About Mario

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mario Piumetti is a freelance writer of science fiction, horror, screenplays, and nonfiction. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Lutheran University and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. An avid music lover, his work is heavily influenced by rock, punk, and metal. You can contact him at mario.piumetti.writer@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Senseless Determination

This has been a week of shoving my head up my ass only to yank it out again.  Yesterday, I was working away on plot notes for The Coast, and there was a moment when I sat back and thought, "This is such fucking horseshit.  Even a paper shredder wouldn't want to touch this crap."

Lord knows I've been down this road before time and again, and I'll be down this road again in the future.  But two things happened this week that kept me from trashing everything I had on The Coast.

Over the weekend, Chuck Wendig had a brief "ask me anything" session on Twitter.  I immediately asked if he ever got a story idea and thought that no one would want to read it in spite of how cool he thought it was.  He said that it happened every time.  Now, Wendig's got a few novels to his credit.  Knowing that he still gets that uncertainty was encouraging.  It tells me that even the experienced ones get the shakes.  So I'm in good company.

But then yesterday, it happened again.  I talked to my friend Ashley and laid my cards out on the table, telling her that I felt what I was working on was thin, derivative, and just plain shit, and I went on even after she told me to stop thinking like that.  It's really hard to force yourself to think a certain way.  At least, it's hard for me to do that.

Ashley's got this great tattoo on her hand that reads "to the end", reminding her that, no matter what happens, a writer has to get to the end of the story.  And while I'm still an ink virgin, she reminded me that I have to find the fuel for my own fire.  I have to find a way to keep myself going.  At least, I need to keep myself going for the next year or so until The Coast is out there in its entirely.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Still Alive

Hey, everyone.  Sorry for the dead silence on the site, but my computer had to be repaired recently.  No computer means no updates.  No updates mean rumors of my untimely demise.  My logic has spoken.

Anyways, I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on what's been going on.

I'm still getting things ready for The Coast.  I'm going over the plot right now and trying to figure things chapter by chapter.  All that jazz about plotting is a story for another time though.

I've also been trying to get back on the horse (that's HORSE, not WHORES) with the new Andrew Ursler story.  Again, between getting my computer fixed and focusing on The Coast, that's something that's been neglected, and I feel like an absentee parent for it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Copyright and Fair Use

I have a confession to make: my last story Grind was named after the Alice in Chains song.

The whole issue of using anything belonging to another artist is something of a sticky point because the last thing anyone wants is to get their ass sued to high heaven.  The issue of copyrights and fair use was brought up recently in a blog post by Chuck Wendig, which in turn led me to another article that went into the matter more thoroughly.  It's a short read, but a very good one, and I strong encourage you to have a look at it.

Firstly, I don't think Alice in Chains is going to Hulk out on my any time soon, nor do I expect to be haunted by the ghosts of Layne Staley or Mike Starr.  Of course, that's not to say that I don't want those guys to haunt me.  In my defense, "grind" is a common word used in the story itself, and it was an unpaid publication so there's no commercial gain, right?  Besides, Grind the song and Grind the story don't deal with the same subject matter; the former was written about the rumored state of the band, and the latter, truly, just sounded like the right "I'm in a bar getting drunk with a model" vibe to my ear.

But I digress.  We were talking about ninja penguins, right?  No?  Well, we should...one day.

Anyways, the fact is that I love rock music.  If I had it my way, I'd name every story I wrote after a rock song, but I can't, and in the meantime, my gut is always telling me to be on the lookout for when I might be treading towards something that might be frowned upon in artist circles.

Of course, a working title is another matter, and to the best of my knowledge, there's nothing illegal about using a preexisting title as a placeholder until the day comes when your conscience comes up to you like a disapproving girlfriend saying, "We need to talk."

For example, one of the upcoming Andrew Ursler stories I've got lined up is all about one character apologizing to another.  My gut instinct titled it All Apologies after the Nirvana song.  In fact, there are easily half a dozen Andrew Ursler stories named after rock songs, and I can almost guarantee that I'm going to change the titles before the end.


Because at the end of the day, it's probably best not to push your luck.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Research, and How to Handle It

After many a long hour, I've finished doing research for my online novel.  Was it enjoyable?  I don't know.  Is it enjoyable to get pounded in the ass by Godzilla?

Well, I wouldn't say that it's an entirely hellish experience.  You learn a lot of interesting stuff when you research, and sometimes that research will take you down different paths that you didn't expect when you got started.

The biggest problem with research - the part that makes it suck for me, at least - is the danger of getting distracted.  Say you're starting off researching about post-World War II Japan for a novel, maybe even Hiroshima immediately after the atomic bombing.  Granted, you'll want to learn a thing or two about the Manhattan Project.  What's that?  Stalin had spies at Los Alamos?  Well, now you want to know more about Soviet espionage, which leads to the tense relationship of the allies.  Now you got Soviet spies in America.  Oh, my nuggets!  One of them has run into Marilyn Monroe as she worked in a factory for unmanned artillery targets (true story).  Suddenly, you're off into Marilyn Monroe territory.  Where did she grow up?  Was she really either a quiet bookworm or a plucky adventurist?  Did she really screw around or are haters gonna hate?

