Friday, January 26, 2007

Viable Paradise, day five

Thursday. Today is the deadline for the short stories assigned during UJ's lecture on Monday. I have an opening, an ending, and an expandable/contractable middle section that is not actually written. About 2k, not 5k. I could probably have done 5k if I hadn't socialised yesterday, or the day before. Or hadn't slept. Or written any of this. Which is probably over 5k by now, but writing without plotting is way faster.

Breakout group was Monica's story, crit session led by Laura Mixon and Cory Doctorow. Other students were Bart, John, Terry-Lynne, Dave, and Laura. Bart is from Arkansas, short pale-brown hair, narrow face, pressed clothes, makes me think of a deadpan standup comedian, like Dave Foley, maybe. Jen Pelland was giving him a hard time about buying Diet Fresca(?) on Sunday (so long ago!) because she'd expect a country boy to choose something less metrosexual. John is slightly built, Chinese, shaved head and abstracted air--he ought to be able to levitate in the lotus position, or have dragons spring inkily from his brushwork. Dave is a big quiet guy with spiky brown hair, like a punk rocker in jock disguise. It's starting to occur to me that I don't have much time left to get to know people. Monica is very pregnant. She has long brown hair parted in the middle and wire-frame glasses, a pale round face caught somewhere between the inwardness of pregnancy and the almost-painful outwardness of someone being critiqued. Kate Salter and Monica look alike to me, but I'm not sure if it's just that they're about the same height and build, hairstyle and glasses, round serene face, or if the mum-and-baby vibes are what's tripping me.
Monica's story is about a woman who can share experiences with the dead. As the story opens, she's retracing her route through mysteries that she solved when she was much younger. Only a couple in the group read mysteries (me and Laura Mixon?) but that aspect was addressed. More concerns about there not being enough visibly at stake for the heroine, that the exercise of her talent doesn't come with enough cost--should it jeopardise her connection to the living? The concept interested most of the group, and the framing device got a fair bit of discussion.

First lecture was Cory Doctorow, about copyright and Creative Commons, tracing how established industries/technologies have reacted to advances in technology, starting with sheet music and continuing to downloading. Quotes: Technology law lags behind technology; pirates are the industry that hasn't sat down at the table yet; this is an age of superabundance in entertainment and suppliers of entertainment; science fiction is a social process; the internet is a permanent, floating, low-grade sf con full of people sharing books & recommendations of books etc.; who wouldn't licence rather than sell if they could? licencing holds the item in perpetuity; connection with others will drive technology more than entertainment will; live performance was rise of charismatic artist, recorded performance was rise of virtuoso artist, internet is rise of conversational artist (Neil Gaiman, Making Light) having intimate conversation with several hundred people at once; blogging or LJ gives your readers the tools to be your sales force; don't be a jerk online.

Second lecture was Stephen Gould, on the hazards of the writer's life or mental health for writers. Different motivations for writing--decide what yours are and how you reward yourself for writing. Echoes of Hambly's warnings, to have a dayjob or spouse with dayjob and health benefits, can supplement by teaching or lecturing on writing. Advances are paid on signing and on delivery, royalty period are May and November. Do Not fax your mss. or text-message your mss. Do Not 'clear the decks' before writing, instead use dry times to catch up with household stuff and use chores for thinking things over. Whole body is writing tool, change in body can make change in style. Don't tie your writing to any habit or substance, if you drop the habit you may be unable to write.

Writing assignments. We called off numbers and split into groups. I was in group three, led by Steve and Laura, including Elise, Scott, Terry, Zak, and John. Have I forgotten anyone? Zak's story was about obsessive love and the flu pandemic, Terry's was about a young woman finding independence by going off to war, John's was about a cyborg soldier sacrificing himself to save a scientist (with old-movie refs throughout), Scott's was about industrial espionage and torture (with a great hook), Elise's was about an ongoing competition between two dogs, mine was about bureaucracy and psychotropic warfare. The vote went for Elise's story, Scott's being the second choice. Scott's was more powerful but unfinished, so kind of a tough call. All of these did seem to take place at least partly in the Cape Cod house and most involved hats. Elise's had the biplane! Straight on to each group's champion reading their stories. Laura's was the flat-out winner, a surreal/cosy/hilarious story about the daughter of the Devil just trying to have a quiet little dinner with her dad, and instead having to deal with Armageddon. Everyone told her to get it out to the magazines.

Remembered that I meant to go to the beach and find feathers, so bundled up at last and went (not having the story assignment to feel guilty about). It's easy to find y way around, at least. Partway I met Bart, so we went on together and chatted, or attempted to chat against waves and wind. My general inaudibility was a drawback. The wind is surprisingly loud. I don't remember as much difficulty in conversing over the waves and wind at Willows Beach, but perhaps the long shallow rise to the shore is louder than smashing against rocks as at home? Heard about Bart's story, which uses a number of biblical refs in a modern industrial setting and his mild disappointment that no one spotted them, not even TNH, which surprised me. Though it might be something that builds through later chapters until you're slapping your head for not having caught on earlier. I ended up nattering about the Bookwyrms outline, it being my modern fantasy piece.
I found a half-dozen decent feathers, all rather battered, and heaps of shells and horseshoe crab carapaces like relics of an unsuccessful alien invasion (followed by lobster-roast, yeah!) but was defeated by the concept of carry-on baggage, and limited to about 4 small shells for keepers. Still dragged a biggish crab carapace back as a trophy to keep for the last couple of days. Wonder if I could take it back carry-on (yeah, pun, I know) after all, it's not liquid at this point.
Back in the warmth of the common room, I borrowed Mur's pen-knife and Niki brought her ink over, and I messed around with cutting quills. The feathers weren't aged & hardened enough and the paper was too thready and absorbent, but we did succeed in making marks and writing a few lines. Missed my writing slope like heck! All I need is a decent pen-knife and a flat piece of wood, but can I take those as carry-on? Not even a bottle of ink. Sigh.

Tonight is Pizza and Shakespeare, or Beer with Billy. I had a rootbeer, being as cheap red wine with Billy wasn't an option. Retterson, god bless her, sponsored a majestic array of cookies for dessert.
The group this year being unusually large, 28 students rather than 24, added to staff, families of staff and instructors, so that there were too many people for everyone to have a speaking part. Hamlet was thus put in the company of Henry IV, divided into parts one and two. I wonder if TNH has a Shakespeare algorithm for large groups, like the pizza algorithm? I snagged Laertes for pt 1, with most of the casting being more eccentric than even me as semi-incestuous duellist. Pretty quickly saw who had done a smidgen of theatre and who was just a natural ham. Good Guildenstern and Gentle Rosencranz (or vice versa) did a nice patter, and I'm betting Ophelia's death-metal trio "Young men will do't if they come to't, by Cock they are to blame!" will get mention in everyone's memoirs. Best laugh was during the Players arrival, when their play was able to be altered because it was under a Creative Commons license with derivative works allow'd.
Hamlet is a right bastard. I'd forgotten or not realised that his browbeating of Gertrude is done with Polonius's corpse right there in the room. Is he the writer, the way Prospero is, in the Tempest? Or is he a writer-wannabe, whose plots all miscarry?

Enough thought for one day. People are collapsing and melting all about the common room, and I think I'll do that privately.

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