Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Sat 25 Nov 00 08:14
So Cory, how did you get involved in openCOLA? I mean, you're also an acclaimed science fiction writer with the potential for a long, lively career in that field. And you probably could make an excellent living selling the weird and wonderful collectibles you've scrounged from swap meets, garage sales and dumpsters. Are you setting aside your role as King of the Craphounds and your writing career to dedicate yourself solely to openCOLA? Are you planning to juggle all these things simultaneously?
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 25 Nov 00 09:51
How did I get involved with oC? Well, Grad and John (the other two founders) and I had been working together for about five years when we decided that we wanted to start our own firm and execute our own projects. We maintained a list with two columns on it, one labelled "Bread," the other, "Sex." In the former was a list of stuff that we knew we could earn our living with (mostly service work and consulting), the latter was a list of stuff that we knew we could have a totally killer time doing. At the top of that list was the project that became openCOLA. Working on that project gave us the Holy Fire, and we realized that there was nothing else we wanted to do. We went out and raised some angel financing, maxed out Grad's credit-cards, hired a few people (Erik "Possum-Man" Steward, possumman on the WELL, was our first tech hire, Helen Waters, www.drokk.com, was our first general dogsbody and sysadmin type), and got to work. openCOLA does eat up a large portion of my life, but I'm also finding that it's fuelling the writing I do. Last year, I wrote two books, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction," (which I co-wrote with oC's structured document guru, Karl Schroeder, www.kschroeder.com) and "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom," my first novel, which is currently on the desk of Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor, pnh on the WELL. The novel is an exploration of the ideas that gave rise to oC, though of course they diverged over time. I'm doing a lot of fun nonfic that oC has also inspired -- the piece I wrote for Mindjack is a good example, and I'm writing any number of white-papers on subjects COLAesque. Some day, I'd like to collect the white-papers into a single volume -- I think they're some of the best writing I've ever done. I've just started percolating my second novel, a book called "Eastern Standard Tribe," which is inspired by the challenges of working in Pacific Time with people who adhere to Eastern Time. The thesis is that the only thing the Internet can't funge is the circadian rhythm you adhere to -- that as communities are increasingly decentralized and Internet-mediated, the thing that'll be the most important factor in our identity is our sleep- schedule. Any hardcore WELL user who's switched timezones will know that the WELL's a different place depending on what daylight you prefer. I haven't nearly enough time for thrifting these days, but that's mostly due to the fact that having just moved from an ENORMOUS loft in Toronto to a relatively tiny apartment in San Francisco, I have less space to hold my stuff. Also, since I spend so much time on the road these days, I like to enjoy my Saturdays on the sofa with the crossword, which means that I miss all the primo yard-saling times. I tend to write very early in the morning, and on airplanes. Time to write isn't the problem, really -- the more challenging factors are time to mull, and the lack of a routine that lets me set aside regular time for working on writing projects.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sat 25 Nov 00 10:01
That place in San Francisco is huge!--for a one-person place in San Francisco. I have written a bit on airplanes, but it's not easy. Elbow room alone.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 25 Nov 00 10:07
One nice thing about California: garage sales year-round. But you'll probably have to go visit the great unwashed in the suburbs to the south.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 25 Nov 00 10:24
In my experience, the very best yard-sales are to be had in nabes where the residents are likely the original owners of houses built before 1970. The reasoning goes that with every move, the likelihood of cool ephemera being tossed out gets higher, so you want people who've been living where they're at for nearly ever. Newer houses are no good -- chances are, they don't have anything you can't find retail -- not enough time to accumulate vintage cruft. The best yard-saling in Toronto is up around Bathurst and Sheppard, a neighborhood they call "The Gaza Strip." It's where my folks grew up, a largely Jewish neighborhood built about 15 years after WWII. The newly middle-class immigrtants bought the houses, and then raised lots of kinds, doting on them and buying them all kinds of trendy tchotchkes of the day -- toys, LPs, puzzles, clothes, etc -- and now they're all empty-nesters and the houses are starting to fall apart, so they're moving en masse out to the deeper suburbs of Richmond Hill, Forest Hill and Vaughan, and to condos in Lauderdale. Any spring/summer Saturday in that area is a goldmine of wonderful detritus, sold cheap by a generation not clued in to eBay.
Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 25 Nov 00 11:10
Some cities in the south bay, like Sunnyvale and I think Mountain View, have an annual garage sale day where they encourage everyone to pull their crap out into the yard. And Cory if you haven't been to the San Jose Flea Market, you ought to--if only for the anthropological value. (Of course, I haven't been in 15 years, so I'll bet it's not the Flea Market of blessed memory.)
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 25 Nov 00 11:34
I think that's the one that fsquared keeps threatening to drag me to. I'm off to Hong Kong tomorrow morning, but back in a week -- maybe I'll go then.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sat 25 Nov 00 12:35
I'd love to go to one of those.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 25 Nov 00 12:38
An outing, then!
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Sat 25 Nov 00 14:54
And if you make it up to Sonoma County, Cory, perhaps I can drag you to the Santa Rosa Flea Market, which seems to be held irregularly on Sundays. It's an amazing collection of antiques, vintage and kitch crapola that I think you'd really enjoy. However, you say you're off to Hong Kong tomorrow? What's up in Hong Kong?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Sat 25 Nov 00 21:37
Cory is! The whole place is abuzz.
Life in the big (doctorow) Sat 25 Nov 00 22:47
I'm a speaker at the Digital Distribution and the Music Industry conference (www.ddmiglobal.com), along with Cindy Cohn, General Counsel for the EFF (and openCOLA advisory board member) and Fred von Lohmann (our IP lawyer, of Morrison-Forrester).
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 27 Nov 00 12:27
Cory, what's it like to win the John W. Campbell prize? Would you rather be writing fiction than globetrotting for OC? Or do they nest?
Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 27 Nov 00 17:03
I'm looking forward to a full report from Hong Kong?
Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 28 Nov 00 07:44
Winning th Campbell Award was the most exhilerating moment of my life to date, and five minutes before winning the Campbell Award was the most nervous moment of my life. I was one huge tic. Afterwards, it was like being th belle of the ball at Worldcon. Everywhere I went, authors I'd idolized since boyhood sought me out, shook my hand, and told me that they expected great things from me. Since then, I've found that it's a token of legitimacy (though I usually elide the description with something like "I won the award for best new writer at the Hugos" since no one outside of sf has heard of the JWC award and everyone's heard of the Hugos) -- whereas before, introducing myself as a science fiction writer felt like a bit of a joke, now, there's a easy-to-spout credential that gets everyone's attention. It's even in the my bio in openCOLA's business plan. Globetrotting and writing definitely nest. For one thing, airplanes are WONDERFUL places to get a lot of writing done, provided some nosy bugger isn't peering over my shoulder. I'm planning to do another draft of my novel, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" on the flight back from Hong Kong on Thursday, incorporating comments from my agent, Don Maass, who sat me down in NYC last week and gave me some very good advice. But for another, nothing inspires like inspiration. In openCOLA, I've found a cast of characters, a world of emotional highs and lows, and technology and concepts enough to fill a dozen novels. My next book (which I think I've mentioned) is called "Eastern Standard Tribe," and it's a book that's largely concerned with how Internet-based communities tend to cluster around a circadian rhythm, something i never really realized until I moved from Toronto to San Francisco and realized what a different place the WELL is if you're on Pacific time. There will be a Hong Kong report! I promise. If my iBook batteries (I have three, fully charged and ready to go) hold out long enough on the plane, I'll do it then, otherwise over the weekend, God willin' and the crick don't rise. In the meantime, here are eyemodule photos from my excursion to Wonchai tonight with Cindy and Fred: http://www.craphound.com/112800
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 28 Nov 00 09:26
Cool! Kinda reminds me of Alphaville! As a science-friction author, who were your influences?
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 28 Nov 00 10:59
I meant to write on the planes home from Chicago yesterday. But I didn't have room to put my arms _without_ a laptop keyboard in front of me, especially on the long leg where I had a middle seat. How do you manage it?
Life in the big (doctorow) Tue 28 Nov 00 16:02
My influences? Well, the first book I ever read on my own was Alice in Wonderland, so I'd have to cite Lewis Carroll as a major influence. But I have an insanely long list of influences -- I try to go through life with a giant in-hopper on my mental rock-crusher, grabbing interesting stuff wherever I go. A short list, though: Lewis Carroll, Daniel Pinkwater, Robert Howard, Robert Heinlein, Frederic Brown, John D. Fitzgerald, John D. Macdonald, Pat Caidgan, Pat Murphy, Martha Soukup, Cynthia Seelhammer, Nancy Kress, Kate Wilhelm, Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Richard Brautigan, Stephen King, Neal Stephenson, Linda Barry, Warren Ellis, William S Brroughs and Edgar Rice Burroughs, Orson Scott Card, Scott Edelman, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Gilliam, Iain Banks, Ian Macdonald, Scott MCloud, Ken Macleod, Hunter Thompson, PJ O'Rourke, Goerge Orwell, Abbie Hoffman, Marv Wolfman, Armistead Maupin, Ed McBain, my entire writers' group in Toronto, Roald Dahl, Terry Pratchett, Judy Merrill, Spider Robinson, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, Isaac Asimov, Ruis, Art Spiegelman, Knut Hamson, Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stanislaw Lem and so on and so on and so on. What I do on airplanes is this: unfold my iBook so that it stands vertical, prop it on the tray-table, and type with my wrists bent at an unhealthy angle.
Martha Soukup (soukup) Tue 28 Nov 00 18:15
I'm impressed. I don't think I could have physically typed last night. I'm also impressed you can keep your list of influences that--short.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 28 Nov 00 20:37
I gotta ask: how is it that you have Hunter Thompson in there, but not Philip Dick? Also wondering how you feel about Worldcon and the minicons? Are you put off by the strong "dragon fantasy" element? Have you ever, secretly, wanted to ride a dragon?
Life in the big (doctorow) Wed 29 Nov 00 00:18
I find I like the idea of PKD more than the actual work. I mean, Dick was a speedfreak and he wrote like one: long, rambling, disjointed. The short stories really work for me but I find the novels really tough going. OTOH, I'm a *hyuge* Tim Powers fan, and Tim was a protege of PKD, so maybe what I need is an abstraction layer on top of Dick to make it work for me. I have a blast at the cons I attend. I'm generally present at Ad Astra in Toronto, Philcon in Philly and the Worldcon every year. I've also had a real good time at the World Fantasy Con and Readercon, but the timing is rarely very good fo me. This year, I'm attending Baycon and Confusion as well. I've got nothing against fantasy, high or low (I'm especially fond of the Scribblies and the stuff they produce: Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos books, the Borderlands stuff etc, as well as Will Shetterly's recent stuff, notably ogland, which is a really, really marvellous piece of magic realist fic). I don't write or read much of it, though. IMO the market segmentation between fantasy and sf is artifical, really the work of maarketeers more than fans. Sure, the average Neal Stephson fan won't be reading a Dragonlance book any time soon, but a Star Trek reader may. I've never wanted to ride a dragon. I hate air-travel.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 29 Nov 00 05:35
There's a cool preview running on the telly: a "Dungeons and Dragons" film with skies so full of dragons, I thought when I first saw it that somebody'd finally filmed Anne McCaffery. We've talked about the obvious time management issues here, but this brings me back to the question of Getting Everything Done and still having dreamspace. Are the real-world demands of the OpenCOLA job squeezing your time for reading as well as writing? Do you feel any danger that your vision will be channeled so much into the business side of your life that you'll lose your inner monkey? (Maybe I'm harping on this because it's been an issue for yers truly)....
Life in the big (doctorow) Wed 29 Nov 00 08:16
In truth, a little. But openCOLA is massively supportive of my writing -- hell half the company showed up at the signing for The Idiot's Guide -- and I think it's a myth that time is the thing most precious to a writer. If you can write 1,000 words every day (just four pages, just 15 minutes at the 70wpm I type), you can crank out soemthing like five novel-length manuscripts a year. The writerly scarce resource is not time, but inspiration. Finding interesting stories to tell, and more importantly (for me, anyway), finding emotional hooks and satisfying endings. Working on something as grandiose and intense as openCOLA gives me plenty of both, as well as a more-than- healthy dose of wish-fulfillment fantasies, all of which go into the writing. Not to mention the amazing and exhausting inspiration of Hong Kong!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 29 Nov 00 11:32
Hey... that's inspiring! How did you decide to write the 'Idiot's Guide'? Were you at all constrained by the series format, or did they pretty much let you write what you wanted?
Mark Frauenfelder (mark) Wed 29 Nov 00 11:41
Sorry that I had to step away from this conference for a few days. I went to a wedding in San Franciso and was off the grid (except for email on my wireless palm.) Anyway, I see that Jon has been doing a great job filling in as interviewer, and he has a question waiting for Cory, so I won't jump in until Cory has answered it. I'll just comment that you can read a sample chapter of Cory's "Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction" at http://www.cigsf.com/chapter.html
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