“Why, Hello There, Young Writer.”

On his blog, Chuck Wendig is holding an “Awkward Author Photo Contest.” How could this little hobbyist photographer resist? So, I submitted an entry, which I will now share with you:

For those wondering the basic Strobist information: This was shot on manual. F 5.3, 1/200th shutter speed, ISO 400 to try and get some of the background ambient light. On camera left I had an SB-900 with a beauty dish set for 1/8th power. Inside the lamp was a SB-910 at 1/8th. Both had tungsten gels for color matching. This was processed in Lightroom, where I added in some grain and softened the background.

Lisa and I had a blast making this. She’s an excellent costumer/set designer who helped me get all the pieces in place and took the photo itself. I was a fun way to spend an evening, and apparently folks like the result!

Given I’m in the contest I can’t vote, which is a shame because there are brilliant photos there. Go and vote for your favorites. We want to encourage this kind of insanity.

UPDATE: I sorta came in 2nd place with 42 votes.

Closing the Bag of Doom

As I cause the chains I forged in life
To shatter on the floor.
– “Crime Scene Part One” from Black Love.

I completed a difficult story today; one which pulled from ugly source material, but which demanded writing. The Afghan Whigs provided a soundtrack. Greg Duli’s vocals carried me into old hallways, and helped me dig out sensations I never quite succeeded in letting go.

My question, and the challenge for the story (and future revisions of the story), is can I really translate what I felt, what I saw, into a story any reader can pick up and read? Can I generate sympathy? Did the language alienate potential readers? Or help them get into the moment?

I now have a bouquet of stories either in second or soon to be third draft stage. Outside eyes are still needed, and I have at least two more I can write this year before going into editing Ivre and, gods help me, the treatment for Piranhacane.

And Thus Went London

In truth, I should say London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. But for this, my journal of things writerly and creative, I’m going to focus on two areas: Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, and LonCon3.

I’ve chosen to represent Edinburgh with this image taken from the Devil’s Advocate. Very nice pub hidden away in Devil’s Close. Love places like this – they’re designed to have small corners where you can hide away and talk, or write.

The main attraction, for us, at the Fringe Festival were performances of “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” by the Neo-Futurists troupe of New York. You may know one of their members, Cecil Baldwin, as the voice of “Welcome to Night Vale.”  The performance consisted of a series of very short plays, arranged on a menu. A clock is started for 60 minutes. Everyone is encourage to yell out a number.

The troupe then grabs the appropriate play and performs it, trying to get all the plays completed in one hour. We were in the second performance where they managed to (almost) finish the plays, with the timer ringing half way through the last play. Each play was short, imaginative and unique. My favorites were “The Apollo Moon Landing,” “A Hot (Cis)gender Mess,” “Tet (Offensive),” and the brilliant “Anti-Mime.”

And then they would have a new menu for the next show. I can only imagine the time and effort it takes to write, practice, perform, and then update and rewrite this kind of show over and over again.

***

The train from Edinburgh to London gave me time to write. First class is worth it; I was showered in hot tea and pastys, and I finished a short story. The next one, “Bag of Doom” is proving difficult to gestate. I should just start ploinking away, but it’s personal so I may need more room.

***

London itself will take up a massive journal entry. I’m honestly hoping the photographs (which I need to process and upload) will speak for the trip. I’m going to focus on LonCon3.

Before anything else I want to thank the following folks:

  • Paul Cornell, for signing my copy of Timewyrm: Revelation and suggesting I may have one of the last intact copies.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal, for signing Shades of Milk & Honey, providing a very useful scented fan and pointing me to where one can find old handwriting tutorials
  • Cathrynne M. Valente, who signed Palimpsest and seemed intrigued when I said it made me dream of Dubrovink
  • Patrick Rothfuss, who signed and complimented me on the well preserved “Fabio” edition of Name of the Wind.
  • Jeff VanderMeer, who signed Wonderbook for me. I do hope he gets to record the conversations he’s had with musicians who’ve used it as a creative guide, and post it on the website.
  • Madeline Ashby, who signed vN who was very kind and signed the book between panel
  • Anne Leckie, who signed Ancillary Justice, seemed very happy I was rooting for her at the Hugos, and give me a ribbon.

