[writing] Rio Hondo, day one
I’m at Rio Hondo, the writing workshop/retreat in Taos Ski Valley, NM. Critiquing etc starts today, but I suppose yesterday was day one. That involved a lot of travel, a quick visit in Santa Fe with Lisa Costello, who just happened to be there, and a yummy dinner here at the retreat. This morning I woke up to snow.
Altitude isn’t treating me badly, but I do have a mild headache. And my classic high altitude sleeping problems are making themselves known. Basically, while I don’t have any problem staying oxygenated while conscious, asleep my breathing is reduced and I wake up every hour or so feeling very short of breath. I have to consciously take very deep breaths to restore myself. That process makes it hard to go back to sleep…
My METAtropolis: Green Space novella will be critiqued Thursday, and I believe I am making momos for Wednesday dinner. I’ve already taken a number of photos, but bandwidth here is quite constrained, so the uploading process is wonky at best. Still, I will leave you with this morning’s view:
Photo © 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Posted: 6:52 am Mon May 20 2013 | Comments(12) |
[writing|travel] Off to the Nebs, then Rio Hondo
Yesterday Lisa Costello departed for New Mexico, where she is attending a conference in Santa Fe. This morning, Jersey Girl in Portland and I skedaddle to San Jose for SFWA’s Nebula Awards Weekend. My Dad and (step)Mom will be there tomorrow, as will my Aunt B— and Uncle L— from Texas. the_child also flies down to San Jose tomorrow to attend the Nebula Awards banquet and ceremony with the able assistance of Crystal Black.
I’ll do some socializing and maybe some business whilst in San Jose, then I’ll have the fun of watching myself lose the Nebula. Let’s put it this way: I don’t even have an acceptance speech prepared. In the extremely unlikely event that I win, I’ll wing it. Luckily for both me and my potential audience, I am ferociously good at winging it.
Crack of Sunday, I light out for New Mexico my own self. This trip is completely unrelated to Lisa’s, as I am heading for Rio Hondo, but our automobile will pause whilst passing through Santa Fe on the way from Albuquerque to Taos for us to have a snack and visit with Lisa, who by amusing coincidence will still be there. After that, I’m for a week at Rio Hondo. (I’m not sure about the connectivity at Rio Hondo, so blogging may be erratic next week.)
All in all, a very good ten days or so coming up.
Posted: 4:50 am Fri May 17 2013 | Comments(19) |
[writing|science] Geeking out over asteroid strikes
One of the things I love about writing is research. One of the things I love about research is interviewing experts. An acquaintance (and fan) is an asteroid geologist and runs a meteorite laboratory. I asked her about the kinetic strike on Seattle that occurs in my METAtropolis: Green Space novella, “Rock of Ages”. Here is part of what she sent me, redacted somewhat for clarity and confidentiality:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: 5:24 am Thu May 16 2013 | Comments(9) |
[writing|cancer] We can write the gospels so they’ll still talk about us when we’ve died
Some years ago, I was in a discussion with the mighty, mighty Tim Pratt about why we write. At this point, I cannot recall if it was private conversation, email, a Con panel, bar chatter, a joint interview or what. What I do recall quite strongly was me making some fairly high flying statement about literary ambition and being read even after my time as a writer had passed. Tim claimed that he wrote to pay the rent.
To this day, I’m not certain how serious he was. I absolutely deserved to have my leg pulled at that point. I’m pretty sure I was overfilled with my own sense of self-importance in the moment. Pegs needed to be taken down, and whatnot. But even so, there’s a valid discussion here.
For one, I don’t write to pay the rent. I have a Day Jobbe for that. It pays reasonably well, is moderately entertaining, minimally stressful, and I like what I do while working with good people and for a good employer. Chances are pretty strong that if we ever talked about it, I’d bore you to tears, but I like my work. That’s what counts.
But the writing? I write because I want to write. I write because I’m in love with the language. I write because the buzz I get from doing a really nifty thing on the page is tangible. I write because I like to be read. I write because I like having readers. And, yes, in I write for posterity. (Which statement could be argued to mean that I write to make an ass of myself, but that’s the English language for you: riddled with half-baked puns and deceptive etymologies.) Money is mostly a way of keeping score, and far from the only method of doing so.
