Clarion Report #4
Weeks 4 and 5: Lucy Sussex and Gardner Dozois
Top "row": Jeff Deveaux, John Olsen, Chiara Shah, Michael Bateman, Karen Cupp. Next row: Ruth Nestvold, Diana Rowland, Tamela Viglione, Christyna Ivers. In front of statue: Karen Fishler, Ellen Levy Finch, Daniel Abraham, Lucy Sussex. Front: Eric Witchey, Susan Fry, R.S. Blum.
Well, only a week and a half this time. We are now in the middle of Gardner Dozois's week.
During Lucy's week, we practiced writing the synopsis. A necessary tool, and something everyone hates to do. Not all of us took the challenge, and I fear none of us were really successful. Is it really so hard to summarize something you've put years into in two pages and make it sound interesting? Seems so.
I have discovered I have a penchant for dystopia, and am developing a reputation as the social conscience of the group. Without even realizing what I was doing, I turned in my second dystopian story, this time set in Austin after the dissolution of the United States and a right-wing takeover in Texas. A story that never would have been written without the input of the group - a tale Tamela told in the lounge, a quote in a review of one of Paul Park's novels which Leslie gave us, a discussion with Eric about how to make a story out of a society in which SF is outlawed.
Gardner is a much more brutal critic than anyone we've had yet, and a few people have left class with rather glazed expressions. He's not mean, but he makes no bones about whether a story works for him or not, and he doesn't exactly convey the information gently either.
I had a story up for critique today and was really getting the jitters after what I'd seen the first two days, but my foray into the world of straight SF, "Shadow Memory," came off pretty well. The first thing Gardner said was, "I liked this story." The second was, "I think it's publishable." "Publishable" we have learned is nearly the highest praise you can get from Gardner. My conference with him after class went even better. He would be interested in seeing this story again after I've rewritten it. No promises being made, of course, but I've been quite unshakably happy ever since. I've been spending the evening helping my best buddies get their stories finished for tomorrow, reading first drafts of scenes and providing moral support.
His instruction has been very practical and very market-oriented. I suspect it will be quite a contrast to Carol Emshwiller next week.
Men are from Mars and women from Clarion
From left: Greg Bear, Tamela Viglione, Karen Cupp, Kim Stanley Robinson, Christyna Ivers, Diana Rowland, Ruth Nestvold, Susan Fry, R.S. Blum
The weekend was packed with extra-curricular activities. On Friday, Kim Stanley Robinson paid us a short visit and gave us an inspiring pep talk. He has a graduate literature background, and I asked him about that, what he thought we could bring to sf, if he thought it had helped him in his own writing, and he clearly thought it did help -- in recognizing conventions and playing with them, as well as awareness of language, which he sets high store by. He also reassured me in the way he spoke about the science in sf -- basically, fudge it. It's like escaping fast over thin ice. The thing I liked best, though, was what he said about using your anger and your obsessions. Yes.
The next day was the famous Greg Bear party on the lake, and in the pep talk he gave us he said much the same thing: write about what scares you and what makes you mad. He was also upbeat about the market at the moment, (despite some initial very bleak comments). His optimism goes against everything I've heard, but it is nice to hear something positive now and then. Don't know if I believe it, but hey, we need to have a little hope at least. Not that we're writers because we're hoping for success - it's more of an addiction than anything else. But at least it's relatively harmless as addictions go.
The party was great fun, and I jumped in the lake and swam out quite a ways twice, giving myself a sore back the next day. But all this sitting around in classrooms and in front of computer screens gets monotonous after a while, and it was nice to use a muscle other than my brain for a change.
We continue to be a very harmonious group, no battles of any kind yet, and it's higly unlikely there will be. Our compatibility is so well-known now that Gardner skipped his little speech about cliques and wars in his introductory talk. But then, he was probably too distracted by our togas and night clothes to remember what he wanted to say.
Well, now it's ridiculously late and I'm tired and Burke is done with his story and Mike is over the hump and Tamela has blown up her bomb, so I think I can safely go to bed.
The late night chips and salsa club.
From left: Burke Kealey, Mike Bateman (hidden), Tamela Viglione, Eric Witchey.
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