The State of Literature in the West

It’s an absolute disaster, I’m going to say first and foremost, reminded to me with some horseshit of which I had the significant displeasure to make acquaintance just recently on Twitter.

Running your own business is a dirty, soul-crushing affair, and being a writer is not much different.  Thanks to the nature of the medium, many would argue that it’s more challenging than other similar career paths.  As such, writers are always on the lookout for a grand opportunity, that one essential connection that will drive them from ignominy into the limelight.  Getting to the point, there was a hashtag trending on Twitter–I can’t remember the name of the fucking thing–in which editors and publishers tweeted out messages of the sort of transcripts they’re looking for and accepting.  There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself; it provides another way for aspiring writers to connect with the publishing world even if it does leave all the power in the hands of the latter.  Some publishers and editors were really looking for nothing more than genre-specific cues, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Different publishers focus on different genres; no big deal; it’s what they specialize in.  What got to me were some of the more specific requests.  I can remember most notably something to the effect of “A story about a woman with a crippling disability who can use magic, but can’t use that magic to cure her crippling disability.”  That’s not really a genre, is it?  It’s a personal fascination, and no-one’s fucking likely to have a finished manuscript of that sort ready.  There was much of the same; it read like a score of B-movies.  Most of these calls were for such subject matter as would particularly appeal to the uglier edifice of our current zeitgeist.  There were a lot of vampires; there were a lot of edgy teenagers [the call for young adult literature might as well have been a fucking avalanche]; and there were a lot of homosexuals and sexually confused superheroes.

I wrote a vicious criticism in reply, which received a lot of attention, none of it good, but that’s neither here nor there.

And so I reiterate that literature is dead.  Reading has often been a form of entertainment, but I don’t think it ever tried so hard to eschew the artistic.  Worst of all was how utterly cynical were these calls.  They don’t care about producing great literature; they care only about the bottom fucking line.  It makes me wonder why they got into writing in the first place.

What follows may not seem tangential, but it is.

I would hesitate to reply if a reader asked me my greatest writing influences, even though they’re freely available on my Goodreads author’s page.  That’s not because I’m ashamed of the authors that have made me what I am, but I’m afraid it would illustrate a gulf between myself and my audience that neither of us would be entirely comfortable with.  And this isn’t an insult, but it is nevertheless compelling.  The vast majority of writers who have influenced me are dead, some of them by thousands of years.  There’s probably only or two writers among them that are still alive, and they’re all to a fucking T white and male–the dead and the living.

Now, I don’t want to brag too much, though I can get away with a little, but when I pick out something I want to read, I want to pick out something I can learn from–and learn as much as possible.  I’ve found the greatest success in appealing to the glorious legacy of western literature heading back all the way to Homer’s Iliad, the very beginning.  In a lot of ways, I’m a hide-bound traditionalist, and I find myself disgusted with my peers, who are always and always and always more interested in the action in a narrative rather than the form of the narrative.  If all you care about are outrageous draws, then make B-movies.

I recently gave people advice about being an author.  I wish I could follow it myself.  My brain is apparently aging prematurely and will continue to do so until I’m dead.  Unrelated.  I don’t even know what that means; I can’t gauge how serious that is.  My parents both were and continue to be dangerous workaholics–rather monkish in nature–and have preferred to live through their labor rather than their lives.  I’ve always had the same sort of problem.  I don’t feel like I’m worthwhile unless I’ve done something I can be proud of.  And while you might ask me what I’d done in the past, I’d retort, complaining bitterly about what I’d done lately.  My dad’s retirement age, and he’d retire but for the fact that he’d have nothing to do.  The man lives and breathes his job, and if he gave it up he’d likely just resort to alcoholism, which wouldn’t be ideal at his age.  I want to be different.  My mother, after retiring from a very stressful job she worked for thirty years, twelve hours every workday, took up a retirement job a year after her retirement, which seems to have helped her unrestricted well of energy, but even this galls her.

I don’t want my life to be a list of goals completed but a recitation of performances done.

Salutation not Valedictions!

Look at that little button on the side labelled “Subscribe.”  You know you totally want to smash that… thing.  You’ll get updates of all my work when the work gets posted.  Don’t miss out. [You don’t need to be subscribed to be a member.  You don’t need to be a member to be subscribed.  But you do need to be a member to post.]

Welcome to the Works of Robert Madsen, the home and online heart of the various writings of the author Robert Madsen and the occasional artist of his association.  I, the administrator, am the completely unpaid exponent of the writer in question, chained now for nearly two years upon this work-station and to be occasionally savaged with the lash when the wages of my continuous exhaustion and near-starvation causes me to roll my face across the keyboard. Read More …

Another Book Giveaway

A monument to sacrifice.

