seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
We got power back this morning for the first time since Monday night. :) Work still doesn't have power. Since Wednesday we've been working at an alternate site, all of the engineers crammed into a tiny conference room whose temperature builds and builds throughout the day as a result of computer and human waste heat.

We're all doing okay, though it's been cold at night. I have some books to blog about, too. Worst hit is my uncle out on the Rockaways, whose basement and cars flooded, but thankfully nobody I know was injured.

I imagine there are things that'll take me time to catch up with on the 'nets. Apparently I got my Yuletide assignment. I think there's a lot to like about it. I've given up on doing NaNo- the power outage sapped all energy with regard to that.

I guess Kaleidoscope stories were just revealed.

My main story was "The Basket of Invisibility", a post-book Midnight's Children fic. It uses Aadam, who has big ears instead of a big nose, to tell a story about modern India, which doesn't have a story. I was trying to do a lot of complicated and post-modern things and I feel like I was pretty successful, though with a story like this it's always hard to tell if the feel of incompleteness it leaves you with is effective.

I also, obviously, wrote two Truth: Red, White, and Black fics for [personal profile] sanguinity. Well, at least one of them was obvious. I kinda hoped she might think the other one wasn't me. I hadn't quite planned to write any for Kaleidoscope, but all the conversation we'd had sparked my brain and I started poking at a story that I didn't think I'd finish in time for Kaleidoscope. And then I saw that she was put out for pinch hit, and I contacted the people running Kaleidoscope and told them that I didn't know if I'd finish the story in time so I didn't want to commit to grabbing the pinch hit, but I was working on a story. And then when I finished my Nick Fury meets Isaiah story, I kept reading comics and discovered Crew and Josiah X, and then Ihad to write another story, because holy fuck Exodus/comic book parallels!

FUBARs is Nick Fury meets Isaiah Bradley, shortly before the disastrous raid on Schwarzebitte. [personal profile] sanguinity has managed to explain it better than I could. Nick Fury of the Sgt. Fury days believes in America's aspirational narrative. He knows that America isn't perfect, and he knows that people die and people hate other people, but he believes that if we keep fighting for it we can make it better. Isaiah Bradley just knows that there are evil things in the world, full stop.

By the way, Sang? That conversation we had about how first lines are never actually the first line? The original first line of "FUBARs" was "Nick Fury is an authentic American badass, eight feet tall and all of it swagger. So when a nine foot tall authentic American badass walks into his office it's a banner headline day." which would have made a great first line for a Nick Fury story about meeting Isaiah Bradley, but wasn't so great for a story about Isaiah Bradley meeting Nick Fury. I quickly realized that I needed to set up Isaiah's feelings before introducing Fury.

Jocheved is Faith's recollections of the night she gave up Josiah X, her cloned son. Because sometimes you pay a price and it turns out it's worth it, but you still paid the price.
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Kaleidoscope revealed!

I received a "The Paper Menagerie" story, "Climb a Mountain to Catch a Tiger", which is Laohu perspective and plays lovingly with Chinese nursery rhymes, and which is just so good at imagining the sort of sentience that a paper animal brought to life by being inflated with what I can't help thinking of in my head as ruach hakodesh might have.

I also liked some other things.

"Native Weakness" is a really great fanmix for Crescent Moon Kingdom, and particulary for Zamia/Raseed. I think it captures the blend of Arabianness and Westernness that Ahmed constructs in his stories really well.

The other story in Crescent Moon Kingdom is "The Teahouse", which is about how ill-fitted Adoulla is for the life he chooses after giving up ghul-hunting, and how satisfying it is for him to slowly grow into it.

And um... I don't know what the fuck to make of "Henson and Ootah's gr8 adventurs", but it is weirdly brilliant. Polar explorers Matthew Henson and Ootah reimagined as the octopus and squid from last Yuletide's ridiculous Texts from Cephalopods story.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I'm 1200 words into my Kaleidoscope story and I really like most of those words. I feel like at least 900 of those words are in final form. I don't anticipate many cuts or edits. (People I've passed drafts to have mostly agreed, so far.) So yay, I'm at the required length!

But Kaleidoscope also requires a finished story, and this might be as little as 1/3 done, and it might be closer to 1/2 done, from that perspective. And when I realize that I have barely more than a week left, I get scared about that. I feel unprepared to finish this story.

It's not canon review that's sticking me, but secondary source review. I only recently reviewed the canon, and it's pretty fresh, but I'm trying to pin down cultural details for the specific time period my story is set in and trying to figure out if I can justify fudging stuff based on information in books that are off by five or ten years. Kaleidoscope is tricky that way, since cultural sensitivity is so central to its mission. I don't want to fuck up details on any story, but I especially don't want to do it when I'm writing about a minority culture that isn't my own. And the overriding message of virtually all of the things I've read are "Do not simplify! YOU WILL BE WRONG!" There's a part of me that keeps whispering that I should default. I don't like to listen to that voice.
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Dear Doer of Darkness,

Thank you so much for offering to create a gift for me! Kaleidoscope went great for me last year and I'm sure this year will also be great. And if it's not, we'll blame it on me instead of you: I have notoriously bad taste. Just ask my friends.

I sit on an uneasy edge of fandom the colossus. I like weird source texts, I like strange crossovers, I like post-modernism. The source texts I've requested sort of demand self-conscious storytelling from the fan creator.

Some discussion of the fandoms I requested follows. I'll italicize the request I put on the prompt form, and then add some more thoughts.

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

I want more adventures with these characters, but in particular I would love Alex and Sarah sitting shiva for Li-Jin, Alex and Adam as teenagers doing hijinks, or something post-canon.

This is my favorite of Smith's three novels, even though I know it is generally her least critically acclaimed novel. Alex-Li Tandem is one of the most personally affecting characters I've ever come across, and his struggles with culture and community speak deeply and directly to me.

As Alex digs himself deeper and deeper into his taxonomy of Jewish and Goyish, he is pulled further away from his heritage. But at the novel's heart there is a religious object with sufficient gravitational pull to overcome his cynicism: Kaddish. Alex can't dismiss Kaddish, can't categorize it, can't encompass its mysteries and reduce them to a list of names. Instead, Kaddish turns his lists of names into a spiritual experience, the same way Kitty Alexander's autograph transforms from a stain of ink into a spiritual quest. It is an uplift.

So I would like another story about Kaddish. I am fascinated by the idea of Sarah and Alex sitting shiva for Li-Jin. It's the missing scene of my dreams, the dark matter around which so many of the novel's events swirl. It's a perfect moment of broken hybridity, cultural mismatches becoming absurd in the face of the universality of death.

If that doesn't appeal to you, feel free to tell me the missing scene of your dreams, or show me more about Alex and Adam or Alex and Esther or Alex and Joseph. I'm flexible.

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Something horridly over-metafictional. Let the wankers call it self-indulgent and twee all they want. Or, you know, anything else you want to make. This book is so big and overflowing with stories.

This book is so gigantic that I don't know what to say. There are so many stories begging to be expanded, so many characters I'd love to see more of. The Saleem/Shiva/Parvati dynamic strikes me as central, and fascinating in many ways. I enjoy bouncing Midnight's Children off against its literary inspirations, Tristram Shandy and the Arabian Nights and Hamlet and H. Hatterr, East and West in ferocious phantasmal collision. I'd also think it fascinating to update the history to accommodate later events in Indian history that Saleem's life continues to parallel.

Treemonisha by Scott Joplin

For Treemonisha, I'd love to see post-canon, her continued climb and struggle. With maybe a little more realism and less didacticism. For Zodzetrick, I just want him canonized with Oberon and the Queen of the Night and all of the other great mystical beings of opera.

A super obscure and brilliant ragtime grand opera, Americana meeting Mozart. It's only a couple hours long, so if you're struggling on another match, it might be worth checking out as an alternative.

I love Treemonisha the character and would love anything about her post-canon life. The Great Migration was taking place and she would obviously be torn between the community she has grown up with and the new communities forming where there were jobs. What kinds of choices would she make?

I'd also be interested in seeing something with Zodzetrick, who is such a neat character, in the Queen of the Night vein. Folklore and superstition battling against Enlightenment, given a clever 20th century polish. I'm a scientist and a rationalist most of the time, but I think there's something admirable about the way folklore and superstition always rises up to social fill needs when science falters.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

There are many crossovers that would delight me- none more than Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road.

I'd love to see a roc. I'd love to see djinns. I'd love to see all sorts of other Arabian folklore and how Raseed and Adoulla respond to it.

I'd love to see what Adoulla in retirement looks like. I'd love to see Raseed coming to terms with his feelings about Zamia, or Raseed realizing that he doesn't need the dervishes anymore. I'd love to see something super-scientific and alchemisty.

I want more adventures.

"The Paper Menagerie" by Ken Liu

Hm... I guess what I'm most fascinated with is the menagerie itself. Is it sentient? How do the creatures think, and how do they feel about the world?

This is a short story that won the Hugo Award for best short story this year, so if you're struggling on something else, this is a super short canon you can catch up on.

"The Paper Menagerie" is heartbreaking and lovely as a story about being separated from your culture and paying the cost for that separation, about how much it hurts to feel ashamed of who you are. But I want a focus not on the characters but on the paper animals in the menagerie. Fanart would be awesome. So would stories focusing on paper animal perspectives of events from the story.

Or, as with all of these, anything else that seizes your imagination. I'm trying to throw suggestions out there because I know I like getting some guidance, but I'm really not very picky.

Anyway, thanks so much! Best of luck!


