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On inclusivity —

The meme continues ...

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there's nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

I don't know if it speaks only to myself or to the culture (a culture?) at large that, when I first read the above question, I did so hearing a chorus of voices whose sections included the shrill, the self-righteous and the politically fashionable.

I suspect I've read one to many internet pile-ons, in which hordes of (mostly) anonymous do-gooders wielding moral self-assurance like iron bars descend upon a sexist or racist evil-doer with the joyous outrage of the eternal Mrs. Grundy to berate, ostracize and otherwise correct the transgressor.

(Yes, in most of the cases I've witnessed, said transgressor had engaged in morally questionable (at best) behaviour; the pile-on itself remains an ugly phenomenon at least similar to mob-justice.)

But the question itself as written is in fact perfectly innocuous. People who are disabled are a significant ingredient in the human soup and certainly ought to be represented in fiction.

So: have they been in mine? )

Click to see all the questions )

On a note entirely unrelated to this meme and only tangetially to writing at all, I find myself in possession of a some invite codes to Dreamwidth, if for any reason you're looking for an alternative to LJ, or if you're a non-blogger looking for a home. Reply here or send me an email through my info page and I'll hook you up.

And on a personal note, I am happy to report that I will be taking a trip out of town for the first time since I moved to Ottawa nearly a year ago. Raven and I will be leaving Friday morning for Sudbury, my mother and brothers for to see. Which means that, coincidentally, I'll be finishing this Terribly Popular Meme on the very day I leave town and, likely, go mostly offline for four or five days.

Play nice while I'm gone, okay?

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"I'm so sorry, I've forgotten your name!"

The meme continues ...

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

Floyd Laughren, a long-time family friend and a politician whom the late, much-lamented Frank Magazine called "the only straight-shooter in the Rae cabinet" once let me in a little not-quite-straight-shooting secret. We were talking about the importance of remembering people's names.

"I just say," he told me, "'I'm sorry, but I've forgotten your name,' as we're shaking hands. When they tell me, I then laugh and say, "No, no! I meant your last name!"

Despite the face that I'm not a politician, and that my brief term on the Board of the Directors of the Toronto Free-Net was probably my last association with electoral politics, it's a trick I could have used more often than I care to admit.

More than a few times in my life, I've been stopped on the street by some stranger calling out my names. (Like Charlie Brown, people who don't know me quite well tend to refer to me by both first and last names; does this happen to you folks or is it something particular to me?)

I say "stranger" for dramatic effect only, as it invariably turns out that I have in fact met — and have usually spent some time with — nearly anyone who calls out my name from across the street (the internet — hi Liz! — has changed this a little, but mostly it remains true) and, most often, a quick exchange of names, will remind me of who the person is and what kind of a relationship we share(d).

But as I thinkt that serves to illustrate that while I don't suffer from prosopagnosia, my temporal lobes have never made face recognition an area of advanced study.

In other words, "do appearances play a big role in" my stories? Not as such, no, and especially the faces of my characters.

... if not, [tell us] how you go about designing your characters. )

Click to see all the questions )

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What is art?

Pencils and pens and ink, o my!
Detail from page 1 of 'The Laughing Fish', Detective Comics #475, February 1978.
Details from page 1 of 'The Laughing Fish', Detective Comics #475, February 1978. Artwork by Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin. Batman copyright © by DC Comics.

The meme continues ...

26. Let's talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

There was a time when I did a lot of drawing and I at least contemplated making a living as a cartoonist. That dream came to a crushing, tearful end, sometime in the very early 1980s, when I read an issue of Detective Comics pencilled by the late Marshall Rogers (see accompanying panel) and "realized" that I could never be the artist he was, and so threw down my pen.

At least, that's how I remember it, but the chronology according to the Wikepedia link above suggests my memory is once again distorting the truth to make a better story. But at any rate, it is true (I think) that in the early 80s I had what I believed was the profound realization of my own limitations as a draftsman and that I cried about the loss; and it is true (I know) that my last completed comic book was an issue of Captain Canada, numbered 22 and dated December 1, 1978. (Which actually parses with the Rogers memory, if I push the date back to about that time instead of placing it in the 1980s. But I digress.)


Cover of Captain Canada #2, January 16, 1976. Click here for a larger image.
Cover of Captain Canada #22, December 1, 1978. Click here for a larger image.

Whatever the exact date, I gave up on drawing, convinced I had at best only a talent which hard work could see me developing to a point of competence, not genius. I had no burning desire to settle for being the next Sal Buscema.

As I think the images show, I had actually grown significantly as a cartoonist and I am no longer so sure in my judgement at the time that I didn't have the necessary inate talent to make it with my pen.

But I did give up, and I don't think I'm likely to embark on the training that would permit me to develop my skills to a level I would find acceptable.


"The Question" illustration by Chris Graham. Click here for a larger image.

Which means that, no, since I gave up cartooning I have not drawn any of my characters and neither has anyone else since 1981, when Chris Graham (whatever happened to Chris Graham, I wonder!), illustrated a scene from "The Question", which I printed in the first issue of a school magazine I edited, The House of the Dying Tree.

Looking at Chris' drawing for the first time in quite a while (the man did it in ball-point pen!), reminds me that I do still fantasize about seeing my name in print on a book, complete with cover drawing or painting.

And in truth, should I get The Jewel of Eternity into publishable shape, I think I already know who I want to paint a cover illustration. Might you say "yes" to a commission, Nelly?

Click to see all the questions )

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Heavy petting

The meme continues, but I'm starting to think it should have been "25 days of writing" or even 20 days. But that's okay by me. I have a bit of a hangover for the first time in several months (yes, Raven has been a very good influence on Young Geoffrey!) and work to do — so today's question being a lame one indeed doesn't much bother me.

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

Several of them do, usually dogs, but one had some kind of alien reptiloid dog-equivalent. It was killed by some blood-thirsty elves, but so was its owner and the death of the old woman was meant to be considerably more affecting. The dog-equivalent was just collateral damage — sorry animal lovers.

Otherwise, pets haven't yet played a significant role in any of my stories. Those that have been there have usually been based on animals I have known, but as I said: they've never been significant characters and talking about them would be even more boring than it would be to hear about that Cute Thing My Cat Used To Do — possibly of interest to cat-lovers over a coffee or a drink, but of little or no interest to a reader of fiction. Or of a blog.

And ... exeunt.

Click to see all the questions )

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The urge to pornography
Thoughts on violence and death in fiction

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Bob Dylan, It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)

Like rape, and threat of rape, as a plot device or character's motivation, I've (mostly — there are some brutally delightful exceptions) lost interest in death as a plot-device or, worse, as the solution to a story.

Physical violence has mostly been absent from my work, though not entirely; there's no denying that there is an inherent drama in a fistfight that doesn't exist in a conversation. Not all of us are Jane Austen, capable of keeping a plot moving through a dented feeling or raised eyebrow, so the temptation to stoop to violence and death is one almost impossible to always resist.

But is it really stooping? Always? '24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What's the most interesting way you've killed someone?' )

Click to see all the questions )

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The pollster's lament

Meditations on complexity and nuance

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story — from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

Over the years, I had a number of stints working for polling companies — you know, those people who call you at dinner-time and who want to ask you "just a few quick questions", from Statistics Canada on down through the food chain.

The most common frustration from those who chose to respond — and one of the reason I so seldom respond to polls of any kind, unless they're meant more to be fun than anything else — is that they almost invariably try to force the world (and the person answering the questions) to fit into a reductionist's dreamscape of either/or questions and answers.

This isn't so bad when the question is whether you prefer to the Montreal Canadiens to the Toronto Maple Leafs (hint: the correct answer to this question is "Yes"), but not so good when it has to do with morally complex questons about public privacy or private morality.

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story — from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)? )

Click to see all the questions )

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White screens of death and stories untold

"Then I guess it would be okay to ask you questions about the moon." Kid grinned.

Kamp nodded. "Sounds like a pretty safe topic."

"Can you tell me something about the moon you've never told anybody else before?"

After a second, Kamp laughed. "Now that is a new one. I'm not sure I know what you mean."

"You were there. I'd like to know something about the moon that someone could only know what was actually on it. I don't mean anything big. But just something."

