The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Irritation at Loscon

I have to admit to a conversation at Loscon that irritated me. It was with an old friend, a very nice, good guy with whom a cross word has never passed. In discussing Heinlein's FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD, and my extreme disappointment that (possibly) the most prominent Black character in all of Mr. Heinlein's work is a traitor to his friends who joins the (black) cannibals, the subject of my disappointment with racial and social issues in SF came up. You see, science fiction fans consider their field to be progressive in these areas, and I think they couldn't be more wrong. Progressive racially? That word "progressive" assumes a baseline against which to measure "progress". Well...shall we try three? Society in general, literature in general, the sciences in general...let's throw in another. Genre literature in general. Well, how does it measure up?
1) what percentage of lead or secondary characters in SF are black?
2) What percentage of characters depicted on covers are black?
3) what percentage of fans are black?
4) what percentage of authors are black?

Gee. It seems to me that no matter which way you slice it, the percentage is way below statistical representation in general population, representation in the sciences, or in literature in general. Maybe there are more black characters in SF than in, say, Romance novels, but does anyone think that was what my friend meant? He back-pedaled, suggesting that perhaps they were in the books, but just not described. I find this so insulting that I almost lost my temper. Not described? Can anyone think of a good reason for this? I asked him if he'd ever read an SF story where someone described a consumer product produced in Sub-Saharan Africa, no matter how far in the future such a story was set. After some thining, he mentioned a product designed in North Africa, and produced in "colonized" states to the south. Wow. Great. I mentioned that, according to two very well respected SF authors, the most powerful and influential editor in the history of the SF field would refused to publish stories dealing with advanced African civilizations, believing that Africans were not mentally capable of such a thing. My friend in essence called these distinguished writers liars. It is so sad. Racism isn't evil, although some manefestations of it certainly are. It is natural, inborn (to a degree), and must be carefully guarded against and risen above. We've demonized it to such a degree that we feel pain to associate it with the things we love. I love the SF field, but the complete exclusion of people who looked like me form the ranks of the brilliant and brave depicted inits pages caused me more pain than I can possibly tell you. More on this another time. I forgive my friend, as I have so often in the past.. I'm not sure I can keep forgiving indefinitely, however.

Kundalini Rising

Some interesting Kundalini tickles this morning during meditation.  My morning meditation starts with the heartbeat, for about five minutes.  Then I'll (groggily) remember to use my sphincter lock, and lower abdominal lock.  When my attention wanders, I pull it back with a triangle visualization in each chakra, starting from the bottom.  Then, finally , I'll remember to use a glowing triangle in Anja, the forehead chakra.  That's usually where the fun kicks in.  Remember to breath in "the back", feeling the back of my rib cage expand with each inhalation.  This has taken me years to juggle, and now I'm starting to integrate Scott Sonnon's "Be Breathed" methodology, allowing slight movements to actually create my inhalations.

Visualize white light moving up the spine.  And...tickles.  Interesting.   A stealthy energetic crawling up the back.  This shouldn't have been too surprising.  T's mother noticed "a sweet smell" coming from my yoga area, and when I was in Quincy, Florida last week, squirrels were coming up to me without fear.  All these things are interesting, possibly meaningless coincidences or happenstances, but there is a weight of 'em that begins to correspond to both my previous experience, and traditional tales of Kundalini awakening.  If I'm right, I'm about two years away from something very interesting indeed.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Secret Project

Well, there's a project up that I won't talk about yet.  Let's just say that a very famous, very talented and distinguished television actor with some very important stories to tell wants to tell them in a fictional form.  Discussions are currently underway for me to assist his voice, and it is an honor to be chosen.  Boy, oh boy, if this happens, will fur fly!  This is so much fun--I took an enormous risk moving from Washington to Los Angeles.  This was the very essence of a "leap of faith," risky and stressful on multiple levels. But my family is safe in Southern California, my daughter already has a job and is about to be enrolled in college, my wife's movie "My Soul To Keep" looks like it might well get the greenlight at Fox Searchlight, Forest Whitaker wants to meet with us concerning her novel "The Good House", a certain famous and beautiful actress has expressed interest in starring in that very film, and I've turned in the first draft of my paleolithic murder mystery.  Larry Niven and I spoke deeply at Loscon on a possible fourth Dream Park book, and actually came up with a potentially dynamite idea, in concert with a verra verra friendly SFX guy named John Eggett, who has volunteered to help us brainstorm.  Jerry Pournelle thinks there's a third "Heorot" novel, and I agree.  He doesn't want to deal with the downturn in civilization.  Too depressing.  Good point.
What's the point of all this?  Well, life is getting tres interesting.  By my count, I've got about 15 different projects at different stages of development, and I don't want to drop the ball.  That means:
1) write 1000 words a day.
2) Work 4 hours a day minimum
3) read 10,000 words a day.
4) read one act of Shakespeare aloud per day.
5) meditate daily.
6) exercise and eat for maximum energy
7) get plenty of rest.
8) get and give lots of hugs.
I really look forward to this period.  I think in some ways I've been waiting for it all my life.  And by the way--my fantastic spouse Tananarive will be back tomorrow!  Hotcha!  Damn I love that lady!

