CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.
Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app
CLICK THE PICTURE FOR MY LITTLE SLIDESHOW OF DOOM.
Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app
As I work on This Plague of Days, I’m very aware that many readers are waiting (mostly patiently) for me to hurry up and finish the third and final season.
You’ve been generous with your reviews and, gosh darn it, everybody’s so nice! If you’ve read Season One and Two, you know this trip has evolved from Kansas City, Missouri to big weirdness across continents and scary strangeness through the mindscape.
There’s plenty of violence and suspense in this war for the future, plus Latin proverbs. (I know! Crazy and crazed!) My zombie apocalypse continues to evolve. Yes, we’ve had forays into fearful dreams, but the battles to come happen in the our world. I promise plenty of surprises, twists and, best of all, more of Jaimie Spencer’s view of the world.
You can find out on Wattpad now. (Wattpad is a free fiction sharing platform where you can read all sorts of interesting stuff. Please do check it out.)
If you’re looking for more free me, I have even more good news. As I write this, you can grab a complimentary download of Murders Among Dead Trees. This creepy short story collection of psychological horror, reeking of “intense violence and bizarre themes” is free to download on March 6 and March 7, 2014 (today and tomorrow, guys!)
Please download Murders Among Dead Trees. If you like it, love it or maybe want to fondle it, don’t hold back on leaving a review. Enjoy! Thank you!
What happened to the utopian visions of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek? His future eliminated poverty while the remakes by JJ Abrams are about fighting terrorism. It’s a fascinating question well explored on the C-Realm Podcast, though my answer is, by necessity, going to sound a tad grumpy.
I think of myself as a suspense writer first, but zombies and vampires are generally thought of as horror and post-apocalyptic books are classified under science fiction on Amazon. Call it science fantasy if you want, but the story crawls into paranormal and supernatural, too, so it’s Genre-of-the-Moment Slugfest.
Are zombies a hipster fad of which we should be ashamed? Can’t sci-fi lead the way as a predictor of glittering tech advances instead of dwelling on how we’re all going to die long before each person on Earth gets their very own sex robot?
Every cynic thinks he or she is a realist, but first, I want to back up and say that Roddenberry’s visions weren’t always so rosy. I think the stories on Star Trek that succeeded for me were the war stories. Humans versus Klingons and The Wrath of Khan (the story itself the death of a utopian dream) held my attention. However, it’s probably true that the franchise got darker and grittier after Roddenberry’s death. Deep Space Nine had some of the Enterprise’s nifty IKEA furniture, but the quarters were more cramped and the lighting less cheery.
That said, I see what they’re saying on C-Realm. They credit Blade Runner as a leader in dystopian visions, at least in film. That’s a far cry from the gee whiz optimism of many sci-fi writers from decades past. We all need a little more Spider Robinson in our lives.
In the ’70s we had Omni magazine trumpeting the hope for the future of science and science fiction. For instance, they featured a graphic artist who created stunning spacescapes. It was truly beautiful art that only actual images from the Hubble telescope could replace. It was the artist’s policy never to paint any picture in which two spaceships engaged in battle. That’s admirable, yes, but it kind of sucks the dramatic potential out of a lot of fiction, kind of like taking the visual majesty and volleys of flaming arrows out of the battle scenes in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, and asking, can’t we all just get along and make this a cozy comedy of manners? Is that beheading with all the blood spray on the wall really necessary?
Optimistic visions of the future in fiction make me think of Paul and Linda McCartney asking Weird Al Yankovic to refrain from a making a cover of Live and Let Die. Weird Al did not release Chicken Pot Pie out of respect for the former Beatle’s wishes. Longtime vegetarians, Paul and Linda worried a comedic song would worsen the commercial slaughter of chickens. It probably would have. Thinking about it makes me want a chicken pot pie right now. I also think Weird Al’s song would have been awesome.
The C-Realm host and guest offered the movie Her as an antidote to our dour visions of the future. There is something very alluring about a story that cranks up Iron Man‘s personal digital companion, J.A.R.V.I.S., to Level Scarlett Johansson Sexy. (J.A.R.V.I.S. stands for Just a Rather Very Intelligent System, by the way. Siri would have been cooler if Apple had called it J.A.R.V.I.S., though Siri has yet to live up to the J.A.R.V.I.S standard of service, reporting on my armour’s structural integrity and whatnot.) Actually, Iron Man’s inventions (as long as they don’t fall into the wrong hands) might be the most optimistic vision of the future you’ll see on screen this year, besides Her.
The darkness in our fiction lies not in our stars but in ourselves.
We write from the heart, or at least I do. A future where we’re overrun by a world flu pandemic is actually considered long overdue by virologists. (Could happen next week. Pack a linch and wear a sweater.) My zombies aren’t real zombies and my vampires aren’t real vampires. They are humans infected with a virus that changes their physiology. There are supernatural elements in This Plague of Days, but once you’re dead, you don’t get up again in the world I’ve built. It looks a lot like our world.
Some of the events go from creepy to downright grisly. There are also jokes. I even include a few optimistic touches toward the end. However, I am allergic to Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending and resolutions you don’t expect, but Happily Ever After often seems too pat and easy to me.
My vision for the future springs from what I see now, not what could be if we really believe and clap our hands. If George Orwell hadn’t already written 1984, I’d attempt to write that. Drones, surveillance and the NSA cracking everyone’s porn privacy? That’s a dream straight out of an adolescent Big Brother’s wet bed. Because I’ve mentioned them and they’re always googling vainly, say hello! Hi, NSA! (Waves.) Just a writer spouting on the state of science fiction and the future. Nothing to see here. Move along to checking up on the sex lives of your former girlfriends and boyfriends from high school! Thank you! Also, please go catch a real terrorist with a suitcase dirty bomb. Aces.
I was promised jet packs when I was as kid (a fixation that’s shared widely, I think, since it’s also mentioned on C-Realm.) I’m still disappointed about that. No…bitter is the word. And yes, all the endless toil minus robots is a downer.
When we see the space shuttle in the promo reel before the movie trailers? I always think, We don’t even make those anymore! There is no Omni magazine heralding gee-whiz hope and they plan to shut Hubble down! And a trip to Mars? Sounds like a stupid suicide mission to me, especially when we could solve a lot of world problems with the money we’d waste on going to the red planet. (Think of Mars as the worst parts of Arizona, but without oxygen. To be fair, at least Mars doesn’t go out of its way to try to suppress gay rights, so there’s that.)
If my fiction appears cynical, all I can say is it comes from an honest place. Dark visions are the logical extensions of my worldview. Ideas about a cheery, brighter future would be a nice diversion and uplifting to be sure. However, I’m more interested in drama rising from conflicts I observe in the present. There’s something about those cheery futures which reek of white privilege to me. I’m not going hungry and I’ve got a cell phone (made by slaves) so why can’t we envision a future that amps up all that gee-whiz hope?
Because it doesn’t feel real, that’s why. Because we’re still stuck in stupid wars. Because the logical extension of now is more darkness. My fiction is dark because, as a person of conscience who listens to Democracy Now a lot, my worldview really is that dark.
But the price at which that hope is bought — in both human lives and sacrifice — is very high indeed. I guess it sounds silly to talk about verisimilitude in a story about an autistic boy versus zombies versus vampires. But every emotion and conflict within the Spencer family at the end of the world feels very real to me. Joy, redemption, love, hope and loss is all there. I think of it as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with more zombies and even more child endangerment. For a zombie apocalypse, there’s a startling lack of gunfire in This Plague of Days. I think there are plenty of apocalyptic books that read like Rambo married an army manual and I attempt to do something different with all my fiction.
This Plague of Days is silly, escapist fiction (for the thinking reader with a conscience, I hope)…but I write it real.
I write what I see. And I concede, I do wish I could be more hopeful.
~ Season Three, and the conclusion of This Plague of Days by Robert Chazz Chute hits Spring 2014. Catch up on Season One and Two here.
Wow. What a week. As I approach the last chapters of This Plague of Days, I’m struggling with it. It’s not that the writing is hard. Tarring roofs and digging ditches and living in Canada in winter is hard. I’m struggling with time management, for sure, yes. (Also, winter in Canada.) But mostly, I’m really going to hate ending this story. I have other books to write, of course, but This Plague of Days is my most successful book and it’s a fun world to play in. A little paranormal activity and a pinch of Anything Goes is fun.
Expectations are high. One reviewer wondered how (if?) I was going to pull it all together. I always promise big reversals, but there are scenes toward the end of the series that will challenge readers. The subtext challenges readers to think. A particularly horrific scene might make them want to close the book. Another plot point is so over-the-top crazy, you might think I’ve smoked Douglas Adams’ ashes. And then there’s that pesky, Way of Things. Is that the God in the Machine? Is God really pulling the levers? Or is the Machine set on automatic, devoid of the divine except for the meaning we give our lives?
Let’s just say, that, yeah I can and will pull it all together. The book has been in the making a long time. I don’t have graphs and pie charts and a wall of cork boards upon which a thousand little index cards are tacked. But I’ve got it all in my head and I’ll deliver. We’re very close to finishing another revision.
