WHERE DID THIS DUMB IDEA COME FROM?

I don’t know, I’m asking you!

I always have a legal pad next to me at my desk when I’m working so I can take notes, etc. and from time to time these pads (and any other bits and scraps of paper) become repositories for story ideas. I honestly don’t know where these come from or what inspires them. I’m not sure anyone does. And though you’ll always find me firmly on the side of science, knowledge, and reason, sometimes I think we shouldn’t know where ideas come from.

It’ll be like Asimov’s psychohistory, or Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Once the man behind the curtain is revealed we start telling him what we think he wants to hear. If we somehow discovered the Creative Wellspring some corporation would cordon it off, sell access to it, and destroy everything about what it means to be human. And they’re already doing a good enough job of that with health care, education, and shelter, so let’s not give them another weapon.

That leaves me with no clue where this “gem” came from, but back to that legal pad. What was I doing? I was talking to someone on the phone—it may have been my mother—and started doodling. I don’t normally doodle a lot but anyway I ended up with a masterpiece of fantasy illustration, my awesome zombie.

Jim Zombroni, Undead Contractor

Jim Zombroni, Undead Contractor

The phone call must not have been terrible engaging (sorry, Mom) and I started thinking about this zombie and decided he needed a name. Zombroni was funny to me because it was the most obvious, and his first name had to be Jim because no one named Jim has ever been scary. Even Captain Kirk, when he wanted to seem intimidating, called himself “Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise,” but to his pals and to the ladies he was Jim.

So now I have Jim Zombroni, but a man ain’t no kinda man unless he gots a job (where did I hear that?) so hmm . . . He’s wearing cut-off jean shorts and work shirt. He looks like a contractor. And being a zombie, that makes him an undead contractor.

I was so pleased with myself then, but expected it would stop there but then the story appeared in my head fully formed.

It was just all of a sudden there.

Jim Zombroni had a plan., Jim Zombroni’s plan put him into conflict with another character, and Jim Zombroni came to a happy conclusion. All three acts done, done, and done. I couldn’t write it down fast enough for fear of forgetting any part of it, so if you can’t make out my handwriting, it’s:

People hire him via Angie’s List

He shows up, eats the people, doesn’t do work

Gets on their computer and leaves an A+ rating on Angie’s List

This is how he finds victims

BUT

One day he shows up to a job and the “person” who hired him is a zombie who uses fake home improvement projects to lure victims to her house to eat them

They fall in love.

I’ll admit, it’s not much of a story. The world will not one day see human history as “Before Zombroni” and “After Zombroni.” The resolution may be predictable. The whole thing isn’t terribly original, but what’s interesting to me isn’t the goofy little drawing or the even more goofy name and the goofier-still story outline, it’s how do these things actually manifest?

I have religious friends who might say that God put it there. But assuming there is an all-powerful creator of the universe, I have to believe He’s got better things to do with His time than implant ideas for stupid comedy zombie short stories in my head.

Come to think of it, this feels a bit more like the Devil’s handiwork!

Or is it just the way my mind works after a lifetime of storytelling? I draw a picture, then am compelled to add to that . . . I honestly don’t know.

But advice for writers out there: Make sure you have paper and a pen or pencil with you at all times. If you feel like doodling, doodle. If you get an idea for a story, scribble that idea down.

I might not ever write this story . . . though I really want to. I have hundreds of these, believe it or not. I’m pretty old, so you may not have that many yourself, but if you don’t have hundreds of them by age 50, I can’t imagine all the stories you should have remembered, should have thought about more, and should have written but didn’t, just because you didn’t jot it down, even if it’s in your worst handwriting.

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

 

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THOUGHTS ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

In the introduction to an episode of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling said: “It’s been said that science fiction and fantasy are two different things. Science fiction—the improbable made possible. Fantasy—the impossible made probable.”

Science tells us that thing he’s holding in his hand is most likely why he died of a heart attack at age 50.

Science tells us that thing he’s holding in his hand is most likely why he died of a heart attack at age 50.

I wrote that down a couple weeks ago and have been puzzling over it ever since. “Probable,” “possible,” I’m not sure what he was getting at or who said it before him.

In the end I’m happy with whatever definition of SF and/or fantasy you’re willing to provide and am delighted by both genres both in the ways they’re different and the ways they’re the same—and the third thing: the way they interact and comingle with each other. Still, it’s an interesting question and one that is certainly germane to this blog.

