Science Fantasy: A Genre out of Time

The famous cover (considered, by some, the greatest of all time) by Frank Frazetta. The art was originally for a cover of “Famous Funnies” and the man therein was originally supposed to be Buck Rodgers. Starting with the very next issue, this particular comic’s title would change to “Incredible Science Fiction”, and it—along with EC Comics itself—would last only three more issues.

I.

Literary genres are used to categorize and condition both the works and the readers. In general, I think this is an unhealthy reflex. I mean, sure, it’s good short term business for Amazon to carve up audiences into predictable markets—each of whom looking for the same, equally predictable, tropes within their stated genre preferences. But if that’s as far as it goes I worry about the long-term effects on the art itself.

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Art is always a dance between artist and audience—shared meaning, negotiated and mutually reinforced. And at that level, there isn’t anything wrong with expectations/tropes being in play. Conventions are necessary. After all, if I’m reading a romance and suddenly there’s a vampire, well, that can’t work, can it? (Just kidding Twilight fans. Seriously, more on monsters and where they fit into this in a minute.)

But you don’t have to look very far to see genres being used to balkanize. In genre discussions on writer’s fora all over the internet, the battle lines are drawn with gusto. Star Trek, Star Wars, and/or Dune are ‘pure fantasy’ for indulging in contrivances like faster-than-light travel (FTL), or psychic abilities. Hell, even within Science Fiction, this instinct exists: I mean, show out, already: is your Sci-Fi “Soft” or “Hard”?

Full disclosure: I’ve never understood that one. Not only is there a futuristic rebuttal (eg, Clarke’s Three Laws) to any ultra-dogmatic hard science fiction approach, but you don’t need to go very far back into actual history to see examples where our hard science of the time was completely (and sometimes, hilariously) wrong. No doubt some of it is now, too.

Scientist Nicolas Hartsoeker’s famous 1694 illustration of a tiny proto-person inside a sperm cell. Well into the 1800s, the prevailing scientific belief was that God created every living being, all at once, back at the beginning of time. This was scientifically explained that all sperm (or—others believed—all eggs, that was the only debate) contained all the future sperm/eggs, smaller and smaller, like Russian Dolls, of everyone who would be ever born in the future.

Nonetheless, a lot of Sci-Fi fans seem to think the discovery elevator has stopped at their floor. I think this is in contrast to the work of most actual scientists. The entire ‘scientific method’ is based on humility about how little we actually know, as it sets out to prove only what we don’t. Plus, bleeding edge scientific theories (that’s right, I’m looking at, er, not quite able to look directly at you, Quantum Physics) are pretty fantastic.

Amazon lists about fifteen different sub-genres each for Sci-Fi and for Fantasy. But, nowhere to be seen is Slipstream (remember that one, Gen-X SF/F fans?) or, my personal favorite, the genre out of time: Science Fantasy.

II.

If genres really are just checklists of tropes writers need to check off in order to match reader expectations, then Science Fantasy (SCIFAN) is pretty easily defined: a story with a mix of both Sci-Fi and Fantasy tropes.

So, if it’s that simple, and if Sci-Fi and Fantasy are just a venn diagram of trope clusters, why hasn’t SCIFAN caught on? Why did it disappear as a genre?

Or did it?

The history of how the underlying genres have competed for our attention is telling. If you are comparing lineage, the winner is clear: Per Stephen R. Donaldson: “all the oldest and most enduring forms of literature in all languages on this planet are fantasy.”

But by 20th Century, with our newfound mass displacement resulting from machines—not to mention our wacky new ability to end the human race with nukes—Science Fiction rose to answer the call. After all, if science got us into this mess…

In the 1930s, under John W. Campbell’s leadership, a magazine called Astounding Stories of Super-Science (what we now know as Analog Science Fiction and Fact) ushered in the era of pulp science fiction. For example, Asimov’s classic Foundation Series began as a serial in that mag. But this was only an interesting ancillary to the already established field of pulp fantasy (think: The Shadow, or Conan the Barbarian, or the works of H.P. Lovecraft).

Cover for the inaugural issue of “Science Fantasy”, a British Sci-Fi and Fantasy magazine.

