Monday, December 20, 2010

The Story of How Brownie Learned to Play Piano

One day, when Brownie, the elk who looks like a chipmunk with horns, was doing her job in Yellowstone National Park, conducting a nature talk, a little boy said to her, "Did you know you are an elk?" And Brownie had an enormous freak out and made the boy cry, and then she apologized and gave the boy a candy, but she still decided she needed to have a vacation.

So she talked to her supervisor, who was not an elk, and he suggested a trip to New Mexico. "I hear the desert is lovely this time of year," he said.

So Brownie the elk, who looks like a chipmunk with horns, got a Greyhound bus to Albuquerque. The bus driver looked at her when she got on the bus and said, "Did you know you're an elk?" But she just took a deep breath and said, "Yes."

She wandered around the desert, which was lovely that time of year, and took pictures. She met a man in the desert, and his name was Tom. The man's name was Tom, not the desert. Tom said, "I've never seen an elk in the desert in New Mexico before." He offered to show Brownie the special places in the desert where flowers grow, and which are especially lovely this time of year.

Tom took Brownie to special places in the desert, and she took lots of pictures of flowers, and felt very glad she had taken a vacation. She was so happy she thought she wouldn't even have a big freak out if someone asked her if she knew she was an elk.

Now Tom was a pianist in a blues band in Albuquerque, and he was a very good pianist. Brownie went to see Tom playing piano many times, and sometimes she took pictures of that, too. Tom showed her how to play "Chopsticks."

Plink plink plink plink plink plink.
Plink plink plink plink plink plink.
Plink plink plink plink plink plink.
Plink plink plink plink plink plink.

Then her vacation was over. She said goodbye to Tom and the desert and the flowers and took another picture of all of them, and got on the bus to Yellowstone. When she got back she went happily back to her job giving nature talks, and when children and bus drivers asked if she knew she was an elk she would say, in a very friendly way, "Yes, and I can also play piano!"

The End.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This is a Test

If this had been an actual post, there would be some content here of presumably nominal interest to at least me if nobody else.

(Testing tumblr and twitter feedish-type thing setting stuff.)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Better post something



Getting musty in here.

This is a foray back into the world of drawing from imagination. It's hard.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chapter 16



Or maybe chapter 17.

I'm just going to call this done. For now, I'm happy enough with it. I think I've learned a bit, and that's the most important thing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Cupmen Experiment



Cupmen (cupman?), ready for the test.



Extraction complete.



Cupmen at work.



Hot. Hot. Hot.



Thank you, Cupmen!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Some Other Thing





Returning to a picture I was working on before, and ended up not liking. I think the jacket helps.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Shoulder



I'm tempted to make a tag for "colors not turning out the way he wanted." :-/

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

As If I'd Never Stopped (Almost)



So, now that moving is more or less done, maybe I should start drawing again. First, start with some (cough) exercises. Yeah, that's it. They're exercises.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take Back The Desktop



I have stolen back the desktop, in hopes of getting back into the habit. This is from a picture of a dilapidated monument, I think of Ferdinand Marcos.

Monday, March 29, 2010

This is going to take a while

A spaceman:



This didn't work out right. Getting out of practice is a horrible thing.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

MyPaint Again

With one of the ink brush tools.



Still not great, but maybe a bit more interesting anyway. I like this software.

Friday, February 05, 2010

MyPaint

MyPaint is a open source painting program. Pretty easy to use, and lots of fun brushes. I've just installed it to play around with, and the first thing I tend to reach for in this kind of software is the 'pencil' tool:



Not great, but I blame it on rust. The software works well.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Additional Thoughts

I think that last post needed more time in the cooker. I'm too lazy to go back to it now, though.

And I think I need to draw and post more pictures.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Worse than Television

"What have you created and released?" Charlie Stross asks.

Well, as anyone who looks at this probably knows:
  • two short novels, with a third on the way
  • A few short stories (temporarily unavailable because the Dead Channel is down)
  • More than a decade ago, Mingw32 (which has been much improved by the efforts of others since I moved on)


I've sent out a few pictures here and there as well.

On the other hand, I don't believe (at all) that creative people are obligated to give away their work for free. Some of my best friends are authors, or aspiring authors. I've given my work away for free because, while I love to write, I don't have the need or the time and energy to get paid for it, at least for the time being. It would take a lot of work to go pro. There's probably another blog post in that whole topic.

What prompted this, though, aside from a desire to brag (sorry), is piracy.

Specifically, I have this gut feeling that piracy is not the root cause of the crisis in publishing (or the crisis in music). Which is not to say there isn't a crisis, or that copying somebody's work against their will isn't wrong. However, I have the feeling that the industry's problems are coming from elsewhere. One of these places is a general economic downturn. We're all less willing to spend money on stuff.

The other part is a proliferation of distractions, many of them legitimately free. I could easily spend all my time on the internet, on twitter and in web forums, and without infringing on anyone's copyright. I hardly watch TV any more at all. I have DVDs for a series that I bought last year still sitting unwatched. I have deliberately started scheduling reading time for myself so I don't spend all of my time on the net and forget the pleasure of books.

Some of these distractions are even "creative." I might not be writing and drawing at all without the internet. I can spend time editing Wikipedia articles or participating in online discussions. I can spend time looking for references and information related to my next project. This blog itself is a distraction from reading I could be doing to help some professional author make ends meet. It's part of the attraction of the internet, that you can be doing creative, or at least interactive, things with it. It feels so much more fulfilling than vegetating in front of a TV set. And yet, this is, I think, helping to destroy the publishing industry.

What should we do about it? Hell, I don't know. I'm certainly not going to suggest people should step back from the keyboards and leave it to the professionals. There has to be some recognition that doing great work requires dedication and a lot of hard work that should translate into a tangible reward. I worry quite a bit about works of art and literature might not be created because talented people can't make a living producing them. I think eventually a balance will emerge, but I also think it's going to be messy for a while.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sketchbook

I found a blank page in my old sketchbook, and started to fill it in with five-minute sketches from randomly selected reference images. I'm using a pencil!



I don't just draw girls. I also draw old men and tigers.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Far Too Detailed Picture of a Carp



And a minutely different picture of a woman lying on cushions.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Book Review

The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Three

Picked this one up at World Fantasy this year (er, I mean last year), mainly because Tim has a story in it, but it turned out to be a pretty good collection overall.

There's no real theme connecting the stories, except that they could all (sometimes with a little stretching) be called science fiction. There are crossovers into alternate (SF-nal) history, and borderline works of fantasy, but basically it is what it says on the cover: new, and science fiction. Here are some comments on each of the stories, in the order they appear in the book:

"Rescue Mission" - I found this one a little weak, especially as a way to start the book. For most of the story it was a somewhat creepy and weird bit of suspense. At the end it did a switch so that the main character could have some character development and save the day at the same time. The ending seemed a bit pat and hand-wavy, and not all of it even made sense. OK, but not great.

"The Fixation" - Spooky quantum effects create order by shunting entropy into other universes, leading to unexpected, horrible effects. Successful as far as it went, but the idea seemed too easy, somehow, and it lapsed off into a fantasy toward the end. A good effort, but still not great.

"Artifacts" - A "What if this is the way the whole universe works" story. The reader is supposed to be left in awe of the stupendous metaphysics, but it seems trite, somehow unimportant. Stories that hinge on metaphysical systems like this end up being a bit like those times in university (or high school) when you first discovered ideas like, "What if we are all brains in a vat?" The Matrix (which is a film that works, in my opinion) came out ideas like that, and the answer plays a large part in driving the story in that film, but it still comes down to a story, a conflict between characters and forces. This story, unfortunately, stopped after the reveal. "Look! This is how it works!" OK... but so what?

"Necroflux Day" - I was worried at this point. This story starts off with something I don't much like about most modern short fiction: The "Oh my God it's so weird!" description. Look how much odd shit I can put on the page. I am the master of strange. But strange doesn't make a story good. Pointlessly strange details, or just pointless details, distract me. They worry me. I immediately begin to wonder if the author is trotting out this stuff to try and cover for the fact that they don't have anything to say. Luckily, this was not the case. Soon the author found his rhythm, and, although he continued with the weird, it was in service of actual people who were actually interesting and had actual, actually interesting problems. Can you actually believe it?

The fact that part of the story revolves around a completely mundane task (a child writing an essay for school) jarred me out of the rest of the world from time to time. It didn't fit very well. But the story itself hung together nicely and the big reveal, the awful, weird thing that short fiction authors are required to put in their stories and spring on the reader at the end, was used in the service of a character's realistic and involving emotion, rather than just being this big thing that's supposed to be impressive because it's so big and, like, weird. Good story. A. Saved the book for me.

"Providence" - I find Paul Di Filippo's work mildly annoying at the best of times. Maybe that makes me a bad person. Here we have a throw away story around a flimsy artificial premise, and lots of beep beep noises. That's about it. I didn't care about any of the characters or anything they did or saw. About a page in I had determined everything the author wanted me to be surprised and impressed by, and I was not surprised or impressed. They're robots, hooked on records. Woo. Hoo. That is just so amazing and cool. Not.

Back to being worried, but almost halfway through now, and I felt I should go on.

"Carnival Night" - A serviceable little story, basically a crime story but with a few SF-nal trappings and SF required to make the reveal work. Brief and to the point, and reasonably entertaining even if the characters were flat.

"The Assistant" - Again, a reasonably entertaining, small story. The author relies a little too heavily on the hook (What if the office cleaners who empty the trash cans were super high-tech industrial espionage prevention teams!?) and leaves the rest of the story a bit thin, but gets in enough engagement with the characters to make a passing grade.

"Glitch" - Odd, but it worked OK. There was a bit of dragging, here and there, and a bit of that old chestnut (the robot wants to be human), but with a somewhat interesting twist. I'd give it a B.

"One of Our Bastards is Missing" - Alternative history, maybe, or maybe just fantasy, with a bit of a SF twist. The story managed to keep some balance between the weird ideas of pocket dimensions, the somewhat less weird but still alien pseudo-Elizabethan mannerisms, and the slightly two-dimensional but still interesting characters. In the end, an interesting package. A.

"Woodpunk" - A little plodding. This is a message story. The trappings are fairly nice, but we've heard this message before. And even though it's an important message, repeating it doesn't help the story. Not bad, but on the low end.

"Minya's Astral Angels" - Some cute ideas and OK characterization and development carry this story. Solid. Not superb, but solid.

"The Best Monkey" - Started off not really liking this one, but it grew on me, and eventually I found it one of the better stories in the collection. The characters (character, really) clicked after a while, and from there on it was an engaging detective story towards an interesting reveal.

"Long Stay" - An odd little story which has potential and then seems to go plonk right at the end, as if the author had run out of things to say. I did quite like the setup though, especially since I was reading it on a plane.

"A Soul Stitched to Iron" - Tim's story. This story features Jacob Burn, the somewhat abrasive protagonist of Tim's novel Heart of Veridon. It's a solid entry. I can't say I thought it was brilliant, but it was pretty good. It works best in the descriptions of the weird and often chilling entities hiding in the shadows of Tim's invented city. Unfortunately the story itself felt strangely inconsequential. Even though there are big implied effects (death, destruction of families, another eon of sleep, etc. etc.) for other people, nothing really happens to the main character except he watches people (and things) go down, and nudges things along here and there. Still, not bad.

"iThink, therefor I am" - A rather short, silly, and slightly preachy piece. Vaguely amusing, but not one of my favorites.

Looking back over all that, I think I may appear more negative than I mean to be. It's a solid collection of quite readable stories. A few of the stories didn't work for me, but most of them did. None of the stories were absolutely mind-blowing, but maybe that's because I'm just a jaded husk of a man without a spark of wonder left in my soul. Maybe that's it.

It's worth reading.