TRUKK NOT MUNKY Omnibus: Parts 2 and 3

Well… almost exactly three years since my last post is atrocious, and while I could say ‘life’ is my excuse, part of my life has always been writing, so unfortunately that ‘life’ section has been devoid of one of my major passions for the most part. Oh, except…

LEGACY WAS PUBLISHED IN PAPERBACK OH GOOD LORD.

This is definitely an announcement I should have made at the time, but things were crazy busy. Inspired Quill Publishing took me up, mostly thanks to the amazing communicative skills and passion of the editor-in-chief Sara-Jayne Slack, who deserves amazing props for the business she’s masterminding. I have a real respect and awe for her work and the publisher’s mission, which, after having vowed to only self-publish, is why I have dedicated my loyalty and writing to their front lines.

Now I need to dedicate myself a little more *pulls socks up, but not too high because it’s hot and humid here*

This is the Amazon.com paperback link. It’s re-edited, reformatted, and reinvigorated me to no end. The new edition is also available on Kindle, and both separately from the Amazon UK store too.

So, in the spirit of reinvention and improving efforts to fulfil my passions, I’m actually writing a blog post, something which has been on my to-do list for the aforementioned three years. It’s a long time to have a psychological debate sitting in your head, and I’m hoping that getting it out will make room for more creative endeavours. Like finishing Fracture, which is almost four years in the making.

But it is almost done already. The first draft, anyway.

TRUKK NOT MUNKY Part 2: Steampunk

Steampunk is kind of the British Empire of fandoms. It’s invasive; it can be considered elitist to outsiders; it’s silly in a posh sort of way; it’s difficult to explain to someone who has no idea what it’s like, and it can make everything more versatile with the addition of its unique but varied accents. I’m not considering that anyone currently reading the blog doesn’t know what Steampunk is, but the most succinct definition I can give is: a genre of science-fiction (or fantasy) as seen from a Victorian or pre-Victorian point of view, typically embellished with steam power, clockwork and brass.

To recap from the last entry, the first experience I had Steampunking was at one of the London Expos and I received compliments about my costume, and in some of the same breaths, disparaging comments about furries. I’ve been trying to come to terms with where I am in the fandoms and wondering how safe it is to have feet planted firmly in both whilst not associating with the elements I’m not personally comfortable with in either.

I’m glad to have had more experience in fandoms since then, and for me, this has developed into an entirely different argument than what I was expecting over the last three years.

The experiences I’ve had with Steampunk have been excellent, mainly. The fans are passionate, silly, and incredibly talented (which, admittedly, is where I considered some of the elitism to be simply because some of the costumes require such intricate mechanics and constructive processes. This is also the case with furries though- I could never make a fursuit as amazing as some of the ones I’ve seen online, and nor could I make a decent, working hydraulic thingummy that lights up a la Hellboy II like other Steampunks have). Part of the launch parade for Legacy involved sitting at the Inspired Quill table with my book at the Lincoln Asylum, a city-wide Steampunk convention in northern England which has a reputation as one of the best Steampunk events to go to in Eurpoe. I was really nervous. My book has Steampunk elements to it (Tierenan, for one, and the Gargantua for another), but ostensibly it’s a fantasy, and a furry fantasy. I was terrified that I’d be getting stink eyes from everyone who passed and was ready for a real fight if someone decided to get bitchy, so I steeled myself and stayed determined to have a good time despite my misgivings.

Welcome to the Asylum… Oh, it’s you.

It’s a self-compounding issue with paranoia that it heightens your sensitivity to expressions and actions that may mean nothing at all if you were completely calm. You can’t be objective, and, in your mind, everyone sways between either consciously ignoring you or talking about you out of sight, when in reality you probably barely even registered on their radar. A large part of my time was spent smiling at people and making general happy comments, and directing people to my fellow author Craig Hallam‘s Steampunk book Greaveburn, as, you know, Steampunk.

