From Where You Dream

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You know in the past I’ve said that if you don’t believe in selling out you’re never going to make it.

I still stand largely by this.  A novel that’s published, a novel that sells is almost a collaboration between the writer and the person who buys it/reads it.

I was explaining this to a young artist friend the other day.  she’s, oh, a good twenty years younger than I, and she’s technically perfect, and she doesn’t understand why her complex, layered art, absolutely original, sells far less than the people who are doing hackneyed cute elves in cute clothes, or even things vaguely reminiscent of various anime series, or even TV series.

I had to explain that while people can and often do realize how beautiful or well done your work is, they want to buy things that speak to them, often things that speak to them because they’re already in their minds from a movie or a comic book or something.

I was the queen of making my kids incomprehensible costumes for Halloween.  Mostly because… well, mostly because I think too much.  But also because we were broke and I was usually flying off what fabric we had on hand.  The first costume I made for Robert was as a little prince, with a golden crown made of metallic fabric and because the kid was 1 and a half, a stuffed golden fabric sword.

Every house we went to, they said how beautiful the costume was, then they asked “But what is it?”

Girls would be instantly recognizable as princesses, but even that might have caused questions if it didn’t look like a princess from a Disney movie.

When the boys hit pre-teen, I started just buying cheap costumes at the store.  They made the boys much happier, and made me happier because less work.  Mind you, as they got older, they started making their own costumes, too.  The only one I remember being fantastically successful was when Marshall dressed as a devil, and Robert followed him in suit and briefcase.  “He’s the devil and I’m his advocate.”  Open briefcase.  “I’m serving you a writ of trickus or Treatus.”  If we’d had an empty swimming pool, the boys could have swam in candy that Halloween.

But the point is, when someone says they want something utterly new?  They don’t.  Particularly when they’re shopping for entertainment or something for their walls. I mean if you’re looking to be a suces d’estime, someone only critics love you can be– No, wait.  Even then you can’t be as original as you want. Because you have to follow the mode of “originality” in vogue in the artistic world.  That usually involves betraying whatever your vision is anyway.  And to make things worse, most of the time (ah, unless you have “liberal privilege” you also won’t be making a cent of money.)

So. You’re going to have to compromise your vision somewhat anyway.

And after a while, after you’ve learned to do it, it starts becoming second nature.  You can still be a good craftsperson and original, provided it’s something that falls in a category your audience recognizes.

So you can make a realistic, impressive… elf. In relatively pleasant looking clothes, which people on the street (or at least geeks on the street) will want to put on their walls.

It’s about the same thing in books, which is why I’ve explained — a number of times, though FYI my early editors didn’t get it — that I tend to mine English History more than Portuguese History.  Because Portuguese history is too “exotic” and doesn’t slot easily in the reader’s minds. (Incidentally, this sort of familiarity and not racism is why most fantasy worlds tend to be some version or other of medieval England/Tolkien’s middle Earth, even when they’re not.  Because for every aspect that deviates, you’ll have to work that much harder to make it to a wider audience. Because they’ll have to work that much harder to get into your more complex world.)

So, what does this have to do with the selling out? Or the place from where you dream?

Making good, commercially viable art is not selling out.  But there is selling out. Particularly in traditional publishing, or for that matter the music industry.

As traditional publishing started relying on megastores to publish, they also started relying more and more on megabestsellers.  And because no one really has any clue what will take off — yes, massive priming of pump is needed, but even then most things that get that treatment never take off — least of all NYC editors who have a narrow circle and a narrow vision of culture, they got into this chasing their own tail mode, where when something hit they produced a million copies.

Only, due to various marketing stupidities, those also started having a shorter and shorter lifespan.

To give you an idea, when I tried to sell the Da Vinci mysteries (which had been conceived and outlined for some time) they got rejected because they weren’t the DaVinci code.  Well, duh.  Plagiarism and all…

And when I tried to sell the Musketeer mysteries, those editors who recognized that it being told in D’Artagnan’s voice didn’t mean it was told by someone “like a servant” (A rare thing already) told me that maybe there would be a market for them, “if there is a big movie.”  Uh uh.

I was never very good at chasing the greatest and latest.  I know that shocks you, right?

But I was good enough.  After a while they get inside your head and you pre-reject ideas and starts without even knowing you’re doing it. Till all the joy leaks out.  It’s not just a job, “just like driving a truck.” It’s…. more boring than that.

It was at a time like that, that I found my old manuscript for Darkship Thieves, found out that it still had sparkles, but that the first chapter and a half was basically unneeded, and started revising and putting it up.  But the magic was still there, in that book written in a month while basically taking dictaction form my own head.

And yeah, now I’ve also been looking at old stuff, trying to find where the magic went.  And it’s starting to come back.

Because it’s there, way back, in the place from where we dream.  It is as though it were a part of some great dream you belonged to before you were born.

Back, back and back, back to the life and energy of creation.  Close your eyes and go there.

And the magic will come.  And then even if you shape it and fit it to your needs, it will be there. Ready to call at will.

And it will never die. Because the dream doesn’t die. And you’re a part of it.

I don’t know how to explain it but there are things that have a force, an energy.  You’ll feel it when you encounter it.  you probably have already, in a favorite book, particularly when very young.

That sparkle, that energy, seems to be something humans — particularly creative humans — need to stay alive and interested, to remain creative and involved.  It’s different for everyone but go and think of a book you loved in childhood.  Revisit a favorite day dream.  Take a walk through a place that was once magic.

It might be shy and hide for a while, but it will come back.  It’s coming back for me.

And it is needed if life is going to be more than drudgery.

 

UPDATE: Despite the style of this post, written last night when I was a little hazy, I’m feeling much better.  My throat might have been a case of extreme dryness.  So I’ve acquired a whole-house humidifier and have it going.  I feel better.  (Yeah, Colorado, as my doctor put it “is not an environment fit for human beings.” [And that was before the Californian invasion.]  We love it, but we pay for our love.)

