Archive | September 2011

Quotidian Pohang

The momentary thrill of drinking can end your happiness forever.

Banga Waeyo!

I started taking a Korean class at one of the colleges here. Most of my fellow students are exchange students from across Europe and Asia. (It’s fun being in a class where the Austrian guy makes an “oh la la” joke about the French guy.) Another student is the wife of one of the school’s visiting professors, and the rest of us (three including myself) are Public School English teachers.

Let me first say I am lousy at languages. If you’ve ever had a conversation with me, you’d have noticed I can barely speak English with ease and it’s my native language. I’ve screwed the pooch in every language class I’ve ever taken.

But I’m making the effort here, because I consider myself better organized than at those times. I know what’s in store and I have a grasp of what I need to do. It doesn’t mean I do it. I don’t study everyday like I should, but it’s better than never, which is an improvement. I’m also living in the culture and living with a native speaker so I’m learning in a different environment (not to mention it’s the only class I’m taking).

One positive side effect is it’s making me approach my own teaching differently. I can see the why behind some of my students’ mistakes and possible ways to explain tricky pieces of grammar to them by relating it to something in Korean. So overall it’s a net plus, even if my brain feels a bit more fried than usual.

Another side effect is I keep trying to form a narrative out of all these examples and illustrations in the book. The main character is a vapid umbrellaless American named Andy who travels across Korea asking women questions with all the blond-haired charm of a rather boisterous but earnest puppy.

Banga waeyo, Andy-si!

Quotidian Pohang

Since I’m posting everyday pictures here it only makes sense to put up one of my classroom. There you go.

Working like this is the only way that makes sense, even if it is tricking myself.

So I’ve got this thing I’m working on. It’s a novel, Science Fantasy, you know, with castles, vat-grown flesh, and pistols in it. Its working title is Clusterfuck, a Novel. It rose out of two distinct stacks of story corpses. The characters in both stacks resemble each other and some of the thematic stuff is similar enough that I’m mashing them together to see if they form a new entity with an actual plot.

Simultaneously I can’t forget they’re also a pile of story corpses: jagged beginnings, characters without plots, situations without resolutions, junk like that, and I’m scavenging and cannibalizing so I can make a Frankenstein Monster Draft I can then rewrite and cannibalize again to find the more supple and sleek monster within.

Writing those first thousand words, even on Draft 0, terrifies me, but taking half a dozen collapsed stories and pasting them into one document gets me so deep into the maze that I feel like I’ve rocketed past the gate and left the fear of starting behind me.

And that’s a good thing.

Quotidian Pohang

Blue skies from school’s back window.

A Brief History of Tea

Buddhist monks invented tea thousands of years ago in what is today southwestern China. These monks lived atop the mountains and found the beverage improved their ability to meditate over long periods of time. Also it complimented their other super-powers. Soon the habit spread throughout the lowlands, and in the 7th century Lu Yu wrote his now famous panergeric to the beverage, A Fistful of a Cup of Tea. People became ecstatic — so much so that when Lu Yu died he became God.

Centuries passed.

The first westerner to have drunk tea was the north African traveler Ibn Battuta who traveled to India in search of a job. He was impressed by how the beverage invigorated the spirit and increased energy.

After watching one too many of his coworkers get torn apart by angry elephants, Battuta decided to return home. When he got there no one believed a beverage like tea could possibly exist.

It wasn’t until George Orwell wrote his seminal essay, Tea, after singlehandedly defeating the forces of Spanish Fascism, that the English stopped drinking boiled mud and adopted the habit.

The rest is more or less history.

Genre Aphorisms

Find your own golden age. Don’t settle for another generation’s.

Genre fiction is bigger, looser, and more unexpected than a publisher’s marketing department wants you to believe.

Adults who use “–punk” as a suffix are still bitter about how uncool they felt in high school.

The Eye’s a Filter For You to See

Jin and I went to the beach to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. I’ll probably write about the place one day, but if you’re ever in Pohang it’s behind Tilt, the foreigner bar, maybe about a block or so in.

Afterwards we wandered around a nearby neighborhood where I snapped the above picture. Posting it here has started me thinking how the city must look to people only reading about it on this blog. There’s certainly a trend in my pictures that runs counter to the actual. For one thing the city has people in it, and most of it doesn’t look like the weird, dirty, and empty parts I post pictures of.

This coming week I’ll post more mundane pictures. Maybe the quotidian will be as strange.

Five Authors / Five Questions: The End

Last week Shimmer magazine posted the fifth question on their blog. This time we talked about endings.

5. How do you craft the perfect ending for a story? How do you keep an ending from falling flat?

I didn’t say this, but thought it was pretty spot on: “I’m always a fan of stories that leave the reader in the mystery, in the wonder. Which means risking not explaining everything, thus (hopefully) leaving the reader the space to make it perfect.”

Use these links to catch up with the whole series:

4. How do you decide whose story is being told? Do you have a favorite POV to work in?

3. How do you keep a story from slumping in the middle?

2. How do you go about choosing a title for the story? Do titles present themselves before the work begins, or when it’s complete?

1. How do you begin a story? Does it start with the idea, a character, an image, a line of dialogue, or are all stories different?

Thanks again to everyone at Shimmer. It was great fun being part of the series. (I’ll spare the Internets the dollop of self-denigrating out pouring… but, yeah, thanks!) Also it was great fun reading the answers from my co-interviewees: Luc ReidKrista Hoeppner Leahy, Don Mead, and Vylar Kaftan.