Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Long Wait

Publishing is slow.

I mean this. I try to explain to people who ask me how this or that project is doing, and I tell them that they do not comprehend the vast and overwhelming timewarp of publishing. It's slow. It's very, very slow.


I can't help but feel like someone sitting on a short story for 274 days is a bit much, even for publishing. I've e-mailed this individual, with no luck. (I won't out them. This isn't post isn't really about them.) Follow-ups go ignored. I think after 90 days, one should know whether a short story is going to get held onto or not, at least. A note saying, "Hey, I have to hold onto this a bit longer. Sorry. Your own fault for writing something good." That would be nice.

If after 90 days, and you don't think you'll get to even read the story for another 100 days, I think the decent thing to do is confess that you're too swamped to read the thing, and/or pick up an intern to filter the slush for you, to weed out the stuff that's obvious.

What's weird is that sometimes the markets that are the best are often the most frustrating. As I recently completely stopped printing and mailing any submissions (too time-consuming, and too expensive. I've got tuition bills, darnit! Every penny pinched counts!) I am only referring to magazines that accept e-mail submissions, or have some sort of form. It seems the best markets in the world (Weird Tales, The New Yorker, McSweeney's, etc.) are slow, even for publishing. I don't hold it against them. I just...

Well, I just wish there was some kind of automated check-in every 90 days with a status update, straight from their database, so I can get a reminder that I am still under consideration, and I can hunker down for a long wait...

...or, I can push the button on the 90 day check-in to automatically withdraw my piece.

I mean, what if I decide that waiting for to find approximately three minutes of breathing room to read some of the slush they must receive over the transom during their busy, busy day is just not what I want, anymore? I can pull the piece in such a way that no one has to even sign off on the decision. Sending an e-mail followup to most of these slow markets means also waiting a while for the message to get over before I can resubmit somewhere with better turnaround.

I know what you're saying: in my magical fairy world, there is also free cake instead of rejection slips, because someone would have to sit down and code all that nonsense and it certainly won't be you or me!

Actually, now that I mention it cake would be great to get instead of rejection slips. Everybody likes cake! (But - yes - knowing it would come as part of a rejection slip, I admit that I suspect the cake would be a lie...)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Staring into the darkness...

This was like the future coming down the pipe when the climate breaks us all down into makeshift huts where potheads and farmers exchange crop for crop, chopping wood and making do where the crazies hang on and hang on and hang on.

Too much sunlight, I reckon. Too much war, and too much darkness of the soul.

It'll kill ya.

Highly recommended for all science fictionists. Four stars. (I'd give it five, but it was pretty hard to watch. Also, I never learned as much as I wanted to about the "Nowhere Kids", armed anarchists living in buses and stealing from them they percieve in plenty who themselves barely scrape by on bags of beans...)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Part of what's keeping me off-line right now is grad school...

Here's a quick essay I had to write for school that might be of interest to others, about my understanding of Narrative, in response to something the professor sent us about Narrative that was pretty simple and focused on just books:

The straightforward approach to narrative presented by the essay limits its focus to just written narrative, to the detriment of the depth and scope of narrative.

As a writer of video games, as well as books, I disagree that narrative needs to be told in words. Any sort of symbol or sign can be conducive to narrative. The subconscious mind is always on, after all. I would say narrative stems from a sense of destination translated into the subconscious mind. What this means, to me, is that when Mario reaches the flag at the end of the level, he has experienced a narrative. When the driver pushes through the unexpected traffic to get home, that is also a form of narrative. When Ivan Ilyich finally dies, that, too, is the destination point of a narrative. That destination point may be known in advance – Mario pushing through the level knows there is an end point – or it could be that the destination point is known but not exactly when it will arrive – like Ivan Ilyich's death – or it could be the destination point to the subconscious is a surprise at every moment – like how traffic just seems to pile upon the driver, with no end in sight until it suddenly, miraculously, clears away. The “meaning and evaluation” stems from the destination point. However, that meaning and evaluation could be completely untold to the audience. The subconscious mind is, after all, always active. The depth of the narrative – Ivan Ilyich versus stuck in traffic – comes from the connectivity of the conscious acts and activities of the narrative through laid out connecting lines to the subconscious destination point.

