Thursday, December 31, 2009
December has been rather unkind. Illness has plagued my footsteps, mostly of the "breathing sucks" variety. I've also gotten a temporary boost in hours at the bookstore (and am also running the store's Facebook page), which means more money, but less time to do stuff such as write. Now that the holiday season is over, my hours will magically be reduced, which means more time to write. I've managed to scribble my Forces of Geek columns, and do a bit of short story writing, but that's been it. I had really hoped to have my wacky take on the Four Horsemen ready by, well, today, but sadly the tale is unfinished. I will still finish it, because I'm enjoying the ideas that are coming up as I write it.
My New Year's resolution is a simple one: create more, consume less. I want to write more, improve my health, and make my life fuller and richer. I want to buy less stuff, own less stuff, and take in less bullshit. I think that is both an encompassing and simple goal for the coming year.
I wrote my latest Forces of Geek column on "13 Books for Doing Your Thinking About SF". It's not as in-depth as some of my other columns, but I wanted to respond to all of the "Best Of" lists coming out right now . I've thought about doing a "Best Of The Year" or "Decade" post here, but it seems so trite. I'd rather do something else to reflect on the decade, something that jibes more with the idea of "doing your thinking."
This idea comes from my college mentor, Dr. Thomas Buckley, who wrote an article with that title for Parabola some years back and gave it to us to read in a Native American religions course. It is essentially the notion that you need to combine appreciation, analysis, meditation, and reflection to not just critique an idea or a subject, but to understand it as fully as possible. He wrote about it in his excellent book on Yurok spirituality also. This is an idea that is about creating good thought and good action, not just consuming information. It is about learning all of the time, not just taking in and spitting out data. I'd like to enact this idea more in the coming year as well.
Happy New Year to all!
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
---Sadness is the main response I have to hearing that Robert Holdstock died suddenly today, after failing to fight off an E. Coli infection. Holdstock was a writer of deep matters who combined complex ideas and symbolism into his work. Mythago Wood, his most well-known work, was really a starting point for an extended literary meditation. I would have loved to see what else he was going to do with that.
---a snippet for WIP from my current story:
“You’re a Valley Boy,” First Jay said with a sneer. “Valley’s nice; don’t get the crickets much.” He swung his hawk at his side. “They don’t let other folks come around in times of trouble.”
West Wind shook his head. “The Valley is nothing now. They’ve given in to gluttony and envy. Hogtamer’s land now.” He tilted his head at First Jay’s scowl. “Nothing there for any of us now. Hogtamer's feasted it out.”
“And that’s why he’s coming here,” Third Jay said. The folks all turned to look at him. He fixed West Wind with his glaring white eye and lifted his staff a bit, let the tattered feathers and pieces of old flags shift in the breeze. “He’s on his creature of many backs headin’ this way.”
West Wind nodded. “And he’s not the only one.”
“Skull-face,” Little Kee whispered from the dust, and now everyone looked at her. She winced from the attention.
West Wind bent down towards her and inclined his chin. “Yep, true in one. He’s feeling the pinch and looking for new souls.”
---NPR did a story on fantasy fiction today, interviewing Jeff and Ann Vandermeer. It was fine, and it contained two good tidbits for further thought. The first was the idea of fantasy being a device for talking about things that could not be written out explicitly; the second, that all literature is, in some sense, fantasy. These are both compelling ideas for me. The latter has been a notion that I have contemplated a lot lately. I mean, all fiction is specifically a fantasy, a made-up story about things the author wants to describe to us. The grittiest mystery, the dourest contemporary tragedy, the flightiest romance are all fantasy tales. Unless you are just writing down exactly what you observe with no conjecture and no induction into a narrative, when you tell a story you are creating a fantasy. Some may have a stronger link to what they represent, but all are creations of the imagination as it makes sense of things, assigns meaning, and casts people and issues in a particular, subjective light.
I'd like to write more, but it is bedtime. Dream well, all!
Friday, November 20, 2009
---I got a nice #followfriday twitter boost from @revolutionsf today. If you haven't checked out their website, do so! They're really trying to make SF, in all forms and permutations, fun AND thoughtful again. Today's Prisoner watercooler chat is a great example of that.
---Our child has fallen asleep before midnight for the SECOND NIGHT IN A ROW, and as soon as this bloggery is committed I am hitting the writing folder. Need to work on the Four Horsemen thing (I'll put up some WIP when I have something intriguing to share) and get a comic idea out of my head. One of the projects I've been developing is a comic book called THE FORCE! (yeah, it needs a better title), which is about a government superhero team full of misfits who turn out to have their own agendas, led by the smartest creature to ever walk the earth, who also has his own plans. I'm trying to combine superhero action with emotional realism, and poke a bit of fun at the genre as well. I have an 18-issue story arc laid out in the most basic terms, but got some great ideas for twists that need to get plunked into the file.
---I've been obsessing over Warren Ellis' latest T-Shirt of the Week. It's just so brutally perfect. Trying to figure out affordability, because with shipping the one I want (2x,charcoal gray) is $30. Grargh. But I love the idea of the shirt itself, and I love the DIY, POD aspect of the project. It shows some of the potential for creative use of the web on your own terms. That last part is so important; maintaining artistic and to some extent financial freedom is one of the more alluring aspects of putting your art and goods out on the web.
---I commented the other day on David Pomerico's post about the future and zombies. Given that I'm writing Aetas Nex, this is a topic near to my interests and to my slightly-swollen heart. Apocalypse and dystopia are great spaces for zombies to arise, and they have a versatility that can be exploited if you're willing to innovate and break a few rules. In the case of Aetas Nex,it becomes obvious that zombies are a symptom of a larger problem, and also themselves a dynamic force. For me, that was key: zombies cannot just all be brainless shamblers. Zombies develop, sometimes in lethal ways, sometimes in ways that are uncomfortable for the regular humans to face. Once they are a part of the world, and also harbingers of something bigger happening, they become more interesting as a subject themselves, and also a dynamic plot device that can throw a lot of surprises at the reader. I think there is still some potential for zombies to be useful in SF, and not just as lurching boogeymen.
