The Laugh of the Paper Ninja

I’m not sure when it was unilaterally decided that sophistication of style was something to be ashamed of. Behold this wonderful video about language and particularly this line:

Words, it seems belong to other people, anyone who expresses themselves with originality, delight and verbal freshness is more likely to be mocked, distrusted or disliked than welcomed. The free and happy use of words appears to be considered elitist or pretentious. – Stephen Fry, in the essay Don’t Mind Your Language

Because I am a true believer in the delightful elasticity of language, of the tiny explosion that is a perfectly placed blasphemy, or the turn of an adjectival phrase. I love the impact a foul word can have, and the use of sub-clauses to fit in everything a sentence needs to say. I hate that advertising, as a whole, talks down to people (like the ad for the i8, which has some of the most dire and awful rhyming copy I have ever suffered in an ad) and that a book that relaxes in the splendour of language is deemed too literary, too highbrow. Perhaps, when people are compulsively shortening words and phrases so that they can fit in the inadequate frame of a tweet, anything that stretches one’s linguistic muscles is seen as cumbersome. Why use bae when you can use beloved? (Bae is a terrible bleat of a word.)

It is hard not to flinch at the sight of thoughtlessly mixed-up theirs and they’res, the careless scattering of apostrophes, but Stephen Fry is right that pedantry should not get in the way of enjoyment. Sometimes, I forget that.

But when I am accused of being too sophisticated in my writing, I feel I have to complain. There’s nothing wrong with using the perfect word, even if it isn’t common usage. Language is meant to elevate, and though it is often used as the tool of denigration, it still remains my most powerful form of self-expression. Because it is true that when I dance, I look like a manatee on amphetamines. When I run, I look like a knock-kneed penguin. I am, physically, a deeply unfortunate person. For all my training, I lack grace, but as I approach my thirties, I am finding that I care less about it than I used to. But in my writing, there is an agility I don’t enjoy anywhere else. Here I am capable, confident in this skill that I have been honing since I was eight years old. I may not dance, but oh my, I can write.

But when I am told to choke my language for fear of being inaccessible, then this lady doth fucking protest, and protest in adjectives, adverbs and nouns she shall. Besides, as we learned in The Laugh of the Medusa by Helene Cixous, (seriously, read the whole essay, it is spectacular):

I shall speak about women’s writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies –for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text – as into the world and into history – by her own movement…And why don’t you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven’t written. (And why I didn’t write before the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great – that is, for “great men”; and it’s “silly.” Besides, you’ve written a little, but in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way.”

And so I will keep writing in whatever voice it is I have – somewhat convoluted language peppered with colourful lashes of swearing and very strange metaphors. I know that it isn’t quite as polished as it could be, and maybe some day, whatever novel I produce will be of the quality I hope for, rather than being the self-indulgent pablum it actually is now. But write I shall, and we all must.

Margaret Atwood on Writing and Publishing

In this article about her book Negotiating With the Dead, Margaret Atwood best describes how very difficult the publishing game can be.

Even if we avoid signing promissory notes, there are many pitfalls. There is, for instance, the publishing system, and its growing domination by the bottom-line bean-counters. “We don’t sell books,” one publisher said, “we sell solutions to marketing problems.” We’ve all heard the story about the writer whose first novel hasn’t done well, and who then presents a second one. “If only this were a first novel,” sighs the agent. “Then I might be able to sell it.” Moral: a publisher will gamble, but – increasingly – only once. Gone are the days – when were those days anyway? – when a Maxwell Perkins-like publisher2 might support a writer through two or three or four financial failures, waiting for the big breakthrough. Nowadays,

He who writes, and makes it pay,
Will live to write another day.

This isn’t news to someone like me, and it may seem incongruous considering how many absolutely terrible books get published. As my dear mentor Molly Burkhart told me once, getting published doesn’t provide all the answers, and it doesn’t put the demons to rest. It is a gate-keeping industry, understandably concerned with its profit margins but nearly always to the detriment of most authors. I’ve discussed before how the industry is anti-gay and subtly racist, and perhaps this is why self-publishing (especially through Amazon) has become the biggest threat to the industry as it stands. While I have my issues with Amazon, I also have them with the publishing industry, and the latter could stand to be revised a great deal.

Or perhaps, as I’ve lamented in this post, maybe its just the readers we have to blame. After all, aren’t they the ones who dictate to the market, and therefore the authors? Your thoughts?

