N.K. Jemisin

Out now!

The Killing Moon

The Kingdom of Gods

In the desert city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Along its ancient stone streets, there is no crime or violence. Priests of the dream-goddess, known as Gatherers, maintain order: harvesting the dreams of the citizens, healing the injured, and guiding the dreamers into the afterlife. . .

When Ehiru-the most famous of the city's Gatherers-is sent to harvest the dreams of a diplomatic envoy, he finds himself drawn into a conspiracy that threatens to drag the dreaming city into war.

Learn more.

The Price of Time

I’ve mentioned this before, but I have two full-time jobs. This is partly by choice, because I actually enjoy my non-writing career, and partly out of necessity, since I don’t make quite enough money at either my non-writing career or via writing to let one or the other go. (It’s not just money. Being a full-time writer means paying $400/month for health insurance, versus $40/month via my day job. But you get the idea.) People ask me all the time how I do it, and I’m always a little perplexed by the question. I don’t have children, for one thing; any writer who does that and a day job deserves your awe, not me. I actually have a day job; I spent awhile without one a couple of years back, and that was no fun at all. Still, not gonna lie; it’s tough sometimes, juggling two demanding careers.

This is not helped by the fact that I suck at managing money. Not that I’m profligate or anything; quite the opposite, I’m kind of a cheapskate. But sometimes I’m stupidly cheap; I obsess over the minutia, don’t think of the big picture. Maybe this is typical of people who live paycheck to paycheck, but more likely it’s just me being dumb.

Here’s an example: in New York, apartments are small. It’s rare to be able to have your own washer and dryer. Usually you have to share a communal laundromat in your building, or in the neighborhood — and because it’s communal, and this is New York, you have to stay with your clothes if you want to keep them. There’s rarely any space for comfortable sitting and writing in laundromats, and even if there is, you might not want to whip out the laptop in mixed company if you want to keep that, too. My own laundromat is underground and has no internet access. So basically, doing laundry means 3-4 hours of mind-numbing, mostly-wasted time.

Yet I did this for years, because the alternatives were things I thought of as luxuries: namely laundry pickup/delivery or dropoff service. I’m a writer, I thought at the time; I gotta pinch pennies if I’m going to make it. I figured all these fancy-schmancy services were aimed at executives, who earned executive-level pay, or who didn’t want to get their hands dirty. But that was a false assumption; these services are aimed at busy people, who would rather spend their time doing other things besides watching the spin cycle. So I sat down and calculated how much more it would cost me to use dropoff service. The average price difference was minimal — it costs $5-7 more than doing it myself. $7 is significant; that’s dinner.

But. Doing laundry myself had a cost too. Not just the financial setback of detergent and a granny cart, but all those hours of writing time meant something. Yeah, yeah, time has intrinsic value, but it means something financially too, especially for a professional writer. In 4 hours on a good day I can write a rough draft of a novel chapter. If I get a $10,000 advance for that novel — not saying I will, just using a hypothetically round number — and that novel has 40 chapters (as The Killing Moon does), then that afternoon blown on laundry is costing me $250. That’s pretty damn significant too.

So I’ve had to reassess my life as a writer, and decide whether some things that I’d previously dismissed as too expensive on a financial basis were, in fact, costing me far more in the long run due to lost time. I made one of these choices a long time ago: I don’t have a roommate in my tiny NYC apartment, which is something most single people here don’t do. But I came to the conclusion that the amount of time I would have to spend on (possibly) arguing with a stranger, getting up earlier or going to bed later because I’ve got to work around someone else’s schedule, seeking new roommates when the old one left, and suing them if they don’t bother to pay what they owe — granted, all of this is the worst-case scenario — would cost me far more in time and stress than I’m willing to pay. (I’ve had good roommate experiences for the most part, but one very very bad one, and the risk of dealing with that madness again is too much when I’ve already got a dayjob and deadlines to worry about.) Having my own apartment still feels like a splurge. But it pays off in that home is a haven for me, where I have complete control over my environment. When I walk in, stress drops away — so even after a long, tiring day at the office, I can always get at least a little writing done, even if it’s only 250 words. Even the little wordcounts add up. And thus is a book written.

