Thursday, December 29, 2005

SciFiction's last

SciFiction's last original story has gone up. It's the end of an era. Celebrate that era at the EDSF Project, then pick a story and join the celebration.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Too cool not to be posted

A whole page devoted to putting SpongeBob SquarePants into Iron Maiden album covers. I especially like how they transform the eyes to look more like Eddie. (Link found at Making Light.)

Companies offer author blogs

Much work is being done to promote books. I did a review of Spin a while back after the book was sent to me from a publicist at Holtzbrinck Publishers, the company that owns book publishers like Tor. Now, Holtzbrinck has decided to create a Web presence. The site includes a blog about literary happenings, the latest books and other news. They plan on offering the first chapters of all their new novels at the site and through RSS feeds. Also, they say they'll be creating author blogs at the site. They could be offering some good stuff, so check it out.
Amazon has now started its own promotional programs as well. Amazon is letting authors blog as part of Amazon Connect. If you visit the page for Meg Wolitzer's novel "The Position", scroll down a bit and you can visit part of Wolitzer's blog. The blog is also published here. I'm not sure how you'd find other author blogs outside of stumbling across them on their pages.
Edward Champion has his doubts on the program and posts about it here.

But I can’t buy into the ethics of a retailer pushing a blog while simultaneously encouarging people to buy things. Whatever the merits of Wolitzer’s posts, however much she feels that “Anything that can get fiction on people’s radar is good,” I get the unsettling aura of Shirley Maclaine talking with the dead during an infomercial.

He certainly is asking the right questions about these ventures. Can the author really be free say what they want when their blog is a part of a huge corporation? I also agree with him that author's would be better off starting their own Web pages and blogs and keeping them updated. It's already proved itself as a marketing model (which is why these companies are pursuing it) and authors are free not to be tied down to any company's demands. Still, I'll keep a watch on them and see what comes up. At the very least, I'm looking forward to Holtzbrinck's first chapter plans.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Kappa Child by Hiromi Goto

I just read the last pages of The Kappa Child. The book is beautiful, heartwarming and enlightening. I loved it.
The book won the James Tiptree Jr. Award in 2001. That's what got me to buy the novel, thinking it would be a fantasy novel. The kappa and the UFO abductions in the story are all used more metaphorically. They are possibly psychological in origin, but all the fantastic happenings have physical manifestations. The book is really more literary fiction, and has its best moments describing the interactions between people.
The book is about a woman trying to come to terms with her family history and her present life. The writing is beautiful, the characters seem so real and the story is great. Find the book and read it. It's terrific.
The Tiptree judges had many good things to say about the novel. Here's one judge:

This captivating magic realist novel is, from start to finish, a pure delight to read. Although clearly fantastic it is written with a "mainstream" sensibility so that emphasis is placed on the protagonists, their growth and their inner worlds rather than on an action-driven plot with which genre readers are more familiar. This book pulls no emotional punches yet remains both a loving and a positive work.

Goto's warm, delicate and humorous touch had me, a straight and sometime conservative male, effortlessly identifying with the alienation felt by four Japanese-Canadian sisters, one of them queer, growing up within the confines of a strict, paternalistic family on the Canadian prairie. Quite a feat, that.

Add an immaculate conception, alien abductions and a kappa to the blend and you have an irresistible charmer of a book. PH

Hiromi Goto has a Web site with a movie clip and some other information. Here's a very short excerpt from the novel.
Here's some reviews: Strange Horizons; Canadian Literature; Herizons; and Emerald City. There's an interview with Goto at BookSense.
UPDATE: The word heartwarming above worries me. I think it gives the wrong impression. The book is very dark in places, much of it is about a family with an abusive father. In fact, some of the most powerful writing in the novel is the way Goto makes you feel the "explosive silences" of the household. The father's punishments were random and out of proportion. This is not simply a feel-good book, nor is it a Lifetime Channel movie. It's tough and it's intelligent. The heartwarming part comes at the end, when you've followed the main character through all her problems and seen her emerge from it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blogging about writing

Joe Clifford Faust has an interesting post on writing and blogging. He suggests that blogging can be an aid to a writer, forcing them to sit in front of their computer every day and write. Here are two things he says:

If you blog about your writing experiences, I think it helps you internalize them. This could be a great tool for beginning writers, who don't yet know how they work. It's also good for the readers, who can learn from our experiences and many, many mistakes.

The writer's blog is exactly what you want to make it. A checklist of your daily progress. A log of your struggles as you stare into the screen. A post-it place for excerpts of the day's work. A storehouse for notions, ideas, and projects. A place to air your fears and reveal your aspirations. Or all, some, or none of the above.

