Thursday, February 10, 2011

Take that, Arthur Quiller-Couch!

I’ve only mentioned this about a dozen times, but I’m working on an SFF trilogy called “The Klaatu Diskos.” I started writing it back in June of 2003 with these two sentences:

During the period subsequent to the Postdigital Age, discorporeal Klaatu artist Iyl Rayn attempted to enhance her status within the Cluster by conceiving an unconventional entertainment. She contracted the services of Boggsian corporeals to construct a network of portals, or as she called them,“diskos.”

Remarkably, those clunky opening sentences—chock-full of fuzzy, polysyllabic, nearly nonsensical words—have survived more than thirty drafts.  I’m pretty sure that when I wrote them I had no idea what they meant, and for the last eight years I’ve been trying to make them make sense. This is an example of how far some writers will go to avoid murdering a darling.  I had a couple of deranged sentences I liked, and even if it took me nearly a decade, even if it took nine hundred pages, I was determined to extract a plot from them.
This is not unusual, at least for me.  I am capable of killing off my darlings—dozens have perished in this trilogy so far—but I can also be fiercely protective of them, often for spurious reasons, and occasionally to my detriment. In this case, my stubbornness is paying off. The first book in the trilogy, The Obsidian Blade, will be coming out in about a year.

Black Painting by Ad Reinhardt
Creativity can be defined as the willingness to take a crazy-ass idea and beat it over the head until it cries "Uncle!" If you look at the lives of artists, one theme that recurs again and again is the artist’s willingness to back himself (or herself) into a corner, then fight his way out.  Examples would include the painter Ad Reinhardt (I will use black paint on a black background), the composer John Cage (I will restrict myself to using random operations for my music), Patrick O’Brian (I will write twenty novels about the same two guys on the same boat doing the same stuff over and over again), and Michael Flatley (I will wear funny costumes and only move my feet).


Embracing an odd premise and refusing to let go is one of the ways I kick-start my imagination. Maybe you do something different, but it works for me. So there.

Speaking of…aargh!  Can’t find a segue…I’ll be at Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis’s Linden hills neighborhood this Saturday, February 12, at 1:00 p.m., to talk about The Big Crunch and Blank Confession. Please stop by if you are able.  Have a pastry and coffee at Turtle Bread—the Twin Cities second-best bakery (It used to be the best, and it’s still damn good, but in recent years Rustica has taken the lead.)—then pop over to the Wild Rumpus and pick up a book for yourself, your kid, your niece…your cat.

It’s supposed to be a nice day.  By which I mean, ABOVE FREEZING. 

4 comments:

BrittLit said...

So sad that I don't live in Minneapolis. I'd try to lure you to New Hampshire with promises that it is much warmer here, but that would be a blatant lie. Though...It's so warm here you should totally come ;)

Pete Hautman said...

Tomorrow we are supposed to have our first above-freezing temperatures in a month. Soooooo excited!

Anonymous said...

Hi I'm 15 and I just got done reading Rash. You are probably the coolest and funniest writer that I know, and your writings can be compared with Kurt Vonnegut's finest. I'm going to try to find some more books by you.

Pete Hautman said...

Hey, thanks, Anonymous. I started reading Vonnegut when I was your age. Cat's Cradle. Still my favorite.