Every single time I start a new story, I'm starting from scratch in more ways than one.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/30 17:00
Moss Hart once said something like, "You never really learn how to write a play; you only learn how to write this play." Jacques Barzun once disputed the idea that in art there are problems to be solved, since that implies a singular solution for the same problem everywhere; rather, he asserted, there are difficulties that must be overcome, and not just once but constantly. Much of what Barzun has said about art I've come to disagree with —The Use And Abuse Of Art is a frustrating mix of one truly good insight to about four or five old-man-yells-at-cloud-isms — but this point I rather like.
Every single time I start a new story, I'm starting from scratch in more ways than one. I've never written a sequel to anything, and that's pretty consciously the case. Every time I continue an old story, in some way, I'm missing out on all the other things I could be exploring new. So I throw it all out, because each story demands that I approach it with as blank a slate as I can manage.
But I can't really throw it all out. There's the accumulated experience of all the previous books: what to do, what not to do, why to do or not do any of it.
Goodbye to a man with a little more vision than most, and whole lot of heart.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/27 13:00
The New York Times has an obituary for a man who became an unexpected and ultimately profound influence on me.
I never limited my creative heroes to other writers. In fact, I probably have more who aren't writers than who are. Glaser had always been at the back of my mind for a long time as someone whose work ethic (and work aesthetic) were worth looking up to, but on March 23, 2002, he gave a speech to the AIGA, "This Is What I Have Learned" [note: PDF], from which I found myself quoting and referencing constantly in this blog. (His anecdote about Las Vegas is a favorite of mine and remains timeless.)
When I think of Glaser, I think less of his "I❤NY" icon, or his Bob Dylan poster, than I do of this speech and all the good wisdom it has to impart. There's nothing here that doesn't apply to writing in some form, I think. Or to life, period:
One must start with the presumption that telling the truth is important for human survival, but at this moment of relativism and virtuality, I'm not sure how many would agree on what truth is or how important it is in our private and professional lives. But we must begin somewhere.
On the ways self-publishing gets dinged as illegitimate, and how to rebut them.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/26 21:00
A big way in which traditional publishers create the perception that they are necessary is the myth that they are raising up the downtrodden and giving a voice to people who would otherwise would not have the monetary means to put their work into the world. There was probably a large element of truth to this in 1980. In 2020, there are two big problems with this statement.
Matt's two problems are this: 1) today, self-publishing is effectively free, and 2) the need for commercial publishers to satisfy their bottom line and their thin profit margins is always going to outstrip their desire to cultivate creative voices. Both I agree with, but there's another argument thrown around to denigrate self-publishing that I also want to single out.
Some progress notes in re the latest novel, Fall Of The Hammer.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/24 17:00
Some progress notes in re the latest novel, Fall Of The Hammer:
It's hard to do your own thing, and for good reasons.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/23 17:00
The topic is design:
Client projects are simpler.
They give us constraints – budgets, deadlines, predetermined styles. Every deliverable is a little bump of approval – client likes it, keep going, great job. We savor the feeling of making progress toward a finite deadline.
Personal projects don’t have easy constraints. We can walk in circles, spending months noodling and researching and testing and putzing without finishing anything. There is no one at the finish line to tell us what a pleasure it was to work with us. There might not be a finish line at all.
Without doing our own investigations and drawing our own maps, we remain foggy to ourselves. We don’t have original conclusions of our own and so are always unsure of what we want from our work.
To my mind, this mirrors perfectly the dilemma all other creators face, too.
For fun I ran down a list of popular culture things that nobody really had expectations for, but which sort of escaped their box and went on to become major cultural landmarks.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/22 08:00
This got interesting. In my last post I talked about popular culture things that nobody really had expectations for, but which sort of escaped their box and went on to become major cultural landmarks. For fun I ran down a list of some stuff in that vein:
Tags: popular culture
What is it I really want from popular culture? Typically something rare.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/18 17:00
The other day I ended up spelling out for someone else my whole take on why I enjoy mainstream pop-culture stuff while at the same time being almost completely indifferent to it. I learned a few things about my own insights along the way.
What does it mean to say that I want to tell a given story about a given person or a given thing? Why me and not someone else? What do I bring to the table?By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/17 13:00
Matt has a great post over at his blog about how the narratives we construct can get in the way of actually seeing reality (a common thing in Zen practice, actually). In it is this line: "If you cannot dig into the stories you carry around with you, you run the risk of believing lies."
According to the fossil record, I quit using Facebook about four years ago, give or take a month. I'm still off. I regret nothing.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/14 17:00
According to the fossil record, I quit using Facebook about four years ago, give or take a month. I'm still off. I regret nothing.
And how we might be able to write about it.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/13 17:00
From the afterword to The Late Mattia Pascal, which you really should read:
Life's absurdities don't have to seem believable, because they are real. As opposed to art's absurdities which, to seem real, have to be believable. Then, when they are believable, they are no longer absurd. An event in life may be absurd; a work of art, if it is a work of art, cannot be. It therefore follows that to criticize, in the name of life, a work of art for being absurd and unbelievable is sheer stupidity. In the name of art, yes. But not in the name of life.
— Luigi Pirandello
Given how absurd things have become, maybe the term "literature of the absurd" is now best seen as a mistaken one. So much about our moment in time makes little sense until you look closely, and realize how the seeds of all that is happening were simply waiting for the right soil to land in.
On new work in progress.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/12 17:00
When one door closes, the saying goes, another elephant-sized hole gets blown clean out of the wall next to it. Or something.
This week I turned copies of The Fall Of The Hammer over to my readers, took a deep breath, and opened a new, blank wiki. Because over the course of the last few weeks, as I was yanking commas and restoring clauses in Hammer, a new idea hath cometh forth-eth.
