samuel x. brase likes to write

Progress

Posted in second novel, third project by Sam X. on 20 November 2010

Not a lot to say right now, trying to hammer out chapter 8 before Thanksgiving.

It’s gonna need a good rewrite unfortunately; it’s told in a different voice than the rest of the novel, and I haven’t quite set it apart yet, tone-wise. It needs a different energy, different style. But if I can get the whole thing down on paper, I can spend free time on break restructuring it and playing around with the style.

Updates on Project Three.

So, the original idea was to put critical reviews of indie sci-fi on the blog, and provide ebook/DIY paper versions of a serialized story. In a moment of realization, I figured: why not combine the two? Make the whole thing a monthly zine of sorts for indie sci-fi. It can have a short news section, a couple critical reviews, and then ~20 pages of original fiction written by yours truly. Like a lit version of Cahiers du Cinema or Touch and Go.

Those are going to be my influences for this project, so I ordered about 8 to 9 different punk zines yesterday. They should be showing up next week. I’m really excited to pour through them and see what different DIY publishing people are doing. One of them has a bunch of interviews with editors of punk zines, that should be especially informative.

I’ll also probably have to check out some current sci-fi lit journals, to see what everyone is talking about, but their aesthetic is not what I’m shooting for.

Every day I get a little more excited about this. It’s going to look so xeroxed and cheap but hopefully the quality of the content will be exciting. And I’m certainly open to changing the format, making it more professional looking etc., if any interest in garnered.

I’m thinking about conducting a guerrilla advertising approach; mailing it to indie sci-fi writers and publishers, university lit departments. Not sure about that, but it’s… an idea.

Anyhow, back to the novel.

In the Year 2011

Posted in second novel, third project by Sam X. on 17 November 2010

Yes, I’m still working on my novel.

But its time to let the future project gestate.

Since this project will be an experiment in pursuing DIY standards close to my heart, it only makes sense that the content of such a project would be close to my heart. It has to be fun, to keep myself and the audience interested. It has to be episodic with a larger arc, perhaps 8 to 10 episodes, each anywhere from 30 to 50 pages. I’ll be honest: I’m thinking about a space rebel mimic of Che Guevara. Something like that.

I had this odd moment, listening to the new Girl Talk album. A couple minutes into track 4, he mashes up Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” and the Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River.” Now, the Skee-Lo song is a fun, basic song where Skee-Lo spends the chorus reviewing various ways his life would be better (most of them revolve around his non-existent girlfriend). But backed by the Talking Heads, the song assumes emotional impact beyond his physical desires. The grafted melody adds import, creating a sense of yearning that reaches deeper into the stomach–by the time he raps, “I wish I was a little bit taller,” man, so do you.

The trick, as in most of Girl Talk, is cross-applying hip hop materialism / physicality to rock ‘n’ roll passion. The styles find common ground in rhythm, but that’s neither here nor there. Some days, that combined physicality and passion is all that will do; neither rock alone nor rap alone will fill a specific void that is only satisfied by their merging.

Writing chapter 8 of my current novel, and thinking ahead to the climax, it becomes clear that a lot of what I’m trying to do is in a way a literary mash-up. It’s stream of consciousness science fiction; it’s mainstream revolutionism; and, very literally a mashup. Because of the advanced stage of the technology involved, the environments in which the characters move are not restricted to one static image, but rather, a mashup of available environs. I’m not sure how far I can / should push this in the current novel, but it’s something to think about as a possible stylistic calling card.

I may try and adapt this into next year’s project, because I think it holds such potential.

Why Not a Second Job

Posted in third project by Sam X. on 10 November 2010

Nearing the halfway point on novel #2 right now, somewhere in the 40-42,000 word neighborhood. Target is 90k words, as per usual. Perhaps a little over that because of eventual editing.

Of course, as I try to buckle down and crank this thing out, new ideas appear on the horizon and grip me.

I’ve been trying to sort out my feelings toward indie / self / epublishing. I’ve long figured that indie published short stories were fine–nay, a legitimate way to start a career–but once you were thinking novel, it should be legit or nothing. I recently began juxtaposing this with some other views I hold: that self-released rock albums are awesome, and that independent movies are also awesome.

So why are independent published novels any different?

There’s something in the form that perhaps requires more perfection; improv in a movie can be fun, a flubbed note on a record can be charming. A typo in a book is usually met with horror.

I was discussing all these thoughts with my girlfriend this past weekend, expressing my doubt that indie novels would ever be taken seriously, and she pointed out that early punk bands, who circumvented the traditional record-release process, almost assuredly doubted their success or value as well. Yet they pushed through, and I consider a lot of that output to be some of the best music ever made.

But when you’re bucking the industry, there’s no assurance of success. I’ve also thought a lot about Francois Truffaut, who trumpeted the experimental French New Wave and spent dead tree space hammering mainstream film. He and the rest of Cahiers du Cinema gave the burgeoning movement critical import; they reasoned out why experimenting with lenses and angle and so on was important and what such experimentation could provide the medium. Punk never did anything quite so academic, but music’s always been more emotional than cinema.

Point being: if independent book publishing has at least a second-removed relation to punk music, if it can be understood as rebellion against artistic establishment, what has taken me so long to wake up and smell the coffee? I’m all about rebellion. Well, OK, I’m not “all about it,” but I do recognize it as a most interesting trait of human society; the need to tear down the old. And I do believe it to be one of of the most important acts that we as a people can do. Society (traditions/institutions/mores) is our creation; so we can alter it.

Why do I spend all this time worrying about fitting into the industry machine? So I can be accepted by the same terms that other writers have been accepted? I suppose that’s the case. But the machine is breaking; the machine is broken. Time to come out from under its shadow.

And so: I am working to start a new project. One in which I critically review indie / self / epublished science fiction novels and short stories. One in which I am open about my current manuscript, invite people to discuss it. This new manuscript (separate from novel #2) will be a serial, given away for free as an ebook or sold for a pittance in a DIY physical form.

I’m challenging myself to be experimental, beyond my prose. To open up to the new model; to allow for free digital distribution of my work. I am not a perfect writer (is anyone?) and at the young age of 26, I have a lot more growing to do. For the duration of this project, my growth will be a transparent process. Free. Critical. Punk.

Notes

  • Writing the new manuscript will not begin until drafting novel #2 is finished.
  • This “new project” will likely be on a separate wordpress blog.
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