One extremely brief review I got this week opined that the story arc that started with zombies had gone to vampires and…well…sigh. Frowny face. Um…was it the credibility and literary gravitas of zombies that was lost when another Sutr strain made the scary Alphas? Alas. It’s okay. My brand of whimsy isn’t for everybody, but I think if you’ll come into my Goofy Latin and Twisted Weirdness Tent, you still could have a pretty good time.
Someone else mentioned that Jaimie changes in Season 2. Yes. His character and abilities do grow. Despite being on the autism spectrum, he can interact with others somewhat easier, though his selective mutism is still a problem, he’s subvocalizing a bit and flashes of telepathy are helping things along. However, rest assured, Jaimie Spencer isn’t going to win the door prize at your local Toastmasters meeting anytime soon. He’s still a mystery to most people around him. Another reviewer dinged me for indulging in talk of auras more than twice. Several people wanted more of that.
This is why I have to write to please myself first. The editor and beta readers will tell me if I’m on the right track or not, but let’s face it: I’m going to go crazy my way and hope you love it. My betas help me immensely, but as for the course I set through Crazy Town? Writing is not a democracy. I’m a guy alone in a room with a keyboard. I can’t guess what you’ll like, but I know what I love. So it is with all writers. (One of the joys of publishing TPOD as a serial is answering the few outlying critics. I took their concerns into account and answered them pointedly. It’s a source of some of the jokes in the text. The winks and chuckles aren’t too inside baseball. You’ll all be in on the joke.)
That said, when This Plague of Days, Season 3 comes out, everybody gets a kick at my autocratic, authorial can, of course. Be gentle. I’m a crier.
Little Aasa, the elder of the Vermer girls, gets a bigger role in Season 3. As more people die, the world is waking up to a new interconnectivity. Without the white noise of so many minds, we can hear each other’s thoughts better. Those flashes of insight everyone gets occasionally? It turns out, if you commit mass genocide and billions die, it turns up the volume and tunes the frequency. So…I guess all that grim death and destruction was worth it if we don’t have to pay for wi-fi.
When the plagues strike us down, if there are any survivors, we’ll send pictures of our cats with our minds. Sweet!
~ FYI: My next book is mostly written. The title is chosen and the fuse is lit. I just have to revise it, take out 1,000 profane words and revise again. It’s thick, but more “literary” (whatever that means to you) and not nearly so complicated as This Plague of Days. It will be relaxing not to have armies of characters to kill off.
The next narrative is more character-based and not nearly as complicated as directing a vast story across continents. It’s about a young man living in poverty in New York. He wants to be a movie star. He might get to be that, but only if the murderer doesn’t get him and if he can put on a high school production of Romeo and Juliet. (Long story) There are drugs, suicide and his mom’s gone missing so…wait…I guess it does get pretty complex. Stay tuned.
I think if I write a chapter a day for two weeks straight, this revision of This Plague of Days will be done with a new ending. There will be tweaks and another run-through or two, of course, but we’re definitely getting there. Work continues apace.
Oh, and plaguers will be glad to know a romance blooms, old friends return from the tent city and, weirdly, there are a lot of fish in Season 3. (Don’t worry. It works. It’s creepy and disturbing and teetering on the precipice of disgusting, but it works.) We also find out precisely what The Way of Things is.
If I had to characterize the conclusion of TPOD, I’d say it’s blood lust versus altruism. I do not promise a Happily Ever After. I promise a satisfying ending. You were patient, so it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger…not exactly. 🙂
The secret hidden away in TPOD is…still safe.
Some of the monsters are still human. Some are zombies. Some are vampires. And a couple become something even more terrifying. This spring, brace yourself for the conclusion of This Plague of Days.
(You might even feel like a monster, too.)
~ The band is Skillet. The song is “Monster”. I recommend it. Makes me want to pump iron and destroy another world. Buy it on iTunes so you can go faster and longer on the treadmill and crush your enemies.
I am Rage.
I am Vengeance.
I am Death.
I am Nature.
I am what I am.
Misericordia means Mercy. That will prove ironic.
The virus has him in its grip and the former military man is changing again. Fangs. Even more strength and even greater speed. He’s much more dangerous than he was as a human, of course, but now he’s grown more dangerous than any other vampire, including Shiva.
Season One was humans versus the Sutr-X plague and other humans and those infected with Sutr-Z (as in zombie.)
Season Two was humans versus zombies versus vampires.
