Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

I Have Zootopia Thoughts

Yes, I do.

Zootopia_poster_goldposter_com_50

(Zootropolis is the UK name of the film)

They have mostly been expressed by Other Me over on that Other Blog where I write more about furry/adult stuff, but if you’re interested, here are some links (most of these posts contain spoilers for the movie):

My thoughts about Zootopia and furry fandom leading up to the movie, and reaction after first viewing(s): http://kyellgold.com/wpblog/2016/03/07/so-zootopia-my-thoughts/

My reaction to people who said that Zootopia is “not subtle” in its portrayal of prejudice, and thoughts on the movie’s structure and some of the neat tricks in it:  http://kyellgold.com/wpblog/2016/03/28/zootopia-and-subtlety/

Should Nick and Judy get together?? Also, what’s the deal with romance in movies anyway? http://kyellgold.com/wpblog/2016/03/31/friendship-vs-romance-yes-zootopia-again/

And as a bonus, I talk about the best Disney and Pixar movies and how the heck you would even make a top five list from either studio: http://kyellgold.com/wpblog/2016/04/01/best-disneypixar-movie/

Three: You Know My Name

Hey there! If you’d forgotten or had never known I’m doing this countdown of the best songs from James Bond films accompanied by a flash fiction piece based on the title of each song, well, I don’t blame you. It’s been close to two years since I started. The last one was posted back in June, and that was months after the previous one. But! Only three to go, and two left now.


  1. You Know My Name, Chris Connell (from Casino Royale). I’m still not quite sure this isn’t #1. Ultimately I knocked it down slightly because it has very little callout to the Bond theme. But it’s a great song, and it is absolutely the perfect song for the major reboot of the series that happened in bringing in Daniel Craig. “Arm yourself because no-one else here will save you / The odds will betray you / And I will replace you […]The coldest blood runs through my veins / You know my name.” The callout to one of Bond’s signature lines—introducing himself—while at the same time making reference to the introduction of a new incarnation of the well-known character makes me happy as a writer.

 

From MI6-HQ.com: It is only the fourth Bond theme (after the opening medley of “Dr. No”, the instrumental theme from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” and “All Time High” from Octopussy) to make no direct reference to the title of the film. The soundtrack was completed early in the morning on October 11, 2006. The soundtrack was released on November 14, 2006.

“You Know My Name” is the first Bond theme not to be included on its film’s soundtrack album and was released separately as a single and on Cornell’s album “Carry On”. Cornell declared that it happened because he wanted the song to be “his”, and since he wrote “You Know My Name” in midst of recording the solo album Carry On, he felt that the song belonged to the album. In 2008, the song was included in the compilation “The Best of Bond…James Bond”. The video for the single premiered on MTV’s Making the Video on October 31, 2006.

 

Flash Fiction: You Know My Name

 

She jacked in with a password and a code sent to her mobile. No fingerprints; meatsuit security was unreliable. Fingers got cold, dry, wet; retinas could become detached or otherwise altered through the mysterious body processes happening inside her, largely beyond her control. Some of her friends recommended various homeopathic remedies or medicines or devices to wear on or under your skin. Lana preferred to focus her energies on the real world.

Today was a pretty routine meeting with a client in Singapore, at the beginning of their Wednesday and the end of her Tuesday. For this meeting she was Wong Jiu, fluent in Mandarin as well as English, avatar by Avid Diva. She downloaded the personality and loaded it.

And it wasn’t right. None of her Mandarin was there, and when she checked the avatar, it was some crappy free generic businessman off the Cloud somewhere. But Wong Jiu’s name was there on the file, so it had been corrupted somehow. Or hacked.

Lana fought the urge to disconnect right away. If it was a hack job, it was a clumsy one, and she could get out whenever she wanted. If it was a mistake, then she could poke around and maybe learn something—doubtful though, with a shitty avatar like that. And there was that third possibility in the back of her head, those apocryphal stories about people being approached by the secret cabal that everyone was convinced oversaw the Cloud. These contacts never came in the form of an actual message; they were puzzles, breadcrumb trails, modified ads. Maybe even corrupted profiles.

If it were just a Cloudbody fuckup, someone else might be loading Wong Jiu. That wasn’t worrying; her history and such were accessible, but she didn’t save passwords in her identities. They were all in her brain, because cyberspace was as unreliable as her meatsuit. Her mind was the only thing she could count on.

