These days, the idea of being a “good reader” or a “good critic” is very much out of fashion — not because we believe that such creatures do not exist, but because we all identify as both. The machine of consumerism is designed to encourage us all to believe that our preferences are significant and self-revealing; that a taste for Coke over Pepsi, or for KFC over McDonald’s, means something about us; that our tastes comprise, in sum, a kind of aggregate expression of our unique selfhood. We are led to believe that our brand loyalties are the result of a deep, essential affinity between the consumer and product — this soap is “you”; this bank is “yours” — and social networking affords us countless opportunities to publicise and justify these brand loyalties as partial explanations of “who we are”.
How Iowa Flattened Literature
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop emerged in the 1930s and powerfully influenced the creative-writing programs that followed. More than half of the second-wave programs, about 50 of which appeared by 1970, were founded by Iowa graduates. Third- and fourth- and fifth-wave programs, also Iowa scions, have kept coming ever since. So the conventional wisdom that Iowa kicked off the boom in M.F.A. programs is true enough. [...] Over the past 40 years, creative writing’s small-is-beautiful approach has served it well, as measured by the discipline’s explosive growth while most of its humanities counterparts shrink and cower. The reasons for this could fill many essays. For one thing, creative writing has successfully embedded itself in the university by imitating other disciplines without treading on their ground. A pyramid resembles a pedagogy—it’s fungible, and easy to draw on the board. Introductory math and physics professors like to draw diagrams too, a welcome analogy for a discipline wishing both to establish itself as teachable and to lengthen its reach into the undergraduate curriculum, where a claim of pure writerly exceptionalism won’t cut it.
Last week's episode of True Detective featured a stirring tent-revival sermon from a wildly charismatic preacher. It was heavily edited with dialogue between the stars of the show. Nic Pizzolatto (the writer/creator of the series) thought it so good, he released the full 6-minute sermon for you to enjoy. [more inside]
Laura is super passionate about girls fighting evil, creating collages with short stories about various groups of girls fighting off demons - from radio DJs and the interns at Night Vale, to Dorothy Gale, travelers, and of course Beyonce. Sometimes the girls are helping the demons: evil counterparts to Cinderella, Belle, and Snow White, the underwater orchestra, even the underlord's admin assistant. Sometimes they fight each other; sometimes they fight themselves. Some of these fighters are real. Sometimes they'll let you borrow their style.
The extended setting of the Harry Potter series is fertile soil for fans interested in worldbuilding, especially since the release of Pottermore (previously), a companion site to the books that includes back-story and adjunt information direct from J.K. Rowling. Some of these worldbuilding projects include explorations on wizarding fashion, magical education (including other magical schools), fantastic beasts (and perhaps where to find them), Muslims at Hogwarts, and the next generation of Hogwarts students. [more inside]
Jorge Luis Borges called the stories of Craig Strete “shattered chains of brilliance.” Salvador Dali said, “like a new dream, his writings seizes the mind.” First published in1974 and then again in 1977, [The Bleeding Man] has its foreward written by none other than the great Virginia Hamilton who dubs him “the first American Indian to become a successful Science Fiction writer” and says that “the writing is smooth and unassuming, and yet the fabric of it is always richly textured.” The Bleeding Man and many other out-of-print titles by Strete are available in eBook format[s (PDF, PRC, ePUB)] for free. [more inside]
You might not know me, but I’m famous. Don’t feel bad. Until recently, I didn’t know I was famous either, and most days, even now, it’s hard to tell.
I had done all the research I was going to do, assembled enough material to fill a silo. And now I had no idea what to do with it - John McPhee, on narrative structure. [more inside]
If you think monkeys are fascinating and you want to understand and be of value to them, it's not enough to be an expert on what monkeys should ideally eat. You have to understand what monkeys actually eat.
2013 had a lot of great longform writing. Longreads and Longform lead the way with their best of lists. Lots of sites provided year end lists: The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Business Week Buzzfeed, The Daily Beast, Dazed Digital, Deadspin, Esquire UK, Flavorwire, Gawker, Inc., Impose Magazine, Indiewire, i09, Lifehacker, Maclean's, Mashable, Mother Jones, National Geographic, National Journal, The New Yorker, On Earth, Out, Pocket, ReadWrite, Slate, Spin, Sports on Earth, The Electric Typewriter, The Verge, The Voice Media Group, and The Washington Post. [more inside]
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” The daily routines of famous writers. [more inside]
When I published my first novel 20 years later, I found myself faced with the same challenge: how do I talk about this book to people whose entire conception of science fiction and fantasy are built around Star Wars and The Hobbit? How do I convince folks that stories about the dissolution of a marriage in Montreal in 2155 are just as serious an endeavor as writing about the dissolution of a marriage in Montreal 1955?
Hey! It looks like you're trying to write an original character for your fiction/fanfic/RPG, why not run it through The Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test and make sure you're not actually writing a self-insert wish-fulfillment fantasy.
Stuck on that novel or just looking for some writing inspiration? Swing by the WritingPrompts subreddit for a wealth of clever prompts, each with a different set of constraints. Be sure to browse the stories submitted in the comments. [more inside]
The 2013 Black List has been released. For those unfamiliar, the “Black List” is a list of the most liked unproduced screenplays circulating around Hollywood, as voted on by over 250 film executives, and past Black List scripts include The Social Network, Saving Mr. Banks, The King’s Speech, and Slumdog Millionaire.
Having trouble coming up with an idea or a SEO friendly title for your next web article? Portend's Content Idea Generator comes to the rescue.
Demand Media, once valued higher than the New York Times, is seeing a rapid decrease in profits because of Google changing its search algorithms. Does this mean the beginning of the end for "content farms"?
The city is a fountain that never stops: it generates its energy from the human interactions that take place in it. Unfortunately, we’re getting to a point where many of New York’s citizens have been excluded from this equation for too long. David Byrne comments on New York's hospitability to creative types.
In the UK Guardian: Eight passages of raunchy prose are in contention for Literary Review's bad sex in fiction award. [some passages are ikky to read] [more inside]
"He logged onto the central network using his personal computer, and waited while the system verified his identity. With a few keystrokes he entered an electronic ticketing system, and entered the codes for his point of departure and his destination. In moments the computer displayed a list of possible flights, and he picked the earliest one. Dollars were automatically deducted from his personal account to pay for the transaction." -- If all stories were written like science fiction stories, by Mark Rosenfelder.
"You are standing in a hallway at nine in the morning, facing a dining room/kitchen to the south. To the west are stairs up. To the north is an office." -- The Writing Life as interactive fiction, as lived through by Patricia C. Wrede.
On the Lovecraftian Mode - Gord Sellar on why he writes lovecraftian fiction. Elizabeth Bear on the same question. I. N. J. Culbard on adapting Lovecraft.
Hey, scholars, academics, and assorted geeks: Palgrave MacMillan is offering their first 100 Palgrave Pivots (midlength academic writings from around 25,000 to 50,000 words) for free until 11/1 at 1:00 p.m. GMT. Go!
Infographic shows you how award-winning science fiction is born - From Jeff Vandermeer (and collaborators) Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. Trailer, website, interview.
In February 1963, a new publication took advantage of the New York City printers strike and launched with a daring editorial: It does not, however, seek merely to fill the gap created by the printers’ strike in New York City but to take the opportunity which the strike has presented to publish the sort of literary journal which the editors and contributors feel is needed in America. The New York Review of Books is now 50. [more inside]
Buzzfeed without the GIFs - for those that love Buzzfeed's writing but can't stand the pesky GIFs getting in the way.
For your October delight: Top 10 horror movies, as picked by Guardian critics, Ten Exceptionally Well-Written Horror Films, Top Ten Horror-Sci-Fi Films: A Primer And Pseudo-History, The 12 Weirdest Vampire Movies Ever Made, The Top Grossing Scary Movies Of All-Time, and, perhaps most importantly of all: The 25 best horror films on netflix instant.
The Pen is Mightier than The Diving Elbow Drop Lucha Libre is Mexico's answer to wrestling. Fighters put on masks an duke it out in the ring. In Peru they have Lucha Libro where aspiring authors put on masks go on stage where they are given 3 random words with which they are given 5 minutes to write a short story. The loser has to take off his mask. The winner goes onto another round. The grand prize winner receives a book contract.
The most Irish island in the world. Booker Prize winning author Anne Enright travels to the edge of Newfoundland. (single page version, may trigger printer).
Why I Hate the Goldberg Variations, by Jeremy Denk, whose new (lovely) recording of the Goldberg Variations is now streaming on NPR. Also by Denk: Hannibal Lecter's Guide to the Goldberg Variations, which explores the famous cannibal killer through the lens of Bach. This is Your Brain on the Goldberg Variations, which gets in-depth on just how the Variations vary.
