samuel x. brase likes to write

Eve

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 6 October 2011

OK.

I need to breathe. I need to keep my expectations appropriate. Issue one of Cosmic Vinegar is going live tomorrow, at approximately high noon.

I want to change the world: But this first issue will not do that. I want a lot of readers: But this first issue will not find them.

Reality now. I expect maybe a few family members, a handful of friends, and a few writers (who I review in the issue) will download it. Call it 15 downloads. If I can get to 20, that’s solid. Anything more is a real, big time win.

The plan now. For the next month, I will comb sci-fi message boards and post where appropriate. I will not advertise the magazine. I might advertise issue 2, most certainly issue 3. A presence must be built, not assumed.

This first issue is a foundation. Opening arguments. Do not expect much; expect 15 views.

Fifteen.

Maybe even one or two less.

Goddamn These Vampires

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 25 May 2011

crawl til dawn / on my hands and knees

goddamn these vampires / for what they’ve done to me.

-The Mountain Goats “Damn These Vampires”

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, so the whole “write more” thing makes sense. Reading more is another natural extension of this. So now I read nonfiction books at home and fiction during lunch and on the weekends. As these two aspects of my life have developed, I realized I couldn’t just write literary fiction about people with issues. While all well and good to include the eternal troubles of humanity, there are more timely problems that I feel need addressing. Societal, political, economic problems.

This has driven me to search for legitimacy. People like Robert Reich and Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky generally agree to my worldview, even Jeffrey Sachs at times, but–it still feels–I feel adrift in some ideological sea, where the problem is apparent but everyday life is too comfortable. What can my writing do? “The correct way of posing the question.” That’s what I can do. But is that enough? (more…)

A Purse to Snatch

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 10 December 2010

One of the primary things I’ve wrestled with when considering my third project–exploring DIY publishing–is the overpowering sense in the writing industry that self/e/indie publishing is The Wrong Way to Do It, especially if you want to be respected and courted by legit agents and so on. So I’ve resisted my punk sensibilities and worked to do it that way.

Of course, that’s not the only way; self/e/indie publishing doesn’t preclude you from ever achieving literary acceptance. It mostly just precludes the material you publish through independent channels from ever achieving literary acceptance.

That idea is liberating in its own way, forsaking literary acceptance–if only for a little while.

A lot of online advice about independent publishing is focused around the question: is it right for you? Because if you want that work-in-progress to be the next Da Vinci Code, independent publishing is probably not the correct avenue. However, if you just want to make like 50-500 copies available, well then perhaps it’s something worth exploring.

I thought about it. I want mainstream success; of course, everyone does. The idea of living comfortably off merely making shit up every day sounds like a fantasy. I think ostensibly it is a fantasy; but enough people achieve it to make it a fantasy that the other 99% strive for. Kind of like sports; yeah they’re fun but wouldn’t it be awesome to get paid millions to play a kid’s game? And I thought about it more. What else do I want?

I want to affect readers, sure, but an emotional response isn’t priority number one for me. I want to take them on a journey, but that’s almost assumed with my chosen genre (science fiction). What do I really want? What do I write for?

I write to rebel. I write to educate. I want to write stories that explore and expose politics, economics, sociology. And so the plan for my third project comes into ever-clearer focus. It will allow me to develop my writing style and skill, but it will also allow me to explore current political developments and juxtapose them against technological developments. I’ll be exploring myself (writing), my world (politics), and my genre (technology). I’m so excited to begin.

But I still need to finish that darn second novel which is only half done. 46,000 words. Come on, Sam. Get to work.

Getting Warmed Up

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 4 May 2010

The nihilism of technology lies not only in the fact that it is the most perfect expression of the will to power, as Heidegger believes, but also in the fact that it lacks meaning. Why? and To what purpose? are questions that technology does not ask itself. —Octavio Paz

It seems to me that this quote has much to do with my second novel. My novel takes this idea, that technology functions without meaning, and then asks the question: What does this do to a person or a people who rely entirely on technology? How does this break traditional notions of identity, and what replaces our notions of identity? Is identity simply undermined, or do we reorganize our understanding, restructure identity, come up with something new? These are questions I must contemplate and work on, for they are the core of Novel #2.

In other news; this year has revealed the second phase of my budding writing career. Last year, I wrote about a dozen short stories and a novel. The short stories taught me that surrealism comes naturally to me, and the novel taught me that science fiction is my wheelhouse.

This year, I am reading far more than I have in the past, both novels and nonfiction magazines (primarily National Geographic, Natural History, and Foreign Affairs for now). But I also realized that it might be beneficial to merge my surrealist bent with my sci-fi talent. I took a flash fiction that I created earlier this year and redid it entirely; futuristic setting, expanded characters, more description. It went from 250 words to about 2500, as is probably a more interesting story for that.

The reasons for merging my two tastes are numerous.

First, I think it makes sense to unite them in an attempt to establish a more unique style. Developing a readership and anything resembling a writing career both require a sui generis voice. People need to be able to read ten pages and say, “Oh, this sounds like Brase.” Of course, merging surrealism and sci-fi has been done before. My personal touchstone of Philip Dick provides ample evidence to that point. I just hope I can bring new stories to the subgenre, a new ideological stand point, and relevant themes.

Second, I believe it works to the benefit of the stories. One of my perpetual themes in sci-fi stories is how technology is decentering our reality. This plays naturally to surrealism, and if I embrace that, it will allow me to plumb the depths of that decentered reality.

Third, this focuses my career at this juncture. I spent a lot of last year splitting time between standard fiction and more sci-fi oriented fiction; while certainly useful for my portfolio and attempts to get published, I think it will prove more beneficial to focus on one genre, one style. So I’m taking what I liked best about both, blending, and moving forward.

Despite all this, I’ll probably work on some more mainstream fiction come the fall. I’d still love to get an MFA, and my portfolio for application should probably steer away from sci-fi. Despite my fondness for my story Scary Bells, it was probably a miscalculation to include it in most of my applications this past year. I’ll keep the Recession Menu however.

So; I am feeling confident about this new focus, I’m excited to get to work on a pile of new short stories, I’m excited to read more, and most of all, I’m excited to commence work on novel #2. It certainly is busy for me, but I’d have it no other way. As Mark McGuire said in an interview recently:

There’s so many jams to be made and things to be done I feel like I just have to keep working constantly, there’s no time to waste!

That’s about right. The days are just packed.

2010

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 1 January 2010

I have a delicious fascination with the future.

Perhaps this is why I write science fiction; today is pretty set in stone. We have the internet and cars and so on, and I’m digging it, but I’m curious about tomorrow. So rolling the calendar over to 2010 for me has been wonderful; the connotations with a higher number, a new digit in the tens column, an ejection from the previous decade–it all adds up to progression, to walking into the future.

As ridiculous as it is to let an arbitrarily invented system of counting time determine one’s outlook, it’s no less ridiculous than pretty much anything else in human culture. Everything we do we have invented for our own purposes, and counting time is no different. Thus, my joy of moving into 2010 is met with no sense of shame. It is a symbol, an identifier of where we are in relation to the rest of human history. We are in a new decade with a clean slate: The era of Harry Potter has (mostly) passed by; the era of the Beatles is even farther in the rearview; the roaring 20s and the American civil war and Napoleon were ever so long ago.

And as someone who just completed their first novel, this sense of opportunity is inebriating. When the calendar turned from 1989 to 1990, JK Rowling was a perhaps mostly aimless 24-year-old, however imbued with a love of writing from childhood. Ten years later… well, you know the rest. When the calendar rolled from 1969 to 1970, George Lucas had just been a camera operator for the Rolling Stones movies Gimme Shelter. Incidentally, a few years ago I worked briefly with one of the directors of that film. He was twenty-five at the time, scrounging around on the sea floor of the film industry. Ten years later… well, you know the rest.

Thus, it is with no small sense of possibility that I view the upcoming decade. It is, of course, a wish and a dream to even begin to see my path lining up with theirs. But the point is, they entered those decades (the 70s and 90s, respectively) much the same as I am entering this decade: youthful, spirited, creative. I don’t expect blockbuster films and bestselling novels, but I do hope for some level of achievement. Thus, I give you my new year’s resolutions and my new decade’s resolutions.

2010

  • Edit EE by end of February; query agents upon finishing.
  • Write sequel to EE, beginning in April.
  • Write five more substantial short stories (~20 pages) and five shorter pieces (~10 pages); continue to send catalog to markets.
  • Read a book every two weeks. I realize this is a lowly amount to some of you, yet it will represent a vast improvement from a couple of years ago.

2010-2019

  • Write three novels: the EE sequel, the first DS book, and something undetermined. Three isn’t a lot considering that I wrote one in 2009 and I will attempt to complete a second in 2010, but I want to keep this realistic, so I can perhaps focus on other areas of my writing career. Shorts, reading, essays, what have you.
  • Continue a steady pace of short stories throughout.
  • Continue a steady pace of reading throughout.
  • Obtain my MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction.

I have other, more minor goals, yet they are specifically secondary to my writing career, which at this point takes precedence over everything in my life besides friends and family. I want to be sure to stay in touch with music, and I want to watch as much college basketball as I can, but these hardly seem like goals. I’d rather not institutionalize my methods of procrastination, however culturally enriching they might be.

I guess this post, in sum, is me telling myself one thing: You wrote a lot of short stories and a goddamn novel in one year. Sure you were unemployed but you did it. Do it again. And again. And again.

Until the day your hands fall off.

All right, 2010. Let’s do this.

The Post-Mortem’s Post-Mortem

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 9 November 2009

I’ve wanted to write a post-mortem for finishing the rough draft of my novel–I have, in fact, started it a couple of times–but it has not proven useful, I think because the whole project only had one lingering after effect: The knowledge that I can in fact write a whole novel.

I learned that writing is my raison d’etre; when I got into it, writing was all I wanted. As I wrote in one of my failed post-mortems: “From June to September, I was alive. […] I would write until I was shaking with hunger or bleary-eyed from fatigue, I read more, my life felt calmer and more focused than it ever has. Never before have I been so consumed to finish something.”

So that has set in stone my graduate studies. I’m working to apply to MFA programs, because I need it, I need that time and that structure to write more. This novel was amazing, but it was a fluke. I will never have the time to write something like it again, more than likely. Getting an MFA will allow this kind of time, and it will guide my reading, and so on.

I’m also determined to read more. A common piece of advice for writers is to read; I read a fair amount in college, but it was exclusively required reading. This introduced me to my true reading love, continental lit, which I need to get back into. I also need to read more science fiction, considering that will probably be my bread and butter in the future. I have read an embarrassingly small amount of science fiction, limited to a Philip K Dick, a whole lot of Star Trek novels, and that’s about all I can remember. I read a fair amount of fantasy, too, as a youth (Tolkein, Jordan, Goodkind, Dragonlance).

This is ridiculous, and I fear coming off as a poseur when I say I write sci-fi. I need to fix this immediately. Heinlein, Asimov, Herbert, more Dick, Bradbury. I’ve relied too long on a childhood of Star Trek episodes and books.

In this vein, I read half of Stephen King’s On Writing this past Friday to gain some insights for when I begin editing my novel tomorrow. He backed up some knowledge I’m already working with–eliminate all but the most necessary adverbs–and reiterated the “read, read, read” mantra. He made some claims I’ve scoffed at before–kill your darlings, second draft equals first draft minus ten percent–and I suppose I need to take this more seriously. Dress down dialog attribution seems like reasonable, professional advice. Make sure backstory is revealed deftly. Character motivation has to be believable. Coherence, recurring elements, theme, description.

I have a feeling I’m going to learn more from the editing process than from the writing process.

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The Fall Classic

Posted in Uncategorized by Sam X. on 12 August 2009

Working on a long, more substantial post, where I begin to outline books that might come after the first volume of EE.

Speaking of EE, had a great writing today, got down about eight pages in six hours. I feel pumped, I could keep writing, but I need to do something else for a couple hours or my eyes’ll bleed.

I’ve had good writing days before (the day when I wrote the last 19 pages of Scary Bells comes to mind), but I’ve never felt as exhilarated as I do today. I feel completely empowered by this novel, so in control of writing as I never have before. I have 123 pages of a novel written, I have an outline for the rest of the novel, I feel like I could sit and just finish it right now.

Of course that’s impossible — eyes, bleeding, etc. But I looked at it this way. I’m estimating the novel to be about 300 pages long, which leaves 177 pages unwritten. If I could write 7 pages a day, a little less than I did today, it would take me just TWENTY-FIVE days to finish this novel. If I put my mind to this, I could have a whole draft by October, an entire novel written in four months. I’m no Stendhal but that’s damn fast.

No project has ever seemed so possible to me, nay, probable. Every page I complete raises the stakes, raises the chances that this novel will be complete some day. I almost want to stay unemployed until I have the whole draft. At this rate, I’ll barely have to make an effort for that to happen.

This is the writer’s high. 25 days, huh? There are 22 business days in September. Throw in a couple weekend days and the rest of August, subtract some lazy days, and bam. Novel done. Complete.

Who knows if it’ll be any good but it’ll fucking be done.

All right, Sam. Are you really going to do this?

I think you are.

October 1. By the time the baseball playoffs start, you’ll have a complete draft. Keep applying for jobs, but keep writing. I can see it.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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