Inhuman Swill : Writing : Page 9

Longtime readers may recall me railing against James Frey and the phenomenon of the invented memoir a couple of years ago. Rather than chilling the memoir marketplace, though, Frey was merely in the vanguard of a veritable explosion of exposed frauds that now includes such "memoirists" as Margaret B. Jones and Misha Defonseca.

The topic of these overly embroidered tales is much on my mind as, again, my memoir makes its way back into the marketplace. I feared two years ago that Frey's escapade would make a memoir more difficult to sell. Now I fear that he didn't make it difficult enough.

Nearly two months ago, Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition delivered an editorial that made me stand up and pump my fist in the air. He made the interesting argument that the phony memoirist cheats in two ways: first, by weaving of his life an epic that never was; and second, by scanting the literary rigor a novel would have demanded. Listen here:

Writing and Truth in Fact and Fiction
by Scott Simon
Speaking as someone who has labored for nearly ten years to produce a book that will hold up on both counts and provoke more than skepticism and cynicism, I can only add my fervent amen.

New sensation

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This just in. New agent loves new draft of Accidental Terrorist. "I've just read the additions/revisions and I have to admit I am elated.... [Y]ou've completely rounded out the long, strange adventure and added a whole new depth to the tale."

This puppy's on its way to editors again. Thank fucking Elohim.

ShunnCast #52

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[info]
Epidode #52 of "ShunnCast" is now available, in which Bill reads a restored and revised chapter from the brand-new draft of his memoir The Accidental Terrorist.

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?id=52

See also shunncast.

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Accidental draft

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I have finished the new draft of The Accidental Terrorist and sent it off to my new agent for comments.


Just a quick note from O'Hare, where I'm on my way to Utah to visit my dad, who is gravely ill.

If you're a member of Denvention 3 or were a member of Nippon 2007 and you haven't sent in your Hugo nominations yet, don't forget! The deadline is coming up fast—Saturday, March 1.

For the record, my two original stories from 2007 were:

Novelette
"Not of This Fold" (PDF) (audio)

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Last April I wrote the first draft of a story called "Care and Feeding of Your Piano." It's a short, humorous piece written entirely as excerpts from the interactive instruction manual for a bioengineered piano*.

Armed with some suggestions from my writing group, I sat in my Baltimore-area hotel room a month and a half later and spent two hours applying some heavy revisions to the sucker, which including reordering many chunks of text to achieve more comic juxtapositions. I sync'd the laptop with the USB memory stick I always carried as backup—at least, I presume I did, because that had long been my habit—then rushed over to Balticon for my scheduled reading. I read that story and one called "Timesink" (which was then and is still forthcoming in Electric Velocipede) directly from my computer screen. The reading seemed to go over pretty well, at least according to Jamie Rubin, who was there.

In June, as I prepared to attend the Blue Heaven workshop, I got frustrated with all the cruft slowing down my laptop, so I wiped it and reinstalled Windows XP. At the end of that month, we moved to Chicago. As we unpacked, I became more and more uneasy the longer my black Manhattan Portage shoulder bag, which I was looking for, failed to turn up. I always carried my USB memory stick in a little Velcro'd pocket on the front of it. The shoulder bag has never turned up, one of the very few casualties of our move.

It wasn't until we'd been here a month or more that I went to the desktop machine to take another look at my revised version of "Care and Feeding." I was going to give it a quick polish-and-trim and get it out there—first stop, New Yorker "Shouts & Murmurs" submission. (Why not, right?)

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Don't drown!

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I am a huge fan of the warnings and advisories from the National Weather Service. It's something about the matter-of-fact cataloging of the various ways weather phenomena can take life. These reports are marvels of terse concision, and I recommend them to anyone who delights in language.

This, for example, from today's flood warning for Northern Illinois:

MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN AUTOMOBILES. NEVER DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE ROADWAY. FLOOD WATERS ARE USUALLY DEEPER THAN THEY APPEAR. JUST ONE FOOT OF FLOWING WATER IS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO SWEEP VEHICLES OFF THE ROAD. WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS MAKE THE SMART CHOICE...TURN AROUND...DONT DROWN.
Masterful. If you don't hear the music, there's nothing I can do for you.

Discover Magazine, February 2008
Hey, I have a reporting credit in the February issue of Discover magazine!

Discover does a humorous monthly column at the back of the magazine called "20 Things You Didn't Know About..." February's column was "20 Things You Didn't Know About Science Fiction," and its posting online seems to have stirred up a small pot of controversy over at io9, Gawker's SF blog. Seems as if a lot of people were not amused, and in turn Discover was not amused that they were not amused. (Thanks to John Joseph Adams for being one of the voices of reason in the io9 comments, and defending my honor.)

For the record, my reporting duties consisted of supplying the Discover writers with about a dozen pieces of SF trivia, of which they borrowed maybe four, putting their own inimitable spin on the material. I'm happy to say I gave them the one about Gene Wolfe and Pringles. But to balance that out, I also gave them the one about some fans not liking the term "sci-fi." (An example of one of my nuggets that didn't make the cut was that Heinlein Crater in the Hellas Southeast Quadrangle of Mars is named after Robert A. Heinlein. So there you go.)

I would have posted about this sooner, except that I didn't become aware that the column was online, or about the attendant flamewars, until early last Saturday morning as we were preparing to leave for a weekend in Iowa. And to be perfectly clear, having my name in Discover is totally awesome.

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Noted

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Let's hear it for some of my Blue Heaven cohorts this week.

Tim Pratt is interviewed this week at Sci-Fi Weekly about his burgeoning career, which includes selling film and television options to his Marla Mason stories and novels.

[info]paulmelko's excellent debut novel Singularity's Ring gets well-reviewed over at Sci-Fi Weekly as well, even if it's a bit of a slapdash writeup. You should go out and read this novel now. I loved it.

And last but not least, congratulations to [info]gregvaneekhout on selling his debut novel NorseCODE to Bantam! This is a terrific novel, too, or at least the earlier drafts I read were, and I have no doubt it grew even more awesome in revisions. In a perfect world, you would be able to go out and read this novel now too.

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Don't knock it

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I was reading a major novel from a major genre publisher last night (okay, it was Half the Blood of Brooklyn by Charlie Huston, from Del Rey), when a character suddenly "knocked" an arrow into his bowstring.

Not to knock the book's copy editor, but the nock is the notch at the end of the arrow into which the bowstring fits. When you slide the arrow into place against the string, you have nocked it.

But this was also a book where "puss" leaks from one character's eyes, so maybe I shouldn't snatch at hopes that the copy-editing will improve.

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