What Is Human Wave — a blast from the past post 3/2012

*So, why two blasts from the past in one week?  Partly because I was doing the preamble to book plug Friday and it touched on Human Wave, and I thought it was time we had a reminder.  Can you believe it’s been two years?  We need to make more waves! And let’s get with that linked list and all.  Cross-promotion DOES work.*

UPDATE: the complement to this piece is at Book Plug Friday.

This is a manifesto.  I’m not sure what we’re manifesting, but it’s probably destiny.  Or density.  When you’re dyslexic, it can get confusing.  But in any case we’re manifesting something and it’s a patent manifestation.

The proximate reason for this is my post – here.  Or in other words, it’s another fine mess my mouth got us into.  (Okay, my typing fingers.  If you’re going to be nitpicky, you’re right out of the club.)

The purpose of this is to create a new “idea” in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre.  Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas.  The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.

When we have the list of what we’re sort of aiming for, we can start getting people who “subscribe” to those ideas, or to most of them
Once we have the list of who you are and your websites, we shall send enforcers to your hom…  No, wait.  That’s another list.  Oh, I see.  That’s the list the trolls left behind.  Never mind.

Once we have that list, we can we can have some large, linked aggregate, so we can help each other, and get more attention to the whole idea.

We should also en-list some critics and reviewers.  I know some reviewers but not much about critics in their native habitat.  However, someone else might.

Because we are rebelling against enforced conformity of style and opinion, of belief and ideology, this list is not “though shalt nots” but “You’re allowed to.”  It is also, in the nature of my nature (Okay, who let the copyeditor in?  Rent his robes and throw him to outer darkness, where there shall be wailing and gnawing of blue pencils) to know that this job is not completed.  Heck, it’s not even really started.  There will be discussion of this list at both According To Hoyt and Mad Genius Club.  Come and be heard, and let the discussion begin.

You are allowed to write escapist science fiction – or fantasy.  Sometimes we just need a good read.  If it doesn’t have a big idea but is enjoyable, it’s still a worthy endeavor.

You are allowed to write as much as you wish.  In the new limitless market we see no reason to artificially restrict your output.  Anyone who thinks quality depends on how long something took to write has never known either professional writers or struggling middle-graders.

You are allowed to write first person.  You are also allowed to write second person, third person, and in persons yet to be invented.  As long as your work is entertaining, we hold you harmless in matters relating to verbal malfeasance.

If your world building holds internal consistency, at least according to the buying public, anyone objecting because it doesn’t conform to his or her idea of a future shall be pelted with soft boiled eggs and wear the yolk of shame.

Your objective is to sell books.  Writing is communication.  Your objective is to communicate with as many people as possible.  Or at least to amuse them, distract them, or make the burden of life less burdensome for a while.  Wishing to feed your family is also an acceptable goal.

You can write male heroes.  You can write female heroes.  You can write alien heroes.  You can write human heroes.  You can write western heroes.  You can write non-western heroes.  You can write squirrel-heroes (but you have to know you’re weird.)  You can write it in a boat, you can write it with a goat (but which end do you hold on the paper?) You can write it in a moat (but it will probably drip) and you can write it on a stoat.

You can have a happy ever after.  You can have a happy for a while.  You can have a fleeting happy.  It’s your happy and you can have it if you want to.

You can write action and plot oriented books.  (Who will stop you?  You’ve researched fighting techniques, right?)

You can write sex.  Or not.  It all depends what fits the plot.  You can even write sex with a robot.

You can write politics.  You can write them from the right, from the left, from the middle, the top, the bottom or everywhere at once.  Just remember to make them fit the plot.  And remember not to infodump.

So do we have no principles?  No guidelines?

Oh, it’s guidelines you want, then?  Well, I was manifesting.  But fine.  I’ll throw out a few simple rules:

1 – Your writing should be entertaining.  If you’re writing for the awards and the literary recognition, you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. (Does the other crowd have a tiny raccoon in a kilt?  Or even a quilt?  Think!)

2 – Your writing shouldn’t leave anyone feeling like they should scrub with pumice  or commit suicide by swallowing stoats for the crime of being human, or like humans are a blight upon the Earth, or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.

3 – Your writing should not leave anyone feeling ashamed of being: male, female, western, non-western, sickly, hale, powerful, powerless.  It should use characters as characters and not as broad groups that are then used to shame other groups.  Fiction is not agit prop.

