On portraits of the artist as a complete jackass, and why we need new kinds of stories about artists.
... when Bennett Cerf, visiting the James Joyces in Paris, described Joyce as a genius, Mrs. Joyce dryly replied, "That's all very well for you to say - you don't have to live with the bloody man."
Last night friends and I watched The Horse's Mouth, the 1959 film adaptation of the Joyce Cary novel about an irascible painter, apparently a composite of every Portrait Of The Artist As A Complete Jackass story ever told. That Gully Jimson, the painter in question, is played by Alec Guinness in the scruffiest, most gin-voiced role he ever did embody, goes some distance towards making him fascinating. Jimson's bottom-pinching, liquor-guzzling, homewrecking (literally so) personality would make Animal House's Blutarski blush. Even at this late date, there still remains the thrill of watching a free spirit make the stuffed shirts eat their pretense and their money in about equal measure -- even if, maybe especially if, you wouldn't want to live with the bloody man.
I found a nice surprise waiting for me on the doorstep today: the proof copy of the newly-remastered version of "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned."
I found a nice surprise waiting for me on the doorstep yesterday: the proof copy of the newly-remastered version of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.
If I didn't feel before like I was living in a science fiction novel, this year sure clinched that feeling. But not for the reasons you might think.
This isn't likely to come as a massive surprise to anyone, but if I didn't feel before like I was living in a science fiction novel, this year sure clinched that feeling. Not merely because of the pandemic, but because of all the things the pandemic force-multiplied -- the corrosive effects of capital on public spaces; the way we've blithely swapped technology for human potential and come up immeasureably poorer as a result; the way we have all these toys and so few things that actually work. 2020 didn't so much throw us into a dystopian SF novel as it revealed we'd been living in one for quite some time, and only now could we no longer ignore it.
What really got me, though, was the exposure of the distance between the life we were supposed to be leading, and the life we are leading. And with that, I took a good hard look at that feeling: where was it written that things in 2020 were supposed to have been better than this? Who promised us that?
On the largely ineffectual ways we've grappled with the corruption of public morals.
Someone on Twitter pointed out recently that it makes no sense to try and shame reactionaries for being hypocrites, because the charge carries no weight with those who matter. I agree with this, and I think the reasons why are at the heart of the largely ineffectual ways we've grappled with the corruption of public morals.
After some puttering, I think I finally have a good new cover design for 'Summerworld'.
This past week I worked on new cover designs for Summerworld, one of the tougher books in my collection to create art for. After some scavenging, I settled on two images I wanted to use: the "cityscape" image, and the "portal" image. This was the first attempt at making use of them:
And once we do, what do we take away from it all?
The other night, shortly after news broke of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, I quoted a line from someone I'd known once, an utterance they made shortly after 9/11: "I don't know how much more history I can live through." I have since lost touch with this person, so I don't know what they would think about all that's happened over the last five years, but I imagine they'd be feeling pretty exhausted by history too.
But as of late, I find a thought coming to me more often. Maybe things have always been like this. Maybe it's just that it wasn't evenly distributed -- that some of us have felt like this all the time, every time, and weren't believed when we said that was the case. Maybe it was always like this and most of us just had more ways to not notice it, and now that those protections have been ripped off, we have no choice but to stare it in the face until our eyes melt.
For some of my books it's a lot harder than I realized to create good cover art.
Exhausting week, not just because of current events (if there's anyone here not exhausted by current events, I want whatever you're dosing with). I tried to come up with about four or five alternate desings for a reworked Summerworld cover and ended up rejecting them all. If I had more money to throw at the problem I'd commission something, but right now I'm on as tight a budget as I can get (again, who isn't?), so I have to make do.
Why some people respond to reports of deaths in numbers with minimizing tactics.
In the early days of the COVID crisis, I heard a couple of goofballs in my near-circle making noises along the lines of, "It's just a flu." Bad enough, but when people start dying, one of them had the temerity to come up with this whopper: "X number of people die every year in car accidents, but you don't see folks freaking out about that!"
The only motive I can ascribe to uttering such a thing is that of whistling past the graveyard -- being confronted with something so overwhelming that it beggars a response, and so the only response you can come up with is to minimize it. (We've seen a lot of that lately, haven't we?) There are plenty of reasons why equivalencies like this are foolish, but I'll focus on one case: when people shift tracks and try to talk about deaths by other means ("If we really cared about lives, we'd do something about all those people dying," etc.).
Why spam scams are illiterate by design: to weed out the skeptical and keep the suckers.
Some time ago I came across an article that explained why most spam scams read like illiterate grade-school scrawls. It's not incompetence on the part of the spammers. In fact, it's the exact opposite: it's a calculated strategy. And it explains why much political grift is similarly dumb.
A look at the upcoming "remastered" editions of my books "Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned", "Welcome To The Fold", and "Flight Of The Vajra".
I spent all of Saturday reworking covers and interiors for the last three (four, if you include the most recent) books in the Infinimata catalog. Once I got momentum going on one of them, I just forged ahead and did all of them in one sitting. I also found a site that lets you render 3D mockups of books using uploaded cover art, a way to get an idea of how they'll all look on a shelf next to each other. I think the results speak for themselves:
On the progress of the reissue program for all my earlier books under the new Infinimata Press label.
With Fall Of The Hammer off and out the gate, and Unmortal now in progress (although don't expect anything about that for a good long while), I'm now turning to reissuing all the earlier titles in the formerly Genji Press, now Infinimata Press catalog. This past week I started on new editions of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned and Welcome To The Fold. It's been alternately fun and frustrating.
The soundtrack for my new novel 'Fall Of The Hammer'.
With each book I write, there's almost always a soundtrack of some kind to go with it -- music to match the mood and tempo of each scene. That said, I find I almost never listen to the music in question when writing or editing the scene in question, as I find that too distracting; there's other music I have specifically for the writing process.
Odds are you can find most, if not all, of these by way of your friendly neighborhood music streaming service.
Note that the scene descriptions may contain spoilers!
On Stjepan G. Meštrović's notion of the "postemotional society".
I dug out a book I'd read before but decided to re-approach with fresh eyes, what with the world on fire. The book is entitled Postemotional Society and is by sociologist Stjepan G. Meštrović, and its premise is that modern society can be distinguished by being "post-emotional". I am not sure I believe everything Meštrović puts forward, and I think some of what he says is old vinegar in new wine bottles, but I have plenty to chew on all the same.
Meštrović wrote the book in the Nineties and so his examples revolve around things like the Balkan War, the Clinton administration, and the O.J. Simpson trial, but much of what he says seems scarily relevant to the moment: "A new hybrid of intellectualized, mechanical, mass-produced emotions has appeared on the world scene." (p. 26)
My new fantasy/adventure novel (well, it's a lot more than that, really) is now available on Kindle and in print.
The title should tell it, but in case it doesn't: My new novel The Fall Of The Hammer is now available in both print and digital editions!
(about time, man)
Addendum: The book now has a Goodreads entry as well.
Here's the blurb:
In the wake of a war that toppled nations and scarred the earth, a strange new element appeared in the world: aleaum. Those with vision and ambition found they could channel their will through it to remake their reality ... but remake it in only their image, and no other.
What little young Jotham knows of the world before aleaum, he knows through his father, who yearns to restore those lost times. And when Jotham comes into possession of his own aleaum fragment, his mission becomes clear: Become a master himself ... the better to destroy all the other masters.
But soon Jotham finds he isn’t alone. Others, with powers not given by aleaum, share his crusade: a “witch” from the forest near his home; her “sorcerer” husband; a woman of the criminal underworld and her ex-wrestler bodyguard; the inscrutable daughter of a mutual enemy; and a tamer of the bizarre beasts created by the aleaum masters and their powers.
Together, they set out to take back the world ... with the very power used to steal it from them!
For full details about the book, visit its product page here on this site.
May it give you some good times amidst all these bad ones.
I hope I passed the audition.
I don't want better versions of the past. I want a future that has the kind of better only the future can offer.
The other night friends and I fell briefly into one of those discussions that I find myself entering unthinkingly with enthusiasm, but exiting with a little disgust at having ever entered into it. It was about how movies used to be better, or at the very least weren't all focus-tested multiplex fodder. It's not even entirely true: there's more and better indie cinema than ever if you know where to look; it's just that the major studios now see risk aversion as their main business model. But the real problem was how I saw myself falling into the mode of "Weren't things better when ... ?" which is always a bad mode to end up in.
Once upon a time, things were different, and some of those things had aspects that are better than what we had now. Of this I have no doubt. What I know is impossible, and counterproductive, is to entertain such thoughts as a prelude to try and turn back the clock. I don't want this anywhere, least of all in my entertainments.
Proof edits on 'Fall Of The Hammer' almost done. It was worth it.
Earlier this evening I finished the page-by-page read-through and mark-up of my proof copy of The Fall Of The Hammer, and again I'm convinced there's something to be gained by doing this with a physical copy of the book that I can't obtain from a digital copy, even a read-only one. When you've grown up with physical books, it somehow feels like more is at stake with a physical book. Mistakes on paper are far more glaring than mistakes on a screen, and so you feel a greater motivation to find them and fix them.
In re the magic of editing on something other than a screen.
The proof copy for Fall Of The Hammer showed up Sunday. I spent most of today reading it slowly and spotting countless little things in it that didn't surface during all of my previous editing passes. To that end, I plan to push the release back by about a week, but for good reason: there's just so much you spot when you edit on paper that your eye simply glides past when you read on a screen. Or is that only something common to those of us who were weaned on dead trees?
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind