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A Message About Message Fiction

I hadn’t planned on writing this blog post, but recent events has caused something to grind my gears. Specifically, the term message fiction.

Message fiction is the latest in a long line of words that have been generated or co-opted by the Right and turned into a pejorative, along with such bon mots as ‘virtual signaling,’ ‘doxxing,’ ‘mansplaining,’ and any number of such phrases that have poisoned our speech and infected the zeitgeist these last couple of years. But unlike those other terms, message fiction is of particular interest to those of us who read and write science fiction, and that special significance is the reason for this post.

I’ve been seeing this term bandied about online for a while now, but what brought it to the fore was a couple weeks back when noted writer, editor and president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Cat Rambo posted on Facebook warning about a particularly self-righteous and nasty little rightwing troll named Jon del Arroz, an indie writer and self-described “journalist” who recently took it upon himself to “prove” through faulty research methodology and purely anecdotal evidence that there are more women writing short fiction than men, and that this is affront to dudes and represents an apocalypse in which male voices are being drowned out. (What’s interesting to me about del Arroz and his knuckle-dragging ilk is that, even if this were true (and it’s most clearly not), they obviously didn’t give a shit about it when it was the other way around. No, an unbalance that favors them is just hunky dory, de rigueur, business as usual. But when they’re precious privilege is perceived to be taken away from them, it’s suddenly the Twilight of the Gods.)

This is complete and utter bullshit, of course. In fact, the opposite is true, and SF is still a field dominated by men. But when Ms. Rambo pointed out to Mr. del Arroz that the methodology he used was faulty, because it used too small a sample size of current magazines that take submissions to be statistically significant, he took umbrage and started trolling her on Facebook and Twitter and calling for her to be ousted from the SFWA for “being mean” to him.

There are a lot of things about this guy that buries the needle on my bullshit detector. He calls himself a journalist, then writes articles about himself with third-person headlines that proclaim him “the leading Hispanic author in SF”. He’s reportedly a proud indie, but attacks those who work in traditional publishing about why he and others like him aren’t being included. He trolls, and then gets mad when people call him out on his bullshit and cries foul when everyone doesn’t automatically kiss his ass. But the thing that really angered me enough to write this blog post is this uniquely rightwing insistence that anything that attempts to include others is somehow a deliberate attempt to exclude them.

Hence, message fiction.

I’m not going to link to this guy. He’s an obvious attention whore who thrives on even bad press, which somehow emboldens him and makes his cause–whatever the hell it is–more just, even if only to him. So I’m not going to give him the attention he so obviously craves. You can easily look him up if you’re so inclined. His blog is hilarious, presumptuous and off-putting.

But today, kids, we’re going to talk about message fiction. Maybe I should even put that in all caps:

MESSAGE FICTION

Can you say that? I knew you could.

So, what the hell am I talking about when I say message fiction?

Since it’s a purely rightwing term, let’s go to the rightwing source, in this case, one Theodore Beale, who calls himself Vox Day (another White Nationalist attention whore with an overdeveloped sense of his own self-worth I won’t flatter by sending a backlink to his blog). But he did manage to write a short, useful article on message fiction (hey, it was bound to happen sooner or later) and I have the meat of it right here. This, then, is the definition of message fiction, according to Vox Day (Literally, the Voice of God. I love the unbridled and unearned hubris of these people. As a meme someone posted on Facebook related to del Arroz said: Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.) from his Castalia House blog:

What distinguishes message fiction from other kinds of fiction is that it is primarily agenda-driven. That is to say, message fiction is created first and foremost for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. Since authorial intention is often unclear, we tend to only notice the blatant cases — the ones with long-winded preachy sermons by one-dimensional characters who are only heroic by virtue of their cause. Nevertheless, message fiction is propaganda within a narrative wrapper, where the story, whether well crafted or not, is merely the delivery mechanism for the message. This definition applies to message fiction that is conservative or liberal, Christian or pagan. A good story, i.e. one with a compelling plot, theme, characters, and style, can still be message fiction if and only if the author wrote it to deliver a message.

Now, there are a couple of things I call bullshit on in this article, but I’ll get to those in a minute. At the end of the article, Vox says that he and his ilk oppose “the boring message fiction. An important distinction.”

Interesting that he makes that distinction. I call bullshit on this line, since boring is in the eye of the beholder, at least to a certain extent. But it’s important for what I have to say next.

Another thing I take issue with is that this term, message fiction, like all of these terms the frightwing like to bandy about, whether they stole it from the left or made it up themselves out of whole cloth, is that it is used in a derogatory way. For example, They call anyone who disagrees with them–and strives for a fair and equal system for everyone–Social Justice Warriors, or SJWs for short. Yeah? And? I’ll proudly wear that badge all day. Of course I’m a social justice warrior. Why aren’t you?

But since we’ve defined message fiction, let’s define derogatory. According to Google (seriously, how is Google not Skynet yet?):

information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
“he was charged with distributing enemy propaganda”

Now, this makes it sound like message fiction is tantamount to distributing leaflets from an airplane behind enemy lines. But that’s exactly how the Sad Puppies (the SF alt-reich’s term for themselves) use it. In every single instance. In every single case. Whether it’s good message fiction never even comes up.