And a very special thanks to:

  • Scott Lynch, for the very fun Literary Beer session and discussing the idea of a Scott Lynch/Jim Butcher black metal band.
  • Seanan McGuire, who held a great Literary Beer and organized an impromptu signing after her reading. I’ll treasure my copy of Sparrow Hill Road
  • Pat Cadigan – who was amazingly gracious and fun, signing my copy of Dirty Work, chatting at her Kaffeklatch about everything from how rough the tube is for anyone with a mobility issue to her position as a 2016 Toastmaster at MidAmeriCon (http://midamericon2.org/)

And now, the impressions:

Mind you, this is from my own little narrow perspective. I probably missed quite a bit which was right in front of me, but I saw a lot which surprised me. This was my first WorldCon and based on previous descriptions, I expected the SF convention equivalent of my family Slavas – the same old crowd, everyone knowing everyone else, gather together in a smoky room talking about the good old days and how things used to be back in Serbia.

LonCon3 was much larger and more expansive than I thought. Using an actual convention center had its boons (the fan village, where I crossed several family picnics and children playing with lightsabers), and its downsides (meeting space was relatively small compared to the sizes of the crowds. At several points, were were barred entry to panels because they’d reached fire code capacity.

That’s not to say there wasn’t enough programming – the schedule was packed with items. I was glad to see a wide variety of topics and attempts to introduce people to SFF from other countries and cultures. The programming team tried, at least on paper, to actually embrace the idea of a WorldCon.

And I was gladdened by the variety of ages throughout the con. There were families there. Young kids participating – even panels designed just for young fans. The non literary tracks didn’t feel tacked on. I almost squealed when a panelist on the Philosophical Mecha panel mentioned Armored Trooper VOTOMS.  So I got the sense the convention runners did want to reach out SFF fans of many different stripes.

The only time things really slipped is how narrow the world at WorldCon was – it felt like the crowd at a NATO meeting. North America, the EU, UK, Nordic countries, bits of Eastern Europe, etc. but I didn’t see any heavy presences from beyond there. Which was a contrast with London itself – I heard everything from Chinese to Italian to Farsi spoken on the streets as we walked around. Part of me wanted to see more of this, but it may be a bit much to ask.

Going to WorldCon was part of our two week vacation. We saved for a year to get everything settled. To someone on a smaller income – heck, to me, just ten years ago – this would be out of the question.   Maybe next year they can use some of the drones they were selling in the dealer’s room to help give people who can’t afford to attend a chance to participate in some way.  Maybe panelists Skyping in?

All in all, I did enjoy myself. There were times when the size was very isolating, and the fact I’m a terrible introvert did not help me. But I’ll still have my memories – how could anyone forget Patrick Rothfuss photobombing Scott Lynch’s literary beer? – and I’ll leave you with this image, which I think sums up the conference. At the info desk, one could see “Lost Tribble” notices… and cricket results.

Haiku Project

Remember training?
All three sessions of training?
No, you don’t.. do you…

My dayjob focuses on client services work. Alas, this means interacting with some unpleasant aspects of human behavior. The best way I had to deal with it was haiku and tanka, posted on my Twitter account. I’ve collected quite a few. Apparently, they are rather popular amongst folks who deal with similar issues.

Why yes I, the small
cog in our machine can totally
change legal language
in our standard renewals
I’m so godlike that way

As a lark, I thought “What if I made a book of the haiku and tanka? I could tie them into photos I took for each of these haiku. I should carve out some time to pick through my haiku, collect them, and see which ones will work best. I’ve got at least two friends who have offered layout skills to make an ebook.

This should be interesting.

I Believe in Blast Mancheese

 

I have an idea for a short story, but it’s a terrible one. So I’m writing it out over here. Just bits and bobs, for the purposes of exorcising it.

