Attracting Attention to Yourself

Random image of a kid riding a hog.

When I was in college in the 80s we had a friend named Joe, a guy of Italian extraction from New Jersey; short, muscular, with a harpo-marx hairdo and a devilish smile, quiet but with a wicked and odd sense of humor. I had the sense that he’d never been popular where he came from, but we found him delightful.

And, we egged him on.

So, he was the guy who, at the dining hall, would drink weird concoctions of things you would mix up; soda, milk, yogurt, pudding, hot-sauce…

My roommate had had cousins in Europe, and while visiting their farm as a little kid, he had egged his cousin on, making him ride farm animals, which of course, he wasn’t supposed to do.

“Ride the hog! Ride the hog!”

We were fond of that story, and when we egged Joe on, we’d invoke it, “Ride the hog Joe! Ride the Hog!”

Hours later sometimes, Joe would pull a face and put his hand on his stomach and shake his head. We’d laugh. Hard. And clap him on the back and show him he was ours, we loved him. We were kids away from home for the first time trying to make friends and figure out who we were, when we could be anything we wanted. Oh, and secondarily, we tried not to flunk out of school.

While talking to a friend about why I’ve never been able to land a pro position and do panels at my local SF cons, he mentioned, well, probably better if you haven’t FB friended them, if you want to do that, and I realized, oh.

If you channel a certain kind of political outrage and pain, your posts get shared, and you make friends, people happy to read what you write, as my roommate was happy to watch his cousin watch the hog rider, and we were happy to watch Joe drink simulated vomit, which we mixed up for him.

Like all scary things, it’s a feedback loop, of transgression and attention. Like watching the reality TV stars famous for being famous, famous for being drunk. Everybody is a grown up. Everyone has free will. Everyone is presumed to be doing what they want to do. But something in the mix isn’t quite right.

Social media has created an entire social class of free op-ed writers, generating really lovely pieces mixing the personal and political; they have only a few things in common. Their positions are extreme, and the only people who make a dime off of their work product are tech billionaires who build the platforms they entertain people on.

I’ve been using Freedom for about six weeks now. The insights keep coming, as to what I’ve been doing with social media, and why. I’m getting off the hog. I want to keep writing, keep emoting into keyboards, but this isn’t the way to do it, really. I’ve been fucking around in the dorms with my friends now for decades. Time to graduate; grow up, and get on with it.

To those that have clapped me on the back, I know you have done that with love, and I thank you for it. I hope to carry you into my voice in other ways in the future, but if we part company here, there are no ill feelings, and no regrets.

We’re all grown ups. I chose to ride that hog.

And now, to stop.


Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

The Joy of Writing

Just a quick note, before I go for my walk and sit at my cafe and get some words down, on how happy I am to have had the time in my life for writing, and how much I appreciate the community of people that have worked on, published, and read my work.

Even though, in a real sense, the writing is its own reward, minus all those things. Writing, when it’s going well, is flow.

You’ve heard of flow, right? Here’s the wikipedia definition:

Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow.[2]

  1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
    Merging of action and awareness
  2. A loss of reflective self-consciousness
  3. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  4. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered
  5. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Those aspects can appear independently of each other, but only in combination do they constitute a so-called flow experience. Additionally, psychology expert, Kendra Cherry, has mentioned three other components that Csíkszentmihályi lists as being a part of the flow experience:[3]

  1. “Immediate feedback”[3]
  2. Feeling that you have the potential to succeed
  3. Feeling so engrossed in the experience, that other needs become negligible

Writing, when it’s going well, releases you from the annoyance of being yourself. Self dissolves, even as that self experiences a sense of control. For me, and for a lot of writers, feeling that potential to succeed is the hardest part, because, quite simply, there’s a lot of rejection and failure in the writing experience.

  1. You want to sell what you write.
  2. You want people to love it and write you and tell you they do.
  3. You want money for it. Enough to live on.
  4. You want to win awards, if you like to read award winning fiction.
  5. You want the sense that your work has some lasting value or impact, at some level.

A full time decade of effort in, spread over the last 3 decades, I’m hovering around 1 and 2, still, and I’m trying to be cool with the idea that this is what I get. I get to sell some sizable fraction of what I write, and I get to have a few people tell me that they like it a lot.

Achieving three to five in the list above feels so far away. Impossible, really.

But I know now, that I am capable of experiencing the joy of flow; the joy of writing, which is a kind of payment in itself. I can believe, at some level, at some times, in 3, 4, and… well. Not five.

But oh, just to get to 3 would be amazing.

But here is to flow, the joyous death of oneself in story, to hearing voices and seeing things in your head that make you gasp with surprise, tremble with joy, that make you weep in despair; to experiences you create and transmit through the continuous and vivid waking dream of prose.

To writing! To story!

To the infinite untapped possibility trapped in every human mind…

To every story waiting to be discovered, excavated, mined, polished and presented…

To the jungle dark, but full of diamonds.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

Breaking a habit; making new ones… in a world gone mad

Portrait Illo of me that hides to some degree my bald middle-aged thing. Obama-esque style triggers right-wingers and makes them send me hate mail.

One of the things you can do, if you want to, as a human being, is read books about how to be a better human being.

My mix of ego and fatalism, mild-bipolar, and generalized cynicism has kept me from doing the self help thing. Only when I hit rock bottom am I really willing to consider that maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. Which on the face of it, is stunningly obvious.

So there are the hero biographies, and the self-help books about Very Successful People, that tell you what they’re doing, that you obviously aren’t. And theres a ton of overlap, consensus, in these books. I guess you’ve all read a few of them? If not, go do that. You really should, even if you ignore them. Self help. Go.

I’ll wait here. Okay. So you read a few? Good.

The last one I read was Deep Work, by Cal Newport, a guy who is amazingly better than I am in pretty much every way, except I’m more self-deprecating. Cal is an amazing guy. While mostly venerating the successful, (he’s fond of nobel prize winners and billionaires) he politely suggests that the entire world of software connectivity productivity open office constant interruption culture is bug fuck crazy and successful people learn how to shut it off and back away from distraction to actually think. 

Every writer who has had even a whisper of success has a little frozen banana stand where they sell you the secret to their awesome, rich and fulfilling creative lives. That you need, because you’re a little worm who can’t finish his novel. Or short story. Or even start to write one. Or do whatever it is, you really want to do, something you thought about before the world tapped you on the shoulder and whispered in your ear, “money, dude. health insurance. Living indoors.”

I’ll summarize ten thousand of these things in a single bullet point.

  • Success is made of habits. Willpower makes habits. Habits make success. (Willpower doesn’t make success directly; nobody has enough of it. Especially not you. Worm.)

At the Freedom blog, the people who make my blocking software, because yeah, now I’m a person who uses blocking software, they had an essay recently saying that the 21 days to a new habit thing is way too short; habits are harder to make than that. The blog also said, you can probably only work on one thing at a time.

So after the election, I noticed something, in my circle of mostly progressive type friends. All of us started to quickly lose our minds, as we shared article after article. We began to tell each other, ‘avoid the red meat, the little bit of news with a lot of attitude sites, that just make us crazy, let’s stick to actual news.’

The problem was, the actual news was… just as bad.

All of us had constructed this virtual news feed, where we chucked the stuff that we felt we all needed to know. The hard stuff. That started to make us super depressed. People pleaded for kittens and photos of tasty lunches and sunsets.

Then people started just posting stuff about things to DO. Because maybe doing things would help. So people did the things. They opposed people… who are all being confirmed. They went to protests. We all were calling our reps. Maybe this was all a good thing, part of a political awakening which stands a chance of heading off a fascist coup. Who knows.

But the countercurrents were there, too. Some more bullets.

  • Art is important. That Winston Churchill quote. Art is radical. Even if it isn’t political. Woody Guthries’s guitar sticker that read, ‘this machine kills fascists.’
  • Art is sort of self indulgent, now, though, don’t you think? Shouldn’t we die in the protests?
  • Self care is important. If you are dead or insane from grief, you’re less effective. So take care of yourself. Detach some. Enjoy life and family. Smell some roses.
  • Rich privileged white people who aren’t targeted are full of shit for talking about self-care. Fuck them. Work harder. Worms.

