Friday, 13 July 2001
Well, it's over.
I was tempted to say something like "Clarion: Been there, done that, got the t-shirt," but I decided it wouldn't be nearly as funny to you as it is to me.
Tonight we had a big blow-out party. It was a dress-up affair, with nearly everyone in some sort of costume. I stuck with my pompous pseudo-intellectual writer costume. I asked Dora to help with poses. At her suggestion, I added some slightly effeminate gestures. That definitely was working, especially for hitting on the women. It never would have occurred to me on my own. Why didn't anybody tell me this when I was single?
The party was broken up in the middle with an untalent show. You'd be surprised to learn just how untalented most of these people are. Still, the all tank-girl, all kazoo band was hit. The Absurdist Trio's performance of "Waiting for Staunchy" was a big hit. Geoffrey A. Landis sang maxwells equations. There was juggling, singing and dancing, and mockery of subtext. (Subtext was actually the theme of the party, I think. The decorations were an exploration of subtext.) I did a pompous pseudo-intellectual stand-up comedy routine, in which I told jokes and then explained why they were funny and then discussed issues involved in translating them into Esperanto.
I slept poorly last night. I was anxious, but it took some hard thinking to figure out what I was anxious about. I decided that it was hard because I was anxious about two contradictory things. I was anxious that I'd go home and discover that things had changed while I was gone. And I was anxious that I'd go home and my life would be just the same as if I hadn't come here.
I said a couple of days ago that I thought my life was great, so I was glad that Clarion hadn't been a life-changing experience. That's still mostly the way I feel, but I realize that it's more complicated than that. No one would do something this big in order to not change anything. It's just too much time, effort, and money to expend if you don't want something to be different.
The main thing I wanted to be different was my writing. I got that. My writing is a lot better.
The main thing I got that I hadn't planned on was my attitude about writing. I mentioned that I didn't think I wanted to write full time. But that wasn't meant to suggest that writing had become less important for me. Just the opposite: writing is more important. It's too important to waste time wishing I could write full time. I want to spend the time I used to waste on that writing.
My brother suggested that I ought to go to graduate school. He says his experience as a graduate student was a lot like my experience at Clarion (in terms of the intensity and the small-group dynamics, I think). I've thought about going to graduate school. I think I would enjoy it. But right now I'm thinking very positive thoughts about how I'll be able to integrate my writing into my real life, and I think I'll give that a try before I think very seriously about other possibilities.
I haven't been working on a story since I finished "A Little Empathy" on Monday. That's about as long as I've gone between stories all year. It was great for the first couple of days, but now I find (a little to my surprise) that I'm ready to start something new. I'm looking forward to being able to be a bit more leisurely with the next one. I don't have an idea for this one yet, but a feeling that I'm ready to start writing again.
Speaking of ideas, my idea file is somewhat depleted. I put about half of my stockpile of ideas into "An Education of Scars" and then one old and one new idea into "A Little Empathy." (This isn't a problem--ideas are the easy part.)
High levels of idea density are in fashion these days. James Patrick Kelly is good at it. I don't remember him talking about it a lot, though. Idea dense stories are one of the things I want to do, but they're hard. It takes a light touch to slip in a little thing without making it so interesting that it distracts the reader from the story. And it takes a certain facility with story crafting to put in the big things such that they all work toward the same goal. I have a few lightweight stories with only one idea (okay, as long as it's a good idea and the story doesn't go on too long). I have more "lumpy" stories where the ideas, although individually neat, don't work together.
On both of the two stories that were critiqued by Geoff, he made a point of saying that they were "true" science fiction stories, in the sense that there was a speculative scientific element, and the story collapsed if you took it out. Not all my stories are like that, but a lot are. I made a point of writing that sort of story for Geoff, because I thought I'd get a particularly useful critique from him on that sort of story. It's actually my favorite kind of story to write, although I also enjoy writing fantasy stories with beautiful prose.The final tally:
Note that the count of stories critiqued is the number I've done critiques for, and therefore excludes the stories written by me. Everyone else will have critiqued a roughly similar number, depending on whether they are more or less prolific than me.