Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ethical Bullshit

In case the subtitle of this blog didn't cue you in, I'm a Liar. But I'm a Good Liar, in that all of my lies are clearly labelled. I engage in Storytelling. I'm a proud purveyor of bullshit, and every day I'm getting better and better at making it delicious. To give the phenomenon a more interesting name, let's call it Ethical Bullshit.

Let's face it, there are only a few areas of life where Absolute Truth is necessary (or even advisable). In most ordinary situations, a lie is almost always better for everybody concerned. There are several general reasons for this, in order of importance to Writing:

A lie is more interesting than the truth. - Would you rather a comedian tell you the truth, or a story about the truth?

A lie is more clear than the truth. - You're drinking in a bar with your buddies. One of them talks for a long time about a sexual encounter with a girl, carefully revealing the dates and times, backtracking to give little dossiers of every character in the story. The other tells a great story about how he banged a girl. Stripped of all the distractions (i.e. unnecessary facts) the lie gets to the damn point and has a better impact.

A lie illustrates the truth better than the truth itself. - Listen to someone bullshit, and you'll learn more about his personality than if he were giving an honest deposition at a trial. Human interaction isn't about facts, it's about emotions.With the exception of STI's. Do the right thing, guys!

A lie gets the job done. - Bullshit is just another word for thinking out loud. Listen to somebody bullshit, and you'll discover what they want to do. If it's a good idea, it stops being bullshit as soon as it works. To answer the classic ethical question: "Would you lie to Nazis to protect Jews hiding in your attic?": "Yes, and repeatedly." Screw you, Kant.

A lie requires much more thought, and is thus much better quality than the truth. - Any idiot can tell the truth, as long as he has a good memory and the ability to string a few sentences together in response to competent questions. A liar has got to have Craft. Read the great political and moral speeches and documents. They are a tissue of outright lies and bullshit, every single one of them. But they're so much better than the Absolute Truth, which is this:

Take any abstract noun: Love, Hope, Freedom, Faith, Money, Loyalty, Happiness, Democracy, Morality, all of them. Look for it in the natural state of the universe. You won't find it. The strength of these abstracts is entirely dependent on the belief of human beings in the bullshit of other human beings. We tell a lie, then make it true.


Where'd you get that fez that sits on your mantle? Well, I'll tell you:

Things were looking pretty bad for us until I realized that shooting slightly outside the picture was less effective than shooting at all those guys with swords. Also Ms. Laid's frantic screams of terror attracted a mummy to help me defeat my foes. It's a well-known fact that mummies are enraged but intrigued by the color red.

And that's how I made the Sphinx eat his words.

250 words? Yes
Book "The True Autobiography of a Liar"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Friday, October 8, 2010


Say it the British way: conTrahversy!

"Drugs are Legal, People Ain't" is my first brush with controversy in my writing. Damn, that's a good thing. I was getting worried.

Here's the deal: a Writer should be controversial, but not because of who he is. That is to say, he should be controversial because of who his characters are. The writer is an entirely separate entity who undoubtedly has his own opinion, but (aside from the mere mundane politics of camera placement) is entirely uninvolved in the debate. That is to say, a Writer should write such that if he ever writes a satire it will be clearly labeled as such without his direct declaration.

In other words, write a story, give the viewpoint opposite yours the strongest argument and see if 'your side' can keep up. If they can't, why the heck are they your side again? Either take over or make your own side, with blackjack and hookers. Well, Fair Trade hookers.


I'm speaking as someone who has a very competent secretary.

I've always been attracted to competence, and there's a certain point at which extreme competence becomes extremely sexy. I'm saying that somebody who can manage the minutiae of a busy executive's life while he wallows in the clouds of Business must have some other skill besides filling out an A-line skirt in a most admirable manner.

She's amazing, and I'm not just writing this because she's looking over my shoulder while tapping her watch-hand for me to take her out on our date.

250 words? Yes
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "Aztec" (Gary Jennings)


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Pilots

Every short story I write is a book pilot, but only for me. I'm not pretending I don't care about what my "audience" (a purely theoretical entity) thinks, but I prefer to jump clean into the cold waters of an idea before I commit myself to testing the waters with a prudent toe.

A short story is, to me, the perfect length. It gets a whole thought to the page with a minimum of active scheming, and is pre-packaged for my attention span. I can keep an entire book in my mind, and have, but it requires almost all of my mental resources, whereas while writing a short story I can operate on about ten percent and then that piece can conveniently serve as a shorthand for the book that follows if I'm pleased with the results.

