Friday, June 30, 2017

Are you PulpRev?

A fierce warrior canters his stallion before the men and women of his clan on the field of battle. His hair blows in the wind as a divine discarnate crescendo builds.

“Sons and daughters of fantasy and science fiction, I am PulpRev.” He exudes stoicism and competency.

A clansmen counters, “PulpRev is a titan, at least 7 feet tall.”

“Aye, I’ve heard. PulpRev topples corporate leviathans like chaffs of wheat with a single arc of his mighty blade. I’ve heard that modern fantasy fans are driven raving mad with passion from locking sight with the blazing rays that emanate from the eyes of PulpRev. Modern science fiction fans are wracked with screams of glory at the mere sound of his approaching footsteps. Yet I assure you I AM PulpRev. And while the tales of my exploits may be exaggerated, those exaggerations shall stand as prophecy. Will you join me and become PulpRev? Will you forswear the tyranny of legacy publishers? Will you fight their vice grip on the publishing industry, which authorizes only a miserly, feeble sputtering trickle of FUN to pass through its gates?

“But how? What is it to be PulpRev?” asked another young member of the gathered crowd.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

BAD HABITS: The Bait-And-Switch.

THE SCENE: An Egyptian ruin. Ancient pillars and statues are covered in thick dust. All is still. A woman descends on a rope. She is the TOMB RAIDER, Lara Croft, an adventurer from a video game, now for the first time on the big screen.

As she walks through the tomb her eyes light on a diamond of unusual size. Her gamble has paid off. The treasure is found. But wait! As she approaches, a light sweeps her face. It is no natural reflection. It as a ROBOT. It brings justice to those who would disturb the dead.

Miss Croft draws her pistols. The Robot spins up its saw arms.They battle across the tomb, smashing priceless artifacts, toppling the ancient pillars. The Robot seems to ignore her bullets, and it is frighteningly strong, even after she has dropped a plinth on it.

There is a lull. They face each other, and charge. The Robot is too strong. It pins her to the ground, its sawblades inches from her face. A final surge of strength, and she escapes, climbs to the Robot's back, rips at its cables, bashes it with the butt of her pistol, and it finally collapses, only to rise as she approaches the diamond and -

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pulp Craftsman's Toolbox - The Page Outline

The Page Outline is a planning and storytelling structure that I have developed over the last few years to rocket-boost myself over the wanna-be writer hump and into genuine productivity. The inspiration for it arises from last minute seat of my pants essay writing methods I developed in college over a decade ago, revived and repurposed to defeat my two greatest writing foes. I hope that it will help to defeat yours.
I have experimented with both the heavily outlined and seat-of-your-pants styles of writing, and wind up with problems doing either of them. If I heavily outline a story, I lose myself in needless minutiae that feels like writing but ultimately contributes nothing to the finished piece. If I run by the seat of my pants the story drags and dissipates into a meaningless haze without fire or direction.
This technique attempts to resolve both of these issues while training myself and others to put (and finish) story first. You may use whatever story structure you prefer, though my preference is for a hybrid Lester Dent Pulp Master Plot with elements of the East Asian Ki-sho-ten-ketsu structure, which I will elaborate on later. It is a simple tool, but one which has provided me fantastic results. I will explain both the external (work affecting) and internal (psychology affecting) elements of each stage.

Monday, June 26, 2017

M is for Monstrous Manual: Aboleth

One of the most appealing aspects of Dungeons & Dragons has been the deep variety of monsters that could be encountered by players. With a franchise that has spanned over 40 years and 5-ish editions (stuff like various versions of Basic D&D and even Pathfinder blur the lines) means that a LOT of monsters have accrued, and where they come from is often as wild as how they got there, and I really want to take some time and delve into some of the more iconic, interesting, and flat-out weird monsters populating D&D and look at how and why they found their way in.

The question is, of course, where do you start? I'll be using the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual (1993) for two reasons: 1) It is a beautifully laid out bestiary with detailed entries for ecology and culture in addition to stats that really helps give the monsters personality, and 2) AD&D 2e was the edition that I was most exposed to growing up and have the most fondness for, so MUH SECOND EDITION works for me. Its just a jumping off point, since I'll look at how they are in other editions.

My Winding Road To PulpRev

I wasn't always a science fiction and fantasy reader. Despite what my bibliography says, in some ways I still am not. At least, not the kind of reader most SFF is aimed at.
As a child I read voraciously, but I was always drawn to world myths, folklore and fairy tales. One day I would read about how a boy and a girl outmatched Baba Yaga with kindness and intelligence; the next I saw Thor slaying Jormungandr and in turn dying from the world serpent's venom; the day after I witnessed Krishna opening his mouth to his human mother Yashoda to reveal the entire universe. These were tales of courage and cowardice, sin and virtue, heartbreak and sacrifice, duty and destiny.

Friday, June 23, 2017

PROSE THAT FLOWS: Straighten Out Your Sentences


This is writing advice, real nitpicky writing advice, but the kind you don't see enough. Obviously. People still do this. They don't even know what's wrong. Maybe you're doing it. Tell me which which sentence scans faster:

I ducked into the alleyway, squeezed off a few shots, and vaulted over a fence.

I ducked into the alleyway and, squeezing off a few shots, vaulted over a fence.

The first sentence is the correct answer. Action is presented as it happens, and the reader follows the chain of events smoothly through time. The second sentence isn't the same. The commas are corrupted, no longer gentle angels of mercy separating units of thought but wicked devils that stutter the action until the sentence is about fence-vaulting with an aside, if you'll take the time to read it, about firing a gun. The flow is broken.

This is huge with inexperienced authors. They cling to their tone-deaf subordinate clauses. I don't know why. Maybe I used to. Sure, you can make up for it in other areas. You don't have to. You can write sentences where things happen in sequence and action is not caged in corrupted commas of filth. The human brain processes prose just like it processes speech, almost exactly, and if it don't flow out loud it won't be prose that flows.

If you cripple your sentences with awkward flow it's your fault if your story can't fly. Don't be cruel to your dreams. Take off the hobbles and write the prose that flows.