davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Seeing as I have two (count ‘em, two!) bits of fiction that came out in 2012, both written with my friend Tobias S. Buckell, I thought I’d mention them here, on the off chance that anyone who reads me here missed it or thought them good enough for award nomination:

“Jungle Walkers” w/ Tobias S. Buckell – Science fiction novelette (8300ish words)

  • Armored, March 2012, Baen Books, edited by John Joseph Adams [ B&N|Amazon ]
  • io9.com, March 2012, Armored promotion [ link ]

“The Found Girl” w/ Tobias S. Buckell – Science fiction short story (6500ish words)

  • Clarkesworld Magazine #72, September 2012, [ link ] [ Chapbook: Amazon ]

Links are there for free reading, and to the online bookstores in case you want to buy them in some form or another. Obviously I liked both of them quite a bit, and I thought for our first collaboration, “Jungle Walkers” was especially strong.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

As humans, we have a fascination with significant numbers and cycles. Sometimes, the fascination borders on the morbid. And sometimes it careens right through the borders and goes bombing around in the wasteland beyond, risking catastrophe with every little gully and hill it encounters. In fact, that level of fascination almost tempts catastrophe, exactly like an off-roader taking the questionable paths, driving through the loose footing, seeing how close the tires can get to the edge of the cliff. And then there’s a mingling of thrill and disappointment when the catastrophe fails to materialize.

And this somewhat tortured analogy is one of the reasons I think we’re so focused on the ill-named Mayan Apocalypse. We’ve gone through thirteen years now of different significant dates, rollovers, and resets, and the made-for-Hollywood world-changing apocalypse has failed to come about time and again. A year and a half after the biggest, most obvious one, Americans witnessed live on TV what looked to be the start of a world-changing conflagration, kicked off on our own soil, in our biggest city.

And I think the American psyche, at least, collectively said, “Well, it’s late, but it’s here. This shit is on.” I remember expecting that every last Reservist would be in uniform by that following weekend, that we’d immediately go to a war footing, and so on. But as intense as it has been, it has not been nearly as intense as it could have been, as many expected it to be.

While it has obviously caused changes, and been rather apocalyptic in relatively small chunks, there’s a sort of pent-up… frustration, almost, that we’ve been denied the catastrophic upheaval that we were promised. No Y2K, no WWIII, no nuclear events, no zombie outbreak, no starbeast devouring worlds, or anything. I think you can feel both the anticipation and disappointment, bundled together in one.

The result, I think, is what you have today: public fascination and a sort of undercurrent of expectation that a long-defunct civilization knew something about the end of the world that we don’t, people only half-jokingly breathing a sigh of relief that we’re still here, and gun sales on the rise, in part, because of a fear of some kind of doomsday. For some reason this fascination with numbers and cyclical turnover supersedes common sense, and in fact becomes a sort of “common sense” of its own. People will “joke” about their Zombie Apocalypse Plan, but then defend it as a sensible approach to disaster planning, and while some elements of their plan might work that way, mostly it’s there to calm the nagging “what if,” that it all might come to pass the way it happens in movies and shows.

That’s my impression of it, anyway.

My hope is that the more of these events that we mostly sail on through, the less appealing this sort of strain of thinking will be. The more, maybe, that people will trust the scientists who are trying to warn us off the silly stuff like this, and focus on the important stuff. Because there are disaster threats, though not as photogenic necessarily as the ones Hollywood puts out there, and there are things we can do to avert them, and better weather them. Without losing our heads, without turning every home into a fortified armory, without making semi-random dates on the calendar the subject of news stories and TV specials and long-winded blog posts.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Three weeks ago I started on a prescription for Adderall, in the hopes of getting a grip on my ADD.

For background, I was diagnosed with it as a child, and did a couple of years of treatment with an occupational therapist in lieu of attempting treatment with Ritalin. At the time, this worked out pretty well for me. I learned to cope with what was going on in my head, at least well enough to take me through elementary school, and I started building some cognitive responses to the stuff I had a hard time dealing with instinctively. It’s the stuff that, in retrospect, makes me wonder about the genetic component to my own son’s challenges with ADHD, anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. But, anyway, as time went on, I figured out how to cope, mostly, and did well enough with school and such that it never seemed like I needed more help.

Since leaving home, however, I’ve noticed a complexly progressive decline in my ability to cope. University was… more of a struggle than I thought it would be, and I thought it was just the increased difficulty level. But since then I’ve started to wonder if it wasn’t just me hitting the end of my ability to cope, unaided. My current workplace situation brought that home to me in a pretty big way the last couple of years. For the first time in quite a while, I’m being expected to juggle multiple priorities in an environment where I can’t expect to be left alone to work on stuff for as long as I need to. It’s a mix of immediate, short, and long term stuff, with a dash of perpetual maintenance cycles.

So yeah (as I come back from dealing with some interruptions), eventually it got to be too much and I decided to try a medical solution. Just willing my way out of it wasn’t quite doing the trick, and that was a little tough to swallow. I’ve always taken some pride in having been able to get by without medication, but it also occurred to me that the pride was also getting in my way, not letting me see what I really needed to do.

