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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)
A very bad day, yesterday. Which I saw coming when I made yesterday's entry, though, at that point, I was still trying to make with the stiff upper lip and all. By late afternoon, all pretense was shed. And the day was simply shitty. So far, shitty again today. It doesn't help that here we are at the Vernal Equinox, Ostara...and it doesn't mean anything to me at all. And it doesn't help that spring's at least a month off here in Providence. Genuine, true, warm green spring.

---

No, sorry. This isn't the happy blog entry.

---

The feeling that I need to protect the new novel from the world and everyone in it persists. To the point that I spent part of yesterday – seriously – trying to figure out how to make it financially without allowing the book to be published. At least this should stand as evidence that I mean what I say when I say I only write for myself.

---

Didn't leave the house yesterday, and likely won't today.

I finally finished the mammoth tome that is Suzanna Clarke's Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Still forming first impressions. It is, indeed, a very good book, and quite an achievement. I think I may admire it most for insisting so fervently that it is a book. This novel will never be a movie. It's a book. I've read online that in 2005 Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons) finished a screenplay, and that the film was supposed to begin production in 2006. But it has no IMDb page, so I'm assuming someone realized the folly of their ways. Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has some marvelous moments, is often very funny, occasionally moving, but doubtless too long. I have nothing at all against very long books. Moby Dick, Ulysses, and The Lord of the Rings all number among my favorites. I think Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell suffered tremendously from hype. Indeed, that's why it took me three years to buy a copy, and five more years to get around to reading it. But, I very much liked the last few pages.

And on the subject of books, we're almost done with Mockingjay, and, at this point, I think if anyone were to ask me about this trilogy, I think I'd say, read The Hunger Games and skip the rest. Which is to say I'm underwhelmed. I suspect the films may actually improve upon the second and third books (this was the case with some of Rowling's books). I suspect there should only have been two books, at most, and that Mockingjay should have been the second. But even this solution doesn't address all the problems. More when I'm completely finished.

See? It's assholes like me that books need protecting from.

--

The moon, the trumpeted perigee-syzygy, was beautiful last night, even through the light pollution of Providence.
greygirlbeast: (Default)
Slowly, slowly, spring is coming to Providence. I try not to think how fast it must be coming on in Birmingham, and Atlanta, and Athens. Here, it comes slowly. And I am here, and, in all ways, that's better than my being in Birmingham, or Atlanta, or Athens. But the slow-coming spring, it's still odd and difficult, especially after a winter like the one we just had. The days are averaging 40sF, the nights 30sF or high 20sF, which actually seems warm. We can acclimate to almost anything.

The nice thing about knowing that virtually no one reads this blog is that I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm boring people.

Anyway, yesterday was warm. The official high in Providence was 71˚F, I think. As it was day one of the three-day vacation, we decided to drive to West Cove on Conanicut Island. It was very comfortable when we left the city, but there was a wind advisory, with gusts up to 50 mph. When we got out of the van at West Cove, it felt like the temperature was in the thirties, and I spent the first hour of beach combing shivering and trying to keep my hands from going numb. Then the sun came out, and the afternoon warmed. I was able to remove my gloves and unzip my coat. Yesterday, it will likely go down in the annals of West Cove days as the day I stepped on a dead, rotten, beached skunk. That was surely yesterday's most dramatic moment. I found two specimens of a pelecypod I've never seen in the cove before, Cerastoderma pinnulatum (the Small cockle). I found a few good bird bones, including another cormorant beak. We stayed until late, then headed back to the city.

On the way home, I watched the moon through my Orion 10x42 monocular. Of course, this weekend's moon is Big News, but it really was beautiful. I could identify so many landmarks: mountains, craters, basins, etc., all in reflected silver and shades of grey. We stopped by the market, and were home before dark.

There are photos from yesterday, below the cut (at the end of the entry).

---

I won't write about the post-novel depression, just now, and certainly not the whys of it. It only gets worse when you look directly at it, or speak its name.

There's always an odd sort of embarrassment when I see a review of an anthology, and the reviewer hated most of the book, but really loved my contribution. Case in point, a review of Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded at Green Man Reviews. The book reprints "The Steam Dancer (1896)," and the reviewer writes:

It’s a beautiful achievement, this story, a very human, rather squalid life offered for our perusal in terms that are neither sentimental nor cruel, managing an effect at once intimate and remote. Now there’s so much that’s peddled as artistic today simply because it’s depressing that I must stress that this tale is depressing, in a quiet sort of way… but that’s not what makes it art. What makes it art is the command of voice and personality Kiernan displays, the things she says and the things she leaves unsaid, and the fact that she can deliver this character-driven gem while still conjuring up a whole world of clanking, steam-driven marvels in the background, almost all through hints and allusions. This story lingers. I hope it gets a good deal of attention; it deserves to.

Okay, aside from the snarky, bizarre "so much that’s peddled as artistic today simply because it’s depressing" bit, very nice. I continue to believe "The Steam Dancer (1896)" is, in fact, one of my best stories.

Also, I've seen a review of The Ammonite Violin & Others by ST Joshi that I think will be appearing in Dead Reckonings (I think). Also, very flattering. A short excerpt:

Purely on the level of prose, Kiernan already ranks with the most distinctive stylists of our field—Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Lord Dunsany, Thomas Ligotti. With Ligotti’s regrettable retreat into fictional silence, hers is now the most recognizable voice in weird fiction. No one is ever likely to mistake a sentence by Caitlín R. Kiernan for a sentence by any other writer.

That ought to cheer me up, right? I know that it should. But...

---

Also, yesterday I read David H. Keller's "The Jelly-Fish" and F. Marion Crawford's "For the Blood is the Life." Neither was very good, but the latter was almost unreadable in its dullness. Also read, from the last JVP, "A new partial skeleton of a cryptocleidoid plesiosaur from the Upper Jurassic Sundance Formation of Wyoming" and "A possible azhdarchid pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Qingshan Group of Laiyang, Shandong, China."

Right. I'm not supposed to work today. That's the truth. I just don't know what I'm supposed to do, instead, to busy my restless, fretting mind.

Here are yesterday's photographs:

18 March 2011 )
greygirlbeast: (Starbuck 3)
Just back from a day at the shore, but I'll write about that tomorrow, and there will be photos.

The post-novel depression hit full force while I was sitting there watching the sea. It's a couple of days overdue, but I was still writing even as the editing began, hence the delay. And here I am, back at that place where I want no one to read the novel. I sure as fuck don't want it read and reviewed and "reviewed" and have to watch the sales figures and all that shit.

And that sort of brings me to thing number next:

As we finish up Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay, the part of Katniss Everdeen has been cast for the forthcoming film/s. She will be played by Jennifer Lawrence. And yesterday Spooky alerted me to the great mewling outcry from the books' community of "fans." YA boards and communities were abuzz (and likely still are) with outraged cries of "racebending" and "whitewashing" and all sorts of other nonsense. I wish to state a few thoughts, which I'll put forth as bullet points, as this lamentable format seems so popular these days:

1) Race: Katniss Everdeen has dark hair and olive skin, yes. But she is Caucasian. Indeed, her mother and sister are blondes. Near as we are told, the people of the Seam are mostly, but not all, white. Peeta Mellark has blond hair. People of the Seam often have grey eyes. All this is hardly surprising given that it seems that District 12 is located somewhere in the West Virginia/Pennsylvania region of the Appalachians. So, cries that the casting is racist are...well...it makes me wonder if the people who read the book, you know, read the book. Let us wait to see how Rue is cast before we howl about "whitewashing."

2) Can Jennifer Lawrence play Katniss Eberdeen? How about this. Watch the trailer for Debra Granik's Winter's Bone:



Truthfully? You ask me, this looks like Lawrence having a trial run at playing Katniss. I say she's damn close to perfect.

3) Does the author approve of the casting choice? Yes, very much so. To quote AccessHollywood (there's a first in this blog):

In a statement released by the studio, Author Suzanne Collins and director Gary Ross expressed their excitement at having Jennifer join the cast.

“Jennifer’s just an incredible actress. So powerful, vulnerable, beautiful, unforgiving and brave. I never thought we’d find somebody this perfect for the role. And I can’t wait for everyone to see her play it,” Suzanne said.


Now, for my part, points one and two aside, this ought to shut all the naysayers the fuck up. It won't, of course, but it should. These books do no belong to the fans, not matter how devoted and no matter how much they might believe otherwise. They belong to the author, that person whose name follows the © symbol. Everyone else has the pleasure of reading the books, and may own copies, but the novels belong to the author. And if she's happy with the choice, that's good enough for me.

More and more, I realize there's this great mass of humans who squat in waiting on the internet, just waiting for an opportunity to be offended. The chance to whine and bellyache and point fingers and pull the holier-than-thou routine. And, usually, a chance to be utterly wrong. This is, of course, their right. But they're only embarrassing themselves.

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Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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