Writing

Apr 172016
 

credit: Jonathan Wyke

I’ve never written every day. When I write novels, I write 1250 words 4 times a week — each session generally taking 3-4 hours — which gets me to 100,000 words in six months. When I’m writing I write on a schedule, but often I go months without writing fiction.

Just to try out a new approach I decided to write a complete story in an hour every day. For a month I posted a daily story to Twitter, Medium, and Wattpad. Now I’ve also published them as a free ebook in .epub, .mobi and .pdf formats with a cover featuring Jonathan Wyke’s excellent illustration above. Below I share some of my qualitative and quantitative results. Continue reading »

Dec 082015
 

ancientmars-web

Each day for the past two weeks I’ve been writing a story in one hour, taking a screenshot of it, and attaching it as an image to a tweet — they’re generally a screen long and definitely a violation of Twitter’s 140 character limit. It’s fun to scope a story to super short pieces, explore whimsical sci-fi ideas, try different tones and styles, and spend a moment or two with some characters.

The other day me and Sean were over at Mathew Borrett’s place and he showed us how he’d ported some of his mind-blowing HyperNurnia series created for 2D display into virtual reality. A few minutes after I took off the Oculus goggles I knew what my one hour story was going to be that day. Above is the landscape that inspired the following story, click to enlarge and if you have a VR headset and the wherewithal here’s the stereo file. After the story, deets on how to get my graphic novel, Therefore Repent!, for free.


David watched his son rock back and forth in his chair and knew it was just a matter of time before he fell over and hurt himself.

“Harry,” he said.

His son stopped, stared at him defiantly. “What?”

“You know what.” Continue reading »

May 142012
 

I’m not crazy about Blu-ray, so I started to think of alternative ways to deliver the 1080p version of the movie and came across these usb bracelets. When I started to think about what else you could put on it, I realized there was a connection to one of the ideas in the movie: that in 2025 the Cloud was repossessed. I like the idea that people can also use it to store their own locally owned data, as insurance against that day. Or even if nothing happens, for a time when you make the choice to get off the Cloud (or the grid) and find out that something you clicked I Agree to years ago limits that choice.

You can buy it here. (Sorry, only DVDs left now.) More thoughts below. Continue reading »

Aug 102009
 

We’re a few weeks away from diving into shooting Ghosts With Shit Jobs, our no-budget faux-doc about Toronto having descended into third world status, and we have a few more holes to fill. Even if you’re not a fit for any of these acting roles, crew, locations, any leads appreciated! And yeah, being a no-budget movie means that no one’s getting paid up front and it’s non-union. Experience appreciated, but often not necessary.

Click through to see the list and Sanford Kong‘s awesome concept art. Get in touch at casting@lofiscifi.com with any questions/ideas.
Continue reading »

May 182009
 

We’re in pre-production for a new lo-fi sci-fi movie called Ghosts With Shit Jobs. Involving many of the same people as our last one, Infest Wisely (imdb / official site), it’s also a no-budget, multi-director project written by me — but with approximately a million times more planning. We’re going to be starting shooting this summer.

In 2040, a generation of Torontonians have grown up after the economic collapse of the west. The movie consists of episodes of a documentary series popular in mainland China about the bad jobs some white people have — the plucky and resilient souls unlucky enough to be born into the slums of North America are both amusing and moving to the Chinese audience.

We’re doing auditions on Saturday, June 6, 12-4. If you’re in Toronto, please check out the roles we’re trying to fill — there’s a variety of ethnicities and ages. Continue reading »

Nov 112008
 

Photo: :) AliIf you knew I was a science fiction writer, you might assume it’s because I’m eagerly awaiting floating cities or nanotech implants. But actually, it’s the year I figure that all the World War II veterans will be dead.

On November 11th, 2020, we’ll be able to have a discussion that seems ungrateful or spiteful now: were the veterans of World War II heroes, or survivors? Is Remembrance Day actually about thinking about the specific soldiers who died, or about keeping the idea of soldiering alive?
Continue reading »

Oct 032008
 

I did a talk at Word on the Street last week tailored to a general, writing-interested Toronto audience. Ramón Pérez did live sketches that illustrated the talk, which were amazing considering the scant minutes each was allowed and the not-terribly-visual subject matter.

