Jenny points to wise words from Roseanne Cash, who's guest blogging at the NYT this week. I am stealing her excerpt whole cloth and even adding a chunk, because I'm lazy like that and might want to be able to find it again sometime (whole thing behind the cut):
Sometimes songs are postcards from the future. Often I have found that a song reveals something subtle but important about my own life that I was only vaguely aware of while writing, but that became clear as time went on. I wrote "Black Cadillac" six weeks before a rash of deaths began in my family. The day I finished writing it, I played the completed song to myself, as a kind of last run-through to check for rhyme scheme errors and syllable scanning, and a tidal wave of anxiety started rising in my gut. I knew I had given myself a message.
An excellent crop of Nebula winners:
Novel: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Novella: "Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress
Novelette: "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang
Short Story: "Always" by Karen Joy Fowler
Script: Pan's Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro
Andre Norton Award: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
AND the election results are likewise promising.
The thing that really strikes me about Open Source Boob Gate* is its echoes with the previous discussions about the SF community's groping problem. What a tin-eared approach to any kind of empowerment, given the history (and ignoring the fact that the whole thing was fraught with idiocy from the get go).
The LAST thing we need in science fiction is more groping. PERIOD.
(Sorry to have been MIA, but there's a lot going on and I didn't even realize this was happening until a day or so ago. And I think that's pretty much all I have to say.)
*Good list of links at the end of this post.
Back, busy, etc. A couple of links for now...
I just picked up Katherine Applegate's Beach Blondes: A Summer Novel (Simon Pulse) and boy are my arms tired. This sucker is 721 paperback pages long, and first in a series to boot. I'm guessing it's so fat for some strategic marketing reason, or perhaps I just haven't yet gotten to the chapter "This Is Summer Speaking," in which the heroine stops the motor of the world in order to expound for fifty-seven pages on the virtues of Vera Bradley bags.
Seriously, what is it with the Vera Bradley thing? I don't get it.
One thing related to that: there are many sub-agencies in my consciousness. Some want to lie on the couch. Some want to write fiction for the fun of it, others in order to be praised. Some want to go hang out with friends. Others want to be left the fsck alone. My task, I have found, is not to impose the will of the more "good, productive, noble" ones on the slacker ones, but rather to broker a compromise so that they are not constantly sabotaging each other. I find this actually increases even traditionally-measured productivity. If I try to only ever write, I find myself cheating on writing time in order to read and play. If I make it my goal to have time to write, to read, and to play, the agencies tend to respect each other much more.
**Plus, Maureen's awesome-tastic collection Mothers and Other Monsters is now available for download!
Christopher is trying to finish an end of the semester project for his Linguistics class, looking at the speaking traits of people with Asperger's Syndrome. He has designed a quick, handy online survey and needs responses from folks with an AS diagnosis OR who live with someone with AS and are familiar with their conversational style.
Anonymous, of course, and you will earn both our undying gratitude -- anonymously -- for filling it out. Please pass on to anyone you know who fits the bill.
In all the crazy of last week, I missed publication day for John Kessel's new collection, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories.
John is one of my very favorite writers--his novel Corrupting Dr. Nice (first chapter here) is on my all-time top five. He's also one of my very favorite people in the world; he was part of the small coterie that attended my and C's nuptials, and I keep a polaroid of me, Karen, Kelly, and Barb posing next to a toga-clad John* at Wiscon 2004 on the filing cabinet next to my desk. In fact, something that still makes me insanely happy is this little snippet of "It's All True," which you can read in the collection:
The wall of my apartment faded into a vision of Gwenda, my PDA. I had Gwenda programmed to look like Louise Brooks. "You've got a call from Vannicom, Ltd.," she said. "Rosethrush Vannice wants to speak with you."
My Mac is named Lulu.
Anyway, all this by way of saying that you need a copy of John's book. Stat. And Small Beer is even offering it for free download. I guarantee you'll end up wanting to own your own copy**.