"The whole flight was broadcast. And we were pretty thorough in our report. We tried to take pictures of just about everything. Also, that's a few years ago; and we were only out walking around for six and a half hours."

"Yeah, I know. I watched it."

"Then I still don't get you."

"Well: I could bring a couple of television cameras in here, say, and take a lot of pictures, and report on all the people, tell how many were here or what have you. But afterward, if somebody asked me to tell them something that wasn't in the coverage, I'd close my eyes and sort of picture the place. Then I might say, well, on the back of the counter with the bottles, the bottle second from the left — I don't remember what the label was — but the little cone of glass at the bottom was just above the top of the liquor."

Kid opened his eyes. "See?"

Kamp ran his knuckles under his chin. "I'm not used to thinking like that. But it's interesting."

Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren

Yesterday morning started where Sunday night left off: with a "white screen of death" in place of the website I am developing and which (I thought) was within a few tweeks of being ready to go live.

Instead, after breaking my brain for several hours on Sunday night, only to still be seeing a blank (white) page whose featureless expanse was broken only by two lines of black text beginning with the words, "Fatal error," I eventually decided to call it a night in hopes the morrow would bring to me happier tidinds.

And so it was. Where google had not been my friend on Sunday night, on Monday morning its advice was fullsomely useful. Not only did I have everything restored fairly quickly, but soon after I had made what I (as, I hope, will my 'client') thought were some quite appropriate design changes.

But this is supposed to be about writing, not web-design, isn't it? On wards to Question 22: 'Tell us about one scene between your characters that you've never written or told anyone about before! Serious or not. )

Click to see all the questions )

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21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

The perils of not taking a sneak-peek ahead: Yesterday's entry, and especially the extensive excerpt from The Valley of Shabathawan would have served as a pretty conclusive reply to both questions.

But in case you didn't read Question 20A then or don't want to now, I'll sum it up by saying, "Yes" and "Quite well, thank you."

Still, that's not quite all. The question itself strikes me as a little weird, and not in a good sense. I'm tempted to go in for some armchair psychoanalysis of the meme's creator, but I'll just note it instead.

"Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?"

The presumption that children are not characters in and of themselves vexes me the more I look at it. I don't know about other writers, but when I write children, they are characters (mewling and puking babes in arms notwithstanding, perhaps).

I said I don't want to get into any armchair psychoanalysis, but armchair sociology isn't quite the same thing. Click for more! )

Click to see all the questions )

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Young Geoffrey basks in Watts of praise

Accepts correction from a tabby
(and apologizes for the really second-rate word-play two lines up)

"I'm not generally given to flattery. That was just one damned eloquent piece of commentary." — Peter Watts, to me. (Yes, that Peter Watts.)

Yes, I feel flattered again and am struggling with the urge to tell him so. Probably best to keep silent, yes?

Meanwhile, the LJ blogger [personal profile] sabotabby answered the question I had about this meme's Question #20, "What are your favourite character interactions to write?"

I had blocked on what the question meant, wondering in essence whether it inquired as to whether I prefer to write sex scenes or fight scenes. [personal profile] sabotabby suggested, quite rightly I think,

I took it as meaning that sometimes characters are interesting in particular combinations. So I might prefer writing scenes where Aisha and Boris interact, because they have such a complicated relationship, over writing scenes where Clarissa and Darshika interact. Everyone else took it to mean "do you like writing fighting scenes or fucking scenes?"

So, and without further adoo and with no desire to be like 'everyone else', Young Geoffrey tries again. 'What are your favorite character interactions to write?' )

But I'll put it behind a cut anyway. )

Well. There wasn't a of wit in that dialogue, but I think it holds up pretty well anyway. And those are the kind of character interactions I enjoy writing. Interactions that hint at the nature of the characters, that suggest motivations and threats and emotions that may not be explicit, and dialogue that moves the story along and also makes me want to find out what happens next.

Even an hour a day would see me re-write this thing pretty quick, wouldn't it?

Click to see all the questions )

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Being Phil:
Second-banana takes centre-stage, won't let go

I've actually been kind of surprised it hasn't happened more often lately; I know damned well that my journal ain't what it used to be. Almost nothing personal, even less sexual and not even a whole lot of politics or Doctor Who to keep folks interested.

