Nov 25, 2014

My Letter Advocating Police Cameras

Dear [Elected Representative],

This letter is a call for congressional action to mandate that every police officer in this nation be outfitted with body cameras. Further, I call for the disabling or loss of those cameras to be made an actionable offense. Outfitting officers with cameras will provide a powerful disincentive for rogue behavior and also make citizens aware that their interactions with police are being recorded. When all parties are on video, situations are much less likely to escalate to the point of violence.

In those jurisdictions where officers already wear cameras, both police violence and citizen complaints have been reduced. The presence of a camera keeps all parties—officer and citizen alike—accountable. Complaints about surveillance from police are disingenuous; if an officer is not acting improperly, he or she should have no objection to the existence of a video record of his or her actions. Those concerns are also outweighed by the imperative to maintain citizen trust in law enforcement, which is eroding everywhere and already nonexistent in many minority communities. Complaints about cost are also disingenuous in view of police departments’ eager spending on military-style hardware, which contributes to a dangerous oppositional mindset among officers and alienates them from the people they are supposed to serve and protect.

Police officers are certainly entitled to the prerogative of self-defense, but it is apparent that this prerogative operates quite differently during interactions with African-Americans than during other situations. When young white men can massacre people in movie theaters and schools and at political gatherings without suffering police violence, yet black men—and boys—are routinely gunned down on the merest suspicion of hostility, something is badly out of balance in the conduct of law enforcement in this country.

I challenge you as an elected representative of the people of this country—all of the people—to do the right thing for both the police officers of this country and the citizens who all too often find themselves without fair redress.


Alex Irvine


I am sending copies of this letter to Chellie Pingree, Bruce Poliquin, Angus King, Susan Collins, Eric Holder, and Barack Obama today. If you want to use all or part of it as the basis for your own letter, feel free.

Nov 20, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin's Speech at the NBA Ceremony

I know I already talked about this, but if you are a writer or a reader or someone who has any interest in American arts and culture, you really should watch this speech.

Nov 10, 2014

The Luxury of a Messy First Draft

One of the things I have occasion to think about, a lot and in great depth (or at least the kind of focus that one hopes will result in great depth), is the difference between working on original and licensed fiction. I do a great deal of the latter, and enjoy it; I do not very much of the former, and would enjoy doing more.

Today I took an afternoon and sat with a pen and notebook working on a novel, all mine mine mine--and during the course of that work I started thinking about a signal difference in the composition process of a licensed novel when compared to an original novel. With disclaimers abounding about how every project is different etc. etc., here is the conclusion at which I arrived:

The great thing about an original novel is that your first draft can be an utter disaster.

With a licensed book you don't have time for the first draft to be a mess. You have to zero in, lock in, make something like a recognizable novel as you're going through in the early stages--or else you're never going to hit the deadline.

Con- (or ob-) versely, in the original novel I'm working on, I've got a notebook full of about 75 pages of stuff. I've got other notebooks for this novel too, but this is the one I'm working in right now because I dedicated it specifically to one portion of the book. (Why? That will make more sense when you read the book, which I hope will be in 2016.) In that 75 pages, I've written all kinds of stuff, and in that all kinds of stuff are three different versions of a crucial scene. I arrived at all of them in a completely organic and comfortable fashion, and I have no idea which of them will be in the finished book. But it seemed remarkable to me when I figured this out, because in a licensed book I would have written that scene the first time, called it good, and then started figuring out how to make everything else fit with it.

Not, I hasten to clarify, because I care less about one kind of book. (Although the kind of caring is certainly different). The reason for pulling the trigger on a scene after you've written it once, instead of semi-accidentally exploring it three different ways, is simple:

Time pressure.

Licensed books come in with insane deadlines, and the process of drafting them has to reflect that. Only in an original book, without external strictures or a pressing deadline, do you have the luxury of a messy first draft.

And a messy first draft is an absolute delight. I enjoyed this afternoon.

Now I'll get back to working out the licensed stuff, because I've got a book, wait, two...I mean, four.

Nov 3, 2014

Audio Version of "Wizard's Six"

Clarkesworld has done an audio version of my story "Wizard's Six," recently reprinted there after its original appearance in F&SF back in 2007. Have a listen...

...and if you like it, you can head over to PS Publishing and pick up Mare Ultima (print | ebook), a novella-length expansion of "Wizard's Six" and another story, "Dragon's Teeth," also from F&SF.