Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Old is new again in the book revolution

Back when 90 percent of everything was crap and as much mindbendingly awful stuff was being mass produced for people to sift through to get to the good stuff there was this operation responsible for doing just that, called bookclubs. Mostly gone now. But with the ebooks revolutionizing the business one would think enterprising, forwardlooking folks like tor baen small beer and etc would put together a subscriptionbased ebook club through email or whispernet or whatever. Hire someone good like john klima or Ellen datlow to run the bookclubs and buy up available good ebooks to mail out to ebook readers. As the waves of bad ebooks clog the wires in the post-print, self published world seems like a viable line of work for a hungry editor. They secure ebook rights and handle the ePub conversion if necessary, and their subscribers pay a monthly fee for someone to wade through the crap to the good stuff.

I bet oprah could turn a profit on it right now... And Imagine setting that up across platforms. One just selected the preferred format to interface with their preferred reader, it slips through amazon and iTunes and nook and retains the Catholic approach of their fine website wherein Jo Walton picks the books she likes for the club, runs a discussion on them -with guest controbutions from reviewers from time to time - and all subscribers have the might of tor to find out what ebooks are available and how to get them for a price appropriate to the profits of the book club. With running discussion at and all the joy that entails, I would think the ebook future will still have publishing companies and editors. We will just refer to them as ebook clubs. And they will filter out the slush for us in ebookland.

So no more doomsaying 'kay? Publishing will do just fine in thirty years one way or another.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

what i think about when i think about heroic fantasy.

war is not heroic.

i was digging through ye ol' shelves last night for something light and easy to read, to take my headspace out of the school paper i'm working on before trying to sleep. i thumbed through some old stuff labeled heroic fantasy. i put it back after only a moment. it was disturbing to me, because i had been reading about the wikileaks thing, and about all those civilian casualties. i was thinking how glorifying that stuff is about as endearing to me as a high school pep rally.

that's why patrick rothfuss' "heroic" hero, kvothe is cool. he's fucking broken. he's telling you about all the cool shit he did, and he's basically, in the modern day, experiencing hardcore ptsd. calling that heroic fantasy doesn't work for me.

david durham's also on the cutting edge of this stuff, with a rich tapestry of characters that are all the main characters in their own minds, hurting each other because of the slow breakdown of social orders has led to the great tragedy of human society: armed conflict. it comes at a high price. it is not pretty. people you love will die, gruesomely.

what is heroic? working hard to put food on the table for your kids. taking stray dogs to no-kill shelters. suing the shit out of bp oil. that's heroic. warfare is not heroic. it's a tragedy. it's a farce. it's a horrible thing where horrible things happen and even a just war is an example of a failure of people to prevent the need for a "just" war through policy, negotiation and love. killing people isn't heroic. it's a tragedy made flesh. even someone who isn't a murderer is still a killer. that's not heroic. that's awful.

and that's the thing about real "heroic fantasy" as i understand the definition. they aren't about heroism. they're about suffering. that's "suffering fantasy". it isn't heroism that keeps me reading. it's empathizing with characters that bleed out slowly on the razor's edge.

and average heroic fantasy - even pretty well-written average heroic fantasy by authors who are pretty-much household names in the blog-o-sphere - aren't really writing heroic fantasy. they're writing entertainment fantasy.

so, i want to redefine heroic fantasy. if the hero of your heroic fantasy piece kills or harms any living thing without consequence, it's not heroic fantasy. if your villain is not the hero of a story we happen to not be reading, but is just plain villainous, that is not heroic fantasy. (if your hero is handier with a weapon than they are talking to members of the opposite gender, that is not heroic fantasy, but this is part of a larger craft concern... and involves anime more than books, I'll admit.) these, and other traits, are generally hallmarks of "power" fantasies.

want to read a fantasy novel involving real heroics? me, too. hard to find out there. heroes, by their very defining term, trend towards the implausible. what i settled on last night, when i was looking for real fantastickal heroics, was Accelerando by Charles Stross. when you think about it, if you've read it, it will start to come together for you, too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Infographic by The Big Picture

When the economic meltdown does come, I expect my hoard of ramen noodle soup and twinkies will see a huge boost in value, unlike Beck's gold coins.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bad Advice

I am about to give you some bad advice. This advice is not what you should be doing. In fact, this system is so awful, I will openly admit I should not be doing it. But... I am doing it, and I intentionally think it is the best way for me right now to achieve my own goals as a writer. And it is Catherynne Valente's fault. And Joyce Carol Oates' fault.

