Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Archive for February, 2012

Epic! Journey!

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Since I’m going to be gone for a week starting Sunday, I decided to give my son a more-than-usually-epic Thursday. Now, Thursday is generally my day off from the day job and my kid’s day off from preschool, our “River-Daddy Day,” but we usually content ourselves with hitting the library and the playground and running some errands — fun enough, but not fun enough to make up for a week of fatherlessness. So!

The boy loves boats. He’s ridden on the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco exactly once, ages ago, and still talks about it. So after a morning spent sculpting with play doh, we got our things together and took the train over to downtown Oakland. From there we strolled down to the waterfront and looked at the water for fifteen minutes or so until the ferry arrived. The kid was an ecstatic bundle of grins.

The boat ride is really too short for his taste, only about half an hour, but he enjoyed it immensely. He’d been asking me that morning, rather randomly, if we could “Go to a playground with a big rocketship,” and — what luck! — the Raygun Gothic Rocket Ship sculpture is in place right near the ferry building, so I took the kid over to check it out. (While he approved of the rocket, he was disappointed that he could not climb inside it or around on top of it.)

From there we wandered through the Farmer’s Market (honey straws!), and over to the Vaillancourt Fountain (which to me always looked like a big giant heap o’ tetanus, but River thought it was magical), where he got to walk on the stepping stones above the water, to his delight.

From there we wandered through a mall in vague search of food (no success — nothing the boy wanted to eat). He tired of vague perambulations and decided we needed more focus in our life, so we walked up to Columbus Ave and started going north, toward a playground and points beyond. We grabbed a couple slices of pizza at the little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint by City Lights Books. River marveled at the TransAmerica pyramid and (slightly less at) Coit Tower.

We dodged tourists for a while (I actually have nothing against tourists, as I am often a tourist myself, but they do tend to stand in bewildered clumps in the middle of sidewalks. Our stroller needs a cowcatcher), then found a playground. River insisted on playing, even though I knew there was a bigger more awesome playground a few blocks farther along — but it worked out, because he quickly bonded with a little girl, and they had a marvelous time running around together.

After he was playgrounded-out, we continued walking another mile or so up to Aquatic Park (not to be confused with the identically-named Aquatic Park in Berkeley, where we also go sometimes). River quickly divested himself of shoes and socks and got his pants rolled up so he could go wade in the bay surf.

Have I mentioned the weather was gorgeous? Temps in the ’70s, gentle breezes, no ice wind, no fog, beautiful sun. I lounged on the steps and watched the kid dabble his toes in the water. (He met a couple of brothers from Seattle just a bit older than him, and they played together wonderfully for an hour.)

I could have stayed for another two hours, honestly, it was so pleasant… but wrestling the giant stroller onto a train in the crush of rush hour didn’t appeal, so around 4 o’clock I changed him into dry clothes and we headed south again for a BART station. It wasn’t too crowded, and we both got seats. River snuggled contentedly against me on the ride home.

Then I made asparagus-potato soup and drank a beer and collapsed and got up again so I could give him a bath and put him to bed and wrote this.

A good day, but wow, I’m tired. Then again, walking 5+ miles (much of it pushing a stroller) will tend to wear one out…

Movie Night! Tonight!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The short film Impossible Dreams, based on my Hugo-winning story of the same name, is screening tonight in San Francisco as part of SF in SF! Here’s where and when:

The Variety Preview Room
582 Market St. @ Montgomery
1st floor of The Hobart Bldg.
Doors Open 6:00PM
Film starts: 7:00PM
Free Popcorn!

Just take BART to Montgomery if you don’t want the hassle of finding parking. I’ll do a ten- or fifteen-minute intro about the story and the movie (which is itself only 20 minutes long). The short film will be followed by the Harlan Ellison documentary Dreams with Sharp Teeth. I hope to see lots of you locals there. (And, you know, anyone farther away who feels like jumping on a plane.) There’s a cash bar. Donations are welcome at the door ($5-$10 suggested), and benefit the Variety Children’s Charity of Northern California.

My wife and I will likely slip out during the Ellison movie to get some dinner, since we won’t have time to eat before the event, so if you want to talk to me, captivate me beforehand!

Scientific Romance Redux

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

I wrote this poem for my wife on Valentine’s Day two years ago. The problem is, I don’t think I’ll ever write a better Valentine’s Day poem (though I’ll keep trying). But for all you lovers (and lovers of science fiction) here it is again:

Scientific Romance

If starship travel from our
Earth to some far
star and back again
at velocities approaching the speed
of light made you younger than me
due to the relativistic effects
of time dilation,
I’d show up on your doorstep hoping
you’d developed a thing for older men,
and I’d ask you to show me everything you
learned to pass the time
out there in the endless void
of night.

If we were the sole survivors
of a zombie apocalypse
and you were bitten and transformed
into a walking corpse
I wouldn’t even pick up my
assault shotgun,
I’d just let you take a bite
out of me, because I’d rather be
undead forever
with you
than alive alone
without you.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back
to the days of your youth
to see how you became the someone
I love so much today, and then
I’d return to the moment we first met
just so I could see my own face
when I saw your face
for the first time,
and okay,
I’d probably travel to the time
when we were a young couple
and try to get a three-way
going. I never understood
why more time travelers don’t do
that sort of thing.

If the alien invaders come
and hover in stern judgment
over our cities, trying to decide
whether to invite us to the Galactic
Federation of Confederated
Galaxies or if instead
a little genocide is called for,
I think our love could be a powerful
argument for the continued preservation
of humanity in general, or at least,
of you and me
in particular.

If we were captives together
in an alien zoo, I’d try to make
the best of it, cultivate a streak
of xeno-exhibitionism,
waggle my eyebrows, and make jokes
about breeding in captivity.

If I became lost in
the multiverse, exploring
infinite parallel dimensions, my
only criterion for settling
down somewhere would be
whether or not I could find you:
and once I did, I’d stay there even
if it was a world ruled by giant spider-
priests, or one where killer
robots won the Civil War, or even
a world where sandwiches
were never invented, because
you’d make it the best
of all possible worlds anyway,
and plus
we could get rich
off inventing sandwiches.

If the Singularity comes
and we upload our minds into a vast
computer simulation of near-infinite
complexity and perfect resolution,
and become capable of experiencing any
fantasy, exploring worlds bound only
by our enhanced imaginations,
I’d still spend at least 10^21 processing
cycles a month just sitting
on a virtual couch with you,
watching virtual TV,
eating virtual fajitas,
holding virtual hands,
and wishing
for the real thing.

Chaos and Trains

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I worked a lot this weekend, writing the first chapter and a half (and a synopsis) of the current novel, a work-for-hire job I think I’ll just call “the spy book” here for now. So that’s off to the publishers — let’s hope they like it, so I can continue to zoom onward in the same vein. I had a conference call with the main guys running the project last week, and told them my ideas for the storyline, and they were super enthusiastic, so I have high hopes. We seem very much on the same wavelength about how this book should go.

There’s a new chapter of Grim Tides up: “Meet Elsie Jarrow”. This is the chapter that properly introduces my favorite villain of the entire Marla series — probably my favorite of any antagonist I’ve ever created.

My wife and I have a reward system for our son. If he behaves, does his (largely symbolic at this point) chores, is helpful, etc., he earns points on a chart, and when he gets enough points, he gets a reward. Last night he cashed in a bunch of points to get a “movie night,” in which he was allowed to stay up a bit past his bedtime and watch a movie of his choosing with us on the couch. He picked The Iron Giant, which my wife had never seen, so that was fun. He was pretty good, too — engaged with the movie, and had a lot of questions, and was also quite rapt during some of the spectacle parts, and laughed a lot at some of the funny parts. I don’t think he entirely followed the plot, but he got the gist. We’ll do it again sometime.

In a couple of weeks I’m taking a train down to LA. I know, wacky, but on such short notice it’s cheaper than flying, and I can work on a train more comfortably than I can on an airplane. Besides, I’ve never been on a train trip, really (commuter trains don’t count), and the Coast Starlight route is supposed to be quite beautiful. I’ll be staying with my dear friends Jenn and Chris, who are letting me invade their guest room for a week of intense writing. Friends like them are a great help when one has a short deadline. It’s much easier to focus on writing if I’m not in my own home/town, where it’s too easy to get distracted by running errands, cleaning up, playing video games, etc. (And, yes, I’m cruelly leaving my wife as a solo parent for a week. But it’s okay — she’s doing the same thing to me later this year. We’re nothing if not equitable.) I’m excited. With luck I’ll be able to get half or two-thirds of my first draft done that week.

In Which My Son Defeats Me With Logic

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

A dialogue yesterday morning with my four-year-old son:

Him: “Daddy, do girls die?”

Me: “Well, yeah. Everybody dies, eventually.”

Him: “Will YOU die?”

Me: “Not for a long time, until I’m very old. Don’t worry about it.”

Him: “But does EVERYBODY die?”

Me: “Yeah, so far.”

Him: “But Santa Claus doesn’t die!”

Me: “Uh… Yeah. Wow. That’s a good point. You’re right. He doesn’t die because… he’s magic.”

Him: “Can I be magic?”

Me: “We’ll see.”

Coyote Lovely

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Hey, it’s a new week! That means there’s a new chapter of Grim Tides up, “Death Makes an Offer”. Enjoy!

On Saturday and Sunday I wrote a fantasy novelette, tentatively titled “A Tomb of Winter’s Plunder.” 8100 words in two days — not bad, and I’m pleased with how it turned out. We’ll see if the editor likes it.

I’m poised to begin a new work-for-hire project which includes some pretty short deadlines, but I’m waiting on some material from the publisher before I can begin. In the meantime… I have nothing due! The decks are cleared! I’m taking this opportunity to play Fallout 3 and read Reamde by Stephenson and The Drowning Girl by Kiernan and play with my kid and generally not work. Because soon, life will be nothing but work. Wall-to-wall, dawn-to-midnight work.

We had a fantastic weekend, really. I made apple-cinnamon pancakes for the boy on Saturday, and we spent the morning at a playground in Berkeley, where he made lots of new friends. In the afternoon Heather joined us for a little picnic, and set up a playdate for River with our friend Dan’s son. I wandered off to write the rest of the day away.

Sunday I wrote in the morning while wife and kid ran errands, then we all loaded up and went to Coyote Point, where there’s an especially awesome playground, with a 40+ foot play structure that includes one of the longest enclosed slides in the state. River went down the slide approximately eleventy bazillion times. A fun and fine outing, with weirdly springlike weather persisting. Sometimes life’s okay.