Other worthwhile investments I’ve made in my time:

  • A DVR. I don’t watch many TV shows or movies, but I don’t want to be distracted by them if I happen to be in a really hot writing Zone at the time they come on.
  • A dishwasher. Yes, even tiny apartments can have one. And for about $250 I’ve bought myself 30 minutes every night that otherwise would be spent on washing dishes.
  • Got this for Christmas: a Roomba. I might never have bought this on my own, because I wasn’t sure how useful it would be, but since Mom was buying, I got one — and holy crap, I love it. Granted, I don’t spend a ton of time on cleaning; I tended to sweep once a week because I’ve got a cat, and vacuum every other week. (I have mostly hard floors.) But that’s another 30 minutes a week saved. And it’s cute! I named mine Lil.
  • Grocery delivery. In my part of Brooklyn, most supermarkets are small; there’s a good chance that one market won’t have everything I need, and I’ll have to schlepp to another one. Then I’ve got to get it all home — a daunting task on a day of bad weather, or if the subways are packed, or if I have a lot to carry. So instead I use any one of several services that bring the groceries right to my apartment. Costs $5 for delivery, which is a small price to pay for my time — and my back.

Here’s how this all adds up. Yesterday I went off to write at the local cafe. Turned on the dishwasher, started the Roomba. Along the way I schlepped to the laundromat and dropped off a load. I was at the cafe for maybe 7 hours; I got a ton of work done on a proposal which might turn into another book deal. And then I came home to clean floors, clean dishes that made making dinner quick and easy, clean clothes that I wore to work this morning — and just because the urge was still there, I got another 500 words written before bed.

This is not to say that splurging on gadgets or services will make you a better writer. It won’t, unless you use the time. And this is not to say that every shiny thing is a good investment. I’ve made mistakes. Bought an XBox with the Kinect sensor thinking that I’d use it to exercise, instead of blowing money on a gym membership and time on transportation/getting dressed/showering/waiting to use equipment. But what I didn’t factor in was fun. It was much more interesting to do a Cardio Sculpt class at the local Crunch back when I was a member — and because it was more interesting, I exercised a lot more. Now I’m thinking about joining a gym again, which means the money I spent on the Kinect was wasted.

All I’m saying is, keep the big picture in mind. If that shiny expensive thing will actually help you get that book done? Maybe it’ll pay for itself, in time.

Guest Post: In Praise of Unoriginality

Nora Note: I’m experimenting with guest posts! Our first guinea pig is fellow Fluidian E. C. Myers, whose forthcoming YA novel I’ve had the pleasure of critiquing (and enjoying the hell out of). But enough about me. Let’s let the man talk:

 

When Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby was announced last year, fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel were at best skeptical and at worst angry. Though it’s been known for a while that Luhrmann is taking the book’s latest cinematic journey even farther, into the Third Dimension!, for some reason people have only started paying attention in the last week—and the blogosphere reeled in horror at the prospect of seeing a 3-D Gatsby.

To these incensed critics, I say: Don’t see it.

According to Luhrmann, the decision to film in 3-D came from his desire to add a more theatrical quality to the production, so it’s as if we’re there in the room with Jay and Daisy. (Whether anyone really wants to hang out with them is beside the point.) If I recently hadn’t seen Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, a 3-D adaptation of Brian Selznick’s middle grade novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I would say Luhrmann’s full of crap. Despite my own disdain for the gimmick of 3-D cinema—I generally avoid 3-D screenings whenever possible, to save myself from the double curse of eyestrain and destitution—I made a point of seeing Hugo in theaters, both because Scorsese has earned my trust and admiration as a filmmaker, and because he intended Hugo to be seen in 3-D.

It was not at all what I was expecting. I kind of loved it. The general consensus among critics and audiences alike is that Scorsese has created a cinematic masterpiece. Hugo has some brief moments of spectacle that might justify the extravagance of 3-D, but nothing on the order of James Cameron’s clumsy action-flick Avatar. I think Hugo is probably a fine picture even in only a paltry two dimensions, but the experience was both more engaging and more distracting; I think a truly successful film makes the viewer forget she’s watching a movie, but I was constantly distracted by tiny, odd details captured on film: dust motes drifting in the air, an out-of-place hair.

