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January 27, 2005

Fan Art (1 of 2), birthdays and rabbit holes

I'm still pretty damn sick. Fevers all through yesterday and last night (without the insulating power of scotch, I'm sorry to say), plus any number of other symptoms. Despite this fact, I did wake up this morning, and it was January 27. Which means that I have successfully cheated death for another year.

The best birthday present I could receive was seriously cool fiction, and that's been heartily available thanks to Down the Rabbit Hole day. See, I share my birthday with Lewis Carroll, and so this fellow called Crisper (fellow being unisex, because hey, how should I know?) suggested that instead of a crappy meme about how many pieces of Halloween Candy you received or something like that, this should be a meme where for 24 hours you write about the strange new world you woke up in, through the looking glass or down the rabbit hole.

I loved the very idea of it. And so I wrote a five part entry myself. If you'd like to have a look, they're here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and finally Part Five. Feel free to have a look if you want.

If you'd like to see some more primo examples of Down the Rabbit Holery, my good friend Greg Fishbone has been collecting examples of the best he's seen today. If you've been following along on Livejournal and seen one or two that Greg's missed, send them along to him for inclusion.

As it is my birthday, I should mention a couple of gifts I've recently received. Namely, two pieces of art, both coming out of Arisia (which I still owe you a report from -- I've been very sick recently, in my defense). One really needs an entry all to itself, so it'll go up in a bit. This one, however, is an adorable Snarky in the Snow (not exactly Sad Snarky in Snow, either), done by the talented Poinko of Fever Dream. (You know, that comic title is apropos given how I feel...) It's so cute, and Snarky looks so thrilled! Yay!

The other piece of art... heh. You'll see.

Cheers!

January 26, 2005

Me am big reviewer guy.

Illness and fatigue (my all purpose excuse) conspired to prevent me from mentioning that my review of Goats went up on Sunday over at Comixpedia. I'd be appreciative if you'd have a looksee, and then look at many of the other articles and thingies. There's also an interview with Kris Straub and Chex which explains much, and Ping Teo's launched a new cartoon which distills the Essence of... well, things. That's right. There's an actual comic in Comixpedia. It only took... what, two years to make that connection?

(I'm going to be choked to death.)

December 20, 2004

Now, if I could just keep these snarks down to 101 words, we'd really have something.

Since having it brought to my attention, I've been thinking quite a bit about Anacrusis. You should know by now that I'm interested in how people use the web (particularly content management software) to work creatively. Sure, most of the time it seems it's webcomics I talk about when I bring it up, but there's a lot to be said for textual experimentation. In particular, there's something fascinating about the short scenework that's being done. I've mentioned Hitherby Dragons before, and I've mentioned Pulp Decameron (which itself is muddling through some unfortunate technical problems, but seems to be producing on schedule regardless).

Well, running almost as long as Hitherby (it's just passed its one year anniversary) is Anacrusis, and there are ways it stands out even in Rebecca Borgstrom's illustrious company. Brendan (I don't have a last name... or first name, if Brendan turns out to be a last name. I mean, how would I know?) writes five entries a week, one each Monday through Friday, and if he's missed any days I can't find them on casual examination.

What makes these entries stand out is their format. He describes them as webcomics without art, and I think there's something to that -- instead of being bound to a four panel a day strip, he holds himself to the absolute constraint of one hundred and one words a day, period. No more, no less. 101. Just like the room where everyone's fear can be found in 1984, though I don't think that's what Brendan has in mind.

The results are profound, in the best sense of that word. There's almost a metrical quality to the work -- as though Brendan were working in a new kind of poetry instead of prose. Many (most?) of the entries have a strong sense of imagery as well, which also reinforces the almost poetic sensibility going on.

And really, that makes sense, if this is a textual webcomic. Poetry and visual art are very closely related, thematically. Both operate in the world of image instead of narration. And Anacrusis steeps itself in that tradition. Here's Friday's entry, "Dresden", as an example. (Please note I reprint this under the terms of Brendan's Creative Commons License, and the reprint is bound by his license, not my own CCL.)

Dresden feels things turn inside out. His vision's broken and he can't walk. He braces himself against the wall and tries to vomit, managing only a mouthful of sour bile. He spits on the ugly carpet; it's the same ochre yellow as the drink AJ handed him at the bar, calling it a Pissguzzler. He smiled. He had green eyes. Dresden wanted to show off, so he slammed it, then another, and not long after he was feeling much too drunk, too heavy, and as he felt the air cool on his sudden legs he wondered what "AJ" actually stood for.


See how the economy of words acts like a crucible, burning away the dross and excess words and leaving an almost pure sense of image? Dresden's nausea is evoked, not implied. The sentences are short -- staccato, almost Hemingwayesque, conveying a sense of mood and scene and making every adjective carry its own weight.

It occurs to me that in my snark on Pulp Decameron's self-described microfiction, I compared that work to poetry as well. Perhaps the paring down to the very basics involves blurring the dividing line between poetry and prose. Looking at Hitherby Dragons, which also works in short fiction and vignette, one sees similar elements -- short, simple sentences, with heavy imagery -- applied with completely different intent. As my father, the English Professor, was fond of saying... there's probably a paper in there somewhere.

I don't mean to pigeonhole Anacrusis. It works within its firm limit very well, and there is a real sense of experimentation. At the same time, it's not experimenting for the sake of experimenting. Brendan is really trying to tell stories, working within his limits but not letting his sense of ambition be limited.

In the end, like he said... it's a webcomic made up of words. I can really see that.

I actually had thought, about a year ago, to reprint my old Superguy stories one post or part at a time, three times a week, using KeenPremium's software -- as though it were a webcomic without a graphic. After all, in the preWeb days, Superguy is what we had for webcomics. But I think Anacrusis gets closer to the idea than our stuff ever would.

In any case, I'm enjoying reading it... and I'm looking forward to reading more.

December 13, 2004

Oh, a challenge....

(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized taking over of the world if you've paid the subscription fee, or click on the link for today's comic if you haven't.)

So, Shaenon Garrity was one of the bidders bidding on the Websnark Auction. And she was unhappy because it was an early morning end time and she got outbid while demon sleep took her. And she mentioned that, because she is evil, she would have let me snark on any subject, so long as it was in the form of a sestina.

Which, for those of you who don't know, is a six six-line stanza poem without metrical constraint but which requires that the lines of each stanza end with the same set of words in a very particular order, ending with a triplet that has to contain all six words again. Wikipedia's definition of the form is here, for those who want a clearer definition and to learn more.

Requiring me to do that would be evil. I'm glad I don't have to do it. I mean, I don't have to. She didn't win the auction. I don't. Have. To write a snark in the form of a sestina. Period. I sure as Hell don't have to make it even harder by conforming more or less to iambic pentameter in the stanzas before the triplet (with a few amphibrachs here and there and at least one dactyl thrown in), using the key words science, woman, gerbil, Dave, cute and mad.

I mean, that would be crazy.

If I even tried to do that....

...why, they'd call me mad. Mad! Mad I say!

On the Snarking of Today's Narbonic

We come once more to Helen Narbon's science
Backfiring 'pon both her and loyal Dave,
When Artie, thought to be a sane gerbil
Of intellect and wisdom -- not overtly mad --
Declares that he and his are not so cute
By embarking on usurping man and woman.

Now Helen is a most compassionate woman
(Though dedicated first to twisted science!)
And though she might find little Artie cute
She always thought the same about old Dave
(And when he died she didn't seem that mad)
Which makes me think Artie is one dead gerbil.

Still, Ms. Narbon does appreciate her gerbil
And Artie knows the way to survive the woman
Who created him (by means that some call mad!)
Is her appreciating triumphant science
In this mad course -- unlike (perhaps) Dave
Who won't find gerbil masters all that cute

I find this situation very cute
because I've always liked the smart gerbil
(who counterpoints quite well with cynic Dave
Violent Mell and the somewhat flighty woman
who crafted him upon the lathe of science)
and speaks with quiet voice that's not so mad.

And can we call young Artie's plan so mad
Simply because the gerbil is so cute?
We know that Artie understands (mad) science
And wouldn't you prefer an honest gerbil
leading you, instead of, say, a woman
like President Mell, who we know once met Dave?

But this is not a plot about some time-lost Dave
striving to return home and not go mad.
No, Dave is distracted with his new woman
Who he so wants to meet and hopes is cute
So I don't think he'll care about the gerbil--
never dreaming that Lovelace is also mad science.

So, given the crises of personality implicit in Helen's panel,
Dave's new cybernetic woman, and Artie the gerbil's mad plan,
We can be sure that in Narbonic, science will remain both funny, and cute.

December 11, 2004

He calls it Microfiction...

...but Pulp Decameron kind of defies easy definition. There's elements of the hitherby about some entries, while others approach prose poem. In any case, this project -- one hundred microfictions playing off of ten classic pulp genres -- has been interesting and intriguing, and Snowspinner (I have no other name for him) has been diligent in producing.

Well, today's entry -- I am Ready to Serve my Country -- is my favorite so far. It's light, it's funny, and it's creepy all at once. It also highlights the chameleon nature of the work. Yes, it's short and pulpy, but it could just as easily be poetry. Taking his Creative Commons License at face value (and making sure I both credit him and release the work under the same conditions, so check the link to see how this particular post varies from my normal Creative Commons license), we have the following:

I have mastered the art of surveillance.

For the past four years
I have meticulously watched
The same woman
Through my telescope.

I know every bra and pair of panties that she owns.
I can describe, to the millimeter,
The location of every blemish on her body.
I have also learned endurance.
I went the entirety of last March without touching myself as I watched her.

My language skills are admittedly below
What you typically ask for in your operatives.
However, I am a fast learner.
In the event of interstellar war,
I am prepared to speak Klingon.

In desperate situations,
I have learned that I can kill another man.
A month ago I went out and found a homeless man.
I lured him to the railroad tracks and garroted him.
The police have yet to name a suspect.
I am confident that they never will.
The experience was exhilarating,
But not so exhilarating.
I would not consider myself a psychopath.
I am confident
I can keep my random murders down--
Once a month
With minimal effort.

My resume is attached.


See what I mean? (Though for brevity's sake, I cut the paragraph on Final Jeopardy.) Go read the original, and the all the rest. They won't take long, but they convey lots of flavor for the size.

December 08, 2004

This is an experiment. And it is for a good cause. Good cause + experiment = some fun!

I have an exultant mantra that my friends have heard me say before. It's my touchstone against the darkness. It's the way I manage to keep some sense of self going in this wild world.

It is this: I'm a writer. I write. For money.

Not a lot of money, mind. But still. Every now and again, I get a piece of paper with my name, and an autograph from a publisher, and the phrase "Pay to the order of" on it. It's incredible. It's validation that can often buy you a Happy Meal. And it means a lot to me.

Well, Websnark isn't paid work, and that's okay with me. I like doing Websnark. I like writing about things. Just because I do write for money doesn't mean I have to write for money. For Websnark, money just doesn't enter into it.

Until now.

You see... I've been thinking a lot about Child's Play. You know, the charity founded by Gabe and Tycho over at Penny Arcade. Now, I've donated to it. I donated last year, and I donated this year. I'm all about giving nice things to sick kids. That's just cool. And I've been looking at some of the art that webcartoonists are donating and auctioning and the like, and feeling pretty flush and good about it all. And I wish I could get in on that... only I don't draw. I write.

And then it hit me. I write. Well enough that sometimes, I get paid for it. And I have a website that's developed a measure of popularity, specifically for my writing. And sometimes, I have people beg me to snark a given webcomic, or write about a given topic, or just say they like what words I put together for these things.

All right then. Let's do a little experiment. And maybe... just maybe... help some kids while doing it.

As of 8 AM Eastern Standard Time this morning, I have started an auction on eBay. The opening bid is five bucks. The closing bid? We'll see in five days. And the winner of this auction gets to set the topic of a snark here on Websnark.

That's right. Anything you like. You want me to snark a webcomic you like? You got it. You want me to write a short story about Ants? Fine. Harry Potter Fan Fiction? Sure thing. A poem? Okay! A discussion of the Fugitive Poets and how their philosophy relates to the evolution of critical thought? Bring it on.

Oh, I've put a restriction that it has to be moderately safe for work (I would have a certain cognitive disconnect with writing explicit gay porn for a children's charity, for example). And I've put in a requirement that while you set the topic, the opinions are going to be mine -- so I can't promise I'll love the webcomic you ask me to write about. But I do promise to give it a fair shake.

Is all of this arrogant? Probably. I'm putting out into the world that someone out there likes this well enough to want to drop a few bucks on it. But why not be arrogant if it's for a good cause? Every penny from this goes out of my Paypal account and into Child's Play. Every last penny. (I'll cover the Paypal fees myself.) So you're helping out an exceptionally worthy cause by doing this.

(I'd offer another one of these to Gabe and Tycho for their live auction on the 9th, but I'm afraid they'd respond by saying "Websnwhat? Never heard of it." Ah, fear.)

So. Check it out. Bid if you'd like. If no one at all bids, I'll drop the 5 buck opening bid on Child's Play myself, in addition to my other donation. And, well, I'll be humbled, which might not be a bad thing. But it'd be nice to have more. So please! Check it out, think it over, and if you want -- bid on!

Oh, and if you find this whole thing ridiculous... go to Child's Play directly and donate, anyway. Even if my little thing seems silly, the cause is good.

But I hope you do bid. Because bidding would make me feel good, and more to the point would mean Websnark could donate something nice as a whole. And that would rock.

EDIT: At Sean Riley's suggestion, I'll set a minimum word count. For any kind of essay or short story, it'll be at least 1,000 words and could go much much higher (I've been known to do 5,000 word snarks. If it's a poem or the like, we'll cap it at 20 lines minimum, maximum whatever seems right.

But the point is, this will be a meaty snark, not twelve words and a thumbnail.

December 01, 2004

Alton Brown likes to use Goodness in stews, but recommends liberal kosher salt.

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized baggies!)

First off... you know you're in trouble at your day long seminar when there's a series of attractively placed manuals, multi-pack CD books on tape and videos sitting both on the front counter and on a table in the back.

