gvdub: (Default)
As writers, possibly the most heroic thing we’re called on to do on a regular basis is face a blank page and start writing on it. It’s a leap of creative faith – that we can reach into that stream of story that’s constantly happening around us, grab hold of the tail of some passing thing and wrestle it out onto the page, polished up all nice and shiny for readers to devour, ponder, or let linger on their palate, letting all the flavor soak in. If we can do that without letting our voice get in the way of the story, but still maintain enough voice for the reader to say, “I want to read more stuff like that.”, then we’ve accomplished something that might just be worthwhile.

It’s easy, especially for writers who are clumsily advancing through the early steps of getting a grasp on the craft to get side-tracked by talking and thinking about the process of writing. It can be far simpler to examine how you go about writing something than it is to just write it. Personally, I’ve got at least six different programs that claim to help you organize your writing in some way, shape or form. I can sit and play with virtual index cards on a virtual corkboard until the cows come home, realize the last dairy farm in the San Fernando Valley disappeared years ago, discuss what to do, then turn around and seek fresh meadowland elsewhere. During all of this, I haven’t done any actual writing, but I feel as if I’ve accomplished something because I’ve changed the color of the virtual pins on the virtual cards so that, if you squint at the corkboard from sufficient distance, it looks vaguely like a 4-year-old’s rendering of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon”. See what I mean? Dangerous. Or you get on IRQ with another member of your writing group and type back and forth about the piece you’re (not) writing. The best advice I’ve ever gotten from all the books I’ve read about writing and the pros I’ve talked to is “Shut up and write.” Advice which I will now follow. See you around, and maybe next time I’ll have a story that’s finished, as in written.

cross posted from Less Than Meets the Ear
gvdub: (neuroscience)
Someone once called it
Three chords and the truth
rollin' down the tracks
It was a mighty good line
having a funky good time
But when the station masters
leased the food service to Pepsico
the rhythm of a train
the rhythm of a cash register at Wal-mart
that long, lonesome howl
limited, pitch corrected
and double-tracked
until it sounded
like money
It'll be a long, winding road back
If the train keeps rolling.
gvdub: (Default)
Last week Charlie Stross posted this response to Kristine Kathryn Rusch's call in her article (published in Asimov's) "Star Wars on Trial" in which she suggested that SF return to its roots (pulp fiction) to try and hold on to shrinking readership.

I have to agree with Mr. Stross on this one. Pandering to nostalgic longing for the lost, pulp past might cause a temporary bump in readership among readers who grew up with the carrot of technocracy dangling before them while they dreamt of being the heroic polymath engineer, but it won't last and will make the genre even less relevant to the modern reader.

Why have i kept reading sf (and for the moment, let's read those initials as "speculative fiction", not necessarily "science fiction" ) for all these years? Certainly not because it summons up a vision of the future that was dragged from somewhere in the past. That type of attempt at scientific fortune-telling is probably my least favorite type of sf (well, next to straight military sf that recasts famous military encounters of the past somewhere else in the universe). That's not the "what if?" that appeals to me. I don't necessarily believe that "what if?" is what makes sf unique. After all, isn't all fiction about "what if?" when you come right down to it. So it's got to be something else. What is it?

For me, though I will admit to being a science geek, it's the potential for freedom and exploration that keeps me coming back for more. It's the same reason that I love Borges and Marquez - Burroughs and Boyle every bit as much as I love Stross, Banks, Stephenson, Zelazny, and Wolfe. Good fiction has the power to explore humanity's strengths and foibles in a way that other media can''t (or hasn't figured out how to yet). Fiction challenges every reader to see through different eyes - think different thoughts than they normally do. Speculative fiction can simply do it on a potentially much larger palette and pick a different color set with which to work (to extend a metaphor to the breaking point).

So, yeah, those of us who read and write sf are definitely slaving away in an increasingly smaller ghetto, if you look at the strict numbers of what's sold as "science fiction", and it may get smaller still. But I look at a number books being sold as mainstream, and I see threads that not that many years ago would have consigned the book to the sf racks at the back of the store. What's being sold as sf may getting smaller in number, but what' s being sold as something else that's really specfic - that seems to be growing.


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May 2009

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