Archive for writing

New Worlds

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 31, 2012 by theclockworm

So, I’ve been pretty absent lately. School has become pretty intense, and other ventures also occupy my time, leaving precious few moments to vent steam or scribble out ideas or criticisms. I’m going to make an effort to come back, though. I can write coherently and frequently with greater ease than ever, so maybe it’s time to give it another shot. It’s likely that this time around, I’ll be talking about SF more and esoteric cosmology less; that’s not to say I’ve lost interest, but, well, it’s at a different place – a less public, less academic place. So instead, I’ll focus on the art and let it hunt out truth, instead of taking stabs at speaking truth directly (you can get in a lot of trouble for that, you know).

Relevant to this blog and my own goals, I got published! Back in March, my first “real” story, “The Exploded Manifestations of Ari Ascher,” was accepted by burgeoning e-zine Mad Scientist Journal. It’s a really cool project, and you should read the other stories too.

Also, I just signed up to participate in the Clarion Write-A-Thon, which supports the Clarion workshop program, from which writers like Ted Chiang have emerged like weird, craft-perfect butterflies (or avenging angels).

Finally for now, keep your eyes open for big news in the coming days or possibly weeks. I’m going to be starting a pretty exciting project with some pretty exciting and talented people. More when the world knows…

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The Word for Write is Open

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on September 15, 2011 by theclockworm

Ursula Le Guin’s anthropological SF has been a big inspiration for me. Her novel The Left Hand of Darkness is basically a fictional ethnography; without it, the world of Ari Ascher in my as-yet unpublished story would not exist. As I progress through various avenues of approach in writing SF, I find myself knocking often at the door of anthropology. The other doors I have moved through thus far are: the door of cognitive plasticity, the door of psychological manifestation, the door of literalization, the door of strange gifts, and the door of doctors of artifacts not limited to the human.

Here are some things Le Guin has said that I like quite a bit. Her introduction to LHoD, in the paperback edition, should be on everyone’s list of essential essays about SF.

_____________________

“I am struck by how much we talk about rebirthing but never about rebearing. The word itself is unfamiliar to most people. Yet both women and men are capable of rebearing, women literally and men metaphorically. A door opens just by changing the name. We don’t have to be reborn; we can rebear. This is part of the writer’s job, either to rebear the metaphors or refuse to use them.”

“What I was doing there is playing with the idea of our present growth technology from the Industrial Revolution on through the present the last 200 years. We don’t know when this period will end, but it
will. We tend to think of our present historic era as representing the highest evolution of human society. We’re convinced that our exploitive, fast-growing technology is the only possible reality. In Always Coming Home, I put people who believe this into one little capsule where the Kesh could look at them as weird aberrations. It was the most disrespectful thing I could do, like wrapping a turd in cellophane.”

(Above quotes are from this interview.)

“As for the charge of escapism, what does “escape” mean? Escape from real life, responsibility, order, duty, piety, is what the charge implies. But nobody, except the most criminally irresponsible or pitifully incompetent, escapes to jail. The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is “escapism” an accusation of?”

(from her blog, speaking of fantasy)

To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think imitation is superior to invention.

Interim

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2011 by theclockworm

So I kind of dropped off the face of the internet these past few weeks. What with planning and executing a wedding (it was more marital than martial, despite my military wording), as well as piles of homework and a lot more activity in the fiction-writing arena, I suppose it’s to be expected. I’m going to make an effort, though – I like this forum and I don’t want it to die.

Part of what’s been holding me back is that I’ve come to a bit of a halt with many of the philosophical/cosmological speculations of the past period. It’s a mixture of two factors: one, I’m reading and absorbing, which sometimes means the active output stays quiet. I’ve been working my way through Heraclitus, Thales, Zenon, Plotinus, Anaximander, Empedocles, Parmenides, what’s around about Pythagoras; in addition, my Jewish studies continue as I work through the Talmud, the Zohar, and Philo. Our Friends from Frolix 8 is also kicking around in there – it’s never taken me so long to read a PKD book.

But the second component to my static output is that I got it. I figured a lot of things out in a fairly major way. It’s a gestalt that pulls from the various strains I’ve been involved in lately, but it crystallized into a whole image. There are parts missing – minor aspects, application, etc. But overall, it’s there.

For the time being, this means I have to keep a lot of details to myself.  In the future, when I’m done with my own exegetical efforts, I can pass it on silently into the world. For now, I won’t go in half-assed.

For anyone who’s been reading, who perhaps has similar strains of insight or interest, I can only urge you to consider the ways in which these things can integrate. Phil got it, too, but only for a second – and he was wrong about a lot of it. But it’s there, it can be found, and it solves all problems except the big one – how to live according to what truths we know. That is the part you can never learn from anything but doing.

Next: Back to SF!

Waiting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by theclockworm

Six days “under review” at a certain short-story market which shall remain unnamed so as not to tip off the search-bots and spoil the whole thing. My head is about to explode.

If this story gets published here, it will really be something. First of all, it’s a notoriously difficult market to crack. Secondly, this is only my third submission, and only the second story I’ve submitted; beyond that, it’s also the first story I finished.

Beyond that, it also breaks a small handful of cardinal rules. It features an unnamed protagonist, and it’s written in first-person present tense. The latter lends credence to the former – I didn’t leave him nameless as a ‘trick,’ but rather because there was simply no good reason to name him. I tried it; it fell flat.

In other news, I’ve been reading G.K. Chesterton’s “The Defendant.” It’s funny, smart, and all-too applicable. I’m planning to do my own collection of defenses starting soon.

UPDATE: Aaaand waiting no longer. I got the “hope that you’ll send us another story soon” rejection. Which is actually pretty awesome, but it doesn’t really feel that way at the moment. Anyone have a suggestion where to go next?

The Benign Invasion

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2011 by theclockworm

TELESCOPY

Some of you may have noticed that I removed my earlier post about Gnosticism. This comes after a long week of some fairly unpleasant realizations and conversations. I’d like to be able to talk about some of my ideas, but I’m not sure what the proper forum for that is; I’m pretty sure this isn’t it.

That said, I think I’ve figured some things out in the past week. I started out feeling like no one had ideas even similar to mine; After some serendipitous stumbling around the internet, I discovered some evidence to the contrary over here.  I have yet to make my way through the entirety of Mr. Stratford’s online writing, but suffice it to say, on the major (non-theological) interpretations, a lot of his ideas are similar to mine. There’s a lot less of the religious focus, a lot more openness to the full variety of philosophical implications, and a lot less ass-holery in general than some other places I’ve been. But there’s still a big gap; there’s more than a fair share of the religious language that I’m not so thrilled about, and, indeed, a bit too much of  “gentle” focus on application (in a way that tends to lose the thread of the ideas).

Then today on Totaldickhead, I noticed the word “Techgnostic” used to describe someone (the person in question happened to be Erik Davis, who coined the term as far as I can tell). I hurriedly hunted down some information on this word. Now, obviously I don’t know what Mr. Davis’ book says just yet, nor do I know much about the popular use or understanding of the word. But, judging from this, I might have found something that, in certain iterations at least, begins to approximate my ideas: an evolving philosophy based on a fully non-religious, non-theistic interpretation of certain aspects of Gnostic cosmology.

In short, it’s a form of Panentheism, but without the theism. This post has a handy chart; just substitute “Total reality” for “God” and “Our Reality” for “Universe,” and you have the simplest possible outline of what I’m inclined to think. It’s not a dualistic rejection of the physical, but an emphasis on role, function, and literal interactive potential as the primary characteristic of an object. It is an ontology based on possible action, a cosmology based on access to information.

It’s neat that a scroll through that scholarly piece and the front page of Mr. Stratford’s blog will show mention of PKD. He is just everywhere (ubiquitous, if you will).

So, I’m going to set out to explore and articulate some of my ideas and understandings – just as soon as I figure out a venue and method that seem to fit.

On the one hand, the temptation to compare the representation of these super-celestial realms with the complexity of cyberspace is intellectually suspect because rational mathematics, network architectures and programming codes are so technically distinct from the mystical mathematics, celestial architectures and demonic codes of angel magic. But perhaps, from a qualitative perspective, complexity space is complexity space–any information system, when dense and rigorous enough, takes on a kind of self-organizational coherence which resonates with other systems of complexity.

Erik Davis, TECHGNOSIS: MAGIC, MEMORY, AND THE ANGELS OF INFORMATION (Here)

MICROSCOPY

In other news, I submitted my first story to Clarkesworld – and got my first rejection notice. I’m not too bummed though; I didn’t expect to get published on my first attempt. I turned around and sent it right back out to another market; I’m readying my second (perhaps more publishable) story for submission in the coming days, though a big move and lots of other crap may force me to hold off for a few more days.

The important thing is, I’ve begun the process. The wheels are turning now – I’m writing, editing, submitting, re-submitting. If I can use the momentum the process generates to keep myself going, well, then I’d be a perpetual motion man. Luckily for me, since no such thing exists,  life  provides some fuel as well.

Virgin Submission (Not as Sexy as it Sounds!)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by theclockworm

In less esoteric news, remember that story I told you I was submitting a week ago? Well, I did it last night. I was waiting for a final read-through from someone whose opinion I trust, but she’s simply too swamped at the moment, and the pressure was irking both of us. So I checked it for spelling, made sure my formatting was solid, slapped a cover letter on it, and sent it off through the ether. I should know within the next day or so. If it isn’t accepted, hopefully I’ll at least get some constructive criticism.

I think,  regardless of the response, it’ll be easier for me to keep going now that I’ve broken the ice.

Cross your fingers for me.

 

Something strange happened on the way to my first Hugo…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by theclockworm

Part of my intention in starting this blog was to talk about the process of “becoming” a writer – learning to write, learning to present pieces for publication, and hopefully, one day, actually getting published. So far, I’ve neglected this aspect of things, and I intend to remedy the situation, starting now.

I’ve been writing regularly for about five months now. Wait, back up; I’ve been writing regularly for most if not all of my semi-adult life. I’ve been seriously writing planned, constructed pieces of fiction regularly and to completion for about five months now. As a younger person, like many others, I wrote mountains of material, most of which was some sort of Burroughs-esque journal/poetry/lyrical hybrid – in other words, so totally different from writing fiction that it scarcely even counts toward it. As a beginning fiction writer, this history has worked against me much more than for me, more often than not serving as a heap of rubbish I must unlearn before I can get to anything of quality. But it’s also what led me to my current state of balance; what was, in my youth, a prolific but unfocused flood of verbiage is now, like the person it runs through, older, more paced, more focused. I have an outlet for analysis, criticism, and pseudo-academic writing, right here; I have a place for the stripped –down descendants of that older gibberish in my musical endeavors, especially Secret South; and I have the real beginnings of a fictional outlet, something I never thought I would accomplish, and something that is more satisfying than almost anything.

Harlan Ellison said, when talking about his public writing appearance, that people think writing is done by wizards on high mountains, and that he wanted to show people the truth: that it’s work – not magic. I fell victim to that fantasy for many years. While I never doubted that I could write a good song or a good poem, or draw a good picture, I assumed I couldn’t write a good novel. I’m still not sure how this happened. I think I was also lazy – too lazy to undertake such a task, such a monumental learning process. And it’s still daunting; the road from my first few short stories to my first finished novel is long, and most of it is still ahead of me. But I’m on the road.