I am trying to be a prolific writer. Prolific writers make me jealous because they are always doing something cool. They always seem to have something coming out and always seem to be experiencing positive career shifts despite the hutches and blotches and hysterics that constantly throw roadblocks in the writers path. Having something new to sell lifts the writer over crashes and burns and foots and mistakes. So, I set out to be more prolific. Its one of the reasons I don blog asmu h as I used to, and why my entries are fast and loose of late-because this is my writing time- and I'm honestly using my iPhone which makes some things a bit stranger in grammar and usage and autocorrect. Anyway, I'm trying to be more prolific an I've got a system that I think works for me, even if it is bad ad ice that no one should be doing and that will need to be abandoned one of these days when I get my goal achieved.

To be prolific, one must write a lot. A lot. It must also be good writing. Very good writing. One must also publish a lot.

My system since December has been this, for short fiction and I must again say that this is bad advice and he wrong way.

I write a short story, as quickly and cleanly as I can. I try to sit down in one sitting and finish the story. If I haven't finished it in a couple days I set it aside and move on. I make it the best that I can inside that rushed timeframe. I send it out to market. If you are playing at home you are probably wondering why I wouldn't set the story aside a while and look at it again later. To edit with fresh eyes. I do that later, if it the story didn't sell. Which is to say I use the submissions process as a way of gauging whether o am at first draft or last draft. While the story is out I research and toy with other ideas and work on novels and other stories. I am trying to be ome the kind of writer who can produce a sale quality piece of fiction in a weekend. It is a process that is not natural to me, an edit-happy revision junky who prefers to rewrite the same thing a hundred times than to start a new draft. However I want to be prolific. I want to be the kind of writer who seems to have something about everything for anyone anywhere. I won't get there unless I really get better at writing first drafts, which for me have always been excrement.

The thing that makes my advise bad is that I am using poor slush editors as my gauge eArly in the process and knocking out good markets before my story is good enough. When the story returns to me rejected, I will then edit it fast and hard and send it out again. Lather rinse repeat.

But it is working. I'm getting faster. My novels are still pretty slow, but slowly getting faster.

The other hinge I'm doing is making sure I Ty not to write standalone short stories disconnected from novels or other stories. I want whetting to connect in some meaningful way. That way I can connect everything in a book form. Fix ups and connected collections and nothing scattered.

I'm getting faster. I'm usig a bar system of short story production to get faster. I'm seeing the results in my fiction. My early drafts aregetting better and better. I'm producing stories at a brisk pace, even if they aren't selling right away. I'm getting that backlog of stories built that will fuel the myth of a prolific writer.

Anyway, it's bad advice to abuse slush editors that way, but it is also a great way to contain your own proclivity for over-editing.

And... Back to writing!

Ready... Set... GO!

Friday, July 23, 2010

mosaic novels

i'll be working on a paper this weekend for school that's dedicated to the craft of mosaic novels. been reading around a bit about them.

one thing i think is interesting, in particular, is how the term seems genre-specific. novels of general fiction seem to avoid the term, while genre writers embrace it. DIVISADERO by Michael Ondaatje seems to bear all the hallmarks of a "fix-up", with loosely connected narratives explicating a single theme - the effect of extreme, dividing violence upon the lives of different people - yet, critics only talk about it as oddly-structured, without ever allowing themselves to consider a structure that isn't, at all, odd. Mosaic novels are so common that I am going to be severely scaling back my paper's scope to protect my writing time. Mosaic novels are ridiculously common in SF, where selling part or all of your novel in multiple magazines piecemeal is a really good idea (ACCELERANDO by Charles Stross, for instance). What happens in general fiction is they seem to buy more short story collections, and they seem to avoid labeling novels as anything but novels, regardless of what form that novel takes. Ergo, they don't seem to need a special term for interconnected short stories.

I don't have any grand sweeping suppositions about this, or what it means for readers or writers. I'm just observing what I'm seeing rising out of the data. Mosaic novels and Fix-Up novels seem to be something specific to SF/F, as a term, even if the form transcends genres. Which is interesting enough for a blog post, I guess. I will need more to hang a 30+ page research paper upon then that, but so it goes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back from Maine

had the great pleasure of workshopping with David Anthony Durham and Elizabeth Hand this time, at the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast program.

One thing I've noticed about this particular program - compared to others I've had passing familiarity with - is that my co-students are often very accomplished authors or creators in their own right. My fellow students have - like me - a pretty long list of credits.

This got me thinking about the low residency model of the MFA, and how it would be more appealing to us who are a little busy writing stuff to want to go to class every week. We want the kind of degree that lets us stay in our cave, madly typing.

I'm well over halfway through my degree, at this point, and I can honestly say the experience has been good. Anyone looking for a degree in writing - MFA - I think it is best to consider the low-residency model. And, for all you speculative types, check out the Pop Fiction Department at the University of Southern Maine, which includes James Patrick Kelly, David Anthony Durham, Nancy Holder, and Elizabeth Hand.

It's been good. Learned a lot of different ways of thinking about the stuff that I was already doing.

