Callsign – A Korps Fiction (Part 3)

(Part 1 here)
(Part 2 here)


Signals pinged from surface to surface. Data, visible in strings, lights bouncing from one building to another. Imperceptible to most, but alight in a cascade of movement to her. She slunk her svelte, smooth form through alleyways and over fences, nimbly coursing over every obstacle designed to keep civilians out. Not exactly defences. But a hindrance to the unequipped. And this otter was far from inexperienced.

Radiatrix scanned the area. Something had scrambled a radio signal she happened to be monitoring, in a way she had not recognised. Like shooting a pin through a cloud of dust. If she hadn’t caught it, anyone else would have dismissed it as interference or a packet error. Tracking it was ephemeral. Her pursuit began randomly. It had no fixed location nor source, manifesting from random locations like the centre of buildings, or from directly upwards from open sky. But it wasn’t just random noise. It was tangible, directed. A transmission.

It had latched onto something now. The data points seemed to change focus, honing in on a specific area out towards the bay. She could feel them passing by, like raindrops shooting towards a singular focal point. She vaulted a sheet metal fence and rolled across the concrete, ending in a poised crouch to survey the waterfront.

Whatever the signals were amassing to lay beneath. She felt the waves and signals converging, spiralling, swirling, into something… almost physical. A bulk of writhing, pulsing signals all entwined around something hidden by the noise. Her RCGs flicked and buzzed trying to read scans of the messages, but these were enigmatic even for her. It was like trying to read through something’s skin. Not nonsense, but complex and veiled.

“That’s worrying,” she muttered.

She flicked a webbed claw over the holster at her left thigh and spun her hunting knife into her palm. There weren’t many things that could elicit that kind of non-physical control, and in her experience, fewer were friendly. For what she knew of radio waves and her own ability to direct and contain them, this was something more organic and about their behaviour, an unpredictability to their aim.

She circled the bay for a minute, trying to ascertain the best point of entry. As she was about to take a step forwards, she hesitated.

“Radiatrix checking in,” she said furtively to her dispatch team, keeping her eyes on the bay. Her RCGs had painted it with a faint reticule that shimmered in time with its frequency undulation. “Something in the bay. Strange. Psychic, maybe. Or interference. May require assistance.”

“Confirmed. We have your position and pinged nearby assets for potential backup. Be careful, okay?”

“Sure.”

Just as she neared the edge of the quay to dive in, a purple light erupted from under the surface, pushing the water up and outwards like an explosion that disappeared into the night like dust. The radio signals she’d scanned splintered and dispersed, and she watched the water froth and flow back to relative stillness. 

She played her claws over her knife, calculating her approach.

A rippling dart of blue thundered through the water, splitting the waves and careening into the distance. Gritting her teeth, she leapt into the inky depths.

Navigating the bay was easy for her. She cut through the water like a blade, her RCGs scanning for any shapes in the water that could lead to the disruption’s source.

Ahead, a limp form, reaching upwards. They were muscular, but no taller than her, with a long and half-scaled tail drifting in the currents. She could see their RCGs flashing danger icons and immediately braced herself under their arms, beginning a powerful ascent to the bay. She breached the water, landing the unconscious newcomer’s form on top of her, and, wresting an arm over their chest to keep them from slipping back under, she jabbed a claw to her goggles once again.

“Need medevac, immediate. Co-ordinates on encrypted burst. Please acknowledge.”

“Acknowledged, medevac scrambled and en route.” 

She kicked back and dragged their body to the bay’s edge, then hauled them onto the concrete boat launch. She laid her ear to their mouth to check for breathing, then, flicking an electronic needle from her utility pouch, sammed it into their chest. Their body convulsed, they vomited murky water a second later, ejecting it from their lungs. Removing the needle quickly, she rolled them onto their side, where they laid, unconscious, as the whining jets of a light VTOL aircraft roared into proximity.

*

A hard surface. Distal warmth. The cold that pressed into them had faded, but their body felt infinitely heavy and their consciousness slow. They felt like being in a shall both tight to their entire body but massively vast, reaching to the furthest horizon they could feel. Their proprioceptors were probably broken. If, by some miracle, they were alive, they may have sunk to the bottom of the bay.

They tried to move their right hand. They knew it was still there, but it refused their command.

I know. Too dangerous. My bad.

“Aweh, they speak,” came a resonant, slightly cold voice, with a strong South African accent. “You hear us admonishing you for getting moer-toe like this?”

They paused. Errrm, no?

“You broke them again, Sophie,” spoke a second, lighter voice. 

“I only break people intentionally, Viddy” the first voice scorned, somewhat playfully. “They’re fine.”

Didn’t realise I was in company, I’m sorry. Guess I’m… not underwater?

“You’re out,” came Viddy’s voice.

I, um… still can’t see, though.

“Just a precaution,” the first voice, Sophie, said again, amongst some clicks and clanks of metal and the light whirring of a CPU fan, or something similar. “We paralyzed you for analysis anyway, but also to safeguard us in case you weren’t Korps.”

I’m… prospective. I feel like I’ve done a lot wrong so far.

“Well, to start, your RCGs are terrible. Almost worse than fake.”

They’re a homebrew from unlocked civilian ones. I’m not a hacker, or coder so I piecemealed together code from whatever I could manage.

They heard Viddy audibly grimace. “Civvies aren’t powerful enough. Like a pushbike to a motorcycle.”

“Look, it’s not that I don’t appreciate good boererate, but you’d have had better luck walking to our door and asking directly,” Sophie admonished. “We could have shot you and done less damage to you than these.”

They sighed. I figured. Sorry. I don’t know how any of this works. But I think I need to be here. For me, as much as for anyone else.

Something touched their arm, possibly Viddy? They felt like webbed paws. “You know, you’re speaking through your collar, right?”

Y… yes. Just a habit. I can actually talk though.

They switched from logged speech to vocal, and let their breath humm from their throat for a second, before finally speaking. 

“Could I see?” They croaked. Their voice was soft, with a slight deepness to it, and the unmistakable accent of a Brit, or at least one who spent the majority of their life there. 

“One second,” Sophie cautioned. “Your new RCGs are formatting. Your oxygen injector failed because your OS was a fokken mess and registered all available commands as one execution, so it infused and purged simultaneously.”

They gave a short, defeated sigh. “Right.”

“You also broke it.”

“That… may not have been me, but I’ll take responsibility for it.”

There was the sound of something moving, and the soft tapping of a keyboard. “These RCGs are faster, more secure, more functional, and I’ve already transferred what little secure data there was from your old ones onto them. You’re lucky you weren’t in sy moer-in with a vulnerability like that plugged into your face.”

They didn’t respond, their mind still in the black depths in which they’d been almost crushed. This was not how they intended their introduction to go.

Something touched their right shoulder. “It’s okay,” Viddy whispered. “Some come in a lot worse.”

They were tempted to respond with the sentiment that they doubted many had damaged themselves this much on ignorant abandon, but held themself back for not wanting to inflict their embarrassment as unwarranted insult, against them or their current carers.

Something pressed into the side of their head. Slowly, filtering into focus by layers of brightness and colour, they came to view themselves in a very clean room, with muted white lights and a fairly high ceiling. It would have looked like a hospital, were it not for the numerous cameras and very conspicuous turret mounted into the ceiling.

They blinked, and looked around.

“This place has a very, uh… ‘We’ll help you but won’t take any shit’ vibe.”

“Welcome to my triage.”

Were Archantael not paralyzed, they would have jumped at the figure towering over them, an already formidable-looking maned wolf in a powerful exoskeleton of sleek gunmetal, neon claws gleaming in the operating theatre’s sterile lights. Her neckline and chest were adorned with the Korps insignia, and atop her head was a blaze of red hair, as fierce as the eyes she regarded the newcomer with behind curved, svelte RCGs.

“To you I’m Professor Carmine, or Nosferatu, whichever you like. Just never in vain, or you get poesklapped.”

“Noted,” Arch replied, before glancing to the figure on the other side, a much less imposing but still sleek, elegant and powerful frame of an otter. She gave a polite wave.

“Viddy. Callsign Radiatrix. Yeh.”

Sophie flicked something on the gurney and Arch felt sensation returning to their body. They let out a deep sigh, feeling their chest rise and fall under their own volition again, and blearily slid round, gently manoeuvering their tail, to hang their legs off the gurney. The metal guards over their hindpaws glinted in the light, still bearing the residue from the bay. They’d need to wash their combat gear too, as with the returning sensation in their legs came the realisation of still being very damp, and increasingly cold.

