Fighting the Good Fight

And then there was light...

Short Story - "Karma"
I've decided to post this sucker, just because I like it and I don't have a lot of time with my full time job and working on nonfiction articles and trying to sell the novel to market short stories too.

Let me know what you think, if you read it!  Many thanks!

Be warned - some adult content & at least one disturbing scene I can think of. No porn, just wrong & freakish.

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Journey Into The Red Book: Liber Primus
If you get a sec, check out the essay I wrote on Jung's Red Book, "Liber Primus" - would be very open to hearing feedback/alternate takes on this work.

Check out the essay here

And be sure and poke around the online magazine, Escape into Life - it's really great! Some lovely gems in art, writing and critique can be found there, ncluding the graphic novel posted there (written by the magazine's editor), "Lethe Bashar's Novel of Life: Las Vegas"

Marketing an Artistic Community
So, something actually came together for me around what it really means to reach out to people as a writer or any purveyor of abstracticities. I was in a "How to Market Your Book" panel at Orycon 31 yesterday, and in listening to the panelists talk and banter back and forth how you should proceed to market your book, it hit me that the scenarios they really described as working or "successful" were pretty organic, and more about the marketer forgetting about marketing and just pursuing something that interested them. Same with blogs. At least one panelist (and I saw people nodding in agreement in the audience) mentioned how most blogs of writers were "boring" if all they did was expound on the day to day of your average writer's life. I am one who wholeheartedly agrees. In fact, I can't even bring myself to write that stuff - had breakfast, wrote 2000 words, went for a walk, got a good idea for one of the plot points that I wrote down, oh, and here's this great idea I had to make character #3 more interesting...


It's just not that interesting. Not even to me, apparently, and it's ostensibly my life, at least in part. Not to say it's not comforting for other writers to read some of this stuff, including myself...and to realize that pro writers suffer a lot of the same stresses and boredoms and blockages as newbies...but it's not likely to get non-writers all that jazzed.

So it goes back to being someone who is interested in things. Not just themselves (which, let's face it, those writerly blogs are really kind of a self-description), but about something else that intersects with the interests of other people. It's more like the community-building approach of most websites and web-networking strategists, but (hopefully) less overtly manipulative.

I think the problem is, with marketing, as with everything, most people are thinking of themselves. As in, how will I sell MY book, how do I get people interested in MY product so I can make more money for ME, etc., etc. Which isn't horrible or anything, but I think isn't going to interest anyone else very much. You almost have to start thinking of it as, "Look, I have this really cool world I want you to come live in with me," if that's your gig, and you're really into a particular world or book, or, you have to be into something else in the world, and be passionate about it, and passionate about other people who are into it too.

In other words - F*** marketing! Be into things! Want other people to be into things with you! Be an enthusiast, as Ray Bradbury would say...and care about bringing something cool into the world, not just about getting people to pay your bills for you. Restated yet again, have something to give.

I think when you look at a Stephanie Meyer or even a JRR Tolkien, they really sold people a world, not a book. When you look at people like Cory Doctorow, he cares about stuff, and is trying to make a difference. Neil Gaiman is a personality, not just a collection or work, and he gave the goths something to love in comic books, a whole aesthetic style that mirrored their own and gave it mythical import and very cool graphics. People give people a way to look at themselves or the world. Writers need to see themselves as idealism generators, and culture makers, not just as capitalists. People want to see themselves differently, and that's not something they do with their heads, at least not fully...it's also a bit of a responsibility, and why art is so important.

Somehow, the artistic community seems to have forgotten that over the years. I can't think of a single area of it right now that is about a community of writers/artists (other than in isolated pockets) that are working together to make the world a better, more interesting, more colorful place. It's the same reason Burning Man appealed to people, why the beat poets of the 1960s remain iconic, and the musicians all the way through the Vietnam era. Our artists, despite all the craziness happening in the world right now...are pretty silent. People can complain about the Twilight books as much as they want, but she's offered young people an alternative to the hyper-materialistic culture most are faced with, and it doesn't seem like most of us have.

You could argue there is only a "market" (meaning a cultural and individual interest) in escapism right now, but again, that misunderstands the role and power of art. It's not a one-way street. The fact that accountants have done most of the art trading over the years, in movies and in books, make us start to think like them, but the reality is, art can't be purely reactionary to be successful, it needs to be leading the way, at least in part.

Anyway, I for one would love to see a very cool movement around art that's about making the world a better place...not for the sake of cleverness or money, but due to a real interest in the world and in crafting a new way of seeing it. There are books that go there - Cory Doctorow's Little Brother is a good example of this, and in my view, so is The Road by Cormac McCarthy (the book anyway, I haven't seen the movie). There need to be more voices added to this chorus...more visions on igniting that spark of rebellion and hope that make people want to wake up and do something different. Because really, we can talk about social systems and health care and economics all we want, the real problem to me seems to be the apathy that has taken over so much of the world, especially in the United States, the utter unwillingness to have hope that things could be different or better.

Anyway, that's my thought on "marketing".

Reserach on Religion in SF and Fantasy
So I've been meaning to compile these for awhile - this is some of the research I did before the panel on Religion in Science Fiction and Fantasy at the recent World Fantasy Convention at the end of October. It's a fairly incomplete list, because I admit I was doing day job work and editing on the novel more than researching for this, but I found some interesting stuff, most of which I didn't get a chance to reference much in the panel itself:

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random thoughts...like Jack Handy
Random thought #1:
More and more, I'm beginning to think no one is ever persuaded by fact. Even those who are persuaded by fact aren't persuaded by the facts themselves, but by the idea of facts, the notion that such a thing as "fact" can be pinned down and be determined to exist. The idea of fact reassures them, gives them some sense of place and constancy in the world...a sense of control in other words. I'm not saying that one should disbelieve those facts, but perhaps to think about the fact (!) that we are all prisoners of the stories we need to give our lives meaning. That's the power of fiction really, and why I honestly believe it has more inherent power to shape consciousness than any constellation of facts, no matter how well articulated or expressed.

Random thought #2:
The idea that a universal truth might exist strikes me as an interesting one. I think if it does, it's a moving target, and in no way able to be summed up by a liturgy of facts, no matter how extensive. Those facts would of necessity live in the world of the senses, which cannot encompass the entirety of reality, no matter how materialistic one's world view, in that we cannot perceive so many things that we know, at least in theory, must exist. Those we can extrapolate from circumstantial evidence will always remain theories to some extent, and also as a list must always be incomplete, because logic dictates that other phenomena must exist that don't leave trace evidence that our senses can perceive. I think truth will always end up being, even by the most well-meaning of seekers, like the story of the eight blind men and the elephant, where one describes it as a rope, one a tree, one a fan, one a wall.

Random thought #3:

One's milk should never be thicker than one's cereal. If it is, do yourself a favor, and desist.

Random thought #4:
I saw a dance performance the other night that really made me think differently about the whole East-West divide and how the evolution of self identification could be highly benefited by some time with China and the East in a position of cultural dominance (or at least equality) on the stage of world media. The dance producer, Shen Wei, is from Hunan province originally I believe, now lives in NYC, and seemed to me to be realizing some of the inherent tensions and complexities of these two worlds in the nature of his choreography and subject matter. He did a brilliant job of illustrating the beauty of both individualism and of the collectivist mentality...in fact, his entire piece on China seemed to be fascinated with and driven by the tension between those two human identification impulses. It really made me think about the positive marrying of these two identities, in that the individualism of the West can breed a separatist, lonely and self-centered identification that is often based (ironically) on a form of conformism that denies its own existence...whereas the collectivism of the East can both squash individual expression and difference, and lend itself much more easily to fascism. The marriage of the higher modalities of each (which I believe was Shen Wei's interest and concern as well), seems to me to be a quite inspirational goal, and a way of viewing the "changing of the guard", culturally-speaking, as quite a beautiful thing, providing it is managed with some openness to change and evolution on both sides. Of course, as human beings, we have trouble with viewing such intense, identity-oriented changes as anything other than the most serious threat to our very existence...so I fully expect it can only occur with some level of conflict, misunderstanding and even bloodshed. Still, the potential is there, and I find that very heartening, and a much more productive way to think of the shift in power across the globe!

Random thought #5:
We need to develop a love of the idea of space exploration again. That's one thing I really love about the new Star Trek movie...that love of exploration, of new places, of adventure, of fun. We need to stop basing on our idealism on the past. For one thing, it's just stupid - basing our model of the perfect world on the past will only breed frustration and escapism. We need to create a new idealism of the future, one based on the challenge of new frontiers...of the excitement of new vistas and challenging new problems that aren't just about luxury and gadgetry and distraction and scarcity, but have to do with exploring the very nature of our relation with the world and everything in it and entail partnership in the face of seemingly overwhelming challenges. We need to stop avoiding work as our pleasure and go back to the pleasure of real triumph from obstacles overcome...ultimately I think that's why sports are so popular again, but sports will never be a driving force for meaning that can fully satisfy, for ultimately it is the mock battle, not the battle itself. Nothing substantial can be effected through the mere avoidance of discomfort and the seeking of diversion and avoidance of boredom. The idea that this has become the driving force under capitalism weakens all of us as a species and takes away much of what makes life worth living.

Time Twist by Lizzy Shannon

This is a really fun read - has been perfect for me these last few days, in that I've been a bit sick and it's really easy to get immersed in without forcing me to think too much, ha. I love the villain - he is my favorite villain I've read in this kind of book in quite some time! Definitely for the Star Trek fan types, as it's not so much written to be a scientific treatise on time travel possibilities as it is where time travel is used as a device to play with character and add some neat twists to the plot.

A perfect fireplace read!

To buy the book and see other reviews, click here

Motor City Murder
Check out my friend Megan Johnson's new book, Motor City Murder.  To purchase, hit the link on the picture, as it's a better deal for the author if you go directly through the publisher site. I also wrote a review on Amazon, for more information about the book.


Asia's bid for global dominance

Reposted from a blog by mrmmarc on the fate of the EU given the creation of a massive economic bloc in Asia. He provided some great links, which I'm going to repost here, and framed them in good questions:

if it takes the combined negtiating power of the EU to manage to remain on equal footing with China... how the hell can we cope with what seems to be coming out of Asia today?

The idea of an EU style super Asian grouping of nations was once seen as silly.
But latest news is that its coming- and coming much faster than one would imagine...

I mean is THIS the ground work for a single SE Asian currency?  Ecomonic co-operation is one thing- but financial co-operation likes this is a one way street...
I commented on his page, and will reiterate here, I'm increasingly astonished by the base level of naivete and ignorance I encounter when I broach this subject with people in the United States. Either they don't see Asia as a realistic competitor in some sense (or maybe "only" as an economic competitor, not a military one??), or they think it doesn't matter who maintains cultural and economic dominance on the world scene, at least not to their everyday lives. Maybe because the Cold War with Russia didn't produce an actual hot war? Maybe just racism, or complacency about being "Number 1" for so long? I don't know the reason, but it bewilders me.

Personally, I find the idea of our world arena being led by an essentially non-democratic, heavily capitalist system in a culture that doesn't value individual lives in the same way the West purportedly does...much less any semblance of rights for said individual...is scary. I'm not referencing the Chinese people in this so much as their government...but the shift in cultural norms is almost too big to contemplate as well.
The United States really needs to stop eating itself on domestic issues and join the world community. Until they stop acting and thinking as though we are the center of the universe, we won't be able to influence anything in terms of the shape of things to come, at least not in a way that's positive. We need to be thinking about the interrelatedness of economic actors on the world scene, not in the self-centered "individualist" sense that we tend to approach matters of state (much as we as individuals do in our everyday lives, myself included). We need to be working towards things like global minimum wages and basic human rights...not quibbling over who should be allowed to bleed to death on the street in our own country and who is worthy of the "privilege" of healthcare.
Sadly though, I think we may run out of time. The world is moving quickly around us, and we seem to be missing the conversation altogether. And how convenient that we managed to dismantle our Bill of Rights in preparation for the change. Maybe GW was ahead of the curve after all...

But really, can we stop thinking about ourselves and start imagining global solutions? It shouldn't be about maintaining the right for the US to exploit and impoverish other nations versus China's right to do it instead of us...should it?

Inglourious Basterds - a bit late to the discussion
This is a bit dated now, but a review I wrote for Inglourious Basterds, the most recent Tarantino flick:

I've liked a lot of Tarantino movies, and thought just about all of them were quite cleverly done, but I must say, until I saw this movie, I never thought of him as an out-and-out genius. This is by far one of the best movies I've ever seen, and totally changed my view of what Tarantino is capable of as a filmmaker. I was blown away by the way this story was woven together - by the sheer brilliance of the structure, the subtlety of the performances and the depth of the emotional content. It is fantasy, but not purposeless fantasy.

I also think it demonstrates (along with Defiance, which actually is historically accurate, or as much as a Hollywood movie can be), that we as a society, and especially the Jewish community, have come to a new phase of our emotional recovery from the Holocaust. For those who disparagingly label this a "Jewish revenge fantasy" you're absolutely right. Why that is a bad thing, or why it offends some people is completely beyond me. Films like this and feelings like this are a part of the normal grieving process only happening on a societal, rather than an individual scale. They also show that we are not, nor are we likely to be anytime soon...past the effect the Holocaust had on all of us as people. Movies often reflect and amplify where a society is in this process...just like they did with the Vietnam war (where we went from Taxi Drive, to Rambo, to Platoon)...the timescale is just a lot longer with the Holocaust because the level of inhumanity and horror and grief and guilt is so extreme. There have been plenty of movies with Jews as victims...frankly, I'm tired of seeing those, and I no longer learn anything new from that view of he Holocaust. I found this reimagining of events much more insightful in that it gave me a new way to look at the events of WWII, a subject which has always fascinated, repelled and haunted me.

Anyway, I'm of German/Polish Catholic heritage, and I can tell you, it was damned cathartic for me to see Jews blowing away those Nazi bastards. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe. It also means that a part of me still feels the deep injustices of that war, and wants some way to make it okay. In reality, I can't...but Tarantino's film toys with and teases out and examines all of those emotions in a way that struck me a truly genius, and I walked away grateful.

I guess that it bothered some people might mean that it worked?

Off to Seattle & Kevin Smith...and then the Pamir?
So, off to seattle tomorrow to see Kevin Smith at Benaroya. Can't wait! They lost my tickets in the mail, but was actually able to fix through ticketmaster so now they'll be at will call.

Much needed time away from Portland, as funny as that is, given that I just got back from San Diego. Maybe it's much needed time away from my day job? I'm feeling pretty sucked into the political hell of office life, a place for which I am very poorly suited...partly because I just can't bring myself to care, so I consistently get myself in trouble with the things that come out of my mouth, and partly because I care too much, in that I think it's a horrible way to spend your life as a human being, and it saddens me to see how much people often do invest in activities that matter so little in the greater scheme of things. 

I spent a lot of time reading more meditative things while in San Diego, and it made me long to return to India, and the Himalayas especially. I am thinking that as soon as I get rid of the remainder of the debt, it will be a one way ticket back there, for at least the duration of a six month visa. Some time spent with my Tibetan friends near the light of the Dalai Lama and where I can hike and write and drink good coffee would not be amiss. Money certainly is not the point of being alive.

Hopefully, living there on a few grand for so many months, I can eke out enough for a plane ticket back when that precious green (or my tolerance for a lack of clean water and foot pedal toilets) runs out...  :)

I have been dreaming of India lately though. Not sure what that means, other than the writing leaking back into my existence again. What I'd really like to see is the Pamir, as that's been figuring into the writing the most, but that would be a bit of a jaunt...but very lovely (see pic above).


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