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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trump Supporters Angry With 'High Castle'’s Fictional Radio Program announced Friday that Tweets about a fictional pirate radio show based on the Amazon streaming TV series, The Man In The High Castle, angered several Republicans and Trump supporters. No, the radio show is not a high seas scallywag geek program. Instead it refers to a type of underground radio. The conservative Twitter users thought the show was a real one produced by anti-Trump protesters and so reacted to its title’s hashtag of #ResistanceRadio by lashing out criticism. This was likened to the radio broadcast of H.G. Well’s War ofthe Worlds of which many listeners who tuned in late flew into panic thinking the Martians really were coming. However, in the case of Resistance Radio the reaction is one that says “the rebels are coming”.  

The Man In The High Castle is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name. I can’t say a whole lot about the novel or TV show since I haven’t read the former or watched the latter, as much as I’m a big fan of Dick’s work. But I can say that, as with most science fiction, the TV series and its brainchild audio show mirror current events, particularly through the subgenre of alternative history. High Castle is set in a 1960s period after Nazi Germany and Japan have won the second world war and taken over the U.S. Anyway, the conservative Twitter users’ reaction to the hashtag shows that science fiction reflects the issues of the day regardless of the time period it is set in.

Science fiction is social commentary in many senses and this is particularly so with alternative history fiction, since history is a direct reference to past society. Certain periods of history have been used in literature and film to symbolise contemporary issues and this is definitely the case with alternative history (also referred to as alt-history). Like steampunk, dieselpunk, atompunk (which High Castle can be said to fall under this third one) and the many other -punk subgenres of sci fi, alt-history comments on modern day issues through a historical scope--comparing those issues with ones of the past--basically showing that history does repeat itself. An example is, though this may not be the intention of the TV series, equating an ultra conservative presidential administration like Trump’s to a fascist regime of the past like Nazi-ism.

 As far as conservatives’ lashing out at #ResistanceRadio goes, a similar situation occurred with the third Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith, in 2005 with the Bush Administration. Conservatives and Bush supporters saw the movies as bad-mouthing the president of that time and accused them of comparing him with the villainous Emperor Palpatine. Whether such social commentary was intended or not, only the producers would know. But even if it was, and even if the same is true for High Castle and its Resistance Radio, is it a crime? After all, art is often a commentary to the issues of the time it’s made in, and that includes pop art such as film and TV. Not to mention radio. The First Amendment especially allows for this.
Until next time . . .   

A pirate's skull backed by crossed swords.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Machine is Robbing the Book Cover Artist

A cartoon robot is holding and pointing to a pencil.

It looks like I’m going to have to outsource for the photographic version to the cover of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. I tried getting together a digital cover during the week and I just couldn’t do it in the little time that I have. It’s a hell of a lot tougher than one would at first think, but a lot of the problem isn’t that it’s tough. A lot of the problem is that I’m just not a digital artist. I am a freehand artist. Yet I know the majority of the book market today does not call for freehand illustrated book covers which is a damn, sad thing because it is a result of the total reliance on computer technology that is robbing the freehand artist of what he/she does best and puts their heart and soul into.

So while I don’t embrace the digital trend in book cover illustration, I need to sell my books and so I am willing to have a digital cover edition of my book made. I won’t go into the details of this circumstance here because I’ve already done that in several past posts. Here are the titles and links to them:

When I make my book cover illustrations from my own hands, I do so knowing I’m not going to make big sales on the books that I apply them too. So, in a way, I’m sacrificing a bigger bundle of money I would get in order to help keep freehand art alive and serve the needs and desires of the minority readership. But to make sufficient money from the books, I’ll have to give into that capitalistic notion that says the machine makes the product “better”. And so I have to offer, as an option, a digitally produced cover illustration edition of the book.