Secondly... you know you're in a lot of trouble when every new section of the seminar topic involves references to three or four of these products, with a lot of smiling and at least one use of the word "affordable."

I'm on lunch. In 40 minutes, I will be back in there until at least 4.

Pray for Bobo, friends. Pray for Bobo.

But anyway -- Sluggy. The real Sluggy, this time, and not the "meanwhiles." I'm still liking this plotline -- the Dimension of Pain spent years being built up (in fact, one of my complaints about "Meanwhile... in the Dimension of Pain" is that it made the DoP too common. It worked better as an autumnal event with occasional Squeekyboboball matches and dragon boinking storylines. There is a serious sense that we're moving towards endgame and wrapping it up -- right up to the demons rebelling and moving permanently to their new blandiverse home. And today got me chuckling (hey, I'm all about potty humor)....

...but it also kind of disappointed me. For one thing, I can't tell if the bag of goodness is supposed to be... well, full or empty. I also can't tell what effect it's supposed to have. (Once again, "Meanwhile..." caused some damage by running a whole plotline where angels showed up and made all of the Dimension of Pain nice. We've seen a form of goodness spread over everything already. And we sure as Hell don't need another six months of Barney jokes.)

I don't know. Today didn't feel like a cliffhanger so much as a disappointment. But I'll be back tomorrow.

(And if they ever decide to publish a deck of Rather Nice Tarot Cards, I will so buy them.)

November 28, 2004

Day 28: I'm not sure how to feel...

bunny-winner-100.jpgSo, we're officially at 51,013 words, and I've sent the file in for validation. Which it's done. Hit here and you'll see my official "winner of Nanowrimo" bit.

Only... I'm not done.

I figure there's at least 5-10 thousand words more before I hit the conclusion. Then, I need to add a bunch of scenes to fill it out and make it flow better. And I need to cut a bunch of things that got me word count but don't add enough to the story. I need to break up the revelations a bit more. I need to extend, adopt, and improve. And most of all... I need to finish the story. I need the big revelations, the big macguffin to be finished.

I need to finish.

And so, as pleased as I am to "win" Nanowrimo, and get the right to use the creepy-ass smiling bunny winner's icon... I don't feel satisfied. I don't feel good.

This was important for me to do. And I'll do it again next year.

But this didn't make me a writer, and it didn't make me a novelist. I already was and am a writer, and I've written novel length stuff before... and I won't be done with this until I'm done with it.

So. What now?

Now, I set this aside for a few days, and think about it. I'll work more on it on Friday. Right now, I get some other work done. And I get back into a real rhythm here on Websnark.

Am I proud?

Yes.

But I'm not done. Even if I'm done.

November 25, 2004

Day 25

NaNoWriMo
35,310 / 50,000
(70.6%)

So, it's been a long time since I updated you. There's been writing going on, but there's also been gaps. But I'm still plugging away.

It's a whole new ball game, as I break 70%. It's no longer about the old quotas -- I'm writing more than 1,600 words every time I write, but between work and some of last week's snarks, there's been missed days too often. Right now, I need to clear 3,000 words a day between now and Tuesday.

On the plus side... I'm on vacation. And even today, being social and being with my family, playing games and eating turkey... I still cleared 3,000 words.

I'm psyched. It's working. It feels good. It feels right... and I'm not going to quote it here. There's too much, and too little context. I'll put what's done so far on the writing page at end of writing tomorrow.

Thanks, all. It's almost over, and then Snarking returns to normal.

November 15, 2004

Day 15

NaNoWriMo
25,805 / 50,000
(51.6%)

As predicted, I lost Sunday's writing time, and truth be told I didn't do all that much on Saturday, because... well, the day before I wrote 6,000 words. You think I wanted to go within a country mile of this thing the next day? But, here we are at Day 15 (otherwise known as "halfway there"), and we are just slightly above halfway to goal in wordcount. The Quota Count on the day is 25,805/25,000, which doesn't suck any way you look at it.

I actually pulled two different sections of the day's writing for excerpts... entirely devoted to character interaction, as opposed to the exposition of the last several excerpts. This is all about the ways our characters think and feel. Also sex rears its head. I need to have sex rear its head at least once, don't you think?

Anyway, let me know what you think. We've talked a lot about the technology and the strategy and even a little bit about the politics, but it doesn't matter a damn if the people don't work. On the other hand, if they do work... well, I have something of an ego, I believe I've mentioned.




            “Did you ever think we’d be someplace like this,” Yerkovich said for what had to be the ninth time. “Honestly.”

            “Do I think we’d end up listening to bad piano and horn fighting it out in a recording while watching our fellow captains get drunk?” Piramatto asked. “Yes. Yes I did.”

            “That’s not what I mean.”

            “I know what you mean.” She half-smiled. “You have to learn to calm down, little Nicky. You’re a captain now. An old man. You need to be measured and calm and vaguely carved out of stone.”

            “Oh, save us from another one of those,” Renn said. “I might be allergic to your brand of puppy-like enthusiasm, Yerkovich, but it’s a far sight better than the stereotypical king of the mountain, sitting in his Captain’s Chair, fingering his Captain’s Star, looking down his nose and making pronouncements every hour or so, while his X.O. does all the heavy lifting.”

            “So, like our Captain Malcolm here?” Piramatto asked.

            “Hey, I can lift just fine,” Malcolm said, absently.

            “Yeah,” Renn said. “Exactly like our Captain Malcolm. They may want our youth and lack of preconditioning to turn us into Sortino’s Raiders of the fifth stage transition, but thirty years from now, we’ll mostly still be Captains while Malcolm runs his own little C-n-C, wearing a Commodore’s Star or even an Admiral’s five point. And when we all retire to our gardens and feed our cats and tell our friends our glorious stories, Malcolm will be ensconced in the Underministry until they force him to retire, whereupon they’ll give him a Baronet’s Ring and put him right back to work until the day he dies.”

            Malcolm snorted. “I think my mother’d die of shock if they ever gave me a title.”

            “If your mother hasn’t died of something by the time you’re seventy or eighty years standard, she’s immortal.”

            Malcolm’s smile slipped slightly. “I certainly hope we have a chance to find out.”

            Renn scowled, looking away.

            “Has there been any word,” Yerkovich said. “Any new letters?”

            “No. The Concordians have pretty well blockaded the information flow on Campos. If the synthetics don’t get to talk to each other, there’s no chance they’ll pass secrets, is there?”

            “You’re from Campos,” McWhirt asked.

            Malcolm nodded.

            “Whereabouts?”

            “Fisher Plantation, in Eastgate Heights?”

            McWhirt nodded. “I know that place. As of 5284-170 or so, the Concordians had begun heavy mining there. I got a report from a friend who knew a free trader.”

            Malcolm pursed his lips. “Mining? Damn. They’ve got the infrastructure up to start ripping out resources?”

            “We knew it had to happen,” McWhirt said, looking down. “They’ve been sucking all the food out of the Hearthstone Plateau for years.”

            “You’re from Campos, too,” Piramatto asked.

            “Born and raised,” McWhirt said. “I still have a brother and a sister there. My father died of starvation two years ago. They were keeping his city on a thousand calories a day at that point.”

            Malcolm bit his lip. “Yeah,” he said. “Eastgate Heights’s had it easy compared to the Hearthstone Plateau. I’m sorry.”

            “Me too. But don’t kid yourself. Since they dug in, no one’s had it easy.”

            “Easier than on Garrity,” Piramatto said, shaking her head. “They can’t dig in there, because we’ve got so many soldiers still on the ground, but that means instead of being exploited, they’re being blown up or killed.”

            “You don’t look like you’re from Garrity,” Yerkovich said.

            “I’m not. My husband was a lieutenant colonel in the Imperial Army. Powered Cavalry.” Piramatto looked off into the stars beyond the plastiglass. “I guess there wasn’t enough left of his gunship to recover remains from.”

            Yerkovich nodded. “It never stops hurting,” he said, softly. “I sometimes wake up, and roll over, and turn to record something I want to tell Wilma, and then I remember all over again that there’s a crater where she and my boy used to be.”

            “This is turning morbid,” Renn said. “I thought this was a party.”

 

[...]

 

            Renn was frowning a bit more. “I think I need more information. Guard my seat.”

            “Where are you going,” Malcolm asked.

            “To check on dessert.”

            Malcolm half-smiled and nodded. “Have fun.”

            “Yeah, I can’t imagine a better time.” Renn scooped up his whiskey sour and strode off to where the desserts were being laid out.

            “He thinks he’s a spy, doesn’t he,” Piramatto asked, smiling slightly.

            “From a vid, maybe.” Malcolm shook his head.

            “What’s bothering you so much about this? So we haven’t been given the whole story. Are we ever given the whole story?”

            You don’t know the half of it, Malcolm thought. But he couldn’t tell Piramatto what the Sabre would be doing in the fight. That was strictly need to know, and Sortino had made it clear no one off the Sabre needed to know. “I don’t like inconsistencies,” Malcolm said. “If there’s something we don’t know, it can blow up in our faces when we’re engaging the enemy.”

            “Murphy does love secrets,” Piramatto said, half smiling. “Mm. No sign of Yerkovich. I thought for certain McWhirt would have sent him on his way by now.”

            “Maybe she’s not particular,” Malcolm said.

            “She’s from your world. Are girls on Campos particular?”

            “Depends on the girl.”

            “What about boys?”

            “What about them?

            Piramatto smiled a bit, over her drink. “Are they particular, Alex?”

            Malcolm met her gaze, and sipped his drink. “Depends on the boy.”

            “I have a particular boy in mind.” Piramatto traced her finger along the rim of her glass. “Particularly.”

            Malcolm half-smiled, and looked away. “I don’t know how to answer that.”

            “Don’t you?”

            “I’ve never been much for dockside dallying.”

            “Don’t be crass.” Piramatto smiled a bit more. “Besides, you can’t very well have a shipboard shag now. You’re the captain. The old man. The C.O. If you don’t dally dockside, when will you?”

            Malcolm snorted, looking back at her. “We don’t exactly have a lot of spare time.”

            “You can’t sit center seat from now until launch, Alexander. You’ll develop sores.”

            Malcolm smiled a bit, looking into his glass. “I don’t think I’m that person.”

            “What person is that?”

            “The person you want to be asking that question.”

            “Ahhh.” Piramatto leaned back. “I should be offended.”

            “Don’t be.”

            “It’s not me, it’s you?”

            “Something like that.”

            “You know, that’s never really gone down, right.” Piramatto drained the rest of her drink.

            “If I’d known how to make it more palatable....”

            “I don’t understand you, Alex. I could see Nicky still holding a torch for his martyred bride. And who’d blame me if I decided to swear off sex for the rest of my life?” She considered. “Well, Sutton would. And he’d never believe it. But you haven’t lost your lady love, as far as I know. If you ever had a lady love, you haven’t mentioned her.”

            “I’ve had one or two, in my time. No one recently, though.”

            “Why not?”

            “I’ve been tired.”

            Piramatto snickered. “You should drink more kaf.”

            “No, Verla. I’ve been tired.” Malcolm shook his head. “Worn down to the bone. I don’t have anything left to give to anyone. Not to you, not to... others. Not to anyone. There’s just this damn war.”

            Piramatto looked at him for a long moment, then looked away. “You hate this war so much, you married it?”

            “Seems like it.”

            Piramatto nodded. “I suppose I can accept that.”

            “There’s always Nick.”

            “I told you not to be crass.”

            Malcolm half-smiled. “No one ever accused me of being a good listener.”

            “Maybe not.” Piramatto stood up. “I need a refill. Want one?”

            “Not right now.”

            “It’s just a drink. Alex.”

            “I know. I honestly don’t want one right now.” He looked back up. “I don’t want to stop being friends, Verla. Not over this.”

            “Oh, we’re friends, Alex. Trust me. I don’t put up with this kind of shit from men I don’t like.”

            “You are long suffering.”

            Piramatto rolled her eyes. “I’ll be right back.” She paused. “Alex?”

            “Yes?”

            “There is something to be said for celebrating life, instead of hating death.” She half-smiled. “And you need to get laid more than any man I’ve ever known.”

            Malcolm snorted. “I always wanted to be ahead of the curve in something.”

November 13, 2004

NOT Day Thirteen, but Trigger Man related anyway.

I'm working on today's writing, but it occurs to me that the third part of the conversation between Captain Malcolm and Commodore Sortino is... well, necessary, to understand any excerpts going forward. That whole scene will need some heavy editing -- as a fellow named Channing reminded me earlier today (discussing a different project on my writing page, but it applies to this as well), there can be a density of exposition that kills things off. I may need to spread things around a bit. I can even think of a technique or two. But that's for later.

In the meantime, here's 2,300 words, finishing that scene out. I'm putting it in the extended entry blank, so if you want to read it, click on the "continue reading" link at the bottom of this entry if you're on Websnark reading this, or click on the link at the top of the page if you're reading this from an RSS feed.

In this bit, we also have the reason this story is called Trigger Man in the first place. And people who have access to my writing page can see this scene plus everything up until yesterday. As of today, I'm caught up sending out the password to folks, so if you don't have the password and would like it, send me a request at websnark AT gmail DOT com. If you sent one already and never heard from me, I'm sorry. Please send it again.

Continue reading "NOT Day Thirteen, but Trigger Man related anyway." »

November 12, 2004

Day Twelve... and I ROCK!!!!!

NaNoWriMo
22,410 / 50,000
(44.8%)

SIX THOUSAND WORD DAY! Six! Thousand! Fucking! Words! Plus three in-depth snarks! And a full day of work! There are days I feel inadequate. Days I feel like it's not there. And then there are days when I feel like I'm mainlining inspiration. Today, no matter what else I can say, I am a writer.

This also means I've gone from 2000 words (or about one day) behind schedule yesterday... to being 2,400 words -- or 1.5 days -- ahead of schedule today. The quota count is 22,410/20,000 on the day, which is a happier place for me to be. What's more, I'm now just 2,600 words or so from halfway. I'll hit halfway tomorrow, very likely, two days ahead of schedule.

