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Archive for the ‘Three Parts Dead’ Category

Beware the Pseudo-Articulate Man!

Updates first!  Another solid day’s work, despite the colder weather keeping me from walking.  Back in November I worried that I’d run out of story too early.  I made my usual mistake: forgetting that even though sometimes you work through an entire paragraph of synopsis in one sitting, other times one line presents such a complicated moment that characters will take a few thousand words to carry it through, and more space to realize the implications of what they’ve done.

I had a hilarious idea for a Christmas story on a walk today.  I hope I’ll have time to write it.  Also, after that Buddha – Fantasy book a few days ago, I’m reading one of Not-Bob Thurman’s collections of Tibetan Buddhist texts.  Fascinating, and a lot more mystical.  I’d forgotten about Tibetan Buddhism’s wonderful opinion on gods, about which more later.

Something else happened today, says the internet: JJ Abrams and company released a trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness!  Now, I’m a big Trekkie from way back.  ‘Darmok’ was the episode that convinced my parents to allow television into the house for occasions other than the Olympics.  I’ve seen giant chunks of every series up through Voyager, and all the movies—yes, all the movies.

I enjoyed the heck out of the Star Trek reboot!  I loved the actors they used to present the key characters, I liked the new vision of the Star Trek universe, I liked seeing a rougher, tumblier Starfleet than the very polished version the post-TNG series presented.  Harry S. Plinkett’s criticisms notwithstanding—and I think he is right that the Star Trek reboot movie was designed to be more accessible, flashy, and over-the-top than the television series—I saw the first Star Trek in cinemas three times (not all on my own dime, mind—there was / is a recession on).

And, also, I love me some Benedict Cumberbatch.  Sherlock, yes.  Also, if you have not seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy yet (with Gary Oldman as Smiley), my god, what are you waiting for?

So, in sum: excited for Star Trek Into Darkness (to be followed by Star Trek To The Future, Star Trek To Infinity And Beyond, Star Trek to the West, etc., no doubt), but watching the trailer, well…  Here, let me show you.

Compare this:

With this:

Notice anything?  The kinda articulate, vaguely threatening, bass-boosted intellectual serious actorvoice presenting a Threat to You Complacent Sheeple, maybe?  Remind you of anyone?

Not now, Bane!  I’m trying to make a point.

This is not me saying “zomg everyone point and laugh at Hollywood ripping Hollywood off.”  For one thing I never say zomg.  Okay, I rarely say zomg.  For another, I mean, these movies were all in production at the same time, so maybe that’s what happened, but I don’t care.  I’m much more interested in the fact that a bunch of different folks and their teams seem interested in correlating “people who critique a complacent society” with “people who blow your shit all to hell.”

Granted, the Batman trailers didn’t feature Bane talking much, but I think that was partly because they wanted to keep the voice special and a secret.  Selena Kyle, though, is happy to offer Bane’s critique for him:

And she even does it honestly, unlike the guy in the mask, who’s just running a super convoluted shell game with idealistic pretensions.  (Which guy in the mask, you ask?  That’s a good question, I reply.)  Anyway, it seems a little odd that this is our movie bad guy now.  Alyssa Rosenberg has cool thoughts on the subject.

Trying This Again

Today was a good day.  Writing went smoothly, and I actually remembered to alternate between working and taking long walks rather than banging my head against the brick wall expecting it to soften.  Crema in Harvard Square makes a delicious bright espresso, so light it almost tastes bubbly.  I’m working with a secondary character who’s a lot of fun; my main is a complicated and powerful woman, but limited by her social position and psychology, while this supporting character has different avenues available to her.  I can already tell she needs a bigger part in the story, and I’m looking forward to writing those scenes.

The Dharma / Fantasy book I linked yesterday has me trying to appreciate embodied time—its descriptions of Dogen’s concept of uji (being-time, which I don’t quite understand but is something like awareness of time as an element of beings and events rather than a container for them) remind me of good martial arts instruction, no big surprise there, and of Venkatesh Rao’s notions of tempo and narrative-driven decision making and agenda planning, which is a bit more of a shock.  (His book Tempo is an enlightening read, as is his blog Ribbonfarm.)   I’m trying to pay attention to writing as a process, a gerund—keystrokes and language and posture—which is wonderfully liberating, especially considering the unusual anxiety I’ve felt while working on this book.

