I've been mostly neglecting LJ of late. Are you on Tumblr? I am! In fact, these days I mostly post there, which I often auto-cross-post to my Twitter account and my Facebook account. If Tumblr x-posted to LJ, you'd see me here a LOT more. It's all about convenience, I'm ashamed to admit, because my jobs SUCK SO MUCH TIME. Not that that's bad, mind you - I LOVE teaching, and my teaching JOB itself has been getting steadily better; I LOVE directing the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and we have a bunch of REALLY BIG and EXCITING things about to happen (and, of course, it's always exciting); and I LOVE my writing career, which I'm finally, at long frakkin' last, TREATING like a CAREER... to the point that if my employer were to try to take that away from me, or if my day-job evolved to the point of no-time-for-writing, I would either fight to fix the problem or no longer work there. THAT's how much I've decided to dedicate myself to my writing.

Speaking of which:
  • Coming out soon is "Frederik Pohl: Mr Science Fiction (A Love Story)." Scheduled to appear in the Spring/Summer edition of Foundation: The International Review Of Science Fiction.

  • My Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop is getting close to full with a nice variety of writers. Really looking forward to this, as always! June 1 - 15.

  • As soon as I reach 1st Draft Complete on Jack & Stella, I'll dive back into short fiction. I have about three stories ready for quick revisions (HA!), ten more that need a bit more work but are worth it, and who-knows-how-many (six? ten?) in progress that I really want to get back to. Short stories are great in that they take a LOT less time per word than novels, and they'll help keep my name out there in the zeitgeist while the novels are making their way to shelves, but novels are ALL-CONSUMING. Every idea I come up with ends up in whatever book I'm currently working on. As it should be, I guess, but that means BLACK HOLE of IDEAS, and no new stories. Wait, that's not true: I'm planning to develop several things that are back-story for Jack & Stella into stories of their own.

  • Just about ready to submit Empire Ship. It's done (and has been for a while), but I wasn't happy with some things, and figured I'd just hold off until I had a draft of Jack & Stella, and submit them both together... speaking of which:

  • And I've reached another milestone on The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella: Just crested 80,000 words! That's up nearly 6000 in the past ten days, and all that word-count is brand-new in the past year... in fact, pretty much all of it is new in 2014, as I started over at the beginning at about 30,000 words when I realized it just wasn't working. Ah, the joys of novel-writing.



And now, because this is both inspiring and INSANE, I share OMG DANGEROUS JETBIKE MANIAC:

(Yes, I want to do this. Only I'll wear a helmet, thank you, and do a MUCH better job of engineering a proper bike platform. Are you hearing this, MadMatMax? Nevertheless, I'M IN LOVE. And now a subscriber of his.)

Chris
In this wonderfully illustrated talk about "preparing the groundwork for an empathic civilization," Jeremy Rifkin discusses the evolution of empathy how it has shaped human development and how we interact. Check it out, then come back and we'll talk:



What he's saying here is that we need to broaden our sense of identity from selfish or tribal or religious or national identity to identifying as part of human civilization, as a fellow living being, as part of the Earth's biosphere - and I would add, as part of the Milky Way Galaxy, as part of the universe as a whole. He says that we are "soft-wired for sociability, attachment, affection, companionship," and that our "first drive is to belong. It's an empathic drive."

He summarizes, "If we are truly Homo Empathicus, then we need to bring out that core nature. Because if it doesn't come and out it's repressed by our parenting, our educational system, our business practices, our government, the secondary drives take over: the narcissism, materialism, utilitarianism, violence, and aggression."

This is the primary theme in all I write. It's what Transcendence is about, what Empire Ship is about, and what my upcoming young-adult SF books will be about - that we must be empathic in all we do, because all we produce (our "fictions," technology and nationalism (in its broadest sense) and religion build barriers to understanding one another. Those walls we build rise so naturally when we don't exercise empathy - which is hard! It hurts to feel the suffering around us - and the wall-building grows as we stifle our empathic capacity, thereby limiting our ability to see others as like us in some way, even as human.

Lack of understanding leads to lack of empathy. Lack of empathy leads to easy dehumanization (or de-bunny-ization or so forth). Next, our identity shrinks until at some point it shrivels down to just Me. Then selfish drives take over, and it feels right and sensible that all I care about is what I want, because I can't imagine what others would think or feel. Now it's easy to hurt others; it's easy to disregard others, to lock them away in dungeons, to steal from them or take advantage of them, to rape or kill them.

