Sunday, December 9, 2012

After NaNoWriMo 2012

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It's a challenge to authors to get off their feet and onto their butts and write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November.

The challange started small, grew, and became international. International or not, since almost everyone shortens the name to NaNoWriMo, it looks like they're stuck with the, now inappropriately localized, 'National' part of the name.

I won NaNoWriMo in 2009 and that project turned into my novel, Gladiator Girl. Winning NaNo (an even shorter, common abbreviation of the name) is not an accurate statement, although, that's the official term. As I said, it's not a contest; it's a challenge. You either complete the challenge or not. Even if you don't complete it, the effort can be rewarding, and useful for getting a stubborn novel project going.

But winning is exciting, and this year I won. Yeah me! (Fist pump! Don't spill that coffee!)

I'm sure some people, remarkably well organized people, win with a good, clean first draft. Not me. I finish with a jumble: a collection of notes, character sketches, some roughed out scenes, and discontinuous runs of dialogue. It's after NaNo---that is to say, now---that I get to begin shaping that jumble into a coherent story.

The project has a working title: "Tilt World". This won't be the final title. It's too dull, and there's a casual video game with that name. I'd love to call it, "The Beautiful and the Sublime", but Bruce Sterling used that title for a novelette I fondly remember reading years ago.

Whatever the title turns out to be, here's the prologue. This is a first draft, so there are a few provisos: If you read it, expect that it will change before the novel is finished---it could even be cut in it's entirety.  However, I am not cutting anything yet; any idea that presented itself for the prologue is here. In other words, it's still a bit messy and full of itself.  What do you think?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Genies, Botnets, and State Security, Oh my!

I just finished reading a wonderful new book, Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. It takes place in a fictional contemporary Arab emirate that's on the boiling point of the Arab Spring. Alif is a young guy, a hacker, who makes a shady, but honorable living hiding his clients'---bloggers of every subversive type: Islamists, secularists, communists, whatever---Internet footprints from the emirate's state security, run by a man who Alif and his digital friends have nicknamed the Hand of God. Alif falls in love with a highborn girl. They meet, spend a dreamy weekend together, then she tells him she has been promised to someone else by her father. The someone else turns out to be, guess who, the Hand of God, himself, and now he knows about Alif.

Alif fries his bedroom servers, and clumsily gets his neighbor, Dina, a girl he grew up with, involved by having her carry a message to the highborn girl. Alif and Dina go on the run. This is where the story rolls off into an amazing world of its own. The highborn girl gave Dina a book to hide, an ancient book, a one of a kind book, a book dictated by a jinn, full of dense layers of meaning that can only be understood by the jinn, and the Hand of God wants it. Desperate to be unseen, Alif and Dina descend into the magical world of the jinn to seek the protection of a dangerous genie named Vikram the Vampire.

The story is a magical adventure set to the heartbeat of young love, revolution, and warring botnets. It has its own dense layers of conflicting social, philosophical, and religious meaning handled with a wit and charm that makes it all part of the forward momentum of the tale.

So, yeah, I loved it. I hadn't heard of G. Willow Wilson before. She's an American who converted to Islam and now lives in Cairo. This is her first novel, but she has written award winning and Eisner nominated graphic novels. I'll have to look them up.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Guess, I'll Have to Write It

Years ago, back in the dimly remembered (nineteen) Eighties, I read and delighted in Norman Spinrad's science-fiction novel, Child of Fortune. Two years ago, for the 2010 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) thirty day dash, I desperately grabbed ideas from Spinrad's book to get something---anything---started, and ended up with a collection of hacked together chunks of plot and bits of character sketching out a story that put me in the head of, and had me speaking with the first person voice of, a thirteen year old girl (Earth years). How embarrassing! I put it away; I had other things to do.

Until now. It's been bugging me; I had to pick it up for another look. It's the embarrassment, you see, an almost perfect sign that I was on to something. Plus, the NaNo stuff was fun to write, and is fun to read, even in it's current scattered state. I now need to put fresh batteries in my flashlight and go poking around for the storie's missing bits. I estimate about eighty-five percent is missing (I didn't achieve the NaNoWriMo fifty thousand word goal in 2010). But first, there's the question of the liftings from Mr. Spinrad. I took two things: Telling a wanderjahr tale, and telling it with the first person voice of an ernest, self-absorbed teenager. I'm not dropping either; they're why I'm willing to commit a year to digging this story out of my head and getting it cleaned up and ready for presentation. Still, it might be a good idea to re-read Child of Fortune to be sure I'm not mimetically channeling it.

A few things have already changed since the NaNo roughs. There is now something unique about the biology of this society that is the reason they have a wanderjahr tradition, and as a side effect of this biology, the protagonist is no longer a girl, not entirely. And no, it's not an alien, or an androide, or an uplifted whatever. Let's just say, to cover my butt, I also re-read Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness.

Next Blog: Most likely, an ode (most definitely, not a review) to Child of Fortune, and possibly some swooning words about Left Hand of Darkness.