Saturday, September 25, 2010


This post brought to you by the folks at The Paris Review, who apparently have written 206 articles where an interviewer quite competently drags a writer through a incredibly long but also incredibly interesting conversation about their work and life. And didn't tell me until my Internet filter jingled at me with this article. Take a read, you've got the time.

Michel Houellebecq, The Art of Fiction No. 206 from The Paris Review

This is why I've become a writer, because writers are Interesting because they create ideas. Interesting People are allowed (or allow themselves) to go for broke, in the certain knowledge that even if they come up with 1000 ridiculous ideas, the 1001th will overshadow them all. The added bonus is that they can then recombine and package at least some of those ridiculous ideas into a great whole.

Creatives, for that is what we must be called, we idea workers, are allowed to Be Wrong, but with practice can eventually bring that 1000-to-1 ratio down, down, down until they are popping out good ideas left and right and a fleet of secretaries follow them around recording their every spoken word.

Wait, wait, THAT's why I've become a writer.


The ideal secretary wanders the desert looking for work, plumage flashing in the breeze and a nice hat. Red eyes belie a life of dedicated relief of the tedium of office life. And with a pair of legs that just won't quit.

Yeah, I went there.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die" - proceeding at a snail's pace
Short Story "The Language of Ice Cubes" (Alan2) - some linguistic research
Short Story/Flash "Bitsy Pollo: Save Us!" - silly fun!
Short Story "A Blot on the Escutcheon" (Alan3) - outlined
- - - -
Reading - ?


Friday, September 24, 2010

Rejection Letter

I laughed out loud when I got this form rejection letter in the mail:

"While your story will not be subject to further review, we wish you the best in finding a suitable publisher for your story."

It's like my story has been sent to the gulag on a life sentence without possibility for parole. And the sentence wasn't handed down by Stalin himself, but by some random minion detailed to the mass deportation department. Unless I can convince Gorbachev to pardon my story, it'll die out there in the cold snow, which would be better than starvation. Damn, that's so deliciously harsh!

When I have my own magazine (and that 'when' is most certainly not an 'if'), I want to be as mean as possible, because you're worthless as a writer unless you can handle rejection, the harsher the better. You have to learn to hate it, but also to thrive on that hate until you stop getting rejected or you knock over the table and do it your way. That is, you know when the rejection is because your work is bad and when it's because your work is not a good fit. As a valuable public service, then, all of my form rejection letters will be a link to this file:

049 - Rejection Letter

Yes, that's me, David Barron performing Christopher McCulloch's Henchmen 24 (from "The Venture Bros.") doing Billy West's Zoidberg (from "Futurama") quoting a modified pastiche of two of the characters' lines. For the purpose of making new writers cry.

It was not a waste getting out of bed today.


By popular demand, I changed the font to the most acceptable option (according to Professor Internet). My only excuse is that on my 12" netbook screen every font hurts my eyes just about equally. If you want it in a convenient package that you can customize yourself, go for the FeedBurner Feed of "by David Barron"


As a responsible science fiction writer, I try to make sure everything I write is vaguely plausible. This is not too difficult. It is becoming increasingly clear that absolutely anything is possible given two of three things: Time, Necessity, and Resources. Give me a fulcrum and I can lift the world, and give me all the energy in the universe and I can do anything. Twice. Research? Perfiffle, and Extrapolation. Plausibility? As long as the reader isn't lost, she'll believe anything. Fun? Well, yeah. And you don't even have to make citations.

Robots do not work that way, Dan DeCarlo! ...Yet.

2000 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "Dan DeCarlo's Jetta" (Dan DeCarlo)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Fantasy. Here's the deal: I can't write you yet.

Let's define fantasy for the express purposes of this post as either Epic Fantasy or Medieval Fantasy. I know, I know, there's other Fantasy, but what do people think about when they first hear 'Fantasy'. Yeah, probably Knights and Dragons. Or Hobbits. Good stuff, but...

My mind recoils from it, while my 'spirit' enjoys it immensely. But, sitting down and saying "I have an idea for a Medieval Fantasy short story", my mind attacks it with a pile of questions, imminently reasonable, about economy and sociology which would never come up when I sit down and write Science Fiction, or even Historical Fiction. Writing in any setting before about 1700 C.E. is troublesome.

Furthermore: Magic!

Let's face it, my mind is pretty much my best feature. And yet, apparently, I can't wrap my head around magic. It just doesn't scan. Magic just ain't Science, guys, and I didn't spend all this time learning how things actually work to waste time with a bunch of made-up magical systems. And I will freely admit, because it's comical, that I can use exactly the same concepts if they involve psionics and zero special effects.

Allow me to provide my credentials, so you can fully comprehend the oddity: I've run Dungeons and Dragons campaigns! I've read The Lord of the Rings! I've discussed in hard debate the minutiae of Fantasy worlds! Ok, not for very long, but still.

