Another short that was very fun to write – the first art show in human history.
Another short that was very fun to write – the first art show in human history.
A couple of weeks ago I got to attend “an evening with George R. R. Martin.” This a fundraiser for the great Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine Locus, and an informal introduction to the similarly legendary grandfather of all science fiction conferences Worldcon.
As would be expected but was still reassuring to experience, it was very interesting. George R. R. Martin, for any not familiar with this name, is the only full heir to Tolkien in terms of popularity in the same field. Even in larger fantasy non-medieval influenced fantasy, there’s the worlds and publishing empires built by Tolkien, Martin and J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter – and then there’s everybody else.
Martin can even be credited for his part in a chain of events that led to the Star Wars character Chewbacca. Chewie’s character design appears to have been influenced by the magazine cover for one Martin’s earliest short stories, “7 Times 7 Never Kill Man” – published in 1975.
In an evening of pretty interesting discussion in which Martin came off as refreshingly direct, focused, and devoid of bullshit, Martin mentioned some pretty interesting things. Including…
Short answer: I don’t know. At least he has some new pages from the next alleged book to share.
Longer answer: I’m pretty sure he will.
The biggest question on everyone familiar with the Game of Thrones series is: “Will you finish it?” There seems to be only one book left. And Martin, a writer who usually has great speed as well as skill, took 5 years to write the most recent novel in the series “A Dance With Dragons”. That was seven years ago. He’s been writing the sixth novel since then – in theory. He has also announced that this novel now is next to last.
This question was answered before any discussion with Martin even began: “Yes. He knows. Don’t ask.”
Here’s why I think he is going to finish the original series within the next few years :
Martin really caught my ear with a statement that HBO is currently considering five different possible TV shows in the Game of Thrones universe. At least one is currently moving forward to a pilot.
The final season of Game of Thrones starts broadcast in 2019, and Martin has already told the showrunners the end he plans for Game of Thrones. So the TV series will definitely end, whether or not he completes his versions that he is writing. HBO will be strongly motivated to fill in the hole for its most successful series since the Sopranos. So at least one of those pilots is likely to hit.
And relatedly, Martin shared how in just a couple of months he wrote another 450,000 words in the Game of Thrones universe. Aggravatingly, this still wasn’t the final novel in the original Game of Thrones series. Instead, all of this new text was inspired by setting down the history and backstory of the land of Westeros. As a nod to Tolkien’s encyclopedic history for the world of “Lord of the Rings”, Martin called it his “Grimarillion”.
A selection of that gigantic backstory forms the basis of the new series Martin is launching which occurs before the current Game of Thrones tales.
So frustrating as all of this new text is that doesn’t finish the current job, I think it bodes well.
What Martin might be doing is trying to set the hook of a new series before he finishes the current one. The upside of that is, once one of those new series catches, he might finally be able to finish the current Game of Thrones.
So in essence, and also because I like the worldplay:
He could be trying to maintain his Throne through these sorts of Games.
In the course of the evening, Martin shared his previous experiences in writing before Game of Thrones. He has already had two careers fail. One was as a novel writer, when after several very successful novels he went against all known advice and wrote a fictional apocalyptic fantasy about rock music. It tanked and took his career with it. His agent stopped calling him. (How odd is that? You’d think people would be smart enough to stay with artists who have shown quality. But so it apparently can be.) He had a lot of debt, and that left him over a barrel and needing to scramble very quickly.
That led to his second career, reinventing himself as a TV writer. He wrote for the 80s TV show Beauty and the Beast. (Not to be confused with the comedian Martin Lawrence’s pilot episode Beauty and the Beast. Reality and Google can be quite tricksy). This lasted 3 seasons and then tanked. But this time Martin paid off all of his debts and saved his money.
This, Martin explained, enabled him to have the time and freedom from fear to start his 3rd career. He got to write something he really wanted to write, which ended up being Game of Thrones.
Martin shared this in the context of advice for writers. His summed-up advice is sage: don’t take on any debt you don’t need. It will leave you free to create in a very uncertain career.
So I wonder if Martin’s delays in completing Game of Thrones are, consciously or unconsciously, influenced by wanting to make sure things can continue before he takes another final step of completing something that’s been very good to him.
Martin talked about book production and distribution, and other parts of the more formal business side of writing. Interestingly, but not surprisingly from his position and his stature in the industry, he didn’t consider indie book publishing that much. Of course, he started his third career before self-distributed eBooks and Print On Demand were viable options, so that wouldn’t be part of his needed toolset.
