Writing Process: Allergy to World Building

As a writer of science fiction, I have a bit of a problem. I don’t like science fiction. It’s not exactly that simple – well, it is – but it does make me feel a wee bit wonky at times, given my all-in investment into writing The Cx Trilogy.

The problem with the genre is an all-out investment in building worlds, which just boils down to made-up places (planets), odd-looking creatures and weird names.

The thing of it is that it’s just humans in masks, doing the things we do, talking as we do, interacting just the same. In other words, the Orcs, Darth Vadars and Dr. Dooms are identical to the villains of today, just that it’s playtime. This is not my science fiction. I want people being people, fictionalized, yes, but exactly as we are now.

My book, Anori, begins with Hurricane Sandy in New York City and goes from there, all the way to another planet. Some of the names might be odd – Och, Nico and Pax, for example – but they just signify the change that comes, which is not good, and thus the point of the fucking genre.

So, here’s to changing things. (And to blogging twice in one day, a first for me.)

Where the Hell Have I Been? Tech Black Hole, That’s Where!

I’ll tell you where the hell I’ve been! In some tech black hole where the server won’t let me log onto my blogsite, like I’m some kind of fucked-up psycho ranting on about crazy stuff. And even if I am, it’s my right to be like that, goddamn it.

And so, yes, I’m back, at a local watering hole (with wifi that doesn’t screen my flawed genius) sending out a sadly and recently scene from my Anori opus:

“I ever tell you about the Hooded Seal?

“I know all about that one.”

“The Hooded Seal is born off the coast of your island, Newfoundland, and it has five days to suckle. Then it’s on its own.”

“It’s a tough world out there. We all know that.”

“Five days to figure out how to fish, or else it’s dead. Five days or you’re dead. You know how far it swims, Fitz?”

“Everything is a long way out there.”

“It swims across the Labrador Sea to Greenland, all of that, a thousand kilometers, following along the continental shelf. It eats tons of shrimp and squid.” Dee put on a kettle for tea. “Oh, and it can dive down to 120 meters and stay underwater for over an hour. That’s something, isn’t it?”

“The seals are better than us now?” He swigged from his pewter flask. “Is that what you’re on about? The dogs of the water? They know better and all that?”

“There are eighteen species of seal in the world, everywhere in the world, and they’ve evolved into what they are.” She stopped, expecting Apollo to be behind her and coil through her legs. “Do we care about any of this? I mean, they’re just seals. We eat them or club them or whatever.”

“You joined her animal group. You told me about that.”

“It’s not about protecting seals, Fitz. It’s not even about appreciating them. It’s just awareness, being aware. And we’re not.”

“Maybe we’re not up to such high demands, Deirdre.”

“Why can’t we be better?”

Technology Sux

I have been un-blogged for the past several weeks due to a blockage in my server. I am working with the confines of an academic institution which blocks any suspicious websites, including my very own blog. After several emails and meetings with my well-meaning tech, I was finally advised by my friend Colette to use my phone as a hotspot and take the phone of the school’s server, which I have done. And am released to blogging again.

EXIF_HDL_ID_1

I just received an email entitled Bill Payment Reminder #43217 the highlights which I wil share now: Hi. How are you? I know, it’s unpleasant to start the conversation with bad news, but I have no choice. You actually love visiting porn sites and browsing through kinky videos while pleasuring yourself. I could montage several videos showing the way you reach orgasm while masturbating with joy.

It only requires several mouse clicks for me to forward your videos to all your relatives, as well as friends and colleagues. Do not try calling police as well as other security forces. In addition, abstain from sharing this story with your friends. After I find out (be sure, I can easily do that, given that I keep complete control of all your devices), your kinky video will end up being available to public right away.

My only hope is that video of me “masturbating with joy” does indeed make me look happy. That I would like to see.

Writing Process: There’s Gotta Be Another Thing to Look at

I should be done with my break. I gave myself 15 minutes off, only that, and I’ve already clicked on everything I could click on – all the sports, girls and Fishdom levels – but I scroll through it all again.

My brain, if it was working, is thinking that there has to be another site, something that I haven’t checked, something that will make me move forward perfectly with my day and get back into my writing.

Maybe an inspiring Instagram video? A police chase! How did he survive that crash? A boat flipped upside down. How did they do that? Not the scripted ones. They’re contrived and stupid. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t they have anything better to do? But the animals! Wildebeests fighting back against lions? A pug chasing a bear? Extraordinary! And then, of course, all the pretty girls.

I think I might have an idea for writing. It’s there, in the corner of a thought. I can write now. I have it. Or maybe not. No. I am lost. I know that. I need to go for a walk, anything to get away from my stupidity. Yes, a walk. That’s a good idea. Just give me another five minutes. I’m really almost done.

Writing Process: Anything But “Friends”

I had this bizarre idea – which did seem great at the time – of using an extended reference to Friends in my previous draft of Anori. The reasoning for this fails me now. Neither is it compelling nor does it develop character, and I don’t even like the show. Anyway, it’s all out now and here for you.

I’ve figured you out, Dee.” Dennis, his t-shirt sleeve rolled up over his left bicep, revealing his phylogenetic tattoo. “You think you’re a Monica when you’re actually a Phoebe.”

“What are you talking about?” Dee asked.

“You think you’re a Monica, but you’re not. You’re a Phoebe.”

Friends!” Saarva explained. “I love that show.”

“Seriously? That is what I’ve been reduced to?” Dee glowered. “A sitcom archetype?”

“You’re a Phoebe,” Dennis reiterated.

“What does that even mean?”

“Phoebe is a dreamer,” Saarva explained. “She sees the world from a different place. Seemingly not all there, but then surprisingly she is.”

“You watch Friends?” Dee demanded. “Why do you watch Friends?”

“Study the white American ways,” he replied.

“What?”

“I’m joking. I’m a Joey, right?”

“The point is,” Dennis continued, “is that you think you’re a Monica, controlling. You think that, but you’re not. You’re a Phoebe, head in the clouds.”

“I’m not a Phoebe!” She snapped back. “If anything, I’m a fucking Rachel.”

“Rachel,” Em laughed. “No.”

“You’re supposed to be Rachel then?”

“I’m nothing like her. I’m a Ross, the science nerd.”

“You can cross gender?” Dee asked.

“Why can’t you cross genders?” Saarva asked.

“I’ll get some wine,” Dee announced.

“That’s such a Phoebe thing to say,” Pax replied.

“They all drink wine,” Em replied. “They all say that.”

Words to Know: Askance, Askew, Asunder

I am still in recovery mode from reading bad sci-fi and think on ‘as’-prefix words today, ‘as’ meaning ‘with regard to’. Askance (a look of suspicion), Askew (not in a level position) & Asunder (apart).

Looking askance, askew on the heath, the lamb bleated not to be torn asunder.

Andy Weir’s “Artemis”: All That is Wrong With Sci-Fi Writing

Some years ago, I read what I thought must be the worst sci-fi novel of all time (Dan Simmon’s Hyperion). And then I read Andy Weir’s Artemis.

Weir, known for getting the science right in The Martian, set this novel on the moon. Hailed by Esquire for “his attention to detail” and the The New York Times Book Review for depicting “near-future technology”, I thought this book might be an inspiration for details related to lunar life for my novel, Anori. I was wrong.

Weir’s choice of a young woman, Jazz Bashara, as the protagonist is a misogynic train wreck, focusing almost entirely on her sexuality. I was pretty sexy, I have to admit. (203) ‘Did you watch me strip on Dale’s feed?’ ‘Yeah, thanks for the show!’ (236)

He tries to hide his failure behind her smart-aleck quips – God, I was such a dipshit (173) I was pissed. And I don’t mean drunk. (139) – all of which is painfully sophomoric.

The narrative reads like an outline, the descriptions like a first draft. A frumpy Midwestern woman giggled at her window and turned to me. “Isn’t it amazing? We are on the moon!” (78) And the dialogue…my god, the dialogue. “You just…you really need to learn about woman and how to interact with them, all right?” “Oh,”, he said. “That could be really helpful.” (203) And even if Weir does get the science right, much of it come across like a 17-year-old explaining life. Don’t believe me? Put ice water in a saucepan and cook it. The water temperature will stay at 0 degrees until the last ice cube melts. (250)

I’m not sure what this book taught me beyond that terrible writing can not only get published but also praised. And what’s the lesson in that?

100 Most Important Films Ever Made

There are hundreds of Top 100 Film Lists, most of which are dated (Citizen Kane atop the list) or populist (Paddington 2). These flawed lists use algorithms (film critics and/or everyday viewers) rather than focus on the remarkable visuals, sounds and scenes that make a film memorable and, dare I say, crack open our collective subconscious. These are the 100 most important films ever made:

100. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, US, 1946)

99. The Blair Witch Project (Eduardo Sanchez & Daniel Myrick, US, 1999)

98. Open Hearts (Susanne Bier, Denmark, 2002)

97. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, US, 1957)

96. Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, US, 1992)

95. La La Land (Damien Chazelle, US, 2016)

94. Nosferatu (FW Murnau, Germany, 1922)

93. City of God (Fernando Meirelles/Kátia Lund, Brazil, 2002)

92. Midsommer (Ari Aster, US, 2019)

91. Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, US, 2020)

90. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, US, 1977)

89. 56 Up (Michael Apted, UK, 2005)

88. Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 2004)

87. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, US, 1989)

86. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Dryer, France, 1928)

85.Capernaum (Nadine Labaki, Lebanon, 2018)

84. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Walt Disney, US, 1937)

83. MASH (Robert Altman, US, 1970)

82. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz, US, 1938)

81. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, US, 1977)

80. Memento (Christopher Nolan, US, 2000)

79. Pinocchio (Matteo Garonne, Italy, 2019)

78. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, US, 2016)

77. Superbad (Greg Mottola, US, 2007)

76. L’Aventurra (Michelangelo Antonioni, Italy, 1960)

75. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, US, 1998)

74. Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, US, 1967)

73. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, UK, 1973)

72. Amadeus (Milos Forman, US, 1985)

71. A Wedding (Pavel Lungin, Russia, 2000)

70. Elephant (Gus Van Sant, US, 2003)

69. Star Wars (George Lucas, US, 1977)

68. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, Italy, 1965)

67. The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy, 1966)

66. All the President’s Men (Alan Pakula, US, 1976)

65. Irreversible (Gaspar Noe, France, 2002)

64. Dirty (Bruce Sweeney, Canada, 1998)

63.Gilda (Charles Vidor, US, 1946)

62. Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly, US, 1952)

61. American Graffiti (George Lucas, US, 1973)

60. Her (Spike Jonze, US, 2013)

59. Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1961)

58. The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (Sergio Leone, Italy, 1965)

57. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, US, 1976)

56. Alien (Ridley Scott, USA, 1979)

55. Burden of Dreams (Les Blanc, US, 1979)

54. M (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1931)

53. The Godfather II (Francis Ford Coppola, US, 1975)

52. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel, Spain, 1962)

51. Pather Panchali, The Apu Trilogy (Satyajit Rao, India, 1955)

50.Stroszek (Werner Herzog, Germany, 1977)

49.Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska/Ljubomir Stefanov, Macedonia, 2019)

48. Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, UK, 1996)

47. La Regle de Jeu (Jean Renoir, France, 1939)

46. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, US, 2002)

45. Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, US, 1969)

44.Planes, Trains and Automobiles (John Hughes, US, 1987)

43. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, US, 2007)

42. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, US, 1960)

41. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, US, 1974)

40. Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, US, 1926)

39. Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1927)

38. Tokyo Story (Yasujirō Ozu, Japan, 1953)

37. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, US, 1980)

36.Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2017)

35.Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 1966)

34. Gommorah (Matteo Garonne, Italy, 2008)

33. The Florida Project (Sean Baker, US, 2017)

32. Shoplifters (Hirokai Kore-eda, Japan, 2018)

31. Heaven’s Gate (Michael Cimino, US, 1980)

30. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, US, 1976)

29. Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda, France, 1962)

28. Castaway (Robert Zemeckis, US, 2001)

27. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, US, 1989)

26. Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, US, 1995)

25. Being There (Hal Ashby, US, 1979)

24. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, US, 1993)

23. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, US, 1983)

22.The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, US, 1939)

21. Short Cuts (Robert Altman, US, 1993)

20. Adaptation (Spike Jonze, US, 2002)

19. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, US, 2006)

18. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, UK/US, 1968)

17. Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, US, 1973)

16. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, US, 2002)

15. Taxi (Jafar Pahani, Iran, 2015)

14. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, US, 1976)

13.Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1950)

12. The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 1986)

11. The Graduate (Mike Nichols, US, 1967)

10. The Celebration (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark, 1998)

9. The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, USSR, 1957)

8. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, US, 1998)

7.Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, Italy, 1946)

6. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, US, 1941)

5. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, US, 1973)

4. The Deerhunter (Michael Cimino, US, 1980)

3. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, Japan, 2001)

2. No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, US, 2007)

1. Aguirre, Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, Germany, 1972)

Please post comments. Feedback is appreciated.

Writing Process: Editing “The Cx Trilogy”

Two more scenes have been aborted – still legal in the writing world – from my speculative novel, Anori. My aim for both scenes was to give context, both historical and geographical, for the narrative, but seemed redundant in the end.

Scene One: Dee looked out at the Temple of Poseidon across the bay and thought about how it had been built, the exhaustive excavation of the site, mining the stone and carving of so many columns, dragging them through the brush, and imagined all the people who died to build it.

All of that labor and pain for that, something that was supposed to be permanent. That was the idea, that they just had to level out the ground and pile up stones to prove that their existence mattered. It was odd how important all of this once had been, this civilization with its government, rights and citizenship. And now all of that was gone, the temple now a tourist attraction atop a barren, thorny place.

Scene Two: The ship carried on to Karachi and then Sri Lanka, Dee cataloguing everything all of the shrews, jerboas, sun bears and dholes. The deliveries were at night, trucks waiting, the tailgates toward the edge of the docks, militiamen always there, black SUVs, cranes towering above in a metallic sky.

It was a routine, sleeping much of the day, watching the shore. The Repaks were the hardest, at the end of each month-long segment. What should have been satisfying, an accomplishment, was wrong, the animals taken back to Greenland. The feeling wouldn’t leave her, nor in Aden or Marka, not anywhere on her seven months at sea.