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bear by san

March 2017

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bear by san

Listiness

eleven things I will stop doing when you pry my keyboard from my cold hands

(of course, the whole point of the ten-things lists is to be pithy. But this one, I can see, will require explication.)


1. Writing about prickly, broken, difficult, hard-to-identify-with protagonists. The world is full of books about people the reader is supposed to identify with. Characters who are generally nice, and well-meaning, and a little misunderstood, and who need a hug and a good sit-down chat and for their parents to understand that they really are going to grow up to be [an artist/a wizard/a Master Harper/the owner of the local mill]. The characters are often a little naive and a little insipid, and they tend not to have strong disagreeable personality traits or make big mistakes that might interfere with the reader's identification.

I don't write those books.

I write books about middle-aged, crusty, heartbroken, angry people who have fucked up their lives in really profound ways, who have sick parents and stepkids and ache when they get up in the morning. I write books about functional autistics, borderline personalities and pathological liars, Faeries who eat people, blasphemous bisexual rakehell poets, Morgan le Fey, genius teenagers with borderline OCD, forty-year-old virgins, the wolf who ate the sun on the morning after.

And these are my protagonists. This is consistent across genres, and pretty much what you know you're getting with the brand name Elizabeth Bear.

2. Teh Gay. The queer characters are here to stay. As are the transgendered, polyamorous, kinky, intersexed, and asexual ones. And the ones who are completely vanilla. And the committed monogamous 40-year heterosexual relationships.

3. Sex. Also not going away. Some of it will be graphic, because I thought the story needed it. Some will be elided, because it is not there for wank fantasies. Much of it will not be particularly erotic. I will use words like "penis" and words like "cock," and words like "vagina" and words like "cunt."

I will not be using words like "manhood," "stem," or "molten core." "Prick," on the other hand, you can pretty much count on. Please have the decency not to look shocked. ;-)

There will also be books with no sex at all.

4. Blasphemy. Sorry about that. I'm an Erisian agnostic. I can't help myself. It's not that I don't respect other people's religious traditions and convictions. It's that my brain can't seem to leave them alone as logical constructs.

5. Mad genre shifting like a mad thing. I get bored. Next up: SPACE OPERA!

6. leitmotifs. You're stuck with them. (By leitmotifs, I mean series of linked images running through the text. In example, in Hammered, it's trash, salvage, broken-stained-dented-ruined things. In Blood & Iron, it's blades and horns and knives and swords and antlers and pointy things, and, er, blood. And iron. In Carnival it's lies. In Whiskey & Water, it's wings and feathers, especially swan wings. And Beauty & the Beast. And water.)

7. Weird POV choices. Sorry. Sorry.

8. Death-or-glory stands, pyrrhic victories, massive sacrifice, angst, grief, maiming, and facial scars.

9. True Love Not Ending Well. And sometimes, even not-so-true-love not ending well. Really, if I can train my readers to flinch whenever somebody starts kissing....

10. Ambiguity, moral or otherwise--and/or trusting the reader to be smart enough to figure out why a character did something, or creative enough to invent a reason he likes. Literary-style characterizations are here to stay.

11. Angel smut. (This one may go under blasphemy+sex+leitmotifs, really, but it seems to show up often enough that it deserves a category of its own.)




six things I am working on getting better at.

1. Transitions.

2. All that fucking blinking. And glancing at each other. And nodding. STOP IT JUST STOP IT STOP LOOKING AT ME STOP!!!

3. Confusing line of direction, as demonstrating the non-linear nature of my thought process.

4. Overuse of speech tags.

5. Accessibility. Although this may be a losing battle.

6. Beaming my worldbuilding directly into the brain of the alert reader, bypassing the need for exposition in any form.

But I do promise to keep blowing things up.


*

Comments

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That's the way I like it, uh huh. :)
;-0
But I like your prickly, broken, difficult hard-to-identify with protaganists. I identify with them ;)
*snrch*

Well, I am Difficult, myself. And the people I like tend to be Difficult, too.

So.
Glad to hear you're going to keep blowing things up. Blowing things up is cool.

(Okay, so, just to be clear: This is not my idea of Liter'y Value. This is my idea of fun in fiction. Well, at least one of 'em. And, yanno, sex.)

And, for the record, keep doing your 11 things. These are good things, and things we don't see enough of in fiction. So there.
really, I'm a proponent of an explosion every seven thousand words or so. *g*

Although the first 200 pages of Carnival *is* dinner parties.
Wow. I wish I had discovered you sooner.

Beaming my worldbuilding directly into the brain of the alert reader, bypassing the need for exposition in any form.

*pets this line most lovingly*


Huzzah for having a lot of new reading to do!
That's the one I'm having a real hell of a time with. But I'm working on it.

*cackles, and retires to the basement shop*

OK...please define: Erisian agnostic

Forgive me for not googling the term and betraying my ignorance -- but I'm really only interested in YOUR definition anyway. I get agnostic, of course, but please help me if you have time.

I also wanted to say how much I enjoy your journal -- it's inspiring. This post is a new 'high' -- I think I might have to print it for my 'Writer's Words' notebook, if that's acceptable. I haven't even read your fiction yet -- but I can't wait. THANKS.
Elizabeth B-but-not-Bear, of course.

Re: OK...please define: Erisian agnostic

Oh, I was raised pagan, and when I lapsed, found myself amused by a complicated joke disguised as a religion (or vice versa) called Discordianism, which is the worship of the goddess of Chaos, Eris.

Except, yanno, not really.

It's sort of a form of Zen Buddhism, only, you know, without the Zen or the Buddha.
Because when people talk about a "reader identification charater" in genre, they generally mean Frodo.
Have punters really complained about all eleven of these? Or are you getting it from reviewers? Or who?

Someone really complained about leitmotifs in your work?

I guess I'm wondering what spawned your list.
They are things people have complained about, either in email or reviews. *g* (People also complain about the bad French, but I don't see using that again any time soon, so it's off the list.)

Well, nobody's complained about the angel smut yet. But I give it until August of 2007 before the first annoyed letter arrives.
Becoming acquainted with your books has been on my list of musts since meeting you, but after reading this, I think I need to move that process up!
*g* Conveniently, you can go read the free bits on Amazon and on my web site before you decide if you want to buy them. *g*
2. All that fucking blinking. And glancing at each other. And nodding. STOP IT JUST STOP IT STOP LOOKING AT ME STOP!!!

O How I Feel Your Pain. Smiling. People in my books are always smiling. This is in part because I am a good-natured person, but it's also because there aren't a great many singular words for what you do with your mouth and so many of them that do exist express something else *entirely* from a smile; if I want a smirk, that's what I'll use, but people use smiles that are not happy things all the time and if you try to explain beyond 'smile', or agonizingly, 'smiled adverbly', you find yourself with three sentences dedicated to exactly what this not-smiling-but-using-the-lips-expression is, and then you say bad words and try again.
They're like a bastard bunch of bobbleheads, aren't they?

Mine always seem sort of mildly taken aback. A lot of blinking. A lot of raised eyebrows.
Angel smut! That's what I'm missing!

(::loffs you with all the loff::)
Everything is better with angel smut.
I write books about functional autistics

! ♥♥♥

♥ to the whole list, really, with double ♥ for 2-6, 8, and 10. It made me grin and clap like a little kid that someone other than me is writing the stuff that I like to see. I will peruse the free bits of text you have up and I think that will solidify my intent to find and purchase something of yours, even if I have to turn Finland upside down and shake it to get something to fall out. Hope the husband doesn't mind eating cheap macaroni for a while...
Mm. Macaroni.

Why, you could be a writer with a diet like that!
This can also be titled: "The eleven ways by which Bear ensures access to my wallet."
hear hear on this one!
Oooh, space opera! With messed-up protagonists and genuine sex, too! More, please.
It's called Dust.

It's Upstairs:Downstairs::Amber:Ghormengast on a derelict generation ship. *g*
Hmm, depends what you mean by 'genre.' Fantasy epics tend to have the protagonists you describe, but I don't think a whole lot of SF does, unless there's a whole lot of SF I'm not seeing. But an off-the-top-of-the-head-list of Karen Traviss, Charlie Stross, Justina Robson, Gene Wolfe, Iain Banks...not a great deal of insipid in there.

But maybe people complain about them, as well.

My personal bete noire as a protagonist is the young, feisty, stroppy heroine who gets in a Whole Lot of Trouble through being, basically, the sort of fuckwit who doesn't know when to keep her head down and her mouth shut. Insipid and nice don't annoy me quite as much. But they do annoy.
Well, there's plenty of fantasy that doesn't have those characters, too. *g* I think, actually, that there's a big interesting in into the why-F-sells-better-than-SF conversation there. Because F as a category has more of the type of books that what I will unfairly term adolescent readers like (these being the books where you can project yourself, oh, into the saddle of a dragon or a unicorn, or the prince's throne, or the role of the propesied one.

And these books are quite commercial and sell quite well.

The more literary (for lack of a better term) New Wave school characterizations *have historically tended* to be found in SF. However, comma, there are certainly fantasy novels that tend that way, and science fiction novels that don't. To wit, you have some Vast Stellar Empire novels, say, that have not very subtle characterization. (I read a buttload of F.M. Busby and so forth in high school, as well as a buttload of Mercedes Lackey.)

I think what I'm talking about is on-the-nose characterization rather than nuanced characterization, and the reader who prefers a character who they might want to *be* as opposed to a character who it is interesting to contemplate because of what they reveal about people in general.

Very nice! You inspired me to do my own list:

http://www.journalscape.com/tim/
good list!
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