Wednesday, December 31, 2003
The humble bloops of Pong...
Sorry. That was a stray sentence from a news story I was ready on Yahoo just now and I sort of fell in love with it. The last day of the year, huh? Ugh. I realized this morning that I've not left the apartment since Christmas day. But "The Dry Salvages" is finished, so I suppose it was worth a week's captivity. Spooky and I started proofreading it about noon and finished about 7 p.m. I'd though it would go quickly. It didn't. I was thinking of it like a short story and, really, it's pretty much the same as working through the first three chapters of Murder of Angels. That sort of length. After dinner, I went back to work on it and finished up about nine. At 9:13 p.m., I announced that the vacation had officially begun. Now, I just have to figure out what to do with myself. Last night, we watched Wings of Desire, which might be Spooky's favorite movie.
My cat threw all the other cats out of her rock band, which had been called Hundreds of Impalas but will now be known as One Big Organism. She rehearses beneath the stairs.
Where was I...?
Oh yeah. Last day of 2003. That means it's time for me to make a list. The best and worst of the year (excluding fiction):
Best CDs (can't say albums anymore):
The Dresden Dolls (The Dresden Dolls)
Hail to the Thief (Radiohead)
The Dividing (Android Lust)
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Kill Bill, Volume One
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
28 Days Later
Peter Pan (Spooky's Pick)
Best Hour of Television:
Farscape, "Bad Timing"
Most Annoying Webspeak:
Best Places to Eat in Atlanta:
The Vortex (L5P, for its burgers)
Mellow Mushroom (for deli sandwiches)
Thai Bowl (for cheap, yummy noodles)
The Righteous Room (best chicken sandwich and best pint)
The Angel (Decatur, best fish and chips)
Pacific Rim (best sushi)
Huey's (best gumbo)
Raging Burrito (best burrito and best quacamole)
DePalma's (Athens, best Italian)
The Grit (Athens, best vegetarian)
Special Award for Worst Restaurant in Atlanta: Moe's, the Wal-Mart of Mexican Food
Best Bookstore: Atlanta Book Exchange
Best Video Game: Primal
Sexiest Men of 2003:
Worst Video Game Movie: Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
Best Superhero Movie: X2
Sexiest Farscape Aliens:
Chiana (Gigi Edgely)
Ahkna (Francesca Buller)
Atlanta Fetish Club Most in Need of a Dress Code: The Chamber
Best Action Figures: McFarlane Toys' Oz figures
Best Atlanta-area Video/DVD Rental: Videodrome
Best Reason to Move to Finland: The Bush Administration
...and, conceding that this is a dumb way to kick start a vacation, I'm outta here.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Yesterday, despite Day 2 of the headache, I wrote 1,097 words and completed "The Dry Salvages." It's weighing in at 30,412 words, before the revisions and tweaking that I'll do today. That number might go up, or down, just a bit. The ms. is an odd looking thing, lying here on my desk. I've never perpetrated anything like it. It looks like an aborted attempt at a novel, pretty much the way Murder of Angels looked when I gave up on it in the spring of 2001. Presently, the ms. comes to 144 pp. (I'd predicted 150 at the start; not bad). I might like novella length. Maybe. I'll have to do at least one more to be sure. It has more room to move about than a short story, but isn't so vast as a novel, so doesn't seem so prone to force one to pad and stretch and prattle long after the time to shut up has come and gone.
Today, Spooky and I will proofread and continuity-check and fact-check and so forth, and tonight I'll send the final draft to Bill Schafer. And then, dear loves, I get a frelling vacation. Even though I know that there's work to be done, I'm taking a couple of weeks off, maybe as long as a month. If I waited until a time when there wasn't work waiting to be done, I'd never, ever take a vacation again. I'll feel guilty and lazy and irresponsible, but I'm doing it anyway. I may spend the bulk of the time exercising, or at least doing active things. But I'll keep up the blogger. This chapter can be titled, "The Writer's Holiday, or Giving My Ass a Break."
We'll also be taking a briefish respite from eBay. My thanks to everyone who's bid or bought in this last round of auctions. And if you're one of those slackers who reads my free blog, but still hasn't bought a copy of Low Red Moon, you can easily remedy that right this very second.
Monday, December 29, 2003
Yesterday, despite a headache that would have brought down a bull Allosaurus, I wrote 1,245 words on "The Dry Salvages." I will finish it today. The headache's better, but still with me. I'd have preferred to have made an end to this story with a clearer head, but maybe the pain will give it some insight it might have lacked otherwise.
And really, I've nothing else to say this morning.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
This story is almost done. I wrote 1,128 words on "The Dry Salvages" yesterday, and I believe that I will finish it by tomorrow evening. Here at the conclusion, it has become very difficult, mostly because I'm letting myself get sucked into that silly quest for originality. I look at this story and I see where it all came from, even if no one else does. I see Alien and Solaris, Event Horizon and 2001: A Space Odyssey, William Gibson's "Hinterlands" and George R. R. Martin's "Nightflyers." And a bunch of other things. And somehow -- I suppose because this is sf, which seems, to me, especially obsessed with the illusion of "originality" -- that bothers me more than looking at my dark fantasy works and seeing the "influences" lying so near the surface. It shouldn't, I know, but it does. Last night, Spooky and I were watching one of the very many little documentaries included with the Alien Quadrilogy, and Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett were talking about how, upon the film's release, people were so taken with its seeming originality, but at once began digging for "where we'd stolen it from." So, O'Bannon and Shusett list a number of places that they "stole it" from (their words): It: The Terror From Beyond Space, Planet of the Vampires, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Howard Hawks' original The Thing from Another World, and so forth. And, of course, I already knew all of this. Anyone familiar with both Alien and all the aforementioned films knows this. But it was sort of comforting to see them being so up front about it.
We do nothing new, any of us. We only struggle to make what we do seem fresh. Alien is such a stunning film because it succeeded it taking that which was very stale and making it fresh, through the genius of Ridley Scott's direction, H. R. Giger's design, the cast's acting abilities, O'Bannon and Shusett's story, Jerry Goldsmith's score, Derek Vanlit's cinematography, and so on and on and on. Of course, with "The Dry Salvages" I have only me, doing all the work, no one else to pitch and brainstorm and share the blame if it all goes to hezmana in the end (and, of course, my story will lack the wonderful visual tyranny of film). Spooky and Jenny make useful comments, sometimes, but they are small comments.
I think that it will be a while yet before I can say that I've even begun to master sf. Like "Riding the White Bull," the sf story I did for Argosy earlier this year, I want this story to be all the things that sf critics and editors like Gardner Dozois and Gordon Van Gelder look for in good stories. I want to wow you the way that Bradbury and Ellison, Gibson and Asimov and Dick and Sterling and all those people I still need to read have wowed you. I don't know that I will, but I am trying. In this story, I think my greatest success has been to keep the characters center stage, and to effectively manage the desired mood (even having tied my hands with the first-person narrative handicap). I want to love this story. I want you to love this story. I have given it more than a month of my life.
Check out PZB's latest comments ("Let's Eat Braaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiins!") on the most recent round of mad-cow hysteria. I was especially pleased with her observations on the difficulties of managing a healthy vegan diet, but then I am and shall ever more be an unrepentant carnivore.
And I suppose that's all I have for today. I have to begin to finish...
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 1,236 words on "The Dry Salvages." I'm predicting that it will be finished by Monday evening, December 29th. Then I get that break I mentioned. I began this novella back on November 24th and it's been a long, long crawl from there to here. And now I am poised at that point that never ceases to be frightening, that place where the right things have to happen at the end, the things I usually cannot see until they are upon me. It's always a simple matter; I just have to find it.
Still no word as to whether the Beagle 2 lander is alive and well on the surface of Mars. I have hope, but can only begin to imagine the sort of stress the mission scientists are under at the moment. Word is, if the lander survived, we won't hear from it until January 4th. As I said, I have hope. If you want to know more, check out SpaceFlightNow.
Another Xmas gift from Spooky was the Alien Quadrilogy boxed set, which I am enjoying immensely. This is one of those DVD sets, like Moulin Rouge and the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings, so filled with special features that it truly is worth the price. Last night, we watched all the pre-production and production features for Alien: Resurrection (which must have taken a couple of hours, and we didn't even get to post-production), then watched the film itself. Actually, the alternate version of the film (Jeunet insists this is not a "director's cut," as he was very happy with the '97 theatrical release). There are nine discs in this set, with two versions of each film and loads of goodies.
And I'm rambling and will now go write...
