The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened for practice yesterday, and that can mean only one thing! Yes! Launch day is finally here! John C. Bodin and I are pleased to announce that we’ve made a short anthology of our Indy 500 collaborations available in e-formats.
You can find it in these places:
This work includes or two previously published works “Oh-oh” and “The Day the Track Stood Still,” as well as “Speeding,” an original story written just for this collection.
Interested in a print version? We’re looking into releasing a print version, also. More on that later. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a print version, drop me an email (ron_at_typosphere.com) and I’ll let you know when it’s available.
Work (among other things) is kicking my tail this week. That’s what happens when you have two full days of off-site training, I guess. It’s all good, though. I guess. I also went to a local writer’s group session, wherein I passed back a read of Bill Johnson’s next novel. His first, Earth 2.0: Prison Planet, is pretty good (especially if you like your SF as an equal part space opera and pulpy goodness). This one is even better.
Anyway, this morning I finished adding a new section of episode six of my Lords of Existence series. Definitely needed that. For the first time, I think the whole story is now together. I’ll take a and give the whole thing a single-setting read to see what I think then. This is actually one problem with doing the morning writing thing–it’s hard to find a long stretch of time to do one consolidated read of anything long. Perhaps this is another reason I find so much enjoyment of the short story field. While I’m constantly reading in small stints of time, I like absorbing things in their entirety. Similarly, working on long, novel length pieces using an hour or two a day feels a lot like the old story about blind me describing an elephant.
Perhaps that’s just me, though. Yes, I know … first world problems … woe is me. Whatever. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the weekend.
John Bodin and I are, once again, committing collaboration on another piece inspired by the Indy 500. These are great fun to write. First, I think John’s a great idea guy, and so that’s just fun to be around. Second, writing about the 500 reminds me of my grandfather, who made his living running a service station, and whose passion for cars and auto racing almost certainly instilled a similar interest in me (though don’t expect me to fix much of anything on a car these days). I will always remember sitting on his back porch and listening to the race on an old radio on a hot day in May, the aluminum glasses of coke we had sitting on a wire-frame table and sweating in the humidity of the noontime in late May.
Anyway, John sent me a draft of a story a few days back. I read it through the first time and, sure enough, it had some great ideas in it, and characters of interest, and a twist that was so, so sweet. I let it sit a day and went back to it. Yes, it was missing a bit, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I did some streamlining, mostly to get a feel for the characters. I took maybe 400 words out of the story. Then, as I was finishing up that activity I was struck by some questions. I spent five minutes in a furious free-writing exercise wherein I created a paragraph each about who these characters were, and what they cared about. As I went upstairs I thought about their family lives–who do they have close to them? What were their dreams? Had they achieved them? How did those dreams drive their actions in the story?
And then (warning: stereotypical cliche coming) in the shower (yes, I know, too much info), it hit me what needed to happen to make this work fully for me.
The cool thing here is that I can actually see these things in the draft John wrote. I have no idea if they are there on purpose or whether they are there as part of the subconscious of John’s creative process. Or perhaps they are only there to my eyes, which are tied to a brain with both these pre-conceived notions and its all-to-human propensity to see patterns where none exist. Who knows? All I can say is that I really like what’s come together for me, and I’m betting John will, too. We’re good collab partners, so it seems to just kind of work like that for us.
Anyway, I spent half the morning doing some research, and the other half beginning to re-sketch part of the story. With luck, it’ll be back in his court in a couple days.
Some say a collaboration is twice the work for half the pay. This may be true. But with the right collaborator, it’s also twice the fun.
I’ve spent the last couple mornings working to restructure episodes 6 and 7 into a short story and a short novella (perhaps even dropping it into novelette territory–though we will see). It was a bit difficult to concentrate to concentrate this morning, though. First, I woke up considerably later this morning than normal (the cat alarm clock has been slipping lately). Second, Brigid and Nick being here draw me upstairs much earlier than normal–this is a good interruption, of course!. And third, I have to admit to being distracted by the upcoming game between my beloved Louisville Cardinals and the dastardly Blue Devils from Duke.
Still, work has been accomplished.
And that is good.
The short story should be fairly simple to complete now that I’ve separated it. The novella is a little more complex because it needs (1) a new way to knit two story threads together, and (2) a new segment to deal with a deep character interaction that occurred off-stage in my earlier work.
Ah, the fun of writing never ends, I say. It never ends!
On a last note, here’s another bit of SF-related history from the Letters of Note site.
I grabbed this list of Joss Whedon’s writing tips from another place–someone’s twitter or Facebook page–a day or three ago, and thought it was great (of course). Then I followed the link at its bottom to these tips from Neil Gaiman, which are equally full of tremendous, but even more so.