Nov. 27th, 2011 06:31 pm
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
For Kaleidoscope, I wrote what I've been calling my Epistolary Lesbian Steampunk Voodoo Frankenstein story. (Alai told me it sounded like I was going for geek bingo) It is the Ferretiest story ever, despite my doubts that I could make the whole thing work. It's also the first story I wrote entirely to an outline in a very, very long time. I had to plan this thing out, the story beats were complicated and I didn't trust myself with the details.

The Petro Dynamo, prequelfic for NK Jemisin's "The Effluent Engine", which is steampunk set in 1840s New Orleans.

I'm quite pleased with the story. I vowed to Alai when I first got the prompt that it would be the hardest science he'd ever seen in a steampunk story, as I grappled with the fact that I had to write steampunk, horror of horrors. I'm pretty sure I've succeeded.

[personal profile] sanguinity wrote something about the cargo-cultyness of steampunk, which was a sentiment I largely agreed with before starting to write the story, but I think I found the virtues of steampunk in writing this story. It's a mode for telling stories about the past that are also stories about the future, and that's a useful thing. It's also a way to ask questions about what might have been- that chief question of historical research- about scientific history. For as long as I've been studying history I've been poking at the hidden ways in which science has been pushing and prodding politics and culture. Belle and I, among others, have had long, loud arguments about the extent to which social developments can be attributes to technological change. Steampunk is centrally about litigating those questions, about pushing science to the forefront of our past. At least when it's done right.

I think I once told someone that if I were to become a mad scientist, I would want to be either an 18th century vivisectionist or a 14th century alchemist. There's a little bit of both in this story. There, that's the best enticement I can offer to read this story.

Thanks go to [personal profile] paxpinnae for reviewing my outline and to Alai and Lee for last minute reading and commenting that helped polish the final version that went live. I was really nervous about writing this story and having smart people to check me was a tremendous help.

Lastly, a thousand thanks to [ profile] rhi for writing "Optic/Nerve". My ridiculous Dhalgren crackfic is still out there waiting to be written, but I am immensely pleased with the tiny yet enormous snapshot of Bellona that you shared with me.
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I received a Dhalgren story for Kaleidoscope. "Optic/Nerve" is the title and I confess that since my request had suggested that a Wolverine&Kidd crackfic adventure would be fun, I thought when I saw the title we might see Scott Summers make an appearance. No matter, the story was wonderful despite its total lack of X-Men jokes.

I first read it at about 7am Sunday morning from my hotel room at Philcon while various other people snored or grumbled angrily at the morning sun. Reading it in that setting was a blissful, meditative experience. The story is subtle and extremely thoughtful and I love the way it cheats by relying on tiny allusions to the source material to tell an expansive and large story in only 1300 words. That's really beautiful technical execution, especially for a Dhalgren story. I have reread the story several times since then. I keep finding more in it.

Mostly what I keep finding is more and more love. This story is a revelation about the depths of the feelings Denny and Lanya and Kidd share. Dhalgren itself is so muddled on the question. The characters are confused about their feelings, confused about what commitment means when everything could change at any minute. It is one of fanfiction's most sacred jobs to ship characters that canon is unwilling to commit to shipping. This story makes Denny/Lanya/Kidd about more than just desperate, incoherent sex.

In any case, I think I would say I would be unsurprised if [personal profile] starlady wrote this story, but I don't feel confident in that guess. Meanwhile, my story is about as guessable as anything I've ever written. [personal profile] sanguinity guessed pretty instantly. I pretty much just crammed the story with all of the hallmarks of a [personal profile] seekingferret story, until it overflowed.
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Whew! Kaleidoscope story first draft is 'finished' at 5200 words. Finished meaning two major sections that don't advance the plot but without which the story is meaningless are unwritten, but I can at least send it off to my beta and get that process moving.

I did not anticipate this story being this complicated to write, but I'm really pleased with it. NaNo starts tonight, so I'd better finish up those last two sections so I can move on to my next writing project.

I've written the last few thousand words on my new shiny HP Touchpad, by the way. With the wireless keyboard I find writing pretty straightforward, and my writing program syncs to Dropbox whenever I'm connected to the internet, which is sweet. Overall, I'm pleased with the Touchpad. It has a nice email program that integrates my yahoo and gmail accounts, plays video well, works as an ereader, plays music both locally and via Pandora and other internet radio services, and has a well thought out interface for multitasking. For the price, it was a great deal.

Now I just need to settle on a writing song for NaNo. Last year it was Justin Bieber's "U Smile" in that ambient version slowed by 800%. I kept listening to it again and again as I wrote. I'm hoping to settle on something that hits a similar balance of ambient yet rhythmic. Maybe the Orb. "Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld" might be a little too distracting in places, but it's a great album anyway.

Oh, I also need a plot, but I guess we'll see about that tonight.


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