I never want to make the argument that we should refrain from making things easier as some kind of hedge against mediocrity.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/11 20:00
One of my ongoing theories about writing technology is that like all facilitators of mass production, it has made it easy to produce mediocrity at scale. That part should be obvious: there's more books than ever, and the ratio of good-to-great ones to serviceable-to-forgettable-to-worthless once is no higher, and probably somewhat lower, than it used to be.
I've mumbled about this before, but here goes again: My own additional perspective is that writing technology — everything from the mechanical typewriter on — has also made it easier to write longer books that are no better for being all the longer, a bad idea in a time when length is too readily conflated with quality.
My turn to throw out props for a black creator, one who doesn't get much press in any circle: filmmaker and author Ousmane Sembene.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/11 19:00
My turn to throw out props for a black creator, one who doesn't get much press in any circle: filmmaker and author Ousmane Sembene. I helped back a documentary about his life and work (paid link). Unfortunately most of his written work is not too easy to find in English; only Xala (paid link) is readily available as an ebook, although the others (in particular God's Bits Of Wood, his masterwork) can be found used. But his films are a little easier to come by: Black Girl is on the Criterion Channel, for instance. Search and be rewarded.
Things SF&F need to do, in no particular order.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/08 17:00
Over at Matt Buscemi's blog, that good man has done a double duty. One, he gave my work a thumbs-up — always a nice feeling — and two, nodded in the direction of another self-published author that deserves more attention, a fellow named Aaron Ramos.
Actually, I lied: three things. Matt noted several criteria that for him constituted good spec-fic, originally devised to screen self-published work but which function nicely as a general aesthetic.
Depth of connection with an audience, even an audience of six, always wins out over sheer numbers.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/08 13:00
How many readers can I find, to whom I can give a new perspective, or a novel thought, or a liberating idea, or a compelling character, and who will be willing to engage with me on that topic? It doesn’t matter if that number of people is a dozen, or five, or two, or even just one, because even if it is only one person, then I still win. It will mean my books have existed, were available to all, and that they influenced someone else in a meaningful way.
To these words — a spirited defense of self-publishing which I'm in line with — I have only my personal experience to add:
I have a close friend, someone I am currently separated from by distance and circumstance, who is in the habit of reading Summerworld regularly. Like vitamins. It means something to him, even if only in the sense of "my friend did this", that other things don't.
Another person I know, more on the level of an acquaintance than a friend, read Flight Of The Vajra when it came out and again, it clicked with her. To such a degree that when she had to endure a really horrible divorce and some drastic changes of circumstance, the book was one of the few things in her life she could come to for something like strength and optimism. The book gave her hope, when so many other things in her life did not.
Even if I never write another line in my life, let alone another book, I have these things to my name, and I always will.
This is why I say in this blog, "my friends, all six of you". Size doesn't matter. Size takes care of itself. Numbers are cheap. Depth of connection will always win out.
The panels for Renaissance VirtualCon went very nicely. I'll be posting video playback links for them as soon as I have them on hand, in case you couldn't make it.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/07 08:00
The panels for Renaissance VirtualCon went very nicely. I'll be posting video playback links for them as soon as I have them on hand, in case you couldn't make it.
I'll be sticking my neck out for other virtual events in the future, since it seems we'll have plenty of these to go around.
I'm going to be appearing as a panelist on two panels at the Renaissance Press Virtual Conference. Register now, slots are going fast!By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/03 13:00
I'm going to be appearing as a panelist on two panels at the Renaissance Press Virtual Conference. Register now, slots are going fast!
FRIDAY, JUNE 5
It’s been said that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine. Are authors being more productive now that we have to stay in our homes? Find out what these panelists are doing.
SATURDAY June 6th
Is all writing advice created equal, and applicable to all equally? Our panelists discuss why sometimes writing advice isn’t universal.
A new notebook computer enters my hands, and once again I'm boggled by progress.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/02 08:00
Time for a post that's not about the world melting into a puddle of magma. I imagine you could use something like that now.
Thanks to the generosity of my family, I'm now typing this on a replacement for my personal laptop, a grotty old thing that was upwards of six years old and suffering from a damaged power connector. The new one only costs about as much as three two-person meals at a high-end restaurant, runs at least as fast if not faster (in big part thanks to a snappy M.2 storage system, as opposed to the 5400 RPM hard disk of the old model), is so power-efficient it doesn't even need a fan, and uses a standard USB C connector to charge. It doesn't have a touch screen, but I can live without that, and it has the backlit keyboard and HDMI connector the previous model also sported. It is, in short, just about right.
I can't help but be boggled by progress. I'm also reminded of how much, or how little, of this power I need to actually do my work.
Over thirty years later, a record as jarringly fresh now -- maybe more so now -- than it was when it first undermined everyone's expectations.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/02 08:00
The first time I heard about Talk Talk, it was by way of a friend, in what amounted to an insult. "They have a singer, Mark Hollis, whose voice is so nasal he sounds like he's singing through his forehead. You can't make out a word. So they have the lyrics on the album sleeve, in his handwriting. You can't read his handwriting either." He laughed, but I didn't: what all that told me was the words weren't what really mattered, and those things were Hollis's way of telegraphing all that. I have always been more charitable to a fellow artist than I have any right to be. I can't say I have ever regretted it. I certainly don't regret it when it comes to Talk Talk or The Spirit Of Eden, even if I didn't actually hear the album until almost thirty years after that discussion.
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief." Easier said than done.By Serdar Yegulalp on 2020/06/01 17:00
I am neither Jewish nor religious generally (inclinations to Zen and Buddhism aside), but this line from the Talmud, courtesy of a friend, hit home: "You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it." Likewise: "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief." Easier said than done.
Science fiction, rebooted.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind