Friday, December 25, 2015

Top 5 Post-Holiday Gifts for Authors

Assuming that you’re not reading this in advance for the 2016 holiday season or something like that, it’s too late to get these for Festivus, Hanukkah, Christmas, or any other winter holiday. Sorry. I didn’t get around to writing this up in time.

But fear not! The wonderful thing about the holidays finally being over is that it’s actually a prime time to pick up some gifts and such for friends and family, and that hopefully includes your authorial friend. I mean, sure, we can be a bit distant, and often a bit drunken, but we mean well… for the most part. Let’s not look at this relationship too closely, otherwise it might fall apart.

See, once you’re done with the holidays, there’s an amazing convergence of things going on. Everything that the stores couldn’t move in time goes on super-ultra-discount, and you also might well have some extra money because Great Aunt Ida still insists on giving you a hundred dollars every year, bless her heart.

So, with some holiday cheer in your wallet, what exactly can you do to make your author feel loved? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but these are five things I certainly wouldn’t say no to, if some kind soul inserted them into my writer’s nest.

5: Review/Buy Book/Et Cetera
Okay, if I’m being frank, this is the best thing you can do. Snag a copy of your author’s book, read it, review it, pass it on to someone else, hell, buy it as another friend’s post-holiday gift if you think they’d like it. It’s awesome, and it will make your author feel unbelievably wonderful. This is the top thing you can do, but I have it at the bottom. Why? Because all these sorts of lists have that as the number one thing, and I enjoy being contrary. Also because it’s more or less an anonymous gift, in a lot of ways, and giving feels good. I love being able to see someone receive my gift.

But mostly to be contrary, and to get it out of the way. Seriously, when it comes to spreading cheer to your author, this is the big one. But if you’re looking for something a little more material…

4: Hooch
Liquor. Booze. Alcohol. Goofy juice. Whatever you want to call it, writers tend to like it. It’s not universal, so use your best judgment, but I’ve only met a handful of authors who don’t like a hearty nip every now and then. If you don’t know their drink of choice, you can always get them a basket of miniatures (My local liquor store will even arrange four mini-bottles of liquor into a bouquet with chocolates for an extra five dollars) to cover your bases. But, being the oddballs we authors are, something classic is always good. Something that makes us feel more like Hemingway. Whiskey, rum, scotch. Old school writerly drinks. Something off the wall will normally be welcome, too. If you find a weird flavor or a cool-looking bottle or something like that, you can bet a writer will crack it open with you. Or something that goes well with coffee, so we can ‘kickstart our muses’ in the morning.

3: COFFEE
Maybe you’re not quite comfortable with the booze, or you’re not old enough, or they’re not old enough, or you know they just plain don’t drink. Go straight for the heart of the matter. Coffee. Or tea or hot cocoa. Whatever their morning wake-up drink is. Personally, one of my favorite gifts I ever received was a collection of hot cocoas. Different flavors you just dump into hot water or milk. I’m simple like that. But I wouldn’t say no to a bag of coffee, either, and you can get decent deals on that, too, after the holidays are over. Especially the more specific flavored coffees like gingerbread and snickerdoodle and such. One of the best I found was for my sister, at a Ross of all places (White chocolate macadamia nut coffee. I didn’t even know this was a thing.), so keep your eyes peeled. Tea is also good, and especially nowadays, you can go nuts with it. Places like Steeped Tea, Dryad Tea, and FridayAfternoon Tea will ship bags of loose leaf tea to your doorstep. I’m down to one cup of my vanilla Earl Grey that I got for Christmas last year, and I’ve been nothing but happy with it. And if you want to get really fancy with it, there are coffee and tea subscription services, too. Or just a gift card to a local coffee joint works too.

2: Music

During the whole run of the holiday season, CDs seem to be on sale (Believe it or not, CDs are still actually a thing.), with instrumental music being particularly easy to get a hold of. I find that there’s always a section in the back of Hastings or Wal-Mart with symphonic and orchestral music, and it’s always super cheap as it is (I got a five-CD collection of Tchaikovsky music for about 5 bucks), and post-holiday sales make it even easier to get your hands on it. And as a general rule, writers like instrumental music. I’m one of the weirdos who actually writes to music with lyrics, but even I like to use instrumentals. So if you see something lying around, give it a buy.

1: A Day Out

This isn’t exactly a physical gift, but it’s still one of the best things you can do for a writer. We’re terribly solitary, reclusive little creatures. I hear that if you put us out in the sun, we burst into flames. Okay, not really, but a lot of us do tend to burn something awful. We don’t leave our caves very willingly, because there’s always another book to be written, edited, or submitted. Or if not, there’s a short story. Or we need to do marketing. And if there’s a looming deadline, you’re lucky if we even sleep.

Your writer, like most, will likely be resistant to your insistence that they actually move. But force your way through the hemming and hawing and drag their ass out the door. It’s best if you somehow force it. Buy the movie tickets ahead of time or make lunch reservations. Make sure they know that there was legwork involved that would all fall apart if they didn’t leave. If your writer actually does have a looming deadline, they’ll stay in anyway, most likely, but otherwise, get them out. As much as they’ll hate it at first, they’ll end up having a good time. See, we might be good with words, but no so god at self-care. That’s why we need moderately normal people to remind us that there’s a world out there not made entirely of pixels on a screen. And even if they never say thank you, they’ll appreciate it.

But if they don’t say thank you, guilt them into it. Guilt works wonderfully well on writers. Pro tip.

So, hopefully you’re armed to gift something to your favorite author buddy. Happy holidays, everyone.

Voss

Friday, December 4, 2015

New Release: A Fool's War!

Huzzah, huzzah! After a long wait, A Fool's War is finally available for everyone to read!


Marley is alive, and back with Toby and the rest of Zirkua Fantastic. But King Jester, the spirit of discord, still roams free, and his most fearsome creations, the Princes, have been loosed from their prisons. Now, human and immortal alike are disappearing, no sign of a body or a struggle to be found. More and more of them each day. 

Now, it’s the duty of the last remnants of resistance to stand strong against the impossible, battle back the chaos before it ravages Earth. And all the while, a single question remains unanswered: can life ever return to normal after this? 


And, if you still need to catch up with the King Jester Trilogy, Zirkua Fantastic and The Jester Prince are both 20% off at Prizm Books! Yet another huzzah!


Monday, November 2, 2015

New Release: The Heart of God by S.A. Bolich

S.A. Bolich has a brand new book out today. If you enjoy a good fantasy romp as much as I do, check it out!


Imagine being the most girl-shy guy at court, tasked to facilitate your brother the King’s wedding…and two of the candidates are fixated on you. Poor Alarion Aravon begins to suspect that the artificial goddess Fate has her own reasons for putting those particular girls in his path—but he’s trying hard not to believe in her. Mortal means are required to straighten out the mess, but he quickly he comes to regret having ignored the willing and ambitious courtesans who have pursued him for years. He could really use that experience about now. Because one of those girls will do absolutely anything to be Queen.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Banned Books Week Showdown: Slate v. Book Riot (Spoiler Alert: Book Riot Wins)

Happy Banned Books Week, everyone. I hope you're all enjoying reading challenged literature the way I am (Harry Potter FTW!). It's true that reading a book categorized as 'banned or challenged' doesn't guarantee a good read, but you can't help but feel a little bit subversive when you do it. Or I can't.

This is as close to social rebellion as I'm likely to get. Let me have this.

However, Slate has suggested that "Banned Books Week is a Crock." Go ahead and read the article for yourself. I'm just going to sum up a handful of the major points given. Read the Book Riot article when it comes up, too, to get the full understanding.

Now, the Slate article made a pretty bold claim, so it better have something to back it up. On the surface, their argument seems cogent enough, right? We live in the information age. We can get any and all of these books from the internet, even if someone says "NO!" and slaps us on the wrist. So of course, there really aren't problems with banned books, right? Even if the school or a public library doesn't have the book because someone challenged it, you can just run over to Amazon and buy it for practically nothing.

That's where they lost me, but more on that toward the end.

It also brought up how weak the cases are for a lot of challenges and bans out there, and how a lot of them are in schools. Without actually saying as much, the implication is that bans in school libraries don't really count. Parents should have a say in what their children read, so those aren't real challenges and bans, right?

That cogent argument is looking a little worse for wear, now.

They bring up how it's gotten better, and they're right on that front. There's some legal protection, and a generally more accepting culture to allow theoretically offensive works to be read. But that doesn't mean the battle is won. That doesn't mean we shouldn't call attention to these things happening.

A large part of this article was also based on a woman trying to ban a book in Tennessee. She didn't want her teenage son reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (A fascinating book. You should read it.). She used her voice and made it known to the school that she didn't want her son or any other student reading this book. As the author said, this particular parent seems to have "confused gynecology with pornography."

The fact that the author and a lot of media outlets and the school district means that the book won, and since that's normally the case, we shouldn't really be worrying about Banned Books Week anymore. It's not exactly a fair argument to look at one case, is it?

Oh, also, the book didn't win. The woman was successful in stopping her son from reading it. The school provided him with another book. So now she's robbed a child of reading this book, and created extra work for a teacher who now (I'm assuming) has to write up two sets of assignments. One for the rest of the class, and one for this fifteen year old boy whose mother doesn't think he can handle some vagina talk.

Now, enter Book Riot, who makes a very succinct counter-statement: "Dear Slate: Banned Books Week Isn't a Crock." I won't go into a point by point of this one as much as the last one, mostly because a lot of my opinions are already in line with what's said.

See, when Slate suggests that people can just go buy the books if they're that concerned, that's all well and good for people who don't rely on their library for access to literature. Some people can't afford to go spend the money on a book, so they go to the library. When someone challenges a book and gets it banned, that means people in that community or that school don't have access to it. When a young adult book or middle grade book is challenged and moved to the adult section, younger readers are less likely to stumble upon it by searching, for one, and if they look for it specifically and have to go into the adult section, it's driving home the feeling of being off or wrong. While that might not be the greatest tragedy, making someone feel awkward, there's no God-damned point to it.

And they don't really touch on the fact that banning books from schools isn't harmless at all. Sherlock Holmes has been banned from certain schools for depictions of Mormonism. A book on forests banned because of the way it talks about the logging industry. Children and teenagers are being denied literature. That is a problem, no matter how small.

And what about outside of the US? It's true that Banned Books Week is put on by the American Library Association, but Slate very kindly reminded us that we have unprecedented access to information. When we post about it here in the US, it travels all over the world. While we might not have book burnings in the streets anymore (Or at least not often.), that's not true everywhere. At Worldcon, I was listening to a panel, and one of the panelists (Zaza Koshkadze) came from Georgia (The count, not the state.). A few years back, one of his author friends became a national bestseller there, but nobody read his book. How does that work?

Everyone bought his book, bought the whole first run, and burned the copies, because the content was controversial. Yes, he made his money, but nobody read the damn book. It was denied to people. That's why we need to bring attention to banned books. Not to mention the celebration of the past. Works that were controversial, even if they're fine now.

And if nothing else, if one day the whole world has moved past this and libraries and schools and bookstores can carry all books, do we really want to forget that books were banned and challenged at one point? No, of course not.

Hell, let's just face that facts: Banned Books Week gets people reading, and that's never a bad thing.

Voss

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On Creativity (and Shel Silverstein)

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’T’S
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me—
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be
-Shel Silverstein, Listen to the Mustn’ts-


I saw this poem come through on Facebook today. This has long been one of my favorites. Shel Silverstein is a children’s poet, yes, but this is one of the few times that he shows who he really is. This is one of many poems of his encouraging people to go for their dreams or to express creativity, and I love every bit of it. Those poems of his are some of the things that keep me going as a writer.

I think it can go for all creative types. And I have a secret for you. Everyone is creative. It’s part of the human experience. You can say you’re not, that you’re just humdrum. I don’t buy it. Everyone has some kind of spark.

So I’m issuing everyone who sees this a challenge. Set aside one day. Just one, single day. You can spare that from your busy schedule. Make it on a weekend, if that’s what it takes. But find one day in your life and go be creative. Go do it. Write. Draw. Paint. Dance. Fix the Confederate battle strategy. Make up a new game to play with your kids. Make up a new game to play with your grandma. Try a new recipe. Make a website from scratch. I don’t know what tickles your personal creativity, but let it get tickled. Just once. You’ll probably suck at it the first time, but who doesn’t? Even the creatives you look up to the most sucked major balls at one point.

So go and be total shit at something. Or be great at something. Just feed that creativity. Start with one day and see where that takes you. Don’t do it for me, though. Do it because it’s something good. It’s something great. It’s a little spark of magic you can hold in your hands. And everyone could use a little more magic in this day and age, don’t you think?


If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come it by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
-Shel Silverstein, Invitation-

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Author Interview: Andrew Michael Schwarz

Today, we have a guest. Huzzah! I met Andrew Michael Schwarz at Campcon back in June, and when I saw that he had a new release, I wanted to have him over here to talk to us. He has great taste in books, writes horror and dark fantasy, and shares my general disdain for actually naming favorite books. But I should probably shut up and let our guest get in a word.

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VF: So, tell us a little about yourself.

AMS: I’ve done a lot of different jobs and professions. I am able to pick things up quickly and do well with them. Because of this, for most of my life, I have been improvident, preferring adventure to stability. Growing up I fantasized about being a writer, but wrote very little. In my early 30’s I decided to get serious about it.

VF: You write horror and fantasy. Since we talk about subgenres a lot over here… where would you say the line is between dark fantasy and horror, if there is one?

AMS: I think horror is a very misunderstood genre. Like other genres there are many different styles of horror. I think traditional horror delves deep into subconscious fears and is heavily concentrated on death as the worst thing that can happen. In dark fantasy you get a more pleasing style of horror, where the fear of death is replaced with various examples of how to survive it--or I should say, how to keep living despite having died.

For me, all horror can be defined as “all the ways we survive death.” From ghosts to vampires to killers you can’t kill (Jason and Freddie) to narrowly missing being slashed apart, you have examples of how to beat death. It’s very interesting from that viewpoint because it puts the whole genre into perspective. We actually need horror because it shows us how to live forever and tells us that, above everything else, we are eternal. Over and over again, through all the various monsters and ways to “come back” it seems to want to show it, say it, prove it. Very interesting.

VF: What’s your favorite speculative fiction book or series? What about your favorite non-spec-fic book/series?

AMS: Hmmm, that’s not going to be easy to play favorites. China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station is high on the list, but I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and Mayfair Witch books, and they are probably the winners. I am geeky fan boy with those books, like it made my day to get the last signed copy of the new vampire book that came out a few months ago. When I read those books, I am not even aware that I am reading. I am just floating in another world.

Non-spec-fic, it might be Les Miserables. Though I am only half way through it at the moment, I am enthralled with it. I love those characters and their plights.

VF: Which authors inspire you? What is it about them/their work that connects with you in such a deep way?

AMS: I love a lot of authors. I am a fan of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, some classic authors like Dickens and Victor Hugo, but I think on a consistent basis, Anne Rice really scratches the itch for me.

I have often wondered what it is about Anne Rice’s stories and characters that captivate me so much. I have looked very hard at this to try and figure it out. The best answer I have is that out of the tragically damned nature of her characters comes profound statements on the human condition, which resonates deeply with me.

VF: Your books tend to take place in urban and contemporary settings. Why do you think those settings lend themselves so well to speculative fiction content?

AMS: I think the city or urban setting is an extension of the traditional haunted house with its trap doors and secret passages of gothic horror fame. Cities, like old houses, are “alive” with history. We, in America, might not be able to appreciate this to its fullest extent because our cities are so young, but all you have to do is walk through an old European city like Amsterdam or Paris to feel the layers of rich history that permeates every nook and cranny.

In urban fantasy, this history wants expression. The city wants to come to life like an old haunted house. I think we can add layers of complexity to our still young American cities through our mythology.

VF: Who would you say is your favorite character of all time?

AMS: Another attempt to get me to play favorites. I’m going to say Stile of Piers Anthony’s Apprentice Adept series. I find this character’s integrity to be awe inspiring.

VF: A few rapid-fire questions. Be sure to think on your feet!

How do you take your coffee? With half and half, always.
Favorite after-hours drink? I’m a big fan of the Appletini
Night-owl or early-bird? Night owl, to my own detriment
Guilty pleasure TV show? I watch very little actual TV, but if I’m being totally honest here, I have to go with Saturday Night Live.

VF: Your book Incorruptible just hit print. You mind telling us a little bit about it?

AMS: Incorruptible introduces occult PI Thomas Hunter who is a cross between Phillip Marlow and Corwin of Amber. I describe it as occult, paranormal detective fiction. Thomas Hunter has a trio of entities that reside in his body and carry out various biological and mystical functions that allow him to investigate occult crimes and issues. Some of these functions include advanced healing, the ability to see ghosts and increased strength for short periods of time. These entities also have personalities and since they control parts of the body, they sometimes take over Hunter’s mouth and embarrass him.

He has no idea how he got these entities because he has amnesia. In Incorruptible he investigates the occurrence of bodies that don’t decay, what Catholic mysticism calls Incorruptibles, associated with saints. (Another way to survive death.)

This series fuses hermetic magick, Catholic mysticism and Freudian concepts. All the paranormal aspects are designed to walk the line between magic and explainable phenomena. An example is one of Hunter’s entities named Animal. Animal is the personality of Hunter’s physical body who often takes over Hunter’s motor controls to perform certain actions. Animal will occasionally speak for Hunter and Hunter will often have conversations with Animal where the two of them use the same mouth. So, one might say that Animal is a self-aware entity that shares the body with the individual known as Thomas Hunter and affords to him certain supernatural qualities, like increased fighting skill. Or one could say that Thomas Hunter is suffering from schizophrenia. All the magic in the book is designed to go both ways. Hunter is always trying to figure out how a certain “trick” is being done.

VF: And just one last question: what’s the one book you think everyone should read?

AMS: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

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Thanks for stopping by! While he's packing up and I'm cleaning up the coffee mugs, check out this little sneak peek from Incorruptible, available in ebook and now in print! (You can find out more about Andrew over at his website, by the by.)



Excerpt:
I made tracks for the basement, where I guessed the Relic would be.

She didn’t have to show me where the basement door was. I’d spotted it coming in. It was the only door that looked original. It opened to a rickety set of wooden steps, which fell straight down into gloom.

If the ghost didn’t scare me, the steps surely did.

I got you, bud, said Animal.

My toes spread inside my boots, cat-like, and my thighs rippled in a strange peristalsis. I’d had no idea legs could do that. After, I was steady in the dark.

Not gonna thank me? he asked.

“Fuck you.” I was still pissed, but aside from his asocial tendencies, Animal is the kind of guy you want on your side in a knife fight. The one guy you would take with you on a vertical cliff climb. A flex of muscle here, a quickened reflex there and voilĂ , he’d have you landing on your feet and running to the next death trap while making a snide comment.

The basement swirled with dust. I sneezed. Unfinished, yes, but not what I was looking for. I needed to find the oldest thing in the house, and I figured it would be down here. See, the upstairs was all new. New floor, new woodwork, carpet, paint, you name it. Remodeled. I wanted the original house. That’s the part the specter holds on to. What I call the Relic.

That’s my own term. You could call it the “Object” or, I guess, the “Thing.”

“Relic” is more descriptive. Find the Relic, find the ghost. A cracker barrel slogan. It works a good ninety percent of the time. After that there are other ways.

I scanned the dismal dump. Lumps of dust covered stuff. Old mattresses, boxes, chests, sheeted furniture. The usual fare for such scenes. It bored me. God, it did. Hauntings had become so dull. It’s always the same thing. You rarely get variety. It’s equivalent to the private dick’s matrimony case. You get tired of chasing cheating husbands.

I strolled through the usual terrain and let my dead eye take the lead. Dust, dust, sheet. Dust, dust, sheet. Dust, dust, blue fire tongues outlining a rectangular pattern.

Bingo.

“Third, is that all we got, sweetie?”

No change in the scene meant, “Yes.” I stood back and did a quick eyeball measurement. Height and width of a door, yup, secret passage.

“Ani, need a kick,” I said and then waited. “Hello?”

“Waitin’ for Kairos, babe,” Animal retorted, using my lips to say it out loud.

“Jesus Christ, you guys are slower than shit today!” I yelled.

Then it came. The kick. My leg jolted forward at a speed I would not be able to tell you, and struck the blue flames on the far right of the door, about where the doorknob should have been. I felt nothing. Plaster exploded and an old, rickety oak door opened in a yawning creek, followed by a cold blast.

“Nice.”

The feeling in my foot would return after restoration of cellular homeostasis, about fifteen minutes.

Couple things to know: I died once, a fatal car accident, and when I woke up I wasn’t normal. I’d also forgotten everything that had ever happened to me, but for a single memory.

Afterwards, little by little, I’d learned that I had a bunch of weird fricking entities living in my head. I say “weird fricking” because that is the most apt description I have found to date. In time, I gave them all names. Or they had names and I discovered them.

Animal—or Ani—you’ve already met. Then we have Third, an entity that operates through my gray “dead eye.” I address it by Third and actually the thing answers up to nothing else. I have to address it politely, because if I don’t the little shit just tunes me out completely.

I’m not blind in that eye, but when I call on Third, she sort of hijacks the ocular nerves and changes channels. I get a spiritual overlay on the material world or really vivid visions depending on the application.

The best way to explain Third is like this: place a lens from someone else’s prescription over your left eye. Then imagine it had a dark tint to it. Now note how well your uncovered eye sees. That’s Third Vision, the eye that is not covered.

Kairos-Kronos: this is an entity that’s two sides of the same thing. The Einstein of the whole operation, Kairos-Kronos is always performing some abstruse calculation as relates to space and time. You address him as Kairos if you want opportune timing and Kronos if you want regular timing.

There’s one other, but we’ll save it for later.

My nipples went hard. Sounds sexy, but really it was just cold in there. I walked through the doorway and found what I was looking for. The room had not been touched. It had been sealed off and entombed. Preserved.

“Interesting Relic,” I said, “a whole hidden room.”

The temperature was an indicator, too, but it could have been colder due to the vault-like placement downstairs. This is yet another reason why I don’t use all those ridiculous gadgets. I mean, do I need an infrared thermometer to tell me my tits are hard?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On Fandom

Woot! I’m writing this from Sasquan, so this is going to be a little quicker than normal. Sorry for that, but I promise I’ll be bringing you back all sorts of awesome content from the convention.

These sorts of events always make me think. Why is it that all these introverts (like me) take the time to go out to these kinds of things? We all force ourselves to be in this uncomfortable situation. What is it about these gatherings of fandom that make us want to do this?

I think it’s because SF/F fans have profound experiences when it comes to the genre, moreso than other fandoms. I can’t speak to any sort of universal experience, but with myself and other people I’ve talked to, that sense of the strange resonates. That’s part of why there are so many introverts in the SF/F community, I’d imagine. Outcasts like to see other strange people in their fiction, maybe people even stranger than them, or people who aren’t even people.

Am I right? I don’t know. I honestly don’t. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

(Also, I promise I’ll get into less esoteric and philosophical content when I get back. This is just what’s on my mind, right now.)

Voss

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Subgenre Special: Creepypasta

What? What’s that? This isn’t Saturday! You’re an imposter!

Nope. This is a bit of a special post for a couple reasons. One is that I’m actually posting one of these. Subgenre Saturdays are kind of on a bit of a hiatus for a lot of reasons. I really enjoyed writing them, but they are an awful lot of work on my part, and I’ve just recently signed several contracts (Seriously. Three contracts in a three day span.) and I have a lot of edits on the horizon. I was also running low on subgenres I have a lot of experience with. So I do intend to pick them back up eventually, but not within the next couple weeks, to be sure.

The other reason this is a bit special? Well, I don’t know for sure that you could really call this a subgenre. Today, I want to talk about creepypasta.



Scared? I knew you would be.

Oh, you’re not? And you couldn’t lie to me?

(A note, in good faith: some of the stuff in these links is really unnerving, including pictures that portray some (Photoshopped) body horror. You'e been warned.)

Creepypasta are a sort of internet-based urban legend. But also not quite the same. Urban legends are believed, at least by someone. Enough people that they move from mouth to mouth. Spiders in the bouffant, alligators in the sewer, that sort of thing.

With creepypasta, most people are fully aware that these are fictional accounts. Slenderman, Jeff the Killer (Warning: Terrible Writing), Smile Dog. You know, reading them, that they are totally and completely not real. But it doesn’t matter, because they’re still that kind of skin-crawling terror that’s so hard to capture.

Now, what kind of name is creepypasta? You’d be surprised how few fans actually know why these stories of fear are titled with such a silly-sounding name. It comes from the term ‘copypasta,’ which is just a block of text that gets copied and pasted from one internet source to the other over and over and over. Copy-paste to copypasta to creepypasta, for these deeply ‘creepy’ stories spread through the internet the same way.

It’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes a creepypasta a creepypasta and not just a horror story that’s been posted online. Part of it is the same as urban legends compared to other legends. They could maybe happen. Most normal legends, like most average horror stories, are so far-separated from our general, modern reality that they lack that creepiness. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s fairly good starting point.

As a rule, creepypasta also leave a lot of room for experimentation and modern storytelling techniques. They don’t have to be linear narratives, or even traditional narratives at all. One of my favorites of all time is the series of creepypasta connected to Candle Cove. Seriously, those stories give me goosebumps every time, even when I know what’s coming. But the original and a number of the off-shoot stories are told in forum posts and interviews and other epistolary-style formats. A lot of them use pictures as an aid, or even audio and video. I’ve even seen some using hidden HTML code that are only available if you copy the base code of the website. Things like that help set creepypasta apart as a unique internet phenomenon.

If I were to recommend starters for you… well, I’d preface it by telling you to keep the lights on before you begin your dive into the realm of creepypasta. But aside from that, I’d say that you should go through and click the links to the creepypasta that I’ve shared in this post already. On top of those, I’d check out the Russian Sleep Experiment, Squidward’s Suicide, and Ben Drowned.

I won’t say that these are the best (Although I hold that Candle Cove is one of the top creepypasta on the internet.), but they are definitely some of the most popular creepypasta you’ll find, and they do encapsulate a good amount of what you’re liable to see when you read creepypasta, if you decide you like this genre... or whatever you’d call creepypasta, anyway.

Voss

Saturday, August 15, 2015

PNW Fandom

So, in case you didn’t know, I’m headed off to Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) next week (If you’re going to be there, let me know. We’ll have coffee, maybe?). So I’ve been poring over the schedule and the guests and everything, as is my usual M.O. right before I go to a big convention. And of course, with the size of Sasquan, there are a lot of panels there that actually sound interesting, which is fairly abnormal in my experience. Normally, I discount a lot of the panels at cons I go to. Same people, same topics, all that jazz. But this time? The panels on diversity I talked about before are just the tip of the iceberg.

But one of the panels I’m really looking forward to is the Northwest All-Stars. It’s on a topic I’ve noticed quite a lot, before – here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a lot of SF/F authors. And not just small fries. Orson Scott Card, Patricia Briggs, Vonda Mcintyre, Irene Radford, Seanan McGuire. They all have ties to the PNW.

In point of fact, there are a lot of writers here, regardless of genre, plus we have Amazon’s headquarters over in Seattle.