My biggest issue with 3-D cinematography is that the human eye just doesn’t see that way, with the camera forcing our attention to whatever is jumping out of the screen, or choosing to focus on one character while everything and everyone else fades to a blur. Film can only approximate natural vision, and directors carefully construct the viewing experience—choosing what they want you to focus on, or slyly misdirecting your interest—to tell a story. Hugo does some of that, but it also gives you the freedom to pay more attention to the background characters than the action front and center, or admire the elaborate sets and ignore the actors. This is as close to seeing a live theatrical play as I’ve had in a movie theater, and it could very well suit Gatsby.

That’s if Luhrmann isn’t simply buckling to studio pressure to make a 3-D film and toeing the company line. He seems both to want to infuse Gatsby with a grand scope and to make it a more intimate experience, and those two impulses may not marry well. And Luhrmann’s CV is contentious among fans; people either seem to love or hate his Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! As with every creative process, 3-D is just another tool, best used when the work truly calls for it, and we’ll have to wait to see if it brings anything to Gatsby. Or not see it, depending.

The charged response to Luhrmann’s adaptation doesn’t seem to be about 3-D at all. Rather, it’s a criticism of the fact that he’s doing it at all. This is The Great Gatsby! You can’t turn this literary classic into a mere movie, meant for a commercial audience. Except that it has been adapted into a film. Several times. And stage productions. And a freaking 8-bit video game. (Which is awesome by the way.) People seem actively offended that this is going to exist in the world.

Like many, I scratch my head whenever Hollywood announces a new film adaptation or a remake. Why make an English version of Let the Right One In, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, or The Ring? Weren’t the originals good enough? How can you presume to “update” a classic like King Kong or reboot Star Trek for new, younger audiences? What’s the point in redoing Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley when Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy in the excellent miniseries? (Okay, that’s a fair question.) Hey, I’ll never understand why Gus Van Sant needed to do a shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho, but I got through it by simply not seeing it.

Readers are even less forgiving when novels or comics they love, or like, or maybe heard of once are turned into big Hollywood productions. They’re never faithful enough to the source material, or they don’t like picturing the actors when they read the book, and does anyone actually like those movie tie-in covers that come out around the film’s release? Most of the Harry Potter films are like abbreviated primers for the books, but some of them are absolutely beautiful and moving, and they haven’t detracted from my enjoyment of J.K. Rowling’s written words one bit. And yet almost everyone is excited—cautiously so—about the upcoming film version of Suzanne Collin’s dystopian series, The Hunger Games. This early on, director Gary Ross (who also made one of my favorite films ever, Pleasantville) seems to have gotten most things right. And that’s probably going to be good enough—for me, anyway. If the idea of the movie feels like a personal insult to you… Don’t see it.

I wonder if the strong reactions to adaptations isn’t about not wanting to ruin the “integrity” of the source material so much as it’s a desire to maintain our own relationship with it, without the influence of another person’s interpretation of its meaning. Like I said, I’m as annoyed at remakes as the next guy, and disappointed when an adaptation fails to be brilliant (The Golden Compass, anyone? Anyone?) But I’ve also seen films that surpassed the quality of the original. It’s just my opinion, but I like the movie versions of V for Vendetta and The Prestige much more than those on the page, and The Watchmen was perfectly satisfying and as faithful as it could be.

Perhaps it’s a failure of Hollywood to be “original,” but these films are original; they’re new works of art (maybe a strong word to describe something like Piranha 3-D, but you get my point) that didn’t exist before.

More importantly, I think that the thing that drives filmmakers (and fanfic writers and artists and musicians and basically anyone on the internet, at least if SOPA doesn’t pass) to create their own versions of other people’s work is a testament to the power of story, not just the promise of commercial success. Yes, even Michael Bay is a storyteller—he’s just a very bad one. There’s a story in Transformers under all that CGI, right? Something something Megan Fox something?

In the worst cases, I consider a film adaptation of a novel to be a two-hour long book trailer; if I like the story but not the execution, I’ll just go read the book. If I like the movie, as I did with Hugo, I’ll seek out the book. And if I like the book, but can’t bear to see the movie (as in The Adventures of Tintin), I’ll skip the film and read the book.

People have been stealing and riffing on other people’s stories for as long as we’ve been telling them. Shakespeare, the Brothers Grimm, Tim Burton and Peter Jackson have all kept stories alive by retelling them, reinterpreting them, and reaching new audiences who might never have discovered the work that inspired them at all—without attempting to destroy the original material (like George Lucas, for instance) or forcing people to only watch their vision of it. (Cough, George Lucas, cough.)

What do you think? Are there movie adaptations or even fanfic stories that you think are better than the source? Should I see Tintin? Does 3-D disgust you?

Meanwhile, I think it’s high time I reread The Great Gatsby.

 

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the prolific NYC writing group Altered Fluid. In the rare moments when he isn’t writing, he blogs about Star Trek at theviewscreen.com, reads constantly, plays video games, watches films and television, sleeps as little as possible, and spends far too much time on the internet. His first young adult novel, Fair Coin>, will be published by Pyr in March 2012. And for the record, he would be delighted if it were adapted into a film.

SOPA… SOPA CaPIPA…

I’m going to have Barry Manilow in my head all. Damn. Day.

Er, anyway. This is a linkspam post. As you’ve no doubt noted from the many, many sites that have chosen to “go dark” today (in some cases only for US browsers), there’s a little bit of a protest going on, over extremely harmful internet regulation laws that may soon be passed by the US Congress. I’m not going dark myself; IMO that sort of protest is primarily effective for the most ubiquitous sites on the internet, not esoteric little hideaways like mine. But I’m doing what I can to spread the word, because I’m fully against SOPA and PIPA. So here’s some stuff you might want to read:

Now, I’m aware that there are some well-known people who support this legislation, probably because they stand to gain a dangerous level of control over the internet and a weapon against their competition if it passes. But I figure there are probably a few individuals out there who support it just because they think it’s right. However, while I’m normally willing to consider alternative opinions on most subjects, I’m also aware that the entertainment industry — which is pushing these bills via lobbying — has deployed mass numbers of marketing shills to try and influence opinion wherever discussions of the matter pop up. Here’s the thing, though: these bills are really indefensible. They don’t make sense for their stated purpose (though they make a great deal of sense for a variety of unstated purposes). Sure, I’m a writer, and I’m poor; I’m not in favor of having my copyrighted work distributed freely by/to people who could pay for it, nor do I like having control of my work threatened by copyright infringement. But y’know… improving my ability to make a living does not require the wholesale destruction of free speech and the breaking of the internet. I mean, really. That’s a bit much. I’m perfectly willing to entertain other ideas on how to protect copyright/artists in the comments, but not dumb ideas. Therefore pro-SOPA/PIPA commenters will be on a very short leash, and if you start sounding like a press release, I’ll shut you down. You have been warned.

Give my editor a Hugo

Or a Nebula. Or something. ‘Cause she should get one. AS I SHALL PROVE.

This is my editor. (Image taken from GalleyCat.) Isn’t she cute?

My editor, Devi Pillai

Her name is Devi Pillai, of Orbit Books. She’s not only cute, she’s pretty badass. Here’s some stuff she’s edited — other than, y’know, my books.

  • The Way of Shadows, Beyond the Shadows and Shadow’s Edge (the Night Angel trilogy) by Brent Weeks
  • The Heroes and Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
  • Blameless, Changeless, Heartless, etc. (the Parasol Protectorate series) by Gail Carriger
  • Blood Rights by Kristen Painter
  • Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan
  • Cold Magic (the Spiritwalker Trilogy) by Kate Elliott
  • Working for the Devil (the Dante Valentine series) by Lilith Saintcrow
  • Warrior and Witch by Marie Brennan
  • The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtney Grimwood

That’s a lot of cool stuff, isn’t it? I think so. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg, because Devi has been in this business for 12 years.

