Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fantasy and Writing Excuses

Lately, I've been listening to a whole lot of this really awesome writing advice podcast. It's called Writing Excuses hosted (voiced?) by Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor and Dan Wells, all of whom are successful authors.

I have read Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy and Warbreaker. The really great thing about Sanderson is that his magic systems are structured and totally new. That's not something you see everyday in the fantasy genre. He's also the guy who was chosen to finish Robert Jordan's work.

Dan Wells wrote the trilogy beginning with I Am Not A Serial Killer. I did a previous blog on it here. Summary: It's amazing.

I never read Howard Taylor's webcomic but i've heard good things. It's called Schlock Mercenary.

My point here is that writing fantasy and science fiction requires skill and craft just like writing anything else. Hopefully, this translates to it having some sort of real value as reading material. All the people who dismiss speculative fiction and sneer about how they read "real literature" bug me because they don't seem to understand that.

I get the feeling that fantasy isn't taken seriously. "Duh", you say. And that's the problem right there. The attitude toward speculative fiction one of low standards and condescension. Even the science fiction community rags on fantasy. But some fantasy is REALLY FUCKING GOOD. I'll admit, some is ridiculously fucking bad. (Write another shitty vampire romance, and I will cut you.) Still, saying that fantasy is unintelligent or just wish fulfillment just says to me that you really don't know much about the genre.

Anyway, it's a pretty funny podcast, and even though I'm not a writer, it's interesting to listen and see stories and the art of storytelling in new ways.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Borders have Fallen!

So Borders (the bookstore) has filed chapter 11 bankruptcy. Borders has announced that the payment to publishers for books ordered before yesterday will be tied up in the bankruptcy business. The orders from after the filing will be paid. They also say that the stores that remain open will continue to operate pretty much as normal.

But the publishing companies may be less than confident in Borders right now, so I've heard some speculation that there might be fewer of each book and a slightly reduced selection. Hope not.

Since publishers wont be paid, authors might have some trouble being paid too (even though the publishers should really have pay them unless they got a really fucked up contract), and here's where my dilemma begins.

I'm the kind of bookgeek who goes to her favorite authors' signings and reads their blogs, (in my defense, these are some people who know how to write and communicate well, unlike the majority of the internet). I'd like to buy their books in a context where they will actually get paid, rather than having the money dump into some black hole of courts and tax people. I also love Borders with a strange unholy fire. Not really, but I really do like my local Borders.

Assuming you're like me, what should we do?

If we buy from someone other than Borders, the publishers and authors definitely get paid, but Borders will continue as a sinking ship.

If we buy from Borders, we can hope that the book we buy was ordered after yesterday. But even if it isn't, buying from Borders helps them get out of this gigantic hole they've gotten themselves into, and that's good for the industry as a whole, right? Not having a gigantic Barnes and Noble eating Borders' entire market share and crushing all in its path? Yay competition?

I have an additional issue:

There is a book I want that is available on the Borders site and on Amazon at a discount (>50%). This discount is not available at the store. Should I buy it online? Or should I pay full price to Borders to do a tiny little part to help since I do actually want it to stay afloat?

I suppose that 15 or 30 bucks really isn't going to make a huge deal either way. My book, being expensive and hardback, means about a dollar something, maybe, to an author. Yeah, it doesn't make huge deal... sort of like in that way where a vote doesn't really make a huge deal either way in the US government... Stand by your choices and up for your beliefs, fellow members of the masses!

I think I'll buy discounted off the Borders site. Yay Borders. *hug* Hopefully, the price difference only reflects the price of overhead and the costs of running a brick and mortar store, and the publishers and authors get paid eventually. And I think having more than one gigantic book superstore is a good thing for the industry. Competition's healthy. But more importantly, AMERICAN. >:O


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ice creams and cookieessss

Want to try/have/eat:
*All pictures were yanked off the sites/blogs. I have provided links. So you know... they're not mine and stuff. Duh.

Chewy Salted Hazelnut cookies

And someone else made freaking Nutella Lava Chocolate Cookies. Apparently, they're ooooozeygooey in the middle.

Bi-Rite Creamery has these crazy ice cream flavors, like Earl grey, Cinnamon and snickerdoodles, Roasted banana, Salted caramel, Ginger, Strawberry balsamic, Honey lavender... How are you not intrigued?

I also want to go to Paulette, which does macarons... Caribbean chocolate, Sweet wedding almond, Earl grey tea, Colombian coffee, Rose, Passionfruit..

So now I'm all:
omggggggahhhhh O_O.

This behavior is probably unhealthy.
But I don't want to stop.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On the subject of guys who complain because women wont love/have sex with them

Shut up.

No woman is ever doing something wrong by not sleeping with you.

Oh no she's been friends with you for forever but you've gotten nowhere? If you're in any way offended by this, YOU'RE AN ASSHOLE.

Being your friend doesn't mean she is doing something wrong by not utilizing her body to assuage your sexual frustrations. God forbid she actually be your friend.

And no, it's not true that girls only fall for assholes and that's why it sucks being a "nice guy". If assholes got girls, YOU'D BE GETTING LAID RIGHT NOW.

If you've never made a move on that friend-girl you're in love with, this is no one's fault but yours.

If you've made a move and she says no, accept this. If you can still be her friend (for real, JUST a friend), then that's great. If you cant and you need time, that's okay too. Go off and deal with that. Do NOT wait around and keep up a constant mild pressure on her to wear her down. Be aware of this if you're doing it. Then stop it immediately.

If you were never her friend to begin with but really are just hanging around in the hopes she'll sleep with you? You're a creep.

And a note based on a recent experience:

If you've just met a girl, refrain from making sex jokes or talking about sex on the first encounter. You will look like a creeper. It's like meeting someone and telling a racist or dead baby joke right away. That person will make assumptions on your character based on what you say.

And getting mad at someone else because they've been made uncomfortable by you is pathetic.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Flyyy me to the moon... and my favorite versions of other old songs.

I've listed five songs in total and tried to focus on favorites that present the song in a way that is unlike most other renditions. They aren't necessarily the only worthwhile versions... but they're pretty fantastic.

Fly me to the moon - Tony Bennett.
I've always felt that this song belongs as a ballad. It's just that it always seemed kinda sad.

Cant take my eyes off of you - Muse
This particular live performance. The CD version's good. This is better.

Sway - Anita Kelsey (From Dark City's soundtrack)
This version feels kinda darker and a little unnerving as it beckons.

Over the rainbow - Taylor Matthews
The arrangement's really cool. This is the only full version I could find unfortunately, and you cant see how dorky, southern and cute he is.

Haha, okay so Liz called me out on it and I admit this next one's kind of a cheat.
"Singing in the rain", the original Gene Kelly performance is pretty much unbeatable.
So, I will call this my favorite old/new mashup.
Singing in the rain / Umbrella mashup - Gwyneth Paltrow and Glee
Eeeeee I love the dancing. And Harry Shum, Jr. :D

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You know you're in trouble when the serial killer sounds like he's talking sense.

Dan Wells' I Am Not A Serial Killer is kinda fantastic.

It's shelved in horror, but while it's horrifying, it's not terrifying if that makes any sense.

John is a boy who knows he has many of the early indicators of a budding serial killer, so he's trying so very hard not to be one. Then someone else starts leaving bodies all over town.

Wells makes a serial killer's mind make sense, and there's something quietly horrific about that.

The premise can sound similar to that of the tv show Dexter (based on the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which I haven't read) in that the protagonist has serial killer tendencies, but the two really aren't the same at all.

Maybe it's just because of differences in the media, or maybe it's the actor but I never really got Dexter. Wells really brings you in with John. He shows you the emotions in a boy who supposedly has none and it makes the book great.

I Am Not A Serial Killer is the first in a series of three books. The second is Mr. Monster, and the third is I Don't Want to Kill You.