Publisher on Author Crime

Because I’m almost permanently wired into the world of books, publishing and writing, I am coming across more and more stories of writers being malaligned by their publishers. More writers being strong-armed into ridiculous contracts and made to feel grateful for it. It is ridiculously competitive and based less on quality as marketability. As Sarah A. Hoyt mentions on her blog here,

In fact, if your book had been completely blank, or a compilation of nursery rhymes, it would have got exactly the same distribution and sales as it got with your words in it. You didn’t choose the cover. You didn’t choose the price. You didn’t choose the push. You didn’t choose the distribution.

More importantly and more than likely, the person who chose these things chose them NOT based on the book – which they might or might not have read – but on YOU and their perceived marketability of YOU. (And let me tell you, as a reader, that’s many shades of wrong.)

Most people don’t know your book even exists, and therefore they can’t ask for it. And if they do, they might get told it can’t be ordered.

(The whole post is fascinating, and an excellent shorthand for what’s wrong with publishing in general.)

Then there are the authors I spoke about in my post on the opening Amazon’s publishing branch. Add to this the story of Doranna Durgin, who is being forced to buy ALL of her books in the warehouse if she wants the rights back.

What’s going on here? Without authors there is NO publishing industry, and yet most of them end up languishing in the mid-lists forever despite being brilliant. This attitude seems a little self-defeating in the face of what might be the death spiral of publishing as we know it. I usually read mid-list titles as those are the ones that proof copies are provided for, and more often than not it is far superior to the majority of the top-list crap. I mean, credit due where it is, but James Patterson, Stephanie Meyer and Danielle Steel don’t produce great literature. (See their ranking on Forbes in my post here.) I’ve beaten that poor horse to death in the previously mentioned post, so for now I’d like to deal with how authors are being conned and guilted.

The best examples of the pitfalls of the publishing industry are made clear on the Writers Beware page. There are impossible clauses buried in the contracts offered by the major houses, more commonly in the littler houses trying to entrap good authors. So many people are desperate to get published that there are numerous vultures waiting to feed on their desire without giving them the credit they deserve. People who ask for a small ‘consulting’ or ‘reading’ fee and who promise to get the book published. Agents who swear they know the right people and charge either a consulting fee or demand 30 printed manuscripts. Usually the author pays the fee rather than the printing cost. Luckily my fingers were saved from some burning thanks to published author sisters and dear friends, Molly and Joely Burkhart, who warned me that no author pays upfront to get their book published. Agents and publishers take the fee off sales, never off the author directly.

Which is why book piracy makes me sad. The author is already making so little (3-8% of the cover price), it just seems cruel to snatch even that from them after all their hard work. I once read a pirated copy and felt so terrible that I have long since stopped the habit. (Also, the quality is just so bloody awful.) The only free books I take now are proof copies from book reps and from Project Gutenberg. And the more I read about how publishers treat any author that isn’t a mega-star, the less enamoured I grow of the industry. So, follow the buzz (right here, of course) and support the authors that write fresh, bright fiction so that one day the Forbes Top Ten doesn’t read like a litany of mediocrity.

For further insights into publishing from a self-proclaimed Penmonkey who made it and writes about it, visit these posts from Chuck Wendig at Terribleminds.com

Toxic Tempers and Fevered Egos in Publishing

Writers are the 99%

(His site is truly a treasure trove of insight and coffee-snorting humour, and he deserves his success as a writer.)  

Writer on Writer Crimes

There’s nothing writers love more than giving each other advice.

It is the most irritating thing short of catching ebola from a tax form.

But there are hundreds and hundreds of blogs dedicated to writing about writing, because it doesn’t get more tediously meta than writing about writing about writing. Maybe this is why some writers have to work so hard to keep friends around. And most of the writers giving advice haven’t even published so much as a pamphlet, but since opinions are as plentiful as assholes, its a little difficult to get away from. This is the reason why I don’t actually want to hang around writers. (But I have hung out with some pretty cool authors.)

Now, if I want advice on writing, I want it from Neil Gaiman, Lauren Beukes or Toni Morrison or Chuck Paulahnuik. And I do seek it, please believe my pretty white gi. And from what I gather, the only advice is practise and read more. That’s all there really is to it. Everyone wants a great novel and everyone wants to be JK Rowling but no one wants to put in the legwork. Great authors are well-read authors, and have been writing non-stop for years. Whenever people casually say ‘oh, I thought I’d write a novel, but its like really hard and stuff’, it usually turns out they’ve never written out more than a cheque before. Of course its fsking hard. All I’ve managed is 6 of the damn things and I’m 25. Compared to Stephen King or even Barbara Cartland, it is a pitiful output. Nowhere near enough, and definitely not good enough.

So in the run-up to Nanowrimo, there will be hundreds of blogs dutifully telling other writers what to do. And it is nearly always people who have no idea what they’re doing. Stupid advice about writing schedules, or not having a schedule, or writing in the morning or on the train. Its never a straightforward “write until you get sick of it. And then write some more. And read more great books by real authors. And then write some more.”  The whole joy of writing for me is that it is such a solitary joy and that it is the one thing that (to a large extent) doesn’t rely on anyone else. Toni Morrison said in an interview that she writes books that she wants to read. Isn’t that part of the point? Since when did we need consultants and talent brokers?

Of course there are great articles that are interesting and give good advice, but isn’t the one thing writers hate most is advice? I have a book called You Know You’re A Writer When…By Laura Adair, and one of the signs is “when a friend timidly suggests that maybe the umbrella scene isn’t necessary, you find you don’t like that friend so much anymore.” Its true and no one wants to admit it, but no writer actually likes being corrected. We admit it is necessary, and we know that we sometimes have to do what our publishers want but no writer actually enjoys it. (For better insight into the writer-publisher relationship, read He Beats Me, But He’s My Publisher over at Mad Genius Club).

So yes, in the Nanowrimo frenzy, amongst the joys and horrors of trying to make wordcount between work, training and the Handsome Physicist, the last thing I know I want to hear is “oh, you’re doing it wrong. Don’t you know you’re supposed to write naked?”

Forbes Top Ten Authors and the South African Top Ten

It is a slightly old article, but the results of the Forbes Top Ten authors list is as interesting as the authors are (in my opinion) mostly mainstream. The list taken from this page includes a surprising number of authors who write for children or YA markets.

The list encourages one to draw the following conclusions about the book market:

  • Kids are reading more and more than ever before, especially if authors like Kinney are writing exclusively for young kids and others are branching out into the younger readers market. The first article mentions the advantages tech-savvy authors have when they tap into the massive eBook market. I wish I could remember where I read it, but the YA market is possibly the fastest-growing market. It makes sense to write for it. And judging by the books that I see in the subs with the book reps, there is a desperate need for someone to write better YA that doesn’t involve emo vampires or sad fallen angels or hairball-hacking werewolves. Or mermaids. (Why mermaids? That is a question that speaks to some very deep-seated issues.)
  • Writing crime pays, apparently. Judging by the high earnings of Patterson, Evanovich and Steel, writing about or involving crime in one’s books seems to be successful. However it is a highly saturated market with far too many authors competing for one of the most unforgiving markets. Crime readers tend to follow one author just because the selection is so overwhelming. If anyone wants to break into the book market, crime and romance are definitely the hardest to crack. Fantasy and sci-fi readers are much more likely to pick up new authors.
  • Writing for women is more likely to pay off (Steel, Evanovich, Sparks and Meyer are prime examples) and it has long been established in the publishing industry that men don’t read, or at least not enough to matter. (An unfortunate conclusion but that’s how the numbers roll.) Now that I have been meeting with reps for about six months, I have been able to piece together a great deal about the industry. Women do read a great deal more and across more genres, and while I don’t doubt that men read, they don’t read enough to dictate to many markets. From what I gather, non-fiction tends to be more unisex but there is a growing trend in what is unofficially called ‘dick-lit’. Its chick-lit with a male protagonist who too is unfulfilled and seeking love. It sounds a lot rougher than it really is.
  • Mainstream works. None of the authors on the list are particularly challenging or even controversial. Meyer with her necrophilia and bestiality is so bodice-ripper and hetronormative to be puke-inducing, so that puts her firmly in the heart of the mainstream.

I understand that reading is always going to be escapist and simple for 98% of the world’s literate people. That’s why none of these authors write anything that is particularly stimulating. And I can respect that most people are not interested in reading challenging and mind-rearranging material that inspires debate and anger. The list is interesting for many reasons, but mostly for me because it serves as a handy shorthand for what people want to read more than what booksellers want to sell. If I had a book store I know it would be very much like Black Books, with really interesting but badly selling titles. This is why I have a blog and not a book store.

The most important thing to take away from this is that people are still reading, and while a large part of me wishes they were reading more interesting things I’m just glad that kids are still loving books and that people haven’t given up books for reality TV.

While I’m on the topic of top ten lists, it is always interesting to get the Top 50 books sold here at Exclusive Books. While I cannot share numbers with you, I can share the top sellers, and it fascinates me that the local top 10 this week is 90% South African non-fiction. This may change when all the big international Christmas titles come out (Night Circus, Language of Flowers and the Freddie Mercury biography, for example) but for now it is good to see South Africans supporting South African literature, especially non-fiction.

