Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Learning From Everything

By now you've all heard about Divesity and Comics.  He watches the train wrecks so you don't have to, but he does it in a way that really helps readers understand WHY current Marvel sucks worse than [insert Razoerfist analogy here].  Now, the man talks about individual comics for the most part, and the teachable moments are spread all over his channel, but after a few videos you start to notice a few trends about Marvel's bad writing, specifically when it comes to writing women.  Those trends are worth looking for, because his laments about what was lost when the Pigs took over the Marvel Farm provide solid advice for ways to make your female characters more well-rounded, more diverse (in the classical and not SJW sense), and more believable.

Basically, don't make them all mannish women, and don't make them all walk, talk, think, and act like immature Manhattan millennial women who think the world is out to get them.

For a more concise commentary on writing female characters, look no further than this video by Mr. Plinkett.  For all his faults, the creepy serial killer knows his story structure, comedic timing, and characterization.



That video right there is a clinic on how to write better characters, how to write better pacing, and how to deliver a punch line  Take his commentary to heart, don't be Paul Feig, allow your characters a little vulnerability - especially your female characters - and you'll be writing at a level well above that of your average milkshake drinking millennial.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Not Sure How The Military Guys Do It

Today I took down the Christmas shower curtain and replaced it with the off-season shower curtain.  Dad being gone for seven months will do that to a household. No matter how much the little woman steps up her game, there will always be a long list of things around the house that need doing.  This is no slight on the part time single Moms, it's just a fact of life that two people halve the work load.  And so, after two weeks of non-stop action bringing things back up to code, things might just settled down around the Chateau enough to get some writing done.

One of the changes to my schedule has been the determination to find a way to relax when the ankle-biters and bride are hovering about, eager to pull me away for a quick favor here, or a quick opinion there.  Writing - my normal relaxation - cannot be done under those conditions.  Writing requires full concentration to get into that three-tier thinking zone where you can consider the words in this sentence, the tactic decisions of the current chapter, and how those affect the strategic vision of the entire novel.    For relaxing while on call, my go to past time has been painting in preparation for miniature wargames.

Rather than clutter up this blog with my infrequent wargame material, I've opted to revive War In A Box.

 
The deep thoughts and inciteful commentary you've come to expect can still be found over at the House.  The thoughts on writing and odd political musing, you'll still find here.  War In A Box is my dumping ground for quick hits and idle thoughts that don't rise to the level of a Castalia House Blog Post, and will be kept light, fun, and entirely apolitical.

Well...mostly apolitical, as you can see from my latest miniatures:

The SDL and a VFM

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dragon Awards - The Allied Vote

It's award time for fans of fantasy and science fiction, and that can mean only one thing - DragonCon ballots are up and ready for completion.  The red fiery trophy is the new hotness that all the cool kids want to win, and my on-line social circle has a heavy presence on the ballot.  Fortunately, Kai Wai Cheah already put together a handy primer and list of this year's best of the best, so I don't have to. Go read his blog post for a complete breakdown. 

Best Science Fiction Novel: The Secret Kings by Brian Niemeier
Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal): A Sea of Skulls by Vox Day
Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: Swan Knight’s Son by John C Wright
Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel: Rescue Run by Jon Del Arroz
Best Alternate History Novel: No Gods, Only Daimons by Kai Wai Cheah
Best Apocalyptic Novel: Codename: Unsub by Declan Finn and Allan Yoskowitz
Best Horror Novel: Live and Let Bite by Declan Finn

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Down

How do people ever have time to feel poignant?

My oldest ventures out tomorrow into the cold, harsh, and uncaring world of higher education, and the non-stop barrage of things that Must Be Done before he flies from the nest has left me no time to pause and ponder this important step on life's journey blah blah blah.  Between shoving him from the nest, getting the younger ones shoved into the first semester of the charter school/home school hybrid we use, catching up on six months of Honey-Do List Items, who has time to stop and get misty about the past and worry about the future?

I've had eighteen years to get him ready for this - there isn't much more I can do in these last few days other than race to send him off with as much of the tedium of a cross country move already completed.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Backing A Book You Can't Read

My cover artist, Rapha Pinheiro, launched his crowd funding project for his next comicbook:
Salto is a Fantasy Steampunk, written and drawn in France when I was living in Angoulême to study comics. The book tells the story of Nu, an inhabitant of an underground city where everyone is made of fire. They live in this city for fear of the rain that plagues the outside world and rely on an oxygen factory to keep their flames burning.
After witnessing something he should not, Nu is bound to leave civilization and venture into the cave where he discovers a secret that can change the life of the entire city.

 
Since I don't speak Portuguese, I'll never be able to read this comic book.  It doesn't matter, because I'll still be able to enjoy the pretty pictures.  If you live outside of Brazil, you can't get the hard copy, but the digital copy will only set you back R$20, which is about six bucks.  As I type this, I'm one of 38 backers who have brought the project to 1/8th funding in five days, so Rapha has made good progress on funding already.
 
So if you like steampunk, and you like weird, alien vistas populated by creatures of living flame, give it a shot.  I backed it just because I like the art, and Rapha has been such an easy artist to work with. 
 
 
Just wait until you see what he worked up for my forthcoming space princess story - this space princess is a lot more helpless than Karenina, but you'll have to wait to find out why.
 
[EDIT:  Found out the comic itself is actually in English - it's just the Not-KickStarter that's in Portuguese.  So my headline is fake news.  Oops.  We regret the error.]




Friday, August 4, 2017

On Romance

“Wait.  So you like romance, Dad?”