So I've been a little surprised that the numbers on my F-list haven't been dropping, much. (Of course, if LJ's stats are anything to go by, there aren't many people actually reading what I write here/there any more anyway. Between summer holidays, natural attrition as people's attention drifts elsewhere and reading filters, I suspect my LJ audience to be around a dozen or so, maybe less.

Which is fine — well, not fine; my ego would (naturally) prefer that readers were flocking to me like cats rushing to the sound of a can opener. But I know that what I do here is primarily intended for me, as an exercise in writing, as practice, as venting ... as a journal, in other words, though I seem to be evolving away from that model as well, towards something that is little more or less than a promotional tool for Edifice Rex Online in particular and for me in general.

Of course, having so few readers means I'm doing something pretty wrong on the self-promotion front, aren't I? Must ponder ...

Meanwhile, occasionally the attrition is active. Yesterday, LJ notified me that a long-time 'friend' had ended our relationship. Normally, that is something I merely note; it happens, after all. However, in this case, the de-friending was by someone I've hung out with a number of times; we weren't friends, but we had a relationship beyond pixels, even if we had not seen each other in a few years and if he seemed to have more or less disappeared from LJ for quite a long period of time.

Feelings hurt, I dropped him a terse note saying, in effect, so long and thanks for all the fish. He replied that it was nothing personal but that we hadn't hung out in a long time, etc.

All quite true, of course, but for the "nothing personal" bit. Of course it's personal when you decide you know longer want to know someone. And frankly, when someone decides that about me, especially if we've spent time in the flesh, I think the classy thing to do is to say goodbye, not just to hit a delete button.

And now, back to the meme. Young Geoffrey talks about his favourite angry young woman. )

Click to see all the questions )

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Antagonists? We don't need no stinkin' antagonists!

I'm going to be off to arrange for a new pair of glasses when I finish keeping my daily appointment with this meme.

Which reminds me: I went to an optometrist for the first time in nearly three and a half years a week or so ago.

As we were finishing up, I mentioned to the doctor that I wanted glass, not plastic, lenses.

"Well," she said, "it's hard to get glass lenses now."

"I know. But surely it's not impossible?"

"Plastic is a lot safer, you know."

I laughed (as long-time readers are aware, I most certainly do know of the risks posed by glass lenses!) and pointed above, and then below, my right eye. "I do know," I said. "An angry drunk taught me that lesson very well," I added, then told her about the time I'd been punched up so badly my right orbital bone was shattered along with one of the lenses of my glasses.

"But I still want glass lenses. I'd swear — listen, isn't there actually some kind of difference in the quality of the vision provided by plastic or glass?

The optometrist hesitated, then admitted, "Well, yes. Glass does provide a somewhat clearer image, but —"

"I knew it!" I said, "I knew it! Ever since I switched, I've had the vague sense that things aren't as clear as they used to be! I want glass, I'll take the risk. It took 35 years for me to have an accident with glass the first time; and I'm less likely to get into a barroom brawl now than I was when I was yhoujng. I'll take the chance," I said again.

The optometrist smiled. "I should make you sign a disclaimer."

"I'll sign anything you want," I said. "I'm a big believer in taking responsibility for my own actions."

She didn't make me sign the waver, but she did add, "Glass lenses for optical clarity" to my prescription.

And now, back to the meme. Young Geoffrey discusses why his fiction often does without antagonists at all and why that isn't necessarily a good thing, the nature of genre and why so-called literary fiction, or slice-of-life fiction are a genre in themselves. )

Edited to fix ridiculous repeat typos (thanks, Raven!) August 10, 2010.

Click to see all the questions )

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My favourite protanist

More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey talks about the ins and outs (as it were) of sex and love and fiction and the dangers that arise (as it were) from combining even two of those three things.

But first, a few notes.

Yesterday saw me posting a review of E. Nesbit's kid-lit classic, The Railway Children to Edifice Rex. The short version is that it holds up very well. The long is that I agonized over the review and still don't know whether it's any damned good. You can judge for yourself by clicking here.