So, if an SF story or novel has a female protagonist, or a starship inhabited entirely by people of color, or dares involve anything other than white guys in space, it is message fiction. A thing to be reviled and feared, making the world unsafe for rich white guys everywhere. They don’t care if it’s good. They automatically assume it’s bad. It must be, if it contains things which don’t fit their own narrow worldview of white guys flying around in giant chrome penis rocketships rescuing fair yet brainless damsels from menacing aliens that are almost always cardboard stand-ins for Communists or whomever is the hated du jour at the time the stuff is written.

Oh, but maybe I’m being too hard on them. They have come a bit farther up the chain since the halcyon golden age of science fiction. They just want science fiction to be fun again, and to have no political message whatsoever, even though their blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook walls are nothing but political (especially if they disagree with it; actually, only if they disagree with it).

And I get it. I really do. I too write fun adventure SF. I currently have two space opera novels that have nothing to do with current Earth-based geopolitical squabblings. They have aliens, big damn spaceships, and robotic invaders. They are clearly not message fiction. My other stuff is steampunk and pulp, just classic good vs. evil fare. Not a lot you can argue for being overtly political.

But here’s the problem: someday I might want to write message fiction. And dammit, I should be able to if I so choose. It’s the message fiction that lasts. It’s the message fiction that stretches one as a writer, because it’s hard to do well. It’s hard to do without coming off preachy and heavy-handed.

And here’s the other problem: It’s all message fiction. All of it. If Brown Girl in the Ring and Ancillery Justice and Parable of the Sower are message fiction, then Starship Troopers and Oath of Fealty and Lucifer’s Hammer sure as shit is message fiction. And it’s a message we read loud and clear.

But that doesn’t mean the message was meant for you.

If a female woman of color wants to write about a future in which a transgender black woman pilots a starship through hostile alien forces to freedom, she can do that without you getting bent out of shape about it. She is free to write and say whatever she wants. And it takes nothing away from you, your maleness, or your whiteness if such a book exists. Don’t like it? Then don’t fucking read it. Write what you want. Don’t whine and complain and troll the author and sit in your hovel banging out angry screeds on your blog about how all these SJWs are ruining your precious science fiction, all because you feel empowered because Trump’s president now and that makes it OK for you to use the N word again.

The genre is big enough and broad of scope enough that there is room for every kind of voice. And if you don’t want to read something, nobody’s holding a gun to your head making you. And if someone on an awards committee thinks that stuff is better than your stuff, it is fine for them to do so. It’s their opinion.

While I was learning about Jon del Arroz, I found a YouTube video in which he was interviewed by someone, and they were talking about work getting rejected in favor of novels that had foreigners and people of color in them. That work couldn’t have possibly been better than what these Sad Puppies submitted. No, it had to be because this stuff had foreigners and people of color in them. That’s the only reason these profit-motivated publishers, who have always had their collective finger on the pulse of what’s selling right this very minute, could have accepted these pieces of SJW trash, which can’t possibly hold a candle to their golden prose.

Don’t you think, just for a femtosecond, that maybe, just maybe, your book might not have been as good as theirs? Isn’t there just a scintilla of a possibility? You can do lots of things if this happens to you. You can write a better book and submit to that publisher again. You can self-publish (lots of folks, including me, are going that route, and many of them, not including me, are having great results).

But what you can’t do is decide your book was rejected because it didn’t have enough brown people in it and go in a Twitter tirade against the poor editor, then pillory said editor yet again for rightly calling you out for being a horse’s ass.

And lest you think this is a chiefly a prose fiction problem, let me say that it’s happening in comics too. These Sad Puppies are angry over a move toward more diversity in comics, as if a more diverse comics readership is ever a bad thing. That’s another place they don’t want message fiction. Only what do you call this?

Captain America #1
The first message fiction.

Captain America punching Hitler in the face was message fiction back in 1945. The only difference is, now the neo-Nazis have got their swastika panties in a bunch because the guy they idolize is no longer Cap, but ole’ Adolf himself.

I am continually astounded at the number of right-wingers in the SF field, either as rabid and vocal fans or as well-known contributors. It’s like they’ve never actually read anything beyond Heinlein, or watched a single episode of Star Trek. Star Trek is all about diversity. It’s about a post-scarcity, socialist utopia. It’s a message about the future. But to these guys it’s all just Kirk beaming down to planets that always look like the hills above Van Nuys, fighting the lizard monster and bedding the half-naked green chick. But if that’s all Star Trek was, a comforting, staid reminder of an idealized past that only truly existed for guys who look like me and Vox Day, it wouldn’t have lasted more than 50 years. It wouldn’t have anything left to say to us now.

SF, whatever else it might be to the del Arrozs and Vox Days of the world, is a candle in the dark. A way of seeing the world that uses rationalism and kindness. We’ve come too far to slide back down into the dark now. A darkness composed of willful ignorance and dogma and obscurantism, of jingoism and authoritarianism and fear of the Other and just plain old Ayn Randian “I’ve got mine, so fuck you!” selfishness.

It’s all message fiction. If it’s message fiction to include people of color, then it’s message fiction to leave them out.

