re: Write

by wjw on May 9, 2007

I’ve been doing two simultaneous rewrites, the final draft of the new novel Implied Spaces, and the proofs of the reissue of my 1987 novel, Voice of the Whirlwind.

This was the first time I’d read VotW since correcting the original proofs more than twenty years ago. I’ve been very proud of the book, and (back when it was in print) it was always the book I’d tell new readers to look at first.

My first reaction on reading the proofs was, “Hmm. I’m a much better writer now.” And, as I progressed, my next thought was, “Wow! I couldn’t write some of these scenes now if you held a gun to my head!” There are some intense moments— quite good ones, too— that I just couldn’t duplicate now. It was a different time, and I was a different person.

The book has a rather odd history. I wrote the first part of the book in 1980 or 1981— I think 1980, because I got my first word processor in ’81 and the original pages are typewritten. Then I either got stuck, or I got some paying work, and the pages went into the file cabinet for several years.

When I finished Hardwired in the fall of 1984, I got inspired and wrote the first 100 pages of Angel Station in a grand burst of energy. And then inspiration failed, and I remembered the pages that were sitting in the file cabinet, and looked at them, and suddenly knew how to finish the book. So Angel Station went into the files while I finished Voice of the Whirlwind, which I did in mid-1985. I didn’t get back to Angel Station for a couple more years, because Tor didn’t want another big hardback SF novel from me until they saw how the others had done.

(I should have gone to another publisher, but I was young and stupid.)

I improved as a writer between 1980 and 1984. I could tell the difference between those original pages and the ones written later.

I’m not sure anyone other than myself would notice. The difference is in phrasing, or sentence structure, or a matter of emphasis. It wasn’t anything I could fix, exactly, and I’m not sure it actually needed fixing. There wasn’t anything wrong; I’ve just learned more efficient ways of doing things now.

And VotW remains my best job of plotting ever. The last few chapters have no less than four major reveals, in which everything you think you know is shown to be false, and a whole new interpretation of events is layered onto the old. From a technical standpoint, this is just so totally cool! I really have to salute myself! Plotboy strikes again!

Certain themes, I note, have remained constant over the years. The protagonist of VotW is a martial artist, and so is the protagonist of Implied Spaces. (The difference is that Steward is young, and in training, and thinks about martial arts a lot; whereas the other guy is a lot older, and has been doing it for so long he doesn’t have to think about it at all; and all this has a lot to do with my progression as a martial artist.)

In both novels, each protagonists is trying to solve a mystery that also brings into question fundamental issues of identity. Both are on a quest that takes them to different worlds and encounters with profoundly alien beings. Both are essentially immortal; both aspire to the status of sage; both quote poetry to themselves. One views the world through the prism of Zen; the other is dealing with existential issues. Each is obsessed by his own past.

The differences between the two books are more profound than the similarities, but I’d give too much away if I went into details. Each book reflects the author: one was written by a young, ambitious, and extremely poor man who lived in a dubious neighborhood full of drug use and violence, and who had just found his voice as a writer; the other is written by an established guy living in material comfort in a rural idyll. VotW was written by someone deliberately performing technical experiments, and thinking hard about them; Implied Spaces is written with unconscious competence, by someone who doesn’t have to think about the technical stuff much at all, because it’s all so ingrained that now I just sort of do it.

Despite Whirlwind being the Zen book, Implied Spaces was written by more of a Zen author.

Inevitable commercial notice: Voice of the Whirlwind will appear from Night Shade Books, I believe in July.

Johan Larson May 10, 2007 at 3:19 pm

When do you expect Implied Spaces to be released?

Tracy Taylor May 10, 2007 at 5:34 pm

“Each book reflects the author: one was written by a young, ambitious, and extremely poor man who lived in a dubious neighborhood full of drug use and violence, and who had just found his voice as a writer; the other is written by an established guy living in material comfort in a rural idyll.”

Wow, I’m still hoping this will be me someday. I have the first part almost down – dodgey neighborhood, trying to find my voice – it’s the second half that’s tricky.

I’m working on a rewrite at the moment and, unlike someone of your caliber, I see what I wrote awhile ago and say, “Oh God, crappety, crap, crap, crap. I can’t believe I actually sent this out.” 🙂

But I guess that’s the nature of the business, write and learn. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to look at this post and say, “yep, been there.”

dubjay May 10, 2007 at 8:26 pm

I think Implied Spaces has been tentatively scheduled for next spring, but I could be wrong.

Tracy, I have those “crap crap crappity crap” moments, too. Just keep on slugging. Persistence is rewarded in this game.

halojones-fan May 10, 2007 at 11:20 pm

I heard this attributed to Bruce Lee…

“Before you learn the art, a punch is just a punch.
After you learn the art, a punch is no longer just a punch.
But when you understand the art, a punch is again just a punch.”

Mathew May 11, 2007 at 12:01 am

Voice was one of the inspirations for me to begin training. I read it when it was first published in paperback ( think I was 14 or so ) and when I started training in Goju-Ryu I saw a lot of commonalities between this work of fiction and books by Funashoki, musashi, and Yamaguchi. I still read it every 6 months, and enjoy it every time 🙂

dubjay May 11, 2007 at 2:22 am

Wow, Mathew! You’ve read VotW a lot more times than I have!

