Sunday, July 31, 2005

Up, Up & Away

Luke Skywalker's lightsaber from Star Wars sold for $170,000 at auction. Sigh. I wish I had cash.

Looks like Discovery may need 'unprecedented' repairs after all. It's sad to realize, for a kid who stayed home mornings from school sometimes to watch it lift off, that in the end, it is a flawed machine. It's overbuilt, depends too much on chance, and aside from the many spectacular things it has accomplished (the ISS, Hubble, etc.), it has led NASA nowhere in terms of understanding space vehicle technology in the 25 years it's been in use.

I finished the first draft on the new short story tonight. I'm happy with it, and I feel like I'm getting better with each short story I write. I hope so, anyways. It ended up 30 pages, like I thought. Even though the upper limit of the short-story is considered 50 pages, I'm reluctant to let them go longer than 7,500 words, because I don't have the publishing credits to justify it yet, and the word limits for a lot of lit zines are restrictive. Not that long short stories interest me; the longer they are, the more you think, this could be a novel.

It's August now, and many lit zines are opening up, so once I hear back from a few places, I may have as many as five new stories to send out.

Research dump: Why aren't there green stars?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Exhibit B

It's Saturday night, so if it pleases the court, exhibit B:

And Then There Were Ten

Astronomers have been speculating on this for a while now, but they've finally gotten to the point where they can say there is in fact a tenth planet. The proposed name is under wraps (imagine being the one to name a fucking planet!) but I think I told Sugu once I thought it should be Cerebus, since he was the gatekeeper. Way out there on his lonesome, that's essentially what this planet is. Sorta.

Right now the astronauts are performing their space walk. I wanna be an astronaut so bad. Even if the damn thing is falling apart.

Ben is back, and he's got pages.

So do I. I wrote eight pages in the new short story, bringing it close to the end, but not quite (though I did write the last sentence.) Millie's got a secret.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Upside Down

My uncle John has Stage IV renal sarcomatoid carcinoma, which is very serious. He will start chemotherapy in a few weeks, and hopefully that with the surgery they did last week will be enough. I hope and pray.

A view of the space shuttle's underside from the ISS:



I wrote five pages in the new short story last night, not as good as the other night, but that's okay. I always have these nights where you're searching, trying out different things to see if they work or not. It's up to sixteen pages right now; I think it will be a thirty pager, or 7,500 words.

There's an interesting discussion over in the phorum at Caitlin's blog about her consideration of a pseudonym as she embarks on a YA novel, and also some stuff about just how long (or short) novels should be. She's working on her new novel, and expected it to go 200,000 words (EPIC TRILOGY ALERT - the second book of my trilogy, at 740 pages, was 185,000 words) but they capped her at 150,000 words. The reality is (if I ever get it published) the first book in the trilogy will have to do gangbusters to justify a sequel of that length.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Simply Strange

Discovery looks good to come home. It docked at the ISS today after performing an unprecedented backflip to allow the astronauts on the station to photograph the shuttle's underside. This is great news.

A great article on Small Bear Press, founded by Kelly Link, one of my absolute favorite writers, and her husband, Gavin Grant. I especially liked this nugget that seems, finally, to identify for me in some way what I'm doing with my stories:

"This genre is not 'category' SF; it is not even 'genre' SF," wrote [Bruce] Sterling. "Instead, it is a contemporary kind of writing which has set its face against consensus reality. It is fantastic, surreal sometimes, speculative on occasion, but not rigorously so. It does not aim to provoke a 'sense of wonder' or to systematically extrapolate in the manner of classic science fiction. Instead, this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange, the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility."

And here's a great review of Kelly's new book, Magic For Beginners, which I'm reading next. It's from The Simon, which is suddenly my new favorite place on the web.

Paramount ran Star Trek into the ground, and Levar Burton is pissed!