My teen daughter asked this perfectly legitimate question in the middle of house cleaning, interrupting one of my typical soliloquies on the problems of modern storytelling.  (If you think the PulpRev-o-Sphere is bad, trying living with one of us.  This isn’t an act, it is a part of our DNA.)  In this case, her father was in the process of lamenting that after four hours of screen time, the best Starlord has been able to wrest from Gamorrah is a pinky-grip and a head on the shoulder.  And that even after some stellar (heh) dread game with the Evil Space Angel Queen to start Volume 2.
As a gal in her mid-teens, she her mind has been programmed to think of the books with shaven chested men on the cover in the dry goods aisle of the local grocery store.  Or perhaps some sort of anime sub-sub-genre I’m too old to have heard of let alone understand.  We are going to have to watch a few John Wayne movies to help her understand how universal the concept of romance can be, when done right. 
Until then, it was left to me to explain that no man can ask for a greater reward than the love of a good woman.  Compared to that, all the riches in the universe are but a pale shadow.  Thankfully, the old films linger in our home, so she has a few points of reference.  In the penultimate shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy walks off screen arm-in-arm with the pretty young brunette.  Think how much less satisfying that ending would be if Marion play-punched Indy in the shoulder.  I pointed out there isn’t a man alive that thinks the ending of The Princess Bride would be improved without that last kiss – even ten year old Fred Savage understands the power of a kiss sealing a better future for the hero.  My daughter loves the film “Secondhand Lions”, and the epic subplot of Uncle Hub’s one true love provides a glimpse of the possibilities. 
So yes, I explained.  Men do love romance, but the open expression of a committed love and the promise of a woman’s love as reward for heroic striving against all odds.  Not the drama heavy romance of prime-time television or the relationship drama of daytime soap operas or the pointless hoop-jumping of A Knight’s Tale.  (Prove you deserve me by becoming the biggest loser in the realm?  Really?)
Then it was time to turn the tables on her.  Did she want a man to struggle and rage against the world in an effort to reach her?  Did she want to be seen as a prize worth fighting for?  Or did she want men to think of her as “one of the guys”, just another pal to hang around with who can take care of her own problems without him?
It really gave her something to think about.  She disappeared into her room, I assumed to spend some time in deep thought considering this new way of looking at movies.
Of course, it was only the next day that I realized the change in direction of the conversation was a clever ruse on her part to distract me long enough to allow her to escape from the house cleaning.  She escaped my clutches by getting me to monologue.  I’ll get you next time, daughter mine!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Gaming Dry Spell Status: Over

It's been far too long since I've been able to sit down at a table and enjoy a little light conversation while pouring over a board covered with little plastic pieces.  Over the weekend, thanks to my daughter's generosity with her time, I managed to break the dry spell with a pair of tense games...of Candyland.  Hey!  Baby steps, man.  I've got some miniatures to paint up, and then we'll see if we can't convince a few friends to dare the hazards of 3d6 in order and drop into the dangerous confines of either Skull Mountain or Castle Meatgrinder.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Adventure Constant

For those of you who pre-ordered my latest written book, my eternal thanks.  For those of you who have yet to order, today is the day you can one-click the digital version and start reading within moments.  Here, let me help you with that:


Monday, July 31, 2017

Do We Need God To Be Good

Castalia House recently released my latest audiobook, Do We Need God To Be Good? by C. R. Hallpike.  This book provides more than a scientific and philosophical look at the religious underpinnings of effective morality, it also presents a case-by-case autopsy of the victims of secular moral systems.  Hallpike writes with a ground and approachable voice, free from the emotional pleas commonly found in books of this sort.  If you've ever wanted to see what it looks like when credible science wraps back around to touch on the fundamental truths that are literally gospel for the religious worldview, you can do no better than Hallpike.
 
In fact, as Hallpike presents his case for both pro and con, he veers back and forth between answering the titular question in the negative and the affirmative, making this a sort of cosmic, "whodunit?"  As so often happens, my reading of the work in question took significantly less time than expected.  As Hallpike walked me (and the reader) through the history of moral systems, I found myself unable to stop reading for the night, and rushed through this recording for no other reason than that I myself couldn't wait to find out where Hallpike ultimately lands, which isn't spelled out until the very end.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Mollison Method

Dorrinal interviewed the Mark Kern on yesterday's edition of Game Night, part of the Geek Gab Multimedia Entertainment Conglomerate.  The chat for all of their shows is worth the price of admission alone; the regular crew features faces familiar to those of you following the PulpRev social media circles, and in addition to the running commentary, you can always find fascinating side conversations.  BAR-1 Studios surprised me when he mentioned that he had recently had discussions with others about "The Mollison Method".

Apparently, you could hear the needle scratch in my brain from Daddy Warpig's house.  BAR-1 explained what he meant, and in retrospect it makes sense.  It's how I kicked off my writing, and how I recommend any budding writer get over their cold feet and uncertainty about the process.  Writing a 1,000 page mega-novel featuring multiple view-point characters can be daunting, and many writers crash and burn before completing even the writing process.  Or they complete the first draft and then suffer jitters over things like formatting the document, finding beta-readers or proofers, producing a cover, uploading to Amazon, and you're talking about one tall mountain to climb.

The Mollison Method dispenses with all of that and provides a relatively easy way to "fail faster".  In mindset terms, this is the slogan for the process by which one embraces the early parts of a learning a new skill and puts their head down to grind straight ahead through the process.  Know and accept that your early steps are going to be rough so that you can put them in the rear view mirror and get to the smooth stretches of the road faster.

Here is the process in a nutshell:
  1. Don't write a thousand page novel.  Just set yourself the goal of writing a 10,000 word novelette.  That's longer than a short story, and enough to justify a Kindle purchase.   This may seem short, but see Step 3, below.
  2. Look at the first few pages of any book on your shelf - not the narrative, the book itself.  These pages have copyright and credits.  Copy those into your story.  Poke around and get your document formatted for whatever online sales outfit you want to work with.  (I recommend Amazon, but others have had success with Lulu.com.)
  3. Upload that first story and charge a dollar for it.  It may seem cheap, but if you are just starting out, cheap is good.  You just want to get that first sale, and a price point cheaper than a candy bar makes it easy for readers to hit that  big, yellow "Buy With 1-Click" button.
  4. Once you see people are willing to give you money for your words, you'll be motivated to write a second story, this time maybe a 20,000 word novella.  You already have the template.  You've already figured out the uploading process.  You already have a few people that have demonstrated a willingness to give you money for entertainment, and they'll probably do it again.
  5. Repeat steps 1. through 4. until you have 80,000 - 100,000 words available.  Stuff all of those stories into a Word file and upload that to Amazon.com with a new cover.  Charge a couple of dollars less for the collection than you did for the rest of your works, total.  This way, new fans can choose between betting just a dollar on your brilliance or go for the big bulk discount. 
  6. As an added bonus, you now have enough pages to justify selling a hard copy of your book.  I recommend writing another 10,000 word novelette exclusive to your collection, for those fans you have that are completists, too.  It's a nice little incentive for your fans to pay you twice for the same work.
Consider a theme to your first book, too.  At a minimum, you should probably stick to one genre.  That will help guarantee future sales to previous buyers, and it will keep you motivated.

As proof of concept, I offer my first book, series of short stories featuring a modern day action hero, Karl Barber.  Each of the short stories was available individually, so I added a fourth tale about the titular street fight as an incentive to buy the more expensive book over the three shorts.  In this case, you could buy each of the three shorts for a dollar, or buy all three and get the bonus for three bucks.

