The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, December 14, 2009

Secret Service Strangeness

So the head of the Secret Service testified that Obama has faced no more threats than the last two presidents. I assume he means per day, at this point in all their presidencies. Not, for instance, that in his first year he's received as many as they did in their entire terms. I'm nervous about the way people mess with the language, and find this VERY difficult to believe based on the violent rhetoric, and America's history in general. However, I would be delighted to believe it, if it were true, and would love for someone to point me toward a more thorough investigation of these numbers. Thanks.


Coaching has been an adventure for me. Having done it in various forms for decades, deciding to make this an actual part of my income stream changes the game in some fascinating ways. So far, the issue I see most of is lack of clarity: people don't really know what they want. After that it is a sense of having trouble staying on track. That's an easy one, and one the coaching paradigm is designed for.

I'm working with Scott Sonnon as he prepares for a major grappling and MMA competition in Vegas next year. For a man with this level of discipline, focus, and overall accomplishment, my real task will be seeing that his dogs are all pulling in the same direction, that he doesn't waste energy on non-productive activities, and that he doesn't allow vampires to drain his energy. Oh...and that he is taking sufficient recovery time. The human race might be broadly divided into two camps--those who push too hard, and those who don't push hard enough. Champions tend to be in...well, you know which group they're in.


Today, I'll be back into the new Dream Park book, working on a chapter suggested by H.G. Well's LITTLE WARS books on table-top gaming. Had a REALLY good meeting last week, some folks who want to turn D.P. into a movie. Well, I've heard THAT before, but on some level have always believed it would happen one day. We'll see.


"The Hero's Journey" is the current title of the " human adulthood for men" course I'm putting together. Almost ready to start taping. It's designed as a month-long program, twenty lessons five days a week with homework on the weekened. The material is extremely dense, so I've had to organize it six ways to Sunday, making sure that everything references everything else. Tomorrow, I may make the first 1/2 hour recording. I'll be talking about it more later, but so far it looks fabulous. God, I wish I could have gotten my hands on this forty years ago!


Oh...back to Dream Park. There is a scene that is tricky...involving multiple characters, a game within a game, a moral lesson..and all under time pressure. I believe I know how to handle it, and want to spend the day today roughing it out, and then smoothing it over as much as I can.

The trick is that this is someone's scene. This is the time for one of the characters to break out and move to the next level of their personal arc. I think I know who it is, older lady named Maud Abernathy, playing the game as a psychic. She has been something of a downer for much of the book, sniping at her husband and then breaking down under pressure. But this would be an opportunity for her to shine, and I want to let her do it. Every character should have one moment, one time, when they are standing up and showing their stuff.

I think of it in a very similar fashion when I'm writing scripts. I want to create a scene that will have the actor saying "hey! I can play the hell out of this!" and trusting them to bring their skill and heart to the role. Trusting the actor. Or in this instance, trusting the character. Remembering that from the character's point of view, the entire story is about her. The entire world revolves around her. If I remember that, every


Mike Ralls said...

Off topic:

I've been reading George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series lately (LOVE IT!) and when looking at his bibliography I saw that he worked on "The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book." GRRM is a bit of a portly man according to the photos of him, so I was intrigued, but it turns out it's a collection of sci-fi stories about weight, not an actual diet recomended for Sci-Fi fans or writers. ;)

Well, I'd love to be a writer someday, but I also want a good healthy body. It's important to have people to model so I googled "in shape sci-fi writer" and got;
No results found for "in shape sci-fi writer".


So yea. Thinking back to photos of sci-fi authors I've seen, none really stand out in my mind as having really good bodies. I'm sure there are some, I just can't think of any.

Quick question for you Steve, you know the sci-fi community pretty well. Which Sci-Fi writer's would you consider to be in-shape? Which one would you say has the best body? False modesty aside, is it you?

Pagan Topologist said...

Mike, in addition to Steve, Nnedi Okorafor is one who comes to mind. Also Catherine Asaro.

Anonymous said...

"sci-fi authors I've seen, none really stand out in my mind as having really good bodies."

While not possessing a visibly sporting physique, the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke is worthy of emulation by fitness aficionados. Clarke's outdoors passions and partial professions were reef diving and deep sea salvaging, very physically demanding activities. Until polio struck, Clarke probably enjoyed outstanding strength and endurance and superb health.


Steve Perry said...

Barnes might be at the top of the list, given his routines.

At the risk of seeming to be a braggart, I can, ah -- manage to bench press my own word processor:

Erik Wingren said...

Best wishes re: Dream Park projects. I got to help (alpha test?) a licensed prototype in Boulder Co in '94 or '95, I would definitely have paid big dollars for another run at it. The guys I was teamed with .. including an old D&D buddy from teenage days .. set a time record.
It was a gas, and thanks not just for the novels but for inspiring that adventure!

Re Secret Service stuff, it seems like a breach of security to release current threat information at all. That gives me doubt about the validity of the report (whether of the Secret Service or the reporter or whatever, I don't know).

Marty S said...

Let's see if I have this right. An author who has just published a book on the secret service and who can expect increased book sales from his claim that an unidentified source in the secret service has told him death threats to Obama have increased 400% is 100% believable, but the director of the secret service says the threat level is normal and this is not believable. This strikes as only being willing to hear what you want to hear.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

@Marty: Well, at the moment I'm not sure I believe either of them. The person reporting the large increase in threats might, as you suggest, be increasing his book sales, but the head of the Secret Service agency could also be motivated to downplay the threat level, in order not to advertise anything that suggests they're not in control of the situation.

It seems unlikely to me that there would be no increase in threat level for a black president, since a substantial percentage of the political assassinations in this country in my lifetime have had racial motives. But that doesn't mean it's obvious to me how much increase there would be. Could be the first report was overstated, or could be that it's actually on target.

Pagan Topologist said...

Lynn et al., I seem to recall, but cannot find now, an article saying that the threat level had indeed spiked to 400% of its typical value (a 300% increase) in the first two weeks after President Obama's inauguration, and then had settled down within a month to about the same background level as for the last two Presidents. This would make sense to me, and would account for the confusion on the topic.

Marty S said...

From my point of view a large increase in threats, especially very early on would not surprise me and such a period followed by a return to a normal level of threats seems most reasonable. But I could also believe it was never above normal. What I was observing and commenting on was not what the level of threats actually is but the fact that testimony to congress by a representative of the secret service drew more disbelief than a statement by an author trying to sell books.

Steven Barnes said...

I like Marty's point about head of service as opposed to author. I would really enjoy a straight-out investigation, seeing as the Head might have meant "this week" without being specific, and the author might have warped his own numbers in some similar way. Lying with statistics is an old and honored past-time.

Steven Barnes said...

Steve Perry has always been terrifically fit. Alan Dead Foster has a state weight-lifting championship under his belt. There are others who run, lift, fight, whatever, but yeah, SF lives up in the head, and you can see the results of that at any convention. There is one SF writer who brags about his high-level karate training, who is straight out fat. Doesn't mean he isn't good, though, I've never seen him move. But SF does NOT encourage health, you can quote me on that one.

Anonymous said...

The bottom of the Committee on Homeland Security site has a link, which apparently includes the unedited public testimony of the head of the Secret Service. I can't watch it now, as I'm at work.


Anonymous said...

"There is one SF writer who brags about his high-level karate training, who is straight out fat."

Given the writer you are referring to also tends to write prose lovingly describing how in shape his protagonists are, I think there is a bit of "Al Bundy scored 4 touchdowns in one game" going on there.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Back to the sf authors-- Elizabeth Bear is seriously into rock-climbing.