You Should Read… The Goddamned

Hello, and welcome to You Should Read…, where I select a comic or novel I really enjoy, and try to convince people to pick it up. My tastes sit firmly in the kinda-obscure sci-fi/horror/fantasy end of the spectrum, so don’t expect to see much in the way of superhero comics or mainstream franchises. It’s not that I have a problem with those things. They’re just not what I tend to read. This will be a weekly column, published every Tuesday. I hope you enjoy. 

goddamned cover

What’s It About?

It’s 1600 years after Eden. Mankind has fallen into squalor and viciousness, indulging in every perversion and atrocity. Through it all strides Caine, the first murderer, cursed to never die, eternal witness to what his family has wrought by their sins. He cuts through the narrative as a familiar figure, the lone wanderer in the Roland Deschain or Max Rockatansky mold, without sympathy or compassion until the world forces him to care.

This is not a cheerful book.

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You Should Read… Southern Cross

 

Hello, and welcome to You Should Read…, where I select a comic or novel I really enjoy, and try to convince people to pick it up. My tastes sit firmly in the kinda-obscure sci-fi/horror/fantasy end of the spectrum, so don’t expect to see much in the way of superhero comics or mainstream franchises. It’s not that I have a problem with those things. They’re just not what I tend to read. This will be a weekly column, published every Tuesday. I hope you enjoy. 

 SouthernCross_vol01-1

What’s It About?

If you prefer your Lovecraftian horror to skew more sci-fi than New England gothic, if you enjoy The Expanse or any of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s speculative fiction, then Southern Cross is the comic for you. It’s the story of Alex Braith, a life-long screw-up shipping out to the moon of Titan to claim her sister’s body. But strange things are afoot aboard the titular freighter: The crew are keeping secrets, the previous tenant of Braith’s berth killed himself under classified circumstances, and there is something wrong—very wrong—with the ship’s gravity drive.

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Drown my pain in plastic

So this arrived in the mail today:

DSCN1422YEEEEEAAAAHHHH!

My first real third-party Transformers! I received my tax return a couple of weeks ago, and decided to treat myself. For those of you not in the know, there are a bunch of companies out there producing unlicensed, unofficial versions of various Transformers, usually those that Hasbro hasn’t made or won’t make or did make, but did a terrible job on.

Here we have Unique Toys’ ManiaKing, an updated take on Galvatron, and Perfect Effect’s Warden, based on IDW’s interpretation of Fortress Maximus. I’ve been wanting a Galvatron ever since I missed Hasbro’s (crappy) version about five years ago, and, well, I named my cat after Fortress Maximus. But that’s because my girlfriend at the time wouldn’t let me name him Megatron, so I had to stealth it and call him Maximus. Y’know, like you do.

This isn’t going to be a review or anything. I just wanted to show off. If you want to skip this, go ahead and scroll down to the part where I talk about other things. It’s past all the pictures of awesome, below the cut.

Fortress Maximus, packin' heat.
Fortress Maximus, packin’ heat.

DSCN1410

DSCN1411

 

Galvatron!
Galvatron!
Fort Max also turns into a head.
Fort Max also turns into a head.

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The Answer was “No”

Or more specifically,

“Thank you very much for providing us with the chance to read your novel, and for your continued patience during the submission process. We are sorry to say that at this time we don’t feel it is right for the Harper Voyager list. Due to the volume of submissions we were fortunate enough to receive, we are unable to provide personal feedback, however, please be assured that your work received thorough and fair consideration. We wish you the best of luck with your writing career, and thank you again for thinking of us.”

Am I disappointed? Of course I am. I worked very hard on my novel, and do believe that it is good. Who wouldn’t be disappointed? As my girlfriend pointed out, the only thing worse than being rejected is to make it all the way to the end, wait over a year, and then get rejected. That means someone at Harper-Collins liked my book, advocated for my book, but in the end got voted down. It’s like being the athlete who scored just low enough to miss the bronze medal.

Am I mad? No. I see a fair number of people posting angry responses on the message boards about being rejected, and all I can think is, C’mon. Harper-Collins doesn’t owe you a publishing contract. They don’t even owe you feedback. They were pretty transparent about the process the entire time. Could they have updated more often? Sure, but I don’t think they did anything that warrants anger.

(Unless I see a book on the shelves next year titled, “Black Substance”)

Am I devastated? Nope. The day I found out wasn’t good, and I allowed myself that night to wallow in disappointment- which, in case you were wondering, looks like me in bed at 9:30 eating ramen and watching Fullmetal Alchemist until midnight. But after that I was/am fine. Because this isn’t the end. You have to have thick calluses if you want any kind of career in the arts. You have to persevere, keep working, keep sending out stories, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. It’s only over when you give up and decide to spend the rest of your life gorging on mayonnaise with your hands and never leaving the couch. And I’m not gonna do that.*

I have a plan. I don’t know if it will bring me closer to being published, but at least it will keep me productive.

1. I spent last week writing proposals/outlines for five novels that have been kicking around in my head. One proposal a day. I didn’t finish them all, but I made good progress on all five. Two fantasies, one sci-fi set in the same universe as Dark Matter, a more detailed outline for Black-Boned Angels, and an urban horror novel that, if it works out, will be pure brutal id.

2. This week I set aside the proposals and am submitting three short stories I’ve written. I don’t consider myself a short story writer- I think I’m rather weak at short form narrative- but if they get published it will make me more attractive to agents and publishers. It gets my name out there.

