More Tabletop RPG

It has begun. Again. Sort of.

Remember how a while ago I talked about getting into tabletop role-playing? Well, that didn’t materialize quite as expected. That is, until now. My world has come together. It is beautiful, complex, and massive in scope. It is filled to the brim with intriguing, self-interested characters, spanning the scope of good and evil and every shade of grey in between. And, perhaps most importantly, we’re using a simpler system that I can pretty easily run on my own.

I just did a bit of a test run to determine how well I could handle the system (New World of Darkness, it’s called) on my own. And I got to experience the joy of flying by the seat of my pants.

I’ll set the scene for you. We have our two player characters. To avoid bogging this down in world-specific terminology, I’ll stick to layman’s terms. So the player characters: one of them is a northerner (from a culture analagous to that of the Vikings) and one of them is a southerner. Already you are beginning to see the vast complexity of my world! So the northerners and southerners don’t like each other all that much. There’s plenty of them living together, but tensions, because their people have warred off-and-on for years, until a recently agreed-upon truce put an end to the fighting for good (for now). Our characters don’t care too much about their differing nationalities, and so they get together to go a-questing.

To avoid arousing any suspicion, the northerner disguises himself for the journey, as they are traveling in southerner lands. At this point, all of my ideas were used up. I realized with a small amount of (well-hidden) panic that I had no idea what to do next. So I improvised. “You see a burning church,” I told the players. Of course, they wanted to investigate. “Um…” I said, “The town has been abandoned, but some people were staying in this chapel before vandalizing it.” They decided to look around the town.

At this point, I was struck by the notion that, since my players both appeared to be southerners, I could have some xenophobic northerners attack them. My plan was for them to discover that these men were only attacking them because they supposed them to be vile men of the south, at which point my northern player character could attempt to talk his way out of the situation. My dream did not materialize. My players aren’t that type of dudes. So they just smashed the skulls of their antagonists, took their shit, and continued their journey.

I know, it doesn’t seem like much. But it was fun as hell to do some on-the-spot storytelling, and I remembered why I became so interested in writing and developing fantasy stories in the first place. The opportunity for exploration, both of character personalities and the strange and unknown world that surrounds them, is incredibly appealing to me. I even had the last brigand to die say something along the lines of “You damn southerners…” just before expiring. Even though the players didn’t get to experience the full depth of the situation I had laid out for them, I loved just knowing that there was possibility there. There was the option to learn something more about my world and the people that inhabit it, and sometimes it’s those tiny, almost unnoticed hints that make a place seem real.

So that was my first experience GM’ing a tabletop RPG session. I had a blast, and I’m only disappointed that I didn’t learn about this delightfully dorky activity sooner in my life. One more test run and then we’re all gonna gather, including my lovely girlfriend (she’s cool like that), and start the gears turning on a real story.

Oh, and I even got my own set of dice. These ones, in fact:

Black and gold, son!

So now I’m a real RPG (Role-playin’ Gangsta).

Keep creating your own worlds and stories, folks. And even when it’s fantasy, always keep it real. Peace out.

 

 

Being a Man

Is part of being a man doing things that you don’t enjoy?

I’ve been mulling this over lately. There’s a certain perception that men should do classically manly things. Even small things that you might not think of. Drinking black coffee, for example. How many TV shows have you seen where the wannabe pussy-man orders some fru-fru coffee drink with four sugars and plenty of cream–or, in this modern heyday of Starbucks and its own brand of coffee culture, some kind of soy latte frappa-whatever-cini? Right? And then the manly men on the show, usually characters with whom our sadly feminine main character is trying to gain masculine acceptance, all laugh in his face as they drink their burning hot black coffees and smoke their unfiltered cigarettes. Because that’s what men do.

So why is that? I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a huge fan of black coffee. But for a while I tried to be. I assumed that it was more mature to like black coffee, and so I tried to condition myself to liking it. A good friend of mine is a stout believer in the virtues of black coffee, and I have to wonder if he initially liked the taste, or if he had to learn to appreciate it. Because of course it’s possible to come to like something. But why? Why do we strive to appreciate things because we’re supposed to appreciate them?

