Revolution

I started to think that maybe, possibly, this show might not actually suck.

Being super drained after moving, I wanted something that I could sit and stare at for hours on end without thinking, so I started binge-watching this TV show that Netflix put into their Top 10 Shows We Know You Will Like. It’s called Revolution. After five minutes, I thought, “Oh God, seriously? Another post-apocalyptic, civilization-has-collapsed show? Like Jericho? Falling Skies? Under the Dome (kind of)? Um… all those other shows I can’t think of at this moment? And J.J. Abrams is involved? Hasn’t he done enough damage with Lost and Fringe?” I was thoroughly prepared to turn it off after five minutes and move on to something else, because I knew without a doubt it was going to suck, and it would be filled with stupid science and clichés put in by clueless TV executives.

But a funny thing happened. I was too tired to think, because of the aforementioned moving tiredness. So I kept staring at the screen. Ten minutes went by, then fifteen, then thirty. And, you know, I started to think that maybe, possibly, this show might not actually suck. Despite the fact that my brain is clearly addled from the moving tiredness. Still, there might be a possibility that I could enjoy this show even without moving-induced brain tiredness. After all, it’s got that super awesome bad guy from Breaking Bad in it. And that guy that I’ve seen before but I don’t know his name because he’s one of those actors that’s in a lot of sort of B-movie things but isn’t really a “star” or maybe some television doctor drama things on other channels that I never watch. Actually there’s two of them. And there’s that blonde-haired woman that I think was in Lost and some other stuff before that.

(It does have stupid science though. Electricity just stopped working? Really? Because physics changed? And somehow a flash drive makes it work again? Come on, people. Take a science class some time. I swear if they end up saying it’s because of quantum physics I’m going to throw the Kindle across the room.)

(But I know they will, because television writers always say that quantum physics explains everything, just like Gandalf’s magic.)

The Curse of Chalion, Part 2

This book really grew on me. I almost stopped reading it at about 20%, but pressed onward, and I’m glad I did, because I feel like I learned something important about writing from this book. When I got to about 35% I was hooked, and when I got to about 40% I was riveted. I won’t spoil it but if you’ve read the book you probably know the events that caused the riveting. The book has a lot of religious themes after the 40% mark which are really interesting.

I said I learned something important about writing, and that was: People that give advice on how to write aren’t always right. Or perhaps I should say: Successful authors don’t always follow the rules. I knew that before, but this book really exemplified it. Fully the first 1/3 of the book is a prologue or preamble or backstory. The "inciting incident" that propelled the main character past the point of no return didn’t occur until precisely the 37% mark. That is *completely* contrary to the "in-late, out-early" formula drilled into every new writer’s head. By conventional new-writer wisdom, the "inciting incident" should occur at approximately the 0% mark, or possibly even a negative percentage mark and told in flashback, because we are told that you only have a sentence or a paragraph or maybe — if you’re very lucky — a page or two to hook new readers. Bujold threw that advice completely out the window. And the book was published in 2001, so it’s not like it’s an old book from the 60s when people had more attention spans.

(Granted, she had several award-winning and -nominated novels under her belt prior to writing this one, so she already had a fan base that would read no matter what. New writers don’t have that luxery.)

The book felt extremely epic, yet it was written with only one POV, defying the notion that you have to write a dozen different POV characters to write epic fantasy.

Almost no time was spent on traveling, despite the fact that the main character changed settings several times. To me, this was amazing, because I find myself mired in "road trip" chapters all too often. It’s nice to see that you can just skip over a long journey if you need to.

Another thing I found amazing was that *there was no action in this book.* I mean, there were no sword fights, no chases, no dungeons, no wars, no rope-swinging, no fist-fights, no hanging from ledges by a fingernail, no nothing. Well, okay, there was a little bit of sword-fighting toward the end, but it was almost an after-thought. It was 99% medieval court politics and human relationships and religious philosophy, and yet somehow those topics which sound insufferably boring on the surface were made tense and exciting. And it was elegantly written to boot, with a wide variety of interesting grammar and vocabulary.

I feel like describing Curse as a "classy" book, as opposed to something like a Game of Thrones which I might be tempted to call "crass" by comparison. Those aren’t very good words, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Page of Scribbling Technique

A page of scribbling trying to block out what I thought would be the final 10,000 words or so of Airworld.

AirworldScribblesSmall

Just for posterity, here is a page of scribbling I did trying to block out what I thought would be the final 10,000 words or so of Airworld. What ended up happening is that I raised more questions than I answered, and all the answers started branching off into all these other fairly massive sub-plots. You may also notice there is a whole new, vitally important character in there that was introduced very late in the story. (Just in case I ever do finish the story, I blurred out some spoilers.)

