Every time I see an artist whose work makes me tell myself, "There's a story there," I know I'm on the right track.
On leaving behind a teacher who's outlived their usefulness.
On beloved books, grown distinguished with age and wear.
What I did on my extended winter vacation. For one, I moved house.
Especially when you want to write about your world, of which you've not seen very much yourself.
Fixing little problems makes it easier to fix bigger problems. But we keep thinking it's the other way around.
Commercial success for creative work is less about the work itself and more about its circumstances.
Our mistake with intelligence was to consider it as possession rather than a skillset.
How consistency, foolish or otherwise, can be the hobgoblin of small minds in SF&F.
Why I find the obsession with "prescience" in science fiction to be misguided.
"Just depict, don't also imagine" is a poor program for art.
On the lack of stories with moral authority and narrative force about life in the vacuum of reactionary postmodernity.
Too many times I've started a project only to shelve it because it was nothing but putting some attitude on display. And a bad attitude at that.
When is "Write the story you want to read" not good advice? When you're not much of a reader.
Discussion: "If you will conceive of a Buddha, you will be obstructed by that Buddha!"
"Your true nature is something never lost to you even in moments of delusion, nor is it gained at the moment of Enlightenment." A discussion.
On my disdain for instructional storytelling guides: at best, such things are meant to be outgrown.
Over the course of my life I've emigrated from one kind of imagination to another -- from just "making things up" to seeing what we have in front of us in a new way.
On examining what feels like the formula I've devised for most every book I write.
How I've unthinkingly made too many fun things into "research" or "creative work".
The difficult art of writing marketing copy for books.
Alan Moore's latest grumbling about comics is as reductive as you'd expect.
"Getting lost in your knowledge management system is a fantastic way to avoid creating things."
Of utopian and annihilatory urges.
Excuse my silence, I was avoiding a hurricane. (And now, some work updates.)
I don't particularly care if my SF is hard, soft, or mushy; I care whether or not I give a darn about who's in it and what happens.
With amorality in art, we tend to single out the wrong things to get upset about.
In dire times, some people (me included) feel uneasy about seeking escape from the moment they're in.
People see your results, not your efforts. By design.
Barely. (More on writing draft 2 of "Shunga-Satori")
No, I have absolutely no idea what's going on with Patreon either.
"The 'three-act structure' and the 'hero’s journey', are editing tools, not writing tools."
Paraphrasing Neil Gaiman: "Make cheap art."
"What makes dog biscuit packaging an unworthy object of a designer's attention as opposed to a museum catalog?"
Comparing and contrasting two critics, Roger Ebert and Serge Daney.
A wishlist of stuff I'd like to see reissued as 4K BDs.
A third of the way through the major rewrite of a new book, and some lessons learned.
AI-generated imagery and CGI in general, and how the uncanny valley has many manifestations.
On the presence of inarticulate, inexpressive prose -- "Engfish" -- in SF&F.
The overwhelming majority of Western fiction that tangles with Buddhism comes out looking flat-flooted and foolishly literal.
When Roger Ebert revealed that he was a recovering alcoholic I was shocked, but not surprised. The clues had been in his work all long.
Which is more of a challenge -- starting a project from a completely blank page, or restarting an existing one while surrounded by its mocking scraps?
Where am I obliged to like anything merely because it exists?
On the concept of accelerationism.
Gut wisdom and creativity, examined.
"Shunga-Satori", draft 1 -- more like draft zero. Time to take a hatchet to it.
Those who are most in the position to effect massive social changes through cultural engineering at scale are hidebound from doing so.
The lessons we learn from singular, idiosyncratic works are not necessarily positive ones.
On cheating in a work of fantasy or SF.
Something that disturbs us can be profound, but that does not mean disturbance is profundity, or a certain route to same.
Zen wonkery: on the idea that all things are enlightenment incarnate.
The only thing I want from my work is to use it as a way to make sense of myself and my world, and to do that in a way that other people can share.
What are people for in SF&F? To show us what's possible, and to show how that's possible right here, not just "out there somewhere."
There's no point in trying to emulate the A-list culture machines at your scale.
We don't want validation just to know that we're doing the right thing, but also to know we're not doing the wrong things.
One of the many things the proliferation of the smartphone seems to have killed is the Beloved Weatherbeaten Paperback.
It's a familiar story trope. A bunch of people come into a restaurant/room/hotel/office, reveal themselves in miniature, and get briefed on The Mission.
At some point I imagine someone came up with (or should come up with) a game theory of creative work.
Most fantasy stories never confront the idea that magic would have the social impact of the atomic bomb.
Welcome to draft 1.5 (so to speak) of "Shunga-Satori".
On how messy my note-taking can be on my projects.
Sometimes, just sometimes, you gotta let a professional deal with things. Case in point: flaky internet service.
No matter how much I try to avoid it, I see more similarities than differences in everything I write. But is that a problem?
"When everyone in the community reads the same books, you can an inward-looking, intellectually impoverished community that can only contemplate its own navel."
On the sociology of impostor syndrome.
Most projects don't end up anywhere near where they start out, and for good reasons.
We put things into genres to make them sellable, and the best way to do that is after the fact.
"All entertainment is art whether we like it or not" holds up better with every passing year, and for many reasons.
What do you do when you find yourself writing the kind of book you might take issue with if someone else wrote it?
"When you’ve got a million movies to pick from, picking a safe, familiar option seems more sensible than gambling on an original." Discuss.
People can get the anger of the current moment from anywhere. See what else you have to give.
On using Zen Buddhist notions of time in writing SF&F.
Some healthy tension is needed between keeping the wheel of production turning and leaning on myself for being a lazy slob.
What Zen taught me about writing SF&F, part 1.
With every story set in a strange new world, give yourself as many individual elements of wonderful strangeness to draw on.
