Force And Form

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

So I’ve been thinking about what to do next in my writing. I’ve had quite a few “phases” of my writing – career writer, creative writer, worldbuilding writer, etc. I feel like I should have a what’s next.

I want to write because writing is what I do. I like to write, I have the urge to write. So I know I’m going to write – this column is an example of how I can’t really stop.

However to be really fulfilling – unless you’re just playing – it seems the urge needs a form. Something to put it into, channel it into. At least for me, I can play, but I really come to life creatively with a project.

(Again play can be a project, but I think that’s got a limited lifespan before I want to do).

So as an example, here’s where I am.

Right now, I look to the work I’ve done before, what I do now under assorted pen names, and I think what I want is connection. I want to interact more with people, have dialogues, and have my creativity connect me with people.

I also have been reading and listening to columns and podcasts (often from the same people) and really enjoying the idea of “one or two people give a deep dive” on an issue. They’re personal, and the creators often invite input and commentary. There’s something about a “unique voice” that is appealing, evne when you disagree with the voice.

So I’m thinking of expanding on my columns here. Maybe take it to two a month, make them longer, more in depth, and send them out as newsletters as well. Maybe just do what I do with more discipline and focus. This way I can go into deeper exposition on creativity, technology, and culture in ways that invite people to connect with me.

I might even put some together in a book (this time for real, yes I have about a book and half I could and should use).

Will this work? No idea! I’ve got to play around with it a bit. But I’ve got the drive, I’ve got an idea, so if nothing else I have something to try out. If it fails at least it’s a specific situation I can learn from.

And I can always go back to play to see what emerges and takes.

Steven Savage

The Blank Manifesto

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

My friend Serdar and I discussed the Poser Manifesto over at a delightful game blog. He got inspired and began typing away on his own manifesto. Inspired, I thought I too should put my thoughts together (not that it didn’t help that I just got a copy of Breton’s “Manifestos of Surrealism”)

So inspired I then thought about what I truly think as a writer and creative, ready to rant as I always do.

Nothing came. If you know me, NOT having something to say is pretty rare. I mean I don’t even have to have anything to say to spew a lot of words.

I wasn’t sure what to say, how to codify my beliefs. Perhaps it’s been a long day. Maybe I’m tired, but I could not articulate my own artistic vision.

This was pretty terrifying to say the least. It felt like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me mentally. Whats more, it was surprising as I’ve been and am pretty creative.

I am on a break with my writing, updating book covers and other projects, but I’m still writing here. Under pen names I experiment with art and zines. I’m always swapping ideas with fellow creatives. You think I’d have something to say, right?

It was terrifying and distracting. There was no rant, no manifesto, no vision in my head. I felt something was missing and I just noticed it.

Then I put the pieces together:

I’m taking a break from my regular writing here. Not surprising as I have “punctuations” in my writing – my career phase, my worldbuilding phase (which may indeed have run its course some 22 books later). I’m on hiatus to see what’s next.

I’m also experimenting in various communities with small press, mashup and surrealist art, and more. I’ve got “projects” but every project is about 50% experiment – it’s play.

I am in a creative transition.

A good manifesto usually needs some framework to put it in. Me, I’ve caught myself between spaces,and simply put I’m still building my new framework. I was the Geek Job Guru. Then I was Worldbuilding Guy. Even if a manifesto is not about a specific subject, it helps to come from a specific person and I’m not exactly specific right now.

I’m not missing something right now. There’s a space between, a space where something new can arrive, where someone new can arrive. I’m awaiting the next me.

He’ll doubtlessly write a manifesto.

Just thinking about it gets them one step closer to being born.

Steven Savage

Light The Ugliness On Fire To Warm Ourselves

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

The latest news about our oncoming future of AI generated soulless media has got me and my creative friends talking. We’re swearing, too, but the conversation is quite intelligent between the occasional profanities

My good friend Serdar notes in an excellent post that you have to drive out ugliness with beauty. If you keep showing off the ugliness, the awfulness of things, it creates pathologies, a tunnel of crap, even if its in mockery. Trauma tourism of our culture is still traumatic after all, and we hunger for actual good stuff – so make something good damn it to squeeze out the ugly.

I agree with him for the most part, but sometimes you can use the ugly.

Now in my own work, even that which responds to trends (like some worldbuilding books), the goal is to get people to write good things. I want something that adds to the wonderful of the world.

But you’ve also noticed some of my sarcasm or parody here, or in my fiction. It occurs in some of the more experimental art and writing I do (currently) under pen names. There is a part of my work that uses the terrible and sad things of the world as fuel, and I think that is valid – when done right.

There is value in mockery, and parody, and response. From Mark Twain to Dave Barry, Terry Pratchet to Chuang-Tzu, people have made works both timeless and calling out people and organizations and ideas that need to be skewered. Sometimes you create beauty by giving the ugliness a good drubbing- hell, no small amount of Punk music fits this category.

The problem is this is really hard to do. If you’re going to make beauty from ugliness, then you best make sure you’re up to the task and you want to do it. Not everyone is, and that’s fine – for instance Serdar and I have different backgrounds and inclinations. Or in short, I’m the sarcastic and parodic one, meaning our friendship is sort of a Road movie that happens very slow.

As the sarcastic one, here’s what I think makes a response-to-ugliness work as actual, positive, creative work.

First, it has to timeless in its own ways. There’s little value in speaking to the event of the moment without context or depth. The more the thing you’ve decided to “take on” is connected to the big picture, the better. I recall an essay in the Chuang-Tzu on warriors (albeit one clearly written by one of his followers) that had me outright laughing at the end, even though the tale was perhaps two thousand years old.

Secondly, a work of mockery or parody has to be relevant, and this is the paradox that affects many a writer. You have to know the subject matter enough to make what you create more than just saying “see how dumb that is!” I mean I can watch many videos mocking an unwisely-constructed electric truck that seems designed to kill people. But in-depth understanding is valuable because then I understand.

Third, such work has to be human. Ridiculing something or someone is easy, any bully can do it. I want to understand people, their reactions, their experiences. Ever read a good essay or book on the economic impacts of some horrible government choice on real people and felt it? That’s what you want. That’s what art does – it gets the mind and heart going.

Finally, it has to be actually good. You can’t rely on someone else being terrible to carry your work. I learned this lesson from podcasts and youtube videos that did critiques. The truly good ones have good hosts, providing smart analysis, and were people I’d listen to or watch if they spoke about good things.

If you create beauty out of ugliness, you need depth to really do something that will squeeze out the ugliness. For all he took on, the late Sir Terry Pratchett’s books are things of beauty, even when addressing issues from racism to economics. Any ugliness is but fuel for beauty – in the right hands.

If you can’t do that or don’t want to, then fine! We all do our parts to make the world a more beautiful place – and that’s needed today more than ever.

Steven Savage