Reflections on fantasy, SF, writing, music, technology, life…

Susan Sontag on Storytelling

Another article on writing and reading. This time Susan Sontag on Storytelling which has some very useful insights from one of her last public appearances — a lecture on South African Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer delivered shortly before Sontag’s death in 2004.

As well as looking at the difference between telling a story and imparting information or the writer’s role in deciding whhich of many stories to tell, the part of the article that really spoke to me was a quote of Sontag’s definition of what a writer does and is:

Every writer of fiction wants to tell many stories, but we know that we can’t tell all the stories — certainly not simultaneously. We know we must pick one story, well, one central story; we have to be selective. The art of the writer is to find as much as one can in that story, in that sequence … in that time (the timeline of the story), in that space (the concrete geography of the story).
A novelist, then, is someone who takes you on a journey. Through space. Through time. A novelist leads the reader over a gap, makes something go where it was not.
Time exists in order that everything doesn’t happen all at once … and space exists so that it doesn’t all happen to you.
The work of the novelist is to enliven time, as it is to animate space.

Thought-provoking and well worth taking the time to read and absorb.

Hat-tip to Jan Whitaker on OWW SFF Writing Forum for drawing my attention to it.

Do people really still believe in vampires?

Recently I was introduced to a new web site of odd stories and off-beat information, Atlas Obscura. As an example of the sort of tall story you can find here is a tale of a Serbian village of Zarozje where the locals were encouraged by their municipal council to put garlic by doors and windows to scare off the local vampire.

Read A Serbian Village’s 21st century vampire problem and decide for yourself if they were serious or if it was a grab for a larger slice of the tourist trade.

Hat-tip to Bone on OWW SFF Writing Forum for drawing my attention to the web site.

David Brin on why 2015 was the best year ever in space

Nautilus is an excellent online science resource I use for writing ideas and I recommend you take a look at it. Each month it publishes a series of articles around a common theme.

This month the theme is “space” and it has published an article titled 2015 Was the Best Year Ever in Space by SF writer David Brin giving his opinion on why last year was the best ever for space exploration. The article includes a few superb photos and videos.

While there are plenty of ideas for writing and about plans for the future, what really appealed to me is the sense of hope for the future the article conveys.

Review: “Self-editing for Fiction Writers”

Late last year I made the decision to undertake a proper edit of my first novel, “Rose In Winter”, which has waited in the twilight zone between second or third draft for over a year. To help me tackle this, my family gave me two books on editing for Christmas. The first, reviewed here, is “Self-editing for Fiction Writers – How to edit yourself into print” by Renni Browne and Dave King, both professional editors.

I think it is fair to say I have learnt something useful from each chapter. These are:

    Show and Tell
    Characterisation and Exposition
    Point of View
    Dialogue Mechanics
    See How it Sounds
    Interior Monologue
    Easy Beats
    Breaking Up is Easy to Do
    Once is Usually Enough

As someone who has struggled with writing natural sounding dialogue and with finding the unique voice for the different characters, I suspect those two sections will be the most useful but the tips and all the chapter summaries have proved their value already.

Strongly recommended if you are having problems with editing!

Are professional writers set to become ‘an endangered species’?

As the Society of Authors starts a new campaign asking publishers to review how they treat and pay their authors as part of international calls for fairer wages for writers, Philip Pullman has warned that unless

“serious” changes are made by publishers, the professional author “will become an endangered species”.

See this article in The Guardian for more…
Philip Pullman: professional writers set to become ‘an endangered species’

Remembering Syd Barrett

I have long been a fan of Pink Floyd and like their early work when Syd Barrett was a member of the band. “See Emily Play” has been a particular favourite of mine… a sad, fantasy dreamscape of a song that still triggers a response in me after all this time.

It is astounding to think that it is almost ten years since Barrett died and this week would have been his 70th birthday. To commemorate this, the Guardian reprinted a classic article from Creem magazine from 1973 about this lost genius and which includes a link to a bizarre black and white video of Floyd ‘performing to’ “Emily”…

Syd Barrett: the genius who almost was – a classic profile by Nick Kent

For another side of Barrett, see this article about the photographer Mick Rock who took the pictures used on Barrett’s first solo album, “The Madcap Laughs”:

Mick Rock’s best photograph: Syd Barrett on a Pontiac Parisienne

This also reveals that the girl in the picture is a groupie called Iggy The Eskimo. For more about her, see: The Strange Tale Of Iggy The Eskimo.

An alternative approach to earning a living as a writer

Those of us who still have aspirations to be published writers actually earning a living from the craft may need to tailor their approach away from writing what one wants to publish to writing what will pay you for writing…

An article on The Guardian newspaper’s website by ghost writer and author Andrew Crofts explores how he has become (over time) a successful and well-paid writer:

Struggling as an author? Stop writing only what you want to write

Are writing careers harder now?

Is making a living and having a writing career harder now? That is the impression given by an article in The Observer newspaper yesterday (Sunday 2 March). Somewhat provocatively titled From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life? it explores the financial situation of several authors (non-fiction and fiction).
It does show that since the mid-eighties the life of a mid-list author with a mainstream publisher has become more difficult but, to some degree, I feel it is that publishing incomes seem to have come back more to pre-eighties levels making the period from 1980 to 2000 more an aberration.
The article does little to explore other side of the coin of the success many authors have found self-publishing and the disruption this has caused to the conventional market.
Scanning the reader comments (including a number of self-identified writers among them) below the article, there was a general sense that the authors interviewed were whinging rather! Certainly, I was surprised the first author interviewed, Rupert Thomson, had reached the point where he had to give up renting an office and commuting into London to write and now had to “make do” with an attic conversion in his house. Not exactly starving then!

EU consultation on reform of copyright

Anyone interested in reform of copyright, particularly those of you reading this who are also authors and bloggers, may want to respond to the current European Union consultation on the reform of copyright across the EU.
This might help get rid of some of the ambiguity. Examples include whether it is permissible to link to websites without the site owner’s prior agreement, the impact of different copyright laws and policies in different EU member countries or the ability to receive TV programmes broadcast in one member country in another.
Note that the consultation closes on 5 March, so there is little time to respond especially as the full consultation is 80 questions.
The Open Rights Group has selected four questions it considers most relevant around retaining openness and the ability to link to freelay available material without seeking prior permission. To quote ORG:

Unfortunately, the consultation could … put crucial functions of the Internet in jeopardy. It asks whether you should need the permission of the rights holder of a work before linking to that work or viewing it. If that happened, ordinary everyday web browsing would become a lot more complicated.Lobbyists from big rights holder groups are taking part in the conversation and telling the European Commission that we should have to get the authorisation of the rights holder before linking or viewing their work. If we don’t get involved, the Commission will just get the views of the large rights holder lobby.

The ORG’s four questions are here.

Authors and others interested in more than this around copyright reform in the EU but who don’t want to respond to all 80 questions will find this link useful. By using tick boxes to identify your areas of interest a selection of the most relevant questions – not all of which need be responded to – will be brought up. Note this is not the official EU site but (to quote the the site I have linked to) it…

…has been put together by a broad cross-section of interest groups from across Europe, from rights holders to public interest NGOs to large consumer representatives and everything in between.

They seem to have made the questionnaire more accessible and provide guidance on meaning of the questions. After completion the site generates a document you can forward to the EU consultation group. I’ve used it and found it effective.

IndieReCon 2014 schedule

IndieReCon, the online convention cum workshop for anyone interested in indie publishing, returns for its second year this month. It runs from Tuesday 25 to Thursday 27 February.
The schedule is now available. (Note times quoted are US-based EST which is UTC / GMT -5 hours.)

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