This guy Jenkins didn’t have any other languages, just English, and his history was as boring as his avatar: shopping, conferencing sites, and—hello. She’d read something about this one website, a museum site where people left coded comments on posts. That was a different museum, a science and natural history museum where this one was a modern art museum, but it was still incongruous with the rest of the boring profile. She could already feel herself getting dumber as she assumed the identity of Mr. Horace Jenkins, and she certainly didn’t feel any appreciation for modern art.

So she pulled up the site, entered Mr. Jenkins’ login information (he did store his password, idiot), and waited for her loaded memory to tell her what pages to go to. There were the ten most recently visited ones, eight of them by the same artist, called “studies” of various things. Studies in boredom, she thought, paging through them, reading the comments that were, if anything, even more boring.

But then, because she was alert for a pattern, she found one. Mr. Jenkins had commented on each painting, and she’d been trying to analyze his comments, with no success (example: “I feel that this painting really conveys the sense of disaffection with the modern ennui that the artist encountered in his time in Lagos.”).

After every comment, too, the same person, a Mr. Fallow, had responded either, “I agree,” or “I don’t see it that way.” Very little more than that.

So that might be a pattern, but then she noticed the other thing: the posting times. Every comment by Mr. Jenkins was posted at either 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm exactly. That had to mean something.

It had just gone 8 pm, which was the time Wong Jiu was supposed to be meeting with her client, so she went to a picture by the same artist that didn’t have a comment on it yet and posted one along the same lines. “I feel that this piece conveys a deep appreciation for the boundaries beyond which the artist has struggled.”

Then she dropped out of that memory, because the time had reminded her that she had business to conduct and that she had to figure out what had happened to Wong Jiu. She chose a backup identity and wrote to the client, identifying herself as Wong Jiu’s assistant and apologizing for her employer’s tardiness.

While she waited for their reply, she worked in another window to track down the problem with her memory. Trying to get into Wong Jiu just got her Mr. Jenkins again, so she filed a complaint with Cloudbody and wiped Wong Jiu to replace her with the most recent backup. Getting in worked fine after that, and the client wasn’t all that upset at her—they even commended her assistant on her professionalism.

Cloudbody wrote back apologizing and recommending that she restore her identity from the most recent backup, and also informing her that according to her terms of service, taking any action within an identity once you have determined it is not yours can be subject to criminal prosecution and termination of their services. She ignored the e-mail and chalked it up to one of those things that happens. After her meeting, she went through and double checked that all her identities had extra security protections in case someone accidentally got a copy of one of them, but she was always careful about that, so of course they did.

She didn’t think anything more of it until she went back to that painting’s web page a couple days later to see if “Mr. Jenkins” had gotten a reply. He had: Mr. Fallow had responded, “Surprised to see you commenting on this work, but I agree with your opinion.” Then a day and a half later, Mr. Fallow had commented again: “On second thought, I think I don’t agree with your opinion. I actually think that you know nothing about art.”

Mr. Jenkins had just recently commented below that. “That wasn’t me! I don’t think that about this painting at all! I’m sorry! Please contact me so I can explain.”

And Lana laughed as it became clear. They were coded messages: to set up assignations, probably of the extramarital variety. Ah, the lengths people would go to. She was glad she didn’t have anything like that to deal with.

The Super Bowl

So yeah, I went to the Super Bowl. If that sentence holds no interest for you then go on to your next thing, and no hard feelings. I’ll have a flash fic to post here this week or next.

A whole bunch of stars aligned over last year and the beginning of this one. We’d come into a little chunk of money. The Super Bowl was being played in the brand new Levi’s Stadium, about a fifteen-minute drive from our house; alternately we could walk to one of the stations on the VTA and take a train directly there (our farmer’s market, usually in the parking lot of the transit center, now gets displaced on Sundays when the 49ers are at home because of the traffic going through there). And just over two weeks ago, the favorite teams of my husband (Denver) and our roommate (Carolina) won their conference championships to set the lineup.

Denver is my team-in-law, yes, but I’ve liked them since Elway won his first Super Bowl eighteen years ago. The narrative of the team that had made it for several games and finally broke through and won was appealing, and I was just dating Mark at the time (he told me he watched that first Super Bowl win alone in his apartment, being so nervous he wouldn’t have been good company). Elway is back with the team, running the personnel side now, and that was a great story too. He’d been away from football for years and there were stories of him just hanging around his steakhouse, aimless, looking for something to occupy himself. He never has to pay for a drink in Denver, but he still wanted to do more. So he got involved with the Arena League’s Colorado Crush (we once saw him at an AFL game) and then accepted the front office job with the Broncos.

