More on how most writers are not good givers of writerly feedback. Few people are.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/30 08:00
A follow-up from the day before. The other thing Matt talked about is how hard it is to find anything like good feedback. I agree, because good feedback requires some empathy for both the author and the audience at the same time. All the good feedback I've received was along the lines of, if this is what you're trying to do, here's what else needs to be done. Not don't do this. Nobody ever got anywhere telling a writer what not to do. Tell them instead, do that if you must, but here's what it will cost. Know the price.
So why so much bad feedback? My take is, most of us — even most of us writers — don't realize that most writers are not good analysts of other work, and that being able to give good advice is a skill honed as distinct from writing as editing itself is.
On how my friend and fellow writer Matt is against the idea of the "hook" as a narrative mechanism.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/29 17:00
My friend and fellow writer Matt is against the idea of the "hook" as a narrative mechanism:
At some point in my life, I realized I didn't want to "go back" to anything, because there was no such thing as "going back".By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/27 17:00
A friend of mine told me about how one of his bosses (he's a freelancer) runs an online toy store out of his house. Most of the stock is leftovers from when he ran a physical store. Business over the last month has exploded, and the vast majority of the sales is toys from the '90s. As my friend put it, "It seems like people are buying their nostalgia when they're stuck home and lonely."
That prompted some thought about what I'm nostalgic for, at least as far as pop culture goes, and the short answer is, not much of anything, if anything at all. It took some further digging to figure out why.
A note to myself: Be careful how you describe your story to others, because any one word can produce an image that doesn't match the reality.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/27 08:00
A note to myself: Be careful how you describe your story to others, especially when they know nothing about it, because any one choice of words can give them an image that doesn't match the reality.
On the idea of writing a novel that encompasses the whole of life (and other delusions).By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/26 08:00
Another of the persistent delusions of my youth — in the sense that I can trace a lot of present-day behavior to it even though the delusion has been thoroughly, um, de-luded — was the idea I had of writing one of those novels that reflected the whole of human existence in its pages. When I found out this was neither a new idea, nor a particularly good one, and learned how it stemmed mainly from taking an aberrance (Joyce's Ulysses) as a model to emulate, I let the idea evaporate on its own. But damn if it isn't a tempting prospect.
On losing touch with friends, and the difficulty of making new ones.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/24 17:00
What with all the time we're spending behind closed doors and windows, I've been thinking about (counts on fingers) five friends I've lost touch with over the years. Two were childhood friends, three adult friends. Of the childhood friends, one of them doesn't seem to have any kind of internet presence at all (rare these days), and the other never responded to attempts on my part to contact him. The other three, I'm almost ashamed to reach out to now, because of how poorly I treated each of them at one point or another. You reading this (all six of you) have the luxury of knowing me after I sobered up about a lot of dumb things.
I think I regret losing touch with all these people far more keenly now, because of how difficult it is in our society to form lasting friendships with people in adulthood. It helps to have a common shared interest of some kind, but more than that it helps to have a common outlook on things, a common feeling that you're in some similar boat together. Modern life builds in all these adversarial attitudes towards letting other people get close to each other, especially people who already have habits of life that are hard to upend.
I know I shouldn't wring my hands over what has been lost; we only ever live in the present moment, and the present moment, good or bad, is far better than any number of fantasies. (That doesn't mean our fantasies can't inspire use to try and make them real, only that we can't afford to be deluded about where we actually are now.) But I still wonder what things might have been like if I had learned earlier to reach out in the right way.
Fantasy casting for a film that never was.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/19 08:00
I want to get Fall Of The Hammer finished and put to bed so I can get on with the next big thing.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/17 08:00
If there's two words that sum up everyone around me now, me included, it's boredom and impatience. We're sick of holing up and waiting, and we want to Go Out And Do Stuff. (One of the books I never wrote but keep circling, with the tentative and ironic title Action Packed Adventure, is a story about a cadre of young people who make a vow to do exactly that every weekend, get out and do stuff, and how the bonds formed between them while not doing anything much at all help them navigate a situation that is bigger than they imagined they could deal with.)