Writing advice from Oates, Wolfe, Levine, Pynchon, Stein, Welty, DeLillo, Chekhov, Gallant, and Elkin; Baldwin, Miller, Morrison, Vonnegut, Atwood, Nabokov, and Stein again; Maugham, Hughes, Duras, Orwell, Ashbery, Sontag, Creeley, and Steinbeck; O'Connor, Baxter, Didion, Yeats, Hejinian, Cocteau, du Plessix Gray, and Bolaño; Waldrop, Cary, Pessoa, Amis, Carroll, Atwood, and Le Guin; Vinge, Williams, Crane, Creeley once more, Gallant, Vargas Llosa, Mathews, and Wolfe again. [more inside]
Once upon a time, typographical practice was anarchy. Printers put in all sizes of spaces in haphazard ways, including after periods. Then, a standard emerged: the single space after a period. Unfortunately, the evil typewriter came along, and for some unknown reason, people began to put wider double spaces after periods. Typographers railed against the practice, but they could do nothing. [more inside]
The Writer As Reader: Melville and his Marginalia In the General Rare Books Collection at Princeton University Library sits a stunning two-volume edition of John Milton that once belonged to Herman Melville. Melville's tremendous debt to Milton — and to Homer, Virgil, the Bible, and Shakespeare — might be evident to anyone who has wrestled with the moral and intellectual complexity that lends Moby Dick its immortal heft, but to see Melville's marginalia in his 1836 Poetical Works of John Milton is to understand just how intimately the author of the great American novel engaged with the author of the greatest poem in English. Checkmarks, underscores, annotations, and Xs reveal the passages in Paradise Lost and other poems that would have such a determining effect on Melville's own work.
The Big Father Essay. Some readers may find sections disturbing.
Songs from the Black Chair, published by Bellevue Literary Review in 2004, from a 2005 memoir by the same name, by Charles Barber
Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong. - I hate Strong Female Characters.
This is my window. Or my windows—the view from my living room, where I sit and write. Might not seem very inspiring. I wish I could offer green mossy lava, roaring waves, a glacier mountain top. I do have other spaces—in an abandoned powerstation, a favorite fisherman’s cafe by the harbor, a summer house on the arctic circle—but this is my honest view, what I really see most of the days. This house was built in the 1960s when people were fed up with lava and mountains; they were migrating to the growing suburbs to create a new view for themselves. The young couple who dug the foundation with their own hands dreamed of a proper garden on this barren, rocky strip of land. They dreamed of trees, flowers, shelter from the cold northern breeze. What is special depends on where you are, and here, the trees are actually special. They were planted fifty years ago like summer flowers, not expected to live or grow more than a meter. The rhododendron was considered a miracle, not something that could survive a winter. It looks tropical, with Hawaiian-looking pink flowers; Skúli, the man who built the house and sold it to me half a century later, took special pride in it. I am not a great gardener. We are thinking of buying an apple tree, though they don’t really thrive in this climate. I would plant it like a flower, not really expect it to grow, and hope for a miracle. —Andri Snær Magnason [more inside]
"I haven't told why I wrote the book, but I haven't told you why I sneeze, either. A book is a sneeze." A lovely little letter from E. B. White.
It is doubtless tempting to exclaim against the ignorant bourgeois; yet it should not be forgotten, it is he who is to pay us, and that (surely on the face of it) for services that he shall desire to have performed. Here also, if properly considered, there is a question of transcendental honesty. To give the public what they do not want, and yet expect to be supported: we have there a strange pretension, and yet not uncommon, above all with painters. The first duty in this world is for a man to pay his way; when that is quite accomplished, he may plunge into what eccentricity he likes; but emphatically not till then. Till then, he must pay assiduous court to the bourgeois who carries the purse. Robert Louis Stevenson on art as a career.
Ever Upward isn't just a blog about space but a love letter to the wonder and beauty lurking in the science of space. It is written, and occasionally drawn, by MeFite Narrative Priorities [more inside]
Let’s say you’re a writer, working a novel set in Minneapolis. Your protagonist arrives home after a long day of doing whatever it is your protagonist does all day. To this point, you’ve been very specific with local landmarks and a general feeling of the city — your protagonist rides the 21A, eats breakfast at the Grand Cafe, and meets his or her attorney in an office on the 12th floor of the Rand Tower. All good so far. You’ve set the scene very effectively. People are going to say, “This is a great Minneapolis novel" after they read it. However, the time has now come for you to insert a specific street address into the text. You like specifics, and you need a real-sounding mailing address for, say, a situation where the protagonist receives a mysterious letter. How will you accomplish this? Here you have a problem. You only have two options, neither one very good. [more inside]