One of his first moves was to draft Von Miller; a year later he convinced Peyton Manning to join Denver after being released by the Colts. I’ve liked Manning for a while, partly through having a roommate from Indianapolis for the better part of seven years, but also partly because like Elway, he seems to be a very talented, great guy who for whatever reason was on very good teams that fell short in the playoffs early in his career. After his stunning season two years ago, Denver’s dismantling in the Super Bowl was painfully reminiscent of some of those early Colts losses. And this year–well, you all know the storylines.

So Jack, Mark and I looked at the price tag for Super Bowl tickets, said, “When will these teams we like be playing the Super Bowl in our backyard again,” took a deep breath, and bought three tickets. The ticket is the fourth most expensive piece of paper I’ve held in my life, after our house’s mortgage papers and my two car deeds (okay, after my two college diplomas as well). But you know, it’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’m writing this journal almost as much to document the experience for myself as to tell all of you about it.

We got a dog-sitter for the day and set out around 10:45 am for the VTA train station. We’d had to buy our passes the day before–$20 round trip to the stadium. This is approximately a 400% markup. I hope the VTA gets to keep some of that money (and CalTrain theirs for the additional $20 tacked on if you wanted to take a CalTrain to Mountain View). The line to get on the train was long but moved briskly, and was about 75-25 orange Denver jerseys vs. teal Carolina ones. Once on the train, we found a place to stand and waited the fifteen minutes for the train to get to Great America (it made all the stops even though nobody was allowed on or off there). That was the only place where someone commented on my Chevali Firebirds t-shirt; I didn’t explain it beyond saying the logo was a “Firebird” and they concluded it must be the “Denvolina Firebirds,” which was pretty amusing actually.

The weather was sunny, warm, and perfect–high of 73, I think I heard–and that was nice because we had to walk about a mile from the train station to Great America itself, where we had to pick up the tickets from StubHub. The line took an hour to get through, but StubHub sent people around with free cold water and soft drinks, and when we got to the park we got a bit of a surprise: StubHub had rented out the entire amusement park for its customers. Some of the rides were open (we didn’t go on any) and all the food and non-alcoholic drinks were free. We walked around the park for about an hour and had lunch, but by that time it was after 2, and with the game starting at 3:30 we figured we should head back to the stadium.

Outside the stadium was a large fairgrounds, where you could stand behind a Denver or Carolina uniform so it looked like you were a football player, or you could get your picture taken in a big frame with “SUPER BOWL 50” on it. A mob of people crowded around the stand dispensing Denver rally towels, while at the comparatively deserted Carolina one, the man told us, “Take two. Take as many as you want.” We were too late to get our picture with the Lombardi trophy; by the time we walked up it was on its way into the stadium. I’m not sure why it had to leave that early. It’s not like the game was going to end abruptly a half hour after kickoff and they’d need it RIGHT THEN. But otherwise we had fun walking around and being around all the fans, the teal and orange and black and white of player jerseys. The Carolina jerseys were mixed (we saw at one point a group of eight people with the jersey of backup tight end Ed Dickson), but probably 80% or more of the Denver jerseys were the familiar #18. One person had replaced the name “MANNING” on the back with “P.F.M.” which we interpreted the same way you probably are right now.

And around 3, we entered the stadium and went to find our seats. Levi’s is pretty easy to navigate and the crowds weren’t too bad except at a couple points. Even the bathroom line wasn’t bad. And our seats were terrific, about halfway down section 106 so we were right above the tunnel where the MVPs of the former Super Bowls came out for their group photo. I’m not a real student of the history of the game, but you couldn’t help but be impressed by the collection of players and former players they amassed there.

IMG_4098The performance of “America the Beautiful” was lovely, and then Lady Gaga just crushed the national anthem. Levi’s didn’t do anything else with it, no fireworks during “the rockets’ red glare” as I’ve often seen in sports arenas, nothing until the flyover of Blue Angels after the song was over. It was one of the best renditions of the national anthem I’ve heard.