They looked to them both and bowed their head. “Thank you, and sorry for being an inconvenience.”

Sophie frowned. “The only inconvenience is not talking to us first. We’re not blaming you for… wherever happened down there.” She looked to Viddy. “It sounded very odd.”

Arch glanced to Viddy, who was skimming through something on her tablet. “I logged frequencies, it’s not usual.”

“You pulled me out, didn’t you?” they said quietly. Viddy nodded.

“Thank you. I’ll owe you… anything, literally.”

The otter gave a warm, kind smile, then turned the tablet round to them. “This is what got you, right?”

The image was a strange, disjointed array of data points, but seemed to coalesce to a hydra-like spiral of tentacles.

“I… I didn’t see it. I know who it was, just not… what.” 

Sophie gave a snort of contempt at the scattered shape on screen. “That’s some vrot energy there. Friend of yours?”

“Once. We have… somewhat of a history.”

Viddy nodded understandingly, and pulled the tablet back round, before handing it to Sophie, a little shyly, the fur on her cheeks bristling as the large, pink-clawed exo skeleton arms brushed against her paws at the hand-off. “I logged these. Hopefully it’s an early warning next time.”

Arch dug their claws into their paws. “Next time, I hope it’ll be the last.”

Sophie clicked her tongue. “I get you. But build yourself up here as you need first. No point making out soos Siebies se gat and ending up worse than tonight for poor planning.”

She walked round to face them, standing next to Viddy, leaning towards them with a stern countenance. “And don’t do it alone, did you cav that?”

Arch nodded, sheepishly. “I won’t. Thank you.”

Satisfied, Sophie glanced down at the tablet and flicked her claw a few times. “Now, what do we call you?”

The pangolinfox rose to their feet, briefly flipping open WHISPERSHOT’s canister to ensure it was safe, and attached their quiver back onto their belt.

“My name’s Archantael Clow. Callsign: Aegis.”

Viddy smiled at them again, and extended her paw to shake. They took it firmly, gratefully, and returned her smile with one of their own.

Sophie laid the tablet back on the gurney. A split second later, a message appeared on Arch’s RCGs:

WELCOME TO THE KORPS, AEGIS.

Sophie shot them a smile too. “Take some time to learn the base layout. If you need lodging here there are people to help you, but you can get most of your combat supplies here. And Ask. For. Help.” She cast a threatening claw to them. 

They raised their paws up with a nervous grin. “Yes. Very much. First thing I need is a good tattoo artist.” They gestured to their insignia. “I need one of those on my chest.”

Viddy grinned. “Good choice. I know one-”

The sliding door opened suddenly, and a figure even taller than Sophie loomed through, curled horns and long tan hair drifting close to the hanging lights, their grey and brown frame completely obscuring the door. The feathered cloak that hung from their high shoulders billowed out behind them, displaying their four powerful arms adorned with thick leather straps. Aside from the cloak they wore nothing on their top half except for a pentacle harness; around their waist was a long split robe draping down to their feet, and several surgical-looking knives on belts hung at angles. Their four eyes, black with golden pupils, took in all details of the room at once. 

“We have some targets to shred,” xey announced, xyr voice resonant with multiple tones, a mix of the powerful and soothing, overall deep but with a rich, otherworldly dimensionality to it. “Will anyone accompany a demon on xyr midnight run?”

Immediately they honed in on Archantael, bewildered, by the gurney. “You’re new,” xey said, slight with intrigue.

“They are,” Viddy chirruped, beaming widely.

The demon lent out a large, clawed hand to the hybrid. “We are Sentari.”

“I’m Archantael,” they replied, taking the Sen’s claw as firmly as they could. Their body was all at once hot and cold, like a wind on a dark summer night. “I’m an archer, and shield-summoner, if they’re of use to you.”

A grin split Sentari’s face. “We always have use for ones such as yourself. Are you in?”

Arch looked down at their gear. “I’m a little wet.”

“We have that effect on people,” xey replied with a wry smile, a long tongue flicking between xyr teeth. Arch felt a rush of blood to their cheeks and swallowed. Viddy was looking coyly away, but also smiling. “But we can get to that later. Are you with us?”

A flick of their synth claw, and WHISPERSHOT sprung into life.

“I’m ready.”

Arch Korps archer

Art by Necrotext


The Korps is a fictional furry queer cyberpunk universe created by KorpsPropaganda
Viddy/Radiatrix is a character owned by Viddy / Dipika
Professor Carmine is a character owned by Jay
Sentari is a character owned by Sentvri
All characters were used with permission and owners were sent this before posting for approval ❤
Thank you all.

Callsign – A Korps Fiction (Part 2)

(Part 1 here)

Purple discs flashed into view a few steps before them, each one cushioning their bounds, then springing them back into the air again. The wind rushed through their fur, rippled their ears, and whistled across their scales as they flew. The city curved before them in a mountain of technicolour and staccato towers, lights flashing atop rooftop beacons invisible against the coursing sky.

Archantael wasn’t far now, about halfway across the water. They knew other Korps members were nearby; if they could observe an operation they could introduce themselves with support, if the team seemed desperate or amicable enough. Some worked strictly alone, or in tight teams not fond of intervention. The last thing they wanted to do was scupper their chances by lieu of an intrusive offer to assist. It was easy to assume they would be more powerful than them from the onset, but… Pôl would not allow them that mindset.

“You’re more than enough, matey,”  they could already hear him echoing.

Easy to say, harder to believe.

Two more bounds and they were halfway across the bay, about as far away as you could get from any structure. It wasn’t smart to be so exposed, but this was a dark run. They needed to be aloof, for now. Just till they had a few successful support raids under their belt.

The wind stopped. A coldness grew.

Arch kept their stride.

A sudden high frequency whine split the air, shooting through their head. They stumbled, the disc beneath them evaporated to glowing dust, and they fell.

A voice, everywhere.

THERE YOU ARE

They plummeted into the bay’s dark, yawing mouth, swallowed by thick, inky waves.

They struggled, wrestled upwards, slashing at the water with desperate claws to break the surface. Whispershot constricted back into the canister on their wrist and snapped closed. With more quick, frenzied movements they flipped open the shield plate on their right thigh and twisted a small plug inwards, activating an emergency blood oxygenator.

CLEVER TRICK. MORE PREPARED THAN I EXPECTED, BUT YOU ARE STILL SO ALONE FOR ONE AS SENSITIVE ABOUT THEIR FEARS AS YOU. 

They wrested around, trying to find the source of the voice. Law, you sick fuck.

Something curled around their waist, pulling them further into the blackness. The water trapped them with crushing cold, flooded their ears with swamping, swollen silence.

TEMPER, TEMPER. LOOK WHAT YOU’VE REDUCED ME TO. YOU WOULD NEVER GRANT ME EGRESS TO YOUR THOUGHTS OTHERWISE. IS THIS REALLY HOW YOU WANT TO TREAT YOUR OLDEST FRIEND?

They wrenched at the force that circled around them, trying to break it. Their claws passed right through. Their legs and tail thrashed vainly at the empty deep.

Get out of my head. You left me long before I left you.

LIAR. YOU ABANDONED ME. YOU SOLD YOURSELF TO A CULT OF SELF-RIGHTEOUS TERRORISTS. DESTROYED EVERYTHING YOU WERE. ALL TO FALL VICTIM TO A CONVENT OF IDENTITY MARTYRS. IT’S PATHETIC. I TRIED TO SAVE YOU. YOU BETRAYED ME.

You never knew me. I was terrified of you, and you proved me right. The moment I was out of sight, you unleashed your fears and let idiots and despots take you over, make you believe they fight for your cause when all they’ll do is harvest you and leave you for dead. I never believed it was too late for you, till-

Another force slithered around their neck, snapping their body taut, pulling on their head to raise it away from their body. Their vision flickered, the RCGs glitched and shimmered, warning statuses blinking fervently at their periphery

YOU KNOW NOTHING! The voice came from all directions at once, even from within them. It was deep, ferocious, vehement, as dark as the shroud of the water that engulfed them. YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HOW THEY’LL DRIVE THIS WORLD TO RUIN. YOU CALL YOURSELF A HERO, BUT YOU ARE DELUDED. IDEALISTIC. WRONG. A SHEEP. PREY. FODDER FOR INSIPID, MILITANT ‘FRIENDS’ WHO TRICK YOU INTO SULLYING YOURSELF WITH TRANSFORMATIVE NONSENSE.

