This morning, one of our Cecil Street colleagues who’s attending Worldcon in Australia let us know that Peter Watts has won this year’s Hugo Award for best novelette!
Congratulations, Peter, on this well-deserved honour. And it’s wonderful to see that the second half of your year is such a huge improvement over the first half!
So, what do you think? Is it better to follow every single advance in technology, thereby potentially sacrificing privacy, identity, and right? Or is it best to be a kind of luddite, or neo-luddite, suspiciously avoiding much of the technological advance, especially as it applies to social and networking media, and thereby miss out on whatever advancements such developments confer upon humankind?
Or is there really the need to make the choice?
…just busy and, in my case at least, inarticulate. Sometimes the necessity of running errands and performing work-related tasks makes it difficult to think of what to blog about. But I promise we’ll get back to it shortly.
I suppose it’s relevant to the blog if I mention that I got hold of my neighbourhood’s last available copy of “Throne of Blood” today. At a discount, even. And on the front of the DVD case is a screen-shot of Toshiro Mifune, looking terrified out of his mind as he realizes that the arrows being shot at him during his prolonged death-scene aren’t props, but actual arrows with actual sharp metal tips that could actually kill him dead. Kurosawa decided to do that so Mifune would appear genuinely afraid. Apparently it worked.
See you soon!
We just got word that Peter Watts will not have to go to prison. Cause for celebration, indeed!
Tomorrow, Monday 26 April, our friend and workshop-mate Peter Watts heads to Port Huron for sentencing. As you may know, he was lately found guilty of the crime of asking a US border guard a question. Dave Nickle, our likewise friend and Cecil Street colleague, has the details here.
Peter will either be back tomorrow night, or in jail for four to six months. We are hoping against hope for the former. Please send the judge, and the whole Michigan judicial system, all the reasonable, constructive, rational vibes you can. Peter just does not deserve to go to jail for this. Nobody does.
Group chants are welcome.
It’s been a crowded few days — as you may have noticed by our lack of posts — but I did want to take a moment or two, just now, to announce that my oft-revised, several-times-reworked, frequently-cut-up-and-restitched-together-from-spare-parts novel, the Frankenbook, is finally finished.
Not sure I can call it a first draft, though it’s certainly a first draft of the book in its present form. And I really don’t want to change that basic form, since I think it’s finally a respectable monster — I mean, novel. In a little while I’ll submit it to the Cecil Street group, so they can help me see where it might need to have some scar tissue excised, or maybe a third ear removed. And then we’ll see.
I need a title, mind you. It’s had so many titles that I can hardly remember them all, and none of them have been much good. At the moment its title is “Needs New Title”. Maybe I’ll just leave it at that… <deranged giggle>
Meanwhile, the sequel is already 15,000 words long. Son of Frankenbook…
What would you call a fantasy or science fiction cookbook? You must understand that I am not in a particularly sane or sensible mood just now, so if you’re interested in a serious post, this blog is not your best choice today. However, if you’re feeling less-than-profound, as I am today… what would you entitle a cookbook filled with recipes based on your favourite SF or fantasy stories?
I mean, for a cookbook based on the hard-boiled detective novels of John D. MacDonald, there is no possible title but The Dreadful Lemon Pie. For a Regency romance-themed cookbook, you want April Ladyfingers. For recipes based on cosy British mysteries, there’s Five Red Pickled Herrings, maybe, or Passage to Frankfurters. So what about science fiction? What about fantasy?
Surely you have better ideas than I do. Must we be content with Lord of the Rings of Calamari, or Time Enough for Lunch? No, I say, You can do better, even in a silly mood. Go ahead. Make my soup — I mean, my day.
Twice a year, the Cecil Street Writers’ Group organizes a writing retreat. We take off on Friday morning for a cottage-camp on a lake in the Kawarthas, and we stay until Sunday afternoon. This past weekend was one such retreat, and it’s spurred me on to recommend this kind of thing to anyone who writes.
Let me describe what we do; maybe it can work for you and your fellow writers as well.