 

 

 

 

Love Song for the Internet

I’ll be the first person to say I suffer from Facebook envy and Twitter confusion. I see everyone’s photos of their trips and their parties, their excellent events and adventures and I can’t help feeling just a little pathetic in comparison. And with Twitter, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the information that ticks through at an impressive rate of 190 million tweets per day. It is impossible to read them all (and to be honest most aren’t worth reading) but there’s something special about the swell of so much information.

But I love the internet. Like the XKCD cartoon, I love many of its crazy folks and beautiful blogs and exciting websites. The internet gives us things like We Feel Fine, an idea that wouldn’t translate anywhere else. There are TED talks, lectures that can change your life and make me excited about all the great things going on out there. It often feels like there isn’t much good news, but an excellent Cracked article pointed out something important to me the other day. The media will always go by the manifesto of ‘if it bleeds it leads’, because Malema will sell more newspapers than a story of an orphanage having a really great adoption rate. Because of this, we often forget what the world is about, that it is far more nuance than we give it credit for. While we all focus on the terrible dolphin slaughter in Japan, we don’t notice that the two biggest chicken suppliers in the States have switched over to the humane method of Controlled Atmosphere Killing, saving billions of chickens an agonizing and slow death. The beautiful thing about the internet is that it allows all the stories to proliferate, good and bad.

As part of my job I meet a lot of book reps, and I see a great number of books. There is a growing trend in business and psychology books that suggests that the Internet is making everybody dumber because of the rapid-fire nature of the Net. That Twitter’s homeopathic novels (tweets) are causing us to demand information in bite-sized chunks. Facebook is apparently isolating us from each other because somehow being more connected is bad?

I think the problem is that the Internet is being blamed for sheer human laziness. The same way that everyone thought television would destroy human progress and intelligence, books are coming out warning that the nature of the Internet is lowering our capacity for understanding. This research has obviously not been conducted on a significantly long term basis, which means that a lot of the conclusions are hypothetical for now. Also, what’s wrong with wanting concise information? Why fight through twaddle just to get to the clear facts? If I wanted unnecessary padding, I would read Lord of the Rings. And for all its length, Lord of the Rings is vastly inferior to a great many important books a fifth of its length with a hundred times the message and passion. (Catcher in the Rye, Fight Club, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved).

The Internet isn’t making us stupid. With Wikipedia making information available on a much wider basis compared to the pay-to-view expensive encyclopedias, news feeds from hundreds of reputable news stations and the simple joy of social networking, we are enjoying unparalleled access to information unlike anything before this. Maybe this is what it felt like when the Gutenberg Press freed books from their handwritten cages. This is why having Internet access is now a human right, and should be available to everyone. Information should be freely available. It isn’t yet, but I dream of a world where it is. What matters here is the ability to sift through and understand, a skill that is not taught by the internet, but by parents and schools. Of course, its much easier to blame the Internet and video games and television for bad children instead of shitty, uninterested parents.

Look at the Columbine shootings. The kids were neo-Nazis, were able to get their hands on weapons and were openly violent and aggressive. But instead of asking where their parents and teachers were in the run-up and how it got so bad, it was just so much easier to blame Quake. Somehow its always bad children, not bad parents. Bad chat rooms, not bad legislation. Likewise there are all these hysterical stories about mad boyfriends killing their girlfriends because they saw her in a photo with another guy on Facebook. Somehow, its Facebook’s fault, not the psycopath boyfriend who was just looking for a reason to kill the ungrateful crackwhore. (As his logic surely must work.)

The internet is full of crazy people. It has the b/tards and LulzSec and religious fundamentalists and animal haters. But these people have always existed. The Internet is just the mirror of society, but it enjoys something closer to true democracy than other countries. Blaming the Internet for giving bad people a place to exist is akin to cursing the Earth for having landmasses for us to live on. And unlike meatspace (real life), if you don’t like what you see, you can close the tab and never go there again. Its unlike schools, where atheist kids might be uncomfortable, or kids might not be able to get away from sexual predators posing as teachers. Or like being dragged to those awful family dinners where people whom one is unfortunate enough to share blood with let loose racial epithets that would make Huckleberry Finn blush. Unlike the Internet, annoying family members can’t be alt-tabbed away.

