magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On the topic of not-rocks, when I was growing up, I had a cassette tape that had a bunch of folk tales on it. One of them (if I remember correctly, which I very well may not) had to do with a king who was sick, and sent his three sons out looking for a magical cure. Two of the sons get bored of the quest and quit; the third actually found the cure and was bringing it back when his brothers found him, killed him, buried him, and took the cure home to claim the reward. But reeds grew where the good son had been buried, and someone cut the reeds and made a pan flute, and when the pan flute was played, it sang about the brother's death in his voice.

I mostly remember it because the song was creepy and got stuck in my head a lot.  I have never been able to successfully Google the story or its audio.  I really wish I could find it again, though, because nostalgia.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Because definitely what I need is more webapp ideas that I don't have time to develop.



Anyway, following on from a Twitter conversation, I'm wondering how it would work to make a writing program which could track the genders of a number of characters and then arbitrarily shuffle them. What I'm picturing is, simplified, something like this:

• At the top of the document are a number of fields which ask for a character name (or a list of character references, such as name and nickname and other variations) and pairs the name with a gender (and its associated set of pronouns).

• Each character you add is arbitrarily assigned a color (or icon or other distinguishing visual marker).

• As you type, a parser will keep track of which name (or referent) has been typed last for each of the original genders. When you type a pronoun, it will look at the last character reference matching that pronoun's set, and highlight the pronoun (or assign it the correct icon) to associate it with the specific character. It'll also have some kind of (mouseover?) menu to allow users to correct its assumption about which character it refers to.

• When you finish writing, each pronoun will be associated with a character. So you can hit a shuffle button, and then the characters' genders will be shuffled, and each pronoun can be brought back into compliance with the character's gender.

Needless to say, this would fail in a lot of situations. Take, for example:

• Dialogue. "He's not coming today," he said. (I mean, I guess I could set up a sub-parser which kept track of the last character reference inside a set of quotes?)

• Ambiguiety. We'll just call this the Randall Munroe exploit. I guess people would just have to make close, personal friends with the drop-down menus?

• Gay porn. I am reliably informed by people who have tried to write gay porn that pronouns are a nightmare anyway. And humans are better at parsing language than computers are.

• Unexpected cases. Language is complicated, yo!

I feel like there should be a way to handle this, and that it probably involves algorithms. I'm a bit worried that trying to write a general-purpose pronoun shuffler would actually require re-inventing Google Translate. Any computational linguists out there who want to point out things I'm missing?
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Shared Worlds prompt call!

This prompt call is:
Closed


Prompting closed at: 11:59 PM PST, Monday, June 23, 2014

Thank you everyone for coming by! I will continue to write prompt responses until every prompter has received at least one response, and will hopefully complete a response for every prompt. However, prompting is now closed.

Sponsoring is:
Closed


Sponsoring remained open until: 11:59 PM PST, Friday, July 4, 2014

Thank you to everyone who contributed!



Wait. What is this? Briefly, please.


Leave me prompts, and I'll write you snippets of fiction. Donate $10, and get 500-word flash fiction or complete scenes on a prompt response of your choice. These funded scenes will become part of the Shared Worlds canon.


Additional questions, answered in more depth. )




Table of jumping-off points for prompts. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)


Ran across this in my Twitter reading today. Made me stop and raise an eyebrow. Because, really – "grim" and "bleak" are the descriptors they've chosen to entice me to see this film? (Well, there's also "incredible", but that gives me little insight into what sets this film apart, and thus does little to capture my interest.)

Now, possibly I just haven't read widely enough in the genre to realize that there's a strong undercurrent of happy, lush, uplifting post-apocalyptic fiction out there. Something like that. But to me, grim, bleak landscapes aren't exactly the aspects of a post-apocalyptic work you need to advertise – they're more or less to be expected from the genre. Advertising those, especially when you have a medium such as Twitter and have to seriously consider which few, precious words you're going to use, makes it sound to me like you just don't have anything more interesting to say than "This work competently executes the tropes it's expected to." It's the "square house, door in front" of the review world.

...which all basically means that, in a fit of pique, I have decided that I want beautifully optimistic post-apocalyptic fiction to exist. If someone else doesn't write it, I may have to.

(It's not even that I dislike grimdark post-apoc. I do enjoy it, when it's done well. But sometimes you just have to go for the subversions.)
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Holy crap, I think I've got a short story done in draft. (Well, "short"; it's roughly 6600 words long. One of these days I'll figure out* how to write at commonly-acceptable lengths like 3000-4500 words.) I think I started this one sometime in mid-November. Not a bad start to the year, even if I probably won't have it out the door today!

* This is probably a lie.