The reason I say more so is that Gaiman adds what I consider to be his most important commentary on the act of writing–his advice in item number eight: The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
I love the use of the words assurance and confidence in that advice. For me, they are what set this piece apart–that and the fact that Gaiman is aware enough to lift his commentary up out of the morass of writing advice to suggest it might be applied to all areas of life. Think about that as you sit down to write today–or as you sit down to do anything. What does it take for you to be confident and assured? How does your voice change when you take on that feeling? How does your work feel? How do the people who are affected by your work (whatever it is) feel?
For what it’s worth, the item on Whedon’s list that strikes me most right now is his number three: Have Something to Say. I’ve been reading a lot of unpublished material the past month from a lot of different writers, and I find routinely that these two pieces of advice go together in some form of synchronicity that is hard to define other than to say that pieces with something to say tend to be ones wherein the author grabs you confidently with something that’s interesting early in the piece and then never lets you go.
It was a big basketball weekend, of course. My Cardinals of Louisville are riding high, and seem to be a reasonable favorite to win it all. Lots of good teams out there, though, far too much competition left to get particularly cocky.
Myke Cole, a writing acquaintance of mine who I recently met in person for the first time, tweeted yesterday that “Writing short stories because you want to be a novelist is like practicing to ride a motorcycle because you want to drive a car.”
Given that there exist many very fine race drivers throughout history who learned their race craft on motorcycles before moving to automobile racing (can you say world champion John Surtees, among many others?), and given the fact that for many, many years a gajillion novelists in our speculative field of Fantasy and Science Fiction got their starts writing short stories, I have to admit I found Myke’s commentary a bit too restrictive. Myke and I bandied about conversation on his FB page, and then let it die. As I said there, we would agree, I think (I hope?), about more than we disagree. Myke is a completely Grade A guy, and I admire the heck out of him for many reasons. Realize, too, that at the end of the day, though I’ve written several novel-length works, Myke is successfully publishing them. In that light, I am a short story guy. So take my thoughts with big grains of thought-salt.
And my thoughts here are that–especially for new writers–the most important thing is to learn how to actually write as rapidly as possible. And I think you learn to write by writing things that get you excited. For some folks writing novels is what gets them excited–they can deal with the time investment required to complete one on spec and move on. But a vast majority of new writers I run into don’t have that psychology. They want a sense of having completed something … and in most cases that’s an important aspect of the learning curve. For them, short stories work as their proving grounds just fine. For them, the act of writing short stories provides them the ability to rapidly try out new and different forms of storytelling–fiddle with plot points, and with structure, and characterization and dialect and whatever. Writing short stories gives new writers a place to practice basic prose craft, and work out how to make the flow of information in their work happen well for them.
Of course, plotting a novel is different than plotting a short story. The pacing is different. The short story is more precise–more focused. But ultimately, I think a novel has many short stories in it. A good one, anyway. I think every major secondary character in a good novel has his or her own storyline, and that storyline is essentially a short story in itself–the telling of which is spread out over the entirety of the book. So it seems to me that the act of writing short stories can’t possibly do anything but augment a new writer’s ability to write a good novel.
Perhaps I’m just making that up. I don’t know.
I’m a short story guy, you see?
So, while I agree totally with Myke that novelists can learn to be novelists by writing novels (and that perhaps that’s even the best way), I think there is no reason you can’t include writing short stories on your list of activities that will help you become a novelist, just like riding a motorcycle over a road course is a helluva good way to learn the racing line (which is paramount to being a great race car driver).
That’s my .02, anyway.
So, after this morning’s work episode 5, Lords of Existence, is “in the can.” This means, to me anyway, that the creation of story is now done and it’s moving into the steps more closely aligned with production rather than deep story telling. I personally include some beta reading in this production phase, but that’s just me. It rings in at about 25,400 words by the trusty Microsoft counter, and brings our hero to a new understanding of both himself and the world at large. I’m quite enjoying it.
We now move to episode 6, which I’ve laid out previously but which will need a bit of tweaking based on a small turn that rose itself up in episode five. That happens, you know. And mostly it’s pretty good when it does–though a bit annoying with the rewrites it causes.
My intention is to get either seven or eight episodes complete prior to moving into the release phase–which could, of course, go a few different directions. More coming on that in the future.
Mar 7, 2013 Other Writers
My third resolution was to read a short story every day, and I’ve managed to pretty much average that kind of run without too much difficulty. I’m going to run through my top five of the month here in a sec, but let me address what the astute of you might point out–that my list finished at February 21. This is true. This is also the point at which I had 26 stories dropped on me to read for the Anthology workshop that I left for that following Wednesday. I’m not going to list out the 26 stories here (or the 26 more I read over the following Saturday and Sunday)–but please rest assured that from the 22nd-28th, I managed considerably more than a story a day.
Anyway … without further discussion, here are my Top 5 Stories of the Month of February:
Deep Blue Gloaming – Lisa Silverthorne, Shipwrecks in Sea Minor: Lisa Silverthorne is one of my favorite writers, and in this one she puts you into an intriguing mystery set around the city that launched Titanic. Great tale. And it’s even better because it comes packaged with a sister tale set on Lusitania.
