THE WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION in Kansas City is coming up. Kansas City is actually in Missouri, a fact which provides me with no end of bemusement. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been to several World Fantasy Conventions over the years, but too irregularly to do much good. I’m trying to make it a steady thing. This should be a good Conference, good people, and maybe I’ll make a mark. I’m actually part of the programming, I have three items:
* Mythology & Fantasy of the Fox; 4PM Friday – with Alyc Helms, Kij Johnson, Rena Mason and Gillian Pollack. Hopefully this has nothing to do with what the Fox says. The Fox in literature and myth is one of the classic tricksters – a powerless, marginalized underdog who manages to triumph and overcome, not through power or strength or even courage, but through sheer cleverness. For the powers that be, for the establishment and social order, the Fox is a subversive, a deceiver, a persecutor and a thief. For the marginalized and underdogs, the fox is a hero. Everyone admits the fox is a clever beast, anti-social, revolutionary, and damned sexy. In my writing, many of my characters are ‘foxes’ – tricksters who survive by being smart. I’m really looking forward to this panel, and a discussion about ‘trickster’ characters in folklore, modern culture and writing. Oh, and I’ll give away a book to an audience member as part of the panel.
* Reading; 5PM Saturday – I have half an hour to do a reading. I’m going to regale the audience with tales from Twilight of Echelon, short stories and vignettes based on the retro hallucinogenic works of artist Robert Pastern. Echelon is a world, or perhaps a reality, or perhaps something completely different, right next to our own, where everything familiar is recast and distorted as surreal and mysterious, and where the lost members of a human colony struggle to maintain their identity, unsure if the Earth they remember still exists, or if it ever existed. Again, I’ll give away a book.
* Autographs – I’m also doing the Autograph session, along with everyone else. Honestly, in terms of fame, I’m a Z-list kind of guy, but I’m always startled to discover someone out there has heard of me and actually brings a book to sign. Typically, what I do, is just set up a display of a dozen of my books, relax and chat with anyone who stops by. If someone wants to buy something, I’ll sell it to them. If I like them, it’s free. I usually bring up a handful of books and make sure they find good homes before the convention starts.
This is actually my fourth major Writers Conference/Convention this year, and honestly, I’m glad I’m coming to the end. I’m starting to get worn out. For the record, this is what I’ve been up to.
This is not going to be a rant about how tosh humanity is, although we are pretty tosh.
This is going to be a relatively thoughtful meditation on the universe, how big and vast it is, and the easiest ways to achieve a goal, which often doesn’t involve a journey of a thousand miles.
Everyone knows what the Drake Equation is, and everyone’s heard of the Fermi Paradox. If you haven’t, go look it up, I’ll wait here.
Boiled down to the basics, the Equation suggests that the Universe should be brimming with intelligent life. The Fermi Paradox asks the question, if that’s the case, where is it?
There may well be life elsewhere in the Universe, possibly in great profusion. There may well be intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, lots of it. We don’t know for sure. So far, we’ve got a sample size of one, in both categories. But the sheer profusion of stars with planets suggests that regardless of whether it’s likely or not, it’s not impossible.
I think though, that we overlook the vastness. Sure, there are a hundred billion stars, give or take, in this galaxy alone, and there are millions and billions of galaxies. Count those numbers up and you can go a little crazy.
So why haven’t we been visited? Where are they? The UFO folks will say that they’re here. The Ancient Astronaut folks will say that they came and went.
But most likely, no. They aren’t here, they weren’t here, and odds are they’re not going to be showing up, for the simple reason that they don’t actually need to make the trip.
I had an interesting experience yesterday. A friend of mine called, her neighbor and reported her brother in her yard and she was afraid to go home.
Her brother is kind of rough. Basically, drug addict, indigent. He’d been married, had a job, a kid. Lost it all. Beat and gaslit his wife, abused his family, he found something he liked better and his life spiraled down.