The post got me thinking about my blog and how I could use it to help my writing. I worry that blogging about writing would be boring for readers. But I've found in the last few months, if something interests me and I write about it, other people seem to be interested. In November, I blogged every day about Nanowrimo. They weren't all the greatest posts, but they weren't bad. And I noticed other people commenting on it.
So I'm thinking I may start taking Faust's advice and begin noting what I've done each day on my writing. At the very least, I might embarass myself into writing more each day.
As for today, well I haven't done any writing. I've got a story started from a few days back, but I have no idea where I want to go with it.
Tomorrow (the procrastinator's favorite word) will be the day I start this. I'll get writing and I'll start telling you about it. With any luck, I won't bore you away.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Space filler

I've had nothing to say these last couple of days. That's too bad considering my traffic has been picking up with all the people checking out the 15 things about books posts I made. By the way, I've been updating the Other People's 15 Book Facts post. I've found over 80 blogs that have posted that meme and I'm still finding more. Bloggers range from romance writers to homeschoolers to just plain old bloggers (like myself). Do all memes have that kind of reach? I want to thank everybody who has been commenting lately. I love to hear from you.
Anyway, posting might be a little slow this week unless I get inspired. But I really think I should be concentrating on fiction writing and stop wasting so much time online. There's just too much good stuff to be read out there, I can't read it all. I'll try to post before the holidays. Ciao for now.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

15 things about me and books

Now that I've kept track of all these people doing the 15 things about books meme (see below, which I've been updating as I find more), I figured I'd do it myself:

1. I can't remember the first books I read. The earliest books I remember were the Encyclopedia Brown stories (I think that was its name. The main character was super smart and he solved crimes with his friends), the Black Stallion series and the Hardy Boys.

2. My writing interests changed with Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" and "A Swiftly Tilting Planet." I started getting into fantasy works. Then my neighbor, a friend of my parents, started talking to me about this great book I should read: The Hobbit.

3. I was a Tolkien obsessive from my preteen years until the end of high school. I had The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales (which had just been released at that time), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (I remember a conversation in middle school with a girl who said it was creepy and wrong to be reading somebody's letters; I disagreed); Farmer Giles of Ham; The Tolkien Companion; Tolkien's translation of Gawain & the Green Knight; The Road Goes Ever On songbook; and every Tolkien bestiary and dictionary. In fact, I remember just after reading part of the Lord of the Rings vowing to become a writer because I wanted to create worlds like Tolkien had.

4. The second big influence on my reading was a tag sale. My grandmother, who was a secretary in a school, took me to the principal's tag sale. The principal was selling off all of her late husband's paperbacks. I looked at one box and was astounded. Here was Isaac Asimov, Fritz Leiber, Robert Heinlein, Doc Savage, Samuel Delany and Lin Carter. When the principal saw my interest, she said I should just take the whole box. I was astounded. I have never been so grateful for an act of charity in my life. That box opened whole new worlds to me. I still have most of the books from it today.

5. I think I'm a slow reader. It takes me most of a week to read a 200 or so page book. There have been occasions when I read faster, but they are rare.

6. It disturbs me that there are so many classics I haven't read, especially Moby Dick and Ulysses. I'm determined to finish those in the near future.

7. I have so many books now that I get anxious deciding what to read next. I'm right now reading H.P. Lovecraft's story "Dreams in the Witch-House." When I finish that, I'm prepared to start a novel, but should it be Minister Faust's "The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad" or John Farris's "All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By" or Hiromi Goto "The Kappa Child" or "The Dark Sleeper" by Jeffrey E. Barlough or "Low Red Moon" by Caitlin Kiernan or "Home Land" by Sam Lipsyte or "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil" by George Saunders or "Snow Country" by Yasunari Kawabata or "Lud-in-the-Mist" by Hope Mirrlees and what about Christmas with all the new books I'll be getting. Ack! It's actually a great problem to have, but good god I feel like I'll never be able to finish all these great things.

8. I've tried my hand at reviewing books and I think I'm pretty terrible at it. I reviewed Spin most recently and I'm just never comfortable with what I have to say. What right do I have to tell an author they're wrong or aren't writing up to par or whatever. I'm just a copy editor and wannabe fiction writer, I shouldn't be talking.

9. I've worked in journalism for the last 12 years and yet I hardly ever read nonfiction books. I read plenty of newspaper articles and blogs and magazines, but I just find myself far more interested in stories rather than facts. The last two I remember reading were "The Serenity Prayer," a memoir by Elisabeth Sifton -- which was terrific -- and "Hell Bent for Leather" by Seb Hunter, which was fun.

