Wednesday, April 27, 2005

If You Haven't Already Done So . . .

Go read Gavin J. Grant's story Heads Down, Thumbs Up at Scifiction. I guess I'll leave it at "Go read," because I don't want to prejudice anyone's experience of the story. Except that it's good.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Serenity Trailer Online

Go here.

I want to see this movie right. Now.

The Cabinet

If you're in Chicago, or planning to be anytime soon, you should do yourself a favor and go see Redmoon Theater's production of "The Cabinet." It's inspired by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but told from the point of view of the somnambulist, with puppets. The set is a huge facade of a cabinet, with doors and drawers that open on small sets where the puppets--and the puppeteers, whose manipulations parallel the manipulations of the doctor--move through the story. It's a visual and auditory treat, with a lot of creepy moments. Hannah and I went to check it out last weekend, and after the show they invited the audience backstage to check out the sets and the puppets. The remainder of the show's run will be at Redmoon Central, at 1463 W. Hubbard, Chicago; check out their website for more details.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A Novel State of Mind

There's been a big shift in my thinking about writing just recently, from spending the past two/two-and-a-half years working pretty much exclusively on short stories to, suddenly, really wanting to dig into a novel again. I've had a lot of fun and success with the short stories, but abruptly I'm really enamored with the idea of falling into a world for a few months.

I have two completed novel manuscripts, one that I'm just beginning to revise, and one that's in the advanced stages of conception. Before I can start on the new baby, though, I need to finish the revision. This manuscript's been waiting patiently those two-and-a-half years for me to come back to it and fix it up. And it does need some fixing, in at least one major respect. I made a very deliberate choice not to address a fairly major point which I've since decided needs to be addressed. So this will take some time.

Luckily, I'm not in a huge hurry to start in on the actual writing of my new idea. It's a huge project in terms of world-building, which is funny to me because I thought I'd gotten that sort of thing out of my system. My first manuscript is sort of a deconstruction of the fantasy epic, and once I'd written it I thought, "That's all for that, then. No more of the secondary-world fantasy." Nothing against secondary-world fantasy, exactly, except that it's done so badly so often, and I wanted to do different things. But now I have, and I will again after this; right now, though, this idea won't go away, and it needs to be written. Blame Antonia Fraser (especially Mary, Queen of Scots) and the castles of the Rhine Valley. Especially the afternoon five years ago (I can't believe it's been that long) that I spent running through the tunnels under the Rheinfels with my friends Jason and Evil Doug. (Yes, we call him Evil Doug.)

I've begun outlining, which is something I rarely do, and never before I start writing. The reason this time is that I have so much to figure out. None of the characters have names yet, because I don't know what languages they speak, and I don't know how the religions work, and where a month or two ago my brain was filled with short story ideas, suddenly I'm thinking about "What kind of medical capabilities do they have? Where are the trade routes?" I'd forgotten that I have this capacity for obsessive world-building; in my recent short stories as well as in the last two novels, I've mainly plunked the weird down in the middle of the world we all live in. But right now I feel compelled to draw maps, for god's sake. It takes me back to those days when I used to put together D&D campaigns that never went anywhere because I was far more interested in what the NPCs were up to than who the players were killing. (This is why I don't role-play anymore, that and the fact that all my creative energies used to go into my RPG characters and not my writing.)

Anyway, I'm going to have some time for research, and hopefully even with summer school I'll be able to get some reading in; so my question to y'all is, do you have any recommendations for readable non-fiction books about succession conflicts anywhere, and the history of the Rhine Valley in particular? I'm starting very nearly from zero in terms of my knowledge of these particular areas of history, so any and all input is very welcome. Lots of the characters that are emerging from this outline are based on historical figures that never interacted in reality, so I'm looking for more to put through their paces along with Oxenstierna and Bolivar and Leopardi and Lermontov and a bunch of others. See, now I've told you some of the archetypes I'm playing with, so that once it's all written you can all tell me I got the facts all wrong. See how nice I am?