Episode Eight of Dinosaur Planet

Between doing our taxes, editing my unpublished novelette, and various and sundry crises of everyday life, Princess of Fire is effectively on hold at the moment. I hope to get back to it as soon as Amazon mails me my 1099-MISC form and I can complete my taxes.

Meanwhile, sometime back I promised a new episode of Dinosaur Planet, and it’s past time to fulfill that promise. I don’t know if anyone is reading these episodes, but I am having fun just writing them and posting them, without major revisions, more or less on the fly. This episode turned out a little long, but hopefully it’s enjoyable.

Copyright by Douglas Daniel, 2014.

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DINOSAUR PLANET

Episode 8

Weasels, Weasels Everywhere….

For the next three days Paul walked eastward, roughly paralleling the river. He stayed in the riverine forest, not wanting to dare the plains. He slept in the same faux-olive trees every night, which were scattered about the woods everywhere the sunlight could reach the ground for more than half the day. He saw no more of the raptors, although he frequently saw the remains of their kills. Of other species, he saw plenty of examples– several different species and variety of iguanodons, two or three smaller herbivores, a small, fast and furtive scavenger type that Paul glimpsed around the carnivore kills, but didn’t really get a good look at, a tiny tree-dweller about the size of a terrier, and any number of birds or pseudo-birds. He may have also gotten glimpses of ground-dwelling mammaloids, but they were even more furtive than the scavenger.

Jasper was helpful. He identified a half-dozen plants and fruits that were safe for Paul to eat, all abundant in the woods; more than that, he was quick to identify items that were toxic. He was able to locate potable water-sources away from the river, which turned out to be both turbulent and filled with very large pseudo-crocodilians. He continued to keep a wide sensor watch, which Paul found reassuring. They didn’t get any readings of weasels or raptors. Unfortunately, neither did they get any readings of Alliance flotillas or well-armed rescue teams. It was obvious that the Alliance had no idea the S-54 had crashed on Dinosauria.

The fact that Jasper was helpful did not necessarily mean that Jasper was tolerable. Most of the time he varied between surly silence and surly sarcasm. Paul put up with it, only occasionally threatening to shove Jasper into one of the mudbanks that overlooked the river and leave him there. He didn’t follow through with the threat because it would be the end of their mission, and because, as irritating as Jasper could be, the AI was the only company Paul had.

Despite Jasper’s help, Paul realized that he himself was not an outdoorsman. Three months in the scout ship had left him ill-conditioned for a long march, despite the daily isometric and enhancement regimens. At the end of each day’s walk he was exhausted. His sleep in the trees was fitful; he was constantly afraid of falling out.

He grew grubby, sweaty and grizzled. He reckoned that by about the end of the second day his stink alone would scare off any hostile wildlife. At times he wished he could flee from it himself.

By the third day he was dull and his pace dragged. His muscles ached and his feet were blistered. He slugged along, head down, not really noticing anything, while Jasper gave his snappish course corrections.

Just before noon, though, Jasper went silent. It took Paul a moment to realize the AI wasn’t talking. “What’s up?” he asked.

“Shh,” Jasper said. “Something…something isn’t right.”

Paul stopped. Nothing moved in the forest around them. “What is it?”

Jasper didn’t answer at once; then he said, “Get down!”

There was no cover in that spot– it was open forest floor under tall trees. Paul went to one knee. There was still nothing moving among the trees. Even the flyers had disappeared. Paul got a shivery feeling down his neck.

The ground jerked sideways. Paul fell. He managed to roll so as to protect Jasper, but the earth itself undulated beneath him. His hands instinctively clawed at the soil beneath him. The giant trees around him swayed. Paul felt more than heard a deep, deep rumble that came out of the ground itself.

“Hang on!” Jasper shouted, with fine illogic.

Somewhere not far away a tree crashed to the ground. Paul barely heard it over the tumult. He tried to calculate if he were in the line of fire of any other toppling trees, but he could not think straight.