10. I adore used book stores, especially ones that have books piled up all over the place. It's like a treasure hunt, you can find so many hidden gems. And all those old book covers are beautiful. It's so much different than Barnes & Noble or even independent book stores. A used book store just feels so much more lived in. And besides, I can walk in with a $5 bill and walk out with 8 books.

11. I hate that so few people I know in the real world read and enjoy books. They do occasionally and most of them are very literate, but they just don't have the joy of books that I do. I think that's one of the reasons I started blogging, to write to and hear from other people who liked the same kind of weird books I do.

12. I love short story anthologies, but I hardly ever read them in order. Usually, I read the story or author I've heard something about first. Then once I've read all those, I'll put it aside and occasionally pick it up to take a chance on some other story. Very few anthologies have I read straight through. One of the few I read that way, and probaby my favorite anthology, is Leviathan 3. Single author collections I am much more likely to read straight through. I have no idea why.

13. In high school, if I was given a list of books to choose from for a book report, I usually had read about half of them already. Yet, I always chose a new one to write about. I had a friend who was a troublemaker -- real trouble, he sold illegal guns and took drugs and today is probably either dead or a dangerous man. Anyway, he would ask me to write his book reports for him and he'd give me money in return. I did them, he always paid up. I told him to rewrite them so he wouldn't get caught, I have no idea if he did. Every single time, he would take the report to class and the teacher would know immediately that it wasn't written by him and tear it up. We went through this at least five times. I think I made out the best in the deal.

14. I rarely will read two of the same author's books in a row, no matter how much I enjoyed the first. I don't know why. It's one of the reasons I stay away from trilogies. It took me a long time to read Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow & Thorn series because I read a whole lot of other books between each one (and those books are really long too).

15. I don't get to reread enough. I've read "The Great Gatsby" three times, "Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" twice each and "Lolita" twice. Short stories, naturally, I reread much more often. I think this falls under the same category as #7, there's just not enough time to read!

Hope you enjoyed that. Anyone who would like to do this meme, please feel free, but I want to tag three specific people: Cybele, Mike and the Professor.
UPDATE: Mike has taken up the challenge. Check out his list at Morrow Planet.
UPDATE 2: Professor Hex has joined the game.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Other people's 15 book facts

I enjoy memes, though I rarely do them here. But there's a recent one I've enjoyed immensely. It's called the 15 Facts about Me and Books. It's been all over the place and the answers people give are unfailingly interesting. So, I'm going to take it up soon and write my own. But in the meantime, I've been so fascinated by it I've started tracing back through the people who have done it. It started with Book Banter who said:

So you know that meme 100 Things where you list a whole bunch of things about you? I thought it would be fun to do the same thing for books, but 100 was too many. Hell, it was hard to come up with 100 things about me when I had free reign and could talk about anything. Containing it to just books was hard. So I kept lowering my standards until I came up with 15 book things about me.

You can find that original list here. After that, more and more people took it up:

Books, self-centered musings and Chocolatinis!; Blog Happy; Romance Reading Mom; Nocturnal Wonderings; Megan's Writer's Diary; Got It Going On; Words of a Writer; Writer's Domain; Anatomy of a Book Deal; Guilty of Being; Electric Mist; Oracne;Shaken & Stirred (this is where I first saw it); Whatever; Coalescent; Nick Mamatas; Jay Lake; Amanda Page; Marissa Lingen; The Little Professor; Karen's Place; Undefinable Qualities; Selah March; What Was I Thinking?; Kablammo; Elizabeth Bear; The Red Shoes; Jupitah; The Sibyl Queen; Tosy and Cosh; I, the author; emeraldcite; Yes I do mind; Dawno; Freelance Mother; Ronn's Ponderings; Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer; Death by Absurdity; The Clarity of Night; Simply Coll; My Bountiful Life; A Typical Life; A Typical Homeschool; Mother Crone's Homeschool; Nobody Knows Anything; Writes Like She Talks; Writing After Dark; Creative Ink; Virtual Lori; Bookends of Existence; Morrow Planet; Slices of Life; The Always Insightful Insights of Trent Hergenrader; Tawny's Web Journal; Kathleen's Blog; Pens and Swords; Mausi;Dreaming on the Edge of a Knife; Abrupt Change of Topic; Who Let the Blogs Out?; Sauscony's Books; Happy Dave; Deborah B; Riemannia; Bookseller Chick; Mark Teppo; Romantic Ramblings; Chapterhouse; An Innocent A-Blog one and two; Byzantium's Shore; Here in Korea; Tea and White Noise; Camy's Loft; Dreaming in Red; Mountaintop Architecture; Either/Or; Professor Hex; Kelli McBride's Web Log; Go Yuhan; MC Estoppel (scroll down to 12/15 entry); Nankin's Wanderings; Words of a Story; Naomi Novik; Cassandre; Brutal Women; yes_anesthesia; Book Geek; Joe Clifford Faust; Ben Peek; Paul M. Jessup; Blog'D; A Wolf Angel is not a Good Angel; Alec Austin; Behind the Stove; Jason Erik Lundberg; Mumble Herder; Liza was here; Life Off Balance; Bookgasm; and Brian Keene. Mark Siegal offers 1.5 things about me and books and writing.