You know how I like my coffee? With lots and lots of cream. Heavy cream or half & half and, again, absolute tons of it. I just finished my second cup today, and I made sure to add even more cream the second time around because the first time the coffee was still vaguely coffee-colored, and that ain’t the way I like it. And I’ve only learned to like it this way after having started a low carb diet that doesn’t allow me to add sugar to my coffee. And guess what? I put some artificial sweetener in the other day, and holy damn it was delicious. Sweet coffee tastes good, and I’m not really sure why I find it hard to acknowledge that.

It’s not just coffee, either. My girlfriend got me a pipe for my birthday, because I’m the type of prematurely old and cantankerous weirdo who would love to receive a pipe as a gift. And–thank God–I really enjoy smoking it. The smoke tastes and smells nice, there’s a level of simple but satisfying skill to pipe smoking that appeals to me, and it looks super cool. But I’m fairly confident that, even if I’d hated smoking the pipe at first, I’d have stuck with it until I enjoyed it, because to my mind it seems to be the sort of thing a growed-ass man should enjoy. The kind of thing you could offer a less virile friend to try, and then laugh with satisfied smugness when he spluttered and coughed, confident that you had won the manly day.

The list goes on, too. Whiskey is another obvious one. I like whiskey. I’m a big fan of bourbon, in particular. I like bourbon and coke. I like bourbon straight. I like Manhattans. But I’m pretty certain that I didn’t really like it when I first tasted it. I’ve come to like it and appreciate it now, and I feel like a straight up boss every time I drink it.

But what’s the use, really?

I read some comments online about dieting recently that brought these thoughts to my mind. The question posed was something along the lines of, “What should I use to sweeten my food?” and the low-carb advocate’s response was, “Why do you need to sweeten food? I encourage to learn to appreciate the way food tastes.”

I read that and thought, yeah! You totally should learn to appreciate the taste of food without sweeteners.

Then I stepped back a moment and analyzed my reaction.

Wait, what? Why? Why should you feel pressured to like something that, upon first experiencing it, you don’t enjoy? Of course it’s possible to learn to like something, and liking more things is good, generally speaking. But who says that you can’t dislike things? Especially as an adult. It’s accepted that kids are picky, but once you become a man you’re supposed to like manly things? Shouldn’t adulthood be the point where you no longer have to pretend to like shit? Shouldn’t a tall, bearded son-of-a-bitch be the last person to have to like certain things?

Of course, you can’t blame it all on the pressure to seem manly. There are plenty of things we do once we grow up that we don’t really enjoy, but feel are appropriate to do. If we’re lucky we learn to enjoy them. “Yes, I train Muay Thai. Hm? No, it doesn’t hurt to get hit in the face. It’s awesome! What’s that? Oh yes, I like to wind down after sparring with a glass of Scotch and a cigar, followed by a drunken walk in the woods, avoiding clearly marked trails at all costs, of course.”

Well, guess what? I don’t like getting punched in the face, and I ought to be able to admit that. I don’t like Scotch. I do like the woods, true. And I do like cigars. But I don’t like having to learn to like things that rub me the wrong way, even if I do so anyway.

So here’s to being your own version of manly, womanly, or whatever you want to be.

And here’s to coffee with sugar (or Equal) and lots of cream. Because face it–black coffee tastes like a kick in the teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Success

So… It’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here, huh? I use the word minute figuratively, of course, because it has in fact been months. And I would simply say, “I won’t mention it if you don’t mention it,” if I didn’t know you better. Let’s not kid ourselves, after all. We both know that you wouldn’t be able to resist bringing up the time I went months without posting on the blog. You just can’t help yourself, can you?

Well, whatever. I’ll let bygones be bygones. Being the bigger person here. Plus, you knew what you were in for when you read the About page. I made no promises of constancy, consistency, or anything vaguely resembling blog activity when I set out on this venture. All I promised you was a handful of rambling, focus-less posts. And boy, are you in luck today!

Because I’d like to talk about a movie I saw recently. And if you’ve read this blog at all, and know what kind of fiction I read and write, you can probably guess what movie I saw.

That’s right: Jack Reacher.

Kidding, kidding. It was The Hobbit, of course, and my reaction to the film is actually a lot more positive than it sounds. Ready?

I am less disappointed than I expected to be.

Now, like I mentioned above, that doesn’t sound like high praise. But let me explain. You see, The Hobbit is one of my all-time favorite stories. I haven’t read it through in a while now, and it’s not one of those books that have on a constant reread cycle. But I count it as the first book that truly left its mark on me. In Elementary school, I was a quick and gifted reader, but I didn’t really love books. They told me that I read at the level of a college freshman when I was in fourth grade, and despite how proud I was of that esteem, I didn’t take full advantage. I could comprehend books just fine, but I only read when I had to. The Hobbit changed that for me.

I picked it up after hearing about the upcoming Lord of the Rings movies. Even then, I was the type of kid who had to start at the beginning to feel that I’d gotten the most out of anything (I still do this with bands, TV shows, and book series today). So my mom bought me The Hobbit, which I was determined to read before getting into The Lord of the Rings proper. My copy had beautiful, detailed illustrations, and I was grabbed immediately by Tolkien’s vivid, grandfatherly style of storytelling. And I still look back on that book with more than just fondness, because it’s a style of storytelling that isn’t often seen in fiction anymore. It’s not every author who can write a story and instantly transport the reader to a warm oversized chair by a fire with the first words. But The Hobbit has that power.

So you can understand why it was with some considerable trepidation that I approached Peter Jackson’s film adaptation, especially with all the negative things I’d heard already. I had heard that it was bloated and unnecessarily drawn out (the adaptation was initially announced to be one film, and then two, and then a ridiculous three). I had heard that it was filled with obvious CGI and corny 3D gimmicks. And, of course, I had heard that it was a totally unneeded attempt to cash in on the success of the first three Lord of the Rings films. I was feeling a familiar, Phantom-Menace-esque lump in my throat at the thought. And, to cap it all off, Patrick Rothfuss, whose writing I love and who has led me to many other great books and films in the past through his blog, publicly stated that he would not be seeing the movie because of these factors.

So, again, I was not expecting much. But I think those low expectations saved the experience for me. In the end, strange as it sounds, I was pleasantly surprised to be unexpectedly un-disappointed. I’d spent so much time before the film bracing myself for absolute garbage that, when the time finally came to plonk myself down in the theater, I was able to have a really good time with the film.

I’ll break it down, briefly.

Being the geek that I am, I was particularly susceptible to all the random bits of nostalgia-inducing fan service throughout the movie. When the tale began with Tolkien’s immortal lines, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”–well, when I heard those first words I immediately broke out into a smile. And the original story is that dear to me that not even my powerful inner cynic could prevent Peter Jackson from playing on my nostalgic impulses. There were plenty of little inside lines like that designed to capitalize on the fond remembrances of the initiated.

Still, it’s that same geek mentality that made me more likely to cringe at all the silly Hollywood guff, and guff there was in spades. Jackson’s ridiculously lengthy action sequences are a prime example. It was also jarring to see scenes from The Lord of the Rings repeated almost exactly in this film (Gandalf, I’m talking about you and your ever-present friend, the moth–and his ever-present friends, the giant eagles, for that matter). But I suppose it ended up cancelling out in the end, and I found myself able to look past the silliness of some moments (a sled pulled by rabbits? Really?) and appreciate the thing as a whole.

Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t perfect. Does this adaptation need to be three films long? Hell no. Did the first installment need to be almost three hours long? Absolutely not. Does it promise to measure up to the quality of the Lord of the Rings movies? Not by a long shot. But was it an enjoyable film? With all its flaws, I am still compelled to answer that question with a resounding yes. It was plenty fun, it had all the little moments and jokes from the books that you could want, and it looked pretty damn good (provided that you don’t see it in 3D).

And, fellow geeks, let’s be honest with ourselves. No one’s going to sully classic books like The Hobbit. No one has the power to do that. No matter who adapts it or how, Tolkien’s book will always be a wonderful, vintage bit of fairy-tale storytelling, always untouched by time. So just enjoy this popcorn-munching affair for what it is, and return home to your pipe, blazing hearth, well-stocked larder, and well-worn copy of the original book, knowing in your heart that Peter Jackson’s Hobbit could have been much, much worse.

I mean, at least Legolas wasn’t in this one.

 

After a Long Absence…

 
 
 

Well, this month has been kicking my ass.

I’ve been attempting NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know what that means, white people call it National Novel Writing Month. It’s a worldwide event that urges authors or, in my case, would-be authors, to attempt to write 50,000 words in one month. I tried it last year, and I was unsuccessful. This year? Well, it’s November 28th, and I’ve got about… 13,000 words. So I’d say I’m on track!

In seriousness, regardless of whether or not I meet my goal, I love doing this. It’s a great impetus to get writing, and that’s definitely something I’ve needed lately. And regardless, I’m that much closer to the end of this godforsaken book.

In other news, I’ve started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in addition to my usual Muay Thai. What’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you ask? First of all, you sound really white right now. We call it BJJ, or Jitz if you have no self-respect. But back to your question: if you’ve ever watched a UFC event, BJJ is all the gayest looking parts. It’s submission grappling, with a whole lot of time spend between another man’s legs, or tightly holding one between yours.

And I’ve bragged about this in about a half dozen formats already, but I can’t go wrong with the confidence booster here as well. Tonight, for the first time, I was able to tap a training partner, specifically with an Americana from side control.

Image

Like that. Except that in my version, the guy getting the submission outweighed his opponent by about one hundred pounds. Yeah, whatever. So I squished a smaller, weaker person using my big fat ass. This little guy managed to choke me out four times during our roll beside my one moment of success, so I’m not ashamed!

Anyway, let this not be the last post for another while. I’ll update soon with the latest in the world of writing.

Peace, y’all.

 

Guy Gavriel Kay

I just recently read Under Heaven,  a spectacular book written by this guy right here.

That smug bastard. Look at him. What’s that? Why do I sound bitter, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Under Heaven was amazing. I was mezmerized by this book. The prose, the characters, the world. It was the perfect blend of the real and the fantastic. It was a damn fine book. And it was very close to the kinds of books I’d like to write. It’s history, really. Heavily inspired by history, anyway. Kay is even more unabashed about his unrelenting borrowing of real-world fact than most. He totally understands what he’s doing in his books, and he has damn good reason for it. He writes what I want to write, albeit with a bit less snark and general rudeness.

A little about the book then.

Under Heaven is a fantasy based on the Tang period in China. In particular Kay was heavily influenced by the poetry of the time, and it shows in his writing. Not only does his book contain a fictionalized representation of the great Tang poet Li Bai, but his words and world are heavily inspired by the poetry of that same man. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, Li Bai’s poetry was the initial impetus for the writing of this book.

Kay does a lot of really cool things with his writing. He has no qualms about switching to omniscient mid-chapter, even stepping out of the time period of the story and analyzing the events of his plot from the viewpoint of his world’s future fictional historians and antiquarians. His characters are well crafted, though they seem to be more vehicles for the time period than truly inspiring personalities. Still, that’s alright in a book like this, in which much of the wonder and enjoyment is derived from the fantastic world that the characters inhabit. Kay even messes around with tense, writing his male characters in the usual third person limited past tense, and his female characters in a sometimes-omniscient third present tense, so that the actions in the female chapters have both a sense of immediacy, and a strange sense of distance. Very cool stuff that you don’t typically see in a fantasy novel.