(I’m not really sure if the page-of-scribbling technique actually works for me as a writer.)

Jamestown is a Fertile Source of Story

For the last few days I’ve been researching the beginning of the Jamestown colony, because I’ve been tossing around the idea of basing a story around similar events. (I know, everyone else has done it — Disney, James Cameron — so why not me? It’s a freakin’ timeless story after all, even if you totally leave out the whole John Smith/Pocahontas angle.)

Actually “researching” is probably not the right word. “Voraciously obsessed with reading about” is probably more accurate. I can understand why it’s been a popular story for all these years. It’s the perfect storm of human drama, all rolled into a 5-10 year period.

If you’re curious about digging into the Jamestown story, I suggest you avoid Wikipedia for anything but a basic overview. It is disjointed and filled with inaccuracies and discrepencies when you look too closely. (The entry for Edward Wingfield is pure propaganda.) I recommend a book called _Love and Hate in Jamestown_ by David Price which essentially takes all of the data we have about Jamestown and compiles it into a very readable, if somewhat pro-John Smith, narrative. It does include some editorializing and speculation but for the most part it sticks with the facts as I’ve discovered them. I also recommend _The Jamestown Adventure: Accounts of the Virginia Colony, 1605-1614_ by Ed Southern which contains (edited) first-hand accounts written by colonists. (In which you will learn that “divers” [diverse, or various] was an extremely popular word back then.)

I’m doing all of this, by the way, because borrowing from actual history is apparently a time-honored tradition among fantasy authors. _Game of Thrones_, as I’m sure you know, is based on the events of the War of the Roses. (Even the names of the Starks and Lannisters bear a striking resemblence to the Yorks and Lancasters.) _The Curse of Chalion_, which I was reading before I got sidetracked on Jamestown, is apparently based on the lives of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, the unifiers of Spain.

Speaking of Spain, another interesting historical event that I’ve investigated for story material is the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). That research is probably what led me to set Airworld in roughly that time period.

He Had His Liberty

What does “he had his liberty” mean?

The Jamestown Adventure

What does “he had his liberty” mean? Say, in the early 17th century?

I came across it reading Edward Wingfield’s account of his removal from the first Council in Jamestown in 1607, in the book The Jamestown Adventure. (Edward Wingfield could be considered the first elected governor of Virginia. Or the first elected president of North America. Or something along those lines.)

“… Mister Kendall, taken from thence, had his liberty, but might not carry arms.”

I am not sure what that means. Does that mean George Kendall was set free or that he was executed? “Liberty” would sort of imply the former, but maybe it means, you know, liberty from this mortal coil. Or something Shakespearean like that. I am confused because I thought that Kendall was executed in Jamestown. Maybe it means he had a trial. Maybe it was a trial by dueling pistols, but they didn’t allow him to have a pistol (“but might not carry arms”).

I Googled for other examples, and they all seem equally ambiguous.

I hate it when the Internet does not contain the knowledge I seek.

Oh, Wikipedia says George Kendall was executed by firing squad … but a year after Wingfield was removed, so that doesn’t really fit the above events. (Wikipedia, just so you know, is awful about the details of early Jamestown. Dates and names and places are all over the map.)

Wait, now I think I understand. Kendall was set free, but he was not allowed to carry a weapon afterward. Then, a year later, he did something else which got him executed. Maybe?

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

I started reading The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.

I started reading The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold … and this time, I actually *mean* reading, not listening to the audiobook. (There are people who insist that listening to an audiobook is the same as reading, but IMO they are very different media consumption experiences.) I picked it up because I saw that it was the next book in The Sword and Laser book club, so on impulse I got it. Not because I wanted to participate in The Sword and Laser, but because I’d wanted to read a Bujold book anyway because her name appears somewhat frequently on the Hugo award winner list.

Well, I’m now about 20% into this book, and I’m thinking about stopping. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with the book. It’s well-written and charming in its way, but I’m running into the same problem I have with a lot of books. I don’t know what the main character’s goal is. He doesn’t seem to have a mission. I really have a hard time getting into stories when the characters don’t have some kind of quest or conflict driving them.

Also, I believe this is the first book in a series, and I don’t really want to get into a long series that is just “okay.”

Well, well. I was looking up how many books were in the series and found it’s not really a series at all. It’s sequel is Paladin of Souls, which is a Hugo-award-winning book that I *do* want to read. So perhaps I will discard all of my biases and press onward. It’s a relatively fast read for a fantasy book anyway.