greygirlbeast: (Barker)
Thanks for yesterday's comments. Let's see if we can do that again. I like to see Frank the Goat all smiling and happy.

Sunny, and warm (high of 84˚F forecast) here in Providence, and I should go to the sea. Instead, I'll write.

So, after I propose a book as the month's selection, and after I discover it's a steaming pile of pink giraffe dung, then people step forward to tell me that it was a baffling choice. Better yet, that my choice of Ryan's book led them to doubt my sanity and the very fabric of time and space. Helpful lot, you are. Anyway, so I officially decry The Forest of Hands and Teeth as the waste of a wonderful title and a lot of paper, and move along. Yes, you heard me. I am breaking with my neurosis and not even finishing it. And there will be no other choice for the "book club" this month. Me, I'm reading The Stand (the original 1978 text) for the first time since the 1980s. And this be a lesson to you all. Even aliens fuck up sometimes.

Seriously, how does someone get to be an adult-type person and have such a dopey, sugary view of the world as Carrie Ryan? How is it that their ideas of human relationships remain so firmly rooted in the ninth grade?

---

Yesterday, I wrote 1,349 words on Chapter Seven of Blood Oranges. Yes, I finished Chapter Six on Monday without having realized that I'd done so. I am approaching the book's climax. It's a very, very peculiar book. It's me taking a vacation. But, regardless, I can assure you that – whatever it might be – it's at least 1,000% better written than The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

---

I was very pleased to see this bit in John Clute's review (at Strange Horizons) of Ellen Datlow's Naked City:

And Caitlin R Kiernan's "The Colliers' Venus (1893)" (in a steampunk Denver here called Cherry Creek) is an engrossingly indirect narrative at the climax of which the eponymous figure—who is Gaia in bondage—turns to holy ash, which is coal dust that fills the lungs, which is to say she imprints us with our fate.

But the entire review should be read, as it speaks to the sad mess that has been made of the once respectable and promising label "urban fantasy." Seriously, if you value my fiction, or my opinion of fiction in general (the Carrie Ryan gaffe notwithstanding), you should read this whole review. But I will quote two passages:

"If it's the same story wherever it happens to be set," I wrote, "it isn't Urban Fantasy."

– and –

The best stories in both anthologies, being about our world, do not pretend to tell us that all will be well, that all things will be well if we listen, down to the last sweet-tooth detail, to the child inside. Paranormal romances told by sweeties no longer feed us joy or terror, not any more. They are yesterday's newspaper. If it is our fate to breathe dust, then let it be the dust of the world we live in.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes. Where have all our John Clute's gone?

---

So, as I was saying, casting about for something reliable to read last night, we settled on the original text of The Stand (1978). The 1990 revision/extension/updating, in my opinion, was mostly nonsensical and all but ruined the novel.* I'd actually wanted to read Shirley Jackson's The Sundial (1958), but couldn't find my copy anywhere (and fear it was lost on a move [dash] book purge). So, yes. The Stand. I was afraid we'd start, and this book I'd loved so much during my teens and early twenties that I read it pretty much once a year would have lost everything that made it dear to me. Kathryn and I re-read King's 'Salem's Lot back in 2004, and, frankly, I found it embarrassing. That is, I was embarrassed I'd ever admired that novel. Anyway...

Last night I was very pleasantly surprised to find that The Stand is still, to me, an enthralling, well-written book. Which means King's writing improved considerably between 'Salem's Lot and The Stand, between about 1973 and 1977 (approximate composition dates, not publication dates). I entirely stopped reading him after '89 and '90's supremely disappointing The Dark Half and the reworked edition of The Stand. For me, the high point had been Pet Sematary (1983), and I knew the party was ending when I read the atrociously bloated and silly It (1986). I've drifted off the point. So far, after the first five chapters and the first fifty pages, The Stand is what I remember it being. I'm just glad that I have a copy of the original text, and not the later, longer, and lesser edition.

And I should go. There's an impatient platypus.

