How the Smut Arms Race Destroys Fiction

September 11, 2014 in General Topics

Rotting BooksRecently I viewed a Netflix original series and nearly found myself as distraught as its protagonists. One might read that and think it’s a good thing. It isn’t.

Hemlock Grove is a series drenched in all-American, old school Gothic horror. When it’s working well, it’s a brooding, atmospheric throwback that reminds me of the made-for-TV movies and miniseries spawned by Stephen King’s books. Watching it felt like coming home. The series has the substance of so much TV and film I devoured in my teenage years.

The first few episodes had their problems–uneven acting, dangling plot lines and inconsistent cinematography–but high points as well, such as one of the best werewolf transformations I’ve seen, and I believed firmly that Hemlock Grove was going to be a wonderful diversion. Lately, though, I’ve found my interest in the show waning. It’s in part due to its uneven quality.

But also the fact that Hemlock Grove is just the latest show to become an active participant in the smut arms race.

To wrap your head around my point, I want you to think about what defines premium content on the top-tier subscription cable channels, and then keep that in mind while I continue. Read the rest of this entry →

Dear Hollywood: Stop Taking My Wonder Away

January 29, 2013 in General Topics

I was all set to do the second part of a recent two-part blog series on significant weapons in history, when I ran headlong into the “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray version of Prometheus, a film I not only paid good money to see in the theater last summer, but wrote a glowing review of. There on the four-disk jacket were infamous words: “Questions Will be Answered”. Read the rest of this entry →

Merely Christian Stereotypes (in Fiction)?

April 7, 2011 in General Topics

Consider this carefully: try to find any positive representation of Christians, um, anywhere in modern media. What do we find instead? And why do we find it?
Read the rest of this entry →

Bringing you up to speed again (+ rant)

July 16, 2008 in General Topics

Hey, it’s a long update!

I’ve been quiet for the past few weeks, but you can rest assured, there is plenty going on in my neck of the woods.

First, I’m finishing up yet the final drafts of yet another batch of stories. There’s three of them in this group, and if I had to break them down, I’d have to say I’m feeling somewhat ambivalent about them.

Heh — am I great at self-promotion or what? Actually, I’m glad I’m not better at it. There’s a fine line between self-promotion and self-centeredness as a writer, and sometimes I think too many people in the fiction industry have crossed too far to one side, if you know what I mean.

But as far as this batch of stories goes — they’re different.

First, some background: I’ve generally written fiction with a dark slant. “Spired”, for example, was a piece at its core about addiction. All that alien interloping and ten-kilometer rock climbing was just the framework for that character study. And the tale was decidedly dark.

However, I’ve undergone a voyage into the realm of hope, and with it have come different plot lines. I think the changing of my fiction style has coupled with my own embrace of Christianity.

There I go breaking my own rule: keep this site about my work, never about me. There are consequences any author uses their public site as a window into their personal thoughts. Simply put, I know some of you are screaming bloody murder right now. But just give me a few paragraphs, OK?


There are a host of arguments I could levy for you in favor of Christianity, from any perspective you’ d like — scientific to the philosophical. I’ve seen faith from both sides of the coin — atheism and belief — and anyone looking for an explanation why I’ve come to embrace this oft-maligned doctrine can dig me up at a con or drop me an e-mail.

I won’t go into too much here, other than simply this: Christianity is medicine for a troubled world. It is a doctrine advocating universal peace, love and forgiveness — written in an age when men were all too swift with the sword. If one could measure merit of a work by enlightenment compared to its contemporary period, then the U.S. Constitution is a solid base-hit, but The Bible is an out-ot-the-park homer. And yet it is fashionable among certain circles to denigrate it. I find the slamming of faith the surest sign that man needs it.

