Saturday, August 14, 2010


This space intentionally left blank


I finished the Gonzo Futurism story today. It took a few interesting twists. It started from a simple tagline "Drugs are Legal, People Ain't", acquired an interesting reversal (back alley maternity wards?) and proceeded to then write itself with only a little bit of extra research from me. The setting itself is highly unlikely, but in a way that makes for a good story, with a surprising amount of human emotion. Still: it's gonzo, it's supposed to be absurd.

This is what I had in mind as the church in the story. Nothing fancy, just folk.

3000 words? Yes
Short Story "Drugs are Legal, People Ain't" - finished, submitted

Friday, August 13, 2010

Righting vs. writing

Leave aside the question of what I want to write and consider how I want to write. I don't want to be an Indistinguishable Writer. That is to say, I want people to be able to point to something I wrote and be able to say: "That sounds like David Barron."

I think too many people-of the ones who bother to care whether they're writing well at all, that is (let's call them the "Spellcheckers")-are trapped in what they learnt in English class from prescriptivists. Well, I'm a descriptivist and do you even remember that horrible essay format they tried to push on you? Just saying, with that in mind, reevaluate every other rule. I call this method Righting, as opposed to writing (which is what good writers do).

I will determine my own punctuation, thanks. When somebody reads my story aloud following my punctuation, it'll sound like how I would say it. I know, I've checked. That's called writing. Don't tell me I use commas wrong unless, I'm, doing, this. And even so: the comma was made for man, not man for the comma.

Even writing non-fiction, I will go for writing (i.e. Readable) over Righting. Try rewriting something you were forced to Right in high school, something you were forced to Right in your freshman year of university, and then compare it to something you wrote in your senior year when professors were interested in your ideas not your formatting. Rewrite the whole lot of them, as if you expected somebody to actually read them instead of checking for spelling errors.

In short, and to the point, and superfluity aside: Right is Wrong, and read is write.


Adieu, steam-punk. We had a good time together, but now it's time to move on to a different project. I ran across the term "gonzo futurism" and was immediately intrigued. Can it be that in the Future, drugs are legal but people aren't? Let's find out together, Mr. Journalist.

The "fallen woman": another relic of yore.

2000 words? Yes
Short Story "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" - finished, submitted.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Only Villain

Most people don't get a villain.

Without a villain, you don't know if you're a hero. A hero doesn't appear ex nihilo, he appears in response to something, be it Mr. Injustice, Lord Tyranny, Ms. Jerk. But what a hero does not respond to is the mundane worries of regular people, be it hunger, sickness, death. Something that isn't necessarily anybody's direct, active fault. If you can't personify the problem, there's nothing for the hero to do except help out. And somebody who helps out is not a Hero, they're just a Nice Person.    

That's why people read stories with villains. The Hero has something to attack. He can punch Lord Tyranny in the face, sue Mr. Injustice until he cries, and he can remonstrate Ms. Jerk until she sees the error of her ways. Nobody wants to read about a Nice Person. There's no conflict. You can't yell at hunger until it stops making people hungry, you can't shoot at sickness until there's no germs left, you can't argue with Death.

Most people's only villain is Time, and time's only evil scheme is to go on until you run out.


This steam-punk project is wrapping up. For my next project I had a vision of a "generation ship", i.e. a colony spaceship in which the children of the initial passengers are intended to be the primary colonists. Then I ran across an image of a colony ship in an asteroid. And that reminded me of one of my gateway books to Science Fiction: "Earthseed" by Pamela Sargent.

Read it!

2000 words? Yes
Short Story "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" - in progress (~4/5)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Psychopathy as Art

or, "Are all writers psychopaths, or is it just me?"

It makes it a lot easier to be a writer if you're a psychopath. This is on account of the fact that you already have a lot of practice simulating those normal human emotions everybody's always talking about. Other people are too busy having emotions to worry about why and to what degree and then to take it one step further and try to describe them in a third party.

It also reduces the possibility that any "Mary Sue" character you write will be detected. The character would be so alien to the non-psychopaths (99% of readers) and so familiar to psychopaths (the other 1% and all the writers) that nobody would call you on it. The non-psychopaths because they have too much empathy to envision a psychopathic character as "real", and the psychopaths because they aren't going to call you out and reveal their secret. It's like being a vampire amidst a rash of amnesia about unexplained bites to the neck.

I can see two ways to harness psychopathy to inform a character and thus a story: Dark Comedy and Serious Horror. Let's use a classic scenario to illustrate. The villain has had enough of the character interfering with his nefarious schemes and so the character gets a phone call in the middle of the night and a muffled voice threatens: "We have your wife."