Killer Lasagna – Laura Anne Gilman, Laura Anne Gilman: Fun story on its own, but I will always love a tale that actually uses the lasagna, m’kay? That said, pretty much NSFW. Kudos to LAG, also, for the idea of requesting payment in donations to a food bank.
So, there you have my top five of the month. Once again, this isn’t to say I didn’t like the rest. If I picked a 6th, for example, I think it might be “Punk Voyager,” or maybe “Am I Free to Go?” I also liked the thought pattern of “The First Book of Flaccid Swords,” and several others. But those are my top five of the month, and I’m sticking to them.
Stories Read Prior to the Workshop
1/27/2013 A.C. Wise — With Tales in Their Teeth, From the Mountain They Come
1/28/2013 Kris Rusch — The Pruity Test
1/28/2013 Shane Halbach — My Heart is a Quadratic Equation
1/29/2013 Damien Walters Grintalis — Dysphonia in D Minor
1/29/2013 Lavie Tidar — Earthrise
2/1/2013 Lisa Silverthorne — Deep Blue Gloaming
2/2/2013 Kris Rusch — Improvements
2/3/2013 Laura Anne Gilman — Killer Lasagna
2/4/2014 Brit Mandelo — The Finite Canvas
2/5/2013 E Nesbit — Melisande
2/6/2013 Kris Rusch — Improvements
2/7/2013 Melissa Mead — White as Snow, Red as Blood
2/8/2013 Kathryn Cramer — Am I Free to go?
2/9/2013 Charlie Jane Anders — Intestate
2/11/2013 Charles Sheffield — Safari Deep
2/12/2013 Kat Howard — Breaking the Frame
2/12/2013 Kat Howard — Sweet Sixteen
2/12/2013 Robert J. Sawyer — The Abdication of Pope Mary III
2/13/2013 Peter M. Wood — Mirror Image
2/15/2013 Kris Rusch — The Flower Man
2/16/2013 David Barr Kirtley — They Go Bump
2/16/2013 Mark English — Elias, Smith, and Jones
2/16/2013 Edward Cowan — The First Book of Flaccid Swords
2/17/2013 Shaenon Garrity — Punk Voyager
2/18/2013 Erzebet YellowBoy — Gravity
2/20/2013 Maria Dahvana Headley — Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream
2/21/2013 Paolo Bacigalupi — Tamarisk Hunter
Sunday afternoon, before we left, Lisa Silverthorne and I walked on the beach along the Cost of Lincoln City, Oregon. It was a sunny day, but cold. I was wearing layers, as was Lisa, but the wind can still somehow manage to get through. It didn’t matter, though. It was, at that moment, the perfect place to be.
The previous four days had been spent at a workshop with 25 other writers and four editors in what Kris Rusch and Dean Smith call their Anthology Workshop, but might just as well have been labeled A Crash Course in Blowing Ron’s Mind.
We said almost nothing. For the 30 minutes or so we were out there we probably exchanged 15 words apiece. I took pictures. I toed rocks that had been rounded from the pounding surf. Lisa walked with her head down and her back bent, looking for sea glass, I’m sure. All the while the waves played out in the open ocean. For what it’s worth, the smell of the ocean is different in Oregon than it is in other areas I’ve been–mostly Florida, and the Carolinas. It’s a lighter aroma, more salt, perhaps less organic. What do I know, though? We were only there for a little while.
I can’t say everything that was going through Lisa’s mind.
For me, though, I was reflecting on these previous four days and trying to put them into some context. I’ve been to workshops before, of course. And writers groups. And I’ve been doing this writing gig for a while (checking the record books, yeah, “The Spearhead” came out in 1994). I can’t do it, though. It was a small thing, only four days in a twenty+ year journey, but it felt huge. It was 65 hours built of probably a hundred different pieces, few of which maybe make a dent standing by themselves, but each magnifying the whole. Moments such as:
- A discussion with Matt Buchman that was enlightening and inspiring, but was made complete merely by the expression on his face at one crystal-clear moment.
- Lisa selling a story, and then me following along in her footsteps. I’m happy for all the others’ success, too, including Angie Penrose’s first sale … which was pretty danged cool. But Lisa, man, she’s my bud. [grin]
- Listening to John Helfers argue with himself over a story and get so spun up about something that almost, but didn’t quite work. And realizing just how much he was rooting for that writer, how much that editor wanted the writer to succeed even though he was rejecting the work.
- High-fiving Lisa after Kris pointed out our long and winding road of submissions to F&SF during her tenure.
- The set on Carrie’s jaw as she argued with Dean for more words. And Dean’s tight-lipped shaking of the head. The way these two actions define the business so deeply.
- Going to dinner and having an already full table of writers scooch around to make room for me at the table.
- Sitting at the Anchor Inn and being tempted by two more pancakes.
- Writers being happy for others’ success.
- Breakfast with Irette and DeAnna.
- Going to bed at 2:00AM for only a 1-hour nap because I was so damned tired, but the story wasn’t done, and then 30 seconds after hitting the pillow feeling the next line rise out of my brain like a whale breaching.
- Finishing the damned thing at 5:30AM and feeling so close to my young, black, female protagonists that I could hear her blues harp in my brain as I finally drifted to sleep.
- Dean describing for me the WMG war room of white boards that contained their work schedules. I freaking love war rooms.
- Lunch on Saturday with Lisa.
- The writing dare Lisa and I took on Thursday afternoon that yielded a short story titled “Survivors”
- Reading 26 stories in a day. After having written two in the two days prior. And between sitting in three workshop session. The workload was intense.
- Doing a quick audio cut-over, and hearing little Nola’s work before mine.
- Sharing pizza at the end.
Yeah, I’m dwelling. But it’s really, really hard not to dwell right now. This was a remarkable four days. I have to thank Kris and Dean, and Kerrie and John, and the 26 other writers who were there, and the rest of the folks at WMG, and the Anchor (a hotel and the people of which, believe me, are every bit as important to this thing as any other part of it).
So we walked on the beach. I stopped every so often and stared out over the water, wishing I could peer out farther and farther and maybe even see Japan. But the world doesn’t work that way, of course. A mist hung over the cresting waves to obscure the horizon, and even if it hadn’t the geometry of the earth itself would put a crimp to my fancy for the Far East. There is a bend on the beach, too, a cliff with a rocky outcropping that protects the area behind it from prying eyes. I ran up there, though, and I looked at the rest of the beach that ran out to the north.
The world hides what it can, you know? If I’ve learned anything in my twenty years or so of figuring out this field it’s that the world will hide everything it can. But every now and again, you can run up on a ridge and small bits will be revealed to you.
When we returned to the car Lisa and I talked about the session, and about writing, and about how these things define certain things in ways that are impossible to really describe.
Then I turned the key, backed out of the parking area, and we drove onward. Onward, as the world will always have it.
Here’s step two in my check-up on my New Year’s Resolutions. To (once again) remind, I made three resolutions. They were:
- Average over 20K steps a day
- Write fiction every day
- Read a short story every day
I’m going to talk about the short fiction I’ve read this month (yeah, the month’s not over, but it’s the weekend and I’ve got the time to write this now, so I’m calling it a month…it’ll all work out in the end, I’m sure, so chill the heck out, okay?). The bottom line about my performance is that I’ve averaged a short story a day. I’ve had a couple days where I missed, but I’ve been able to make up for it in other days. I’ll note why I missed a few days in my next resolution check, but for now please take my word that I had a great reason. I’ll grade my stick-to-it on this resolution an A-.
Top 5 Stories of the Month
Inventory – Carmen Maria Machado, Strange Horizons: This was a startling piece, intimate, and true to the bone. The thing I love about short stories is that they give authors space to take dramatic chances, and that’s the case in this one. A really beautiful piece about the end of the world as we know it, about how humans interact, and about isolation. NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Very highly recommended, though. It’s the story I’ve read this month that has stayed with me the strongest, so I’ll call “Inventory” the story of the month.
The Sounds of Old Earth – Matthew Kressel, Lightspeed: I loved this piece for its perspective of home and place, and the idea of how those things form identity. Solid writing. Highly recommended.
Lázaro y Antonio – Marta Randall, Lightspeed: The story of a pair of thugs, or is it? Touching story, well done.
Press Enter to Execute – Tobias S. Buckell, Fireside: Live by the net, uh, die by the net? Intriguing extrapolation from today.
The Cambrist and Lord Iron – Daniel Abraham, Lightspeed: How can you not like a story that actually answers the question of what a life is worth? This was a fun read that I’ll remember for awhile. This is a learning for me as I wrote this up. I’m reading a bunch of stuff, and I’m writing a tone of stuff, and I’ve got work at the day job coming out of my ears and watching movies and TV shows and following my beloved Cardinals as my days unfold. It really takes something to make a story stick with me these days, and I find that as I look back on this month’s reading there are several stories I have to really struggle to remember much about. I’m trying to keep this in mind as I write my own stuff. What have I given a reader to make them remember the work?
So, those are my top five tales of the month. I’ve listed all the stories I’ve read so far. This doesn’t mean the other stories aren’t good or that I didn’t like them. No way. Cat Valente’s “Fade to White” and Nina Kiriki Hoffman’s Monster, Finder, Shifter were both exquisite, for example. Kelly Link’s “Catskin” and Eleanor Aronson’s “The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times” were beautiful reads. And several others were worth the time. Ken Liu is always interesting, eh? And reading Yoon Ha Lee is always interesting for the pure love of writing itself. But the five above are the ones that stayed with me. Take that for what it’s worth, eh?
