Bubba’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict

According to legend, there is a small speck floating alone in a vast, empty forgotten stretch of the universe that has not experienced conflict. Unless you happen to be this miniscule particle (and I think the likelihood is low), conflict is a part of your identity. If, by some freakish chance, you are that tiny speck, you just ruined a perfectly good setup. I hope you’re happy with yourself.

Anyway, people have created a number of different techniques to handling, resolving, avoiding, causing, and denying conflict. In the real world, there are several ways to deal with it. Fiction, however, is not the real world.

Here’s the issue. For many years, authors, editors, publishers, and university professors who have never held a real job have developed a set a rules for each other that govern the ways in which a story may be told. Those who follow the rules are “good” and those who do not are “subhuman illiterate hacks.” Some of these rules govern and define our culture’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict.

Tyrannical Rule #1: Conflict must exist between a minimum of two parties and a maximum of three. Conflicts with less than two parties make no sense and shall not be permitted. Fights between four or more parties confuse the minuscule and fragile minds of readers and are, therefore, banned. Conflicts between fractional numbers are ridiculous and may cause an editor’s head to explode. Irrational numbers are right out. Authors who flout this law will be ridiculed and chastised in public by their betters until they either surrender their right to write or shrivel in shame. We’re good with either outcome.

Tyrannical Rule #2: All conflict must be created in such a way that the antagonist must be omniscient and omnipotent. Evil must always be infinitely stronger than good. The protagonist must have absolutely no reasonable chance of success. The antagonist must also have one weakness. Two or more weaknesses will not be allowed under any circumstances.

Tyrannical Rule #3: No matter how impossible or unlikely, all conflict must be resolved in only one way. The protagonist must overcome all obstacles through extreme debilitating suffering. Regardless of the mechanisms or methodologies employed by the protagonist, the only reason the protagonist wins the fight with their antagonist is by persevering through immense suffering just a moment longer than the antagonist. No other method of resolution will be allowed for any reason. Any suggestion that a conflict can be overcome by any other means will be met with extreme hatred, explosive derision, and the panicked shrieking of all good authors, editors, publishers, and university professors who have never held a real job.

Tyrannical Rule #4: No variation, deviation, or modification of these laws will be tolerated. Any author who dares question one or more of these rules will no longer be allowed to think with their own brain. Only authors who conform completely in every conceivable way to these laws will be considered “creative.”

Well, I disagree. I’ve listened to my fellow authors. I’ve heard their point of view. I understand that using commonly accepted thought processes and storytelling methods makes it much easier for a reader to predict how a story will go before they ever crack it open. That’s my problem with it. I want to be surprised by the story. I want it to go places that I didn’t expect and for the characters to do things I didn’t predict. To that end, I have created Bubba’s Philosophy of Fictional Conflict.

Bubba’s Rule #1: Conflict comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s a part of the character’s personality, world, and culture. Some are sharp and intense while others are more trivial. Characters facing different types of conflict will appear more solid than those that only face one at a time.

Bubba’s Rule #2: Neither protagonists, antagonists or any other fictional characters are all powerful or all knowing. Get over it. Some may be stronger than others, but attempting to ramp up the drama by exaggerating the antagonist’s power is pathetic and weak. Having a protagonist find and exploit an antagonist’s one and only weakness is predictable and, therefore, to be met with a sarcastic eye-roll.

Bubba’s Rule #3: Conflict resolution must not be predictable. Protagonists may overcome obstacles in any number of ways including outwitting, surprising, appeasing, distracting, or talking with the antagonist. Conflict resolution that can be predicted before a book has been opened must be the one form of resolution that cannot be used. Any suggestion that conflict must be resolved only by suffering will be met with water balloons filled with jellyfish.

Bubba’s Rule #4: Exceptions will be made for each and every rule as necessary to fit the story. Rules will be considered to be guidelines rather than absolutes. Authors are required to think with their own brains.

Bubba’s Rule #5: Bubba’s Rules shall not be binding on any other person. No other author, editor, publisher, or university professor who has never held a real job will be required or expected to comprehend or accept these rules.

