On Moving Through The Suck


After reading the blogosphere talk about how young writers suck (and, to be fair, in the case of the youngsters, it’s a lack of experience and self-awareness of the suck), it was Matt Cheney’s commentary on the discussion (via John Scalzi and Justine Larbalestier) that gave me the most pause. He talks about how he remembers his youthful writing with some fondness because it was charged with enthusiasm and vigor for the act of writing (and Ben Rosenbaum’s comments ring with the same awareness as well).

This all comes at a time when I’ve just come through a period of wondering why I write–what’s the point? what’s the goal? how much will I settle for when they show up with those sacks of cash?–and rediscovering that a large part of the reason is still for that incredible joy of making shit up. And, in doing so, surprising myself.

I mean, I surprise myself all the time with the stupid things I do. I might as well hit a few good notes along the way.

So, young writers suck. Old writers suck. I sucked today. I’ll suck tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll suck next week. Probably even into next year. Hell, I’ll transmigrate through the great duck / frog / dolphin / wildebeast / shrew cycle, and still suck as a writer when I get another shot at opposable thumbs (for the space bar on the keyboard, naturally, who uses a pencil anymore?).

But, at 6:48 this morning? I didn’t suck. And yesterday, somewhere between Kent and Sumner–you’ll have to forgive me with the exact details of the location, I tend to lose track of where I am during the train ride–I had another moment of non-suck. That’s two, in as many days. I’m going string a bunch of those together, and call it a book.

When I first read Nabokov’s Lolita, I stopped after fifteen pages, and spent the rest of the evening writing (maybe even the rest of that week). Why? Because he was 56 when Lolita was published in the US; I, reading the book some forty-odd years later, wasn’t. And, in fact, I had a good two and half decades to bang out those millions and millions of shitty practice words I had in me before I could start thinking about writing something GOOD.

So, back to work.



I caught DayWatch at the Seattle Film Festival last night (in Bellevue’s latest upscale theater, no less, which was an strange exercise in dichotomies). The sequel to NightWatch, DayWatch picks up shortly after the first film (and, even, has a two minute recap of the first film for those who are late to the party), and follows Anton and his fellow NightWatchmen in their continuing effort to forestall the Apocalypse. As cmpriest recently mentioned, the films (there are going to be three, I believe, and there are four or six books) are filled with magical decay, a sort of fading industrial landscape where the magic is cobbled together with whatever is at hand. One of the delights of these films is how their use of CGI is subtle (when compared with the Jerry Bruckheimer/Joel Silver school of Blowing Shit Up)–more of an after-thought than an excuse. These, along with Man on Fire, approach both subtitles and sonic cues as integral aspect of the presentation, adding a richness to the film that is more than just keeping your eyeballs entertained.

The Internet coughed up DayWatch for me a while back and, having been excited about seeing a proper print of the film, I was pleasantly surprised last night. I don’t know if it was just the successive viewing or the better subtitles, but I found the resolution quite satisfying and the screenplay to be rather tightly constructed. When NightWatch came through my office, I had a codex issue and both the sound and the subtitles didn’t work, but that hadn’t stopped me from watching it five or six times (the beauty of dual monitors). Having read the book (the first one, both films cover most of that book), my initial impression of DayWatch was that it softened how manipulative Gesser and Zavulon were with their pawns, and it turns out I was wrong. The film, while having the added conceit of Yegor and Anton’s familial relationship, still manages to be unrelenting in its use of the players.

In fact, I’m not convinced that Zavulon isn’t as devoted as Gesser to keeping the peace. It’s just that his methods are . . . different.

Anyway, it looks like DayWatch is out in a limited release (I keep seeing it in the New York Times when I’m pretending to be able to do the crossword), and hopefully it’ll get a larger release when theaters start dropping Johnny Depp’s latest vehicle. It is filled with the sort of eye candy that, if you blink, you will miss, and you will be saddened by the loss. Not to mention some nicely done layers of relationships between fathers and sons.

In fact, while I like the books quite a bit, I think the films are a little richer, a little denser. They reward multiple viewings more. They are, actually, quite invigorating on many levels.

