Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Process Examination #5: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Draft

When I set out to write backstory in order to better write the draft of my current work in progress, I hadn't expected to write over 20,000 words of backstory. I thought 10,000, maybe. Just enough to sketch out a couple of defining events that brought my characters into the situation that starts my story.

One thing I have learned very well over the past five years of writing is that I suck at estimating how many words any one scene idea is going to take. I always think it'll take less than it does. Always.

But that's OK. In this case, it was perfect, particuarly because I was able to write over 8,000 of those 20,000 words in one week, and the rest over three weeks. I don't mind spending a month on writing backstory. Or, at least, I don't mind it when writing the backstory reveals a gaping plothole that necessitated a change in my antagonist's plans. A significant change. I can just see how writing the draft would've been like pulling teeth with the original concept. I would keep writing and writing, trying to find through each new scene and chapter what was wrong and how I could fix it. Introducing new plot angles, maybe even new characters, throwing all manner of tangentially related ideas into the draft in the hopes that something would stick.

I can just see it because that's pretty much how I've written every idea before.

The backstory, though, revealed my plothole before I even had a chance to write my way around it, simply because it forced me to ask a particular question: What exactly did Toby do to escape his previous life and get himself stuck in his current one? Without the answer to that question, it was impossible to write one particular piece of backstory. Three days of mind-probing later, and I realized that the science I had set up for the story--terraforming--wasn't going to work. It just wasn't logically possible (no, not the concept of terraforming, just its place in my story).

This brought me around to the concept of theme. For a while now, I've been asking myself what the theme of this book is supposed to be. What point am I trying to make? I could never shake anything clear out of my head. I could feel something there, a whole mess of mental connections and thoughts and ideas, but I couldn't articulate it. When I asked that question after 20,000 words of backstory and a clear outline of the requirements of my story's science, I got a question in response: What trends have I noticed in my pre-writing?

That simple question gave me both the beginnings of a theme and a science concept that works for the story.

I've still got that last backstory scene to write, but I need to do a few bits of research first, so I'm not trying to talk cybernetics out of my ass (or, at least, not entirely out of my ass). I'm also ready to start writing draft as well, at least the first two chapters that don't yet involve the science because my two protagonist POV characters have no clue that the current problems they are twisting themselves around are because of a science project that will mess with their lives so much more.

I think this experience has finally kicked away the fear of writing a full novel's worth of words that have to be tossed out as I did with Shadow of Zehth. I know the hallmarks of that problem. I recognized them pretty quickly in just writing backstory. I figured out the right questions to ask, and I figured out how to organize the information I did know so I could tailor my search for answers.

Also, I figured out that, yes, it's possible to look at the draft you're creating and realize that it needs work before it's a finished product and to fix it as you go. But, I've also realized just how productive I can be when I stop thinking of the draft as a stepping stone to a finished product and just get on with telling the story. I'm less concerned with the work of revision now. Something finally clicked in my brain to tell me that revision is a separate step, and I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. That's going to be some monstrous process examiantion then, I'm sure. In the meantime, I've got a story to finish.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I Hear the Secrets Drewbie Keeps When He's Talking in His Sleep

The Drew Monster has inherited a couple of unfortunate parental traits. The first being that he likes to move around in his sleep. He hasn't yet started the night-time treks through the house that his father does, but he can cover the mattress any night of the week. The second that he's started a night-time ritual of a few words.

Every night between eleven and midnight, Andrew says something in his babble-speak. It's usually just one word, sometimes two. And I can never understand it as one of his recognizable words. But he's fairly consistent about this. He blurts his word and then doesn't make a peep, no other sounds to indicate that he might be awake.