You may have noticed that the interviews you occasionally see here always start with the same two questions:

Please define “fantasy” in 25 words or less.

and

Please define “science fiction” in 25 words or less.

I’ve gotten some terrific answers to those questions and at risk of abandoning the basic question in the title of this post I’m happy to agree with each and every definition. But surely I have an opinion on this subject after a lifetime in the SF and fantasy business?

To me, fantasy is fiction that presents elements that are not found in the real world (technology, monsters, superhuman abilities, etc.) and the explanation for those unreal elements is some form of magic. In fantasy, things just happen because in that strange other world or alternate reality things like that (people flying around on brooms, turning into monsters, and conjuring information or energies out of thin air) just work.

Science fiction might do all those same unreal/impossible things but the explanation given is based on some kind of imagined science or technology. How did I turn into a monster? It was a virus that did it, or radiation. How am I able to fly around? It’s a jet pack cobbled together by a genius inventor. That’s science fiction.

Obviously, fantasy authors aren’t requited to show how a particular magic spell, ritual, or item actually works. If the explanation is “it’s magical,” I’m perfectly willing to buy into that, knowing full well it’s entirely invented and no matter how hard I study the text or how many live spiders I swallow I will not actually ever be able to cast a spider climb spell. I know what fantasy is and am not only able to suspend my disbelief and buy into the fiction of wizards and orcs, but excited by the prospect of doing so for however long the book, movie, or game lasts.

Want one. Bad.

Want one. Bad.

Science fiction, related to last week’s post, puts a slightly greater onus on the author to “get it right,” but then, only slightly. How, exactly, do the flying cars in Blade Runner work? I have no idea. And I’m perfectly willing to just think, Wow, those are cool . . . wish I had one, for the duration of the movie. I’ve said many times before that if you actually know how to get a spacecraft to travel faster than the speed of light, please at least delay your science fiction writing career and go be the Bill Gates of the FTL Revolution. For the rest of us, as long as we’re consistently applying a set of invented rules for how people interact with that FTL drive, we’re good to go.

So that being the case, what is the difference between science fiction and fantasy?

They do more or less the same thing: provide a stage for commentary on, as Douglas Adams said, “life, the universe, and everything,” by filtering sometimes very difficult subjects through myth and fable to make a point. In many ways science fiction ends with, “and this could actually come to pass,” whether “this” is a nuclear holocaust (a cautionary tale) or “this” is a galaxy-spanning Federation dedicated to the peaceful exploration of space (an aspirational tale). We didn’t quite get to the moon city and commercial space shuttles of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, but aside from the alien monolith what we saw in that movie was, and remains, possible. People have been building amazing gizmos since the Neolithic Period, and like we talked about last week, we’re only getting better and better—or, at least, faster and faster—at doing that so, sure, the future may very well include a moon city, FTL starships, ringworlds, and light sabers. If we could figure out how to fly, communicate over long distances, arrange so that at the age of 50 I still have a full set of teeth, and turn the moon into a place people have been to—all of which would be impossible-to-imagine miracles to someone from the year 1014—what unimaginable miracles does the year 3014 have in store for us?

Fantasy, on the other hand, never pretends that someday you’ll be able to make a pact with demons to become an immortal vampire; that you’ll ever be able to swallow a live spider, wave your hands around, and climb on walls like Spiderman; or teleport from here to there by summoning the mana that surrounds us in all living things.

Now, having said that, someone reading this in the year 3014 will probably say, “Yeah, what? We can do all those things. My sister’s a vampire.” And watching it happen would seem, to me at any rate, like magic. The same way that I know the computer I’m using to write and publish this isn’t at all magical but a device cobbled together by my fellow non-magic-using humans, but I still don’t have a detailed understanding of how it actually works.

Maybe the difference between fantasy and science fiction is that in science fiction we blame other humans for the bad ideas they have and take credit for the good ideas, and in fantasy, good or bad, it’s the gods that did it.

I don’t know.

You tell me.

In 25 words or less.

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

 

 

 

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ARE YOU KEEPING UP?

In my classes on writing fantasy and science fiction I spend some time, for the benefit of the science fiction authors, talking about technology. I’m certainly not the first person to point out that good science fiction isn’t really about predicting the future, either in terms of available or emerging technology, or social or political trends. Good science fiction addresses issues (political or personal) that are of concern now.

