August 7th, 2006

bear by san

you feel it twist and you hear it crack

'I was reading only the other day about Bismarck, that hero of nineteenth-century politics, that sequel to Napoleon, that god of blood and iron. And he was just a beery, obstinate, dull man. Indeed, that is what he was, the commonest, coarsest man, who ever became great. I looked at his portraits, a heavy, almost froggish face, with projecting eyes and a thick moustache to hide a poor mouth. He aimed at nothing but Germany, Germany emphasised, indurated, enlarged; Germany and his class in Germany; beyond that he had no ideas, he was inaccessible to ideas; his mind never rose for a recorded instant above a bumpkin's elaborate cunning. And he was the most influential man in the world, in the whole world, no man ever left so deep a mark on it, because everywhere there were gross men to resonate to the heavy notes he emitted. He trampled on ten thousand lovely things, and a kind of malice in these louts made it pleasant to them to see him trample. No--he was no child; the dull, national aggressiveness he stood for, no childishness. Childhood is promise. He was survival.

'All Europe offered its children to him, it sacrificed education, art, happiness and all its hopes of future welfare to follow the clatter of his sabre. The monstrous worship of that old fool's "blood and iron" passed all round the earth. Until the atomic bombs burnt our way to freedom again. . . .'

'One thinks of him now as one thinks of the megatherium,' said one of the young men.

'From first to last mankind made three million big guns and a hundred thousand complicated great ships for no other purpose but war.'

'Were there no sane men in those days,' asked the young man, 'to stand against that idolatry?'

'In a state of despair,' said Edith Haydon.

'He is so far off--and there are men alive still who were alive when Bismarck died!' . . . said the young man....

--H. G. Wells, The World Set Free

We are mostly, secretly, optimists, here in this here genre. God help us all.

holyoutlaw on the path to growth as an artist. (as scientifically determined! with science!)

Lawrence Watt-Evans takes a orthagonal tack. (As for me, the sitting here talking about it thing is a vital part of my process and growth. I've come much farther in 5 years of writing in a community than I did in fifteen of writing in a cave, so to speak.)
bear by san

(no subject)


Question A:

It's not so much that there's no difference between science fiction and fantasy as that SF is a more strictly delimited subset of fantasy (as opposed to so-called mimetic fiction, which is to say, fiction without the spec element.) But the line is very, very blurry. (Witness, say Roger Zelazny as a case in point.)

I personally kind of find attempts to strive for tight definitions of what are, essentially, marketing categories sort of a time-waster; it just doesn't interest me. On the other hand, the internets are full of people who find it a fulfilling hobby.

Question B:

Inspiration is commonly found dissolved in ordinary tap water. Story ideas are highly soluble. This is also why exercise can bring them to the fore; the release of sweat and consumption of body fat can trigger "inspiration flashbacks," not unlike the sort more often linked to LSD.

We recommend vitamin B and a steady diet of whisky to counteract this.

Original comment-screened post here, if you want to ask something.
bear by san

(no subject)

sallytuppence wants to know how people got to be writers.

And says, furthermore: I don't want to hear that you were a writer ever since you could hold a crayon in your chubby little hand, no.

Unfortunately, that is my story. I was writing chapbooks of bad poetry in first grade, and stories about dinosaurs and race horses, and then scribbled fanfic in fourth or fifth grade--I didn't actually know what fanfiction was, but I had gotten it into my head that there were such persons as scenarists and scriptwriters, and it occurred to me that I could maybe get to be one--and I started my first novel in grade school. I finished it, too; it was a terrible plot coupon fantasy of the sort where the narrative arc consists of introducing a new cool weird character every ten pages or so. I was also writing poetry, and some of it was published in national youth lit magazines by the time I was twelve.

Even then, I was obsessed with words. I actually did read dictionaries for fun. I had very few friends, and the ones I did have thought I was kind of weird.

I can't say I never wanted to be anything but a writer, though. Because while my mom was very supportive of my writing, I also internalized early that "you can't make a living as a writer." Especially since, by the time I was in high school, I was writing chiefly poetry, because I had discovered a fatal flaw: I couldn't plot. It's the only thing I've ever been any good at, though, though at various times I wanted to be a geologist, a neurologist, an interpreter--

Also, I had a really terrible creative writing treacher (I have, in fact, failed creative writing classes. Two of them. One in high school and one in college.) who was not at ease with surrealism (which was my then-stopgap solution to the No Plot issue. *waves cheerily to hal_duncan* and who was really not at ease with genre fiction. But she did introduce me to Susan Glaspell's "A Jury Of Her Peers", for which I would forgive a lot.

I had a couple of gifted-and-talented program teachers who *were* encouraging, though (Ms. Katz and Ms. Gengras, I remember you still) and a fantastic 5th grade teacher who encouraged her students in ways that stay with me still. She was awesome. I probably owe her not just my career, but my sanity.

I was also working on a graphic novel script, this thing called Daoine that I'd had the first inklings of back in 1988 or so. That eventually grew up to be Blood & Iron, about five titles and fifteen years later.

Anyway, at that point, I would write, oh, three pages, two pages, and get stuck and have no idea what happened next. And I wrote a bucketload of crappy lyric poetry. This state of affairs persisted until about 1993, 1994, at which point I was out of college, working in a series of dead-end jobs in a recession economy, and playing in an AMBER DRPG campaign that ate up a good deal of my available mental energy. For those of you who aren't familiar with the tabletop role-playing-game scene, one of the features of AMBER is that you can curry favor with the game master through artistic contributions. So I started writing stories.

It didn't matter if they were good, just that they were finished. They could be vignettes; they didn't have to have a plot. All that mattered was the best effort.
I wrote a bunch of these. If you've read The Chains That You Refuse, you've read two of them--"Ice," and "The Devil You Don't," although the published versions are very, very different than what I wrote then. So if those seem like screaming Zelazny fanfic? They are.

About the same time, I started working on a novel, "No More Than A Star," a vampire police procedural that will never see the light of day, although some of the better characters--Don, Geoff, Jewels, Lily--made it into Whiskey & Water. (Daniel Tescher--yeah, I see you cringing, panzerschreck, ladegard, and netcurmudgeon--is expected to show up in Patience & Fortitude and Dog & Raven). I also ran a bunch of role playing games back in those days, and I have never been shy about recycling a good NPC when I needed a supporting character.

Anyway, that novel petered out after the traditional 30K, and I decided about 1995, 1996 that I was by god going to make a run at being a real writer, submitting and selling some stuff. During that time is when I really started work on Hammered--the first draft of "Gone To Flowers" was written in 1995, IIRC--and I sold a few rather bad short stories to a few small press outlets. And one or two okay stories, too: "The Company of Four" dates from this period. As does the world's scariest sprawling obsessive Amber campaign, remembered in song and trembling still by many of my friends. Some of whom are mysteriously still speaking with me, and each other.

(The game was taking place coincidentally with the traditional post-college self-destruction of my college friends' relationships; imagine, if you will, Mazes and Monsters meets St. Elmo's Fire. Ten years later, I'm still allergic to drama. :-P)

I worked my butt off at it for about two years before getting discouraged, or busy at work, or not feeling inspired. And then I started running an intensive play-by-email game, moved cross-country, got married, got the job from hell, and went into a three-year writing coma.

Which was broken by 9-11. Almost literally. In October of 2001, I was laid off from my 70-hour-a-week high-stress low-paying job, I could not find other work to save my life, I was stranded 2700 miles from everybody I knew, I had just turned 30, and my life was shit.

There's only so much Montel you can watch.

I started writing again. glyneth mentioned the Online Writing Workshops to me. Via arcaedia, I found out about a Lovecraft/Sherlock Holmes anthology I could submit to. (That story was "Tiger! Tiger!") penhardy suggested that the Muire stories were really the start of a novel.

...I wrote it. Obsessively. Working twelve or sixteen hours a day.

I wrote it, and I finished it, and when it was done I had a book I had written.

A book.

I had written.

It was All the Windwracked Stars. It was lousy, and only 80K with two spaces after the periods, but it was mine. It was proof and validation, and people had read it and liked it. (And being read is the biggest thrill in the world, let me tell you.)

It was sort of as if a dam had burst, and for the next three years I essentially did nothing but write and try to sell things. I ate like crap. I stopped exercising. I drank more than was good for me. I ruined my health. I gained nearly a hundred pounds. I wrote through a depression bad enough that there were days when the only reason I got out of my writing chair was because the dog was whining to go out. I found like-minded people and formed friendships with them. They helped me struggle back to something like sanity, but through all of that, I kept writing, because when I was writing I had control. I wrote two and a half million words in four years.

It was not a healthy thing to do. I am taking better care of myself these days, I promise.

In summer of 2002, I sold a short story and a poem to professional markets. In the spring of 2003, after a courtship of a little over a year, arcaedia agreed to represent me.

In fall of 2003, she sold my Jenny trilogy to Spectra.

The rest is in this blog.
phil ochs troubador

(no subject)

Well, I'm not writing eight hour days currently, due to the day job--it's more like three or four, which is hard, because I am of the school of writer that needs an hour of fussing to settle down to work productively. However, hopefully I will be cutting my hours at the day job before winter, and that will let me get back on a more productive schedule.

As for how I do it, well, it's what I'd rather be doing than anything else. I love finishing things. The more I work on them, the sooner they are finished. *g*

My legal name's no secret, in its various permutations. I'm pretty sure Wikipedia had it last time I looked. For the record, it's Sarah Bear Elizabeth Wishnevsky Kindred--I expect I'll be going back to Wishnevsky at some point, but ehn, paperwork. It's too long to fit on forms, anyway, no matter which version it is.

It's on the copyright page of B&I because that's the way Penguin filed it; Bantam filed as Elizabeth Bear.

Question #1: Alcoholic or nonalcoholic? Caffeinated or not?

Favorite alcoholic drink: Laphroaig 15, or Laphroaig quarter-cask
Favorite caffeinated drink: Upton Tea's Russian Caravan or Rose Congou tea, depending on mood
Favorite alcoholic, caffeinated drink: Irish coffee. Real Irish coffee--black coffee, black Bush, and whipped cream. None of this Bailey's crap.
Favorite nonalcoholic, noncaffeinated drink: fresh squeezed orange/carrot/ginger juice
Favorite fizzy drink: either Hosmer Mountain Soda Shack birch beer or Reed's Ginger Brew

Question #2:
No. Some people are gifted. Some of are geniuses. Some of us are neither, but work our asses off for a very long time. And a very few and gifted geniuses who work their asses off. *g* (Or, when Christopher Marlowe was my age, he had been dead for six years. Whereas I believe James Tiptree started writing in her fifties?)

It happens when it happens, is all.

I would love that. Thank you.

If anybody still wants it, the ask-a-question post is here.
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bear by san

you get killed just for living

Alice Cooper, living proof that after a while, even songs about necrophilia just become something you sing along to loudly in the shower.

Progress notes for 7 August 2006:

New Words:  675
Total Words: 3,142
Pages: 14
Deadline: September 1
Reason for stopping: bedtime

Stimulants:  iced chai
Exercise: 1/2 hour weights, 3.5 miles on the ski machine
Mammalian assistance: Mebd approves of writing on the sofa. It makes it easier to sit on me while I work, causing cramping.
Mail: nomail

Today's words Word don't know: broadsheet
Mean Things: I'm forcing Jack and Abby Irene to exist in close quarters.
Darling du jour:  --I do not expect miracles outside church, Sebastien answered dryly, and Jack, still reluctant, laughed.
Jerry-rigging: Still looking for a place for a lovely fragment of dialogue I wrote a few months ago.

There's always one more quirk in the character: Sebastien does newspaper puzzlers.

Books in progress: Hal Duncan, Vellum