I Like Big Books & I Cannot Lie

There's a nice interview with Elizabeth Kostova over at Powell's (along with many other great author interviews, check 'em out), in which she talks about her first novel, The Historian, and like some other writers lately, feels the need to clarify for everyone that yes, she is literary. She shouldn't have to, but then a $2 million dollar advance seems to raise the same eyebrows that the nouveau riche did. Go figure. Anyways, what was really interesting to me was her talk about Dickens, the great, fat, archetectonic novel, and if it can be 'exciting':

For one thing, I wanted to see if it would be possible to blend suspense with that sense of We have all the time in the world for story.

My last book (EPIC TRILOGY ALERT) is such an experiment. It's got a lot of story between its pages, but hopefully it's as dramatic and inducive to page-turning as any good book. Oh, and it's literary, by the way. Although the writing of the third book is a ways off, I did go out and buy a foresty green binder and some paper today, as the notes will pick up more now, and I like to have a binder for every book I write. Doesn't always work out that way (I have as many ATM slips with notes on them as pieces of loose leaf) but we'll give it a go.

I wrote five fast pages on the new short story tonight, after going back and revising what I'd written the other day to reflect a third-person subjective POV. My hero John Gardner may have had it in for this particular style, but I think it lends itself well, in its limits, to Millie's situation. Ah, Millie. She's quickly becoming one of my favorite characters.

Somebody didn't like that Harry and Ginny got it on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Shuttle Grounded

Even with the Discovery in orbit, NASA has just grounded the fleet indefinitely, until they can 'solve' the foam problem.

Earlier today I was chatting with a friend and wondering if something had happened to Discovery and they had to send up Atlantis after them, what guarantee did NASA have that Atlantis wouldn't be struck by a piece of foam debris? Zero. And what then? Would the Russians have to send something up - could they? They don't have anything to bring fourteen people back at once.

For all intents and purposes, this is the end of the shuttle program. I hope and pray Discovery did not sustain any damage, and that the crew gets home safely. I hope we can go forward, smartly, wisely, and start over again.

The Half Blood Review

That sounds like a good name for a lit zine actually. Anyways, I've finished Book Six, or Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince, and here are my thoughts:

SPOILERS

This is the best book in the series since Prisoner of Azkaban, no contest. It's much more tighter, much more focused and determined than the last book, Order of the Phoenix, but still lightly edited in places. It finally has the sense of something happening, Snape finally gets the DA job, Harry finally notices Ginny, and we finally learn enough about Voldemort to make him more than the obligatory boogey man. But in the end, you're left wondering if anything did happen; the ending is very emotional, the most dramatic thus far, but one gets the sense that all is not what it seems, and that there may be a way out for Dumbledore, and for his murderer, Snape.

Underneath all the mythic stuff there are the trappings of romance novels (does Ron love Hermonie? Does Harry like Ginny, or Luna?) that reinforce the notion that this is a serial, a soap, and in the end, it betrays the limits of the books. This may be unavoidable. Anyone writing in this mode of storytelling sooner or later has to face the realty that structure is the key; the series gets progressively darker, but like with Revenge of the Sith, as dark as it gets, the structure simply can't support the dramatic grandeur we seek in great mythography. As much as I was rooting for Harry and Ginny (no shame!) you kind of want them to burst out of the rigorous form Rowling has imposed on the books (nasty Durselys, reprieve at Weasleys, buy books, attend class, new DA teacher, spooky new plot device, tidbit about past, attend class, Hogsmeade, holidays, attend class, DA teacher is a snake) and do something, anything, else.

And that's what Rowling apparently intends to do in the seventh and last book. It's clear what the structure will be (an adventure outside Hogwarts), so maybe for the finale, she'll shake things up a bit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Discovery Away



The Discovery lifted off flawlessly this morning. No problems and it was a picture perfect day for the return to flight. NASA has some mind blowing video of the launch up, the highlight of which is from a camera attached the external fuel tank - the video follows the entire launch, UP INTO SPACE.

It's amazing what you find in a simple Google search of Audrey Hepburn.

The Last DVD I'll Ever Buy At Midnight

Revenge of the Sith hits DVD on November 1st:



I started a new short story tonight, another in my series of weird things in Iowa type stories. I'm starting to think I might have enough of these at some point for a collection. My friend Ilona told me way back in Ireland that I should write about Iowa, I hadn't yet then, and right away I knew that's what I wanted to do some day, a collection of Iowa stories. But that's getting ahead of myself. I've just started this one, six pages tonight, and I never like my stories at the beginning, but I like the character, Millie; she's such an out of place kind of gal.

