Celebrating “Forbidden Thoughts”

forbidden-thoughtsIn my vast and disorganized collection of science fiction & fantasy books, I have a lot of stuff from the ‘good old days’ when speculative fiction was exciting, including one volume of early Hugo award winners. Some of the more current SF & fantasy books just seem dull and predictable, and the politically correct propaganda it contains is so inferior to Nazi and Soviet propaganda that even it doesn’t arouse my interest.

And then comes Forbidden Thoughts, edited by Jason Rennie and Ben Zwycky, forward by Milo Yiannopolos (flamboyantly Gay conservative activist— or maybe he’s more libertarian. But all the right (Left) people are rioting to keep him from speaking in public). On the back cover it says ‘You are not allowed to read this book. Don’t even think about reading this book. In fact, just forget about thinking all together.’  And it delivers on its promise to skew the Sacred Cows of our day in the many short stories, one poem, and a few non-fiction essays in the book.

My favorite is the short story ‘World Ablaze’ by Jane Lebak, about a nun trying to live her vows in a world where that, and Christianity in general, seem to be illegal.  Other stories come from Sarah A. Hoyt, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Vox Day, John C. Wright, Chrome Oxide, Brad R. Torgersen, and Nick Cole. The poem at the beginning is by Ben Zwycky— I have a book of his poetry and like it.

Now, I found out about many of the authors in the book through a Facebook group, Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance. And since I myself am a conservative with libertarian tendencies, you might assume that all the ‘forbidden’ stories in the book line up with my own personal beliefs. But a wide variety of ‘forbidden thoughts’ are included in the book, some of which I strongly disagree with— though that seems to be the point. But I was able to enjoy the book as a whole since even the stories that bother me are daring and exciting, and make me wish I could write like these authors do.

So this book is the main thing I am celebrating today— along with the idea that there is still room in SF and fantasy for exciting, idea-driving fiction.


Worldbuilding series

storyworld-first1

Recently I read a book (Ebook) called ‘Storyworld First, by Jill Williamson. It’s about creating science fiction and fantasy worlds and I think it’s quite useful. Jill Williamson is a Christian author writing for the Evangelical fiction market and I really loved her dystopian series ‘The Safe Lands.’

Now, I have been considering for some time writing a series of articles on this blog about aspects of worldbuilding, and this book inspired me to take the idea more seriously. The first article I have in mind is about storybuilding as you go along, as happens in long-running open-ended series such as Darkover, Pern, Valdemar and others. Others will follow, especially if the series of article proves to be of interest to readers.


Chicken #221 Update

0303171014My frostbitten-feet chicken #221 continues to survive, though he’s lost one foot to frostbite and the remaining foot looks dead and useless. I’m not so sure why I’m so set on keeping him alive, since he’s an older male Araucana and my only other Araucana chicken is a hen just as old as he is, who isn’t a very good egg layer. Though she’s very good at escaping the pen she lives in. I rather doubt that #221 is going to be able to breed the hen in his condition, and I’m not so sure I want to keep on with the breed at this point. But as long as #221 seems happy enough, I suppose I will keep tending him. He really enjoys it when I put mealworms on top of the chicken food in his dish. And he gets around his little cage pretty well. I may even give him a name before long.


This has been a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

Celebrate blog hop

Let your light so shine/Via lumo lumu antaŭ homoj

Every Sunday Catholics and many Protestants hear the same set of Bible readings, all over the world.  This is from the readings for today, in two languages. (Don’t worry, the second one is in English.)

Esperanto,

13  Vi estas la salo de la tero; sed se la salo sengustiĝis, per kio ĝi estos salita? ĝi jam taŭgas por nenio, krom por esti elĵetita kaj piedpremita de homoj.

14  Vi estas la lumo de la mondo. Urbo starigita sur monto ne povas esti kaŝita.

15  Kiam oni bruligas lampon, oni metas ĝin ne sub grenmezurilon, sed sur la lampingon; kaj ĝi lumas sur ĉiujn, kiuj estas en la domo.

16  Tiel same via lumo lumu antaŭ homoj, por ke ili vidu viajn bonajn farojn, kaj gloru vian Patron, kiu estas en la ĉielo.

English, King James Version

13  Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14  Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.


The King James translation is one of the greatest works in the English language. It contains the full text of the Bible, not just an abbreviated version of the Old Testament like many modern Protestant translations have. I have read that if all the copies of the King James Bible vanished, it could be reconstructed almost completely from the Bible quotations in other English works.

