Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

On Wittgenstein’s Picture Theory of Language

***Let's get back to brass tacks. I can't ignore the purpose of this blog indefinitely. So let me try an experiment. I'd like to throw out some of my...let's call it...scholarly work. This report is one of my all time favorites, a report for a philosophy class where I made the argument that the paper HAD to be given an A. Based on Wittgenstein. It got a B. Anyway, if this change in format goes over like gangbusters, I may dredge up some of my analyses of Kant. On the other hand, if hits drop down to five or six a day, we may just move on to LIBRARY OF THE DAMNED. Let me know what you think. (Dr. Ward, incidentally, was my Philosophy professor.)***

In German class earlier this week, learning about German history, my teacher asked the class what cuius regio, eius religio meant. I knew it had to do with the delineation of religion in the German provinces during the Reformation. Drawing on the minimal Latin skills I had acquired from my Latin class, I replied that it meant “the religion of the people is the religion of the prince,” to which she replied, “No, I think you’ve got that backwards.” I immediately thought back to my nominal philosophical training and got annoyed at my teacher. She had claimed that my statement was wrong, but in fact she was thinking nonsensically. “The religion of the people is the religion of the prince” is the exact same statement as “The religion of the prince is the religion of the people” because the “is” works like an equals sign. In a way, the Romans had one up on us because in their language, syntax doesn’t matter, because it’s a case language. In Rome, cuius regio, eius religio means the same thing as eius religio, cuius regio or any other combination of the four words. I think Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein probably would have liked Latin for that reason.

In any case, by the synthesis of my three courses, (and isn’t the synthesis of variegated subject matter the goal of education, after all?) I can say that the cuius regio policy of the German princes was a tautology. As I understand it, tautologies are true, but unnecessary to state, as in a=a. Wittgenstein believed that propositions of logic are tautologies. Because language is a form of logic, a logical statement about logic is unnecessary, though true. On the other hand he believed that propositions of factual language are pictures. This leads us to Wittgenstein’s picture theory of language.

I gather that Wittgenstein’s picture theory is how Wittgenstein views both human psychology and the nature of reality, although I think that he would not believe in psychology at all. Nevertheless, a lot of what he has to say is about how the human mind works, not as a result of chemistry and experience but inherently. The human mind makes pictures of facts. The picture is a representation of a fact, but it is in fact itself a fact, independent of the fact that it depicts.

For instance, moving flags around on a map is how we represent a battle, but the map is still a fact and the battle is still a fact. Mentally (I still say mentally, although I think Wittgenstein would say it’s not a mental process, but just a fact of reality) we combine the elements of our picture to represent the fact. However, it is not necessarily a perfect representation. I may picture a battle exactly as it occurred. Perhaps I was there and my mental representations are absolutely perfect. Still, my representation is a fact, but not the same fact. And, if someone tells me, “I was far away from my pretty girlfriend,” I may picture a blond because I equate blond with beauty, when, in fact, she is a brunette, and I may picture them as being in different countries when in fact they were only a few miles away, because my concept of “far” is different from the fact. But, still, he told me a sentence, or maybe wrote the sentence down, and the sentence has a physical form as ink on paper or notes in the air, so the sentence, too, is a fact, but not the same as my pictorial representation in my mind and not the same as the original fact.

How do the facts hang together to create representation? To address this I must now address form. Wittgenstein says that the combination of elements is the structure of the picture and the possibility of this structure is the form of representation of the picture. Wittgenstein regards form as the ruler against which we measure reality (but is not reality itself.) In order for a picture to be a picture it must have form, it can't be a random assemblage of facts. The important thing is that a picture has the identical form of the fact in reality. If reality has Wittgenstein hitting Popper with a poker, then the picture in my mind of that fact must have the identical form (i.e. Wittgenstein hitting Popper with a poker) even if the particulars of my picture are not entirely accurate (i.e. Wittgenstein hits Popper's ankle when in reality he hit his arm or Wittgenstein in my mind is fatter than he was in reality.) So form is what makes pictures useful in representing reality, hence Wittgenstein's comparison of form to a ruler.