Click to see the proof.
My second collection consisted of four novellas, each featuring a different dragon slaying hero.  I added a story from the dragon's perspective to round out the collection.  In this case, I've removed all but one of the novellas down from my author page.  Too many titles makes it hard for readers to figure out which one to buy, and we want to make it as easy for them as possible.  So I have one cheap intro, and then a more expensive collection of all five stories.

Using this process, I was able to get two books onto Amazon in about six months.  After that, sitting down to write a 50,000 to 60,000 word novel doesn't seem so bad.  You're already standing on the top of one hill, and while the next one is taller, you already know you can climb it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

It's Research, Not Gravedancing

My morning commute has slowly evolved into the Diversity and Comics Roadshow.  For those not in the know, the nameless creator of this YouTube series talks comics.  Usually, he reviews a single issue of a comic book, but he also produces episodes on various subjects, many of which revolve around Marvel's self-inflicted gunshot wounds.  Not only does he provide interesting historical background information, he spots trends, and calls out the good and bad of every issue.  From his analysis of the artwork itself, it's obvious the man knows what he is talking about.  He is also a funny host with a dry wit and often a barely restrained rage that entertains even as it informs.

Most of the information that he provides in his autopsies of what doesn't work does me no good.  The constant litany of SJW and barely past their teens writing mistakes are not the sorts of things that I need to guard against.  But it's darn fun to be able to vicariously experience the dreadful writing and erratic plotting and clumsy left-wing preaching through D&C.  The guy tries to bridge a middle ground, but the egregious own-goals of Marvel are clearly pushing him hard into the welcoming arms of the alt-right.  His SJW takedowns and thorough and professional and hilarious.

The field of comics serves as a useful case study in the cancerous effects of SJW culture in general and feminism in specific.  Comic books themselves did about $1 billion in sales in 2016, compared to a global film market of $38 billion and video games market of $91 billion.  As a content creator in the literary world (the biggest of the four mediums at $127 billion), this serves as a powerful incentive to rein in any impulses you might have to sip from the SJW kool-aid.

With a smaller environment, we can more easily see the market effects of a little thing like erasing the biggest names in the industry (Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Spidey, etc.) and brown-washing them with brand new demographic placeholders.  Spoiler alert!  It's not pretty on either the creative or the financial side.


Or take this classic example of what happens to the sales of a comic book as it's main writer and intellectual shepherd continues to drink from the SJW kool-aid spigot:
 
That's a drop off in readership of 75%, and you can make chin music about dying industries and the death of print media all you want, and you'll still be left with a minimum 25% dropoff in readership due to the quality of the work produced.
 
While comic books are only directly analogous to literature, they are a powerful analogy.  All of the rules of plot, pacing, characters, personality, writer's voice, underlying messages, and so on apply equally to my chosen medium as they do to comic books. 
 
The dearth of quality writer's podcasts has long been a complaint of mine.  Oh, sure, it's easy to find podcasts full of NPR's "Writer's Almanac" style wankery.  It's easy to find writers talking about their own work.  Finding nuts and bolts analysis of what works and what doesn't when it comes to stringing sentences together is a lot harder.  Luckily, D&C doesn't just produce that style of critique, he floods the digital airwaves with it.
 
And my commute is all the better for having him along for the ride.
 



Monday, July 24, 2017

Two Paths Converged


Two paths will lead you to the heights of literary success, and neither of them are free of rocks, wrong turns, and pitfalls.
 
 
One path is paved with hard work and dedication.  Years of long hours, careful study, and constant effort are necessary to climb this path.  Some say a million words must be written before producing a writer worth reading.  If you take this path, the world around you will constantly roll rocks your way.  They will tempt you to turn back, or to stop and rest.  This path is a long and lonely path that no one can walk for you.  Along the way you might meet a few fellow travelers who will point out the rocks, warn you away from dead ends, and offer encouraging words now and then.  But the actual process of climbing is up to you.  Call this path, “What You Know”.

The sign at the base of the other path reads, “Who You Know”.  Instead of dedicating long hours to tradecraft, the hikers on this path opt to spend time ingratiating themselves to those at the top of the path.  They rely on the hard won successes of others, grasping at coat-tails in the hopes that they may be able to ride them upwards.  Lined with fan conventions, cocktail parties, and rigged award ceremonies, it appears to be a life of relative ease, but it is not without cost.  To ascend this path, one must actively discourage fellow hikers lest they usurp your position as the chosen one.  One must carefully guard his speech lest he offend their patrons and be cast back down the hill.  Part of the price of this path is the loss of freedom the author suffers – the author who chooses this path will forever be subject to the whims of his patrons, unlike those who take the former path.  Call this path “Who You Know”.
Naturally, the two paths intersect and intertwine.  Even the most brilliant author must rely on the generosity of publishers, critics, and readers to spread the word of their latest masterpiece.  Even the most unctuous author must at some point put words to the page, and every patron has his limits.  The market will only bear so much incompetence, and every patron’s patience with authors who lose money has its limit.  As a result, every author spends some time on the first path and some on the second.

As for me – that first path looks like so much more fun.  The people I've met along that path sure are fun, I can tell you that!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Unexpected Classical Music

Lately I've been enjoying a lot of saxophone quartet music while writing.  Saxophone quartets are grossly underrated.  String quartets get the headlines because in the small parlors of the 1700s, the lightweight and soft tones didn't blast the audience seated just a few feet away, but I'm partial to the sound of the woodwind, myself - and not just because I came of age listening to the sax-heavy soundtracks of the 1980s.  There's something clean and pure in this particular woodwind that lends itself to a quartet.  The natural blend of the different sizes of a saxophone, and the natural volume you get from them makes these perfect instruments for listening to on the streets and in the concert hall. 

But that's not what this post is about today.  Today's post is about the classic modern masterpiece that is the theme from "Super Mario Brothers".  Check this out:



Four movements.  Three styles.  Peppy, breezy, maniacal interlude, menacing, then back to the original theme with a huge flourish at the end.  That's a real crowd pleaser.

Speaking of which, have you ever been to a concert where the performer broke into this song?  It's electric.  Those first few bars are not just recognizable, they are beloved.  Everybody knows them.  Everybody loves them.  The intro of this song makes the crowd sit up, laugh, and pay attention.  They make people of all ages smile, and it's a safe bet they will continue to do so for the next 200 years.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New Release: Adventure Constant

Available for pre-order now at Amazon.com, Adventure Constant: A Tale of the Planetary RomanticClear your calendar for the August 1 release date, because you're not going to want to put this one down until you hit the last page.

Jack Dashing thought being a rocket test pilot was the most exciting career his world had to offer.  He was right, but he had no idea it would also open the door to a world where action and adventure always lay just around the corner.  Within 24 hours of crashing the experimental FYN-X drive, Jack finds himself swept up in a race across the Pacific Ocean to rescue a kidnapped princess from the hands of the Red Collective’s most dangerous agent.  So begins a world spanning voyage across two oceans in a world a lot like ours – but one where daring rescues, thrilling chases, and secret plots aren’t just the stuff of novels, they are a part of everyday life. 

Particularly for a man of action like Jack Dashing, the Planetary Romantic.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Birds of a Feather

I'm really late to the party on this "Black Pigeon Speaks".  Now sure how, this cat is a bird after my own heart.



We have the names and identities of the major anti-anti-fascists.  That's courage.

There has yet to be a report of an anti-anti-fascist threatening the mother or child of an anti-fascist.  That's integrity.

Antifa are cowards.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gingerbread Wolves: The Non-Spoilery Discussion

The Book of Lost Doors wraps up with one heck of a bang.  Misha sticks the landing.  The American judge gives him a 9.5!

There's not much to say about it that won't detract from your own enjoyment of the series.  Misha Burnett gives you the slowest of burns with this series, but that slow burn is a lit fuse burning its way to a great big powder keg.  In this final Misha puts a fresh, modern take on some old ideas that normally done so ham fistedly that a reader can be forgiven for a twinge of trepidation heading into that final confrontation.

What I can talk about without spoiling anything is Misha's writing.  He reminds me of Steven King without the bleak, broken on the inside, point of view.  Now, some people claim that King's writing horror fiction and so he necessarily will write about broken and vulnerable people.  Hogwash, I say.  Watching sympathetic characters struggle against the long, dark, uncaring universe detracts from the suspense.  You care less about characters you don't like, and characters you don't like describes almost all of King's characters.

Misha's a good guy and a good pal of mine.  Steven King is an ass that doesn't like my kind of people and won't shut about it.  So I'm necessarily going to be biased here, but...well, let's just rip off the bandage.  Misha is a better writer than King.

There.  I said it.  I stand by it.

They both focus mainly on the people and relationships.  The weird monsters and existential threats are icing.  They both spend as much time dealing with how the bizarre situations in the story affect the relationships between the characters.  They are both enormously creative. 

Where they differ is that reading Burnett's books doesn't leave you with that gross feeling of having just walked out of a porno theater.  You don't feel depressed and vaguely queasy and like you could use a good shower.  You don't put down a Burnett book and .

Burnett also doesn't have great openings, solid mid-sections, and then completely drop the ball in the end.  There are no "hand of god nukes Vegas" or "a gang bang with 11 year olds saves the day" or "the devil closes up shop after having spent a week wrecking a small town" or "the dimensional portal in the trunk of the car just stops working one day, like they do".  Burnett doesn't cop out - he gives you exactly what he prepared you for the whole time, with every action made by the protagonists being important, even little ones that didn't make sense at the time.  What you get is an epic confrontation with a satisfying resolution that leaves you sated and yet ready for more.

Really, the only comparison where Burnett comes up short is in the number of zero at the end of his savings account balance.

I'm done with King, but I'm just getting started with Burnett.

I can also talk about this:  If you're going to read this series, you have to read the whole thing or stop after catskinner's book.  That first volume is a nice, tight adventure yarn in which the, er, hero...finds peace and contentment with the, er, girl...he loves.  That's a nice ending.  You can quit there.  You'll have a few loose threads dangling and mysteries unresolved, but nothing too major, and a few of those mysteries don't ever get resolved, so seeing the series through to the end won't help you with those.

If you decide to move on after catskinner's book, trust Misha.  The next two books are just as well written, but the destination for James and his "if only he was imaginary" friend is a lot less clear than it was in the first volume.  Volumes two and three introduce new characters, new threats, and a lot more complexity.  James growing list of friends and responsibilities draws him into ever increasing dangers and puts him at odds with ever increasing threats.  They make fine individual chapters in the saga, but it's clear that their real purpose is to set up all of the dominoes for the last stage toppling, and that last topple is a real humdinger.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Worms of Heaven

Misha Burnette's "Book of Lost Doors" series has become my dessert reading.

A large chunk of the reading that I do these days is dedicated towards a purpose.  I'm beta-reading as many novels as possible.  I read to help the Castalia House Blog readers find the good and avoid the bad.  I read one book a month for the PotMB Club in order to get fresh perspectives and bond over a common title.  With all of that reading, it's rare that I can sit down and enjoy the pleasure  of a good read for its own sake.

And a good read doesn't get much better than this series.  Supermutants powered by extradimensional elder gods running around the unseen corners of Saint Louis and engaging in the sort of political chicanery that made Vampire: The Masquerade LARPing so popular for so many years?  What's not to love?

It's that rare sort of series that starts off with glimpses of the weird, and then the more Misha pulls back the veil, and the more sense you can make of what's going on, the weirder it gets.  Most urban fantasy stories become more mundane the deeper into the eldritch corners of the world you go.  That's true to a limited extent in the "Book of Lost Doors", but only because even supermutants need a day job if they want to keep food on the table.  Which leads to an odd contrast between the regular joe mutants - like the superdense Blue Metal Boys who run a machine shop - and the high-powered executives that engage in corporate espionage and all of the petty and not-so-petty crimes associated with it.

And all of that - the action, intrigue, mystery, and adventure - all of it carries a weight far beyond those of most stories of this nature.  You care more about all of it because Misha deftly conveys the characters and the relationships with masterstrokes that don't just breath life into his characters, they make you care about them.  Even the really, really weird ones.  It's a shame more of the New Wave writers couldn't balance the character studies with action with the same skill as Misha, because if the guys in the 1970s could do what Misha does, I'd probably be heading up the NuWaveRev right now!

Monday, July 10, 2017

What A Lovely Day

GamerGate hit the world at a time when my participation on sociable media was at an ebb.  With kids, a new house, and a host of other excuses, I was at best a sideline supporter.  The big events like Operation: Disrepectful Nod blew right by me, in all likelihood because I hadn't fully unplugged yet.  In retrospect, as a casual gamer at best, I was one of those normies who the GamerGate literati warned the hard-core crowd they would need and not to alienate.  They were right, they didn't, and now here I am, and a big part of me wishes that I had thrown my hat in the ring during the height of GamerGate.


One of the biggest lessons that I learned from GamerGate was to stop being that guy.  Stop being the silent supporter.  Forty years of being the silent majority has resulted in an America that is hardly recognizable as a nation in its own right - the rare glimpses that I get of the bubble media are rife with reminders that the whole world is American, and that the only sensible American policies are those that sacrifice America on the altar of pan-globalism.

