Friday, October 28, 2016

World Building: The Hidden City & Its Defenders

The Hidden City is one of the successors to the Old World destroyed by the Coming of the Azure Flames, and like the others it had ties to the twin conspiracies that foolishly destroyed that world in their hubris. In this case, the founder of the Hidden City was a programmer, engineer, and occultist by the name of Roger M. Ire. Inspired by Disney's Tron as a boy, he pursued programming and engineering as he got older; these lead him into philosophy as a sideline in university, which is also when he got into the occult and recruited to DARPA.

Once initiated into the Deep State, Ire would gain access to secret information Disney used to inform Tron, going on to realize the concept and figure out how to make real the postulated digitization of real matter into a digital construct. In doing so, he pushed for and contributed to several patent-making advances in computer and network hardwarve, software, and firmware; these patents allowed him a passive and clean income that freed him from needing to maintain a cover identity as most do.

The occultist side of the twin conspiracies saw the potential in his work, and gave him the cover he needed to get out of the known hubs of IT and engineering in favor of hiding in plain site in Minneapolis. He hid his work under the guise of medical technology research, gaining access to power and network resources needed for his laboratory; in this lab, he did what--again, through Disney--was fictionalized in Tron: Legacy: the creation of a virtual city-state that people could freely transit to and from.

But Roger Ire, by now, was no naive idealist like fictional Kevin Flynn. His studies of the occult led him to conclude that programming was so much like sorcery that they had to be related somehow, and his presence around medical research of all sorts lead him to conclude that DNA has to be some form of code--therefore, a symbol representing a thing that has effects in reality, which therefore can be manipulated to make effects that he desired. He concluded that the solutions to several long-standing known issues of Mankind could at last be solved, permanently, and drew up a few plans to do so.

That was when his contacts in the occultist conspiracy also informed him of the Grand Ritual plan. He--like Solador's Archmage--saw through immediately as hubris destined to fail and bring ruin, and he moved to execute a survival plan. He took a big gamble, as he suspected that the Minneapolis area was a convergence of hidden energy, and devised devices that he--at the time--did not fully understand to tap into it to use as emergency power to keep the Hidden City online.

When the Azure Flames hit, he sealed the lab to all physical access and put the taps into place before taking one last trip through the transit portal to the Hidden City and hoped for the best. Instead of facing oblivion, he found himself faced with a crisis of power surging into the system; he was right about the power source, but had no idea that it had been dormant and came to live in the wake of 90% of Mankind being either nuked to ashes or consumed in the waves of blue-white flames that followed. The Hidden City, then a small thing, grew into a gleaming metropolis in the blink of an eye as Roger struggles to use what threatened to overwhelm him in maddening sequences of program resolution and iteration from the inside.

To cope with the surges, Roger connected to the Internet knowing that the Deep State installations meant for Continuity of Government would be online, connected, and hardened enough to stay up. With the power at his command, he got into the local systems and usurped their automated tools so that he installed and integrated additional transit portals throughout the world and then secured these facilities to his command alone. It was during this crisis that Roger became aware of what went on outside in realspace, becoming aware of The Necromancer and the undead horde he controlled.

At this moment, Roger had a sudden thought: "This is my mission, to reformat the whole of Creation and bring it into the perfect system."

The Hidden City would, over the years, grow both in virtual and real population. During the time of The Necromancer is when Roger--now known as The First Founder--started recruiting real people to operate in realspace as his agents. (N.B.: This is a big part of the Solador story; Roger sends an agent to overthrow The Archmage.) It is here that Roger, and his growing body of disciples, turn the power of The Hidden City to making super-solders.

Roger and his disciples created their first model based on a need for deniability and concealment, but when action became necessary great power could be put to hand. As this first cadre was a small one, a focus on quality in power to make competency in acumen was the goal and (as all of them were survivors of the Old World) they used a Japanese model as their basis: The masked heroes of the tokukatsu genre and their animated counterparts.

They then blended this model with an older American one, that of DC's Captain Marvel (a.k.a. "Shazam"), giving each agent a secure passcode keyed to their unique genetic code- a sample of which Roger kept on file as a security failsafe. Later iterations and revisions would refine this concept until there was a clear gradation of power, granted by demonstrated quality of character as well as loyalty to The Hidden City (and, by extension, to Roger), and Roger decided to foster this via deliberate generational eugenics improvement. The goal? To create the ideal agent of the City and its interests as the Guardians of Civilization.

And, unnoticed by most, this was when Roger's fall into hubris became complete.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cernovich Launches MAGA Mindset & Wins Big

So, Mike Cernovich just launched MAGA Mindset, and it is already a #1 bestseller in multiple key categories on Amazon. Mike's got a post on the reception already.

I'm not talking about the politics of this book. I'm talking about the business of it. Mike wrote this book, as he did Gorilla Mindset, with alacrity. Just a few weeks, really, and that's in fits and starts as he also did all of his livestreaming via Periscope, audio podcasts via Soundcloud, and all his family/personal stuff during this time. As this is a book he's doing through Castallia House, and Vox Day edited it, he's turning in manuscripts and then getting that turned around and published quite fast- lightning fast by the standard of dying Big 5 publishers.

Look, it's not a long book. He already had most of that manuscript in mind with his first draft, and I don't think much in terms of editing was needed before turning it around to publish it. Artwork had already been lined up for the cover, and a back cover will be added to the second print run presently. In short, Mike Cernovich turned this book around FAST, and he used his blog and social media to promote it while he wrote it.

That's noteworthy. Not many successful authors are so diligent with self-promotion, especially genre fiction authors (Scott, dammit, you really ought to know better by now.) He did this entirely solo with Gorilla Mindset, so it's not publishing with Castallia House that's the trick here. The thing is that Cernovich knows how to sell, and he does it very well. Most authors, be then traditionally published, independent, or whatever need to come to Jesus (as it were) and get on with selling if they want to get the most for their efforts and that means rethinking how they relate to their audience.

Cernovich uses his site, his blog, his podcast, his Periscope streams, and his public appearances as marketing for his books. That's why he's so big on putting them out there; he gets that an author's brand is him and his persona- not his books. The books are what he sells to generate the revenue he needs to pay his expenses. If the author isn't sufficiently engaging, charming, or otherwise compelling--is not charismatic--then his audience reach will suffer, and so will his professional success in this business. If you don't take your own side, no one else will.

So, first lesson learned: Be Your Own Hype Man.

Cernovich said repeated at his blog and his Twitter feed that he's run A/B testing and found that an insignificant number of people really care fine-tuning in terms of editing, so he lets a lot of mistakes that many people read over and ignore go through. That's surprising, but you can't argue with the results; most readers really do gloss over typos and the like, so unless you're writing has to be accurate and precise for technical reasons you'll be okay. Instead, he makes sure that he knows what he wants to say when he puts hands to keyboard and then goes over what he writes to make sure that he said what he meant to say; that's his process, as much as he's talked about it. He gets away with it because his authorial voice is solid in its authenticity; you're not getting the feel of this being hack work.

So, second lesson learned: Speak Truly, Write With Authority

Because Cernovich starts each book from a position where he's coming out of what he knows to be true, and he trusts himself and his audience to comprehend what he's saying, there is no worry over what he's saying or how he's saying it. He knows himself, and he knows his audience, so he does not fear the result of a thousand book launches. That confidence comes through in his promotion, and you seen it again when you read the work. This is a power in presence that many of his detracts notice, and cannot deal with; they know he's for real, and such substance is repellent to his opposition- and like ambrosia to his audience. That's how he can tell the haters from the loyal, and dismisses the haters- Mike already knows that they are fakers so they are irrelevant.

So, third and final lesson learned: Know Your Work Before You Write & Fear Not Where It Goes

That's how you know Mike walks what he talks. Without cracking open the books, you can see the tells signifying the very mindset he advocates- which feeds back to the authenticity he builds upon and projects his confidence from. He knows he's for real, he's not afraid of those who hate him for it, and that's why he's able to write and publish as fast as he does and succeed where so many others fail. Mindset matters, and Mike's mindset is present where you can see it in action; that's another way to sell his books, and he knows it. So yes, buy this book and Gorilla Mindset- he's living what he's saying.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Tropes I Like: The Break from Everyday Life

One thing I like about the premise of someone going on an adventure after suffering or causing some sort of disruption--plane crash, shipwreck, etc.--is that it so clearly delineates a break from the Ordinary World and entrance into the World of Adventure. Even the relatively tame E.R. Burroughs used to set up A Princess of Mars (which you really should read if you haven't), where John Carter goes into a cave and projects himself to Mars, works well enough to serve this function. (If there's a defined term for this trope, I don't recall it.)

