Fun with Fiction 27: Literary vs. Popular (Genre) Fiction

What is “literary” fiction?

Per Wikipedia, “Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that hold literary merit. In other words, they are works that offer deliberate social commentary, political criticism, or focus on the individual to explore some part of the human condition. Literary fiction is deliberately written in dialogue with existing works created with the above aims in mind. Literary fiction is focused more on themes than on plot.”

What is “popular” fiction?

Also per Wiki, “Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is plot-driven fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre, in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre.[“

Per Harvey Chapman at Novel Writing Help,

“Literary fiction is more character-driven and less concerned with a fast-paced plot than genre fiction… [but…] Just as the best genre novels are populated by well-crafted fictional characters, so the best literary novels have page-turning plots.”

Exactly. I find this whole distinction suspect. Read Faulkner, then Dunsany. What makes the first “literary” and the latter “genre” fiction? Who’s to say the Faulkner is better?

            

On my bookshelf, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf sits next to Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates. Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground butts against Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, Dickens’s Great Expectations shares shelf space with Stevenson’s Kidnapped, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice kisses up to Ian Fleming’s Dr. No, and the shadow of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land falls upon Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

     

Here’s the thing: I don’t think any one of these tomes is necessarily, objectively better than any other. I enjoy some more than others, and some I appreciate more at certain times than others (depending on my mental state and emotional mood), but none of that shows that Dickens is somehow more “literary” – that is, of higher quality – than Heinlein. They were both popular authors of their day. They both have something to say, a worthwhile message to pass along. They both use the tools of language and story to convey it. Why do snooty English majors turn up their noses at one, but not the other?

           

Case made. Do you disagree? If so, email me at luke@funwithfiction.com! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

FwF 25: Hemingway’s Cheerful Thoughts About Nothing (and FREE BOOKS!)

Welcome back, Fictioneer!

Today I read and discuss one of my favorite short stories: Ernest Hemingway‘s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place“.  This tale poses the Existentialist question: What is Nothing, and what can we do about it?

                  

 Enjoy my lecturings!  I gave this talk to a group of 9th graders a few weeks ago, and they got a kick out of it (though I think I kind of terrified them).  Now it’s your turn to listen in, read along, and enjoy the fun.

And an announcement:

This weekend – Friday, February 27th through Sunday, March 1st – the books below are available for FREE on Amazon.  Pick them up!

     

 And for the next five days (through March 4th), the books below are ONLY $0.99!!  Grab them as well.

     

Enjoy the reads, and thanks for listening!

If you do like my books, please review them on Amazon!  And if you like the podcast, please rate and review it on iTunes, comment below with what you’d like to hear me talk about, email me at luke@funwithfiction.com, and most importantly, subscribe to the Fun with Fiction newsletter!  I’ll send you all kinds of free stuff and good news (but no more than once a week), 100% spam-free.

Once again, don’t forget to:

‘Like’ Fun with Fiction on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Pick up your free and discounted books, and…

Sign up for the newsletter!

Thanks again, Fictioneer.  Keep reading, keep believing, keep on rockin’.

Luke

FwF 23: Fun Fiction Books to Read in 2015

Happy New Year, faithful Fictioneer!

To start off, as a post-holiday gift, Cthulhu 4 Kids: Old Ones at the Beach is available FREE on Amazon today and tomorrow (January 2nd and 3rd) only. Go pick it up!

Now to business. After a two-week holiday hiatus, I have returned with a vengeance, ready to kick 2015 in the arse in the best way possible. And what better way to start the year than by listing some of the great books I plan to read in the next 52 weeks?

To begin with, I have had such a blast interviewing and getting to know so many cool authors these past few months, that I will be digging into their stuff post haste.

