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 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 20 – What’s so funny about Tolkien? An interview with Paul Erickson

 
My guest today is Paul Erickson, master parodist and author of The WobbitThe Superfriends of the Ring, and the upcoming The Two Towers Strike Back.  He’s also been contracted by a German publisher to write a parody of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  It’s entitled Jar Jar Wars, Episode IV- A New Dope, and it should be released (in German translation, anyway) in April or May of next year.

                  

Paul has lived all his life in my own hometown of Oak Park, IL – land of Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), and Homer Simpson.  In fact, Paul was in a production of Man of La Mancha with Dan Castellaneta at Oak Park and River Forest High School (our mutual alma mater).
 
I met Paul at the Chicago Wizard World Comic-Con last year, where he hosted a panel on “Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing”.  We immediately hit it off – both of us being indie authors, native Oak Parkers, and Tolkien geeks.  We’ve had several hilarious discussions on Middle Earth and George Lucas, so I was thrilled to finally get one of those talks on the record for you, my lovely Fictioneer.  Enjoy it well!
IMAG0750
 
And if you want to pour yourself a tasty adult beverage while sampling this geeky aural debauchery – go right ahead.  Paul and I were each indulging in a drink, and I believe it gave our talk a touch of the savoir faire that all discourses of great pith and moment need.
‘Like’ The Wobbit A Parody and Jar Jar Wars on Facebook.
Visit Paul’s website, The Wobbit: A Parody.
And if you’re in the Chicago area in April, come see Paul (and hopefully me) at C2E2!  It’s a blast, guaranteed.
Speaking of blasts, drop by Mighty Con in Wheaton this coming Saturday!  I’ll be there selling and signing paperbacks of some of my best books (including the ones below).  The whole Parable Comics crew will be there, as well.  Come check it out!
 
    
Thanks for listening, my friend.  Don’t forget to sign up for the Fun with Fiction newsletter to receive some fun free fiction, along with breaking news and updates.  And email me at luke@funwithfiction.com with any questions or suggestions (including requests to be on the show!).
Peace!
– Luke
P.S.  Oh, and lastly, your moment of Zen:

FwF 19 – Fighting and Fantasy: An Interview with Orlando Sanchez (part 2)

 

Hola, Fictioneers!  Here is part deux of my fantastic interview with fantasy author and all-around badass Orlando Sanchez.

In case you missed it last time, these are Orlando’s books:

       

And his magnum opus, The Spiritual Warriors (Book 1 of The Warriors of the Way), is being re-edited and re-released in January, with the next two books in the series to follow shortly thereafter.  Can’t wait for that!

As you can probably tell, Orlando likes to incorporate martial arts philosophy into his fiction (whereas I tend to keep them separate).  We discuss how he accomplishes this, making his books read like mystical kung fu films for the modern age.  (Think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets The Matrix.)

We also praise some of our favorite fiction and talk about how it inspires us.  Names like Douglas Adams, Jim Butcher, and Bob Kane get dropped shamelessly.

             

Returning to the writer’s perspective, we talk about how horrible it is to get a great story idea while you’re in the middle of writing another story (I’m sure our fellow writers can relate).  What can you do?  Keep on pushing through, no matter how much your ADHD and self-doubt scream at you to change course.  Remember, though it is art, you must treat it like a job.  And sometimes, jobs just suck.

And the rough draft (a la NaNoWriMo) is just the beginning.

Then comes the editing, and the wretched pain of murdering your darlings (meaning your words, not your children).  As Bruce Lee put it: hack away the inessentials, and let the beautiful tree within flourish.  And in a rough draft, there are a lot of inessentials.  Only once a book has been thoroughly edited and revised is it ready to show to the world.

But you also can’t show it to the world without a great cover.  Sure people say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover… but everyone still does it.  Since the great book cover designer and book publishing/marketing master Derek Murphy introduced us, it’s only fair to give him a shout-out here, as well.  (Derek designed the new cover for The Spiritual Warriors.  Take a look at it in this post’s featured image!)

Yes, all of this is a lot of work.  But hey – no one said writing was easy.  (Well, actually, a lot of people say that – but they’re not writers.)

As stated in the last episode, don’t forget to…

Read Orlando’s blog.

Follow him on Twitter.

Like him on Facebook.

Fan him on Goodreads.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Do it.  Do it now.  …  What are you waiting for?  🙂

 Thanks again for listening!  Please email me at luke@funwithfiction.com if you’d like to be on the Fun with Fiction podcast.  If you’re an author, an avid reader, or just someone with an interesting take on storytelling, I’d love to talk to you.

Peace out and read on,

– Luke

[P.S. – I know I say this EVERY time, but I’m going to keep doing it ’til everyone signs up:  If you want some great FREE books, other give-aways, and to hear all the latest stuff going on in the Fun with Fiction world, CLICK HERE.  Thanks!]

FwF 18 – Fighting and Fantasy: An Interview with Orlando Sanchez (part 1)

 

Today I had the great pleasure of talking to Sensei Orlando Sanchez – a fellow independent fantasy author and martial artist with a lot of insight on what makes fiction fun.

Orlando Sanchez

Seriously, we talked for over two hours, and I (devout professional that I am) decided to simply hit the record button in the middle of our conversation – so the “interview” begins with Sensei Orlando in the middle of a sentence about the need for an editor.  Our talk moves on to a whole range of topics, from our favorite authors (including J.R.R. Tolkien and Jim Butcher) to the horrific despair we writers feel when we’re 30,000 words into a manuscript and we positively HATE our novel.  (I blogged about that just yesterday here.)