Enter the God Emperor and his Golden Armor with which he lays waste to his enemies.

My lone voice on the social immediates might not be much, but neither is my vote.  And yet, I dutifully walk down to stuff my little vote the ballot box in the reddest blue state in the union and lodge my protest against the willful destruction of America.  So why wouldn't I add my voice to the latest protest against the Flase News Network by dutifully stuffing my little memes on the Twitter box?

CNN's investigative reporting is quick when they are the victims
of something. When its the American people who are
the victims?  Not so much.
 
Blackmail ain't just a category on Cooper Andersen's Grindr account.
 
Gloating at the meme-storm a-brewing.

This is one fight I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and cheer.  And it turns out fighting back against the SJWs and the Fake News Cabal is a heckuva lot of fun.

See you on the field of social media battle!

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Ideological Conquest of Science Fiction Literature

A must watch over-view that explains the ongoing revolution in science-fiction.  Much of this is old hat for the PulpRev crowd,  but it offers a nice, concise explanation and fills in a few gaps for the newcomers.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Forbidden Thoughts

Per Vox Popoli:

You are not supposed to read this book. You are not supposed to think about reading this book. In fact, just plain thinking at all is unacceptable. You have been warned... From hilarious to horrifying to dangerously insightful, a selection of stories that must not be told, for they slaughter the sacred cows of our age. Do you dare read them?

Stories by Nick Cole, John C. Wright, Sarah A. Hoyt, Brad R. Torgersen, Vox Day and more, with non-fiction articles by Tom Kratman and Larry Correia, with a foreword by Milo Yiannopoulos.

10 hours and 18 minutes. Narrated by yours truly.

Look at that list of names.  I've been doing this voice talent thing for a while now, and the feeling of awe that I get to share stories by some of the best writers working today has yet to fade.  If you have half as much fun listening to these stories as I had reading them to you, then the audio version of this collection will still be a bargain at twice the price.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Kansai Cowboy

One of my Twitterbros has been publishing a serialized novel, one week at a time, over on Medium.com.  M. T. White's Kansai Cowboy tells the tale of an older Texas Ranger sucked into a crime investigations that hits too close to home.

White has a knack for writing mid-size Texas town politics that spiral out of control as men strive to cut their losses by taking a few legal shortcuts.  Throw some serious criminal elements at them and you've got a recipe for sloppy crime in serious need of a down to earth protagonist.  Steven Bowie, a past his prime Texas Ranger, is the sort of amicable good old boy you just know has the iron in his veins to make him a formidable opponent when push comes to shove.

This is the first time I've read along with method of publishing a story.  Serialized novels posted on blogs have never seemed worth the bother to me.  If an author doesn't have the motivation to write, edit, revise, and publish it, then why should a reader have the motivation to keep checking in on the novel's progress?

Things change.  I enjoyed White's Down to Sheol, so his writing is a proven commodity.  I know he has the motivation to see this thing through to the end.  And the use of Medium.com as a means of reminding me to check in when the latest chapter drops helps as well.  Add to that the busy state of my reading and writing schedule, and the lite-size pieces of Kansai Cowboy make it much easier to squeeze into my rotation.

So if you like modern crime drama, and you're willing to wait for it, give Kansai Cowboy a look.  The third episode just went live this past weekend, so it should be easy to catch up on the action.

Friday, June 30, 2017

More Concrete Writing Advice

Today's writing advice comes from the department of "you should have learned this in high school, but didn't." Jesse Abraham Lucas isn't just the advice giving sort.  Instead of opining that somebody should start a website for the #PulpRev, he went out and did it.

The final form of this new site will take isn't clear to me yet, but he has my support.  And with a kickoff post like Prose That Flows, you can bet it's going to be something special:
Tell me which sentence scans faster:

I ducked into the alleyway, squeezed off a few shots, and vaulted over a fence.

I ducked into the alleyway and, squeezing off a few shots, vaulted over a fence.

The first sentence is the correct answer.
Find out why the first sentence is the correct answer here.

We writers aren't one trick ponies.  We are readers first, drawn to write by a love of the language and a love of storytelling.  While that gives us a breadth and depth of experience with the written word, many of us wind up 'writing by ear' in the same way that a guitarist might not be able to read music but can still play a jamming solo.

The problem here is that reading and writing really are two different skills.  The former is passive and the latter is active.  If you really want to become good at the latter, you have to spend time thinking about how you do what you do.  Advice like Jesse brings helps make us all much more contentious and deliberate with our words and, in this case more importantly, our punctuation.

Here Jesse demonstrates not just a fluency with words, but a gift for explaining how to use them.  The former can make for a decent writer, but the latter makes for a great writer and editor.  And those are two skillsets that combine to elevate decent writing to a new level.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

High Quality Writing Advice

Most writing advice strikes me as the coloring on a tropical frog - it's bright and obvious and tells you to stay away from the poison.  You would think that those who write for a living would be better at writing advice, but typically I make note of the advice-giver's name to add to my list of authors to avoid.  If the best you can offer is nothing more concrete and actionable than, "write what you love" and "seek inspiration everywhere," then it's a safe bet you won't offer anything more interesting in your fiction writing. 

Enter Russell Newquist.  The man has been tearing up the scene lately.  His spirited defense of his publishing house's writers are epic, but it's his writing advice you should really study.  His latest, a two-parter on how to write page-turners is particularly illuminating.

In part one he provides actual mathematical numbers:
Be the page turner. Keep your chapters short. My average chapter length for Post Traumatic Stress is 1450 words. That’s only two manuscript pages, and only about a half dozen book pages.
Part two provides more structural advice:
One easy way to end your chapter on a hook is to take the first sentence of your next chapter and move it to the end of your current chapter.
 If you want people to say they couldn't put your book down, go thou and do likewise.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Appendix N: The Generation Gaps

The recent series of posts over at Vox Popoli relating to the sins of the Baby Boomers and GenXers set my mind wandering down strange paths.

That the true giants Burroughs, Howard, Moore, and E.E. Doc Smith were forgotten and the fraudulent three - pervy Heinlein, snowjob Asimov, and pedo Clarke - elevated by the Baby Boomers for political reasons is beyond doubt.  Anyone looking at the field of science-fiction with an impartial eye cannot deny the influence enjoyed by the former to this day, nor can they deny the steady downward trend in science-fiction's inspirational qualities or creative vision that was concurrent with the rise of the false trinity  (I won't dignify that slight by capitalizing the words.)

