Archive for November, 2002

Jemima Doggy-Dog

Tuesday, November 19th, 2002

Lori and Seema led me to some cool links. Check out i used to believe - it has a lovely clean site design, on top of the inspired theme. I added my own weird childhood belief to the language - speaking section: until a few years ago, I believed this was a doggy dog world, rather than a dog-eat-dog world.

Seema found the cool Advertising Slogan Generator; here are some results for various words:

  • We Do Jemima Right.
  • Because Jemima Can’t Drive.
  • Wouldn’t You Rather Be Jemima?
  • Say It With Jemima.
  • Just Like Jemima Used To Make.
  • Mama Mia, That’sa One Spicy Jemima!
  • Watch Out, There’s a Jemima About.
  • Don’t You Just Love Being In Fanfic?
  • Reach for the Fanfic.
  • Good To The Last Fanfic.
  • We’re Serious About Fanfic.
  • You Deserve A Fanfic Today.
  • We Do Fanfic Right.
  • Nothing Sucks Like A Fanfic.
  • Pure Muse.
  • Come Fly The Friendly Muse.
  • Muse - The Freshmaker!
  • A Muse Works Wonders.
  • If You Want To Get Ahead, Get A Muse.
  • It’s That Muse Feeling.
  • This Is Not Your Father’s Muse.
  • Ding-Dong! Muse Calling!

Must. Stop. Now.


Monday, November 18th, 2002

Word count: 27,000

I was going to go watch the Leonids then write some more, but it turns out that the Boston Leonid chart recommends 5 a.m. over 11:30 p.m. I don’t trust myself to get up that early, no matter how impressive they’re supposed to be. And what’s more important - catching up 3,000 words or watching space dust?

Writing sf gives me all sorts of science guilt, but the worst by far is comet and meteor guilt. I had a bad comet experience in my youth where an astronomical event advertised as once-in-a-lifetime was a total let-down. I just can’t get excited about the sky falling anymore. Besides, the city lights here are a killer.

Just one peek, then back to the novel…

Half Full or Half Empty?

Sunday, November 17th, 2002

Word count: 25,012 (halfway!)

I’m halfway done, but I’m still behind. I’ve decided to resurrect one of my characters because I’ll need him later to blow something up, so I have to go back and rewrite his death scene, substituting a new corpse. I also redesigned the starship, but most of the rewriting for that change is already done.

I’m beginning to contemplate the ending. Blowing things up is always a good bet, and there’s always the cheap flash-forward-forty-years ending. I don’t have a concrete idea yet; there’s still no outline and my novel is beginning to dissociate. I hope I’ll have it all reined in by the two-thirds mark on Wednesday.

Back to catching up…

The Sixth Sense, Distress

Saturday, November 16th, 2002

Word count: 22,912

Sometimes, everything comes together at the end in a way you never saw coming, even though you saw the hints and you knew that they were hints. I just saw “The Sixth Sense” tonight, and I was blown away. I’m sure everyone else on the planet has seen it already; besides, I don’t know what to say about books or movies that are good.

The Greeks thought that the highest art was the drama, acted live on a stage. In principle I believe that, especially when I see M. Night Shyamalan movies. In practice, however, the novel is still my favorite art form. I go through periods when I think I’ve read all the good writers and there’s nothing left out there. Some books cannot be topped - no one is ever going to beat The Lord of the Rings at its own game. Tolkien was the sort of mad medieval throwback Oxford don genius who should have died in the Great War with the rest of his generation, but didn’t. Whether or not you like JRR, you have to admit that no one is going to create another Middle Earth with six or seven original languages and write poetry in them. Tolkien was a human vacuum fluctuation out of which an entire universe was born.

Last time I read Greg Egan, I enjoyed him despite the science and math overdose. This time I was blown away - there are still good writers out there, waiting to be read. Distress is about tabloids, politics, anarchists, intimacy, gender, isolationism, solipsism, autism, disease, bioengineering, physics, metaphysics, ethics, the eye of the observer, and the Australian psyche. The topics glide in and out of one another in the eyes of a jaded Aussie journalist whose videocamera is in his navel.

Like The Sixth Sense, Distress fooled me for most of the book into thinking it was just your average sci-fi adventure. There were themes, and I saw them and knew that they were themes. I was even sorry that one of them wasn’t more central, and then I reached the end and found out that it was more central than I could ever have imagined.

I admire Ayn Rand for writing novels in which she brought her philosophy to life, and Distress is a book that gives scientific materialism a name and a habitation. I’m surprised that it wasn’t even nominated for a Hugo or Nebula (as far as I can tell). The theme of materialism (that is, that there is nothing but matter in man and in the universe - no gods, no souls, no external meaning) is such a common one in science fiction that you would think that a novel which did for materialism what Rand did for objectivism would become the cult classic that Atlas Shrugged is.

Instead, it seems to have turned some people off, including the person who made this list of math-fiction. I guess materialism is all well and good until someone illustrates it a little too vividly.

Chimera Minus 0.1

Thursday, November 14th, 2002

Word count: 22,439

I was going to answer the religion Friday Five, but Chimera 0.6 crashed again in the middle of my MT entry. So I’m back to Chimera 0.5, which, although lacking 0.1, is much more stable. I could check the bug tracking over at to see whether the issue has been fixed in the code, then build from source myself, but I get enough gcc at work, thanks. I bought a mac so I could have a low-maintenance computer at home to offset all those high-maintenance Windows and Solaris boxes at work. My job has changed since I got my Powerbook G3 way back when, but the high-maintenance Windows and Solaris boxes remain the same. Honestly, how many times can one Sun Fire need to be fscked? Next thing you know, I’ll be buying it jewelry.

I don’t think I’m going to make my NaNoWriMo goal tonight because I have an article due tomorrow. I haven’t started that either, though I do know what I’m going to say. I’ll have to NaNo more over the weekend to compensate. No rest for the bloggy, I tell you.

Fanfic Genres

Thursday, November 14th, 2002

Word count: 21,024

I have a thousand words to go before I sleep, but for my thousand-word break, I thought I’d reflect a bit on Seema’s lovely interview with Kelly Chambliss. The title says it all: Hurting the Ones We Love. Kelly is highly qualified in two genres I don’t care for at all: smut and angst. That’s not to say I haven’t read her fic and appreciated it, but when I like angst I like it despite its being angst, and not because of it.

When, on the other hand, I read science fiction, I like it because it’s science fiction, and not despite the technobabble. It’s an issue of genre. In the interview, Kelly talks quite a bit about the genre of smut. Smut is queen in fanfiction largely because, as Kelly mentions, there isn’t much smut outside of fanfic. It’s popular as an up and coming new genre. Fanfic makes smut easy with its short-story format - you can’t, in general, base an entire commercial novel on sex acts - and pre-fab characters. The same goes for slash.

None of the above is meant as a critique of smut or slash - I don’t have time for that because it’s getting late. I’m only concerned with them as genres, and why different people like different genres. It’s a simpler mystery than why different people like different books within the same genre - that is, it’s easier to understand someone disliking all fantasy novels than someone not caring for The Lord of the Rings.

Sometimes it comes down to personality - science fiction is the province of the geeky type (or N’s, for the Myers-Briggs fans). Fantasy is related, but doesn’t quite cover the same fanbase, as it were. Angst, on the other hand, is never fantastic. Angst is only angst if it’s on the human level of flaws. Tragic flaws are a bit too much for angst; they end too splendidly. Romance is the opposite; romance must be about the virtue of the beloved and can, if not weighed down with too much smut, be fairly idealistic.

Smut, like angst, has to be at the nitty-gritty human level. There is nothing fantastic to part A and slot B; it is realism, impure and simple. Realism never interests me as such, though I can admire the plotting skill or the lovely language. Other people feel the same way about idealism. It’s nothing personal; it’s just genre.


Wednesday, November 13th, 2002

Word count: 19,006

You are a muse.
What legend are you? Take the Legendary Being Quiz by Paradox

Chimera 0.6

Tuesday, November 12th, 2002

No new words yet - I just got home from a Buffy marathon. All I can say is Depresso-ep! And that line should have been 33.33% of the Legion of Doom were flayed alive the last time they were in Sunnydale. Maybe that was an intentional mistake.

So, the geeking - there’s a new release of Chimera, the Cocoa Mozilla browser for MacOs X. I downloaded it this weekend, and it’s been crashing up a storm. I’m hoping it’s broken itself in now. The last version rarely crashed for me, so if this one keeps it up I’m going to have to downgrade.

For NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided on a new daily word count of 2,000 to counterbalance the upcoming holiday and my bad habit of getting behind. I may slack off tonight and just round myself up to 20,000.

Put one word after another

Monday, November 11th, 2002

Word count: 18451

I’m taking a break at this word count because it means I’ve finally caught up. It’s not midnight on the West Coast yet by any means, but at the moment only 5% of NaNoWriters are officially caught up. I owe it all to the muse. When deprived of Internet access for an hour or two, she can really crank out the words. She’s written about 3,000 today, to make up for her inexcusable laziness and surfing yesterday. Actually, now that I count them, I think she wrote almost 3,000 words yesteday, too. Why did I feel so much more productive about it today?

Maybe I’ve stopped fighting and learned to love the technobabble. The title of this entry, Put one word after another, is one of the two pieces of advice from mystery author Julie Smith that came in my NaNo email today. The other one was, DON’T GET IT RIGHT, GET IT WRITTEN! Translated, they mean the only way to write is to write, and the only way to finish is to stop obsessing about quality—very NaNo advice. Yes, it’s the brute force approach to writing, and it’s working well for me despite my pro-muse prejudices. (I’ve been watching too much of The Forsyte Saga - pro-muse makes me think pro-Boer.) While doing some novel research earlier this weekend I stumbled across a quote about the muse; this is what got me muse-musing again:

But it is a fact that, in addition to memories from a long-distant conscious past, completely new thoughts and creative ideas can also present themselves from the unconscious–thoughts and ideas that have never been conscious before. They grow up from the dark depths of the mind like a lotus and form a most important part of the subliminal psyche.
We find this in everyday life, where dilemmas are sometimes solved by the most surprising new propositions; many artists, philosophers, and even scientists owe some of their best ideas to inspirations that appear suddenly from the unconscious. The ability to reach a rich vein of such material and to translate it effectively into philosophy , literature, music, or scientific discovery is one of the hallmarks of what is commonly called genius.
[…] The British author Robert Louis Stevenson had spent years looking for a story that would fit his “storong sense of man’s double being,” when the plot of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was suddenly revealed to him in a dream. –Carl G. Jung, Man and His Symbols

Note that Jung said that, not me. I’m not claiming to be a genius - it’s all too likely my muse has hit on a vein of fool’s gold. I’m just trying to make a meaningful distinction between which of today’s 3,000 words the muse wrote (the inspiration) and which ones I wrote (the perspiration). One thing that makes it hard to diffentiate is the out-of-nowhere quality of all creative thought. Even if you’re piecing together your latest romance novel out of selections from the Cliche Thesaurus, the arrangement is probably still original. So perhaps the question is how original?

I’ll take an example from yesterday rather than today, because it illustrates my point. I was writing a nondescript party scene, in which my main character was chatting with a minor character who just popped out of nowhere the last time I wrote a nondescript social scene. Both characters are refugees from somewhere else, and they were catching up with one another when suddenly, Minor Character pulled something out of his ear! I had no idea he was going to do that. Main Character was extremely interested in the technology behind the little microphone from Minor Character’s ear because he used to make similar devices Back Home. (I blew up Home in the first scene. That was fun.) It turned out that the Ear Device was created by an entirely new female character. And look, there she was on the other side of the room, ready to provide a needed love interest for Main Character. I had no clue, until the ear incident, how I was ever going to get Main Character involved in this new society.

So of the approximately 800 words in the party scene, I would say most were written by me, but at the point where Minor Character pulls Ear Device out of his ear and brings together even more threads of my plot than mentioned above, that part was the muse. I went on to finish the scene with a nondescript introduction of Main Character to Female Character.

To put it too briefly, the muse has been responsible for the plot of my novel, because she’s good at pulling threads together. I didn’t outline beforehand; in fact, I didn’t even come up with the subject of the novel until the week before. Up until then I had been considering several other ideas from my sci-fi universe’s timeline (two of them children’s stories), and even a disaster novel I’ve wanted to write for a long time. This was the only idea that came together, and it came together from several directions, including, oddly enough, a conversation with a coworker about an old mainstream novel she’d read.

I don’t mean to imply that the muse can’t write prose - she can. She’s written some lovely sentences in her day. Muse-prose is the sort of stuff that echoes the themes of the novel, and at only 18,000 words there isn’t much to echo yet.

Some NaNites have claimed that they’ve spent the first 20,000 words on character development and still don’t have a plot. I’m afraid I may also have this problem. I have mostly dialogue and flashbacks so far, and the character development is almost done. I think of it as my main plot all being there, but it’s more of a thematic direction than a logical sequence - there’s definitely not enough action. Aside from Ear Device, which just appeared yesterday, I have no subplots. I need to get at least one subplot in before I reach the end of the main plot, because subplots have to tie in to the main plot at the end.

I know what Julie Smith would say - stop thinking and get back to writing.

Hear Me Roar

Monday, November 11th, 2002

Word count: 16700 (one-third done!)