4- Your writing shouldn’t be all about the message.  You can, of course, have a message.  But the message should not be the be-all end-all of the novel.  If it is, perhaps you should be writing pamphlets.

5 – You shall not commit grey goo.  Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining.  (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment.  Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)

6 – Unless absolutely necessary you will have a positive feeling to your story.  By this we don’t mean it will have a happy ending or that we expect pollyanish sentiments out of you.  Your novel and setting can be as dystopic as you want it.  In fact, your character can die at the end.  Just make sure he goes down fighting and dies for something, so the reader doesn’t feel cheated.

7 – You will write in language that can be understood.  You will have an idea of what your story is about, or at least of its beginning, middle and end.  And so will your reader, once he reads it.

8 – You are allowed to write scientific speculation that counters “currently established fact” – just give us a reason why that makes sense in your universe.  (For some universes it can be highly whimsical, for others you’ll need serious handwavium.)

9 – You will not be boring.  Or at least you’ll do your best not to be boring.

10 – You shall not spend your life explaining why your not-boring is better than your fellow writers not-boring.  Instead you will shut up and write.

Comments, suggestions, goats?  Stoats?  Oranges?  Peanuts?  Lightly thrown chickens?  (What? I find thrown chickens humorous.  No, I don’t know why.  Oh, please, I’m a writer.  Like I have the money for a psychiatrist.)

122 responses to “What Is Human Wave — a blast from the past post 3/2012

  1. 3a. You can have non-human protagonists and still write Human Wave, so long as you follow the other nine firm suggestions.

    11.You may write other genres (although if you do lit fiction we may have to have a talk), for Human Wave is an inclusive movement and taketh in mystery, romance, westerns, historical fiction, Steampunk, YA, and others, bookshelf without end, amen.

    • 11a) But, please gods, if you are going to write in a genera, read a little in it first. If it has standards and conventions, break them DELIBERATELY, rather than from ignorance.

      I add this because of the large swath of cross-genera books I have read over the years that were simply dreadful because the authors were trying to imitate a genera with which they were only slightly familiar. Noir detective is the style/genera most often violated this way. I’ve read good noir/urban fantasy or noir/SF crosses, but I’ve also read far too many by people who had apparently gotten their ideas from a handful of SPENSER FOR HIRE episodes, instead of from reading Hammett or Chandler. Fantasy/SF authors who try to write Romance often do fairly well. Romance authors who try to write SF/Fantasy are all too often Simply Dreadful – and read like they haven’t read any of what they are trying to copy and therefore don’t know what’s hackneyed and what isn’t.

      Pet peeve. Sorry to digress. Carry on.

      • marycatelli

        “If it has standards and conventions, break them DELIBERATELY, rather than from ignorance.”

        Or worse, reproduce them in the stupid security of ignorance that they are new, new, new.

        • yep.
          Also, you simply can’t CUE right unless you have read the genre and to an extent love it. You don’t know what your readers will be feeling. One reason I don’t write epic fantasy, for instance.

          • The worst of all are the “literary” types who came up with “magical realism” as regards novels….as if that was something that Ray Bradbury wasn’t doing a damn sight better in 1954.

  2. Aha, “Grey Goo” defined.

    What other sorts of Goo have been recognized (I seem to recall Pink being mentioned), and where are they defined?

  3. to get more attention for human wave books —

    1. You can review books on your blog or on other dedicated sites
    2. You can indulge in other reasonable means to draw books to people’s attention. I add books to lists on goodreads.com. Not specifically Human Wave lists, which would be inexplicable to the innocent bystanders, but books on the best SF or fantasy, or on specific themes, or on political stuff. (Lists labeled political tend to list left. One can counteract that by adding books about the reality of communism, for instance.)

    • Did anybody ever invent a badge or widget that can be used on Goodreads, WordPress blogs, Amazon Author pages, et al? Or do I have to do it myself?

      • Wasn’t Dr. Mauser doing something with a surfing astronaut? Crescent of the Earth behind him suggesting a wave? Something along those lines?

        The real question there is, how do you determine what qualifies? Is there a voting process? A group consensus? Or can any Tom Dick and Harry grab it and stick it on whatever?

        • Why, we’re very individualistic over here. Anyone can declare a book they like as human wave – and then everyone else is free to go read it (or not) and affirm (or debate).

          Central control and authoritarian tendencies? This group? No, no, far more likely they will say of us, “the individualists failed to organize.”

