April 27, 2012

My Most Read Piece

In the picture to the left you can see one of the things I wrote for the day job. Technically, I got paid more for it than I've ever seen in an entire year of writing fiction. It's had the highest print run of anything I've ever written and more people have read it than my most popular work.

It's also the sole piece of writing I wish no one had to read at all.

If there's any comfort to be found in the work, it's simply that I've written something that in some way mattered. It's all I've ever wanted to do.

April 17, 2012

The Hunter From The Woods

I just pre-ordered the trade edition of Robert McCammon's The Hunter From The Woods from Subterranean Press. I would have preferred one of the nicer, signed editions that were previously released, but they were a little out of my price range.

I've been a fan of McCammon for a long time. Mystery Walk is one of my all-time favorite horror novels. I always believed Swan Song was a much more successful, and ultimately fulfilling, novel than Stephen King's The Stand. And Boy's Life is one of the most magical and wonderful books I've ever read. Period.

Then there's The Wolf's Hour. Nowadays the idea of a werewolf James Bond fighting Nazis may not seem all that original, but I vividly remember discovering McCammon's book when I was a kid and being blown away by the horror-romance/spy-action-adventure/thriller hybrid. The return of Michael Gallatin looks to be just as exciting:

"The Hunter from the Woods marks the much-anticipated return of Michael Gallatin, the lycanthropic hero of Robert McCammon's 1989 classic, The Wolf's Hour. These all-new, interlinked stories offer a full measure of McCammon's trademark narrative excitement, and comprise a fascinating composite portrait of a unique fictional creation.

The volume opens with a pair of brief glimpses into Michael's early life in Russia and his initial recruitment into the British Secret Service. It ends with a haunting vision of the werewolf at twilight. In between, McCammon gives us three stellar novellas depicting different phases of Michael's long, brutal war against Nazi Germany. 'Sea Chase' is a nautical tale about the hazards of transporting a defecting German scientist to a place of sanctuary in England. 'The Wolf and the Eagle' is the account of an unlikely friendship between rival 'men of action' and a harrowing portrayal of a lethal forced march through the North African desert. 'The Room at the Bottom of the Stairs' tells of an impossible, ultimately tragic love affair set in the embattled city of Berlin during the latter stages of the war.

 Erotic, visceral, and filled with moments of desolating horror and unexpected warmth, The Hunter from the Woods is a triumph of imaginative storytelling. Like the best of McCammon's earlier work, it offers intelligent, world-class entertainment. In the process, it shines a welcome new light on one of the most uncommon heroes in contemporary fiction."

April 13, 2012

Matt Hilton's Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol. 1

Really looking forward to reading Matt Hilton'sAction: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol. 1 when it comes out. I would love to submit something for it, especially something a little different than what I usually write, I'm just not sure I have the time before submissions close.

But I'd encourage you to check out the details and send your best two-fisted tale.

April 10, 2012

The Female Template

We have the Mass Effect games but haven't played them yet. Apparently, besides crafting a terrible ending to the series, BioWare skimped on the option to play a female Commander Shepherd (the hero of the series.)  "Ms. Effect: The Rise of FemShep" by Richard Corbett argues that it's a good thing, that BioWare's apathy in making a female hero, inadvertently created "a powerful, non-sexualised, mature hero for a modern sci-fi story."

The article is worth a read even if you are not familiar with the Mass Effect franchise or don't play video games. As a writer, this section struck me:
"There are good reasons for this. Writers (of both genders) often struggle to write good female characters, at least in part because so many of them have been done badly. One of the biggest hang-ups is that 'male' is traditionally treated as as the generic template, with female-ness treated as something extra. Look at cartoon animals. More often than not, the males will simply be shown as funny animals, while the females are identified with bows, dresses and breasts.

The same applies throughout the English language. The word 'hero' conveys nothing specifically about the subject being a man - and of course, 'heroes' can be a group of either. 'Heroine' on the other hand is explicitly femine [sic]. All this leads to the unfortunate, but all-too-common double standard that while a man gets the luxury of being a collection of assorted, variably important traits, a woman is a woman first, and her traits defined through that lens.

At least part of Shepard's appeal is that she doesn't suffer from this. She is a woman, and that plays obvious roles in her relationships and the occasional ill-advised alien quip, but it's her other traits that take centre stage - her strength, her resolve, her commanding presence, and her status as Earth's greatest champion."
There are two very common failings you see when a male author writes a female character. Either the character ends up as a man with tits or as a hypersexualized fantasy. I've tried in my own writing to be conscious of those two mistakes. I think part of it comes from years of table-top gaming. Before I ever played in a group with a female player, every now and again, one of the guys would decide to play a "chick" and it was always painful to watch.

However, I've never thought about how easy it is fall into the idea of "male" as default template and female as an extra that in turn defines every other trait about the character. The next time I write a story, I'm going to try to create a character first and a woman second.
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