Life, The Universe, And Everything

So, I’m at a writer’s conference this weekend. I’ve learned quite a lot, met a lot of interesting people, and mostly wished I was writing rather than talking about writing. I mean how many times can you repeat your introduction before you get tired of hearing about yourself? My thoughts keep leading me to the next generation. I’m not a well-established name in the libraries and bookstores, nor am I a young man still dreaming of what it’s like to be a writer. I’m in the beginning of the middle somewhere. However, I think the young ones deserve our attention. Now is a fabulous time! We have so many opportunities to inspire the young men and young women who are our future scientists and science fiction writers. They have so many events to look toward and to experience. We may soon have buildings on the moon and Mars. We may soon have a detailed map of Mars, like that road atlas they give you free at the tire store. We will soon (sometime in 2015) have a probe in the area of Pluto, which is often our most distant planet. On that note, we have great debates to enter about whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet, or a mini-planet, or a “Plutoid”, or a planetoid, or an asteroid. This is a great time to be alive. This is a great time to discover science and science fiction. We have so many resources out there for inspiring and encouraging our little Einsteins. And our resources are growing exponentially. We have data compiling faster and faster and faster than ever before. We can study any subject, from geology to astronomy, with a swipe of our busy fingers. Consider too, how easy it is for the youth of our day to understand a new language. It’s because their minds are fresh and ready to accept the new information. It works the same way with anything they learn. They can learn sciences that the older generation might have difficulty grasping because of limited space in the cranial cavities. Youth can be amazing, and even more so if we who are a little older encourage them. It is my opinion that we have a responsibility for inspiring the next generation. We owe it to those who came before us, and inspired us, to show those who come after us, how fascinating the world really is. If we don’t take this responsibility, I think we are some kind of unworthy ingrate.

That said, I have to brag. I’ve had the chance numerous times to hear Larry Correia speak. He’s a dynamic personality, that’s for sure. His best quote was when he was talking about treating your writing as a job. He said, “I used to be an accountant. I couldn’t go to work and have accountant’s block. They would’ve fired me.” Oh yeah. There’s one thing on which he and I agree. I’ll give my full opinion on “writer’s block” in another post. There are other subjects in which he is totally wrong, like for instance: why does he keep saying his own name wrong? He says it like the country. Korea. It’s pronounced Core-ay-ah. When is he going to get it right?

Also, later today, we at the conference will have the pleasure of hearing from the long-since established Orson Scott Card. I’ll have a follow-up post to this one concerning what he said that was important. (I like to filter out the other stuff.)

Until then, ciao. Oh, and keep inspiring the youth!

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Hidden Messages Revealed

Have you ever been insulted by someone, and you know they have no clue what they’re talking about? Maybe they called you a name that was so far off the mark that you had to pause to wonder why they would call you that. Maybe they used some big words to try to make themselves appear smarter than you, or in an attempt to impress some invisible web trudger that they don’t even know, or perhaps even to impress their wide-eyed, brighter-than-them, inflatable spouse. Psychotic isn’t it?

Here is my answer to some insults, and a clue as to what they are really saying when they insult you (anagrammed hidden messages revealed):

“I used to be a lot like you!”

Translates to:

“I use auto-bidet; yell, ‘Ook!’ ”

Well, of course you do, you silly monkey. Keep typing, keep using the bidet (it’s so refreshing), and yell, “Ook!” as many times a day as your heart desires.

Another insult that they may throw at you is:

“You don’t know.”

First of all, is that really an insult? Anyone who doesn’t know can probably study the subject. The insult has a faulty foundation of assumption. It’s extremely weak, because the one who used it assumed that you don’t know, when to make the assumption they could not know whether you know! I wouldn’t have to turn that one inside out. It could stand on it’s own as a back-firing insult, but it’s fun for me to twist and rearrange, so I did, and this is what I found:

“You don’t know,” becomes, “You took N down.” Which I didn’t, and wouldn’t. N is up. N is always up. Check a compass or a map if you don’t believe me. N sometimes looks like this:

Compass-N

See how the N (which stands for North, by the way) is showing you a direction? That direction is up, or away from you, so hold the compass accordingly and you may be able to find your way around.