The ambiguous use of this trope, as I note immediately above, is great for when you want to set up either an unreliable narrator or an unreliable narrative. I'm using something like this for another future project, a fragment of which I posted here weeks ago, so that both the reader and the protagonist get that clarity of separation. It allows you to introduce the unreality of the Adventure slowly, which is really important in properly presenting the reader that unreality without snapping suspension of disbelief.

But I prefer to be as obvious as the device itself. Even if the protagonist is someone's whose Ordinary World IS about adventure, making this trope be the "Cut off from his support, can he get back to basics and overcome?" premise we see in some series at some point during their run, it works. As tropes for structuring a narrative go, there are few more reliable than the Clean Break trope in terms of establishing when the fun starts.

It works regardless of genre. Superheroes? Check. Fantasy? Check. Science Fiction? Check. Romance? Check. Historical Fiction? Check. "Literary"? Check. Comedy? Check. Horror? Check. Triggering SJW cocksuckers as if firing a minigun? Check, check, and check. It works regardless of medium also. Film? Check. Television? Check. Radio? Check. Print, in all its diversity? All the checks. Song? More checks.

And it is reversible, as a way of closing the narrative. Leaving and returning to said Ordinary World, sometimes an outright and literal goal, is so basic a device that Joseph Campbell builds his Monomyth model around it. You wreck on an island, have a fantastic adventure, and return to your ordinary life by getting off the island somehow. Change the trappings, but keep the structure, and you can write adventure stories until your hands fall off and your voice fails.

The basics are basic for a reason. Respect that, adhere to the KISS Maxim, and you too can become a Dragon Award winner or enjoy success sufficient to own a mountain, or even have a private island, or whatever you want out of your writing.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Burn the Traditional Publishing Industry to the Ground

Today is my birthday, so I'm spending much of it celebrating with friends and family, but that doesn't mean I'm not paying attention.

Dragon Award winner, and Hugo Award finalist, Brian Niemeier made a very good post at his blog (Kairos) the other day about the ongoing shift in the publishing business for science fiction and fantasy. (Go read it; it's worth your time.)

The Supreme Dark Lord, Vox Day, had a very interesting post on many of the Social Justice cultists afflicting the field.

Combined, both posts expose facts that give weight to a suspicion I held about the degenerate state of traditional publishing (especially in my preferred genres of fiction) for some time: the rot set in when the broken children of incompetent parents came of age and began taking positions in the business, and implemented the bullshit they learned while at university.

Competition is a sin to these people, as a consequence of their failure to rise against their childhood challenges. They engage in corruption such as log-rolling (the practice of fixing selection results beforehand, interval over interval, to eliminate true competition in choice from behind the scenes, by those either eligible or administering the process), establish and enforce GroupThink using cult behavior methods, and pull so many iterations of Point Deer Make Horse that an unreality sets in that becomes a bubble of delusion.

You see this now in how the culture around traditional publishing is wholly out of touch with reality. You still see magazines, outlets, stores, even panels at conventions go on about how you need an agent, how to get a contract, and so on. Amazon doesn't seem to exist with them, despite said company eating their lunch at a voracious rate. The days of literary agents is over, but you still see people go on as if you need them to breathe. So goes the rest of this rancid, crumbling remnant that once had value.

Upstart houses taking advantage of the reality of publishing are making big gains (e.g. Castalia House), properly leveraging what such a company actually does to bring value now vs. what you can do on your own, and what you can do now on your own is very easy to do (which is why I am doing it) so long as you're willing and able to put in the time and do the work.

And that's just people writing books. Other forms of publishing? Even less reason to keep them around as they've been. They are unfit for purpose, cannot be fixed, and are irredeemably corrupted with those aforementioned broken cultists. Burn it all to ash, and then salt the piles.