During all this, I promised myself a few things. Which led to the blocking software.

  1. Stop generating free op-ed for a few hundred strangers to enrich Mark Zuckerberg.
  2. Re-learn how to focus for long periods of time again. As a goddamn eight year old I could play with fucking legos for five or six hours straight, with the occasional glass of Tang or Hawaiian Punch. Dear God. I need the attention span I had when I was eight. 
  3. Do more politically. By actually doing something more effective and important than the free op-ed. Such a low bar!
  4. Keep becoming a writer who has a real audience that buys my stuff, instead of a dude ranting on a street corner that people who wait for the bus watch because he’s there.

Social media, the party that never ends, was the low hanging fruit, the biggest target. I took aim. I fired. My gun was a 14 hour block… then a 23 hour block. On all devices, using the industrial strength VPN style blocking  of Freedom software.

I’m three weeks in. Status report:

  1. Attention span so far isn’t improving. I’m less productive, so far, as I am ‘self caring’ a lot and accomplishing little goal oriented activity.
  2. I’m less unhappy, by external reports.
  3. I can see now, when I peek my head into the social media party, that everyone in there is basically going nuts. The people that aren’t look weird. Like, why the hell aren’t they going crazy?

The news still gets to me; sometimes hours late. I read the NYT a bit, but there’s no passion to it, when you can’t share it with your 1000 people. I’m trying to remember how I used to play with legos for hours on end.

Well. The Freedom blog said, ‘one thing at a time, and it takes a long time.’

So. Social media, the habit? It’s breaking. I missed my one hour window yesterday. I was busy. true, I was watching TV with my teenage son, not like I was curing cancer, but still.

I have to think this is progress.

My family donated a fair amount of money to the causes we believe in, and I get emails daily on how the world is going to hell, which I skim. I’ll call my reps, now and then. I’ll send money. I’ll go to the protests. But I can’t live in that state of sadness and outrage 24/7, or I’ll die. And they’ll win.

Yeah. I’m a privileged asshole.

I’m gonna have to live with that too.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

Social Media Exile

My ‘Freedom’ control panel, blocking social media and other sites on all devices 23 hours a day. Because yeah, i need this.

Social media lets you hold onto people who you’ve left behind.

They move, or you move, and in the old days, there were two options. Well, three. One, you never saw or spoke to them again, if you were casually friends. Two, you made a few calls or visits, maybe, and then, fell out of touch–forever. Or, rarely, you kept up with them, and they with you, by spending time, and or money. Long distance was no joke. You might have twenty, forty, fifty dollar conversations with your vanished friend. This wasn’t something done casually. Spending that money represented a kind of hunger, a real connection, for each other.

Long distance got cheaper and cheaper and cheaper, and was finally free bundled in with whatever internet product you paid for, the internet bloomed, social media happened; skype and facetime happened,  and it became effortless to maintain a slender connection to everyone with whom you have ever had the slightest feelings for.

Ex girlfriends. People you did workshops with in the 90s. High-school friends and high-school enemies, college friends, work friends, writing friends. All those little tendrils of contact wrap you in the illusion of friendship and community, or rather, give you that community, minus the fleshy component, of faces and food and drink and touching and smelling each other.

Make a few hundred such friends, and scatter them to the winds, and you have a party that never ends. Kind of cerebral and sedate, as people open magical doors from jobs and houses thousands of miles away, jot a note on a scrap of paper, stick it to the wall and then disappear again. But the notes keep piling up. Some of the notes are nothing, newspaper clippings, restaurant receipts, form letters, come-ons for causes, jokes and recipes and pointers to things for which there are no convenient concrete metaphors. (Magic keyholes through which one can glimpse kittens falling off of vanitys? Mix tapes? TV guide pages?)

It’s not that great a party. Every now and then, you meet someone new, someone says, “you would like this person,” and you friend them, because why not?

Robots will want to hook up with you at this party, and you learn to ignore them. And rarely real people too, who you learn to ignore too, if you’re married, or not interested, or both.

Still. It’s a party.