The water bindings tightened, choing their neck. They would have died already if not for the oxygen supply in his leg.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? YOU SEE HOW TRANSIENT THEY ARE? UNRELIABLE. INCONSISTENT. SELFISH. YOU DEVOTED YOURSELF TO THEIR CAUSE AND THEY HAVE LEFT YOU TO DIE.

You’re the one killing me, Law. I took myself alone tonight, this has nothing to do with them. 

SO YOU TRUST THEM THAT LITTLE ALREADY? YOU LIE TO YOURSELF TO PROTECT THEIR HONOUR. PATHETIC.

What of our friends, the ones you exiled to torture? Or your father. Did he beg when you killed him? Did you feel anything after dragging his name through the mud for political clout?

HE DIED A HERO! I ENSURED IT! The spiralling water around the pangolin-fox’s waist clenched, forcing the remaining air from their lungs. They writhed in pain, tugging in a frenzy at the intangible snake entity slowly crushing them to death.

More warnings. The display fizzed and flickered. The speech synthesis collar around their neck buckled. Their voice glitched and stammered, struggling to find a connection to their constricted throat, overwhelmed by interference at the crushing sensory overload.

You hijacked his death as ‘a promise kept’ to the state of this world. You FORCED him to die at your hand so you could martyr both him and yourself as his keeper. And your PHL benefactors lapped it up.

AND YOU BELIEVE YOUR ‘KORPS’ IS MORE MAGNANIMOUS? THEY ARE NOTHING BUT CONFUSED, VAGABOND TERRORISTS. IF YOU EVER WANTED TO BE A HERO, NOW YOU NEVER WILL BE.

Archantael closed their eyes; the frigid, salty water burned, and with the tightness around their neck it felt like they would burst if they tried to see their assailant.

You’re wrong. I never called myself a hero. You were the one naming me ‘evil’. Just for being who I needed. Who I thought YOU needed.

The weight around them constricted once more. They were close to snapping in half. They clenched their fists. A purple light shone within them.

Then YOU started telling me how wrong I was, how people I never mentioned were destroying your world, tearing apart ‘individual justice’. You were falling away from me long before I left.

The glow spread along their arms.

You threw edicts, desperate demands at me to conform. You insisted I was ‘safe’ but tore down what I stood for at every chance you got.

The glow reached their shoulders.

I TRIED TO PROTECT YOU. I WANTED YOU WITH ME. YOU WOULD NOT LISTEN.

Why should I listen to someone bent on delusions, making themselves fat on self-indulgent propaganda? They KNEW you were vulnerable, and you let them walk into your mind.

The glimmering purple ran in waves along their arms, then up their neck, passing under the swirling tightness of the water.

THEY UNDERSTOOD ME. THEY FOUND ME WHEN YOU TURNED AWAY. THEY SAVED ME.

They brainwashed you. Fed you false promises and petty scapegoats. Made the world your enemy instead of your place to belong. And now you’ve pledged your name to destroying it alongside them.

WHAT OF YOU? DEFILING YOUR BODY WITH DISGRACEFUL TRANSFORMATIONS FOR SOMEONE ELSE’S AGENDA. KOWTOWING TO DANGEROUS, FRIVOLOUS LIABILITIES WHO REFUSE TO ACCEPT THE WORLD AS IT IS. WE ARE THE SAME.

Their light began to form patterns, forming sharp, filigree scales, as it spread under their waist and down their tail.

The world as it is deserves to be torn apart. It’s built on oppression, injustice, death, subjugation. Your vision of the world panders to those who want to control it; mine gives it to those who want to be free. We… 

The shimmering purple strengthened, shone, coursing around their entire body, then burst outwards, sending a massive spherical shockwave erupting through the water. The force around them dissipated and for a moment they were left in a silent, cold vacuum as the water pushed away from their shield.

…are nothing alike.

YOU ARE ALONE, ARCHANTAEL.

No. You are, Law. You live in your own darkness.

They looked up, as the water sank back down and enveloped them.

I will find the light. And either you’ll see it, or be destroyed by it.

Silence. The pressing whine faded, and the ambient movement of water swallowed their hearing once more.

Their RCGs hummed back into view. Things seemed nominal, but-

A desperate alarm pinged.

1% OXYGEN.

Oh…

They scrambled upwards; or what they thought was up, but their vision began to blur. Their muscles, weakened and numbed by Law’s crushing containment, gave little motion. The world began to spin. They tried summoning a shield beneath them to raise themself up, but the circle was dim, broken, and dissipated like smoke after a second. As a last effort, they wrenched open the casing on their wrist. Whispershot jerked into life, this time as a wrist-mounted crossbow.

They raised their arm and a bolt of blue careened into the distal darkness.

I hope that’s the surface…

Just before they passed out, something wrapped under their shoulders.


Continued in Part 3

Preview Art by Necrotext

The Korps is a fictional furry queer cyberpunk universe created by KorpsPropaganda

Lost Archive: Legacy – Review by Fred Patten

When I first joined the Furry Writers’ Guild, one of the first people I took note of was Fred Patten. Many younger furries won;t know him, but he was instrumental in bringing both anime AND furry to the US, and as a result, even further afield. There would be so much less of everything we enjoy around us, if not for him. He is absolute undeniable proof that you can contribute to the fandom without a fursuit, or even a fursona. What he gave us is immeasurable.

Fred sadly passed away last year, but when he was alive, one of the things he enjoyed most was to review furry literature. I was honoured to have sent him my first two books, in exchange for a review of each.

The reviews had been lost previously, but in the spirit of Furry Book Month, to archive for my own purposes, and in honour of the approaching anniversary of his passing, I’m reposting the reviews in their entirety here.


Legacy, by Hugo Jackson. Map.719oQQeUPIL
Derby, England, UK, Inspired Quill Publishing, September 2013, trade PB $12.99 (v + 371 pages), Kindle $3.90.

The map of Eeres on pages iv and v shows only a few land masses amidst many oceans and seas; the result of a prehistoric cataclysm 2,500 years earlier. Millions were killed, the whole world was reshaped, and the few survivors were too desperately trying to survive to keep any civilization or record of the past. All that remained, when a new civilization began to come together centuries later, were legends of a glorious, hardly believable past, and of the unknown disaster that had destroyed it. And a name – Nazreal – of the only city from that forgotten past known (or believed) to have existed for sure.

As Legacy begins, all Eeres (or Cadon, its largest continent and the location of the more important independent city-states) is abuzz with the news that the latest discovery from pre-cataclysmic times may lead to the lost city of Nazreal itself. This sets off a hurricane of hopes and fears; hopes that some of the legendary benefits may be reintroduced to civilization, and fears that what destroyed the past world will also be found again. More troubling is that Dhraka, a city far to the southwest of Cadon, is where the ancient artifact has been found. Dhraka is also dominated by aggressive dragons led by the militant Fulkore Crawn. (The other city-states are inhabited by various furry mammals.) There are worries that Dhraka may follow up its discovery to find something that will allow it to take over all Eeres. Even if the discovery is useless, Dhraka could use its search for Nazreal as a cover for militaristic expansion.

Sinédrion, the most sophisticated city of Cadon and the social leader, is the venue of Eeres’ Senate where representatives of the different city-kingdoms debate. The usual boring debates are turned into a turmoil when Fulkore comes to ask (a thinly veiled demand) that the other cities help Dhraka in its search. He especially wants access to the archives of Xayall, the fox-led city that has been researching the legends of the past for centuries. But Fulkore refuses to describe just what Dhraka has found; also, Xayall is the closest city to Dhraka, and it has suspected Dhraka of wanting to annex it for a long time. Aidan Phiraco, the Emperor of Xayall, refuses to let any of the dragons inside Xayall.

Chapter 1 is misleading, because the protagonist of Legacy is Faria Phiraco, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Emperor Aidan. She is the child of a red fox father and a fennec mother, and a blend of both. She is the representative in Xayall of Aidan in his absence, and a student of science/magic, both of what has been rediscovered and of new developments; specializing in the use of crystals for resonance manipulation. Both Faria and her father suspect that, with Xayall’s formal refusal to help Dhraka, the dragons will begin unofficial warfare against them. Aidan is reluctant to let her leave the walled city any more for fear of assassination.

When Dhraka strikes sooner and more ruthlessly than expected, Faria must escape from the city, find allies, warn the other cities, and discover the secret of Nazreal.

