fastkarate

Anonymous asked:

wadda you mean you haven't figured it out ? isn't it every nerds holy grail to review games/anime for a living and have a badass gamer wife?sounds like you have everything figured out to me, mr coolenstein.

fastkarate answered:

Well! 

I mean I get PAID to write about stuff, but I don’t make a living off it. I barely make a “this covers my utility bills” off of it.

You’re absolutely right, though. I’m grateful for the positive things in my life every day. That includes a 9-5 I don’t love, but that isn’t very taxing, provides health insurance, and gives spare time to focus on creative pursuits (though you’d hope that’d be the bare minimum for everyone’s employment). 

When I said “haven’t really figured it out” I was thinking about fiscal stability. Even though I have a nice-enough job, it’d be nicer if I could actually have a savings account, or if my retirement account hadn’t decreased in value since I opened it in 2005 despite me putting money into it whenever I’m able (infrequently), or if Graz could get full-time employment commensurate with the rate of repayment on her (our) student loans.

People like to stump about unemployed millennials whining about their student loans after having graduated with no-good degrees in Ancestral Bead Weaving. Graz is a lawyer, which is generally regarded as a prestigious and wealth-generating profession. At this rate of interest, she could’ve gone to school for Ancestral Bead Weaving ten times over and still have had less debt than this mountain that will functionally, likely, never be clear.

Society teaches you that fiscal stability is the ne plus ultra measure of adulthood. It doesn’t matter how happy you are, it matters you have X more money than your Y amount of bills. When you’re a kid, you see people operating through these hoops and utility payments and insurance bills and assume that at some point, you will also learn, and things will be fine.

The reality is maybe more like nobody ever learns, and what you perceived as proficiency in your parents was just the same brute force you’re applying to keeping your life together; hit your head against enough stuff and the lights will stay on, you will keep eating food. Or, alternatively, you convince yourself that everyone has it figured out but you. Or you do both, on alternating days.

Ultimately you settle on something like “my comical unproficiency at handling adult matters may not be the norm, but at least I am not unique in this.” That you’re not alone in your ineptitude is enough to satisfy. And it doesn’t really matter. Right now, anyway; it’d be nice not to starve to death when I’m 65.

I am happy, though. I’m happy every day. And I look back at my parents, who seemed to fight every day. Even when they weren’t fighting it was like there was this pre-fight tension in the air, where even when it was happy you could calculate the ways where it could turn into something wrong—often it didn’t, but it didn’t matter, because it always could, and that scared the shit out of me as a kid (and sometimes as an adult, being honest). I’ve never experienced that feeling in my marriage, or in the years before it was a marriage, but it essentially was, because what has changed except I have this cool ring I get to play with when I’m distracted while watching TV?

Thanks for your kind words. It’s nice to put these thoughts down sometimes, and I’m grateful you gave me the opportunity to do so. 

I like Dave. He’s good people. So’s Graz.

glamaphonic
glamaphonic:

One of my top three greatest moments if I do say so myself.

I was there, as in I was sitting right next to glamaphonic in the panel audience, and here is how it went down.
The prepared panel bullshit had concluded, and they entered the Q&A section of the panel. I want to say there were between 1000 and 2000 people in the room.
A bunch of folks lined up behind the audience-facing mic stand, and glamaphonic got up there to be one of them. After enduring a lengthy litany of nerdbro awkwardness (the Q&A sections of big industry panels are often terribly awkward), she gets her turn at the mic.
My memory is a little fuzzy, but I recall that she made references to vague assurances on the part of the Marvel panelists earlier in the panel about the importance of diversity, etc., and simply asked them when they were going to make a movie about somebody besides a white dude. There was some scattered audience clapping at this point, but I personally was terrified that she was going to lose the crowd. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
Quesada said some handwavey bullshit about laying the groundwork for the most-established characters, but then reiterates Marvel’s Commitment to Diversity. I don’t know. Anyway. He obviously figured he’d answered the question, but unsatisfied with his lip-service, my good and dear friend glamaphonic leaned into the mic and said, simply:
"X-Men Origins: Storm."
And the room of Comic Con nerds exploded in raucous applause and cheers.
So that’s the story of the time glamaphonic utterly dunked on Joe Quesada on his home court. I was there, I saw the whole thing, and it was fucking great.

glamaphonic:

One of my top three greatest moments if I do say so myself.

