- Battlestar Gallactica interruptus reviews: at Strange Horizons by Dan Hartland and by Abigail Nussbaum at Asking the Wrong Questions. The truck-drivable-through holes in the most recent episode (President Roslin’s complete and convenient disappearance halfway through being the most rankling) were par for the course, but I’m still liking the show despite its flaws. Both these reviewers give insightful takes.
- Chris McLaren’s got lots of goodies, including Harlan Ellison being Harlan Ellison and a post about words we don’t have words for in English.
- Meanwhile, Writing Queen and Birthday Girl Justine Larbalestier (Happy, Happy!) and Writing King Scott Westerfeld post competing chronicles of the running of the bulls in San Miguel de Allende. I know those pics they’re posting are envy provoking, but rest assured, having stayed in that house and knowing it’s actually even more Eden than in the photos, all our eyes should be completely green.
- Islam in science fiction. (Via Morrow Planet.)
- Pam McNew posts at Short Form about two stories in the current double issue of F&SF that I also really enjoyed: Dale Bailey’s "Spells for Halloween: An Acrostic" and Jeff Ford’s "Boatman’s Holiday." (Yes, yes, I know it’s all Jeff Ford all the time around here lately, but tell me, you have picked up The Girl in the Glass, right?)
- Moorish Girl posts some responses to Author’s Guild Vs. Google Print. If only I could work up the care about this one. Get with the future, people. (Also, check out this entry about Salman Rushdie asking her to sign his copy of her book…)
- Toni Causey writes a beautiful post about her own Louisiana. A small taste: Like my dad, I was born there, in pure Cajun country. Unlike my dad, I would never know the language, not in its full, rich glory, neither French, nor a corruption of it, but an altered language, spoken still in old cafés with threadbare linoleum and formica countertops in small towns, dim and dusty and far from the interstate. My dad spoke only Cajun until he was in the first grade, when the teachers had been instructed to force all of the kids to speak only English, and stabbed a heritage in its soul without a single blade falling.
- Jed Hartman on several upcoming movies and the development-ridden Last Unicorn, along with some other interesting Peter Beagle updates.
- An extremely entertaining Night Shade thread of guessing about the identity of John 12 Hawks (you remember, that guy, turquoisey mirrorshade ads for his book guy); Tod Goldberg‘s popping his head in is the best part. (Via the S1ngularity blog.)
- C‘s been reading The Futurians and he dug up this fabulous photo of Carol and Ed Emshwiller at the 1959 WorldCon.
- These people are just not getting the Banned Books Week spirit: Meanwhile, in Newark, New Jersey, parents such as Greg and Tina Angeletti are waging a campaign to ban Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s book Song of Solomon from high school English classes. According to the Angelettis, Morrison’s work is “pornography”. School officials disagree, pointing out the whole “Nobel Prize-winning author” thing. Proof that it doesn’t only happen in states that start with K. (I was thinking of Kansas.)
- Poetry and politics at the National Book Festival. (Great piece.)
- You lost me after the first two…
- Is this pointing out the obvious or is it just me? (Perhaps it’s really controversial.)
- Finally, a piece on Curtis Sittenfeld and Prep in the Guardian, with some charming bits. (I updated the Reads column over on the left this weekend with my own nominee for best boarding school book of the year; mileage may vary.) This is my favorite part: ‘Most, if not all, of what I experience now I’ve experienced a variation of it before,’ she goes on, jadedly. ‘If I went to my first dinner party, I’m sure I would notice everything the hostess said and everything people were wearing and everything people talked about; now I’ve gone to enough that they just blur together. These are the biggest chunks of blue cheese I’ve ever seen in a salad,’ she adds as our food arrives, endearingly rubbishing her point. This seems perhaps not the best strategy for experiencing, y’know, life. The end of the article says her next novel is called The Man of My Dreams, but I’m sure it’s litrature and not chick lit.
And on that note of snark–which hurts me, really and truly, it does–happy Monday. At some point this week expect posts on: life in glasses, Marcy Demansky’s fabulous novel Twins, television goodness and conspiracy theories. Or at least some of that stuff. A few other Monday items below…
Cory Doctorow joins the chorus of praise for Kate Wilhelm’s Storyteller (must read!); I suggest you check out his take. He excerpts some practical advice from the book which I now unashamedly steal for here:
When beginning a story, do not:
* Let your viewpoint wander
* Confuse immediate setting with background and let your camera eye wander in, out, and about randomly
* Start with a lecture in anything — history, physics, biology — anything. Expository lumps anywhere are to be avoided if possible, but they are deadly in the opening.
