All Things Huge And Hideous: Edits Done

Short blog post today. I am happy to announce that All Things Huge And Hideous has been returned to the publisher for edits.

I less pleased to announce that my laptop is limping along sadly due to the catastrophic failure of its battery, and it is now effectively a desktop until such time as the new battery arrives. Oh well.

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The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Not My Friend

One of the reasons that Deep Space Nine was my favorite of the post Original Series Star Trek is that the writers got to make some pretty bold moves. One of the boldest and most insightful, I feel, was their choice of what to do with the Mirrorverse from one of the Original Series’ strongest episodes.

In the Mirrorverse, the Federation was the Terran Empire: a bloodthirsty, dictatorial and ruthless state. And Vulcans were pretty much Romulans. During their brief sojourn in the Mirrorverse, our own universe’s Kirk tried to convince the Mirrorverse’s Spock to try overthrowing the Terran Empire in favor of a Federation. In DS9, we got to see the results.

Turns out that Mirror Spock had been quite successful at the overthrowing the Empire part. Unfortunately, that merely left the Empire in enough trouble that its subject peoples plus the Klingons and Romulans had easily conquered Earth and made humanity into a slave race. And they were still enslaved about a century later.

The Original Series had made an unwarranted assumption, and it is one that uneducated “revolutionaries” make to this day: that when an oppressive system is toppled, freedom and justice will naturally follow. They do not. To establish them requires hard work, and it is not often hard work that the “revolutionaries” are equipped to do. To take a few examples, it must have seemed to the Aztecs’ subject races that the Spaniards — whose God, notably did not demand human sacrifice — were their liberators. The French believed that toppling the nobles, and later the king, would bring them equality, liberty and brotherhood. What they got was the Committee Of Public Safety, the Reign of Terror, and Napoleon. Aleksandr Kerensky had a chance to establish a Russian Republic when the Czar’s oppression was overthrown, as did Yeltsin when the Soviet Union fell apart. They were succeeded by Lenin and Putin respectively, and the only thing better about Putin is that he isn’t using starvation as a tool for mass murder, as far as I know.

Overthrowing oppressive systems isn’t very hard, even when it isn’t easy. Not replacing it with an enemy that’s even worse is the trick.

Iron Lensman

Every now and then I have the impulse to do a little literary criticism, although I can usually control it with prescription medication. But the other day I was watching Iron Man II (I really watched the MCU out of order) and a parallel struck me that I haven’t heard anyone else talk about before, so you lucky readers get to hear me ramble on about it.

The Lensman series, by E. E. “Doc” Smith was one of the seminal works of Golden Age SF, appearing in Astounding magazine from 1937-1948, and later reworked in the 1950s as a series of seven novels. Roughly, the titular heroes, the Lensmen, were an organization that fought crime on a galactic scale. Their lenses amplified their psionic powers, and no person who could be corrupted by wealth and power could wield a lens.

The length of the series, the poverty of the plot (which generally just featured the Lensmen going up against more and more powerful foes, armed with ever-more esoteric and larger superbattlefleets) and Smith’s excruciatingly awful prose meant that the Lensman series never saw release as anything approaching a major motion picture, which is on some level a relief and on another a profound disappointment. I always thought the series might have some hope in the hands of a really awesome screenwriter. But the themes he launched were a major influence on Star Wars (incorruptible psionic supersoldiers, anyone?) Other than that, it’s hard to find a direct heir to Smith’s style of storytelling.

And then it hit me that Tony Stark is pretty much a lensman par excellance, updated for the modern world. There are several parallels: like many other writers of that generation, such as Asimov, to whose Foundation series Smith lost the 1966 Hugo for Best Series, Smith’s lensmen are trained and expected to function as scientists, and frequently make discoveries and invent new weapons and vehicles. This whole thing struck me as i watched Tony Stark invent a new element under the guidance of his father’s notes to replace the palladium in his arc reactor heart. Like the lensmen, Tony Stark relies on a scientistic talisman that grants him his power, but it is always clear that his real power is in his willingness to do the right thing. Also like the first family of lensmen, the Kinnisons, Tony Stark gets a big helping hand from his father’s legacy of great genes and connections. Finally, by Civil War we see that Tony Stark is also concerned, as was Smith, with the idea of oversight. There is a major difference here, since the lensman’s source of power was also his shield against corruption. Tony Stark loses faith in himself and his fellow Avengers, but it’s interesting to me that this lack of faith is ultimately shown to be misplaced when he goes up against Captain America. Who also has his own “lens” made for him by Howard Stark, in a sense. The shape is even similar.

Although I really liked the conclusion of the major arc of the MCU, I’m going to miss Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. I hope that another generation of lensmen — whatever they are called — comes quickly.

The Mirror In The Man

Tolstoy opened up Anna Karenina with the observation that happy families are all alike; that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. But he got it exactly backwards. Only happy families are glorious in their uniqueness, because they’re the ones who are actually growing and producing individuals. It’s the unhappy families who are all alike, locked in a kind of spiritual trench warfare against themselves.

