I read an article recently by another author about why they write. I’ve seen this kind of thing before. I read them and I am always interested to hear that other voice – the one that’s not behind the characters in the story – just the story teller in the raw.
That prompted me to attempt an article of my own. I should get it down in writing – that’s what writers do after all, right? I’d like to say “author” but I’m still not certain that label applies. I suspect story teller is closer to the truth. Getting it down on paper isn’t easy.
I am realizing lately that ideas are pretty easy to come by. I went into a notebook I have here at the desk labeled “writing ideas / outlines” and paged back through the topics and story ideas piled up in there. I’ve got enough in there to last me quite a while really. The ideas pile up, I write out notes about how to start and where to go with the idea and put it in the file. Ideas just seem to spring up from the most unusual places. There’s more to tell on the idea front, but I suspect that’s another post. Until then, if you want to find one of the funniest things I’ve read about ideas, I suggest you get a copy of It Came From Schenectady by Barry Longyear. It’s worth the read.
So, I have the idea and then what? I have to share that idea. I need to tell somebody that story. That’s the hard part! All the typing and anxiety and dashed hope, it’s not easy. I wish there were some muse or driving incident that made me want to write. Some particular day when it all clicked and I just burst from the gate and into something amazing. I’d like to say it was some long ago fantasy of mine to be an author, but that’s not at all true. It has built over time. It has grown and I’ve made an effort to develop my skill set. Success is really for somebody else to judge. All I can do is work at it. Heck, I’m still not sure I can pull it off – but I need to try. That’s why I write.
Many (most) people who know me understand that I am not a pet person. I have nothing against pets or animals, I am simply not interested in having or dealing with pets. I don’t freak out, I’m not allergic nor am I scared of pets – I just don’t want one. Yes, I know they’re “cute” or whatever word you’d like to put in there. Yes, I understand the bond that can grow between pets and owners. Yes, I know that statistically people with pets live longer. I don’t care. I don’t want one. No, it doesn’t matter how cute they are in your mind. If you’d like to have a pet, good for you. I’m glad you want to have that relationship. I’ll be fine without, thank you very much.
Some consider this a short coming on my part, but most accept it and move on.
I say all that up front because it’s important to understand where the compliment comes from. It wasn’t phrased like a compliment and I suspect it wasn’t really meant to be one – but I’ll take it.
My most recent story came out in a book recently. That book is Dogs of War. The stories in the book are about our animal comrades in arms. I was interested in the opinion of somebody so I brought my copy of the book to her so she could read the story. I’m hoping to encourage purchases by others as well – and this particular person would be helpful in that department I suspect.
She took a few minutes and read the story while I was there. She grinned a couple of parts. She didn’t want to get into something else until she finished reading it. I considered both of those things very good signs. I’m not as confident with my writing as some other folks I know (fragile ego and all that you know). The part I considered a compliment was at the end. She finished the story and said (paraphrasing) “wow, it’s like you really love dogs…”
Most people wouldn’t take that as a compliment, but I write fiction. I like to tell a good story. If you believe it then I have done my job well. The fact that she knows me, knows the fact that I’m not at all interested in animal companions and still thought the story came off like it was written by a true animal lover is all the compliment I needed.
Head on out and grab a copy to see for yourself.
This was originally published at Watch The Skies but it was part of a longer and very interesting conversation. I certainly hope it garners a few comments here as well:
Over a recent weekend I attended Philcon , “…the world’s first and longest-running conference on science fiction, fantasy, and horror!” It was a good experience. I’m glad I went. I’d only ever attended one other time and that was a day pass. This time I was able to get the full emersion version.
From a location point of view I hated attempting to cross Philadelphia to get there. I dislike the area around the hotel in terms of driving as well. I don’t know how close (or not) the train or bus run. It’s not as easy to access as other conventions I’ve been to, but as someone pointed out to me, the parking is free and there is lots of it. Even when a boating competition was in the area there was still ample parking.
The hotel itself was nice. I needed to adjust to a more vertical layout than other conventions I’ve been to. The fire alarm that hit in the middle of the afternoon was quickly handled with minimal disruption to the convention. The stairs were strictly emergency exit things but elevators seemed to handle the needs of the crowd quite well.
