Saturday, October 30, 2004

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Fun answers from well known luminaries such as George W. Bush, Ralph Nader, Martha Stewart, and Michael Jackson, from a new blog I recently discovered.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Happy Birthday, Internet!

Today's the day, 35 years ago, the first message was sent to another computer across the miles. Not an inspiring beginning, but man, what a ride since then!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Currently Reading...

One of the (urban?) legends surrounding Star Wars is that George Lucas got the idea of the story after reading this book. True or not, I find it entirely possible.

Campbell's book, originally published in 1949, still makes sense today. In Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell travels through dozens of myths and tales, from around the world, to trace back the similarities in the hero's quest. Campbell was strongly influenced by Carl Jung, especially on the significance of dreams and the existence of archetypes. He proceeds to show that there is indeed a thread of commonality in the images and actions of people's heros, regardless of culture, language, or religion, and how the characters surrounding our heros are a representation of ordinary life, whether external, or internal.

Once I started reading Hero, I could relate almost every scene in Star Wars to the stages Campbell describes. It's almost uncanny. It also explains why the movie was such a blockbuster: it taps into our innermost instincts.

A fascinating read, and a must for any writer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Star Wars-- The Canadian Connection

It seems George Lucas wasn't only influenced by George Campbell. He also paid homage to a Canadian film maker in the first of his Star Wars trilogy.

How not to get published

Some very good advice from a new blog on my list of faves, A piece of my mind. Elizabeth, the executive editor for Zumaya Publications (my own publisher, as it happens) explains what turns off an acquiring editor from a submission.

Elizabeth also has some other interesting stuff related to writing and publishing. Well worth the visit.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Book Release

Invisible Press just released Deborah Jackson's first novel, Ice Tomb, a science fiction thriller set in Antartica and on the Moon in 2015. Deborah is a fellow writer and member of SF Canada.

Life at the electron level

Another fantastic site, Microangela, that reveals life at the electron microscope level. The pictures have been taken and colorized by Tina (Weatherby) Carvalho of the Biological Electron Microscope Facility, (BEMF), part of the Pacific Biomedical Research Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Who says science is boring?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Places for Writers

Found this great Canadian website. Places for Writers has news, announcements, events, obits, etc., all related to writing in Canada.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

2004 Man Booker Prize

Allan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty won the prestigious (and financially advantageous) Man Booker Prize. Here is what was the shortlist for the prize. Here also is the shortlist for the 2004 Giller Prize, Canada's equivalent to the Booker.

Humour...the guy way

The Zero Boss pointed to this hilarious blog, A view from the bleachers. I'm not too crazy about his header picture, and it would have turned me off completely if Jay hadn't mentioned the blog, but once I started reading, I chuckled all the way.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Words on Failure

As a writer, I'm often faced with the concepts of success and failure. What makes a successful writer? Certainly not the money you make. There are too many good writers out there who are struggling, and starving. The very few who make money at it are the ones who are skewing the curve. Then, what of failure? What makes it a failure? Wordgems has famous quotes to help with that concept.

My favorite is from Elbert Hubbard: "There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose."

I guess I'll keep writing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The State of Publishing

From The Mumpsimus, an excellent commentary on the state of publishing and awards via an article on the National Book Awards nominees in the New York Times.

The NYT article argues that, since the fiction nominees, in particular, are virtual unknowns by most of the popular readership, the Award will not serve the publishing world and is virtually useless.

As a writer and a reader, I have often bemoaned the lack of new, interesting voices. Instead, we are inundated with books from the same old-same old authors, reprints of past sure sellers, and vapid, sensationalistic, middle-of-the-road "new" fiction.

Of course, publishing is a business, and the big guys want the money. It seems that investing in new writers is not a thing to do, anymore, even though the sure sellers are getting older --and staler, and are not being replaced.

Maybe it's because the business people who want to sell books know nothing about good writing, and couldn't care less. And maybe it's because readers accept the mediocre, instead of demanding better. (Quality writing, by the way, does not mean inscrutable or difficult. To me, it means words, setting, characters that stay with you long before you've finished the book.) And perhaps it's the current tendency of linking "good" with "movieable": the assumption that if a book is good, it should immediately be transformed into a movie. We've seen those disasters when excellent books have been put onto the big screen: The English Patient, The Shipping News, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Chocolat, The Pilot's Wife, or even the Harry Potter books. It seems that it's now impossible for readers to use their imagination, to see their own pictures in their mind. They need to have them imposed upon them, so they don't have to get their brains working.

With the state of publishing today, Hollywood's exploiting of certain author's popularity, and the general reader's lack of demand for new and interesting material, the result is a loss of bright, interesting, challenging new voices. I salute the judges of the National Book Award who have decided to choose quality over popularity or name recognition.

Monday, October 18, 2004

A Visual Case against Genetic Engineering

Man, those pictures are scary. They remind me of the remade in China Miéville's Perdido Street Station.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Perfect Corporation

In another life, I used to coach people who wanted to write their résumé. I used to tell my trainees that sentences such as "enthusiastic, hard-working, team player" was not only cliché but useless, since no prospective employer would ever see something like "blasé, lazy loner" on any curriculum vitae.

Huhcorp has taken the cliché and run with it, starting with its motto "We do stuff". It puts into perspective the hype, the empty words, the slight disdain, and the buzz-words the industry --especially companies with websites-- is using.

