Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Louisa May Alcott

She'd have been 184 today, and she got a Google doodle, an honor I'm sure she'd be into if she understood it.

As for me, I'm at the stage of revision where the lesbian western is awesome, brilliant, and sure to win all the awards; only to be censored and become a rallying point for civil rights activists everywhere! Otherwise, I'm just fiddling while America burns and I can't bear it.

But - and I think we all need to bear this in mind - although there is no excuse for watching your country's ideals go up in flames and water cannons as if it were nothing to do with you - our ordinary daily pursuits do have value even in times of despair. The arts help us cope with reality far more often than they provide a place of irresponsible escape.

And it doesn't have to be traditional art, or paid art, to do that. Shortly after the election I was informed that someone had downloaded Widespot specifically to provide a healthy distraction from the fear and hopelessness felt in its wake. Lots of people turn to fanfiction in times of crisis - fanfiction being full of the specific content that people in crisis feel most need of, but are least provided for by the media.

And the afghan your aunt knitted for you is warmer than the throw you bought at Sears. It just is.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Morning After the Election

Social injustice is like depression.

It's always there, lurking. You clear it in your immediate vicinity for awhile, but you know it's still out there affecting someone, and you know it will come back to you, and you know that it's frequently fatal. It feels like no progress is ever made.

But progress is made, so gradually that we don't notice until we compare a sufficiently distant past with the present. More people understand more about the causes and processes that create the condition than ever before, and are constantly working to improve our tools to combat it. It is more curable than it ever was, though less curable than it will be. It is more preventable than it ever was, though not as preventable as it should be. Failure happens again and again and again, but success can't happen without the risk of failure.

You can't control anyone else. You can't always control yourself. But you can do more than despair. Keep the manuscript in the mail. Take your meds (as long as you can get them). Donate if you can, march if you can, stand firm if you can. Vote in the little elections as well as the big. Speak when It wants you to shut up and die.

If you can do nothing else, choose kindness at every opportunity life gives you for cruelty. It's the only way to reduce suffering, your own and others.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Back in the saddle again?

Sorry, no ideas for sale today.

But I just thought I'd check in and say I'm working on the lesbian western again, despite weirdness with the sleep schedule and other factors.

Mind you, this is the easy kind of work - revision. Can I face the hard stuff, the querying and the hunting down of people to query? That remains to be seen.

But it's good to be with Len again. And I can't query till revision is done, so this is a start.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Idea Garage Sale: Looking Back

Yes, I'm still alive. And I have mysteriously received this brief list of historical novels published in 2116, concerning the anniversary of so very much. Of varied quality, what they have in common is 20/20 hindsight - either the protagonist, or the narrator, keeps throwing a backward-glowing light on events, finding significance and drawing conclusions that those of us living through them couldn't because we lack the context of what's coming. From that direction, it all looks inevitable. From this direction, nothing looks inevitable, or even probable, as we bungee-jump into the future.

Pokemon Bro - A middle school transboy must confront his own latent misogyny when girls face off against boys in the neighborhoodwide race to "catch 'em all"
Coup de Theater - The members of a theater troupe in Ankara get through the night of the coup in various ways, their stories and personalities intertwining with the play they're rehearsing to throw ironic light on near-future Turkish history.
Battle of the Thames - A black comedy centered on (and improving on) the watergoing shenanigans of campaigners for and against Britain's remaining in the European Union, soon to be a major holomotion picture with an ensemble cast of big names, all of them prettier than the people they'll be portraying.
Traffic Stop An unforgiving but ultimately hopeful story of police brutality, racial injustice, and indomitable courage. The protagonist is an idealistic African-American policeman.
Su Vota es Su Voce - Originally written in Spanglish, a romantic comedy about a political blogger and the campaign manager she hounds for information, set against the background of the American primaries. Contains several significant anachronisms.

This has been such a weird year; and we're only half done with it.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Idea Garage Sale: Mice in the Alien Museum?

You have, of course, had story dreams, brilliant plots and situations that melted away and/or turned to nonsense as you woke. If you cultivate a certain habit of mind, you will start working on turning them into usable stories before you even wake up, and may even stave off the disappointment of realizing that it wasn't, in fact, brilliant for several minutes after waking. The one I had the other day sprawled out in so many directions that the viewpoint-I in the dream pulled out paper and started putting down notes, as fast as I could, and quickly came to realize that it sprawled way too much. I'd have to cut out 3/4s of the potential to make it a book; and all of the characters to make it an RPG campaign. But, as I woke and started putting my brain in order for the day, I realized that what I had here was a perfectly viable computer game scenario. Something I don't have the skills to develop, and insufficient force of will to learn at this juncture.

Or perhaps I should say that my creative engagement with the idea does not reach the threshold necessary to give me the force of will to learn. The subconscious doesn't care in the slightest whether you have the practical skills necessary to make the vision it hands you into something approximating reality. If it did, far fewer people would produce a sufficient number of works to gain the necessary skills to produce them (because the only way to learn this stuff is to do it, and you need an idea urging you on).

Anyway, the dream involved a small group of people who had been in some sort of aircraft (something orange and vaguely resembling a space shuttle) when it crashed in some isolated rocky frozen location. Deprived of all their communication technology and lacking almost all survival gear necessary to survive there, when they spy a set of Cyclopean metal doors set into a snowy cliff-face they have no hesitation about getting through them, though they assume it to be a secret installation of some government's. (Bypassing the security of these doors would presumably be the first challenge to solve in the game, but the dream hand-waved it, as all the Good Stuff was on the other side of the doors.)

Inside, they find themselves in a vasty shadowy warehouse/museum style place, full of computer banks and displays and stored modern human artifacts, all oddly mundane, but neatly labeled in a weird alphabet. Everything a modern human needs to survive is in this place, though arranged according to some inexplicable system, so that washers and dryers are on opposite ends of the place and there are no chairs anywhere near the tables, etc. Moreover, the place is frequented by Cyclopean metallic bipedal figures, who may be cyborgs or exosuits or straight-up robots, who are apparently maintaining the facility, but whose movements make no intuitive sense. Moreover, they don't seem to be using familiar senses - they can't detect a human running between their feet, but may inexplicably home in on one holding still behind a refrigerator. They are alien, truly alien - the survivors of the crash can't find a point of commonality that makes their behavior intuitive in any way.

The characters were all civilians who had deep distracting backstories and personal motivations that provided a lot of the sprawl my Viewpoint-I notetaker was trying to cut out. The game would ideally offer a selection of character avatars who could be played solo or in groups, possibly with AIs that could (simlike) run uncontrolled to allow a player to head-hop if she chose, all with individualized backstories and abilities that would affect gameplay. Pregame prep would involve choosing your team of survivors (I don't think the setting would lend itself to single-avatar play - you'd need to be in two places at once too often, given the hugeness and the lack of human-logical spatial connection among the exhibits), or perhaps being assigned one randomly and having to figure out how to make the best of it. You could have a lot of mini-adventures and puzzles, but the main three plot problems to solve would be:

1) Rescue/escape - using the materials at hand either to communicate with the outside world, or to repair the orange shuttle and leave.
2) Survival - as effective mice in this environment so full of useful stuff, yet so poorly designed from the point of view of human survival, dodging aliens whose behavior is bizarrely inexplicable.
3) Figuring out what in tarnation the aliens are doing here. Are they hostile, benevolent, or neutral? Are the scientists, soldiers, automata, reality TV stars? And what is the appropriate human response to whatever it is they are doing?

The biggest storytelling challenge here would be to establish the alien abilities, logic, and purpose in such a way that all the counterintuitive stuff in the warehouse's arrangement and the bipeds' behavior becomes logical when the character finally figures out the correct angle of view, without destroying the alien vibe. The chief coding problem would be to transfer that kind of logic to the AI, so that it behaves in a consistent manner that appears inconsistent.

I don't even play this kind of game. How in the world did I come to dream about it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Warp Drive!

No, seriously, it's working!

It's too late at night to discuss this in depth. I'm just going to leave this hear for people to get their space opera geek on.