Right now, for instance, I am in the middle of Matthew W Harrill’s Hellbounce, book 1 of The ARC Chronicles. I interviewed Matt back in early November; if you haven’t heard that episode yet, go back and listen! Matt’s a Brit, so his accent alone is fascinating. Plus he’s a hell of a horror author and an all-around outstanding gent. And seriously, Hellbounce is wonderfully terrifying. Grab it now!

Next I intend to read Blur, by Orlando Sanchez. I did a two-part interview with Orlando back before Thanksgiving, and he’s a man after my own heart: a martial artist and unapologetic fantasy geek. He blends these together beautifully in his fiction. I’ve read his two $0.99 shorts, The Deepest Cut and The Last Dance, and now I’m looking forward to diving into his full novels.

Sometime this year I will crack Paul Erickson’s The Superfriends of the Ring. I have a paperback of the book that Paul signed for me at last year’s Chicago Wizard World Comic-Con, and I laughed out loud at his first novel, The Wobbit, so this will no doubt cheer up my winter. Paul and I spoke in early December about what the hell was so hilarious about Tolkien, and it’s one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever recorded.

Donovan Scherer signed a copy of his book Fear & Sunshine for me at Mighty-Con Comic Show shortly before I interviewed him on the weird and wonderful world of children’s horror. I read (and loved) the Prelude to the series (which is FREE on Amazon), so I eagerly anticipate what the series proper will deliver.

And here’s a list, in no particular order, of some other great fiction I look forward to devouring in 2015:

In truth, I have a lot more on my “to read” list (not even including all the non-fiction I have to dig through!). But I’d say that’s a good start, wouldn’t you?

What fun fiction are you most looking forward to devouring in the coming year? Let me know in the comments, or send an email to luke@funwithfiction.com and tell me there.

I have more great guests already lined up for early 2015, so make sure to keep tuned in! Subscribe and review the podcast on iTunes (if you haven’t already) to be sure you don’t miss an episode. And to really stay updated (and receive great free content), join the Fun with Fiction club!

Lastly, what would a New Year be without resolutions?

This year, I, Luke J. Morris, resolve to:

  • Post at least one Fun with Fiction podcast episode per week.  (Sorry if I’ve been bad about consistency.  I’ll get better!)
  • Publish at least six books, including:
    • Two full-length novels
    • Three children’s/young adult books
    • One non-fiction book
  • Get to know and interview at least twenty more great authors, delving into what makes them great
  • Meet a hundred or more fans and build a community of fellow acolytes of awesome who will spread the word about Fun with Fiction (and how great stories make all our lives better)

This I do resolve.  HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE!  Don’t let me get away with short-changing listeners, readers, fellow authors, and everyone else who deserves my very best.  Contact me and call me out on any b***s*** I try to pull.  Tough love is the love that really counts.

How about you?  What outstanding resolutions will you follow through on in the coming year?  Is there some way I can help you pursue your goals?  Let me know!

Thanks for making 2014 fantastic, Fictioneer!  Let’s make 2015 even better.

– Luke

FwF 22 – Donovan Scherer on Comic-Cons and Children’s Horror

 

Happy Holiday shivers, Fictioneer!

My guest for this episode is Donovan Scherer, who does it all.  I mean, like, everything.  This is a guy who’s mastered all the levels of indie publishing, from writing (and illustrating) great stories to designing awesome covers to building wicked cool websites.  Now he’s moving beyond his graphic design background to start his own publishing company, all while packing guitars for Amazon during the day.  He even created a free video game (Zombeans) to promote his books.  How cool is that???

Scherer campfire

I met Donovan online a few months ago, and in person this past weekend at the Mighty-Con Comic Show.  Let me tell you, this guy is a pro.  His display was fantastic, with everything from handmade buttons to books to bookmarks to Zombeans plushies to an actual mounted iPad featuring the Zombeans video game.

zombeans

But he’s not all style and no substance.  I have read the first book of his Fear & Sunshine series (pitch: “It’s like slasher films for kids!”), and let me tell you, it is good.  It’s a kids series, sure, but it’s a lot more complex (and dark) than you’d expect from standard children’s fair.  The mythology is deep, the characters – including Death – feel very real, and the story keeps you turning pages and wanting to know more.  And the illustrations only add to the fun-but-threatening mood of the books.

