Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nova Byzantium is getting published!

It has been an ridiculously long time since I've updated this blog, and I have many excuses... many many excuses. After I'd handed off my novel Chronophage to my hardworking agent, he unfortunately informed me that it was a little too "out there" to be marketable. If I were a more established writer, such weirdness may have sold a few copies, but as it was, no go...This was a bit of a blow.

Since I've began the novel writing journey, I've long since made a friend of rejection and reality. I believe you can beat a dead horse when it comes to a manuscript. I've read many frustrated blog entries by would-be novelists who've hammered away, rewriting and rewriting the same manuscript until it's nothing but a puddle of mush, only to see it rejected time and time again. As I loath my nostalgic side bitterly, I've made it a personal mission to forgive (myself) and forget. Move on. This is especially true with writing. Agents often tell the rejected that their first novel was okay, but not ready for prime time, and that the writer should send them their new manuscript when it's completed. Oh the horror!

Telling somebody their child's ugly is bad business and there's no way to not take it personally. But a rejected novel, unlike a child, can be stashed in a desk drawer and forgotten about. So after Chronophage was cut loose, I started ruminating on my next novel. Discouragement, admittedly sapped a great deal of my writing will and besides a highly detailed synopsis for a new novel, I haven't settled down to write anything. Three rejected novels in the bank, and having hoped for so long, I had run out of gas. Until....

Stand-in cover art for Nova Byzantium. The Mi-24 Hind, a future mercenary's best friend.
Out of the blue, my agent emailed me and asked if I would be willing to submit my manuscript Nova Byzantium to a digital imprint of a reputable publishing outfit called Prime Books. After doing a little research, it seems publishers are looking to push a little more volume with less overhead by going the e-publishing route. While minimizing their risk to riskier sub-genres, they are now able to throw a little bit more at the marketing wall and see what sticks. I own a Kindle myself and haven't bought an "analog" book since. I was game.

A month or so later, my agent Evan Gregory emailed me to say my novel had been accepted by Masque Books (Prime's digital imprint) and sent along the contract for me to sign. With a quick swipe of the digital pen, it was done! Nova Byzantium is headed soon to an internet bookstore near you! As per usual, I'm managing my own expectations but am truly thankful I've had as much success as I've had. I do in fact realize that landing an agent is something that few novelists ever succeed in doing. Then to have some folks in the business think your novel worthy of throwing a little coin at to publish, market, and perhaps make a little return on is even more of a compliment. So I view myself lucky.

Defending my bride against a rival clan at Castle Muckrach
On a personal note, I've recently gotten married to my beautiful wife in my adopted would-be homeland of Scotland, and within a few short months we will be welcoming our first child into the world. I'm hoping they'll be time left to start writing again, but as they say with writing, you just have to carve out the time. I guess that's what coffee's for.

P.S. I have started up a non-writing related podcast with my old friend Mark Paul Hudson. The Cult of Matt and Mark is film related and we review a cult film weekly. So if you have an hour to lose every week to the dustbin of history, please tune-in/download/stream.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Writing a Synopsis...

My first "publishable" novel, I'd set out to write to be just that... a "publishable" novel. Described by editors (who've since rejected it), it was a bit of a mash-up of genre, part historical fiction, part fantasy myth, and part hard science fiction. It took me a good three years to write and many revisions to arrive at a finished product worthy of querying. So off I went...

I'll get into the details of the process I went through to acquire an agent in a later post, but for this post I wanted to concentrate on synopsis writing. As every writer knows, writing a synopsis for your opus is an unfulfilling pain in the ass. Everybody hates it. It's an exercise where you have to extract your novel's plot in a succinct narrative in almost outline fashion. None of your well-thought-out prose is included,none of the nuance or theme is incorporated, its just pure plotting... a watering down of your novel to pure extract. *yawn*

But for agents and editors, it is sadly essential, whether they read the thing or not, and I'll tell you why. Reading your manuscript is a long time-involved process. To make a "yay" or "nay" decision on your MS, to be able to essential 'skim' the remainder of your novel by reading the synopsis, is an important time saver in the world of publishing. So, when writing a synposis, care must be taken to insure all the plot elements are incorporated to construct the plotting. You have to 'finish the novel' for folks who may've only read the first two chapters.

