Archive for the ‘The Big Aha’ Category


Kickstarter For THE BIG AHA

The big news today is that I’ve launched a Kickstarter project to fund the publication of The Big Aha, the novel I’ve been working on for roughly a year. I’m already getting a good response—and thank you for that, dear backers—so I’m optimistic that the project will be funded. Thanks also to Mark Frauenfelder for mentioning the project on BoingBoing, which is a huge help.

I plan to publish The Big Aha with my own Transreal Books. I’ll probably use one of my paintings on the cover, maybe the one above, which I call The Lovers, and which depicts the notion of telepathy. I’m still doing some more paintings relating to the book, so it’s not certain I’ll use this one.

Now, I probably could have placed The Big Aha with a commercial publisher—but that’s been getting harder over the last few years, with longer waits, more anxiety, less promotion, less actual editing, less proofreading and smaller advances. Less fun. We’re in a phase shift time, a transition from one era to another. From thuddy dinosaurs to nibbling mammals, maybe.

Going totally indie like this, I feel like I’m escaping into a promised land. Doing the Kickstarter move gives me renewed enthusiasm about making a final push to finish The Big Aha. I’ve been working on it off and on for over a year. I wrote the first two chapters early in 2012, and then spent seven months learning how to self-publish, then I got back into The Big Aha in the fall of 2012. And now I’m pretty near the end. I’ve been really pushing on the book all spring, and it’s been a little draining.

Something else I want to mention today is that I had a big interview in this month’s issue of Locus, the magazine of the SF & fantasy field. I’ve reprinted the story’s lead pages above, and you can read some excerpts free online. As it happens, some of the things I talked about in the interview were The Big Aha , self-publishing, and the option of using Kickstarter to raise funds for a book launch.

The interview is by Liza Groen Trombi, who also took the photo of me. Francesca Myman designed the illo, putting one of my paintings in the background. Thanks, guys! And thanks to the younger writer Tim Pratt, also of Locus, who gave me some much-needed encouragement about attempting a Kickstarter.


“Ant and UFO,” oil on canvas, May, 2013, 20” x 16”. Click for a larger version of the image.

One last thing. Near the end of May, I took a couple of days off from the writing and did a quick little painting Ant and UFO—the usual suspects. To start with, I searched the web for good images of ants and I found a nice clear drawing in an exterminator’s ad. After I’d painted the ant, I wasn’t sure at first about what else to put in, and then I had the idea of having a tiny UFO—I love paintings UFOs, they’re easy to paint, and they carry a lot of symbolic weight. The ant’s body was at an odd angle, and I had the idea of having her standing on three blades of grass, which made for a nice composition.

The last few weeks I’ve been planning the final chapters of The Big Aha, and gearing up for the Kickstarter launch. Feeling like a chicken with his head cut off, a little bit. Maybe I’ll take a break and do another painting today. I’ve got these meddling semi-divine beings called “gubs” in The Big Aha, and I’d like to paint one of them who’s sitting on a bed in the apartment of my characters Zad and Jane’s apartment, and they kind of wish he’d leave, as he’s a fairly grungy gub, a little like a dappled Gloucestershire pig with a pointed anteater nose.

The Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton

I mentioned that I went to watch the Science Fiction Writer’s of America Nebula Awards meeting in downtown San Jose last week. Right next door in the San Jose convention center was a comics convention, with a hundred times as many people attending.

Some women had dressed up and were hanging out outside the paying entrance to the con so people could talk to them and take their pictures. Being stars. A vintage comix con scene. A guy was dressed up like a bull called Bull-It. Also vintage. Often we have people like this mixed in with the writers and editors at SF cons, but this time we were at separate meetings.

I’ve been out hiking pretty often around my neighborhood lately, beating cross-country through brush up towards St. Joseph’s hill above Los Gatos. I’m using my new wide-angle lens a lot. It takes very sharp images, so I can crop down to, like, tiny postage stamp area out of a picture to get surveillance-style photo like this. Afghanistan on Route 17!

When I get to the top of the hill, and it’s a steep, long climb, I lie down under this one particular tree and mark up my latest print-out of plans or text from my nearly finished novel The Big Aha. I call this my “field office.” I’m so exhausted by the time I get up here that the ground feels incredibly comfortable, and my mind is empty, and I’m happy.

Another surveillance image, this one is a pair of free binoculars near the observatory up at the Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton near San Jose.

The first part of the Lick Observatory was finished in 1888. This building has an old-school refractor (with lenses) telescope installed. This guy James Lick paid for it, he’d wanted to have a pyramid larger than the Pyramid of Giza erected in his memory on a full city block in San Francisco, but the city fathers nixed it.

