Alexander Jablokov

 

I'm a writer, mostly of science fiction, with a new novel, Brain Thief.

The name is pronounced Yablokov, and the legal name is Jablokow.  My best friends can't spell or pronounce it, so you shouldn't worry about it either.

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Write me at alexjablokow [at] comcast.net

I'd love to hear from you.

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Appearances

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"The Instructive Tale of the Archeologist and His Wife", Asimov's Science Fiction, out now

"Bad Day on Boscobel", The Other Half of the Sky.

"Feral Moon", novella, Asimov's Science Fiction, March 2013

"Since You Seem to Need a Certain Amount of Guidance", Daily Science Fiction, November 6, 2012

"The Comfort of Strangers", short story, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2012

"Blind Cat Dance" reprinted in Gardner Dozois's Best Science Fiction of the Year 28

"The Day the Wires Came Down", novelette, Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2011

"Plinth Without Figure", short story, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2010

"Warning Label", short story, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine August 2010

"Blind Cat Dance", short story, Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine March 2010

Brain Thief, a novel, Tor Books, January 2010

 

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Reboot blog

 

Monday
Aug182014

The continued life of my one quote

As I've mentioned before, when you write things, you can never be sure what will catch someone else's imagination. While I think I have coined many sly and clever aphorisms in my time, the one that has had real legs is

This is my "rose red city, half as old as time"

This nice graphic comes from this article, which informs me that Billy Beane, the baseball GM who was the subject of Michael Lewis's book Moneyball, is particularly fond of the quote.  The article is nice in that it cites me very specifically.

I can't say as I've seen a lot of sales and interest coming to me as a result of this, but then, how would I really know?

Sunday
Aug172014

Odd bits of Mound-Builder-related art

I am currently working on a story that involves archeological hoaxes and  the Mound Builder myth. One research book is Mound Builders of Ancient America, by SF's own Robert Silverberg.  He has written several pleasing historical works during his career, and this one is complete, well-researched, and well-written.

One thing that strikes me is the cover illustration. which is identified as "An American Battle Mound" from a book called Traditions of De-coo-dah, by William Pidgeon (1858), an imaginative reconstruction of some ancient battle.

Would probably work better with parapetsThe thing that strikes me about the picture, though, is the two guys in front. While there is a desperate battle going on, they've decided to have a friendly little chat.

So, what are you doing this weekend, anything?I guess the artist needed a still point in the foreground to point up the frenzied activity in back. Or maybe the whole thing was less of a deal than it might seem.

Mound Builder myth has some relation to the Book of Mormon, and there is an illustration in the standard edition of that book which struck me in high school, and which I just looked up. It involves one of those many prophets throughout both myth and history who piss people off. Real prophets always do, you know, so be careful of anyone who claims to be a prophet, either in life or in fiction, who does not stimulate rage and opposition in otherwise placid people.

Safety firstThe Nephite inhabitants of this town are trying to get Samuel the Lamanite to just shut up.

But you know what's interesting? Not only did the Nephites build a nice staircase up to their parapet, they made sure it had an OSHA-approved guard rail.

Enough poking fun.  I have to get back to work.

Sunday
Aug032014

Apologetics: explaining why what seems to a bug is actually a feature

I'm going to start out with my clever definition of what the word "apologetics" means, and then I'm going to relate to a somewhat ill-mannered thing I sometimes do while giving a critique in a writing workshop.  Ready?

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. Gross and Livingstone (why should an atheist have this massive tome sitting in the bookshelf closest his work desk? The world is full of mysteries. Even if you are an atheist) defines apologetics as "The defence of Christian belief and of the Christian way against alternatives and against criticism". But the part of it I find most interesting is when a religion has to explain some really weird thing in its scriptures or its traditions that outsiders make fun of. You come up with a mechanism. You explain how this seemingly out-of-context thing really is essential to the context. You create a story out bits of other stories. This can be an extremely creative act.