If given the choice, would you purchase an edition of a book with a hand produced cover illustration over one with a digitally produced one? In doing so, do you believe you would be contributing to preserving freehand art?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guest-blogging On Fiction Writing, RPGs and LARPs

I apologise for not posting last week. I was unusually busy with other things. But this week author Christine Rains has been very kind to allow me to guest-blog at her site. Because my post is already live there, I’m going to keep the one here short and take a break on this Carnival/Mardi Gras of madness Saturday night by finishing up a card game of Arkham Horror and then watching some horror(ible) flicks!

Five board game player pieces wearing Carnival masks.

Speaking of games, for the past month or so Miss Rains has been featuring articles about the similarities between role playing games, also known as RPGs, and fiction writing and how the two influence each other. So my article there discusses the topic, particularly in light of live action RPGs (also known as LARPs). So please head on over to Christine’s blog and take a look at the article. Any comments you might have you may post in her box there. I’ll check for them periodically.

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Keeping Your Story Ideas In a Journal

The question many authors, myself included, get tired of hearing from people is “Where do you get your ideas?” Neil Gaiman said in a talk that Harlan Ellison used to answer the question by saying he “gets them from a little idea shop . . . .” In this same interview Neil said that he knew a writer who said he gets his ideas “from the idea of the month club.” 

My answer to that question: Life. That’s what all art is based on in one sense or another, life as the artist sees it. The ideas come from the artist’s own experiences, including the books that have influenced him or her. Each of us, writers and non-writers, has a story behind us. Our entire lives are stories. But not everyone is inclined to write their life stories down whether for their own personal records or for an audience. But even us writers are prone to forgetting when great ideas and impressions come to us, and so we carry a journal with us everywhere we go.

Some of the most popular and creative story tellers such as director/screen writer Guillermo del Toro carry journals with them. There’s a good article up at Comic Book Resources ( about his Pan’s Labyrinth in commemoration of its 10 year anniversary. But there are a couple points where the article discusses how del Toro kept a journal of drawn sketches as well as written notes of ideas he would develop for his film.

I keep two journal booklets. I keep a larger one at home that’s about six-by-four inches and a smaller one in my backpack for when I’m away from the house. Most of the contents in these are handwritten notes though I’ll do a quick sketch of an image if an idea is easier to draw out and I’m in the middle of writing an entry and don’t want to run to get my sketch book or if I’m not home. The sketch book is for drawing concepts, many of which I use for my book cover illustrations as you’ve seen in past posts. I always title my entries, especially if they contain story ideas, so it’s easier to find them when I’m ready to start writing a new story. But even if the entry isn’t one that’s intended for a story but is maybe of an experience I went through during the day, I will give it a descriptive title any way so when I am looking for a story idea I can find it more easily.

A pencil sketch of a giant goddess statue with a corpse's face.
A concept sketch for the "Circa Sixty Years Dead" book cover from my sketch book.

Some authors will start writing their stories in their journals a chapter or section at a time. That works for when ideas for a single story come as time goes by. For myself, however, ideas for a single story don’t come that quickly. However, if I leave off working on a story for the day and then later an idea for it comes to me, then I’ll write it down in my journal to refer to it next time.

Do you keep a journal for your story ideas? What manner do you utilize that journal? How do you organize your entries?

Do you find your favourite authors’ journals as interesting as their published stories?

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Book Cover Illustration Status: The “Sketch” and Placement Stage

Victor Frankenstein in many film versions of Frankenstein had to steal body parts from graveyards for his creation. Like him, there are creeps out there who feel they have to do the same with images when it comes to creating their art, only they don’t go to graveyards but more so go to websites. But there’s a legal and ethical way to grab the parts you need in order to make your graphic creation and that’s by going to public domain sources. That’s what I’ve been doing for the photo-real book cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. To gather the images I need, I’ve been turning to If you ever look at the images that I display in my weekly posts here, that name probably sounds familiar to you.

