August 2nd, 2005

bear by san

I'm a thin ice walker, I'm a freelance writer

I don't usually remember my dreams, but I had a doozy last night. It involved being hired as an operator for a cannon at a wedding--a confetti cannon. But when I say cannon, you have to understand, this thing was the 22-inch deck gun of confetti cannons. It was about eight feet tall and painted glossy black, with a bulbous belly, and my job was to use it to fire a shower of confetti over the happy newlyweds when they entered the open limousine. I was, somewhat understandably, concerned about blowing their heads off, but the limousine driver, a short older woman in a frilly white dress, assured me it would be all right.

Did I mention we were in Bavaria?

Anyway, I'm not quite sure of the sequence here, but through some concatenation of events, the wedding was crashed by somebody dangerous, and the limousine driver swung into action. Hiking her frilly white dress over her bandy thighs, she commandeered the best man's horse and rode off to the rescue. Some time later, she, and horse, returned in pursuit of the Dangerous Individual.

Who I then detained with the confetti cannon.

She was right. It didn't take his head off.

Anyway, the limousine driver will no doubt be showing up somewhere. Horse, frilly dress, and all. She made an impression.

It does sound kind of like an episode of The Avengers, doesn't it?

Anybody care to offer a dream analysis of that?

Nothing left
But the sound
Of the front door closing forever

bear by san

There's a brand new talk, but it's not very clear.

John Scalzi on The Myth of the SF Monoculture.

I'm afraid that on some level, I see the emphasis in SF crit on Ideas Uber Alles as just another form of wankery. Ideas are great. They're useful. I like books that center around cool ideas--like the Bose-Einstein mines in Spin State, or every cool thing that autopope spits out that has me going, man, okay, that's some nifty shit, and where in his brain does it come from? (I hear a rumor he shaved his head to provide more cooling surface when he overclocked. Next year, look for radiator vanes.)

But I write about people. Ideas are sort of a second-string focus of my work. I think there's a few cool ones in Worldwired and Carnival (the worldwire itself, for one thing, the Birdcage aliens (Peter wants them to be a construct, which I think is much less interesting than a colloidal hydrogen life form) and the Dragon society and their power source in Carnival) but I'm frankly not interested in SF as a predictive medium, or as a showcase for shiny ideas.

I'm interested in it as literature.

Which means it needs (ideally) to have good writing, strong plots, well-developed characters, layers both accessible and deep, thematic concerns, balanced structure (or meaningfully unbalanced structure), sound technique, narrative force, masterful prose, oh, yes--and ideas, too, because the ideas are what separate SF from regular F. But I think we often get so concerned with marking our little corner of the genre--or divvying it up with little white picket fences of subgenre--mundane SF over *here*, New Weird over *here*, New Pulp over *here*, slipstream in the brook down under the troll bridge, and you surrealists had better get back over to Lit or Fantasy where you belong, don't let the sun set on you here, Kelly Link!--that we forget, well, we're writing books.

We are complicit to our own ghettoization, in other words. Because the SF works that transcend genre do so because they are about more than ideas. Neither 1984 nor The Handmaid's Tale had much going on in the way of new ideas, frankly. But they have a powerful thematic resonance that speaks to readers both inside and outside of genre. They have something to say.

SF is so far from a monoculture it's sometimes hard to see it, frankly, as even one culture. And the teapot tempests that concern the in-crowd are club scene issues.

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The best big idea! SF has that same resonance, of course. Digging around for examples, The Left Hand of Darkness leaps to mind. But I notice that that's a book that gets taught in lit classes, and not merely by SF apologists.

Heck, I'd even say there are a bunch of 'classic' SF novels that don't really have a lot in the way of ideas at all. Dune (and I am a Dune apologist--I really like that book. I like its scope, its entanglements, its awkward use of omniscient, and its sometimes painful plot. Hell, I even like its stupid caricatures of female characters. God help me.) isn't about ideas. Dune's big "ideas" are plot contrivances, macguffins. Spice = Letters of Transit.)

And I guess that brings me to my point, which is this: in its reliance on idea over character, over theme, over plot, over prosody, SF basically condemns itself to the ghetto of fiction-about-ideas, and then has the nerve to look shocked when people say "but it kind of sucks." Whereas I prefer to think of it as something bigger--and more challenging, alas. Which is to say, what I'm striving for is fiction.

Which also, mind you, has ideas. And preferably really, really shiny ideas. Which I think probably makes it harder than literary fiction, since at that point it's an ape in a dress, and man, getting an ape into a dress is one thing, but getting that ape to look good in the dress is another entirely.

Now, I'm not saying I'm writing The Left Hand of Darkness over here.

But boy, would I like to.

And on that note, I think I need to go write some more of this Randall Garrett/Arthur Conan Doyle pastiche. With vampires.
bear by san

Now the radio has gone to Hell, and Hank Williams has gone to Heaven

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Progress notes for 2 August 2005:


New Words: 700
Total Words: 1,408
Pages: 6

And half of those words were a "the millionaire, and his wife" list of the first class passengers on the dirigible. Ehn. I had to put it somewhere. And it takes a damned long time because one has to keep stopping and thinking about who these people are.

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*sits on hands*

Reason for stopping: work.
Mammalian Assistance: more cat-butt maintenance. The boo boo seems to be healing nicely, at least.
Stimulants: vanilla almost and earl grey tea
Exercise: none
Mail: nomail
Today's words Word don't know:  undisfigured, Habsburg, Albion, Parisienne, authoress
Words I'm surprised Word do know: n/a
Tyop du jour: the English couple voided her. Whups. And in front of company, too.
Darling du jour: "I'm screaming inside," she said, and laid the fork down beside her plate. "But that's no reason not to eat."
Books in progress, but not at all quickly: China Miéville, Iron Council; Richard Overy, Russia's War: A History of the Soviet War Effort, 1941-1945; Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Interesting research tidbits of the day: n/a
Mean things: I named a character Virgil out of idle cruelty today. What? It's 1899.
Other writing-related work:  Contracts
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bear by san

(no subject)

keelywolfe is secretly married to a horse!
joecrow, shesingsnow, copperwise", hominysnark... Everyone knows what you got up to that day.
ursule knows the truth about greythistle and mrlnpndrgn.
sillyricepaper has a secret fixation with butter!
stakebait, brisingamen; and truepenny are involved in a sordid love-triangle, with autopope totally unaware!
curgoth became turned on by the Power Rangers movie...
slithytove once kissed a bus conductor to avoid the fare!
xiphias once kept valancy locked up in his basement for eight months.
thegraybook and elisem took twenty minutes to decide what to tell the paramedics and the RSPCA.
chance88088 and loupnoir secretly peed in cakmpls's cornflakes.
misia knows *just* how long to hold them down for.
aynjel found bondage equipment under gwynnega's bed!
cassandraclare is gonna pop a cap in katallen's head, yo.
redbird is Kaizer Soze.

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I find none of this surprising. Especially about redbird. And furthermore, I always knew you couldn't turn your back on that Cassandra Claire. Although I think the one about aynjel and gwynnega is backward.