The Chasm and the Collision, Chapter 3, “The Waves in the Wall” – the audio

Well, here it is, the audio for the third chapter of The Chasm and the Collision, read by me.  It will be posted on YouTube sometime early next week, but for the moment, feel free to listen to it here.  As always, feel free to download it, share it, etc., but you’re not authorized to make any money off of it…

…even if you could.

By the way, for ease of use, here are links to the entries on my blog where you can listen to earlier chapters:

The Chasm and the Collision Chapter 1:  A Fruitful Day and a Frightful Night

The Chasm and the Collision Chapter 2:  Shared Visions

Also, here are the links to the audio for my thee short stories, so you can easily navigate to them:

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords”

Prometheus and Chiron

Hole for a Heart

 

I hope you enjoy.  Remember, if you like them, you can find them all (in written form) at Amazon.  You can find my author’s page here.

TTFN!

My heroes have always been villains, Episode II: Sauron, lord of Mordor

It’s the second Thursday of the month and, as promised, this is the second installment of “My heroes have always been villains.”  Today, I discuss one of the greatest villains in modern fantasy literature:  Sauron of Mordor, the title character of The Lord of the Rings.

Peter Jackson’s amazing LotR movies (and the slightly less amazing The Hobbit movies) have brought Sauron to the attention of the population at large to a greater degree than ever before, but he was hardly a shrinking violet to begin with.  Millions upon millions of us met him in the books, after getting teased by him as the Necromancer in The Hobbit.

Except…well, we never really met him, did we?  Tolkien uses Sauron in The Lord of the Rings almost as H. P. Lovecraft uses Cthulhu, Azathoth, and all his other Great Old Ones, more as a symbol, as a force of nature, than as a character.  This tactic has its pluses and minuses, and I’ve always had mixed feelings about it.  On the one hand, the lack of an actual character of Sauron gave him an increased mystique, rather the way unseen and inscrutable entities in horror stories can increase their fearfulness, as we project all our worst personal nightmares onto them.  Sauron can also be the literary representation of real-world threats to “the free peoples of the world”, from Hitler and Stalin to Saddam Hussein, all the way back to Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun.  Yet, he’s even worse than that, for he is in some sense the representation of a physical, universal force rather than “merely” a bad guy.  Of course, we’re given hints here and there, as in Aragorn’s telling of his summary of the story of Beren and Lúthien, that Sauron is not the ultimate evil in the world, but was the servant of the Great Enemy, Morgoth.  That’s all we’re really told, though.  So, for now at least, Sauron is very much the force of evil in Middle-Earth.

But he really is very much a force, not a character.  The only time we ever see any person-to-person interaction with him is second-hand, when Pippin relates his harrowing experience of looking through the Palantir, through which he meets the Dark Lord himself.  It’s certainly a terrible encounter for Pippin, but it must be said that Sauron isn’t especially impressive in that interaction.  He misreads the situation seriously, and his dialogue is not as moving and powerful as we might have hoped from such a deadly entity.  This is clearly not because Tolkien was unable to write powerful dialogue—there have been few better at such things in the modern world.  I suspect that Tolkien is deliberately showing that, though Sauron is dreadful and dangerous beyond easy comprehension, he’s not really all that bright in many ways.  He’s driven by a sense of ever-present fear, and though he’s done some impressive and clever things in the past, as when he fooled Celebrimbor et al into making the Great Rings, he doesn’t seem particularly imaginative or able to see and understand the minds of his enemies except at the most superficial level.

Again, I suspect Tolkien does this on purpose.  I think his point in general is that, usually, evil is born of a limitation of the mind, a dysfunction, and that the evilest characters are, in many ways, profoundly limited (Gandalf himself describes Sauron as a “wise fool”).  This may well be a fact of reality, and it’s probably a good lesson to promulgate, but Sauron’s lack of personality has always disappointed me slightly.  That disappointment is very slight, though; overall, as a force of nature, with the dark majesty and terror met by the other characters—especially by Frodo and Sam—his impersonal nature is brilliantly effective.  There’s a reason these are some of the greatest books in the modern world, after all.

