Of Course Fiction is a Drug. Now . . .

In fact, it is many different sorts of drugs, producing many different effects, depending on the chemical one is consuming, and one’s own brain chemistry.  What produces euphoria in one, might produce heartbreak in another,  profound insights in a third, mere boredom in a fourth.

What all of these drugs have in common–or, at least, the subject of today’s sermon–is the time-release nature of the capsule the reader is consuming.  One might say that the reader is consuming words at a given rate; but more important is that the reader is consuming information.  Every sentence, every paragraph, every comma, is designed to control the flow of information to the reader.  And that sometimes means speeding it up, sometimes slowing it down.

Not long ago I had the insight that two of my favorite things to do as a writer are: to tell the reader things, and to not tell the reader things.  Let me expand on that a little.  When I say “tell the reader things” I mean, in particular, conveying information by the expedient of simply saying it.  “His name is Mark; he is a good friend and a jerk.”  When I speak of not telling the reader things, I mean giving the reader the information needed to form his own conclusions: “Adam spoke about Mark in notably uncomplimentary terms.  I couldn’t argue with anything he said, though it made me uncomfortable and a little sad.”

There are times for doing each of those, and one of the main factors to consider is: how fast am I dispensing information?  Am I in danger of making the reader irritated or impatient because he wants to run ahead of me?  Am I asking him to hold too much in his head without giving him time to process it all?”

Before this post gets too loaded with information long, I’ll just make one recommendation.  If you want to want to see the dispensing of information performed perfectly, delightfully, elegantly, go read Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny.

And that will do for now.


Viable Paradise

This was my second year teaching at the writer’s workshop Viable Paradise on Martha’s Vineyard, MA.  I have no idea how to talk about it.  I mean, there’s only so many times you can say, “Holy crap, wow!” before it gets old.  But, holy crap, wow.

I can’t mention the students by name, because I’ll leave someone out, and that would be wrong.  But, like last year, they were all as geeked about writing process as me.  Amazing, amazing week.

Thanks to my roomie, Stevie Chuck, who did several wonderful things (including talking Jenphalian into showing up) capped by swapping rooms at Just The Right Time.  Patrick gave a talk about publishing history and its current state that I thought was going to be dull and academic until suddenly it came into a focus with a snap of, “this is why your career is where it is.”  And music; fun, fun music.  Teresa on exposition was her brilliant self, and then she cured my scurvy.  Forever.  Jim and Dr. Doyle, who do the parts of this that I could never do, were wonderful throughout.  Bear spoke of plotting and a bit more came into focus; I’ll be trying some of it out in my current book.  Scott was delightful, and his explanation of plot tomatoes cleared that up wonderfully.  Sherwood?  It astonishes me how small she is, for having that much knowledge; you’d think she’d need to be bigger to contain it all.

And the staff.  Mac makes things work, Bart makes things happen, Chris is the one who is always there when something needs doing.  I’m tempted to leave Pippen out, to continue the joke, but I can’t on account of how much work she does (and the fact that she’s utterly adorbz).

But, really, the students made it all magical.  There was a moment during a critique session when one of them applied (perfectly) a subtle and nuanced approach learned in a critique the previous day.  You could feel the learning taking place.  That’s the sort of shit I live for.  Well, that and writing.  They kind of go together.

Off to Milehicon in Denver this weekend; I wonder if I’ll have come down by then?


Combining trad publishing, shared world, CC

As time goes on, I’m more and more of a fan of creative commons.  I especially like the creative commons share-alike, which (as I understand it) says: Feel free to use this as you will.  Feel free to write something based on it, and get paid for doing so–provided whatever you write is also released under the same arrangement.

I think that’s nifty.  It encourages cooperation among writers, which I think has the potential to create Lots Of Cool Stuff.

Obviously, this fits in beautifully with the shared world idea.  Some of us had started a project doing exactly that a few years ago, but it fell apart because of personal problems among some of the creators.

Now, here is where it gets tricky: Is there any way to combine CC share-alike, shared world, AND traditional publishing with the usual copyright?  At first glance, it would seem impossible.  But I know so little about any of this that I’m not yet prepared to give up on the idea.

You see, there’s this book, due out from Tor in September of 2013.  To me, it cries out to be the setting of a shared world.  But for various reasons, the book itself needs to be published by the traditional model.  Does that kill the idea?

Do you any of you know enough about copyright and such to have an opinion on the matter?  I’d love to hear from you.

ETA:   The license in question can be found here. Thanks to Peter Hentges.

Amanda Fucking Palmer quoted out of context

Amanda Palmer has been involved in some controversy regarding a recent project (thank you, Miarr, for pointing me to it).  I’m not talking about it, thinking about it, or linking to it.  And if the controversy itself becomes the subject here, I’ll probably close comments.

But, in the course of the discussion, she said something that made me want to stand up and cheer, and so I am obligated to quote it.  Upon being accused of “hiding behind her art,” she said:

“here’s what i consider hiding: producing inoffensive, corporate-penned, vanilla-bean love-story family-friendly made-for-mainstream-radio music that won’t offend a single person. and won’t make anybody laugh, won’t make anybody think, won’t make anybody wonder, won’t make anybody talk, and won’t change anybody’s life.

THAT, my friends, is hiding behind art.”

Oh, yes.