In addition to Faria, major characters in Legacy include Tierenan Cloud, a cyborg raccoon whom Faria frees from Dhrakan mind control; Aeryn and Kyru, two wolf mercenaries; and their adversary, Vionaika, Dhraka’s sadistic commander; a hyena/feline/dragon hybrid. Tierenan, Kyru, and Aeryn are shown with Faria on the wraparound cover by Minna Sundberg (Finnish author/artist of the completed online anthro comic strip A Redtail’s Dream). The adventures of these four, and their pursuer, take them by land and sea across Eeres, from humble carts and boats to fantastic airships, meeting anthros from mundane mammals and reptiles (“An iguana and a sailfin lizard deftly scaled the sterncastle to attend to the three-pronged mast on top.” – p. 185) to Osiris, a gryphon.

Legacy ends with a lengthy, exhausting conclusion, but there is a happy ending. However, don’t relax yet, because this is only Book One of the Resonance Tetralogy. Books Two through Four will be Fracture, Ruin’s Dawn, and Resonance End.

Legacy is very satisfying. Jackson brings a complex and colorful anthro world to life. His descriptions are full of lush detail:

“They rounded a corner and descended a set of large, sweeping stairs; this was one of the main entrances to the building. Aidan could hear the bustling of the citizens in the streets outside.

When they reached the large iron door at the base, two bulky guards hauled it open, revealing the eminent city of Sinédrion laid out before them, colours ablaze in the late evening’s low vermillion sun. A large river curved majestically around the Senate chamber, wearing luxurious bridges like a uniform of office.

Their carriage awaited them: an elegant design in dark wood with green and gold trim. Tall, horse-like dinosaur creatures with long tails, Theriasaurs, stood proudly at its head awaiting their command to move. The Xayall emblem, a white fox on a shield of blue flame, had been carved into the vehicle’s doors. A troop of mounted soldiers were stood to attention behind it; a silent, respectful welcome to their Emperor.” (p. 13)

Jackson’s worst fault is an overuse of emotionally-charged adjectives and adverbs such as “proud bridges” (p. 15). They become pejorative when describing the antagonists, such as “[…] Fulkore, who, although keeping his body absolutely still behind the plinth, had a vicious fire in his eyes” (p. 9) and “the vile hyena” (p. 326). These make it overly clear that the antagonists are not merely antagonists, they are black-hearted villains. Some of the descriptions go on too long, such as the first overview of Xayall which covers a page and a half. A few words are misused; the losing side in a fight is constantly being “decimated”. A full-page About the Author identifies Jackson as living in Raleigh, North Carolina, yet Legacy is full of British spellings and from an English publisher. There are occasional very old-fashioned constructions, like “were stood to attention” that most authors haven’t used in a century.

These are minor nitpicks, however. Basically, this is a fast-moving, richly-detailed adventure set in a colorful anthropomorphic world. Legacy is worth reading.

– Fred Patten

Legacy is available worldwide here

RWBY: The Stirring Un-feminism of Season 4

So this is a contentious issue. I’ll state first of all that Rooster Teeth is one of my all-time favourite production companies for the huge amount of engagement they have with their community and the sheer amount of hard work they dedicate to building up their name and talent. RWBY particularly has a place forever in my heart and mind for the inspiring story behind its creation and the authentic, infinitely generous passion of its creator, Monty Oum. Trying to critique it at this stage feels like kicking a service dog, especially when it has such a dedicated, creative, and prolific fanbase, and considering the heartfelt efforts Kerry and Miles have put in to carry on what can only be a hugely daunting legacy.

But…

RWBY Oh dear

YOU WERE SAYING?

This is another feminist rant again, right?

Essentially… yeah. I mean particularly with Season 4, it’s easy to see where the dynamic has shifted. And that’s not necessarily as a result of it passing out of Monty’s hands, although two different directors being given the same content will inevitably make things that are very different. You only need to look at how the Harry Potter movies changed from director to director to see the atmosphere shift, even ignoring the darkening plot.

(WARNING: RWBY SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW)

But RWBY does so much right! It’s awesome!

It IS an awesome concept, yes. And it DOES do a lot right, or at least it did. It is the show that started making men want to crossplay in my local cosplay group, and had them talking about gender representation in media generally. The highlight of one particular exchange:

“You know, I really wanna cosplay someone from RWBY, but the main guy is Jaune, and he’s kinda weak. But… well, I guess that’s how girls feel when they watch literally any other show.”

That a show can be performing quality subliminal education on its audience to any degree is great. AND, in the first few seasons at least, there’s little-to-no sexualisation of any of the characters (even Yang’s, erm, endowments aren’t given any particular focus). For volumes 1-3 Ruby herself has no skin showing except her face and her hands, and that is SO AWESOME, especially in a combat/magical girl genre for a teenage audience where panty shots are pretty much an inevitable punchline in any given twenty-minute span.

mad_mavis_vermilion_by_skyfinity-d5v3xsp

Mavis is VERY upset by the positions her Guild members are frequently put into.

So the foundation is rock-solid. If you’re going into specifics like the Bechdel test, or even just a qualitative analysis of how the girls interact and who drives the plot, the first seasons are fricking gold standard. The very first scene is Ruby kicking arse, directing the flow of combat with incredible prowess. She drives the story and, being so excellent in front of Glynda, is the reason she’s accepted into Beacon Academy. Throughout this series, she and her team are the driving focus and very few scenes are stolen by any of the guys.

Granted, there are only two male deuteragonists at this stage; Jaune and Ren, but even then, Jaune and Pyrrha have equal footing on their interactions, as do Ren and Nora. There’s never a point where the impetus is handed completely to a guy to keep the scenes or story going, and none of the characters are held hostage in their progression by anything a guy does.  This is a frequent problem with many stories, especially ones that proclaim to have strong women, because often they’re left helplessly strung along by the guy’s actions or intentions. Please check out how many issues I had with Wonder Women for these same reasons if you haven’t had enough of my voice yet.

Nora oh no

“Rant about MY FAVES, will you?”

Alright Buster, what did RWBY actually do, then?

Aside from distorting the characters’ body proportions (see Blake’s section), the main criticism I have with the series at this point is the degredation and inconsistencies with its characters, specifically the reduction of the girls’ strength and increasing emotional dependence on the men.

Season 4 opens with Cinder sitting at a table with some of Salem’s henchmen that we’ve never met before; Hazel, Arthur, and Tyrian. Cinder is reduced to a whisper and sports a severely damaged (or missing) eye after her encounter with Ruby on the tower. The guys in the room spend their time belittling her for being weak, until Salem comes in and shuts them up.

Cinder up to this point has been a near unstoppable force in the show. Having her reduced to a struggling mute is definitely indicative of a shift in power, if for no other reason than nothing like this has ever happened before in the world of Vale, but this has some troubling undertones. We get that the guys are arrogant and conceited, but there is never an acknowledgement that Cinder was ever strong, except by Salem. Given that she had already nearly slain one of the maidens (seen in Season 3) and they have all obviously known of each other for some time, it’s a little contrarian for opportunistic malefactors like them to comment on what they see as an inherent weakness than her inflicted weakness caused by the battle at Beacon.

Salem srs

Really? Seriously? We were supposed to be past this.

The irony is that this is arguably the strongest and most independent we see any woman for the first five-six episodes in the show, because Salem shoots down her henchmen’s crappy (and rather confusingly-constructed) arguments and takes control of the room where Cinder can’t. We don’t even know who Salem is, but if she has Cinder quaking in her boots, she must mean business.

But herein lies the foundation for the tones seeping into RWBY, and it’s a sadly common occurrence for women in media, especially sci-fi action, and a largely-criticised trope of Joss Whedon fiction in particular: a woman cannot be powerful without also suffering directly as a result of that power. This begins to become apparent in Season 3, where Yang, Blake, Ruby, Penny, Pyrrha and Cinder all suffer something horrible as a result of their increasing abilities and positions.

While an escalation of danger is often necessary for furthering the plot, in Season 4 it happens in a more insidious and subconscious way than actual bodily harm. It’s about removing agency, lack of control, and having situations consistently dominated by the male characters. Kind of exactly like the Wonder Woman movie, even after it was saved from Joss Whedon’s terrible faux-feminist fingers.

ren worried

You and me both, matey.

Not a single one of the main four characters has agency in their given scenes or episodes, with the exception of Weiss, the only one of the four who stays any degree above it.

