TFNIWLNW on tsū?

I’ve been pondering how to make it easier for people not interested in this blog per se to follow my serial fiction projects, without all the other blog stuff and without my commentary.

I’ve also been curious about a new social media thing called tsū, which shares ad revenue with its users. Get a lot of clicks, get a wee bit of cash. So if I were to publish things there that lots of people liked and shared, it would be cool.

As far as I can tell, tsū is really not suited for serial fiction, or even posts of more than a paragraph or two. It may be completely impossible for people who stumble across Episode 3 to find Episode 1. But maybe, just maybe, it’s a growing platform that would embrace words as well as pictures and memes and whatever the kids are posting up these days.

More likely, I’ll have to find a different platform. But it’s worth a shot.

I’ll keep posting TFNIWLNW here, so don’t fret, kids, you need do nothing to continue to enjoy the upcoming twists and turns, and maybe even a plot. Maybe. But if you’d like to check out what this tsū thing is all about, click this link and you can join up as my personal guest. Or just sign sign up and when they ask you who invited you, use the code ‘vikingjs’.

My NaNoWriMo Helper

My NaNoWriMo Helper

My NaNoWriMo Helper


I don’t know what I’d do without her.

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Here Comes November

The word ‘NaNoWriMo’ has not been spoken aloud in the house this year. There’s just too much other stuff that we both need to get done, that we’re already way behind on. Just the thought of adding a writing challenge on top of it all is deflating. There was a time when I looked forward to November, and I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo every year since 2001, which puts me in rarefied territory.

But it just hasn’t been as satisfying lately. I go in hoping to regain the writing-every-day mojo, and while I do get a lot of words typed, come December nothing is different.

Still, not even trying is even worse, right? It’s surrender.

Then there’s The Fantasy Novel I’ll Likely Never Write. I’m approaching the episode I’ve been working up to, the one that shows our hero’s Big Flaw, and beyond that I don’t have many ideas. Previous serial fiction published here has been an exercise in off-the-cuff writing, and while that’s fun, the lack of any plan whatsoever shows in the final product. Never mind the low level of polish that write-skim-publish provides, I look back on some of those episodes and see big opportunities lost. If I’m going to continue TFNILNW, I want to do it in a way that’s more enjoyable to read. It will be easier to make sure every word advances the story when I know what the story is.

So this November I think I’ll try to spew out some ideas of where that story might go, and see if I discover a plot. Whatever comes of that, it will NOT be the story you read here. It won’t even be a real rough draft, more a set of sketches to see if I can find something worth writing about.

I will try to do at least a little bit each day. I won’t worry too much about word count. I might write the same scene thirty times; I might drift off on a tangent to see if anything interesting crops up. I might write 5000 words of backstory on one of the characters, just to dig into what makes them tick. Whatever I come up with won’t be readable as a story, that’s for sure. If I get 50,000 words, that will be fine. If I don’t, my streak will be over and I can relax.

If I get a plot, that will make the month a success. I’d even settle for a theme. If I find neither then that will probably be it for TFNIWLNW. But I’m going to own November this year, not be its slave.

Looking for a Motivator

I’ve been trying to think of a way to increase the priority of writing in my life. My good buddy Keith has been a great encouragement the last few days, as I’ve let some rough-draft prose leak onto these pages. I used to do that a lot, and fun was had by all who bothered to express an opinion that I choose to remember.

I’m wondering if there’s a way I can leverage you guys more effectively. Make commitments, celebrate hitting milestones. Maybe something like kickstarter, but without the money. I say, “I’m gonna finish Monster.” You guys say, “If you finish Monster, then X!” Then I finish Monster. You do X. We are all happy.

But what’s X?

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I’m Ready for my Singularity now, Mr. DeMille

I was reading an interview that Marc, one of the Kansas Bunch, endorsed. I was almost immediately annoyed by the phenomenal sucking-up-and-interjecting-self job the interviewer pulled, but the dialog had barely started when Ben Marcus called a story “something we consume”.

Immediately I connected stories to food, and I liked what I found there. What would a world be like where stories sustained people — physically? Bing-bang, the article was forgotten and I realized that an economy based on storytelling is not so far-fetched. Stripped of the biological imperatives of survival, what’s going to keep us going?

When we overcome the frailties of these meat bodies, stories will be our food. I’m sharpening my pencil.

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Inspiration is All Around Us

lrgGRA214747220_MLP_twilight_sparkles_twinkling_balloon_3_1000Riding from home to work along a well-worn groove, I get to know some of the debris that builds up along the side of the road. For the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed a My Little Pony doll in the gutter — underneath a layer of road grime its plastic body is in that pink-going-on-purple range of hues, while the nylon fibers of the tail are more aggressively purple, and still shimmery-sparkly.

This particular little pony has been decapitated; it lies mutilated and forgotten, waiting for the street sweeper. When I see it I can’t help but think of a sketch you might see on Robot Chicken: A mash-up of The Godfather, My Little Pony, and this slightly disturbing story by Kij Johnson. In my “research” for this episode I see that at least some MLP’s even have unicorn horns, making Kij’s Nebula-winner even more appropriate.

The sun rises to find BITCH PUDDIN’ waking from her slumber. She doesn’t look so good; last night’s hard partying has taken its toll. The camera pulls back and… MY LITTLE PONY’S head is in the bed next to her, bleeding sparkly rainbow-blood into Bitch Puddin’s satin sheets…

Practically writes itself.

What Next, Billy?

I just read that Bill Simmons and ESPN are parting ways. Grantland, the property Bill built with ESPN’s money, stays with ESPN.

I don’t expect that many of the regular readers here much care about this event, and that’s probably healthy. But Simmons is a talented writer, good enough that he created a space for himself and built an audience that trusts him. He simply loves sports, and every word he writes reinforces that. He is so good he even makes pro basketball sound interesting.

He writes as a fan, not as a journalist. He talks about those terrible gut-punch losses that fans of a team remember for generations, and when you read his words you remember your own gut-punch moments and you feel connected to something larger. He writes about the love of the guys wearing the right uniforms. He writes about being a father and about beloved dogs. He’ll take his daughter to a hockey game, but the scene in the stands at an NFL game… no way.

After a few years at ESPN he created Grantland, self-described as a sports and pop-culture site. He assembled a range of writers and critics unified by talent, and pretty much nothing else. Television, perhaps, is the one thing that binds them, with a gambling outlier. And music. And movies. And cetera.

As a fan, Bill called the commissioner of the NFL a lying sack of shit. ESPN gives the NFL a lot of money each year for the right to broadcast some of the games. This creates tension. ESPN has to choose: Do they give voice to the knee-jerk fan, or do they respect the hand that feeds them? I was not in the room, and I could be totally wrong, but I suspect money was secondary in the negotiations for the new contract between Simmons and ESPN. Simmons wants tenure. He wants an immunity from the consequences of what he says that ESPN simply cannot give.

No doubt Simmons will create a new megaphone to shout through. No doubt he will attract some of the best young writers out there to balance his histrionics. I’ll be tuning in. But he’ll also be more exposed to the consequences of his fan-jerks than he has been in a long time. It’s going to be interesting to see how this pans out. But he’s a passionate and eloquent writer, so on principle alone I’m behind him.

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The Hugo Kerfuffle

The most important award in Science Fiction has been reduced to the level of a Facebook popularity contest. Let’s stop wringing our hands and recognize the truth: It’s dead.

The Hugo awards are (well, were) the Oscars of Science Fiction. Except where the Oscars are sure to give lots of love to the commercial successes of the year, the Hugos seem rather disconnected from the commercial world. You can argue that’s good, recognizing talent that the marketplace has not (yet) discovered, and you can argue that it’s bad, showing that the judges are out of touch with reality.

This year, the Hugo awards will miss on both counts. The winner will suck by any measure. It’s a sad, sad story.

The sad story starts with the Sad Puppies, a group who asks, “whatever happened to good ol’ science fiction where dudes shot things with blasters?” They began an effort to promote GOSF to Hugo voters. (Anyone can be a Hugo voter. It costs $40. A friend of mine once gave me a priceless gift — he paid the bucks to nominate me. Alas, it took more than one nomination vote that year to win a place on the ballot.) At the edge of the Sad Puppies sat another, smaller group (well, a couple of guys), who said, more or less, “the liberal gay agenda is ruining our genre, and that’s why fine upstanding woman-haters like us don’t get the awards.” (I’m paraphrasing.) They took the Sad Puppies list, extremified it (by adding themselves over and over) and launched a grass-roots campaign to get their readers to vote for them.

It only took a couple hundred faithful to totally trash the ballot. The Hugo system was devised in a world before Internet trolls. Had I realized how easy it was, I would have bagged myself a Hugo long ago. I figure a cost of $100 per vote; $20K and I’m in!

But allow me to take a moment to consider the Sad Puppies’ initial complaint, and the objective fact that the awards are diverging from what the mainstream wants.

I think SF is still secretly annoyed that people think of it as pulp fiction. Not capital-A Art. For all the “fie on you, world, we all know that literary fiction is just another genre,” there’s still a little defensiveness. The insiders, the ones who usually vote for these awards, are well-read, lit-leaning, and (secretly) self-conscious. They want to sit at the table with the lit-fic guys, and get the nod of respect in the hallowed hallways. So they vote for more literary-leaning stories.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Eric Flint, a commercial success but not an awards darling, has some interesting thoughts that diverge from what I just wrote. We agree on this, however: the divide between commercial success and awards recognition is not about politics. In the comments for that post someone suggested that maybe SF should emulate the recording industry and give out awards based purely on sales. I kinda like that. (“Munchies goes platinum!” I hear in my head. That novel will not be winning any literary awards.)

So, what now? With the Hugo being torpedoed, and other major awards losing relevance, will the marketplace be the only measure of success? What will become of beautiful prose that is challenging to read, without the ivory-tower league to raise it on a pedestal? There is capital-A Art in Science Fiction, dammit, and it should be recognized.

My humble suggestion: The Sad Puppies handing out beanie baby trophies for the best stories with white guys saving scantily-clad helpless space princesses, the ivory tower crowd awarding elegant chess sets (with rooks made of ivory) to the most beautiful prose of the year, the geek crowd awarding the golden propeller beanie to the best representation of cybernetics, and so forth. Let the fragmentation happen. It’s healthy. It’s good. It’s time to surrender the One Award that Rules Them All to the trolls.

2

Honorable Mention!

Writers of the Future is a big-ass writing competition, and it’s pretty prestigious to win. I did not win. It’s also cool to almost win, as you still get your work published in a book that people actually read.

I also was not a runner up.

But I did get an honorable mention. Honestly I don’t know how difficult that is; I’ve entered twice and been honored both times. My guess is that it means “good enough to encourage the writer to enter again.” I will be doing so. Several of my eligible stories fit the WotF style pretty well. My careful reading of the rules tells me that stories published over at Piker Press are eligible, so if you remember a favorite from back in the days when I was a regular there, let me know!

On a side note, I think I’m going to play with a short story during my company’s holiday shutdown.

1

NaNoWriMo Complete

With hours to spare, I closed the laptop with 50,009 words for my story A Cool Breeze in Hell. Victory!

I could have stopped at 50,003, but I was on a roll.

1

Here Comes November Again

It’s that time of year again; NaNoWriMo is fast approaching and as usual I really don’t know what I’m going to write. I’d better write something, though, because I really, really need to get back in the habit of punching out words every day.

I’ve had a few vague thoughts of possible novel ideas, but none has taken root. On the science fiction front, I have a time travel idea that’s intriguing, but falls short of qualifying as a plot. I could combine it with some ideas that are set in the asteroid belt, and maybe get things rolling. But there’s a reason those ideas have been bouncing around in my skull for a few years now — there’s not a real story attached to them.

I could always write a sequel to The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy, which would start immediately following Bixby recovering the Important Thing and discovering that the Evil Guy is not his father after all (much to the Evil Guy’s surprise). Perhaps it could be called The Quest for the Operating Instructions for the Important Thing.

Sometimes I wonder if the Tincaniverse is a good place to set a novel. My last few attempts at short stories in that world haven’t had the same vignetty yumminess as the successful ones of days gone by; maybe it’s time to use a novel to get deeper inside the spacer psyche. Once again, I’m not sure what the conflict would be.

There’s another short story I’ve never quite got right, that maybe I could succeed with in a different format. It’s a deal-with-the-devil thing, that has our main guy installing air conditioning in Hell, and using the heat of Hell to run a power plant to solve humanity’s energy woes. The story could include many chances for humor as the main dude has to convince people to do things that make no sense at all. It’s the only idea I have so far that includes a story arc and a try-fail cycle that can steadily increase the pressure on the good guy. One false step and his soul is forfeit.

But maybe it’s another story entirely. None of those ideas have really taken fire in my heart.

But I gotta write something, dammit. Maybe I’ll just have a guy walk into a bar and see what happens. Any suggestions from y’all are certainly welcome.

Coming Home

I’ve often stated that the NBA is more like Championship Wrestling than an actual sport. It’s more about the personalities than the actual games. And today, the NBA script writers earned their Emmy. Lebron James is returning to Cleveland.

Cleveland management had to scurry to take down the comical comic-sans screed posted by ownership when Lebron left town four years ago. In that manifesto, ownership guaranteed a championship for their slighted city before Lebron got one in Miami. Two championships later, on his return Lebron is saying he’s not guaranteeing anything, but that there’s nothing he wants more than to bring a trophy home to the place he grew up.

