Ali So Far

Ali So Far Cover

I stumbled across an old query letter from the one time I tried to submit a novel to agents, and it really made me chuckle. I was truly one exceedingly frustrated creative; the undertone of anger in the letter… basically, I was upset that nobody was writing the books I wanted to read, and I wasn’t coy about expressing that. It kind of overshadowed the idea that I liked what I created and really just wanted to share.

I quickly exhausted myself with sending out letters anyway. I barely tried, generally under some belief that my stories were too outlandish, absurd, and never perfect enough. Here’s conjured loglines from the last three books I’ve finished over the last decade (2 novels and a novella):


An old fisherman believes a Great Mammoth Invisible Whale is going to attack the floating islands of the Imperial Territory of Ageanhaven. He also believes he is the only man alive that can see it and stop it.


Giant chickens, artists painting the sky, and airplanes crash landing on Main Street: strange happenings have been racking The City of Clear Blue Skies like clockwork, and a disgruntled book reviewer known as Clanny the Terrible will be the next in line to find out why.

-Clanny the Terrible

An assassin is hunted by his guild, the woman he loved, and decreed to die by the will of the Great Goddess. With all hope lost, he intends to leap from a waterfall to end his suffering escape, but a chance meeting with a treasure hunter in search of the secrets of the world sends him down a path he could have never predicted.

-Ali So Far


But now this Wattpad deal, this Facebook for writers actually feels like the right time to open up. I’m starting to share the oldest story of these three, Ali So Far, chapter by chapter, giving myself the opportunity to revise the epic journey as I post, since it’s over six years old. More like ten really.

Maybe the 19-year-old me is out there somewhere, wishing for this story, just like I wanted it a decade ago.

And it’s kind of good to perforate the endless nights working on Cherry in the Sky with something different.

Eventually I’ll work my way up to my newer stuff.

Anyhow, presenting:

Ali So Far

Sailcloths Made of Other Things


Beyond the very informative sociological commentary on the trials of the African-American soul on the journey to equality in “The Souls of Black Folk”, Mr. Du Bois really elucidates the complexity of attempting to end something like slavery and segregation. Complexity that ultimately doesn’t have as much to do with skin color as it does with the culture that forms as a result.

Culture is a complicated thing–one that’s neat and interests me yet baffles me all the same. It’s a definition of who you are before who you are? Or perhaps it only defines you if you accept it, lest you define yourself by your rejection of it? Maybe it’s just something that exists because we like patterns and certainty–baffling, still.

But, thinking about culture contrasted with the old negro soul at least lets me know why I can feel strangely concerned (cautious?) when talking to many substantially older black folk (and a few still young, occasionally)–the sort outside of the artistic/scientific frame of thought I like to inhabit. The sort naturally looking for belonging, togetherness, and group identity–the sort that are more loyal rather than inquisitive, exploring, and skeptical.

I was moved from the near-ghetto to near-rural suburbs in California, suburbs that were initially nearly devoid of black folk. I was weaned on honors classes and allotted a safe place to live that allowed me time to focus on literature and Sonic the Hedgehog.

I hardly know anything about oppression, not like the sort Du Bois informs me of, not like my grandmother knows it, not like all those old folks know it–just the bits I got in history class, “we shall overcome” really, the “it was bad but now it’s good” stuff.

I think that’s where this careful awareness comes from. I think that’s why I feel so cautious even when writing about it. I’ve occasionally stumbled in conversation with folks more personally linked to all of that, upset them when I glance over it, dance past it, don’t value opportunities only available due to conquering those days–I’m from a very different world (hopefully, one that will become too common to inspire a blog post), and I guess the situation is just as upsetting and confusing to them as it is to me–they wanted me to have a world where none of that stuff concerned me, but ironically, now that they’ve helped me obtain it, they occasionally appear frustrated, if not confused, with the result of it.

Mr. Du Bois connected these dots for me, somewhat touching on this in his book: Chapter XIII: “Of the Coming of John”, the only chapter of fiction in Souls. His “John” graduates from a well-to-do school and visits his people in the south, and finds they’d rather snarl at him and holler about oppression than listen to his education and experience that could provide grounds for the escape they sing of–his little sister the only exception.

“It’ll get better for the next generation” is what he’s saying here, I think. This is a process. It takes time, and it’s probably not going to be high on companionship–wilderness vs. roads, I suppose.

It’s still quite difficult for me to fully understand, but at the very least, I feel absolved of the strange guilt that would haunt me–less heavy, easier to travel forward in my continued studies and art.

If I ever chance upon your grave, Mr. Du Bois, I’ll give you closest thing to a personal “thank you” I can. You’ve made things that much lighter… and you also write beautifully as well!

Where All the Voodoo Children are Born

cre·ate verb \krē-ˈāt, ˈkrē-ˌ\

Definition of CREATE

transitive verb

1 : to bring into existence <God created the heaven and the earth — Genesis 1:1(Authorized Version)>

I wish I was never taught that creation is essentially pulling things out of ether. It was specifically a part of my religious upbringing, but I probably would’ve been organically trained into this mindset anyhow. I should think of this as more American culture’s fault, or maybe I can straight up blame Mr. Webster himself.

But, then again, maybe I should just stop looking for someone to blame. The religious don’t necessarily need to discard their Father, but I do think the artist should be looking to different channels for artistic parenting; human beings can’t conceive from nothing. We deconstruct, abstract, and make clay of what we understand and experience, then we mush stuff up, recompile, craft, and mold–we reconstruct.

