Precision Takes Time

Some brief thoughts after finishing the first draft of ‘Victoria Crater.’ It took me MUCH longer than I expected to write this short story. I took breaks to re-focus my brain on telling the right story and use the right style. It’s harder than it looks. I asked myself over and over again, am I losing my mojo? Am I losing steam on writing? I think the answer is no, and here’s why.

I’m not sure if it’s a personal thing or not, but the words aren’t flowing like they used to. That might not be a bad thing. In the past words when flowed out like water from a broken faucet, I didn’t like what they said. I took Bruce Lee’s mantra about ‘being like water,’ to heart but I wasn’t cutting stone so much as I was making a mess on the kitchen floor.

Starting over again has renewed my appreciation for doing things the right way. So I’m focusing on the fundamentals. There’s no point in writing a hundred-thousand words no one will read. Writing Tweets helps me remember that much can be conveyed in a small space. Now I’m trying that discipline on the page.

Weight lifters have to focus on getting their form correct before adding weight. Writers do, too. There’s a certain level of precision involved, and it takes time and effort to master. I’d love to say that all of this comes as naturally as golf does to Tiger Woods, but the fact is that this is actual work. Calories are burned. So while I don’t want to be that guy who hangs out at Starbucks with his Mac Air in a turtleneck and calls himself a ‘writer,’ I want the work that I do to mean something.

So to sum up, this is a process. I’m not there yet, but I’m learning to love the ride.

 

DONE – The Battle of Victoria Crater Out for Comments

DONE.

DONE, DONE AND DONE.

It’s taken four months of grinding, but I’m happy to say that the first draft of ‘Victoria Crater’ is complete. Under normal circumstances, it shouldn’t take four months to write thirteen-thousand words, but VC was an experiment for me. I had to develop a whole new writing style to bring together new elements of storytelling. The process is kind of like reverse-engineering a Jackson Pollack to understand how you should mix paint.

For my part, I’m happy but exhausted – this was a lot more work than I thought it’d be! The fact is, I’m glad I did it. It was hard, it was a challenge, and I did it. Being able to say that makes me feel good.

Would you like to test-drive Victoria Crater? Go visit the thread on Reddit to learn how you can get a beta copy.

 

Okay, You Can Stop Writing Dystopian SciFi Now

I’ve been a fan of Edward R. Murrow, ever since I saw ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ twelve years ago. Amazing movie, great cast, gripping tension. What’s always made it stand out as a historical drama is the fact that its director (George Clooney) more or less told the story as it actually happened.

I mention this, because Murrow is famous for saying “television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live … surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally.”

Murrow was more right than he ever knew. The world of 2017 is beginning to wake up to the reality he warned against. Humanity’s decadence, escapism and insulation from reality are starting to result in very real consequences we cannot escape. I just finished watching ‘White Helmets’ on Netflix yesterday. If you haven’t watched it yet, go watch it. Then you’ll understand why I say that the Western world has no business writing dystopian or post-apocalyptic science fiction anymore.

You might wonder why a guy with a diagnosed anxiety disorder chooses to watch such things but it’s really quite simple. The answer comes in yet-another Murrow quote: ‘in learning how others have faced their problems — this has given me fresh ideas about how to tackle mine.’ I learn something from every documentary I watch and yesterday, I learned something else.

Here’s the deal: we don’t have the market cornered on what the end of the world looks like anymore. Maybe we never did. The fact is, there are people who are living that nightmare every single day and none of them are as photogenic as Jennifer Lawrence. What a sick joke it must be for them to realize that we spend time watching actors pretending to survive while they struggle to survive every hour of every day.

Where dystopian stories fail is quite simple. They put protagonists in the center of the horror of their human society that all change rests upon. Plucky hero overcomes all odds to change the system. Maybe she even meets a cute boy or two! The stories have become stale cliches; Twitter lampoons them mercilessly and they deserve it.

Meanwhile, kids in Aleppo know better. The horror of human society that is visited upon them has nothing to do with them. They’re just the unlucky souls that bear the burden of being caught in the crossfire. The battle is being fought hundreds of miles away, by other men in other countries. The bombs that kill them come from men they will never see. They have no power to escape, or change the system. They can’t defeat the bombs with a compound bow. Those kids are made to suffer, and they do.

Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t think I have a right to ignore that. I don’t think it’s appropriate to write post-apocalyptic stories when other people are living it. Where dystopian fiction originally warned people of what could happen if certain authoritarian measures grew out of control, now it distracts us from the apocalyptic scenes happening all around the world.

It would be a disservice to those people, those suffers, if we continue to ignore them. It would also be a disservice to the the better men we descend from, and to ourselves not to recognize who we are, what we are and what we can be. Just as Robert Zemeckis was self-aware enough to realize that nobody wanted to see Forrest Gump 2 after 9/11, we ought to be introspective enough to realize that dystopian sci-fi ‘just isn’t relevant anymore … the world has changed.’