The shaking died. Paul lay panting, stunned, unwilling to move for fear it was going to start again. Then a bird called, and then another.

“That,” Jasper said, “was quite a ride.”

Moving on shaky legs, Paul tried to resume the march. Within minutes of the end of the quake, though, Jasper started getting unusual aerosol trace readings. He sputtered about the necessity of getting a clear view of the surrounding terrain. They found a bare knoll half a mile away and climbed cautiously to the top, with Jasper scanning as they went.

The first thing Paul noticed, when they reached the summit of the knoll, was that the topography of the mountains to the east was more complicated that he had thought. Now that they were kilometers closer, he could see that an outlying range of hills separated them from the high peaks further east. The river appeared to pass through a narrow pass in these outer hills.

Among the hills, still miles distant but high and formidable, stood a volcano. Not a picturesque, dormant volcano, the type one sent e-cards about saying “wish you were here”. This volcano was very much alive; a tall column of smoke rose, boiling, from the summit.

“Ah, hell,” Paul moaned. “What else could go wrong?”

“Well, the universe could collapse to a lower quantum state and our very existences could be wiped out,” Jasper offered.

“It was a rhetorical question!” Paul snapped.

“Geez, don’t get your corset in a knot,” Jasper said. “At least we have a good idea what caused the quake.”

“Can we avoid that smoker?” Paul asked.

Jasper projected another holo-map. “Perhaps, if the river-gorge is passable. It’s at least another day’s march– probably two, the way you’re dragging.”

“Well, I don’t have a one hundred year battery pack,” Paul said.

“And it shows,” Jasper said.

They came down the knoll and re-entered the forest. Jasper gave Paul a new course and they set out. It was getting late– Paul started looking for a place to roost for the night, while wondering how safe a tree branch would be if there were aftershocks.

They had gone perhaps two kilometers when Jasper yelled, “Alert!” just as a silver, winged form shrieked overhead, headed eastward.

“Dammit!” Paul said. “Are those Weasels?”

“It ain’t the local Chamber of Commerce,” Jasper said. “You remember when you asked how things could get worse? Well, you just got your answer.”

Paul sprinted ahead and took cover among the roots of one the largest trees in sight. “Are you tracking them?”

“Do sheep bleat? Of course I’m tracking them, although this forest cover is really giving me some serious interference….uh, oh.”

“What, ‘uh-oh’?” Paul said. “Uh-oh, what? That’s a very ugly phrase, uh-oh.”

“Looked at first as if they were headed toward the volcano, but they’re circling back.” For once, Jasper sounded abashed. “They probably got an indication on my power-pack.”

Shit,” Paul said, with more sincerity than he had ever used before. “Where do we go?”

“For starters, to your right, down to the river.”

Paul ran. He tried to move from the cover of one tree trunk to another. If he ran into anything at the moment, he knew he would either run it over or be eaten.

“To your left,” Jasper said. Paul angled left around a tree.

“Stop, stop!” Jasper said. Paul skidded on the leaf-litter underfoot, so suddenly that he fell and landed on his butt.

“What?”

“Weasels in front of us,” Jasper said. He was actually whispering. “Coming up from the river. Go back.”

Paul scrambled back the way he had come. Panic, more than exertion, made his heart pound in his chest. “How close?” he panted.

“Don’t ask– just run,” Jasper said. “More to our right.”

They crossed a shallow ravine– Paul had to pull himself up the other side by roots that trailed down the bank– and dashed through a clearing with another of the ubiquitous pseudo-olive trees and gold-leaved bushes. The sun beat hot on them until they reached the shade of the trees on the other side of the clearing.

Paul barely had the opportunity to register relief when Jasper cried, “Stop!”

“What, more Weasels?” Paul said.

“A line, coming toward us,” Jasper said. “They’re sweeping us into a trap.”

Without thinking, Paul went back into the clearing. There was no place to go, except…. He dashed for the brush around the pseudo-olive.