After all, I’m not looking for an argument.

Self-Centered Reviews

Every once in a while, I ignore the GPS of conventional wisdom and veer onto a poorly lit side street. From the condition of the road, this appears to be one of those times.

One of the conundrums facing independent authors is the task of securing a sufficient quantity of reviews for their work. Common sense says that new readers may not be drawn to a new book until a critical mass of reviews have been written for the book. No one wants to be the first to dive into new waters. That never ends well in a movie during shark week. As a result, independent authors end up lurking in public places, begging for reviews and (occasionally) offering to wash windows in return.

One alternative to this rather pathetic display is the use of non-reciprocal reviews. The idea is that multiple authors come together and agree to read and review books by another author in the group, but not the author who is reviewing their work. That way, no one is able to trade one fawning review for another. When the system works, everyone wins. Honest reviews are written for each book and the street corners and viaducts remain free of loquacious beggars.

The problem is that most authors are human. While some will honor their commitments and write honest reviews, others will not. Some will speed through the book, skimming an entire novel in a few hours in an effort to spend as little time as possible on the review. Some may read it, but won’t bother to write their own review and will just copy and paste reviews written by others. A certain number of cretins will happily accept reviews for their own book while failing to review others.

Yes, that is reprehensible and no, there is no excuse for such behavior. The issue is that many authors are so consumed with their own self-centered desire to rack up as many reviews and/or accolades as possible for themselves that they don’t care that they are cheating other authors in the process. Even worse, they don’t care about the impact on potential readers.

Chasing after them, begging for them to honor their commitment is an obvious waste of time and energy. Scrambling after reviews in a mad race to reach a magic quantity that will coax readers to your shelf is an insane game. The solution is obvious. We can choose not to play.

If someone wants to write a review, they will. If not, there is little an author can do to persuade them to do so. While many authors may disagree with me, I would like to think that books will eventually find their audience. That may be naïve, but I would rather follow this course than hunt down self-centered reviewers.

Hang on, I think I recognize this street. I’m back on track now and my GPS can stop recalculating. You can relax now.

Artificial Preview

For those who like to snag an early glimpse, I’m posting a draft of the Prologue to the third book in The Other Universes series, Artificial Stupidity. For the rest of you, I thought you might appreciate the warning.

I’ve just started work on the book, so I can’t provide many details. I can, however, offer a sneak peak that explains the title. If you are one of those people who either can’t wait, have an unhealthy amount of curiosity, or just like to click links, I’ve posted the Prologue on Wattpad.

This book will bring the major storylines to a close, completing what began in Reality Challenged and Blithering Genius. I hope to see some of the characters again as they spin off from this trilogy.

If you care to do so, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Prologue, characters, or things you’d like to see happen in this book. Who knows? You might get your wish.

Facial Deforestation

It wasn’t Global Warming, the Ozone layer, or the fear of another shark/weather related movie. Now that the work crews have left, the trucks have hauled away the debris, and the dust has settled, it’s time to face reality. I shaved off my beard.

You might want to sit down. I’ll give you a moment. Here, I have a bowl of Cheetos and raisins for you. Feeling better?

It wasn’t hot, itchy or telepathic. Well, it might have been, but it didn’t talk to me. It was, however, multi-colored, forged out of rusty nails, and it attracted Blue-Fanged Skerlags from Mutiloid 3. Well, it probably would have if they weren’t so far away and in the midst of a zombie flea outbreak. I tried lectures, time outs, and even beard conditioner, but it just ignored me and controlled the neighbors. I’m not sure about that last part since I’m not all that neighborly.

No matter how I trimmed it, the beard never looked good. It had all the flexibility and comfort of spiked steel rebar. It twisted in nonsensical directions for no discernible reason. The gray, brown and black striping made me look like Skunkman. While, I’ll admit, that sounds a bit intriguing, it wasn’t as cool as you might think.

