I feel like as soon as you take a gun out of a story every other option is more interesting.
– Brandon Graham
I feel like as soon as you take a gun out of a story every other option is more interesting.
– Brandon Graham
“Forget about Patel, he’s stuffed in a nuclear waste barrel. Let’s talk about Waverly. Even if a steamroller crushed him, it’s not scientifically established that he’s dead.”
“Where do you get that idea? Of course he’s dead. I saw his brains come out of his eye sockets.”
“I need facts,” insisted Becka. “Not your interpretations.”
“Oooh,” said Gordo. “The dragon lady. Okay, as soon as we stepped outside the safehouse, Waverly started babbling. He said, ‘I’m going everywhere.’ He was slobbering. Then he lost his muscle tone. His hands pulled up into his sleeves, and he went all boneless. And then—wham! That steamroller comes out of nowhere and runs him over.”
“Just like that?” said Becka skeptically.
“That’s how I saw it. That’s the machine that killed him, still tooling around out there. It’s like a remote-controlled drone.” Gordo peeped out the window. “Look, it keeps backing in and out of our garage. That’s where I dragged Waverly. It’s still running over him. Again and again.”
Reading Ales Kot and Will Tempest’s comic Material (which I highly recommend – it’s near-future SF with socio-political issues coursing through it, and stark, striking art) put me onto this talk by Bruce Sterling: Atemporality for the Creative Artist.
We’ve moved into a new town, and the first order of business is like : ok, what gives around here? Well, there seems to be this sort of decayed castle, and there’s also a lot of slums…. That’s not the sort of thing which requires a punk ‘no-future’ rage. Like: ‘You’ve taken away my future, and I am going to kill you, or kill myself, and throw a brick at a cop!’ I don’t really think that is helpful.
What’s needed here is like a kind of atemporality that’s like agnosticism. Just a calm, pragmatic, serene skepticism about the historical narratives. I mean: they just don’t map onto what is going on.
So how do we just — like — sound out our new scene? What can we do to liven things up, especially as creative artists?
Well, the immediate impulse is going to be the ‘Frankenstein Mashup.’ Because that’s the native expression of network culture. The “Frankenstein mashup” is to just take elements of past, present, and future and just collide ’em together, in sort of a collage. More or less semi-randomly, like a Surrealist “exquisite corpse.”
You can do useful and interesting things in that way, but I don’t really think that offers us a great deal. Even when it’s done very deftly, it tends to lead to the kind of levelling blandness of ‘world music.’ That kind of world music that’s middle-of-the-road disco music which includes pygmy nose-flutes or sitars.
The kind of thing is tragically easy to do, but not really very effective. It’s cheap to do. It’s very punk rock. It’s very safety pins and plastic bags. But it’s missing a philosophical high-end, really an atemporal meaning of life. High-art.
And I would like to see some of that. I think there is a large hole there that could be filled, from an atemporal perspective. Not at the lowest end of artistic expression, but way up at the top philosophical end.
And this great piece of wisdom that Sterling passes on from William Gibson:
The ‘pre-distressed antique futurity’. William Gibson wrote about this when we was writing about atemporality, associating it with his ‘Zero History’ novel that he is working on. Gibson was saying that if you have a genuinely avant garde idea, something that’s really new, you should write about it or create about it as if it were being read twenty years from now. In other words, if you want to do this, you want to strip away the sci-fi chrome, the sense of wonder. You want it to be antique before it hits the page or the screen. Imagine that it was twenty years gone into the future. Just approach it from that perspective.
No longer allow yourself to be hypnotized by the sense of technical novelty. Just refuse to go there. Accept that it is already passe’, and create it from that point of view. Try to make it news that stays news.
Refuse the awe of the future. Refuse reverence to the past. If they are really the same thing, you need to approach them from the same perspective.
I figured I might as well have a look at my writing practice for this year. That’s how my brain works – constant analyses, devouring statistics, looking for ways to hone itself to a sharp, fleshy blade.
In 2014 my writing practice was all about quantity. I aimed for a thousand words a day, 5 days a week, and five hundred words a day on the weekend. I only took time off to edit or when my mind-spiders had spun a particularly thick web. Between a couple of novels and a fair number of short stories, I guess I wrote about 150k words, but because my aim was for quantity, I ended up with a lot of aborted projects that had a lot of words and little potential, stories that were way too long for what they were trying to do, a lot of things that needed to be fixed in editing.
In 2015, I don’t know that I ever had a set idea of what I was going to do differently in my writing practice. The one thing I knew I needed to do was start submitting more stories, get myself used to rejection, develop a thick skin and keep on working regardless. And so to submit stories you need to write stories, and this year I’ve finished twenty stories, ranging from a 250 word flash piece to a 30,000 word novella.
This year, I wrote a lot of action-oriented stories, which was sort of an unintended side-effect of me wanting to work more on plotting (and when you think of plotting you tend to think of action, and explosions, and things being propelled forward). I feel like in 2016 I’m going to have to try and set a rule for myself in regards to main characters – no soldiers, no cops, no criminals. Maybe even a ‘no guns’ rule. Because I feel like if I can take what I’ve been slowly learning about plot and combine that with the more contemplative and emotive stuff I’ve written previously, then I might start to get there (where ‘there’ is having stories people want to publish).
Now a stat breakdown (with special thanks to David Steffen at Diabolical Plots [I promise I’ll donate some money after my first story sale]).
Stories completed: 20
Stories abandoned: 4
Stories in development: 9
Longest story written this year: 30,012 words
Story submissions: 94
Publications submitted to: 60
Most submissions to single publication: 8 submissions to Clarkesworld (sorry Neil)
Stories second-rounded: 3
Stories sold: 0 🙁
Rejections received: 78
Dead letters (or similar): 2
Submissions pending: 13
Highest number of rejections for a single story: 10 (two stories both tied at 10 rejections apiece)
Longest wait for a decision: 176 days
Shortest wait: About 4 hours
It’s not easy, the rejections. I’m sure for some writers they are, or they become that way, but you’ve got to do the work. You’ve got to write, and you’ve got to send the stories out, and when an editor takes a moment to point out what did and didn’t work for them, be grateful, because they are probably dealing with slush piles that could crush a small child… but don’t be grateful in their inboxes because busy. Just send them positive vibes or something).
And you know what? It’s alright to be sad sometimes, it’s alright to get down about the latest rejection, but only if you pick yourself up and try again, try again.
Alright, that’s it from me for now. Happy holidays, happy new year, etcetera, etcetera. Be good to one another, and be good to yourself.
He was a creepy-looking racist, sure, but you can’t pretend that HP Lovecraft hasn’t had a huge influence on weird fiction and horror in all it’s permutations.
The reason why time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.
He also suggests first writing an outline in chronological order, and then in narrative order, which is a writing tip I’ve never come across before, but sounds like it could be an interesting way to think about your plot, the revelations therein, and how you might wish to reveal everything.
So, check it out, it’s relatively short, and you might pick up something useful.
Here’s a little flash piece I wrote for the Apex Magazine Christmas Invasion, but seeing as they passed on it, I thought I would share it with you folks here. It’s dedicated to the memory of the Prime Ministership of Tony “The Mad Speedo Monk” Abbott, the hateful LNP, and their efforts to dehumanise, punish, torture, and murder the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees fleeing war and other forms of violence to come to Australia, the so-called ‘boat people’.
Merry Christmas and/or other holiday, and be sure to take care of you and yours.
“Confusion this morning as thousands of children find not presents under the Christmas tree… but Elves.”
Sadi had turned the TV on hoping for information. The only useful thing she’d learned was that her family wasn’t the only one experiencing this strange visitation.
“We seek asylum from the oppressive dictatorship of the North Pole!” said the Elf on screen.
“We seek asylum,” parroted the Elf in Sadi’s living room.
He – he? – wasn’t at all how Elves were usually depicted in Christmas cards, cartoons and films. He had the pointy ears and his clothes were the expected greens and reds, but they were made of tattered leather, and his skin was jet black.
Sana had squealed when she opened the box and the small person had got unsteadily to his feet and started talking. She was instantly enraptured. She had both arms around the confused fellow before he could say “We seek asylum.”
“Can we keep him?”
The Elf on TV sounded angry. “Seeking asylum is a human right!”
“But, you’re not human,” the reporter countered.
“You would say that!”
