Monday, October 24, 2011

Character. Driven. Fiction.

I've seen a lot of talk about the distinction between genre and non-genre fiction. As a college student, I definitely felt as if genre fiction, my favorite to write, was looked down upon as un-intellectual, un-literary. But by and large, I simply think there are two kinds of fiction, one of which usually wins the literary awards, and one of which a lot of genre fiction tends to fit into. One kind of fiction says: "The world has broken you. What are you going to do about it?" (Broken Character fiction.) The other says: "This world is broken. What are you going to do about it?" (Broken World fiction.)

Yes, I think the vast majority of literary, awarded literature is fiction about characters whose circumstances have broken them in some special and interesting way--a way that then reflects upon some larger issue of the human condition. Most genre fiction (romance, mystery, Western, SF/F/H) is about normal (ish) people who must overcome some kind of external obstacles. People get pissy over the distinction between "character-driven" and "externally driven" literature, and they're right to be. Both kinds of fiction are about characters and their motivations. Both require insight into humanity, an examination of how people function when things go wrong. You can learn from both.

Do I think one kind is better than the other? No. But I do think Broken Character writing might take a little more skill. Why? Because being broken brings out what's worst in a person, and it's hard to create a character who is believably broken who isn't so annoying the reader throws the book out the window!

On a much lighter note, I will be at the World Fantasy Convention this weekend. If you'll be at the convention, too, and would like to meet up or buy me drinks (hey, a girl can try!), here is my schedule:
  • Thursday, 10pm. How to Survive the Coming Zombie Apocalypse. (Panel)
  • Saturday, 3 pm. Reading from The Way of the Wizard. (Group reading/party)
  • Saturday, 6 pm. Edge Book Launch. (Group reading/party) -- I'll be reading from Rigor Amortis, so be prepared for some raunch. Or squick. Or just plain fun.
  • Saturday, 8 pm. Inkpunks 1st Anniversary Party! (Group reading/party)--I'll be reading "Curvature of the Witch House," currently up at Innsmouth Magazine. But more importantly, there will be drinks! And snacks! And hot, hot door prizes!
  • Sunday, 10 am. Crossed Genres Group Reading. Ease out of your hangover as I read a teaser from "A Tiny Grayness in the Dark," which is in CG's forthcoming Subversion anthology.
Hope to see you in the forthcoming merriment!

10pm (Arrgh! Shouldn't I be DRINKING at 10pm?): How to Survive the Coming Zombie Apocalypse panel

3: The Way of the Wizard -- group reading/party
6: Edge Book Launch
8: Inkpunks group reading/party

10 am: Crossed Genres group reading

Monday, October 17, 2011

Playing around

Last week combined illness and writer's block with the result of zero accomplishments (save sewing a Halloween costume for my daughter and crocheting a scarf for my own Halloween costume). I know it's not popular to admit to writer's block--I feel sometimes that if you say you believe in it, other writing types act as if you've just admitted to believe in the Boogey Man or something equally infantile. I think a better name might be "Brain Tantrums" or "Sick Leave for the Intelligence." Honestly, I've reached a point in my current work/home/jobbing life that I just don't have enough oomph. For the past three years, I've tried to limit myself to one day off a week, a day that I still usually wind up using for editorial work, and it's okay to sometimes admit that I'm tired.

So, I was sick, and then I was tired, and I took a few days off. I will probably take it fairly easy this week, too, focusing on fun projects, like a short story that I'm writing just for me. Or maybe some poetry. And yes, my favorite fun activity: decorating for Halloween! Maybe we'll make another batch of dried apple people. Last year's (pictured above) turned out great.

I would encourage you to do the same! We all have work and projects and things we have to do, but there's something about autumn that always reminds me that creativity is at its heart a fun activity. If you don't get enough fun in your system, if you don't let yourself creatively play, then your art really suffers.

So peeps--what are some playful creative activities you plan to enjoy?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Seeds & Deeds

I've been following the activities of Occupy Wall Street for the last handful of days. It's fascinating and exciting, motivating the way nothing has motivated me for the last ... jeez, seven or eight years. That's right, dear blog--I used to be a social justice-seeking, politics-thinking, environment-defending lady. And then I gave up. Somewhere around the time of the Gulf War (boy, that march the day before the war started was amazing!), I started feeling like a whipped cur and crept down into the lair of apathy to lick my wounds.

But Occupy Wall Street has a lot going for it. It's stirring up people at a time when most people are seething silently, without words or hope. And while its message of general rage and dissatisfaction is being dismissed by many as an ineffective stance, I think that's a misunderstanding of the event's goal. I see this activity as an event that doesn't effect one particular change--it effects change in the hearts and minds of the American populace.

Other Occupy events, such as Occupy St Louis, which has targeted BofA as an agent of anti-populace economic affairs; and Occupy LA, which is targeting the Fannie Mae building for much the same reason, have actual targets. That's good! These are smaller, pointed actions that are directed at making a particular change within an egregious system. I'm happy to see them out there, fighting for these goals.

But Occupy Wall Street is much bigger than this. Occupy Wall Street is doing something remarkable: it is creating a real live community that functions using an advanced democratic and economic system. They are organizing a new kind of community, a new kind of social organization. And even if the movement ends with members drifting away to escape New York's winter weather, just the fact that they were able to create this one little community is amazing. It is a seed that will take root inside people and grow.

The United States was a pioneer in representative democracy--and the form for it was drafted close to 300 years ago, in an era where global and instantaneous communication was unimaginable. Capitalism was given form and structure at the same time. Alternative political economic structures, like the communism born from Karl Marx's writings, were created 150 years ago, when the telegram was giving the first hints of what a new, fully communicative society could be about. It is time for a new political economy, an economy that recognizes that the unimpeded flow of money and information is the essence of human freedom.

We learned from the totalitarian communist systems of the early 20th century that the government cannot be allowed absolute control of the flow of money and information. This creates corruption and the erosion of citizen power. And we're seeing today in the United States that when corporations control the flow of money and information, the government must pander to their concerns, resulting in corruption and the erosion of citizen power. We need a system that balances government oversight--because government is (or should be) the primary way to express the voice of the people--with competitive choices. Businesses can compete in wonderful ways. They can create wonderful things for us. But they cannot be allowed to crush us.

The sub-movements of the Occupy Together protests and the individuals inspired by the protests must try to find concrete ways to make our current political economical system function better. But Occupy Wall Street's job? It's to teach us how to create the next system, a system that right now lives as a kind of waking dream in New York, where people are sharing their possessions and skills and finding ways to create mass consensus. To us out here, it feels like Shangri-La. But it's real, it's real, it's real for them in Liberty Plaza.