Thus far it has worked out really well. My doctor warned me that it would wear off or drop out toward the end of the workday, but so far I haven’t noticed that effect at all. The other side effects typical of stimulants–racing heart, shortness of breath, etc.–haven’t been an issue. I think I have more of an issue getting anxious about the side effects, and thus simulating some of them, than the actual symptoms themselves. But I was also thinking this morning that it might be a good idea to cut back or knock out the caffeine, so I’m only dealing with one stimulant at a time. We’ll see how well that actually works.

I go back to my doctor in January to talk about it, but so far, so good.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Back when Netflix split their services (stupidly but, perhaps, necessarily), my wife and I decided we would stick with just streaming. The kids could be…mercurial in their entertainment desires and Netflix streaming offered quite a lot of acceptable kids programming that would be instantly available. Since then, however, our own movie-watching has fallen off dramatically, in no small part because, well, the less said about Netflix streaming’s offering of new titles the better. We get why it is, but still… disappointing is a gentle description.

And then we discovered Redbox. Okay, so, it had been around for a while, but it seemed like a hassle and when we could get movies sent to us by Netflix, it seemed a bit redundant and inconvenient. Until we stopped getting movies in the mail.

About six months ago we reinstated “date night” at home, and once we were caught up on all of our TV shows, we started to rent movies from Redbox. Why? It’s so freaking convenient! And hassle-free! The only thing that would be more convenient would be getting everything streaming in our home for a nice flat monthly fee, but eh, this is the world we live in. I could try to rent pay-per-view on demand from Amazon or Apple or Charter or something, but they’re not as cheap as Redbox, and I’d rather not risk service interruptions or hiccups for something a) I’ve set time aside for specially and b) I may need to rent again if I want to finish it because my internet died or something.

So we use Redbox. There’s one on my way home from work, and there’s one inside our grocery store. In theory, it’s as easy reserving the movie online, stopping to pick it up on the way home, and dropping it off when I go grocery shopping Saturday. Sometimes we forget and hang onto a movie much longer than we need to, but in terms of dollars spent versus entertainment received, it’s no worse than getting something from Netflix and letting it sit on the coffee table for two months unwatched before sending it back. And we’re actually watching movies again, which has been kind of nice.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

My friend Kelly Smith, writer and quilter, tagged me in this “Next Big Thing” interview meme thing, so here are my answers. I don’t usually talk about my current WIPs, unless it’s face to face with someone I trust, but hey, just this once, I suppose it’s all good. And apologies for the non-commital tone. Even now it seems like I’m not all that interested in talking about what I’m writing.

So without further ado:

Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing

1. What is the working title of your book?

Cry Havoc, which I think alludes nicely to some of the action and themes of the book. I probably won’t get a lot more specific than that.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

Cop out #2 here. It came from a lot of different sources. One was my friend Matt Wright’s idea about a terrorism campaign in the US. Another was a desire to update a particular terrorism narrative from the 80s beyond the narrative that we’re caught up in now, especially in modern spy/technothriller fiction, which I read too much of in prep for this.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

See above. Espionage/technothriller thing.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m really terrible at this sort of thing, unfortunately. For a couple of projects, I’ve actually done the “pick an actor and base physical descriptions off them” exercise, but I haven’t with this one for whatever reason. Just for the sake of reference, let’s say Thandie Newton would do fine as my main character, Karyn. Gerard Butler could be her ex-husband Tommy, probably. Beyond that, I’ve tuckerized my friends Matt Wright and Michael Mundy into cameos, and they could play their eponymous characters. Though they would both need to put another ten, fifteen years on.

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

I hate giving away too much on this project, so let’s say it’s an examination of terrorism in a post-post-9/11 America. And some shit blows up.

Woops, that was two sentences.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

If it isn’t represented by an agency, it probably won’t get published. Self-publishing is cool and all, but it involves a lot more work than I’m keen to put into it. I write for the love, and if I can follow the traditional path to money, that’s an excellent goal. I’ll happily go there.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Ask me in six months? I’m still at around 30% on that first draft, sadly. Going to plow forward a bit more tonight, though.

8. What other books would you compare to this story within your genre?

Really hard to say since I’m not very well-read in this genre, but in terms of feel I’m shooting for an old-school Tom Clancy vibe. Trying for some very grounded sort of stuff, not the Ludlum-esque mega-conspiracy thing. That obviously has done well, but not really my thing.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Mostly just observations on terrorism and political change, especially stemming from my “vacation” in Iraq in 2004. Again, hard to say, because elements of the book have been percolating in the back of my head for, well, yeah, 8 years at least now. Why now? I’d really like to see this thing on shelves (if at all possible) in 2014-2015. I think it could be pretty topical then.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Other than a minority female heroine in a genre that is seemingly dominated by the white-male-former-Navy-SEAL archetype? Yeah, I dunno. I blow some stuff up, but good, in it. That should be pretty cool.

Instructions

1. Use this format for your post.
2. Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress).
3. Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
4. Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

Tag! You’re it!

I hate tagging people for stuff like this, but if you see this post and you’re inspired to do it–hey, tag! Ah ha! Link back to me and I’ll add a link to you down here and it’ll be super swell.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

This is inspired by the music I’m listening to right now, which is the Chance Thomas-composed score to The Lord of the Rings Online‘s latest expansion, The Riders of Rohan. The score is, frankly, gorgeous. I don’t think I really have an ear for the actual quality of music, in terms of whether the orchestra was well-conducted or the score well-arranged or whatever, but…

An MMO expansion has a score. Recorded by a real orchestra. They had enough faith in it as music for its own sake that they released it as an album on iTunes. Now, yeah, it’s really unlikely that you, the non-LOTRO player, are going to rush out and snap it up just because I say it’s really awesome, but it’s one of those things that deserves to be recognized. An MMO, that isn’t WoW, is doing well enough that they can give an expansion the movie treatment with their music. And how are they doing so well?

