Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Small update

Not much to say today. I wrote a few hundred more words on the story. It's moving along, but I need to spend more time with it -- which won't happen tomorrow, unfortunately. But I'll fit in what I can. So far, I haven't run into any problems with using an outline for my story. But then, the plot hasn't progressed much yet.
I do think that I may be writing this in the wrong order. Currently, the story follows the chronology of events. But I think the story will have to start in media res in order to attract people's interest in the first page. I don't think it's necessary for me to change the order I'm writing it in now. That will be something I can approach in the rewrite stage.

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Richard Kelly's new film

Richard Kelly, the director of Donnie Darko, appears to have another movie in the works. It's called Southland Tales. From the brief description at the Internet Movie Database, it sounds like a science fiction version of Magnolia.

Southland Tales is an ensemble piece set in the futuristic landscape of
Los Angeles on July 4, 2008, as it stands on the brink of social,
economic and environmental disaster. Boxer Santaros is an action star
who's stricken with amnesia. His life intertwines with Krysta Now, an
adult film star developing her own reality television project, and
David Clark, a Hermosa Beach police officer who holds the key to a vast
conspiracy.
If you are looking for information on Kelly, check out Richard-Kelly.net, they seem to keep up with all he has and will do.


Monday, January 30, 2006

New story begins

I've been very inactive online today, but this was for a good reason. One, I needed to build a bookshelf and wash some dishes, but two I managed to get some writing done on the story. It's the first section of the short story and I know what I'm leading to tomorrow. I always feel pretty good with all of the story before me, let's hope I keep feeling good as I go along. Again, right now the goal is to finish the story and edit it. The last story I wrote I've put aside with the potential for editing at a later date -- when I don't hate it so much. I want to make this story a complete process, continuing from creating the outline to writing the story, to editing it and then sending it out somewhere.
Anyway, I've got a bunch of things I want to write about on the blogs (especially Giant Monster Blog, I've watched a slew of giant monster movies latey) but it has to come second to the writing. So expect things to remain slow here for the next few days, with the exception of these writing updates. (Hope I don't bore you too much.)

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Background set, story to begin

I didn't do too much writing today, but I think I accomplished something with the background of this story. I have a reason for everything to happen, a history of what's happening to the protagonist. That history won't be revealed, only hinted at in the story.
Starting Monday, I will write the actual first draft of the story. A plot has been built, point by point. The story could veer from that, but it creates a solid skeleton for the story. I also think I have both main characters pretty solidly set in my mind. Now the real work begins!

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Building character

Well, I wrote again today. Not very much. In fact, most of it was looking over what I did yesterday to try and determine if I'm creating a distinct character, if Jackie (that's her name) would interest me as a reader. So far, I think I could give a tentative yes. She would be a realistic character, though I think I may need to give her more characteristics, some distinctive quirks, something to make her stand out. But for now, the character sketch gave me a better sense of Jackie. I worked a little on the other main character, Bobby, today as well, though no character sketch yet.

Once I've done that, I plan to hammer out the plot summary a little more thoroughly and then, finally, I will begin on actually writing the story. Again, this feels like it's a lot more prep work than the average writer does for a short story. On the other hand, I'm not other writers. I won't know whether this works for me until I've written the story. Always must remember this.

All right, enough. I'm going to go and try to do some more writing today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Background writing

So I'm still writing in preparation for a short story. I'm probably doing way too much prep work for a short story, but I just want to really go overboard with this method and see how it comes out. So today, I wrote 1,570 words of my narrator out on a date. It's just an attempt to get in the character's head. Next, I'll have to more on the protagonist of the story, the one fantastic things will happen to. He's a little more mysterious, so I'm not going to do quite as much prep work on him. The important thing was I did some writing today and I do feel like I'm moving forward.

Moonshine

All right, I'm interested in this both as a proud Connecticut native and a horror fan. There's a new movie making the rounds at Sundance called "Moonshine." It's a vampire flick directed by a 20-year-old Stafford Springs, Ct. resident that stars local actors. The trailer looks pretty good, at the very least it's pretty. It certainly doesn't look like it cost this little:

ABOUT THE FILM:

Director Roger Ingraham, at 20 years old, shot his first full-length film, Moonshine, for a budget of $9200. His two years prior to the production were spent writing the script and researching how to shoot a quality full-length film with a very limited budget. As a vampire film, one of the essential elements that Moonshine strives for is the feeling of realism: the feeling that it's your town, your home, your family, and that, if something unexpected were to happen, you might react the same way.

At the forum on the site, the director talks a little about the production and the tough things he faced to get the movie made.

Anyway, I hope the movie is good and I'm looking forward to seeing it in theaters.

And while I'm thinking about horror and Connecticut, at Flickr a set of photos from the 1975 World Fantasty Convention (the first one) has been posted. Among the people pictured is Joseph Payne Brennan, one of the last famed Weird Tales writers and a librarian in New Haven.
Lots of other good people there as well, including a fascinating picture of a young Ramsey Campbell with long hair.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Moving on

I took "Airjack!" (formerly "Zeppelin Hijack") out to pasture. I brought it to an ending and I'm putting it away. Once I've forgotten about it, maybe I'll give it another look. Right now I hate it.

Today, I started on another story, and with this one I'm taking a detailed approach to planning it. I've created a summary, an outline and character sketches. I think I'm going to do more work with the character sketches next and then, when I feel like I've got all the pieces planned out, I'll start writing the actual story. It's another attempt on my part to find out what method would work best for me. This way will start out slower, but I'm hoping it keeps me from petering out on it before the end.

This new story is a horror story and concerns two main characters and a terrible transformation. It's a fairly traditional type of horror story, which I hope helps me with the structuring of it. I usually have good luck with horror stories, I think its a form I gravitate towards.

And while I'm thinking about writing, have you checked out Glen Hirshberg's blog yet? Besides being an interesting blog by an interest writer, he offers some good advice for writers. His most recent entry was about dialogue and how it's written. He's also written two entries on his Platitudes (Part 1 and Part 2). And one of his first entries was about getting your writing engine started. It's all good stuff and be sure to check out Hirshberg's fiction if you haven't yet.