   

Here – read my Amazon review of Fear & Sunshine: Prelude to see what I mean.  Then pick up the book for FREE!  You have no excuse not to give it a try.

Mr. Scherer and I talk about his formative influences – which were cartoons that both he and I watched growing up in the ’90s.  Shows like the Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck.  True classics.  He and I are also fans of some of the big names in modern indie fiction, including Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and J. Thorn, all of whom have had covers designed by Donovan.

We also discuss comic-cons and other art shows, and the great times we have interacting with our fellow acolytes of awesome there.  Donovan runs an insane show schedule.  He has a booth at nearly every con in the Chicago and southern Wisconsin area, as well as one every weekend throughout the summer at the Harbor Market in Kenosha, WI.  If you’re in the neighborhood, look him up!  He’d love to meet you, nerd out with you, and sign one of his beautiful books for you.

Find Donovan Scherer at:

Don’t forget to pick up Fear and Sunshine, as well as Donovan’s latest book Monsters Around the Campfire – a creepy short story collection reminiscent of my favorite Boy Scout trips, available now for only $0.99!  Totally worthwhile.

Thanks for listening as always, Fictioneer!  I hope to get you at least one more mayhem-filled podcast before the Xmas takes us all.  Stay tuned, and be wary.

And don’t forget to sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter!  It’s free, and you get occasional emails from me with fun free fiction and news about what’s going on in the made-up world.  Totally worth it, right?  Exactly.

‘Til next time, my friend…

– Luke

FwF 21 – TV, Branding, & Michael Bay: Discussion with Mo Simpson

 

First off, an announcement:  I (your host, Luke J. Morris) will be at Mighty-Con Comic Show in Wheaton, IL this Saturday (12/13/14).  The show takes place at the Dupage County Fairgrounds, building 1, from 10 AM to 5 PM.  I’ll be selling and signing copies of five of my best books, as well as posing for photo ops, networking with other creatives, and generally nerding it out with all the great fans who drop by my table.  So come on out and say hi!  I’d love to see you.

Now, on to the podcast.

Happy am I to welcome my best friend and illustrator Mo Simpson back to the show!

Mo, in case you’ve forgotten, is the guy who drew all those pretty pictures for Cthulhu 4 Kids 1, Cthulhu 4 Kids 2, and Tales from the Teeth.  He’s also the host of the Eyeteeth Podcast, a multi-themed NSFW show that I sometimes co-host with him.

   

Eyeteeth Podcast

This episode is similar to an Eyeteeth outing, in that we talk about everything.  Well, almost everything.  I think my initially-planned topic was going to be “favorite Christmas movies”, but we never touch on that at all.

We do discuss reality television, the nature of fame, the idea of branding yourself (no, not like a horse), and the benefits and hazards of building that brand.  Steven Pressfield‘s The War of Art comes up repeatedly.  I point out the similarities between the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, and Madonna – using Pressfield’s idea of employing yourself – and your image – as a brand (separate from your true identity as a person).

Mo laments Tim Burton‘s lack of fulfillment on his early, Batman-era promise.  Is Johnny Depp to blame for his recent string of less stellar movies?

      

And what’s wrong (and right) with Michael Bay?

Mo and I both hates us a poorly-written book.  (On an entirely unrelated note, Dan Brown will probably never come on my show.)  But we often love bad movies, and we tend to appreciate things that are over-the-top, a la Meat Loaf.  See the great Mr. Loaf team up with Michael Bay (and a young Angelina Jolie!) here:

We talk about a lot more stuff in our compact hour, but I’m tired of writing about it.  Listen to the podcast!

And once you’ve done that, rate it on iTunes.  Please tell your friends about us.  Spread the word that Fun with Fiction rocks!  (If, y’know, you think it rocks.  If you think it sucks, just keep your big mouth shut.  Thanks luv!)

As long as you’re here, sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter, why don’tcha?  You’ll get some great free fiction, and news about upcoming events and things that be going on with the podcast.  Don’t you owe it to yourself to know all that?

Again, don’t forget to visit me at Mighty-Con this Saturday!  It’ll be an awesome time.

Peace!

– Luke

FwF ep 11: Guardians of the Galaxy, Comic-Con, & Other Awesome Stuff

Hey Fictioneers, guess what?

That’s right – Fun with Fiction is BACK!!!

I apologize for my summer-long hiatus, and I hope you returning listeners will forgive me and stick around for some of the great stuff I have planned.  And for you new listeners – welcome!  I shall strive to keep you informed and entertained beyond your wildest imaginings.  Or somethin’ like that.

To begin with – in order to make up for my fair-but-harsh treatment of Divergent a few months back, I here offer a far more positive, uplifting review of Guardians of the Galaxy – both the movie, and the comic books.  They are excellent.  Read them.  And watch the film (still in theatres, I believe).  It’s totally worth it.  The combination of humor, action, and pathos is on a par with Casablanca.

Except in space.  With a talking tree.

You’ll love it, I swear.

Let me know what you think about this episode!  Comment below, email me at luke@funwithfiction.com, and sign up for my mailing list to get the latest news and cool free stuff.

Also, just so you all know, I will be at Mighty Con Comic Show in Wheaton, IL on September 27th (less than two weeks away!), signing books and meeting fans and fellow creatives/enthusiasts of awesome.  If you’re in the Chicago area, I’d love to see you there.  Stop by my booth and say hi!

Thanks all!

‘Til next time… read on.

Luke J. Morris

FwF Podcast 8 with Mo Simpson: The World is the Best Fiction (part 1)

Guess what, Fictioneers???

That’s right – Mo Simpson is back on the Fun with Fiction podcast, talking to Luke J. Morris (yours truly) about the struggles of artists, the connection between religious texts and ancient mythologies, the shortcomings of the classical “hero’s quest” version of story, the tenuous relationship between books and the movies (or TV shows) they spawn, and the great weirdness that is Chuck Palahniuk.

This is a two-parter, folks, so don’t forget to tune in next time, when things get even crazier!

Fun with Fiction Podcast ep 7 – Divergent: A Dystopia Done Wrong

 

Well, Fictioneers, I confess: I did it.  I read Veronica Roth’s Divergent.  And its sequels.

What can I say?  I love a quasi-dystopian adventure-romance told in the first-person present-tense point of view of a repressed and sexually confused teenage girl.

Wait – no I don’t.  (But if that’s your thing, have I got a story review for you!)

Please, the next time I get such a notion – slap some sense into me.  Before I do something I’ll regret.

I didn’t bother to rewrite my review in pretty prose.    Here you can read my notes for this episode in all their raw glory:

  • My review of the Divergent series (with spoilers!)

o   Why the hell did I read this whole thing? It starts out okay, with an interesting (albeit ludicrous) premise – then goes rapidly downhill. It’s like doing a bad drug, getting hooked, and riding it out even after the high isn’t that fun anymore.

o   Starts out with the “factions” – Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, Amity – a division of society by virtues they seek to cultivate

o   The city is closed. We don’t find out why until book 3. We don’t even know they’re in Chicago until they zipline dive off the Hancock building halfway through book 1. (How do they know the names of buildings & streets in a post-apocalyptic world? How’d all those signs survive?)

o   Turns out they’re all part of some grand eugenics experiment by the government – to correct eugenics experiments they’d done generations before.

o   The U.S. still exists, but we only ever get a vague idea of what the world is like. Apparently, every place is unsafe, and all violence & misbehavior is blamed on “genetic damage”

o   Dystopia done wrong – sending a million & one mixed messages.

  • “We are all individuals.”
  • “Those in power distrust those with ‘flexible’ minds.” (What.)
  • “The truth is dangerous, & some people fear it.”
  • “Revolutionaries can be just as bad as the system they rebel against.”
  • “Life is worth living, & some things are worth dying for.”
  • “In the end, we all have to rely on each other.” (WHAT?!)

o   In short, this is a moral parable that doesn’t know what its moral is. At the climax of the final book it seems to justify essentially lobotomizing a whole city of people because many of them hold a wrong-headed belief. “The ends justify the means,” as it were. Huh?

o   At least it’s not afraid to kill off major characters – but their loss is more irritating than sad. It tries to strike emotional chords, but its whole tone is superficial.

o   Another dystopian YA adventure-romance told in the first-person present tense POV of a teenage girl

o   Difference is, this one has a well-built world – though there are conspiracies behind the scenes that are revealed as the books progress, we know from the outset the general structure of the world of the day, & partially how it got that way. Morals aren’t black & white, but it’s very clear that a despotic regime is to blame for the people’s hardship (this is entirely muddled in Divergent). It’s also clear that a rebellion could result in an equally despotic regime – but this may be abated (for a time) if the people are vigilant

o   The moral parable isn’t black-and-white, and doesn’t attempt to be – but it’s not nearly as muddled.

  • Sometimes you have to kill to survive. Still, you should try to do the right thing, to help people as best you can, even in the midst of a brutal reality (the arena of the Games).
  • There are human beings on both sides of a conflict. The heroine of the Hunger Games series wouldn’t try to justify mind-wiping everyone in the Capital just because she didn’t like their beliefs.
  • Heroism is about doing the best you can in hard situations.

o   It’s not a deep moral tale, though people tend to treat it as one. Still, it doesn’t preach too much, and it knows the story it’s telling – doesn’t get all muddled trying to send a million moral messages.

  • If you want great dystopian lit that passes its moral along beautifully, try:

o   We, by Soviet dissident Yevgeny Zamyatin – the prime inspiration for all anti-utopias to come.

o   George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 – if you haven’t read these yet, you must

o   Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley – Long before Prozac, there was Soma…

o   To a lesser extent, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller – not a dystopia exactly, but a good cautionary tale

o   For a more uplifting vision of the future, try Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

  • Now, try writing your own dystopia! It’s fun and easy. Make it 500 words or less, and send it to luke@funwithfiction.com. If I like it, I’ll read it on a future episode of Fun with Fiction, to spread the fame of your name far and wide.

 

Fun with Fiction Podcast, Episode 4: Interview with Andrew Flynn – Sleepless in Authorville

Hola Fictioneers!  Been reading/watching/listening to some great stories, I hope?

My guest this week is Andrew Flynn, author of  188: Micro-Stories For Your Macro-Brain and the ongoing serialized novel Clapping: Lose An Arm, Break A Leg.  Drew and I discuss those projects, what they’re about, and what the hell made him want to write the dang things in the first place.

No, it’s not drugs.

Turns out he wrote Clapping because he really likes comedy, and he noticed a dearth of fiction works dealing with the lives of improv comedians.  He’d also never written a children’s/young adult book before, and he wanted to try his hand at that.  So naturally he penned a 4-part novel about a boy who loses an arm in a horrific accident.  The best of both worlds!

(And honestly – if you don’t want to read the book after a pitch like that, why the hell are you listening to my podcast?)

As for 188 – that’s just Drew trying to mess with our heads.  He tells 188 stories of 188 words each, but they’re actually the disconnected pieces of 47 stories, which all fit crazily together into one larger narrative.  I think he just hates the concept of linear time.  But so did Homer, and The Odyssey and The Iliad are still pretty popular.