By the 1950s, Sci-Fi reached its peak. One cultural touchstone: EC Comics branched out from its better known and more profitable horror titles, and started two new comics: Weird Science Fiction and Weird Fantasy. It’s worth noting that the lines were very much blurred between the two regarding what sort of stories you could expect to find in each. The first issue of Weird Fantasy featured stories about: a cyborg, time-travel, telepathy, and finally a story about astronauts landing on a strange world (Spoilers: that place turns out to be…future Earth! A reveal that Rod Serling reportedly lifted, pretty wholesale, 16 years later in his screenplay for what became Planet of the Apes).

By the 1960s, Fantasy reasserted its dominance in book marketing with The Lord of the Rings (50 MM copies sold as of ’03); while Dune was probably the standout science fiction story (but had only sold about 20MM as of 2015). Overall, science fiction still sells only a fraction as well as Fantasy. And, throughout, the genres seem to be mostly defined by their outstanding tropes, more than any tangible plot lines—but with plenty of overlap. For every hard and fast rule, there seems to be a weighty counter-example.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, science fiction was shorthand for ‘stories about the future.’ This was part of why the opening crawl of Star Wars in 1977 was so subversive: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

In his foreword to Weird Science: The EC Archives — Volume 1, George Lucas says: “I often wonder if kids today can experience life with such a sense of discovery and excitement…Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, and Tales from the Crypt grabbed you from the start and absolutely refused to let go…EC Comics had it all: rocket ships, robots, monsters, time travel, and laser beams…It’s no coincidence that all of those are also in the Star Wars movies.”

III.

But, clearly, there need to be limits. Guide rails. Boundaries. As freeing as all of this cross-genre business can be, we can’t be deliberately confusing readers. How can this freedom be contained and channeled into better storytelling?

Well, what if, instead of analyzing these genres by their cosmetic trappings, we look a bit deeper. How do Sci-Fi and Fantasy differ in what they say about us and our relationship with the universe?

Fulbright Scholar and Professor Emeritus Carl Malmgren—in his 1988 paper: “Towards a Definition of Science Fantasy”—defined SCIFAN as stories with worlds (or characters!) with “at least one deliberate and obvious contravention of natural law or empirical fact, but which provides a scientific rationale for the contravention and explicitly grounds its discourse in a scientific method and scientific necessity.” This means the ‘science’ in SCIFAN refers to the “attempt to legitimize situations that depend on fantastic assertions.

What, then, of magic? Ted Chiang said this about the apparent overlap of the underlying genres: “I think magic is an indication that the universe recognizes certain people as individuals, as having special properties as an individual, whereas a story in which turning lead into gold is an industrial process is describing a completely impersonal universe. That type of impersonal universe is how science views the universe; it’s how we currently understand our universe to work. The difference between magic and science is at some level a difference between the universe responding to you in a personal way, and the universe being entirely impersonal.”

So, with these formulations in mind, a magic system that is completely explained for all the characters but one—say, a chosen one who is able to do things no other wizard can—is fantasy. But, if midichlorians, or some other fully-fleshed out system, even if it is still magic, is the explanation for everyone across the board, that’s SCIFAN. Likewise, if everyone can use FTL, psychic powers, or fairy dust for that matter, that’s also SCIFAN.

For this reason, time-travel stories are almost always going to feel more comfortable as SCIFAN stories. In most every time-travel story, there’s a specific way outlined to do time-travel. But, what about precognition or time-travel via magic? Now, we’re back to Chiang’s formula: Stories where folks can learn (that’s key) to magically do such things (ie, Star Wars, Doctor Strange in the comics) are SCIFAN.

The exception that proves the point is Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Only one character time travels. And no explanation is ever given, other than its analogy to a disability. That classic really is pure Fantasy.

And to back all the way up—if no natural laws (as we understand them now) or empirical facts are being violated in the story at all in the first place, we default back to Sci-Fi.

So how does that help us as writers?

Sci-Fi deals with the unknown. Fantasy deals with the unreal.

At its best, SCIFAN should then help us to both i) question what we think we “know” (transcending dogmatic certitude with all its pitfalls); and ii) bolster our courage against (and somehow achieving peace with) the unknowable.

In other words, to write Science Fantasy it might help to think of which characters are in conflict with the one (on the right track, but not knowing enough) and which are in conflict with the other (no idea what track they should be on).

IV.

