The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Back From Seattle

Back from Norwescon. Almost recovered--for some odd reason, traveling East to West is more stressful jet lag-wise than traveling West-East ever was. And I'm not totally sure why. Any ideas?


I was tickled to hear an old friend had referred to me as "obnoxiously exuberant." What a lovely phrase! I should have that put on a t-shirt.


Finished my run on "4189", the story I've been working on with Charles Johnson. And after a foul-up last Thursday, I spent five solid hours (well, almost solid--it was interrupted by a couple of friends) with Chuck poring over the story again and again. It was this moment I'd really been waiting for. I wanted to compare our process for re-writing. I'd assumed from the the get-go that Chuck had a superior process, and that it would be educational (if not embarrassing) to would be to go through the process with a National Book Award winning author who has his own #$%% postage stamp. Some thoughts on the process, in no particular order.

1)I read the entire story aloud, so that we could hear the language and dialog. I was able to give him my interpretation of the characters and their emotions, which varied a bit from his, and we debated every difference.

2) His sensitivity to poetics was certainly superior to my own, and it was great to hear his thoughts on different word choices, and the reasoning behind them.

3) Do not mistake agape for philos when talking with a Phd in philosophy. It isn't pretty.

4) It was hysterical how often we took breaks to watch the Avengers trailer. He is a serious comic book fan, with anecdotes about the history of Marvel and DC I'd never heard. And is excited about May 3rd as I am.

5) The question of "how much" to show and tell in an SF story is a tricky one. Enough to give a flavor of the world, and provide the readers with confidence in the writer's extrapolative capacity. Not so much that you feel you're being lectured, or that the writer is showing off. Questioning what information will come to a character (or authorial voice) at a given moment. This can range from "the car's autopilot made the Washington-NY flight in twelve minutes" to a 12-page dissertation on the history of internal combustion engine yielding to power cells, aeronautics adapted to passenger vehicles, cybernetic systems automating driving and air traffic control, and the mathematical theory of traffic jams. Trust me, I've seen it. The reader needs to know enough to maximize their emotional response to the story. No more. But no less, either.

6) Chuck's evaluation (and reasoning. And anecdotes) of what we could sell to New Yorker as opposed to a genre outlet was hysterical. No, I ain't telling. Stalk your own damned MacArthur Genius.

7)The collaboration process worked out as it has in the past: we evaluated ideas until coming up with one we both liked. Then fleshed out an outline until we both liked it. Then one of us wrote the first draft. We bounced the draft back and forth until we were both happy with it. Then got together in person for the final polish, followed by a touch of bouncing and buffing.

8) The story will now be offered to the gentleman who originally requested a horror story. This is a nasty piece of work. I wouldn't want to read a novel set in this world, but a 4000 word story is a fast enough in-and-out that I think it works well.


Shady_Grady said...

Sounds like a lot of fun, Steve.

Anonymous said...

thanks for letting us spend some time with you