And other boogeymen as well, but that is a post for another day.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Second, I have been afflicted with a series of respiratory ailments, including some weird month-long coughing affliction, that have left me barely enough energy to write a tweet or two, never mind write stories and thoughtful blog posts. It is slowly getting under control and I hope to be back to the keyboard soon. In my decrepitude I have been able to do some thinking about writing, and hit on some good ideas for continuing Aetas Nex and fleshing out the background of the main elements of the "Skull-face" story.
Third, that damned Cory Doctorow wrote a great piece on "radical presentism" in SF that is full of notions to respond to and ideas to unpack. I share his conclusion, but I think that there is much more to say about how this works.
OK, running out of steam already. More later.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Right after submitting the column I followed one of the links from the Mind Meld thing to a larger discussion collated at Lou Anders' blog. I love the quotation from James Enge about the effect of mainstreaming, but don't we already have that today with some of the paranormal romance stuff and SyFy movies? I think his remarks, and the article Lou points to, require some more consideration. After all, this kind of stuff is an important part of the social life of SF (as I talk about in my FoG column!).
But I am out of juice for today. Hopefully a bit more rest and good night's sleep will knock this bug or whatever out of me.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
1) My new column at Forces of Geek is up: go enjoy it!
2) I finished the rough draft of my story "A Fine Day to Watch the Dragons Die." Hopefully it will be read by a few folks and commented on so that I can get back to it over the weekend and polish it up. It needs work, especially towards the end, but it feels like the important elements are all there. I am thrilled that it's done. And what really got it done was giving myself a firm deadline and a basic word count. When I got stuck about 2/3rds of the way through, I had to set some endpoints, and once I did, it got done. Whew!
3) I decided on the next story and have begun writing it. The working title is "Skull-face, Hogtamer, and the Dead Cricket Society." It's hard to describe; the idea came out of a daydream I had after selling some Hunter S. Thompson and Beat books to what appeared to be a goth biker gang. It's part post-apocalyptic fable, part postmodern farce, and part thought-exercise on what's important about life. I think the hardest part will be maintaining a consistency of tone that incorporates all of those pieces. And not going insane half-way through.
4) Earlier in the week, in a bout of brain-freeze over my writing, I did some thumb-drive cleaning and I think I finally have all of my writing files in one place on my computer (and backed up on 2 different thumbs!). I found a lot of cool ideas and silly fragments. They aren't well-organized within the file, but they are there. I have a big pile of ideas; now to start breathing life into them. . . .
5) I think I found a good image to use for Fantasy Magazine's 2009 Halloween Flash Fiction and Graphic Contest. I just need to make sure I can use it. And, y'know, write a good 1,000-word story in a week.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Prepare for Blogging Tidbit Madness!
1) Writing output was low this week because the family was home. My wife is a Renaissance Faire performer and is on the road some weekends, and recently her father needed some help, so she is with him every other week, which means that I see her and our daughter for about 4 days every two weeks. This is a temporary thing for now, but it means that when they are here I try to concentrate on them and very little writing gets done.
2) However, I did do some organizing, which was great because I found some ideas and writing info in odd places. And I did it while engaging in razzberry contests with my daughter :-).
3) Felicia Day was interviewed by Wired AND Time this week. Quite a coup for an indy web entertainer! She was also on Jimmy Fallon's talk show, so she's getting some heavy press attention for herself and The Guild. I came to watch The Guild rather late (end of Season 2), but it's a great show and, most importantly to me, well-written. The amount of care that goes into the series, and the obvious affinity that Day has for the subject matter, comes through very clearly and makes it even more enjoyable to watch. I like the fact that despite their length each installment feels like a full TV episode. I credit some of that to the combination of concise dialogue and narrative pacing; without musical interludes, random pans of exterior settings, and other fillers that you find in many TV shows, The Guild boils your viewing experience down to the essentials and lets you connect to the moment the characters are experiencing. Without a lot of foreshadowing or extraneous character interaction, you are immediately plunged into the story. That unfiltered, yet down-to-earth, quality gives The Guild its combination of punch and hilarity.
4) It's Steampunk Month at Tor.com. This seems gimmicky, but so far I've enjoyed what they have to offer, including a guest blog from Cherie Priest and a roundup of steampunk animation, including the wonderfully-done The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello. I highly recommend it; not only is the story good, but the shadow-puppet animation sets an eerie, crisp visual tone to the tale. It is another good example of how short-form web entertainment can be done professionally and wonderfully.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Dorlé awoke to a rumbling chorus of dragon whimpers.
As he opened his eyes he had to shield them from scabs of mud that were flaking off of the hut wall next to his cot. The ground trembled like a rapped drumhead and sent a quivering melody through the stances and framework of the little shelter. Dorlé pulled his thin blanket over his head and buried his face into the bundled old deerhide that was his pillow, and waited for the shaking and flaking to stop.
After a few minutes quiet returned to the hut. Dorlé slipped out of his cot and right into his sandals. He looked around as he rose; the other two cots were empty, one neatly covered with a threadbare quilt, the other bereft of bedding. Two cups and plates sat on the only other piece of furniture in the shelter: a high, three-legged table with a round top, like an ogre’s barstool. A breadbox was between the plates, and a single bowl, crudded with soup stains. Near the table was a small fire whose thin smoke wound up to the smokehole in the roof, and through a few other holes near it.
This hut would be poor shelter if it rained much here. Dorlé went to the fire and opened the small stewpot that was hung over it on a rickety tripod. A burst of steam rolled out of it and he turned his head away so fast his ‘prentice lock whipped around and snapped its small iron burr into his forehead. He yelped and skipped away from the fire entirely. He stood rubbing his temple for a moment, swearing in his mother tongue. The dragons didn’t seem to know Kharutun, so he felt it safe to question their heritage and the gods they had served in the language’s harsh vowels and sighing suffixes.
