samuel x. brase likes to write


Posted in second novel, third project by Sam X. on 30 December 2010

A follow-up to my post at the beginning of 2010 which laid out some basic ideas of what I wanted to accomplish in 2010. Let’s look back for a moment.

In 2010, I wanted to…

  • Edit EE by end of February; query agents upon finishing. This mostly happened, although it was by the end of March. I did query some agents but quickly became disillusioned with the quality of the manuscript, even after editing. I think making this a saleable book would require much, much more work, which I’m not prepared to enter yet. Maybe in 2012….
  • Write sequel to EE, beginning in April. I quickly abandoned this plan, as I ceded to the advice Never write a sequel to an unpublished book. Thus, work on HR began instead, which I have written approximately half of to date.
  • Write five more substantial short stories (~20 pages) and five shorter pieces (~10 pages); continue to send catalog to markets. I entered the post-EE period by writing a number of flashes, a few which graduated to substantial short stories. I didn’t do five, but I think four happened. Numerous flashes were written, although I don’t think many ~10 pagers were written, if at all.
  • 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. This breakneck pace–26 books–was not attained, although that can at least be partially attributed to my four-month siege on Ulysses.

So, overall, not very successful. I made progress on all fronts but not enough. I did start a job this year, which certainly played into how much I accomplished, but I won’t get anywhere chucking up excuses. No excuses, play like a champion. I’ll do better in 2011. I’m going to make a similar list; a little loftier, and with one new item….

  • Finish HR (novel #2) by the end of March. Perhaps edit in the fall, although project #3 will hamper that.
  • Similarly, I need to finish reading Ulysses by the end of March, so I’m good to go on project #3.
  • Begin and continue project #3, the serial. First issue by end of May. This will constitute the vast majority of my writing in 2011.
  • Read a book every two weeks! For real this time. Once out of the Ulysses woods, that is. Project #3 will require avid reading of indie sci-fi books, but those are shorter than your average paperback (~200 pages), so I don’t expect much trouble. I also want to keep up with my nonfiction reading, which is primarily current events at this point.

2010 provided a good basis, a good rhythm of what I need to do in order to get where I want to be (a well-informed sci-fi writer on sociopolitical issues). I’m excited for 2011, especially project #3. But I have to stay focused, one day at a time, and get novel #2 down on paper first. I promised myself back in 2009 that I wouldn’t leave novels unfinished and I’m not breaking that promise this early.

Repeat: If only for the experience, writing a second full novel is good for you. If only for the experience….

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Response: The Collapse of Identity

Posted in pop theory, second novel by Sam X. on 10 May 2010

What if history is not cyclical and slow moving but arrhythmic — at times almost stationary, but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night? -Niall Ferguson

From the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs, Ferguson looks at some common denominators when it comes to the collapse of an empire. The thesis of the paper, expressed rather informally above, is that complex systems don’t degrade for long periods of time; they remain stable-yet-in-flux, every on the precipice, on “the edge of chaos.” They are resilient, too, beating back many opportunities for collapse.

Yet all it takes is the right antagonism and whoosh, off the cliff it goes, descent into chaos and extinction.

Similarly, in The Bourne Identity, it seems that the main character, Jason Bourne, in the three years leading up to his memory loss, had been operating on the edge of chaos. He had assumed the identity of an invented man and lived a lie every waking minute; all it took was the right push, or in this case a number of slugs to the back, and he crashed off the cliff.

My second novel will study the collapse of social identity. My main character, bereft of his own identity, will move through a world descending into chaos. He will be one step behind those thrusting it into chaos, such that he will forever be in a mad world, uncertainty and insanity the order of the day.

What can save my character? Bourne was saved by meeting D’Anjou, an old comrade who could reveal a good number of his past secrets. I’m considering having my character only lose part of his memory, a la Paycheck, so that I can gloss over the time spent recouperating. Bourne spends six months in the beginning of the novel relearning basic things and establishing a starting point for himself. I don’t know if my character can afford six months, caught in a revolution as he will be.

If he has less memory loss, of course, he needs less saving. In fact, his own personal identity is clearly just half the story; the other half of the story is the nature of the revolution and future of society’s identity.

As for Bourne Identity, I found it a little unfulfilling. There was substantially less action than I had hoped, but the intricacy of the clues was interesting to unfurl. The only message I can take away from the story is how a large, centralized government almost ruined Bourne’s life. Indeed, intelligence operations had overreached their foundational resources, and putting Bourne out on such a limb was a risky proposition. What I did find quite successful was the fluidity of identity that Bourne experienced.

In one chapter, he was sure he had been an assassin. The next, a patzy. The next, a combination of the two. A, B, AB, C, AC, BC, ABC, D, AD, etc. By the end, he referred to himself as a ‘shell,’ and focused entirely on the one solid thought he could remember: Kill Carlos. Bourne lived out beyond the breakers, shifting from one belief to another, never assured of one belief, a new gamechanging fact just two pages away. That was when the story was its most inspired, when it acknowledged how tenuous Bourne’s understanding of himself was. I’ll be lucky if I replicate a fraction of that.

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