The meaning and theme come from three places. First, the subconscious destination point colors the theme. Also, the mind's path to that subconscious destination point – whether rooted in the physical world or not – is a source of theme and meaning. Third, the connectivity between conscious and subconscious ideas, if presented at depth, color the meaning and theme. This connectivity could be quite shallow, which would not contribute much to the connection between spheres of though. However, with elaborate narrative packed with signs and symbols and numerous psychic destination points, the connectivity is the stuff of magic, where most of the themes come from. After all, the conscious layer of narrative – where a character does things – and the subconscious layer – where one can feel a progression towards or away from psychic destination points – is the place with the most work to do. Simplistic narrative, like Super Mario Bros., do not really concern themselves with the third layer. Complex narrative, like Moby Dick, expend almost all energies behind this third element. The conscious layer of Moby Dick – men do whaling activities – is connected to the psychic destination point – Ahab is taken by his own hated whale, and the whalers are defeated – through a vessel of connectivity: Ishmael.

Call it narrative.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The internet is mostly boring, still. But announcements:

Looks like Weird Tales #355, containing my non-Steampunk dark fantasy piece "Dedalus and the Labyrinth" looks to be up and out in the world.

If you read my interview at Suvudu, you know that this is the story that formed the protoplasmic goo that became my second novel, MAZE.

It's a good story. I hope people like it.

In other news, Austin-area 'zine fans can look forward to FATHER in the forthcoming issue of SPACE SQUID. I think the punk rockers and amateur boxers will like this one.

Right... Back to the cave. (I'm getting close on something medium-sized, but very cool. Probably take a decade to publish this latest one, but no reason not to finish it now...)

Friday, April 16, 2010

blah blah blah

The internet is actually kind of boring to me, right now, and I'd rather just read books.

Maybe later I'll tell you about what I'm reading.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth

A book of its time, wildly experimental on the edge of forms, flirting with an identity and abandoning it with glee and malice. This was fun stuff, and I recommend it.

John Barth describes his experimental amalgamation‭ ‬-‭ ‬I hesitate to use the word‭ "‬collection‭" ‬-‭ ‬as something of a novel,‭ ‬in its way.‭ ‬Though individual pieces stand alone as individual stories,‭ ‬once they are placed together they take on a new shape,‭ ‬of a novel-like-object, like mirrors joined together becoming a maze.‭ ‬

The story of Ambrose,‭ ‬then,‭ ‬is the arc of the whole.‭ ‬From the moment of conception,‭ ‬to his imprisonment in the funhouse and iterative imaginative ramblings,‭ ‬the‭ "‬novel‭" ‬tumbles through a series of ideas that form the life of the main character.‭ ‬Despite the clear narrative arc and a beginning that feels like a coming-of-age-as-an-artist novel,‭ ‬that coming-of-age is broken by the mirror maze,‭ ‬and the subsequent Grecian-themed short pieces that follow,‭ ‬re-imagining characters from Greek myth‭ ‬-‭ ‬especially from the era of the Trojan War.‭

Ergo,‭ ‬this is a short novel broken by an accidental entrapment of the mirror maze into Ambrose's solipsism.‭ ‬Naturally,‭ ‬there is a larger metaphor in place,‭ ‬of the artist striving for a perfect union with something other,‭ ‬larger.‭ ‬He can never achieve it,‭ ‬truly,‭ ‬without destroying the self.‭ ‬Each story seems to have elements of self-creation and self-destruction,‭ ‬transformations.‭ ‬Menelaus is transformed by his jealous rage against what he discovers to be a cloud Helen,‭ ‬created by the Gods to taunt him‭ ‬-‭ ‬or so he believes...‭ ‬-‭ ‬and the poet of the Anonymaiad finds perfection of his art only when faced with pure negation on the island apart from his lover,‭ ‬his courtly intrigue.‭ ‬The very first story,‭ ‬of semen swimming upstream to some perfect union will be utterly decimated by union with the object of desire,‭ ‬the female egg.