I’ve had to split this interview into two pieces due to system constraints – but both halves are well worth the listen!  Entertaining and useful information for readers and writers alike.

If you want to try Orlando’s writing out, click on the pics below to pick up these short stories for $0.99 each.  They’re tons of fun.

                       

If you’re ready to dive into the novels (I know I am!), grab these:

                      

And keep an eye out for the newly-edited 2nd addition of The Spiritual Warriors – coming in early January 2015.  (See his Facebook post about it below)

Read Orlando’s blog.

Follow him on Twitter.

Like him on Facebook.

Fan him on Goodreads.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Hope you enjoyed this interview!  Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for part 2, where we dig deeper into Orlando’s own work.

– Luke

[P.S. – If you want some great free books, other give-aways, and to hear all the latest stuff going on in the Fun with Fiction world, CLICK HERE.]

FwF Podcast 9 with Mo Simpson: The World is the Best Fiction (part 2)

Welcome back, Fictioneers!

Part 2 of my conversation with Mo Simpson starts off on a brilliantly blasphemous note, introducing a neo-pagan interpretation of Biblical scripture and an insane but believable etymology of the word “Hollywood”.  Did you know Hollywood, the right arm of the government, was founded by Druids?

You do now.  Consider yourself edumacated.

Speaking of Hollywood, we can’t resist discussing the tenuous relationship between comic books and the movies.  Just how unfaithful is Hollywood’s recreation of Watchmen?  Is Alan Moore right to condemn the medium of film for corrupting the art of the comic?

From there we transition to a discussion of the various film incarnations of a certain nocturnal superhero (I’ll give you three guesses).  Who was the best Batman?  The best Joker?  The best supervillain in general?  And the controversial topic of the day – Ben Affleck as the Dark Knight:  horrible mistake, or spitting in the face of God?

While we’re on the subject of gods, does anyone else think that superheroes are our modern versions of the ancient Greek deities?  (I mean, heck, some of them are ancient Greek deities!)  I do, and I make my case fantastically, if I do say so myself.

This leads to a discussion of mythology and the necessity of myth in providing meaning to culture.  No one recognized this better than J.R.R. Tolkien, who created his Middle Earth to provide a new mythopic structure that Britain was sorely lacking.  Granted, he did this in a very Catholic way (see my friend Brad Birzer‘s book J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth for a better understanding of that), but it’s hard to deny the brilliance of his symbolism, no matter what your beliefs are.

We talk about varieties of myth throughout the ages, the benefits of reading The Bible and other spiritual texts as literature (whether or not you believe they are literally true), and what makes myth still essential to the modern man.  Calling something a myth, in the traditional sense, is not saying that it is untrue.  Myth was rather a way of stating the truth – that is, telling the truth through a story that people could relate to and understand.

People need myths.  This is why Nietzsche, anti-Christian that he was, lamented the “death” of God.  While Newton’s mechanistic view of the universe might have had the positive result of turning many people away from irrational superstitions, it left a void; it left people with nothing to believe in.  Those of us who no longer hold to religion – or no longer hold it as a dominant force in our lives, whether or not we nominally believe in it – must find a new locus of meaning.

Throughout this discussion, Mo peppers us with historical etymologies of numerous terms, including “Lord of the Rings” (Saturn?), “Luke Skywalker” (Horus, Loki, or Lucifer?), and “The Holy Trinity” (um… you just gotta listen to this one).  I point out the difference between symbolism and allegory, and Mo adds that his favorite fiction is the real world that we face every day.

That last happens to be my least favorite fiction, as media-fed B.S. is more depressing than enlightening.  This is why I read (well, one reason of many).

What do you think?  Does myth have a function in the modern world?  If so, what kind of mythology do you turn to – religion, superheroes, esoteric theories, or some other collection of weird and wonderful concepts?

For more such enlightening and lively conversations, catch Mo on the Eyeteeth podcast.  And don’t forget to check out our books Cthulhu 4 Kids and Tales from the Teeth.

[Yes, Cthulhu 4 Kids II is still in progress.  It’s coming, we swear!  Please be patient.  In the meantime, give us reviews for the current books on Amazon, and for our podcasts (Fun with Fiction and Eyeteeth) on iTunes!  We’ll love you forever.]

Speaking of books, I have a new one out!  It’s Captain Napalm vs. the Grungious Gundabad, based on disturbingly hilarious superhero stories I’ve been telling my son at bedtime.  The Kindle version is available on Amazon for only $0.99, so if you want to support the Fun with Fiction podcast, pick it up today!

Or here’s an even better option: if you’re into superheroes and sophomoric humor, you’re interested in reading Captain Napalm, and you’re willing to write it an honest review on Amazon within the next month (it’s not a long book), send me an email at luke@funwithfiction.com, and I’ll send you a free review copy!  (In the interest of sanity I have to limit this offer to the first 25 people who email me, though – so shoot me a message today.)

Thank you all, Fictioneers!  I hope you’re enjoying my ramblings.  If you have anything to say – what you like, what you hate, what you want more of – let me know.  Comment below, review me on iTunes, or just shoot me an email.  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time – happy reading, my friends.