157 pages. That's like, doable and everything. That's an average of 6.6 pages a day, under two thousand words, if I want to finish the draft by February 28.
Which would give me all of March to write "Periastron." And then I could start the rewrite of All the Windwracked Stars. I need to figure out what I'm going to do about that narrative break in the middle, the interludy bit, because it disturbs the tension of the book a lot. Of course, having other POV characters will help. This way, the book doesn't take a month in the country.
Just one of the characters does.
You know, years never used to seem short to me before I started writing for a living. There will be time, there will be time.
So I think we will keep up the two-writing-sessions-a-day thing, morning and night, as that appears to be working gangbusters. I'm getting the same amount of writing done in less time, with, you know, time for other things. 1500-2000 words a day seems to be my sustainable max, no matter how many hours I give myself to get it done in.
And six hours a day seven days a week is a reasonable work schedule, too. (Well, yanno, there's the administrative stuff too, and CEMs and crits and so forth, but the only thing that counts as writing is writing.
I may have finally hit upon a schedule that works. Huzzah, trial and error!
I wonder if, as a genre, (SF, not Fantasy) some of the malaise we keep self-diagnosing is a lack of handwavium. Have we gotten too concrete? Are we trying too hard to stick to the possible? The probably? Instead of just digging in there and making stuff up?
Giant sandworms you can catch and ride! Spiders spinning webs between the Earth and Moon! People frozen on the surface of Pluto, still alive and thinking with the speed of slow! Life forms like gigantic orbital habitats, with oceans and continents inside them! Ringworlds! Matroishka brains!
None of this stuff is particularly plausible. Some of it is, to the best of my knowledge, physically impossible.
But it's shiny, isn't it?
This, of course, presumes that the self-diagnosed malaise and lack of young readers and writers is as severe a problem as is reported. (Of the people my age and younger I know who read, most of them read (among other things) science fiction and/or fantasy. But that is anecdotal, and not a representative sample. That fandom, especially Worldcon fandom, is graying, I have no doubt. WisCon is full of young folks, however. And old folks, too. Or, as somebody said, the ratio of purple hair to blue is about 2:1. Readers =/= fans)
So yanno. We could be right. It could be the end of the world. Or it could be us not pushing hard enough to do cool things, being distracted by the possible. (I know I get distracted by the possible. Dust in its three proposed parts is in some ways an attempt to push through that and get myself thinking on a grander and weirder scale.)
Or it could be not a problem at all. I mean, sure, there's a whole world of pretty generic adventure fiction with SF trappings out there, but there is also a fair whack of Big Idea SF being written. I mentioned the Matroishka brains above. Blindsight is full to brimming over with sensawunda. Light and Spin and the work of Iain Banks and Al Reynolds and various other recently-published SF is full of really cool ideas.
Sometimes it's hard to get at. (Harrison never actually tells you what some of the cooler things going on in Light are--you have to figure them out for yourself, and that's not, you know, necessarily the easiest thing going). But I think there's room in genre for a range of attacks, from the accessible to the more occult.
The most popular and best-selling work may be a little safer, a little less brain-stretchy. But then, pop music usually does sell better than the avante garde.
It's all about the choices and the balance. And making them aware of the consequences. And being aware that you are making trade-offs, and not doing things for sentimental reasons. And now I am gonna have to talk about my own work and some choices I made there to illustrate my point. Some MAJOR spoilers for Carnival follow:
An acquaintance said to me that he thought I ended Carnival the way I did for sentimental reasons--being too attached to the characters, in other words.
And I knew when I wrote that book that there were going to be any number of people who didn't get it. And who didn't understand why I made the choices I did, and who would construe it as weakness.
But to me, the easy and expected ending is the one where [spoiler] dies. First of all, it suits the genre convention and it's a cheap way of constructing emotion. You can always kill somebody. But here's the thing.
The convention of the Big Gay Romance is the inevitable tragic ending. One of the partners dies, either through disease (these days, usually HIV. Even if the characters are lesbians. Yeah, don't ask, I dunno either.) or through some stupid and senseless act of violence. It's almost as bad as being black in a horror movie. You're just doomed as soon as you kiss another person of the same sex.
I have an issue with that. Being queer does not doom you to death or loneliness. Being queer is not innately tragic.
It's one of the ways that I think the end of The Left Hand Of Darkness cheats a little. It goes for the obvious tearjerker solution, rather than making Genly Ai live with what he's learned. Don't get me wrong: I love the book, and it makes me cry like a child. But it's a constructed solution. The inconvenient love object is dead. Genly is irrevocably changed. But we don't have to see how he deals with it.
And the solution to that, or what I did in Carnival, is in the text. Michelangelo says it, that the terrorists who created the Governors were cowards because they never had to live with what they wrought.
And that's why Carnival ends the way it does.
And it's funny, because in the original draft, it didn't have the epilogue. It was left with a lady and the tiger ending. That would have been more critic-friendly, I think, and certainly more expected. And I looked at it and looked at it and looked at it, and I knew in my heart I was cheating. And I was cheating because I was scared.
Because I didn't want people like this acquaintance of mine saying "Oh, you flinched" because I wasn't giving them the expected, the genre-demanded catharsis at the end.
So I said, to hell with this. I don't care if they hate it, there's a convention here I need to set on its nose.
There's a meta-reason too, of course. And it's because I am aware of myself as a writer, and aware of my audience, and aware that some of what I do is manipulating audience expectations.
You see, there's this: if I always hit the downer ending, you all are going to know what to expect. *g* And I would hate that.
In other news, I'm going to Boskone!
Sat 10:00am Fantasy, Folklore, and Myth
If folklore is the traditional customs, stories, jokes, and songs of a people, is myth old folklore? Is fantasy folklore you just made up? What common motifs thread through all three forms? How do you give fantasy the patina of myth, or the arbitrary edges of folklore? Who's great at this, and how?
(M) Elizabeth Bear
Gary A. Lippincott
Sat 11:00am Sniglets
In Sniglets, the moderator will provide a term out of a science fiction story and the panel makes up definitions. See how many audience members can pick out the "real" definition. In some cases, examples may be picked from works by the panelists. Can they make
up a definition that sounds better than the one they originally came up with?
(M) Lawrence M. Schoen
Sat 1:00pm 0.5 hours Reading (anybody got something they want to hear?)
Sat 3:00pm The Fantastic and the Mundane: A Look at Urban Fantasy
What is urban fantasy? A discussion of definitions dealing with what is essentially another umbrella term: we have vampires, werewolves, wizards, elves, ghosts and more all falling under the concept of urban fantasy or authors identifying themselves as urban fantasy writers. Is it new? Who is writing it? Some people self-identify as urban fantasy writers. Some think of themselves as something else. And some reject the categorization. Is Neil Gaiman urban fantasy? Margaret Atwood? Anne Rice? What makes them different or same as Simon R. Green, Jim Butcher or Laurell K. Hamilton?
(M) Elizabeth Bear
Mark Del Franco
Catherynne M. Valente
Sat 4:00pm Literary Beer
Sun 10:00am The Best New Writers: Recent Campbell Award Winners Talk
Fresh winners of our field's Newbie Nobel give a tip of their tiaras to other notable up-and-comers. What are their best new stories? What topics or trends obsess them? What magazines, small presses, websites, or other venues should we be watching to catch the greatest of the latest? And is it easy being green?
(M) Elizabeth Bear
Sun 11:00am Autographing
Sun 1:00pm What Is American Fantasy?
Is American fantasy different from fantasy in other parts of the world? What distinguishes it from, say, British fantasy? What are the common threads, styles, themes? Or does it even make sense to talk about American fantasy as if there were common threads?
(M) F. Brett Cox