Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Character Development

“Boy it’s getting bad when you have to con your own horse for a ride.”
 - Bret Maverick 

No one is defined by one moment. Any fiction writer will tell you characters are constructed from dialogue, action, choices, and limned by the reflections of others. That’s why we have these ridiculous Supreme Court confirmation hearings. So we can all piece together a character, without the guidance of a good script. Was that candidate the top of the list or a late entry? Did he fudge, or maybe lie, under oath? Does he have some confusing debt issues? Is he the kind of person who pissed you off so bad in high school you remember 35 years later?

Anyone can be a Supreme Court Judge. Anyone. The Constitution makes it perfectly clear. They don’t even have to be a citizen. Sure, we like Ivy Leaguers. Why, I don’t know. A judge gets a staff of their choosing and they can all be super educated. All we really need is someone who can make a fair and honest decision. We’ve got to have more than one of those milling about the country, right? A Supreme Court nominee does not need to pass for 554 yards in a game, hit a high A above high C or run a marathon in 2:02:57.

He or she does not need to be special, probably shouldn’t be special and certainly shouldn’t be treated that way to begin with.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Russia and what we don’t get

There is a disconnect between people who believe Russian collusion is real, important, and highly illegal – and those that think it’s jaywalking for the rich and famous. Of course the disconnect is wide and real because it’s the worst kind – the kind when both sides are right.

I’ve written two novels now about a post-government world. (This may make me the world’s leading expert.  Google search turns up no one else interested in the subject.) In such a world, corporations control everything, every aspect of life on the planet. They need workers and consumers, so they keep the water mostly clean, grow plenty of food, pick up the trash and educate everyone. Corporations don’t have much choice but to fulfill the needs of the people because they are for and by the people. Human well-being is a byproduct of profit maximization, but the end is still the same. Humans go to work, go out drinking, watch soccer and die.

The post-government world looks quite a bit like modern Russia.

Vladimir Putin is much more a CEO than an elected official. All of Russia’s major industries are controlled by Putin associates, as if they were divisions of the same massive corporation. There is a pretense of government, but leadership in Russia has changed less than Exxon-Mobil over the same time period. Elections are for show. Communication channels are restricted.

In the US, we still treat Russia like a sovereign nation, rather than the multinational corporation it has become. Our viewpoint, and policy written from that viewpoint, have not kept up with the times. The people who shrug their shoulders at laws prohibiting actions by a foreign country do so because they know, at least instinctively, that Russia isn’t much of a country anymore. Goldman Sachs and the Koch brothers get to insert themselves into American politics. Why not Russia, Inc.?

Oh, that’s right. It’s still against the law. And never will be a great idea. Corporations put the bottom line – and the power profit brings – as their top priority. Not you, not me, not even the employees as separate entities. Only the collective matters.  There's no disconnect there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Back to School

I took some time off from this blog because, (1) who cares and (2) I went back to school. After 31 years, I decided to work on my Masters of English and Ohio Dominican said, sure, why the heck not. Go Panthers!

It’s kind of weird trying to master my own first language. Still, if you’re going to write for a living, it’s best to know how. Eventually somebody’s going to ask you about a predicate and you should be able to state something about the subject.

The program is entirely online. It took a bit of adjustment. If not for my daughter Nina, I’m not sure I could’ve navigated the chats and posts. In cyberspace no one can see you raise your hand. I mostly made through the classes to date, and I’m mostly sure I can see this through to the end. I can see it in 2020. Ha.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What you need to know about the Knowers

The Knowers by Nina Martineck is not what you’re expecting. It has the intrigue of dystopian fiction and the tension of a romance, but it is neither of those things. A fresh, quirky conspiracy book about the kind of awkward kids you know, it has a story that pulls you along and dialogue that makes you smile. It leaves you with a couple of things to contemplate. I’m not sure I want my young adult fiction to do more than that.

The hook of the book is the Knowers for which the novel is named: kids who feel different, learn they are different, and then come to terms with the fact that, like everything, your specialness can be a bug or a feature. They perceive time differently, which can make them seem smart and clever. And gives them the power, collectively, to rule the world from the shadows. It does not give them the power of avoid crushes, hold tempers or avoid catastrophe.

All of which makes for a really fun read. Looking forward to the next one.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Milkman Always Rings Twice

I am pleased to announce a very narrow science fiction sub-genre: Milkmen Dystopia. I was shooting for “Milkpunk” to be more in line with current subculture, but you don’t always get to pick these things. The terms “Impressionism” and “Cubism” were coined by journalists. That’s the way nicknames work, so I won’t fight it.

Milkman by Anna Burns (Check out this review) doesn’t have anything to do with a world bereft of governments, but it is set in a tomorrow we may not altogether like.

What I do like is the growth-rate of Milkman-related speculative fiction. It doubled over night. That’s better than bitcoin.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

For writers, a peek behind the curtain

I am loving Robert J. Sawyer’s Patreon account. For those not familiar with either –

Shame on you. Robert is one of my favorite writers. He’s probably most famous for his novel Flash Forward, which became a television show. He should be most famous for Quantum Night, which imagines technology for detecting psychopaths. The book is insightful and terrifying, and not in a jump-scare, creepy ghost kind of way. It’s been more than two years since I read it and I still think about it from time to time. There is no better review than that.

Not being familiar Patreon is OK. It’s not as fun as Patron or helpful as a Patronus. It’s close on both accounts, and you don’t need a lime, salt or wand. Patreon lets you become a patron of your favorite artists. You get be someone’s Baron van Swieten or Peggy Guggenheim. Artists get to spend more time creating than marketing, which is what you really want them doing.

Robert’s Patreon feed is more than new material. It’s a very candid look into what it’s like to be a professional writer. He is not giving you a glossy, sugar-coated public relations statement. He is not marketing. And it is very refreshing.

Not a lot of writers like to write about the harsh, mercantile side of the business. Even fewer make it a continuous theme. Robert’s feed talks about frustrations, economics and process. But it’s not dower. He talks about smiles as much as frowns, because that’s how life is. Even the life of a successful writer.

While anyone interested in biography would be interested in these posts, if you’re an aspiring writer, Robert’s Patreon account is an ongoing paternal talk you don’t get from most dads. It's insightful and terrifying.