I love the Internet. It gives me a space to write and be heard, something print media does not afford to everybody. I can gather information at a rapid pace without having to go to a library. Please don’t get me wrong: I love books. They’re my trade and my lifeblood and have been since I was very little. But the Internet is like having a library at my fingertips, and I don’t have to deal with any bitchy librarians. (Wow, the Rhodes librarians were a bunch of miserable fucks.) The Internet is always the first to be blamed for anything, but it’s a tool. It can be used to change the world, or just post a blog or even share videos of kittens falling asleep just to cheer people up. It provides welcoming communities, such as Bodies Under Siege and Post Secret so that no one has to feel alone.

Everyone will take what they want from the Net, but to blame it for making us stupid is to deflect responsibility. I want the whole world to have the Intarwabs, to join this giant heartbeat of the planet. It’s like the Discovery Channel song says, ‘I love the whole world, its such a brilliant place’. The Internet, in my opinion, is the greatest thing to have been invented because of its mind-boggling potential and almost sentient presence in our lives.

Here are some excellent quotes about the Internet, more available here at Quotegarden.com.

The Internet is clearly about more than sports scores and email now.  It’s a place where we can conduct our democracy and get very large amounts of data to very large numbers of people.  ~Frank James

The Internet is based on a layered, end-to-end model that allows people at each level of the network to innovate free of any central control.  By placing intelligence at the edges rather than control in the middle of the network, the Internet has created a platform for innovation.  ~Vinton Cerf

I have an almost religious zeal – not for technology per se, but for the Internet which is for me, the nervous system of mother Earth, which I see as a living creature, linking up.  ~Dan Millman

The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.  ~Bill Gates

The Internet is a giant international network of intelligent, informed computer enthusiasts, by which I mean, “people without lives.”  We don’t care.  We have each other.  ~Dave Barry

Using Twitter like a dandelion uses the wind… Spreading messages, not exactly knowing where they might go, some taking roots and blossoming, some making a adventurous journey through the air but not falling on fertile ground.  So what?  A process of beauty and joy.  ~Detlef Cordes, detlefcordes.org

Why I’ll Never Make The Freshly Pressed List

I used to really, really want to make that illustrious “Freshly Pressed List” because it would bring followers forth unto my blog, feeding my ego and giving my childhood dreams of being admired for my writing some luster. Yea, it would maketh me a minor god amongst bloggers, or so I had imagined.

But when I do survey that list of blog entries I can’t help thinking that they are remarkably dull. Like the sparrows of the blogging world, they are safe and drab and attract nothing more than a passing glance. The blogosphere is full of mad blogs and interesting thought patterns, so why does the Freshly Pressed list sound like something a rabid Oprah fan would choose? (No respect to the Queen of the Talk Show: I take minor offence with her followers who seem to absorb all of her opinions rather than form their own. The refrain of “I saw it on Oprah” usually preludes the kind of conversation that makes buttered bread look like an olfactory feast.)

Today’s FP blogs include: rhubarb recipes, travel in China, photos of Prague, some unicyclers, a timid religious book review on meat-eating (this person thinks god will cure global warming and eliminate factory farming), art, events and books. Yesterday’s choices included “Do people mispronounce your name?” and “Paper bag mailer tutorial.” Nothing politically controversial, or even left of centre. It is a middle-class blogging nightmare that makes 1984 seem appealing because at least the bland amongst us couldn’t post.

Do I want to be counted amongst these people? No, not any more. I blog about things far more exciting than recipes or “my summer holiday in Venice” which is hardly the kind of fascinating material that blogs can often provide. There are incredible science, art, literature and personal blogs out there that really show up the blandness of the Freshly Pressed list. Perhaps there is an arbitrary algorithm that picks the blogs according to their varying levels of safeness and domesticity, or maybe there’s just one person who really does like to read about what recipes people think are positively delightful.

There are over 377,000 bloggers on WordPress. That’s a lot of bloggers to choose from. But its so rare that I land on the WordPress home page and actually click through to the blogs they suggest. And when I do decide to visit a blog, the writing is so drab as to make porridge practically sparkle with originality in comparison. With so many blogs to choose from, how is it that the same boring topics keep showing up? What about a blog on abortion? Or the misconception that Twitter actually had anything to do with the Arab Spring revolutions? Cracked.com provides blogs a thousand times better and it isn’t even a blogging site. But no, we get people writing about how to be a better writer (ugh) or “I like made this awesome blueberry crumble and everyone was like soooo happy”.

I’ve said it before: blogging is one of the most fantastic ways to say something constructive and brilliant, even if it is about a TV show or standing in a queue. I know not everyone is a great writer, but that’s not the issue here. The point is that WordPress is not showcasing the best blogging it could. It is sticking to safe, boring blogs that do not reflect the amazing potential of the blogosphere. They’re probably doing it because they can’t risk any kind of controversy knocking out their ad-revenue. Admittedly a great number of viewers on the internet are conservative, but not everyone is. In the great democracy of the web, I just think it would speak better to the WordPress team if something a bit more interesting than people’s arts and crafts showed up on that landing page.