And there we go again, I suppose, with the screams out there on the other side of this text. Seriously — I don’t want any of you whom happen to be atheists or agnostics thinking I pontificate and wax religious all the time. This is only the second time I’ve gotten this personal in the whole of my site’s existence, and should you meet me in person, relax — I’m not a fanatic. I despise fanaticism, on both sides of the coin, and I am also aware my personal thoughts are not something the outside world gives a damn about. But with all the negativity out there about religion, with the polar bears fighting Catholicism and the misinformed bearing ill-will that doesn’t have to be, I can’t stay mute. Let me just leave it for now by saying that the objections I find to Christianity are usually the result of two things: misunderstanding of its teachings, or misunderstanding of its metaphors.

Thanks for suffering through that little tangent — I promise as always to keep those to a minimum.

Back to the fiction. As I said, the three stories are very, very different from their forebears. That’s not to say they don’t have their own moments of darkness — one can’t have conflict without it — but I think people might have a wholly different feeling after reading these.

I’m ambivalent because I don’t know how that feeling will manifest — hopefully, not with people hanging up on the tales early. The plotlines themselves are risky. Consider:

1) “No Silence” — a deaf man living on a drifting, derading colony ship comes face to face with…
2) “Todd Elrin and the Forever Reset” — A different spin on time travel. Really.
3) (Currently Untitled Third Story) — A man with a terminal disease battles the forces of darkness.

I’ve tried desperately over the years to craft fiction that takes an existing idea and puts a unique spin on it. The problem is I’ve found editors are quick to dismiss a tale even if it exhibits a different take on a classic theme, simply because the backdrop plot device has such negative associations.

It’s like this: say one writes a tale about a psychic that frames vampires by implanting all those classic ideas in his victims’ heads of typical vampiric activities: tapping on the windows, neck bites, wolves and fog, etc. Now, I came up with that idea off the top of my head. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Let’s assume, even if it might not be, that we live in a world where that is a wholly unique idea.

Now let’s say you set that in modern-day Chicago. I will wager, based on my experience, that you only have a few paragraphs to convince the editor the tale isn’t another typical urban fantasy thriller, a la raves and staves and things that go clubbing in the night. Despite the central idea being unique, the story’s framework seems old and decrepit, so they might not enter the door to the rest of the story’s interior themes before shooting it down.

That’s the problem facing these three tales: Can I get the editors to look past what at first seems derivative frameworks? We’ll see.

As far as other things go, I continue to submit like mad to other markets. I think I’ll have to do some minor revision to make Something Wicked completely happy with “The Eighteenth Floor”, but they’ve been easy to work with so far. “Best in Class” is still on the pipe for December 2008 compliments of Murky Depths.

But the biggest piece of news is the continued work on the Super Secret Project. We’re rapidly nearing the point where the outline will be complete and I can finally dive into this thing. That’s going to involve little to no short fiction writing once I start, and a rigorous writing schedule, along with frequent bonus content I’ll be bringing along the way. I’ll be able to tell you more soon, but let me assure you — I think this is going to be what puts my work over the top, and marks the beginning of a truly global fan base.

Stay tuned.

Dirge to the Postal Service

August 14, 2007 in General Topics

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s been a little while since I updated the blog. I have legitimate excuses. Work has been intense lately, and things have been relatively silent on the writing side, which I’ll touch on in a moment. But I promise that I’ll be more regular on this blog from now on.

Speaking of regular, one of the constants in my life is that I always receive packages or mailings long after your average person does. I’ve become convinced over the years that the U.S. Postal service routes all my mail through Juneau, Alaska. Sig Hansen is probably going through his mail at the port address right now and marveling at all those misdirected mailings that keep coming in addressed to some guy named Jonathan C. Gillespie.

So it goes with my contributor’s copy of Murky Depths Issue numero uno. The postal service might be screwing up again. I know this because the last time I ordered from the Murky Depths crew, the magazine got here in just over a week. This time, I’m watching everyone else relish this high-quality mag, and the suspense in seeing how “Paston, Kentucky” was handled is killing me.

In other news, things have been slow on the subs front lately, as all tales are in the wild and I’ve two more that should be added to the mix this week. I have to make up for the ones occupied by sales. I love saying that — this time last year I wouldn’t have imagined sitting here saying that already. It’s good stuff.