An Undisciplined Writer

Did you know that Walter B. Gibson, creator of the wildly popular character The Shadow and prolific author of hundreds of stories and novels, one time typed so much his wife was forced to intervene because he broke his damn fingers typing?

Damn.

I learned this on my buddy JimFear138’s most recent podcast, where he talked to another friend of mine, Rawle Nyanzi, about all things genre (and why genre doesn’t really matter these days; check out J.D. Cowan’s recent post about this if you’re interested in the premise).

Anyway, the point is that these guys in the 20s, 30s, and that general era wrote fast. And they produced quality.

This, of course, translates into money. You can see why guys like Nick Cole and Jason Anspach have been so successful with their Galaxy’s Edge series, both with the fans and financially.

Information like this, of course, has the tendency to produce self-reflection, and I realize one vital fact about myself: I am a very undisciplined writer.

Seriously. I don’t really enjoy the actual act of writing. Maybe it’s because I don’t like sitting still for that long. I don’t think it’s necessarily a focus thing, because given the right objective, I can be occupied for hours.

And writing can be like that, when I get into a groove. It’s just that getting into said groove can be a challenge.

This gets me wondering if it’s a free time issue: Free time is so limited, as it is for most of us, that I almost have a checklist of things I’d like to do–work out, read, check some website I’m fond of–before I get to the writing, which can sometimes feel like work. So I’m scheduling writing time–I keep this blog going, after all, I’ve written several novels, and I’m getting others ready for publication–but I can’t shake that I could be doing more with my time.

Is it a balance issue, then? What if I wrote to the exclusion of other things I like to do with my time? I know what would happen: I’;d feel as guilty as I would if I, say, worked out to the exclusion of my writing and other things that interest me.

And then I look to my heroes in writing the way I looked to my heroes in music, and realize I don’t measure up.

For example, when I tried to make a go as a musician, I’d look to my idols like Frank Zappa, Prince,and David Bowie, how ridiculously prolific they were, and get sort of depressed by my own inadequacy.

Likewise, looking at guys like Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the aforementioned Walter B. Gibson, I start to fall into the same trap.

But the important things to remember are that these guys did this for a living, and they weren’t getting paid the big bucks (or having the massive TV/movie deals) the way guys do today. So they had to write to pay the bills.

Me? I’m doing this solely for the love of it . . . for the time being.

Stephen King and Dean Koontz are two super-rich authors I can think of off the top of my head who pumped out tons of books in their heyday, even when they’d already received financial success. I can’t help think of guys like George R. R. Martin, though, who acts as though he actually hates writing.

Enough musing! What to do about it? Here are some things that work for me, both physically and psychologically. I hope they help! Continue reading “An Undisciplined Writer”

The Dangers of Staying “Above It All”

Is there an “artistic temperament”? Do people of only certain political stripes go into the arts more than others?

Both Brian Niemeier and Rawle Nyanzi have discussed these recently, with Brian focusing more on the traditional Right’s refusal to fight as the Left fights, with Rawle concerned more with why conservatives don’t go into the arts despite lamenting that they have no influence in the arts.

Rawle believes that the temperament is informed by politics:

Art is not immediately useful; it neither grows your food nor supplies your energy. Except for a handful of megastars, art is low-paid. Most artists rely on either a job or on other people to support them in their endeavors; “don’t quit your day job” is a cliche for a reason, as is “starving artist.” It requires the mind to break with conventional modes of thinking and spend much time speculating on bizarre possibilities. Art requires one to focus on emotion.

This is as far from the conservative mindset as one can get.

Brian, for his part, is quite harsh in his assessment of conservatives’ unwillingness to fight:

. . .conservatives are cowards. They talk a good game about standing on principle, but the inescapable conclusion is that they don’t really believe what they’re saying. People who truly believe in and are informed by principles act on them.

I’m inclined to agree with Brian, but this refers especially to a certain type of conservative. The kind that’s probably a midwit at best but wants everybody to think they’re smart, so they parrot what the culture at large tells them is the right thing to think–a culture that is against everything they purport to stand for, mind–while offering some nominal opposition.

This is yet another reason why the “conservative/liberal” dichotomy is inaccurate and outdated, and the real distinction is globalist/nationalist. Great men and women of the past who’d be considered on the Right today fully understood the importance of emotion and rhetoric. Modern “conservatism” feels artificial and soulless in a lot of respects.

But let’s stick with the terms that we have.

Does this all mean that conservatives are at, as Rawle puts it, a psychological disadvantage when it comes to the arts?

I say no. Continue reading “The Dangers of Staying “Above It All””

Book Review: Sword & Flower by Rawle Nyanzi

Sword & Flower - Rawle Nyanzi

If you ever wanted to know what would happen when a Japanese pop-star who can use magic teams up with a sword-fighting Puritan warrior to fight demons in weird dimension that may or may not be limbo, then Rawyle Nyanzi has answered this question for you in his debut offering, the novella Sword & Flower.

Even if you’ve never had these questions–and if you haven’t, I’m sorry–Sword & Flower is a fun, exciting read, part of the nascent “Pulp Revolution,” looking to bring back the spirit, energy, and free-wheeling nature of sci-fi and fantasy’s golden age.

You know, before politics, social justice, and lots of other stuff that has nothing to do with storytelling got in the way of storytelling.

