More on the Politics in Writing Brouhaha

Here is a rant by Sarah Hoyt about more of the culling and potential for discrimination that is taking place in the Science Fiction Writer’s Community. I’ve said here (and I’ll say many more times) that it is possible and nearly always preferable to separate a writer’s politics from his or her writing. Within reason, of course, and I’m not looking to split hairs but to have an actual discussion. I might not like the way Isaac Asimov behaved at conventions around women and specifically about how his hands would occasionally orbit their asses (or even collide), but I enjoy his non-fiction and his shorter fiction and consider them primary influences. (The Foundation trilogy is a collection of novellas and stories. It’s also slathered in awesomesauce.) I think some of the things Orson Scott Card said about homosexuals are absolutely reprehensible, but Speaker for the Dead is one of my two favourite books about xenophobia and dealing with alien species. (The Fuzzy Papers is tied with it, though Speaker does hit me in the gut a little more.) And outside of science fiction, there are a few contemporary authors who have said a few things I find a little ignorant regarding communism and socialism, and I might not ever accept a dinner invitation from them unless they’re willing to debate at length, but they’ve also written some awesome books, books I am not ashamed to recommend.

Here’s the thing:  If Mr Card wrote a book about a gay man who was half a person and couldn’t succeed at his quest or mission simply because he was in love with another man, I would have no problem not reading the book. But to the best of my knowledge, his books aren’t about that. They’re about finding one’s way, or living with guilt, or understanding something utterly alien. Ditto Asimov. His stories were about living in the future and dealing with science, not about occasional gropes and insensitive comments. Of course, such things are reprehensible, but they didn’t figure into his writing.

Since reaching adulthood (and especially after I joined the Navy) I’ve learned to look at complex things in a complex manner, and I used to think that all adults either did so or at least tried to. It’s part of rational thinking, I believe. I might totally disagree with a friend’s politics (and he with mine) but if we read the same books, like the same music, do the same kinds of things on our off-time, we can be friends. I look at writers the same way. I don’t pick up a book thinking “Here’s someone who agrees with me writing things that are agreeable and that furthermore, all right-thinking people agree with.” If the author does work in something that I disagree with, well, hopefully he or she explains why this is done. Then I will either change my opinion or add to it, and give it a little more depth. It’s a challenge to one’s thinking apparatus. An exercise. I suppose if you have no desire to ever grow as a person and never improve your thinking muscles, you might like to read pap that has been pre-approved and pre-screened to have all the right political points and opinions, written by someone who feels the same way. But then again, you probably shouldn’t be reading a traditionally challenging art form like science fiction, a genre that challenges you to think what if this happens. Or what if things were different. Not what if everything were perfectly created in my own image of perfection. If for no other reason, this will make a crappy story, but I hope everyone reading this can see that that will also make for a reader who doesn’t like to think, ever, and that’s rarely a good thing.

Enough of my own ranting. Here’s Sarah Hoyt’s article. Have an awesome night.

Back From My Travails

So the light blogging period is over and I’m back to keeping up with you guys every day, and then some. All in all, it was a pleasant drive to New York, with a stop on the way up with my awesome and artistic friends Joy and Daniel. The way down… well, my first day’s plans to meet someone for lunch fell through, and my plans to spend Monday and Tuesday hiking in Shenandoah and perhaps Mount Rogers in Virginia were greeted with rain and storms and lightning. (I was still thinking about hiking Old Rag Mountain, but something about spending time on an exposed granite summit during a thunderstorm seemed a little silly.) I finally spun off I77 in a huff (I can still do a pretty good huff) and went to the south bank of the New River, which has 20 or 30 miles of good trail alongside. It was sprinkling, but damnit, I’d planned on hiking, and I was going to hike.

The rest of the drive back wasn’t too bad. I crossed the perimeter into Atlanta around 1630, and a few wide turns later, I got my first view of the Atlanta skyline after almost a week away. And apparently, every single car in Georgia (and a few from Alabama) knew that I had missed seeing my city, so they all got together and blocked traffic on the freeway so I had more than enough time to look at it. sigh And the strange thing is, I’m still glad to be home.

Working on an inspirational post right now, along with this week’s story. I’m having issues with one since I’m afraid it’s a little too dark, but eventually I’ll probably put it out. It’s always a little bothersome when you peek into the dark corners of your mind, looking for something scary, and actually find something scary. Or disturbing. Or both.

Story 6/52: Welcome to Realityish

Today’s short-short story is more of a flash vignette about my (and perhaps everyone’s) writing process. Feel free to leave feedback. The topic is one every writer (and perhaps every creative artist) has had to deal with since time immemorial. I really would not be surprised to learn that the artists in the caves in France had to explain to their other cavepeople just where they got the idea to draw what they did, and what it meant.

Story 6/52:  Welcome to Realityish

Story On Its Way (Go ahead and duck…)

I’m on the road right now, and on top of that, in a relatively good mood. Waking up in the mountains will do that do you every time, unless of course, you went to sleep in the prairie. Today’s story is slowly making its own roadtrip from my notebook to a blog page. It’s more of a flash piece than a formal story, but I think it says something I’ve needed to say for a while.


Ladies and Gentlemen, We Apologize for the Interruption

I’ve actually been a little sicker than I’ve let on, but I’m back and blogging today. Let’s see what I can pull out for inspiration.

