June 8th, 2007


And then she's boxing clever...

Yes, well, being awake isn't everything. Indeed, I suspect it is quite highly overrated, and in the end is neither really here nor there. Waking in this world means little more than the loss of access to all those other worlds. Thinking on it now, waking is not unlike being given a half-full box of Junior Mints that have spent a week on a theatre floor in exchange for Willy Wonka's whole factory. At least, this is how I choose to think about it today.

First, more photos of the hand-corrected copy of the Gauntlet edition of the 1999 Silk hardback that is now being auctioned, behind the cut (and if you need more info., just email Spooky at crk_books(at)yahoo(dot).com):

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Yesterday was spent catching up on the busyness of writing, but also on getting my head into the space it needs to be to finally write The Dinosaurs of Mars (also, a steampunk vignette for Sirenia Digest #19 was discussed). And that mostly meant me finally coming to terms with the reason I have written only three substantial science-fiction short stories since "Bradbury Weather" (Subterranean #2). That was the late summer 2004, by the way, the writing of "Bradbury Weather," and it came after several sf stories with which I was quite pleased — "Riding the White Bull," The Dry Salvages, "Faces in Revolving Souls," and "The Pearl Diver." But since "Bradbury Weather," I've written only "Zero Summer," which was done two years ago now, and "A Season of Broken Dolls" and "In View of Nothing" this past spring. And there is a reason why, which I have not previously discussed.

In general, the reviews of The Dry Salvages were very good. My readers seemed to love it. It sold out very quickly. The Kennedy/Marshall Co. contacted my agents about film rights and there talks (though, of course, nothing ever came of this). By all accounts, it was a success. But for one thing. A tepid review in Locus. And sure, most times I can dismiss negative reviews — not easily, but in the end I can usually dismiss them and keep moving forward. But this review was one of the sort written by someone I had a good deal of respect for. I knew that he knew what he was talking about, and the review stung. In the end, the reviewer in question concluded that, overall, the novella was "haunting and beautifully written" and that it "serves more to reinforce the promise" that I could one day be "an effective writer of SF" than to fulfill that promise. That was the good stuff. I'm not going into all the "bad" stuff.

Two and a half years later, with more perspective, I see some of the criticism as valid, but I've also come to feel much of it is simply wrong-headed. I also still have great respect for the reviewer in question. I hope this will go some ways towards dismissing the myth that I discount all negative criticism of my work out of hand. Anyway, the real problem here is that I allowed the review to do two things that reviews should never do, and I know that this was not the intent of the reviewer. Firstly, I allowed it to dissuade me from writing more sf, and secondly, I permitted it to temporarily convince me that there was only one sort of sf story worth telling and it was most certainly not the retro "ripping good space yarns" (to quote PZB speaking on The Dry Salvages) I was doing, but those more sober tales of mankind's relationship to technology (and, I suppose, vice versa). Having been told by someone whose opinion I hold in high regard that The Dry Salvages seemed "too conveniently off-the-shelf," I consciously chose to step away from the field for a time. Recently, I have come back, in a small way, with "A Season of Broken Dolls" and "In View of Nothing," but these are not the sorts of stories that I wanted to use sf to tell (though they are both stories of which I am very proud).

To get to the point, one reason that I have delayed so long in starting The Dinosaurs of Mars is that I know it's going to be another retro space opera, more Lovecraftian cosmicism tinged with Bradburyesaque wonder and Gibsonian cyberpunk than the sort of stories favoured by contemporary sf reviewers. No talk of "the singularity" et. al., but a tale of exploration and discovery and man's place in a universe that is likely beyond hisherits comprehension and is surely, in the main, hostile to human existence. These are the sorts of sf stories I want to write, mostly, which means they are the ones I should be writing. Too long have I allowed one review to stay my hand, especially when I'm quite certain the reviewer never meant to have that effect on me. It's time to go back to work.

Anything else? Sushi from Whole Foods for dinner last night, and I started the new Second Life dancing gig. But the SL matrix is suffering some sort of reality storm, effecting, primarily, search and teleportation functions and the distribution of Linden dollars. Which is to say last night was not very profitable. But I do like the new club, so I have hope that once the glitch is patched up (a glitch resulting from "scheduled maintenance," ironically) it'll all be good again.