Five copies! Five paperback copies of the legendary “Goliath Thunder: Sacrifice” signed by the author himself, Robert Madsen, five copies all a wondrous collection of four short stories illustrating the horrifying heights and lugubrious lows of the pilots of the titan war walkers of an utterly new millennium, struggling against the miserable cast of fate with a slaughterhouse suite of superlative firepower. Military Science Fiction occasionally dragging into the dark and sometimes even grimdark that will leave no eyes dry!

Enter now for your chance to win one of five copies! The contest will run from February 28th to March 8th and will be available to entrants within the United States.

Anyways, I’ve been instructed to announce that there will be a book giveaway starting at the end of this week starring five hardcopies that will be available through Goodreads.  The book in question is Goliath Thunder: Sacrifice, and the giveaway this time will only be available to residents of the United States.  You have to have an account to participate, I’m afraid, but if you’re a reader the platform is actually very convenient–most of the time.  It’s a bit of a labyrinth to a writer, with all the tools at my disposal, but that’s neither here nor there.

The giveaway to commence on Tuesday, February 28th, and it will run through to March the 8th.  That way there’s no rush.  In any case, the link is at the following [https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/225292-goliath-thunder-sacrifice], but the giveaway, as aforementioned, won’t actually begin until the 28th.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Goliath Thunder by Robert Madsen

Goliath Thunder

by Robert Madsen

Giveaway ends March 08, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Short Announcement

To infinity!

The release schedule is going to continue starting tomorrow.  I didn’t think it appropriate to recommence on Presidents’ Day.  From now on, my own website www.worksofrobertmadsen.com is going to function as my central hub, from which all my content is automatically disseminated.  I’m going to be honest.  It’s just too much work keeping track of my various social media individually.

Anyways, that’s all for today.  Have a marvelous holiday.

–Madsen

Author’s Update: Can’t Sleep Edition

I’m not sure how to go about saying this.  I’m not a well person.  A chronic physical ailment for which there is currently no cure but fortunately treatment.  It means that I’ll never be healthy, but with effort I can approximate something very close to that.  The problem lies in when I fail in that responsibility.  Two months of physical illness and various different stresses with which I coped magnificently poorly, and my health approximated the abysmal very rapidly.  So how do I say this more simply?  My life began falling apart and I collapsed.

Anyways, this made for a slow week of long reflection.  I don’t regret it either.  The things I’ve seen and considered will hopefully prove fundamental.

The least of which is that I simply need to master the marketing side of this arrangement.  I do the vast majority of my own marketing.  It’s not a thing like writing.  There are so many pitfalls for which I proved woefully unprepared.  Anyways, I’m just going to restrict my engagement to something manageable.  I’m also looking into alternative media–something aside from Twitter and Facebook.  The first is dying, and the second frankly doesn’t want me there.  I have to go where goes my audience, and while Facebook has some of them, it’s really not their collective heart.

There is also the matter of my public persona.  I’ve vacillated severally on the matter, and my conclusions are nonstandard.  Some people err on the side of caution and choose not to engage in any shitposting of any nature, specifically religion and politics; others make a career out of it.  What I’ve realized is how boring a persona can be when he’s forced to always wax vague for fear of giving offense.  On the other hand, I stopped arguing on the internet years ago for good reason.  Even I don’t know what to make of this either, but I do intend to offer more engagement to the reader, where I really should be focusing my attention.

Aside and aside, the release schedule isn’t markedly affected.  More work is completed.  As an aside, I’m contemplating putting together an amusing set of shorts comparing elements of contemporary politics to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but I can’t even really imagine how that’s going to turn out yet.

This isn’t a scheduled communication.  I just can’t sleep, and I thought it best to do something.

Anyways, best to all of you.  Don’t neglect your health.

–Madsen

Offense and the Iconoclast

I was listening to Ricky Gervais, a man I usually admire for reasons that will be elucidated shortly, talking about how he and his “mates” were looking around in an antique shop specializing in what he called “Iconoclastic art.”  I didn’t know what he meant at first.  For those of you who don’t understand, I’ll lay it down with the voice of Merriam-Webster; an iconoclast is:

  1. 1:  a person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration

  2. 2:  a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions

Art generally is not iconoclastic, but it can be.  Of course, what he was referring to is the wondrous corpus of art within the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church that were sometimes termed “ikons” and therefore suffered at the hands of its opponents: “iconoclasm.”