Drew’s favorite author is Wilson Rawls, author of Where the Red Fern Grows, one of the most painful children’s novels ever written.  (Seriously.  I still get teary-eyed when I think of it, and I don’t think I’ve read the book in two decades.)  It’s beautiful storytelling – with a beginning, a meaty middle, and an end that punches you in the gut hard enough to knock your spine out your back.

In a work of fiction, Drew says, “I want to be transported to a place I’ve never been before; and if I have been there before, I want to learn something about it that I didn’t know before – something that may or may not even be true.”  I think a lot of us can relate.  Otherwise, why read fiction?

What would you like to see more of in the fiction world?  For Drew, “People need to get a lot more weird.  And they need to be comfortable with being weird.”

Amen, my brother.

To that end, we discuss authors as diverse as Jack Kerouac and H.P. Lovecraft, with a nice plug for my book Cthulhu 4 Kids  – my Batman Begins, as it were.  And he raises a few good questions, like: How do you pronounce ‘Cthulhu’?  Are there boat tours to the sunken city of R’lyeh?  What’s the connection between Lovecraft and Gene Roddenberry?  We also discuss Metallica‘s brilliant Lovecraftian tribute songs ‘The Call of Ktulu’ and ‘The Thing that Should Not Be’.

We digress briefly to our recent Las Vegas excursion (which Mo & I discuss in more detail in the most recent episode of the Eyeteeth Podcast), and return to topic with the best book to read in the bathroom: The Signet Book of American Humor.

So if weirdness and transport to a new place or new perspective are what’s good, what sucks in fiction today?  Drew’s answer: derivative work.  Veronica Roth‘s Divergent, for instance, is the latest instance of a formula that was already overdone before The Hunger Games came out.

This leads, of course, to talk of Hollywood, and how almost every film released is either a sequel or a remake of some previous work.  The upside of this is Quentin Tarantino – one of the greatest storytellers in the medium of cinema today.

Tarantino knows how to tell a story – from quirky badass characters to mucking around with time to leaving the right things out to entice the viewer’s interest – that sucks you in and won’t let you leave till the credits are done.  (I use the word “brilliant” about 15 times in about two minutes, but that’s okay, since the subject deserves it.)

But back to the written word…

Drew’s plans for the year – once Clapping is complete – include delving into the Book of Genesis and rewriting the story from an altered perspective.  He doesn’t mean to insult religion outright, but he does want to challenge readers to think about deeply held beliefs and ideas in a new way.  (And really, look at the source: talking snakes and massive floods and 600-year-old men.  What’s all that about, huh?)

Like any dedicated writer, Mr. Flynn is constantly working to improve his craft.  To that end, his (and my) advice to fellow authors is to…

  • Keep writing.  Write as much as you can, as often as you can.  (Every day if possible.)
  • Keep reading.  Fill your brain with good stuff – the quality of work you’d like to produce.
  • Get feedback.  Have editors and beta readers that you trust read your work and give you their honest reactions to it.  What’s good about what you’ve written?  Where could it be better? 
  • Use proper grammar, dammit!  If you are going to break the rules, make sure you do it consciously, in the right way and for the right reasons.

Andrew Flynn can be found at www.drewisawriter.comHe loves to engage with his readers and with other authors, so follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/drewisawriter and ‘like’ his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drewisawriterAnd don’t forget to check out Clapping and 188!

If you enjoyed this interview, and would like to hear more crazy talk about made-up things, please support the effort by buying and reviewing my books at www.amazon.com/author/lukemorrisAlso review this podcast on iTunes, and email me at luke@funwithfiction.com to let me know what you like about what I’m doing here, what you hate about it, who you’d like me to interview, and what else you’d like to hear me rant and rave about in the world of fiction.  (You can also hit me up in the Twitterverse or on the Facebook at www.twitter.com/jeetkuneluke, www.facebook.com/funwithfiction, and www.facebook.com/jeetkuneluke.)

Thanks for listening, my friends.  Happy reading!