***

The story opens with our rocket scientist hero, blonde and muscular as all true heroes must be, arguing with politicians. The Martians have directed an asteroid towards earth, and the only way to intercept it is to ignite the booster rockets on an asteroid brought into the Earth/Moon sphere for mining purposes. He proposes a military strike to take the asteroid from the thugs and killers currently operating it.

The politician is objecting to the plan based on the recommendation of a so-called scientist (because sociology and those other sciences are not real. And besides, the scientist is a woman and a diplomat, which undercuts her greatly).  The asteroid is filled with refugees from various failed ethnic colonies. They can negotiate a resettlement deal without military action.

Our hero is resolute, even when his trusty ethnic subordinate thinks they should try negotiating.  And when our Hero confronts the woman sociologist, they reveal a mutual anger style attraction.  A plan is set to meet at a neutral colony. The hero is not invited.

Of course it’s a trap – the asteroid scum can only think about money, drugs and rapine, which they try to extort and take from the sociologist and her politicians. Our hero comes in with military support and rescues them all.  As a reward, the hero takes our woman sociologist to bed, where she admits the error of her ways and agrees to a military strike.

During the raid he sees the so-called refugees have a luxury items, thus proving they were wasting their resources instead of improving their lot in life and didn’t deserve any kindness. During the raid, the hero is just about to set the controls and start the burn when his trusty ethnic subordinate betrays him! The betrayal is for money and power, as the Martians have promised him debauched pleasure for the rest of his life.

Our hero kills his former sidekick, adding manpain to the story, and then launches the asteroid. After venting the remaining scum into space, he goes back to the colony for his reward – the woman, now ditching her former ways and supporting her man in every way.

***

Of course, this isn’t the whole story. In the end we would have a small paper written up by a Martian settler, discussing how stories like this one have gone on to shape Earth-Mars relations. It’s hard to negotiate with someone who sees your seed ethnic stock as traitorous, any sciences without direct military or industrial applications ‘useless’ and military action as the only solution. So the war continues.

Again, nothing interesting. But I had to get it out of my brain somewhere.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

I encourage anyone who has a passion for art, film, madness and Dune to see the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune.  It is the closest one will get to seeing his version of the novel until a brave filmmaker decides to animate it based on the artwork created.

It’s a great sadness we’ve lost so many tied to this film: Dan O’Bannon, Moebius, and now H.R. Giger. Hopefully this will also bring more of Chris Foss‘ work to light. The animated renderings of his ships are stunning.

As I watched this film with my very patient and loving partner in crime, at the end I said to her, “This is what I want to write. The feeling you get when you see these images – I want to write books which capture it.”

I just wish I had Jodorowsky’s uninhibited enthusiasm and drive. Watching him on film made me wish he was my crazy uncle, pulling me into his home filled with art and strangeness and telling me, “You are a warrior! A spiritual warrior! Fight and make your dreams reality!”

We need more Jodorowsky’s in the world. We need to all be Jodorowsky on some level.

 

Clocks, Gears and Life Between the Ticks

First, for those typewriter fans out there, try this Kickstarter project – the Qwerkywriter keyboard.  I’ve backed it,and I hope it makes it through to production.

Twenty days have clicked by since my last entry. “Dreams in the Satan House” has undergone a revision and is now with an alpha reader. I hope to give it to the writer’s group at the end of the month. I’m rewriting “Splitting Headache” now. Not my favorite process, rewriting, but necessary. I needed to add a bit more layering to the story. There’s some personal motivation I didn’t realize was in there until I’d sat on the story for a bit.

Once that’s done, I’ve got another story, “Old Leaves and Blood” I need to write out and revise.

I’ve been reconsidering November. I was set to participate in NaNoWriMo, but I think the time might be better served taking Ivre apart and seeing if I’ve got something decent in there. I hope so. It would be disheartening if all that work was for naught.  And it’s already difficult fighting the parts of me growling, “Why bother? What’s the point? It’s not as if…”

But I’ll deal with those ghosts later on.

Other stories I’m slowly working over in my head are a “Johnny Dollar” style short story involving freelancers and artificial intelligence, and one involving a “Screaming Gate” character. But I’ll have to see how they percolate.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 201 other followers