Writing Retreat 2019, Day 2

Star trails -- about 100 images, 30 seconds each

On Tues­day, I:

  • wrote 2,000 more words in two shifts, morn­ing and evening;
  • read about ⅓ of Drey­er’s Eng­lish, chortling all the while;
  • went for a 3.5km kayak ride on the lake;
  • did a quick 5km bike ride to the cof­fee shop and to Co-op for gro­ceries;
  • and went back out for some more astropho­tog­ra­phy, this time in the riv­er val­ley to the north.

Here’s a quick sam­ple of the writ­ing so far (still 1st draft):

Your nose is bro­ken, she’d said. I reached up and touched it, gin­ger­ly, expect­ing pain. Instead it felt cold and numb. Touch­ing it felt like I was touch­ing some­one else’s nose. Like it was made of wax.

I felt a thin strip of met­al or met­al-like plas­tic that ran from between my eye­brows down the bridge of my nose to its tip. I tried to lift it off, to pry a nail under it, but couldn’t. It was like it was a part of me. Maybe it was a part of me now.

You’ve been con­cussed. That part I didn’t need to check to believe. I remem­bered the headache, the nau­sea that nev­er quite went away and nev­er quite resolved into actu­al vom­it­ing. When I lay down on the bed, the room seemed to shiv­er and spin, slow­ly, an orbit that I didn’t like.

From Trans­la­tions, 1st draft
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 2

Series: Writing Retreat 2019

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2019; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 1; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 2; Writ­ing Retreat: Days 3 through 5; Writ­ing Retreat, Day 6.

Writing Retreat 2019, Day 1

Milky Way above a bluff of trees


  • wrote 1,000 words in the morn­ing,
  • went for a 11-km bike ride,
  • vis­it­ed with my land­lords for the week,
  • went on a scout­ing dri­ve for the astropho­tog­ra­phy,
  • snapped some pho­tos in the coun­try­side (below),
  • wrote anoth­er 1,000 words after sup­per,
  • fin­ished read­ing Prove­nance (review com­ing),
  • went back out into the coun­try­side and took some dark­er pho­tos (above) till the moon rose and washed out the Galaxy,
  • drove back to the cab­in, and
  • crawled into bed about 2 AM.

So far so good.

Top pho­to: tak­en about 11:45 PM or so. 12mm, 44 sec­onds, f/2.8, ISO 3200 (I think).

Series: Writing Retreat 2019

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2019; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 1; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 2; Writ­ing Retreat: Days 3 through 5; Writ­ing Retreat, Day 6.

Writing Retreat 2019

Reading Provenance and sipping Writer's Tears whiskey

Last night I arrived at Minnedosa, to start the 2019 edi­tion of my annu­al week-long writ­ing retreat.

Goals this year:

  • 2,000 words a day, or about 15,000 words, in the first draft of Trans­la­tions.
    • Sub-goal: Get to the end­ing.
  • Pho­tos of the Milky Way.
  • Pho­tos, gen­er­al­ly; there are a few spots I’d like to get to. The Cana­di­an prairie is pho­to­genic, and I want to cap­ture that.
  • Ride my bike a lot, and also go kayak­ing a few times. The weath­er fore­cast seems to agree with this plan.
  • Read at least a cou­ple of the books I brought: Prove­nance by Ann Leck­ie (I’m about ¾ of the way through, so that should work out); The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishig­uro; Drey­er’s Eng­lish by Ben­jamin Drey­er; and The Knight by Gene Wolfe (because it’s a tra­di­tion, appar­ent­ly, that I read Wolfe while I’m at the cab­in).

I’m also due in Win­nipeg for my nephew’s birth­day par­ty, which means I’ll be able to pick up the copy of Michael Swan­wick­’s The Iron Drag­on’s Moth­er that I pre-ordered in (checks notes) (…these notes are illeg­i­ble) Feb­ru­ary? maybe. And a friend is camp­ing at Clear Lake start­ing mid-week, so I’ll prob­a­bly go both­er him for an after­noon or some­thing.

As my dar­ling wife is wont to say, “Write faster, Johan­neson.”

Head­er image: last night, read­ing Prove­nance on the deck with a glass of Writer’s Tears.

Series: Writing Retreat 2019

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2019; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 1; Writ­ing Retreat 2019, Day 2; Writ­ing Retreat: Days 3 through 5; Writ­ing Retreat, Day 6.

Another Parallel Prairies review

The cover of Parallel Prairies

Update: I’m feel­ing a lit­tle slow, eh, because I only just now noticed that it’s Amaz­ing Sto­ries that reviewed Par­al­lel Prairies. Amaz­ing Sto­ries just reviewed my writ­ing.

Dar­ren Rid­g­ley, one of the edi­tor of Par­al­lel Prairies, just tweet­ed a link to a new review of the anthol­o­gy. It appears the review­er enjoyed my lit­tle tale of demen­tia and alien vis­i­ta­tion:

What makes this sto­ry fun to read is Vincent’s deter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect Char­lie from the agents. […] Amus­ing. With a tinge of sad­ness.

R. Graeme Cameron

He also liked the anthol­o­gy as a whole:

This anthol­o­gy fea­tures a col­lec­tion of sto­ries rang­ing far wider than I antic­i­pat­ed. There is, per­haps, a Cana­da-wide ten­den­cy to under­es­ti­mate Man­i­to­ba. […] Amaz­ing what sto­ries the con­trib­u­tors wrest­ed from its soil. I con­fess this book exceed­ed my expec­ta­tions. Well worth read­ing.

R. Graeme Cameron

If you’d like a copy of Par­al­lel Prairies, you can get it from McNal­ly Robin­son.

The Twilight Zone

I real­ly want to like the new The Twi­light Zone. But I think the prob­lem with an anthol­o­gy series is that you’re always start­ing from square one. Every episode requires an all-new round of expo­si­tion, and expo­si­tion is hard to do well.

I real­ly don’t like the “as you know, Sal­ly” style of expos­i­to­ry dia­logue, where char­ac­ters say things to each oth­er that they both already know, for the ben­e­fit of the audi­ence. It sticks out like the cliché sore thumb for me.

And there’s a lot of it in this first sea­son of The Twi­light Zone.

Maybe it’ll get bet­ter, but so far I’m on the sixth episode, and it’s not been liv­ing up to my hopes.

(On the plus side, the act­ing has been top-notch, across all the episodes. Even the child actors have most­ly impressed me.)


Well, episode 6“Six Degrees of Free­dom” — was def­i­nite­ly a brighter spot, at least for me. It had some issues, sure — tech­ni­cal quib­bles on the lev­el of CBC’s SF attempt Ascen­sion, q.v., but at least they tried hard­er. (For instance, they gave a rea­son, how­ev­er ludi­crous, that the Mars ship would have arti­fi­cial grav­i­ty.) The sto­ry, though, man­age to cap­ture me and hold me till its end, even with a bit of clunky “as you know, Kather­ine” bits of info­dump.

Seems I can for­give a bit of clunky writ­ing if the over­all sto­ry is good enough.

RIP, Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe

Tor is report­ing the sad news that Gene Wolfe has died.

The sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy com­mu­ni­ty has lost a beloved icon. We are extreme­ly sad to report that author and SFWA Grand Mas­ter Gene Wolfe passed away on April 14th at age 87.

I came to Mr. Wolfe’s writ­ing late in life. My dad had a copy of Urth of the New Sun but, as a teenag­er, I could nev­er get into it (not real­iz­ing, then, that it was essen­tial­ly book 5 of a 4‑volume series). I decid­ed he was too high­brow, too high­fa­lutin for my tastes.

Over the years, though, writ­ers I very much enjoyed, writ­ers whose opin­ions I respect­ed, con­tin­ued to tout the virtues of Wolfe. Neil Gaiman wrote on how to read Wolfe. Michael Swan­wick was effu­sive with his praise. Wolfe, they insist­ed, is the writer’s writer.

So I checked the Wiz­ard Knight duol­o­gy out of my local library, and I found myself hooked. I chanced upon a copy of The Fifth Head of Cer­berus at a local used book­store, and was entranced. Lat­er, I read The Book of the New Sun and its coda, Urth of the New Sun. This past sum­mer I read, and loved, Pirate Free­dom.

Gene Wolfe’s prose deserves to be read, and more, it begs to be re-read. Time, I think, for a re-read.

It is always a temp­ta­tion to say that such feel­ings are inde­scrib­able, though they sel­dom are.

Gene Wolfe, The Sword of the Lic­tor

Rest in peace.

Pho­to cour­tesy of Mark’s Post­cards from Beloit, via a Cre­ative Com­mons Attri­bu­tion-Non­Com­mer­cial-NoDerivs license.

2019 Hugo Award Finalists

Hugo Award logo — a stylized rocketship

The 2019 Hugo awards, to pre­sent­ed at World­Con, rec­og­nize excel­lence in spec­u­la­tive fic­tion. Con­grat­u­la­tions and good luck to all the final­ists. I’ve only read a few of the works on the list, and I’m read­ing a cou­ple more.

2019 Hugo and Retro Hugo award final­ists announced

(The Retro Hugos this year are for works that would have been eli­gi­ble 75 years ago, in 1944, but no World­Con was held that year.)

Hugo Award” and The Hugo Award Logo are ser­vice marks of the World Sci­ence Fic­tion Soci­ety, an unin­cor­po­rat­ed lit­er­ary soci­ety.

The Tao of Pratchett

Over on Tor.com, a dis­cus­sion of Sir Ter­ry Pratch­et­t’s works, and how there’s more to them—far more—than just sil­ly puns and goofy char­ac­ters.

Ter­ry Pratch­ett is best known for his incom­pe­tent wiz­ards, drag­on-wield­ing police­men, and anthro­po­mor­phic per­son­i­fi­ca­tions who SPEAK LIKE THIS. And we love him for it. Once we’re done chuck­ling at Nan­ny Ogg’s not-so-sub­tle innu­en­dos and the song about the knob on the end of the wizard’s staff, how­ev­er, there’s so much more going on beneath the sur­face of a Pratch­ett nov­el.

Read the whole arti­cle; it’s worth it.