The eBay auctions continue. And I know that Xmas money is burning a hole in your pocket.
Friday, December 26, 2003
Addendum: Also, Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press called on Wednesday to tell me that the lettered hardbacks of both Waycross and Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold were finally back from the printer. So, if you ordered one or both of these, you should have it fairly soon.
And today, I go back to "The Dry Salvages" (many, many meanings there). I shall sit in my cold office, the cryosphere swirling about me, whispering to me of Mars and Antarctica and Siberia, glaciers and animals frozen stiff on snow-covered plains, of the bottom of the sea and frostbite. The cryosphere knows the language of Cold, and Cold is patient because it knows it gets the final universal laugh.
I am armed with my stocking cap.
The movies were delightful yesterday. See them both, Peter Pan and The Big Fish. This is, without a doubt, the finest Peter Pan ever.
The year is drawing rapidly to its close. Drawing rapidly. The days growing mercifully longer, by scant degrees. Between these poles, I strike my keys.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
I will not get smarmy this morning, because I will not be a hypocrite, but I will wish you all the finest things that I can for the long year to come. Peace and freedom from tyranny and fear and repression, in all ways. The realization of dreams, or at least the luxury of the dreams themselves. The dignity that comes with pain that may not be avoided, and the strength to bear all the unbearable moments in life. Beauty and the eyes to see it.
And joy, which is a far finer thing than any passing happiness.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,549 words on "The Dry Salvages." Last night, I cooked an absurd feast which I shall not recount in detail, though it is tempting to do so. This morning I cooked an equally absurdly feastish breakfast. Spooky and I have had the finest Xmas of any I've enjoyed since the late '80s. Last night, I kept thinking of one very, very awful Xmas Eve in Athens, only a few months after the death of a friend, and I felt an odd, guilty sort of gratitude to be alive. This morning we exchanged gifts. My favorite is a blue- and white-striped stocking cap that hangs all the way to the small of my back. Spooky's is a Dame Darcy t-shirt. Jennifer is away with her family in Alabama and won't be back until tomorrow evening. Sophie is asleep somewhere.
And, you know what? Frell it. I'm not writing today. Spooky and I are going to see The Big Fish and Peter Pan, then I'm coming home and baking a fruitcake (no, a real fruitcake).
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Frell. I woke up almost two hours later than I'd intended, and now I have to rush, because I have to get my pages done today and go to the market to get everything I need for the dinner I'm cooking for Spooky tonight. At least we already got the wine.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,283 words on "The Dry Salvages," bringing the total to 23,983 words.
And I began exercising again. One of the things that would-be writers should be forewarned of, and never are, is the toll that writing takes on your body. Sitting in a chair, all day, every day, writing. I was in very good shape once, really. Then I began writing. Now, all those things that kept me in good shape are consigned to my distant past and I have to force myself to endure painful and painfully boring exercise. I was never any good at exercise. It was always something I had to get as a by-product of something that I actually wanted to be doing. But now I have no choice. Stairmaster and hand weights or death. I think most writers choose death. Taken as a whole, we are a doughy, portly lot. Of course, these days, Americans in general are a doughty, portly lot. Anyway, I refuse, even unto pain of exercise; I shall not let myself go entirely.
Which brings me to Matter the Next. I believe that I've reached one of those crisis points and I'm writing about it here because it pertains directly to my writing. I have worked myself to a tattered shadow and, when I've finished "The Dry Salvages," I must have some sort of substantial break. Not just days when I can't write, but days when I'm not expected to write, during which I can rest and reload. It's making me sick again. The last time I got this bad was towards the end of 1999 and the consequences were rather dire. This time I will intervene on my own behalf. Never mind that I have not one moment to spare for such a break, I must have it anyway. At least the space of a week. I need months, truly. I need time to go out and fill my head and soul with The World, with all those aspects of it which I loathe and regret and love, with the faces and words and actions of men (which I cannot fathom), with Nature, with light and darkness, stars and sun. With the sea and with cities. Museums and galleries. Graveyards and ruin. A world which I can at least pretend is outside my psyche, sensory fragments from this bubble frozen in the forever-expanding matrix of chaotic eternal inflation. I need a break, that's all.
I try not to unduly romaticize the lifestyle of the writer. That romance is mostly a lie and people who come to this life seeking it, believing in it, requiring it, will find only oceans of monotony. But it's also an endeavor unlike most others. And you cannot sit day in and day out, indefinitely, telling stories, spinning pretty sentences. At least I cannot. There comes a bottom of the bucket, and I have to find the well again.
P.S. -- It's Christmas. Time for eBay!
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Okay. If awake were the sun, right now I'd be Pluto.
No writing yesterday, but you know that already. I did move a big bookshelf (and everything that was on it) from one side of my office to the other. And I made a rather wonderful chicken stew, with a whole hen, fresh spinach, portobella mushrooms, garlic and sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, green bell pepper, and loads of other stuff. That ought to count for something. Jennifer put up a new "pictures of the week" page on the website (click here), a veritable blast from the past. That was yesterday.
Today, I begin Part Three and start to draw this long, strange story to a close. I do hope everyone will order this little volume, which will be released in 2004 as a hardback by Subterranean Press.
First-person narrative. Do I feel like going there this morning? Maybe it'll jog my brain awake. I'll try to keep it very short, hoping that economy serves my purpose. Consider, if you will, H. P. Lovecraft's "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," which, I will say at the outset is one of my favorite weird/dark fantasy tales ever ever ever. But it has notable difficulties that might have easily been avoided. Perhaps the greatest of these is its use of the first-person narrative (HPL was addicted to it). In this particular story, it's not so much an issue so long as he stays away from dialogue. I can even forgive the lack of explanation as to why and how and for whom the story is being told, because the story itself, and its language, are so engaging. But whenever people start talking, my disbelief suspenders get all wobbly.
Remember, the unnamed Narrator experienced these events on July 15-16, 1927, and the present, when the Narrator is writing the story, is some time after 1931. So, at least four years have passed between the events in question and his recollection of them. But, we're expected to believe that he recalls exactly old Zadok's drunken confessions, in length, detail, and right down to the (unfortunate attempt at a) Massachusetts accent ? "Thar's where it all begun -- that cursed place of all wickedness whar the deep water starts. Gate o' hell. -- sheer drop daown to a bottom no saoundin' line kin tech. Ol' Cap'n Obed done it -- him that faound aout more'n was good fer him in the Saouth Sea islands."
I'm supposed to believe that, after four or more years, after the horrific trauma the Narrator endured during his escape from Innsmouth, after his nerves have been shattered by dreams of sunken, "many-columned" Y'ha-nthlei, and the Narrator's discovery that he is descended of the Marsh's and has begun his own amphibious metamorphosis -- after all that, he not only remembers in detail his conversation with the old man, he even recalls where the old man paused while speaking. Sit down and try to recall, in anything approximating that detail, any conversation you had with someone four years ago and see how well you fare. It's easier, by far, for me to accept the reality of the Deep Ones than the perfect recollection of this conversation. Lovecraft could have avoided this pitfall in one of two ways: 1) he could have had the Narrator admit to being unreliable (i.e., "This is what I recall. By necessity, much of it is fiction.") or 2) he could have gone with a more sensible third-person narrative. The story's still wonderful, but it could have been much moreso, if only he'd stayed clear of the damnable convention of first person.
The same problem afflicts most of his tales, including "The Colour Out of Space," "The Dunwich Horror," and "The Whisperer in Darkness." It's less problematic in others, such as "The Call of Cthulhu," and is avoided in stories such as "Cool Air" and "The Music of Erich Zann" by pretty much eschewing dialogue entirely. It's not that these aren't good stories. Lovecraft's imagination usually overcomes his poor narrative skills and they are, in fact, great stories. But few authors, especially young authors, possess such imaginations, and many authors, especially very young authors writing weird fiction, seem intent on employing first person, because it is easier and seems more natural. That's laziness, and you must remember all Nine of the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing.
All this is on my mind (again) because "The Dry Salvages" is first person, but I've tried to avoid the inherent problems by making the writing of the manuscript part of the story, so that we understand who and how and why and to whom the story is being told. Also, the Narrator acknowledges that she is unreliable and that much of her tale is only a vague approximation of the actual events. I wouldn't dare do first person any other way, except, perhaps, as an epistolary tale (see Dracula for an excellent example of this, or, for a less excellent example, my own "The Drowned Geologist"). I'm not asking that authors abandon first person entirely, only that they use it thoughtfully, with care, and only when it is appropriate to the specific tale being told. Few first person narrations would meet these criteria.
There. Class dismissed. No charge.
