One of the better pieces of creative advice I've received is "Look for the cracks in things." Leonard Cohen has a couplet along those lines: there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in. But the right way to apply that advice eluded me for a long time.Read more
Artists certainly are allowed to make films that only satisfy their own creative pursuits. But blockbusters — more than any other kind of film — are conceived of as a way to entertain and satisfy audiences (so they can make money). Modern spectacles feel like they're built to entertain and satisfy their filmmakers instead. They're not considering who their destruction is actually for anymore. They're just doing it. Or, as Vulture wrote, when it comes to destruction porn, "No one necessarily asks for it; it just kind of happens."
My own reservations about how this unfolded in Man of Steel are actually not what's most on my mind when I think about this.Read more
One thing I've noticed about myself vs. other writers with a Web / social network presence is how much more explicit and candid many of them are about their work while it's still being produced. E.g., Twitter updates about word counts or editing status, or even posting the whole thing to their blog incrementally (my friend Scott Delahunt has been doing this with his Lethal Ladies and Subject 13 projects). I don't think these approaches are bad or wrong, just that I've found that they're not the approaches I prefer to take.Read more
People tend to want artists to do the same thing, and it is incumbent upon artists to do something that the audience doesn't want — yet. I'll tell you this. I won't follow an artist who will be led by his audience. Because I don't want to have to follow an artist that I have to lead.
The comments about Silicon Valley aside (I use and make a living off this technology, but I see more and more every day why many creative people are embittered about it, but that's another essay), it was this comment — courtesy of Marc McKenzie, hat tip — which caught my attention.Read more
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
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
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