schrödinger. 

Okay, I thought. Punk rock mad scientist chick with a thing for placing cats in danger. I woke up from the dream thinking about this character I'd dreamed up, wondering: What was her name? Who was she, really? And what was the purpose of the "experiment" I had glimpsed her performing? What did the cat have to do with it? That day, I reasoned the rest of it out: The cat was the subject of the experiment; he was a test pilot, in fact, and the machine was a teleportation device that used wormholes to open a gateway between disparate points in spacetime. The lab was on a university campus — maybe a creepy university like Miskatomik, like in the Lovecraft stories — and the lead character (I didn't yet know her name) was a scientist there, a post-doctoral student doing her thesis work. Something still didn't make sense. Where had she gotten the idea to do this experiment? What was her inspiration? Before the question was out of my mouth I had the answer.

"She got the idea from watching Star Trek," I said to myself. And thus, the seed of the idea got planted. I would write a story that wasn't just about brilliant scientists saving the world from aliens. (Which I knew, somehow, had to be the plot. I just didn't know how I would pull it off.) No, mine would be a story about fandom, as well . . . a story about a bunch of geeks and nerds who saved the world from aliens, using their mad science skills (in every sense of the words). And Dizzy — the name just sort of fell out of my brain apropos of nothing — would be their leader. But, she wouldn't be the lead character. Something felt wrong about making her the star of the show. What was it? I didn't know. All I knew was that she wasn't meant for the spotlight; she was meant to stand next to whoever held that role. No, the lead role belonged to someone else, someone I hadn't met yet. Someone who was . . . well, someone like me. An everyday guy, but a guy with serious issues and problems that needed working on, a guy with some serious baggage that needed sorting before he could do any world-saving. A guy with some stuff to sort out, a guy whose friends meant the world to him because he had so few of them . . . and to whom Dizzy would become a great ally, maybe even a love interest. But who would never ever return his feelings. Not ever. Because that's just not how she works/worked. I knew that going in — Dizzy is not a lover. She's a fighter, and a scientist. She studies things and takes them apart. She doesn't hold anyone's heart together.

So that's how I got the idea, more or less. That's how The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom began life. Back then it was called The Reality Engineers, and it was a lot simpler of a story. I wrote it all down as best I could — to the tune of about 125,000 words or so — and then promptly released it on Createspace and Smashwords. It got about 400 downloads or so, being a free eBook. It was when I decided to charge money for it that the downloads stopped after the free samples. And I couldn't figure out why. Then came the negative reviews on Amazon. At first just one. Then two. Then three. Puzzled, I wondered what I had done wrong. What could I have missed? So I decided to re-read it the book for myself, to see where I could have possibly erred. Surely, this was a misunderstood masterpiece, and I, its author, were blameless, and had truly crafted an endearing story that people just weren't getting.

Whoa boy was I wrong. "Bigly," as our current Stupidnik-in-Chief would say. It was awful. It was as if some stupid idiot had snuck into my head and caused me to write the worst novel ever written. The characters were paper thin and two dimensional. The plot was almost nonexistent. It had a beginning, a big climax, and sort of an ending, but no real middle. It had zero real development of the characters. It had no subtext. It had little if any depth to it. And it had only a cursory amount of theme or any literary merit. I did not like what I beheld from my own pen.

So, I pulled it off the market, and vowed to rewrite it. Completely. Same characters, same basic story. Different book.