Many proverbial expressions that are well used in the English language originated in the King James Bible.  There are three of them in this passage alone: Salt of the earth, light of the world, let your light so shine before men. As writers, it is well to know the origin of these common phrases.

In the phrase “Let your light so shine before men,” the word ‘men’ is used in its meaning of “men and women.” In 1611 when the KJV Bible was published, modern feminist jargon had yet to be invented, and so the translators were free to use “men” instead of the ugly and less effective feminist jargon alternatives like “personkind” or “humankind.” (In English, words of one or two syllables pack more of a punch than words of three or more syllables.)

The best writers in the world ‘let their light so shine before men.’  That is, they don’t hide their ‘light’— their knowledge, both spiritual and secular, and their very selves— in order to seek popularity by being just like all the other writers. Hiding your ‘light’ makes your writing seem bland and boring and just like every other second-rate writer. The writer who shares his ‘light’ and his self with readers is going to be a one-of-a-kind writer and can stand out from the crowd.

Why Negan had to kill them/Celebrate the Small Things

Celebrate blog hopIf you are a Walking Dead fan, you’ve just experienced a thrilling half-season which began and ended with episodes in which Negan, the new Big Bad guy, killed two members of Rick’s group. While the half-season ender didn’t kill off anyone we were too sad about, the first episode kills featured two particularly beloved characters. Why?

Because of an important rule of storytelling. If you want an audience to fear that someone will kill beloved characters, possibly even the Main Character (Rick Grimes, in The Walking Dead), you have to show him actually killing beloved characters. Killing offstage, killing characters so minor they are mere names, will not produce the fear level that may be desired.

For novelists, particularly those who are timid, inexperienced, or working in the Christian fiction genre, there is the tendency to chicken out at this point. They ALMOST kill a beloved character. Or they fool themselves that what is essentially a minor character can be killed off with the same effect. But if the story is the sort that demands a real, evil villain, half-measures won’t do. Remember, even in Evangelical Christian fiction, beloved characters can be killed. Remember what happened to Chloe in the Left Behind series.

On the other hand, if you are writing a form of children’s fiction, including YA which is aimed at young people from 12-15, toning down your villains can be essential. You can have your villain kill people off-stage, perhaps people that the main character will mourn, but not someone who is central to your main character’s life. The same goes for writing other categories of fiction in which extreme villains are not expected or wanted— cozy mysteries, or sweet romances.

neganlucille


Celebrate

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop: Join at http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

This week I am celebrating getting back into blogging (I hope) after a few months of being ill and a month of cleaning up all the crap that didn’t get done while I was ill.

Illness can make you feel depressed, especially when it comes with isolation. I went through a phase of thinking that my writing and my blogging were crap, and that I had nothing to offer any friend anything that would be of value. So why write, why blog, why try to have ‘friends’ who were really more like acquaintances?

But I’m over that. Most days. And at least my cats need me. Especially now that it’s winter. My barn cats, who have access to an enclosed porch and my basement, found their water dish full of ice yesterday morning. My kitten Roxie, who a couple of months ago got herself locked in the refrigerator overnight, probably wanted back into the refrigerator to warm up. I do let the more sensitive cats in the house overnight when I can. And my elderly cats have taken to sleeping in the laundry hamper in the basement— which makes me hate to do laundry because it takes away the kitties’ bedding.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to write

Maybe it’s an artifact from the years of collectivist schooling most of us endured, where we had to do everything as a part of a group. Maybe we are just afraid to do something as awesome as becoming a writer without getting permission. But too many of us are convinced we have to get our parents, children, husband/wife/living-in-sin partner, boss, co-workers, friends/Facebook friends on board before we dare begin serious writing work.

But you don’t need to do that. Do you feel you need to ask permission before you read a good book, have a daily devotional time, keep a diary, or clean your living space? No. You just take it for granted there are some things you are just allowed to do, without consulting anyone. Writing should be like that.

Sometimes there are good reasons NOT to get certain people ‘on board’ with your aspiring-writer persona. For example, suppose your mother has a habit of discouraging you in everything you try to do, and after years of practice she is good at crushing your spirit. Do you need to tell your mom about your writing? No, why would you? At least, you can wait until you’ve been published a few dozen times.

