Update: Writing, Reading, etc.

Finally got back into the writing groove, and finished a story. No, seriously, I, decorated member of the Procrastination & Self-Defeat Hall of Fame, finished something. It’s a trifle, really, under 3,000 words, but it’s done. Will let it sit a couple days, make a single clean-up/formatting pass, and then send it off to an appropriate publisher. THEN, I’ll read it to the family.

Time to start my collection of rejection slips.

Next up are two more stories that are almost done as well. The first is a bit more ambitious, maybe 7-8,000 words worth. Got maybe another 1,000 to 1,500 words to go.

The first two stories were begun in the last few months. The third story has been rattling around for 20 years. I’ve actually written it twice already – the draft I’m now on is #3. So, instead of continuing to rethink and over-think it, I’ll follow Heinlein’s advice and just do it.

The second one will probably take a few days; the last I can probably finish in one sitting.

Next up: I’ve three other stories that are not so close to being finished, one of which has this elaborate tense moment/flashback/even more tense moment/flashback/really tense moment/flashback/climax structure that may frankly be out of my league to pull off. Plus, if I recall (been a while since I looked at it) it’s chock full of info-dumps. Not sure if I can work it, but, again, taking Heinlein’s advice, I should just finish it and send it out. Who knows?

The second is only maybe 1/2 done, and, If I recall, ran aground on technical issues – I couldn’t see why, exactly, events would unfold as I wanted them to, given the underlying tech. Bradbury would just write the hell out of that sucker, and it would be so good that you’d not even notice that it didn’t make much sense until long after you’d wiped the satisfied tears from your eyes. If it were pure stand-alone story, I’d just hold my nose and finish it. But it’s part of the TNTSNBN* Universe, and so I want to work it out so that it makes sense, rather than having to orphan it. Heinlein would say: Just Finish It! I should not be a schmuck and listen!

The third is an attempt at humor (actually, several of these stories are funny at least to me!) that projects a cowboy attitude into space – Mike Flynn, among others, has already done this (and Flynn’s efforts should make a fellah like me saddle up and get out of Dodge, if’n I had any horse sense.) But really, if you’re imagining what kind of culture would develop or be required in space, you’re kind of limited, at least in the early going, to maritime and frontier – those are basically the types of people you’ll attract, and the culture will likely reflect what we’ve seen on earth. Cowboys in space is not really far-fetched, but almost inevitable. It’s really just a matter of degree – do you want to play it for laughs, or make it less obvious and play it straight? (And those aren’t really mutually exclusive options.) The only other is sort of barbarian migration, but that conflicts with the high tech ideas – at least, ships and cowboys were on the cutting edges of the tech of their day (think: marine chronometers and six shooters).  Maybe this one gets skipped? Is that Heinlein I hear tsk-tsking?

After triaging those 3, think I’ll start some new ones. I’ve started a folder of story ideas, many just a phrase, some a sentence or two. I’ll pick one and write it next, eschewing the tendency to think too hard about it – just gotta do it. I’m afraid my mind runs toward thinking tech/nature/politics before thinking people (Asimov, anyone? If only I were that good!) such that my characters, to me, seem a little thin. I hoping I’m wrong. The solution is to just keep cracking and hope for useful feedback.

Then, once I’ve steeled myself with ample rejection notices and, one hopes, gotten an item or two published, I’ll plunge back into TNTSNBN.* I’ve got maybe a dozen or two pages of useful introductory materials/scene setting/character introduction written, plus many pages of notes and research, and stray drafts of key scenes, written so I could focus on where the story is going.  Family trees, backstories, charts and graphs figuring top speeds and acceleration and relativistic effects, doodles of what the ships look like, descriptions of the key tech, whole planetary systems mapped out and named, screen grabs and web pages – yea, gotta stop and write the darn thing.

Finally, probably after I retire (7 years, but who’s counting?) I’ll write a book or two on education history.

Reading? Well, the pile is not getting any shorter. Have 80 pages of an early Heinlein novel to finish. We’ll be starting The Everlasting Man for the Bay Area Chesterton Society reading groups starting in July, so I’ll be rereading that.

Aaaand, this weekend all our kids are in town! Woohoo! Older Daughter and Middle Son are driving up from SoCal; Younger Daughter and the Caboose are here already! The hammock I ordered has arrived, the weather is supposed to be near-perfect this weekend, and the lemon tree still hangs heavy with lemonade-in-potentia. The shield (item E) needs to be finished, the half-finished brick oven cries for attention, and there’s a dude about 20 miles away trying to get somebody to take 1,900 paver bricks off his hands – that are still in the ground. I could use them, except I might be dead by the time I dig ’em all up.

I’m real busy, but happy about it!

* The Novel That Shall Not Be Named

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

15 thoughts on “Update: Writing, Reading, etc.”

    1. Of course you’re right. I guess I’m thinking more, dunno, direct mapping. Firefly has more of a space pirate w/ cowboy accouterments vibe; the famous Star Trek/Wagon Train quip captures the ensemble on an adventure aspect, but not much else. Flynn has written at least a couple stories with shoot-outs in saloons and ‘cattle’ rustlin’ out Pluto way – that’s more what I’m thinking.

      1. I do remember that. Great episode. After that? Cowboy elements more in the way they dressed then the stuff they did, except for the primitive projectile weapons. Great show!

      2. Ehhhh I’m now in a totally off topic argument over a TV show on a thread about your writing progress, but what the heck.

        I’ll have to disagree. The cowboy elements remained strong throughout. We have:

        – “Safe”, which starts with cattle trading and has over half the episode set on a planet so primitive it has no doctor and thinks River is a witch

        – War Stories starts off with Mal picking a bar fight

        – In The Train Job they, you know, rob a train

        – Jaynestown mostly takes place in a frontier town

        – Heart of Gold they hold out and have a shootout in a whorehouse

        Firefly was probably a solid 60/40 sci-fi/western.

    2. Can a “setting” truly be a trope? Sure many of the situations found in westerns have become tropes but I would agree in this case with Mr. Moore’s contention that it is perfectly natural that the cultural settings found in space exploration will be Maritime / Western in milieu. Of course it becomes the SF author’s responsibility to entertain without (too obvious) tropes.

      1. Surely, there are other tropes out there, waiting to be exploited beside cowboys and merchant seamen! Where else do we find explorers of the unknown that can serve as templates? Siberian cossacks? The Han along the Gansu corridor? Besides intrepid mariners, who else sets forth into terra incognita? See if you can find the great classic The Cowboy and the Cossack by Clair Huffacker. Or Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum. Is a starship more like a merchant vessel or an airliner? Or is it more like a shopping mall + apartment block that flies?

  1. Well, yea – I should have stated it more broadly: in the early stages of space exploration/colonization – and that’s all I was thinking about – you have explorers – and, in the initial stages, that would (almost) have to be explorers in ships – and frontiersmen/settlers. Only later, and maybe only a little later, would you get Vogons and Galactic Imperial troops and restless republics succumbing to the gravitational pull of tyranny and all the sundry professions and ne’er-do-wells that entails.

    It’s probably just my ignorance speaking, bu my problem with, say, the Golden Horde in space is that you’d need tech. Actually, that’s brilliant – Genghis Khan was big on borrowing tech (and enslaving technicians) so, if some space tech somehow fell into his lap…

    OK, so I’m completely wrong. Good thing I’m used to it. For my penance, maybe I’ll write an Inuit in Space story: Haunted by legends of their ancestors epic travels beneath the face of retreating glaciers, and waking up one morning to discover that their future entailed a lot of sitting in Greenland chewing whale blubber, two brothers and their families decide they’re getting off this rock! As Young Dr. Frankenstein put it: “It. Could. Work!” Once they discover the frozen wreckage of an intergalactic fleet, one transport of which seems to be in working order….

    And speaking of tropes, I’ve loved airships from childhood, suspecting the real Hindenburg disaster long term was that people stopped flying Zeppelins. Now, it seems, at least since Golden Compass, all steam punk must include airships. I don’t care. I’ve got airships, and I’m not writing steam punk.

    1. As for the shopping malls in space version of colonization ships, I’d have to stick in a scene where a collisions a few years out destroys a mall-style ship, with mannequins in lingerie, young punks with their ball caps on backwards, skinny blonds and purse-dogs spinning away with the rubble – broadcast live – just to put a stop to that sort of nonsense. Nope – only *real* people need apply.

      And you kids get off of my lawn!

      1. John Brunner once wrote The Space Barbarians about a barbaric planet which stumbled upon a superior technology and used it to conquer an otherwise superior Earth. A similar trope was used by Harry Turtledove in “The Road Not Taken.” Interstellar travel is really easy, but we just never happened to twig to it before aliens invaded… with matchlock blunderbusses and swords.

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