All of these are interesting questions.  None of them have fuck-all to do with the original premise of post-war Japan.  I like to think of writing a story as analogous to cooking.  Yes, it's because I'm eating right now.  A guy's gotta eat.

What's the first thing you do when you cook?  You get your ingredients, specifically the ingredients you need.  If I'm making an omelet, I'll need eggs.  I'll need cheese, butter, olive oil.  I like me some salt and pepper too.  Chocolate chips?  Well, I like chocolate, but I sure as hell won't put it in my omelet.  Likewise, some topics might be cool, but they ultimately will have nothing to do with your story.

And yes, sometimes you will have to go back and do additional research.  Perhaps you'll need to look up a little factoid here and there, details to help spice up your prose.  But at the start, just focus on what you know you're going to need, the broad strokes as it were.

Let me use my own online novel project as an example.  Being an alien invasion story, I know I'm going to have to describe what the aliens look like.  Well, how any creature looks is governed by their native environment.  That means I'd have to flesh out their home planet.  But we're not going to read about their home planet.  It's a detail that doesn't weigh in very importantly.  If they're coming to Earth, it means it's a planet that they value, a place they could live on.  So, it's sufficient enough to say that their world is Earth-like.  From there, I went right into biology research, because our planet is teeming with animals that really might as well belong in a sci-fi novel.

See what I've done?  I've save myself a whole lot of time and trouble by cutting out all that planet-building nonsense.  If I hadn't done that, I'd eventually become as batshit crazy as - oh, I dunno - Giorgio Tsoukalos!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rewriting Heinlein

I'm still sick, but I'm feeling much better today.  I'm still vomiting, but it's more ideas than yesterday's ham sandwich.

I want to start off this entry with an excerpt from an author's note Robert Buettner wrote at the end of his second novel Orphan's Destiny:

So, why the Orphanage books, a fast, darkly funny, retold tales of a young man-become-soldier amid interplanetary war?  Because Starship Troopers and The Forever War marvelously embraced the zeitgeist in which each was written, but each suffers for it in a post-9/11 world.  Starship Troopers glorified a neo-facist future where only soldiers earn voting rights and we flog criminals publicly.  Dialogue often echoes '50s TV.  Women pilot Heinlein's starships, but they are perfumed and mystical, like aproned '50s moms flying Frigidaires.  Vietnam-vet Haldeman expressly rewrote Heinlein and scorned Starship's Cold War jingoism.  Haldeman embraced the '60s' "emerging truths."  The war is our fault.  All officers and politicians are sadistic fools.  Soldiers get pot rations and bunk co-ed, rotating sex partners nightly.

I bring this up because I told a friend of mine earlier today that I thought rewriting Starship Troopers for the online novel was a futile idea.  This is because Heinlein wrote in a different era of science fiction than the one we live in today.

When I was in college, the history of science fiction could be broken down into three periods.  The first ran from 1863 to 1919 and focused on the themes of industrialization, colonialism, and the closing American frontier.  The second period ran from 1919 to 1945.  This was the age of the pulp magazine.  This was the age of Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction (known today as Analog Science Fiction and Fact).  Then you had the third period from 1945 to the present day.  I like to call this the Sexy Period, the complex age of dystopia and nuclear holocaust.  You had The Day After and The Children of Men.  You had The Terminator and The Matrix.  Science Fiction writers weren't as optimistic as their predecessors.

But now we're living in a fourth era of science fiction, a post-9/11 era.  This is when you've got terrorism from afar and surveillance states from within.  To transplant Heinlein to today doesn't work anymore than it would for him to take H.G. Wells into the 1950s because they lived in two completely different times.  So a straight rewrite of Starship Troopers simply cannot work.

And yet I wouldn't disregard the possibility of a rewrite altogether.  Speaking of Wells, The War of the Worlds gets reinterpreted again and again from the 1930s and Orson Welles to the 1953 film by Bryan Haskin to the 2005 film by Steven Spielberg.

My point is this: when you're doing a rewrite - whether it's Starship Troopers or The War of the Worlds or goddamn Jane Austen - don't try fitting the mold exactly.  It'll never work.  Instead, look at your source material as ask what's there about it that you like, and more importantly, what's there you'd change.  Ultimately, I think that's the best a rewrite can hope for, mixing your own sensibilities with an established concept.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Microscopic Motherfuckers

I woke up with a nasty cold this morning, which sucks big, fat, veiny, floppy donkey cock.

It's never fun being sick.  It's even worse when you have to use your brain because them germs have a hard-on for sucking out your energy and your will to do anything.  Even blinking can sometimes seem like too much work.  Surprisingly, however, I did manage to get some work done, so hooray for me.

But the worst part - oh, the worst part - was sitting down at my desk and thinking, "I don't want to do this anymore."  I mean, after a week kicking my ass over the aliens-vs-zombies debate for the online novel, I suddenly felt like chucking the whole thing out the window, even through the whole thing consists of precious little at the moment.

That, of course, was just the germs talking.  And yes, it's daunting thinking about all the work I have yet to do before starting the novel.  That's how it is when you're starting anything.  As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.  And it turns out it wasn't destroyed in a day either.