*It's not every writer who would wear a toga to promote someone else's book launch!
**Some of the content has even been the center of a bona fide censorship controversy!
Over at Amazon's Omnivoracious, the indefatigable Jeff VanderMeer has kindly posted a recent interview he did with me about YA books I love--oldish, newer, and forthcoming.
As you may have noticed, I'm a bit MIA this week. We're busy and also dealing with family illness and the like, so that may be the case for a few more days. Back with posts about recent fabulous reads soon, though. Have a good weekend, everybody. I leave you with a link to a truly stupendous fan art gallery (Snape! House! Spock! Elvis!), courtesy of RLB.
Needless to say, I am VERY happy with the work we jurors did this year. Go us!
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE
PUBLICATION – 2008.04.14
JAMES TIPTREE JR. AWARD WINNER ANNOUNCED
A gender-exploring science fiction award is presented to Sarah Hall for The Carhullan Army (Daughters of the North)
The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council is pleased to announce that the winner of the 2007 Tiptree Award is The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall (published in the United States as Daughters of the North). The British edition was published in 2007 by Faber & Faber; the American edition in 2008 by HarperCollins.
The Tiptree Award will be celebrated on May 25, 2008 at WisCon (www.wiscon.info) in Madison, Wisconsin. The winner of the Tiptree Award receives $1000 in prize money, an original artwork created specifically for the winning novel or story, and (as always) chocolate.
Each year, a panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winners and compiles an Honor List of other works that they find interesting, relevant to the award, and worthy of note. The 2007 jurors were Charlie Anders, Gwenda Bond (chair), Meghan McCarron, Geoff Ryman, and Sheree Renee Thomas.
The Carhullan Army elicited strong praise from the jurors. Gwenda Bond said, “Hall does so many things well in this book – writing female aggression in a believable way, dealing with real bodies in a way that makes sense, and getting right to the heart of the contradictions that violence brings out in people, but particularly in women in ways we still don't see explored that often. I found the writing entrancing and exactly what it needed to be for the story; lean, but well-turned.” Geoff Ryman said, “It faces up to our current grim future (something too few SF novels have done) and seems to go harder and darker into war, violence, and revolution.” Meghan McCarron said, “I found the book to be subtle and ambiguous in terms of its portrayal of the Army, and its utopia….The book became, ultimately, an examination of what it means to attain physical, violent power as defined by a male-dominated world. And it asserted that it could be claimed by anyone, regardless of physical sex, provided they were willing to pay the price.”
The book, which is Hall’s third novel, also won the 2007 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for the best work of literature (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama) from Britain or the Commonwealth written by an author of 35 or under.
The Tiptree Award Honor List is a strong part of the award’s identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list for the rest of the year. The 2007 Honor List is:
The James Tiptree Jr. Award is
presented annually to a work or works that explore and expand gender roles
in science fiction and fantasy. The award seeks out work that is
thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. The Tiptree
Award is intended to reward those women and men who are bold enough to
contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles, a fundamental aspect of any
The James Tiptree Jr. Award was created in 1991 to honor Alice Sheldon, who wrote under the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr. By her choice of a masculine pen name, Sheldon helped break down the imaginary barrier between “women’s writing” and “men’s writing.” Her insightful short stories were notable for their thoughtful examination of the roles of men and women in our society.
Since its inception, the Tiptree Award has been an award with an attitude. As a political statement, as a means of involving people at the grassroots level, as an excuse to eat cookies, and as an attempt to strike the proper ironic note, the award has been financed through bake sales held at science fiction conventions across the United States, as well as in England and Australia. Fundraising efforts have included auctions conducted by stand-up comic and award-winning writer Ellen Klages, the sale of t-shirts and aprons created by collage artist and silk screener Freddie Baer, and the publication of four anthologies of award winners and honor-listed stories. Three of the anthologies are in print and available from Tachyon Publications (www.tachyonpublications.com). The award has also published two cookbooks featuring recipes and anecdotes by science fiction writers and fans, available through www.tiptree.org.
