June 28, 2016


http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_OCWXw6InF70/TKigMBk87NI/AAAAAAAAAy4/tL7MhIfL9CM/s1600/2212_1025142570.jpgEach Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them. ? z Z

H Trope: “Alucard” – Dracula Written Backward as a way of disguise…

“The word ‘monster’ comes from the Latin word monstrum which is an aberrant occurrence, usually biological, that was taken as a sign that something was wrong within the natural order,” read Wyndham D’Aquino.

“So, what are you trying to say?” said Charlotte Mogwai.

“Nothing,” said Wyndham, looking out the window at the house across the street. Small, run-down, it was just like the rest of the neighborhood. Pathetic. It was easier than looking at Charlotte. But he added, “You know, the fact is that it’s an aberrant occurrence.”

“Are you saying Dejario is a monster?” She snorted – a most unladylike sound, Wyndham thought – and said, “You’re just jealous!”

He shrugged and put down his tablet computer. “Yeah, but that doesn’t make Dejario any less a monster.”

“There is nothing wrong with the natural order! It’s just that...”

“It’s just that he’s not natural?”

“It’s not like he’s a vampire or a werewolf...”

“Those things aren’t even ‘monsters’ according to this definition! They were just made up in Hollywood to make money for the studios…” Wyndham said.

“So you’re saying that Godzilla was part of nature?” asked Charlotte.

He opened his mouth, paused to reconsider, then said, “Inasmuch as mutations are natural, Godzilla was.”

“Dracula’s natural?”

He shrugged, “Based on a real villain with as taste for bloody impalement of his enemies, then ‘yes’. Perverse but natural.”

Charlotte scowled, whipped out her tablet computer and said, “Cyclops, Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein, Werewolf, Invisible Man, Mummy, Bigfoot, Dinosaurs, Zombies, King Kong, the Blob, CHUD, Cthulu, Kraken, Medusa, Triffid, Trolls, Freddy Krueger, Ghost, Hulk, Evil Clown, Leprechaun, Megalodon, Predator, Wolfman, Wyvern...”

“Stop! No, they’re not all natural!”

“So, he’s not a monster.”

“He is a monster!” Wyndham said. “Besides, his name is Namel B. Isivnieht, from Russia.”

“So? Lots of people have strange names! Especially when they come from Russia.”

“His name is The Invisible Name, backwards – what? You failed spelling and grammar in school as well as math?”

“I didn’t fail math!”

“I was there – you did! Big time!”

Charlotte was ready to slap his silly face off his silly head and raised her arm to do it when something gripped her wrist – and another part of her body – and said with a Nigerian accent, “You don’t have to worry about him anymore, girl!”

As she struggled against the unseen hands, Wyndham suddenly crumpled across the room, blood spattering out from the back of his head as he pitched forward. A woman’s voice said, “Get your hands off her, Name – or the next bullet will be for your head!”
Image: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5125/5323388637_bd70a9af8b_b.jpg

June 26, 2016


http://topicstock.pantip.com/chalermthai/topicstock/2009/11/A8547572/A8547572-vote0.jpgI went to see IDR yesterday then read the reviews after. While hardly surprised, I was deeply disappointed.

The first and foremost point that the critique-meisters went after was that it was a “sequel”, didn’t live up to its predecessor, and that it was boring.

Of course, I’m not a movie reviewer nor I am I particularly fond of movies. I get my “entertainment” from reading and as a reader, I have very clear expectations of storyline, character development and even a sense of what sequels are supposed to be like.

Anyone who read the HARRY POTTER series is familiar with sequels and series and how they’re supposed to go.

According to what reviewers say, the same does not hold true for movies. After reading a dozen of the things, I’ve come to the conclusion that a movie is supposed to neatly set out a premise and then wrap up all the loose ends in ninety or so minutes, and be completely unique in how it does so. If it doesn’t, then the movie fails. It’s as if movie reviewers (and maybe the movie goers themselves) have this idea that life, as reflected in movies, should be all neat and tidy and that’s why people go to them.