I've also posted a piece of smut I wrote a couple of years ago. It's got bondage and other rough-sex delights, which may be an enticement or a warning, depending on your proclivities. You can find it here.

And finally, while waiting for Raven to vacate the shower so I could take my own last night, I decided to type up the story I wrote for Judy Merril's first writer's workshop at my high school, "One Long Night Along the 401", which I've discussed at least once during the course of this meme. If you're for some reason interested in the sort of prose I was writing in 1983, you can find it here.

And now, back to the meme. Find out (more) about my favourite protagonist below the cut! )

Click to see all the questions )

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Sex!

Writing love, writing sex

More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey talks about the ins and outs (as it were) of sex and love and fiction and the dangers that arise (as it were) from combining even two of those three things.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how "far" are you willing to go in your writing? ;)

There are times when I want to punch those who write these god damned memes — what's up with the fershlugginer smiley, for instance?

Presumably, the originator is an American and so vaguelly embarrassed even by brushing past the very concept of sex.

Well, I'm a Canuck of half-Finn descent, and so you'll find no smiley's below the cut! )

Click to see all the questions )

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More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey ponders the words of folks he admires.

I had a couple of interviews yesterday — we'll see whether I qualify for a security clearance; if not, getting a decent job in Ottawa is going to prove a little, er, problematic (no, I haven't given up on freelancing. There's a possible ghost-writing gig coming up in September, but neither am I any longer willing to live on spit and promises to coin a phrase). Anyway, if I don't look too terrible, tomorrow you folks (all three of you?) might be lucky enough to see me as be-suited eye-candy.

Which is a roundabout way of overtly copping to the fact that I missed yesterday's entry to this meme.

I opened up the file and started typing, but found it too hard to concentrate, whether due to stress or to the many possible answers to today's question. Should I talk about the usual genre suspects like — Tolkien or Delany, or the more obscure, like Arthur Kostler or Mary Midgley.

But then, what about Peter Watts or Kim Stanley Robinson, Melville or Heller, Woolfe or Lapham or Klein?

The list of good published (and usually at least somewhat famous) writers who have impressed and/or influenced me — whom I "admire" — would get pretty long pretty fast.

So instead, I'm going to talk about a couple of you, Livejournalers whose words I've been reading for some years and whose thinking and craft I've watched (usually with pleasure) change and develop over more years than I care to admit.

Click to see who I'm talking about! (That oughta pump up my aenemic numbers!) )

Click to see all the questions )

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Making up the real:

Middle-aged white guy writes teenage black girl as heroine, tries not to offend or to Mary Sue

More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey talks about culture, making use of the familiar, making it up and (sort of) appropriating the other.

Click for Question 13, 'What's your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?' )

Click to see all the questions )

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More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey complains yet again about the quality of the memage but is secretly relieved it is one he can quickly dismiss — or so he thought.

But instead, he finds himself discussing questions of character and how they can spring to life and wrench control of the work in question away from the writer.

Click for Question 11, 'Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?' )

Click to see all the questions )

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More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey expresses dissatisfaction with question 10 and complains about the previous four and makes somewhat gratuitous use of the word disillusionment after using Google to remember how to spell it.

Before I attempt to answer it, though, I want to talk about something almost related to yesterday's questions about creating characters. In thinking about it, I stumbled across a story I wrote back in September, 2006 (and which I linked to on Livejournal with this entry, if you want commentary from people who knew me in person).

I say 'stumbled' because I had very nearly forgotten that it existed. That is, I remembered it when I saw it, but had I not seen it I would not have remembered it.

And frankly, though it's a little creepy, I think it's a pretty damned good story, if you like stories in which the only action consists of a middle-aged men climbing over a cafe's fencing between itself and the sidewalk. (You should read it. I took a few extraneous lines out of it and corrected a half-dozen typos and re-posted it to Edifice Rex.)

Self-promotion aside, I was struck by the character of Lawrence. To be honest, I was looking for an antagonist, or rather a foil, to my regular stand-in Orson, and pulled the mannerisms and physicality of an old friend right off the shelf. I wasn't concerned with creating an original character, but only a believable one, one I could picture in the conversation depicted.