Furthermore, I can write a short story in three hours. If it sucks, I can then discard it. I can write a book in a month. I do not yet trust myself to discard a book if it sucks, but I do trust my 'editor voice', and it says "David, your books suck."

I hold myself to high standards. There will be no filler in my books, there will be no meaningless scenes. My target is 60,000 words of pure awesome, and for pure awesome you need a good idea and good characters.

My two most likely candidates are "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" and "Drugs are Legal, People Ain't".

Hey, bonus: a short clip from "Drugs are Legal, People Ain't"

062 - Drugs are Legal, People Ain't 1


On the magazine front, Ben Godby figured we should call it Flash Fiction Orgy since that's a cool title containing both "orgy" and "flash". The content wouldn't be restricted to Flash Fiction, of course, but it'd be a good medium for what are essentially wordsmith craft samples that are really difficult to sell on their own anyways.

Current Creative total: 2
Writers - 2

As you can see from my placeholder cover art over there (a pastiche of a movie poster, a textbook cover, and some Bad Art), we desperately need an Artist. If you or anyone you know has such skills and want to be involved in a cool project, this is your time. Click on the cover for a direct link to the post page.


Listen, here's how it's going to be: You're going to leave me alone while I drink myself into a stupor, and then you're going to nurse me back to health and I promise, then, that we will have a long talk about our relationship. Really, lady, is a drunken stupor every once in a while altogether too much to ask?

Is it just my isolation from the joys of middle class American society or is that TV screen way too large? ...I want one.

250 words? Yes
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Wednesday, October 6, 2010


In which David invites the Internet to weigh in or mock a neat idea for a magazine.

The Assumption
I want a magazine. But I also want a magazine in line with Internet Age principles. What are Internet Age principles, you ask? Well, as far as I can tell, nobody knows. That's fine, it's new yet. So let me promulgate my own assumptions before I present the proposal itself.

Assumption 1: Links are valuable things
Links are any method by which people come to a site/product, either physical or hypertext. So a person comes to a site, links to it or talks about it then any people those people know might come to the site, then any people those people know, until signal attenuation dilutes the link energy enough for it to fail. Obviously, this isn't new (it's called "word of mouth") but the Internet Age makes word-of-mouth location independent and more easily consummated.

Assumption 2: An independent Creative builds his/her own network of links.
Your independent Writer, Artist or Musician is trying to build up an audience and also a group of people to test himself on and also a group of general friends. So, he sets up a blog, a Twitter page, and becomes engaged with the community. Again, not new (it's called "self-promotion"), but the Internet Age makes it easier.

Conclusion: Association of Creatives multiplies links.
So all these Writers, Artists and Musicians are self-promoting through word of mouth, and suddenly about eight of them get together and do a project, promoting it through their individual networks. Now all those networks are cross-linked and potentially expanded eightfold. It's social promotion, whoo! In primitive form, it's all this bloglinking that goes on, but we can take it further, thanks to the easy collaboration of the Internet Age.

Bonus Assumption: An Association of Creatives is fun.

The Magazine

A collaboration of Creatives who all respect each other's work get together and e-publish a magazine and share the profits and the traffic from the links.

Each month a pool of Writers and a pool of Artists would contribute pieces. For better synergy, writers and artists would team up so the artist could provide individualized artwork for each story or the writer could provide a short story for an artwork, or they could get fancy and bust out a graphic story. A pool of Musicians/Voice Actors could be cultivated to provide audioshort publication, and Video could certainly be incorporated. It's the Internet Age, it can be done, and cheap.

The editor would rotate based on availability and clarity of editorial vision in managing what is essentially a loose anthology format. Technical confidence is nice too, but the layout can be put in template form so it's not that hard to plug in the content. When it was all ready to roll out, the magazine can be published via Smashwords, Kindle, and on a dedicated magazine site. Each Creative in the pool would promote it through his own network along with whatever network the magazine developed.

Profits would be shared equally or donated to a small charity organization chosen by the pool, both for making merit and to bring in yet another network of links into the process. But profits from the endeavor would best be measured in word-of-mouth bringing more eyes to the Creative's other projects via the links embedded in his contribution.

Aside from that, it'd be fun and a great experiment in the Internet Age with very little cost-of-entry/failure all things considered.

And now, an encouraging message from Reel Big Fish to undercut my confidence:



"Heroes Have No Homes" (by David Barron)

250 words? Yes
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "Guns, Germs, and Steel" (Jared Diamond)


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The World Sandwich

I was reading The Sandwich-Maker description from "Mostly Harmless" today and my thoughts wandered, as they often do, to world-building. But I hate that term.Writing isn't world-building. Writing is character-building. The world is just part of what builds characters.