John Scalzi (Whatever) came up with a variant called 15 things about writing. The only people I've seen follow that one are Cherie Priest; Naomi Kritzer; Flickering Flames; Byzantium's Shores; Notes from the Shadows; Joe Clifford Faust; Happy Dave; and Kristine Smith. The two memes are combined at My Invisible Husband and Midnight Writings.

There's lots of interesting in those links so check them out. If you know of others, or have done your own, let me know and I'll try to add it in.

When movies attack books

Catherynne M. Valente has decided not to see the Chronicles of Narnia because of her love for the books and her unwillingness to have the images in her head changed to a mass produced image. She points to Lord of the Rings and what happened to that:

I love my Eowyn, I love my Faramir. I do not love Miranda Otto and David Wenham, pretty as they may be. I do not love that visions of this book are so bottom-lined now, that the wonderfully unique experience of participating with a long-dead author in creating a world which exists for no one else has been replaced by enforced communal experience, that all our worlds are the same. Though it is a different essay entirely, the ultimate and natural destiny of books is not movies, and books have their own power which movies cannot effect. What movies can do is allow us all to experience the same things in approximately the same way, which is amazing, and sometimes horrible.

I basically agree with her. It's tough to read Lord of the Rings without at some point seeing Elijah Wood as Frodo. It's frustrating. You live with it and you try to retain your original vision (even though I do enjoy the films).
But what if I had never watched the movies, never gone to the theaters and bought the DVDs. Would I be free from those images? As far as I can see, if a movie is a hit it is nearly impossible to escape. Movie merchandise is everywhere from Burger King to children's toys.
And then it hits cable. I can't channel surf by HBO without catching part of "Return of the King" right now. How many times would a lover of the books be able to go on turning the channels before they gave in and watched a few minutes?
Even the books, go to your local Barnes & Noble and look at them. There is the trilogy with Viggo Mortensen's face glaring out of it.
I often look forward to movie versions of my favorite books (next up, "A Scanner Darkly"), but I regret the way those images are plastered over everything. I still want to open those pages and read the book without thinking of the movie. Is that even possible anymore?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Promoting underrated writers

At Syntax of Things, lit bloggers have put together a list of underrated writers who deserve more attention:

we decided to ask a wide range of litbloggers to tell us the writers who aren't receiving the attention they should. We allowed the contributors to define "receiving attention" however they preferred, whether it be by the NYTBR, or all of print media, or the litbloggers, or some combination, basically however they chose to define it. We asked each to provide us with up to five names and a short explanation as to why each writer deserves more attention.

You can find the list here. A few writers (most of them nominated by Gwenda Bond) I'm well aware of and glad to see support for them: Jeffrey Ford, Geoff Ryman, Carol Emshwiller and Poppy Z. Brite. There's many more I'm going to have to read up on and see if I can't read some of their stuff. Check it out, it's a very interesting list.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mumpsimus interviews Joe Hill

Matt Cheney does an interview with Joe Hill, the writer who is getting much attention for his new collection of short stories, 20th Century Ghosts. Hill has a Web site here. After hearing all the hype for Hill, I found the story "20th Century Ghost" in one of the recent The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror editions. It lived up to the hype. It was a smart, touching ghost story. Now, looking over the fiction section of Hill's Web site, I see that I have magazines in which his fiction appeared. That's what I get for not reading every story in my magazines.

Jeffrey Ford excerpt at Infinity Plus; also lots of online fiction

Infinity Plus has printed an excerpt of Jeffrey Ford's "Cosmology of the Wider World." The excerpt is the whole first chapter. Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it. There's an added bonus as well. Ford introduces the excerpt with an explanation of his inspiration for the novella and says that he has over 100,000 words about Belius and his pals already written. Personally, I would love to see more of those stories. I hope he prints them.
While you're at Infinity Plus, check out the rest of the issue, which is a PS Publishing special. There's a new short story by Zoran Zivkovic as well as an introduction to his work by Tamar Yellin. Peter Crowther, the brains behind PS Publishing, also has a story and interview and there's a profile of Postscripts magazine.
And further, while I'm talking about online fiction, check out the Fortean Bureau, which has just published its latest issue. Among the delights is Nick Mamatas's latest column on short story collections.
And finally, SciFiction is still publishing in its final weeks. This week: Howard Waldrop's "The King of Where-I-Go" and Alfred Bester's "Star Light, Star Bright." Once again, I want to remind everyone of the EDSF Project to show our appreciation for SciFiction. Read some of the appreciations and sign up for your own story.