          • Exactly. Which makes it hard to say with any degree of confidence that something claiming to be human wave is prior to purchase / sampling / potentially throwing it against the wall.

            Not that I have any good ideas about how to fix this.

            But we run the risk of treating this as a problem of branding, when maybe it’s a question of writing and sharing good things others have written.

            (RAMBLING! GAH!)

            That’s the thing I’d forgotten since the last time I read this post. The cross-promotion, cooperation part where we find Human Wave fiction and promote it to each other and the world at large.

            • I’m not going to Austin. The Horseshoe Bay Resort is no longer affiliated with Marriott. I’m going to Galveston instead. Will be on the beach.

              • Sorry to hear that, but Galveston should be fun. Have a good time!

                • I’m looking forward to Galveston.I’ve never been there The hotel is brand new and it’s right on the beach.

                  Jason and I might meet up. He said that Galveston might be doable for him.

                  • Schedule permitting, Galveston would be doable. I haven’t been down thataway recently (for those not in the know, I’m “Jason” offline:-).

          • Yes? NO? Yes? Organization is for the birds. 😉

        • I was picturing something — probably at or beyond the limits of my skill set — based on a fractal wave painting by Utagawa Hiroshige, with the “seed” of the fractal being a paper doll by Keith Haring, tesselated á Escher.


        • I’m for the tomdickandharry criterion.


        • I liked Dr Mauser’s idea and have been playing around with it.
          If you don’t mind. Here is what I’ve got so far. (If I can get the links embedded correctly)

          Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions for colors or fonts are welcome.

          If nothing else, they might start ideas for a logo/banner/badge or secret handshake.

            • Interesting. Although for a good logo you need to be able to burn it down to a lot less detail so it doesn’t lose anything if it were on the spine of a book.

              If you’re going to label it “human wave”, do it once, not both the rocket and the footer. I would have put the text under it without that thick outline.

              It’s a damn bit further along than I could have gotten (damned day job). the one other suggestion would be to rotate the crescent so that it’s coming up from behind the rocket, so we get that wave visual and it looks more like he’s surfing on the rocket. Tweak the scale of the elements a bit too.

      • I tag mine as human wave at Amazon and in the meta data, but I don’t have any steenkin’ (or perfumed) badges.

        • Ditto on the tagging. All one book of mine. The next one will get the same tag.

        • Perfumed IS steenkin’, in the nose of the perceiver (at least sometimes). TXRed, you know what I mean. You LIVE in the Land of the Abundant Gardenia (And Other) Scents, after all…

      • marycatelli

        The problem with a badge is that someone can use it while actually writing Gray Goo.

        • But the peril of doing so is that they a) alienate the kind of readers who like their crap, and b) attract people who will give them scathing reviews. Both of which will cost them future readers as well.

          Although it would be kinda nice to be such a powerful movement that the “Enemy” tries to mount a false-flag operation.

          One thing to keep in mind though, an organization is doomed as soon as it starts trying to enforce ideological purity.

  4. The fact that this even has to be discussed is somewhat saddening. Fiction is well fiction. Science Fiction can be about almost anything, it is a huge subset of fiction. Maybe a standard disclaimer should be included in the Forward of all books of fiction that include something on the order of, “This is a work of fiction. It is not real. Worlds, People, Political Views, Morality, Religion and so on are made up. Some may be based on reality but it is not the responsibility of the Author to inform you which is which. The views contained in this work are also made up and may or may not also be the views of the Author. Remember it is Fiction and enjoy it. Think as much or as little as you want, the Author won’t be upset, especially if you bought your own copy.”

    • The problem seems to be the people who have the idea that even fiction should be about educating people, either by rubbing their face in alternative ways of thinking, alternative lifestyles, or showing them how to be a good little “citizen”, or how certain political views are bad, or whatever. Not so much that they are trying to be “real”, but that they are trying to be “relevant”.

      • I just was reading an interesting essay by CS Lewis (I think it was “De Audiendis Poetis”) about various things, including why someone would climb on board the idea that fantasy elements of medieval romances (“ferlies”) were pagan survivals, psychological Jungian stuff, etc. His idea was that people enjoyed having romantic, exciting reading with the ferlies in the romances, and so they enjoyed even more having romantic, exciting ideas _about the origins_ of the ferlies in the romances. It let them continue the feelings into “real life.” For people who otherwise were tempted to repress such embarrassing feelings of excitement and wonder, it gave them a justification for having such feelings.

