Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Death Of Work

Bob Black's The Abolition of Work and Other Essays is when of those books you read when you're mad as hell and you just can't take it anymore (or so they say in the movies). Inspirational. Angry. Funny. Black, who has been the target of a lot of hate (some rational, others misplaced), may not appeal to everyone but he should be read.

In the essay "Let Us Prey!," Black hits something right on the head. "The liberals and leftist in contrast are dithering, defensive conservatives -- Weimar paralytics unwilling to do unto others what's being done to them." You can easily see why he has his share of critics in the left, and with the health care debate degenerating into a gun-toting lynch mob you can just as easily see he has a point. This is why I like him. This is why you probably hate him.

Toward the end of his book there is an essay called "Anarchism and Other Impediments to Anarchy." It is one of those essays that will either have you pissed off at him or possibly even agreeing. Personally, while I think Black is often a little full of himself, I also think he brings up some good points in this essay (and many others). They are uncomfortable truths -- of that I am certain -- but they are also worth examining. I won't go into his full argument but he is inspired in thinking that anarchists might be one of the prime reasons anarchism hasn't become society's norm. (He states that many anarchists are "incapable" of living in a co-operative and autonomous manner and also declares that many aren't very "bright." Yeah, there is something to that, and I would classify myself as an anarchist.)

Love him or hate him, Black is what I would call Autumn Reading. Everything is dying outside your window, and this is the perfect read to that backdrop. Plus, it could inspire you to quit your job and take up the lost art of creativity.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why I Write

The easy answer, the only answer, is to stay sane. Writing has always been my anchor to sanity. Fiction writing, really. In my fiction I can act out my fantasies, see how certain situations could play out if things went a bit differently, take out my stress on characters I don't like. In my fiction writing I can take destroy and create and have no real life consequences. As to be expected, my fiction tends to be of a darker nature, and I fear that is why much of it doesn't get published.

Writing non-fiction helps me make money and hone my craft, but it doesn't satisfy the same way fiction does. Non-fiction is masturbation. Fiction is the orgy. When I don't write fiction, I start to get a little strange. I haven't been writing much of it lately do to time constraints, work, personal life, etc.. I have to devote more time to it, though, because it's the only way out of my situation, and that makes me think I may have to even further my isolation. I was planning on going out tonight and hanging with friends, video games, etc.. My daughter isn't with me tonight (when she's with me all my time is devoted to her and I refuse to change that), so I thought it would be nice to get out. Now I think it would be nicer to isolate, get the cannibal manuscript done, and get it out there.

Anyone who writes for the same reasons understands this. Anyone who works as a writer knows you have to devote time to it. If I want to achieve fiction success, enough so that I don't have to work this horrid job anymore, I need to take hours every day and get shit done. As it stands now, I used to just write in the morning and night. Then it became just the morning. Then it was when I had time. Lately I've been doing more at night and it feels good. It gets my mind off my mind, and I feel like I'm making a difference in my life. Music is playing. TV is off. Ideas are flowing. And I don't feel like killing everyone I meet.

I haven't decided how to pull off this balancing act yet. Don't know if I'm able to, quite frankly. But I want this manuscript published. I want a book deal (would not turn down a movie option, either). I want to give my notice, buy a place where I can't see any other houses around me. I want a ten foot high wall, and groceries delivered. In other words, I want this book published so I can get the hell away from people and crank out another one.

I have a variety of manuscripts in various stages. I have not had much luck in placing them, and that is discouraging. I'll leave some sit a year or two before going back to them and tweaking them more. (I totally scrapped one that was finished after about eight years of not being able to place it and getting so tired of reading it that I realized I don't ever want it published.)

I may or may not go out tonight. If I do, I can be back early enough to get some writing done, some quality writing, and that won't be a bad thing. I would like to see my friends and perhaps socialize a bit, but maybe not.

