30 August 2017

Don't Believe Everything You Read

"So, what, this is a Discordianism blog now?" the voice asked.

My response is thus:

Two sequential posts on a topic do not a theme make. However, I think that what's surfacing in my consciousness is a recognition and appreciation of what Discordianism has done for me, what it could do for others, why it's so relevant in 2017 and why it would seem someone needs to attempt to make sense out of the whole thing.

The hilarious thing is that Discordianism exists in a soup of zen paradoxes. Discordianist dogma teaches that seeking to increase order merely increases chaos and that the good Discordian does not believe anything they read.

I can't disagree with any of that. So I provide, for your reading pleasure, a short piece that attempts to make sense of this paradox problem that appears to defeat Discordianism even as it begins.

Let's begin with the problem that, if you consider yourself Discordian, or "possibly" Discordian then, by default, you shouldn't believe this post, because you are reading it. That's actually pretty sound advice. If you believe something because you have read it you need some kind of psychological intervention, or to read the next sentence. You really should send me a couple of hundred quid, it's the right thing to do.

The point is that it is essential not to read something and incorporate it automatically into the body of your world view as if it automatically has a right to be there. If the thing you have read makes you angry, it is because you believe it. If the thing you have read makes you scared, it is because you believe it. If the thing you have read makes you happy, it is because you believe it.

It is outside of your immediate emotional response that you will find the worth of the written word. If you have that emotional response it means that there is a part of you that believes it, but it also means that there is a part of you that thinks it has understood what it has read.

Discordians know two things here. One, is that understanding does not equal belief. The other is that one pretty good indicator that you haven't understood the message put out by another is that you believe you have understood it.

Once you have run the material you have read through the process of:

a) understanding that you don't understand it and that therefore
b) you cannot possibly believe it

you have left only one thing. That thing is the degree to which the thing which is written is harmonic with your own set of beliefs. The safer a written thing makes you feel the more sympathetic you are to it. All this means is that you should attempt to disbelieve it even harder than the things that you find easy to be disbelieved.

Whatever you actually cannot get rid of, no matter how hard you try, is part of your personal truth. If you feel that this discovery is worth sharing go ahead and write it down safe in the knowledge that no one will really understand it.

Note that after reading my thorough decomposition of the notion of not believing everything you read you may feel too confused to now read anything at all. This is the second paradox at work. My article seeks to increase order, but in doing so it has just deepened your own inner chaos. This is to be expected.

If one can call to mind that chaos and order are both illusory perceptions of a single continuum you will understand that the more confused you feel the less confused you actually are. The fear you feel is exactly identical to the momentary sinking sensation you get when you wake up in the morning and remember who you are.

If time mattered then in the next article I will take a look at why time doesn't matter. I hope you enjoyed it and will enjoy the upcoming article about disbelieving everything you read, which you just read.

23 August 2017

The Modern Discordian

This is a sort of advertisement, but also information. TFA is below.

I am not a religious type of guy, really. As this is true Discordianism, The Church of the Subgenius and Pastafarianism all hold some sort of appeal to my sense of the inherent ridiculousness of religion as a concept. These satirical church-like entities are all echoes of one another, with Discordianism being the first original point of the paradoxical religion-that-denies-religion.

In addition there is a kind of funnel of meaning in the three movements. Pastafarianism was a reaction to a single event in the history of Western lunacy, Subgeniuses exist to be silly, but Discordianism had its roots in 60s counterculture and that counterculture was a far more complex thing than just a vehicle for poking fun at religion.

Discordianism, and the things it produced, such as The Illuminatus Trilogy included a general disdain for the mechanisms of organised religion but were not limited to such. I think that the problem with fitting something like Discordianism into your head is that it is hard to seriously adopt any kind of dogma, or spiritual path that resists itself in its basic precepts.

Not that people haven't tried and even succeeded, Ken Campbell and the KLF are two examples of modern Discordians who spring instantly to mind. The problem remains. You have to have a special mind to hold forth on a philosophy that says anyone holding forth on a philosophy is a) wrong, b) possibly evil and c) almost certainly trying to sell you something.

But Discordianism endures on a level that the Subgenii and Pastafarians just cannot attain. I think it's something to do with a true Discordian understanding that they are a) wrong, b) possibly evil and c) almost certainly trying to sell people something.

More on this again. In the meantime think about buying my book in two months time. Cheers.

9 August 2017

Why I Am Really Bad At Marketing

If I was an author hip to the world of marketing then I would have really dragged out the reveal of the cover of my new book. I would have "teased" it. I would have built audience anticipation. Oh man, if I was good at marketing you wouldn't have slept for at least a week wondering what the cover of Starfall would look like. You would have had a little calendar on the wall counting down the number of "sleeps" until the cover was revealed.