“Cismale gendernormative,” is another one that is extremely lame to try to convert into an insult, because its definition is a man who identifies as a man. Yeah, as if sanity were an insult. Disturbingly it anagrams to:

“Malice organs inverted me,” which says more about the person trying to insult this way than it does about the insulted person, obviously. The man who thinks he’s a man isn’t inverted at all. The fish who thinks he’s a fish is swimming in reality. And what, I wonder, are those malice organs? Only the inverted can know for sure.

“Cismale gendernormative,” could also be, “Dreaming cleaner motives.”

That seems obvious.

One other possibility for this insult is:

“Incogent male smear drive,” which makes some sense. Anyone with a drive to smear all males everywhere is definitely without a relevant argument. Especially if they follow the, “Cismale gendernormative,” attack with, “You don’t know.” Sounds to me like they fell in their own trap.

A couple more fun insults, like the common insult:

“You ignorant twit!”

This is my favorite, because it’s my victory every time, as you’ll soon see.

“Tar toting, you win!”       I have been known to tote heavy things.

“Tart ingot, you win!”       You shouldn’t eat that.

“Argot tint, you win!”        My words bring victory!

Lastly, the overused, and therefore impotent: “Homophobe?”

To me, this one always appears to have a question mark after it. The insult tosser is never quite sure. Always on that foundation of assumption, and most likely feeling very much the hypocrite, since they are probably accusing you of “labeling” someone else, or something else. And let’s not even get in the sea of phobias out there, like Allodoxophobia, or Epistemophobia. Regardless of the circumstances, this insult has more to say than at first meets the eye. It translates to:

“Hobo Mepho?”

Again with the question mark. They are calling you a Mephistopheles? Or perhaps heralding themselves as such? If they don’t know, how can you? Well, you know where you are. You are right there, where you’ve always been. And this insult has the definition of “wandering devil”. So the next question is, “Where is your accuser?” They are out there, so out there.

Bumper Sticker Wisdom

You may have noticed that a certain percentage of the population is more predisposed to operating by a system of bumper sticker wisdom. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that. Having a witty one-liner can make your business thrive,  your relationships sweeter, or the butt end of your car seem smarter than the front. Well, here are three from my collection that really define my mood on each of the particular subjects.

 

warming

 

 

bumperstickerguns

 

 

bumperstickereff

The Grand View

As a new writer I have the grand view of all those who have come before me. I get to learn from them. Hopefully the good habits stick and the bad ones fade away. Apparently Herman Melville only wrote when he was drunk. Take that information as an example. While reading Moby Dick you can tell that the writer was sauced. It’s a very difficult book to read. The book is more rewarding as a collection of memories than as an obstacle in your present purview. Possibly it would be easier to read if the reader was sauced. This is unfair really, since Melville isn’t here to defend himself. Well, and if he was he’d find it mighty difficult to beat me. I’d club him over the head with his own bottle before he could cry, “Foul weather barnacles!” And that is another thing that I am learning from all of the currently not deceased writers: that insults are thrown around almost too casually. However, the benefit I see of this internet-version of the dozens is that we writers can quickly encourage some automatic, reflex criticism. We can put our wits out there and shove them sharpened in the ribs of any common web pedestrian and make them shout something like, “You hack!”