/// Okay. But what about monsters? You promised me monsters. ///

You bet! Look, any monsters in your story are the dependent variable. So, take, for example: zombies. The zombies created by science (as in a Sci-Fi story) are ultimately just an obstacle—even if an existential one—for the protagonists to overcome (think: The Walking Dead); whereas the zombies in Fantasy stories whose source is beyond explanation (think: Night of the Living Dead) aren’t just existential, they’re a spiritual question. Those zombies beg the question: What did we do to deserve this? That’s a very different type of story.

That’s also where fantasy and horror could be seen as opposite sides of the same coin. If Fantasy is the yin, a story of how a human can rise up to meet an unknowable, unfriendly (or at least, impersonal) universe—then Horror is the yang, a tale of how hopeless that is. It’s no use. Even if you kill the big, bad shark, you’ll just never know why or how it was set upon you. Deal with it.

Another fun thought experiment is to look at religion through this lens. Sure, the religious trappings, (avatars of good and evil, prophets, etc.) took Stephen King’s The Stand from a tale of a Sci-Fi pandemic all the way into dark Fantasy. But what about a story of a religion based entirely on a practice of learning that anyone could do—like Buddhism? For storytelling purposes, would I then work through that as SCIFAN?

V.

At its zenith in the sixties and seventies, SCIFAN’s greatest examples (the aforementioned Dune or Star Trek) were mislabeled (in our Cold War hangover) as science fiction.

But, even so, at least SCIFAN was already an accepted genre.

Now, it’s largely gone.

My theory is, as our current multi-pocalypse (global warming, pandemics, algorithms/AI, and, hey, nuclear is still there, finger zaps) plays out, the old formulation about how science will need to get us out of this mess will wear thin. We’re entering another era like the Sixties or the Industrial Revolution. Social strife. Upheaval. Spiritual isolation.

I’m looking for the pendulum to shift. If our solutions must come from someplay deeper within ourselves, so, too, must our storytelling.

If my scenario comes true and Science Fantasy does jump forward through time to reemerge in its rightful place, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of explanations we come up with for how it happened. And why.

When it does, you can be sure I’m going to point back to this prophecy essay.

I Love You 130: What is a Successful Novel?

It’s important to understand that there are large corporate forces at play against truly independent artists (link, starting at 21:37). This is true in the music industry and certainly no less true for writers.

Now, I know writers are always looking for ways to make more money from their writing. I also have observed that a lot of online, armchair advice is given that tries to make the artist feel as though they are doing something wrong if their work isn’t selling more.

Now, to be sure: this could be true. As I’m fond of saying: Sturgeon’s Law is always in effect. So, there may be objective reasons for a book not selling. But the reverse doesn’t necessarily hold true: a lack of sales doesn’t automatically reflect a lack of artistic merit.

“Immediate popularity has never been a reliable
measure for the enduring value of any work
of art or entertainment.”

—Scott Derrickson, Director (Doctor Strange, 2006)

Here’s the catalyst for this post: In the just over one year since I released my debut novel, The Be(k)nighted: The Untold Origin of The Precept, I’ve moved 130 copies.

Back in ’21, after a brief foray into querying that confirmed my belief that the industry’s interests were focused on just about anything but the merits of the storytelling, I self-published and never looked back.

Further, recently, I migrated ‘Anti-fascist, and sane’ for the Winter—getting off of Twitter and Facebook for good, in favor of more targeted and less morally reprehensible social media platforms. Honestly, neither FB nor the Dirty Bird were that instrumental in my novel’s sales.

130. Is that what I expected? Is it good? I felt this was a good time to blog about this first year; and to share my observations about art and profits and success. To be sure, my opinions have evolved since I began this journey.

###

First, I don’t blog as often as I’d like. Like most, I tended to use the aforementioned social media platforms to get my juices flowing, do some reflexive marketing, and otherwise just vent. Further, I have a special interest in #medialiteracy and so my perspective is a little different than most; but, the world at large is catching up to what I’ve been saying for a while: Social Media is an industry profiting off of a public health crisis that it itself is creating (like Big Tobacco in times past). So, Social Media represents a complicating factor in all of this.

