Writing As Workmanship

Last week I finished my second novel this year, an about 90.000 word follow-up to the previously posted Historian’s Crusade. Why is that important besides padding myself on the back? Because when I told it to a friend, who is also my editor, that within five months I had finished two novels, we got talking about output. Not so much about artistic quality, but just the general output level.

You see, for the previous three years and more, I had been tainted by NaNoWriMo and the idea that every story that needs to come out of me needs to be a masterpiece. I talked about this before in one way or another, how NaNoWriMo just encourages bad writing habits. Sure, you’ll have a 50k word novel in four weeks, but you can basically throw it away and start again. I don’t really like the idea of working in multiple drafts that way. Once my story is out, I prefer to wash my hands of it, clean up mistakes here or there sure, but I don’t tinker with the narrative anymore. Because I just know that if I start doing it, I will never stop. That hurts your output.

As artists of any field, I think we all too often want to put quality over quantity. And while that is a generally good attitude to have that will smother the next 50 Shades of Grey right in the cradle, it also stops you from experimenting and working on more. A painter could paint five works in his lifetime or 50, one better than the last. Rather than languishing between publishing any new work, or just finishing it, one could instead get it over with. Whether or not it’s good isn’t up to you anyway, that’s up to the audience. Art needs an observer to even be worthwhile.  Continue reading “Writing As Workmanship”


How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated

How will you handle the fact that all of your predictions will fail to come true?

We might as well deal with the fact now that every blog post I will be writing within the next however many months it will take something from the writing I do on the side for the final stages of the novel. Everyone good? Great. Let’s talk about science fiction becoming outdated.

Science fiction has always been near and dear to my heart, but when you’re dealing with something long-running like Star Trek, still on the air after 50 years, or are reading an older book like 2001: A Space Odyssey, you are immediately presented with two immediately outdated concepts: a Eugenics War by 1996 and an interstellar humanity with an existing cold war by 2001. What’s the science fiction in that you might ask? If it’s not in the future, then what’s the point, it immediately breaks the immersion. Why would we watch something, read something, that has already gone past the expiration date?  Continue reading “How To Embrace The Fact That Your Science Fiction Ideas Will Become Outdated”


Writing And The Soapbox

When is it okay to soapbox in your writing?

Among writers and readers, friends and foes, the internet and that normal place where they have ice cream, I always read about soapboxing. A soapbox in a modern connotation is something you step on and give an impromptu speech about usually a political subject but also about anything that comes to your mind. At least this is what Wikipedia tells me. From many people online that have either read my writing or with whom I discuss other peoples’ works we often discuss the merits of soapboxing.

Sure, on the one hand its easy to do it. Write what you know and that usually involves our own personal opinions and fields of expertise. For me it worked out fine with my first book The Historian’s Crusade right here on this blog. I was unsure what to really write about, what was near and dear to me enough so that I could put it into a couple ten thousand words, form a narrative. And so I just did exactly that. Right now I think it’s a success, I had fun writing it and it got some pretty decent feedback on the blog.

Naturally, I decided to try the trick again when I wrote my second book on which I am currently sitting at around 60.000 words and still going strong (more updates in the future). Again I chose a subject that was near and dear to me, being a sequel it also deals with history, historicity, reception, ideas, all that theoretical boring stuff that nobody cared about and instead focused on the thinly veiled Star Trek Enterprise pastiche. With the second book though I stood before a big problem: not being able to write for all the different statements I wanted to make and this is where we get to the central crux: Continue reading “Writing And The Soapbox”


Mass Effect Andromeda: Almost A Star Trek Simulator

Been absent a bit to work on the next novel (hit the 50k mark) and, among other things, play Mass Effect Andromeda. Here are my thoughts because I might as well post it here. It’s my blog after all.

Finished up Andromeda with 83% completion. Final thoughts? I liked it. It ended up being a lot of fun. During my play through I got to experience the game both unpatched and patched, and while I had rolled lucky on the compatibility dice before, it infuriates me that the game could have easily been better received with just a week or two of updates and some actual play testing. It’s a fucking shame that the game had to suffer from it.

On the game play side of things, the game eventually became a Mass Effect game, meaning the gun play got boring while the biotics/whatever someone else might choose who isn’t ready to be a cool space wizard got really awesome. The upgrade system they implemented though, meant that I didn’t get tired of gun play until hour 40 or so, much later than any previous ME game. Continue reading “Mass Effect Andromeda: Almost A Star Trek Simulator”


Christopher Nolan: The Karl Marx of Superheroes

People who blame Christopher Nolan for dark and gritty superhero films are bad and should feel bad.

Obligatory statement about how my new novel is coming along very well and I’m hopeful to have the reworked version of the serialized novella up in a month or so aside, let’s talk about superheroes for a change.

Watching and reading reviews about an up-and-coming superhero film, you cannot help but think that you are experiencing deja vu in regards to every one of these that isn’t Marvel Studios related or R-rated. The connecting thread? An overwhelming criticism of the film being too dark and too gritty, aka the name for the Fast and Furious reboot I’ll produce one day. Ever since The Dark Knight came around in 2008 all superhero films by DC, as well as numerous tv shows, and some other properties not DC related, have followed a similar style in which they have a similar color scheme to The Dark Knight, a similar cinematography, subject matter, brooding acting style, and a general sense of violence that is considering unsuitable to the way superhero films are supposed to be. I consider myself a detractor of Marvel Studios properties and their habit of veering too far the other direction of playing down darkness.