He gets this from me. My nocturnal yammerings are not as regular as his, but I'm the one who will chat. Mark, of course, does a good deal of talking and, often, screaming when he's in the middle of a sleep-walking stint, but he doesn't ever separate the two. Hopefully Andrew will not get further into his father's realm of night-time wanderings, as I'm not sure what I would do with two men roving the house at night, running and jumping and pushing away from their nightmares. If that should happen, I think I'll have to sleep in a room by myself, lock, and barricade the door and let the two of them duke it out.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Various Thoughts to Catch the Blog Up

I've had another week where I either couldn't dredge up enough excitement for a post or couldn't get past the "nobody wants to hear what I have to say" stupid censor. Most of that was brought on by the news of someone else's tragedy whom I never met and have only interacted with intermittently via phone and fax through work. Still, it came on the heels of a major plot snarl that already had me questioning my abilities as a writer and on the coattails of a bad lunch time interaction with Drew (I don't care how many books say that it's normal for kids to eat like horses one day and then eat nothing at all the next; it might not bother me as much if I haven't been hearing how low Drew's weight is compared to other kids for practically his entire life; his bad meals make me feel like a bad mother). So I fell into a bad empathy spin for this person I've never met and really don't know from Adam. Thus I haven't posted. But the empathy spin has passed, so more posting this week, to be sure!

Yesterday I was down in Tucson for an RWA meeting. It was a great meeting: after the report on National, we had a panel of men in dangerous jobs--a pilot, a border patrolman, and a motorcycle cop. It was all very fascinating. They spoke candidly about their job and the risks, and the members had great questions to ask. I knew very little about the Border Patrol despite seeing their SUVs all over the place, so it was a real education hearing about what they do and how. It actually gave me an interesting idea for a story that I don't have the time to write.

But the craziest part of yesterday's trip was trying to get back home. We're in the middle of monsoon season here in the desert. In Casa Grande, that doesn't mean too much beyond lots of wind and dust and late night storms. But in Tucson, that means streets become rivers. I had forgotten. Nothing like taking a right and discovering that a paddle would be more beneficial than an engine. I spent a good hour weaving my way through Tucson, trying to find the driest route to the interstate (and given that ten of the on-ramps nearest where I was are closed due to construction, this was a very tricky proposition). Luckily, my familiarity with the town hasn't gone away, so I was never lost. But every Tusconan knows which streets to avoid during a monsoon, and I had clearly lost that knowledge in the past seven years.

Also this week I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was a satisfying conclusion. Except for the epilogue. For the best explanation as to why I didn't like the epilogue, I'll refer you to Abigail Nussbaum because I couldn't put my finger on it until I read this from her:

The impression conveyed by the epilogue, however, is of the kind of quaint conservatism that the novels had previously militated against--family and tradition and community triumphant, with nothing ugly beneath the surface. What Harry, Ron and Hermione have accomplished, in other words, is to bring modern notions of equality and justice to the wizarding world without subjecting it to any of the social effects of modernism, chiefly the collapse of traditional institutions and worldviews. That's not just neat. It's dishonest, and disappointing given that the series had seemed to recognize how problematic those institutions were even as it glorified them.

My only other gripe with the story was the manufactured sense of urgency that so many quest stories suffer. It wasn't the worst offender I've seen, but it had its moments. Chief among them was when Harry was deciding on a course of action and his choice depending on which of two people he was going to talk to first. Time seemed to be of the essence as he made his choice and talked to one person instead of the other, but really the only urgent matter was for the reader to learn certain pieces of information before learning what Voldemort was up to at that particular moment. I know this is the case because, having made the choice before talking to either of them, he no longer had to worry about time and proved that by taking a month to plan his next move after speaking with both people and confirming what Voldemort was up to. Really, there was no reason that the book should've spanned a year's worth of time other than that this setup was ingrained from the rest of the series.

As for other goings on, I did unsnarl the plot issue I mentioned above. I need to do a bit more research before I can finish the backstory, but I've got enough to write at least the frist two chapters, so I'm pressing on with draft. I expect I'll have another process examination post on Tuesday.