It's only natural that prisoners and victims develop powerful empathy for their abusers, because the victim's world makes no sense: Why would someone do this to me? So they grope for understanding, exercising their empathic powers, delving into the minds of their abusers. This is why we have Stockholm Syndrome, why people stay with their abusive parents or partners.

It also explains why people who consistently behave in sociopathic ways - guards at secret prisons, habitual criminals, investment bankers - appear to lose their humanity. It's why military training works hard to erase the humanity of the target, and why soldiers make poor police. In fact, I would like to see a study that seeks to cure "sociopaths," because I hypothesize that such people might be curable over time if they exercise their atrophied empathy.

The dude who wandered around the Middle East a couple thousand years ago preached love and understanding and forgiveness: He preached that we must exercise our empathy or we will descend into Hell, which - In a literal sense - means that our world will become horrific if we are incapable of understanding and empathizing with one another.

Saving the world is simple: The sooner we start embracing the people and animals and natural wonders around us as part of us, as our identity, the sooner we will solve all the problems facing us.

This is also what I love about science fiction: It is the literature of the human species, not limited to the individual or nation or religion or even species or planet. Taken as a whole, SF says that we are all in this together, and when we're not - and when we lose our capacity to think of us as in it together - things go to hell in a hurry. As our technology grows more powerful, so too does our capacity to dehumanize and destroy others.

The Cold War was so horrible because it institutionalized anti-empathy. All wars are like this, including the current "war on terror" (and we all know that, right now, that means against Islamic fundamentalism), which is worse in many ways because it is not nation vs. nation or ideology vs. ideology: It's Us vs. Them. There's no reasoning with that, and the side-effects are pervasive and creeping. We all know The Terrorists are evil, right? And they all know that the West is evil. There's no room for understanding when our walls rise up and meet at the top.

When we cease empathizing, when we lose the capacity to imagine the other as our self, we build mausoleums around our cultures, nations, religions, and everything else that constitutes our identity - around our very selves! But empathizing is hard, I know. Listening to the news is painful, because it's all about suffering and loss. As the Dread Pirate said, "Life is pain, princess. Anyone who says differently is selling something." Heck, every week I see an animal on the side of road, needlessly killed by inattentive drivers, and that makes me suffer a little more. When I can, I stop and move the dead thing to the bushes and tell it that it's safe now, but at a deeper level that's just for me, to ease my empathic suffering.

One can argue that the most selfish thing you can do is to empathize. But as Rifkin says, "To empathize is to civilize," so this is one need we should satisfy whenever we can.

To be able to feel others in our heart: This is what it means to love. When people say that love is what life is all about, that there's nothing greater than to love and be loved in return, they don't mean some cheesy Hallmark version of love; they mean empathize with each other. This is all that matters in life. This is how we save the world.

Go out and empathize today!

Love,
Chris
In this wonderfully illustrated talk about "preparing the groundwork for an empathic civilization," Jeremy Rifkin discusses the evolution of empathy how it has shaped human development and how we interact. Check it out, then come back and we'll talk:



What he's saying here is that we need to broaden our sense of identity from selfish or tribal or religious or national identity to identifying as part of human civilization, as a fellow living being, as part of the Earth's biosphere - and I would add, as part of the Milky Way Galaxy, as part of the universe as a whole. He says that we are "soft-wired for sociability, attachment, affection, companionship," and that our "first drive is to belong. It's an empathic drive."

He summarizes, "If we are truly Homo Empathicus, then we need to bring out that core nature. Because if it doesn't come and out it's repressed by our parenting, our educational system, our business practices, our government, the secondary drives take over: the narcissism, materialism, utilitarianism, violence, and aggression."

This is the primary theme in all I write. It's what Transcendence is about, what Empire Ship is about, and what my upcoming young-adult SF books will be about - that we must be empathic in all we do, because all we produce (our "fictions," technology and nationalism (in its broadest sense) and religion build barriers to understanding one another. Those walls we build rise so naturally when we don't exercise empathy - which is hard! It hurts to feel the suffering around us - and the wall-building grows as we stifle our empathic capacity, thereby limiting our ability to see others as like us in some way, even as human.

