Made it!

“Degrees of Heresy”

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6,128 /
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“Everything comes to an end someday. That’s what this place is for. But it doesn’t make the end hurt any less.”

Speaking of ends, the last couple of lines sort of fall flat, but hey — this is a first draft. I can always fix that later.

Three short stories in three weeks, and I finished this one well in advance of the wedding I’m going to tonight. Yay me! Now I just need to figure out what I’m doing for the fourth and final week. “Kingspeaker”? “The Unquiet Grave”? Nothing involving research, and bonus points if it isn’t over 6K like this one was. We’ll see what comes to mind.

back to Driftwood

“Degrees of Heresy”

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4,601 /
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Wrote about 400 more yesterday after the sale, then another 900 so far today. I’ve had to revise my length estimate back upward to my old default of 6K; I fear it may prove even longer than that. Things still have to go horribly wrong for Qoress, and then he has to make his decision. The title got changed, too; I realized that it isn’t really a question of heresy. It’s a lot of such questions. And Qoress is going to have to decide what degrees of heresy he’s willing to accept.

when pushiness pays off

Look, a post that has nothing to do with the Driftwood story!

I don’t know how I missed it when the notice went out, but Farah Mendlesohn is editing an anthology in response to a proposed British bill that would make illegal “the glorification of terrorism.” This sparks, of course, concerns about free speech, and how the government might use it to clamp down on political dissent (whether in artistic expression, history books, etc). So Farah’s anthology is called Glorifying Terrorism, and it’s chock-full of stories that challenge the restrictions of that proposed law.

Including mine.

As I said, I missed the initial call for stories, but I e-mailed Farah to ask if she was still considering submissions, and she said she might, if any of the ones she was waiting on edits from fell through. Long story short, she’s bought “Execution Morning.” The Kitsune is likely one of the only people reading this who’s familiar with it; it has the signal honor of being the first short story I wrote that didn’t profoundly suck. I’ve tinkered with it off and on in the years since, but as it’s a story about unpleasant and dubiously moral decisions in the face of terrorism, it’s met with extremely mixed reactions, ranging from the Kitsune’s awed silence when she first read it down to people telling me it’s a complete and utter failure as a story. (So that lack of profund suckage is, I guess, in the eye of the beholder.)

As per a recent discussion on Jim Hines’ journal, I’m not usually good at putting myself in an editor’s path like this; if Glorifying Terrorism hadn’t originally been an open-call anthology, I might not have tried. But hey, pushiness pays off: another sale for me, and that story finally has a home where it belongs.

And kudos to Farah for this move. She’s fronting the money for the antho herself, paying well more than a token fee for the stories, and publishing it through a political press. When I’m constantly seeing listings for anthos promising their authors “a share of the royalties” (which will translate to nothing), this makes a really stunning contrast.

two days left

“A Question of Heresy”

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I may have to revise my length estimate upwards, as Last is only now planning Qoress’ trip for him. Serves me right for dropping my usual estimate from 6K to 5K.

If I ever get to publish a collection or chapbook of Driftwood stories, I’m going to have to revise them. It’s an unfortunate truth of the place that I can’t write a story in Driftwood without explaining Driftwood; even once I start selling these pieces, I won’t be able to assume that my readers are familiar with the ones already published. But in a collection, I’d have to snip out all the repeated information; otherwise it would get tedious.

Time to go pick up the laundry; then I write more. Ah, the scintillating life of a writer.

ick time

“A Question of Heresy”

That’ll do as a working title, and possibly a permanent one.

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Qoress is not happy that I made him drink someone else’s spit.

Got derailed for a good chunk of time this evening, but good progress on the whole; I did about 1800 words today. Dude whose name I still don’t like is onstage (it was his spit, but to be fair, he drank Qoress’ in return), and the moral dilemmas will come fast and thick now.

I’ve noticed a strong tendency to skip over things in this story. It’s a technique I’m still mastering, I think. Certainly there are virtues in describing intervening events, but those virtues are mostly native to the land of novels; in this case, I think it’s a good course of action to skip them. Mind you, we’ll see what my readers think when this story is done. Might be I’m wrong. It’s happened before. (And it was called “On the Feast of the Firewife.” I still need to go back and write the damned in-law scenes for that.)

Bedtime now. More story tomorrow.

poor Qoress

Untitled Driftwood Story #3

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This story may be called “A Question of Heresy,” but it isn’t sure yet.

Poor Qoress. The man is afraid he won’t have any morals left by the time I’m done with making him surrender them.

