August 4th, 2006

bear by san

The fine art of nookie

I wonder who I can blame for the number of comments that I'm seeing on B&I that basically amount to "Hey, there's not much smut in this!" Maybe the comparisons to the Merry Gentry books?

It's true. There's not much smut in it. There's a fair amount of sex, but I tend to show only as much of that as is plot and/or character development, so once the conversation is over, as far as I'm concerned, so (usually) is the scene. (There are exceptions to that last point. Hammered has one reasonably graphic sex scene, and Whiskey & Water has... well, a fair number of fades at various points in the action, and I think one summarized sex scene (told mostly from the point of view of an old Victorian house, because I love my job) and two that at least get to the point of PIV before we break for commercial.

We have orgasm rationing in the industry since Jean Auel, so I try to go light on those. Her mid-period work triggered a shortage whose repercussions we are still understanding today.

None of those are particularly written to be erotic, though. And two of the three are--how shall I put this?--strictly business transactions. They come with a freight of angst and character and plot, but they're not by any means about the longing and the drowning and the two (three, twelve) hearts beating as one.

Carnival has one fade and two sex scenes, which are pretty much dispensed with in a couple of paragraphs (I actually get a kick out of writing sex scenes by indirection--the sort where you know exactly what's going on, but it's all implied rather than explicated; they're a lot of fun to write that way); A Companion to Wolves has some rather graphic, clinical, and (I hope) unsettling sex. (I think Sarah and I agreed that we were each going to claim the other one wrote the gang-bangs.)

The Stratford Man and The Journeyman Devil... well, there's a lot of sex in TSM. Some of it is erotic, some of it is cute, some of it is kind of horrific, and some of it, I hope, is a combination of (pick two) or (all three). Some is elided, some is explicated, some is sweet, some of it has an unmistakable resemblance to a dog returning to vomit. (Actually, I think one of the most erotic scenes is also of extremely dubious consent, and quite horrible once you look back on it later and realize what was going on. I'm pretty proud of that one, from a stunt writing perspective. Writing to the re-read! Yay!)

In TJD, there's only one sex scene. It's quite graphic, and it's rather terrible.

Undertow and One-Eyed Jack and the second two Jenny books are pretty much smut-free, by comparison. (The only place in Undertow where anybody gets any, I think it's dismissed with a sentence much like "And what with one thing and another, he stayed the night.")

Patience & Fortitude--I've written about fifty pages of it so far, and most of it is sex. Reasonably explicit and detailed sex. With, um, explosions. And magic. And magical explosions.

We'll see how much of it stays in for the last draft.

I think the art and the craft lie in writing what the story needs, what the narrative demands, rather than trying to meet some arbitrary standard of eroticism or humor or graphicness or lack of graphicness. If it impacts the story, it stays in.

Which is why there isn't really any graphic sex in Blood & Iron. Because nobody changes while they're in bed with anybody. And if nothing changes during a given scene, I see no reason to write it.
bear by san

if I get home before daylight I just might get some sleep tonight.

Of my characters, Elspeth is the one who's most like me (she's a canon-Sue, really, and I kind of turned it into a joke, what with the brilliantly colored eyes and people constantly commenting on her being the smartest woman in Canada. Of course, she's also short, pudgy, and has commitment issues. So the Mary Sue thing only goes so far. ;-) ) Matthew is the one I most identify with, in terms of being able to get into his head easily and understanding him on a really deep, personal level. Kit's probably second runner-up, there.

Even then, they still get things past me.

Michelangelo is the one whose head it's hardest to get into. And he likes it that way.

Question A: They can have the old bastard if they want him. And joy them in it.
Question B: I figured out in first grade or so that stories came out of people's heads, and ever since then I have had a compulsion to tell them.
Question C: I frankly know nothing about interactive computer games--they're not my thing--but I can't imagine they won't be, in due time, if they survive. Most forms of art start off as "low" entertainment.

I keep finding new ones. Zelazny, obviously, John Brunner, Joanna Russ, the Scribblies (who I probably just made feel very, very old. Sorry guys.). I wish I could claim Peter Beagle as a stylistic influence, but really I'm just a fan.

Question A: According to Kilgore Trout, it's "Why not?" I like that better than "42."
Question B: The Stratford Man is currently sitting on my editor's desk at Roc. If she buys it, it may be available in summer of 2008. Though I'm not sure in what format yet. Watch this space!

Well, it depends on what you like. There's some free online stuff linked on my website (though some of the links are old: I need to rebuild my website again), along with the first three chapters of Blood & Iron. The first chunk of Hammered is excerpted on That's probably enough to go forward on.

Absolutely I think L. Sprague de Camp is "hard fantasy." Perhaps the cannonical example, in fact.

actually, no, I'm on vacation, and if it wasn't this, I'd be entering things into LibraryThing.

when I'm stuck on what I'm writing, I either (a) go work out hard, (b) take a shower or wash dishes, (c) decide that I really didn't need that scene anyway and write the one I thought probably came next, (d) talk it out to a friend, (e) bitch about it on livejournal, (f) settle into a protracted bout of self-loathing, (g) force myself, even if I think what I'm writing is absolute crap. Or, yanno, several of the above.

No, of course not. *loff*

If you do not know, I cannot tell you, grasshopper.

Yanno, nobody's ever come to me with an "I wish you had done this differently" that I didn't think was really, really dumb?

I appear to be presenting the Campbell award. And United expects me to use those plane tickets. So I think I am committed.

To see if time could fly.

The small presses publish people like Jay Lake and Kelly Link and Benjamin Rosenbaum. And Joe R. Lansdale. And Caitlin Kiernan. And Geoff Ryman. And Mike Harrison. And me.

I think, not to put too fine a point on it, that anybody who claims they are harmful to the SF community is not, um, assessing the evidence. Is it a club scene?

Yes. Absolutely. have you ever heard of a vital artistic community that didn't have a hopping club scene?

Both, really. I mean, my process is both intuitive and analytical, simultaneously and by turns. I tend to think of the dichotomy a lot of people talk about, of "organic" writers vs. whatever the other kind is supposed to be, or "planners" vs "spew on the page," as a completely false dichotomy. I outline, I analyze, I use technique in calculated ways to achieve a certain effect. I usually have no idea what the middle of the book is going to be like, my outlines never last more than about ten pages of writing, sometimes I have to write a scene to figure out what it's for, my characters surprise me all the time, and when I find out something really cool, I often can't resist using it. This is the real joy of historical fantasy, by the way--I can make something of nifty coincidences.

So, like, I had to write a story about the Old Leatherman, and I knew for years that I needed to. But it took me years to find the story I wanted to tell about him. Or, once I found out about the Park River being buried under Hartford, I knew I had to use that in something, too.

The analytical stuff really comes in handy when rewriting. But sometimes I'm just trying to feel my way, to grope the outline of the story in the dark. And sometimes when I'm really stuck, the analytical tools are really useful. Like, if I can't feel what's needed--if the art fails me, in other words--the craft is often my salvation.

Also, when you're writing to deadline and you can't wait for inspiration, the craft is where it's at.

Cool shit, of course, is very important, though.

"Hallelujah" works as theme music for the end of Scardown, sure. How about "The Earth Died Screaming"? *g*

Get as many of these stories out of my head and on to paper as time and mortality allow.

No, really, I'm on vacation.

Did you look behind the couch?

It's a long and not very exciting story, but essentially, I knew Jenn socially, and asked her if she would look at my query letter for me. She was so relieved that I wasn't going to ask her to look at a manuscript that she agreed, and wound up asking to see a proposal for the book. Some months later, she asked for a complete manuscript. Some months after that, she rejected it. *g* But did ask me to send her my next.

So I did. And after a few more months, she offered to represent me. Elapsed time, oh, about a year and a half?

African or European?

Indeed, and likewise! How about winter or spring instead? I'm traveled out, and scheduled out, and very nearly peopled out at this juncture.
bear by san

maybe when our story's over we'll go where it's always spring.

Roc also owns the hardcover rights.

Would you believe that I've never seen Vanya on 42nd Street? Ivan Ilyich, however, named after "Ivan Ilyich." And Fyodor Stephanovich is named after the obvious suspect, too. Well, and my dad's given name is Stephen, with the Slavic pronunciation.

Always start at the top, baby. Asimov's, F&SF, Analog for science fiction. Strange Horizons pays pro rates, and Baen's Universe is currently paying quite well if you don't mind a web-pub.

I keep a notebook, and I keep notes in story files, and on notecards, and written on my hand with a pen in movie theatres, and--

Depends on how badly you wanted whatever it is in the first place?

It's not about making characters likable. It's about making them compelling. Sometimes that can mean making them sympathetic (the easiest way to do this, I find, is to give them something to love.) And sometimes, it can mean making them a train-wreck fascination. (Check out Fight Club for what I mean by the latter.)

Don't be afraid of visceral reactions to your work, as long as it's not that everybody hates it. *g* The thing to fear is mediocrity. If you get a 50/50 split of "loved it/hated it" you're doing okay.

Comment-screened question post here: feel free to pitch in.
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