Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Burning Update Experience: Life Goes On

It's that time again. Time for me to imitate my inspiration, the inestimable Mur Lafferty of I Should Be Writing and come clean on how much writing I've actually been doing and what else is going on in my creative world.

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When it comes to fiction, I am still caught up in the Burning Rejection Challenge, where I dedicated myself to collecting fifty rejection letters in the coming year. The goal - to explain it to those who, like my father, might view it as somewhat backwards thinking - is to get myself to send stories out. If I make getting acceptances my goal, I'm bound to be disappointed more often than not. Even the best author gets rejected a lot, especially at first. If I make the goal of the game to collect rejections, though, I transform it into a win-win situation. If I get rejected, I win! One closer to my goal of fifty! If I get accepted, I win! More importantly, so do my ego and my bank account!

So far, I've accumulated... one rejection letter. However, I have sent out not one, not two, but three stories: The Invisible Kingdom (Redux) to Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show, Storm Seeker to Black Gate, and The Evil Eye to Weird Tales. Two factors have been slowing me down: the incredibly slow turnaround time on submissions (often upwards of two months!) and what I'm calling a creative pseduo-slump. While I've had plenty of energy when it comes to completing, rewriting, and generally making printworthy old stories, no new ideas have leapt out at me. I wrote The Evil Eye back in the fall, The Invisible Kingdom (v1.0) about three years ago, and Storm Seeker back in college, back before the Abigail and I were even dating! I'm not complaining, mind you. My habit of starting stories and never finishing them is a good one to break.

As I implied in my last post, I think this is a symptom of my long inactivity. Getting up in the morning and going to an actual job (well, an actual training for an actual job for five months, then a month off, and then an actual job) will be good for my creative muscles. With old input, I improve old ideas, with new input will come new ideas.

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Speaking of input, I am currently reading a lot of podcasts. Er... listening to a lot of stories. You know what I mean: Podcastle, Escape Pod, and Pseudopod have been a big deal in my personal brainspace. I like to think that all this short fiction is also helping me improve the short stories I've been sending out, but we'll see.

I've also been slowly working my way through Sir James George Frazer's The Golden Bough. I don't know how many of you are aware of this, but I was a religion major in college (I actually wanted to be a rabbi), and I remain fascinated by the things people believe. There's not much diference between fantasy and religion - I say this with the utmost respect and affection for both. We are story creatures, designed to take in life and put out narrative, making sense of the world. Making a myth is one of the most beautiful and fundamentally human things we do, up there with love, heroism, and art.

That's probably why I find some of Frazer's attitudes frustrating. His insistance that magic is replaced by religion is replaced by science is pretty self serving - of course, Frazer and his buddies are the scientists - and Frazer seems to have no consciousness about this. Despite the fact that his book studies magic and religion, he seems pretty dismissive of both. The fact that Frazer also tends to use the "savages" of Madagascar and the Indies as examples sticks in my metaphorical craw as well. That said, I haven't finished the book yet, so I shall refrain from any definitive statements until I have. This is just where I am right now.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently purchased a whole mess of RPG books, which I've also been reading, which brings us too...

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Actually, the world of gaming has been pretty slow lately. Both the Abigail and I have numerous other obligations which prevent us from playing with each other or anyone else nearly as often as we'd like.

Between the Abigail and myself, we are running Divine Fire, a highly fun, slightly goobery Mage: the Awakening chronicle about a former Promethean (zombie alchemists seeking the Golden Dawn of humanity) who turned Mage upon achieving her goal. In the previous chapter, Cleo discovered her secret past and helped her Promethean friends free themselves from an onerous enmity. In this chapter, Cleo has been discovering just how far she will go to keep her friends safe... and how far some other people will go to make this difficult for her.

I also had the honor to run a one shot of Changeling: the Lost for the Abigail, Becca, and our friend Nick. In this game, I experimented with an absent-yet-present Storyteller Character in the form of Auragas, the Summer King, who had recently died of complications during heart surgery. As his favored courtiers, the player characters had the opportunity to tell me who Auragas was through their narrative and the character creation questionnaires they filled out at the start of game. It turned out that Auragas was a basically honorable but ultimately complicated man who had tried to do his job well despite his foibles. However, Auragas could have just as easily turned out to be a total bastard who the player characters were happy to be rid of, or an utter paragon of virtue, which would have sent the session in a totally different direction. I had no idea who Auragas would be until game started, and it was tons of fun.

[For a more detailed write-up of the session, you can check out the Changeling: the Lost Livejournal Community].

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Finally, lest I come across as a literary saint, I have something to own up to. I did not, as I promised, send anything to the Fantasy Magazine flash fiction contest. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect that I would, given the crazy that had invaded my life at that point, but that's not the issue. The issue is that I said I would, and I didn't, which is a shame, because now I know for a fact that I won't win.

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That about covers today's Burning Update Experience. As I posted yesterday, and in accordance to the new schedule, I'll see you again on Friday.

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