Monday, December 31, 2012

The Final Posting of 2012


Bear with me, please.  It's been a difficult month.  And I just had to work on a Saturday for the fifth or sixth week in a row.  Since I got back from Thanksgiving vacation.  Usually during the week I jot down notes or pick out things from my journal that becomes my theme for the week.  I didn't do that this week and now I'm already a day behind on posting this.  
So...  What I'll do today is give you a spattering of stuff.  A random smorgasbord of things that struck me during this week.  Pick what you want.  By pass the rest.  I hope by the end of this entry you've found something that will at least whet your appetite for more.  
The Need for Speed
This week I heard a news story on the radio.  It was about a guy that used to work in Silicon Valley that has moved to Sweden.  He works in robotics.  He had an idea to build robots that can be controlled by someone, remote accessing, to take care of people in nursing homes and the like.  The term is "telepresence."  He went to Sweden because the regulations on building robots to do something like this is less strict, and he can get people to invest in the project because of that.  
This story irritated me.  
Not because I think it's a bad idea.  I think it's a terrific idea.  I thought so a couple of years ago when I thought of the same idea myself.  I used it as the background of a story I wrote under the working title, "Robot Watch."  I finished a rough draft of the story and started a rewrite, but I never got it into any shape to submit.  There was a problem with the conflict of the story.  It was too weak and unbelievable.  I haven't had a chance to get back to it to see if I could fix it and get it out.  
Not that I've heard about the guy in Sweden, doing in real life what I speculated about a year and a half ago, I feel like I've missed the boat.  Now there will be countless other people, who heard the same story, who'll try to bang out something and get it out there.  Even if I get my story with the same idea out right away, editors who heard that same news item will think I derived it from that.  
I remember something J. Michael Straczynski once said, about his goal being to write faster than people better than him and to write better than the people that wrote faster than him.  I am waiting to be in that same state right now.  
Rocket Man
As I mentioned last entry, I recently finished reading John Scalzi's "Redshirts," which I very much enjoyed.  I started reading "Among Others," which won the Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel this year, but I set it aside for another novel that was nominated for the same award, "Leviathan Wakes."  I'm about two chapters into the book and I already know it's going to be my type of science fiction novel.  
The reason I know?  One word: Spaceships.  
Ever since I became a science fiction fan around the age of thirteen, I have had this prejudice: If the universe the world is set in doesn't have at least the possibility of the characters getting on a spaceship and traveling to another world, it wasn't "really" science fiction.  
Faster Than Light (FTL) ships are preferred, but I'm good with just about anything.  Slower Than Light (STL) generation ships.  Getting fired out of cannon to hit the moon.  Just tell me that somewhere in your story, even if its just in the background, someone is flying through space to someplace we need a telescope to see from Earth, and I'll give your story a read. 
And if you actually put me on the spaceship, through the main character's eyes, and make me believe it's real, then I'll enjoy it even more.  The people who have done this over the years, like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, David Brin, C.J. Cherryh's Alliance-Union and Chanur novels, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, David Webber's Honor Harrington series, are among my favorite authors of all time.  
It was the reason I was so excited to see my story, "Shadow Angel," published in Asimov's Science Fiction last year.  Sure, it was being published in Asimov's, which was pretty cool.  But it was the fact that it was a spaceship story of my own that was getting published.  It legitimized my own fictional concept of space travel.  It was exactly the type of story I like to read.
And it's the reason why I started working on a story idea I've had for a while now.  A novel set in the same universe as "Shadow Angel."   A pirate novel.  Why?  Because when I was a little kid my favorite movies were pirate movies.  So why not combine the two things I enjoyed the most growing up?  No reason I can think of.  
The reason I like writing spaceship stories specifically and science fiction stories in general?  That's the topic of another blog posting.  
Things I wish I could tell you
I once had someone tell me that they couldn't trust me because I was a writer.  This person's reasoning was that writers took all the things they hear or see or happen to them and put them in stories or articles that get displayed to the public.  That means something that this person may convey in privacy, in secret, will be "out there," for everyone to know about it.  And then, when this private/embarrassing/secret there is being read by everyone, the writer's "excuse" is, "It's part of my work." 
This person had a point.  Though I argued with them at the time that I'm sharing as much about myself as I do anyone else, but in such a way that most readers, less than 99% of anyone reading my published work, and most of the friends and colleagues that read my stuff before it gets sent out, don't know where my little slices of reality end and fiction begins.  Every one of those "secrets" are encoding into my stories, altered, stretched or flipped around, so that their reality flavors the work, but the specifics are no longer discernible.  
But the argument put to me has started cramping my writing.  Not so much in my fiction, that is being written in the same way as before.  In this blog, however, I find myself writing about things that I see and hear in my life, things I want to "storyfy," working with them like clay so I can both understand and benefit from them, and then deciding to write something else, something safer that doesn't give anything away, or where "the names have been changed to protect the innocent."  
I haven't found a solution to this problem.  Not a completely satisfactory one.  But it's been right in front of my nose for a while in recent weeks.  I don't want my therapy, which my writing is for me in a big way, to give someone else a need for going to therapy themselves.  
That's it.  Except to say, "Happy New Year," and all that.  And thanks for reading.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Larry said...

Happy New year Erick. Lots of things I could comment on. Work seems to be an issue for you recently. Story ideas are everywhere. I read the RSS feed from Science Daily after a while they all seem the same then you can pick out some factoids to run with in your worldbuilding. People not trusting writers because they suck out their souls and put them in print is probably part of our mythology. You might want to look at Transactional Analysis to provide a framework in that regard. I don't think speed is the issue, maybe overanalysis.
Just some end of year quick thoughts. Keep on blogging.

December 31, 2012 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Erick Melton said...

Thanks for the comment. Some things to think about for the new year.

January 1, 2013 at 8:06 AM  

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