Monday, July 7, 2014

Seven Facts About Seven Thunders

Seeing as today is 7-7-14, and that's not going to happen again in my lifetime (probably), I figured I'd take a moment to talk about Seven Thunders again.  Don't worry; by the time you're done reading this one, if you so choose, you'll know what it is if you've forgotten or hadn't heard me talking about it before.

  1. I originally came up with the idea for the book in 1998.
  2. The title is an allusion to the Book of Revelation in the Bible; I replaced the original one with it thanks to fond memories of DC's 1996 ad campaign for Kingdom Come, which drew from the famous biblical apocalypse for inspiration.  There are no real allusions to Revelation other than that, however.  There are seven major characters.  Two of them are brothers, and they are the main characters whose arcs drive the story.
  3. It's not the first story I started working on in the Space Corps saga, but it's always been the most important one.  There are eight additional books currently planned in the saga.  The next book is a prequel and the third is a sequel.  Since these are the earliest stories I began work on, dating back to 1995, I've since found them malleable to reshaping in light of what Seven Thunders became, a process I'm still working on.  The prequel, for instance, now features a conflict of brothers at its heart as well, while the sequel will likely feature one of Seven Thunders' brothers more prominently than it originally did.
  4. It is based on the War of 1812.
  5. I finally started writing it in the fall of 2012, which counting 1998 meant it took fourteen years to percolate.
  6. It features three acts, as many of my manuscripts do, although in this case it's because I originally conceived it as a trilogy of books.  Space saga, three acts.  Seemed appropriate.
  7. There is a British war film from 1957 (alternate title: The Beasts of Marseilles) with the same name.
    via Movie Mail

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG July 2014

The Insecure Writers Support Group meets on the first Wednesday of every month (except that one).

The book I've been reading, an advance copy of Matthew Thomas's We Are Not Ourselves, has gotten me thinking about the Great American Novel.  I wonder how many writers even still think about such a thing.  I've been trying to figure out why Thomas's book has such incredible hype surrounding it, because it's really not very good, and the only thing I can figure is, because writers in general don't really think about the Great American Novel anymore.

We've become a niche generation.  A hundred years ago this would have been unthinkable.  Of course, a hundred years ago writers were busy laying the foundation for exactly what we've become, but they approached it differently.  They approached the idea of genre as a lens by which to view the real world.  I think we cracked that lens a long time ago.  I think we have no concept that the lens ever existed at all.

So we have generations of writers, especially the current one, where all they think about is storytelling that has no real interest in talking about things that matter.  When someone like Thomas comes along, a new voice (because so many of our esteemed writers are old voices), and he tackles the real world, the literary community gets carried away with itself.  I think that explains Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, too.  Because that's not a very good book, either.  It's the same thing the Academy Awards try to do every year when they award Best Picture, find the movie that speaks to what we're thinking of ourselves now, a commentary that defines our times.

In other words, the whole idea of the Great American Novel.  The idea that we can reach beyond ourselves, our own petty interests, and be expansive, be grand, be great.  Not just write for the sake of writing, but try and say something, express something.

I've stumbled around with this in my own writing.  Pale Moonlight was my first real attempt to tackle it, and so I guess that's another reason I'm especially sensitive about it.  When I wrote In the Land of Pangaea, I embraced the challenge a little more directly.  Some of the projects I have lined up will try to be even more direct about it.

I have no idea what the Great American Novel actually is.  I think it's an ideal, one we hardly recognize even when it happens.  Something like We Are Not Ourselves comes along, and critics fall all over themselves to embrace it, laud it, exaggerate its worth.  Because it's one of the central conceits of being an American, that at our best we write the best.  But it seldom seems to actually happen.

Just something to consider.
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