Daily Archives: March 9, 2005

What I Want: Not a Meme, Just a List

Like every man, I have needs. This isn’t about that. This is about my wants — some things I want, that don’t reach to the level of actual need. These wants are specific to me — no “I want world peace” crap here, just things I think would make my life a little cooler. Here are things I want, in no particular order:

1. I want a Mac. For some inexplicable reason, I think it would be groovy to write The Ghost Brigades on a Mac. I don’t think it would be so groovy that I’m willing to pay to do it. It’s not really an issue of cost, particularly if I went mini, but with four fully functional computers in the house (and at least three non-functioning and in various states of being cannibalized for drives and parts), this is one purchase I’m not remotely going to be able to justify. But we’re talking wants, not rational thinking.

Someone buy me one. I’ll dedicate the book to you.

Oh, I’m just kidding.

(This one would be nice.)

Stop looking at me like that! I’m joking!

(Get me this one and I’ll name a character in the book after you, too! One that doesn’t die horribly!)

Jeez, people. You’d think by now you’d know when I’m ribbing you.

(I’m serious, man.)

Enough of that.

For the record, my desire for a Mac does not mean I’d be doing the “switch,” as they like to say, since I’d be keeping and continuing to use my Windows machines (Two reasons: Games, and two button mice. Yes, I’m serious about the two button mouse. Right-clicking rocks). I’ll just be openly biprocessorial. Hey, I’m not ashamed.

2. I want a gazebo. Because what could be better than writing from the gazebo on a warm summer’s day? I’ve got the laptop. I’ve got the wireless home network. And God knows, I’ve got five damn acres of lawn. I’ve got room for one somewhere on the property. The only drawback I can see would be actually setting up the thing; that’s more manual labor than I want to do. But I suppose if I were going to go in for the expense of a nice gazebo, I’d probably kick in another couple grand to have someone set it up for me, and spending the interim learning how to make a nice mint julep or something.

The modification I would make to the standard-issue gazebo is to have netting one could put up in the “windows” to keep the bugs out; we do get mosquitoes and other flying annoyances. You can get gazebos with actual windows if you want, but I suspect having a tiny little enclosure completely surrounded by glass on a hot summer day isn’t actually a recipe for outdoor enjoyment.

3. I want to work a slush pile. Every publisher who accepts unagented submissions has a got a stack of manuscripts from hopeful would-be writers reaching toward the sky (here’s one from Tor, my SF publisher). For those of us fortunate enough to have escaped the pile, the stack nevertheless holds a fascination — after hearing editors describe why the vast majority of manuscripts are, in fact, unpublishable, one has a desire to dive into the pile one’s self and confirm this fact to one’s own satisfaction. It’s kind of the writer’s version of facing one’s own mortality, a “there but for the grace of God” moment, if you will.

Now, one thing that does distinguish me from many writers is that I’ve also been an editor, and an editor handling submissions — I’ve worked a slush pile of my own. But that pile was for short, humorous pieces, not novels, and I don’t doubt that the slush pile for novels has a pathology of its own. I also don’t doubt that the idea of wading into the slush pile for a spell is more appealing than actually doing it, just as idea of anything is usually more appealing than actually doing it (actually doing things often requires work). I’ve heard first-hand stories from authors who decided to read slush on a lark and have come out of it a few hours later shocked, humbled and bored by the experience.

Be that as it may, I think it’s worth a try. The next time I’m in New York, I may hit up the Tor folks to sit in on the slush pile. It could be fun. And you never know: I might find something good. If I found something worthy in the slush pile, and it actually did get published eventually, well, I think that’d be the coolest thing ever.

4. I want a big honkin’ external hard drive. We’re talking like a terabyte of storage, although I’d settle for a quarter of that at the moment. I’ve just about maxed out my hard drives in my computer with MP3s and other multimedia files and it’s beginning to affect my computer. I need to offload all this crap onto another drive. This is clearly the most achievable of my “I Wants” so far, and I imagine I’ll be purchasing one for myself sometime soon.

5. I want a new desk chair. Look, I didn’t say that all the things I wanted were sexy. And anyway, anyone whose skeleton is mostly bone instead of cartilage knows that a good chair makes a big deal of difference. I’ve had the same desk chair for about a decade now — and right now, my chair creaks, the back rest is all wobbly, and the chair seat’s cushion has a decade’s worth of ass compression and flatulence in it. Time for the junk pile. As with the external hard drive, this want is likely to be achieved in reasonably short order.

And that’s pretty much all I want at the moment. Seems pretty reasonable overall, I think. Feel free to list some of your own wants. You know, if you want.

Visions of Mad Doctors

athenatonsils.jpg

One of Athena’s friends is having her tonsils taken out this evening; Athena asked what tonsils were and, having had them explained, was suddenly filled with anxiety that she would have to undergo the same procedure, and quickly sublimated it into the artistic process. The resulting picture, however, is not her going under the knife of the rather maniacal Muppety-looking doctor (note the scalpel), but her friend. We assured Athena that she was not required to get her tonsils out unless they became horribly inflamed, and assured her that both of us still had our tonsils in, with nary a problem, and yet we were in decrepit old age. This seemed to relieve her somewhat.

I’m just digging on the doctor in the picture. Man, that’s one creepy physician.

Mock Up

The Rough Guides folks have sent along an early mock up of the first chapter of The Rough Guide to Science Fiction Film, and I thought I’d share a couple of pages with you. Note it’s only a (forgive the pun)rough guide of what the final layout will be, and missing some bits here in there; still, it’s cool to get an idea of what the book will look like when it gets closer to being done.

View image.

This first chapter, incidentally, tracks SF up to the advent of film, and also does a quick circle around SF lit in the 20th century. If you’re asking “Where is the film in this science fiction film book?” it starts in Chapter Two. Context is important, you know.

The Rough Guides folks sent this chapter along to allow me feedback on the design, but I imagine it’s also a reminder that I need to hurry up and finish the book (theoretically, it should have been done a couple of months ago, but — surprise! Research takes longer than you think it will sometimes, even when you’ve got the Internet). I am looking forward to finishing it, not only because I have other projects to tend to but simply because it’s always a fine feeling to be have finished — that whole “sense of accomplishment” thing. It’ll be particularly the case with this book, which is in many ways the most difficult book I’ve had to write. You’d think it’d be easy to do a book on Science Fiction flicks, but then try tracking down reliable information on the science fiction film output of Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe, and do it on a tight schedule, and suddenly taking a ball-peen hammer to your frontal lobe doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong — this stuff is genuinely fascinating, and I love writing a book where I learn as I go along. But man. It is work. I’m looking forward to cranking out The Ghost Brigades after this book because for that book, all I have to do is make stuff up. Heaven! Until of course, I’m two-thirds into that book, wondering what the hell I’m doing, and looking forward to my next non-fiction book so I can give the so-called “creative centers” of my so-called “brain” a rest. Yeah, it’s a neverending cycle of neurosis, and I’m told that I’m relatively neurosis-free for a writer. Don’t believe it.