Still, some science fiction authors were able to manage a couple of bold predictions that at least kinda came true, like Jules Verne sort of anticipating the nuclear submarine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or H.G. Wells more or less predicting the development of nuclear weapons in Things to Come.

But way more often . . . and I mean way more often, even the smartest, most well-read and well-intentioned SF scribes get it wrong. This tends only to be a problem when, like George Orwell or Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, you make the mistake of fixing a specific date to your story. But what most SF authors miss is less the technology than the concurrent social advance. Not only did 2001: A Space Odyssey miss the mark on Pan Am shuttle flights to the space station on your way to the moon city that of course would be fully functional in the year 2001 (but no one had a cell phone or laptop), they also presented a high level meeting attended exclusively by white men in suits. There was still a Soviet Union/Cold War going on, etc.

As we continue to experience an exponential acceleration of technological advance as we barrel willy nilly to the singularity (whatever that is), we do what humans do. We adapt.

Unfortunately, for a lot us that means adapting by pretending it isn’t happening. The media, for instance, doesn’t quite know how to report scientific advances, especially with the conservative movement actively fighting against it. It’s all just happening too fast, and most of us need a minute (or, more accurately, a generation or so) to really understand that everything we thought we knew about X has been temporarily replaced with Y for a week or so until someone posits Z.

What all this means is that not only are you going to be as unable to guess correctly at the technological (much less social) landscape of the world thirty-three years from now as Kubrick & Clarke were when attempting to look that far into the future from 1968, it’s actually going to be even harder now than it was then.

Advances are happening so fast now it’s almost impossible to keep up. Here are a few examples I’ve cited in classes and seminars, to which most of the assembled authors react first with skepticism.

Have you seen the ultra-ultra-ultra-slow motion video of light moving through a Coke bottle? Is this the future of medical scanning technology? Will it allow soldiers and police officers to spot bad guys hiding around corners? Keep those two questions in mind while you stare in slack-jawed awe at this TED Talk:

We all know that the sun is moving through space, orbiting the center of the galaxy, right? So what does that mean to what we perceive as the orderly circular orbits of the planets, including Earth?

Did you know that it’s possible to get an old inkjet printer to make replacement organs from stem cells? How many lives will this save in, say, twenty years?

In my classes and seminars, no one believes the spider goat is real. It can’t be real, right? Well, it is! And it lives in Utah, where most of the people are positive that evolution (and therefore genetics) is a lie told by the devil.

The one job you can never replace with a computer is construction worker, right? Well…

Nanotechnology couldn’t possibly work because no way can you even see an atom, much less move it around. Except that . . .

And everyone knows that one thing can’t be in two different places at the same time, and that’s true for things like us that exist in the macro-scale, but how about in the quantum world? Well, our friends at MIT have now got a single photon to sit in four different places at the same time. So . . . yeah.

Which of these technologies will be up and running, even commonplace in, say, 2047—that same thirty-three year time span from Apollo to what Kubrick & Clarke (and their NASA consultants) thought would become of the space program?

Once femtophotography says, “I can see around corners,” I imagine the military-industrial complex saying, “Yeah, we’ll pay for that.” Likewise the medical-industrial complex and the new non-invasive scanner, too. And that same for profit medical system will surely fund organs-on-demand technology. The military would like the spider-goat milk/silk for body armor. I’m not 100% sure what a new way of looking at orbital dynamics will do for any industrial complex, but what the hell . . . the video is cool and makes us all a little smarter. Moving atoms around to spell words that can only be read by the same device used to move the atoms around? Not much of a commercial application there, but the point is to use similar technology to create, say, an airplane fuselage made out of a single vat-grown sapphire that’s lighter and stronger than any material yet available. Or make little robots that swim through your body disassembling viruses and cancer cells. There’s a market for those two things.

And ultimately, that’s where Kubrick & Clarke went off the rails. They asked NASA engineers, “All things being equal, what will you guys have cooked up by 2001?”

But all things weren’t equal. Ultimately the successful Apollo missions revealed the moon to be a dead place full of a whole lot of stuff we already have on Earth. It’s a horrible place to live, lacking basic amenities like, y’know, air. Budget slashed . . . next project.

Why have personal computers spread so rapidly? I can do something with them. I’m doing something with one right now, in fact. And so are you. There’s a market for computers, cell phones/smartphones, more energy efficient airplanes, medical technologies that help us live longer and feel better, and the military spends a lot of money trying to get better and better at blowing people up from a position of relative safety, since wounded soldiers cost money.

Is that what it comes down to, then? Money?