Literary posterity is a funny thing. The author of The Epic of Gilgamesh is anonymous. Most people with much of an education can name Homer as the poet who wrote the Odyssey. Some people know about the Illiad, or that he was supposedly blind. I don’t think anybody but Classicists knows much else about him, even in terms of what tradition says. By the time you get to Sophocles and his lot, there’s at least a little biography attached to the texts. William Shakespeare has entire fields of study around him, complete with academic controversy, revisionism and all the other fun of postmodernist thought.
Who writing today will be subject to that kind of literary posterity? Not me, certainly. But it’s hard to tell. Edward Bulwer-Lytton was the great hope of nineteenth century English letters. Today, his work is literally a joke. His contemporary Charles Dickens was widely reviled by the academic and critical establishment of the day as a hack. Who is the more widely read now?
My guess is of twentieth century authors in popular American letters, we’re most likely to see Stephen King and Nora Roberts on college reading lists a century from now. Not the only ones, of course, but I cannot pretend to know which critical darlings and academically significant authors will also be read.
What I can and do know is that I will not be among them.
I’m okay with that. My vanity is a little disappointed, of course, but my common sense knows better.
What I do hope for is to stay on the shelf a while after I pass. It comforts me that some people love Mainspring or Green or some of my short fiction. It please me that I’m in translation across at least a dozen languages. It pleases me that my work will always be at least footnoted in the history of various awards. It pleases me that people have read me, and for a while at least, will continue to read me.
In a way, that’s always been why I write. To raise my voice a little higher, and have it heard a little longer. The end is coming, and I won’t write all that much more in my life, but I’m happy with what I’ve been able to do. I only wish I could have done more.
Posted: 5:24 am Tue May 14 2013 | Comments(17) |
[writing] Editing METAtropolis: Green Space
kenscholes and I are a good way through the primary editorial process for METAtropolis: Green Space, the third volume is the highly successful original audiobook series from Audible.com. We have all the stories in hand, and have gone through them all for revision notes. Some are back to the authors, some need a little finalization from either me or Ken, depending on which of us did the primary editing pass.
I’m waiting on my change notes back from Ken, which will also incorporate feedback from series editor Steve Feldberg. And we’re on track for project deadlines, which is a good thing.
While I genuinely enjoy editing open call anthologies, there’s also a specific pleasure to working with a select group of authors whose work you admire, and can trust. The editorial eye still comes into play, but it’s working at a different level. And the fiddly bits to map series continuity across the stories can be fun and challenging as well. We aren’t writing tight shared world work like Heroes in Hell or Thieves’ World, but the stories still have to hang together and feel of a piece.
In the end, we’re dealing with seven voices telling different parts of one much larger metastory which even across all three volumes the reader barely glimpses. It’s an interesting approach and fun format, and I feel privileged to have been involved in all three volumes to date. Maybe someday there will be a fourth, that’s a wonderful thing for me to imagine.
Posted: 8:18 am Sun May 12 2013 | Comments(9) |
[cancer] Field notes from Cancerland, weekend addendum
Forward Planning Redux
The crew for this morning’s disability planning meeting has grown. Six of us are meeting for breakfast to go over a number of financial and care issues. I’m not pulling the trigger right now, but I am trying to get all my ducks in a row so that when the time comes, we just push a few buttons (so to speak) and launch the process. The crew is Lisa Costello (my primary caregiver) my dad (who as a retired senior Federal official has been handling a lot of my paperwork for a while), lillypond (a/k/a my sister, who is also my executor), and Team E— (both of whom have extensive experience in social services, disability issues and end-of-life care). I am very lucky to have these people around me.
The somewhat postponed cancerversary party for family and close friends is tonight. It has acquired a deeply ironic spin, given that when I scheduled it we knew nothing of the new diagnosis. Still, we will be celebrating five years of survival. Regardless of what comes next, what we’ve already accomplished is amazing.
Back on the Horse
As of yesterday, I’d bounced back far enough from my ‘splat’ to both do some writing (well, editing, but that counts) and clear some more of the backlog of ongoing paperwork in the house. So that’s good, yes?
Seeing the Doctor (again)
Yesterday morning, Lisa Costello, Dad and I met with my primary care physician. We reviewed the likely course of liver failure, discussed late life and end-of-life treatment options and care decisions, and they referred me to a palliative care specialist for further preparatory discussions. We didn’t really learn anything major and new, but we confirmed much of what we’d thought and put a better framework on it.
Seeing the Oncology Nutritionist
We also met with the oncology nutritionist to discuss how best to eat during liver failure. Much of it is common sense, though the two elements that were new to me were a strong recommendation to multiple small meals, which I have certainly heard in other contexts; and a recommendation to rebalance to less protein and more carbohydrates. They also recommended cheese. Mmm, cheese.
My Mental and Emotional State
I continue to process all this in dribs and drabs. I don’t suppose I’ll ever finish that effort, I’ll just die somewhere along the way. As I’ve said before, no matter how much you expect something like this, it is still a shock when it comes. And there is so much to do. All that “to do” is good for me, it gives me a focus and some purpose. But I can’t help seeing that not only is there no light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel simply ends not too far ahead of me.
Posted: 5:34 am Sat May 11 2013 | Comments(8) |
[awards] Sturgeon Award nomination, also, “When shall we three meet again?”
I am quite pleased to note that my Sunspin novella, The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future“, originally published at Subterranean Online, is a finalist for the 2013 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.
I am quite amused to note that of the four major awards I have been nominated for this year, all in the novella category, I share the nomination in all four cases with Aliette de Bodard and Nancy Kress. Clearly we three shall need to meet at dawn upon a field of honor. Perhaps fountain pen nibs at ten paces. Nancy and I have been teasing one another about it since the Hugo nominations came out.
Aliette, we’re coming for you.
The lists, which make for interesting consideration:
Nebula Award finalists, Best Novella [ source ]
- On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
- After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
- “The Stars Do Not Lie,” Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
- “All the Flavors,” Ken Liu (GigaNotoSaurus 2/1/12)
- “Katabasis,” Robert Reed (F&SF 11-12/12)
- “Barry’s Tale,” Lawrence M. Schoen (Buffalito Buffet)
Hugo Award finalists, Best Novella [ source ]
- After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
- The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
- On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
- San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats, Mira Grant (Orbit)
- “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
Locus Award finalists, Best Novella [ source ]
- “In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns”, Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s 1/12)
- On a Red Station, Drifting, Aliette de Bodard (Immersion)
- After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
- “The Stars Do Not Lie”, Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
- The Boolean Gate, Walter Jon Williams (Subterranean)
Sturgeon Award finalists[ source ]
- “Things Greater Than Love”, Kate Bachus (Strange Horizons 3/19/12)
- “Immersion”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
- “Scattered Along the River of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 1/12)
- “The Grinnell Method”, Molly Gloss (Strange Horizons 9/3/12 & 9/10/12)
- After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, Nancy Kress (Taychon)
- “The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future”, Jay Lake (Subterranean Spring 2012)
- “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”, Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/12)
- “Mono No Aware”, Ken Liu (The Future Is Japanese)
- “Nahiiku West”, Linda Nagata (Analog 10/12)
- Eater of Bone, Robert Reed (PS Publishing)
- “The Peak of Eternal Light”, Bruce Sterling (Edge of Infinity)
- “(To See the Other) Whole Against the Sky”, E. Catherine Tobler (Clarkesworld 11/12)
You can read my two nominated novellas online:
“The Stars Do Not Lie”
“The Weight of History, the Lightness of the Future“
Posted: 5:23 am Sat May 11 2013 | Comments(39) |
[conventions] Why steampunk cons can be confusing for genre authors
I had an excellent time at Gaslight Gathering this past weekend. This is the fourth different steampunk con I’ve attended (speaking off the top of my head), the others being GEAR Con in Portland, Steamcon in Seattle, and the now-defunct World Steam Expo in Dearborn, MI. I’ve noticed some things about steampunk cons that make them rather different from print-oriented fantasy and science fiction conventions, and in many ways more similar to anime and comic conventions. These differences can confuse authors.
Fundamentally, so far my experience of steampunk conventions is that they are not book-oriented at all. For example, at World Steam Expo, Gail Carriger and I were the only two out of town pro author guests in attendance, with something over 2,000 fan there. Here at Gaslight Gathering, I believe I was the only out of town pro author guest. (In point of fact, I was Guest of Honor.) People are here for a wide variety of experiences. Print publishing is basically a grace note for the steampunk fandom I’ve encountered. As Kevin Hull said in a discussion here at Gaslight Gathering, “Steampunk conventions are costume-driven.” Costumes, yes, and I’ll add art, maker culture, re-enactments, and music to that list.
