Daily Archives: April 10, 2011

RoW80 Update & H is for…

Read-a-thon was yesterday. It was awesome! It always is.


RoW80 Progress:

Week 1 went down without a hitch. Reached page 138 in the 10% cut edit. As I said, this was the easy part. The rest of the manuscript is messier. Or at least I expect it to be. I’ve been enjoying Divine Fire and *really* enjoying the change in novels. Even if this is an editing/revision pass.

H is for Helene Hanff and Harlan Ellison

It sounds kind of stupid, but when I was a kid, I didn’t realize that writers were people. They were, in a weird way, just another name in the book. It certainly didn’t occur to me that *I* could write stories and be a name in one of those books. I liked making up stories. Instead of playing house, I liked making up the further adventures of my favorite sci-fi characters. But writing stories down? People did that?

In high school, two writers entered my life.

I always enjoyed the interplay between books and film. When I saw that one of my favorite actors, Anthony Hopkins, had been in a movie based on a book, I tracked down the book. This was 84 Charing Cross Road. The author, a book lover, felt like a kindred spirit. I chased down more of her books, not easy in 1990s Omaha, NE. Helene Hanff wrote with an unabashed voice about life as a writer. About being poor, out-of-work, and finding success in an unlikely way. This was a person. Like me. Who was a writer. 

In 1992, the Sci-Fi Channel was launched. A joyous time for my mom and me. Star Trek, the original Dark Shadows, Night Gallery, and they had their very own news show! (This was back when the Sci-Fi Channel was pretty cool.) One of the segments on the news show featured Harlan Ellison. He wasn’t too much in my mom’s library. He wasn’t Clark or Asimov, but he was in the Hugo anthologies. But more importantly, there he was. On the screen. Flesh and blood (more or less). He was telling what it was all about: the stories I read, the ones I watched, got there through hard work. Blood, sweat, and tears. And you were probably going to get screwed over by someone along the way. Nothing magical about writing and getting paid to do it. That made the process more real, more of a possibility.

In the end, that’s what I needed, looking back. I needed writing to be something that people did. Like my dad going to work for the railroad every day, there was no mysticism and little romance. It was valid.

Book #7

Sleight of Hand by Peter S. Beagle

 

These stories are about family. Whether biological, through friendship, or of creator and creation, they’re all about who and what bind us to each other. Some are more successful than others because when Peter S. Beagle is good, he’s very good.

I pre-ordered this book around Christmas time. For me, a new Beagle book is pretty much a slam-dunk buy.  I didn’t realize that it contained a new story about one of my favorite characters: Schmenrick the Magician. It is, of course, the last story in the book. I didn’t skip ahead and I almost didn’t make it!

High and low points:

The first two stories are solid. “Sleight of Hand” is the stand-out of the two, delivering a nice emotional punch. The third story, “Children of the Shark God” is okay, but is not the sort of story Beagle does best. It’s too tell-y, even for a fairy tale, and relies on other origins for its tale. It lacks the better aspects of Beagles narrative voice. Which means that “What Tune the Enchantress Plays,” a similar story set in Beagles Innkeeper world, ends up being way too long and a little tedious.  (In comparison Eugie Foster does this sort of story exceedingly well. Maybe I’m a little spoiled.) It was hard getting through “Enchantress,” but I’m glad I did.

The second half of the book is excellent. “Dirae” was an utter surprise. Warrior woman? I rolled my eyes. But the kicker of this story is very well done. “The Woman Who Married the Man in the Moon,” the Schmendrick story actually turned out to be my second favorite. I was a little disappointed that this was about Schmendrick’s early days, since Molly Grue is also a favorite of mine. It is a good story though, and when I read The Last Unicorn and “Two Hearts” again, it will be with slightly different eyes.

“The Rabbi’s Hobby” is by far my favorite. The main reason I like it would pretty much spoil it, but it is part of my favorite genre. The story is deftly and chillingly told with Beagle’s gentle voice.

I’ll be rereading certain stories in this anthology. That’s more than I can say for most. Because when Beagle is good, he’s very good.