Friday Night Writes: Penny Blood

Here’s what I’m hoping will be a weekly feature, time permitting. I thought it would be fun to post a snippet of something I’ve been working on. This time out, I picked something I did quite a while ago and never quite finished. But I love how it came together, and one of these days I just might finish it. Please let me know what you think in the comments. Here then is Chapter One of an urban fantasy about a former horror host turned late night talk radio DJ who is also a vampire. I call it Penny Blood. I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter One

The first thing everyone wants to know about is the blood.
Was it real? How long was I really in that tub? Was I actually naked? So, to answer: No; about forty-five minutes; and yes.
Just kidding.
The blood was totally my idea. I had read about the infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathory, and how she supposedly drank blood, and even bathed in it. So I thought it would be cool to host an episode of Twilight Theater from a bathtub filled with red corn syrup, while being shot so it appeared I was naked, of course. The ratings went through the roof on that one. At conventions, autographed black and white stills of me in that tub go for twenty-five bucks a pop.
My Twilight Theater days are long behind me. Infomercials killed off the market for late night shows that played crappy horror movies, and I stopped being Mary Midnight and became Rebecca Thorne again. These days I’m the darling of late night radio, host of the Midnight Files, broadcast live five nights a week from coast to coast on AM 640, midnight to 2pm. Together with my producer Phil, I listen to weirdos swap conspiracy theories, alien abduction stories, and bigfoot sightings. It’s not the greatest gig in the world, but I am number one with males eighteen to thirty-five who live in Airstreams in the desert and make forts from their toenail clippings. I certainly give Art Bell a run for his money.
But the most interesting thing about me can’t be found on IMDB or in my resume. The most interesting thing about me—the most secret thing—is that I am a vampire. A real, immortal, “I vant to suck your blood” vampire. I’ll be one hundred and seventy-two on my birthday. I sleep all day and only go out at night. I have to have blood—preferably fresh, human blood—to sustain me.
And I’d give anything to have that life back again. As crazy as it was, it was mine, and it’s been taken from me. My closest friend is dead, and one of the few people I’ve ever given a damn about in my long life will probably never speak to me again. I’m not a monster. But now I’m surrounded by monsters. By Garrison and his damned Echelon. By the Pact.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The whole thing started when my ex-boyfriend decided he wanted to destroy the world. Oh well. At least I have this flaming sword.