And then…the game itself. I’ve heard some people describe the game as “terrible,” “sloppy,” “a real dog.” From our perspective, it was none of those. It was exciting on the first drive when Denver drove for a field goal. It was exciting when Miller stripped Cam Newton and Denver fell on the ball for a touchdown. There were stupid penalties, sure, just like in every game. But every Carolina drive we were aware that they could score in about three seconds and it would be a very different game. Manning, too, for all his limitations, had made it clear that he wasn’t going to cough up the ball as he had in the regular season, that they could move it at least somewhat against Carolina. So the pressure was on the defenses: Denver to limit Carolina to field goals, and Carolina to keep Denver from scoring, because once the Broncos got out to that 13-7 lead it was clear that scoring wasn’t going to come easy for the Panthers. We were never bored.

The guy in front of us was a real character, too. Jack overheard his friend explaining that when he got drunk, this other personality they called “Ron” came out, usually not until the third quarter. But Ron was in full force throughout the game. Early on, with Carolina against their own goal line, he yelled, “PICK SIX! PICK SIX!” just before the strip sack and Denver touchdown. I leaned down and said, “You almost called it!” and he turned and said, “I CALLED IT! I CALLED IT!” and then high-fived me and Mark. From then on, he’d turn and high-five whenever Denver made a play, loud and boisterous but not too bad (once, as Jack observed, he stopped yelling at the kids in Carolina teal about how “now they know it’s real!”).

(Mark deduced that he’d put money on the game, and Ron later confirmed that and told us that the amount was “thirty two, five.” I don’t think he meant $32.50.)

At halftime, I ran out to the store to grab a shirt for a friend and ended up talking to a couple Denver fans in line (as I was buying a Denver shirt). I wasn’t wearing any specifically Denver gear but I showed them my orange socks and one of them pulled up his pants leg to show his orange socks as well. We agreed that the defense was terrifying and they were quite optimistic for a Denver victory.

That’s another thing I noticed about the Super Bowl, from that initial train ride through the end of the night: everyone was more open, chatty, and friendly. We were all there for one team or another, so whether it was friendly ribbing between rivals or enthusiastic optimism between fans, there was a lot of chatter between strangers.

We enjoyed the halftime show quite a bit, but then, we’re fans of Coldplay as well as Bruno Mars and Beyoncé (and football). Because of slow clerks at the store, I didn’t get back in time for the first audience card stunt, but I did make it for the second one (and yes, we kept the cards).

IMG_4122I think we stood for almost the entire second half. A couple observations about seeing the game in person:

  • At every other game I’ve been to, the Jumbotron supports the home team. Here, the cheering was balanced; at one point they’d show the Denver defense highlight reel, and a few minutes later they’d show a Carolina offense montage. “MAKE NOISE” came up variously under one logo or the other at different times.
  • The timeouts seemed (to me, though Mark disagrees) to be longer and maybe a little more frequent. But this is only the sixth NFL game I’ve seen live, and the previous one was when Tim Tebow was quarterbacking the Broncos, so don’t take my word for it. It was weird, though, to have a timeout during which the Jumbotron was reminding us fans not to forget our cards for the two audience stunts while the players milled around on the field.
  • The game felt maybe more exciting to me without the announcers. Sometimes on great plays they would replay with the announcer voiceover, but by and large I didn’t miss people telling me what was happening. I enjoyed just watching the game unfold at normal speed. We all agreed we’d like to go back to Levi’s for a regular-season game sometime.
  • “Normal speed” is terrifyingly fast. Not, like, Indy car fast, but everything happens in seconds.
  • At the very first football game I attended, a Washington-at-Eagles game that you can look up by typing “body bag game” into Google, there was an Eagles touchdown that was reviewed. I still remember the crowd holding its breath, the woman in front of me moaning, “They’re going to take it away from us,” and then the surge of energy, the explosive cheer when the referee came back out and threw his arms up in the touchdown signal. The same thing happened on Anderson’s one-yard run for Denver: it got the big cheer, and then the announcement came that the play was under review. The crowd went silent and tense, watching the replay–was his knee down? No, he was in. But it was close. Would they overturn it? They did not, and the stadium exploded again.

The game was strange for us because that tension we felt never really went away until the fourth quarter was almost done. We were all aware that one lapse in the Broncos’ defense could let Carolina score with one play, something they’d done all year, and that they’d still have a chance with momentum after that. When Carolina was forced to punt with two minutes to go (after another sack), Mark and I hugged excitedly, and then hugged Jack consolingly while Ron continued to go bat-shit crazy in front of us. I think he high-fived a stadium post at one point.

As trophy ceremonies go, the actual on-field ceremony was shorter than I’d expected, but still emotional as at least Mark and I were still giddy with the win. They presented the trophy to owner Pat Bowlen’s wife Annabel*, then Elway got a chance to talk (with an emotional “This one’s for Pat”), and then they announced that Von Miller was the MVP of the game. There really wasn’t another option; he forced two fumbles that led to the Broncos’ 14-point margin of victory.

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After the ceremony, we ran down to the main team store, where in the back there were tables being frantically stocked with Denver World Champions caps, t-shirts, and pins that disappeared as fast as the harried employees could throw them out. One guy was taking orders for shirt sizes: just yell a size at him and he’d find the shirt and hand or throw it to you. I grabbed a cap and shirt for Mark, who’d been looking in a smaller store and had come up empty, and a pin for myself**. By the time Mark got down to the store, all the pins and caps were gone, but he found a cap abandoned elsewhere.

The whole experience was a little surreal. I mean, everything surrounding the game itself felt just over the top: the rented-out amusement park, the immense fairgrounds around the stadium, the halftime show, the pre-game ceremonies. But the game itself was a very normal football game. The game was the most enjoyable part of the day, but it was all the trappings that made this a unique experience. Was it worth it? For us, absolutely. To get to see those shows, the MVP parade, to get to see our team win a championship, to see a player we both like and respect finally win another one (this time as a GM!–oh, yes, I guess it was nice for Peyton too): yeah, it was an experience that comes along once in a lifetime. And it wasn’t just worth it to say we’ve done it; we had a wonderful, exciting time there, and being there in person made us feel more part of it in a way you don’t get from TV.

But you know, the Super Bowl parties are a lot of fun, too, and a lot less expensive. We’ll probably go back to that next year.

* Pat Bowlen, the longtime owner of the Broncos, suffers from Alzheimer’s disease to the extent that he can’t make public appearances anymore. He’s beloved by many of the players and coaches he’s worked with, and I always feel bad for his wife, who is clearly uncomfortable with public speaking and wishing for so many reasons that her husband could still be there. Pat is the one who famously said after Denver’s first Super Bowl win, “This one’s for John,” because Elway had played so well for the team for so long and had lost the Super Bowl three times.

** The NFL shop sold a number of pins in different designs, many of which said, “I WAS THERE,” and was trying to get a pin trading thing going. I saw no evidence that this was working at all. Some of the pins were neat, but I got one tasteful one and that was enough.

 

 

For the Record: My Hugo Voting

John C. Wright wrote about his experience after the Hugos: “I heard not one comment, no, not one, of someone who said they voted for ‘No Award’ on the lack of merit of the works nominated.”

I might venture to say that that was due to people being polite to one of the nominees, right? If you’re talking to or near someone who was nominated for a bunch of Hugos, you wouldn’t just say, “Well, I voted No Award because all those nominated stories were terrible. Yours too.”

I’m sure Mr. Wright can find ample examples of people voting on merit just by checking out the comments on file770 this morning, and that he’d have no reason to stop by this little blog, but for the record: I read every short fiction submission in its entirety and at least a lengthy excerpt of every novel (except for one which made me angry from the first sentence). I did not consult websites to see what was nominated by a slate (I had seen the slate, of course, but hadn’t checked back in weeks, so my memory was imperfect); in fact, looking back, I thought one of the novels that was not slate-nominated actually was.

Where I voted No Award, I voted based on stories and novels I’d read during the year, books that had won the Hugo in the near and far past, and compared them to the stories presented. I have read slushpiles for magazines, and with little exception, I found that most of the short fiction read like stories I would have rejected. Where I found those exceptions, I voted for them. I did vote No Award in several of the fiction categories because I felt none of the nominees merited a Hugo; in the novel category, I voted some of the non-slate nominees below “No Award” as well.

I did not vote No Award in either editor category, to my recollection; definitely not the long form one, at least.

Mr. Wright (and Correia and Torgerson and allies) seem unable to wrap their heads around the fact that people might not like the fiction they wrote/nominated, despite the fact that they openly disliked a lot of the fiction nominated in previous years that other people liked. As some people have pointed out, stories like Kary English’s “Totaled” garnered more votes than other slate nominees; I thought “Totaled” was the best of the short stories, and apparently others agreed. If you look at the voting patterns, there appears to be a recognition of quality, and while certainly some people voted anti-slate all the way, there are just as certainly some people who read all the puppy offerings and were not impressed.

