Trains and SF

One of my first dealings with science fiction writing was to translate a Seiun Prize award winning short story by a Japanese author named Giggle Akiguchi about a train that traveled onward forever without purpose and the consequences this situation presents for its travelers. The translation never went anywhere (I was still nothing more than a fledgling translator at the time and a worse writer, who in all probability produced an uneditable mess), but the original story appeared in Volume 6 of SF Japan Magazine, and today on the train, for a brief moment, I thought I saw someone reading a Japanese sci-fi magazine. I was put under that impression by the page layout and the old-school line drawing of an android to the side of the writing, but I was mistaken – it was just a literary magazine.
It got me thinking: in the twelve years I’ve lived in Japan, I’ve never once seen someone reading a Sci-Fi book or magazine. They have the Seiun Awards, so someone out there, on a train like mine, must be reading one. Where is everyone hiding? Is someone stealing secret glances at the latest Ted Chiang novel, hiding it behind the iPad they pretend to be absorbed in fiddling with? Or is someone lost in China Mieville’s world, but too embarrassed to show it, choosing instead to cover it up with an issue of the monthly Shonen Jump manga collection? Wherever this secret society of Japanese Sci-Fi fans is, I hope to run into one of them someday. Maybe together, we can finally stop the train.

Why Write?

Probably one of the most common questions asked of someone who takes hundreds of hours (hours they could have used to do something else) to perform an act that will likely never bear any fruit, and, even if it were to, would result in a very sad fruit. Why write? “Because I can’t not write” is the only answer that makes any sense.

Imaginary People Don’t Come Naturally

I’ve wondered why I dig down so deep into the heads of the characters I write that I have trouble climbing out of the holes, when at the same time, I’ve always had trouble understanding what others in real life think or feel. Then it came to me: constantly having to imagine what others think or feel just to get by is perfect training for diving into imaginary characters.
We never truly know what others are thinking, we only think we know. So in the end, the imaginary characters in the stories I write exercise the same creative muscles as the imaginary personas I cast onto the real life “characters” that surround me. Maybe I should feel lucky dealing with people doesn’t come naturally. If it did, I wouldn’t be able to dig into the people and worlds I create.

Third Book, Third Draft

Starting this week, I’ve finally dug my heels into the third draft on the third novel-length story. It’s interesting how the evolution of emotion always goes the same way:

1st draft – why am I writing this?

2nd draft – wow, this is going to be a lot of work…

3rd draft – hey, this isn’t bad

4th draft – okay, this is good

5th draft – I know there’s a spelling mistake in here somewhere, come out come out wherever you are, all work and no play, all work and no play

1st draft – why am I writing this instead of doing a 6th draft?

Unlike the other two novels, where I just tracked the writing pace for NanoWriMo, this time I’ve been taking detailed stats (simple memo like 9:00 – 9:45 600 words, on train) and it sheds a light not only on my writing pace, but on where and when I do my best writing. Highly recommend trying it! In the third draft, I seem to be moving at about 4 pages an hour, which is a turtle’s pace, but considering I’m guaranteed an hour and a half a day between the morning train where I get to sit and lunch in the cafeteria, it’s enough to get the work done by the time the next novel rolls around. This one has gone lightning fast compared to the first two, which makes me quite happy.