We need to have a talk about Realism in storytelling.
Well, we probably don’t. If you’re a fan of anything I’ve written, you’re probably cool with a flexible definition of reality. So this might very well be preaching to the choir, but it’s still worth talking about because if you read any criticism of storytelling in general, across all genres, is the specter of Realism.
I use capital R “Realism” because we’re not talking about actual reality, but about perceptions of reality. The truth is that reality is often unrealistic, in that it doesn’t always conform to our experiences or expectations. Usually when I see the “Not Realistic” complaint, it comes from a shallow place, built on either an arrogant assumption that our experience is the default human experience OR an unexamined cultural presumption.
But before I tackle those two points, I need to point out the most obvious truth here:
REALISM IS NOT THE POINT OF STORIES
It might seem a strange observation to have to make, but most stories are not about creating a realistic experience.… Read the rest “On Realism”
We swam through the shining fires of creation. We danced and laughed, and in our foolish innocence, we thought it would last forever.
Thirteen billion years later, I sat on a park bench with a man named Gary. The specifics of how he found me were irrelevant. Someone always did, and it wasn’t as if I was hiding. These little encounters helped pass the ages.
Gary had brought his own lunch in a plain brown sack. He offered me half his tuna sandwich, but I waved it off.
“Is it true?” He asked. “Can you do things?”
“Everybody can do thing,” I replied.
“Impossible things,” he clarified.
“If they were impossible, I couldn’t do them,” I said.
Gary chewed on his bite of sandwich longer than necessary, until it dissolve and he was only chewing on saliva and the most stubborn scraps.… Read the rest “Iff”
I read recently somewhere that blogs should make a comeback. It’s fine to use Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever, but the truth is that you’re only renting those spaces. They aren’t yours, and while those services want you to succeed (since it helps them succeed), it doesn’t change the fact that you are subject to their whims.
So I’m going to try getting back to regularly updating. We’ll see how it goes. I used to think of a blog as an obligation, but only recently did I realize that writing regularly, in any form, is a good habit for writers to have. It’s easy to think of writing this as a distraction from my real job of writing stories about robots and dragons and super ninjas. And sometimes it is. But writing, like most things, is also a habit, and I’d say that writing for distraction is still writing which is better than not writing at all.… Read the rest “Return of the Blog & A. LEE MARTINEZ APPRECIATION DAY!!”
Life in Rockwood
The Senorita had watched over Emilia Flores’s garden before there had been a garden. The old scarecrow had shown up not long after the first house had been built. No one could remember who put the Senorita up with her black flamenco dress stuffed with straw and her pumpkin head, painted black and white with her eyes closed and a wry smile across her lips. But she seemed to do no harm, and when the first house was torn down and a new one built in its place, pains were taken to not disturb the Senorita. And when Emilia had decided to plant a garden, beneath the Senorita’s watchful gaze seemed the right place for it.
The garden did flourish. Occasionally they’d find a dead rabbit or bird among the tomatoes and carrots. Emilia would remark that it was the Senorita taking her due, that death was part of life, and that there was no better metaphor than a garden.… Read the rest “A Dance with the Senorita”
Jen drove into the swamp on a cool wet night. The roads were muddy, but her four wheel drive could handle it. She drove through the dark, an unopened beer in her hand. She thought about taking a drink because–fuck it– it was only one beer and anyone wandering through the swamp at this time of night deserved to get run over. But if it happened by some one-in-a-million chance, she’d feel shitty about it. She didn’t need that. Though killing someone would be the perfect finish to her night.
She drove through the mist, afraid she’d miss her turn. It’d been years since she’d been to the cabin.
The turn came. It was farther than she remembered. When the cabin finally came into view, she barely recognize it.
The place was a broken down shack. It still stood, but she expected it’d fall over if she slammed the jeep door too forcefully.… Read the rest “Lost and Found in the Mire”
From the ol’ Action Force mailbag:
Ok, got an interesting question. I asked you recently about Duke and Earl (of Gil’s All Fright Diner). I also noticed, on Facebook, someone else did, too. I’m suspecting it’s a question you get a lot and one you’re getting maybe a little irritated answering. That said, I’m curious about what made you lose interest in these characters?
Great question, and the answer is complicated enough that I thought I’d answer it here publicly.
First of all, I don’t find the question irritating. It’s never insulting to be asked this sort of thing because it means I did a good job. Writing is a lonely profession without a lot of direct feedback, so stuff like this is always flattering and rewarding.
Gil’s All Fright Diner was my first published novel. It was not, however, my first novel.… Read the rest “Q&A: Losing Interest”
Bill tapped his white cane against the floor in a steady rhythm, counting the seconds, the minutes, the just over an hour that he’d been sitting in this interrogation room.
The doors creaky hinges squeaked. Chestnut raised her head and gave a soft growl. He patted her on the head. “Easy, girl.”
Connie set a folder down on the table. “Hello, Mr. Velasco. My name is Constance Verity, and I’m here to help you.”
Chestnut slinked behind Bill’s chair.
Connie’s voice sounded vaguely familiar to Bill, like a not-quite-obscure-character actor he couldn’t quite place..
“Are you my lawyer?” he asked.
“You don’t need one,” said Connie. “Would you like something to drink? I have a water bottle I’m putting directly in front of you.” She set it down and gave him the courtesy of allowing him to reach for it.… Read the rest “Inside Dog”
Most of the time, freelancing for the Unknowables was a simple gig. Track something down. Bring something back. Fix this. Break that. Keep your head down. Don’t ask too many questions because the answers are never going to satisfy you.
But sometimes things got complicated. Sometimes, you ended up surrounded by cultists worshipping ancient gods. Most of the gods didn’t give a damn about who or who didn’t worship them. We were beneath their notice. Tiny crawling things screaming to the void in hopes it might hear us, never pondering it might be better to be ignored. We looked to the stars with dreams of greatness when all along it was waiting to devour us for wanting more than we had.
There was nothing wrong with wanting more. I had dreams. Dreams of living with Mom under the sea, dwelling in the shadow of an indifferent god.… Read the rest “The Indifferent Stars”
Someone as a joke had painted out the second L in The Lickety Split. Everybody just rolled with it.
The thing was there, hidden in the darkened bowels of the Spit, squeezed behind the pipes. And it was hungry. It reached out with one of its hands, wriggling its clawed fingers. Its two yellow eyes gleamed in the shadows.
“Pass me my sandwich, would you?”
Adam handed the peanut butter and anchovy on rye to the blutarian mechanic, who shoved it whole into its maw without bothering to unwrap it. It swallowed, plastic and all, in one gulp, and went back to work.
Adam hated sewage duty. He wasn’t built for crawling around in these cramped spaces. Not like Nickles, who had the advantage of a skeleton made almost entirely of cartilage and only three vital internal organs had their advantages.… Read the rest “Gloop”
He met the old woman by the river. She knelt by the water, beating bloody clothes against the rocks. She’d wring out the fabric, dripping streams of bright blood into the water.
He’d seen her before. Many times. But he’d never had the nerve to approach her. As dusk settled, he came closer.
The old woman kept her back to him as she hunched over the water. Her long black hair kept him from seeing her face, but her dirty gown clung to her bones and her hands were withered and claw-like.
“So you finally come to talk,” she said. “I didn’t know if you ever would.”
“My mother’s dying,” he said.
The woman laughed coldly. “I know.”
“They say the old woman of the river–you–know the secrets of life and death.”
“They are not secrets you want to know, boy.”… Read the rest “Stains”