Synopsis are typical written in third person present tense. Minor details not pertaining to the central plot are left out.. basically these are the cliff notes for your novel. Spoilers are also included, it isn't meant to be a dust jacket cover. It's an outline. So here, in gory detail, is my synopsis for my novel THE TORSTIEN DISPATCH.

In the year 1917, Lt. ROWAN GUTHRIE, a British war hero, is killed on deployment in the Italian Alps. His body is exhumed a thousand years later by the Æsiri, a neo-Polynesian race with a curious devotion to Norse paganism and necromancy. The dogma of their ancient holy book, The Edda has come to pass. The Earth is locked in a struggle against the forces of a new ice age called Fimbulwinter, while the epic battle of Ragnarok looms.

Rowan awakens into the bizarre and alien world of the Æsiri through a reanimation process alled ‘Skikk', a technique implemented by the city-state of Midgard’s Skjærsild institute. As he grows used to his new form, he begins to explore the Æsiri’s bifurcated conurbation and its desperate plight. It is a metropolis under siege by the illusive Vanir, denizens of Ytter Midgard, the dystopian counterpart to Ny Midgard's shining towers. In order to acquaint himself with the Æsiri’s struggle, SIGURD ASPERHEIM, a brooding and weirdly ill Ny Æsiri lieutenant, escorts Rowan into the bedlam of Ytter Midgard. In the ensuing street battle Rowan quietly recovers an encrypted data crystal from a dead Vanir, marked with the name 'Torstein Amundsen'.
Rowan is recruited by the Skjærsild leadership to lead a fallen legion of mythic Einherjar to battle the elusive Vanir on the rusted wastes of Asgard, formerly known as Mars. Before deployment, Rowan leaves for the Æsiri island archipelago of Heimdall to continue his combat training and physiological conditioning. His haunted custodian RAGNA, a Ny Æsiri girl with a troubled and mysterious past, accompanies him.
 On the tropical island of Forst Fodt, Rowan undergoes additional fine-tuning of his undead cadaver supervised by Dr. VIDAR AMUNDSEN. Rowan learns from Vidar, the grand nephew of the long deceased Torstein Amundsen, that his great uncle was a dissident of Midgard's current totalitarian regime, the Tyrians. He also learns of Torstein's scientific legacy, studying the climatological affects of Fimbulwinter's wintry onslaught.
As Rowan trains to become an Einherjar, he grows increasingly attached and attracted to Ragna, glomming to the hope that after Ragnarok he can return to Earth, exploit Vidar’s new ‘hyper-Skikk’ process, and become a living feeling man once again. In Forst Fodt's jungles, Rowan encounters a bizarre simulacrum Vidar calls ENGEL, a robotic avatar programmed to mimic Ragna's mannerisms, communicating in a strange musical cant only he can understand. Deployed as his personal bodyguard and minder, Engel is to accompany Rowan to Asgard where Ragna cannot. Before Rowan departs Forst Fodt, he gives Vidar the 'Torstein' data archive for reasons he can't quite explain.
Rowan says goodbye to a melancholy Ragna and travels to the desolate island of Bifrost, a proving ground where the Einherjar 3rd Wave legions are trained before crossing to Asgard. Shocked and stupefied, he meets a resurrected but barely phased Sigurd, with whom he shares a joint command. Rowan’s and Sigurd’s armies battle each other in simulated scenarios meant to mimic Asgard's battlefields. Overcome by arrogance and a disturbing nonchalant approach to military training rigor, it is soon obvious Sigurd has little interest in honing his tactics. Rowan's suspicions are provoked.
After an audacious assassination bid by a Vanir saboteur, Rowan attempts to collect as much tactical intelligence on the cagey Vanir as possible. He learns of the curious 'Lahg 17' event, a close encounter with the Vanir after an infiltration and brief seizure of a high-gain communication hub. Due to the relentless jamming of the Vanir’s radio signals on Asgard by the 2nd Wave, Rowan suspects the raid was to transmit the 'Torstein Dispatch' to Earth. From grainy footage he notices the Vanir are Caucasian like himself and not of Æsiri pedigree.
Rowan's Einherjar Valkyries crash-land in enemy territory upon decent to Asgard, a disaster that Sigurd has frustratingly little will to investigate. Arriving at the Spartan redoubt of Valhalla, Rowan discovers its thermal derricks are nearly depleted, adding to a pre-existing energy premium that has reduced Asgard to intractable trench warfare.