But I asked myself earlier when I was watching RedLetterMedia’s review of the new Power Rangers movie, if their, and other peoples, use of “Christopher Nolan-y” as a negative description of these types of superhero films that take themselves too seriously. And at that point it hit me: Christopher Nolan is the Karl Marx of superhero films. Both men have created seminal and important works, much greater than the limited field in which they have been intended for. Nolan made what is still my favorite superhero film of all time. It wasn’t despite being dark and gritty and brooding, but good because it’s story could only be told in such a way. His way of film making does, however, not have universal applicability when it comes to other characters. And while Marx observed society and had his own ideas on how capital and society operated which are still worthwhile to check out theories even if you disagree with them, both men suffer from being compared with their imitators and those who have used to apply their work in their own way without their intellect… okay, this is where the comparison is breaking down because comparing Lenin or Stalin with Zack Snyder is too edgy and dumb even for me, but I’m trying to create clickbait here people, so give me a break… Continue reading “Christopher Nolan: The Karl Marx of Superheroes”


Star Trek: A Retrospective (Or Autopsy?)

What went wrong with Star Trek? And when?

For those late to the show: I like Star Trek. A lot. I wouldn’t have written a Star Trek parody/homage novel otherwise. But being a Star Trek fan in this day and age – who am I kidding, every age – means that you are most definitely aware of the limitations of the franchise. There is virtually no mass market appeal, a lot of the old series are so dated in their storytelling that it’s hard to get new people on board, the new tv show is plagued with behind-the-scenes drama, the last movie didn’t do so well… did I miss anything?

Now as an “old-school” Trek fan and having read my review of Into Darkness, you would probably think that I believe the franchise went wrong the moment JJ Abrams took control of it. And well, you wouldn’t be all that wrong, but in search of what made Star Trek derail, as a good historian, I went a bit deeper (Note to self: insert Inception horn. Remove before publishing).

Star Trek is in its 51st year at this point and there are more than enough places it could have gone wrong, but I decided on five specific moments that, even if inadvertently so, caused many more problems in the long-haul or outright destroyed the prospect the show could have had for a brighter future:

I’m not a hardcore TOS fan, but even I will admit that almost the entirety of the first season is a great viewing experience. When it comes to overall quality only latter-day DS9 could surpass it in quality and quantity. Some of the great science fiction writers of Hollywood wrote for it, including the great Harlan Ellison. And then season 2 had a surprising amount of quality drop, barely any of the writers returned. Do you wanna know why? Going by Harlan Ellison’s 200 page “fuck you” to a 20+ years dead Gene Roddenberry, the answer is quite simple: Gene Coon and Dorothy Fontana, the real geniuses behind Star Trek’s early success, called in all their favors with great writers. Then Roddenberry pissed them off. Normally I wouldn’t just believe an old man who’s holding a grudge past the grave, but knowing Roddenberry’s antics? It seems plausible. Continue reading “Star Trek: A Retrospective (Or Autopsy?)”


The Liberating Feeling Of Accepting Setbacks

The trick is not minding that it hurts.

As an aspiring writer, I can tell you wholeheartedly, that there is no thing we fear more than criticism. Even constructive criticism. For all writers will tell you about wanting criticism and reviews, so they may learn from it, we actually don’t. Best case scenario? We want you to go on Amazon or our website, find our books, rate them highly, share the link to your Facebook timeline and tell your friends about how brilliant we are. That’s all we really aspire to deep down in our hearts. Or maybe that’s just me, but I doubt it. The fear of not being liked after we poured our hearts and minds into a work of fiction to receive negative feedback, is the worst thing that can happen to an artist. I’m not just speaking about writers anymore, it’s anyone. We all want to be loved, have achieved something meaningful with our invested time, our work of art.

I talked about writer’s block a couple of weeks ago and how overcoming it comes down to accepting certain realities about both your work and yourself. An important element of that is accepting setbacks. Once you accept setbacks, both in terms of your writing and the critique of your writing, you will be able to move on with your career and your life. It’s something applicable even to other areas of your daily routine, from working out, to losing weight, to your experience at work, even homework and school. Setbacks will always happen, it’s inevitable. There are too many variables in our daily lives and in what we put into our art for nothing to ever go wrong with it. Even if you are on a winning streak, there is always something that may happen to end your running series.

The trick comes in when you realize this is only temporary and it cannot stop you for your own strength and willpower and insistence to carry on. As long as you can cling to this, you will have the ability to bounce back, be it from failure at school, or a negative critique to your work, or because you need to throw out your first draft completely and start again. I was reminded of Peter O’Toole’s performance as T.E. Lawrence in this regard:

“The trick, Mr Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”

Our creative and day-to-day struggles are exactly what they are, struggles, but they don’t need to rule over our process of creating art or moving forward with our life. Once you realize this, you will be able to let go of your self-doubts, you will regain the self-confidence any creative person needs to put their work forward to the public. In the end, once the die is cast, it’s on.

P.S: Sorry for butchering Caesar at the end there.