Monday, December 22, 2003
Today is the shortest day of the year. After Solstice, even though the worst of the cold is still ahead, at least the dark will begin to lose its grip. I am at war, futile war, with winter.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,504 words and finished Part Two of "The Dry Salvages." A gluttony of words. I would be a poet, if I had the talent. Words would be chosen one by one, not by the bucketful. My longest work would be, perhaps, a thousand words long.
Today, however, I'll write nothing (well, I'm writing this), because I have to go out there, beyond the cryosphere, beyond my front door, beyond the wrought-iron fence meant to keep the world at bay, and shop. If I don't, I'll be thought a heel, a cheapskate, a thoughtless bitch who doesn't know the true meaning of Christmas. I do, of course. The true meaning of Christmas is Retail Profit. I may have resigned from the species, but I know the rules.
Forget all that stuff about first-person and HPL, at least for today. Last night I finally saw the last two episodes of the Discovery Channel's Dinosaur Planet. I was very impressed by Walking With Dinosaurs (except for the badly designed Tyrannosaurus). It was a fabulous visual time machine. There was great attention to detail. I was amazed. Subsequent specials - Allosaurus: A Walking With Dinosaurs Special, Walking With Prehistoric Beasts, When Dinosaurs Roamed America, and Walking With Cavemen - were less impressive, as production values obviously fell. Still, they were decent science and generally enjoyable. Sadly, the four episodes that comprise Dinosaur Planet are no where near as good as their predecessors. The graphics were often shoddy and the science was often atrocious. Note to world: There were no grasslands in the Cretaceous Period! Though primitive marsh grasses were present, grass did not become widespread, creating prairies and revolutionizing ecosystems, until the late Tertiary, many millions of years after the extinction of dinosaurs. One of the marvelous things about the original WWD series was that it took great pains to film in locations where grass is still absent. But in Dinosaur Planet, we're treated to herds of titanosaurs and hadrosaurs and ceratoposians wandering across vast grasslands in Montana and Patagonia. Worse yet, the absurd anthropomorphizing of the creatures, giving them cute names like "Pod" and "Alpha" and "White Tip," and ascribing to them all sorts of mammalian characteristics and mannerisms. At times, Dinosaur Planet was no more accurate than Disney's kiddy film Dinosaur. Frell, why didn't they just go ahead and have the dinosaurs in Dinosaur Planet speak!
There were plenty of other errors and oddities. For example, Carcharodontosaurus, known only from Africa (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, and Niger), is shown hunting titanosaurids in South America. The toothed bird Ichthyornis is not known from southern Europe, only North America. Pyroraptor is known only from France, not Romania. Why the didn't the Romanian episode use the nodosaurid ankylosaur Struthiosaurus, the primitive hadrosaur Telmatosaurus transsylvanicus, or the ornithopod Rhabodon (Was that the dwarf iguanodontid? If so, they should have identified it as such.), all known from the Transylvanian assemblage. I could go on and on. That the creators of this series got so much so wrong, and cutsied everything up, makes me angry. I know, as a paleontologist and former educator, that you can get kids (and adults) interested in dinosaurs with good science! You don't have to stoop to pandering.
Enough ranting for today. I have to shop. I tried to get it all done online, but ran out of time. You'd think I could have done better, only buying gifts for two people. I suck.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 1,251 words on "The Dry Salvages." Still, no end to Part Two. Surely, it will come today. I want this to be a very good story, and a very good science-fiction story, but I'm beginning to believe that "forecasting the future" is a fool's errand. Fun, yes, when it's not maddening, but I can't possibly believe that I have even half the expertise in science, history, technology, etc. to begin to divine the world as it may be 248 years hence. I am trying, but I can see how inadequate I am to the task. And, I suspect, most others would be likewise. There's just too much chaos. Too many unforseeables. I'm trying to second-guess cultural and technological progress by measuring the degree of change over that past 248 years. That seems reasonable, with the caveat that these changes seem to be accelerating (the rate of change between 1800 and 1900 appears less than the rate of change between 1900 and 2000, and so on). How will people speak? Will language evolve to the degree that it has in the last two and half centuries? If so, then I'm entirely off base. Were I to correct for such a massive lingustic shift, the story might well be unreadable (or at least very hard). You'd need a 2251 dictionary (at least, a dictionary for this story's 2251 - and actually, the present of the story is more like 2303, with the character recalling events from 2251 and earlier) just to read the damned thing! Too many questions. What will computers be like? Will they even be recognizable as computers? What forms will world governments have taken? And so on, ad nauseum. The forecasting tries to get in the way of the actual writing, which is likely one reason that so much science fiction is dry and unreadable. The central focus has to remain the characters, not the "facts" of the future.
Yesterday, when I should have been worrying about syntax and characterization, I was reading "The evolution of the Martian hydrosphere and its implications for the fate of a primordial ocean," which I'd downloaded from a NASA site. It's like that, writing this story. And, yet, I still want to write science fiction. I need a team of researchers, I think.
I wanted to return to the subject of first-person narratives and the problems thereof, but this post is getting long, the day is getting late, and I need to write. I'll come back to it, maybe tomorrow, as I feel I did not speak very clearly on the subject yestersay. I think the better stories of H. P. Lovecraft can serve as a good example of the pitfalls facing an author wedded to this voice, and I'll use several of HPL's stories (stories I adore, mind you), to demonstrate what not to do.
Last night, Spooky and I had dinner at The Angel in Decatur, a nice little pub (if one can truly say that Georgia has pubs). Very good food. I didn't drink nearly as much as I wanted to. Back home, I read Eliot's "The Dry Salvages" aloud to her. I sometimes think this poem is superior to The Waste Land. Then we kicked each other's asses in War of the Monsters.
The weather is bitterly cold (for Atlanta) and I'd give almost anything for a week of summer.
P.S. -- My grateful thanks to everyone bidding in our eBay auctions!
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Addendum: And here's the other thing about first-person narratives. Think about a significant event in your life, an important day, and then sit down and write about it, including lots of dialogue and detail. I tried this the other day. I picked a day that should have been easy - September 11, 2001. I did a good job with the overall narrative, even without consulting my journals. But when it came to dialogue, and there must have been a lot of it, I drew something just short of a blank. So, were I to write a story or an essay about my experiences on 9/11, it's a given that I'd be an unreliable narrator. Most of the dialogue, if I included dialogue, would be fictional, based on my fading memories of conversations. Now, imagine that the event that's being narrated happened ten or twenty or fifty years prior to the present of the story, not a mere two years ago.
How many actual lines of dialogue could we trust any narrator to recall? After a few years, how many particular events could even be accurately recollected? I have a very good long-term memory, but I know that were I to sit down to write a story about a day in high school or the night I first saw The Empire Strikes Back (1981) or the first time I collected from the Upper Cretaceous rocks of Alabama (1979), I'd basically be making shit up.
In "The Dry Salvages," I'm countering this by presenting a narrator keenly aware of these problems. They are noted as a caveat to the narrative.
Yesterday, I did 1,446 words on "The Dry Salvages," and still didn't reach the end of Part Two. The total now stands at 19,904, which means that I ought to be about two-thirds of the way to THE END.
This story is written in first person, present and past tense. The constant reader will recognize that the first-person narrative is a deviation from my usual preference for third (I think this is only my second short story written in first). The preference arises simply from a need to know a) who the speaker is (or at least to believe I will learn the speaker's identity soon after the beginning) and b) why and how the speaker is speaking. The second criterion is especially critical. Otherwise, suspending disbelief becomes very difficult and even an otherwise wonderful story is annoying. In "The Dry Salvages," the narrator is writing out an account of both present and past events, and we know how she's writing these things, and we're learning why. Thus the problem of the spectral narrators who haunt most first-person narratives is undone. The narrator is not merely the convenient conveyor of the story, but a full-fledged character, speaking to the reader, which is not you, the reader, but her fictional readers.
Oh, and here's a fresh abomination: How to Get a Book Deal With Your Blog. It's almost enough to make me switch to LiveJournal. I love the bit at the beginning: Back in the day, book deals were few and far between. You had to be a literary genius, a member of the super-elite writerly crowd, or some kind of insanely talented professional in your field. Then you needed an agent, a publicist, and a body of work to prove you had what it takes to be part of the chosen few, the noble, the proud, the published.
