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 I quickly abandoned this plan, as I ceded to the advice Never write a sequel to an unpublished book.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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David and His Final Decision

Posted in novel planning, second novel by Sam X. on 1 October 2010

The climax of my current novel is less in the action (though there will be action) and more in the final decision of the protagonist, to either support the status quo or resist it. For an accounting of his reasoning, I turn to analysis of Ulysses. First, Joyce.

It was revealed to me that those things are good which yet are corrupted which neither if they were supremely good nor unless they were good could be corrupted.

And now, Blamires (who wrote the Ulysses guide I am using).

‘Those things’–the Irish homeland, the Irish tradition, culture, revolution–are indeed good. It is because they are good that they can be corrupted. It is also because they are not the supremely and absolutely good that they can be corrupted. It is right to be drawn by them. It is also right to resist their attractiveness; though resistance is costly. Vocation always is.

David comes to his decision, allows concensus, and then walks away–as a final act of resistance. Much as George Washington walked away from the presidency, much as Sulla resigned his dictatorship, he will put a final plan into place and say no more; disappear into pages of history.

Government is good–but not supremely good, and can be corrupted. It is also because government is not supremely good that revolution is likewise good–but also not supremely good, and thus can be corrupted. My novel simply posits: what does a man do when both have become corrupted? What does this same man do when his memory is missing?

I felt unsure of the ending for a long time, but Joyce has convinced me it is the right–the only–thing David can do.


Posted in pop theory by Sam X. on 11 February 2010

I finished Dune and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep within the last few weeks.

Both are good, although the latter is by far the better book. Its scope is perhaps more narrow, which affects this judgment, but the prose is sharper and the philosophies more urgent. I never read a phrase in Dune and wished I had written it–in fact, many phrases brought me distaste. However, quite a few phrases were well written in Do Androids…. Philip Dick is the clear winner in that regard.

The difficulty comes in the fact that I write stories like Dune. More political and cultural, less philosophical. I want to write the epics of Herbert with the skill of Dick. Unfortunately, good prose is not part and parcel with SF epics. There’s too much action, too much stuff happening for it to stay fresh and good. When a series is about as long as six War and Peaces, end to end, you know some bit of quality is going to suffer.

Yet, artistry can be extended. Television shows are making the jump to movie-level quality, with shows like The Wire pushing excellence to a heady new area. Television shows are to movies what pulpier books are to literature (after a fashion), and I desire to find that intersection where the pulp becomes literature.

My current series, EE, and the one I imagine in the future, DS, are both works of multiple books, and will not possess enough of the skill of proper literature. Yet, my goal, as an artist, is to bring that level of quality to popular literature. There is the rare writer who has done it; best I can point to is Dick and Neil Gaiman. I imagine DS as The Wire of science fiction: all-encompassing, ensemble cast, darkly truthful of contemporary situations. EE is my testing ground.

This all comes from my desire to be both popular and acclaimed. It seems rather easier for people in the film industry to have this than for people in literature to have this. I want it. I’m incredibly far away from this goal, and there’s the great chance it will never be achieved. But as long as I am breathing, I will work on my craft, I will work on merging populism with artistry. Fun stories with skillful prose.

I have managed to find a bit of a groove between my interests: college basketball, reading, writing. With a couple of the sci-fi classics done, it is time to move back to good literature–The Leopard and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana–before going back to sci-fi.

And this summer, goddammit, I’m going to read Ulysses. Sandwiched between two Philip Dick books.

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