Daily Archives: December 2, 2009

A High Water Mark in the Annals of Clueless Homeowner’s Associations

Some jackass HOA tells a 90-year-old Medal of Honor winner he can’t have a flagpole in his front yard.

For laughs and giggles, here’s why Van T. Barfoot won his Medal of Honor, from the citation itself:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy. With his platoon heavily engaged during an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, 2d Lt. Barfoot (then Tech. Sgt.) moved off alone upon the enemy left flank. He crawled to the proximity of 1 machinegun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing 2 and wounding 3 Germans. He continued along the German defense line to another machinegun emplacement, and with his tommygun killed 2 and captured 3 soldiers. Members of another enemy machinegun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot.

Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17. Later that day, after he had reorganized his men and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched a fierce armored counterattack directly at his platoon positions. Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of 3 advancing Mark VI tanks. From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other 2 changed direction toward the flank. As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed 3 of them with his tommygun. He continued onward into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech.

While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted 2 of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety. Sgt. Barfoot’s extraordinary heroism, demonstration of magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire are a perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers.

Dear homeowners association: When a Medal of Honor recipient wants to have a flagpole in his front yard, you say “Yes, sir. By all means. Thank you, sir.” Because you know what? Dude’s earned that damn flagpole, and you all look like officious pricks for telling him he can’t have it because it messes with your neighborhood’s feng shui. Please get over yourselves as soon as you possibly can.

Really. This is just new levels of stupid. 90-year-old Medal of Honor recipient. Takes a special level of cluelessness to try to take away that man’s flagpole.

Black Matrix Publishing Responds

Over on the Black Matrix Publishing site. Apparently the ridicule the man’s getting for paying a pathetically low rate to his contibutors has made him defensive, which is good, but the man presumably has no intention of upping his payment rate, which is, of course, very bad indeed. Likewise I’m not especially impressed at the various very bad no good terrible attempts at “logic” the fellow uses to justify paying a rate to contributors that would embarrass a depression-era pulp editor.

Oh, and Mr. Kenyon, should you be reading this: in response to your question “I could ask when was the last time he spent roughly $4,000 in one year to authors and artists out of his own pocket,” well, as it happens, in the last couple of months I commissioned artwork for a project I’m developing and spent my own money on it: $1,000, in fact. The difference between you and me is that I paid that money to one person for a single piece of art, because that was a fair rate for the work, as opposed to, say, the $50 you propose for compensation for a book or magazine cover. You can be likewise assured that should I ever choose to pay out of my own pocket for text, that I will pay a fair rate for it, and not mewl and whine about how much money I’m spending on things other than the people without whose work I would not have the product which I hoped to sell and profit from. Your bad business planning does not justify screwing writers.

The Big Idea: J.C. Hutchins

Writers are often asked where their ideas come from, but any writer knows that coming up with ideas is only a small portion of the battle. The major portion of the writing battle is showing up — putting your butt in the chair and doing the work of getting the idea out of your head and on to the paper or monitor screen. J.C. Hutchins knows all about this: His novel 7th Son: Descent is jam-packed with ideas, but for Hutchins, the proof was in the writing — actually getting it down and seeing how all those cool ideas work in the real world. And how did they work? Hutchins will be pleased to fill you in.

J.C. HUTCHINS:

Fiction writers excel at two things: masturbation and lying.

Lying, that’s the fun part — finding the Big Idea, and then dumping gobs of sweat equity into crafting a superstructure and characters that convincingly supports it. Even when a mythology is based on facts, there’s always a clothesline upon which a writer hangs half-truths and outright lies. Invent authentic secret history and technology to accommodate, say, the conceit that human cloning has been around for at least 15 years, and you’ll get buy-in from the reader. Snag that, and you’re gold.

In contrast, masturbation passes the time, but doesn’t move the needle. Writers love to fondle those wonderful ideas they’ve yet to commit to paper. Man, it’s going to be such a good book, crammed with such great concepts . . . as soon as there’s time to write it. You even have a Moleskine notebook and pricey fountain pen and a stack of receipts as tall as a Venti Doucheacino Latte to accompany those spiffy notions. Hell, you’ve pud-pulled about your future success so much, you’ve made a playlist of the music Spielberg will use for the movie soundtrack.