Picture that.

samswrdimages (1)

It’s like testing the sharpness of your Samurai sword on one of the Emperor’s kin and then challenging him to identify the limb removed with perfect accuracy before you give it back. Or maybe like putting…well never mind that, you can’t know all my secrets.

gunfightimages (1)

Isn’t it interesting that you can witness all manner of showdowns in the nebulous forums of the web, but the bullets are only words? Do words hurt you, or make you stronger? I’m sure there are many variables to take in to account for a correct answer to that question. In the sense of a writer, gathering the tools of the trade in a vocabulary, I would think that could only conclude in strength. That is probably only true in specific cases. It’s obvious that many people have words but don’t know how to use them. It really doesn’t matter what grandiose and flowery scientific words you have in your cranial cavity if you can’t put them together in a way people can understand. That has been made evident to me by the people who try to out-word each other, and only succeed in making fools of themselves. When they shove a string of words together, and half the words are in an ancient unused tongue, all with the intent of proving how intellectual they are, they usually end up proving the opposite. Really, if you can’t describe the concept to someone who knows very little, then you don’t know the concept yourself.

And that brings me full circle to my initial statement: I have a grand view from here. So do many other budding artists and writers. We are watching you old-timers. We’re absorbing the words you use as well as the stresses and the inflections you use to deliver them. So keep it straight, and make it worth our while, or we’ll konk you over the head with your own bottle, you lousy souse.

Outsider Observations

As an outsider and an observer of human to human interactions I’ve noticed some patterns. One of these patterns I’ve come to call the “Offense Cycle”. It can be very helpful when you notice someone is in a certain stage of the cycle because then you can see how their argument is more emotion-based than logic-based. Here is the cycle laid out for you so that you can detect it.

First, they wake up offended. They get up out of bed every day prepared to be offended. They are looking for arguments instead of looking to avoid them.

Second, they deny all other opinions. They deny all wrongdoing of their own. They deny that they could make any mistake. Most of all, they deny everyone’s opinion except their own as the correct one.

Third, they’ll try to use trite insults. Emotional attack is the phase shift here. They will try to attack anyone they see as the opposing person or group with common insults of character. Most especially they will try to attack the other person’s intelligence.

Fourth, they will default to the fail-safes. Jump on the racism bandwagon, or cry phobias.

Fifth, they will assign blame. Blaming others for their misguided notions or apparently wrong arguments, the one in the cycle will try to excuse themselves by assuming the incorrectness of others. Or the environment, it’s always convenient to blame the environment, perhaps because it’s always there.

Sixth, they will try to show how they relate. “I have a friend who is_____(fill in the blank with the current downtrodden group).” Again they will make assumptions about their opposition not having the ability to relate.

Seventh is the fork in the cycle. They will either find hope or despair. They will either become depressed or accept the failure and try to correct it. If they despair they will most likely repeat the cycle; however, if they find hope and make the necessary corrections, then they will have the ability to remove themselves from the cycle.

 

And that’s how this alien sees it.

A Writing Tip

A WRITING TIP: Yes they are everywhere. Not grasshoppers. Some few are well done. Not steaks. Most are exactly what their author has aspired for them to be: pulp. Books written in first person point of view. If you want to write a puop (oops, that L is so close to the O on the keyboard, but it’s a very apropos slip, no? PULP is what I meant) if you want to write a pulp fiction novel in a few short days, go ahead and write it in first person. The first person pulp fiction is everywhere. Generally, speaking of fiction writing, to write in first person you use the pronoun I a lot. If the main character of your book is doing all the “talking” then you are writing in first person. This is also known as diary style (yes, as in Diary Of A Wimpy Kid). Second person would be written with the action directed at You. This was once cleverly described as choose-your-own-adventure style, but it doesn’t appear much anywhere (except maybe in the book titled You? I have yet to find this book and read it.) . Third-person writing includes the pronouns He, She, and It. Third-person is probably the most difficult style to write, due to the amount of information the writer has to keep organized. The more epic literature is set in third person style because the writer can describe worlds and even galaxies without the limited perspective of first-person writing.

First person writing is almost faddish, except it’s a style that has been around too long to be faddish. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one example. She wrote the whole thing in various pieces of first-person perspective: from Vincent’s view to the monster’s view and back to Vincent’s. She wrote it in this style because a diary-style was very convincing for the people of her time. The style was meant to make it all more real for the reader. Nowadays though, how many people write letters to each other in such steep formality? How many write in diaries? Certainly not as many as did back then. And yet the style is all over the bookshelves lately.