Over the past few days of trying to tie everything together, I've been thinking about a couple of things.

Neepery on characters being afforded plausible choices. )

Neepery on plots that dig deep and plots that go far. )

And on we go. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, publishing for... yikes, 2005 was nine years ago already, wasn't it? –and editing professionally for over a year, and I've been to one of the most prestigious writing workshops in the speculative fiction field, and I still often feel like I have no idea how fiction works or how to write something that functions. Then again, I hear that this never really goes away, so I'd best get comfortable with continually working to figure things out and put neat labels on the tools in my toolbox.

[ETA] Welp, I read over it, and I'm still not entirely happy with the arc – but I'm not sure what I can do to fix it without writing a different story. So I sent it out! Because if nothing else, starting the year on a submission has some nice symbolic heft, and it is sometimes the case that other people like my fiction more than I do after a long writing/tweaking process. &o.o&

There are just about 50 minutes left in January 1. I'm doing pretty well!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

As an exercise, to try to ease my brain up out of its months-long stress-induced no-writing slump, I sat down and copied out the first sentence (or two; the first lines of If The Mountain Comes really don't work if you only take the first sentence) of all the short stories I've had published in various markets, and then grouped them by whether I (personally) thought they were engaging or not.

 

Read more... )

In any case, it's something I don't think I'd really sat down to examine in any depth before, so now I can say I've done that.  And hopefully have a better sense of how this particular mechanic works in the stories I write in the future.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I like to personify my brain, partially as an Elizabeth Gilbert-esque control on getting too much ego tied up in things but mostly because it makes it easier to blame things on an entity external to myself. Like this, for example: if there is a choice between buckling down and working on one of the many, many concepts/story scraps I have lying around or coming up with a shiny new concept – usually novel-length, but not always – then it will take the "shiny new concept" option 11 times out of 10.

Anyway, it tossed me what may or may not be an urban fantasy Noir about a freelance detective gal who gets commissioned for some enigmatic person named North, and ends up having to navigate her own undeath. As well as her life, one universe over. And the one may not be more complicated than the other.

Here's the beginning my brain handed me:

I knew I was digging myself into it when I signed the contract. It's not like I couldn't see it coming; on the highway of life, this was the lane with the orange cones and the lit-up roadside sign saying THE BRIDGE IS OUT and the police lights and the oily smoke coming up. But, you know, if I'd had another option, I wouldn't have taken this one.

That's the way it always is.


I've also worked more on Rust City. You know, when I started it, I was pretty sure it would be a novella – but then it just kept growing. I only have about 8k words in it now, but given the way I structure things and how the scope is expanding (the love-fascination-need-triangle is now more of a connect-the-dots), I'd be surprised if the finished draft clocked in under 70 or 80k. Y'know, if it ever fights its way through the shiny new upstarts.

It's a wonder I've ever finished anything.

He drew up beside her. She was framed in the gristle of the building, the rebar and wire and crumbled cement like a nest around her. Across the city blocks, the Moonlit moon was glowing. Its light was softened by the distance, and softened Sela's face.

"You smell like him," Sela said.

Ferro looked at her, then ducked his head. Hoped that what he was about to say would be permissible. "How do you know what he smells like?"

Sela glanced at him askance. "You have to remember which one of us is the dog," she said.


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop which failed to teach me the fine art of controlling my wordcounts, but which did teach me many and varied other valuable things.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
So let's talk about Rust City.

Rust City began as a thought experiment as to whether or not I could write something Bizarro. (The verdict is: I couldn't. The closest I've ever come is probably The Relative Densities of Seawater and Blood, and it's not very bizarre, compared to anything, say, Carlton Mellick III has ever written. I think that in order to write Bizarro, you have to have the abilites (1)Not to take yourself so damn seriously, and (2)Let go of the need to explain or at least justify everything, and I score pretty badly on those rubrics.)

The story follows Ferro, a man with a condition that's given him the primary sex characteristics of an standard XX physiology but a standard set of XY secondary sex characteristics. He falls in with a pair of cousins named Wolf and Sela, who may or may not be genetically-engineered remnants of the war that screwed up the entire planet, either decades or centuries ago.

The full title of the project is Rust City (a love story), though I remain unsure of what the love story actually is. (Wolf and Sela have an extremely broken familial relationship they both want fixed but don't know how to fix, Wolf and Ferro sleep together, Ferro is fascinated and stalked by Sela, and for all this time Ferro is crushing on a woman named Kyoto who has burn scars covering most of her chest. There's a lot of thematic body stuff going on here, and it's all kind of a mess.)