By giving the game away. For free. No box to buy: download all hundred and eleventy gigs of the game for free. No monthly fee (if you don’t want one): no credit card, no nothing, just login and go.

They didn’t start that way, of course. Back six years ago, WoW had set in stone (it seemed) (and no, not created) the model for massively multiplayer online gaming: buy the game, then pay a monthly fee to play it on their servers. Everyone else was doing it the same way, LOTRO included. But then a couple years ago things started to sour in the MMO market, no one seemed to be able to build a sustainable subscriber base. (And they still can’t, I think.) Even WoW’s peak numbers started to dwindle.

So LOTRO went free. Normally this was a death-knell for MMOs. But something funny had happened. The year before Turbine, LOTRO’s studio, had made one of their other games, Dungeons & Dragons Online, free-to-play and introduced a cash store. They drew a line at being able to completely outfit your character from the store, you still had to play the game to get the good gear and such, but they started selling a lot of convenience and nice-to-have items and perks for cash. And despite giving the game away, no longer requiring subscription, their revenues went UP. And by all accounts, when they did the same with LOTRO, their revenues skyrocketed. A game that had looked like it was wobbling a bit, suddenly took on new life.

And now, two years later, they’ve released two major expansions and thrown money at a Hollywood-esque score for the most recent one. Holy crap.

I’m excited, of course, because I like the game. For all its other faults, it’s “my” game, and I really want to see it continue and grown and whatnot. But it’s also exciting to see economic models for creative products grow and change and find non-traditional ways of doing things. Gives one hope that there’s a multitude of ways to make a living from creative pursuits.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Other than the occasional post here and there, I haven’t been too talkative on the internets at all, so I figured I would bring anyone who cares up to speed. So here’s the highlights:

- Back last year I was named the Head of Programming for ConFusion 2013: Immortal ConFusion, and that has been ramping up steadily all year. We changed hotels to something a little closer to the airport, which we hope goes over well, and so far we’ve got something like 40 confirmed author guests. Very exciting. In related news, back in March I was elected to the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association board, and last month I was named the Deputy ConChair for ConFusion’s 2014 installment. Lawrence Schoen recently said to me, “You can be a SMOF [Secret Master of Fandom] or a pro, but not both.” And I say, “Eh, fuck it, let’s try.”

- In “pro” news, “A Militant Peace” by Tobias Buckell and me was nominated for the WSFA Small Press Award, which was awarded at CapClave this month. We lost out to “The Patrician” by Tansy Rayner Roberts. I decided to attend CapClave because, well, why the heck not? And got to see me lose in person. Got my picture taken with the certificate which, I suppose, is floating around the interwebs somewhere, but I’ve yet to find it. Of course, I haven’t looked very hard, either.

- I’m off to Germany and the UK next month for the dayjob. Very excited about the possibility of meeting my UK-based friends Katie & Gordon and Tanya in person for the first time.

- On the gaming front, I’ve helped take the reins on a Play-by-E-Mail role playing game I’ve been involved in the last several years, to take up for the founders of the game who have been inundated by their own lives. Not that mine seems all that less hectic, but it feels like a fun and interesting challenge that I can sink my teeth into. Don’t worry, it won’t cut into writing time on my own stuff. Probably.

- Still working on two different novels. There’s about 100k in words between them, but the overall target is something like 230-250k, so… yeah. Behind the game a bit. Someday maybe I’ll start posting the little progress bar thingies. That would be cool.

And that’s it for now. It’s been a tumultuous year on a personal level, but I’ve already got high hopes for 2013 to be much more awesome.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Today, Ferrett Steinmetz posted on the concept of the writing career, and why he’s giving his up. A good, provocative title, especially to those just starting out in the writing biz, thinking that you don’t give up, especially as relatively young as Ferrett is, until you’ve hit many more brick walls. But, of course, that’s not quite his point, his point is that he’s giving up the career track as he envisioned it coming out of Clarion.

As I pointed out in the comments, I personally think this idea of a career track in writing is completely bogus anyway. People have achieved careers of note in many myriad ways, coming from all over the map in terms of preparation and lead-up. And, let’s be honest, some people put, frankly, decades of work into it and never really manage to break through and achieve “career.” While there’s others who somehow manage to add a writing career to their already enviable lives of actor and globetrotter and whatever else. Not to mention the celebrities who manage to scribble something legible and a publisher pays them a kajillion dollars because he can put a picture of them on the front of the book, instead of hidden in the back, and it will sell more copies that way. And I’d say, “But let’s not talk about jealousy…” except that jealousy, as Ferrett points out, is precisely part of the problem with the idea of the career track.