I was there, as in I was sitting right next to glamaphonic in the panel audience, and here is how it went down.

The prepared panel bullshit had concluded, and they entered the Q&A section of the panel. I want to say there were between 1000 and 2000 people in the room.

A bunch of folks lined up behind the audience-facing mic stand, and glamaphonic got up there to be one of them. After enduring a lengthy litany of nerdbro awkwardness (the Q&A sections of big industry panels are often terribly awkward), she gets her turn at the mic.

My memory is a little fuzzy, but I recall that she made references to vague assurances on the part of the Marvel panelists earlier in the panel about the importance of diversity, etc., and simply asked them when they were going to make a movie about somebody besides a white dude. There was some scattered audience clapping at this point, but I personally was terrified that she was going to lose the crowd. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.

Quesada said some handwavey bullshit about laying the groundwork for the most-established characters, but then reiterates Marvel’s Commitment to Diversity. I don’t know. Anyway. He obviously figured he’d answered the question, but unsatisfied with his lip-service, my good and dear friend glamaphonic leaned into the mic and said, simply:

"X-Men Origins: Storm."

And the room of Comic Con nerds exploded in raucous applause and cheers.

So that’s the story of the time glamaphonic utterly dunked on Joe Quesada on his home court. I was there, I saw the whole thing, and it was fucking great.

Danny Macaskill (aka That Crazy Bike Guy on Youtube) has a new video out, and it’s beautifully made and shot.

But despite the fact that MacAskill is obviously at the absolute peak of his talent in this most recent video, that first one from 2009 remains magical in a singular way. It contains, furthermore, important lessons for pacing and structure in SF/F fiction.

To begin with, the video spends over a minute of it’s 5:37 running time on Danny setting up and executing one trick, wherein he rides along the tops of the spikes of a wrought-iron fence. It gives you a glimpse of the work involved in both setting up the tricks, and the effort it took to to gain the skill to even attempt to execute them. Almost 20% of the video is spent showing us this one stunt.

Then as the music crescendoes, Danny rides up the side of a tree, then coasts backwards down it. His body is what looks to be 12 feet off ground at the stunt’s apex. It’s high—and it’s a bicycle, in a fucking tree. The next two minutes are a series of really quite impressive jumps and spins, many of them landed one-wheeled or backwards, and you’re thinking, god damn, this kid is really good on a bicycle.

Then, at 3 minutes into the piece, the music quiets again, and Danny returns to that same tree he rode up just after the intro. He shakes his head at something, and then rides up it again—only this time he doesn’t just coast backwards back down it, he lets his forward motion carry him into a flip-twist, which he then lands with perfect, casual precision. It’s an order of magnitude more shocking and impressive than anything the video’s shown us thus far, and it’s perfectly timed with another crescendo of the music.

The last two minutes of the video contain what we the audience now realize are MacAskill’s actual tricks. The first three minutes were spent entirely on educating the audience about the physical vocabulary he deploys in his riding, and the last two are the actual art, and they are stunning—and all the moreso because we thought we had seen his true skill already.

These kinds of reveals are especially rewarding in SF/F fiction. When the author has laid all her cards on the table, letting the readers think they’ve seen all there is of the world, then arranges them differently and blows the roof off the narrative—that shit is What I Am Here For.

The key is: No Cheating. This is hard; there are more examples of cheating than there are of its lack. If you find yourself read about the super-duper secret thing that nobody knew about until just now, it’s a clue that the author may have dropped the ball. Deeper Magic, Spiritbending, the Crucible—these are all examples of cheating. Magical Macguffins are especially prone to enabling cheating of whatever fictional system has been put in place.