* Start in the middle of a scene. This is why flashback openings are a mistake almost every time. You interrupt an ongoing scene to tell us something that happened earlier that results in ongoing scene. Once started, the scenes should be concluded before you move on. An ongoing conversation is hard to catch up with. Who are these speakers, what is their relationship, what kind of voice should I be hearing in my head? Introduce them before they open their mouths.
* Mislead the reader with false information or try to create suspense or arouse curiosity by withholding necessary information. What you arouse is mistrust and annoyance.
* Sprinkle around neologisms or made-up words that cannot be found in a dictionary.
* Use words that only you and a few other people in your speciaility can understand.
* Use contractions if you can avoid them, and only sparingly no matter what.
* Have your character look into a mirror or other reflective surface in order to work in a description of her.
* Let your character talk to an animal or inanimate object in order to give information to your reader about what is going on.
* Play games with the sex of your character.
Related Link: Small Beer also has a page of "Memories and Lessons Learned at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop" from Doctorow, Jeff Ford, Gordon Van Gelder, Jim Sallis, Kit Reed, Greg Frost and Nancy Kress. Check it out.
Girls’ Life mag features the best in teen and tween fiction — spunky but not stupid, serious but not dull, cutting-edge but not about suicide or anything — and we’d like to feature you. (Except if your story has sex. NO SEX.)
I invite you to check out a recent copy of the mag to see what we’ve been up to lately. You can send me whole stories — no queries necessary — or you can kick me a paragraph or two to see if you’re in the ballpark. We like all styles — no sci-fi or fantasy please — and we’re looking for new twists on old themes. For those of you with novels coming out soon, we love to feature excerpts.
For more info, drop a line to theoldhagATtheoldhag.com.
*I myself think longingly of the day when I finish this f-ing rewrite, and then of the new genre story I have to write for the FSF class I’m taking because I know the teacher.
And then I go (re)write till my ears bleed.
- New York Verses by Carrie, who, in case you hadn’t noticed, is one of People magazine’s Funniest People Alive.
- Lauren Cerand and Emma Garman discuss Green Street Hooligans.
- Clare Dudman (whose 98 Reasons for Being I’m reading at the moment and loving) on the joy of coffee AND how good it is for you. Almost makes me want to switch back from tea. Almost. (For some reason, coffee tends to make me sleepy. Go figure.)
Banned Books Week begins
Sept. 24, um, today (which is Sept. 24).
I can imagine no finer distinction. Full ALA Banned Books list behind the cut — bold the ones you’ve read. Two observations about this list:
- If people read more, there’d be a lot more books on it. (Most of them are practically QUAINT.)
- Stephen King is winning.
The marvelous Hank Stuever reviews Everything is Illuminated and likes it, sorta:
"Everything Is Illuminated" is no average tale of let’s-go-find-where-Grandpa’s-shtetl-shtood. Heavy with the burden of translating the shiftingly excellent narrative techniques of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 novel on which it is based, the movie can’t help but take on a slightly too twee tone. Depending on your pop-cult sensibilities (Do you like the Dave Eggers crowd? Do you pay rent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Do you listen raptly to public radio’s "This American Life"?), you are free to revel in "Everything Is Illuminated’s" magical groove (I did) while at the same time finding it puzzlingly dull (I did that, too) and not quite the storytelling achievement you once considered it to be.
- Maria Tatar at Slate on "Fairy Tales in the Age of Terror."
- Alan DeNiro, rapmaster, posts the TOC for his collection Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead, forthcoming from Small Beer in the spring. (Yay!)
- Ben Rosenbaum and Ted Chiang‘s shorts for Nature are online. (Via Didi.) And the Shortform Community at LJ has a more complete list, including links to Hiromi Goto, Kim Stanley Robinson and Nalo Hopkinson’s contributions, among others.
- Oprah invites live and breathing authors to her show again, starting with James Frey. (Via Annie at Maud’s.) I’m thinking I heard good things about the Frey; perhaps O’s taste is getting better*. Update: Once again, let us bow before The Onion’s wit.
- Copies of Laila Lalami’s book Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits are appearing in stores. Buy!
*Which is not to succumb to the argument that she doesn’t usually pick good books, just to say that there are some pretty banal choices in that list alongside the Marquez.
"The Jacobean dramatist Ben Jonson peppered his plays with fackings and "peremptorie Asses," and Shakespeare could hardly quill a stanza without inserting profanities of the day like "zounds" or "sblood" – offensive contractions of "God’s wounds" and "God’s blood" – or some wondrous sexual pun.
The title "Much Ado About Nothing," Dr. McWhorter said, is a word play on "Much Ado About an O Thing," the O thing being a reference to female genitalia.
Even the quintessential Good Book abounds in naughty passages like the men in II Kings 18:27 who, as the comparatively tame King James translation puts it, "eat their own dung, and drink their own piss."