Book Reviews: Who’s Afraid of the Dark? and Knight of the Changeling by Russell Newquist

I’ve got a two-fer of tales for you today from Mr. Russell Newquist, he of Silver Empire publishing, and an author in his own right. If you recall, I recently reviewed his fun, action-packed debut novel War Demons.

War Demons featured a supporting character named Peter Bishop, friend of that novel’s main character Michael Alexander. Well, it turns out that Peter is heir to the sword of St. Michael and a pretty important player in the struggle to protect Earth from the demonic forces of evil.

Who’s Afraid of the Dark?and Knight of the Changelingare two short stories in Russell’s saga, and take place after the Prodigal Son series, of which War Demons is the first book. Yet these two stories were published first.

Don’t worry, it works. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Who’s Afraid of the Dark? and Knight of the Changeling by Russell Newquist”

Reset: Chapter 19: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (4)

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Even Nick started getting bored with the college life. “If I have to play another video game I’m going to shoot myself. Did we really waste this much time with those things?”

“Sad, isn’t it?” said Joe, not looking up from The Great Gatsby, the assigned reading from that afternoon’s English class.Cover of the book The Great Gatsby“All the things we could have done with that time . . .”

“Like study?”

“Learn an instrument, another language, date girls . . .”

Joe brandished his book. “Read, maybe?”

“That too.” Nick sat on the couch, wiggling his fingers. “My eyeballs are starting to bleed from all of it. My fingers, too. They feel like . . .”

“They should be holding a books?”

“Alright, alright!” Nick stood, pacing around the room. “I can take a hint. I’m not a total moron you know.”

Joe turned a page, his highlighter at the ready. “Never said you were.”

“No, but you implied it. We all know how powerful implications can be.” Nick picked up a textbook from his desk. “Take education, for example.”

 

“That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“I’m feeling philosophical tonight; hear me out.” Continue reading Reset: Chapter 19: Wednesday, September 5, 2001 (4)”

Creative Process Mash-Up with NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is upon us again, and I’m off to a good start: 2,296 words on day one. Not bad!

This year, though, I’m trying something different. Instead of going into NaNoWriMo by the seat of my pants like I did last year–and how I approach pretty much all of my writing–I actually did an outline!

Yeah, I didn’t outline the whole story chapter-by-chapter. I got about eight chapters in. But the overall arc, the world, and the characters were game-planned beyond merely existing in my mind. This is a big step for me, because I tend to view words as concrete:

I’m one of these weird people for whom, when something is written down, it becomes permanent. It’s almost totemistic. It becomes solid. Whether it’s words or music, I find it difficult to break out of a structure once a structure is made.

Even something like an outline, as opposed to the more free-flowing structure I keep in my brain, has a way of bringing things to life and even shackling me to the structure that it creates. This is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

I mean, how hard is it to just . . . change your outline?

Not hard. At all. Continue reading “Creative Process Mash-Up with NaNoWriMo”

Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon Del Arroz

I have been long lamenting the inclusion–dare I say, the blatant shoehorning–of contemporary politics into forms of entertainment that historically have not relied upon contemporary politics at all. In order to tell a good story, you really need skill, imagination, and a fundamental understanding of humanity, human nature, and timeless principles. Not whatever insanity passes for identity politics these days.

Look, a story, or a piece of art in general, can be enjoyed despite the creator’s politics. This is usually because the artist in question doesn’t gracelessly ram politics into everything, or is so skilled that they are able to tell a story where the politics or political message is merely a part that enhances the story . . . and a non-insulting part at that.

This is why the whole Pulp Revolution movement in fiction has been so attractive to me. The idea of getting back to the roots of sci-fi and fantasy–something I wish would happen in rock music as well–in order to inform the spirit of current stories has been a breath of fresh air. This, coupled with the Superversive movement, has led me to many highly enjoyable works of fiction.

I’ve writtenabout severaloftheseworksbefore, and I’m here to write about another fantastic entry into the burgeoning pulp/superversive scene: Jon Del Arroz‘s For Steam and Country: Book One of the Adventures of Baron Von Monocle.

This is Jon’s second full-length novel, and it is a great one. I had a smile on my face the whole time reading it. Though it’s billed as a YA (young adult) novel, there’s enough here to keep adults entertained, especially since one of the book’s biggest themes is the relationship between a daughter and her father. This aspect is what gives For Steam and Country its heart.

Continue reading “Book Review: For Steam and Country by Jon Del Arroz”

What Can You Give Up?

Yet another American institution has become a flashpoint for political controversy. This time, it’s professional sports. I’ve already written about the firestorm Colin Kaepernick started last year when he decided to protest what he saw as America’s continued unjust treatment of blacks and other minorities by kneeling for the National Anthem.These protests have intensified this year, at least during the first few weeks of the NFL season.

I refrained from writing about this, because hot takes like these are rarely useful and serve to be mostly nothing more than empty virtue signaling with no mention of a solution to any such problems, perceived or otherwise. There’s also typically a debate about free speech, which no one, including me, seems to understand fully anyway.

All I know about free speech, the rule of law, and everything in general involving man’s relation to government is this: Power is really all that matters, and the illusion of self-government will exist until it becomes too expensive to maintain. He who has the guns, wins.

America’s done a pretty good job with the illusion of self-government because we were founded by people who believed in the illusion too. But I digress. The takeaway is that this is the world we live in, so we need to know how to navigate it.

