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July 07, 2003

Random Thoughts

As part of my jumble-minded, occasionally-updating self, here are a few random thoughts, notes and comments for you.

* Part of the reason I'm planning to slack off here is that I'm putting th gas down on the book projects, particularly Book of the Dumb, for which I have the goal of basically doubling my daily output. The reason for this? None, except I like the idea of not panicking at deadline time (also, at the time of the deadline, I'll be in Toronto on vacation, and I'd actually like to enjoy my vacation). So far, so good. Fortunately, the world is helping by continuing to be a place where stupidity runs rampant in the streets. I can't tell you how useful this is.

* One of the great pleasures of writing a novel (for me, anyway), is watching how the details of a story change from what you originally imagined them to be, partly out of the need to make the world more interesting to the reader.

For example: In the novel I'm writing, I planned to have my main character meet up with a secondary character, who provides him with an important piece of information. This same character would later have an incident that involved his cat, or more accurately, a cat left with him by an ex-girlfriend. But as I'm writing about my main character traveling to meet this other character, I have to flesh out details about the neighborhood in which this other character lives. I decide to make it exceptionally dog friendly.

Poof, out goes the cat and in comes a dog -- an Akita, specifically, because I'm fond of the breed. This in itself leads to a cascade of subtle changes to the texture of the novel, and opens up some opportunities in other places that I simply wasn't expecting.

This is neat stuff for me; I'm like any reader in that I like to be surprised by what I read, even if I'm also writing it at the same time. A lot of the pleasure I get out of watching the book twist and turn of its volition is something that's denied to you as a reader, of course. But I think you (should you read the book) will get the pleasure of a book that's fun to read because it's been fun to write. That's the plan, anyway.

* Tangential to writing and thinking, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, my editor at Tor, quotes his wife and fellow editor/thinker/swell human Teresa on the subject of the state of humanity. Teresa writes:

"My own personal theory is that this is the very dawn of the world. We’re hardly more than an eyeblink away from the fall of Troy, and scarcely an interglaciation removed from the Altamira cave painters. We live in extremely interesting ancient times."

This is a pretty resonant idea to me, and it certainly makes me feel better when I think about how simian I think some people are in their mental processes. My only regret is that I won't live to see modern times, which is something I'm keen to experience. I don't write science fiction just because it allows me to make stuff up in my head instead of having to research -- I also write it because I want to see what the next couple of thousand years will be like.

I also like the idea I'm an atavistic throwback. Makes me feel better about my numerous personal flaws.

* July 4: It was wet. As was July 5, July 6 and, if the weatherman is correct, so will be Julys 7-11 inclusive. The weekend was actually marked by massive thunderstorms and high winds, so nature provided fireworks to compensate for the ones that didn't go off. Which was awfully nice of nature, I suppose.

I read somewhere that 92% of Americans consider themselves "patriotic," but that what "patriotic" means varies wildly from person to person. I don't know about that. The definition of "patriotic" is typically the same, i.e., "However I think people should think about America." This is why nine out of ten people can think they're patriotic, but also probably think that patriotic people are in minority. And I suppose that's true enough anyway. I do happen to think I'm pretty patriotic, or at the very least I wouldn't want to live anywhere else but here. But I don't think a lot of people who think themselves "patriotic" would think I'm as patriotic as they are.

* I flummoxed an evangelist at the door yesterday, which I found pretty amusing. This nice older lady rang the doorbell, complimented me on my daylilies (which I thought were daffodils, but which are apparently not), and identified herself and her sect. "We believe in fellowship with people of all faiths, and no doubt you have your own religion," she said.

"Actually, I don't," I said. "I'm agnostic."

"Oh," she said, and then seemed slightly dazed. I had clearly knocked her off her prepared spiel, which was predicated on me agreeing with and identifying my own religious impulse; even atheists have a religious impulse, it's just a negative one. With an agnostic, you get no traction. Sensing we had come to an impasse, I politely excused myself and went back into the house.

This is of course an embodiment of rural America, which is that everyone out in these here parts has faith of some sort or another. I don't know how true it is, since most of my immediate neighbors seem to sleep in on Sunday instead of hauling themselves into church, but it's persistent. This may make me the official town heathen. I can live with that.

Posted by john at July 7, 2003 07:39 AM

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Comments

Dave | July 7, 2003 09:16 AM

Glad to see you're coming to Toronto for your vacation and not letting SARS scare you off. We've been hurting for tourists lately, as you might imagine.

John Scalzi | July 7, 2003 09:25 AM

Yeah, I'm not too concerned about SARS, personally. And I like Toronto -- been there once before, about a decade ago, and had a great time there.

Tripp | July 7, 2003 09:43 AM

I also like Toronto, and I was there in the middle of SARS with no problem.

I didn't realize I was being hunted, though! So that is why the hairs on my neck were standing up? I thought it was the cool weather.

Stephen U | July 7, 2003 10:27 AM

I was visiting my father in small town Arkansas a couple of months ago when some Jehovah's Witnesses came a'callin'. I told them I was an agnostic and we chatted nicely for about forty minutes. I made them laugh a couple of times and was civil to them, but disagreed with them when they said the Bible is logical. Finally, I wore them down and they said "Oooh, look at the time. We have to be going." I outlasted Jehova's Witnesses! I won! Points for Team Agnostic!

Sara | July 7, 2003 11:31 AM

I know what you mean about being suprised at what ends up coming out of a keyboard when you're typing on it. I'm just hoping I'll get to the end of one story someday.