Gregory Benford blogs

Science fiction writer Gregory Benford has a new blog called Benford & Rose. His first entry is a discussion with Darrell Schweitzer on "What does the rise of fantasy mean?"

Friday, December 09, 2005

Robert Sheckley, 1928-2005

Robert Sheckley has died. It's a lousy day for genre fiction.

A ramble: Metaxucafe, new blogs and A Fan's Notes

I'm really loving Metaxucafe. Not only does it give me a chance to discuss issues with other bloggers and serve as inspiration to do a better blog, but it alerts me to many other lit bloggers out there and what excellent reading is to be had.
Just now, I came across Golden Rule Jones and a post quote Frederick Exley's "A Fan's Notes." Go there and read the quote, it's good writing.
Now I have a real jones to dig out my copy of that book and reread it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Exley's voice. To this day (I read it when I was maybe 21), I still remember little details from the book -- the way he reads the New York Times every Sunday, the definition of the word "apostasy," and Exley describing himself as a young man dressed in the style of Capote in scarf and hat -- although much of the larger details of plot have fallen away. It really was an excellent novel and one I'll have to go back to.

Learning from Nanowrimo

Kelly Armstrong writes about what she learned from NaNoWriMo. A professional writer, Armstrong still said she learned things about her writing process she had never known before or only suspected.
I've only recently found the blog Storytellers Unplugged. It's a joint blog filled with mini-essays by horror and dark fantasy writers like Gary Braunbeck, Douglas Clegg, Brian Keene, Tim Lebbon, Matt Schwarz, Scott Nicholson and many more. It's got a lot of great stuff, especially if you're interested in writing.

Horror writer J.N. Williamson, 1932-2005

Horror writer J.N. Williamson has died.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Cosmology of the Wider World" by Jeffrey Ford

I just finished Cosmology of the Wider World by Jeffrey Ford. It's terrific.
The book is about a minotaur, Belius, born to human parents. The book starts in the present day, Belius is living in the Wider World, a place only animals have access to. Belius lives in a coral tower where he writes his book, "The Cosmology of the Wider World." But something is missing from his life and he asks his friends for advice. As Belius' problems play out, we get glimpses of his past and how he got to the Wider World.
The book plays off ideas from Dante, "Frankenstein" and mythology, as well as the frailties of any outsider. The story is beautiful, sad, outrageous and just overall wonderful. I can't recommend it enough.
Ford has mentioned in other places that the Cosmology is part of a larger work he has been playing with over the years. In reading the book, one can see how more stories can be told about Belius and his friends. I hope Ford decides to put more of those stories out there.
And by the way, where does Ford come up with these names? He has a genius for naming characters. In this book alone there's Belius, Pezimote, Vashti, Thip, Scarfinati and Nona. He's created character names like Piambo, Cley and Drachton Below (my personal favorite). Even when he takes real names he uses them in weird ways, Antony Cleopatra as a guy. It's just one of the smaller things that makes Ford's work so terrific.
Now I'm waiting for "The Empire of Ice Cream," Ford's latest short story collection, due out next year. I've read most of the stories in the book and I can't wait to reread them, as well as the new story.

Template change

Well, I went and done it. I've changed my blog template and spent a whole morning doing it. I found the template here. I've always liked the three column format and wanted to try it out. What do you all think? Feel free to criticize or make helpful suggestions.
The top left box, called "The Weird", includes a couple of quotes I found quickly. I actually like both of them a lot. And Mieville's idea of weird fiction was one of the reasons I picked the name Weirdwriter. (A name I've never been entirely happy with, but will stick with now that I've had it for a while.) I may change quotes if I find more or better ones.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

More great SciFiction appreciations

Three great new appreciations have gone up at the EDSFProject. The first is Bob Urell's take on "A Man of Light" by Jeffrey Ford. "A Man of Light" is one of Ford's more perplexing stories, full of imagery and ideas and less powerfully set on characters. But Urell doesn't delve all that deeply into it. Instead, he offers what he feels reading a Jeffrey Ford story is like. And though I wouldn't have described it the same way, I still think he's right.
The second is Nathan Ballingrud's appreciation of Struwwelpeter by Glenn Hirshberg. It's a perfect combination of two horror writers (and two new bloggers). Ballingrud focuses on the writing, the little details that make the story sing.
The third is Tim Pratt's appreciation of Over Yonder by Lucius Shephard. This is a story I haven't read, but you can always be sure that a Shephard story is worth your while, and Pratt does an excellent job telling you why.
Have you done your part for SciFiction and signed up to do an appreciation of a story? There are still about 150 stories left. There isn't a clunker to be found in the bunch. Pick one out and tell the world how much you liked it. SciFiction is nearly gone and we should be celebrating its existence.