He turned back to the fire and sniffed the steam curling over the stewpot. Old meat and sickly broth fought over the honor of making him gag. He coughed and snorted, and this time skipped away from the fire to the back door and pushed through the stiff goatskin cover into the morning.
He emerged into the beigeness of another day. The sun was filtered through clouds the color of trail dust and worn saddle leather. A few tints of gray delineated cloud banks, but the light that reached the ground was the kind that muted brightness and washed out dark tones. Sky and earth were the same color, except that the earth had slightly more vegetation. Dorlé walked to the small garden plot behind the hut and surveyed its lack of bounty. When they had first arrived, they had planted herbs, medicinals, wonder-leafs, and even some flowers. Bristletack had been coaxed to form around the plot to keep out vermin and a night-singer had been granted a home in the middle of the plot to call out when unfamiliar people came near.
Now it was little more than several disheveled rows of withered shoots and petals. A few things flourished, like the garlic and the pepperleaf. The toughest herbs and tubers stood out amongst the clusters of limp stems and frills. Dorlé walked up and down the rows, toeing a few plants, then he shrugged and bent down to pull what he hoped was some sort of onion. “All dying,” he muttered as he dug at the ground, which actually seemed quite black and moist.
“Not dying,” a dry voice said behind him. He tilted his head backwards until he could see the speaker, who stood with a slight bend on the roof of the world to Dorlé’s overturned eyes. “Not dying at all, pupil. Just. . .” the man sighed, his thick master’s braid, weighed down with silver stars and small wire-bound rubies, swaying next to his downcast face. “Just. . . bereft.”
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
There's more I want to say about this topic, because I think that the social life of SF is so important and that both the works and those who appreciate them exist in a tighter synergy than readers of most other types of books. And I am not just talking about SF fans being "bigger fans" than mystery or romance fans; the word synergy is very specific here. And I think that the significance of synergy could do with more discussion and a little critique. But that is for another day.
Enjoy the column. Please do comment.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I have not read Haldeman in a few years, but three of his books were an important part of my SF upbringing: his award-winning The Forever War, There is No Darkness (with his older brother Jack, who died in 2002), and his Vietnam memoir War Year (which I am honored to have a signed first of in my rather small collection). Haldeman's stuff was a mighty corrective to my earlier overdosing on Heinlein. I found Forever War and Darkness to be significant counterpoints to Starship Troopers and Space Cadet, two other formative books for my teenage years. Haldeman got deeper into his characters and the moral ramifications of people's actions than Heinlein, and didn't push the Big Ideas quite so hard. I felt that there was a little less agenda and a bit more space for me to engage the narrative as a reader and not be led around as forcefully.
I hope he recovers from this surgery. Do keep him in your thoughts.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
There is much sadness here this morning at Chez DragonTurtle. Hard on the heels of the death of Patrick Swayze, I awoke to find that my beloved Lucky Travel Clock, companion of my anthropological fieldwork and wanderings around Ireland and Great Britain, has lost two critical sections of the LCD display, which means that right now (8AM) the clock reads "E:OO." Rather than allow it to shamble on so disabled, I think it is time for the Lucky Travel Clock to be retired.
I thought that the Lucky Travel Clock would be with me for life. This was a foolish expectation, given that I bought it for $5.00 at some airport transit shop while on the way to my first field trip to Geneva, Switzerland. But it weathered over a dozen trips aboard, over a hundred tumbles to the ground, and being sat on dozens of times with no problems. I dropped it in the snow once and didn't realize it for twenty minutes, had to go back and find it as dusk fell in a creepy Swiss wood. I changed the batteries twice in twelve years. It was a survivor. It's called the Lucky Travel Clock because it's lucky, not because it bring luck to me, although I have found its survivability comforting and auspicious.
It has been a valued companion and a relic of my graduate school years. There are many fond memories associated with the Lucky Travel Clock. Sleeping in crowded hostel rooms, perched next to a hundred-year-old clock in a fine Irish hotel, serving as a light in a corridor on the way to the foyer bathroom. . . it has been a tool with many uses. It has weathered flatulent Peruvians, flooded tents, and several cats who thought that it was an fantastic toy. It wears its many tiny scars proudly and has had a full life. I rarely invest objects with emotion, but the Lucky Travel Clock has brought me joy and familiarity in strange places and kept me on time for innumerable meetings. I give it all the praise it is due, because it not only functioned well for quite a long time, it became a touchstone that boosted my confidence and readiness to face each day's challenges. It did not always succeed, but somehow starting every day by clicking the alarm OFF was a ritual that brought surety to the first few moments of each day.
Go in peace, old friend.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
“So, is this an art piece or something?”
She grimaced. “No, officer.” The stream’s water sluiced over the rocks, whispering of flow and vigor. Nothing else moved.
The cop sighed. “OK, what am I looking at then?”
She sighed back. “Either a miracle or a weird-ass suicide.”
He scratched his neck with his cheap pen. “Uh, right.” He bent down to examine the hat, unmoving in the afternoon breeze. He tugged at the brim; it stayed in place.
He looked up at her. “Why is the hat glued down?”
“It’s not. It’s just. . . there. Right where he stood. It won’t move. Neither will the rocks around it.”
The cop straightened up and shook his head. “Ma’am, it’s illegal to make crank calls like this.”
She gritted her teeth. “This is not a crank call.” She moved behind the hat. “Look, here’s what happened. My uncle called me and told me to meet him at our favorite picnic place along the estuary. When I asked why he said, ‘Because that is where things mix and change.’” He’s been acting weird the past few months, but I say OK and drive down here.” She took a step back. “When I get here, he’s standing by the creek’s edge, holding a stick in his right hand” she looked to her right and waved an unseen magic wand, “and a white feather in his left,” she nodded in the other direction, making her left hand flutter. “I ask him what he’s doing, and he says ‘travelling to a different stream.’ He mutters something glottal, tells me ‘I hope to see you there, dear,’ waves the stick and flutters the feather, and disappears.”
She rolled her eyes at the cop’s glare. “That’s what happened.”