But, before we get into the tall grass: first things first, this entire post is about sales, not profits. I make such a small margin on each sale, that—given what I used to charge for my time, professionally, before I retired—whatever profits I’ve made total? …Well, I’ll “spend” more than that, just drafting this blog post. My takeaway for you: If you’re writing SOLELY to make money, my suggestion is to sell used cars.

Even using the word profit is misleading. My up front costs (e.g., cover artist, copy editor, etc) will actually further offset anything I might make for the foreseeable future. That’s the just the economics of it. So, this post is really for those who feel they must write. They have a story they must tell, and, at the same time, would like some realistic advice about how to balance those artistic needs with the commercial realities. This post is maybe more for them. But I will try to cover both ends of it.

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Within the past two months, the publishing industry has been a-flutter about some revelations that came out of the recent, victorious DOJ anti-trust lawsuit against PRH, and the resulting commentary from publishing industry insiders. The bottom line is that somewhere between 15-50% of traditionally published books sell a dozen or less copies in their first year. And there are no numbers for it—but, presumably, this number is exponentially less, once you factor in all the self-published titles, too.

This, of course, is disheartening to all authors, especially self-publishing authors like me.

Although, maybe it shouldn’t be. Analogize it to another art form: being a musician. What percentage of musicians make a full-time living with their music? One in 50 or 500? One in 5,000? One in 500,000? Would we be surprised by any of those numbers?

Anyway, with the data from those blog posts: I took the more generous of those numbers, and I had a math genius friend of mine graph it out. And my 130 sales—had I been traditionally published—would have probably clocked in at around 30th-33rd percentile. And, again, against all books, including self-published, I’m willing to bet my sales are in, at least, the top half.

Even on Amazon alone (which is only one avenue for my book’s sales), today my ranks are: #3,560 in Superhero Fantasy eBooks, #7,102 in Superhero Science Fiction, and #10,808 in Dark Fantasy Horror.

And, for a brief time this past October during a marketing putsch, it was ranked #22 in Superhero Fantasy eBooks! (That is, before Amazon’s algorithm realized it had inadvertently allowed a non-affiliated book squeak into it’s top rankings and systematically buried it back under 1,000 the very next day even though that next day had even more sales (!)).

Dystopia Alert: I can only imagine how much harder all of this is going to be when AI start producing most of the industry’s creative output.

In the early days of self-publishing, before Amazon’s dominance and the resulting glut-cluster, there was a truistic stat bandied about that the average self-published book sold about 150 copies in its entire lifetime (like, forever) and most of those in the first year. Logically, again, those number must have gone down since then—but, even if they haven’t, my novel seems to be on-track. So, it seems to have done all right.

###

So, what do we do with this information? Well, I’m of the opinion that there are two diametrically opposed forces at play.

First, there’s what I’ve dubbed The Artistic Method (which I define as the entire process: the message of personality that the artist wants to convey, into the through the Art, and finally to the audience and the audience’s growth from enjoying that Art. NOTE: Hopefully, you get the reviews and audience ratings that reflect your good work.

Second, there’s the industry’s marketing efforts, which are more geared towards conditioning both artist and audience to re-create and re-consume the same essential art over and over again. I think it’s self-evident these two forces work against each other.

Occasionally, a work of Art balances them both, perfectly: think the Shades of Gray phenomenon, George Lucas’s Star Wars, or the Harry Potter series. Sometimes the Art precisely pings the Zeitgeist, and the audience just won’t let the industry run its pass blocking. The audience insists on making its own hits.

But, increasingly, this is a lightning-in-a-bottle event. So, as an artist, I think there are two choices. First, you can, essentially, write to spec: team up with an editor/publishing house/agent and write what some sector of the market wants. This is a tremendously valuable skill and, frankly, short of the scenario I mention above, it will be one’s best chance to make any money at all at this. Bonus points if that’s what you like writing, too, right?

The other approach is to lean into your own artistic vision and hope for the best as to the other end of the spectrum. There are tremendous perks to this approach: true creative control; you own brand isn’t subservient to the work but rather vice versa; and it’s a lot of fun. You don’t ignore the mercenary aspects—you still do the marketing. But, it’s just not your starting point.

In the end, which approach you take should reflect which definition/s of success you use. In some cultures the very definition of how “good” art is is measured by how much it changes the artist. I think that’s not a bad headspace to be in.

Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)? (Part 4 of 4)

Part IV: …Judge them by their content (of their characters)

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that
I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to
win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though
not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.

-The Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

People learn by saying wrong things— even offensive things—that can then be corrected!

-Garry Kasparov

I believe in the values of the Enlightenment and traditional education. Free Speech. Reasoned Debate Of Ideas. Scientific Method. The sorts of bedrock concepts where you capitalize all the words.

Yes, historically, that’s mostly a dead white man’s game. But isn’t the answer to that (and to the problem of not enough minority/marginalized authors) to bring diversity directly to those areas? Nothing about that needs to silence anyone’s voice—and certainly no such censoring should be based solely on the speaker’s skin color.

I also very much believe in and support social justice causes. I am against the way our country is careening into fascism. Things seem rather dire to me on that front. So, if I thought that seeking out, isolating, and punishing the creators of a certain class of art was an effective means of achieving social justice, I might even condone it (at least, in theory–and only as a short term, emergency tactic…a ban on nazi paraphernalia in the military and on police forces comes to mind)…

—that is, if it worked. But it doesn’t seem to. In fact, I believe our present situation has been largely fueled by this new, illiberal political correctness.

Continue reading “Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)? (Part 4 of 4)”

Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)? (Part 3 of 4)

Part III: …Don’t judge authors by their skin-color…

I’ve written elsewhere that I don’t believe art should really be fully separated from the artist. But, I don’t think that’s what I’m arguing for now. What I am saying is that we should not use a work of art as a trojan horse proxy for our pre-judgments about the authors (or the social group they’re associated with).

Like Shirley Jackson’s famous short story “The Lottery”, people use complaints of cultural appropriation, aided by social media, as a modern form of cultural stoning. Better to target and set upon a particular author or artist like the proverbial pitchfork-wielding mob than to put all of that energy into creating new institutions or movements that will actually affect the real structural change one claims to care about. Or, I don’t know, maybe go out and write and self-publish your own book?

My brush with this so far is only a few Twitter spats. I argued against some randos who had successfully gotten a white female’s book contract canceled by her publisher because they had read it and found out that her book had a main character of another race. I debated against their failed logic of trying to prevent someone from writing fiction solely because of the color of that author’s skin. (Sorry—I have to keep repeating it, just to try and get my head around the stupidity of it). The various Twitter trolls, in turn, said—just by me presenting an opposing view—that I was displaying my white privilege and even committing violence against them.

Continue reading “Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)? (Part 3 of 4)”

Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)? (Part 2 of 4)

PART II: …I only ask one thing—

Culture has various definitions. Most agree that “culture” are the customs, institutions, and products of a common society, regarded collectively. Or, to put it more simply: “Culture” is the shared outputs of a particular group. NOTE: ideologies, or shared ways of thinking, are also part of culture; but, ideas inherently belong to no one. This is why, for example, you can’t copyright an idea, only a representation (like a book or a picture) of an idea. So, we’ll stay with “outputs”.

Next, what is appropriation? This is a more problematic concept. If you put a criminal overlay on it, as the verb itself suggests, you probably mean something like the legal definition. Roughly, separating out some elements in a useful way, appropriation is: (1) Taking, (2) without their permission, (3) someone else’s property, (4) with the intent to convert it to your own use? Most deeper discussions will add a fifth, underlying element: (5) And done in a way to further oppress or harm the people of that culture. We’ll come back to that.

As I mentioned yesterday, I deliberately (#1) “Took Culture” when the magic system of my novel was to be the underpinning to all (including Native Peoples’) religions. Mea Culpa.

Continue reading “Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)? (Part 2 of 4)”

Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)?

Chief Illiniwek?

PART I: In an Uncivilized Debate about Cultural Appropriation…

I grew up about ten miles from the University of Illinois (U of I). The U of I began in 1867, roughly fifty years after the state was formed. The official mascot of the U of I was the “Fighting Illini”, a representation of the Illinois Confederation of indigenous Peoples (about a dozen tribes) known as the “Illiniwek”. The Illiniwek, who numbered over ten thousand in the 17th century, were more or less gone by the early 19th century. The few hundred who remained reportedly joined the Peoria Tribe.

