Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ron told Ollie, "Well, shred the truth"

People have been posting about what made them want to write, or how they knew they were writers, so I'm going to be one of the cool kids and follow suit. Sort of. Click the "read more" bit under my charming illustration for the full scoop. I did really draw this, by the way.

Friday, February 19, 2010

one art, please

You know, I've never understood the huge problem some people have with widespread access to art, and being an artist. The complaint that "oh, everyone is an artist/designer/writer/musician/etc. now" is one I've heard often, especially with the rise of the Internet as a promotional medium. It comes from a sense that art is somehow cheapened when a lot of people, many of whom aren't very good and some of whom are flat-out derivative, gum up the works with their creations, thereby making it harder for good artists to be seen.

What this argument also does is reinforce the idea that art is for "special" people cut from God's own wood for the sole purpose of creating, and that they are set apart from the masses in this regard. Problem is, if the masses are hedged into being mere observers with no incentive or encouragement to appreciate art on a deeper, more hands-on level, you can't really blame them for missing the importance of it. Our society is a hostile one towards artists in many ways, chiefly in the sense that arts funding is a joke here, and I think that's a symptom of how we separate artists into their own little group that the Folks aren't supposed to understand. This is an unhealthy arrangement for artists, too - self-impressed echo chambers that arbitrarily decide the monetary worth and importance of a given work don't help anyone, least of all themselves.

Plus, the separation is absurd in many other cultures. Bali, for example, treasures art to the point where everything, from religious services to food to wrapping presents, is an extension of their appreciation for it. Every small task has an aesthetic presence. I've heard similar things about China, Japan, and Vietnam, and most of continental Europe reveres art as vital to a productive and inquisitive society. Meanwhile, if someone here sees a painting that even hints at abstraction, one common response is a dismissive "oh, I could do that." And maybe that's true. And maybe the second half of that sentence should be " I think I will."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

waving my dick in the wind

So Dreamweaver isn't as difficult as I thought it would be so far. Code, HTML or otherwise, intimidated me for years, but my professional blogging career thus far has softened that a bit; one of the blogs I maintain uses a version of Wordpress that might as well be laid out in Norse runes, so I'm always fixing stuff in the HTML editor. That's all I ever intend to use code for - patching holes in website design - but I still want to learn more about it because I'm pretty sure it's still useful to know.

The website I'm supposed to be designing is another matter. I feel a tad presumptuous promoting my work when, as it stands, I don't have all that much to promote. I do have a novel in revision, so I guess I could build the website around that. Otherwise, all I've got is a handful of publishing credits and a lot of unpublished work still in transit. Which isn't bad, but all the writers I like have novels out and short stories everywhere, and often book tours/movie deals/misc. collaborative projects as well.

But they had to start somewhere, I suppose, and building a fan community as you try and break through to a successful, or at least steady, writing career is certainly possible, if the current webcomics business model is any indication. And it might be my best option, since my style and generally antisocial nature both pretty much condemn me to niche market status forever. Self-promotion has never been my bag, and a lot of writers are in the same boat because we're all drawn to art's most solitary, introverted medium for the same reason. I've got plenty of opportunistic carny instincts, but I also find the whole process of selling my work (and myself, essentially) excruciatingly awkward and draining, and thus have almost no control over the Irish bullshit charm I somehow inherited from my dad. Keep me out there long enough and I will get bored and frustrated and say anything, and probably try setting fire to people with my mind., that thought kinda ran off to join the circus about a paragraph ago. My point is that this website project has me thinking about promoting my work in the future, which means I'm going to actually try breaking into the business for real, which is terrifying and could end in disaster on par with the Great Hinckley Fire. All the same, I must press on. More later.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

welcome to the world of tomorrow

Here, submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, is a selection from a sci-fi project I've been working on. I wanted to try my hand at a crazy road trip/travel narrative in a sci-fi world built around the acceptance of existing sustainable energy sources (solar power, electric cars, etc.), with flying cars and fully interactive holograms thrown in for good measure because I think they're cool. The story from which this excerpt is taken remains unfinished, and is quickly ballooning past how long I expected it to be, but since I have nothing else that urgently needs posting, I figured I'd share some ongoing work. Please read, and feel free to comment.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

she's the devil in disguise

Okay, so I finished The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, which I'm not going to summarize in the traditional way because I don't have the next thousand years free to present the material in a logical, orderly way. And to do so would be a tragic missing of the point; this book is pretty much As I Lay Dying: The Western, which means that I think it's awesome.

As I Lay Dying's primary narrative device - letting many characters describe one central sequence of events in their own voices to provide a fuller sense of the story - is put to work here, as Billy the Kid is examined from many different sources (himself, his friends, his enemies, dime novels, newspaper interviews) and narrative techniques (prose, free verse poetry, old photographs, etc.). This collage effect is a response to the traditional Western, and even grim spaghetti westerns, in that it is an abstract display of what was a very complex time period. Huge changes in industry, technology, travel, communication, population shifts, and the political character of the nation were underway in the Frontier period, and neither the cartoonish John Wayne or inhospitably stark Sergio Leone depictions really capture it - they're too narrow in scope. What this book tries to do is widen that narrative lens, and I think it succeeds.

The central character, Billy the Kid, is cast as a lover and an observer, while still maintaining the traditional exterior of a violent criminal. His ruminations on the stars and their representation of the universe's fragile working order, for example, is poetic and astute, but he remains level-headed and almost cavalier about gunfights and their aftermath, even the deaths of his friends, without betraying his intellectual sensibilities. This is largely achieved by the writing, which is grounded well enough in solid detail that it can riff in and out of experimental tangents without losing readers in the dust.

Since I'm really just jumping from thought to thought here, I'll go ahead and stop, but this is a damn good book. Read it if you haven't already. I'd like to read more from this author when I have the time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

fiction - Perchance to Dream

Even in the deluxe car, one could feel the train's mighty iron innards churning. Each car was a link in its steam-shot intestine, helping push all what sat and slept within to their final destinations. Mine could literally be described as a toilet - nothing but low houses and narrow dirt roads with fresh hoof tracks in them. The sleek black steam hansoms hadn't reached us yet.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

here is some hatred for you

Overheard today:

"As an educator, and an educated person, [The Scarlet Letter] is pure horseshit."

"A Separate Peace isn't a bad story, but it's terribly dry and out-dated. All I remember is the bit where the narrator describes his roommate's glistening wet ass." (I remember this too, and it was weird and heavy-handed)

"People idealize childhood but 90% of it is being bored as shit, wishing you could get fucked up somehow."

Forgive the whitenoise posting; it's late and I've had kind of an exhausting weekend. At some point I'll have to comment on The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, which I'm almost done reading; it's really fun, if hopelessly scattershot in its delivery. Definitely a new take on the western, that's for sure. But that can wait until I have some functioning brain cells to rub together and charge up a coherent opinion.