Sunday, September 25, 2011

Funny quote

Arthur John became initialized early in life. Initialization is a Southern rite of passage akin to the Hebrew practice of circumcision, but it is sometimes less painful and does not always occur on the seventh day. So Arthur John Longstreet became A.J., and A.J. he has remained.

This is from The Front Porch Prophet by Raymond L. (R.L.?) Atkins, a book I somehow got a free copy of for my Nook. Not sure anything about it or if I'll enjoy it--this isn't a recommendation or review or anything--but just reading the opening, I came across that line and liked it.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I was thinking, in part in response to a recent conversation on a writing forum, about how we as writers react to challenging or thought-provoking ideas. I've already noticed that some fellow writers react quite differently from how I do to articles about story construction or other writing advice kinds of essays. My initial reaction is, "Cool, someone's sharing some thoughts about writing. I wonder what I can learn from it." I don't always follow through and take those things I'd meant to learn to heart, but I try to be open, even if it might mean changing how I think about story structure or what kinds of things show up in my stories or whatever. It seems that some writers instead react negatively to that kind of thing, almost as if their initial thought is, "Ahhhh, someone's trying to tell me what to do. I just want to do it my own way."

There's definite value in finding what works for you and not blindly accepting what someone else suggests. I definitely agree with that. But I'll also strongly stand by the idea that the only way to grow is to keep challenging your assumptions, questioning what you've done, finding new ways to write (and new ways to think about story).

What really struck me was the umbrage one writer took when another said something about not trying to attack but to get us to think about the issue. The implication being, the first writer claimed, that everyone else hadn't thought about the issue. I can understand that as a knee-jerk reaction...but honestly, I don't care how many times I've thought about a thorny, tricky issue related to writing. I want to be challenged to think about it again. And each time I think about it, I'll come away reminded of what I've learned and challenged about things I've assumed...and my writing will be enriched because of it.

That's the thoughtfulness I want to have toward my writing (and politics, religion, science, in general).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Short Fiction Friday

This story has been up awhile, but I just got around to reading it: "A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel" by Yoon Ha Lee (whose stories have shown up as recommended reads here more than once). One of the comments on the bottom calls it "a great Calvino remix of hard-SF FTL handwaving," which really is as good of an explanation for why I like the story as any I could come up with.

I also remembered a pair of stories that I'd read this spring when I wasn't putting recommendations on the blog, both evocative and surreal stories by Genevieve Valentine: "Study, for Solo Piano" in Fantasy Magazine and "The Finest Spectacle Anywhere" in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The stories are linked by their setting, within a traveling circus in a post-apocalyptic world, that's also the setting for Valentine's novel Mechanique. At the time I read those stories, I hadn't started hearing any of the high praise the novel has since been getting, but I bought it right away on my Nook and have been reading it slowly, lingeringly (because that's the kind of book it is, the kind you want to savor as you go) between other books ever since. It looks as if there was an earlier Circus Tresaulti story in BCS, "Bread and Circuses," that I missed when it was published...but I will be remedying that shortly.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Strange Horizons fund drive

Don't forget that the annual fund drive at Strange Horizons is happening right now. There are a few online ezines that I'd have a difficult time picking between for a favorite, but Strange Horizons is definitely one of those few--weekly fiction, poetry, reviews, as well as articles, they do a great job balancing them all. There are also prizes to be had...

Friday, September 09, 2011

Short Fiction Friday

The name alone of Mari Ness's "Love in the Absence of Mosquitos" drew me in (and cool artwork, as well). The story relies on the unconventional (to us) marriage relationships of its imagined people, where a pod of people are married to each other (or sometimes to just one person within the pod) and their interactions carefully proscribed by contract. The opening paragraph sets the stage perfectly, and demonstrates the story's intriguing invention:

When Andrea brought her new wife to the pod, the family welcomed her, of course, quite properly. And then, not intentionally, ignored her. They had issues of their own: the main huswife, their pod's Second, was leaving, taking a significant amount of the household income, and one of the more minor husbands needed significant surgery, and then they had all of the other individual and family issues that a pod might have.

It's the story of Andrea and her new wife, an artist who does not fit the social norms of her society.

For some whimsy, I'll also recommend Megan Arkenberg's "Lessons from a Clockwork Queen." I'm a bit torn between finding it great fun and finding it perhaps a bit too cutesy in places...but for the most part its whimsy carries it through in a series of vignettes about a queendom ruled be a clockwork queen. Each vignette ends with an arch moral, which fits the comic tone of the story as a whole.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Fantasy names

I've read a lot more epic fantasy in the past half a year than I have in any similar span since in recent years. One thing I notice as I read secondary fantasies like that is that my mind seems to latch onto particular names--not for anything special in what that character or place means within the story, but just because I like the way it feels to say the word. Usually it's not a major character from the story, though I think "Otah-kvo" might have been on my tongue a lot this spring when I read the Long Price quartet. Just recently it was "Magnar of Thenn," a minor character in A Dance With Dragons. I seem to remember some of the place names of White Luck Warrior filling that role back a few months ago.

It's not only fantasy names that do this. Once a year or two ago I woke up with the word lepidoptera running through my mind for no reason I could tell--I even had to double-check that it really was a word relating to moths and butterflies and not just something my subconscious had created as I slept.

No grand wisdom to learn from this--I don't think there's even anything specific about the names that I end up latching onto, though I intend to pay some attention to which words end up striking me that way, see if there's anything to glean from it for coming up with my own names. But I'm definitely the type of reader who pronounces the words as I read, and I think this just reflects that fact.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Short Fiction Friday

I've been scrambling to finish a couple of books this past week and haven't read my usual array of short fiction magazines. However, my friend Lesli Wilder recommended a story the other day on Facebook, and as I trust her tastes, I'll put it up here as well: "The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees" by E. Lily Yu. The title alone intrigues me (and makes me wonder how I missed it last spring). What I've read of it has a fun sense of whimsy, and I'll certainly be reading the rest once I get a chance.