I’m going to have to step back and re-evaluate my perspective. I’ve given a simplistic (and, considering the complexity of those last few paragraphs, it should be clear how Byzantine Wittgenstein’s work is) account of his analysis of representation in pictures. Let’s re-prioritize. Let’s talk about reality. Reality is the totality of facts, and therefore the totality of all true thoughts. If I have a thought, a picture, I must check it against reality to see whether it is true or not. Going back to my example of my friend who says he’s far away from his pretty girlfriend, let’s suppose I’ve made a picture in my mind of a blond girl in Germany. A cursory analysis of reality would show me that it’s really a brunette in Harrisburg. I could only really tell from analyzing reality, because, after all, if he told me another sentence to correct my original false one, I could make another false picture in my head. The only way to have a true thought is to check it against reality, not against other pictorial representations (i.e., spoken or written propositions.) Ergo, I can have no thought that is true a priori, because I have to check every thought against reality, and reality is only the totality of true thoughts.

(In fact, in a way, that negates this whole essay. Dr. Ward could be reading the ink representations on this page and think that each of my sentential representations was false. But, in fact, the problem is that he is forming inaccurate pictorial representations in his head, and checking them against the paper instead of reality. He might think I was writing a C- paper, when in fact, I am writing an A+ paper. In the interests of getting a perfect score on this paper, I must say this: reality is the sum total only of true thoughts. If this paper is a part of reality, it must be composed entirely of true thoughts. Ergo, it would be impossible to find fault with a paper that can not by definition be composed of any false thoughts if it is real, and my paper must, therefore, be perfect. See Appendix A. Or, if I may take another tack, if Dr. Ward finds any problems with this paper, as Wittgenstein would say to Russell, “you have simply misunderstood me.”)

Anyway, having employed philosophy both to accomplish a goal (i.e. get an A on this paper) and having furthered the interests of philosophy by developing my own new metaphysical law, based on Wittgenstein’s work (i.e., no paper can ever be imperfect) I regard this paper as almost complete. Only one further matter remains to be resolved. What were Wittgenstein’s general motivations behind this analysis? What insights did he hope to obtain? Primarily, I would say that the most important point Wittgenstein makes with his picture theory is that there is no a priori thought. This is not a novel idea, the empiricists had been defending it for hundreds of years. But it is the end, or the goal, of the picture theory, in my opinion. However, it is not the sum total of the picture theory. Just as in a+b=c, c is the result, but c does not capture the whole essence of the equation, so does Wittgenstein’s conclusion that there is no a priori thought not encompass the entirety of the importance of the picture theory.

The picture theory is the beginning of Wittgenstein’s attempt to break down conventional thought and replace it with a better method. What I mean is this: people have been thinking a certain way for thousands of years, and Wittgenstein sees this as a false way of thinking. If philosophy’s goal has been to attempt to know the unknowable, and science’s goal is to know the knowable, then Wittgenstein would say that there is no philosophy, only science and false propositions. Philosophy, then, in Wittgenstein’s outlook, is to only state what is known, and on the rest to remain silent. The picture theory is a vital factor in developing this view of the world. Facts as pictures, the checking of pictures against reality, and the dismissal of all false pictures – this is what Wittgenstein wants us to do. The rest is silence.