5 Quick Writing Rules

Tally directed me to this list about writing, and I decided that it would be a totally expected of me to blog about it. So I did.

Here are my rules for writing, and I don’t know if they will always serve me well. I hope they will.

1. Its a waste of time trying to please anyone.

I will always write what suits me. To this date, it has involved pirates, mechas, feminism, atheism, vegetarianism, martial arts and a lot of ‘dammits’ thrown in. My friends who have read my writing are still my friends, and they know they don’t have to read it if they don’t want to. So, I still write for myself.

2. Writing for money is like throwing bottles in the ocean

Because so few authors can actually live off their writing, and because I don’t really write anything marketable, I am happy to write for the sake of writing. Hence, the blog.

3. If you haven’t pissed someone off, you’re doing it wrong.

That sums up my more vitriolic writings. People have to think about something in order to get angry about it. I used to get angry at vegetarians. Now I am one. So guess who won.

4.  Writing is wonderful solipsism, and totally acceptable.

In my laptop, there are thousands of words, creating worlds and people I like to spend time with. By adding more details to both, I can maximise my personal pleasure. If it makes me happy, maybe it’ll make someone else happy.

5. Read like its chocolate and sex

I love reading. I read through all the articles I can, and seek constant information. More often than not, it gets me going on my own writing. That includes everything from lists on the internet to my friends’ writing to newspaper articles to traditional novels. Even if its crap writing, it still provides a lesson. And even if it was written by someone amazing, its still something to aspire to.

Writing, more simply, is something that has to be in the blood, and it still keeps me sane and expressive. It is the medium through which I record my life and thoughts and joys, and without it I might be in a great deal of mental agony. Its never been about the money, not really. Because if it was, I wouldn’t be writing what I do. Like everything else in my life, my writing is about me. I know its shameful narcissism, but obnoxious honesty is still better than spineless modesty, and all I can hope for is that other people enjoy my writing. But if they don’t, and even if no one ever agrees to pay me for it, its still mine.

PS: Thank you to everyone who does read my special brand of writing. In a large part, you keep me from getting too far up my own arse or too far down the rabbit hole. Deeply appreciated.

The Nanowrimo Shop of Horrors

There is no doubt that Nanowrimo is a word to be feared, even if it does sound like something that happens to people who put their fingers inside paper shredders.

I am currently sitting on just over 43k. I have 5 days left to write 7k more. Of those 5 days, I am losing the weekend. And I’m blogging instead of writing. (And they are very different acts, I assure you.) I can see the end, and I have at least scratched down on some paper somewhere how I think its going to end, pseudo-meaningful epiphany for main character included, but goddammit it feels like I’m trying to wring AB- out of a rock. Or Mick Jagger.

Basically, what I attempted (and I do feel that is the most appropriate word) is a prequel to the Tatsumaki Cluster Fuck (TCF). Enter all the characters alive and slightly less deranged than they all become in Ship Song and Still A Captain. Essentially, the TCF is a study in madness. Several characters either descend into it and never come back out of it or are touched by it at some point. Those who are au fait with the series will know what I mean. The prequel is an attempt to study the roots of their later madness. And work in some sex scenes. (There are two. Yay? Maybe, I don’t know.)

I’ve only sent it to one person in its horrible, unedited form. Poor Caitlin will likely wonder why she ever enjoyed my writing, and I send my condolences to her abused eyes and briefly-tortured mind.

And its all Tallulah’s fault anyway. This was her bad idea.

But it hasn’t been an entirely bad idea though. I have enjoyed watching the little nano counter rack up the words as I raced to meet each daily deadline, and sometimes scream past it. If anything, I am grateful that I know have a big, fat draft. It would probably be best to combine it with the first one and make it a weighty tome. And give it some semblance of a plot. Because it seems to be a series of disconnected events with a very thin underlying thread better not probed too much for fear it snaps. There’s a lot of adventure, a great deal more drinking than necessary that gives it a Raymond Carver kind of feel and some interesting combinations of words and expletives. And some sex, did I mention that? Well, one is three-quarters of a love scene. The other is a long, drawn-out lovemaking scene dripping with sentimentality. I was fighting to make word-count that day, and writing dripping sex scenes comes easily to me.

So, with some grind during work and in the evenings after training and when everyone goes to sleep this weekend during the last big sleepover of the year, I will hopefully finish and get me that print voucher. I am contemplating using it to print the monster-sized Dojo Heroes. I am fond of it, and no publishing house would ever touch it. Who would be interested in a copy?