I need to get the stuff up on the writing page. A lot has happened, including a full explanation of what Malcolm and the others are doing in the hinterlands. I also need to process about a million requests for access to the page. In my defense... it's been a very busy week.

Here's a 1,700 word excerpt, more to answer the question posed yesterday than to be representative of the output today. Remember, there's another 4,300 words that followed this.

I like where this story is going. I think I can sell it, after much editing.

God I love being a writer.



            Sortino poured more scotch into his glass. “Do you know why victory has always been inevitable, Alexander?” he asked, softly.

            Malcolm looked away. “If you expect me to say something about honor or never giving up or—”

            Sortino snorted, waving a hand dismissively. “I’m not talking about intangibles.”

            “Then... no.”

            “I’m not surprised.” Sortino sipped his scotch, stepping closer to the edge of the room. He looked up, through the dome, to the stars. “Two hundred and eighteen planets,” he said, gesturing. “Right out there. Almost all devoted to their war effort. A tremendous tactical advantage.” He looked over his shoulder, at Malcolm, “and a strategic limitation they can’t hope to overcome.”

            “Sir?”

            “The entire Concordian Empire is devoted to the war effort. Their resources are bent to the construction of ships, the training of troops, the development of new weapons. Their agricultural systems grow food to supply their military. Their engineers devote their time and energy to maximizing their systems, and analyzing ours. It makes them efficient killers.”

            Sortino walked to the other side of the room, gesturing again. “The Empire of Citadel, on the other hand... four thousand, one hundred and three member worlds. An infrastructure that supplies its military. Tithes giving a constant, but limited level of resources, spread out for hundreds of projects, hundreds of missions, hundreds of purposes. A singular lack of focus, in comparison to our enemies.” He smiled slightly. “And that leads to our victory.”

            “How?”

            “Because on most of the worlds of the Empire, no one pays any attention to the war. Life goes on. Our scientists and engineers don’t work to build weapons to fight a specific foe. They push the boundaries of science and knowledge, for profit or for curiosity. Life goes on, Captain Malcolm.”

            “I don’t follow.”

            “You said that there was only one way into Concordian space. The Thames-Aurora transition. Yes?”

            “Yes. So?”

            “That’s not true, though, is it? I mean, you can see a dozen Concordian stars from where you’re sitting. One of them is right up there.” Sortino walked closer, pointing. “It’s too faint to see easily, but that’s New Dublin. And just like we’re at the end of the Zabel Spur, they’re all the way at the end of the Cormier Spur in Concordia.”

            “So?”

            “So... there’s a transition point that leads there.”

            Malcolm blinked.

            Sortino smiled, waiting.

            “That can’t be. It’s too far away.”

            “Is it?”

            “It must be. How far is it. Let me check the with the base synthetic—”

            “Don’t bother. It’s about a hundred and three and a half light years away. Well, just shy of that.”

            Malcolm stared at Sortino. “A hundred and three light years?”

            “That’s right.”

            “It might as well be a hundred thousand light years then. That’d be... what, a fifth stage transition? Sixth?”

            “Fifth.”

            “And that’s impossible.”

            Sortino smiled a bit. “Yes, and no. It’s impossible for the Concordians, because they don’t have the resources or time to spend working on the problem. Because like you said, it’s impossible. Everyone knows that. Since Bara Hotchkiss and Lyn Leopold unlocked the secrets of the galaxy, we’ve only been able to use up to third stage transitions. Anything more than that would take vastly more power than we can harness. Yes?”

            “Yes.”

            “And after thousands of years of expansion into the galaxy, it’s clear we never will be able to harness that much power. Not without destroying the ship in the process. Right?” Sortino was smiling again. It was a smug smile.

            Malcolm breathed out slowly. “You’ve worked out the power issue?”

            “Not directly. But that’s actually my point. On two worlds, over a thousand light years apart from each other, the two keys to the puzzle were solved. First, there’s the question of power. Have you heard of nullpoint technology?”

            “Nullpoint? I... yes. It’s some kind of storage battery or power cell or capacitor, right?”

            Sortino chuckled. “It’s a capacitor the same way a supernova is an example of fusion energy in action, Malcolm. Vast amounts of energy can be stored inside a nullpoint, and once it’s in there it’s essentially harmless. No chance it can explode. If you damage it, you just lock that potential energy off until you fix it. And you can make them as large as you need, and small enough for practical uses. One day, we’ll be able to mount a nullpoint to an energy rifle of some sort, and be able to use it for weeks without recharging. Or months. Or longer.”

            “Someday?”

            “Oh, we could do it now, but it costs far too much money to manufacture nullpoints, without even counting generating the energy. In fact, the Navy’s set up a nullpoint construction facility on the far side of the system’s star from us. It’s over there because it uses gravity induction to create antimatter, then uses antimatter reactions to generate the energy we store in the things. Some day, mass production will reduce the cost, but for now, we have better ways to use it.”

            “So... you can store enough power in a nullpoint to power a fifth stage transition? That’s absurd. I saw the figures once. You’re talking a star’s output, if you’re lucky.”

            “No, we can’t. Oh, I suppose if we made the nullpoints big enough and burned enough antimatter to charge it, it would be possible, but the Hotchkiss/Leopold drive would be torn apart by all that energy trying to push through it.” Sortino finished off his second whiskey. “But like I said, there were two breakthroughs. Not one.”

            Sortino walked back around, sitting in the chair he had sat in before. “The conceptual breakthrough that made nullpoint technologies possible happened on a planet called Casco back in Paramount Realm. The news and a full report on it filtered back through the courier system to the Imperial Ministry of Research. They, in turn, filtered it down to their Imperial Institutes. Have you heard of the Imperial Institutes?”

            “No, sir.”

            “They’re crucial to the Empire holding its place at the forefront of the galaxy. Founded a thousand years back. They’re the greatest brain trust humanity ever put together. They’re clearinghouses and laboratories, all at once. In fact, they’re the ones who give out the Vandross Prizes. In fact, it was a satellite campus of the Imperial Institute of the Physical Sciences on Casco that developed the theories behind nullpoints. The Ministry of Research got that and cross correlated with a theory put together by the Imperial Institute of Astronomical and Astrophysical Research’s planetary campus out on Nereid – in Coreward Realm – a couple of decades before. A theory derived from the Darrins – ever meet a Darrin? Very math-oriented species. Anyway, the theory suggested there were new ways to manipulate quantum layers in a transition point... a whole new methodology of putting the Hotchkiss/Leopold equations into effect, that would make it possible to open a fourth or fifth stage transition point with a fraction of the power the core equations would predict.”

            Malcolm stared at Sortino, then looked down at his glass. “I could use that refill now.”

            “I’ll just bet.” Sortino stood, accepting Malcolm’s glass.

            “Why did they sit on it for decades?”

            “Because even a fraction of the power required to make a fourth or fifth stage transition was more power than any starship could generate or store,” Sortino said, pouring. “So, the papers got sat on. Oh, the folks who wrote them won a Vandross for them, but it was esoteric knowledge only. A theory that had no practical application, from the standpoint of the universe. Only the strength of the Ministry of Research isn’t just research. It’s synthesis. It’s coordination. So when the nullpoint theories came across their desks, somehow they were able to correlate them with those new methods of cracking a t-point. They then sent out directives to several campuses of the Imperial Institute for Engineering and Technical Development to develop the hardware. Make nullpoint theory real. Make fifth stage rated h/l drives real. And make them work together.”

            “And... they did it?”

            “Of course they did it. In less time than the Ministry predicted.” Sortino handed the drink to Malcolm, sitting down once more. “Prototyped, tested, proved, patented.”

            “Then... those new cruisers we noticed, tacking into Scabbard Naval Platform....”

            “Are fifth-stage rated. Give them a fifth stage t-point, and they can jump up to a hundred and sixteen light years. That’s four third stage transitions, Malcolm. And like every shift up to a new transition stage, it’s faster. Four maximum third stage transitions, even ignoring the time it takes to travel between t-points in intervening systems, would take seventy days. Add in average travel times between t-points, and you’re looking at ninety days if you’re lucky. A maximum fifth stage transition clears in forty-one days.”

            “Then... then why build a whole new fleet? Why not retrofit half the fifth fleet and—”

            Sortino waved his hand dismissively. “No good, Alex. The new fifth stage rated H/L drives take entirely different astronautics. And that’s the challenge.” Sortino sat back. “You already know that nullpoints are expensive to create. You know that because I told you it was true. Well, the H/L technology’s a couple of orders of magnitude more expensive still. We literally don’t have the resources yet to make up entire fleets of fifth stage rated starships. It’ll be decades – centuries – before we could afford it. As it is, Operation Swift Sword is the most expensive Naval project of the last eighty years.”

            “Operation Swift Sword?”

            “That’s what we’re doing here,” Sortino said, smiling slightly. “We have an unprecedented opportunity, Alexander. We can send in a military force eight transitions behind the Thames-to-Aurora transition. What’s more, it’s five transitions up to the endpoint of a spur, so we could potentially strike and suborn all those planets before they even know we’ve opened up a second front of the war. If we drive down fast enough, and hard enough, we can take and fortify Campbell, cutting their supply line down to the Teo Cluster and forcing a retreat from the disputed worlds. And even before we get to Campbell, there’s a fourth stage transition between Newport and Tackleford that’ll put our forces eleven transitions deep into Concordian space. Do you think there’s going to be any organized resistance that far into their own territory?”

            Malcolm’s mind swum. “It... it’s incredible. It’s perfect. They’ll never know what hit them! We can end this war in two years!

November 11, 2004

Day Eleven, or, Things Fall Apart

NaNoWriMo
16,352 / 50,000
(32.7%)

Let's cover numbers early. Because something should happen early today. 16,352/18,333. That's right. I'm 2,000 words behind schedule. The reason for this is profound: I spent much of Tuesday working to get ready for being out of my office entirely on Wednesday, I spent much of Wednesday at a vendor demo, then spent the rest of it, essentially, meeting up with someone local to the area, having a meal, and talking. What did we talk about? Well, a bunch of things, including our shared history in Superguy (I've talked about Superguy before, I think. If not... well, I will someday, I promise), and webcomics, because I talk about webcomics to people over food. It's a curse. Also, I had really good Shephard's Pie, which is perhaps the perfect food for me to eat these days.

And then today, I had to get caught up with all the crap that came up yesterday, and desperately try to catch up with Nanowrimo the rest of the time, because I was very behind. In fact, I wrote 3,000 words today or so... and if I do that again tomorrow and again on Saturday, I'll actually get back on track. After work, I came home and fell asleep for several hours, and would kind of like to go back to sleep, but I have to get some things done....

If you think all this is a half-assed attempt to cover my ass for not snarking anything today... well, you'd be right. But I will put an extra big scene in as an excerpt today, because... well, because. I think you'll like it. Malcolm, my protagonist, finally has a little bit of a breakdown and we begin to find out what's going on... on one level, anyway.

For those of you who've recently sent me requests for the password information for the writing page... I'll see if I can't get through that backlog tomorrow, and get everyone that access. For those of you who're wondering when I'll finally do something about the fucking bowling shirts... Saturday. I swear.

So here's a fast 1,900 words. And I'll try to do more tomorrow. Promise.




            “Through here,” the chief petty officer said, nodding behind himself. Malcolm nodded his thanks and stepped into the office.

            And was instantly plunged into the depths of space, or so it seemed. The office was at the very center of the wheel-like station, at the topmost deck, and the entire roof was a dome of plastiglass. As a result, Malcolm was almost made dizzy by the sudden feeling of infinity, all around him. There were soft lights on the walls, all directed down, but nothing that detracted from the sudden dizzying perspective.

            Malcolm shook his head, suddenly embarrassed. He looked around. There was comfortable furniture – largely wood, which had to have cost a fortune – and a broad desk opposite the door he came in. Commodore Kevin Sortino was standing behind that desk, off slightly to the side. He was smirking.

            Malcolm stepped forward. “Captain Alexander Malcolm, reporting as ordered, sir,” he said, coming to attention. It seemed the best recovery he could make.

            Sortino smiled a bit more broadly. “At ease, and sit down, Alex.” He glanced up. “It’s an impressive sight, isn’t it?”

            Malcolm took a seat. “Yes sir. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.”

            “No, you probably haven’t. Do you know, the slowships had a room like this at the top decks of every ship? Before Hotchkiss and Leopold unlocked the nodal points of gravity and figured out how they were stitched together, shipbuilders always planned a place where captains and their crew could go and be reminded of how vast the galaxy is.”

            “I didn’t know that, no. Sir.”

            Sortino smiled a bit more. “I said ‘at ease,’ Alex. Would you care for a drink? I’ve got a Scotch from Campbell that I break out for old shipmates.”

            “From Campbell, sir?” Malcolm arched an eyebrow. “Concordian whiskey?”

            “I find whiskey doesn’t much care where it’s from,” Sortino said, stepping over to a small wet bar. “Besides, if it makes you feel better, this was part of a supply cache we captured on Migdal during one of the Army’s raids. A friend of a friend grabbed a whole case, and one of the bottles made it to me.”

            “Oh.” Malcolm was slightly surprised to find he did feel better.

            “Here you are,” the Commodore said, offering a glass with a couple of fingers of the amber liquid and two cubes of ice to Malcolm, who accepted it. Nodding slightly, the Commodore sat in a chair opposite Malcolm, with a low table between them.

            Malcolm shifted to face Sortino. Despite the years that had passed, he found the Commodore looked much the same as he remembered. Lean, with an angular face that had a slight flush to its light skin. Red-blond hair, which in the low light looked like it had no grey at all. He was wearing dress blues, but without the coat. Even on his white tunic shirt, however, the solid four point star and disk of a Commodore gleamed in the room’s low light, and below it he wore a small Admiral’s Star, reflecting he had a fleet command.

            Sortino lifted his glass in toast. “To victory,” he murmured.

            Malcolm lifted his own. “May it come swiftly,” he answered, and sipped the scotch. It was peatier than many Malcolm had tasted, burning as it went down. Malcolm half-closed his eyes to savor that burn.

            “That’s my kind of sentiment,” Sortino said, with a smile. “You don’t know how hard it is to hammer that into the Admiralty. They like containment. I’m not interested in containing the bastards. I want to make it abundantly clear to every two bit power in the galaxy that you don’t get to attack the Empire of Citadel.”

            “You think they’d learn that lesson?” Malcolm asked.

            “I think we can force them to learn that lesson,” Sortino answered, soberly.

            “Yes, sir,” Malcolm said, looking down into the scotch. He suddenly felt very tired.

            “How’s your family, Alex,” the Commodore asked softly. “Have you heard anything recently?”

            “No, sir. I... I don’t know, sir. I hope they’re managing.”

            Sortino nodded. “I wish I could tell you that we’d made an inroad into Campos, but we haven’t. It’s the same old story you’ve heard a hundred times. We push into the system with the Navy, but we never get enough of a foothold to land troops on Campos to start liberating it. We have to be able to reinforce a blockade to give the Army a chance to work. Otherwise, it could end up like Garrity. And the last thing we need is another planet where half the time we have soldiers we can’t reinforce or withdraw if needed.”

            “I know that, sir,” Malcolm said.

            “I know you do. You’re a good spacer. You always have been.”

            “Thank you, sir.” Malcolm took another sip of the whiskey. “Sir... I have to ask—”

            “Let me guess. You have to ask what all this is about. You have to ask why we’ve put thirty billion pounds imperial into a dead end system at the end of the Zabel Spur. You have to ask why you’ve gotten a Captain’s Star out of turn. You have to ask what all this is about.” He smiled slightly. “Did I cover the basics, Captain?”

            “Yes, sir.” Malcolm found himself smiling. Sortino had always been able to do that. He was so smooth, so charming.....

            “Well. The short answer is, we’re preparing to end this war once and for all, with the Empire of Citadel the solid winners. And you’re here to be a part of it. In fact, you’re here to be the lynchpin.”

            “Sir?” Malcolm asked, blinking. “I....”

            “Let me guess,” Sortino said, again. “You don’t think you’re anything special, so the idea that you could have the deciding role in ending a war conservatively estimated to last another sixty years is shocking. Am I right?”

            “Well, yes sir.”

            Sortino’s grin turned wry. “It’s a good thing I’m the one who decides who is and isn’t special instead of you, then, isn’t it.” He drained the rest of his scotch. “Do you know why victory has always been inevitable, Malcolm? Why in the end this was nothing more than an expensive fool’s errand for Concordia?”

            “Sir? I know why civilians think it’s inevitable....”

            “Why’s that?”

            “Because... because there’s an estimated forty-one hundred planets in the Empire of Citadel, counting member worlds and protectorates, and there’s less than two hundred and twenty Concordian planets.”

            “Seems like an obvious win for us, doesn’t it?”

            “Well... I can see why civilians think that, sir.”

            “But you don’t agree?”

            “I don’t think the numbers make victory inevitable, sir. I think victory has to come from our resolve and our strategy.”

            Sortino nodded. “What’s the fallacy of the numerical argument?”

            Malcolm sipped his whiskey. He wasn’t sure if this was a casual discussion or a test. “Concordia’s smaller size means information travels from one end of their empire to the other in a fraction of the time. Concordia’s direct control of her member worlds means they can command far greater individual resources than we can. And the whole of Concordia is involved in the war. While this is the largest war the Empire’s ever been in, it’s a very very small percentage of the Empire that’s affected by it. To people in Anterior Realm, or Coreward, or even Paramount Realm... it’s just an afterthought. And with all the frontier action in the outer realms, the Imperial Navy can’t focus even a tenth of its overall commitment to resolving this action. Especially....”

            “Especially?” Sortino asked, intently.

            “Especially with the Concordians contained,” Malcolm said, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

            “Oh yes. The containment strategy. Hold them in place, and eventually they’ll run out of resources to pursue the war, in decades or centuries. In the meantime, there’s only eight Citadelian worlds in dispute or seeing violence. Eight worlds, out of thousands. That’s only two tenths of one percent of the Empire directly affected, right?”

            “Yes, sir.”

            “You don’t like that strategy, do you?”
            “No, sir.”

            “Why not? You know it will work, eventually.”

            “No sir, I don’t know that. They’ve broken through to Rosenberg any number of times, sir. If they ever manage to solidly reinforce Rosenberg, and get control of the trailward t-point out of the system, they cut off the Manley Reach. If they manage that, they reinforce heavily on Simpson and Campos and send forces to Melchor to create another buffer there. They pull out of Garrity and Crosby’s Folly and Midgal entirely. They send troops in on Guigar and Kolchalka and Greenlee, one at a time subverting and conquering, and then Jacques and Bleuelsuld and Aeire....” Malcolm felt the words boiling out of him, almost without control, like a floodgate had been opened and there was no way to stop it. “Once they’re solidly locked into the Manley Reach, they have the whole uncolonized region past the Manley Reach open to them. They send in colonists and resource miners and surveyors. They hurl their military to the buffer worlds and strip back everything else to just hold and develop. Generations are born on the conquered worlds and die on them, and life becomes ritualized and expected, and sooner or later some Duke will propose coming to some peace accord with Concordia because it’s costing us money to hammer at them while Concordia is making money on their new worlds and the Concordian empire is expanding with the new colonies....”

            “That’s right. Sooner or later some Peer or some Tribune in Parliament will decide it’ll be easier and make more mathematical sense to consolidate their own power if they eliminate the costly war – costly in terms of lives and resources alike – and make peace.” Sortino practically spat the word. “And you don’t like that?”

            “No sir. No I don’t.”

            “Why not?”

            “Sir—”

            Sortino’s voice was soft. Coaxing. Insistent. “Why not, Alex.”

            “Because it’s not math to me, sir.” Malcolm barely kept from bursting into tears, buried emotions coming to the surface. “They have my family! They’re in my home town! My home country. My home world! They’re raping my planet and my friends and my birthright! I hate them for that!”

            “You hate your enemies?”

            “Yes! Yes!”

            “So why are you so tired these days?”

            “Because there’s no way out!” Malcolm shouted, tears finally flowing. “We fight them every fucking day! Ships burn and spacers die on both sides, soldiers dig in, take land and lose it the next day! It’s eternal!

            “What if we sent in two more fleets and blew them out of the sky?”

            “It wouldn’t last,” Malcolm said. “They’re committed to a degree we’ll never be, and there’s only one route in and out of Concordian space.”

            “The Thames-to-Aurora transition,” Sortino asked, quietly.

            “Yes! They just have to keep feeding things through Thames, and they can make fleets break against them at the choke point! And when the fleets are broken they just start flooding back out, from Aurora to Simpson and Abramsuld...” Malcolm’s voice dropped. He suddenly felt drained. “There’s no way out, sir. We have to keep grinding and hoping they don’t get lucky, until their economy collapses and they can’t keep building ships to send against us. And that’s not even considering the Orgalin are supplying them too.”

            Sortino nodded, and finished off his whiskey. “Want a refill?” he asked, quietly.

            “What? No... no, I still... no.”

            Sortino nodded, getting up. “That doesn’t answer my question, though. My original question.”

            “What... what was the question, sir?”

November 07, 2004

Day Seven

NaNoWriMo
11,729 / 50,000
(23.5%)

Today kicked my ass. I'm at 11,729/11,666 so I'm locked pretty much in the groove. The first 1,600 words flowed like water. And then the gigantic slamming dam of "no more mister writer man" fell down on me like a fucking meteor. It took me about six hours to do the last 125 words and close out the day's work -- I have to finish the scene I'm working on when I stop for the day, or I go a little psycho. It calls to me, and demands completion, otherwise. So I managed to force out a crappy little ending and tomorrow I'll do something else and those 125 words will get nailed with a flamethrower when I get to the editing stage, because they suck.

Anyway, here's about 730 words to prove I did something today. They're all from before it went to Hell, so there's that, anyway.



            Captain! he called out, smiling. Come here and get properly introduced. He offered a hand. Scott Clarenbach. Youre... Lex Malcolm, right?

            Alexander Malcolm, Malcolm corrected, shaking Clarenbachs hand, and smiling a diplomatic smile. Quite a cargo ship youve got here, he said. I didnt think they came half this big.

            They didnt. But progress is on the march. I never thought Id be as proud to run package delivery. Captain, this is my first officer, Commander Jennifer Beverley. And these are some of your fellow VIPs. This is Captain Tobias Renn... he paused, to let Malcolm get caught up with handshakes.. Captain Nicholas Yerkovich, and I believe you met Captain Lan Delaine and Captain Verla Piermatteo.

            Very briefly, Malcolm said, finishing his handshaking. Delaine was the one with the oddly black pupils and Piermatteo was the overly pale Captain. Alexander Malcolm. A pleasure to meet all of you.

            Oh, this isnt all, Commander Beverley said, smiling. Not by a long shot. Weve got another four captains coming. Theres also a number of lower ranked officers on the VIP list, though they werent invited to this particular function. Youll have many, many chances to get to know each other between here and GS4771.

            Are we all on the Commodores staff? Captain Piermatteo asked, her accent not one Malcolm had heard before.

            Officially. At least until you get to GS4771, Clarenbach answered. But for purposes of the trip, the easy answer is yes.

            Whats this all about, Captain Renn, a swarthy man, said. He looked like an augmented human as well, his skin seeming almost to shine at certain angles.  Look at us Ive never seen a younger group of spacers wearing Captains Stars before. At least, outside of vids back home, and were not good looking enough for the vids.

            You were promoted out of turn, too? Malcolm asked Renn.

            I was a Commander for less than nine months before getting a Captains Star. You tell me. He looked, almost challengingly, at Clarenbach.

            I know, youre curious, and perhaps even frustrated, Clarenbach said. I wish I could explain everything, but I cant. You can already tell theres a major buildup of resources taking place in GS4771. Once you get there, Commodore Sortino and his staff will explain everything to you all. He smiled a bit more. I will say this, though. No bad eggs are on this list. You might feel a bit rough around the edges, especially when youre looking at that Captains Star of yours, but youre exactly what the Commodore was looking for.

            To do what? Delaine asked.

            Like I said. Im sorry. Excuse me. I need to get a drink and to check on our other guests. Beverley? If youd come along?

            Malcolm watched them go. Could someone please explain to me what six cargo ships of this size could possibly be carrying for an uninhabited star system?

            Could someone please explain to me who would build a Naval cargo vessel this size in the first place? Piermatteo countered. I can understand container ships approaching this size, owned by multiplanetary corporations that ship monumental tonnages. But a Navy ship, armored for battle conditions? This thing will carry in excess of sixty thousand teu, and we know theres at least six of them heading up the Spur,

            And at least three IA divisional carriers. Thats a Hell of a lot of soldiers heading up to nowhere, Renn said.

            I saw what looked like a ship tender ­ but one of comparable size to the Utahraptor, Malcolm threw in. You have any idea how many frigates or even cruisers a tender like that can haul?

            You all sound suspicious, Yerkovich said, speaking for the first time. Me, Im excited.

            Excited?

            All of this has to be some monumental buildup to fight the war. Theyre probably using GS4771 because no one would ever go there. Almost no one would even go up the Zabel Spur in the first place. There might be rumors about all of us, but they wont spread through the disputed worlds. By the time were ready, we can sweep down as an unstoppable force.

            Maybe, Renn said, doubt in his voice. Though its my experience that most unstoppable forces are pretty stoppable.

November 06, 2004

Day Six

NaNoWriMo
10,348 / 50,000
(20.7%)

Yesterday was busy at work, and when I got home the near-sleepless night caught up with me (those five snarks yesterday? That's what happens when you can't sleep and you don't have a cute non-cat girl with you. I have a sad and pathetic life). So, no writing yesterday. Today, I had a pretty full day (got up early, did some work on the Wikipedia Webcomics Wikiproject Snowspinner set up, did some research for an article I'm late on (though it'll be done within the hour), and had to bring the car in for service, down in Portsmouth. While I was down there, waiting, I went to see The Incredibles, which was beyond fantastic. After the movie, I went to Fresh City and got caught up on NaNoWriMo. The count-to-quota ratio, as of today, is 10,348/10,000, so I've lost most of my buffer, but I'm still slightly ahead of schedule. And that's good enough for today, damn it. In looking over the NaNoWriMo boards, I see a number of people up over 35,000 words. I have no fucking clue how that's possible. I'm considered an absurdly fast writer by many I know, and there's no possible way I could reach that limit. On the other hand, I'm not taking methamphetamines, either.

I'm also lying, by the way. I know it's perfectly possible. Once, on New Year's Eve, I wrote a complete novella -- longer than what I've done so far on this novel -- in 9 hours. My forearms and fingers hurt from that much typing for days, but the story was actually pretty good, for what it was. But I'm older now, and besides, I have to keep pausing to update spreadsheets. The problem with making a realistic SF universe is you have to keep checking how long it would actually take people to get from point A to point B.

I should pause for a moment and mention Where Snarkoleptics Congregate. This is a NaNoWriMo Forums discussion for fellow Websnark fans to post a "hello" so we can all see how we're all doing and give each other support. I know there's more than myself and Phy doing Nano, so if you're reading these words, please click on that link and come say hi! It doesn't matter how little or how much you've written. Just come check in. We're Snarkoleptics together -- we should congregate!

Well, I'd better get an excerpt down so I can get my article finished before Comixpedia launches missiles at New Hampshire. Here's a fast 982 words for you. You Daily Dinosaur Comics fans will notice that I named some ships after characters in that story. Yeah, I'm a geek. Catch you tomorrow!




            The McCoy was cramped just a crew of seventeen, in a ship that boasted moderate cargo space but little in the way of pressurized cabins. Theyd be glad to see Malcolm go, too, since protocol demanded he get a cabin to himself, forcing the two people whod been bunking in it to give their spaces up. He climbed up the ladderway into the bridge a tight room of three chairs, with the C.O. sitting above (and able to take over any position necessary). Unlike ships of the line, the bridge boasted a plastiglass half-dome that gave an excellent view of their surroundings. It was an impressive view ships of all class and description could be seen all around the McCoy. Huge Naval battlewagons and tiny five man traders moved to and from the huge ringed starport.