“What are you doing?” Jasper said.

“Hiding,” Paul replied. “The only option we have.”

They dived into the brush. Paul crawled through golden leaves until he more-or-less in the middle of the bushes. He reckoned he was deep enough in to be out of sight from anyone outside the stand of brush.

“This isn’t going to work,” Jasper said.

“It’s our only chance,” Paul said. “Go to minimum power/sleep mode.”

“They’ll still pick that up if they’re close enough with the right gear,” Jasper said.

“Do it,” Paul said.

Jasper said nothing else. Paul was a little surprised he didn’t argue further; perhaps he understood the necessity. The AI’s sensor eye faded down to the faintest pinprick of reddish light.

Quickly, Paul slipped the carrying-sling off his shoulder and put Jasper on the ground. He drew the pulse pistol. He didn’t arm it yet; sensors would pick that up, too. But he could do it in a moment.

Obviously, with one charge it wouldn’t stand off a company of Weasels. Paul had understood the math of the situation from the moment he’d thought of crawling into the bushes. One charge equaled either death for himself or destruction for Jasper. Paul did not want to fall alive into the hands, or the claws, of the Weasels. They enjoyed torturing human prisoners, and had ways of prolonging their agony. Some people said they had ideas about appropriating the power of their victims through inflicted pain. Paul had no idea whether that was true, and it didn’t really matter.

But he absolutely could not allow Jasper to fall into enemy hands, and preventing Jasper’s capture was orders of magnitude more important than anything that might happen to Paul. Jasper had all manner of classified information in his memory, included up-to-date starcharts of Alliance space. Pre-emptive destruction of the AI was standard procedure in the event of a scout ship’s imminent capture. Paul reasoned this was really just an extension of the same standing order; there was no question, in the end, what the correct answer to the math was.

To his ears came the sound of crackling undergrowth, from the forest they had just quit. He got down low, hugging the ground under the bushes. In this position, he could see little glimpses, flashes of sight, of what was happening out there.

Ten or more Weasels came striding into the sunshine. Paul’s face tightened with an instinctive grimace. There was just something atavistic about the sight of a Weasel.

Take an ordinary Earth mustelid, Mustela nivalis or, perhaps, Mustela sibirica. Give it upright, bipedal posture and fully opposable thumbs and fingers. Increase its size to about two meters tall and a mass of about one hundred kilograms. Endow it with intelligence at least equal to that of any human who ever breathed. Equip it with an advanced technology centered chiefly about the tools needed conquer and enslave other sentient species. Finally, infect it with a pack-hunter psychology far more avaricious than any wolf-pack that ever loped, and you would have a faint approximation of the vicious predators that now stalked out into the clearing.

Paul didn’t have to tell himself consciously to lie quiet. Something about these beings sparked a response deep, deep down in his primate brain. These were beings who came into the nest to kill and eat. They should be driven away with sticks and rocks and screams. Paul rather wished at the moment he had a sharpened stick; he could do more with that than he could with a single pulse charge. The ending, of course, would be the same either way.

The Weasels came into the clearing, peering about. Most of them carried their version of a pulse-rifle; a couple carried portable sensor rigs. All wore body armor and communication headsets. Otherwise they were naked, except for their fur. They even went barefoot, or bare-pawed. One difference between themselves and Earth weasels was that the aliens’ tails were vestigial.

Paul tightened his grip on the pulse-pistol. He would wait until the last moment, until it was certain that they had discovered him. Then he would arm the pistol, fry Jasper, then fight to the death, if possible, with his bare hands. He took in a breath, trying to steady himself. He had so many things he regretted never doing, he had no time to catalog them.

The Weasels stopped halfway to the brush. They hissed and skreeked. A set of answering skreeks came from behind Paul. He pressed himself even closer to the ground and froze as heavy bodies pushed through the brush around him. It was another line of Weasels, doubtless the group coming up from the river. Some of these Weasels passed within yards of Paul, but none of them raised an alarm. They passed by him so quickly that he had no time to arm the pistol. Paul would have thought the Weasels would have smelled him; then he remembered the aliens’ senses of smell and hearing were less acute than humans. Their eyesight, though, was just as good or better, and Paul held absolutely still.