Twelve. Years.

That’s, like, forever in publishing. And in all that time, she has not received a “Best Editor” award. I think that’s just wrong. Because Devi has done a lot to help change the face of the genre. It’s in large part thanks to her influence that Orbit Books has consistently cranked out some really edgy, different, high-quality fiction in its relatively short lifetime. The books she likes are anything but the same-old same old; there’s no formula in her fantasy, no tiresome adherence to tradition at the expense of a good story. I can’t speak for other authors, but I can speak of my own experience having my work edited by her: she hates cliches, and demands logic even of the most wildly out-there speculative stuff. Her favorite words are “this character really needs to pop off the page”. (I hate those words. They always come in the middle of a six-page edit letter telling me everything that’s wrong with a book. But she’s right, every time she says them.) She’s a consummate professional, too — always returns my calls, always reads my manuscripts in a reasonable amount of time, never institutes unreasonable deadlines or demands. And she drinks like a fish And she’s lots of fun at parties.

She’s not high-profile like some editors, so I know this is a long shot because of that. But if a “best editor” designation means anything, it should not be merely “most popular”. I think it should genuinely mean best editor. And granted, I’ve only had one editor for my long fiction so I’m a little biased — but Devi’s pretty damn awesome.

So as you’re thinking about award nominations this year, please just keep this name in mind: Devi Pillai.

Ask Me Anything About the Dreamblood!

Since I had three books coming out in close proximity to each other — The Kingdom of Gods just a few months ago, and The Killing Moon in May 2012 and The Shadowed Sun in June 2012, I’ve tried to minimize confusion and “competing against myself” by not talking about the latter two books until 2012. Well, now it’s 2012, and the brakes are off. Ask me anything about The Dreamblood!

The blurb, for those of you who haven’t seen the preview chapter in The Kingdom of Gods: (Note that this is for The Killing Moon; any blurbage about The Shadowed Sun is a spoiler for TKM, unfortunately.)

The city burned beneath the Dreaming Moon.

In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt.

But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru – the most famous of the city’s Gatherers – must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is murdering dreamers in the goddess’ name, stalking its prey both in Gujaareh’s alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill – or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

The covers, preliminary thus far:
Cover for The Killing Moon features a city with a huge red moon overhead

Cover for The Shadowed Sun features an eclipsed sun over a desert

The Cast:

  • Ehiru: A Gatherer of the Goddess of Dreams, Hananja. Ehiru has spent his life in service to the Hananjan faith, which values peace above all else — even life. As a Gatherer, his duty is to ensure that Gujaareh’s citizens can safely make the final journey into the land of dreams. He ensures this by killing them peacefully in their sleep in the dark of the night, and collecting the magic born of their final death-dream. Ehiru is a man of great conviction and serenity who has served Hananja without question for decades, but when his faith is badly shaken by revelations at the beginning of the story, he risks losing his own sense of peace.
  • Sunandi Jeh Kalawe: An ambassador from Gujaareh’s motherland and rival kingdom, Kisua. Sunandi is beautiful, clever, and very very aware of the danger that Gujaareh poses, if its terrible dream-magic should ever be unleashed against its enemies. She’ll need all her wiles to survive when a literally nightmarish assassin, the Reaper, tries to prevent her from warning her kingdom about a terrible Gujaareen secret.
  • Nijiri: Ehiru’s apprentice in the Gatherer path. 16 years old and with the ruthlessness of an old man, only one thing keeps his morals in check: his love for Ehiru. When Ehiru falters, will he have the strength to do what a Gatherer must?
  • The Reaper: Where Gatherers kill for mercy, the Reaper kills for pure sadistic joy. This beast hunts through waking and dreaming, and its powers are growing. Who holds its leash? And what will happen if it ever breaks free?

Any questions?

The desperate quest for a new TV fantasy

I’m one of those people who’s perpetually behind the pop-cultural cutting edge. In fact I pretty much lurk at the blunt ass-end of what’s new/hot/now; I discover TV series years after they’ve been cancelled, I catch up on the popular movies only when I find them in the bargain bin, I’m years out of date on the coolest animanga and games. Netflix loves me; I order DVDs and don’t watch them for months. This is by choice, mind you: with a full-time writing career and a full-time job to juggle, something had to give. And I don’t mind being out of the loop, even when those inevitable conversations occur among my friends as they excitedly gab over that thing that happened on [insert show] last night, or whatever. I just smile and say I don’t watch it, and endure the inevitable looks of incredulity and pity — which I’ll admit I don’t get often anymore. My friends all know me well.

Still, I do occasionally make exceptions for movies I really want to see and games that hit my storytelling sweet spot (at the moment I’m working my way through Catherine, which is quite possibly the most mindscrewy game I’ve played since the last Silent Hill — and that’s a positive recommendation, note). I also made an exception for Battlestar Galactica‘s reboot while it was running; took me awhile to get into it, but once I was hooked I watched it religiously. When a show is good, when it does the things I want a TV series to do, I’ll make time for it.

But that’s why BSG is really the last TV show I followed — it was brilliant, well-acted and very different from the usual space operatic fare, but apparently well-acted imaginative speculative stuff on TV is a lot to ask for. And what I really crave is a good solid BSG-quality show in the fantasy vein. I’ve seen a few excellent efforts, but they never seem to last. I remember a brilliant little show back in the 90s called White Dwarf (pilot on YouTube), that had potential like whoa — hated the voiceover, but it still had an aesthetic sensibility and originality that I loved, and I’m a fan of Neil McDonough. But it didn’t make it past the pilot. And now I’ve just heard about this — Ron Moore’s attempt at a fantasy police procedural. I watched the pilot before its takedown, and it was everything I would’ve wanted to see in a fantasy TV show: clever and imaginative worldbuilding, characters who feel like people and not archetypes, and a genuine engagement with all the possibilities that magic presents — not just a twee treatment of magic as a plot device. Some cool alternate history too, and a proven cast, proven writers, all high-quality stuff. I can’t see how 17th Precinct would’ve cost much; aside from the “hovering blood” effect, it was pretty much a down-the-line police procedural, which are popular because they’re so cheap to make. But even the pilot didn’t make it off the drawing board.

I think this keeps happening because TV hates fantasy. I’m reminded of the way Hollywood treated fantasy prior to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter film adaptations. Once upon a time, Conventional Wisdom said that fantasy on the big screen couldn’t sell. It was deemed too cheesy and laughable, a la Krull, or too commercially dubious, a la Willow — which was financially successful, note, just not as successful as its producers hoped. When Jackson’s budget for LotR ballooned, there was all kinds of doomsaying; since its success, there have been several other big-budget fantasy films made that otherwise probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day. A wholesale attitude adjustment. So what will it take to adjust TV networks’ attitudes towards fantasy television? If the decades-long success of Doctor Who — which I’d call science fantasy rather pure science fiction — doesn’t open doors, what will? If Ron Moore can’t sell magic, who can?

Yeah, SyFy — the same network that took a chance on BSG — has made fantasy attempts, but most of them have been offensively bad and should never have been made (link to author GL Valentine’s “Questionable Taste Theater” blog series, which I highly recommend). Last year on the Big Four we got Once Upon A Time, a predictable yawner, and Grimm — same concept as 17th Precinct, a magic police procedural, but far less imaginative (and way less interesting, IMO). We also got A Game of Thrones, which I hear is better than the books — I don’t have HBO, so I’ll get around to it when it’s on DVD — and I’m hoping it’ll make the difference. On the second-string networks we at least get some love for urban fantasy; the last few seasons have been drowning in vampires and witches and now apparently succubi. I’m not surprised; shows like this are cheap to make, and stand some chance of appealing to the Twilight demographic.

But none of this stuff feels fresh or exciting. Even GoT is nothing new — same old medieval Europe-ish setting, same basic focus on guys with swords, just with more sex and better acting than what we’ve seen before. Stick some dragons in The Tudors and you’ve got the same thing (literally; Martin’s story is based on the War of the Roses). But can a girl get some new Xena? I mean, seriously, where’s the Alien Nation with shapeshifting dragons? Let’s try Sergei Lukayenko’s Night Watch as a miniseries instead of a confusing and too-short movie. (It can come on after GoT.) Somebody give Rockne O’Bannon some cash and see what he can give the Farscape treatment to something fantastic.

