Chasing the Broken Wastrel


Today I am heading into the nethervoid of my subconscious as I work on Episode Four of THE MINUS FACTION. There will be cyborgs and flying ambulances and a series of bad decisions that culminate in a literal heart-stopping end.


At the outset of a new project, there’s always a quick ejaculation, a splatter of ideas that, in typical male fashion, quickly expires.

Then the hard work begins. You have to dredge it up, the word vomit that you smear with your fingers as you try to make something on the page.

My post-ejaculatory emetic is my fragments file, a kind of virtual junk drawer for snippets — sometimes no more than a name (one day I will use you, Ribald!) — that I can either reclaim or use to tickle another flow.

It’s always fun to come across something you haven’t read in months (or years), such as the following, which I think I’ve shared before and which I think works just as well applied to fiction writing as to love or, I suspect, art and music.

On every planet I have lived, and in every time, there have always been women chasing the broken wastrel.

They make no secret of it. In fact, the more a man sings of his pain, or writes bad poetry – and the more people hear it – the more falsely cocksure he is, the more compulsive, the more addicted, then the higher the bounty she can claim.

For the trauma must always be in greater proportion to her own, lest it fail to serve its purpose, as if it were possible to grow one garden by tending another.

After a time, when her youth has faded and she can no longer command a high crop, she will tire of sterile toil and seek a man whose garden is well fruited, and thence populate her own barren plot with seeds and cuttings until his is not half what it was.

Seek not, my son, such women as these, for there are ample others. Though she be less susceptible to your flatteries, oftentimes less comely, her deficits will match your surpluses, and contrariwise the same.

Seek her in places high and low, where she will often be reading or otherwise keeping her own company. Do not sing of your weaknesses, but do not hide them either. Rather, provide her reason to notice your strengths. Do good, such that you may be a candle to the beneficent.

And do not – ever – consort with liars, but discern that they are not always maliciously so. She may call it innocent, a game of hide-and-seek with her self, the setting of a travail through which you must pass to discover the secret flower at her heart.

But no matter how enchanting, a cavalier woman is reckless and shifting, and can do naught but pour ruin over your soul.

advice from the Grand Dame of Alturth to her grandson on the occasion of his father’s cruel murder at the hands of the Asteroid Witch

There are those who will tell you that, when creating, you should just do what you enjoy, that the best art you can possibly make is that which fulfills you. And that’s true, to a point.

I’ve said before that all creativity is sexual. The content may not be sexual — it may be just the opposite — but the creative act is a sexual one, and just as in sex, “just do what feels good” may or may not work out well for all parties involved.

Giving your reader a braingasm takes effort, yet nothing is as relentlessly tedious as the Nth hour spent diddling someone you couldn’t care less about. But then, we reflect each other’s enthusiasm, so if they can’t get off, there’s a good chance it’s you.

The best fiction, like the best sex, explodes when both parties are in love. To write well, you really have to love your reader as you would a spouse: with passion, with dedication, with honesty, with excitement, with commitment, and with the knowledge that sometimes you’re going to cock it up and that’s not the end of the world.

The trick of course is not to be lured by the broken wastrel or the careless minx.

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art by Pierre Winther


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