Monthly Archives: June 2009

Via Rebecca Rosenblum’s response to it:
The New Yorker has a review of Mark McGurl’s book The Program Era, and delves into the whys and wherefores of creative writing programs: Show or Tell: A Critic at Large: The New Yorker

I’m not exactly the product of a writing program. UNL doesn’t offer a creative writing degree, and when I switched majors, it never occurred to me to transfer to a school that did. My degree is in literature, but I took what writing classes there were, and used every opportunity to skew literature papers toward how a work was written rather than its themes. It’s hard to quantify what things in my education have made me a *better* writer. It’s more accurate to say that it’s made me the writer I am–even my “false start” in the sciences has affected my understanding of the world. I do have to give a nod to my favorite part of my writing education: the workshop.

The workshop is…a regime for forcing people to do two things that are fundamentally contrary to human nature: actually write stuff (as opposed to planning to write stuff very, very soon), and then sit there while strangers tear it apart.

There’s nothing like accountability to spur production.

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The Day Facebook Changed – Messages to Become Public by Default – NYTimes.com

Genetic Protection Against Sleep Deprivation: Scientific American Podcast

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FiestaCon is this week and I have neither written enough nor read enough. Goofed off for the entirety of the weekend, but I needed it. Omaha was more drama than I care for.

This, a Meme, and That

The trip back was uneventful. I spent yesterday unpacking, straightening stuff out. Disc was played, much to my enjoyment. While I didn’t gain any weight while in Omaha (?!), I was definitely feeling slow. This morning my quads are unhappy with the state of affairs. Today, I’m up early again, doing laundry and preparing to wade into work on Divine Fire in a meaningful way. Tonight, women’s league. Pulling off a win against Miss Red would be spiffy.

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Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.

I’ve added a little when & why.

1. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – Freshman year of college, not for a class.
2. “Paladin of the Lost Hour” by Harlan Ellison – Sometime in high school.
3. Dune by Frank Herbert – First attempt was in 7th grade. I knew there was something good going on with this book, but couldn’t wade through it until my 30s.
4. “Masque of the Red Death” by Edgar Alan Poe – 3rd of 4th grade?
5. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” by Arthur Conan Doyle – Again about 3rd or 4th grade.
6. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff – Sometime in high school.
7. The Cat in the Mirror by Mary Stolz- This is the first book I read in 7th grade in public school. It was fantasy, it had a willful girl protagonist, and it was “YA.” All of those things were beyond my previous experience.
8. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – Freshman year in college, not for a class.
9. “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare – Freshman year in college, not for a class.
10. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury – Summer before junior year in college.
11. Paradise Lost by John Milton – Junior year in college, I believe. Has greatly shaped my notions of religion, especially the concept of original sin.
12. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg – First English class in college.
13. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – First English class in college.
14. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach – No, really! This book changed the way I think about death and “what I want to be when I die.”
15. Cosmos by Carl Sagan – Sometime in my childhood.

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Oscars Will Now Feature 10 Best Picture Nominees | /Film

Brandon Sanderons starts new series at Tor, for big money – SFScope – Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Holy cats.

Probiotics Still Misunderstood:

“What is clear is that during the economic crisis manufacturers need to continue to create probiotic products, which consumers find an integral part of their daily routine, otherwise much of the early good work will have to be repeated to get these consumers to resume consumption if they sacrifice it now to save money,” Mark Whalley [Datamonitor’s consumer markets analyst] said.

From a marketing standpoint, it sounds like they’re too late. If consumers don’t know what your product is supposed to do now, during the “economic crisis,” they’re not going to start trying it based on its cost alone. After a conversation with my diabetic grandmother about what is and isn’t a carbohydrate, I think there are bigger problems with consumers and nutrition.

Went to see Drag Me To Hell with Tess on Sunday. It was pure Sam Raimi fun. Possessed inanimate objects, gooey-gore, and great camera work. You do have to give Raimi that: even Evil Dead has some nice camera angles.

Yesterday’s “work”:
Obscure Media Monday: Television: “Carnivàle”

And today finished an updated look for:
Entangled Continua : Home
Well, mostly. Some excerpts need updating.

From the around the internet:
Rands In Repose: A Toxic Paradox

The Brain: Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State | Memory, Emotions, & Decisions | DISCOVER Magazine
Interesting though there might be some methodological problems with calling attention to the wandering mind. Also, executive control and default centers? There are better names for these, right?

Second suicide in Indian artifact theft case: Scientific American Blog
Dude shot himself twice…in the chest? That’s just odd.

Rosebuds

Thursday was a good day. Met up with Amy and Karen. I hadn’t seen them in *ages*. It was great catching up if only for a brief lunch. We’ll definitely have to do it again next year.

Came home to find, through the magic of Facebook, that Kris Stamp (the hard-working proprietor of StoneGarden.net Publishing) had updated the site with third quarter titles. Including Lucinda at the Window! I now have cover art and a release date!

I spent some of Thursday updating Katherine Nabity’s Delightful Webpages with all the goodies, adding them to the cover blurb:

cover art by Mia RomanoOhio, 1901 – Lucinda Harris had been haunted by childhood tragedy all her life and worked diligently to keep those memories deeply buried. While visiting the ancient manor home of her best friend, she spots a dark stranger one night on the lawn. She finds herself suddenly plunged into a nightmarish world. Has insanity finally taken Lucinda’s mind or is it something far more diabolical?

Something is amiss in the Manor, but none of the guests or the servants can pinpoint what it is. Lucinda is acting strangely; the groundskeeper has disappeared; a feeling of gloom hangs over everything. The answer to the mystery seems to lie in a worn journal found buried in the cellar. The entries become stranger and more terrifying as they read on, until it reveals the horrible truth about the Manor. Is there a connection between the two?