 

218 responses to “From Where You Dream

  1. Dorothy Sayers wrote “The Mind of the Maker,” arguing a creative work echoes the Creation – you have the Idea (the Father), the Word (the Son, but here it’s the work of the artist putting the Idea into tangible form) and the Spirit, which is the interaction between the reader and the written word. It’s an interesting read.

    • Wonder if she read Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories or he read hers before writing?

      • It’s possible. On Fiary Stories was presented at in ’39 and Mind of the Maker as published in ’41.
        Second the recommendation for the Sayers, it’s thoughtful and accessible.

      • Didn’t they hang out some?

        Possible they talked about it, or related subjects.

        • Just going from memory, so I may have some details wrong: Tolkien, Sayers, and Lewis were all personally acquainted. Tolkien liked Sayers’ Peter Wimsey stories until the Wimsey/Vane romance was added to them; Lewis didn’t care for mysteries, but did like Sayers’ other works.

  2. I guess Hollywood figured that out. Thus Rocky XXII….Comes out in his walker.

    • I think I read that Sylvester Stallone is pretty much done with the Rocky world; unless the kill him off like Burgess Meredith.

      • The Creed movies, where Michael B. Jordan plays the son of Apollo Creed being mentored by an aging Rocky, are apparently quite good. And from what I’ve seen of the trailers for the second one, that may indeed have been Rocky’s swan song.

        (Oddly, the concept of Rocky yelling, “Adri-ennnnne!” at the gates of Heaven puts a lump in my throat.)

  3. “In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds.” Lord Vetinari in “The Truth”

  4. > Californian invasion

    I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant a while back. Someone had spray painted “JUGGALOS” on the curb near the door.

    I snagged one of the managers, dragged him to the door, pointed, and said, “You have Juggalos.”

    He was quiet for a moment, and then said, “I will call the exterminator.”

    I think something got lost at the English/Spanish interface, but the response seemed appropriate…

    • Consider the possibility that each of you understood the other perfectly.

    • Even though our portion of Oregon is within 50 miles of California, our winters are a built-in filter. The local habit is to not make close friends of warm-winter transplants until the second winter. Icy roads and hills, Oh My! (Or as one new neighbor seems to put it: HILLS!. Bah, the Cascades are hills to us–900′ from the basin to the summit. )

      The Californians/transplants who do stay, fit right in. “We’re a weird mob.”

      • It doesn’t stop them from invading CO.

        • Pity, that. OTOH, we get the less rich (ie, more conservative) Californians, so leftward movement hasn’t happened much. Our congresscritter is GOPe, but he regularly curbstomps the D candidates.

        • I’m not an invader, I’m an escapee. And it’s not CO, but ID.

          • Oh, I have friends here who came from CA. But they don’t bring the policies with them.

          • Yeah, we bailed from Silicon Valley when the semiconductor companies went away. It’s nice to be on the winning side in the occasional election (glares towards Portland).

          • Speaking as someone who beat your CA-ID move by decades, learn to fit in, and don’t brag about how you did it in California, and you’ll be fine.

            I had the advantage of being five, and the disadvantage of having spent the first five years of my life within sight of the Hollywood sign, which with my name was great cause for teasing.

            • It’s been 15 years for us. We used “how it was done in California” as an example of how not to do it. We fit in fine here.

              • I live in a state where the Governor proclaimed very emphatically that his goal was to turn the state into the California of the East Coast. Pity us,.

      • When you drive up I-5, the weather literally changes at the border. It’s not even the high point on I-5, which you might expect, but several miles south. It’s weird but cool.

        • Used to say that was the effect of the hippies in Ashland – local microclimate where pot smoke clouds intercept sunlight and all – but that does not work anymore.

          • My wife watches local news so I don’t have to. Some folks in Ashland have figured out that they have a Paradise-like fire issue, but are getting pushback from the blithering idiots who think overgrown woodlands are somehow “natural”.

            I took a close look at escape routes in that event. First order conclusion: I’m really happy that I should not have to be in Ashland in the balance of my lifetime. That place is downright scary for fire. (As was Paradise for the same reasons, but we no longer have any family living there. Last one lost her house, but made it out OK.)

            Years back, we’d go to a shop in Ashland for yarn and weaving stuff. One day they were complaining about the 40 degree morning temperature. We mentioned we had 4 that morning. (115 road miles and 3000 feet elevation difference means a lot.)

            • That’s frightening. I’ve only been around the Shakespeare Festival, and the escape routes from that area are straightforward. Sometimes I’d love to have a vacation home there (for the plays, of course), but then the horrible anti-vaccination numbers come up, or the “fiery death trap” comes up, and I don’t want it so much.

              • Several problems with getting out of there. Highway 99 parallels I-5, and there aren’t many places to get across until you get out of town. Immediate bottleneck. The undergrowth growth in and around the city chills me; we had a 2500 acre fire a few miles away in 2014. Lots of vacant land with ladder fuels, and most of the houses in the fire perimeter didn’t have defensible space. From what I’ve seen, Ashland is slightly more kept up, but not by much.

                The only advantages over Paradise are the fact that the town is at the bottom of the slope (Paradise was right at the top of the canyon), and they don’t have PG&E for electricity. Where we live, Pac Power’s tree trimming contractor is quite aggressive, and it’s saved a lot. Apparently, they’re not as aggressive in Klamath Falls, so I’m not entirely optimistic about Ashland’s trees and power lines.

      • I suspect a lot of them are now going to be leaving Anchorage just as soon as they can sell their houses/ break the leases and get a new job in somewhere that’s a little less actively earthshaking than the Cook Inlet.

      • The second worst thing exported by California (the first being socialism), is parking lot design. You can’t find the entrance. You can’t find the exit. They put curbs and planters in the way everywhere so you can’t pull through, and $#@%^! it to perdition, it’s impossible to plow the snow in the damn things.

        • They put curbs and planters in the way everywhere so you can’t pull through

          That’s adapting to Mexican drivers.

          I have nearly been t-boned WAY too often by someone doing 40 across a parking lot.

          Seriously, it’s a FREAKING BRIGHTLY COLORED VAN, are they all blind?!?

    • Somehow I picture a Juggalo exterminator as using a huge honking mallet.

  5. But the point is, when someone says they want something utterly new? They don’t. Particularly when they’re shopping for entertainment or something for their walls.

    “Readers don’t want original. Readers want mixture as before.” (As best as I can remember the line–it’s been a long time). From “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” by some obscure little author that I’m sure nobody’s ever heard of. 😉

  6. “But the point is, when someone says they want something utterly new? They don’t. Particularly when they’re shopping for entertainment or something for their walls.”

    I think it was Zane Grey who popularized (or codified, not sure which) the 90-10 maxim: i.e. that what people want in their entertainment is 90% familiarity, 10% novelty.

    It occurs to me now to wonder, as I type this, whether much of the tsuris boiling up in SF these days is simply a fight over which 10% of a work should be made as novel as possible. The problem is that novelty is a subjective evaluation depending on what the audience member in question has or has not seen yet, and what seems only intriguingly novel to a saturated fan often seems too “out there” for more casual fans to buy in.

    Perhaps this could be called the Critic’s Dilemma: when you’ve studied a particular art form long enough, you lose the ability to be moved solely by excellence and are more and more hungry for simple novelty. Which is why, I think, critics are always so delighted by something that “subverts expectations” — that’s literally the only thing that sparks their interest any more.

    • “Subverts expectations”.

      Whatever could you be referring to?

      • John C. Wright referred to The Last Jedi in that manner. Unfortunately, the expectations were for an entertaining movie that didn’t insult the fans, as he put it. (I gave up during the prequels, so I don’t have my own opinion on TLJ.)

        • It occurred to me early this morning, in re: the mess in France that never have the “elites” be they political, intellectual or whatever hated the people so much as right now in the west.
          I think French aristocrats loved the peasants more than our would be “leaders” love us.
          It’s an interesting moment to be alive in. As in “may you live in interesting times.”

          • The race is to see who kills the elites first the peasants or the Muslims.

          • The aristocrats at least had a sense of possession and on occasion duty, “These are my people. I care for them, they support me, I knew their fathers and their children.” The modern would-be aristos don’t care unless they can use peasants as props to make the aristos feel good. (“For the children…”)

            • The modern would-be aristos don’t care unless they can use peasants as props to make the aristos feel good.

              To them the “peasants” are not people, they’re parts, interchangeable and disposable. Look at how fast someone disappears who stops being useful (c.f. Cindy Sheehan).

            • Elites today rarely even know the phrase, “noblesse oblige” exists, much less try to live up to it.

          • I’m currently reading the excellent “The Storm Before The Storm” history of the last 150 years or so of the Roman Republic, and two things stand out: 1) They Really Are Not Us – even Republican Rome was Rome, with Roman biases and reflexes, but 2) the cascading optimates hating the equestrians hating the plebians hating the non-Roman Italians and so on is pretty darn eternal, but it’s the breakdown of the social limits on behavior between and within all those classes, the things that Just Aren’t Done, that ended the Republic. When the “unique circumstances” lead people to suspend those rules “just this once”, only bad things follow.

            And looking at Paris Burning Once Again, in response to the French elites bypassing that whole “consent of the governed” thing and imposing laws on everyone else because they know best, it’s hard to not see the shadows of that breakdown happening again (and once again a dark fate that was seen descending on the US is somehow, as always, landing in Europe).

          • Came to that conclusion myself, a few weeks ago; that the political elite/ruling class hate the ordinary citizens. Hate them with a blinding passion, hate them so much that they wouldn’t care if we all died in a fire, screaming in agony. That they are deliberately introducing all kinds of hazardous elements among us, from criminally-inclined illegal aliens, to the various archaic and fatal diseases they bring with them. Gut small towns in Flyoverlandia when the manufacturing enterprise that upholds the local economy moves over the border? Environmental purity – hey, never mind that touching not a twig of that local forest results in burning senior citizens and their pets alive in their own homes…
            https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/58423.html
            They hate us, they really hate us.

            • Yeah, they hate so much they’ve even considered not taking our money in taxes … but decided to forgive us at least enough for that.

            • Tempting, but I have to go with the “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity” maxim. Or in this case, not stupidity so much as sheer self-centered cluelessness — imagine Marie Antoinette being perfectly sincere when she said, “Let them eat cake,” and I think you have more of the mindset.

              Active hatred, ironically, tends to be more focused and targeted. It takes the sheet carelessness of not really thinking about what you’re doing to incur this kind of damage; the less you actually intend, the more damage the Law of Unintended Consequences does.

              • Tempting, but I have to go with the “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity” maxim.

                Flip side of that: the truly powerful are rarely stupid. (Occasional Cortex is not powerful–she’s a figurehead who if she is not now being used by others soon will be.)

                • Granted. But one can be foolish without being stupid.

                • The primary problem of the truly powerful is that they are rarely told anything the teller thinks they do not want to hear. Getting accurate reports is a challenge in the best of circumstances, but for the powerful it is a major difficulty.

                  • Which is why mere political power is not true power. A wizard with suitable automata and divination spells, or a tech whiz with AI and surveillance, would not have this problem. 0:)

            • Reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man.

        • Oh, my forgot to close my sarcasm tag. I think it was Rian Johnson himself who stated that was his goal – to subvert expectations. I look at it as “The movie subverted my expectations of a good movie.”

          • I don’t mind having my expectations subverted in how I get my catharsis. I object very much to subverting the expectation that I get catharsis. (There, how’s that for an English-major snob’s reaction?)

          • The problem tends to be that too many forget the other half of that objective: subvert expectations in an entertaining way. If one can manage to add “enlightening” to that second half one has achieved something wonderful. The first half alone can be met by putting a turd on the meatloaf platter.