An Old-School Urban Fantasy,
Aunt Beast

* Much like what Clute says about urban fantasy stories being about the places they're set in, and ceasing to be those stories if moved to a new place...a good novel is about its time, no matter how "timeless" the basic elements may be, and cannot simply be bumped ahead in time to make more money for publishers and authors. Just look at the mess that has been made of Lovecraft on film, because no one understands these are now period stories. Now, from here, The Stand is a story about the world thirty-one years ago (it's set in 1980).
greygirlbeast: (Default)
As days off go, yesterday was a day I truly would have been better spent working.

Comments would be very helpful today.

There was snow this morning, but nothing stuck, and it's changed over to rain. That was my gift from the Ides of March, I suppose. I've never before told Mars to go fuck "himself," but I'm getting there.

---

Last night, we finished Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay. And I'll keep this brief, because there's no need to do otherwise. As a trilogy, these books are a failure. However, The Hunger Games is quite good, and I recommend it. It has something to say, and it says it. It's grim and true. Sure, it's not very original, but original isn't actually very important (it's one of the lies of fiction, originality). That said, Mockingjay has it's moments, and the ending...the last seventy-five pages or so...are close to truly brilliant. Though, the epilogue stunk of one of those things that publishers coerce writers into tacking on so that books won't end on such "down notes." Oh, yes, kittens, this happens all the time. It has happened to me. No, I won't tell you which book.* So, if you want to read the "trilogy," read The Hunger Games, skip Catching Fire, read Mockingjay...BUT....stop at the end of Chapter 27, which is really THE END, and tear out the silly ass, venomous epilogue before you accidentally read it, as it risks making a lie of the truths told in the preceding chapters. The epilogue subverts the truths, exactly the way the propaganda machines of the novel subvert the truth.

The truth is simple and Orwellian. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I applaud the author for having the nerve to be true to Katniss, but I lament whatever caused her to think a trilogy with a saggy middle was necessary.

I will add that Collins could have done better with her world-building. Specifically, okay...we know America has become Panem following war, climate change, disease, and social upheaval. We know that the population of Panem is small enough that the leaders worry about the size of the human gene pool and try not to inflict too many fatalities for fear of extinction. But. What about the rest of the world? Did all other nations perish absolutely? All of them? It seems very unlikely. And the people of Panem have sophisticated radio (never mind television). Even if Panem isn't actively looking for other nations, those nations would be able to detect Panem's presence.

If nothing else, Panem has boats. The Phoenicians and Vikings did quite a lot of exploration, even without steam, electric, and nuclear-powered ships (Panem at least has the potential to possess all three). I suspect we're not given this information because then questions have to be answered that would threaten the integrity of the story. Example: Why doesn't tyrannical Panem seek much needed resources (including breeding stock) by waging war on other nations? This isn't really a quibble. These questions could have been addressed in such a way that didn't harm the story. They just weren't. That is, not answered by better world-building, which is odd, because most of Collins' world is very, very authentic.

---

Other books are entering and exiting my life. Yesterday, we began reading Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels, which I suspect will be brilliant. Also began Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, which promises to be more brilliant still.

However, I also began what is surely the lousiest attempt at sf I've tried to read in many, many years. I only made it three chapters. Now, I will not tell you the name of the author, the book's title, or the publisher. I will tell you that this is a first-time YA author who got a whopping seven-figure deal for this piece of trash. I will tell you that, because you need to know these things happen. Every damn day. Not to put too fine a point on it, this book is absolutely, irredeemably fucking awful. On every level. Had I discovered it among the scrawlings of a fourth grader, I might have been impressed and thought that someday this person might be able to write. But this was written by an adult. And you need to know, this is how publishing works. Last night, reading it, I'm not sure if all my laughing was because the book's so bloody awful, or if I was laughing the way someone laughs when she peers into the abyss and it peers back into her.

You merely open this book, and all across the universe, brilliant fantasy and sf authors who labor in crushing obscurity and poverty, writing gems for pittances, bow their heads and shuffle on, knowing the score. Business as usual. Seven-figure advances....

If you can avoid it, do not open this book. I can't help you more than I have. My copy (fortunately it was free), goes to the paper shredder. It'll make good packing material.

