Thursday, July 31, 2008

Honorable Mention

The winners have been announced for MindFlights' poetry contest, so I can now reveal that my poem is an honorable mention in the short form. The theme of the contest was exile, and my poem "Exile, Self-selected." I'll say more about the poem when it's published sometime in August. There are some names I'm proud to be among in that list of winners, so it's good to see the announcement.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One more book received

I received this book in the mail the other day--Escapement by Jay Lake. It's a sequel to Mainspring, which I haven't read yet, that I won in a drawing at FantasyBookSpot. I'll have to get my hands on Mainspring sometime soon and read it before I pick this one up. I've been hearing both good and bad about the book, but even the bad for one particular reviewer or another has seemed to be things that wouldn't make the book bad in my opinion, so it has been on my list of books to read for a while.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An airplane cemetery

On something of a whim a few months ago, I subscribed to the magazine Pulse. I haven't really paid as much attention to it as I thought I might, but I got an email this morning linking me to some web content, including an upcoming single for the band Calexico. I'd never listened to them, but it's a good song. Also on the page is a teaser video for their upcoming album--just an instrumental in the background, a guitar style that I like, but that could be from just about anybody. What caught my attention, though, is the video shots of the airplane cemetery, all these old aircraft sitting out in the open field. Very cool.

Well, the Romantics had something for graveyards and old ruins (both of which fit these images really), and I get that...though I don't necessarily identify myself as a Romantic. I'm probably more influenced by Romanticism than I recognize, but at the same time I find a danger in romanticizing things too much and in certain aspects of writing that the Romantic mindset can lead to. So I'll actively work against that in my writing at times as well.

None of which stops me from enjoying the footage in that video.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Interactivity that's inane

Yes, interactivity is good, but can we please call a halt to news programs reading the email reaction of some random viewer? It simply adds nothing to the product. I, as another random viewer, am not the least interested in what some stray person lurking on their computer thinks. It's not that I don't care what others think, but without knowing more about the person, there's simply no context to convey anything more.

At least with online forums incorporated into, say, the local newspaper's website or the local news, then there's the potential to create a little dialogue and perhaps to learn more about regular posters to put comments into context. Often that degenerates into extreme childishness, especially on sports and politics sites, but there's a potential for more. Reading silly emails, not so much.

If the local news feels a need to incorporate opinions in their broadcasts--they certainly schedule enough time that they need to fill up--give me a reason to care about the person's opinion. Experts are fine--forget the fear of elitist complaints, and give me someone with intelligence and an understanding of the issue that I lack. Or, if you want to convey what's going on with average people in the area, gather a group for a bit more in-depth reactions, and keep that group changing every week or every day...but devote enough time that it's not a meaningless sound bite.

Otherwise it's no more than an empty gesture, a pretense of listening just so you can fill the bloated time slots.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Two book purchases

I just received these two books in the mail today from Clarkesworld Books. I'd tried to buy Wolfe's Bibliomen last summer, had it in my shopping cart at Clarkesworld and then was pulled away from the computer. By the time I came back later that same day, Clarkesworld had the announcement that it was no longer selling except in large quantities to other sellers. So as soon as they opened for their brief July-only sale, I checked if it was still available...and quite pleased that it was. In the meantime I'd tried to get my library to buy a copy--no luck--and then to inter-library-loan a copy--no luck either. In fact, they only found one library at all that had a copy, and it was the even rarer, limited edition from the 80s...they weren't about to lend it. Just recently I'd noticed that Small Beer Press is selling this edition of it as well and was about to buy it through them when I learned about Clarkesworld's sale. Amazon lists its lowest price for the 80s edition as $165 and for this edition as $30.

The other is K. J. Bishop's Etched City, which I've already read (from the library), but I really enjoyed it and had been considering rereading it anyway. I chose the Prime edition--I like the cover of the Spectra re-issue quite a bit, actually, but this one is even better. It'll probably be a while before I get around to rereading it, but already I'm looking forward to it.

I'd tried to get Avram Davidson's Adventures in Unhistory as well, but someone beat me to the last copy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Character Opinions and Subtext

I'm reading a book now, overall an enjoyable one, a post-apocalyptic story where it's clear that for a long span of time humans lived in isolated communities, giving rise to many visually distinctive ethnic groups. One thing bothers me, though--the main character judges people very much based on how much they resemble her own ethnic group. On the one hand, it makes sense--given the far-future (but not technologically advanced) settings and cultures, things that make the book work on many levels, it's logical that she'd identify immediately with those who look like her. In fact it's probably an honest acknowledgment of something we all do to some extent.