Dark Comedy:
Our Psychopathic Hero says "Eh, so what else is new?" and proceeds to do whatever it was the villain didn't want him to do, thwarting the plan and maybe getting his wife back at the end in one piece too. This can be overlap with the Smart Hostage Negotiator character who is not necessarily a psychopath but understands that she's probably screwed whether he puts the gun down or not. But the negotiator still cares.

Serious Horror:
Our character says "So? Well, [x]" where x is something so exponentially more selfish and out-and-out wrong that the original villain discovers that he isn't the real Villain of this story at all.  (Sample x: "she has the bomb.") And he says "Oh, shit..." as he comes to the realization that there is nothing whatsoever that he can do to stop the real Villain from completely destroying him. This is not the same as The Martyr Hero, because the only thing the psychopath cares about is himself and getting ahead. But what he doesn't care about is what other people think when they're in his way, which the former villain is. Boom.


Writers of Steam-punk get a lot of wiggle room when it comes to whether the final product is feasible or not. Nevertheless, when I describe a Victorian rocket glider, I demand that it make a little bit of sense. After I wrote the description, I took a look at some actual gliders. And lo, unto me appeared this image of what I had described, except with an actual undercarriage. This glider actually worked over short distances. What power will allow for long-distance gliding?

Just add a self-contained rocket tube that is jettisoned after take-off.

1000 words? Yes
Short Story "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" - outlined, in progress (~2/3)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I don't need to brainstorm anymore. Or, I am operating under a constant downpour of new ideas. Once I choose one out of the torrent, the storm front advances along behind the idea, adding to it until the storm breaks and the sun comes out and reflects off the puddle that is the story. Except the water doesn't evaporate, and the Brain-storm starts right back up after a dramatic pause, inundating me.

Sometimes (not often) I don't want to be creative because it gets in the way of Life. But Life has provided cheap sandbags against the flood of ideas. And the effects wear off at about the same rate as my enthusiasm returns.


I'm taking my first stab at writing an alternate history, as well as taking my first stab at writing steam-punk. There's a lot of stabbing going on, is what I'm saying. The way I look at it, alternate history is a convenient way for me to use a degree in political science and a penchant for reading (not studying) history. And no footnotes. Anyways, when you mix that with steam-punk you end up with a cheerful blend of alternate fact and fantasy all boiled up together in a no-longer-anachronistic stew.

We'll see how it goes, but for now: Penguin Martini.

500 words? Yes
Short Story "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" - expanded, in progress (~1/2)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spell-Check and Submit It

Now that I have some confidence in my abilities as a writer-I've finished writing the First Million Words, after all-I can get to the business of making a living at it. My strategy in this case is to write even more. If it took me two years to write those million words, the Next Better Million is going to take a year and a half.

I will build up a "body of work" and keep that body of work circulating through as many markets as I can find in which to continually circulate those works while I continue adding to it. Ideas are cheap and volume is the way to make it.

In that vein, I am implementing a "spell-check and submit it" approach. Finish a piece, read it through, send it out. I will saturate the market with my writing until it soaks through into Success.


You all have that one friend who just never seems to fit in. The one who disappears completely for days, weeks, months, years and then comes back with stories of what he's been up to while you've been working 9 to 5 and getting on with life. The one who never seems to have a long-term relationship, the one who talks about everything, the one who reads a lot, the one who doesn't really have fun at parties, the one who you suspect, deep down, is not having a lot of fun.

Well, you'd be wrong. I am this guy. And it's amazing.

500 words? Yes
Short Story "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" - in progress (~1/2)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Finish what you write

Heinlein's Rules:
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

The rest are easy.

If I have even the smallest amount of time, I can and will write. I hate rewriting, because Perfect is the enemy of Good. I'm immune to rejection through constant practice. I'm persistent: the main trouble is finding more and more markets to stuff full of new stuff, not refusing to keep sending old stuff out.

But finishing what I write? I've got so many ideas!

I've long since realized that I have more ideas than I'll ever write, and that's fine.

In the next couple of months I intend to review and then finish some of the abandoned stories. Because they weren't abandoned because they're Bad, they were abandoned because I thought of something else.


I'm going to try my best to write a "Steam Punk" story, set in an alternate Victorian-era Earth. This best fits the ridiculous image that popped into my head, with modifications. Quartz did not evolve intelligence and become the dominant species of Earth in this alternate universe. That's just silly. But there are ostriches, and that's enough for me. I should have it done and submitted before the end of the week.

This is not a portrait of the main character, but gets the idea across.

2000 words? Yes
Short Story "Timpani the Ostrich Rancher" - in progress (~1/3).
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