I finished the fourth, and I hope final, draft of Welcome to the Fold earlier today. Rather than ration out what was left of the edits over the next couple of days, I just decided to sit down and finish everything in one marathon session, and it worked out better that way.Read more
... when I took a subway to a café to write this article and electronically transmit it to a distant editor, I was doing something I could have done in New York City in the 1920s, using that same subway, the Roosevelt Brothers coffee shop, and the telegram, albeit less efficiently. (Whether all that efficiency has helped me personally, or just made me work more for declining wages, is an open question). We expect more change than actually happens in the future because we imagine our lives have changed more than they actually have.
Emphasis mine. Such dilemmas manifested, in my case, in the form of questions about what kind of human behavior to depict in a story about the far future. I decided the best thing I could do, in the case of Flight of the Vajra, was not try to predict too much, but instead to do what any decent SF book does: take what we have now and comment on it by using SF as an interpretive filter.
Vajra was already bordering on obsolete, at least in terms of its technical predictions, by the time it came out. Right in the first sec tion, the main character users a disposable personal drone, and the way I wrote it I implied that this sort of thing was a) common and b) something of an arms race between the people who made such things and the people who try to defend against them. This has already happened, so the future in question already starts to look a little quaint. Ditto the way things like 3D printing or self-assembling materials figure into the story as local color and backdrop. All this stuff just seems hopelessly obvious now, and not very boundary-pushing in terms of asking hard questions about what our lives are going to be like in any number of years. (This isn't why I would want to revise the book, either. Rather, that was more around cleaning up the text itself, on a simple mechanical level.)
But then there are all the things that wouldn't change, most of them rooted in deep-seated parts of human nature. Rather than pin my hopes for the story's success on any one technological prediction, I decided the smarter thing to do would be to make the whole thing revolve around human desire: the impulse to move forward versus the urge to cling to what's familiar. That became the real axis for the story.
I don't think I was completely successful there either, but I hope that element of it has a better chance of meaning something to readers later on down the line than tech gimcrackery already dated by the book's release.
I'm a little more than two-thirds of the way through what I hope is the last pass of edits on Welcome to the Fold, and I am now kicking myself, hard, for not taking advantage of the services of an editor for my previous works.Read more
An earnest question: "What is your writing process like? That is, from "I have an idea!" to "Time to put this on Amazon!" how do your stories typically unfold?"
I said it deserved a more detailed answer, so here we are.Read more
Earlier this week I completed the first end-to-end outline of The Palace of the Red Desert — not a complete outline, but the first one that covers all the plot territory from A to Z. The next move is to step through the document and flesh it out — go over it obsessively, see how things I wrote earlier need to be revised in the light of things I wrote later, add details I missed previously, make notes to myself about what to emphasize, and so on.Read more
No, I haven't forgotten about Welcome to the Fold — and neither should you, for that matter, because the wheels have begun turning on that project again! An editor (that is, a copy editor) has the book in hand and will be giving me some detailed edits. After that comes the real fun: the hunt for a publisher or an agent.Read more
Every book I have written has been a process as much as it has been an artifact. You know how this goes: the act of writing the thing is also an act of trying to figure out what it's all really about, then focus on that and discard everything that doesn't fit the plan.
With Welcome to the Fold, the one thing that remained consistent through every mutation of the project was a line from Slavoj Žižek, whose work I have only acquainted myself with in the know-thy-enemy sense. "The urge of the moment," he has written, "is the true utopia" — meaning that even if throwing one's self at some impossible project leaves only failure (and dead bodies, and shattered social systems, etc. etc., can't make an omelet, don'tcha know), the fact of doing so is what justifies it. This is revolutionary rhetoric, emphasis on the rhetoric and not so much the revolution, in the sense that Žižek strikes me as being a handy source for justifying most any kind of postmodern (or not-so-postmodern) terror. As philosophy, it's bunk, and I'm constantly amazed that modern philosophical thought seems to be preoccupied with such inhuman grotesqueries. (Memo to self: get around to writing that discussion of Man Against Myth, one of the finest and least pretentious deconstructions of such squalid defenses of evil.)Read more
Next week or so is likely to be slow for me — not much bloggo de blog due to Thanksgiving and such — although Christmas is likely to actually have more of me than before, thanks to me not flying anywhere this time around. The tradition has been to visit my in-laws for Christmas, but this year they're literally just up the road, so there ought to be far less of a hole in my schedule because of that.
That said, I more or less finished draft 2 edits on Welcome to the Fold last night.
Rephrase: they were finished with me.Read more
In between working on Welcome to the Fold I've been gathering notes for the projects to come after it, many of which are not set in the here-and-now, but rather in some analogue of the past. I keep thinking of all the pitfalls involved in telling any story out of your time and place, it's the tone of the story that's one of the most underappreciated.Read more
I'm most of the way through mapping out the second draft of Welcome to the Fold, and I'm starting to feel like the guys who have been given the thankless task of tearing down the Javits Center and building something better in its place. The hard part is not getting rid of the old, although that's bad enough; it's bringing in the new without recapitulating the sins of the old.
This is not a long book, but it's a complex one, with a great many individual little details that have to function correctly for the whole thing to work. In some cases, I had the right idea for how something was meant to work, but the wrong embodiment of that idea; in other cases, I had the wrong idea entirely, but the embodiment would be worthy of re-use. Sometimes a bad idea would have a great expression, or the other way 'round. And so on.
What was heartening, though, was seeing the core ideas I'd meant to do justice to rearing their heads again and again throughout that first draft. Rough and problematic as it was, the whole reason I'd written the book in the first place was there — visible to my eyes, at least. The trick now is to make sure everyone else who's not me also sees it.
Less urgent but still fun is the compilation of a playlist to go with the book. As with previous books, I did compile a playlist of material that did seem thematically related, but it's difficult for me to actually listen to that music while writing, as it becomes deeply distracting. Instead, I find myself listening to it at other times, and accruing ideas for the book during that away time. But a scene-by-scene playlist for Fold, one along the lines of the playlist I created for Flight of the Vajra, is in order at some point.
Among the artists included — I don't think I'm spoiling anything by revealing this: