Writing and Other Afflictions

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

Monthly Archives: August 2014

Cultural Differences

I’m used to sitting in coffee shops and restaurants in Silicon Valley overhearing conversations about technology. Today I was eating lunch in New York and the guys next to me were talking about technology, and something was a little different about it, so I spent my lunch (which they talked the whole way through) thinking about it. I came up with this: the guys in New York were talking as pure end users. I don’t think there are a lot of those in Silicon Valley, or even in the greater SF Bay Area. What theater is to New York and movies are to L.A., technology is to the Bay. A conversation about OneNote in the Bay Area would’ve started with a discussion of the more esoteric features, followed either by a talk about the finances of the company or by some small startup that was going to eat their lunch because it does one feature better. Or possibly they would compare OneNote to some previous software or competitor, longing wistfully for the days when said software did everything so easily. The point is, in the Bay, technology is a culture.

In New York, not to overgeneralize based on one conversation (certainly there are a lot of technology offices in NYC), technology is a tool. They talked about OneNote versus Dropbox versus iCloud versus Google Drive (SugarSync was not mentioned) the way you might talk about different cars. One guy asked, “Why do you use OneNote instead of MS Word?” and the other had to explain that it wasn’t a way to create documents but to store stuff. They talked about how each of those things kind of lives with its own application–the one guy had trouble saving stuff from Gmail to OneNote, for instance. *

(*Also: the one guy said “Microsoft 365 is pretty good” and the other guy totally listened to him, which would be enough on its own to place the conversation outside the Bay Area.)

I don’t want this to come off as “New Yorkers are stupid about technology,” because that’s absolutely not true. The two guys knew what all the technology did. They were struggling to find ways to make it all work for them. The reason this is interesting is because I think a lot of the time, Bay Area people forget that not everyone knows what their software does, or can understand it from a single ad. They come at it from the perspective of their immersion in technology–what do you mean, you don’t know the difference between Google Chat and Google Hangout??–and often in trying to make their software easier, they omit to make it intelligible.

None of this is new. It’s been documented before by people much more savvy and well-traveled than me. But from a writing perspective, it was an interesting reminder to think about cultural perspectives when you’re creating cities and civilizations. Not everyone even in the same country has the same backgrounds. 


Writer Blog Hop, One Hop Along

Take a look at Rebecca Adams Wright’s answers to the Writers Blog Hop questions! She does a great job of explaining what she writes and why.

LonCon 3 Schedule

I’m leaving for LonCon in, uh, three days. If you’re going to be there, here’s where you can find me:

Kaleidoscope Book Launch, Friday 13:30-14:30, Book Launch section of the Library in the Fan Village. Come help me and the authors and editors of “Kaleidoscope” celebrate the release of our diverse YA anthology. I’m really excited to be part of this and there’ll be a bunch of cool people there!

Panel: The Problem With Making a Living Writing F&SF, Friday 19:00-20:00, Capital Suite 4. Me and three other authors talk about whether F&SF is too much of a niche for most people to make a living in.

Panel: Furry Fandom: It’s Not What You Think, Saturday 18:00-19:00, Capital Suite 15. MikePaws, me, Huskyteer, foozzzball, and other furries talk about the fandom. There may be some costumes there!

Panel: Queer Desires In Fandom, Sunday 16:30-18:00, Capital Suite 13. I join some other authors to talk about why different fandoms create slash fic, video, and other transformative creations featuring alternative sexualities, different genders, different relationships, and so on.

Otherwise I’ll be around, and hopefully I’ll have a data plan so I can tweet where I’m hanging out. We’re getting in Thursday and will be taking off Monday morning for our trip to France and thence on to Berlin. I’m looking forward to it!

Writers’ Blog Hop!

I was asked by Dominick D’Aunno, a colleague of mine from the novel workshop earlier this year, to participate in a Writer’s Blog Hop, wherein I answer four questions and then tag two other writers to answer the same questions. Dominick has answered those questions and now it’s my turn.

What am I working on?

A bunch of things. My most immediately current project is a novel called “Black Angel,” the third in a series I’m writing under an alias (I use this alias for more mature work usually; the reason for using it for this series, which is YA, is complicated). The story takes place in a furry world (shorthand: think Disney’s “Robin Hood” where all the people are animal-people) and the protagonist is Meg, a nineteen-year-old otter girl whose friends have had supernatural experiences (in the previous two books of which they were the main characters) which she insists were not supernatural. In “Black Angel” we see her struggle with her own supernatural experience as well as her sexuality and we find out the reason she insists on remaining so grounded in the real world.