Allow me to split 'world-building' into three broadly-defined but manageable chunks: Environment, People, and Scenery. there, that was pretty easy. People is all the characters, taken as individuals. Environment is what the characters interact with, whether that's climate or politics. Scenery is all the cool stuff that accentuates the other two.

Now allow me a metaphor. It's like a sandwich, People is the meat and cheese, Environment is the bread, and Scenery is all the rest. It can be thick (but not too big for a mouthful) or thin (but not so thin as to be soggy), but above all it should be a damn Sandwich: greater than the sum of its parts.

If readers are spending all their time looking at the Scenery and not enough time looking at the People while mostly ignoring the Environment, that's not a Sandwich.

That's just a pile of meat and cheese and bread with some tasty condiments.



If you ever feel the need to lecture somebody...

Please don't do that.

It's almost, but not quite, as effective as leaving a passive-aggressive note, and at least we can all laugh at those later instead of yelling across each others' verbal broadsides.
250 words? Yes
Short Story "Kritarchy"
Short Story "A Blot on the Escutcheon"
- - - -
Reading - "Mostly Harmless" (Douglas Adams)


Monday, October 4, 2010

Location Independent

I'm slowly coming to realize the vast opportunity of this Internet Age as it relates directly to me, Creative.

I'm almost entirely self-motivated, almost certainly hypomanic, almost always ready to work smarter and harder if there's gain to be had. The Internet Age allows me to work from anywhere. I can write from anywhere I have a pen and paper, edit from anywhere I have a laptop and publish from anywhere I have an internet connection.

Not to mention that the Internet lets me do research at a blinding-fast pace on any number of projects at any one time, whether it's my latest blog management difficulties to the exhilarating complexities of real space travel to the delightful intricacies of Pali. Much more so the complexity of formatting and the Business Side. It's a big pool of awesome knowledge and the cost of entry is incredibly low.

All this means is that my physical location is only important with regards to social life (sorry, internet people, you don't have beer and girls) and access to technology and other resources. All of my Writing can happen in nebulous cyberspace. The upside of all this is that being a bohemian is actually a good business strategy now instead of just an eccentric lifestyle choice.

So that's good for me, and for you too.


Minor terrible confession: Yes, I do schedule posts in advance. The Internet 'round here is prone to dying abruptly and for long periods of time, and I don't feel like updating via my satellite phone. Basically any time you see a post going up at exactly 6:00PM you can know that I'm incommunicado.


Let's be serious for a moment.

I can't say that without laughing. Writing completely serious things is not my style. I know: some people don't like to mix humor with their Art, and I certainly agree that too much humor is distracting from a serious work, but...
Give me some comedy, dammit! If I've slogged through your deadly serious book and nothing remotely humorous happens, I'm going to hate you forever. They invented Dark Comedy for a reason, you jerk. Anyways, the humor doesn't have to be obvious.

Comedians make the best tragedians.

250 words? Yes
Short Story "Kritarchy"
Short Story "A Blot on the Escutcheon"
- - - -
Reading - ?


Sunday, October 3, 2010


I have a terrible confession to make, but it's time I came out of the closet. I know it's difficult sometimes for people like me to live openly, but I'm really quite far away right now in another country. There will be some backlash, some will decry my lifestyle, but I've got to be true to myself. Yes, people, the truth is that I love Vegetables.

Nothing pleases me more than eating some tasty steamed vegetables, maybe with some chicken if I feel like putting in the effort. The colors, the taste, the overwhelming wholesomeness of the whole experience. The simplicity of clean-up certainly contributes.

This carries over into my writing in some way or t'other. Perhaps my characters are assumed to have more balanced diets? Well, at least I can decry processed food while simultaneously writing space adventures. The future will have hydroponics.


By the by, thanks Critters for going all-out on "Drugs are Legal, People Ain't"! You have been impressively helpful, and it's only the midweek point. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Critters is a fine free online workshop where friendly people will tear apart your story for you. Whoo! Critters Writers Workshop!


It's less than a one-minute walk to my local emporium of fresh food, and that food comes from a reasonably small radius. It's not organic, though, but you can't win everything. I wash all my vegetables anyways.

And those chickens I eat? I know their names.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
Short Story "Drugs are Legal, People Ain't" - final edit, cover
Short Story "Kritarchy" - exciting new direction!
Short Story "The Language of Ice Cubes" - comically unfinished, jeez.
- - - -
Reading - ?

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