Sunday, December 20, 2009

The greatest idea ever

How cool would this be?

An itunes-esque store for short stories would make me very happy. Countless collections come out and I can't afford them all and there are usually only a handful of stories in each that I would really want to add to my 'permanent collection.' I'm still not a fan of the e-readers I've gotten my hands on but if I could buy a single story from a collection, much like a single song from a CD, then I'd be hard pressed to not ask Santa for a Kindle.

The idea is fraught with problems. Least of which include, 'how do authors get paid,' and 'will there be exclusivity among the different brands of e-readers? ' (Which would be an instant deal killer for me, because I wouldn't buy more than one device just to ensure I could read all the materials I wanted).

Still how badass would it be to type in "Michael Swanwick" in the itunes store and get a catalogue of his short stories for purchase?

Some one who does stuff like this, please hurry up and make it happen.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Patricia McKillip and I

At the random suggestion of someone at the library I started reading The Tower at Stony Wood. Previously, I've read Alphabet of Thorn and The Tower at Stony Wood seems to be extracting much the same feelings from me.

I want to like her writing. I feel like I should enjoy the story she tells, but for some reason, I don't. For whatever reason, I have a hard time getting my bearing with her prose. I feel like her writing is not grounded and I have a hard time telling up from down let alone even guessing where the story is going. It's not the allusive writing of Toni Morrison though it has an airy abstract feeling to it, but for me it seems to have similar intangible qualities. I don't mind odd presentation, or suggestive writing that makes me think, but I do need something concrete to build on.

I'm sure she is amazing and worth all the praise and accolades given her, but her ability seems to be lost on me.

Update 12/28/2009

I just read a short story by her in Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy edited Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois call Naming Day and absolutely loved it.

Seems I am ever the hypocrite.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Oddities in female writing

I've been reading a lot of fiction, both short stories and novel length material, by women authors the second half of the year. Perhaps it's the sample of material I've read, but I've noticed some peculiarities about women authors.

Excluding the 'classics' and period works, the contemporary ones I've read come across as very forward. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It struck me as strange that very rarely do women want to make love, rather they hurry up to the four-letter word variations. They tolerate the men in their world, but truly have no use for them. To my surprise, the vast majority of the substantial men in the sample of books I read seem to have very strong homosexual tendencies if they aren't outright gay. And there is nothing wrong with that, but it has been cliched unto my sample of reading to see a story with a strong, independent female lead and an average Joe, best friend male who happens to gay.

I've never claimed to understand the female mind, but apparently I have even less of a clue than I originally supposed.

Oh, yeah, and the antagonist is always male. Always. Because men are bad. I'm looking forward to broadening my reading by female authors to see how long these queer quarks hold true. Octavia Butler, Margaret Atwood, Ursula K. LeGuin, A.S. Byatt, and Cathrynne Valente are in the immediate future.

The Limits of my Genre Interest

I started, and put down, Anathem by Neal Stephenson last night. I gave it my best shot, but after two hundred pages there was nothing to keep me interested.

Two things about this book jumped out at me. The first was the "Note to the Reader" written by the author. It was essentially a set of guidelines on how to read this particular book. The inclusion of such a message is when I felt the first tendrils of dislike latching onto my put-this-book-down gene. Those used to reading speculative fiction and figuring things out were encouraged to skip over the message, and so I did. It was the inclusion of the message to the benefit of everyone else that worried me.

How exclusive is such a message? How elite is a book such as Anathem that a reader unaccustomed to reading science fiction may need, 'assistance' in getting through. If such assistance is needed, what is to be said for 'enjoyment?'

Perhaps, readers unaccustomed to the argot, history, and personalities within the world of classical music and politics concerning Western Europe during both World Wars shouldn't read The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax. Or perhaps it is a testament to the Romano-Lax's writing that a neophyte in all those areas can read, understand, and enjoy the book with out the need of an outside reference. (The Spanish Bow, is a purely random example, the first book I saw, when glancing at the books shelf.)

The second issue I had with Anathem was the inclusion of a glossary. The first book that I can recall reading that included a glossary of terms was The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan. I also remember not knowing the glossary was there until I finished the book and was left wondering what the last twenty pages were. I didn't use the glossary. I read the book in a few short days and was able to keep all the information straight in my mind, and furthermore, there was nothing foreign presented that I was unable to figure out with context.

Is there a better way to detach your reader from the story you are telling then by making them rely on a glossary of terms? It is particularly frustrating when a standard English word is re-assigned a definition at the whim of the author. Gene Wolfe has a particular gift for what people often perceive to be the art of "making words up." But he relies on context, an astute reader, a multitude of world language idioms to make himself clear; not a glossary.

I think this is one of the reasons I tend to walk softly upon hardcore sci-fi and fantasy. If you're going to invite me into your world, make sure the primer is thin and readily understandable. In short I felt there was a learning curve to merely open the book. Perhaps, I'm not cunning enough to enjoy what was given, but for me, the price of admission was too high.

After all that, I can't bring myself to part with this book. I'll give it another try sometime down the line, and perhaps have a wholly different experience and resend my current sentiments expressed here. But for now, this is strike one...