Method – Without Apology (with Tangential Review of Ender’s Game)

 

I read quite a bit.

Right now, I’m finishing up Ender’s Game, and, frankly, I appreciate Card’s tempo and delivery. The book is a simple read in comparison to other military science fiction I’ve read, and especially pleasing in comparison to some other epic science fiction I’ve been consumed by recently. Herbert, for example, is not a simple read. While Dune is no leisurely stroll through the park, I speak specifically of examples like Destination: Void. I won’t mention Joyce here, but will say that Thomas Pynchon is similarly challenging – not necessarily to read and finish and comprehend, but to follow. You think you comprehend Palahniuk, but I doubt you follow him – I seriously doubt you register the disposition of the universe in the same way, and that is not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

My decision to read Ender’s Game again comes via pressure from JD, who I suggested read the book before the new movie was released.

Relative tangent: I believe the movie was a success in that it’s translation to a medium, like live-action cinema, that society feels it can only take two hours of at a time, and that studios feel absolutely must appeal to every sex, race, and level of intelligence, still managed to stay true to the major plot of the story while retaining certain key scenes that weren’t absolutely necessary. That being said, I feel a lot of what was changed in the movie from the book was done so without truly making sense. In the book, the key scene occurs right before the final chapter in which it is revealed ****SPOILER**** that humanity needed the reckless innocence of a child, the oblivious mind of a killer, and true empathy of the enemy, to eradicate a species it feared; and, that the only way to combine those into a military genius was to trick the subject into playing out the scenario as an inconsequential game, where only ego was the driving force behind the pursuit of victory.

JD has since completed the Ender series, and is nearly finished with the Shadow series which follows Bean’s side of the story. It is my intent to follow her lead and continue the series.

Alas, Ender’s Game is not the point of this post. Or is it? Hmm. This post, as indicated in the title, is about method.

In the seven years I have been maintaining a regular blog, I have followed and read a large number of fellow aspiring writers. Very rarely have I ever followed the blog of a writer who is published traditionally – though, without needing to be said, the blogsphere contains a glut of self-publishers, and my list of followed blogs contains an excessively large number of writers that fall into that category.

My purpose in following a blog by an aspiring fiction writer, is not to be inspired by the occasional success of a peer, or glean some previously unrealized shortcut to the method. I read other writers as a general watches maneuvers of an enemy force, or, and I apologize for allowing mention of organized sport to taint the pages of this blog, as a coach watches films of his opponents. I am not indicating to you that I look derisively upon my amateur unpublished contemporaries, quite the opposite is true. Until I, myself, am published in the traditional manner, as I have set as my goal, then I remain a launchie, just like everyone else.

I am not going to pontificate on the real reasons why any person should be so foolish as to attempt to make a living as a writer. I prefer to take the position that living, itself, creates the writer. There is no style in abstinence of participation in society and the modern human condition.

Like in Battle School, where every army and its leader has their standard formations and general favored disposition, there are plenty of methods and approaches to writing that work, but that does not mean any of them are the most effective, or should elevated as THE method.

I tend towards derision when witnessing the starving artist formation, and I see it quite often. Every human has an arsenal of individual talents that lend themselves toward the successful execution of “writing” as a career, or even just as a hobby. Why clump your talents into one massive offensive, hoping resilient turtling at the attacks that time set upon you will eventually outlast the forward motion of everything around you, so that at long last the battlefield is yours because you “never compromised on your dreams”?

Strive for polymathy.

Another tangent here: I do play MMORPGs quite a bit, and I find the ridiculous insistence that there is a perfect spec, build, rotation, and rigid method to every class to be quite tiring. Who deserves the more credit? The PvP junkie that looks and games like every other member of his class ranked higher than zero, and dominates through rote? Or, could it be the unconventional build that manages to create chaos in the typically repetitive and predictable combat model? Unfortunately, game designers feel an unnecessary need to appease gamers that can only be satisfied in absolutes – random seems to be something they think should remain on an MP3 player, and chaos might as well be a sinister spy organization.

Any declaration, by anyone of any caliber, that “writing” is their sole talent, belies their grasp of the basic concepts of art, and what exactly art is. I grow weary of the approach that the greatest artists in the history of civilization were, and are, those that never stop doing the one thing they consider to be their “craft” or their “art”. Should we give credit to the artistry of serial murder, if the perpetrator really devoted himself to nothing but his craft his entire life? A bad example, I admit. We would give him no more credit if he was a skilled murderer AND a musical virtuoso. Their devotion did not make those people – I mean artists, not serial killers – successful and widely acclaimed celebrities in their artistic fields. Other people did. And, truthfully, I would wager that the majority of writers who found success by that method, owe their success to the eccentricity and greed of the individuals that sold their strife to the world as the key ingredient to their art.

If you suffer for your art, you do not understand the game. And, indeed, it is a game. And Guardians DO have shitty DPS – but I like the way the gear matches my eyes.

I write for one reason only:

Original chaos.

 

Interlude – Breaking Henry Backman

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Lars is down. Ben Jones took a dive off Turtle Bridge in a ’94 MX3, like the rolling toad he is. And, as arithmetic would suggest, that leaves only three of the five of us alive and well in the canyons of this darkened landscape of the human condition.

We said we would take this gem to our graves, our hands wrapped tightly around its undulating flesh as the shovels deposited the inevitable blanket of earth over our cold and wicked bodies. I enjoyed the sound of it – the pleasing vibrations of an end to the long and arduous ballet. But, alas, this story is not over.

This story is just beginning.

We were twenty-first century men, alive and alone in the great beyond. Lars inherited a Ulysses Rockhopper from his great-uncle, Yemmi. Lars used to joke that his great-uncle was the last great cosmonaut of the original space race – the last monkey shot into space on the dollars of men, the rockets of blood, breaching the gravity of man’s stagnation. The four of us – five if you consider Lars himself was ever so effective at the art of self-deception – knew the connection was a farce. The old space age had been dead longer than the last new space age had lasted. Energy – the unattainable become available, commercially – was not the hurdle it used to be, and so, it was not unheard of for a middle class, blue-collar family to have had access to a personal starship at some point in the waxing and waning of the interplanetary wanderings of our race.

Lars was ecstatic to test the old spaceheap’s limits, and Titan was not good enough for him. We packed a year’s worth of life support supplies, planning to hit Europa and Triton along the way to the Oort Cloud. It would be the furthest any of us had gone, privately or on commercial spacelines – a mind-bending journey relative to the westward drug-hazed road trips of yore. Gonzo space opera for the pulp western vigilante disciples, a fifteen cent rack of Lovecraft and Howard ridden like Slim Pickens rode a nuclear lullaby to the end of the world.

The Rockhopper was built solid, though the water barrier had tendencies to pocket. For that reason, one of us was always on the radiation dial. Turns did funny thing’s to the pond-shield, and while the ship had the latest virtual intelligence modules, Lars insisted on flying the craft with his hands – and sometimes his feet. Ben was our co-pilot, but when it was his turn to fly, he let the VI take the wheel.

You probably know this, but towards the end of this century of ours, the synthetic psychedelic supernova that blitzed our star system after the Solar Union struck down the last interplanetary ban on the recreational drugs brought an infinite universe of experiences to the human soul. I entered the ship with about a liter of Doctor Karn Segram’s Holy Hell in a Boot, and erupted in a rage of goat-wheezing fury before we even passed the asteroid belt. The trip was a series of rude awakenings from enlightenment and trascendence. Old Billy, one of the three finalists in this tale, died during a seizure and had to be resuscitated by the shipboard medbot. Kelly tells me he’d been popping Jelly Babies and washing them down with Sonic Screwdrivers – a Whovian meltdown, no less. Ben was the lightweight, preferring organic marijuana and single malt scotch – but, damn, was he a violent drunk.

I believe Kelly was the only one of us that stayed sober during that jaunt, and I believe it was a good thing for us to be anchored by his solid stance. Kelly was gravity in the void of space – at the time, necessary, for we were apes of our own momentum bearing force without, spiraling through the deep black of the mind, tending to stay in motion, as the fairy tale goes.

We were just passing the first of the iceberg spheres that marked the boundaries of the Oort Cloud, when Lars bit it for us. Kelly had been taking a nap in the null-grav deck, and Lars was pleasing himself in V-Sim. In the days of motorized land travel, they had something called black ice, and while not the same phenomenon as seen in Earth, our introduction to black ice ended with the same results.

Space plays strange tricks at the edge of and beyond the heliosphere. The sun may always be behind you, but that doesn’t always mean the obstacles before you are going to show up illuminated like New Vegas and Titanshine. In hindsight, I begin to think Lars had us on the darkside of an iceberg, blanking the chunk of ice that nearly ended us.