But here's who ruined me for Fantasy forever: Anne McCaffrey. She tricked me, in my youth. Read the first few Pern books, that's fantasy. But as the series continues it becomes more and more science fiction, until our erstwhile dragonriders (their dragons revealed as the result of genetic engineering) are learning computer programming and it's a much more interesting series altogether. What am I supposed to do in the face of this?

Here's how it usually goes, I start out to write a heroic fantasy starring Sir Biff of Beafsteakton and then get cynical, directing it unintentionally toward a horrible satire of eras past. Which doesn't seem either useful nor artistic. And I write short, which seems to put the final nail in the Epic Fantasy coffin.

Is it just because I have rather a fondness for the Now and the Future? Is it just because I know too much about Nobility to ever treat it with unabashed reverence? Am I, in fact, too jaded to have fantasies? Am I the H.L.Mencken of unfinished fantasy projects? Whatever the answer...

But I can write some things that can reasonably be called Fantasy (by the broad definition of the genre writer).
Magical Realism: it's literature, just add ghost!
Steam-punk: soft sci-fi meets Victorian historical fiction! Damn, that's good stuff when it's good! (And horrible when it's bad!)
Urban Fantasy: Whatever it is that Neil Gaiman writes, it's all true, you just have to break through the masquerade!

Can I count that as enough (for now)? Wait, I should just write more about Sir Biff of Beafsteakton. Underneath his armor rests the heart of a poet and abs most taut. He's like a medieval fireman, is what I'm sayin', coming to extinguish the dragon and rescue the maiden. And promptly ravish her continuously with her full consent.

Well, damn, I'll just write what I want to write.


Liver and onions. This is what I would very much like to eat at this exact moment. Beef liver, for preference, and with a side of mashed potatoes. Yessir, that'd hit the exact spot. Nothing goes with delicious beer, my only food, better than delicious liver and onions.

I've made myself hungry and an ocean on one side and a continent on the other separates me from acceptable satisfaction.

500 Words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "Kushiel's Dart" (Jacqueline Carey)

Update - Magical Adventures in the Everyday

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In Which There Is A Susurrus

Sometimes I think of a title without having any particular image, character or plot to go with it. Usually these titles languish somewhere until I slap them on an otherwise inoffensive work or, more rarely, an image appears. Well, today I'm going to do something different: You may now ask: what is it? I'll wait.

Why, The First by David Barron Flash Fiction Orgy, of course!

Guidelines: Write a flash fiction (greater than 300 words, no more than 1000: shoot for 500) with the title "In Which There Is a Susurrus". Any genre and style.

Submission: Three options - Post the story as a comment in this post, post the story on your own blog and comment in this post with a link, or send it to me in the body of an e-mail.

Payment: All the traffic you can eat from my meager internet presence (read that as: probably nada) and the joy of binding an internet community of writers closer together with the power of words.

Outcome: Depending on response. I'll either run a poll to see which one is coolest or just choose the one or two that I like best and invite the writers to make a guest post. The story would be in this top section, and a little blurb plus a picture of their choice in the section below.

Deadline: Let's say the Wednesday after next (October 6)?

C'mon, it'll be fun!

UPDATE (01/16/2011) : In The Deep Deep Sea There Is An Even Deeper Susurrus (Ben Godby)
The only (and only vaguely related at that) progeny of this ill-fated competition. Still, it's something.


I'm the 'Columbo' of mystery writers, in that the audience already knows the answer to the mystery beforehand and the tension is in how the mystery is solved. Alternatively, the tension derives from there being a bunch of different possible solutions to the same problem. Which one will our protagonists choose? And then what happens?

Pure mystery, though? Eh. Whenever I try to write it I always envision a reality TV show dragging out the drumroll music for way too long.

Be that as it may: Sherlock Holmes is so cool he can outwit even a pseudodragon.

500 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You Don't Know My Name

Whenever I talk about myself I feel I go a bit overboard. At heart, I'm a humble person, I just happen to be exuberantly self-confident (some might say 'cocky') most of the time.

This is all to say that self-advertisement is a real strain for me, because on the one hand I know what's true ("David is awesome") but I get the strange feeling that I should drag it down to avoid seeming pompous. 'What are your weaknesses?' is always the interview question to which I give the longest answer, in other words. I still get hired, and my brief experience with management tells me that this makes sense. If somebody knows their weaknesses they know their strengths.

What does this have to do with Writing? Well, every single piece I finish I pause for the briefest of seconds before putting my name on it. Every single blog post I write, every single bit of the 'DavidalBarron' octopersona that's scattered about the internet, every cover letter I write, every blurb every summary every critique note...same thing. Am I being a big pile of bull pride?

My only consolation is that I'm nowhere near being a household name, and when I am: Well, I'll worry about that when I get there. Maybe this is why all those writers use pseudonyms...

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name.

Oh yeah!