Well, this is not inspiration so much as it is news and a hint of controversy. Here are the Hugo Awards Nominees for 2014, as republished on John Scalzi’s blog. There is also a little bit of controversy surrounding the shortlist, namely the fact that Vox Day has a novella in the running. I’d wager most of the people arguing against his inclusion haven’t actually read the novella in question. (I have, and one other one of his as well… they’re not bad, but they’re not on my Requested Reading List that I hand out to people.) After the flame wars and the debacle last year over certain actions in the SFWA, I think just one controversial nomination is not too terribly bad. Personally, I don’t like a lot of the guy’s opinion (‘don’t like’ is an understatement) but his stories are decent; in my mind, that’s what the Hugo Awards should be about and not about whether he or she voted for the wrong person or said something insensitive. So that is, I think, the biggest controversy with the awards this year.

Well… actually, there is also the matter of the entire Wheel of Time (all 15 books, counting the prequel) being on there. Not only do I think that nominating a series that took 23 years to be published is the most blatant exploitation of a loophole, it’s… well, listen, I’ve read some of those books three times, and I can’t say I don’t like them. But they’re bubblegum fantasy. Fun bubblegum fantasy, but not what I grew up reading in various Hugo-award collections. I really think there were better novels that they could have put up for this year.

More inspiration and perspiration later.


Friday Leftovers

It’s been a long, rough, itchy week, but things are looking up. I finished a couple of good books this week, did some car maintenance, played with the cat without requiring a blood transfusion (she was the problem cat at the shelter… really… we’re perfect for each other) and wrote a story that I really like. That doesn’t mean that I usually (well, frequently) go through long emo jags where I think everything I write is shite. I mean, I have so many people telling me that that it frees me up to actually enjoy my writing from time to time. But for some reason, I really liked this particular story. It’s a nice feeling, reading something and thinking “Holy crap, that was ME.” I recommend that feeling to everyone reading this blog.

However, next week’s is going to be a little different. This week I finished one of Flannery O’Connor’s two story collections (Everything That Rises Must Converge). On top of that, I started reading Best American Noir of the Century, starting with the horrifying awesome story “The Paperhanger” by one of my heroes, William Gay. Not only did he write smooth and deadly southern gothic, taking only the best parts of Hemingway, O’Connor, and Faulkner, along with a liberal dash of black humour here and there, he served in the Navy, taught himself the craft by ceaselessly writing, and didn’t publish until he was in his late 50’s. I’m not there yet, but I can still think of him as a role model.

On top of this ultra cheerful reading list, I also had a comment or two that my stories have been a little too cheerful, lately. Luckily, I have hopefully addressed these critics by going back to the notebooks I kept when I was an undergrad at STFU and I think I’ve found a couple of good ideas for next week. We’ll see.

Link salad tomorrow. The cat’s snoring and my books are calling.

Almost 1/10th of the way: A Crafter’s Observation

Well, Story #5 is done save for the final polish. I took this one down to the wire but I was able to finish it in time. Maybe Friday or Saturday I’ll sneak in and edit it a little but the point remains that I was still able to hit my goal of writing a story a week. And next week’s is virtually finished; in fact, one of the problems I had was pulling myself away from the hot new idea I had and finishing the one I’d started.

I also learned that I don’t want to put up one of my old stories in place of writing one a week, if at all possible. I might write two this week so I have something in reserve, but that’s different. Around about Monday evening, when I’d not yet started on this story because of OH MY GOD IT ITCHES IT ITCHES and other concerns I had, I started going through my files, thinking that I had good cause to do such a thing. But for some reason, it just didn’t seem right. Probably an adverse mental reaction to the medicinal cream I’m using.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that, more than before, I feel like a craftsman as I write these stories. Since I first set out to write (and finish) novels some time ago, my method was always:  Write a set amount every day; Let it rest; Edit and rewrite. Yet there were problems with this method, problems I’ve seen for a while but am just now paying attention to. For starters, I always sucked at editing. Oh sure, I could find tonnes of problems with the manuscript. I just had trouble sitting down and fixing them. I’ve since come up with a few ways of addressing that, and I think my current novella is all the better because of those changes.

But the other thing I realized is that charging ahead, blindly committed to word count and finishing the book led to sloppy work. Whenever one of my Muse’s editor friends would stop by my head and start flipping through the pages I’d written, I’d slap him or her away, and scream my commitment to write ten pages/ two thousand words/ whatever my commitment was. No. Matter. What. And yes, sometimes I’d be stuck but I’d keep writing and keep writing, hoping to get out of the rut. Sometimes this would work. Sometimes it led to sloppy piles of camel dung.

Writing a story a week makes me use my craft in an entirely different fashion. I have two to four days, tops, to write a rough draft. That’s more than enough time from a typing perspective… my raw writing novel days taught me to be able to write four to ten thousand words in that amount of time. Ten thousand words is about the top end for a short story, so physically, I knew I could do it when I began this project. But now, all of a sudden, I have other considerations. I have to consider plot, and character, and intertwining the two, making one push the other and carry both to a resolution. I have to make every line of dialogue mean something. I have to have a damn good idea of where the story was going, something I didn’t always have when I was writing a novel. More and more, I’ve begun to feel like I’m taking an item and turning it over and over in my hands, adding something here, removing something there, and slowly letting it become a work of art beneath my fingers. By the time I finished “A Shaggy Dog,” I realized that I feel like I’m making things, not just spitting a long story out of my noggin until it looks like it’s finished.

I also realized that it’s a pretty cool feeling.

Alright, back to my final polish job and then perhaps more time alone with the cat and my book.