Yup.

 

—Philip Athans

 

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DON’T LET THIS BE THE LAST NATIONAL BUY A BOOK DAY!

It started on August 19, 2010 with a post at John Ottinger’s Grasping for the Wind. I made the case that we needed a National Buy a Book Day—and in the handful of years that followed I tried to walk the walk, establishing a not for profit foundation in the hopes of gaining enough support to really get this publicized outside the grassroots social media channels.

Have I failed at that?

Despite attempts to raise awareness, and the funds necessary to apply for coveted Federal 501(c)3 status, here we are, another National Buy a Book Day two days in the past, and I’m still not able to manage that.

I blame myself, mostly. I took this on as a side project—a labor of love. But over the past couple years as I started to get busier and busier, I started pushing a bunch of things off to the side, and unfortunately the National Buy a Book Day Foundation was one of them. I didn’t do enough in a world crowded with messages to get the message out, and to be honest I don’t think I had much of a message.

The heart of the idea is simple, and requires no donation from anyone to accomplish.

On September 7th of each year, buy a book.

It’s that easy.

I was hoping that with increased visibility we could bring booksellers and publishers into the fold, make a real event out of it, use the visibility to help support the struggling independent booksellers, and so on. But to be honest, getting that started and working and worthwhile would be a full time job, and I just can’t be a full time volunteer.

So where does that leave the National Buy a Book Day Foundation?

As of today, it can afford to stay afloat for a few more months, and it’s hard for me to ask for too many more donations that tend to go to paying bank fees and other minor administrative costs.

But even if the foundation doesn’t survive, National Buy a Book Day absolutely can, and must.

It’ll live in the ether—on GoodReads and Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, and wherever readers congregate and talk to each other. Go buy a book every September 7th (and any other day of the year you wish, of course!) and tell us all about it. What did you buy? Where did you buy it?

This year I bought a copy of The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth and in the spirit of supporting the independents I bought it from Golden Age Collectibles in Pike Place Market in Seattle. It’s been added to the top, not the bottom, of my voluminous to-read list.

What book did you buy day before yesterday? Did you tell people about it? Did you use the hashtags #buyabookday and #september7 ?

If not, do it next year . . . and the next, and the next . . . and who knows, in another four years or so, it might be the Big Deal I was hoping it would be by now. It’s a good idea, and a worthy effort, and good ideas and worthy efforts never die, they just sometimes take a little longer than we hoped.

 

—Philip Athans

 

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A WORLDBUILDING EXAMPLE EXPLAINED AT LAST

n my online and in-person worldbuilding classes I often say that a lot of fantasy and science fiction worldbuilding is done as you’re writing. At certain points our stories will dictate what we need to know about the world. This is meant to caution you against over-worldbuilding, or feeling as though every bit of what the world is like needs to be invented and properly cataloged before you set about trying to jam a story into it. The opposite, in fact, is true: The world should serve your story, not the other way around.

I guess I have to mention the only exception: Shared world/tie in fiction by nature has to begin with the world, but if this is a world original to you, how do you know what you’ll need?

The example I cite so often it’s come to feel repetitious is: You’re writing along, and a character dies. Okay, you ask yourself, now what? Is there a funeral?

Burial sites that date back tens of thousands of years have been discovered that include various totems and bits of stuff, bodies placed in specific poses, and so on, clearly suggesting that some sort of funeral has taken place, that there’s a ritual around disposing of the bodies of the dear departed. It’s something people do, and have always done.

How I got to this as an example, I’m not sure—it’s a little dark—but it’s meant to stand in for all the things we don’t think of in terms of worldbuilding until we get there.

So how about an example? Here’s an actual fantasy funeral from V. Lakshman’s brilliant epic fantasy Mythborn:

 The Last Passage for Lore Father Themun Dreys was a solemn affair and held at the time of the setting sun. The body rested inside a wooden boat as mourners gathered along the beach. The repetitive sound of the waves breaking along the surf was in its own way welcome. It was far off, a building rumble, crash, then bubbling hiss that gave the assembled a sense of peace, as if the entire world waited for the lore father to be put to rest.

Along with the adepts came those elders of the Isle who sought to mourn their loss, these orphans having become part of their family as much as any child born to them. Each carried a small candle set upon a wooden plate. These would be set to float alongside the funeral boat of the lore father. They had chosen a secluded spot on the shore where currents flowed quickly out past the breakers and into the wide, blue expanse of the ocean.

mythborn

Lore Father Giridian spoke of the life of Themun Dreys, his single-minded vision that kept his people alive and protected. He paid homage to a man who had spent the better part of two centuries protecting those he loved and in his final act, saving the Isle from unknown assailants.