Finish Line!

After spending a week at Comic-Con mostly NOT writing, I was worried that I might miss the Camp Nano goal. That’s not the end of the world, you know, because if I got 49,000 words, or 40,000 words, that’s still more words toward the novel than I had before. There were a lot of deadlines this month, Hugo nominees to read, short stories to write, and more travel (as I write this I am on my way to GenCon, which is likely to take up most of the rest of this month). But I’m stubborn and I was also doing it for the Clarion Write-A-Thon, and besides, I like proving that I can DO things, and part of the whole POINT of a NaNoWriMo (even in July) is proving that you can write around challenging circumstances. I’d hoped to write a little each day at Comic-Con, but ended up having to make up for it in the days following–and that’s fine, too. I allowed myself to slack off as I caught up to my timeline, which resulted in me getting my 50,000th word (and a few more) written today. AND I met all my deadlines. AND I read the Hugo novels. At least parts of all of them.

So now I can focus on GenCon and then Rocky Mountain FurCon, and then WorldCon, and meanwhile work on all the stuff I have to do for August, which includes more reading for award voting, reading for an award jury, another short story, finishing up edits on another novel, some work on a couple more ongoing novels, and then once I’m done traveling for cons, I have two more novels to edit for early next year release.

If you’d like to say “congratulations!” with a little bit of support for the Clarion Write-A-Thon, that’d be most welcome. They’ve got five days to reach their goal, and you’d be helping continue a valuable workshop for future writers. You don’t even have to support me if there’s another writer you like! But some support would be cool. :)

Early Plot Questions: Does My Hero Have To Save The World?

I’m two and a half weeks into the Write-A-Thon and a week into Camp Nano. My goal for both was the same: 50,000 words on this new YA novel I’ve been thinking about called “Shifter High,” which title I like because it’s resonant but also I don’t quite like because it sounds like a mediocre Disney Channel show from the late 90s. But ANYWAY, it is under way, 14,000 words as of yesterday. That’d be a good pace except that here I am at Comic-Con where Wednesday through Monday will be pretty solid either setup, teardown, socializing, or driving home. I did get 1,000 words in yesterday AND had a great conversation with my husband about the world and the scope of the story in general. I like to write more close, personal stories, but I’d been trying to add a bigger, world-spanning arc to this one (it’s going to be a series of novels). We discussed whether I have to (no), whether I should (maybe?), and whether that would come at the expense of the personal story (undecided, but I am leaning no). I am thinking of something like “Grasshopper Jungle” or even the Harry Potter series, where the protagonist’s rich internal journey is set against a backdrop of the world slowly falling apart (or quickly falling apart, in the case of “Grasshopper Jungle”). He was thinking about “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” where the world is already pretty much f-ed up and the heroine’s internal journey is present but is secondary to the world-saving plot.

In the end, you know, all I can do is write the story I want to write, but I’m still at the stage where I have the freedom to decide what that is. If there’s an internal journey AND a world-saving journey, then I need to figure out why THIS hero? What makes him* the one who can do this? Is it just right-place, right-time (that is totally valid; a story of a hero who is just the guy in the right spot who steps up)? Or is there something about his situation (e.g. Harry Potter learned from his upbringing never to take family for granted)? I am less a fan of the “Chosen One” scenario, but even that can be done right (hero wrestles with the implications of being chosen and what makes him worthy etc.).

* My protagonist is (for the moment) male, so even though there’s a fair amount of gender fluidity in this story, I’m using the male pronoun for the hero I’m talking about.

I do think that for a series, there should be a larger, world-wide plot, if only because you should keep upping the stakes in each book, and it’s hard to do an internal journey that lasts three or four books. So I am leaning toward that–bonus is that I only really have to seed it in the first book, and I can decide more about it later.

You can see excerpts from my draft at my Clarion Write-A-Thon page, where you can also drop a few bucks to help support the Clarion Workshop. Clarion really changed my writing life and I’m anxious to pay that forward as best I can.

Updating will be slow this week, but look for more next week! And if you’re at Comic-Con, stop by booth #1236 and say hi and see what Sofawolf Press has been up to.

