Monday, April 29, 2013

Picking Sondheim's Brain

It'll probably surprise a few readers to know I love musicals. It probably won't surprise people to know that I like musicals on the darker, more snarky end of the spectrum, like Chicago, Assassins, and the musical adaptation of Evil Dead (which featured blood pumped on stage through a visible garden hose and a number called the "What the Fuck Tango").  The form is, in and of itself, so artificial and so goofy that I think it lends itself especially well to a really surreal experience that, if it's done right, can be moving, creepy, and downright hilarious. That said, I will gnaw my own arm off to avoid sitting through a whole Gilbert and Sullivan musical.

There's a lot of amazing thought that goes into these things. Here are the creators of Assassins breaking down the pace, the tone, the strategy, and the music of a jazz-handed upbeat revue about murdering presidents (video link).

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Perils of Themed Anthologies

K. H. Vaughan talks to several editors, including your friend and mine K. Allen Wood, about writing stories specifically for themed anthologies... and then trying to sell them elsewhere

Thursday, April 25, 2013


It's a wonderful resource for free science fiction online. In case you didn't have enough to do. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Seven Devils of Central California

Three Catherynne Valente poems. Even if you don't like poetry that much, please give these a try. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Raymond Carver, Edited

"What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" presented as a heavily edited version of its prior draft "The Beginners". Eye opening, I say. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Thing About Romance

I'm ready to take a break, for a while at least, from stories with the following plot:

Boy likes girl, but is terrified to talk to girl. Girl indicates in several ways she would not mind being talked to, including usually late in the story outright saying "I was really hoping you would come and talk to me." Boy overcomes his pants-wetting terror of girl and talks to girl. Happy ending.

Science fiction, for better or worse, has a certain expected fan and author base, and I probably wouldn't run across this so much in other genres (though we could have a long hard talk about awkward boys and terrifying women in horror). Honestly, it's even a good story, and I wouldn't mind it at all if I didn't come across it so often. But it's not really a story about a relationship.

I don't completely understand why we romanticize awkward, inhibited, adolescent-style love the way we do. I mean, yes, there's something charming about the purity of an ideal before it comes into contact with reality, but it means the conflict you get is often completely internal and the character being lusted after is by definition a frightening, alien, mysterious object. You can play that ironically and make it great fun, but so often it feels like people are playing it very straight. It can't be because we never really grow out of that phase, because I look at these stories and think Jesus, I'm glad that horrible chapter of my life is over. Maybe it's because adolescent-style love is automatically bound up in more emotion than love as part of a well-balanced set of emotions- but that also kind of fixes it in this amber of hormones and stupid decisions. More than half of the stories with the above plot that I've read lately did not have protagonists who were teenagers, and when they love in a teenage way, it's hard not to think of them as stunted and a little pitiful (though then again, part of that is a lack of sympathy to the proposition that women are terrifying other beings that are in no way to be expected to respond like people).

There are so many stories about the approach, or the chase and catch, and so few stories that are actually about a relationship between two people. We have these predetermined cut offs- when he talks to her, when she says yes to a date, when she agrees to sex, when she's getting into his car so they can drive off into the sunset. We almost never seem to follow them down the road to the motel, or the fast food restaurant, or the campground, or whereever it is they stop on their sunset-ward drive. Is that not also interesting? Is there no story there?

Reading in the short form is also probably working against me here. There's only so many beats available. The formulas are high-yield for drama and emotion.

Still, I'd like to read something else. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Premise, Turn

Modern Broad dissects story structure, with the bonus of it being another Jeffrey Ford story! Really, the whole blog is fantastic both for art and writing. Do check around while you're there. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Project Rooftop

Like Project Runway, but for superheroes. Right now it's ladies on the first page, but if you scroll back you'll find a lot of male characters as well, including some great villain redesigns. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Mantis Shrimp

I like the oatmeal anyway, but this may be my favorite thing they've ever done. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Erik Lund runs an insightful and amusing history blog. Go and enjoy it

Monday, April 8, 2013

Warrior Poets of Mars

Alright, so. I'd resolved to both read and write more poetry, because that's the sort of writer I want to be, and to a certain extent I feel like getting away from poetry has dulled some of the imagery I reach for. It's had the unexpected, but pleasant, surprise of me writing a few things with more emotional involvement, rather than intellectual process (at least in the rough, obviously rigorous intellect goes into editing) and I didn't realize until I sat down and wrote very personal poetry how much of that wasn't going through into the fiction I've been doing of late.

I've been reading quite a bit more poetry as well, and checking out what the markets are for things. I'm a few years back into the strange horizons archives, and I had started making a list of my favorite poems to share on the blog, but ended up stopping once I realized I was putting more poems onto the list than not. I think what I'm going to do is just keep a rolling draft post open, paste poems into that, and present them to the blog in chunks as it fills up.

The Beetle Horde by James Valvis
The Three Immigrations by Rose Lemberg
After, Ever by Caitlin O'Brien
Cave Bear Dreams by Ann K. Schwader
I Understand Video Games Aren't Real by Leslie Anderson
Atlantis by Caitlin R. Kiernan
In the Court of the Khan by Lisa Bao
The Vampire Astronomer by Chris Willrich
Carrington's Ferry by Mike Allen
Loki, Dynamicist by Michele Bannister
Fallen by Shannon Connor Winward
Imageography by Robert Frazier
The Theater for Cloud Repair by Sandra J. Lindow
Bone China by David Sklar

I also made some observations.

Here are some things I've been finding I really like:
  • some lovely images
  • a really nice sense of irony between what's being said and what's being meant
  • ideas that are beautiful but aren't really stories
  • tips of unconveyed stories
  • poems that are broken into smaller sub-poems that make good use of the format to build a larger, more nuanced argument
Here are some things I find put me off poems:
  • the persistent address to an unidentified you
  • poems that don't work without having read the work from which it is derived, especially when the alluded work is not particularly specified.
  • poems with simple language and little metaphor
  • really, really long poems, in most cases. By then you need something more than language and emotion to tie it together, and poems can be pretty obtuse ways to tell stories.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Down to a Sunless Sea

Neil Gaiman doesn't remotely need help from me in terms of getting the word out, but here you go. A short, grim story

Monday, April 1, 2013

At Reparata

Jeffrey Ford is one of my favorite writers, and At Reparata is the first of his stories I ever read. It has a special place in my heart.