There may be more to the situation, however.  The Baby Boomers are notorious for believing that the world began with their generation.  We see this in their writing on film, art, politics, and literature.  Everything is viewed through a lens of "what did they ever do for me", and they gleefully ignore the culture that allowed them to live out their sheltered lives relatively free from the frothing cycles of history and economics that have always plagued mankind.

"Don't trust anyone over thirty," was the catch-phrase that highlighted their ignorance of the past, and so pervasive was that attitude that it only makes sense it would infect the field of science-fiction.  If Dad liked to read Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard then that old stuff just had to be substandard compared to the new hotness of edgy writers like Damon Knight and Harlan Ellison.  You know they are cool because they are total dicks, man.

They rejected the things their fathers honored like selflessness, romance, virtue, and...well, honor itself.  And you can't read Burroughs or Howard without being infected by those ideas, so in order to preserve their carefully manufactured worldview that put them at the center of everything good and right and just, they had to treat the hard working and creative men and women who built the world of science fiction just as they had memory holed everything about the Silent Generation that wasn't focused exclusively on how great the Baby Boomers are.

It might not be quite as great a sin as squandering the financial wealth accumulated by the west over hundreds of years, but squandering the cultural wealth of Burroughs and Howard certainly serves as just one example of how they left the world a worse place than the one they inherited.

On a surface level, there is a certain irony in me - a GenXer myself - repeating the cycle and rejecting the actions of the generation before me.  But where the Boomers rejected everything that came before and assumed that they could create a better world from whole cloth in a generation, we GenXers are looking back beyond those poor misguided fools to the generations that came before them to see if we might heal the world they poisoned in order to leave a better world for our children than they left for us.

We don't reject the wisdom of our predecessors, we just reject the foolishness of our immediate forebears.  And it's this focus on the lost wisdom that will allow us to reject their false promises and build a better world.

And that includes a better science fiction culture.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

More on "Escaping infinity"

On Wednesday, I posted a review of Richard Paolinelli's Escaping Infinity, in which I lamented the inclusion of an extended post-script that felt like a separate story in its own right.  After giving this book more thought, I have to revise my opinion of it. 

The #PulpRev channel has been crackling over the last few weeks with discussions about the foolishness of the traditional hero's journey story structure, of which Dario Ciriello's post at the Castalia House blog is just one example.  It occurred to me after writing my review of Escaping Infinity that my view of it has been unduly affected by a lifetime of exposure to the standard 3-act story structure.  This book defied my expectations, and my initial response was one of confusion, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that Paolinelli should be commended for taking a huge risk. 

He didn't stick to traditional story structures, and instead let the story unfold in a far more natural manner than if he had tried to squeeze it into a formula.  Risks like these are what the #PulpRev is all about, and we should always be on guard against adhering to the old rules.  Richard Paolinelli has the guts to ignore them to craft a better story.  As readers, we should learn from his example.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Salon Admits Jeffro Was Right

Jeffro's detractors have called him a crackpot conspiracy theorist for daring to point out the concerted effort by major publishing houses filthy with secular midwits and tedious intersectionalists to commandeer the ship of science-fiction and steer it away from the open waters of action, adventure and heroism and onto the deadly rocks of collectivist thought.  They don't want to see that attempts to weaponize science-fiction is straight up non-fiction and so have ignored all of his cogent observations and connections.

Well, Slate (ramping up for the Hugo Awards - these stories always hit the press in greater numbers in June in order to help establish street cred for their garbage reporting on the Hugos) let the cat out of the bag.  I'm not linking to that fake news site, but here's my proof:
A few choice quotes:
If you’re surprised to hear that that science fiction might actually have a meaningful real world impact, you haven’t been paying attention. Science fiction and science reality have often found themselves in a feedback loop.
Okay, that's not exactly news.  We all know this to be true.  The article takes a turn for the sinister when it reports on an organization seeking ways to bridge the gap between dreaming of SJW futures and implementing them:
The newly announced Science Fiction Advisory Council, composed of a stellar selection of 64 bestselling sci-fi writers and visionary filmmakers, has tasked itself with imagining realistic, possible, positive futures that we might actually want to live in—and figuring out we can get from here to there.
Does anyone think that this council will be inviting Dragon Award winning author Brian Niemeier or best selling science-fiction (and non-fiction) author Vox Day or even a Nick Cole?  Beuller?  Beuller?  Yeah, didn't think so.  No room for badthinkers when you've got towering luminaries like Cory Doctorow, Charlie Stross, checkbox hire Malindo Lo, and colossal douche Neil Gaiman.  Although, you have to give 'em credit for including a few tokens like Niven and Mike Resnick.

This is a council interested in directing the future along paths that are pre-approved by the Narrativists and they cannot welcome guys with clear vision and deep understanding of how humans actually operate rather than how they might operate if only they would surrender control over their lives to the SFAC.  So you won't see even moderate voices like Larry Correia, John C. Wright, Brad Torgerson, or Sarah Hoyt win that Golden Ticket.

Bear in mind that this council goes well beyond previous instances of science-fiction writers - actually engineers who write science-fiction - advising the US military on potential new technologies.  The SFAC lists numerous roadmaps designed to steer the future along a "preferred future state" including "Planet & Environment; Energy & Resources; Shelter & Infrastructure; Health & Wellbeing; Civil Society; Learning & Human Potential; and Space & New Frontiers" (emphasis mine).

Anyone want to bet that the civil society they envision will include criminal sentencing for rodeo clowns who wear the wrong mask, but plenty of room for staged political assassinations (when the assassins' target is on the wrong side of the political divide?   Anyone want to bet that a big part of the roadmap for civil society will be finding way to reduce or eliminate the influence of Christianity, free speech, or the preservation of European culture?

 With a council like they have assembled, that's a sucker's bet.

But take heart.  Their roadmaps will be clumsy, ineffectual things.  They will be predicated on the same false notions of humanity possessed by most of the members of the council.  As their view of humanity is so fanciful, their roadmap will be a rainbow bridge built on dreams and wishes and just as effective at carrying vehicle traffic.  This is largely a collection of authors whose works do not resonate with readers, whose works have driven mainstream readers away from books, and whose only recourse is the ever popular appeal to amenable authority.  Their roadmaps will all be less about maps and more about traffic laws and ensuring that they control the highway patrol to force humanity to drive the direction they want, regardless of what the people want and regardless of what will be healthy for humanity.

Unfortunately, although their plans are guaranteed to fail, there's no telling how much damage they might do to civilization in the meantime.  So do your part to help stave off their inevitable dystopian futures - don't read anything written after 1940, and if you must, don't read anything published east of the Hudson River.