In addition to presenting the Tiptree Award annually, the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council occasionally presents the Fairy Godmother Award, a special award in honor of Angela Carter. Described as a “mini, mini, mini, mini MacArthur award,” the Fairy Godmother Award strikes without warning, providing a financial boost to a deserving writer in need of assistance to continue creating material that matches the goals of the Tiptree Award.
Reading for the 2008 Tiptree Award will soon begin, with jurors K. Tempest Bradford, Gavin Grant (chair), Leslie Howle, Roz Kaveney, and Catherynne M. Valente. As always, the Tiptree Award invites all to recommend works for the award. Please submit recommendations via the Tiptree Award website at www.tiptree.org.
For more information, visit the Tiptree Award website at www.tiptree.org.
To a greater or lesser extent, John Gardner's ideas about writing are just one of those things you eventually have to deal with in MFA school. For my critical thesis topic--the omniscient point of view--The Art of Fiction became one of my primary source books (he was a big fan), and On Becoming a Novelist worked its way in there too, since I had a point to make about the oft-misinterpreted fictive dream concept.
I won't bore you with talk about that. But running down some things, I came across a couple of links that might be of interest. (Jeff Ford, you studied with Gardner, right?*)
Anyway, I like this passage from Stewart O'Nan's "Notes from the Underground," on how seeing the various drafts of Grendel taught him to revise:
I'd heard how hard writers worked at revising, but here was concrete and heartening proof. I'd been impatient with my work because my early drafts lacked depth and precision; now I realized I had completely misjudged them, and misjudged the effort required to write well. It was not brilliance or facility that was necessary, but the determination to bear and even enjoy the dull process of wading into one's own bad prose again, one more time, and then once again, with the utmost concentration and taste, looking for opportunities to mine deeper, clues to what these people wanted and needed. I went back to my desk, applied myself with this in mind, and discovered that I was again writing on another level, a level that even now I'm happy to reach.
As the class proceeds, Gardner proceeds to take the gloves off. Suddenly he is attacking his host, Barth, whom he tags as a "secondary" writer--someone who writes fiction about fiction. And chief among Barth's offenses, just in case the students were thinking of buying it, is Giles Goat-Boy, which Gardner tells them is "arch, extravagantly self-indulgent, clumsily allegorical, pedantic, tiresomely and pretentiously advance-guard, and like much of our 'new fiction', puerilely obscene."
A few days later, the argument is recounted in The Sun, in an article portentously titled "Two Literary Lions Tangle." Barth fires off a letter to The Sun, acknowledging that he "registered, very briefly, some of my objections to [Gardner's] eloquently expressed literary opinions because that is what seminars--indeed universities--are for." But as the letter proceeds, it sounds as though Barth believes he's entitled to a rebuttal. What follows is a biting, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek, evaluation of his colleague's recently published On Moral Fiction as "an intellectually immoral, self-serving, finally demalogical attack on his contemporaries, many of whom (in my opinion) are immensely more talented than himself."
It's hard to disagree with the take of Liz Rosenberg (caught between them at the time):
When asked how significant, in the end, she thought this battle was, Rosenberg thinks carefully before answering. "I don't know," she says finally. "There was an experimental phase in writing, which has died down to some degree, but maybe that battle untethered the way for greater freedom in writing." She does express some regret for the passing of an era when two major writers cared passionately enough to fight about the principles of their art. "Since then, battles have become purely personal and a lot less ideological," she says.
More high-minded feuds, please.
