April 26th, 2007

writing dust rengeek shakespeare

hark! is that the sound of a lasagna noodle being laid on a bed of ricotta cheese?

cupidsbow has an interesting essay here regarding fanfiction, poverty, and Joanna Russ' classic How to Suppress Women's Writing. (via whileaway)

I'm interested in fanfiction on a lot of levels. One is that, as an artform that is frequently primitive (I mean that in the technical sense: naive, uncalculated, very honest and without artifice) it's a fascinating glimpse into how people process narrative. As opposed to how critics process narrative: when one becomes a critic, one loses the ability to interact with a narrative the way most people do, as a framework upon which one hangs one's own emotional response.

Another is that frankly, most of what anyone writes is on some level fanfic. You are responding. A Slight Trick Of The Mind, The Seven Percent Solution, "The Final Solution"--all Sherlock Holmes fanfic. I've written a little Irene Adler fanfic of my own, come to think of it.

Okay, yeah, a lot of fanfic is bad. Popular art forms are the cutting edge of literature: they're where the seethe is, and where the seethe is is where the art is. And it's also what's despised.

Twenty years on, they become quantified and rigidized, and it's not where the spark is anymore.

Right now, that's TV, fanfiction, genre literature (although SFF, much as I love it, it no longer at what cupidsbow refers to as the coal face of literature--we're singing to our own choir these days, and I think that needs to stop)--the ongoing thing is that High Art is forgotten, down the years, as is much of the real crap... but the work that manages to successfully combine story with art and hit the reader in the kinks--those naive assumptions about story/art that the artist can use to his advantage to make the artee* feel/think/react/act--that stuff sticks around forever.

Not because it's preseved in libraries.

But because Gramma and Granpa read it to you, and you read it to your kids, because you love it. Dracula and Hamlet and Pride & Prejudice and "The Speckled Band" and Lysistrata are with us still because they speak to something to something in people, not because they are Worthy.

No matter how intellectually fair you try to be, the art you protect is the art you love, not the art you think you should love. and that is only right. Because despite our tendency to overcomplicate, that's successful art.****

Unfortunately, this may mean future generations are going to judge us by Garfield. And The Da Vinci Code.

Well, except--I got Pogo from my parents. And if I had kids, I suspect I would be giving them Calvin & Hobbes.

I'd feel worse about that if we didn't have Doonesbury, too. On the other hand, that stuff is going to be like Ben Jonson plays--nearly incomprehensible in its topical humor and satire.

And also, I've read Varney the Vampire.

Some things endure in deserved obscurity.

The moral of the story?

Chop wood, carry water.

The goal of art is not winning awards. The goal of art is reaching people, and helping them make sense.***

Even if what they are making sense of is the fact that most things make no sense.

And on that note, I'm going to take a shower and make coffee and either read Black Powder War or try to figure out what the ghost says to Jackie now.


*reader/viewer/watcher/less-active participant in the artistic experience**

**less-active does not mean dominated. Hang out on a Tw/oP forum if you want an idea of how much an artee brings to the art.

***My cat would also like to put in that the other goal of art is not starving.

****Fanfiction is also interesting because it is in its purest form self-indulgent art. It is all about the writer's narrative kinks*****, and the narrative kinks of an audience that's presumed to share them. There are ratings systems in place to assist the reader in finding the stuff that hits her kinks.

This is not all that different from SFF, frankly, or mystery, or romance, except we're often more calculated about writing to the kinks of our audience rather than servicing our own. Although I'll be honest: I totally service my own narrative kinks, and I can line them up and explain them for you anytime you want.

*****narrative kinks are not the same thing as sexual kinks.
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it'll cost you a dollar first

via jaylake, Andrew Huang's animated short "Dollface."

Not a heartbreaking work of shattering genius, and not, you know, telling us anything we didn't already know, and I have a kind of visceral negative reaction to the woman-in-the-box on a thematic level.

But nevertheless wow very cool.
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rengeek superbard! _ strangepowers

charmed lives are next door, sorry. this is ink, sweat, and tears.

Soo, I'm faced with having to adapt.

See, this thing happened. Ten years ago--well, closer to twelve now, really--I decided I was going to get serious about this writing thing. And I put a big push on. I'm been faffing about with writing since grammar school, started several novels, written a bunch of bad fiction and lousy poetry. You know, the usual. Embarrassingly earnest Poem published in the high school yearbook. Literary Arts Magazine. Some poetry in Hobo Jungle. (Three of you just winced in sympathy.)

But I decided I was Doing It This Time. Sending stuff out, trying to play in the big leagues.

And I did for about three years.

And then life got in the way, and there was a real job, and I kind of sucked at finishing things, and then there was a move and a marriage that didn't turn out so great and a job that just about killed me and giant breed dog rescue and the odd betrayal (mine and theirs) and a catastrophic depression and I had given up writing. Period. I wasn't good enough, you see, and I never would be. And there was this horrible job that was essentially the only thing keeping our heads above water, and no time and no energy.

Yeah, I quit. I really quit, too. I didn't write a word of fiction for years.

And then I had a mid-life crisis hit twenty years early, and I lost the horrible job, and I started writing again to cope.

You know, it really all came spilling out. I say I quit writing for three years, but really it was closer to five. And there was a logjam in my head, and when it broke I couldn't stop. I mean, literally.

The voices in my head were bothering people who leaned in close.

Anyway, many years of compulsive writing got me to the point where I am now. Which is to say, in pretty good shape, for one of the new kids, and with a lot of backlog that's enabled the mad publishing schedule of the last two years.

But here's the other thing. I can't write that fast anymore. All that stuff fell out of my head in torrents because it had been stewing back there for ages (some of it since high school--the first inklings of the thing that eventuall became Blood & Iron date from when I was fourteen, maybe? I remember where I was sitting when I thought up Elaine, and we moved out of that house when I was a sophmore in high school.) and now it's work to grow stories. They don't just happen anymore.

Some of that is because I'm working (I hope) at greater thematic depth, and the layering takes more time. Some of it is because trying to make it look easy is hard. Some of it is because I know more, and therefore, it takes more time to get it right. Or as right as you can ever get it.

And some of it is because I do not want to be that guy who writes the same book over and over again. Because really, what good is that to anyone?

It's interesting to wake up and discover you've stopped being superhuman.

Apparently, I need breaks between massively ambitious* novels now.

Who knew?

I'm going to try not to take it too hard.... and hope, once this current batch of contracts is complete (most of these books are written, at least in draft, so I'm not too worried about my deadlines) that I can juggle things in such a way as to keep all my editors happy without becoming a complete lame-ass hack.


*I dunno if they're successful, mind you, and I'm not qualified to judge. But so far, nearly everything I have written has pushed my auctorial limits in some way, and usually pushed them hard. So I'm happy with ambitious to describe working at the limits of my ability. Even if the limits of my ability are not, you know, heartbreaking work of staggering genius, I'm doing the best I can.

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two things.

1) We might get snow tonight. (!)

2) I need to get my new glasses glare coated. I discovered this driving home from archery tonight.

...Oops.
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problem cat

I can has WisCon schedule.

Underneath it All (Reading SF&F)
Saturday, 8:30-9:45 a.m.
So many fantasy books take place literally underground-- Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere", China Mieville's "King Rat", not to mention countless legends of the fey. What is the allure of hidden tunnels and caves? How do they shape the societies we envision down there? The Underground can be both very safe and very unsafe, compared to "above".
Jasmine Ann Smith, M: Georgie L. Schnobrich, Carla M Lee, Elizabeth Bear

General Reading Group (Readings)
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 p.m. in Conference Room 2

Pan Morigan, Naomi Kritzer, Amy Beth Forbes, Leah Bobet, Elizabeth Bear, Claudia Amadori-Segree

Transsexuality as Trope (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m.
Much science fiction and fantasy of recent years deals with changing sex. But it treats it as a trope rather than a process: LARQUE ON THE WING, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, "Changes," the work of John Varley. While there is no denying the usefulness of transsexuality as a trope in discussing the social construction of gednder, what are we missing by eliding transsexuality's nature as a process?
Jennifer Pelland, M: Morehouse Lyda, BC Holmes, Elizabeth Bear, Charlie Anders

A Room Of Your Own (The Craft And Business of Writing SF&F)
Sunday, 1:00-2:15 p.m.
Deb Mensinger helps you create space for yourself out of a wet basement, a hot attic, or a shed. She's un-stumpable. There's no problem too tough that our beloved master carpenter can't figure out a solution. (Amy Hanson) Suggested panelist: Deb Mensinger. (Amy notes this was a LR previously "and was fantastic.")
Caroline Stevermer, Davey Snyder, M: Holly Black, Elizabeth Bear

SF & The Escape From The Body (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 4:00-5:15 p.m.
Science fiction, pre-eminently the literature of the mind, has historically had an uneasy relationship with the body, from (one of) its seminal text(s), FRANKENSTEIN, to modern works like THE SHIP WHO SANG, "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," OLD MAN'S WAR, the ALIEN movies. Vernor Vinge's notion of the Singularity provides a way for science fiction to escape the restraints of the body entirely. But should we want to?
ELISABETH VONARBURG, Alicia Kestrell Verlager, Mary Kay Kare, M: Anne Harris, Elizabeth Bear

The SignOut (Events)
Monday, 11:30am-12:45pm in Wis/Cap