This wasn’t actually a WIP until yesterday afternoon, when the idea for it popped into my head very suddenly while I was writing something else with a friend – which at least partially inspired it. The rest of it came very quickly after, and now it’s the rare short story of mine where the actual plot is very fully formed before most of it’s been written. Now I just need to get that last part done.
The “Scarred Utopian” comes from the title of a paper that I wrote in my first year of graduate school. It wasn’t a very good paper, but the idea has stuck with me; the contradictory coexistence of the perfect and imperfect. Of course, such a thing seems illogical – does that also mean it can’t be real?
The excerpt for this edition of WIP Wednesday is the story I talked about back on Monday–the one that, at times, practically edges into prose-poetry. It’s a story that I’ve been waiting to write for a year, and it’s huge and thematically sprawling and will probably need a lot of tightening in the editing phase. But without saying too much, it’s about the exploitation of the natural world, about the ruthlessness of the past, and about a man involved in the drug trade in Colombia and the trajectory of his life. I have no idea yet if it’s any good. But I hope it is.
Here’s a bit of it:
So this is the second of my new twice-weekly posting schedule. This is the fun WIP part. On Monday I posted a fairly whiny piece on writing novel drafts and why they suck and I hate them a lot–the reason for this being that I’m currently in the sticky, gooey middle of the first draft of a novel, and it’s sucking and I’m hating it a lot. However, I know myself well enough to know that I shouldn’t trust my own take on things at this point in the process, so I’m going to choose to believe that the novel isn’t actually as bad as all that and post a short bit of it here.
The basic premise of the thing was inspired by a friend, who said that she wished that someone would write something about early Mars back when it was losing the remnants of its atmosphere and making the transition to the cold, (apparently) dead thing that it is today. I immediately thought “hey, I could do that,” and stupidly set out to try to do so. The result has–so far–been sort of like The Martian Chronicles by way of The Road, a story of the last survivors of a colonization attempt by an alien species, an attempt that, predictably, went horribly awry. The last generation of survivors–most of them, anyway–carry no clear memory of their homeworld, or of how they lived before their colony disintegrated into infighting and starvation. What they do carry are “ghosts”, the fragmentary memories and personalities of the people they have killed and eaten in a highly complex cannibalistic ritual referred to as “communion”. My idea is that this ritual arose as a way to combat the combined losses of culture, community, resources, and meaningful ties to the past. It does interesting things to the meaning of death on this version of Mars (called “Hadeva” by its inhabitants)–anyone may be killed and eaten at any time, for any reason, and people have very little cause to trust one another, though small isolated settlements still exist. But by the same token, slaughter and consumption are deeply meaningful, even respectful, and communities share their dead together. When someone is attacked and killed, they often take comfort in the fact that their killer will commune them and carry their memory. To die uneaten is the worst possible fate.
But not everyone practices communion. And while most have forgotten the stars from which they came, there are a few who still remember–and mean to return there. When Durja, my protagonist, stumbles upon a communication in the belongings of someone she’s killed and communed, it plants the idea of escape from the dying Hadeva in her mind, and pushes her across Mars’s freezing desert toward more danger than she ever imagined, and a choice more terrible than she ever dared to contemplate.
Anyway. Blurby blurbage. Here’s a bit. Rough, bear in mind.
After a couple of years of trying, I’ve finally sold a story–“Chinvat”, a ghost story inspired by an odd confluence of real events and Zoroastrian mythology–to Shimmer. So I’m really excited about that. I’m not sure yet which issue it’s going to appear in–I mean, I assume the next one but I’m not positive–but I’ll post more news when I have some. I’ll also have a bit more to say about how the story came to be; it’s a story whose inspirations are, I think, even more interesting than the story itself.
Aside from that, life goes on much as usual. I’ve got departmental funding for the summer in the name of getting a couple of articles edited and sent off for review, and I’m using that breathing space to also get some work done on the novel draft I’ve been plugging away at. I’m posting a lot more day to day in my Dreamwidth/Livejournal and reserving this space more for especially pertinent news and especially pertinent essays, but I’m always happy to see people over in either of those two places.
Wiscon was amazing. Thanks so much to all the delightful people who made it so. I can’t wait to see you next year.
First round of novel edits are done. Final count: 286 pages, single-spaced; 41 chapters; 147,700 words. In all, about 20,000 words were cut. I’d like to trim it down further but I think I’ve done as much as I can without more major surgery.
This may in fact end up being the last round of edits, depending. I think what I have here is saleable. I think it’s good. I think parts of it are extremely good. We’ll see. Ultimately, it’s not up to me where it goes or how it finds a home. But I do think it’s well-positioned to go somewhere and do something.
Reading it over after two-plus months without looking at it has been an interesting experience, rather like sitting on one’s hand until it goes numb and no longer seems to belong to you. Except your hand is a bunch of words and you’ve been sitting on it for two months and you discover that it looks a lot better than you recall, and it kind of cheers you up for the rest of the day.
The co-author is working through the changes as I type. We hope to have this thing in submittable shape in the next few weeks.
I’m not sure what possessed me to try to write a book in my first year of graduate school, but I’m now willing to state for the record that it has not been an utter disaster. This does not mean that I would recommend this course of action to others.
So I appear to have accidentally started to edit the novel, before finishing The Other Thing or hearing back from my betas.
Understand me: I really did not mean to do this. For the last two months there has been a self-imposed injunction against even opening the file, even sneaking a peak at anything I and my co-author have done. But then last night I was like “Well, it’s been a couple of months, I’ll just have a quick look to warm up for starting in the next week.” And then half an hour later I had gone through the intro thingy and also a chunk of the first chapter. So I guess I’m editing the novel now.
The working title at this point–really just from my end and for my own purposes–is The Helix Dance. I am very much open to other ideas. This has proved to be a stubborn bitch to pin down.
So yes, I really didn’t want to start this without hearing back from people first, but provided that the feedback doesn’t consist of OH GOD NO WHY WOULD YOU COMMIT SUCH A HORROR BURN THIS THING IMMEDIATELY AND IF ONLY YOU COULD BURN THE MEMORY FROM OUR MINDS I don’t really foresee an issue.
The current wordcount is 165,820. I estimate that approximately 15 to 20k words need to come out before it can be sent anywhere. If more can be carved out, so much the better. My general impression–and it may be wrong–is that the basic plot, characters, themes, etc. are all essentially sound enough to not need any radical changes. The primary issue is the prose, which is also pretty okay but a little puffy in the description-area.
So. 10 pages out of 373 done. Here goes nothing.
My copy of M-Brane SF Quarterly #1 is supposed to come today. I am excite.
At some point I’ll have something in here besides these things. A lot of projects are on a kind of hold right now, where things are happening, but nothing concrete enough for me to talk about it explicitly. One anthology I have a story in is waiting on a release, my novelette Hieros is being put through the editing process, and I’m waiting to hear back about a number of things. And I’m working on a number of others.
But in the meantime, here’s something true: I’m afraid to stop writing.
It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time I just wrote whenever I felt like it, which wasn’t always often. There was a longish period where it pretty much didn’t happen at all, and back then it didn’t especially trouble me. But now I’m afraid to stop. I keep up with my minimum daily wordcounts, I set time aside for writing (usually in the morning these days; not quite sure how that happened), and a lot of it is motivated by a work ethic that I try to cultivate, and a lot of it is motivated by deadlines, but I think a significant portion of it is actually about fear.