*Updated: Jeff reminds me why I was thinking that -- well, besides that it's true. A couple of years ago, he posted his introduction to the Fantasy Masterwords edition of Grendel:
I got to see first hand how he approached the craft of fiction. I'd bring him my short stories, and he would go to work on them, spending as much time as was necessary to show me the gaffs, what repairs were possible, where the fatal flaws lay, and discuss writing strategies that would help me to circumvent the same problems in the future. A meeting could take up to two hours. Rehabilitating a single awkward sentence was as important as understanding the entire structure of a story, and a story's structure was discussed as if it were a kind of music. If there was a line of students waiting to see him outside his door, they would have to wait until he was finished, but they always waited, because they knew that when it was their turn, he would do the same for each of them.
And Janni Simner springs a meme of her own "because most memes fail to ask the things we really want to know" -- I'm going to employ the same one word answer rule. (Compound nouns count!)
1. Have you ever killed a man? no
2. With your own hands? no
3. What, in your opinion, is the best way to transport contraband across state and country lines? Burt Reynolds
4. Even if you're transporting explosives? yes
5. Really? yes
6. Have you ever stolen a library book? yes
7. On purpose, or only because you found it under your bed years after you reported it lost and paid the fine? purposefully
8. Where were you on November 1, 2007? home
9. Can you prove it? yep
10. You had to think about that, didn't you? yep
11. How much is it worth to you for me to pretend I didn't notice? nada
12. Have you spent years building up an immunity to iocane powder? (And if you know a faster method, will you share it?) no
13. Name three different ways to start a fire. Drew Barrymore, Human Torch, matches
14. Now try to convince me you only know that because you were a Girl/Boy Scout/Guide once. wasn't
15. How many digits of pi can you recite from memory? zero
16. Did you have to count out the digits on your fingers to answer that? no
17. Did you check online to make sure you remembered right before answering? no
18. Does all this talk about numbers make you uncomfortable? very
19. Or are you just wondering what it has to do with the rest of the meme? no
20. Seriously, where did you bury the body? permafrost
21. Where were you on March 16, 2036? why
22. If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump, too? yep (note: only because they would probably have a very good reason -- smart friends)
23. What is the ninja replacement score for your life? none
Via the one and only Reechard Butner:
You know the drill: one word answers only.
1. Where is your mobile phone? desk
2. Your significant other? Sillyhead
3. Your hair? blond
4. Your mother? smart
5. Your father? cranky
6. Your favorite thing? unexpected
7. Your dream last night? forgotten
8. Your favorite drink? champagne
9. Your dream/goal? flexible
10. The room you're in? windowed
11. Your ex? forgotten
12. Your fear? luck
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? here
14. Where were you last night? bedrace
15. What you're not? flighty
16. Muffins? maybe
17. One of your wish list items? scooter
18. Where you grew up? country
19. The last thing you did? chat
20. What are you wearing? green
21. Your TV? shows
22. Your pets? groomer
23. Your computer? currently
24. Your life? good
25. Your mood? tired
26. Missing someone? yep
27. Your car? cute
28. Something you're not wearing? tiara
29. Favorite Store? Lush
30. Your summer? hot
31. Like someone? lots
32. Your favorite color? blue
33. When is the last time you laughed? today
34. Last time you cried? PMS
Paul Witcover over at the inferior 4+1 (inferior to no one!) pointed to this Reuters story about a survey looking at Americans favorite books. The findings:
"While the Bible is number one among each of the different demographic groups, there is a large difference in the number two favorite book," Harris said in a statement announcing the results.
Men chose J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and women selected Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" as their second-favorite book, according to the online poll.
But the second choice for 18- to 31-year-olds was J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, while 32- to 43-year-olds named Stephen King's "The Stand" and Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons".
Picks for second-favorite book also varied according to region. "Gone With the Wind" was number two in the southern and midwestern United States while easterners chose "The Lord of the Rings" and westerners opted for "The Stand".
In the comments, a clever commenter named Kit suggests the following diabolical scheme for authors:
You know that you can use the bible to make your amazon #s zoom, right? Make all your friends order your book and the cheapest possible edition of the bible simultaneously. Pretty soon people who click on the most-clicked-on amazon title will see:
readers who bought this also liked YOUR TITLE HERE
So obvious, it just might work...
There is a widespread notion that "if you sell a lot of books, you've got to be peddling crap," she adds, and the problem is, it's sometimes true. There are big-name authors who "can't write and they can't plot."
"But we won't mention any names. Like James Patterson," Stephen says.
Today's Annoying Parts of Life: 1) tire with a hole in it (fixed, and even for free), 2) hot water heater problems plus (with the plus upping the total to YEEOUCH 3-grand), and 3) dirty hair (see hot water heater problems) and bad sleep last night leading to a general state of fuzzy-headedness.
It's a nice day outside, at least, and these things are minor in the scheme of, and too shall pass. Etc. (It would be, perhaps, easier if I wasn't on antibiotics that prevent the consumption of wine. Three. More. Days.)
And now that I've TMI-ed you to death, here's a happiness-inducing thing: Graeme McMillan's list of X-Men Who Should Be X-ed Out. I'm still mulling whether I have any additions, but have got to concur with Angel and some of the other conclusions*. Your own nominations welcome in the comments.
Also, if you're a moneybags and would, y'know, like to send me 3-grand, I have a use for it**.
*Who knew that Australian teleporters suck so hard?
**No, I'm not going post-apocalypse. I should be able to shower when I get home. Poor, but clean.
First, the bravery...
Apparently, many women who go to these parties live in constant fear of violent sexual assault. And they believe that having a Taser will protect them. Perhaps they imagine a hooded stranger in their apartment or their parking lot. Perhaps they imagine that they will whip out the Taser, zap the bad guy, and a few minutes later watch as the cops march him off. Bloodless and neat. Her Taser is a "safety blanket," says Dana Shafman, the entrepreneur who started the parties; if she leaves the house without one she goes "into panic mode."
But it's not safety blankets that protect you. You do that.
I wish every girl and woman in the wide world would read the whole piece. And the Aud novels.
(This also reminds me that she has another blog, about the writing of her next novel, which sounds AMAZING. AMAZING. Three times AMAZING.)
And now the admin...
I toggled a few new settings on Typepad. Now there's a Share This thingie under each post, which will let you easily save stuff to your various networking/bookmarky places or e-mail posts. There's also RSS feeds for the comments on individual posts. And some other stuff you shouldn't really see if it works right.
I'm sure this is all very unnecessary, but it makes me feel productive.
I've now read Kalpana's Dream and One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke, and want desperately to read everything she's ever written. Sadly, our library seems to have only a short story collection. Woe.
Anyway, if you're looking for strange, beautifully written books that wrap you up like an embrace, books full of joy and hope in the best way and not the sappy one... One Whole and Perfect makes me feel much the same way that Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle does.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Don't be afraid to fail. I fail every day. I failed thousands of times writing The Book Thief, and that book now means everything to me. Of course, I have many doubts and fears about that book, too, but some of what I feel are the best ideas in it came to me when I was working away for apparently no result. Failure has been my best friend as a writer. It tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through.
Is there a secret to writing?
The best ideas come to you when you're sitting down, working. That's when most of the breakthroughs occur - simply by doing the work. If someone wanted to be a runner, you don't tell them to think about running, you tell them to run. And the same simple idea applies to writing, I hope.
Well, not really. But over at Contemporary Nomad, Kevin Wignall does have a great little post about the controversial, rarely humble adverb. He offers the last paragraph of Joyce's "The Dead" in the adverb's defense:
"A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
At least one other writer would agree. (There's some interesting conversation in the comments.)
In writing, as in life: Everything in moderation, except when excess is demanded.
Highlights of later episodes include Holly Black and Cormac McCarthy fighting over a toothbrush, Atwood's anger at waking up to find Shelley Jackson has tattooed a short story on her forehead, and Carey and Ligotti showing the other contestants how to square dance.
See also: Ed's handiworkings.