Clarion Write-A-Thon Part IV

Once again into the breach, dear friends! I am again participating in the Clarion Write-A-Thon, as once again I have a good friend going to the workshop this summer (the amazing Dayna Smith). I’m going to be working on a first draft of a YA novel I’ve been thinking about for over a year now in the world of my story “The Lovely Duckling,” which was published in “Kaleidoscope” last year. The premise? A 14-year-old American boy of Japanese heritage enters a prep school for shapeshifters and must figure out which shape is his while staying one step ahead of the federal investigator tracking him down for the bank fraud that got him into the school.

It’d mean a lot if you could support me! My page is the same as last year and you can chip in as little (or as much) as you like. It all goes to help talented writers get to the next stage of their development.

Plus you can check in regularly to see my progress and read excerpts of the first draft, if that’s the kind of thing that you like to do.

Flash Fic Challenge #4: Live And Let Die

(Months. Months have gone by. So sorry about that.)

  1. Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney and Wings. These last four songs are so close that really, you could shuffle them into any order. I had each of the top three in the #1 spot at one time or another in the course of making these rankings, and you can make a legit case for McCartney’s entry as well. This was the first Roger Moore movie, one of the better ones (except for the Southern sheriff), and the theme song just crackles. It doesn’t include a callout to the Bond theme, but it’s a terrific song, one of the best of the Wings era, and one of the best in this collection.

From MI6-HQ.com: “Live and Let Die” was the last Paul McCartney single on Apple Records that was credited only to “Wings” (because the B-side, “I Lie Around,” was sung not by Paul but by Wings guitarist Denny Laine). Despite its first LP appearance on the 1973 soundtrack album, “Live And Let Die” was not featured on a Paul McCartney album until the Wings Greatest compilation in 1978. “Live and Let Die” was the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (which gave Paul his second Academy Award nomination and Linda her first), but it lost to the theme song from “The Way We Were”.

Fiction: Live and Let Die

Nobody can sneak up on you on a bridge. Dana had learned that from her father, before the old man went off south to the land of milk and honey. So Dana now slept midway across the Brooklyn Bridge off the main track, wrapped in a black sleeping bag so that even in the full moon, he’d appear to be just a pile of refuse. She kept her Weisskopf at her side in case she needed it, her walking stick tucked between the bag and the concrete rim.

Few enough people came across the bridge, mostly slackers who didn’t believe that the street wars had emptied Manhattan of any food. It had enough food for millions of people, they reasoned, and it can’t all be gone in fifteen short years. But Dana had seen the bosses directing their men to clear the roads, the big rumbling trucks heading out. She’d seen the fires at night grow fewer and fewer and finally go out, all save for herself and a hundred or so others who scraped by on what fishing they could do in the water. Everyone had a spot and the skill to fight for it, and Dana’s was close to the Brooklyn Bridge, a short concrete jetty on the Brooklyn side.

But it was daytime, all five of her fishing rods set and baited, when the stranger arrived. He whistled his way across the bridge, making it clear that he didn’t intend to sneak up on anyone. Dana stood anyway, the Weisskopf at her belt, stick in her hand. “Ho,” she said as he approached.

“Greetings.” The man wore a thick orange hoodie with the word “Clemson” on the front and patched black jeans. His voice was rich and deep as the weathered tan on his face above his thick white beard.

“This spot’s taken,” Dana said, her voice rusty from disuse, “and I’m not looking for a partner.”

The fellow whistled again affably and shook his head. “Nor I.”

“There’s no food to be had.”

“Your rosy cheeks tell a different story.”

She let the stick lean forward and dropped her hand to the middle of it. “There’s fish and things from this spot. And this spot is mine.”

“So you said.” He raised his hands, palms out. “I only wish to look through the apartments yonder there.” He pointed past her, to the low buildings of Brooklyn.

“Scavenger.” She relaxed her grip on the stick (though she kept the other hand on her knife) and gestured with it back to Manhattan. “You’ve gone past the prime scavenging ground.”

“Yes, yes.” He didn’t look behind him. “Some of the scavengers there are none too friendly, so I’ve come over this way.”

Scavengers rooted through individual homes, where the food would long since have spoiled, for things they deemed valuable. Most of the time those were guns, with enough ammunition for maybe ten or twenty shots before they became useless. It had been over a year since Dana had heard a gunshot. “There’s a supply store right around that tall elm.” She pointed. “Good fishing rods, if you want to go up the river. Might be some fishing spots twenty, thirty miles up.”

“I’m not much for fishing.” Now he turned and she could see the backpack he wore, green army color.