The second group of Weasels met up with the first. There was a great deal of hissing, whistling and screeching. From his vantage point Paul, without moving, glimpsed Weasels moving about. The aliens appeared to be upset and arguing with one another. Paul glimpsed one of the Weasels, one of those carrying a sensor unit, shake the device, then give it a slap on the side, a gesture of frustration very nearly human.

Their sensors are not working. Paul clenched his teeth against a dawning hope. Lying here and continuing to pretend to be part of the brush’s root system was still a necessity.

The arguments in Weaselese went on for a few minutes, until a large Weasel with a graying muzzle and four concentric rings emblazoned on his body-armor– an Overmaster of the pack– cut through the discussion with a piercing whistle and a couple of roundhouse blows that knocked the recipients flat. The other Weasels fell into two orderly lines. The overmaster harangued them for a minute or so. Heads drooped. Paul almost felt sorry for them.

The harangue over, the overmaster led the Weasels, in a column of twos, out of the clearing. Paul lay there listening to them march away, and then lay there some more, not wanting to trust his reprieve. He lay there, un-moving, until he heard the Weasel ship take off, from somewhere nearby, and doppler away into the distance.

“Jasper,” he whispered. “Wake up.”

A second passed. Jasper’s sensor eye flickered, then brightened. “What…we’re still here?” the AI said.

“Apparently,” Paul said. “Although I’m not sure why.

Next episode: Down By The Riverside

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One thing about this story– as an exercise in turning off the censor and just writing, it’s been great. I am not sure, though, that I am exactly capturing the B-movie quality I was looking for in the beginning. It seems as if the action should be a little more breathless and unrelenting; I’ve instead slipped into a more leisurely pace. I will have to see what I can do about that; but then, we haven’t gotten to the cave-women yet….

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Somebody throw something at me….

It turns out that, days and days ago, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. Then it took me days to figure out how the whole thing works. The mystery was only cleared up when the original nominator spelled it out for me, whereupon it turned out that it is extremely easy (I have a talent for turning easy into difficult). So, in gratitude and in the interests of paying it forward, here are my acknowledgements, fifteen blogs I follow and little tidbits about myself.

Thank you to Julie Christine Johnson, who nominated me–

Chalk the Sun

Fifteen excellent blogs I follow, which make me laugh or think–

bottledworder
Blame It On Princess Leia
Jodie Llewellyn
mishaburnett
Pastor Green Bean blog
Eideard
Nerd Redefined
Nina Kaytel
sarahremy
Strip-mining Mobius
The Fog of Ward
Whim Notes
Writer’s Block
The Parasite Guy
curnblog

All of you guys, consider yourselves nominated for the VBA in turn (boy, that was economical, wasn’t it?).

Seven things about me you don’t know, and, now that you do, I would appreciate you keeping under your collective hats–

1. I love hummingbirds.
2. I was skinny once. I think Jimmy Carter was president.
3. I hold two degrees in Anthropology, which are generally useless for making a living, but which do sound impressive.
4. I don’t like horror films.
5. One of my all-time favorite movies is Aliens.
6. One night in 1988 I was nearly killed by a woman in a Mercedes who didn’t see the light on my bike because I didn’t have one.
7. Almost anything by Dr. Seuss freaks me out. Seriously, the guy was weird.

Thanks again to Julie. Since I started blogging, I’ve come to appreciate that WordPress hosts a pretty impressive community. It’s been a great pleasure getting to know it.

