The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

AMATDPMO

| 80 Comments

I’m feeling like waxing the cat today.  So, as I stare at the other screen, the one that says, “3.” at the top and has nothing else on it, I’m open for distractions. Ask me anything that doesn’t piss me off.

 

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

80 Comments

  1. So…chapter 3, huh?

  2. Have you seen the poem “Slavoj Zizek Gets His Hair Cut?”

    http://the-toast.net/2014/07/15/slavoj-zizek-gets-hair-cut/

  3. @Matt: That. Is. AWESOME!

  4. Drink any good wine lately?

  5. skzb

    Thought: Yeah.

    Matt: Um. That is very silly. Although (launching into a pointless argument that will accomplish nothing except distraction) I can’t see how it’s a poem.

  6. skzb

    Jen: No, but I still have the rest of the box.

  7. In my college poetry classes, I was told my sonnets weren’t poems! (People don’t use rhyme and metered verse in poems any more, doncha know)

  8. How hard is it to ship oysters into Texas in the 1800’s? Did they have oysters in Texas in the 1800’s?

  9. skzb

    Matt: Yeah, I’m familiar with college classes where they say stupid things. Although, to be fair, I don’t specifically require rhyme or metered verse; what I require is a relationship between form and content–in other words, the line breaks and format are part of the message of the work; merely doing something random in which changing the line breaks and format changes nothing is a good indication that it is something other than poetry. e.e. cummings was someone who could do free verse and make it powerful and moving for exactly that reason.

    On a more important subject, do you capitalize the first “e” in “e. e. cummings” when it is the first letter of a sentence?

  10. skzb

    Jeff: I’m not sure, but I suspect they did. I know they had oysters in Kansas Territory before the railroads came through (the Free State Hotel, burned by Border Ruffians in 1856, included oysters on the menu). They’d ship them in wagons packed with ice. I know that oysters were very popular in what we call “the old west.” I have no hard information about Texas, though.

  11. skzb

    Zac: I am! I am! And, you know, being a Serious Man of Letters, I could never consider wasting my time with an online game. But, um…maybe see you there after I get my ship.

  12. Somewhat more seriously, if we want to come up with another word besides “prose” and “poetry” to describe literary forms which evoke aesthetic in addition to/instead of symbolic meaning through physical arrangement but not through rhythm or euphonic patterns, I’m game. But I think we’ve past the point where we can deny it’s a thing! (although I would enjoy the argument).

    Anyway, the point is, I share your quibble, actually, but I don’t have another word for it, and i like amiable arguments.

    I am not sure what is grammatically proper, but I’m a descriptive not a prescriptive grammarian. I would say you do not capitalize the initial e, because like a traditional proper noun, it has a capitalization status which is set regardless of its placement in a sentence.

  13. What is your earliest memory? What is your earliest memory of books?

  14. skzb

    Matt: Entirely valid points (and I agree with you about the capitalization). But my whole quibble is based on those so-called poems that do NOT evoke meaning through physical arrangement, but rather use unusual physical arrangements that fail to evoke any additional meaning.

  15. Legit. But some people seem to find them more meaningful than others, falling along a spectrum, and even in the most prescriptive case we need a term to describe them! “Attempted poem?” “Cosmetic poem?” “Poetravesty?”

    I’ve also read poems which definitely have line breaks and arrangement which have meaning when read aloud by slam poets, but appear senselessly cut on the page. Do the performers imbue the poem with meaning? Or is it still a poem?

  16. skzb

    Oooo. Poetravesty. I like that. Mr. Hoover will like that. But in general, as is so often the case with literary conversations, one can only cross one’s arms, look stern, and say, “If you like that, you’re wrong.”

  17. Chapter Three is often a good place for a cooking scene. Or going to the theatre.

  18. How is Doc doing? Still a bird?

  19. If I made your household a pan of gingerbread, would it be plunged into war?

  20. skzb

    Chris: Yes.

    Pamela: Now that, alas, Jen has gone back East, there are fewer potential combatants. It should be safe. Only one way to fine out.