Tractatus Logico-Philosophocus II: The Wrath of Wittgenstein

8 Every scholarly report must be given a grade of 100%
8.1 Every report exists in reality
8.01 A report that does not exist, does not exist, and so can not be spoken of.
8.011 A report that can not be spoken of can not be graded
8.012 Even if a report is not turned in, it can not be evaluated, because it can not be spoken of
8.2 The world is a totality of all existing elementary facts (see 2.05)
8.02 A thought is a fact, whether true or false
8.3 A report that exists in the world consists entirely of facts, whether true or false, else it would not exist
8.03 Even if every sentence in a report is false, every sentence is a fact itself.
8.4 Evaluation is meaningless
8.04 Evaluation is a judgment, not a statement of fact, and therefore meaningless
8.05 In order for evaluations to have meaning they must be regarded as short-hand for some other fact
8.051 To give meaning to academic evaluation, we could regard a grade of 0% as shorthand for the fact, "This report does not exist."
8.052 To give meaning to academic evaluation, we could regard a grade of 100% as shorthand for the fact, "This report consists entirely of facts."
8.5 It does not matter whether the content of a report is false or not, it still must consist entirely of facts, and therefore must be given a 100%
8.6 A teacher who tries to evaluate a report as other than existent/non-existent is thinking metaphysically
8.06 Metaphysics are meaningless
8.07 A grade other than 100% for an existing paper and 0% for a non-existing paper is meaningless
8.7 This report exists.
8.07 This report must be given a 100%

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Well, this calls for a celebration.

No, not scoring a single (1) goal on a game of kicky ball. No one cares (or should care) about that unless you are a complete poseur. Which, not to wax to poetic about it, but if you didn't care about soccer two weeks ago, what right do you have now...

(Deep breath.)

Calm. Cool. Collected.

Okay. I'm better now. What I meant to say was that we got to 400,000 hits. Hurrah! When I started this blog some year and a half ago, I don't think I ever envisioned much past 100K. But you just keep plugging along and you get some success. Thanks to all of you, my fans, or, more accurately, my casual passers by and pity-clickers. You've made all of this possible. Here's to the next 100,000.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

You win some, you lose some

And the winner of our little wager is...

Me. Or nobody. Depends how you look at it, I suppose.

Thought I'd forget, didn't you? Or at least give you a few hours grace? Sorry, I am a chronic insomniac. The time is midnight and the counter is at 393,283. Close, but no cigar. In fact, an epic effort by all my readers over the course of this weekend, and I thank you, but sadly, we did not roll over the 400K mark. So, as I promised, HELL AND BLOOD is retired forever, and you all get to endure at least two more posts after this of procrastination.

Did you lose out? Perhaps. I wouldn't say you lost out the way the world lost out when Dostoevsky died before writing the sequel to the Brothers Karamazov, but you did lose out on my amusing and embarassing story, which now also goes in the metaphysical vault.

See you on Wednesday. Thanks for staying loyal.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Modest(er) Proposal

Do you folks like gambling? I like gambling. Gambling doesn't like me back, but I like gambling.

I've got a proposal for you. I've been very reticent lately about doing anything with the blog for two reasons:

a) the reasons I described in this post, and

b) the next manuscript up on the chopping block is, well, embarassing

It's not embarassingly bad (although it's also that.) It's embarassing for other reasons. Like the reason why I wrote it. And the content. And what it's about. Ahem.

So, here's my proposal to you, my adoring public. If you want to see HELL AND BLOOD (yes, that's what it's called) to include full commentary and the dark secret behind its origin (that's right, anonymous commenter carlmacs, I used the possesive correctly in this instance) then all you have to do is help me break 400,000 hits by Monday.

That's it. That's my wager. I'm sorry I don't have anything more substantive to offer other than my public humiliation. Right now, according to my counter, we are at 389,446 hits. 400K seems a modest goal, if ever there was one. Recommend a few friends prowl through the archives. Just sit and hit refresh on your browser window 10,500 times. I don't care how we get there. But if we get there, I will immediately begin posting HELL AND BLOOD on Monday, including the somewhat lengthy and slef-pillorying source of this manuscript.

Here's the flipside. If we remain in the dreadful doldrums of the 300Ks come 12:00 am EST 21 June 2010, HELL AND BLOOD goes in the vault. Permanently. It will never see the light of day, not even for the nominal death of a burned manuscript. And, as a further punishment, you all receive one extra week of my ridiculous delaying tactics rather than an actual mansuscript. Painful, I know, but those are the risks you run when you gamble.

