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Month: May 2008

How many miles to Babylon

How many miles to Babylon


I spent the last few days stressing out about having to include a “short bio” with a submission for an anthology that will in all likelihood reject my story anyway. It's funny how these things can seem so huge. I ended up in Forward Motion, because they are wonderful, helpful people. The advice and help that I got there was excellent and got the job done.

So, that done, I submitted the story — with one change. I have rewritten the first page of this story so many times I've lost count — often due to my interpretation of an editor's comments. As a result it just wasn't the first paragraph that I had loved anymore, so many drafts ago. So I decided to trust myself, and change it back.

I don't know if that's the right thing to do. I don't know if it's stronger or weaker for it. And this may sound like some kind of emotional masturbation, but I think I'm going to try to trust myself in my writing for a little while. That does not mean I won't accept critique — just that I'm going to stop second-guessing every goddamn word I write.

I had hoped to get a new story out the door by the end of May — that's not going to happen. But at least I got this one turned around and back out without the usual wondering whether I should retire it.

Now it's time to watch a movie and relax. Thanks, FM folks. I appreciate your help. I wouldn't have got even this far without you.

(And I still have so far to go.)

Well, shit.

Well, shit.

And now, a few words from Mr. Neil Gaiman (not the first time on this blog):

And as a writer, or as a storyteller, try to tell the stories that only you can tell. Try to tell the stories that you cannot help but tell, the stories you would be telling yourself if you had no audience to listen. The ones that reveal a little too much about you to the world. It’s the point I think of writing as walking naked down the street: it has nothing to do with style, or with genre, it has to do with honesty. Honesty to yourself and to whatever you’re doing. – Neil Gaiman

And now, a word from Ray Bradbury

And now, a word from Ray Bradbury

“Since then, I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” – Ray Bradbury



Not a lot of new words, but several new ideas. 

Via Stonetable I found this post on the use of log lines in fiction.  Seemed like a great idea, so I thought I'd give it a shot on the current work in progress.  I came up with a couple of really dreadful log lines, but one of them sent me off in a new direction, and just in time.  I am at 1439 words on this one.  As usual there is far more dialogue than narrative.  It's yet another short story that seems to want to be a comic book script.

Which brings me to an idea I had last week as I was trying to plan out the next few months of writing projects. 

I am going to continue doing the incessant rounds of submission and rejection with the print and online markets.  That's probably not sounding like a revelation to anyone but me — see, I was really thinking of dropping that whole cycle and just going straight to Creative Commons and publishing on a web site.  The paradigm is shifting, and I really do want to be a part of that. 


There's a part of me that says that I'd be 'giving up' the original dream of being published by someone else, of getting that validation, and if I'm extremely lucky, a paycheck. 

So I think I've come up with a compromise: adaptation.

I can't put unpublished work on the web, because that's 'publication' and publishers will not accept it unless they accept reprints.  Okay.  But there is no reason I couldn't post adaptations or derivative work from those unpublished manuscripts.  What I'm getting at is that if my schedule allows it, what I'd like to do is adapt the short stories as comics scripts, and post those on the web under Creative Commons.

What excites me most about the idea is that if I do that, artists can then feel free to draw to those scripts.  I'd be giving something to the community.  Paying into the dream, playing a real part in building that share-alike world that Patrick and I talk about and that others (including him) are working so hard to create. 

So.  That's what I'm thinking about.

The narrative fiction remains the priority though.  I have developed yet another mind-game sort of schedule for myself, and the scripting only happens if I meet my narrative goals. 

Mind games

Mind games

I'm back to working on the ramp-up to productivity.  Yesterday's goal was 250 words, today's was 300.  I met them both.  Tomorrow will be 350, etc.  until I reach the 1k mark, because that's where I should be.  When I'm on my game, when my brain is flexible enough, when I do the problem-solving during the day away from the keys so that when I sit down I'm just on the task of writing, it's only an hour or two of work. 

I'm using the techniques that have worked for me in the past: the sound track, the word count goal, intermittent free-writing (which is really just a way to talk to myself without annoying the family.)