Have you had your inner conspiracy theorist shut down yet today? If not, read this by John Scalzi. While I was at first surprised that there are actually sane, intelligent folk chatting up the possibility of a Bush-led coup to make him Emperor of the United States, I found myself falling in love with the idea from a writer's perspective. How would something like that go over in a first world country with computers and TVs in every home and guns in nearly as many? Would any governtment that has just wrestled the constitution to the ground have enough resources to stop every Jane Doe with a blog? Could they monitor all IMs and cell phone conversations? Revolution would not only be easy to foment in that fictional set of circumstances, but it'd likely be comical because there would be so many revolutions all around the country--many of them with diametrically opposed goals. Talk about anarchy. Excuse me while I jot some notes for yet another dystopic novel.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rejected Novel Dedication #7

To my beloved cat, Scritch:

I can has keebord now?


Monday, July 23, 2007

Drew's New Toys

Mark and I really hope that Drew is going to have a lifelong love of soccer, otherwise the excessive amount of bouncy balls in our empty-but-for-the-telescope formal living room will be just that. Excessive. These days, Drew enjoys kicking the balls as much as watching Momma or Daddy try to pick them all up at once--we are always thwarted, mostly accidentally on purpose. But it's somewhat hard to resist the Drew Monster when he utters his first sentence ever while pointing at the WalMart bouncy ball display: "Moe bah!"

Excessive or not, though, the proliferation of inflated rubber spheres in our house is a preferable distraction from Andrew's other shiny new toy: El Boyo Diablo hearitly approves of our new-to-us mini-van.

Yes, after much budget analyzing and used car research, we have become a two-car family. Friday night we bought a 2004 Kia Sedona. I believe the official color is called ruby red or something (I'm looking forward to the day when car color nomenclature goes completely into Odd Land; my car might become "Dorothy's Ruby Slippers Red" or somesuch). It's got an impressively low amount of miles on it for a 3 year old car, which was the biggest selling point for us. We were completely surprised to find a DVD player in the car as the internet listing hadn't put that on the features list.

The entire family is psyched about this. Drew loves climbing all over the seats and grudgingly gets into his car seat when Momma or Daddy have decided we've wasted enough time and need to get on with the errands. Mark loves all the extra cargo space we've got, something that is woefully inadequate in our little Saturn sedan--packing up for our recent camping trip was quite the experience. And me, I love the fact that I am no longer stuck indoors or at the mercy of other people's schedules when the temp soars past 110 and Drewbie gets antsy. As for the extended family, they no longer have to rent a car when they come to visit because now we actually have room to transport them AND their luggage to and from the airport. Plus the power windows in this car actually work!

We had originally intended to wait until May when the Saturn was paid off to get a second car, but I was slowly going crazy without a means of transportation during the day, and Mark didn't relish the Tetris-like organization of any excursion. Plus, the next big house purchase was furniture for the formal living room, and neither of us was keen on taking away Drew's kickball gym. The living room's going to have to wait until next year. By then we may have a dozen brightly colored balls bouncing all over that room.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Does This Mean I'm Part of Fandom Now?

Due to reading a couple of blogs about the state of SF, in particular its readership and fannish aspects, and other influences that I'm not sure I want to examine, I had a very strange dream last night.

I was part of a group putting on a small Con (short for convention, not confidence). Only we were putting it on at a hotel where some other huge Con or event was going down. And we were trying to pilfer attendees. We decided to con (in the confidence sense, this time) people to come to our meager conference room in the hotel by having a big chocolate spread. The theme was Easter, for some reason (maybe I'm getting all precognitive and looking into next spring), and we were infinitely pleased with ourselves for coming up with this "lure them with chocolate" thing. Somehow in my dream, this ploy ended up working on a bunch of stuffy white male exec types.

Then we really got 'em when they walked into our meager conference room and found a room full of women led by Teresa Nielsen Hayden who decided we all need to unleash our inner girly-girls by applying make-up as we discussed the role of women in current science fiction novels. At least the make-up was kinda cool in that, with one stroke of a blush brush, this purply glittery stuff swept along the side of your face and sort of applied itself however it saw fit. It wasn't the best self-aware cosmetic I can think of, though, as we all ended up looking like Kim Cattrall in her Chinese Demon Bride getup in Big Trouble in Little China, which I recently saw the other night.

At this point, Drewbie startled himself awake, thus waking me up and interrupting my subconscious from the effort of furthering an academic conversation in a room full of smart women masquerading as freakazoid geishas nibbling on gotcha! chocolates.