I really tried to make this thing work. I took it out in public on walks. Well, I drove, but it could have walked if it had wanted to do so. With great patience, I waited for it mature, hoping for a day when we could enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship. At first, I tolerated its annoying tendency to grab food, but its insatiable hunger and selfish cheese poaching became too much to bear.

Finally, I accepted the fact that this could only end one way. One of us would have to shave off the other. Since I would prefer to be the shaver rather than the shavee, I hacked it off early in the morning, before it had a chance to steal some of my coffee. It didn’t go quietly. The street in front of my house filled with neighbors holding pitchforks and torches. Well, it might have. I didn’t look outside. Anyway, I ignored the threats, pleading, and transmissions to Mutiloid 3. With a final flick of the razor, the deed was done. Afterwards, it was a tad disconcerting when the beard leapt up, raced outside, and shouted, “Free at last!” Well, it might have. I was busy enjoying some coffee, so I missed it.

I won’t miss the beard, even though I liked the idea of the beard. I guess I’ll never be able to grow it out enough to do a comb-over or tie it in a bow on top of my head. I suppose those are looks I’ll just have to imagine for now. I suspect a character will soon venture forth in one of my stories with just such a beard.

I hope my actual beard doesn’t come after me for copyright infringement. I’ll put in a call to Mutiloid 3 just in case they need directions.

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Deforested Bubba

A Profound Nonsense of Relief

Time has come. You can probably hear the bells on her hat. Now that she’s here, I feel a profound nonsense of relief. It’s April Fool’s Day and that can only mean one thing. Well, I suppose it can mean other things as well, but it primarily means only one thing. Blithering Genius, the second book of The Other Universes series, has been released.

No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke. It actually exists. The jingly hat on your head may or may not be virtual, but the book is real. It comes in three versions, eBook, paperback, and mental. Here’s a picture of the first two.

Covers

The mental version is installed as you read one of the other two versions. Think of it as the electronic copy of a movie you have on a disc. It’s actually nothing like that, but think of it anyway. Anyway, the great thing about the mental version is that the characters tend to leave the confines of the book and make themselves at home in your brain. They lose the remote, eat snacks, and nestle into remote corners for naps at odd times. They hang out with characters from other books, jump out and scare your nightmares, and tickle the inside of your skull. Sure, sometimes they’ll wake you up in the middle of the night by playing too loudly with your subconscious, but they apologize and quiet down again. Of course, then you’ll wonder what trouble they’re getting into, lurking around in the darkness beneath your conscious awareness, and you’ll turn on all of your mental lights and climb up on the furniture just to be safe.

At least, that’s the way they act in my copy. Your experience may differ. Just a moment. Time is flipping over her hourglass and the skulls inside are miming walking downstairs. I think that means that I need to wrap this up.

Blithering Genius was a great deal of fun to write and I am excited to be able to share it with you at last. The book is available at all of the usual eBook retailers, along with a pair of short stories and the first book in this series, Reality Challenged. Book 3 is being planned now, along with a group of short stories. There’s a lot more to come.

Here are some links to some of the sites where you can find Blithering Genius.

Amazon USA Smashwords iBookstore Barnes and Noble Kobo

(The Author is not responsible for any damage to a reader’s mental structure, concepts, furniture, plant life, pets, fears, hopes, ideas, or snacks caused by imaginary characters in the reader’s brain.)

Impending Blither

It’s almost upon us. Denial won’t do any good. The Ides of March have fallen and April Fool’s Day looms closer.

We can take a few moments if you’d like to enjoy a brief bit of panic.

Feeling better? While there are a number of different possible ways to deal with such things, I have chosen to embrace it. The manuscripts have been formatted and uploaded. Preparations have been made. Jingly hats lie in waiting. Very soon now, Blithering Genius will be unleashed upon the world.

We can take a few moments if you’d like to enjoy a brief bit of panic.

Are you finished? How else would you prefer to spend April Fool’s Day? There’s the usual descent into madness and nonsense: pranks, jokes, and politics. Instead, it seems to me that nothing really encapsulates the essence of the day more than a new Bubba book. Do you hear the sound of mad cackling, crashing universes, and the scritching of tiny legs? Look at the clock. Time is running out. April Fool’s Day is almost upon us.