That was a year and a half ago, and I'm still working on it. The book is now called The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom, and let me tell you, the new version is one hell of a lot better. If only for the fact that this time, I've employed "beta readers" — people to read the initial drafts and tell me where I'm going right, and where I'm going wrong. I've also hired an editor (the incomparable E.J. Runyon at Bridge to Story). And, I've been studying-up on story structure (the also-incomparable Larry Brooks' series on Story Engineering and Story Physics, as well as reading up on the Heroes' Journey, re-reading my Literary Criticism textbooks from school, and, trying to work on solid writing exercises each and every day to stretch my muscles in brand new writerly directions). I've also been writing on other projects, and getting feedback on those, as well, from both readers and other writers. Oh, and I've joined two writers groups, including one that meets here in town, with whom I can share my work and from whom i can receive valuable feedback, as well. In short, I launched a major talent-improvement offensive that's lasted a year and a half now, and all toward rewriting and improving The Technowizard Guardians. Which will be finished in just another few months, and hopefully going to E.J.'s desk by August, if I have my druthers about it. I'm very excited, and I think people will really like the new version. It's much longer and bigger now — a much thicker, richer, and, I think, much more satisfying book — and is going to run about 400,000 words (about the length of Stephen King's It all totaled), but it will be worth the read, I think. It's an epic science fantasy story now, featuring mad science, aliens, vampires, werewolves, time travel, elder gods, other dimensions, and all sorts of whacky hijinx and adventures. I think people will dig it. I hope they do. It's been a lot of work since 2005 came and  went, and once I'm done with it, I plan to start work on an epic fantasy project, a total shift in gears. But one I think I will welcome.

Well, that's all folks. How the project got started, and where it's going from here. Stay tuned. The journey still continues, and I'm excited to see where it goes from here! Aren't you? :-)

That Damned Passive Voice Is The Enemy!

Recently, while working on my novel, The Technowizard Guardians Of The Infinite Worlds Of Fandom, I decided to do a fun experiment. I went into Scrivener — which, incidentally, is the best writing software on the planet, and I'll soon be selling it here as an affiliate! — and wrote up a regular expression to look for tell-tell signs of that dreaded bugaboo, the "passive voice." You know what that is, right? The passive voice is when the action is not done by the subject of the sentence. Y'know, as in, "Frank was gruesomely murdered by a horde of zombies." The zombies committed the act of murder, but Frank is somehow the subject of the sentence! Weird, huh? Well, i did this, and oh . . . my . . . GOD. I have so many occurrences of this shit. I had no idea. I am apparently really bad at overusing this particular crutch of bad, lazy writing. I must suck, right? I mean, really Andy? You've been at this writing thing this long and you're still pulling this shit? Jeebus Cry-me-a-river! For reals, yo. Get with it, Andy; get with it. Do your job, inner editor! So, I decided to go through the manuscript and eliminate each and every occurrence of this passive voice bastard, wherever and whenever doing so was necessary. Active voice sentences for one and all!

(It's not quite as simple as that, of course; the passive voice does have its uses. Not every sentence can be in the active voice, nor should it. Some sentences need to remain in the passive voice in order to have their desired effect or to sound the right way, or to roll off the tongue correctly. So like I just said in the previous sentence: Not every single sentence can — or should — be scripted in the active voice; some should be passive. Just for variety's sake, for crying out loud! But for the sake of clarity, a majority should be in the active voice. Because you want your story to be active, to be full of life, to be full of piss and vinegar. You want your story to scream off the page, yelling, "READ ME! I AM ALIVE! READ ME GODDAMN IT!" Not lying there like a wimp, going, "Oh yeah. Pick me up. Or don't. Whatever.")

The first step was looking for all the "to be" verbs — "is, isn't, are, aren't, was, wasn't, were, weren't, be, being, been" — as those are dead giveaways of passive voice. The way I did this with regex is like so:


The next step is looking for "ed" and "ing" words followed by the word "by." (See? I just used passive voice, right there.) You do that with regex by doing this:

\b([a-z]+ed by)|[a-z]+ing by)\b
\b(is|isn\’t|are|aren\’t|was|were|wasn\’t|weren\’t|be|being|been|[a-z]+ed by|a-z]+ing by|[a-z]+y by|[a-z]+e by)\b

The next phase will be looking for words ending in "ed" and "ing," followed by a phrase, followed by the word "by." As soon as i can device a regex that will look for that. The trick is constructing a regex that will search for precisely that . . . regex is like a programming language all its own, and getting it to search for exactly what you want can be tricky. The problem is you need to search for the "ed" or "ing" word that is closest to the word "by" and the word "by" that is closest to the "ed" or "ing" word.

