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David is an author and scientist who's published numerous science fiction tales.
3/30/09 18:37:3 Opening "Chat Log 3-30-09"
W2PSushi: You made it!
cuebon4: You are a few minutes early
w0rdwevr: I am?! Yea
w0rdwevr: I got the mailing today ...
W2PSushi: You are welcome to join us in Writing to Publish as we chat with author and techie David Bartell. Please use IMs for personal conversations. Also, turn off all colored or bolded fonts. Meanwhile, enjoy the chat!
Wyrdnet: I'm here, and good to go!
w0rdwevr: Hello, David.
Wyrdnet: Hi, it's me. Great to be with you.
W2PSushi: Looks like they changed the chat software.
W2PSushi: I see no more Bolt. Instead there is an Ignore button.
Wyrdnet: WyrdNet is taking over!
W2PSushi: That is one of the lines on our Movie Reality web page
W2PSushi: Your Computer is About to Become Self Aware.
Rose1533: Hi, Paul
W2PSushi: Hi Carol
w0rdwevr: Hi all
Rose1533: Hi, Dale.
Deluge7: Hi, ya'll.
Rose1533: Hi, Becki
Beccastrat: Good evening everyone
Rose1533: So Paul, who is our guest?
cuebon4: Wyrdnet is our guest speaker
Rose1533: Oh, ok.
W2PSushi: Ready to get started!
W2PSushi: Our guest this evening is David Bartell
W2PSushi: He is a real-life scientist and technician, and also a published science fiction writer
W2PSushi: He and I have appeared in Analog magazine, which is how we first met
W2PSushi: He has a presentation this evening about World Building
W2PSushi: Thanks everyone for coming
W2PSushi: Wrydnet is a science fiction invention of his, by the way
Rose1533: Oh, boy! that's something I know a little bit about.
W2PSushi: David, your show!
Wyrdnet: Hi, gang, and thanks for having me.
PhilaWriter: Thanks for coming
Wyrdnet: If you get bored, or want to know a little about me, check out my web site. (David Bartell)
Mallie1025: Our pleasure, Wyrdnet
Wyrdnet: Anyway, I understand you all are writers, some accomplished.
W2PSushi: Good, good
Rose1533: Here, too.
Wyrdnet: I was on panel at SheVaCon last month with Larry Niven, where I first posed this theory-in-progress. (Third photo down at, http://www.davidbartell.us/?page_id=510).
Wyrdnet: Onward. I got this idea while contemplating world building for genre fiction.
Wyrdnet: It may be applied to any kind of writing, since it's a style thing, but I think it's most applicable to SF and Fantasy.
Rose1533: Fantasy writer here!
Wyrdnet: Great. I write both SF and Fantasy. Most of my published work is SF though.
w0rdwevr: Do you think, if you have a ghost in a story that it becomes fantasy?
w0rdwevr: Horizons do expand
Deluge7: To that extent.
Wyrdnet: Allow me to name three kinds of painting styles, and then compare with fiction.
Wyrdnet: I'll give examples of each, and then I'd like to know what you think.
Wyrdnet: My first example will be Lord of the Rings, since it's familiar to everyone, and fits the first painting style well.
w0rdwevr: And that style?
Wyrdnet: Show of hands. How many think that JRR Tolkien's world feels real because of the richness of Middle Earth, or is it the hobbits themselves?
PhilaWriter: I'm voting for Middle Earth
Rose1533: A bit of both, actually.
Mallie1025: The hobbits make it real to me
Wyrdnet: The three styles will be realism, impressionism, and expressionism.
w0rdwevr: It may seem real, but it's not realism
Wyrdnet: I don't want to stretch the metaphor too far, but hold that thought.
w0rdwevr: Dreams seem real
gonzagaeyest: Middle Earth
Wyrdnet: On my poll, the results are mixed. I got the same result at SheVaCon. To some, it's Middle Earth, and to others, hobbits.
Mallie1025: WOrd--some dreams are real
Rose1533: And some dreams end up in books!
Wyrdnet: In any case, I won't belabor the point. I think it would be a good topic for another discussion though - why people differ on that. It seems the books succeed on both levels.
Wyrdnet: I'll actually mention dreams shortly.
w0rdwevr: I like fantasy...
