Cynthia Heimel (plum) Tue 1 Dec 98 12:09
Man I hope I spelled F.O. right. I bet I didn't.
Cynthia Heimel (plum) Tue 1 Dec 98 12:10
Martha, dearie, I'm reading your latest book. You have a fertile imagination. Way fertile. Tell us all about this book, and then we'll go backwards.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 1 Dec 98 12:20
All about the book? In one post? This book begins with the first story I wrote after high school (some years after, as I'd decided I didn't know anything about writing and sat down to ponder for quite a while), which I think is pretty brave of me. It continues in rough chronological order for roughly a decade, with the stories I wrote after I took up writing at 25. When I was in high school, and a voracious reader as I assume all future writers to have been, I started reading the science-fiction anthologies of the 70s: the two Dangerous Visions books; Damon Knight's Orbit series; Terry Carr's Universe series; Robert Silverberg's New Dimensions series. I became very excited about what could be done in a few pages, using a fantastic premise as a lens to look at the intensity of human experience. An excess of intensity is surely why I stick with the short form instead of sensibly writing a novel. It was a wonderful thing when, ten years later, I sold that first story to Terry Carr's Universe (the penultimate volume; he died after assembling the next one). Everything since then is gravy. That's as much as fits in one post.
David Gans (tnf) Tue 1 Dec 98 12:25
Tell us why "not Flannery O'Connor." I mean, why NOT Flannery O'Connor? Do you have a PROBLEM with Flannery O'Connor? I used to read science fiction when I was a kid. I don't know why I stopped, really. Maybe it was because I became a pothead and started being more interested in the "real" world at hand. Do you want to talk about the genre and why it appeals to you?
Cynthia Heimel (plum) Tue 1 Dec 98 12:34
Martha's book, by the bye, is called *The Arbitrary Placement of Walls*. And Martha, if you're such a sci-fi smarty, can you tell me why my book has flown off? Where did I put it? The first story, about actors inhabiting "costumes," I kept thinking, how much do you have to work out the internal logic of this construct. I think I mean construct.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 1 Dec 98 12:55
I don't have a problem with Flannery O'Connor. I merely fear that people, coming to my little stories with such an expectation, will snort "She's no Flannery O'Connor!" and use the book to smoosh cockroaches. I am on my way out to do painting prep on the Habitat for Humanity site around the corner, and will ponder your questions while covering myself with caulk.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 1 Dec 98 12:59
Caulk on! Soukup has been compared to O'Connor by pleased critics. She has had all kinds of pleased critics attention, some of which I threw into a simple web page at: http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/soukup.html Just fabulous responses form a lot of smart people.
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Tue 1 Dec 98 16:57
So, Soukup, where do you get all your ideas?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 1 Dec 98 17:30
Found 'em buried in the back yard. I am now covered with caulk, as promised, though from tomorrow I'm told I'll be dealing more in grout. "I was thinking, I don't really want to train someone on floors who doesn't come back," Gloria said. "Then I saw you and I thought, She comes back!" Like the cat. And now I have a little Web site with my name on top, which it took Gail to make happen, so thanks, Gail! Um, what were the questions?
Michael R. Walsh (mrw) Tue 1 Dec 98 18:02
Talk about the genre and why it appeals to you. Where is <plum>'s copy of your book? You've answered the others, I think.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 1 Dec 98 19:13
plum's copy of my book is in the fridge. Well, I've talked a bit about the genre and why it appeals to me. It does appeal to me for the same reason it appeals to any other geek: the intellectual game of it, of seeing an idea stretched as far as it goes. This is fun done either for rigor, or for gonzo, and I've attempted it both ways. (Some rigor always give some spine to a story.) But as a writer, my strongest attraction to the genre is the way you can use it to write about anything. You take a metaphor, you give it flesh, you crank the hell out of it. It's efficient, and efficiency is sexy. That kind of thing goes way back. Fairy tales: look at Sleeping Beauty, the old version: she is ensorceled into sleep, sleeps a hundred years, a prince drops by and rapes her in her sleep and leaves, nine months later one of her newborn twins crawls to her finger, tries to suckle on it, and awakens her. Not the version Disney could ever do, but pretty kick-ass, yes?
David Gans (tnf) Tue 1 Dec 98 23:13
Not too shabby!
excessively heterosexual (saiyuk) Wed 2 Dec 98 01:32
Plum's copy of your book WAS in the fridge. But Doc broke in, ate some chicken, stole the book, and is now reading it.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 2 Dec 98 01:40
Doc the dog?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Wed 2 Dec 98 11:22
Never to forget the subtlety while you're cranking the hell out of your metaphors though. Over-the-top subtle, that's what I'm after. Maybe. Doc the dwarf?
Cynthia Heimel (plum) Wed 2 Dec 98 13:16
Doc the dog. Well known for stealth missions. I asked you, Martha, about the costumes in the first story. That was so good. How do you well, figure out all the logic?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Wed 2 Dec 98 19:25
The secret of science fiction: you don't have to figure out ALL the logic. "Dress Rehearsal" had to be in the book, because not only is it my first published (and written) short story, it's the story that got me to trying to write stories again, after I gave up at 17. I was in an amateur, sometimes semi-pro, theater troupe in Chicago called Moebius Theatre: one of the many improv & script blackout-sketch comedy groups inspired by Second City. We did science fiction: about one one-hour play a year (I wrote one of those), but mostly sketches, which we performed at science-fiction conventions and in little storefront theaters for teeny little audiences. I was in Moebius for years before I even tried to write a script. We had a couple of excellent sketch writers, hardly needed me. One day I was really angry about something, so in that angry mood I wrote a goofy little romantic silly bit. Then I kept going. Now, Moebius Theatre was an egalitarian sort of outfit. Since our material was sf and fantasy, we didn't have to worry about writing gender-blind. Only pieces with a het romantic aspect would certainly call for someone to be male for a part, someone to be female for a part. I was never much of an actor really. Couldn't help notice, though, that plays and movies usually have two good male parts or more for every female part. Really this is something I'd noticed since childhood, as who wouldn't. But there are other casting limitations: you're too old, you're too young, you're too small, you're too big, you're the wrong race. You're the wrong sex. So actually it'd been a fantasy of mine since childhood that technology might make it possible for any actor to play any part. You can't write a story without more to it than the fantasy gimmick, though. I wrote "Dress Rehearsal" as a Moebius Theatre sketch--uncertain how a definitely non-comic sketch would go over with people in the audience for a comedy show--because it eventually struck me that a technology that let you inhabit a different (artifical) body was also, well, the ultimate drag. You could occupy any physical kind of person. So what does that reveal about your self-image? Real things, false things? I dunno. The story's more a question. And the sketch got me to start writing prose fiction, because while it did go over well on stage (and they even managed a videotaped production), I became megalomaniacal about the story. Theater is collaborative. In prose, you are a tyrant. (Of course each reader collaborates differently with the prose, but never mind that.) I do run on. And I could continue.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (pnh) Wed 2 Dec 98 20:09
Tell me what you start with. Is it the germ of a character, a situation, a didactic point you want to make? (Damon Knight once answered that question in my presence by pointing to a spot behind his lower back and saying "it's an annoying itch right _there_.")
Martha Soukup (soukup) Wed 2 Dec 98 21:41
Patrick Nielsen Hayden (pnh) Wed 2 Dec 98 21:45
Thank you for your considered opinion. Okay, let's try this: Do you prefer Tinky Winky, Dipsy, La La, or Po?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Wed 2 Dec 98 21:48
Martha Soukup (soukup) Wed 2 Dec 98 21:55
Anyway, it's all of the above. Though the points I want to make are rarely didactic. It's not that I don't appreciate interesting didacticism, it's just that the things I know I'm not certain about vastly outnumber the things I am certain about. The vague thing to say is that it's an image, but "image" can mean so many different things. It can be a scene or a moment from a scene. It can be a stfnal or fantastic gimmick. Whatever it is, it has to have an emotion, or it's not a story. I can carry an image around for a long time before emotion, character, and situation accrete around it.
Cynthia Heimel (plum) Thu 3 Dec 98 00:30
fiction is hard!
Martha Soukup (soukup) Thu 3 Dec 98 11:59
Dying is easy!
Cynthia Heimel (plum) Thu 3 Dec 98 13:31
Do you have many endings? Do you know the ending first? With journalism/humor, I know kinda where I want to be but never quite.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Thu 3 Dec 98 17:59
Sometimes I start at the beginning, sometimes in the middle, sometimes with the ending. (In my head, that is; I always write the story from front to back.) Sometimes I've written toward an ending and the story wasn't going there. That's how I got "A Defense of the Social Contracts" out of the story I stubbornly did produce later, "The Spinner".
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