For anyone who is aspiring to be a serious writer, take a tip from me, first person writing is most effective when it’s objective. If you know what objective means then you’re already on your way, but for those of you who are starting life new I’ll cut you a break. Objective means others can perceive it. This is a terrible conundrum for those who wish to write the next Twilight, because to write objectively and yet say “I” all the time is like shaving your face (or your legs) with the lights off. It hurts your brain, and it could damage your face or slice up your legs.

Subjective on the other hand means only the subject can perceive, or at least it’s limited to a lone perception.

This is exactly what first person writing is…limited. However there are some exceptions, for instance if you are a woman writing in first person with the perspective of a man, and your writing can find a good deal of accuracy, then you have truly become a talented writer of fiction. If you are a south African diamond miner writing as a Dutch vacuum salesman, you could be a talented writer. And actually, if you are a woman writing for women, the diary style seems to be quite effective. The Twilight example is again good, because the author, Stephanie Meyer, did a fantastic job writing for women, because women love to place themselves in the heart of the story and connect with the heroine via the emotional channel that all women share in the real world anyway.

One last thing that is kind of funny about most pulp fiction first person stories that attempt to be thrilling, (and this is something that writers notice about other writer’s work more often than the common man does) the reader KNOWS that the main character cannot die, otherwise how did they come to tell the story? How did they come to write all of this stuff in their diary if they died? Not so thrilling after all, is it? It has been said that to write in first person is to obliterate any chance of killing off your character; they can’t die, because then the question is: how did the dead manage to write this diary? With dried leather flesh on brittle bones clacking away at the typewriter…wait there is no typewriter, the bones are clacking against themselves! (Insert lovely movie scream.) Truth is, the writer can kill off the main character, but then the writer has spoiled most of the suspense because either the story must end or the main character must be immortal. The only writer who got away with that sort of first-person mischief (within my cranial database) is Shel Silverstein. In other words, you ain’t gonna pull it off unless your story (or poem)  is humorous. If your story isn’t intentionally humorous, any critical readers will still perceive it that way if you’re writing in first person and death is the suspense element…and then you, the writer, will be immortalized in parodies and lampoons. Hmmm, should’ve started there yourself maybe.

A Fair Review

I recently received a fair review from US Book Reviews. I’ll share it with you and you can decide for yourself if it was a fair review:

Peculiar Head

by Chester Crowley

Trafford Publishing

reviewed by Caroline Blaha-Black

“Julia made her way up to a man who had been swinging a twenty-five pound sledgehammer at some very stubborn concrete. She said: Can I try that?”

Crowley’s collection of peculiar short stories is as heartwarming as it is shocking, and it will make readers gasp as well as laugh. According to the foreword, the author compiled these stories over a long period of time, and they range from the odd to the weird and are just as entertaining.

Crowley’s writing style is readable and curt, and often takes on an ironic tone that gives his stories that extra punch. His characters are rather twisted in their minds and tortured souls, but are also mischievous children who get into trouble. They are colorful and well-fleshed out, so that the reader gets a clear picture of the story and the characters’ actions.

Particularly of note is the short story “Pyx,” about two seasoned robbers who break into someone’s house only to find that all items are made of cardboard, “DayCevin,” about a man who employs a strange way to steal and ingest food in restaurants and grocery stores, and also the story “Peculiar Head,” about a group of children who receive a magic potion from an old witch and gain special powers. Also of note is “Tai Fung,” a manual on how to avoid people in various tight spaces.

The book contains seventeen short stories that can be easily read during the lunch hour, as they are the perfect length for the people on the run, and the book is small enough that it can be tucked into any purse or bag. Perfect for lovers of short stories, and for those who love the strange and the oddball.

And that was it. Thanks US Book Reviews and Caroline Blaha-Black!