Date Author – Title
1/1 Tobias S. Buckell – A Game of Rats and Dragon
1/1 Tobias S. Buckell – Press Enter to Execute
1/2 Nina Kiriki Hoffman – Monster, Finder, Shifter
1/3 Brooke Bolander – Sun Dogs
1/4 Cat Valente – Fade to White
1/5 Ken Liu – Real Artists
1/5 Corry L. Lee – Shut Down
1/6 Joe Haldeman – Four Short Novels
1/10 Brian Everson – An Accounting
1/11 Ken Liu – The Perfect Match
1/12 Yoon Ha Lee – Swanwatch
1/13 Kelly Link – Catskin
1/14 Thomas Minton – Dreams in Dust
1/15 Marta Randall – Lázaro y Antonio
1/16 Matthew Kressel – The Sounds of Old Earth
1/17 Daniel Abraham – The Cambrist and Lord Iron: A Fairy Tale of Economics
1/18 Ron Collins – The Time of Leaving
1/19 Ron Collins – Operation Hercules
1/20 Ken Liu – Real Faces
1/21 Eleanor Aronson – The Woman Who Fooled Death Five Times
1/21 Kristin Jantz – Observation Deck
1/22 Kris Rusch – Front Porch
1/23 Yoon ha Lee – Effigy Nights
1/23 Carmen Maria Machado – Inventory
1/24 Helena Ball – Variations on Bluebeard and dalton’s Law along the Event Horizon
1/25 Ian McDonald – Driftings
1/26 Jeffrey Ford – Daltharee
Jan 8, 2013 Other Writers
Myke Cole, who used to wander by my pages back in the day before he became a big wig author [grin], just posted about an exercise he ran where he wrote a romance scene and submitted it to a contest wherein readers were asked to guess the gender of the writer. Myke writes hard, military fiction. It turns out that half of the readers (my count was 49 of 100) felt he was a female–which is interesting, of course.
Here is a write-up of the entire exercise.
But then he goes on to suggest that this says that women will accept a male romance author. This goes against the grain of Romance industry, of course, but it’s certainly possible that it could be true. Perhaps women, who are clearly the biggest readers of Romance, would accept male writers. However, the fact that readers were unable to guess the difference in the writer’s gender does not say this.
People are strange. Whether people will by a Romance novel by Myke is a completely different question than whether they think he’s female based on his writing or not. If you were attempting to see if male authors could write commercial Romance, it would have been a far more interesting exercise to have readers vote for “read futher” or “stop” and then compile the answers based on (hidden) gender of the author. But even that would not tell you if readers would accept a male author. Readers by based on a gazillion things, and perceived gender could well be one of them. You need a much more complex experiment to draw the conclusions that Myke is trying to draw.
Now, I’m all for writers being open to write all genres and from all perspectives. But let’s not use data to say things it doesn’t.
LATE ADDITION: Small sample size, but what does it say that in the whole exercise the readers identified male writers as females 55% of the time, and female writers as male 56.8% of the time? Probably nothing, but it’s a fun little semi-fact.
I’m a little late on this, but I’ve been busy on NaNoWriMo. Yes, life is tough. Anyway, a local writer, Paul Hoffman, invited me to participate in a My Next Big Thing blog tour. Paul is a local guy (assuming you live–like I do–in Columbus, Indiana, anyway), and he’s written A Murder in Wautosa, a book detailing the true-life murder mystery that happened in his boyhood city in the years before he lived there. You can pick up a copy here. I suggest you do.
Paul’s suggested I talk about a book I’m working on, so I’ll discuss Wakers, the book I’ve just finished the first draft of. Since Wakers won’t be available for a bit, you’ll have to look into See the PEBA on $25 a Day or my collection Picasso’s Cat and Other Stories (available through links on the sidebar) if you’re interested in checking out my work while you’re waiting.
So, here it goes.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I sat down to write this book with a completely clean slate. I had earlier agreed with Lisa Silverthorne (who I’ll link below) to write a book in October–it’s something we’ve done occasionally before, doing tandem novels removes that feeling of being alone you can sometimes get. Anyway, she had an issue, so we pushed it back to November. I sat down on the first of the month with no idea, really. Except … well … except that I had been thinking about what the world might be like if there were no need for money.
So I thought about that some more.
What kind of things would have to happen for such a world to actually evolve? What kinds of people would this create? Suddenly I had an idea and a couple characters I really enjoyed, and we off to the races. Turns out the book isn’t really about the lack of money at all, of course, though that’s still in there.
What genre does your book fall under?
This one is clearly a work of science fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
These are fun questions. I’ll put these forward, realizing that the story is still in first draft. But what the heck…
- Bexie Montgomery – Maybe Leroy McClain
- Kinji Hall – My brain is stuck on someone like Emma Stone
- Maine Parker – This will be a debut role, filled by a guy who will go on to be a heart-throb superstar
- Tania DeBrae – I could see Dakota Fanning doing this
- DeJenna – Mila Kunis? Maybe. Strong expectation to learn more about DeJenna in the second draft.
