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Posts from the ‘reading’ Category

Foundations

If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?

One of the things I’ve learned in the process of building our own farm from nothing more than a patch of bush with a fantastic sea view, is that starting from absolutely nothing is one hell of a lot harder than starting from something.  Literally, anything, but ideally something that requires little more than a redecorate and moving your furniture in is definitely this game on ‘lowest difficulty’ setting. From the regulatory/bureaucratic quagmire point of view, any sort of existing house, especially if it has electrical and sewage systems in place is going to save you a mint of money and may substantially reduce your chances of informing the FBI that your local council has a video of President Trump kissing Vladimir hidden somewhere on their premises.

Starting from nothing… well, you MAY get what you want, to your own desires and design. On the other hand, speaking from personal experience here, you may well end up building, taking down and rebuilding… at least three times to achieve something sort of Okay, in a good light, or at least when viewed through ‘I do not want to do it a fourth time, and it isn’t falling down immediately. Besides, it has character!’ Read more

Great American Literature, or Great American Stories

The third world-building post will be in two weeks. It’s coming, never fear. But apropos of the piece at The Passive Voice/Wall Street Journal, and the never-ending debate about “what is real literature” and why should everyone read it, I started wondering…

Rather than “the Great American Novel” with all the literary weight that seems to freight the idea, what if we talked about “the Great American Stories?” Read more

Compensatory Mechanisms

There are times I hate being a writer.  One of the things it does is set me at odds with normal (or really, abnormal but not writers)  human beings, and prevents the enjoyment of simple pleasures that involve story telling.

I used to think I was alone in this, but the last few Liberty cons have quite put paid to that idea, as I hear colleague after colleague say things like “I used to enjoy reading, but now I find myself analyzing it”  or “I loved movies but now I can see the mechanics and the effects.

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In the absence of Mr. Character

In the absence of Mr. Character…

Who steps in?

We all know the bloke who is most conspicuous by his or her absence. Sometimes this is an event to be celebrated, or not, but what is truly visible (even if only in retrospect) is that they’re not there.

I’m afraid it’s the classic hallmark of amateur pantser (a person who doesn’t pre-plot their books). Now there are some fantastic pantsers out there. There is nothing wrong with it as a writing technique, it can be incredibly successful… as long as you are prepared to back-fill, at need. Read more

The little cabbages..

Hear about the e-book of a fight between vampires for dominance in the story world? It’s about who gets to be the bit or the byte players. Ow. Stop hitting me. Cease with the carp. I repent (at least for now).

Most of us remember – and work on writing well – the main character/s in stories. It’s the lesser characters that tend to be neglected – both by writers and the memory of readers. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the bit-players have an awful habit of being so cool they morph into having a larger part than you planned, maybe even nudging the main character off-stage, and ruining your well-planned book.

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Comfort Reads

It’s two weeks into the new year – the time when those of us who regularly went to the gym in December can now go back, as the tide of resolutionistas has receded. How are you doing on your resolutions, goals, and milestones? We’re not; we’re sick.

In our house, we’re about three weeks behind schedule. The Tiny Town Medical Outpost (Not just EMTs! We have a NP!) receptionist eyed my husband as he dragged in, and likely had not only his file and his copay pulled up before he got the window, but also the “and it’s ANOTHER flu patient who’s not getting better.” He dragged home, and I went the next day, and got mildly upbraided for not coming in at the same time so we could be seen together, as they’re swamped with folks catching bronchitis, pneumonia, and strep as secondary infections to go with the flu.

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Out With the Old

In with the new 

It’s not always a good thing, to sweep out the old with a clean broom and throw open the shutters to let the light come streaming in.

Let me explain.

No, let me show you.

Some of the old books I just acquired.

You see, I had a gay old time at the used bookstore recently. I came home with quite the haul, to the First Reader’s dismay, but he’s a thoroughly modern husband, so he just let me show off my finds. There was no yelling or beating, or even finger-wagging at his naughty wife.  Besides, most of them were presents for him. Admittedly, one was a gag gift, since he confessed he’d never read a Tom Swift.

And of course, proud collector that I am, I showed them off on Facebook. Which is where I got a comment that rather took me aback.

“Oh, you got one of the old Tom Swift’s! The racist, sexist ones.” 

Um. Y’know, I was a girl, once. And I happily read Tom Swift, although I liked Danny Dunn and Encyclopedia Brown better (detectives, you know). In fact, I could easily daydream myself into those boys shoes to have adventures, and did so. I never stopped to contemplate that I couldn’t do that because *GASP* they were boys and I was a girl. If I wanted to do science and solve mysteries, I jolly well was going to go ahead and do so! And here I stand today with a degree in Forensic Science. No one said I couldn’t do that, either.

So, sexist? Not in my memory, but it’s been a while, granted. I mean, I was a mere slip of a girl, and therefore not fit to judge for myself. Can women really think independently? Or must they all be spoon-fed the feminism mantras? 

Racist? I have a deep and abiding fascination with the Sub-Continent, due in no small part to my introduction to it through Kim, Rudyard Kipling’s tale of a boy growing to manhood there. I don’t recall thinking any less of the Indian characters than the British ones – Kipling treats them all with the same rough humor. Read Gunga Din, sometime (or listen, at that link).

Only… don’t filter it through the prism of modern thinking. 

I know, I know, it’s a radical suggestion. There are quarters where I would be verbally flogged for suggesting such a thing. The same quarters which praise Harris’s defense of infanticide in Cannibals and Kings, and scold those of us who recoil for being guilty of cultural relativism and comparing our morals to theirs, with theirs coming out on the short end of the stick. But in order to understand where we are now, we must retain an understanding of where we came from.

I’m not saying that our journey should double back on itself. I am rather fond of being able to vote for the lesser of two weevils in the elections, for instance. Even if my vote doesn’t carry much weight, it’s mine. I am saying that history repeats itself, and without a map, how do we know if we’re driving in circles? 

I bought my beloved a gift of ten – no, eleven, but one’s not in the set – H Rider Haggard books. Obscure titles, too. Peter Grant was talking about Haggard recently, and I enjoy his stuff, but the First Reader either hadn’t read any, or it had been a long time. He was surprised at how much fantasy there is in the old Pulp Adventure books. We live in a deeply fantastical era, where people are more apt to rely on their feelings and emotions than they are on facts and data – just like the seers and sorceresses committing atrocities in Haggard’s tales of dark Africa and darker souls.

So what am I saying? I’m saying to keep an open mind, and read the old books. Even the ones that have been tarred as racist and sexist and whateverist. And don’t just read them yourself. Find them on Project Gutenberg and suggest them to the young readers you know. Then talk about what they read. Because likely they will have just had an education they weren’t expecting. Sweeping out the past has the regrettable effect of making the present look as though it sprang spotless into the world, but it has all it’s own shadows and blemishes and corruptions softly creeping into the books.