I don’t do art

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

I like Conan the Barbarian. And Sherlock Holmes, and I like the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and I like old science fiction, and I like comic books.

“Trash” literature, in other words. I put that in quotations because I believe (I know) it’s a bullshit descriptor. It isn’t the big L “Literary” community gets to decide which stories are good or important. It’s time decides that.

Like so many of my kind (the woeful breed of writer), I did attend a literature class or two in my time. You may have noticed, if you’ve ever had that mixed blessing, that the going trend is dismissing certain kinds of books and stories. Literature teachers sneer of great swathes of stories with casual, fleering, curled-lip grunts. “Oh, science fiction — I suppose you can read that, if you want to rot your brain — it’s like eating only candy.”

I don’t like cussing, but in retrospect it’s been tempting: fuck you, dudes. I spent most of my writing career so far in conflict with myself. These teachers, otherwise good educators, filled me with the sense that if I want to write science fiction, or fantasy, or horror, or mysteries, or romances, then I may as well count myself as no better than Robert E. Howard right now, and in that sense not worth the name of writer. I may as well become one of those people who sell cotton candy at carnivals if I want to do that.

That was the view.

I have done my own research.

I have read Robert E. Howard. I have read H.P. Lovecraft and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others on the list of “trash” literature.

Do you know what? I have grown into my own damned writer, and I have realized that I would be both honored and humbled to ever earn comparison to any of those dudes. I don’t think I ever will; my education and my practice has prevented it. I’ve developed this hybrid approach to story-ing, because I always wanted to just write stories to be read for fun, but I’ve been taught to write stories to be read for “meaning.”

Neither approach is better than the other. I do believe that the stories that I want to tell will be better because I approach them with lessons I learned from both Howard and Hemingway. I have tended toward weird greyness in tone, though. I want to write stories that could be dismissed, usually affectionately, as trash, but I can’t help being all literaturey about them. It’s made books and stories that have attracted more serious appraisal than I intended. People smile, but they smile thoughtful-like.

It’s not so bad, but it makes them hard to sell.

I’m doing the nearest thing to a pretense toward art that I will do publicly or on purpose. I’m writing four books that aren’t in a series in any usual way. They have no characters in common, they don’t all take place in the same fantasy universe, they don’t aim to cover any similar themes, and they go in no related order.

But they do have this in common: I wrote them to cope with weather.

Does it ever happen to you that whatever season you’re in, it makes you nostalgic for the opposite season? It happens to me ever season. I cope with that feeling in the same way I cope with most feelings: I wrote about it.

One summer, I wrote about it for a whole book. I wrote my novel, City Song, to cool down over summer. City Song was conceived partly as a celebration for winter and for nighttime.

When it came out and people read it, they noticed that. I didn’t mention it, but they said it. It made them feel all wintery.

It’s a book about, among a great many other things, winter.

A thought occurred to me. I could write a book about summer too. And another about autumn. And so on.

So I have. I wrote a book that had among its unifying themes how I feel about summer and afternoons. I wrote it over this past winter. The book is nearly done. It’s in the editing stage. I’m waffling between two titles: The Razorgrass Sea and Dust of the Golden-Green Sea. Not sure which is nicer.

And then, during spring, I wrote a book about autumn and about evenings, among other things. It’s called either Gearheart or Ticking City. Still deciding.

The last one…I just realized why I haven’t been able to write it. I should start it in autumn. I tried to start it now. But it’s freaking summer. I can’t channel the nostalgia I feel about spring during summer. I’m dumb.

Anyway, I’m calling it the Seasons Cycle, four books with very little in common except the running theme inside each one of nostalgia for particular seasons. Someday I’ll sell it as a box set.

  • City Song
  • The Razorgrass Sea/Dust of the Golden-Green Sea
  • Gearheart/Ticking City
  • and the spring one, current working title: Thunder Won’t Wait

You can get City Song now on Amazon and on that other one…Smashwords! Right. It’s a good book. I’m proud of it. I wrote about themes and stuff, most of them on accident. If you get in touch with me and you want one, I can send you a signed copy of it.

And ask about it again around Christmas. I entered the book into four contests this year.

The best part of being a mime is never having to say I’m sorry.