Saturday, August 25, 2018

California Cray

Well, Conjure Man is off to beta-read, and I'm playing with the sequel, Thin City, which is set in my old stomping ground of Southern California.
California has always had a reputation for the cray: fads in philosophy, religion, politics, lifestyle. I love that stuff. Try something different. Even if you fail, it will be amusing...maybe not to you, but definitely to me. And if you succeed, you've introduced or invented something worthwhile for the entire country. Yoga, drinkable American wines, American cuisine based on fresh food (not burned steak and canned peas), the personal computer - they started out there. (Granted, California also gave us biker gangs, cults, and branded water, so...)
Once leaving the East was no longer a guarantee of personal freedom and the 20th Century monoculture took hold from Maryland to the Great American Desert, California was a bastion of the weird. It's where folks who felt repressed in Hannibal and Toledo came to remake themselves with cheap land and endless sunshine - as far into the sunset as you could go without getting wet. If your notion of freedom was crouching on a piece of real estate behind a shotgun, you became a desert rat in the Mojave. If you were more entrepreneurial, you made it out to Southern California and the Bay Area.
Consider all the F/SF writers born in the Midwest who grew up in or moved to California - Bradbury, Heinlein, Dick, Ellison, Niven, Vance, Kuttner, Moore, Matheson...And the state is littered with the relics of the folks who didn't just write spec-fic: They lived it.

Some of my favorite "relics":

The Winchester Mansion
The Madonna Inn
Hearst Castle
The Integratron
The Self-Realization Fellowship Gardens
The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum
The Magic Castle
The Solvang Windmills
The Museum of Jurassic Technology
The Henry Miller Library

If you're ever out there...

Friday, August 24, 2018

This Is Just To Say

I have rejected 
The story
That came from 
your mailserve 

and which 
you had probably 
hoped
would validate you 

Forgive me 
It was atrocious
so trite 
and so old

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hey, Kids! What Time Is It?

It's time for an author interview!

My interview for Fantasy & Science Fiction is up on their blog, and I am my usual urbane and pithy self. Check it out! (It won't take long.)

And while we're on the subject-
A while back, when I was describing A Dog of Wu to a friend, before I'd written it, she said the worst thing you can say to a fiction writer: "It sounds like..."

In her case, she finished the sentence with "...Brave New World." But my brain heard "...someone else has written your story."

Of course, they hadn't said that. And if you actually read A Dog of Wu (go on, I dare you) you'll see it's nothing like Brave New World. But when you start writing, you're often obsessed with the originality of our ideas: Have that one great idea, your story will be successful, and you'll be off on a career of champagne, caviar, and celebrity pet treats for your dog.

Of course, none of that is true. Hamlet wasn't an original idea; neither was Romeo and Juliet. And wasn't there that musical, West Side...something?

Ideas are ideas. Everybody has them. Originality emerges in execution.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Most Important Thing

"A Dog of Wu" is in here!
#shamelessplug
It seems that my story, A Dog of Wu (appearing in the March/April issue of F&SF) got a mention at Tangent Online: "The author successfully creates a complex future society," they say. I'll take it - especially since, if you think about it, creating a world in 8,000 words is damned hard.
Which is why you shouldn't think about it, if you're a writer. DON'T BUILD A WORLD.
Oh my God. What is he saying? Is he saying that everything should be set in the present, or some easily extrapolated near future? Is he-
Nope-nope-nope. Of course not.
But let's face it: You and I have both read a lot of stories - short, long, and medium - with meticulously worked-out worlds possessed of their own languages, religions, sorceries, technologies, geographies, and ecologies, that somehow just don't work. What makes some thorough, logical universes as dry as dust? What makes an insane, inconsistent universe (e.g. Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness) brilliant and utterly convincing?
No, really, I'm asking. I have no idea.
Okay, maybe I have one or two-

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's Official!

My short story, "A Dog of Wu," will appear in the March/April 2018 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Yay!

I don't know if I can convey just how cool this is to me. F&SF has been one of the great speculative fiction magazines for more than 60 years. It's the biggest of the Big Three: F&SF, Analog,  and Asimov's. This isn't to knock the great newer zines/sites like Clarkesworld and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, but F&SF is OG. My dad read it. And the authors! Ray Bradbury and Roger Zelazny, Robert Heinlein and Fred Pohl, Stephen King and Fritz Leiber and Harlan Ellison and Alfred Bester and Damon Knight...

A Rose for Ecclesiastes. Flowers for Algernon. In the Country of the Kind. Born of Man and Woman. My God, what stories. What great company.

So...happy dance!

(NB - I would have used an old cover of F&SF for the image, but I don't want anyone looking for *that* cover for my story, and not finding it...)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

If You're Looking to Help-

- the Hurricane Harvey relief effort, Vox has a helpful article.
ETA: Sorry, the original link was subject to link rot. Problem has been addressed.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

This Is Science Fiction

I often say that science fiction isn't about the new - it's about how we respond to the new. Whether that new thing is a technology, a scientific discovery, an alien race, or something, what is most important is how we respond to it. How we make use of it, run from it, exploit it, adapt to it. Some of the stories that I like best are extrapolative - they take the new thing and explore all the possible ways we might react.

Thirty years ago, this article from Salon.com would have been brilliant science fiction.  In it, an editor named Andrew Kahn goes after Michiko Kakutani, the Great White Whale of New York literary criticism. But instead of doing it with mere assertion and snark - the traditional weapons of belletristic warfare - he used digital humanities. He used software to analyze Kakutani's prose style and her choice of reviewed books. Instead of just saying Kakutani had a limited prose style and a decided preference for some types of books over others, he tried to prove it statistically.

He didn't use enormous processing power to find new elementary particles (after all, there are already people doing that); he used it to argue. A brilliant, science-fictional approach to the new. I wish I had thought of it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The First Draft of "Conjure Man" Is Done. Now Come All the Others...

One hundred thousand words, yikes and yowzah.
When you're in the middle of the thing, all you want to do is drag yourself, bleeding and limping, across the finish line.
Then you do. And you blog about it. (Briefly, I promise.) And then you realize...The first draft isn't the end. It's the beginning. That's why it's first. And you take a pill to keep yourself from putting a steak knife through your ear.

But one thing I am learning (slowly) is that you have to accept mistakes. You can't be afraid to make them. Perfectionism isn't a desire to do things well; it's a fear of doing things badly. That's why perfectionism is the enemy of creativity, because creativity rarely comes from a place of fear.

So if you can't make a shit ton of mistakes in your first draft, when can you?
It's amazing how hard that lesson is to learn, and how you have to keep learning it, over and over.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

One Caveat About Plumbers and Leaders

In my last post, I asked folks to think of presidents as not as leaders, but as plumbers.

My point was that we don't owe automatic deference to either presidents or plumbers - that both are just jobs. The presidency is a harder, more dangerous job, with more disastrous consequences, but a president isn't above other citizens or the law. So treat him like a plumber: Expect honesty, expect competence, and toss him if he doesn't display those two qualities.

After the events in Charlottesville, I feel I have to add something:
Your plumber should be honest.
Your plumber should be competent.
And your plumber should not be a fucking Nazi.

I thought that went without saying in the United States of America. I can see that I was wrong.