Perhaps you are feeling that your relationship with your spouse, ‘partner’ or friends isn’t good or complete unless you share everything. That’s a silly attitude. Many men who love football have wives who don’t know or care anything about the game. Well, wives don’t have to love their husbands’ sports or hobbies. Just like husbands don’t have to take up embroidery because their wives love it. In fact, both in marriages and in friendships, it’s good to have a little ‘space’ where each person has his own interests apart from the other.

To keep your writing as a private thing you don’t need permission for, you need to do it in a low-key way. Don’t make big announcements about how you are writing and must not be disturbed. You are just busy at your computer. It doesn’t matter what you are busy AT— paying the bills, shopping online, making an inventory of your chickens by wing band number, or— writing a great novel.

In the same way, don’t make writing-related announcements on social media if your friends list consists of the sort of people who might not support you. You might consider having a second Facebook account for your writing related activity— you can join Facebook writer groups and invite the writers you meet to become Facebook friends, and keep your naysayer family members, coworkers and friends out of it.

Exercise:

Make a list: whose permissions do you sometimes feel you need to be a writer? Who do you think needs to be ‘on board.’

Next: read over the list and write a few lines about why you do NOT need the permission of these people or any other people to be a writer. Writing is a method of daydreaming on paper— and who needs someone else’s permission to be a writer?

Last: write a few lines giving yourself permission to be a writer.

Looking for a few good writing podcasts

CatholicGeekShow2Podcasts work for me. For years I’ve downloaded radio broadcasts in Esperanto to listen to at my leisure. And lately I’ve been listening to Jimmy Moore’s low carb diet podcasts regularly.

But what about my writing? I could use some writing inspiration on a daily basis. And since I do housework while I listen to podcasts, I could get finally get caught up with the laundry.

I already listen to author Declan Finn’s podcast The Catholic Geek. It’s kind of a chore to listen to because it’s 2 hours long and I’m more oriented toward shorter podcasts. He interviews a lot of sci-fi authors including some I really like, such as Daniella Bova and Karina Fabian.

But I need more writing podcasts! What I want/need is some writing inspiration about the writing process, especially anything aimed at the indie writer.

I’ve tried The Creative Penn and the podcaster, Joanna Penn, has a cool British accent. But she describes her writing as in the vein of the infamous anti-Catholic novel ‘The DaVinci Code.’ As an enthusiastic Catholic convert, I’m not sure how much of that I can take.

Also, The Creative Penn seems to have no problem with ‘erotica.’ As someone educated at a time when the world made more sense, I’m appalled that anyone is willing to talk about reading or writing a porno in a public forum.

I may decide to become a regular listener of The Creative Penn anyway.  But I’d like to be able to find other writing podcasts that have what I want without praising pornos or anti-Catholic material. I wonder if there are any Catholic or Evangelical Christian authors who have good podcasts? Other than Declan Finn, of course.


Today is my 12th day on a strict ketogenic diet, and I’m still suffering symptoms of an ailment commonly called ‘the keto flu.’ It’s really just going through withdrawal from sugars and other carbs. When I first went strict low-carb over ten years ago, I had few symptoms, but as I get older it gets worse. Moral— don’t go off the keto diet once you are on it.

Today I listened to the Jimmy Moore low-carb podcast and it featured a lecture by Dr Eric Westman mainly about the use of the ketogenic diet in the treatment of diabetes. Here is the link: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/the-llvlc-show-episode-1149-dr-eric-westman-2016-low-carb-cruise-lecture/26680


A storage unit for cats.

A storage unit for cats.

Becoming the Writer: Cultural Literacy

Declan Finn, author of Honor at Stake

Declan Finn, author of Honor at Stake

When you start to write, you are putting on the socially significant role of The Storyteller (there ought to be a Tarot card for that.) It’s a little like being a schoolteacher. You are expected to be knowledgeable in a way the Average Joe isn’t.

One name for the kind of knowledge you need is ‘Cultural Literacy.’ It refers to a list of things you need to know in order to pass as an educated person in the American (British, Australian, Serbian, German, Samoan) culture.

Taking on The Storyteller role means that you are claiming to be culturally literate. Even an actually illiterate tribal storyteller in a remote village needs to have high levels of cultural literacy.

To understand cultural literacy, think about its opposite, cultural illiteracy. Imagine a man who had never heard the name of William Shakespeare. Imagine he didn’t know who Zeus and Hera were. That when you mention the Gettysburg Address, he thinks you are talking about a street address, and when you say it was a Lincoln speech, he asks, ‘Who’s Lincoln?’

