Science Fiction Repair Shop: How To Give Constructive Feedback

My advice for how to give truly constructive feedback on someone else's work.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-18 21:00:00 No comments

Among the creators I know, one of the most common experiences they share is having been the subject of unproductive feedback. Most people, even most published authors, are just not very good at giving constructive feedback. It's inherently difficult to do this well, and too often people fall back on wholly unconstructive praise ("It's great!") or equally unconstructive decimating nitpickery.

Here is my advice for how to give truly constructive feedback on someone else's work, distilled down into the smallest number of subheads I could manage.

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Tags: advice creativity creators criticism writing

Don't Hide It, Provide It

The idea that you have to guard your story ideas, lest someone steal them, is a pernicious myth.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-17 21:00:00 No comments

Of all the misconceptions people have about creative work, one of the largest — and one I find myself constantly having to counter — is the idea that whatever idea one has for a project, it should be jealously guarded like a trade secret until the work is done, because otherwise someone might steal it! Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Tags: creativity creators ideas inspiration writing

Unmortal: Behind The Scenes With 'Unmortal', Pt. 4: The Story

How everything from 'The Battle Of Algiers' to 'Soul Eater' fed into the making of my new novel.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-17 12:00:00 No comments

In the time leading up to the release of my new novel Unmortal, I'll be making a series of posts to serve as an extended introduction to the book — its origins, its influences, its themes, its setting and characters. Enjoy.

(See all entries in this series here.)

In my previous installment in this series, I talked about the major influences on my forthcoming novel Unmortal. Here, I'm going to talk about the way those influences came together to form a story.

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Tags: Behind The Scenes: Unmortal Infinimata Press Unmortal influences inspiration storytelling

Naked Brunch

On the problem of avant-gardism having no criterion for failure.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-15 12:00:00 No comments

The other day I tracked down, after a great many delays, a book with possible relevance for a future project of mine. This work was purported to be avant-garde experimental cyberpunk. I opened it and read:

<<I record the vital-icon+our chromosome form escape of the suck=blood chromosome::the horizon of the body fluid=murder like the dog that was done to nude gene=TV/spasm//I am disillusioned with the volume inoculation of hydromachine::the circuit without the end of masses of flesh::I disappear with the body of the machine nature of ToK::<<I suck the porno nerve gas of boyroid//The soul/gram of self crushes to the quantum tragedy of NDRO//Output=criminal of the internal-organ-system>>It quantifies++maso=traffic::of ToKAGE that crowds in the Cadaver City-city//Soul/gram of which liquefied internal body fluid++of self that caused digital-vamp the rape function::the beast that proliferates is imprisoned to the hologram of a dog and reverb//Malice of crucified memory/


224 more pages of this contentless verbal white-noise bullshit later (I demand hazard pay), I wrote in disgust a review for Goodreads, which I quote here in its entirety:

The complete lack of a story (the synopsis on the back cover, which matches nothing inside, is the most blazing scarlet of red herrings; someone else should write that book), the post-everything garbage salad text (whether or not it was a Markov-chain generation or typed lovingly by human hands, who cares), the gushing blurbs from various avant-garde and avant-adjacent figures — all of those bulk microscopic compared to the aesthetic and intellectual con job of daring to call this a "cyberpunk" work except in the sense that its fly-blown corpus contains the requisite buzzwords. That we now live, for better or worse, in a science-fiction novel — one by Philip K. Dick, by the looks of it — isn't going to be ameliorated or illuminated by throwing a bunch of contentless cut-up texts between a pair of covers. Whoever name-dropped the shade of William S. Burroughs on the flap copy should be ashamed of themselves.

Ever get the feeling you'd been cheated?

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Tags: Kenji Siratori avant-garde cyberpunk experimentation fiction writing

The Story Worth Telling

"Asking 'what is the story worth telling?' is a question we can’t avoid."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-13 23:00:00 No comments

Steve sez:

We usually build worlds for a reason because we have some idea of what story to tell. But if you’re a heavy worldbuilder (like myself), questions arise as you write the first story or plot the next. You have to ask “what is the story worth telling?”

... As writers, we must remember our audience only has so much time, and we have so much time to write. Asking “what is the story worth telling?” is a question we can’t avoid.

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Tags: storytelling writing

Free Your Mind, Guy

Or at least, free your Guy, and the rest will follow. (On "Free Guy" and some thoughts related.)

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-11 21:00:00 No comments

Purchase on Amazon

Last night I watched Free Guy, which is breezy and funny, and had a couple of things in it that sincerely sideswiped me. Big dumb popular entertainments are more often a miss than a hit for me, but what little I knew about the movie sparked some interest, and I gave it a shot. I wasn't disappointed, and again, it showed good insight into its own material that put it a notch or two above what it could have been. (Warning: spoilers!)

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Tags: Buddhism Free Guy Ryan Reynolds movies

The Strongest Poison

A nightmare of how the power of modern envy makes it the deadliest of human emotions.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-09 21:00:00 No comments

The other night I dreamed I was in a house I'd lived in before this one. I came downstairs after a nap to encounter a strange man I'd never seen before (he looked a little like John Fetterman, without the rocky charisma) standing in my kitchen. He had unscrewed the gas line from the stove and was filling the air with gas, the better to blow up the house. And he was smiling this crooked, arrogant smile.

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Tags: dreams psychology sociology

Hybrid Unconscious Hyperspaces, January 2022 Edition

An earlier dream returned in a new incarnation.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-09 12:00:00 No comments

My dreams often unfold in places that feel like hybrids of places in the real world — the front end of one place connected to the back end of another, a room from an early part of my life changing as I turn around in it and becoming another room from the later part of my life. One place in an earlier dream of mine returns from time to time — the "record store", sometimes intermelded with other places past and present. The other night it returned again, mixed with the presence of spaces I associated with my family, and going somewhere with them.

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Tags: dreams

The Anything Machines

"You can do whatever you want" seems better expressed as "You can attempt anything you want to attempt."

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-08 21:00:00 No comments

A common, well-meaning, and often unthinking form of inspirational advice usually comes in the form "You can do whatever you want if you try." I've always hated this line, because no, you can't do whatever you want if you try; sometimes it's simply not physically possible. Or it's such a long shot that all you're doing is encouraging someone to dash themselves against the rocks.

And yet there's a grain of truth in there — a tiny one, one I'd need IBM's atom-manipulating tweezers to grasp, but a grain all the same. Reframing the statement helps bring it out. "You can do whatever you want" seems better expressed as "You can attempt anything you want to attempt."

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Tags: creativity creators

Outside The Copying Spiral

How do you get out of the spiral of copying your influences to producing truly original work?

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-01-07 12:00:00 No comments

Most every author I've known personally, myself included, had a period where most everything they wrote was a copy, whether writ large or small, of one of their influences. All the explicit riffing I did on Hubert Selby and Stanisław Lem and PKD is, I hope, behind me by now, but man if there wasn't a time where everything that came out felt like an homage in the worst possible way. If what I'm writing now isn't any good, at least it's my own brand of not-any-good.

So how do you get out of the spiral of copying your influences to producing original work? Same way you get to Carnegie Hall, I guess: practice. And by incrementally moving your window of work away from your idols.

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Tags: Hubert Selby Jr. Philip K. Dick Stanisław Lem creativity creators

See earlier posts from January 2022