In any case, I have some websites to fix and then some serious writing to do. Light a candle for me, if it seems I’m fading.

The Battle Continues

As many of you may, or may not know, Graham and I are writing a book. Not just any book, but what we hope to be the definitive atheist handbook and reference guide. At least, the best one in Africa, looking towards Dawkins, Hitchen and Harris for guides.

As such, we are collecting articles about atheists, atheism and the non-religious battle and often come across numerous interesting titbits. Gaze upon the awesomeness of hackers in action here: Evangelists Hacked Off. Now, there will be the invariable bleating about ‘wah the evangelists are entitled to spread their word’. But let’s look at the nature of evangelical christianity. Who can doubt that it is nothing but a money-spinner? These falsely charismatic priests are often flashy and expensively-dressed, and often prey upon the poor. After all, atheism is something more often found amongst the rich, who have no need to hope that an imaginary friend will help them make money. So, the evangelists often exist to prey upon the frustrations and ignorance of those who simply can’t imagine letting go of Mr Jesus. Also, one has to wonder where they get the money from for a huge conference in very expensive Cape Town. Carbon footprint much?

Evangelism also suggests a more aggressive christianity. (I wish spellchecker would stop trying to capitalise that word. I refuse to do so until it tells me to write atheists with a capital A.) The following comment was attached to the hacker article:

“The growing war against Christianity, morals, respect and decency”, he says. Add to this the current Pope’s frankly ill-informed comment:

“Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where his existence is denied? If the human creature’s relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the ‘final authority,’ and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.” (Pope Blames Atheists for Global Warming)

Wait, what? When we deny god, we burn baby rabbits? What’s going on here? Was it not the Bible that gave dominion of the environment to man (not humankind, because remember we live in a patriarchal world)  and initiated centuries of animal abuse and environmental degradation? ‘God gave it to us, neener neener’ seems to be the response. And yes, I was at a braai, and three christians told me they could eat pork chops and lamb because god said so. (I thought pork was banned, but anyway.) This was not the best argument, and as one can imagine, they lost that one.

Atheists are apparently amoral and godless and therefore violent. Considering that atheists aren’t bombing anyone in the name of no one, please consider the following list of current religious wars and combat zones:

Current Wars:

Afghanistan:……Extreme, radical Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist groups, non-Muslims. Osama bin Laden heads a terrorist group called Al Quada (The Source) whose headquarters were in Afghanistan. They were protected by, and integrated with, the Taliban dictatorship in the country. The Northern Alliance of rebel Afghans, Britain and the U.S. attacked the Taliban and Al Quada, establishing a new regime in part of the country. The fighting continues.

Bosnia:……Serbian Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholic), Muslims. Fragile peace is holding, due only to the presence of peacekeepers.

Côte d’Ivoire:……Muslims, Indigenous, Christian. Following the elections in late 2000, government security forces “began targeting civilians solely and explicitly on the basis of their religion, ethnic group, or national origin. The overwhelming majority of victims come from the largely Muslim north of the country, or are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants…”
A military uprising continued the slaughter in 2002.

Cyprus:……Christians, Muslims. The island is partitioned,creating enclaves for ethnic Greeks (Christians) and Turks (Muslims). A UN peace keeping force is maintaining stability.

East Timor:……Christians, Muslims. A Roman Catholic country. About 20% of the population died by murder, starvation or disease after they were forcibly annexed by Indonesia (mainly Muslim). After voting for independence, many Christians were exterminated or exiled by the Indonesian army and army-funded militias in a carefully planned program of genocide and religious cleansing. The situation is now stable.

India:……Animists, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs. Various conflicts that heat up periodically producing loss of life.

Indonesia, province of Ambon:……Christians, Muslims. After centuries of relative peace, conflicts between Christians and Muslims started during 1999-JUL in this province of Indonesia. The situation now appears to be stable.

Iraq:……Kurds, Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims, western armed forces. By mid-2006, a small scale civil war, primarily between Shiite and Sunni Muslims started. The situation appears to be steadily degenerating.

Kashmir:……Hindus, Muslims. A chronically unstable region of the world, claimed by both Pakistan and India. The availability of nuclear weapons and the eagerness to use them are destabilizing the region further. Thirty to sixty thousand people have died since 1989.

Kosovo:……Serbian Orthodox Christians, Muslims. Peace enforced by NATO peacekeepers. There is convincing evidence of past mass murder by Yugoslavian government (mainly Serbian Orthodox Christians) against ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslim).