Hey, here's something that meets the latter criteria
and it's a heck of a lot of fun, to boot!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Escaping Infinity

At its core, Richard Paolinelli's Escaping Infinity, presents a Twilight Zone style mystery of a strange hotel that appears in many times and places, and that once you check in, you can’t check out.  The guests at this hotel become so taken by the perfect luxury of the place that they succumb to it like sailors on the isle of the lotus eaters.  Not so for our trusty hero, however.  He immediately notices a number of things out of place and sets out to unravel the mystery and escape Hotel Infinity.  I really enjoyed this part of the book. 

Peter Childress, the architect at the heart of the story, makes for a fine protagonist.  He is clever, determined, and has just the right level of randiness about him.  The romance set up and resolved during this portion of the book is natural, with a truly feminine ingénue who glides back and forth between dame and damsel with an ease that lends her a likable vulnerability without ever painting her as a knuckle biting coward.  The action and puzzles are original and believable.  It’s a great book.

The wonderful middle-section of the book – really three quarters of the book – suffers for the inclusion of a prologue that spoils much of the mystery and a postscript that veers away from the extra-dimensional nature of the Hotel Infinity and into a strange space opera “Happily Ever After” ending.

The funny part is that both the prologue and post-script are well written and great reads.  The Prologue makes for a great short story with characters struggling to react to a catastrophic error.  It touches on everything from acceptance of responsibility to loyalty in the face of disaster in ways that are heartfelt and intense.  The general spoilers in the Prologue leave enough specifics unspoken for the reader to still wonder about the nature of the Hotel Infinity, leaving that short chapter a great little tale in its own right.  The characters in the extended postscript are also great, even if the entire section reads like the unholy marriage of a Mary Sue and a deus ex machina.
The Prologue might have worked better had it been included as an omnipotent POV explanation for the origin of the hotel, and placed after Peter makes his escape.  The Postscript, with its entirely different tone and scope might have worked better as a sequel.  It’s hard to say, really.  Because both are necessary parts of this story – without the origin and denouement the escape sequence might feel like half of a story.

Which leaves this reviewer in the awkward position of concluding that Escaping Infinity might not be the perfect science-fiction story, but it’s a darn good three of them.

Monday, June 19, 2017

They Know

Politics is downstream from culture.
 
One of the reasons that the publishers in New York are doing everything they can to isolate independent writers and publishers like Castalia House is that they know it plays a vital role in establishing what kind of future we will have.  We represent a threat not just to their pocketbooks, but a threat to their goal to completely secularize all life in America.  Science-fiction grounded in a Christian worldview - even if it isn't explicit in the way of C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy - serves as a counter to their efforts, and as one grounded in truth and beauty it represents a far more appealing vision of the future than anything the secular nihilists living in NYC can possibly offer.

In the run up to this year's Hugo Awards, the mainstream media is once again turning its attention to pushing back against rebellious newcomers like yours truly by fluffing up the credentials of the intersectionalists, secularists, and just plain Marxists.  NPR's Big Picture ran a typical overview piece that mistakenly reports science fiction's birth in the 1950s and repeats the lie of the false Trinity of the pervert Heinlein, the hack Asimov, and the pedophile Clarke.  No mention of Edgar Rice Burroughs or E.E. Doc Smith - at least in the first 30 minutes of the show.  I grew bored hearing the usual lies and distortion repeated and as such could not stomach the rest.
 
I did hear them mention and thereby tacitly endorse authors like boring Kim Stanley Robinson, a Marxist who wields global warming as a political club, and Margaret Atwood, author of the latest rage amongst the "haven't read a book since Harry Potter" crowd.  Her mediocre and contradictory book, "The Handmaid's Tale" is an explicitly feminist tale based in profoundly stupid understandings of how people work, but which has nevertheless proven to be a popular means of fearmongering by the elites.
 
Brace yourself for a wave of this sort of typical midwit writing by Fake Science Fiction fans writing stories about fake science fiction.  For far greater insights into the state of science-fiction today, watch the following video.  The narrator is talking about Marvel comic books, but his insights are accurate across all media.  He might as well be talking about the Hugo Awards.
 


If you can't stomach fake science fiction, why not give the real thing a shot.  I've got a post-apocalyptic tale featuring real people, real adventure, and real science fiction:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

He might not have taught me how to fight leopards, or Arab slavers, or swing through the trees using jungle vines, but my Dad did provide me with a number of skills that come in handy for fighting the slave-minded people of my time.  An irreverent sense of humor, an unflappable calmness in the face of adversity, and a deep sense of faith have proven time and time again to be  fearsome weapons in my own small fight to save civilization.  My first progeny is preparing to leave the nest at the end of the summer, and I can only hope that I've been half the father that I had.
 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Break Time

My first bona fide novel is up to 10 reviews on Amazon, which is a nice surprise given how rarely I ask for those.  It's also a reminder that I've got to play some catch-up.  In addition to posting a few three-sentence reviews on Amazon - that's all it takes, people - I owe a good friend a short story for a collection he is compiling.  So I'm taking this week off from blogging.  See you next Monday.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Newcomer's View of the PulpRev

Dominika Lein, author of, I, The One, posted an in-depth look at her experience with the #PulpRev.  It's gratifying to read about her experiences, as this is exactly the spirit that I've been pushing within the community.  I've lifted a few choice quotes, but you should really go read the whole thing:
It's been a little over a month since I emerged from lurking to larval wiggling about in the PulpRev trenches. Time flew fast.
In my time as an independent writer for the past four years, I've never seen support like I've already experienced in the PulpRev community. 
I would have never gotten that kind of support from a regular writing group or a place like NaNoWriMo...An aside: the only kind of support NaNoWriMo knows how to give is of two kinds; Rabidly cheerleadering "approved elements" to include in stories (you know) along with word counts regardless of quality and yet parroting the "proper ways to write" which ranges from mangled quotes of Strunk & White to Wendig blatherings to generic marketing/myths (which always includes "GIVE AWAY FREE COPIES ...(so I can get it for free)").
The #PulpRev has experienced phenomenal growth over the last six months, with no sign of let up.  We've attracted newcomers like Dominika and old hands as well.  In addition to serving as a ready-made fan base, the #PulpRev features some of the most supportive fans around.  We don't just buy each other's works, we do beta-reading, marketing, and encouragement, too.  At least for now.

One thing that I don't have a firm grasp of yet is how well this atmosphere will scale.  As the crowd continues to grow, will we ossify into the NaNoWriMo self-absorption, or will we continue to show the same level of support for each other?  My guess is that it will scale perfectly.  As more writers of good will enter the lists, they'll bring their own talents and time into the fold.  That will increase the amount of support even as the number of people who need support increases.  The overall level of support that any given writer receives won't increase - you'll still have two or three people beta-reading and reviewing and recommending your work - but the volunteerism will grow as the culture does.