Of course, if one wants to encounter Sauron as more than a symbolic natural force, one need only read The Silmarillion.  He doesn’t have a huge presence there—it’s very much the story of Melkor/Morgoth and his war with the Valar and the elves.  However, as Morgoth’s chief lieutenant and right-hand man, Sauron can’t help but make appearances, especially in the tale of Beren and Lúthien.  He certainly is seen with a bit more depth here, but he doesn’t come off too well, doing most of such winning as he does through treachery rather than cleverness, before he is overcome by Huan, the Hound of the Valar (though he has an impressive magical battle with Finrod).  Other than this, Sauron is barely mentioned in the later parts of the main story.

In the Akallabêth, the Downfall of Númenor, we get to see much more of Sauron, in what seems to be his “finest” hour, when he uses cunning and manipulation, applied over decades to centuries, against the people of Númenor, who are too strong for him to defeat militarily.  It’s an impressive display of beguilement and deceit, worthy of Iago, but it’s still not that awe-inspiring, and it leads to the destruction of Sauron’s “fair” physical form when the island nation falls.

(This has always led me to wonder how Sauron didn’t lose the Ring when he lost his shape.  He’d obviously made the ring earlier, because he’d been able to assume fair shape when he deceived the elves into making the Rings of Power, and after the downfall he was never able to look anything but horrifying.  So, did he not have the Ring when he was in Númenor for all those years?  If not, where did he leave it?  Would he really have trusted it to anyone else, or to be safe in any stronghold?  If he did have it, how did he not lose it when Númenor, and his body, were swallowed by the sea?  I have yet to encounter a good explanation for this.)

So, though Sauron is one of the quintessential villains of modern fantasy literature, he is a symbol, a force, rather than a character.  To the degree to which he is a character, he seems to be Tolkien’s critique of the weakness of mind that leads one to become, or to continue to do, evil.  This may well have been deliberate on Tolkien’s part, and is a respectable line to take.  But it does mean that Sauron, however awesome and scary he can be, lacks a certain complexity and pathos, unlike, say, the character of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, whom I discussed in the last installment, and many of the villains I will be discussing in the future.  Nevertheless, he holds a special place of honor, as one of the most powerful, most formative influences on me of the nature of large-scale villainy in fantastic literature.

I think it’s clear, if you look through all the works, in all media, that have followed The Lord of the Rings, that I am not alone in this.

The Chasm and the Collision, Chapter 2: Shared Visions – the audio

Here it is, my audio for Chapter 2 of CatC.  I hope you enjoy it!

As always, feel free to listen, to download, and to share, but do not charge anyone or otherwise make any money from this.

This blog post speaks an infinite deal of nothing

Hello and good day.  It’s another Thursday, and time for my weekly blog post.

I honestly have no idea what I’m going to write about today, so as I do with many things—for instance, when I draw pictures—I’m just going to start and see what happens.  This is, perhaps, in some distant way akin to “automatic writing,” except that I see what I write as I write it.  If I didn’t, it’s hard to know just how many typos there would be, but I’m certain that there would be many.  In fact, it would be unreasonable for me to expect anything but gibberish.  One might as well seat the proverbial thousand monkeys at a thousand typewriters as engage in that particular experiment.

I guess what I’m doing is actually more akin to the classic, Freudian psychotherapeutic “free association,” in which the patient (that would be me…or should it be, “that would be I”?) just starts speaking and spits out any thought that wanders into his or her mind.  Freud would then interpret these utterances as all having something to do with sex, at least if you believe the common impression of him.

