All posts for June 2019

Why Nelson The Miscreant Was Right

"...the wretched of the earth might not be wholly responsible for their wretchedness."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/30 17:00

From a review of a new biography of the overlooked American author Nelson Algren:

He Was a Famed Novelist of America’s Underclass. What Happened? - The New York Times

Norman Podhoretz, in a 1956 New Yorker essay titled “The Man With the Golden Beef,” described Algren as a miscreant who believed that “we live in a society whose bums and tramps are better men than the preachers and the politicians and the otherwise respectables.” Respectable to whom? Podhoretz seemed furious at the idea that the wretched of the earth might not be wholly responsible for their wretchedness.

Emphasis mine.

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Tags: Nelson Algren  society  sociology  writers 

The David Katalin Memorial Archive

A dream from the other night, so vivid and specific in its details that it unnerved me.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/28 17:00

I had a very vivid dream last night, something that doesn't usually happen to me — vivid and specific enough that it deserves enshrinement here.

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Tags: dreams 

Spero Meliora And All That

"Greatness is lived, not had."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/28 08:00

Steve wrote a fine blog post the other day, in the wake of a conversation the two of us had recently about how great creative works get made:

... there are not techniques to Greatness per se. There are things you can learn from those that made Great Works, principles, and sets of philosophies and goals, that if you hold them, increase the chance of doing something Great. None of the people out there that made amazing things are the same, and none of them are the same as you, but there’s probably a rough set of principles and philosophies you can find that’s common among many people you admire.

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Tags: Steven Savage  creativity  creators 

I Reject Your Reality And Substitute My Own

The power to visualize something well is not the same as the power to enact it well. In a world ruled by images, it's hard to remember that.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/25 08:00

Even people with minimal nerd cred have heard the line I've titled this post with. I've always found it more unsettling than amusing, actually: the real-world consequences of masses of people rejecting reality and substituting their own are manifesting in hard-to-refute forms like measles epidemics and rising sea levels.

Still, I don't think most of the people who throw this line around are antivaxxers or climate change deniers. They tend to be people who want to celebrate works of the imagination, especially stuff that posits a better world even if only in some marginal way. But the power to visualize something better is not the same as the power to actually enact it, or to enact it in a meaningful way, and in a world ruled by images it's hard to remember that.

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Tags: Welcome to the Fold  creativity  imagination 

The Bane Of All Curious Minds

What do you do when there's just so much to do and so many things to know? Focus. But how?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/21 08:00

Leave it to me to feel like my condition can be encapsulated by a throwaway line from a book, and not remember which book. "I'm interested in everything," says the main character, and then immediately thinks to himself: That is, when I'm interested in anything. This has long been my problem and I have yet to find an effective way to tame it. I'm interested in a little of everything, and always so. Bloody incurable, that's me!

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Tags: creativity  creators 

Movie Reviews: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Fifty years later, one of the greatest films ever made has scarcely aged a day in the ways that matter

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/17 08:00
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This essay was originally written for the premiere issue of a journal of science fiction, to have been edited by my friend Matt Buscemi, that never launched. I was elated to provide this piece, but Matt unhappily informed me that not enough stars had come into alignment to make the journal into a going concern. But the rights to the piece were returned to me (they would have reverted in time anyway; they just came back a good deal sooner), and I'm presenting it here as I wrote it, with only minor amendment. Thanks to Matt for giving me the impetus to produce it, as I found out as I was doing so how it was the culmination of over thirty years of thinking about the film.

Few movies, science fiction or otherwise, go almost directly from event-of-the-moment to monument-for-the-ages. By the time I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in the early Eighties, as a wide-eyed kid not yet in his teens, it had a good decade and change to establish its cachet of timelessness. Now it has passed fifty, with me not far behind. What has dated about it, what remains timeless, what has become even more relevant—it’s easy to sit back down with the movie thinking you know what will fill all those categories, only to find you’re wrong in a good way.

For many people 2001 is cinema, not “science fiction.” This is not how it came into the world, but that is where it ended up, and I think both cinema and science fiction are better off for it, even if they both still seem at odds as to what to do about it five decades on. As Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke conceived it, it was meant to be “the proverbial good science-fiction movie,”[1] and I think the way it lives up to that promise is not by way of what story it tells, or what technical details it hinges on, but how it tells a story that of all genres science fiction seems best equipped to support.

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Tags: Arthur C. Clarke  Stanley Kubrick  movies  review 

Bless This Mess

The Fall Of The Hammer so far has the messiest and most fractured first draft of any book of mine I can remember.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/17 08:00

I make a rule not to make too many rules. If I say to people, "I do X drafts of a novel before moving on," I know that's not a rule, but an observation — it's a statistic derived from previous activity. Not something I try to conform to pre-emptively.

The Fall Of The Hammer so far has the messiest and most fractured first draft of any book I can remember. I've had to back up and rewrite entire sections more than once, and I'm still not sure about whether the throughline I've been trying to develop is the right one. But all this I have to temper with another insight: sometimes you have to write something badly to be able to write it well.

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Tags: The Fall Of The Hammer  writing 

Tinker Toys

In some ways I'm quite stodgy when it comes to the software tools I use for my creative projects.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/11 17:00

An idle comment to a friend, ages ago: "If I had my druthers, I'd create my own word processor, specifically for writers and novelists." I had the good sense not to get involved in such a fool's crusade, but other, more stalwart hearts than mine have done exactly that. See: Manuskript.

This is no diss on Manuskript, which after downloading and dinking with it a bit, is a deeply impressive tool. It's just that I have an existing workflow developed over decades, and I'm pretty heavily wedded to it. That said, I would like to set aside a project specifically for working on in a different toolset, and see how that goes.

In some ways I'm quite stodgy when it comes to the software tools I use for my creative projects. I don't like to ditch toolsets unless I'm experiencing such intractable pain with a tool that I simply can't get work done with it, or unless there's an alternative that is manifestly better in every respect. But the last couple of years I've reinvented the workflow a good deal, and one of the hazards of doing so is merely moving from one rut to another instead of developing a pattern of reassessing one's toolset.

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Tags: creativity  software  tools  writing 

Bliss Is Ignorance

There was once a time when I felt I was a better writer when I didn't really know what I was doing.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/08 17:00

There was a time, not even all that long ago, when I felt I was a better writer when I didn't really know what I was doing.

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Tags: creativity  creators  writers  writing 

Yes U-Turn

On not backing up in the middle of a first draft ... and then doing exactly that.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2019/06/06 08:00

Up until about five years ago, I lived in a part of the country where cutting a U-turn was not something you could do casually. Then I moved to a part of the country where you could cut a U-turn at most any intersection, and five years later I'm still flipping out every time I see someone doing it. Half the time when I do it, I flip out, because I'm expecting the cops to come arreeearrrring out of some side street to bust my sorry butt. THOU SHALT NOT CUT A U-EY IN A TRAFFIC INTERSECTION had been, as they say in Japanese, carved into my liver, and a habit that deep is hard to amend.

You are now reading a blog post about the way I handle first drafts. Adjust your mind accordingly.

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Tags: rewriting  writing 

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