It’s noteworthy that a man like Ricky Gervais, an entertainer who’s made a career of attacking people’s more dogmatic personal beliefs, was at any point talking about this on a radio show.  The fear in the mind of a genuine iconoclast is that the worshiper praying before the icon is not actually venerating what the icon represents, but is venerating the icon itself.  Those familiar with the ten commandments will be mumbling about graven images at this point.  A belief that is unchallenged, a dogmatic belief, particularly a belief or standpoint that stands in direct opposition of its supposed intention must be defamed, must be laughed at, must be destroyed, and humor is the best way of achieving that.

There’s a reason we have the right to free speech in what few free countries on Earth still remain.  It’s not to protect inoffensive speech.  Such speech needs no protection.  It’s to protect speech that causes offense, makes people shout, gives rise to violence, because that speech is the most precious there is on earth.  Ironically, I’m going to be creating an icon in smashing others.  If people aren’t free to attack established highly regarded and entrenched positions, we’ll never be able to test them in the free market of ideas.  If that can’t be achieved, the entrenched positions become dogmas and finally tenets.  It is by this means that people can be compelled to believe or outwardly hold that the naked emperor is wearing clothes for fear of the social and legal backlash.

Offense is the response of someone with an entrenched belief, either reasonable or unreasonable, when it is challenged.  Offense is part of a process of determining a belief’s validity.  Offense should not be the one stop shop for all assail.  And while it’s natural to feel offense in this context, it should never be enshrined in law that offense is the determining quality for where the bounds of free speech end.

Now for the author’s usual weekly update.  The truth is, I don’t want to become an object of pity; it’s certainly not how I perceive myself, and I don’t want people offering me the proverbial handkerchief.  Nevertheless, the truth is that things have been hard, and while we’ve been getting through them by sweat and tears, it nevertheless doesn’t negate the fact that I feel tattered to ribbons.  I’m sure I’m once again being hopelessly vague, but I’d prefer not to be pitied as aforementioned.  I’ll try to make myself clear.  The work never ends.  It’s what I’m fully prepared for.  I knew what I was getting into when I became a professional writer.  What’s difficult is all that’s tacked thereon.  More often than I’d like, life finds ways of adding complications, often of a non-work nature, and I have to negotiate them while I already feel at my wit’s end.  I think we all can understand what I’m saying when I say this.

There are so many times that disagreement cannot be resolved by words.  Sometimes the disagreement cannot be resolved whatsoever.  You find yourself a villain for just trying to work through the misery offered you, but you forget this or neglect that, and suddenly it’s long past time for apologies, and your friend has already left you.  The lord’s seat, the seat of responsibility, is so lonely.  At the end of the day, it can become difficult if not impossible to discuss with one’s circle what ails one’s mind.  People you’ve cared about and work with begin to resent you, but it’s almost like you’ve lost your collective tongue.  They say one thing, and there’s not a word you can say in return because your tongue no longer works that language.  My first experience of this was in high school.  Lost a close friend of many years because I was so buried under myriad responsibilities that not only did I neglect his friendship but also because I could not help but mismanage my adopted work as I was never equal to that task, inheriting it from someone leagues more charismatic.  I was always meant to advise, never to lead.  But that’s a different story.

That’s enough for now.

–Madsen

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 1: Introduction

Chief Warrant Officer Edward Michelsson

February the 27th 1253 CNS

ship_04 blind hercules

Blind Hercules En-Route from Autumn Breeze

My name is Edward Michelsson, Chief Warrant Officer assigned as supporting investigator to the loss—possible scuttling—of the heavy transport Blind Hercules bound for Wolf Tertius from home-port of Autumn Breeze bearing a cargo largely consisting of vacuum-sealed rations, machining parts, and commercial-grade prosthetics.  Of the five-man crew, only a single corpse was discovered, drifting within the armored fuselage of the artillery-class panoply Plume surreptitiously secreted aboard the Hercules for transport with the knowledge of one Gregory Samuels, the corpse discovered within her largely unscarred auspices.  Cause of death was asphyxiation with the consumption of the several days worth of available oxygen.  The remaining crew are missing, presumed dead, their bodies perhaps obliterated in the explosion that was evident in the skies of Lacrimae Dearum on Sunday morning January 7, 1253 CNS.  What is known—in the investigation of the debris, the corpse, and from the Plume’s library, is that the remaining crew failed to compose routine logs—any logs in actuality—of their status and activities altogether as of September 13th, 1252 CNS, and that the only written and video records we have of the incident are recorded on an assembly of official ship’s logs, various and increasingly maddeningly-scripted writings on various scraps of paper, and even scrawlings apparently completed with bloodied fingernails on the internal lining of the cockpit of the Plume. 

samuels post-it 01It’s not always easy to make a clear determination of the chronology of such varied records.  When the midshipman ceased production of routine logs aboard the ship’s systems, he simultaneously seems to have lost track of the date, which he seems to only improvise.

It will similarly be evident the midshipman’s decay of mental state in his presumed long period of isolation aboard the Hercules, and while it’s not evident whether this was merely the natural cause of such a long period of isolation or whether the midshipman had successfully concealed from scrutiny serious mental disease, these remain our only written evidence as to the events that obliterated the Hercules, and as such remain a central focus of the investigation.  The events indicated within may seem fabulous, farcical even, the product of a deranged mind, perhaps the mind of a man that had slain all his own compatriots, but they nevertheless deserve investigation.  If there’s even an iota of truth to the accusations indicated within there’s more than just repeat and further danger to shipping in the sector but a lethal danger the entire scope of human endeavors.  I pray whatever authority makes the ultimate determination on these matters takes this investigation into serious consideration in his deliberations.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 2

Midshipman’s Log Part 92

Gregory Samuels

September 9, 1252 CNS

I can’t reiterate enough how lucky I was to get this job.  I can’t say it enough, and I’m not trying to kiss anyone’s ass.  But these opportunities don’t just swing around once in a lifetime; they don’t swing around at all.  I really need the money, and this job is a fair sight more meaningful than stacking shelves.  My head is clear, head is empty, which is no better or worse than any man could have asked for, circumstances being what they are.  Trying not to think about family.  Of course, they were the whole reason.

So, the monthly record of the mental wherewithal of my crewmates.

addendum_01 whatley history    Lieutenant Whatley, I think, has always thought very highly of himself despite being relegated to the command of military civilians.  He still carries around his sidearm, trying to spin it about like some hinterland sheriff.  I wonder if it even works anymore, how often he drops it.  Maybe he thinks we’ll be intimidated, but it’s not like the four of us have never seen a gun before; hell, we’ve all gone through at least superficial firearms training—on the off chance of hostile boarders.  Goes without saying I wouldn’t weep if he managed to plug himself with his own gun.  Not exactly much of a leader either, squinty eyed little shit with a chip on his shoulder.

Midshipman First Class Donnelly lost a huge quantity of cash to Midshipman Third Class Taticius in a recent illegal but nevertheless public night of gambling, and Donnelly’s been pulling rank on whomever he can ever since.  Under regular circumstances, he’d never see that money again, but it’s not like we’ve got a consumer economy here.  And Taticius isn’t the saving or the investing type, unless booze and whores can be considered a valid investment.  I figure he thinks by bullying the rest of us, we’ll somehow compel Taticius to return the allegedly misbegotten goods.  I don’t think he realizes how little the rest of us care, how used we are to this sort of treatment anyways.  I wouldn’t have joined the army, even as a civilian, if I expected sanity or sensibility.  All it takes is one barracks shit-head with a few bars on his shoulders.  Can’t resist saying I’m glad I’m just a civilian.  The enlisted are doomed.

I don’t see much of Machinist O’Leary, but I can’t say that I’m surprised, virtually sequestered in the ship’s allegedly radiation-proof buttocks.  And I know it’s a lot of work maintaining the propulsion of a ship of this size, and her hours by necessity revolve around the needs of the engine, but I confess that I’ve only seen her in her bunk about once or twice this whole journey.  I mean, she’s the right to liberate one of us from our duties to give her a hand, but she doesn’t.  It’s not like we haven’t been trained in at least routine maintenance and under the direction of a proper engineer.  Anyways, I haven’t even seen her in a whole week, not that I’m entirely disappointed.  She has something of a slanted countenance; it’s hard to explain.  Spent too long staring into pieces parts, I guess.

At last there’s the Boatswain, an old-world effete by the name of Matheson that you’d swear could spin shit into gold, the way he’s always getting on.  I don’t even know why he joined the army, what his plan was.  He seems to treat his duties as some sort of pleasure cruise.  Ship does most of the navigating anyways.  His only responsibility is to ensure the navigational data is correct, not to even tabulate the data himself.  Can you tell that I don’t like him?  He’s always fidgeting about, absentmindedly performing magic tricks with scattered coins.  And his demeanor—gods above—so insincere!  When he tells you to “Have a nice day,” he’s really telling you to get fucked.  I can only hope he effects an early retirement before he gets his head caved in by a more ferocious man than I.