Lack of understanding leads to lack of empathy. Lack of empathy leads to easy dehumanization (or de-bunny-ization or so forth). Next, our identity shrinks until at some point it shrivels down to just Me. Then selfish drives take over, and it feels right and sensible that all I care about is what I want, because I can't imagine what others would think or feel. Now it's easy to hurt others; it's easy to disregard others, to lock them away in dungeons, to steal from them or take advantage of them, to rape or kill them.

It's only natural that prisoners and victims develop powerful empathy for their abusers, because the victim's world makes no sense: Why would someone do this to me? So they grope for understanding, exercising their empathic powers, delving into the minds of their abusers. This is why we have Stockholm Syndrome, why people stay with their abusive parents or partners.

It also explains why people who consistently behave in sociopathic ways - guards at secret prisons, habitual criminals, investment bankers - appear to lose their humanity. It's why military training works hard to erase the humanity of the target, and why soldiers make poor police. In fact, I would like to see a study that seeks to cure "sociopaths," because I hypothesize that such people might be curable over time if they exercise their atrophied empathy.

The dude who wandered around the Middle East a couple thousand years ago preached love and understanding and forgiveness: He preached that we must exercise our empathy or we will descend into Hell, which - In a literal sense - means that our world will become horrific if we are incapable of understanding and empathizing with one another.

Saving the world is simple: The sooner we start embracing the people and animals and natural wonders around us as part of us, as our identity, the sooner we will solve all the problems facing us.

This is also what I love about science fiction: It is the literature of the human species, not limited to the individual or nation or religion or even species or planet. Taken as a whole, SF says that we are all in this together, and when we're not - and when we lose our capacity to think of us as in it together - things go to hell in a hurry. As our technology grows more powerful, so too does our capacity to dehumanize and destroy others.

The Cold War was so horrible because it institutionalized anti-empathy. All wars are like this, including the current "war on terror" (and we all know that, right now, that means against Islamic fundamentalism), which is worse in many ways because it is not nation vs. nation or ideology vs. ideology: It's Us vs. Them. There's no reasoning with that, and the side-effects are pervasive and creeping. We all know The Terrorists are evil, right? And they all know that the West is evil. There's no room for understanding when our walls rise up and meet at the top.

When we cease empathizing, when we lose the capacity to imagine the other as our self, we build mausoleums around our cultures, nations, religions, and everything else that constitutes our identity - around our very selves! But empathizing is hard, I know. Listening to the news is painful, because it's all about suffering and loss. As the Dread Pirate said, "Life is pain, princess. Anyone who says differently is selling something." Heck, every week I see an animal on the side of road, needlessly killed by inattentive drivers, and that makes me suffer a little more. When I can, I stop and move the dead thing to the bushes and tell it that it's safe now, but at a deeper level that's just for me, to ease my empathic suffering.

One can argue that the most selfish thing you can do is to empathize. But as Rifkin says, "To empathize is to civilize," so this is one need we should satisfy whenever we can.

To be able to feel others in our heart: This is what it means to love. When people say that love is what life is all about, that there's nothing greater than to love and be loved in return, they don't mean some cheesy Hallmark version of love; they mean empathize with each other. This is all that matters in life. This is how we save the world.

Go out and empathize today!

Love,
Chris
Okay, just a quick update before jumping back into it. I haven't done as much writing as I'd thought I would since Kij came home and everything, but I don't regret that in the least. Wrote much of the way here on the flight, which was an interesting experience in a cramped kind of way. So today I try to finish the last sketched-out scenes before we start getting social calls from all here.

So, progress on Empire Ship:

. Word count up to 128,900 from last update of 126,200: a gain of 2700 words. Word and page count changes won't seem very impressive at this point, because now it's mostly picking the right words.
. Page count up to 423 from last update of 415.
. Lotsa more mood music assistance, though I'm without that today. Shouldn't really matter. Lessee... RHCPeppers, Rasputina, Stick (Lawrence band), um... shoot, don't have the disks here, but more.
. Estimated final word count: still 130,000-ish.

Chris
I suppose I didn't have to tell y'all that. But. Sigh. Damn, and I'm soooo close! But I just plain ran out of steam today and came to work instead of finish it wrong. Not quite done, but I think I have all the scenes in place. Hell, I wrote the last few scenes already!