When I fell back asleep, the Con was over, and I, like a true fan junkie, was looking for more Con action. I found a stack of local newspapers, one of which was the local SpecFic Society rag, and it was advertising a Con not too far away. In fact, it even had a map that morphed from a layout of Phoenix to something out of your standard quest fantasy novel. (One of the place names, right next to a cute rendering of a dragon, was "Pinot Noir." I think my subconscious was looking for a little help at this point, and rightly so.)

Alas, the alarm clock went off, preventing me from having to sword & sorcery my way through Phoenix and into Pinot Noir for what would have undoubtedly been the Best Con Ever!

Time's like these, I really want to know how the mind works. I mean, if my subconscious can spin a yarn like that in my sleep, I want to learn how to hijack it better when I'm awake and really kick my fiction up another notch.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Process Examination #4: Dodging the Draft

Ah, the writing life and its bountiful ironies and contradictions. Not long after I posted my bit about how I felt I was ready to start in on the draft only to discover I wasn't, I started getting very involved in writing backstory and finding my characters' voices and avoiding getting back into the actual novel draft. This is not to say that I did excessive backstory writing or pointless character navel gazing. Rather, in focusing on the backstory scenes and letting them reveal what they would about the characters, I better understood the plot of the novel itself. And in better understanding the novel's plot, I had a better grasp of just what it would take to write my way from Chapter 1 to The End.


One of the benefits of organic, completely fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writing is that you have a vague destination or goal in mind and this lets you focus rather completely on the journey. It's a great metaphor for life, and you do get lost in the joy of exploring a world or a set of characters or a story without worrying about the destination. It's my comfort writing. It's not how I want to write professionally, though, because it's damn inefficient and frustrating when you'd like to boost productivity. It's possible that I have yet to channel my muse appropriately to allow for the best organic writing experience. Maybe one day after I've finished at least one more novel I'll try it again and see what happens.

But even as I've figured out how to get out of truly organic writing while still avoiding rigorous outlining, I hadn't considered what it might be like to have worked out enough of the plot and character arcs--in the sense of staring down a daunting 100,000 words. It's one thing to broadly outline where you're going and why and who's going to be doing what when they get there. It's quite another to sit down and type in all the details of that journey. Nevermind that I've done this before for Human Dignity. I'm still a little twitchy from writing 82,000 words of Shadow of Zehth and realizing I had to go back to word 1 and start all over.

So I might be writing a bit more backstory than I though was necessary when I first realized I wasn't ready to start the draft. But I'm getting a lot more puzzle pieces for this book in doing so, and I'm getting to know my characters very well. I'm also getting a good sense of the further research I need to do to write some key scenes better and incorporate stronger details into the going. This is the benefit of doing backstory, at least for me. It's like taking a practice test. The pressure's off, so you can play around a little, figure out where the strengths and weaknesses are, if it's possible to use this character in this way or not (found out that one of the plot arcs I had set up for a non-POV major character wasn't going to work because that character, when I wrote backstory from her POV demonstrated a slightly different set of morals than I expected).

But, of course, this could become excessive very quickly and thus allow me to stall when I should really start digging into creating the novel. So I've limited myself to one scene per character that I want to learn more about. I have a cast of six characters, and I know I want to write backstory scenes from five of them. I've already written one and a half of those scenes. My backstory has also yielded a seventh character who will play a major role in a subplot (and a minor role in the plot), and I think I might want to do a scene from her POV. But that scene and the odd man out of the first six I mentioned will be extras as things stand now. I might use them to kick start me out of any potential future stalls.

The one very good thing about dodging the draft is that I've seen how vital backstory free-writing is for me. It's solidified plot and characters. It's highlighted weak spots that will need attention either in research or revision. It's given me surer footing in the world of this novel, but it has its limits.

Friday, July 13, 2007

This Just In!

The very last line of the next Harry Potter book is:

Harry looked around him at the carnage, shrugged, and said, "I, for one, welcome our Death Eater overlords."

