Weekend Writing Warriors: Sunday 29 March 2015 (WIP: Ship’s Heart)

Behind the crew entered a woman whose ordinary brown skin was threaded with scars on one half of her face, and on the other, gave way to glass and ceramic fittings and an unblinking eye that wasn’t anything natural. Gasps of admiration went up from the adult onlookers, and Yasmin was hoisted to her gene-father’s broad shoulder, among a forest of the other children. They didn’t wave to each other, but all turned the same way to look upon the visitor.

“Oh, those are gorgeous repairs,” Altair said. “They kept the Treaty, oh they did.”

The visitor smiled with the human side of her face. The glass-and-ceramic mask on the other side glowed in its spiderweb of leads. Tears shone in the human eye, as the children held out their arms to her, and the adults carried the final chorus of the Song of Fortunate Return: “Mavra Fix-all, welcome home.”

***

From my work-in-progress novel Ship’s Heart, the prequel to Inside the Jump. Yasmin, Jehen’s younger sister, is five years old. Mavra Fix-all is a starship captain returning home after the wreck of her ship.

Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.

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Love in the Time of Starships: A Matter of Scale, or Intimate Epics (Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Margrét Helgadóttir)

  • Margrét Helgadóttir. The Stars Seem So Far Away
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Signal to Noise

Note: I purchased my own copy of Signal to Noise, and received a review copy of The Stars Seem So Far Away from the publisher, Fox Spirit Books.

***

Stories are the original magical technology, and the present review is a foredoomed attempt to reverse-engineer one face of the enchantment: the apparent size of the space and time that live between the covers. Continue reading

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From Fan Fiction to Original Fiction: On Backstory (Excerpt)

Concept cover by Glass Knife Press.

Concept cover by Glass Knife Press.

Ah, backstory.

Everybody hates the info-dump, right? Writers hate how much their readers don’t know, and try to spare them the perils of ignorance; readers hate how much stuff the writer is feeding them (Why are you force-feeding me this set of diplomatic correspondence? I did not want a geology textbook for breakfast! What’s with this prologue four thousand years before the story starts?)

The beautiful thing about the best fanfic is that it simply takes it all for granted, and only alludes to backstory when it comes up for discussion because of something in present tense.

“Well, of course you don’t need to tell all that. Everybody reading this is a fan.”

Au contraire, my friends—I have read awesome fanfic in other fandoms in which I have zero clue about the canon material. Why just the other day my buddy Truant sent me to read a fanfic called Persephone on Archive of Our Own, based in the universe of the film Prometheus. I didn’t know anything at all about the film, but the story read very well nonetheless, as a creepy and yet weirdly moving relationship between a robot and a human. (One of the tags read “Is it het if he’s a robot?”) To me, it was simply an effective and elegant science-fiction short story.

Great fanfic in alien fandoms is simply great fiction, to the uninitiated reader.

***

Excerpt from forthcoming From Fanfiction to Original Fiction (Vera Rozalsky with E. P. Beaumont)

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Sunday 22 March 2015 (WIP: Ship’s Heart)

Yasmin listened, putting her hands up to feel the bells in her tightly twisted braids. They pulled pleasantly on her scalp; she wiggled her ears and they jingled faintly. Jehen looked at her sidelong; even though she was a year older, she hadn’t mastered that trick. The adults’ faces were intent and glowing; Yasmin understood only some of the words.

She had seen the pictures, how their own world was a tiny ball, and outside it ranged the whole universe, which was mostly empty. How Ships traveled from place to place by Jumps, for otherwise they might be thousands of years in transit.

The Journey-ships from the Original World had been like that, for it was only by accident that they discovered and survived the Jump. And then by great luck, they had found Karis, Mother of Worlds, and from there, humans had spread to the other systems that comprised the Inhabited Worlds.

***

From my work-in-progress novel Ship’s Heart, the prequel to Inside the Jump. Yasmin, Jehen’s younger sister, is five years old and is listening to the call-and-response between the Dome’s ground control and an incoming supply ship.

Weekend Writing Warriors offers a selection of eight-sentence excerpts from many different writers. For the full selection, see here.

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Writer Tech: A Short Autobiography in Writing Tools

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Current writing notebook with its higher-tech friends at the Tuesday write-in (Your Mom’s Basement, White Bear Lake MN)

Notebook and pen. I started writing in pen long before they officially let us handle that deadliest of weapons, so most of my juvenilia are written in ball-point pen in composition books. This is old school, and it’s also evergreen. Continue reading

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Muse of Research Writer Interview #1 (short version) up now! Writer Tech news! and more!

The first of the Muse of Research interviews, with Lev Mirov (@thelionmachine on Twitter), has been published on the Skiffy and Fanty Show. Go check it out! This is the short version, 1000 words or so. An extended version will appear on this blog in about a week. Lev is one of my Twitter colleagues and an accomplished poet, medievalist, and cook.

Upcoming on Writer Tech:

  • The first Writer Tech (Technology) post, “A Short Autobiography in Writing Tools,” goes up tomorrow.
  • For an upcoming Writer Tech (Technique) post, I will be interviewing a colleague about the balance between productivity and self-care for a working writer. Carpal tunnel and other repetitive stress injuries are a chronic risk for writers, and we’ll talk about one writer’s experience with finding a routine that produces words without exacerbating injury.
  • I’m looking over some possibilities for Writer Tech (Industrial Espionage), with a focus on narrative structure and confusion-free flashbacks. More news on this in upcoming posts.

Due to health issues and other deadlines, I missed this Monday’s “Love in the Time of Starships.” It will go up next Monday.

More schedule notes:

  • Tuesdays I’ll also be featuring teaser excerpts from the first draft of upcoming nonfiction release From Fan Fiction to Original Fiction, co-authored with fanfic writer Vera Rozalsky. Vera writes long-form political fanfic as well as short humor and horror stories, in a tiny corner of the Harry Potter fandom.
  • A new feature, “Fandom Conversations,” will be joining the posting schedule some time in late March or early April.
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From Fan Fiction to Original Fiction: On Second Person (Excerpt)

Concept cover by Glass Knife Press.

Concept cover by Glass Knife Press.

There’s a lot of advice out there saying not to use second person, ever. Like any absolute rule, it’s wrong.

Decades after reading it, I still remember the chapter about arrest and detention in the first volume of Solzhenitsyn’s GuLAG Archipelago. It’s written in second person, and the effect is to plunge you into a brutal and inescapable situation.

I notice that I switch into second person for scenes of extreme stress and dissociation. No, this is not happening to ‘me’ or ‘him’ or ‘her’ or ‘they’; it’s happening to some unspecified ‘you.’

Interactive fiction uses ‘you’ for the same reason that Solzhenitsyn chose it in his nonfiction narrative; it’s ‘you, yes, you’ who’s in the story.

Does it work? It all depends on the writer’s skill. Just because it’s been done poorly (cheesy ‘choose your adventure’ books or bad role-playing games) doesn’t mean that you should avoid it. For that matter, ‘choose your adventure’ and role-playing games, like any literary form, can be cheesy or transcendent. Dismissing an entire form as crap is as lazy-minded now as it was for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century critics who ranted about the evils of novel-reading, or (a bit later on) the dissipation of ragtime, movies, jazz, rock-n-roll, selfies, or video games.

***

Excerpt from forthcoming From Fanfiction to Original Fiction (Vera Rozalsky with E. P. Beaumont)

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