excerpt and other goodies

If you’ve read Doppelganger already, then check out the page on my site for Warrior and Witch, newly updated with all kinds of goodies — including the first chapter of the novel! It’s the revised version of what got printed in the back of the first book, and next week (one week from street date!) I’ll be adding a section from the second chapter.

If you haven’t read Doppelganger already, then please don’t follow either of those links, as they lead to spoilers that make Baby Jesus cry. Go read the first book instead.

they giveth, and they taketh away

What an appalling offense to archaic grammar. But that doesn’t stop me from titling the entry thusly.

I have on my desk a letter from Delia Sherman that would have me bouncing in happiness if it didn’t happen to reject “La Molejera” for Interfictions along the way. She and Dora Goss seem to have put a lot of effort into writing the rejection letters, which is above and beyond the call of duty for editors. So yay, but at the same time boo.

The reason given for the rejection, incidentally, was that it was too identifiably a genre story to fit the anthology. This confirms my suspicion that, provided they do manage to put out a second Interfictions antho, and provided I have not sold it by then, “The Deaths of Christopher Marlowe” may be my best prospect with them. (Of course, this also requires the provision that I get off my ass and do something with that first draft. It won’t sell to anybody sitting on my hard drive.)

more than the sum of its parts

I don’t recall where I picked up this link, but it’s a discussion of media (all media) and its future. The major point is, presented in analogy, that a music album (frex) is a molecule, and songs are atoms, and we as a society are increasingly interested in atomic rather than molecular content; we download individual songs, make our own mix CDs, and even get to sub-atomic levels in creating mashups. Nor does this apply only to music.

Here are some of the issues I have with the post and its comment threads (one of which says, “Most consumers are just playing with the atoms and discarding them, and any art form that expects the consumer to understand a complex molecular structure, whether created from whole cloth or from other atoms, is in trouble”). First of all, I don’t think this trend is inherently going to keep on as it has been. Personal experience prompts this feeling; I like listening to my music on shuffle, but after a while of doing that I found myself craving whole albums again. Now, I can’t assume everybody’s like me, of course, but I have a gut feeling that playing around with atomic content is something we’re doing a lot of because suddenly technology’s making it easier; the novelty, however, may well wear off, and then the atomic approach will become one of many ways we interact with media, instead of the Tsunami of the Future that will wipe out all others.

Second, it sort of carries the assumption that the molecules are no more than the sum of their parts. “They don’t want to buy a whole album just for that catchy radio single” — true enough, but the fault then lies with the way we market music, promoting one good song on the radio while the rest of the album may be mediocre crap. I wouldn’t want to buy the album then, either. But a good album is well worth buying, because not only does it have more worth listening to than that one catchy song, it has more than its entire collection of songs; it is an artistic work in its own right, with carefully chosen beginning and ending tunes, a flow from one song to another, a journey that lasts more than four minutes. Atomic media can only offer you small experiences — powerful ones, perhaps, but limited in their complexity. And I think we enjoy complexity enough for molecular media to still have their place.

Finally, look at this on a more extreme level. The quarks of writing, if you will, are letters and punctuation, or words if you don’t want to go that far. Anybody can mix and match them to their heart’s content. But not everybody can do it well, and so we pay writers (and musicians, and TV show creators, and so on) to put them together for us, to present us with something compelling. I make characters soundtracks (i.e. themed mix CDs), but I don’t listen to them as often as I do to professional albums, and I sure as hell don’t write my own music. I could be vaguely interested in the notion of a “mix anthology,” collecting my favorite short stories in one place, but a professional editor can probably do a better job of that than I can. A mix anthology from a friend would interest me more as an expression of my friend and/or our relationship, but a professional anthology would interest me more as literature. I don’t mean that to slam my friends, of course; could well be that one or more would manifest a heretofore unsuspected talent for that sort of thing, and produce a work of sheer brilliance. But on the whole, I consume anthologies (books, albums, movies, etc) looking for someone else, someone who has spent a lot of time learning how to do it well, to present me with an experience. The more I chop up their media, the more I’m undoing their work, losing the crafted connections that made the whole more than the sum of its parts. That can be fun, and it can produce amazing new works, but I don’t think we’re going to forswear molecules for atoms any time soon.

I

And I <3 <3 <3 stunting.

I commented the other night that combat in Exalted isn’t all that quick (when I can blow a relatively cheap charm to get six actions in a round, or the bad guy can attack five times as often as I do, things get slowed down real good) . . . but despite that, I find it far more interesting than combat in most other games. Why? Because the system actively rewards you for being exciting. Say “I run up and stab him” in a normal game, and you roll your normal dice. Say that in Exalted, and you roll your normal dice. Say “I run up his enormous daiklave, feinting with my blade to all sides, then leap into the air, turn three backflips, and stab him in the back” in a normal game, and you have to make a crap-ton of difficult athletics rolls, then roll your normal dice (if you’re lucky; if not, then you’re at a penalty.) Say that in Exalted, and you get bonus dice and some of your magic juice back to boot, just for being awesome.

What’s not to love?

Obviously this approach wouldn’t work for all genres, and probably wouldn’t quite work in an Exalted game that wasn’t deliberately starting in the last chapter of an epic story. But I like the way it rewards you for describing what you’re doing, and doesn’t penalize you for trying the exciting and difficult thing over the safe and boring one. Seems to me that could be incorporated, on a less insanely over-the-top level, into more games.

It also makes me ponder something I’ve pondered before, namely, how one could go about trying to write Final Fantasy/wuxia/anime/etc-type-stuff as prose fiction. One difficulty is that the appeal of such sources is heavily visual, with both the flow of movement and the aesthetic arrangement of bodies; conveying those kinetic and spatial qualities in prose is hard. Another difficulty is simply that we’re not used to such things in our prose, and so a level of over-the-top-ness that you can swallow off a screen is much harder to digest off a page. I gradually toned down the martial arts in Doppelganger over the course of submitting it around, taking out some of the stupider wire-fu that had been in there; I wanted Mirage to be badass, but not so much so that she defied the laws of physics utterly. It might fit into another story, though, and so I ponder how it could be done.

my lunatic friends

Imagine, if you will, that you are in another city, wherein there is a chocolatier who sells the most divine hot chocolate you have ever tasted — thick and rich and beautifully bitter as the best dark chocolate can be. And you intended, while there, to go and buy more of their mix, so that you can continue to enjoy this divinity while at home . . . but alas, you planned poorly, and you will not have an opportunity to go there and buy.

Imagine that you mention this to your friends while sitting around and packing picnic baskets for that afternoon’s wedding.

Imagine — if you can — that not only will one of your friends take the time to go by that chocolatier before the wedding, but that the one who will take the time to arrange this is the groom himself, who really ought to have other things on his mind.

And then — because we’re not done yet! — imagine that you mentioned, during that conversation, the exorbitant price charged by the chocolatier if you order the five-pound bag of mix online (some of the exorbitancy stemming from the chocolate, some from the shipping charges), and that said groom friend gets it into his head that you intended to buy a five-pound bag (instead of the rather more reasonable two-pound bag), and therefore, during the picnic following his wedding, presents you with a sack containing two two-pound bags and one one-pound bag (owing to a lack of five-pound bags in the store), accompanied by the words “Happy Birthday.”

Thus did I acquire an absurd amount of Burdick’s hot chocolate, from a friend whose mind really really ought to have been on things closer to home. But I’m grateful to him anyway, and am now equipped to hand out samples of this divinity to all and sundry, for about the next three years.

The Egotism Post

Long-time readers of this journal will be familiar with today’s exercise, but for those who are new, an introduction in three points:

1) Today is my birthday.

2) So long as I continue to be involved in academia, my birthday will fall during a rather hectic and stressful period of the year.

3) I am perhaps a little too skilled for my own good at pointing the flaws in my accomplishments, how I’ve done this thing but not that other one, etc.

So, for several years now, to counteract my tendency to be in a bad mood on my birthday (for reasons that have nothing to do with my age) and my habit of denigrating my own achievements, I’ve made a practice of
posting, on this day, a listing of all the cool stuff I’ve done in the previous year. And I’m utterly forbidden to qualify my statements or include anything that isn’t positive (and you have no idea how much self-editing it takes to obey that rule).

So. I’m twenty-six today. What do I have to show for it?

This.

tabula rasa

It’s an incredibly tedious process, but I have to admit, there are some benefits to biting the bullet and reinstalling Windows on one’s machine. And I don’t just mean things like “Adobe no longer gives the system a hairball” or “it’s stopped hanging whenever I try to delete something through Windows Exploror;” I mean that it’s faster than it’s been in years, and has also provoked me into doing a lot of digital housecleaning that I’ve been avoiding for a while.

Mind you, there are other ways I would have preferred to spend the day, but it could have been a lot worse. Many thanks to the boy for his assistance.

Now, having spent most of the day with my eyes glazing over as one program after another installs itself, I think I’ll go watch the rest of Batman Begins.

In Spanish. Because in theory I’m going to take the proficiency test next week. (On my birthday. Won’t that be fun.) Watching films subtitled is not a bad way to study, honestly. And it’s surprising, how quickly ten years of dust can be brushed away from one’s language skills. (At least with Spanish, which has always worked better for me than any of the other ones, with the possible and backhanded exception of Old Norse.)

Vámonos.

Grant Morrison on Batman

It’s a little odd, reading these things when I’m not actually a follower of most comic books, let alone Batman and the rest of the superhero crowd, but Grant Morrison has some fascinating things to say about his current work on that title. Even when I don’t know half of what he’s talking about, it’s very intriguing, seeing how he approaches the task of integrating his ideas into the existing material while doing something new. Anyway, I figured the comics fans among my readers who hadn’t already come across this article . . . okay, are probably few in number, but for them, I wanted to provide the link.