“That’s nuts,” he replied. “You and your uncle are crazy.” He closed his notebook and pocketed his pen.
“My uncle was a lot of things, officer,” she said quietly, “and crazy was definitely one of them.” She looked downstream. “This is. . . genius?”
The officer grunted. “Sure, Ma’am. Look, you need to come with me. Pranks like this are. . . .”
“Oh sweet Aphrodite’s sweaty bodice! I am telling you. . . .”
The cop waved his hands and moved her aside. “You’re telling me that your crazy uncle waved these. . .” he bent down and scooped up the stick and feather, “said a few magic words,” he grumbled a bit of Spanish and waved them in the air, “and. . . “ he was cut off by the hat flying atop his head. He looked up at it, and disappeared.
* * * * * *
It was quiet. The estuary here was smaller, and there was snow on the rocks. The cop looked around. From downstream he heard a hum, and an old man on what looked like a flying Segway carved out of teak landed on the bank. He wore no hat, but had a big smile on his face.
“Hello,” he said.
Jay Lake put a flash-fiction challenge up on his blog, and I just finished writing that. I will post that separately so that I can put the link in his comments section. I made use of as many details from the scene as possible. Hopefully, it works for other readers. . . .
Working on the short story right now. The family has gone on an outing so the house is all mine, which means I need to write! So, back to it.
Monday, August 31, 2009
It kind of feels like a set-up too. The article is a social act, a ritual performance of a sort that is often seen in SF, and also in the wider writing world. It not only sets out an argument about the nature and proper design of the novel, it sends the reader a message about the author. The author positions himself (in this case) not only as an authority, but as both guardian and trailblazer of Good Literature. The author aligns himself with whatever movement or variety of literature he is championing, even as he interprets the literary world for the reader.
I've been jotting down ideas all day for a new column that picks up some of these ideas and lays them out. I think there's a lot to talk about, both in literary terms and in terms of the social life of literature and how we participate in it when diatribes such as these surface. The column is gonna be long, but I won't be able to talk about everything that I want to address, so I will continue my musings here.
Monday, August 24, 2009
"A Fine Day to Watch the Dragons Die" is coming along. I'll preview a bit of it here later and see what folks think. It's becoming a good challenge to get the point across without a lot of exposition. Desolate landscapes are quite helpful in that regard!
Aetas Nex has gotten a little attention, but as I soon as I write a few sentences something else pops up in my head. I did some revision of a previous scene that was very necessary to situating the characters. I am hoping to get back on track this week now that infestations are under control.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about the undead since I wrote my Forces of Geek column last week. There is a lot unsaid in that piece, and as the novel develops I find myself elaborating things I never thought would be necessary, such as how zombies might establish a chain of command, what it would be like to lose your life, come back as an impulsive beast, and eventually regain some of your consciousness. One of the oddest things about most zombie media is that being a zombie is a static condition. What if it developed, and not just in a way that made zombies either more lethal or weaker?
A lot to ponder. More later.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I am at a point with Aetas Nex where the dreaded hydra of Other Cool Ideas raises its bouquet of awful heads over the battlements of creativity. With short stories this is easy to fight off but with the novel it has been a bête noire. So I am calmly stuffing ideas and snippets into holding folders and staying on target. We'll see how well it works!
And now, some random cool stuff:
A) I urge you to go here and see the terrific photos that Kyle Cassidy took of fans at this year's Worldcon. A few famous faces pop up, but most of them are regular fan folk, and the set gives you some idea of the breadth of fans and their personalities.
B) I send the expected congratulations to this year's Hugo winners. There's been a lot of verbiage slung about concerning the validity and representative nature of these Awards (which I have participated in a bit), but those I have read are I think deserving, especially Neil Gaiman and Cheryl Morgan. Personally, I wanted Rushdie's Enchantress of Florence to get Best Novel. . . . But that's for the Snob Hugos, I guess. . . .
C) A nanofic, just for you:
"But darling. . . ."
She gave him the finger.
"Look, sweetheart, I know you're mad. . . ."
She did it again.
Sigh. "Baby, can't we just. . . ."
Finger, blue-polished nail. In his face.
His jaw hardened. "C'mon, you have to listen. . . ."
Finger, an inch from his nose, waggling.
Exaperated sneer. He gave her the finger.
She smiled. "Now we're communicating."
D) I found a bunch of older stories and I want to put a few up for folks to read and ponder and, perhaps, discuss. But they were written on that archaic creation known at The Typewriter and they must be scanned in for perusal by the Internet. I'll get them up at some point.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Fortunately, a deadline kicked me back into action. Here is my latest Forces of Geek column. Please take a look and comment. I hope to expand on that column later, either here or on FoG, so feedback would be lovely.
I am crafting a new writing schedule, and my goal is to start it right away. I will put something new up here within the next few days. Thanks to everyone who keeps checking in! Keep watching this space!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Just a few little tidbits for now; tomorrow will be a half-day of writing and I'll at least whip up a flash or two. But for now, these messages:
1) I had fun writing for SFSignal's Mind Meld, about my favorite short stories. My entry is about two-thirds of the way down. I hope to contribute to more Melds in the future.
2) I'm planning my next FoG column, and there are several different topics that I want to write about. Do any of these stand out in particular?
a) A column on Readercon, focusing on how different it is from most other cons and what I gleaned from the panels.
b) The Generation Gap in SF. There was an online poll about this recently that a number of writers responded to, and their answers got my anthropological curiosity aroused, so I pondering writing a column that talks about the differences between younger and older SF fans. My first thought is that there is less of a generation gap than a difference in how people participate in the subcultures.
c) Near-Future SF & Its Anxieties: This idea is an elaboration on a debate that erupted during a talk by David Williams at LASFS. I find the questions raised by this exchange to be intriguing, especially so since I subscribe to Gene Wolfe's notion that science fiction is a form of fantasy that has an aura of factuality about it. Why must Near-Future SF be somehow more precise in its science and political extrapolation?
