Saturday, January 2, 2010


Writing in the new year

"Clockworks," the prequel (of sorts) to "Helping Them Take the Old Man Down," is progressing well enough. As with some other recent projects, my approach is nonlinear. I toss ideas and scenes into the document as they occur to me. I've had the story's arc long in place, though there have been some revelations (for me) along the way about how to get there and what it all means. I'm at about six thousand words; it may end up with around eight thousand, but the length isn't a concern or consideration. It'll be as long as it'll be, and I'm hoping it will be published at Asimov's as a follow-up to the other story. It's nice to feel some confidence about that, and to note that such confidence isn't impairing my aims for the story's quality.

A rather short piece of non-genre fiction, less than two thousand words, is nearing completion as a full draft. It's called "Set It Down."

"The Dearness of Bodies in Motion" was revised, in only the smallest ways, and sent out a few days ago to two venues (after having been rejected in accordance with the promised timing by Tin House). I hadn't reread the story for many months, so the sentences and the story's structure kept catching me off-guard. As always, it's nice to be surprised by one's work.

I should hear back any day now about "My Story of Us Looking for My Comic Strip, by Franklin James Nemeth."

And reading

Currently, I'm finishing Chris Hedges's jeremiad Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. I don't disagree with anything Hedges says, but the ranting tone doesn't help with make his points, and he's often too narrowly focused to provide a satisfactory argument. On a chapter seemingly condemning all of the U.S. higher education system, he targets his alma mater, Harvard, as well as UC Berkeley and Princeton for glaring stupidities, and he also condemns the elitism intrinsic to the system (and to the private schools feeding the system). But he leaves out every good thing and ignores the vast majority of the higher education system--which might be condemned for letting in everyone rather than keeping most people out. What's wrong with that chapter is what's wrong with the book, as the coherence of his arguments aren't allowed room to breathe and his personally ground axes flash on every page.

Highly recommended is artist and author David Small's graphic memoir, Stitches. If you've read Small's children's books, you'll be utterly unprepared for this. The art serves the story well, and both are gripping.


Luke said...

Have you read Hedges' War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning?

William Preston said...

As with a lot of nonfiction, I read part of that book, felt I'd grasped his thesis, then stopped. Hedges's book was referenced at the start of the outstanding film Hurt Locker.

Anonymous said...

In Honors/AP, one of my nonfiction units is war-oriented. A selection from The Things They Carried and one from Jarhead.

Agreed on Hurt Locker.

By the way, writing-wise, I'm gearing up to start my agent querying for Footpaths of Small Town Gods and hacking my way (pun intended) through a ronin robot story, "A Place, a Purpose, Perhaps a Home."

Gave you a shout-out on my blog for your story, Bill. Many and major congrats, Sir.

William Preston said...

Thanks for the shout-out (and links! . . . that March stuff isn't officially up yet, but it was easy to find the back door; I don't think they'll mind). I will send you a (priceless) copy when I get one.

Good luck on the querying and writing.

I'm switching to 11th-grade English next year, so some modern war writing (likely U.S.) is in my future curriculum. I plan to link older texts to contemporary texts (the AP Lang kids will spend more time with older texts). Slaughterhouse-Five seems an obvious choice for that group, but I'm wide open to ideas.

Kappa1991 said...

I searched for you after reading your novelette, "Helping Them Take the Old Man Down" in Asimov's. I was wondering if you were going to continue the story in any way, and I am gratified to read that you are indeed working on a prequel. A novel would be what I was looking for, but I will happily settle for another story. Thank you ... you piqued my curiousity and left me wanting more "Old Man" stories.


William Preston said...


I'm so pleased you enjoyed the story (and sought me out to tell me).

I also have done some work on a story that would come after the events of the published tale. We'll see how that develops . . .

Best wishes,