Saturday, October 29, 2016

Guest Post by Henry (Hank) Brown: Peace on Earth, but Please, Not in Fiction

Hank Brown is a long-time online friend of mine, and one of the original members of my Goodreads Small Government Book Fans Club. So when I heard that he had a book to promote, I was happy to invite him to do a guest post on my blog.

It is my policy to allow my guest bloggers complete freedom as to the topic and style as long as it's related to either culture or writing. In this case, I can't overstate how much I like this post because it is very much in line my own feelings on the subject. I hope my readers agree, or at least find it a good subject for reflection and further discussion. Enjoy!



By Henry (Hank) Brown

To hear people talk, whether at the United Nations or the Miss Universe Pageant, everybody wants world peace. Maybe most of us really do—I haven’t conducted that poll. But with the exception of the My Dinner With Andre fans out there, nobody finds peace very entertaining.

Let’s face it: peace is boring! When you watch a movie or read a book, you’ll tune out if you go too long without some form of conflict. It’s conflict that keeps us turning pages. It’s confrontation, and tension, and anticipation of the showdown that inspires us to hold our bladders until the next commercial break.

As any would-be creative writing teacher will quickly tell you, there are many forms of conflict. You can find a lot of these in the movie Rocky III: Internal; external; physical; emotional; psychological. The conflict pickings are a little slimmer in Gerry. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Gus Van Sant’s cinematic masterpiece, Gerry? Yeah, there’s a reason for that.

Here’s a rule you can apply generally to fiction: the more literary a novel is, the more internal and psychological the conflict. In chick-lit, for instance, the conflict may never get much more intense than a protagonist forced to choose between visiting her dying mother with Alzheimer’s, commiserating with her recently-divorced BFF, or taking her present romantic relationship to the next level.

The more that critics turn their noses up at a given genre, the more overt the conflict. Take bodice-rippers and Harlequin romances: the conflict is either romantic or sexual…or both, but there’s nothing subtle about it. They are the embarrassing crazy aunt of the publishing world. No, make that the embarrassing crazy cash cow. On the other side of the chromosome fence are the male counterparts: westerns; military fiction; heroic fantasy; hard-boiled…all of which either became extinct, or changed so drastically that they might as well be extinct.

Untold millions of men turned to videogames or sports and gave up reading altogether in the 1990s. And it shows—peruse any social network for more than a minute and you’ll find that most males of Generation X and younger are incapable of writing, or comprehending, a coherent sentence. Punctuation? Conjugation? Spelling? Forget it. Vocabulary is shrinking. Contestants on Jeopardy look like geniuses because they are not intimidated by words with more than two syllables. Reading is for weirdoes. Why look up something in the dictionary when you can just wait for the movie to come out? In fact, reading a book quietly is suspicious behavior (but I’m sure it can be treated with therapy and medication).

No doubt traditional publishers would claim they were just “putting out the trash.” Okay: to be honest, some of it was trash. Maybe even some of the stuff I loved, and remember fondly. But some of it was well-written, tightly plotted, thought-provoking, and defied formulaic constraints. Is it still to be looked down upon because it’s escapist in nature?

Hey, I need to escape, and on a regular basis.

Every bean counter in traditional publishing should be forced to watch Sullivan’s Travels at least once. In that Depression-era classic, a self-important film director who fancies himself a champion of the downtrodden masses learns via misadventure that the downtrodden masses don’t need to go to the movies to experience suffering. Nor do they want to. There’s more than enough suffering in real everyday life, thank you very much. At least for those of us who are not film directors or publishing moguls.

At roughly the same time I became a published author, I became a sort of crusader, as well. A knight-errant on a quest to restore the glory days of the forgotten genres listed above. An armchair Indiana Jones—that’s me: Henry Brown and the Lost Audience. I spanned the globe (or at least the Web), cherry-picking what few literary nuggets there were that could help us relive the glory days. When my searches proved fruitless, I turned to my private library, blew the dust off some of my old fond memories and gave them what publicity I could. I began adding one-liners to some of my own promotional copy like: “men’s adventure is coming back!” Lo and behold, some of my fellow revivalists began espousing variations on that theme.