In other words, you had to be smart and talented and you had to work hard. Obviously, Blogger frowns on talent and hard work. Obviously, Blogger feels there is not already enough mediocrity on the shelves. This is another "revolution" the internet can shove up its collective eema. I found the following line particularly enlightening: Have you always wanted to see your name on the shelf at Barnes and Noble? It's the key to the whole blogging phenomenon, of course. I want to see my name. I want to be heard by the masses, even though I have less than nothing to say that's worth hearing. Blogger is to be commended for understanding its target audience.
In the future, everyone will be famous forever...but only in their own minds.
Yes, I know. I am being even snottier than usual. It's this Christmas thing pressing in at my life, inconveniencing me. Moreover, it's the knowledge of the feeding-frenzy of Christmas. Komodo dragons bringing down a goat, then gnawing at the carcass, their scaly jaws dripping with toxic saliva. That's what I see out there, giant lizards scuttling about under gaudy, absurd decorations and false cheer, accumulating credit-card debt willy nilly. Except the real Komodos have an excuse. And they're definitely more appealing to the eye than a food court chocked full of hungry holiday consumers.
Last night, Spooky and I binged on PS2 until 4 a.m. (what bad kids are we), because she rented War of the Monsters, an absolutely fabulous game, packed with enough fun to make even a sour puss like me smile. Ever wanted to be Godzilla or Rhodan or Gamera, stomping about a city of helpless, puny, squealing hoomans, smashing buildings, laying waste, and battling your fellow monsters? Then this is the game for you. More rock'em-sock'em than a double-feature's worth of Toho films. I think this might be the therapy I've been looking for. Now that's some frelling Xmas cheer!
Friday, December 19, 2003
Yesterday, I did another 1,270 words on "The Dry Salvages." I hope to finish Part 2 of the story today, but I'm not making any promises. Also, I began reading William J. Broad's The Universe Below (meanwhile, Spooky began reading Witchcraft and Neighbors by Robin Briggs).
I'm in one of those places where the weight of reaction to what I create seems intent on wearing me down to a nub. That sense that there's no way to do this "right," not consciously. And I'm so tired of trying to make more people like what I write. And how I write. And who I write. I didn't want to get out of bed this morning, didn't want to have to sit down at the keyboard and face the blank future of this story from which I have to make a realized present and past. And the knowledge that, if I'm lucky, I'll be happy with it. Shouldn't it stop there? I wrote a story which I like and I'm happy with it? That seems enough to me. It seems that, in a sane world, it would be enough. But it's not.
Because this is an art and a business, and business is concerned with making people happy, which, ironically, is often the antithesis of art. And here I am, caught in the paradox, the contradiction.
Low Red Moon is the best, the truest, the most solid novel that I have written, and, most days, I feel I'll never write anything that good again. I'm weary of hearing how it's "less atmospheric" than Threshold (it isn't), or that it's less Lovecraftian (it isn't), or more Lovecraftian (it isn't). I'm especially sick of claims that it's "more conventional" than Threshold. But this sort of foolishness is teaching me things. I can only do this for myself. If I do it and you love it, then I will be pleased, perhaps, but if I am not pleased in the first place, there is nothing, nothing at all. I can weather the weight because I can look at my shelf and see the book and know that I did it right, as right as I could. That I was true to my vision, and what other people can't or don't or won't see is entirely beyond my control.
But the weight is still there, slowing me down, driving me forward.
And speaking of baffling reader reaction, recently someone named Ben Wooller, on an EZBoard forum discussion of my work on The Dreaming, posted the following: Tell me, in her novels, is ever [sic] second character a transexual [sic], like in her comics? To date, I've written exactly one transsexual character in a comic â€” Echo, in The Dreaming and (as a cameo) in The Girl Who Would Be Death. So, where is this fekkik getting this stuff from? How did Ben Wooller form this impression? Certainly not from reading The Dreaming. Yes, Echo was an important character in my work on the series, but there were no other transsexuals inThe Dreaming! Which is really a shame, in retrospect; Mervyn Pumpkinhead would have made a great transsexual. Anyway, this is an old gripe for me. Since I started work on The Dreaming, there have been people who whined that all the characters were transsexual (or goth, or gay), apparently without bothering to read the book. To me, this says that there are some readers out there so insecure in their sexuality (or lack thereof), so afraid of transgenderism, that one transsexual an army makes. Idiots.
No, I'm not happy today. And all this Xmas foolishness isn't helping.
Though I said I would be eschewing politics here, I have to post the following link (thanks, Shannon): 1984: Reloaded.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Yesterday, I did another 1,230 words on "The Dry Salvages." That brings the total word count to 17,184. Bill Schafer called while I was working yesterday and we talked about who we might get to do the cover and agreed that we probably didn't want interior art for this book.
Last night, of course, I went we went to see The Return of the King. I'm not sure that I have the words to do the film justice. It was, I believe, as close to perfect as a film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings can be. It was beautiful, in all ways, and terrible, and glorious, and heart-breaking. It was right. And it was the fulfillment of a wish I've been wishing since elementary school, to see those three books, beyond my mind's eye. In high school, I was cruelly tricked into thinking I'd get my wish when that atrocious Ralph Bakshi thing was released, but almost immediately I saw it for the ridiculous failure that it was. But now I have seen the Shire, and Gondor, and Mordor, and it's hard to imagine a film doing it better. I read somewhere that "studies have shown" (free-floating appeals to authority) that people tend to be of the opinion that the authors of negative reviews are more intelligent than the authors of positive reviews, that praise signals only an inability to see what was wrong. Fuck that. If you want to think me a dullard for finding no significant fault in these three films, you have my blessings. I have my wish. I think I got the better end of the deal. Oh, and that wonderful Annie Lennox song.
It occurred to me yesterday afternoon that maybe this journal has strayed too far from its original charter. I spend too much time talking about that which has nothing to do with writing. I discuss politics. I offer the minutiae of my dull life. In short, the last year or so, I fear this journal has drifted nearer all those things that make me hate the practice of "blogging" in general. The elevation of the mundane and the commonplace, the bully pulpit, the soapbox that no one can kick out from under you, etc. & etc. So, perhaps I shall endeavor to stay closer to the subject of my writing. That's why I began this. I will not become another voice in the tiresome storm of opinion and pathos. Or, if I have already allowed myself to become that, I shall reverse myself.
The cold weather makes writing no easier. But then neither does the heat...
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Our Fellowship of the Rings/Two Towers marathon didn't end until 4 a.m. this morning. But it was amazing seeing them back-to-back like that. The extended versions are, I think, wonderful. Especially in the case of The Two Towers, they offer essentially a different film. It was good to get all the missing Ent matter, and the background on Boromir and Faramir. Tonight, of course, is The Return of the King. I'm amazed that it's actually been two years since the release of the first film. Last night, particularly during The Fellowship of the Ring, I was reminded what an important influence Tolkien was on me, and how important his writing was to me as a child. In fourth grade, I found The Hobbit on an aunt's bookshelf and was instantly hooked. I still have that very copy somewhere around here.
Speaking of movies, sort of, all it took to remind me why I left Athens in '97 was a copy of The Flagpole (a local independent paper), which I flipped through last night. The worst of it was a review of The Last Samurai that had me absolutely livid. To quote: The great tragedy here, however, is not the death of the samurai, but the filmmakers' egotistical attempts to valorize such by focusing on a character who is white and American. This bit of fluff stumbles into an old, old pet peeve of mine. Reviewers (and readers and audiences in general) who judge a given work of art, a priori, based on their preconceptions of what something should be, rather than what it actually is. In this case, a "politically correct" sensibility run amuck. I suppose the same person would reject Little Big Man, for examining the plight of Native Americans (at the same point in history), because the narrator is a white American. It's bigotry, this sort of attitude, even if it's bigotry turned inside out, and it pisses me off. This reviewer could not see what was before him, the art and majesty of this film, because it was more important to maintain a rigid political agenda. Oh, and there's an equally moronic anti-Last Samurai cartoon directly below the review, but most of the text was illegible. Anyway, enough said.
Well, I will add that there are a lot of things about Athens that I do like (The Globe, for example), but it's definitely a town where the hipsters and intelligentsia are trying way too hard. Maybe it's the proximity of all those rednecks and frat boys, forcing them to overcompensate...