- Pauli – Shia LaBeouf in an un-credited, but scene-stealing appearance
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A modern-day capitalist wakes up in a not-quite-so benevolent future.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’ll decide what to do with it after I finish the second draft. I think it will be under 70,000 words, though, which makes me think it will be more successful in the indie-world. I am really hoping that the “new” world of publishing will see us return to the days of short 50-60,000 word novels. I love those things.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Thirty days. I believe in driving first drafts pretty quickly.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
This is such a hard question. I don’t like comparing them, really. But I leverage a lot of Asimov’s robot framework, and there’s some cyber-punkism in there that might pay homage to Sterling/Stephenson/Gibson. I play with a deviation from the standard futurist’s conversation around the singularity concept (if there can be said to be a standard, anyway).
So it’s hard to call. I hope it’s unique, but of course others will bring their own associations. That’s the beauty of books, really. The way I interact with a story will be different than the way you interact with it. So in that sense, they are two different stories.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It was a mix of things–not the least was probably watching the latest round of political debates around the topic of our economy. I was interested in exploring the concept of a world without monetary currency, and it was a great deal of fun to think through elements that make our society work, to research economic levers that we all take for granted, and to apply them into a more human framework that help me understand those concepts even more. All that research was also a fabulous way to justify spending hours goofing off on the internet. [grin]
In all seriousness, I think writing this book was a great educational tool, and it’s probably changed the way I think about the world as a whole.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Stories are really about people, and I love the characters in this book. I really enjoy their take on what freedom means to each of them, their flare for art, and love. I think people who read Wakers will find themselves seeing nobility in places they hadn’t expected it. I think they will want to know more about them, which, to me, is always great fun.
I’m really excited to pass the torch to a pair of writers:
I’ve known and read Lisa Silverthorne, a writer who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana, for a number of year now and can say that she is one of my absolutely favorite writers. She has publishing a bunch of short stories in the fantasy and science fiction genres, and works in romance and paranomal-ism genres. I absolutely adore her work, which has been on the preliminary ballot for the SFWA Nebula Award. You can find more of it at Elusive Blue Fiction.
I very highly recommend her duet titled “Shipwrecks in Sea Minor” (of which I intend to write more about on this blog later). I also think her collection Sound of Angels should be on everyone’s bookshelf.
Vera Nazarian is a Russian-born writer who found herself living in a myriad of European countries before growing up in California–only to later make house in the eastern regions of Vermont. Talk about a world-traveler. Not too surprisingly, she’s an eclectic writer and publisher, writing work that spans the spectrum from high literary (serious stuff, right?) to quirky comedy and Jane Eyre send-ups.
I adored her debut novel, Dreams of the Compass Rose, and recently supported her kickstarter effort “The Cobweb Bride.” You can find her work at http://www.norilana.com/
You may think this isn’t saying much, but this is my very favorite story written about a guy who cleans portable toilets. It’s up on Kris Rusch’s page for free until next Monday.
I’m not joking about enjoying it. It’s a good enough story just as it is, but I fell for it because I enjoyed having an author make me care about a toilet cleaner, which made me think about my own preconceived biases.
So, today I’m thinking about Tobias Buckell. This is because he’s the bastard who’s responsible for this crap. (Note, I know I can use this kind of profanity regarding Tobias because he’s all about the authentic, ya know?)
You see, I was going to the health club yesterday and I was kind of dragging tail. I had other things I wanted to do, and was grumbling about hitting the gym. Then I got there and started to get a bit of a sweat going, and I was thinking about the fact that it felt pretty okay, and it got me thinking about Toby and his health situation. If you follow him, you know he’s a youngish guy who has had heart issues, and now is restricted on how much physical exercise he should expose himself to. He recently tweeted a string of notes about how bummed that makes him, as he can no longer throw around weights as he used to in order to relieve stress and whatnot.
And so I started thinking about poor Tobias, and how he would kill to be able to be doing what I was doing. With every lift I felt better and better, and I started thinking things like “Tobias, this set’s for you!” and I did just great. The sweat came and my body filled with endorphins and the blood pumped and I felt like freaking Hercules. Half way through the day I decided to go for it, and even upped my weights to the next level. I was about ready for it, anyway. You know, five-ten pounds more on every segment–nothing much…just a touch–or adding a few reps onto each exercise. And it was glorious grunting and groaning with each exercise. All very manly.
And I left the gym feeling pretty great, and thinking great thoughts about young Tobias and even lifting an imaginary PowerAde toward Ohio I his honor.
Of course, this morning my shoulders feel like they’ve been on the rack and my biceps are whining and my hamstrings are tied up in about a gazillion knots.
And it’s all young Tobias’s fault.
Here’s me in the lobby of the Crump Theater during the Bartholomew County Writer’s Conference. It was great fun to be at a conference with participation of so many different types of writers. (Photo via Suzanne Purewal)
I spent yesterday at the Bartholomew Country Writer’s Conference (sponsored by Pen It! magazine), which was a great time. I met several writers I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting, and heard a ton of advice–some I agreed with, and some, of course, that I didn’t. But that’s the way it goes, eh? Us folks who write are all so different and weird.