Red Like Roses Fills my Dreams (but just in the background)

Ruby fighting in team RNJR gives us unique snapshots at her increasing capabilities, but sadly she’s relegated to mostly taking directions from Jaune. Ruby was a masterful strategist in her own right by the second season, understanding her team’s abilities innately to take down pretty much anything they faced. In the Season 4 skirmishes, she doesn’t contribute anything except raw power, martial arts prowess, and in the case of Qrow’s fight with Tyrian, actually causes Qrow to be injured by way of her intervention. This takes on the Whedon-esque visions of punishing a girl for becoming stronger by making her choose between two scenarios, both of which weaken her- she chooses to fight when warned not to, and almost loses her uncle as a result. While raw power is definitely something to aspire to, it also reduces Ruby to a tool to be exploited; Nora suffers from this even moreso, whether as a bruiser for dramatic effects shots or a relatively-blank vessel to see Ren’s character development.

NoraHammer2

If you want to be the one to tell her that, be my guest. I’ll inform your loved ones.

The irony is as soon as we enter the series, Nora and Ren have a dialogue that’s more prophetic than it should have been, debating whether the team should be called JNRR or RNJR because they’re not sure if the original team majority dictates the focus of the mission. That’s how the story progresses, with unsteady footing due to the organic chemistry of the principal characters being left in the previous season when they were all in the same place.

It’s not only in battle where Ruby is forced back for the sake of others. Jaune leads them with the map; Ruby watches or follows. When they enter a village, Ren takes charge. It’s almost as if each scene has to be either serious, sad or comedic- if it’s serious, the lead is given to Ren. Sad, it’s Jaune. If it’s comedic, it’s split between Jaune and Ruby, or Ren and Nora. There’s no nuance. The plot dictates the character’s emotions, and not the reverse. This season was intended as Ruby’s journey, and she is very much in the back seat.

So Jaune and Ruby are sort of at odds, because she has both the power and the knowledge, but seems to be functionally redundant to give Jaune and Ren some interaction. And yes, Jaune needs development. But he gets that. He has the most touching moment of the entire season, following directions from Pyrrha recorded on his scroll. I think him being less active in the initial fight would have made both him and Ruby stronger in the long run by showcasing their dedication to the journey as a whole, and the contrast in their individual paths. Your characters aren’t deep or varied if they can essentially all do exactly the same stuff in different colours.

Ruby shatter

Presented without comment.

Crushing Rose

Before we get to the brilliant poignancy of that night-time training scene, we suffer the most egregious betrayal of Ruby’s character, and perhaps the show as a whole. After the battle with the Geist, we discover The Scene Had To Be Written This Way To Give Jaune Something To Do because Jaune’s equipment is currently being reforged from Pyrrha’s old weapons.

This potentially touching moment, however, is ruined by Ruby’s uncharacteristically mean-spirited mocking of Jaune’s bunny hoodie. It’s out of character at best, especially as (aside from Pyrrha) she’s always been the most emotionally receptive of anyone, particularly to Jaune when they were both found to be the leaders of their teams, AND she herself has shown affinity for animal-themed clothing. Ruby and Jaune were (from our perspective) both hit hardest by the loss of Pyrrha, so to have her break into such a raucous fit at a pivotal moment for Jaune’s reconciliation is unfair to him as a guy, and her as a sympathetic leader. This comes at a point where we ourselves are still reeling from Pyrrha’s loss, so even if this HAD to happen, it would have been better suited to something entirely separate from Pyrrha’s memories.

Pyrrha scary face

DO NOT

To add to the inconsideration for Jaune’s mourning, Ruby is also preying on a character we know to be emotionally vulnerable from the very beginning. Placing this scene in which the lead girl openly and brutally mocks her male friend for showing ‘immasculating’ interests is blindingly punishing, and an insult to any guy who enjoys a show about girls with frilly skirts and awesome weapons. It furthers the damaging stereotypes of hegemonic masculinity that guys can’t like soft things or be emotionally open in the first place, by making fun of a character that was mercilessly bullied by larger guys for being weak in Season 1. Jaune knows his weaknesses already, and, like many male fans, he’s introverted, nerdy, and clumsy. Ruby’s cajoling is in bad taste, and destroys many of the sincere moments that have come before.

To feed my ego and read how I’d have taken the scene differently while retaining most of the original dialogue, check out a revised version of the Episode 1 script here.

fuckthistree

Wanted for destruction of positive anti-stereotypes

 

Mirror, Mirror, who are these people?

Weiss is a tricky one because she’s always struggled to free herself from her father’s omnipresence, financially or personally. The instant we see her in Season 4, she’s summoned to her father’s study, and every move she makes from this point is dictated by an interaction with another guy, except the single moment she accidentally summons a Boarbatusk to deal with a terrible privileged women who says disasters are the victim’s own fault (and seriously, Screw Her). Her brother creeps her out, her butler makes her smile again, her father coerces her into singing, another guy creeps her out at the ball, and Ironwood saves her from a very expensive lawsuit. Every turn she takes is completely dictated by the flow of other people, all men, and it’s aggressively diminishing to her character. Maybe that’s the point, the series making a subconscious but salient observation that she’s a prisoner now that she’s back in Atlas. But it doesn’t quite ring that way.

Her dialogue, with the actual words in the scripts, at least, is solid. She’s skeptical and steadfast. Despite her reputation as the Ice Queen, and despite the stringent limits to her surroundings, she actually shows incredible depth of character in the conversations she does have, a considerable amount more than her teammates. She shows genuine warmth to her butler and contempt for those who’d mock Vale, but at no point in the story does she make her own choice that drives her story until the very end, and the cinematography is focused much mroe on the characters around her than on her, which diminishes her power in the show itself, even though what she actually says gives her presence. When she had such independence in the first seasons and motivated other characters (like Ruby) to new places and have difficult conversations and learn more herself, it’s sad to see her become nothing but a passenger.

When she works on summoning the knight towards the season’s third act, we see her finally taking some volition and displaying a power completely independent of the world around her and makes the decision to escape. But not without another uncharacteristic, stereotypically-girly breakdown and cry on the bed. Weiss is the girl with the tantrums and dramatic stormy exits. If she’d just kicked around the furniture and gone straight to her summoning, it would have been an excellent turnaround. The crying, sadly, dilutes it.

And even her escape isn’t under her own steam. She asks Klein for help, and he pretty much does all of the work for her. Weiss, for all her verbal fortitude, barely escapes this dependency on others for the entire season.

weiss head roll

Sass, not sobs.

 

Black The Beast Disdains from Shadow

I’m going to start with an image comparison here.

On the left is Season 2 Blake, and on the right is Season 3. If you didn’t immediately notice the siphoning of her waist into her breasts, there’s kind of a problem. The stylisation, if that’s all it is, adds an unnecessary emphasis to her chest, which in my view upsets the boundary-pushing standard that women, especially teenage girls, don’t need to be busty or revealing to be powerful or popular. This is another damaging trope exuded by many Whedon productions: that women are entirely dependent on men for their strength, either sexually, or emotionally, and therefore have to cater to them in such a manner.

Before you cry out that I’m only picking on Blake because boobs, she isn’t the only one. Look at her stalker partner Sun:

On the left is Season 2, the right, the most recent season. Sun either worked out a bunch in the months preceding Season 4, or he makes a cushy side living smuggling shoulder pads to Menagerie. I’m not a fan of the open-shirt look, but I can at least appreciate that he had realistic proportions before The Buffening.

Sun, I Am Disappoint

I never particularly liked Sun. He looked better before he was trying to cosplay Spring Break Prince Adam. But his renewed portrayal is another example of how the show discredits young guys’ physical and mental images. Let’s also look at his shared journey with Blake.

Blake left Vale. Alone. Sun admits that he stalked her because, in his words, he knew she didn’t want to be alone. If you’ve ever spoken to a rape/harassment/stalking victim, or even a child of an aggressively protective parent, you should know why gestures like that are severely problematic. While we know on the surface this is coming from a place of protection, it’s still legitimately creepy as heck for a girl to be followed without her knowledge and against her wishes. Not only does it demonstrate a complete disregard for her and show he has no faith in her combat abilities (extra insulting given that she was An Actual Member of the White Fang and Adam Bitchpant-Taurus’s Girlfriend), it removes her from being in charge of her own story, much like every other girl this season. Sun’s grand protector role comes off as arrogant (which, granted, he always has been), unwelcome, and forces Blake into playing pithy reluctance and, despite having held her own in combat many, MANY times before, Sun’s encroachment into her battles actually forced her to need rescuing.

Perhaps the worst part of this is that it paints Blake as a perpetual stalking victim, because her violent and abusive ex-boyfriend literally stalked her for three seasons. Sun’s behaviour is unacceptable mimicry even if his motivations are different. The ‘counteract’ to this, the point which is allegedly supposed to justify his idiocy in the audience’s eyes, is Blake physically slapping him multiple times for his crass and invasive behaviour. It’s a poor justification not only because it highlights terrible communication between the two, but it also reduces Blake to being unable to verbalise or control her emotions. Just FYI, slapping a guy does not make you a strong character when you are also entirely dependent on that same guy for your emotional journey (the final admission that she did, in fact, feel guilty for leaving).

rwby-volume-2-screenshot-03

What do you mean, we hang out with GUYS? Aren’t those things contagious?

