What is Writing?

July 12, 2015 in General Topics

In an interest in informing the general public, and aspiring authors in general, a brief primer:

Writing is not an affair generally conducted from the vantage point of a white-painted chair overlooking Cape Cod on a cloudless day.

Writing is cramming in three hundred words because you’ve got fifteen minutes before one of your children wakes up from a nap.

Writing is not rising with the sun, brewing a pot of coffee, slapping your latest royalty check atop the others that still need to be cashed, and leisurely eating your gourmet breakfast before you plop down in your sunlit office.

Writing is often your second source of income–providing you’re making any income at all from it–and the words it produces often follow your horrible commute home.

Writing is not musings from a luxury high-rise, or interviews with Vanity Fair.

Writing is a thousand words thrown down from an airport bench during a layover while you wait, at 3AM, without a soul around.

Writing is not an effortless stride to The Next American Classic.

Writing is simple, honest sweat equity, day after day after day. And you get to watch much of what you love get thrown away.

Writing is not a sure thing.

Writing is almost never a sure thing, despite what you read in that inspiring “interview” conducted by some top-shelf magazine that certainly hadn’t been motivated by said author’s publicist.

Writing is not telling your friends “I’m working on a book”, or “I’m outlining a short story” or “I’ve got this great idea I’m committing to paper this weekend”, or “Someday I’m gonna write that horror tale I thought of”.

Writing is the act of producing a finished story. Everything until that, and after that, could be forgotten or celebrated, but none of it happens without that finished story lying somewhere within your own.

Review: Ninteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell

May 3, 2015 in General Topics

(As originally posted on Goodreads.comninteeneightfourbook)

Most of my past book reviews have been carefully groomed, edited works, which I go back through and re-edit for clarity purposes. But 1984 is a book that inspires raw emotions in a doublepluspoignant way, so a carefully constructed treatise just doesn’t seem appropriate.

Reading this book, I learned two things: 1) George Orwell is one of the few people I’ve ever encountered who saw the world as I do, even if we don’t agree completely on the solutions to its problems, and 2) he produced what might be the finest book in the English language. Read the rest of this entry →

Review: Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

March 8, 2015 in General Topics

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

Cover, Life of Pi

Life of Pi presents a challenge to the reader. Here we have a book whose back matter bills itself as a survival adventure, but whose text doesn’t present the true start to that adventure until its hundredth page (in the edition I read). And almost immediately, someone might worry that the whole premise has been compromised. Pi’s tale is rendered via what amounts to a flashback. We begin his story with an interview of the central character many years after the novel’s centerpiece events.

This kind of setup is ballsy. It’s like if David Copperfield opened his act by showing you the grand finale, then proceeded slowly onward with an exhaustive how-to of the trick involved, betting that he was good enough at his craft and stage show to hold your interest despite his having deflated much of the tension and (forgive the obvious choice of words) magic he was going to employ. Read the rest of this entry →

#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 21, “The Muse”

February 16, 2015 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

DS9: "The Muse"

That look, whatever it is–I like it. DS9, Season 4, ep 21, “The Muse”

Writers–the ones that believe in their bones that they were made to write–are very driven people, given to not only burning the midnight oil, but the morning and afternoon oil as well. Like all artists, there’s the potential for obsession, sometimes foisted upon us by outside influences. George Orwell, one of my favorite authors, was basically killed by the demands of his publisher; as a consequence Nineteen Eighty Four became his last work.

“The Muse” asks a question: is an artist’s legacy worth the cost of losing everything else? Of risking their very life? One of the characters present in this episode seems to think so, but their nefarious deeds wind up having less impact on us than the other half of this tale.

We’re presented with two plots in “The Muse”, as is the wont of Trek since the earliest days of the Berman-helmed shows, at least by my recollection. The first finds Jake Sisko abandoning a vacation with his father in the name of working on a story. What’s really happened is that Jake has been captivated by the offer of a female alien to help him with his novel. There’s clear sexual interest on Jake’s part toward the woman, named Onaya, and the episode dances carefully around the subdued eroticism of Onaya’s candlelit quarters. This is a coming of age tale, of sorts, both for Jake as a writer and as a young man, and like any good coming of age story, Jake finds himself in over his head. It’s a little uncomfortable for us, as it is for him. Read the rest of this entry →

#DS91sttime: Season 4, Episode 20, “Shattered Mirror”

January 28, 2015 in #DS91sttime, General Topics

Once again we descend into the mirror universe in “Shattered Mirror”, a place where–as my wife puts it–“everyone becomes a worse actor”.

I don’t know if I completely agree with that, though this might be because I always focus my ire on the logical issues inherent in mirror universe episodes. Lest you think I’m being unfair, let me tell you that I believe in an old adage about fiction: “Everybody gets one pass”. The problem with “Shattered Mirror”, and other mirror universe episodes, is that they’ve by definition already been given a pass. Namely, you have to believe there exists a place where nearly every prime universe character has a counterpart, despite the mirror universe’s millennia of radically different factions, wars, and historical events. You have to imagine that, somehow, most people had the same parents, and their parents had the same parents, all the way back to prehistory.

“Shattered Mirror” starts off with a premise so ridiculous I have a hard time writing about it without reverting back to the expletive-throwing days of my youth. Mirror Jennifer Sisko has apparently booked a tourist visa to the prime universe and comes across for a casual visit. Nervous smiles from both Sisko men follow.

This all makes perfect sense! See, you can cross over whenever you want, clearly. Sisko must have hopped over to grab Jennifer, or she beamed over onto the promenade for a visit, and everyone’s completely cool with this, because an organization like Starfleet, which has a freakin’ temporal protocol clearly has nothing to say about interfering with the affairs of another dimension. And hey, since that mirror universe is so great, clearly the prime universe wouldn’t see an influx of refugees, or anything like that, because it’s not like crossing over is so simple that mirror universe characters can do it in the name of having dinner. Read the rest of this entry →