For my sanity ...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Her First Book

My daughter wasn't even a year old when I started reading to her. The first book? Alexander Berkman's ABC of Anarchism, a classic from 1929 reprinted by AK Press and obtained through its excellent Friends of AK Press program.

My parents would have been appalled.

My daughter is five now, and I still read to her on a regular basis, though she's nowhere near as interested in reading as I was at her age. She's slowly getting it on her own, though, which I think will improve her interest level. I've got around nine hundred books in my library and let her know when she can read she can read of them she can reach. (With that one exception.)

That first book, though, was important to me. I know none of it stuck, but I wanted a seed to be planted. I wanted to, when she would ask me years later, be able to tell her that her first book was an important one, and why it was important. It's essential reading for anarchists and the politically minded in general. I don't exactly expect her to have the same political values as mine, but I know she won't learn the proper things about anarchism in school, so I wanted to get first dibs on that.

Perhaps in the future, when she's been reading for few years on her own, she'll delve into the first book I read her. Maybe she'll have questions. Maybe she'll dismiss it as leftist garbage. If I can get her to question it, though, then I have done my job. You see, I don't think a parent's goal is to get their kid to think like them. It's to have the child question the parent as to his or her beliefs. That should be what every parent strives for. Anything less is unacceptable ... and in some cases dangerous.

Let's hope this first book set the gears in motion for her to be on the right track. At the very least it's better than Limbaugh.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

These Guys Can't Die

Here's the problem with books of licensed fiction, such as any novels set in the Star Wars universe: Authors are often limited by what they can do with the characters. That's not always the case (remember Chewbacca), but it is especially true if the book in question is set before a movie starring one of the characters. Once you take away the notion a character cannot altered in any major way, it takes a bit of the bite out of the conflict.

Competent authors can work around this. Excellent authors can make you forget it. Hacks make it very clear they are trying to trick you. It's not the most of ideal playgrounds for a writer to operate in, but it can have its rewards (namely in having your name attached to something like the Star Wars or Star Trek universe). There's a built-in fan base, all kinds of exposure, and all kinds of hatred that can be thrown a writer's way if he or she screws up.

Quite frankly, I'm not sure I'd ever want to deal with any such problem (not that that looks likely).

When a reader encounters a character that can't be changed in any notable way, it puts a lot of pressure on the other characters in the story, and those characters had better be able to hold the reader's attention or the writer is screwed. That's why I think a writer faces an almost no-win situation when it comes to the craft (but not exactly to the writer's status). Most people who read stories that are licensed are reading them for the characters they know and love. Most of the focus should be on those characters ... but not much can happen to them because everything must be status quo at the end (the same problem exists in comic books). If the story bombs, it bombs hard. If it succeeds it's just another good story. The writer may gain infamy or fame, but he or she is so constricted that in the end the art of writing has to suffer somewhat.

This is obviously not every situation, but I've read enough licensed fiction that I know it is a problem. Anyone can see it. Writers want to write stories where characters change. Franchise owners want their characters untouched so that they don't drive fans away. It's why Superman can never stay dead or James Bond can't suddenly turn gay. It won't work, even if it would serve the story.

I don't blame authors for taking these jobs. They pay well, and often the writer is already a fan of the franchise in contention. Hell, there's a part of me that would love to write a Daredevil story or Batman (and I have a really good idea for that) or even Star Wars, but I know my ideas wouldn't fly because I believe what makes these franchises great are the characters and any story that is driven by characters better have some sort of character pay off. Incidentally, that's why most licensed fiction is situational based. Often you could plug any characters in there, but readers want to see those characters they know and love. The Star Wars films have dealt with the character changes (and to be fair the licensed fiction set after the movies has had the characters progress, which is fine, but the stuff set prior to the films has its limitations).

I wouldn't want to see these stories end, because I'm guilty of enjoying them. I just feel a bit bad for the writer. Say what you will, but it is almost a thankless job, but one that has some great ego rewards ... as well as monetary.