Relax, books are here to stay

Some of the arguments for and against ereaders (like the SonyReader, which I originally talked about here) seem to turn on the idea that its either new technology or books, not both. I find that the most frustrating part of the argument. Even if ereaders do mean the end of the book, it's a long way down the line. People will have to be very used to ereaders before that ever happens. And I'm not sure it will ever happen.

Books have proven to be great technology. People still own books going back centuries. As Nick Mamatas once pointed out, how many 5 1/4" floppy disks are you still using? Books will always (at least, as far as I can imagine) have that leg up on other technologies: it doesn't become obsolete. If everyone is using an ereader a hundred years from now, they can still pick up a real book and read it.

As I see it, ereaders will be a choice, something we can use to read with if we so choose. It's for reading on the go. It's for reading things in the public domain that corporations don't want to publish. It's for reading manuals and technical stuff that you need to keep with you. With any luck, it will inspire new ways of reading short stories published on the Internet. (Wouldn't it be great to download the latest issue of The Fortean Bureau, for example, and read it on the road?)

Now, can we stop the hyperbole about the future of books and just talk about the possibilities ereaders can open to those of us who enjoy reading?


Winchester rifles and Gary Lucas

The end of the classic Winchester rifle and the closing of a factory here in Connecticut has sent guitarist Gary Lucas off into a fine reminiscince of his days as a sharp shooter at Yale. Fun post, check it out.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Robert E. Howard, 100 years old (if he weren't dead)

So Sunday was the 100th birthday of Robert E. Howard, famed creator of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn among others. Howard was probably my second most important author when I was a child, the first being Tolkien. But my entryway to Howard came through The Savage Sword of Conan comic book magazine (here's one which may even be one of the one's I read back then).
My neighbor, a man in his 30s, gave me a copy of his Savage Sword comics because he thought I'd like them. And I did. They are perfect young male teen reading: lots of strange places, bizarre creatures and tough guys who knew exactly what to do. After a few issues, I started talking about them to my neighbor and he started saying things like, "well, if you liked that you should see what he did in the original story when..." That was it, I was hooked. I grabbed the first two books in the paperback series that was available in those days, the one's with the Frank Frazetta artwork and additional stories by Lin Carter and L. Sprague DeCamp. The stories were second only to "Lord of the Rings" in my world.
I've loved them ever since and have reread many of the stories over the years. My favorite of what I've read was "Red Nails." How could I not love a story that begins with Conan and a woman being chased by a dinosaur and only gets weirder from there?
Over the last few years, I've been buying the new Conan collections as they come out and I look forward to reading the stories I never had a chance to read in the past: "The Hour of the Dragon" and most of the King Conan stuff. The books get the recommendation of Michael Dirda at the Washington Post, which makes me happy. Apparently, there was a big celebration of Howard's birthday in Texas, wish I could have been there.
Here's a few Web sites about the man:
REHoward.com
Cross Plains Howard page
The Robert E. Howard United Press Association
Wikipedia entry
Conan official Web site
Robert E. Howard archive
The Cimmerian journal
The Hour of the Dragon online
Howard ebooks

There is also a movie about Robert E. Howard called "The Whole Wide World" starring Vincent D'Onofrio and Renee Zellweger. The packaging of the DVD makes it look like a romance movie (which, I guess it is, a bit) but it's mainly a character study of Howard and Novalyne Price. D'Onofrio does a great job. I recommend it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I want to read them


I must admit that the pictures of Beauty and the Book are pretty cool, as is this Book Bar. Nevertheless, the whole idea bugs me. Can you pull a book out of these structures to read it? If not, what's the point?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A fun day

Words came easy and I was happy with today as I followed "Zeppelin Hijack" (or "Airjack!) through its twisty path to nowhere. This pleasant feeling came despite starting writing later than I wanted to. I'm still a terrible procrastinator who avoids writing until the last second. And there's no good reason for it, because I feel so good after I've done it (or at least I feel that way today.)

At the same time, I'm thinking about my next story. I'm really going to do some prep work on this one, have characters and a plot worked out before I put a pen to the page (or fingers to the keyboard). It already appears to have a good structure and the beginnings of characters with real personalities. Now, I need to spend some time in a notebook scribbling down these basics. I do worry that doing that will kill the inspiration for the story, but we'll see.

There's a really thoughtful essay by Paul Graham called How to Do What You Love. It really makes you think about whether you really love what you think you love and what you should do about getting there. It has given me a lot to mull over, and I really think I should take some time and more seriously contemplate the questions. Anyway, it will be well worth your time. (Link found at But Wouldn't It Be Cool?)

Check out "Healing Hands"

Derek Kirk Kim has unleashed the first part of his new comic series, Healing Hands. I read his story Same Difference back when it was coming out as a serial and loved it. (It's now out in book form.) He does great work with characters, his visuals are pretty and, best of all, he can be very funny. I think you'll enjoy Healing Hands, I'm certainly looking forward to more of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Meandering

For the story I'm working on, I had no ending in mind when I started it. I just liked the concepts I was playing around with. But now I'm finding the story squirming out of my control. Things keep happening with no sense or purpose to them. There's no larger sense of things. Plus, I'm despairing that all my characters are either uninteresting blobs or parodies of characters.

Again, this is my problem once I start a story, nothing is ever right. Eventually I think the whole thing is crap and I should just give it up. After all, it's just a big waste of my time, right? I've managed to keep pushing through, but now I'm just looking for an ending, somewhere to get off this crazy ship.

Which gets me thinking about future stories. Maybe part of my problem is a lack of advance planning. Maybe I'm the type who needs to write outlines and character sketches and have detailed endings in mind. The reason I've avoided that is it doesn't feel like writing. I feel like I'm wasting time. Or, it just causes my doubts all that much earlier. Nevertheless, I think that's what I'm going to try next.