So I do define apologetics as explaining why what seems to be a bug is actually a feature. I was inspired to this way of approaching it from an episode of Roman Mars's wonderful podcast 99% Invisible, the one on interface design in SF movies called Future Screens Are Mostly Blue. Go listen to it, it's both funny and informative. What we all strive for.

What does this have to do with workshop critiquing? My, you are full of questions today, aren't you? Lost your negative capability again?

Sometimes there are things a writer has written that don't seem to hang together. Characters seem incorrectly motivated, events seem to arrive without cause. Maybe the author has a deeper scheme. Or maybe the author, being human, just hasn't worked things out thoroughly.

So coming up with an explanation for these disparate events, even if that explanation is clearly not what the poor author ever intended, can be....well, okay, it really isn't that useful to the person being critiqued. It's like doing backflips over a car wreck. This form of literary apologetics, particularly used in a mean-spirited way, is just not good form.

I like to think that wanting to show me where I'm wrong is a motivating force. Or is that just after-the-fact self-justification?

At any rate, use this on some piece of your own that has pieces you like, but just isn't jelling. What other underlying scheme might explain the observed phenomena? How many different coherent explanations can you come up with? Do any of them have features that stimulate your own thoughts?

Or do what Noessel and Shedroff, the subjects of the episode, do, and come up with other explanations for what doesn't make sense to you about works you love but find annoying in some way. It can be a really fruitful way of interacting with them, and is the basis for some lively fanfic.

 

Friday
Aug012014

Are there Pantones for teeth?

In the past I have praised dentists for their largely unsung role in making our lives better.

Today I will do it again. A few months ago I lost a chunk of a tooth, and finally went in to get a crown fitted. I learned two interesting things.

One is that many crowns are now made of zirconia, a different form than that used for earrings sold on QVC, but based on the same properties of hardness. In a few weeks I will have zirconia in my mouth. I'll let you know how that works. Every time you go to the dentist, there is some new device, implant, material, or procedure. It never stops. That is the great thing about our civilization. No matter what it is, someone is working constantly to make it better, cheaper, or faster. A time traveler with a tooth problem would startle a dentist from even a decade ago.

The other interesting thing was that the dentist carefully matches tooth color. Everyone's teeth have slightly different shades. My dentist brought out a whole board of tooth color samples and carefully matched them against my teeth, finally picking one color for the bottom (darker) and another for the top (lighter). When I said that when he decided on his career he probably had never expected color matching to have to be part of his skillset, he said seriously that aesthetics is really important, and that a crown or implant that does not match the surrounding teeth is considered a failure. I don't know if the Pantone corporation, which essentially owns all color, also has a stake in tooth colors, but I wouldn't be surprised.

He explained each procedure as he performed it, drilled and excavated away, put on a temporary crown, and sent me on my way.

For much of human history the occasional person who managed to survive to my advanced age had no teeth. I not only have teeth, they are firm in my mouth, and those with problems are replaced with indistinguishable replicas. Give thanks to dentists, and the researchers and device makers who keep our dental technology moving forward. Sexy? No. Wonderful? Yes.

Tuesday
Jul292014

Lighting each story with the embers of the last

In my new stint of writing, I have so far been successful in having one story thought about and ready to be started as I come to final words of the last.  Some days I have even finished one story and started the next in the same session.

This is a great way to keep the work flowing. But it does require that you have a story ready and thought about when the last one reaches THE END.

But tomorrow morning, when I get to my desk at 5:30, I won't! I finished a story this morning, and thought I would put another one together tonight, only to spend my time on a lot of essential business. It's nice to say that writing should always take priority, but there is a lot of other things that need to get done.

So I'm going to have to do what I don't like, and that is just start writing, hoping a story will emerge. Some writers thrive on this. I do not. Sometimes I do create something useful. More often, though, I create...a lot of words.

Wish me luck, and if you are up early, like I am, throw some narrative thoughts my way.