I'm still waiting to hear back on my moon rocks story; it's been almost two months and I'm getting anxious. Probably for nothing.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Live Strong, Baby



Lance wins for the seventh and final time. He's one of my heroes. I figure if a guy can come back from near terminal cancer and win seven Tours in a row, there's nothing I can't do. I wore my braclet proudly today. I bought a new one last week after my one from last year wore out finally and snapped. Although it's a little blaise now, since it spawned a whole trend of braclets and themes, it's still neat to see a little yellow on everybody's wrists.

After two shuttle disasters and fourteen deaths, results largely of a culture of "We're lucky so far" at NASA, they're going to launch tomorrow problem or not. They've learned nothing, maybe never will, and if anything happens to Discovery during this mission, they will have buried the space program for good.

I challenge you to a writing duel!

I've talked some about my love (weakness) for red heads lately, and it occurs to me many of the women in my fiction have red hair. I never really gave much thought as to why this is, but Marion Roach braved the rapids to delve into the The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair.

Imitation of Life

I didn't want to bury this in the last post, but another thing I've been confronting in my writing the last year or so is the age old battle "Show, Don't Tell" - specifically the war between interior character investigation and revealing character and emotion through action. I prefer, instinctively, the latter; Joyce is a big influence here, as is my love of film. Great cinema never tells, it only shows. In fiction, you can hang yourself doing this.

Maud talks about her own struggles with this on this page (read ALL of these posts, they're worth it) and links to Anne Reid, who writes a great essay on the front line of this battle - the workshop. Where Ben is right now, lucky bastard. I can't wait to hear his war stories.

Maud talks a lot about David Lodge and his book Consciousness and the Novel, which I'm going to buy right now, because of things like this:

'The emphasis on dialogue and external appearances in [Waugh, Isherwood and Hemingway], leaving thought and feeling to be implied, was not the only effect of the cinema on the novel. It also brought story back into literary fiction. The novel of consciousness tended to neglect story, or diminish its importance, for obvious reasons. The deeper you go, as a writer, into the minds of your characters -- the more details and refined our registration of their thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, scruples -- the slower the narrative tempo becomes, and the less action there is. '

And you know what I think about the war against story.

God: A Frustrated Novelist

The past couple Sundays I've been watching Joel Osteen. I find myself drawn to his sermons, which are always positive, insightful, never judgemental or partisan; and they always seem to connect with the issues I'm dealing with in my life right now, so much so it's bizarre. So I watch and this week he said something I really liked:

"I'd rather believe in something better and get half of it, than believe in nothing, and get all of it."

He wasn't talking about God or Heaven or Jesus - he was talking about a person's own faith in themselves, in their own possibility. And I found myself thinking a lot lately about God, about why things are the way they are, and I've come to see God as a writer. Our life here must be very much like a story forming in a writer's head to God; he knows how it starts, has a fair idea of how it ends, but has no clue how to get there. The characters don't always do what he tells them to, sometimes even lead him down roads he didn't know were there, but they always lead somewhere. This (life as we know it) may not be the first draft, but it's an early one.

I've been carefully revising The Angel Book lately, but I've come to realize there are holes in it I just can't patch with the resources I've got. I need to do some heavy duty research into everyday life in 14th century Ireland, and no books I've read seem to help. I'm thinking of applying for a research grant to let me go over to Ireland for a spell to do the work I need, and to finish this book.

I have a couple seperate ideas for new short stories, one taking place in the little universe of the (EPIC TRILOGY ALERT) big sci-fi thing I'm doing. It's still kind of gelling right now, but I know it involves zepplins. Because at some point, there must be zepplins.

Sugu asked me to dream up a cover to the second book of the trilogy (finished back in May) and that was fun; I hadn't given it much thought, actually. I thought a while on what one image could evoke a book 740 pages long, and I think maybe I did.