Friday, July 9, 2010

see ya in a week...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

things to pack for maine...

i'm off to the far north next week, as part of my graduate work towards an MFA, and i thought i'd share my list of things to pack:

tortilla chips
real salsa (they have none in the north...)
my houseplants who will not survive alone for long
my xbox 360
ALAN WAKE, for the XBox 360 (I'm in Episode 3, and its fun so far!)
my stuffed goomba to keep me company
the complete Cowboy BEBop, (don't leave home without it)
"House of Leaves" which I am almost through reading, and it is awesome
"The Third Bear" by Jeff VanderMeer, which should be in my mailbox this week *fingers crossed*

i have no intention of attending class. i'm just gonna go up there, hang out, eat and sleep.

(unless i find out i can't graduate if i don't attend seminars, in which case all my best-laid plans go right out the window!)

Monday, July 5, 2010

what i think about when i think about money

money isn't real. it's made up. we all made it up, because we want to have expensive things. we want our things to be the best things. we can only do that if we invent money. without money, nothing is any better or worse than anything else.

the people who are really boring care about money. the people who are incredibly exciting care about money. everyone else kind of thinks money is what everyone uses to trick you into operating in a manner contrary to your best interests.

then, we get older, and we get wiser, and we realize the money we have is the time we have, because it buys healthcare and retirement and healthier food.

then, we start to care about money even if we are neither terrifically boring or exciting. then, we wonder if we aren't too late.

since we're too late, there's nothing to do but spend money on things that make us feel better because we messed up before we realized we had made a mistake.

also, we're supposed to buy houses. that's what everyone says. a house would be nice. new cars are kind of silly.

we're supposed to buy investment products, but we also wonder if anyone can be trusted to advise on these things because everything we see about investing is either incredibly convoluted or reminiscent of a scam.

but, we have to do something, and everyone says buying a house is good, and investing in a retirement is good.

and that's money. we made it up. so we could buy things. things like expensive coffee and sandwiches and cheese.

because we like things, and we would like to retire to read books and garden all day, we guess we like money.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hestia never came together...

Big city's growing. Chomping up them small towns nip nip nip. Used to be Alpharetta was one small town. Now it's three, and it ain't hardly separated at all from Atlanta. City folks pushing out from the center like they is crawling outta the ground below five points, pushing everyone out and away, and everyone is rolling over like the little bear said, until the crowd presses into the ocean and then everyone is tumbling into boats, and the waves will catch them and everything spreads all over everything. The towers rising up and up and up and the city climbing up alongside like a forest canopy clambering after the most light. I'm getting my oil changed in the suburbs and a homeless guy with the shakes asked me if I had spare change. Can't buy nothing with change anymore. Everything costs a dollar or more. Anyway if we give them money they'll keep begging instead of tumbling into the salvation army after clean clothes and hot food and counseling services to get him off the street, employed somewhere, renting a place in town and joining society. He looks like a mole man. Wonder where he came from. I'd ask him, but all he would do is lie about it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

So stunned...

Yeah, because I am still so stunned, I forgot to mention it, but...

Huge thanks to my agent, Matt Bialer, and his talented assistant Lindsay Ribar, without whom the manuscript wouldn't have been as good, wouldn't have managed to find the right home, and wouldn't have been championed so long, so well.

Thanks goes out to beta-readers Michelle Muenzler, and Sharon Maas, who both provided important feedback during the early stages of stuff.

This was a long and winding road, and lots of folks were a part of these little books. My acknowledgements page will need very small type, and many pages.

Just Accepted an Offer...

I just accepted an offer from Nightshade Books on the little trilogy I mentioned way, way, way back in my first interview at Omnivoracious... (

[quote] I'm finishing up a little trilogy right now that is--I hope--utterly different from Last Dragon. Three children of demons discover each other in a city that would burn them alive for the crime of existing. The demon stain marks their life very differently. For social outcasts and the working poor, it takes heroics just to lead a normal life. I'll leave the description at that, for now. Other then that, I like to write short fiction. Check out Coyote Wild Magazine, Atomjack Magazine, and Pseudopod for some of my latest short stories. I particularly recommend Coyote Wild Magazine because a couple of the other stories in the issue with mine are really, really exceptional.[/quote]

Publishing is slow, but good books always find a home, even when things turn sour.

I, frankly, love Nightshade's books. Been reading Jay Lake, and Joel Lane, and Matthew Hughes, and Paolo Bacigalupi and all sorts of their novels and anthologies, all over my apartment. Got so many of them floating around my shelves it's unsurprising to find myself working with them, now.

I'm really looking forward to working with these folks. It's an honor to be included with their numerous fantastic titles.

I'm writing this all a little stunned. I guess I'm still new enough in the business that it's really hard to keep my "just-another-day-at-the-office" cool demeanor about this.

Yeah, so... Uh... My day's fantastic. How about you? How are you folks doing? (Self-pimpin' in the comments is encouraged, my friends. Tell me about your awesome, so we can all bask in it together!)