Season Three begins with a blind woman and Batman. Yes, you read that right. The Europeans land in Newfoundland to meet a princess and a monk. Yep, I know it’s strange, but I’m tricky. Trust me. This will work.
Season Three is real world strife.
Vampires versus vampires and humans versus vampires. Whales will play a strategic part in the war. Another character, besides Jaimie Spencer, will communicate directly with The Way of Things and we’ll discover why the whole truth is hidden, even from Jaimie Spencer. We’ll find out what The Last Cafe really is. Unexpected allies will rise and fall. Terrible sacrifices will be made. Realizations will hit and armies will clash in epic battles. Vengeance will be claimed.
Season Three is War.
There is still a secret hidden in plain sight in Seasons One and Two. No one has guessed it yet.
All will be revealed, and concluded, in Season Three.
Once upon a time there was a fascinating (and mean) experiment. A mad scientist made his subjects do math problems under stress. Loud music would play and a demanding experiment operator insisted the subject solve the math problems faster. Then the operator would tell them they got it wrong and had to try again. “Time’s was running out!” Sounds like an experiment designed by the Devil himself, huh? Mathphobics would burst aflame under such evil circumstances.
After the experiment, the mad scientist drew blood samples to track stress markers. He found them, of course, but it was the next version of the experiment that got really interesting. In Math In Hell Part II, the subjects had a button that could turn down the blare of acid rock (the most anti-mathematics music there is). It is no surprise that the stress markers went down in the second experiment.
Stress markers decreased even among the people who didn’t turn down the music. The subjects had a button, but it may as well have been hooked up to a toaster. Simply knowing they had the option to control their environment brought their stress hormones down. It’s all about the illusion of control and the wear and tear and tears that illusion helps mitigate.
What fascinates about end-of-the-world scenaria is, what happens when there are no rules? When someone’s breaking into your home and the cops aren’t coming…well, bad example. That happens now. However, my point is, we all seek control, even if, perhaps especially if, it’s illusory.
To a large extent? Control is an illusion and the button isn’t really hooked up. Maybe you can control how you react to stress, but lots of the time, life happens to you. You don’t choose your parents or your country of birth or how smart you aren’t. Nobody feels much control sitting in a paper gown on a doctor’s examination table when the doc sighs and says, “Hmmmm.”
When disaster is cataclysmic, the rules change quickly. That’s Hurricane Katrina. But when the pandemic creeps in slowly (as it does in Season One of This Plague of Days — at least in the American theater of teh pandemic. Europe and the rest of the world get it in the shorts first.)
Drones, robots, zombies: We’ve all had jobs that made us feel like we are taking up space, have no will of our own and are out of control. Our stress levels are largely tied to issues around locus of control. When the rules are gone and the economy falls apart and we’re all out of work, however, it won’t be a libertarian freedom fantasy. It’ll devolve into cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch and supper. And no wi-fi!
That’s why we’ll need people who remember their humanity even when there are no rules imposed by authority. That’s why, at the end of Season Three, you’re going to be given a shred of hope. Death will be faced and Death will win, as it always does eventually. However, amid the carnage, there’s a few moments where, whether your favorite characters live or die, there is a point besides how many gory deaths we can expect.
1. Because an apocalypse without conflict, scarcity, fear and anger isn’t an apocalypse and a book without conflict sucks.
2. One-dimensional people who always do good no matter what are predictable and therefore boring. We love them in real life (if we can find them) but fiction demands more. I must also add that not everyone is an “asshole” in This Plague of Days. Certainly not. However, they have complex motivations and face peculiar challenges. This is not about a bunch of soldiers holed up in a fortress with all the supplies they could ever need and endless ammo. The Spencers are pretty much regular people in extraordinary circumstances and every day is a test they did not study for. Failure = death.
3. And finally, plenty of people are assholes now and it’s not quite the apocalypse yet. Not quite. At least, not everywhere.
It is the apocalypse in some places. Author William Gibson said, ““The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Similarly, the apocalypse arrives at different speeds. And as Arnold said, “Judgment Day is inevitable.”
~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. I’d be happier if you read it. If you’re happier after you read it, please leave a happy review, too. Thanks!
Get that for your friends, enemies, family, barber, Weird Combover Guy at the shop, the lady at the front desk at the office with the huge, hairspray hair, that avuncular uncle you like and the teenager who doesn’t like to read much but you want to encourage his brain. And so on.)
The happy ones make my day. When someone is unhappy, it drains creative energy a bit. Yeah, that’s right. I said it. I’m human. (God, the shame of that statement!)