Having said that, I tried hard not to act on my assumptions that I’d be chased out of town with a variety of interesting, ornate, and fragile weapons and fought myself into accepting my book as a fantasy that people can enjoy as genre fantasy. I can be proud to tell people it’s not got any sex in it, and no, not all furry stuff is like that anyway. True enough, there were people looking at it with genuine interest. They’d pick up the book and read the blurb and nod and smile, and I sold a few too. There was one lady who came round about three times trying to decide on it, eventually picking it up at the end of the weekend. The people who bought it looked genuinely interested and passionate, and it was a wonderful feeling.

Inevitably, I did come across those moments I’d been fearing, although they were more subtle and sparse than I had anticipated. There was a man with his family who picked it up and said he didn’t like ‘furry stuff’. I told him that I never wrote sex because I found it objectionable, especially in young adult fiction, but he was still fairly dismissive of it even though his daughter seemed to like the artwork. There were people who raised eyebrows, and at least one who made a comment along the lines of ‘Hah, no!’ when he saw it. Recently, utterances like that really frustrate me, to criticise someone’s passion like that. Even if it had been The Furry’s Ultimate Book of Disgusting Porny Porn, someone really cares about that and its freedom of expression. I wouldn’t ever buy it, but I also wouldn’t scorn the author who wrote it or the fans who’d pick it up.

We’re All Mad Here

Moving back to the States, and the subsequent ability to sell my book to coworkers, and discuss my stories in interviews, has helped boost confidence in my abilities, my passion, and my stories to the point where I’ve met more people on both Steampunk and Furry sides who share the same passions, and actually, I’m beginning to see less of a difference between fandoms, and more between individuals. Everyone has their own standpoints on infinite issues, and while people who gravitate towards certain interests may have certain personality traits, there’s no uniformity across any of it.

When I started this blog rant, I was assuming there would only be aesthetic differences between the two, but considering the mindsets, that it would be a hard slog trying to bring two fandoms together in a weird niche market. But as Furry and Steampunk are colours that any genre can be painted with, the potential already exists. There’s probably more Steampunk in Furry art than the other way round, currently, but Steampunk is a technological tweak rather than a fantasy race, so lends itself more to the accessory than the subject. But overall, five things came to mind:

Prejudice is universal. Across all fandoms, people will be prejudiced against others, with no necessary indication or reason. And with prejudice comes conflict. This can be curbed through meaningful and respectful discussion.

Sexuality is universal. Arguing that furries are more sexually inclined than other fandoms is incorrect. The sexualisation in anime, movies, and comics is rampant, but major publications keep things barely within the modesty line for it to be acceptable. And it’s humans, so that means it’s normal, right? Right.

(Sexism is a whole ‘nuther rant, by the way, and one I’ve become very passionate about recently)

Creativity is universal. It knows no boundaries. Mash-ups are awesome.

Passion is universal. In every fandom you will find someone for whom this is the best thing in the world, bar none. There will be no greater thrill or love for them.

Acceptance is universal. Among the minefield of treading your dreams, there’ll be people who’ve never heard of you or your interests who’ll still be blown away by the scope of your accomplishments, or at the very least, give you all the encouragement in the world, simply because they know they have the same level desires that you do, even for something completely unknown to you.

I learnt a lot over three years.

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Literary Revolution, Anyone?

Well, I had the full intention of posting my Dystopias discussion piece… only to find that I’d already done it back in June. Good Lord, I’m out of touch. Bleh.

So anyway… If I’m honest I’m not really happy with how I’ve written my last two blog posts, if only because I’ve written them out of self-created necessity rather than a true honesty. It doesn’t feel like my voice, and it’s kind of a violation. Given the past few months’ stressors and circumstances, I’ve not felt I can truly relax into myself for a long time and it does have a profound effect on my writing. Well, as far as I see it, anyway; someone who doesn’t know me might not see the difference. The upshot is that I’m going to try and write in a more honest voice from now on. My writing is what I’d want an audience to appreciate me for as a writer, and I can’t expect them to commit to something that isn’t truthful. I’ve always believed in honesty, and I stand by that. Thus, without further ado:

Jamie Oliver Lives In Us All

My wife and I have been engrossed (and sometimes grossed-out) by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution series, both in West Virginia and Hollywood incarnations. And I really feel for him, as a writer. Watching him try to change the processes of a huge, sometimes tyrannical industry really makes me draw parallels with getting a book published. In the same way that cooking your own food at home is fine if you’re only sharing it amongst your family, so you can write a book just for yourself. But if you really believe in it, and you know somewhere along the line that your food is in some part worthy of being shared elsewhere, why does the industry insist on creating so many mass-market, generic meals which fall apart under scrutiny, especially when people ask for better?
The biggest reason, arguably, is money. It takes far less money to produce something already on the shelves than invest in a new creation. And anyone can swear blind they know what people want because ‘there’s proof it sells’. Of course it will sell if that’s the only thing available. Clothing fashions are in large part dictated by a select few designers, who then pump out designs and collections to major retailers, and they’re bought because they’re there; the savvy shoppers know to pick up on stuff earliest to get ahead of the game. It amazes me the qualities of people who can buy something new simply because it’s available rather than because they actually want it. Maybe there’s some instinctive hoarding behaviour to be capitalised on as a writer…
But anyway, it irritates me to think people look at a pre-published book and say ‘I’m not picking it up because it hasn’t sold anything yet’, especially if it’s a debut author with no other works. To give credit where it’s worth, though, an agent has to have complete faith in your work, and if they don’t like it, then it’s either personal preference on their part or you might need to do some editing. I’d be lying if I said I was fed up of editing, and feel a little daunted by the idea of writing something else just yet even though I should resign myself to doing so. I’d hoped for more success, I suppose, but you can never tell what’s going to happen, and I’m running away from the point a little.
I don’t mind so much judgements based on the writing; an agent/publisher shouldn’t knowingly be investing time in a poor writer (ptchh, as if that ever happens…). But I do take greater objection to being told a story isn’t unique enough, when publishers can be guilty of generating profit from more of the same stuff that’s already on the shelves. I know a market has to be taken advantage of, but short of endlessly publishing repeat copies of the same book, everything will be different. A quote of Philip Pullman’s has stuck in my mind ever since I read it:
“I don’t believe that it’s the writer’s job to respond to some vague idea about what readers want. Readers don’t know what they want until they see what you can offer. Nowadays, we’re told, they’re all asking for the next Harry Potter, but no-one ever asked for the first Harry Potter. It took JK Rowling to think of him before people realised that this was something they might like to read. The writer and the idea always come first, and are always the most important thing.” -Quote from a book about self-publishing that I don’t actually remember; I just have the quote. It was a good book though, if anyone recognises it >.>;
So with this in mind it begs the question: If people have read a book, enjoy it, and have proven to spend money on it, why isn’t it worth taking a chance?
I understand the need for publishers to be selective. A company that took on every author that applied would go bust very quickly, and an agent that did that same would explode all over their office, leaving a greater slush pile than the one sat on their inbox. How much proof is proof enough, though? It’s unfortunate that you can’t just open your brain and show them what the ideas are that fit in your head, and the more I write the greater the part of me is that says I just need to shut up, deal with it, write more and write better. I hope I’m not the only writer who gets jealous reading about other people’s successes, though. The article about the first Kindle author to sell over 1,000,000 copies was in equal parts inspiring and kinda depressing to see how much extra I have yet to do and worry about how much time I’ve lost, and, I suppose in a weird way worry about if I’m already too late for someone to have such a similar idea to mine that it’s not worth bothering.
People who walk straight into publishing deals have no idea how lucky they are. They’re probably very few and far between, to be fair, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that there’s someone just getting a default position somewhere. And it’s stupid to think like that, but at the same time I see travesties of literature appearing like Snooki’s… and I know no matter what I write, I’m at least better than that. I don’t even need any reviews to know that.
So apart from Jamie’s diligence in transforming kids’ health around the world and the stellar job he’s done in raising awareness of food nutrition, hygiene and preparation, seeing him run up against brick wall after brick wall by people in a position of complacency really struck a chord. There are a lot of differences between Jamie’s situation and that of every struggling self-published author; principally that there’s only one of him and millions of collective ‘ones’ around the world. But I have to view the impenetrability of the publishing world as the same stonewalling that Jamie received, albeit that publishers aren’t generally doing it out of fear or dubiety. It is hard not to take it personally, though.

Next Post- TRUKK NOT MUNKY: Steampunk hates Furry?