Sunday, October 29, 2006

Very Short Stories

WIRED Magazine hired some people to write super-short stories.

WIRED didn't contact me (gee, I wonder why?) but I came up with a few short-shorts:

1. "Her clone married her ex. Figures."

2. "I told Torquemada: "Time travel sucks!"

3. "Rain fell. The robot uprising rusted."

Why I Haven't Been Writing So Much Lately.

Because I've spent too much time watching this on YouTube.

Best line in the clip: Man saying into phone (to the man who's being eaten by a giant spider at the other end), "Mr. 'Oh my God, crunch crunch?' Look, spit out whatever you're chewing and start over!"

It All Fits!

A good story can be a bit like a paranoid conspiracy theory: every detail fits into the big whole.

(Real life isn't like that, of course, unless you are paranoid).

A good story can also be a series of vignettes and episodes... as long as the episodes fit into a major theme.

The world's first novel, Don Quixote, is a good example.

Once the theme - Don Quixote's madness - has been established, the story becomes a series of episodes where the traveling protagonist encounters different characters and situations. Every episode shows how his madness distorts reality and how people react to him.

It happens that writers try to "match" themes into a story or novel that don't fit together. It doesn't have to mean they are inferior as such, but they don't "gel" into a coherent whole and the narrative suffers.

For the reader, this is like trying to listen to two different songs at once: if the songs had been in sync, it could sound great, but if they don't you just hear a cacophony.

When the parts of the story support each other, like an orchestra, the whole of the story becomes a symphony.

Friday, October 27, 2006

"A Homepage Update That Would Change Their Lives Forever."

(Do you remember when every ¤&#/**# movie trailer contained that stupid cliché phrase "... that will change their lives forever"? What the hell does that mean?? How can a life be "changed forever"?)

This week's homepage update is another chapter of the send-up of my novel DARC AGES: The MSTing Of DARC AGES.

It is possible that eventually, the entire novel will be spoofed. (You can still read the "un-spoofed" original here.)

The writing of TERRA HEXA III (coming out late next year) continues... the Prologue is complete, and I'm compiling an extensive Synopsis of the remaining parts. I'm very excited about the third book in the series, because the advance work is running so smoothly: the synopsis is just bubbling over with fun scenes, cool characters, interesting environments and plot twists.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Mischievous Reader And The Unspoken Agreement

I was thinking about how I should have cut down the rather boring introduction from DARC AGES, when it hit me...

Who says the reader can't just skip the boring parts?

See, writers and readers have this silly unspoken agreement. It goes something like this:

1. The Reader is obliged to start reading the Text from the first line of the first page, and read the entire Text to the last line.

2. The Reader is not allowed to skip to the ending, alter the Text, tear out pages or deliberately misread the Text.

3. In return, the Writer pledges to have removed any unnecessary words from the Text, and to include all relevant information in the Text.

And the unspoken agreement is totally bogus. Everybody breaks it.

In reality, readers DO skip to the ending (if only to check that the ending is worth the effort of reading the rest). In reality, readers DO skip the boring passages. They DO add their own comments to the original text.

In reality, writers DON'T edit down the text to contain only what is absolutely relevant to the context of the whole narrative. In reality, they DO omit necessary information.

So I thought: is this why books are so damned long nowadays?
To allow the picky reader to choose what to read and what to skip?
To what extent should I let the reader choose what to read?
And does this allow me to get lazy in my editing?
Are we all just pretending that people read the whole book?

What do you think?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Too Soon!

The Oct.22 homepage update is a bit early, and brief:

Chapter 4 of The MSTing Of DARC AGES

Enjoy... Now I can take the rest of the weekend off.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ode To Japanese Movie Monsters

Posted in the Finnish-Swedish webzine : "Drapan Om Japan", my ode to Japanese movie monsters.

Swedish original:
Drapan om Japan

By A.R.Yngve

Stolt stod staden Tokyo, Japans stjärna.
Ur djupet steg Godzilla, monstrens konung.
Vrålade gjorde monstret, jättelikt att skåda.
Monstret stampade på staden.
Eld blåste monstret.
Den vise vetenskapsmannen gillrade fällan.
Monstret i fällan gick, det blev dess död
Tokyo var räddat, folket tryggt
Iallafall tills nästa film.

Svårt led Japans folk.
Under monstren som kom i följande filmer.
Farligt flaxade Rhodans vingar.
Hett brände Gameras flammor.
Festligt fajtades King Kong med Godzilla.
Slafsigt slamrade Mechagodzillas fötter.
Jämmerligt jollrade Baby Godzilla.
Återigen jämnades Tokyo med marken.
Åter och åter igen byggdes staden upp på nytt.
Undras varför japanerna envisades med det.

In English translation:

A Jape of Japan

By A.R.Yngve

Proudly stood the city of Tokyo, star of Japan.
From the depth rose Godzilla, king of monsters.
Roar did the monster, a behemoth to behold.
On the city the monster stomped.
Fire it blew.
The trap was set by the wise scientist.
Into the trap the monster walked, and met its doom
Tokyo was saved, the people safe
At least until the next film.

Severely the people of Japan suffered
under the monsters that came in films to follow.
Fearsomely flapped the wings of Rhodan.
Blisteringly burned the flames of Gamera.
Slapsticky slugged King Kong it out against Godzilla.
Clumsily clanked the feet of Mechagodzilla.
Bashfully babbled Baby Godzilla.
Again Tokyo was leveled.
Again and again the city was rebuilt.
I wonder why the Japanese kept doing that.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Write First, Think Of What Genre It Is Later

Among science fiction writers, readers and editors, there are two black holes which suck them in... and trap them forever in futile, endless debates.

The first black hole is called "How Do You Define What Is Science Fiction?"
(Abandon all hope ye who enter it!)

The second black hole is called "Why Don't We Get No Respect?"
(Any such debate inevitably degenerates into a hell-pit of self-pity, paranoia, resentment, despair and chip-on-the-shoulder superiority.)

Now, I write stories and books which can of course be labeled according to genre: science fiction, horror, adventure, satire, what-have-you. I sometimes visit "science fiction" conventions because I want to talk to other writers and meet my readers (or potential readers).

But you know what? To me, the label on what I write isn't important. Not anymore. I realized some time ago, that I write the kind of stories I want to write.

If, at some point in time, I decided: "Now I will write a story about a poor coca-farmer in Bolivia," or "Now I'd like to write a non-fiction book about a practical dieting lifestyle"... then what good is a label?

"You can't write that stuff, you're supposed to be a science fiction writer!"

If a genre label is riddled with prejudice and negative associations (Sci-Fi=juvenile crap on TV and in movies), then what good is it for me? Should I care to protect it?

If I were black, why would I call myself a "n*gg*r"? If I were gay, would I call myself a "f*gg*t"?

But that is what so many genre fans do. It's as if they so desperately need to make their taste an identity -- the way a religious fanatic defines himself primarily by his religion, not his personality or character -- it rules out any discussion. "If it has 'our' genre label, then it must be defended and I must force myself to be interested."

It's as if I, just because I watch ONE detective show on TV, have to watch (and defend) ALL detective shows on TV. It's impractical, unrealistic and quite frankly stupid.

The only practical reason I should use genre labels on my fiction is as a search function -- for the sake of easy Googling.

You, writer... when you sit down to write a new story, which is your first thought:
A) "I want to tell a story about people who..."
B) "I want to tell a detective/science fiction/romance/horror/thriller story"

If you choose B), then you have trapped and limited your imagination from the start. You should have ignored genre constraints in the first place.

Say after me: "I write what I want because I want, and it doesn't matter what they want to label it."

ADDENDUM: A debate about the SF genre has arisen and is quite interesting:
Steven Grant on How SF Ruined the Future (scroll down column)
Charles Stross comments, and much debate follows.
Lou Anders weighs in, here and here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"In A Not Too Distant Future, Next Sunday AD..."

MST3K fans take notice! This week's homepage update is a new chapter of The MSTing Of DARC AGES.

(For the woefully ignorant: the MST3K primer on Wikipedia.)

One of the figures bent down close to his ear, and asked in a muffled voice: "Can... you... hear... me? Do... you... understand?"

(Actually, the muffled voice sounded more like "Cunh uh h'muh? Duh'uh'ndh'tnd?")

A foreign accent, David thought sleepily. Italian? German? Asian?

(Yorkshire? Cockney? British Royal Family?)

He wheezed a pained "yes".

(The mere mentioning of the rock group Yes hurt.)


Notes, Photos & Videoclips From Imagicon / Swecon 2006 (Oct. 13-15)

I visited the Swedish science-fiction convention IMAGICON (a.k.a. Swecon 2006) over the weekend...