#
It all started easily enough. I was at a science fiction convention in downtown Atlanta called Dragon Con. It’s a sprawling, four-day, multimedia affair that attracts thousands of people. I sit at my table, selling autographed glossies of myself done up as Mary Midnight—imagine if Morticia Addams had a spunky, emo kid sister—smiling while mouth-breathing fanboys pretend they aren’t looking at my breasts and answering the same dumb questions I have been asked thousands of times over the years, like the blood in the bathtub thing. It’s easy work with no heavy lifting, and I really get into it, flirting and speaking in my best breathy, phone sex Mary Midnight voice, making even the most innocuous of statements sound dirty. The guys love it, and this helps feed me in a sense. I’ve never figured it out for sure, but I think some vampires can feed on adulation as well as blood. When I was in that T.V. station’s basement in L.A. back in ’68, introducing schlock like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman or The Thing that Wouldn’t Die, I felt all those thousands of eyeballs watching me. And I feel these people now. It’s like they leave little pieces of themselves with me when they leave my table, and it fills me up. I smile my best black-lipsticked smile, show them my all too real fangs, and they just eat it up. And I eat them up in turn.
It’s a completely victim-less crime. They get something they want, and I get something I need. It’s a win-win. Everybody’s happy. It’s not like I’m a creepy succubus, giving someone the best sex of their life only for them to feel like warmed over shit the next day.
I love it here, all the madness and weirdness. Every other person is dressed in some elaborate costume straight out of a movie or comic book, and the ones who recognize me are genuinely glad I’m here.
But it’s broad daylight and I’m weak. Even indoors, with tons of glass, stone and steel between me and the glowering, hateful dayball outside, I still do not feel like myself. These events always throw off my internal clock, and I get through it by promising myself a nap in my comped hotel room, then at oh dark thirty I’ll get up and do my thing. I check my watch and grimace. It’s a long time until then.
My agent Mindy sidles up to me. “Would you like me to watch your table while you take a break?” She’s all of five feet tall, with close-cropped reddish-blond hair and a smile perpetually frozen onto her face. She’s way overdressed in a navy blue pantsuit, and she looks a bit wilted from the Atlanta heat, but she appears otherwise unscathed by the controlled chaos going on around us.
I return her smile. How did she know?
“Actually, I would like to step out for a minute,” I say. “Get some fresh air.”
Mindy bobs her head about a thousand times. “OK. Super.”
I get up and Mindy immediately takes my place. No one will come by with an unknown face sitting there, but Mindy will keep my valuable glossies from walking away. As I walk out of the huge ballroom us so-called celebs are sharing with the con-goers, I wonder if they still make dopplegangers, even golems. A body double would come in handy at times like these. I take one last glance back at Mindy, shake my head, and leave the room.
Mindy’s great, but she’s perpetually perky for no reason. At first I thought it must be drugs. I know absolutely nothing about her personal life, and she could spend her downtime freebasing Preparation H for all I know. But I never smell any drugs in her system. In the end I decided her perkiness is part of what I like about her. After all, I’d rip out a guy’s spine for looking at me wrong, but I already have me.
The convention hotels are large, labyrinthine, and crowded with fans of everything from Star Trek to video games. But I’ve been enough times that navigating has become almost second nature. I weave in and out, my crimson velvet dress making quiet swishing noises. Most people don’t recognize me, even here, even though my picture is in the convention’s programming book. The crowd gets younger and younger every year, and I fear yet another career change in my immediate future.
I step into a habitrail—a climate-controlled tunnel between one hotel and another, where I’m sandwiched between a guy in vacuum-formed armor carrying a six foot-long plastic sword, and a young girl with not enough clothes and a gigantic set of fairy wings. Then I’m out and through another maze of tunnels to Peachtree Center, which is basically a mall food court sitting atop a MARTA stop. It’s crowded too, but not overly so, and I can get away from the con and clear my head a little without going outside. I duck around a corner, pull an insulated flask from the folds of my dress, and take a little swig. The blood is flat, hardly fresh, but it reinvigorates me. My stomach growls, reminding me I’m hungry, and I try to decide if I want a sandwich before heading back to relieve Mindy.
Yes, Virginia, vampires do eat. It helps us to blend in. Besides, blood is not very nutrative, unless you’re a tick or a leech. The blood we imbibe only sustains our immortality. And vamps that try to subsist solely on blood don’t last for very long. They transform into ravenous, monstrous beasts, Nosferatu’s ugly redneck cousins, and thus an easy target for frightened villagers wielding wooden stakes and pitchforks.
Speak of the Devil.
I feel a twinge, and turn around slowly.
I can always tell when I’m being hunted.
It’s a feeling you get. The hairs on the nape of your neck start vibrating, and there’s a smell in the air of pheromones and fear, along with a sense that something’s not quite right with the world. The only questions are who? And why now? It’s been more than seventy-five years since someone wanted to drive a stake through my heart. I’ve not only been off the supernatural radar, but I’ve been a good girl. No drinking without asking. No turning folks against their will. So what was this clown doing here?
I sense the guy almost at once, walking several steps behind me. I stop at a glass-and-chrome kiosk selling cell phone cases and look into a mirrored surface to check him out. He’s trying way too hard to look like he isn’t doing anything at all, but I’ve been around long enough to know better. But he also doesn’t seem that interested in me.
I breathe a sigh of relief at my false alarm. So if it’s not me he’s after, who is it? Something about the way he’s dressed, the way he carries himself tells me he’s definitely a vamp hunter. He’s got on a leather jacket, Harley-Davison t-shirt, faded blue jeans and black boots, an attempt at bad ass avant-garde that just gets lost in a crowd full of anime Lolitas and 80’s cartoon characters. He could be just some guy here to pick up an I’m-sorry-I-screwed-your-sister card at the CVS on the other end of the food court, or a fanboy dressed as Wolverine.
I realize immediately that Wolverine’s out, as he’s not wearing a convention badge. They’re big, shiny, covered in comic book art, and easy to spot (mine has a lovely blue ribbon dangling from it that reads Guest).
Which means he didn’t follow me over from the hotel. Dragon Con is a private event. Their security checks for badges with a TSA-like zeal, so there’s no way Wolvie came in that way. Yet more proof that I’m not his target. I scan the room. I don’t see any familiar faces, and I certainly don’t smell another vampire. That’s another thing about vamps I bet you didn’t know; we have a smell, at least to other vampires. It’s hard to describe. It’s like something that is still in the process of dying that hasn’t quite given up the ghost yet.
Wolvie’s on the move, shuffling past me. I shove myself into a group of kids who seem to be headed in the same direction, letting the throng of teeny boppers carry me through the food court, but when I duck around a corner and peak out he’s still there, scanning the crowd from underneath his Ray-bans.
It’s been a while since I’ve fed, and the irony of draining a vamp hunter like a wineskin has a certain appeal. But we’re in broad daylight in a crowded food court, and I’m trying to keep a low profile; as much as a guest of the convention going on all around us can. Mostly I’m just curious to know what he’s doing here, and who he’s planning to ash.
A young goth girl looks as if she’s almost on the verge of recognizing me. She’s too young to remember me from my Twilight Theater days. Maybe she thinks I’m Laurell K. Hamilton. It wouldn’t be the first time. I ignore her and concentrate on Wolvie. He’s definitely following someone, a woman of average height, her blond hair in a ponytail, wearing a short leather mini skirt, red silk top, black fishnets and motorcycle boots. A woman after my own heart.
She’s definitely a vampire too. I can sense her now. Man, I must be getting soft in my old age. There’s something…familiar about her too. More intrigued than ever, I break from the crowd and get right behind Wolvie.
The vamp girl enters a pair of glass doors in the back corner of the food court, next to a couple of fast food places. She’s heading downstairs toward the MARTA tunnel. Wolvie follows. There’s no one else around. I go in right behind, and Wolvie doesn’t even register me at all. Amateur. We’re going down the steps now, and I’m trying to keep the swishing of my dress to a minimum. The girl goes across to the stairs leading up to Peachtree Street, so she’s not taking the train. A spot the tiny pocket umbrella she’s holding unopened in her right hand. Wolvie seems to get desperate now, thinking he’s about to miss a chance to stick her in private, and he speeds up, his boot heels clicking on the tiles.
He reaches out his hand, about to grab her.

New Books!

Busy times over here at Mechanoid Press. I’ve got two new e-books for your reading enjoyment.

This book collects my three Sarah Frost steampunk tales, The Clockwork Conundrum, The Drood Enigma, and The Spring-heeled Jack Affair, together in one volume. You can get it here.

This recently reformatted collection brings together my two pulp Lovecraftian noir PI tales starring Sam Eldritch. Collects Slow Djinn and With Friends Like These, Who Needs Entities? You can check it out here.

RETRO REVIEW: The Wraith

Netflix is a goldmine of old 80’s direct to video films, many forgotten (and justly so). In this installment of Retro Reviews I wanted to re-examine one such film that I just re-watched on Netflix last night, the 1986 Charlie Sheen flick The Wraith, a weird amalgam of The Last Starfighter and The Crow by way of Mad Max.