But it’s not surprising that Tolstoy got it backwards: that’s the instinctive thing to do when you’re looking in a mirror. Happy families look alike to those trapped in unhappy families for the same reason that rich people all look happy to the poor: poverty is so overwhelming that they can’t imagine being rich and still being miserable. Unhappy families look different because the words and the drama change while remaining monotonously the same. It is always the same people upset about the same things that they will never let go. From outside, it may look new: from inside, it always feels like, “not this again!” I remember the endless fights between my grandmother and grandfather. It was always a different issue but always, always the same: he was never doing what she wanted him to, or listening to her. And it was impossible for him to because what she was saying was never exactly what she was thinking, so why should he have even tried?

And the reason for this is that when God gives us a family, he gives us, in a sense, a mirror: another person who sees us from the outside and displays our virtues and our flaws to us. In fact, there’s two types of mirroring going on, and it’s hard to say which one is more intense, the active or the passive.

The active mirroring is easy to define: it’s when the people around you criticize you and react to your actions. They tell you they don’t like the things you love doing, or they do like the things you hate doing. When you do wrong, they let you know you’re wrong. And sometimes even when you do right, they let you know you’re wrong. They’re mirrors, and what’s more, distorted mirrors, but with some semblance of truth.

The passive mirroring is more subtle, but also more constant. We all have things we hate about ourselves. And because we’re all human, our family members will share some of those traits, reflecting them back at us. Talking too much. Slurping food. Hogging the biggest share of dessert. Passive-aggressively ignoring chores.

And our instinct in both cases is usually to smash the mirror for what we see in it. To attack and attack until the mirror shows us only what we want to see. This leads to knuckles cut to ribbons, and our image being smashed. It is far harder to do what we must: to change ourselves in response to that which we hate to see.

Of course, in any family, you’re not the only mirror, nor the only person. Sometimes, you also will be attacked for what your family members see in you. And while you may have to stop the attack, it’s vital to remember that they’re really not attacking you. They’re attacking the mirror, and trying to destroy the terrible image of themselves that they cannot bear. Because if they can make it your fault, it doesn’t have to be theirs anymore.

Oh, God, protect us in our families from our urge to break mirrors that have done nothing but show us as we are.

 

General Update And Writing News: Cons And Publications And Jobs, Oh, My!

Okay, so the blog has been on a sort of soft hiatus for about a month now, for various reasons, and I have high hopes that is coming to an end. I’d really like to thank everyone who’s stuck with reading it. The hiatus happened for various reasons, exciting and mundane, including…

The End Of The School Year: Yes, with three children in elementary school, this process requires a bit of readjustment to the way the house functions, so I’ve been transitioning back into the role of Full-Time Dad.

Next School Year: Just to complicate matters, I once again have a Real Day Job. I accepted a position with a local private school teaching World History, a job I truly love. So while that’s a lot of fun, transitioning to that new job takes a LOT of time.

DragonCon: In the interim, I have learned that I will be an Official Guest of DragonCon, appearing on at least two panels and probably more. In addition, I will be hanging out at Bard’s Tower signing copies of my forthcoming book All Things Huge And Hideous, from Superversive Press! Stop by and say hi!

More Professional Sales: Also, I have been polishing up my short story “Whoever Is Not For Us” to appear next month on Kristin Janz’s and Donald Crankshaw’s Mysterion website,and just sold (of all things) a 76-word short story to Jaleta Clegg’s anthology Beer-Battered Shrimp for $5, which works out to 6.5 cents a word!

More Unprofessional Sales: While it’s not a pro sale, I also received news a couple of weeks ago that StarShipSofa, one of the most prestigious semi-pro markets out there, and one I have never cracked, has bought one of my original stories, “Wheels-Up Time.” So that’s awesome news, and I’m honored to be working with Jeremy Szal.

So a lot to be grateful to God for, and hopefully, we’ll have some more Dear Stabby and things coming up later.

Who Wants A FREE eBOOK? Doctor To Dragons!

Well, it’s been awhile since I mentioned this, partly because there was a bit of a learning curve in how to do it, but I now have a fully-functional mailing list, and I want to welcome everyone with a FREE copy of Doctor To Dragons, which is effectively the first three chapters of the full-length novel All Things Huge And Hideous, which will be coming out from Superversive Press this fall.

Honestly, I really love being able to do this, because this gives my readers a chance to preview the book at no risk. If you don’t like Doctor, you probably won’t like All Things Huge and Hideous, and I really don’t want anyone to spend money on something that disappoints them. But if you do like it, then I think you’ll be confident that the money for the full novel is well spent.

To get your free copy, all I ask is that you sign up for my mailing list, which you can do right here! It will come out on the first of the month and on very special occasions (like, I’m appearing at a con or I’ve sold a book), so I won’t be spamming you. Hope you enjoy the ride.

Scott Huggins

Critiques And Stories!

I don’t want to make this blog into a marketing machine, but I haven’t written about my Patreon account for about a year, and I just made some changes to it, so today I’m going to let you know what all of you could get if you choose to patronize me.

