these are a two of my favorite things

1) I don’t remember why I read this — but I’m glad I did: “And now, Conan The Librarian: 8 fictional shows, games, and books we wish were real

At first I was pleased that they mentioned eXistenZ — a movie that I was obsessed with for a while — and then I was even more excited that they also praised the book The Diamond Age. Two of my favorite things!

I wrote about eXistenZ here: u-town.com/collins/?p=1238 (there are a whole series of connected pages linked to from there, if you don’t mind spoilers). And I wrote about The Diamond Age, or at least one specific scene, here: u-town.com/collins/?p=5454

 
2) After a process of rewriting that went on for much longer than anticipated (and which was probably longer than it needed to be — but I was having fun), “The Bus Station Mystery” is all spiffed up and improved. It’s not hugely changed (same mystery, same suspects, same solution), but expanded in several areas. More room to breathe, and to get to know the characters.

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three minutes and thirty-seven seconds of wonderful

(I particularly like the end, where the mandolin guy goes over to hug her and she curves away from him and then pushes him away. “My pretty mouth will frame the phrases that will disprove your faith in man,” after all.)

 
On another topic:

I’ve been rather unproductive recently — writing-wise. I have finished the rewrite of “The Bus Station Mystery.” It’s pretty much the same as it’s always been — same story, same characters, same resolution — but more filled out. The characters are given a little more room to breathe (and suspects are better suspects when you have a clear sense of who they are). I’ll post a link when it’s updated online.

So, I’ve been wondering what to tackle next. What’s nagged at me for a while is the story I’ve been calling “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…” It’s got a good beginning, a solid end, good characters… and I’ve finally figured out what the problem was (and a possible solution).

The problem is that there are a lot of characters with a lot of fairly complex backstory, and it’s difficult to figure out how to cram all the history into this story for readers who’ve never read my stuff before.

Well, it just occurred to me that I could do what I did before, with The Jan Sleet Mysteries.

That was a series of stories that were designed to be read in order (a “stealth novel,” as I called it later), so each one could rely on what a reader learned in the earlier ones. Well, why not have “The Stevie One Adventures,” including Stevie One, One Night at the Quarter, and “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” (or whatever it ends up being called). The two earlier stories (novellas, really) provide all the backstory that a reader of the third one could require, and Stevie One, in particular, works really well for new readers.

Proving once again, as I’ve said before, that I can try to write short stories, but novels are really the distance I’m trained for.

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true in the treetops, true on the ground

Editor (brandishes a few sheets of paper): This story is great, You should write like this all the time.

Writer: Why, thank you. (looks at the sheets of paper more closely) But… I didn’t write that.

Editor: I know you didn’t. I wrote it. I said this is how you should write.

 
This was from many years ago, from the comic strip Shoe. The two characters were journalists, not fiction writers (and they were birds), but this has always stuck in my mind when giving (and getting) feedback.

It’s all to easy, when giving feedback, to fall into this approach: “You should have written this more the way I would have written it.”

I lived, very briefly, with someone else who wrote, and we had this comic strip up on our refrigerator. We referred to it quite often.

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things have birthdays, too

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web…

(Okay, I do have to mention that it always strikes me as pretty amazing that all of this — all of the Web-based stuff that we take for granted now — is based on the work of one man. And — maybe even the most incredible thing — he didn’t use it to become a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs.)

Anyway.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, made some comments recently about the state of his invention, on the occasion of its 28th birthday.

He’s right about the centralized nature of a lot of things now, with so much concentrated in the hands of a few corporations, such as social media companies. This has been a big change since some years ago, when there were a lot more personal websites and blogs and so on.

 
In addition to the birthday of the Web, there’s been another birthday recently:

Ulysses turns 100 this month, and you should totally read it

And, yes, you totally should read it.

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personal shopper, and writing i like

I just saw Personal Shopper, and I liked it a lot. It’s kind of a horror movie, not my favorite genre, but I’d been very impressed by Clouds of Sils Maria (also written and directed by Olivier Assayas, and also starring Kristen Stewart), so I decided to give it a shot.

It’s a very effective, spooky film, with some pretty conventional ghost-story elements which work better than they should, mostly because Stewart sells them so well. The writing also helps, of course, and I think one thing that makes it work is that there’s also a real, corporeal murder mystery going on at the same time — and the two tend to bleed into each other (so to speak).

The movie isn’t much interested in the murder mystery, but it’s there and the pieces make sense if you bother to think about them. I like mysteries, but I also like stories where the mystery is there but it’s not at the center.

Anyway, recommended.

 
On another front, I’ve always admired writers who can do things that I can’t possibly imagine myself doing.

For an analogy, my favorite movie director is Robert Altman. I love his films (well, most of them), but I can see how he does what he does. I see why the scenes affect me the way they do, though it’s certainly beyond anything I could imagine achieving myself, even if I directed movies.

But there are times that I’m in awe of Jim Jarmusch’s movies, since at his best I have no idea how they do what they do. Sometimes he shows three images and I’m knocked sideways, like if somebody tapped you on your left elbow, put a hand on your right shoulder, and beeped you on your nose, somehow putting you in a trance.

Analogy over.

My stuff always tends to make sense, or at least it moves toward making sense. Even the things that I don’t explain (like why Vicki has superhuman strength) mostly have reasons.

There’s a comic book I’m particularly enjoying now, called Doom Patrol, mostly because it doesn’t make much sense but somehow everything works anyway. The Doom Patrol started in the early 1960s, right about the same time as the X-Men. The characters and situations between the books were very similar, and neither was very successful at first, but eventually the X-Men took off and more or less took over Marvel Comics, whereas the Doom Patrol just got weird (and weirder). The Doom Patrol book has got cancelled quite often, but it always comes back, at least for a while.

The main character now is Casey Brinke. She’s an ambulance driver, and a member of the Doom Patrol, and I think she has superpowers but I tend to forget what they are (it’s that sort of book).

In the most recent issue, Casey is driving her ambulance at top speed for the hospital, because her roommate, Terry, is about to give birth. Terry and Casey had sex a few hours ago (after falling out of their apartment together through the giant hole in the wall), and this sex has resulted in Terry being about to give birth now.

At no point does Casey protest that Terry can’t have gone through an entire pregnancy in a few hours, or that the pregnancy is rather unlikely anyway since they’re both women.

Instead, careening through the streets, followed by the other members of the Doom Patrol (on bicycles) and their current enemies (The Brotherhood of Nada — led by Mr. Nobody, Terry’s father) in a car, Casey’s only comment is “I can barely take care of a cat, I can’t be a mom!”

See, there’s no way I could possibly make that sort of thing work, which adds to my enjoyment of how it does (and I left out the backstory of the cat in question, Lotion, and the fact that Casey’s ambulance is sentient, and… a lot of other things).

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