The over-a-century-old scope is kind of beautiful against the ribbing of the dome. The scientists don’t actually use it anymore, they have a more modern reflecting telescope up there they use instead.

We went up there the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend—our concept was not to do the obvious thing and to drive to the beach in Santa Cruz—this way we didn’t have any traffic probs. But there were a zillion bicyclists riding up the 4,000 fee to the observatory. People are so intense about exercise anymore, I wonder why that is.

In any case, they were having fun. And then they got to do an insanely long coast downhill.

There’s a bunch of other domes for ‘scopes up on Mt. Hamilton. Pushing up like puffball mushrooms.

The big reflector ‘scope is in this vaguely Art Deco building, nobody around in the daytime, with the ‘scope behind a glass wall. I like the single word PULL here.


Click for a larger version of “The Theory of Everything.”

Inside the building I got a wide-angle picture in the entrance hall that I really like. I call this “The Theory of Everything,” my idea being that we have all of these very precisely located and well-describable object arranged just so in this clear-cut space, and there’s a curious domain wall beyond which is the bright-matter zone called outdoors, with a car particle visible. But here inside the dim ocher room, our system works. You can even see a water fountain particle, as predicted by our theory.

The had this one cute little dome, the Automated Planet Finder, and it looked like Sonic the Hedgehog with a Mohawk.

Later we parked halfway down Mt. Hamilton and walked a bit along a trail off the “Two Gates” point in Grant Park, and I saw this amazing Oriental-tapestry-type oak tree. Having left my superduper theory-of-everything 5D camera in the car, I took a lo-res surveillance photo with my smart phone that sort of captures the idea, after I tweaked it like a mofo in Lighroom. But I still want to go back there and really nail the image for my as-yet-incomplete report on this zone of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Golden Gate Bridge, Futurism, & the SF Biz

My wife and I were up at the Marin headlands and at the Cavallo Point Lodge in the Fort Baker Park this week.

It was a conference sponsored by the Institute for the Future (IFTF), and organized by David Pescovitz. A lot of corporations and agencies sent people to join in discussions with futurists of IFTF about the coming age of “Networked Matter.” Pescovitz had the great idea of getting six SF writer to write stories about this theme, and he bound them into a little book. The stories will, I believe, appear on the BoingBoing web site as well, and at that point I’ll link to my story, called “Apricot Lane.”

I’d never known this little park exists, it’s off Alexander Road, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I had fun walking around taking photos.

The tack I took in my story is that it wouldn’t be good for us if all objects were in some way linked to the web, endowed with a bit of AI, and able to communicate. As I put it in my story, “Everything in the world was on the make. Everything was potentially a bully, a snitch, a shopkeeper, a do-gooder, a scammer, a marketeer, an enemy, a beggar, a bore, a landlord.”

The Golden Gate Bridge itself is a networked object now. It looks at your license plate and debits your account for the cost of a toll. In my story I was imagining that even sidewalks might start doing this. Exacting a micropayment for each step on the civic concrete. If you’re broke, you walk on the dirt at the edges. Otherwise some freelance social workers might come after you to earn some payments for themselves.

Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing was at the networked matter conference for a bit, I had lunch with him, it was good to reconnect. He was in town for the Maker Faire. I actually used to have a column in BoingBoing when it was a print zine, like 25 years ago.

After the networked matter do, I went to Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) Nebula awards in San Jose, kind of a random whim. I haven’t been a dues-paying member of SFWA for many years, but the event was handily nearby. I did the dinner and awards and all; I went mainly for the schmoozing. Saw some old friends—Terry Bisson, Stan Robinson, Dave Hartwell, Karen Joy Fowler, Sheila Williams, Greg Benford. Didn’t manage to talk to many younger writers.

After 20 or so novels and some 70 published stories, I’ve never even been nominated for a Nebula, so attending the awards event wasn’t the best thing for my mental serenity.

In any case, Bob Silverberg did a very nice job of hosting, with many jokes and jabs. It felt vaguely like the Golden Globes awards, with the audience around dinner tables. And, when Gene Wolfe was given the SFWA Grandmaster award he give a very touching acceptance speech, about his perennial worries about being liked or admired as a writer, and how he opens up his old books now and then, and thinks peacefully to himself, “Yes, this … this is a good book.” And at his level, he’s bummed that he never got a Hugo. There’s always a next floor.

Sitting at the banquet, I realized it’s very likely I never will get the SFWA Grandmaster award myself, but it really doesn’t matter, get that through your head, Rudy, be happy for the things you have.

Good things: I’m almost done writing The Big Aha. And I’ll have a cover story interview in the June issue of Locus , the magazine of the SF and fantasy field.

The writing’s been really enjoyable lately. Writing a novel means facing blank canvas every day, for hundreds of days, every day it’s impossible, but somehow you do it.

And in some sense, the novel is writing you. The world, or the muse, or the muse-in-the-world dances with you to the rhythms of the work. And you have something fun to think about, a mental world to visit.

And then you’re done, and out of Eden, and trying to peddle the thing once again, and it’s just a stack of paper, a slew of bytes. And I’m now segueing into that stage. Less enjoyable than writing! But interesting in it’s own way.

If all else fails, there’s always the self-publishing option, which I took with my last novel, Turing & Burroughs.

A new wrinkle on self-pub or small-press-pub is that you can try to raise something like a book advance via Kickstarter. I’ve been intrigued by the recent successful Kickstarters launched by the talented young writer Tim Pratt, like this one he did for a Marla Mason novel.

It’s a strange new landscape in publishing. The Berlin Wall is falling down…

Gnarl All Around

I’ve accumulated a backlog of photos to blog, but I don’t have any long essay-type thoughts today. All my energy is going into The Big Aha, which is about 80% done. I’m pushing pretty hard on it. During the closing phase of a finishing the first draft of a novel, I sometimes think of a predator who’s wounded his or her prey, and is now crashing through the underbrush, frantic to finish the hunt. Blood-lust writing frenzy.

I got a new wide-angle lens the other day, a Canon 24 mm. I’d been making do with an old Leica lens on my Canon body, but the old lens didn’t have autofocus, nor image stabilization, nor did the automatic metering work with it. I will say that the Leica glass has a certain creamy warm quality that I like. But the Canon lens in incredibly sharp.

So I walk around my house photographing pieces of it. Like this banister. Not that every photo I’m running today is shot with the wideangle lens.

My usual morning regimen, is to do yoga on a mat in the back yard and correct a printout. At full resolution, this text is readable, thanks the new lens’s image stabilization, but maybe not readable in this shrunken rez. Lying in the back yard on a nice morning while crafting some prose is about my favorite activity.

This photo’s taken with the Leica lens, and it has the creamy texture. Every hat is a UFO.

I’m writing all day, and in the evenings I like to get away from the printed word, so we’ve been watching more Netflix than usual, a mixture of streaming and DVD. Finished off the second season of The Hour, a nice BBC show, although I have to turn on subtitles for shows like this, otherwise I miss about 30% of the dialogue. The Lillyhammer series isn’t bad either.

Switched over to a 100 mm zoom lens for this photo last night. As spring rolls on, there’s different cadres of bugs that turn up, all of them hatching at the same time. These guys were on the globes of our street lamp, making me think of astronauts on a moon.

The 100 mm lens is, for reasons I don’t quite understand, categorized as a “macro” lens, meaning you can do super close-ups. Hard to go wrong when you’re shooting a rosebud, although the depth of field is only a few millimeters deep and I have to click at the right moment to catch the image I want, given that my body is never quite still. Love the “bokeh” here, that is, the out-of-focus quality of the background.

The sun comes up really bright these days, blasting flat across Silicon Valley into my garage and bounces great caustic curve light splashes off my car. I looked up how bright the sun is, viewed as a lightbulb, and it’s said to be about 300 or 400 septillion watts. The prefix for septillion is “yotta,” in the same sense that “tera” means trillion. There’s an official committee that decides these things. So the sun is a 300 yottawatt bulb. Or, as a waggish friend commented, one might shop for a energy-saver 60 yottawatt sun.

I try to get out into the hills every couple of days, I never get enough of nature. Free gnarl. I think this is a eucalyptus trunk, they grow with a spiral grain, which makes them stronger I think. Last night it was really windy here, and the eucs were waving like seaweed. Always nice to be reminded that we live at the bottom of an ocean of air.

Sometimes I go hiking with my neighbor Gunnar. He’s originally from Norway and still has quite an accent—you have to know him for awhile in order to easily understand what he’s saying. He’s close to eighty, and is livelier and fitter than me. He never goes to what I could call “a real doctor,” preferring various kinds of Indian or Chinese healers. Seems to be working for him.

Gunnar and I were down at the foot of a waterfall in Castle Rock park, which is only about s twenty minute drive from my house. Incredible that I only go there once every year or two. It’s such a great place. What do I have to do that’s more important than being in the woods?

Oh, yeah, I have to be at home running my machines.

Converting my gauzy N-dimensional dreams into 2D art.


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