"Sometimes I really wish I had my mother here, to laugh with me about the ways we torture time and space to bring it into alignment with the linear illusion that we inhabit. Here in the provisional reality of cyberspace."
-- and in fact that is literally true. My mother's been gone for more than twenty years now, but I still miss her presence, especially as an old woman when I was an adult myself. So now I'm a couple of years older than she was ever allowed, and on this rainy morning I feel deprived of those decades I've traveled without her. Far better, I think, than being relieved to be free of her, which I know is just as common.
Heading back tonight to the steamy hellhole of Gainesville, Florida.
We had an interesting time yesterday. Went into town and met Gary Wolfe and Stacey for a boat ride, an architectural tour of the Chicago harbor. There are many buildings around the harbor, as you might have guessed. Then we went up to their apartment, I think on the East Side, and played with their two old cats for awhile, drinking a fine little bottle of Eiswein. (No, the cats didn't have any.)
We had dinner at one of Gary's favorite neighborhood restaurants, a cavernous rib place, where the fare was indeed remarkable, tender slow-grilled ribs with a fine spectrum of sauces.
Enough of this high living, though. I must hie me back out to the asteroid belt, where real men make a living hoisting verbs and adjectives, muttering imprecations as they worry them into place.
Hope I can get into high gear on the novel. In the best of all possible worlds, to which I always aspire, I would finish it before Worldcon. But Worldcon is early, mid-August. So open a fresh bottle of that new high-velocity ink, and write harder!
Mitch, a lot of people turn to self-publishing in response to the vast silence from New York. That doesn't mean you won't be famous some day, so you'd better brace yourself for eventually becoming rich, or providing riches for future obscure relatives.
Stephen Crane self-published his first novel, which he then had to burn in his wood stove one copy at a time, to stay warm in the winter of 1894.
(Worth $8500 now.)
In another couple of years he was famous, for the rest of his short life. Don’t emulate him! Be like me and publish your stuff in pulp sf magazines. Nor doubt that fame and fortune lie beyond the bourne!
Steve, times have changed radically from when I was sending out stories and book proposals. We used to look in Writer's Market and check out the listings, and choose a publisher/editor more or less at random -- someone who does books you admire -- and shoot off the manuscript with a self-addressed stamped envelope to one of them. Then when it came back, send it to the next one on the list.
Nowadays, people look at the agents' listings instead. Agents publish lists of the writers they represent. You look for an agent who does writers you like, and send your story or proposal off to him or her.
One thing apparently is the same: an agent who's any good doesn't have lots of spare time to read manuscripts. So it's best to write up a killer proposal, rather than send the whole book.
The supposition (which is only sometimes true) is that if you can write a wonderful proposal, you will write a wonderfuller book.
Of course it's really just a sales job, and the reality is that Hemingway or Joyce or Faulkner would probably be crap at writing a sales pitch. But what does reality have to do with it?
I have a book at home (we're on the road now) that is a compilation of query letters that worked. Googling turns up a half-dozen possibilities.
The proposals I've done that worked were either short, a couple of paragraphs, or very long -- pages of detail. So who knows?
(I think my most successful proposal was for Forever Free. Five words: "A sequel to The Forever War." But first you have to write a best-seller.)
As a lad I spent hour after hour trying to draw my low-resolution versions of the same. It was the most rewarding of all the planets to draw, with a relatively small telescope.
Yesterday we went into Chevy Chase -- or was it Bethesda? -- and treated ourselves to pedicures. My nails were becoming dangerous weapons! Careful and serious small Vietnamese woman.
Also picked up a bucket of fried chicken from sister Wendi's favorite place, very yum. We went to the vegetable market and picked up this and that. I prepared a pot of greens therefrom, with bacon and onion, likewise yum.
Today being the 4th of July, we'll have to plan carefully to work around celebrations. In the evening we'll probably just walk to a nearby field with a picnic, and watch the Washington display, which will of course be prodigious. These old bones don't look forward to reclining on the ground, but I'll manage.
Actually, I should be content to just let the text stay, and explain itself, but there's a lot that was more clear forty years ago than now -- and wasn't completely clear to everybody then.
The ideas of, first, compulsory sex among soldiers and, later, compulsory homosexuality among everybody, were meant to be tongue-in-cheek; absurd. That I employed the rhetorical devices of hard sf to that end was supposed to be the big McGuffin, if you will. If people didn't think it was funny . . . well, as they say in literary criticism, fuck them if they can't take a joke!
Does that mean that the novel was not intended seriously? No. But one could write a book -- a deadly boring one -- about what seriousness means in a comic novel. (Using "comic" in its broadest literary sense.)
What I would probably do differently now, maybe because I'm becoming politically correct in my old age, would be the feminization of a couple of the gay male characters, and masculinization of a couple of the female ones. That wasn't necessary then and would be doubly unnecessary now. (A couple of gay readers did take me to task for that even back then.)
It's far enough from the beach to be quiet and relatively inexpensive. A pleasant unprepossessing dining room. Good local seafood. Soft overstuffed beds, modern capsule coffee machines. One could write a book here.
Yesterday Kevin (Joanne's husband) and I girded our loins and braved the funhouse. Loin-girding not actually required. Rode a bumpy car through the darkness, with occasional painted denizens leaping out screaming or laughing maniacally. I think that scared the shit out of me seventy years ago. But I'm made of sterner stuff now. Mainly scared of catching something from touching the groady old thing.
Gay and Wendi and Joanne rode the Ferris Wheel. My courage does not extend to tempting the gods of gravity, so I just watched them and listened for their screams.
We walked down the boardwalk, which was bright and loud but a little, or more than a little, tawdry -- which was surely true seventy years ago, too. We indulged in candied peanuts and popcorn, and saltwater taffy,and Thraser's french fries, as one must. I was concerned about diabetes, and so decided not to test my blood sugar. Too high a number and I might have a heart attack.
The girls seem younger and heavier than the variety attracted to Daytona and Ormond Beach. Well, I guess the population is not statistically weighted with college girls. More like dietetically weighted by prepubescent candy munchers. One must be patient. They will slim down long enough to catch a man. And I will be watching, as I have been for the past sixty-some years, as they move into and out of my ken.
One thing that slightly bothers me (which did not when I was twelve or thirteen) is the absolute absence of nature, other than the slim blue line of ocean near the horizon. This hotel must be nearly a mile from the actual beach. So we do have a salt breeze, but we can't easily stroll to the strand. We can drive thirty miles or so south and park in a coin-operated lot. From the boardwalk you can walk a few hundred yards to the sea, picking your way between blankets and broasting tourists, and there test your swimming ability and patience. I haven't been tempted. But then I do limit myself to one shark encounter per ten years. (The Google article says there haven't been any shark fatalities here "in recent years," which is not specific enough to reassure me.)
Of course as a Florida native, I know that meteorites kill more people than sharks. But then I wear a tinfoil helmet, too, just in case.