“There’s no bow and arrow in that one, but I think Rainy said she found bow and arrow to the east.”

His lips curved in a gap-toothed smile. “I know what I’m after, girl.”

She did, too. “Even if you find it,” she said, “what are you going to do? Start another street war?”

“I’ve no score to settle with you. So will you let me pass?”

She tightened her grip on the Weisskopf handle, but he just bowed his head to her and made a wide, non-threatening circle around her spot. Nevertheless, she watched him all the way down the ramp and into the underbrush, and she kept her eyes on that spot for most of the day.

Two days and part of a night later, she woke under a half-moon to three far-off pops, which stopped the coyotes from howling and then, moments later, set them all off again. Dana stayed awake most of the rest of that night, but nothing else interrupted the songs of the street dogs.

The next day, a man emerged from the underbrush headed for the bridge, a young man with a black beard and pale complexion wearing an orange hoodie with the word “Clemson” on it. He nodded to Dana as he skirted her spot and stepped onto the bridge, and Dana nodded back, ignoring the bloodstains on the hoodie. After all, it wasn’t any of her business. She had fish to catch.

FOGCon, Belatedly

Hey, if by chance you’re at FOGCon this weekend, then you might see me there. I’m heading up for Saturday and Sunday and will be checking out panels, the con suite, the bar, the dealer room, you know, all the usual con things. Drop me a note in the way we usually communicate if you want to get together, or look for the guy with my name on his badge. It’s almost certain to be me.

And if you live in the Bay Area, you should go to FOGCon. It’s a great little convention where you have a chance to chat with some of the area’s coolest F/SF writers and fans.

Thoughts on American Sniper

My reaction when I heard the slate of Best Picture nominees was “UGH FINE I will go see American Sniper.” Mark and I try to see all the Best Picture nominees every year, and while some of them are a challenge, we had no excuse for missing this one. It’s going to be in theaters well into February. So last night I bit the bullet (ha ha) and went to see it with a couple friends (Mark, who was working, promised to see it later).

There is probably a very good movie to be made about the life of Chris Kyle, the titular sniper, and it would cover the space between two scenes about 125 minutes into this 134-minute movie. The story of overcoming the impact of spending the better part of a decade in Iraq killing people to come home and adjust to normal life is a fascinating one, and maybe even more so when you’ve become exalted as a hero as Kyle was. To put it another way: most of “American Sniper” should have been the five-minute prologue to the movie about Chris Kyle.

The faults of the movie have been well documented: it’s very loosely based on an autobiography that was factually questionable to begin with (though perhaps not so much about his actual tours in Iraq). It ventures into the comic-bookish realm with an invented villain who might as well be named “Drill-Man” and an enemy sniper who was barely mentioned in Kyle’s account of his own life but who becomes his main foil. It shows a lot of violence–yes, in a movie about the guy credited with more kills than any other sniper in U.S. military history, you expect to see gunshots and violence, but the violence here is fetishized to a disturbing extent. The U.S. involvement in Iraq is painted in broad black and white strokes: Kyle is there to protect “our boys” from the “savages,” and while there are occasionally Iraqis who (reluctantly) help Kyle, the motivation of the people he’s fighting is never explored. Kyle’s wife is introduced as a strong woman who shoots down (sorry) a guy trying to pick her up, only to fall for Kyle’s charms; she spends the rest of the movie begging him to come back to his family.

It is the worst Best Picture nominee I can remember seeing. I’ll give Bradley Cooper credit for his performance; other people have criticized it because his natural charm and exuberance are leashed, but I admire him for being able to slip into another character that way. Technical awards, sure. It’s a beautiful movie in many places and I give them a lot of credit for never losing Cooper among all the similarly uniformed soldiers. The action scenes are filmed tautly and are easy to follow, and the sound is terrific. No, the nomination that bothers me the most is for its dull, mediocre screenplay. Stealing from Mark Harris of Grantland in his review of the Oscar nominations, it is stunning to me that this was nominated over Gillian Flynn’s screenplay for “Gone Girl.” That was a well-written, gripping film (and written by the author of the source material; maybe part of the reason for the snub is that she’s not a career screenwriter, while Jason Hall is at least an actor and has two other screenplays to his name); this was basically a war piece that verged on propaganda, and not even clever propaganda.

So anyway. If you’re an Oscar completist, go ahead and see the movie. Otherwise I don’t think most people reading this blog will care much for it.

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