March 17th, 2005

bear by san

a river runs through it, starring Claude Rains

Just in case you thought maybe you could trust the gummint:

We're all shocked to discover evidence that geological surveys performed during the planning stages of the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in 1998 and 2000 may have been intentionally falsified.

Shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Can't even blame the Bush administration for this one; guess the dems will have to shoulder it on their own.

The portion of the reports that the scientist apparently lied about involved computer modeling for water infiltration and climate at Yucca Mountain.

(This is about 90 miles from my house. On the same watershed. In earthquake country. You understand why I might be somewhat concerned.)

"And while those against the project hope this new information will kill it for good, the DOE says plans for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository will still move forward."

Sure. Because the only person involved in falsifying these documents was the Masked Geologist, just like the only people involved in the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib were three national guardsmen and a chimp.

Tune in next week, where you'll hear Oscar the Grouch Mayor say something even wackier than "They haven't been playing with a full deck and I think now they're being exposed, they're caught with their pants down."

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bear by san

(no subject)

Hal Duncan is not writing genre fiction.

I have no objections to the pornography of wonder, to simple escapist entertainment, to the junk food fiction I grew up on. I love my slutty slapper of a Sci-Fi harlot mother, cause ya know, she does give real good head. A million teenage boys will testify to that. But when so much of what we call SF is touted as “breaking the boundaries”, “transcending the genre”, blah blah blah, well, it seems a little schizo to call it genre fiction. It’s genre fiction but it’s not generic. It’s SF, not Sci-Fi. Don’t look at the slut behind the curtain fellating the fourteen year old boy. Look over here. Look. Look at the dancing fingers. Then I start to see the reason for their incomprehension.

(via douglain)

And ya know, I gotta say, he's right.

Or more precisely, I've been saying for years that I write genre fiction. I've got absolutely no shame in borrowing tropes from any source that catches my magpie mind. But from another angle, rather a lot of what I write isn't concerned with the traditional concerns of genre fiction at all. I tend to think of genre as technique, as another way of structuring things. If you want to call me a hack, that's fine; I'm a hack. I'm more concerned with telling stories, intriguing readers, and discussing hard questions than with turning the world on its ear.

But another way to look at it is that a speculative element does not necessarily make every story science fiction. After all, a love story doesn't automatically make a story a romance.

Or, as papersky once said, all fiction is fantasy. SF, mimetic fiction, etc, are increasingly small subgenres within that bubble, fantasy.

via lnhammer, telophase talks about confidence of line in manga

lnhammer relates it to metrical poetry.

Fiction writers have it too. We call it narrative force, or "authority." We use it to evoke the fictional dream, and there are a million tricks we use to cause it to happen: grounding, fabulous reality, show-don't-tell.

All arts are one art. We just use different brushes.
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bear by san


if you have a piece of star anise floating in your seltzer water to make it taste nice, do not inhale it. It hurts.

Ah hah. I have identified the problem. I appear to have found another freaking plateau.

I hate plateaus. Sometimes, it seems like I'm never off the damned things. You would think, eighteen years and twelve books and goddess knows how many short stories in to this writing thing, I would have learned a larger percentage of the things there are to know. And yet, here I am, apparently preparing to learn something else.

I hate this part.

Let me 'splain. No, wait. That takes too long.

I sum up.

There's this plateau thing, when you are learning a skill, especially a challenging skill. And they suck, plateaus do. Here's why they suck.

They suck because what happens is, the little twitchy bit at the back of your brain that identifies Things One Could Be Doing Better identifies some things. But it doesn't necessarily choose to inform the front office that that's what's happened. Instead, because it's a toe-sucking little brown-nose, it sets about trying to find some way to streamline the process, to do the thing better, and to make the system run more smoothly so that it can claim credit for the deal and maybe get a promotion to, I don't know, hypothalamus or limbic sysem or something. Better hours, you know.

Anyway, because the backbrain has identified this thing that could be improved, suddenly, that thing is the only goddamned thing it can possibly care about on. It's the tomato-sauce spot on the white tablecloth of its existence, the dandruff flake on the priest's cassock of concentration. Theis lack, this new skill, this thing that the brain is working on so freaking hard it forgets to breathe eats up all the concentration it has, and all the front brain is left with is this nagging sense that things aren't, somehow, good. That there's something indefinable wrong, but the brain cannot, you know, see how to fix it.

And this is what my brain is doing now. Darned brain. Which is why I keep looking at this manuscript and going "But this has no voice, no atmosphere, no tension, no nothing. It's nothing but endless steaming heaps of careful exposition with occasional snarky dialogue, and now a one-paragraph sex scene that took eight pages of setup to get to. The prose is plain, the characters are shallow, and furthermore, did I mention that it's ass?"

And then I send it to people I trust--some of them, oh, professional writers or agents or editors or very sharp critters, and they pat me on the head and say "Bear, dude, it's fine. Here's this little thing that's drafty, and maybe you could frontload the conflict a bit more, but you know, I'm chomping for the next bit, so write a bit faster, could you?"

And I look at them and blink. And suspect they're mollycoddling me. Or potentially attempting to decoy me into complacency, in an attempt to, yanno, open out Bantam's publishing list a little. Hypothetically speaking.

But no, they mean it, and I'm on crack. Because no, what I'm getting on the page isn't bad at all, but what's going on is that the book I am capable of writing doesn't match the book in my head, because my backbrain has kicked up this perfectionist ur-book, this book of unachievable perfection, this book so good the dragons are likely to fly off the page if I accidentally give them eyespots...

And the thing is, when I go back and look at this in four months, it'll probably look okay. And I won't be able to tell the difference between the spots that were written in blood dipped from the droplets forming on my forehead, and the bits that I wrote giggling over how cool they are.

It'll be the best book I could write at the time I wrote it, just like all of them are. It won't be perfect, and it won't be as good as the standard I hold myself to, and it won't be as good (I hope!) as the book I write two years from now. And there will be people who hate it, and people who love it, and I'll have to pick which ones to listen to. And it won't measure up even remotely against the books that I'm measuring it against in my head, or if it does, I won't be able to see that, because I'll be too acquainted with its guts and blood to see any of the mystery of its existence and accomplishment.

But it will be the very very best that I can do.

That's daunting. But also necessary.

And so it goes. And if we have a tendency to hold ourselves to an impossible standard, well, it keeps life from getting boring. And I suppose that's cool, really. There's more honor in over-reaching and failing with ambition, than in limited success. And if we measure our goals by the best of the best, at least we're unlikely to run out of challenges.

Although, of course, ideally one would prefer to succeed with ambition. But, yanno. *g*
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