Friday, November 24, 2000

I typed up "Other Cities" this morning (I mostly write longhand first; I like the process of transcribing it into the computer, it forces me to do a deep rereading). I don't know if I will send it to GVG; really, it has no characters and no plot, and I'm not even sure it really belongs in "speculative fiction", though it clearly has spec fic elements. Maybe I should just start with somewhere like Interzone, Century, or The Third Alternative. Or somewhere lit-fic, except I haven't really found any lit-fic markets that like practically plotless surrealism, either. Maybe Zoetrope? Well, I shouldn't second-guess myself, I guess; just send it around and see who bites. And I must say F&SF is lately publishing lots of stuff wonderfully outside the classic genre clichés, like the December issue's "The Godsman and The Goblin", which is wonderfully pre-Raphaelite (however, unlike "Other Cities", it has a plot). 

Now I'm here at home (still on my work laptop, though, until I buy a new home computer) trying to get myself begin the revision of "Corporate Anthropology." 
Revising "Corporate Anthropology"
Here are some of the things people brought up:
  • They wanted more physical, sensory detail: what does Anshula look like? Where does the interview with the Company Man take place? They also wanted to know what Derya was like before the crisis the story describes -- at his everyday work, with Anshula, etc.
  • They wanted Derya to be, if more heroic wasn't on offer, at least more consistent. He seems to swing at random between outrage, apathy, and frightened passivity. They got frustrated with him -- he's such a passive mouse.
  • They wanted more of a sense of Anshula.
  • They wanted more meat to the world. The war seemed extraneous; the Hegemony is not well enough described; the Baditsch (ironically, from my point of view) seem like generic primitives.
  • The first scene is way too long.
  • Some of the stuff seems unbelievable - like Derya's whipping up a mind-transfer machine in his lab.
The critiques were wonderfully useful, not only in terms of their suggestions, but in terms of what I see is not even picked up on by the reader yet. For instance, Derya's passivity is meant to be a by-product of the Hegemony's totalitarian control, but it reads like just his personal character flaw. The Hegemony isn't realistic: it's a cardboard totalitarianism, and in particular it is transported directly from 20th-century totalitarianisms to this rather far future, and that makes no sense: things change. It should be both more profoundly sinister and more acceptable on the surface -- good at lulling people into being co-opted.  Derya also is too much of a bystander -- he wants Anshula to come away with him, she won't, then he does Folcmar a favor. He doesn't make real, powerful choices that make a difference.

So I think I need some more scenes. First, I probably want something before the arrival of the Company Man (though it's a shame to lose the current opening paragraph) showing Anshula & Derya's relationship, and showing some of the insidious, almost-unnoticed awfulness of the Hegemony. Second, I want to somehow break the office scene up and move some of the exposition out of it. Third, the scene where Derya does the mad scientist thing should perhaps be shown rather than summarized. Fourth, the confrontation with Folcmar should be shown, and there should be some real choices there. This may mean I have to throw out the surprise ending, which would be too bad; but Derya probably needs to do more than go, gee, okay. The Baditsch should be more alien, perhaps -- we should have more of a sense of it being a sacrifice for Derya. Maybe there should be more tension between him and Folcmar; maybe they should be always feuding? Maybe Derya should refuse the request, then change his mind after some depredation by the Hegemony? Maybe we should get a sense of what it means for Folcmar to ask. Fifth, the final five-in-one-body scene should be more vivid, showing us what it's like in there. 

Now these here are really notes to myself, particularly if, dear Reader, you haven't read the tale in question. Does that violate, I wonder, the implicit contract of this journal? I imagine not, since I think part of the fun of reading a writer's journal is looking over the writer's shoulder as she works, and listening to her babble; that is, you get an unvarnished, intimate look at the writer at work. Or something. Anyway, if I get too obscure, let me know.

In case Posterity is interested in this kind of trivia, I stole the names Derya Savash and Anshula Kedar from real people, both friends of mine whose whereabouts are now unknown to me. I thought it would be kind of fun if they ever ran across the published story. (Which is less likely in Derya's case, as he's probably in Istanbul). Actually Folcmar, Tomi, Ansi, and Rut have real-life namesakes too, all from my life here in Switzerland.