    • Perhaps this could be called the Critic’s Dilemma …

      A professional critic has a duty to suppress such predilections and review the work for the public, not its* professional peers.

      *I acknowledge that proper English grammar calls for the gender neutral “his” here, but in the instance of such persons I opt for “it” as more appropriate.

      • Agreed, but it must be acknowledged that critics are still human (the temptation of many a disgruntled artist to think otherwise notwithstanding). And any human who spends long enough in any industry, however professional one strives to be, will inevitably prioritize the insiders’ viewpoint over the outsiders’.

        To me the lesson of the Critics’ Dilemma is, consuming too much of anything eventually ruins your ability to enjoy it, no matter how high the quality of what you consume.

        • Agreed – which suggests that critics, like athletes, have short professional careers and ought move on to other endeavors when they can longer maintain the audience’s viewpoint.

        • When Spider Robinson started doing book reviews in Analog, he noted the difference between “critic” and “reviewer”. To the first, the criterion is “is it art”, while the second “is it any good”.

          That works for me.

      • It was awkward to realize that someone’s singing was both technically excellent and something I couldn’t stand. Was it bad? No. But it was decidedly not for me.

        • It took some undefined number of years for me to learn the distinction between “This thing is bad” and “This thing is not to my liking.” Inconceivable though it seems, my preferences do not precisely map to universal standards of quality!

          A knowledgeable critic knows (and conveys) the distinctions between technical competence and artistic merit. I recognize Barry Manilow’s brilliance at constructing and building a song but would deem falling to my death preferable to being trapped in an elevator listening to his oeuvre.

        • I’m more embarrassed to realize that I still enjoy something that is by all objective measures of quality not particularly good. Call that the “I Like Big Macs” effect.

          To take an in-genre example, everything Tom Simon says about The Sword of Shannara in his wonderfully eviscerative review is absolutely true — but I still enjoy the book and reread it from time to time, as I do with Dennis McKiernan’s The Iron Tower.

          • The existence of The Iron Tower didn’t bother me, but the fact that it was the “award-winning” Iron Tower did. I’d read a bunch of his other books before that, but the thinly-veiled LOTR plot line bothered me enough that I actually got rid of all of his books. He’s not a bad writer. It just rubbed me the wrong way.

            • To be as fair as possible to McKiernan, The Iron Tower wasn’t actually the book he’d wanted to write — he’d set out to write an explicit sequel to LOTR about the retaking of Moria, and was denied permission by Tolkien’s estate. Doubleday, the publisher he’d been working with, then told him to “file off all the serial numbers” (this book eventually became the duology The Silver Call) and to write his own version of the necessary backstory first. Tower also had the advantage of being published in 1984, only a few years after The Sword of Shannara had kicked off the epic-fantasy resurgence and people were still desperate for anything in that vein they could get.

              I am surprised to hear it called “award-winning” simply because I don’t think it ever actually did win any awards (I can’t find any reference to this on Wikipedia or Google, at least). Whereabouts was this, if you happen to recall?

          • There’s no shame in liking something that’s not good as long as you can recognize it as such. A friend of ours frequently gets reminded, when she tries to justify her taste in things, ‘There’s no harm in just liking something even if it’s not good, Ferric likes Nickelback’.

            Which is something I’m not ashamed to admit, even if their music is generally used as an example of ‘not good’. They aren’t good by any stretch, but for no reason I can explain, I love their songs, especially played at stupidly loud volume when I’m driving late at night.

            • They’re enjoyable.

            • Hey, I love Nickelback, I think they’re great! (But then I’m Canadian, I have to say that.)

              • Good background music definitely. Most of the songs sound vaguely similar, and they are enjoyable enough when you are doing something else – like driving – but not really something you’d prefer to focus on for any long periods of time. If you do they become vaguely annoying fast, at least to me (I have one album bought as a used cd, as the car I drive at work has a radio/cd player combination but you can’t listen to anything else with it I have ended up buying cds again during the last four years. You fast get tired of the endlessly repeating and rather limited repertoire of what most of the radio stations here play at night).

    • Actually the problem we have is that most of the left of SF F hasn’t READ the genre and thinks they’re rocking our world with things like alternative genders. And when we say “Guys, that’s old hat” they think we HATE whatever their “innovation” is instead of “It put me to sleep.”

      • Thank-you for this. I had the same thoughts but they had not coalesced into anything substantial enough to put up.

        I have long believed a reader in any genre has a duty to at least familiarize himself with what has come before, to discern the genre’s memes and themes and historic conversations. The modern entrant who fails to do so (cough*handmaid’s tail*cough) bears all too much resemblance to teens who imagine they’ve just discovered sex.

        At best their insights tend toward the naive and sophomoric, at worst they are the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes of genre writing.

      • I ran across a crowdfunding plea* for a novel with a brief pitch. “Self”, says I, “I have way too many of this concept on my library wall already. Pass.”

        95+% of the dead-tree SFF in my library is before 1990.

        (*) Identity omitted because it wasn’t memorable enough to note who tried it.

      • Exactly. They think it’s new because they haven’t read enough of the canon to realize otherwise — but as long as it’s new to them it still counts as “novelty”.

        (Given the sheer ever-growing volume of the canon, it must be noted that it’s becoming progressively harder and harder to know all the touchstones. I myself have only read smatterings of Asimov, Heinlein or Clarke, though I have read at least enough about them to recognize titles and concepts.)

        And to be fair, one can argue that the novelty desired is not about the concepts themselves, but the work’s attitude towards them. In past works such novelties were treated as novelties — something strange, exotic, intriguing and marvelous. The modern advocate wants to eat his cake and have it too: he wants the novelty, but he wants it to feel like the familiar to those who, he imagines, need and want that recognition and reassurance; he wants to convince people to accept the novelty as mundane in the book so that it can be accepted more quickly as mundane in life. But if what an audience is looking for is just that thrill of discovery and piqued interest, then all that mundane reassurance simply goes to waste on an audience too bored to appreciate it.