So basically, Kay is making me look bad. Pathetic, even. This clever son of a bitch even talks about his reasons for writing historically-inspired fiction, and they’re good ones. I’ll link you now to an essay written by Mr. Kay: Home and Away. Follow that link, and read the words contained therein. Do you see? Do you see now, gentle readers? Guy Gavriel Kay writes in that essay the same things that I’ve written about on this blog, but better. This essay of his? This is how I discovered that Kay is not only a man after my own heart, but also a man I am destined to destroy. In fact, disregard my previous request: don’t read the essay on the other side of that link. Just read my thing about fantasy again and pretend that it–you know, sounds better.

I do, however, have one complaint about Under Heaven, a complaint which I shall cherish, it having prevented the creation of a near-perfect fantasy novel that would have forever dashed my hopes of creating anything of even comparable quality. It seems at times that Under Heaven, as well as Kay’s other books, perhaps take a little too much from one period and region of history. They end up feeling like direct copies of actual historical events. I’d prefer a little more of a grab-bag approach to using history in a fantastic setting. That is to say, you can evoke a period of history and realistic events/cultures/characters without borrowing exact details and merely changing some names. This isn’t to say that Kay’s approach to fantasy is incorrect, but perhaps the Martins and Abercrombies of the world are a bit more creative with the content of their fictional worlds.

Alright, that’s all for now. More updates on my first draft in a short while.

Peace.

Right in the Spleen

Another two weeks, another blog post. So it goes.

Really. That’s what it looks like it’s gonna be from here on out, at least for the duration of this school year. I can’t seem to find time to post more often than that. And I’ve got even more bad news.

I won’t be making my goal for the word count of my book. Not even close, in fact. Now I know you’ve already begun gnashing your teeth and tearing at your clothes in sympathy for my plight. But of course, this was a deliberate decision made by me, the reasons for which are twofold. One: I know that you, the countless masses, will be clamoring for many more posts about the creation of my first draft, and I can hardly provide those sustaining posts if the draft is completed. Two: I’m basically out of material at this point; once this book is finished, I’ll have nothing else to write about. So, bearing that in mind, the first draft should be completed by about the year 2050.

Now let’s talk about the book!

Sticking points are on the mind today. By now I’ve probably hit about twenty serious sticking points. You see, when you get set to write a book, it’s best to outline and develop a basic beginning, middle, and end to your story. That’s at least how I’ve gone about it. And when you have all of that laid out you might think, “Great! Now all I have to do is fill in the in-betweens.” Ha! Good luck, smart guy. How little you truly know, and how ignorant of your own ignorance you are! All the little transitions and pieces that fit between the pivotal moments of your story? They take ages to create. Sometimes two scenes really, really don’t want to join together, so you’ll spend a couple days mulling over how the hell to get from A to B. Other times you’ll realize that you don’t know how something mundane and heretofore unthought-of works (“Did they have rubber in 1890? How was a medieval tournament organized? Where does a merchant keep his wares? How the hell do taxes work? No, seriously, can someone help me with my taxes?”). So then you have to spend hours finding out how exactly to write your own story correctly.

This is where that previously mentioned writer’s perseverance has to kick in. Because this kind of thing really makes you want to quit. I’ll compare it to boxing. The exciting challenges of writing a good plot are like getting hit in the face. If you’ve never experienced it, you might think it hurts. But more than anything it makes you grit your teeth and try harder. The aforementioned sticking points, on the other hand, are like body shots. You can get hit in the face a bunch of times and still come back for more. But one unbraced-for bodyshot, and you’ll be ready to crawl meekly under the ropes and out of the ring. They make you want to quit, you see.

So yeah. I’ve been experiencing a lot of those recently. Literary body shots, man. Ouch.