Mind you, that’s not as crazy as it might sound once you think about it.  After all, people do think about sex a lot.  How could it be otherwise?  Each one of us comes from an unbroken line of ancestors who achieved at least one successful sexual coupling.  By “successful”, I mean “leading to offspring which, in turn, achieved sexual maturity and then, themselves, achieved at least one successful sexual coupling…”  You get the idea.  Repeat indefinitely, down through the eons, eventually producing you and me.  None of us comes from ancestors who were virgins or celibates.  Apart from breathing, drinking, and eating, surely the most prominent part of our beings is the sex drive…for good, sound, inescapable biological reasons.

Of course, the difficulty of navigating the phase space of our conflicting drives, emotions, social mores, and legal concerns does lead to problems at times, not the least of which is society’s terrible legacy of discrimination, sexual abuse, misogyny, and so on, and the understandable backlash against them, which can occasionally go too far in the other direction.

I don’t want to get too deeply into that right now.  Suffice it to say that sex is important—it’s essential—but dealing with it in a modern, moral society can be extremely complicated.  That’s just the way the world is, I’m afraid.  If you want to live in a universe with simple dynamics which are susceptible to simple-minded solutions, you’ve picked the wrong universe.  I suggest you move along and try another.

Writing about sex, though, in fiction, can be tricky.  I, at least, am not very good—or at least not very comfortable—with it.  However, there are times when at least the fact of sex is essential to some story that I’m writing, and I at least have to work in the subject matter.  It’s rarely that important what the mechanics of a particular coupling are, so I tend to bring matters up to the point and then cut to the aftermath,* as in both Son of Man and Paradox City.  If you’re reading my works for the dirty parts, you may be slightly disappointed so far.

But don’t lose heart.  I can now tease you with the fact that, in my current novel (Unanimity) there are some more explicit, not-skipped-over sex scenes.  This is not for prurient or commercial reasons (though I’m happy to titillate you to engage your interest), but because they really are necessary parts of the story.  At least, they are necessary in my estimation, and since I’m the author, I’m the one with authority to make such decisions.

Speaking of Unanimity, it’s going well, and I’m excited about it.**  As I’ve been saying for some time, it’s getting closer to the end, but that really goes without saying.  Every word written is closer to the end, which doesn’t necessarily mean the end is near.  Indeed, there is still much more that must happen before the story is finished, and though “journeys end in lovers meeting,” I fear that many of the people in my world will not be meeting lovers at the close of their journey.  Many will not reach the end of the story at all, though they will reach the end of their own stories.  Those who survive will be sadder, but hopefully wiser.

On other matters, the audio for the second chapter of The Chasm and the Collision is nearly complete and should be released by early next week.  I’m having fun making these recordings, and hopefully those of you who listen will have fun listening.  Also, as promised, next week I shall release the second installment in “My heroes have always been villains.”  I haven’t yet decided which villain to explore, though there are oodles of them bouncing about with whom I could entertain myself.  If any of you have requests, by all means—or at least by any available means—let me know.  I can’t promise that I’ll go with your suggestion, but I do promise to take it into consideration.

With that, we’ll call it good for the week.  Despite the fact that I had no idea what to write about, I’ve spewed out about a thousand words in the space of less than forty-five minutes.  Of course, you may think the fact that I had nothing to write about is all too obvious, and that it would have been better had I abstained.  You have every right to think that way.

And I have every right gleefully to ignore you.

TTFN!


*“Afterglow” is probably the term most people would tend to use, but since events in my stories rarely stay glowy and idyllic for long, I think “aftermath” is probably a better word.

**Not because of the sex thing.

My mistress’ blog posts are nothing like the sun

Hello, good morning, and Happy Thursday!  It’s May 31st, 2018.  Within the next 24 hours or so, this month will disappear over the temporal horizon, never to be encountered again.

さようなら。

As those of you who follow this blog will know, the audio of the first chapter of The Chasm and the Collision is now available, both on my blog (here) and via YouTube (here).  I think it’s turning out well, and the relative speed with which I can come out with the chapter-length audios, compared with my far-from-very-short short stories, appeals to my sense of immediate gratification.  It’s also fun to go back into and engage with my novel in a deep, intimate way.  I certainly recommend to all authors out there that you take the time, at some point, to read your works aloud.  At the very least, this will call your attention to awkward phrasing and word choice; you will learn from the experience.