Mallie1025: Word, probably because each person sees it differently and it becomes real to his impressions
gonzagaeyest: I suspect there was some ambiguity in the question that split people
w0rdwevr: Definitions are always iffy
Wyrdnet: My mini-thesis is that LOTR is akin to painting realism. JRR provided us with maps, languages, family trees, and pounded a world into readers' heads with footnotes of mythic proportion.
Wyrdnet: That method works, if you're JRR! (Which I'm not.)
w0rdwevr: LOTR's in my mind is biblical
Mallie1025: True, but the hobbits gave it the reality--otherwise it's just a scene
Wyrdnet: A lot of unpublished fantasy I've read aspires to the JRR realism school.
w0rdwevr: The hobbits were human-like
Rose1533: Hi, Tom.
Mallie1025: Albeit short. lol
Wyrdnet: The bar was set very high indeed. But is it necessary to create a world as deep and rich as Middle Earth?
w0rdwevr: One need fallible characters
gonzagaeyest: Greg Egan is a pretty powerful world builder with realism of a different sort, more like mainstream realism
Rose1533: I hope not!
Wyrdnet: Right, it doesn't have to be fantasy. It could even be our real world. Think Dickens.
gonzagaeyest: Doesn't it depend on your purpose, David? Your muse as well?
w0rdwevr: Go into the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which is much weaker
Mallie1025: Word, I never thought so before as much of the detail bored me--but it has stood the test of time so I concede
Wyrdnet: Sure, different styles for different stories.
w0rdwevr: Symbolism is weaker there; much more obvious
Wyrdnet: Luckily, JRR put a lot of the detail in the appendices.
w0rdwevr: the depth of detail makes it real
Deluge7: It's also very hard to do if you haven't got three volumes to do it.
Wyrdnet: Something else occurred to me, in the middle of that panel.
Wyrdnet: Look at all the things JRR did NOT do. They become obvious when you watch the movies.
Wyrdnet: Someone had to design the sets, decorate them, design hair, costumes, props, etc.
w0rdwevr: In the books it's not so apparent
Wyrdnet: JRR did not do those things to such an extent.
w0rdwevr: But then no one looked as I imagined them
Rose1533: No, you're right,
Wyrdnet: The reader plays the role of set decorator, etc.
gonzagaeyest: (Although Tolkien created his own maps and illustrations, of course)
Mallie1025: I was surprised to see the movie follow what I saw in the book--my perceptions
Wyrdnet: The movie is the particular vision of a number of collaborators, yes.
PHeeren: I think Virginia Wolfe's Mrs. Dalloway was well-written because it has no chapters, just long prose...am I right? what do u think? I have that book on VHS tape
Wyrdnet: So, to the second style of painting. Impressionism.
w0rdwevr: I agree to disagree with you
Wyrdnet: The world created is as much a creation of the reader's mind as the writer's.
Wyrdnet: The writer doesn't have to map out all the details. He or she can set a trap for the reader's curiosity.
Mallie1025: That's true of most good books--but few have left such a lasting impression.
Wyrdnet: The reader's imagination is king, and can fill the gaps more vividly than the writer.
Wyrdnet: That's debatable, of course. I feel that the reader paints a more vivid picture, because the book is in his/her head. It's their book.
Rose1533: Like an impressions painting. The edges are slightly blurred, but we see it very clearly.
Mallie1025: I read the whole series in my twenties and remembered it all more years later that I'll tell
w0rdwevr: Still the writer leads us there
Wyrdnet: But by presenting selected glimpses, the illusion of a world is created.
Wyrdnet: That's what all such stories are anyway, illusions of some other reality.
gonzagaeyest: Some of the experiments in Dangerous Visions work by an assembly of fragments.
Wyrdnet: All the writer has to do is to draw the world from the reader's imagination by simply suspending disbelief, and then providing clues.
Wyrdnet: Now, dreams.
PhilaWriter: Can you give an example or two?
Mallie1025: Well said!!
W2PSushi: I just finished Sue Grafton's "T is for Trespass" mystery/PI novel. She chooses to add a ton of detail about each character and scene/setting
Wyrdnet: Why do dreams sometimes seem so real? Aren't they more like impressionist images? Surreal perhaps.
Wyrdnet: Example of what?
PhilaWriter: Examples of Impressionism in writing?
Wyrdnet: Okay, LOTR was my example of realism.
w0rdwevr: New age poetry
gonzagaeyest: Dreams tend to seem real to us, but our dreams don't tend to seem real (or very interesting to others). Dreams are you talking to you. And the context is right there (for you, not for others)
Wyrdnet: For impressionism, I'll quote the opening of Alan Dean Foster's Midworld.
Wyrdnet: World with no name. Green it was. Green and gravid. It lay supine in a sea of sibilant jet, a festering emerald in the universe-ocean. It did not support life. Rather, on its surface life exploded, erupted, multiplied, and thrived beyond imagining. From a soil base so rich it all but lived itself, a verdant magma spilled forth to inundate the land. And it was green. Oh, it was green so bright it had its own special niche in the spectrum of the impossible, a green so pervasive, an everywhere-all-at-once, omnipotent green. World of a chlorophyllous god.
Rose1533: Huh. Interesting.
gonzagaeyest: David, would you call Lovecraft surrealistic?
Wyrdnet: Could have been written by Monet, no?
PhilaWriter: There's a bunch of words in there I don't know the meaning to but boy, can I see it. Great.
Rose1533: Painted, I'd say, not written.
Wyrdnet: Yes, most of the Lovecraft I've read I'd call surreal, though not all.
PHeeren: what about children's stories? I have hard time writing children's stories since I tend to dwell on more details and um, I forgot the other problem, wrdy. well?
Wyrdnet: I thought of surrealism in writing, like Harlan Ellison, but I haven't worked it into the "theory" yet.
gonzagaeyest: If you've ever read Voyage to Arcturus, that one takes it to extremes
Wyrdnet: It's not as useful, surrealism.
gonzagaeyest: Some Harlan
gonzagaeyest: Very difficult to pull off in a novel
Wyrdnet: A lot of YA fantasy these days is rather surreal. Harry Potter borders on that.
Wyrdnet: But most of it is grounded.
Wyrdnet: I suppose that kids (I have 4!) respond differently to world building. I'd have to mull it over, but my guess is that they're more open.
w0rdwevr: Matisse is surreal; floating things with no base
Wyrdnet: So it's easier for them to suspend disbelief.
Wyrdnet: I agree, word.
gonzagaeyest: I'd say Potter is more realistic, though less real, than LOTR
Wyrdnet: Yeah, I may have been hasty on Potter. Some aspects are pretty surreal though.
w0rdwevr: And I'd say fantasy ... based on perception
Wyrdnet: Moving buildings, shrunken head bobble heads...
Rose1533: Portraits that talk.
gonzagaeyest: And maybe Harlan, as in IHNMAIMS, is expressionistic. Or Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes.
Wyrdnet: Yeah. It's in there, but not dominant.
Wyrdnet: Okay, ready for Expressionism?
w0rdwevr: Go for it
Wyrdnet: This one is harder to qualify, but it feels right.
Wyrdnet: I think in writing, expressionism might be told from a tighter POV.
w0rdwevr: Which one?
Wyrdnet: A skewed view. The world is not described, but evoked, via an agenda.
Wyrdnet: The POV would likely be the protag.
gonzagaeyest: Do you mean, as with an unreliable narrator?
Wyrdnet: Often, yes.
Wyrdnet: But that's a bit limiting. Not so much unreliable as biased.
w0rdwevr: As a protagonist?
w0rdwevr: Definitely limited.
Mallie1025: Wow--awesome passage--who wrote that?
gonzagaeyest: Can you tie that to world building? And an example?
Wyrdnet: For an example, I'll quote the opening of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.
w0rdwevr: You'd have to go omnipotent
Wyrdnet: This is a future world different from ours, somewhat peculiar, evoked from Alex's POV. Here goes.
Wyrdnet: "What's it going to be then, eh?" There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days and everybody very quick to forget, newspapers not being read much neither.
Rose1533: I didn't understand half of that.
gonzagaeyest: Of course, Burgess was a composer, so the language and the flow all do have the expressionistic aspect
Wyrdnet: Note the made up language, but evoked, not defined. The attitude. The ambiguity. The little details that seem to flesh things out, but don't quite.
gonzagaeyest: He mixed Russian into the slang you get used to it
Rose1533: I see.
w0rdwevr: But not reliable
Wyrdnet: I'd like to have other examples, but at the moment, I don't. This one seems ideal though. As you read the book, you learn the lingo, without resorting to the glossary.
w0rdwevr: You'd have to be willing to give up belief
MontanaDan19: Heh, it's like talking to a teenager
gonzagaeyest: BTW, since this is Writing to Publish, my experience is that an unreliable narrator doesn't work very well with editors.
Wyrdnet: I don't know. I think Alex is one of the smartest characters in the book. Is he reliable? Yes, he tells things as he sees them. The other characters are buffoons.
Wyrdnet: Alex is a teenager in the story. A thug.
w0rdwevr: You'd have to find someone open
Wyrdnet: Unreliable narrator is a trendy term these days. I don't think it is very helpful.
gonzagaeyest: He does justify himself, certainly does not put the conventional spin. I guess unreliable is in the eye of the beholder
Mallie1025: How can a narrator be unreliable?
PHeeren: I wonder if American writers can write stories about British or international people. is it that OK or do you prefer we writers write American stories, yes?
gonzagaeyest: Trendy? I'm relying on my English classes of the 70s!
Wyrdnet: The point is, get into the head of the protag, and see the world with his eyes. Whether he's reliable is beside the point.
W2PSushi: They don't know if what they see is real. Or "worse," they lie to the reader.
Wyrdnet: I had a British protag in several stories. One won an award. One got mild criticism from a Brit, who nit-picked the language.
Rose1533: He reliably tells HIS view of the world, but it's not the view shared by the general public, I'm guessing.
Wyrdnet: But she said it was a valiant effort!
gonzagaeyest: But if someone is assumed to be the hero, and he turns out to be a bad guy, this is a problem for some folks. though it may be artistically justified
Wyrdnet: Right, Rose. But in Clockwork Orange, we don't know who's reliable. No frame of reference. So we latch onto Alex, even though he's a thug.
gonzagaeyest: I have an Aussie in one of mine as a main character, but I spent some time there, and then had it looked at by Aussies before sending it out.
Wyrdnet: My last few stories had protags that were somewhat unlikable. They sold, but several people commented that the characters were unlikable.
w0rdwevr: Clockwork Orange was such an overdose dream
gonzagaeyest: Glad you've had success
Wyrdnet: I think I'll make sure my protags are more likable. Another recent story had a very likable protag, but someone complained she was stupid. Can't win. (But they sold!)
Mallie1025: Some readers like unlikable characters. LOL
W2PSushi: Mr. Bartell and I have been hearing all about Russian characters
w0rdwevr: Yes, published is fine
Wyrdnet: Thanks, gonza.
w0rdwevr: Well done
W2PSushi: Our editor at Analog is fluent in Russian and has chastised several of his authors
Rose1533: Couldn't finish the "Thomas Covenant." books. He was so unlikable.
W2PSushi: We make the mistakes, like Russian do, if American is try to fake a Russian accent, da?
gonzagaeyest: Was that expressionism? Covenant?
Wyrdnet: Well, that's my little theory, for what it's worth. I'd love some input, because I may be doing another panel soon!
w0rdwevr: I've closed books and tossed them when I found the subject matter repulsive
Wyrdnet: I didn't read Covenant, but friends dug it.
Rose1533: No, just an unlikable character.
w0rdwevr: And I'm not a prude
Rose1533: He couldn't get over himself.
W2PSushi: A literary epic, with unlikable wimp heroes and sympathetic villains. Not my style, that's for sure.
PHeeren: I'm leaving for bed in a few minutes so good night
Mallie1025: Too many great books out there to waste time on ones you dislike
w0rdwevr: Thanks for the discussion
gonzagaeyest: David, have you compared your theory with mainstream realistic, impressionistic and expressionist novels?
Wyrdnet: People were hungry for more LOTR, and that series came at the right time.
Wyrdnet: Only fleetingly. I'm not current on literary criticism. Any references?
w0rdwevr: Same thing happened after The DaVinci Code.
Rose1533: Night, Tom
Mallie1025: I think today's world craves a bit of fantasy as an escape mechanism to other worlds
gonzagaeyest: I'm sure if I looked at each in Wikipedia, there would be plenty
PhilaWriter: Thanks so much for sharing with us
gonzagaeyest: Hemingway is realistic, right?
Wyrdnet: BTW, I write to the impressionist model. Would like to try expressionism.
w0rdwevr: I'd say so
Rose1533: I just finished reading Here, There Be Dragons.
gonzagaeyest: Marquez expressionistic?
Mallie1025: Gonz, yes but annoyingly arrogant to me.
Wyrdnet: Hemingway, I don't know. Not much detail though. Dry, just the facts. You have to read between the lines.
Rose1533: It's a YA book, but I didn't know it and I was enthralled. The ending blew me away!
gonzagaeyest: Steinbeck, perhaps?
MontanaDan19: Rose, I read a book by that name - it wasn't YA though
w0rdwevr: Is that so bad? It's not my way, but it's to the point
Rose1533: BTW, my book, The Master and the Fighter is on its way to the printer!!!!!
Wyrdnet: Oh! I did just send out a story that might be expressionistic. It's from the POV of a 7 year-old. The reader can figure out what's going on, but the kid doesn't. You could say she's unreliable.
w0rdwevr: In a way he wrote poetry
gonzagaeyest: Actually, drama is clearer in my mind for the movements than novels
Mallie1025: WTG, Rose!!
Wyrdnet: That's great, Rose. I'll have to look at the web site to learn a little about you all.
Rose1533: Here, There Be Dragons (the one I read) is by James A. Owens.
Wyrdnet: Film is easier to classify by style too.
W2PSushi: Yay Carol!!!
w0rdwevr: Thank you all ... this was enjoyable
PhilaWriter: Good night all. It was great to visit
Rose1533: I agree.
Wyrdnet: That's why I thought it interesting to try to apply it to writing, especially to world building.
W2PSushi: Thanks, Bev. Great to see you here
MontanaDan19: Gotta go too. Thank you for sharing David
Wyrdnet: You're very welcome.
gonzagaeyest: World building is a real twist
Rose1533: Yeah, we got storms coming. I'm not on electricity though--netbook. On battery.
Wyrdnet: Er... welgone.
Rose1533: Still have to go. Night all.
Mallie1025: This chat flew by!! It was great having you--hope you can come back
W2PSushi: It's late back east
gonzagaeyest: Novels in general have a lot of background
W2PSushi: Our west here, I've not had dinner yet
gonzagaeyest: Oh, that vagrant sun
Mallie1025: Yes Paul, and I have much to do yet
Mallie1025: Night guys--stay well
Beccastrat: Well thanks again for coming here to talk to us. It's been really great! Have a good week everyone
W2PSushi: I'll post this session on our web site, when I have time
Wyrdnet: Paul, you're a jolly good fellow!
Wyrdnet: - 30 -
W2PSushi: Thanks, everyone
Bauda: Good night
W2PSushi: Good turnout
W2PSushi: Half our W2P folks were AWOL but a lot of friends and newbies turned up. Thanks, David
Wyrdnet: NO prob. A lot of fun. It went by too fast.
W2PSushi: We will be here
Wyrdnet: What do you mean?
W2PSushi: You may return
Wyrdnet: Oh! Okay, sure. I'll have to make up some other junk first...
Wyrdnet: You see, there's this thing called fiction ... and there's metafiction...
W2PSushi: Unless you are the aliens from Galaxy Quest. "Oh those poor people on Gilligan's Island."
Wyrdnet: ... is it "epistolary"? Someone read "Armchair Scientist" and commented that it was a unique form.
Wyrdnet: Actually, I think someone may have done it - not sure.
Wyrdnet: But this could be fiction told in the form of a chat room. Or has that also been done?
W2PSushi: Not that I am aware of
W2PSushi: Robert Sawyer's Wake has a lot of online chatter. Facebook posts and stuff
Wyrdnet: There you go. You must have the experience to do it. Of course, it has to have a serial killer stalking on line...
W2PSushi: Or LiveJournal or some such
Wyrdnet: I didn't read Wake - couldn't get into it.
W2PSushi: : : : shrugs : : :
Wyrdnet: Web becoming alive seemed so passe. Heard it was very good though.
W2PSushi: In one thriller there's a chat room. Tess Gerritsen's The Surgeon
Wyrdnet: A chat room full of truckers trying to get checks?
W2PSushi: Turns out it's a red herring though.
3/30/09 20:13:8 Closing "Chat Log 3-30-09"
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