But see, in the long run, it’s probably better to get hit in the body a lot than it is to have your braincase rattled on a regular basis. It’s just hard to keep that in mind when you’re in the moment. When you’re a wimp like me, you don’t realize that mostly it’s just pain, and for the most part pain won’t really stop you unless you let it. Writing stories is the same. You might prefer the challenge of creating a plot and characters, but sticking points are the hurdles that are really going to hurt in the moment. The trick is just not letting them make you quit. It’s just momentary pain, and you’ve got to push through it. Don’t walk away when things get hard. Either try your best, or get knocked out. And I’ve yet to be knocked out by a book, so I think my record is pretty good actually.

I just need to stop letting these sticking points get in my way. Are you ready to see my pitiful progress, reader? The current word count is 32,219. Not great. But we’ll set a new goal right now. Even with impending school work, I’m going to shoot for that 75,000 word goal by the end of October. Two months to write about 50,000 words. And this time, not even the hardest liver shot’s gonna turn me away.

If you want to sop me, book, you’re gonna have to knock me out. And I’d like to see you try.

Please don’t.

Personal Affairs

 

Well, I suppose I’d better write something, lest I fulfill the prediction that I (only half-seriously) made in my first ever post: that this blog would die an imminent and unremarkable death. I don’t want that. My legions of slavering fans certainly don’t want that. So I’m here, not to save the day, but at least to say some words about a subject with which I am most excellently acquainted.

Myself, of course.

Well, not just myself. Obviously I always talk about myself to some degree. Today is special, though! Today I’ll be writing to you, dear reader, about my own personal project. That’s right. I’m currently working on a book. It’s not the first time I’ve ever conceived of writing a book. It’s possibly not my best idea so far, and almost certainly not the best I’ll ever have. But I am determined to make it the first book I ever complete, and trust me–I am bound and determined to finish this one.

Talking about my book should provide a pretty substantial source of blog posts, which is of course the real reason I’m doing it. I have to keep up the veneer of activity somehow. But I suppose in the meantime it could also afford me the opportunity to talk about different aspects of storytelling that are going on in my own narrative.

I’ll talk about subversion of common fantasy tropes, and why those tropes exist in the first place. I’ll talk about the difficulties of switching points of view, and the pitfalls of inactive protagonists. And I’ll finish off every post with a wordcount. My goal is 75,000 words by the start of September, and I almost certainly won’t be making it. Hurrah!

But today, to kick us off, I would first like to talk about the reasons for which stories are written. And the reason I’m writing my own story. There are, perhaps surprisingly, differing views on this. Some believe that the theme or message of the piece is the primary measuring-stick of its value. Others believe that literary complexity determines a book’s worth. For me, however, a story should, first and foremost, entertain. Let’s get into this a little deeper, then.

I know a fellow. He’s an old man: the step-grandfather of my beautiful girlfriend, in fact. He was once an English professor, and his library consists only of books written before 1960, none of which could ever be called anything other than “a classic” or, at the very least, “fine literature.” He spits on modern books and authors which don’t aspire to his perceived zenith of literary sophistication. Not literally, as far as I know, but if anyone’s the sort to furtively open the pages of the latest Dan Brown novel in the back of the bookstore and plant a wad of saliva inside, it’s him.

Girlfriend’s step-grandfather–we’ll call him Arthur–is of the impression that, more than anything, the thematic substance and subtext of a book determine its value. If you don’t understand what I mean, let me give you an example that should clear things right up. He claims to have liked both Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake, two books renowned for being impossibly difficult to read, and certainly impossible to actually enjoy. In fact, it’s not all that unlikely that the books’ author, “James Joyce,” is nothing more than a front for a government agency tasked with uncovering the whereabouts of alien beings that look exactly like us, but don’t understand entertainment.

Arthur shuns entertainment. He even scoffs at things such as The Count of Monte Cristo for being worthless “romances,” despite the fact that The Count is a classic, thoroughly riveting tale of revenge. Who the hell doesn’t like a good revenge story? Arthur, and other alien replicants like him, is the answer. For Arthur, ill-defined mysterious qualities of questionable literary merit easily trump such paltry things as accessibility and entertainment value when it comes to the important aspects of a book. Relatable characters and a page-turning plot? No, thank you. I’d much prefer dense allegory and a touch of allusion in my book.