Sometimes unhappy reviews and low ratings are a result of a misunderstanding. I’m finding that’s certainly true of This Plague of Days. Some readers love it despite it being a serial. For a few readers, I’ve found that people have mistaken Episode 2 for Season 2. Then they’re mad at me. That sucks. I want the impossible. I want everyone to be happy.
I usually tell them in a review comment (unless they sound crazy), as gently as I can, that if they’ve bought any book in error, they can return it to Amazon for a refund and all’s well. Mistakes happen but I’ll never know if the bruised reader ever read my helpful comment and went, “Oh, okay.”
That’s one of the reasons I won’t be serializing the third season of This Plague of Days. Despite the reader’s mistaken click, I’m still stuck with a one-star review. We’ve labelled the books and I’ve made a point of warning people to click wisely in the sales description, but there is still confusion. It doesn’t happen often, but I truly am sorry when anyone gets confused or disappointed in their purchase. I’m not out to rip anyone off and the stakes are rather low to try that in this business. That would be like going to the trouble of counterfeiting dimes.
Still, I wish there were an easier delivery system for serials because I love writing in this format. Well…
With Amazon serials, readers pay one low price once and episodes are delivered automatically. Personally, I’d worry that your kindle would update automatically and you wouldn’t be aware of the new arrival, but that question is moot. You see, before I launched This Plague of Days, I contacted Amazon’s serialization department, somewhere in the bowels of the beast.
I made my pitch for This Plague of Days. I wanted them to handle it because I knew they could spread the good word far and wide and make it easier on me. I pressed send and promptly…never heard a thing from them. This isn’t nyaa-nyaa-na-nyaa-nyaa. Sales are brisk with TPOD, but being part of Amazon serials would have been a better reader experience.
I must admit, the guy who hated Season One and then read and reviewed Season Two anyway? Flummoxes me. He hated Season Two almost as much, but that second read…wasn’t that a self-inflicted wound? And the people who declare they hate serials but bought a serial anyway? Gobsmacked me. I guess it’s the downside of the quick one-click buy. To their credit, some people who hate serials put that aside, gave the story a chance and ended up writing nice reviews anyway. That’s actually pretty cool of them.
Most reviews have been awesome and, each day, I get a boost from the vast majority of reviewers who are so encouraging. They dig my word-jazz and want me to keep going. This isn’t an easy thing and if you’ve been reading along in this space, you know why. I appreciate the kind words. I’m a sucker for “Atta-boy! Atta-boy! Go get the ball!”
Anyone who has read any of my books will not be surprised to find I’m conditioned to expect the worst in any situation. Tonight, I got a request to list TPOD Season Two on Nook. For the foreseeable future, I’m sticking with Amazon because that’s where my books sell. (Though Season One is in paperback and Season Two should be in print, too, just in time for Christmas.)
It’s a measure of the depth of my pessimistic worldview that I expected to be be chided for not being on all sales platforms. Instead, the reader kindly replied that she understood, no hard feelings and she’d read Season Two on her computer. You know how it is when you expect Mom to slap you and you get a hug instead? It felt like that. (I’m assuming. All I remember about my childhood was getting chased with a wooden spoon. And Mom smiled when she had me running into a dead end.)
So, in honor of the vocal minority, you win, I’m sorry, I suck, you’re good. Season Three will be one book. No episodes. No 99 cents weekly. Just, bam! Here’s your story. No serialization of Season Three. Hope you love it. By the time most people are reading the third season, that’s a pretty clear signal they’re all in by now, anyway.
The reason I don’t regret the first serialization is, This Plague of Days would never have taken off if I hadn’t serialized it. Obviously Amazon Serials didn’t have much hope for me as an investment, but it worked out. Those readers who loved Season One but got annoyed (or downright pissed off) because they mistakenly thought the episodes were seasons? They probably wouldn’t have discovered the story they liked (or as cheaply) if I hadn’t launched the book as a serial. They simply would not have seen my signal flare.
Yes, serialization is more expensive to the author and more demanding of the reader. Yes, it’s damned clumsy. But it can also work as a tool of discovery. That’s crucial to get a book noticed in a sea of offerings. Readers think it’s hard to find a book to enjoy? Wow, is it ever hard to write and publish a book and get anyone to give it a chance.
Anyway, I hope you understand the choice. And now, in keeping with my worldview, I shall sit back and await the outraged emails. It’s true, you’ll get a lot less of Kit Foster’s awesome cover art this way.* It’s a no-win sitch, ain’t it?
*Oh, and just wait until you see the cover of Episode 5 next week! It’s so creepy! Kit’s a genius!)