Posts Tagged ‘writing’

"Literary Adventure Fantasy"?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Even though meticulous definitions of subgenres in writing or music often spawn endless discussions, they are sometimes necessary to show other people what you ‘re talking about. With the founding of my new online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, I’ve had to craft some definitions of my own. I’ve thought a lot in recent years about the exact type of fantasy fiction I want to publish and what I should call it.

I love traditional fantasy–classics from the 1930s pulp era and the new wave of fantasy in the 1970s post-Tolkien boom. But I also love the way the recent influence of literary writing on fantasy short fiction has expanded and advanced the genre. Fantasy writers now have the the freedom to use literary devices such as tight points-of-view, round characters, discontinuous narratives, and unreliable narrators in their genre stories. This sophisticated level of craft makes those stories far more powerful.

Unfortunately for me as a reader, there has been very little intersection between these two movements–classic-style fantasy told in a modern literary-influenced approach. Barely a couple stories of this type make it into the major markets every year, perhaps because those magazines aren’t interested in traditional-style fantasy anymore. And the few markets dedicated to traditional-style fantasy don’t seem to appreciate the more powerful and mature storytelling that modern literary devices offer.

That’s where Beneath Ceaseless Skies comes in. I will publish classic-style fantasy written with all the skill and impact of modern literary-influenced fantasy. That’s what I mean by “literary adventure fantasy.” Let the quest for great reads begin!

A Well-Unread List

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

(Shamelessly lifted from my friend and colleague Kate’s blog, with my comments added at the bottom.)

These are the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by some group’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, and italicize the ones you own but have not read.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell**
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities

The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius**
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Miserables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince

The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything**
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter

Eats, Shoots & Leaves**
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed**
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Scott muses: this is an odd list–lots of classics but also lots of modern pseudo-literary flavors-of-the-month. Many of the classic authors have multiple titles–Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky. But many others only have one–Melville, Pynchon, Faulkner (who wrote 19 novels, compared to Austen’s six). There are a couple genre novels, but Dune and The Hobbitt are staples of their respective subgenres, not books that non-genre people keep around to look cool (Stranger in a Strange Land, anyone?).

So these are some vacuous people who think owning lots of Austen but only one Faulkner makes you look smart. For extra flavor, I added ** next to the titles that are particularly vain modern literati tripe.  :)

Antici–              –pation

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Last weekend I attended agent and writing lecturer Don Maass’s High Tension Workshop in Austin, TX. His whole “tension” idea is to make every paragraph in a work, of any type of narrative, so compelling a read that the reader can’t put it down. I found his strategies immensely interesting, partly because he presented them as a tool to be used wherever the writer sees fit. Some of them were based on anticipation or playing with reader expectations. Many others were rooted in the character, which is my favorite aspect of fiction.

Maass was a very engaging lecturer and knew his material thoroughly, using many examples from best-selling novels. Austin was also quite cool–we were at the north end of town, but I still found a cool brewpub called North by Northwest and a sampler six-pack of local ales from Blanco, TX. All in all, a damn fine weekend.

On Being Read

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Mike DeLuca, my colleague in both writing and drinking fine beers, wrote a neat blog post last week about the feeling of having your work enjoyed by people you’ve never met. Every writer has friends and family who love their stuff, but there’s something both neat and odd about getting that from people you’ve never met.

I just had my first experience with this. My literary story “A Brief Swell of Twilight” won the 2006 Fiction Award from the Briar Cliff Review. Last week I got a nice e-mail from a freshman at Briar Cliff University who’s taking a lit class taught by one of the faculty advisors for the magazine. They were assigned to write a character analysis paper, and one of their choices was the protagonist in my story. This student said he wasn’t allowed to ask for any extra information about the character; he just wanted to tell me that he enjoyed the story.

Which was all very cool, but still made me feel odd. All my characters are based on myself, in different ways and varying amounts, but this particular character was close to home in a few. And, of course, completely fictional in others.

I’m very glad this student enjoyed that synthesis of me and very much not-me, combined in an interesting story. It does seem especially cool that it resonated with him even though he has no idea who I am. Which I think is the ultimate goal for all of us striving to be read–it must resonate with as many people as possible.

And it was a bit more interesting a comment than the extended family readers who read the rescue climax of that story and asked, “Did that really happen to Scott?” :)