None of them could have predicted the strength of the force manipulating them all…or the wrath of a woman they all thought they knew.

Since Friday I’ve been working to update EntangledContinua with a new look. I should have it done by Tuesday.

Also went out Friday with Chad and Michelle for dinner at Baby Blue and finally had sushi I considered tasty. It’s still far from being a food I’d crave, but I’d happily eat there again.

Yesterday was Grandpa’s 82nd birthday. Alas, the goodness of the last few days and the impending cake and ice cream were marred by the usual fights that breakout when too much of my family gathers in one place. It all makes me very tired. I suppose that’s the way life balances though. I should take more pleasure from the things that are good because the bad has a tendency to eat on me.

Also, a couple links:
A Genetic Link Between Anorexia and Autism? – TIME
Kindle’s DRM Rears Its Ugly Head… And It IS Ugly | Gear Diary

Shiny Bits of the Internet

A look at bloggers/forum posters that fake their own deaths: The death bloggers.
I’ve had a similar experience though it didn’t involve the poster’s death. This person was continuously the victim of drama. The details of her stories were very inconsistent and it became obvious that she wasn’t being truthful with members of the community. It pretty much drove the forum apart when some of us began to express skeptical opinions of her tales.

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Two unrelated “media” links:
The Geek Beat: Why Can’t Geek Girls Be … Girls? – Cinematical
Comparing the BBFC and the MPAA, and How Antichrist Illustrates The Differences | /Film

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A splash of science:

Report on Gene for Depression Is Now Faulted – NYTimes.com
Science at its best: “What we thought we knew might be wrong because the system is more complex than we expected and now we know more.” I’m not being sarcastic; this is the thing I love most about the scientific process. In general, more would get done in the world if people were willing to look at evidence and admit when they’re wrong.

Mixing memory with reality can bring pleasure to the routine: Scientific American Blog

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And the every-so-often ebook links of note:

SF Signal: eBook Readers, or, How To Miss The Point:

I want an eBook reader which not only lets me comfortably read my books – and by comfortably, I mean forgettably: right now, I cannot get immersed in something I’m reading in an eBook reader; I cannot forget I am reading it on an eBook reader – and I want something that also allows me to comfortably do other things.

I agree. I’ve always believe that if books went electronic, they should be better than *mere* books. But I’ve also noticed that I’ve become pretty comfortable reading on my laptop. Most of what I’m reading for FiestaCon is online or downloaded. The Davidson story is being offered as a pretty poor quality PDF. Jekyll & Hyde I read in text form with Notebook++. Format has become less important to me. But still, there are some interesting things you could do with electronic books. Texts can be linked and interlinked. They could even be non-linear without the confines of cover and pages. No one seems to be interested in doing those things either.

J.A. Konrath offers his opinions on where the ebook might take the publishing industry: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: Should E-Books Be Cheap?
Seems that Konrath is making decent money by offering his books through Amazon for cheap. But he can do that. He’s an established author with a following. That’s not going to work as well for the publishing newbie. Still, as I’ve said before, this is an interesting time in publishing.

Tasting the Classics

Book #12 – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Not only a classic, but a classic of speculative fiction that I had not previously read. Seen adaptations, sure, including the BBCs recent Jekyll and the mediocre Mary Rilley. In fact, after watching the latter on Netflix Instant I acquired the book, but hadn’t cognitively connected that story to the Stevenson. I had figured Mary Rilley to be at least a literary exercise in telling a familiar story from a different angle, but I now see why an "in-the-house" perspective was used. I’m not sure when telling a story from the outside and then working inward went out of style, but it’s a style I’ve always liked. For better or worse, it has crept into my writing as well.

I haven’t read much Robert Louis Stevenson. I’d like to think I’ve read Treasure Island, but I really don’t think I have. I think he’s generally been consider a "boy" writer, which really isn’t any excuse.

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Read Jekyll and Hyde in preparation for FiestaCon. Another piece they’ve included on their reading list is Avram Davidson’s "Or All the Seas with Oysters." Great piece of classic SF.

Hugo and Nebula nominated short stories

“Book” #11 – Hugo and Nebula nominated short stories

Hugo Nominees:
Read, in order of preference:
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Jul 2008)
Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick (Baen’s Universe Oct 2008)
Evil Robot Monkey” by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume Two)
From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s Feb 2008)

Have not read:
“Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two, also: audio version)

Nebula Nominees:
Read, in order of preference:
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, Jul08)
“Mars: A Traveler’s Guide” by Ruth Nestvold (F&SF, Jan08)
The Button Bin” by Mike Allen (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, Oct07)
The Tomb Wife” by Gwyneth Jones (F&SF, Aug07)
Trophy Wives” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Greenberg and Hughes, DAW Books Jan08) [Winner]
Don’t Stop” by James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s, Jun07)

Have not read:
“The Dreaming Wind” by Jeffrey Ford (The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Viking, Jul07)

Links via SF Signal – A Science Fiction Blog

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By far, my favorite story of both sets was “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss.” It’s a lovely fairy tale full of bitter-sweetness. Overall, I’d say the Hugo nominees are stronger stories, though probably the weaker in terms of science fiction content (“From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled” being the exception).  Aside from “26 Monkeys” and “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide,” I wasn’t much a fan of the Nebula nominees.  “Articles of Faith” and “Evil Robot Monkey” for me hit interesting story areas, but aren’t very hard in their SF. For me, a short story doesn’t give much room for the world-building aspect, so the story’s the thing.