What do you need to start Lifewriting?

Well, most importantly, you don't need to send me money.  This ain't that kind of party. So, what IS necessary? Three basic things

1) a career discipline or goal that makes your heart happy, and will support you in comfort.  The thrust of this blog will be writing, but squint a little, and you'll see all other life disciplines contained within the wisdom here.  Hey--it ain't my wisdom.  I'm just gathering it together and expressing it in my life.  As Musashi says:  "Know one thing, know ten thousand things."
2) A commitment to a healthy intimate relationship with another adult human being.  If you aren't currently in one, improving your spiritual/emotional relationship with yourself if a perfect start.
3) A physical discipline for daily practice.  That's right, daily.  You eat everyday, right?  YOur ancestors had to move every day to earn it.  Now, that doesn't mean a huge amount of time.  what is the minimum necessary to create the vital mind-body connection?  Probably about five minutes. What is the optimum to create serious health and fitness?  Probably an hour, 3-6 times a week.  anyone not willing to fall somewhere between these extremes need read no further.  Now--where can  you find the knowledge necessary?  Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gung --all are great and profound systems.  Look into Pilates, swimming, walking, weight training, or Tae Bo style work.  Efficient.  Go to, or buy my own "Five Minute Miracle."  but you MUST make the body-mind connection alive, or you CANNOT maximize the strength of your emotions and intellect.  THAT is the position this blog takes.  That is lifewriting.  There are other paths--seek them out with my blessing (as if you needed it!).  But I must be inflexible about this.  The life of the spirit often attracts people so wounded they don't want to deal with the flesh.  guess what?  You can't get there without going through the body, the heart, and the community.  That's why the chakra chart starts from the most basic human needs and progresses upwards.  Trying to access spirit without having mastered the earthly disciplines is called "waking your kundalini up backwards."  It will literally drive you insane.
So--that's it.  I will try to point you in the direction of free resources and other teachers with information that will help you.  But you must make a commitment to working all three arenas, or, simply put, don't come back--I can't help you.
But for you writers out there who want to tell your stories with grace and power, find your own voice, possibly build a career...

Have I got a life for YOU!



People ask why I insist on Body-Mind-Spirit as balanced goals in my students.  It is simple: if you can stay balanced in all three arenas, you can be fairly confident that your perceptual apparatus is working properly.   It is, in a sense, a way of using the tangible to touch the intangible, to develop an instinctive understanding of the world around us.  I know too many brilliant people who have lost their way utterly, and can't understand why they fail over and over again to reach their goals.  They argue about the reasons they can't succeed financially, or why their lives seem to have so much pain.  and usually, there is some clue sitting right in front of them: their maps of reality are distorted, and one can see it in their waist lines, their relationship history, or their inability to create goods and services cherished by their chosen community.  Accepting goals in these three arenas is a process of "re-calibrating" the perceptual apparatus.  It isn't lack of will power that creates obesity (we're not talking about a little `spare tire' here--that is probalby just lifestyle, and values incompatable iwth a lean body).  Ask almost anybody who's been 80 pounds overweight or more, lost it, and kept it off.  They'll tell you that the change was emotional.  They DECIDED to change.  They dealt with the abuse, confusion, depression, or whatever, and adjusted their habit patterns.
The same thing is true in relationships.  If you have a series of disasters in thiws regard...if you wouldn't want your ex's to be the ones holding the rope if you were dangling off a cliff, you have to look at YOU.  YOU chose them.  They were the best YOU could do at the time.  As Ian Fleming said in "Goldfinger", "Once is happenstance.  Twice is coincidence.  The third time, it's enemy action."  We are our own enemies.  Face the truth of what is happening within you, and you create the possibility of a new, better future.

Fear and Anger

On the "Lifewriting" discussion group, someone said that I thought Fear and Anger are the same thing.  No, I don't .  My comment is that "anger is a mask over fear."  In other words, anger is,  in a manner of speaking, a different vibration of the same energy.  Often, it is more useful (non-paralytic).  It doesn't freeze you, and alows action.  On the other hand, it can obscure what is really going on.  Next time you're dealing with an angry person, ask yourself "what might they be afraid of?"  You will probably find that question leading you to a deeper, better, understanding.


Attended Loscon yesterday, and today.  This is the local convention of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, held at the Airport Marriot.  In general, I'd say a good time was had by all, although it was occassionally a bit tough to see some of my old friends looking a bit frail and...well, not well at all.  Sigh.  Time does catch up with us, time, and sometimes a tendency to treat our bodies as if they are disposable appendages.   Great people, not-so-great habit patterns.

We had a panel today on mining our friend's lives for story characters.  Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, David Gerrold and I were on the panel.  Many amusing anecdotes were told (Jerry is a great racontour), but the point I wanted to make is that real human beings are impossibly complex, far too complicated to serve as story characters without major modification.  The most complex character in all of western fiction (arguably), Hamlet, is still only 1% as complex as a real human being.  One of the considerations is that there is a unity between character and plot: the are, in essence, two sides of a single coin.  Plot is what a character does in a given situation.  A plot must empty a character out, give us everything we need to know about the lead, or the story situation hasn't been thought through very well.
In life, it is reasonable to take the position that we are what we do.  True, this is not ALL that we are, but what we do is closer to this essence than what we "think" we are, or what others define us as.  Everyone knows that we judge each other on our actions, and it is childish to pretend otherwise.
We learn to characterize by formulating a theory of human nature, and then testing it against the people around us--our family and friends.  All throughout this blog, I'll be expressing a theory of human nature, one I am prepared to defend at great length.  Now, I'm not saying you have to accept it, but whatever your own theory is, you should understand it from every direction, and be able to apply it to understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
Look at the three major areas of human life: body, mind, and spirit.  What does your body say about you?  Believe me, it says worlds about your values, discipline, emotional health, habit patterns and more.  What does your career say about you?  Are you operating at full efficiency there?  Do you complain about money troubles, but not do anything about it?  Do you dream, but not perform?  Or are you working at a job that you would continue to do even if you won the lottery? To me, this is a major sign of an active, healthy intellect--the ability to do for a living that which you would do for free.  What about your relationship with your husband/wife/significant other?  To me, this is where you reveal yourself most clearly.  You ARE your partner, flipped upside-down and inside out.  If you like what you see across the breakfast table from you, great.  If not, you have work to do.  Remember: whoever you see over there was the best you could do.   If  you could have gotten someone smarter, handsomer/prettier, emotionally healthier--you would have.  So take a hard look.  Often, you can learn more from a person's partner than you can from meeting the person.

Viewed in this way, there is a lifetime of study in understanding the people around us, and in understanding ourselves as well.  And a lifetime of potential stories in examining how people's flaws and gaps keep them from achieving their full potential.  It can be painful to look at this stuff, but the only thing more painful is being terminally untrue to your own spirit.  That, my friends, is a true tragedy.  Better the pain of awareness than the agony of self-betrayal.  By a long shot.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Statement of Purpose

Hi to everyone.  For those looking in  for the first time, my name is Steven Barnes, and for the last thirty years I've been fascinated by human development.  Over the last two years, I believe I've made some real breakthroughs, and am looking for the best way to share them.  I'm going to be talking about this stuff here on my blog, through the vehicle of discussing my life, which is pretty much an open book.

To be as brief about this methodology, which is called "Lifewriting", as possible, I have to relate it specifically to my own life and goals, specifically the process of writing, although it can be applied to just about anything.  A few basics:

1)  Joseph Campbell's model of "The Hero's Journey" is used to diagram the process of life, and the process of writing.  It joins the inner and outer aspects of the craft.
2) The yogic "Chakra" system is used to diagram character, and also the structure of the human being--the energies that one must master to master life.
3) "The Golden Hour" which is my daily practise designed to unite body, mind and spirit so that I automatically perform at whatever my greatest level of excellence might be.
The concept of balance is crucial.  And that means physical health/fitness, spiritual/emotional health (measured in the health and sanity of your primary intimate relationship), and intellect/career.  All three must be factored in.  Almost everyone will try to short one of these three areas.   Common excuses:
1) "Oh, I don't have time to lose the weight."
2) "I don't have energy to pursue my actual goals"
3) "My husband/wife is the problem in my relationship...not me."

Let me be blunt.  The Lifewriting method is designed to help you reach your own full potential, but the only way to do it is to take complete responsibility for your body, your heartspace connections, and your career progress.  If you're a writer, this will be perfect for you.  If not, please post, and we'll discuss how to adapt it to your needs.