So, my Empire Ship progress:

. Word count up to 126,200 from last update of 118,400: a gain of almost 8000 more words. Will it never end?
. Page count up to 415 from last update of 385.
. Lotsa mood music assistance; I'll see if I can remember (kept meaning to bring the disks up here): Tool, L7, Hole, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, the special "Dark side of Gary Numan" compilation from [livejournal.com profile] weaselmom (thanks! very helpful), Skinny Puppy, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stone Temple Pilots, a bunch of others I can't recall at the moment, and several that just didn't quite help promote the proper mood.
. Estimated final word count: 130,000-ish. Yeah, I'm fudging it. Could be just a few thousand more, but who the fuck knows?

I hope to finish Wednesday (my next non-teaching day). Then on to revision of the last scenes. So close it's killin' me!

Chris
Just a quick bop up to the office to back up what I've done so far and drop an update here.

Empire Ship progress:

. Word count up to 118,400 from last update of 111,200: a gain of more than 7000 words. Cool! Uncomfortably, though, this means the novel will be longer than planned....
. Page count up to 385 from last update of 364.
. Lotsa mood music assistance; I'll post it all later.
. Estimated final word count: 125,000 - 130,000.

I hope to finish tomorrow. Then on to revision of the last scenes. Wow, so close!

Chris
After getting home from watching "What the *&%! Do We Know Anyway?" last night with [livejournal.com profile] adamaker, his roomie Jack, [livejournal.com profile] solan_t, [livejournal.com profile] verminiusrex, [livejournal.com profile] roya_spirit, and her boy J., I couldn't help but go home and work on Empire Ship. Mind-stimulation plus, well, a whole lotta caffeine does that to a guy. Progress:

. Listened to Morphine, Nick Cave, and Skinny Puppy to get into the proper mood.
. Went back through some old scenes with two characters and revised a bit per some thinking about them.
. Wrote an important, new scene.
. Word count up to 107,180 105,260 from last update of 99,840: a gain of about 2000 words. That's cool, especially considering this was a teaching day, an evening of socializing and seeing a movie, and I hadn't expected to write!
. Page count up to 350 from last update of 345.

Plus I got to talk to my girl last night. She's home in 8 days and counting!

Chris
So I played hermit and spent all weekend (except for a break to vacuum the house because of our sneezy kittens, adjust the front gutter, and move Kij's scooter into the garage) working on Empire Ship. Progress:

. Listened to a lot of Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Vast, and other music to get into the proper mood.
. Revisions DONE!
. Started writing new scenes: Finished two scene-sketches and a couple of short scenes. 'Twasn't easy -- I'm at a big turning point in the novel, which is probably why I stopped here long ago.
. Word count up to 105,260 from last update of 99,840: a gain of more than 5000 words. Yay me!
. Page count up to 345 from last update of 329.

Chris
Spent all weekend (except for a break to help Adam move and to see the first two episodes of Alias: Season 3... which had accidentally fallen into my hand and gotten itself purchased) working on Empire Ship. Progress:

. Word count up to 99,840
. Page count up to 329
. Revised to page 230 -- almost time to start writing new scenes!

Chris
Okay, so [livejournal.com profile] shellyinseattle recommended I post regular progress reports on my reanimated novel, Empire Ship. All righty, here's where I am as of yesterday's work:

I've collected the piles of notes I've been writing over the years; read ALL those notes, which included detective work to understand my handwriting in some cases; sorted them into still-relevant notes; worked out the remaining issues I'd been facing (amazing what a couple of years of subconscious work can do for you); hit a block when I realized the plot doesn't use a try-fail cycle; talked that out with Kij who reminded me that much literature doesn't -- rather, it's a handy formula when a writer can't think of plot complications; finished working out the plot; and revised the first 45 pages.

Word / page count: 96,300 / 320

Chris
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Default)
( Sep. 14th, 2004 02:13 pm)
Dear friends -

Finally, I've heard from the editor at Tor who's had one of my novels for, what? Three years now? He wants to see the rest of another novel, part of which I sent him a couple months ago. Wants to do that one first if he likes it because the first one is "too long and difficult for a first novel," in his opinion.

Well, heck, that's exciting compared to no movement, eh? I better finish it and clean it up! Wish me luck.

Chris
I forgot to mention that I sent off the first 40 or so pages of my novel, "Empire Ship," to the editor who's been sitting on "Transcendence" for three years now.

Reasonable? One might argue not. But I learned that the publishing house where he works had a ban on buying new novelists' work for most of those years, and his stringing me along might indeed be promising -- I mean, heck, he was talking publication dates and everything a year or two ago. But if I hear nothing in a few months, I go elsewhere.

Just an "I'm a writer again!" moment that I thought I'd share.

Chris
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