But he also clearly loves books as product and art. This was part of his work with and friendship with the artist John Picacio, who so well introduced and interviewed him.
He also discussed his science fiction fantasy series “Wild Cards”. This came from role-playing games he was playing with other science fiction greats in Santa Fe, including the truly superb Roger Zelazny. They created their own superhero-based RPG, and ended regularly playing four hours and then talking about it until dawn. Martin wanted to monetize it, and so they put a way together.
For Martin, an interesting angle to pursue about the possibility of superheroes was: if you got a super power, would the next thing you do really be to put on tights and fight crime? Or, alternately, would you go knock over a bank? Or set up a business? Or do something else?
This was around the same time that the great comic book writer Alan Moore put forth the legendary watchmen series. Martin considers that both “Watchmen” and the “Wild Card ” series are deconstructing the superhero myth in different ways. With Watchmen, Alan More dealt with the ‘hero’ part. With Wild Cards, Martin was dealing with the ‘super’ part.
Separate from the above, Martin also has a TV pilot coming forth – Night Flyers. It’s based on an early horror story he wrote many years ago.
He answered a question on this with another question: how many children does Scarlet O’Hara have?
Scarlet O’Hara, the heroine of Gone With the Wind, had three in the book, one in the show and none in reality.
So, Martin concluded, he doesn’t mind the variations that producers are applying to characters for the show, and he will continue to write the characters how he wants to in the books.
“I’m power mad, I always want power and control but I have none.”
“Influence is not the same as power. They’ll take your calls and listen to your thoughts. It’s a collaborative process too, you have to remember.”
“As you rise in Hollywood you don’t get more power but you do get more money.”
Martin took a moment to recognize the passing of Steve Ditko. His remembrance led to me writing a separate post just on that. Besides my agreement in acknowledging the passing of a great, I had deep respect for the way Martin held this moment. He showed no fear in acknowledging the sadness of a human being’s passing, and stayed in that moment exactly as long as he felt which gave it the weight that it was due. Death is a fact of life whether we acknowledge it or not. Facing it in ways like this leeches death of its power over us. Keeping it real sets us free.
This acknowledgement also led to Martin to mention that Fantastic Four #20 had his fan letter printed in it. Really this is Martin’s first published work. Some seriously go so far as to say this fan holds insight into his later writing. I don’t know about that in a larger sense, but I love how it shows what a deep fan Martin is. He loves imagination and loves story from his bones, back to his earliest reading days.
I guess, in summation:
George R. R. Martin is an excellent writer, who the only real complaint about is that he is taking too long to give people something they desperately want. I look forward to him finishing the Game of Thrones series – if only so much of fandom can move on and find new things to whinge about.
I recently had the privilege of attending an interview with George R. R. Martin. Near the end of the interview session, Martin discussed the great and recently deceased comic book artist Steve Ditko. Just like the late great Jack Kirby, his fantastic visions shaped characters and gave us amazing vistas to consider. His Dr. Strange was pure psychedelic wonder. A man with a truly unique vision, even down to functional details like creating the corner box.
As his career advanced, he appeared to come under the influence of an ideological disease: objectivism, the formalized ideology of Ayn Rand. Whatever one’s take on objectivism, Ditko’s interpretation did not seem to serve him well. It apparently led him to increasing difficulties in compromising, which made him less able to actively collaborate with others. This seriously affected him and his career, causing him to leave very successful characters that he created behind and making new opportunities for work increasingly scarce.
I think it’s fair to consider this a lesson for all artists, about being able to bend. No one likes to compromise, but to a certain point it is not only important for careers. One cannot win all points, one is not always right. Creative battles can be fought passionately and then lost by one side or the other. Being able to do this without grudges mean more opportunities for good work.
Regardless of what lessons may or not come from his life his talent was immense, and his amazing work commands respect.
Wherever fantastic worlds you may now visit, Mr. Ditko, may you fare well there in joy.
Hello there, and welcome to August: ) It’s bringing enough sci-fi for several newsletters.
Seen on Earth
The most science fiction thing that happened to me recently was having my mind blown live by the band My Bloody Valentine. They played sonic sci-fi mayhem with a surrealist bent; big, bludgeoning walls of tonal magic. The show was both absurdly loud and superb. (Abspurb?). Their closest song to a hit so far – “Only Shallow” – sounded entirely different at a commanding volume.
Here are the number of amps and guitars for just their lead guitarist.
(If you can’t see any of these images, select “Display images below” or similar in your email viewer.)
