Writing Updates: 2/24/11

Not much is new right now. I’m still collaborating with Michael Bacon on the outline/script for Tweekers. I’m waiting for more information/official release dates for Growing Dread and In Situ. And I’m still working on The Exile’s Violin 2–this might be the last steampunk thing I write for a while. Man I hate typing that title. I need to come up with a new one soon.

I wrote an outline for a new short story the other day. I might work on it this weekend. I’ve also been itching for some space opera recently. I might have to do a little bit more work on The Price of Loyalty — my sci-fi/space opera novel that’s been stalled for a while. It’s set in the same universe as but before my short story “Runner.”

So here’s the updates for TEV 2.

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2 (working title)

Deadline: N/A (5/1/11 maybe)

Word Count: 23,376

My Response to “On (Moral) Fantasy Fiction II” and Others

Yesterday I read a fascinating post called “On (Moral) Fantasy Fiction II” by Paul Charles Smith that looked at different types of morality in epic or heroic fantasy. He talks about how there’s a difference in Tolkien’s writing when he was writing in a “tragic mode” or when he was writing The Lord of the Rings. It was a highly insightful look into shifts between a “shame” based culture and a “guilt” based culture. I recommend you read it.

In the article Smith mentions that he was partly inspired by the double review of Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind and Tolkien’s The Children of Húrin in Strange Horizons back in 2007.

In the review, reviewer Adam Roberts states that Rothfuss’ book doesn’t quite pan out because of the fact that it’s “medieval trappings” merely amount to post-modern anachronisms. He points to specific passages that if you didn’t know were from an epic fantasy book, they’d look like they could fit inside any modern novel.

Roberts contends that Tolkien is able to write more convincing epic fantasy because of his grasp of language and from coming from a different time. While I agree that Tolkien’s experience as a professor and philologist gave him a linguistic edge, I don’t agree with the implication that a modern writer can’t write authentic sounding epic fantasy.

I have my own issues with Rothfuss’ novel–mostly dealing with how Kvothe is able to overcome almost any obstacle and excel at everything. (Roberts does raise a fantastic point about the framing devices used in The Name of the Wind, especially those that pertain to the art of storytelling and how Rothfuss tries to deflect criticism by using some meta jabs at detractors). However, I don’t have an issue with Rothfuss’ use of language and writing style.

How many times have you read an amateur story that attempts to tell an epic fantasy tale only to be turned off by the use of language? People seem to think that using “thou” and “thee” will make their tale more authentic and “old sounding.” Most of the time it doesn’t work. Robert’s doesn’t explicitly state that inverted constructions and archaic vocabulary make or break epic fantasy, but I can’t help but get that impression.

Tolkien was uniquely suited to crafting prose that sounds like heroic verse because of his background and experience. Not every writer has to do that to create epic fantasy. Not every writer should do that. I took a class dedicated to Chaucer, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to try to write in a Middle English-inspired tone, even if I’m writing epic fantasy. It’d come across as stilted, like I was trying too hard. There’s much more to it than just the sound; there are characters, settings, and thematic issues that also shape and guide the genre.

I agree with both Roberts and Smith that there are cultural differences that permeate down to the metacognitive level between our time, Tolkien’s time, and “medieval” times (wherever the setting happens to be based).  But to me, things like where we draw the inspiration for our epic fantasy stories–either from individual achievement or personal defiance against a predetermined doom–are far more important than writing old fashioned and fancy.

What do you think? Am I missing the point here? Is sound/syntax just as important as setting, theme, and characters when it comes to epic fantasy? I want to know what other writers and readers of fantasy think.

“Neurolution” to be Included in Biopunk Anthology

Good news everyone! (I always say that in the Professor’s voice from Futurama). My short story “Neurolution” is going to be featured in the anthology Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions by Timid Pirate Publishing. The anthology is set to come out in March 2011, so it’s just around the corner!

I found out that the story had been accepted a couple of weeks ago, but I had to keep it quiet until the announcement went live on their website. Maybe they announced it a couple of days ago, but I just saw it tonight.

I wrote “Neurolution” specifically for the anthology, so it felt twice as good when it got accepted. It was the first time that I’d tried to write something biopunk-ish. I’ve read a little bit in the genre, including Deadstock and Blue War by Jeremy Thomas, so I knew some of the genre’s conventions. It’s always a little bit of a risk when you write something based on pretty strict guidelines. If it doesn’t get accepted there, what are you supposed to do with it? Luckily, that didn’t happen in this case.

I can’t wait to see the cover art and get my copies of Growing Dread: Biopunk Visions. I want to read all the other squishy, creepy, grotesque stories in it.

Nicest Rejection Letter Ever

Yesterday I got the nicest rejection letter ever. I had submitted a short story a couple of weeks ago to an online publication. I saw the response email in my inbox, and I was all prepared for one of the generic “Thank you for submitting. Unfortunately…” letters all writers have grown accustomed to seeing.

Instead I got a personal note from the editor saying how much he liked the story, but he had to reject it because it was more of a ghost story than the type of Lovecraft story he was looking for, but he was really sorry to have to do that. Seriously, here’s an excerpt: “So I hope that you will consider sending me something along those lines [more Lovecraftian] soon, because you are the kind of author that I enjoy reading.”

Damn. Talk about taking the sting out of rejection. However, as much as it boosted my ego, I can’t help but wonder how helpful the letter really was. Writers need rejection and criticism. It’s the only way we can get better at our craft. If a story gets rejected it forces us to go back to it, dissect it, and staple it back together in some sort of improved way. While the standard, generic rejection letters don’t offer much advice, this super nice rejection letter didn’t either.

I’m not saying he should have sent it. No, please send me more like that. My ego loves the attention. But I know my story wasn’t perfect. I can’t help but wonder what he would have wanted improved or revised if he had accepted it.

The letter was a wonderful distraction, but it was only temporary. So bring on the pain you editors and slush pile readers out there! I can take it. We writers can take it. We need to if we’re going to become better writers.

“Tweekers” and “Weekend at the Cabin”

Hello, Internet. I’ve been spending a lot of my time looking for jobs. Luckily I have a few things lined up, and with a little luck, some of them will pan out.

I started working with Michael Bacon on the screenplay for the movie “Tweekers.” We’re still in the outline phase right now, but oh man, this movie is going to be all kinds of ridiculous. The crazy part is that many of the scenarios in it are all based on true events. I’m laughing as I’m just remembering them.

I’m really excited to a part of this project, and from what I’ve seen of his work, Michael’s got a lot of talent. I have a real good feeling about “Tweekers.” Plus it’s got drugs, sex, and rock n roll in it. Everyone knows that’s a winning combination right there.

Michael also hosts a weekly SBIG movie night–So Bad It’s Good. He shows films so terrible that they’ve circled around back into the hilarious category. Last night was “Weekend at the Cabin” which was written/directed/produced by Jason C. Moulton.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the quality of this movie, and I was not disappointed. The movie sucked. The dialogue sounded like it was written by a junior high school student. It was a horror movie that did nothing original (or even well). Moulton wrote himself as the main villain, but really it felt like he did that just because he wanted to touch some boobs. There’s nudity, and then there’s bam!-out-of-the-blue-this-is-almost-porn style nudity. This movie had the latter kind of nudity.

Every scene ended with the same kind of transition. The audio dropped in and out. Man I wish all of you could see the movie, but I don’t want you to have to pay for it. That guy doesn’t deserve a dime for this laughable excuse for a movie.

Seeing a movie that bad definitely gives me more confidence when it comes to screenplay writing. I know I can do better than that.

Writing updates!

Project: The Exile’s Violin 2 (working title)

Deadline: N/A (maybe 5/1)

Word Count: 3,361