With age, I grew more confident; I saw myself doing most of what I sought to do with some amount of success – mostly personal, internal satisfaction as opposed to financial gain, but still success. I realized that my ideas, my ways of thinking, my tastes, were usually fairly good, and sometimes, just maybe, truly interesting. And I started to see people from every walk of life as people. I gained a sort of no-nonsense view of human beings that told me my heroes were just ordinary Joes and Janes who were good at their jobs, and that I was good at my job too – the only difference being that I wasn’t being paid for doing it. And in the end, I thought, why not? Why shouldn’t I write?

The world of SF has an especially wonderful way of disintegrating castes. There is a long tradition in SF of readers becoming writers. There is no clear and solid line between fandom and professional contribution. SF is, above all else, a kind of meta-dialogue – about life, about human experience (psychology), about society and government and history (sociology), about the nature of the universe and of life, about technology and the impact it can have (science), and about SF itself. Reading SF is an act of engaging in this dialogue.

A few days ago on TotalDickhead, David Gill asked an open question about Philip K. Dick’s loopy and incredibly detailed descriptions of clothing in Ubik. This is one of my favorite examples of this phenomenon. As a lifelong SF reader, though I don’t claim to know his exact intentions, I got a sense when reading them of how Dick meant these descriptions. If I were unfamiliar with SF as a field, I would probably not recognize the humor, the sense that he was lovingly teasing his own, the pastiche he was employing. I would probably think he really meant it – which might very well turn me off to the whole business. This can be problematic for SF, depending on your goals; it does have a way of keeping new readers out. But as an “insider,” I see this as part of a conversation. Every work of SF helps to define, or redefine, or undefine, what SF is. And it doesn’t end there; take Dick’s story “Null-O,” which is a critique of  “The Players of Null-A” by A. E. van Vogt. Or take Fritz Leiber’s stunning, chilling, prophetic “Poor Superman,” a harsh indictment of Scientology by someone who shared Hubbard’s original line of work. The list is endless; SF writers were “battling” long before Nas and Jay-Z. SF has been at the forefront of “remix culture” since Gernsback, since Verne – hell, since Lucian, whose “True History” is an intellectual take-down of Homer and his ilk. It’s a formidable lineage.

But it’s not mean-spiritedness that usually compels SF writers to engage in this kind of “response;” I’m fairly sure it’s more often love, and respect, and a sense of freedom and permission – to play with ideas, to test for structural (and philosophical and ethical and scientific and literary) integrity, to riff and reinterpret and “cover.” This sense of inclusion, of permission, permeates SF. It’s not just for the already successful. It’s for us, the living, as Lincoln would say (and Heinlein would co-opt – the dialogic act is not constrained to SF alone), those of us on the other side of the fence who know it’s just a matter of time, and luck, and effort before we can join the ranks of our heroes. This spirit of equity is so much of what makes SF the place to be. It’s why Scientology didn’t catch on in the SF community, with a few notable exceptions; we’re not so easily taken, even by those we respect (see this very interesting thesis on Scientology and SF for more). And even if a lot of us end up being wrong – delusional, even – it’s still a nice feeling. And sometimes, one or two of us are right.

Wanting to be the next ________ is a crappy reason to do something. But wanting to explore the same playground of ideas as Philip K. Dick or William Gibson or whoever – thinking, “hey, I bet I could do some pretty cool stuff on that jungle gym” – that’s a pretty good reason to give it a shot. Doing it with a sense of reverence, but also with a sense of equality: that’s what it’s all about.

The supportive foundation of SF was a big part of what made me decide to jump in and tackle writing. But in the end, there’s one simple question I asked myself, and the answer is what made the difference between jumping in and running like hell. The question was this:

True or false: After much earnest self-searching and scrutiny, doing my best to remain objective, I have come to the conclusion that I have something to offer as a writer.

The answer was True.

Now I’m waiting on one last set of eyes before I send off my first two finished stories. They are labors of love, products of my past; they are the end result of the strange and useless tomes I used to write; they are alive with the wonder I felt reading the imaginative works of others, and they are alive because of that wonder. They’re a first salvo in a new stage of my creative life. And they’re pretty good, too. When I win my first Hugo, you’ll be the first to know.