I wanted to overcome the stigma associated with labels such as “men’s adventure” and “men’s fiction.” When people heard those terms, they conjured  images of alcoholic hack writers banging out uninspired, poorly-written, chauvinistic pap full of pointless violence and purple-prose graphic sex. Or is it purple-prose graphic violence and pointless sex? No matter. The point is, there were some guys riding Don Pendleton’s coat tails who fit that description, more or less, and everyone writing men’s adventure suffered guilt by association.

I came up with an alternate name for the umbrella all those resurrected genres could fit under: dude-lit. My intention was that the term would become household, used for fiction rife with overt, physical conflict, but well-written and devoid of those stigmatic stereotypes.

I began using the term. So did maybe a couple other uppity new authors I met and conversed with. I routinely checked Bing and Google to track how the term was catching on. That’s how I learned “dude-lit” had been coopted. Evidently it is now being used to describe fiction with male characters in which the conflict may never get much more intense than a protagonist forced to choose between visiting his dying mother with Alzheimer’s, commiserating with his recently-divorced BFF, or taking his present romantic relationship to the next level. Chick-lit that pees standing up, in other words.
I should have trademarked it.

So “men’s adventure” it is, and to blazes with the stigma.

My Retreads series is full of overt, physical conflict—chases, martial arts, firefights—but there’s a helping of internal conflict too. After Hell and Gone (the first one) there’s even a dash of sexual tension, to give the reader that warm, squishy feeling in between dollops of brutal violence. In that respect the series is a lot like my other published fiction.

True peace is a goal deserving of universality; but that doesn’t make it reality. Peace has to be won, then protected, or what you wind up with is not peace at all—just something labeled as such. It’s an age-old truth, and it makes for great fiction.

Reality sucks. There are too many wrongs and injustices to document, and society’s solutions to them are usually inept at best. At the core of most decent men is the hope that one man, or group of men, could act to change some aspect of the world for the better. Men’s adventure is an expression of that.

With that in mind, I predict there will always be a demand for such books, as long as there are men who know how to read.


About the Author:

I've always been an action-adventure guy. Normal, well-adjusted people may have grown too mature for movies like Star Wars or The Road Warrior; or fictional heroes like Conan, Tarzan or Mack Bolan. Well, that stuff left a permanent mark on me.

So much for being normal and well-adjusted. (Or mature.)

My own real-life adventure began as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, at 18 years old. OK, maybe it wasn't such a great adventure, but I'm proud to have served my country, and to kick off that service in an elite unit with such battlefield distinctions. My military escapades eventually led me through experiences in other corners of the US Army, as well as the USMC and Naval Reserve. My travels in life have taken me to the Caribbean; Central America; the Middle East; Alaska; Hawaii and all over the USA. I've traveled on trains, planes, automobiles, helicopters and ocean-going vessels. I've been trained in the use of rifles; bayonets; hand grenades; automatic rifles; machineguns; grenade launchers; anti-tank rockets and missiles. I even got to play with artillery and tanks. I also had plenty of opportunity to observe the behavior of my fellow human beings at their best and worst.

My aspirations now include a quiet civilian life spinning enough yarns to pay all the bills.


Purchase Hell and Gone on Amazon, iTunes, in Kobo Store or on Barnes and Noble site
Visit the Hank Brown's book page on Virtual Pulp for more information. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

(Belated) NY ComicCon Report

:Checks calendar in dismay: Yes, it has been two weeks since my single-day ComicCon visit, and I'm just now getting to write about it. It's been that kind of week. Make it two weeks. Anyhow...

This was my first visit to ComicCon, and it was pretty much as insane as I expected. The schedule was driven by two tween girls (my daughter and her friend), so we ended up spending the morning and early afternoon in two panels before moving on to the real fun on the floor.

First Panel: Gravity Falls.
My kids watched the show religiously, so my daughter insisted on attending the creators' panel. It was surprisingly interesting for me, even though I only heard of the show second hand. The writers and artists provided a lot of insight into the general creative process, both in storytelling and in bringing ideas to life in visual form. One of the longer discussions that stuck with me as a writer was the difficulty of ending a complex, emotionally charged story in a satisfying way. Do you tie up all the loose ends, or do you leave some of the answers to the fans' imagination? How much information is too much? One of the examples they gave was the ending of the Harry Potter series. On the one hand, it's good to know exactly how everything worked out for the characters, but did we really care about Harry's adult job, or how many children he had? Would we be better off filling the blanks with our own suppositions? Maybe, maybe not. I do remember agonizing over just this question when I settled on the ending to my own novel, choosing to leave the world and the characters before all the problems had been solved. To hear accomplished creators, working in a different medium, address a similar dilemma was fascinating, and frankly much more than I expected to find in a panel about a TV show I had never seen.

Second Panel: RWBY
This one was less a creative discussion and more of a combination of new season reveal and merchandise promotions. Also, although the audience was mostly underage, the panelists were too foul-mouthed even for my grown-up taste. However, the fans were ecstatic about the sneak peek trailer, and as someone completely unfamiliar with the show, I have to say it looks good. If I had more time, I might even consider watching. So from that point of view, I guess the panel achieved what it set out to do.

At that point, having decided not to spend an hour sitting on the floor to wait for another panel, we headed out in search of food. Long story short: next time, bring your own. $5 Snapples and $10 pre-packaged cold cut sandwiches were pathetic offerings for such an esteemed venue. They would've been better off with putting up a bunch of well-stocked vending machines. Fortunately for our wallets, the girls were too excited to eat so we grabbed some drinks and kept going.

The Floor:
Maybe it was a function of the event being in New York City, or maybe it's just how all cons work, but it was fairly impossible to find any information or directions from staff. So we ended up pestering random fans until we got the general idea of the setup. Yes, there are maps online, but they don't give a good representation of the architecture of the building. Nevertheless, we did somehow manage to find all we needed, which luckily wasn't that much. My daughter is now a proud owner of an autographed Gravity Falls Journal 3 (a huge deal to hardcore fans, and I was pretty shocked at the reasonable pricing of about $20 for a very elaborate hardcover) and some RWBY plushes. As for me... Yeah, it was a good day.

In case you're wondering, I was culturally appropriating Zoe from Firefly: brown coat, leather pants and a broken toy shotgun that I fixed up with masking tape. Hey, it's the thought that counts.

Conclusion: A fun experience that would've been better with preparation. You really need to plan it out if you want to hit more than just a couple of spots. I'm guessing repeat visits (or visits with a friend who had gone before) are more productive and less stressful, but anyone can enjoy spending at least a day there.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Product is Published by Superversive Press

I am very excited to announce that my new dystopian novella The Product has been chosen as the first work to be published by Superversive Press. As a co-founder of Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance, I spent several years working to discover and promote high-quality, freedom-friendly fiction. While the Superversive movement has a somewhat different focus, I have been watching and admiring it from the sidelines for some time and am now honored to become a participant.

About the Publisher:

Superversive Press is a new small press that aims to publish
Superversive Fiction and is an outgrowth of the Superversive
Fiction movement that aims to tell stories that are uplifting
and enobling. Heroes that are heroic, beauty that is beautiful,
the transcendent that is transcending, stories that say virtue
is real and Civilization triumphs over barbarism.

All of the goings on with Superversive Fiction can be found at

Join us for a brighter, superversive future for story telling.

I can only hope that my novella comes close to meeting those expectations. And that, of course, is for my readers to decide. Many thanks to Jason Rennie for giving me this opportunity, Ben Zwycky for editing and help with revisions, and Cat Leonard for somehow guessing the cover concept I had in mind and bringing it to life.

And now, without further delay...

The Product will change your life. It will give you joy and confidence, make you more aware of the world around you. You will find new friends. You might even fall in love.

Few people know its name. Fewer still dare say it. It is, after all, illegal. Users are jailed. Dealers meet an ugly death. Yet the temptation is irresistible.
Kevin is a dealer. And he is about to get caught.

Now available on Amazon in e-book and paperback.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

On Censorship: An Update.

Those who have followed my blog for a while might remember this post, from back in February, where I discuss and give examples of different types of censorship, and the effect it has on diminishing both public and private freedom of expression.