ScreenCrush’s MATT: “Next question: Those guys out on the boat who just happened to be perched right next to the alien laser drilling to the molten core (MOLTEN CORE!) of the Earth: How did they know how far the drill was getting? Did they have sensors in the Earth’s crust?” (http://screencrush.com/independence-day-resurgence-spoiler-discussion/?trackback=tsmclip) sort of fixates on the idea that the writers used the whole molten core idea and that it was somehow WRONG. I was an Earth science teacher for eight years, so I have some knowledge of the planet. The core is divided into two parts, the molten outer core and the solid inner cored. The only reason that the inner core is solid is because of the pressure of the outer core, mantle, crust – and the force of gravity. Matt uses it as a mantra – and I’m guessing here – as a sign that the movie’s science is fatally flawed, therefore it’s just one MORE thing wrong with it. Of course, I could use the same argument by repeating “warp drive (WARP DRIVE!)” in critiquing any Star Trek movie and invalidating it on the basis of proven science. Oh, and Matt maybe isn’t familiar with ground-penetrating radar…

Peter Travers at Rolling Stone said, “But come on, you don't buy a ticket to something like this to see a soap opera with C-list acting. You want aliens. And you get them. At first, they're kind of cool in a creepy way. And then repetition dulls the effect. Finally, you think, is that all there is?” http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/independence-day-resurgence-20160624#ixzz4CglNDInF) Scanning through this reviewer’s output since April leads me to be suspicious of his knowledge of science fiction as a whole and wonder if he doesn’t tend to rank political correctness and comic books higher than pretty much everything else. I’ll give his review a pass except to say that it seems that he is unfamiliar with the written form of the genre.

So, given those two reviews, I’m going to jump off. Or spout off. Take it for what it’s worth.

IDR is the logical next step in the storyline with the addition of a secondary alien group whose main purpose is an ethical imperative to gather up survivors of the Swarm’s voracious abuse of natural resources on an interplanetary scale.

You have a typical SF trio here of totally different aliens: the Swarm, a hive-mind civilization that travels from world to world raping each one for its resources. Perhaps they also have an evolutionary or ethical imperative to “prove” each generation by defeating the individual members of a civilization in a sort of “hand-to-hand” combat and so instead of blowing Earth up and harvesting what they want or orbiting us opposite our current rotation, bringing us to a standstill, and then letting us die off naturally – they engage Humanity.

You have Humanity, descended (or created with) apes – social, and tribal. You have an AI created by not ONE alien people as even Wikia implies, but by many survivors, who are being collected and shuttled to one world where they might develop a way to protect our little corner of the galaxy from the Swarm. And the accountant? He’s the only one desperate enough to actually touch the Sphere and initiate contact. If it wasn’t for his deep desire to be part of the war; his disregard not only of orders from the whackadoodle Dr. Okun but for his own life, very likely NO ONE would have contacted it and the story would have ended when the Swarm Queen nabbed it from a surprised Dr. Okun.

In the world of REAL science fiction, this is a familiar story – James White’s FEDERATION comes to mind as well as his best-known SECTOR GENERAL books; as does the movie GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; Edmund Hamilton’s Federation of Stars (INTERSTELLAR PATROL series begun in 1929); James H. Schmitz created the "Federation of the Hub" in 1952; even STAR WARS, with its multispecies Republic in opposition to the entirely human Empire.

The ID series is about exploring the place of Humanity in the universe – and if some of the science is off, hey, it wouldn’t be the first time! STAR WARS insists on having sound in space and STAR TREK characters never feel the acceleration of anything in their universe!