        (Which only ties back to my conviction that a key ability the SF Left lacks nowadays is any sense of salesmanship. Though that’s unsurprising in a fandom that takes its audiences for granted.)

        • “And to be fair, one can argue that the novelty desired is not about the concepts themselves, but the work’s attitude towards them.”
          Sure, but they seem absolutely convinced the concept itself is a slayer and is going to make us pass out with shock. (They also think we’ll hate it. We usually hate the execution, but only because we’ve read better.)
          They don’t IN GENERAL bring anything else to it except their hope pour epater les bourgeois.
          It would help if they weren’t so naive about people outside their bubble that they think people like, oh, Kate Paulk and I with our life histories are too “delicate” to say the word “vagina.” (It’s more “Uh. It doesn’t add anything to anything and we assume every adult knows it.” Except code pink, of course, who confuse vaginas with vulvas. Must be a laugh a minute trying to follow tampon instructions. [Sorry/not sorry. Slept very little governor down])

          • “Gee, evidently nobody likes the idea of a group of lunar prisoner declaring their freedom from the bonds of earth. And it’s such a fantastic new idea. What’s WRONG with them?”

            * Displays Number 3 finger.

          • “They don’t IN GENERAL bring anything else to it except their hope pour epater les bourgeois.”

            Bingo. Which always brings to my mind a couple of my favourite Onion headlines: “Madonna Shocks Seven” and “Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-to-Door Trying to Shock People”.

            If I never hear the phrase “the point of [art/journalism/whatever] is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” again, it’ll be too soon.

            • SheSellsSeashells

              I *despise* that phrase with a vehemence that I feel for few other things. Who the HELL gives these self-righteous onanistic dweebs the authority to decide who’s comfortable and who’s afflicted, much less to inflict upon them what they think is deserve?

              ‘Splains one hell of a lot about the average SJW, though.

            • OMG, yes, on that phrase. At least even when young and stupid I knew the role of an entertainer (which a writer is) is to entertain. IOW “Dance, monkey, dance.”

            • The thing is that it always seemed like Marilyn Manson was in on the joke, and Madonna hasn’t given me that impression. (Granted, she was already old news by the time I started paying attention to anything, so I’m willing to buy that maybe she wasn’t quite so… ehh… when she was younger.)

              • Seen a few interviews with Marilyn Manson. Smart guy, understands what he’s marketing. Says basically he gives kids what they want to listen to.

                Also, when asked what he would have said to certain lethally-disturbed juveniles: “I wouldn’t say a single word to them; I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did.”

                • nvm. yeah, madonna isnt shocking anyone anymore

                  • Much less any of those who try to emulate her. Like, an example which comes to mind as she and her antics were well publicized for a while, a certain offspring of a bad country singer. Old hat, honey, nobody was ever really shocked, although you presumably got some of the teens who thought it was edgy or something as you do seem to have sold, and are still selling for all I know well enough (and some buying have probably been some version of really dirty old men, which is the worst idea to go with that…). Adults were mostly a bit weary and a bit sad with some version of something with the refrain of “here we go again” playing in our heads. And feeling sorry for those of your younger fans who lost what they had loved.

        • My son gave the the one volume edition of the Foundation Trilogy.
          I’d read all the books when they came out. Book 3 was a slog. He gave me Book 4 some years ago (12-20, IIRC) and did not like it. Have this vague memory of giving up on it, though maybe I didn’t. I can remember having started on it.

      • Greg Bear’s “Eon” had quite fluid genders in his advanced human civilization, and that was back in 1985. Of course Heinlein treated gender as being somewhat fluid in many of his works. “Time Enough for Love” (1973) stands out where Lazarus Long was given an option of becoming a woman (100% genetically too) as one of his cures for being tired of living. Of course homosexuality was a topic in many earlier works by many authors, but that never seemed to come across as being gender fluid, just queer. Point is, Sarah is right, it IS old hat. The problem is, too many of the younger generation are ignorant of the past, and so don’t realize that they aren’t blazing new trails anywhere.

        • Christopher M Chupik

          Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, written 1967, has consciousness-transfer between bodies of different sexes.

          I notice the most recent edition I’ve seen of it omits that it’s a Hugo winner for some reason . . .

          • I recall a story with that in it. Men and women wanted to find out how the other sex felt during.

            • And, of course, the switching sex thing was a major component of I Will Fear no Evil.

            • You just know that in the unexpurgated Harry Potter there were experiments with polyjuice potion, of which the mildest were couples transforming into each other. There was likely a thriving grey (if not black) market in celebrity hair.

              “That son-of-a-muggle!!! He said he was selling me Pamela Anderson’s hair but I morphed into Nancy Pelosi!”

              • Thank you so much for this idea. I’ll have to file it away for use in a fanfic some time.

                • Just remember: these days, what with extensions, wigs and what all, not all hair on the star’s head is her own (or necessarily even human.)

                  Implications are potentially significant, such as using Heath Ledger’s hair to create a double enabling completion of whichever movie* he was in the midst of when he died.

                  Of course, unscrupulous filmmakers (Hah! As if there were any!) might get a star’s hair to create a double in order to make [naughty] movies featuring the “celebrity” in compromising (if not downright improbable) positions.

                  The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus , HT to IMDb

                  • Polyjuice Potion wouldn’t help. It only lasts for an hour a dose and you need another hair for each dose, so for sustained duplication you’d need regular access to the original, and if you had that you might as well just use the original. Especially given the time needed to make it.

                    (Not that I’m a Potterhead who’s read all the books entirely too often. No, not at all.)

        • A related annoyance, they do a moral/philosophical dilemma that’s been talked to bits when the calendar was triple digits, that their understanding of is FOUNDED on Catholic theories….then put a Catholic priest as the strawman idiot.
          (All the more annoying because some of them I was so poorly catechized that the first time I saw it, I didn’t know it was insultingly false.)

          • Do you remember any examples, off the top of your head? Curious to see if I’ve encountered them.

            • *heh* Mostly interchangeable cop dramas– you know, “Law and CSI: Big City SJW Unit,” with stores PULLED from the headline and properly spun. My parents are addicted to them, and I can’t totally ignore them. Sadly.

              On the not insulting front, there was a Star Trek episode…I think Voyager…where the drama point was if they’d use medical knowledge gained from a space-Nazi-doctor Cardassian guy to save someone’s life, and twiddling around with it lead me to discover that not only was that well worn theologically, but so were a lot of other “problems.” Like the “is Data a person” thing. (where I instinctively knew he was, but couldn’t explain why– didn’t have the idea of a “moral being.”)

          • I recently saw someone asserting that the King James Bible was translated into English from the only uncorrupted Greek Bible that the Catholics hadn’t messed with (further comments being made about the ridiculous ‘heresy’ of the Dead Sea Scrolls.) I… just scrolled on past, because I didn’t need to waste time arguing with someone asserting “plenty of knowledge on the subject.” (Tell that to my Old Testament professor who was an expert in Ancient Hebrew and explained all the puns.)

      • I haven’t taken notes when I have that sort of eye rolling reaction to something “edgy” so I couldn’t say who are the biggest culprits (beyond people talking about how new and edgy their stuff is.) I intended to say something very similar, though, about how it feels when something that is *supposed* to be oh so unique really isn’t much so at all. A new take on an old idea, or a fresh perspective is often very nice. Even then, though, someone else probably did something similar.

        For a random example… telepathy and sex. I know I’ve read more than once about how amazing that would be. I wanted to subvert that and have how impossibly horrible that would be as an important plot point. But I *know* I’ve read something that portrayed telepathy and sex as negative. I’m certain of it.

        So what’s the difference? Is it the *flourishes* involved in the presentation? Can you write an Adam and Eve story so long as the revelation of those roles doesn’t involve flourishes? “This is an Adam and Eve” story instead of “and then, the last line finally reveals their names!”

        Is it like making Mac-n-Cheese and the difference is between a drum roll, a dramatic reveal and, “ta da Mac-n-Cheese!” and something more like… I made Mac-n-Cheese just like all the other Mac-n-Cheese but mine has bacon bits and seared tomatoes?

        • “For a random example… telepathy and sex. I know I’ve read more than once about how amazing that would be. I wanted to subvert that and have how impossibly horrible that would be as an important plot point. But I *know* I’ve read something that portrayed telepathy and sex as negative. I’m certain of it.”

          A possible example that comes immediately to mind is that scene in Demolition Man when Sandra Bullock’s and Sylvester Stallone’s characters sit down to have Virtual Sex and, even though she’s having a great time, he’s horrified by it and rips off the virtual helmet.

          • Darkover novels: Natural blocking techniques & artificial telepathic dampers … implying not only to prevent unauthorized snooping …

          • A very entertaining and in retrospect very politically incorrect movie. And the villain Cocteau, could be substituted by ex-NYC Mayor and general nanny-state busybody, Michael Bloomberg.
            I have oft noted that the dystopian future will look like a combo of Demolition Man, Gattaca, and Idiocracy.

            • I hadn’t considered Gattaca, but Demolition Man and Idiocracy both seem to have been horrifying prophecies instead of comedies.

              • Nah, Idiocracy fails on the buy in.

                Actually intelligent people can figure out things like the reproductive window, and apply notions like “the future belongs to those who show up.”

                This doesn’t hold for the designated smart, though.

        • MZB had a thing about sex and telepathy running through her Darkover novels. Of course once I heard about the RL creep thing going on, that really killed any interest in the concept.

        • I think it’s Tom Smith that has a tune “I Wish I Couldn’t Read Her Mind.”

          “That’s it?”

          And it’s not something he can turn off – or he would.

          • I love Catherine Asaro, and no one should possibly take this as a criticism, I just thought, you know, that hearing people’s thoughts during sex would be the biggest turn off ever… “And then, for no reason, he suddenly thought of his mother’s face… and that was that.”

            But I read a short story once where anyone who was telepathic went crazy because they could hear ever critical thought that people are too polite to voice, such as when they pretend not to notice a zit or something, or all those little judgements of another person’s appearance, stuff that even the person thinking it doesn’t take seriously because it’s just our minds and we seem to be wired to notice negatives… it’s probably a survival skill… You’ve got a beautiful sunset to soak in but there’s a *tiny* flaw there where the grass is wiggling wrong… if you don’t notice the flaw you get eaten by a tiger. Me? I think that a telepath would learn that all that noise is just noise.

            Not being able to turn it off or at least listen to something else or let all the voices disappear into a back-ground white noise… that’s a problem.

      • Not just the left. The joy and beauty of Kindle is that it’s bringing a lot of things back that I read once in a library in a city we were passing through, and never had time to finish, or could never find again, for it was out of print…

        When I wrote organic buildings in a story, I was simply drawing on a long and vast history of devouring SF, and that’s a concept that’s been done quite a few times. But I’ve had reviews from people who’d never run into it before, and thought it startling and fresh, and wanted me to flesh out more about the very idea.

        I can’t point fingers; I didn’t actually read any Jack Vance or Robert E Howard until the last few years, distrusting the “These are the Classics!” pounding as being the same vein as “Hugos signify the best of SF!” Now that I’m working my way through pulp classics, I’m finding so many concepts that I’m going “I’ve seen where later authors explored this concept… but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that!”

      • I’ve encountered more than one tradpub SF novel which was written by someone whose entire familiarity with the genre appeared to be a few episodes of ST:TNG.

        Apparently all that editorial curation didn’t see anything wrong with it either…

        • How about the stuff that is like they heard about Star Trek, but never actually saw it?

          That even shows up in folks doing a “parody” of, oh, Murder She Wrote, or Miss Marple– a favorite example is exploiting the “plot hole” of “nobody” thinking to kill the little old lady detective.