The thing about passive voice is that it's sneaky. It creeps into your writing a little at a time, and you really have to watch for it. Because it's insidious. Before you know it, you'll be writing "Frank was killed by zombies" all over the place. Buffy will be drained of life by the evil Vampire before you even know it, and all the Jedi will have been brutally murdered by Darth Vader before you can blink. Think it can't happen to you? Well it can, buster. So watch your writing for the passive voice. Watch it carefully. Because when you're not looking, those passive voice constructions will awaken in the middle of the night, crawl out of your manuscript, and breed like rabbits and then crawl back into it and infest it with creeping death. It happened to me, and it can happen to you. So BE VIGILANT! Watch for passive voice!

UPDATE: I found the regex I was looking for. Apparently, there's not that many ways to search for what I wanted to search for — i.e., an "ed" or "ing" word followed by a phrase, followed by the word "by" — without getting a lot of false positives. However, if you're willing to accept a lot of false positives and still turn up a few good ones, you can use the following:


As you can see, yeah, false positives will result from this. However, it will find all sorts of passive voice sentences for you, so that's good. The problem is, of course, that a lot of those false positives will contain true positives as well, but you might easily dismiss them because the larger result will be a false positive that, though it contains a true positive within it, is on the whole false because it's too large and encompassing — say an entire paragraph instead of just one sentence. I haven't figured out a way to compensate for this yet, but I'm working on it.

UPDATE 2: Well, I've found a better one! This one is pretty good, and works almost in every instance. It uses more strictly defined parameters, limiting the search to fifteen words before and after the verb, and before and after the word "by". You can adjust the number of words to your preference, basically setting it to however long your sentences tend to run. But it works damned near perfectly. Awesomesauce thanks to my friend Ken Persinger who came up with this one for me. I take no credit for its creation; this was all Ken's doing!


As you can see, it's a bit more complex than the others. Just change that "15" to however many words you want to include before and after the word "by," and after your verb phrase.

My Obligatory Inaugural Post Here On This Day Of... Whatever

Greetings and salutations, ye olde Internet!

It is I, William Andrew. Hainline, and after forty two years of gestation in the guts of American society's subconscious mind, I have emerged as a projection of its eerie id, here to haunt you and cavort with your demons. Nah, not really. I'm mainly here for the cake. Er, I was told there would be cake. There is cake, right? No? No cake? Well, fuck. Guess I showed up for nothing, then. Oh well. Since I'm here, I might as well kick back, have a Coke, prop up my feet, and write something meaningful here on this blog. Because that's what this is—my blog. I intend to talk about things here that are important to me. Things like writing, literature, art, politics, science, and imagination. Especially imagination. Because that is important . . . oh so important. Without imagination, we're just stumbling drunk monkeys, scratching our butts and wondering where all the bananas went and why we bothered to come down from the trees in the first place, right? Right. We're a race of dreamers and explorers, and that's what we're meant to do—dream and explore. Everything else is just a life-support system for those two functions. And that's why science fiction and fantasy are important as genres of literature. They reinforce that drive, that imperative. They teach us to go out there, kick some ass, and come back with whatever we find; to sit it down, poke it and prod it, ask it questions, and wonder about what else we might find. Even in the dark days of Donald Trump and his minions (and these are, mark my words, some very dark fucking days, my friends), we cannot give up hope that there exists, ours for the taking, a better world somewhere out there in tomorrowland, a world waiting for us to claim it and build it, create it out of discovery and invention, out of human ingenuity and creativity, to forge it out of raw imagination and endurance and good old fashioned hard damn work. We can't let go of that hope. If we do, we're toast, and Donald wins by default. Do you want Donald to win? I don't. No way. So stand up. Dust yourself off, and dust off your telescope and your typewriter (okay, word processor, whatever, I'm old). Get ready to resist. Do so through your art if you have no other means. Do so through imagination. Do so by having the guts to dream of something better, and then act on that dream. Write about it, and share it with others. Work toward it. Create it. Build it. After all, "if you build it, they will come." And that's why I'm making this blog. To build something. To make something. To send out a beacon in the night. To beam my own signal into the darkness, and to see what bounces back. Hey . . . it can't hurt to give it a try, can it?

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