Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"Worlds" Apart

It's brewing up something wicked out there right now. Yikes.

I saw "War of the Worlds" this afternoon. What is it with Steven Speilberg that he has to tie a little bow on the ends of his movies? Why does everything have to end happily, or be explained? "Saving Private Ryan" and "A.I." are two great American movies undone (to one degree or another) by their endings, and "War of the Worlds", unfortunately, is the same deal. A truly powerful, gripping film for its first hour, and even good through some wobbly bits in the middle, it folds its hand at the end. Speilberg flirts with making it a big summer box office FU to the current state of affairs in the world, and maybe the idea of a human insurgency - and human suicide bombers - was too bold, but then why even go there? Why drop bits about 'the terrorists' and 'occupations always fail' if you're weren't willing to follow through? As a fan of the book, the ending is fine; it was more fine a hundred years ago, I'm sure. Certain elements of it no longer make sense (I seriously doubt the aliens are that stupid) and it completely takes the air out of what had been to that point a great film.

I whole heartedly recommend seeing it, though. It has the best sound design of any film this year, Speilberg is great as always, the HOLY SHIT factor is high, and even Tom Cruise is tolerable in what's probably one of his better performances. On the bad side, WAY too little Miranda Otto ("It is a good look for you") and as hard as the film tries to be the anti-world disaster flick, I'm sick and tired of world events being presented through news broadcasts in a movie. It's called drama, people. So dramatize for crying out loud.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Shredding

I shaved my head today. Not to the skin, but as low as it could go. I'd been considering giving up on my thinning, balding joke of a head of hair for a while now, and my lovely Bosnian stylist Edina did the honors. I'm also on a new diet, for about a week now. This one's for all the chips. Poker chips, not potato - you get the idea. No more fucking around. My plan is to lose fifty pounds by Lisa's wedding in September. And then from there, the sky's the limit. That's the plan, anyways.

I've discovered a great new writer, Maureen McHugh who dabbles in my favorite kind of fiction, the kind where the fantastic intrudes on this supposedly sacrosanct area of literary fiction. Also, the host site, Ruminator does this great 'DVD commentary' type thing that Sugu and I actually talked about once, but not quite like this. Imagine if Shakespeare had done one of these.

And author Dennis Cooper has a lot of interesting things to say about the 'rules' of writing, but this caught my eye:

I saw a writer friend of mine this weekend. This writer teaches in a graduate fiction writing program. The writer told me that in this program, the students are given a set of basic rules for writing fiction that they're expected to follow. For example, one rule is that every story must contain a triangle (i.e., one character wants another character to love him or her, but that character loves a third character. Or, a detective wants to solve a crime but there's something in his past that makes his investigation go wrong.) Another rule is that dialogue can never be used to advance the narrative.

The hell? I've seen the good and bad of this in workshops, and he goes on to say a lot of interesting things on the subject, so check it out. Beware, though, some not work safe at all pics in some of the other posts. Yikes.

I've got another idea for a short story, one's making the rounds, and I've got a few in the chamber. I actually love the freedom from the pressure of SELL THE NOVEL that I've had for a month or so now, and the exhiliration of honing my craft. I've been reading so much short fiction lately, Charles Johnson, Joyce (always) Lorrie Moore, Dorothy Alison... enjoying every minute of it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rove Must Resign

This is absolutely unacceptable. You all know Karl Rove, Bush's brain? Here's what he had to say about liberals and 9/11:
"...liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

There is absolutely no proof of this whatsoever. None. It's fiction. For Rove to traffic in such dispicable lies is unAmerican. To defame one half of the entire country by accusing them of having sympathy for our enemies and contempt for our troops is trecherous. It's treason.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Bush 'Begins'

I saw 'Batman Begins' the other day, and it was excellent. It's bar none the best comic book film ever made, and for an hour or so, it was one of the best films I'd ever seen. I'd always liked Chirstopher Nolan a lot, 'Insomnia' especially, and I like him even more now. I was confused about the twist with the baddies, but Ben set me straight. And the surprise at the end had my co-pilot squealing.

I finished the first draft of the new short story today; I'm very happy with it (right now), I think I learned a lot writing it. It ended up 28 pages, or just under 7,500 words. In addition to the moon rocks one I'm submitting now, I have this and another I plan to send out over the summer.

Bush seems to be in it now. Just a few months ago there was this sea change when the elections in Iraq went off mostly well, when Lebanon booted Syria, and suddenly it looked as if the ends might justify the means. Except they never do, and now Republicans along with Democrats want out. They want his nose out of other's people business (no more gestapo Patriot Act shit), they want him to get straight about global warming, and some even want his head. You reap what you sow, and that's all there is to say.