          Except that Agatha Christie did cover that “plot hole,” and the little old lady (duh) thought of it.

          But none of the “this stuff is stupid!” folks knew that.

    • “t occurs to me now to wonder, as I type this, whether much of the tsuris boiling up in SF these days is simply a fight over which 10% of a work should be made as novel as possible. The problem is that novelty is a subjective evaluation depending…”

      I would argue that what is wrong with SF these days is the number of SJWs who have mixed up ‘Familiar’ and ‘Tiresome’.

    • Well, part of that is the absolute certainty that SJW stuff is always absolutely new.

      Or the typical princess. She doesn’t appear in fantasy. All the princesses are “Not Your Typical Princess!” (It was partly in reaction to that that I wrote The Princess Seeks Her Fortune)

  7. Art must communicate else it is utterly meaningless. To communicate the first rule is “Understand your audience.”

    Fail to recognize that communication involves a receiver as much as a sender and you might as well be preaching to seagulls.

    It isn’t selling out, it is buying in.

    • George Burns once related that the Burns & Allen radio show was, like all shows, expected to have better and worse ratings. But eventually there was a downward trend – not simple variation. THAT had to be fixed. Eventually the problem identified: The show had been airing for some considerable time (years) but the couple were still being written as newlyweds and disbelief was no longer suspended. The writers “wrote older” and the ratings started climbing. But it was still Burns & Allen.

  8. BobtheRegisterredFool

    I’m catching up on my sleep, rediscovering my artistic visions, and they are still overly complex, to the point where even I don’t entirely know what is going on. XD

  9. I recall Fox telling Matt Groening they “wanted something new and original.”

    He gave them Futurama and Fox complained, roughly, “Hey, this isn’t like The Simpsons.”

    And Matt replied, “No, it’s new and original.”

    People seldom say what they mean. And by that measure, I am all too human. Dangit.

  10. Re: humidifier. Unless it says otherwise, distilled water is your friend. It doesn’t mean stuff won’t build up or that you can skip cleaning, but buildup is slower and cleanup is easier and/or less frequent. If you have a preferred local store, you can “special order” what you want/need/like and have it set aside (here, a case is three gallon jugs of distilled). But that’s for a small room unit. Does a whole-house unit just use a (water)mains feed? I’ve not (YET!) looked into that. $HOUSEMATE has made noises about that. And it makes me wonder about things… like Legionnaire’s and such. I might be paranoid, but paranoia beats lung issues.

    • N.B. – despite what people tell you, it is not – repeat, NOT – recommended that you use vodka in your whole house humidifier!

      Use vodka in your CPAP humidifier.

      • I’ve been wondering, but not enough to try it.
        What are the effects? Real deep sleep? Sleep like the Dead and you die?

      • I’m not big on vodka, even by traditional means. Nor am I keen on this “vaping” thing. And besides, I get plenty ethanol by the more common means. “Grain fed” is not a proper description, but I do like my rye.

        And I, so far, fortunate enough not to need to be encumbered with a CPAP or its ilk.

        • I bought a bottle of rye from a local distillery, Flagg Hill iirc. Only thing it’s good for is mixer, mouth wash, or maybe household cleaner. Needs aging in a good charred beechwood barrel for about 50 years to make it drinkable.

          • The only truly bad rye I’ve had (so far…) was ‘artificially aged’ and whoever did it needed to learn chromatography – badly. That said, I can all to easily imagine horribly rotten rye. I’ve encountered at least one vodka that I wouldn’t even use to clean tape heads. Remove marker stains from around the house, maybe.

            • Rotten rye? Is that alcohol distilled from ergot? God only knows what kind of hallucinations that would generate.

            • I recall a taste test comparing cheap vodka with good vodka. Then they ran the cheap vodka through a Britta-type filter 4 or 5 times… after which it tasted just like the good stuff. Which I take to mean the filter peeled out the more-noxious impurities.

              • Worse, Mythbusters did one with good, bad, and filtered bad, AND at least one expert tester– and the results were basically random.

                • $HOUSEMATE and I did a semi-blind (certainly not double-blind) taste test of a few ryes. The high-end Whistlepig and the low-end Old Overholt (aka “Old Overcoat”) were different, but it was, roughly, like the Old Overcoat was a good quartet and the Whistlepig a full choir. I’ve no issue with using “the inexpensive stuff” for most things (Manhattans, mainly) when it compares like that.

                  I do maintain that there is a critically important difference between inexpensive and cheap.

      • Vodka is pretty good for de-scenting carpet.

        The contact high from spraying it around is just a bonus.

        • And costumes, especially those that can’t go through a washer. Costumers love spray bottles full of vile stuff such as Everclear.

          • Rectified Spirits (Everclear is the expensive one because name) are fuel, cleanser, astringent, and – when diluted! – can be used to ‘spike’ things. Also, it matters what location such is acquired in. In MN, for example, the “Everclear” is a ‘mere'(!) 151 proof due state law. In WI, however, it’s the full 190 proof. Why not 200? 190 is the limit of distillation and beyond that the chemistry tends to get into things you’d prefer not to ingest – yes, even beyond 190 proof ethanol. There might be means of making ‘safe’ (FSVO…) 200 proof but leave the cap off and it absorbs water out of the allegedly dry air (as does 190 proof…) so why bother? And it’s expensive.

            • Reminds of my senior year of college, when there was joint birthday party for myself and one of my apartment roommates, who had a birthday the same week as mine. Someone couldn’t find quite all the right agreements for kamikazees and used Everclear….in the same proportion the non-190 proof alcohol would have been used. The results were as all could expect. (I hated kamikazees and wouldn’t had them anyway; I stuck to beer and Jack Daniels)

              • Yow! Can’t say I blame you. That sounds painful. Powerfully astringent on the intake, and, since you DID wake up, likely woke up convinced of the photon theory of light. It’s hard to argue for waves as you feel each photon strike.

