Moorcock on anti-monarchism in fantasy

I ran across this old piece by Michael Moorcock, Starship Stormtroopers. I liked this bit:

I must admit I’m not following a properly argued critical line. I’m arguing on the assumption that my readers are at least familiar with some of the books and authors I mention. I attack these books because they are the favourite reading of so many radicals. I attack the books not for their superficial fascination with quasi-medieval social systems (a la Frank Herbert). Fiction about kings and queens is not necessarily royalist fiction any more than fiction about anarchists is likely to be libertarian fiction. As a writer I have produced a good many fantastic romances in which kings and queens, lords and ladies, figure largely — yet I am an avowed anti-monarchist. Catch 22 never seemed to me to be in favour of militarism. And just because many of Heinlein’s characters are soldiers or ex-soldiers I don’t automatically assume he must therefore be in favour of war. It depends what use you make of such characters in a story and what, in the final analysis, you are saying.

Swanwick on developing stories

I’m reading Michael Swanwick’s Not So Much, Said the Cat, and I liked this description, in his introduction, of his writing process:

On the side of the bookshelf by my writing desk are twenty or so Post-it notes with the names of stories and novels I am actively working on. In a Rolodex nearby are the titles of a great many more I hope to get around to soon. New ideas constantly swim up from the murky seas of the unconscious, demanding to be told. I scribble them down in notebooks and the best of them are added to the queue. The only limits to the number of stories I might eventually write are time and mortality.

A defence of the literary life

I recently finished reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, one of those writing books that seems to be on every list of recommendations. I found the book a bit off-putting… suffice to say that it wasn’t for me.

However, I did like the closing section of the book. Liked it quite a lot actually. At the end, Lamott comes around to talk about what might be worthwhile about writing. Here’s part of a longer passage:

There are a lot of us, some published, some not, who think the literary life is the loveliest one possible, this life of reading and writing and corresponding. We think this life is nearly ideal […] One can find in writing a perfect focus for life. It offers challenge and delight and agony and commitment.

Peter Watts on Logan

I like this review of Logan by Peter Watts

Marvel’s mutants are something like that. We’re dealing, after all, with people who can summon storm systems with their minds and melt steel with their eyes. Xavier can not only read any mind on the planet, he can freeze time, for fucksake. These have got to be the worst case-studies in oppression you could imagine. Sure, baselines fear and revile mutants; that’s a far cry from “disenfranchising” them. How long would gay-bashing be a thing, if gays could strike down their attackers with lightning bolts?

To my mind, X-Men are the Oprahs of the Marvel Universe. Immensely powerful. Inexplicably patient with the small-minded. And the fact that they’ve been consistently portrayed as victims has significantly compromised my suspension of disbelief— and hence, my enjoyment— of pretty much every X-Men movie I’ve taken in.

Right up to the best of the lot so far, the intimate, humane, sometimes brilliant Logan.

Then he fixes the ending! Read it, it’s quite interesting.

Miranda and Caliban

I’ve got Jacqueline Carey’s Miranda and Caliban (thanks Fiona!), but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I’m pretty excited!

Here she is talking about the book at Scalzi’s Big Idea series:

From the beginning, I had a strong sense that this story ought to be told in the alternating narrative voices of the two characters in whom I was most interested, Miranda and Caliban.  I also wanted to work within the structural confines of Shakespeare’s text, which presented an immediate challenge, as we’re told in The Tempest that Caliban didn’t possess the gift of language until Prospero and Miranda taught it to him. But challenges are interesting things, because they force you to stretch and grow as a writer.

I envisioned my Caliban as we first encounter him not as a grown man, but a “wild boy,” as Miranda calls him; essentially, a feral child born on the island and left to fend for himself after the death of his mother. In the course of researching children raised without human contact, I learned that children who had acquired language skills prior to their isolation were in some cases able to reacquire them.