As an in-between form‭ ‬-‭ ‬part novel,‭ ‬part collection‭ ‬-‭ ‬I wonder which form‭ "‬won‭"‬,‭ ‬so to speak.‭ ‬When these two antagonistic forces are merged,‭ ‬does the work count‭ ‬-‭ ‬formally‭ ‬-‭ ‬as a collection or a novel‭? ‬Barth,‭ ‬alas,‭ ‬does not get the final say in the matter.‭ ‬The story that,‭ ‬I think,‭ ‬best defines this in-between state is the Menelaiad,‭ ‬when Menelaus wrestles with Proteus,‭ ‬and experiences what might as well be a reflection of Ambrose's fate,‭ ‬lost in the mirror maze. ‭ ‬In this,‭ ‬the two conflicting works of art‭ ‬-‭ ‬novel,‭ ‬and short story collection‭ ‬-‭ ‬find a fragmented mirroring state,‭ ‬as if the reflection of Ambrose's mind poured into the mirror maze also comes back into him.‭

As the creator of all these fanciful tales inside the maze,‭ ‬tricksy Proteus,‭ ‬constructing all the world around Menelaus as if creating a dream is Ambrose,‭ ‬blessing Menelaus with an imagined happy ending that will not arrive for Ambrose,‭ ‬lost in the maze.‭

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thank you io9

Remember, these people definitely vote. That's why you need to come November.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm tired.

And I don't feel like being a good blogger right now.

Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

With the recent passage of Britian's odious new internet laws...

We should listen to the wisdom of someone who knows the TRUTH!

Incidentally, it is depressing that this weirdo makes more sense about certain issues than some people who are in actual power in the world, and - supposedly - in full control of their own reason.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Interview with Richard Dansky, author of FIREFLY RAIN!

I had the great pleasure of exchanging a few questions with Richard Dansky, whose novel FIREFLY RAIN returns to print, at last, from Simon & Schuster, in paperback. I thoroughly enjoyed it in hardback. Richard tells a solid Southern Gothic horror tale, and fans of Cherie Priest and Stephen King will find much to love about this book: setting, ambiance, a powerful surprise at the end, and ghosts. I recommend it to anyone looking to fill their long spring and summer days with something to read with a touch of chill. Richard, especially, nails dialogue. He's got a great ear for the way people speak, and every one of these characters feels like they could go on, at length, about almost anything if the author didn't keep them on a tight, thriller leash.

Joe) So... This book was released in hardback by WotC Discoveries in 2008, and now it's back from a completely different company? Can you tell me your journey from the hardback to here?

Speaking as a reader, it was a tremendous disappointment that the Discoveries line was canceled, because I was really enjoying the books they were putting out - yours, of course, and the Tems' Man On the Ceiling and the rest. The folks at WotC were lovely to deal with, and were kind enough to return the rights to Firefly Rain once it was clear that Discoveries was done for. I was then very fortunate in that Simon and Schuster showed an interest in the book, and that my editor there, Ed Schlesinger, did a wonderful job of tightening up the book with me for the paperback release.
Joe) What is different between the two? Are there any major changes readers should know about? And, which one do you think is the "better" book, the original hardback or the updated mass market paperback?

I think the trade paperback's the better read, largely because I had the twin benefits of another set of eyes on it and a few more years' writing experience to go back and smooth out whatever bumps and hiccups remained. It's the same story; just a little more smoothly told in a couple of places.

Also, I love the new cover art. You can't argue with a spooky old house rising up out of a field of fireflies.

Joe) What is a ghost, in your worldview, compared to specters or wraiths or banshees or souls? How do ghosts function in this world? Have you ever encountered a real ghost in this world?

Richard) I consider myself an agnostic when it comes to the supernatural. I've certainly seen things that some folks might call ghostly activity, while others would simply call...strange. As for what a ghost might be, I think it's probably best described as "unfinished business", that bit of whatever makes us human that hasn't reached some kind of resolution. Whether that's good business or bad remains to be seen, as it were. Then again, when it comes to this stuff, everyone's guessing, and I'm no exception. If there is something out there, I'd love to know what it was - and in the meantime, I'll continue to read and write ghost stories based on my own wild conjectures and conceptions, and be happy to do so.

