Archive for the ‘On Authors’ Category

Kevin J Anderson

Kevin J Anderson

I’m going to just copy and paste this info from the email that David Farland just sent out to his email list. Everything below was written by David Farland.

Free Conference Call with Kevin J. Anderson Tomorrow Night (Wednesday)

With over 100 books published, Kevin J. Anderson is well-known as a prolific writer. After talking with his fellow writers over the years, he has compiled a list of techniques to increase writing productivity. He’ll share these “Eleven Tips” on a special conference call, discuss his writing process, and also take questions on November 10th at 9:00 PM, Eastern Standard Time. Call 1-218-862-7200. When the system picks up, enter the code 245657.

Instructions on how to use the phone system are at http://farlandswritersgroups.com/viewtopic.php?f=101&t=1219

If there is still time at the end of the call, Kevin may also give us the inside scoop about the 2011 Superstars Writing Seminar.

We present this to you from www.FarlandsWritersGroups.com. The call is free; all you pay for is your long distance charges. Writers Groups forum members are invited to join the call up to fifteen-minutes early for a discussion and the author might come on early as well.

Please help us publicize this event by sharing it on your facebook and Twitter pages, as well as your blog and any forums you visit or writing groups to which you belong. Go the extra mile and post it at bookstores, libraries, etc. We appreciate any way you will help us spread the word. Thank you.

P.S.–David Farland will be talking to us next on November 30th at the same time, phone number and conference code number. David will be talking about writing the basic parts of the story.
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David Farland

David Farland

No matter how long you’ve been writing, the study never ends. Whether it’s the nuts and bolts of craft, how to construct a gripping story, or how to sell a manuscript, there’s always more to learn, even more so because the world publishing is rapidly changing.

It’s not easy to find an old pro who will share their best secrets and tips with you, but that’s what David Farland (the pen name of Dave Wolverton) does for free with his email service called the “Daily Kick in the Pants.” I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve learned from this free service. I knew David Farland was a respected and successful writer with decades of wisdom behind him, but I didn’t realize how invaluable some of his tips would be until I started reading his “Daily Kick.”

You can sign up for it at DavidFarland.net.

There’s also new item on David Farland’s home page (10/19/10), a free recording of a recent conference call:

David Farland’s First Authors Advisory Conference Call

Listen in on David’s first ever Authors Advisory Conference Call where Dave covers everything from world creation to adience analysis!

David Farland will also be speaking at the next Superstars Writing Seminar in Salt Lake City, UT, January 13-15, 2011. I attended the first event and loved it Here’s a blog post from Kevin J Anderson about the event. Early bird pricing is still in effect until the end of October. Tell ’em Large Mo sent ya!
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Piers Anthony on KindlePiers Anthony was interviewed by Red Adept on her blog today.  It’s a short interview, so I encourage you to check it out, but here are some of the most interesting parts (to me):

Red Adept: You have been publishing since 1963. Had eReaders been developed when you wrote your first book, would you have taken the Independent Publishing (Indie) route?

Piers Anthony: I would have tried for it, yes.

Red Adept: As a fantasy/science fiction author, what improvements do you see for eBook Readers in the future?

Piers Anthony: Better formatting, better terms for authors, better shelf life. That is, books can stay in print forever and keep paying royalties.

Red Adept: What advice would you offer to new authors in today’s publishing world?

Piers Anthony: Get into electronic publishing. It’s the future.
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From Kevin J Anderson’s recent blog post, A Day at Work:

A few years after my first novels were published, David Brin asked me if I would collaborate with him on a short story.  At the time, David was at the height of his career, winner of numerous awards, a New York Times bestselling author, one of the most respected names in the field.  I, on the other hand, had far fewer credits.  Although we had known each other for a while, I was still surprised by the offer.  “Really?  Why would you want to collaborate with me?”

“Because I want to figure out how you can be so prolific.”

