Month: June 2020

When the Classics Hurt

I love old stuff. I think you know I love old stuff. From classic rock to Claremont-era X-Men, Conan the Barbarian to the Dark Crystal. I love old media. But old media has a LOT of problems. Namely, racism, sexism, and all the other evils we of the post-modern era are heir to. (Also, could we enter a new era already? Post-modern was always such a pretentious title. Even worse than calling the period between 1870s and 1930s “modern.”)

What am I talking about? I’m talking about how older media often contains harmful depictions of women, people of color, African or Asian culture, Jewish stereotypes, LGBTQ stereotypes, etc. Do I really have to draw this out? Conan the Barbarian comes right out and says it: Between the times when the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the sons of Aryas. Who’s Aryas? Who do you think? He’s Robert E. Howard’s fictional ancestor to the “Aryan Race” because Robert E. Howard was a big ol’ racist. Fantasy has deep roots in racism and colonialism. There’s no denying that. I mean, you could deny it. You’d be wrong, but you could deny it.

“Colors of the Wind” is a beautiful song, but Pocahontas is an ahistorical mess, filled with noble savage stereotypes and reeking of the white savior narrative. I love “John Carter” to death, but it’s no coincidence that the movie version skips over the awkwardness of a white guy from Earth (A Confederate soldier, no less) being the most powerful man on a multicultural world. (Fun Fact: If they’d recast John Carter as a freed slave fighting for the North who becomes the most powerful man on Mars, suddenly the movie gets 10x better.)

Look, racism is real, alive, and well in the 21st century. Most white people like myself are blind to it. Worse, most refuse to even acknowledge the fact.

What do we do? In this case, the obvious answer is to chuck the classics. And I’d gleefully do so, faster than you can say “Tear down that Robert E. Lee statue.” But there’s a problem. Much of this old stuff is an integral part of my childhood, my upbringing. Of me. They’re my stories. They’re a part of me, warts and all. I can no sooner deny them than deny my own family.

And that’s my main problem with the Left nowadays. Anything less than 100% commitment to anti-bigotry is unacceptable. And in truth, that’s probably a good thing. Bigotry is, after all, bad.

But is there a way to embrace the old stuff without embracing the bigotry embodied within it? I don’t know. I hope so. Is all this just an exercise in white guilt, wherein I pray for absolution from the New Gods of Social Justice? Maybe. Probably. I don’t have any answers, just questions. And sometimes, questions are what we need.

Book News: 6/20/20

Listening to classic rock while I type in our book update for today. Current draft is complete! Sending it out to a couple more people to look over. At least the first three chapters. If those are good, I should be ok.

Classic rock figures because I’m a very old-fashioned kind of guy. I like old TV shows and old movies, old comics and old novels. I like the new stuff too. I’m just not as familiar with it. I think it comes from having older parents who preferred older things themselves. My mom loves antiquing, and I love older toys. There you go.

My novel is somewhat old-fashioned in the sense that it’s a quest story. Those are harder to sell nowadays in fantasy circles. The whole “Chosen One” trope has been done to death. Heck, it had been done to death by the time Robert Jordan came around, and that was 30 years ago now.

Anyway, my novel does have a twist on the chosen one trope, though you don’t know it until the very end. I can’t tell you what it is, but don’t worry. I’ll tell any interested agents/editors. That way, I can sell the darn thing.

And then when this book is done, I have enough material for at least one sequel. Will it be a trilogy? Maybe. Aiming for more of an ongoing series feel, opening up into a shared world at some point. That’s the dream. Create an intriguing enough setting so fanfic–ahem–other authors can come in and tell their own stories there.

This book is set during the Third Age, the last “civilized” age before the unrestricted chaos of the Fourth Age and the watery grave of the Fifth. The world is destined to eventually be run over with monsters before the sea swallows the land again. Then the cycle repeats, with the sky and the sea renewing their ages-old conflict. It’s a whole thing.

But you don’t care about that. What about the characters? Well, there’s Terrwyn, my dark-skinned, female protagonist. Is she a Strong Woman? I guess. She can fight really well. She has her own thoughts and opinions, strengths and insecurities as anyone else. Same with Calin, the shapechanger who accompanies her. Croli’s probably the most stable of the bunch. He’s the wizard/mentor figure. Gets some of the best lines. Elenne is the smarty-pants. She comes in around the two-thirds mark.

Previous feedback informed me she was giving too much exposition, so I cut that stuff back. Now I just have characters alluding to stuff without explaining it immediately after. It works. Mostly. I think it works.

Anyway, the whole thing is about 75,000 words, which is somewhat short for a fantasy novel. That’s by design. I don’t want to write another door-stopper. I love them, but they move so freakin’ slow. And I generally have three or four books going at once. Door-stoppers make it harder to read multiple books at once because you have to keep track of so much stuff.

At least I have plenty of time.

Also, I made this:

It’s cute, right?

Book Update 6-2-20


Seriously, though. I try not to get political on social media so as to appear appetizing to potential employers, customers, and friends. But I’m not an appetizer. I’m a person with thoughts and feelings. Right now I know and feel that what is happening right now is exactly what needs to happen. We need positive change in America. White supremacy has to end. The evil must be vanquished once and for all. No matter the cost.

What can we do to that end? I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.

Now for your regularly-scheduled book progress thing:

Currently working on chapter 30 of what’s looking to be a 37-chapter book. Probably around 80,000 to 85,000 words. Which is still pretty short for an adult fantasy novel. As if selling a quest story wasn’t hard enough in today’s market.

Anyway, I can always take out the swear words, dial back on the violence (not much sex to dial back on), and market it as YA. But there’s so much YA fantasy already.

Granted, a lot of it is YA romance, but them’s the breaks.

Actually, I’m not altogether sure on that last bit. I know YA romance is huge, but I don’t think it’s as big a component as it was in the Twilight days. Maybe, maybe not. More research is needed.

I know I need more gender diversity in my writing. The current novel really has none. There’s an argument to be made for the wizards being gay, but if it’s not mentioned in-text, it ain’t canon. Sorry, fanfic writers!

At least there’s plenty of cultural and racial diversity. Somewhat, anyway. My main character is a dark-skinned female human. Her companions are a dark-skinned male, a pale nokken, and a pale female. Not many elves in this one, not in the first half, anyway. Elves are all white-skinned. That has more to do with what elves are. Their paleness is where their name comes from. Elf derives from “alba,” Latin for white.

Keep in mind, pale skin was and is quite rare among humans. It was seen as a sign of otherworldliness by the ancients.

Or maybe I’m just making stuff up. I’m no anthropologist. Anyway, the elves are white, and the goblins are green.

No orcs, though. Leave those to Tolkien.