My problem is that I’d rather go to the world’s shittiest party than do pretty much anything else.

So I upped my social media blocking game, to twenty three hours a day, seven days a week. I use the program Freedom on all my devices. The lingering remnants of a lifetime of friendships torn away, I find I am mostly alone in my city now, with a handful of people I’m close to. My kids recede away into their teenage lives.

A friend of mine from Woodstock tells me I need to do meetups. I have a few local friends, from a meetup I used to do…

I know a barrista, at my cafe, and I talk to him some.

Eventually, I guess, I get so lonely I make new friends in meatspace?

We will see how that works.

Posted in Social Media Suicide

My Starship Sofa Episode has landed!! #470 Rob Boffard interview with my Asimov’s short story, Solomon’s Little Sister


So this is live now, and I have to say I really like the reading by Ralph Ambrose. The interview with Rob Boffard is interesting, it makes me want to check out his trilogy published by Orbit.

I’m really impressed by the whole team at Starship Sofa and I’m so glad to be in the archive with over a hundred other writers; legends from the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and ah, teens, or whatever you call now, and people like Ken Liu and Ted Chiang and Nnedi Okorafor.

So it’s a huge honor, to be in this thing, and it’s so fun, to hear someone else interpret your story, and get it right. (With the exception of a single made up word that is super hard to pronounce. I forgive you, Ralph. Nanocalpyse isn’t exactly the same as nano-collapse, but I dig that you knew what I was talking about! It’s a neologism for the nano-tech apocalypse, which is the background for my Zeitgeist stories, a cycle of stories which take place in a post scarcity, post singularity world which will feel familiar to players of video games.) So Ralph says nano-collapse, twice, and the third time says nan-noc-cal-lips, that’s one thing, he’s talking about, the dawn of the Zeitgeist, the deal brokered for humanity by a dozen tech billionaires with the superintelligence(s) which emerge, abruptly, and remake the world…

So people, go check this out, and consider supporting Starship Sofa. They’re starting to pay authors (most of this content was donated; my story was) and the production values are good. They deserve support!

Listening is free, though, so please, listen!

Posted in My Publications, Podcasts

Back on the Wagon…

galleySo I spent a month this year detoxing from Social Media. It was painful but I thought I’d learned some lessons, about how I would work with it going forward.

Yeah. I was fooling myself. The election… and since the election…

Yeah. I fell back in.

I wrote an article for the SFWA journal after the social media fast, and I stand by what I wrote. Now I just have to live up to my own standards.

I’ve written more words this year than any year in my life; most on a failed trilogy… but let that go… I’ve placed three shorts for next year, and had my longest work, “What We Hold Onto” appear in Asimov’s, had my first story go live this month in Galaxy’s Edge, and broken into Analog, with two of those three shorts. I’ve included a thumbnail of the galley, too small to read the text, just because, OMG, I’m gonna be in Analog! Not sure what issue! I’ll ask!

But the reality is, I’m here, now, twitching and jonesing, wanting to immerse myself in news, which only makes me miserable and toxic, which causes me to spew rants which I give away to fund Mark Zuckerberg’s little facebook project..

because he needs me working for him. For free.

So. I’m committing to doing a morning a week with like-minded people engaged in political activity aimed at preserving our core values.

And I’m committing the rest of my life, to the also political act, of trying to make my art, make my fiction, find the future in myself and make it sing. And if possible, dance.

Late in the day, today, to be saying this, as I lug my portable office out to a cafe to write, but better late than never. late in life, too. But life is full of second acts; third acts, the story not over until that fat lady sings.

Do your work. Be true to yourself. Fight for what you believe in. Figure out the order for yourself. It’s what we’re here to do.

Posted in Making a Writing Life, Social Media Suicide

Maybe he likes your work. Maybe he just wants to sleep with you.

Trigger warning: This post is about sexual abuse. Very mild sexual abuse, of a young man, me, so, honestly, who cares, but it’s my story and I’m telling it because it pertains to some stuff happening in SF now (and for the last forty years.)

Set the wayback machine to the mid-eighties. I’m twenty one or twenty two, in art-school, and I’m emerging from what we used to call a nervous breakdown. A combination of over the counter and recreational drugs and a poorly managed class work load knocks me out for a few months, and then, a few years, after that.

During this time, after high-school, in those first terrifying years of quasi adulthood, a friend of ours, a movie-star handsome young man named Gabriel, falls in with a wealthy philanthropist who lives in a mansion on the outskirts of town; the mansion has a name.

Let’s call it Ravencrest.

Gabriel was an enigma; he crashed our suburban high-school the way you might crash a wedding party. Our school was top notch, attended by the suburban refugee sons and daughters of my decaying city’s professional class; the inner-city school dictated for Gabriel by his actual zip code was not good.

So he snuck into ours; I don’t know how, but he did. He lived near the elementary school my family had fled from when I was in forth grade.

There were stories about Gabriel; that he had a business card—a joke business card?—that identified himself as a male prostitute. He was absurdly handsome, witty, urbane, and likable.

And now, he’d been adopted by an eccentric millionaire, a man who owned a newspaper and had professionally played the concert piano.

As I struggled with myself, who I was, what I would be, unsure of my art, of myself as an artist, I was invited, as were all of Gabriel’s friends, to hang out in the mansion.

To spend the night there, too.

Rumors of sexual contact swirled around the man and his relationships with young men, but nobody was on record as having made any criminal accusations, and he assured us that his many enemies had started these rumors to bring him down. They had accused him of being a vampire, because he suffered from Cutaneous porphyrias and couldn’t tolerate sunlight, for example, and indeed outdoors he always wore huge black wraparound sunglasses.

He was celibate, he said.

One evening as he was saying good night to us he gave me an unwanted sort of longish kiss on the lips and looked me in the eye. He saw, I think, astonishment. He smiled. I guess my reaction wasn’t as bad it might have been. I think he filed me as a ‘maybe.’

He’d told me I was a genius; that I would be a great artist, but of course, most people didn’t understand that, the way he did, and I would have be careful, about who I listened to about my creative future.

Shortly thereafter it came out, one of the boys visiting, while going to the bathroom, saw one of the young men (legal age) creeping into the great man’s bedroom late at night.

He heard sex noises. The cat was out of the bag.

My people stopped visiting Ravencrest. Gabriel escaped into the Marines, and then, escaped from the marines, and then, vanished from all our lives. Time marched on.

Looking back at the photos of us all back then, it strikes me, how handsome we were. How attractive. I’m a repelling wreck now, but back then? I had something, some odd rare burning quality that I can see, was, oh, there’s no way to say it that doesn’t sound vain, but hot. I was sort of hot.

I may or may not have been any kind of artist. The millionaire, in any case, would have been very happy to sleep with me. He was grooming us. Flattering us. Pushing us. Seeing how far he could go. How we would react. Looking for someone who would trade, sex for approval. Sex for a chance at the big time.

I know. Barely any abuse at all. Yet, as the ambivalence of the world to my vast talents struck home in the years to come… yeah. It hurt.

So I get, in my small way, what it is like, to feel that sadness, when you find out that someone you thought was a supporter was just trying to get you into bed. I imagine this happening to me over and over and over again…

And I get how furious people get, at the men who do this. Even when this is all that they do.

On the face of it, not much happened that you could talk about in a court of law. An icky hug and kiss. Some compliments that turned out to be bullshit. In the world we live in, the opportunities for me to experience this abuse proved few and far between. I can only imagine the horror, of this happening again and again. But twenty five years later, the memory is still vivid, disturbing, and embarrassing.

At age 53, bald and heavy, I am now immune from such things ever happening to me again. A small thing to be thankful for. When someone likes my work I know what it is they like. My work.

So I ask all those who hold power over others in creative pursuits—do not try to trade your compliments and support for love or sex or even mild feigned romantic interest. You know it’s wrong.

Don’t do it. If you do, and people compare notes, you’re gonna be completely fucked. And not in the way you were hoping.

And you’ll deserve it.

That is all.



Posted in SF culture and Sex Abuse

Piecing Ourselves Back Together

If you’re like me, and why wouldn’t you be, your consciousness has changed over the last few decades.