That’s what cultural illiteracy is— though it need not be quite that bad. Readers do not accept the culturally illiterate as serious writers. At best they might buy from you if you write pornos. And who wants to degrade their writing by using it to write pornos, which is something any idiot with a filthy mind can do?

Even lower-social-class readers who didn’t finish high school, who are culturally illiterate themselves, will be put off by a writer who shows he is culturally illiterate about something THEY know.

Now, some oh-so-special Progressive types decry cultural literacy in education and say they want to replace evil ‘white’ Shakespeare by, say, the collected works of Richard Wright (who was ‘black.’) Only they don’t actually function that way. If a Precious Progressive reviews an author who has managed to show he has no clue what Hamlet and Macbeth were all about, the criticism will be scathing— even though according to the Precious Progressive that author may have been educated the exact right way by a school who has dumped Shakespeare for Richard Wright.

But what about when there is an author who does know his Shakespeare, but who hasn’t read Richard Wright’s Native Son, or his late-in-life collection of haiku? Is there any Precious Progressive on the planet who would actually tag an author as ignorant for not recognizing a quote from Native Son or a Richard Wright haiku? Lesson is this— even people who are against the cultural literacy concept expect you to be culturally literate.

How do you fix the gaps in your cultural literacy? There are a number of books by E. D. Hirsch on cultural literacy aimed at an American audience. Much of what is in this books will also help you out if you are from Finland, Vietnam or Nigeria; you might also look at elementary and secondary school textbooks from your nation to get clues on what cultural literacy means to your own culture. (Note— if you are a Korean, say, who writes in English, you get a pass on some mistakes on English and American cultural literacy because of all the cool Korean cultural literacy stuff you know. Especially if you put some cool Korean stuff in your book.)

Question

How do you rate yourself on the cultural literacy scale? Do you have any plans for improving your cultural literacy level? What are some things you might suggest to others improving their cultural literacy level?

My divided writing life

8MinuteWritingLately I’ve been reading & rereading Monica Leonelle’s 8 Minute Writing Habit. She recommends doing timed writing for 8 minutes as a way to create a daily writing habit. And it does work, except for one thing. I have more than one kind of writing I need to do every day, and I don’t know which to do ‘first thing in the morning.’

You see, I want to make writing poetry a daily part of my writing life. It’s the kind of writing I’ve had a bit of success at. Writing a poem is something I know I can finish, and I know I can submit my poems to literary magazines and sometimes get published.

But writing poetry is a money losing proposition if you have to buy sample copies of poetry magazines, pay for postage submissions, and get paid in nothing but contributor copies. And I’ve always dreamed of being successful at writing fiction. So working on my fiction project — a novella about a man who has to fight zombies to protect the innocent and clueless— is a priority for me. It’s something I can sell and perhaps generate money to support my poetry-writing habit.

And then there is blogging. I’d like to be able to blog daily Monday-Friday in order to build this blog up into something that’s useful to other people. And an essential part of blogging is writing comments on other people’s blogs. I’ve heard of a man who habitually writes hundreds of blog comments a day and now has a blog with about 80 comments on each of his posts.

So there I have three things that demand a place in my ‘first thing in the morning’ new writing habit. It’s enough to eat up my whole morning! And then there are other writing-related things I must do. Such as: social media activity, assembling-editing writing projects once written, and keeping myself alive and fed.

So, this is a dilemma. I wonder what other writers do who need to do more than one form of writing daily. How do you pick which goes first? How do you arrange your schedule so that all of that gets done?

Today I’m doing 8-minute timed writing sessions to get this blog post completed as the first writing act of the day. In part that’s because I’ve been sick and slept in this morning, and I do want to get my blog posts up around 7 or 8 in the morning. Perhaps when I get up earlier I can get some other writing done first and then shift to my blogging. But maybe what I really need to do is FIRST establish a daily blogging habit using the advice in Monica Leonelle’s book, and THEN, after about a month of daily blogging, work on establishing the poetry and prose writing habits. What do you think?


That pop-up

I’ve added a pop-up ad to try to get a few people to sign up for my email list. I wanted to go over to this free pop-up provider I heard about in hopes of getting a less annoying popup and putting it on enough of a delay that people could at least look at my blog content for 10 to 20 seconds before dealing with it. But after I got started with it, I found out that the pop-up from the provider doesn’t work with WordPress.com, only with WordPress.org. *Sigh*