Me and my achey breaky mouth.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/30 10:00
A visit to the dentist left me minus one tooth for the time being and plus a great deal of grogginess. May be a bit before I post again consistently.
Tags: real life
Why nothing beats the "in-the-trenches" experience of writing.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/29 08:00
As I write “A Bridge To The Quiet Planet” I keep discovering more about it. Perhaps I find a theme that I missed or that should be incorporated into the story. Or I may realize I missed something and that I have rewriting to do. Or something just works better. ...
Writing is really a method of discovery. So you have to write in order to know what you’re writing. In turn, you constantly find out more.
The way I've put this on my own is, you have to get boots on the ground with a story, because there are things there that simply won't be visible at 30,000 feet or from a satellite view.
The back-and-forth between characters, good and bad. The in-the-moment decisions they make that not only let them express themselves but drive the story. The little things that become big things and that inform the little things. The execution.
I've previously posited a thought experiment where you give the same story outline to ten different people. You can make this outline remarkably detailed, down to specific scenes and beats and whatnot. Ask each of them to produce a story based on this skeleton. Rarely, if ever, will two writers produce the same story — or, even if they do, the flavor and the tenor of those stories will be impossible to mistake for each other.
One of the contributing reasons for this, I suspect, is the way no two writers will have the same way of navigating the boots-on-the-ground experience of writing the same story. I sometimes wonder what kind of story Steven would have produced if I had given him the raw materials for one of my other works. (Just to be ornery, I might make it something like Welcome To The Fold; god knows what Steve would do with that Gordian knot of thorns.)
The only time you ever really get to know a story is when you're between one sentence and the next.
Slowly getting back up to speed with life.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/29 07:00
I'm still mired down in a mass of stuff that's been eating my free time; I've barely even been able to get any writing done this week. Plus a slew of social obligations, work loads, and errands have been piled on top of that.
Regular service should resume sometime next week. I hope.
Tags: real life
The pause that refreshes.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/19 18:00
I'm involved in some stuff for work which is keeping me busy until through the coming weekend, so don't expect much from me until then. I should have some more detailed work-in-progress reports by then, though. (Short version: If we're insanely lucky, I could have TWO new books to debut by the middle of next year.)
Tags: real life
There is no such thing as "mastery" of one's art, just improvement in whatever form is possible.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/16 17:00
Among the most shocking revelations that comes to an artist at some point in their career is the understanding that there is no such thing as "mastery" of one's art.
A new, new project rears its head, all but overnight.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/14 19:00
Wednesday nights, I hop online and hobnob with a circle of fellow creators (including Steven Savage); we get caught up on each others' lives, swap ideas, chew the fat about whatever might be going on. Given that I'm no longer in a neck of the woods where I can just casually hang out with fellow creators, it's a lifeline. Last night, I posited an idea to the group that I'd had kicking around for some time, but which finally took shape in that discussion.
Or, challenging vs. merely irritating.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/13 08:00
A quick one: A friend of mine asked, what's the difference between uncomfortable and annoying? The way I saw it, uncomfortable is actually good for you; it forces you to challenge assumptions about yourself and your worldview. Annoying is just, well, annoying. Not challenging, not conducive to insight. Just irritating. Not every gadfly serves a valid social function; sometimes they're just wolves in jerks' clothing.
Post-Irma, picking up the pieces.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/12 21:42
I made it through Irma with minimal damage. (I was one of the lucky ones; a lot of other people down here lost a lot. Some lost everything and then some.)
Work and a few other things are conspiring to keep me busy through the next couple of weeks, so I might not be posting here as much for a few.
Tags: real life
My post-Irma cleanup.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/11 11:33
Storm conditions have receded in my area (Cape Canaveral-ish), and while I have power, I'm currently without water service due to a mains break. But I'm OK, if also grimy.
Not much damage from what I can see; mostly just windblown branches, some shrubs tilted over and the like.
Regular service will resume as soon as regular service resumes.
UPDATE 1:30 PM: Water's back!