Reading trilogies or standalones

There is an interesting conversation going on in the comments section of Matthew Cheney's review of Princess of Roumania about how some people just can't read trilogies. Cheney points out how he has given up on one after another:

I think I have trouble picking something up, putting it down, and returning to it—once a book is finished, I want to be done with it. I hate partial anything. It annoys me with new books, because if I’m going to invest the time and money in a book, I want it to be a complete experience. Oftentimes, I think publishers and writers are just trying to scam as much money out of readers as they can, and I resent it. (Though I realize it has a long, long history, going back to the earliest days of printing. Venerable tradition never stopped me from resenting anything, alas...)

I have to say I agree with him. Although, I think I'm more afraid of them then resent them. In my teen years, I read plenty of trilogies: Tolkien, Brooks, Wilson, Asimov (though his books don't quite fit Cheney's complaint) and Adams. But now that I'm older and I find less and less reading time, I look askance at these long, multi-volume series.
Right now, I have books from George R.R. Martin, R. Scott Bakker and Kij Johnson, sitting on the shelf being avoided. I feel like reading one ties me in to reading the rest. It took me years to read all of the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series by Tad Williams. It took a shorter amount of time to read through Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Even Jeffrey Ford's Physiognomist Cley novels took me a while. I know there is plenty of enjoyment to be had in these books and there's a lot of fun being held on the line waiting to find out what happens next. But I'm put off, right from the start.
On the other hand, like Cheney, I'm not put off by standalone novels set in the same place. I've read all of China Mieville's Bas-Lag books with any worry, and those are equal in size to any fat fantasy novels you can think of.
This also has me wondering, why do so many authors write such long books these days? All my science fiction and fantasy novels from the '50s and '60s and even into the '70s are short. In fact, I'm reading Jeffrey Ford's "Cosmology of the Wider World" right now and that's about 170 pages, and it's called a novella. Yet, that is about the size of most of Philip K. Dick, A.E. Van Vogt or Fritz Leiber novels (taking three authors at random). What happened in the '80s that made publishers start seeking out the longer and longer novels. I'm not exactly complaining, but it does seem strange to me.
UPDATE: This post at Metaxucafe goes on a little bit about long books (not anything about trilogies really, though the root cause for avoiding both is the same). Despite my worries about reading longer books or trilogies, I can't get behind abridgements. I just don't think you'd be getting the real novel. I've heard of people who read "Moby Dick," skipping the parts about whales. I don't blame them at all. But I can't read that way, and unfortunately that means I haven't finished "Moby Dick," which drives me more crazy than not having read "Ulysses." I see "abridgement" on a book, I think, well I'm not getting the real deal.

New counters

Thanks for all your advice yesterday on the pop-up problem and counter suggestions. I've now gotten ride of webstats4u and put in a MyBlogLog and StatCounter counters. Pretty soon, I'll add MyBlogLog's top 5 links counter as well.
Blogger has been acting kind of funny as well lately. You try to make changes to your template and you have to go through republishing at least two or three times before it takes. I've got a couple of years of posts on this blog, but you wouldn't think that would cause all these error messages. Oh well, it works eventually.
In the next few days, I may be absent from the Internet. I've got a new computer and I've got to set it up and get my Internet connection up and running. With any luck, that won't take too long.

Favorite bookstores

At MetaxuCafe, Bud Parr is asking people to list their favorite bookstores. He gives his favorites and many other people are adding their thoughts to the comments. I've added mine, Books by the Falls, of course, being one of them. Go over there and give your recommendations.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ad problems

Every time I've stopped by this blog today, I've encountered a pop-up ad. I've written to Blogger support to see why this is happening. If this turns out to be Blogger or Blogspot putting these ads on my page, I may have to consider my options. I really hate pop-up ads, especially ones that claim to be helping you with "Windows registry."
Until that's sorted out, my apologies to anyone encountering pop-up ads when they visit here.

UPDATE: Thanks to Chris in my comments, I've found out that my stats counter is the problem. Here's the
explanation he linked
for me:

Scince NedStat basic has been sold pop-up banners appear on the sites featuring the free counter. Many people have reacted in shock and many announced to remove the counter from their websites.
Nedstat has been sold and is now called Webstats4u (yeah, agreed, its a lame name). In the news is that the statistics pages will generate popups on the websites using NedStat.