I also wonder if I'm more suited to writing novel length stories. I've completed Nanowrimo novels. I rarely complete first drafts of short stories (although, I would note that the short stories I do complete are almost always horror stories.) Maybe I'm just better at meandering.

Anyway, I wrote for another hour or so after I posted last night. This morning I wrote another page of story. I've put my characters into deep trouble and have no idea how I'm going to get them out, or how it will all end. We'll see what I can do by tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share

Pissed away most of a sick day without writing. I settled down about 4 p.m and started writing until 6 p.m. when my fiancee came home. Unlikely I'll get to more of it. I'm amazed how long it takes me to finish a story. How long have I been working on this? Two weeks? Most writers talk about writing a short story in a few hours. Maybe this isn't a short story? It's over 2,500 words in on file right now (and it's spread across several files), so it certainly fits short story length.

Just like after last weekend, I'm now wondering if this story is worth continuing with. I doubt its worth anything. But I keep reminding myself that I just don't know that's the case until I finish it. I also don't know if the words I put down today are worth anything. They advanced the plot, but are they in the same league as stuff I wrote last week. And is that stuff worth anything at all? Self doubt, after lack of discipline, is my worst failing. I just give up on my ideas too soon. I just keep beating away at this trying to get past it.

I came up with a few other story ideas over the weekend. I managed to scribble them down before I forget them. In the meantime, I need to concentrate on one story at a time, not get worried about the ideas I haven't dealt with yet.

Jeff Vandermeer had a great post last week on inspiration and the enjoyment of writing:

I'm not suggesting that what one produces during blind inspiration/infatuation is superior to what you produce during the slow slog, but my god, why do you write if not for that moment when the world opens up before you and yet narrows to that singular point of pen against paper, that sensual drag of fingers across keys? Why do you write if not for that moment when you’re opened up to the point where there’s nothing of you left but the story and the characters and the words? Why?
That is one of the great reasons to write. I absolutely adore those moments when it all feels right, or even when it doesn't feel right, but it feels good. Unfortunately, right now I'm working through the slow slog. I just have to remember those good times though. Remember, remember... remember ...

Eric Red and a horrible accident

There's a fascinating story about screenwriter and director Eric Red at LA Weekly. Red, the writer of "The Hitcher" and "Near Dark" (for the record, I think both those films are great, though I haven't seen "The Hitcher" in ages), was involved in a horrible traffic accident in 2000 that left two people dead. Red tried to cut his own throat after the accident. In the months that followed, Red escaped prosecution. But the families of the victims wouldn't give up and eventually won a civil case against him. Meanwhile, it looks like Red is making a comeback in Hollywood.

The story is very detailed and if Red did all the things implied in this story, he's a pretty awful guy. The only thing that bothers me with the story is the attempt to link Red's films to his accident. It's the idea that if you think up all these awful things, you must be a horrible person. You must want to do this stuff. While Red may indeed be a horrible person, this really has nothing to do with the type of films he makes. You can't look at his career and say, boy there sure are a lot of crashes and slit throats in your films. Look at any screenwriter and you'll find that, not just horror writers.

Meanwhile, the films he is trying to get made now can show something about the guy, I think.

But one script appears
striking in the context of his car wreck and ensuing civil trial. Fenderbent,
written by Eric Red and Meredith Casey, in a draft dated May 1, 2003, is the
story of a group of high school students on their way to a concert who run out
of gas in a small town in central Texas. There, they encounter not just the
anticipated killer trucks and car-related mayhem of Red’s signature oeuvre —
“the SOUND of the DEAFENING REVVING ROARS of the ENGINES and the SMASHING of
METAL against FLESH and BONE,” as the screenplay imperatively puts it — but
an actual society of miscreants who target and run down pedestrians for fun,
as part of an elaborate sport. Driving souped-up GTOs, dragsters and funny cars,
featuring Ed “Big Daddy” Roth-style cartoon murals and tricked out with chainsaws,
harpoons and razor-sharp rotor blades, these chicken-fried road warriors refer
to themselves as the Fenderbents and collect points for every unsuspecting victim
they can tally.




This is reminiscent of the plot of Death Race 2000, Paul Bartel’s mid-’70s
drive-in opus starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, crossed with
the inbred remoteness of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It also carries
with it a kind of gallows-humor defiance. Despite its absence from Red’s list
of active properties in the Creative Directory, Scott Penney, his agent, continued
to shop the project through at least 2004. What exactly are we to make of this?


What are we to make of this? That a guy uses the experiences of his life in his films. It doesn't show that he did it, or even takes any glee in what happened, but it does show a remarkable lack of sympathy for the victims.

Anyway, it's a good piece of journalism on an accident and its repercussions.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Awards meme

Found this interesting meme (you know, I'm never comfortable with that word, but it seems to be accepted and I've used it enough) about science fiction/fantasy/horror awards at Notes from the Labyrinth. Looks like fun, so I wanted to play.

Those I have read are in bold. Those I have started but not finished are underlined.


1953
HUGO: Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man

1955
HUGO: Mark Clifton, They'd Rather Be Right

1956
HUGO: Robert Heinlein, Double Star

1958
HUGO: Fritz Leiber, The Big Time

1959
HUGO: James Blish, A Case of Conscience

1960
HUGO: Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers

1961
HUGO: Walter Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

1962
HUGO: Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

1963
HUGO: Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

1964
HUGO: Clifford Simak, Way Station

1965
HUGO: Fritz Leiber, The Wanderer
NEBULA: Frank Herbert, Dune

1966
HUGO: Roger Zelazny, ...And Call Me Conrad
HUGO: Frank Herbert, Dune
NEBULA: Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
(I did read the novella when it was reprinted in F a while back. Does that count?)
NEBULA: Samuel R. Delany, Babel-17

1967
HUGO: Robert Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
NEBULA: Samuel R. Delany, The Einstein Intersection

