If you write fiction long enough, interviewers will start to ask you “Where do you get your ideas?”
Readers love this question (it’s also a dreaded chestnut of con Q&A panels). Writers hate it. It’s like asking “Where do you get the time to write?” Every one of us gets the same 24 hours each day; doctors spend some of those doctoring; drug addicts spend some of that getting high; writers spend part of one of those hours writing stories. One person can be any or all of those, and more.
Likewise, we all see/hear/mis-hear/read/misread/imagine all sorts of crazy crap every day. Those are ideas. That’s where ideas come from.
But that’s maybe a cheap answer, because it takes the question too literally. I think maybe what folks are asking when they ask “Where do you get your ideas?” is “How do you store/catalogue all the weird shit you see every day so that it’s useful to you later?”
And to that, my answer is this:
My brain locks on to odd shiny things and hordes them.
Most of the fiction I write comes out of a collision: I’ll stumble across some interesting fact or idea or snatch of plot or dialogue, but won’t really have any use for it, and so it just sorta bobs around in my head. Sooner or later, as other shiny ideas catch my notice and get tossed into that cranial junk drawer, several will bang together and stick in some interesting way. When ideas stick together they make a distinctive POP!ing sound. I listen for the pop, then start writing.
This is the essence of the “magpie and junk drawer” approach to research and writing. I stumbled into it as a kid having to do research papers, and it’s served me well ever since. Go forth, apply this in your life, and sin no more.
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this (and the audio version—also free on the Nightmare Magazine website—is really good).
Nominally a horror story, Sam J. Miller’s “Angel, Monster, Man” is, in fact, a really interesting piece of speculative fiction.Gets me thinking about how frequently fiction that speculates on a disenfranchised group getting power gets slotted into “horror”—and once you start thinking that way, all horror starts to look like a liberation fantasy as seen through the establishment’s eyes: Is Night of the Living Dead more about zombies, or more about the terror experienced by rural whites and the patriarchy when confronted with a competent black man? Is The Exorcist about demon possession or the threat of women’s liberation (see also, Carrie)?Is Psycho about a “psycho” or about the terrifying prospect of homosexuals no longer shackled by shame/guilt?
I normally would have skipped this (“Vulture—Louis CK Is Done”), because I don’t particularly care for Louis C.K.’s work one way or the other. But do yourself a favor and give this article read; it’s bigger than this moment, and starts to get its arms around something that we finally need to wrestle down:
When disturbing stories about respected artists come from the distant past, we treat them dispassionately, as just one detail among many. Present tense or near-present tense revelations hit us differently because we share the same world as the artist, breathe the same air, feed the same economy. We think of them as contemporaries, even as people we know. This kind of revelation changes the relationship between the artist and the art, in a way that places an unasked-for, unfair burden on the audience. This is what’s happening culture-wide. And it’s not the fault of people who didn’t report it, or audiences who aren’t sophisticated enough to separate the art from the artist. It’s the fault of the artists for being secret creeps or criminals, and the fault of the system for making it possible for them to act this way for years without being punished.
UPDATE:If you’re the sort of person who uses storytelling to help them understand the world, then this horror story might maybe help you understand Louis CK right now: “Hello, Handsome”
I was interviewed by Lisa Haselton for her Reviews and Interviews blog this past summer.This was technically part of the publicity for Expiration Date, but mostly ended up being about other things.I tell a long anecdote about “When I First Knew I Was a Writer” (i.e., “The Most Important Thing I Learned About Writing at 15-years-old”) and “My Most Interesting Writing Quirk”:
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I subvocalize almost constantly. Like, this sentence I’m typing right now, I’m thinking about saying it as I’m typing it. I can feel it on my tongue. It’s the same when I’m reading (and a big part of why I’m such a slow reader). Almost every thought I have is composed as an imagined dialogue with someone. Very little of what I say is spontaneous at all. I guess, for a lot of people, their process of reading/writing as actually fairly divorced from their process of speaking/hearing. For me they’re mashed into a single thing.
A good read, I guess, if you have a deep and persistent interest about what the heck is wrong with me.
I love a lot of things about both this Carnaval Sauvage de Bruxelles thang and Arthur’s contribution to it, bot most of all I love their costumes. When I was very little my mother was a docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and so my earliest memories are of that museum, and especially their collections of Native American and African ritual art and “material culture.” I’ve always loved the dance costumes they have in their collection (similar to those shown below, which are in the AIC), and the dances that went with them, which were exuberant and otherworldly to me (much like the sounds that I like to dig out of unsuspecting electronics).
Arthur also pointed me to a few of his fellow Brusselers (Brusselman? Brusselsprouts?) similarly pushing out into the fringes of the Good Noise. I’m loving this!
Tunde Olaniran: OMFG, Tunde Olaniran! From the sadly infamous Flint, MI, Tunde Olaniran is superfantastically trans-everything. Go listen to Transgressorand then buy it and then listen to it again and again and again. I seriously absolutely equally love every single track on that album.
Passalacqua: I’m still exploring these guys, both from Detroit; been loving everything I’ve tried by them. This mixtape is a low-risk place to start, but I’m leaning more toward their albums CHURCH and Passalacqua, and the Banglatown EP.
Noname: This poet/rapper from Chicago is awesome, the natural inheritor of the crown Lauren Hill dropped after releasing The Miseducation of Lauren Hill. Noname’s Telefono mixtape is absolutely mandatory listening. Go grab it now! Hell, at the very least go right now and listen to track number one (“Yesterday“) and tell me you don’t absolutely love Noname without reservation. GO!