The whole experience was strong enough to find its way into a novella I’m currently writing. If there is an artist whose music you enjoy, then I heartily recommend you see them whenever possible. Good art in the moment is a powerful and beautiful gift.
In the near Earth future
Two weeks from now in consensus reality, I’ll be attending an evening interview with George R. R. Martin the creator and writer of Game of Thrones. Just a couple of days after that is Worldcon 76, one of the largest and most prestigious Science Fiction conferences in the world. And I expect other interesting things will happen by then as well.
Strange worlds for sale
Throughout August I have a number of different works available for the low price of free. These giveaways also feature many other excellent works by other authors, each also for fifty barrels of nothing – without the barrels.
If you enjoy one of my tales below, please do leave a review on Amazon via the handy linked book titles. It helps keep me in electrons and multidimensional glitter.
|Just try and run out of books to read with Limitless Sci-Fi and Fantasy, featuring my own full-length novel Two-Fisted Jesus Tales, Book 1: The Book of the Job.|
|Experience the Summer of Sorcery with my novella Ghost Magnet, the first in my series Crime and Magic in the New Russia.||And just relax and beat whatever the temperatures are around you, with the August Sc-Fi Takeover – starring the second novella in my “Crime and Magic” series, The Luck Thieves.|
Keep on imagining,
~ j : )
It’s been a busy and productive month for me, as I hope it’s been for you. It’s also been a fun past thirty days, including both the 4th of July and Pride.
Both celebrate independence, and Pride celebrates an independence both personal and public that I find inspiring and fantastic. Amazing levels of creativity and heart-warming amounts of acceptance were on display in parades around the world – just fabulous in all of the best definitions.
In the past 30 days I also was able to take a side trip over to a store known as Paxton Gate. They specialize in strange exhibits and exotic gardening, to educate our youth on both the natural sciences and the unnatural ones.
Sadly their prize piece, a lovely stuffed unicorn, is no longer on display. Some naysayers claimed it was naught but a horse with a narwhal tusk. As a pure coincidence, it turns out it’s no longer legal to display items with narwhal tusks. I’m sure this has nothing to do with the unicorn’s disappearance. Perhaps instead the unicorn was seen by too many non-virgins and has elected to disappear.
There were still many other fantastical beasts on display, including a lovely example of a jackalope.
|Perhaps an ancestor to the modern unicorn? A Unisaur?||A magnificent beast, fearsome in herds with dangerous horns, great speed and near lethal amounts of adorability.||The most unbelievable of all these strange creatures – the so-called “moose”.|
In fiction news, I have new stories in the (non-cryptozoological bunny) hopper and many current tales in bundles.
Strange worlds for sale
For the next few months, I have a number of different works available for the low price of cheap or free. If you end up enjoying one, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviewing can be as easy as selecting the right number of stars and entering a single sentence into your magical keyboard machines.
|My novel “Two-Fisted Jesus Tales, Book 1” is part of the great Amazing Fantasy giveaway through July 20. Many other fine books from other authors are also available here.||
My short story collection “Hyperspace Radio” is available through the excellent SciFi Book Bonanzafrom July 16th through July 22nd. After that it will be available for $.99 for another week, from July 23 toJuly 29.
|My novella “The Luck Thieves”, the second installment in my “Crime and Magic” series, is available through the Judge a Book by its Cover! Giveaway through July31, and the Paranormal Reads giveaway through August 3rd.||And my novella “Ghost Magnet”, which kicked off my “Crime and Magic” series, will be available from Sept 1 through Sept 30th in the Discover Your New Favorite Series giveaway.|
|Finally, “Wishful Thinking” is available as part of the Summer Reading List until September 2nd. It concerns an innovative solution to the “Genie of the Lamp” dilemma – creating a startup company to sell the magic wish.|
Among many other tales, the first book in a heroic fantasy series is also in the works.
I’m also throughly enjoying the world-building for a sequel to my novella “Wishful Thinking”, about a troubleshooter for magical startup companies. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.
Upcoming new authors
On a separate note, my good friend Lillian Dish has just joined our publishing company Mind Fu Media. She writes in the “Cozy Mystery” vein, with an interesting twist that’s all her own. More on her releases soon.
Another new author is the enigmatic Connor McCloud. He’s been described as “Tom Clancy on dirt weed.” I’ve seen what he’s got coming, it’s strong and will surprise you.
