Tag Archives: Kansas

Damn Those Archetypes

Here I thought I was getting farther along the road (knowing that road goes on forever) of perfecting my craft, that of writing, when I find out I’m way way behind the times with archetypes. I thought there were those Campbellian constructs of hero, child, mother, trickster, etc. But now the bottom has dropped out of my little world to find that new archetypes have supplanted the old.

Curse you, David Moles, curse you. If I hadn’t done a spin through his site http://www.chrononaut.org/~dm/ (because he made a comment and I met him recently in Kansas) I would still be living a relative life of bliss and ignorance. Ah, if only…

But now I know there is a huge world of new archetypes out there shoving aside the child, the mother, even the hero. I already knew about the Noble Savage but didn’t know about Magical Negroes and Manic Pixie Dream Girls. I have to admit to having read David’s blog, trickling through the comments and then shooting over to Strange Horizons to read part of the article on Magical Negroes http://www.strangehorizons.com/2004/20041025/kinga.shtml Okay, so I only skimmed parts, being that I’m supposed to be at work and all.

But I read enough to go, Eeek! I have a magical negro story, fitting all five of the commonest attributes. All of them. Geeze. But my story is different. Really it is. Well, maybe, kinda, sort of. Sigh. At least I can make the main character black too and then it will only match four points. It’s one of those borderline fantasy literary tales and I’ve never sold it because it’s not really wowzer different enough. But maybe I have another reason now. Hmm.

Briefly, about that insidious David Moles. I was in Kansas for the novel writing workshop and he came in for the Campbell Conference. His SF story “Finisterra” was nominated for the Sturgeon award. It tied for first place with Elizabeth Bear’s “Tidelines.” I had the opportunity to read Finisterra. It’s an amazing “world” both odd and majestic, yet sad with the brutal reality that afflicts our world too. He’s written a tale of a conflicted “world” and protagonist. I’m not sure I would want to live in that place or that time but there is a ray of hope at the end. There are interesting parallels to our world of course and the whaling and seal trade. But it’s obvious why it won the Sturgeon as well as was nominated for the Hugo.

Then I snooped David’s site some more and found that he co-edited Twenty Epics and All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories. Zeppelins, Finisterra…I see a correlation. But the little hind brain filing system whispered, remember you sent a story to one of those anthologies long ago. It wasn’t accepted but in the small world of publishing I now knew where I’d seen that insidious name before.

When I have time I’m curious to go back to David’s site and check out his research paper: “I know nothing about them, nor I don’t wish to”:The memsahib and the myth of the lost empire. How interesting is that, and it makes me wonder what David Moles does when he’s not an insidious Lemony Snicketty kinda guy. He seemed nice enough in Kansas.

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Writing: Campbell and Sturgeon Awards

Friday night was the presentation of the Campbell Award for best new novel and the Sturgeon Award for best new short fiction of the year. They were presented in Lawrence, Kansas as part of the Campbell Conference and the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association) conference. David Moles won the Sturgeon Award for his story “Finisterra,” as well as Elizabeth Bear for her story “Tidelines”

The Campbell Award gave third place to Ken MacLeod for his book, The Execution Channel. Second place went to Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Ball, and the winner was Kathleen Ann Goonan for her novel, In War Times.

Saturday continued the conference with a SF book sale at the KU library, and readings and signings at the Oread bookstore. Readers included David Moles, Kij Johnson, Frederik Pohl, Robin Wayne Bailey, Karen Joy Fowler, James Van Pelt and Kathleen Ann Goonan. Fred Pohl, the last of the Futurists (which included Kornbluth, Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and others) claims that he will no longer write a collaboration with another author because they end up dying. He finished a book with Arthur C. Clarke but Clarke died before the last fifty pages. The book, The Last Theorem, will be released within the next few months. Pohl is quite a funny guy and it was a delight to hear him read, as well as the other authors.

The conference ended the novel writing workshop. Saturday night, we had a party as our last goodbye to each other. it was a good workshop and some really great people. I’m excited to start working, really working on my novel and restructuring it. Maybe I can get it done this year.

James Van Pelt said some interesting things about writing regularly. He once kept trying for 1000 words a day but couldn’t always manage it so then he’d fall behind and not write for days on end. Stephen King and other writers might do 1000 words a day or more but they don’t always have other jobs. Pelt realized that the 1000 words was the barrier and sat down with what he’d be happy writing in a year and then divided it by the number of days. He realized that he only needed 200 words a day. That breaks down to less than a page and even if tired or too busy, a very doable number. It increased his output and he’s never missed writing a day since.

I think I’ll be trying that and tonight I sat down to look at a story I wrote recently. Using some of the new depths to writing I learned these past two weeks, I rewrote it and added a thousand words. I’ll try writing at least 200 words on fiction every day.

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Writing: Bits and Pieces

I can now say which stories I’ve accepted so far for Aberrant Dreams, in fantasy. The contracts will be going out as soon as I get back from the workshop in a week. http://www.hd-image.com/stories.htm

I still won’t know when they will be up but here they are:

  • Kiss of the Blood Red Pomegranate by Kristin Janz
  • A Taste of Nettles by Katie Howenstine
  • The Girl Who Swallowed the Sky by Jacqueline Bowen
  • Year of the Mountain Lion by Maria Schneider
  • Helkappe by Claire Cooney

Kiss and Helkappe are underworld stories. They are all strong in imagery and original plots, presenting an alieness or a humanness that is intriguing. We’re slowly catching up and I know there are others that have had longer waits. Joe has put some books to bed that he’s publishing so we should see things moving faster.

The Lawrence, Kansas workshop is half over and maybe it’s time to talk of the town. Lawrence is small, maybe 80,000 people before the students arrive in the fall for KU. There is one main street with stores and a few side streets. The box stores are farther out but they have a bit of everything. It’s quaint, it’s easy going and there is hardly any traffic. I love that aspect.

It does get blistering hot with high humidity (at least today-we’ve been luck) and it gets winters and tornadoes. It could be too small too. But it’s a nice place to visit. We walked to town yesterday and got to take a closer look at the sandstone(?) buildings on campus. They date to the turn of the century (1900) and are of a light brown stone. They look so clean and light, unlike similar buildings I’ve seen elsewhere. I don’t know if this is because there is less pollution here, the tornadoes scour them (unlikely) or because they scour them. A few buildings are in a deep red brick. The Natural History Museum is nicely done with carvings and gargoyles, and “Darwin” carved below one window and “Huxley” below the other.

There are a number of houses that date to the early 1900s, some earlier. A few are in brick but many of wood with the gingerbread finishings on them. There are a few cobblestone streets of rectangular red bricks, much like the few streets that still exist in Vancouver. And there are many fairly unremarkable homes. The shops offer quite a range of latest fashions.

I don’t know if I could live in a town this small over all but it is certainly appealing and the smog is low level. It’s definitely tempting.

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Novel Writing Workshop

Tomorrow (today) we go over the last of nine novels, which means three chapters and the outline. The writing is of a pretty good caliber in all of these and all of them need work. Kij is amazingly astute and finding what’s not working and at defining structure.

There has been quite a range in the ideas from humorous space opera to medieval fantasy to alternate histories. I hadn’t worked on the novel for ten years and knew I had huge expository lumps. But I was getting mired. I had to build a complete world, including geography, races, culture, religion and rulers. No small feat and it’s still evolving. I was told to get rid of the first two chapters and simplify the information. I also had to drop the meddling gods back.

The more I thought about it, the more relieved I was. I have so much information to impart and I was getting mired. After we went for BBQ (where the food was okay and the waiting staff terrible) at the Vermont, I think, we went back to the dorms. Most nights people sit around and talk and write, to varying degrees. There’s a quiet room if you don’t want to be bothered by the chatter. I was working on my outline and chatting with Eric Warren from the short fiction workshop.

He had sat in one day on our workshop and had read the two novel bits so he could see how the process went. It’s not round table like Clarion and is a more gentle, more brainstorming style which I quite like and find useful, not to mention you learn from the other people’s novels too. We ended up discussing my novel and it was really useful. Eric gave me a very cool idea for the second novel and I got to bounce my changes off of him.

