ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Weston Ochse is a former intelligence officer and special operations soldier who has engaged enemy combatants, terrorists, narco smugglers, and human traffickers. His personal war stories include performing humanitarian operations over Bangladesh, being deployed to Afghanistan, and a near miss being cannibalized in Papua New Guinea. His fiction and non-fiction has been praised by USA Today, The Atlantic, The New York Post, The Financial Times of London, and Publishers Weekly. The American Library Association labeled him one of the Major Horror Authors of the 21st Century. His work has also won the Bram Stoker Award, been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and won multiple New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. A writer of more than 26 books in multiple genres, his military supernatural series SEAL Team 666 has been optioned to be a movie starring Dwayne Johnson. His military sci fi series, which starts with Grunt Life, has been praised for its PTSD-positive depiction of soldiers at peace and at war. Weston likes to be called a chaotic good paladin and challenges anyone to disagree. After all, no one can really stand a goody two-shoes lawful good character. They can be so annoying. It's so much more fun to be chaotic, even when you're striving to save the world. You can argue with him about this and other things online at Living Dangerously or on Facebook at Badasswriter. All content of this blog is copywrited by Weston Ochse.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Coincidentalism - Plagiarism - Or Zeitgeist

One of the reasons I started writing was because I kept coming out with these great plot ideas. They'd often come fully formed to me. I just had no way to put them down on paper-- or so I thought. Then six months to a year later a book would appear with my exact same plot and even with some of the  same characters I would have written. I was like, WTF? Is someone reading my brain? And it happened over and over and over. And most of these were best sellers. Finally, I was like... if I'm ever going to be able to capitalize on these ideas, then I need to learn how to write; and fast!

James Davis Nicoll pointed out in a recent article on Tor.com that this isn't a new thing. It seems that it happened to icons of Sci Fi Charles Sheffield and Arthur C. Clarke.

One of the more remarkable examples of this type of unfortunate concurrence occurred in 1979. Working on opposite sides of the planet in an era long before everyone had email, Charles Sheffield and Arthur C. Clarke wrote novels about…well, let me just quote Mr. Clarke’s open letter, which was reprinted at the end of Sheffield’s book…
Early in 1979 I published a novel, The Fountains of Paradise, in which an engineer named Morgan, builder of the longest bridge in the world, tackles a far more ambitious project— an “orbital tower” extending from a point on the equator to geostationary orbit. Its purpose: to replace the noisy, polluting and energy-wasteful rocket by a far more efficient electric elevator system. The construction material is a crystalline carbon filter, and a key device in the plot is a machine named “Spider.”
A few months later another novel appeared in which an engineer named Merlin, builder of the longest bridge in the world, tackles a far more ambitious project— an “orbital tower,” etc. etc. The construction material is a crystalline silicon fiber, and a key device in the plot is a machine named “Spider”…
What blew me away when I read Nicoll's research was that even the name of the machine was the same. And look at the first names and occupation of the main characters. How can these have been so similar in ages before digital anything? You should go read the article. Nicoll does good work.

Another thing Nicoll mentioned that I was already aware of because of my love of late silver age and bronze age comics was that X-Men ripped off Doom Patrol. There I said it. Or did they? Could it have been the same situation as Sheffield and Clarke? We don't even know what that is? You be the judge as you look at the original covers over in Nicoll's article. Note that Doom Patrol came out three months before X-Men. 

Here we have two teams, their leaders in wheelchairs, who are shunned by normal society. On one hand we have mutants who were born with their powers and on the other hand you have mutants who obtained their powers through accidents. This coincidentalism (new word) takes place a lot in comics. What about Black Cat and Catwoman? Or Scarecrow and Scarecrow? Or Boomerang and Captain Boomerang? The one I love is Hawkeye and Green Arrow. It's also a rare piece of coincidentalism that Hawkeye was paired with Mockingbird, while Green Arrow was paired with Black Canary. You can go on over to Screenrant to see more comic coincidences.