So. Any takers? Get that counter rolling like a slot machine.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ourrah, I'm part of a viral marketing campaign

Yeah, so I was that guy. With my lightning-fast reflexes and supreme level of insomnia, I was the frigger with the trigger on this contest. Interestingly, this was the first tangible reward I've received from all the effort I've put into blogging over the past year and a half. Symbolic, yes, but tangible. Which makes me hope that there are good things coming to me karmically.

So, why did I take my own picture of the book I got in the mail when there was a perfectly serviceable picture I could have ganked from the contest post? Well, take a look. In addition to the lovely handwritten note, this actual physical book is an ARC, a publisher's copy. I wasn't even expecting this book until after the July 1 drop date. Yeah, did you catch that? I got an advanced copy, all because I was sitting watching the Boondocks on a Sunday night and compulsively clicking. Pretty cool. Perhaps I am obligated by some sort of code to read and review the book before it's available.

The neatest thing about this ARC is the dedication page. It says, "Will there be a dedication?" Glorious.

Monday, June 14, 2010

235 Years Old Today

First to fight for the right and to build the nation's might
And THE ARMY goes rolling along
Proud of all we have done fighting 'til the battle's won
And THE ARMY goes rolling along....

For it's hi-hi-hey, THE ARMY'S on its way
Count off the cadence loud and strong
For wheree'er we go, you will always know
That THE ARMY goes rolling along.

Happy birthday, Army!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tri-weekly check-in

These claims are shocking if true. And I see absolutely no reason to doubt the veracity of any of these claims. And, yes, I know that I've been dropping the ball as your source of free sub-publishable literature. I promise that on Monday the possibility exists that I may consider getting back into the groove. Or not, it kind of depends.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Interesting News Story from the Aegean Today...

This is really fascinating. In case you haven't heard about this yet, it seems that a team of Greek and German archaeologists finally discovered the semi-mythical fleet of Achilles. (You know the face that launched a thousand ships? This was those ships.) This is, of course, really exciting news that will make historians rethink all kinds of things that they had long determined to be the boundaries between myth and reality. Anyway, the warped boards and planks are extremely significant artifacts, but apparently it's pretty dull to just put a bunch of driftwood on display in a museum. In a clever marketing plot, the Greek government is now talking about using the detritus to build a full-size replica of the Trojan Horse.

Of course, the Greek economy being what it is these days, the whole project will be doomed to failure without some kind of corporate sponsorship. In one of the great "Ugh, Capitalism" moments of the last three thousand years, McDonalds Greece has offered to sponsor the whole construction if they can also construct a replica of a Big Mac next to the horse. This is what they're calling it.

You can read the original story here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Time is, apparently, not on my side

Jadies and Lentilmen,

I apologize. Which I never do, incidentally. A general once told us that officers never apologize. So, scratch that, I take it back. As an officer emeritus I...regret that I have not been the best websmaestro lately that I could be. Let me caveat that by saying that although I value the blogosphere and all of your input, sometimes other things take precedence. For instance:

1.) Wife
2.) Cat
3.) Actual paying job
4.) Non-paying theoretical authorial job

Now, normally I have no trouble juggling the first three with Manuscripts Burn. HOWEVER...

That being said, I've been getting more partial requests for my current project than anything I've ever attempted to have published before. Which I hope is a good sign, and not God raising my hopes so that it will be a funnier cosmic joke when they're dashed. Yes, this is the same project with the big weird fishy word cloud on Saturday (I mean Friday, ha!) and that I was babbling about on Wednesday.

So, all that being said, I will try not to actually drop any MWF updates for the next few weeks, but until I get my publishing house (ha!) in order, I'm not going digging through my files for any more burny manuscripts. I'll try to come up with some good links and stuff, for instance, this. I appreciate you bearing with me.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Word Cloud

Here's something neat for you all. (Yes, I know I've been avoiding choosing a new manuscript to burn. That trepidation may last a while.)

So what is this? Well, this is a graphical representation of the most used words in the manuscript I'm currently shopping around. (Sorry, faithful followers, that one's not going up here. You'll have to purchase that in the bookstores or on your Kindles or whatnot, lousy kids these days.) You can create your own thrilling wordcloud on Feel free to post them in the comments, or whatever.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


So, I couldn't fall asleep last night because the wheels kept turning. The last time I remember feeling that way was in high school, when I had a crush on the foreign exchange student. Of course, a little Old Crow and Coke usually helps me sleep these days; nevertheless, all the bourbon in Kentucky couldn't put me out last night. (Well, maybe ALL the bourbon in Kentucky.)

Why, you ask, gentle reader? And good for you for recognizing the implied rhetorical question. I'll answer it anyway. My number one agent requested a partial for my WIP yesterday. If you have no idea what that last sentence meant, it means you're probably not a publishing professional or aspiring author of some sort, so let me break it down for you.

I've been meaning to get into some of this stuff for some time on this blog, but never really had a good excuse to until now. Besides, you would probably find me checking in every day to relate all my rejections or partial requests incredibly dull after a while. But I think a number of people could benefit from some of this information, and I know that EVERYONE can benefit from my worldview, so let me break down for you the basic ways of breaking into publishing. There are, oh, let's say 4. Let's run down the list.

4.) SELF PUBLISHING. The literary equivalent of cashing your paycheck in for rolls of quarters and tossing them all into a wishing well. Basically, the theory behind this is that traditional publishing is broken, and they could never possibly recognize your genius, so by publishing on your own you get your product directly into the hands of the reading public, who will naturally hail you as the next Hemingway.

Here's the thing (well, one of the things) about this route: you have to be right. You have to really, genuinely have something so good that people will ignore all of the nicely bound, professionally vetted books on the shelves and pick up your work because it's just that damn good. So, the first thing to ask yourself in this scenario is, are you really a misunderstood genius or is your work just not good enough for mainstream publishing yet?

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't want to totally undersell self-publishing. The best outcome of this route is that you will produce a genuine gem which will get you the notice of the mainstream publishers, who will publish your future work. (Did you notice how the best outcome of self-publishing is not being self-published anymore? Yeah, me too.) Much more likely, though, you will front a bunch of money to see what is essentially a bound copy of what you already have on your computer and never make that money back.

Oh, and did I mention all that presupposes that you're lucky enough to find an honest self-publishing company, and that you're almost infinitely more likely to get taken by a scheister? I won't be cyncical and imply that ALL self-publishing companies are essentially the equivalent of those cash-for-gold companies that sucker old people who watch FOX News except for aspiring authors, but, eh, I can't even really end that sentence in a nice way. There are a few self-publishing and POD companies that are "honest" in their own way, I have no doubt, and actually believe in the whole "let water reach it's own level" method of democratizing publishing.

And, again, to be fair, self-publishing will be very important in the future, what with the interwebs and all. But for right now this is the publishing equivalent of masturbating with a blowup doll. No matter how much you pretend it's a real person, or it'll get you ready for your first time with a real person, IT'S STILL JUST A FUCKING BLOWUP DOLL.

3.) HIRING AN EDITOR. Well, this is slightly more reputable than self-publishing, but it's still more or less a crap chute. The big positive on this route is that you're dealing with an actual publishing professional (hopefully you didn't pick a scheister again, like you did with your vanity publishing firm last time, you born sucker) and, more importantly, you get an actual return for your investment: a polished manuscript.

The bad news is, did I mention you have to make an investment? If you have the money to hire an editor to look at your work, do you really need to be working as an author in the first place? Could you feasibly hire a ghostwriter? Okay, but all that aside, let's say you find a reputable editor for a reasonable price (probably on a sliding scale, you cheap bastard) and, best of all, he/she has real connections in the publishing industry, and if he/she really likes your work, may even hook you up with the right people. You could really genuinely get published this way.

