A wishlist of stuff I'd like to see reissued as 4K BDs.
When the 4K UHD format debuted, I held my breath and suspected it would become the new HD-DVD: a marginal format with no support. Now, to my surprise, quite a few boutique video distributors have plunged into the format, and titles I thought too marginal to issue (Daughters of Darkness, for instance, or even RAN) now have lovely 4K remasters. I suspect physical media of any sort drives the kinds of collecting that gravitates towards lesser-known titles anyway.
In that spirit, here's a wish list of titles I'd like to see get the 4K treatment, from least to most likely.
A third of the way through the major rewrite of a new book, and some lessons learned.
I'm now roughly one-third of the way through the draft 2 rewrite of Shunga-Satori, although the fact that I accomplished that in about a week doesn't mean the whole rewrite will take three weeks. Some parts of it will get rewritten very quickly (cut and paste with some edits), and some parts of it will be blank-page rewrites, where it might take days to complete a single scene. It'll take as long as it takes.
AI-generated imagery and CGI in general, and how the uncanny valley has many manifestations.
As part of my ongoing efforts to expand my visual arsenal for my cover art designs, I spent some time fiddling with AI art generation tools like Midjourney. I've used digitally generated imagery for my covers before — Flight Of The Vajra is a key example — but always with the sense that I was trying to create something deliberately untethered from reality. I didn't want to just reproduce things that already existed in some Uncanny Valley way. My experiences with these tools convinced me that human artists are not going out of business anytime soon, if ever.
On the presence of inarticulate, inexpressive prose -- "Engfish" -- in SF&F.
Writing professor Ken Macrorie once coined the wonderful term "Engfish" to refer to the dead, artificial prose that writing students cobble together to make their teachers shut up and go away:
College students were once third-graders and occasionally wrote [with childlike disinhibition]. Where did they lose that skill? Why? They spent too many hours in school mastering Engfish and reading cues from teacher and textbook that suggested it is the official language of the school. In it the student cannot express truths that count for him. He learns a language that prevents him from working toward truths, and then he tells lies.
I suspect many of the same things happen in other circles, too. Novice fantasy and SF authors, because they have no voice yet, try instead to pre-emptively please their audience by feeding it some version of what they believe it wants. Or, worse, some version of what they think an "author" gives. They end up sounding like Garth Marenghi. The bigger problem is how many established authors also write like this.
The overwhelming majority of Western fiction that tangles with Buddhism comes out looking flat-flooted and foolishly literal.
Over the weekend I read a book I'd been meaning to get to for a long time now, Severo Sarduy's Cobra/Maitreya — two short novels in one volume. I'd heard about Sarduy years ago, back when I was still an avid William Burroughs fan, but never got around to reading anything by him. Now that I've read those two books, I have once again another example for why so much of avant-gardism just frustrates me — especially when it tries to make use of spiritual traditions like Buddhism.
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.
At one point late in his career as a film critic, and his life, Roger Ebert revealed that he was a recovering alcoholic and had been for decades. What I remember most about reading that revelation was not my surprise, because I wasn't surprised. Shocked, yes, but ... somehow, not surprised. Some part of me had — how to put it? — grown ready to accept such a possibility. The clues were always there in plain sight.
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?
After only a few days' work, I've accumulated nearly 20,000 words on the second, drastically different draft of Shunga-Satori. Much of that is repurposed text from the first draft, copied sentence by sentence and altered here and there to fit the new plan. Some of it had to be written wholly new. Writing the new stuff will probably take at least twice as long as repurposing the old stuff, so I'm guessing it'll be at least another two months before we have a draft that's complete from this one. Such is the work.
I've long said something to the effect of, don't get into this stuff unless you actually relish the idea of sitting down every single day to write. The doing of it beats everything else. Certainly the talking and thinking about it. One never experiences that as thoroughly as one does when forced to rework a project this drastically. 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?
Not long ago I got into one of those tedious arguments with someone who was perplexed as to why I wasn't all that into anything popular. No, I wasn't a big fan of Marvel or DC. No, I didn't care for Star Wars anymore (my eight-year-old self wants to have a word with you, though). No Harry Potter; no this, no that. I had other things to like apart from all that.
He opined that it wasn't healthy to have such a general distaste for the things that occupied such a large part of our culture. If I didn't learn to like them in at least some way, I was going to end up too alienated for my own good. To that, I came out with this line, I admit mostly to shut him up: "Why should I settle? Where am I obliged to like anything merely because it exists?"
On the concept of accelerationism.
I heard a good one the other day: "You can't give people the solution to a problem they don't have yet." Meaning if people for the most part don't see their lot as being in a bad way, they won't be likely to do much about it save for the most routine maintenance.
This is the mindset behind the idea that things need to be pushed to a crisis point to make their inherent badness into something that's everyone's problem, not just the problems of an invisible few. "Accelerationism" is the term widely used for this sort of thing. I never liked this idea, in big part because it makes a few false assumptions.
Gut wisdom and creativity, examined.
James Brown fans will see a reference, of course. Even if the reference wasn't that word-for-word: it was something that came up the other night in discussion of a new, as-yet-untitled project with my friend Steve. "I'm feeling something there," he said. For someone as systematic, rigorous, and logical as he is, to say he feels something there is high praise. It means whatever it is, it cut through his defenses and hit an emotional note.
In the other post I mentioned the Buddhist concept of prajna, which like a lot of the rest of Buddhism can fall victim to some really bad translations. The best I've been able to make of prajna is that it's a kind of intuitive wisdom or sussing of things (the grognards in the audience will probably say "dig" or "grok"), but not just a plain old gut reaction. It's a kind of intuition you develop about things that only arises after a lot of quieting down of one's inner voices, so that the thing-in-itself can reach you all the more unobstructedly. It's insight with as little ego as possible dirtying it up.
"Shunga-Satori", draft 1 -- more like draft zero. Time to take a hatchet to it.
Well, I meant to say this week that I'd finished the first draft of Shunga-Satori, but it didn't quite work out that way. That is, I finished it, but I suspect the vast majority of what I've written isn't usable. It's been a long time since I had a failure of this magnitude, but it's happened before, and I have long been prepared for the idea that it might happen again. And here we are.
Those who are most in the position to effect massive social changes through cultural engineering at scale are hidebound from doing so.
One of the great tragedies of our time is how those who are most in the position to effect massive and effective social changes through cultural engineering at scale are hidebound from doing so. The very things that make scale possible limit the broad changes that can be made with it. Yes, Marvel, yes, Disney, I'm looking at you.
The lessons we learn from singular, idiosyncratic works are not necessarily positive ones.
The last couple of weeks left me pooped, so here goes with me trying to turn the blogging wheel once again.
A fellow I know on Goodreads recently finished reading Proust's In Search Of Lost Time, and mostly had negative things to say about it. Many of his objections, I agree with: the book is mainly about a character with little to like, whose chief qualities are his narcissism and solipsism, and who is depicted by an author who disdains dramatic development to the point of self-parody. But I also got the feeling (as I've read a fair amount of the cycle myself now) that none of this was an affectation, that Proust wrote the book this way because he felt he had no choice — that he was putting himself on the page, for better or worse. What's new to me, though, is the sense that any lessons we learn from such singular, idiosyncratic works are not necessarily positive ones.