Monday, July 27, 2009

All too familiar fantasies

I’m about to shut the door on the fantasy. Trying to find something outside the parameters of “heroic/epic fantasy” is turning into a full-time job. Especially considering every publisher out there list their books as being something greater than they are; with promises to transcend genre and change preconceived ideas of what fiction is.

I’m going to start and finish Brandon Sanderson's Hero of Ages soon and then I’ll be placing a lot of faith in Jay Lake’s Green. I don’t know why I am doing this but I am. Perhaps it’s the cover. Maybe because it’s written in first person which seems to me a rarity in fantasy. Perhaps it’s because it’s not a standard fantasy trilogy. Perhaps it’s this excerpt.

It’s not a happy feeling to learn that the genre that prompted an interest in reading within me is falling out of favor.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A terrible book

I want to be absolutely clear that when I say terrible I am referring to the book’s manufacturing: the construction of the book. As for the words on the page, I haven’t read them yet.

If you go to amazon and search for Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees you will find a few results. The first to come up is the one I purchased. Printed by CreateSpace, which is, as best as I can tell from their website a POD/self-publishing subsidiary of amazon.

I have nothing against such presses but this does raise some questions, least of all how they acquired the rights to print the book. The cover has a zoomed in pixelated picture that looks to be an extreme close up of the cover art from a previous Del Ray mass market paper back and is without doubt a copyright violation of some sort. (As Del Ray is more than creditable, for three dollars a used copy of that edition is probably preferable to the Createspace edition.) When the book is opened there is no library of congress catalogue listing, nor copyright information of any sort. All that is said before the table of contents is the title, the author and, “First published in 1926,” which combine to make for a very poor title page. Perhaps public domain is in effect, but even so that does not explain the reproduction of the cover art--no matter how altered it may be--without permission or accreditation.

The paper is standard office stock, the binding is laughable. I think it would be apparent to the untrained eye that this book was made in someone’s basement. I have seen many and own a few self-published books. All of them were more professionally done than this. If you are a lover of books and enjoy creating your own library I have no doubt that my complaints will become your own should you purchase this edition. The alternatives are an edition by the now defunct BORGO PRESS, Cold Springs Press (which amazon reviewers have also bashed in terms of quality of book construction) and the apparent diamond-in-the-rough Wildside Press.

I do not own any books printed by Wildside but judging from their website and the authors they represent I think they are legitimate, though I would welcome any feedback from any who know. I searched for this book on amazon’s Canada site to seek alternatives after seeing what arrived in the mail and was fortunate enough to stumble across Wildside. For whatever reason, they do not appear on any page of the amazon US site. Sadly, they do not have a “look inside” option to check out the formating. Should you be interested in Lud-in-the-Mist, THIS, is the edition you should purchase. Without seeing it, I have full confidence it can't any worse than the competition and judging from the books they publish I have a feeling it will be infinitely better.

I don’t expect all the books I buy to posses the master craftsmanship of Random House’s Everyman’s Library, but I do expect a lot more than this for my hard earned money. Having only gleaned the first few pages I have no doubt that I will have better things to say concerning the content of the book than the quality of it’s construction and I look forward to saying those things shortly.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Finding a New Office

There are fourteen libraries in Gwinnett county which at one point in time was the fastest growing county in the nation. The services they offered were wonderful and the facilities were some of the nicest to be found in a public library system. Seems as if their heyday is over and the reality of budget constraints are affecting everyone.

The staff cutbacks are sad and I feel for those who have been let go, but--on to more selfish concerns--the hours being so heavily cut in the evenings is something I may have to protest.

I can blog and freelance about anywhere, but when I write my own fiction I enjoy being able to get of my apartment to do so. (And no, I'm not that pretentious guy you see at a coffee house with a notebook, laptop, more pens and pencils than needed surrounded by cups of tea.) The comforts of home are too tempting for me to properly focus on anything that is truly important to me. The library was a perfect outlet: an office of sorts, for me. They used to close at nine so there was a timeline that was imposed by someone else that I was working under; a great motivator. The silent reading room was deathly quiet. Most of all it felt like an office to me. No, TV, video games, I turned my phone off and Wi-Fi, and in that room I was surrounded by other people that, in one form or another were there to work. It was an environment that I found very conducive to making progress.