The initial impact ripped through the pond-shield, dumping a third of our protective water into space. While the VI had the breach iced in less than five minutes, the damage had been done. Old Billy had been in a syntho-psilocybic coma when the accident occurred, so you can imagine the shock of the wakening. We had to split time between checking the ship for leaks, and holding Old Billy down to the deck as he attempted futilely to gore us with his eyeteeth. Ben, being the largest of us, repeatedly punched the maniac, to lure him back to his coma, with little success.

A good hour had passed before the five of us had a good hold on the reality of the situation. We were lucky. Those old wives’ tales of drowning in deep space as a pond-shield flooded your decks flashed through our mind’s at the speed of light. Realizing how easy it could happen, gave it substance, and just the thought of that extreme drowned us in our own fear. But, like I said, the report was more favorable than we deserved.

Lars was a wreck, semen dotted his jumpsuit over a yellowish stain. We did not hear from him for several hours after the initial panic. The VI reported our pond-shield was at fifty percent effectiveness and we had to keep the Rockhopper in a Devon-Wilkes spin maneuver to keep us shielded from the radiation. Kelly and I had already dumped half of our drinking water into the pond-shield to increase its volume, but the breach froze most of this, rendering it useless.

As the ship cycled to night, we sat around the cockpit and discussed our options, of which there were only two. Death was the choice of Old Billy, who was still flying high out of the coma he should have been in. Our other choice was to melt the closest iceberg we could find to replenish our stocks. While the second option sounded best, it also required one of us to go outside and patch the hole. For the pond-shield to reach maximum efficiency, the breach would have to be completely and effectively sealed.

The votes were in, with one vote for death, and the rest for my unlucky ass to don the voidsuit and do the grunt work. In the end, I found the work relaxing. I spent a good deal of time just looking into that dark hole of space, turning my eyes from the star I new so well to those at the far reaches of vision. The patch sealed perfectly and I took my time going back to my comrades.

It was at the moment I begin to turn the hatch release that I spied a peculiar sparkle on our port side. It was a small ice rock, and well out of our circuit, but it looked plenty full to suit our purposes. There was something odd about it then, and during any normal sojourn through the ice fields, I would have avoided it.

Instead, rejoining my comrades, I indicated the object’s position and had the VI steer us to it. Lars had sworn off putting his hands on a flivver ever again. In about two hours, we had the iceberg melted and pumped into the pond-shield. The VI sounded the all clear at a pleasing ninety-eight percent, and we agreed to turn the old Rockhopper back to the inner four.

Just before the Neptunian comm ring, the radiation alarm went off. We were all well sober by that point – our mind-bending intentions straightened by near disaster. According to the VI we had developed a pocket – not uncommon in the model of pond-shield installed. The strange thing was that the pocket did not move with the inertia of our turns. It did not take us long to realize the pocket was centered over one of the intermittent coils which ensured the water providing the radiation shield did not freeze. It seemed unusual, but Kelly was quick to point out that the coil could be overheating, both frying the sensor that would indicate such a fault, and vaporizing any water at that point in the shield.

Once again, I donned the voidsuit, not for exposure to space, but for exposure to the radiation given free reign in the absence of the shield. The VI valved a larger area off, and bled out the excess water, leaving the pocket pressurized to the ship’s interior so that I could access the area via the maintenance hatch.

Poking my head into the pocket, I saw nothing but darkness. I had half expected the coil to have been pumping the pocket with heat, but as it turned out, the sensor was fine.

There was not near enough heat to maintain a pocket like we experienced. The coil was functioning correctly.

I grabbed a lightsphere and cast it into the dark space, letting it ricochet off the walls until it hit one of the valve closures and started back towards me. My brain did not register it at first, though my eyes screamed the obvious to it. And again, in the dark, after a moment of stillness, there was movement.

When my brain finally received the bill, I nearly filled my voidsuit with solid waste excretion. I laugh at the thought now, but at the time, I genuinely believed I felt the thing call to me. Only that sort of mindless belief would have allowed me to enter the pocket and retrieve our god from the prison in which the universe may wish we had kept him.

I cradled the thing in my arms, petting its supple tentacles and allowing it to tease at my gloves with its razor-toothed maw. It had created the void, finding the water unpleasant. The heat of the coil attracted it, and there it had remained, waiting to be found.

My four comrades accepted the god as if it were wholly expected from the moment we set foot on the deck of the Rockhopper. None of us questioned its existence, or our discovery of it. The truth of the matter is that our god had been frozen in that twinkling ice for eternity – either bound by some benevolent force, or hidden there as a trap to be sprung on the fledgling humans in their first tottering steps out of their solar womb. Regardless of its purpose and disposition in space-time, we released it.

And, we brought it home.

Before the Rockhopper quest for glory, I had been nothing. I subsisted on the generosity of females attracted to my physique and pleasing familiarity with the female anatomy. Old Billy and Kelly were con-men, mostly in Russia on Old Toby – our loving slang for the third rock – but, they also had their turns in Martian affairs. Ben had always been a tag-along, no personality but that which vicariously existed through the pursuits of those he followed. And, Lars, our god bless him, had a real job as a bot technician on Titan before this genesis.

After we found our deistical romance with the elder god from the cold void and returned to the planet which had spawned our fated species, we enjoyed a sudden surge of success. Lars was promoted to the highest position in the Ulysses Group’s three largest conglomerates. Old Billy and Kelly discovered a hidden flux of dark energy at the edge of the Oort Cloud that jump-started the interstellar exodus. Ben followed them. And me, well, I found religion. As its first contact, I became our god’s lover, its advocate, its voice in the minds of the humans that would inevitably become its slaves.

This story is just beginning, and though two of us have found ways to sever my lover’s connection and influence, he holds us three tighter for the loss.

I breathe quickly in heaving gasps as I destroy my first planet.

He lets me taste their souls.

Interlude – Think Tank Gunner

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Fortitude.

After the black, the sun looks blue. The eyes of the crew are speckled with the greylight of the wake cycle. Vicious Terry has his hand on the Self-Destruct button. I find it inappropriate and disgustingly twenty-fourth century. These are sentences – brief expulsions of a mind gone sour, ping-ponging against the cranium from the inside – recorded into someone’s memory. Sensory input for a big metal thing, with wheels and gears. Again, very twenty-fourth century.

Vicious Terry has his hand where it’s always been, because Vicious Terry is dead.

We were twelve, the quantity, not the meaningless measurement of years. We were ambitious. Handsome fashioned us as artists, abroad and oblivious to the boundaries of expectation. Handsome insisted we give each other handles, like leather valises, and like leather valises with cheap handles, we rattled on into the void. Vicious Terry chose his own name because in the dark of the night cycle, he used to hunt spiders with a flashlight.

Handsome was always Handsome.

And I am the Walrus, asleep at the controls again. Aye, captain.

And my crew is a Vaselian etching in the clean lines and smooth planes of the command deck.

And the star spins just outside the water-break hull. Another 50,000 kilometers and it won’t be enough to prevent the cooking of my grey matter.

After the black, everything looks like something better than what we’ve seen.

In the black, we were all hunting spiders.

This ship is going down.

 

Lament of the Polymathic Geek

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So much to do, so little time.

Unless you consider that time is meaningless in an infinite and circular multiiverse, in which case, I may have not happening to be about to was at one point will be having already done all the things I’ve never done before again for the first time.

I am not the type of person to lecture disdainfully to those uninitiated folks who talk the geek talk, but are inanimate lumps of flesh when it comes to miles traveled in geekdom. I have been, and always will be, a geek, dork, and nerd.

It is on certain days, however, that I am somewhat possessed unwillingly by the polymathic geek elitist that lurks in the darkest fathoms of my soul … right next to the “me” that knows what the Great Space Coaster is, and the “me” that secretly read The Babysitter’s Club when no one was looking. He is a vile and uncouth sort of foul-mouthed despot. He wants recognition for his accomplishments and despises those who think Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a bad television series.

Look … it’s not. Do you have any idea how massive the Marvel universe is? People like Whedon and Feige are geniuses, and the only people that CAN make it work. Do you realize how insanely complex and epic the Earth-616 continuity is? They not only have to satisfy the old spirit of the Silver and Bronze Age, but also the Wolverine/Deadpool fanatics that have never heard of Paste-Pot Pete (unless mentioned by Deadpool in an obscure but relative quip). Look back at Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and replace the 616 Fury with Coulson, and 616 Dugan, Jones, and Sitwell, with May, Ward, and Fitzsimmons, and, and, and …

I apologize … that is not what this post is about.

I am a polymathic geek, and I have credentials.

Here they are.

 

P.S. This is a WORK IN PROGRESS … Do not balk at apparent omissions, chances are it should be on the list, but hasn’t made it yet. Yes, there is no DC because I had to make a choice to satisfy my completionist desires. Oh, and think I haven’t retained most of this? Try me.

I’ll keep updating the page as I go.