You'll notice I sell a product.  Fine.  But this isn't what the blog is about.  In fact, I will happily tell you how to find free versions of most (if not all) of what is in the "Five Minute Miracle" tape/DVD, and the Lifewriting method.  I don't make a living selling self-improvement stuff.  I will answer any questions about the method, free, on this blog.

No, I don't think I'm perfect.  I don't think anyone is.  I think that enlightenment is a verb, not a noun.  A process, not a position.  I do believe that it is possible to make genuine progress toward self-realization.  You don't need gurus or teachers--although they CAN be helpful.  You have all the strength and knowledge and experience you need--if you will just begin to tell the truth about your experience of life.

1) Better Writing
2) Better health and fitness
3) Better relationships
4) Better sex
5) Peace of mind
6) More Creativity
7) Greater unity with your own, personal spiritual path.

I can promise any or all of the above.  I can't promise it will be easy.  It ain't.  But then again, few worthwhile goals are.  If they were, you'd already have 'em.


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Saturday, November 20, 2004


So, allright, I have a weakness for Chuckie the killer doll. This installment, the first directed by Don Mancini, who has written all of 'em, is both more and less interesting than the others.
The addition of a quasi-hermaphroditic (actually "non-sexed") child voiced by Billy Boyd is alternately touching and rediculous. The body count is appropriately high, and most performers seem to be having a good time.
Still, there are major plot holes (how exactly did Chuckie track down that photographer) which torpedo the fun. Internal consistency is vital in a fantasy work. Still, except for rapper Redman suffering the inevitable fate of a black man who dares to both be IN a horror movie and to kiss a white actress (horrors!) it ain't bad for the fans. For those sickos give it a "B". For the rest of the sane and healthy world, give it a "D+"

Friday, November 19, 2004


Having a bit of a bad day. Had to put my dog Hipshot down this morning. He couldn't walk, could barely eat, or bark, or control his bladder. All he could do was love me, and that he did very well. They shaved his leg, and gave him a shot. I held him as he laid his head down, and then he was just...gone.

I'll deal. I guess it's not supposed to be easy, is it? I promised him I'd get him down to California. I wish I could have offered him more. I hope he never regretted chosing me as his master. I hope he knows how much I loved him.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Up Early today...

Today my dog Hipshot’s efforts to get himself from the floor awakened me at about 6:30. Hippy is starting to get pretty arthritic, and it hurts to see the difficulty he’s having in the most basic tasks. Sigh. Time catches up with everyone, but it’s sad how fast it hits doggies.

Anyway, I decided to cut my morning meditation short, and got up, checked my e-mail, had a cup of tea, and started my morning yoga.
These days, the “Golden Hour” (which actually varies between 40 and 110 minutes, depending on my mood) alternates between Ashtanga yoga (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) and either Clubbells or Kettlebells on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On these days I’m also starting to filter in my Serak djurus, and what I call “Advanced Tibetans”, my experimental progression on the invaluable “Five Tibetans.”

Then I got to work on my current book project, a murder mystery set 30,000 years ago in East Africa entitled “Great Sky Woman.” This one has been almost grotesquely difficult, but, God, I love working on it!

Felt an energy crash come on about 3:30, after polishing 100 pages of text, so I took a nap. I’m just getting up now, and wanted to add an entry here, hoping to motivate myself to be more regular in my journaling.

That’s all for now…

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Just see it. Pixar's remarkable meditation on superheroes is damned near perfect. Maybe five minutes too long, but I'd be hard pressed to tell you where to cut it.
The story of "Mr. Incredible", forced to retire from the superhero biz, (shades of "The Watchmen") and "Elastigirl" his wife (voiced by Holly Hunter) is so moving, so excellent, so honest, and so fun that to praise it too much would actually detract from the process of audience discovery. Basically, if you have any inclination to see a movie likethis, you just won't be disappointed.
I'm giving it an "A+", with prayers that Pixar changes not a single member of its creative team for the next decade.


Starring two of our most photogenic actors (Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek), this "caper" yarn feels overly familiar, like a TV movie made from a favorite long-running show. Two retired thieves trying to make a go of Island living are pulled back in for one last heist.
Of course, everything is way complicated, and very very sexy. Don Cheadle is amusing in his affectations as a social-climbing ganglord, and Woody Harrelson plays an FBI agent who has been chasing Brosnan for too damned many years.
Frankly, it all feels like a live-action Lupin III film, with Harrelson as Zenigata and Brosnan as Lupin, and Hayek as Fujiko. In case those references go over your head, trust me--Lupin would have been more interesting. Give this a "C" for pretty scenery.

Regarding racial selectivity in Horror/SF Films