Rowan decides Sigurd's brazen disregard for tactics and logistics is part of grander conspiracy and challenges him to a 'falskniv' duel in protest, as is Einherjar tradition. After Rowan loses the contest, he decides it is finally time to subvert Sigurd's command. During the 3rd Wave’s initial offensive, Rowan undermines the rear rank’s energy reserves and rushes the battlefield with Sigurd impotent to stop him. Disastrously underestimating the Vanir's ominous firepower, Rowan's Einherjar are quickly dismembered and annihilated, the remnants succumbing to a sinister battle fatigue known as 'draugarism'.
 Once assigned to protect Rowan on Asgard, Engel betrays and strands him behind enemy lines in a coma state. He awakens in the custody of the Vanir and quickly discovers that contrary to the myth of an apocalyptic final battle, Ragnarok is in fact a colonial rebellion waged by a people called the Islanders. Rowan meets KRISTJANA, an officer in the Island Colony Defense who briefs him on the history of their struggle…
…Energy rich on Asgard's Povinis Mons escarpment, the Islanders established the colony over two hundred years prior. One of their chief advocates in Ny Midgard politics was Torstein Amundsen, a frequent visiting scientist and emissary to the colony. Once the despotic Tyrians overthrew the old Midgard republic, the Islanders initiated a war of succession to free themselves from Tyrian control. A group of Ny Æsiri loyalist, the legendary ‘1st Wave’, attempted to quell the Islander rebellion but were routed and driven back to 'Valhalla' to suffocate…
 After learning of the insurgency, the Islanders are eager to aid the downtrodden inhabitants of Ytter Midgard (the native Mindre Æsiri) in the hopes that it will provoke the fall of the Tyrian regime. Rowan comes to realize the Vanir don’t actually exist; the notion of the much-maligned Æsiri adversary is nothing but propaganda perpetuated by the Tyrians to rally the Ny Æsiri people.
The Torstein Dispatch’s intended recipients are the Mindre Æsiri guerilla leadership and their Ny Æsiri sympathizers. Included in the dispatch’s data package is a collection of contraband technical and tactical information designed to help the partisans defeat their oppressors. The data also includes Torstein Amundsen's climatological science, a manifesto meant to function as a political weapon against the Tyrians.
Kristjana explains that the crux of Torstein’s theory dismisses the notion of a planet-wide 'ice death', instead advocating the idea that the current ice age is nearing its end; Fimbulwinter is nothing more than misinformation used by the Tyrians to continue their state of emergency. Rowan tells Kristjana he has unwittingly delivered the Islander's 'Torstein Dispatch' to Vidar. Kristjana is elated the information has made it into the hands of a sympathetic kinsman, but Rowan has his doubts.
During transit from the forward bunker to the Islander arcologies, Rowan and Kristjana are ambushed and taken prisoner by Engel. She drags them back to the Valhalla prison cordons where Sigurd reveals his true plan for glory and victory. As Skjærsild’s guinea pig, Sigurd injected himself with an experimental synthetic disease (a byproduct of Vidar's hyper-Skikk experiments) to test its deadly effectiveness. Once contagious, Sigurd administered the 'sykmaskin' to Rowan and his legionnaires, implementing a covert plan to insure their capture by the ‘Vanir’. With the scheme a success and the plague released on the Islanders, Rowan realizes he's been Sigurd's unwitting pawn, completely manipulated by lies and unrequited desires.
Attempting to force Rowan to spill the secrets of the Torstein Dispatch, Sigurd tempts him with the sykmaskin antidote as Kristjana slowly dies from the disease. Managing to escape, Rowan tries to administer the remedy to Kristjana but she refuses, instead telling Rowan to make for the Islander front lines in hopes their scientists can recreate the cure. Kristjana asks Rowan to end her suffering, which he does, guilt-ridden and ashamed.
En route back to Islander territory, Rowan is intercepted by Engel but manages to defeat the automaton Savatuese using primitive means. In her death throws, she detonates a grenade, smashing the antidote vial. Energy death consumes Rowan, the fate of Mindre Æsiri and Islander rebellion now in the hands of Vidar Amundsen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Writing Comics...

I attempted to write a comic about a year and half ago or so. My old roommate from college is a production designer in Hollywood and had always wanted to do a comic. He's an amazing artist, so I figured if he was offering to do the art, I could oblige with a script. I asked him about story topics and he said "something with clones"... a bit done sci-fi wise but doable.

For starters, I don't read comics, I've never read comics, save the odd one-off Frank Miller (e.g. Sin City, Ronin, etc...) It's not that I don't respect the genre, I do, but the mix of visual and prose I find distracting. When reading a novel, my imagination builds the images in my head, to have the artwork accompany it, I can't quite get into the 'feel' of what I'm reading. I attribute this to not understanding comics fully... I haven't invested the time. It's visual story telling that like writing, seems easy at first, but is of course a very difficult artform to get right. So when asked to write a comic book, I started from a place of complete ignorance. The first step in anything is to admit your limitations

The first thing I did was go down to the local comic shop and explained to the very generous/helpful proprietor what I was trying to do. She loaded me up with a stack of comics with 'extras', kind of like DVD extras, but with the comic script companion in the back. I grabbed a few Alan Moore comics and one by Grant Morrison, both are incredibly famous writers in comic circles, little was I aware. Alan Moore's responsible for the the seminal Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell, while Grant Morrison wrote Arkham Asylum, a Batman comic that redefined the franchise completely. Both were written in completely different fashion.

Alan Moore's obsessive with his comic writing. He writes every single pane individually, every detail painstakingly, if not obsessively, described. He is a true visual story teller and a master at the art form. His only drawback is his inability to draw, but this is part of his strength. He's able to attract top name comic artists and each one of his comics looks and feels different because of it.

As an example, here's a just a single intro panel from Alan Moore's script for the much lauded "Killing Joke" Batman comic....
No Dialogue.

I admitted very early on, that I would not be able to accomplish this... not by a stretch. Alan Moore paints a very detailed picture. I'm not an auteur of the genre, and there's no way to mimic such talent, unless I decide to "go all the way" i.e. devote my writing future to comic book writing success.

Grant Morrison, on the other hand, wrote comics similar to movie scripts, highlighting setting, a bit of blocking, and dialogue. While thumb-nailing the action as a suggestive guide for the artist, he leaves the paneling to the artist themselves. So, needless to say, I went with the Grant approach. Since film production requires storyboarding on which to frame shots, I left this up to my film school buddy to work out.

Grant Morrison's script leaves a lot for interpretation, which exercises artistic style
So, I embarked on a script (which I'm planning on posting in parts... maybe as the follow-up post to this one). The problem with comic books is that its a shit load of work. Not for the writer, but for the illustrator. I gauged my comic would require about 24 to 25 pages, with each page being about 4 to 5 panes. That's 100 panels of artwork!!! That is a ton!!! I told my buddy this and he agreed. Although, he was determined to attempt it.

As of today, he's fleshed out a few 'master shots' which I haven't seen yet, trying for the look and feel of the comic. It's a tall order and for a reasonably busy person, I can only encourage my buddy to continue on. But despite the final product (if there is to be one) the process of flexing my story telling was an opportunity that proved exciting.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The End (of the Space Shuttle Program) is the Beginning...

The Space Shuttle's robotic successor, the X-37
I've spent a lot of energy lamenting the end of NASA's manned shuttle program. For a sci-fi writer who dreams of extra-terrestrial worlds, accessible, cheap, and ubiquitous, to have your sense of wonder stolen by U.S. policy decisions is a bit of a kill joy. Sadly, the United States will have no capability to put a man into space once Atlantis is stuffed in a museum somewhere. NASA plans for a future craft are woefully underfunded and its expected we won't see a U.S. manned spacecraft launch in the next decade. There's the "barnstorming" private spacefarers like Scaled Composites, but these are sub-orbital tourist ventures that are incapable of achieving orbit. To make orbit, a full rocket launch is required. Space, besides satellite launching and maintenance, is unprofitable. Its resources are still too challenging access.
The Mars Rover: exploring the Martian surface so you don't have to.

I doubt the United States' feats in manned space exploration will be trumped. There's talk of the Chinese landing on the Moon in the next 10 years, but I sincerely doubt it. Regardless, old tricks. Neil Armstrong landed at Tranquility Base 40 years ago and I'm not sure how much they could push the exploration envelope. To build a sustainable Moon base is an exotic challenge, and I think the Chinese space program is nowhere near innovative enough. I could be proven wrong. But I doubt it.

My take is this.... human beings and their relationship to outer space is founded in old paradigms. The salient inroad to outer space is based in the obsolete. Why say this? Believe me, there'd be no bigger thrill to see a balls out race to put a man on Mars, but it's not happening, it's too dangerous, too expensive, all that. We're looking at the future of spaceflight and space exploration through the distorted glass darkly of the now.

Darpa's Big Dog robot, creepy but cool

The advancement of robotics in the past 20 years has been staggering. Those with the 'Right Stuff' are not human beings of flesh and blood anymore, but CPU's engineered to the proper environmental requirements. As we speak, there's a rush to eliminate fighter pilots from the cockpit entirely, and robots are insinuating themselves onto the battlefield in odd and peculiar forms unthinkable only a decade ago. Soon, they'll be driving our cars for us and who knows what else... One point that seems to be lost in this robotic/drone rush is that these type of machines are the hardened veterans of space exploration, their technology honed by the extremes of our solar system. To land and deploy a Mars rover from Earth is a monumental feat, no doubt as challenging as landing a man on the Moon in the day. Now, that very technology has fallen back to Earth, an invasion, if you will.

Singularity: Machines getting on with it without us

There's a sub-genre in sci-fi having risen to prominence as of late called "The Technological Singularity". It's the notion that we will soon develop machines with quasi sentience that will fundamentally change history in an unknowable ways. The idea originates with "Moore's Law" for integrated circuits, that artificial intelligence will continue at a rate where soon (maybe within our century) silicon brains will overtake their biological predecessors. Whether or not its plausible remains, but again, many of our current technological advances we now take for granted. The future has always been unpredictable. To have the audacity to believe that humanity's outbound quest into the stars is "over" with the death of a 30+ year old space truck seems bizarre.

Looking at the upcoming unmanned missions, there's some crazy stuff in progress. NASA's New Horizons probe is bound to intercept Pluto in 2015.... yes Pluto!!! While demoted planet-wise, it's a realm human beings have never laid eyed upon... undiscovered country. And soon we will know it. Personally I find this much more of a thrill than yet another launch of the shuttle a few hundred kilometers above the Earth, loaded with silly schoolkid experiments. Don't get me wrong, the ISS is the equivalent of the Giza Pyramids today. The engineering to allow human beings to live and work in the void is astounding. But I believe, by continuing to fund the exorbitant (relatively of course, its pennies on the dollar when compared to our military budget) we could be investing into robotics.

