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You must know thrilling things before you can write about them

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. A year before his death, James Bond author Ian Fleming explained how to write a thriller.
posted by shivohum on Nov 26, 2014 - 7 comments

The Real Lolita

Sally Horner was abducted by Frank La Salle in 1948. In Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, Humbert Humbert asks: “Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle [sic], a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?” In Hazlitt magazine, Sarah Weinman tells the whole story & explores the similarities between Sally & Dolly. [potential triggers]
posted by chavenet on Nov 21, 2014 - 32 comments

Position yourself, whenever possible, at the top of a flight of stairs.

Bookish Beauty Tips from the Toast.
posted by Solon and Thanks on Nov 20, 2014 - 9 comments

"The Culture represents the place we might hope to get to"

The long-term optimism comes from the the fact that no matter how bad things seem and how idiotically and cruelly we behave. . . well, we've got this far, despite it all, and there are more people on the planet than ever before, and more people living good, productive, relatively happy lives than ever before, and—providing we aren't terminally stupid, or unlucky enough to get clobbered by something we have no control over, like a big meteorite or a gamma ray buster or whatever—we'll solve a lot of problems just by sticking around and doing what we do; developing, progressing, improving, adapting. And possibly by inventing AIs that are smarter and more decent than we are, which will help us get some sort of perspective on ourselves, at the very least. We might just stumble our way blindly, unthinkingly into utopia, in other words, muddling through despite ourselves.
In 2010 Jude Roberts interviewed Iain M. Banks for her PhD. Banks discusses his utopia, The Culture, which he created in a series of science fiction novels.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 19, 2014 - 69 comments

Math is hard.

Barbie Fucks It Up Again “This is great!” I said. “Barbie wants to be a computer engineer! And fifty stickers!” [more inside]
posted by Shmuel510 on Nov 17, 2014 - 93 comments

For all we see as wrong, some of its appeal might be in its rightness

I've been slightly under the weather for the last week, which means, of course, soup, self-pity and comfort reads. Rather than my traditional winter-sniffles re-re-re-read of the Belgariad, I thought I'd go wandering around the historical romance category. That is: duchess porn.
At Pornokitsch, Jared Shurin expresses appreciation for "5 things in historical romance I wantonly desire to see in epic fantasy," and commenters suggest where to find them. At the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, similarly meta yet more searching questions arise. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Nov 14, 2014 - 38 comments

Looking at Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction's biggest series [SPOILERS] (io9)
On the planet Terminus, a group of academics struggles to survive as the Galactic Empire crumbles. With no weapons, all they can rely on are the predictions of a dead genius named Hari Seldon. That's right — it's time to discuss Isaac Asimov's Foundation!

Welcome to Foundation Week, a Blogging the Hugos special event. In 1983, Isaac Asimov won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation's Edge, in which he revisited his groundbreaking Foundation mythos for the first time in over thirty years. Because the Foundation series is such classic, quintessential, and beloved science fiction — the original stories won their own unique Hugo for Best All-Time Series in 1966, and influenced artists from Douglas Adams to George Lucas — Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins will be discussing each of the seven books between today and Sunday. We begin with Foundation, published in 1951.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 13, 2014 - 87 comments

An Atlas Of Hyperreal Cities And Where To Find Them

On Umberto Eco's latest book of imaginary maps to legendary lands.
posted by The Whelk on Nov 12, 2014 - 11 comments

"By the assembly line I stood straight like iron, hands like flight"

The poetry and brief life of a Foxconn worker: Xu Lizhi (1990-2014) is an article about a 24-year old Chinese assembly line worker and poet who committed suicide last month. He worked for the electronics manufacturer which makes products for a range of companies, including Sony, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Nintendo. The post includes Chinese originals and English translations of Xu Lizhi's poems. His death and poetry have garnered much attention, such as these blogposts from The Wall Street Journal and The London Review of Books.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 12, 2014 - 19 comments

Here's a box of chocolates; it is your duty to eat them.

People like order in their lives. This does not go down well with those who feel that social restraints of any sort are a bad thing, but these people are a distinct, if very noisy, minority. Most of us want social rules of some sort – not oppressive ones, of course – but rules that govern the way we conduct ourselves towards others. We want people to queue correctly.