You remember a time, when news was a newspaper, or perhaps, a 24 hour cable TV station. CNN to be precise. There was exactly one of these stations. Cable TV exposed you to other news shows and stations, but you probably never watched them. PBS and National public radio may or may not have been part of your info diet. Maybe you are one of the ten people that watched CSPAN.

If you were an internet pioneer, you might have done IRC (look it up; it’s real time chat) or usenet (topic based forums).

You who remember a life before cell phones. You who remember pagers.

How did we think back then?

In a word, differently.

There’s a part of the human mind delighted by novelty, by chance, by gambling, also known as the periodic reinforcement schedule, which is a fancy way of saying you do something a bunch of times and sometimes but not all times you get the result you want. I recall a joke, about a drunk plunging quarters into a candy bar vending machine at a casino, yelling at someone interrupting, “don’t stop me, can’t you see I’m on a roll?” The drunk is so drunk he doesn’t get that he isn’t winning; he’s just buying something.

So, our social media, our email applications, our messaging applications, the 24 hour news cycle, all plug into this.

Our consciousness is fragmented. We aren’t winning.

You’ve probably seen the headline, if you haven’t read the story, and that’s a problem, too, that click bait fake news consumption surpassed the consumption of real news from real news sources in the days before Trump’s apparent electoral college win. The clickbait journalism model represents the ground floor of the race to the bottom of the forth estate.

So the most wealthy and powerful nation on Earth will now be ruled by a climate denier. His first appointment is a vicious criminal anti-semite being roundly praised by the KKK and the Neo-nazis that we have been told not to worry too much about by the many Trump voters who seemed to enjoy his melody, while paying little or no attention to the words in the songs he sang.

If you’re like me, at some point, the news became an addiction, an obsession, something you checked constantly, because with smart phones, you could. Perhaps like me you often read actual journalism, so you knew things. You knew that Iraq didn’t attack us on 911, before the war, and you knew there would be no WMD, because you’d read the reports by the UN arms inspectors. So many things you knew, and know.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t know those things and act on that knowledge. But I think the reality our information technology is now at odds with fundamental mental hygiene.

I would like to sit behind a firewall that batched my information in ways that made sense for a sane and productive life. Short of tornado warnings, local shooting events, and amber alerts, there is no need to become aware of every outrage on the planet the minute it occurs. I’m reminded of pioneers of the atomic age poisoning themselves with radioactive materials, because, they were presumed to be safe. We are the pioneers of the singularity, of the age of pure information, and a very large minority of voters have just accidentally selected a man who thinks global warming is a Chinese hoax as president.

Somehow, we have poisoned ourselves.

Not sure what to do about this, but here’s my short term plan:

  1. Maintain my subscription to the NYT.
  2. Only read news at the end of my work day.
  3. Only consult social media while standing up my workstation. Avoid it entirely as much as possible. Set distribution to friends only. Puzzle out what to do about an author platform later.
  4. Read books. Library books. Paper books I buy. E-books. Listen to books. Walk. Listen to music. Think.
  5. Donate  money to groups to protect targeted populations. Planned Parenthood. ACLU. Southern Poverty Law Center.
  6. Attend non-violent protests. Periodically call my representatives. Vote in all elections.
  7. Wear an array of identifiers that mark me as a safe place. So far, I have a Black Lives Matter pin and the safety pin. I’ll be adding more icons in the days and weeks ahead. These markers do not make me feel better. My demographic has allowed a horrific thing to happen. I don’t get to feel like a decent person for at least four years. Perhaps longer.
  8. Do my work.
  9. Abstain, to the degree I am able, from the self-congratulatory liberal echo chamber.
  10. Attempt to rewire my brain to be more like the brain I had in my twenties, which didn’t ache to check a series of glowing buttons on my pocket computer / tracking device every five minutes.

I’ve done this once before, but gradually got sick again, like an alcoholic who starts up again, only drinking one glass of wine with dinner. Then two. Then a bottle. Then two.

I’m gonna live a life with more individual conversations. Less holding forth to small audiences of like minding people generating micro-payments to a giant corporation.

Feel free to chime in below, on how you plan to change your life, in this new world we find ourselves in.

I want to know!


Posted in Climate Change, Making a Writing Life

My Story in Galaxy’s Edge

cover001-1So I really really love this story, and was glad that it was available on-line for a month. Most of my stuff has been in Asimov’s, F&SF, and Interzone. For those that missed the story when it was on-line, the issue is for sale at amazon as print on demand here. 

This magazine combines stories by newer writers with reprints from giants in the field, (and original stuff by giants, too). It’s edited by Mike Resnick, the most award winningest editor in the history of genre editing. I’m happy to be in here!

I tweeted something like “The Singularity! Sex! Fundamentalism!” because those things swirl around this story; it’s a profoundly weird little tale which came to life as I wrote it in a chilling way, the characters speaking very clearly in my head. I was barely able to steer this thing.

I dig the other stories in this issue as well, some by friends of mine. It’s really a great publication.

Posted in My Publications, Reinventing Science Fiction

Imposter’s Syndrome


Nineties Jay says to today’s Jay, “Wow. So. You’re a writer now… right?” Today’s Jay winces. “Um,” he says.

I have been struggling with imposter’s syndrome.

Found this in a business centric site, as a list of things to do to combat IS.

  • Don’t stay silent. Find a way to speak about your fears with a trusted friend, a coach, a mentor, your partner, a therapist, or in a journal.
  • Become familiar with your impostor. What are you trying to prove? To whom?And why?
  • Exercise your sense of humor. Try to keep a sense of perspective and to laugh as often as possible—especially at yourself.

So. Here’s the journal. And I guess you’re my trusted friend, whoever is reading this.

I remember a time when if you’d told me I would publish in Asimov’s, Analog and F&SF, multiple stories in all three places, that I would have said, “Cool! Thank God! I’ll know then that my work has value and I can put a ton of time and effort into projects without feeling like a self-indulgent dick.”

Back in the 90s, I saw these three magazines as the launch path to a career as a novelist, and when I didn’t hit these marks in the first five years of effort I quit for eighteen years.

So. Now, I’ve done it, made my 90s checklist. Time to strap in and launch that career!


Now I’m haunted by the experiences of so many friends over the years who can’t sell novel one, two, three, four, five… by people whose first big-six novels don’t earn out, by people stranded in multi-book contracts… by the experiences of indies who pour years of effort into books only to sell a handful of copies…
I do sometimes, shamelessly, call myself a writer. There’s almost always that sense from people, when you say that, that they think you’re basically unemployed and make no money and are some sort of pathetic parasite.

Um. Yeah.

I say the three names now… Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF … I can add Fantastic Stories, Interzone, and Galaxy’s Edge, too, because I’ve placed work there as well… I don’t have to tell people how much money I make writing. I do anyway, in a kind of ugly self-flagellation that makes everyone within earshot wince.

The time has come now to commit, to longer term projects, to figuring out what my voice is for. To network more effectively, and not to shudder at the word ‘network.’ To somehow make use of social media without oversharing, venting like a mad man, or being in other ways unattractive.

A successful writer / businessman friend of mine recently told me he had never seen a more self-sabotaging media presence… a friend from the 90s flamed me on twitter for how I’ve discussed my recent successes there, and only the successes. The phrase ‘head up my ass’ came up so often I eventually realized that this guy was no longer a friend. (After he’d blocked and unfollowed me, that sank in. I’m not always quick on the uptake.)

So. I have a lot of work to do.

I thought I might find a cover of each magazine and make a graphic for this post… I searched the web, before realizing, duh, just take a picture of the magazines, and in so doing I found a bunch of reviews of my work I’d never seen before.

All positive reviews.

Don’t read reviews, is one bit of advice writers give. Never respond to reviews, either, everyone says.  Today, though, I think the reviews helped.

In a discussion as to whether an Asimov’s story of mine, Strangers with Candy, was ‘really SF’ or not, the reviewer said, he didn’t care really, the story was effective. The story knew exactly what it was doing, were the words he used.

So. Maybe my stories know what they’re doing. Even when I don’t.

Time to go make some words.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Making a Writing Life