Sunday, October 15, 2017

Five Books that Left Me Feeling Icky

A well-written novel is one that makes you feel something. But what if that something is discomfort? Disgust? Anxiety? Revulsion? Important books never shy away from tackling difficult subjects: repression, gender roles, crime, deceit, violence, tragedy. Occasionally, however, a book submerges me in such torrent of desolation I feel I'm drowning in its turbid waters.

There have been several books over the years that I literally shoved away when I reached the bottom of the last page. Whether it revealed something uncomfortable about society or some dark place inside my own mind, the book left an icky stain in its wake.

Here are five books that left me with this profound sense of dis-ease.

Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn (2012)
Gillian Flynn's 2012 blockbuster Gone Girl is a perfect example of a novel that left a gray cloud hanging even after it departed. The way Flynn manipulated my emotions to generate a sense of utter helplessness was an incredible feat of writing talent. Gone Girl made me genuinely fear meeting a true psychopath (and I mean a clinical psychopath, as this word is often tossed around incorrectly). But despite the uncomfortable nature of the story, I blasted through its 400+ pages like a meth addict: red-eyed and sleepless, twitching with compulsion when I was forced to put it down. I hated and loved every paragraph.

There is no doubting Flynn's skill. Gone Girl has an engaging narrative structure, riddled with twists and turns. The novel is a vortex that slurps readers into a macabre abyss where the monsters are real and the bottom is too dark to see. This psychological thriller is an exhilarating yet troublesome glimpse into the broken corners of the human mind. How well can you ever truly know a person? If you are married you might find yourself looking sidelong at your spouse as you pour through these pages.

The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood (1985)
Margaret Atwood's neo-classic The Handmaid's Tale unfolds the story of a dystopian society where women are subjugated by a ruthless patriarchy. It seems more relevant today than ever. As with Gone Girl, I battled a sense of helplessness throughout, which I suppose means Atwood succeeded in rendering a high degree of empathy for the main character. The Handmaid's Tale is disgusting, frightening, and its conclusion left me without a sense of true resolve to unwind the ugly tension that built as the story progressed.

Stylistically, the writing is brilliant. Atwood infuses literary qualities that have stymied critics from applying the damming "sci-fi" label. Instead, The Handmaid's Tale toes the line between genre and literary fiction, winning the 1986 Nebula Award and hitting the shortlist for the Booker Prize, one of the most coveted writing awards in the English language. When I reached the final pages, however, I found it hard to recommend The Handmaid's Tale to friends, instead I was mostly just glad it was over.

The Circle- Dave Eggers (2013)
Dave Eggers is a literary hero of mine and when I saw a book of his was being adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks and Hermoine (oh, I mean Emma Watson) I was intrigued. What I discovered, however, was a story that evoked many of the same discomforts I already possessed about the rapidly expanding role of social media in society. The Circle exists in a highly uncomfortable near-future dystopia that clearly reveals how compulsory participation in social media can devolve to a point where the digital record of an experience becomes more important than the experience itself. The sacred privacy we once cherished is now increasingly subjected to full public syndication.

Critics often compared this novel to Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 and for good reason. The Circle updates these classic stories but still echoes a familiar discomfort. The real-life rate in which technology and social media avenues like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube are expanding lends chilling verisimilitude to the events in The Circle. I resent the way social media has altered the structure of friendship. Too often I feel compelled to make my rounds through Facebook just to keep my friends from accusing me of neglect. The modern invent of drones and compact cameras like GoPros have allowed your digital self to be broadcast from anywhere on the planet, from hundreds of fathoms beneath the surface of the ocean to the icy summit of Mt. Everest. No place is sacred. Every experience must be shared. The Circle left me queasy, wondering how far society will take this need to divulge even the most mundane moments of everyday life.

The Road- Cormac McCarthy (2006)
For those who haven't experienced a Cormac McCarthy novel, it is difficult to articulate the strangeness prevalent in every one. McCarthy oscillates between tongue-baffling run-on sentences to understated fragments like diminutive brush strokes. He drops mystifying vocabulary with casual elegance and renders impressionistic scenes that read like a Renoir painting. His novels are often suffused in explicit violence, hyper-masculinity and suffocating darkness that plumb the grim corners of the human condition. He is brilliant, yet I lurch between admiration and profound disgust for his work.

The Road is often considered McCarthy's magnum opus. It was the novel for which he won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. The Road is set in the ashy, despairing aftermath of an apocalypse, the nature of which the reader never learns. A man and his son, who aren't given names, plod through this tragic landscape dodging cannibals, thieves, and the burden of their own grief. Like Gone Girl I became gruesomely addicted to The Road. I didn't want to eat or sleep. As I was immersed in McCarthy's sordid world, I grew paranoid of the people around me, wondering which might try to rob me or perhaps make a meal of my meaty limbs. When it was over, I was convinced Earth was thoroughly doomed. Should we ever come to such a place as found in The Road, I think I'd prefer to swan dive off Niagara Falls than linger like a revenant who hasn't quite realized the world and everything in it has died. To mine for something positive, I suppose The Road depicts man's perseverance in the face of the direst of circumstances. There is no doubt The Road is brilliant. Just don't expect a warm, cheery tale full of hope.

The Talented Mr. Ripley- Patricia Highsmith (1955)
It comes as no surprise that when Gone Girl came out, the New York Times Book Review labeled Gillian Flynn as a modern incarnation of Patricia Highsmith. The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller in the same vein, one that gives you a glimpse into the paranoid, thoroughly diseased mind of a master at manipulation. As the main character's crimes spiral out of control, I, too, was drawn deeper and deeper into his storm. Every solution he forges leads to five more problems. But Tom Ripley is indeed talented, even if labeling his skill as "misapplied" is the understatement of the morning.

Deciding whether to empathize or deplore him was perhaps the main tension of the novel for me. By the time I was halfway deep I was thoroughly engaged, pulling for his deceptions and manipulations to succeed and terrified his incredible ruse would come to screeching and spectacular end. I found myself making excuses for him: he was forced into a chain of events beyond his control. He never meant for it to go so far. He was a train without breaks barreling on a downhill track. Deep down he really had good intentions. Ultimately, however, I was disgusted with myself for ever siding with him. What did that reveal about me? Did that mean that with the exact wrong circumstances I, too, could end up so terribly derailed? When the book was over I tossed it away and let the detritus of my life swallow it into its depths, hopefully forever. 

Final Thoughts

What is interesting about these novels, is that every single one of them were "page turners" for me, books I read while I ate, bathed, and brushed my teeth. I awoke from sleep eager to pick back up where I'd left off at 2 a.m. the night before. Though none of them left me blushing with praise, and I might even have said I hated some of them, they have all stuck with me through the years. Perhaps there is something about a novel like this, one that thrusts you so far out of your comfort zone you need a map to get back, that has a uniquely powerful effect on a reader. A primary goal for an author is to elicit a reaction. The stronger this reaction, it could be argued, the more effective the writing.

There are few responses as a reader more memorable and more powerful than discomfort, anguish and desolation.
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If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for my mailing list. When not reading books about psychopaths, I often write about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading!

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Bookmatcher: A Trial Release

(Skip the explanation and go straight to the submit page. Or the find a book page)

A few months ago I was on the search for a new book. Call me picky but I knew what I wanted: sci-fi or fantasy with engaging characters, stunning prose, thrilling adventure, commercial success, recent publication, and written by someone I'd never before read. I'm an aspiring author of speculative fiction; I wanted a book I would both enjoy and one that could teach me about the modern market. 

enter your indie book in the database
With so many thousands (millions) of books, how can we hope
to find the perfect one?
The Search Begins

There are so many books in the world; how was I to uncover this elusive title? I started where any normal person would for such a search, the largest book marketplace in the world: Amazon.

The immensity of those virtual shelves, however, are more than a little overwhelming. Their algorithms present only what they want you to see, a tantalizingly lurid oil slick obscuring everything underneath. The only way to puncture this superficial barrier was to tap a specific title into the search bar, but how was I supposed to do that since I didn't yet know what that title was?

On to Phase Two...

Moving on, I ventured onto Wikipedia pages listing former award winners, particularly the Hugo and Nebula. I've read and enjoyed several Hugo winners in the past (The Goblet of Fire, American GodsThe Yiddish Policemen's Union, and The Windup Girl to name a few). These are the most prestigious awards in speculative fiction, after all, and my wildest dreams sometimes include me clutching the trophy for both, one in each hand. Certainly any Hugo-winning novel possess something valuable for a wannabe author like me, but deciphering which of these candidates might be my perfect match required a surprising amount of research. What was the book's premise? How was it received critically? Was it successful (amazing how many major award winning novels find lukewarm reception from a commercial audience.) What did the 5-star reviewers on Amazon like? What did the 1-stars reviews dislike?

Beyond that, did I really want to limit my search only to award-wining novels? There were absolute mountains of great novels that the benevolent committees of these awards had overlooked. With all the great indie works out there, I wasn't even sure I wanted to go with a book by a major publisher for that matter, much less one that had already earned such recognition. Such an approach seemed to ignore what could prove an astonishingly vast selection of potential suitors for my attention. My find-a-new-book project had turned from a simple exercise into an hours-long debacle. Surely there was a better way.

Already, the possibility I might have the power to create this better way was already turning over in my head. But the idea needed further evolution.

The Plight of Today's Indie Author

Making friends on Twitter with fellow wannabe novelists has been illuminating on multiple levels. The sheer number of hopefuls contending to become one of a few hundred (or even just a few dozen) successful breakout authors each year was staggering and admittedly discouraging. The gold rush of self-publishing allowed so many of us to achieve our dreams of becoming published authors (even if only in name) but the ease of this new industry also created a mountain range of novels in which all who venture this route must clamber to the summit of or risk being buried beneath. And though I have found several great books by indie and small press authors, the vast majority of them (I hate to say) fall painfully short.

This volume of noise makes promoting a new book like trying to shout to above the crowd at an NFL stadium. A few might hear you, most won't care and are probably annoyed you're distracting them from the real action anyway. Even if what you have to say is brilliant, the most likely result is that your voice will drown in the audio matrix of thousands of others much like you. Yet some of these books are brilliant, innovative, entertaining and able to forge an indelible mark on that part of my brain that employs fiction as a vehicle to absorb and interpret this crazy life in this crazy world.

What I dreamed of was a way for these great books to find the readers looking for just such a story. Maybe the problem with modern indie book marketing is that its focus is too obtuse. These authors need a way to zero in on their perfect reader.

I wanted to contribute to a solution. My first idea: use my voice. I unveiled a series of blog interviews of good independent/small press writers whose books I read and deemed worthy of promotion. Unfortunately, however, my voice is not very powerful, and my blog not popular enough for true clout.

Every Inspiration Has its Eureka! Moment

I was lounging in a hammock beside an Alaskan creek with the stunning beauty of the natural world unfolding all around me (such moments have often proved lucrative for great inspiration) when an idea appeared from the vaporous ether. A searchable database where authors could enter highly specific information about their book and readers could, in turn, use the database to find the exact book they were looking for. Like E-harmony for bibliophiles, maybe the database would cultivate that perfect literary chemistry.

I just want to create a tool that helps
indie/small press authors find their
target audience
Returning to civilization, I was anxious to get to work, but alas my new idea collided with a fresh problem: I'm no web guru and I had no budget to hire one. I possess limited skills with html and a forkful of experience tinkering with several personal websites. It occurred to me that making this database a reality required a skillset I simply didn't possess.

After months of scouring the shady corners of the internet (of which there are a shocking many) in search of the easiest way to bring this vision to life, I concluded I was likely going to have to learn to write code. It wouldn't be easy, I figured. But also I pride myself on the ability to work through most things, given enough motivation. I launched into the first in what I assumed was going to be many how-to tutorials. Almost instantly, however, the vehicle carrying me towards this dream hit the quagmire. My eyes went crossed before I'd even made it through page one.

I might as well be faced with the task of learning Chinese.

Bookmatcher is Born

Eventually, however, I stumbled onto what seemed to be a workable solution, of which I have presented a trial version here in the hopes of obtaining feedback. I've named it the Bookmatcher, a working title as I have been absolutely hampered by the fact that every available domain I liked was already taken, often by "squatters" who haven't even turned these potential URLs into a functioning website. They just own the rights and sit on them for nothing. Even some of my less-optimal ideas were striking out (seriously, go eat a gopher whoever owns logophile.com and bibliomatch.com).