            Impressive, Malcolm said.

            Captain on the bridge, the chief running the comm board shouted, not having seen him climb up.

            As you were, Malcolm said, quickly. He was slightly annoyed. No one expected those kinds of protocols during maneuvers.

            It is impressive, Dolan said from above. Certified Imperial Gold. The gateway to two different approaches to the Teo Cluster ­ the trailward approach leading to the Manley Reach and Concordia eventually, when there isnt a war in the way. The coreward approach leads to the Barber Reach. Head rimward and you go up the Zabel Spur. And headward takes you to the Allass Corridor and the Atchison Sector. From the sound of his voice, Malcolm could tell Dolan was taking credit for the four transition points himself, as if hed arranged them and as if he were actually administering them.

            Ill bet the crews looking forward to forty-eight hours in an Imperial Gold rated starport.

            Oh of course, of course. Youll spend a few days here too, I trust? We should have dinner, one of these nights.

            My orders are priority/2, Malcolm said. If anythings going up the spur, Im going to me on it. I might not be two hours at the Naval Platform.

            Not much goes up the Spur. Nothing up there anyway. Maybe youll get a hospital ship going up to Kurtzwuld.

            Well have to see. Malcolm kept looking around. Sweet Murphy, is that a cargo ship?

            The ship Malcolm was pointing at was huge, by any standard. A container ship, with mobile frameworks and tender cranes throughout. It had to be half the size of the entire Vernon Shipyards, all on its own.

            My... goodness, Dolan said. That is a big one. Of course, they all look big to me.

            Sensory, Malcolm said, with the skippers permission is that flying independent registry?

            Petty officer Gomez-Hoyt didnt wait for Dolans permission the crew of the McCoy didnt exactly stand on ceremony. No, sir. Its identifying as... INCSDX-141 Dromiceiomimus.

            INCSDX? What kind of registry is that? Experimental dreadnought cargo ships?

            I dont know, sir. Ships synthetic doesnt have any information on it. Gomez-Hoyt looked over his shoulder. Theres another one, sir. Off to port.

            Malcolm blinked, craning his neck around. The sensor tech was right. Another of the giant, boxy carriers was coming in towards the Starport. Ill be damned. I wonder whats going on. Captain, do you mind if I ask for an active trace sweep of the system? Im curious if theres anything else like that in-system, and where its going.

            I.... Dolan blinked. He wasnt the sort to order active traces. I guess I dont see why not....

            Good. Gomez-Hoyt? Give me active traces. Nothing to penetrate hulls or violate security protocols. I just want to know whats flying out there.

            Active traces aye, Gomez-Hoyt said, grinning. Malcolm smiled a touch, too. Gomez-Hoyt wouldnt be on the McCoy much longer. Anyone that excited to break the routine wouldnt last more than two tours on a courier. Not with a war on.

            Its not really our business, is it, Dolan asked. I mean, Im sure if we should know something, theyd tell us....

            Call it an indulgence, skip, Malcolm said. He couldnt wait to get off Dolans ship.

            Captain Malcolm... Im showing seven ships of comparable size in the system. One more on approach, in addition to the Dromiceiomimus and the Utahraptor it doesnt match the hull configuration, though. It almost looks like a ship tender.

            A ship tender that size? It could practically take six frigates into tow at once. Who would want that? Malcolm frowned. Gomez-Hoyt you said there were seven of these behemoths out there. Where are the other four.

            On a tack rimward, making for the Ishida t-point. He looked over his shoulder. Up the Zabel Spur, sir.

            Dolan snorted. What would possibly need ships that size up the Spur?

            Maybe theyre medical supplies, the helmsman said.

            For what? Is the entire Ninth Army half-dead at Kurtzwuld now?

            Lets hope not. How many other ships are tacking for the Ishida t-point, Gomez-Hoyt?

            That weve seen? Nineteen, sir.

            Nineteen ships, all heading up a dead end?

            Yes sir. Gomez-Hoyt shrugged. Maybe the Concordians went up there?

            No. If the Concordians managed an incursion this deep into Teo Cluster, much less up the Zabel Spur, Rowland and Hynes would have been fortified three times as much as they were, and thered be a lot more warships coming in from headward and coreward.

            Yes sir. But that doesnt explain

            No it doesnt, does it?

            INSCS-8991773 McCoy, the voice of orbital control came over the speakers. Sorry for the delay. Were a bit busy back here. Youre cleared for approach and dock. Please set for encrypted automatic control. Welcome to Vernon.

            We have control connection encrypted on tight, the helmsman said, quickly. Clearly trying to impress the command officer who might recommend he get off the courier. Ready to release.

            Thank you, Gomez-Hoyt, Malcolm murmured, stepping back out of the way to the half-wall Dolans cradle was set atop. Curiouser and curiouser.

November 05, 2004

The Rest of the Story So Far....

Hey all!

For those who came in late, I maintain a website where I post works in progress, poetry, art, and "whatever" creativity comes to mind. It's something of a notebook or chapbook, and it's password protected. It's not that I want to keep the masses out, but I don't want robots sniffing it or capturing it, and I don't want any prospective publishers to think I'm "previously published" by putting my stuff on an open website. I have quite a bit of stuff on there, including several chapters of books I'm working on (most notably Theftworld, some short fiction, some poems... that kind of thing.

Well, I've now put the work I've done up until yesterday (the first 8,300 words or so) on Trigger Man onto the site. That includes lots of stuff not put into any of the daily excerpts I've put on Websnark. So, if you're interested in seeing the complete novel as it is so far -- as well as other stuff I've written over the past couple of years -- shoot me an e-mail at websnark AT gmail DOT com and I'll be glad to send you the address and password information.

If you'd rather not... um... carry on!

November 04, 2004

Day Four

NaNoWriMo
8,276 / 50,000
(16.6%)

There wasn't much done on Day Three. I was in Maine, as I related in my last post. So there was little writing done. I've managed to correct that for today, which is of course Day Four, and pushed the count up to 8,276/6,664, or about 1 day's buffer's worth. I'll try to stretch that for tomorrow, as I've got at least one overnight business trip coming up I want to be sure I'm covered for.

I'm a busy person. This kind of surprises me. But work keeps busy, and there's all this stuff to do. And stuff that calls out to be snarked. "Snark me, Eric," it says. "You know you want to! Write opinions about me, bitch! Bark like a dog! BARK LIKE A DOG!"

But I refuse to feel guilty about doing Nanowrimo stuff. I know it divides my writing time up, but Jess Christ, I'm writing a novel. That's what writers do. I'll do my best to not let Snarky languish. And you guys have been amazingly great, and that, in turn, is amazingly great.

So, here's a fast 500+ word excerpt from the current output. It's short enough that I won't put it behind a cut. Let me know if that pisses you off.




            So youre being put on a commodores staff?

            Commodore Sortino. That makes a difference. I know him.

            Morita started walking again, pausing long enough to make sure Malcolm was following. You know Sortino?

            Youve heard of him?

            Has anyone whos helped fight their ships in the disputed worlds not heard of him? He led the strike that broke the supply line run from Simpson to Garrity forced them to retreat to Crosbys Folly and fortify. If his successors hadnt fucked it up, we could have held Simpson, taken and fortified Garrity, and started up the ides from Migdal to Abramsuld.

            Yeah. Just like that. Malcolm snorted. You know better, Rita.

            Let me dream. He knows you?

            I didnt think so.

            But you said

            I said I knew him. He shook his head. I was a subleftenant on the Kanamori. He was a captain then. He was everything I think of when I think of captains. Malcolm shook his head. Larger than life. Took control of every situation he was in, just by walking through the door. Nothing seemed to shake him. Nothing seemed to hurt him. And he understood you.

            Sounds like he had an impact.

            Yeah, Malcolm said softly.

            That sounds like theres a story behind it.

            Malcolm took a deep breath. I was on the Kanamori when we got word that Campos had been taken.

            Morita looked away. Im sorry.

            Its okay. Malcolm was walking faster, now. Striding, almost. Like he was trying to put distance between himself and that memory. It devastated me. I had... have family there. Some I havent heard from in years. It was like the Concordians had set a bomb off under my bunk.

            And Sortino understood that?

            He came to see me in my cabin. Just sat there. Let me blubber. Didnt hold it against me. He understood. Malcolm took a deep breath, shaking his head. He was from Aurora.

            Morita stopped in her tracks. Oh, she said in a small voice.

            Yeah. His homeworld, saturation bombed in a surprise attack. The start of the whole fucking war. Hed been on leave at the time. He was there. He got a commendation for organizing a defense of the refugees. But his wife and parents didnt get out. Didnt even survive. Malcolm looked at Morita. It made all the difference to me. He understood. He understood the fear, and the despair, and the anger I was feeling. He didnt hold it against me. He let me express it. He let me exorcise it.

            And youre surprised he remembers you?

            Yeah. Malcolm shrugged. There were dozens of officers and crew on the Kanamori. More than half of us probably had something similar happen. Garrity, Campos and Abramsuld were all heavy feeders for the Imperial Navy. Malcolm chuckled, without humor. Theyre talking about revising posting assignments, you know? Over the next fifty years, set it up so that enlisted and officers are posted at least a sector away from their homeworlds. Makes people a little crazy to be thrown into such a personal war.

            Oh, yeah. Make sure people are twenty-five or thirty transitions from a homeworld thats being bombed. Thatll be good for morale.

November 02, 2004

On election night, you want commentary? Have a map instead.

Concordia-Citidelia.pngSo, I do up this map. You all know it. Within two days, I need a lot more depth. So, it's the all new expanded map of the region.

Besides lots more planets, which of course means lots more... um... planets... I added in some region names. I could go into some detail of what a corridor is versus a reach or a cluster, but honestly, no one cares. (The Zabel Spar is significant, because a Spar has only one route in or out, according to theory. Okay, significant may be too strong a word. Also, I might be drunk.)

I haven't done regions for the Concordia side, because... well, I don't expect a whole lot of call for them. If I need them, I'll do them later. But otherwise, I think she's pretty well done.

Oh. And I corrected the spelling of "Toronto." Do you hear me? I corrected it. What do you want from me? What?

Day Two

NaNoWriMo
5,867 / 50,000
(11.7%)

It's going exceedingly well so far. I'm finding I have a voice and a lot to say, and as you can tell by the progress bar in the corner, I've officially hit 11% of total. Which, for two days work, doesn't suck.

For the record, this represents 5,867/3,332 for the "completed"/"quota" counts. So I'm well ahead of schedule, which is good given how little writing I might do tomorrow.

I'm finding it very hard not to go back and revise. In a way, that's what I most need to get out of NaNoWriMo this year. Writing is easy. Finishing is hard. This way, I can force myself to keep going, and when I think "wow, that's too wordy," I can then force my brain to think "and in December, I'll see if I can fix it."

I've got a revised map, though it'll have to be its own entry. Not because I wanted to name more planets after Webcomics (though that was fun), but because I needed information about the planets below the edge of the map. I'll do an entry this evening detailing the changes, while I'm in Maine.

That's right, right after work I'm heading out the door to the Pine Tree State, where I will be meeting up with the folks to watch the election results. We'll go out to dinner first, and then have an evening of cheers and profanity. I took tomorrow off, too, so I can stay up until the cow milking hour when Tom Brokaw says "it's now clear that it will be many weeks or months before we have resolution on the question of the American President...."

Anyway, here's a fast 1,500 words or so. I'm putting it in the "extended entry," so that it won't completely smack down peoples' browsers if they're not interested. Just click on the "continue reading" link if you're reading this on Websnark, or click the link at the top of the entry if you're reading on Livejournal or RSS.

Continue reading "Day Two" »

November 01, 2004

Day One

Last night, from midnight until about two -- the change of clock does screwy things to me -- I got the first 2,272 words of Trigger Man done. For point of reference, I should do an average of 1,666 words a day if I'm going to get this done, so I'll describe my progress as a simple ratio of [words written]/[word quota]. For right now I'm ahead. There'll come a day when I don't write a damn thing, though, so it balances out. Consider this like a webcomic. I'm building a buffer so those days when it's not there at all or life is too Interesting to even do Websnark, much less NaNoWriMo I don't have to stress. So, the Day One Count is 2,272/1,666.

Now, because I love you thiiiiiis much, here's a thousand word excerpt. Why do I anticipate people are going to either skim over these or start fleeing Websnark in droves if I keep posting them? Anyway -- this is heavy on exposition and Skiffy elements. When we're into December, there'll probably be rewrites, and the further we go into the month, the less jargon will show up and the more character moments... right. I'm babbling. Here it is. (Also, note this is raw stuff -- National Novel Editing Month isn't until December. So, bear in mind you're getting what you're getting.)


5284-014 21:07 In Transition/2 (Garrity-to-Migdal)

            The transition had been rough -- it was never smooth to punch a hole in space time, exploiting the natural latent tunnels between stars. Because the Claremont had a misaligned gravity net, it was rougher than normal. If the frigates crew hadnt been secured, spacers would have been thrown against the bulkheads.

            But theyd made it, and now they were safely in N-space. After an hour, the engineers had certified the hull intact and cabin pressure had been restored. Malcolm had retreated, exhausted, to the officers lounge to drink a cup of soykaf before heading to get five hours fitful sleep. He sipped the warm drink and watched the wisps and bursts of gold through one of the frigates few windows. N-space didnt really have anything in it, but as quanta radiated from the Claremont and shifted past the envelope, they flared gold, forming wisps and rails. Ghosts, they called them.

            Malcolm had seen a lot of ghosts in his time.

            His executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Rita Morita, walked up and sat next to him uninvited. You look like Hell, Alex.

            My friend. Malcolm took another long sip of coffee. Do you have an updated casualty list?

            Seven. Damnedest thing. One of the missiles hit the armor just right. Things were fine for three decks, but we had a collapse on the fourth deck that also damaged the port side gravity emitter array.

            Were lucky they were short range missiles, or itd have been a lot worse. Malcolm sounded distant, even to himself. Ill need their names, service records... you know the drill.

            All too damn well. Morita looked at Malcolm. I mean it. You look like Hell.

            Malcolm looked down at his hands. The darker skin contrasted nicely with the white of the mug. Im tired, Rita.

            It was a long fight. Hell, from what we could pick up, there were still shots being fired when we made transition.

            I dont mean that. I mean Im tired. Im weary. He looked at her. Concordia invaded the Empire of Citadel twelve years ago. They blew Hell out of Planet Aurora, subjugated the populace, and started moving inward.

            I know, Morita said softly.

            And what good has it got them? They made headway into our space, then we hit them back. We sometimes push past Aurora and hit Thames on their side. Theyve pushed all the way to Rosenberg more than once. But for the most part, we have a running battlefield of nine disputed worlds. They have their whole empire behind their war effort. I doubt more than ten percent of our Empire even knows there is a war.

            We have well over twenty times the worlds they do, Morita said. Itd be surprising if more than ten percent did know there was a war on. Weve got them contained.

            They should be more than contained. We should be pushing into their system by now.

            To do that, wed have to pull forces out of Periphery and Coreward Realms, even if we assume theyre not wasting too many ships back in Paramount Realm, Rita said, rubbing the bridge of her nose. Its going to take a long time before we can afford that kind of commitment.

            And in the meantime, the Concordians have devoted essentially all the resources of their worlds to this damn war. Frankly, were lucky weve held them so far. If they ever solidly took Rosenberg, theyd cut off the Manley Reach from any kind of reinforcements. They could take them in a walk. Then, they just need to reinforce and hold....

            You know, you could transfer out of the Fifth Fleet.

            Malcolm didnt answer.

            Seriously. You could get posted to the Third, over in Paramount. Do light police actions, maybe get a desk in some port for a few years. Or head out to Periphery Realm play frontier naval commander for a while. You can get out of this get out from the pressure.

            Is that what youre going to do, someday?

            You bet it is.

            Malcolm drained the last of the soykaf. Youre from Kolchalka, right?

            Yeah?

            Kolchalka hasnt been hit, yet. Though if Manley Reach gets cut off it will be. Malcolm looked back at his executive officer. Im from Campos. There are Concordian troops in my home town right now, and theyve got a lock on the T-points to Migdal and Abramsuld. You want to tell me how Im supposed to transfer to some other Fleet or some other Realm when theyre using my damn secondary school as a barracks for Concordian infantry?

            Morita paused, and looked away. Did you have a chance to look at the latest damage control reports?

            No, not yet.

            Were working on the linkages. But we have two missile tubes with obscructions in them. I dont know that we can get those to ready-fight by the time we hit Migdal. The weir cannons are doing much better. We lost two, but they were pure linkage issues. We should have them ready by tomorrow. Well probably have to take the gravity net down for about nine hours so we can do repairs. Were going to want to pass out some preventative shots.

            Malcolm nodded, absently. See to it. Priority is the weirs, then the gravity net. Keep the last two days clear for sensory work. I want it as close to nominal as possible for when we break out of transition. I just hope we dont have a couple of destroyers staring at the T-point, waiting to atomize whatever comes through. We didnt send destruction T-torps ahead of us.

            The T-point was clear twelve days ago, remember?

            So that means we just have eleven point nine days to worry about. Malcolm stood. Im going to get some rest.

            You do that, sir.

            And you?

            Im going to sit up and stare at ghosts for a while, she said. Someone in this room got me depressed.

It's on

It's officially November 1. Time to start writing.

Luck to anyone else crazy enough to do this with me.

October 31, 2004

Coming up on the start of 30 days of riding the fire!

It's All Hallow's Eve. To some, a sacred day. To others, the day before All Saint's Day. To yet more, an excuse to dress like a slut or extort adults for candy. To yet others, several of the above.

But to a few, bold, utterly foolish souls, it is the night before the start of National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo. I've been preparing for weeks, abandoning several projects before settling on one. And now, I'm pretty well ready to go.

The project's name is Trigger Man, and it's pseudo-hard character driven SF, because that's what I want to write, in the end. It details one of the watershed events in an SF universe I've been poking at for about twelve years now. My hope is, my friends who like SF will like it, and my friends who hate SF will like it. My fear is the converse will be true.

It's dealing with a particularly bloody war between empires, and a horrific event that changes the balance of that war. Now, the plot is driven by strategic considerations, and for that to work, I need to actually know what those considerations are. So, I needed to actually outline a very basic starmap (not to scale, so Winchell Chung doesn't need to throttle me to death, just yet), detailing a good percentage of the worlds along the border of Concordia (the invading empire) and the Empire of Citadel (the defenders), along with the FTL routes (my FTL handwave requires specific points of travel, outlined by the various lines on the map) involved. For various reasons, Concordia's worlds are named after British Commonwealth cities and place names and the like. Citadel, on the other hand, has a lot more total worlds and more ways of naming planets after people than you could count.

So. I'm making up the map, so I have it to refer to, and I need a whole pile of planet names -- most of which may never even be mentioned in the book. One -- Aurora -- was already in my notes and has been referred to in my more ambitious novel project, Theftworld, which is one quarter done but on hold while I work on Trigger Man. Another, GS4771, has no reason to be named anything at all, as it has neither habitable planets nor (until now) any reason to go there. (Much of Trigger Man takes place in the GS4771 system.) And the rest....

I needed a pile of names for the rest.

As you can see if you click the map's thumbnail, I finally named them after Webcartoonists. Since most of these worlds won't be mentioned by name in the book, no one's likely to notice when I try to sell this thing. However, they're there, providing verisimilitude when I need to make references. I even have detailed notes on how far away each planet is from each other, and how long it takes to get there via the FTL handwave.

If you're a friend of mine and want to know why I didn't name it after you... well, when I did the (much larger and more elaborate) full starmap for the Hampshire Sector, needed for Theftworld and several short stories, I loaded it down with several friends' names. You're probably in there. If you're a webcartoonist and want to know why the Hell I didn't name a planet after you... hey, there were only so many. You can safely assume your world is to the "south" of this map.

For the record, purple worlds are Concordian and, as I said, named after semiBrit/Canadian/Irish/Welsh/Australian stuff. However, I did sneak in a "Campbell" and a "McCloud" and named one of the worlds "Tackleford," so that counts as an Allison reference. Pine green worlds are Citadelian. Red worlds are where the terrible fighting is going on right now. (Which means there's more of a chance those worlds will get mentioned in the actual book.) York is yellow because I have three books planned where it wins its Independence from Concordia, somewhere down the line. Oh, and some planets get the suffix '-suld' or '-wuld' or '-uld,' which is a contraction of "World" used by Citadelian mapmakers. So, Bleuelsuld means Bleuel's World, essentially. It's worth noting there's good music on Bleuelsuld.

(Why Crosby's Folly? Because I didn't like just 'Crosby,' and 'Crosbysuld' sounded silly. Think of it as a prospector's world or something. Look, there's only so much I'm putting into these explanations.)

October 06, 2004

Gearing up for a month of writing! Which... in my life is like every other month.

I'm registered for National Novel Writing Month, which is a concerted effort to write a 50,000 word novel (yes, that's a novel. A novel is a form of multifaceted dimension, whereas a short story typically sets a usual, introduces an unusual element, and then explores the ramifications of the unusual element. This is why Heart of Darkness is a novel but Catcher in the Rye is a book length short story. According to my father, who has a degree in these things and is called Doctor. And you don't go dissing my father. Not on my blog you don't) between November 1 and November 30. I've thought about it in years past, and this year it's a go.

That's about 1,667 words a day, which honestly isn't tough. I mean, since mid-August, I've written well over 120,000 words here on Websnark. Sure, it's not the same thing, but my point is I can nail out a few pages a day without too much trouble.

If folks want, I'll post excerpts here on the 'Snark, so that my Nanowrimo experience intertwines with my Websnark experience. (The individual chapters are going to go on a password protected writing page I've maintained for a while -- password protected so search engines can't stalk it and so that folks later on can't claim I've already published stuff I want to be paid filthy lucre for. I'm always willing to let people read it if they ask. For, you know, the record.)

Anyway. That's my working plan.

Now, I need a nanowrimo icon... one that doesn't feature a happy bunny typing. Frankly, if said happy bunny isn't chainsmoking in front of a beat up underwood, it's not a novel writing icon I can get behind -- and I don't even smoke. Time for photoshop. Well, between now and Halloween....

September 27, 2004

This entry is astoundingly long. It deserves to be. It's on Hitherby Dragons.

You all know I love webcomics. I love them for many reasons, but one reason is because I can't do them. We've seen the results when I try, and they aren't pretty. And so I can set aside any aspirations for drawing a strip, because I just don't have the chops, and I can revel in the artistic goodness I find without rancor.

However... I can write. I've even been told I'm good at it. Clever. I can write a story and make it readable, if not necessarily salable. All the work and time and effort I haven't put into illustration skills I have put into the written word. It's been the better part of a decade since I last let more than four or five days pass without putting a sequence of words into an order no one's tried before (not counting major surgery or other such external forces). I write because I like writing. And I dream of having impact -- not necessarily great popular renown, but emotional impact. I dream of having someone read my work and set it aside and shiver, eyes closed, unable to go on for a few moments.

I've seen it done. Dan Simmons did it in Hyperion, in a substory called "The Scholar's Tale." Sean Stewart does it. Neil Gaiman does it, though he did it better in comics than in fiction. But I don't aspire to be Simmons or Stewart or Gaiman. My dreams are humbler. I just want to have done it.

Which makes reading the glorious Hitherby Dragons actively painful for me. Because what I yearn to do with all my heart Rebecca Borgstrom does as naturally as she breathes. I have to keep reading, because I can't imagine my life without Hitherby Dragons in it, but each day I am reminded that she can do what I cannot, and that way lies madness.

I've met Rebecca Borgstrom. Met her before the days of Hitherby Dragons. I once bought her sushi and got my copy of Nobilis -- the Role Playing Game Borgstrom wrote, and perhaps the single finest development in the evolution of Role Playing Games in the last ten years -- signed by her. It was only the second copy she'd ever autographed. I knew then that she was supremely talented. I had no idea she would create a new art form within a few short years, or that it would inspire almost Grecian Tragedy levels of envy in me.

Hitherby Dragons defies simple definition. And yet, I once tried, in my Livejournal back in the dark days before Websnark. In that entry, I proposed we make 'hitherby' a noun and verb alike, to encapsulate the new art form that Borgstrom is creating with every passing day on her site. To quote myself:

Hitherby Dragons is simply, elegantly beautiful.

However, it's also indescribable.

Seriously. It embraces Magic Realism, but also a sense of whimsy. It's got elements of the old Fairy Tales and the new descendants of them all at once. It's got pop culture, but with brushstrokes of texture and depth.

They are themselves, and they can make you laugh, and break your heart, and make you laugh while breaking your heart. If you're not reading them now, you should.

Well, I was chatting with my friend Lon through the magic of the internet earlier today, and he made a comment about working in the comic and game mines. And I said "now I'm thinking about Comic Mines. There's a Hitherby there, I'm just sure."

And he knew exactly what I meant.

That's a compliment unlike any other, really. If you work in a style and genre of fiction so innovative, so engaging, and so captivating that a simple reference to your site name can evoke that style and genre, you become a noun. You have meaning beyond even your own work.

If I'm going to use the word 'hitherby' in casual conversation, I need to have a coherent definition, though. When grok left Stranger in a Strange Land and entered Webster's Third International Dictionary, the entry couldn't well define the word the way Heinlein did -- Heinlein's definition was ineffable. It meant love, and cherish, and drink, and hate, and any number of other things. You just knew what it meant. But dictionaries don't work that way, and if I tell you I grok Hitherby Dragons (I'm not at all sure I do, by the way) you're going to run to the Oxford English Dictionary and look it up. And you'll see that it says grok means:

a. trans. (also with obj. clause) To understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with.

b. intr. To empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment.
which isn't very much what Heinlein meant, but it is what I mean when I use the word now. And it's not wrong when applied to Stranger in a Strange Land, so if it's inadequate we yield to the limitations of lexicography and accept it. And thus the English language grows.

So, defining hitherby in a way that makes sense, that isn't wrong when applied to Hitherby Dragons but also acknowledges it misses the forest for the trees, I come up with:

hitherby: /Hith"er-bE/ a. (noun) A vignette or short story that employs the fantastic or whimsical in structure, form and idiom while maintaining a strong internal consistency and sense of realism

b. (noun) A story (often fantasy or horror) that maintains its sense of the real despite absurdist events.

c. (verb) To write a hitherby; to write in fantastic or whimsical tropes while cleaving to realistic style.
It's inadequate, but it's what I can do. Suggestions cheerfully solicited.

It is a fine thing to become a word, I think.

Which makes this whole entry pretty long, but what the Hell. I'm baring my soul here.

I go on and on and on in Websnark.com on how more and more webcomics are embracing what makes their art form unique -- presenting an art form that couldn't exist in newspapers or books -- not the same way. Perhaps not in any way. Well, Hitherby Dragons is a textual art form born out of Movable Type that couldn't exist in the same way it does in a book. It is inexorably born out of the blog-form, and whether we use 'hitherby' to describe the individual stories or not, Hitherby Dragons transcends that definition to create the whole. Often funny, often tragic, blending folklore and physics, puns and pathos, Greek Tragedy and Passion Plays and Commedia Del Arte all rolled into one... it is like reading a painting, with each brushstroke adding more texture and color to the whole, and when you begin to glimpse the canvas over time you begin to understand how terribly wonderful the vision will be in the end.

It drives me mad, because I can't do it. I can't do it and I want to.

Take "At the Cherry Tree", a hitherby from last week. It takes a bit of folklore, a bit of Americana. Something we all own, culturally -- the "cannot tell a lie" story of George Washington. And it makes it....

...it makes it horrific, and beautiful, all at once. You understand the price of lying, the price of murder, the price of emptiness. You understand....

There are cherry trees behind his house. He goes to them, still with liquor on his breath, and there he sees the dryad. She is curled and straight: her body upright, but her hair wound round her in gentle curls and knots. It forms bark, and leaves, and flowers. It gives her more branches than her outthrust arms. Her teeth are wooden.

"George," she says. It is a minimal acknowledgment. She does not give much time to George.

"Dance for me," he says. It is rude, but he is a child, and he is drunk.

"There is sun," says the dryad. "There is soil. Leave me in peace, child. I am content."

"Dance," insists George.

"You are nothing," she says.

"I'm more than you."

So George goes to the shed, and he finds an axe, and he takes it out.

You see, don't you? Read the entries if you don't. Read them all, but measure them out. You'd get drunk on too many at once. Measure your consumption or pay for it in the morning.

I can't do this, and I want to. I want to so badly, and I work on my craft, and my imagination, and seeing the world in that way. I work on phrasing and impact and pacing and vocabulary. And then I write a story and send it away, because that's what you do with stories, and then it comes back with a form letter and I send it somewhere else, and then I go back to "Hitherby Dragons" and she's done it again!

I understand the legend of Salieri, staring askance at Mozart, whether those stories are true or not. I understand the yearning desire to be the defining artist of a generation, and being forced to watch someone else become that because they're just so damn good. So I'll smile, and tell you all to read Hitherby Dragons. But if, ten years from now, Rebecca Borgstrom lies stricken with consumption, eyes closed and dictating words of transcendent beauty to me that I then type into my word processor, an evil smile on my face....

Well, I warned you. Didn't I?

August 02, 2004

Recycling the Meme: On Writing

This is a Meme about writing I contributed to on my Livejournal. It occurs to me that it's a nice essay in and of itself, and probably deserves to be moved over to the "Essays," which is where you're reading these words right now. So, here it is, in all its glory.

I think it both has some truths in it, and some astoundingly crass egotisms. Which is about right for the average writer.

What's the last thing you wrote?
Finished Story? "Automotive Care," which is a short story. Wrote-period? Chapter Seven of my novel Theftworld

Was it any good?
"Automotive Care" is the single finest piece of American Literature ever produced, until such time as Realms of Fantasy rejected it. When it gets back from them, it will be the worst piece of tripe ever committed to paper until I get it sent out again. We already did this riff with Fantasy and Science Fiction. Being able to hold contradictory opinions about your own talent are the only thing that lets you have the ego to send the story out in the first place but not take it personally when it's rejected.

The novel? Yeah, yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
Good question. Hm. I probably have older stuff, but I have a short story I submitted to a competition at 13. It won, but only after I was accused of plagiarizing it. I had to write another short short on the spot to convince the judges I was actually capable of writing the story I wrote.

The next year, I was the only person to enter at my grade level, and much to the chagrin of the head of the competition (who resigned, afterward) my entry was disallowed because it was 20 pages long instead of a maximum of 12 pages. Said head gave me an autographed copy of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and a current copy of the Writer's Market, and told me not to waste my talent on idiots.

Was it any good?
The first story? Unmitigated tripe. Which Dragon Magazine told me in no uncertain terms when I sent it to them. On the other hand, I was thirteen.

The second story? Kinda, for a fourteen year old. It was genre (I was still on a fantasy kick) but it was mid-to-low fantasy and was a coming of age story without any violence. Not bad for a D&D player with delusions of talent.

Write poetry?
Yes.

Angsty poetry?
Dark sometimes, but not generally angsty. I shoot for a New England tradition rather than a Goth tradition. I don't always hit.

Favourite genre of writing?
These days? Science Fiction or Fantasy. I'm tending towards hard in the former, and psychological in the latter.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
Trudy Galloway. She's my sick, twisted inner child.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Annoying to write? Probably The Dash -- a parody of superspeedster heroes. She was popular because she was funny, but the hook was writing long run on sentences without spaces between words, and that's a monumental pain in the ass to write with any kind of natural flow. It's equally annoying to eliminate the spaces after the fact. Stupid gimmick writing.

Best plot you ever wrote?
With "Automotive Care" in circulation for publication? I'm giving that the nod.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
Currently available? Probably something in the old Superguy writing. But I have something coming up in Theftworld that I think will rock.

How often do you get writer's block?
Every so often.

How do you fix it?
Force myself to just keep writing. Sometimes random things, to just force the blockage forward.

Write fan fiction?
Now and again. I wrote a Legion fanfic back in college I think didn't suck. And I write In Nomine stuff when it strikes my fancy.

Do you type or write by hand?
Type.

Do you save everything you write?
Generally, yeah.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
All the time.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
Right now? "Automotive Care." (Do you see a trend here?)

Stepping away from the psychout for a second... hm. Probably Theftworld, though I've got a short story or two I enjoy.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Professionally? Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures. We were nominated for an ENnie award for that one, in large part because of the background stuff I wrote 'in character' as Bat Masterson. Who ever thought writing straight western stuff would work for me?

I've gotten the most positive responses for "Nicole: Acts of Justification" and "Antonio: The Calabite's Song," which are two In Nomine fanfics. Behold the power of built in fandom.

My Superguy stuff is generally considered good, too, by those who read it.

Do you even show people your work?
Desperately.

Who's your favourite constructive critic?
My father. He's both brilliant and generally right, and he's not afraid to be stern in his pronouncements.

Do you have a web site for your writings?
I have a Writing Page that's password protected to keep the stuff off the search engines, since I don't want to confuse it with 'electronically published' stuff. Other of my stuff is available here and there.

Did you ever write a novel?
I discovered, after the fact and to my shock, that I wrote five discrete novels when I was active in Superguy, ranging from 50,000 words to 110,000 words apiece. Which makes me an amateur novelist.

Theftworld is the non Superguy novel I've stuck with the longest, and it looks good for finishing it off, hopefully within the next few months.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Oh yes.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Not yet, but I won't rule any writing out. Hell, I've considered writing porn just for the cash payments they make. There's a fine tradition in Speculative Fiction of writing garbage to support art.

What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Coffee shops, restaurant tables, bars... any place where there's a simple justification for two people to sit and talk at length. I do lots of the sitting and talking at length.


What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
The millisecond I say I'll never write a given genre, my brain will start churning out ideas. So I won't say it. Hell, I never thought I'd write any kind of Western, but Sidewinder was a lot of fun and I'm thinking seriously of pulling a Resnick down the line and writing a Western in space.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Two novels, two short stories, two RPGs.

Do you want to write for a living?
I do write for a living. I just suck at getting paid, so I need to have a second job.

Seriously. The acid test for whether you're a writer or not is if you decide you're a writer. You prove it with your first paycheck, and I've gotten a few of those now.

Do I want writing to be my sole means of support? Sure, but not enough to force myself to write everything that comes available to ensure that I'm always writing and making my money off it. When people say they want to 'write for a living,' what they mean nine times out of ten is they'd like the stuff they want to write to become so popular that they can quit their job and devote themselves to it. That's amazingly rare. There are only so many Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings out there. The workday professional writers -- the ones who don't make millions but also write pretty much all the time -- are constantly writing, and not always the stuff they want to. They're placing articles in In-flight magazines and Woodworking magazines. They're scouring markets, figuring out what's currently selling, researching and writing it. They're turning out Penthouse Forum letters and how-to guides on constructing gliders and essays on all topics you can imagine, and they're tersely sending letters demanding payment promised months before.

That's what it means to 'make a living as a writer' if you don't hit it big. And that doesn't even touch on benefits. It's a lot of hard work and if you have a bad month, you have no comp or promise you can get back to it.

For my desired life and lifestyle, it's better to be a systems administrator who sits in cafes after hours and works on the stuff I love, because I love writing it and I enjoy the process, and then try to sell it afterward, but never be scared that I won't have a home.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Yes.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes.

Ever written something in script or play format?
Yes. I've also used transcript form as a literary device.

What are your five favorite words?
Zeugma. Figurehead. Blinked. Kidding. Said.

Do you ever parody?
Yes.

What's your favorite thing to parody?
Something I love the concept of, but hate the execution of.

Do you actually like that thing, or are you spitefully making fun of it?
If I don't like it, it's hard to write good parody about it. You have to embrace Nancy before you can destroy Nancy. It's like the Grok principle from Stranger in a Strange Land. Only after you drink something in, learn it from all sides, cherish it and love it can you hate it so much that you eliminate it. Or in this case write about blue haired men from planet Helium.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
Sadly.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?
Physically? Not counting Superguy stuff, I'd say Everett Markham from Conversations with Cat and "Automotive Care." But I draw a lot on myself in most of my characters, so sooner or later I see similarities in almost all of them.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
The International House of Pancakes.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Sure. Though only elements. Nine times out of ten, written dreams don't resemble dreams at all. Take the 'dream sequence' in a recent episode of Enterprise. It was utterly linear and prosaic, without any of the mild, if ignored surrealisms that constantly surround a dream. It was just another scene, except it let Trip talk to a dead girl.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I love happy endings, and almost never write them. The characters at the end of the story are rarely the ones at the beginning, and change is traumatic. It's safe to say I'm a bastard to my characters, and so there's an element of recovery involved in surviving one of my stories.

I try my best to write satisfying conclusions, however.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?
Yes. Including one of my published poems.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
No..

Entirely in L337?
Dear Christ, no.

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Nope. I can't imagine it ever happening, but wondering if it could be done is a very writerly thing to do.

Does music help you write?
Yes.

Do you have a weblog or livejournal?
How does one contribute to a Meme like this without having a weblog or livejournal?

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
People from my day job are. I blew the mind of a student, once. He had me pigeonholed in his mind, only to have that preconception blown apart.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
Walking through the labyrinth,
Feeling the cracks within the wall, I turn,
Turning and making my way, I hear,
Hearing and fearing as the sound grows near...
Unwinding the string measure by measure,
As though you were singing, measures all
The cord that leads back as I move forward,
Left turns all the way, just as you say, told
In a whisper, the secret of the labyrinth.
But I am done with secrets -- I bear a sword
And a cord that I unwind, and step closer
And closer
To the minotaur that lurks. The secret
Of the labyrinth. The death contained within.
But I will slay it. Slay it with the sword
You gave me, because you love me.
Slay it with the sword, then follow the cord
Woven from your loom and passed to me
To unravel as I walk, and find my way home
To you.

The secret of the labyrinth will die by your love.
The mystery of the labyrinth will live on.
And the children of Athens will come home
Once more, no more tribute.
And I will stand by your side, hold your hand
Look within your eyes
And know I have emerged.

Recycling the Meme: On Writing

This is a Meme about writing I contributed to on my Livejournal. It occurs to me that it's a nice essay in and of itself, and probably deserves to be moved over to the "Essays," which is where you're reading these words right now. So, here it is, in all its glory.

I think it both has some truths in it, and some astoundingly crass egotisms. Which is about right for the average writer.

What's the last thing you wrote?
Finished Story? "Automotive Care," which is a short story. Wrote-period? Chapter Seven of my novel Theftworld

Was it any good?
"Automotive Care" is the single finest piece of American Literature ever produced, until such time as Realms of Fantasy rejected it. When it gets back from them, it will be the worst piece of tripe ever committed to paper until I get it sent out again. We already did this riff with Fantasy and Science Fiction. Being able to hold contradictory opinions about your own talent are the only thing that lets you have the ego to send the story out in the first place but not take it personally when it's rejected.

The novel? Yeah, yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
Good question. Hm. I probably have older stuff, but I have a short story I submitted to a competition at 13. It won, but only after I was accused of plagiarizing it. I had to write another short short on the spot to convince the judges I was actually capable of writing the story I wrote.

The next year, I was the only person to enter at my grade level, and much to the chagrin of the head of the competition (who resigned, afterward) my entry was disallowed because it was 20 pages long instead of a maximum of 12 pages. Said head gave me an autographed copy of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and a current copy of the Writer's Market, and told me not to waste my talent on idiots.

Was it any good?
The first story? Unmitigated tripe. Which Dragon Magazine told me in no uncertain terms when I sent it to them. On the other hand, I was thirteen.

The second story? Kinda, for a fourteen year old. It was genre (I was still on a fantasy kick) but it was mid-to-low fantasy and was a coming of age story without any violence. Not bad for a D&D player with delusions of talent.

Write poetry?
Yes.

Angsty poetry?
Dark sometimes, but not generally angsty. I shoot for a New England tradition rather than a Goth tradition. I don't always hit.

Favourite genre of writing?
These days? Science Fiction or Fantasy. I'm tending towards hard in the former, and psychological in the latter.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
Trudy Galloway. She's my sick, twisted inner child.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Annoying to write? Probably The Dash -- a parody of superspeedster heroes. She was popular because she was funny, but the hook was writing long run on sentences without spaces between words, and that's a monumental pain in the ass to write with any kind of natural flow. It's equally annoying to eliminate the spaces after the fact. Stupid gimmick writing.

Best plot you ever wrote?
With "Automotive Care" in circulation for publication? I'm giving that the nod.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
Currently available? Probably something in the old Superguy writing. But I have something coming up in Theftworld that I think will rock.

How often do you get writer's block?
Every so often.

How do you fix it?
Force myself to just keep writing. Sometimes random things, to just force the blockage forward.

Write fan fiction?
Now and again. I wrote a Legion fanfic back in college I think didn't suck. And I write In Nomine stuff when it strikes my fancy.

Do you type or write by hand?
Type.

Do you save everything you write?
Generally, yeah.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
All the time.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
Right now? "Automotive Care." (Do you see a trend here?)

Stepping away from the psychout for a second... hm. Probably Theftworld, though I've got a short story or two I enjoy.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Professionally? Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures. We were nominated for an ENnie award for that one, in large part because of the background stuff I wrote 'in character' as Bat Masterson. Who ever thought writing straight western stuff would work for me?

I've gotten the most positive responses for "Nicole: Acts of Justification" and "Antonio: The Calabite's Song," which are two In Nomine fanfics. Behold the power of built in fandom.

My Superguy stuff is generally considered good, too, by those who read it.

Do you even show people your work?
Desperately.

Who's your favourite constructive critic?
My father. He's both brilliant and generally right, and he's not afraid to be stern in his pronouncements.

