Intermittent findings #01

Trying something new! At a cadence to be figured out as we go, I’d like to try sharing some things I’ve found inspiring, helpful, or otherwise cool in the last couple of days. I’ll try to keep things related to SF&F fiction and writing in general.

Fiction from others

I’m subscribed to Lightspeed and several other magazines (via an RSS reader called Newsblur, which has been helpful in curbing my online diet) and recently came across “The Ocean Between the Leaves” by Ray Nayler. The tone was what caught me first, but what truly stunned me were the ideas shaped around this one character – so dense and intriguing! I’m still making my way through his other works. Not because they’re hard to read but because for example, “The Swallows of the Storm,” they leave me in such a state that days later, I feel like I’m still wading through the world. The tone of the latter reminds me a bit of horror, which is amusing to me because I actually don’t prefer horror as a genre. But the ideas are developed so deeply that I couldn’t keep myself from continuing to read and be led into the fog of these worlds.

Writing craft

Endings have always been the bane of my writing and I finally decided to dig into learning more about this tricky part of storytelling. I’m a more recent reader of Dean Wesley Smith‘s blog — I’ve followed his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, for several years now — and decided to look through their extensive catalog of lectures sand workshops on Teachable. While I bookmarked a great many of other courses, I started with this short series of lectures on writing endings. In 9 videos, Dean Wesley Smith packed in clear, actionable tips and numerous ways to study other media for further self-learning. Don’t let the length — or rather, lack of — fool you: While I personally was able to get through all of the videos in less than an hour, I was taking notes the whole time and had lightbulb moments pretty much every video. The learning garnered will likely fuel me for the rest of the year. (I’m not associated with WMG or either Smith or Rusch at all, just a big fan of their fiction and non-fiction work. Also, they’re running a sale this week where every course is half off!)

Health and wellbeing

One thing I’ve learned over the course of the pandemic is just how important one’s health – and by “health” I mean all aspects, from physical, emotional, spiritual, etc. – is in order to create unique, self-expressive work. While this isn’t as directly related to writing as the above section, I strongly believe that improving one’s health and self-awareness is just as important as honing one’s writing skills.

Suleika Jaouad’s name came across my inbox and after some light Googling, I came across her TED talk, “What almost dying taught me about living.” Shared in 2019, it was near the end that I realized just how much her talk spoke to this post-vaccination phase of this pandemic experience. Truly a moving talk which I recommend either watching or reading in full. Some quotes that were particularly moving to me:

But the most important thing I learned on that road trip is that the divide between the sick and the well — it doesn’t exist. The border is porous…. the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms, spending much of our lives somewhere between the two. These are the terms of our existence.

Every single one of us will have our life interrupted, whether it’s by the rip cord of a diagnosis or some other kind of heartbreak or trauma that brings us to the floor. We need to find ways to live in the in-between place, managing whatever body and mind we currently have.

Fiction of mine

April’s fiction post was based off of this nagging thought I’ve had about save points. In video games, they’re often just spaces where you as the player bring up a menu to save your progress, but I wonder if there’s something more to them. There’s something about the act of saving that’s so analogous to other things in life – for example, could we consider a biographer as a “save point”? A letter? A post like this? Jade Flute Gate was an exploration of one such pondering, inspired by those review posts, videos, etc. of different destinations and this pondering of, “What if a save point was a physical space that provided different services?” (Think: Those buildings in Japan where there’s multiple levels and each level has a different establish – like a mall but not really.) I’m still not happy with the execution, but the idea itself is one I’m continuing to chew on.

(Note: The eagle eyed may have noticed that I posted a new fiction piece but took it down. The reason? I’ve decided to try my hand at getting my short stories published into professional publications. We’ll see how it goes!)

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