I treasure loyal readers, I truly do.

HJF, Bruce Lee was (as usual) right on the money.

Mathew May 11, 2007 at 2:29 pm

Well I’m not very adventurous when it comes to finding new reading material.I read for pleasure, and due to the typical obligations ( family work, and college even though I’m 34 ), I dont have alot of time to seek out new reads, I just re-read books that I know I like. I did just stumble across the Madrid Audran novels from George Alec Effenger, and love them but was really disapointed to learn that he passed away a couple years ago. Thats why I posted up awhile ago hoping for some conclusion to the City on fire series, I’ve read them as much as I’ve read “Voice” :). I’ve been reading John Ringo lately, but his stories are basicly Mack Bolan in space .

dubjay May 11, 2007 at 3:49 pm

Mathew, please do not apologize for reading my books over and over. I don’t have a problem with it. Really.

Books that I read over and over include =Creatures of Light and Darkness,= Heinlein’s greatest hits, and =Gravity’s Rainbow.=


Tarl Neustaedter May 11, 2007 at 4:44 pm

Dubjay asks: [rereads] Y’all?

Vernor Vinge’s Marooned in Realtime
Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.
Pournelle/Stirling/Niven’s CoDominium & Mote series.
Weber’s Mutineer’s Moon series.
Recently, WJW’s Praxis series.

On occasions when I’ve having a miserable set of conflicts at the office, Stirling’s Draka series (as a reminder that things could be worse).

Kelly May 11, 2007 at 7:35 pm

I’m looking forward to Implied Spaces with anticipation.

Consistent rereads for me:

Bruce Sterling’s Holy Fire.

Your Metropolitan, three Praxis books, and Rock of Ages (which I re-read when I’m sick).

Michael Bishop’s Brittle Innings (at least once a year) and his novella Simply Indispensable.

The Jane Austen canon. (I always take one when I’m traveling — they’re good company.)

Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book, Bellwether and her short story collections.

And nonfiction: London the Biography by Peter Ackroyd and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.

Mathew May 12, 2007 at 5:55 am

Actually my #1 re-read is Orwell’s ‘1984’. It seems to get more relevent every day 🙂
Also Turtledove’s “Guns of the South”…Just for the cover alone of Robert E Lee holding an AK-47. Along with Ginchin Funakoshi’s “Karate Do” and all of WjW’s and Wm. Gibsons’s books, make up my “Fun Happy Time” reading .oh, “Starship Troopers” too, even though it’s really hard to believe it was published as a kids book originaly.

Michjael Grosberg May 12, 2007 at 6:25 pm

Rereads? let’s see:
Metropolitan & city on fire, VotW, Snow Crash, A Fire Upon the Deep, The Mote in God’s Eye, Bester’s The Computer connection (slight, but very funny), Romain Gary’s (Writing as Emile ajar) King Solomon and The Life Before Us, and of course Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on the Bummel.

I’m very happy to hear VotW is back in print; it is one of my all time favorites. I love the worldbuilding and the resolution. I also loved the two short stories set in the same world, and for many years wished you’d write more in the same setting.

halojones-fan May 14, 2007 at 6:09 pm

My “books I will hand to someone who asks for a good book” shelf has:

Hardwired (Williams)
Rolling Hot (Drake)
The Green Mile (King)
Starship Troopers (Heinlein)
The Final Reflection (Ford)
Shadows Linger (Cook)
All Creatures Great And Small (Herriot)
The Great Shark Hunt (Thompson)
Parliament Of Whores (O’Rourke)
The Right Stuff (Wolfe)

dubjay May 15, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Good lists, all!

I’m flattered to be in all this great company.

Me ‘n’ Jane Austen used to hang out, you know. We were just like that.

Pete Tillman May 19, 2007 at 2:27 am

Walter: from the hard drive, an old review by PM Agapow, the Aussie Postvue guy:

“An absolutely superb piece of tight plotting that twists and turns. Unlike
other stories featuring professional killers, Stewart never becomes asuperman or omniscient but instead is an effective but fallible hero like
the best efforts of Ian Fleming or Raymond Chandler. The story sucks you in
and pulls you along. This is good.

Highly recommended. Tequila slammers on the Sid and Nancy scale.”

I guess if I catch up here I’ll learn about Implied Spaces? Is “Womb of Every World” an excerpt?

Cheers — Pete Tillman

“Cops Say Human Skull Collection Is OK”
–headline, Chicago Sun-Times, 3-3-07

dubjay May 19, 2007 at 4:53 am

You know, we couldn’t find any old reviews of VotW when we looked for them.

Thanks, Pete. I may just send that one on to Night Shade.

“Womb of Every World” is indeed a chunk of =Implied Spaces.=

Pete Tillman May 20, 2007 at 6:13 am

His column/website was called “Postviews” and seems to have vanished. Here’s his current site:

Cheers — Pete Tillman

puff October 15, 2008 at 11:25 am

Is the zen koan from Voice from a particular source?

Voice is probably my favorite WJW book, and I really like that koan, especially the moral angle, with regard to deception. Sort of a different take on “you can’t con an honest man.”

dubjay October 15, 2008 at 7:28 pm

All the Zen koans in VotW are real Zen koans, but after so long a space of years I don’t remember where I got them.

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