Monday, August 23, 2010

Progress Report: 8/23/2010

In terms of news, it's been a light week.

Okay, so I've been writing, I've been trying to get an agent, and that continues to go on. Until something breaks in the pattern, that doesn't qualify as news.

Er... so let's see. I'll do an author recommendation. Let's go with:


While I haven't read Peter Hamilton's full and impressive body of work, I've read enough to say that he's excellent. To date, I've read three books in his "Commonwealth" series, and I'm on the fourth.

The first of these books is Pandora's Star, and its opening chapter (the prologue) now ranks as one of my favorites. Without giving too much away, he starts with the first manned expedition to Mars in the near future. He sets the scene in a classic, Right Stuff sort of style, invoking all the pioneering spirit and pride that comes whenever you see a picture of Neil Armstrong stepping on the Moon. And then, when he's got you caught up in the momentous historic event, he throws in The Twist. Which sets the stage for the entire future universe he's created.

Sweetly done.

Hamilton has a very nice grasp on creating a plausible future world. The two main technologies that go into the creation of the human Commonwealth are a means of crossing vast distances very quickly (to enable space colonization) and cellular regeneration treatment (to enable long lifespans). The thought he puts into the culture that is built on these technologies is a big part of the fun. The Commonwealth comes across as a very plausible, scientifically-sound vision of the future.

Which makes it even more fun when he hits that next gear and we get humans-vs.-aliens interstellar war.

Contrast it, say, to the Star Wars series, which get labeled as science fiction by virtue of the fact that there are space ships and robots, but which is really fantasy. There's nothing particularly plausible about the technology or culture in the Star Wars movies. Hamilton's universe, on the other hand, is well-realized and quite convincing. It also makes you want to live there, which is a nice break from the dystopian futures that have become so popular in fiction.

And in terms of characters, voice, and plot, he's definitely got the skills.

But don't take my word for it! Smart author that he is, Peter Hamilton has sample chapters online. Go check out the prologue to Pandora's Star. If you like what you see, then you've got a lot of good reading ahead of you.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Progress Report: 8/9/2010

For a writer, one of the challenges of this information-rich age is how much of your life you want to reveal to the public.

I'm thinking of George R. R. Martin here, 'cuz he's a good example of what I'm talking about. So he's got a series in process, and the wait between books keeps getting longer. This happens for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the story is a big complicated epic monster, and I think that the longer you go on with something like that, the harder it is to keep all of that monster's heads focused on going the same direction. Fair enough.

Then there's the fact that as the series gets more popular, so does Mr. Martin. Which means he goes to more and more conventions. And does more interviews.

And the series itself gets more popular. Calendars, figurines, table-top games, video games, and an HBO show... and since he wants to be a good creator and take care of his creation properly, he's hands-on for all of these things to some degree.

Plus he writes other stuff. He contributes to short story anthologies and shepherds a long-running superhero fiction series called Wild Cards.

So it's hardly the picture of the writer in his secluded cabin, hammering away at a keyboard in isolation. And as the years drag on, and the wait stretches out, some fans start grumbling about when this next book is going to get done.

Which irritates Mr. Martin. For good reason... nobody wants to see the book finished more than him. Nobody feels that pressure more. And it's his life, his book. So when fans grumble and complain—Mr. Martin naturally gets annoyed. And other authors also get annoyed, like Neil Gaiman, who spelled out his feelings pretty plainly.

Mostly, I'm on Mr. Martin's side on this one, but I wonder if he's hurting himself by being as available to the public as he has let himself become. Yes, you want to promote your appearances and new products and so forth, and where's the harm posting about the football games Sunday? And those fans who wondered when you had time to work on the book in between going to a Tokyo SF con and rooting for the Jets to beat the Chargers can just deal, right? And the months roll by, the years roll by, and your book is still not done...

All in all, I think I'd rather be a recluse.

But I am posting my progress, so here it is: got some writing done, though mostly this was a week for catching up with the furious pace of work right now (I have the best team—we really support each other when one person is hammered, so I've been grateful for them this week) and dealing with a few irritating health problems.

Now, back to my cave.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Progress Report: 8/2/2010

I return!

In terms of progress, vacation was a good time for writing. I feel like I managed to clear away a significant chunk of the writer's block I've been dealing with for... oh, maybe the last 5 months or so. I did it by working on the follow-up to Rose & Jade.

I don't have the plot of the book hammered out yet, which is often enough to stop me. What I'm doing instead right now is writing scenes with the key characters as they come to mind. Whether or not these scenes will fit into the final story is not the important thing. I think any time you spend getting to know your characters is well-spent, and it already feels like these scenes are leading somewhere. When I've got a clearer picture, then it's time to go back to the outline, the plot, etc. For now, this is good.

It was damned good to take a break from the grind. I spent maybe three days of the vacation slowly smothering the "think about work" reflex, and then managed to get some peace from that. Now work is back, and yep, I'm thinking about it again. Hopefully with batteries recharged and fresh inspiration.

Another agent up, another agent down. The hunt continues.