OK, so not really. Or maybe. I have no idea. I'm getting the book on the 21st just like most of the rest of the world. It was one of those "What if" moments that took a macabre bent.

I'm actually confused between looking forward to seeing the new HP movie and looking forward to reading the HP book. I don't think I've quite realized that I can do both before the month is over. The movies have been fall treats for me, the books summer ones. I'm sure I'll get over it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rejected Rejection Letter Response #1

In lieu of my Rejected Novel Dedications feature, I give you a lovely depiction of author insanity at its finest. (May not be work safe unless your volume is low.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

At Long Last! Pictures of the Drew Monster!

Yes, we finally have fresh Drewbie content at our website. So check it out.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Andrew Goes Camping

The Drew Monster absolutely loves camping. I think its biggest appeal to him is the ability to get filthy dirty with little to no effort.

Because of the fire danger in Arizona this time of year, we weren't able to have a campfire, so Drewbie missed out on that camping experience. And he didn't seem to like waking up confined in his playpen rather than in his bed, but he calmed down pretty quickly and fell back asleep in my arms, so it all worked out.

We were up in the Tonto National Forest around Payson. It's a beautiful drive up the Beeline Highway from the swanky eastern Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills. (We actually drove through Fountain Hills one day, but the World Famous Fountain--it's apparently the third largest in the world--wasn't on at the time.) The main purpose of the trip (other than seeing how the Drew Monster took to camping) was to go to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. It's a small little park with a couple of quick but steep treks to get under an amazing bridge carved out by water. It had been threatening to storm the entire time we were putting up our tent and walking down under the bridge (yes, Red Hot Chili Peppers was running through my head a couple of times that afternoon), but it waited until we were safely under the large stretch of rock before cutting loose. So we and several other folks sheltered under the bridge while it poured rain and thundered all around us. Drew figured out that dropping rocks into one of the pools under the bridge was great fun indeed and heartily demanded "Moe!" whenever he ran out of rocks nearby. It was a very nice excursion.

Mark and I were just tickled that Andrew enjoyed camping so much. We're already looking forward to our next camping trip, which will probably be in September or October/November.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Oh Noes! Intarnets Killed the SF Star!

I've heard a lot of references to the "science fiction is dying" debate. I've never really spotted evidence of it in the wild, on my own, devoid of anyone linking to some blowhard's blog. But folks talked about it so much within the genre itself, I felt sure that it had to exist. And lo, five years after my self-indoctrination into the field of science fiction, I have spotted my first specimen. In the August issue of Discover Magazine, no less.

Excuse me while I commence with the present tense, to make this read more as if I'm hosting some wild safari show.

I'm caught by the "title" of the article, which reads more like a quote from the piece itself:

At a gathering of potential Jules Vernes and H.G. Welses, one wonders if science fiction is losing its predictive power as reality becomes increasingly fantastic.

Blimey! It's presenting! It's doing the mating dance of "Science Fiction is Dead" right before my eyes, telling me science fiction can't function because reality is too much like science fiction. Where's my camera? It's like spotting Big Foot!

I catch a whiff that something may not be quite as remarkable as it seems, though, as the article continues its multicolored "do me now" extravaganza.

...this gathering of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is palpably low on excitement.

I turn away from the specimen so as to snort laugh into my sleeve. Never did I think that, upon my first sighting of SFID, I would also see the equally remarked upon from within but rarely seen from without phenomenon of "SFWA Represents Genre Writers to the World." Forget the camera, I want a chair, a beer, and some popcorn. This dance could take a while, and there's not a chance of the specimen seeing anything beyond itself.

The lack of couch potato comforts is doubly-felt as the ritual continues.

Fiction is a job for people with Big Ideas, not a flair for small talk...they're generally too concerned with topics like the human condition and the fate of the world to worry about their appearance.

Great Tropes of Eternity! He's invoked the sacred act of "Writers are Unsocial, Unkempt, and Smell Bad" before even finishing the first third of the first segment of the dance. Ladies and Gentleman, I am truly witnessing something amazing here. I only regret that I had to experience this alone. No one will believe what I've seen.