We might as well have narratives that make sense of the universe in constructive and nurturing ways.
Or until, as I did, break a tooth.
On spontaneity as the wellspring of all creativity.
On deliberately not finding an equilibrium for one's creative work.
In some ways this new book of mine is a rewrite of an older book. In most ways, I hope it isn't.
Let's have an end to the trope that a character who is an artist or an avid reader automatically makes them a protagonist.
"What is it that I have to bring to the table?" is the hardest question any of us can answer, and I think many of us never do in fact answer it.
The story of a never-written project that made me realize why I don't want to rub the misery of our moment in people's faces and call that art.
Why would we find it easier to feel sympathy for a cartoon animal than another human being?
Our dreams will never love us back precisely because they are our dreams. Only you and I can love each other, and we cannot afford to let anything else usurp that responsibility.
The problems with multi-installment works are worse than we think.
On indies avoiding the mistakes of mainstream publishing, 2022 edition.
Maybe one should not have heroes, I once said, if only because they are mortal and have feet of clay and will inevitably disappoint you. But I know I have them.
How an entire story can pivot on a single sentence, and lead to a new world in the head.
On being a writer as an extension of being an artist who plays with images, rather than words.
When a Tweeter considers exiting.
On the meaning of "self-care" in a burning world.
Chantal Akerman's singular masterwork observes three days in the life of a Belgian widow with a precision and unblinking patience that becomes all-encompassing.
How to find something new there. (And how to make it.)
I still want to review stuff, it's just making stuff that's taken first priority.
Being able to sum up your own stories succinctly isn't an insult to their complexity. It means you understand what they are really about.
On the disconnect between the highest and most refined forms of spiritual guidance, and the day-to-day suffering people have.
Examining your inner creative voices: "Are you 'one' writer or 'many' writers?"
Mary Harron's adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's divisive novel amplifies its satirical power without making its protagonist into an antihero.
More Marvel discussion: On entertainments vs. objects of study vs. role models.
A few thoughts on "Shang-Chi" and the benefits of efficient story construction.
More notes on writing SF&F, as a Buddhist- and Zen-influenced author.
"Odds are you know 70% of what there is to know, but everyone knows a different 70%."
I always go back and forth about the value of "formal" education in creative endeavors -- e.g., creative writing classes or MFAs or film school or whatnot.
In my humble opinion, here's a great way to spend a few hundred hours.
"Solving the problem is more important than being right." A quick guide for writers.
The job of a storyteller should not be to make things complex, but to find common threads in complex things. Doubly so in SF&F.
The first seven days of writing "Shunga-Satori" convinced me I shouldn't use the word "weird" to talk about this book. Even if it's deserved.
As some of you noticed, I now have a newsletter. Its mission is simple: to bring you the best and newest of All Things Infinimata straight to your inbox, once a week on Monday mornings.
On attempting (and largely failing) to stitch together dreams into a narrative.
On Brandon Sanderson's big kick(start).
Distraction or recreation? On the meaning of fun.
I fight the idea that the only sensible response to a world that seems to be driving itself mad is to hide under one's desk with one's head in the wastebasket.
An actual SF movie, not just a tarted-up shoot-'em-up, both because of the breadth of its ideas and how they are lovingly personalized.
If there was an envelope I wanted most to push, it was envelope of "accessible and fun" as it edged up against "complex and challenging".
Whatever it is you make, make it so yours they can never take it away from you.
Whenever I've said to myself "I'd like to write a book like X", I always had to ask myself, why? And to what end?
More about Buddhism's most misunderstood concept, "emptiness".
The soundtrack for my new novel "Unmortal".
A discussion of the themes in my new novel "Unnmortal", and how they are embodied there.
The title tells it. Let's dive into this idea and see what comes up.
A discussion of the supporting cast in my new novel "Unmortal", and the roles they play.
That last long stretch of finishing up a book is often taken up with nattering about the kinds of details only you and one other jerk can see.
Some design- and art-related thoughts on assembling a new Bootstrap 5-powered theme for this site.
My new novel, "Unmortal", eighth in the Infinimata Press lineup, is now available in both paperback and ebook editions!
An introduction to the roster of characters for my new novel "Unmortal", starting with the main characters.
Closest in spirit to the bleak noirs of the 1970s, where the "good" guys are only slightly less terrible than the competition, and where everyone is staring down from the edge of the same abyss.
Julia Ducournau's Titane has at its heart a great tenderness, something you don't expect from a story about a sociopath who kills with a hairpin, then apparently has sex with a car and becomes pregnant with its child.
"It is not possible for reviewers and critics to provide what they purport to provide — and for which writers so ridiculously and childishly yearn." (Doris Lessing)
Stories driven by arbitrary conceits tend to lose the reader's engagement, because in a story where anything's possible, nothing matters very much.
Goodbye, "Unmortal"; hello, "Shunga-Satori" - or whatever I do work on next!
My advice for how to give truly constructive feedback on someone else's work.
The idea that you have to guard your story ideas, lest someone steal them, is a pernicious myth.
How everything from 'The Battle Of Algiers' to 'Soul Eater' fed into the making of my new novel.
On the problem of avant-gardism having no criterion for failure.
"Asking 'what is the story worth telling?' is a question we can’t avoid."
Or at least, free your Guy, and the rest will follow. (On "Free Guy" and some thoughts related.)
A nightmare of how the power of modern envy makes it the deadliest of human emotions.
An earlier dream returned in a new incarnation.
"You can do whatever you want" seems better expressed as "You can attempt anything you want to attempt."
How do you get out of the spiral of copying your influences to producing truly original work?
Some creative news for the new year at Chez Infinimata.
A rundown of some of the other stories and films that influenced "Unmortal"'s growth and direction.