I’ve never really considered why this happened. There’s something to be said for the Seattle area’s love of art, and something to be said for Seattle housing the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. I think the general love of art has a lot more to do with it than anything else. I mean it. If you’ve never been to Seattle and you like art—any art—I recommend you make a visit. It’s a challenge to visit Seattle without seeing some kind of art. Street performers and buskers, murals, statues. Whatever it is.

But sci-fi and fantasy in particular? I think there are a number of reasons, not the least of which is the strong science and technology background in this state. Boeing, Microsoft, Nintendo. You can find them all in Washington State, in one form or another. People like science and ideas here, and more than any other genres, SF/F deal with ideas. Big, sweeping ideas, ideas that are thoroughly separated from our own world and view of things.

A part of it comes from the diversity of cultures and the acceptance of different types of people. We’ve got a big port with Seattle, and a lot of immigrants who came in with all of their own cultures. That’s on top of the strong Native American cultures we have here (Salish, Yakama, Sinkiuse, etc). But what common ground do we all have in spite of any cultural differences?

We don’t know how many alien lifeforms might be out there. We don’t know what could be in some other world. What binds us together are all the things that we, as humans, don’t know. Not the only thing that binds us together, of course, but it is common ground. I like to think that the search for common ground brought the local fandom together, at least a little bit.

Of course, in the end, who really knows? As far as I’ve seen, there aren’t any sort of studies on this, and they couldn’t be conclusive, I wouldn’t imagine. But if I find answers, or stronger theories, I’ll swing back in and let y’all know after that panel. So if you want to learn what I did there, make sure you’re subscribed.

Voss

Monday, August 10, 2015

Clear Lakes 44

If you were here last week, you probably saw me talking about TV shows, and you probably saw Marble Hornets on that list as my number five SF/F show, and me bemoaning the fact that, even though it's an incredible program (One of the best horror shows I've ever seen. Ever.), the experience of waiting for a new episode and seeing it posted on the channel was gone. New viewers would miss out on that one thing.

If you keep up on all things Marble Hornets, then you probably already know where I'm going with this. You probably knew from the second you saw the title of this article. If not, keep on reading because you won't be disappointed. Not at all.

It's back. Something is back and happening on the Marble Hornets channel, now called Clear Lakes 44 | Marble Hornets. three new videos have been posted so far, with more on the way, from the sounds of things. But what's more is there's something extra. Something special.


There's something strange going on over at the film's website, and possibly on the Twitter feed as well (@marblehornets). If you want the full, immersive experience, check all of it out. I recommend it. I, for one, am going to be watching out for updates from totheark on Youtube as well. Maybe nothing will be there, but it's not worth missing some information.

And of course, as fair warning: don't watch this with the lights off.

Voss

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Top 10: SF/F TV Shows (Part 2)

Hello again! Yesterday, I got started on my top ten spec fic shows to watch, but then I realized that I was on a path to write a ten or twelve page blog post and I shut it down halfway through.

Well, today’s the last half, my top five. As before, these are nothing but my feelings, these aren’t restricted to live action or animation, kids or adults, indie or major studio.

Now, on with the shows!

5: Marble Hornets (2009-2014)
I’m not a big horror fan by any stretch of the imagination. Not because I get scared easily, but mostly because I find myself just laughing at how ridiculous horror movies are. Not that I’m unscareable (totally a word), but I don’t fall for the horror movie tricks easily. I’m more often a victim of unease in horror rather than traditional horror.

Marble Hornets piles on the unease like you couldn’t even imagine. It’s unofficially a Slenderman show, all available for free on Youtube (unofficial because of copyright). Their Slenderman facsimile is simply referenced as The Operator, though never on camera, if memory serves. And Marble Hornets took the internet by storm, along with the companion Youtube Channel, totheark.

What makes this show great is, in part, the fact that it had such low production value. It felt real because things were grainy or somehow off, not in spite of that. Everyone involved knew what they had to work with, and this show takes advantage of that to the fullest possible extent.

But more than that, it’s the fear. I refused to watch Marble Hornets in the dark. I admit, some of it is personal. Slenderman scares the shit out of me. But he scares the shit out of a lot of people. That’s why Slenderman works. Marble Hornets managed to make the fear visceral, make you nervous about turning the corner or looking behind you, make your breath hitch whenever your screen shivered a little bit, because it could be Slender coming for you.

The downsides? Well, there are some. If you’re a stickler for production values, avoid this at all costs. You won’t enjoy it. If you laugh in the face of Slenderman, it probably won’t be that scary. But the biggest drawback to watching this, in my opinion, is that it’s over. The series has ended, which means that you won’t be able to experience the thrill of seeing a new video posted on the channel. Part of the magic of Marble Hornets was the way they uploaded videos. Sporadically, in line with the story’s timeline so that you could believe, just a little bit, that this was actually happening. You lose that watching it now, but I still recommend it without hesitation.

4: Once Upon a Time (2011-)
Back to more current television. I mean, you had to know that this would make the list, right? Once Upon a Time is one of my few stop everything, no, I’m not watching the recorded version shows. When it’s on, that’s what I’m doing. It has my full attention.

It’s not a new concept. Fairy tales and legends are real and they’re in our world. Chaos ensues. But the show comes alive, again, because of characters. The plots go up and down in quality, though they’re never outright horrible, but it’s the characters that make you come back. You care what happens to Emma Swan and Rumpelstiltskin and Regina. And it’s as simple as that. They could be doing almost anything and I would still want to watch this show to see what happens to my favorites.

The negatives are, of course, there. It sometimes feels like the writers put themselves in a corner and then have to scramble to get out of it. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it falls really flat. Never so flat to make me want to stop watching, but a little flat. There’s also a tendency to muck up season finales, just a bit. I don’t ever think the finales are bad, per se, but they sometimes feel overstretched, like there was about half of the plot that could have been cut and have things remain basically the way they are.

But all that aside, Once Upon a Time is one of the best shows currently running on TV, and you won’t convince me otherwise. Nope nope nope.

Oh, Avatar. How I love you. Now, if you’ve seen it, this hardly needs explanation. If you haven’t watched it and assume that I’m adding this show for nostalgia, you’re dead wrong. I was hardly the target audience for this show when it came out. But Avatar is different. Avatar has the ongoing plot lines you see in adult dramas, the aesthetic and story you’re likely to find in an anime, and animation better than I’ve seen from any of the major production companies since (The Legend of Korra notwithstanding, of course.).

In a nutshell, the world is at war because of the Fire Nation. They’re attacking everyone and, to ensure their plot works, they killed off all the Air Nomads, because the next savior of the world (The Avatar) was going to be one of them. Except that the Avatar escaped and basically went into hibernation for 100 years until two members of the Water Tribe found him and freed him.

That’s just the first couple minutes, mind you. But somehow, Avatar manages to not only make this an enjoyable show for adults and teens, but also keeps it accessible to the target audience of kids. It’s a very fine line, but it treads it well, mixing humor and drama, worldbuilding and plot. I have yet to see any other western animation live up to this, and I long for the day that I do. My only complaint is the same as in Gargoyles: sometimes, it got a little too childish, but what can you expect?