Anyway, for now, I've created a prototype database for Fantasy fiction, though I hope in the future to extend it to almost every genre available. Of course, should the idea prove viable I will move it off my author blog and onto its own sparkling website with some clever, functioning domain.

I Need Your Help

This is the point where I solicit feedback. How well did the prototype work? What categories/options are missing that should be included? Is this even something you would consider using? What are the things I haven't thought of? What should this thing be called?

Obviously this web application is in a state akin to a novel rough draft, and I don't expect anyone will find it perfect. Maybe it's a foolhardy idea anyway and not worth anyone's time or effort. Right now I am simply attempting a trial run to gauge interest and efficiency and gather a little feedback. I appreciate any and all help.

So without further ado, please feel free to upload your book into the Bookmatcher or search the existing database. I uploaded a few of my favorite fantasy novels just to give the database a little ballast. I welcome feedback of all sorts.

Thank you so much and happy writing/publishing/reading!


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Thank you for supporting the development of this potential web application for writers and readers. If you enjoyed the idea and want to be kept up to date on its progress, or you simply want to read more blog posts by me, consider signing up for my mailing list. When not dreaming of ways to facilitate books and literature, I write about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 


Friday, September 29, 2017

A Slytherin? Really?

In a blog post a little while back, Twitter friend A.S. Akkalon discussed being sorted into Ravenclaw by the Pottermore website. In a comment, I proclaimed that I was also part of the Ravenclaw club. We congratulated each other's high degree of nerdom and moved on.

Why Ravenclaw you might ask? Well, frankly I'm not quite personable enough to be a Hufflepuff, not nearly brave enough to be a Gryffindor, and certainly not evil enough to be a Slytherin. Besides, "Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure" is a motto I could get behind any day.

If you aren't a fan of Harry Potter, this entire post will probably
seem like nonsense. I apologize in advance for that
As time went on, I was intrigued by the notion of being sorted. My declaration of belonging to Ravenclaw bore no official sanction. I was yet another in a sad line of "self sorters" who were, in fact, nothing more than pretenders.

What Potter fan hasn't wondered and even fantasized about what their time at Hogwarts would be like? Would I be a quidditch captain and seeker and end up in front of thousands of cheering witches and warlocks at the Quidditch World Cup? Would I be a troublemaker and romp the castle grounds, probing its every secret passage like Fred and George Weasley? Would I be a clever, clandestine wizard, poking through the restricted section of the library and creating innovative and original magic?

Knowing there was a website, and one officially sanctioned by J.K. Rowling which seemed to lend it some credence, that would actually sort me into my Hogwarts house, how could I resist? I found myself visiting Pottermore for the first time, greedy to discover something of my Hogwarts future.

So the sorting quiz began...

"Your worst nightmare consists of..." "Which animal would you bring to Hogwarts..." "You most want to be remembered as..." The questions rolled on. Though sometimes I found myself stuck between answers (if I interpret it like this I would answer ___ but if I interpret it like that I would answer ___), I provided the most honest answers possible.

Otis is black but he resents even the implication of evilness
At last I reached the final question: "Black or white?" Hmmm... But what does that mean? Historically black is (perhaps unfairly) correlated with evil, and white with good. From a personal style perspective, however, I am not a fan of white clothing. I am much too adventurous and prone to staining for anything lighter than a tan-ish shade of brown. My closet is lined with black t-shirts. I always wear black sunglasses. My dog is black and, unless I'm even a few minutes late feeding him dinner, it seems hard to label anything about him as evil.

This strangely vague question of black or white seemed laden with gravity, like my entire Hogwarts experience might hinge on simple semantic interpretation. If it was meant to be figurative, a stand-in for the moral condition of my soul, then of course I would choose white. I like to think of myself as a person of good-intentions. I always side with the hero, not the villain. But from a simple electromagnetic spectrum standpoint (and the three simple words in the question's phrasing gave no indication it was anything else) I would have to say black fits me better. 

After too-long deliberating, I chose black and reluctantly hit submit.

The quiz was complete. My Hogwarts schooling career was about to begin. The time had come to find out to which House I belonged.....

SLYTHERIN!!! The Sorting Hat projected into the Great Hall. What?!? How could?!? But I...

I was aghast. I was angry. I was ashamed. Such a torrent of emotion did I experience that I leapt to my feet and paced around my living room until the shock wore off. It had be wrong. There must be some mistake. Somebody hacked into my computer while I was halfway through and supplied some devious, misleading and inauthentic answers. But after a amount of time spent feeling angry and disenfranchised, I had to accept the truth:

The Sorting Hat's decision was final. Like it or not, I was a Slytherin.

My new family crest, I suppose. The evil-looking snake
does nothing to assuage my fear of how I will be
received by my Hogwarts colleagues. As a member
of another house, would you still be my friend?
I was stuck with a vision of myself, wary in the corner of the shadowy Slytherin common room, on the fringe of a pack of snaggletoothed Crabbe and Goyle lookalikes, trying not to draw attention while simultaneously trying not to look like I was trying not to draw attention. Somewhere nearby a Malfoy-figure was holding a gathering of the wizarding world's version of the Alt-right and I felt obliged to voice my occasional disingenuous agreement simply in order to ride my broom under the proverbial radar.

Perhaps, however, if while the Sorting Hat rested upon my head, magically penetrating parts of my mind I didn't even know existed, I should have implored it "Not in Slytherin. Not in Slytherin" and it would have taken enough pity on my cause to throw me in Ravenclaw anyway.

I was consoled somewhat by the letter from my new house welcoming me into the noble line of Slytherin. The great wizard Merlin, the letter informed me, was a Slytherin. This is good. I liked the Sword in the Stone. If we are talking about the same iteration of Merlin, I could potentially get behind that.

So do I have some hidden evil in me that the Pottermore Sorting Hat sensed that even I am unaware of? Or perhaps is it that Slytherin gets an unfair reputation based on a few bad examples? Or is it just a silly website and I shouldn't take it so seriously? I never actually put on the actual Sorting Hat, after all. This quiz that functions as a Sorting Hat stand-in surely is little more than a cheap imitation.

Despite this reasonable logic and my numerous appeals to the magical kingdom for justice, however, I had to accept that I was sorted as well as an American muggle can be.

I am a Slytherin.

NOTE: After this blog post was written, I returned to the Pottermore website, created a different account and re-took the sorting quiz and was sorted properly into Ravenclaw as I was supposed to be all along. But was this cheating? Actual Hogwarts entrants get no such second chances.
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If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for my mailing list. When not dreaming about becoming a wizard, I often write about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Author Spotlight: Abby Goldsmith- City of Slaves

As part of my recent effort to support and bring greater illumination to the rapidly expanding demographic of Indie/small press writers, today's post is the third in a planned series of spotlights on less-publicized authors whose books I've read and enjoyed.

The mind reading Torth must be defeated inn City of Slaves
Read a full-length cut of City of Slaves
on Wattpad
In this post the spotlight is on Abby Goldsmith. Her incredible debut novel is City of Slaves, a science fiction tale about an orphan boy named Thomas with mind-reading powers. Early in the novel, Thomas and his companions are kidnapped to a world where a race of mind-reading humanoids called the Torth have enslaved and brutally oppressed a bevy of non-mindreading alien species.

Abby's well-crafted novel yanked me through its pages. The story is packed with well-faceted characters and oozes with macro and microtensions that drive the plot through to a cliff-hanger conclusion.

I supplied Abby with a list of questions to which she was kind enough to provide answers.

Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background? What made you want to become a writer?

I've always been a storyteller. I began stringing words and drawings together into stories at age 3, and by the age of 12, I'd written two novels on a typewriter, plus some home-made theater productions, plus a series of comics. I received a harsh rejection from someone at Random House when I was 13 years old, and that caused me to switch gears away from writing to other forms of storytelling. I graduated from CalArts (the California Institute of the Arts) as a Character Animation major, hoping to become the next Tim Burton or Brad Bird, directing blockbuster films. My student films were screened at the Annecy International Film Festival and the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. But after college, my career path took me into handheld video-games instead of feature films, and my heart found its way back to writing novels.

Have you had any other works published? Where?

My most recent publication is a story in Futuristica vol 2. I also have short fiction in Escape Pod, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, and in a few anthologies. I keep track of my publications at http://abbygoldsmith.com/bibliography/

City of Slaves was reminiscent for me of one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Iain M. Banks, who had great ideas about a post-scarcity intergalactic society of humanoids known as “the Culture” that would surely have butted heads with the Torth. Who would you say are your primary literary influences?

Thank you. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't yet read anything by Iain M. Banks.  I do read a lot of SFF, and he's been recommended to me by a lot of people with good taste, so he's in my queue of authors to read.

My biggest influences are Stephen King, Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and Scott Sigler. I love big, epic scope stories with larger-than-life characters, dynamic character interaction, and really high stakes. If the story is insanely complex and the characters are utterly ludicrous, yet the author still gets me fully invested in their lives and believing every new twist, then I'm in awe.  That's the kind of author I want to be.

Tell me about the moment of inspiration for City of Slaves? How did the tale come to be?

This story was brewing in my head for many years before it bubbled over into a coherent narrative.  I grew up at the dawn of the Internet Age and social media era. I was an avid user of Q-Link bulletin boards, and later an avid user of Facebook and iPhone apps (heck, I worked on a few). I think the internet is changing the way human society communicates, and I don't see this phenomenon explored in fiction nearly as thoroughly as I think it should be. What happens when the majority of people make the laws, instead of lawyers and politicians? What is the end result when winning popularity is more important than proving your merit? What is the impact of valuing emotionless logic over passionate beliefs?

I wanted to explore those questions through the focused lens of SFF. And, of course, I grew up watching Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and all those fun 1980s movies. I wanted my epic story to have loads of entertainment value.

The first book of my series, City of Slaves--which I am probably going to re-title as Galactic Minds--gave me a lot of trouble, in terms of introducing the universe and characters. My writing skills weren't up to the task at the time I wrote the first draft.  It's required a few rewrites.

I found your idea of the “macrocosm” immensely intriguing. The near-constant scrutiny Thomas faced when he "ascended" reminded me somewhat of modern social media. Interestingly, you had the Torth mention the humans’ invention of a “primitive macrocosm” in the internet. Can you talk for a moment about the way sci-fi—and all forms of speculative fiction—provide us with useful avenues to approach modern problems faced here on Earth despite being set in a time and/or place quite different?

One reason why I love SFF is because it gives us the ability to laser-focus on one or two particular aspects of our real-life world, and analyze and explore those aspects in new and challenging ways. Let's say a reader prides herself on having a sharp distinction between reality and fiction. She slaughters characters in video-games, but she would never dream of harming a real person. Then she reads the Otherland series by Tad Williams, and she's immersed in a fictionalized virtual universe where the line between fictional character and real character is blurred and possibly irrelevant. That might challenge her to think about the distinction in new ways.

That's the first example that popped into my head, but I could use almost any work of SFF as an example.

Since the internet is so pervasive in everyone's life, and so prevalent, and changing so many factors about our real world, I marvel that so few SFF authors are exploring its myriad possibilities and ramifications. In my opinion, this should be one of the hottest trending topics for SFF to explore. Instead, it seems to be a backwater topic that gets mostly ignored.

In my experience, one of the hardest things about writing a novel is the editing process. It takes far longer than the actual writing. In my opinion your novel read more cleanly and professionally than some independent novels I’ve encountered. What can you reveal about your editing methodology? Did you use so-called “beta-readers”? Did you work with a professional editor?

Abby Goldsmith
You can link up with Abby on her website,
FacebookYoutube, and Twitter
Ugh. I edited it to death. I think I suffer from obsessive-compulsive perfectionism, and I'm actively working towards a healthier methodology. But yes, I use beta readers. This particular novel had over 100 beta readers, spread over multiple drafts and many years. About 60% of them only read variations of the beginning. George R.R. Martin read an early version of the first chapter, and gave an extensive and valuable verbal critique, much of it positive. That was one of my happiest moments at the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

For more than a few years, I was caught in an endless revising loop, where every rejection from a literary agent would send me back to square one. I don't believe that every writer is in danger of doing that. Some novels are easy to sell. Some writers don't invest everything they have into one huge series; they move to new projects before they invest too much time into the first one or two. But if you're like me, prone to endless edits and revisions ... my sympathies.