When I was conceiving 7th Son: Descent back in 2001, I was a compulsive mental masturbator. My ideas weren’t entirely new, but I reckoned their presentation could be: A story set in present day in which human cloning — and the recording of a human’s memories — had been a reality for nearly 20 years. Seven men, unwitting participants in this experiment, each with identical childhood memories but unique skill sets, are assembled to stop a global threat they’re unqualified to combat. A well-funded villain so cruel he’d make Blofeld wet the bed. Stolen Russian nukes. Dangerous mindwipe tech that could make an assassin anyone or anywhere. Monster truck-sized conspiracies. Automatic gunfire. Fate Of The World stakes.

But I was all talk, no action. I was Wanky McWankerton, in love with words I’d yet to write. I did this for nearly two years. If every sperm is sacred, God wasn’t irate with me — he was effing thermonuclear.

The kick in the nads that eventually moved me from wanking to writing hinged on the villain. I knew how he would threaten the world — those nukes weren’t a red herring; they’d be used later in the story — but floundered when it came to who he’d be. I finally realized my seven everyman clone protagonists needed a villain that contrasted and enhanced their extraordinary origins. It’d up the ante for them as characters, add an emotional “this time it’s personal” angle to the story.

So I made the villain, a man code-named John Alpha, the very man they were cloned from — the man whose childhood memories they shared. This provided some great potential for emotional conflict, and would give a logical reason for the government scientists to assemble the seven clones — after all, they were armed with insights about Alpha no one else had. Further, the villain could mastermind a vendetta against the heroes and the experiment’s scientists . . . all while laying the foundation for a scheme that would decimate the world’s economy and create global chaos. My Big Idea was so big, I wound up writing a trilogy. (The publication of the sequels hinges on the sales success of 7th Son: Descent.)

Groovy. My noggin was chuggin’, but I needed a spectacular opening; a catalyst to bring the government scientists out of hiding and enlist the help of the seven clones. Aha. Murder the U.S. president, using an unlikely assassin. The mystery behind this bizarre slaying would propel the first act of the novel, introduce our heroes and readers to the crazy-ass tech that would fuel the rest of the book and series, and give me fodder for Descent’s opening lines: “The president of the United States is dead. He was murdered in the morning sunlight by a four-year-old boy. . .”

Boom. Once those words popped into my head, I started writing. While the years of concocting idea after idea was helpful, it was absolutely unsatisfying in comparison to rolling up my sleeves and crafting the tale. Lying. I got to tie up those fact-based clotheslines and hang lie after lie upon them, manufacturing secret histories and technologies that would support my Big Idea — human cloning isn’t near; it’s already here — and building characters who would react realistically to that revelation and rise to the challenge of taking down their psychopathic progenitor.

In the midst of this, I made sure each of the seven protags represented a facet of the human cloning issue. The POV blue-collar type frets over issues of identity, the priest has an intense crisis of faith, the geneticist wigs over the ethics, the insane messianic computer hacker does the Snoopy dance because he’s a living conspiracy theory, and so on.

I also saw opportunities to explore some relevant sub-topics: nature vs. nurture, classic Pandora’s Box and abuse of power stuff, the concept of “if I’d taken another life path, where would I wind up?”, etc. I tried to squeeze some character-driven gray matter in my conspiracy-soaked popcorn potboiler.

7th Son: Descent shouldn’t be in print, actually. It was rejected by agents in 2005, was released as a podcast a year later, and thanks to the support of thousands of fans, finally got on the radar at St. Martin’s. It was released in print a few weeks ago. It’s fitting that a story that was nearly never written due to all my wanking would require such a circuitous seven-year-long path to publication. I am karma’s bitch.

But the experience taught me that Big Ideas are only truly worthwhile when you — surprise! — actually follow up on them. Less talk, more action. I’ve swapped my Moleskine and fountain pen for loose leaf and Flair felt-tips. I deleted that movie soundtrack playlist years ago. I’ve traded my Starbucks visits for Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru.

I’ve gotta rush back to the house and computer, see. I’ve got more lying to do.

—-

7th Son: Descent: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s

Listen to audio and read excerpts of the novel here. Follow J.C. Hutchins on Twitter.

The Android’s Dream on AbeBook’s Best of the Decade List

This is nice: The Android’s Dream pops up on bookseller AbeBook’s best books of the decade list, in the company of books like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, White Teeth, Never Let Me Go, The Road and other such tomes. I can’t complain about the company.

It also pleases me to see The Android’s Dream get singled out in this way, because in many ways it’s the underdog of my novels, so I’m always happy to see it get some extra attention. Thanks, AbeBooks.

Update: Also, a bit oddly, there’s a new review of TAD at SF Site today, which calls it “a tense political thriller written by a futurist with ADHD.” Heh.