If you haven’t yet seen this show, then for real, get off my blog and go watch it

2: The Walking Dead (2010-)
I resisted the call of this show for a long time. I don’t like zombie stories, as a general rule. I think they’re overdone, overrated, and honestly not that terrifying. So this ranking so high is definitely a surprise to me. But I’m willing to admit that I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead, now. And why? Because it doesn’t have to be zombies. There’s not really a lot of this show that relies on the zombie mechanic. Hell, there are entire episodes without a single zombie spotted. What matters is that there’s a threat out there, something that needs to be killed and avoided. And you never know when it’s going to go wrong.


As with practically everything, it seems, I love this show because of the characters. You see them evolve, and it’s not arbitrary. Every bit of it makes sense. The characters are easy to connect with because they seem like real people really going through hell. Plus it helps that this is a huge, tragic drama. I love tragedy, when it’s done well. I’d take it over any other kind of story without question. So to have this show come up? Now that I’ve finally watched it, I’m in, and I have literally zero bad things to say about The Walking Dead. So why isn’t it the top? Well, it’s honestly just personal preference. Number one and number two on this list are equally good, I would say, but they tell very different stories.

However, before we hit number one, though, I want to give a nod to some shows that I considered, but that didn’t quite make the final cut. No analysis on these, but I would still recommend giving them a watch, if you have the time:

Digimon (any and all of them)

Now, on with the number one spot.

1: Code Geass (2006-2008)



This is a show. This is easily one of my favorite shows of all time, and you’re not allowed to just discount it out of hand because it’s animated. If you never give another single animated show a chance, never watch anything else on this list, never turn on your set for sci-fi fantasy again, watch this show. It’s only two seasons, but I’ve rarely seen a television show that I like so much.

I can’t even give you a basic plot summary. There’s so much going on. Political intrigue, which is tied in with the descent into darkness, which comes with terrorist activity, which joins in with a secret second life. All topped off with a dose of sci-fi… or fantasy. This is another show that doesn’t bother to delineate what it wants to be, and I would never ask it to.

The main character is an asshole. Plain and simple. He’s likable at times, but he’s really not a pleasant person by any stretch of the imagination. But you love him anyway. Lelouch has lived a life that gives him permission to be an asshole. He’s been through Hell and back, and he didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt.

The other characters are just as dynamic, and the way they connect is, at times, mindblowing. And this show doesn’t pull punches. There’s death. It’s a war, for fuck’s sake. Nothing is sacred to the writers, and that’s what makes this such a delicious, heart-wrenching show to watch.

Also: giant fighting robots.

The only problem with this is that there isn’t more. And when that’s the biggest complaint about a show, you know it’s got something going for it.

So, did I miss any? Have I committed a cardinal sin? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for stopping by! I had a blast writing this list.


Voss

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Top 10: SF/F TV Shows (Part 1)

I talk a lot about books for (hopefully) obvious reasons. But there’s more to speculative fiction than just reading. I think reading is a quintessential part of being a spec-fic fan, but sometimes you just don’t feel like reading. For most people I know, reading is an incredibly exhausting task, no matter how enjoyable it is. Your brain has to work differently when you read. It’s much more intense than other media, but sometimes you don’t want that.

I’m a big TV slut. I like to watch TV while I’m writing, while I’m researching. It’s just something that I can put on in the background. This is why Tivo and Netflix are two of my best friends a lot of the time (Also because I live in the middle of BFE and don’t actually go out and talk to people that often.).

So I figured, why not share what I think are the best spec fic TV shows out there. I should note now that Doctor Who won’t be on this list, so don’t expect it. I’m not a Whovian. I don’t dislike the show, but it’s not my first choice to put on, either.

Don’t beat me too much for that.

Now, this list is, for once, in order. It’s a mix of animations, live action, adult, teen, kids, old, current, whatever. If it made the list, there’s a reason I put it on there.

Now, without any further blithering from me, let’s begin.

(I should note that I can’t guarantee a spoiler-free experience. Continue at your own risk.)

10: Zoo (2015-)
I have no love lost for James Patterson. He admitted himself that he’s not that good at actually writing and is really just an idea man. Which is fine, but he’s always the face of his books. It bothers me that his co-authors, who put in the hours at the keyboard, don’t get their fame.



But that’s not why Zoo is so low. I think Zoo is probably the best show out of the new batch of TV that started this season. It’s so low because it’s brand new and still has plenty of room to disappoint. It made this list because, despite me not wanting to bother with it, I got hooked by the characters, and then the plot really kicked in. In short, animals are turning on humans en masse, and the main characters are trying to figure out what’s going on, because it doesn’t make any sense.

It does help that Billy Burke is one of the leads. He’s brilliant, and he’s especially brilliant in this role. But all of the main characters are incredibly interesting and, more than that, have very well-created connections with each other. The continual jump to a case that doesn’t matter in the middle of an episode is definitely getting old, but it’s not enough to turn me away. I would definitely recommend Zoo if you’re looking for a good drama fix.

9: Warehouse 13 (2009-2014)
This was a bit of a sleeper compared to some of the others on this list, but I was into it from the very beginning. The idea of objects holding power because of their past has always been fascinating to me, and Warehouse 13 certainly delivered that along with a healthy dose of mystery and great chemistry between the characters.

In a nutshell, Warehouse 13 is a government storage space for empowered artifacts, some more dangerous than others. But they all need to be contained because sometimes, things just don’t go right when you give human beings power. Go figure.

The show never defined whether it was science fiction or fantasy, and didn’t even walk the line between the two. It just threw open the windows and said “Fuck it.” At its heart, it’s not science fiction or fantasy. It’s a classic cop pairing we see time and again. Two team members. One stoic, one carefree. It works in Bones, it works in Castle, and it worked for Warehouse 13’s five year run (which is available to stream on Netflix, if this has piqued your interest).

Why not higher? At times, it felt a little disjointed, and some of those moments were never fully resolved.

8: The X-Files (1993-2002)
You had to know this would be on my list, right? Just like Warehouse 13, this uses the stoic/carefree duo, and does so to great effect. It combines government conspiracy with the paranormal, fantastical, and just downright strange, but it does it in such a way that it’s believable. Not to mention that it’s one of the most accessible shows of its type. This comes from the combination of weekly occurrences (the X-file being explored in each episode) with longer running plot arcs.

Of course, it has its problems to be sure. Sometimes, the acting can be a bit questionable, particularly from the side characters. Some of the plots in individual episodes also got to be a bit hard to believe, even for a show where basically everything is on the table as possibly being real. But all in all, this is easily one of the most iconic shows in speculative fiction, and I think it’s one of the best.

I could have cheated and just put Star Trek, but in my opinion, TNG is the hands-down best iteration. I know a lot of people don’t agree with me, but the American public in the late-eighties to mid-nineties did, which is why TNG is the longest-running version of Star Trek to date.



