May 25, 2012

Artist's Statement

A good and extremely wise friend of mine and I were talking the other day about Artist's Statements. And when I say we were talking about them, what I really mean is that she mentioned it and I realized that I've never actually written anything like that. Struck me as a really good idea, it did.

Bit of conversational backstory: been feeling a bit restless, creatively, since the last of the Chronicles of Aesirium books came out, back in December of last year. Those six books summarized a fair bulk of my creative work over the past two years, and it left me a bit stretched out and feeling vacant. And it wasn't that I had no other ideas to write about - I've already completed a few other projects and have many others in various stages of development. But it almost felt like I was in between relationships - a softer sense of mourning, I guess.

I haven't really felt the urgent sense of work work work because oh my god it must be done like I'd felt previously, and that lacking had nothing to do with a diminished sense of desire nor any sort of writer's block. It wasn't a becalming, it...well, I had more explanations describing that which is was not than I had for what it was.

I've been tracking book sales - this has become a year wherein I actually have to start tracking them, the fact of which generates in me a good deal more gratitude than I'm presently expressing - but as it turns out I'm really not in this for the money. And to that I say, excellent! So if modest returns don't fill me with a sense of deepened satisfaction, what will?

That was the question which not only gave me pause, but the pausing itself filled me with a renewed sense of purpose. Why do I write? "Because I must".... isn't enough. It was enough, ten years ago. It's not, now.

So here I am. And here is my artist's statement.

The moon is a funny thing. She just floats out there in the sky above us, reflecting the powerful sunlight which marks our days and nights. My eyes have always seemed to find her there, and though I claim neither lunacy nor lycanthropy, I've felt a certain kinship to her waxings and wanings. As a boy, I'd often look up and recognize that a million other eyes were likely watching her as well at that very moment, and it made me feel connected to them all in that instant. The big planet of ours seemed just a little smaller - an odd thing for so distant an object to generate a sensation of such closeness.

I was raised by the seemingly incompatible cultures of religion and pop culture - putting as much faith in the Force as I did in God. And though my faith has changed many times in the course of my life, it now feels far more like a pilgrim's journey than anything - and that journey, both in execution and evaluation, has always sought conveyance; usually as a metaphor in some manner. Also, quite often, with a little bit of funny thrown in for good measure.

As I grew, that lingering sensibility remained - with pictures, with music, and, eventually, with words, each finding in me a love for their crafts and their ability to create that same associative approximation as the moon. The gentle lines of a soft pencil upon canvas, the melodic refrain floating from a piano, or a tale of adventure or love's redemption...I often can't tell if I'm the pianist, the piano or the melody. And that's okay.

I feel a kinship to the bardic tradition, of storytelling and passing along the myths and legends to the following generation - of reaching up towards the stars and weaving them into constellations. And also, to borrow from George Bernard Shaw, I love to dream of worlds which have never been - but quite possibly could - asking, "Why not?" 

And then, you know, write about them. 

May 17, 2012

Year 42 A.I. (After Internet)

1969 was a pretty banner year. Man stepped on the moon; the Beatles gave their final public performance; the Haunted Mansion opened its doors in Disneyland... and the first nodes of the creature which would one day become the Internet were launched.

Considering how much has changed on the Intranet landscape just over the past 10 years, it's hard to even remember what life was like back in the data-dark ages. In the middle of reading a bit on twitter this morning, it struck me that there are a few things that just will no longer be the way it used to be. It's like asking kids these days what a specific brand of ink pen has to do with cassette tapes.

Like, having lived in that particular generation of time, I get the association - but people growing up with CDs or MP3s.... it's just not a connection. Not a big deal, sure, but it's a common frame of reference that is essentially gone forever. Feel free to shed a tear. Or not. Your choice.

The Internet has accomplished a wide variety of disassociations - not just the lack of a need to relate certain elements, but the awareness that they were ever a thing at all.

For example:

1) Talking behind someone's back - thanks to Facebook, Twitter, Podcasts, emails, voicemails, and so forth - is essentially a dead art form. Whatever you say/tweet/post/text - is almost certainly guaranteed to get back to the subject of your comment. What surprises me about this, however, is the fact that people continue to do it. I mean, really? Talking smack about someone and yet expect them NOT to find out? I've decided to try and live my life as if it were the subject of a Reality TV show. Now, if I go into the "confessional booth" and talk about how so and so is a total douchebag....I have to be prepared for them to a) find out; and b) confront me about it.

2) Lone gunmen - Remember those "crazy" people you used to see on street corners, holding up the "The End Is Near" signs? Notice how we don't see those anymore? They don't need street corners anymore - - they can wax conspiracy theory from the privacy of their own homes. The world is their street corner, now. And what's more, we see now that no matter how wackadoo a person's pretenses might be, there's going to be at least one more person out there holding up a cigarette lighter and screaming for an encore. I think Andy Warhol was only partly right - - except the world doesn't just get fifteen minutes of fame anymore. Now, everyone gets an audience.

3) Encyclopedias - If you haven't heard, the Encyclopaedia Britannica has announced the end of their print run - - due mostly, I'm certain, to the prevalence of sites like Wikipedia. (author's note: I just pulled up the link there and felt suddenly really cruel. Odd.) I remember one time in school having to go do a report on something, and our class went to the school library, and I was one of the last people into the room and BAM. No encyclopedias - all the other kids had grabbed pretty much everything but Q and Z. It sucked. I had to actually look up OTHER BOOKS to get information. Oh, the humanity! But now, I've got Wikipedia (or a similar variant) on my phone, my Kindle, and as a favorite on my laptop. I use IMDB whenever we're watching a show and have one of those "who is that? They look soooo familiar!" moments. When I'm in the middle of working on a new book and need to know what the names of the masts are in a british sailing vessel, I can find it in SECONDS, and get right back into the pace of writing without having to stop the process. I can search for character reference pictures, costumes, locations, everything, and I can do it so quickly that I don't need to swap out the hemispheres of my brain in order to do it.

4) Patience: - Here's a pretty simple example - I got a Kindle Fire (blatant product placement) for Christmas last year, and the first book I downloaded was The Hunger Games. A lot of people had commented on the tone comparisons between the Suzanne Collins trilogy and my own YA Steampunk books, so since I was finally wrapping the last of my series, I felt comfortable breaking down and checking it out myself. I was perhaps 3 chapters into the Hunger Games and I knew I would love the series, so I clicked back onto the Amazon app on the Kindle and ordered them as well. They were both on my Kindle before I'd finished the next page of the book. That's just a wonderful thing. It's a bit dangerous for an impulse shopper like I often am, but it's also fantastic. I don't hate stores - I enjoy them, honestly (though, salesmen - - please, please please can you stop walking up to me and asking me if you can help me? If I need help, I'll come find you, I promise!) - - but sometimes, I'd rather not make the drive just for one thing. And sometimes, I want it now. Or, rather, tomorrow, via overnight shipping.

What about you? What things have you seen get run over by the progress of the Internet?

Let me know - let's raise a glass in honor of these fallen concepts.

May 14, 2012

The Twitter

Read a recent post by fellow author and all around wonderful person Lorna Suzuki where she talked about her logical process for "to follow or not to follow" on Twitter, and it made me take a second look at my own use of twitter.

I'm not so much a social networking expert - I definitely don't think I have any justification for telling people what it takes to build their followers or increase their Klout rating or monetize their Facebook profile - if I had, I'd likely be spending a lot more time counting my paypal pennies and less time bragging about it.

But I do trust what Lorna has to say - she's never steered me wrong yet - and I agreed with her list. It's really all about figuring out what she personally wanted from her Twitter experience, and as with so many things out there on the web, it's about figuring out your desired destination as well as the journey, and also placing a certain amount of prioritizing weight on both. Are you looking just for a huge twitter following? Do you want attention? Are you a net-stalker? Or are you looking to socialize? Are you working on developing your Brand, or looking to spam the universe?

