It isn't Disney that's the problem with Star Wars; it's us, and not in the way you might think.
What's on deck for me for the end of this year and the beginning of the next.
'Fall Of The Hammer', draft 1 (actually, 2): finished.
"Is this something I can see myself sitting down to work on literally every day for the next year or more?" If not, why?
Stories aren't about happy or sad endings. They're about making sense of what happens.
What happens when you stop in the middle of a draft and rewind to the beginning, and why.
On pushing your envelope as a creator (and not getting all moralizing with yourself about it).
A few things I've learned.
On adapting Phil Dick's work to film and TV, and why this most unfilmable of authors has been filmed so much.
Another strange and remarkable dream, scavenged as best I could from its remembered fragments.
ON SF exhaustion, and the point of believing in tomorrow.
On Stanley Kubrick knowing just what he wanted.
Some say "good, better, best" is an absurdity and best done away with. I agree, sort of.
How the Open Library, digital resources, and my own reading habits have changed my bookbuying.
People who launch YouTube channels or present themselves a certain way on Twitter are said to be engaging in a kind of performance. Or someone who just keeps a blog, like yours truly.
For some reason the dental guard I wear at night now provokes unprecedented dreams.
And how to push my own envelope.
It's hard to just do things, because our ideas about them always get in the way.
On the use and abuse of thought experiments.
The more I try to parse it, the more this business of best-of, of ranking things, seems a consumerist attitude.
And should, even if they aren't great marketers.
Ken Russell's "The Devils": not quite bad enough to be funny. But still awful.
When tech works it's a wonderful thing. The rest of the time... (Self-written blog software edition.)
Some story ideas of mine that remain eternally in progress.
A mindset to be identified and resisted.
No NaNoWriMo for me this year, again, but only because I don't need it. But what do I mean by "need"?
On a childhood possession and the nature of grasping.
I always say to myself, "I'm just going to write something fun," and of course it always turns out to be far more than that.
I write fiction because I do not want to die feeling I have had no control over my life.
So much media, so little time. Again.
With all the things I'd like to write about, I have to put my fiction first, if only because there's no one else who can do it.
I'd rather have people sincerely interested in things, whatever cultural level they live at, than be wannabe tastemakers forever jonesing to expand their reach.
How our lives slip through our own fingers.
Creative paranoia: when you know, just know, your work is worthless in a way only others can see.
On defending that original burst of inspiration to the death.
What's the difference between an appreciation of something and making excuses for it?
What is the good, and bad, in saying "I do what I dang well want" in any creative medium? I know there's both.
A good critic of other work makes me look at my own and feel like I've missed even the standards I wanted to set for myself.
If someone is now interested in something that once only had faddish appeal, their interest has a far greater chance of being genuine.
Ubiquitous cultural things don't thrill me, because they're in no danger of vanishing.
"The most destructive frivolity of all comes only from the incurably serious."
There's no sense in delaying life because things aren't quite right yet. (A redux.)
"Don't worry about someone stealing your good ideas. Worry about someone stealing your bad ones!"
The most amazing thing about the next draft of 'The Fall Of The Hammer' is how much of it will end up not getting ditched, as I feared might happen.
Purging bookshelves, freeing up space, lightening the load.
Learn to cut stuff, lest your creative work becomes one giant act of paralysis.
There's more than one way to mark progress for a work in progress. Sometimes it's when you take one step back so you can take several more steps forward in a new direction.
For a creative person, I have some of the dullest dreams around. I don't get it either.
Ideas aren't what matter, anyway. Execution is. And beyond that, the habit of executing. But why do we get hung up about great ideas?
The most beautiful Mozart you'll hear, the one from your own fingers, is beautiful because you now know what it costs to have even a bad version of Mozart out there.
When does a story's logic hold fast, and when does it break?
A letter to a long-dead friend.
"Don’t think about your discipline, don’t think about your craft, just play at this."
If you don't work on yourself, it makes the job of others defining you against your will easier for them.
On Zen as the "do-nothing" philosophy (which it isn't).
The idea is called "continuous publishing", and it doesn't thrill me.
The joys and tribulations of the Open Library.
The very best advice I received was not a command but a seed for discussion.
My Dale Peck problem.
How I used to get caught up in thinking about the surfaces of the things I admired.
Why much of what we call "genius" is mostly cultivated stubbornness.
The problem of power, and why discarding power isn't a solution to it.
The peculiar genesis of my new novel means it's going to take at least one to two more passes than usual to kick it into shape.
What you do and don't owe a reader.