I contend that ID4 and IDR are a reasonable attempt to explore our place in the universe, how we might deal with both an implacable, and to-us-mindless alien civilization and how we might become part of a union of alien civilizations seeking a solution to stemming the tide of advanced aliens bent on strip-mining the universe…

June 24, 2016


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/72/Rhll_wire_rope.jpgOn Earth, there are three Triads intending to integrate not only the three peoples and stop the war that threatens to break loose and slaughter Humans and devastate their world; but to stop the war that consumes Kiiote economy and Yown’Hoo moral fiber. The Braiders accidentally created a resonance wave that will destroy the Milky Way and the only way to stop it is for the Yown’Hoo-Kiiote-Human Triads to build a physical wall. The merger of Human-Kiiote-Yown’Hoo into a van der Walls Society may produce the Membrane to stop the wave.
The young experimental Triads are made up of the smallest primate tribe of Humans – Oscar and Kashayla; the smallest canine pack of Kiiote – six, pack leaders Qap and Xurf; and the smallest camelid herd of Yown’Hoo – a prime eleven, Dao-hi the Herd mother. On nursery farms and ranches away from the TC cities, Humans have tended young Yown’Hoo and Kiiote in secret for decades, allowing the two warring people to reproduce and grow far from their home worlds.
“We had nearly fallen into stagnation when we encountered the Kiiote.”
“And we into internecine war when we encountered the Yown’Hoo.”
 “Yown’Hoo and Kiiote have been defending themselves for a thousand revolutions of our Sun.”
 “Together, we might do something none of us alone might have done…a destiny that included Yown’Hoo, Kiiote, and Human.” (2/19/2015)

In a well-lit room with walls and a few laptops, my great uncle stood with his legs slightly spread, pointing a large, ugly weapon at us, the tip glowing a dull red; like the eye of an alien robot.

The ten Yown’Hoo came through after us, the Herd throwing themselves into a huddle after some soundless signal from the Herd Mother.

Qap and Xurf followed them, along with the rest of the Pack, all of them folding back into four-legged attack form in moments.

Last through was Retired – his full title was Lieutenant Commander Patrick Bakhsh (ret) – the man who had just led us into this trap. He brushed the front of his uniform off, looked at Great Uncle Tim and said, “Always the one for a surprise, Tim. You gonna let what a little girl says control your behavior?” He crossed his arms over his chest adding, “You’re going to support the paradigm.”

My great uncle smiled then said, “It’s not what the kid said, it’s what has been said over and over; the whole of Naturals distrust us. It’s why we were banned.”

Retired said, “True. But I don’t think you’ll deny the atrocities committed when some of the Artificials not-quite-died.”

The blaster ray gun’s red blowing chamber drooped a little. GU Tim sighed, “I cannot deny them.” The chamber came up, “But not all of us became zombies!”

“Any ugly word,” said Retired.
The group of us was squishing away from our Master guardian. Why was he saying stuff like this to my great uncle? Did he WANT all of us to be vaporized down here in the dank hobbit hole? On the other hand, Tim said, “It was an ugly time, Pat. You were there for the end of it.”
“I was. I was there when the best Artificial Humans sacrificed themselves to the zombie hordes.”

The muzzle of the gun went dark, and Tim lowered it – the arc of dimming death drawn as if he were writing words with sparkler embers. He said, “We poisoned our best then disguised them as Naturals to kill our sick brothers and sisters.” There was a long pause. No one in the Triad moved or made a noise. I was pretty sure if I took the slightest whisper of a breath, Great Uncle Tim would lift the gun, turn it on, pull the trigger and blow all of us into our component elements.

“But if the ill had succeeded?” Retired said softly.

“Then we would have all died at the hands of the Naturals.”

There was a long pause, then Retired said, “So you run an underground railroad of sorts to keep Triads, the Masters, and the rest of the Humans of Earth safe – both Natural and Artificial.”

“We do,” GU Tim said. He set the weapon aside and slapped the wall. Lights came on behind him, lining a corridor that shrank away to a single point of very, very distant light. “This is the way we have to go.”

June 21, 2016


https://img-cdn.advisor.travel/657x340px-Terracotta_Army_1.jpgEach Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc.) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them.

I know this is just a wiki, but this idea was inspired by a former student of mine who became a physics teacher and is currently teaching in China. He visited this site several weeks ago and has posted pictures on Facebook. His pictures of this army came up recently and though I couldn’t link directly to his Facebook, I linked here:

It got me thinking – if there are some 8000 pieces (and about as many are still buried)…what if the mother of a teenager was working as part of an international team and uncovered something unusual (not that a standing army of 16,000 horses, soldiers, acrobats and various and sundry other “people” isn’t unusual enough!) What if an archaeologist intern, Wu unearths a unique figure, say a woman, knocked down, crying out in terror, with her arm upraised as a man draws back a spear and is obviously about to run her through…

Is there a curse on this piece that comes to haunt the head archaeologist’s teen boy, Shun when he sees it and is strangely attracted to it?

