[Short Story] Fantasy Fan Con Panic [Excerpt]

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Back inside, Jack and Crystal eyed the couple from the second story terrace overlooking the hotel lobby. They watched a crowd slowly form around their two targets while they swapped use of the Chem-Thermo goggles that had been provided for them.

Among the crowds of cosplayers interspersed with the banner advertisements and kiosks showcasing the newest trends in manga, anime, and fantasy there they stood among them all. Even dressed in costumes like the other con goers, it was frightening yet intriguing spectacle to see these kinds of predators blending in with the other humans down below.

The vampire looked no older than perhaps twenty as he spun his cape and flashed his fangs for the adoring fans that took photos of him and his poses. The young Dracula cosplay look that he was going for must have been some sort of meta-joke of his, or a blatant invitation for someone to stake him right then and there. Even so, he fit right into the costumed clientele of this particular convention. Crystal zoomed in on him, noticing his thin, smooth, innocent, and androgynous looking face with piercing, pale-blue eyes. Crystal raised an eyebrow as he pouted at one of the cameras that coaxed him for another photo. Under the therm-optic filter his body took on a greyish blue hue in a sea of deep red pedestrians that stood or passed him by.

The succubus — the vampire’s partner — was able to spoof her heat signature better among the crowd, but she also shared her undead boyfriend’s meta sense of humor. She was standing next to him with her bat wings and black horns on full display. They looked real, but could just as well be chalked up to being the product of well done prosthetic make up and accessories. Like the vampire, she had a conventional beauty and confidence in the way she carried herself. She wore armor, but nothing that could be considered practical. It reminded Crystal of Xenia the Warrior Princess, but with a shorter leather skirt. Not much left to the imagination. Jack and Crystal switched to the chemical tracer filter on the goggles and could see that she was already releasing pheromones into the crowd. People who

might have been uninterested in the impromptu photo shoot in the lobby, were now transfixed and slowly growing attached to this attractive couple posing together. On the surface, things looked innocent enough, but Jack and Crystal saw it for what it was: lambs being lead to slaughter in some anonymous hotel room later tonight.

As the crowd grew from a dozen to nearly twenty in a matter of minutes, Jack and Crystal got up from their table and began to walk down to the lobby area. They were dressed in post-apocalyptic duster jackets. A cosplay grab that fit with the eclectic dress code of the nerd convention. As they walked, they fingered the holstered, plastic-looking guns that were actually loaded with silver and holy relic tipped subsonic ammo. They were suppose to take this demon and vampire in alive, but if worse came to worse, the subsonic ammo and suppressors would quietly dispose of them. Jack and Crystal each put on their shades and pulled on their gas masks to counter the vampires hypnosis and the pheromones of the succubus.

Now in the lobby, they walked casually into what was now turning into a fan mob. Not a single person among the crowd of ninjas, transformers, and alien princesses noticed nor raised an eyebrow at the Mad Max cosplay couple making their way to the front to see the vampire and succubus “models” gaining attention.

When Jack and Crystal reached them, the two supernaturals noticed them, and momentarily paused their act. For a split second, it felt like a connection was made between the four of them. Fight or flight began to take hold. The vampire and succubus noticed the gas mask and shades Jack and Crystal were wearing and tensed up. The fear in their eyes seemed to surprise Jack momentarily before realizing that he had already put his hand on his gun.

Should Writers Care What Critics Think? [Article]

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Writing fiction is tough, teaching about writing is straight-forward, but critiquing about writing is as simple as one’s willing to make it. Despite that last bit of inflammatory bait, I often do find critics to be a very important, if not a mysterious aspect of the writing ecosystem. Even though writers put a great amount of effort being readers themselves, book critics are one of the few groups of people out there who are actually willing to obsessively read anything any writer or author puts out anymore. They’re the only ones parsing and dissecting a piece of fiction or non-fiction for any biases, literary meanings, or political leanings that the author might be projecting in their paper bound tombstone of textual art. This level of attention to detail can’t be sanely justified without the person being given an opportunity to talk about what they thought about the book to somebody. Whether it’s done via one-on-one with a friend, a starred rating on Good Reads, or as a book review columnist for the New York Times is none of my business. However, as a hopeful writer and author, myself, I often contemplate the evolution of the critic and how that eye for critique is often trained at novels from the past as much as novels being produced in the present.