(Ok, that wasn't really related to the post at all. But it's Classic Rock, baby!)


This bar is calm, you can hear yourself talk and you can listen to yourself think. You can go there to sit by yourself to drink alone and ponder, or you can go there to talk to people-friend and stranger, or you can go there to flirt with intelligent people. There's live music, of the subdued variety that doesn't overwhelm the conversation. There sometimes a lounge singer who wanders around the tables, but only once a night per gender. All in all, then, it's a bar where drinking aids and abets socialization, and personalities can rub shoulders or stay apart as the mood takes them.

That's my kind of bar.

500 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long to Die"
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "Jeffty is Five" (Harlan Ellison)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Women Writers

And so here we are, having survived the peril, facing down a Big Question and answering it forever and for all time, once and for all, never to be heard again for being systematically shattered to its very core. A fine few day's work, really. Let's talk of more difficult things next time. Suggestions?

The reason I feel so confident regarding writing women is because so many of my early influences were women writers. I would characterize my gateway drug to Speculative Fiction as a cocktail of 20% Anne McCaffrey, 10% Barbara Hambly, 10% Pamela Sargent, 5% Margaret Atwood, 5% C.S. Forester, 10% Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 10% Jules Verne and the remaining 30% "Star Wars".

I could see differences in style, certainly, but the viewpoint character's gender was just one factor, and not a controlling factor, the character's personality being developed more or less depending on the environment of the piece. Even the Margaret Atwood characters, yes. Also even that one especially sexist part of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's body of work. You know which part.


This was pretty much my entire takeaway from that small portion of my political science degree that was the Pre-Law program: Always phrase your cross-examination such that a witness quick to answer Yes/No questions would self-incriminate, and a witness slow to answer the same question would give the appearance of calculating avoidance of self-incrimination. The correct strategy is to coach your witness to neither answer Yes nor No but to produce a quick, confident: "I've never beaten my wife!" (Or, if your jury is especially advanced, "mu".)

Still, she seems to be having a lot of fun, 'manly art' or nae.

250 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
- - - -
Reading - "A Free Man of Color" (Barbara Hambly)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writing Women, Part 2

Let us now consider Women in Culture as we move towards discussing how to write them. Once again, replace references to women with whatever gender is not your own to be equivalent to my writing viewpoint. It'll read the same.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a free woman in possession of power will get up to almost exactly the same level of debauch and corruption that a free man would. The particular historical ruler with whom I hold the most solid qualifications for discussing is Wu Zetian, the only female emperor of China, but the point holds throughout history. The women who've clawed their way out of their Culture have behaved remarkably similar to the Men who clawed their way up: the traditional way. I can assume then that a speculative matriarchy would run along approximately the same lines as a speculative patriarchy, with different biologies being subjugated. So much for that, then.

On a less dramatic scale, let's consider how to write a female characters as opposed to male characters. First, we have to remove any assumption that a character is male by default, female by necessity. Then we have to assume that the culture and environment we've set up  (for we're writing speculative fiction, yes?) acts upon the male and female biological sex to shape their gender and behaviors, such that the purely biological differences are overshadowed by the cultural differences. Certainly, this is what happens in real life too, but there (or in Literary Fiction?) we're observing the culture, here we're inventing it.

So let's Speculate. You, a woefully unscient narrator, appear in a blank room with no idea of where you are, and here you see Anna, a human woman. What's her character? The only distinguishing feature we can assume is that she has the equipment (functioning or not) for pregnancy, as opposed to being a mere half-donor to the process. That is: we know nothing about her character from her biological sex divorced from context.

Writer, culture this woman! How does she talk, who does she talk with, how does she talk with those she talks with, how does she not talk with those she doesn't talk with, what is she wearing, what is she not wearing, how much control over her circumstances does she have, what social level is she at, how much security does she have or take? In short, what does she want?

Writing Women:
Do you know enough about the culture in question to figure out how it would, if it would develop this character with a distinct set of wants from other genders?

Writing Characters:
Do you know enough people to have developed enough empathy to identify enough of these wants?

The answer...may surprise you.


Right, I'm finally happy with the layout for the most part. I wanted to get the link list up where they could be seen, while still having plenty of space for 'Special Features' click pics (more on that later). Anyways, it's still readable on my 12" netbook screen, and works in IE, Firefox, and Chrome, so it should look fine on anything else. I even tested it with Lynx Browser, and it doesn't look too bad. So to the one guy who's reading this in Lynx, good on ya. Except you can't see the pictures. Now, back to my research.


"Aha! Cleft-Chin Lord Lummox, I have shot your pistol out of your hand!"

"Aha! Sans Honor Duke Morningshite, I have another! And a sword!"

"Aha! I suppose I should have just shot you, then!"

"Aha! Indeed!"

2000 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
Project "Untitled"
- - - -
Reading - "A Wrinkle In Time" (Madeleine L'Engle)
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