Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hey, It's Shar and Narra!

This video (also here) stars characters from my story Droplet (in a retro Japanese-factory mood).

Thanks for helping me out with this one, Bjork!

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Interview Meme

Questions from Meghan:

1. Science fiction is to _____ as the color red is to _____. Explain your answer.

Hmmm. Well, science fiction is to the future as the the color red is to the color infrared. A vivid, visible show at the border of -- and in some sense pointing to -- but not really resembling -- something else which we are fundamentally, ineluctably unable to experience.

Or, "literature", and "bell peppers". Because it's sweet.

2. Blogging about one's children -- guilty pleasure? Important statement to be made? Will stop when they can read?

That's actually three questions.

I feel like the blogs I most admire tend to center on certain obsessions -- say, "cosmology, history, speculative fiction, politics and feminism", or "capitalism-as-fraud, the-hilarious-stupidity-of-others, and pro wrestling", or "speculative fiction, the history of science, meditations on daily existence, and constantly changing blog addresses". I love it when people like Haddayr and Karen blog about raising their kids. Parenting and writing are my favorite things to do; the two only kinds of non-alienated labor I regularly engage in. So it seems less a guilty pleasure than, you know, the thing which there is to blog for me.

There would probably be more important-statement about it if I were braver. I more report the cute and clever things the kids do and say. I don't blog very much about the conflict, difficulty, worry, and uncertainty of raising kids. Partly because I'm acutely aware that the internet is forever. My kid's prom dates will be reading this. You know.

Aviva already carefully vets everything I post about her. I actually had to redact an entry once when it turned out I had revealed certain secrets involving imaginary people which were not for public consumption; since then I get everything pre-approved. Noah so far seems happy to have me post whatever.

3. Is there a specific goal you're working towards in your fiction -- a certain thing you want to do? Has it changed? What is it right now?

I think the main things are process things -- being persistent, being reliable, sitting down often enough with the pen, having courage -- courage, for instance, to tear into something I thought was pretty much done and remake it radically, or (conversely) courage to call something finished and kick it out the door when I still feel uneasy about it but it's time. Pushing through resistance. Writing what frightens me. I'm actually a very scaredy-cat writer.

Emotional depth is something I worked on for a long time, and am still, perhaps, forever, working on. I have a tendency towards distanced, cerebral writing which can be chilly. Sometimes I try to blow through that, smash it into smithereens. But then I have to beware overcompensating into sentimentality.

I think to write novels, I have to endure more messiness. Not having everything heading towards a perfect resolution. Not going for easy answers, even if they are superficially complex. Hanging out longer in the unknown. This is scary right now.

4. Internet fights -- so 2004, or timeless pleasures, like ice cream?

Like Ben & Jerry's Rainforest Crunch.

5. Were you always very extroverted, or did you have a phase of introversion at some point in your life?

Was very introverted from age 6 to age 15, I'd say. Though I was arguably quite extroverted then with the people in my head.

If you wish to replicate the virus, post a comment to that effect, and I will ask you five (different) questions.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Another song by Noah

Chimpanzees swimming on the world

Chimpanzees swimming on the world

Oh, wasty whysty wasty


Shana's billy goat house!

"Chimpanzees swimming on the world," Noah says, "is a scary song."

The tune is vaguely reminiscent of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland".

After singing this again at dinner, Noah says, "Daddy, are you going to write 'Chimpanzees swimming on the world' on your computer?"

O tempora, o mores!

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Twenty Epics Launch Party

So David Moles' and Susan Groppi's new anthology, Twenty Epics is out today (direct from the printer, from Amazon, and possibly even at your local bookstore, if you ask). The polypotent Meghan McCarron also organized us an online launch party, hosted at David Moles' blog. Wherein we all kinda blog about the book and our stories and do the linkety-linkety thing.

I saw a pre-review copy of the book at Wiscon and it's a hilarious and beautiful work. It has a map of where all the epics are located, in real and unreal places. It has an index, so you can see on what pages gods (pp 137, 139, 143, 144, 197, 202, 245, 255, 256, 258, 262, 264, 265, 266, 267, 272, 275, 276, 277, 285, 291, 294, 300, 302, 304, and 306), gossip (p 201), and Hostess Ho-Hos (p 120) appear. It's a great collection of people, and I can't wait to read the stories.

My own story is "A Siege of Cranes", which I originally wrote in January 2001, during the last week of my paternity leave when Aviva was born. I typed it one-handed, the other hand supporting three-week old Aviva as she lay on my chest and regarded me as all that was necessary and sufficient for the goodness of the world: one hell of a cure for writer's block (or writer's hesitation, for that matter).

The story was inspired by a rejection from Black Gate, originally, wherein Dave Truesdale wrote "The editor tells me we are in particular need of colorful,action-adventure sword & sorcery tales, being well stocked on most other types of fantasy." I thought, why not? So I tried to write a colorful action-packed sword & sorcery tale... a picaresque series of encounters with strangeness. I thought a depressed and grieving family man would be an interesting hero. Aviva was so new and I was being rewired into a new kind of being, like someone who sniffs Tree-of-Life in Larry Niven's Ringworld series and becomes a Protector. I was completely responsible for her, and acutely aware that the world could take her away any time. I was terrified.

So I didn't really succeed in writing a sword-and-sorcery romp. It was too dark for that. It was about losing everything that mattered.

It's set, more or less, in the world of Sanctum, an online strategy fantasy game that I helped program back in the late 1990s. As such the world is a collaborative creation, its monsters, nations, and houses of magic dreamed up by me, Jamey Harvey, Ethan Ham, Lee Moyer, John Mueller, Matt Hulan, Jason McEachen, Walt Carter, Leslie Power, Marcus D'Amelio (am I getting that right?) and others, on white boards and flip charts over pizza, while burning through our angel investors' money. Not that much of the world makes it into the story, of course. It's a big world.

Writing flavor text for the Sanctum cards was one thing that brought me back to writing, after a ten-year hiatus. It's a great game (and you can still play it, long after the investor money ran out, due to the heroic efforts of a nonprofit called NIOGA).

I spent five years revising this story, on and off. I have eight drafts on my hard drive tracking a slimming-down from 82KB to 62KB. I did the last major revision of it after I sold it to 20 Epics, sparked by a few comments from Mr. Moles and Ms. Groppi. There's nothing more fun than an editor who pushes you.

If you get ahold of the book, let me know what you think.

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Sunday, July 9, 2006

Favorite Song Redux

You may recall that "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2" is Aviva's favorite song.

Noah also likes this song, although he sings it as "teacher, please don't leave those kids alone!"

Which makes a lot of sense. Particularly as he hasn't gone to any schools yet.

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Saturday, July 8, 2006

"The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale" under Creative Commons Noncommercial-Attribution-Sharealike

This was the first story I ever sold -- the check arrived on my 30th birthday, in the year 2000. I was confused by the envelope. I was expecting my plain white, self-addressed, stamped envelope back, with a rejection letter in it. Instead, it was one of those commercially printed window envelopes, with my name, printed, showing through the window.

It looked like a bill, and I stood there, puzzled, thinking, "but I just renewed my F&SF subscription a month ago..."

And then I stooped, squinting, and hardly dared to believe the words: "pay to the order of..."

I still like the story. As absurdist stories with magical gumballs go, I think it's a pretty accurate record of the time and place that inspired it. And recently someone pointed out that you can't find it anywhere, and I really ought to CC it.

So here it is, for your reading, forwarding, and remixing pleasure. Put it on party balloons and t-shirts. Create rock operas about it. Write sequels. Translate it into American Sign Language. (And, as usual, if you find yourself in danger of making money off it, drop me a line.)

So here it is: The Ant King: A California Fairy Tale

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