Kudos to Debi Hurt for putting it on. Hope she does it again.
I spent my half hour on stage talking about the rewriting process, which means I blabbered on about story structure and how I use it to think through making the “storiness” of drafts better. After I got home, Lisa asked how it went, and I related (with complete truthfulness!) that it must have been okay because no one threw tomatoes or anything at me. I also sat backstage and was the human Powerpoint clicker for Suzanne Purewal, who gave a nice discussion that mixed passion with craft. (I suppose some might argue being a human clicker was my greatest contribution to the conference, but we’ll just not go there now, will we?)
Whether my part was helpful to anyone or not, I admit I enjoyed it. The act of rewriting is a fascinating topic, and it applies to everyone in every genre. Being the analytical beast that I am, I fully admit though that others may not find it so interesting. [grin]
So I got to pimp my own stuff a little, which is nice…and I pushed everyone to Stephen Leigh’s “The Woods”, and “Cobweb Bride” (Vera Nazarian’s kickstarter project). Hope they get a little bump from it, too.
Here’s a fun toy to play with for the day. It’s a study in motion sickness that the safety folks at my work site distributed last week to try to heighten awareness of how your brain works while you’re driving. They want us to drive like pilots fly, and keep shifting our viewpoint to avoid motion blindness.
Personally, I want to drive like a pilot and do some barrel rolls and loopty-loops, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen anytime soon, and if it does I suppose I’m in trouble.
Anyway, here’s the little gadget. Definitely fascinating and kinda fun to play with for a bit.
Sep 25, 2012 Other Writers
It turns out that when an Ultimate Virus/Cold takes you off line for two weeks (or more), it takes quite a while to get back into a normal flow. Things back up, you know? It’s no fun. And then your significant other gets it and that takes time, and, well, those are my excuses, and I’m sticking to them.
Sorry about that.
With any luck, you’ll see traffic pick up here again.
On the positive side, I have several things to chat about now, so I’ll start with the most recent and we’ll see where it goes from there. I recently grabbed a copy of Stephen Leigh’s “The Woods.” It received a glowing review from David B. Coe, and I figured that since I haven’t met two better folks than either Stephen or David, this was story I needed to read. I felt so strongly about this, I put aside my mega-reading of “The Count of Monte Cristo” to make it happen.
Bottom line–it was worth setting that classic aside.
The story centers on a pair of late teen-aged boys who are entering new phases of their lives. It’s told in a frame that makes the base story a flashback into the protagonist’s memory.
I can see why traditional publishers may have had problems with the story. It’s a bit hard to classify. Stephen seems to consider it Dark Fantasy, which is probably fair, but you could classify it as YA, too. But then, it’s YA like Stephen King’s work about kids is YA, so maybe this is horror, except, well, it’s clearly not horror. I can also see bits of fable in here, and the writing is in the same area code as Charles DeLint. So, what is it? I dunno. All I can say for sure is that (1) it’s a good read, (2) it’s a fast read [thank you Powers That Be, for giving us back the "short" novel], (3) it’s a story that deals with powerful issues and makes you think and rethink about things in your own life. It pulls no punches in examining those issues and the ramifications of decisions we make around them.
In other words, it’s a damned fine piece of work.
As a writer, I will suggest that (as with pretty much every story) I found an item or two that left me thinking I would have done things a bit differently. They don’t detract from the work as a whole, but I mention that because if you read the work based on this review, you might feel those, too. I don’t know. When I mention these kinds of things to Lisa about books we’ve both read, she just kind of shrugs and looks at me like I’m silly. Bottom line for me: “The Woods” is a piece of art. I recommend it.
Ron’s Open Door Policy Commentary: I need to note here that I know Stephen Leigh, and we have a friendly “convention acquaintance.” That said, he didn’t know I was reading this work, and I have nothing to gain from posting this commentary. If I didn’t like the work, I could just have left it set and no one would have been the worse for the experience.
Aug 22, 2012 Other Writers
I took a break from “The Count of Monte Cristo” to take in Ruth Nestvold’s “Never Ever After,” a brief collection of three short stories you can pickup for .99 at Amazon.
I’ve been impressed with Ruth‘s SF in the past, but don’t remember reading her fantasy work.
The first and third stories (“A Serca Tale” and “Happily Ever After Awhile”) are solid pieces that would make the collection satisfying all by themselves. But I found the middle piece, “King Orfeigh,” to be something special. It’s a good story, very well told–and it raises itself in my eyes for Ruth’s subtle and sublime characterization.
If you’re a fantasy reader at all, this is a really nice and quick read. Definitely worth the investment.
I saw Tim Pratt linked to a short movie made of his Hugo winning story “Impossible Dreams,” It’s a really nice treatment of a great little story. Well worth the twenty minutes. The fact that it’s in a foreign language (for me!) and built in subtitles gives it an even better feel.