In an otherwise quiet Arizona town Packard Walsh (Nick Cassavetes) runs a gang of car thieves who trick people into racing for pinks and then cheats to win and get their cars. But he’s also a murderer. One year earlier he killed a guy named Jamie Henkins for being with his girl Keri (played by the lovely Sherrilyn Fenn).

But now it’s payback time when a suped up Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor shows up, driven by a mysterious figure in futuristic armor and a black helmet. One by one he entices Walsh’s gang bangers to race and then kills them by speeding ahead and stopping in the middle of the road, letting them hit his car at hundreds of miles per hour. The Wraith-mobile reappears in a flash of light moments later, factory mint, while the other car is reduced to a burning wreck. There’s no marks on the bodies either, but their eyes have been sucked out.

Meanwhile, a new kid named Jake (Charlie Sheen) shows up on an eerily quiet dirt bike. Keri is attracted to him immediately, though she can’t put her finger on why (she puts her fingers everywhere else during a naked make-out session with Jake in the local watering hole).

This enrages Walsh, of course, and he goes from prototypical 80’s douchebag to jealous psycho in under a minute. Too bad he has his hands full with the mysterious driver killing off his gang. Cassavetes gives an air of real menace to what is on the surface a stock 80’s bad guy. You can almost smell the crazy coming off this guy.

Eventually Packard gets his, and Jake/Jamie gives the Interceptor to Jamie’s brother before taking off with Keri on his bike for parts unknown.

In the end, this conundrum of a movie raises more questions than it answers, least of all is, where the hell are the parents?! The only adult authority figure we see in this movie is tough-talking Sheriff Loomis (played by the always fun to watch Randy Quaid), who wants to catch the Wraith, but is also happy the deaths he’s causing are confined to Walsh’s gang of dirtbags.

We also never learn how Jamie was able to come back in a new body, with an indestructible car, or why Walsh and his buddies didn’t have a mark on them after their cars burned to a crisp. It all adds up to a weird, fuel-injected romp that could only have come from the 1980’s.

If you’re looking for a guy who comes back from the dead to kill the people who murdered him, watch The Crow (also currently streaming on Netflix). It’s so dark and goth its pee is bats, but you’ll get much more character development and a protagonist you’ll have sympathy for. If you want to see Charlie Sheen before all the winning and tiger blood, and you like to watch fast cars blow up real good, then check out The Wraith.

Sample Comic Script: ROM Spaceknight

A couple of years back I sat down one afternoon and wrote a comic book script, mostly to see if I could do it. I’ve been wanting to write a comic script for a few years now, and I thought I should have something to show an editor should a script writing gig actually turn up. The result is this one you are about to read. I was a big ROM fan when I was a kid, and this was my attempt at bringing him back into the Marvel universe. I hope you will agree. Enjoy!

Rom Spaceknight

Issue #1

“The Return” part 1

by James Palmer

Draft 1.0-10/25/14
Draft 1.2 10/29/14

James Palmer
6025 Bethel Road
Murrayville, GA 30534
palmerwriter@yahoo.com

PAGE 1

SPLASH PANEL 1

In the center of a star field, a golden planet hangs, wreathed in clouds.

CAPTION

The planet Galador.

CAPTION

A forgotten world, it was once decimated by fearsome, shape-shifting entities known as the Dire Wraiths.

CAPTION

These creatures were eventually destroyed by a group of brave Galadorians and their leader, who gave up their humanity to become a powerful protective force known as…

PANEL 2

Zoom in a little closer to reveal the outlines of magnificent buildings and spindly skyscrapers.

CAPTION

The Spaceknights!

PAGE 2

PANEL 1

Zoom in on one city to show the buildings in more detail, gleaming metal, sky bridges, and people, men, women and children, going about their day in bright, colorful clothing. They are talking, laughing, playing.

CAPTION

But now it has been reborn!

PANEL 2

Exterior of a large golden building, with a wide walkway leading up to it. On the edges of the walkway, spaced at intervals, are tall, stone statues of the Spaceknights, standing as if they are still protecting the people of Galador. The last of the statues, standing taller than the rest and near the entrance to the golden building, is a statue of Rom.

CAPTION

The Palace of Galador, home to their leader Rom and his bride, the human Brandy Clark.

PANEL 3

Cut to interior of the palace, in a vast room with a large window and balcony overlooking the Galadorian capital city. Two figures stand close to each other, looking out the window.

BRANDY: Oh Rom, it’s so beautiful. So peaceful. To think we built it up from practically nothing.

PANEL 4

Rom places his hand on Brandy’s shoulder. He is smiling.

ROM: Yes, darling. It was an amazing feat. Of course, we had a little help from Galadorian science. But everything is now as it was before the Dire Wraiths came.

PAGE 3

PANEL 1

Close-up of Brandy Clark. Her curly brown hair is now long, and she wears a diaphanous golden gown.

BRANDY: It was worth it. All the sacrifices…

PANEL 2

Her face takes on a sad look, and we see a panel of her fighting alongside Rom Spaceknight as Starshine, killing Dire Wraiths that lunge for them.

BRANDY: All the lives lost…

PANEL 4

Rom takes his hand off her shoulder.

ROM: Some brave souls lost their lives, all so we could live on Galador in peace once again.

PANEL 5

Rom walks away from her.

ROM: (thinking) But this peace may have come at a price. Once shrouded in little more than legend, Galador is starting to attract undue attention.

PANEL 6

A robed attendant comes in, a tablet-like device in his hands.

VOREX: Rom, my liege. We have just received another communication from a race of beings calling themselves Skrulls. They want to enter trade agreements.

PAGE 4

PANEL 1

Rom waves his hand at the attendant, his face looking grim.

VOREX: Sire, what are Skrulls?

ROM: Just ignore them. As usual.

ROM: (thinking) I am afraid we cannot remain unnoticed forever.

PANEL 2

Rom continues walking, followed close by the attendant, who hurries to catch up.

VOREX: Rom, the Watchers report no sign of Dire Wraith activity.

ROM: Good. Thank you, Vorex. That will be all.

PANEL 3

Frontal view of Rom as he pushes open a set of double doors.

ROM: (thinking) My fear is not the Dire Wraiths…

PANEL 4

Space. A close shot of stars with the curve of Galador in the bottom left corner.

PANEL 5

Identical view to the one before, only this time there is a flash of bright white light.

PANEL 6

Close-up showing the source of the flash, a wispy being with oddly bent legs and a long frill atop its head that goes down its back.

CAPTION

“…My fear is that there are worse things out there than the Dire Wraiths.”

PAGE 5

PANEL 1

Shows the glowing being in more detail.

CAPTION

Stardust, current herald of the world-eater Galactus.

PANEL 2

Stardust looks down at the planet turning beneath its feet.

STARDUST: Another world ripe for the picking. The Master hungers. He will be pleased.

PANEL 3

Stardust extends his right hand toward deep space and sends out a beam of white energy.

CAPTION

Stardust alerts his master that another suitable world has been found.

PANEL 4

Pull back to show whole planet, and Stardust as a white streak that falls toward the golden orb of Galador like a comet.

PAGE 6

PANEL 1

Groups of people looking into the sky and pointing.

CAPTION

Several hours later: From all over Galador, reports of strange lights in the sky come flooding in.

PANEL 2

Rom is sitting at the end of a long table, at which sit his many attendants, scientists, and advisors.

CAPTION

The brightest minds on Galador convene to discuss how to best deal with this strange new threat.

VARIOUS ADVISORS SPEAK: …like a white flame.

It destroyed a Watcher lookout post!

…perhaps the Wraiths have returned.

PANEL 3

Close-up of Rom, raising his hand for silence.

ROM: Enough. I will have order in these proceedings. Vorex, have we attempted to communicate with the…phenomena?

PANEL 4

Close-up of Vorex.

VOREX: Yes, Rom. All attempts to contact the entity have been met with violence.

PANEL 5

A dark-haired man sitting across from Vorex.

TELDAR: Liege, the people are scared. They don’t know what to think. What should we tell them?

PANEL 6

Shot from other end of the table, facing down the length of it to Rom. Every head is turned toward him.

ROM: Tell them not to panic. Remain indoors until further notice. That is all.

PAGE 7

PANEL 1

Stardust lands in a central square near the palace, people running away from him. He points to the sky.

STARDUST: behold, people of Galador. Your doom approaches.

PANEL 2

Every head turns to the sky, where a large shape enters the atmosphere. It is a giant sphere, the size of a small moon. The sky turns dark.

CAPTION

The world-ship of Galactus!

Close-up of the sphere, where we see a door open in the side, and a dark shape emerge, casting a shadow covering miles of buildings.

PANEL 3

Galactus emerges, standing on a platform extended from his world-ship. Pieces of impossibly huge and intricate machinery hover in the air around him, enveloped in energy.

GALACTUS: I hunger!

PANEL 4

Shot from overhead and just behind Galactus. We see from his point of view as the people of Galador run and scurry like ants.

GALACTUS: (thinking) This world is rich with life energies. Unfortunately for its inhabitants, but they are no concern of mine. I shall feast like never before.

PANEL 5

We pull back. Galactus’s hands are outstretched, glowing with the power cosmic as he assembles the machine he uses to suck planets dry. Tiny dots of people are running for their lives far below.

GALACTUS: (thinking) They will flee their world or die. The choice is theirs.

CAPTION

Unbeknownst to Galactus, a third option is in the offing.

PAGE 8

PANEL 1

Back in the palace, we see Rom and Brandy, huddled together, watching the scene
outside their window fearfully.

BRANDY: What is that thing?

ROM: Something I had hoped existed only in legend. Something I learned about from my days as a spaceknight. Galactus, destroyer of worlds.

BRANDY: What are we going to do?

PANEL 2

We see Rom walking away from Brandy.

ROM: Something I should have done long ago.

BRANDY: No, Husband. You can’t.

PANEL 3

Overhead view. Rom is entering a long, dimly lit corridor, with Brandy close behind. There are clusters of barely discernable machinery cluttering each wall.

ROM: I have to. There is no other choice.

PANEL 4

We see Rom and Brandy from behind. In front of them is a gleaming metal figure of Rom in his Spaceknight form, standing in front of a bulky machine.

BRANDY: No. You gave up all that you are to save this planet once, and almost lost it. I won’t watch you do it again!

ROM: No one is asking you to.

PANEL 5

Above and behind Rom as he pulls a sheet from a large console.

ROM: Improvements will have to be made, of course. I just hope this equipment still works.

CAPTION

The long dormant machines hum to life.

PANEL 6

Looking at Brandy’s face, washed in golden light. Her mouth is open, her eyes wide.

BRANDY: Please, Rom, no. Not again.

PAGE 9

SPLASH PANEL 1

We pull back behind Brandy, Rom stepping into the large blocky machine, which has split down the middle and spread open, golden light pouring out of it. Rom is naked now, his clothes piled on the floor. But his profile is black, shadowed by the enormous glow of light pouring out of the machine, Kirby dots coalescing around the machine’s opening.

ROM: What I do, Brandy Clark, I do for the good of Galador.

CAPTION

Forgotten for decades, the mighty machines of Galador hum to life once more, their single purpose to transform the planet’s bravest warriors into living weapons!

PAGE 10

PANEL 1

We’re looking down from above, as Stardust hovers over Galactus as he finishes his energy-siphon.

GALACTUS: You have done well, Stardust. The energies of this planet are like nothing I have yet encountered.

STARDUST: Thank you, Master. I live only to serve.

PANEL 2

A beam of energy strikes Stardust, sending him spinning.

PANEL 3

Stardust recovers, floating prone in the air, white trails of smoke or residual energy come off of him.

STARDUST: Who dares attack a herald of Galactus?!

PANEL 4

Full body shot of Rom Spaceknight, hovering in the air, his right arm outstretched, the hand flat and shimmering with yellow energy. His hand coverings have fingers now, no more mittens.

ROM: I, Rom Spaceknight.

PANEL 5

We pull back to see Galactus, Stardust and Rom, facing off in a semicircle. Galactus is turning a knob on his energy-siphon.

GALACTUS: So, the stories of the fabled Spaceknights are true. This must be your world.

ROM: It is. I command you to leave it at once.

GALACTUS: This planet has energies I require to function. I mean you or your people no harm, but this world must die so that I continue to live. Leave your world at once, or die with it.

PANEL 6

Front shot of Rom, his arms at his sides.

ROM: I know who you are, Galactus. I don’t wish to fight you, but I will do whatever is necessary to protect Galador and its people.

PAGE 11

SPLASH PANEL

We see over Rom’s shoulder looking up at Galactus, as missiles zoom toward him from multiple sources. Some of them strike, hitting the worldship, the energy-siphon, and Galactus himself, as blossoms of fire and smoke erupt at each impact point.

CAPTION

The planetary defenses of Galador go into action.

GALACTUS: Very well. But I warned you what happens next…you die!

PAGE 12

PANEL 1

Back inside the Hall of the Spaceknights, we see Brandy Clark sitting at the console, her head down on it, crying.

CAPTION

Inside she can hear the concussions of missile blasts, and the drone of the palace’s warning system. Outside, she knows a fierce battle is taking place.

PANEL 2

Above the city, Galactus makes adjustments to his machine, oblivious to the missiles and laser fire striking his massive body. Stardust destroys several Galadorian fighter ships as they stream towards him, while Rom is blasting at Galactus with all his newfound might.

CAPTION

The Galadorian military, spurred by the sight of their leader, press the attack.

PANEL 3

Close-up of Rom as he flies toward Galactus, yellow energy beams erupting from both hands.

ROM: (thinking) This new spaceknight body is amazing. My dematerializer is built into my armor. I just hope it’s enough.

CAPTION

And in their midst, a new, improved Rom Spaceknight, once again defending Galador and its people.

PANEL 4

Back in the Hall of the Spaceknights, Brandy looks up as we see a flash of light from behind her. Tears are streaming down her face.

BRANDY: What? Who’s there?

PANEL 5

Brandy turns to see a large being stepping from a circle of light floating in midair.

BRANDY: Who are you? Guards!

THANOS: Fear not, Brandy Clark of Earth. I am Thanos of Titan.

PANEL 6

Wide shot of the chamber. Brandy and Thanos face each other. The circle of light is fading away behind Thanos.

BRANDY: Titan? As in the moon of Saturn?

THANOS: Smart girl. I came to offer you a way out of your present predicament.

BRANDY: What do you want in return?

THANOS: Give me the machinery that transformed your husband into the greatest of all the Spaceknights, and I will expunge the planet-eater from your world forever.

CAPTION

TO BE CONTINUED!

I Have a Patreon

I have a Patreon page. I would be honored if you would check it out and donate if you’re so inclined. It would really help me create even more cool stuff.

You can check it out here.

4 Reasons to Write Faster

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In my last blog post I talked about three pervasive writing myths and how continued belief in them stymies writers.

That post turned out to be rather popular, with lots of likes and shares on Facebook, so I thought I would take one of those myths–that writing fast is bad–and numerate a few of the reasons why writing fast is actually so very good for authors and their writing careers.

So without further preamble, here goes:

1. Fail Faster, Learn Faster

It should go without saying that the best way to learn how to write is by writing. Sure, you should read books on business and craft, but you’ll only get the most out of those if you actually put some of their tenets into practice by sitting down and doing the writing.

Now, within this framework, you’ve got two choices. You can slowly and laboriously write–slaving over every word and editing as you go instead of waiting until the end–and produce a finished book once every year or two, or you can compress all that learning and doing into a few months, producing one or more finished novels in the process. They say it takes ten thousand hours to become truly proficient at something. Would you rather have those ten thousand hours spread over years or compressed down into a more manageable time frame? Sure, six of one, have a dozen of the other. I’ll give you that. But unless you’ve discovered some miracle aging cure, I’ll bet you’re not getting any younger. I know I sure as hell aren’t.

The time is going to pass anyway. Why not spend it doing something awesome?

2. Get in the Flow

Think of your last brilliant passage. It could be a whole page, or a single paragraph. Remember how you composed it? Was it written in the heat of the moment? Or did you agonize over every other word? It was probably the first one, am I right?

This is because you were in what know-it-all scientist types call Flow State, that weird mental zone you enter where everything just clicks in your brain, and the writing flows from you with seemingly little conscious effort. This is the magic time, when you finally get out of your own way and let things just happen. Dean Wesley Smith calls this ignoring your critical voice. You know, that
annoying voice in the back of your head that questions and second-guesses every bit of golden prose that leaks out of your fingers and onto your keyboard? Yeah. That guy. Ball-gag and forget about him until you’re ready to edit, once the work is done. That’s what flow state does for you. And it only comes when you get in the habit of writing fast.

3. Less Editing

Everyone usually equates fast writing with sloppy writing, when the fact is nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, you have to clean up typos. But even slow writers who produce prose at a glacial pace have to do that. I’m not talking about transposed letters and typing ‘there’ when you meant ‘their.’

No, I’m talking about the usual editing that all of us have to and should do. It’s just part of the writing process. But as has been proven time and again by people who write fast, like the aforementioned DWS and Chris Fox, who recently wrote and edited a novel in a record 21 days and launched it on Amazon to great success.

4. Faster Time to Market

We come at last to the biggie, the raison d’etre of being an honest to God, making a living career fiction writer (or any writer, for that matter). This is the business end of writing, and I know most of you want to shut down at this point because, for you, the term “time to market” is right up there with your output being called “content” and people who refer to books as “units.”

Well too bad. I hate to break it to you, but you’re in a business. Creative, yes. But at the end of the day, still a business. And you have to treat it as such. Especially in this new age of indie publishing.

In this new world, Amazon and the other digital publishers pay you once a month. And the more books you have out there, the more visible they will be, the more copies you will sell, and the more money you will make.

See, every time you publish you have a shot of being on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for that month. Put out a book a month, and you could be on it each and every month, which would show your book to thousands of potential readers. Doesn’t that sound like a good reason to write a little faster than you are already? Hit me up with your thoughts in the comments.

3 Writing Myths

Myth #1: Someone Will Steal Your Ideas

This little ditty comes mostly from newbie writers who haven’t published a thing and still don’t know how this weird wild world of publishing actually works. They think of the idea as the important thing, when in reality, it’s the execution that counts. Ideas are a dime a dozen. The average writer has more ideas than they’ll ever be able to do anything with.

So when these newbie writers want an editor or agent to sign a nondisclosure agreement before looking at their work, they’re only showing what an ignorant noob they are. Editors and agents are in the business of finding new writers. And if they are writers, they have a ton of ideas themselves, all of which they think way more highly of than whatever precious concept you pulled out of the ether.

Myth #2: Writing Fast Equals Writing Crap

Both Dean Wesley Smith, whom I got the 7 day novel idea from, and myself ran up against this myth during our experiments. Not in ourselves, but from other people. You can read about Dean’s encounter here.

Someone commented something similar on Facebook in response to my own 7 day novel writing journey, though he was a lot nicer and more sane than Dean’s guy. But his point was the same: that writing fast means you are throwing quality out the window. This is completely untrue and unsupported by evidence. Let’s take a walk through it logically and analyze where this myth comes from, shall we?

As far as I’ve been able to deduce, this myth comes from our high school and even college English teachers, as well as traditional publishing.

In school we’re taught to go through a slow, excruciating process to write our magnum opus. We were taught that’s how guys like Faulkner and Hemingway and Dickens did it, whether that was actually true or not. Traditional publishing continues to support this myth, mostly because it supports their timetables for getting books out. You taking a year on your masterpiece gives them plenty of time to publish and market the other books in their catalog, as well as to get ready for your book’s launch. The top authors, like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Lee Child are well compensated under this book a year model, which gives them the freedom to write one book per year.

That’s hunky dory for them, but what if you’re the new guy trying to break in, and the publisher only gives you five grand for your book? Well, you’ve got two choices. You can keep (or get) a day job, or you can crank out more books.

This myth also makes the bold assumption that everyone who abides by this output method types The End and immediately throws it up on Kindle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Well, to be honest, some of them do. But those aren’t the ones you hear about making big bucks with self-publishing. Their books sink like a stone, never to be seen again, and rightly so. No, you still have to edit and revise. No one said anything about uploading your first draft to the masses. And if they did, they’re idiots. But editing doesn’t have to be an excruciating, six-month affair either, the poor writer snapping red pencils in half, while pulling his hair out trying to select just the right word for is. By writing fast, you can also cut your editing time by a goodly amount, and still get it to market quicker. And another advantage of writing fast: You fail quicker, leading to better writing faster.

Myth #3: Every Book is an Event

I’m guilty of this one. Dean Wesley Smith has helped whip this one out of me. By reading his blog more or less daily for the past year, and figuratively watching over his shoulder as he writes book after book, story after story, I’ve learned that every book is not some big event, some major achievement. It’s simply another book, another unit of product for your shelves. One of many you will (hopefully) produce throughout your life.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re saying now. “But James, books aren’t product. They’re High Art. Maybe while you’re writing them. But once they’re done they are product, a piece of intellectual property that can earn an income for you for the rest of your life plus 75 years. Don’t like it? Then print your manuscripts when you’re done with them and put them in a trunk somewhere. No skin off my nose. But if you actually want to get published and make a living as a writer, you’re going to have to learn business. Writing is a craft and an art; publishing is a business. Got the difference? Good. Then you are well on your way to letting go of these top three myths in publishing.