The New York Times profiles Jack Vance (but fails to mention Vancian Magic. (Curse you Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition!)
WritingFilter: Got the urge to write, but not sure what to write about? Want to practice your freewriting skills? Try these short story idea generators. [more inside]
The results of the 2009 Lyttle Lytton Contest are in. The Contest rewards unintentionally funny lines in writing. [more inside]
"Necronomicons: The Scariest Book in the World" - A talk given by Daniel Harms, author of the Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, on the history of the Necronomicon(s) - taking in Abdul Alhazred, John Dee, assorted aquaintences of HP Lovecraft, some rather dodgy sounding occultists from the 70s and a man known only as Simon. Previously.
The Missive Maven. Extolling the virtues of snail mail: old-fashioned postal letter-writing and all of its yummy accoutrements
Djuna Barnes (12 June, 1892 – 18 June, 1982) was an American writer who played an important part in the development of 20th century English language modernist writing and was one of the key figures in 1920s and 30s bohemian Paris after filling a similar role in the Greenwich Village of the teens. Her novel Nightwood became a cult work of modern fiction, helped by an introduction by T. S. Eliot. It stands out today for its portrayal of lesbian themes and its distinctive writing style. - Wikipedia [more inside]
Editor Marty Halpern looks back at the career of George Alec Effinger (part 1, part 2, part 3), a prolific author best known for his work set in the Budayeen, a walled city in a future Islamic state, teeming with gangsters, hustlers and transsexual prostitutes, many of them habitual users of plug in personality modules. The noirish tone and exotic technology of the Marîd Audran books (When Gravity Fails, A Fire In The Sun, The Exile Kiss) made Effinger one of the leading lights in the cyberpunk movie, and spawned a videogame - a rare attempt at a graphical adventure from Infocom - and an RPG setting. Sadly Effinger faded from prominence after that, and he suffered from a number of health and financial setbacks before passing away in 2002. His work has had somewhat of a resurgence in popularity of late, with the Marîd Audran books coming back into print in 2007, a long with a collection containing The Wolves of Memory, Effinger's personal favourite amongst his novels.
For Graham Greene he was "unquestionably our best thriller writer". John le Carré once called him "the source on which we all draw". With the six novels he wrote in the years leading up to the second world war - five of which have just been reissued by Penguin Modern Classics - Eric Ambler revitalised the British thriller, rescuing the genre from the jingoistic clutches of third-rate imitators of John Buchan, and recasting it in a more realist, nuanced and leftishly intelligent - not to mention exciting - mould. - The writing of Eric Ambler
Louis Menand in The New Yorker surveys American creative writing education, past and present, and asks whether it should still be taught. (via) [more inside]
Isaac Asimov on how to be a dirty old man.
As a belated tribute (of sorts) to Victoria Day, may you find interest in a variety of Victorina era literature, short and long. In the short category, there is Chit-Chat of Humor, Wit, and Anecdote (Edited by Pierce Pungent; New York: Stringer & Townsend (1857), who has written quite a bit of such work) [via mefi projects], and Conundrums New and Old (Collected by John Ray Frederick; J. Drake & Company Publishers Chicago, 1902) [via mefi projects] This publishing house also published The Art of Characturing, copyright 1941. If you prefer your antiquated humor with a twist, take a gander at bizarro version of Conundrums New and Old [via mefi projects]. In the category of longer works, behold the The Lost Novels of Victorian New Zealand [via an older mefi projects]. [more inside]
It’s only natural that if you wish to present yourself as a well-read person, a certain degree of complete bullshit is required. There’s no shame in lying about what you’ve read. There’s only shame in getting caught. Then you look like a doofus, and an illiterate one at that... How to lie about books.
“Until the recent Great Rebellion, the Jedi Bendu were the most feared warriors in the universe. For one hundred thousand years, generations of Jedi perfected their art as the personal bodyguards of the emperor. They were the chief architects of the invincible Imperial Space Force which expanded the Empire across the galaxy, from the celestial equator to the farthest reaches of the Great Rift. Now these legendary warriors are all but extinct. One by one they have been hunted down and destroyed as enemies of the New Empire by a ferocious and sinister rival warrior sect, the Knights of Sith.” - The first draft of Star Wars... was awful.
Marguerite Young - whom Kurt Vonnegut called "unquestionably a genius" - first achieved success with a study of the utopian commune at New Harmony, Indiana called Angel in the Forest. She then spent 18 years writing Miss Macintosh, My Darling - a 1,198 page novel that William Goyen praised in The New York Times Book Review as "a masterwork". She spent the last 30 years of her life writing an unfinished biography of Eugene V. Debs that was posthumously published, in heavily edited form, as Harp Song for a Radical. [more inside]
Dreams With Sharp Teeth – clips from a Sundance Channel documentary on science fiction writer (and somewhat litigious colourful character) Harlan Ellison. Harlan says pay the writer. (via)
As I read Incest, I realized that something which I had always taken to be unique, the voice of Myra Breckinridge, was actually that of Anaïs in all the flowing megalomania of the diaries. - Gore Vidal, Palimpsest - pg. 108 [more inside]
The SF Signal Mind Meld feature poses science fiction related questions to a number of SF luminaries and the scientist, science writer or blogger. Subjects have included the best women writers in SF, taboo topics in SF, underated authors and the most controversial SF novels of the past and present. The also cover lighter topics, such the role of media tie-ins, how Battlestar Galactica could have ended better (bonus Geoff Ryman) and the realistic (or otherwise) use of science on TV SF shows.
James Wallace Harris on Variable Star, Spider Robinson's posthumous collaboration with Robert A Heinlein, the elements that make up a Heinlein juvenile and what the equivalent might be today.
It's been only two years since the writer Jo Walton proposed a day for authors to post their writing for free online. This was in response to the resignation speech of Howard Hendrix, former V.P. of the Science Fiction Writers of America, which turned into a rant on the evil of giving away work for free on the internet. [more inside]
A LECTURE DELIVERED BY THE SHORT-STORY WRITER GARY LUTZ TO THE STUDENTS OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY’S WRITING PROGRAM IN NEW YORK
The sentence is a lonely place. "The sentence, with its narrow typographical confines, is a lonely place, the loneliest place for a writer, and the temptation for the writer to get out of one sentence as soon as possible and get going on the next sentence is entirely understandable. In fact, the conditions in just about any sentence soon enough become (shall we admit it?) claustrophobic, inhospitable, even hellish. But too often our habitual and hasty breaking away from one sentence to another results in sentences that remain undeveloped parcels of literary real estate, sentences that do not feel fully inhabitated and settled in by language. So many of the sentences we confront in books and magazines look unfinished and provisional, and start to go to pieces as soon as we gawk at and stare into them. They don’t hold up. Their diction is often not just spare and stark but bare and miserly."
Name Your Tale. Submit a title, and and one of the authors of Name Your Tale will write a 100-word short story based on the submitted title. For example, "Andrew Received Cancer."[via mefi projects]
What is a lipogram? It's a book or short work of fiction that omits a particular scriptural symbol, commonly a vocalic sign, as a stylistic ploy to amplify a motif, or simply as a stimulating bit of wordplay. Skilful application of this form is shown in US and Gallic publications such as Gadsby: Champion of Youth and La Disparition (also known, in an award-winning translation, as A Void). [more inside]
StarshipSofa has podcasted all of the Nebula Best Short Story Nominees for 2008, following on from podcasting all but one of the 2008 BSFA short story nominees. Previous StarshipSofa.
In 1919 while at Cornell University future children's author, essayist and New Yorker magazine editor Elwyn Brooks (E.B.) White took heed of the advice of his English professor, William Strunk, Jr., to "omit needless words" in his writing. Strunk advised such -- and more -- to his students in a self-published compositional guide known on campus as "the Little Book." In 1935 his pamphlet was revised and published under the title The Elements and Practice of Composition. In 1957, 11 years after Strunk's death, White wrote a nostalgic article about his professor and his grammar and style guide for the New Yorker. Persuaded two years later by Macmillan editor Jack Case to revise and expand Strunk's manual, White co-authored the book The Elements of Style (New York Times review, June 9, 1959] often referred to as Strunk and White. Since its publication the book has sold more than 10 million copies. The literary world is now celebrating the book's golden anniversary.> [more inside]
The novlist Julie Myerson has written a book, The Lost Child, about her son's addiction to cannabis, the violent behaviour she says this caused and her tough love policy. Extract. Her son is angry that she's published it, and says his parents over-reacted: "I wasn't doing anything that most other teenagers do, but such was their naive terror of drugs they were acting like six-year-olds". It comes out through MumsNet that Julie Myerson was the anonymous author of a Guardian column, "Living with Teenagers," which described her children's behaviour candidly without their knowledge. Extract. Myerson first denied this. The Guardian discusses whether it was right to publish the columns. Myerson is interviewed about whether she was right to publish The Lost Child. Her partner, and son's father, Jonathan Myerson supports her: This is an emergency. Her son says she's addicted to writing. [more inside]
What if you wrote to Alpo to ask if they have a senior citizen's blend, or to the AARP to inquire about the living status of Abe Vigoda? And what if they wrote back? That's the purpose of Jackassletters.com, part mischief, part mayhem, from MeFi's own cjorgensen. History has demonstrated the fun of hoax letter writing, for instance Kitty Piddle Soda from Avery's Beverages. Someone has to carry on the tradition. Tweaking the noses of power and fame. (via MeFi Projects)
Paul Graham recently wrote an essay. And saved all his edits, so you can replay it in entirety just as he wrote it.* It's quite fascinating to see if you ever wondered how he (or other writers) went about their job. And here's the Hacker News thread he initiated. This can be a very useful tool to watch and understand your own writing process, or understand and help your students write. Like cvs/svn mirror for long form writing. [more inside]
Fantasy writer George R. R. Martin responds to fans impatient for the latest installment of his series A Song of Fire and Ice: "Okay, I've got the message. " [more inside]
It's a tough life as a media tie-in writer. Vonda N. McIntyre, early pioneer in the field and author of the Star Trek film novelisations, blogs about how she started the Star Trek novel franchise with The Entropy Effect, despite suggestions that maybe she do something more respectable like be a waitress instead. [via io9]
Scene 360 is an online film and arts magazine, profiling and interviewing artists & web designers, filmmakers and writers.
