writing bones books and such

I was pulling together some stuff I thought was interesting, maybe like a list of books about writing that aren’t about writing. Like a different approach of the same…consider this an alternative to the usual grammar books and Writing Down the Bones and Stephen King things and etc. This is the other thing. I didn’t even read these to learn how to do anything. I just read them to read them because it interests me, I find it interesting in some perverse manner

  • Italian Folk Tales- Italo Calvino
  • The Book of Symbols
  • The Pleasures of Japanese Literature
  • The Art of Recklessness
  • The Art of Subtext
  • How Music Works
  • Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales
  • Plotto
  • The Writer’s Notebook I and II by Tin House
  • Wonderbook (duh)
  • La Boutique Obscure
  • Experiments in Style
  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

You say surrealism, I say licorice fish pancake milk

Just some random thoughts (since I can’t sleep though I know I should) re: surrealism, symbolism, magical realism, how they exist now as marketing categories/genres/sub-genres rather than reflections of their actuality, and how both apply psuedo-freudian and psuedo-jungian concepts to their own metatextual ends….

Like, for example- when a magazine asks for surrealism, what do they mean? Some provide dictionary definitions. Which is not only crass and cheesy and the hokey opening to a million high school essays, but it also dodges the question, it tries to shut down conversation rather than expanding. Because really, it is a serious question with serious ramifications. The same with applying magical realism and Magical Realism to this whole broad spectrum of things.

I think what it boils down to is this: both Surrealism and Magical Realism started as tools of criticism. Surrealism was criticizing the world itself, Magical Realism was a tool devised by critics. Both were created in specific points in time, to talk about very specific things.

But at some point, those people who write genre came along and tried to broaden these ideas, tried to make them not tools of criticism, but instead tools of marketing. I mean- really, that’s all genre categories are in literature, they are marketing categories. If you like X, you will like Y!

Of course these categories are just tools as well. I’m not trying to say that things labelled with magical realism or surrealism as a marketing category is a lesser thing. I’m not. I’m more dissembling the categories themselves- I think they are basic appropriations of other cultures, of other time periods, of other thoughts and movements, and trying to boil them down to formula, in order to sell things unrelated to the original idea.

The original concept was stripped from these categories- and instead, the words exist only as basic symbols for strangeness.  The original surrealist movement was about deconstructing reality through attacks on psuedo freudian psychology. They thought they were disrupting the mind by short circuiting it- they used symbols and symbolism to a very specific disorientation, and in their concept a way of freeing the mind from the shackles of ideology. (Burroughs is probably the person who introduced this concept into genre fiction itself- esp influencing the New Wave writers)

The modern works that carry these labels seems more interested in Jungian symbolism and archetypes, and giving things a dream like strangeness. Not to free the shackles of the mind from industry and art per se, but rather as a way of communicating with some symbolic architecture of the mind. It becomes a conversation, rather than a violent overthrow.

Not that this is a bad thing, but it is muddling the original concepts and it creates confusion rather than clarification. The new writing is symbolic, is dreamlike, yes. But is it surrealism? Is it magical realism? The answer would be no, if you looked at it from a critical literary eye, and only a yes answer when you applied the recent marketing category/genre to it.

make my wings out of candlewax

the-minotaur-george-frederic-wattsI’ve been thinking about minotaurs and labyrinths lately. The story structure is a pretty simple, but interesting concept-

  • Limited area. Claustrophobic.
  • People being hunted in this limited area
  • The creature hunting- supernatural. Primal.
  • Characters that survive do so by wit & ingenuity (wings etc)

There are a lot of similarities with this and the haunted house motif. Of course with the Haunted House there are more than one in the cast, or more than two, but a group of people hunted. This is probably to show that the death is real, that the threat is real. And the house is usual old, ancient, almost sentient itself. The house becomes a character. It becomes a supernatural labyrinth, with moving doors and hallways.


It’s interesting because House of Leaves explored this idea really well (something I’d forgotten until recently- though it’s been 10 years since I read it…so…), the connection between labyrinth and haunted house, of ghost and minotaur.  The structure to both are simple narrative structures, hunted, hunter, etc.

This can also be seen in slasher films- which are, in a way, an extended version of the haunted house story. Usually there is a single house – check the original Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, etc. The house becomes the trap, and the murdering creatures are primordial. They usually don’t speak (notice in Texas Chainsaw Massacre that the ones who actually perform acts of murder don’t speak- or even attempted acts of murder), which reflects an even more primal, even more animistic in nature.