3. Next week I will revisit and revise the outlines. The goal will be to complete the ones I didn’t finish, and polish the ones I did.

4. Over the following five weeks, I want to continue to expand those proposals, one a week, starting with the strongest. Outlines, reference images, bouncing ideas off those friends willing to listen, that kind of thing. I did this with Dark Matter, so I’m hoping that by repeating this process I can develop it into a system. No matter what, it has to be better than what I’ve been doing this last year, which can be best summed up as, “Thinking really hard about writing, and then finding excuses not to do that thing that I love and want to devote my life to.”

5. While this is going on, I’m going to keep shopping Dark Matter around. If it gets accepted, I will return to work on False Light. Otherwise, the sequel will go on the back burner for a bit while I take a look at these other projects.

I am aware that this seems like I’m spreading myself a bit thin over multiple projects. That’s why I’m being so methodical about the entire thing. I have a lot of ideas. If Dark Matter doesn’t pan out, I will have other books to fall back on. An agent that doesn’t like my sci-fi might like my horror or fantasy. We’ll see.

It’s not a matter of optimism for me. I don’t have that borderline psychotic belief that I WILL be published and I WILL be successful. I write because it makes me happy and I’m good at it. I write because nothing else I do satisfies me in quite the same way, and to stop writing would be to kill an essential part of myself.

I just want to say a quick thanks to all the people who have supported me thus far, whether through feedback, advice, or encouragement. It means a great deal to me, and when I do finally get published, you will be recognized.

Time to get to work.

 

*For the record, when I decide to become a lump of failure on the couch, it’ll be Tim’s jalapeno chips that I shovel into my gaping maw. I have some self-respect.

Best Things of 2013

2013 was a good year. Very little to complain about personally (even as the world slides closer and closer to economic, political, and environmental collapse, but hey, you can’t have everything), which is nice, since the years preceding it were… fraught. Yes. That’s a good word for it. I’m hoping 2014 will be even better, and it will be if I have any say in it, but there’s no accounting for accidents and disasters.

Anyway.

Without further preamble, here’s a list of the best things of 2013 (after the cut).

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Reliquary (an excerpt)

Zdzisław Beksiński - 33

Ah, my temple. It was beautiful. Some angels dwell in abattoirs, their ceremonies soaked with blood and frenzy. Others prefer austere tombs, silent and simple and full of right angles and emaciated, acetic worshipers. Not my angel. It loved beauty, and thus so did I, though I could not see it directly.

The structure sat near the top of a mountain, high above an alpine valley and the shepherds and scavengers that lived there. Narrow switchbacks snaked up the granite flank, abruptly terminating in a hundred marble steps that led to the temple entrance. Each step was polished to a sheen by the feet of countless pilgrims, agate-white and glistening as if wet (I never saw this; my only glimpse of those steps was to see them rank and brown with the clotted blood of my servants). The doors were ancient lacquered wood, panels decorated with abstract mosaics of stone and polished glass- no self-aggrandizing iconography for my angel, here or anywhere else within. It did not need reminders of Its might and glory. Past those doors was a wide entryway, walled with intricately carved shelves just large enough to hold a pair of shoes and a set of clothes. Two tunnels led away from this room, one leading deep into the mountain and the living spaces of my harlots and guards. The other led to glory. Petitioners would strip in the foyer, walk nude down a short hallway into the chancel to stand before the Angel of the Sweet Waters and be blessed by Its regard.

It was not a large chamber, not by the standards of some angel’s temples, hewn from the heartrock of the mountain by those first pilgrims who had answered my angel’s call. On three sides, wide pronaos stood open to the elements. Uneven columns supported the dome some six meters up, sides adorned with paper offerings. The floor was set with tiles glazed in patterns reminiscent of flowing water, laid in curving arcs from altar to each threshold.

The people of the town below called my angel the Angel of the Sweet Waters for the spring that flowed from the rock behind Its dais. Twin curving channels directed the waters in an oval course to meet and pool at the feet of the angel. An altar had been erected there, a simple wooden rectangle two meters long and a meter wide, large enough to hold whatever offerings were brought.

And behind that, my angel.

How can I describe It? I have seen other angels since I left that place, but I suspect I do not perceive them as normal people do. Now, I mean, now that I have eyes once more. Before, when I was blind, I know I saw what others could not, a terrible radiant beauty that made all else in the world but shadows. I believe all of us Keepers, blinded and blessed, see the angels in the same way, though I have neither testimony nor experience to prove this.

My angel. I will try to give It shape, when not even my mind’s eye could make sense of Its impossibility.

Sometimes It stood on four legs and sometimes six. Occasionally eight, no rhyme or reason to the changes. Scalloped ribs and wide hips, the suggestion of wings multifarious and vaster by far than the chamber which held It. One head, heavy, larger than a man, larger than the skulls of those long-trunked beasts who once wandered the plains of this world. I do not think my angel had teeth. That seems important, somehow.

And Its eyes! Eye sockets, to be specific. Deep, deeper by far than the volume of the skull that held them, sunken brittle orbits fulsome with a darkness that had seen and engendered numberless aeons. A vast starless sky was contained within Its skull, and to gaze too long and too far was to see too much of Creation. To meet an angel’s gaze was to witness those things given over exclusively to divinities, endless beginnings and perfect beautiful apocalypses.

To meet an angel’s gaze was to know that you mattered not at all.