I celebrated this recent 4th of July by taking a rare 12 hour block of free time to post years of my accumulated electronica albums to Bandcamp, complete with stylish fractal images what I also made myself. And I was still fully able to enjoy hot dogs and fireworks as our foreparents intended.
It’s interesting to consider how this music fits in with the rest of my artistic output. It seems I enjoy creating music that feels like strange worlds, and then creating instrumental narratives that fit within them.
Check ’em out, and let me know what you think.
All that and I found a new pizza place too.
Once again, thanks for checking out my work! As always, I’d love to hear your feedback on any of my work.
Keep on imagining,
~ j : )
Harlan Ellison, RIP.
What else is there to say of a fantastic writer and a legendarily irascible persona?
There is the memoriam from an excellent modern writer, Cory Doctorow. He salutes Ellison’s great talent and also addresses his prickly nature. Others have pointed out that Ellison as a teacher was, in a common human blindspot, exhibiting exactly t he same bullying behaviors he hated in early teachers of himself. https://boingboing.net/2018/06/28/rip-harlan-ellison.html
There’s also Ellison’s own words on art and commerce, which really should be required listening for artists in our world, whether they agree or disagree.
But the most suitable words I’ve found yet are other words of Ellison’s own, which come from being asked his thoughts on the creative giant Philip K. Dick.
What you’re asking is really two questions: What I think of him as a writer and what I think of him as a human being. As a writer, he was one of the great innovators. He was sweet, man, an absolutely individual talent, and I admired at least 80% of what he wrote.
…As for the human being, it’s an entirely different answer. When he wanted to be charming, he could be. …
You know what? I’m not going to answer. It doesn’t matter what I think. He could do you a solid or be a very unpleasant person. Like Frank Sinatra. Or God…Phil, like God or Frank Sinatra — they’re all deities.
Mr. Ellison, wherever you are, you were a truly magnificent bastard. Thank you for the work.
It’s been a lovely month so far, both creatively and climately. Our planet has had a distinct lack of world-rending apocalypses requiring the intervention of a rogue hero with a code of honor, or a plucky band of misfits, or an elite team of professionals coming back to save the world one last time.
As I write this, I just attended an actual Corgi convention. I don’t have dogs myself, but I was curious to see these ferocious animals of war. As you may know, in Welsh myth Corgis are the chosen battle mounts for faeries. I didn’t happen to see any fae war games featuring these cheerful, doughty compatriots. But there’s always next year.
|Probably not a Corgi.|
In fictional news, I am proud to release a new novella “The Luck Thieves”. As the second in the series “Crime and Magic in the New Russia, it continues the adventures of Aurelian the thief and his love Lyita. In the streets of St. Petersburg, a bullet can kill you just as dead as magic. it’s just the magic you don’t see coming.
I expect to release a third novella in this series very soon, perhaps even in the next month.
In other new production news, many readers have told me they also enjoy audiobooks so I’ve started making them. I’m going through the different short stories in my collection Hyperspace Radio. They’re available online in podcast form for few months, so if you’re curious give them a listen.
Cheers, and thanks for checking out my writing.
Psyched to release a new novella, and the second in a series. “The Luck Thieves” continues the adventures of Aurelian and Lyita in the strange world of crime and magic that is St. Petersburg.
Proud to announce a new book! A collection of my many completed short stories to date.
Now available on pre-order, and fully released tomorrow May 15. Print edition available soon also.
And thanks to you all who keep inspiring me to keep on writing. : )
Proudly announcing that I’m a lead Earth correspondent for the intergalactic, interdimensional and multiversal Hyperspace Radio podcast!
This is a rough draft, a work in progress.
* * *
She decided to read her comment one more time before posting it. It looked good. No, it looked better than good. It was perfect.
It had taken her hours at home on her laptop, when she could have been enjoying many other things. But she had had enough. In the middle of responding to the previous commenter, who had been relentlessly dismissive and insulting, Mae had crafted the perfect response. Through a lucky happenstance, a random typo had led her to thinking more deeply about things she’d never considered. This train of thought had led her nearly instantaneously to musings she’d had in the back of her mind without being addressed, her entire life. In some ways, even before she’d learned to speak and was just beginning to experience her first sparks of awareness.
A bit about existentialism, and awareness, and the place of people in the world and the larger universe, and something that really resolved everything while also telling the other person how wrong they were – in a way that not only proved Mae was right with the universe, but that the other person also simply could not deny admitting no matter how they tried.
She looked it over, and reached forward to hit “Enter” on her keyboard.
