Dead Authors

This is something that’s been stuck in the craw for a looooong time now. It has to deal with people who, for whatever reason, decide that they’re going to write a dead author’s works. Now few have the gall to re-write a dead author’s work to ‘improve on it’, and I’m quite sure that there is a special place in hell for those people. It’s the real reason that I have a strong dislike and disregard for a particular third-rate author out there, beyond his inability to ever come up with something original on his own.

Next you have the people who wish to write stories in the existing universe of a dead author. These people I’m fine with actually. As long as they stay true to the universe, that’s about all I’d want to see. But regardless of whether or not they do, they’re at least trying to do something original and hopefully they got whatever permissions needed and again, hopefully, they’re trying to pay some respects to an author that they enjoyed.

The last group are those who try to pick up a dead author’s characters and write new stories with them, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Now, before I start, how many albums did Jimi Hendrix release after he died? Dozens if not hundreds. You may ask how that came to be, that a famous musician released more albums after his death and the answer is simple: They took all of his studio recordings, the stuff that he felt was shit and not good enough to release, and they released it. (Yes, I have listened to people who knew Jimi Hendrix and they’re the ones that talked about this – they were not pleased).

I bring this up not to cast dispersions on those who would try to continue a dead author’s works, but to make the point that we authors have a lot of shit lying around that we will NEVER publish. Because we don’t think it’s good enough. We may use it for inspiration at some later date for a new book (I’m actually thinking about that right now) but I think I’m gonna put in my will that my unpublished works are to remain just that – unpublished – after I die.

Now what brought this on was reading that they’re going to release ANOTHER Karres book. ‘Witches of Karres’ is one of my all time favorite books. It has had an impact on my writing, if you’re a fan of mine and you should read it, you may even see some of it. James H. Schmitz was, and is, one of my favorite authors. Yes, his stuff is very dated, but you have to remember the times when it was written and the themes remain very much intact today. The Telzey Amberdon stories are also among my favorites. I’ve read just about everything the man wrote and there are times I’m sorry I didn’t try to meet him (I didn’t live all that far from him for a number of years and met one of his good friends once), but I’m not the type to search out ‘famous’ people. I figure they’re already busy enough without me bothering them.

But I digress.

When I heard that this group of authors had written a sequel to ‘Witches of Karres’, I was excited. The three authors were all people with experience and established names. So when I got the chance I picked it up.

I couldn’t get past the first chapter. It sucked. Now, I don’t know if it was a matter of ‘too many cooks’ or what, but honestly, these people just didn’t know Schmitz, they didn’t know his bones. They didn’t ‘get’ him.

First of all, Schmitz was a short story writer. He wasn’t a writer of novels. He only wrote six novels in his entire career and if I recall correctly two of those were collections. His main forte was writing short stories. He wasn’t really a novelist, and while most don’t understand it, there is a significant difference in the two forms of writing.

A brief aside here: I started out as a novelist. My first real writing was a novel which thanks to bit rot is lost to all time (which is fine, it sucked) my second attempt was ‘Children of Steel’. I wrote another novel (Danger Money) and as I couldn’t find an outlet for that work (pre-web days) I stopped writing. I then discovered an outlet, but I could only submit short stories. My first attempts weren’t very good, but with the help of Gerald Perkins and more than a few things that I read, I figured it out. Then I wrote nothing but short stories for years. Dialene is actually three different short stories stuck together to make a novella.

So switching back to writing novels was not an easy task, but I did (obviously) figure it out and got back into it. So I have a lot of experience with writing each and I understand the very basic differences between the two styles. Schmitz wrote his novels as a collection of short stories. My book ‘Shadow’ (written as Jan Stryvant) was a collection of short stories. They weren’t even written in the order that they appear in the book, (also I never intended to publish them, but that’s another story). When it was suggested to me that I publish them, I reworked them into the correct chronological order, then tied them together so that they flowed.

When I look at Agent of Vega or Witches of Karres or The Universe Against her, it’s obvious that Schmitz was still writing them as short stories and then stitching them together. It’s like the difference between an album that’s just a bunch of songs and a theme album. Yes, it’s one story, but the ‘breaks’ are still there.