There have been some developments since then, both for better and for worse, some surprising and some as predictable as the sun rising in the East.

First, as to the victims of Non-Governmental Censorship mentioned in the original post: on the whole, they have done well. I would, in fact, go as far as to say that the publicity they received as a result of being censored might have worked in their favor in the long run.

Nick Cole's book Ctrl-Alt-Revolt!, denied a publishing contract for using a controversial issue as a starting plot point, has been picked up by a new publisher and received a 2016 Dragon Award for Best Apocalyptic Novel.

Milo Yiannopolous (seriously, spellcheck, how do you still not recognize that name?) is in the middle of the second round of his college tours, among other things, meeting progressively (HA!) more resistance and only acquiring more fame as a result. And oh yes, he went from being unverified on Twitter at the time of my last post to getting his account permanently suspended. #FreeMilo is still a fairly active hashtag. If you still have an account, you know what to do.

Robert Stacy McCain is still banned from Twitter, but his blog is active as ever and very much worth a read.

Brendan Eich is reportedly having much success with his new browser Brave, which is highly recommended by my techie friends. I haven't tried it myself, but that's only because I don't trust my ancient Mac not to explode if I try to download yet another program into its outdated OS.

And now, for the new and exciting:

Scott Adams, creator of  the wildly successful Dilbert strip, who also writes extensively on the power of persuasion, has been shadowbanned on Twitter for speaking favorably of Donald Trump. Adams has also reported being disinvited from speaking engagements and since he started his series of posts regarding Trump's skill at persuasion. As far as I know, he is neither a Republican nor particularly conservative. He has come out unequivocally in support of Trump only very recently, more as an anti-Hillary stance than anything else, and the main focus of his writing is still the art of persuasion rather than politics. But neither fame nor fortune nor a lifetime of writing popular bi-partisan satire and commentary protects one from the new breed of speech police.

Vox Day had his Twitter account suspended and his blog url has been flagged as spam/malicious site by Twitter and banned from getting linked by Twitter users.

Ricky Vaughn, a right wing activist and Trump supporter had his account suspended last week (#FreeRicky is the relevant hashtag).

Glen Reynolds of Instapundit was suspended on Twitter because of a single tweet regarding the Black Lives Matter rioters, but reinstated shortly after. Considering Twitter's pattern, I would be shocked if this was the end of it. Once people get on Twitter's radar, they usually end up banned sooner or later. He has also faced other retaliation, including USA Today suspending his column for a month and calls for him to be fired from his position at University of Tennessee.

On the bright side, the new site has been created as an alternative to Twitter and possibly Facebook.  The only problem is that getting on requires being placed on the wait list (80K+ last I checked). Some people get on immediately or within a day while some, like yours truly, still haven't heard back after weeks-long wait. I have a feeling that once the folks running the site get their act together and let in more users, it just might become the next great thing.

You will notice that I focus almost exclusively on Twitter happenings, and with good reason. Twitter as a platform has always claimed dedication to free speech until, in a spectacularly suicidal move, they decided to get with the Progressive program and created a dedicated censorship committee. And if you follow the business news even slightly, you will know that "suicidal" is not an overstatement. Yes, there are solid business reasons as to why the company is failing, but certainly reneging on its basic promise to users and losing massive numbers of users as a result could not be ignored as one of the causes.

Which brings me to the final point. What to do? Unlike with the current political situation, when it comes to defending our freedom of expression, the solution is simple. Don't give up. Refuse to be muzzled. That's not an invitation to become a martyr if you work in an SJW-infested environment, but everyone can do their part to an extent possible. Patronize writers and bloggers who are on the front lines of this fight (yes, even those whose views you occasionally find unpalatable can and should be supported when they get it right). I truly believe that no matter who prevails in the Presidential contest, in the long run the future of our country is tied to the right of free expression. Politics is downstream from culture, and the success or failure of our side in the culture war depends on our unwavering opposition to censorship in all its forms.

Let's be heard. Let's help others be heard. And remember, if you stay silent, you will never find out that you might, in fact, not be as alone as your thought.

And now, something appropriate for my rock-loving friends.