We can take a few moments if you’d like to enjoy a brief bit of panic.

Time Travel & Brains

To be or not to be is not the question. Instead, the question might be more like, “To be, not be, to have been but have ceased to exist, to never have existed until only recently long ago, to soon never have not been except when one wasn’t, or to not mis-unbe sometimes?” Let’s face it. Time travel is twisty and it injures verb tenses. There’s a simple reason for that. Our brains have difficulty bending in certain awkward poses in order to reach those neurons.

When I think of writing a story with a time travel element, my brain ties itself in knots trying to decide which theory of time travel the characters will encounter. Will they travel back to change the future only to discover that the attempt to alter the past is the very thing that ensured the development of the future they sought to avoid? Is time fluid, so that the future is always in flux and the slightest deviation can have massive impacts? Is the timeline tamper resistant, ensuring that the same outcome will occur even if past events are modified? Do deviations in the timeline create multiple universes? Can my future self travel back and unwittingly trigger a series of events that prevents me from existing, thereby erasing himself? Is there such a thing as a “present” inside a time machine? Would future civilizations use time travel as the ultimate prison by sending convicts into ancient hostile territory to be eaten by dinosaurs? What are the ethics of time travel? Is it morally right to change the past in order to “fix” the future when doing so might negatively impact other people? If it is decided that altering the timeline is wrong, how would we know that someone else hasn’t already messed it up? Would a future Dystopian society poach on the past, snatching victims and bringing them to a terrifying future, thereby causing the collapse of their own civilization by time-napping a pivotal person from their time? When someone travels in time, is the “present” the time the traveler left or is it the time in which he ends up in the past? We always think of the past as fixed and the future as being unknown, but what if the future was set and there were nearly infinite numbers of possible pasts that would all resolve into the single fixed and unchangeable future?

It doesn’t take long before my brain falls off the couch in an undignified manner and needs to spend the rest of the afternoon resting. The English language is no help, either. Attempting to express these ideas leads to impossibly twisted sentences that eat their own tails in self-defense. Villains will offer threats like, “Soon, you never will have existed,” or , “Someday, I will always have gotten away with it, too, since it soon will not have been for those darn kids.” It’s hard not to trip over those lines. After a paragraph full of them, the mind has a tendency to wander off to see what is on TV.

This is why Zombie stories are (almost) always set in the future. The Zombie Apocalypse is never set in the past because deep down, we know better. I mean, the challenge of time travel is the brain bending mental gymnastics one must perform in order to make sense of it all. What is it that zombies crave? Brains. Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so. Why don’t we see time travelers running around changing the timeline now? Perhaps it’s because they’re all in the future, shuffling aimlessly in search of brains. If I’m wrong about this, someone from the future will come back and correct me before I post this.

I rest my case.

Preparing for an Alien Abduction

We prepare in advance for all sorts of things. We may take an umbrella on cloudy days. Filling up the tank before running out of gas seems like a good idea. Before pulling out onto the highway, we will sometimes have an idea of where we are heading. We check our insurance coverage before going to Spain to run with the bulls. Before sitting down to that big holiday feast, we wear the pants with the stretchy waistband. We call this type of thoughtful planning “Common Sense.”

By that logic, it only makes sense to prepare for an alien abduction. Sure, the likelihood of such an event may be rather remote, but that fact may not be reassuring once you’re in the mothership. So, how would you prepare? What would you pack?

Do you attempt to arm yourself? How effective do you think human weapons may be against an advanced civilization with sufficient technology to leap across the void of space to bag you? Would they disregard your attempt at self-defense, or would you provoke a hostile response?

Would you pack some water and snacks? I mean, convincing them to pull over at the next fast food joint on their way back to Flerbnit 7 may be difficult. I’m sure they may think that Quinvarbigum Fire Slugs are a fine delicacy, but I’d rather have a bacon cheeseburger.

Do you load up with electronic copies of the finest artistic and scientific achievements of the human race? Would aliens prefer Beethoven or Mozart,  Da Vinci or Picasso, ballet or contemporary, Hawking or Einstein? I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll love mime.