(I should probably add that I haven't hung out with Lawrence's real-life counterpart on a regular basis for many, many years and that I have no reason to believe he ever chased after pubescent girls since the days when he was a pubescent boy. The story is entirely fiction and the only the surface traits of the character are based on anything approaching reality. Well, that and the environs of the Java Hut. Onwards.)

Click for Question 10, 'What are some really weird situations your characters have been in?' )

Click to see all the questions )

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More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey discusses the act(s) of creation.

Click to see all the questions )

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

Character creation usually comes in two forms for me, and is greatly dependent on the where the story they're in will be coming from. In other words, my ideas for stories generally come in one of two flavours: situations or characters.

Situations are more common and, in that case, they often come with characters attached, particularly if I'm inspired by either a real-world (read: authobiographical) situation or a wish-fulfillment situation (think: smut).

Basically, characters and plots are, for me, most often developed intuitively. A situation occurs to me and I begin to think about what sort of person — someone I know, someone I've heard of, someone entirely made-up? — might be involved in it.

Or, and maybe more interestingly, I will deliberately set out to write a certain kind of piece and then struggle to find a suitable character for it.

Most recently, with The Jewel of Eternity, I was inspired by my then 15-or-so year-old neice's enthusiasm for the revival of Doctor Who. Simply put, I wanted to write and adventure story along similar lines, something that would please my neice.

Said something, I determined, would be even better with a female protagonist, and so I began to write, with only the vaguest idea of who that heroine might actually be.

If I remember rightly, she was first physically-based on a girl on whom I had had a mad, unrequited crush while I was in high school. But the character never seemed right, she never came to life; she was only a cypher with a physical description, being put through the paces of a generic fantasy novel.

In short, the lack of a fully-realized character meant the novel was going to suck.

I don't remember when I realized that my heroine's father was a Nigerian immigrant, and that she was a dark-skinned half-black girl, but when I did everything else fell into place (well, much else; if everything else had fallen into place, I rather imagine the second draft wouldn't be moldering away in a drawer somewhere. I need to pull it out and finish the god damned thing — which is the sort of feeling I was hoping this exercise would give me). I realized her mother had died very young, that she had been raised by a loving but stern father and had fought hard for her indendence from him. She was a loner and a bit of a nerd, but capable of socializing and even becoming good at the latter when the novel opened.

She became a person in my writer's eye and that made a great deal of difference not just to her but to the plot, somehow.

Which, I realize, is mostly a very long-winded way of answering Question 9 by saying "I don't know, most of the process of creation is sub-conscious."

But that seems to be what happens in my case.

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More memeage: In this edition, Young Geoffrey ponders genre and the comforts of the familiar.

Click to see all the questions )

8. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

As I've re-discovered through the process of working through this meme, I started off writing SF as often as I did so-called mainstream stories. That shouldn't have been any surprise.

The first "grown up" fiction I read was Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame and I've been reading science fiction (and some fantasy) ever since. Not exclusively, far from it, but a plurality of my reading has been of those genres.

I suppose what should be surprising then, is that I pretty much stopped dabbling in genre.

Until I began working on my latest unfinished novel, The Valley of Shabathawan, which was very consciously a juvenile SF story in the spirit of Doctor Who, I've mostly written character-based fiction. Slice-of-life short stories and sociological/psychological coming-of-age novels.

More recently, I've dabbled in smut or, if you will, "literary erotica". Stories that are intended to engage the libido but that are also still, y'know, stories.

As for reading, well, I still read a lot of F and SF and much of that is, frankly, comfort-reading, the familiar in the strange, as it were. I haven't sunk to Star Trek or Doctor Who novels, but I rip through Analog every month and generally enjoy the comfort that comes from genre, even a genre as varied as science fiction.

I tell myself it is better than vegging out to sit-comes every afternoon, but Infinite Jest has been waiting for me to crack it open for a while now and it's about damned time I challenge myself again.

Which is not to say that all SF is pabulum. It isn't. There's genre and there's genre, as it were, just as there are romance novels or soap operas and there is Pride and Prejudice or War and Peace.

But just as I have done too little hard writing in recent years, so too have I done too little hard reading.

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