Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 9: On Alzheimer's as Muse

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On Alzheimer’s as Muse

 

When I was sixteen, my father contracted early-onset Alzheimer’s. A year later, he was no longer recognizably himself.

 

When I was sixteen, I knew I would be a scientist, though not what kind. A year later, I was determined to be a writer.

 

When I was twenty-nine, I sold my first story. I never became a scientist.

 

--Michael Swanwick


Thursday, June 23, 2022

"Reservoir Ice"

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I'm in print again! The July/August 2022 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has my new story "Reservoir Ice." Here's how it begins:

 

The problem was, they didn’t meet cute. Anything but. They were brought together by Zipless, an app that combined a deep reading of the user’s sexual desires and a wristbit that chimed if they neared the edge of the partner’s comfort zone. “Hello, I’m—” Matt began to say when Laura opened her apartment door and, “I don’t care who you are,” she replied, grabbing his shirt with both hands and ripping it open.

 

But, believe it or not, the story is not about sex. It's about love and romance and relationships and how difficult these can all be when you and everybody else have the ability to go back in time to undo your and their mistakes.

 

That opening paragraph, by the way, is one of the worst possible ways to begin a story. If I had the time, I'd tell you why.



And because I know . . .

 

Oh, what the heck. Some of those reading this blog are looking for writing tips. So I'll make the time to explain.

 

A quarter century ago, when I sold "Wild Minds" (one of my favorite stories, by the way) to Asimov's, its editor, Sheila Williams, told me that opening a story with a sex scene--even a mild one such as I'd written, with no explicit verbs nor any mention of body parts--was almost always the sign that the story was written by an amateur and not at all publishable. She was amused to find herself actually buying one.

 

So that's it in a nutshell. Open a story with a sex scene and you'll negatively impressed its editor at a time--the beginning--when you most want to positively impress her


Why did I do it, then? It's a character fault. I don't respond well to even the most benevolent authority. In second grade my teacher told me I couldn't begin a sentence with the word "and." And I've been doing it ever since. To such a degree that one of my final chores with any story is going through it to take out as many of those constructions as I can.

 

So don't learn from my example. Listen to Sheila. And watch those "and" sentences!


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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 8: On Literary Awards

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On Literary Awards

 

The purpose of most literary awards is to convince authors whose work is beloved by their fans to keep writing even though their books may not earn enough money for them to quit their day jobs.

 

Many best-selling writers are never nominated for those awards and resent that fact. They are, however, missing the point.

 

--Michael Swanwick

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 7: On Literary Movements

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On Literary Movements

 

If you absolutely must join a literary movement, start one yourself. By the time you’ve heard of somebody else’s, it’s over.

 

--Michael Swanwick


Friday, June 10, 2022

One Day E-Book Sale! In the Drift! Saturday Only!

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I've been informed that the e-book of my first novel, In the Drift, goes on sale tomorrow, Saturday, June 11th, for one day only. Sale price: $1.99. Available only in the US. 

I'm also told that the promo type is "ORM - The Lineup NL." Not quite sure what that means, though I'm guessing NL means Newsletter. But if you want to sign up with The Lineup and get notifications of good deals on e-books, you can do it here. It's free.


And in case you're wondering . . .

How did I come up with an odd title like In the Drift? Well, I didn't. My working title was The Drift, but when the novel was in production, I was told that wouldn't do because it sounded like a horror novel. Which made perfect sense. My book was a post-meltdown science fiction story. But then they told me what they'd come up with. Ugh.

Worst part of all this was that there were only a couple of days to re-name the book and I couldn't come up with anything good. So out it went.

In the Drift was a fix-up of three novellas with two short connecting sections between them. The first novella was titled "Mummer Kiss." A year or two later, I got contributor's copies of the French translation and yanked out my French dictionary to see what Baiser de Masque, the lovely title its translator had given it, meant.

It meant Mummer Kiss. 

I felt so stupid.

This is why nobody should ever submit a novel to a publisher without coming up with a good title for it first. You can't trust them to do a better job of it than you can.

 

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Brief Essays on Genre, Part 6: Writer's Block

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On Writer’s Block

 

 

 

 

 

--Michael Swanwick


Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Making of The Very Pulse of the Machine

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You can tell that Love, Death + Robots has been a big hit for Netflix because the powers that be are spending money promoting it. 

One nifty thing they've done is to make a short video on the making of The Very Pulse of the Machine's animation. In it, director Emily Dean talks about the process of adapting my story and why she made the choices she did. I found it fascinating.

That's the video up above. Or you can go directly to it on YouTube by clicking here.

 They also did a short video for the animation of Justin Coates' story "Kill Team Kill" which you can see by clicking here.


And because I know that gonnabe writers are looking for tips...

A close reading of any well-made story will teach you a lot, and that goes for animated stories as well. After you've watched the video I want you to focus on two things:

First, note how Ms. Dean went out on the beach and dragged a weight to create a reference and how she dove onto her bed for similar reasons. Prose writers have to do very similar things when research a story or novel. If you don't know what something looks or feels or smells or whatevers like, find out. It's not always dignified, but it's part of your job.

Second, note how beautiful the dancing women scene was. As Emily Dean states, in the original the description was sparse: 

Weeping, she passed through the eerie stone forms. The speed made them shift and move in her vision. As if they were dancing.

And that's all. I didn't have to describe the dance because that happens in the reader's mind. Animation is a more literal form so it has to be shown. But prose fiction is a collaboration between the writer and the reader. You must learn to trust your collaborator.

That's all for today. Class dismissed. 

 

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