August 17th, 2007


[process] Extracting the denominator - novelty vs familiarity

I just got finished reading naominovik's His Majesty's Dragon Powell's | Amazon ]. My reactions to that book are oddly mixed.

First, let me say that I enjoyed it a great deal. I recommend this book highly, especially if you are any fan of naval fiction, historical fiction, or, um, dragons. A lot of fun, a good read, and very cleverly drawn. That's my reader reaction.

My writer reaction Collapse )

[links] Link salad, Friday overload

Construction Woes Plague U.S. Embassies — Money shot:
Williams is described by people who have worked with him as a complicated personality who demands absolute loyalty, insists that his staff and outsiders call him "General" and prefers to ride elevators alone.

This guy needs therapy, not a senior adminstration job.

Russia's resurgent military — I guess that look Bush took into Putin's soul has really paid off for our national defense.

Karl Rove explains why mortgage interest deductions and 401(k) accounts mean the GOP is the champion of the little guy — Um, Karl, those weren't Republican ideas in the first place.

Internal passports coming soon to an Amerika near you — Your Republican Party, always standing up for personal freedom! An unintended but not unpredictable consequence of the war on terra. Ever notice how well those wars on nouns turn out?

D.C. to Fire 3 Over Woman's Detention as a Man

For Want of a Nail: If Burgoyne Had Won at Saratoga — Hardcore alternate history and a very cool read.

Man Reveals Legend of Mystery Visitor to Edgar Allan Poe's Grave

blackaire on readers who love too much

Can you think of eleven different felonies you could commit with an oyster?

Hot rod hearse — Candidate for the next Genre car?

The political compassCollapse )

Apparently I'm more liberal and antiauthoritarian then either Nelson Mandela or Gandhi.

Chicago's 1954 tidal wave

Freshwater jellyfish in Idaho — A dispatch from the Department of WTF?

(With thanks to a number of the usual suspects.)

[process] One more thought about writing for readers vs writing for writers

I've been thinking off and on all day about last night's post which springboarded off my recent reading of naominovik's book His Majesty's Dragon Powell's | Amazon ]. Basically, I think there's things readers care about, and there's things writers (and editors, agents, critics, etc.) care about. There's at best partial overlap between those two sets of care-abouts.

At a fundamental level, most readers care about character and plot. They want someone they can root for, and they want that person to do interesting things. I don't think it goes beyond that for the vast majority of readers. I don't even think it should go beyond that — read for what makes you happy. This is why inexplicably crappy books sometimes succeed wildly. Ever try to read The Bridges of Madison County?

Everyday readers — the people who buy the books — don't see bad style, poorly-drawn setting, choppy line-level language, inconsistent story arcs, contradictory themes, or any of the other craft details which writers care passionately about. They might feel the book was difficult to read, or didn't make a lot of sense, but they've never had a need to develop the critical perceptions and analytical tools required to characterize story issues. That sort of graphomania is reserved for writers. It's sort of like good finishing detail in home construction. Most people won't walk into a room and note that the crown molding is sloppy, but many of them will realize that the room doesn't look quite right even if they can't say why.

Guess what? If the crown molding is sloppy, but they really like the room anyway, they won't care.

This is why Clive Cussler sells millions of books. Every writer has authors or series they can point to and say, "well, that crap got published somehow." Cussler is my bugaboo. But while Clive Cussler's style, structure and line level prose make me go bananas and want to attack him with a dull blue pencil, millions of readers care passionately about Dirk Pitt, his series character, and the real cool, complicated scrapes Cussler gets Pitt into and out of. Therefore, Cussler succeeds as an author.

The great curse of becoming a writer is that I find it much more difficult to enjoy books with only my reader's mind anymore. The great blessing of becoming a writer is that I have a whole new way to enjoy books. And sometimes a book comes along — halduncan's Vellum, bram452's A Shadow In Summer — that makes me forget I ever was a writer, and return to the reader I always meant to be.

The rest of you guys, though, I always got something to say to you about your books and stories. If I ever trap you well enough to turn off your writer brain, great, otherwise I expect you always got something to say to me about mine.

[writing] In which I am a goober

I went by Future Dreams today to pick up some spare brag copies of Locus and Realms of Fantasy, when I noticed my name on the cover of a magazine I didn't remember ever submitting to. So I picked it up and looked inside. Dark Discoveries, issue 10 has a story by me (which I did remember once I saw it there — "The God Clown Is Near", a Dark Towns story) — and a six-page interview I'd done with Darrell Schweitzer last year, but didn't realize was going to be in DD.

Check it out.

[personal] Zombie Prom, travelling on

sheelangig and I were going to go out a bit this evening, and she got me to a performance of Zombie Prom at Theatre Theatre on SE Belmont. It's billed as a 1950s Atomic musical. Think Grease with zombies and cross-dressing.

I've been to maybe one live show in the past couple of years, and I'd really forgotten how much fun theatre can be. The show was silly but entertaining, and it was nice to be part of an audience. I predict more live theatre in my future.

It closes this weekend, so if you're in PDX and want to check it out, go soon.

In other news, I meet up with rosefox tomorrow midday for a while, then off to Seattle for the birthday party of frabjouslinz, where lasirenadolce, frankwu, mistymarshall and a cast of many others will be in attendance.