          • and costumes>/I<

            Oh, absolutely!

            Where else would I have learned the trick? XD

            … though, I’m told that in a costume shop one should add a bit of… detergent, I think… to the alcohol, so that the dressers don’t sneak any between costume changes. ^_^

            And I tell you what, getting authorization for the alcohol in a university theatre department is an adventure in itself.

        • Better than baking soda?

    • I use distilled water in the CPAP, and clean the chamber every week. (I don’t drain and dry, just top off.) The chamber gets a bit grotty despite the distilled and the intake air filter, so the weekly cleaning is essential. (Can’t convince myself to do it more often.)

      My allergist warned me about humidifiers in cold weather. Bottom line for me was stay away if I valued my health. This was mold issues, which causes serious problems for me.. With CPAP, I run the heater on high during the current cold/dry spell. The automagic setting was a bit too dry.

      Daytime, I have a bottle of saline nose spray handy. I’ve had sinus infections leading to asthma and pneumonia once, and don’t intend to repeat.

      Our local wholesale grocery vendor has distilled water either in gallons or 6 gallon cases. It’s “Everyday Essentials”, which might be a national brand now.

  11. All art suffers from this. Can a genre play out and become stale? If so, what is that point? How much novelty keeps things fresh while keeping it accessible?

    In the visual and performing arts, because consumption of them is so passive, you can easily see how the latter has nearly killed entire subgenres. You have to look a little harder in language arts, but the health of trad pub is a pretty good indication that there’s a lot of unrelatable crap out there too. John Cage took a highly original approach to music. Subverted a lot of expectations. Intelligentsia loved him. And he created a steaming pile of work that no one wanted to listen to for any reason other than cultural signalling.

    In all the little bohemian hipster cultural enclaves around the country (you know the ones, where they’re all conforming to non-conformist standards) their sole artistic metric seems to be “make it weird”. The only progress they’ve made in art is calling “weird” what the postmodernists came up with volumes of neologisms to describe. These people, to use a phrase of one of their own, are a wen on the arse of fiction. Hopefully posterity will remember them so.

  12. I can tell when the magic comes. It means that I think “Maybe 500 words today” and the words flow, the scenes play out in my mind’s eye, I hear the characters, and 4000 words later, I don’t want to stop because I might not catch the fire again. There’s also a lot of hard work and mental preparation behind that fire, but the magic makes it live. I’m drained but wired and so very alive. Like when I was riding horses and I was both in the moment and outside of it, totally focused on the horse but also aware of everything around me.

    • Flow state.
      I can see that happening with experience writers. Those starting out probably have to think too much about the process and the rules to get into it.

      • Pretty sure newbie writers get into flow state, too. The mental trap is confusing that with “the muse” and thinking you can’t write unless you get in that state.

        Where working writers know the more you sit and write, the more often it hits.

        • Yup. though rather often I find something needs a day or two on the back burner for the magic to restart — I work on something else that went dry —

          More than a day or two sometimes, but you need to loop back. It can be a problem.

        • Yep. I have, since the very first attempts. And not getting in touch with that muse thingie has been a problem too, and yes, first I thought I shouldn’t write unless I did. But damn muses seem to be rather untrustworthy, they come and go as the mood strikes them, and like cats, are usually not around when YOU would want to pet them, but come when you definitely would have something else to do and really don’t have the time to focus on them.

  13. Sometimes it feels like every time I read here I get something new to think about.

    I wonder if this means that authors that are only mildly creative have a head start, simply due to there mediocrity. LOL! If that’s the case, I’m a Shoo-in! YAY!!!!

  14. Yay, magic!

  15. I’ve got a pile of spiral notebooks full of scribbling, and sometimes that magic. And I do go back occasionally . . . generally when I’m feeling stale, can’t write and so forth. I don’t know If I can credit them with rekindling something, but one of these days I _will_ finish the girl who was raised by aliens story.

    • I didn’t have those years of “going to be a writer one day” because I didn’t believe it would ever be possible, so I didn’t write them down. Now that I’ve gotten over that, I’m finding myself coming up with more ideas than I know what to do with (many of which, I don’t believe my poor skills are up to… YET!) Working on a good way to organize those ideas, while I’m building the skill set to (hopefully) one day be able to use them.

    • In the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten a few thousand words further on something I stuck on, almost two years ago. So it happens.

      I go through the stack o’ notebooks now and then, trying to recapture that same effervescent magic of the shininess of the idea. And sometimes, trying to see if my skills are up to the idea I couln’t execute properly before.

  16. Magic … I think that I may be going through a patch of the doldrums. Hoping to sail out of that patch, sometime soon. Have a stack of books to read for research on how the local communities began supporting hospitals and fielding nursing teams during the Civil War – hope that I can get a fired up about this as I got to be over the Fred Harvey company when I got taken by scribbling a previous book.
    The only thing that I really feel anything of ambition to write about is another Luna City scribble … the historical novels (there are two planned at present) feel more like a grim duty.)
    And blogging … I used to produce two and a half-thousand words a week, on all kinds of topics. Now it’s another grim duty. I hope that I get over this soon.

  17. triple sphinctered wombat

    Well said.
    Oh and BTW: thank you. 🙂

  18. I think the gravest sin of the modern era is that transgressive art is not where the competent artist goes to play with new concepts, but where the poor artists goes in the same way a child tries to grab attention by throwing their own feces against the wall.

    You see it in a lot of the modern books from the “big publishers” these days, watching as people with sub-par technical skills with writing use controversy and “edgy” story content to cover their lack of skills. Or movies, or modern music, or quite a bit of other creative content.

    It’s hard to figure out good technical work, but it’s easy to see “oooh, the NPC is doing something that is annoying the people I don’t like!”.

  19. You can have both great art and trashy tabloid themes. All of grand opera, for instance. All the kabuki plays based on the latest Japanese true crimes, back in the 19th century.

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