Man, if I was good at marketing the release of my novel would be the single most important event that has ever taken place in your life. The reveal of the cover would be the anticipatory hors d'oeuvre of the whole thing. I would be the king of author foreplay.


Unfortunately I am terrible at marketing. I'm so bad that the cover of the book has been visible on the Smashwords preorder page for the book for almost a week. I was confident no one would "leak" the cover because no one really cares. This is because I am terrible at marketing.

It's not like I lack confidence in the product. It's taken me over a decade to get Starfall ready and I am confident that the work stands up to scrutiny. If you like dark fantasy, mythology and learning new things then this will be one of the best books you read this year, I absolutely guarantee it.

But that's not really marketing, is it?

This is probably the main part of the problem. I have no idea what the difference is between conversation and marketing. I have no line between self-consciously advertising something and just telling people: "Hey, you know, you might enjoy this, I have to charge you for it, I like to eat."

I do know that authors on Twitter annoy me like you wouldn't believe. At one time I guessed that I too might have to rack up 20 different ways of saying "Buy My Book" on a tweet scheduler and leave it to howl it's robo-sales pitch into the Social Media maelstrom, hating myself for doing something to make the overall intellectual quality of the internet worse than it already is.

But then I thought, no, forget that. Not because I'm better than that, but because I am bad at marketing. I cannot, in good conscience, message all my friends via Facebook to buy my book, regardless of whether I think they'd get a kick out of it or not. I cannot see myself morosely repeating my sales message on my Facebook author page. I am using Lulu for print copies and Smashwords for e-books because I like to support business that isn't Amazon, monopolies are bad for everyone, the monopoly holder included, I am trying to save Amazon from themselves.

All of this because I couldn't identify an effective marketing strategy in a line up if one had mugged me in a dark alley yesterday evening. I'm sorry officer, it all happened so fast, I didn't have time to see how many engagements the perpetrator could convert. I have no funnel strategy. I just wanted some people who might enjoy it to read my book, and I wanted to get paid, because people do cool, creative things, they deserve to get paid. That's what I thought.

Yeah, let's face it, I am bad at marketing. Hey ho.

7 August 2017

What's Happening At The Dark Tower?

I was rather looking forward to the movie adaptation of The Dark Tower. So much so in fact that I began prepping my viewing last summer by beginning the series on audiobook from the first volume. When I finished my epic ~130hr journey with Roland et al I was just amazed...

I was amazed at how something so technically awful could remain both compelling and engaging.

It wasn't always both, or indeed either. However it was consistently a laundry list of things an author should on no account do, unless they're Stephen King. I was interested to hear King describe himself as more of a "situational" author. To my knowledge that's not a thing, he just made it up. However, it does have a clear definition and could be a thing, if other authors were to adopt it as their approach.

For the record situational writing is about putting characters in situations and leaving them to work their own way out of them. This, I think, does present a sufficiently different approach to distinguish it from being "plottish" or "character-driven". It makes a lot of sense when you consider works like "Misery", "Gerald's Game" and "Cujo". It actually explains a lot of King's writing, because he sits down there in the dark of his character's psyche with them and reports the news as it happens. That's the major part of his apparent approach.

As someone who read a lot of King in his mid to late teens I have a place for that in my writing, the approach to one character or another is strictly situational, not about the plot or the character themselves but defining character by describing their reaction to the apparent circumstances they are presented with.

So situational writing gets a thumbs up from me. However, it does also explain why it's so hard to adapt King for screens of any size. As soon as I got my head round the "situational" thing my mind flashed to the middle segment of the King anthology movie "Cat's Eye". In the segment a rich guy forces a poor guy to work his way around the ledge of a sky scraper to win the life of the woman he loves. It's a flat, uninspiring piece of film making, but you can see how it could work in prose.

Even so, if you're going to make situation the keystone of your writing then you have to go hard or go home, as in you'd better be writing at a King level of proficiency or it will fall flat.

There's so much wrong with the Dark Tower series that I actually thought there might be a project involved in decomposing all the things that writers who aren't King should not attempt contained within its labyrinthine narrative. Maybe I'll have time to devote to that at some point, maybe not.

But it's the key exemplar of structural snafus, clear failure to plan, indulgent insertion of self-reference, spoiling other novels on a whim, you name it, it's all there. If you were to measure the work somehow, put down how many words were devoted to walking across deserts, or fighting giant lobsters, or having dinner with completely unthreatening senior citizens, a cold appraisal would tell anyone that this rambling behemoth of a narrative should leave people cold.

But it doesn't, because it's King at peak-King.

If anything convinces me that even the impeccable credentials of best-selling, world-beating, uber-author qualify you not one jot to help other people write it is the Dark Tower series. So, kids, remember The Dark Tower was written by a highly practiced writing wunderkind. Stay safe and never try to recreate the writing style of Stephen King at home, in the playground or anywhere else.