Serial Novel, Part Six


Part Six of The Oneiromantic Mosaic of Harry Potemkin is available. We have reached the halfway point, and to celebrate the confusion of all those interwoven threads that are lying behind us, this month has a streamlined node structure. Mostly. Actually, it’s part of the intent of this chapter. This month, the ONLY links from the dream are the supporting nodes. So, you can’t get lost. Well, not immediately.

What happens this month? Well, it starts off as a chess game, turns into an exercise in how to pout badly when you lose, and then offers us a peek behind the curtain. This is the hesitation at on the mountaintop, like the long slow pull of the rollercoaster up the curve of the arc. You pause for a second at the top, get a glimpse of the land, and then gravity takes over.

Don’t forget to check out nvonflue‘s art this month (the last banner on the dream will take you the art) as he’s done a good trick here. Mainly because his illustration speaks a bit to a later reveal than to what happens in the dream. I found this to be a lovely syncronicity, more so because he didn’t know the clue when he did the picture.

Whatever happened to Jack O’Connell?


Word Made Flesh left serious marks on my psyche back in ’99. And, apparently, that was the last anyone saw of him, other than an interview at Disinformation in 2001 and an anthology he edited in 2002 (Dark Alleys of Noir). The interview at Fantastic Metropolis, though dated 2004, feels like it could have easily been conducted shortly after Word Made Flesh came out and doesn’t give any indication that Jack is doing any writing.

Why? Oh, why? Here’s a sample from a randomly selected page of Word Made Flesh so you understand my pain.

Alice found the words to tell the story of the Erasure.

Now understand, and this may be the most important thing I have to tell you, Gilrein, she did not write down the facts. She did not transcribe what she saw through the window of the library. She did not relate, in words, the evetns that took place in Schiller Avenue on that humid night in July. She did not make a diary nor a journal. She did not engage in reportage. She wrote, instead, what we might agree to call a fiction. She told a story. Created a myth. She transformed what she had seen in the same way that she had been transformed by what she had seen. If I had anyone else to rely on, I would. But I have only you–this New World/New Testament reflection of my own self-loathing. You MUST understand this, Gilrein. What the girl wrote was something so far beyond accounting. Beyond simple journalism. She made her witnessing into a horrible art. She made a weapon of her epiphany and her transmutation. She created an evolutionary virus out of ink and paper. She put air into a trumpet that could shatter each frozen soul to hear its agonizing music.

I do not mean to be poetic. Poetry is the last thing I mean to give you. I do not want you to look for multiple layers of meaning.

I’m lying, Gilrein. Of course I want you to search between the lines. Of course I do. No act of transcription is innocent.

You see?

Jack, where are you? I mean, I don’ t mind having to pick up the slack in the hyper-noir genre, but I’m lazy and I’d rather be reading than writing.

[The other book, back in the day, that left a solid bruise on me was John Burdett’s Bangkok 8, and I see that he’s got a new one out now. Bangkok Tattoo, the second book, I didn’t find as deliriously noir as Bangkok 8. Still, without a way to visit O’Connell’s Q-town, I guess I’ll just have to take another trip to Thailand with Sonchai Jitpleecheep.]

No Harry, Yes Pirates


No HARRY today. WisCon interrupted our (read mine) flow, and I ran a little late this month. So, this is a good time to get caught up as we’re about to hit the half-way mark, and the downhill side is going to roll faster than any of us thinks (especially me). It looks like next Friday is our target date which means you’ll only have to wait three weeks after that for Part 7.

Melissa and I skipped out to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End last night and, while I thought it ran about a half hour too long, it was quite diverting. Lots of fun bits (yes, bits, not enough to salvage the slack, but certainly more bits in better order than the second), and I laughed so hard at Keith Richards’ entrance that several of the eight other people in the theater were visibly annoyed. Killjoys.

Anyway, some good images that will get better as I rewrite them in my head as well as some truly amazing CGI/live action combinations. (The bit with the Endeavour at the end, for one. No, not that final bit which ran too long, but the run up bit where they try to kill all their stuntmen.) That is the best part of these sorts of films: they tell us that we’re not dreaming hard enough. And that’s definitely worth $20 and an evening of my time.