Other than actually writing, the most important thing to do as a writer is get your writing out to readers. You get feedback from readers, connect with fellow writers who share your sensibility, & you get a sense of closure that allows you to move on to your next project.

Some people think that getting published by a traditional book publisher is the only way to get your writing out to readers. There’s a real bottleneck here — even though there’s some benefit to the publishers in this circumstance, I would argue that writers don’t benefit from it, readers don’t benefit from it, and neither does our writing culture. This perception of the editor-gatekeepers just creates a tense and risk-averse climate.

So, I’m going to detour around the bottleneck and focus on the diversity of methods writers can use to get their writing out there. The ten things I list are often considered different mediums and require collaboration and/or different skillsets, but writing can be central to them. Continue reading »

Jul 192008
 

My latest contribution to the youth demographic.I turned 36 earlier this month, which makes it half my life that I’ve been an anarchist, a vegan, and a DIY culture maker. I was exposed to these philosophies through punk music and zines in my teens, and it’s a bit of an aberration that the ideas I encountered in a youth subculture are still relevant to me at this time in my life. But they introduced me to ways of thinking about the world and empowering practises that are still true and useful to me now, and I’m grateful I encountered them.

And so while I don’t care about whether I’m old or not, I do care about youth subcultures. Continue reading »

Mar 312008
 

Jennie hunts the wild camera. For those who’ve attributed my recent silence to Sidney, she’s only part of the cause. I’ve also been doing a gig for OCAD recently — The Mobile Experience Lab was looking to showcase some of the cell phone technologies they’d developed over the past two years in public spaces. I started as a consultant on narrative and then I was kept on to implement the scenarios I’d written. It was a lot of fun working with a bunch of talented folk to figure out how to make these whimsical and odd things happen on John Street. They’re hoping to launch it this summer, funding and situation willing. [UPDATE: They didn’t.] Below is some documentation we got during the alpha and beta testing. Continue reading »

Apr 102007
 

Click to expand Mak’s screenshot.I’m proud to say that my interview with Emily Short, my favourite interactive fiction author, is on the front page of the equally fantastic game website Gamasutra. And yes, Infocom fans, I think her work is better than Zork-era games both from a programming and writing standpoint. Download her free games and find out why.

While you’re on Gamasutra you might want to read this great interview with Jon Mak, a Toronto game maker who’s EverydayShooter builds on the Japanese underground abstract shooters — it features his sweet indie rock guitar strumming against a throbbing colourfield that makes you feel more like you’re collaborating rather than conquering. He deservedly nabbed several awards at the 2007 IGF.

And if all this game writing excites ya, we’re looking for videogame and other guest articles on theculturalgutter.com, let us know if you have an idea for a genre most consider beneath consideration. We pay $50 on publication.

Feb 082007
 

Detail from Wilson’s excellent SpinSo I’ve recently been really inspired by a couple of hard SF writers in Toronto, Peter Watts and Robert Charles Wilson. “Hard” SF is grounded in real science, often plot-driven, and I usually find it lacking on the character and prose-style front. Not so in the case of Watts and Wilson, who are great stylists and whose characters are nuanced and believable — plus the science extrapolation is mind-bending. So while I’ve always been an unapologetically character-driven storyteller, seeing them pull off traditional, “big idea” SF in this manner has made me want to play too.

This dovetails nicely with my recent enjoyment of Nature’s weekly podcast. Continue reading »

Jan 172007
 

trpreview-thumb.jpgFour pages of our forthcoming graphic novel Therefore Repent! were published in the winter issue of Taddle Creek magazine, which was great. Taddle Creek dusts off the concept of the literary magazine and allows one to appreciate the quality and yes, even glamour, beneath. A mainstay of Toronto’s writers for the past decade, TC publishes excellent fiction, urban history, profiles where writers are given the star treatment — and they throw great launches. Click through to see the four page preview of our post-rapture comic. Continue reading »

Nov 302006
 

Marc Ngui's illoI was approached by This Magazine to write something for their current “Big Ideas” issue, and since I’d been chatting to Misha about taking part in Copycamp I used the opportunity to write about how excited I am that art seems to be harder and harder to commodify these days.