I think that loading up with books and movies about repelling alien invasions might be considered unfriendly. Likewise, tales of friendly aliens coming to help humanity might be viewed as wacky comedies. In addition, providing aliens with all of our best ideas for how to deal with an alien invasion could be tantamount to treason.

That’s why I am stocking up on tales of fantasy. Watch their eyes curl as they try to make sense of Alice in Wonderland.  I’ll sport rings on every finger while they read Tolkien. That should blow their toenails. I’ll try not to giggle when their faces turn inside out after studying Edgar Allen Poe. Top off the evening with an episode of  BooBah, and they’ll beam me home with a polite apology before fleeing back to the safety of the nearest civilized star system.

So far, the plan is working splendidly.

A Month of Insanity

It was inevitable. You knew it would happen sooner or later. Whether you blame it on the heat, sheer boredom, or the fact that one of the little creatures that live inside your skull accidentally left a door unlocked, the moment has arrived.

The Smashwords Authors group at Goodreads has devoted July, 2014 as Bubba-time. To be more accurate, the group features an author from within their ranks each month. Against all reason, these poor, misguided and extremely sheepish souls have opened Bubba’s Box* and started an Author of the Month discussion featuring Ubiquitous Bubba.

In the future, historians may look back on this period of history as a cautionary tale. Philosophers may look back on this as another example of how historians get all the good jobs. Meteorologists will complain that anyone can talk about the past, but it takes real skill to predict future weather events with at least 20% accuracy. Mimes will wave frantically, but no one will understand. If we did, perhaps the future might have turned out differently.

If you’re the sort of person who clicks on things, here’s the link to the discussion group on Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1890557. If you’re not, then you can sit there, smug and superior, and yet plagued by an itchy feeling that you might have missed something.

 

*Bubba’s Box is a little bit like Pandora’s Box, except that it contains imaginary creatures that don’t get out very often. When they do, they tend to run wild, frolicking in cottage cheese, holding competitive whale shaving events, and debating the finer points of Saturnian philosophies with rodeo clowns. Reality usually face-palms, trying in vain to ignore the snickering of the fictional universes.

 

Philosophy of Daydreaming

I daydream, therefore, I am not. I mean, I’m someone other than who I am. Not me, of course, but the imaginary me. This has gotten a little confusing. Let’s try this again.

I get bored easily. My mind wanders off in search of entertainment and melted cheese. As a child, every toy was a character. Every game piece had a backstory. Pencils launched into deep space with a roar. Once those were taken away, astronauts had no choice but to board my fingers instead. I had to put markers in the desk drawer because their constant chatter kept distracting me. Rubber bands? Forget about it. Those guys are nothing but trouble.

I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid. Not by choice, mind you. In those days, parents believed that living indoors was a privilege reserved only for the elderly, infirm, and people with air-conditioning. I didn’t get along with all of my trees. My bike had a death wish. I mean, it wished I was dead. My dogs wore capes and flew around the yard, when they weren’t sprawled out, panting under the shade of an elephant ear bush. Much of my childhood was spent sitting in one spot in the yard and watching the world change.

As the years went by, adults always told me to stop daydreaming. Stop imagining things. Stop pretending. Live in the real world.

Here’s the problem. Reality and I have an uneasy relationship. Sure, we recognize one another when our paths cross. There’s that awkward moment where we don’t really know what to say to one another. I make some crack about the weather and Reality smiles, but glances around, looking for an excuse to go. Someone distracts me with a grilled cheese sandwich, and Reality seizes the opportunity to leave. (Did I mention that I have the taste buds of a picky five year old?)

So, I daydream. In doing so, I find that the world is not the only thing changed. It changes me as well. Sure, during the moment, I’m a different character living in a different world, but I don’t get out of the dream cleanly. It remains, floating in my sub-conscious mind, playing video games and enjoying some pizza. I am not exactly the same as I was before. When I daydream, I become someone other than who Reality knows me to be.

I daydream, therefore, I am not.