A bit of explanation: I don’t usually feel worried as I write a book.  This is the, what, eighth-and-a-hafth book I’ve written (counting the one I’ve tabled until I’m finished with Current Project, which is marinating comfortably in the back of my mind at an act break around 70,000 words or so), so I have a sort of sense of the process now.  But, probably because I’ve spent so much of the last two months talking about writing and Why I Write Such Excellent Books and Why I Am So Clever (as Neitzsche would have it), I’m feeling self-conscious, like the caterpillar that kept tripping over his feet.  Have I done this before?  Is this impressive enough?  The more I can live in the time of writing words, the less that other stuff troubles me.  This is something like Keats’ Negative Capability, I guess, only approached from another cultural direction.  ([That property]… which Shakespeare possessed so immensely… the capacity for being in mysteries, & doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.)

Similarly, when I’m walking around, I’m trying to be aware of the walking-ness of the moment, rather than of other factors, like destination.  (Moving body as a process, not, or not just, a vehicle.)  I’ve been checking my smartphone less, and I’ve been absent from Twitter.  On the one hand, Twitter is an excellent platform, and contains fun people.  On the other hand, I don’t think I have quite the level of attainment required to participate cheerfully in the datastream, rather than viewing it as a distraction…

Wow, that ended up being a long read, and with no real point, other than: time is strange, and we always experience it stuck in bodies.  And I’ve been writing all day, and I’ll be writing most of tomorrow.  Good progress, good fun.  Hope you’re all well, and don’t mind a few rambly thoughts about metaphysics and simple Buddhism.  Ask a Max who spends most of his day wandering the city to keep you abreast of his thoughts, and you see what you get.  It’s all of our faults, really.

(On other notes, WordPress fullscreen + Chrome / Mac Presentation Mode produces one of the sleekest text editors I’ve ever had the fun to play with.  Fullscreen mode, where were you for me years ago!)

Not All Parties

A reader sent me an email yesterday saying (in the nicest possible way and with a ton of good humor) ‘all well and good for you to be partying and having a wonderful time traveling about the world, but when do we see more of the next book?’  Two Serpents Rise is due out in July or June, I forget which, and hopefully we’ll have some juicy excerpt-like information to share before long, so there’s that.

The letter did point out that I don’t generally write about writing here.  Part of that’s because, while writing is wonderful, it’s also not all that exciting in a day-to-day sort of way, and especially not exciting in the way that makes for good blog posting.  Some days my characters feel like they’ve found themselves and the scenes flow. Some days I find myself lost and in a wood, and I write anyway.  Fingers hitting keys: this is the internet, you all know what it looks like.  But maybe you won’t mind a few notes on the course of my day, posted here.

Monday’s unseasonably wonderful weather receded today, leaving a morning cold and rainy and perfect for squirreling myself away in a cafe with word processor and book.  I keep discovering new scenes and threads as I write this novel–elements that should have been there all along, so that I have this strange sense of writing the book front to back to front.  The early stages of this draft were more halting and controlled, but I think I’m getting used to the freedom of this working arrangement.  The story feels more balanced, and the process flows.  I’m still using the stopwatch, but I’m more likely to write two sessions at a stretch now before taking a break or a walk.  I deleted almost an entire day’s work on Friday, but I reworked all that over the weekend, and I think it’s better now.  Hooray for accidents.

I finished an excellent book today called The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, which is an exploration of Buddhist themes in modern fantasy.  Don’t go to this looking for an academic treatise—it’s more like an attempt to analyze fantasy classics through a modern Buddhist lens.  Chapter 2 is on Tolkein—yes, Tolkein!  Inspiring and fun criticism.  For me to say more would require many more paragraphs, so let’s just leave it at that.

Gods, Guest Posts, and Travel Recovery

I’ve made it back from the West Coast in one piece, and am now picking up the remnants of my life post-Tour.  I have a handful of major events left in the year, in addition to holidays, and I continue to build steam on the New Book.  No jet lag after our return from LA, at least none that I noticed; turns out that not getting any sleep the night before your flight really does help you get to sleep on the destination end.  I’m running out the door to Take Care of Business, but I wanted to let y’all know that I have a post live at the Fantasy Literature blog, on Gods in fantasy novels.  Here’s an excerpt:

Gods have a complicated relationship with storytelling. The first Western dramas emerged as a part of religious celebrations, and these plays tended to resolve with the emergence of a god to fix the human characters’ problems, or increase them unbearably. (Chick Tracts owe a lot to this old-school Greek dramatic structure, now that I think about it…) Deus ex machina is the name we’ve given to this sort of resolution, when a god of some sort steps in to end the story.

Storytelling, especially fantasy and science fiction storytelling, still uses gods and godlike beings aplenty, but writers and readers alike are wary of that deus ex machina ending, even as they thrill to the Force guiding Luke as he shoots proton torpedoes into the Death Star reactor shaft, or to Neo rising from the dead to defeat Agent Smith.

Drop on by Fantasy Literature to read the rest of the article and post your thoughts in the comments.

EDIT: Oh, and by the way – Aidan Moher at A Dribble of Ink posted an excellent overview of cool reviews of Three Parts Dead.  He’s much more on the ball than I’ve been about finding them; I definitely need to update my reviews page.

Mountain View

Writing from scenic Mountain View, where I’ve just had a wonderful, productive day despite dealing with a rare cold. It’s been years since I was last in the Bay Area and I’d forgotten how amazing the weather is out here. I spent the day wandering around in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, carrying my Neo from writing spot to writing spot. I think I’ve been doing this writer thing a little wrong by working from home so much, Dear Readers—maybe once I’m back in Somerville I’ll try to ramble more. Plenty of good coffee shops in the Greater B Metro Area, and a body could get a decent walk moving between them.

To sum up: sick, yes, but having a great time. Remind me to tell y’all about Time Travel Jazz someday.

Signings in CA, plus io9 Review!

Running out the door to make a flight, but, what’s that open on my computer? A half-finished blog post?

  • io9 posted an excellent review of Three Parts Dead. Check it out!
  • This weekend I have a Saturday signing in San Francisco, and a Sunday signing in LA. The Saturday signing is 3:00pm at Borderlands Books in SF, and the Sunday signing is 2:30 at Mysterious Galaxy

#Torchat Today!

Arrived in Tennessee yesterday afternoon; spent the rest of the day seeing family before I collapsed in bed around midnight, reading a comic book about Neitzsche and a book on creativity by Twyla Tharp.  Oh yeah I’m talkin’ about the road.  (“Why can’t I stay in one place / for more than two days?  WHY?  WHY?  WHY?!!!”)

I’m in a hurry, so, in short:

  • Any of you out there who use Twitter, I’ll be on #torchat this afternoon at 4pm Eastern (3 Central), answering questions from the moderator and from anyone who tunes in.  To drop by, log into Twitter somehow and run a search for #torchat; depending on your client you might need to keep updating the search.  Tweetdeck or similar programs should do this automatically.
  • I’m still October’s featured author at Drey’s Library, so I dropped by and wrote her a post about some of my favorite books.  Or favorite teeth.  You’ll see what I mean when you go over there and check it out for yourself.

Many more cool updates following.  For the moment, though, I need to get back to writing.  Be well.

Comic Con Aftermath!

Quick quick notes during travel:

  • Badass / Hardcore panel went very well.  I told the opening of the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, to illustrate the idea of a hero being removed from a context in which they’re well suited.  Then I continued with the rest of the panel.  First question from the audience: “Can you finish telling us the Green Knight story?”  Bless you, audience.  Never change.
  • We burned through all our copies of Three Parts Dead at the Tor booth signing in record time.  Thanks to all of you who stood in line!
  • Hocus Pocus panel: once I got over being wildly intimidated by the other panelists, I had a great time.  Packed, standing room only audience.  (My wife almost couldn’t get in!)  Great answers from the panelists.  Nobody tried to overwhelm anyone else, and we all approached the subject from very different angles, which made for a panel that felt more like a building conversation over time.
  • Another wild line after the Hocus Pocus panel, for signings.  There were some serious established authors on the panel, so anyone wanting a signed copy of Three Parts Dead had to wait through a long line to get to the front; thanks so much to those of you who did.  Above and beyond the call of duty, folks.  Thank you.
  • Wonderful conversations and hangouts with Alyssa Rosenberg, Diana Pho, Steve Sunu, and of course my awesome wife, who came down from Boston to see me.  I’m a lucky dude.
  • I am now the proud owner of a Fire Ferrets t-shirt.  And three Judge Dredd books.  And the Halo Jones collection.  (You’re welcome, 2000 AD booth.)  And a bunch of other books I can’t wait to start.  Basically, I’m done with ‘fun’ money for the rest of the month.
  • More great reviews for Three Parts Dead, from No More Grumpy Bookseller (“Three Parts Dead is intriguing and suspenseful. The plotting is smart and the pacing is spot on. What’s more, this is the kind of cross genre release that’ll appeal to lots of readers across the board.”) and by the Book Smugglers at Kirkus (“[The depiction of female characters in Three Parts Dead] is, seriously, a thing of beauty and for all that, Three Parts Dead is now a favourite read of 2012.” – One of my favorite lines in any of the reviews so far.)!
  • Coulson lives!

The Road to Comic Con

“The Road to Comic Con” doesn’t scan well with “the Road to Rhode Island,” unless you invert the long and short syllables. Worse harm has been done in the service of doggerel, I guess.

Friday, my grandfather sent me a large square package, that turned out to contain…


Which was an excellent capstone to the week. Thanks, grandpa!

Yesterday, also, I wrote a brief essay for Sci Fi Fan Letter about the way some of my experiences in China influenced Three Parts Dead. Check it out here if you’re interested.