Posts Tagged Inspiration

Inspiration from the Master

I’m going to write this post very slowly and deliberately so I don’t gush.

Deep breath, and begin.

Last night I was in attendance as Neil Gaiman’s tour promoting the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods hit the Press Club here in DC.  (Holy crap, guys, I got to see Neil Gaiman).  The event was a metered affair, featuring a few readings, talking about his inspiration for writing the book, and taking submitted questions from the audience.  (He totally announced his next book for the first time yesterday).  I’ve never had a chance to listen to an author that I respect so much just talk about his inspirations and, to a lesser extent, his process.  (He’s totally the bestest writer and I got a signed book and…)

Shut UP inner fanboy.

Alright, decorum.

The goal of the event was largely to push purchases of American Gods, a goal I can understand and respect.  To a certain extent almost everything that an author does in public is about driving sales.  Hell, this blog is about driving sales, and I don’t even have anything yet to sell you (Steam Works, this summer, Hydra Publications).  Especially since the event was a book tour event and not a convention event, it wasn’t really about connecting with authors and instilling inspiration.  But it was.

See, here’s the thing.  That gushing fanboy above?  That’s me.  That’s the me that has loved every exposure I’ve had to the talents of Neil Gaiman.  That’s the me that is jealous that he can move so effortlessly from novels to short stories to comics to teleplays to music production to children’s books.  Hell, he even mentioned he’s working on a musical.  A musical!  Have I ever told you about the musical I want to write?  Now’s not the time, remind me later.  In the end, I think Gaiman is who a lot of writers want to be like, that potentially unobtainable level of cross-media production and mastery.  So something about just being there and being reminded that he’s a real person, yeah, it’s a geeky fanboy thing of me to say, but it does inspire me to push on with my writing.

And especially?  Getting back to my novels.

I’ve moved towards short stories lately, which I think has really helped me grow as a writer.  But it was at the cost of walking away from one of my favorite novels that I’ve started, Capsule.  It’s really time to walk back again.  And to even start looking beyond that.  I know where the next few scenes of Capsule go, trust me, I’ve actually been thinking about it, even if I haven’t been talking about it.  And I’ve been thinking about how to write a story around two characters my wife and I created, setting them in a steampunk world for a novel I’m currently calling Nickajack in my head (though there’s totally a book by that name, I know).

So.  Yeah, there it is.  What’s the lesson from last night?  I’m not going to be Neil Gaiman.

Unless I work a hell of a lot harder.

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The strange places inspiration comes from

I mentioned last week that Urbex intrigues me.  Over in the Ukraine there exists the hole grail of Urban Exploration: Chernobyl.  It’s been getting a lot of press recently due to the disaster at the Fukushima Plant in Japan, mostly in attempts to explain the present by exploring the past and in efforts to quantify one disaster against the other.  It is, after all, vitally important to know which is the bigger disaster.  I guess because the nuclear disaster Olympics are coming up, and this will serve as a qualifying event.

So I started doing what I often do, poking around Wikipedia and following links in articles that intrigue me.  And when it comes to starting with the Chernobyl article, there’s plenty to find.  There’s the city of Pripyat, evacuated just weeks before a new amusement park was set to open.  Abandoned so quickly there are still lesson plans written on the chalkboards in classrooms, and textbooks strewn everywhere in school hallways.  There’s the sarcophagus, a structure that is heading towards failure, tasked to keep the still quite dangerous nuclear rods in place.  There’s just the fact that this area will be uninhabitable by humanity for centuries to come, even under the best of circumstances.

And that’s somewhat amazing.  It’s in part what led to my Fortnightcap Take Me Back a few weeks ago.  The idea that a piece of land could be almost erased, though in a far less literal sense.

And then, in all of that, emerged a story.  And it’s a Steampunk story.  So that’ll be added to my queue, along with stories planned for submission to the next two Innsmouth Free Press anthologies.  I love all three concepts, going to have to figure out a good way to determine which one gets to be told first.

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Urbex and the Empty Mall

Urbex fascinates me.  Not enough so that I will take it up as a hobby, I’m far to risk adverse for that.  But I look with fascination the photos taken from abandoned buildings and sites around the US and around the world.  Especially the shots taken at long-abandoned amusement parks and Chernobyl.  The latter are creepy, and amazing, and there’s any number of stories they could inspire.

I came across something this week that is in many ways the opposite of Urban Exploration.  But is in many ways the same, and somehow spoke to that same part of my brain.

There’s a mall in China.  It’s called the New South China Mall.  It was built to be the largest mall on the planet, over twice the size of the sprawling Mall of America, nearly three times the size of Tysons Corner Center, to provide some context for my Washington-area readers.  Within the mall there are spaces for 2350 stores.  This is nearly four times the stores that are in the Mall of America, largely because there’s no concept of the massive anchor store within the New South China Mall.  The entire structure is split into seven zones, each designed to mimic the look of a major world city.  There are canals.  There’s an Arc de Triomphe.

And there are 47 retailers.

Let that sink in.  In a mall with 2350 storefronts, there are fewer than 50 stores actually open, an occupancy rate of 2%.  This would be the equivalent of Tysons Corner Center having 6 stores.  The mall is a result of a push in China to build cities to artificially stimulate growth and the economy.  It’s reachable only by car in a city with a population of 6.5 million that has no major airports.  It really is a fascinating take on Urban Decay and Urban Exploration, flying entirely in the face of “if you build it, they will come.”  Instead it answers the question of what if they don’t come.  What if stores don’t come?  What if customers don’t come?  It’s eerie and creepy and wonderful and inspirational.  Well, that is to say it inspires me, but things that inspire me are probably not the kind of “inspirational” that city planners are shooting for.

It’s impossible to know the future of the mall.  There is a concerted effort to save it, because it’s been declared too big to fail, but how does one even go about saving it?

There’s an independent documentary on the mall called Utopia 3 which is available on PBS’s POV site.  I recommend giving it a look.  It’s only about 15 minutes long.

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