Saturday, March 20, 2010


I just posted the following on facebook. When I was done I realized I had produced a manifesto about writing, pretty good when you consider the system only allows 430 characters per post. Which is the reason for all the short paragraphs...

Eleanor Arnason is up and drinking coffee. My agent (now deceased) told me that Tor refused to buy my Ring of Swords trilogy, because there was too much coffee drinking. They bought the first volume, then turned down the sequel, which will come out from Aqueduct Press, if I ever finish revising.

Anyway, coffee drinking is not a plus, except in the Upper Midwest, where it keeps people alive and awake during the dark, cold months.

I figure the most important questions in any novel are, what's to eat or drink? And, where is the bathroom?

Other important questions include, Who is that cutie? Is the cat inside? Did someone forget to empty the garbage? Do you call this a living wage?

Which side are you on? is another important question.

They say in Harlan County there are no neutrals there,
You'll either be a union man or a thug for J. H. Blair.

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

Don't scab for the bosses, don't listen to their lies.
People haven't got a chance unless they organize.

Which side are you on? Which side are you on?
Which side are you on? Which side are you on?

In fairness to Tor, I think the complete quote about the first book was something like, "Nothing happens. Everyone just sits around and drinks coffee." But the part of the quote I remember clearly is the coffee.

I notice I failed to mention the big science fictional questions, such as -- is the planet going to survive? Those are important too. But we still need to eat and drink and use the bathroom and do something about the garbage, while we save -- or fail to save -- the planet.


Blogger Lyle Daggett said...

Alfred Hitchcock said once that the reason he'd never done a period costume movie (set, say, in Elizabethan England or 18th century France) was that it was too difficult to handle the kinds of details you're talking about here: "No one goes to the bathroom in a costume drama. I don't know how much a loaf of bread costs in a costume drama."

I recall this from a T.V. interview he did with Dick Cavett. In the same interview, Hitchcock told a story, that he retold a number of times over the years, about making the movie Notorious, which deals with Nazi sympathizers who are smuggling uranium pellets out of South America to Germany during the Second World War. (The movie was made some years after the war ended.)

Hitchcock wanted to know how much physical space would be needed to store or hide the contraband uranium, and to know that he needed to know how much uranium would be required to make an atomic bomb. So he went to a professor he knew at Cal Tech, and asked him, more or less, "How big would an atom bomb be?"

This set off shock waves through the whole college, because here he was walking in one day and asking for deeply classified military secrets. After the furor over it grew, he finally said, "Look, it's not that important, it's just the macguffin, it's just the thing the spies are after in the movie. If it can't be uranium, we'll change it to industrial diamonds."

Eventually he got an estimate of the amount of uranium that would be needed, or close enough anyway, and so the movie was about spies smuggling uranium.

The interesting thing about this is that most people, watching the movie, surely would have had no idea how much uranium would be needed to make any kind of "device," Hitchcock could just have made up something, but it was important to him to have the details right, even if most people wouldn't notice or wouldn't know the difference.

7:32 PM  
Blogger confluence said...

Having recently finally acquired and read Ring of Swords, I eagerly await the sequel, no matter who publishes it. "Nothing happens"? Bah! :)

10:04 AM  
Blogger delagar said...

What confluence says. Nothing happens? Did they not read that book? Gah!

10:51 PM  
Blogger delagar said...

Also -- drinking too much coffee? I do not know what these words mean.

10:52 PM  

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