Anyway, I've found an approach that seems to be working for me. I no longer allow myself to focus solely on a project that needs edits. I have an internal mandate to *always* be working on a first draft of something new, no matter what. That takes priority. I limit my editing time to two evenings per week. Edits get done slowly, but they no longer consume all of my free time or creative energy. They no longer stall my writing career. As a result, my edits are now a lot more productive. I'm not floundering or second-guessing my own decisions nearly as much.

So far it looks like you have done most of your publishing on wattpad. Have you settled on a publishing method for this novel and its sequels? Do you plan to query agents and go the traditional route or stick with self-publishing?

I still fantasize about seeing my novels published by Tor Books, or DAW, or Orbit, or any of the major publishers. Reader feedback for this series is very encouraging, but the style and the potential audience don't seem to be what the Big Five want. I've had to take a few steps back and reassess everything I believed about publishing. At this point, I suspect that the traditional industry isn't taking gambles or risks. A lot of the innovation I see in SFF fiction is coming from the indie author crowd, or authors who were indie before they signed a contract. So that's where I'm headed. I wish I'd had the courage to take that leap before the gold rush got started.

Now I'm learning everything I can about marketing self-published work. There's a lot to learn. The path isn't any easier than traditional publishing, but it allows for more flexibility. I think it suits me and my series.

You left me hanging! When do I get to read the sequel? Some authors find it challenging to make sequels fresh, original and still as engaging as the first novel. Conversely, I find many readers complain about them too. What has your experience been?

Thanks!

I conceived of this series as a single epic story, so I never struggled with how the sequels would play out.  It's all the same story, with each book having its own nested story arc. I set up a story question in each book, and answer it by the end.  In the first book, the story question is "Will they escape the city of slaves?" You find out by the end.  In the second book, the story question is "Will they be able to go home to Earth and/or live in freedom?" You find out by the end. And so forth.

The whole series has its own massive story question: "Will they defeat the Torth Empire and free all the slaves in the galaxy?" You can probably guess the answer, but if you've read any of it, you're gonna wonder "How?" That's the question that will get answered by the end of the whole series.

The sequel will be ready by Spring 2018, maybe sooner. That's my current big editing project. I hope you can beta read it.

Not to overwhelm you, but I also have Books 3, 4, and 5 completed, and I'm currently writing Book 6. The later books only need light edits! I was more skilled when I wrote them, and they've been exhilarating to write, since they're the culmination of so much story and character build-up. Beta reader feedback has been beyond positive. This series will pack a punch, once it's published.

Where can readers and other writers connect with you? Can you send me links to your facebook, twitter, google+, personal website, etc, etc etc?

Here's the link to City of Slaves on Wattpad. The official release won't be until next year sometime.

AbbyGoldsmith.com
www.facebook.com/TheTorth
www.twitter.com/Abbyland
plus.google.com/u/0/+AbbyGoldsmith
www.youtube.com/user/AbbyBabble/
medium.com/@AbbyGoldsmith

Thank you for your time and best of luck in all future endeavors!

PREVIOUS AUTHOR SPOTLIGHTS

-Fergal F. Nally: Aes Sidhe
-Cindy Tomamichel: Druid's Portal
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This is the third in a series of spotlights on indie/small press writers who deserve your attention. If you enjoyed it, consider signing up for my mailing list. I also blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Call of the Sawtooth Mountains

A crisp layer of frost clung to the tent our first morning in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range. It was early September but a cold front had sent the mercury plummeting at our campsite beside Redfish Lake near the town of Stanley, Idaho. Even with an extra blanket and the added warmth provided by Otis, our rescue mutt, my wife, Ella, and I emerged from the tent blowing hot breath into our frozen palms and clamping our teeth to keep them from chattering. A shroud of fog hung over the long lake, and the granite sentinels that had inspired us the day before were now invisible. It was hard to hear the call of the mountains without seeing them.

Redfish Lake, Sawtooth Mountains
The Sawtooth Mountains near Redfish Lake
“What do you think?” I said, fumbling with the knobs on our Coleman stove. A mug of hot coffee was the solution to almost any situation.

“About what?” Ella said.

“The hike today.”

As if on cue, it was raining again, a drizzle so close to snow it turned to ice nearly on impact. My toes, if they were even still there, might as well have been cubes of ice in my boots. We were not prepared for this. When we arrived the afternoon before it had been sunny and in the upper sixties.

“I don’t know,” she answered slowly after a long hesitation. It was our first visit to the Sawtooth Range, and though we had plans for a ten-mile hike, I suspected both of us were warming up to the idea of being talked out of it. I crammed my fingers into my armpits.

“Let’s go to Stanley, get a latte, and see if it burns off,” Ella suggested.

Sounded good to me. I shut down the stove and crammed everything haphazardly into the car for a hasty escape.

The Stanley Baking Company was a thing of legend, and it was appropriately packed when we arrived half an hour later. All the way up from our home in Colorado rumor of this quaint, log-cabin cookery seemed to follow us. Obviously, we were not the only ones with the idea to wait out the cold basking in the aroma of bacon and espresso.

Stanley—a rustic town with a relaxed atmosphere and almost no pavement—feels as if it were plucked from the backwoods of Alaska with its forgotten-by-technology vibe and rugged mountain setting. The entire county in which it resides, Custer County, has no stoplights. With a population of a mere 4,300 in a space covering almost 5,000 square miles, Custer Country is a place where the elk likely outnumber the people.

The reason the name “Sawtooth” is particularly apt for these mountains needs little explanation. These tightly arranged granite tusks form one of the most dramatic segments of the entire American Rocky Mountains. They are also the southern rampart of one of the wildest regions left in the contiguous United States.

Goat Lake Sawtooth Range in Idaho
Goat Lake near Stanley, Idaho 
This broad expanse, which contains the Sawtooth, White Cloud, Frank Church and River of No Return wilderness areas, spans some 2.7 million acres, roughly twice the size of Delaware. The spiny serrations of the Sawtooths cleave the Idaho sky, ruling over the landscape with unchallenged authority. Resplendent with green forests, crystalline tarns, and busting wildlife, the Sawtooth Mountains stand as a monument to the rugged West as it must once have been.

