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Posts by Cedar Sanderson

Francis and MacLean

Last week’s post about the modern gothic romance led to an interesting comment thread, as a discussion of Alistair MacLean sprang up in the comments. While I had not read Mary Higgins Clark before the book I reviewed last week, MacLean was an old familiar friend. I don’t recall when I first encountered him – but I was young, probably a preteen. The First Reader and I were talking about him, and for some reason Dick Francis – another childhood favorite of mine – came up. Their main characters had much of the same outlook on life, he commented. I agreed. Perhaps Francis was influenced by MacLean? he suggested. I turned back to the computer and looked it up. Read more

The Modern Gothic

There’s a used bookstore near me that is, well, not unique, I suspect, but certainly unusual. You know those penny books on Amazon? Or rather, there used to be such. I see them less and less these days. Have you ever wondered where they came from? I could take you to a place. There’s an industrial area in the north end of Dayton, OH, bleak and rusted with the moth-eaten hopes of commerce passed by long ago. Nestled into that is the Dollar Book Swap, where you walk into the back door of a warehouse, past rickety palisades of wooden pallets set up as a fence to guide the consumer toward their goal, passing through an old commercial refrigerator’s curtain of plastic panels into the unexpected warmth. Shelves and shelves, vast lengths of them, creaking with books. Every one of them, a dollar. Treasure unspeakable, to me in another time and persona. Now, I go there rarely, although the temptation to seek out the pages of old friends comes as I commute past it daily. Really, though, I read more ebook than paper, and despite the recent acquisition of yet another bookshelf, to my First Reader’s dismay, I don’t need more books. But as a treat, I go. Read more

Cover Art: Make it Painterly

Sometime this week, a friend pinged me with a question. I was at work, but promised I’d write up a tutorial later… Sorry, it’s going to be even later. You see, the question was about Filter Forge, and using it to make photos look painterly, and therefore suitable for SFF cover art. It’s a great question, and I do have Filter Forge (it’s not cheap) and don’t use it much. You see, I have a new laptop, which has no optical drive (you’d think if you dropped almost a farking grand on a laptop, but nooo) and my copy of Filter Forge is on a disc. So I can put it on here, with an external drive, but it’s been a busy week. However! There are other ways to achieve painterly cover art without resorting to plastic dollies of the CGI rendered sort, which frankly fall in the Uncanny Valley and should only be used as a last resort. Sometimes? Sure, I suppose, but even those ought to be run through something like the below process to render them less, um, plastic looking. Read more


It’s been a rollercoaster of a week. I’ve been trying to write-by-speaking, and accordingly have been testing various set-ups in my car to take dictation. The phone with voice recorder app failed. Too much road noise. Mom, who I have offered to hire to transcribe, reported back that the recording was very difficult to understand. I’ll type that up myself, since I know more or less what I was thinking, and the dictation should prompt me enough to write it out. I haven’t had time during the week because… well, I’m not getting into details. Suffice it to say there was family stuff, which had priority, and work spilled past the usual boundaries and it got messy here at the Nut House. Read more

Life is Like That

I find that writing while being interrupted constantly is impossible. It is equally impossible to write when my brain is full of fluff and nothingness, echoing back at me when I inquire of the ideas it was providing me at any other point than this one, when I sat down at a keyboard. I turn to my notebook where I could have jotted something down while I was in one of those moments of inspiration, but Lo! there are only meaningless scribbles, signifying little. I sit and stare at the screen. I write a list of bits we need for household projects. I wonder why me? Why would anyone want to read about writing from me? Read more

Assumptions and Misunderstandings

I stumbled across something earlier this week and immediately thought, ooh! I can use this for research! My second thought was something else, though. The article on social media had trumpeted that a grave was excavated containing ‘Three Amazon Warrior Women’ to paraphrase the headline. There was a grave. In Russia. And it had been partly robbed. There was, I commented, nothing Amazonian whatsoever about the site. Warriors? Maybe. The problem is that there’s a definite bias to reporting of such finds, because feminism. Which robs the real power of the legacy these women have left in their death rites. It’s not that they may have fought alongside the men. It’s certainly not that they were fighting the patriarchy. We don’t know enough about their culture to make those assumptions. Women of their time and place may not have known a patriarchy existed, or cared if it did. Transposing modern mores and concerns onto the bones and artifacts simply serves to obscure and confuse the real data we can pull from the traces of the past. Read more

The Science of Dystopia

We see the concepts of dystopia and utopia explored many times in SFF. Arguably, they were at the beginning of the genre, with Thomas More’s Utopia having been written 500 years ago now. You can still read his novel, through the magic of the internet, however. In recent years, it seems writers have been more focused on creating fictional visions of dystopias than they have been in trying to set up utopian societies. Given our cultural case of the blues for the last hundred years, this is understandable. Given also that attempts to create utopias over the last few centuries have largely ended badly, well, I’m not sure I can blame the modern writer for being drawn into the dark dystopian world. Read more