But Danny MacAskill doesn’t cheat, and neither should genre fiction. It doesn’t have to. The key is restraint.

That video editor knew perfectly well they were sitting on a pile of astonishing tricks when they sat down to cut the video together. But instead of deploying that unbelievable backflip in the first 30 seconds of the video in a misguided attempt to keep people watching, they spent an entire minute on one balance trick, and two more on the basic vocabulary of Danny MacAskill’s magic system. And because most of this stuff is new to most of the audience, they’re along for the ride.

A good opening is important, and pacing likewise. But it’s crucial for authors to manage the usage of their cool shit—magic, spaceships, whatevers—such that when they arrive at the final act of their story, they’ve got room left to make one last big reveal.

Done right, the reveal is only a gesture to something that was there all along, just like MacAskill’s backflip.

alisonwilgus

alisonwilgus:

Boyfriends of Brooklyn
a field guide for Kings County

My friend Paul Starr and I brainstormed ridiculous Boyfriend species, I drew the artwork, and then Paul cooked up the “flavor text” to detail their particular characteristics.

This debuted at MoCCA a little while back! You can pick up a physical copy for just $1, if you like.

Alison nailed the art for this one, and I honestly think these are some of the funniest pieces of text I’ve ever written.

That Writing Process Thing

My VP classmates Lise Fracalossi and Alex Haist tagged me in the Talk About Your Writing Process thing that’s going around, and thus am I compelled by sacred oath to answer—even though I have a terrible aversion to talking about my art, and am furthermore vaguely superstitious about my process.

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Couple of things. The most significant right now is what I’ve been referring to vaguely as the Big Thing, which is a still-untitled fantasy novel about alternate technology paths, weird materials science, women being friends, and the problems of revolution. It’s set in a very similar setting to my story in the Puzzle Box anthology, although the feel of it will be very different from that story.

I’m also writing a web-comic-ish thing that Alison Wilgus will be illustrating, which will probably end up as a novella-length illustrated narrative about anime fandom and online roleplaying in the early-mid 90s. It is called Trans-Spacial Cosmos Defence Force NOVA BLAZE.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE GENRE?

The Big Thing came about because I wanted to write a novel about airships, and had indeed made several abortive attempts to write novels about airships, and after doing a lot of reading about zeppelins, blimps, and lighter-than-air craft in general, came to the conclusion that the reason nobody uses airships any more is that they are horribly, inexorably impractical, and that if you’re going to write a pulpy adventure story involving airships that isn’t entirely about airships being a giant pain in the ass, you pretty much have to ignore how they actually work. And I didn’t want to do that.

But airships are just… god, they’re super cool, aren’t they? So I invented a fantasy universe where they make sense. It is possible that somebody else has done this, too, but I haven’t read it, and I’m very happy with my various clever solutions to Airship Problems.

My sincere hope is that the work will convey the feel of living in this place with a very different set of technologies available—that one will encounter the airships and other nerdy nonsense in my story and buy what I’m selling, e.g., the notion that this particular assemblage of neat stuff is not just what the author thought was cool, but also feels like a natural consequence of the low-level worldbuilding conceits I started out with. It’s all nonsense, of course, but the goal is that it will not feel nonsensical, and my hope is that readers will not, therefore, feel sold a bill of goods.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

I had a whole answer written out for this, but upon reading it I realized it was all bullshit.

The truth is: I want to read these stories. Before I die, I want to see the stack of the manuscript pages or the directory full of HTML files and know that I told the stories I set out to tell, that for once in my fucking life I didn’t settle for just daydreaming about how cool it would be if I actually did the thing, that this time, I did the goddamned thing.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

I have recently undergone a profound shift in my attitude toward my process, thanks mostly to Alex’s unbelievably kind shepherding of me through some real bad shit.