Off to ponder.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
It's a bit long, but as an introduction I think it works. I really wanted to talk about the roots of my SF fandom and the fact that even from the beginning this was much more important to me than a hobby. I want to talk about books and trends in SF from the social angle, and I thought it important to show people how my perspective came about. Hopefully, it is also entertaining.
I just spent the morning cleaning the column up and doing all the technical posting stuff, but it looks like I did everything correctly. I'm gonna go walk the dogs and do some dishes now, to step back from this.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Lilith Saintcrow wrote a good piece discussing how writers should use social networking media. It's worth a look not just for writers but for most artists and for people who work in the public eye. I am going to apply some of her advice to this blog and to my Twitter, which is becoming my writer's chatterbox. For this blog, that includes more book reviews and putting up some of my older writing. I am also working on a writer's resume, and going back into my archives to look at my work (creative work in undergrad, some advocacy and journalism as a grad student, etc.). I also hope to dig up my first published story and either post a link to it or get permission ot put it up as a pdf on the blog. I think I will refrain from putting my NEH grant paper on tropes of transculturation in Colonial America, however.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I have returned from Readercon (and survived the day after which was a heinously busy day at work!). It was great. I attended some fine panels (and a few less-than-fine), met two of my literary heroes, and absorbed a lot about SF and writing. A more detailed summary will appear [soon!], and I am considering what to focus on for a Forces of Geek column. I think I will have a better idea of what I want to delve into after I write up a report.
Highlights of the con were four in number:
1) Met Samuel R. Delany and Gene Wolfe. I went to their respective Kaffeeklatsches and got to thank them both for their influence on my writing. I got to chat with Mr. Delany more than Mr. Wolfe, and also got him to sign my copy of Nova and a copy of The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. I even got a picture (as seen above)!
2) The Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition. It was even funnier than last year, perhaps because this year it was a Tournament of Champions. I love how writers can be both creative and silly simultaneously in this format, and Eric Van is a great MC.
3) Books! There were values galore in the Bookshop this year, and a fair number of freebie books as well. I got some great stuff; not a lot of collector's items, but a pile of good books. Going around the Bookshop is like traveling through a museum, a carnival, a networking node, and a bazaar at the same time.
4) Cousin. I went with my cousin Frank, which made for a relaxing, funny, sometimes snarky weekend. It was fun to spend time with him and to do things like cruise the Bookshop. It was also fun to get yelled at by him for not getting Howard Waldrop to sign a book he gave me :-).
Given the above, I have done very little writing since Wednesday. But I will be back to it tomorrow. The novel beckons, as does a short story, and of course a Readercon report.
A sad note: Charles Brown died on his way home from Readercon. The guiding hand of Locus
was an important influence on the field, and I wish I had done more than just say "Hi Mr. Brown!" the last time that I saw him.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I liked his invocation of Penny Dreadfuls, in the context of creating stories for people reading on their phones or Kindles or Woeboxes. I'm not sure that I agree with his percentages of story composition (mostly because I think we need to broaden what we offer), but I am pondering the utility of paying more attention to structure in the composition of stories for new media. I like the serial idea quite a lot because authors can use it for subscription writing and can make their stories less predictable and flexible. I think there are exciting possibilities and challenges for writing in this format, and I look forward to trying them!
I withdraw, but first, a nanofiction:
"It's a unicorn horn," the young man said.
"It's a dildo," the old man said.
The young man traced its growth swirls. "Horn. Unicorn."
The old man tapped the worn, rounded tip. "Horn. Pleasure."
Youthful sigh. "Found in woods." Old grumble: "No dead horse."
The woman smiled. "Why not both?"
The faeries giggled knowingly.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Looks like my Forces of Geek premiere will be after the 4th. Woe! Hopefully it won't be over the weekend because I think it won't get a lot of reading. We shall see!
I have sketched out ideas for the next two columns. One is about the complications of near-future SF (with some examples for recent literature) and the other is about the elasticity of "SF" in the speculative fiction sense and how that fires us up as readers. The former bounces off of an idea I've been working on for a couple of stories and also off of some recent debates (such as one between David Williams and Jerry Pournelle, which can be viewed here). The latter will probably get some input from my trip to Readercon next week and some discussions of genre proliferation, such as the debate over slipstream fiction.
The ideas are coming pretty fast; now I just need the time to start writing them.
I am also starting to think about the formal process of submitting to short story markets and (once it's got more depth and polish) showing Aetas Nex to a few agents. That is a little farther down the road, but I've been doing some research about it and I think that by the time I feel ready to do I'll have a better idea about the best approach. I might put some of those ideas up here a little later.
As part of this growing plan, I am likely going to stop opendrafting Aetas Nex soon. It gets very little commentary and I feel that I am getting more comfortable with my writing process. I started doing the draft this way to perhaps get attention (at least from friends) and maybe some feedback and encouragement as I got back into the writing groove, but given that I think more about how it is not being read, it makes more sense to continue the draft the old-fashioned way.
More thoughts tomorrow, and a bit of nanofiction as well!
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Aetas Nex is over 15K words, which I think is about a quarter of the novel. I'm about to hit the first major plot tangle and I'm happy about its general progress.
Wrote a short story in a day (see previous blog post); not a great one, but one that at least went from point A to point B. I've doodled a few flash fics, and have been filling the ideas file with possible subjects.
I should be up on Forces of Geek with my first column this week; because it is Week Five of June the editor is inserting new writers along with bios. I will let folks know when it is finally up.
There are a couple of things I would like to query y'all about, to wit:
1) One idea is for a YA fictional blog entitled "Ginny Sterling's Jetpack Future," It's a "retro-blog" from the future (completely unauthorized and using her mother's latest scientific discovery) which combines some space opera and some fable-like tales of the aforementioned future (where there are, indeed, jetpacks). The question is, has anyone heard of something similar? I have done a bit of Googling but found nothing yet.