So it isn't that exactly that bothers me...but the fact that the story so far, and I'm nearly done with it, does little to undermine that opinion. There are some kind and trustworthy people from other ethnic groups and some treacherous people from her own, but very few. And those who prove kind are those the main character trusted on first seeing them, while the treacherous prove those she immediately dislikes on seeing them. So the underlying subtext seems to be to trust our prejudices.

Given the author, I'm certain this wasn't an intentional subtext. Yet it seems to be there, pretty prominently. Maybe in the final 75 pages something will seriously undermine it, so no final judgment on it yet. But for now it has me thinking about making genuinely honest and believable characters who don't share your values without making it look like those are your values. As well, it brings to mind all the things an author might unintentionally reveal about their own biases through subtext...except I'm hoping that I'm misinterpreting that in this case.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bar Book Club

We met last night at the microbrewery for our latest book club. Beer of choice was a new one, Bourbon Barrel Stout--very good. It's a dark beer with a lot of flavor (which is exactly what I prefer).

We'd read Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which was a bit of a strange experience for some in our group...and I think earned some snickers from some spouses and such (Yeah, they call it a book group, but they're reading a comic. What geeks). Actually the guy who suggested it had read it for a communications and culture class in college some 10 years ago, and he was the one whose sister-in-law had called him a geek.

So I enjoyed the book, and we ended up with a good discussion on it. I didn't read comics growing up, and I think for those who did the book would be even more exciting--it's like it validates the type of thing you liked reading when you were younger while giving it greater depth, weightier topics, more adult themes or approaches. I can see the same thing for some of the books I do read, that they make it OK again to enjoy whatever it is that you're sort of embarrassed that you liked back in those awful early teen years...

The other thing that jumped out at me because I've been trying to expose myself to more graphic novels and the storytelling techniques of them is that this was a lot more bound by the traditional panel-by-panel storytelling than some things I've read. I wonder if that's a reflection of how things have changed in the 20+ years since it was published. There were certainly times when this broke away briefly from the panels, and I had the feeling (whether true or not) that I was seeing the early forms of that kind of experimentation.

It was my turn to bring suggestions, and I brought these:

City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer
The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

Plus one nonfiction book because I think some in the group tend to be intimated by the fiction I like, My Story As Told By Water by David James Duncan, and that's the one they chose. It's a re-read for me (as the VanderMeer and Helprin books would have been), a bunch of essays on environmentalism and the natural world and spirituality. It came down to this, this Eco and Sedia books, so I'm a bit disappointed as I would have loved to read this with the group and discuss them, but I'm hoping to read both of them soon as well.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pilot episode done

The first episode of my serial project is finally done. It took a long time, but I'm hoping that's mostly because I was still getting a feel for the characters and setting and voice of the writing. I'm pleased with it at the moment, but not ready to share it with anyone in my writing groups yet--I'm hoping to do at least a bit of polishing on it before I do that. I've started some planning for the second episode now--my hope is to have it done within 2 weeks, but at the moment that seems a bit daunting. So we'll see.

I've also managed to do some major rewriting for a different story, one that I wrote right after the baby was born. I'm planning to send it to an anthology that opens next week, so I'll be polishing it one more time (at least) before I send it in. This is quite different from my usual writing--I think in ways that will make it good for this particular antho, but...well, once again we'll see.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Cave dwellers singing

I love to find articles about life and cultures of peoples from all eras, and this one is especially cool. Turns out the cave pictures correspond to the places in caves with the best acoustics, and some of those locations required them to crawl through low tunnels to find. I especially like the idea that they may have relied on essentially echolocation to find these--I've seen some fascinating stories about blind people training themselves to rely quite nicely on echolocation. Also, the fact that the echoes at times resemble the animals in the pictures is very intriguing.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Little Goth girl

One treatment for thrush (a common infection babies get in their mouths) is gentian violet, which is basically a purple ink. So we've had to treat Anneke with it, turning her lips a very Goth purple, but even though my wife has seen patients bring in their 2-month-olds with already-pierced ears, it's not something we'll be doing. And she has very pale skin, but we won't be dying her hair black, nor does her typical wardrobe much go with the Goth look (they just don't make 0-3 month leather jackets, steel-studded, alas). Even so, it makes me laugh every time I see those lips...