Um, maybe I should rephrase that.

Okay, so starting at the $2 reward level, I will start writing you your own personalized story at the low, semi-pro rate of $0.03 a word. The longer you support me, the longer your story goes.

At $10 of support, I will provide a detailed critique of a single work of fiction/poetry of 6k words or less. I’m a runner-up with about 20 short stories published: it’s a good deal.

At $25 or more per month, I’ll offer a second critique, only this one will be good for up to 10k words. Yes, you can get 2 critiques per month.

Finally, $40 of support gets you a single piece of flash fiction that I will write just for you, on whatever subject you wish.

Try out some of these rewards and watch your writing improve. Or just enjoy some great fiction. Thanks for your support!

An Open Letter To The Manufacturers of the Spice Melange

Dear CHOAM Company,

I would like to take the time to complain about your spice “MELANGE (a genuine Arrakis product!) It is my opinion that not only is your overhyped and overpriced, but is deceptive and dangerous as well. My own family’s case will prove illustrative.

My wife came home with a jar of melange about six months ago, for which she paid the exorbitant price of $575. While the jar was approximately the size of the other jars in our spice rack, we were surprised and dismayed to discover that within the jar stood barely enough melange to be visible, and no, I am afraid that thoughtful as it was, the microtweezers and hufuf oil magnifying lens included was not enough to significantly improve the inconvenience of digging out enough to use in cooking. Which brings me to my second point. Regardless of your advertising copy that promises “a flavor unmatchable in the known Universe,” the overwhelming impression I got from the scent of melange is cinnamon, the best grade of which is easily purchased at about $10 for a full ounce. As to the claim that melange is “never the same taste twice,” it’s rather ridiculous to make the claim when there is not more than one taste in the jar, even for the most artful of cooks.

Finally, I must question the wisdom of allowing — let alone advertising — the fact that melange is an indispensable part of foldspace drives. I can’t think of any other machine additive I would be well-advised to put on my food and consume. Besides the which, ever since we did use melange on our Thanksgiving apple pie, our familial harmony has been shattered. Not only did no one in the family notice the expense and trouble to which we went, but my wife has been going abut murmuring that she thinks I will divorce her when I discover what she really paid for the jar of spice. My high-school age son has decided it is impossible to pass calculus no matter what he does, and the younger children are all complaining about what they are getting for Christmas, and I haven’t even finished my shopping yet. Plus ever since that meal they youngest one has seemed to be in several places at once.  If the doctor says that’s more than the fact that he’s seven years old, you may advise your legal department that they will be hearing from my lawyers.

Sincerely,

Malcolm Idaho
Duchy of Grumman

memo: write the Ix division about eye treatments, re: younger brother DI

 

The Lord Of The Rings, Forgotten Conversations

Sometime around Bilbo’s fiftieth birthday.
Gandalf: “Hey, can you save me and a dozen idiot dwarves and a hobbit from wolves and orcs?”
Gwaihir: “Sure.”

A few months later.
Gandalf: “Hey, can you save a dozen idiot dwarves and a hobbit from wolves and orcs despite the fact that the morons wouldn’t be in this situation if they’d just split off some treasure for some folks who frankly earned it by slaying the dragon they stirred up?”
Gwaihir: “Sure.”

About eighty years later
Gandalf: “Hey, can you save me from the tower of an evil wizard powerful enough to lock me up in it?”
Gwaihir: “No problem.”
Gandalf: “Hey, while we’re on the subject, can you save the entire continent from literally the most evil being on the planet? The only thing he has that can fly are on horses hundreds of leagues west of here. You just have to drop us off at the big mountain.”
Gwaihir: “Fuck, dude, we’re not your taxi service.”
Gandalf: “Okay. If I call you in about a year, can you pick up a couple of hobbits for me out of Mordor?”
Gwaihir: “Sure.”

The Awful Choices

This one’s going to be fast, because I’m running out of time, but it’s one I hope is useful to other writers.

Recently I was reworking a story because of length issues. Amazingly, it was because the story was too SHORT for a market by about 3,000 words, and if you don’t know how rare that is, then oh, my sweet summer child. As I worked on it, I realized that I had made a blithe assumption about how possible it was to do something involving helicopters.

So I consulted an expert and simultaneously realized that a) there were two really obvious workarounds if “something” turned out to be impossible. As it turned out, the expert got back to me and told me that “something” was quite workable so long as you did, in fact, have really GOOD helicopter pilots.

So now I had three possible ways of solving my problem, but the following issues:

Most Dramatic/Awesome Approach (i.e. “something”) is also Least Plausible Approach.

Least Dramatic/Awesome Approach is also Most Plausible.

Most Plausible Approach also is Most Likely To Surprise Protagonists (which needs to happen).

Middling/Plausible Approach makes it difficult for the protagonists to ever find out what happened.

I turned to my research to see if it could nudge me along the right track, here. No such luck. The research basically said you could do whatever and justify it from there. So what should I do?

I still don;t know. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going with the high action/drama, because that shit is FUN, and why the hell else do people read science-fiction?