The rest of the problem is that the writing thing is so incomprehensibly volatile and weird. Some people make it look relatively easy. John Scalzi, for all his protestations, looks like a guy who one day just decided to write and publish science fiction and, bang zoom, away he went. Nevermind that it wasn’t nearly so easy for him (especially when you consider the non-trivial and focused career as a writer of Other Things before he picked up on science fiction), his good fortune early on with getting Old Man’s War picked up off his blog makes it look so very easy. Other people have a harder time at it, some have a much harder time, and plenty don’t make it at all, for whatever value of “make it” you care to name. And underscoring all that is that there’s no one way to go about it, no magical formula that, if you work hard enough at it, you’re guaranteed the career path.

Which is why, as I said in the comment on Ferrett’s blog, I’ve tried to adopt a more zen-like approach to the whole thing. Now, again as I’ve said, this might cost me something in terms of drive, since I no longer feel like I’m trying to follow a prescribed path, and thus feeling it necessary to hit certain checkpoints in a certain amount of time. But at the same time, I’m sort of enjoying the freedom to explore, to figure out what it is, exactly, that I want to do, and make sure that the things I generally want out of life aren’t purely dependent on this mercurial sort of existence as a professional writer. Working through that mentally now, I figure, is bound to help me when things get tricky if I ever start publishing novels like I want to.

In the meantime, I’m just having fun writing, for its own sake.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

“Yes, Holmes,” Watson was saying, “but what of Lord Carbuncle’s Missing Whatsit?”

“Immaterial now, Doctor,” the Great Detective replied, “for we have a new client on the stair. Mid-thirties, former military, stressed but not exactly unhappy. He has a problem, and it vexes him.”

“My God man, how could you tell all that?” Watson exclaimed, half-rising from his comfy chair.

“Well, for starters, he’s the one writing this,” Holmes said, the hint of a smile quirking his lips.

“Ah, ah yes,” Watson said. “Quite right.”

“So what is the problem, my good man?” Holmes asked. I stood in the doorway, taking in the scene, feeling distinctly out of place in jeans and a t-shirt, standing on the edge of the Victorian sitting room, with its gas lamps and ancient writing desk and such.

“Ah, well, here’s the thing. I’m an extrovert.”

“A what now?” Watson asked, furrowing his brow as though I’d outed myself as a pervert.

“One who draws energy from being among and with other people,” Holmes said, waving to his lifelong friend. “Please pardon the Doctor’s diminished vocabulary. He’s just here to help me explain things in a humorous or revelatory way.”

“Right, yeah,” I said, stepping into the room and taking a seat opposite Holmes. “So, I like hanging out, talking, just seeing other people. It’s good for me.”

“That’s hardly a problem. Just join a social club!” Watson cried, oddly the one irritable at the new case, while Holmes sat serene, sensing there was more to it than just that.

“Well, they’re not exactly as prevalent where I live–21st century Michigan–as they are here. The internet kind of took their place, which is fine for the introverts who need to be able to turn off the company of people with the literal flip of a switch. Not so good for us on the other end of the spectrum.”

“I’m beginning to see the shape of the problem,” Holmes said, puffing on his pipe and leaning back. “Now, what of your workplace?”

“Well, I don’t know about 19th century London, but these days work is just as enervating as it is energizing in that respect. It comes out as a wash, and before you suggest something else, the vast majority of people at work are not the sort I’d really want to hang out with outside of work. Especially given my skills–the computer guy–it all goes back to computers one way or another.”

“Now you also fancy yourself a writer, do you not?” Holmes asked.

“How’d you know?” I said, forgetting myself.

“You’re writing this,” he said, simply.

“Ah, right. So yeah, that’s a problem, too. If I were a soccer player or rock climber or something, I’d have other opportunities, but my chosen hobby and second career is writing, and a social club for writers is very nearly an oxymoron. Not to mention our uneven distribution, geographically.”

“So there are conventions, are there not?” he asked. “Did you not just come back from one?”

“Well yes,” I said, “but it seems like the energy I get from a convention is spent pretty quickly, especially with three little kids at home. And the conventions can be expensive. There’s one every weekend, somewhere, it seems, but traveling to all of them would bankrupt me pretty quickly.”

“What are you doing now, to be with other people?”

“Saying yes to everything, it seems. I work on one convention and am contemplating a second. I try to play games, though timing always seems to conflict. I play online games in the hopes of chatting with the other players, just to get that little rush and stimulate my mind.”

Watson cast a significant glance at the desk drawer where Holmes’ personal stash once lived. Holmes merely pursed his lips and shook his head.

“Yeah,” I said, “it is kind of like a drug that way, and withdrawal can be hell. But without it at all… I am like that revving engine that shakes itself to pieces. I make more and more bad choices, over-committing, over-extending myself. Most of what I do now in order to hang out with other people is effectively indistinguishable from work, including a ridiculous commute.”

“You don’t have any local friends?” Watson asked, looking incredulous. “People you can just sit with and discuss the affairs of the day?”

“In a word… no,” I said and shrugged. “I’ve drifted away from the people I was friends with locally, and attempts to reconnect always seem a little awkward. I want to move closer to the people I am friends with now, but that’s no guarantee that we won’t drift apart in the future. I’d like to build some strategies and connections that will help me out wherever I am.”

“Well, my good man, I’m afraid I cannot help you after all,” Holmes said, standing.

“What?!” I said, sitting bolt upright.

“Figment of your imagination, remember?” he said, tapping the stem of his pipe against my temple. “If you could have solved this yourself you would have, and not written this deranged self-insertion fanfic.”

