Writing

I can’t take that kind of rejection

Yesterday I got my fourth rejection letter for my short story Oberon’s Paradise, so I’m going to give up writing.  It’s just not worth all the trouble if I can’t get published.  No, actually it was a personalized rejection letter, so it was rather encouraging… I mean, an editor actually took the time to comment specifically on the work; I think that’s a good sign!  And helpful too, as it pointed out what specifically the editor had issues with.  (They didn’t request a rewrite, however, so it’s not stuff that can just be edited and sent back.)

I’m not quite sure what I’ll do with the story now.  I could continue to send it out to other editors.  However, I sort of want to try dramatizing it… making some illustrations for it (not that I’m much of an artist; I stink at drawing, but you gotta start somewhere) and writing some music for it.  I think that would be a really fun project.  It would take forever though.  Hmmm… not sure.  If I start it, I probably won’t be able to finish…  (You know what they say… “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” (Much better than the atheist version: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him you believe in God.”  What, huh?))

The fantasy short story I’m working on now is called The Cliffs of Oakenrah.  The first line of the story is:

“Never go near the Cliffs of Oakenrah,” her father said.  “Something makes children jump.”

Lots of story possibilities with that I think.  So the story is about those cliffs, or really what’s beyond those cliffs.  I’m almost at 4,000 words and the story is just beginning, so it will probably end up being another novelette instead of a short story.  Which kind of stinks, because there aren’t nearly as many publications that accept unsolicited manuscripts for novelettes… but oh well; the story has to be as long as it has to be, and no shorter or longer than that.  Maybe if it gets to be around 25,000 words (still can’t predict how long it will be at this point) I can try to get it published as a self-contained book… obviously a very short book, but it’s been done.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Fiction books

Reading and writing and blah blah blah

Been a while again, eh?  I submitted my short story, Oberon’s Paradise, to yet another publisher, this time online magazine Strange Horizons.  They publish stories about once a week on their site free for anyone to read.  The story’s been rejected three times so far, but it never hurts to keep trying.  I’m also trying to get back into the habit of critiquing other people’s work through Critters, a free online writing workshop, and I’m hoping to put my newer short story, No One Was Abendsen, through the critique line.

I also finished another orchestral piece for my album which I call On the Edge of a Dream.  So far my album is up to a bit over 20 minutes, so I’m about a third of the way there.  One song that will be on the album, White Castle Waltz, is already available on iTunes and CD Baby.  I must say, it’s pretty cool seeing one’s work on iTunes, even if they’re not really a selective distributor.

I finished reading Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, and I have a few quotes from it to put up on my Book Quotes blog.  It was a very good book, definitely worth a read if you’re interested in non-fiction.

I also finished reading a fantasy book by Kage Baker called The Anvil of the World.  It was a short book that came out in 2004, and I think it’s out of print now.  I wanted to read a book by Kage Baker because I had read a few of her short stories and enjoyed her style.  It was pretty light reading; the plot never got extremely thick or dark and the world never seemed very complex, but it was still engaging and believable and very humorous.  Not a bad read at all.

I’m still reading The Lord of the Rings (50th Anniversary Edition), a nice all-in-one volume I got for Christmas, but now I’m also reading T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, the book of the legend of King Arthur, which has definitely been enjoyable so far, especially since I already know how parts of the story go, and this book kind of fleshes things out.

And… I think that’s really all I have to blather about for now.  Kinda boring, eh?

By S P Hannifin, ago
Non-fiction books

Songsmith and irrationality

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In this episode I blather about Microsoft Songsmith and the book Predictably Irrational.  I am a bit out-of-breath at the beginning of the podcast because I was running around the house…

First, I mention that my short story Oberon’s Paradise has once again been rejected because it’s such a terrible story.

Second, I respond to comments made on the tech news podcast, TWiT regarding the new music tool from Microsoft, Songsmith.  Songsmith is discussed in this episode of TWiT.  The awkward and cheesy ad for Songsmith is here on YouTube.  (It might be purposefully cheesy to be funny, but it’s still a bit awkward, I think.)  An interesting video describing the creation of and research behind Songsmith is here.

Third, I talk about the book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely.  I’ve only read the first two chapters so far, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to buy the book because it’s so fascinating and eye-opening for a foolish predictably irrational person like me.  I first heard about the book in this podcast episode, an interview with Derek Sivers.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer games

Generative systems, games, and music

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This is the new blog! Hope you like this new WordPress version! As you may be able to see, I was able to import all my old posts so I’m not starting over completely from scratch.

Perhaps the most significant change to this new blog is that I’m now trying to make a little podcast out of it. Hearing a voice may be somewhat more interesting, or at least more fun for me to produce. That said, I’m sure I won’t be able to record something for every single post, just as I know I can’t post every single day, but I’ll see how it goes.

I got my 2nd rejection slip of ’08 earlier this week for my short story Oberon’s Paradise. I have three or four more magazines I want to try selling it to, then I don’t think I’ll be able to resist the urge to just podcast it with some incidental music, as I think that would be fun to create. I have a few other short stories I’m working on, but nothing near completion yet. And I should really get back to writing my other two novels as well sometime.

SporeAlso earlier this week, I found a very interesting video on YouTube with game designer Will Wright and some musician that I’ve never heard of. They were talking about generative systems, which Wikipedia calls “systems that use a few basic rules to yield extremely varied and unpredictable patterns.” So, they are basically systems which are good at producing emergent properties. The video from YouTube is just a clip from a much longer talk they gave (available to see here) which I could not resist sitting through. In the longer video, you get to see Will Wright talk about the role of generative systems in games and, more specifically, in the upcoming game Spore. He also touched briefly on the subject of applying generative systems to narrative stories, which I also thought was pretty fascinating.

Anyway, this is the YouTube clip.

One other thing that caught my attention in the longer video. Take a look at what they say about music:

Will Wright: Can you imagine any sort of even this past computational filter that would pre-listen to the music, analyze the structure, look for a pattern, whatever, that would at least prune out the 90% that you obviously don’t want to listen to and let you focus your efforts on the 10% that has some promise?

Brian Eno: Would you like to work on that for me?

Will Wright: Sure, I would love to. You just have to give me the algorithms, I’ll cut it right up for you.

Brian Eno: No, it’s, funnily enough there’s been a lot of research into that, because you know there are always people trying to figure out how you write a hit.

Will Wright: Oh, I see. Formalizing the–

Brian Eno: Something I wouldn’t mind knowing about.

Will Wright: The hit generator.

Brian Eno: So there’s been all sorts of attempts to do that, but they’ve been astoundingly unsuccessful so far.

I would agree that for the most part, most people exploring that area have been unsuccessful (though I honestly believe it’s only a matter of time) but I wonder if Mr. Eno is at all familiar with David Cope’s awesome work? His computer program doesn’t write music in exactly the way Will Wright describes, but I’d still say Cope’s program is, in a way, a form of a generative system.

So, as I have started writing a book on the art of melody (or started planning it, really), I think I will definitely explore the subject of a generative system for melody. I’m not sure I’ll do anything really new, but it must be a fascinating area of study.

Oooh, I just visited Mr. Cope’s site, and it looks like he’s got two free rough-draft books up temporarily, one on musical suggestions for beginning music students and one on … of all things, board games! Games, music, generative systems, it’s all related! I love it!

😀

By S P Hannifin, ago