HOWEVER (you knew there was a however, didn't you, you cheeky fuck?) However, Rumpelstiltskin may have been able to spin straw into gold, but even he couldn't polish a turd until it shone. Was that mixed metaphor a little bit too complicated? Let me break it down: crap in, crap out. Was that too simple? Okay, I'll put it to you this way, no editor in the world can make your crappy manuscript good. Sure, he'll do his job, make sure the grammar's good, give you a ream of notes on how you could improve setting, characterization, and everything else, but ultimately an editor can't tell you that your manuscript is rejected. Remember? Because you're paying him to look at it? So he has to look at it? So, hey, do this if you've got money to burn. But don't use it as an excuse not to write the best damned manuscript you can. Which, incidentally, is the whole other issue with self-publishing that I didn't even go into, because that was like a 500 word paragraph already.

2.) QUERYING AN AGENT. Ah. And here we are. The long dark teatime of the soul that most of us currently inhabit. Think of the publishers, the guys that actually bind your book and sell it, as not wanting to talk to you. Not to YOU personally, necessarily, just not to the collective "you" of kooks, scam artists, and short-tempered manifesto writers who flood their offices with proposals. Every book proposal with a shred of potential is buried beneath a stack of "If I Did Its" by all the O.J. Simpsons of the world. "But" you cry out collectively, "If the publishers don't want to talk to me, who do they want to talk to?" The answer is simple: agents. People who do all the leg work for them (for a modest commission, of course.) Think of the agent as a gatekeeper, like that thing in your throat or your sphincter, only in reverse. Instead of the publisher sorting through the crap, the agent sorts through the crap, and then the publishers just have to sort through the agents. The actual process of getting an agent to accept your book is just a bitch, though. Would you want it any other way? If it were easy, nothing but crap would get published. The first step is to submit a query letter, which is where you essentially ask the agent if he MIGHT be interested in your idea. If the agent likes your query, he will request a partial manuscript, usually 3 chapters or 50 pages. (This is what I was talking about up above. In case you're wondering, a WIP is a work in progress. I got too exhauted to get into industry jargon, so I'm just going to tell you at this point.) Can you guess what the next step is with an agent? Yeah, you guessed it, he requests your full manuscript. Then, assuming you've passed through all these hurdles, the agent still has to place your manuscript with a publisher, so you have any number of opportunities to still get rejected once you are agented. Nevertheless, this is, in this humble blogger's opinion, the primo way to go.

1.) QUERYING THE PUBLISHER. Remember the job interview metaphor I used in the last paragraph? (At least I hope I did because I wrote this paragraph first chronologically.) Let's carry that forward into this one. This is essentially like walking into the biggest building on Wall Street, demanding to see the CEO, being let in by a secretary dazzled by your confidence, and boldly stating your case to the CEO. And then the CEO says, "I like the cut of your jib, fella. I'm going to hire you right off the street and make you an Executive Vice President." You with me so far? Okay, I'm not saying this to be dickish or anything, I'm just trying to say that it's a long shot. If you're the kind of person that can do this, more power to you. If you've ever walked in somewhere, not a restaurant or something where they have to do what you say, and just gotten what you wanted based on your charisma or confidence or whatever, this route may be for you. To go straight to the publisher you have to be a fucking brilliant writer, a great people person, and have a hell of a head for business, because you're taking care of everything yourself. And you, you personally, are jumping through every hoop in the publishing world. Admittedly, this route might work better if you had hired an editor before, so you can see how there is more than one road to reach Rome.

Questions? Concerns? Interest in further entries on these topics? I can't really tell you much more beyond the aspiring author side of this business, but, hey, maybe that's all interesting in it's own right.
Enter your e-mail address in the box below and click "Subscribe" to join Stephen Kozeniewski's Mailing List for Fun and Sexy People. (Why the hell would anyone ever want to join a mailing list?)