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Another month has come and gone, so as I am want to do, a little bit of navel gazing. I’m oddly happy with March, I feel it’s been one of my better writing months in a long time. And I credit that to one thing: Short Stories. I never used to be a fan of writing short stories, though can’t really say why. I think it went back to my first real writing project being a novel and feeling like the longer form was somehow a more worthy endeavor. In the end, though, the short story has given me a chance to explore thoughts quickly, make every word count, and in the end I think I’ve really grown as a writer.
Now the next trick is to keep it up.
I got one short story out the door this month, Vampire of Mars. I’m happier with it than I have been any other story in awhile. It might not find a home the first place I sent it to, but it’s going to go into heavy circulation until someone picks it up. And it’s the first story I’ve written where I can say with real confidence: someone will pick it up.
April will mean a return to my Luchador story, and potentially some work on an idea germinating about a marshy Venus, in keeping with my Unleaded post this week.
Just because it’s been a good month doesn’t mean it’s any time for me to rest. Always onwards. Always forward.
Aka: the morphology of Science Fiction.
Over in Unleaded this week I talked about science fiction that lacks variation in phenotypes among alien species. Here I’d like to talk about science fiction that has an abundance of variation in morphology. And, oddly, just as I used the Na’vi as an example of a lack of the one, I’m going to use Pandora as an example of the abundance of the other.
Look around you. Okay, perhaps not right now, because you’re at your computer and not in the middle of the zoo. But perhaps you can see non-human mammals from where you are. Pet dogs or cats, a gerbil or a hamster. While there are a lot of ways they differ from you, they’re smaller, they’re fuzzier, depending on their species they poop in a box. But they have faces. Two eyes, two nostrils on one nose, two ears, one mouth. They have four limbs. Go to the zoo. Look at the mammals. Look at the reptiles. Look at the birds. Look at anything with a backbone, and what will you see. Two eyes, one nose, two ears, one mouth, four limbs. Even going back to the dinosaurs, there’s the same quantities of the same five features.
This is common descent at work. Evolution found a formula that works, works well, and even while whole scale changes happen to species those few constants have remained.
Now look at Pandora. Lots of six-limbed creatures, lots of four-limbed creatures. Enough of a combination between the two that, during the movie, I had to work out just how such different morphology came to being on Pandora. Which species shared common ancestors. The fauna presented just didn’t offer enough similarities to the Na’vi for me to feel like there was a common ancestor.
Is this a big problem? Probably not. Are there people reading this who never gave a second thought to that? Absolutely. But it is one of those things to keep in mind when creating a new world, first to ask yourself whether it’s something you care about, whether you care if other people care about it, and then if you decide you do…what exactly you want to do about it. This may involve another phase of your world building, but the resulting world will potentially be deeper and feel more cohesive in the end.
Over on Unleaded, I took a look ahead at 2011 today. So here I’m going to take a look back on 2010.
I had two main goals this past year. I wanted to get Capsule finished by Balticon, and I wanted to start the search for literary representation. Unfortunately as many who know me are aware, this ended up being the year that I battled a few months of health issues in the form of a rather drawn out case of GERD. It created a lot of insomnia, which left me tired, and which in the end left me not writing. By the time I started feeling better my momentum on Capsule was dead in the water, and I’m still trying to get it back now, almost exactly a year after the condition started.
So yeah. Cry cry cry woe is me. I recognize that I failed to meet a lot of my 2010 goals, and I can blame that on anything I want and look back in despair, or I can look ahead to 2011 and what I hope to accomplish. For this purpose, I have outlined a set of four goals that I hope aren’t too lofty, but are still enough of a stretch that I have to work at achieving them.
1) Finish the first draft of Capsule. I could give myself any number of deadlines for this. Balticon, Capclave, Ravencon, but really I’ll be happy if by this time next year I’ve started the editing process. I don’t want to rush it, but I don’t want the momentum to carry me into the doldrums any further than it already has.
2) Have at least three short stories out for consideration at all times. I currently have four that I really consider submission ready: Sleep, Rustler, Div 0, and Queen of Belmeth. With the Queen getting passed over for the Commonplace Book of Lovecraft, that mean I currently have just two stories out. This goal includes having more stories that I feel could be submitted as well as keeping a constant eye on target markets for those stories. I can’t sell any story that I don’t actively try to sell, and I need to be a hell of a lot better about that than I currently am.
3) Find at least six anthologies that I would have to write a story for scratch for, and do so. I’m going to count Primogeniture as the first of those six, because it’s my goal, damn it, and I can do what I want with it. There are several that have already come and gone that I meant to work up stories for. Historical Lovecraft’s deadline is just 5 days away, too soon for me to finish anything at this point, and that upsets me. Plus this will help my goal #2.
4) Start my Fortnight Caps project. This will be a every-other-week posting of a flash piece, either one that I’ve already written or one that I’m freshly inspired to write, here on the blog. It’s an effort to increase eyeballs and maybe, just maybe, my profile as a writer. Even if just a tiny bit.
An ancillary goal that needs to be included with both #2 and #3 is to better track where my short stories are and have been. I realized the other day I couldn’t remember the name of the audio anthology I’d sent Sleep off to, for example. That’s something I really should be able to look up. Also, I’m going to stop using my Hotmail to send submissions and switch over to my @DLThurston.com email addresses.
So best of luck to everyone with the new year, with your writing if you choose to write, or any other venture you choose to undertake.
While I’m sure I’ll never get to the point in my career that I’ll be famous enough for television commercials (and have always been somewhat dubious of novels being advertised on television), if it ever does happen I’m going to insist that my ads include no words that, while technically in the dictionary, really shouldn’t actually be words.
As long as I’m posting, I forgot to do this week’s cross post back to Unleaded. This week the story of a laptop theft inspired some thoughts on data backup. I plan to take my own advice this weekend.
Over on Unleaded today I posted a trio of anthologies that I found in my last wander through Duotrope. It didn’t occur to me until after I posted that one of the three might make for a fantastic outlet for my planned cruise story. I leave it as an exercise to the reader which of queer-theme Steampunk, the end of the world, or a generation ship recently departed earth I see as the closest analogy to a cruise ship. And I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense. What other industry that exists today is often charged with keeping entertained several thousand people living in an enclosed space with no option for leaving?
I think that’s going to be my new mantra, and something that I need to get tattooed backwards across my forehead so I can read it in a mirror. Anyway, another Wednesday, another post over in Unleaded, this time exploring the few things I’ll say against Nanowrimo, basically the line between having written and being a writer.
I’m still trying to come up with a good plot for a cruise ship. Something horror related without going with a haunted house or a sea monster pastiche. For the time being, though, there were more than a few characters I discovered while on board. What follows are first my observations then my own creative license taking over.
Washy Washy: Located outside the main buffet on the ship there were always two hyper cheerful people whose goals were twofold: get people to smile and spray their hands with bubble gum smelling sanitizer before they walked in and started touching everything. There was one in particular who took extra gusto in his job, smiling everywhere except his eyes. This was the same greeter they chose to see us off the boat because people absolutely loved him.
The Assistant Assistant Cruise Directors: There were at least two of these who I met. One was a gangly American, the other was a stocky Canadian. Both were in their early twenties and clearly on low rungs within the cruise staff organization. These two directed people to the gangways going ashore, and helped the Assistant Cruise Director run the bingo game, nightly at port and twice a day at sea. The ACD himself was only a few years older, and I just felt that for the first time in his professional career he has underlings after being the AACD himself for so long. I can smell the makings of a petty dictator a mile away, and when the actual Cruise Director wasn’t there, I’m sure the ACD had no problem reminding people who was in charge.
The Shopping Consultant: This was someone with a job to do. That job, however, involves helping the stores at each port of call to separate travelers from as much of their money as possible. For that reason, he’s hawking the Diamonds, talking up the rarity of Tanzanite, and generally is the closest thing to a used car salesman that existed on the ship. What I’d be curious to find out, though, is whether he was a nice guy who was just doing a job he happens to be good at, or whether he’s someone who actually enjoys his job perhaps a little too much.
The Youth Counselors: Being neither a child nor a parent, I had little interaction with the youth counselors. The only reason I ran into them at all is that they had the reservation right after mine at the Teppanyaki table. They were all uniformly early 20s, uniformly attractive, and uniformly American. The latter was an abnormality on the ship, this was the largest group of any kind I encountered who all had United States on their name badges. Also one of the only groups who only had first names on their badges (with the exception of the Latino member whose name tag read, and this is no joke, “Tex-Mex”). Four guys, four girls, all young and attractive, working and living together. Strikes me as the perfect combination for pairing off. They were all sun dresses and khakis for their reservation, but don’t let that fool you that there aren’t some shenanigans going on with this group. Side note: when I observed the youth counselors to my wife, she swore I said “grief counselors” and was shocked that, even with the older-skewing demographic on board, that eight grief counselors were necessary.
The youth counselors seem the easiest targets for a horror plot, but just because twenty-somethings-in-peril is such a well established sub-genre of horror. There was even the one requisite ethnic member of the group.
That means it’s time for some writerly words over on Unleaded. This week: how best to use Nanowrimo. (Hint: the answer is “however you want to”.)
New post up at Unleaded featuring SMBC and me…well, linking right back here again.
Next Monday marks the beginning of Nanowrimo. This year I’ll be missing a big chunk of the month as I’m heading to New Orleans for a cruise to celebrating the wedding of the proprietors of the Unleaded Blog (yay!). That means that the standard 50,000 word goal is out the window. But here’s the thing. I wouldn’t really want to anyway. I feel like I’m less than 50,000 words from the end of Capsule, and that trying to put that many more words into it would be contrived. And I sure as hell don’t want to start anything new, no matter how much I’ve been thinking about a plotline I’m currently calling “The Filibuster” (based on the old definition…shameless 200 Years cross-link). So here’s my Nanowrimo goal:
Maintain Nano pace on any day that I’m not on vacation until I get to the end of Capsule. Then work on editing, oh dare I even say it? End of the Line.
Also, came up with an odd idea for a flash fiction piece that I’m hoping to write and post here in the blog by the end of the month. Yay, flash fiction!