At this moment I dont see pop-ups appear on my websites but as soon as they begin to appear I will remove all Nedstat Basic counters from all websites I maintain. With pain in my heart as the MOTAS counter registered over 15295461 pageviews up to now.

The reason for the popups is that developement costs money. Sadly they don't mention they just bought all so there wasn't any developement costs to begin with besides a new site lay out.

We want the old NedStat back!

I'll be getting rid of my stats counter immediately. Any suggestions for a new one?

Check out Video WatchBlog

Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog and author of Throat Sprockets and The Book of Renfield, started a new blog a few weeks ago called Video WatchBlog.
You should bookmark it immediately if you're interested in horror and other genre films. He writes fascinating articles on so many things and his knowledge of horror seems to be endless. Take, for instance, his look at Cronenberg's "The Fly" and why certain scenes were deleted. He's also written interesting reviews on Showtime's Masters of Horror series, so far he's done Homecoming, Jenifer, Chocolate, Dreams in the Witch House and Incident On and Off a Mountain Road. And that's only the start. Be sure to check the archives, he's got insights into Italian horror films, the old Superman series and Hitchcock. Well worth your time.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Used book bonanza

I went to my favorite books store this weekend. I wasn't expecting much, as I didn't have a lot of money, but they were having a 50 percent off sale so I picked up a few things:

  • The War Against the Rull: All my talk about A.E. Van Vogt recently made me pick up this Pocket Books paperback from 1962. It's one of Van Vogt's books I know nothing about.

  • New Dimensions 1: Edited by Robert Silverberg, this was one of the great anthology series during the New Wave era. It has stories by Gardner Dozois, Ursula K. LeGuin, Harlan Ellison, R.A. Lafferty, Barry Malzberg and Thomas Disch. Great stuff. Unfortunately, I got home and realized I had bought the same book in hardcover at the store years earlier.

  • The Ninth Galaxy Reader: Edited by Frederik Pohl, this collects "the cream of the short stories from Galaxy Magazine." Among the authors included are R.A. Lafferty, Roger Zelazny, Brian Aldiss, Larry Niven and John Brunner. It only cost me a quarter!

  • Doc Savage: The Sargasso Ogre: I've been buying the Doc Savage paperbacks as long as I can remember. I've only read a few and I enjoy them. I try and collect as many of the pulp characters as I can. I have paperbacks that feature the Shadow, the Spider and Operator #5.

  • Attack from Atlantis: This Lester Del Rey novel features an atomic submarine battling Atlanteans. "An American atom sub vanishes and plunges the world into a new Cold War crisis. A startling science -fiction adventure as timely as today's headlines" reads the cover. The cover also features someone riding some kind of fish with a submarine lassoed behind it. How could I not pick this one up?

  • The Power and the Glory: I read Graham Greene's "The End of the Affair" a year or two ago and loved it. Since then, I've read a few of his short stories. Now I've got this one. I'm excited about it.

  • Interfaces: Another science fiction anthology, this one edited by Ursula K. LeGuin. It features authors like Vonda McIntyre, John Crowley, Michael Bishop, Gene Wolfe and James Tiptree Jr.

  • Beasts: A novel by John Crowley. I saw it in hardcover and figured I should pick it up. I've had "Little, Big" weighing down a shelf for years now and figured maybe something shorter like this would be a better place to start with Crowley.

It's a pretty good haul I think. If you're interested in the used book store, Books by the Falls now has a Web site. They do auctions online and off. Here's their eBay seller page.
I don't know when I'll get around to reading these books, I've got a ton on the To Be Read file already. I'm currently reading Jeffrey Ford's "Cosmology of the Wider World" and loving it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Glen Hirshberg on horror and catharsis

Glen Hirshberg has reprinted the introduction to his story Mr. Dark's Carnival on his blog. The post expounds on his love of haunted houses and goes into why he doesn't read or write horror for catharsis. It's a thoughtful post, I'd quote some here, but I'd think you'd get more out of it if you read the whole thing. The story, Mr. Dark's Carnival (sorry, no link), is great, as are Hirshberg's other stories.
I tend to agree with Hirshberg on that subject. The best horror stories don't end with the closing of the covers, they linger in the mind and make you think or just simply haunt you. Think of the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft or Thomas Ligotti: Those stories explicitly leave the reader thinking about a world larger and more dangerous than most people have ever imagined. A scary monster that jumps off the page and says boo! can be fun (god knows I like them), but it's not the best horror can do.