It might be stronger and, perhaps, more farsighted to think of creativity as transformation.

You gotta love Gypsy Eyes in order to write about them.

Those “crazy noises” during Jimi Hendrix’s famous rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner are fighter jets buzzing overhead and planes dropping bombs. A little research and voilà: he spent a few years in the military–that solo, that interpretation of the song came from somewhere (That also might reveal what got people so riled up about it back in the day: “National Anthem or War Song?”). Absorbing something and then transforming its presentation, ordering, and perspective doesn’t just make music fantastic: it’s the core of what the idea of music is.

The pace of a beat–or the perceived pace of a beat–is relative to the human experience, human footsteps, the human concept of speed (Nobody can run as fast as DragonForce, right? And it’s rare we ever do anything as slow as Sigur Rós). This is metaphor.

There’s no New Crobuzon without planet Earth.

Dostoyevsky wrote of Russian politics, Hemingway wrote of bullfighting and war, China Mièville writes with inspiration from his days of Dungeons and Dragons–it’s important to be honest and open to our sources of energy. To embrace, absorb, and understand them.

Given that, writer’s block could be considered a sort of false disease; it might have a great deal to do with a failing understanding of what it means to be creative. That classic image of a writer curled over his desk in isolation: “you toil and toil yet can not produce! Oh woe is me!”–you can’t put out if you don’t take in, and you can’t take in if you only put out. You need to go outside.

Hemingway was a journalist before becoming a novelist. Dostoyevsky ran in political circles and even went to prison for it. China Mièville is never shy about his sources of inspiration. His favorite pastimes come up in nearly every interview, and the man actually ran for parliament.

Video games aren’t exempt from this either. Super Mario is the classic knight in shining armor story: Mario’s the knight, and Yoshi is his steed; he goes to fight the dragon Bowser and save the Princess Peach. This is Super Mario’s foundation, but, I mean, look at it. When you open yourself up to soak in just a little bit more, when you hold yourself back just a little bit less, that core foundation becomes something more: you get a game about a guy who walks on clouds and travels through pipes because you like manga and pass sewage systems on the way to work.

It takes absorbent and free minds to make flying via a raccoon tail seem unquestionable. It takes adventurers, it takes listeners, it takes people who aren’t going to question how they got there until they get there, people who only look back in order to figure out how to go forward. It takes creatives.

Redefining the galaxy.
Redefine the galaxy.

And all of the above, at least as far as I understand at this point, is the source of the Voodoo. It’s what we need to do to watch the sunrise from the bottom of the sea. And as long as I think like this, I never seem to become stuck, more like:

“I’m not quite yet where I want to be, but getting there is fantastic, and hey, here’s everything I’ve found along the way. There’s more coming, and it’s only going to get better. I hope everyone’s having a good time.”

The Dostoyevsky Genre


The best Dostoyevsky novels are hardly labyrinthine. Sure, the psychoanalysis-before-textbook-psychoanalysis existed is fantastic, deep, and complex—they’re high-concept books, but Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov seem to resonate with people for far simpler reasons. Those two books have his simplest core plots (despite the grand size of Karamazov), and the way the narratives plays out is really a great deal of “fun”. Everything else is simply crafted on top of this quality foundation. That’s the difference between a term paper on desperation versus a novel about it.

The core, the spine, the “focal-center” of both aforementioned stories is that they’re murder mysteries, whodunnits before whodunnits existed. Now, while I haven’t managed to reach a sufficient understanding of why Brothers Karamazov is so affecting (it’s truly just a 1,000+ page “the butler did it” story), I’m feeling somewhat confident in my assessment of Crime and Punishment, which kinda has the same model flipped on its head; C&P succeeds due to its excellent handling of a whodunnit where we know whodunnit.


In third-person omniscient (which I believe was a brand new idea at the time), we watch C&P’s hero, our murderer Raskolnikov, toil. We watch him deliberate. We watch him narrowly escape the desire to turn himself in over and over again.

Dosty doesn’t just craft the book well, but has selected an entire scenario and situation that lends itself to absolutely nothing but suspense beginning to end. Regardless of whatever insightful conversation may be going on, Raskolnikov’s hidden guilt can only bring us to our ending in a handful of ways: escape or admission.


While we do know whodunnit, we begin to realize we don’t fully know who he is, and during this time, we learn a lot more about our murderer by watching him struggle beneath pressure (as it’s hard to be anyone but your honest self when under so much stress—one of the reasons why conflict is integral in storytelling). His virtue in light of his guilt, his desperation bundled with his confusion: meaty storytelling delivered with a side of veggies.

This got skipped over in a lot of my lessons: The Conceptual McGuffin, the similarities between the cursed “genre fiction” and prestigious “literature”; we’re chasing the conceptual carrot of Raskolnikov’s release from his guilt.

The natural empathy of the novel is what’s used to create the push. Rasky’s misery is our dangling carrot, and Rasky’s misery is what Crime and Punishment “is”. A simple, effective, and still unique core.


I’ll always remember my experience with Crime and Punishment for the grand insight it gave me into the human mind, and for the things Dosty gets me to think about. I’ll also always see it like this: “I picked up this novel called Crime and Punishment. It was pretty cool. It gripped me beginning to end—a page-turning and fatiguing sort of gripping, but a page-turning one nonetheless. It was fun, which is often forgotten when attempting to craft something of ‘great worth and merit’.” This goes for all media, and all things I or anybody else creates. Art is best when it’s entertaining and engaging, but when pulling from the proper channels, it ends up that way by default.