Shadow Over Your Shoulder

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’ve just posted the short story for September on Patreon. I’m very proud of this creation and Shadow Over Your Shoulder arguably one of the better pieces I’ve written. I’d describe it as literary speculative fiction, a fantasy of sorts where the magic can be found in the mundane. It’s also a bit of a love story — not the spicy, passionate kind, but the stuff of commitment and compassion.

If you haven’t subscribed yet, don’t fret, there is plenty of time. If you’re not interested in subscribing, but would still like to read Shadow Over Your Shoulder I’m going to try something new. FeetForBrains is henceforth a small press all on its own, and that means you can buy my short stories directly.

Here’s how it should work. You can purchase access to Shadow directly, no monthly commitment, by clicking on the PayPal button below. You’ll run through their purchase rigamarole and eventually get a link to a Scribd version of the story. Keep in mind that my overhead is increased with this method of distribution, consequently so is the cost of the story (yep, $2 whole bucks). Go, go gadget micro-transactions!

shadow-over-your-shoulder

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However you choose to support my art, thank you! And that’s what this is all about, we’re building a creative empire in increments. Of course, I’d love to hear your comments and impressions.

Taking Responsibility

September, my birth month, has become sort of my Little New-Year. This year I’m starting a new fitness and nutrition program. Revitalizing my interest in endurance sports as well as training for those kinds of events. Renewing my commitment to my family, my friends and myself.

In short, I’m taking responsibility for all the things I influence. I’m taking ownership. This also means I’m going to take more ownership for my artistic vision.

Last night I re-read METAtropolis: Cascadia and this made me realized how far away I’ve gotten from the speculative-fiction vision I started with only a few years back. Yeah, in the last two years I’ve written almost nothing but space opera, a fact of which I’m keenly aware. I’ve been happy writing these stories, but this kind of fiction isn’t really what stokes my coals.

Consequently, even though I have many outstanding projects I’ll still be diligently working on, I’m going to add some more input to my vision. Writing for my perception of “what the market wants” often means abdicating responsibility for what I think it could become. I don’t need to repeat Ford’s Edsel failure to realize a Mustang is what most people would love to drive.

Cliché

Cover Art from Danny Flynn for "Starship Troopers"

Cover Art from Danny Flynn for “Starship Troopers”

I have to tell someone. I am becoming weary of contemporary fiction outlets reviewing the works of dead science fiction authors. Every time I see another article like this, I’m reminded of the old men who frequented my coffee shop. They’d habitually sit around shooting the shit, sipping their cuppa, while comparing anything and everything of today to their bygone era.

It is statements like this that chap my hide.

“When examining military science fiction, all roads, at one point or another, lead to Starship Troopers, written by Robert A. Heinlein in 1959 and rooted in his service in the U.S. Navy.”

Good grief! All roads? Really?

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that there is an abundance of military science fiction available today. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to stroll the SFF section of your local library or bookstore with your hand outstretched on the spines without touching a story that doesn’t at least make use of organized conflict as a primary theme. The idea that Heinlein influenced all of these latter-day authors is just ludicrous.

My problem isn’t with Heinlein or any of the Golden Age writers. Rather, I’m taking umbrage with our community’s insistence that we continue to pay these guys homage. They had their day and, point in fact, made a reasonable living from their words. Yes, their stories are memorable, and they may even influence some of us when we put pen to paper, but their contributions to the genre canon are, at best, dated.

At worst, is the idea that Science Fiction has become a historical study. Are we so frightened of the future that we’re eternally fixated on old stories, endlessly rehashing comfortable clichés?

Getting Things Flowing

“It’s a trap!”

I’ve just spent the last two days off the island, not writing. Sitting down to write this morning I was dismayed to discover I needed to hit pause. The blog post I was going to write was fast becoming a polemic which bordered on a diatribe. Something is wrong on the internets.

What I had wanted to say was that toxic masculinity is dangerous and that it probably shouldn’t be used to market coffee. I’d seen an ad, and yeah, I was perturbed. But here’s the thing, a couple of hundred words into my denunciation I became mindful of what I was doing.