However, “Chief Illiniwek” to me was the name of the school mascot. The U of I had been the “Fighting Illini” since 1926 and “Chief Illiniwek” was the guy who—as far back as anyone could remember, and with a very rousing marching band tune behind him—would dance an authentic, “ceremonial Indian” dance at halftime.

It turns out, the dance was actually invented by the first few students to perform as “The Chief”, back when the tradition started. I just recently discovered that they learned it, indirectly, in the Boy Scouts, from that organization’s handbook, in the section drafted by Ralph “Doc” Hubbard.

Continue reading “Cultural Appropriation or Approbation (or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Judge the Author by Their Cover”)?”

NFTs: Assemblage for the 21st Century?

Once, when I was in my early adulthood, my girlfriend and I were in an artist’s gallery (that is to say, her dining room—she worked from home). And, in her gallery, what she displayed was something like nothing I’d ever seen before.

Hanging from her ceiling, at various heights, were mobiles of…well, let’s just say disparate objects. Okay, to describe it: For all the world, each of them looked roughly like the contents of someone’s kitchen junk drawer, super-glued together.

When we asked her how she got the idea for her ‘mobiles’, she corrected us. These weren’t “mobiles”, they were “Assemblage” (pronounced: ah-sem-BLAJ’).

Later, we, of course, had a lot of fun with that word. It became a shorthand for anything remotely pretentious. But, don’t get me wrong: as a former art major, I know that assemblage is a vital and important art form, with a lineage that goes back directly to Picasso.

Continue reading “NFTs: Assemblage for the 21st Century?”

Davey, Tell Us A Stooooory

Okay. These past few years, I’ve set out to become a dedicated storyteller. In doing that, I’ve started to look at prose books, comics, and movies/tv shows in a new way. Part audience/Part practitioner.

Just as background: my tastes run towards what you would call classical story-telling. Good ‘n Evil, Character Arcs, Subtexts, good conflict, high-concept metaphors where I can find them, and resolution. Like that.

So, what happens? Well, these days, like some sort of fiction-sniffing hound, I find myself looking for what the shows aren’t doing as much as I am for what they are; this is especially true if they aren’t landing for me. It almost always comes down to a lack of storytelling. When that happens, I ask: What crutch are they using, rather than just telling the story?

Just to kick things off, here are a couple of my most despised Storytelling Avoidance Mechanisms (StAMs).

StAM One – Grimdark.
Look, I saw Chernobyl Diaries at a hotel. I was super-excited by the trailer. The opening premise was good. The characters were introduced nicely— aaaand then?

Well, then the characters were all methodically slaughtered, one-by-one. Except for one, who was captured by unknown figures, and then killed, for reasons that are never explained. Roll credits.

Continue reading “Davey, Tell Us A Stooooory”

Writers’ Politics

I’m a fan of Josiah Bancroft. You’ll notice I didn’t say I’m a fan of Josiah Bancroft’s work, which I am, but this isn’t about that. Here’s a Tweet from Mr. Bancroft, in response to the attempted coup last Wednesday.

“As someone with a broad audience whose livelihood depends upon a certain ambiguity when it comes to political matters, I respectfully suggest that the people who are carrying Confederate flags into the Capitol are dimwitted treason weasels who stan their mother’s panties.”

I mean, sure, I could write my own blog entry; but, I’m not going to top that, so why try?

I will say this—the topic of whether or not an artist has a duty to address politics (or to avoid it, for commercial sake), is an important one. As Scott McCloud says in Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art: “…when art becomes a job or a matter of social status the potential for confusing one’s goals goes up considerably”.

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2020

Would you buy a novel from this man?
Would you buy an epic fantasy novel from this man?

As we begin the 22nd decade of the 21st century (Math!), I want to pay a fitting tribute to the year we all love to hate. So, let’s talk about…

WRITING VILLAINS
First, it’s more effective when your villain doesn’t act villainous. Remember, sociopaths/psychopaths typically present as quite positive. This is no doubt why they tend to rise to positions of power. According to the study: ”They [psychopaths] display emotions only to manipulate individuals around them.”

It’s all learned camouflage so that people won’t realize that they are empty inside. That’s why sociopaths can act so hatefully, without remorse, when they want to. But to present them exhibiting evil without first presenting the glossy exterior will render your villain into just another mustache twirling cliché.

Continue reading “2020”