Kurdistan:……Christians, Muslims. Assaults on Christians (Protestant, Chaldean Catholic, Assyrian Orthodox).

Macedonia:……Macedonian Orthodox Christians, Muslims. Muslims (often referred to as ethnic Albanians) engaged in a civil war with the rest of the country who are primarily Macedonian Orthodox Christians. A peace treaty has been signed. Disarmament by NATO is complete.

Middle East:……Jews, Muslims, Christians. The peace process between Israel and Palestine suffered a complete breakdown. This has resulted in the deaths of thousands, in the ratio of three dead for each Jew.  Major strife broke out in 2000-SEP. Major battle in Lebanon during mid-2006. No resolution appears possible.

Nigeria:……Christians, Animists, Muslims. Yourubas and Christians in the south of the country are battling Muslims in the north. Country is struggling towards democracy after decades of Muslim military dictatorships.

Northern Ireland:……Protestants, Catholics. After 3,600 killings and assassinations over 30 years, some progress has been made in the form of a ceasefire and an independent status for the country.

Pakistan:……Suni, Shi’ite Muslims. Low level mutual attacks.

Philippines:……Christians, Muslims. A low level conflict between the mainly Christian central government and Muslims in the south of the country has continued for centuries.

Russia,Chechnya:……Russian Orthodox Christians, Muslims. The Russian army attacked the breakaway region. Many atrocities have been alleged on both sides. According to the Voice of the Martyrs: “In January 2002 Chechen rebels included all Christians on their list of official enemies, vowing to ‘blow up every church and mission-related facility in Russia’.”

South Africa:……Animists, “Witches”. Hundreds of persons, suspected and accused as witches practicing black magic, are murdered each year.

Sri Lanka:……Buddhists, Hindus. Tamils (a mainly Hindu 18% minority) are involved in a war for independence since 1983 with the rest of the country (70% Sinhalese Buddhist). Hundreds of thousands have been killed. The conflict took a sudden change for the better in 2002-SEP, when the Tamils dropped their demand for complete independence. The South Asian Tsunami in 2004-DEC induced some cooperation. The situation in mid-2006 is degenerating.

Sudan:……Animists, Christians, Muslims. Complex ethnic, racial, religious conflict in which the Muslim regime committed genocide against both Animists and Christians in the south of the country. Slavery and near slavery were practiced. A ceasefire was signed in 2006-MAY between some of the combatants. Warfare continues in the Darfur region, primarily between a Muslim militia and Muslim inhabitants.

Thailand:……Buddhists, Muslims. Muslim rebels have been involved in a bloody insurgency in southern Thailand — a country that is 95% Buddhist. The army has seized power and has agreed to talks with the rebels.

Tibet:……Buddhists, Communists. Country was annexed by Chinese Communists in late 1950′s. Brutal suppression of Buddhism continues.

Uganda:…. Animists, Christians, Muslims. Christian rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army are conducting a civil war in the north of Uganda. Their goal is a Christian theocracy whose laws are based on the Ten Commandments. They abduct, enslave and/or rape about 2,000 children a year.

Source: http://justsaynotoreligion.com/religious-wars/

Still waiting for a war funded and conducted by atheists.

My point is (and I do have one) is that christians and others refuse to acknowledge their complicity in global war, climate damage, animal cruelty and the suppression of human beings. Instead, everything gets blamed on atheists and atheism. While there are probably some mean atheists out there, there is absolutely no doubt that there are very many bad religious people out there. This article gives even more reasons just to oppose the Catholic Church, and does it well.

I wouldn’t mind so much if religious people accepted that they are part of a group of people who use a god (or gods) to motivate war, jihad and genocide. If I saw more christians and muslims and assorted other religious groups actually condemning the actions of their groups a bit louder, maybe we could have a dialogue. But all there is is tacit approval or silence. Too much bleating of  ‘but we’re peaceful muslims!’ There aren’t enough Catholics boycotting their churches because of Ratzinger’s defence of paedophiles, and 100,000 muslims were willing to march to call for Salman Rushdie’s death over a book that was not that inflammatory. These are not the actions of moral people.

Atheists are becoming a marginalised group, but we aren’t willing to turn to arms to defend ourselves. We don’t want to be as bad as the people that blame us for everything from global warming to nuclear war. So, we are using the internet, literature and documentaries as our places of defence. It is our hope that we can offer an alternative that does not allow violence in the name of an imaginary friend. So, I would like to add my blog to the peaceful movement that is atheism, and I look forward to a day when people stop looking at me funny just because I refuse to bow and scrape before Mr Jesus.