greygirlbeast: (Walter1)
Well, fuck. It's almost 2 p.m. (CaST), and somehow the day is slipping past on filthy little cat feet – fuck you, Carl Sandburg, you sentimental twatwaffle. Okay. Definitely didn't mean to begin this entry that way. But, as Longbaugh reminds me, "I think a plan is just a list of things that don't happen."

Yesterday, I wrote nothing. I sat here and thought about things I should have begun writing two days ago. Finding stories. I also made a flaccid attempt at cleaning my office. I decided that if snow is the dandruff of Ceiling Cat, dust is the dandruff of Basement Cat. I stacked up manuscript boxes that need to go to storage (various incarnations of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir and Confessions of a Five-Chambered Heart, typescripts and galleys). I shelved a couple of books, and then I gave up.

I read Jack McDevitt's "The Cassandra Project" (2010) and Vylar Kaftan's "I'm Alive, I Love You, I'll See You in Reno" (also 2010). Both had kernels of magnificence trapped deep inside. Both were far too short, felt like outlines, and were almost entirely devoid of voice. I'm not sure if it's true that "Science fiction is the literature of ideas" (not sure, either, who first said that, and if you can figure it out for me, you get a banana sticker), but I don't think they meant that all you need is an idea*. At least, I hope that's not what he or she meant. I look back to Philip K. Dick, William Gibson's early work, Ray Bradbury, Jack Vance, Robert Silverburg, Ursula K. Le Guin, Frank Herbert, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison...long, long list...and there is style. Voice. Good writing. Not this no-style style. From recent samplings, I fear that too much of contemporary science fiction has all the flavour of a stale communion wafer, and is just as flat. Sorry. Gratuitous (but true) Catholic reference. Where are our prose poets? Why doesn't the language used to convey the idea matter? It's not entirely true to say it's completely absent from contemporary sf. We have the brilliance of China Miéville, for example. But for fuck's sake, the short fiction I'm reading...communion wafers.**

I only just learned that Etta James has died.

I think my diet is killing me.

The snow is so bright out there, I had to shut the curtain in my office. It's getting better, though, as the wide carnivorous sky is being decently obscured by clouds. I didn't leave the house yesterday, but Spooky did, and she took photos, which you can see behind the cut (below), along with a photo from the day before of a typical Providence grey squirrel, all of which have become absurdly obese of late, in this oddly snow-free winter. Oh. By the way. Yesterday was National Squirrel Appreciation Day. I shit you not. Let’s hear it for Sciuridae.

Last night, we watched last week's episode of Fringe. A marvelously tangled web. And yeah, it's not great science fiction, but it doesn't claim to be, and, even so, it does have a flavour.

Fat Squirrel + 21 January 2012 )


I Taste the World,
Aunt Beast

* Possibly, it was Pamela Sargent. Or, possibly, she appropriated it from Isaac Asimov.
** Near as I can tell, this has always been the case with "hard" and "military" sf.
greygirlbeast: (Eli2)
1. Yesterday, I did 1,014 words on the new vignette, which, it turns out, will be named "Apsinthion." Though I am tempted to name it "αψίνθιον," but fear the Greek letters would give [livejournal.com profile] thingunderthest fits when it came time to translate it all into the PDF for #51. Spooky read the first 2,000+ words back to me yesterday, and she likes it a lot. And I like it, so now all I have to do is find THE END today. I'm thinking Sirenia Digest #51 will go out to subscribers on Saturday, but Sunday at the latest.

2. Last night, I got the rough sketch for Vince's illustration for "The Eighth Veil," and it's looking awesome. I have to write him back this morning, to answer a question or two, but it's going to be perfect for the story.

3. Greer Gilman ([livejournal.com profile] nineweaving) brought this bit of anti-intellectual claptrap to my attention last night: "A reader's advice to writers - A word to the novelist on how to write better books," by someone named Laura Miller. Never mind the highly dubious conceit of the title, that readers are qualified to tell authors how to write (I say that's very like me advising a dance choreographer or a cameraman or a cellist). Once again, we are told that style is a no-no. Voice is bad. Just hand out story, please. To quote the passage that Greer has already quoted:

4. Remember that nobody agrees on what a beautiful prose style is and most readers either can't recognize "good writing" or don't value it that much. Believe me, I wish this were otherwise, and I do urge all readers to polish their prose and avoid clichés. However, I've seen as many books ruined by too much emphasis on style as by too little. As Leonard himself notes at the end of his list, most of his advice can be summed up as, 'if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.' Or, as playwright David Hare put it in his list, 'Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.' But whether you write lush or (please!) transparent prose, keep in mind that in most cases, style is largely a technical matter appreciated by specialists. You probably don't go to movies to see the lighting and photography, and most readers don't come to books in search of breathtaking sentences.

*blink blink*

Actually, I do go to movies to see lighting and photography, very much so. And costume design. And to admire well-written screenplays. So, it should come as no surprise that my favorite directors are not bland facilitators of unremarkable cinematography. They are people like Wes Anderson, Jane Campion, David Lynch, Tim Burton, the Coen Bros., Werner Herzog, Martin Scorcese, and so forth — directors whose vision of a story is as important as the story itself, who are visible on every frame of film. And the same is true of the books I most love. I need to hear the voice of the author, and it must be a compelling voice. People like Ms. Miller, well, I'll be kind and say I find them utterly fucking unfathomable. If you ever asked me for writing advice, and I ever refused to give it (because that's not something I make a habit of doing), I'll give you a little now: ignore this sort of nonsense. Good prose isn't transparent. It's not a clear window, but, rather, something more akin to stained glass. The trick is not to be "accessible" to as many people as possible, but to find your voice, whether or not anyone will ever listen.

5. After long a month in Insilico, a month of extremely heavy rp that has, among other good things, inspired a couple of nice short stories, I'm stepping back from Second Life a bit. Again. Mainly, I don't have the time to keep up with all four characters that setting out to rp one character somehow spawned. I will, for now, continue to play the part of Xiang 1.5, currently known as "Victoria," but that's really all that I can handle. I find myself fretting over those characters when I ought to be fretting over my fiction. No, the other fiction, the stuff that pays the bills. Last night, no SL for the first time in a couple of weeks. Instead, I played WoW with Spooky, and, unexpectedly, had quite a lot of fun. I think that was my first WoW in five or six weeks.

6. Last night, Spooky made meatloaf and we watched Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in Howard Hawks's delightful Ball of Fire (1941), an old favorite.

7. And now, the third set of photos from Sunday's trip to Conanicut Island. These were taken after we left Beavertail and drove east, to West Cove at Fort Wetherill:

21 February 2010, Part 3 )
greygirlbeast: (mirror2)
Well, yesterday was far and away better than Thursday, and yet it was also frustrating and disappointing and, yes, it was tedious, too. I managed to get all the way through the five new pieces that will be appearing in Tales from the Woeful Platypus and did the corrections and a little more revision that is usual for me. But I did not manage to get to the four reprints from Sirenia Digest — "Untitled 17," "Untitled 20," "Pony," and "pas-en-arrière." Those I will have to do today, which puts me another day behind. With luck, this evening I'll have the whole ms. together and can e-mail it away to Subterranean Press. Because I need to have started work on The Dinosaurs of Mars two weeks ago.

There is some dim, reckless plan to take two or three days off, beginning tomorrow, but I've already decided to spend one of them cleaning the house.

And before I drift too far afield from the subject of writing, I was over at Elizabeth Bear's LJ ([livejournal.com profile] matociquala) and that particularly tiresome old shibboleth, the bit about good prose being akin to a pane of glass, "transparent prose," had come up. And I ought not say anything at all, because anyone who's been reading this journal for any time at all knows a) how I feel about declarations that, when writing fiction, one ought or ought not do any given thing and b) how I feel about the No-Style Style of writing championed by people who like to go on and on about how good prose must be transparent. Bear had many sensible things to say on the subject, and she knows I'm not addressing her. But I started trying to remember where this whole "transparent prose" nonsense got started, because I thought I recalled a quote. The best I can come up with is this bit from George Orwell: "Good prose is like a window pane." (1954, "Why I Write," from A Collection of Essays).

For my part, I'd say that good prose is like a stained-glass window. In fact, I might have already said that here before. It should allow the light through (or the darkness), but it must not be devoid of flavour and texture and sound and all the millions of things which makes each individual writer a unit discrete from all those other writers. I'll take Ray Bradbury over Mary Higgins Clark any damn day. Give me James Joyce or Angela Carter or Mark Twain or Charles Dickens and please, please keep your Robin Cooks and Jonathan Kellermans. I want to hear the writer's voice, because fiction writers are not frelling journalists. We take a story, a story anyone could tell, as all tales have been told and re-told, but then we make it our own. We find a way to tell it that is ours. Breezy, fast-paced, airplane-friendly plots are a dime a dozen. The magic is in the voice, in the point of view conveyed by the voice. The artist is the art is the artist is the art, round and round and round in that familiar Ourobouros dance of tail-swallowing. I do not write transparent prose. I will not write transparent prose. If I'm not there, on every page, in every sentence, I might as well be off somewhere writing copy for the AP.

There's a new e-ish of The Adventures of Boschen and Nesuko, wherein I reprise my role as a topless alien whore. Right there in panel 1. Really, topless alien whore, fiction writer, six of one or a half dozen of the other.

The tediousness of yesterday's editing left me too tired and stupid for anything but television. Good thing there was actually some decent television, for a change. Just a quick recap, because the platypus is crouched here beneath my desk, tapping herhisit's webbed foot. Someone asked me last week if I'd seen Heroes, and I didn't reply, because I hadn't. I was afraid it would just be another festival of pretty, interchangeable faces (i.e., Lost), wrapped up in a rip-off of The X-Men. Last night we watched the second ep, and while I think maybe the X-Men thing might still be an issue, I was surprised that the faces of the actors had character, that the characters had character, and by the end of the hour I was ready for more. So, I remain cautiously optimistic that Heroes may amount to something interesting. Then, of course, I watched the first ep of the "new" season of Dr. Who, which was really my first taste of David Tennant as the Doctor. Confession: I'm not a Dr. Who fan; I'm a Christopher Eccleston fan. That's why I was so nuts about last season. That said, I thought "Tooth and Claw" was actually very good, and I might just be able to get into this next season after all. He's no Christopher Eccleston, but David Tennant might yet win me over. And finally, the two-hour season premiere of Battlestar Galactica. Wow. I think the creators of the series are making very smart moves and have managed to pull the series out of the doldrum it had wandered into midway through the second season. And while I'm at it, let me just say that a) I hate having to say good things about programming on the Sci-Fi Channel and b) at least Friday nights have at last been freed from the bland and tiresome grip of Stargate SG-1.

Oh, and there was half an hour or so of Drakengard 2, just long enough for Manah to kick Caim's sorry ass.

Okay. Must go now. The platypus is showing me those venomous spurs, reminding me that tedium waits for no nixar.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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