“Ah-ha!” I said.

“That way lies only misery,” Holmes said, his face a mask beneath which lurked sadness as Watson looked on with disguised longing.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I said, slumping. “So what do I do?”

“Ask the people out there,” he said, waving his pipe at your computer screen. “What do the extroverts among them do it? How do they balance the isolation of writing with the need to be near and engaged with people? Do they prefer a few, close, everyday friendships, or do they make do with a lot of relatively shallow, occasional friends?”

“That’s just so lame, Holmes,” I said. “It just might work.”

Postscript: So yeah, after the inspiring example of a couple of creative-type friends, I’ve decided to own my personal struggles and challenges. I’m doing it in a rather silly way, but this is a real thing that really has a tendency to interfere with my life and general mental health. Examples of how you cope, as an extrovert are welcome, internet helpiness, especially from people who don’t face similar challenges, is not. If your comment could be boiled down to “Just do something different from what you are doing,” then please save it. I’d rather hear what you find helpful.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

What’s that? I have WorldCon appearances!?

You bet your sweet bippy I do. (What a bippy is, I have no idea. Probably makes it easy to bet one.) They were not, however, entirely anticipated.

First, the surprisingest, is that I’ve been added to the slate of participants for the Clarkesworld Reading [Facebook] on Saturday, September 1 at 3pm in Grand Suite 3. I’ll be reading “The Found Girl,” written by me and Tobias Buckell, which should be appearing that very day in Clarkesworld. I’ll be there with Kate Baker, who will be reading “Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Good Byes” by Tom Crosshill (he who was my roommate at WFC in Columbus a couple years ago), and Sofia Samatar who will be reading “Honey Bear” from the current issue of Clarkesworld.

Second, and less surprising, is that I’ll be co-hosting the Immortal ConFusion room party Saturday night, in Room 2770 from 8pm until we get tired, in my capacity as the Head of Programming for the 2013 installment of ConFusion. So if all else fails, and you want to come hang out, you are absolutely certain to find me there.

Otherwise, I’ll be there, wandering all over, looking up friends and hopefully making new ones. Find me there, if I don’t find you first.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Late last night I got an e-mail from… a pretty big-name author.

“Wow,” I thought, on seeing it hit my phone. “Is [That Dude] e-mailing me for some reason?” This wouldn’t be way out of the realm of possibility, after all. I get the occasional random author e-mailing me about ConFusion, for instance, though it would be, sales-wise, the biggest author I’d gotten such an e-mail from. So I picked up my phone, flicked it open, and started reading.

Hi David,

I’ve been swamped and writing like crazy, but I think you know by now that’s normal for me. It’s been a while since I offered a freebie, so this time I’ve got two for you, plus some cool news.

Huh, that’s interesting and… oh. Spam. Well, not true spam. See, once upon a time (this past winter, I think), I signed up for a contest to attend [That Dude]‘s big writing business seminar in Las Vegas for free. And, it seems, that got my name onto some kind of mailing list. A mailing list that [That Dude] uses to send out faux-personal marketing e-mails. So, kind of spam, in that there’s no point to this other than to flog [That Dude]‘s work and try to infer some kind of personal bond that’s going to make me want to buy his books.

The money-quote from the end, though?

It’s been too long since we saw you, but [That Dude's Wife] and I are doing our best to fix that.

Yeah, [That Dude], we’ve never met. I’ve never seen you. As near as I can tell, we’ve never been at the same event, even. I can see how this is supposed to make me feel all warm and fuzzy, like you’re sending this to me, personally, but come on. I mean, come on. If you want to see how an author newsletter is actually done: being personable and personal, while promoting upcoming stuff, I suggest you (anyone, not just [That Dude]) check out David Drake’s. He makes no pretense about being your sweet personal friend, just writes what’s on his mind about what he’s working on, where he’s been and where he’s going, and what’s coming out soon. Plus little snippets about the stuff he’s translating from Latin. That’s how you do this stuff, if you’re going to send newsletters and not blog or something.

This thing, [That Dude]? This? Really?

This does not inspire me to shell out thousands for your writing-biz seminars, nevermind your books.

([That Dude]‘s name redacted to protect me from his howling fanboys.)

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Last week, at the request of my friend Charlie, I watched the documentary Severe Clear which used a Marine lieutenant’s video footage of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to reveal some of the ground-level realities of war.

The documentary blends Lieutenant Mike Scotti’s footage with what I presume is some news footage and audio reports of the war in progress, along with a few helpful (if somewhat vague) maps of the 1st Marine Division’s advance on Baghdad to tell the complete story. I assume, like most people in war, Scotti did not have the complete big picture of what was going on, which may have been a necessary component of the documentary. Personally, I think it would have been more interesting to record the actual (and notorious) “fog of war” from that ground level: see what rumors were floating around, how the troops reacted to the rumors, see how they sifted good word from, well, “bum scoop.”

The part that resonated for me the most was the opening with the Marines preparing for the invasion. A lot of it was almost achingly familiar. As Max Uriarte, artist on “Terminal Lance” said recently, I don’t miss the Corps, but I do miss Marines. And these guys were Marines through and through. If, watching it, you felt that is wasn’t representative or something, or it put Marines in a negative light, well… I’ve got news for you. That’s how they are. How we were.