Or is it case for a forensic anthropologist (or would it be, more appropriately a forensic terracottaist) and was a MURDER involved which someone commemorated? Who did the commemorating, who was the perpetrator – and what if it had a connection to the present?

Names: ♀ China; ♂China  

June 19, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: What Went RIGHT With “Prince of Blood and Spit” (Perihelion SF, September 2015) Guy Stewart #38

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9f/22/3b/9f223b1e57a36e14db3eb13715fbe3f9.jpgIn September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right” and I’m busy sharing that with you.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! Hemingway’s quote above will now remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales! As always, your comments are welcome!

Probably the most important thing that went right about “Blood & Spit” was that the story takes place in a world I have been working in for a long, long time.

The first story I ever wrote for the civilization that had grown in the clouds of a gas giant world called River was “The Baptism of Johnny Ferocious”. (I just realized that I didn’t write about what I did right about that story! That will be a subject for a later Advice coumn!) In it, I introduced the violent nature of the “skies of River” and the society that had developed. I also established that it was in a disputed area of space called the Brink and that the Confluence of Humanity – who embrace genetic engineering; and the Empire of Man – who embraced Human purity; were in a constant state of tension.

The second most important thing was that long ago, when I got serious about my writing, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t write about disposable worlds. A disposable world, like a disposable diaper, was made for a single use then gets thrown away. SF writers – in fact all writers – have been doing this since the first writer pressed a stick into soft clay. We make up places in order to make a point.

I have no trouble with that and have done it myself, but it seems both wasteful and vaguely obscene to create an entire world, use it to make some mundane point, then toss it away and make another one. Aside from the fact that I enjoy reading series of stories, it seems to me to be a brand of hubris to tell a story then assume that there’s nothing else to say in that world.

Last of all, with “Blood & Spit”, I’ve added to a growing series of stories, developing different aspects of a complex civilization. In “Into the Deaths”, (accepted for STUPEFYING STORIES) I look at the responsibilities of the highest echelon of Imperial society and explore their responsibilities; in “The Stars Like Nails”, I look at a different world to see how life debts are paid in different cultures; in “A Choice of Sunrise”, I take on our own ways of looking at the celebration of a life passed; and in “Hūmbūlance”, I explore the real foundational difference of Confluan and Imperial society: in the Empire, you are Human only if your DNA is 65% untampered. Stan Schmidt, former editor at ANALOG liked this idea. But only three of the six have been published. Eventually, I’ll merge them into a novel called IN THE SKIES OF RIVER, but until then, I’m going to keep on exploring the place.

So what did I do right?

1)  I used a world with which I am already familiar.

2) I refuse to use disposable worlds.

3) I developed another aspect of a complicated civilization.

How about you – do YOU like series? (I know my daughter dislikes them, preferring her stories tied up by the end! Lots of people do like series but maybe more do not. Certainly CJ Cherry’s Human/Atevi FOREIGNER series deserves more recognition than it’s gotten – so do “disposable universe” folks hold sway in speculative fiction when it comes to awards?)

June 16, 2016

MARTIAN HOLIDAY 83: Stepan of Burroughs, On the Rim

https://static.pexels.com/photos/7717/pexels-photo.jpgOn a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters, Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils. It makes good sense, right – get rid of religion and Human divisiveness on a societal level will disappear? An instrument of such a pogrom might just be a Roman holiday...To see the rest of the chapters, go to SCIENCE FICTION: Martian Holiday on the right and scroll to the bottom for the first story. If you’d like to read it from beginning to end (60,000+ words as of now), drop me a line and I’ll send you the unedited version.