We like it when people don’t chew with their mouth open. We love it – although we may be cowed into not saying this – when an able-bodied person gives up a seat to somebody who is clearly frailer. Personally, I like it when anybody gives up a seat on a train to anybody else, frail or not. (Novelist Alexander McCall Smith discusses Jane Austen's Emma in The Daily Mail.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 11, 2014 - 35 comments

Ripping up the SFF-Scene Requires Hate

Requires Hate, aka Benjanun Sriduangkaew, is a multiple, serial & proven bully, liar & manipulator says fantasy author Juliet McKenna. She and other authors (like Ian McDonald) are taking up arms in the controversy around the machinations of one writer that are shaking up the SFF publishing world. [more inside]
posted by Omnomnom on Nov 7, 2014 - 151 comments

"A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get."

First editions, second thoughts: [New York Times] "On December 2, Christie's will auction 75 first-edition books, each of which is a unique object that has been annotated with words and/or illustrations by its author. Proceeds from the auction will benefit PEN American Center."
posted by Fizz on Nov 6, 2014 - 6 comments

We like to think that we understand our universe.

The Uncanny Power of Weird Fiction, by Jeff VanderMeer in The Atlantic.
posted by Sticherbeast on Nov 4, 2014 - 39 comments

Literature - good God y'all - what is it good for? Absolutely something.

What is Literature for? [SLVimeo]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 3, 2014 - 6 comments

You can’t think the same way after you read certain voices.

Toni Morrison and Angela Davis on friendship and creativity.
posted by sea change on Nov 1, 2014 - 1 comment

"Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel! Mabel!"

The Chapter: A History
posted by a fair but frozen maid on Nov 1, 2014 - 3 comments

If one has no vanity in this life of ours, there is no sufficient reason

Sofiya Tolstoy’s Defense [The New Yorker] In her own writings, Leo Tolstoy’s wife offered a rebuttal of the views that he set out in “The Kreutzer Sonata.” [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Oct 30, 2014 - 19 comments

Goodbye

Galway Kinnell, poet, has died. He was 87. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Oct 29, 2014 - 34 comments

"I bind you, Hollywood, from doing harm"

Halloween is almost here which to me means one thing: overanalyzing horror flicks for any feminist undertones! ... [N]o season has better metaphors for misogynistic fears and powerful female sexuality than the scary movies that permeate almost every channel and film festival throughout October.
At Autostraddle, Nina suggests nine horror films she likes in the "Blossoming-Teenage-Girl-Becoming-A-Woman" sub-genre. She is far from alone in her search for interesting feminist themes in horror cinema and literature. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Oct 29, 2014 - 42 comments

“I wanted this to be the saddest thing I’d ever written,”

Closing a Chapter of a Literary Life [New York Times] Ahead of the American publication of his latest work, “The Book of Strange New Things,” Michel Faber discusses it and why it will be his last novel.
posted by Fizz on Oct 26, 2014 - 10 comments

Once outsold Dickens - now called "the other Dickens"

As the nights are beginning to draw in and Halloween approaches, how about something to make the flesh creep and send a shiver down the spine? Charles Dickens was a master of the macabre, whether it’s in his Christmas ghost stories such as A Christmas Carol, in the chilling Gothic emptiness of Satis House in Great Expectations or the dirty squalor of London in Oliver Twist. But there was another novelist who most people have never heard of, whose books also offered the Victorian reading public a good helping of horror. At the height of his career, he sold more copies of his work than Dickens, who is widely thought to have been the bestselling novelist of the age. This other writer’s name was George W. M. Reynolds, and he has recently been called ‘the other Dickens’. 2014 marks the bicentenary of his birth.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 26, 2014 - 7 comments

What to read when pressed for time.

17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting by Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature:
This week author Ian McEwan expressed his love of short novels, saying “very few [long] novels earn their length.” Certainly it seems like a novel has to be a minimum of 500 pages to win a major literary award these days, and many genre novels have ballooned to absurd sizes.

I love a good tome, but like McEwan many of my favorite novels are sharpened little gems. It’s immensely satisfying to finish a book in a single day, so in the spirit of celebrating quick reads here are some of my favorite short novels. I’ve tried to avoid the most obvious titles that are regularly assigned in school (The Stranger, Heart of Darkness, Mrs Dalloway, Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, The Crying of Lot 49, etc.). Hopefully you’ll find some titles here you haven’t read before.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 23, 2014 - 51 comments

"I write as a reader, not knowing what the author will say next."

Russell Edson was a prose poet whose poetry had the "the sustained wackiness of old Warner Brothers cartoons." When he passed away this year Charles Simic wrote in appreciation of his work, as did J. Robert Lennon, whose article included two audio clips of Edson reading. In interviews, Edson spoke with the same mix of seriousness and humor as he did in his poetry. Here are two interviews, one with Peter Johnson [pdf] and another with Mark Tursi. But, of course, the important thing is his poetry, so here are a few examples: 1, 2, 3. And finally, here's a video of him reading (starts after the 9th minute). [Edson previously. I especially recommend reading the linked appreciation by Sarah Manguso.]
posted by Kattullus on Oct 23, 2014 - 12 comments

Let Me Tell You About Homestuck

5 years.
7,000 pages.
13,000 panels.
700,000 words. [Approximately the length of the Bible.]
Over 3 hours of animation.
Over 23 hours of soundtrack.
15 separate games, in 3 unique styles.

PBS once called Homestuck the "Ulysses of the Internet". Its author, Andrew Hussie — who resembles Joyce in his impishness, stylistic maximalism, and fondness for disturbing smut — calls it "a story I've tried to make as much a pure expression of its medium as possible". It has become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring proms and dominating Amazon makeup reviews. But most importantly, it's a rollicking good read, equal parts slapstick and epic, bildungsroman and cultural commentary.

What on earth about it makes its fans so overly zealous? And how the hell does one start the daunting process of reading Homestuck? If you're even the remotest bit curious about this Internet phenomenon, the following is a teensy-weensy introduction to just what makes Homestuck so terrific. [more inside]
posted by rorgy on Oct 16, 2014 - 231 comments

"First and foremost was her faith, then came literature..."

Flannery O'Connor's Kiss of Death: Tracking down O’Connor’s Danish inspiration. [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Oct 15, 2014 - 7 comments

When Science Fiction Grew Up

How renegade sci-fi writers of the 1960s paved the way for today's blending of literary and genre fiction [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 15, 2014 - 34 comments

I spent 10 years doing New York all wrong

Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., was a lonely aspiring writer in New York, generally unhappy. Then she moved to Brooklyn and found that community made all the difference.
posted by shivohum on Oct 13, 2014 - 16 comments

“Not everybody wants to read about vampires and dystopia,”

To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify: [New York Times]
"Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers."

posted by Fizz on Oct 9, 2014 - 24 comments

2014 Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to Patrick Modiano

2014 Nobel Prize in Literature Goes to Patrick Modiano who is a French novelist and memoir writer. This article from 2011 is a good overview over his career and life. He was born in Italy to a Jewish father and a Belgian mother. Much of his writing deals with recent Jewish history such as in the book Dora Bruder. His detective novel Missing Person, which won the Prix Goncourt in 1978, has been called a postmodern mystery novel.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 9, 2014 - 27 comments

"Montaigne was Montaigne, a mountain in more than name."

It's said that even a century and a half after Montaigne's death, when the marquis d'Argenson subtitled a book with that word, Essays, he was shouted down for impertinence. Not a context in which many people would find themselves tempted to self-identify as "essayists." When the French do finally start using the word, in the early nineteenth century, it's solely in reference to English writers who've taken up the banner, and more specifically to those who write for magazines and newspapers. "The authors of periodical essays," wrote a French critic in 1834, "or as they're commonly known, essayists, represent in English letters a class every bit as distinct as the Novellieri in Italy." A curiosity, then: the essay is French, but essayists are English. What can it mean?
The Ill-defined Plot is an essay about the history of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan.
posted by Kattullus on Oct 7, 2014 - 8 comments

A man who wants to hear a Yes will find a way to drag it out of you.

I do not believe that most women — that most victims of sexual assault — freeze or shut down when faced with the prospect of coercive sex because they don’t really care what happens next, or because they're excited to push through the moment for the sheer joy of accusing the aggressor of rape after the fact. I believe that these women, these people, have a finely tuned sense for their safety, that when a woman reports having "a feeling that it would turn into an ordeal if I rejected him," she is not crazy and she knows what she is talking about.
Mallory Ortberg explores the ongoing debate surrounding passive versus active consent as its effects echo through the Alt Lit community: On Deciding What Counts: Elizabeth Ellen and What Makes A Victim.

[TW: rape, sexual assault, child abuse]
posted by divined by radio on Oct 6, 2014 - 126 comments

“There is such a thing as the courage in remaining baffled.”

Donald Antrim and the Art of Anxiety by John Jeremiah Sullivan [New York Times]
posted by Fizz on Oct 1, 2014 - 10 comments

"So I took up knife and fork and bade the waiter do his duty."