Metaxu Cafe

I've started visiting and have become a member of MetaxuCafe. It's a place for literary bloggers and people who read literary blogs. The front page is set up like Arts & Letters Daily or The Page, except with headlines and comments from literary bloggers. There's a page for all the headlines of the day. Inside, there's a forum to discuss blogging and literature and the meeting of both. It seems like a really good service and I'm trying to get more deeply involved in it.
In other news, I've nearly completed changing my blog roll. I've taken some sites out and added others. If you have questions about why you were placed in one category or another, ask away and I'll try to explain myself. Also, if you want to tell me if the links are more helpful this way, or if you have other suggestions, feel free.

Sequel to A.E. Van Vogt's Null-A books announced

The Slush God led me to his article on a sequel being written to A.E. Van Vogt's Null-A series. I can't understand this interest in writing sequels to books by dead authors. John Gregory Betancourt did it with the Amber books and a sequel to Blade Runner (more of a sequel to the movie though) was written. (Sorry, no link, I can't remember its title or who wrote it.) There was also those prequels to Dune.
I can't understand why any writer would want to do this. For a check, I suppose. Does the writer, John C. Wright, know anything about General Semantics, the inspiration and guiding order behind the Null-A books? The books are a lot of fun whether you buy GS or not. Still, with the inspiration left behind, could the books go on. And really, should they go on without Van Vogt?
I'm a huge fan of Van Vogt. His writing is so weird and original (while certainly being very pulpy). I can't imagine anyone pulling off his kind of writing.
Looking on the bright side of things, maybe this will mean more of Van Vogt's books will be reprinted. You can already pick up the World of Null-A. You can read the first chapter of that book here.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Science Fiction vs Fantasy, science vs. magic and other madness

Ted Chiang looks at "Technology, magic and consciousness" and starts opposing magic vs science. It's quite an odd argument, especially when you are talking about real world science vs. fictional world magic. Jeff Vandermeer and his Evil Monkey are inspired by a locked door and a bottle of vodka to go on an extended discussion of the subject. He finds Chiang's argument unsatisfying. So now, Cheryl Morgan has jumped in and redefines the whole thing. See if you can follow along.

Author ages

I often wonder if other people are as obsessed with author's ages as I am. I've wanted to write fiction since I was, I don't know, 8 or 10. Yet, in college I chose journalism instead and have had a steady career in that. But I've never given up on the dream to write fiction and I've never stopped writing it.
Now, I'm 35 with 12 years of journalism behind me and not a single published short story. Of course, this worries me and makes me think I'm one of those wannabes who whines about writing and never does anything about it. But it's not true, I write constantly, I'm just never happy with it. In the last few years, I've made a more serious effort in improving my fiction and I'm working toward submitting it.
All of this is just preamble to why I'm obsessed with author's ages. I'm constantly trying to find out how old an author was when they published their first short story. Almost down the line, they were 20 to 25 years old. They don't always meet with terrific success at that age, but they've already begun submitting and selling.
Gene Wolfe -- one of the late bloomers as far as publishing goes -- had his first story published in 1965 when he was 34 (according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction) and his first novel in 1970 when he 39. Even with him, I've already missed a deadline!
The thing is, this is all pretty silly. There's no age limit to writing. As long as a writer keeps at it with dedication, there's no limit to the age he can begin. I certainly don't look at someone's age when I'm reading a story. I just worry I've passed my prime, my window of opportunity to be a fiction writer has passed. But that's silly, it's all just some neurosis of mine.

Nanowrimo at an end

So Nanowrimo has come to a close for everyone. It looks like more than 9,700 people have won this year. I have no idea how many joined, so I really can't say what that means.
Cybele, Morrow Planet and Ruth Nestvold are among the winners. Congratulations to them and everyone else.
Writer Ian McDonald has some thoughts on Nanowrimo:

Depressed by all the eager beavers in the NaNoWriMo horde --but I just know that I tried to crack out that much wordage in a month, it would be excrement --I'd be writing ahead of myself. I need to think and think carefully about who's going where why how and what he or she needs to achieve and develop from it. I know from past experience (even though I write from a detailed synopsis that the book gets sold on) that if I can't see where I'm going --a kind of literary relativity where events ahead are so foreshortened I can't navigate around them) --it results in slack, reactive and indulgent writing. Two pages a day (bit more because I'm playing catch-up, as Henry Kelly used to say on 'Going for Gold') But hats off to those who can, and did.

Actually, I think most of the Nanowrimo novels will have a large portion of excrement in them. But that's not really the point. It's a game, first of all, a rush to the end. Second of all, it's inspiration for writers. That's the way it's working for me. After finishing, I've already started working on a short story and hope to keep working on words every day. I've said this before, but I'm getting fed up with my dilly-dallying instead of writing. If I'm every going to write fiction, and sell it, I have to get serious and I'm getting too old to wait any longer.
And really I should be writing right now. So congratulations to all you winners out there.