  21. skzb

    David Twiddy: Hmmm…I think my earliest memory is of when I was in the hospital with psemonia, just before my 3rd birthday. I remember the huge (it seemed to me, at least) pipe blowing on me in the oxygen tent.

    My earliest memory of books is my mother reading Winnie the Pooh to me.

  22. What’s the worst nightmare you’ve ever had?

  23. Maybe it’s not fair to ask you fictional questions, but here goes.

    What happens to children of Phoenixes at whose birth a phoenix does not appear? And what will happen when the wheel turns to the Phoenix?

    Are mixed breeds houseless?

    I have noticed that of the four musketeers (okay Phoenix Guards) there is only one child from among them. It would seem that the houses, the noble houses anyway, are not reproducing themselves. Any thoughts on that?

    And finally, when did it occur to you that Keira was really Sethra in disguise? Was it something you had decided from the beginning, just waiting for the best story to reveal it or did you just decide it while writing Orca? Or somewhere in between. It was one of the best moments in the whole Vlad series.

  24. skzb

    David Twiddy: Nightmares are interesting, because they’re all about the emotional reaction, not the events. That is, I’ve had dreams where horrific events took place, but in the dream, I was kind of, “That’s a shame.” Other times, I’ve dreamt of slightly awkward conversations and woken up sweating. I dunno. I remember one dream of falling off a tall building that was pretty horrible.

    Big Mike: They’re considered Houseless.

    Yes.

    Long-lived species reproduce more slowly than short-lived species.

    I knew that before I wrote the first word of the first book. There are hints if you look for them.

  25. Do you believe there is any significance to recurring dreams? And when a dream recurs hundreds of times is there any significance to it stopping?

  26. skzb

    Kevin: Um. I dunno. Seems likely, doesn’t it? I mean, intuitively. But then, truth is counter-intuitive. I’ve never studied the issue. What is this dream? Have you been feeling anxious lately? Also, how did you get along with your mother?

  27. Steve, have you ever read Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon (and the other Takeshi Kovacs stories), and can you explain to me why that character makes me want to re-read all the Vlad books again?

  28. skzb

    Mechaninja: Sorry, no, haven’t run into them. Without any exact knowledge, I would guess because “Kovacs” is a Hungarian name.

  29. From the time I was very young (3 or 4) until sometime after H.S. i had the power to hover. I had to hold my arms out straight and make a constant dry gargle sound in my throat to do it. As I rose higher in altitude the surface of the earth would begin to move underneath – so I was no longer over the same location. The longer I stayed at altitude the faster the earth moved under me.

    Unfortunately I had very little control. I could control altitude, but not direction. I had no control over speed. I would inevitably crash land or find myself perched on a power line or in a tree or the roof of a building. It was tremendously impressive power/skill to have, but not without its dangers. Knowing I would have to land made it at time almost painful to use the power – even when I was in a situation that clearly called for it.

    After the first few dozen forays I very rarely used it just to ‘joyride’ around or explore.

    My mother gave me my love of books and my ability to disconnect totally from my local environment while reading one.

  30. skzb

    After high school, you came down to Earth. That’ll be $10,000. Send in the next patient.

  31. The character’s home planet was apparently colonized by Japanese companies with Eastern European labor.

    When I went to look up what kind of Eastern European, I learned that Kovacs apparently means Smith. Takeshi apparently means soldier or warrior. I’ll admit that I’m disappointed that the author didn’t pick a Japanese given name that essentially means John.

  32. skzb: Wanna meet up in Vegas? It’s been way too many years since I last sipped at the fountain of that particular form of excess.

  33. Can you teleport me to another world? Almost any other world will do.

  34. Do you ever regret signing on to write a 19-book series so early in your career?

    I hope that doesn’t count as a question that pisses you off. In case it does, consider this one instead: what scotch would you pair with s’mores?

    (I posit Glenmorangie, although that could be because I just did that, and it was fabulous).

  35. Go away everybody. I want to see Steve wax a cat.

  36. I don’t. MY cat Ista is glaring at me just for thinking about it.

    Steve, how do you take your klavaXXXXX gfiXXX coffee?