Lieut.-Col. Newnham-Davis was engaged in 1897 as the restaurant reviewer of the Pall Mall Gazette, and his reviews of London restaurants are collected in Dinners and Diners: Where and How to Dine in London, available online from The Dictionary of Victorian London. Newnham-Davis was a bon vivant, amateur of the theatrical world, and man of parts, and his reviews were equal parts reminiscence of the conversation with his pseudonymous companions and recollections and reviews of his opulent and lengthy Victorian dinners. [more inside]
posted by strangely stunted trees on Sep 27, 2014 - 28 comments

When I first came across the article, I thought, I'd like to read these.

Anthology of the Best Short Stories [via mefi projects] [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 22, 2014 - 8 comments

It all comes back to fun

When the champion of adult culture is portrayed, even by himself, as an old curmudgeon yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, it suggests that this adult culture is one of the unfortunate but necessary costs of coming into adulthood. We give up the pleasures of entertainment for the seriousness of art. I just don’t think that this is true. Christopher Beha on Henry James and the Great Young Adult Debate.
posted by shivohum on Sep 21, 2014 - 48 comments

The Zhivago Affair

The story of Dr Zhivago’s publication is, like the novel itself, a cat’s cradle, an eternal zigzag of plotlines, coincidences, inconsistencies and maddening disappearances. The book was always destined to become a ‘succès de scandale’, in Berlin’s words, but the machinations and competing energies that went into seeing it into print, on the one hand, and trying to stop it going to print, on the other, make it the perfect synecdoche for that feint, counterfeint round of pugilism we call the Cold War.
The Writer and the Valet by Frances Stonor Saunders tells the story of Isaiah Berlin's part in publishing Boris Pasternak's novel Dr. Zhivago while Michael Scammell details the CIA's role.
posted by Kattullus on Sep 21, 2014 - 10 comments

"distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car"

"Longings and Desires", a Slate.com book review by Amanda Katz:
[Sarah] Waters, who was born in Wales in 1966, has carved out an unusual spot in fiction. Her six novels, beginning with Tipping the Velvet in 1998, could be called historical fiction, but that doesn’t begin to capture their appeal. It is closer to say that she is creating pitch-perfect popular fiction of an earlier time, but swapping out its original moral engine for a sensibility that is distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car.

Her books offer something like an alternate reality—a literary one, if not a historical one. There may have been lesbian male impersonators working the London music halls in the 1890s, as in Tipping the Velvet, but there were certainly not mainstream novels devoted to their inner lives and sexual exploits. Waters gives such characters their say in books that imitate earlier crowd-pleasers in their structure, slang, and atmosphere, but that are powered by queer longing, defiant identity politics, and lusty, occasionally downright kinky sex. (An exception is her last novel, The Little Stranger.) The most masterful of these books so far is Fingersmith, a Wilkie Collins-esque tale full of genuinely shocking twists (thieves, double-crossing, asylums, mistaken identity, just go read it). The saddest is The Night Watch, a tale told in reverse of a group of entwined characters during and after World War II. But among many readers she is still most beloved for Tipping the Velvet, a deliriously paced coming-of-age story that is impossible to read in public without blushing.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 20, 2014 - 29 comments

“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”

International Read an E-Book Day:
The new holday -- "holiday"? -- is the brainchild of OverDrive, a major e-book distributor. OverDrive is the country's largest provider of e-books to libraries; it handles e-books from 5,000 publishers, including major Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Perseus, Wiley, and Harlequin. If you've ever checked an e-book out from the L.A. Public Library, it was provided by OverDrive. To celebrate International Read an E-book Day, Overdrive will be giving away tablets and e-reading devices at the readanebookday.com website and through social media. Readers are asked to "tell their story of what eBooks mean to them" and use the hashtag #eBookDay to be eligible.
via: L.A. Times
posted by Fizz on Sep 18, 2014 - 88 comments

"'The family division is rooted in the same ground as fiction..."