1968
HUGO: Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light
NEBULA: Alexei Panshin, Rite of Passage

1969
HUGO: John Brunner, Stand on Zanzibar
NEBULA: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

1970
HUGO: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
NEBULA: Larry Niven, Ringworld

1971
HUGO: Larry Niven, Ringworld
NEBULA: Robert Silverberg, A Time of Changes

1972
HUGO: Philip Jose Farmer, To Your Scattered Bodies Go
NEBULA: Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves

1973
HUGO: Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves
NEBULA: Arthur C. Clarke, Rendezvous With Rama

1974
HUGO: Arthur C. Clarke, Rendezvous With Rama
NEBULA: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

1975
HUGO: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
NEBULA: Joe Haldeman, The Forever War
WFA: Patricia McKillip, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

1976
HUGO: Joe Haldeman, The Forever War
NEBULA: Frederik Pohl, Man Plus
WFA: Richard Matheson, Bid Time Return

1977
HUGO: Kate Wilhelm, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang
NEBULA: Frederik Pohl, Gateway
WFA: William Kotzwinkle, Doctor Rat

1978
HUGO: Frederik Pohl, Gateway
NEBULA: Vonda N. McIntyre, Dreamsnake
WFA: Fritz Leiber, Our Lady of Darkness

1979
HUGO: Vonda N. McIntyre, Dreamsnake
NEBULA: Arthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise
WFA: Michael Moorcock, Gloriana

1980
HUGO: Arthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise
NEBULA: Gregory Benford, Timescape
WFA: Elizabeth A. Lynn, Watchtower

1981
HUGO: Joan D. Vinge, The Snow Queen
NEBULA: Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator
WFA: Gene Wolfe, The Shadow of the Torturer

1982
DICK: Rudy Rucker, Software
HUGO: C. J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station
NEBULA: Michael Bishop, No Enemy But Time
WFA: John Crowley, Little Big

1983
DICK: Tim Powers, The Anubis Gates
HUGO: Isaac Asimov, Foundation's Edge
NEBULA: David Brin, Startide Rising
WFA: Michael Shea, Nifft the Lean

1984
DICK: William Gibson, Neuromancer
HUGO: David Brin, Startide Rising
NEBULA: William Gibson, Neuromancer
WFA: John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting

1985
DICK: Tim Powers, Dinner at Deviant's Palace
HUGO: William Gibson, Neuromancer
NEBULA: Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
WFA: Barry Hughart, The Bridge of Birds
WFA: Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood

1986
DICK: James P. Blaylock, Homunculus
HUGO: Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
NEBULA: Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead
WFA: Dan Simmons, Song of Kali

1987
CLARKE: Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
DICK: Patricia Geary, Strange Toys
HUGO: Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead
NEBULA: Pat Murphy, The Falling Woman
STOKER: Stephen King, Misery
STOKER: Robert R. McCammon, Swan Song
WFA: Patrick Suskind, Perfume

1988
CLARKE: George Turner, The Sea and Summer
DICK: Rudy Rucker, Wetware
HUGO: David Brin, The Uplift War
NEBULA: Lois McMaster Bujold, Falling Free
STOKER: Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
WFA: Ken Grimwood, Replay

1989
CLARKE: Rachel Pollack, Unquenchable Fire
DICK: Richard Paul Russo, Subterranean Gallery
HUGO: C. J. Cherryh, Cyteen
NEBULA: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, The Healer's War
STOKER: Dan Simmons, Carrion Comfort
WFA: Peter Straub, Koko

1990
CLARKE: Geoff Ryman, The Child Garden
DICK: Pat Murphy, Points of Departure
HUGO: Dan Simmons, Hyperion
NEBULA: Ursula K. Le Guin, Tehanu
STOKER: Robert R. McCammon, Mine
WFA: Jack Vance, Madouc

1991
CLARKE: Colin Greenland, Take Back Plenty
DICK: Ian McDonald, King of Morning, Queen of Day
HUGO: Lois McMaster Bujold, The Vor Game
NEBULA: Michael Swanwick, Stations of the Tide
STOKER: Robert R. McCammon, Boy's Life
TIPTREE: Eleanor Arnason, A Woman of the Iron People
TIPTREE: Gwyneth Jones, The White Queen
WFA: James Morrow, Only Begotten Daughter
WFA: Ellen Kushner, Thomas the Rhymer

1992
CLARKE: Pat Cadigan, Synners
DICK: Richard Grant, Through the Heart
HUGO: Lois McMaster Bujold, Barrayar
NEBULA: Connie Willis, Domesday Book
STOKER: Thomas F. Monteleone, Blood of the Lamb
TIPTREE: Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang
WFA: Robert R. McCammon, Boy's Life

1993
CLARKE: Marge Piercy, Body of Glass
DICK: Jack Womack, Elvissey
DICK: John M. Ford, Growing Up Weightless
HUGO: Connie Willis, Domesday Book
HUGO: Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep
NEBULA: Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars
STOKER: Peter Straub, The Throat
TIPTREE: Nicola Griffith, Ammonite
WFA: Tim Powers, Last Call

1994
CLARKE: Jeff Noon, Vurt
DICK: Robert Charles Wilson, Mysterium
HUGO: Kim Stanley Robinson, Green Mars
NEBULA: Greg Bear, Moving Mars
STOKER: Nancy Holder, Dead in the Water
TIPTREE: Nancy Springer, Larque on the Wing
WFA: Lewis Shiner, Glimpses

1995
CLARKE: Pat Cadigan, Fools
DICK: Bruce Bethke, Headcrash
HUGO: Lois McMaster Bujold, Mirror Dance
NEBULA: Robert J. Sawyer, The Terminal Experiment
STOKER: Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie
TIPTREE: Elizabeth Hand, Waking the Moon
TIPTREE: Theodore Roszak, The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein
WFA: James Morrow, Towing Jehovah

1996
CLARKE: Paul J. McAuley, Fairyland
DICK: Stephen Baxter, The Time Ships
HUGO: Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age
NEBULA: Nicola Griffith, Slow River
STOKER: Stephen King, The Green Mile
TIPTREE: Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
WFA: Christopher Priest, The Prestige

1997
CLARKE: Amitav Ghosh, The Calcutta Chromosome
DICK: Stepan Chapman, The Troika
HUGO: Kim Stanley Robinson, Blue Mars
NEBULA: Vonda N. McIntyre, The Moon and the Sun
STOKER: Janet Berliner and George Guthridge, Children of the Dusk
TIPTREE: Candas Jane Dorsey, Black Wine
WFA: Rachel Pollack, Godmother Night

1998
CLARKE: Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow
DICK: Geoff Ryman, 253: The Print Remix
(I read the original, online.)
HUGO: Joe Haldeman, Forever Peace
NEBULA: Joe Haldeman, Forever Peace
STOKER: Stephen King, Bag of Bones
TIPTREE: [a short story by Raphael Carter]
WFA: Jeffrey Ford, The Physiognomy

1999
CLARKE: Tricia Sullivan, Dreaming in Smoke
DICK: Stephen Baxter, Vacuum Diagrams: Stories of the Xeelee Sequence
HUGO: Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog
NEBULA: Octavia Butler, Parable of the Talents
STOKER: Peter Straub, Mr. X
TIPTREE: Suzy McKee Charnas, The Conqueror's Child
WFA: Louise Erdrich, The Antelope Wife

2000
CLARKE: Bruce Sterling, Distraction
DICK: Michael Marshall Smith, Only Forward
HUGO: Vernor Vinge, A Deepness in the Sky
NEBULA: Greg Bear, Darwin's Radio
STOKER: Richard Laymon, The Traveling Vampire Show
TIPTREE: Molly Gloss, Wild Life
WFA: Martin Scott, Thraxas

2001
CLARKE: China MiƩville, Perdido Street Station
DICK: Richard Paul Russo, Ship of Fools
HUGO: J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
NEBULA: Catherine Asaro, The Quantum Rose
STOKER: Neil Gaiman, American Gods
TIPTREE: Hiromi Goto, The Kappa Child
WFA: Tim Powers, Declare
WFA: Sean Stewart, Galveston

2002
CLARKE: Gwyneth Jones, Bold as Love
DICK: Carol Emshwiller, The Mount
HUGO: Neil Gaiman, American Gods
NEBULA: Neil Gaiman, American Gods
STOKER: Thomas Piccirilli, The Night Class
TIPTREE: M. John Harrison, Light
WFA: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Other Wind

2003
CLARKE: Christopher Priest, The Separation
DICK: Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon
HUGO: Robert J. Sawyer, Hominids
NEBULA: Elizabeth Moon, Speed of Dark
STOKER: Peter Straub, lost boy lost girl
TIPTREE: Matt Ruff, Set This House in Order
WFA: Graham Joyce, The Facts of Life
WFA: Patricia A. McKillip, Ombria in Shadow

2004
CLARKE: Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver
DICK: Gwyneth Jones, Life
HUGO: Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls
NEBULA: Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls
STOKER: Peter Straub, In the Night Room
TIPTREE: Joe Haldeman, Camouflage
TIPTREE: Johanna Sinisalo, Not Before Sundown (US title, Troll: A Love Story)
WFA: Jo Walton, Tooth and Claw

2005
CLARKE: China MiƩville, Iron Council
HUGO: Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell
WFA: Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell


Wow, I didn't do anywhere near as well as I hoped. There are quite a few here that I own but haven't read yet (I know that doesn't count for anything.) Also, I seem to have read a lot of authors' other books. I read Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, I've read a few of Vonda McIntyre's short stories from Fireflood, I read the first three books of Asimov's Foundation and I read Samuel Delany's Nova and Neveryon. Ah well, you can't read everything, though I try.

Scary videos

Two fascinating, frightening videos I'd like to pass along. The first is a powerful bit of Greenpeace propaganda. It appears they've taken the Lyndon Johnson approach to fighting nuclear power. As JeremyT says, it takes sheer balls to make a video like this.

The second video is "nonfiction." It's a video of an alien encounter. To me, it clearly seems fake, what with the cut and the horrible film quality. But nonetheless, it's fun stuff. Professor Hex calls it scarier than the scene in Signs. I don't think it's that good. On the other hand, if it was real, it would be scary as all get out. Here's the video. I was able to download it and play it RealPlayer, but I hear it can be played on Quicktime as well. You can read a thread about it here.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

An excellent Firefox add on

I don't know if you've noticed, but I've been writing longer posts lately. This is due to two things: the Performancing Firefox extension and writing at work. The second thing is self-explanatory, you get bored for a while, you start typing into email, clean it up the next day and have a post all set to go.

Performancing is an extension for Firefox that allows you to write blog posts in your browsing window. So I can be writing this post, but surfing the net on the top half of the page. This makes it much easier to find links while I'm writing. It also allows me to save my post drafts as notes. That way I can write something, put it away, read it later and make changes. (Technically, I could have done this with Blogger's draft function, but I've found that ocassionaly it would post my drafts. This way it's guaranteed not to do that.)

Also, Performancing gives you the option of adding Technorati tags to your posts, which I've been doing. I don't if that helps anybody, but I like it.

So anybody who has a blog and the Firefox browser, I strongly suggest you check out Performancing. I love it.

***

By the way, in other tech news, I may change my template again. I like this three column design, but I'm finding that I'm having problems with some Blogger functions. Nothing serious, but annoying enough that I may want to change back. We'll see.
Is there anybody out there who truly loves this design and would be sad to see me go back to the two column templates? Any suggestions as to which template I should choose?


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Writing tips from Westerfeld and Chandler

Scott Westerfeld has some good advice at this blog posting:
The letter below reminds me of something Kingsley Amis said: “Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting the characters out of the pub and into the cab.” Writers don’t just get stuck at the earth-shattering, life-changing decisions that our characters make; the little details of reality management are actually quite tricky and frustrating. Never assume you’re a crap writer just because you can’t get someone across a room—it happens to all of us.

This is exactly what I was saying the other day. You get characters into a place and time, and it's not yet to the action, but you just can't seem to move them out of there. It's very nice to hear that I'm not alone in this obnoxious problem.

