Monday, March 23, 2015

New Class! New Angst!

First off, registration for the next cycle of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing class at Portland Community College is open! This is a four-week Community Education (non-credit) class based around short speculative fiction writing, with one week each devoted to plotting, worldbuilding, characterization and voice, and a class critique session. After this class I'll be moving over to the Southeast campus for a while, so if that affects your desire to take the class, sign up now!

Since getting back from the Rainforest retreat, I've fell into a bit of a writing funk. Part of it is simply that I've been spending far too much time editing, and not enough time writing. And while editing is (usually) a necessary part of the writing process, you don't get the same sense of forward momentum, and it's clearly not as exciting as actually writing. Right now I have at least five stories that need to be edited, some of which have been through first-round edits by my in-house editor, a few which haven't. And it's so daunting! Two of these stories are also novelettes or nearly so, and one of those is in a genre that I've never written before. There's something like 25k words that need to be looked over, scenes rearranged or eliminated, new scenes that need to be written, and in the case of one of those stories, research. It's a lot of work, and it leaves me drained for writing new stuff. I need to finish what I start, not just keep piling on new projects.

Another reason for the funk is that I've been way too focused on originality. I wrote a couple of stories in late 2014/early 2015 that I thought were incredibly original (she says pridefully). I'm sure that someone else who's better read -- or just differently read -- than me could be able to point to half a dozen stories that are similar to those stories, but I'd never read anything with those concepts behind them before, at least before I wrote them. So now, when I try to write something new, I'm trying to make it even more original than those stories. Then I get stuck, because every story feels like "nope, seen it before, discard." Which is dumb, because there are no new ideas... but some ideas are fresher than others. Some people will fight me on this, but I maintain it's true. So far, none of my new outlines (as in, written in the past month) are passing my own personal barrier for originality. It's a moving bar, yeah, but it's my moving bar, and unfortunately just going through the motions of writing doesn't get me in the mood to write. I have to be excited about the idea. And the better-read I become in genre, the more I see that a lot of what I do has been done before. Maybe not done in quite the same way, but it only takes a whiff of similarity to take the bloom off the rose.

Anyway, I'm sure it's just a temporary thing that will fade once I get this huge set of stories (or at least half of them) revised and sent off. I know what a real slump is and this isn't it. Just... revision is kind of the worst, you know?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Marching Into March

First, I have a new-old story up on Drabblecast this week, a reprint of my "classic" (hah!) story "Sea Changes," first published in Ideomancer in 2008. Check it out! This all-flash episode also contains stories from Keffy Kehrli and Jonathan Schneeweiss.

Second, I now have a tab that lists all the Community Education classes I have upcoming at Portland Community College, or you can just follow the link here. The next four-week cycle of classes starts April 11 and the sign-up isn't active yet, but once it is, I'll let the world know.

Last weekend Rob and I went to the Rainforest Writers Retreat in Lake Quinault, WA. I had a great time, though I didn't get as much done as I wanted to. I only wrote a shade under 15,000 words, all on short stories. We also went on a hike (well, Rob went on the hike, it was too slippy for me) and saw waterfalls and a herd of wild elk. I'd recommend it for anyone looking for a laid-back place to hang out and write for a few days. We likely won't be going back next year since we're saving up for a possible East Coast/Readercon trip, but if you want to go, register fast! It always sells out.

Some jerk elk sticking his tongue out at us.

Finally, today it was 55 degrees and sunny all day oh wait I mean it rained all day and was terrible don't move here. Man, everywhere in the entire country sucks except this place.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Let Me Spam You

First: my flash fiction story "Dear Conqueror" was published last week at Daily Science Fiction. It's the sordid tale (do I have any stories that aren't sordid, really?) of a future American tyrant and his equally tyrannical wife. Enjoy!

Second: I now have a mailing list! And you can sign up for it with the handy form below! It will contain information about recent publications, cons I'll be at, upcoming classes at Portland Community College, and other stuff, I'm not sure what. Updates will be rare and sporadic, so you don't have to worry about me blowing up your email. Anyway, form is below and also on the sidebar:

Third: From February 18-22 I will be at the Rainforest Writers Village in Lake Quinault, WA. I'm a bit worried that I'll get there and "run out of ideas," or worse, that everything I write there will be unpublishable crap. Even if it is, I guess I get a vacation out of the deal. I'm shooting for 5000 words per day, all in short stories. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Erica's Infrequent Book Reviews Presents: ELYSIUM by Jennifer Marie Brissett

Note to people recommending books to me: all you really have to do is say that the book deals with the shifting nature of reality. I will snap up that book like other people snap up sasquatch porn or cat-themed mysteries. Granted, I will be horribly disappointed if the book in fact is not about the shifting nature of reality, but Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett totally is! This experimental SFnal book, published by Aqueduct Press, is a book in the grand weird tradition of The Lathe of Heaven (my favorite book of all time) and everything PKD ever wrote, though with an Afrofuturistic and queer bent that places it firmly in the modern era.

(Note to readers: this review is chock full of SPOILERS although I was spoiled before I read the book and I still enjoyed the hell out of it. Elysium is really not a book that you read for the plot.)

Central character Adrianne/Adrian is ostensibly a human being who shifts through genders, ages, and scenarios. The only thread which is consistent in each of these scenarios (none of which last for more than a chapter or two) is her/his relationship with Antoine/Antoinette. Sometimes it's a parental relationship, with the two trading off roles. In others they are spouses or lovers. Other characters are also constants in the book, likewise swapping genders, sexual orientations, backgrounds, etc. As the story unfolds, Brissett slowly paints a picture of the true reality: an Earth overtaken by aliens, where the scant population of remnant humans lives underground, slowly dying off and being replaced by projections. Surprise! Adrian(/ne) is not a human at all, but a piece of AI tasked with uploading the human history of Earth onto a massive datanet. The coda states that the relationship of A. and A. is inspired by the relationship of the Roman emperor Hadrian and the Greek boy Antonius, and I really appreciated the book all the more when I read up on them afterwards.

The scenarios are interesting enough in and of themselves, but the main "plot" here is the AI's fractured psyche and above all its devotion to its mate/counterpart. Even though the relationship between the two is constantly changing (** BREAK **), it's also the thread that binds this crazy-quilt of a novel into a mostly cohesive whole. Though it would never be classified as such, Elysium is at its heart a love story and an examination of both parental and romantic relationships. It's also worth noting that Brissett accomplishes all this in only 199 pages in a time when most writers think they need three to seven books to tell a complete story. And best of all, Elysium is a debut novel, so we should have many more of her novels and stories to read over the years to come.

Elysium is nominated for this year's Philip K. Dick Award, and while I haven't read any of the other nominees yet, if it wins it's an honor well deserved. This is really not a novel for everyone. If you like your prose told plainly and your plots straightforward you probably won't like this. But this book is parked right in my own personal wheelhouse of strangeness and unreality. So read it if you're me is what I'm trying to say here, I guess.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Last Days to Sign Up for My Writing Class!

With only two weeks to go, my science fiction/fantasy writing class at Portland Community College is filling up fast! Here's the link, if you are so inclined. This is a four-week, eight-hour class devoted to writing speculative fiction, mostly of the flash variety. Extra details:

Title: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
Dates: January 24 through February 14, 2015 (Saturday)
Time: 10:00 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Cascade Campus in North Portland, 705 N. Killingsworth St.
Cost: $55

The class is going to be repeated, so if you can't make it this time, check back for new class dates in the next few weeks!