Novel status
groucho
erosenfield
I finished my third novel complete with edits a couple months ago. (The other two novels did not find publishers.) I've been sending it around to agents. Two rejections, one ask for the first 50 pages, all within the first week. Since then, nada. And so, the waiting game. Hooray. It's frustrating when the one thing you want most in the world is at the point where it's more or less out of your hands, but what can you do?

Meanwhile, I've been working on a new novel to take my mind off of it. I sped through 17,000 words in the first two weeks and since then have slowed a bit as the novel sets in. Up to 24,000 words now. I always get a bit rocky around 20,000 words I find, as the point when the novel switches from being what I imagined it to being what it actually is, and I confront the dissonance between the two. I've abandoned quite a few novels at around 20,000 words.
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Testing testing 123
groucho
erosenfield
I know, I know, it's been years. Anybody still read my posts on this thing? Still use LJ? Why do you choose to use it rather than another blogging platform?

Coming back?
groucho
erosenfield
I'm thinking of coming back to LiveJournal. Tumblr seems more active, but I hate their commenting system.

Hm.

Good Writing vs Bad—Hugo Edition
groucho
erosenfield
Originally posted by nihilistic_kid at Good Writing vs Bad—Hugo Edition
I often use these two lines from Farewell, My Lovely in class, as an example of excellent writing:

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window."

I then ask what we know about the blonde? The older students know definitively that "it" is female—the e in blonde is the giveaway. The younger, more politically annoying aware students will often point to and object to the "it" in "It was a blonde." They have good eyes—the narrator is referring to a photograph of a blonde. And she's attractive, strikingly so, perhaps even archetypal in her blondeness.

And what do we know of the narrator: he's intelligent, creative, cynical, attempts to detach himself from his own animal nature, is irreligious but was likely religious at some point, likes to show off. We know more about him than about her. And there's also a rhythm that carries us on—the second sentence wouldn't work nearly so well without the first, which is a double iamb. (da DUM da DUM it WAS a BLONDE) Not bad!

And now, some sentences on a similar theme, from the Hugo-nominated novel Skin Game by Jim Butcher:

I’m pretty sure the temperature of the room didn’t literally go up, but I couldn’t have sworn to it. Some women have a quality about them, something completely intangible and indefinable, which gets called a lot of different things, depending on which society you’re in. I always think of it as heat, fire. It doesn’t have to be about sex, but it often is—and it definitely was with Hannah Ascher. I was extremely aware of her body, and her eyes. Her expression told me that she knew exactly what effect she was having on me, and that she didn’t mind having it in the least. I’d say that my libido kicked into overdrive, except that didn’t seem sufficient to cover the rush of purely physical hunger that suddenly hit me. Hannah Ascher was a damned attractive woman. And I’d been on that island for a long, long time.

What do we know of this woman? Well, she has eyes and a body and, uh, some kind of look on her face. But what we don't know what. Is it, "Yeah, you want this, baby, and I like that!" or is it "Haha, another dumb nerd with a boner. That's right, waddle over here, Pointdexter!"?

And what do we know of the narrator—he has an erection, and he likes to flap his lips. And he's the world's worst anthropologist. (What society are you in?)

Now, why would some readers look at this mess and think "Good writing!" Simple: they're being asked to do something very simple—think of a hot chick. What does she look like? Whatever you think hot chicks look like, duh! No rhythm, no clever figurative language, nothing impressive about the narrator, but the words say "think of a hot chick" and you do and that makes you happy and there you are.

The "hot chick" is rather an aside anyway. Think of a guy in a hat. Think of a guy inhaling deeply and using all his AWESOME POWER in ONE BLAST. Think of any big city—this one happens to be named Chicago despite having almost nothing in common with Chicago. (By way of contrast, you can to this day use Farewell, My Lovely as a map of LA's Westside.) It's just dumb sloppy bullshit, that has the advantage of being easy enough to write that anyone willing to do it can make deadlines easily.

Note that I'm not discussing the sexual politics of the scene, for the simple reason that any human attitude or endeavor can be described well, or it can be described poorly. Content is a matter of taste and context. One needn't be a so-called "SJW" to look at Butcher's prose and see nothing but a piss-poor Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox of a hardboiled detective looking back at you, with a crooked smile and far-off look in his eye as his dick gets hard.

Is it hot in here, or is it just the society we're in, mama?

Historical vs. futuristic
groucho
erosenfield
Of course, one of the appeals of historically based fiction, including steampunk and quasi-medieval fantasy, is that it dates less readily than stories that take place in the future. As soon as you come across Heinlein's spacemen who fly around in rockets figuring out their trajectories with slide rules, the dated-ness instantly challenges you suspension of disbelief. Meanwhile, the Hobbit still reads more or less as it did when it was published in the 30s. Some of the subtext may seem dated, especially with the later Lord of the Rings, which can be read as a reaction to post-industrialism and a paean for an earlier, simpler time which never really existed. But you're not instantly thrown out of the story in the way you are in the Heinlein example.

The past and the future in fiction
groucho
erosenfield
I think the reason I've never really been taken with Steampunk is the same as why I've never really been into epic fantasy, why Tolkein always left me cold. I'm just not interested in romanticizing the past. The past was horrible. The future is going to be amazing. This is something I believe in the core of my self-identity, and really always have, even if I haven't always been cognizant to phrase it as such. So that's why the stories that really appeal to me, personally, tend to take place in either the present or the future. But not a post-apocalyptic future, since there you have similar problems as you get with the past. Even the fantasy I like tends to take place in the present or the future.

It's also why Kim Stanley Robinson's ideas of the inherently utopian nature of both science and science fiction (cf. this fascinating interview) appeal to me so much. Even if Robinson's own insistence of writing copious amounts of technical detail ("let me tell you in precise scientific terms how they are terraforming Mars for a few pages") isn't so much my cup of tea.

Kleptoparasitism
groucho
erosenfield

Wahram had thought it generally agreed that the whole development-aid model had been demonstrated to be an example of the Jevons Paradox, in which increases in efficiency trigger more consumption rather than less; increased aid had always somehow increased suffering, in some kind of feedback loop, poorly theorized--or else theorized perfectly well, but in such a way that revealed the entire system to be a case of vampiric rich people moving around the Earth performing a complicated kleptoparasitism on the poor. No one wanted to hear that news, so they kept on repeating errors identified four hundred years before, on ever grander scales.


- Kim Stanley Robinson
2312
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Self publishing
groucho
erosenfield
It occurs to me that the people who are self-publishing's biggest boosters, JA Konrath, Dean Westley Smith, Hugh Howey etc., are all people whose writing I don't think is very good.

Meanwhile, the people who started out self-publishing that I like a lot-- Kelly Link, John Scalzi, David Wong, Robin Sloan-- are all people who left self-publishing for traditional publishing with major houses at the earliest opportunity.

Not sure what, exactly, that means.

Trials of the Dead King gets published!
groucho
erosenfield
My story "Trials of the Dead King" will be appearing in LORE Magazine in April!

More info: http://wetasphalt.com/content/trials-dead-king-are-coming

The lesson of Jaws
groucho
erosenfield

William Goldman says in Adventures in the Screen Trade that people learned the wrong lesson from Jaws. The public flocked to see a well-written tautly-paced story with excellent characters, and the movie moguls learned from this that people wanted more films with... sharks.


Jo Walton, Something Else Like... Introduction

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