2) I'm also developing a kinda-meta, kinda-satirical superhero comic (which I think I pitched to my imaginary editor as "Watchmen and The Boys go out and get drunk with Madman") called (quite imaginatively!) "The Force" about a small group of government-sponsored heroes who end up questioning a lot of their ideals and certitudes about their job. I don't suppose anyone knows an artist who is looking for something to do for exposure and experience that might want to do something like this?
Sunday, June 28, 2009
@nerdist now I want to write a satirical, snarky story entitled "The Return of Jesus' Holy Winchester."
So I did. Here it is. Warning: it's really weird, and completely unpolished. And I'm ill too. If I can think of more qualifiers I'll let you know. Oh yeah, the baby's been cranky today and our shopping trip was longer than planned.
"The Return of Jesus’ Holy Winchester"
Let me tell you all a story, of how we got where we are now, at the end of the world.
Some thought it would be nuclear war that stilled the heart of humanity. Others thought that we would cook the planet until it was a barren rock. And, some folks of a religious bent thought that a chosen one of God would return to guide us to the End Times. Well, they turned out to be kinda right, but not in the way they thought.
It was a partly-cloudy, almost-rainy kind of day in a small Kentucky town. The local minister had called for a “Guns for Jesus” day, for all parishioners to bedeck themselves in their shiny talismans of potency and congregate to show the Lord how ready they were to use their weapons in His Name. They came with their duty pistols, they came with their war relics, they came with the cheap snub-nose they’d bought for home protection. Jude White brought his best competition single-shot, and his wife came in the regalia of a pirate, three flintlock pistols in their bandolier across her chest, causing as many people to gape at the artifacts as at the effects of the bandolier on highlighting her bosom. You see, no town in the world loved guns the way this town did, and few if any congregation loved Jesus more. So they came with every gun they could strap to their persons, and sang Hosannas and hymns, old-timey folk tunes and creaky gospel airs, and a new song, penned by the pastor’s wife, about Jesus and his favorite gun, the Winchester rifle.
And we all know what happened next. As the final notes of that tune arose in the air, the clouds bunched up over the church, lightning flared, and something dropped like a celestial needle from the sky and impaled itself in the pastor’s wife’s skull. The blood that fountained from that wound touched 18 people and burned them like acid, scarring them with scarlet splotches that would forever more burn red when a heathen, apostate, or Marxist was near. The wife, name of Lucinda, fell to her knees but did not collapse, for the object from the sky had impaled itself to the trigger guard and served to make her body rigid, do that in death she knelt on the lawn of the church, with a Winchester long rifle skewering her mortal form.
People ran. People screamed. People snapped pictures and video with their phones and Blackberries. People called 911. People fell to their knees, like Lucinda, and prayed. A few drew their pistols and fired them wildly in to the air, even though they were supposed to be unloaded (they later claimed that a miracle had loaded their guns so that they could discharge them in Glory to God). The Earth shuddered and made the church bells ring one peal.
The arriving paramedics could neither shift Mrs. Timity nor dislodge the rifle. The first one to touch the gun was surrounded by white light and smote for his arrogance. There was some debate by the first-responders as to what to do, and it was decided that a fireman would use special tongs to try to pry it out. The tongs melted and took the fireman’s hands with them. A police bomb squad was put in hospital, as were a hazmat squad, several DARPA researchers who where choppered in from DC, and a special Army unit flown in via super-secret scramjet from Roswell, NM. For the remainder of the day the authorities tried to move the corpse and its heavenly executioner from the lawn of the church, but to no avail.
As darkness fell, a number of dark vehicles arrived in town. From them emerged a constellation of religious dignitaries, who parted the sea of gawkers and newspersons and marched solemnly from the municipal parking lot to the church. They brought saints’ fingers and rosaries, phylacteries and crystals, all manner of splendid relic and tome; gilt-edged Bibles were jockeying with hermetically-sealed boxes containing ancient scriptures as bishops and rabbis and mullahs and High Priestesses surged through the rabble to the site of what was already being called “The Miracle of the Gun.”
Each one circled the spectacle in turn, rubbing their chins and wishing they could scratch their itchy crotches (as most of them wore regalia unsuited for a warm Kentucky summer). They pursed their lips, nodded a lot to cover their incredulity, and then stalked off to confer with someone back at headquarters.
By dawn of the following morning, it was obvious that they were stumped. Minions had been sent to archives and Google searches had been conducted on the even the most hyper-secret of the internets, but all of the religious leaders had to admit that they had no idea what this was. One of them, a Baptist elder of some sort, turned to the church’s pastor in exasperation. “Well, what do YOU think?” he asked him, a curl rolling across his lips.
“It must be wrested from her corpse like the Sword in the Stone,” he intoned gravely. “It is the Holy Winchester of Jesus, and only one worthy of His Grace can possibly do so.” Some of the leaders chuckled into their robes and funny hats, but most shrugged. They had no explanation; maybe the man whose wife had been selected to, as he called it “receive the gift of the gun” had some theological insight?
For three days, a search was conducted to find those of the most pure hearts and minds. A hundred videoconferences were conducted to discuss criteria of candidates, to determine what order they should attempt to remove the gun from its sheath, to wonder aloud just what a candidate should wear to the event. Could they wear religious symbols or just a plain robe? Should they all be completely shorn to be humbled for the test? And most importantly, could they carry a sidearm? Criteria for all of these considerations were drawn up, including rules for proper firearm use during the ceremony.
Finally, all was decided. The list was drawn up and the candidates, all dressed in nondiscrept casual businesswear (the only viable compromise), lined up. The first three, a Sikh holy man, a druid priestess, and the leader of the largest pay-per-service church in the US, all had their turn. They strode forward dramatically and grasped the rifle’s handle, shouting out an exultation to their god.
And each one was fried into a single cinder, about a yard long and an inch wide.
By the third one, most of the remaining candidates had decided that cinderhood was not for them. A fourth, a young Jain man, did not even touch the weapon; a spark leapt out and scorched him into another ashen snake on the ground. The few remaining candidates backed away, save one, a middle-aged Franciscan named Dewey, who suddenly smiled and stepped forward. He knelt in front of Mrs. Timity, held her cold cheeks in his hands, and kissed her forehead, right on a big clot of blood. She shuddered and collapsed, and he leaned over the jerked the weapon from her body. It came out clean and shiny.
He held it aloft. “Behold!” he said. “A lesson to us from God! He has sent a terrible power among us, to test our worthiness for further blessings! This weapon is a warning, a prophecy, that tells us to turn away from. . . “ and then his head exploded, torn asunder by three well-placed rounds from Pastor Timity’s .50 handgun.
“. . . timidity! Embrace the new power that God had brought among us,” the pastor finished. He walked over to Dewey’s twitching corpse and stood over the weapon. “This is a sign, indeed, that God gives us a new grace, the Grace of the Gun!” He looked down at poor Dewey’s body. “God allowed this. . . pacifist. . . to show us that anyone can grasp that grace, but must then be willing to defend it!” He held his monstrous .50 high. “This is God’s call to arms!”
Everyone stared at him like he was a mutant Venus-Flytrap preaching vegetarian cannibalism, then most of them picked up a firearm and gunned the pastor down.
Things began to fall apart after that, as governments and religious hierarchies and every crazy idiot on the planet tried to get ahold of the Holy Winchester. For weeks running battles were waged, until finally a crack squad of Swiss Guards, using the UN’s special black helicopters, spirited the Winchester away (swaddled in a fragment of Jesus’ funerary shroud) to the most secure room of the Vatican, one even more secure and unknown than anything in a Dan Brown novel.
There, it was decided that the holiest of bishops would hold the Gun, to try to divine its true purpose. Grasping it through the tatters of the shroud, he closed his eyes and raised the gun before him. For a moment, nothing, then vapors began to arise from his hands, and his eyes snapped open. The bishop gasped and his hands began to smoulder. “Any man. . . of true faith. . . who doth,” he coughed, and some blood dribbled over his lips, “shoot his foe with a Winchester. . . shall,” his knees started to buckle, and the smell of divinely-purged flesh filled the room with its magical, charred perfume, “. . . never . . . miss!” And with that he fell, dead as a rag doll, and a halo limned his visage just long enough for eight people to take a picture with their cellphone cameras.
The pope’s secretary looked at the captain of the Swiss Guards. “Does that make any sense to you?”
The captain did not reply, because by the time he opened his mouth millions of people had heard the prophecy and made up their own minds. Those lucky few with Winchesters took them outside and began shooting things at random. They shot blindfolded, they shot at night, they shot through paper walls, they shot in the opposite direction of their target. And in every instance they hit their intended target. Within hours, the world knew of this most holy of blessings.
Unfortunately, some enterprising young gentleman in the Levant realized the significance of this prophecy, so he arranged to borrow an antique Winchester from his rich uncle and fired three shots from it into the air. The first travelled sub-orbitally and shattered the brain-pan of the President of the United States, while the other two travelled a gentler arc and blew out the left ventricle chambers of the Pope and the Grand Ayatollah of Iran. As he was about to fire his fourth shot (destined for the Prime Minister of Israel), security forces burst in on him and shot him dead (not with Winchesters, so it took many rounds to do so). They had gotten tipped off by the fact that the gentleman had Twittered his intentions to his 6.510 followers earlier that morning.
By that time, the cat was not only out of the bag, but it had clawed all of the furniture into pieces and had spawned a swarm of kittens who did the same.
The Holy Winchester is to this day still in the Vatican, where it is said they have tried every method possible to destroy it. Possessing a Winchester, which is now officially an Avatar of God’s (or Gods’) Wrath , means instant execution, unless the holder sees them coming. We all carry guns now, in the hopes that God will make our aim as true as those of Jesus’ Holy Winchester.
Friday, June 26, 2009
"Where to Place Your Anger"
"The kitten peed. On the bed."
He looked up from Candide, smirking. "Quite the social commentator," he smarmed.
She cursed him, Mandarin-style, and stormed out.
He smiled, kept reading. You would think he could hear a mattress dragging his way, but it wasn't until it struck, wet side down, that he knew what was up.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In other news, I will be a columnist for the website "Forces of Geek" soon. I will let you know when the first column gets posted. The column will run biweekly, and maybe become more frequent later. We'll see.
I am quite happy about this.
I want to get more writing into this blog also, so I am going to start putting up flash- and nanofictions also. They are fabulous exercises and a lot of fun to write, and sometimes I need the reminder that writing can be pure joy.
Here is an older piece to kick things off:
"Truth and Power"
"This spell will make me a god!"
"Of what worth is that?" the old man queried, undistracted from his leathern tome.
Quizzical wrinkles pinched the boy's face. "Worth?! I will rule all!"
A smile shifted twinkling spectacles. "What god rules all? And how much responsibility is theirs?"
Pause. "Gods are still cool. . . " the boy moped.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I wrote about 600 words tonight, and I should have something to post tomorrow. I don't think it will be very good, but if I can at least get some of the bare bones down and create a link between Chapter One and the next plot point I will have enough of a foundation to get onto some very cool stuff.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I have a good idea of where the next scene is going but I really want to skip ahead to something more engaging down the line (Chapter Two, essentially), but I want to work out the moment between. I actually surprised myself with one element of the last scene and am I curious what that element will do to the storyline. I should be able to work on that tomorrow evening.
And, as stated before, do feel free to let people know about this. The more readers, the more potential feedback, and I am hoping to stimulate more feedback as the story develops.
Monday, June 1, 2009
A concern I have with the current scene is that it reveals too much too fast about the bad guys. What do folks think? It's necessary for some plot down the line for Hark and Petal to know about these variant types, but should it happen in the first encounter? Still pondering that one. . . .
Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
I've gotten some useful feedback from several people, for which I thank them. I'm keeping a running list of ideas to add and phrases to rethink. I also find myself going to the plot outline file (which is actually rather thin at the moment) to flesh things out and make connections as I write scenes. This exercise is off to a good start!