Maddie Crum’s “12 Classic Books That Got Horrible Reviews When The First Came Out” is a great analysis and a compelling piece of insight into how critics often get it wrong when guessing what books ought to be worthy of our time and praise. Most of the books mentioned on the list are, as of this date, firmly a part of major literary canon as well as being taught in several schools and universities across the Western World. However, there’s also the flip side to that coin as presented in John Glionna’s LA Times Article “Mark Twain: Inexcusable Racist or Man of His Time?” This article presented as a counterpoint and a piece of reinterpretation of a 19th century pro-abolitionist, and anti-slavery activist whose controversial, but ultimately acclaimed novel Huckleberry Finn is still read and presented as a piece of anti-racist literature.

I’m not here to debate the merits of the critics stated above me, but simply provide a perspective using the two examples.

These sets of critiques (or “opinions,” if you’re inclined to feel technically correct while being truthfully dismissive) often reveal a source of perceived inconsistency. That inconsistency which often –rightfully–  frustrates the particular kind of author and reader that’s looking for a definitive “yes or no” in terms of whether such a book is worthy of anyone’s time.

The truth of the matter is that critics are human; and like the writers who bring in their own baggage of personal history and experiences into account when producing their fiction, critics, too, suffer from historical biases of their own. Most critics worth their salt, come into the fold with an academic background, or at the very least a knowledgeable backlog of past novels and writers. That academic and historical background has its own baggage to unpack. Critics have no choice in the matter when having to compare a book to not only the current zeitgeist, but also history, culture, and previous books already written. It’s the only way they can measure themselves in the face of backlash and scrutiny. This analysis also applies when revisiting older pieces of work or authors decades or centuries after their books and lives have long since been recorded. Literary figures have experienced falls from grace as well as being lifted up as misunderstood paragons. Conversely, current authors experience the same level of ups and downs in the critic sphere of publishing.

These roller coaster interpretations in the literary world and the critics who run them shouldn’t be seen as a possibility, but simply an inevitability. As an author or writer, once you put something out there and the critics get a hold of it, how they interpret the work and its intentions is simply out of your hands. And much like history is in the business of interpreting and re-interpreting past events, so too will critics recast and reclassify authors and books in a different light well after the author and their original readership is long dead.

However, this shouldn’t be thought of as something at all negative. Critics can bring a newfound understanding of an author that provides context, and historical perspective not yet considered, as well as help in bringing in new fans into the fold after an authors death. It can also help in bringing exposure to a current author whose work remains obscure.

The Critic is neither good nor evil, but simply serves as a function in the literary sphere to interpret stories and give a simple “yea or nay” on whether the book is worth picking up. A single critic and its audience is a microcosm of a particular kind of reader. A fantasy critic and their audience would never give a five star review to a slice of life novel, much less be inclined to read such a thing. Nor is a feminist critic going to have anything good to say about the James Bond novels. And while we’re at it, no male-supremacist is going to like The Handmaid’s Tale, either. In the end, authors should instead view critics with a certain level of respect, but with a hefty dose of ambivalence. Easier said than done. However, when facing the possibility of any author having to face down a brigade of anonymous one star reviews on the internet, or a twitter-led hate campaign, having thick skin appears to be a must.

Cashier Confessions 5 [Flash Fiction]

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“Hello, sir! How are you today?”
“Fuck you, that’s my fucking morning! How can you fucking say that to me??”
“Are you being serious?”
“Yeah, I am!”
“It’s like 6:30 in the morning, there’s no way your morning can be this bad.”
“I don’t fucking care.”
“Oh, really do you have to work today?”
“No.”
“How about yesterday?”
“No.”
“…You have a good day, sir.”
“There you fucking go again!”
“I hope you have a great day today!”
“I wanna speak to your manager!”
“In fact, I HOPE YOU HAVE A GREAT WEEK!”
“I’m gonna get your ass fired you little shit!”

(spoiler alert: I did not get fired).

Austin By Night Got A Review [Link]

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Kind of late news, but it’s cool to know someone is reading! Has some definite, fair criticisms; but overall a decent review that you can read here. Once I finish my novel, I hope to get back to this series again at some point. Although, I’ve recently begun to consider possibly turning it into an audio series….

Maybe. We’ll see! Check out the first twelve chapters of AbN here, and expect another Cashier Confessions short later this week!

Sincerely,

Philip Hauser