While we’re talking about guys being creepy around Blake, we can’t ignore the overbearing and way-too-familiar nameless captain that was all but working his way up to a full-blown proposition for her. Even if that was never the intention (and I doubt it was, given knowledge of the writers’ own good sense of mind), the pervasiveness of that language makes the loss of the girls’ agency and the shadow of subconscious rape culture harder to escape. If you’ve been following the ‘MeToo’ hashtag on social media lately, you’ll likely have seen a lot of instances of creepy behaviours to avoid, and this is one of them. For a show that made such a huge impact by showcasing girls with dazzling choreography and having outfits specifically designed to be practical for girls to cosplay in, it’s disappointing to not keep broadcasting that progressive attitude.

And it’s such an easy trap to fall into with writing, especially by men. I may well have done it in my own books, although I’m trying to change that. If you start incorporating traditional gender observations/tropes into your fiction without subverting them or demonstrating their fallacies, you will encounter sexism within your own creations.

And inherently problematic is the idea of the Watcher, a predominantly male presence that is the male gaze made manifest – a source of constant looking that is an explicit form of control. – Natasha Simons, The Mary Sue

Both Sun and Qrow do this. We understand the world of Remnant is more dangerous now, so there is a justifiable need for characters to band together, but the new season is rife with elements where the girls aren’t even being given the chance to fight. Qrow is literally killing ALL of the Grimm while also stalking Ruby, even though single or teams of Grimm have never been an issue for the group. He also forbids her from fighting. There’s no justification for either his or Sun’s lack of faith or reason to keep stoic distance other than persistence of overbearing and arrogant masculinity.

Fumblebee

While we’re here, let’s briefly touch on Blake’s reunion with her father, a cavalcade of awkwardness that didn’t even get to explain the reason she returned home. She insisted to Sun that she wanted to ‘get home and relax’. Relax? After a battle that almost killed you and lost your best friend her arm? After your abusive ex showed up in the middle of a battle that destroyed your sanctuary? What about “I can’t face my team. I hurt them too much. So much of this is my fault. I wasn’t strong enough. I need to make things right and I don’t know how, so I’m starting at the beginning.” Not a single iota of that or even how she was affected by Yang’s injury is conveyed even when she confesses to Sun that she feels guilty, so all we get is irritated evasion and exasperated protests against company. It backtracks her character by several seasons, not even organically.

Blake pissed

Even she will tell you it’s not a good look.

Yellow Beauty Burns Cold

Of all of them, Yang is the one with the greatest reason to actually be disparate and in need of help, given she:
-lost an arm
-failed to protect her best friend, whom she lost the arm for
-had that same friend ABANDON HER before she even regained consciousness
-is unable to follow or protect her little sister while she’s on a great and perilous journey

Aside from the traumatic flashbacks and noncommittal responses to her father’s kind gestures, the focus isn’t so much on what happened to her, but who did it. Granted, Adam is a big part of her battle, but it’s his visage that looms in every of her nightmares. Yang has never been afraid of a guy before. Losing her strength or something valuable, like when she loses a few hairs, those are big trigger points for her rage. One of her dreams almost gets it when she’s shown to have her Ember Celicas vanish in the midst of a fight, but it’s still Adam at the centre of it, and not the traumatic loss of her arm and the friend she sacrificed it for. Yang is a fighter; bold, proud, and flamboyant, and has been from the very first moment we saw her in the Yellow trailer. And she isn’t anymore.

Losing her arm isn’t an unrealistic transition for her depressive state. But the mentality of trauma and its recovery is such a balance to strike, and it didn’t ring true, if for no other reason than it’s portrayed as the fear of Adam that’s holding her back and that never gets resolved. The apparent cure isn’t even to remind her of her friends. In some weird, nondescript way, Taiyang inviting his professor buddies over and making a really incisive insult to Yang about her arm… changes her mind? Yang might have always been one for puns, but taking a jab at her recent and severely-affecting trauma is not how PTSD therapy works. It’s almost reminiscent of the terrifyingly-dense Andrew Tate’s refusal to acknowledge that depression exists (he also claimed that anyone above 15 who watched cartoons was a loser and no woman would want you). This is something that is almost universally portrayed incorrectly in mediayou cannot brute-force depression or trauma into remission.

It wasn’t even a reminder of the friends Yang could be protecting that urged her into action. What would have made more sense is Taiyang asking her how she felt about Blake, and Yang getting upset about that and recovering to either smack Blake into shape for running off, AGAIN (see season 2), or ask her if she ran because of guilt and to smack her into shape regardless, because Yang’d gladly lose the other one if it meant Blake would survive to tear Adam to pieces. That’s the kind of solidarity and resolve the series needs, and would have been nicely mirrored if Blake had any of the same feelings, but the show has none of that. Instead it implied Yang was guilted into recovery for overhearing how bad things were in Vale, and then undergoes Magical Fighting Therapy Session and Vague Emotional Placation with her father and everything is okay again. It glosses over the severity of her emotions and implies she’s ‘just kinda bummed’ and not ‘suffering from severe PTSD that nobody’s adequately addressed’.

Yang smug cat

“I don’t do trauma, but when I do, it’d better be serious. No time for half measures.”

Oh, and by the way, Taiyang also suffered from a case of The Buffening:

LOOK AT HIS SHOULDERS. Arms really don’t work like that. Season 3’s Tai looked so much more natural, especially in his face. I hope Season 5 will be a step back in the right direction.

So, what now?

I’ve no idea. I’ve seen the Weiss and Blake character shorts for Season 5, and it’s not filling me with confidence so far, but they’re not really meant to give anything away. Yang’s looked pretty good, though.

There’s a lot more I can say. I will, but this is epic enough already. I’m actually starting up a project of revising scripts from Season 4 to make them more balanced towards the women, erase some of the elements I raised above, and bring them more cohesion. You can read the first episode here.

The thing is, despite what I’ve said, I still love RWBY. The concept of it, the characters, the absolute dedication by the creators and fans, are all beyond anything I’ve ever seen. And I’ll still watch it. So I want it to be good. It deserves to be good. I wouldn’t be as passionately worried about it if I didn’t care about the characters and direction I feel they’re being taken. The new opening already looks like this season has a better sense of focus *crosses fingers* But it’s always important to remember that we can still love something dearly while being critical of where it may fall down, or change, and enough discussion can safeguard an audience from ever being disappointed.

New Review! Cosplay! Acting!

Following on from my last, rather vocal post, here’s something much more satisfying to talk about: another review! This one is by David Popovich of Bookworm Reviews, and it’s a video!

I’ve never had a video review before so this was very exciting. And he was certainly fair, too. I’ve never considered Legacy to follow groundbreaking or vastly original ideas, but I’m really glad that he enjoyed it and considered the tropes used well (even if they are well-used). Best comment: “It’s like reading an anime.” That was the highlight for me, especially as I’ve been influenced a lot by anime for a good seventeen years or so now, that he thought it came across in my writing is a great compliment for me. That’s the style that I see playing through my head when I write.

Not gonna lie, I was kind of like this thinking about it over the last few days

Not gonna lie, I was kind of like this thinking about it over the last few days

So that was all at once an awesome surprise, a great relief, and a big motivation. Fracture is going through some more ‘final first draft’ edits (that I’m actually a little overdue on, erk) and I managed to get a lot done after watching the review last night. I hope to finish it this morning, not least because I have a butt-ton of other stuff to accomplish this weekend. Most principally of which is…

COSPLAYING ALL THE THINGS

I haven’t mentioned my cosplay at all yet because I was waiting for some photos to be taken that weren’t of me looking confused or standing in THAT ONE POSITION I ALWAYS STAND IN FOR EVERY PHOTO so finally I have something to share.

Ain't no thing like me, 'cept me... and a few others.

Ain’t no thing like me, ‘cept me… and a few others.

Boom. Or, more like, whirrrrr....

Boom. Or, more like, whirrrrr….

The above two photos are by Tomisina Lynn Portrait Photography, by the way.  This is my Rocket Raccoon, although I don’t expect anyone currently on the internet to not know what Guardians of the Galaxy is. I also have a comic book version that won me a first prize at Oak City Comic Con in Raleigh this year:

Scooby Doo took a turn for the awesome, finally

Scooby Doo took a turn for the awesome, finally

And there’s my Beowulf from Rooster Teeth’s RWBY series.

