Inhuman Swill : Writing : Page 29

Curse you, Gene Wolfe!

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With the recent release of Return to the Whorl, volume three of The Book of the Short Sun, I decided it was finally time to go back to the start of The Book of the New Sun and read through all twelve *Sun books. I'm about 200 pages into The Citadel of the Autarch, and the only problem is, I'm not getting any writing done. I'm going to have to put the rest of this reading project aside after The Urth of the New Sun and pick it up again after I get a good deal farther on my own book.

Curse you, Gene Wolfe! You motherfucking oneiromancer, you!

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Waving, not drowning

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Well, well, well. It's been a long time!

I was just looking over my and my friend's journals, marveling at the fact that I hadn't posted for a month and a half, and contemplating this entry when Baldanders AIMed me out of the blue. He had noted my long absence and wondered if I was okay. Strange synchronicity.

Gang, I'm okay. A lot of things have happened that I want to tell you about -- and that I wanted to tell you about as they happened -- but I have this difficulty. I'm rather poor at time management, and a single activity usually comes to dominate my existence. (Baldanders argues that this is good time management, and it may well be.) Right now the dominant activity is writing my memoir; it takes up most of my free time and leaves little emotional energy for anything else. And since my full-time job has to take some kind of precedence it there... Well, you get the point.

I've been to Utah recently, I'm going to California, Arizona, and Florida soon, I've nearly choked to death at a noodle shop on Union Square, I've had a doctor stick an optical cable up my nose and down my throat, I've acquired two more fish, I've finally met my five-year-old son, and I've written about 150 pages since the last journal entry. In fact, it may even be time to post a table-of-contents update to keep myself going (not that I intend to lose momentum at this point:

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Ray Bradbury

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The visionary whose stories foretold the Sony Walkman, who imagined virtual reality at a time when there were 400 television sets in the entire state of California, does not own a computer.  He does not like the screens.  "Computers are for people who make mistakes," he says.  "I don't make mistakes."  He does his work on an electric typewriter.  But if not for writing, surely Ray Bradbury surfs the Internet?  "There is nothing on it that I can use," he declares.  "I'm not a researcher.  I am an emotional hand grenade. . . ."

No one less than Aldous Huxley--fellow Angeleno and author of Brave New World--made a dose of hallucinogenics available to Bradbury.  "I was offered," he recalls.  "Aldous Huxley offered me a chance.  He said it would be perfectly safe.  There would be doctors and attendants.  But I told him, 'What if the trapdoor on the top of my head stays open, and all the nightmares come out and they won't go away.  Then what will your doctor do for me?'  I wasn't being moral.  I was being hygienic. . . ."

As a writer, Bradbury says he was blessed with total recall.  He claims that he can remember his own birth, the taste of his mother's milk and being circumcised.  Total recall is "a damn wonderful thing for a writer."  And what about the memories of people he knew and loved?  "No, memory is a curse, especially at my age," he says.  "All my teachers are gone, and most of my friends are dead, and the ones who are alive, you see all these old people, including yourself."

—William Booth, Washington Post Service
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Once in a while in my Usenet newsgroup, I post the current state of the table of contents from my book, just so I can demonstrate to myself that I'm making progress. If you don't care for statistics or for recitations of accomplishments that don't affect you, you might want to steer clear now.

I finished Part I of my memoir late in August (including an interlude that forms the connective tissue between the two halves), then shipped it off to my agent. That was 25 chapters plus a prelude and an interlude, and it amounted to a horrifying total of 523 manuscript pages.

Over the next few weeks, I whittled about 70 pages (and two full chapters) out of the manuscript, completely replaced the prelude, wrote a synopsis of the second half, and let my agent start submitting the thing. I also carved two excerpts out of what I had already done for her to try selling to magazines.

This was all a lot of work, and it took me a while after that to get my notes for the second half organized, get my head around the shape of the rest of the book, and get all the necessary loafing out of my system. It seemed like I'd been away from the book itself for quite a while when I finally sat down a week and a half ago, at last, to start producing new material. This morning before work I finished what is now Chapter 24, the first chapter of Part II of the book.

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