My struggle with an era

I am now about 72,000 words into Princess of Fire. I’m starting to link up sections, working toward a unified narrative. It’s becoming increasingly clear, however, that there is a core section yet to be written that probably contains most of the really difficult material. That’s the disadvantage of the “bypass and infiltrate” model of writing– you’re still going to have to come back and deal with the enemy strong-points you’ve bypassed. In other words, writing the easy stuff now doesn’t make the hard stuff go away.

Meanwhile, when I’m not putting out resumes and phoning temp agencies, I spend my time reading. One of the books I am (re)reading is Isaac’s Storm, a non-fiction recounting of the Galveston hurricane of 1900–

http://www.amazon.com/Isaacs-Storm-Deadliest-Hurricane-History/dp/0375708278/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390875807&sr=8-1&keywords=isaac%27s+storm

The book captures the tragedy and horror of the hurricane, which killed thousands of people, in part because turn-of-the-century weather forecasters failed, through hubris and bureaucratic stupidity, to recognize the signs a monster storm. The book also conveys something of the era, which makes it doubly valuable to me.

I have long been fascinated by the period of about 1895 to 1914. It’s a time that overlaps the late Victorian and the Gilded Age with the Edwardian, and in some ways you could think of it as the last twenty years of classical Western civilization– the Great War shattered all the previous assumptions, and then the Second World War obliterated the remains. The world we live in would be mostly unrecognizable to someone from 1900.

I’ve long wanted to write something about this period, but I’ve never been able to. I’ve bounced around the Boxer Rebellion, flirted with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, contemplated the suppression of the Philippine Insurrection, and surveyed the Klondike and Nome gold rushes, but nothing has gelled. There’s just too much good stuff– I haven’t been able to settle on one or two threads with which to weave a story.

It’s frustrating, but I think eventually something will crystallize. One thing– I probably need to start thinking about characters, rather than the grand, epic vistas of history. Maybe once I do that, things will come into focus.

Meanwhile, I pound away on Princess of Fire. At least that’s keeping me off the streets.

Later.

Flash fiction– the bridge

Photo: Copyright Al Forbes
Photo: Copyright Al Forbes

He had met her here.

That day was blistering hot. The practice hall stifled them all. It made the taunting all the worse. The other initiates were merciless.

When practice ended he rode out into the countryside, blindly, just to get away. The trees by the stream promised cool shade. He rode down and dismounted below the bridge.

He let his horse drink from the stream, with trailing reins, before he noticed the girl. She sat on the bank, watching the water tumble over the rocks. Her hair was long and dark down her back.

She stood, startled, as he approached. Her face, open and lovely, shone in the sun. Her fright faded; perhaps she saw how young he was, and the uncertain look on his own face.

“I’m s-sorry to bother you,” he said, stammering. “My horse…my horse needed water.”

She smiled. It was a revelation. He felt as if he could live in that smile forever.

“People need shade and water, too,” she said. “Come and sit.”

The water still tumbled over the rocks. All else had changed. The scar marking his face ached. He turned his horse and rode away.

http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/sunday-photo-fiction-january-26th-2014/

The blues monster, Part II, or dang you, J.D. Salinger

In my last post I mentioned that real-life has been pulling me away from Princess of Fire. Well, real-life has now doubled down on me– under considerable pressure from the spousal unit, I have started working on our taxes, in the hopes of getting our tax refund back in a timely fashion. I understand the logic, since we need every dollar right now, but I really despise doing my taxes every year. Really, really despise it.

On top of that, I woke this morning in a funk, the first real one I’ve had since publishing Princess of Shadows, mostly around my continued unemployment. I spent a good portion of my morning walk thinking up new acronyms for myself (I’m either a Person of Worklessness- POW– or an ILL– Individual Lacking Labor).

Between the funk and the taxes the most productive thing I did today was take a nap. Progress on Fire is slowing. I anticipated it would. Hopefully this is just a temporary lull.

Unless, of course, I give up writing entirely. I watched part of the documentary on J. D. Salinger last night on PBS, and I discovered that there is nothing better than J. D. Salinger to give a person an instant literary inferiority complex.

I didn’t get to see the whole documentary, as it ran way past my bed time, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. I look at Salinger and I know I’ll never be in that class of writer. I try to console myself that I am writing genre, but I will never be Heinlein or Martin, either. Grrr.

But, of course, I won’t give up writing. I’d have to shut off my brain to do that. I will just have to keep plodding on, doing my best. Maybe someday I’ll actually be good.

But that’s after I get the taxes done.

Later.

A small detour….

I am north of 64,000 words on Princess of Fire. In the last week I’ve missed a couple of days of writing due to real-life demands, and so I’m a little off my previous pace. I’m not particularly worried about it, but over the next day or so I will probably lag even further behind. I’ve decided I need to take time to re-edit a novelette I had previously published on Kindle. Some weeks ago I got a review of the story in which the reviewer had major problems with the editing. I don’t recommend this as a course of action to be taken every time you get a little negative feedback, but in this instance I decided to un-publish the story until I had the opportunity to revisit the editing. I think I’m now at that point.

I don’t believe there was anything majorly wrong with the piece as it was, but I want to be open to improving my writing at every opportunity. It could turn out that the reviewer just has a burr under their saddle…or there could be some undetected (by me, anyway) problem that cries out for correction. Me being me, you have to leave the door open to the possibility that I screwed up somewhere, perhaps spectacularly. From what I’ve seen so far, however, it’s more likely that the reviewer was reacting to lingering passive language and over-long sentences (unfortunately, they were not terribly specific in their review). My hopeful thought in all this is that, perhaps, my ability to see these problems is an indication that I have improved, at least a little, as an editor.

I will not, however, be attempting to create a perfect edit with this story. I am firmly convinced that such a thing does not exist. At some point, a writer has to let go of the work and just get it out there. To do otherwise achieves only paralysis.

Once I am through with the edit, it will be back to Princess of Fire with guns blazing. And a few other things, as well….

Ten life-lessons from “Jonny Quest”

Hal Sutherland, one of the folks involved in the animated Star Trek series from the early Seventies, recently passed away. His passing got me thinking about the animation I watched as a kid, and I got pretty nostalgic about some of the old shows– Space Ghost, Spiderman, The Jetsons, etc. Looking back on them as a group, I realize many were just ways to anesthetize little kids so they would sit still long enough to notice the commercials, but some shows have found permanent niches in popular culture. A few, though, have special meaning, especially for all those kids who grew up be the geeks who sparked the IT revolution.

For me, one of those special shows was Jonny Quest.

The show (in it’s original incarnation) only ran for two seasons, 1964-1965, but I still remember it as absolutely riveting me to the carpet while it was on. Doubtless its sort of science-fiction, secret-agent adventure had a profound influence on the sort of fiction I write today. And although, when I watch it now, I can see all the stereotyped and even racist elements it casually threw around– pretty much in keeping with American television in general in the Sixties– it still has a special place in my heart.

So much so that I thought I would share a few life-lessons I have derived from it. If you loved the show, you might recognize a few of them.

1. The only way to handle a bully is head-on.
2. Enemy agents are always trying get our goodies.
3. A properly trained eleven-year-old can beat up an enemy frog-man any day.
4. Guys who wear monocles, speak with German accents, and live in South American countries are just up to no good.
5. When pursuing an invisible energy monster, always make sure your rocket pack is in working order.
6. Just because the kid in the turban doesn’t own a pair of pants doesn’t mean he can’t be your best friend.
7. A husky and sardonic bodyguard can come in real handy.
8. Mummies resent being robbed.
9. Listen to the Chinese cook you found hiding in the freezer unit of the derelict ship– he was there for a reason.
10. Science is cool.

If you remember the show with fondness, you’re certainly welcome to share any lessons it taught you. I’d love to hear them.