Joe) So... Tell me about one of these possibly ghostly, strange encounters - especially if one of them influenced the book!

Probably the most...interesting one took place in a Suncoast Video in the Northlake Mall in Altanta, of all places. I was trying to redeem a gift certificate for a free movie and when my first choice turned out not to be covered by the certificate, something made a rather forceful suggestion by flipping an alternative ten feet off a flat shelf. It landed at my feet, with no one else in the store but me and the clerk. I asked her, "Did you just see that?" She smiled and said, "Oh yeah, that's just the ghost. He does that a lot."

I found out later that the mall supposedly had all sorts of trouble keeping security staff on because of late-night supernatural-type shenanigans, though I can neither confirm nor deny the veracity of this report. But I did get good use out of that movie.

Joe) The small town of Firefly Rain seems to be based on real-life experience with such places. What towns were you thinking about, and do you have any fascinating small town stories you'd like to share?

Richard) A lot of the small-town feel in the book came from visiting my wife's home town, particularly in the wake of her father's passing. Everyone there knew her and picked up with her as if she'd never been away for a minute. I just tagged along behind her and observed; she was a part of that place in a way I'd never been in the (larger, suburban) town I'd grown up in. That, as much as anything else, inspired a lot of what went into the book.

Joe) Have you ever fired a shotgun? Have you ever punched a grown man in the face in a furious rage? (Both of these elements - a character's rage issues, a shotgun - feature prominently in the book... No, I'm not accusing Richard of anything untoward! He's a groovy, macho sweetheart!)

Richard) I can give a definite "No" to the punching a grown man in the face in a furious rage. For one thing, it takes a lot to get me mad, and for another, there are better places to land your first punch. As for firing a shotgun, that I can definitely claim. It's useful experience to have, not just for the writing but also for the day job, considering the kinds of video games I work on.

Joe ) Speaking of your day job, when is the next Clancy game coming? Is there anything you can tell us about it?

Richard) The next one actually drops next week. Splinter Cell: Conviction is actually one I had a great deal of direct involvement with on the writing side, and I'm very proud to be a part of the team that put that one together. I think the trailers have done a great job at showing what the gameplay's going to be like without spoiling the story, which is pretty twisty if I do say so myself.

Then again, I don't want to spoil it too much. Just remember - this time, Sam's pissed off. And that means all sorts of interesting things.

Joe) Thanks Richard! I hope you sell a million copies!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

i think i figured out why people make amv's

japanese music videos - for instance, this one to rock gods, The Pillows, "Hybrid Rainbow" - are kinda blah and whatever.

While the fan-made AMV videos are much better, for instance this one also from international non-English sensation The Pillows, begins with robot battles and only goes up from there.

Monday, April 5, 2010

just rolled in from a wedding

Will be down for the count until Wednesday, latest.

Here's a story from my cousin in the mean time:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

old stories comin' back to me now. I'm diggin' through the old files for a thing I can't tell you about that may amount to nothin'. it's like it's not real to me, and it never really was, because the first imprint folded and i was back to being just some kid with delusions of grandeur, scribbling into the night again.

but it's real because i read over the old files, and i know it's there, a book about demons' children, adrift in a world that wants to see them die.

rachel nolander and jona lord joni and djoss and calipari and everyone is comin' back to me now.

i remember dogsland. i remember where cities begin, and where they end.

i can hear the wolves howling in the night again.

it's comin' back to me. yeah, it's comin' back to me, now.

Happy April Fool's Day

I'm not going to be playing any tricks on you today, honest. The blog-o-sphere will be awash with plenty of those. Instead, I bring you only a fool, but I mean that term in the nicest, happiest way because he's being absolutely foolish in the most charming of ways.

So, there's this guy I posted about a few days back called DJ Pogo, who is, apparently, based out of Australia. He does these amazing, beautiful remixes of films with sounds pulled from them. Some other cool cat on the internet found DJ Pogo's Upular and had to make a lip synch video:

How can you not be smiling right now? Smile, dammmit!