Or are you looking for a radically, personally balanced, combination of those things?

I read a few dozen posts a day about people telling me "how to" do X thing the best. It's a lesson I learned years ago from a raven - an actual bird, yes - who showed me that by sampling everything and spitting out the garbage, you get a pretty good chance of filling your belly. And I'm fairly confident that there are lots of people out there who might just quickly filter my posts and tweets into that "garbage" column, and I'm fine with that. Sure, I wouldn't mind bending the ratio there a bit, but that's me and my hangups.

What is twitter for me? Well, I don't want to pretend like you asked that question, but in brief, twitter for me is a good way to quickly scan what is going on in publishing and media. It's a quick peek at the weather vane to see which way the wind is blowing, as well as a fairly expansive bulletin board to let a lot of folks casually know about things that they might be interested in. It's also a nice way to get the word out about whatever project I might be working on at the moment. Or help spread the word about projects friends of mine are doing. Fact is, you probably are reading this now BECAUSE of a tweet I made.

That actually made me smile to write that. Heh. Cool.

But the truth is, I really learn a lot from twitter. It's the simplest and broadest way for me to people-watch. And phrases might jump out (the ones where I accidentally misread them are the best by far!) that might trigger some other random idea that might make its way into a book. That's a whole lot of mights. But they're good mights. Mighty mights.

Twitter is a funny thing. I got into this weird headspace a while back where my follower count had frozen at around 1240 followers. It just didn't go up. At all. I'd pick up 5 new followers, and 5 others would unfollow. It was like running on ice. Crazy curling stuff, I'm telling you. I resisted the urge to do one of those "find out who is unfollowing you!" websites, because that would just likely feed into my already-enhanced twittneurosis. Like I need more things to be crazy about.

Then I went through a huge purge sometime late last year - I was following 2001 people and Twitter had cut me off - because I kept finding new people I wanted to follow, and that's when I realized I really was spending too much time reading the words of others and contributing so precious little back into the world. I went back, finished my last Aesirium novel and did a few other fun projects and am now feeling like I'm back into a better groove. A blog or two a week - a few tweets a day - and keep the juices flowing. A magical symphony of temporal balance, coupled with a healthy adjustment of extroversive and introversive (no, spellcheck tells me those aren't actual words, but I'm inventing them.) energies, and voila.

To sum up: if you've followed me and I haven't followed you back, please don't take it as a slight. I haven't followed maybe even half the people who've followed me, and a lot of the people I follow haven't followed me either. It's a sad cycle of accidental and perceived rejection, and I'm not gonna cry about it. Well, okay, I was sad back when Warren Ellis unfollowed me. But I got over it. @NeilHimself , @ThatKevinSmith and @TheNerdist have no idea who I am, either, but to be clear, that's never been my goal. Getting more books written - getting better books written - and coming to depend upon my personal creations and the results that come from them, and shifting my world into a much more artistically production-heavy one.... those are my goals, professionally speaking.

And at the end of the day, I can live with that.

The Murder Virus

Been - for reasons not even I am familiar with - watching a few documentaries about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, and something occurred to me. Random thought, detached hypothesis.

Can neuroses - mental or psychological or emotional affectations - be contagious?

For example, if you hang out with a friend for a long period of time, is it not possible - plausible, even - that you begin to take on aspects of their personality? Sort of like, if you hang out at a particular place - a coffee shop, bookstore, bar, whatever - you take on a variety of elements of that location, at the very least the aroma of the place. The books we read, the music we listen to, the media we consume leaves its mark on us, to some at least mild degree.

So what about the internet? The websites, and so forth - might they start to also migrate their way into our minds, into our sense of interaction?

Taking it to the next step, then, how might the designs and functionality of those sites filter into our subconsciousness?

And the people who design those sites - assuming that the design of their sites come at least subconsciously from their own personal preferences and design aesthetics - what about the potential of their subconsciousness making its way across their sites and into the minds of the people viewing them?

So this now gave me an idea for a short story: The Murder Virus.

Probably already out there somewhere, but if not, I'm calling dibs.