Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Will They Come?

China is building progressive billion-dollar ghost cities.

It's true.

The People's Republic is subsidizing middle-of-nowhere construction of metropolises, with high-rise housing, schools, musuems, even mosoleums.

The goal is twofold: thin out the crowded established cities, and bring farmers to factories to produce more exports.

Incredibly, there are 6-20 of these population-primed places--including Ordos, in inner Mongolia--that stand ready to receive their 1 million citizens. And, in standard China fashion, there's no hurry. Real estate investors recovered the first year what they needed to break even on costs. If they take the next 10 to profit, that's perfectly reasonable.

And it will take a long time for the profits to start coming. Because no one is moving in. Streets, buses, parks, restaurants: everywhere is empty. That's the first problem. The second is mantenannce. Landscaping, building, and road upkeep are lagging. But China will wait, as it's good at doing, for the cities to boom, certain they will, while we in the West think this is pretty creepy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

33,000 Words In...

...I'm finding that writing sci-fi is tricky -- and fun!

First, I research history, economics, biology, technology. Anthropology, too. Sometimes it's super scary stuff. What I'm trying to do is to push out trends another 90 years into the future. How is the world different? What has caused it to change? What is the action/reaction to that change? How has the world stayed the same?

I take a tiny bit of research and fit it into my story. Sci-fi has to be original, exciting, unpredictable, but it also needs to be believeable.

And every page I move forward in my MS, I go back to the beginning and flush out that. So the story is hopefully deeper, richer, more cohesive. So it has more tension, more conflict. So the ethical, moral, and philosophical questions have answers.

With sci-fi, there is serious world-building, serious setting. And, I'm writing in 2 different limited omniscient voices.

Here's the first line:

It came down to cauliflower, Anja Knew.

I'll tell you one thing: this MS will need serious revision. Honest, I can't wait to tackle that. (Wiggles fingers.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Frozen in Time

So yesterday, my community college writing classroom was visited by the vice president.

I was nervous, I told my husband, because the lesson was a tricky one (the integration of implications), because it was the vice president coming, because even though I trusted my students completely, anything, anything could happen.

And it did.

The clock stopped.

Now, you might think there could be a worse distraction. And, there definitely could be.

I had practiced, I had prepped my incredible students. I had ironed, even got my hair cut.

But I had no idea how dependent I was on that cheeky little clock. Starting class, giving the 5-minute warm-up activity, stopping for a break, resuming, ending...there was no measure for any of it.

Technology -- basic technology -- had failed me.

Sure, the lesson went on. There were popcorn kernels and writing prompts. Reflection. Analysis. Evaluation. The students were their incredible selves: engaged, delightful, critical thinkers in full attendance.

Halfway through the hour(?), I stopped sweating it. If we started at 9:47 and ended at 9:47, if anything went super south, I convinced myself, I could pretend the whole class never happened.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's Missing

Before Dave and I watched "Win-Win," I browsed through some reviews and their replies. One reply summed: "The only good part of this movie is the acting."

Do you remember when good acting was enough? When things didn't blow up or transform or strip down to nothing, but when dialogue was rich and actors' eyes told stories?

Story telling. It's falling behind on the media fast track. But, sheesh, when we experience it, it really is something.

Last week, Dave and I went to a local storytelling night. Six random community members spoke on one theme: "Love Hurts." There were big laughs from the audience during a tale of two tussling roommates, some sniffles over a marriage that evaporated without warning.

Each story was an authentic conversation between the talker and the listener. For days afterwards, this conversation lingered: a phrase, a word, the raise of an eyebrow.

There was thinking and feeling.

Which makes me wonder.

What are we doing when we're watching "Fast and Furious...5?"