Friday, September 12, 2008

Ficta Mystica: A Manifesto

Seeing Through Words

So yesterday I finally had a breakthrough in solving a knotty problem that has puzzled me, and Susie, and some others, for a long, long time. Years, perhaps decades.

The quandary? How to present my work, especially my novels, so the agents and publishers will see them as part of a unified marketable whole. My novels do not tend easily to fall into an established category. This makes it hard for agents and publishers to see a way to promote me, or to isolate an audience my work will appeal to. So I need a kind of market imprint, a trademark, a branding of sorts, so that they can make Gene Stewart your one-stop shopping source for a given consistent experience.

Tough, hm?

Jay Lake, fellow member of the Omaha Beach Party despite being based in Portland, published Mainspring and Escapement through Tor. They are his most visible works. They are both set in a world that takes the Clockmaker's Universe literally -- the planets all move on big brass gears and so on -- so he coined the term Clockpunk to describe this. it's become a sliver genre and he is its main source.

Good marketing. You like this, here's where to get more.

Okay, so Susie and I discussed my novels. What, if anything, do they have in common. And we came up with epiphany. All of them, in one way or another, deal with an individual confronting an unseen, unknown world, or hidden agenda, and having to deal with the consequences of a wider viewpoint. That is epiphany.

Well, okay, fine, but now we need a way to express that, one that looks good or sounds catchy, etc. We were fooling around with the -punk suffix, the blank-punk formula, like Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Clockpunk, etc. All we came up with were the lame Epiphapunk, or the confusing Eurekapunk.

Neither of those were going to work.

Then I dug back into my search for a term to describe my writing in terms of realism. I'd jokingly called it Gothic Realism, but that's inaccurate, as I don't use moldy castles and vampires, even if I do often capture the eeriness. I looked at irreality, noir, and surrealism, and many others both academically formal and otherwise, but none fit my work well.

Words are not story.

Then it struck me: what I'm writing is, always one way or another, mystical. It peers, or leaps, into other worlds, and deals with unseen forces. Mysticism informs the work. Revelations, epiphanies, and the shamanic experience infuse my work. Most of what I write includes such tropes and topos as hallucinatory changes, encounters with strange Others, and so on.

So I dug into all that and also into Fiction as a conceptual term, looking into the academia.

What I came up with is this:

Mystical realism describes what I'm up to most of the time. Mysticism informs all my work, be it writing, art, or music, fine, but Mystipunk sounds too much like Mistah Punk. We can't really call it Mystic Punk, either, because the punk part is a wobbly fit at best, and the term sounds stupid anyway.

I write mystica. I present the Vista Mystica, the mystical vision, or involve my characters in it. Here, then, is the term I've created:

Ficta Mystica.

It is the fiction of mystical realism.

Ficta Mystica includes such mottos, watchwords, and principles as: Nonfactual truth, avoiding facts to reveal a truth, and the notion that In story lies reality. Want facts? Read nonfiction. Want truth? Ficta Mystica. The notion that only by telling a story can a truth be revealed is an ancient one.

I can see sayings pulled from such ideas appearing on tee shirts and used in essays, articles, and reviews. It's a good promotable movement with a commercially sexy & marketable aspect to it, with many evocative, intriguing memes attached to it.

Best of all, it developed without me noticing, naturally, over the course of my 42 years of writing. It’s not a label to be slapped onto any old container, it is an organic result of growth, the grain in my fiction’s wood.

Finally I’ll have an answer when people find out I’m a writer and ask me what I write.

I write to reveal what words cannot say.

Ficta Mystica.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Finished Center's Edge

Wrote 5600 words and finished Center’s Edge today, after having it interrupted on 9/11/01. A lot of years for a 62,000 word novel. A lot of struggle, too. Can’t say it purged anything. Nor what it means, really.

Wrote at it in a relaxed, enjoyable, and also a thoughtful, deliberate way all day, from 9AM to about 5:30PM. It’ll be seen as horror or dark fantasy; that’s fine. Dark infests it. Means a lot to me because 9/11 was a body blow and just to have brought Center’s Edge to a satisfactory conclusion means I’ve made it this far. Maybe that’s all it means, but I doubt it. It’s a very strange story.

Now comes all the worry and impossibility of marketing, all the second-guessing. It’s too short, too weird, and has multiple viewpoint -- all the things viewed as flaws in the current climate. All the things that it’s not, or that it should be. Change this, rewrite that, why bother with the rest of it?

Finishing a novel is celebratory for some and at least a good feeling for most. I just cringe because it means the good part is over and now the bad part starts.

After I cringe I keep working on other novels. Writing I love. The rest is pushing balls of shit that outweigh you up a steep hill for snobs who wait at the top to judge you and who expect you to be spotlessly clean if you get there.

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