Well.

Then there’s another friend, whom I know from school. We’ll call him… I don’t know–Rasputin. Why not. Now Rasputin reads things for the message. He listens to music for the message. Everything has to have a message. If a book isn’t making some profound statement on the state of our fucked-up society, then it’s no good for him. All art seems only to be worth a moment of his time if it challenges authority, or subtly (or overtly, whatever) discusses the shambles that is our crumbled paradise of a world.

If my tone hasn’t tipped you off yet, I’ll condense my thoughts here: I find both of these men to be a bit silly.

Yes, that’s right. Silly bastards, the both of them. Now don’t get me wrong. Much of the best literature of our age strove to accomplish something. That’s one of the reasons that both sci-fi and fantasy are so valuable–they have the capacity to criticize our world indirectly, in such a way that the issues and arguments can be shed with new light. Just ask Kurt Vonnegut if speculative fiction can be used to say something about our own world and times.

Similarly, I’m quite fond of a lot of what is erroneously named “literary fiction,” especially of the fantasy and science fiction variety. Kurt Vonnegut, again, would have something to say about the thematic quality of his work. He’d probably say that it had none, actually, but that’s part of his genius. Ray Bradbury, for God’s sake. The man wrote Fahrenheit 451, in my opinion the best of the dystopian future novels you’re told to read in high school. Gene Wolfe, a modern master of the genre. Of course, Arthur scoffed at a book of Gene Wolfe’s and refused to read it on principle. But if you wish to read a dense, multi-layered, ambiguous, altogether literary sort of book, read Gene’s The Book of the New Sun. It’s absolutely badass.

Anyway, as I was saying. I think that these qualities are important to the overall value of literature. But my comically caricatured friends Arthur and Rasputin don’t seem to understand that stories exist for one reason primarily. Entertainment.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I don’t advise you to start work now on your novelization of Jersey Shore, or begin writing your next piece of Twilight fanfiction. Please, for the love of God, don’t. Entertainment does not mean dumbed-down schlock.

But aren’t things allowed to exist primarily for the purposes of entertainment? Are we too hip and self-aware to enjoy things, and relate to characters, and stay up late even though we have work tomorrow because the book is just too damn good? I don’t want to always sit down with a mug of tea and work my way through a classic stream-of-consciousness turd of a book. Sometimes I just want to be riveted, you know? Sometimes I want to be made to feel as much as I want to be made to think. You get me?

I mean, Harry Potter’s good, isn’t it? It speaks to people of all ages. It has relatively simply drawn, relatable characters that carry the reader through the story. It’s a page-turner, certainly. And yes, the later books were good, when the whole thing became a parallel for Nazi-era Germany and the main characters were reduced to a scrabbling band of embittered, aimless revolutionaries. Trust me, I love that kind of shit. But wasn’t the series better at the start? You know it was. It was good because it had whimsy, and charm, and it was… fun to read.

So.

I’m not writing a Harry Potter type of book. Children probably shouldn’t read the end product of my personal writing adventure, as I’m sure the content of this blog has told you. And my book has a theme, and it has, if only slightly, some intended literary merit. But I don’t ever want to forget the feeling that your first great book can give you, forcing you to lose sleep and miss meals and resent your parents for daring to pull you away from the pages. And I don’t ever want to write a book that has no chance of giving someone that amazing experience. Because that’s why stories exist. They’re powerful things, stories. And authors can do many great things with them. But in my opinion, none of those things will ever be greater than keeping someone so overwhelmingly entertained that they just can’t put the damn thing down.

Until next time.

Oh. The word count, yes. I’ll try to make this a repeat feature until the book is finished. We stand currently at 29,704 words, just 45,296 away from our goal. Wish me luck on the rest. And, as always…

Peace.