I think I can get this one done in fewer than 3k words, which will be a record for me.  It's just topped 1k today, and I don't think I have very far to go.  This is good.  Even if I kept at 250 words a day, I should still have finished the first draft in a week. 

These are the games that I play with myself.  The carrot is being able to call something 'done.' 

We're going to go see Iron Man today, and I can now do so with a clear conscience.  I think I'm going to go clean up my half of the office a bit right now — I've been working in the t.v. room, and that's not always going to work.  (For instance, even with headphones on the theme to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cut right through, and that is not particularly conducive to writing dark fantasy.)  Besides, we have an office now.  I think in the little house I got so accustomed to not having my own space that now that I finally do, it's uncomfortable to use it. 

Stupid brain.  But it made words today, so it gets a cookie. 

With our freak flag flyin'

With our freak flag flyin'

So Elizabeth Bear linked to this article  on Thursday.  I opened it in a tab in my browser and promptly forgot about it for two or three hours (and a glass or two of wine.)  When I returned to it, my first reaction was “what the hell am I reading?” followed swiftly by “oh my god… EXACTLY.”  Go read it, and then come on back.

Here's the thing.

I LOVE the term “speculative fiction.”  It's the term I use when people ask me what I write.  I more often than not have to define it for them as best I can, (“You know.. sci-fi, fantasy, horror kind of stuff…”) and know that invariably they still don't really know what it is that I write.  That's because everything I write is different.  I write fairy tales, psychological horror (badly, I might add,) bio-based sci-fi, stuff that would have fit well on The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, if I were writing scripts, and contemporary fantasy and magical realism.  If I knew dick about the Victorian era and its technology I'd also be writing steampunk, but that's another post entirely.

The thing is, all of that fits under one umbrella… somehow.  It's What I Write.  They all seem related to me.  They always have.  The stuff that I read seems related — Douglas Adams sits next to Neil Gaiman on my shelf, and apart from being British they don't really have a damn thing in common.  T.H. White's The Once and Future King goes nicely with Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game and Stephen King's The Stand.  They go together.  They just do.

I occasionally notice this thing that Mr. Morgan talks about here, what he calls the “more relevant than thou” attitude.  And I, like him, just don't give a fuck.  It's a big tent, and we can all fit in here.

I'm not in a position where these things can really bother me.  Nobody knows me or my writing, and maybe they never will.  Nobody is going to be disparaging my stuff as irrelevant because frankly nobody's ever seen it.  But what I know is that I, Reader, do not sort my loves into 'relevant' and 'passe'.  I read what I love. 

I do not love crime fiction.  I do not love mystery.  I do not — Cthulhu help me — I do NOT love memoir.  I do not love romance, erotica, or thrillers. I rarely can get behind anything that does not contain the elements of fantasy, horror (which typically is fantasy, but scary,) or sci-fi.  (Notable exception: T.C. Boyle.)  But my heart absolutely swells for anything in the SpecFic tent.  Even if I don't love the story (you've seen me gripe and nit-pick a bit here before) I love the writer for going there.  I love the stuff that says “what if the world/universe was not as it actually is, what if it were like this instead.” 

We're artists.  Don't we all get that?  And art is subjective.  The idea of sci-fi writers bitching about who is more relevant than whom conjures caricature images of art gallery snobs, claiming that a stark red canvas is more relevant than, say, Chagall.  It is subjective — you like it or you don't.  There is no good or bad, better or best.  You like it, or you don't.

You know what I don't really dig, even in our tent?  Space operas. Also, vampire stories. But they're still written, and they still sell, and I absolutely love that people are writing and reading them, and who the FUCK gets to say that they shouldn't?!!

It's a big goddamn tent, and it's got a number of banners flying over it: skulls, dragons, spaceships, dripping butcher knives, gene sequences, robots, broomsticks.  I LOVE this tent.

And anyone who thinks we should take down any one of those flags can get the fuck out.  I'll be over here in the corner, reading a book. 

Maybe even theirs.