I have also read Mr. Monster. I killed it (:D) in two days, and then the day after, I woke up and went "What in the Fuck did I just READ?!" I haven't read the third yet, but I plan on it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amy Chua is not a Tiger Mother

I was on the fence about Amy Chua and her book. I'd heard that the WSJ article wasn't a fair representation. Then she did her interview on the Today Show, and I went toppling off.

Ms. Chua couldn't voice any justifications for parenting so harshly and calling her kids degrading names. I had been hoping for a "that was in the beginning of my learning process" or some sort of acceptable reason. But to defend herself and her parenting, she kept saying things along the lines of "You know, a lot of Asian parents are aghast at Western parenting, too." Given that she's a Yale law professor, you'd think she'd recognize a flawed argument when she saw one.

If the child is acting badly, or not performing up to his or her potential, then they should be ashamed. Shame is a legitimate motivator. Name-calling, however, is emotionally abusive and not useful. Kids should be ashamed of their bad actions, not of themselves. It is very not okay to verbally or emotionally abuse children. Even if there isn't any permanent damage, you're still an ass.

Ms. Chua seems to be of the sort of parent that cannot admit she's wrong in any significant way. She says her book is about her transformation and learning experience as a mother, but she also says she'd do it all over again about the same way ("minor tweaks"). So what has she learned? How has she changed? She stands by choices she is unable to adequately defend. She claims to have been "humbled by a 13yr old" but there isn't any humility there.

Asian culture doesn't promote questioning your elders, but the expectation of obedience from the children is a result of an expectation of wisdom from our elders. If your child HAS to obey, you had DAMN WELL better be right. This should mean that the elder needs to carefully examine her directives. Ms. Chua expects her children to obey and achieve perfection, so it is only fair that she be expected to provide wisdom and perfection as a mother. She fails to even provide a proper defense of her actions or learn from any mistakes, and breaks her side of this pact. Is expecting a perfect mother ridiculous? Yes. Is it any more ridiculous than expecting a perfect child?

I like Ms. Chua's statement about viewing a child with an assumption of strength and excellence rather than an assumption of fragility and handicap. I like the idea of pushing a child to achieve so that he proves to himself that he can. If I ever am in the position to raise a child, I think I will keep these ideas in mind. However, if I ever had a child, I wouldn't let Amy Chua near her.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Poorly written heroines/Why I hate your protagonist

First off, I want to say that the cover is gorgeous. I don't generally like pink, but this is fantastic. Good job New American Library.

The problem is the main character Penelope. It's the 19th century with all the gender roles firmly in place. Penelope is a bit of a misfit in that she is outspoken, strong willed and sexually confident. I guess this is meant to endear her to the reader.

It fails.

Not only is this set up cliche and overused, it's not even used well. Mostly I see this issue in YA fantasy. The young heroine is meant to be strong and spunky, but is really just rude and arrogant. It boils down to this:

Being nosy, loud, ignorant and conceited is annoying. It is not spunky.

This pattern of characterization in literature is insulting because it implies that this is what a strong female is: irritating, bull headed, inconsiderate and/or bitchy.

What particularly bothers me about Penelope is that she is a grown woman and her actions clearly can have horrible consequences (that she lucks out of). She also had some rather cool qualities so I tried to suspend disbelief and rationalize her actions throughout the first third of the book, until she proved what I suspected: she is a useless bint.

Penelope invites herself along on a dangerous chase after a French exile, after the British captain tells her not to come, because "Did [the British captain] really think she was just going to sit there and wait for him?" (178) What kind of idiocy is this? Why yes, actually, I expect you to shut up, sit down and let the trained military officer to conduct the state's business. She then finds a note the exile left behind that is obviously meant for the captain, and she hides and keeps it. Why? BECAUSE SHE'S BORED. She figures it'll be more exciting if she investigates it herself.

If the adult protagonist is bumbling through your story interfering with military operations and international intrigues in a dangerous political climate because she's BORED, this doesn't make her brave, independent, charmingly inquisitive, or endearingly spunky. She's a spoiled dumbass endangering the lives of thousands of people on a whim.

That she is supposed to be a strong female heroine or even an adult in this story is ridiculous. What she needs is a time-out. Or a punch in the face.