Many people say of good writing that it comes across as if the writer were speaking.  What I think we usually mean when we say this is that the work comes across as we wish people would when speaking, or when speaking at an idealized best—that it combines, you might say, the best aspects of the written and the spoken.  As a lover of the written language, and of language in general, I think that’s tremendous praise.

Of course, as always—sometimes it feels as though it’s literally always—Unanimity is coming along steadily.  I’ve felt weary on many a recent morning, having problems as I do with chronic insomnia, and have often needed to trick myself into writing my daily quota.  You know that trick, if you’ve been following this blog:  telling myself that I’m going to write at least one page, good or bad, something I can usually do in short order.  I almost always end up writing about three pages instead.

I shudder to think of the volume I’d be able to write if I were to do so full time, given how much I’m able to do in my spare time.  Of course, I’m sure there would be diminishing marginal returns if I wrote too much on any given day, and there might even be a tendency to procrastination, but I think I could work around those issues.  It would, at the very least, be worth doing the experiment.  For that to happen, I need enough of you to buy my stories and spread the word about them for me to be able to quite my day job.  Hint, hint.

This provides a rather brutal segue into a preaching topic, and that is the subject of reviews, ratings, and likes.  I encourage all of you—most of whom, I assume, are writers and/or readers—to take the time to give feedback on works that you read and otherwise consume.  This is particularly valuable for those who are struggling to make a name or have an impact, but even at higher levels it’s useful.  It’s useful for the creator, and it’s also useful for those who are considering exploring the creator’s work.  If you read a book that you bought from Amazon, for instance—or even if you’re perusing a book that you’ve already read elsewhere—take a moment to rate it.  I’m not saying you have to write a review, if you’re not so inclined, though those are certainly useful.  But at least give a star rating.  It takes about a second, maybe, and gives feedback for established works and valuable credibility to newcomers.  Similarly, if you see a video on YouTube that you like, “like” it.  Or if you see something shared on social media—Facebook, Twitter, whatever—please take a moment to give it some feedback.  It costs mere instants of your time, but it is of tremendous use and value to those who create and to your fellow consumers.

Also, if you feel so inclined, take a moment to “like” someone’s blog post.

This all can’t help but come across as self-serving…and I won’t lie, it is self-serving as far as that goes.  But it’s not merely self-serving.  If everyone who reads this post were to commit to giving at least brief feedback to other blogs, to videos, to books, etc., but in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, they were to decide never to rate any of my work…well, I’d be disappointed, but I’d still feel that I’d achieved something of value.

Silence is worse than derogation.  The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.  Or, to put it another way, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

That last sentence is clearly an exaggeration, but it makes a valid point.  I know that Thumper’s mom counseled him that, if you can’t say nothin’ nice, you shouldn’t say nothin’ at all, but in many cases, even a “thumbs-down” can be better than no reaction.  Of course, I do beseech you, in general, to keep feedback civil even when not complimentary, for like Hannibal Lecter, I find discourtesy unspeakably ugly.  But, given that minor caveat, I sincerely ask you all, please, to give feedback and/or reviews on those media of which you partake.

Especially mine.

Well, as Forrest Gump might say, that’s all I have to say about that.  I wish you all well.  In two weeks, I shall post my second installment in the “My heroes have always been villains” series, and before that time I shall no doubt release the audio for chapter 2 of CatC.  In the meantime, I will also continue to write on random subjects on my other blog, Iterations of Zero, so feel free to check that out.

I bid you well, and hope for the best for you all.

TTFN

The Chasm and the Collision – Chapter 1 audio

CatC cover paperback

Here it is, as promised, the audio for the first chapter of The Chasm and the Collision.  As always, feel free to listen, to download, and to share, but not to make any money by doing so.  I hope you enjoy.  Further chapters will be following in short order.