In the 1960’s this area almost became a national park. Frank Church, who spent nearly half his life serving the state of Idaho as a senator from 1957 to 1984, led the conservation vanguard who fought to protect the vast beauty of these mountains. A long battle evolved eventually into a great rift between conservationist camps, one that was further complicated by the discovery of a vein of valuable molybdenum in the Sawtooths’ neighboring range, the White Cloud Mountains.

The war over the Sawtooths’ fate was divided into three belligerents. The first faction proposed that the area undergo a feasibility study to become a national park. The second argued for conservation but worried over the sheer volume of people the designation of national park would attract. The third and final camp was the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), their shareholders and supporters, who filed paperwork in 1968 to begin construction of a massive open-pit mine to harvest the aforementioned molybdenum.

ASARCO was backed by Idaho governor Dan Samuelson, who claimed Castle Peak (the site of the proposed mine) was “nothing but sagebrush on one side and scraggly trees on the other.” Touting the General Mining Act of 1872, which allowed for private acquisition of mining claims on federal land, ASARCO began to move forward with their plans to construct the mine, an act that galvanized the divided resistance to settle their differences.

The Sawtooth Range in Idaho
Sunset over the Sawtooths in Stanley, Idaho
Governor Samuelson lost his re-election in 1970 to conservation-minded Ceil Andrus. With support mounting nationally to save the Sawtooths and White Clouds from this destructive fate, a compromise was reached between the discordant conservation groups that created the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, a relatively new designation that protected these stunning peaks from both mining and from the over-exposure certain to follow national park status.

“Look at the mountains!” Ella said as we finished breakfast. Sure enough the towering monoliths of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area glistened in clear skies. The distant summits were dusted in fresh snow.

My belly was bulging with eggs, toast, bacon and hollandaise sauce, but what mountain enthusiast could pass on such a place when blue sky was showing and the heavenly glow of the sun cascaded down the shoulders of such spectacular peaks?

“Should we go after all?” she asked.

I grinned and climbed into the driver’s seat.

Twenty minutes later our Rav4 bumped to a stop at the trailhead and we lashed our hiking shoes on our thawing feet. Otis sprinted up and down the parking lot, poking his bearded snout into the dense bush after a noisy chipmunk.

Just a few hours ago I was ready to lick my frozen wounds and turn for home, but now I couldn’t help but think of John Muir as I shrugged on my backpack and marched towards the protected range.

The mountains are calling, and I must go.

NOTE: This article first appeared in print and online for Our Backyard, September 2017 issue, a regional publication that serves western Colorado and eastern Utah.
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If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for my mailing list. I also blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions 


Monday, August 28, 2017

The Best Year in Years

Three-hundred and sixty-five little days. Is that all it’s been? It seems like a decade since my wife (Ella), dog (Otis) and I (Brian) left Colorado on this journey. 

Brian, Ella, and Otis
Having sunk roots in the same place more or less continuously for almost 20 years (and Ella for her whole life) we'd reached a point of stagnation, where our lives seemed hopelessly fixed.

We needed an adventure. 

Enter the travel nurse.

Being a nurse is probably a good career, but not for me. Any job where something called “sputum” has a chance of getting in my eyes is beyond my weak stomach. But Ella is good at it, and—at least on sputum-free days—seems generally to enjoy it.

One year ago today, Ella accepted a position as a travel nurse. We sold or stored almost everything we owned, crammed our lives into the space of a Toyota Rav4, and put rubber to pavement. We've been back only briefly since.

PART 1: The Mountains are Calling (Sun Valley, Idaho; 8/28/2016 to 12/23/2016)

We arrived in Idaho on a Sunday night and found ourselves in a wilderness of the strange: grocery chains we’d never heard of, references on the radio to people and places we didn’t understand. It was altogether novel and unsettling. But all-in-all the change was fresh and pleasing. I felt like I was at the brink of a discovery. 

The wilderness of Idaho near Sun Valley is amazing
Ella and Otis at one of so many lakes in the Idaho mountains
The first night in Idaho, we opted for a walk behind our new house. Otis was on edge, his tail erect, hackles raised and muzzle buried in every passing thicket. He exemplified what I felt: disoriented, anxious, and eager to learn this unknown landscape.

The next four months passed like a dream. 

Trails. Endless miles of serpentine paths gliding through alpine settings. There were so many that we hardly made a repeat footprint our entire stay. The Sun Valley area provided five mountain ranges in which to romp: the Smokies, the White Clouds, the Boulders, the Pioneers, and (most impressive of all) the Sawtooths. For alpine/mountaineering enthusiasts, it was paradise.

Hot Springs. Central Idaho is ripe with geothermal action. There is sublimity in lounging in a natural hot tub, soothing bubbles tickling up tired limbs as nature unfolds its splendor all around. Such moments are ineffable.

Snow. We skied four feet of fresh powder. These fluffy white heaps were miniature emulations of the grand mountains in which they formed. Snow fluttered, streaked or outright dumped from the sky right up to the hour we left.

When the time came to leave in December, we did so grudgingly. Our first experience living outside Colorado had proven that the world held options. There were so many places I hadn't seen and people I hadn't met. My only fear, as Idaho sunk in our rearview mirror, was if any destination after could favorably compare, or would everything after fall disappointingly short.

INTERLUDE 1: Christmas in Colorado (12/23/16 to 1/5/17)

Ignore the stress of gift buying and the pressure of fleeting morsels of time to every visiting friend and relative and the holidays are special. Family coalesces, forging memories that last a lifetime. We spent a white Christmas with our family back in Colorado, but it was doomed not to last. Our next destination was calling from over the horizon.

PART 2: Rain and Redwoods (Eureka, California; 1/5/17 to 4/24/17)

We arrived in California in the apogee of one of the worst storms in years. It was fitting that rain would usher us away three and a half months later.