The rest of Westerfeld's post is well worth reading. He's quoting the letters of Raymond Chandler on writing. All of them are interesting. One of them is the four-hour rule for writing. You set aside four hours every day. During those four hours, you can do nothing except write. If you don't feel like writing, you don't have to, but you can't do anything else either.

This seems like a perfect rule, something that would really make me work. But of course, I come up with excuses. "I don't have four hours a day to do this." Bullshit. I waste four hours every morning just looking at blogs. (For the record, I don't actually consider it a waste, but in comparison to my own writing growth, it certainly is.)

The second excuse is, "well does blog writing and e-mail writing count?" It does if I want to waste my time. I love blogging, and enjoy e-mailing, but they're not going to move me forward on writing and I know it.

Well, I did try this today, but only for an hour. Still, it was effective. I wrote more than 800 words and moved the story right along. I need to get more serious about it and use the full four hours. Although, on a daily basis maybe I'll only use 2 hours a day, and four on Friday (my day off). Either way, I think it's good advice.


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Sony Reader

So Sony has unveiled it's new e-book reader. It's new technology that is easy on the eyes and holds hundreds of hours of battery life. And, unlike the Japanese incarnation, they're allowing more than just the DRM protected files they offer. You can upload PDFs to the machine.

The price tag will be steep: $349.99. But then, the iPod I got for Christmas cost over $300. And I love reading, a lot. Wouldn't it be worth that much to me?

Now obviously, I don't want to jump at this thing with out getting some more information. I want user reviews and details on its use and exactly how I can get those PDFs to work. Also, I want to see what the competition is. There are a couple of other ereaders on the way that sound very exciting. I don't want to jump on Sony's bandwagon without hearing about the others. One of them is the Iliad from iRex. The iRex also notes it will support multiple formats and allow you to "write comments, mark or underline sections, for a true two-way paper experience." The third reader is from Jinke, called the Hanlin. It also claims to support multiple formats, including TXT, HTML and PDF.

The fact that probably the biggest name in electronics is getting behind a good ereader is good news to me. It means more to come. People are trying to make this thing work.

I want an ereader so I can then go to Project Gutenberg or Black Mask Online and pick out all kinds of public domain and out of print works and read them at work, waiting in line, or laying in bed. Whatever. I want it and I want it bad.

This makes me think about the portability of books. This is what makes mass market paperbacks and small hardcovers great, you can throw them in a jacket pocket or a bag and read them anywhere. But nowadays, most books I want to read come out in massive trade paperbacks and normal sized hardcovers. I want small books to carry around!

But the ereader solves that problem, by allowing you to put numerous books (and even better, short
stories! Imagine having all of SciFiction on a single device.) in one place in an easily portable package.

Ed Champion had a post about the Sony Reader in which he complains that the ereader will try to "supplant the reading experience." He says:

To me, reading involves stopping, perhaps writing key passages in a notebook, or rereading a particular paragraph or two, and sometimes skipping around. An academic or a student, for example, couldn’t compile information without this technique. Now that the sensation of flipping between, say, page 6 and page 125 has been lost, I’m wondering if the Sony Reader will cause the retention of information to dwindle. Assuming it succeeds, will the Sony Reader create a new generation of otiose readers?
I don't think so. First of all, why would an ereader limit you from stopping and rereading? Or even skipping around? I'm pretty sure these things would operate with page numbers, so you could flip from page 6 to page 125. Even if it doesn't I would be surprised if there wasn't some bookmarking program involved to let you jump back to key paragraphs. (It's certainly something that should be looked at when the product is released.)

And similarly why couldn't you write key paragraphs in a notebook? You couldn't write anything on the page, but I don't do that anyway. To me, I can't see Champion's complaints actually being a problem.

Anyway, I'm going to try and keep up with the news about these products. By spring, maybe I can have my own ereader.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brain flexing, zeppelin stats and not reading

In yesterday's comments, caMoore said:

My editor tells me to not worry about what I am putting down just put the words down and look at it later. The exercise is to flex your brain.
Have you flexed your brain today?
:)


I like that attitude and it's one shared by a lot of self-help writing books: Bird by Bird, Writing Down the Bones, The Modern Library Writer's Workshop. You let it all come splatting out of your head and then you go back and fix it later. Reading interviews of Jeffrey Ford (like this one at his Live Journal) it appears he writes much this way and later "beats" a story into shape.

And yet, it's not the only way to write. Caitlin Kiernan often talks about how she writes. She keeps
working over the words she does on a given day until she's sure they are the right ones. She ends up doing
1,000 words a day, maybe, but when she is done with the book she only has to copyedit and fix any
logical or factual errors. (Apparently, this has changed for her in the last year.)

It's one of the many things I consider while I'm trying to figure out how I write, or rather how I should write. I do like just letting it all out on the page and then coming back to fix it up later. In fact, I don't think I could use Kiernan's method. I think it would drive me crazy.

I do want to try something differnt though. I want to try and write using a really detailed outline. I want to create a plot structure and all and follow it through. I think this would work best on a novel, so the next one I write (the next one I actually want to become something more than a dust collector) I will try this out.

In the meantime, I need to follow the current process through. I have to stop writing things and just letting them fall away, never to be looked at again. After I finish "Zeppelin Hijack," I'm going to pull out one of my older stories and figure out what is good about it and if the characters are worth something and then I'm going to rewrite it and form something better. That's my next step: true editing.

***
In the meantime, I'm still working on "Zeppelin Hijack." I wrote a couple of paragraphs today, I was much too easily distracted. I had a couple of important phone calls to make, but I still could have done more than I did. I really think I need to stop myself from reading blogs first thing. I think I need to write first and then start checking in. It's OK, if all those blogs remain unread in Bloglines, they aren't going anywhere.

I'm thinking in a revision of this story, a zeppelin can't work. How high can a zeppelin fly? There's a certain amount of realism I need to add to this story and maybe this first basic idea needs to be dropped. But I'm not worried about it now, it can be changed later. Right now, the plot and characters are of prime importance, I have to "discover" both of them.

