Tag Archives: Charles Bukowski

Setsu goes to San Diego! ConDor 21

freya

Laura N. Stephenson as Freya, spearing me. http://deskoflaurastephenson.blogspot.com/

I’ve just returned from ConDor 21, a science-fiction and fantasy convention in San Diego. It was a small event, maybe a few hundred people. Despite its size, the range of events and attendees was expansive.  In a span of twenty feet, I saw steampunk costumers, whovians, ghostbuster-gunslingers, hard sci-fi authors who have been writing since the 80s, fencers and inventors. I saw mummers perform, and learned line dances from the time of the American Revolution. I learned about anti-heroes, how to sustain tension in romance, the development of airship technology in the real world, and how fantasy elements like magic affect large-scale war tactics (I.e., being able to ward off dysentery or preserve food is FAR more useful than being able to chuck fireballs).

That’s some incredible variety.

(Except for the photos, I’m always getting killed in those)

What struck me about the pro/fan interaction was that no one had the same frame of reference. No matter what the subject, when someone mentioned their favorite example, no one had read that book. I think that’s why genre writers and fans have latched on to older material from the 30s (Conan) 50s (Lord of the Rings) 60s (Doctor Who) and 70s (Star Wars). I can’t say for sure if there was less competition; but mass-distribution of science fiction and fantasy was rarer. It’s interesting to note that something like Lord of the Rings would never be published in today’s market — the standards are much more specific. As a result, we’re re-booting the popular items all the time. We are the generation inspired by those big, sweeping stories to either ‘do it justice,’ or write our own.

It makes me wonder what it would take to stand out in the age of self-publishing. It makes me wonder what the difference is between writing fanfiction and being hired to write a novel set in the Dark Crystal universe. There’s really only one answer — you have to keep going, and you have to love it. Worry about fame and recognition later. If I learned anything this weekend, it’s that there’s enough room on the bookshelf for all of us.   I tried to find a quote, but I found this poem instead. Please enjoy, and I’ll see you around.

“Style is the answer to everything.
Fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous day.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without style.
To do a dangerous thing with style, is what I call art.
Bullfighting can be an art.
Boxing can be an art.
Loving can be an art.
Opening a can of sardines can be an art.
Not many have style.
Not many can keep style.
I have seen dogs with more style than men.
Although not many dogs have style.
Cats have it with abundance.

When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a shotgun, that was style.
For sometimes people give you style.
Joan of Arc had style.
John the Baptist.
Jesus.
Socrates.
Caesar.
García Lorca.
I have met men in jail with style.
I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail.
Style is a difference, a way of doing, a way of being done.
Six herons standing quietly in a pool of water, or you, walking
out of the bathroom without seeing me.”
Charles Bukowski

gun

Jerry Abuan Photography – Steamgirl does NOT want free hugs from my Redcap self.

 

 

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Birds of a Feather Sometimes Despise Each Other

sharpie

“What? You said we must bring a sharpie to class!”

Sometimes while looking for a community or mentor, you strike gold. Other times, our fellow writers can be as alienating as the most soulless corporate setting.

Toward the end of my college career, I decided to take a writing class which was far outside my major. The class was described as a place where Writers (published, fancy, mentor-types) would talk to us about writing. They would discuss the process of writing, works they’ve produced, and so forth.

Yes! I thought to myself. A writing class! I can always learn new things! O joy! O rapture!

It was not that.

On the first day of class, three-hundred would-be writers stuffed themselves into a lecture hall to listen to the prof review the syllabus. So far, so good. Certain phrases wafted up to me like sewer fumes.

“Your assignment is to fall in love with a novel this quarter [from a prescribed list].”

Oh no.

Then the prof read four poems to us. Four poems she wrote. She read them at a slow cadence, rising and falling with practiced gravity. They were… not good. She poured her lexicon down over our heads, filling our lungs with artistic sludge, and I knew I was going to suffocate. Flailing did no good. Her premise was too thin to swim through. I’m going to die, I thought. I’m going to drown in bombastic overwrought remembrances of “the parlour games of Tolstoy as a nine-year-old boy.”

We must have been darling indeed, for her to murder us on the first day.

After the intellectual water-boarding, she asked us if there are any questions.

I asked if we’re going to talk about the business side of writing. How do we find an agent? How do we get published? She said that there’s no money in poetry, and I bit back the urge to say, “I can see why!” or “that’s not what I asked you.”

She suggested asking our guest speakers those kinds of questions, and assigned us to “discover a haunting, arresting moment, and write it down in your journal. Nothing really developed, not a full idea, just the seeds of a notion.”

We also had to memorize three poems [from a prescribed list].

Continuing in the angry vein, we went on to do ice-breakers in small groups. With a partner, write your name, year, and major on an index card. On the back, write two reasons you think writing is important. I wrote:

  1. Writing is an important outlet so that you don’t pick up a tire-iron and brain someone.
  2. It is a document to prove that we were here.

Reason #1 is Lewis Black’s explanation for why there’s no such thing as bad language. Reason #2 is a line from the Assemblage 23 song, “Document.”

The only person who laughed at the tire-iron joke was my partner, and she thought my name was Whitney. My name sounds as close to “Whitney” as the name “Katie” sounds like “Azerbaijan.”

“What?” I said to my classmate.

“I don’t know! I told you I’m not good with names!” said my classmate.

“Do you prefer to be called Whitney?” asked the teacher, confused.

“No, my name is not Whitney. I have no idea where she got that from.” I said.

She also didn’t know what year I was. Or what my major was. These were one-word answers that I gave her not two minutes beforehand. They were also written down, plain as day, on the index card sitting on our desk.

Sometimes you won’t fit in. That’s ok. Don’t give up. Your people are out there.