Great fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Last Sail of the Season

Beautiful day yesterday. Cool, but with steady nor'wester, brilliant sky, fall foliage.

Probably the last one of the season. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Best of SF

Read Vernor Vinge's Hugo Award-winning novella, The Cookie Monster, which appeared in October's issue of Analog. You can also read Catherine Asaro's nominated novella, Walk in Silence. The Hugo Awards were given on September 4, 2004.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Currently Reading...

As a premise for a story, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, by Jeffrey Ford, is fascinating. Piambo, a painter, talented but blasé, receives a commission that would solve his worries about money and leave him free to find his painter's soul again. There's only one condition: he must not look upon his subject, and paint her portrait from the stories she tells him. If he looks at her, he will be killed.

As Mrs. Charbuque unfolds her story, each tale more fantastic than the previous one, Piambo becomes obsessed with depicting her image perfectly. Meanwhile, women are dying, bleeding to death from their eyes, and Piambo begins to suspect that there is a link between his subject and these deaths.

Jeffrey Ford's depiction of 19th Century New York is vivid and typically American in vision. None here is the vague disdain bestowed by the European on the New World; Ford gives a refreshing tone to the setting.

I found, however, the rythm of the prose choppy, and the ending of the story disappointing. The denouement left me unsatisfied and forlorn. After all this time spent in Piambo's company, the last chapters fizzle out. The explanation of the deaths --which are indeed murders-- is somewhat weak, and some of the characters are abandoned mid-story.

Even with a great premise and setting, I found this book a disappointing read.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Just too spooky...

It's getting close to Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve, and already people are beginning to decorate their trees with spider webs and ghosts.

I thought I'd do my part with this short film, Cat with Hands. This is via Cold Ground. I'll never be able to look at my cat the same way again.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

What color is your beer?

A fantastic site that pictures digital images and photomicrographs of the most popular beers around the world. And if you're not a beer drinker, you can check out your favorite cocktail.

These images are part of a photogallery of molecular photography from Florida State University. Most of the photos are accompanied by extensive explanations.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Wanna get murdered?

My friend and writer colleague Biff Mitchell has come up with an imaginative way to raise funds to help him write full time: sell a character on ebay. And this character, of course, will get murdered. Supposedly by burgers. At least, that's the title of his novel. Here's what he has to say about it:



Here’s the deal. I’m putting one Murdered Character up for bids. That’s right. The winning bidder gets to be the next murder victim in my novel Murder by Burger. It’s a satirical murder mystery set in the near future. The murder victims mysteriously eat themselves to death. You can find out more about the novel at: Murder by Burger.

Blogging for Books #4

b4b.jpgThe fourth blog writing contest is underway.

Aurora Awards Nominations

Don Bassie of Made in Canada has provided a list of the nominees for the Aurora Awards.

The Aurora is awarded to the best Science Fiction and Fantasy in Canada. It is equivalent to the Hugos.

Also, Simon Rose's second novel The Sorcerer's Letterbox, has been short-listed for the 2005 Silver Birch Award, presented by the Ontario Library Association. Simon is an SF Canada colleague.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Currently Reading...

This book was mentioned on my SF Canada's list, by Dave Duncan and Nalo Hopkinson. They were so full of praise for it, I decided to pick it up.

The first thing that comes to mind with The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad by Minister Faust is: disconcerting.

Faust uses English in a way I have never seen used before. This is not an experimental book (it's SF, by the way). I'd describe it more as poetic prose with a street smart rythm. And there is a rythm to this book, but it's not one I've ever read to. Faust's love of hip hop and his interest in Afrocentrism have obviously influenced his writing.

The setting is Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (yes, that's right). The main characters, a dishwasher and a video store clerk who call themselves the Coyote Kings, strut through life in a befuddled state of genius, frustration, and emotional survival, until they meet Sherem, a beautiful, mysterious (alien??) woman who involves them in the search for an ancient artifact that collectors and cultists alike want to keep for themselves.

The story itself is fresh and imaginative, and the insight into the Canadian Afrikan culture fascinating. Not to mention, again, the excellent prose.

Well worth reading.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

The character of a face

As a writer, you imagine what your characters look like and try to describe them the best you can. Now there's a way to test your own vision of things. Max Ischenko has developed flashface, a tool very similar to what police artists use. Every item can be adjusted, and moved around the board. You can also save your work. Cool.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Boffo, or Boffin?

Ever wonder what a schlimazel is? Have you ever written a threnody? Or absorbed petrichor with a sense of total well-being? And if I told you I'm hoping for a boffo book launch, and hope that some of my boffin friends will show up, would you know what I meant and tell me it's a sure thing, and to stop this gadzookery?

If I sound like I'm not speaking English, sorry to disappoint you. I am. For a couple of years now I've subscribed to A.word.a.day, a word service that sends a different word to my email box every day. It provides a fascinating glimpse into some of the arcane words --as well as some of the more ordinary ones-- of the English language.

English has a way of absorbing words from other languages and adopting them as is. Anu Garg, the word wizard, always gives a definition and the origin of the word, then adds a couple of examples on how to use that word.

From Australia to Zimbabwe, there are more than half a million subscribers. Highly recommended for any word lover.