We could argue back and forth about why one season is better than the other, but no one would end up convinced of anything at the end of that. Why do I think TNG deserves a spot on this list?

The characters. More than anything else, it’s the characters. Even a mundane thing like Data learning to dance becomes something extraordinary because of who Data is, and who Dr. Crusher (his teacher) is. Plus, with Sir Patrick Stewart at the helm, it would be hard to go too far astray with this show. Not to mention that it has some of the most enduring episodes in it. “Darmok” comes immediately to mind, as does “Sarek.” Two powerhouse episodes in an already incredible series, and they’re hardly the only ones.

Were there problems? Of course there were problems. It took them a while to really settle into their characters and this new world, which can make the beginning a bit sketchy. The characters tend to be very polarizing, and if there’s one major character you just can’t stand, it can ruin the whole experience in such a character-drive show. Not to mention that, for fans of the original Star Trek, TNG was far more focused on the drama and the personal relationships than its predecessor. But I personally think that’s what makes it such a good show.

6: Gargoyles (1994-1996)
I did warn you that there would be kids’ shows on here. I’m still a huge fan of Gargoyles. There was no cartoon like it before, and really hasn’t been anything that captured that essence since. Which is why it’s such a damn shame that it went off the air… and that the third season happened at all. I won’t go into the full drama, but essentially, the creator of Gargoyles (Greg Weisman) got screwed out of working on the third season, and of course it was a complete failure without him. So much so that, in the official continuity, Greg Weisman discounts everything after the first episode of season three, which he wrote.

What made Gargoyles so different is hard to pin down. There are a lot of things. Unlike a lot of kid’s shows at the time (and even nowadays), the characters went through lasting changes. Things that happened in past episodes still affected the characters. Hudson’s love of reading, Broadway’s hatred of guns, Lexington’s animosity toward The Pack. These came from earlier episodes and weren’t tossed away, challenged the audience to remember when so many other shows wouldn’t take the risk.
There was also a much more adult tone to Gargoyles than anyone would expect. Goliath is a truly tragic character. His entire clan was basically destroyed, and he was destined to be alone. Then, when he was awoken, it was in a time he didn’t understand at all, with people who feared him even more than he’d been feared before.

I could continue to gush about the good things, because there are a lot of them. But I want to touch on what the biggest problem is, and it’s one that couldn’t really be avoided: it’s still a kids’ show. As great as it is, as mature as it is, there are still plenty of moments when plain-old silly things happen that remind you that it’s not a nice, cohesive adult drama. It’s a 90’s Disney cartoon. But those are so few that it hardly makes a difference, at least to this viewer.

Well, my word counter says I’m already over-budget. So, to keep this from being ridiculously long, I’m going to cut it here. What made the top five? You’ll have to swing back tomorrow and find out.

Voss

Friday, July 31, 2015

Inclusivity Rising



So, I have a bit of a habit. I’m not willing to call it a ‘bad’ habit, because it does me a heck of a lot of good. But from the viewpoint of the organizers for the various cons I attend? Yeah, it might be a bit bad.

Perhaps ‘talent’ is a better term. Or ‘sheer dumb luck.’

I tend to find backdoors to the schedules for conventions and see them before they’re put up (I’m now risking them blocking those links by coming clean, but it’s important to know how I know what’s going on.). I don’t even try is the thing. I google something about the convention and all the sudden I’m into the schedule they haven’t linked or, oftentimes, haven’t even finalized. (No, I’m not sharing the links. Then they’d be onto me for sure…)

So I know that at this year’s Worldcon, there are an inordinate amount of panels on diversity. Racial, cultural, gender, sexual. You name it. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not this was done as a way to give a discreet finger to the Sad and/or Rabid Puppies (I really doubt it is, myself), but the fact is that these are on the docket.

That’s interesting enough as it is, but then I started thinking a little deeper. RWA (Romance Writers of America) just had their national conference last week. One of the takeaways I’m seeing from a lot of the attendees is an overwhelming number of panels on diversity in fiction there, too. Far higher than at previous RWA conferences.

Now, I don’t know how far in advance these have been planned for the schedule. Maybe all of these were planned back in January. But I do find it odd that, right as soon as marriage inequality was made illegal (Because that’s what happened, technically. No laws were changed or created or anything. The interpretation was simply re-examined.), diversity panels come into play. As soon as people start noticing the treatment of black people in the US, we start to see panels on Afrofuturism.

I don’t think that it is directly connected to the Supreme Court ruling. But I think what we’re seeing is the beginning of something more. We’re seeing people not just wishing that they could be included in things, but people wishing that everyone could start to be included. In books and movies and comics, but also in real life. I think it’s been building, but this year, just over halfway complete, has been full of huge movements toward inclusivity. I love it, too.

I also think that’s why there’s backlash. It happens whenever there’s a large change coming down the pipeway. Look at the publishing industry itself. When self-publishing became an actual, viable option, New York publishers fought harder and harder against it. And what happened? The big six eventually became the big five before they accepted the change to the status quo. And honestly? I don’t think it’s been fully accepted, yet.

And neither has equality and inclusivity. Not yet. But I think we’re headed there. Or I hope we are, at the very least. Because that’s what I long to see: everyone just getting along. It’s not going to be an easy road, and the work’s nowhere even close to halfway done, but the support is growing. And I think that basically fucking rocks.


Voss

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Contance Burris: 3 Things I Learned Reading Diverse Books for 3 Months

Hello, all!

I am thrilled as shit, pleased as punch, and possibly several other similes to have Constance Burris as my guest today. She, like myself, shares a love of diversity in fiction and she, like myself, takes it upon herself to write more books with diverse characters. She also reads them, which is something I did back when I read regularly (I'm getting back to it, promise...). So I wanted to hear what she had to say about her experiences with diversity in fiction.

Enough of me gabbing, though: here's Constance Burris!

$3.99 on Amazon!


I've been making an increased effort to read diversely for the past three months. Here is what I learned:

1.       It's addictive. If I'm reading the same race, sex, gender, age, or disability twice in a row, I get super sad and I start stalking book review blogs for my diversity fix, which leads me to my next point...

2.      The importance of diverse book reviewers. A suburbanite, who may only see black people on the 10 o'clock news or by watching slave movies with white saviors, might not be able to relate to a book about black teens living in the middle of Harlem.  I'm not saying you have to be black to enjoy reading books with black characters. Neither do you have to be gay to relate to gay characters. I’m just saying we need reviewers who read diverse books, so that when a book reviewer has the nerve to call a book ghetto simply because it’s filled with slang, we have five other reviews to give a different perspective.

3.      I need to check my bias.  I have to confess, diversity for me meant reading more books with black people, but after reading diversely for three months, my universe blew open.  Diversity is so much more than race. It's sexuality, gender, disability, age and so forth.



