And so on.

In everything, uniformity is undesireable. Leaving something incomplete makes it interesting.

Yoshida Kenkō Essays in Idleness (14th century), who also said:

You should never put the new antlers of a deer to your nose and smell them. They have little insects that crawl into the nose and devour the brain.

Words to live by.

Synopsis: Hell or Just Purgatory?

I love writing a synopsis. There, I said it out loud.

Hard to believe, right? It is excruciatingly difficult to take 90,000+ words and distill them into three or four hundred, or less, and still keep what remains sufficiently interesting. There is a famous quote by Mark Twain and others, which I will here bastardize: I didn’t have time to write a synopsis so I wrote a novel instead.

Writing a Synopsis is not just work,  more like like murder. All your secondary plot lines are disappeared with a stroke of the delete key. Vital supporting characters cease to exist. Subtlety and nuance? Vaporized. All the ingredients you had cooked together for readers to feast upon are sucked away: Your seven-course meal of delight reduced to a common bowl half full of watery soup.

But hey, some people like bouillabaisse. And now, I realize, I do too. Hmm, maybe I’m having a cognitive dissonance moment, a Stockholm syndrome thing where, having been captive and put through hell, I’m in love with the devil now. Continue reading “Synopsis: Hell or Just Purgatory?”


The following is probably not entirely true. —The Editor

To say that authors of speculative fiction are agents of the future is to state the obvious. Sufficiently compelling ideas generated in the mind of a reader will most certainly influence his or her individual outlook to some degree, perhaps his or her future, and even more the world in which these readers live and have the power to change. Works which deal in alternate worlds, unimagined technologies, fantastic civilizations, and the magic of human possibility can’t help but be persuasive.

This agency of which I speak however does not – as we authors most hubristically believe – arise merely from sparks of insight triggered within our own meager brains. No. I say we are not the freethinking creators we imagine ourselves to be. Ladies and gentlemen, we have been infected. Continue reading “Infection”

Little Voices

One of the first things you notice when embarking on a creative endeavor are all the little voices in your head. A beginner’s head, especially, is full of advice, and rules, and lists of do’s and dont’s. For a new writer, there’s an entire industry out there, in case you hadn’t noticed, bent on helping you become published and/or more successful.

Now, I’m not saying all these how-to advice books and columns of tricks aren’t helpful. It’s a common saying that when starting out, one first needs to learn the rules, only to know better how to to break them. And that’s fine. I like to think of that as surveying the terrain. But there are so many boulders, and trees, and fences, and hyenas out there, it is sometimes kinda’ tough to see the landscape.

What advice is useful and important, and what advice is simply tying you down, boxing you in, and caging your creative spirit? Continue reading “Little Voices”

Letters from Dad: Matthew

It being summer and all (unless you just found this site and its December and you live in Maine and you just survived the ice storm and you’re real real jealous of all of us here back in the Summer of 0’13 where its been kissing 100 for weeks), I’m remembering summer camp. Not mine. I only went once. It was church camp and my girlfriend was hanging out with another guy and… well, you know, a bad movie.

But my son Matt did several rounds of summer camp: COMPUTER camp. So cool. (I suppose my equivalent would have been, what, battery and knife switch camp?) So being a doting father, I wrote him two letters for one of his summer experiences, when he was between 7th and 8th grade.

OK, these maybe aren’t as melodious as Jonathan Coulton’s “Chiron Beta Prime” but hang in there…

Here they are concatenated and re-keystroked for your viewing pleasure (since my original handwriting broke the scanner):
Continue reading “Letters from Dad: Matthew”

Guilty (dis)Pleasures Exposed

A few years ago it seemed that I had reached a milestone of sorts. I had pretty much stopped being embarrassed about anything. Such liberation! I had finally reached so complete a state of inner satisfaction that I cared neither jot nor tittle about what other people thought about me. Unless they knew what jot and tittle really meant, in which case I’d go hide in a hole.

Then Kelly Johnson — fellow writer whom I met at the 2012Backspace Conference — challenged her fellow SF-Fantasy writers with a piece about Not-So-Guilty Pleasures (read how it started up at Kelly’s site here) …and Zap! The spell was broken.

Here’s the whole sordid confession.
Continue reading “Guilty (dis)Pleasures Exposed”

Letters from Dad: Melissa

In the summer of 1992, my daughter Melissa had just graduated from high school and began working and playing at the Aspen Music festival, before her bassoon studies at Manhattan School of Music would begin in the fall. Dad (that’s me) is compelled to send her a few letters. You know, a little fatherly advice. Not that she really needed any. Here’s the first one (only very slightly edited from the original 20-year-old keystrokes)…

Dear Melissa,

Last Saturday we visited a new warehouse-size bookstore in Stamford and spent nearly $200. We also bought some books.

I saw there a number of mini-books offering advice to people. We sent you one even. But frankly, I don’t think there’s anyone in a better position to give you advice than me. Sitting down is always a great position from which to give advice.

So here’s the start of a long list of things I think you need to keep in mind as you move forward in LIFE. Continue reading “Letters from Dad: Melissa”

Prometheus: Brain not required

[I’m leaving this posted as a reminder to myself and any self-respecting SF (or any) writer that simply having a bunch of “cool” and “awesome” scenes does not make a worth-while STORY, just a spectacle (and a bunch of ruptured synapses in your head). Ouch.]

No use here for me to restate what many others have said about this magnificently insulting movie. (Magnificent as spectacle. Insulting to storytellers and story-listeners everywhere.)

For two spot-on analyses, I point with a finger on each hand to the following:

Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds

…in which he illustrates how Prometheus‘ script is a classic lesson in why a Plot without Character is like a balloon without air, let alone helium.

Also, there’s a huge and entertaining discussion about the film’s lack of logic, scientific and otherwise, at:

Enchanted Mitten (by md’a)

All I can add is, if you see Damon Lindelof’s name in the credits anywhere, and if you also enjoy seeing a story’s heroes and villains make unbelievably illogical and brainless choices every seven minutes, by all means, go see it immediately.

Scalzi Rocks

Last night [June 15, 2012 or so], John Scalzi rocked Brooklyn (Greenpoint, to be specific) with a batch of readings, Q&A, and a hilarious performance based on his new novel, Redshirts. It all went down at Word, a wonderfully charming little book store (packed to the ceiling with actual books, yay!). Bottom line: Humor and sci-fi can indeed have a self-sustaining symbiotic synergy (surprising skeptical sages).

Redshirts is loosely derived from references in a certain classic TV series to those NPC-esque crewmembers who inevitably take the first hit and instantly die on every away team mission. I was sort-of expecting that fans showing up for Scalzi’s talk would be wearing some sort of regalia. All I had was a red T-shirt and a big Federation pin I’d gotten while working on the set at Paramount during our photography for the Star Trek Interactive Technical Manual (CD-ROM, remember them?). Turns out, I won the prize for the best ‘outfit.’ More like… the ‘only outfit.’


Side Effects

As a result of interacting with this site, you may become…
…a gym teacher
…allergic to sunlight
…able to see the difference between film and video
…an etch-a-sketch artist
…an organ donor
…fluent in Latin
…a god-parent
…a drywall enthusiast
…sensitive to the solar wind