"...the wretched of the earth might not be wholly responsible for their wretchedness."
A dream from the other night, so vivid and specific in its details that it unnerved me.
"Greatness is lived, not had."
The power to visualize something well is not the same as the power to enact it well. In a world ruled by images, it's hard to remember that.
What do you do when there's just so much to do and so many things to know? Focus. But how?
The Fall Of The Hammer so far has the messiest and most fractured first draft of any book of mine I can remember.
Fifty years later, one of the greatest films ever made has scarcely aged a day in the ways that matter
In some ways I'm quite stodgy when it comes to the software tools I use for my creative projects.
There was once a time when I felt I was a better writer when I didn't really know what I was doing.
On not backing up in the middle of a first draft ... and then doing exactly that.
My creative sin: writing stories where all of creation hangs in the balance, YET AGAIN.
And how to do what scares you, at the same time.
Everyone who's ever put a word to paper has an excuse, or a justification if you want to be less nasty, for everything they do. Of course I'm guilty of this.
On why contrarianism is not dissent.
Make something that is your answer to all the things in the world you don't want.
If there's a thread in your story that begs to be pulled, pull it.
Whole lotta shakin' going on.
Excuse our dust.
"...what we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument."
People who say "I'm a jerk and proud of it" are sending a signal they should be avoided. The problem is we aren't always in a position to enact that advice.
"The familiar is beautiful until it becomes chic to prefer the different."
More on popular culture as a bad model for creator culture.
"All a writer’s real learning is done alone."
Blogging has resumed.
Some recent writing and creative news from these shores.
My current book bears no relation to its earlier incarnations save for its title.
On constraints as creative impetuses, and the fallacies that arise therein.
"Fish s**t or coffee, sir?"
You miss out on less than you think.
AO3's Hugo: a sign of progress.
"We choose virality instead of quality, and equate it to quality because of its resonance."
Toying with Pelican, Nikola, and other static site generators.
It's sheer human effort.
Professionalized hobbies make bad careers.
The temptation to go back and touch up one's on work is strong.
Are international literary prizes just for "foreign writers who make sense to us"?
What happens when we take a genre and remove everything from it that we'd label as being part of that genre?
The number of things we need to have an opinion about right this second is not as large as it might seem.
Back in NYC for a few days.
"... from where I sit, freedom isn't choice. Freedom is agency. Indeed, choice - by limiting agency - is often the opposite of freedom."
Awards are popularity contests, and the only thing that distinguishes the prestigious ones from the less so is the way the more prestigious ones are designed not to look like popularity contests.
On stopping in the middle of a first draft and starting over, sort of.
No more superhero/wizard academies based on British boarding schools, please!
Instead of attacking them head-on.
A photographer deleted his social media presence to save his creative instincts. A wise idea.
Zen as nonintellectual, rather than anti-intellectual. But also non-passive.
On the difference between foxes and hedgehogs.
Notes from early on in the first draft of the new novel, 'The Fall Of The Hammer'.
If remakes are trash, it's because the true potential of such a project is not the motive.
The name "Genji Press" doesn't really fit me anymore, and I'm not sure it ever did. Time for a new one?
How the Open Library is keeping me from drowning in books.
On recommending books as a way for authors to get perspective on a current or future work of their own.
Those who embrace creativity take control of their lives. It's a contagious thing.
More on Steven Pinker.
Very few people are qualified to give useful story advice because they think the main function of a story is to entertain them.
"The simple faith in progress is not a conviction belonging to strength, but one belonging to acquiescence and hence to weakness."
In re: "I can’t help feeling a bit depressed that so many of the cool new writers are dead."
I sometimes feel like books about writing should be prefaced with, "You won't find any 'literature' here."
Musings on the guy I almost was.
Sorry about the silence over the last couple of days. I've officially started writing the as-yet-untitled 2019 novel.
On gauging artistic quality by way of popularity, always a bad move.
A small printing issue has surfaced with the dead-tree edition of my new novel, 'Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.'
On Kenneth Rexroth, 'The Tale Of Genji', and the notion of miserable places that can produce beautiful things.
"If you understand Zen as a kind of practice to be a best horse you will have a problem."
People need a place to go that's just a place to gather.
On Netflix's Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and interactive fiction as a video platform of the future.
You don't want to run from your influences. You want to walk away from them.
"...while surely there will be a time to rest, it is not now."
On the fictions of the "true story" style of moviemaking.
One last bit before next year, about the significance of the choices I've made for the coming twelvemonth.
This page contains an archive of posts for the year 2019.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind