In the last post, we looked at stories as products of a process. The writer doesn’t proceed like this: “I have this story in my head, and now I’m going to record it in written form.” The text isn’t a given that merely awaits transcription. It’s often—perhaps usually—the product of a writing activity. It didn’t exist before being realized in that activity, not even in the mind of the writer. In such cases the … Read more
aphorisms & epigrams
Story: A conversation with the page
I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a kid—the notion just smacked of romance and freedom. It also had the advantage of annoying my father, who wanted me to be an engineer. But I was 40 years old before I wrote anything for publication.
Twenty years before that, having just spent a couple of years working underground in an Ontario nickel mine, and having more money than I’d ever seen in one pile before, I … Read more
Writerly occupational hazard: Premature thought
Today I present two gnomic items of writerly advice. Subsequent posts will expand upon them.
These are aimed first of all at myself, who knows better but, it seems, keeps forgetting. In fact, in drafting this second of a series of futuristic novels, the sequel to Syn, I’ve been committing these most basic of errors.
2. Don’t wait till you know what your story is before you start writing it.
3. Try to be … Read more
Recipe for a 10-stone story: Souffles as boat anchors
“Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood rather than admired; and they do not write for knowing and over-acute readers.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
1. Expanding on Nietzsche’s insight
The writerly impulse to be admired rather than understood is generally associated with certain stylistic horrors.
Right away, seeking the admiration of “knowing and over-acute readers,” the unwitting writer serves up long and complex sentences like a tangle of spaghetti. The more clauses the better, eh? And … Read more
Central irony of our age?
The central irony of our age: a powerful totalitarian drift promising individual empowerment. (Epigrams’R’Us, eh?)
Individually and collectively, we blithely speed towards a precipice. Or so it seems, of this jet-lagged morning, just back from a computer-, Internet-, and phone-less island sojourn.
Are we modern folk evolving as mere arms & legs for our smartphones? The reality of current tendencies may be even more sinister than that. I’m too sleepy to develop that notion any further just now. Here’s just … Read more
Immortality for secularists, wherein Joe Atheist cannot die
There’s been much news, of late, concerning the planarian worm, which is effectively immortal. Unfortunately, this version of life everlasting offers little hope to us humans.
But there’s a fix, one that doesn’t mean we have to begin reproducing asexually if we want to persist to the planarian extent. Of necessity, I’ll argue, we’re already, always and forever, living in our “afterlife.”
Having our sex and living forever too
Here’s my theory, for whatever it’s worth, and in … Read more
Premature evacuations offend spirits of the place
Here on my eight-floor balcony, watching the sun retire across the river to the west, I can almost hear the waters advancing from Saphan Kwai. Or is that merely the kerfuffle of conflicting rumor? For weeks, here in Phya Thai District, we’ve awaited the floods from the north as they advance with glacial alacrity. One of the many rumors, inconsistently promulgated by government officials, was that we might well be spared altogether.
Ultimately, though, it seems the hi-so spirits of … Read more
Fable with parasites II: Owl of Minerva flies at the turn of the worm
Does Fate reflect a wormish agenda? We looked at aspects of this question in the last two posts. Read on for even more sinister developments.
Once upon a time within some dimension or another, a species of worm with an interesting civilization embraced a complex body of beliefs, not all of them consistent with one another, but that is in the nature of things.
Their consciousness, if we may call it such, was a collective phenomenon; taken individually, these worms … Read more
Stones hurled from a glass house
Bangkok Noir is enjoying favorable review, both locally and abroad. But I’d like to critique the second sentence of my own contribution to that story collection, “Hot Enough to Kill.” In fact, I suggest that readers take a pen and revise it.
Here’s the printed version (not mine—I swear that some gremlin on my computer vandalized the sentence; I have two copies of the story that read the way I wrote them, and two more corrupted versions):
Eyes are filled … Read more
Writerly occupational hazards: Ersatz creativity (boozing)
Inebriation is a false Muse. As seductive as they may be, chemical substitutes for true creative intoxication don’t work.
Maybe there are exceptions that prove this rule. Malcolm Lowry, e.g., did much field research for his brilliant novel Under the Volcano, which included a main protagonist who was drinking himself to death. (Lowry, unfortunately, perhaps in his quest for verisimilitude, was himself to go all the way at an early age.) Emulating his own hard-boiled detective protagonists, writer … Read more