  37. Yeah puppy, after all the received wisdom about e. e. cummings, the fact he always signed his name E. E. Cummings and didn’t have any didactic or polemical hatred of capital letters and actually used conventional punctuation all the time is just earth-shattering. Next it’s going to turn out that in his spare time James Joyce secretly wrote all of Lester Dent’s stuff.

  38. One of the most enthralling things to me about Dragaera is trying to fill in its genesis. We get a lot of that whenever we get some exposition on the Jenoine, the gods, or Sethra, but I can see some gaps that could stand to be filled in. (You may see enormous chasms that need to be filled in, of course. To me, the thing that screams loudest are the documents that I think Kelly had acquired in Teckla.)

    I know you said that the Keira spoiler was planned from the beginning — was the whole planet figured out that long ago, too? Where Dragaerans and Easterners came from, the Jenoine and Verra, those documents, all of it?

    And, um, would you mind going ahead and publishing it all in whichever book you write next, even if it’s Incrementalists Jr., plzkthx?

  39. *swans in late to note that sometimes exaggerated faux-poetic forms are used to mock certain aspects of culture, then swoops away to do the pterodactyl dance*

  40. No, James Joyce wrote all of Shakespeare’s stuff.

  41. skzb

    Brad: That sounds like fun!

    Cynthia: Not quite yet.

    Lise: I didn’t, really. I just signed up to write, you know, a couple of books. Then a couple more. Right now, I’m under contract to write one. When it’s done, I’ll see if I feel like writing more (I suspect I will).

    thnidu: A good dollop of half-and-half, and about a barn-megaparsec of sugar (ie, about half a teaspoon)

    Del: Yes, mostly. And, where’s the fun in THAT?

    Jenphalian: I think less to mock “certain aspects of culture” than to comment on poetry itself; which, given my objection to when the self-referential takes itself seriously, is part of my problem.

    strangepuppy: But of course, Joyce originally wrote it in Hungarian.

  42. Did you ever watch anymore Arrow? It actually got pretty good in the second season.

  43. skzb

    Oh, no I haven’t. I should.

  44. So, poetry is not “certain aspects of culture”?

    It’s certainly an expression of culture. And an indicator of class-status and cultural bias.

    Or are you trying to mention that an art form mocking its own container is not mocking something outside of itself, and thus distinguish “the certain aspect of culture that is poetry” from “other random certain aspects of culture that might possibly be related or lumped into the same dusty bin” ?

    Are we sure we can limit something that tightly?

    Also, I’m glad the second season of Arrow got better. The first season was fun in that ‘we need to get all of our tropes out of the way and also OMGTEHDRMAZ’ but it didn’t quite demonstrate that the writers were good enough to produce anything more than another pile of the same. I too will have to check it out. Once I get through my jenphalian induced Orphan Black archive crawl.

  45. Lord of Light, or Amber?

  46. skzb

    Jeff: If a work of art has nothing to say about anything except other works of art, I am unlikely to be interested in it.

    Ty: Oh, Lord of Light, absolutely.

  47. Also, for curiosity’s sake, what are your thoughts on Heinlein? Cool old guy, or blowhard?

  48. skzb

    Ty: Okay, longer answer: I grew up on Heinlein juveniles, and have never stopped loving them. Also, everything he writes is beautifully readable. That said, he does set my teeth on edge fairly often, and there are times I’d like to smack him for his simplistic attitudes toward complex problems, and his lecturing. And nipples do not go “spoing.”

  49. Cousin, my cousin:

    Cardigan or pullover?

    Napoleon or Illya?

    Horses or mules?

    Paper or plastic?

  50. skzb

    Emma: Pullover.
    Illya!!!!!!!
    Horses, although I really prefer a mule that has received a brevet promotion to horse.
    Um, depends what I’m putting in it.

    But, Illya!!!!!!!

  51. skzb

    Hey, Steve. How come EVERY OTHER WRITER talks about word count on works in progress, and you talk about page count? I mean, what are you, new?

  52. skzb

    Oh, good question, Steve. When I refer to pages, first of all, I don’t mean a page of the finished product, I mean manuscript pages (double spaced, one-inch margins; ie, about 250 words). The thing is, I really like having hooks, progress bars, as it were. A thing that makes me go, “I can get to THERE” or, “at least I’ve gotten THAT much.” DDB wrote me an emacs macro that let’s me convert word count into pages+lines, and I like checking it.

    Okay, here’s the thing. I have a sort of minimum chapter size. I give myself permission to go over it as much as needed, but I want call the chapter done unless it’s at the minimum (and, during the revision process, anything can get longer or shorter as needed, because story). And as everyone knows, I have 17 chapters per book (usually plus prologue and epilogue). So the thing is, as I write, I can sort of get a feel for how things are developing. For pacing, in other words. Am I dumping too much too soon? Is it about time for something to actually happen? How close are we coming to our resolution, and is it time to drop in a hint?

    Obviously, I could just as easily do all of that with word count, just by knowing how many words are in my chapter minimum; but that isn’t how I think of it as I’m creating first drafts. I just get a better feel for pace when I can go, “Hmm..at least two more pages in this chapter, and we need a good punch to end this one. All right, I guess now is the time to introduce the ninja parakeets.”

    Did that answer the question?

  53. skzb

    No, but thanks for trying.

  54. Steve, what does this post’s title mean?

  55. skzb

    Ask me anything that doesn’t piss me off.

  56. > Napoleon or Illya?

    I know more about UNCLE from Bear’s fun new book (One-Eyed Jack) than from any other source. I saw Avengers reruns frequently as a kid, but for some reason not a single episode of The Man From UNCLE. Were those two really as close in the TV show as in the novel?

  57. skzb

    Same feel, same (generally surprisingly high) quality of writing, one Brit, one American.

  58. How much of an influence is Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings on Dragaera? Also, you seem to hate the movies. If that’s true, why do you hate them?

  59. Heh, I mean to ask if Napoleon and Illya were really as affectionate and close on TV as they were portrayed in Bear’s book, not how similar were The Avengers and The Man From UNCLE 🙂 But maybe I’ll just watch some old episodes.

  60. skzb

    Tolkien is a huge influence, but mostly in a negative way. Not that I hate LoTR, on the contrary. But Tolkien did that already, so the biggest influence on my work is that it tells me, “Okay, well, here’s another thing not to do.” Or sometimes to undercut.

    I don’t exactly hate the movies (although the Hobbit movie was utterly appalling), and I think Jackson gets credit for taking the material seriously. But I find myself increasingly impatient with the parts where the writers went, “We can improve Tolkien’s dialog here,” and, “movie goers are too stupid to get this, so we’d better add an idiot subplot.” And, above all, I’ll never forgive him for turning Gimli into comic relief (and, seriously, what’s with the Scottish accent?)

  61. Miramon, if you choose to see some episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the show changes a lot from from season to season, which may be why it didn’t last. My favorite seasons are the first and last, which were done with a more serious tone. Also, I’m a sucker for black and white, which the first season used. The first episodes didn’t do much with Ilya; if they’d known what the reaction was going to be, it would’ve been called The Men from U.N.C.L.E.

  62. skzb: I totally think the places Jackson sought to “improve” LoTR are where that work’s at its worst.

    I thought the mood of the first movie was spot-on. I really liked what I saw in it.

    I began worrying when the wrong armies showed up at Helm’s Deep. I became sad by the time they’d decided big flaming signal pyres were a better way to get military support than returning the arrow that represented past favors owed. Rewriting good guys into bad guys (presumably to increase tension?) was as gratuitous and contrary as putting Elves in the last scene.

    I think Gimli as comic relief was one of those things you couldn’t expect Hollywood to pass up. Dwarf tossing at Helm’s Deep, as a military tactic? Here, I’ll share my box of tissues.

  63. 1. I know you’re positive on fan-fiction in general, but in specific: if I wrote a Taltos fanfic and released it (free) as an audio reading, would your publisher try to stab me in the left eye with a lawyer?
    2. Do you accept gifts from fans (via your agent or something, no stalker-creepy or anything like that)?
    3. Who would you cast as Vlad in a theoretical Jhereg movie?