So, we plotted and worked on the story, back and forth, but it never really came together.  Finally, after about three months, David said to me, “All right, I’ve figured out how you can write so much.  It’s because …

I know, that was a low-down, dirty trick. An in-your-face, I-know-you-can’t-resist-this-link, cliff-hanger ending.

But if you want to know the rest, you’ll have to read the rest.

Check it out, then come on back.

Venture forward, only ye who fear not the dreaded semi-spoiler-beast of Golamabarthu-ki’i’:

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I don’t know about you, but this post from Kevin J Anderson brought up a mix of thoughts and feelings for me.

  1. Depressing: Could I even do that?
  2. Contemplative: Do I even want to do that?
  3. Inspiring: I want to do that!

For now, I’m going with what’s behind door number 3. I’m hoping it’s the trip to Tahiti instead of the stinkin’ farm animal (though farm animals are great, if that’s what you’re into).

What's Behind Door Number ...

Kevin J Anderson and other Sci-Fi and Fantasy writing luminaries will be offering their second Superstars Writing Seminar in Utah in January. I intend to write more about this seminar soon. I went to the first event, and I did not, in any way, get zonked.

Michael J Sullivan

Michael J Sullivan

I made a mistake when I first discovered Michael J Sullivan. I found his books on Amazon and read some of the reviews of his first book. Despite the overwhelming ratio of positive to negative reviews (14:1), I read the handful of critical reviews and decided not to try his series. Yeah. I know, that was pretty dumb. Lesson learned (seriously).

Recently, I came across his books again, but this time I downloaded a sample to my Kindle and read it. Needless to say, I loved it and I thought it was a lot of fun. Here’s a quote from the book’s epilogue about the nature of the series:

“Eschewing the recent trends in fantasy towards the lengthy, gritty, and dark, the Riyria Revelations brings the genre back to its roots. Avoiding unnecessarily complicated language and world building for its own sake; this series is a distillation of the best elements of traditional fantasy–great characters, a complex plot, humor, and drama all in appropriate measures.”

One of the reasons I was curious about Michael’s work is that he’s an underdog. He’s with a small press, and he’s just humbly going about his business, writing his books and doing his own thing. It felt good to see his success, both for him and for what’s possible for others.

SciFiGuy.ca posted a long interview with Michael J Sullivan in April of this year, so I’m going to link to it and try not to cover the same ground. Michael also has a nice blog and he tweets, and check out all of the covers he designed for his books (below). Here’s my interview with him.
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The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J SullivanMoses: Michael, it’s great to talk to you. Let’s imagine we’re having this conversation in the Rose and Thorn tavern. What would it be like?

MJS: That would depend greatly on when we were there, as the world in my series changes dramatically over the course of the six books. However if we were in the Lower Quarter tavern during the time of The Crown Conspiracy, it would be a loud bustling pub filled with fiddle music, loud conversations and heels on hardwood. In order to hold a civil discussion, we would need to sit in the back of the Diamond Room, away from the noise of the bar, in the deep shadows of the few table candles. I would be leaning forward playing with the melted wax as it tears off the candle while failing to flag down a waitress for a mug of the dark house ale.
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Moses: In that case, I would be scribbling with a quill on parchment, rewriting a troublesome sentence far too many times and blowing all my ale money on scrolls and ink. Hm, I think I like 2010 better.

Back to today. For those who are unfamiliar with your series, The Riyria Revelations, how would you introduce it?

MJS: The Riyria Revelations is a sword and sorcery fantasy story about Royce and Hadrian, an expert thief and a highly skilled soldier, who make their living doing jobs for competing nobles. Through a series of events, they find themselves entangled in a centuries-old mystery. It is a fast paced adventure littered with plot twists and populated with memorable characters. While it makes use of many icons typical to the genre, it is presented in a fresh way that makes it a uniquely fun read.

The series is actually six books, all of which I wrote before the first was published, so I was able to construct a cohesive story arc where secrets hinted at in one book are fulfilled in later ones. At the same time, while one story, I’ve neatly divided it up into separate episodes, so each has a beginning, middle, and end, rather than having the story just stop and pick up in the next book.
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Avempartha by Michael J SullivanMoses: Your series seems to be doing quite well. You’ve got around 80 reviews on Amazon for the first book in your series, and they are overwhelmingly positive. Your books have won numerous awards and been honored in various ways. Now that you are about to release the fifth book in your series, are you able to make a living with your writing, and whether the answer is yes or no, how does that feel?

MJS: Yeah, seventy-eight reviews. 47 five star, 20 four, 5 three, 1 two, and 5 one star reviews, and yet you listened to the six out of seventy-eight who were not pleased and decided not to read it at first. That really doesn’t bode well.

The question of whether an author is making a living wage—able to support him/herself—can in many ways come down to where and how they live. As I tend to live rather modestly, I could be supporting myself nicely if I was still living where I have in the past (Raleigh NC, northern Vermont, suburbs of Detroit). As it happens, I currently live in one of the most expensive places in the country (Greater Washington DC), so my current income wouldn’t cover the expenses here. Sales have been growing steadily so I think people are just starting to hear about it. Being published though a small press means a smaller distribution network but has a lot of other advantages so all in all I’m very happy with where I am and excited to see where the books can go from here—especially after the sixth and final one hits the street in April of next year. My dream of course is to be totally self-sufficient so my wife, who has been supporting me through the “lean years” could quit her day job.

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Moses: That’s still great to hear, because you’re obviously doing extremely well given that you are with a small press. Congratulations.

Tell me about your writing and how your approach to writing has changed over the course of this series.

MJS: My writing and my approach hasn’t changed much because I wrote the entire series rather quickly. For example the first two books I wrote in two successive months.  The editing process, however, has taken years, and I’ve learned so much about that.  I’ve had the honor of finding so many people willing to help me—fans mostly. My first agent started me on that road by pointing out some basic mistakes I was making in the realm of wandering character point of view. At first I had no idea what she was talking about because you see, I’ve never taken a class, read a book, or attended a seminar that taught creative writing. Everything I learned, I learned by studying other author’s works and by writing novels. I finished thirteen novels before starting this series, so I had developed a number of skills, but as it turned out I missed some of the basics. Over the last two years that I have been published, I’ve managed to fill in many of the gaps, but I am still learning.

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Nyphron by Michael J SullivanMoses: One of the things I think you did especially well in The Crown Conspiracy was keeping the reader guessing with mysteries and plot twists. What sort of writing tips do you have for other writers in this department? Also, how did you learn this skill, or was it something that more or less comes naturally for you?

MJS: When it comes to plot development, I hate to say it, but it is just one of those things I can do without much effort. I used to see singer/songwriters on TV who could take any idea and make a great song right there on the spot. I’m kinda like that with stories. It’s kind of like a party trick—give me a few lines and I can usually lead it into pretty interesting places. The down side is I’m usually very dissatisfied with movies and books I go to for entertainment. Mainly because of think “what could have been”. Many times my wife and I debate well if they had just done this or that or the other thing how much better would that be.

As far as advice…I have a tendency to create a plot that works fine. It makes logical sense and all, but isn’t always that exciting. Then I go back and look at it and think, okay, but now if I didn’t have any constraints what would I love to see happen? Usually I can think of something pretty interesting, something that gets me excited, and something I would love to write. Then I try to see if I can finagle the plot to allow for it, and I usually can manage it. Also when I get in a bind plot-wise, I tend to think randomly, in that I flip problems completely around in ways that don’t initially make sense and just run them in my mind and see what happens. Interesting things can happen that way. Do those things a few times and you get unexpected twists.
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The Emerald Storm by Michael J SullivanMoses: Excellent tip.

With the world of publishing changing so much right now, what do you think new writers should be doing to find their way through and what avenues do you think are best for them today?

