Craig Shaw Gardner: Dangerously Creative Writer of Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction


Broadcasts from the underside, and somewhere over slightly to the left

The Ultimate SF Workshop!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006This fall, Jeff Carver and I will be teaching a science fiction/fantasy/horror writing workshop at Pandemonium Books and Games in Central Square, Cambridge. As the flyer says, this course will be "taught by science fiction professionals to show you how to better write and sell your sf. fantasy and horror stories and novels!" Both Jeff and I have taught sf workshop courses in the past, and I, for one, found them extremely valuable as a new writer back in the day -- the day being the late 70s, when I took courses from Hal Clement, and then an intensive workshop taught by Samuel Delaney, Norman Spinrad and Carol Emshwiller. These courses really showed me (a) that I had the stuff to be a writer, and (b) just how much hard work it was both to write and to properly pursue publication.

Writing is a solitary business. You sit, you write, you try not to talk on the phone or surf the net or get lost in a hundred other distractions so you --can-- write. Having these workshops taught me how to focus and discipline myself so I could take the tools I already had and use them to become a professional. And this is what Jeff and I would like to do for another generation of sf writers.

If you're curious about the workshop, you can find all the details over at Go to their livejournal link and look up the entry for August 9, which reprints our Workshop flyer in its entirety.

Now, back to writing my own stuff!

Posted by Craig Shaw Gardner at 11:57 AM | 0 comments  

All Kirk All the Time

Saturday, August 05, 2006And now, for an example of the madness that is Kirk Polland.

As stated in my last blog, as moderator, it is my duty to read an actual example of bad prose. Something like the following:

"Moving quickly from the radio to her living quarters, she squeezed a little water into a plastic container and put a few dabs of toothpaste on her brush. She slipped the brush into her mouth and pressed the small bitton the end which activated its electric motor. The bristles -- soft, gentle bristles, guaranteed not to damage the enamel or the gum -- moved swiftly against the teeth. She began with the top left molars, worked round to the bicuspids, and came round again from them to the incisors, the canines, the laterals and the centrals. Once she reached the front of her mouth, she changed the grip on her brush ..."

This teeth cleaning description goes on for quite a bit, then continues in a new paragraph.

"Once more she put paste on the brush in this same elaborate ritual and concentrated her attention now upon ..."

That's where the bad prose ends -- mid-sentence, and it is the duty of the contestants to finish the thought in a convincing enough style to fool the Readercon audience.

Except for me. My duty is to write something silly, like what follows next:

"Once more she put paste on the brush in this same elaborate ritual and concentrated her attention now upon the most wonderful man in the world, her beloved Brian. She quickly checked his restraints. Yes, he was still bound securely to the chair, with the metal clamps pulling back his lips to reveal his own lovely set of molars, teeth that one day would be every bit as white as her own.

"Did she see fear in his eyes? 'Mmm Nnn Mmm Nnn!' he protested vigorously.

"'Oh, honey-poo,' she purred. 'We're only brushing now.'

"He relaxed a bit at that, and she set to work, concentrating her efforts in every corner of his dental array. He had the most beautiful incisors! And that one, slightly chipped molar -- some women might reject a man for such an imperfection, but she found the damage rather exciting. She licked her minty-fresh lips despite herself.

"A mere twenty minutes, and she was done. 'There, honey-poo. That wasn't so bad!'

"But the fear was back in Brian's eyes. 'Mmm Nnn Mmm Nnn!' he moaned even more piteously.

"What could she say to that? They both knew what happened next. And there was no way she could stop it. She needed what came next. And Brian did, too.

"Soon, the flossing would begin."


And thus ends our reading of Kirk (taken from our most recent event, btw).

Any questions?

Posted by Craig Shaw Gardner at 9:12 AM | 3 comments  

The Visible Kirk

Thursday, August 03, 2006So what is it with this "Kirk Polland Memorial Bad Prose" panel, anyways?

Ever since we had our annual dose of Kirk a couple of weeks ago, I thought I might explain it here to those who are not fortunate enough to attend Readercon (a situation they should surely rectify.) But it got to be summer, I got busy, it became insanely hot, my website e-mail broke down, yadda yadda. But now it's time for this blog to get back to work! (Insert mental picture of the burly A-Rama-Ding-Dong rolling up his sleeves.)

So, the Kirk contest, invented by Eric Van and his talented minions at Readercon, is kind of like "Pictionary," where players invent fake dictionary definitions of obscure words, and then have to guess which one is correct. Except, in the Kirk version, the contestants all write fake prose -- fake BAD prose -- and the audience (usually many hundreds of people) have to guess the correct answer. Which they regularly do not. Sorry, audience.

With me so far?

So, back in the dim recesses of time, at the very first Readercon, which was held at a small hotel in Brookline, MA, I was approached by Eric to participate in the very first of these contests. I suggested that I help out by being the first reader of the prose -- the bad writing excerpts are broken in the middle, with me reading the first few lines to give the audience a taste of what they are in for. The contestants -- generally three others besides myself and Eric, all take turns reading the (mostly invented) endings, and the audience then votes on which ending they believe to be real.

So, at this very first Readercon, a couple of decades (!) back now, Eric gave the first set of contestants the first few pieces of bad prose, and we all wrote (in long hand!) our bogus answers. We were all instructed to come up with the very best bad prose possible, so that we might have a chance to win.

But a very strange thing happened to me along the way.

I started trying to turn out genuine bad prose -- really I did -- but my mind kept coming up with not just bad but SILLY conclusions to all the prose samples. I couldn't help myself. It was just the way my brain worked.

And so it came to pass that I would provide silly answers (or sillier answers) to the prose, and so step outside of the true competition. Which helped to make Kirk funnier and move faster (occasionally, the prose would just get to be too awful), and became my small part in making Kirk the institution it is today.

Well, your explanations are fine as far as they go, I hear you say. But we want examples!

And I'll give you one, from our most recent competition, in my very next blog.

Posted by Craig Shaw Gardner at 9:09 AM | 0 comments  

E-mail? What e-mail?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006Somehow, through the wonders of Verizon, my e-mail here has temporarily ceased to function. How I'll live without endless offers from Canadian drug companies and Nigerian princes (which is 98% of what I get) I don't know. I had a couple recent e-mails I hadn't answered (I've been busy), for which I apologize, and I can't even access them now. If you need to say hello, or whatever, reply to my blog, and I'll let folks know when the e-mail acount is up and running again. Thanks!

Posted by Craig Shaw Gardner at 5:17 PM | 0 comments