The usual way in which we plan today for tomorrow is in yesterday's vocabulary. We do so, because we try to get away with the concepts we are familiar with and that have acquired their meanings in our past experience.
This insight is a big part of why I'm convinced most any attempt to talk about "the future", especially in SF, is always going to be some form of talking about the here and now. When I wrote Flight of the Vajra I didn't really think the future I was imagining was the future we were going to have, or even a future we were likely to inhabit. It was a future, one I used more as a way to muse about where we're headed or even where we are right now. Such is the way of skiffy.
What I don't think we should ever do, though, is settle for only that. Today's tomorrow shouldn't look like yesterday's tomorrow if we can help it.Read more
On BuzzFeed's ban on negative reviews:
The usual insufferable tweedwads argue that literary criticism is a genre unto itself, its value residing not in the appraisal of the book so much as the context, scholarship and thematic exploration offered by the critic. Uh-huh. Sure. Go ahead, Margaret Atwood — make this about you.
The other silly argument is that a positive review is rendered meaningless if there is no possibility for a negative one. Oh, really? Ever see a hyperlink?
The single kernel of truth in their justification — "Why waste breath talking smack about something?" — is surrounded by so many acres of idiocity I'd need hip boots to wade over there. And it turns out that one kernel is, on closer inspection, a withered husk.Read more
I just upgraded to the latest version of Movable Type that I'm allowed to use, 5.2.9, and reconfigured it to run under FastCGI. The results are pleasantly snappy, enough that any difference in terms of UI performance between this and WordPress are pretty much nitpicking.
On the whole, though, the long-term plan is to wean myself of Movable Type as soon as Ghost becomes a viable option. It's not that I dislike MT, but the most recent version of the program (and everything to come after it, apparently) really isn't designed for, or marketed to, individual bloggers like yrz trly. This used to be a major component of MT's sales pitch, but not any more. No more single-user or open source versions of the program, either: the least I'd have to pay is $595 for a 5-user license, four users of which will most likely never get used! (Open can of paint, paint one door, throw out the rest?)Read more
For a variety of reasons — bad timing, too much work, impending cross-country move, holiday crunch, already got other projects munching on my lobes — I didn't participate in NaNoWriMo this year. No diss at all of you who did, though, and I know there's at least a couple of regular readers of this blahg who spent November bashing keys. Good going. Gold stars for the lot of ya.
Now here's a theory which may offend: I suspect I may have outgrown NaNo altogether.
Before you soak the torches in gasoline and ready the pitchforks, don't assume by this I mean that NaNo is a phase that writers should outgrow, or that everyone who does it is a bottom-runger. All I mean by this is, everything I once used NaNo for are now things I find I can do on my own without it.Read more
I've hinted before at a few other projects after Fold, so here's an updated rundown. All titles are codenames, so don't expect to see them released under those names.
Don't expect dates on any of these. I could end up working on them in any order. But isn't that half the fun?Read more
Over the weekend I decided Welcome to the Fold was ready to be written for real, and that the outlining and note-gathering phase of the project was pretty much done. After Thanksgiving weekend, I'll roll up my sleeves and get started — real life distractions be damned.
Starting any new project is always tough, because we want whatever we produce as soon as the gun goes off to be the thing we end up using. Fight that temptation, I say. I wrote the first chapter of Flight of the Vajra some four or five times before I found the voice, tone, situation, and approach the story needed — and even then I still wasn't totally happy with it, but it came closer than anything else I could come up with.Read more
In a thread over at Hacker News, someone pointed out how the "simplification of any complex subject has limits". There's only so much you can boil a subject down before you start to do it injustice. The original discussion revolved around software tools, and how some kinds of programming can only be made so simple before they become constraints on further learning. At some point you gotta take the training wheels off.
The same thing happens with writing. There comes a point when all the books, all the advice of teachers or peers, all the things (ALL THE THINGS!!!) have to be shelved in favor of making an effort on one's own.
The way I once put this to someone else was, "I know when someone's arrived if they can write something where I don't agree with a single word, but I can still admire every impeccably-assembled syllable of it."Read more
This will almost certainly destroy any claims I could lay to being part of the novelists' union, but here's a dirty, filthy, terrible little secret: Up until Flight of the Vajra, I never wrote story outlines. [Voices offstage: "Yeah, and we can tell!"]
Actually, I did do such a thing, once upon a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, etcetera, but nothing ever came of it. I'd outline, and halfway through the outline I'd find myself getting bored. Great, I'd tell myself, I went from having this terrific idea to leaving myself with a stupid fill-in-the-blanks exercise. I hated the idea of making what was supposed to be a creative act into a mere paint-by-numbers job — and even if it wasn't actually like that, that was sure how it felt.Read more
My comments about Berdyaev the other day got me thinking about the kinds of reading material I turn to when I'm in the run-up phase for a project. It's research material, but not the kind you might expect.
First off: when I'm working on a given kind of project, I read pretty much no other fiction of the same kind — assuming I can find anything that even comes close to it in my mind in the first place. Back when I was pounding out Flight of the Vajra, I didn't read other space opera, for several reasons: I didn't want to pick up ideas from those books (some of which wouldn't have belonged in my book in the first place anyway); I'd already read plenty of it in the run-up to working on the book, and had decided that stuff wasn't a model I wanted to emulate anyway, but instead look beyond; and a big part of what I wanted to bring to the material wasn't to be found in most of the rest of SF in the first place.
Second, the research material I scare up for a given project is about 50/50 factual and inspirational. The first half is "hard" stuff: historical research, real-world info about people, places, things, behaviors, etc. The second half, though, is more about the ideas behind something. Hence all of my ingestion of Aung San Suu Kyi and Thomas Merton when working on Vajra — I wanted more of that sort of thing in the book than I did David Drake (or even Heinlein, for that matter). I still think I had a little too much of the business where the way such ideas were included in the book was by simply having people sit around and talk about them — and maybe that's something I only single out for criticism in my own work because it's something I'd single out in others' works as well — but that's a discussion for another, longer essay.Read more
Turning yesterday's post over in my head left me with another issue: how interesting is it, really, to read about such a situation? I hearkened back to a criticism of Amadeus (the movie), which went "How interesting is Salieri's envy, anyway?" Meaning, can you really sustain a 2 1/2-hour film on no other fuel but a man's petty jealousy?
I imagine there's more to the film than just that alone, but those words did awaken within me a sense of how Welcome to the Fold has to be about more than just the mechanics of the frustrated politics of its players.
I also remembered United Red Army, the staggeringly boring Koji Wakamatsu movie about the self-destructing politics of Japan's left circa the late '60s. Doubly staggering since I was already fascinated by the subject, so if the movie couldn't even enlist my interest, it didn't stand an icicle chance's in a magma pool with most anyone else.
But the most glaring problem with the movie wasn't the subject matter. It was how the filmmakers assumed just putting the central subject on display — the dysfunction of radical utopian politics — would be enough by itself.Read more