The one thing to watch out for is the moochers.  The guys who always beg for help, but never offer anything up in return.  They will come, have no doubt about that.  It's surprising that we haven't seen any of them yet, or if we have, I haven't seen them*.  Perhaps they fade away when they realize that the #PulpRev crowd isn't stupid.  We notice the little things, and without question, those who don't give shall not receive. 

My advice, for what it's worth, is to continue welcoming new writers with open arms.  Be wary, but welcoming.  And start looking for ways to build up a stronger reader base rather than a writer base.  Our weak link right now is that the people most drawn to the #PulpRev are those who have thought about what modern literature is missing and set out to correct its shortcomings.  But there are throngs of readers out there looking for us who just don't know we exist.  Once we crack that nut, you're going to see a quantum leap in our profile.  Jon Del Arroz has been doing yeoman's work to that end, but the movement as a whole has a long way to go.

Which shouldn't be discouraging, but inspiring.  We're going to be around for a fair few decades, even if it dwindles back to a few gaming bloggers writing stories for their own amusement.




Also, if you want to support one of the authors of this growing movement, you can do so by purchasing a copy of my latest #PulpRev novel, A Moon Full of Stars.  It's post-apocalypse the way it was meant to be!
https://www.amazon.com/Moon-Full-Stars-Jon-Mollison-ebook/dp/B071VSF68L?ie=UTF8&keywords=moon%20full%20of%20stars&qid=1497061983&ref_=sr_1_1&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Don't Take My Advice

Russell Newquist, author of the much enjoyed Make Death Proud to Take Us, offers up some solid writerly advice when he recommends:
The secret (It’s not really a secret – you can find this all over the internet) to making money off of this in the book world is to have lots of books – preferably in the same series. Then, some portion (but not all) of the customers who pick up one book will buy all of your books, or at least all of the series.
This is echoed by Nick Cole, author of Ctrl-Alt-Revolt! and The Wyrd Chronicles:
Write a three book series and don't release until Book 3 is done. Rinse and repeat.
These are both working authors, so you should definitely listen to them if you want to be a working author.  Do as they say, not as I do.  I'm working on my fifth book and my fourth novel length story, and every single one of them is different from the other.  I just can't help it.  Once I get a story out in one universe, I'm already looking around for the next universe to explore.

The dirty little secret is that I don't world-build.  I story-build.  The background of every one of my books contains just enough information to paint a broad picture of the situation, and enough background to drive the plot or motivate the characters, but for the most part my settings are designed to fit the story and not the other way around.  I've actually gone back and changed entire universes in a few instances in order to bend them to the needs of the story.

It might make good financial sense, but I prefer the wide-open spaces of tight and compact story telling over sprawling epics.

For now.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Dangerous Gamers - The Book

From day one The Frisky Pagan has been a reliable source of passionate, well considered, and funny commentary over at the Puppy of the Month Book Club.  Lately, his production has fallen off a bit (he's not alone in that), and now we finally get a chance to see why: Dangerous Gamers

You already know who these commentators are, and you have seen their works everywhere. They thrive in the worlds of on-line journalism, blogging, news aggregators, click-bait journalism, and social media. Their ranks have swollen, and they have problematized everything under the sun. And without more worlds to conquer, they have set their eyes on entertainment and video games.


If you are a regular at The Puppy of the Month, you know that Frisky has the writing chops to do a topic like this justice.  In its first day of publication it hit #16 in "Media Studies" and #27 in "Video Games", beating out some pretty impressive titles.  Be a sport and help him crack the top ten in both categories, would ya?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Donut Shaped Planets


 

It's so very tempting to give a post like this the subheading along the lines of "Homer's Haven".

There's been some chatter in the science field lately about synestias - short term stages in the development of an earth-like planet where the dust and rock of accretion takes on a donut shape.

Note that all three objects have the same density.
You couldn't walk on the surface of the synestia shown here.
By itself, this isn't particularly groundbreaking, but it does shed some light on the possibility of donut shaped planets.  We science fiction writers are always on the lookout for fun new planets on which to place our space princesses, four armed green aliens, and fighting men of earth, and a toroid shaped planet seems tailor made for adventure.  By its very nature, it is an alien setting.  Gravity varies over its surface.  The day-night cycle varies depending on where you stand.  The seasons are affected by how great it's tilt is off of the solar ecliptic.  The paths a moon (or moons!) might take get way-out wild.

The donut moon is worth a paragraph.  While the moon could dive through the donut hole in huge figure-eights, or even just bob up and down inside of it, both orbits are very unstable.  Far more likely is a moon rotating around the rim, parallel to the tilt of the planet.  On the other hand, these orbits are stable enough to allow for artificial satellites for spying, communication, and GPS systems.  They'd need more nudging than their Terran counterparts.

So why haven't we seen more of these?

Here's a video with a few explanations:

If you can't watch the video or just can't wait, here's a few interesting bullet points to consider:
  • In order to maintain its stability as a hoop, a planet with earth approximate gravity would have to rotate once every few hours.  A 24 hour day might have four to six sunrises and sunsets.  That sort of bright-dark cycle would play havoc with normal life.
  • Gravity would vary by 200% as you travel from the equator (the line of smallest diameter through the hole or largest diameter around the outside of the hoop).
  • To drop this planet in the habitable zone of the star, you need a big, fat blue star.
  • The seasons on a planet with an axial tile similar to earth would run very hot and very cold.
  • Continental drift would 'smoosh' the tectonic plates up as they approached the inner ring, and stretch them out as they drifted back around to the outside of the ring.  That would result in massive mountain ranges inside the donut hole.
All in all, not a very friendly place, but a decent writer should be able to work with it.  Continental drift is not a requirement for a colonizable planet, nor are moons.  They real problem as I see it is the lack of a liquid-solid core.  Without that, you've got no magnetic field, and no protection from solar radiation.  Which means life on a donut planet just isn't feasible.

And I guess that's why we haven't seen many stories set on planets like this.  The kind of authors prone to think about the geometry and gravity and tides on a place like this are hard enough science guys to throw up their hands and walk away.  To drop a planet like this in your story, you'd have to be one of those guys capable of juggling just enough math and science in your head to make it plausible while being loose enough with science to ignore how all of the data screams, "This is not SCIENCE!"  You'd have to be crazy to use one of these in a story.

Which reminds me, it's a planet called Antioch, and it's one of the last lines of defense for those tasked with protecting the Sacred Planet against the ravages of the Demented.