Constance Burris is on a journey to take over the world through writing fantasy, horror, and science fiction. Her mission is to spread the love of speculative fiction to the masses. She is a proud card carrying blerd (black nerd), mother, and wife. When she is not writing and spending time with her family, she is working hard as an environmental engineer in Oklahoma City.

If you want to learn more about Constance, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and on her website. And, if you're looking for fiction with some more diversity, try checking out Coal (Everleaf Series #1), Ms. Burris debut novel!

Friday, June 26, 2015

From Now on, Let's Just Call it Marriage

On this day in 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and effectively struck down the federal ban on same-sex marriage. Two years ago, I was crying.

And I'm crying today. We are finally, finally living in a country that recognizes same-sex marriage as nothing special. It's just marriage. It's strange to think about it that way, I guess. We were fighting to be like everyone else, for the things we do to just be something. Not gay marriage, not a lesbian wedding. A marriage. A wedding.

I've been crying on and off since a friend posted it on my timeline this morning. And when I heard, and it finally sank in that this was done and that this was real, not just in my state, but no matter what part of the country I was in, I heard a voice in my head. A familiar voice. One I remember from my childhood.



Well, Mr. Kermit the Frog: we finally fucking found it. The Supreme Court of the United States has made it illegal for a state to ban same-sex marriage. I don't think we're done fighting, but for now, I want to put everything else aside.

Some day we'll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me...

Voss

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Subgenre Saturday: Military Fantasy

I am a big ol’ subgenre slut. That’s pretty much why I do this column or series or feature or whatever you want to call it. I enjoy looking into the different subgenres of speculative fiction, especially the weird ones and the obscure ones. Which is what we have this week.

Now, military science fiction is actually pretty popular with a lot of SF readers. I’ll get into it more next week. This week is to the sister that kind of sits in the corner waiting to be noticed – military fantasy. It doesn’t happen that often, I don’t know for sure why. I do, however, have a theory (When do I not?). I think the issue comes in with the fact that it is fantasy. It seems simple on the surface, but putting in that magical element can really throw a wrench into the works for a lot of authors when it comes to military strategy and inner-workings and such. It’s just such a foreign thing to work with. Depending on how powerful the magic is that’s available, you could be looking at two sides of a conflict bringing nukes onto the battlefield. I think it’s daunting to have the threat in the war amped up so high, and it subconsciously turns people away from it.

The fact that it’s uncommon is part of what makes me want to read it. Military fantasy has to fill in some very strange gaps, and it can be very well-done. Or it can fail pretty spectacularly.


There are some pretty big names playing in the military fantasy pool, too. Jim Butcher with the Codex Alera series is possibly one of the most popular, right along with Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives (The Way of Kings).

But to me, the most interesting is sort of a subgenre that falls underneath this subgenre, and it’s small enough that I won’t be doing a separate post on it: gunpowder fantasy. Magic and wizards and elves… and rifles and railroads and lots of warfare. It’s a genre that’s pretty much dominated entirely by two authors: Django Wexler (The Shadow Campaigns) and Brian McClellan (The Powder Mage), with a smattering of others in their for good measure (Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge books come to mind). I put gunpowder fantasy under here because, for the most part, it deals with war, and is set in worlds that, if not Earth in the past, is fairly recognizable as equating to the 17th-19th century, which was an incredibly war-torn era to be on our big blue marble.

When it comes to other media, military fantasy tends to be either totally nonexistent or, if you’re an optimist, just skirted around. If things had gone differently in Hellboy II, we would have had military fantasy. War is a part of a lot of fantasy books and movies (and movies based on books), but it’s not the focus, which keeps it from being the focus.

If you find yourself longing for military fantasy and can’t find it, just know that you’re not alone. The struggle is real, and there are a lot of people who wish they could find something more. Alas, publishing is a business, which makes it harder to make a sale of something with a fringe audience. So if any of you know any military fantasy that you feel should absolutely be on this list that I’ve forgotten, let me know in the comments. And as always, if you want more Subgenre Saturdays, make sure to subscribe.

Voss

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Subgenre Saturday: Splatterpunk

So, we’re back again. If you’ve been around Subgenre Saturdays with me, or just around this blog, you’ve probably figured out that I’ll take just about anything if you slap the word punk on the end. I know this about myself, I accept it, I’m good with it. So yeah, a lot of the subgenres here are going to be X-punk or punkpunk or whatever your preferred catch-all is.

Write along with this (I realize that was a typo. I did catch it, but it seemed too good not to leave in.) is something that isn’t quite the same as most of our other punkpunk genres. See, most of them fall under the big category of ‘retrofuturism,’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘tech/science that just doesn’t belong.’ High speed zeppelins and complex difference engines and machine guns that run on kerosene.

The key there is that they somehow subvert their given time period. Steampunk balks at Victoriana, dieselpunk at the ‘greatest generation,’ and cyberpunk at the distant world of the 80s. All punk genres are subversive, I think. That’s the binding theme, and today’s entry is no exception to that rule.



Ladies and not-ladies, I give you splatterpunk. Right around the dawn of cyberpunk, there was something else going on in the horror community. If you read horror, you’ll probably notice that it’s mostly about the psychological side of things and the suspense and tension. Which is amazing. I don’t do well with horror because of those things. However, there were several authors who, all independent of one another, decided that horror was too clean and distant. So they decided to muck it up and bring in intense gore and violence (hence the splatter) and, yes, a little bit of weird sexuality, too. It was very in line with the general ‘edgy’ vibe a lot of people were going for in the 80s, but splatterpunk was cranked all the way past eleven. While it’s something of a flash in the pan, as far as duration is concerned, it does still exist out there and, more importantly, it shook up the world of horror and brought back the gore.

Probably the most famous splatterpunk author (and director, screenwriter, artist, etc) is Clive Barker. Yeah, that Clive Barker. Candyman and Hellraiser and Books of Blood Clive Barker. They were dark and bloody in a way that wasn’t really seen at the time. This was the era of books like Misery and
Red Dragon. Clive Barker wasn’t the first splatterpunk, necessarily, but he more or less codified a lot of the things about this subgenre. He was to 80s horror what Lovecraft was to 20s horror. Both of them still have ripples flowing out into the world, influencing what people create to this very day.

Other well-known splatterpunk authors: Poppy Z. Brite, Jack Ketchum, Matt Shaw.

But it’s not just books (is anything ever just books?). If you want splatterpunk, look no further than the Saw franchise, or any of the horror movies directed by Rob Zombie. Hell, for that matter, just go watch some Clive Barker movies and really cut out the middle man. Hostel would fall into splatterpunk as well, and there’s a large movement in Japanese filmmaking involving splatterpunk as well. I can’t come close to naming them all, but Tokyo Gore Police comes to mind.

A lot of people will notice a similarity between splatterpunk and bizarro fiction… and they’d be right. I describe bizarro as ‘magical realism meats splatterpunk’ (Another good typo I just had to leave in.), and I think that about captures it. So if you’re not quite ready for the intense gore and sex and violence in splatterpunk, I would point you at any number of bizarro books. If you are ready? Have at it.