We rent a cottage, or cottages, for the weekend, depending on how many of us are going up. This April there were only four of us, but I’ve been on retreat with as many as eight writers together. Splitting the cost makes it affordable for everyone. Michael loves to cook (and do we ever love to eat his food!), so he does most of the cooking and provisioning for meals and we all chip in accordingly with the cost. Helen always makes the excellent Saturday breakfast crepes, we take turns doing dishes, and drinks and snacks are brought up individually and shared collectively.
We wake up between 7 and 7:30 a.m. on average, eat breakfast together in the same cabin, and then go back to whichever cabins we’ve slept in to write. Some people like to repair to their rooms and write alone. Others gather in the living-room area of their cabin and write together. I am one of those latter, because I find it easier to concentrate on writing fiction in a room where other people are doing the same thing. The enthusiasm, or you might say the energy, in a room full of writers writing is a powerful force. I find it impossible not to be carried along by it, and contribute my own energy to the stream.
We don’t talk much; we’re there to write. Now and then one of us might get up and walk down to the lake, to stretch our legs, or to brood (Dave is a great brooder-by-the-lake on these weekends, and he says it helps him a lot). Sara and Helen have a traditional walk they do, to the weir and back, to watch the rushing water and have it clear their minds. But mostly, we write.
A full writing day up there is eight to ten hours long. After the workday is over we have dinner together, and spend the evening talking, drinking wine, and relaxing until we’re ready for bed. Then we do all it again.
When you go on retreat, your household stays behind. There are no pending chores to distract you, no family needs to attend to, and unless you turn your mobile phone on, no phone calls. You’re in a room full of writers who have the same goals as you do, and the only distraction, the lake, requires that you get up and go outside and walk to it. You can’t help but accomplish a lot, under those circumstances.
This weekend I wrote 8000 words, and rearranged and edited a great deal more in addition. I’ve revised two shorts stories, which are now almost ready to submit (pending one more glance-over by a helpful critique friend), and reached the point of being 85% finished my novel — I mean, the Frankenbook. The rest of us all had similar successes.
I don’t think any of us have gone on a single retreat and come away thinking, “This was a waste of time”. If you write, I recommend you try retreating. You won’t regret it either.
It’s been a tricky week all ’round; but there’ll be a new post sometime on Monday. Thanks for visiting us; and thanks for your patience. Happy Saturday!
I’m working on a story for an anthology right now (in addition to the Frankenbook, Son of Frankenbook, and of course, Demon Gate). I got the story completed, after long and arduous effort… and disliked it. My excellent critiquing tribe, the Cecil Street writers’ group, read it, and of course helped me to see a lot of what was wrong with it. Usually this experience galvanizes me into a fresh approach to a story, leading to a piece of work that I like much better than before.
This time I just wanted to chuck the entire story. And after a certain amount of cogitation, I figured out why.
I’d started out wanting to write a Japanese ghost story — I had ideas for it, it would be much different from the last one, but still, Japanese. I decided not to, because the last two pieces I’d had published took place in Japan, and I thought it would be a bad idea to be known as the person whose writing always has Japanese themes… like someone with only one string to her bow. So I decided to write something else instead.
Now, I don’t know if this applies to any of the rest of you who write, but for me, it was a mistake. I’ve learned that I have to be pleased with what I’m writing for it to turn out even halfway-decently. The Something Else Instead just wasn’t what I wanted to do, and my subconscious knew it, even though my conscious was trying not to think about it.
Obviously there are restrictions on what we write about in fiction, including things like the market we’re after, the demands of the editors, the guidelines for submission, and so on. But within those restrictions, I’d advise you to write what you know you want to write, rather than what you feel you ought to. It will make for a much better story.
I’m revising the original piece I wrote, but I’m also working now on the one I wanted to write. It’s coming along much better, and taking hardly any time at all. And I know that even after the helpful flensing it’ll get from the Cecil Street gang, I won’t want to toss it in the trash. The brain is an interesting thing; it’s amazing what it can do when you jolly it along a little.