Moving into the last section of my novel rewrite/restructure. Assuming things go well, I’ll have much more to say about it in a week or three. This section is flowing pretty cleanly, which is always nice. The writing holds up, and the story still fits.
I’m thinking that this exercise of breaking a novel up into novella-length pieces is proving to teach me a lot of things about pace and story development. I’m pretty confident of my ability to put a short story together by now, but novel length work is still an awfully big scope for me. Breaking it into components has helped me ask some basic questions about how each element of the story is supported–where the load bearing portions of the story fit, to stretch a metaphor a bit.
Kris Rusch has a practice of putting up a free story every week, something she calls “Free Fiction Monday.” It’s always something interesting, because, well, because she’s a heckuva writer. She puts up science fiction, and fantasy, and romance. Short stories, and novel snippets. Whatever.
There’s only a few days left on this one, but I strongly recommend this week’s story, Burial Detail. It appears in Realms of Fantasy back in 2000, but I had missed it. Definite keeper. Kris Rusch is always good but I think she transcends herself quite often, and for me this is one of those times. If I can be a little pretentious, this is a real piece of art.
I read it at lunch today, and I was thinking about it hard much of my walk back to work.
So I’ve been on an Escape Pod jag while doing my health-club time lately. Two stories I can recommend: You’re Almost Here by Melinda Thielbar (originally published in Bull Spec), and Written on the Wind by David D.Levine. You can either download the podcast on those links or read the story in written form. Very nice.
I liked “You’re Almost There” for it’s basic aura and it’s statement on the world of today. I liked “Written on the Wind” because it’s a kind of interesting tale, but I have to admit I liked it just as much for the fact that it’s founded in linguistics. This appeals for two reasons. First, it’s hard to find intereting stories built around linguistics. But the bigger reason is that it made me think of Brigid, who is majoring in (among other things) Linguistics at Purdue.
Feb 26, 2011 Other Writers
Tobias Buckell does an outstanding job answering a question on the Adventures of Sci-fi Publishing podcast. This is noteworthy for me because it made me remember how dangerous it is to jump to conclusions or go with your gut instinct. Beyond that, it helped make me think about the fun part of reading, and how authors can help this along.
In this case, the question is about how one goes about making reasonable equations or relationships between things when writing from an alien point of view. In other words, if you say “the boulder was the size of a truck” we all understand that. But an alien being may well not know what a truck is, so the alien rally can’t say that. So what’s a writer to do?
My gut instinct as I heard the question (while treading along on my treadmill) was to dismiss it out of hand. I mean, you just feel things out, you know? You put yourself in the point of view of the alien and you do your best, right? It’s a feel thing. An experience thing. In other words … what a damned silly question.
But it’s not a silly question at all. It’s a great question, and Toby gave an outstanding response that made me think both about my personal writing and about what it means about me that I jumped to such an unhealthy first response.
Hopefully it was just that I was getting tired. [grin].
It’s pretty deep in the podcast, and I don’t have a minute-point to note. But the whole thing is worth listening to.
Feb 15, 2011 Other Writers
I just finished reading Ken Liu’s Simulacrum at Lightspeed. Definitely an interesting piece of work. I really enjoyed the exploration of technology in it, and it’s ramifications. But I admit I also was struck by the father/daughter thing, despite the … uh … problem … the father has.
Definitely worth a read.
Lisa and are are in the process of finishing the three “Girl” books by Stieg Larsson. Actually, I should say Lisa has now finished them and I’m about 21% through the last book.
I like that last sentence.
One advantage of the electronic age is that when Lisa asks me “How far into the book are you?” I can answer her. The book actually tells me how far into something you really are. Or does it? I mean, what, exactly is 21%? The book will stay on 21% for several “page-clicks” so technically it’s 21.X%. But then I wonder if the algorithm truncates. Will it read 21% all the way until I cross the 22% barrier? Or, does the algorithm round? Could it be 20.7%? I don’t know. in the old days I could have looked at the page number, then flipped to the last page and read that number. A quick bit of mental math and I would have known exactly where I was, which would make my engineer’s mind happy. But now I’m left to wonder whether I’m 20.50000001 percent through the book or 21.999999%.
Of course, the next question is whether it uses words or characters or something else completely in its calculations. Clearly it cannot be using the definition of “standard pages” since that definition doesn’t apply.
I suppose I’ll have to Google a bit to see if the calculation algorithms have been publicly vetted. Just what I need. Something else to do.
Never mind that when Lisa asks “How far into the book are you?” she’s not asking me for a measure of distance. Sure, my mind interprets it in numbers and pages, but she means “what’s happening in the story?” So she gets a bit annoyed at times when I reply with a nearly perfectly correct “21%.”
Hey, it’s not my fault she’s not an engineer at heart.
That said, I’m enjoying the stories. And, yes, the reader is nice, too.
I picked this out of Kris Rusch’s feed, so you might already have seen it. But I thought this was a great commentary of criticism … but then, Roger Ebert kinda knows what the heck he’s talking about.