His letter to Sports Illustrated has been carefully crafted, vetted by lawyers, agents, PR experts, sycophants, and Lebron’s mom, but you know what? I actually believe it. I think that’s where he wants to raise his kids. I think it’s where he wants to end his career. It doesn’t hurt that no major sports team from Cleveland has won a championship in 50 years; he brings them a title, he’s God in that town. By my reckoning, he has four years.

Meanwhile, in Miami, the Heat will be determined to prove that they can be good without Lebron, that the other highly-paid superstars can carry the team, that Lebron was just a cog in the machine. They will fail. This past year management put the team on Lebron’s shoulders through the grind of the season to rest their other stars, and then in the finals the well-rested other stars vanished and Lebron ran out of gas. I’m no expert on sports, and certainly not on sorta-sports like professional basketball, but I won’t be putting any money on the boys from South Beach this year.

But as a fellow writer, I have to tip my hat to the NBA. Here’s a story that even non-fans in the offseason are talking about. That’s a good script.

Different Planet, Same Sky

As I try desperately (and occasionally despairingly) to cross the 50,000-word mark for the thirteenth year, I’ve been pondering the world my story takes place in, and the following question: Is this our Earth or some other Earth? How many stories have you read that take place on a world with completely different geography, but the same moon as ours? Is it Earth or not?

My story takes place on a world that has been blasted to ruin. The civilization before the cataclysm was very different from our own (at least on the surface), but there’s that big ol’ moon lighting the way for Wolf and Joe as they cross the wasteland. Is that riverbed the former course of the Rio Grande? The Vltava? The Nile? Or is this some otherworld that just happens to have a big, fat moon like ours?

Or maybe I should just stop thinking so much and get to typing. I have a lot of words to go.

NaNoWriMo Coming! (Your help needed)

Yep, November is barreling down upon us, and it’s time to write another crappy novel in 30 days. I don’t think I’ve ever needed it more. I’ve also never felt less inspired. Those two facts are, of course, related.

Usually by this time I have ideas fighting in my head to become The One. This year, cue the crickets chirping. I have never felt so empty of ideas.

Which brings me to any readers who might happen by here. (Yeah, I know I haven’t given people a reason to be regulars lately.) Leave a suggestion in the comments. Don’t be afraid to be outrageous, or silly, or deep and heavy if you want. If anyone posts a suggestion, I WILL WRITE IT. Just like that. If more than one person leaves a suggestion we can have a quick vote, or I’ll let an impartial third party decide, or maybe I’ll just mash them together if the result would be amusing.

I’ll let the person with the winning suggestion read the result, though it’s NaNoWriMo — that may not be much of a prize.

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Breakfast in Kansas

Twenty-four hours now I’ve been in the artificial world of the Repeat Offenders writing workshop in Lawrence, Kansas. Time is funny here, though; when I lay down to sleep last night it seemed strange — how could this still only be my first night here?

Technically, the workshop hasn’t started yet; the weekend is devoted to a conference and awards ceremony celebrating Science Fiction. The Saturday night reception is one of my favorite events, in which a mix of interesting people is stirred with alcohol. The last couple of years the reception has been at a nice venue with a cash bar, rather than in a university dorm with smuggled-in booze. While this leads to far less stress (and fewer laws broken), people are much more restrained when they have to buy their own beer.

Still, a good time. I spent a lot more time listening than talking. People now think either that I’m wise or that I’m boring.

I missed the event that preceded that; a premier of Destination: Planet Negro!, a sci-fi film by some local guys that, I’m told, does not pull its punches, yet remains fun. I was napping instead. You snooze, you lose.

Now it’s morning, and I’ve walked over to downtown Lawrence to break my fast. The air has a scent that reminds me of visits to Grandma’s in Arkansas many years gone by. A heavy scent, earthy, with a tang of something I can’t pinpoint but I know is there.

I passed by the completely mediocre Fuzzy’s Cantina, which was sure to have the cheesy gooey food I craved, but it’s, well, completely mediocre. On Fuzzy’s patio, patrons were settling in with their first pitchers of Pabst Blue Ribbon to celebrate Sunday morning.

The obviously-breakfasty places are filed with (I assume) the after-church crowd, but I found a sandwich shop called Pickelman’s that was just opening. While a vegetarian sandwich on whole wheat is far from the cheesy home fries I was craving, it will sustain me, with the help of some tomato bisque. It was adequate, but I won’t be dragging my fellow writers here.

Now it’s time to take a breath and dive back into the Workshop Artificial Universe.