16 Nov

So that one dude got elected…

In some ways it is Deja Vu all over again…

I’m 37, I arrived in this country during the Clinton administration and not too long after that, I saw Gore win the popular vote and lose the electoral college and I subsequently lived through 8 years of the Bush administration.

It was freaky to see Gore miss the election by losing the electoral college but having won the popular vote. It was devastating to see a conservative judge swing the vote over to Bush. It was devastating to see the recount halted. There were serious feelings back then. It’s hard to remember how angry many were. Jay Lake captured some of that in an essay he wrote in 2000 called Why Are So Many of Us So Mad.

This time it is Russian intervention, the use of racism well above the usual Southern Strategy that Nixon first used, and the FBI’s October email surprise. There is still rage.

And everyone who predicted Bush would be a mess turned out to be right.

Bush gave us trillions in debt for the two wars where there had been a surplus. Invaded Iraq for reasons turned out to be fabricated. And then presided over one of the greatest economic collapses the country has seen.

Now this sort of thing has happened to Democrats twice in the last 16 years.

But seriously, HOLY SHIT, this is nothing like Bush…

That being said, Trump ain’t no Bush. And so help me, that is a fucked up thing to have to write.

Who the fuck knows what comes with the mismanagement of Trump. This tweet just about covers what a freakshow his ‘management’ of the last week has already been:

Everyone is scared. I think they’re right to be. An anti-semite and racist from Breitbart in a high position of power. Peter Thiel, who wrote that capitalism is incompatible with democracy and left South Africa to come here, is an influencer. Seriously sketch people are getting nods for staff. The team not understanding basic things about government. Trump making millions off of charging the government for use of his planes and hotels. His kids getting woven into all this.

One week in and it’s already a new modern low for incompetence and just general sketchy behavior. Then there are the Trump supporters, many of whom are emboldened racists, which is leading to encounters that are just one jump removed from me that I’ve seen reported on Facebook via trustworthy sources that are fucked up.

That’s just one week in.

So they whole ‘trust the system’ thing? When Republicans blocked the Supreme Court nominee and played this dirty. When they got rid of the voting rights act and purged voter rolls. When they gerrymandered their way to this victory that gives them Electoral College dominance but they lost the popular vote by (checks, over a million people now), then you’re left going ‘what system?’

I could write a massive essay on how fucked up Trump is. I don’t have to, Wil Wheaton did a bang up job here.

When McCain ran, I really felt he wasn’t up for running things and I didn’t want Palin one heart attack away from the presidency. Romney, I didn’t want the policies but I got why he was running for the other side (Ryan I didn’t like).

But Trump?

Jesus.

On the other hand, this reveals a segment of America that has always been here

Many of my friends of color were wholly unsurprised by the result (yeah, man, America is racist, this is news) and when liberals have said ‘this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen happen’ have had some very strong reactions to that.

I live in a red state, where I am surrounded by Trumpist opinions, and have been fighting that sort of shit through my fiction since 1999. I don’t feel I got the Obama years off, in fact, it was frustrating that so many white folk would tell me I was being over dramatic for feeling like the US was still a hostile environ. It has never not been hostile for me. I never know who is going to accidentally forget I’m not white and say something racist. And then I know, at least I look white, so I’m relatively *safe* compared to the non-white people who that shit gets aimed at. I just get backsplash.

I feel this election has more revealed what was already there. More so than it was a sudden surge from nowhere. The same pick up trucks with confederate flags are still rolling coal up and down streets in my town. As Vice points out in this article “A Racist White House Doesn’t Surprise Black People.

I feel that a bunch of people stayed home, proving Martin Luther King’s statement that it isn’t the people who hate you you need to worry about, it’s the quiet folk in the middle.

We’re in a moral recession

Change is slow, and involves setbacks, and what I call ‘moral recessions.’ I think we’re in one now. This isn’t just about politics, but the kind of people being posted in charge right now. I’m happy to say that a president who puts a publicly anti-semitic, alt-right, white nationalist in a position of power has a moral deficit. And the president has a big impact on the country.

I don’t know if Trump is a facist or a Hitler, I am not omniscient. These same comparisons were made to Bush, it’s a natural part of the reaction that comes. I sometimes worry that over ascribing power to the opposition causes self-defeatism. I think 2018’s house is all up for reelection, and that is the tool to blunting the worst of this damage. I take hope from that. But it’s going to be a rough road ahead if this week’s any indication.

But when I say moral recession, it’s because a line is never straight.

I take some hope from the fact that more Americans, despite gerrymandering and voter roll purges, voted for Hillary Clinton than for Trump. I take some hope from the fact that basic modern attitudes in the US are swinging in a progressive direction and this is why many Trump supporters are screaming on twitter and Facebook how happy they are that they think Trump is a white nationalist, or destroy healthcare, or women’s rights.

Things are radically different from the 1980s. In the 1980s, 75% of white respondents to polls thought it was okay to discriminate when selling a house. That’s 25% now. That 25% is where you find a lot of Trump’s core support (due to the US being such a low voter turnout country, 25% of a population can swing an election). When I first arrived in the US, more Americans thought my very existence shouldn’t allowed (mixed race) at 52% of the country than not, that’s now 13% according to Gallup.

That smaller part of the country, mainly rural, has reacted against the majority and done something pretty horrible while another chunk of the country stood by and did nothing. But they’ve been doing horrible shit all along, and now is not the time to buckle against their lashback.

What I plan to do

I’ve always been here making art that’s diverse. I didn’t stop doing that when famous white SF authors told me to die or leave the country after 9/11 in SFWA forums. I didn’t stop doing it when called any number of things along the way. I’ve tried to play the long con. The fight for diversity and inclusion and my values has been something I’ve been at since the beginning. I will be at it forever.

I’ve made up a list of things I can do that are not posting on social media to try and help out politically as I realize I’ll need to do more than continue my mission in art. Places to donate, ways to volunteer, places to lend my creativity to

But I will continue to create exactly the kind of art that quite a few Trump supporters have always despised me for, wish to shut down, and I will continue to help create a future that supports the trend lines of positive things in this country so that in the multi-decade span of time, I can look back on this.

I plan to do my best to make sure vulnerable people are safe near me, reach out to other friends who feel the same. I plan to make sure my family is safe and that I am safe. I plan to avoid getting sucked in too much to news and social media that depresses me or overwhelms me or I will be lulled into inaction, which is how these things work. Expect a flurry of negative news, and a flurry of legislature and plans that try to overwhelm us all with apathy. I remember social security teetering on being canceled by Republicans in 2004, I remember the way people tried to stop the inevitability of the wars and couldn’t. It’ll be tough, but you’ll need to take care of yourself as well.

This is a lifetime’s work. It may not pan out to put hopes on 2018. Or 2020. I think it’s always been a lifetime’s work. I think it’s a lifetime’s work that minorities of all kinds have borne heavily and this will be heaviest on them moving forward. I hope that doesn’t get anyone down, you need to protect yourselves, but it’s the long game I tend to think of. Back when it was Bush in charge, when Obama swept in, and still now. Always the long game. Always about what the point of my art is here for and why I do it. And always about what I’m trying to leave behind in the world.

PS

No, I’m not sure what the hell will happen with my healthcare. A year ago my wife joined me in freelancing and we set up on ACA. I would prefer single payer, but ACA was at least something, and though pricey, it let the family freelance. It’ll be good for 2017, but 2018 is a shrouded mist for me. Like that place the Bene Gesserit can’t see past? I can’t either.

I have, now, a pre-existing condition, my heart defect. That means even if I wanted to pay it might prevent my family from getting health insurance. I’m not sure how we’ll thread that needle, it adds some anxiousness to my ability to forecast and plan. However, since we all freelance in the house now, we do have the ability to move anywhere we need to in order to get health insurance. I’m hoping not to have to move, as I’ve put down roots pretty well in my current community…

PPS

This is the calm version of the post. I just wrote ‘fuck’ over and over again originally. I feel I still have yet to wrap my head around many different aspects of this election, but this was a first attempt. I may be posting more.

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07 Nov

Author considered as a newly reconstituted gym rat, one year in

Tomorrow I visit my cardiologist one year after he cleared me to start exercising again (I have a heart defect, it’s likely Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. You can’t tell for sure unless you biopsy the heart, which is a bad idea while you’re still living.)

Some reactions:

1. I’m still alive after a year of experimenting with exercising again. Go team!

2. I’m kinda nervous that I get told to ease back so I’m somewhat not looking forward to going in.

Seeing as that it’s been one year, I’m in an Auld Lang Syne kind of mood about the progress I’ve made and looking back over it.

Once I got cleared to start exercising again I slipped carefully back into it. Not wanting to overdo it and kill myself (this is how you die with HCM, you push yourself too hard and die, it often kills athletes who everyone otherwise thought were awesome). But after almost dying of HCM, almost dying of a pulmonary embolism, spending a year on blood thinners, and then being banned from exercise other than walking for 7 years, let’s just say I’d gotten a bit hefty and very weak.

From January 1st through April I had a good 4 month streak of gym attendance. I focused hard on the running aspect. I over trained (again, not something I want to do with my condition) and ended up taking May and June off, basically.

I started up again July 22nd with a whole new lifting plan that has been perfect, and am sticking with that. Since July 22nd I think I’ve missed maybe a day at the gym. It’s become such a habit that if I miss a day, I spent the rest of the day itching to go, which is weird. Habits can be killer, or super helpful!

So, how has that worked out for me.

Well, on the conventional measure everyone focuses on, pounds, I was 231 pounds on November 2015 and here in November 2016 I’m… 231 pounds.

I’ve failed?

Nah.

I’ve gotten better at running:

November 2015 jogging up a flight of stairs winded me. Now I find it fun. My first run in November 2015 on the track, little old ladies speed walked past me. Now, I can TOTALLY CRUSH THEM in speed walking. Also, I can run a 5K (I did it on video on the track, but my schedule didn’t work out to run one for real, but I run about 5K every Sunday playing Ultimate Frisbee now and I’m thinking about adding a Wednesday game in). Also, I play Ultimate Frisbee now!

I’ve gotten stronger at lifting shit:

November 2015 I was barely able to bench 85 lbs after 7 years off. This morning I did 185lbs for two of my three my sets of 10 (warmed up with 145). I couldn’t do a single pull up, now I can do 10. I’m beating most of my ‘bests’ from just out of college. My cardiologist told me I couldn’t do any low rep high weight maxes, I could only do 3*10s, so I’ve just slowly been focusing on form and raising weight slowly (they don’t want me straining super hard). I struggled to do a dip, now I can do 35.

I have more energy:

I feel less like burrowing down and hiding from the world. I have energy for stupid shit that happens, both in career and otherwise. Last week I walked up a 1,500 foot mountain in Tempe because I thought the view would be cool and it seemed like something I should do. I wouldn’t have had the energy for that a year ago. Or the ability.

And yes, my body has changed:

While I haven’t lost ‘weight’ I seem to be slowly replacing fat with muscle as I keep to the habit of being in the gym every morning. That’s the whole point. I started out around 30% or (higher) body fat percentage. I’m down to 23%. I still have a ways to go.

Measurement wise it’s meant going from a nearly 44 inch waist to 39.5. That’s been slower than I’d like for a year’s work (I’d been hoping to hit 38), but due to the lifting focus, it’s meant my shoulders and chest went from 52.5 to 55.5 (which means that my shoulder to waist ratio is the same as if my waist were 38, and I’m still slowly losing there as I keep going). And my arms from 15.5 to 16.5 inches.

So even though I’m exactly the same weight, which wasn’t something I expected, my body reacted rather well to being back in the gym and I’ve been happy with the results. More energy, I fit in shirts better, I’m down sizes in pants, and it is still a process in progress.

I feel that’s a good year’s progress. If I keep that up for another year I will position my body well for heart health, which was the real goal my cardiologist had. I still need to get more inches off the waist based on heart health needs (a body fat percentage below 20% is healthier for heart), but I’m not really shooting for any goals, but rather focused more on the form and habit of being in the gym every morning no matter rain, sun, snow, or what have you. In all previous years I never built the habit this deep in, but it’s serving me well.

All of this would progress faster if I ate way, way cleaner. But half the fun has been that I can EAT AGAIN this year. Nutty Bars are back in my life, and it’s a wonderful thing. I was able to eat very carefully in the last 7 years and lose weight, but I would gain a chunk back during every deadline season when I’d fail to track what I ate and ate crap because I was stressed. I’ve now successfully lost weight while under a rough deadline and some career shake ups, and that’s just because no matter what is happening I am in the gym for my morning routine. I also toss I more walking during that time.

What is my routine?

So from Nov-April I was doing a routine where I did upper body on Mon, lower body on Wed, upper on Fri. Every day in between was cardio. Then you swapped out the stack next week. Lower body Mon, upper on Wed, lower body Friday. My issue was that I was a) tempted to skip cardio days and b) struggling to get the whole upper body workout in without getting over exhausted or feeling wobbly. So I would have to slow down a lot, which meant way long workouts. Which ate up my morning and impacted my day. Then I ran too much, overtrained, and fell apart.

July-November I’ve had a lot more luck splitting everything up and leaving the routine exactly the same. Monday is chest. Tuesday is back day. Wednesday is shoulder day. Thursday is leg day (ugh). Friday is arms and abs. By isolating muscle groups, I can actually do 30 minutes workouts, even with my extra long heart safe pauses between every set to make sure I’m not overdoing it.

My community gym is half a mile walk from the house. I walk over, which warms me up. Workout one muscle group pretty quickly. Then, I have the option of a 20 minute jog, if I’m feeling up for it, or a treadmill walk. Then it’s a 1/2 mile walk home. My goal is to aim for that 10K steps a day.

I try not to yammer on about all this too much. But a few people have asked b/c I have been celebrating milestones on twitter. This summarizes it all. Plus, one year anniversary of being able to hit the gym again feels… big. For me at least. Long way to go still, but, I am proud of what a year’s work has given me.

Gratuitous gym selfie from tiny hotel gym (also, first time habit of working out has been so ingrained in me that I’ve used hotel gym during a trip b/c it’s… just what I do when I wake up now):

IMG 0180 copy

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20 Aug

I’ll be a Guest of Honor at the North American Science Fiction Convention 2017!

I am utterly honored and super psyched to share that I will be a Guest of Honor at the North American Science Fiction Convention in 2017. Also known as Nasfic this is the convention that is held across from a Worldcon when a Worldcon is held outside of the US (and a Worldcon is a large science fiction convention that moves from city to city throughout the world each year).

Next year, in 2017, Nasfic will be in Puerto Rico in the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel and Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico from July 6-9, 2017.

Website Logo1

More details at their website.

Thank you to the people behind San Juan 2017 who thought of me. I will do my best to make this an awesome NASFIC. Thank you to everyone who voted for Puerto Rico. It’s exciting to see an event like this in the Caribbean.

Of note, Nalo Hopkinson will be the Guest of Honor at World 75 in Helsinki, Finland. So, as far as Caribbean Guests for 2017, we have you all covered!

I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

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11 Aug

On having returned home…

Last Friday we packed the kids up and drove up to join my stepdad’s family up at Cedar Point. Two cousins on his side of the family that I rarely see were out here in Ohio to see family. I worked in the car and carried my backpack all around Cedar Point, did about 20,000 steps and ate All The Bad Things:

Elephant Ears
Dipping Dots (the ice cream of THE FUTURE)
Fries
Shakes
Fries with bacon and cheese
Fried cheese
and more…

With my heart defect I’m prohibited from enjoying the fast rides, but I did sneak onto the relatively sedate Mine Ride. My daughter Thalia rode the Iron Dragon and declared that was enough roller coastering for a 7 year old. Calli absolutely refused to do any coasters. They had a blast on all the other kid-oriented stuff, though. We all got soaked on one of the river rides, which Thalia insisted on doing a second time.

It was good old fashioned summer fun. And since a chunk of my early summer was eaten up with projects I think I wasn’t the best fun summer dad ever.

After spending a couple days with family, we drove out to Virginia where my parents currently live. I got my stepdad to watch a few episodes of Stranger Things, splashed in the pool, investigated the gym near their house, and then Emily and I drove back home without the kids. They’ll be enjoying a couple weeks with Nana at Nana-camp 2016.

The house is oddly quiet without two seven year olds ricocheting around inside.

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25 Jul

Media consumption: Ghostbusters (2016 edition)

This is a little late, but TL;DR I loved it.

Giphy

I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the latest reboot. For one thing, I’m somewhat burned out by the endless churn of reboots. For another, I was really nervous about the Leslie Jones character being the sassy black best friend.

Also, I had super fond memories of the original.

Well, until a few months ago.

I mean, I always found people dressing up as Ghostbusters at cons and repeating the lines all along fairly harmless. Thumbs up, ya’ll: I love Ghostbusters, too. But it turns some of the tribe of Ghostbusters saw that there’d be an all-women reboot and they went and lost their damn minds.

With all the man-hatred aimed at Ghostbusters, I started to get nervous. With Paul Feig directing I figured it wouldn’t be total shit, but I find myself kinda hoping it would rock out and make some decent money just to fucking take a dump on the Mens Rights Activist types flooding the internet with general misogyny over the movie.

Feeling left out because the movie had a lack of representation? Damn, that’s gotta sting. Never mind taking a moment for some introspection and realizing that how you feel about that, is how some people feel for almost every movie for a very long time, along many different axes. Instead, let’s toss our toys out the crib.

So, I was scared to go see it because reboots often suck, but I wanted it to do well.

Wait up, let me back up. I almost forgot something.

I watched the original Ghostbusters eight weeks before I watched the new one.

Well, nothing ruins something you enjoyed as a kid more than going and watching it as a grown ass adult. Having Netflix has meant I’ve come to realize that Airwolf was a lot of stock footage about a twenty-year old helicopter that was not a super-cool advanced weapon from the future.

I still loved elements of the original, but, man, the Bill Murray character was creepy and we were all like ‘ewww’ about his ‘romance’ moves. They were stalkery and lacked boundaries (when he pushes into her apartment, etc). Also, there was way less invention and palling around than I thought or remembered. And we all know about the sad story of Ernie Hudson, the black Ghostbuster, getting many of his lines cut and his role reduced.

So, it’s not the worse, but it lost its golden haze on rewatch.

And the new one.

Well, it sucked me right in and had me laughing. I adored Kate McKinnon’s character, and I’ve never connected with her humor before. Her inventions, the body language, and that amazing speech about friends that was heartfelt. I could have just watched the further adventures of Kate McKinnon. I laughed at Leslie Jones’s acting, she dominated the screen with her presence, but I was lost in a loop of wondering if she didn’t need more. And the friendship between Wiig’s character and McCarthy’s character was fantastic.

There was a lot of joy here, and I really appreciate that. The whole theater laughed, applauded, and whooped when I caught a showing while I was in Columbus a week ago. It was a good experience.

When I watch it again, I might notice some pacing issues, I suspect. It’s not a perfect movie.

But for me it’s a damn good one.

PS: no, Ghostbusters is not tanking (actual numbers/data from Abigail Nussbaum).

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14 Jul

Status update: still editing a $%&*ing novel

I’m about 100 pages from the end of this edit.

It’s still one of the more challenging rewrites I’ve done, though I did take the last two days a bit slower on it due to focusing in a spreadsheet project that ate up some time. It’ll be way worth it for me down the road, one of those things where I had to build some wheels so I wasn’t dragging a cart around on the ground. In fact, it’s something I should have done some 8 years ago as a teaching tool for myself, but didn’t.

That aside, it’s now back to full grind on this edit. But seeing the end has me somewhat excited. It’ll be cool to see this project out next year.

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05 Jul

Media consumed: Preacher episodes 4 & 5

I’ve never read the comic, but while out at Rae Carson and Charlie Finlay’s place last month to spend a week focused on revisions of the current novel, I watched the first few episodes of a TV series called Preacher. I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going, but Ruth Negga is a pretty talented actress and I was psyched to see a vehicle for her. Joe Gilgun on E4’s Misfits was pretty freaking hysterical (he also starred across from the actor in Misfits who went on to play the freakishly easy to hate Ramsay Bolton) and he continues to entertain as a sketchy vampire.

I found the first few episodes a bit slow in getting their threads up and running, but after a few I felt I had the feel of it. Enough to continue watching. There were several pay offs along the way for me (squeal like a rabbit, Tulip (Negga) and her fight with the helicopter being a stand out couple). Last night, the fight scene in the hotel room had to be one of those highlights for grim, bloody humor that for some reason tickles my fancy.

I love it when I see an idea and world building taken to its logical conclusion in a way that makes you cringe and laugh and shake your head all at the same time.

What the fuck is up with the cowboy in the flashbacks to the old west, though? I’ll keep watching to find out.

Side note: well done to Seth Rogen for bringing something new to television. While it may be a bit uneven at times, I’m enjoying myself none the less.

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05 Jul

Summer revisions

I’ve spent the bulk of my day working hard on a novel rewrite due by the middle of summer. This is a weird thing because this is the 3rd novel in the last couple years that I can’t tell you anything about, but is hella fun to be working on.

I’d love to talk more about what I’m up to, but it’s been a weird year and a half in that respect. But, what’s cool about this one is that soon enough I’ll be able to talk more openly about the project. I’m just not allowed to say anything about it until the project’s PR people do their own announcements and handle stuff.

Mysterious? More frustrating. I’ve felt very distant from my readership even though I’m having some of the most fun in the day to day writing and general career side. If I were an introvert, I would have really enjoyed the last couple years.

Sadly, I’m extroverted and love talking about what I’m up to and doing and about to do.

I’m really looking forward to, in a month or so, being able to talk about whatever I’m up to once more. The strictures of the last few projects have not been very aligned with my personality. But, it’ll be fun in the next year to not just get past that, but be talking about them.

And I’m looking forward to being done with this rewrite, which has been the big focus of mine since January. I find big, deep rewrites like this hard to quantify. Did spending a whole day to rewrite a sticky single page mean good things? Yes, if it solves a Gordian Knot in the plot or sets of problems I needed to solve. But I feel better when there’s a page-eating rhythm rather than me sitting there puzzling over tangles in the book.

Yet, this is where I get to make it better yet again, so I sort of take it day by day.

I’m 170 pages into 300 pages here. After the next 30 I’ll get really excited, as it’ll feel like the downhill segment.

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29 Jun

How to collaborate on fiction in 2016 using pair programming, Skype, and Google Docs

I just finished a new collaboration. It’s a short story of nearly 10,000 words that will be in Bridging Infinity (you can pre-order here), edited by Johnathan Strahan “The latest volume in the Hugo award-winning Infinity Project series, showcasing all-original hard science fiction stories from the leading voices in genre fiction.”

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The writer I collaborated with was Karen Lord, who currently lives in Barbados (author of Galaxy Games, Redemption in Indigo, you’re reading her, right?).

There are a lot of different ways to collaborate. I’ve done many of them. But for seamless and rapid writing, one method stands out to me that was first introduced to me by Karl Schroeder.

In 2007 Karl and I spent a weekend in Toronto writing a short story called ‘Mitigation.’ The story would eventually spark my time spent on the novel Arctic Rising a couple years later. To write this story, Karl invited me to spend a three day weekend at his home while we worked on the story (also a 10,000 word story).

We spent the first night there drinking scotch and spitballing ideas, and the next morning in a diner scribbling ideas on the backs of paper mats. The fun, world building stuff that could go on and on.

But back at Karl’s office the work started. Karl had a plan, one he said he’d done with another writer before, where we would share the keyboard. One of us would write a single sentence. Then the other would revise that sentence, then write a next one. Other writer would revise that sentence, then write another.

Starting can be the hardest, but with one line at a time, swapping in and out of the chair, we soon had a few paragraphs. In fact, it was starting to get hard to stick to just a single line. Karl commented that once we started being unable to stick to a line, we’d switch to paragraphs.

This had the effect of blending our styles. It also forced us each to check in with each other, live, line by line, on what we thinking and trying to do. Get stuck? Jump out of the chair and usually the other writer could jump in.

We did this until we had 2-3 pages in short order. We broke for lunch and spitballed some outline ideas, coming up with upcoming scenes.

At that point, we then each took alternate scenes, not paragraphs, concurrently. I’d work on my laptop, Karl on his desktop, and email the scenes into a final document and edit them. In three days we had a clean, tight, 10,000 word short story that ended up being in a Year’s Best anthology.

I’ve done many other forms of collaboration. Handing the document back and forth, outlining for others to write, muddling through it on an ad-hoc basis. But Karl’s method really jumped out at me and I proposed trying to use it despite the fact that Karen and I are thousands of miles apart.

The methodology we used is something programming friends of mine indicated were similar to the idea of ‘pair programming.’ According to Wikipedia:

Pair programming is an agile software development technique in which two programmers work together at one workstation. One, the driver, writes code while the other, the observer or navigator,[1] reviews each line of code as it is typed in. The two programmers switch roles frequently.

While reviewing, the observer also considers the “strategic” direction of the work, coming up with ideas for improvements and likely future problems to address. This frees the driver to focus all of his or her attention on the “tactical” aspects of completing the current task, using the observer as a safety net and guide.

Karen was willing to try it. To write the document we used Google Docs as we could both use it at the exact same time, creating that concurrent use atmosphere and live ability I found so fascinating when I worked with Karl.

To get the live Pair Programming aspect, we used Skype. To write like this, I really found the live ability to talk to a partner to be killer. The reason is this, in past collaborations, I’ve found a lot of communication can be lost in text, emails back and forth, and people going around in circles without realizing it.

I found that just talking live to the person, I can see their face the moment I suggest an idea and more accurately assess whether we both truly love it, or whether they really love it and I don’t, or whether it’s something we’re both ‘meh’ on and should keep talking about. There is so much more you can figure out, and faster. You can tell when someone is just spitballing, as opposed to really hung onto something.

Karen and I spent a two hour Skype spitballing ideas on the first day, from which we came up with a skeletal idea for plot, some world building, and what we wanted to accomplish from the story.

The second Skype session was a half day of using the same method I described Karl and I did, but with Karen and I meeting over Skype and using Google Docs. One of us wrote a line, the other edited it and wrote the next. Then the other would come on and edit that then write the next. Soon we were doing paragraphs. Then sections.

The next two days we traded off sections, and then we did a series of revision passes that were not done live on video.

It took about four or five days to create a 10,000 word story called The Mighty Slinger for Bridging Infinity. Calypso singers, hard SF megastructures, idea SF. It was a hell of a lot of fun to write and I’m pleased to see that for a second time this process of ‘pair writing’ in a near-live situation works well, and that fact that it can work over great distances was a pretty amazing experiment, I felt.

Writing can often feel isolating. Being able to spit ball ideas and gain energy from another writer’s enthusiasm over the project made this a great experience.

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