OK, I have to stop there, or else this is going to take too long, and I'm going to open myself up to copyright violation problems from quoting too damn much of the article. As I said above, it's in the August 2007 issue of Discover. It's the "Blinded by Science" departmental piece by Bruno Maddox on pages 28-30, and it's truly a wonder of journalistic accomplishment.

All my "Crikey" kidding aside, this article does sum up just about all the things I've heard folks within SF as a genre bemoaning. Plus it ups the ante by saying that it's not just SF that's in trouble, it's all fiction in general. It's those pesky Intartubey thingies that's ruining it for everyone while simultaneously letting anyone be a person of Big Ideas, if only for the moment it takes to push "Publish" in their blogging software. (Crikey! That's a steaming pile of irony, folks! Let's just step carefully around it.)

The one very interesting thing about the piece that gives me food for future research is that Maddox attributes the demarcation between "hard" SF and "soft" SF to various spats between Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. I hadn't heard that before. In fact, I had heard (from a female professor, I believe) that "soft" SF was a term coined when all those silly wimmin began writing SF that focused on silly things like biology and the like. (By the way, Maddox's discussion of SF is completely male-centric, right down to the "shirtless bodybuilders with Thor hairstyles" featured on the "brightly colored works" glutting the SF section. What bookstore is he frequenting, and can he give me directions from Phoenix?) However, this one interesting morsel that distinguished "hard" and "soft" as dealing primarily with the gee-whiz science vs dealing primarily with the social impact of the science was not enough to salvage the entire piece.

I loves me some drama, as my mother will tell you, but even I couldn't help but snicker at the realization that Maddox was at the friggin Nebula Awards (not the actual ceremony, but lounging at what sounds like the SFWA version of a Con Suite), generalizing for the genre because a bunch of old men are picking at fresh from the can bean dip and acting as if they're avoiding the big elephant in the room (which is, of course, the death of SF). Maddox is upset because he hasn't stumbled into anyone doing that costume thang or the other tried author-in-public trope of putting on a jacket and using a pipe to punctuate statements in some frenzied debate. But that's not really what he's missing. He's missing that sense of energy that he thinks should be suffused in any gathering of potential future SF greats. Maybe the Good Ol' Boys were tired after all that Election Debate Frenzy. Or perhaps they were still recovering from their Internationl-Pixel-stained-Technopeasant-Wretch-Day-induced heart attacks.

Yes, not a paragraph after zinging the room for being naturally taciturn and unsocial, he berates the congregation further by grading their effervescence. All while saying that SFWA = the past, present, and future of SF (won't SFWA be proud), and that SF is dead and we all know it. This is before the first section break.

Then it's the bit about Wells and Verne and hard and soft, and past SF influences. And it's all pretty good reading until it goes right back to SFWA Nebula Con Suite cruisers = SF Golden Days heirs. And from there, on to the whining about those lurid fantasy covers taking up all the damn shelfspace.

As if I couldn't be amused enough, though, Maddox goes on to toll the virtues of Michael Crichton's pre-Timeline work, citing Andromeda Strain as the pop culture reference du jour of the media whenever, get this, "some mysterious virus escapes from a lab." (Dude, if I had a nickel for everytime those pesky labs are releasing their Frankensteinian concoctions into the world and the media gets all Andromeda Strain about it. (Actually, wouldn't the more relevant pop culture reference be Hot Zone? Or perhaps Outbreak?)) Then Maddox regains some of my interest by lambasting Crichton for both Timeline and Prey, and that warms my heart, it does.

But wait! Crichton's nose dive into the realm of badfic--even though Maddox himself in this article admits that the man writes techno-thrillers, not SF (though he labels that as a petty distinction suited for purists, mostly for the purposes of his argument, which I realized as I read on)--must be indicative of a trend for all "serious science fictionists." No supporting evidence there. Must be, again, that bookstore with the choice manflesh on the covers.