Onward with the progress. If I’m to be done by week’s end, I need to keep at it.

story three

Untitled Driftwood Story #3

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1,164 /
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Getting a much later start in the week than I wanted to, but them’s the breaks. I finally managed to make progress by dint of glossing over much of the scene that had me stuck; I may have to go back and fill it in, but right now I’m operating on the assumption that if I had no interest in writing that bit, then Hypothetical Reader would have no interest in reading it.

I think one of the things I like best about playing in Driftwood is that I get to pull random worldbuilding bits out of my ass without worrying about whether they contribute to a coherent whole. Driftwood isn’t about coherent wholes. It’s about bizarre fragments. So I get to just Make Shit Up, turning off my inner anthropologist, which I don’t often get to do.

reading in Chicago

It’s a bit short notice, but if you’re in the Chicago area, I will be at the Twilight Tales reading series next Monday, the 12th. Show starts at 7:30 at the Red Lion Pub; more info is available on the website. I’ll be reading three short stories: “Silence, Before the Horn,” “Centuries of Kings,” and “The Twa Corbies.”

In unrelated news, man, after spending half an hour struggling to come up with Xie Meng-lu’s name (for the lurking short story idea, “Xie Meng-lu Goes on Pilgrimage”), I’m convinced I need to buy a good, comprehensive book on historical Chinese names. I don’t suppose anyone has a recommendation? I want to write a series of these stories, and that’s going to be a nightmare without a good desk reference. The Internets simply do not cut it in this case. (With the result that Xie Meng-lu’s name is subject to change — but I needed something to call him, since his name is half of the title.)

Two Down, Two to Go

I neglected to mention, when I was posting updates on Kit, that there was more going on than simply me getting that story out of my head at last. Akashiver and I have formed a pact to write four short stories in four weeks, of which that was the first. Tonight I managed to knock out a longhand copy of “Waiting for Beauty,” the story Kit mugged on his way to the forefront of my brain. It turned out to be quite short; about a thousand words, I estimate. We’ll see when I type it up.

But that counts for week two, which means I’m halfway to my goal. Next up, I think, will be the Driftwood story I started at ICFA. After that? Your guess is as good as mine. I have a list on my computer of story ideas composting in my head, but none have shown Kit’s initiative in wanting to be written. Some (“Hannibal of the Rockies,” “Mad Maudlin”) require irritating amounts of research, which makes me reluctant to tackle them on this schedule, especially after my adventure through Elizabethan history last week. Some (“Once a Goddess,” the faerie trouble story) haven’t the blindest clue where they’re going. Some I could maybe write, but I just don’t feel much desire to.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll do something with “Kingspeaker.” It was trying to get itself written a while back, after all; maybe I can wake it up again.

But it’s good to have short story productivity again. Which is, after all, the point of the exercise.

Sartorias linked to this LJ post about violations of narrative protocols, specifically point of view. It makes for interesting reading, but when all’s said and done, I really don’t agree.

I simply don’t have that strict a view of narration, when it comes down to it. I think it’s an interesting device that Tolkien constructed The Lord of the Rings as a real story plausibly handed down to us by real narrators, but I don’t find the incident with the fox to be a “ghastly lapse.” (At least not a lapse of protocol. It is a bit twee, and in general, I approve of avoiding the twee.) I don’t need to believe that a specific person is the narrator of a story, or that they had an opportunity to communicate their thoughts to others. I’m privy to a character’s thoughts while they’re dying alone? Cool. It probably means I’ll find their death more interesting. (The Aldiss example, on the other hand, does sound annoying, and likely the result of Mr. Alidss setting himself a challenge he couldn’t consistently meet.)

As far as I’m concerned, everything we do in writing is artificial. (I almost said “nearly everything,” but decided to go for rhetorical force rather than covering my ass. I haven’t been awake for long enough to think through that assertion and decide if I have any exceptions.) Back to the point, everything’s artificial, and so I don’t have any particular reason for balking at conventions of narration that tell me things no person in the story could tell me. The issue, for me, is whether or not the writer induces me to care, and in pursuit of that goal, they can do whatever damn thing they please. Head-hopping? Violation of pov? Blatant asides to the reader? Knock yourself out. If you get me to follow you through it, then you’ve won. (Mind you, if you violate established conventions of narration and don’t get me to follow you, then I’ll be irritated, whereas a conventional approach that fails will merely bore me. Your risk.)

Of course, I’m saying all this as my agent prepares to market a novel that’s in first person with no explanation for when and how the narrator came to tell anyone that story. My defense here is not disinterested. Fortunately, when I responded to the original comment quoted at the beginning of that post, I was not the only one who said they had no problem with such a trick. There will be people who will throw the book down in disgust, perhaps, due to the point of view, but I hope they will be a minority.