QuinnAH, the blue Artificial Human boy who refused to leave Stepan Izmaylova’s side  said, “I bet this is where your prayer gets answered and I go flyin’ up ona disk first, huh?” The boy apparently didn’t notice he was gripping Stepan’s shirtsleeve.

“Probably,” Stepan replied looking down at his charge, scowling, then nodding decisively.

“What?” the boy exclaimed. He yanked his hand free and stopped walking alongside Stepan. “You gotta be craze!”
Stepan slapped him on the back, took the disk, and said, “Just kidding, kid. Besides, it’s tuned to me. I’ll go up then drop you a rope.” He looked up, said a brief, silent prayer, then activated the gMod disk.

“That thing’s gonna stop halfway up!”

With a coil of rope over his shoulder, he stepped on the metal disk. It immediately activated, a virtual control screen projected from it into the air before his face. He lifted his chin a fraction, and the gMod disk lifted slowly, dropped a few centimeters, then continued to rise up. Clenching his jaw, holding his jaw a the precise angle that allowed him to rise slowly, Stepan pretended indifference until he exited the huge hole in the warehouse ceiling. He stepped off and fighting incipient vertigo, he lowered the rope through to the waiting boy below. He called down, “Now don’t be afraid, just keep your eye…”

Quinn’s head popped up and he pulled himself up on his elbows. Standing, he slugged Stepan in the shoulder and said, “No offense intended, Preach, but if you can do it, I can do it.”

“No offense taken,” Stepan replied, then looked around for a place to secure the rope.

Quinn said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll tie it up after I pull it up a couple hundred. Then I’ll break the lock on that door and find out how far down the stairs go.”

“What stairs?”

Quinn laughed, “You…” he used incredibly vulgar street slang for Naturals.

Stepan couldn’t help it, he smacked the boy up back the head. “You will not use that phrase again around me.”

Quinn laughed again, but raised his hands in surrender. “OK! OK! No need to shake the brain up! Around your freakiness I’ll keep the words squeak!”

Stepan wasn’t exactly sure what the boy meant, but he figured that a few more reminders might be necessary, but he was trainable. He sighed and set off across the roof. Quinn grabbed his sleeve again. Stepan turned, opening his mouth to rebuke him until he shoved a long metal pole into his hand and said, “I’d tap the roof before walking on it, Mr. Hero of the Faith Wars.” Stepan made a face. He’d hoped that part of the adventure in the HOD had gone over the boy’s head. “The hole we came up through ain’t likely to be the only one around here. Best be careful.”

Stepan took the pole, nodded and said, “Then I put my life in your hands, young Mr. Friend of the Faith Wars.”

Quinn snorted. “I ain’t got no beliefs in nothing by myself.” He looked up at Stepan, “Mind, I don’t hold nothin’ against you. You seem like a good type. At least you’re here to do something other than arrest us, enslave us, or hunt us.”

“Hunt you?”

“Yeah. Not many know on account of the people who could prove it is the ones whose dead. But the…” he managed the first consonant of the vulgarity, stopped himself, “But some of the really, really rich of your kind like to go deep down into the tunnels and hunt my kind.”

“Animals!” Stepan exclaimed.

“Sure we act like animals, but…”

Stepan looked down at Quinn, put his head on the ebony haired head and said, “You aren’t the animals, son. We’re the animals.”

Neither one was paying attention to the roof until a booming roar echoed from the filthy wall of a formerly transparent Dome rim…

June 14, 2016


Image result for incomprehensible alienEach Tuesday, rather than a POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY, I'd like to both challenge you and lend a helping hand. I generate more speculative and teen story ideas than I can ever use. My family rolls its collective eyes when I say, "Hang on a second! I just have to write down this idea..." Here, I'll include the initial inspiration (quote, website, podcast, etc) and then a thought or two that came to mind. These will simply be seeds -- plant, nurture, fertilize, chemically treat, irradiate, test or stress them as you see fit. I only ask if you let me know if anything comes of them. z Z

Landon Smith shaded his eyes as he looked up into the crystal clear Nebraska sky. September was an odd time for an Alien invasion. “What do you suppose this group wants to see?” he asked the girl next to him as he pulled off his cowboy hat and wiped at the band of sweat. Even though school had already started, it was still a scorcher. Clarkson in Omaha had drawn him from his hometown with the brass ring of the first full-scale Theoretical Alien Psychology and Philosophy PhD in the country.

Olivia Williams had come for the same reason, though she hated the fact that she’d also promised to the college place-kicker on the football team. She sighed. She STILL wished people wanted her for mind more than her extra-point record. She said, “The same as all of them – poverty-stricken Earth People.”

“Yeah, but…” he began.

“Why come here and not Harlem or…” she added.

 "Addis Ababa or Dakar…”

“Or any of a hundred other places?”

“Why here?” they said together.

“It’s not like they talk to anyone – or even pay us any attention. We could be stray cats as far as they’re concerned.”

“Have you ever watched one of their ‘poverty retreats’?” Landon said as they first pallet jack rolled past with a platform of weird aliens. He knew he wasn’t supposed to feel that way, but they were all but incomprehensible to him – or any other Human for that matter. Not one single alien conformed to a body layout that even remotely resembled something on Earth. The “parallel evolutionists” were rethinking their theories at an alarming rate. The Laws of Evolution were being seriously considered as totally outmoded and insufficient to explain, well…anything living. One of the reasons he’d decided to major in TAPP.

“They’re so weird, they aren’t even creepy. Even in my worst nightmare I wouldn’t have been able to imagine these intelligences.”

“That’s why they aren’t particularly scary.” Landon said, “They don’t remind us of ourselves in any way, so they CAN’T be frightening. They’re…alien.”

They said the last word together again. She shrugged, “Well, I for one am looking for some way of breaking through their indifference.”

“You don’t hold with Feng Youlan’s theory that they simply cannot see us – that we’re so far outside of their realm of experience that their brains can’t interpret us at all?”

She laughed and they walked away, arm in arm. Behind them, one of the aliens twitched something that might have been an eye and might have blinked in what could be thought of as interest.

Names: ♀ common Arkansas names,  ; ♂ common Idaho names   
Image: https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQiPkIbgRb9_t_Hpv-90EhpoQ9rnHwdh4QMlMLhE8Gxt7Y1OeYbFw

June 12, 2016

Slice of PIE: Again, the Question I Should Be Asking: “Why Don’t I QUIT Writing?”

This essay has been revised and updated from the version that appeared on June 5, 2011 and on June 12, 2016.

Long ago, in this very galaxy, I wrote a column for an ancient blogsite called FRIDAY CHALLENGE in which I answered the question, “Why Do We Write?” I admit, I had a brilliant answer! (;-)) You can read my first thoughts here: http://thefridaychallenge.blogspot.com/2010/12/why-we-write_19.html

Since then though, I’ve had second thoughts about how important this question is to ask.

Let me back up about fifteen years, to the year of Clarke’s First Odyssey. The seed for this thought fell on the ground the first time. My wife and two young kids were out garage-saling. We stopped at a house that had kid’s toys and clothing and got out. While my wife checked for treasures, I wandered into the garage.

[Let me pause in the story to give you a bit of local tradition. While every house I know of has a car garage – it’s hard to start a car that’s been sitting out directly exposed to -27 cold for any length of time – when we build the garages, most of us don’t INSULATE them. No reason; like I said, it’s a tradition. Typically, the interior of a garage presents an image of bare pine studs with some sort of exterior insulation laid over the outside on which clapboard or stucco or other siding is attached. From the studs hang numerous brackets, hooks, pegboards, sheet rock, shelves and electrical conduit or Romex® cable and either bare incandescent light sockets and bulbs or an arrangement of fluorescent fixtures and bulbs. Garages are usually utilitarian spaces reserved for cars, tools, lawn mowers, canoes, fertilizer spreader, grass-clipping catchers, roof rakes, snow blowers, garden implements and snow shovels.]

In the garage – in addition to the traditional décor – every space between the studs had a 14-inch piece of pine stud nailed into place at 12 or so inch vertical intervals. On each of the 14-inch pieces, paperback novels were packed side-by-side from the base plate to the rafters.