The reasons for the crappy SF are two-fold. First one up to the plate: The Evil Internets as Destroyer of All Fiction as a relevant "delivery system for big ideas." (So why was he in that bookstore, and why are they so dreadfully jam-packed with male nipples?) Afterall, why slave away at a book for several years (Jiminy Crickets! We're beyond a stereotype trifecta here, folks! He's going for the world record!) when you can just crank out a quickie post that says the same thing and not even worry about those silly typos?

Second reason SF is crap/dying (yes, did you catch when he equated the two phenomenon): The iPhone! Apparently Maddox is so gobsmacked by Steve Jobs that he can't possibly imagine how much further science and technology can go. I'm reminded of a conversation I had as a grad school applicant with an entrenched professor at CU. I had barely shook the man's hand and turned to settle into my chair in his office when he loudly proclaimed that there wasn't anything left to discover in science. I think I actually laughed to his face rather than turning to snort laugh into my sleeve (so naive I was, then). It's this sort of thinking that ultimately got me out of grad school and into writing SF. In SF I can take the foundation of scientific knowledge I spent six years gathering, build on it, dream it out bigger than it can be right now, and go nuts. I mean, the implications of mapping the human genome alone are astounding (both in the hard, gee-whiz sense and in the soft, social implications sense; and, no, it hasn't all been done any more than any idea in fiction as already been done).

As I finish up the article, I'm already laughing at Maddox for not unterstanding his research subject beyond the surface and tropes. But I'm somewhat perplexed how his little piece actually adds up to a discussion of why SF is dying or how the Internet and iPhone-like technological advances are kicking the ailing corpse into the grave. Then I read that SF writers should take heart! (And he tells me to do so in tongue-in-cheek fashion, admonishing himself for snarking on the SFWA Smelly Ol' Geeky Geezers Club. Surely I should be listening to him now!) Rather than let SF die, society should go into the bookstores and:

Let everything but the truth be "Fantasy," I say, and let the truth--the searing, unmanageable, discombobulating truth of the lives we have invented for ourselves in a world it took artists to imagine--be Science Fiction.

"Fantasy is for escapist losers" for the win! So the entire article is revealed to be nothing more than sour grapes over all those shiny topless hunks wielding swords against dragons. He has completely convinced me of his argument.

Science Fiction is Dead! Long live Science Fiction!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another First

Mark and I are taking Andrew camping this weekend. We're hoping he takes very well to this. As with our trip to the Grand Canyon, we will once again have the Elmo Leash available to allow El Boyo Diablo safely to walk around our campsite and the Tonto Natural Bridge and forest area. Hopefully I'll have amusing and positive stories to share about this experience on Monday.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Early Thoughts on Carol Berg's Flesh and Spirit

Quick thoughts as I start this book: Carol has established her main character's voice so incredibly well really by the end of the first scene. Though, because I am slow, it took me until halfway through Chapter 2 to realize just how amazingly well it was done. That's when it dawned on me how clearly the dialog and actions and thoughts of the main character were pouring out of the page and into my brain. And I think I'm on page 12. This takes amazing talent and skill, ladies and gentlemen.

So go buy the book. That is all.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Musings on Writerly Identity

Nick Mamatas, the Clarkesworld editor that gave me my first rejection with feedback, often has a blunt, brusque way of putting things that catches my attention and gets me thinking. (Yes, yes, good for him, good for me; shiny gold stars for everyone!) More often than not, my immediate response is an incoherent jumble of thoughts that usually start with, "Yes, but...." The posts of his that garner an extensive mental babble of vaguely defined agreeing protestations I tend to set aside and come back to frequently to see if I can shake anything cogent out of all the rumblings.

A while back, he posted a long bit about how writers who prefer to call themselves "craftspeople" rather than "artists" had it wrong all wrong and were bad stupid monkeys. This generated all sorts of "I see what you're saying, and I don't fully disagree, but I don't fully agree" trainwrecks in my head. So I kept going back to it, trying to figure out just what the hey my brain really was trying to tell itself on this matter. Luckily, he posted on recent caterwaulings within the SF community about getting no respect. His point on the last post was something along the lines of "Please, it's a Pulitzer for a non-journalistic medium; it means nothing." Fair enough, but I found the linked discussions about how SF is viewed from the outside and how the insiders feel about that insteresting and finally gave me the catalyst for understanding my "Yes, but" to the "NO CRAFTSPEOPLE NO!!" post.