Disney conducted a bit of coincidentalism of their own with the Lion King. Feel free to go and read the whole salacious article over on Cracked, but let's see what you think by this image alone. 

Fast forward to November 2012. Two books were published that month. My SEAL Team 666 book and Alex Shaw's Delta Force Vampire. In fact, my book was published 5 days after Shaw's. Does that make me a plagiarist? Is it coincidentalism? Like I could have come up with the idea, written the novel, and had it published in five days.

Then there's Evan Currie's book SEAL Team 13. That had to be a total ripoff. I had a host of fans come shouting to me that Evan plagiarized my idea. After all, it came out almost exactly a year later. Delta Force and SEAL Teams fighting monsters. Holy Fragmentation Grenade, Batman, there's a whole lot of cheating going on. Get the cheating police! Lock them up!

But it wasn't like that. It wasn't like that at all. If you've read Nicoll's article, which you should, you'll see that Clarke didn't think so either. And me, that guy who was WTFing before he knew how to write because something or someone was stealing his ideas right out of his brain, didn't think so either. While the comic industry tries to keep current with each other and commits coincidentalism on occasion, that's not what Me and Shaw and Currie and Clarke and Sheffield did. Instead, we were victims of the zeitgeist.

Or at least that's what I call it. I've heard others refer to it as the universal unconsciousness or the global mind. Whatever you call it, this zeitgeist is out there. It's entirely possible for people to come up with the same ideas at the same time without knowing each other. It's cultural. It's economic. It's scientific. It's based on learning the same information. It's the way our brain works. I'm sure that Clarke and Sheffield heard something or read something new and being sci fi authors, What Ifed it. Although I haven't talked with Currie and Shaw about this, I'm convinced that we near simultaneously thought about how cool it would be to have special military units dealing with supernatural stuff. And we just put our heads down, digital pen to paper, and came out with something that was popular. Zeitgeist.

Look at the 1950s. Where did all the monster movies come from, especially those who became a monster because of exposure to radiation. The zeitgeist. The world was in fear of a nuclear war so they found ways to express this fear in many ways that were similar.

I contend that this is a thing. My wife and I talk about it all the
time. She comes up with great ideas and I tell her to jump on them. Sure enough, if she isn't able to get her creative juices flowing in time, within six months to a year, some short story or novel will come out with her exact idea. As she says, "It's infuriating!"

Writers, artists in general, are a great tribe to belong to. We don't go around stealing ideas, frankly, because there are enough out there for all of us. But on occasion, a good idea presents itself in the zeitgeist. A few of us are able to pick up on it. An even smaller few are able to do something about it. It's what we do.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

S.T. Joshi - Literary Bully

I hate bullies of all types. I was bullied when I was a kid. For a brief time, I was a bully, unable to deal with some severe emotional distress I was having at the time. Then I was bullied so bad I was put in the hospital. So when I see bully-like behavior, I stand up.

S.T. Joshi is a bully. Period. He pretends to be an academic critic, but his delivery is pure bully. He wears his Lovecraftian credentials on his sleeve, much like a Worshipful Master of a Masonic Lodge. But that's all he has. The fact that he's steeped himself in everything Lovecraft doesn't make him a reputable critic of the horror field as a whole. In fact, his obtuse specialty should minimize his authority regarding popular fiction, yet there are those of the tribe who don't realize this. So I guess it's up to me to shine the light of reason on the bullying this man is endeavoring and his attempts to create a caste system in the horror genre where everyone he doesn't like becomes the antithesis of his Brahminism - an untouchable.

I've thought of S.T. Joshi as a peripheral member of the genre, someone who pops up like a Butterball timer whenever he retells or re-shells a Lovecraftian treatise. I mean, how many times does Lovecraft need to be re-packaged? As far as I know, Joshi hasn't written a body of work separate from that and a few other dead white guys, so it's on the back of an impoverished Rhode Island writer that he's established himself, like a Lady Godiva of Cthlulu.