Paying for art should be like paying for sex -– possible, but not encouraged. I’m not against creative people getting rewarded for their work or thinking about their craft as seriously as a job -– it’s what I’ve been doing for the last decade or so -– but treating artwork as a commodity has never really felt right. And after thinking about it for a while, I realize why.
Continue reading »

May 262006
 

secretencoderring-thumb.jpgI’d been assuming that Bit Torrent would either go the way of other great file-sharing methods: be shut down like Napster, or become clogged to uselessness with viruses and fake files like Kazaa. The longer it goes on — three years at this point — the more I feel like it’s ushered in a golden age of media accessibility, in particular for episodic television. Most of the shows I watch regularly, in fact, started with being able to steal them easily.

Continue reading »

Feb 022006
 

The Wyndham pocket-knife.A few years back, a bunch of us were playing Trivial Pursuit. Mark Slutsky (of Automatic Vaudeville fame) was reading out the answers at random, and one of the green science answers was “Slackwater.”

Our eyes locked.

“What a perfect name…”

“…for a youth subculture.”

We holed up for a week in Mark’s Montreal apartment and wrote this feature length script imagining what these aristocratic anarchists would be like — destitute but dignified, penniless but proper — and we had a lot of fun doing it. We’ve decided to release it under a Creative Commons licence, which allows anyone to make it into a movie. We’d be happy to see people run with it.

For download instructions and a taste of the script’s characters, keep reading!

Continue reading »

Feb 072005
 

Angry AlliesTonight I went to see Dr. Cheryl van Daalen give a talk called “Living as a Chameleon: A Feminist Analysis of Young Women’s Lived Experience of Anger.” My wife Susan told me about it and I said I’d go–but it wasn’t to be supportive. Usually when people find out about my interest in feminism they often think that I’m a guilty white liberal, or give me undue credit for being down with the cause. The truth is that I’m self-interested–as someone who feels like there’s systematic injustices going on, their anger validates my own. Their reasoning and different routes to the same destinations strengthens my arguments and my resolve.
Continue reading »

Jan 192005
 

Pic of Sandy by Matthew BlackettMy favourite new mag is Spacing, the print arm of the Toronto Public Space Committee that is anything but newsletter-ish. By drawing attention to the amazing and oft-ignored public spaces, it’s an antidote to our culture’s fixation on private ownership. From their beautiful subway buttons to their sticker slogans (“Everyone is a Pedestrian”), they’re doing it up right. I’m working on a new article for their past/future issue, but in the meanwhile here’s the article I did for their second issue on Parkouring, the art of street gymastics.
Continue reading »

Jun 252004
 

Arts grants are our culture's R&D.I wrote an opinion piece for eye last week on arts grants. Feel free to add your comments at the end.

That’s what arts grants are, right? Free money. You know this guy who used his grant as a down payment on an SUV. Heard of this other woman who used hers to make grapefruits talk to each other and someone else who made lesbian porn with public money. Taxpayer money! Your money and my money!
Continue reading »

Apr 162004
 

In a few days the No Media Kings 5th anniversary edition of Flyboy Action Figure Comes With Gasmask will be back from the printer.

My first book has been out of print for the last few years. The idea of pumping money into an old project wasn’t nearly as exciting as realizing a new one, so even though I got the rights back from HarperCollins I held off for a while. But fans of the book and booksellers alike kept asking about how they could get a copy–and they almost always wanted one with the Canadian cover, so I couldn’t just tell them to buy the still-in-print US edition.

So thanks to everyone who enthused this book back into print. “It’d make a great movie!” is something people say flatteringly often, and so I got the idea of promoting the re-release with movie-style trailers for the book. Two groups of indie filmmakers were into the idea and they did a great job, producing very different but intriguing adaptations.
Continue reading »