So when I picked up the sequel and the first thing I see is the story is picking up exactly where Schmitz left off in Witches, I knew they didn’t get him.

First off, Schmitz had more than enough time to write a sequel to the book, yet he never did. Oh, he may have considered it, may have even made some notes about it, but the fact is: he didn’t do it. So any notes or unfinished work he may have left lying around, was left lying around for a reason: He didn’t think it would work.

Second off, if you’re going to write a sequel, you need the damn break! You cannot pick up an hour or a day later. You cannot pick up with the humorous denouement of the story and run with it! It’s the damn denouement, it wasn’t meant to be picked up on! If you’re going to carry forward with anything about the ‘baby’ vatch in the next book, the only way to really do it would be as a series of ‘remembered’ lessons, or snide comments made by Goth. That is very much a tell don’t show, like when Captain Pausert discusses how he got rid of all that junk cargo.

I can’t comment more on the book, because I didn’t want my childhood memories destroyed. I don’t know why they picked the authors that they did to write the sequel(s). I don’t know if an editor said ‘I think these will do well at it’ or if they asked for volunteers. Whichever it was, they failed miserably on the hook, and the hook is the most important part of the story. If you can’t get that right, well, there’s no way you got the rest of it right.

James H. Schmitz was one of the three authors whose writings had the biggest impact on my style. Robert H. Heinlein and Roger Zelazny were the other two. Yes, I would love to see another Karres book about Pausert, Goth, and The Leewit. I daresay I know how to write one. But I won’t, not even for myself (and trust me, it was something I thought about many times years ago when I was starting out) because James H. Schmitz has died, and I don’t want to be the one digging up his grave. Let him and his characters rest in peace.

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So we’re in Texas now

The move is (almost) complete. We got called by the movers today and told our stuff should be here, in a day or two (it’s been over a month). But I’m finally starting to be hopeful that the rest of our stuff will be here. Word to the wise, spend the extra money and go with one of the major movers. They move your stuff immediately, and they’re not going to disappear unexpectedly.

So far I like Texas, it’s definitely a nice place than California. The people are way nicer here too. Oh, there’s always a few idiots and people that make you want to swear, but there’s less of them here, and a lot of the ones who piss you off do seem to apologize when they realize they’ve made a mistake. My only complaint is that people are a bit slower about things out here. But I grew up in NY, a place where when you agreed to do something, you usually showed up the next day and knocked it out quickly. Here people aren’t as rushed.

Not saying it’s a bad thing, just saying it’s something I need to get used to.

One thing I have been liking a lot here is that people seem to be a lot better about business dealings and keeping their word and their commitments. I’m sure in the big cities here there are lots of people looking to screw you, but that’s not the case out in the country, (and before anyone claims it’s an aspect of country living, I lived in the country in Oregon for a decade, and a lot of Oregonians will screw you if you don’t watch out.)

The weather here has been unseasonably wet this year. That’s caused a few delays on things, but not all that many. We’ve got about a dozen projects to take care of to make the new place the way we want it to be and the biggest one got finished last week. The next biggest should be done next week. Then it’s just a series of small things to deal with. Getting a gas stove top in the kitchen is one of those. I really hate cooking on electric burners.

Unfortunately there have been some stressful incidents along the way, and that has impacted my work a lot more than I would have liked. I’d planned to release my next novel a few days from now, but at this point I’ll be lucky to get it out before the end of the month. But with all of those things gone (with the sole exception of the movers who will hopefully be here by Friday), I’m predicting clear sailing and a return to my usual work routine.

Moving Soon

So we’ve bought a new house and we’re about 2/3rds moved into it. In two weeks movers show up to pack up and haul all of the furniture away to the new place. Then we’re out of the once great state of California and off to Texas.

This is the second time in my life where I’ve moved cross country and into an area where I really don’t know that many people. The other was when I moved from NY to Oregon. Thankfully I had a lot less stuff then, and it was just me making the move. While this move is about 2/3rds the distance, there’s two of us now, plus pets, and a hell of a lot more stuff.

I will definitely be glad when the end of this month arrives and all of this has been completed.