What these creatures, these minotaurs want is not important. Why they kill is unimportant. What they represent is something else, something complex and troubling. Maybe in our own psychology, or something. Whatever. It’s interesting that so many of these structures are used in horror- even at its core Alien is a minotaur story, or a haunted house in space.shadow-colossus

Then you also have it in the video game landscape. What I’m mostly thinking about is Shadow of the Colossus, which, like House of Leaves is a love story of sorts, but using this same structure.

So this ancient undying thing hunts the victims. Some shamanstic beast, summoned from the shadows, going after the things it hunts in a maze that represents somehow the land of spirits, of the dead, etc. Maybe it wants to die. Maybe it wants to live? It hungers for something somehow. The idea contains two arcane symbols- the beast and the maze.

Also of note- does Beauty and the Beast also represent this story structure? It7517919 seems to make sense, esp the Jean Cocteau film. The manse as maze, supernatural in origin, the beast itself the minotaur, Belle’s wings are not made of wax but of something other. Another use of this structure as a love story. Is this also connected to Orpheus? A different maze. A different punishment. Never look back, you never look back…

And of course, Bluebeard is mostly definitely connected to this. As well as all of its variants (Fitcher’s Bird, Mr. Fox, etc).

Just some strange random things I’ve been thinking.

paper bones building up

I’m completely obsessed with reading about structures, about tropes, about the basic underlying bones of things. I don’t use it in my own fiction, I don’t plan out and structure things, but I love reading about them. I constantly flip through Plotto, and TVTropes, always reading about 7 or 10 basic plots or 5 basic characters, about archetypes, about mythology, about the morphology of folk tales…all of that. The categorization, the taxidermy of complex interwoven things.

And I like the ones who are looking at things from the outside rather than the inside. Like, I don’t like “how to instructions” but rather “here’s what X did”. The structural things, these basic boiling down. Turning everything into a list of things, of concepts, it’s all so abstract. It floats around, and none of it really sticks when you really really think about it. But it can be a fun time sink, to read about how things are built, how things are structured.

These narratives are all kind of like dreams anyway after all.

Anyway, like I said. I’m not wandering around looking for a way of constructing, but rather I look into seeing how people have categorized other people’s plots and characters and the likeylike. Kind of like, fuzzy, indistinct, floating ideas, just unconnected, but there, there, floating around. All of these cliches and concepts and building blocks.

I also snagged The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Which is very funny. It’s like tv tropes, but for epic fantasy. Although not as loving a take down, this is far more critical in its dissection. The purpose isn’t for love of form, but rather for a desire of change.

Anyway, yes. This formalism is interesting, albeit only surface level interesting.

rise up rise up rise up like wings

Last weekend I had an infusion treatment for this current M.S. relapse and as usual it made me feel better during the infusion, but right after my last day I crash. It’s like I can’t move or do much of anything for the bulk of a week.  Everything hurts. Breathing, moving, hurts. All my symptoms come back 10 fold, and I usually get a whole bunch of new ones dancing around under my skin.

Dunno if this happens to anyone else on them. But it’s always been that way if they don’t use a taper (which they didn’t this time).

So. I’m finally FINALLY starting to feel alive again. Had a lot of catching up to do. Had some work I needed to finish that was waiting/waiting. So.Yeah. I plan on posting here more. I have a new episode of LitPunch podcast I’m coordinating with some awesome writers. We’re going to do a round table thingy about fantasy, and using it as a tool or a weapon against real world problems and issues. Should be interesting. I’ll have more posted here when I know more.

I’m also reading a bit of epic fantasies, and a lot of faerie tales and mythology, cultivating ideas for some novel or blogpost or such and such later on. I also plan on updating this website. The current layout/etc is like five years old. That’s five years too old for me.

I’m also thinking of doing some epub formats for fun. A bunch of CSS files and the like publishers can use for nicely formatted files. Ones that look cool and complex and not just text.

the way we fade on waking

I woke up way too early this morning from a dream where my childhood cat was still alive and trying to tell me something. But in the dream I knew he was dead and I was wondering how he got back here, got back to life. I’ve had this dream a lot, each one different then the other. One I had where there was like fifty of him, wandering around, demanding I follow the herd of ghost cats.