Sadly there isn’t another option quite like it that comes to mind. So it seems that I have either a couple more weeks before I’ll have to learn how to write at home or find a new safe haven for creative thought.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Three Strikes

July has been a really bad reading month for me. I’ve picked up three books with intentions of finishing them promptly and ended up putting all three down. It has been a little disheartening to say the least.

The only one of the three that I feel deserves mention would be Then we Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in spots, but for me there was no gravity to hold the loosely strung together events called the plot with any cohesion.

Not to make a division among readers, but any who read casually and want something fun and funny; this book would get a high recommendation. I personally needed a more present central element to give things a feeling of unity. This was by no means a bad book, it’s just not for me.

As my everyday reading pile crapped out three straight turds, I’ve retreated deep into familiar and comfortable territory. I’m half way through Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. Needless to say, I’m enjoying myself. If things go well and these two are finished shortly I may indulge in a third bit of comfort fiction with Hero of our Time by Mikhail Lermontov.

Anyone else have any reading duds lately?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reading more than one book at a time

I am a one-track-mind person. I can multitask, but given the option I’d rather dedicate myself wholly to one project and then move on upon completion. The same is true for my reading habits. I know of people that can juggle three, four, or more books at a time; still keep things straight and enjoy doing so.

I don’t think I’m capable of this feat. If I start to lose interest in one book and pick up another chances are slim to none that I’m gonna go back and finish the one that is now officially boring in my mind.

Perhaps if it was four books in four different genres I could manage to keep things straight, but even then if one of them was really good I think I’d stay with it until it was over; thereby possibly not doing justice to the other three.

So, all of you multi-book-reading-at-one-time types: how do you do it? Are there benefits that I’m missing out on? Do you feel you finish all started novels in a timely fashion? Is it worth the effort?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Jellyfish, Books, Saltwater, and Complete Relaxation.

I can’t read on the beach. In fact I’m not sure how anyone can. It’s not the kids (there were few and well behaved), or the heat (I am from Atlanta so Gulf Shores humidity isn’t intimidating) or even the constant drone of the ocean (I’ll get to that drone in a moment.)

The beach may be the most surreal place on Earth. Everything you look at is amazingly beautiful from the sand, to the water to the skyline and yet it is all a bit cloying. So much so that we have to mute all we see with sunglasses least we go blind.

The water is lethal made up of ridiculous salinity, algae, and nigh invisible jellyfish that sting like fire ants, but none of that keeps people out of the water. The sand is too hot to walk on and the sand crabs are too territorial to risk with out sandals but still adults compete in sand castle contest as if they were five year olds and the five year olds bury each other up to their necks in what used to be the crabs home.

It would seem that the beach is the perfect place to read a book as the temperate water and inviting white sand only hold appeal for a little while and after time send everyone running for the relative safety of higher ground and an umbrella. Yet I just couldn’t read. Feeling as out of place as I did, and in such a foreign environment, I felt being there was more than enough to make me happy and a greater escape than any fiction I could have brought along.

That said I did discover the purpose for buying books in ‘terrible’ condition off ebay. Take them to the beach. If all you pay is ten cents and shipping who cares how much sand, salt, and water get into it?

The drone of the ocean is near deafening. I don’t know how people say they can tune it out. There are few comparable omnipresent sounds I can think of. It is most commonly described as ‘hypnotic’ and I think that is a good descriptor. As such, I couldn’t focus on much else let alone take part in a novel.

I had noticed myself falling into a pattern these past few days: when the jellyfish finally defeated me and the sand had burnt the previous day’s blisters I retired to my chair and umbrella with the intentions of reading. I read the first three pages of the same book four days in a row but never got any further.

Since I wasn’t able to read on the beach I was forced to take in the environmental oddities that some people call everyday life with out a book to distract me; made to consume fruity flavored rum drinks and nap in the shade.

Pity me...It was terrible.