I’m also working on a fantasy novel that has been sticking with me for about four years at this point? Five? I think in the novel workshop I attended this summer I figured out what was wrong with the latest draft, if not how to fix it, but knowing how to find out how to fix it is an important step. This one is an alternate history set in 1815. The world is much as we know it, except that there’s magic, and among the effects it’s had are: the American Revolution has not happened, Spain has remained a world power, China is considered a world power, and a mage named Calatus created animal-people (now called Calatians) four hundred years ago without telling anyone how or why. Our hero, a fox-person named Kip, is the first Calatian to attend a sorcerer’s college, and book 1 details his challenges in gaining acceptance and solving the mysteries of the college.

Then I’ve got a novelette going for submission to an anthology and a novella due to be released later this year. On top of that, I have a novel to edit for release early in 2016 and I want to get some short stories out. I may have forgotten a few other things…

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

Depends which genre you’re talking about! I write about furries a lot, so that’s a big difference from the mainstream F/SF crowd (and just about any crowd outside the furry fandom). I just really like the concept of exploring what you are when it’s different from human, and I like the animal aesthetic, so it’s a natural fit. It also works well with the other major element of my work, which is gay relationships. Using characters with non-human backgrounds but human personalities in a human world lets me focus on the interactions between those characters rather than the cultures of where they come from. I know that culture is an important part of people’s lives, but I like being able to make that up, because then I don’t offend anyone and I can worry about “what happens when you love someone you’re not supposed to,” which comes up a lot.

I guess another way my fiction differs from F/SF is that I’m not after the “big world-changing thing” that SF loves, and I’m not sold on secondary fantasy worlds (though I have dabbled in them). I like writing about real people with real problems and I put a lot of my creative energy into my characters. One of the best compliments I get is when people tell me they feel like my characters are real, that they want to yell at them and slap them and hug them. Then I feel like I’ve created a real story.

Why do I write what I do?

I write animal-people cause I like the aesthetic, and for the reasons I sort of explained above. I write about gay relationships because I’m in one and many of my friends are in or have been in one, and because there aren’t nearly enough stories about them, and because the progression of how gay people are viewed in this country and in the world over my lifetime is a really fascinating story.

How does my writing process work?

I write full time, supported largely by my alias, but unlike many full-time writers, I keep a largely office-hours schedule. I get up with my husband and try to be at the computer at 9 or 9:30. I write for most of the morning and take a break for lunch. In the afternoon, I work on secondary projects (this week my secondary project is researching and outlining a comic script I’m working on with a friend) and tackle e-mails and other business matters associated with being a full time writer.

When I write a novel, I write the first draft and then let it sit for a month or more–sometimes as long as a year. Then I pull it out and do my own edit on it to fix big structural and character problems. The next step is to pass it out to my writing group and give them a couple months to read it and give feedback. I do another pass with their feedback and then usually have a second round of readers to go through it. After another edit, it goes off to the publisher for edits and then I do a final pass where I read the WHOLE THING aloud to catch mistakes, and then it goes off to be printed. Then I wait for the first person to e-mail me and tell me what typo they’ve found.

Next Hop!

You will see answers to these questions on the blogs of two very talented writers. First, Rebecca Adams Wright, a Clarion classmate of mine with a lot of talent and a penchant for writing about sharks and bees and alien parasites, among other things. I particularly like her story “Yuri, in a Blue Dress,” if you are unfamiliar with her work and would like a place to start. She will post her answers at http://www.radamswright.com .

Rebecca Adams Wright is a 2011 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop and a former University of Michigan Zell Writing Fellow. She has an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan and has won the Leonard and Eileen Newman Writing Prize, So to Speak magazine’s 2009 fiction contest, and a late-night Emily Dickinson poetry challenge. She is a former slush reader for Clarkesworld magazine.

Rebecca’s stories have appeared in Day One, The Account, and Daily Science Fiction and her nonfiction has appeared in Children’s Literature in Education. Her short story collection, The Thing About Great White Sharks and Other Stories, will be released by Little A in February, 2015. Rebecca lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan with her husband and daughter.

Second, you’ll see the answers from Ryan Campbell. Ryan has been in a writing group with me for over half a decade and is the author of the wonderful novel “God of Clay“. He has just returned from the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop and will post his answers at lunchmuse.blogspot.com.

Clarion Write-A-Thon Wrapping Up

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve reached my goal of 50,000 words for the Write-A-Thon (even if I haven’t quite updated my page yet). You still have two days to offer some support by way of congratulations, I guess–I doubt I will be adding much as I have just finished a conbook story that was due this morning and I have to spend the rest of the day writing a wedding I’m going to be performing tomorrow (it is a very small legal ceremony so not complicated). But the book will continue and it would be great to help out the Clarion Foundation a little more.

And more Bond posts are coming up. Only five to go! Also I will be posting next week about my WorldCon schedule, which includes a launch event for “Kaleidoscope,” the Diversity in YA anthology I’m published in. Busy summer! Hope to see some of you guys in London. :)