Anyways, as regards current events, there isn’t much to be said.  The cargo is in fine condition, due to arrive on time at Wolf Tertius, after which I can take a few weeks vacation away from all this mess.  I deserve that much, at least.  Anyways, there’s no rot.  No spoilage.  No unexplained bludgeoning, and there’s been no report of theft.  Ship’s huge.  Never know if someone’s made ingress on board.  Even then, it’s not strangers you’ve got to worry about.

Ship’s running fine.  The Blind Hercules has met all her way-points on time; we might even manage the terminus ahead of schedule, not that anyone would care.  The food is awful, but what do you expect without anything resembling a full-time cook?  Most of the loggerheads around here wouldn’t know a good meal from having their shit pushed in, so they don’t make a fuss, and I’m simply too smart to let on.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 3

Midshipman’s Log Part 93

Gregory Samuels

September 11, 1252 CNS

I’ll skip the usual pleasantries.  I’m unhappy, more than a little unhappy, and that’s enough; you’ll find out why very shortly.  We were making for the XV2308B transit buoy when—surprise surprise—something showed up on the sensor suite difficult in appearance and producing—what they said—a regular monotonous series of what sounded like key-strokes.  At the time I was again taking inventory in the seventh starboard storage module when Lieutenant Whatley sounded on the PA firstly that potential salvage had been located and secondly that he intended to alter course to retrieve this for what he termed an “unbelievable salvage bonus.”  Space detritus—salvage bonus.  Man must be out of his mind.  I have this dark impression that Donnelly put him up to this, which was ultimately his decision, and I can’t imagine Matheson, who most assuredly would have been present, would have put up much in the way of protest.  That thing, whatever it is, they placed it in the largely empty starboard storage module number 23.  Things haven’t been the same since.

room_01 container

Anomalous Object’s Container in Cargo Bay 23

Call it the ecstasy of gold, or call it space madness if you want, but our happy little status quo isn’t what it used to be, is gone, and I can’t truly account for it.  Everyone wants their piece of the pie, same regardless of work or station, but this is beyond the pale.  When I was making my rounds, I actually caught O’Leary huddled up against the object’s container, whispering something—I couldn’t tell.  I kept myself quiet, surreptitiously entered, staying to the shadows; now, I can’t be sure, but I think I heard her mumbling a bed-time tune.  When I presented myself, she didn’t seem particularly ashamed, rose slowly from her ankles.  I, pretending to be congenial, asked her where she’s been the last week, whether or not it had been hell back in engineering.  She didn’t make any pretense of answer, but she just slowly walked to the exit and then down the hall.  I haven’t seen her since.

I have to say, the urge to cast this thing out the nearest airlock was overwhelming.  I can’t say why, but I had a loathsome impression of the thing, even within its obfuscating containment.  Taticius, who’d been a little standoffish since the thing arrived, said it sounded like a xylophone.  He didn’t mean that the electromagnetic signals as interpreted through the sensors had the impression of the instrument, but that it produced physical reverberations that seemed like a xylophone.post-it_02 xylophone  I wanted to see for myself, but whatever was in was silent, even though the container wasn’t sound-proof.  A little savagely, I gave the corner of the container a good kick.  Heaven and earth the thing must have weighed as much as a truck.  Lucky I didn’t split my toe in half.  But I didn’t hear anything.

As I was leaving, Matheson passed me in the corridor, walking straight ahead as if nothing had happened, but I didn’t believe him.  He wanted to take a look; just didn’t want to be caught doing it.  I have no doubt he doubled-back after he imagined me far enough away pursuing my duties.

post-it_03 gravityI began to realize that no-one was actually performing their duties—no-one aside from me.  It was only me taking inventory, performing routine maintenance—you get the idea.  I went looking for O’Leary to see if I could glean any more out of her bearing after our last encounter, but I couldn’t find her in the engine room.  Perturbed, I went up to the bridge to see if I might catch her on the PA, but there was no-one there, and the navigational computer seemed completely out of sorts, repeatedly calling for confirmation from the boatswain as to the validity of the updated navigational course.  I did what I could for her, not being a specialist.  Machine deserves a bit of love too.  I couldn’t find anyone, but I had a dark impression that I knew where they were.  I didn’t want to find out, didn’t want to learn.  I returned to my bunk and put the covers over my head pretending that the bogey man wouldn’t find me.