Also, there are molemen, which aren't actually molemen. They're more like some kind of cavefish-esque offshoot of Homo sapiens who live in the old (but expanded) sewer system beneath the city. (I'm not sure that's better.) They communicate with Ferro by exploiting a trick of his synaesthesia – yes, Ferro also has synaesthesia, as well as hypertactility and haptophilia – which also has a tinge of the supernatural to it.

It's resisting being written, for the most part, because I honestly have no idea where it's going or why half the stuff is happening. You know, conventional wisdom says that you should have your story worked out before you start writing it. At least you should know what the major players and motivations will be. Possibly have some understanding of the plot. That's just not how I roll; I tend to slap stuff that sounds pretty on a page and hope that eventually my brain will start supplying all the connective tissue, musculature, and skeletal structure. Sometimes in that order.

But I wrote a slim 655 words on it last night, and now I'm sharing an excerpt with you!

He felt himself sailing down, through the floor, drawn toward the molten center of the world, but before he could come anywhere near it he was caught in a noise like spidersilk. It wrapped around him, twining through his pores in a rhythm like words.

They were words. Maybe not in a classical sense, but something intelligible without being sound. Something like,

(intruder)

And then, by more voices, closer to his skin,

(brightseer, sunfucker)

(up him)

(yeah)

(up)


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop which has supported real live Bizarro authors! And many, many others.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
It's always an interesting feeling when you've been completely paralyzed by the sight of the blank (or unfinished, or finished but requiring revision) Word document for days, weeks, or months, only to discover when a deadline looms that yes, if it comes down to it, you still can pound out 2500 words in a single Sunday. When 100 words have been giving every indication of being a Sisyphean task, you have to wonder where the switch got flipped.

I have a feeling it's in the "deadline" part.

When I was taking classes at the University of Iowa, one of my major complaints was that their fiction writing courses were non-graduated. There was no beginning, intermediate, advanced path to take – everyone, including the people just looking for three easy credits and with no passion for writing, got tossed into the same courses, and with the added complication that a lot of them thought "science fiction and fantasy" meant "you can't say anything about it because it's all just made up and doesn't have to make sense" meant that, with the exception of classes run by a couple excellent people, I didn't often get a lot out of the critiquing parts of the workshops. But they were still invaluable to me.

Why?

Because sometimes, all you need is the magical combination of time to write, the expectation that you'll write, and a commitment to persons outside of yourself that you'll produce something, even if it isn't a lofty piece of literature which will stand the test of ages.

Which is why Clarion West is such an amazing place, to be honest. Well, one of the reasons. I can't ignore the chance to learn from six amazing teachers with six different strengths and styles, or the amazing families you can form there, but what makes it a truly mind-altering experience is the fact that for six weeks, your entire life can be writing. You can saturate yourself with your fiction. Set aside work, cares, feeding the cats (or the kids), making yourself dinner, all the niggling cares of the so-called real world. All that's expected of you is fiction. The world is built around your fiction. And for your fiction, you are welcomed, supported, honored.

There's a reason so many of us join the Write-a-thon every year, hoping to grab back some vestige of what the workshop experience is like.

Anyway, now that I've tricked my brain into admitting that it hasn't burnt out forever and ever and that it can still string words together into a somewhat coherent narrative and that all the rest is just whining, I'm going to see where I get by the end of this week. This Friday, I have the first meeting of my new job; immediately thereafter, I'm going to be helping to launch a company. It'll be an exciting and busy time, and pretty much the opposite of the workshop in terms of the precedence my immediate world accords my writing.

But, you know, it's okay. As ever, we'll see how it goes.

...

There aren't any really good Write-a-thon-quotable passages from the 2500 words of yesterday, so I'll give you a snatch of one of the next projects I'm going to be working on: the post-apocalyptic pseudo-moleman-infested extremely unromantic love story Rust City.

"Do people do that?"

"Look to sex for comfort?" Ferro asked. "It's a thing people do, yeah."


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop that makes it all but impossible for authors not to produce. And producing is half the battle.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
If you wanted to count the combined wordcounts of everything I've worked on since the start of the Write-a-thon, we'd be up to 624 now! If you wanted to count the actual words I've written since the start, we'd be at... something more like 87.

Neither of these are particularly inspiring numbers, but I'll take them, because they're greater than 0.

Today's 87 words went to The Angel at the Gate, a story inspired by a YouTube video of Silent Hill: Homecoming, the long-completed webcomic 1/0, and thinking about Biblical cherubs. Naturally, the story is about a group of friends who were tossed out of another world after fighting for and saving it as destined heroes, and who find themselves unable to leave the city they've been thrown into because there's a supernatural phenomenon which blocks their way out.

(They name the phenomenon Azrael. Who was not a cherub, if you were wondering.)