And memo to politicians of all stripes: NO MORE NAZI B.S.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Getting Warmer

Scientists have discovered another new planet, this time a planet only twice as big and twice as hot as earth. The possibilities for planets seem to be endless. Finding an earth like world, one with oceans, can't be that far off.

Meanwhile, NASA is thinking maybe 2015 for a trip back to the moon. Whenever you feel like it, guys. No rush.

I'm having a hell of a time - again - with a new short story. I haven't found my sea legs yet with the short stuff, it seems (not that I have with novels). I think most of the problem lies with pace and economy, and also on this one I'm giving past tense a go, which I rarely do, because it for me it has the effect of dragging feet.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

With Slashing Attack!

Sugu went to the Japanese Toy Fair this past week:



But dude, you're supposed to stand inside it, like so:



Henceforth, I shall be known as Mint In Box, and Sugu as Loose But Complete.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Specimens

I recieved a rejection letter for my new short story tonight, and it was actually a nice letter explaining why they didn't like it. But there were a couple things that made me scratch my head. First, they described the story like this: "...humans trying (often in vain) to cope while the world is about to end." This isn't what happens! And then, this little nugget: "To get such a well-worn premise to work, the writing needs to be really brilliant, which yours--while being quite good--just wasn't." So not only did I not write the story they read, I didn't write very well. Ouch.

I rushed out and bought the new Michael Cunningham novel yesterday, Specimen Days. I've looked forward to this for quite a while. Polly has him as a teacher and when she told me a ways back that this would involve some sci-fi weirdness, I flipped. The Hours was a watershed book for me. I read it in two days in Dublin and it changed virtually everything I thought about what a poor boy from Iowa could write. I'll start reading it tonight.

I'm also reading the new biography of Patricia Highsmith, Beautiful Shadow, and I'm in love with it and her as much as Randa Jarrar is right now. I wish I had words as eloquent as hers to describe my summer fling with Highsmith.

I've been getting some revision work done on a novel and a short story the last few days while I just kind of chill out here in farmland (kind of hard to do considering the heat and humidity). The ducks seem to have taken over, along with mosquitoes that seem to get bigger every year. I start writing about 10 PM and then straight on through until I take a break at 2:30 AM to watch "What's My Line" on GSN Black & White Overnight, which aside from the panel's inability to not comment on someone's weight, is still the best thing on TV fifty years later. Then I go back to it until about four or five depending, whenever the sun spoils the mood.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Pop Quiz, Hotshot

Over in the UK a couple guys stole a copy of the forthcoming Harry Potter, and shots were fired. Sounds like a job for Thursday Next. If ever any of my books induces a gun battle, I will consider my life complete.

Cathy Wald has a neat quiz up over at Gallycat on the rejections all writers must endure. I think my rejections so far break down something like this:

1) It's too sci-fi to be literary.
2) It's too literary to be sci-fi.
3) Does it have to be about a teenage girl?
4) It's really original and I enjoyed the characters but it's not me.

Being a writer requires industrial patience. Especially if you're trying to get published. The last few months I've mellowed a little on I HAVE TO GET PUBLISHED FOR MY LIFE TO BE VALIDATED. Why? What will change? I'll still be broke. The people I try so hard to get the approval of still won't care. The only difference will be I won't have this pressure on me any longer, and it's just pressure I put on myself. And if I've learned anything in life, it's that the best things in life come to when you stop looking for them.

Anyways. I finished the dust-off of the old story last night. I'm having trouble with the title and of course I'm hung up with doubt about it, but I'm mostly satisfied with it. You read so much these days about people killing their familes, strangers, just walking in and out of the blue murdering everyone in sight. You wonder what on earth is going on in their heads, in this country where we have this so often, and this story is a meager attempt to understand it for myself.

I've sent out the first round of submissions for the story I finished last week.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Presenting Mr. & Mrs. Doherty

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Sad I couldn't be there. They look great and it sounds like it was a wonderful time. Congrats again and all the best.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Stories

Having finished the new short story, I sent it out to the first round of magazines yesterday. I don't think I have anymore confidence it will sell than I did before my first story sold, but I feel confident, and that's a huge difference. I went through The Pile - you know the reserve every writer has of ideas and lines and characters that just never fit anywhere for some reason - and found an old story, three years old maybe, that isn't as bad as I thought it was. I might try and dust it off and make it workable. I'm also looking into attending one of these week long workshops the UofI puts on every summer. I haven't been in a workshop in years and as I jones for grad school, I thought this might be a nice way to get back into the groove.

I also FINALLY got back to work on the screenplay Sugu and I have been writing (or not writing) for quite a while now. I wrote five pages of it tonight and will try to do five more before I send it back to him.