No, it's not a bear, and I'm not doing that thing they supposedly do.

No, it’s not a bear, and I’m not doing that thing they supposedly do.

New acapella album coming soon: Jazz and Howling

New acapella album coming soon: Jazz and Howling

Photos are also by Tomisina Lynn

You can follow all of my cosplay ramblings and progress photos at BritFang Cosplay on Facebook. DragonCon is my next big upcoming event, sort of our yearly pilgrimage, and it’s going to be a big one with lots of amazing dehydration. Just as well it’s only minor repairs left, because I’ve had even MORE projects that I’ve been involved with, although very few are currently ready to advertise because they’re not finished yet. I do have these two, though:

Redwall Audio Drama (Fan-Made)
Escape Pod Episode 484: That Tear Problem

I do voice acting projects now. Once I have time after DragonCon I will audition for more, but to be honest it’s been a very intense few months, so time management will be essential… especially when you have a habit of wanting to do everything at once.

Me vs. my head. I don't know which is which.

Me vs. my head. I don’t know which is which.

So that’s an update from me! Stay tuned in another two months for more insecurities and self-assurances!

I’ll Hold You To That

The title was something someone said to me when I confirmed I’d hopefully be able to update them on a project towards the end of the week. I don’t know if it can be considered innocuous or if I’m just stressed, but it really pissed me off. Probably unnecessarily so. I’m working pretty hard at the moment (although I’m not sure I’m able to say specifically in what capacity), doing a lot of things for other people, and for one that I’ve already been helping both automatically and at their request to say that felt… like a kick up the arse, but not in an encouraging way that I normally appreciate. There’s a group of around a dozen people I’m working with/for, a lot of whom I haven’t been able to touch specifically because I’m working on projects for both this person and someone else. It just jades me when I felt I had started to get on top of things.

I guess you can always do more. But it’s not like I don’t have my own stuff that I really want to finish. I’m a little over a third of the way through Fracture’s edits, and there’s some amazing cover artwork for it that’s coming on really well that I’m desperate to show everyone. And even aside all that, I have an enormous laundry list of projects that I want to finish in my lifetime one way or another.

I actually have a pillow on my desk for this very purpose

I actually have a pillow on my desk for this very purpose

My Wish List

This one’s a little flipped round, because this is a wish list of things that come from me, not to me from others. This is what I have in my head at any give time, for all the projects I want to do. This might explain why it annoyed me so much.

Writing

In the Resonance Tetralogy
Fracture (in edits)
Ruin’s Dawn (started)
Resonance End (plotting)
Spiritus Ex (plotting)

In The Song Chronicle of Thera (Steampunk series)
Firesong: Ballad of Phoenix the Blade (started)
Moonsong: Fugitive of the Snow
Therasong: Heart of the World

In Clandestine
Book One: Protectors
Book Two: Shieldbreaker
Book Three: Tears

Other writing projects
Fantasy Stereotype High School (plotted)
Aeterno (plotted)
Foundation (plotted)
If You Think That’s Hell, You Should Try Working Here (plotted)
The Story of Phoenix the Mechanical Werewolf and Tohru the Electric Corgi: A Steampunk Children’s Tale (drafted, published on Tumblr; would like to get illustrated some day)

Being even half this productive would be great right now

Being even half this productive would be great right now

Costume Projects
Rocket Raccoon (2-3 outfits)
Steampunk Werewolf Mk III (because two isn’t enough punishment for me, apparently. It’s just the head, though. Probably)
Pangolin Fursuit
Mega Lucario
Yugo (from Wakfu)
Mystogan (I swear if it doesn’t work this time I’m going to kill you, you bastard)

Miscellaneous
Voice acting projects, auditions are always ongoing). I’ve been really lucky to be involved with some great productions so far, not least of which includes guest narration of episode 484 of the fantastic Escape Pod podcast. My episode is called That Tear Problem, by Natalia Theadoridou, and you can listen to it here
I have ideas for various comedy podcasts that I haven’t even been able to plan yet, but they’re a distant second to every other item on this list at the moment.

And this doesn’t even mention the stuff I do for work. How hard I work will determine what I get paid. I order for this to be sustaining, I need to dedicate time to my work, or I lose the opportunity to take time to work on what I want to.

In terms of deadlines, only one of these has a specific time limit aside from my work work, and that’s the Rocket Raccoon costume, which I want to get done for Animazement at the end of May. Fracture, unfortunately, while I will get the edits done as soon as I can, may sit impatiently for its release window, as my publishers are fully booked for this year’s novel releases. Small presses have immense respect for artistic integrity, and there’s nobody I would trust more than Inspired Quill with handling my books, but unfortunately it’s partly the nature of the beast that you can only manage a certain number of releases per year until you can widen your foundations. I have always wanted to keep my books affordable and if I self-published it, I’d be forced to charge a fairly unreasonable minimum price to get a markup that would earn me a living.

Pictured: current events

Pictured: current events

So while I know I’m not always great at keeping with things, it’s not like I’m being lazy. Please don’t accuse me of that. If I’m TRULY not doing anything, I’ll have to convince myself that I might actually deserve it, even just for a little while.

Because if there’s one person who has always told me ‘I’ll hold you to that,’ and unforgivably so, it’s me.

Bright Young Things

So I’m really into Wakfu now. For those who don’t know it, it’s a French animated series based on an MMORPG (or MMPORG, if you get the reference), and stars a young Eliatrope (being who can control portals) called Yugo. He’s awesome. He hadn’t been on the screen for more than a few seconds (well, after we saw him as a baby) and I’d already decided I had enough of an affinity with him to cosplay him in the future, because he’s that damn cool. He’s kind and optimistic and capable, and I’m actually a little blown away by how taken I am with him. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised though, because I am still dedicated to the Mysterious Cities of Gold series, and Esteban was full of exuberance and adventure and good will, even if he did tend to get himself into danger a lot. Naruto is a similar character, albeit a lot more outspoken and defiant (and rude). And the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series followed Aang, who had nothing but compassion for the world, and struggled to see it brought to peace, and was dedicated to making his friends happy and safe. He’s my favourite part of that three-series journey, as he leads it perfectly.

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again...

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again…

It just brings to mind the reactions people have had to Legacy; specifcally to Tierenan, the deuteragonist (of sorts) who travels with Faria and follows her adventure.

A Hero Who Didn’t Know He Was A Hero

Without exception, everyone who’s spoken and written to me about Legacy has told me how much they like Tierenan. He’s run away with my audience, heh. And he deserves it- he’s a very cool guy, and I don’t think any of the other characters would complain that he gets as much praise as he does. The weirdest thing to me is that he was the character I planned least. He just happened. I didn’t spend ages constructing a specific development arc for him within Legacy or honing his personality. He came as he was and fit in perfectly. I’m really grateful for that, because if I’d tried to write him, I probably would have ruined him.

And we all know how that turns out.

And we all know how that turns out.

The people who know me have said that he’s me, but I always saw myself as Alaris; not a main character, for one, and also more of a support role and a play-as-much-by-the-rules-as-possible sort of person. The more I think about it, though, the more I realise there’s more in Tierenan than I first anticipated, whether it’s reflective of me or not.

When I first wrote Legacy I kind of brushed him off as someone to fill in the gaps between Faria, who carries the main narrative, and Aeryn and Kyru, whose story I had been invested in since the very early concepts (even before any of them were animals). To a degree, I figured that what he said either wouldn’t matter or would be there as a commentary to prevent the whole thing from being too serious. I always wanted him to be likeable though, and not as artificial as a lot of obnoxious Disney comedy placeholders are. But through spending time with him, I think specifically because he wasn’t constrained by preconceived plot ideas, he took a shape of his own that reacted to the environment and the other characters. It really was a more natural progression for him, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

One thing remained constant, though: his unfaltering hope. I’ve always wanted my stories to be full of hope, and he is the sole character that carries it from the moment we meet him. I think people fall into the trap of making stories dismal or harrowing or unpleasant, especially for young adults, and they focus so much on the loss of innocence and certain cruel realities of the world for no reason other than to be evocative. It’s probably what irritates me most about the direction the Harry Potter series went in, especially in the final book. War begets casualties, of course, but stories are such an investment for the reader. Killing off everyone you care about (and not even giving them a final justification or battle scene) doesn’t make you fulfilled as an audience member. Personally, I find it very unsatisfying. Especially for young adults who’re about to make their mark on the world, they shouldn’t be discouraged from trying, or from dreaming big or wanting to protect or include everyone. There’s already so much cynicism in the world, and I think the ones who will change it need to be given hope. Not promises, but hope.