So here are my thoughts, still not as coherently expressed as they likely could be, and in no particular order.

1. My desire to believe I'm special, capable of changing the world, became less important than just wanting to do my thing without Life mucking things up too much, sometime in the past two years. Probably having a kid had something to do with it. Yet even when I thought I was the shisnit, I always wanted people to believe that they could do whatever great thing it was I wanted to do if they just tried hard enough (perhaps to justify my own existence as being earned, not a series of lucky breaks along with work, some of it hard). Calling myself an "artist" immediately puts me in that "special through my own uniqueness that you can never achieve" category that I never wanted to be a part of. Bit of an off-shoot of the "we make our own destiny" way of thinking, just even more steeped in a desperate sense to find validation in the world.

2. I know going in that commercial fiction of any genre stripe gets shat upon by folks with soap boxes who are trying to establish what will be remembered 100 years from now today to cement their own importance in the world. Part of me cares (it's small; the same part that dreamed in a "I really don't believe this would ever happen, but it's warm and fuzzy" way that I would win the Nobel prize for some amazing AIDS or cancer research breakthrough by the age of 35). Most of me just has that same "let me get on with what I want to do here" attitude. And another part of me laughs maniacally, dreaming of the day when I am a multi-million dollar genre hack so I can really gloat.

3. I'm really starting to bristle at labels lately.

4. Art is a product of plying one's craft. That's why someone can look at an overall shitty piece of art and say, "Look at the craftsmanship." Because it is something to admire the putting together of a story, but if the story itself sucks, then it's a shitty piece of art with excellent craftsmanship. Weaving a basket is craft much the same way that writing a standard five-paragraph essay is craft. Thus I would never call myself an artist or a craftsperson. I am a writer. I ply a craft to create a work of art. Thus I can be identified as either a craftsperson or as an artist by others as they see fit. For myself, I don't see a separation between the two, really.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Rejected Novel Dedication #6

[I thought it would be fun to get back to this feature. I don't know if it'll be a regular installment, or just something I do whenever I get the inspiration and/or feel like being pithy.]

To all the esteemed reviewers who panned my previous novel:

It sold 175,000 copies and earned me my third million.


By all means, trash this one, too.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Amphibious Andrew

Now that the water in my mother's pool has warmed up beyond 80 degrees, the Drew Monster has morphed into the Loch Ness Drew Monster. He's been experimenting with putting his head under water in the bath for quite some time now, quick little dips below to prove to himself that he can hold his breath on cue and the like. He's also become a shower fiend, really enjoying standing under water.

All of that has somehow convinced The Boy that he can swim.

In my mother's pool, he mostly keeps to the main entrance steps because he can play like he's in the bath on those levels without struggling to keep his head above water. But every now and then, he'll decide he has to embark on a journey to the center of the pool. He'll do a little leap in my general direction, trusting me to catch him and keep him afloat as he swims by straining himself forward with his arms and chin and chest, occasionally kicking his legs. He's very difficult to hold during these times, and its all Momma can do to keep her own head above water as well as his.

We have practiced dunking him fully under water as well. He's OK with this once or twice, but then he's not all that enamored of it and would rather play on the steps. It's pretty funny. I can ask him if he wants to practice going under water, and he'll emphatically shake his head no. But then he'll do his little quick face dips on his own. At least he's used to the prospect of being underwater enough that the one time he missed the edge of the step and fell into the deeper part of the pool seconds before Momma was able to snag him, he emerged calmly in my arms, blinking away the water and breathing just fine. He had known to hold his breath. Momma's heart had stopped, of course, but he didn't even sputter or cough.

The real joy of an hour-long pool session with El Boyo Diablo, though, is that he wipes himself out so well that he doesn't fight bed time and sleeps straight through until 7AM or later. I would take him swimming every day, except for the fact that the same hour-long swimming session tends to drain Momma just as effectively, too.