The most important realization I have ever had about The Art Of Writing is this: For me, the process is the art. The art is not the manuscript, not the finely-wrought sentence, not the perfectly-crafted narrative payoff. The art of writing is the minutes and hours spent doing the work, and getting better at the art, for me, had nothing to do with learning about story structure or language usage, and everything to do with thornier problems of discipline, self-care and, yes, -love.

And I have arrived here: My writing process begins with sheets of blank printer paper and a nice fountain pen loaded up with blue-grey Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-kai ink. I printed out a line-guide that I clip behind the page I’m working on, and I sit anywhere I can find a flat enough space to write, and then I write the next sentence. And the next one after that. Sometimes I cross mistakes out, but usually I just keep on rolling. Very frequently I write something I know is a real fucking clunker, but it doesn’t matter. The only thing I care about this stage is filling the page, which at the rule-size I work at will wind up containing about 250 words. I force myself to consider even one sentence a triumph, but I try to write at least one page a day.

A digression about speed: My friend John Wiswell, for whose artistic discipline I have essentially limitless admiration and respect, sets for himself the goal of 1000 words a day. Joe Hill doesn’t do anything else until he’s hit 2500. These numbers can make me feel like a real loser. But the other day something funny happened. I was looking at a weekly word-count log I’d kept for an abortive novel attempt I made a few years ago, and after the first week of 1000 words or so, the weekly word counts were in the 2-400 range.

These days I write between 2-400 words a day, and not infrequently spike above 500. I’m no John Wiswell, but I’m 15,000 words into a book right now, and I haven’t been 15,000 words into anything since my hilariously terrible NaNoWriMo book of 2003. So a page a day ain’t bad.

More importantly, when I’m writing by hand I find it much easier to feel for the faint tugs of Story. The frustrating truth is that I am not a very intuitive writer, or at least I don’t feel like one. I don’t have that instinct for Story that some seem to have. But it turns out that I’m not entirely story-deaf. I just have to listen very carefully, and writing by hand makes it easier for me to listen. To this end, I have only a very sketchy outline of big plot events I want to reach, with lots of room left in the interstices for unexpected discoveries. I have learned that planning too far ahead doesn’t work for me; It turns out that when I leave myself room to do so, I discover moments and characters I could never have come up with in an outline, but who arrive on the page ready to act in ways an outline-beat just can’t.

(That said, when I’m writing something short to a deadline, I will shoehorn myself into an outline because it’s the only way I can get a coherent story done on a schedule)

After I finish a section of story, I type it up. This is where I go from a zeroth draft to a first draft, and correct the worst of the clunkers. I generally leave at least two weeks between zero draft and first draft, which gives me adequate time to mostly forget what I’ve written and how I felt about it at the time. This amnesia is crucial, because it makes it easier to be ruthless with cuts and corrections.

Having typed up the first draft, I’ll let the piece sit for a couple of days, then reread it and give it another editing pass, whereupon I engage in the most shameful of my process stages: the Only Tell Me Nice Things stage.

Here’s a juicy writer confession for you: You know all that be-brutal-with-yourself, kill-your-darlings, ruthless-crit-is-the-best-crit stuff? Yeah, I can’t hack that. When it comes to criticism, especially early stage criticism, I am the specialest of special snowflakes, and I have a few friends who are generous enough to indulge me.

But in the negative space of the compliments I demand from these friends (I am an awful person, etc.) I have a chance to address things that might not be working, and at the very least provide more of what is working, before I subject myself to the okay-tell-it-like-it-is round of crit. Which I then do my damnedest to address.

So there you have it. 1500 words on writing process from a guy who’s never sold a single story. SEEMS LEGIT.

WHO’S NEXT?

Rawles Lumumba, a writer and friend whose instinct for character I have admired for pretty much ever.

My bffsy Alison Wilgus, with her ridiculous facility for story and her intimidatingly deep toolbox of tools with which to tell those stories.

Devin Singer, whose grimly sentimental SF is the Real Fucking Deal, no joke, you heard it here first, also she’s an excellent human being.