***

At Views from Medina Road the editor of Locus Online talks about the many writers who are desperate to be published despite having no interest in what is happening in the field, or reading the best the field has had to offer. I can't understand a writer like that. Why would you want to write when you aren't interested in reading? Or, more fairly, why would you want to write in a field you are not interested in keeping up with.

If I wasn't constantly reading, I'd have no interest in writing. I want to write because I want to create these wonderful works that make me think and feel. If you don't read this stuff, why don't you make a TV show or a movie or a video game? There's nothing wrong with any of those and they pay a whole lot more. And if you just want to be creative, there are so many other ways.

On the other hand, if you're fascinated by words, stories and reading, please write. How can that enjoyment not show up in what you do? The more you care about it, the better it has to be.

Let me hear you say yeah!


Did you know it's DeLurking Week? So it's time you say hi! (Actually, so do I at a few blogs I've been visiting.) But I wouldn't be so cruel as to not give you a subject to talk about. Try this meme out: If you're someone who doesn't know me very well or at all, ask me a question. Anything you want to know, don't be afraid. And in return, you have to follow the Jay Lake variation and in the same comment you ask me a question, you have to tell me something about yourself.
I'll try to follow comments intermittently through the day. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Zeppelin Hijack

Today, I relearned the joy of writing. After yesterday's angst, today I jumped ahead and starting moving into the action of the story. And lo and behold! It became fun again. I wrote almost 600 words today. (So far, there's a chance I'll get back into it before the day is over.)
I actually wrote on the computer today as well. For the last week, I've been standing up in my kitchen writing on my Alphasmart. I don't know why I decided to write this way. Partially, I wanted to step away from the computer and the distractions from e-mail, blogs and the other things on my computer. I chose to stand up because I read that's how Hemingway used to write. (Yes, I know that's an idiot reason to do something, but it actually wasn't uncomfortable. Also, I haven't come to any decisions on the "right way" for me to write every day, so I'm trying different things.) I don't think writing this way hurt me, after all the first parts of the story were done that way too. Still, maybe it doesn't allow me to get totally into the story.
On the other hand, while I did that much writing today, I could have done more. I kept a writing file open on the computer and wrote for a while. Then I read blogs for a while. Then I wrote a little more. Then I sent out some e-mails. Then I wrote again. I do think I write in spurts, so I'm not sure this was bad, and it certainly was better than simply not writing at all. And like I said above, it was fun. So we'll see if I need to force myself to get more serious to it. I certainly think in a second draft I have put more concentration at one time on the job at hand.
I came up with a working title for the story. I just wrote for a name for the computer file, but I kind of like it. It's called "Zeppelin Hijack." It's probably too literal. Yes, the story does concern a zeppelin, at least for now it does. I keep thinking that's a bad idea since plenty of writers must now have left-over stories from their submissions to "All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories" being sent around. But I can't worry about that end of things yet. Right now, I just have to keep my thoughts on writing whatever story comes to me and completing it, making it worth something, regardless if anyone will buy it.
Anyway, I'm just overjoyed I've kept at this story and it feels like it's back on the tracks again.

Internet Review of Science Fiction

I haven't written much about the Internet Review of Science Fiction, and that's really too bad because it's a great Web site. They are beginning a new year with a new issue and it's got lots of great stuff. There's an interview with the publishers of Night Shade Books, Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold's "Notes to an Aspiring Writer," an article about Peter Jackson's films and much more great stuff.
And that's only this issue, they've had great interviews, essays and articles in the past two years that you should check out. You'll need to sign up with them. Fortunately, a subscription is free right now (it was only supposed to be free during the first year, but they haven't managed to start the pay thing up). Sign up now, it's well worth it.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

Sticking with it

In a post yesterday, Caitlin Kiernan offered up an image of a page of her writing going through her editing process. This kind of thing doesn't teach me much -- I know how to edit, I know copyeditor marks and I have no idea what she's trying to achieve -- but I just love looking at the author's markings. I love seeing the raw text and the little notes for improvement. It gives some kind of insight into another person's writing, a process that is usually so solitary.

But as for my own process, I continue to struggle. What is happening to me now is exactly why I need to blog about it. I get to a point in any story where I just don't want to continue. I lose faith in it, I stumble as to where it's going and I feel like every word is tough pushing. And this is for the first draft! What's revision going to be like?
I need to get past these points. I need to keep pursuing the story, make it work, or at least finish it whether it works or not. Then I can look back and figure out what I need to do next time so a story does work.
Over the weekend, I wrote on Saturday but skipped it on Sunday. Today I wrote a couple of paragraphs. If I were keeping tracks of words, I'm sure I'd have done less words in the past four days than I did in the first two days of writing this.
On the other hand, I work on the story in my head all the time. Any spare second, I'm turning over the plot and the characters in my head, trying to figure out how to make it work, trying to figure out where it all goes and how it all fits together.
I've never written much out of order. I probably should. Transitioning from this opening of the story into the action is slowing me up, but I find it hard to just jump ahead. In fact, I feel like the reason I get tied up in a story and frustrated with it is linked to some kind of avoidance of the action. Like, I'm afraid of the main part of the story. I keep vamping where I am. The characters worry things over in their heads and look at scenery a lot.
Maybe I should just jump ahead, put my characters into the Super Sargasso Sea and see where that leads and then fill in the blank spots between.


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Friday, January 06, 2006

Quick update

I wrote today, a couple hundred words maybe. I still like the story and I think it's progressing, so there's a chance I can make it through this. I just hope I can dig up a little time to write over the weekend.

Beefheart history in pictures

There's an interesting comic book history of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band at Is This Tomorrow? The first six panels are here and the second six are here. (Links found at Up Sifter.)