So yes. At 5 in the am that happens and I wander my house after I wake up, sleepy still and my ms making me feel like someone hooked a battery to my tongue. I try to sleep after that, stomach aches, no fun. The sun comes up and the odd thing is I think I should just read. Fuck trying to go back to sleep. So I finish Murakami’s latest. I have my spotify playlist going to have some music, and Father Death Blues plays, and then, oddly enough, some Louis Armstrong. And I feel like I’m in the ending to an old movie. Something smells like candlewax, which reminds me of my childhood and going into Catholic churches and I think the air smells like the saints of my younger years.  I’m not Catholic anymore (not anything anymore), but the smell still does that to me.

ChalkCircles: The Kickstarter post-mortem

Now it’s time for me to look inside that Kickstarter and see exactly what went wrong and where and all that jazz. My thoughts are probably wrong on all of this? Mostly because I’m pulling it out of my ass. Who knows. So-

  • Kickstarter Fatigue
    This is mostly with publishing KS’ers, I think. But it does seem like every other week someone else is posting a KS’er and asking help, whether it’s for a novel, an anthology, etc. It gets exhausting after awhile, even when you try and support ones you love. I knew this going in…
  • The timelimit was too short
    This was done on purpose, in a way. The main reason I was going with a KS for this rather than just submitting it the old fashioned way, as I normally do (and will do now this is over…) to publishers/etc is that I need money to pay bills ASAP. I won’t go all sad story on you. It’s an emotional thing for me, and the people I want to know, know about it. And that’s that? Anyway, it didn’t have time for a slow burn. And since I’m not A NAME or I don’t have the support of A NAME, a slow burn is what I needed. But couldn’t really afford to do.
  • The Amount was too High
    I wasn’t sure about the amount at the start. I knew that other KS’ers that were successful at this amount (but not in that time frame). I also knew that post-kickstarter, sales for a work usually drop to nil. So I knew that this would probably be it, whatever I got is whatever I got. And because I had certain monetary issues that needed to be remedied post haste, I went the route that I did. Did I doom the Kickstarter? Probably. But at the time I wasn’t thinking quite rationally.
  • I assumed the word would spread
    Word of mouth is a bitch these days. That’s the slow burn right there. It takes awhile to pick up traction, but once it does, it explodes. Sadly, I couldn’t risk a slow burn paying off. Not in this instance, if I wanted a slow burn, I would’ve gone the route of a publisher/etc. I also expected to at least have a mention on one of the big(ger)SF/F blogs. Nope nada zip zilch.
  • I thought a great idea and great art would be enough
    If no one knows about it…then what’s the point?
  • The cool stuff came too late in the game
    The animation trailer that the artist did came near the end. The interactive fiction game also came near the end. Both had a chance to move outside of the group of writers I know and love, and into a wider audience. Both came too late to do any good.

There’s only so much you can do in 15 days. But I didn’t have the time to really sit on it (since it takes over 14 days after the KS’er ends for the money to transfer to your account). The big two was time and amount. The other one was the fact that the whole world seemed to exploded during the last week. And what the hell, right? I mean everyone was distracted with real issues that were more important than this little KS’er, and to be honest that shit is more important. So my timing just sucked in that aspect.

Will I regroup and do this again at a later point with what I learned?

No. I don’t plan on doing another Kickstarter again any time in the near future. Here is why-

  • Emotionally I can’t handle it. It’s very nerve racking, very stressful.
  • I hate asking friends for favors. Even distant friends. I hate it. I feel guilty if they help out. The same with family, etc. I feel embarrassed.
  • I had a multiple sclerosis relapse four days in. This limited how much I could work on it. I’m not sure I could handle doing this again. Not until they get my meds right. Which could take awhile.
  • I would rather do it the proper way/old fashioned way anyway. I like having my books in bookstores. It’s a thrill unlike any other. I never get tired of it.

So that said, I do have a complete novel. I was going to break it up and serialize it for the Kickstarter, but it doesn’t need to be like that. I’m still trying to decide what to do with it, exactly. I still need to think on that, but I have thoughts. This book is probably some of the best shit I’ve written in a long time.


So, some other news:
I plan on using this blog and Twitter more often and Facebook less and less. FB as a company/etc feels so sleazy these days. Like how much info they take/etc. A few of my writer friends are doing the same. I plan on keeping my FB account, and commenting on some awesome writers I know there and I consider friends, but that’s it. So expect more here.

Also, trying to figure out exactly what to do with litpunch. I might just keep bullshitting. I don’t know. We’ll see.