Ian McEwan: the law versus religious belief. [The Guardian]
The conjoined twins who would die without medical intervention, a boy who refused blood transfusions on religious grounds…Ian McEwan on the stories from the family courts that inspired his latest novel.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Sep 13, 2014 - 10 comments

The slow unwinding

The Death of Adulthood in American Culture (SLNYTimes Magazine), by A.O. Scott: Comic-book movies, family-friendly animated adventures, tales of adolescent heroism and comedies of arrested development do not only make up the commercial center of 21st-century Hollywood. They are its artistic heart.
posted by roomthreeseventeen on Sep 11, 2014 - 133 comments

Birthday of the World

There are previouslys enough to fill an FPP but this deserves mention and honour in its own right.
In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient.
Long live the Ekumen.
posted by infini on Sep 10, 2014 - 37 comments

The Sexual Outlaw At 83

83 year old Chicano author John Rechy (City Of Night, The Sexual Outlaw, Rushes) talks to Lambda Literary about gay assimilation, being mistaken for white, melding truth and fiction, the post-Stonewall peroid, and hating the word 'queer.'
posted by The Whelk on Sep 10, 2014 - 20 comments

“Some people feed you with love.”

We've Lost One Of The Great Fantasy Writers: R.I.P. Graham Joyce
"Graham Joyce was a monumental writer in the fantasy genre. His humane, intense writing was like a masterclass in how to put story first, and he knew how to write people, with all our blind spots and our hopeful mistakes. He died today of lymphatic cancer, and it's a huge loss to fantasy literature."
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Sep 9, 2014 - 18 comments

In an Orderly Fashion

Reading Pathways: suggestions for where to start in on the works of Austen, Murakami, Asimov, Munro, Bray, Bradbury, Morrison, Forster, Atwood, and others. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Sep 8, 2014 - 36 comments

Here's one Atwood novel you'll never get to read

Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, began, quietly, this summer, with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. It will slowly unfold over the next century. Every year until 2114, one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.
Margaret Atwood's next novel won't be published until 2114. (Katie Paterson, the Future Library, Katie Paterson previously))
posted by MartinWisse on Sep 5, 2014 - 50 comments

Do you ever dream of starting again in a new skin?

Uncomfortable in His Own Skin ‘Your Face in Mine,’ by Jess Row, a Novel About Changing Race: [New York Times]
"When literary fiction dares examine the issue of race at all, it is usually done in an exceedingly tone-deaf way (think William Styron’s Confessions Of Nat Turner or Kathryn Stockett’s The Help) or from a somewhat safe remove (think Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue). It always seems as if the story is accompanied by a blaring announcement that it’s time for this (white) protagonist to learn something. Sometimes the pedantic drum-banging can get so excessive it drowns out everything else, including the inclination to tell a good story. If nothing else, the debut novel from Jess Row, Your Face In Mine, is a refreshing plunge into the deep end of the race conversation." [A.V. Club]
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Aug 31, 2014 - 6 comments

If we're not in pain, we're not alive

You invest so much in it, don't you? It's what elevates you above the beasts of the field, it's what makes you special. Homo sapiens, you call yourself. Wise Man. Do you even know what it is, this consciousness you cite in your own exaltation? Do you even know what it's for?
Dr. Peter Watts is no stranger to MetaFilter. But look past his sardonic nuptials, heartbreaking eulogies, and agonizing run-ins with fascists (and fasciitis) and you'll find one of the most brilliant, compelling, and disquieting science fiction authors at work today. A marine biologist skilled at deep background research, his acclaimed 2006 novel Blindsight [full text] -- a cerebral "first contact" tale led by a diverse crew of bleeding-edge post-humans -- is diamond-hard and deeply horrifying, wringing profound existential dread from such abstruse concepts as the Chinese Room, the Philosophical Zombie, Chernoff faces, and the myriad quirks and blind spots that haunt the human mind. But Blindsight's last, shattering insight is not the end of the story -- along with crew/ship/"Firefall" notes, a blackly funny in-universe lecture on resurrecting sociopathic vampirism (PDF - prev.), and a rigorously-cited (and spoiler-laden) reference section, tomorrow will see the release of Dumbspeech State of Grace Echopraxia [website], the long-delayed "sidequel" depicting parallel events on Earth. Want more? Look inside for a guide to the rest of Watts' award-winning (and provocative) body of work. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 25, 2014 - 84 comments

...takes greater formal and intellectual risks than most

The New York Times calls David Mitchell's new novel, "The Bone Clocks," his most ambitious novel. This is significant because his other novels are fairly ambitious. [more inside]
posted by entropone on Aug 25, 2014 - 24 comments

She was transfixed by the gleam of his uncooked chicken breast skin.

If white characters were described like people of color in literature. (SLBuzzfeed)
posted by erstwhile ungulate on Aug 24, 2014 - 112 comments

Gaza Writes Back

Mahmoud Darwish once wrote, of Gaza, “We are unfair to her when we search for her poems.” [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Aug 19, 2014 - 5 comments

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