Pixabay is a really great source for graphic projects, including book covers. All their images are in the public domain and so you don’t have to worry about copyright infringement. Their contributors have been so generous with allowing free usage of their works that I tried contributing one of my own colored-pencil drawings at Christmas but it didn’t meet the website’s qualifications. I’ll have to find another way to donate to them.

 Well, as you can see in the picture below, I’ve made a rough sketch, if you will, of the book cover illustration. Therefore I’ve put together the basic images I’m using to see how they look in composition. In this case, those images are the temple ruin and the desert background. I still have to add the goddess statue which I’ll put in front of the temple like it is in the story. After I work with the placement of the objects in the picture, I’ll add (and in some cases subtract) the details such as darker tones for a night-time scene as opposed to the afternoon one seen here.

A photographic composition of a temple ruin superimposed onto a desert scene.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr./

So it won’t look like a collage, I’m going to have to cut the edges of the superimposed objects, such as the temple, and overlap the lighter ground from the temple’s original picture with the darker desert sands. Am I doing this because I hate collages? Far from it. I love collages; they are so surreal and I love surrealism. But because this is for marketing purposes and photo-realistic covers are in, I need to make the scene look as real as possible. And I hate photo-real book covers, at least when it comes to fiction. If you’re like me and prefer touchy-feely art in your reading then head on over to Amazon to purchase my hand-produced book cover illustration edition of “Circa”

I’ll go over more about the book cover illustration and the photo-editing software I use for it, Paint.Net, next time.

Until then . . . 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Authors At Pop Culture Expo

Last Saturday’s Toy Game and Pop Culture Expo held at Sacramento’s Great Escape Games wasn’t quite all fun and games. It was fun, games, books and their authors. Local authors Nicholas Grabowsky (who wrote the novel adaptation of Halloween IV) and Angelique Anderson (writer of YA sci fi and fantasy) were displaying their books for sale. I had a great time talking with both of them.

Nick talked about his plans to present at more cons after having taken a hiatus. I talked to him about my current projects: my most recently published ebook, “Circa Sixty Years Dead”, and the print and photo-real cover editions in progress. The great thing about talking with authors such as he and Angelique is that when you’re sliding down the hill, like I’ve been ever since I started my day job as library technician back in September, you get motivated and more focused on your own writing. That’s among other great things like the generous offers Nick gave me such as a free copy, signed by himself, of the comic book adaptation of his short story, “It Looks Like a Rat to Me,” adapted from his collection Red Wet Dirt. It’s a neat story of psychological and surreal terror, though the art work gets really graphic. It was a delight that Nick gave me that comic just for talking with him! Thanks again, Nick!

Speaking about “Circa” and hiatuses, I’m taking a small break from working on the print edition of my single short story book. Lately, I’ve come to believe that there is more of a demand for the photo-real cover illustration and so I decided to work with that first (as much as I hate photo realism on book covers).

Check back here for more on my and other authors’ work.

Until next time . . .  

A woman sitting at a pop culture convention table.
Friend Stephanie Rector, "Queen of Geeks", at her booth at the Toy, Game and Pop Culture Expo
Photo Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Charles Stross’s Article On Near-Future Science Fiction

Charles Stross just came out with a new novel titled Empire Games. Although I haven’t read it myself yet, (I’m just barely getting through his Atrocity Archives of his Laundry Files series) the way he explains it in his article at io9 makes the novel seem to do for global politics what many of Kim Stanley Robinson’s later novels have been doing for environmental issues: taking the realist approach. Because of this, it sounds like it’s a little more down to earth than his Laundry Files novels.

Stross explains in the article the difference between far-future science fiction and near-future science fiction using his novel as an example of the latter. He refers to far-future sci fi as mostly escapist fiction and near-future as more realistic. That may be so on a social level, but I’ve read a lot of far-future hard science fiction that gives the best of both worlds. If there’s ever a time we need the serious sci fi Stross talks about, it’s now in this dawn of an elitist presidency. Do you think such science fiction can help us through a difficult presidential administration?

Until next time . . .

Two cartoon robots.