Situating Myself

I wish I had more writing news, but it’s been hard to write lately for a variety of reasons, which means that it’s hard to have anything to say about how the writing is going. Instead, I’ve been doing a variety of other things, which include thinking about something of the nature of my relationship with writing, and with the communities that orbit around the sort of writing that I do.

Some of it comes down to upbringing – I was, after all, raised in part by the sort of parent who would read Tolkien to me, and whose shelves of various fiction were there for the raiding. (Sometimes illicit raiding on my part. I was, unfortunately, rather hard on books, and would occasionally have nicking them to read forbidden to me.) I was steeped rather thoroughly in a variety of forms of fantastic fiction when I was young – and I did not entirely comprehend the common markings of genre. Everything was strange people in unfamiliar surroundings to me, whether it was hobbits or the importance of having a chicken on the Mushroom Planet or Dr. Doolittle talking to animals or defecting Russian submarines or… well, I spent a long time wondering as a kid if the Black Spot was some sort of fatal curse of a magical nature, because the idea of the fantastic in my more or less otherwise realistically framed story was not implausible.

The world is a complicated sort of place, after all.

That same person who taught me the love of books would also be the one who introduced me to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – no, not the books, the radio series; who would pop a batch of popcorn and sit on the floor with that and some Dr. Pepper so we could chant “Cheap special effects!” at episodes of Doctor Who together; who talked about playing a version Space War with one of the members of the Grateful Dead. That he also knew people who could speak Sindarin was part and parcel of all these other things.

I’m of the console game generation, though my relationship with them is… complex. But my one actual encounter with a G*Gate sympathiser (he was not blatant about it, but the thrust was pretty obvious) ended in him slinking away in silence when he realised that I, an assigned-female type person, had been playing vidyagames since, I am guessing, before he was born. At the very least he didn’t have anything to contribute once I took the conversation sideways to talk about my old Atari system. (I was waxing something about Joust, and I’m guessing it put me a pixel above him and he turned into an egg.) All that rhetoric about how maybe women just weren’t involved in that sort of gamer thing sort of started looking silly.

I read. I wrote. I did all these things. But I also learned character arcs from Star Trek: the Next Generation, started thinking about the way language, culture, and species interacted from listening to Marc Okrand talk about Klingons, and did a whole lot of rummaging through the nature of story and how they go together from Infocom games and Myst. It’s all threaded through each other, and it connects up to other things.

I’m thinking, in the end, I’ll be doing some writing here about some of that. Not least because I just spent a while modding the heck out of RimWorld and am now pondering the shape of story in there.

Still need to work on Amber Eyes, which will probably wind up being a visual novel, unless I change my mind again.

I don’t know if this will make it into the book

When I write out of sequence things don’t always come out right and a lot of it is wasted work, but this bit was in my head so hard I had to write it down. And it’s wee, so I might as well post it as a maybe-teaser or something.

“You can get away with one thing outside of the expected,” said Constance, and then amended, with a slightly narrowed-eyed look at Margaret’s face, “maybe two, if you are lucky, and very, very skilled.” When it seemed there would be no immediate response, she gestured with the hand that was not holding the teacup. “Take a woman as a lover. Become a scientist. Marry a poor man you love rather than a rich man with prospects.” She grinned. “Become a beaconmaster in your own right, your own name. But you must pick one.”

Margaret frowned slightly. “But why?”

“Because one thing makes you eccentric, makes you curious, makes you interesting. It will make people gossip about you at parties, it will make people seek you out for your particular expertise and insight about some things.”

“But why only one?”

“Because with two, you will become scandalous; three, unsavoury; four, perverted. The further away from the expected you go, the more perilous it is. Consider [name].”

Margaret stared into her tea for a long moment. “All right,” she said.

Constance raised her eyebrows. “He liked to… push at social expectation in his art. Satire, cutting wit, the pursuit of pleasures as an aesthete. Sometimes to the extent that it pushed the scandalous, rather than the merely interesting. His feminine manner went the rest of the way to scandal for most, and into unsavoury for some. His choice in lovers….”

“Unsavoury,” said Margaret, quietly, “and some would say perverted.”

“Precisely,” said Constance.

Margaret swallowed and changed the subject. “What do you get away with, then, if you can only choose one or two things?”

Constance waited for her to meet her gaze, and said, “Being black.”

Death of All Things TOC released!

The table of contents for Death of All Things has been released and it looks like I’m capping off the book.

It’s slowly turning real….

I look forward to a future where a websearch on “Delayed Exchange Deferred” produces references to my story in addition to the Ruy Lopez opening (from which the title is drawn) and, apparently, bits of real estate law.

The book can be preordered here.

On Captain America and the Spirit of Story

My experience of being a writer is basically like living in a portal fantasy. The Wood Between The Worlds resides somewhere in my cerebellum, and I wander it and occasionally peer into pools. I don’t know how to jump in them, though there are times in my life I have desperately wished I might, but I can watch, get to know some of the people on the other side, and I can take that and bring it back out onto the page. I can get it wrong, for sure, but the feel of the experience is ‘through a glass darkly’, not ‘I made up the wrong thing and now I’ve gotten stuck in a dead-end alley’.

I know not everyone writes like this, of course, but it predisposes me to a certain form of approach as a reader: if this is true, or can be seen to be true, what does it mean? (This is, arguably, a good chunk of why I appreciated Alternity – a seven year transformative performance art group fanfic in a Harry Potter dark AU – as much as I did, because dear gods there is so much fridge horror in the Potterverse.)

An interesting thing about stories that have roots in the real world, of course, is that one can dig into what that implies about those stories, and the people in there. (I’m doing a lot of this with Cracked Pots, which is a steampunk fantasy, and digging into actual things going on in Victorian London for my not-London that I still need to figure out how to name. See also: have not named Oscar Wilde expy.)

Which brings me rather inevitably around to Captain America.

(This is huge so I’m trying to figure out how to put in a cut. Forgive me if I fail.)
Continue reading On Captain America and the Spirit of Story

Be Vewwy Vewwy Quiet, I’m Hunting Plotbunnies

A friend pointed me at this tweet, which was an outgrowth of a conversation I was seeing happening in my own feed. So I’ve put in as one of those people who’s interested in the further project, and am working on chasing down an appropriate plot bunny, because Space Marine Midwives is not actually sufficient to story all on its own.

Today’s current cat-vacuuming, therefore, has involved doing a lot of research into institutional culture of the Marines.

The fact that it’s space marine midwives is crashing hilariously into the fact that I have a window open with a boatload of tabs on Victorian pregnancy and childbirth traditions and procedures on the one hand and Ayurvedic obstetric treatments on the other, for working through some events for Cracked Pots.

Writing. It’s occasionally a barrel of very strange juxtapositions.

On Outlines, Or The Lack Thereof

I’ve always had a rather complicated relationship with the whole planning process of writing. (And some of my current projects really will require me to do some more of it, which may well be good for me.) My process has always been something like, “Well, here are some people in a situation. I wonder what happens next? I suppose I’ll have to write it to find out.”

The current thing – Cracked Pots – started with this:

The Fog was thicker than usual, and Margaret frowned at it and pulled her cape a little tighter around her shoulders, suppressing an involuntary shiver.

I think I’d written about half a dozen chapters (these chapters are short, at least, most of them a bit under two kilowords) before I knew what the Fog was and why. Margaret still doesn’t, but of course her quest to find that out is part of what’s driving the action.

As I write, I find out more, but that doesn’t always come in the shape of a coherent set of events; it’s more like landscape features half-glimpsed through, well, Fog. At some point, Margaret will make a right fool of herself with consequences; at some point, Margaret will read the book she has forgotten she had on hold at the bookstore until she had more coin to spare; at some point…. And those start to cohere into patterns, into ‘this future event has to happen before that one’ (though I have been wrong about that).

Some of it comes with realisations after the fact, things I had known to be true that suddenly coalesce into why: why this couple has no children and has been looking for alchemical solutions to that. Why Mr. Whitten likes to wear fancy gowns. Or I get an understanding of what has to be the case for a character to work like that and then it’s tracking down the friend with familiarity with classic grimoire-based magical tradition and saying, “Could I pick your brains to spec out the practice of this character?”

Then I had something new happen. There’s always something new, in the process, somewhere. I had to sit down and do a timeline of what had happened so I knew what would happen. It’s kind of almost like an outline, only written some sixty thousand words in. I suspect I only did it because of making two references to a character’s late-stage pregnancy and needing to figure out whether or not it was wholly implausible that she had not had the baby yet. (Next chapter, or the one after, depending on how much winds up in next chapter. And then I need to research how long she’s likely to be in seclusion.)

I have thus far managed to write around the problem of needing to name an Oscar Wilde expy, but that will not last. I am not entirely certain if it is a planning problem, a worldbuilding problem, or a “naming things is hard, let’s go shopping” problem. I at least have a few chapters before that problem explodes, so I can blithely ignore it for a bit la la la.

I miss rasfc

I’m feeling a bit melancholy about that at the moment, really.  I’ve just made my first sale – a short story, “Delayed Exchange Deferred”, to the anthology Death of All Things.  (Preorders are up here!)

And I can’t help but think of the community that was there, the people who would hang out together and talk writing shop and discuss our stories and support each other, and I wish that that place was still like it was when I was there, so I could pop in and say “I did it!  I made it!”

But I guess what we mostly do is personal websites and twitter, these days, so hey, a personal website, and twitter.  Death of usenet predicted ha ha sob.  But maybe I’ll dip my toe in and see if I can get involved in and commenting on the community some more again this way.

So here goes.

(And now I edit this post thirty times to fix HTML errors and the fact that I got the title of my own story wrong.)