Monthly Archives: November 2011

A good surprise

When I read books, watch TV or movies, I usually attempt to not read into what’s being presented. I’m not the guy who wants to know the ending ahead of time. I want that moment when I think, “Huh, didn’t see that coming,” with a grin on my face.

It’s not easy sometimes. If you really think about it, you’d probably be surprised with how often what’s coming is practically highlighted, underlined and in all caps in most media. And sometimes when there is a surprise, it’s not a good one. It doesn’t make sense. It’s done solely to be surprising, with no thought of effectiveness or story.

That’s why I’m so pleased after finishing Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle.” Other than “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, my only PKD exposure is via “Blade Runner,” which is, of course, based on that novel. For some reason or another, I’ve just kind of danced around his work. Clearly, an error on my part.

SPOILER ALERT: “The Man in the High Castle” is an alternate history. What if Japan and Germany had won WWII, then split up the world? The American west coast is under Japanese control. The east belongs to Germany. The Rockies and some of the plains states are a sort of demilitarized zone. Not exactly under control, but not essentially free.

Dick follows a jeweler hiding his Jewishness, a Japanese official in the midst of a spiritual crisis, a beautiful and capable woman who falls in with the wrong man, an antiquities dealer who undergoes satori that he is in no way capable of dealing with, and a German who is selling out his country before the fatherland attempts to take over the entire world. I’m not a huge fan of the whole alternate history thing, but this is well done and has a twist, one that both makes sense and is a bit of a surprise.

Yes, looking back, you can see where it came from, the development of the undercurrent pointing to the ending. But Dick doesn’t smack you in the face with it. He leaves a trail, but doesn’t leave a huge blinking sign. It’s masterful and a joy to read.

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Really, Star Press … Really?

The Star Press, at one time, was the small-newspaper gem of the entire Gannett media empire. After the past few years, when layoffs have been the norm to make sure that useless douchebags like Craig Dubow can get platinum parachutes after committing the economic and corporate equivalent of a fire bombing, The Star Press is now massively understaffed. It has been reduced to barely being a critical source of information for those who live in Muncie, and is nowhere close to what it used to be, the paper of record for Delaware and the four or five counties surrounding it.

So how does The Star Press allocate the minimal resources it still has? Investigative reports? In-depth sports coverage? Increased governmental scrutiny? Yeah, right. No, the good, ol’ Star Press starts a cold case series. That’s right. They can’t even cover the news that’s happening now, the news we local residents need to know, but lengthy pieces about crimes that happened decades ago somehow merit the attention of not one, but two reporters. Other information we may need to know is pushed aside and goes uncovered. Valuable newsprint is eaten up by stories many current readers don’t remember and which bears absolutely no relevance to their lives.

Unfortunately, given the leadership at the corporate and local level, it’s not likely things will change for the better anytime soon.

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I Idoru William Gibson

On the one hand, I’d love for William Gibson to crank out a couple of books a year.

On the other hand, I’m afraid his work would turn into the cyberpunk equivalent of the work of that female mystery novelist who writes those “A Is For Arson, B Is For Burglary, etc.” books.

No thanks.

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Let’s push things forward

Easier said than done, pushing things forward. How do you begin? That’s the nut of it, isn’t it, the thing that drives us writers to near insanity? Nothing seems important enough, smart enough, funny enough to be worthy of that initial spot.

But here I am, and so I push things forward. After years of half-assing it, writing smaller pieces to amuse myself and friends, working as a journalist and pimping my talents for an industry that has time and time again proven itself unworthy, I find myself nine chapters (plus an ending) into a sci-fi novel that may actually work. Beginning, middle and end. Three acts. The hook, the buildup, the payoff. I find myself surprised to be here, in a spot I’d always hoped to be: a budding novelist.

This blog is the public kick in the ass to keep myself honest, to force myself to complete … a book without a title, at this point. My feeling is that will come, a natural byproduct of the real product, the story. I’ve had titles before and gone nowhere. Now I have nine chapters and no title, and I’m willing to live with that if the inspiration will continue to flow, the characters continue to develop, the story continue to interest me.

So stay with me, check in, pray to your deity of choice, mock me, laugh at and with me, cry at my crippling stupidity and narcissism. I hope you will be rewarded.

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