There is a movie theater in my head

Last night I was writing a segment of Princess of Fire in which Kathy is receiving the spontaneous homage of a thousand people at once (why is she receiving homage? You’ll have to read the book 😛 ). It is a sweeping scene- Kathy enters a plaza, and a thousand men and women prostrate themselves, without a word. In my head a bittersweet soundtrack is playing over the images, because of what’s happened before this.

While writing it, I thought (as I usually do) that it would play well on a movie screen. And then I realized it is a movie– an exclusive engagement at the multiplex in my head.

I love movies. I would someday like to write for the movies, although I understand from folks I know in the business that it is thankless and heartbreaking, and a good way to lose your soul. I would love my stories to be filmed someday.

So perhaps it is not surprising that, when I write, many of my scenes play out as movie scenes. I believe I am not alone in this– a couple of weeks ago I reviewed the 1996 film The Whole Wide World, about Robert E. Howard, who the filmmakers portrayed as going through a visualization process for his stories that looked very familiar (I, too, have garnered my share of quizzical stares). And I have heard many other writers describe their own writing process in similar terms.

This may be one of the reasons Princess of Fire is cooking along at a faster pace than Princess of ShadowsFire , as I imagine it, has an enormous number of “cinematic” moments that cry out for a David Lean or Stanley Kubrick to direct them (well, if I am imagining this stuff, I might as well go for the best). There’s conflict, death, regret, love, train wrecks, armies dying the mud, zeppelin crashes (I know, I do a lot of those, but what the hey), and things that go boom in a really big way (I’ll stop there, I’m on the verge of spoiling my own book). And, fortunately, Princess of Stars feels as if it will be just as cinematic.

But, there is downside to this sort of visualization– disappointment. Usually when I get the scene down and completed, it is not nearly as dramatic or powerful as I what I pictured in my head. I know other writers– and artists, in general– have complained of the same disconnect between concept and execution. One way I have heard this expressed is “what is on the page (or screen) is only sixty percent of what you had in your head”. And that’s sixty percent after editing and correcting.

This is most likely inevitable– people are imperfect, and their execution of imagined objects is imperfect. In one respect, the images in my head will always be their most vivid and powerful there; what I reproduce on the page is often a poor shadow. You wonder if this is where Plato came up with his theory of Forms.

Not only is imperfection inevitable, it is probably not something we can do much about. At a certain point a work, a story or a painting or a film, reaches a state in which continued correction and rethinking almost inevitably makes things worse, not better. Some artists have destroyed their work, trying to access some portion of that last forty percent– George Lucas pretty much did this with his special editions of Star Wars (Han shot first, dammit!), before selling the ruins to Disney (we live in dark times).

Still, sixty percent is better than nothing, and some days I come close (or closer) to what I imagine. I’m certainly not going to give up just because I can’t get it perfect.

Does anyone else have a movie theater of the mind? And how do you deal with the imperfection of the executed work?

E. L. Doctorow’s latest novel and thoughts on writing.

Princess of Fire is now at 60,000 words. My best guess at the moment is that this is perhaps halfway through the story. I went back and looked at my progress reports from last year and did some comparisons. With Princess of Shadows it took me approximately six months to go from 26,000 words to 60,000. To cover that distance with Princess of Fire it’s taken me about six weeks. I continue to be amazed at this level of productivity, but I do see some potential trouble down the road. Because I’m writing the easy, pre-written/pre-imagined stuff, some sections still to be written are going to be harder to get down. More than that, because of the way I am writing this novel, I’ve got numerous disconnected sections that will need to be linked up and reconciled. Still, I’m okay with those kind of problems if they’re the price of completing a first draft in jig time.

On NPR this morning I heard an interview with E. L. Doctorow regarding his latest novel, and in the interview are some of Doctorow’s thoughts on the process of writing. One of these is “write in order to find out what you’re writing.” That may not make sense to everyone, but does to me. I thought the interview was worth sharing– let me know what you think.

I’m thinking I need to add some of Doctorow’s titles– probably Ragtime and The March— to my literary bucket list. Jane and Chuck, move over and make room.