But steampunk cons are very much about story, about narrative. 80-90% of the people you see are in costume. The tradition of hall costumes at SF and fantasy cons is relatively minor these days, but they are nearly de rigueur in the world of steampunk. And unlike the prevalence of cosplay and tribute costumes in the SF, fantasy, anime and comic worlds, steampunk costumes are mostly original work. Almost very one of those people in costume has a story and and character to go along with their creations. Most of them will be happy to explain in great detail, in character, what they are wearing, how it works, and why.
Like I said, very much about story, about narrative. Just not story and narrative the way a book dinosaur like me thinks of it as being packaged and delivered. In effect, the flow of primary creative endeavor is reversed, the fans becoming the creators. This significantly displaces the role of the author.
Hence the confusion. Because superficially, steampunk cons resemble SF and fantasy cons. They are run by many of the same people. They have the infrastructure of programming, the dealer room, registration, con ops, and so forth. Everyone’s wandering around wearing badges, most of them with ribbons. It all looks very familiar.
And it’s all very different.
The other observation I’ll make is that steampunk cons, along with comic cons and anime cons, is where most of young fandom has gone. Hanging around any of these conventions, I see the average age of the attendees is easily two decades younger than the average age at Worldcon, World Fantasy or most other SF and fantasy cons. The kids and young adults are getting their creative buzz on in different way than they were several decades ago.
What does this all mean? Heck if I know. I think it does bode well for the future of steampunk as a cultural element. And these conventions are a lot of fun. But what’s going on under the hood is different in some fascinating ways that I believe SF and fantasy authors need to take careful note of and spend time thinking about.
What do you think? Have you experienced the wild, whacky world of steampunk differently? Am I misunderstanding the source and direction of primary creativity in these contexts?
Posted: 8:21 am Mon May 06 2013 | Comments(44) |
[writing] What I have been doing just lately
Continuing to work as I can. Currently dividing my time between two projects. One is editing duties for METAtropolis: Green Space, which I am interchanging with the mighty kenscholes. That is fun and interesting, as editing almost always is. Because METAtropolis is a shared world, there are continuity issues to be dealt with. Because it is a loosely shared world (the only stories with tight overlap are mine and Ken’s), those continuity issues are subtle and fine-grained. It’s a joy to work with that writing crew.
I am also doing some audio annotation for the Audible.com edition of Trial of Flowers. My egregiously idiosyncratic vocabulary is jumping out and biting me in the butt on this one. In effect, I’m about halfway to a Lexicon Flora, should anyone ever feel the need for such. I am also filled with admiration for the poor narrator who has to take this ornate little beast on. Revisiting this work from some years ago has been fascinating in its own right. Perhaps its an exercise we authors should engage in more often.
Posted: 5:50 am Sat May 04 2013 | Comments(6) |
[links] Link salad parties with the steampunks
If I traveled back in time, would I get ancient diseases? — Straight Dope on a topic of interest to authors of time travel fiction.
Stride Rite’s New Star Wars Shoes — Because reasons, damn it. :: shakes cane ::
Google Glass Will Soon Also Let iPhone Users Access Navigation And Text Messages — I would not have expected this from the maker of Android, especially given their fractious relationship with Apple these past few years.
Your Smartphone Just Diagnosed You with Postpartum Depression — Using Twitter as a public health tool. (Via David Goldman.)
Robotic insect: World’s smallest flying robot takes off
NASA Rover Prototype Set to Explore Greenland Ice Sheet — Careful, there might be some of those liberal “facts” and “data” to be found.
10 Weapons You Won’t Believe Are Legal — A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. (Snurched from Steve Buchheit.)
Arizona Law Puts Kibosh On Gun Buybacks In Phoenix — More of that measured rationality and public spirit from conservatives and the gun culture. (Translation: These people are fucking nuts.)
Say Hello to the Liberator, Supposedly the Word’s First Entirely 3D-Printed Gun — Just like religion doesn’t have to make you stupid, gun enthusiasm doesn’t have to turn you sociopathic, but in both cases each does so an alarming amount of the time. MIT Tech review with more.
Sarah Palin gets standing O from NRA crowd — Speaking of gun-oriented sociopathy, the poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect in politics talks to her natural audience.
QotD?: Will I see you at Gaslight Gathering today?
Writing time yesterday: 1.0 hours (WRPA on audiobook prep)
Hours slept: 6.25 hours (fitful)
Body movement: 0.0 hours (foot hurts)
Weight: n/a (away from home)
Number of FEMA troops on my block digging for fossils in the yards of God-fearing Republicans: 0
Currently reading: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
Posted: 5:32 am Sat May 04 2013 | Comments(4) |
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