The crowd… didn’t seem like much of a crowd. From time to time through the course of the weekend I wondered where everyone was. I’ve seen others more familiar with the convention report that attendance was far lower than previous years. I only recall a handful of hall costumes. No disrespect those that were there – they were well done. The storm trooper was excellent. I loved that two people teamed up and came as Bill and Ted and I had to do a double take when somebody I know showed up in a wig and an outfit that made her look totally different than the way I recognized her. That’s a short list though – and I only recall seeing four or five others at all. For a convention with costuming as part of the panel selection it seemed very, very thin in that department. That was symptomatic of the rest of the convention as well. Panels with a dozen people were considered well attended and it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear of panels where the panelists outnumbered those attending. I realize this happens from time to time at a convention. The number of times I heard the complaint was more than it should have been.
The lasting impression from this convention was from a panel called “This Is Everyone’s Lawn”. Ostensibly this panel was to look at defeating ageism in fandom. What this panel became was ‘What’s wrong with Philcon’ or ‘why won’t those old bastards change’. This was a genuinely interesting panel and it highlighted a few things despite not actually focusing on the intended topic. Fandom in general is running into a problem similar to that in many other walks of life. There has been no movement of leadership at the top for decades. In the intervening years those who didn’t want to wait another 20 years for change have moved on and started doing something else. The ‘something else’ could be another career or running a convention of their own. Whatever the choice, the result is the same. Convention attendance is down at “traditional” places, but up on all the fronts that have been rejected (at some level) by those traditional cons. One of the most telling statements from somebody there involved a story that’s a favorite to be down on. I can’t quote the exact phrasing, but the intent was: We all bashed the fans of that [crazy, stupid, popular,bad] series and ended up driving them all away. What we should have done was approached it as ‘we’re glad you like that, let us show you what else is out there – something similar to what you like’. There was a lot of lamentation about what was wrong, but only one or two folks that really seemed interested in trying to fix things.
I hope the folks of action proceed and are successful. I had a decent time at Philcon. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to work my way onto the list of convention guests. I’m also hopeful that the convention gets the issues that were showing through fixed up so the event continues and I can attend every year.
Over the past weekend I attended Philcon , “…the world’s first and longest-running conference on science fiction, fantasy, and horror!”. It was a good experience. I’m glad I went. I’ll be writing out a longer review and submitting it to be considered for this month’s Watch The Skies .
Normally I would put the link up after the meeting was over, but I’m hoping to intice a few more folks into joining us this month. The meeting is next Wednesday the 20th of November and we’ll be talking about the book Divergent by Veronica Roth. Show up in person and snag a hard copy of this month’s ‘zine!
Reading, more specifically one’s taste in reading, is something that develops over time. I didn’t realize this when I was younger. I was tearing through fantasy novels at a startling pace and was calling stuff “favorite” without as much thought as that term deserved. I went back not long ago to reread a novel that held a cherished spot on my shelves. Actually – it was a trilogy, and I intended to go back through the whole thing. The cover was colorful, the cover artwork amazing, my memories winding up. I sat down with my coffee in my comfy chair and pried open the paper pages that had sat, unimposing in my room for those many years.
It was unreadable. I was (and am) desperate to go back and enjoy it, but I can’t. I don’t know how I thought it was so amazing.
Scratch that. I know why I thought it was so amazing. I wonder how it has remained as popular as it has for all this time. I suspect it’s the idea, or the concept or the history or even the artwork – but it can’t be the writing.
This is one of those relationship things that most guys hate I suspect. It’s not you – it’s me. My taste, my desires for stories and how they are presented has developed over time and I’ve entered a new stage in my consumption of entertainment, particularly the books I read. I have learned over time what I like and what I don’t, things I need in a story and things I don’t want to see. I have moved to a new stage of reading in my life. I won’t simply write off books anymore, I simply add them to another category in my mind.
This week has me wondering if science fiction conventions are the same way for me. I’m headed to Philcon this coming weekend. There was a day when I would have had a legal size (or larger) sheet of paper laid out with a grid of time slots shown and a pack of multi-colored highlighters to organize how I was going to squeeze as many panels in as I could in the short span of a weekend. This time, not so much. I glanced at the schedule grid and have tried to pick out a handful of panels to get to, but I’m much more interested in seeing my friends and spending time with other people that share interests that I do. It’s another stage, not good or bad, simply different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking forward to the convention. I’ve never failed to have a good time on a weekend away – I’ll just keep the other stages in mind when I see folks dashing here and there and attempt to enjoy the fact they revel in their current stage as much as I do mine.