"To make off with hubby's fortune, yea, I think I heard of that happenin' once or twice around L.A. And… you want me to do what exactly?" He found the paper bag he'd brought his supper home in and got busy pretending to scribble notes on it, because straight-chick uniform, makeup supposed to look like no makeup or whatever, here came that old well-known hard-on Shasta was always good for sooner or later. Does it ever end, he wondered. Of course it does. It did. Thomas Pynchon's next novel, the 416-page Inherent Vice, is described by Penguin Press as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog." While we wait for its August 4 publication, we can read an essay on the dystopian musical he co-wrote at Cornell or watch a clip of that movie they made of Gravity's Rainbow. [more inside]
"I don’t know for certain what big publishers are doing to make their prices so high, or what they think they’ll get out of it. I only know that I made a deliberate pricing decision to discourage Amazon and Kindle sales because I needed Amazon’s visibility but I didn’t want to lose my shirt, bra, AND panties." [some language may be NSFW] [more inside]
Make your handwriting into a font with Yourfonts. Download the PDF, draw your alphabet, scan and upload, then download the finished result. Examples. Via Drawn!
If you ever watched Star Trek: The Next Generation or Reading Rainbow, you know Levar Burton. And for years, all you've wanted is his signature. Well, if you have a child in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade, now you can. Every entrant to the Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustraters Contest receives a signed certificate from Levar Burton, whether their work is terrible or awesome. Get your kids writing now, deadline is in March. But you don't have to take my word for it... Previously
Visual Poetry Today collects various forms of visual poetry, today. It includes Peter Ciccariello, who wraps text around computer-modeled landscapes. [more inside]
A tempest in a Livejournal: It starts with author Elizabeth Bear's post Writing for The Other. Or maybe it started with Jay Lake's Thinking about the Other. It leads to a wide ranging, intense and angry debate on the portrayal of ethnicity in fiction, culture and the media. Avalon's Willow responds with an open letter on the racial content in one of her books, and relates it to media portrayals of ethnic peoples. Deepa D follows up with a post on, cultural appropriation. And then things get intense. [more inside]
Today marks the 200th birthday of Edgar Alan Poe, and as happens every year the mysterious Poe Toaster marked the date by placing three red roses and a half-filled bottle of cognac at his Baltimore grave. The identity of the toaster isn't the only question surrounding Poe - his presence in Baltimore and the circumstances of his death remain a mystery. Some speculate that he may have had rabies, others that he may have been a victim of cooping. And while Baltimore embarks on a year long celebration of Poe some argue that his body shouldn't be there at all.
International House of Logorrhea, at The Phrontistry, a free online dictionary of weird and unusual words to help enhance your vocabulary. Generous language resources, 2 and 3 letter Scrabble words l The Compass DeRose Guide to Emotion Words l all kinds of glossaries for color terms, wisdom, love and attraction, scientific instruments, manias and obsessions, feeding and eating, carriages and chariots, dance styles and all kinds of fun word stuff. [more inside]
Do you have something to say, but never had the chance to? Founded in late 1997 and originally published August 15th, 1998, So There has stood as a testament to your daily lives for over five years.
"We do not think our way to right action. We act our way to right thinking." David Milch talks to students in USC class Religion, Media and Hollywood. Not for everyone but I find pretty much anything this guy says fascinating. Parts 1 2 3 4 5 6.
The Sea of Perdition - Children of the Kingdom - Black Tulips - Three short films by South African-born film director Richard Stanley. Stanley's career took off with Hardware (an unacknowledged adaptation the 2000ad story Shok!) and the apocalyptic African western/Horror movie Dust Devil, then hit the rocks with the doomed 1996 version of the Island of Doctor Moreau, from which he was fired and replaced by John Frankenheimer. Stanley hasn't directed a feature film since... though he now has two films in preproduction, Vacation and Bones of the Earth. The original script for Moreau can be read on his unofficial site, as well as the script for a sequel to Hardware. Richard Stanley's MySpace Blog is also very strange.
David Horvitz discovers several pages of his writing in this year's Dave Eggers-edited Best American Nonrequired Reading. He was not told that his work (pulled from his website) would be appearing in the book. Now he is peeved and has made several demands, "this is not a joke". (see the long Dec. 9 entry).via
Book sales are down. Powells, the largest independant bookseller in the US, is asking staff to scale back hours or take sabbaticals. Will you buy a book from an independent bookstore this Christmas?