Thanks, and keep reading!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
What follows is the first part of the opening chapter for a novel currently titled AETAS NEX. The title will make sense pretty quickly, I hope. I do not want to give too much away, other than to say that once you figure out what the story is about, you've come to the beginning of what the story is really about.
Comments are very necessary. Even just a quick note to say that you read it would be great. Critique would be even better.
15 April 2012
It’s tax day. I just realized that as I wrote the date. This time last year I was scrambling to find the last of my travel receipts, shove them into an envelope, and head over to Karen’s office to turn it all into something vaguely official. The little basket that I toss the slips into is still sitting half-full on top of the windowsill next to my desk. It has a lot fewer slips in it than it did last year.
I haven’t left the house in about three weeks. Will, Kendra, and I decided that a trip to the convenience store in Richford was necessary if we were going to keep getting hit by more snow. March snowstorms aren’t unusual up here, but a solid week of blizzard had drained a lot of our fuel supplies, even after siphoning gas out of the McHughs’ pickup truck. The thaw was incomplete, and Will figured that the weather was going to turn bad again quickly. You could see it in the gray sky that kept filling with clouds, in the bend of the trees still burdened by ice and crusty, dense snow that refused to leave them. The quiet of the woods was the worst; when the snow abated the wind died down and everything was still. Nothing moved, nothing made a sound.
But if snow was returning we needed to grab what we could and hole back up. I think we also hoped that a trip down to the town might reveal more about what was going on. Maybe we would encounter people this time, find a working radio (the batteries in mine had died in late February), something. . . .
On a good day it’s a half-hour drive to crossing in Richford. On unplowed hillside roads it took nearly three hours. The snow came up to the windows, and if it wasn’t for the makeshift plow Kendra had rigged up and the above-freezing temperatures I doubt we would have gotten out to the main road. But we did, and we got to the little store, and fifteen minutes I was frantically driving away from the crossing, Kendra screaming for me to stop as I barreled up the hill, hoping I had enough momentum to get to the top.
Will hadn’t even had a chance to scream. I really, really hope they ate him.
The snow did return, for just a few days, and then a long, slow thaw began. It’s still chilly for this time of year, and the woods are like a shattered field of spears behind my house. The snowpack has left some of the ground, but everything beneath is still brown. The sky has cleared up to some extent but I have yet to see the sun unfiltered by clouds. October may have been the last time I saw a completely blue sky.
I hope it is different elsewhere. When the news was on it sounded as if some places were less hard-hit than others. It wasn’t bad here for the first few weeks, and I know people tried to prepare, but once they got to Whitney Point (coming up 81, I suppose), things became horrible quickly.
That’s when Emma and Jace went in with the McHughs for some kind of meeting. She called me when they got there; she talked for about 11 seconds. She gurgled for 4 more, and when all I heard was wet ripping I hung up. I called eighteen other numbers and no one picked up. 911 was busy. That night we lost the satellite dish. My last news of the outside world was the sound of my wife choking on her own blood, after telling me that she loved me and that the world had ceased to be what we thought it was.
I hope that whoever reads this never hears that. I hope that whomever reads this never has to leave his teenage daughter behind to watch her boyfriend being. . . . Well, if you’re reading this, you probably know what was being done to him.
I wanted to write this letter to talk about what has happened. I wanted to write the story of my family. I wanted to tell someone what’s been inside me the past three weeks that no amount of tears, weed, or screaming can dull or exorcise. But I can’t do any of these things; they melt into each other and harden into memories that should be unreal. I can’t tell you my wife’s last words, or what Will’s warning sounded like, or how I made it back to the car. Those details have been fused into what I cannot get rid of, this hot cannonball in my stomach, the burning behind my eyes, sudden flashes of noise and light. I have almost frozen to death twice because I forgot to stoke the fire; I can never remember my previous meal. Everything melds into the thing that makes my muscles ache every waking moment.
I cannot name it; I hope that you will never feel it. I hope that, when this letter is found, you will know a different world.
Hark blinked hard as he finished reading the letter. It was written on a few sheets of fancy resume paper using a felt-tip marker of some kind. The quality paper had soaked up the ink and blurred the words a bit. The pen, cap off, was next to it on the desk. Hark had found the chair on its back across the room, but other than that the room was undisturbed.
He shook his head, looked over to the windowsill where a poorly-woven basket held some papers. His companion, a young, wiry woman with poorly-shorn blond hair, unfolded her arms and sighed. "Another flowery-ass letter about hope,” he grunted. “Poor bastard." He started to crumple the pages but the young woman growled and held out her hand. "Dude," she rasped. He handed it to her with an apologetic incline of his head. She dug a small journal from her backpack, folded the letter carefully, and put it in the journal. It’s pages were stuffed with other papers that were slowly exceeding its capacity to contain them. She crammed the book back into her dusty pack, then moved over to the south window.
"Do you like this for the night?" she asked, looking downhill.
He sighed hard, put a hand on the tabletop. "Guess so. Haven't seen anything better for over two days. Can't sleep in the open again."
"Yeah," she replied, still looking outside. "That sucked. And maybe rain coming tonight." She seemed to fixate on something in the distance, then looked down at the floor. "Barricade or rabbit?"
"Barricade I guess. Doors are easy to secure, and that’s the only unboarded window ‘cause it’s got shutters. Should hold long enough for us to get up and away. We can scurry out under the place and head out the side while they pound on the door and windows. That way we can both sleep."
"Yeah," she said slowly, moving back from the window and then looking around her at the interior of the cottage. "It seems pretty deserted around here. Maybe we can get a good night's rest here."
“Mmh,” he replied. “Sure better than a burned-out car.”
The woman put her hand on the butt of a revolver that was jammed in her belt. “Never doing that again. I’ll sleep in a fucking graveyard first.”
As they went back to check the kitchen Hark remembered, briefly, that in high school he had dreamt of being buried in the remains of his vintage Mustang, enshrouded by twisted metal. He scowled. “Dumb fuck,” he muttered, and then stopped worrying about the past as he opened the cupboard and found a row of canned beans.