Monday, October 1, 2018

Sale and a Kickstarter - A Punk Rock Future Anthology

Hey all, some exciting news. I've had a story accepted to the A Punk Rock Future anthology, which just launched a kickstarter for pre-orders. My story is called Wailsong and I'll be sharing a table of contents with a bunch of incredible writers (whom I would normally name-drop here, but instead you can click through and check it out for yourself).

Super excited, y'all,
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Saturday, September 8, 2018

On Getting Laser Eyes

Last week I got Lasik. I was looking forward to not having to deal with glasses getting smudged by my kids or slipping off my face. I figured that not needing them would be pretty convenient. However, the words I heard over and over from other people who'd already done it were: "life-changing." That seemed to be overstating a bit. Convenient, yes, but life-changing? I didn't get it.

I get it now.

I've had some kind of vision correction, either glasses or contacts, for the last thirty-odd years, which is nearly as far back as I can remember. And what I hadn't realized was the extent to which this had become part of my identity. It's not that I thought glasses were cool because I wore them--although I did and they are. It's that the ability to see was, for me, artificial and temporary. And my vision was pretty bad, so my natural state was one of... not so much "blindness" as "isolation." There was a layer of vagueness that sat between me and the rest of the world, and glasses were a window through that, but they were a window that I could, and did, shut regularly. Not being able to see is a condition that I associate with being in bed or in the shower--times when one is, well, vulnerable. Not to put too fine a point on it. Or if I just needed to disengage for a moment, to shut the world out and gather my thoughts while I cleaned my glasses.

And now it's gone. And that's downright weird. It's not even that I'm reaching up to adjust phantom glasses--although I definitely do that at least a couple times a day. But in general, I know I don't have glasses on. And yet I look into the distance and I can see anyway, and I'm just flabbergasted, and also a little exposed without my layer of vagueness to retreat into.

To be clear, I have absolutely zero regrets. Yeah, the surgery was uncomfortable and the recovery wasn't a whole lot of fun, but it's been pretty easy, all things considered.

And when I look out the window, I can see. And it's kind of amazing.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New Fiction: 'Papa Bear' and 'The Toastmaster'

I've got a couple new flash stories out now. First, a sad one, Papa Bear in Nature Magazine's "Futures" section--also available in the print version of issue 559. Ask me if I'm excited about that! (spoiler: I am)

Second, a light-hearted one called The Toastmaster which won the Escape Pod Flash Fiction contest. The linked episode has the top four stories, and the others are excellent as well--by Karen Osborne, Maria Haskins, and Paul R. Hardy. So don't stop listening after mine is over.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Some Thoughts On Inspiration

In what was a first for me, a reader reached out to me through my website to tell me that he was a fan and to ask where I got my inspiration from. I wrote back with an answer, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked my answer, so I've decided to reproduce it here.

Inspiration... So, to my way of thinking, storytelling is a marriage of three elements: you need a good character, you need a plot/setting to place that character in, and you need some kind of external conflict that mirrors the character's internal conflict. Characters are usually inspired by people I know or by characters in other media--I'll take a handful traits from different individuals and mix them together. I usually will have a guiding philosophy in mind for this person. It won't be obvious in the story, but it helps the writing to be able to say fundamentally, quirks aside, this individual is a humanist/hedonist/narcissist/etc. Story/setting are the weird ideas that occur to you a dozen times a day. What if people could teleport to the grocery store, etc. If I stumble across an even remotely interesting notion, I'll jot it down for later reference, so at any given time I've got a list of fifty-ish ideas I can mull over. Most of these never become stories and the list does get pruned from time to time. Finally, I consume a lot of news and non-fiction, so that gives me a thematic basis for the conflict of a story. I'm always on the lookout for interesting philosophical/economic/moralistic notions that can be translated into a smaller individual conflict.

There's also a lot of personal taste in there. I like redemptive heroes more than virtuous ones. I like optimistic heroes over dour ones. I like anything about AI or time travel. Once I have a workable mix, I'll flesh out the plot and get writing, but that process is less about inspiration than practice. And it doesn't always happen as cleanly as I've described above--sometimes I just start running with a plot because I'm excited about the idea and I figure out the character and themes on the fly. But overall that's the basic process.

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