“Mummy?” Sana whined.
Sadi sighed. “You must understand, dear, he’s not ours to keep; he’s a person. Though if he’d like, I suppose we could let him live here; we do have plenty of room.”
Sana cheered, and even the confused Elf seemed pleased.
“Why don’t you open up the rest of the presents,” Sadi said. “There might be more Elves in there who need our help.”
I’m dating another writer, which is a new experience. It means they get it, they understand the weird compulsion to write, they know how much a rejection hurts, they understand the way we have to steal from real-life, and that we sometimes put our craziest, least-attractive selves on the page.
It also means you get to see the way another writer works up close, it means you can try and find out what makes them tick… It also means you can share in (and be jealous of) each others’ successes. My partner is having an absolutely killer year, but she still gets jealous of my unpublished arse because of the way I generate story ideas constantly. A couple of times, late at night, I’ve woken her with the bright light of my phone screen, tapping a story idea into an email to myself for later.
So, I thought I’d try and write down a few thoughts, things that I actively do that might help others maintain their own constant flow of ideas.
That’s it for now. But think of generating ideas as a type of mental exercise – the more you work on it, the better you’re going to get.
This story did the social media rounds a few months back so you might have seen it, but I still love it. It’s late-capitalism run rampant. It’s the calendar naming system in Infinite Jest taken to an extreme. It’s… well-worth the read.
“Home Depot™ Presents the Police!®” I said, flashing my badge and my gun and a small picture of Ron Paul. “Nobody move unless you want to!” They didn’t.
“Now, which one of you punks is going to pay me to investigate this crime?” No one spoke up.
“Come on,” I said. “Don’t you all understand that the protection of private property is the foundation of all personal liberty?”
It didn’t seem like they did.
“Seriously, guys. Without a strong economic motivator, I’m just going to stand here and not solve this case. Cash is fine, but I prefer being paid in gold bullion or autographed Penn Jillette posters.”
Nothing. These people were stonewalling me. It almost seemed like they didn’t care that a fortune in computer money invented to buy drugs was missing.
I figured I could wait them out. I lit several cigarettes indoors. A pregnant lady coughed, and I told her that secondhand smoke is a myth. Just then, a man in glasses made a break for it.
“Subway™ Eat Fresh and Freeze, Scumbag!®” I yelled.
Read the whole thing here.
Blistering, visceral, hard-edged cyberpunk SF of the highest order from Brooke Bolander, And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of the Dead.
The first time she meets Rack, Rhye’s fresh out of the army and fresh back from one of the meat-grinders the humans pay her kind to fight in. The children of wires and circuits aren’t worth a tinker’s fuck compared to the children of real flesh and bone, so far as the world’s concerned. The recruitment agents pluck her off the streets when she’s twelve and send her to a training camp and she’s good with linguistics and better at killing, so they keep her hands busy until she’s twenty-five and then they spit her back out again like a mouthful of cum. She has gray curly hair cropped short and gray dead eyes and calluses on the inside of her palms worn hard and horny from years of holding pistol grips. She’s small and lean, which makes people underestimate her, but she’s cool enough and don’t-fuck-with-me enough that most know to jump the fuck out of the way when they see her coming. The ones that don’t get flashed a warning glimpse of her teeth and holsters.
Read the whole novelette at Lightspeed Magazine.
Have a look at Our Generation Ships Will Sink over at Boing Boing, in which Kim Stanley Robinson tells us why, as a living, thriving species, we’ll never get off this planet (and therefore should look after it better).
We are always teamed with many other living creatures. Eighty percent of the DNA in our bodies is not human DNA, and this relatively new discovery is startling, because it forces us to realize that we are not discrete individuals, but biomes, like little forests or swamps. Most of the creatures inside us have to be functioning well for the system as a whole to be healthy. This is a difficult balancing act, and does not work perfectly even on Earth; but divorced from Earth’s bacterial load, and thus never able to get infusions of new bacteria, the chances of suffering various immune problems similar to those observed in over-sterile Terran environments will rise markedly.
Because we need a broad array of bacterial companions, one would want to bring along as much of Earth as you could fit into a starship. But even the largest starship would be about one-trillionth the size of Earth, and this necessary miniaturization would almost certainly lead to unknown effects in our bodies.