My friend, his sister had tried to help him, had tried to maintain a relationship with him. But as he went on, he got more and more unstable and potentially violent. The last time he showed up at her place, he told a story of ripping off his drug dealer’s cash, and in turn his drug dealer beating him up and stealing his phone and ID, and she’d spent half the night driving him around. It wasn’t getting better.
So, I judged she was right to be worried. I told her to pick me up when she came in from work, and I’d go with her to her house.
I figured that even as potentially violent and unbalanced as he was, having a full-grown male there, even one as inoffensive and docile as me would deter any potential violence and keep things even. And if there was violence, I’d probably handle it directed at me better than she would.
I suspected that I was going to be stuck in a great deal of someone else’s drama. That wasn’t really appealing. But you look out for the people you care about.
So, she picked me up, off we went to her house.
ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part IV
Ron and I had his four books ready to go, except for … everything.
A book isn’t just a manuscript. You need an ISBN registration, you need a cover, you need a back cover blurb and material, an author’s bio, an author’s photo, copyright information. We needed this stuff called Metadata – a long description, a short description, a one line description, something called BISAC, something else called SOE (search engine optimization).
Basically, after the big monolith of the manuscript itself, we also needed to build all the little tiny pieces of text that would go into the book and its online prooofiles.
Ron’s Toltec books were a trilogy, so we thought it would be a good idea to include adverts in each book of the trilogy for the other trilogy books. That turned into adverts for all of his books. And the idea of adverts suggested that we should include blurbs and art for the adverts. And the Adverts section needed to be slightly different for each of the four books. So a lot of work to keep track of.
If all this strikes you as bearing a passing resemblance to this thing called work? Yeah.
ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part III
Now, if you’ve been reading this series, we should be at the Happy Ending. My pal Ron has his rights back. His books are taken down from Amazon. He can do anything he wants with them. He’s no longer chained to an undead zombie publisher.
If you haven’t been reading this series… what’s wrong with you? Go back. Read the series. It’s got sex, adventure, naked women, shaved goats, literature, the Village People make a guest appearance, the cure for cancer, the secret to happiness. Go!
Now! Read! I’ll wait here!
Back? Yes, there was slight exaggeration. But what do I care, you read it.
So, I say “Ron, you’ve got your books back, what are you going to do with them?”
Now, he can take them to another publisher, that’s an option. Some small press publishers will take previously published books. A lot of them don’t. For a lot of publishers, it’s like a sandwich. When you’re publishing, you like to publish a fresh new sandwich. You don’t necessarily want to publish a sandwich that someone has had sex with before. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
But yes, finding another publisher. Definitely an option.
Or he can self publish. A lot of people are doing that these days. I’ve done it… a lot. I gave courses in it. I have a bunch of materials I can give him to get him going and make it easy for him.
He says to me, “I was hoping you would do it.”
Surprised, I quickly look around to see who he’s talking to, someone who apparently walked into the room when I wasn’t paying attention, and is gullible enough to do all sorts of work for free.
But it’s just the two of us.
I have a bad feeling.
ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part II
This is the second part of the Odyssey of R.J. Hore and his faithful monkey (yours truly) on his quest to regain his books from limbo, and wrest his rights from the Zombie publisher.
In our first Installment, we discovered that eTreasures LLC, publisher of R.J. Hore’s Toltec Trilogy, Dawn, Noon and Khan, and publisher of his one off We’re Not in Kansas, had in fact gone Zombie!
It was dead, defunct, rolled up, no longer in business. But somehow, it was still selling his books on Amazon, just not giving him statements or royalties or anything.
So, how to get his rights back? I’m a guy with certain skills for situations like this, I can make a human body disappear in thirty-eight minutes flat, family rates…
I mean, I have other skills, more appropriate skills.
The first thing you do in a situation like this is go to the contract.
ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part One
So, I have this friend, Ron. R.J. Hore. He’s a nice guy, retired banker, genial fellow. I would see him at Collectables Conventions and Antique Fairs, Farmers Markets, Fleas. He’d always have a table selling his books, often sharing the table with another writer. He had a replica Saber Tooth Tiger skull at his table, that was cool.
Anyway, whenever I saw him, I’d buy one of his books. That’s a thing I do. I buy books by local writers. Small press, self published, whatever. I’m a writer, they’re writers. I want to support my brethren.
The bottom line, I got to know Ron.
Honestly, he’s a pretty good writer, and mostly, I admire his gumption. I don’t think I’ve got the fortitude to sit at tables at these little conventions, hawking my books, watching thousands of people walk by refusing to make eye contact. I’m not really a people person. But I like people who are.
He’s a small press guy, his books are mostly published by Champagne Book Group with editors and everything.
He met the Champagne people when they had a dealers table at a local convention called Keycon, showed them his stuff, and they liked it. The rest is history.
Anyway, one day we were talking, and he had a problem.
It seems that he had a second publisher, eTreasures. They’d published four books for him – We’re Not in Kansas, a stand alone, and a trilogy – Toltec Dawn, Toltec Khan and Toltec Noon.
But he’d lost touch with them. Not replying to correspondence, there were no royalties, no reports, nothing. He was feeling kind of abandoned.
I’m thinking ripped off.
But you know how it is, I have certain skills for solving certain kinds of problems, so I agreed to look into it.
Wow. I hadn’t realized I hadn’t posted here in quite some time. It’s been nine months since my last update. I’ve actually been writing a lot. But it either goes into my hard drive, or it’s posted on Facebook or Medium. I suppose I’ve let the Blog sit a bit.
Partially, it was a sense that I didn’t have much coming out to talk about. I try and get a few books out each year, and use the website and blog to promote them. But that kind of tailed off it felt. And, to be completely truthful, I don’t think I’ve got much of a readership on this thing. Or any readership at all. Not even when I was posting extremely regularly in prior years. I think that the Internet has evolved, often and perhaps mostly, in toxic directions, and Blogs like this have largely been left behind. There was a time when a good steady Blogger could build up a real following. I don’t think that’s the case now. Certainly, what I was finding was that there were no comments, my comments pages were just drowning in in spam-bots.
So technically, I guess, this is just kind of an accessible memoir. The real shot at building an audience is on social media, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, social media and discussion forums like Medium, Quora, Reddit, Substack. Most of which I’m hopeless at… but I’m devoted to at least giving it a try. So I’ve written a lot there, to no success whatsoever. But I do get a dozen or so people occasionally reading a facebook post.
Partially, I’ve just being busy with other things, as I’ll be noting. Let me offer a loose chronological update.
Sometimes modern discussion is simply tiresome. At this point, I’m thinking, in particular, of the band of screeching howler monkeys that constitute that ‘Anti-Woke’ crowd, and their endless, brainless war on anything that offends their delicate sensibilities.
Currently, one of the ongoing controversies seems to be black people in fantasy. Or ethnic representation in fantasy. I suppose it’s a good time to have that discussion, since we have four major Fantasy series currently running on television – The Witcher on Netflix, Dance of Dragons on HBO, the Lord of the Rings spin off on Amazon, and Willow on Netflix.
This is pretty unique, I don’t think we’ve ever seen so many fantasy series on at once, or so much money spent so ambitiously. Good thing, I suppose.
But here’s the problem: There are black elves.
I’m almost speechless.
Black actors getting cast as elves? There’s more to it, the whole argument is over multi-racial casting in fantasy, so we have black and Hispanic and Asian actors and actresses being cast randomly with white actors in a multitude of roles, from townsfolk to elves, dwarves, forest dwellers, soldiers, etc.
This apparently, is the ‘worst thing ever’ and a sign of the imminent destruction of our civilization at the hands of intersectional wokism!