This month brings my fourth NaNoWriMo (including camps) since 2012. But this time its different.
I’m starting a new novel for which I have done some vague outlining. (I am following Libby Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! It has already been of help for the outlining process).
What is new and different for me is this: I’m dictating my book using Dragon Naturally Speaking, the preeminent dictation software. The goal is greater productivity; you can speak faster than you can type. The software ‘learns’ the way you talk, so the more you use it, the more accurately it transcribes your words. Call it ‘training the Dragon.’
One of the greatest challenges of reporting for KYW Newsradio was the 45 second time limit on our reports. If my recorded piece came out to 55 seconds, I needed to go back to the script and find 10 seconds of copy to cut. I despised the limit, because I felt forced to boil an often complex story down to meaninglessness.
But it taught me how to determine what was absolutely essential in a story, and how to ruthlessly cut the rest. This process, I know, can be applied to fiction. And it was with that mindset that I set out to write my first drabble.
Before the internet, kids who were geeks were pretty lonely. Take it from me. Geeks nowadays have vast networks of geeks around the globe with whom to connect. And science fiction is now mainstream. Not so in the early 70s, when I was on the precipice of puberty and discovered science fiction. It was not to be talked about.
I didn’t know anyone else who read the stuff. I barely came out of the closet. At one point I was friends with a kid whose father worked for Ballantine Books, one of the great sf publishers at the time, and I admitted my interest in sf to him. I hoped the friend wouldn’t tell others.
The problem with reading novels while I’m writing one is that they make me feel woefully inadequate about my work. Continue reading
As the national media was focused on all the ALS ice-bucket challenges, September was Mitochondrial Disease Awareness month, though few in the national press noticed. So I’m going to do my own meager awareness thing by repeating a portion of my eulogy for Aaron pertaining to the disease. Forgive my indulgence:
The mitochondria are compartments within all the cells of our body, and they create energy. They take fuel and create energy. The little engines of our bodies. They create the energy that allows us to take each breath and put one foot in front of the other. And to climb a jungle gym. Its as simple as that.
Nearly twenty years ago, in December of 1994, Clarice and I had what seemed like a good idea, but in fact was a terrible one: we would get our friends Patty and Jon a cat. As a surprise.
Note to self: giving pets as a gift is not a good idea, particularly a cat.
I went down to the Erie Avenue SPCA and walked past rows of cages of kittens up for adoption. Most were cute, cuddly and affectionate. But I wanted a CwA — Cat with Attitude. And then I spotted a black-and-white kitten, swallowed up in an enormous cage, looking at me without any intention of being cuddly. This was the one, I knew.
Days later we presented her as the surprise to our friends, with the caveat that if they decided against keeping her, we would readily take her back, no questions asked. But I knew this would never happen. They’d fall immediately in love with her.
Yesterday I took the dogs with me to the cemetery. I had never taken them before. I stood at Aaron’s grave and fell into my own thoughts. After a few minutes I looked up and took stock of the dogs. Harry was being his usual Terrier self, looking in every direction on guard duty. But Charlie, our mini-Labradoodle, was sitting beside me at the foot of the grave, staring at the ground in a quiet repose.
He stayed next to me and waited. It was as if he sensed the meaning of where we were. It was as if he was paying respects.
The Doomsday Book is a 1992 novel by Connie Willis that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the two highest honors in science fiction. This summer, two decades after publication, I began reading it and didn’t get too far. The reason points to one of the predicaments of science fiction in 2014. Continue reading