The rest of it was interesting if slightly academic. I hadn’t been in on the invasion (though my unit at one time had been slated to come in on the ground through Turkey in 2003), so a lot of it was new to me… and not new to me. I think the way Scotti’s enthusiasm for the war evolved and waned resonates. I think that’s how it went for a lot of the guys on the ground, especially the Marines. But, all of them I think were ready to go home when it was all said and done, and not just because of the stress of the invasion itself, but because of a sort of letdown that came with the general failure of at least one of, if not many of, the stated missions: the failure to find the WMD that so many people seem convinced was there.

One other part that resonated was the day-of-invasion speech given by President Bush. I remember it very well, because I had, for a long time after the invasion, a sort of rotating argument with people who believed that the Bush Administration believed the war would be quick, clean, and easy. But in the invasion day speech, Bush pretty clearly points out (as I recall so vividly from watching it live) that it could be a long, hard war, and that the initial invasion and ouster of Saddam would only be the beginning of the work. Now, that being said, I think it’s also a valid criticism of the Bush Administration that, while they may have said that up front, there was a fairly woeful lack of planning on the back end to back it up. Unfortunately, I don’t think the documentary really addresses that, but… I don’t think it was meant to.

So, in all, it’s worth watching. There are some moments that might be tough to stomach. Definitely some on-camera, real-life gore, so if that’s a problem, you should avoid it. It wasn’t very “triggery” for me… but then, I was kind of in a different war. It’s funny how much that’s true, but… they only had begun to taste the insurgency. Most of their fight was direct and generally obvious. They fought against massed troops and open combatants. We fought a different war, against … well… anybody. That might be the final line on that movie: it’s a good example of the sort of war we had always trained for, always expected to fight. A war against another force, against uniformed troops with military equipment, organized and disciplined. What we fought starting in 2004, really, was something completely different, something the Corps had not really done in 80 years or so.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

First, one of my favorite Beastie Boys tunes, and one of my all-time favorite videos:

I wasn’t blogging last week when MCA (a/k/a Adam Yauch) passed away, and I don’t think I would have said much about him had I been: The Beastie Boys were never a big influence for me, and despite being a teen in the early 90s, I wasn’t their target demographic. Something about how I didn’t think, at least at the time, that anyone needed to fight, as such, for their right to party. (That and I did, and still do, find a lot of their early stuff to be mired in easy misogyny, but let’s not speak (too) ill of the dead.)

That said, I realized that this would be a perfect time, albeit two years late, to propound on one of my favorite paradoxes involving The Beastie Boys. That being, if they’re around in the Star Trek universe, for young Kirk to be listening to in his step-dad’s car in the latest Trek movie, how can they refer to the fictional Mr. Spock in their song “Intergalactic”? I think the lyric specifically is “like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock.”

And the answer actually came to me pretty quickly, because in Star Trek IV, Spock is referred to by name in public and… knocks out some annoying punk, to applause, on a city bus with a pinch on the neck. And then it kind of writes itself. Spock and Kirk and company aren’t aware of it, but “Mr. Spock” becomes a sort of folk hero in San Francisco in the late 80s and 90s, big enough to come to the awareness of MCA, et al., and it’s just the kind of obscure, local, subculturish thing they’d include in one of their songs.

Dumb and unnecessary, but I thought I’d share anyway and let that little bit of geekery stand in for a proper tribute to Yauch.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)
  • I did this thing last night that I do sometimes wherein I go to bed almost as soon as I get home (my wife totally loves me), then get up somewhere between 10 and midnight, then basically take a long nap just before it’s time to get up for the day. For some reason, this completely recharges my batteries. I kind of wish it were something I could do on a really regular basis, but I’m afraid my wife doesn’t love me so much that she’ll let me get out of dinner, helping with homework, and bedtimes (to say the least) every night. And, oh yeah, I’d hate to miss out on my kids growing up or something.
  • A bumper sticker I see too much around West Michigan: “Work Harder! Millions on Welfare Depend On You!” I realize that it’s supposed to be a put down of welfare or the poor, but whenever I see it, I think of it as a call to action. “Oh shit, you’re right!” is usually my reaction. I wish we had more of a “we’re in this together” attitude in this country, but if we ever did, we’ve lost it, and I fear what it would take to get it back.
  • I could watch this all day, on infinite loop: Takedown. Watch it at least once, you won’t be sorry. (And no, not embedding it here, since it’s a rapidly cycling .gif)
  • It turns out 2am is a great time to write, see point one. Also? As it turns out, the sort of music I’m listening to does actually impact how well I get into the mindset of writing in certain genres. Listening to Our Lady Peace’s Healthy in Paranoid Times [iTunes | Amazon] last night on the drive home actually put me in the mood to write cyberpunk. Which is odd, because I never have. But, it put me in that mood anyway.
davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

I want to be excited about Prometheus. I see stills like the one above, and I really want to be excited about Prometheus. But I’m not.

Why?

Because it seems to fit in this movie genre bucket that I dislike. It’s as though movie makers have three of them, when it comes to science fiction with spaceships and other worlds and stuff. One is for Star Wars, one is for Star Trek, and the other is labelled “Survival Horror in Space.” And if you want to make a movie with spaceships, it has to fit in one of those buckets.

Alien? Sunshine? Event Horizon? Survival horror.

Hell, even 2001 is basically a horror movie in space. You have to step down to the B-grade, basically, to get to movies that are Star Wars-style adventures, and then they’re not always very good. Or, really, hardly any good at all. So then we’re left with the likes of Prometheus, which they’re marketing basically as survival horror, and you have Guillermo Del Toro throwing his hands up on one of his projects because Prometheus basically taps the same Lovecraftian horror vein. Which… if there’s one thing I like less than survival horror, it’s Lovecraftian cosmic horror.

And I get it, on some level. There’s been two ways to deal with aliens in science fiction movies, and one is “they’re just like us (no, really, they’re just like us)” of Star Trek/Star Wars, and the other is “they’re unspeakably different, no common ground, we’re hamburger to them” of the survival horror science fiction. (And by this I mean the, we go out there and seek them out aliens–aliens visiting Earth is a whole other thing.) There’s been very little middle ground in the last 30-40 years, it seems. Enemy Mine? The Last Starfighter? Can’t think of much more, and none recently, other than Serenity (which still had to have a horror element in the Reavers, so… blah).

Frankly, it’s kind of annoying. I think the spaceship-and-other-worlds spectacle is part of what the bigscreen experience is for and it’s been hijacked by Lucas, Rodenberry’s ghost, and horror. There are, there have to be other stories, other sorts of stories to tell. But either no one wants to tell them, or the studios don’t think they can make any money. Which, given the middling performance of Serenity, they might just be right.

Still, annoying. And disappointing. Which is why I can’t get excited for Prometheus. I appreciate it for what it is, and I wouldn’t want it not to be. But it’s not for me, and it’s one of those funny experiences, feeling outside of geekdom by not being able to get excited about this movie.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

One of the other things that inspired my post on taking things a little slower was that I’ve taken to watching and rewatching streamed shows at a much slower pace than I’m used to, or most people do, altogether. Especially in my peer group and younger, there’s this almost unspoken understanding that when you rewatch something, or discover something several seasons in, you devour it in as short a time as possible. I remember doing that when I got the first three or four seasons of Stargate SG-1, years and years ago, sitting in my wife’s apartment, years before we were married, on Spring Break and just cycling through DVD after DVD.

And that was neat, and fun, because I had the time and I had an appetite for more of the story, more of the excitement.

Times being what they are, though, as a dad and husband and part-time writer and such, it’s a) nearly impossible to do that and b) by necessity, I’m discovering that I enjoy taking my time, even my first time through shows. Right now I’m working on watching Dr. Who (Nu Who, starting with Eccleston) and Farscape for the first time, and rewatching MacGyver, Stargate SG-1, and Burn Notice (though at some point all of those will turn into catch-ups as I lost the thread on all of them during their original runs). And I’m contemplating rolling on into Star Trek, X-Files, and a few others, eventually, at the same leisurely pace. (My one crushing disappointment, currently, is that I can’t seem to find Magnum PI streaming online, in its entirety anywhere.)

Obviously, this will take me a long time. Probably four years for Stargate SG-1 if I keep a steady once a week pace. But, honestly, that’s okay. I don’t get too torqued about spoilers (I know a TON about what happens in Who in the most recent seasons, so there’s not a lot of surprises there), and I don’t mind learning to savor some things again, giving me an opportunity to dwell on the episode I just watched for a while, without them all running together because I never watched them on their own. It will also, I hope, keep me from getting fatigued or exhausted with one show or another, which was a problem when I did watch a ton all at once, and I’ll be less likely to skip episodes that I have other-than-favorable memories of.

At any rate, this isn’t a manifesto or anything, but I would encourage you, gentle reader, to think about the way we interact with culture and consider whether a long-term thing might be ultimately more satisfying than a binge.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Hey, check it out:

“Jungle Walkers,” the story I wrote with Tobias Buckell for the Armored anthology, edited by John Joseph Adams, is featured as a teaser/sample thingy on io9.com. You can read it here. Of course, I’d still love for you to buy the book, as there’s a ton of great stories in there, but if you just can’t wait until next Tuesday, March 27, for it to actually hit the shelves, you can scope it out there.

For more information, including an interview with me and Tobias (and interviews with the other authors), checked out the Armored website. You can buy the book all over the place, but the ebook is only available from Baen Books’ online store.



Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

Slow Burn

Mar. 14th, 2012 07:09 pm
davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

As of this fall, I’ll have been “on the internet” for 17 years, pretty much uninterrupted. (The longest single break I had was Boot Camp in 1999.) I think that’s probably enough time to have a good idea of how the internet has shaped discussions and changed how we interact with one another, and further to figure out how to react and respond to it.

The first thing to note is how intoxicating the rapid back-and-forth discussions can feel, at least for me, on the internet. In person, I really love long, in-depth discussions, and relish them when I find them. The exchange of ideas and information spurs the brain to action and stimulates the imagination. I’m not sure precisely what’s different about blog- and forum- and Twitter-based discussions, but there is something there, maybe with just enough isolation from the other people involved, but enough immediacy to make a rapid response the expectation.

Now, to me, that’s often led to a heated atmosphere in online discussion. Again, something about the combination of immediacy and distance creates a friction that can (often but certainly not always) create an atmosphere that is really the opposite of conversation and rational debate. In some ways, I suppose it just intensifies certain human behaviors, but at least for me personally, I’m thinking they’re the sort that can use some ratcheting down of intensity. Being more slow and deliberate allows the opportunity to let arguments and counterpoints sink in, time to digest as it were, and maybe lead to more fruitful responses.

This is, basically, antithetical to how the observed internet culture works currently. Rather than allowing conversations to slowly grow and evolve, for facts to be uncovered, for analysis to be teased out, blog posts have to be commented on within 48 hours or not at all (with occasional exceptions). A Tweet is old news by the time six or eight hours have gone by. Everything has to burn hot, intense, immediate… and then we forget about it. Protests are firestorms of activity, followed by (at best) low simmering discontent, if not cool apathy.

I’d like to change that, at least with myself. And as far as manifestos go, that’s not all that inspiring, but what the heck. It’s how I’m deciding to interact with the flow of information (for the most part), and the rest of the world can follow me or not. I am hoping, though, that it will lead to more robust and thoughtful commentary from me, if not necessarily the most timely.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

3. One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters
4. Monk’s Hood by Ellis Peters

These are from Ellis Peters’ (a/k/a Edit Pargeter) about Brother Cadfael, a fictional monk from Shrewsbury Abbey in the 12th century. Cadfael plays the role of detective in these historical mysteries, an herbalist and monk in later life, who fought in the Crusades and was a ship captain in the Med before becoming a monk. They’re somewhat standard mysteries, couched deeply in their milieu, and a rather enjoyable read just the same. I’ve finally found all of the books in the series, and I’m embarking on reading all of them this year.

5. Helix by Eric Brown

A first contact novel, focusing on a last-ditch human effort to fling a hibernation ship to the stars to try to keep humanity alive after we’ve jacked up the Earth too bad, and the rather human-esque aliens they find at their destination.

6. King Maker by Maurice Broaddus

A retelling of the Arthurian legend (sometimes maybe a little too faithfully) transported to an inner city neighborhood of Indianapolis. This is another entry in my personal joy of seeing flyover settings used in modern America. I don’t really see it enough. But that seems to be changing a bit with more writers emerging from the middle of the country and more choosing to live there.

7. The Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor

I haven’t read much in the technothriller/spy genre outside of Clancy, Ludlum, and a couple Vince Flynn novels, but apparently Thor is another big name in that genre. Pretty serviceable conspiracy/spy novel in the Robert Ludlum vein, showing off a lot of the author’s knowledge of exotic global locations.

8. The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold

One of my all-time favorite books, and just a plain old awesome space opera adventure. One of the best cavalry-to-the-rescue stories, and some excellent “comfort food” reading.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.

davidklecha: Listening to someone else read the worst of my teenage writing. (penguicon)

Ran across an interesting, if gloomy article yesterday on the peril that cheap/easy self-epublishing has brought to the entire publishing field.

While it is a very interesting article, which attempts to map the concept of bubbles onto the phenomenon of ebooks, I think the effort shows a bit of strain at the edges, and discounts a couple of pretty critical factors. On the plus side, the article points out some things that maybe should have been obvious: Amazon doesn’t care if it pushes 500 million units of crap, they’re just pushing units. I think that’s a little short-sighted of them (if true), for reasons I’ll get into, but it seems like something they might do. The article also posits a possible bursting of the bubble, which probably isn’t such a bad thing, as most of those trying to cash in on the boom get bored and wander away.

But I think the bursting of such a bubble is potentially more problematic for the likes of Amazon than it is for readers or authors, and here’s why: there’s never been a shortage of self-published crap, especially since the internet flourished. What there has always been a shortage of is good stuff, and curated stuff. There are only so many authors who have invested time and talent into their craft, only so many editors who have had the ability to separate wheat from chaff, so many copyeditors and book layout designers and proofreaders and so on that can help elevate a text. And whether or not it looks like it right now, most readers can appreciate the “value add” that brings to a book.

True story: a college buddy of mine recently bought a Kindle and has been raving about rediscovering books. Recently, he read Ready Player One and started complaining about the author not having it all together because of the typos and such present in the text, and I had to tell him that was probably due to a bad transfer from the original text. Point is, people do notice that kind of thing, even non-readers such as my college buddy, and that colors the experience for them. I can imagine all too well what his response would be if he read some poorly edited self-published monstrosity. And that’s where publishers can and do offer more than $0.99 per book’s worth of value.

To put it another way, has the proliferation of community theatre programs hurt Broadway’s bottom line, despite the much cheaper tickets? Probably not. People go to see professional productions, expecting not only professional-grade acting and directing, but also all that other stuff, like the orchestration, lighting, even the atmosphere and seating. There’s something more there that they are expecting to pay for, and the same is almost certainly true of books. Once the initial rush to publish has passed (and I haven’t seen it anything like what Ewan Morrison describes, even though most of my friends are professional or aspiring writers), I think the market will come to appreciate that there is a certain dollar value for professionally edited and produced fiction.

And as a last point: just as Morrison argues that self-epublishing has produced a huge crop of new writers, ebooks in general have brought along a lot of new readers, such as my college buddy mentioned above. He was (and remains to some extent) the sort of dude who buys a new video game every week. But he’s gotten excited about reading again, and is buying books, and good books like Ready Player One and American Gods. And if the pool of self-epubbing writers starts to dry up, there may well be more people ready (and willing) to buy the good stuff.

Mirrored from Bum Scoop.