A hand reached out from nowhere and grabbed hers before she could complete the stroke.
“What the fuck?” she blurted, shocked. The rest of the hand around her wrist emerged from a … a hole in the air, she realized.
The hole enlarged, and the person leaned through a bit further. He was encased entirely in a grey-green suit of what looked like plastic, with a plexiglass globe for a helmet that showed glowing lights throughout the inside.
“Oh my God!” he said, speaking back into the hole that hung in the air in the middle of her room. “We did it, people! We found her! Oh thank whatever might exist!”
She heard light cheering, coming impossibly from further inside the hole he was reaching from. She looked inside it, to see barely lit cracked concrete walls and a few other people, in similar suits. Their suits were all in some states of disrepair – patched and sewn with material that didn’t match at all.
“Who the hell are you?” asked Michelle.
He faced Michelle, still leaning forward out of a hole in the air in her bedroom. “Listen Michelle,” the guy said, in his suit. “You can’t send that!”
“But it proves I’m right!” she protested. “And – and it could really make things better! It really has – I’m talking about-”
“Don’t tell me!” he screamed. “The rest of us are only still individuals because we didn’t hear it!” He almost looked towards the monitor, and shuddered. He turned off the monitor, and pushed her back from the keyboard.
“Michelle, that’s exactly the problem. You had an internet argument with a jerk, and you found the secret. Whatever it is, somehow you found a way to change his mind and convince him you were right! Then everyone else who read that comment also convinced. Your comment pierced the ego defense mechanism of all human minds, effortlessly.”
“But that’s great!” said Michelle.
“It’s not great,” the guy said. “As a result, as that comment spread, everyone’s egos on Earth just melted. They no longer had a way to disagree with her. And it turned out that our egos were the only thing holding back our consciousnesses merging on a quantum level.”
Michelle narrowed her eyes. “So…?”
“So as that comment went viral across the Internet, the melded consciousnesses snowballed until all of humanity became one mind. We no longer had individual points of view. We became one large wriggling sentient mass.”
“Okay,” said Michelle. “So…humanity then became one being? Almost a God?”
“Maybe that’s what we could have been. But the problem was we were still assholes! We hadn’t worked through how to not be shitty – basically, our crazy. We evolved to the next step too early! Left to our own for even a century longer, we might have become mature enough to handle massive, godlike collective intelligence as one being. Instead, when your comment spread, we became one giant 7 billion-person sentient complete asshole!” He shuddered. “The resulting crazy thing has simultaneously expanded into quantum time and ruined the entire globe! The human race is worse than doomed – it’s become a giant asshole that’s producing nothing but shit!”
“But I…” she looked at the screen and back at him. “But I’m right! Are you telling me I just have to let this go, when I’m actually right?”
“How important is this internet argument to you?” he asked. “How much time is this guy worth? Let alone potentially destroying all of humanity before we could advance to our next level and *not* be a giant asshole?”
“We always have to be quiet though!” she said. “We women have to go along or not hurt egos, all these things…”
“Go ahead and hurt egos!” he said. “I’m just telling you your best-case scenario, actually changing this troll asshole’s mind, is a disaster. You cannot change his mind. He doesn’t want to change his mind.” He reached over with his other hand. “Can I – just so we don’t accidentally…” shielding his eyes from even seeing the comment that she’d typed, he pulled the cord out of her computer keyboard. He sighed with relief, and turned off her monitor. Only then did he let go of her arm.
She rubbed her arm, and frowned. “Well…if it’s so bad, how’d you survive?”
Through his glass bowl helmet, his eyes became haunted. “We escaped the initial barrage of memes only because our cellphones were dead at the time. When everyone started talking at the same time, we pretended we were mutes until we reached the sewers. There we waited until we found ourselves near one of it’s sentient quantum-altering mind-shits.” He shivered, leaned back and heaved a bit, then regained his strength. “That was something you never want to experience. We followed it back here in time and space. I’ve tried many times to stop this moment. This last time I was able to punch through the second before it began. Now that timeline can undo itself.”
His voice became choked.[ argument could start here?] “I only have a little time left before it mentally flushes. Don’t make our sacrifice in vain. Don’t make that comment! Just let that asshole disagree!” The figure faded, as the hole disappeared.
Michelle looked at where the hole in the air had been, and back to her keyboard She reconnected it, turned on the computer monitor, and looked again at what she had been about to send.
She stared at it for a good minute, cherishing how well written it was.
Then she erased it, called the commenter a stupid ass instead, and signed up for some yoga.