What will it take to make (literal) TV magic?

I suppose I ought to do some kind of end-of-the-year post.

…except I don’t really feel like it. This year has been both heaven and hell in various ways. I got a day job which has made me financially stable — and it’s been eating into my ability to write. I published one book and am looking forward to two more next year… but I recently realized I’ve sold only one short story, and had none published this year — a record low since I started writing seriously. I threw a bigass party on the other side of the country, and attended a bigass party on the other side of the world — and both left me exhausted. My work has been nominated for every major award in the industry. I only won one, and I’m perfectly OK with that — “nominated for every major award” is a cool enough thing to say on its own. But it was still an emotional roller-coaster for awhile.

I’m tired, in other words, and I’m taking a vacation. I’ll be back next year, don’t worry.

In the meantime, I see other authors posting blog stats and such, so I guess I’ll do that too. I’m kind of surprised to realize there were almost 50,000 unique visitors to this site over the course of last year, 46% of which were completely new people as opposed to repeat visitors. Hiya, folks. Had no idea so many of you were out there! And here are the top blog posts of 2011 you looked at, in order by pageviews from top down:

  1. “Feminization” in Epic Fantasy?
  2. The limitations of womanhood in epic fantasy (and everywhere else, but for now, epic fantasy)
  3. Go@#$% Hollywood
  4. Dear Hollywood: How’s That Bigotry Working Out For You?
  5. A Brief Public Service Message
  6. Is There a “Rule of Three” in SFF?
  7. If Tolkien Were…
  8. Considering Colonialism
  9. Why is Oree Shoth Blind?
  10. Anime recs please!

The “feminization” post was stunningly popular — over 6000 hits at this point. And I’m leaving out things that aren’t blog posts; apparently the sample chapters of 100K and The Kingdom of Gods still get lots of hits. I also limited this to 2011, even though some older posts of mine continue to get a heavy hit-count, like this one and this one.

So by this highly informal and statistically suspect measure, you guys like it when I talk about feminism, racism, and anime/manga.

Hmm.

…Okay, then. Duly noted.

Have a great new year, ya’ll! I’m gonna go relax.

Carving a New World

Ah, the holidays. That lovely time when lists begin to dominate my life: holiday shopping lists, menus for family meals, packing lists for shipping and travel, eight million flavors of to do. I’m sure all of you reading this post, in any culture can relate. But there’s one list I’m working on right now that I suspect only the fellow writers among you will fully grok. Here’s what it would look like if I jotted it down on a sticky note:

  1. !!!
  2. Synop
  3. Characters
  4. Plot?
  5. Test Chapter 1
  6. Test Chapter 2
  7. Proof of Concept
  8. R&D (books and stuff)
  9. R&D (practical; February is cheap)
  10. Plot!
  11. Real chapters to 100
  12. Outline
  13. Pitch synop
  14. ???
  15. PROFIT (maybe)
  16. Write
  17. Name might be a good idea
  18. Write some more

This is the to-do list for my next novel. Looking like another duology or trilogy, actually. For the moment I’m calling it the Untitled Magic Seismology Project, or UMSP for short. (Ooh, sounds military.) To translate the above from the Original Noraish into English:
Continue reading ›

Smuggle up some book recs

Did a guest post over at The Book Smugglers today, in which I recommended some of my favorite books of the year. Some of ‘em you’ve heard before here — but some are new! So go check ‘em out. I’m also giving away an ARC of The Killing Moon over there, if you’re interested!

A Writer’s Education

Apologies in advance; not gonna talk about writing for the moment. Instead I’m going to talk about the writing life, in a way. See, I took the GRE on Saturday.

I did OK. Astounding on the verbal and abysmal on the quantitative, as I expected. I’ve been using my verbal skills steadily and with increasing intensity throughout my adult life, after all, and I haven’t done combinatorics in 20 years. No amount of short-term cramming can really make up for that, and I didn’t expect it to. All I really wanted to do was not embarrass myself, and I think I succeeded in that goal.

