stumbling-home-drunk-in-the-rain selfie

2014-03-30 02.00.41

Drunk after a friend’s going-away party and pissed that he’s leaving even though I can hardly begrudge him fuck if my company got bought I’d be there but…

Fuck.

Meaningful human relationships, how do they work? I’m bad at them. You can live in the same city, another coast, or another country, it doesn’t matter, I don’t know how to people.

And I’m not used to people leaving me. Don’t they know that’s my job?

Midwinter

In the first shining moment he saw the whole strange-familiar world, glistening white; the roofs of the outbuildings mounded into square towers of snow, and beyond them all the fields and hedges buried, merged into one great flat expanse, unbroken white to the horizon’s brim. Will drew in a long, happy breath, silently rejoicing. Then, very faintly, he heard the music again, the same phrase. He swung round vainly searching for it in the air, as if he might see it somewhere like a flickering light.

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper, Chapter 1: “Midwinter Day”

Midwinter’s Eve has always meant more to me than Midwinter’s Day. Especially at this time of year, I focus on the shadow rather than the light. But, especially at this time of year, it is important to remind myself that the light does return.

May tomorrow dawn clear and bright.

Plot and Meaningful Choice

I don’t talk much about how I’m submitting stories to magazines here, because I don’t find it very interesting as a reader.  I got a personal rejection letter this week which has rearranged how I am looking at the conventional arc plot, and plot in general, though, so I want to leave it here for further reflection.

The letter said, in part:

[The story] devoted much more time to explaining the worldbuilding than to constructing a conflict in which the characters had to make choices.

I had been thinking of plot in a sort of good-versus-evil, Hero’s Journey kind of context, which I don’t like, and feeling very bound by the idea that the character needs to change in some way.  Saying that “the character needs to change” phrases it in the character’s passive voice, though — the author changes the character by manipulating them like a puppet through the action of the narrative, which as a reader I always find very flat.

Saying “the character needs to make choices” phrases it actively for the character, and makes it the author’s job to use the narrative to construct an environment in which the character needs to make choices, which I like.  I think I know how to do that.

So that idea has reduced my anxiety about plotting, maybe enough that I know how one or two of these stories go.

It also idea lined up nicely with this bit, from Rules of Play (p. 33), a book of academic game design theory, which chapter I had just read a couple days before:

Playing a game means making choices and taking actions.  All of this activity occurs within a game-system designed to support meaningful kinds of choice-making.

That is an interesting symmetry, which I had not noticed before.

At first I thought John Brunner’s The Squares of the City might be an example of that symmetry breaking down — or at least I didn’t care much for the book, whose action is based on a famous chess game, and which I found to be much more a narrative where the characters were acted-upon.  But the Internet reminded me that Brunner’s main character explicitly represents a piece on the board, and it’s not the pieces whose choices are meaningful but the players’.  So my reaction supports the thesis after all.

Anyhow, I don’t know what it means.  But it will bear thinking on.

Reflections on Viable Paradise

Summer’s holding the door for autumn, and this time last year I was looking forward to Martha’s Vineyard and my first ever writing workshop, Viable Paradise.

Now, one year later I’ve been thinking a lot about VP and my class. I’ve been thinking about it because I feel a little like I’ve let the side down – no professional-level publications to date – but also because it’s getting cool and it’s about the time of year I started to think how am I actually going to get over to the east coast? and because I learned far more than I realized when I was there, and those lessons have taken some time to percolate through the limestone of my skull, but they’ve made it at last, almost twelve months on, and I think they’re worth sharing.

Everything Tam says is true.

I had had four jobs in a year, if you counted my stint as a freelance blogger, and had collected the trifecta — quit, laid off, fired. I was unemployed at the time. Like Tam, I planned to walk from the ferry to the Island Inn. I wonder how many of us were in that same place, standing on the dock at Falmouth. Alone. Vulnerable. Receptive.

It’s easy to descend into hyperbole about these things. Like Tam, I haven’t had anything professionally published. I’m holding down a job not related to fiction writing, but I’m happy there. I don’t know that I can say that Viable Paradise changed my life, in the rapturous way that’s usually meant. But in that moment, it made all the difference in the world. And it’s still making a difference. And that’s enough.

Apropos of Nothing

Skin Horse Feb 1, 2013

I dunno what it says about anything that fanfic and webcomics are my most reliable sources of comfort reading.  But here we are.

Maybe what it says is that I wouldn’t read Skin Horse if it were a novel, granted.  I can’t falsify that hypothesis, and that bugs me.  Maybe I have forgotten how to read prose fiction for fun.  Maybe my literary kinks have gotten too specific.

So I spent the night catching up on webcomics and doing laundry.

Oh hey, it’s snowing outside.

Why I Write

Scott Lynch responds to a critic who accuses him of political correctness (emphasis mine):

What you’re really complaining about isn’t the fact that my fiction violates some objective “reality,” but rather that it impinges upon your sad, dull little conception of how the world works. I’m not beholden to the confirmation of your prejudices; to be perfectly frank, the prospect of confining the female characters in my story to placid, helpless secondary places in the narrative is so goddamn boring that I would rather not write at all. I’m not writing history, I’m writing speculative fiction. Nobody’s going to force you to buy it. Conversely, you’re cracked if you think you can persuade me not to write about what amuses and excites me in deference to your vision, because your vision fucking sucks.

Sally Ride, 1951-2012

From the Associated Press via Yahoo! News:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Space used to be a man’s world. Then came Sally Ride, who blazed a cosmic trail into orbit for U.S. women. With a pitch perfect name out of a pop song refrain, she joined the select club of American space heroes the public knew by heart: Shepard, Glenn, Armstrong and Aldrin.

Ride, the first American woman in orbit, died Monday at her home in the San Diego community of La Jolla at age 61 of pancreatic cancer, according to her company, Sally Ride Science.

Ride flew into space on the space shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, when she was 32. Since then, 42 other American women followed her into space.

“Sally was a national hero and a powerful role model. She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

And not just young women.

Sally Ride was my first hero.

When I played Space Shuttle, one of the figures was always her.

When I dreamed of being an astronaut, I wanted to be her.

And I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up.

I was three or four at the time, I suppose.  No one told me I couldn’t.

I understood that she was in some way Very Special for being the first US woman in space, but it would be many years before I fully understood the ugly implications of that specialness, and of course there are many ways in which I still don’t.

I started reading science fiction, and discovered computers (through my mom), and dreamed of spaceships and far-off worlds.

Over time being an astronaut seemed like a less practical pursuit, and I found other pursuits and other role models.  Still, when Columbia went down, I remember hearing Sally Ride’s testimony and being glad she was still around, still inspiring people, still patiently showing them sense, and still pushing out the boundaries of human knowledge.

Today she’s no longer around.

Sic itur ad astra.

May we carry forward your work, Sally Ride.

Both the quest for human equality and the quest to more fully understand and explore the cosmos.

Per ardua ad astra.

(I’m amused to discover, along with the rest of the world, that Sally Ride’s partner of twenty-seven years is a woman.  My four-year-old self chose better than he knew.  Sally Ride: still my hero.)

Further coverage:

Holy crap…

I got in to Viable Paradise, a SFF writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard in October, which is run and taught by people I respect a great deal and who I have always wanted to learn from.

I’m still not quite over the shock, so I have nothing particularly useful to say other than that I’m honored and humbled and really looking forward to meeting everyone in October!

(The right mental image is really that animated gif of Kermit the Frog, dancing around, arms flailing wildly, that various people have as a userpic on LJ.  Just picture that here.  ~flails!~)