Monthly Archives: April 2008

Cockeyed by Ryan Knighton

Cockeyed

AuthorRyan Knighton

Paperback
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Release Date: April 28, 2006
ISBN-10: 0143051857
ISBN-13: 978-0143051855


A Dribble of Ink is a blog with a unashamed genre bend; I enjoy Science Fiction and Fantasy, but that doesn’t stop me from stepping outside the genre and taking a look elsewhere when I feel myself getting burnt out. Because of this, every so often I’ll read a non-genre novel so good that I feel it’s worth breaking stride and bringing it here to the blog. Cockeyed, a memoir by a fellow named Ryan Knighton is one of those novels.

Cockeyed is Knighton’s story, but it is also a story of society and disability, of humour in the face of shitty situations, a story of accepting oneself, and a story of accepting others. On his eighteenth birthday, Knighton, a capricious youth living in Vancouver, is told that he’s slowly going blind and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. He doesn’t let this fact get in his way, though, and his travails through life – getting his first white cane, teaching english in Korea, travelling down a mineshaft in Poland, losing his pants in a nightclub – are peppered with a self-deprecating humour and an astute perception of life that many of us sighted people would kill for.

Memoirs, as a rule, thrive on their narrator being an compelling figure and Cockeyed doesn’t let down. Knighton never lets life get him down too much, and his disability is just another reality that he has to deal with – he struggles with worries that his disability defines him and how to make sure it never rules him. Humour is a constant in his life (specifically a scene near the end involving a fire drill at a blind camp) and Knighton has a way of looking at the world that could only really be achieved by someone who can’t look at the world. Where the memoir excels is that the reader never feels sorry for Knighton because he never feels sorry for himself. Knighton never asks for pity for his blindness, in fact he doesn’t himself see it as something that should be pitied.

Despite the few flaws (Knighton’s easy to read prose can be slightly sloppy in places and the last quarter of the novel feels rushed), the amusing situations and Knighton’s unique perspective on life make this an easy book to recommend. Knighton proves that real life often proves much more interesting than anything an fiction author could ever think up.

Just in time for the weekend, I present to you the juiciest edition of Free Readin’ yet! Many of you are probably aware of Tor’s Watch the Skies campaign in celebration of their upcoming web site relaunch. Every week they send out a full, free e-book to those who have signed up for their mailing list.

A science fiction and fantasy site not quite like any you’ve seen before, mixing news, commentary, original stories and art, your own comments and conversations, and more. A place on the net you may find yourself wanting to visit—and participate in—every day.

Once you register, you’ll receive our newsletter and a link to download a digital book, as well as free wallpapers from bestselling and award-winning SF and fantasy authors and artists. And you’ll receive a link to another new book, and new wallpapers, every week. Additionally, you’ll be entered in our Watch The Skies Sweepstakes to win the very cool Asus Galaxy EEE mobile PC.

So check out their web site, sign up for the the newsletter (I certainly did!) and reap the rewards. Below you’ll find PDF and HTML versions of each of the novels they’ve already given away, including one from A Dribble of Ink favourites Brandon Sanderson and Tobias Buckell!
Read More »

So, apparently my insane obsession with tracking A Dribble of Ink’s stats has come in handy for once. I noticed I got a referral from a web site called Goodreads. Curious, I followed the link and found on the other side a terrific web site that I can see myself using a lot in the future!

From their web site:

When I was in second grade, I discovered the Hardy Boys series. Ever since, I’ve loved to read — both for fun and to improve my mind. And I’m always looking for the next great book. Reviews on Amazon and other sites are helpful, but I thought there might be a better way.

One afternoon while I was scanning a friend’s bookshelf for my next great read, it struck me. When I want to know what books to read, I’d rather turn to a friend than any random person, bestseller list or algorithm. So I thought I’d build a website — a website where I could see my friends’ bookshelves and learn about what they thought of all their books.

Goodreads is that site. It is a place where you can see what your friends are reading and vice versa. You can create “bookshelves” to organize what you’ve read (or want to read). You can comment on each other’s reviews. And on this journey with your friends you can explore new territory, gather information, and expand your mind.

