Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How Corruption Steals From Us and Human Movement

I have been reading perhaps too many historical texts, including revisiting Richard Hakluyt's Voyages and Discoveries, and some new-to-me-but-not-new books on the history of the world viewed by an economist. It made an interesting mental backdrop to a recent piece in the Rolling Stone about corruption and bid rigging and all sorts of nefarious acts in the corporate financial system. Taibbi's piece, and I'm not the only one to suggest it, is a must-read, regardless of political stripe, if only because the corruption is so commonplace that it could not exist like this in one aspect of the financial sector if it did not exist in others:
Corruption, when it is done well, happens so quietly we don't even know we're being abused. In fact, the bribers and the bribees in this situation and many others all believed they were behaving quite honorably, because this was the way things are done, and the way everyone on their side of the table reaped the most rewards.

There are people looking into things, and they are finding things, and the things they find happening are very bad things, indeed, and I am sure this story is only the tip of the iceberg of corruption that will be unraveled in the days to come, if our economy continues to drag and we keep demanding the blood of bankers to blame.

I was reading a book about the trade of agricultural staples across the oceans of history on the one hand, and the first-person accounts of British voyages to new places and territories on the other. It is hard not to read Taibbi's piece without Empire on the mind. It is an imperial way of thinking, that if the territories do not know what they do not have then we can go ahead and take it from them. It is an imperial way of behaving, to skim and pad and schmooze in such a fashion, and harm the natives who are perceived as part of a different category of being from the brave British captains, sailors, and cabin boys whose accounts of adventure are being transcribed. The people involved, from New York do not view the people of Oakland as human on quite the same level as they see the other people in the financial services industry, who were all such smart people and good students and go-getters and whatnot, compared to those lazy schlubs in municipal government service, you see. That is the way empire thinks. Take what we can from the natives of that foreign country who has fallen under our thumb, for we are the enlightened ones who bring great gifts and they should be grateful we have brought our expertise to their shores, at all.

The Taibbi piece is also hinting at a pattern reminiscent to the flour riots of France, and most of the peasant revolutions of history. For, when there is plenty, corruption flourishes and takes root unchecked by the population that would rather be busy with their own plenty and not fighting anyone over such scraps, until such time as there is no longer plenty and peasants seek out the reasons for their lack of food in the waste generated by systemic corruption. New leaders must be installed, forthwith, and new laws! Hear-Hear!

Revolutions in history overthrew corruption in times of scarcity, like we have right now. Naturally, what immediately followed was temporary reforms that, once entrenched, commenced to re-institute or at least not disallow the return of corruption in times of plenty. In times of plenty, when there is enough food and the harvests are good, the peasants don't riot over a little corruption. It becomes common-place. It becomes the way things get done in the society. It becomes so natural, business leaders discuss their clear and present corruption even when they know they are being recorded, because it has been happening for decades.

Presidential elections, even today, seem to be about our daily bread. Do we have enough bread? Let him stay in power! Do we need more bread? Throw the bum out! Presumably, and particularly after a certain Supreme Court case was decided, no source of political power is free of the corruption that drags on the coat tails of public policy. It seems to be the natural cycle of corruption, as old as the riots of the ancient world. This is part of the natural life-cycle of all empires, and the language of empire is all over these men.

My warning then, to all lefty and libertarian-leaning voters, is to take heed that political power of any group, maintained too long, will only lead to more and greater levels of corruption. Ergo, it is best not to attach our political identities too much to any one faction. Hopefully, before the corruption comes in our preferred faction of the moment, there will be a time of great plenty to withstand the drag on the economy of corruption that is as inevitable as death and taxes. At such time, we might be best to switch allegiances around to favor not the incumbent boss leaders, but the reformers who will make great promises - and might even pass a few decent laws - before these reformers, too, suffer the inevitable end of all politicians in the complex ecosystem of human political power.

Corruption is bad. It's a theft we don't even see, and it happens all the time, in a myriad ways, based around the political influence and power of men and women who feel safe behind their wall of SuperPAC donation-receipts.

Speaking of which, I am blogging a long-ish thing today, but I have not been blogging regularly. You see, I am more interested in being a great novelist, and husband, than I am in being a great blogger. I expect this trend to continue as I begin the steps necessary to relocate to a new state, and a wedding in September, and etc. Even if I had time to blog more, I am finding the form less and less interesting, as a writer and as a reader. I prefer only to come here when I believe I can contribute something I find interesting, and I have no desire to force a number of blog posts per day/week just to meet some artificial goal of on-line activity that doesn't actually do much to aid in the marketing of books, or in my general happiness.  I am not leaving, but I am also generally disinterested in planning or posting with anything resembling regularity. More blogging will happen or it will not. 

In the mean time, I am packing to move, and planning our wedding, etc.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Fathomless Abyss-byss-byss-byss...

Salutations mortals, and greetings from down here in the Fathomless Abyss. You don't know where that is, do you? Well, you should. The early missives with news from below trickledup from the depths via nihlex messenger a few months back.

You might notice a price drop on your preferred eDevice. Well, the powers that be down here, underground, decided to sweeten the deal for newcomers on account of the arrival of a new letter from below, from Guillermo and Kegan O'Malley, who face the devils in the endless deep:

Devils of the Endless Deep is the first follow-up to the anthology Tales From The Fathomless Abyss.

When the Fathomless Abyss opens onto an unsuspecting world, the Smog that chokes its upper regions is released. And with the Smog come the Tabagie—raiders and scavengers from thousands of different worlds and thousands of different epochs. The Tabagie get what they can, while they can, then the Abyss closes again, and no one knows how long it will be before it opens again.

When the Abyss opened on Earth in 1986, Keegan O’Malley fell in, and Guillermo Cordova floated out. Keegan is left trying to adapt to a strange new world populated by a mix of aliens from the far-flung reaches of the universe and humans from both his past and his future. And Guillermo, a 16th Century Spanish Conquistador, will have to make his way in a future world that’s no less alien.

But Guillermo knows something Keegan doesn’t.

He knows when and where the Fathomless Abyss will open next.

Philip Athans, the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation, leads a team of fantasy and science fiction veterans into a bizarre new world, and a fascinating new project: a shared world series as exotic and expansive as the infinite Abyss.

Phil Athans' is the first novella to come in this strange, underground place. Mine will be coming soon to eReaders near you.

 Soon my own, strange letter will rise up from the depths, where an ancient god sends out his profits to bring back new acolytes in a novella also dedicated to the Tabagie at the cap, in perhaps a harder time with fewer open caps to belch out smog.

Anyway, greetings from the depths! Do come visit soon! Tourist visas range anywhere from 99cents to 2.99, so there's really no excuses on your part not to come on down!

Berlin Writes Back, While I Read

I have written my loveletters to Berlin before, and find it most rare and precious that Berlin has written back. Received in the post, the latest issue of SAND, an English-language literary journal based in Berlin, containing one of my stories from the WOMEN AND MONSTERS story cycle, "Circe", and enough astounding and enjoyable and thought-provoking work that I am most pleased to be included in the issue. There is a story about a couple that attempts to sleep in the same place as famous people slept. There is poetry written sidewise and visually-stunning art. It comes packaged in a stylish paper sleeve. Were I to stumble upon this journal in the book shop, I would be sad if I did not pick it up.

I think you should pick up a copy, and not just because it contains me. I enjoyed the other stories and poems inside.

Also, if one is so inclined and able, I recommend writing a review of the journal.

Speaking of reviewing journals, I am most displeased that google alerts has not sent me any links to reviews of the JOURNAL OF UNLIKELY ENTOMOLOGY #3, in which my short story "War Beetles" is present in fine company. This is the same magazine that was noted by the Story South Million Writer's Award, and which got me a lovely nod among their recommended stories of the year for "Arachne" in Issue #1 of this journal, last year. (Arachne is also part of the WOMEN AND MONSTERS story cycle, in case that wasn't obvious!)

It would please me to see more reviews of these things.

I will put my money where my mouth is, as I am able, and review what I can, when I can. For spreading the word about lovely things is a very important thing to do in this new media age, where that is the only true coin of the realm and might could lead to more and more lovely things in the future.

I am currently reading three books. I am re-reading MORTAL LOVE by Elizabeth Hand and it is absolutely gorgeous, lovely, and a joy to read again. I have quite nearly finished ZONE ONE by Colson Whitehead, and I love everything but the zombies who are just so... Zombie. This isn't really Mr. Whitehead's fault, that I am tired of zombies, and I think it is a really excellent book and everyone should check it out, as they are able, if they haven't already. The third book I am reading is my own, because the third Dogsland Book must needs be finished up soon, and I need to review where I have been to adjust where I am going accordingly.

So, it does look like there might be a third Dogsland book in the future, but no promises and do keep your fingers crossed because that could change in a heartbeat, as these things occasionally do, because nothing is solid, yet, and I have no details to share about that at this time beyond what is already said.

That is all.

Friday, June 1, 2012

What happens after you write a new manuscript?

Just the other day I sent the draft of a new novel to my literary agent, to see what he thinks about it. Maybe it's good; maybe it's not. Who knows if you'll ever see it?

Anyway, I know a few writers who are very productive souls are also very good at making use of the time just after they write a book to do what they need to do to get onto that next one. I noticed this, once upon a time, and tried to come up with my own method of handling the post-partum times. After I wrote LAST DRAGON, I didn't do any of these things, and it took a long time to get the second book really going. By the time I wrote WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS, I had figured out a system that helped me keep myself on track, as a writer and a human, without burning out.

You see, starting your next novel right, right away is a terrible idea. Short stories, maybe, if they're really off of what you just finished, but even then, I'd hesitate to allow it for a while. Give your head a chance to rest - a week, minimum. Maybe up to a month. I'm going to make a list out of what I do. I like lists. In college, I was teased for spouting off lists all the time. Lists are fun.

Here's what I did this week, and what I am continuing to do, after turning in a novel manuscript to my agent earlier this week.

  1. Clean the house - because you know how messy it will get when you are pushing through to the end of your book. And, particularly if you do not live alone, you've been spending a lot of time doing something alone, at your computer, that your family does not like when they are doing the laundry, the dishes, the yards, etc. Cleaning the house, the whole house, and every part of the house, is a great way to show your appreciation for the people in your lives. Make dinner, too, for a week. Give the people around you a sense that it's their turn to relax, and that you truly appreciate their sacrifice for your obsessions. 
  2. Check your planned projects database and reorganize - I use business tracking software as if this writing thing were actually a job. I have a list of things to do, with deadlines, that e-mails me when the deadlines are getting close. White boards are great, too, if you have some wallspace! But, take time to really check and plan out what you did, how long it took you to do it, and what you think you can accomplish on your list of projects next, in an adjusted timeframe based on how you did. So, this book I turned in has been kicking around in various malformed drafts for years, but when I figured it out and prioritized it, I know how many months it took to write. I know when I started this big draft, and when I finished. I have an approximate look at what slowed me down when. I can use this data. I can plan, as if I were actually working in a day job, to manage my time and projects effectively. After writing a manuscript, turning it is, I think it is valuable to spend some serious time checking the numbers and times of things, and planning ahead the next projects that are do.
  3. Read More - Your head will need a chance to rebuild its sense of reality. For at least a week, maybe more, heal your head from noveling by reading. I think it is better to do this in paper or eInk, not in backlit website or PDF, because your eyes could probably use a break from the computer screen. Give yourself a week or two of just reading like mad. You earned it. Go you!
  4. Check your physical health and well-being - Writing is sedentary, and when you are thrilled to be nearing the end of a large project you might be like me and sacrifice your physical activity time for more writing time. So, don't do that for a while, and maybe sacrifice computer time for exercise time. I've gone for a long walk every morning since turning in the manuscript. That, plus the housework, means I'm getting a lot more exercise, and I'm feeling so much better already. Eat good food. Take time to prepare it. Drink lots of water (not coffee, not alcohol, not soda) or healthy, caffeine-free tea. I've seen a direct correlation between my health and the quality of my writing. I bet you will, too.
  5. If You Have People In Your Life, Remember Them - Are you married? Do you want to remain married? Take time to really spend time with the people you love, because you've been lost inside your head for quite a while. Take your special someone out and do what you do together. Vacations are nice, if you can afford them. So is just going to a fancy market to buy ingredients to make a special meal together, which is cheaper than a vacation, and also lots of fun. 
  6. Set a Firm Date When You Will Get Back to Work - When your head is ready, and your outline is ready, and your heart is ready, write another book. Don't stop. Never stop. The time you spend resting your head must not become a permanent repose. You know how you feel when you finish the book, and how your head feels. Plan the day, right away, when you will start writing again. I'm waiting only a week, for this one. When I finished the revisions in a crazy, crazy schedule for NEVER KNEW ANOTHER, I needed a month just to get myself back together. Every project is different, but don't let any project be the one that finishes you. Set a date, and stick to it. My business tracking software helps me stay honest. 
I hope that helps. You know, the planning is really more useful than you'd think. I'm still not perfect at it, but I'm getting better at it, and it really is nice to sit down and know how long things took, and about what I can expect next time. It's never perfect, but it's generally close enough. What it does is create a fuzzy sense that no matter how deep into the quagmire my elbows have extended, I know when things should work themselves out. And, they generally do. It's a nice feeling to have, in the back of your head. Also, there's no confusion about next projects, so I can quickly spin my head around into something planned and outlined, instead of floundering about looking for something that interests me. Having things that interest me in line already, I've found, is a very useful thing.

Oh, I poked around a little bit for software to use, and I settled on the free version (because it's only for one person) of Producteev. It works. It's cross-platform, and it e-mails me my deadlines. I like white boards better, but I don't have the space for one at the moment, where I'm staying. The only real advantage software has over whiteboards is that they will e-mail you when your self-set deadlines approach. In a perfect world, I'd probably use both software and whiteboard.

This post is about six times longer than it really needs to be, but there it is. I hope someone finds it useful.