Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Nera and Torsten Do When They Go Play

I recounted the events of "The Guy Who Worked For Money" in kid language to Noah, and he provided me with a list of the things that Nera and Torsten go do, after the end of the story, when they go play:

  • They build a locomotive with pencils inside
  • They swing on the wires that are holding up the houses
  • They do video games in their brains, like Super Mario
  • They do something new each day

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

A tale of a tale of a shareable future, part 4: Revisions

One of the most surprising things, for me, about becoming a working writer, has been the discovery of how social a profession it is.

Back in adolescence, dreaming about someday Publishing Great Things, I imagined a solitary struggle. The writer forges Art in the fire of her own consciousness, then releases it fully formed upon the world.

Now it is true that writing, most days, is a lonely occupation. We face the page alone. But the reverse, it turns out, is also true. Writing is intensely social, a sea of conversations -- in print, on the screen, in person -- writers reacting to writers, works quarreling with each other, writers seeking each other's advice, solace, company, and critique. Writers write each other fan mail, see each other at workshops and conventions and critique groups, debate endlessly online, and trade critiques of works in progress.

This part of the writing process is generally invisible to readers. So for these blog posts -- this autobiography-of-a-story, this "The Making of The Guy Who Worked For Money" -- I thought it might be interesting to offer a window into this raucous, rambunctious, fervid backstage world.

It is also -- relevantly -- a gift economy. Generally speaking, critiques are gifts(1). As gifts, they bind givers and receivers together: exchanging critiques is one of the ways that friendships between writers are formed. A good critiquing relationship is precious.

Critiquing binds you to the work as well as the person. I am almost as delighted (and less conflictedly delighted) when a work that I critiqued -- like "Pride and Prometheus", or "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", or "Little Brother" -- gets on an award ballot, as when one of my own does. If my stories are my children, then stories I've critiqued are my godchildren.

So I asked five of the writers who critiqued this story -- Haddayr Copley-Woods, David Moles, Jackie Monkiewicz, Shoshana Rosenbaum (who is also my sister), and Meghan McCarron -- if I could post here their emailed critiques (as well as my sometimes argumentative responses). Note that all of these are hasty unedited emails in response to my pleas for before-deadline help; I didn't have the idea of posting them until afterwards.

(This isn't even everyone who critiqued the story! Among others, Mary Robinette Kowal took time in the middle of Readercon to read the penultimate draft and spend a last-minute lunchtime insisting on an ending with emotional impact.)


Here is the original ready-for-critique draft (actually the fourth or fifth draft of the story, since I generally look for critiques only when I've taken the story as far as I can alone).

Here are the critiques...

And here, of course, is the final version.

[Crossposted to]

  1. Though there are places which formalize critique-swapping in the direction of an exchange economy.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

On the radio

I'll be on the radio tomorrow -- chatting in German with moderator Daniel Buser and Basel mystery author Barbara Saladin about life and books, and reading a story or two in English -- as part of the Basel Stadtmusik Festival.

I got hooked up with this via my favorite cafe/bookstore in Basel, Nasobem. We'll be broadcasting live from the beautiful atrium of the Basel art museum, which the festival has tricked out with a sky-full of ethereal wafting white sashes overhead, a loungey radio studio and lounge chairs and nooks galore. It is trancearrific.

FM 106.6 for those in Basel, 2pm to 5pm-ish -- we'll also be streamed online for those farther out who want to listen (that would be 8am to 11am EST and 5am to 8am PST)....

See you in the ether, perhaps.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pictures from Bessuge

At Bessuge -- in addition to perfecting Hookie-Mookie -- we slept in the pony stall, watched the frogs in the frogpond and horses in the fields, played ping pong and volleyball, practiced our kung fu, and hung out. Aviva and her cousin Seraphina took a lot of pictures. (I think all these are Aviva's, except the one of her.)

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Official Rules of Hookie-Mookie

Aviva and Noah and I have been working on a collaborative card game for a few months now, and this past weekend on vacation with my in-laws in a cottage in the French countryside near Cormatin, we finally got it right. This version is elegant and exciting.

Hookie-Mookie Official Rules

Hookie-Mookie is a collaborative card game for two to four players, using a regular 52-card poker deck. The players play together against the deck.


To begin, each player is dealt a HAND of seven cards, which only that player may look at. A GHOST HAND of 5 cards is also dealt, and put aside, face down. These cards are removed from the game. The remaining cards form the DECK.


The object of the game is for at least one player to be able to empty his or her HAND, before the DECK runs out. If this is accomplished, the humans win; if the DECK runs out first, the cards win.

For a three or four player game, you may want to require that two or three players are able to empty their HANDs.


Players may not discuss the contents of their hands, or their intended actions, at any time.

The player with the longest hair begins. Each player's turn must consist of one of two actions: a MOOKIE or a HOOKIE.


A MOOKIE consists of playing a valid set of cards from the player's hand onto the table, face up. The player may play any number of such sets during one MOOKIE. There are two kinds of valid actions in a MOOKIE -- uuseläge and druufläge. In uuseläge, the player plays a set of 3 or 4 matching cards -- for instance, three queens. In druufläge, the player adds cards from his or her hand to an existing set which is lying face up on the table (which may have come from a HOOKIE or a MOOKIE). For instance, in one MOOKIE, a player could lay out three kings, lay out three sevens, and add a queen to a set of two queens already face-up on the table.

If the player cannot lay out any cards for a valid MOOKIE, the player must perform a HOOKIE.

(Note that once all four cards of a given value have been laid out, the set may be cleared away for clarity's sake.)


For a HOOKIE, the player chooses one partner from the other players present (in a two player game, there is obviously only one choice), by saying his or her name. Each of the two players in the HOOKIE then chooses one card from his or her own HAND and lays it face-down before him or her on the table. The players count together in French, "un... deux... trois!" and on "trois", they flip their cards over. If the cards match, they stay on the table and form a successful set (which may be added to via MOOKIE, above). If the cards differ, they are returned to the same players' hands, and as a PENALTY, the player whose turn it is draws an additional two cards, and his or her partner draws an additional card.


The game hinges on keeping track of what the other players have in their hands, and intuiting what they are likely to play in the HOOKIE.

By convention, players begin a first HOOKIE with their highest card, and the player whose turn it is offers a card which he or she recently saw his or her partner offer.


To make the game easier:

  • the number of cards in the ghost hand may be reduced
  • the penalty may be reduced to one card for each partner (instead of two for the player who announced the HOOKIE, and one for the partner)
  • Jokers may be added to the deck; these match any card successfully in either HOOKIE or MOOKIE

To make the game harder:
  • the number of cards in the ghost hand may be increased
  • the penalty may be increased

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