Knowledge is power; and power is best shared among friends.

Goodreads is, in many ways, a social networking web site, like Facebook. It allows you to index, rate, review, sell, trade and more. It even allows published/aspiring writers to upload downloadable pieces of their own novels. It’s definitely a place where I can see myself spending a lot of time, I’ve only indexed a small portion of my library and I’ve already got over 400 novels! It’s easy (and fun) to go through your library and take a look at some of the novels you haven’t read for years and then compare it with your friends.

Goodreads also seems like a terrific place to find reviews of nearly every novel out there, I haven’t found a single novel that I own that isn’t in their database, which is quite a feat.

You can sign up for Goodreads HERE and check out my profile HERE.

If you sign up, be sure to add me as a friend!

Pat, from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, brought to light this terrific article by Richard Morgan, author of the upcoming The Steel Remains, where he rips into a lot of the elitism that surround the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields.

For the last five years, I’ve stood on the sidelines of this endless scrummaging, with feelings that range from mild curiosity to irritation to fascinated disbelief. I’ve haunted the messageboards and the blogs and the con panels, I’ve even occasionally dipped my toe into one pool of critical vitriol or another — Clomping Foot of Nerdism, New Weird, “political” SF — but mostly I’ve just watched, in much the same way I guess you’d watch footage of those guys in Shia Muslim nations battering themselves in the head with sharp objects until the blood clots their hair and streams down their faces from their lacerated scalps and evidently makes them all feel really good about themselves. O-kay, guys. Whatever gets you off, I guess.

“Consolatory” fantasy does well. So does “consolatory” Space Opera. People like it, and so, not unreasonably, they buy it by the ton. Of course, it’s become customary in genre debates to sneer and blame this sort of thing on marketing — as if without the marketing departments, Terry Brooks fans would suddenly be marching en masse into Barnes and Noble and demanding a reprint of In Viriconium; as if marketing is what prevents the readers of Star Wars tie-in novels from developing a passion for Stanislaw Lem. I mean, come on, guys, get real — enough of the false consciousness rap, already. People know what they like (and, yes, sadly, they tend to like what they know). And a large number of such people within the SF&F readership like straightforward, by-the-numbers story-telling with a lot of sensawunda, heroes who achieve their goals, bad guys who go down hard, and a solid happy ending. In this, they are no different than the reading (or indeed TV, or cinema-going) public in general. Marketing is simply a system for shifting product to that public in as large quantities as possible. And I never met an author yet who didn’t want their books to sell in large quantities.

So. This is the landscape around us, and we all know what it looks like. What we need to do is stop qvetching about the terrain, and just decide where we’re going to pitch our bloody tents. Ian McEwan argues (obliquely, through conversation and event in The Child in Time) that good writers write for themselves, and I think probably that’s true; certainly I try never to write for anybody else. But writing for yourself does carry an opportunity cost. If you’re lucky, your self shares tastes with enough other people that your books are going to sell well; you can hand your finished product over to the marketing guys, and they’ll run with it. As Neal Asher once remarked to me, I don’t mind doing the crowd-pleasing stuff because most of the time what pleases the crowd also pleases me. But if that particular piece of serendipity doesn’t happen for you, then you’re simply going to have to make a choice. Want to make a shit-load of money? Want to make the bestseller lists? Then get on and write a three brick fantasy trilogy about a good hearted farm-boy who becomes a wizard or a warrior (or a space pilot) and defeats an evil empire. Want to write grim and gloomy portraits of emotional decay in unemployed, divorced or otherwise alienated Londoners who may — or may not! — have come from an ever so faintly different parallel universe? Prepare to keep your day job for some time to come.

It’s always appreciated when eloquent, intelligent arguments are made that grind ignorant, elitist assholes into the ground. Morgan puts a lot of things into perspective and – whether you’re a fan of Terry Brooks or R. Scott Bakker; a fan of Raymond E. Feist or Hal Duncan; or have a liking for them all – it’s an article well worth reading.

You can find the whole article HERE.