        So there are probably a lot of these sour folks out there who feel like they can’t enjoy sf/f for fun, whereas something educational and ideological is okay. (Also a fairly common motivation in some segments of the Christian bookstore audience.)

  5. How do you get a stoat to hold still enough to write on? If you do, then do you sell your story hanging weight or live weight?

  6. This is what attracted me to SF (and Fantasy as well), and what it *should be.* I don’t care how big a “best seller” something is, if it’s badly written, or pretentious C–P. (Like “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and “The DaVinci Code.”) Just because a few thousand idiots are convinced to buy something that is depressing, and stupid, does not make it worth spending *my* money on. Selling to 1% of the 325 Million People in the U.S, does not mean that you are a “great writer.” Pornography does better than that, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is. Pandering to the lowest, basest Human impulses.
    To make a living from writing, at $0.65 to $2.50/sale, means selling something that people want to buy, and buy repeatedly. Not a “See how ‘with it’ I am” book, but something people actually read. A notion apparently lost to many who think they should control what people are reading.
    My SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) is that 10% of the population (225MM), are potential readers for fun (2.25MM). About 1/3 will read any “good” book. If you can’t sell more than *8,000* to potential population of 750,000 (a percentage of 0.0107), you don’t know what you’re doing. F&SF is probably (at best) 1/4 of the 750,000 potential readers. And only 10% are actually targeted by publishers (at the very best).
    Like Movie producers, publishers only “understand” the people they “associate” with. A “universe” of perhaps as many as 25,000, counting the secretaries, support staff, etc. Yet they purport to control what everyone else sees/reads. That people like Larry Correia reach enough readers to make a living, says something about the room to grow. The Horror market is even smaller than F&SF, yet Steven King makes a living in it. Granted, he gets a lot of publicity, but he writes what people want to read.
    How many bother to “promote” their favorite writers, to other potential readers? If we want more good books, we need to do that. Authors need sales to feed their families and pets. Publishers, and Movie producers, need to see that mindless C–P may sell a few thousand, but good books/movies make a *lot* more.

  7. Two years already? Well, Challenge was accepted, and in that time we’ve contributed three books to human wave scifi (and a fourth book on life in a max-security pen from the chaplain’s perspective.)

    Working on making better books for reading enjoyment, one novel at a time!

  8. “…you can write it with a goat (but which end do you hold on the paper?)…”
    That’s easy, you hold the end with the goat pen on the paper.

  9. Pingback: A Message I Think Many of Us Self-Published Could Use. | Andrew J. Patrick

  10. So where can I find the list of human wave science fiction titles? Is there a definitive list?

  11. Pingback: Human Wave fiction | Cyn Bagley - Poet and Writer

  12. Boys and girls of every age
    For good books you search search and rage
    Come read this and you will see,
    how great genera can be!

    This is Human Wave, this is Human Wave
    Rockets roar in the dead of night!

    This is Human Wave– characters loving and brave!
    Adventure, joy and great excitement!
    Science fiction without grey goo
    Read, imagine the hero is YOU!

  13. I find thrown chickens humorous.

    My father and his brother, when he was young, decided one day that throwing the chickens they were going to butcher after they beheaded them was humorous. Until their mother saw what condition the meat was in. Then it wasn’t humorous any more.

    But throwing live ones and watching them clumsily fly to the ground? Yeah, definitely humorous.

    • As a kid I recall my grandfather demonstrating what was meant by the phrase, “running around like a chicken with their head cut off”, my grandmother was not amused. She informed him in no uncertain terms that you held them around the body with the wings pinned to it, so not only couldn’t they run around, but they couldn’t flop and flap their wings. This supposedly resulted in much tougher meat.

    • Carl Henderson

      What’s really funny (and funny because it is real) are the air cannon “chicken guns” used to test cockpit windows for resistance to bird strikes. Back in the mid-to-late 80s I worked for a large defense contractor and got to see an actual chicken gun. The joke at the office was that we were fine as long as the Russians never came up with a two-chicken gun.

      “Two Chicken Gun” then promptly morphed itself into a 2nd Level Magic-User spell for the D&D campaign I was running at the time, and inspired the similarly themed “Wand of Small Furry Animals”.