I will miss some of the pastimes and people I’ve come to know and enjoy in the last dozen or so years I’ve been living in California, however I will not miss California itself. I’ve grown to hate California and the vast majority of the people who live here, because they took a place that was once a paradise, and have pissed it away into a total hellhole. California is on the fast track to third world nation status (parts of it, like San Francisco, have already achieved it), and when it hits bottom, it’s going to be an epic disaster.

Understand I’m not leaving exactly willingly, I’m leaving because several of my hobbies and possession are now a felony in the state of California, regardless of that document called the Constitution. I’m not talking far-out ‘right wing’ conspiracy theory stuff either. Just things I’d openly bought or made over the years I’d lived here, things that California gave me ‘permission’ to own (even though there’s that pesky document again) and suddenly outlawed on pain of incarceration, with no compensation for the property that they have effectively ‘seized’.

This is something California has done twice now in the 25 years I’ve been associated with the state (I used to get sent here for work back in my DOD and Tech days fairly often and sometimes for over a year at a time). Each time they did it, they made promises, which they promptly broke and people ended up in jail or with huge financial losses.

Then there’s that whole dam fiasco. If people knew how close we came to losing that dam and having multiple cities wiped off the map and hundreds of thousands of people killed, maybe, MAYBE, they’d wake up and do something about it.

But I honestly doubt it.

So yeah, crime is rising, quickly. The laws are being applied randomly, when they’re applied at all. Taxes are going up. The state has a half trillion dollar debt that they scrupulously ignore ever talking about. Only Democrats are allowed on the ballot to run for office, and with such a super majority guaranteed forever, they’re passing laws that only the Mad Hatter himself could have thought up. It’ll be detroit all over again, only this time writ large.

And I’m just so incredibly glad that I’m escaping all of it.

Just a little note

I haven’t posted here in a while, mainly because I have two other blogs (https://jvanstry.blogspot.com/ and https://stryvant.blogspot.com/) where I post more often, and of course the ever ‘wonderful’ facebook, where you pretty much have to have a presence if you’re an author these days.

Overall, the last year has treated me well, sales are way up, and my work is being well received by the people who are willing to give me money so I’ll keep at it. I doubt that the ‘literarti’ would have any kind words at all for my work, but then those people couldn’t tell a good story if they wanted to.

I’ve got a new hobby, seeing as the old one became my job, building bass guitars. I’ll see if I can’t add some pictures below. I’m also moving to Texas here, soon, because California has just become too insane to live in. The state is passing laws with nary a concern about individual rights, constitutional limits, the future, or common sense. When California crashes, it’s going to be spectacular, and I do not want to be here to see it.

Getting back to the writing, it’s been going very well, but I realize I need to work harder at it. To some folks a book a month may seem to be a lot, but then I look at some of the other authors that I know, and I see that they’re out-pacing me on that, and I honestly want to do that as well. There are a lot of folks out there who like what I write and I honestly want to keep them happy. They are after all, the reason why I do this, and the fact that they are willing to give me their hard earned money so that I can focus fully on writing makes me want to work harder to offer them more.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in my life, (well, maybe in the military). But the rewards have been worth it. I’m getting to tell so many of the stories I’ve always wanted to tell, and you all not only enjoy them, you want me to write more of them.

It’s been a great year.

On the basses below. The first is a headless (so no, the head wasn’t cut off it ends there). I built it because I wanted something to take on airplanes that wasn’t huge. Took maybe three weeks to build.

The second is a Warmoth P-Bass. It took over a month to build (there were some complications) but it sounds fantastic and I’ve been playing it a lot lately. It’s also incredibly heavy, weighing in at about ten pounds. The body alone is over five, before it was finished and loaded up with stuff. The third pic is of the P-Bass with strings and stickers.

(I also go gold mining in the mountains on the weekends, one of the few things I’ll miss about California after we move. Maybe I’ll put some pictures up about that eventually).

Still haven’t updated the picture

And I really should to, as I shaved last week, and for the first time in over a decade I am now clean shaven (may even be longer than that, I’ve had a beard and/or mustache for more years than I haven’t). So yeah, I look a little different now. I was at a convention this last weekend where I know a lot of people, and many of whom didn’t recognize me at first, until I said hello.