We are small-town folk. While Eureka, California is a city of only 30,000, the outlying area of some 200,000 felt like a bustling metropolis compared to what we were used to. In Idaho our apartment stood in a sea of pine trees. At night we had to be cautious when walking out our door of close encounters with marauding wolves. Bugling elk sang us to sleep. In Eureka our apartment stood in sea of concrete. At night we had to be cautious when walking out our door of close encounters with meth-addled homeless. The thunder of truck engines sang us to sleep.

playing on the tallest and some of the oldest trees in the world
Playing on a redwood, the tallest trees in the world
This makes our time in Northern California sound all bad but it wasn't, not by a long shot. We lived for the first time beside the ocean, learning to glide back and forth with the tide. The musky perfume of the sea filled the air (when you stepped far enough from the urbane downtown to smell it). Waves collapsed with undulating thunder onto endless beaches. Rugged coasts and conical sea stacks provided roosts for squawking birds, and (best of all) we were surrounded by a forest of the world’s tallest trees. There were many magical moments in this novel environment. While Idaho had been like an variation of Colorado, California was something different altogether.

One of Life's Forks

Alas, three months passed as they always do (quickly) and the time came to decide on our next destination. We stood at one of those proverbial forks.

Ella was offered a travel position in Santa Barbara, California, a beautiful ocean-side city known for exquisite beaches and a vibrant economy. But on a whim Ella had a applied for a full-time, year round position in Seward, Alaska, a tiny town embedded in the rugged Alaskan mountains. We had always wanted to live in the far north. Neither of us had expected to hear back from Seward, but one day, after she'd already accepted the position in Santa Barbara, the call came:

We were wanted. In Alaska.

The choice could be distilled to this: Santa Barbara would be easy. Housing would be found and paid for for us. It was a short, three-month commitment. But although it was a beautiful place, Santa Barbara was not our dreamland. In many ways it was not much different from where we had just been. Seward, on the other hand, would be rugged, committing, and far from our families. Contracts would stipulate we had to spend a full year at least. It was risky. We would be on our own. But Alaska had been a dream of ours and this was our chance. The biggest thing holding us back was our fear to take a risk. And that is never a good reason not to do anything. 

Alaska...we are coming.

INTERLUDE 2: The Great Road Trip (4/24/2017 to 5/11/2017)

The memories of our 18-day journey from California to Alaska will always be fond. The Oregon coast. Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Seattle. The Inside Passage. The Yukon. So many amazing places, all of which entirely new. As I detailed much of this trip in an earlier blog post, I won’t go too deeply into the story. We saw some of the most beautiful sights the western United States had to offer. This road trip was a journey within a larger journey. It was the type of adventure I will recall fondly for decades. It was, however, only a prelude to what is likely the climax of this life-altering (and ongoing) bildungsroman.

PART 3: The Last Frontier (Seward, Alaska; 5/11/2017 to ?)

Alaska mountains and ocean in one sight
The boat harbor in Seward, Alaska. This is nearly 2,300
miles from Glenwood Springs, Colorado as the eagle
flies
Alaska takes its official nickname “The Last Frontier” for a reason. Much of the state is brutally rugged and remote. Wildlife exists much as it always has. Blue glaciers tumble from cuspid mountains. Moose and brown bears plod across hundreds of miles of unfettered wildlands oblivious to the trials of the modern world. In terms of size, Alaska would swallow the United Kingdom, France and Germany combined, yet is home to a mere 700,000 people. 

In a sense, Idaho and California were merely training. The sparse wilderness of central Idaho provided a functioning warm-up for the behemoth scale of Alaska. The coast of Northern California acclimated us to the rhythm of the ocean.

After three and a half months here now (roughly the same amount of time we spent in both California and Idaho), Alaska had proven to be everything we hoped and more. I understand the addiction of this place. Life at the edge of the map has a way of reminding you that you are alive. It is a slice of a time long past.

I am excited to experience the full cycle of a year in this place and learn the lessons it is willing to teach.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As the eagle flies we are 2,288 miles from where we started. We are our past selves, and we are not. I imagine myself a year ago and I picture someone cloistered and naïve. I see a truck spinning its wheels in the quagmire. I was halfway up a mountain stranded on a narrow ledge. Above it was too steep to climb and below too risky to retreat. This year was the foil, the glider that lifted me away. Circling in the sky, I think I understand that this mountain has always had many faces, and infinite variations to the top.

I have come to think of this long adventure as “the Search for Home.” The whole point, after all, was finding the place to settle down. Buy a house, start a family. Where will this home be? Idaho? California? Colorado? Alaska? Somewhere else? The question lingers….

For now, there can be no doubt: it was the best year in years.
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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Stuffing a Play Down Your Boot

As a writer how can I possibly condone the theft of intellectual property? Facilitated or not by the digital age, taking advantage of piracy is scarcely different than walking into a store a ripping an item off the shelf. There is no question bootlegging is wrong. It is not the same as stealing, it is stealing.

Hamilton was a Broadway smash success of unprecedented levels
The Playbill for Hamilton, perhaps
the greatest play to come out
in decades
Here is the point in this blog post where I make a stunning, reckless admission: I recently enjoyed a bootleg (gasp!).

A Criminal Justifies His Crime

Today, I will attempt something I've not yet undertaken in my blog: review a play. That’s right. This post is a review/criticism of the venerable, multiple-Tony-award-winning, Pulitzer-Prize-for-Drama-snatching, once-in-a-generation mega hit Hamilton.

Obtaining tickets to Hamilton is nearly impossible. Its intense popularity combined with its single-venue production effectively restricts attendees to the wealthy and/or fortunate few.

In another lifetime (when I was 11 years old) I was lucky enough to attend a Broadway production. It was an unparalleled experience which I still recall in vivid detail: the glistening lights, the ambiance of classic grandeur, the jaw-plummeting production value. In more recent years I've been forced to settle on less prestigious venues to satiate my drama fix. That is not to belittle such places, because all of them (from Denver's Buell Theater to anonymous, barely-lit backroad stages) carried their own charm. But no matter how enjoyable these performances are they will always remain a distant second to that greatest of all stages. However, living in Seward, Alaska leaves me about as far from those bright lights as humanly possible. Even with Hamilton now on national tour (and soon to open in London's famous West End), tickets can range from painfully expensive (like $300) to outright insanity (like $1000 or more). in other words, the likelihood of me seeing Hamilton on stage any time in the near future is roughly equivalent to me striking all five numbers and the Powerball in this week's lottery (I didn't even buy tickets).

I suppose I could wait until the hype enveloping Hamilton is tamped down by time, which might take years or even decades. Or maybe just be patient until they get around to making the movie that is rumored to being in production. When I really want something, however, patience is a virtue in desperately short supply for me. So after two years of trying to temper my excitement, I decided to pursue another option: scour the shady corners of the internet in search of a bootleg.

It just so happens, I found one.

Before you spit vileness at me which I probably deserve, allow me a chance to defend myself. First of all, the download was free, so I did not monetarily support the syndication of this illegal taping. Secondly, if I ever get the chance to watch the play or buy the movie, I intend to seize it just the same as if I’d never seen it at all. Also, this grainy, occasionally shaky, video is with the original cast in its pre-Broadway stage. The show's mastermind, Lin-Manuel Miranda, portrays Alexander Hamilton as he originally intended. Since Miranda has moved on and is no longer an actor in the production, I will never have the chance to witness this special moment in theater history. For me, this alone justifies my sin.

So I’ll be my own hater for a moment and spare you the breath. I’m abhorrent. A criminal. I have no excuse. I'm nasty. A thief. Etc. Etc. Etc.

There. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the play.

Opening Words

Does Hamilton live up to the hype? Is it everything people made it out to be? Did it deserve 11 Tony Awards? The Pulitzer Prize for Drama?

In short, absolutely.

To say Hamilton is "good" is like calling the Sistine Chapel "pretty". True? Well, yes. But a gross understatement. Hamilton is at once brilliant, educational, original, funny, tragic, unique, and entertaining. Music and storytelling are my own outlets for artistic expression, and the way Miranda blends the two is truly a work of genius. Although I'm not typically a fan of hip hop, the nature of the musical score transcends the boundaries of genre. Even someone like me who is more versed in rock/folk can appreciate the depth of the musical mastery.

Music

How can the story of a colonial-era founding father be told through a musical genre not invented until 200 years after his death? In Hamilton, hip hop works to take the mood of the era and translate it into the modern vernacular. In short, the narrative becomes "truer than true." Much like how opera exaggerates emotion to render the moods of its characters more comprehensible, this move to modernize Alexander Hamilton's story with hip hop exaggerates the nuances of his life and makes it possible for today's theatergoer to experience the empathy that makes Hamilton special.

A perfect example of the play's cultural translation is the debate between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton in Act II. In a sense, the word-swapping colonialists, who were intensely focused on forming their argument with perfect meter and rhyme, were engaged in the 18th century version of a rap battle. The "Cabinet Debate" scene, therefore, transcribes the historical events into 21st century reality. Not only is the scene highly entertaining, but it represents the character and nature of the time in culturally relevant verisimilitude.

Race

Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Secretary of Treasury's
office
By modulating the race of the founding fathers, Hamilton once again translates the mood of the time into a contemporary setting. Miranda makes a bold comparison from the plight of the revolution-era colonialists to that of the modern immigrant/minority. The British in the play, including and especially King George III, are portrayed by white actors singing outdated classic-style showtunes. The Americans, however, are always portrayed by racial minorities engaged in much more lyrically complex hip hop.

In the real world of the American Revolution, the British were locked in a traditionalist quagmire, much to their downfall. A perfect illustration was their mode of warfare: wearing bright red coats and marching out into open exposure while hammering on drums for all to hear. Enemies must have known they were coming for miles. While the British viewed such tactics as honorable and civilized, modern military strategists easily recognize their folly. The American revolutionaries, on the other hand, were British emigrants and cultural outcasts. Their war tactics were far more innovative and progressive. The colonialists understood how the world had moved on. Pioneering guerrilla warfare, the revolutionaries were able to defeat the much larger and better-equipped British army by subverting the foolhardy strategy of field warfare. The disparity, between the traditionalist Brits and progressive Americans, is perfectly translated via the race and musical styles depicted in the play.

Story

The story of Alexander Hamilton needs little embellishment. Here was a bastard, orphan, son of a whore (to steal the first line from the play's first song) who goes on to become an American hero, founding father and the country's first Secretary of Treasury. He married into one of the wealthiest families in the burgeoning nation, became George Washington's righthand man, and implemented politics that fundamentally changed the trajectory of our country, the ramifications of which still resonate today. The tragic and dramatic conclusion of his life, in a duel with his once-friend Aaron Burr, seems almost too perfectly suited for drama.

The musical Hamilton fully exploits this incredible narrative, telling the story in an educated, brilliant, and modernly accessible manner. Prior to Hamilton, the ten-dollar founding father without a father, Alexander Hamilton, had slipped into historical obscurity. Thanks to the work of Miranda and others who created this instant-classic, he is likely to be remembered for the ages.

Exeunt

So yes, blame me for being a pirate, but understand how desperately I wanted to see this show. The nature of Broadway limits the demographic that experiences these moments of artistic innovation, and this play needs to be seen by all, now more than ever. Though I understand Miranda was deeply irked by bootlegging of his work, and rightfully so since he donated six years of his life to its creation, part of me wants to believe he would emphasize with my frustration and recognize the necessity to disseminate this incredible work to everyone. And when the play is finally accessible for people like me, whether via a movie or some other avenue, I will gladly support it every way I can and I encourage you to do so as well.

In closing, there is no doubt that even among my favorite musicals (Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, et al) Hamilton stands alone in complexity, intrigue and originality. It is truly spectacular.

For those of you unwilling to procure an illegal bootleg of the full Hamilton show, enjoy this legal clip from the play, a live performance of one song during the 70th annual Tony Awards:

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If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up for my mailing list. I also blog about all sorts of crazy, educational, entertaining, and occasionally funny topics from what makes an effective first paragraph in a novel to giant redwoodsmedieval sailboats, the ancient Mayans and more. If you do sign up, you will get a once-a-week update on my posts and NOTHING ELSE! No spam, no selling your email to third parties. Okay, if I ever get around to publishing one of these works in progress that are constantly haunting me, I might send out an email letting you know. In the meantime thanks for reading.

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All writing is the original work of Brian Wright and may not be copied, distributed, re-printed or used any form without express written consent of the author. Find out here how to CONTACT me with publishing and/or use questions