Posts Tagged: Writing

What We Didn’t See:
Power, Protest, Story*

My parents taught me not to stare.

My parents taught me not to stare.

As children, even as adults, prolonged staring at others is something we do when we first encounter difference. It’s a long, often critical or fascinated look at something to try and understand it, to gauge where it fits in our taxonomy of things. First: is this a threat? Should I respond with a fight…or flight? Second: where does this person fit within my existing boxes? Woman or man? Black or white? Friend or foe?

We have nice neat boxes for everything, boxes we learned in childhood which have been reinforced by stories, by media, by our peers, as we grow older. We stare longest when we cannot fit what we see into an existing box; when we cannot figure out if it’s dangerous, or merely different: which many of us, unfortunately, still feel are the same thing.

And, if after staring long enough, we decide that this different thing is dangerous: we kill it.

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Life is a game of chance, a series of lucky breaks and coincidences, cause and effect.

But fuck if we want to talk about it that way.

No, we’re humans. We like patterns. We like stories.

I careened into adulthood while bumbling around at a night club in South Africa, drinking whiskey and puffing endlessly at Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes. I sat at a table of people far more witty and interesting and worldly than I, and I tried and failed, in my young, drunken stupor, to understand how some rural hick fleeing a narrow little town and a failed abusive relationship had somehow ended up here on the other side of the world. I felt like a fake. A poser. A white American girl running around the world for the opposite reason most folks did.

See, I wasn’t running away to find myself. No. Indeed. I knew exactly who I was.

I was trying to run as far and as fast from myself as possible. Read More »

You Are Reading an Essay: How Metafiction Can Alienate Readers by Adam Callaway

The birth was messy. Sweat, blood, tears, and cerebrospinal fluid slicked the white tile. Dirty forceps, scalpels, and fountain pens were strewn haphazardly. In a pail of ink, a half-formed idea wailed. The thought-doctors could only guess if it would make it.
–From Skull Born, the very first (and thankfully unpublished) Lacuna story

Metafiction, at its most basic, is fiction about fiction. This can take a variety of forms. Everything from John Barth’s Lost in the Funhouse to Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind, can be considered metafiction.

Stories about storytelling have always interested me. An early influence on my writing were Walter Moers’ Zamonia books, specifically The City of Dreaming Books. In it, he imagined a decadent, surreal wonderland of writers, publishers, and booklovers. Books and stories literally came alive and posed serious dangers to the citizens of Bookholm.

The first Lacuna story was more-or-less Bookholmian fan fiction as seen through the eyes of China Mieville. It was very metafictional, with book ideas being torn from the skulls of writers in a bizarre send-off of a birthing ritual. These idea-babies were fed books, poems, emotions; anything to make them more robust. Literary devices manifested as physical deformities on the idea-husk. They would develop into golemic mandrake roots of pulp and story. Once they became large enough, the authors would consume the idea, go into a trance-like state, and write an entire manuscript in one sitting. Read More »

Speculative Fiction 2012, The Years Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, edited by Landon and ShurinLazy cut & paste job here, since I clearly have nothing else to prove to the online SFF writing/fandom circle.

Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary announced its lineup of contributors, Wednesday. Edited by bloggers Justin Landon (Staffer’s Book Review- US) and Jared Shurin (Pornokitsch – UK), SpecFic ’12 collects over fifty pieces from science fiction and fantasy’s top authors, bloggers and critics.

Author and podcasting sensation Mur Lafferty, whose newest novel The Shambling Guide to New York City is due out from Orbit Books this Spring, has agreed to write the foreword. “Lafferty’s writing career germinated online. She’s been a pioneer in the space and understands why the work in this book is so important. She’s the perfect person to put it into context,” said Landon.

Landon and Shurin also announced that they will pass the torch in 2013, establishing a precedent of rotating editors every year. The 2013 volume will be edited by Thea James and Ana Grilo of The Book Smugglers. Shurin commented, “We’re excited to see this move forward with Thea and Ana. They have a great perspective on the genre community that’s also very different from our own. 2013 couldn’t be in better hands. I’m really looking forward to working with them as Jurassic London continues to publish the series.”

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MeOne of my favourite weekly features in the blogosphere in Mieneke Van Der Salm’s Blogger Query interviews. Every Wednesday, she pulls one blogger or reviewer and puts them to question. It’s a fun way to get to know some of the personalities in SFF fandom. And, well, this week was my turn.

A little snippet:

You’ve been quite outspoken about the lack of regard for blogs as fan publications and bloggers as fan writers, mostly in regard to the Hugos. Do you think regard for blogs as fan publications from awards and the way the publishing industry regards blogs are intertwined? Would increased respect from the publishing industry also increase respect for blogs and bloggers from awards committees or are awards too insular for such cross-pollination?

Yeah, I’ve raised a stink or two, and been successful at opening at least a small dialogue about the matter between the incumbent fan publications (fanzines) and the up-and-coming ones (blogs). It’s something I feel very strongly about.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be so quick to link the perception of blogs and online fan writers by the publishing industry to the struggles they’ve had in being recognized by the award committees and voters. Conversely, I’d say that publishers, large and small, pay a heck of a lot more attention to blogs and the online space than they do to the traditionally published fanzines. This is keeping in the tradition and origins of fanzines, which by their nature are independent and often focus more on exploring the natures and issues of fandom, than in being a part of the PR circle that runs the publishing industry, a pitfall that blogs have to be sure to avoid. Instead, you have a new generation of writers, many of them a bit younger, in their mid-twenties to late-thirties, that is trying to break into an area that is often run and heavily influenced by an older generation that has long been entrenched in their ideals and tendencies.

Whether they’re older men or not (and, in the case of the Hugo Awards, there are over a 1,000 eligible voters, so they’re not all old men, of course), old ideas and habits still exist. It’s always been a challenge for the young whipper-snappers to push against the older generation, trying to promote new ideas and the fast-moving world that has grown up around the original foundations of awards like the traditional awards. Right now, bloggers are those young whipper-snappers, and we just need to make enough noise to ensure that, when the time comes, voters take us as seriously as we deserve.

With all that said, I think the addition of SF Signal, which I’ve contributed to on occasion, on the recent Hugo ballot is a huge step for online fan writing and blogs in general. I hope to see a continued drive in that direction. Not at the expense of great fanzines and fan writers working in more traditional mediums, but as a joining of the two, recognizing the best writing, period.

If you want to hear a bit about my thoughts on reading, writing, the Hugos and blogging, I encourage you to read the whole interview.