July 15th, 2004

Clarion, Day 40: In which my critting abilities crash and burn

Keats, dying of tuberculosis in Rome, spoke of his 'posthumous existence'. I'm having the same feeling about Clarion. 2 days to go. Actually, I've been feeling this way since Tuesday, 7/13. And I've been starting to preemptively miss my fellow Clarionites for the past week and a half. We critted a story this morning that Kelly Link suggested was an end-of-Clarion story: it was about separation and loss.

I turned in my seventh and final Clarion story, "Lives of the Saints," Monday and it got critted Tuesday. People either liked it until page 13 or until page 20. The Taoist assassin chick picking up the hero in a AH-1W Super Cobra just broke the suspension of disbelief for many. Either that or the talky philosophical discussion at the end. Jeff didn't like the non-standard narrative technique, Kelly liked it and wanted to see more of it. Universal agreement, including me, that the story needs major revisions/rethinking.

This morning I had a bit of a shock that I'm not over yet. We critted a story that I thought had interesting ideas, but significant story-telling problems. Most of the rest of class agreed. Jeff and Kelly absolutely loved it. Kelly suggested SCIFICTION, that it was the kind of thing Ellen Datlow is looking for.

This is a real problem for me, in that it challenges my idea that I know what is successful fiction. Even if the would-be writer can't write as well as he'd like, he *has* to be able to distinguish what fiction is successful and saleable from what isn't, if he is ever to improve his own writing. How do you know what to write if you can't tell good from bad? Up until this point, I thought I had a fairly good idea of *what* worked and what didn't, what an editor would buy and what they probably wouldn't, even I didn't understand fully *how* it worked, how a story achieved its effects. After that story this morning, I'm no longer sure I can even tell good from bad fiction. This is very distressing.

I'm still worried about this.

Also hungry. More after lunch.
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Clarion, Day 40: In which we watch zombie movies and have adventures in the kitchen

Lunch was excellent, left-over coq au vin over toast, to soak up the scrumptious au vin. I cooked dinner for the crew last night, from this recipe for coq au vin. Also made carrot cake, for the second time, and both were well-received.

While cooking dinner, something exciting happened.

V frg gur fgbir ba sver.

Jr'er abg fhccbfrq gb or hfvat gur fgbir, nf cneg bs bhe nterrzrag jvgu gur fbebevgl jubfr ubhfr jr'er fgnlvat va. Ohg vg'f orra uryy qbvat nyy bhe pbbxvat ba gur tevyy bhgfvqr be gur gbnfgre bira. Fb va zvq-jrrx 5, nf cneg bs Wrss naq Xryyl'f rssbeg gb pher bhe znynvfr, ohea-bhg, rkunhfgvba naq ovggrearff, gurl gbyq hf jr pbhyq hfr gur fgbir.

Fb. Cneg bs znxvat gur pbd nh iva vf gb qbhfr jvgu pbatnp naq synzr. V qvq fb. Gur synzrf vtavgrq bar bs gur ternfl ubbq svygref, naq yb, jr unq n fgbir sver. "Bu, fuvg," Avxxv fnvq, "gur fgbir'f ba sver." Tbfu, fur'f n cebsrffvbany pbbx, V gubhtug fur'q xabj jung gb qb. "Trg gur sver rkgvathvfuref," fur fnvq. Fb crbcyr jrag ehaavat sbe gur sver rkgvathvfuref. V jbaqrerq ubj ybat vg jbhyq gnxr gur sver gb fcernq sebz gur fgbir gb gur erfg bs gur ohvyqvat. Crbcyr sebz gur cngvb fgernzrq va, orpnhfr gurl unq abgvprq oynpx fzbxvat cbhevat sebz gur irag. Avxxv fnvq gb fuhg gur ubbq rkunhfg bss, orpnhfr vg jnf snaavat gur synzrf, bs pbhefr, fb jr qvq. V jbaqrerq ubj ybat vg jbhyq or orsber gur sbnz sver rkgvathvfure phg ba. Svyyvat gur xvgpura hc jvgu sbnz vf hapbby.

Ohg fb vf frggvat gur ohvyqvat ba sver. Ybbx, vs gung unccrarq, ab bayl jbhyq gur fbebevgl arire yrg hf hfr gur ohvyqvat ntnva -- juvpu jnf tbvat gb unccra naljnl -- ohg vg'f yvxryl AB BAR jbhyq yrg hf hfr NAL ohvyqvat ntnva, naljurer. Artbgvngvbaf gb gnxr Pynevba gb FHAL jbhyq snyy guebhtu, orphnfr jub jnagf n cebtenz gung abg bayl oernxf gurve pbagenpgf, OHG FRGF OHVYQVATF BA SVER?!?!

Fvatyrunaqrqyl, V unq qbbzrq Pynevba. Whfg ol synzvat. gur. shpxvat. pbd. nh. iva.

Fb, guvf jnf jung jnf tbvat guebhtu zl zvaq.

V jnf gelvat gb trg gur synzvat ubbq svygre bhg bs gur ubbq, gb guebj vg vagb gur fvax, jura vg jrag bhg ol vgfrys. Naq gung jnf gung. Ab zber sver. "V arrq n fzbxr," Avxxv fnvq, naq ehfurq bhg. Ng guvf cbvag sbhe crbcyr ehfurq va jvgu sver rkgvathvfuref, naq V gbyq gurz gb tb njnl, gunaxf ohg vg'f nyy bire, abguvat gb frr urer, sbyxf. V frnerq gur arkg ongpu bs puvpxra, ohg synzrq vg jryy njnl sebz gur ubbq.

A classic Clarion experience.

Bu, lrnu, jr'er oernxvat bhe pbagenpg va bgure jnlf, gbb. Yvxr, 'ab nypbuby'. Uru. Uru.^2 Fb sne, ab bar unf ebyyre fxngrq va gur ubhfr, gubhtu. Znlor jr pna znantr gb qb gung orsber jr yrnir.

Last night many of us watched Dead Alive, the canonical zombie movie. Remarkable. Stomach-turning. Several people had to leave in the middle. Two word's: Chekhov's lawnmower.

Post too long. More later.

5:05 pm: if you want to share this with someone, please do so by private email, not in the comments.
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