Monday, September 26, 2016

CLFA Booknado: Great Books, No Sharks!

From Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance website:

Raging across a darkened land, the CLFA Booknado rips out stale, lefty establishment fiction by the roots and blasts in the new, the positive, and the bargain-priced! Batten down the hatches; the long-suppressed winds of culture change are blowing free in a whirlwind of fresh air!

CLFA's newly renamed monthly promotion highlights eight new releases and two bargain (1.99 or less) books from the group's members. Please visit the website for the full list, and while you're there, feel free to check out the latest news, events and our updated Book collections. Every purchase you make through CLFA website contributes to the growth of our pro-freedom creative counterculture. Have fun, and as usual, Happy Reading!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Guest Post: Karina Fabian on Rocking the Bechdel Test (with Nuns)

Karina Fabian is a friend and a talented science fiction and fantasy author, who spends her free time helping others improve their writing craft and marketing strategies. As part of a promotional tour for her new novel Discovery featuring nuns as space explorers (yes, you read that right), please enjoy her fun and informative blog post.

Want to Rock the Bechdel Test? Have Nuns as Your Main Characters!

Many readers may have heard of the Bechdel test. This three-question quiz is supposed to evaluate how well you represent women in your fiction, be it a movie or a book. Essentially you need
1. Two or more named female characters (named characters being a recent addition)
2. Sharing a conversation
3. That is not about a man.
This test was popularized in Alison Bechdel’s comic, Dykes to Watch Out For, and has taken on a life of its own. There are whole websites devoted to which movies pass the Bechdel test, and a study was done of the latest Dr. Who reboot (Doctors 10-13) and how their episode meet the test, broken down by companion and writer. (Ironicaly, the River Song episodes fail).
The test itself is not always the end-all of how women are portrayed in a story. For example, the 2013 SF hit, Gravity, fails the test (despite a very brief scene where the shuttle pilot and the astronaut share a couple of lines about the shuttle arm), but there are only three main characters. If we were to apply it to my DragonEye books, they’d all fail, because the stories are written first person through the viewpoint of Vern. (Although he says there’s some grounds for dispute because as an androgynous dragon, “he” is only uses a male designation because Pope Pius thought Vern d’Wyvern was a cute name for a dragon.)
However, I can say this: if you want to rock the Bechdel test, then just make nuns your main characters!
Discovery is my first Rescue Sisters novel. In it Sisters Rita, Ann and Thomas (“Tommie”) join the crew of the Edwina Taggert to explore the first ever discovered evidence of alien life – a crashed ship in the Kuiper belt. They are in charge of training the crew for EVA exploration and of the overall safety of the mission. It’s a serious undertaking, especially when they find an artifact onboard that can tap into the subconscious and show people the needs of their own souls.
This is actually a good candidate for the Bechdel test because the cast of characters is huge – nuns, academics, asteroid miners (to free the ship) and the crew of the ET herself. Thirteen named females and fifteen named males. The test only requires a single conversation to be female-to-female and not about a man, but that just seemed too easy, especially with a cast so large, so I checked the conversations. Here’s what I found:
Total Conversations: 390
Conversations of mixed genders: 317 (I didn’t count, but I’d guesstimate 25% - 35% were romantic or relationship in nature)
Female-only conversations: 50
·       # not about a man: 42
·       # about a man: 4
·       # about God or where a male saint was quoted, which I wasn’t sure counted: 4
·       % about personnel or the mission: 60%
Male-only conversations: 23
·       # not about a woman: 18
·       # about a woman: 5
·       % that were about mission or personnel: 50%
Definitely rocks the Bechdel test. In fact, in some ways, it underrepresents the men, but then again, the top two characters are nuns. (Sister Tommie has a supporting role.)

The Bechdel test and so many others like it are not the end-all of literary merit or fairness to the sexes in literature. So much depends on story. However, it does make an interesting exercise for evaluating the strengths of your story and perhaps uncovering something you hadn’t noticed.


For those of my visitors who can never have enough books (that would be most of them!), I will mention that Karina has also written stories about zombie hunters, a dragon detective and a telepath who talks to aliens, all available on Amazon. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Calliope Writers' Workshop: Turning Wishing Into Doing

Last week, I came across a post lamenting the state of conservative/pro-freedom storytelling in general and cinema in particular. Machine Trooper writes:

How is it that smart, hardworking, independent thinkers are consistently outperformed at cinematic storytelling by the left-wing hive mind? Why do our movies always suffer poor story telling, cheesy dialog and generally inept suspension of disbelief?

How, indeed. There are, after all, plenty of talented writers who share our views (even if many of them are still hiding their opinions in order to develop and/or preserve their careers). And there are certainly wealthy individuals out there willing to contribute money to what we loosely call pro-freedom causes. So if it's not the talent, and not the money, what then? If you scroll down in the comments, you will see my answer: lack of networking. The full solution is a bit more complicated because there is work still to be done on the writing side as well if we are to keep going long-term. We need to nurture pro-freedom writing talent, and then to connect our storytellers with those who can help them make the stories more accessible to the masses. And much as I love the written word, nowadays it also means the movies.

As luck would have it, only two days later after making that comment, I attended a kickoff party for Calliope Writers' Worksop, co-sponsored by Taliesin Nexus and Liberty Island. I am happy to report that an effort so many of us have wished for does already exist, and picking up steam.

From Taliesin Nexus website:In order to encourage the creation of great stories, we serve as a nexus between up-and-coming filmmakers and experienced industry professionals who share a passion for a free society.

It was truly great to see that Liberty Island, an online magazine (and now a book publisher) that gave me a start and an inspiration for writing fiction, is also a part of this exciting venture.

And exciting really is the word. As I stood in that room at Crowne Plaza Hotel in NYC, surrounded by a buzzing crowd of creatives of all ages and those with vision to give them voice, I realized a few things. The time for complaining and wishing has passed. The time for stifling our creativity for the sake of acceptance has passed. We have the talent, the drive, and the energy to succeed. Combined with the infrastructure that is even now being built, piece by piece, one dedicated mentor, one generous investor, one contrarian marketing professional at a time, we will get there. Our voices will be heard, our stories read, our vision shared. Let's get to work, people. We have a culture to build.

Now, for the fun part. The pictures!!!!

With my friend, co-conspirator and fellow author Kia Heavey

Kia and I with Liberty Island honcho David Bernstein

Kia with Robert Bidinotto, author of the Dylan Hunter thriller series

With sci-fi/fantasy author, blogger, and mentor to indie authors (did I forget anything?) Sarah A. Hoyt, who was very gracious about my fangirl behavior.

And last but not least, with Karina Fabian, a multi-genre author and writing mentor. Watch out for Karina's guest blog post right here on September 20th.

Sarah and Karina deserve special thanks for flying out all the way to New York City to mentor the workshop participants. Hats off to you, ladies!

Special shout-out to fellow CLFA members Adam Bellow (who led the main presentation of the evening), Keith Korman, Curtis Edmonds, and Richard Walch, as well as long-time online friend Matthew Souders, all of whom I met at the party but was unable to capture on camera.

Thanks to everyone who made this possible, and hope to see even more familiar faces, at a much bigger event, next year!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dragon Awards: A Personal View

Dragon Awards results were announced on Sunday, and there is already an abundance of blog posts and commentary available from people more eloquent than I, who are much more familiar with the some of the more intricate details.

Why, then, am I taking the time to write yet another post? I suppose for the same reason anyone writes anything: I believe that I do in fact have something different to say, coming as I am from several different perspectives.

As a nominee, I am of course both flattered and humbled that my debut novel has touched enough fans to be placed in the company of some of the biggest names in fantasy and science fiction. My first reaction was that I didn't belong there, but then I realized that it was not, in fact, true. After all, the very point of a fan-driven award is that the fans decide who belongs, and their voice is not to be taken lightly. Those familiar with my views regarding other types of awards will know this opinion is not new to me, nor will it change depending on my personal success or lack thereof. Thus, I thank my fans as well as the fine folk at DragonCon for getting me to this point and giving me and other new indie authors an inspiration to carry on.

As a reader and a fan, I love to see quality writing publicized and rewarded for the simple, selfish reason that we are now likely to see more of it. Not that prolific authors like Correia and Wright and Butcher ever needed a reminder to hurry up and give us more books, but it works on a wider scale. Once authors realize that the doors to success and professional recognition are no longer guarded by the select few and access no longer filtered through a particular prism, more creativity will naturally result, to the delight of those of us always trying to find fresh fuel for our love of reading.

As a co-founder of Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (join us! we have fun! and books!) I am gratified to see our members among both the nominees and the winners. Larry Correia, Nick Cole and Brian Neimeier (with credit to editor L. Jagi Lamplighter ) won their respective categories. Declan Finn, Mark Wandrey, Dave Freer and Gibson Michaels received well-deserved nominations, and are no doubt are on the road to bigger and better things as a result.

Last but not least, as a minor culture warrior of the "home front and covering fire" variety, I must give special mention to a the authors whose wins have a special meaning to those of us concerned about the state of the culture in general and arts in particular.

Nick Cole had his now award-winning book was rejected by the publisher for openly political reasons, as previously covered in my Censorship post, forcing him to choose between artistic freedom and losing the publishing contract. Nick wisely put the art first, and clearly the fans approved.

John C. Wright some years ago joined a small but select group of authors (Andrew Klavan, Dean Koontz and David Mamet come to mind off the top of my head) who, after a period of critical acclaim, miraculously "lost their talent" after becoming vocal about their unapproved political views and/or religion. Or so all the "important" people would have you believe. Fans think otherwise, and fortunately it's the fans and not the now mostly ineffectual gatekeepers will always have the last word.

Why are the above examples important? Because they show to those of us occasionally hesitant to stay true to our beliefs that it can be done. You can succeed and be appreciated without the express approval or help of those who put their ideology above art and want to bend everyone to their will. Especially in a genre that is meant to thrive on imagination, freedom of thought is not a luxury. It's a requirement.

All in all, pathetic grumblings from the usual dark corners of the 'net notwithstanding, Sunday has been a great day for writers and fans alike, no matter what our genre preferences might be. Here is to many more years of great books, inspiration and above all FUN! Once again, many thanks to DragonCon organizers and everyone who played a part in making the awards happen.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have more reading to do. For more fun, Declan Finn has a post that includes a video of the presentation. Enjoy!