There were hundreds of books. Possibly thousands and all of the books were marked FOR SALE. I started in a corner and began to scan for titles that contained the words “star”, “alien”, “invasion”, the name of a real planet, a name that sounded like the name of a planet or anything that looked in any way “science fiction-y”

A guy approached me and asked, “Lookin’ for something in particular?”

He was only a little older than me and acted like this was his place, so I said, “Are all of those yours?”

Grinning, he nodded and said, “I’ve read every one of them, too!”

I’d noticed that while it was a broad selection, it seemed to be heavily weighted toward horror, romance and thriller. I was impressed. “All of them?”

“I was gonna be a writer, so I was told I had to read not only in the genre I wanted to break into, but outside of it as well. And I was supposed to keep current, too.”

I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, too! I said, “Did you get many things published?” Thinking I’d found a writer-soul-mate a mere four blocks from my home, I found my heart was racing. I confess was hanging on his every word.

Shaking his head, he replied, “Nope, so I gave up.” He meandered away to help someone fill a paper grocery bag with books, leaving me startled and heart-broken.

At that point in my career, I had no professional publications despite decades of throwing short stories, essays and novels at the heavy, quarry-stone walls of the Citadel of the Editarchs. Even then, standing in that slightly dank garage, I didn’t seriously consider giving up.


In the cold, hard light of the down-side of the second decade of the 21st Century, I have to honestly say to myself, “Why don’t you just give up? Why don’t you take up a hobby in which you might not only stand a chance of showing improvement, you might even take lessons! You’ll NEVER get really published!”

Of course, since then, I’ve had 50 professional publications, an uncounted number of unpaid publications that others read and comment on not including my personal blogs, and I have two novels, an agent, international publications. Yet even today, I confess I still feel that tug of rationality.

Then my inner writer exclaims, “What? Quit writing and give up this luxurious life of fame and fortune? ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’”

My honest conscience fires back, “I’ll bet you have no idea how many times you’ve had stories, queries, articles and essays rejected.” It adds in a perfect Steve Zahn rendition of his quip from YOU’VE GOT MAIL, “As far as I can tell, the internet is just a new way to get rejected by women.” It adds in a snide voice, “You’ve submitted 973 times and published 93 manuscripts. That’s a pub rate of 9.5% since 1990. Pathetic!”

The inner writer then points out, “While that may be true, the earlier years were typically 0,1, or 2% pub rates. Last year you had only 4 of 82 manuscripts published. That’s only 6.4%, and you didn’t even get paid for all of those!”

“True, but half of them were REQUESTED and MORE than half were paid for! And you’ve sort of become a regular at PERIHELION and might be a kind-of regular at ANALOG!”

The argument subsides and I’m left wondering what was it, standing in that garage fifteen years ago, that made me go back and keep writing when every logical bone in my body and the thousands of paperbacks on the wall said, “Take up STAR TREK model building! At least you’ll have something to show for it!”?

While there was probably a measure of sheer cussedness in there, I think what kept me going was a deep desire to speak my mind in a way that was so entertaining that no one would realize that I’d spoken it.

Boiled down to its bare bones and reconstructed like a dinosaur skeleton, I find that the reason I’ve kept on writing since I was thirteen might be summed up in the words of Jeremiah, “…read from the scroll which you have written at My dictation the words of the Lord to the people in the Lord’s house on a fast day. And you shall read them to all the people of Judah who come from their cities.” Jeremiah 36:6 (NASB)

I work to write what God directs me to – sometimes better than at other times. But always I want to write his word so that others can read them and see His glory and salvation.

And THAT’S the real reason I don’t quit.

Seventeen years after that first query flung into space, I still find myself asking that question. I no longer have an agent, no novels published, and right at this moment, absolutely nothing "out". But...I read a new book about writing that I've been talking about:


I am in a learning phase right now. I've also started to explore what "sense of wonder" means and how I can apply that knowledge to writing speculative fiction...

It's unlikely that you've seen the last of this subject. But for now, have a good day.