Thursday, September 15, 2011

Countdown: Nine

Yes, it's true. That's the printing of Walter Jon Williams, author, bon vivant, and practitioner of the martial arts. Here is his eBook store; go buy Days Of Atonement. No fooling. I need to do a post on that one.

Jesus! He's got some stories about the industry that make being eaten alive by rats in a trench while the mustard gas rolls in sound like fucking brunch.

Today's starting word count: 23,270

Okay. Bad news? Only three thousand and some words yesterday, well under goal. Good news? This section is going to take a lot longer than the rest of the book. Totally new material.

And that leads me to today's good news. I was wrestling with the get-out-of-bed-and-get-to-work issue when I realized what had slowed me down yesterday. (Yes, three thousand words of remarkably fine prose is a slowdown for me at this point. I will have to mention hypomania at some point. I'll just say that it's the mental state to which cocaine aspires.)

The infodump scene. All of this crazy, crazy shit has been going on and now the lead and the reader are face to face with someone who has information.

This is the place where genre fiction dies. It does not die quickly; the rope does not break its neck. This is where mysteries win. They have the explanation scene at the end of the story, the story makes its unfortunately short drop and begins to strangle on the rough hemp loop, and then it ends.

With fantasy and science fiction, the explanation scene comes early, makes it plain that the author is addressing the reader, and then unlike the mystery, the poor story is left to clutch at the noose and twist, pissing its pants as it slowly strangles.

This is the prospect immediately before me.

The lead, injured and lost, has been taken in by the character who will be his own true love, and she's the one who has been in the other world from the beginning.

So if I explain things to the reader, not only am I killing the story, I'm killing my main character's love life. I kind of identify with him. So I'm reluctant to do that.

And then I realized my way out of the situation. I don't know if anyone's used this before, but.

The person providing the information is full of semidigested jargon, does not think in a particularly clear and linear fashion, and regards herself as the one who truly knows what's going on.

Not only will she confuse the shit out of the reader, she'll irritate the lead.


Here's your taste for the day -- now the title will make more sense.


(Copyright 2011 Sean Craven, all rights reserved.)

“You got me curious,” I say. “Can I have a listen?”

“It’s not ready.”

“Play the fucking song,” Willy says.

Lulu shoots her elbow into his ribs, then leans over the laptop, goes through a menu and hit the space bar. The music starts. It’s funny, her saying that she was trying for a Beach Boys sound in such a dark song. I can hear what she meant but the sound of the traffic is too intrusive for the music to really work.

Willy plays for a while, just matching the melody, then hands me back my instrument. “Man, I should play more bass. I always forget how much fun it is.”

“We’ll have to redo all the vocals.” Lulu stops the song.

“Hey,” I say, “can I tell you a stupid idea?”

“Sure,” Lulu says.

“What if you started off with just one vocal track, then pulled them in one at a time? So the traffic sound sort of builds up slowly?”
Lulu’s fingers flick over the laptop’s keyboard. “Let’s see what …” She starts the song without the vocals. As it plays she adds the vocal harmonies one track at a time. The muddy noise of the traffic builds up slowly and becomes part of the music.

I can’t help messing with my bass as I listen. It’s as though my ears and hands operate independently of my brain.

Lulu looks over at me, sideways.

“Sorry.” I stop.

“Don’t stop.” She goes back to the start, and fades the tracks in instead of popping them into place at full volume. I start to vary what I was doing, build some hooks, sort of surfy, James Bond-y sounding stuff. Not what the rest of the song sounds like, but it’s coming out that way. Lulu stops the music. “What you did, the last verse? Could you just do that over and over?”

“Okay,” I say, “but gimme a second.” I fumble around until I figure out how to take the pattern through the chord changes. “Okay.”

She starts the song. This time there’s something different and it’s not just the bass line. As Lulu brings the vocal tracks in one by one the sound of the traffic builds up and up until at the end everything else is covered by the sound of engines and horns and tires. I play softer and softer, then stop one verse after everything else had been swallowed by the sound of the street. I’ve never done anything like that before. Hell, I haven’t done anything; it just happened.

“I really liked that.” Lulu leans forward and smiles. “Can I ask you a big old big old favor? Would you let me record that sometime?”

I grip the neck of my bass. “Sure. We can give it a try.”

\Lulu starts unplugging the laptop.

“Hey, can I see that for a second?” James reaches out to Lulu. “I just want to check something on line real quick.”

Lulu pauses, then slowly passes the laptop over to James.

“I thought you liked playing bass on the keyboard,” Willy said. “You keep telling me it’s part of our sound.”

“Will you please go fuck yourself, William?” Ouch, Lulu’s actually pissed. “You could try playing bass yourself, you say it’s so easy.”

“It is easy. It’s so easy bassists do it all the time. Sorry, man.”

“I’m good with the stereotype,” I say. “Play a G, play a C, play a G, play a C. It’s pretty much all my tiny mind can handle.”

“They finally put something up on the police blotter,” James said. “Shit.”

I go to read over his shoulder.


Deirdre says, “What?”

“People died,” I say. “I think that guy I fought died.”

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