House of Freaks singer and family killed

There's some sad news today that Bryan Harvey, singer and guitarist for the band of House of Freaks, and his whole family were killed in their Richmond, Va. home over the weekend. House of Freaks was a good, smart blues-country-rock band. They never had that one break-out song to take them over the top, but you could do a lot worse than listen to their albums.
Check out the Web site Invisible Jewel, there's many interesting things about the band and their music, including a section called "Ask Bryan" in which Harvey answers listeners' questions. If you're interested in the band, I own two albums and would recommend them both: Cakewalk and Tantilla.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Writing up to a wall and resolutions

So, again I wrote, and I hit a wall in this story. Not a tall wall, something I should be able to get over fairly easily. But with the way I am, any wall is a danger. I just get to points in stories where I don't know where to go, how to make the characters go on to the next part of the action. Maybe that's the problem, maybe I'm forcing them into some action they don't want to do. But I feel that if I don't move them along, the story will just die on the vine, get soaked up in characters doing nothing. Tomorrow I'll try to write more and see if I can't get beyond this.
There's been a couple of interesting posts lately about writing. Livia Llewellyn blogs about writing longhand and trusting the body to lead. Chris Roberson, meanwhile, writes about New Year's resolutions and how an epiphany led him to a resolution that helped him create his writing career. It's an inspirational piece.
Which makes me think about resolutions and think that I should make one. I never have made it a habit to take up New Year's resolutions, but there is always a good time to start.
This year, I resolve to write, send out and see a story published. At least one, but hopefully more.
Certainly, the first two parts of this resolution shouldn't be difficult. I'm already writing, now I just have to follow it through to finishing, editing and sending it out. Then it's out of my control, but if I work at it over a whole year, how could I not publish a story? Right?

RIP Infinite Matrix

I'm way late on this, but The Infinite Matrix is coming to an end. It was one of the great Web zines and it has posted some really interesting final stories. There's a lot of good Web zines for fiction out there, I hope this and SciFiction's end are just temporary glitches for online fiction.

Page 123 meme

Saw this meme at The Slush God Speaketh and decided to play along. Here's the rules:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don't search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.
All right, I'll reach over to my right and pick a book off the shelf without looking.

"I switched on the flashlight, hurried down the stairs and lifted one of the sabers from the wall."

I counted the first sentence on the page, which actually started on the page before it. The next sentence, which depending on how you interpret the rules may be the correct sentence, was "It was a heavy but well balanced weapon."
The Slush God sees the fun in people guessing who wrote the sentence, so guess in the comments. If no one comments, no one will know what the book is.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth

Here is the Spanish trailer for Guillermo Del Toro's new film "Pan's Labyrinth." You won't find out much about the plot from it, but it certainly looks spooky and cool. You can find some information and links about the film at Counting Down. If this is anywhere near as good as "The Devil's Backbone," I'm going to be very happy.

Writing work

I'm trying out the Performancing extension on Firefox. It seems like a pretty cool blogging feature. We'll see how well it works after this post.
Anyway, I wrote again today. I'll probably do some more before I go to work as well. So far, I've written almost 400 words. It was a reboot of the story I started yesterday. I felt like I didn't know where to go with the plot. Now, the story has a stronger plot element and I have a better sense of the characters (the main character has completely changed, with a whole new voice that I'm enjoying.)
At the Den of Ego and Iniquity, Richard Parks has an interesting post about writing regularly and the benefits thereof. He mentions Jay Lake's writing plan, the idea that you should write at least one story a week, even if it's a piece of flash fiction. I would love to do that. Right now, I'm trying just to reach completing a story, sticking with a story until it's done.
Again, that's why I'm blogging about writing. I'm trying to analyze my process a little and make it better. One of the things I need to do is stick with a story, don't get bored with it. Keep writing it, no matter what. Today, as I said, I started the story over and it's now something completely different -- though the background and central idea remain much the same. As I continue writing, I have to develop the story and see if it works. It's important to remember that I can't know how well something works until I finish it.
Often, I stall on my stories because I spend some time away from it. I don't write over a weekend, or I just procrastinate. When I go back, I'm just not in the mindset of the story anymore and it's put away. (I don't throw anything away, but I've rarely gone back to those things either.) So, I really need to finish a first draft by Friday. That would be the best thing. Alternately, if I could fit in writing time over the weekend, I could keep going. But that could be hard to accomplish.
So my goal for the next two days is to finish a draft of this story. I need to write more today, so I'm going to get to that right now.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I wrote today

Whoopee, right? Well, this is the first day I'm trying to combine my blogging and writing with the hope that it will inspire me to keep it up and do it more. If I know I want to blog about it everyday (excluding weekends), than it, with any luck, will give me the kind of structure I need to keep me writing. (As discussed originally, here.)
Anyway, I wrote just over 500 words today on a fantasy story set in some kind of alternate history. I thumbed through Charles Fort's "The Book of the Damned" to get an idea and now I'm trying to form some story around it. The alternate history aspect was really the only way I could make the idea -- related to Fort's concept of a Super Sargasso Sea and the idea of air becoming denser the higher you go (obviously something that wouldn't work with modern day physics, not something Fort would care about) -- part of the story. In a way, I'm trying to explore my own fantasy world in the way Ted Chiang did in "Tower of Babylon" (not that I have any presumption that I could do anything as good.)
The first day's work was just writing into the first paragraphs, getting an idea of what characters I started out with. Tomorrow I will try to think more about plot and how the interior lives of the characters relate to the concept. Or maybe I'll just write on, unguided.

Toynbee tiles rise again

The Indy Star has a new article on the Toynbee Tiles. (Link found at the always interesting Professor Hex.) I wrote briefly about Toynbee Tiles back in Sept. 2003 (scroll down to the end of Sept. 9 entries). I think they are the most compelling modern weird mystery going. Who is putting these things in the ground and how are they doing it? Is it one person? What are they trying to say?
I keep trying to get to www.toynbee.net, probably the best site about the tiles, but the site seems to be down. However, the article does link to Resurrect Dead, another interesting page. Resurrect Dead has its own interesting set of links about the tiles. For concise introduction to the mystery of the tiles, check out the Wikipedia entry.