Tags: real life
On Irma and I.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/10 12:00
I'm currently hunkered inside my bunker waiting out Irma, but it isn't all that bad. We're on the east coast, so we're not getting anything remotely like the full force of the storm, and the house and neighborhood I'm in were built to take hurricane weather. It's mostly reminiscent of one of a particularly blustery and rainy New York autumns, although that would be about twenty degrees cooler.
I don't think the storm is going to disrupt too much on my end. There's a business trip I have to take next week, and the sudden flood of people leaving the islands or fleeing the coasts is likely to disrupt that, but I could hardly complain too much in such a case.
Assuming power holds out, I'll be working on a bunch of different things, including the one-piece cover for the print edition of Welcome To The Fold. The first version I did turned out to have been done entirely to the wrong dimensions, so I had to scrap it and start over, but I got a nice education into the quirks of the free desktop publishing app Scribus. (Highly recommended, BTW, but it takes some work to use well.)
Tags: real life
How to work with all those ideas swimming around in your head.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/09 08:00
"It's not that I'm so smart. It's that I stay with problems longer," Albert Einstein was reputed to have once said.
Likewise, there's the Richard Feynman method of problem solving, where you simply keep the same batch of problems in mind and test them constantly against whatever comes up. Eventually, you get a hit.
Artists benefit from practicing this sort of thing. My own case is similar to Feynman's, since at any one time I'll have ideas for a story, characters that don't yet have a home, settings that remain unpopulated, concepts that deserve a treatment, etc. all floating around in a kind of freeform bouillabaisse. Over time, and enough stewing, they link up with each other. Hirofumi Gō of Summerworld and Henré Sim of Flight Of The Vajra were like this — characters without a country, so to speak, until eventually they found a setting that welcomed them in and gave them something to do.
The whole way that people juggle these things around in their heads is hard for me to talk about, because I only have direct experience with one person's version of this: my own.
Want to get to know your story? Pitch it to someone else.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/08 08:00
When I'm not editing Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, I'm in the process of accumulating notes for my next big writing project, tentatively titled The Fall Of The Hammer. On one side of the page (metaphorically speaking) I have the elements for the story — the people in it, what they want, what happens to them. On the other side of the page, I have a slew of ideas brought up by the ingredients in the story. My way of making the story about that stuff is to find all the ways the elements on both sides of the page can line up.
I don't expect things to come into alignment for a fair amount of time yet. The story is still protean, with a great many possibilities moving in and out of focus inside of it. Most tellingly, it's still difficult for me to explain it to others.
That last quality, I think, is the surest sign that a story is unformed. If you can't explain it to someone else while standing on one leg (hope you've got good muscle tone!), you probably don't know what it's about.
By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/06 19:00
Irma's coming, and I'm not sure how much of its impact I'll be feeling directly, so I'm in kind of an existentially uneasy mood. I've prepared as best I can, though, so there's not much I can do except button up when it comes, and wait it out. For the time being I'm going to contemplate the eternal or something vaguely like it.
In the earlier post I talked about the labels falling off of things, which is basically the Buddhist idea of emptiness, a word I hate. Part of why I hate it is because it epitomizes a lot of why Buddhism (and Zen) have ended up in the position of mystic playthings: bad or inadequate translations. A lot of the terminology used when talking about Buddhism in English is like this — it's paraphrasings of paraphrasings.
How 'Flight Of The Vajra' could have begun altogether differently.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/05 08:00
It's tough finding the right way into a story sometimes. I must have written something like four or five openings for Flight Of The Vajra (my gonzo far-future space opera shindiggythingy) before finally settling on the one I have now. Some of those alternate openings could have been great, but I think if I'd used them as conceived, they would have come at a debilitating cost to the story as a whole.
On my unease with creating longer works.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/04 19:00
Of all the things that have bugged me about Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, one of them is its projected length. The book is, as best I can tell, going to run at least 200,000 words. (230K is my current projected estimate.)
You know why this bothers me? Because one of my very own pet peeves is doorstopper novels that barely seem to be able to justify half or even a third of their length. I suffered through the first cinderblock volume of A Game Of Throning Dragon Crow Swords — easily the most joyless cultural artifact to achieve anything like mainstream success — and the idea of having to slog through five (it's now six) more books in that vein suddenly made cleaning the grout in the bathroom seem inordinately absorbing.
