Friday, May 25, 2007


There are two, count 'em, two recent podcasts of my story "The House Beyond Your Sky"!

Stephen Eley's Escape Pod released a version of HBYS, read by Paul Tevis, which is smooth, clear, and professional, an excellent rendition. Paul Coles' version at Beam Me Upis rougher, quirkier and wackier, with voice and sound effects and a strange poignancy sometimes verging on camp.

(I'd say if you haven't read the story yet and want to consume it in audio form, go with the Escape Pod version; if you want to hear a wacky reimagining, try the Beam Me Up version. Or listen to both!)

Escape Pod also did a version of "Start the Clock" as well, and I think a Beam Me Up version of that story, too, is in the works...


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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Like a Sturgeon, for the Very Second Time...

So "The House Beyond Your Sky" is on the list of Sturgeon Award finalists.

Wowzers! And look at that list! Those are some fine stories. I am tickled to say that in addition to writing one of those stories, I critiqued two others in writing workshops. That almost makes me prouder.

Guess which ones? (No cheating: if you were there with us, it's not a guess, is it?).

Now off to Wiscon!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wanted: UML for fiction

I'm trying to write a synopsis of the revised second half of Sargasso, the YA-ish nanotech novel I'm writing with Paul Melko.

I hate writing synopses because it's very hard for me to think about plot in advance. Very much as Delany writes, I feel that fiction is accretive: every word changes the context, and thus the meaning, of all the words that have come before. All the best things-that-happen in my stories are suggested by words I wrote while writing the story, not by some plan I had, of which the story is the implementation. I don't really get -- other than intellectually -- the distinction between "plot", "character", and "style".

In the programmer world, this is what the XP folk call "listening to the code" -- instead of imposing the will of your conscious plan on your creation, you always take the next local step, and then periodically refine the whole to all make sense together. You allow yourself to be surprised.

By the same token, though, while you don't need to have a high-level plan that you stick to rigidly, you want to have the ability to visualize and manipulate things at a high level of abstraction.

While you're making incremental steps, line-by-line -- inch ahead, tidy the whole, inch ahead, tidy the whole --you need to see what the whole thing looks like from a birds'-eye view, and what you are doing to it. XP talks about "emergent design" (a very intelligent kind of design, by the way). But design can't emerge unless you can see it.

So this morning I realized that what I really want for novels is something like UML --a visual modelling language for fiction.

The things I've seen that try to go in this direction are more like formulas -- the Seven Plots, the Three-Acts, the Twelve-Point Program. They are a predefined structure you build your story around. That's not what I'm talking about. They are, at best, a design pattern -- something like Model-View-Controller. But not every application needs to be an MVC instance, and saying something is MVC tells you a few things about it, but only certain specific things.

What I'm looking for is not such a formula, but the minimally complex, maximally expressive notation you would use to draw such a formula.

I was trying to create something like this this morning, and trying to puzzle out what the primitives would be. I have a few scribbles, with primitives (conflict, resolution, set piece, character, character action, obstacle, macguffin, thematic element) and relationships (causes, influences, expresses). Needs work though.

Anyone else ever tried to do anything like this? What do you scribble, when you plot?

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Jetpack or IM?

The mighty and clever Lauren McLaughlin (author of the delightful "The Perfect Man") writes about the future that did not arrive -- you know the one -- the one with the jetpacks -- and suggests that we are going backwards and ought to go forwards.

I expect we are always going a little of both; but interestingly I think there is a pattern of thought which obscures from us (especially where "us" = "skiffy folk") some of the ways in which the future does arrive.

Here my comment on Lauren's blog reposted:

There's a great talk on google video in which Dr. Cornelia Brunner talks about "butch" and "femme" approaches to technological development. In it she says something about a study done many years ago about what butch thinkers wanted technology to do (which was about control and speed and making things happen from afar) and what femme thinkers wanted it to do (which was about immersion, communication, and engagement).

She's too politic to say it outright, but it was clear to me from listening to her examples that in terms of accuracy of prediction, the femme future won. Thus, instead of jetpacks, we got the internet.

We may be better off.

Similarly if you compare Verne's or Wells's or Stephenson's books, as futurology, to the predictions (in 1900, about 2000) by the Ladies' Home Journal, it's striking how well the LHJ did. In broad strokes, they basically nailed it. Out of 29 predictions, only a handful are dead wrong -- most, if you squint, came true, or will soon come true.

Science fiction is traditionally a very butch genre (to the moon!) and indeed, in culture in general the butch perspective is much more natural, much easier to think about. Meanwhile the femme future keeps on rolling.

We cannot in 2007 get very far away from one another very very fast, each of us personally, so that no one can stop us. Instead we know where our friends are, all the time, even though they may be scattered about the globe, and we can carry on many simultaneous private little conversations with them, as if in whispers.

I think, given the choice of worlds they imply, I prefer IM to a jetpack.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

More previews of Wiscon

This is what I will be doing at the pirate reading...

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In case anyone is following the spreadsheet...

Resilience is currently on hiatus, as I am working fiendishly on a collaborative YA novel with Paul Melko to get it ready for him to take to the Blue Heaven novel writer's workshop.

He informs me I have 8000 words due by Friday.

(Mind you, I'm just revising, he already wrote the first draft. But still. Yeargh!)

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Wiscon schedule

What I'll be doing this year at Wiscon:


Reading fiction along with Hilary Moon Murphy, Kelly Barnhill, and Michael Merriam.

Sunday, 1:00-2:15 p.m Male Allies

"What does *good* ally behavior look like? Abortion rights, housework equity, absentee fathering, and the income gap continue as feminist themes. Can the feminist revolution move forward without the active participation of men? How do men find something for themselves in the revolution's goals rather than just seeing some of their own (arguably unearned) privilege vanishing? This panel will feature several feminist men talking about how feminism has affected their personal lives as well as their political lives, in the hopes of opening the dialogue."

Jef a. Smith, Benjamin Micah Rosenbaum, Gregory G. Rihn, M: Ian K. Hagemann, Alan Bostick

Monday, 11:30am-12:45pm The SignOut

Mass signing

A very light schedule... so if anyone has any understaffed panels they are desperately looking to beef up, you know... say the word. I'm also going to see if I can volunteer to be on kids' programming and/or childcare. (A couple of years ago I got to tell the kids a story at childcare; it was like having a second reading!)

I am a little nervous about "Male Allies". I mean, it could be great. Certainly the issues are important. When I signed up for it, I was like, wonderful! I am all about the feminism-being-essential-to-men thing!

However there is much that is potentially awful about such a panel. I don't know which would be more cringe-inducing -- an "aren't we great?" panel in which we brag about our oh-so-enlightened marriages, attitudes, politics, etc., etc., or a desperate effort to avoid same in which we wallow in unremitting guilt about our sexism. Whoo boy.

(Update: Moderator Ian Hagemann has written us and now I feel much better; he seems to have an excellent handle on things...)

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Noah on Theology

  1. Noah: When I was a man, I crashed a lot of cars.

    Ben: But now you feel so different?

    Noah: Yeah, when I die, I feel so different!

  2. Noah: At Tot Shabbat there's a little old woman and she's called God.

    Ben: (laughs) Noah, can I write in my blog that you said 'At Tot Shabbat there's a scary old woman and she's called God'?

    Noah: She's not scary!

  3. Noah: Is God King of the Universe?

    Ben: Yes...

    Noah: OK.

    Ben: Or Queen of the Universe, I guess...

    Noah: God is Princess of the Universe!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Molly arrives in the UK

Sale! Interzone will be publishing my story "Molly and the Red Hat"... don't know when yet.

It's a story which reads like a children's story, though it's not really a children's story. Or maybe it is. Anyway, I like it a lot, and I'm glad it has a home.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Lightbulb Joke

Q: How many straight white men does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: One. (Uncomfortable pause...)

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