And as long as I'm grousing, on Monday, Spooky and I were at Junkman's Daughter at L5P, shopping for birthday gifts for Jennifer. While examining something or another, I heard, from off to my left, a girl say, "Voltaire." Odd, but I ignored it. Then she said "Voltaire" again, in a more insistent way, obviously intent of getting someone's attention. Though my name is not Voltaire, I looked up. A vaguely gothish girl was standing a few feet away, staring at me. Fortunately, Spooky was between us. I looked at the girl, hoping that my face displayed the appropriate proportions of bewilderment and annoyance, and she looked back and said, "Voltaire. You're in that band Voltaire, right?" I said no. Spooky said no. But the girl persisted. "Yes you are," she said. "No," I repeated. So did Spooky. "Oh, I know you are," she said again. I began moving towards my right, increasing the distance between us. "Well, then you're in that other band," she said. "You guys played at Dragon*Con." Spooky and I assured her I wasn't in a band, and I slipped away, pretending to be fascinated in an aisle of windchimes.
I've gotten used to being recognized. It happens more often than I'd have thought, in libraries and bookstores, grocery stores and at shows, but, generally, people are polite, and never before have I been mistaken for a member of a nonexistent band. Did she think Voltaire (as in "It's So Easy When You're Evil") is a band? Did she imagine, perhaps, that I was a member of Cabaret Voltaire, and that they've actually played Dragon*Con? Is it just that all goths look alike to her? Did she perhaps mean The Crüxshadows, when she said "that other band? I do spend a lot of time in the company of Voltaire and The Crüxshadows at Dragon*Con, so that seems the most likely explanation. What drives people to behave like this towards total strangers, and to persist, when said stranger has made it clear that the desired attention is unwanted? It's beyond me.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,267 words on "The Dry Salvages." I believe I have reached the halfway point.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Well, I didn't get anything written yesterday, but at least I have a new chair. I must have sat in thirty different chairs at Staples before I found one that roughly approximated my old writing chair. It was delivered this morning and my butt is now getting acquainted with it. Butt, meet chair. You two will be spending a lot of time together. Oh, and we shopped at L5P for birthday gifts for Jennifer, as today is her birthday. That's about it for yesterday, really.
Tonight, Spooky and I are planning to gorge on Middle-Earth. We're watching the Platinum extended-versions of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, back to back, beginning about 7 p.m. Then tomorrow night, we see The Return of the King.
Idiots are murdering black bears in New Jersey. With the population at a mere 3,200 (estimated), hunters have been licensed to kill as many as 500. That's almost 16% of the state's population wiped out in one fell swoop. So I have a modest proposal. Tit for tat. To be fair, I propose that the state of New Jersey license a hunt of humans, not to exceed 16% of the population of the state. That's about 1,346,296 people. Sounds fair to me. Women and children are "fair game," just like with the black bears, and hunters of humans will be permitted to strap their kills to the roofs of their vehicles, eat their prey, and have them mounted by taxidermists, just like the people killing the bears. By culling such a small number of humans, the overall breeding population shouldn't be damaged, and perhaps it will cut back on welfare expenses and ugly suburban sprawl. Just think how this could help traffic in Newark. This might even help energize the economy, as hunters could export "long pork" to less barbaric states. Alternately, they could feed it to the surviving bears.
If you want information on less "drastic" ways of deterring the slaughter of New Jersey's bears, visit The BEAR Group's website.
Here's an e-mail from Katrina, a hopeful bit of something regarding my comments on the Charlie Brown Xmas special:
I thought you might find it reassuring that, while recently visiting my 2 1/2 year old nephew, he actually asked my sister to put in Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. Other than a few Peanuts videos and a few Pixar films, he rarely watches television or videos and I'm selfishly hoping that things stay that way.
Also, thanks to Patrick Foley, who sent me very kind words from Washington, but whom I neglected to thank yesterday. And thanks to everyone indulging in our eBay auctions.
Now I must brush my teeth and return to "The Dry Salvages." To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,/To report the behaviour of the sea monster...
Monday, December 15, 2003
I know I could have done a better job with that second addendum last night. But it was late and I was really more interested in going off to squander my life on PlayStation.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,211 words on "The Dry Salvages." I almost tried for another thousand after dinner, since I won't get anything written today, but saner heads prevailed. This novella is something I really want to love. I've never written anything else like it, in tone and scope, except perhaps "Riding the White Bull." In the end, I think it's a testament to my fear of long trips, this story, and my abhorrence of time. An old, old woman remembering something terrible beyond remembering, in an icebound Paris two hundred and fifty years from now. I want this to be one of my Very Good Stories. I'm about halfway through, so I should know soon if I'll like it that much, perhaps by New Year's Eve.
All these e-mails that pile up. A few quick acknowledgements, because I genuinely do appreciate the trouble people go to to write: to Dan Spears (I hope you called collect), to Maureen and Sissy (for their help with the Safari cache problem), to Kevin Ohannessian (for gaming advice), to Kenny Soward (who loved Low Red Moon), to Sarah (for the link), to Kevin Anderson (who also thinks there should have been a Threshold hardback), to Robby Brueggeman (stuck in Alabama), Marrije Schaake (who very kindly wished that someone would buy me a space heater with which to combat the cryosphere), and to all the members of the Academy, who were kind enough to forget that embarrassing film I made last year with Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Gilbert Godfried and judge my performace in Silk III: Spyder's Revenge on it's own merits.
And visit our eBay auctions, pleeeeeeze. Remember — seven out of forty-six elves polled say that my books make better Xmas gifts than a box of instant oatmeal.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Addendum 2: Saturday night, Spooky and I watched Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown, which first aired December 9th, 1965. I don't think either of us had seen it since we were kids. It was actually sort of refreshingly placid. Very funny, but very quiet. I can't imagine it holding the attention of children these days, but I don't have children and could be wrong. Looking at it post-South Park, it seemed to have an innocence I think childhood's losing. Or maybe I'm full of dren. Anyway, Peanuts was the first comic strip that caught my eye as a kid. Later, I moved along to Bloom County, and that was pretty much it for me and the funny pages.
Addenfum 1: I just spent the better part of two hours reading NASA pdfs on EVA suits and trying to extrapolate from those reports a reasonably advanced EVA suit for the year 2251. My brain is fried and I've only written 253 words so far today. I need to hire a researcher to do this sort of dren for me. I could give him or her a big stack of questions each night and, the next day, I could consult as necessary. Instead, I slog forward. It's difficult to keep mood and tone going, and to keep the narrative flow on tract, when one constantly has to fact check and make calculations and google this or that (yes, I just verbed "google," making me part of the problem).
Yesterday, I did 1,335 words on "The Dry Salvages." At almost 14,000 words, it's beginning to look a little more like my first novella and a little less like the longest short story I've ever written. Which is a relief. I also managed to get the next chapter of Leh'agvoi's Nar'eth manga up at Nebari.Net (comments welcome) and answered a whole bunch of overdue e-mails. If you've e-mailed me in the last two weeks and think I'm a snit for not having replied, either here or personally, I apologize. I'm getting around to it, really.
I think that's all for now. Short, I know. I'll tack on a couple of addenda later on, if the mood strikes me.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 1,028 words on what is no longer an untitled novella, but is now a novella titled "The Dry Salvages," after T.S. Eliot's poem of the same name. The total word count stands at about 12,000, so, if I only miss four days (all for holiday crap) between now and the end of the month, I ought to finish this story sometime around January 4th. In which case, I'll only be a little more than a month behind. December was to have been my catching up month, ha ha.
And, to make matters no easier, today's one of those days when everything I did the day before reads like dren.
Ah, also yesterday, my editor at Penguin sent me a new, muchly-improved version of the cover copy for Murder of Angels, which I tweaked a bit and sent back to him. This time, I can confidently say that the copy is accurate and in no way misleading or obscenely hyperbolic. After writing all day, I was good for nothing but a night of questionable movies. First, Daredevil, which I sort of halfway enjoyed and think it's a shame it wasn't just a little bit better. And what's with knocking off Electra like that? Next, we watched Leeches, a perfectly awful (no, if was imperfectly awful) horror flick (it's okay to call a film this bad a "flick"). A college campus crammed with unbearable, steroid-scarfing jocks and their tralk girlfriends is terrorized by giant, man-eating leeches. That the leeches are all obviously rubber models on strings doesn't seem to make them any less lethal. It's the sort of movie where every single character, without exception, is so entirely loathsome that the only possibly joy the film might convey would be to watch them die horribly. But Leeches is soooooo bad, even their inevitable deaths are dull and unrewarding. I think this might have made a halfway decent ten-minute Saturday Night Live skit, maybe.
I hope to get some work done on Nebari.Net tonight. I still have to get up the new Nar'eth pages from Leh'agvoi and, as of yesterday, new artwork from Mella.
But, mostly, I have to find the whatever-it-takes to write today. For the next four or five hours, nothing else matters.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Yesterday, I wrote 942 words on the "Untitled Novella," which was a relief after the blank spot that was Wednesday. I'm still not sure where this one is headed, but at least it's headed somewhere.
But mostly I'm still wallowing in the relief, the fact that my editor is so pleased with Murder of Angels. I had more fears for this book than any I've ever written. This is a novel that I allowed to go to very, very strange places, very dark places (some think darker than Low Red Moon), trusting that whatever unconscious parts of me guide the providence of my stories knew better than the conscious bits that never have any frelling idea what's going on. I did things in this novel that seemed at once The Right Thing and Terribly Risky. There is an outlandishness to Murder of Angels I'd never before dared attempt at novel length. And now there is only relief, and hope that readers and reviewers like it as much as my editor.
Spooky and I saw The Last Samurai last night. Superb. Perfection, except Ebert might have been right about the ending. Maybe. It truly is a beautiful film, the best thing I've seen since Kill Bill and surely one of the best films of the year. It fills the space in me that Gangs of New York filled this time last year. I was pleased to see Timothy Spall again, with whom I first fell in love in Mike Leigh's delightful Topsy-Turvy. Now we only have five days left until The Return of the King.
Oh, Leh'agvoi sent me new Nar'eth manga pages this morning, for those of you following her adventures on Nebari.Net. I hope to have them up by tomorrow sometime.
Was I especially curmudgeonly and misanthropic and vicious in yesterday's entry? Well, it wasn't intentional, I assure you. I'd meant to be sweet as treacle, just like always. Honest...
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Addendum: I just got off the phone with my editor at Penguin. He loves Murder of Angels and, it seems, my rivers of worry have been for naught. This calls for a drunken binge...
The words, the ideas, the next thing never came yesterday. I sat here for frelling hours, in my cold office, the cryosphere munching on my feet, licking at my legs and ass (mind out of gutter), straining various imaginative muscles to no avail. I read passages from Charles Fort's New Lands, because sometimes Fort gets me going again. I prowled the web like a hungry weasel and discovered the whole John Titor thing (why do I never learn about this stuff until afterwards?). I found an online anagram generator and discovered ITT OR hidden in "Titor." I checked my e-mail three dozen times. I finally got so desperate that I began reading other people's blogs, choosing at random from the "Fresh Blogs" list on the Blogger front page.
My gods, the dren people spout for all the world to see. I must have wasted an hour staring in wide-eyed, stupified, slack-jawed horror at the petty thoughts of bored housewives and the cryptofacist ramblings of right-wing no-brows. I confess, I had only the faintest suspicions of how most blogs are put to use. And now I have lost that innocence, too. Ah, well. In return, my teetering, uncertain superiority complex was bolstered a notch or two. Want to see the very worst that Homo sapies sapiens has to offer, but you're not in the mood for another rerun of Trading Spaces? Want to plumb the depths of human antipathy, but you don't get CNN? Well, friends, just browse the blogs a while. It's all there.
If that John Titor guy was for real, "humanity" has it coming.
Yeah, I know. I'm a bitter old whore. Get over it.
What happens next, what happens next, what happens next???
Anyway, finally I gave up and cooked dinner. UPS brought me a big box of Low Red Moon I should have received a month ago. Blah, blah, blah. About 12:30 a.m., Spooky and I finished playing Primal. The best video game I've ever played, and now we're jonsing for Ghosthunter. I watched about fifteen minutes of George Pal's The Time Machine and then wandered off to bed.
Yes, but what happens next?
Maybe tomorrow I'll talk about inaccessibility, but not today.
"Again this procession of the speechless/Bringing me their words/The future woke me with its stillness..."
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Bill Schafer called to say he'd read the first ten pages or so of the "Untitled Novella" and loved them. he compared the story to the works of John C. Wright and Alastair Reynolds, neither of whom I've read. Anyway, that bit of encouragement and enthusiasm ought to jog my brain into gear, but it remains unjogged. What makes this especially frustrating is that my first-person narrative assures me that the narrator knows more or less exactly what happens next. She's already lived through it and is writing about events she experienced in her youth. But she ain't tellin' me.
Birmingham and back again.
We left early enough that I could spend a few minutes at the Public Library with the Ezra Winter mural. It has a calming influence on me that is equaled by few other things. I also wanted to see for myself that the fossil stump had survived. (If you have a copy of Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold, and/or if you've read Threshold, you know what I'm talking about.) Just after Spooky photographed it in October 2001, it was moved to allow the creation of some sort of little park and I'd feared for its fate. I got word a while back that it had survived, though I saw for myself yesterday that whoever moved it could have done so with more care. It was damaged and needs repairs I doubt it will receive. Ultimately, it was relocated to a spot only about five feet south of its original location, and it has a shiny new brass plaque, but was severely cracked in several places. And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, never mind.
I got home in time to see the conclusion of the Battlestar Galactica mini-series. I wasn't as impressed with the second half. I was relieved that they didn't go father with the Earth thing than they did, but the "ending" was so much a pitch for a ongoing series or the next film that it was particularly dissatisfying. Still, I think I'd watch more. It's certainly preferable to the upcoming Mad Mad House dren that the Sci-Fi Channel is foisting. Reality television. An ultimate oxymoron.
And today I have to go back to work on the novella. I've sent the first third on to Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press. But I have a serious case of I-don't-know-exactly-what-happens-next and the next two or three thousand words are going to be a slow train coming. E-mail from Neil, who's in Ireland, and Peter, who's in New York, and I wish I were on a plane.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Half awake, half awake. At best, half awake. I overslept, which always leaves me feeling slow-witted and slightly hungover. Anyway, we're off to Birmingham in a couple of hours. I hate losing days to necessary errands.
But something I hate even more than that is desperately wanting, nay, needing, to hate something, and then failing to properly muster the longed for hatred. For example, the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica mini-series, which I watched last night, even though I shouldn't have. After the cancellation of Farscape, and the network's release of trash like Scare Tactics and Tremors: The Series, I've been avoiding Sci-Fi. Not so much a boycott. More like the way you walk around a dead and rotting thing lying on the sidewalk. But I was intrigued by Battlestar Galactica. Even as a pre-teen, I'd recognized the original series was dren. Why resurrect a series that only ran for one season twenty-five years ago for a high-budget mini-series, when you're a network willing to axe the best hour of television (Farscape), supposedly because of budget concerns. No one much watched Battlestar Galactica in 1978. Anyway, I caved in and watched, and am dissapointed to report that I've seen things that suck way worse than this mini-series. It kept my attention and I'll watch night two, if only to see if it remains watchable. They could still lose me. Tricia Helfer is suprisingly creepy as the advanced Cylon "Model 6," sort of a Daryl Hannah-meets-Sandra Bernhardt sort of thing, with a big dose of psycho-bitch thrown in. Katee Sackoff's Kara "Starbuck" Thrace is cute as hell, but manages somehow to be a little too plucky. That's the best of the cast. The rest are varying shades of dishwater gray. The plot, a sort of Pearl Harbor-9/11 fusion, is a tad farfetched (C'mon, really, such lousy defenses with the Cylons still lurking around out there? I mean, they already almost wiped out humanity once). Some of the things that have been kept from the original series, like the names of the colonies, should have been chucked. Don't get me wrong, this is not good fiction. It's just so much better than what I expected that I'm a little tharn.
Check out Greg Peters comic strip Suspect Device for a nice summation of the Marcus McLauren fiasco. Poppy's already linked to this, but I suspect some of you may not have seen it. And there's something I'd like to add. Maybe this is trivial in light of the child having been forced to denounce his family, but wouldn't it be frelling wonderful if Superintendent James Easton were to put half as much energy into teaching his students to spell as he does into policing the private lives of their parents? At seven, surely McLauren should be able to spell better than "wurd" and the truly painful "cep my mouf shut." Obviously, Superintendent Easton is more concerned with running schools that warp and bully than enlighten.
Oh, I wrote 1,333 words on the "Untitled Novella" yesterday, finishing the first third of the story. A shame I can't get back to it until Wednesday.
Monday, December 08, 2003
But you already know how many words I wrote yesterday, don't you? The "Untitled Novella" is a frustrating piece. The contstant need for more research, the time I have to spend going through books and websites looking for one fact, one word. Yesterday, it was human musculature, light speed calculations, Polish names for women, Tertiary mammals, and Martian geography. And yesterday was an easy one, research-wise. Last night, I read more of Ellis' Architeuthis book and Spooky and I almost finished Primal. I expect we will finish it tonight, and then we'll have to try to find something else half as good.
Tomorrow, I have to go to Birmingham, so I'll lose a day of writing, which is annoying. But there you go.
A good while back, I made the browser switch from Microsoft IE5 to Mac's Safari. All in all, Safari is a vastly superior browser. As someone on my phorum put it, the programme is "zippy." Indeed, it makes IE look like a snail. But it cache's like a frelling pack rat, and that's beginning to annoy me. If anyone out there knows how to diminish Safari's caching capabilities, please drop me an e-mail.
Kudos to John Kerry for his choice of words, regarding Bush's handling of Iraq, during a recent Rolling Stone interview: When I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, "I'm against everything?" Sure. Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did. In general, I think Kerry's a twerp, but it's nice to see someone say what he means (assuming that he did indeed mean what he said). I sincerely hope he doesn't apologize to the Administration. If he doesn't, perhaps I'll reevaluate his status as a twerp.
How many people have died so George W. Bush could prove to the world he can piss farther than his father? How many Iraqi civilians? How many American and Iraqi soldiers? It's hard to get numbers that I can believe, numbers that don't conflict with other numbers, and I suspect parties on the left and right of playing fast and loose with their figures. But we're talking thousands, regardless. I'm still waiting to see all those weapons of mass destruction that the Pentagon used to scare Americans into supporting the war, the buggaboo that set this killing spree in motion. I'm still waiting to see a tiny fraction of them. I'm still waiting to see a worldwide drop-off in terrorist attacks as a result of our actions in Iraq.
I'm talking about the war. And I said I wouldn't talk about the war.
I should be writing. That's why I'm here...
Sunday, December 07, 2003
Blogger's been offline for the better part of the day, which is why I'm only just now making this entry.
Yesterday, I did 1,072 words on the "Untitled Novella," and another 1,140 words today. That's brings the total to 8,715 words, coming up on a third of the probable total length, at 41 ms. pp. And I am cold, and I am tired, and my writerly morale is low.
Jennifer had a conversation with Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press last night, and it now seems likely that the hardback of Low Red Moon won't out until at least late January, and it might be early February. My apologies to those who preordered. Sometimes these things just happen. But I do promise that it will be a beautiful book and, what's more, the delay will make possible the inclusion of a new Nyarlathotep CD with the volume, based on the book. And this time I'm actually going to contribute a couple of songs, which I will sing. And that's kind of weird, as I haven't been anywhere near a recording studio since about 1998. Also, Jennifer and Bill talked about the novella, and about the subpress edition of Murder of Angels, which I assure you, will be out in a much, much timlier fashion than the subpress edition of Low Red Moon. Ryan Obermeyer will be illustrating again, which is, I think, very cool.
This morning, trying to wake up, I sat on the sofa reading an article in the new National Geographic about the Hubble Telescope. It opens with a three-page spread devoted to a single photograph of a 50,0000 light-year wide spiral galaxy. I sat there, bleary eyed, staring unexpectedly dumbfounded at the beauty of it. This is what men can do, I thought. This is why — if there is a why — we've evolved. And this, this incredible photograph, is only a baby step. And then I thought about all the stars that comprise this one galaxy in this one photograph. Literally, tens of billions of stars. And the odds are that the majority of those stars have planetary systems. If only the smallest percentage of these planetary systems include one or two bodies where life has arisen, then this one galaxy in this one photograph is teeming with life. And I suspect that, regarding life, conservative estimates will some day be proven wrong. Given certain conditions (which we are only just beginning to understand), the origin of life is inevitable. How many alien Hubbles drift around the planets of the billions of stars in the photograph? How many have taken photos of the Milky Way? How many trillions of eyes from this one galaxy might be looking out at us, debating our existence? Staring at the photograph, I know this is a close as I come to religious experience.
But I think it's close enough.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Yesterday I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and I have a grand total of 609 words to show for it. Which is to say, the "Untitled Novella" creeps forward. The primary problem here is that the story requires of me so much research, oftentimes in areas where I'm not particularly knowledgeable, that I'm forever having to stop to check a fact, or find a fact, and suddenly I've lost twenty minutes or half an hour and the information I've uncovered yields half a sentence. And really, in an ideal world (akin to the physicist's theoretical vacuum), it's not about words per day, or deadlines, or cost-effective writing habits. It's about doing the best I can do, always, regardless of the time required. But. This is not an ideal world, so I have to strike a compromise. Hemingway would loathe the way I'm writing this novella. I just made a note to apologize to his ghost, and to try to do better in the future (which is not to say it isn't a good novella; I think it is, actually).
And my editor didn't call yesterday. So maybe he'll call on Monday. Or Tuesday. Hey, it's only stress.
Next week, I have to get back to the Threshold screenplay or someone's going to hang me up by my toenails and leave me for the weasels.
The cold has relented just a drab, a smidgen, a tad. At least we're not being pelted like the northeast. Here's it just cold and grey. Or perhaps it's only grey and cold. I should ask.
Have you bought a copy of Low Red Moon? You know, that could be your one good deed for the day.
Friday, December 05, 2003
Yesterday, I did not write a single word on the "Untitled Novella." Not one. Not so much as a carelessly-placed vowel. Wherever I was, it wasn't the word place. Sick of shadows, as the Lady of Shallot would say. I am. Sick of shadows, that is. Not merely half sick. And that's what these things are, these stories, these novels, these blogger entries, mere life shadows which I've spent more than a decade accepting in the stead of life itself. This, of course, is the price of withdrawal into a cocoon of one's own devising, a place safe from The World (insane and not so pretty as she might appear on a Tarot card). That one day you look around and there are only shadows, the realization that you only see The World (and all her wrinkles and stretch marks and warts and spite and ugliness) in a mirror, behind the shadows. So, I weave some more and try to pretend I that I love my precious shadows...
I can go on like that for hours. Really. Just ask Spooky.
Today, I'm expecting a phone call from my new editor at Penguin. He was reading Murder of Angels this week and said I'd get a call before the week was out. Which. Leaves. Today. Am I nervous? Not in the least. That other lady is, the silly, inconstant one who strikes the keys, the one who can't sleep, the one who spends the days chewing the black polish off her nails...but not me. Of course he'll love it. I wrote it, didn't I? I poured the better part of a year into it. It has meaty little nuggets of my soul stitched in there. Who could help but love it?
I'm pretty sure this is anti-self-talk.
Okay. That's enough of the tortured writer schtick for one day. If people want that they'll read a real writer, someone like Virginia Woolf or Edgar Allan Poe. In this Age of Irony, no one wants sincerity. It's unsightly. It's inconvenient. It's unproductive. But, mostly, it's just no goddamn fun.
What else is there of yesterday worth putting down? Nothing at all. The cold and the rain and me finally fleeing to a used bookstore in Virginia Highlands, where I bought Richard Ellis' The Search for the Giant Squid. Many, many delightful things about this book, but I'm especially enjoying how Ellis keeps taking digs at those crappy Peter Benchley novels. I came home and read. I shivered. I've been wearing my biker jacket for two days (you know the one), almost non-stop. I also read Molly Gloss' short story, "Lambing Season" (unusually fine). Blah, blah, blah. Yesterday.
Should I go now? Have I overstayed my welcome? But I haven't said anything about the new American police state or our shiny new Iraqi Vietnam or how PlayStation is healthier than "reality" television or how the world as we know it would simply end if everyone refused to max out their credit cards on Xmas gifts no one really needs and, instead, donated all the money to Worthwhile, Tax-Deductible Causes. I've hardly gotten started...
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Addendum: Allow me a small gripe. Someday, when I'm as rich and famous as Baby Jesus, maybe publishers, editors, reviewers, etc. will see fit to grant me the "R." that rests at the center of my name, twixt "Caitlin" and "Kiernan." It isn't an arbitrary "R." It stands for something. Actually, it stands for two somethings. When I was deciding, more than a decade ago, exactly what form of my name I would write under, I put a great deal of thought into this. "Caitlin Kiernan" has a nice flow, it scans, but it comes off ever so much more sturdy with the "R." And yet, more times than I can count, people who I know know better, insist upon omitting the "R." from reviews, dustjackets, what have you. It's not as if I've ever turned in a ms. whose byline read simply "by Caitlin Kiernan." Why am I grousing about this now? I just got a peek at the cover for Verte Brume, for which I wrote "Peau Verte," over at the Medium Rare Books site. It a very nice cover, but there's my name, sans "R." What gives? Poppy gets her Z., and she's never even been exactly sure what it stands for?
You don't see people writing J. Tolkien, or Scott Fitzgerald, or Frank Baum? Those guys get their proper initials. I've won three International Horror Guild awards and on each one I was denied an "R." Barnes and Noble did a little better when they gave me the Maiden Voyage Award: they granted me my "R." and spelled Kiernan "Kiernen."