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”- Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I’m really glad that Tierenan is liked so much. It’s humbling to me. I want to keep his light going in the rest of the books, and it would be an honour if he was talked about in the same way that Aang and Yugo and Esteban and Natsu and Groot are some day. And not just by me :p

We're on the fence about you, boy.

We’re on the fence about you, boy. Haven’t forgiven you for the weird plot developments.

Inspiring Teens Blog Hop Interview

Back in October last year, I was asked to participate in the Inspiring Teens Blog Hop, a multi-blog extravaganza of author interviews and book discussions organised by Greta Burroughs aiming to encourage teens to read. Unfortunately the site my interview was hosted at is no longer working, but I enjoyed the opportunity to take part very much. It meant a great deal to be able to discuss my passion and share my work, so I saved a copy of the interview, and here it is:

Inspiring Teens Blog Hop interview (Originally hosted by Kate Bainbridge on read2review.com)

1. Reading

Why do you think Teen Read Week is important?

Reading is such an important tool- more than being a basic life skill in communication, it opens you up to such wonderful worlds of creativity that, today, can be so easy to avoid through computers, TV, games, and everything else that encourages a simpler, more graphic interaction. It goes without saying that everyone needs to read just to keep on top of things on a daily basis, but particularly the opportunity and ability to read books is such a rich and rewarding experience that nobody should miss out on.  I’d have so much less of myself now if I hadn’t read when I was younger, and I’m always grateful for the amount of self-development and inspiration I gained from books.

How do you think we could encourage youngsters to read more?

I think giving them something, be it a story or a character, that inspires them will make the biggest difference. You only need to look at the success of a series like Twilight to see how many young women were dreaming of a ‘perfect’ guy to fall in love with- as much as tastes differ, you can’t argue with the power of that inspiration even on a basic level. I’d challenge anyone who read Harry Potter who didn’t at some point during their journey want to be a wizard. There has to be a fantasy, an escape, an adventure, or something, that really speaks to them. But you need variety. If you don’t like vampires (like me), being sat in front of the teen paranormal section in a bookshop isn’t going to encourage you to read anything. I get frustrated with the prevalence of fads in fiction that essentially restrict the creative outlet for audiences. So there has to be something, even a single book, that lights a fire within and makes you want to dive straight into that universe.

When you were a teenager what books did you like to read and did you have an all-time favourite character?

I loved fantasy and adventure books. The ones I read time and again were The Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis, particularly the first book- The Dark Portal. Mr. Jarvis was a major influence on my imagination and writing style; I was about six or seven at the time and even though I’d read books like Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, it wasn’t until I read The Dark Portal that I found such deep inspiration. I devoured that trilogy and the Deptford Histories books that came afterwards. Thomas Triton was my favourite character throughout it all- a mouse who lived on the Cutty Sark with a needle for a sword (I was also obsessed with fencing and sword fighting, you see). My friends all liked the characters who were supposed to be around our ages, and Thomas was much older, but it didn’t bother me to pretend to be him when running around the playground or at home. He was just that cool to me. I went bananas when he had a whole book devoted to him in the Histories series.

2. Writing

Were you writing as a teenager? If so, what were you writing and what inspired you? Did a person inspire you to write?

When I was about two or three my older sister would write and illustrate simple stories for me when I was upset, or just because she loved art.  Somewhere I think there’s still a half-finished story about a fox in a cage that she began for me! So I’d been exposed to storytelling and shaping dramatic narrative for as long as I can remember. But I played around with stories with my various toys from a very young age as well. I’d get frustrated when a favourite character of mine in a TV show was ousted for the show’s star- a lot of 80’s and early 90’s cartoons had the one singular hero who did everything and the secondary characters were essentially cheerleaders for the most part aside from their obligatory one-episode-per-season showcase, and my issue was that I often preferred the secondary characters. So in my games I’d make sure all of the characters had a role, and that continued into my first ‘serious’ writing when I was about thirteen and started on fanfiction. Essentially if I wasn’t happy with how a show or book I was into was going, I’d invent my own, and from that, once I learned the basis of a story and how to create a unique world, I began developing my own original ideas.

My biggest non-book inspiration was probably the TV series The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which still has a profound effect on me when I hear the music or see any clips. I take huge inspiration from music, and my collection of orchestral scores is vast and varied. I have anime, video game, movie soundtracks and will swipe whatever songs inspire me even if I’ve never heard of the band before.

Do you think today’s teens are in a better position if they want to be a writer than you were all those years ago (hee hee)?

Definitely. I think the potential for imagination has always been there, but there’s such a rich library of creativity to take from nowadays that there’s no reason for anyone not to be inspired. And you can be inspired by anything- movies, music, TV, video games, books; it doesn’t have to be just written down. I feel like I read far less than most other writers I know, but it hasn’t curbed my imagination or ability to write. When I told people that I wanted to be a writer and subsequently revealed that I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings, they were shocked, as if I was supposed to be physically unable to write fantasy until I had. I still haven’t, by the way, and I don’t regret that- I don’t need it, and nobody that knows you should tell you what you can and can’t study for inspiration. The amount of resources and support available to writers now is incredible- there’s nothing that should hold you back if you want to try.

What advice would you give a youngster who enjoys writing?

Watch intently, listen carefully, and don’t be afraid to question anything in front of you. Encourage yourself to enjoy something fully, and if you don’t then ask yourself why and break down what you would have done differently. Think about how that would change the outcome, and plan it out from there. You can even work backwards: think about something you’d like to see happen in the series/show/book/whatever, and decide how you’d begin that plotline. I’d encourage anyone to write fanfiction if they want to. It’s an easy way to get started with story construction and character creation, and you can change story elements at will without worrying hugely about your basic setting. It’s a sandbox environment for writing, and a great development tool. One thing that helped me, is, when watching TV shows or movies, or playing games, is to always have the subtitles on. It a great tool for reading dialogue and ‘seeing’ how it’s constructed instead of just hearing it.

3. Your books

What is your latest book about?

My latest book is Legacy, the first in a series of four books (collectively called The Resonance Tetralogy) set in a fantasy world, Eeres. Much like The Deptford Mice trilogy and the Redwall books, the characters are anthropomorphic animal species. Here’s the blurb for you:

“Her power is unmeasured. Her abilities untested. Her destiny inescapable.

Faria Phiraco is a resonator, a manipulator of the elements via rare crystals. It is an extraordinary and secret power which she and her father, the Emperor of Xayall, guard with their lives.

The Dhraka, malicious red-scaled dragons, have discovered an ancient artefact; a mysterious relic from the mythical, aeons-lost city of Nazreal. With their plan already set in motion, they besiege Xayall, pummelling the city to find Faria and rip more of Nazreal’s secrets from her.

When her father goes missing, Faria has to rely on her own strength to brave the world that attacks her at every turn. Friends and guardians rally by her to help save her father and reveal the mysteries of the ruined city, while the dark legacy of an ancient cataclysm wraps its claws around her fate… and her past. She soon realises that this is not the beginning, nor anywhere near the end. A titanic war spanning thousands of years unfolds around her, one that could yet cost the lives of everyone on Eeres.”

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

Currently I’m working on Legacy’s second and third sequel novels, Fracture and Ruin’s Dawn, and a trilogy of Steampunk books called The Song Chronicle of Thera, set in a world where geothermal energy can be harnessed to give mechanically-augmented warriors extraordinary power, and the incredible battles fought to protect the world from total destruction.

And there are about seven other stories all trying to get out of my head too. Writing just one or two at a time is very difficult when there aren’t enough hours in the day.

What do you love about being an author?

Your imagination is completely free. You have license to create anything in your head that you want to. You want a talking cake? Done. Evil guinea pig from another world? No problem. A cursed, blood-sucking pen that traps its users’ souls forever in paper? Sure. Anything is yours to create, and it’s a wonderful feeling. You’d be amazed how liberating it is to have a story before you, however long it is, and know that you created that entire world. You begin to see worlds behind and within other worlds, and even in reality you see so much more than face value. Everything becomes richer, deeper, and all of the things that inspired you before become that much more enjoyable for knowing how they’ve affected you. The absolute best part, though, is when people start telling you how your work inspired them in turn, and, unprompted, start linking your work back to your original inspiration, or something else that inspires them too, something new to you that helps open a completely new facet to your world. That is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I hope to create many more.

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.

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?