MJS: I can’t say I am the best to answer that question. My experience is limited in that I’ve never had the pleasure of being published by a big house—at least not in the US. Indications are that the big publishers are tightening their belts and not taking much chance on new fiction talent and that can make a business already nearly impossible to break into that much harder. The good news is that the Internet and print on demand technologies provide options that simply did not exist before. There are a number of small independent p resses that are “thinking outside the box” and this opens up more opportunity for those just starting out. That’s where I got my start. There are also sites like Podiobooks.com where authors often record their books and publish audio versions for free download. This preserves the print rights while building an audience. You can also self-publish with either the hope of making a success outright or, like a startup venture, the hope of doing well enough to be noticed by a big house and picked up. No matter what you do, it is imperative that you promote your book. Again, the Internet gives even the newest author a chance by providing a means to get the word out.

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Moses: Looking back, is there anything you would’ve done differently, whether in terms of the business end of publishing, or with your series?

MJS: Actually, I managed to accidently do most things perhaps not right exactly, but the way I am happy with. Each author has their own particular goals and one of mine has been to be able to tell my story, “my way.” Being the kind of person I am, I don’t think I would have been happy with a big press. I am too independent and controlling of my vision. A small press afforded me the acknowledgment of “getting legitimately published,” of having someone in the industry fork over thousands of dollars because they believed my work was worth it, but also gave me more control. For instance, the cover sketch I got from my first publisher for The Crown Conspiracy was…less than perfect. So, I did a quick painting to show them “my idea” and it turned out they bought it for the cover. I’ve been able to do the covers for all the books since, and that is something I don’t think I’d ever get from a large publishing house.
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Wintertide by Michael J SullivanMoses: Could you tell me something interesting that you’ve never shared with the public about your life as a writer?

MJS: That’s tough since I tend to forget what I’ve told to whom, and have been fairly open about my experiences. I have to come up with something to write about on my blog after all. I suppose I could explain what the dedication to “Dragonchow” was all about in my second book, Avempartha.

After writing thirteen novels and trying to get published for over ten years, I finally gave up and swore I would never write creative fiction again. I turned instead to my other creative interest and went into commercial art. After working in the field for a time, I started my own ad agency and did very well. I had moved away from my childhood home of Michigan, first to Vermont and then to Raleigh NC. I still had family and friends in Michigan and to keep in touch, we started playing Internet computer games. We started with Starcraft and Age of Empires, but soon moved to MMORPGs and Everquest.

My wife and I both played for three years or so, and in that time we met a number of wonderful people who we only knew through the game. They were all part of a player created guild and the guild’s name was Dragonchow.  From time to time my writing “leaked out” as I recounted tales of our in-game adventures for the guild website. They ended up drawing an audience, so I wrote a little fictional, serialized story starring members of the guild. It was a huge hit, and got me thinking about writing again. (Please note that the Riyria Revelations has nothing at all to do with my gaming experience.) When I did, the members of the guild were some of the first people to read my books.

They read the rough drafts for the first four books, and while I haven’t played Everquest in almost a decade, several of our guild mates are still fans of the series. Wintertide, the fifth book in the series that is due out this October, will be the first book that will be completely new to them. They’ve been waiting a long time to see how the series ends. I hope to make it worth the wait.

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Moses: Thanks again for sharing your story with me, Michael.

The last two books in Michael’s series are “scheduled and well on their way.” Wintertide (book 5) will be available in October. Michael also told me that the final book Percepliquis should be finished ahead of its April scheduled release. I hope you’ll check out his work.

If you have any comments or questions for Michael, feel free to post them in the comments and maybe he’ll be able to check in with us.
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From PW:

The University of Virginia has digitized and posted a whole heap–many hours worth–of lectures Faulkner delivered as writer in residence at the University in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Alongside his comments on literature an the practice of writing, you can hear the Nobel-winner reading from his novels, including The Sound and the Fury.

I pulled some of my favorite answers from just a single Q&A session that Faulkner participated in at a Literature class. You can also use the previous link to hear the original audio from his answers.
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Frederick Gwynn: Do you remember any kind of feeling of satisfaction when you finally finished The Sound and the Fury? I think most readers feel a—a great equilibrium at the end there. Do you recall any such feeling yourself?

William Faulkner: No, I don’t. That’s the—the one that I love the best for the reason that it was the most splendid failure. I think that—that they all failed. Probably the reason the man writes another book is that he tried to—to tell some very important and very moving truth and failed. He’s not satisfied, so he tries again. He writes another book, trying to tell some—the same moving truth, since there’s only one truth, and they fail. And this one I worked hardest at. It’s—it’s like the—the idiot child that the parents love the best. This one was the—the most splendid failure, but I—I wish I hadn’t done it because if I could do it now, I think I could do it better. Of course, I couldn’t, [audience laughter] but I would like to try it again if I had never written it.

Unidentified participant: Mr. Faulkner, in your speech at Stockholm you expressed great faith in mankind, that you thought man not only was here to prevail because he had the capacity for compassion and sacrifice and endurance. Do you think that’s the impression the average reader would get after reading The Sound and the Fury?

William Faulkner: I can’t answer that because I don’t know what the—what the average reader gets from—from reading the book. I—I agree that what I tried to say, I failed to say, and I never have had time to read reviews, so I don’t know what impression people might get from the book. But—but, in my opinion, yes, that’s what I was talking about in all of the books, but I failed to say it. I agree with you, I did fail. But that’s what I was trying to say, that man will prevail, will endure because he is capable of compassion and honor and pride and endurance.

Unidentified participant: I said, how do you feel about your books after they’ve gone to press? Do you reread them and puzzle over them or do you […]?

William Faulkner: No, I don’t because by that time I know the book was not as good as it should’ve been, and so I’m usually busy at another one. [audience laughter]

Unidentified participant: As a general rule, you never re-read?

William Faulkner: No, that’s—that one book the writer don’t have to read any more. [audience laughter]

Unidentified participant: Sir, what are some of the problems that a person who is trying to publish his first novel would run into? In other words, how may he to his—to his best advantage to get his first work in publication?

William Faulkner: It’s difficult to say. I think that if the writer is too interested in getting that book printed to where that takes up that much of his time, that he’s not really a first-rate writer. Probably the first-rate writer is angry and mad, but—but only when he brings himself to think about that first book. He’s—he’s working on the second one by that time. He’s still trying to tell that truth, which by—by then he knows he failed in the first one, so he’s—he’s not interested in—in that book anymore. He wants it printed, of course. The mechanics of it is simply to send it to a publisher and then forget about it and work on the next one, and when it comes back, send it to another publisher. [audience laughter] Forget about it until you know that there’s something basically wrong in that book, something unprintable about it, and then put it away and write another one, and maybe after you have written another one, you will have learned more about the trade. You can see what might’ve been mechanically wrong in the first one. You can go back to that. I’ve done that once, but I don’t think that you should worry too much about getting the stuff printed. The main thing is to write it.

Unidentified participant: Sir, do you rate Hemingway any higher since the publication of his last book, The Old Man and the Sea?

William Faulkner: Not in—by the—the formula I use. I think that the last book was—was his best, and now if we’re talking of—of Hemingway, yes, that was his best, that—that he has steadily improved, and the last, in my opinion, was the best, and the next one should be still better, but it doesn’t [look] […], but what he has done is enough for a man to—to die in peace with, but it’s not enough for a man to say, “I have done what I wanted to do,” because nobody can do quite that. Probably Dostoevsky and Cervantes felt that way. Marlowe felt that way, probably. That if you ever do write that perfect one, then you—you break the pencil and throw it away, and there’s nothing else to do except cut your throat. [audience laughter]

Unidentified participant: Sir, when you are reading for your own pleasure, which authors do you consistently return to?

William Faulkner: The ones I came to love when I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. Moby-Dick, the Old Testament, Shakespeare, a lot of Conrad, Dickens. I read Don Quixote every year.

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Steven Erikson, Author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series

Steven Erikson, Author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series

Over at Life as a Human, fantasy author Steven Erikson is in the midst of an appropriately epic series of blog posts under the heading, “Notes on a Crisis.” Part VIII is titled, “With Regret.”

First reason for admiration: Not only has Erikson written an awe-inspiring 10-part fantasy series, he’s sticking by the roman numerals with this blog series, already up to VIII. The man is not afraid of big numbers, and he’s got the attention span to back that up. Much respect.

But the topic of “With Regret” is a serious one, and it demonstrates one of the best potentials of both celebrity and of writing: The ability to transform an audience with mere words. It demonstrates one of the greatest virtues an author can possess, perhaps the only virtue that matters: The ability to be honest with his readers.

I’ll let you read his story, and only say that it unravels his regret surrounding the death of his mother, and then of his father. It took the words of one of his characters, a gift from his subconscious as he wrote the tenth book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, to open up the floodgates:

Today, a fictional character uttered the opinion that the only worthy place to die is in someone’s arms. And in the wake of that utterance, everything just sort of tumbled down inside.

Author interviews can be tame affairs. But Eric Miles Williamson had some interesting things to say in this Huffington Post interview with Anis Shivani, in which Williamson plays well the part of The Iconoclastic  Writer. It’s a long interview, so I’ll pull out just a few of the many provocative threads.

“Writers should write for the dead writers and the writers yet to be born,” he says, “for only they are worthy of our labors.” Without agreeing, I respect his sentiment and his quest. For example:

My copy of Shakespeare sits on my desk so I can remember that I suck, so that I feel bad about what I’m presuming to do. Every writer should feel like a failure. A writer who thinks he is a success is a bad writer.

Here’s the part, about how he learned from jazz soloists not to write every day, that really turned my head:

Methods. They vary according to what I’m writing. I’m not one of those writers like Hemingway or Jack London or Updike or you, Mr. Shivani, who writes every day. I personally don’t think it’s good for one’s art.

When I was making my living as a professional jazz trumpeter I once met the great alto saxophonist Phil Woods. He’s without compare as a soloist, better, in my opinion, than even Charlie Parker. Parker, if you study his solos, his improvisational patterns, falls into rote patterns, repeats himself, sometimes for up to three or four measures. And it’s not a deliberate self-citation, either. It’s that Charlie Parker, like so many artists, would find himself confronted with an artistic situation and respond with a statement he’d made before. I’ve done this myself in any number of essays I’ve written, and I’ve found myself, unfortunately, doing it in my fiction. This is to be avoided. Phil Woods never makes this faux pas. Faulkner does, Miles Davis does, Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Picasso and Van Gogh and even Bach. Not Phil Woods.

So when I met him I asked him how he did it, how he managed never to play the same lick twice. He told me that every five years he took a year off from his alto sax and played a different instrument, like the flute, for a year. By playing a different axe, he was forced, because of the physical and tonal differences, to rewire not only his thinking, but his physical relationship to his artistic medium. So when he went back to his alto saxophone, it was an alien to him, new once again, something to explore and understand and through which he could express himself differently than he had before alienating himself from it.

That’s passion for writing.

Warning: Mature, sexual content to follow.

I just read “Spar,” Kij Johnson‘s short story, winner of last night’s 2010 Nebula short story award. You can read it here, but know that it’s full of mature content. Its opening sentence:

In the tiny lifeboat, she and the alien fuck endlessly, relentlessly.

My first impression of the entire story was that I thought it was quite creative, and so I understood why it won the Nebula award, but that I didn’t particularly like the story. I felt better about feeling that way after reading Kij say that she herself doesn’t like it at all. A fuller quote from her is: “This is a story I love without liking it at all … It’s a difficult story to read, and it’s hard to see past the graphic aspects to what the story is really about.”

I thought the sexual references cheapened the story a bit, and that the ending could’ve been stronger.

Then I read her explanation of the meaning of the story, which I suspected I’d missed, and I smiled. I reread the story and smiled some more. The story’s repetition of words like “cunt,” which felt a bit gimmicky to me initially, made more than perfect sense when the story became candid allegory.

Before you consider reading Kij’s explanation of “Spar,” you might want to read the story itself. Can you figure out what she’s saying first (it’s a lot more fun that way, isn’t it?)?

I think I came close at one point while reading it, but I didn’t quite get it until I read about it from her directly.

Now I’m really glad the imagery of “Spar” will stick with me.

Congratulations on the award, Kij!

“Just shoot the fucking thing, so I can go back to my life,” Harlan Ellison says, opening Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth, a 2008 documentary about the irascible, prolific writer.

Though controversial, Harlan Ellison is a legendary science fiction writer. As a recognized Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, he belongs to an elite group of (currently) twenty-five that includes the likes of Heinlein, Asimov, and Bradbury. He’s amassed a pile of other trophies, too, including eight and a half Nebula awards and three Hugo awards (source: wiki).

First things first. I absolutely recommend the documentary to anyone with interest in biographies, writers, or speculative fiction. Appropriate to the man himself, it’s brutally honest and even more brutally funny.

Ellison’s doubled-edged reputation is that of a masterful, but abrasive and confrontational, writer. One of his own book jackets describes him as “possibly the most contentious person on Earth.” As an example, he relates in the film that while being asked a stupid question by a fan beside him at a urinal, he turned and peed on the fan’s foot as he answered.

In a 1976 interview with Ellison, he defends the value of being vengeful: “I think revenge is a very terrific, good thing for everybody.” He said so honestly, it appeared to me, but with underlying humor. The topic came up after he explains how he responded to a writing professor that told him he had no talent. Harlan sent him voluminous evidence of his later success for many years, a copy of every single thing he got published.

Two things struck me most: his difficult youth, and his feelings about his own personality.

He recounts his childhood, as a diminutive Jewish boy who grew up in a “very anti-Semitic town” in Ohio. He was beaten up “every day” by groups of bullies. He says, “When you’ve been made an outsider, you are always angry. You respond to it in a lot of different ways. A lot of people get surly, a lot of people get mean, some people turn into serial killers. I got so smart that I could just kill ‘em with logic, or their own mouths.”

Ellison watched his father die suddenly at the age of 14. He becomes emotional while looking at the only surviving video of his father, and it’s plain that however angry and ornery a man he may or may not have been without the traumas of his childhood, the painful events of his youth are sufficient to explain his nature.

His most interesting comment, for me, was when talking about his personality:

“… Yeah, everything makes me angry. And they say, well you should be a little mellow, get a little mellow. And I say, oh really? Gee, I had never thought of that. Get a little mellow. Woo! What an epiphany. Like I enjoy this? Do you think I enjoy getting up angry every morning, going to bed angrier every night to go through the day with the veins standing out, the bolts unscrewing in my neck. Jesus Christ, I would give anything to be as mellow and cool as most people. I’d be one of those slaves [laughing], the walking dead, but it would be a relief. Give me six months as a walking dead, and I’ll never say anything angry again.”

We have a man, who whether through nature or nurture (well, it’s always some of both, isn’t it?) is exactly what he is. To me, that’s someone hilariously candid, passionate, and determined far more than most to live his life “exactly” as he wishes to. He admits that lifestyle comes with a price, mentioning Hunter S. Thompson, who spoke of knowing “the dead-end loneliness of a person who makes his own rules.”

Whether or not that price is worth it is something Harlan Ellison’s story left me thinking about.

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Below are two videos. The first is an epic rant from Harlan Ellison about wanting to be paid for a long film interview if Warner Brothers includes it on a DVD (“I should do a freebie for Warner Brothers? What is Warner Brothers, out with an eye patch and a tin cup out on the street?”), and the other is a trailer for the documentary.

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