    Thanks much!

  64. Excellent questions, @Caerdwyn!

  65. skzb

    Caerdwyn: 1. I should be astonished if there were any problems. 2. Depends. I’m not big on, for example, poisonous reptiles. 3. Alan Tudyk. See here: http://dreamcafe.com/2012/05/11/casting-the-whedoneseque-vlad-tv-show/

  66. I tried watching The Hobbit for the first time last night… I didn’t know it could be that much worse than the LOTR movies. That said, given how you think of fan fiction, what do you think about considering films like Peter Jackson’s as fan fiction, rather than adaptation? I was also interested to see your comments on Tolkien as “what not to repeat.” I consider you in good company with him as “world builders.” The things like connections between The Phoenix Guards books and Tiassa, as well as the revelation of Keira-is-Sethra which you knew from the beginning are excellent examples of that. That said, I’m wondering how much of your writing is “world building?” Is most of that work done, or are you adding to it all the time still?

  67. skzb

    “what do you think about considering films like Peter Jackson’s as fan fiction, rather than adaptation?”

    I’m good with that. But his Hobbit movie is really, really bad fanfiction.

    As for worldbuilding, the story usually drives it. I mean, I’ll think of a neat thing I want to happen, and then realize that this changes or adds to the world. Until The Incrementalists, I never did a lot of worldbuilding outside of writing the story. And so, yeah, I’m adding to it all the time.

    And don’t get the idea that I don’t like Tolkien; I do. But I’m not going to do heroic quest story, or big war story, without in some measure undercutting them, because, well, I’m me.

  68. “And don’t get the idea that I don’t like Tolkien; I do. But I’m not going to do heroic quest story, or big war story, without in some measure undercutting them, because, well, I’m me.”

    This is probably either blindingly obvious or way off base, but I always thought Dragaerans, Serioli, and Easterners were a deliberate undercutting of the Tolkien model of Elves, Dwarves, and Men that informs so much epic fantasy.

  69. skzb

    Kinda sorta, yeah.

  70. @Dennis – I always had the same association.

  71. At the risk of asking something that pisses you off, in light of your last post, I was wondering a bit about the discussion of trade, in Orca. Was this supposed to be subtle argument against capitalism? Personally, I have always viewed the whole book as a lesson in the absolute terror we should all have at government corruption… and the paralells between the plot of Orca and the housing crisis of 2008 seem to justify that.

    That said, looking back at it, the idea that the government exists to protect trade, at the expense of all else, does seem to be a knock on capitalism. However, the basic point that Kiera is making, also seems to be about basic economics… goods need to get to where they are needed, and that transcends the economics of the situation. If there is any value to government at all, this would seem to be it.

    I think part of my problem when trying to see the political perspectives in Vlad’s books, is that you do an exceptional job of presenting multiple points of view… and it often seems that Vlad takes on the view contrary to your own.

  72. skzb

    I think of it as a bit more of an examination of an aspect of the relationship between economy and the State than a “knock.” Be aware that my condemnation of capitalism is based on the conviction that capitalism has outlived its usefulness, not that it is inherently “evil.” I believe that capitalism would be a big step forward for the Dragaeran empire, for example.

    And yes, generally, if I find myself forced to insert political viewpoints into a work, I like to make sure the side I don’t agree with gets a fair representation; otherwise I’m just preaching, and I hate being preached to. Putting my viewpoint character on the opposite side from me is a good way to keep myself honest.

  73. Re: opposing viewpoints: Why does this intellectual honesty in you not surprise me?

  74. I always thought the relationship between Sethra and Kiera in Orca was a retcon, but couldn’t remember why. So I went back and read through the first several books. There are, indeed, many hints. However, in Taltos, Vlad meets Kiera to drink brandy only a few hours before Sethra tells him she can’t leave Dzur Mountian and, if I’m understanding correctly, is defending it from attack by the Jenoine. Was she just yanking Vlad’s chain?

  75. skzb

    Not exactly. It would have been more precise (although she certainly couldn’t say so) to have said, “I can’t be known to have left Dzur Mountain just now.”

Leave a Reply