Dancing to Dirges

Depressing and happy things Tim says, sometimes while drunk

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Write better than that.

There's a book I'm reading right now by a prominent writer. I'm not going to be more specific than that, because he's (clue!) a good guy. I wanted to like this book. Now I just hope I have the fortitude to finish it, and the patience, and the hope that it gets better at some point.

It's a beautiful book. The worldbuilding is priceless. The plotting is horrible. And I say this mainly because I see a lot of my own mistakes in it, things that I've learned over a number of years and hard fought revisions to overcome and improve in my own work. We are clear? There is no plot. There are events, and set-pieces, and a protagonist who is moved through these events and set-pieces by forces beyond his control. At the half-way point of the book the main character has been kidnapped *three* times because otherwise he has no way of advancing in a plotward direction. And the protagonist? Does he do anything? No. Does he have a plan? A skillset that recommends him to the task? Uh...anything? Bueller?

So I'm frustrated, because it could have been a great book. You can have a beautiful setting, artistic text *and* a plot. It's not going to kill anyone.

It's time we expect more of our authors. It's time we expect more of our books, and ourselves.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Something I'll probably never write

What a waste of a day. I wish I could write at work, but it never seems to work out. Naturally.

When George Mann of Solaris asked me to write a story for the Solaris Book of New SF 3, I kind of panicked. Everything I'd been doing for the last two years was fantasy of one sort or another. At least, by my definitions. So I started into something different. I ended up scrapping the project and going back to Veridon, because I had a lovely bit of text I wanted to air out, and it fit nicely with our conversations. But let me tell you about the thing I was going to write. I think it's worth seeing, at least.

The idea started with a clocktower. Not a regular old clocktower. You know, a tower with a clock. Boring. No, I wanted a tower that *was* a clock. This gets a little odd to explain, but I imagined a world of smart material, where the earth and the sky were just lines of code that hadn't been written yet. It fits nicely with my limited sci-fi history, including several stories I've started and never finished. Probably where this one will end up. But the clocktower was the center of this world. Kind of the ethernet hub. The top and bottom of the tower were like giant (wait for it) gears that meshed with the smart material of the earth and sky, and sent little programs spinning out according to some internal escapement that no one understood. And once every thousand years it released a particularly unusual program. I never really decided what that was going to be, but the story was told by a party of coders and religious figures in a time when the clocktower was just a myth, but they're determined to find it before its millenial tock.

Anyway. I was reading an interview with Neal Stephenson last night, and came to this. Speaking on his new book, Anathem:

"In my little back-of-the-napkin sketch, I drew a picture showing a clock with concentric walls around it," he says over lunch in downtown Seattle the day after the book club meeting. "I proposed that you could have a system of gates where it was open for a while at a certain time of year, or decade, or whatever, when you could go in and out freely. But if you were inside it when the gate closed, you'd be making a commitment to stay in until it opened again. And I talked about clock monks who would tend the clock."

Clock monks. Brilliant. I look forward to reading his book. And it reminded me of my own story. At first I despaired because, at a very basic level, they're similar stories. A building that is a clock. Doors and rooms that open only on certain days, in certain years. But the more I reviewed my notes and the original text, the more I remembered how different the things are. So I may end up writing that thing someday. When time becomes available. Like maybe at work? Because that always goes so well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm remiss for not mentioning this earlier, but time off and chaotic work conditions have made me a bad internet warrior. Bad.

Interzone, under the wise hand of Peter Bullock, has started doing podcasts. This has been in the works for a while, and I'm excited that it's finally live. My story The Algorithm is among the first barrage of 'casts. The reader is brilliant. Go ye, and enjoy.

Transmissions From Beyond

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Denver is Brown

Chicago is Green. That's just a starting point.

Back from Worldcon. Had a lot of fun, met my editors. Did the whole party thing. Didn't sleep enough, except for Saturday. I was supposed to go out with the team, wander the halls. Etc. Ended up falling asleep at around 9, watching the Olympics. So no Saturday parties. I blame my wife's aura of snuggle. Her fault.

I probably have clearer thoughts about the weekend, but they're not surfacing right now. I had a meeting with Solaris about the novel. I have some thoughts about the long term goals of the book, but I don't want to rock that right now. It's all good.

Talk to you folks later. For the next day or so, I'm into naps and wine. Wine. Naps. Mix and repeat.