Think more adventure and less angst.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must state that Rawle is a personal friend. He and I talk writing very often in person or on-line, and have read and critiqued each other’s work. In fact, I had the pleasure of reading early versions of Sword & Flower, and it’s interesting to see what suggestions I had and points Rawle missed made it into the final story.

And if you recall, Rawle and I went to see both Suicide Squad and (ugh) the new Ghostbusters movies so you don’t have to.

I don’t want to give away too many of Sword & Flower‘s plot points since it is short–104 pages–but I have to give some, as it has as unique a premise as you’ll find.

Lesser Heaven is a place where some go when they die, where they are held before achieving either a seat in paradise or eternal damnation. Why this is so, and what they must do to get a full reckoning, however, is still a mystery.

Interestingly, people seem to get sorted on the basis of geography and culture, so that an thirteenth-century Zulu tribesman would be with other thirteenth-century Zulu tribesman while a twenty-fifth century space-faring Chinese astronaut would appear with other twenty-fifth century Chinese, and so on.

That’s right: All cultures and all time periods coexist simultaneously in Lesser Heaven, so you just know that interesting interactions are bound to take place.

One such involves Dimity Red (real name: Chiyo Aragaki), Japanese pop sensation, who meets her end in a grisly manner and finds herself in Lesser Heaven. For some reason, though, she is immediately attacked by a demon, saved by a Valkyrie, and then deposited near a settlement of Puritans. And though she helps these pilgrims stave off demons that menace their settlement, she is soon arrested for being a Satanic witch.

Luckily, she catches the eye of the free-thinking son of the settlement’s pastor, nicknamed Mash, who senses her goodness and questions his own people’s automatic dismissal of what should be considered, perhaps quite literally, as a God-send.

I told you, Sword & Flower has a bit of everything. Continue reading “Book Review: Sword & Flower by Rawle Nyanzi”

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters Logo

Here it is: The controversial Ghostbusters remake. The movie that got Milo Yiannopoulos permanently banned from Twitter. The film whose trailer got the Angry Video Game Nerd a ration of on-line grief. A movie I had no desire to watch whatsoever until my friend and fellow writer Rawle Nyanzi suggested we see it so we can better speak about the controversy and the larger cultural implications. Because Ghostbusters has become more than just a summer movie. It has become an event, a cultural litmus test–If you don’t like this movie, you clearly hate women. If Americans are good at anything, it’s elevating silly stuff to epic status.

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So as promised, Rawle and I went to see the movie so you don’t have to. I wasn’t planning on it, but Rawle convinced me that we should:

 

…I had no desire to see it. But then, in speaking with my friend and fellow blogger Rawle Nyanzi, he mentioned he is going to see the movie to tell for himself whether the politics is are as blatant as its creators and defenders make it seem or if the movie is just, you know, a movie featuring four women in the lead roles.

Seeing something before rendering an opinion…what a novel idea!

So we grabbed a bite at Chik-fil-A and prepared ourselves for what I expected to be a thoroughly mediocre movie.

 

I wasn’t disappointed.

Or I was depending on how you look at it.

SPOILER ALERT: This movie is painfully average, dare I say beige.  It fails to recapture the fun and the heart of the original two films (I’m a Ghostbusters II apologist and proud of it!) and fails to do anything new despite having ample opportunity to do so. TL; DR: Don’t bother seeing this movie.

But that’s not why you’re here, so keep reading. Continue reading “Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)”

The New Beige

You like fun. That’s why you’re here, right? That’s why any of us are.

But not everybody likes fun. Recently, filmmaker and Internet celebrity James Rolfe released a video at his website Cinemassacre. In it, Rolfe, a self-avowed fanatic of the Ghostbusters franchise, gave a very reasoned and subdued explanation why he will not be seeing the new Ghostbusters movie.

YouTuber and filmmaker James Rolfe of Cinemassacre, best known as the Angry Video Game Nerd
James Rolfe

Rolfe made his decision based on the movie’s trailer: The jokes fell flat, the effects didn’t impress him, and he didn’t appreciate its makers using the goodwill of the Ghostbusters name to put out yet another remake instead of coming up with a unique way to revive the franchise. Therefore, he won’t spend his money on the movie.

Mild stuff, and a very reasoned critique. In fact, isn’t that what millions of people do? Decide whether to spend their time and money at the movies based on the trailers?

However the problem for Rolfe, at least in his critics’ eyes, is that the main cast of this movie is female.

Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Leslie Jones, the cast of the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters.
l-r: Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones

The reactions were swift but, to any student of our outrage culture, sadly predictable. Rolfe–one of the least political Internet personalities out there–is a misogynist, a sexist, a whiny manbaby, a loser, and so on. And even celebrities got in on the act!

To be fair, the bulk of tweets I saw were in support or Rolfe, which is a good sign. But it’s important to highlight the disproportionate level of vitriol directed his way.

Here’s the thing: Rolfe did mention the all-female cast, but only to wonder if, given that the movie has the same name as the 1984 original, people are going to refer to it as “the female Ghostbusters.” He finds this absurd since, in his opinion, the movie should have a different title to differentiate itself.

If Rolfe actually said something derogatory about women like “Women can’t act,” “Women aren’t funny,” or “I won’t see this movie because it has women in it,” I could see the reaction. But his video was as mild a criticism as it gets, and focused more on the editing abilities of those who created the trailer than anything else. So what gives?

The whole thing is absurd, but it goes to a bigger point: Rolfe’s sin was not enjoying what The Powers That Be deemed must be enjoyed in order to be a “good person.” Continue reading “The New Beige”