Here are some of my photos from the event.

It was great fun to meet and talk to other writers, such as the Guests of Honor Joe Haldeman and Geoff Ryman.

My standup comedy act got a mixed reception. Some of the jokes and routines bordered on the tasteless. The Harlan Ellison joke went like this:

"Has this ever happened to you? There you are, on stage, about to accept your award, when suddenly... Harlan Ellison grabs one of your comfort zones! Now you can come prepared, with the OLD BOY BUZZER!

"Simply attach the Old Boy Buzzer to any part of your underwear - bra, panties or longjohns - and the next time Ol'Harlan makes a grab, the Old Boy Buzzer gives him a thousand-volt shock that he will remember until The Last Dangerous Visions comes out!

Harlan sez: 'The Old Boy Buzzer rocks my woild!'"

Other people I met: Cecilia Wennerström (my publisher at Wela), the people from, Johan Anglemark, lots of nice people from Finland (their conventions are huge and have many more visitors, Finland is definitely teh roxxor in Scandinavian SF fandom!), many more ... and some guy named ANDERS (who bore an uncanny resemblance to actor Peter Stormare).

1. Guest of Honor Joe Haldeman humorously answers the question "What are your daily writing rituals?" (Scroll to bottom of page to find link)

2. Guest of Honor Geoff Ryman humorously tells about when the Home Office hired him and other British SF writers as "futurological consultants." (Scroll to bottom of page to find link)


During the standup, I sang this LOTR spoof, "Gollum's Love Theme".

Friday, October 13, 2006

Review of DARC AGES

A new review of my novel DARC AGES has been posted on the website Catahya. (The review is in Swedish; a translated quote can be read here.)

I agree with the criticisms of the review: the book's flaws are obvious. But now that I have them pointed out, perhaps I'll improve with my next book. :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Homepage! Now 10% Improved! With Moisturizer!

I've given the ol' homepage a slight visual "facelift"... what do you think?
(Note: The next homepage update has been pushed to Oct.16, as I'll be visiting Imagicon over the weekend.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Importance Of Vision In Writing

Words and pictures go together, just like song and lyrics.

While the traditional "print book" is restricted to mostly text, there is no reason why the writer's imagination should imitate those (artificial) restrictions! Just like music can inspire your writing, images can.

Many writers can tell how they became inspired by some vivid image/vision in a dream. For example, Harry Harrison once dreamed of an immense waterfall, and this inspired his surreal, memorable short "By The Falls" (available for free reading in the SciFiction archive).

If you don't have a visual imagination (poor you!), then try and find inspiration in memorable art or film, or photography.

For example: I browsed Library of Congress' enormous collection of Public Domain photos of American cities in the early 20th century.
These aging photographs, with their eerie black-and-white urban landscapes, buildings that almost seemed monstrous and inhumanly alive, inspired me to write the Precinct 20 cycle of crime stories.

Find your vision.

Homepage Is Where The Heart Is.

This week's homepage update includes "only" Chapter 1.7 of the novel-in-progress THE TALE OF THE SOLDIESSE. This is a "military science fiction" story... but I'm not trying to imitate other works in that sub-genre. It's an experiment; maybe it'll work out, maybe it'll fail.

(Writing a novel is to some extent a leap of faith. You can't ever be 100% sure in advance of the end result. The best you can do is to go in well prepared...)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Come To Imagicon / Swecon 2006

I'll be at the Swedish science-fiction convention Imagicon / Swecon 2006 (Oct. 13-15)...

It will be a short stay (arriving late on Friday), but late on Saturday I will be there to do a standup comedy act in English (and hopefully Guests of Honor Joe Haldeman, Geoff Ryman and Martin Andreasson are present in the audience).

Now, should I make a Harlan Ellison joke during the standup show...? What do YOU think?

There should also be time for hawking books and signing a few copies of TERRA HEXA 1 & 2.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stephen King On "The Writing Life"

As usual, Stephen's latest essay on the writing life is full of golden nuggets:

Stephen King on The Writing Life

His non-fiction books STEPHEN KING'S DANCE MACABRE and ON WRITING are still recommended reading for all writers and would-be writers of fiction (not just horror).

Best quote:
"Dig this: The so-called 'writing life' is basically sitting on your ass."
-Stephen King

(Which is why writers should get up and excercise regularly, to prevent hemorroids. )