I've been thinking some on the last book in this trilogy, and endings; James Wood talks thoughtfully on endings in novels, how really they don't want to end. I certainly feel that. The novel is the restricted serial, almost inherently flawed in its ambition to both contain story and the simulacrum of life.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ginny, Ginny, Who Can I Turn To?

Here's a rather dramatic essay speculating on the purpose of Ginny Weasley's character in the Harry Potter books. Written before Book Six was published, it's pretty astute. I like the essay because it does a good bit of dissecting Rowling's methods in the books; I've come to think of the series as more like a really good soap opera than anything else, combing the best elements of epic fantasy, comic book serial style plotting (rolling revelations), and the enchantment of 19th century children's fiction. It's immaculately constructed, but maybe not always edited that way.

There are some that think my rooting for Harry and Ginny is kind of odd (I'm not a shipper, though I did root for Spike and Buffy, too) but I've always had a thing for girls with red hair. It's a natural weakness, so I identify with ol' Harry.

Another essay (ok, more a rant) from Debra Doyle on the state of YA SF - that's young adult sci-fi - or the lack of it. There's a gaping hole in this market compared to the YA fantasy market, and I've always felt my sci-fi book walked this line; people often tell me publishers are scooping up books like mine by the truck load, but so far, I haven't been able to interest anyone.

UPDATE: I've added some more links over on the side of the page, and as you might have noticed, I changed the masthead to my radically exciting name. I think I'll change the url eventually, too, but for now it's okay.

Proof God Exists, Exhibit A

I figured rather than not post, or post and harp on terrorists or Rove or all the crap in the world, I'd do something else, and offer, once a week let's say, evidence suggesting the existence of God. Ben offered up Monica Belluici some time ago, and I wholeheartedly support him (This started over at JD by the way) but we can't stop there.

Exhibit A:



The lovely, the always captivating, Jennifer Beals. In case this somehow does not persuade non-believers, come back next week for Exhibit B.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Long Time No Update

So, it's been a while. Right now I'm waiting to hear about the test results from my uncle John's biopsy. The tumor was siginifcant, to say the least, but the doctors seem to think they got it all, whatever it was; I'm hoping and praying. It's been a lot of waiting, and between that, carrying old german shepards that can't walk through down pours in the middle of the night after all the lights on the block went out. Oh, and I've been writing, too.

I'm reading the new Harry Potter, one of those ten million people that are, and so far it's fantastic. There's still some parts where the editors went soft on her, but this penultimate book has the same feeling of a giant snow ball rolling down hill that Revenge of the Sith did. Which Sugu HATED by the way. I'm itching to chat with him to see just why, although he explains some on his site. And in Book Six, Harry finally notices Ginny. I knew it all along. His mom had red hair, you know.

And goodbye to Scotty. James Doohan, world class guy, dead at 85. He was the heart and soul really of 'Star Trek', wasn't he?

Ben mentions some of the links here on his blog today. You should check his out, too. I want to add a lot more literary links, there's so many out there, and I plan to do that soon, at the same time I give the site a little overhaul. Ben is going down to Iowa City to take part in the Summer Workshops and I so wish I was going with him. Man.

And London was bombed again today. There aren't words anymore to express a person's outrage, and I think that's the collateral damage of terrorism: it thieves your outrage. It becomes routine, expected, inevitable. And so it becomes pointless, because it's like the weather. There's weather everyday. So go right ahead, Osama. You'll eventually lose the ability to frighten us, and some day, sooner or later, you will be found, and you will be killed.

Oh, and I found out Karl Rove's wife's name is Darby. Ugh.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London

Thinking about everyone in London, all my friends and family around and around as we start to batten down the hatches here.

Turns out Ben is my cousin, which was a nice surprise this week after learning an uncle of mine has cancer. My brother got his funding for his art gallery, and begins immediately to get her going downtown, so congrats there, bro. And I am sick (again, naturally, etc.) which means I've neglected the blog a little and forgot we bullseyed a comet at 23,000 miles an hour. I figure if we can do that, then we can put Osama in a fucking freezer, can't we?