What this outline has given me that the first didn’t is a jumping point to a second novel. I had only thought in the vague terms of “there will be one” before this. Kij has made me cut down to three viewpoint characters. Because of the races and plot, I can’t really go to fewer. But this leaves room for different character viewpoints in the second novel. One rule was that two of the three problems must be solved by the end of the novel. I’ve done this (at least in the outline), and leaving one unsolved problem leaves room for that problem to flow into the next novel and for joining them.

The outline gets turned in next week and taken through the process. I think it is stronger and kind of exciting. I also wrote up story arcs for each of the four characters, which definitely helps in plotting the outlines. I hope to have most of the outline done by tomorrow.

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Kansas: Vignettes

It’s late and the workshop begins in the morning so this will be things I noted along the way, perhaps in order.

I found out that your bra can set off the airport security system. Seriously. I took off all my jewelry (except my rings which never set off the alarms) and I still buzzed the thing twice. They said, something up high is setting it off and when they ran the little wand over me it was the wires and clips on my bra. I bought it on sale but it’s well made.

I sat beside a horse rancher who had fingers the size of breakfast sausages and then some. Several fingers were bent to the side and I didn’t know if that was just from arthritis or from breaking horses all his life. He was a nice guy and we chatted about geography, him showing me the copper mine by the great salt lake (which I certainly wouldn’t have noticed) and talking about how the land had changed and cities come up. We talked about floods in Iowa and about the land flying over. He told me if I talked about sports in Lawrence I couldn’t go wrong as they called it the “sport city.” I guess the college basketball team has won championships.

I’ve flown often enough and never fail to love looking down on the land and seeing its great scape and what tales it tells of time passing. The was the first time I saw a truly awesome alluvial plain. I could see where there had once been a great river, wide and high and lake like in its middle, how it pushed might torrents of water along and through the land, carving out veins that branched and branched, growing ever smaller. The dark lines of those veins and the rivulets, even now long dried out, were still there to tell the tale. It was amazing. Then as the land flattened past the Rockies, there was evidence of a great lake, where the banks were still built up and the water had overflowed, pouring down one side, then eventually shrinking in on itself, smaller and smaller over thousands of years until only a few streams and possibly rivers remain.

We then hit the flat farm fields of Kansas, beautiful in the chequered pattern of greens, golds and browns, quartered and sectioned. Even through the farmlands the evidence of rivers still reveal themselves. Those branches and veins still flow with life-giving water, and trees delineate and embroider the shapes of the rivers. This was one of the best histories of geography that I’ve flown over and I’ve flown into the British Isles, India, the Himalayan foothills, Mexico and Cuba.

Oro, one of the short fiction workshop folk who lives in Kansas City picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride. We got lost at first, going north instead of west. Oro apologized and for the fact his car didn’t have air conditioning but I just said, hey, it’s an adventure. I’ve amazingly looked at all the travel delays with pretty good humor, which is a good thing. In some cases I would get downright bitchy so maybe all that work I’ve been doing on my brain is paying off. I just took everything as part of the whole grand adventure.

The dorms in Lawrence are…well, dorms, but way more spacious than I thought. Rhea and I are sharing a room, which actually turns out to be a room with a wide kitchen space and bathroom in the middle and another room at the other end. If we were college students we would have another buddy in each room but we have the rooms to ourselves and doors to each bedroom. I nearly froze the first day because I hadn’t figured out the esoteric air conditioning.

I’ve met all the workshop people: Lane, Barbara, Jerry, Larry, Stewart, Eric, GS (and Rhea) for the novel portion, and Mannie, Mallory, Eric, Chuck, Kent, Oro, Ben, Robert, Jean, (Carolyn who I met the next day) for the short fiction portion (though I think I’m missing a name). Barbara, Larry and Jerry are doing both. And of course there is Chris, Kij who is teaching the novel portion,and Jim Gunn, saying what they wanted to get out of the workshop. I of course want fame and riches. But seriously, it’s great to brainstorm and get other perspectives and see if there’s something I’m missing in plot.

I drank some homemade limoncello by the novel workshop Eric. Very nice and strong stuff, actually better than the store bought, which doesn’t have enough tang for my tastes. Last night we ate at a Greek restaurant (the only one in Lawrence), which also serves falafel and pasta. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a Greek salad with lettuce in it. They asked me if I wanted the olives and I said yes. I was given a whole two. We then took a walk around a wee park and a wee-er Japanese sort of garden, then meandered along a street of cool shops. Last night was very pleasant and it was great to meet fellow writers tonight where we ended up talking new technologies, conservation, pollution, etc. My brain is happy.

I’ll soon be doing some poetry editing for Chizine so Sandra felt obliged to actually get to my poems before I come on board. She accepted “Trials of Lemons,” a poem about bitter fruit and dragonflies. I’m not yet sure when it will be up.

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Not Quite Kansas: Cattle Call

Last year I flew to Ireland and because of my stupidity in reading the time of departure I actually whisked through the airport in minutes. But basically, in either direction, it was stop at the ticketing counter, check baggage and get boarding pass, go through electronic scans and then give your pass to the airline attendant. It was relatively quick on either side of the boarding or disembarking.

Today, as I tried to board my Delta Airlines flight to Kansas via Salt Lake City, there were as many checkpoints as getting in Nazi occupied territory. I arrived about 11:10 am for my flight at 12:51 and lined up in front of Delta. There were less than a dozen people with three ticket counters open. It took about twenty minutes to get through. Oh and a US customs declaration card must be filled out before you go to the ticket counter. On some flights you do it on the flight to give to customs on the other side.

Ahah! But here we have customs on Canadian soil. So I checked my bag but had to keep it with me. Then I was shunted through the duty free shop along a corridor where they ask if you have your card filled out. Through another corridor there are lines for greeting the customs agents who stamp the declaration form, look at my passport and ask how long I’ll be in Kansas and whether it’s business or a pleasure. But they don’t take the card.

Then I go along another corridor, with my luggage (You think I got to check it yet?) where I hand the card to another customs agent standing before the big cattle clash. Now there are big glass doors, perpetually open and what looks like it’s where I would get screened as well as my carry-on. But not yet. Everyone tried to get in nice lines but we were told to bunch up in a large mass so that we could then funnel back down to a line to drop off any liquids bigger than a dormouse. Then we trundled our luggage over to an area on the right and flopped it on the conveyor belt.

Then we squish together again into a large mob moving to the left, and in the middle of this the guy with all the luggage carts wants to get through, but only whispers his request. One woman chose that moment to bend over and open up her carry-on, effectively blocking everything. Then we bundled up again like a passive Canadian gang and funneled into a thin line to go between the red ribboned rows. These rows first took us all the way back to those glass doors then changed to go left to right and zig us and zag us up toward the screening machines.

It’s interesting to note that while in that long sinuous line you can look down on baggage carousels with luggage arriving from different areas. To my left was one from Tokyo; the other was from somewhere in Canada. The baggage on the Canadian carousel was tossed willy nilly onto the conveyor belts, upside down, sideways, at jaunty angles. The baggage from the Japanese carousel was lined up neatly, each parallel to the other, on the long side, handles sticking up. Every single one.

As I neared the front of the line, somehow managing to suppress the urge to bleat, another customs agent pink markered my boarding pass and then I branched off to a particular screening lines. Where of course one has to take off shoes, disembowel bags or purses of little clear bags with liquids in them, take off chains, coins, jewelry, watches, false teeth, limbs and eyes, remove fillings, pop out brains, splay laptops and wander through.

The corridor for the E gates is long, it goes down a flight of steps where the escalator has a sign saying it goes fast but it would take you five times as long to get down than the steps. Then there is a short, fastish moving flat escalator. Then there are steps and escalator going up, which disgorged me into the waiting area, where I find…my plane is late because of headwinds. I wonder how the connecting flight will go.

And the connecting flight went…without me. And many other people. Salt Lake City is Delta’s hub after all, so EVERY flight goes through here. But guess what? Their last flights out are all around 5:00. Whoops. I arrived and got to the gate but they wouldn’t let us board, mostly because I would have had to sit on someone’ s lap. They do give away the seats after a certain time. But the guys there said, oh the planes left late for Vancouver because of maintenance problems. Hmm… Headwinds or maintenance problems or both?

Anyways, I get to spend a night here. I had to get them to dig my luggage out of limbo and I nearly said, Oh you guys should throw in a bottle of booze when flights are delayed, but then I remembered I was in Mormon country. I just had to kinda laugh through all of this. There were a lot of irate people around me but what are you going to do? Me, I’m going to go use that whopping $7 food voucher that Delta gave me and find something to eat here at the Airport Hilton (woooo). And then I’ll probably drink too.

Connecting flight (hopefully) tomorrow at 8:40 and Kansas at noon.

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Writing News & Kansas

I received my cheque from Shroud magazine this week for my story “Amuse-Bouche,” which means it should be out soon. http://www.shroudmagazine.com/index.html

My cheque also arrived for my story “Strict Management” out in the Cleis Press erotic anthology Open for Business, and the books arrived today. http://www.cleispress.com/index.php

And I also received word today that Maxim Jakubowski has accepted my story “Stocking Stuffers” originally printed in the Cleis Press anthology Naughty or Nice, for the Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 8to be published in 2009. 

Other than that, writing beyond this blog is on hold. For the CSSF novel workshop in Kansas I have had eight other people’s partial novels to read (up to about 50 pages) and critique. I have one and a half more to do and I leave on Friday. http://www2.ku.edu/~sfcenter/campbell-conference.htm The workshop begins next Monday in Lawrence.

The stories cover a wide range with a medieval epic fantasy, an uplift style SF space race story, two near future SF stories with altered humans (but by very different means and reasons), a world with specially empowered people and angels, an alternate history with Hitler, a magical mystery PI story, and a clairvoyant conspiracy with a mystery. My story falls into a pre-industrial medieval fantasy but on a different world with different species and gods. Overall, we have quite a range and everyone’s story is very intriguing so far.

I’m looking forward to my two weeks of being immersed in the creative medium, which ends with the Campbell Conference.

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Writing News

Right now I’m more in reading than writing mode. I’ve accepted another story for Aberrant Dreams, with a few in the queue. And my friend Sandra Kasturi was in swamped mode, probably moving closer to swamp thing. After all, she runs Kelp Queen Press http://www.kelpqueenpress.com/ but she also is poetry editor for Chizine http://chizine.com/, is working on an animation plus other projects.

I had a few poems in submission for a while at Chi when she mentioned she was way behind because of several projects. I told her to get some slush pile readers because they’re all the rave and everyone has one. Perhaps I should have been quieter because she came back to me and another person and asked if we would be her readers for poetry. So there goes another editorial hat to wear.

That’s not started yet but mostly I’m reading the first three chapters of eight novels in preparation for the novel writing workshop I’ll be doing in Kansas. That’s at the university in Lawrence and is part of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. http://www2.ku.edu/~sfcenter/novel-workshop.htm Two weeks in July, novel bashing and brainstorming. I have to write a critique for each novel and outline. I’m hoping to do one a day. This does mean that although I’ll be posting here, my blogs will probably concentrate on writing and workshopping for the two weeks, but maybe not.

The other writing projects: the Berchta tale, the barge people, the co-written one with Rhea and the monkey girl story  (including the three stories near completion) are on hold though I may take a few of these with me for when I’m sick of looking at my novel.

I applied for two grants through the BC Arts Council and the Canada Council. Yesterday I received word from BC Arts that the grants have been delayed so I won’t find out till after the fact. I’m expecting Canada Council to take longer. So, even though I’m going to the workshop I may have no money. Say hello to Mr. Plastic. 🙂

Writer Beware: In the past couple of days a writing contest was listed on Craigslist, stating that SFWA was holding a contest. For a $10 entry fee you send in your story and winners and honorable mentions will be published by a big name publisher. The anthology is titled Asimovs of the Future. However, this is a fake contest. SFWA has issued a statement saying they have nothing to do with it and that someone is trying to bilk writers of their money.

 

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