I’m not advocating that we stop writing stories. In fact, we should write more stories and we should write them for those people. If anyone deserves a story that can be escaped into, it’s them. We can be the persons who make those worlds they can escape into. We can make worlds that welcome them. We can make worlds that let them know that someone from the other side of the void hears them, knows them and cares about them.

I can’t solve the problem, but I can imagine a day when it’s behind us. Hopefully I can help you imagine it, too.

We Will Sell No Whine Before It Is Time

I’ve been remiss in posting here because I like to wait for the right spark to strike before I start slamming away at the keys. In general, I like to have something to say before I blog, and current events have trumped overall sci-fi discussions. I’m keeping busy; still tinkering away at the Battle of Victoria Crater, turning a stale story concept into something fresh for myself and for you, the reader.

Other than what I read in the papers, I paid no attention to the Oscars. La La Land won Best Picture, right? Yes it did … for one brief moment. Then life went on and the Oscars was exposed for being yet another institution full of imperfect humans and all the frailty that this implies. If something like this ever happens to me, I hope I can be as classy as Ryan Gosling:

Gosling’s reaction got me to thinking. Not about movies, but about the journey each creator or creative person faces. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we recognize that we’re all innovators and entrepreneurs in our own right. Ignoring the people who innovate by declaration (‘I posted an article about Richard Branson on Linkedin, I’m an entrepreneur!’), we know the nuts and bolts of really going out there and doing it. It’s not fun, it’s not comfortable; true innovation means facing risk and defeat on a daily basis.

It’s important to say this, not just for myself but for anyone else considering the journey. Everyone is going to have their Gosling moment. Everyone is going to reach that mountain top only to find out that the victory wasn’t theirs to have. Who are we going to be when that happens? Are we going to accept our fortunes with quiet dignity or are we going to melt down, scream and demand to see the manager? No one really knows the answer until they’re at that moment.

Ryan Gosling got it right. May we be as tough, classy and professional to do the same when it’s our turn.

Torture You Can Live With

Two rejection notices for short stories. Submitting them elsewhere and refusing to give up!

Short Stories Roadmap is Updated

Rejection never feels good, but if you’re a creative person, you have to learn to live with it. I remember an interview with Jerry Seinfeld in which he described the process of writing comedy every day. Someone asked if it was easy for him and he said, no … sometimes it was torture. But, Seinfeld continues, in life you have to find the torture you can live with.

That’s where I am. It’s torture, but I can live with it.

State of the Art – 2/20/2017

Late winter in Eugene is always a tough time of year. Introverts love it, though. As dark, wet and cold as it is out there, I have a perfect reason to stay inside. On with life stuff and writing. I’m getting good feedback about ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater,’ and I’m hoping to submit it shortly. I also started sending query letters out to book agents for ‘Mesh’ and I’ll keep you posted on how that is going. Meanwhile …

 

Oregon Chicken Soup

Oregon Chicken SoupI was talking to a sick friend about chicken soup and his comment was:

‘East Coast chicken soup > West Coast chicken soup.’

I couldn’t let that slide, and inquired politely how many squirrels and raccoons he used in his Southern Chicken Soup. Before we devolved into the Nerd Blue Collar Comedy Tour, I offered him my Oregon Chicken Soup recipe. He loved it, and I’m passing it along for anyone else who wants to cook like a real Oregonian:

Oregon Chicken Soup

  • Bake chicken in pans at 350 degrees F for 20 min or until cooked
  • Attend yoga class; achieve downward dog position while growing man bun Continue reading

Fox Will Not Reboot Firefly. Here’s Why:

Fox Will Not Reboot Firefly. Here's Why:

Stop toying with us, Fox.

Along with everyone else, I read the Facebook clickbait (I know, shame on me) about Fox being willing to ‘reboot Firefly.’ As the article indicates, Fox would consider rebooting Firefly “if Joss Whedon himself wanted to revisit it.” Then they admit that they are in fact yanking our chain by saying: “Madden suspects Whedon is now too busy with movies, and he would not consider doing Firefly without Whedon.”

So there you have it. This is the sci-fi equivalent of Lucy going “come and kick the ball, Charlie Brown.” For all kinds of personal and professional reasons, I feel comfortable in saying that a reboot of Firefly will not happen. Not that I should have to revisit this same territory. God knows, we’ve raked over this endlessly since the show ended fourteen years ago. But let’s go over it again. Hey, it’s Friday. Continue reading

Painting

As you can see, I updated the header for Inkican.com – I’m experimenting with some visuals to help feed my writing. From time to time, I’ll show you what I’m up to. For right now, please enjoy this free wallpaper.