At the proper moment, the boat was launched and set afire. Along with it floated dozens of candles, individual flames of tribute to those who had fallen. The boat blazed orange and yellow, like a sun brought to earth, reflecting its light in the deep blue waters. It made its way out to sea, a shining beacon that illuminated the dark, much as the lore father had done during his long life.

Once concluded, some mourners remained, seating themselves on the beach and gazing out at the sea and the stars as they slowly winked into existence. Others wandered back toward the main halls, their purpose lost with the death of those they cherished. It would be some time before those on the Isle who survived would heal, but they would never forget.

Lore Father Giridian watched everyone, his concern plainly evident. They needed answers, a reason why this tragedy had occurred, or else there would be no closure. He motioned to Dragor, who came and stood beside him.

“We need to delve deeper into the lore fathers’ memories. The answer to this attack is somewhere in our past,” he said.

Dragor looked out across the sea and asked, “To what end? You said the memories of Valarius and Duncan are missing. Even if we find an answer, what will we do about it?”

“Come,” the lore father said, moving off the beach and to the Halls, “there is still a lot to be answered for.”

It’s not a huge scene, not terribly elaborate, and it doesn’t in any way overwhelm the story. Mythborn is not a book “about” fantasy funerals. It’s one component to a richly-realized fantasy world that helps to immerse readers in a place and time unique to that work. The characters behave like people, and do things that people do, and not just the happy or exciting things.

I know that by posting this I run the risk of this whole point being misunderstood. This is not me telling you that before you write a fantasy or science fiction story you first have to create a complex funeral rite. What I’m trying to say is listen to your story as you’re writing it. Let your story tell you what parts of the world need “building,” and build to support the story.

 

—Philip Athans

 

 

 

 

 

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ONLINE WORLDBUILDING CLASS STILL OPEN!

Yes, Virginia, there is an online version of my Worldbuilding course and there are still slots open, so go sign up already!

And yes, I am taking this week to pimp that.

This isn’t a webinar-type thing where you have to sign on at a certain time. It’s a bit more self-guided than that. But I will be reading and commenting on written exercises, and answering questions via Writer’s Digest’s Blackboard system.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Session One: Magic & Technology

It’s not fantasy without magic and it’s not science fiction without advanced technology. What your characters can do, the means by which they communicate, defend themselves, travel, and so on, will have to be as plausible as they are imaginative.

A snippet from the Session One “lecture”:

Who can use magic, or operate this technology?

If anyone can do it, and it’s reasonably accessible, how then does magic change the “medieval” world you started with? If your fantasy characters have a magical version of the smart phone, what “apps” do they have? What other magical gizmo has subbed in for technology: hot and cold running water? Computers? Cars? Airplanes?

This is why fantasy authors tend to limit access to magic to some chosen few, or make the sources of magic energy rare and difficult to find, control, and/or protect. So then who can use this thing, only men or only women? Only “special” people? What makes them “special”? Is someone controlling who uses it?

Session Two: Monsters

Monsters and aliens are a staple of the genre, and must be created with care. Discussion will include monsters as metaphor, monsters as characters, and how to build believable yet bizarre and terrifying creatures.

A snippet from the Session Two “lecture”:

Show vs. Tell

And remember the so-often given advice to fiction authors: Show how scary the monster is, don’t just tell us, “The monster was scary.” Describe the reactions of the characters around it. They open their mouths in desperate, silent screams. One of them begins muttering, hands clasped tightly over his eyes in a vain attempt to shut out the memory of the devil’s twisted features . . . That’s more entertaining to read, and is always going to elicit a more visceral reaction than, “Everyone thought it looked bad—like a real monster.”

Session Three: People & Cultures

Humans, elves, and Martians alike, the fantasy and science fiction genres have imagined a wide range of sentient creatures. We’ll learn how to populate our worlds with believable and compelling characters. But people are more than just their DNA. We’ll also take a close look at the way people interact with each other and the world around them.

A snippet from the Session Three “lecture”:

The Other

This is an important question to ask yourself before you even begin to develop your version of elves, aliens, and whatnot: What function do these people serve? A sentient species or radically different race shouldn’t just show up for no particular reason. In fact, nothing in your writing should show up for no particular reason. What do these people do for your story, for the world? And both those question may well be answered by answering this question first: What do they say about us?

Session Four: Government & Religion

If “culture” defines how people view each other, governments and religions define the rules by which they live their lives. We’ll discuss both the positive and negative aspects of the institutions that send us off to prayer or war, a wedding ceremony or a voting booth.

A snippet from the Session Four “lecture”:

Aspirational vs. Cautionary

The United Federation of Planets in the Star Trek universe was created as a shining example of what we might achieve—it’s aspirational: If we continue the social and technological advances of the 60s we’ll defeat racism, poverty, greed, nationalism, and so on. Gene Roddenberry created a government worth fighting for, something Captain Kirk can defend to the death and we’ll cheer him on.

Science fiction has also given us governments that are cautionary. Certainly the most famous is the totalitarian oligarchy of George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984. In this novel, Orwell extends what he saw as the rise of the military industrial complex, the perpetual-war economy of the Cold War, as a trend toward the destruction of individual rights. This became a government that doesn’t support the hero like the Federation supports Captain Kirk, but a government that acts as the villain, to be defeated by the hero.

. . . and lots more, especially since the real value of programs like this reside in the feedback, the give-and-take, question-and-answer . . . what are you waiting for? Let’s build some worlds!

 

—Philip Athans

 

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NO MORE SUMMER, PLEASE

Another summer is rapidly coming to a close. This was a hot and dry one up here in the arid wastelands of the once verdant Pacific Northwest. It’s hard not to look at this summer as a sign of impending climate apocalypse. And here I am in my typically air conditioning-free Seattle-area house. “You really only need air conditioning a few days a year, so why bother?” was the line we heard repeated over and over again. And when we came here in 1997 that seemed more or less true. But now the six-week dry season has turned into a five-month dry season, temperatures are routinely in the upper 80s and low 90s, and by about 2:00 in the afternoon it’s just too hot for me to function in my office. At least I got my old laptop back up and running so I can sit in the “downtown office” in front of a fan that blows hot air full of dust and other allergens at me and is a constant roaring white noise that makes me sick and angry and temperamental and what do you care?

Calm down, Phil, just calm . . . down.

<Pause for deep, cleansing breath, followed by dust-clogged choking spasm.>

Okay, I’m better now.

Let’s find some good news about yet another summer that I have essentially missed while working my butt off, sweating even while sitting down and typing.

“Back to School” approaches. That’s good news. I need these kids out of here for at least some of the day. They interrupt me with their constant need for food, attention, etc. I was under the impression that once your kids left the toddler phase it would no longer be necessary to track their every move. Apparently this will go on forever.

Ooh . . . here’s a good one!

I am more on top of projects and deadlines right now than I have been in a year and a half at least. I have two short-term deadlines that will be reached on time, and two lingering, way-too-behind projects that will be finished up quickly after. I’m looking to my birthday as a goal: Get to September 7 and you’ll be 100% caught up!

Hurray me!

But wait . . . don’t celebrate yet . . . that’s just going to jinx it!

And how about a reality check for me:

These projects are: edit a fantasy novel written by a major author in the field, edit a fantasy anthology that’s almost done (gone to the copy editor), write a novelization I can’t tell you about but that’s a joy to write, teach the last session of this term’s Worldbuilding class tonight, write five more jungle pulp stories, write a hardboiled detective short story for a waiting anthology, edit a fun and quirky role-playing game, edit two more Traveller novels, write a Traveller novel I’m writing myself, edit a fantasy novella the author want to expand into a novel, and finally get started on the big fantasy work-in-progress that hasn’t been progressing at all.

And here I am, whining.

This is my job, and I get paid pretty nicely for it, too.

This is what I’m bitching about.

Wait . . . no it isn’t! I’m bitching about all the things that are preventing me from doing that work, that get in the way, like the oppressive heat, or my equally oppressive children. With the end in sight for both summer heat and summer vacation, coupled with the end in sight for some major deadlines, I’m feeling on top of it for the first time in a while.

Now, if I had sat down to write this after 2:00 this afternoon, I might be singing a different tune.

But where’s the advice for writers in this?

Try not to be me, at least in this sense. If you can make a living in publishing, and concentrate on the genres you love, look for that work/life balance that eludes most overworked Americans, and even if that eludes you, too, quit yer bitchin’.

This is a pretty sweet deal.

 

—Philip Athans

 

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