He recently came to my attention when he began to write about some of my friends, and no one bullies my friends. He's decided to write a treatise on 21st Century Horror, not realizing, I guess, that the American Library Association already covered the first decade of the 21st Century in their Readers Advisory Guide to Horror. I would trust a platoon of librarians over one hate-filled Lovecraftian guru any day. Go Librarians!

And they managed to do it without hatred. Because lacking in any credentials beyond Lovecraft, Joshi resorts to hatred. When I read the essay on my friend Laird Barron, titled Laird Barron: The Decline and Fall, I could not believe Joshi's gall at even declaring the so-called "fall of a writer" when that writer's career is just past its nascent stages. Is the man so shallow that he must fill himself with someone else's demise in order to prematurely ejaculate it in an essay? And let me set the record straight, there is no fall in Laird. He's rising like a spring wind.

Then I saw the piece Joshi did on another friend, Brian Keene.
For the past two or three weeks I have been in misery. In short, I have been reading the novels of Brian Keene. Were I not driven by my sacred duty as a literary critic to assess the work of this grotesquely prolific blowhard for my treatise, 21st-Century Horror, I would have been relieved of this excruciating agony; but the job is done, as is my chapter on Keene, which can be found here.

(Pro tip, Joshi: when you use the word blowhard in your thesis, it invalidates everything you're trying to say, unless you truly are a bully, in which case your Bulldydom is fixed and mortared.) Take this from this professor of creative writing. If his duty was truly sacred, his charge would be to present an impartial review, but by reading the above, you can clearly see it's anything but. Having read the work, it's so far from being academic, it could be something I'd grade in ENG 226.

Joshi went on to question the plots and actions of the characters in Keene's books. (Seriously, Joshi, have you read Lovecraft?) I held back editing Joshi's continuous abuse of past and present tense in the piece, mainly because I want readers to see it for themselves. The lack of writing ability paired with words such as blowhard, schlocky, and plebeian, demonstrate that Joshi is just a man holding onto Lovecraft's belt with one hand and smacking wildly at the universe with the other.

In the current culture of bullyism, it's easy to succumb. But remember this, we are all on this planet together. We do better for ourselves by propping each other up rather than knocking each other down.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Nick Petrie and PTSD

First off, thanks to Ricky Grove for sending me a copy of The Drifter. It sat on my desk for a couple
months as I cleared out some projects and read some other books. Ricky sent it to me because of a conversation we'd had at STOKERCON this year on the Queen Mary. He knew that I'd spent the better part of three years and twelve hundred pages highlighting PTSD as a major plot point in my Grunt series (Grunt Life, Grunt Traitor, and Grunt Hero). He felt that, besides my works, new author Nick Petrie had it down what it was like to hae PTSD.

And he was fucking right!

Boy am I glad Ricky sent that book. I opened it and Petrie got me right away. I totally dig Nick's narrative voice. He has this hard-edged yet-thoughtful style. I was grabbed by his description of a dog he encountered early on in the book:

It wasn't a pit bull, actually. Those dogs bred for fighting were beautiful, in their own way. Like cruise missiles were beautiful, or a combat knife, if you didn't stop to consider what they were made to do.

This dog, on the other hand, was a mix of so many breeds you'd have to go back to the cavemen era to sort it out.

The result was an animal of unsurpassed hideousness.

It had the bullet-shaped head of a pit bull, but the lean muscled body and long legs of an animal built for chasing down its prey over long distances. Tall upright ears, a long wolfish muzzle.  Its matted fur was mostly a kind of deep orange, with matted polka dots.

An the animal was enormous.

Like a timber wolf run through the wash with a pit bull, a Great Dane, and a fuzzy orange sweatshirt.

I just love the way he parses words.

I've since bought books one and two in hardback. Book three comes out in January in hardback and it's on pre-order. This guy is good. You're going to want to read him.