Trying to be positive here... I could watch montage hours of NASA's archives, lunar rovers, the power of the Saturn IV, EVAs in and around the shuttle and ISS, but that's nostalgia, and nostalgia is retrograde. Whether a technological singularity will bring the next Skynet, or something more benign (lets hope) remains. The death of human spaceflight is a tragedy no doubt, I would have dearly liked to see it continue, but its not happening. We need a reason to leave Earth again, and I believe our automated Louis and Clarkes will one day give us that reason...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

CHRONOPHAGE and the art of writing a female protagonist

The Corpus Clock (aka Chronophage) in Cambridge, England

CHRONOPHAGE is the name of my new novel, to be completed at what I'm guessing is 85K - 90K words. Inshallah, the first draft will be done in a couple of weeks... Inshallah. This being the fourth novel I've written, it has by far been the most challenging, a complicated plotline coupled with a female protagonist has thrown me out of my element, but as I stitch up the plot threads, things are coming together (I believe).  I'd like to think this would be "character-driven hard sci-fi" which is a bit of an oxymoron, but I've worked hard to try to flesh out a believable main character, one that defies (and not defines, hopefully) the way females are typically portrayed in much of sci-fi/fantasy genre trope...

I see this a lot: men (and some women) love to see female characters act like men, they love to see slick leather-clad assassin types donned in mirror shades, their ability to kill only matched by their sexual prowess, promiscuous, unapologetic, and relenting. Give the masses what they want, you say? Many do, luckily, so I don't have to. Somehow this masquerades as a backdoor embrace of female empowerment, that comic book equality is bridged by merely xeroxing women into traditional male fiction archetypes (while adding a healthy dose of Frank Frazetta embellishment). Done to affect in the past (Molly Millions of William Gibson's NEUROMANCER captures this beautifully), I find it a bit too well tread, watered down, and boring. Their are many great exceptions to this rule, but to appease the coveted 15 y.o. to 35 y.o. male demographic, a lot of times you're stuck. 

Something borrowed: Molly Millions' much nicer successor, Trinity of The Matrix
When it comes to writing, I have issues with plausibility. I do write science-fiction, which by it's very definition extrapolates on plausibility, but when it comes to characters, if they're not truly believable, I have an immediate problem. So when attempting Zara (the female protagonist of CHRONOPHAGE) I tried hard to make her decision processes less 'man-like' and more ... what's the word... subtle? She is lost but not desperate, sexual but not seductive, driven but not cocky, emotional but not weak, decisive but not rash... she is a balance despite her monomaniac personality. So, now as I finish the last chapter (or two), I perform a thought experiment, where I substitute Zara for 'Zach' say and see if it mattered story-wise. My opinion is that it most definitely wouldn't work... luckily.

CHRONOPHAGE isn't proof tested by any stretch. I'm hoping my agent decides to submit it. It's going to take a lot of edition (more so than my past novel, I believe) to get it ready and it suffers from consistency issues

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Two rules for keeping friends...

I have two simple rules for keeping and maintaining solid friendships...

RULE #1: Don't ask friends to move, only accept their help if they offer, but leave them with a workable guilt-free excuse that day if they decide to back out at the last minute.

RULE #2: Don't ask friends for feedback on your novel. Only offer your novel up if a friend expresses interest, but once you hand it off to them, do not (try not) to ask them about it later.

An awesome midget painting next to the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, way more interesting in my opinion

A novel is a time commitment. It's art in long form. Easy enough to head out to an art gallery and take in all the countless hours of sweat and tears that went into that art in a small span of time. Rose and I toured the Louvre in a break-neck 3 hours one night. I doubt we got as much out of it as those tourists camped out on nearby benches admiring each work for an half-hour or more. I'm not a visual artist after all, and I only have a cursory knowledge of art history. But still, opinions were formed, emotions evoked, curiosity piqued, etc... Basically its one thing to ask some one to "take a look at my painting!". There's really no chore in doing so. But when it comes to writing? A completely different story.

Dustin Hoffman, more awesome than your actor-friend

It's challenging to think of art with regard to time. But we're busy human beings and our time is tied up in the basics of survival (unfortunately): jobs, household duties, socializing, food procurement, etc... To make room for art (and especially unproven art) is a challenge. Believe me, you're much more likely to want to go check out Dustin Hoffman play Willy Lowman in the Broadway version of "Death of a Salesman" then you are to want to go check your friend's one-man play down at the corner repertorie theater. Sure, your friend's in it, you like your friend, and they worked really really hard on their act, but seriously... Dustin Hoffman's way more awesome than your friend will ever be acting-wise. But hey, your friend's play is only an hour or so, what's an hour out of your life?