Yesterday, I wrote only 776 words on the still "Untitled Novella." One of those days when the words all hung back in the shadows, stubborn and reluctant coconspirators.
I believe that I have heard the most brilliant CD of 2003, The Dresden Dolls' self-titled debut (8ft. Records). I'm not going to weigh it down with an "if you like X, you like The Dresden Dolls" comparison, or say it's "like X meets Y, with a dash of Z for spice," because I loathe it when people do that to my work. Trust me. It is delightful and you should find it at once! If you can't get a copy at a local indie shop, order from Middle Pillar Records, now, before the Xmas rush depleats the stock. Spooky also got a copy of the new Clan of Xymox yesterday, but we've not had time to listen to it.
The following from Franklin Harris, in response to my question yesterday, regarding the Office of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act:
Well, the goal of terrorism is to disrupt the normal day-to-day functioning of a society with the end of influencing that society's government (or so says Caleb Carr, anyway). Since the OHS is the government, it must have another, non-terroristic but equally nefarious motivation.
Franklin knows more about these things than I. I've learned that. And Caleb Carr just rocks. So, I defer. But the fact remains, that the Office of Homeland Security, if not a terrorist organization sensu stricto, is instilling terror in many innocent Americans of many ethnicities. Summation: If 9/11 was a test of freedom and democracy, and if America is truly a country ruled by a government that if by and for the people, we are failing by our own hand.
I am so not awake. Spooky and I were up until almost 4 a.m. playing Primal, and then I awoke from nightmares at a little after 9:00 and was unable to get back to sleep. Here in Atlanta, the themometer is hovering just above freezing, the sky is so gray it's almost purple, and it's raining and threatening sleet. The cryosphere is in full swing and this place is impossible to heat. My office is a deep freeze. No, really. You could store meat in here. Entire herds of Woolly Mammoths could be preserved between my crowded bookshelves. And I've begun the I-only-have-to-hang-on-until-March thing again.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Addendum: The words don't want to come today. I've been sitting here for two hours and have only 311 words to show for it. It all feels indifferent to my desires.
Politics. Here's a story to stoke the fires of my love for humanity: "Boy says mom is gay; school rebukes him." I especially like this bit: Later that day, Marcus' mother, Sharon Huff, was concerned after receiving a call from the assistant principal, who informed her that Marcus was in trouble for using a word so bad that it couldn't be repeated over the phone. So, I'm guessing that students at the Ernest Gallet Elementary School in the great burg of Youngsville, Louisiana, won't be singing "Deck the Halls" this Christmas, not if the word "gay" is "so bad" it can't even be spoken for fear of corruption. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, folks, but it's time the South pulled its head out of its narrow, bigoted ass and moved the hell on. By the way, if you'd like to voice your complaints to the good people at Ernest Gallet Elementary School, here's the phone number, unless they've changed it since yesterday: (337) 856-1935. I suggest you insert the word "gay" into the conversation as frequently as possible.
I now return to banging my head against the wall.
Yesterday, I wrote 1,124 words on "Untitled Novella." I've got to come up with a name for this thing, because I'm getting sick of calling it that. Today, perhaps. Anyway, the manuscript is now 5,041 words long. Is it fair to call the things I produce "manuscripts"? The word derives, of course, from the Latin, manu scriptus — hand writing. True, my hands strike these keys and, usually, there's a printout. But I suspect that I'm violating the spirit of the word.
And, on the subject of violating spirit, yesterday I was thinking, which I do sometimes. If the goal of terrorism is to disrupt the normal, day-to-day function of a society by creating fear in its populus, then how is it that the Office of Homeland Security and the Patriot Act fail to qualify as a terrorist organization and an act of terrorism, respectively? Certainly, both have done their bit to make many of us a little more afraid, a little less willing to act as we normally would. I'm sorry. Politics. I know. I should stay away from them. But the post-9/11 "ends-justify-the-means" mentality that much of the US government and many of its people have adopted is really beginning to wear at my patience.
Last night, Spooky and Jennifer and I attended a screening of Georges Franju's Eyes Without A Face (1960). Afterwards, you guessed it, Spooky and I played Primal. This game's scripting and design continue to amaze and delight me. If you're someone who's always thought you'd like video games better if they had a good story and engaging characters, you should take a look at Primal.
Anyway, off to the words. Always, off to the words.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Urk. It's one of those days when my head's too full of things I want to mention in the journal. And it's also the sort of day when I really don't have time for a long entry.
One year ago today we moved from Birmingham to Atlanta. That it could have been an entire year is more than hard to believe - it's positively nauseating. I wish time would flow like it did when I was a kid, so deliciously slow that the six-week period between report cards seemed an eternity. A year, and I still haven't hung all the pictures! But, I have been free of Birmingham for a year now.
After the hectic, nerve-frelling weekend swallowed by the mad dash to meet my deadline on Murder of Angels, I decided late yesterday morning that Spooky and I deserved a "day off." I had to talk to John Morgan at Penguin, to be sure he'd received the ms. in one piece. He had, and informed me that the release date of Murder of Angels has been moved up to September 2004. After that, we spent the day exploring Virginia Highlands. We found a wonderful used bookstore, and I picked out a big stack of non-fiction volumes on paleontology, oceanography, and paleoanthropology, and a volume of sci-fi, and then exercised supreme self-control by buying not a single one of them. Just being in the bookstore was a fine sort of therapy for my rattled nerves. Oh, and there was a first -printing copy of Threshold. That was cool. As a child, I fantasized about seeing my books in used bookstores. We had coffee at Aurora and walked in the cold air. We finished up the day with dinner at The Vortex in L5P. Back home, I spent a little time on Nebari.Net, and then we played Primal until 1:30 a.m.
And now, today, I absolutely have to get back to work on the "Untitled Novella."
Also, yesterday, someone had abandoned a huge box of books beside the dumpster. We dragged it in and sorted through the lot, to see if there was anything we wanted. The rest will go to Goodwill, as the dumpster is not an appropriate place for perfectly good books. The oddest of the lot were a child's handmade, hardwritten book, Girls Rule, Boys Drool (which I kept), and a 1968 yearbook from Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, Virginia (which I didn't keep, but spent some time examining). Also involving the dumpster, yesterday I got rid of my office chair of six years. From that chair I wrote Threshold, the bulk of The Dreaming, about a zillion short stories, Low Red Moon, and Murder of Angels, before it gave up the ghost last month. I bought it just after I moved from Athens back to Birmingham. Before hauling it out to the trash, I cut a small swatch from it as a keepsake. Yes, I am sentimental.
Generally, I have little interest in local politics, but there were a couple of important items on the agenda of the Atlanta City Council last night. This morning, we all awoke to discover that, over the next several years, water and sewer rates will increase substantially, and bars now have to have last call at 2:30 and close by 3 a.m., shaving sixty minutes off bar hours. Neither of these decisions makes Atlanta a more attractive place to live. The ancient, failing sewers are in desperate need of repair, following the city's explosive, Ymir-like growth in the '90s, but surely the ACC could have found a means of raising funds for the overhaul without hitting the pocketbooks of a lot of people who simply can't afford the hike. As for the bars, the whole city is suffering because of the frat-boy, hip-hop party zone in Buckhead, which has been the scene of several violent episodes. Somehow, the ACC thinks that shortening hours, costing local bar owners millions in annual revenue and a lot of people their jobs, punishing all bars within the city limits, will solve the problem. It won't, of course. The violence in Buckhead will continue.
How long has it been since I've talked poltics here?
Enough for today. Time to write.
Monday, December 01, 2003
How can it be frelling December again already? That's just not possible.
Last night, I e-mailed an rtf of the ms. for Murder of Angels to my editor, at precisely 11:34 p.m. Which means that I made my deadline with 26 minutes to spare. In the end, the ms. came to a whopping (well, it seems whopping to me) 120,625 words, 568 pp., 3,349 paragraphs. Spooky and I spent all day on it, finishing up at that needing finishing up. It was a day of frazzled nerves. I took a dinner break for leftover turkey, then watched an AMC bio on Dr. Seuss, then went back to work on the thing. And now it's gone, out of my hands for at least a few weeks, maybe a month or two.
And I need to get back to the "Untitled Novella." And I'm fighting that urge I mentioned earlier, the one that tells me to run, get out of here, go anywhere. Spend some time in museums and aqauriums, on unfamiliar roads and walking beaches. But. I need to get back to the "Untitled Novella," and the screenplay, and so it goes.