      • I seem to recall a story about chicken guns. A locomotive maker working on a high speed train talked to a defense contractor and managed to borrow a chicken gun to test the windshields on their new locomotive. They loaded it up and fired, and were quite dismayed to find the windshield utterly shattered and chicken smashed all over the back wall of the cab. They had much greater expectations for the design. So they called up the contractor and asked what they had done wrong. The Contractor asked them a simple question, “Did you remember to defrost the chicken?”

        • Heard several versions of that story.
          A: it was the Brits getting one from the USAF
          B: it was the USAF getting one from the Canadians,
          C: the USAF getting it from the RAF … I shall add the Locomotive company/Defense contractor to the mix.

        • My friend’s father had a different, but similar story. He worked at GE Aircraft Engines, and said that they had a chicken gun they used to test jet engines, because jets get birds through an engine every once in a while, so it has to stand up to that (Sully Sullenberger’s exception was hitting an entire flock). Well, apparently, the word came down that they had to upgrade to turkeys. They got the barrel changed, but had no turkeys, so sent someone to pick some up from a local supermarket. The rest of the story you can imagine: turbine blades coming out through the sides of the engine in pieces. Apparently jet engines don’t handle frozen turkeys.

  14. Christopher M. Chupik

    When I first read this two years back, I realized that it put into words a feeling that had been bothering me for quite some time. I used to feel slightly guilty that so many of the “important” SF works left me cold and that my greatest pleasures came from the purely entertaining books. No more.

  15. We’ve come to ride the Human Wave
    And watch the people rant and rave
    So no one has to be a slave
    to entropy or leftist knaves

    We can write that which uplifts
    And show others our use of gifts
    Of humanity sour our story shifts
    As we drop charcters in rifts

    Make it creepy, we don’t care
    Or give us all a real good scare
    Your stores take place anywhere
    In deep space or maybe air

    Fun is what Human Wave is meant to be
    I can be your P-I-M-P
    Put It in My Pocket you see
    I wrote it, now you buy from me!

  16. Since it is poem day–

    The surf smashes the rocks
    sprays them, breaks them
    into sandy beach

    the writer, blackened fingers
    smashes, breaks expectations–
    a human wave

  17. Weird synchronicity thing – just got a link to this in my e-mail inbox. http://davidfarland.com/writing_tips/?a=350.

    Would people be interested in planning and releasing a human wave bundle like the one David describes here?

  18. If Sarah gets to repeat, I do too 😀

    When your spaceship
    Needs repair
    Grab a wrench
    And don’t despair!

    Plucky human
    Saves the day
    Let your brain
    Come out and play

    Don’t press one
    For further options
    Grab a raygun
    And go shopping!

    • If your dragon’s
      Got the blues,
      Here’s some tales
      To get him through.

      • Oh, for crying out loud, Like and Like again. These are all awesome.

      • When your spaceship
        Needs repair
        Don’t let a dragon near a wrench
        he’ll twist off bolts with nary a flinch
        It takes a human to have a care
        HUMAN WAVE

        Mammals make the best
        mechanics in pinch
        they’ll use duct tape
        If they haven’t got a wrench
        HUMAN WAVE

        When it’s all on the line
        I won’t be a liar
        I don’t want Barney
        I’d rather have McGyver
        Human Wave.

  19. The origin post is part of what pushed me into finally writing a novel of my own. The beta reader comments are now trickling back on it. And, yes, it’s as Human Wave as I could make it.

  20. Christopher M. Chupik

    In other words, reading SF shouldn’t be the equivalent of wearing a hair shirt with hooks in it.

  21. One sad thing about reading the original, and the article before it was that the humanwavesf site is just parked at goDaddy.

  22. “or that the future is dark, dreary, evil and fraught with nastiness, because that’s all humans can do, and woe is us.”

    So now we know how ms Hoyt feels about the grimdarkness of the 41 millenium ( now with extra grimdark).
    Although i would love to see the day some glittery hoo haa tries to sell the idea to black library to have a 40k novel with a serious message.

  23. Instafilk, roughly TTTO Tranport Engineer’s March (AKA Caisson’s Go Rolling Along)
    We are brave, we are bold
    With the stories that are told
    On the crest of the Hu-uman Wave

    Heroes fight, villains die
    And the good enjoy their pie
    On the crest of the Hu-uman Wave

    And the readers grieve as the writers make-believe
    And they line up the series proud and strong
    Though we may all fear there is strength to face those fears
    On the crest of the Hu-uman Wave