Long story short, my fiction rarely bears any resemblance to its inspiration, so I hope the preceding explanation made no sense to you.

...

...hey, who wants an excerpt!

I look up to see Zeph straddling the peak of the roof, nailing down siding, and the arc of the hammer in his hand takes my breath away. It doesn't take long for him to look down and see me, loitering in the middle of the road.

I sign, Remember the flight to the burning cathedral? Your sword scattered the sunlight and gave you wings.

Zeph grins and hefts the hammer, then sees something in my face and sets it down. And he signs back, with emphasis on every word:

Don't. Start. Crying. Here.


[Semi-boilerplate text: As always, I hope you'll check out and support the Clarion West Write-a-thon (and me in particular, if you feel so inclined). Your donation will help a workshop that allows its students to create quality work like mine! Except often better, and coherent.]
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
...meanwhile, my brain is giving me someone named Tether, an aromantic, touch-hungry, skin-averse, heterophysical, sex-repulsed asexual who undergoes violence-hunger cycles in accordance with lunar cycles, peaking at the new moon. She gets paired with some guy called Knife, who as far as I can tell is a fairly vanilla heterosexual guy somewhere on the aspie spectrum, with a nearly eidetic memory and somewhat decentralized cognition. Who may also be a high-functioning sociopath.

I have no idea where my brain is going with this, but I suspect they fight crime.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know, I feel like I did this last year, too. Dove into the Write-a-thon with both feet, conveniently forgetting a few salient facts. In this year's case, the facts I overlooked are these:

1) The end of June is the end of the fiscal year for the University of Iowa, and I support and develop financial applications for the University; and

2) I'm going to spend just about every waking hour of next week in Laramie (or driving to and from Laramie) to learn about astronomy.

In short, I haven't had the time to work on fiction, nor will I.

But I have this week, and let's hope I can get something done this week.

What do we have up? *drumroll, please*

After The Land of Dragons


(A working title, which cribs too much from the excellent After the Dragon by Sarah Monette, which you should definitely read.)


It's a story about shattered communities, altered bodies, collateral damage, and unexploded landmines, except that the landmines are really dragon bits. Fun times!

It's a thinly-scaled political allegory. And that was a horrible pun. )

I wrote the first draft of this for my Iowa City crit group, who unanimously told me that it needed to be a novel. I think that with a bit of tinkering and clarifying the arc and focus, I can make it work as a short story first. Let's see if I can, this week.

Oh, and have an excerpt, too!

Excerpt under the cut. )


There's still time to sponsor me and help out an awesome workshop! Clarion West is supported by cool folks like you.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
In true Clarion West Alum style, I am diving into this week slightly belatedly and with no clue what I'm doing! Join me for the ride.

THE CHARACTER: An Owomoyela, your narrator, a graduate of the 2008 class of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, author of various and sundry things.

THE CONFLICT: Your intrepid narrator has agreed to work on a different writing project every week for six weeks and blog about the results, in the hopes that you, O Readers, will sponsor hir and hir cause. In return for your money, your encouragement, or simply your occasional attention, you'll receive ramblings, blatherings and excerpts from a variety of different thingbobs!

THE FIRST CHAPTER: An will be – and hang on, se's just deciding this now – working on (drum roll, please)...

Slivers, (or) The Child Born With Fangs

A xenofictive fantasy YA novel concerning gender and the nature of humanity.


Slivers begins with a child named Rankiryo, a name meaning "Child of the Old Ways." He's a lyncis by species, and I'll provide a link to a visual aid for what lyncis folk look like. So, yes, I'm writing a fairly shameless catperson novel, but that's alright, 'cause I'm an author, and I can do what I want.

Continue reading on the subject of lynxes... )

Or perhaps you'd like an excerpt? )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Crossposted on over from [personal profile] an_owomoyela...

I've just finished up the first rough draft of Redacted, my Week 2 story for the Clarion West 2010 Write-A-Thon, featuring the nicest antagonist church I've ever had the mixed pleasure of writing. At 5,800 words, many (many) of which I'm sure will be cut in revision, it's not as sprawling as some things I've written, though I still wish I'd been able to wrap it up in 4,000.

Stay tuned to [personal profile] an_owomoyela for a short discussion and excerpts!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
My short story "Abandonware" is up at Fantasy Magazine today!

Abandonware is a work of science fantasy, which was favorably reviewed in the June 2010 Locus Magazine.

I'll have an author spotlight up on Fantasy Magazine in the coming days. I'll also have a look at and excerpt from my first Write-A-Thon story on [personal profile] an_owomoyela soon, and you can definitely still donate to Clarion West by sponsoring me.

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