---

I teeter on a needle tip, wondering if I can write YA without abandoning one of the few things that makes me a decent writer: my voice. I believe that I can, but I see so many examples to the contrary. It's hard to find good YA that also has a distinctive voice. Stories that give away their authors with every sentence. Contemporary YA is almost devoid of stylists, and I am, for better or worse, a stylist.

---

Yesterday was a success, if only because I didn't commit suicide. May the world still be here tomorrow.

In Utter Fucking Bafflement,
Aunt Beast

They heard me singing and they told me to stop
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock
Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small
Can we ever get away from the sprawl?
Living in the sprawl, the dead shopping malls rise
Like mountains beyond mountains
And there's no end in sight

I need the darkness. Someone, please cut the ligths...


(Arcade Fire)

It's snowing again. And sticking. Fuck me. Which reminds me, I neglected to mention last night's sex dream involving quantum entanglement.

Postscript (6:19 p.m.): Okay, I will. It was Threshold. And also the novel I ghost wrote.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
So far, Spooky has rendered this morning a scene from an unmade David Lynch film. Bobby Vinton and fussing about how I clean out the coffee maker were involved. She checked for fish. After all, there are tins of sardines in the pantry. Oh, and it doesn't help that, last night, someone pointed out to me how much Thom Yorke and Tilda Swinton look alike. It's true.

Yesterday, I wrote 1,428 words on the final chapter of The Drowning Girl: A Memoir. A pivotal, culminative scene I could not have written (well) had I not gone to the Blackstone River in the snow on Sunday. But I did go, and so I did write the scene to the best of my ability. And I find that, as I expected, this is essentially a novel without climax. There are revelations strewn here and there, but nothing actually ever coalesces into a climax. It's a novel that begins here and stops there, when Imp believes she's done the best job she'll ever do of telling her "ghost story."

As it stands, the manuscript is 96,158 words long. My contract specifies a novel 100,000 words long. Setting aside for the moment that no one should ever tell an author how long or short a novel has to be, I emailed my editor a week back and told her it might go to 120,000. She asked if I could please keep it to 110,000-115,0000. I did some math, juggled scenes, and replied that I might be able to keep it to 110,000, which made her very happy. So, assuming I can do that, I have about 13,842 words left to go until the more or less arbitrary THE END. I've been writing, on average, 1,200-1,500 words a day, which means I'll likely finish sometime between Friday the 11th and Sunday the 13th. Hardly any time left to go, on a novel that I've been working on. in one way or another, since August 2009.

Also, we proofed "Postcards from the King of Tides" for Two Worlds and In Between. It's a story that still works for me, despite having been written in 1997. I don't think that I'd ever seen how much influence "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" had on the story until yesterday.

For dinner, there was spicy beef shawarma and baba ghannoush.

---

Last night, we finished Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Gods, this is a brilliant book. I mean fucking brilliant. Horrifying and sorrowful and poignant and beautiful and strong. Katniss is one of my new favorite literary figures. I'm not going to gush on and on, or risk spoilers, but I will say I was especially impressed at how Collins deftly managed to put us in the mind of someone living in a totalitarian world. There are so many times Katniss Everdeen might have stopped and given the gamemakers or the Capital the middle finger. But she doesn't, even though that's what they do in Big Hollywood movies, because she understands the dire consequences it would have for her and, more importantly, for her family and District 12. She only knows, at this stage, how corrupt and loathsome the world is, and that it may destroy everything it touches. This is how evil men stay in power. And it's impossible not to read this novel and see the Capitol of Panem as the US, and each of the twelve districts (thirteen was obliterated in the late civil war) as all those countries where people live in squalor so that Americans may enjoy an obscenely high standard of living.

---

Gaming consumed far too much of my night. First, Spooky let me use her laptop long enough the level Selwyn to 16. I love the world of Rift so, so much. I love that it awes me, and takes my breath, and frightens me, and that I walk through Meridian and so many people are in character, roleplaying, and so few have inappropriate names (for now, the name police thing is working).

Meanwhile, in that other game, the candy-colored one, Shaharrazad is still grinding away at Loremaster. I've now done 105 out of the 120 Netherstorm quests.

---

Okay, I slept far too late, and now it's time to make the doughnuts. Go to bed at 5 ayem, get up at noon thirty, you must make concessions.
greygirlbeast: ("Dracorex")
The last few days have been...well...crap. Almost complete and utter.

Today Spooky dragged me out of the house for a fairly wonderful day Outside (which I will describe, with photos, tomorrow). At the end of it all was a package from David Kirkpatrick ([livejournal.com profile] corucia), and in that package was a copy of William Stout's new book, Dinosaur Discoveries (2009, Flesk Publications). And that would have been enough, right there. But turns out, it's #420 of a signed limited edition of 500 copies. And as if that still wasn't cool enough, it was inscribed to me, with a mosasaur illustration! Now, if you aren't in the know, me and mosasaurs, we go way, way back. All the way to the Santonian, in fact. Anyway, yes, this is grand, and thank you David and Bill for giving me something to smile about on this day when I very much need something to smile about.

Oh, and Spooky even took two nerdy photos:

My Own Private Mosasaur )
greygirlbeast: (Bowie3)
Yesterday I did "only" 1,528 words, and I felt guilty for not having written more. But I made my goal, and the Word Bank even gained 28 words. Also, we proofed the galleys of "Zero Summer" for Subterranean Magazine #6. And then there were e-mails and phone calls. And I finally crawled away down the hall and hid in a tub of very hot water.

Speaking of words/per day, [livejournal.com profile] matociquala was remarking on "the fast writer/slow writer debate," which I did not even know, previously, was a debate. Some people write fast. Some people write slowly. But apparently there are those who would be prescriptive in these matters. That is, those who believe slower writers are more likely to produce good books than those who write fast. And I will admit, I do tend to be skeptical of writers who turn out two or three novels a year. A big part of that's envy, though. I freely admit to that. I am a very, very slow writer. That's why this whole 1,500 words per/day every day thing is such a big deal for me. Until 2002, my average was 500 words/per day. Since then, it's been 1,000. But, as for how long it takes me to write novels, factoring in research, stewing in my skull time, inexplicable stalls, and such like, they usually take me at least a year or two. Daughter of Hounds needed more than two years. Low Red Moon was written in only about eight months. Threshold took forever (something like three or four years), and I think Silk required at least 27 months. It takes me as long to write a novel as the novel requires. But, yes, generally, I am a very slow writer. And rarely am I good for more than four or five hours writing on any given day. There are numerous reasons for this. Having only one functional eye. What some have described as "sentence-level writing" (doesn't everyone do it one sentence at a time? One word at a time?). The fact that I really do not enjoy writing. And so forth. Frankly, if someone told me I had to write two or three novels in a year, I'd probably murder them on the spot. But if there are people who wish to do such a thing, well, that's hisherits business. I will say that some of my best short stories have been written in only a few days, though some others have taken many weeks. Things take time, the time that they require. And though I am slow, a veritable writing tortoise, I should not be prescriptive, as hares are quite nice, too. But, I think, one should not ever think this is a race, the writing. It is not a race. Speed is mostly irrelevant, unless we are to concern ourselves solely with matters of deadlines imposed and finances and other things that actually have very little to do with writing.

Last night we finished Mitch Cullin's Tideland. What a wonderful, wonderful novel. A few observations. Terry Gilliam's movie, despite a marked difference of POV, is amazingly true to the book. And Cullin is the rare sort of author who pulls me in so completely that I am not distracted by that aforementioned problem, the magician watching another magician, trying to figure out how it's done or remarking how I could do it so much better. I doubt I shall ever be half this good, and I know it, so I am content to be swept along...which, I think, is the whole point of a novel. There are some beautiful details in the novel that didn't make it into the film, such as those describing "the Hundred-Year Ocean." Brendan Fletcher did such a marvelous job in Gilliam's film of bringing the character of Dickens to life that only that portion of the novel seemed in any way less amazing than the screen adaptation. And it has occurred to me that there are some interesting parallels between Tideland and another of my favourite novels, Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Okay. Gotta make the words.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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