Ego Boost

This post on the White Wolf forums has made me feel all warm, fuzzy and competent.

So, obviously, I have to tell everyone about it. Look! Look! I have a fan who isn’t my mother!

OK, more seriously, this is one of the things that makes writing worthwhile. The Guardian had an interview with Keira Knightley, in which she said that, if she believed the good stuff, she’d have to believe the bad stuff as well, so it’s better not to believe anything. While we’re in very different situations (like, she’s actually famous), I can’t agree with that position.

I think one of the things that’s hardest to learn, really learn, when going into a creative industry, or just being creative, is that you can’t please everyone. I mean, everyone knows that. It’s a cliché. On the other hand, it’s remarkably difficult to really understand and accept it on a gut level. You can’t please everyone. That means, in concrete terms, that there will be actual people who do not like your work. In this age of blogs, mailing lists, and internet fora, there is a reasonable chance that they will tell you so. Possibly at length, and almost certainly in terms of objective failure.

All this tells you, though, is that you really can’t please everyone.

On the other hand, I’m not creative purely for myself. Some people are, but I want to give pleasure to, and maybe inspire thought in, at least some other people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with creating purely for yourself, and I do it sometimes; there are files on my hard drive that are not intended for other people to see (and not exclusively because they’re about sex, either). But it’s not what I’m doing in the material that I have published.

Thus, the appearance of people, like the poster in the thread I referenced, who like my work to the point of describing themselves as a “big fan” of it, means that I have succeeded. Obviously, the more people who think that way, the better, all else being equal, but if there’s even one such person, I haven’t failed. I’ve merely chosen a minority form of expression. (If there were only one, I’d have failed commercially, but that’s a different issue.)

So, I think you can believe both the good and the bad. The bad tells you nothing new, just that you can’t please everyone. The good, on the other hand, does tell you something new. It tells you that, in at least some cases, you have succeeded. It tells you that your work was artistically successful.

And that, I think, is well worth knowing.

We’re Back!

We’ve just got back from our Golden Week holiday, to various places in Tohoku. It was a really, really good trip; six nights, seven days. I can’t remember last time I went on trip that long that wasn’t to visit family. I also took lots of photos, so detailed accounts, with pictures, will go up in the diary over the next few days.

I’ve also come back to 1071 new emails. If you’ve sent me an email this week, it may be a little while before I get round to replying to you… (Or, if there are 1000 spam and 71 real emails, it may not.)

Busy, busy, busy…

So, I’m a bit busy at the moment, largely due to having a touch under 30,000 words to write in the next ten days. Other than that, I think I’m fine, but I’m getting a bit behind on email, especially the non-urgent kind.

Lots has happened while I’ve been busy, which is one of the reasons I still have 30,000 words to do; we been back to the clinic and seen our baby again, dancing to the ultrasound. (So the 3D photo is a bit blurry, because Yudetamago just wouldn’t sit still.) One of my US cousins has been to visit. Yuriko’s art fair happened. Yuriko’s brother came to visit, for the art fair. Teaching has still been going on. And did I mention the tens of thousands of words in not very long at all?

So a short blog entry before I go back to work. (Actually, 5,000 words written today, so I won’t be doing any more writing today. I might be burned out tomorrow as it is. And I don’t have time to be burned out.)

The Hour of the Dragon

About five and a half years ago, Borders in Cambridge had a sale on the Fantasy Masterworks series. I bought a lot of them, sure that I would get round to reading them eventually. I have just finished getting through them. (I still have some other books that I brought with me from England, but none quite so old. I do have journals from that long ago, though, still waiting to be read.) The one I’ve just read is the second volume of the collected stories of Conan the Barbarian.

I actually enjoyed this rather more than I expected to. While they are not going to join the list of my favourite books ever, they were definitely fun. Conan is implausibly strong, with impossible stamina and fighting skills, and a remarkable tendency to meet extremely attractive women in metal bikinis. Or nothing at all. He tends to go into underground complexes, kill monsters, and come out with treasure.

Oh my god, it’s Dungeons and Dragons.

D&D is often described as “Tolkienesque”, but the basic narrative structure is not very much like Tokien at all. In fact, back when I was writing for the Lord of the Rings RPG, one of the really striking things was how little like the standard D&D conventions Tolkien’s work actually was. Similarly, although Jack Vance’s Dying Earth books are cited as influences, and some ideas were simply lifted, the tone of the Dying Earth is nothing like the tone of D&D. (And the Dying Earth roleplaying game is very, very different from D&D, as it should be.)

Conan the Barbarian, on the other hand, reads more like a write-up of a D&D session than most D&D novels. (OK, “than most of the D&D novels I have read”, which only comes to a tiny fraction of the total published.) Since Conan is one of the archetypal “pulp” story series, this means that D&D is really a pulp RPG.

And this, dear readers, is why Conan the Barbarian counts as work for me. This sort of realisation is directly relevant to writing games, because it gives a bit more insight into what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s a good thing I love my job.

Oops

I upgraded my blog software yesterday, and accidentally deleted the .htaccess file for this blog. That meant that, although the front page was working fine, the archive pages and RSS feed were broken. Thanks to Sheila for pointing it out to me.

Anyway, it looks to me as if everything is working again now. Please let me know if it isn’t. (Yes, I know that wouldn’t be any use if the whole blog were broken. But I think most of it works, so you might be able to read this but still find something broken.)