If you’re sick of politics in things like professional sports, your movies, your place of worship, your workplace, and other forms of entertainment or spheres of your life, what do you do? If there are no alternatives, you can create alternatives of course. You can also vote with your wallet. This doesn’t have to be an organized boycott. You can just . . . give it up.

Think about all the stuff we do in life that really doesn’t matter. That’s mere entertainment. Do you really need to know who beat whom in which sportsball event, or which character raped/murdered/lied to which other on Game of Thrones, when most of the people involved in the production of both events probably hates you merely for your difference of opinion?

Back to sports. Of all American cultural institutions, it seems to provide the least value. Let me explain before you jump down my throat: I’m making a distinction between participating in and spectating.

  • Participating in sports. Important. In addition to athletics helping promote a healthy body, they inculcate mental toughness, teamwork, pride and ownership, self-discipline, and being gracious in both victory and defeat.
  • Spectating. Watching. Sitting, eating, and drinking. Maybe getting drunk. Cheering for laundry, for players and owners that do not care about you. Obsessing over trades and stats. Letting the outcome of an event literally govern your thoughts and emotions.

You get this in any form of entertainment, really. Look at comic books, right? Even if you don’t care about them, the seemingly deliberate destruction of the industry to parrot an incredibly narrow, though highly influential, strain of far-left identity politics is stunning to behold, and instructive to how this happens across many such industries. The writers and artists have made it clear that they don’t care about storytelling. So why be a fan? Why devote time and money and energy to it?

Everything is a business. Your favorite musicians, artists, athletes, writers, actors, and so on, all want to get paid. They care about you inasmuch as you will give them money. And if you’re a participant in any of these endeavors, you likely feel the same way. And there is nothing wrong with that.

We used to live in a world where creators gave the audience what it wanted. The debate as to whether that leads to high or poor quality isn’t worth getting into here. But I think we can say that there are certain universal human principles that make for good storytelling, the kind that people want, but will still allow for maximum creativity on the part of the writers and directors and actors and everyone else down the line. Hollywood used to understand this. Not anymore.

People, all people, can engage in whatever speech they want. Let’s stop pretending that some speech isn’t deemed more important or acceptable than others though.

This all gets me thinking about what I can, and have, given up, and why. Continue reading “What Can You Give Up?”

Book Review: War Demons by Russell Newquist

War Demons by Russell Newquist

If you like action, well then, have I got a novel for you.

War Demons is the debut full-length offering from Russell Newquist, book one in his Prodigal Son series. Russell is a writer, a blogger, the owner of Silver Empire publishing, the mastermind of the electronic short-fiction anthology Lyonesse, a podcaster, husband to the writer Morgon Newquist, owner of a martial arts dojo, father of four . . . oh, and he has a day job. I think he sleeps sometimes too.

To say that Russell is an impressive guy is an understatement.

Russell Nequist doing a karate form.
Russell Newquist

I’ve written about Russell before on the topic of nihilism. Not that Russell is a nihilist–far from it! Russell, in fact, is a huge proponent of what is called superversive fiction. Think of superversive as being the opposite of subversive: instead of seeking to tear cherished traditions, ideals, and institutions down and piss all over them, being superversive is to strive to hold up these traditions, ideals, and institutions as worthy of preservation, and indeed the keys to virtue and fulfillment.

Whew.

Russell is also a devout Catholic, which must have something to do with his general attitude, right?

Keep all of this in mind as you read his work. War Demons is what happens when you mix martial arts, Christian tradition, magic, demons, the military, and terrorism. You end up with lots of fights, lots of explosions, and lots of crazy mystical stuff happening in the present day (present being 2006).

Seriously, War Demons has a bit of everything. As someone fortunate enough to be given an advance copy, I tore through it in a matter of days.

There are dragons fighting helicopters, for crying out loud. Continue reading “Book Review: War Demons by Russell Newquist”

Feature Their Hurt

There’s this song by Frank Zappa called “Tryin’ to Grow a Chin.” One line in it,

If Simmons was here, I could feature my hurt

refers to former member of Zappa’s band, Jeff Simmons–often the butt of Zappa’s jokes–who wanted to play more of his own material so he could “feature my hurt”; that is, bare his soul in the grand, Romantic tradition of artistes like Byron and Beethoven . . . at least, in Zappa’s terminology.

Not that there’s anything wrong with conveying emotion in art. That’s one of art’s core functions, after all. And although we see ugliness, inscrutability, and contempt for the audience as an intellectual shorthand for what makes art “art,” there is also a component of giving the audience what they want. And contra the sensitive types, there is no shame in this whatsoever. Most artists actually want to make a living, after all. Luckily for them, a lot of what the audience wants is for our artists and entertainers to feature their hurt so we can reflect on it, commiserate, and hopefully work through it.

Another apropos line of the Zappa song, itself a parody of teenage angst, is the end refrain:

I wanna be dead,

In bed please kill me

‘Cause that would thrill me

It might have just been a bit of Zappa-esque off-hand humor, a throwaway line that just sounded funny (Zappa reportedly hated writing lyrics), but it actually runs deeper than you think.

Look at the word “thrill.” That’s what we get when we can “bare our soul” and “feature our hurt.”

Because you see, it’s not really about other people. It’s about us. Continue reading “Feature Their Hurt”