Do you have a web site for your writings?
I have a Writing Page that's password protected to keep the stuff off the search engines, since I don't want to confuse it with 'electronically published' stuff. Other of my stuff is available here and there.

Did you ever write a novel?
I discovered, after the fact and to my shock, that I wrote five discrete novels when I was active in Superguy, ranging from 50,000 words to 110,000 words apiece. Which makes me an amateur novelist.

Theftworld is the non Superguy novel I've stuck with the longest, and it looks good for finishing it off, hopefully within the next few months.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Oh yes.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Not yet, but I won't rule any writing out. Hell, I've considered writing porn just for the cash payments they make. There's a fine tradition in Speculative Fiction of writing garbage to support art.

What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Coffee shops, restaurant tables, bars... any place where there's a simple justification for two people to sit and talk at length. I do lots of the sitting and talking at length.


What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
The millisecond I say I'll never write a given genre, my brain will start churning out ideas. So I won't say it. Hell, I never thought I'd write any kind of Western, but Sidewinder was a lot of fun and I'm thinking seriously of pulling a Resnick down the line and writing a Western in space.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Two novels, two short stories, two RPGs.

Do you want to write for a living?
I do write for a living. I just suck at getting paid, so I need to have a second job.

Seriously. The acid test for whether you're a writer or not is if you decide you're a writer. You prove it with your first paycheck, and I've gotten a few of those now.

Do I want writing to be my sole means of support? Sure, but not enough to force myself to write everything that comes available to ensure that I'm always writing and making my money off it. When people say they want to 'write for a living,' what they mean nine times out of ten is they'd like the stuff they want to write to become so popular that they can quit their job and devote themselves to it. That's amazingly rare. There are only so many Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings out there. The workday professional writers -- the ones who don't make millions but also write pretty much all the time -- are constantly writing, and not always the stuff they want to. They're placing articles in In-flight magazines and Woodworking magazines. They're scouring markets, figuring out what's currently selling, researching and writing it. They're turning out Penthouse Forum letters and how-to guides on constructing gliders and essays on all topics you can imagine, and they're tersely sending letters demanding payment promised months before.

That's what it means to 'make a living as a writer' if you don't hit it big. And that doesn't even touch on benefits. It's a lot of hard work and if you have a bad month, you have no comp or promise you can get back to it.

For my desired life and lifestyle, it's better to be a systems administrator who sits in cafes after hours and works on the stuff I love, because I love writing it and I enjoy the process, and then try to sell it afterward, but never be scared that I won't have a home.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Yes.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes.

Ever written something in script or play format?
Yes. I've also used transcript form as a literary device.

What are your five favorite words?
Zeugma. Figurehead. Blinked. Kidding. Said.

Do you ever parody?
Yes.

What's your favorite thing to parody?
Something I love the concept of, but hate the execution of.

Do you actually like that thing, or are you spitefully making fun of it?
If I don't like it, it's hard to write good parody about it. You have to embrace Nancy before you can destroy Nancy. It's like the Grok principle from Stranger in a Strange Land. Only after you drink something in, learn it from all sides, cherish it and love it can you hate it so much that you eliminate it. Or in this case write about blue haired men from planet Helium.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
Sadly.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?
Physically? Not counting Superguy stuff, I'd say Everett Markham from Conversations with Cat and "Automotive Care." But I draw a lot on myself in most of my characters, so sooner or later I see similarities in almost all of them.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
The International House of Pancakes.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Sure. Though only elements. Nine times out of ten, written dreams don't resemble dreams at all. Take the 'dream sequence' in a recent episode of Enterprise. It was utterly linear and prosaic, without any of the mild, if ignored surrealisms that constantly surround a dream. It was just another scene, except it let Trip talk to a dead girl.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I love happy endings, and almost never write them. The characters at the end of the story are rarely the ones at the beginning, and change is traumatic. It's safe to say I'm a bastard to my characters, and so there's an element of recovery involved in surviving one of my stories.

I try my best to write satisfying conclusions, however.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?
Yes. Including one of my published poems.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
No..

Entirely in L337?
Dear Christ, no.

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Nope. I can't imagine it ever happening, but wondering if it could be done is a very writerly thing to do.

Does music help you write?
Yes.

Do you have a weblog or livejournal?
How does one contribute to a Meme like this without having a weblog or livejournal?

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
People from my day job are. I blew the mind of a student, once. He had me pigeonholed in his mind, only to have that preconception blown apart.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
Walking through the labyrinth,
Feeling the cracks within the wall, I turn,
Turning and making my way, I hear,
Hearing and fearing as the sound grows near...
Unwinding the string measure by measure,
As though you were singing, measures all
The cord that leads back as I move forward,
Left turns all the way, just as you say, told
In a whisper, the secret of the labyrinth.
But I am done with secrets -- I bear a sword
And a cord that I unwind, and step closer
And closer
To the minotaur that lurks. The secret
Of the labyrinth. The death contained within.
But I will slay it. Slay it with the sword
You gave me, because you love me.
Slay it with the sword, then follow the cord
Woven from your loom and passed to me
To unravel as I walk, and find my way home
To you.

The secret of the labyrinth will die by your love.
The mystery of the labyrinth will live on.
And the children of Athens will come home
Once more, no more tribute.
And I will stand by your side, hold your hand
Look within your eyes
And know I have emerged.

Recycling the Meme: On Writing

This is a Meme about writing I contributed to on my Livejournal. It occurs to me that it's a nice essay in and of itself, and probably deserves to be moved over to the "Essays," which is where you're reading these words right now. So, here it is, in all its glory.

I think it both has some truths in it, and some astoundingly crass egotisms. Which is about right for the average writer.

What's the last thing you wrote?
Finished Story? "Automotive Care," which is a short story. Wrote-period? Chapter Seven of my novel Theftworld

Was it any good?
"Automotive Care" is the single finest piece of American Literature ever produced, until such time as Realms of Fantasy rejected it. When it gets back from them, it will be the worst piece of tripe ever committed to paper until I get it sent out again. We already did this riff with Fantasy and Science Fiction. Being able to hold contradictory opinions about your own talent are the only thing that lets you have the ego to send the story out in the first place but not take it personally when it's rejected.

The novel? Yeah, yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
Good question. Hm. I probably have older stuff, but I have a short story I submitted to a competition at 13. It won, but only after I was accused of plagiarizing it. I had to write another short short on the spot to convince the judges I was actually capable of writing the story I wrote.

The next year, I was the only person to enter at my grade level, and much to the chagrin of the head of the competition (who resigned, afterward) my entry was disallowed because it was 20 pages long instead of a maximum of 12 pages. Said head gave me an autographed copy of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and a current copy of the Writer's Market, and told me not to waste my talent on idiots.

Was it any good?
The first story? Unmitigated tripe. Which Dragon Magazine told me in no uncertain terms when I sent it to them. On the other hand, I was thirteen.

The second story? Kinda, for a fourteen year old. It was genre (I was still on a fantasy kick) but it was mid-to-low fantasy and was a coming of age story without any violence. Not bad for a D&D player with delusions of talent.

Write poetry?
Yes.

Angsty poetry?
Dark sometimes, but not generally angsty. I shoot for a New England tradition rather than a Goth tradition. I don't always hit.

Favourite genre of writing?
These days? Science Fiction or Fantasy. I'm tending towards hard in the former, and psychological in the latter.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
Trudy Galloway. She's my sick, twisted inner child.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Annoying to write? Probably The Dash -- a parody of superspeedster heroes. She was popular because she was funny, but the hook was writing long run on sentences without spaces between words, and that's a monumental pain in the ass to write with any kind of natural flow. It's equally annoying to eliminate the spaces after the fact. Stupid gimmick writing.

Best plot you ever wrote?
With "Automotive Care" in circulation for publication? I'm giving that the nod.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
Currently available? Probably something in the old Superguy writing. But I have something coming up in Theftworld that I think will rock.

How often do you get writer's block?
Every so often.

How do you fix it?
Force myself to just keep writing. Sometimes random things, to just force the blockage forward.

Write fan fiction?
Now and again. I wrote a Legion fanfic back in college I think didn't suck. And I write In Nomine stuff when it strikes my fancy.

Do you type or write by hand?
Type.

Do you save everything you write?
Generally, yeah.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
All the time.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
Right now? "Automotive Care." (Do you see a trend here?)

Stepping away from the psychout for a second... hm. Probably Theftworld, though I've got a short story or two I enjoy.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Professionally? Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures. We were nominated for an ENnie award for that one, in large part because of the background stuff I wrote 'in character' as Bat Masterson. Who ever thought writing straight western stuff would work for me?

I've gotten the most positive responses for "Nicole: Acts of Justification" and "Antonio: The Calabite's Song," which are two In Nomine fanfics. Behold the power of built in fandom.

My Superguy stuff is generally considered good, too, by those who read it.

Do you even show people your work?
Desperately.

Who's your favourite constructive critic?
My father. He's both brilliant and generally right, and he's not afraid to be stern in his pronouncements.

Do you have a web site for your writings?
I have a Writing Page that's password protected to keep the stuff off the search engines, since I don't want to confuse it with 'electronically published' stuff. Other of my stuff is available here and there.

Did you ever write a novel?
I discovered, after the fact and to my shock, that I wrote five discrete novels when I was active in Superguy, ranging from 50,000 words to 110,000 words apiece. Which makes me an amateur novelist.

Theftworld is the non Superguy novel I've stuck with the longest, and it looks good for finishing it off, hopefully within the next few months.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Oh yes.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Not yet, but I won't rule any writing out. Hell, I've considered writing porn just for the cash payments they make. There's a fine tradition in Speculative Fiction of writing garbage to support art.

What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Coffee shops, restaurant tables, bars... any place where there's a simple justification for two people to sit and talk at length. I do lots of the sitting and talking at length.


What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
The millisecond I say I'll never write a given genre, my brain will start churning out ideas. So I won't say it. Hell, I never thought I'd write any kind of Western, but Sidewinder was a lot of fun and I'm thinking seriously of pulling a Resnick down the line and writing a Western in space.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Two novels, two short stories, two RPGs.

Do you want to write for a living?
I do write for a living. I just suck at getting paid, so I need to have a second job.

Seriously. The acid test for whether you're a writer or not is if you decide you're a writer. You prove it with your first paycheck, and I've gotten a few of those now.

Do I want writing to be my sole means of support? Sure, but not enough to force myself to write everything that comes available to ensure that I'm always writing and making my money off it. When people say they want to 'write for a living,' what they mean nine times out of ten is they'd like the stuff they want to write to become so popular that they can quit their job and devote themselves to it. That's amazingly rare. There are only so many Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings out there. The workday professional writers -- the ones who don't make millions but also write pretty much all the time -- are constantly writing, and not always the stuff they want to. They're placing articles in In-flight magazines and Woodworking magazines. They're scouring markets, figuring out what's currently selling, researching and writing it. They're turning out Penthouse Forum letters and how-to guides on constructing gliders and essays on all topics you can imagine, and they're tersely sending letters demanding payment promised months before.

That's what it means to 'make a living as a writer' if you don't hit it big. And that doesn't even touch on benefits. It's a lot of hard work and if you have a bad month, you have no comp or promise you can get back to it.

For my desired life and lifestyle, it's better to be a systems administrator who sits in cafes after hours and works on the stuff I love, because I love writing it and I enjoy the process, and then try to sell it afterward, but never be scared that I won't have a home.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Yes.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes.

Ever written something in script or play format?
Yes. I've also used transcript form as a literary device.

What are your five favorite words?
Zeugma. Figurehead. Blinked. Kidding. Said.

Do you ever parody?
Yes.

What's your favorite thing to parody?
Something I love the concept of, but hate the execution of.

Do you actually like that thing, or are you spitefully making fun of it?
If I don't like it, it's hard to write good parody about it. You have to embrace Nancy before you can destroy Nancy. It's like the Grok principle from Stranger in a Strange Land. Only after you drink something in, learn it from all sides, cherish it and love it can you hate it so much that you eliminate it. Or in this case write about blue haired men from planet Helium.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
Sadly.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?
Physically? Not counting Superguy stuff, I'd say Everett Markham from Conversations with Cat and "Automotive Care." But I draw a lot on myself in most of my characters, so sooner or later I see similarities in almost all of them.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
The International House of Pancakes.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Sure. Though only elements. Nine times out of ten, written dreams don't resemble dreams at all. Take the 'dream sequence' in a recent episode of Enterprise. It was utterly linear and prosaic, without any of the mild, if ignored surrealisms that constantly surround a dream. It was just another scene, except it let Trip talk to a dead girl.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I love happy endings, and almost never write them. The characters at the end of the story are rarely the ones at the beginning, and change is traumatic. It's safe to say I'm a bastard to my characters, and so there's an element of recovery involved in surviving one of my stories.

I try my best to write satisfying conclusions, however.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?
Yes. Including one of my published poems.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
No..

Entirely in L337?
Dear Christ, no.

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Nope. I can't imagine it ever happening, but wondering if it could be done is a very writerly thing to do.

Does music help you write?
Yes.

Do you have a weblog or livejournal?
How does one contribute to a Meme like this without having a weblog or livejournal?

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
People from my day job are. I blew the mind of a student, once. He had me pigeonholed in his mind, only to have that preconception blown apart.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
Walking through the labyrinth,
Feeling the cracks within the wall, I turn,
Turning and making my way, I hear,
Hearing and fearing as the sound grows near...
Unwinding the string measure by measure,
As though you were singing, measures all
The cord that leads back as I move forward,
Left turns all the way, just as you say, told
In a whisper, the secret of the labyrinth.
But I am done with secrets -- I bear a sword
And a cord that I unwind, and step closer
And closer
To the minotaur that lurks. The secret
Of the labyrinth. The death contained within.
But I will slay it. Slay it with the sword
You gave me, because you love me.
Slay it with the sword, then follow the cord
Woven from your loom and passed to me
To unravel as I walk, and find my way home
To you.

The secret of the labyrinth will die by your love.
The mystery of the labyrinth will live on.
And the children of Athens will come home
Once more, no more tribute.
And I will stand by your side, hold your hand
Look within your eyes
And know I have emerged.