Still, I’m annoyed by the whole process.

I’m thinking about getting an MFA, see, in creative writing. I want to teach writing — and yeah, even with published novels, even with an extant masters’ degree, even with 10 years of experience teaching college students (albeit in a different area), it’s looking like I need the MFA to get a foot in the door. It’s not that I don’t like my current career; I do. But it’s mostly 9 to 5 work, and given that my writing career has taken off, I need the kind of flexibility that teaching would provide. I’m working on my next book already — no, can’t tell you about it yet — but I can’t move at the pace I need, which is almost as frustrating as writers’ block. It’s not a matter of money; I’ll likely make less as an adjunct or non-tenure-track professor. But I’ll gain time, and writing time has become my most desperately-needed resource lately.

We’ll see how that goes. But as I’ve spent the past few weeks’ writing time and a solid chunk of money on preparing for and taking this test, I have to say I’m finding myself really put off of any program that requires something like this for admission. I understand why they do it; in this day and age, American universities are under increasing pressure to prove that the expensive educations they provide are worth the money. They’re also facing the same struggle as every other part of American society: trying to find ways for the majority to do more with less while a privileged minority gobbles more than their share. No university admissions office has the time or resources to do an in-depth analysis of every propective student; most rely on numbers. Numbers are easier to explain, anyway, to people who don’t understand educational systems but nevertheless have power over them. As a result, some of the schools I’m applying to require high test scores from applicants so they can “objectively” say that they are bastions of the best and the brightest. Thus do they justify their own top-heavy existence.

But here’s the thing: the GRE tested me on absolutely nothing that I would need to survive an MFA program. In fact, it forced me to do things that made me a worse writer, from a creative standpoint. See, when I did the word-choice sections on practice tests, the words I tended to choose were those which had the right meaning, but which also added some accessibility or artistic elegance to the passage. But those choices were wrong. I kept getting terrible practice scores until I realized I needed to choose plainer, more obscure words. And this makes sense, given the purposefully dry and esoteric nature of scholarly writing… but in a creative writing program, I’m not going to be doing scholarly writing. It is by definition a program focused on artful writing. So in essence, I had to not write to the best of my ability in order to do well on the test, and thereby get into a program which would ostensibly teach me to write better.

I had a similar problem with the math. Problem-solving is an ingrained skill for novel and short story writers; developing a coherent plot requires it. But solving problems isn’t the point of the math component on the GRE; in fact, people who spend too much time actually solving problems are unlikely to finish. The GRE requires you to instead figure out the rules underlying the problems. A useful skill — but again, I had to train myself to do the opposite of what a good writer should. Which means I survived this test by avoiding the skills I actually need to survive an MFA program.

There’s no sane reason for an MFA program to require this of its applicants. It’s batshit that I have to prove my ability to be a fiction writer not by, you know, writing fiction, but by proving my ability to do something completely irrelevant. Other peoples’ experiences of late-in-life standardized tests have been similar: this guy tried some of the tests that kids in his state are required to take, and found that they tested him on almost nothing that actually applied to adult life.

And this whole experience has been costly, even though I pretty much took the cheapest possible path: the test itself was $160, and the test-preparation book I bought was $22. Taking a GRE test-preparation course from a company like Kaplan would’ve cost almost $1300; I can’t afford that either financially or time-wise. But there are people out there who can’t even afford the test itself, which means that this MFA program is unlikely to admit many people who come from poor backgrounds. Or people who are published trying to survive on a writer’s income, for that matter.

I’m going ahead with it, because at this point I’ve already put in this much effort; might as well not waste it. Only one of the schools I’m applying to — the most prestigious of them — requires the GRE. But I have to wonder what kind of writers are likely to emerge from a program that discourages competence, privileges those with cash to spare and free time in abundance, and is essentially unavailable to a goodly chunk of the populace. Just by throwing up this one roadblock, this school has moved from first to last place on my list.

ETA: So apropos: Graduate School Barbie!


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