This, then, determined the arc of my two narrative voices. Over the course of the book, Miranda grows from a precocious, tender-hearted six-year-old girl to a frustrated young woman grappling with adult issues she hasn’t been given the tools to understand, and her voice reflects this evolution. By contrast, Caliban’s voice emerges in a halting and tentative fashion, at first a mere handful of words repeated in a rhythmic manner. At times in The Tempest, he sings ditties to himself and I chose to incorporate that element, giving his evolving narrative voice a singsong quality laced with guttural and susurrant notes, a tendency toward onomatopoeia, and an inconsistent grasp of grammar and tense.

And here’s a list of other Shakespearean retellings.

From an interview at Happily Ever After, what Carey is working on next:

Jacqueline: I don’t quite have my elevator pitch down for this one yet, but I’m returning to epic fantasy — spiced with a dash of pulp horror — with a novel tentatively titled The Starless. It’s a sweeping tale of honor and love and destiny, set in a vast archipelago beneath starless skies, where strange and wondrous gods walk the earth.





Pixar’s The Art of Storytelling!

What makes someone a good storyteller? Storytelling is something we all do naturally, starting at a young age, but there’s a difference between good storytelling and great storytelling. In this lesson you’ll hear from Pixar directors and story artists about how they got their start, what stories inspire them, and you’ll begin to think about what kinds of stories you might want to tell.

Jim C. Hines wraps up his author survey.

For some reason this Savage Chickens cartoon (Branding) made me think of story ideas… 100% mutant supermeat for the win!

Steve Barnes writes up a spirited defence of getting practice writing short stories before attempting a novel: “What if I write novels?”

My path is slow, and steady, and works.   So far as I know, every time.   If you want to write novels, great!   Novels are where you get paid. Short stories are where you learn your craft.  EVERYTHING you need to know how to write a novel is in the seed form of short stories, including all the tactical and strategic elements of marketing.  If necessary, write stories set in the universe of your novel, with characters from the novel.  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN IDEA WITH AN INTRINSIC LENGTH.  ONLY THE TREATMENT OR EXPRESSION OF AN IDEA HAS AN INTRINSIC LENGTH.

A writing prompt, and 3 interesting links

I feel like this could generate any number of stories:

What do different colors symbolize in different countries?

Jim C. Hines has been doing a fascinating Novelist Income Survey. Overview of income:

Average Income: $114,124

Median Income: $17,000

(I think the median is more useful than the average, here. The average is pulled up significantly by those very successful outliers.)

Linda Nagata talks about how her process has changed:

I used to always keep an up-to-date printed copy of a novel as I worked on it, but that habit faded away and these days I don’t print anything out until the end. Then, as the last step in the process**, I read straight through the printed copy from beginning to end, ALOUD. I listen for clumsy bits and look for errors, fixing them (by hand) along the way.

It’s amazing how many little problem spots I still find. But simply viewing the novel in a different context — in this case printed, instead of on-screen — causes the brain to see/hear issues that were invisible before. Reading aloud means it’s going to be slow, but for me it’s an essential step. And the end is in sight!

And Steve Barnes on the “writing machine”:

The “Machine” is the overall structure of a writing career, and ANY problem you have will be on one stage or another. If you follow it, you will simply succeed:

  1. Write at least one sentence every day
  2. Write 1-4 stories a month
  3. Finish what you write
  4. Submit them, continue to submit until you sell.
  5. Don’t re-write except to editorial request
  6. Read 10X what you write
  7. Continue for 100 stories.

Two writing links

I found this post by Alexander Jablokov a fascinating one. In Laying rails for the locomotive, he talks about the really specific writing method that works for him:

Some writers are able to think of stuff while they write.

I sure can think of stuff, but it is almost always clever, glittery distractions from whatever it is I am trying to accomplish. Pointless flashbacks, cool devices, elaborately describe artworks…name it, I’ve done it.

In order to actually write a scene, something unified in space and time that has a structure and focus and conflict and a decent ending that kicks you into the next scene, I have to already know all of those things before I actually write it. I’ve learned this through long experience.

I’ve been thinking about as I’ve dipped back into some writing advice books; the best advice still seems to be to find the method that works best for you!

And check this out: Which Paid Marketing Works (and Doesn’t Work) for Books. Tons of details about running your own writing promotion.