I'm dealing with all that on top of another form of impatience: I want to get Fall Of The Hammer finished and put to bed so I can give it to all of you — yes, all six of you reading this — and get on with the next big thing. Of which I have, at last count, three or four to choose from. Let me count the ways.
"The universe doesn't care about our feelings" isn't an excuse to be mean. No condition of life is an excuse.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/11 17:00
Someone else I once knew said something to the effect that the realization that the universe is indifferent to us is the beginning of wisdom. How we feel about things isn't going to change their presence or absence, although it might change their significance. But nobody petitions the universe with tears (or laughter, for that matter). It's the beginning of wisdom, but far from the whole of it.
We change all the time, and with every change comes a new kind of definitive.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/11 08:00
The other day I blundered across the livestream of a creator I know by way of a friend, someone I follow at a distance. This person was talking with great enthusiasm about a new project, a graphic novel the person described as "my big definitive statement." I'm as curious as anyone else to see what comes of that, but I was a little worried about the framing and wording used. When someone says they have a definitive artistic statement to make, I always want to add, definitive for what you are now. Give it a few years, you'll have a whole new definitive.
I'm not on anyone's schedule but my own, although it's sometimes hard to remember that.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/09 08:00
Radio silence the last couple of days wasn't due to anything sinister. Just me with my head down, working on both my day job and on what I hope are the last round of edits for The Fall Of The Hammer. I'm a little less than one-third of the way through that process, and I have to remind myself not to rush through. If I find I'm at the point in the evening when I want to start rushing through a sentence, I quit for the night.
Better to do this slowly but right, than hurry and screw it up. I'm not on anyone's schedule but my own, although it's sometimes hard to remember that.
Why I wasn't going to do post-apoc, or apoc-in-general, stories -- yes, even long before COVID-19 came along.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/04 17:00
Charles Stross recently wrote a blog post where he noted that he's probably not going to write a novel about a zombie-apoc pandemic, because COVID-19 reified a lot of what he wanted to put into the story:
... because we are all getting a real world crash-course in how we deal with people suffering from a viral pandemic, and we do not generally deal with them using shotguns and baseball bats even if they're so contagious that contact might kill us.
Because—fuck my life—writing plausible near-future SF in the 21st century wasn't hard enough already.
Few things age faster than SF in the postmodern moment. But that got me thinking about all the stories I am either probably not going to write, or never felt inclined to write.
I've long been wary of using fiction as a system of polemic, not because I don't care about the world we live in but because such things typically make for bad fictionBy Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/03 17:00
I've long been wary of using fiction as a system of polemic, not because I don't care about the world we live in but because such things typically make for bad fiction.
When Trump took office I saw someone bash out a novel that posited a Great Wall Of America along the Mexican border, with drones and machine-gun nests and all the rest. The problem with cautionary tales like that is they never get read by the people who need to have their world-views subverted in the first place.
It's laudable that people want to make good art out of the worst things in their lives, but it's not just a matter of taking the thing in question and making it a story element. Just because a story contains something doesn't mean it's about it. Good art about our moment in time is going to be rare, just as good art about any moment in time is rare.
More on how SF's main purpose isn't to predict the coming of specific things, but to understand how we might respond to them, whatever they are.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/01 17:00
Last couple of months I've touched on the idea that SF's main purpose isn't to predict the coming of specific things, but to understand how we might respond to them whatever they are.
One of the books I read over the last month or so that reinforced my feelings on this issue was Karl Popper's The Poverty Of Historicism, a prelude of sorts to The Open Society And Its Enemies. Historicism was a compressed version of the same argument: making prophetic claims about the course of human history, especially by way of claims to inevitability or destiny, is bad science and bad history. We don't know exactly what's going to happen, and even if we did, we don't know what kind of people we'll be when we run up against it.
Apropos of nothing. A rundown of some favorite movies of mine that have yet to enjoy a physical HD reissue.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/04/01 08:00
Apropos of nothing. A rundown of some favorite movies of mine that have yet to enjoy a physical HD reissue.
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind