Inhuman Swill : Writing : Page 5

Hacking reality

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Wine Loft Panel Discussion, June 24, 2010
Back in June, during the week I attended the Starry Heaven workshop in Flagstaff, organizer extraordinaire Sarah K. Castle put together a little panel discussion on the interactions between science fiction and actual science. Titled "Science + Fantasy = Science Fiction," the panel brought seven scientists and writers together to talk about how science inspires science fiction and vice versa.

Besides Sarah, who is both geologist and SF writer, the participants included writer Bradley P. Beaulieu ([info]brad_beaulieu), writer and futurist Brenda Cooper ([info]bjcooper), biologist and computer scientist Dan Greenspan (blog), biologist and physiologist Stan "Bud" Lindstedt, and science historian David S.F. Portree ("Beyond Apollo").

Everyone's five- to seven-minute presentations were fascinating, and I wish I had time and memory sufficient to recap them all. Instead, though, I've been meaning for a couple of months now to post the loose notes I wrote up for my little presentation. Here they are:



My view of science is pretty well summed up in a conversation between two characters in the novel I'm working on now, Endgame. This is the story of two teenage friends named Hasta and Ivan who develop seemingly magical powers—except that they don't automatically accept magic as the explanation for what has happened to them. Instead they set about using the scientific methods of theorizing and repeated testing to get to the bottom of things.

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Since we're only, let's see, a decade into the 21st century now, I figured it was probably past time to revisit my essay on "Proper Manuscript Format." I've revised it a couple of times in the past, but with all the changes in submission standards over the past decade a major overhaul was in order.

Some hardliners may be upset with me for ceding some ground, but I haven't changed the way I format a manuscript. I do acknowledge other valid schools of thought, though.

I've written a fuller explanation of the revisions over at my formatting blog. I hope you'll check out the updated formatting guide itself and let me know what you think. Does it go too far? Not far enough? Or do you agree?

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Novelophobia

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I don't know why I've spent so much of my life being afraid to write a novel. All these years I've figured I was afraid of failing at it, that the short story was my natural form as a writer.

That was all ridiculous, and easily disproved had I stopped to think about it. Back in 1994, I wrote a 170,000-word novel in about eight weeks while I was between jobs. I holed up in my apartment and wrote eight to twelve hours a day. On my most productive day of that period, I wrote 8,500 words. The Revivalist was a huge, sprawling, shambolic, undisciplined thug of a novel, but it wasn't entirely bad. I never sold that book, but I also never did the subsequent work that was necessary to turn it into something saleable.

Clearly I didn't have a problem writing. What I had a problem with in the years that followed was getting off my ass and committing to doing the work.

Don't get me wrong. I did a lot of work in those years. I wrote a 250,000-word memoir, which through subsequent drafts I revised down to nearly half that size. I wrote and sold a bunch of short stories and a couple of novellas, but my one or two longer projects ran out of gas. I kept psyching myself out with the idea that I didn't know how to write a novel, and for the most part I kept that fear to myself.

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Laura's off to Florida through Tuesday for work, and I'm going to do get as much writing done as I can. The only breaks will be for taking care of Ella (who went to the groomer yesterday and now looks like a Muppet) and a special team-trivia competition this afternoon to benefit One Tail at a Time, a local dog shelter. One Tail's Medical and Finance Coordinator, Jeff Kitchen, is also the quizmaster at our regular Wednesday night pub trivia event.

If you're in Chicago and have some free time this afternoon, come on down! The event kicks off at 2 pm this afternoon at KINCADE'S BAR & GRILL, 950 W. Armitage, right at the Brown Line stop. (The event has moved since the blog post above, so don't go to Kendall's.) I'm not sure whether or not there's room for more teams, but if so it's a $100 entry fee for your team of up to 5 people. You can add a sixth team member for another $20. And if the roster is already full, have a beer and cheer. Do it for the puppies.

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Flowers for the grave (um, the one in the book)
Just a quick reminder of my book launch party for Cast a Cold Eye, this evening in Chicago. All the event details are here:

http://tinyurl.com/coldeyeparty

Hope to see you there. The nice checkout women at Trader Joe's gave me free flowers for it this morning (I was there buying lots of wine), and it would be a shame for the bouquet to go unappreciated!

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Hi, NYC friends! Yes, it's a last-minute surprise to me too, but I'll be reading with the excellent Paul Witcover THIS COMING TUESDAY EVENING, January 5th, as part of the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series at the South Street Seaport Museum. Doors open 6:30 pm, readings begin 7:00 pm. Suggested donation is $5. See below for all the details, and we hope to see you there.

Please note, if you haven't been to a NYRSF reading at the Seaport lately, that the location is slightly different than it used to be....

--> The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings
and the
South Street Seaport Museum present <--

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The problem isn't that Luke sees dead people. The problem is that dead people see Luke.

CAST A COLD EYE BOOK RELEASE PARTY
w/William Shunn
Friday, January 8, 2010
7:00 to 9:00 pm

Time and Again
1239 W. Cortland St.
Chicago, IL 60614
site | map

Come out to Time and Again in Chicago to celebrate the hardcover release of Derryl Murphy & William Shunn's new novella Cast a Cold Eye! Mingle with fellow book lovers, browse unique treasures from the era of the story in an elegant setting, and sit back with a glass of wine while William Shunn reads chilling selections from the book. (Readings begin at 7:30 pm.)

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Cast a Cold Eye, by Derryl Murphy & William Shunn
Writing-related announcements have been piling up here in the blog queue, so if you'll indulge me here, I'm just going to get all of them out at once.

CAST A COLD EYE

First and foremost, my book Cast a Cold Eye, a collaboration with three-time Aurora Award nominee Derryl Murphy, is out and available from PS Publishing!

The slim volume looks beautiful, with front and back cover art by Steve Leary, and features an introduction by Charles de Lint. It comes in two editions: a signed, numbered and jacketed hardcover limited to 100 copies, and an unjacketed hardcover.

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Having watched Valkyrie recently, I've been thinking about the intersection of art, commerce and religion. I know, that's probably not the kind of discussion the filmmakers intended to provoke, but here we are. Germany started it.

Every so often a big kerfluffle flares up in the media or the blogosphere about what famous entertainer is or isn't a Scientologist, and why. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Isaac Hayes, Beck, Chick Corea, Edgar Winter, Chaka Khan, Mark Isham, Greta Van Susteren—we're supposed to avoid giving them money so we don't inadvertently support their reprehensible "church." Leonard Cohen, Paul Haggis, Jerry Seinfeld, Courtney Love, Gloria Gaynor—once were Scientologists, but now they're on the okay list. Neil Gaiman—wait, what's the controversy with him? I'm not supposed to read him because his relatives are Scientologists?

Frankly, keeping score like this is ridiculous.

As much as I dislike Scientology, discriminating against artists because of their private beliefs is a losing game. I hate the fact that there were Crusades, and a Spanish Inquisition, and institutional coverups of child sexual abuse, but that doesn't mean I'm going to deny myself the work of Catholic writers like Graham Greene or Tim Powers, or Catholic filmmakers like Kevin Smith. Will some of the money I pay for their stuff end up in Vatican coffers? Possibly, but I'm not naive enough to think that any of the money I give or receive is pure. We live in a pluralist society. We can't help the fact that our money is going to circulate through parts of the body politic that we don't like. The only judgment we can really make is how we respond to the art, how pure and universal and human it is, how ennobling or demeaning or thrilling or dull, how free from or full of agenda or polemic.

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Printing postcards

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It seems, I'm afraid, that Cast a Cold Eye will just miss being out in time for the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose. But never fear! In the absence of actual books, I'm having postcards printed up for Derryl and me to distribute at the con. (I'm using Moo.com, which I love, and which is also where I got my business cards. And nowadays if you order from the US, your stuff ships from the US, which is a great improvement over waiting for a shipment from the UK.) Anyway, if you want to see what the front of the postcards looks like, check out this page I built to tout our book:

http://shunn.net/cast

I'm also having postcards printed up to advertise the story reading/dance performance taking place October 16th here at the WorkSpace. I'm very happy with the way the fortuitous way the color schemes of the photographs matched up with the illustration. Check it out:

http://shunn.net/medicine

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William Shunn

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