An aside: Art, I believe, can be broken down into its time commitment as follows...
paintings/sculptures/photography < poetry/songs < ballet/plays/film < opera/symphony < long-form writing

Again, a different story when it comes to novels. To slog through a friends overwritten plot-holed 150K work opus is misery. And providing feedback? Even more miserable. "Yeah, your baby's ugly. Not sure why, it just is..." Most unpublished writers aren't that good, because they're unpublished. You'd much rather speed through a Clancy Rainbow Six novel than you would your friends nonsensical Star Wars pastiche.  As a writer, I think its important to admit that to yourself.

When you're offering your novel to friends, your burdening them in a way. They may actually be really interested in what you wrote, perhaps as a means to gain insight into your inner workings, a voyeuristic journey perhaps. But once they run up against some of your writing weaknesses, they lose steam. It's human nature. I've given my novel to countless friends, but only a few brave souls have ever told me months later, they read the entire thing. And to ask for honest criticism? Don't count on it. They don't want to hurt your feelings. But if they do offer up a few nuggets of advice, whatever you do, don't hold it against them. You borrowed eight+ hours of their life, to get angry at them because they "had some issues" with your book is selfish.

As a struggling writer, getting honest thoughtful and meaningful criticism is a terrible challenge. Take what you can get, I say. When you ask a friend "tell me what you really think", don't just say it, mean it. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Settings: Vancouver, Canada

Douglas Coupland, who named a book after Billy Idol's former punk band "Generation X" and became a spokesman for my generation, wrote an interesting coffee table book called "The City of Glass". It's a series of photo-essays that sheds a bit of light on Coupland's hometown. One point that he makes is that Vancouver is a 21st Century City, the oldest of the new cities, a paradigm unto itself.

Vancouver's canyons of glass
I've been travelling to Vancouver for visits my whole life and I've seen it change over the decades. Although, I've probably seen more of Vancouver on my television set as it is a stand in for "everywhere", it's played Caprica in Battlestar Galactica, and been the dreary backdrop for every the X-files episode up to Season 6 or 7 (don't remember when production switched to LA), and it's also been the non-setting for a ton of films over the years due to its thriving film industry. It represents everywhere and nowhere at the same time, which I think is a bit of a bummer, because Vancouver rarely plays its deserving self in the on-screen fictional universe.

Vancouver prior to the Cylon Invasion
The Vancouver I know, is something akin to a "New London", a hyper-accelerated cosmopolis where English as a language shares street-time equally with Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, and French. With this mixed and jumbled tech savvy culture, beholden to quick-fashion and alien pop-culture quirks, it brings to mind a pre-cyberpunk chic. And walking its streets, it's easy to understand why the godfather of cyberpunk himself, William Gibson, calls the city home.

the seminal classic
Physically, Vancouver is anything but a near future dystopia however. It's probably one of the more beautiful cities of the New World, a clash of forested mountains, water, and glass towers (called 'see-throughs' by the natives). And because of its geography and location, it is unlike any other North American city. There are no belts of freeway traffic circling the city, there's no copse of corporate skyskrapers at its center (despite its impressive skyline), and with its Asian influences, resembles more Hong Kong than it does Seattle. Despite it being a very new city, it lacks the cheap pre-fab disposable look of some American cities (I won't name names, but those cities know who they are). There's been a great deal of thought to its 'newness', a style that's uniquely its own.

the last remnant of old futuristic Vancouver, Expo '86 today 

Vancouver's contribution to history and culture has yet to be written, a Roman-era London, an outpost on a new frontier, the literal answer to what happens when West meets East. And for somebody that writes science fiction, I find it a fascinating/inspiring place to visit for its possibilities more so than its history.

So if you get the chance to visit, I highly recommend the Japadogs.