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There’s a mystique about being a writer, that it’s somehow a sacred calling, reserved for the most empathetic, the most evolved, highly-advanced meta-beings inhabiting a lofty plateau in the clouds, dispensing emotional wisdom to the masses hungry for their stories and essays and novels, who in turn reap upon these demigods and goddesses riches and accolades appropriate to their exalted standing.

This is, of course, a complete load of garbage out of my own turgid imagination. But then, that’s what writers do. We imagine. Which is why we are all writers.

You don’t need a college degree to imagine. You don’t need a fancy computer, or even a pencil and paper. And you don’t need to imagine great rollicking fantasy trilogies, you might just be dreaming of a better job. The only difference between you and the guy with the trilogy is that he wrote his imaginings down.

You might think writing a novel is hard. Yeah, it is. But you don’t have to write a novel; I’ve sold stories that were only two pages long. Even when you write a novel, it’s divided into chapters, which are sort of like short stories. (I’ve seen more than one aspiring writer ask: How long is a chapter? That’s like asking: How long is a piece of string?)

Being a writer has one requirement: You have to write. And if you can talk, you can write. Just put down on paper what you say. It’s that easy. (It helps if you know how to spell, but that can be fixed.)

Then, once you’ve made that leap, gone to that trouble, once you’ve written and submitted a story (then another and another and a few dozen more), you will know the joy that comes of having a story published. And then you will occupy that high plateau, worshipped and adored and laden with riches.

And we’ll even teach you the secret handshake.

The Master’s Lair

Eric and Professor Death are ambushed in a deserted warehouse! Ted and Kate follow a suspect only to be captured themselves and taken to “The Master’s Lair.” Chapter 13 of The Choking Rain is available FREE now!

The Sins of Yesterday

Everyone is a product of his times. We are not bound by them, but we are shaped by them, and in general we reflect the current mores and contemporary beliefs (at some point along a very long spectrum). This is no more or less true of writers, but it is more noticeable because most writers are fortunate enough to have their work survive them, and in a few cases, it survives them for decades or even centuries. Sometimes, that examination shows flaws, flaws that often stem as much from the times as from the individual.

I’m brought to this point by this blog essay on The Racism of H.P. Lovecraft. (I have a collection of Lovecraft stories, but I haven’t read them in many years, so I don’t recall if I’ve ever noted issues cited.) The author touches on the question: Should we continue to read these stories that would not be publishable today?

The most famous example, of course, is not Lovecraft, but Huckleberry Finn, which even those who decry its racism are hard-pressed to deny is a classic. The remedy, since the book can hardly be banned or even belittled, has been to censor it. And the counter-response is, “You can’t. It is what it is. It’s a product of its time.”

Of course it is. That’s what makes it a classic. You can’t understand what Twain was saying by blocking out the bits you don’t like. The fact that he writes against racism by using what we now consider horribly racist terms is an integral part of the book; you cannot understand the message without understanding the times, and you cannot understand the times without seeing the book as written. The medium is the message.

But what of other books, the not-classics? Does Huck Finn get a waiver? No, being the best of example of a bad pattern doesn’t get you out of detention. Yet the same principle holds for the “lesser works.” I read a lot of pulp novels from the 1930s. They’re light, they’re fun, and sometimes they’re racist. Because that’s when they were written. I don’t excuse them for it; I cringe, and I keep on reading them, because I still enjoy the stories (so long as the problem isn’t endemic) and because ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. I could stop, throw the books into trash (can’t take them to the library, can I?), but it won’t make a difference. They were written 80 years ago. The authors are dead. I’d like to think (even though I know it isn’t true) that those attitudes are dead, too.

But they’re not. And if we toss out those books, or censor the offensive parts, we forget, we allow ourselves to forget, that casual racism was just that, casual. As in, it was a part of life. As if destroying the evidence will erase the crime.

Those who forget the lessons of history are bound to repeat them. If you want to be honest about today, you have understand something about yesterday, especially its sins.

Homecoming

In Chapter 12 of The Choking Rain, people are disappearing at an alarming rate…

First things first: I love The Big Bang Theory. I was not an early adopter (ironically), partly because I was trying to limit my TV viewing in favor of writing, and partly because I believed it would be a mainstream mugging of my peeps, the people who go to cons, read comic books, and basically practice the types of rituals that were guaranteed to get you beaten up in junior high school if anyone saw you with evidence of your passion. (My passion was known, but since my closest co-conspirator was on the football team–yes, the football team–I was safe from reprisal.)

On the enthusiastic recommendation of my beloved Significant Other,* however, I watched an episode. It is now the only show of which I will watch reruns in the same season as when they first aired. I also avidly watch it in syndication.

Okay, so having established my bona fides, I am now allowed to criticize the thing I love: Leonard, Sheldon, Raj, and Howard are routinely shown watching SF TV shows, attending movies, and their lives revolve around the local comic book shop(s). And yet, I do not recall ever seeing one of them reading a book. Not even a magazine. What’s up with that?

I understand that this kind of comedy relies on interpersonal relationships, and reading is not a shared experience (except when they’re passing the comics around), so it might not play well on TV. But are there no books (other than textbooks) in any of their apartments? Are you going to tell me that Howard doesn’t subscribe to Analog? (Sheldon would sneer; there’s your interpersonal byplay.)

It’s kind of unfair, really, that Babylon 5, Star Trek, Batman, the Flash, et al. get such play and SF magazine and novel writers get no credit. If none of these guys (or Amy) has read Asimov, I’ll eat my hat. Or Heinlein? Really?

C’mon, fellas, get with it. I love it when the things I love, love the things I love. Even if it’s only part of the background.

*See The Only Job Harder than Mine.

ETA 10/13/14: On tonight’s episode, Sheldon mentioned reading Arthur C. Clarke. It’s a start.

Waterfront Discovery

Eric and Professor Death, on the trail of their missing friends, break into a mysterious warehouse in chapter 11 of The Choking Rain, “Waterfront Discovery.” What they find will change the course of their lives.

Against the Law

In Chapter 10 of The Choking Rain, Ted and Damien disappear! Are they evading arrest–or pursuing the man with the key to the entire murderous affair?

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