Sinking Sensation May Proceed Realization

Fuck! Mindfulness is hard. This morning, on the way to the coffee shop, A-bear and I had a discussion about taking responsibility for our mistakes so that we can move on. During our meandering discussion, he said “All I want to be is a good guy with a secret place. Only I can get in there.”

“What are you going to do when things don’t look that way? When you don’t feel like a good guy?” I asked.

“Listen to my tummy,” he explained.

That realization we have when we first become aware of what we’re doing. It feels a lot like falling in my experience. The blog post began as an act of anger. I was angry that someone bothered to create a toxic ad, chocked full of misogyny and faux tactical dick-bluster. My guns are bigger than your guns. ‘Merica! Additionally, I was angry at a friend and former Army buddy, who bothered to post this masterpiece of douchebaggery in my social media feed. Given the crowds that he runs with and how they socialize, this is predictable behavior. It’s a habit, his habit.

Additionally, I was angry at a friend and former Army buddy, who bothered to post this masterpiece of douchebaggery in my social media feed. Given the crowds that he runs with and how they socialize, this is predictable behavior. It’s a habit, his habit.

Finally, I was angry with myself. For not knowing better. For not catching myself before jumping into someone else’s toxic cease pool. And I let that anger push my words.

CHORF

Brad Torgersen coined this insulting little acronym to describe all the people he loathes in genre fiction. It stands for Cliquish, Holier-than-thou, Obnoxious, Reactionary, Fanatics and I suspect that he misses cognizance that his critique of other’s could be most commonly applied to himself. But that’s Torgersen’s karma, not mine.

The practice of detachment is about letting go of our need to control outcomes, our attachment to our desires, and – perhaps most difficult – our need to control other people. I am responsible for the blackness behind my own eyes and nothing else. That’s enough.

I bring up this term and Torgersen at all because I see so many of my comrades in fiction fulfilling his definition. Given the opportunity I too have felt compelled, uncontrollably, to object to the toxicity of the Puppy’s poo. But I also realize that in doing so, I’m also aware that I’ve allowed them to change the conversation. Instead of discussing the merits of any given story we end up exchanging insults. I’d say it’s childish behavior, but for the fact that my five-year-old listens carefully to his tummy.

Moving On

The direction I see SFF headed does concern me, so don’t misunderstand, but what I’ll call Competing Dogmas of Story (CDS for short) method of resolution is predictably resulting in little more than a tide of ad hominem. And this concerns me more than just about anything. It’s no longer a productive exchange of ideas, no one’s mind is changing, we’re locked in an endless Coke vs. Pepsi argument.

Amazon Author Rank

There’s a lot of desire wrapped up in the Rocket. Back in 2014, when Larry Corria’s “Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles” nabbed a nomination, but not an award he chose to take it personally. A consummate storyteller, he created a complex mythology which justified his desire. “He was robbed, I tell you! Robbed!” And his reaction to his loss led to the creation of the Sad Puppies and their derivatives.

All that pent up anger poured into a blind, multi-year campaign of simple dominance.

My recent rise on Amazon is posted above for a reason, I invest a lot of hope in the idea that if I can climb that ladder, I’ll find new readers, they’ll buy my stories, and all my chickens will hatch. The contemporary version of Jack London’s rise is a mashup; the recombination of epic, serial fiction, and electronic distribution. Who wouldn’t like to see that kind “success?”

Even after a lot of hard work and some great promotion my bump from Alt.Chronicles Legacy Fleet topped out at #225. Follow on sales, page reads, and new Patreon subscriptions we’re weak. It makes me feel like a zombie that made it to the fence only to have a stake shoved through my eye. All those tasty brains, just out of reach. The good news is that I’m not angry. Maybe it would be more accurate to say, while I sometimes experience anger as a consequence of my circumstance, I remain aware of myself enough to recognize those moments. I can refuse to let them push me around. This isn’t a fatal failure. My attachments are visible, and that frees me to work on things that will help. I’ll write more stories.

There is a lot that the SFF community can learn from this practice, I think. Refusing to respond anger — discovering and acknowledging the struggles of others — is the way forward. Torgersen and Corria are angry that they’re not on top of the heap, that their moment in the spotlight didn’t happen on their schedule, and that’s their struggle. I don’t have to make it mine.