Some of this is me saying to myself, "What right do I have to ask people to sit through however many hundred thousand words of my own drivel?" I've already done it once (with Flight Of The Vajra), and I feel downright uneasy asking people to do it all over again.
So I asked some friends what they thought. And wisdom ensued!
Or, how to keep pedantic jackasses from getting the better of you.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/03 20:00
One of the best conversations I've had in recent months came by way of my friend Kyle. I think we touched on everything in that one short of quantum mechanics and why the two things in the world that are most inexhaustible in supply are belly-button lint and stupidity.
Actually, we did touch on the last one (in re stupidity, not belly-button lint). That happened by way of him talking about how he deals with criticism or disagreements of opinion in bad faith. His point of reference was the movie Patton, where there's a line that goes like this (I looked it up!): "Fixed fortifications are monuments to the stupidity of man. If mountain ranges and oceans can be overcome, then anything built by man can be overcome."
The point Kyle took from this was: If you have a point of view, don't defend it. Go on the attack, always on the attack. Put your point of view out there, support it the best you can in the argument, and then move on to the next attack. Don't bother trying to explain or justify or defend the argument to humorless pedantic nitpicking douchweenies whose only joy in life is making better people than them look uninformed.
It's a problem when you fall in love with the (SF) exception and not the (SF) rule.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/03 13:00
One of the things that's long riled me about SF&F is something highly personal to my experiences with it, to the point where I'm positive now it's evidence of some bad bias on my part.
All of the things I came most to want from anything with those labels have been shaped by exposure to authors and works that turned out to be sui generis in their fields: Philip K. Dick, Stanisław Lem, James Tiptree Jr., Joanna Russ, Theodore Sturgeon, &c.
In other words, I fell in love with the exception, not the rule, and I held out hope against hope that the exception would turn out to be the rule. I'm still struggling with this.
On the use of "crazy" as an intensifier.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/03 08:00
I've noticed all the more lately how people use crazy and insane, or versions of same, as casual synonyms for something being intense or memorable, etc. A friend of mine was describing the plot of his book-in-progress to me the other day, and kept referring to the plot developments that unfold later on as "[the] batshit crazy" that takes place, and how across the second half of the book, "[the] batshit catches on fire, falls down a hill, rolls over a town, then explodes".
Some of this seems to be a product of the man-on-the-street vocabulary used by a lot of blogger-critics. When they want to wax rhapsodic about something, they use this kind of hyperbole: "This thing is just crazy; the fight scene in there is bonkers ... " After a while, I grew annoyed with this manner of pitching someone else's work — or even one's own work — in big part because at the end of the day it was just a lazy and inexpressive way to do it. It said nothing.
By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/02 08:00
Steve and I were talking about the way Blizzard has cultivated an absolutely frothing level of devoting in the fans for Overwatch. It's to the point where a character that is only shown in passing on a poster suddenly inspires fanart and cosplay.
MENTAL EXERCISE FOR THE READER: You have just created something that inspires this level of fervent response from your fans. How do you feel about it?
MENTAL EXERCISE FOR THE READER #2: Did you automatically assume that response was positive?
On resisting a reworking.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017/09/01 19:00
Something really familiar here:
This week I rewrote part of the plot of my book. I had a great idea that would make the book deeper, improve character, explore the world! Best of all it didn’t require me re-plotting major elements or the ending, while it made the ending more powerful. It’s just I didn’t want to do it. I had this gut-level resistance to re-plotting. In retrospect it was a dumb attitude to take, and I think it was just that I don’t like to change plans. I always fear things will never get done.
Steve and I have talked about the different ways we assemble and rework our projects, and one thing that struck me is that I tend to do a lot of the most aggressive throwing-out-and-starting-over pretty early on. I do a lot more arguing with myself in that stage about what belongs and what doesn't, and in what form. The end result is that I have first drafts that are more like someone else's second or third.
The downside to such an approach is something Steve touches on here: it's easy to get complacent with what you have, especially if you have baked into it something that really doesn't help.
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind