Archive for the 'Sunday Quickies' Category



03
May
09

Rachel’s Sunday Quickie – Something other than novels?

Unlike many of my compatriots I don’t think I could tell storys any way other than through novels. I simply don’t think in any other medium, not even short stories. My ideas come to me with NOVEL stamped firmly across their foreheads, and I don’t get any say in it what so ever. Makes me feel kind of like a one trick pony, sometimes.

I’m sure if I didn’t have novels, if they didn’t exsist or something, the stories would leak out in some other form, but as it is now, I can’t even imagine it.

If I was a better artist, maybe comics, but I don’t even think in layout, so probably not. Thank god for novels is all I can say, I’d probably go nuts without them!

03
May
09

Margaret’s Sunday Quickie: Four-panel fun

If I weren’t writing prose, I’d like to pursue the fame and fortune that inevitably attend upon a career in webcomics.

I’m only partly joking.  I know that fame and fortune are as elusive for cartoonists as for writers (and I sure as hell have my own neuroses about that; see Diana’s post for some examples).  And I don’t have much skill as an artist.  I suspect that, after years of study and practice, I’d be able to produce decent stick-figures.  And I did briefly try my hand at writing a small comic that never made it off the page, much as I enjoyed working on it.  (It was a gaming comic, because there’s such a shortage of those.)

However, I don’t think I have it in me to write actual comics, with scripts and full-page layouts and so on.  What I’d prefer to concentrate on would be comic strips — cartoons, like the ones that used to be in newspapers before people who didn’t understand newspapers started buying the businesses and cutting corners.  Cartoons are really tough to do well; if an author tries to shoehorn in Big Messages, the format creaks and the readers lose interest after a few weeks of non-entertainment.  If they leave them out entirely, the cartoon fades from my mind and becomes something to check on only now and then.  That’s why I’m a fan of Shaenon Garrity’s Narbonic, which not only has long-running, complex story arcs (and foreshadowing!  and impending doom!  and yogurt monsters!), but funny strips every single day.  (I’m also addicted to her current collaboration, Skin Horse.  Both are running Sunday specials today, but the archives are hours’ worth of happy fun procrastination.)

When comics are done really well, they can be fantastic, complex stories with a scope that can reach farther than just one novel.  And if I had the time, the skills, and the ability to deliver a consistent punchline, I’d love to try my hand at it.  Sadly, it seems more likely that The Adventures of Dwarf and Ninja will never see the light of the net, which may be for the best.

03
May
09

Greg’s Sunday Quickie — Other storytelling media

First love: prose fiction. Short stories and novels. Definitely.

But if I could work in another storytelling medium, it’d be comics, one of the most versatile playgrounds a writer could ask for. As one of my favorite comic book creators once said (and I just wish I could remember which one) comics are words and pictures, and with words and pictures, you can do almost anything. Long before I saw myself writing novels, and before I even knew what a short story was, I couldn’t imagine a better job than writing and drawing comics. I spent many a summer day designing costumes and secret origins for my own super heroes, entire teams of them. I still remember Mighty Man and Ghost Man, the co-leaders of the super hero team I invented whose name is now lost somewhere in my brain where those things go. Oh, there was also Dragon Fly. She could breathe fire. And fly. She dressed like a dragon.

I still like to draw, but, alas, my skills in that area are such that any comic I drew would have a very limited audience. But writing? I can do that. Last year I found myself with a couple of weeks off between novel projects. Ordinarily I would spend this time writing short stories, but I decided instead to try writing a couple of comic book scripts. Just for practice. Not anything I’d ever submit anywhere. I wrote one Superman script and one Batman script, and I found it challenging.

Everybody always tells prose writers that the big difference between prose and comics is that in comics you have to think visually. Which, you know, well, duh. The bigger challenge, I think, is learning to think in panels and pages, pacing a story out to a limited number of panels and a specific number of pages. It’s not easy. But it’s also hilariously fun.

I’m going to be writing more comic book scripts, and hopefully in the not-too-distant future I’ll feel comfortable trying to get my work seen by people who pay for this sort of thing.

So if  anyone out there would like to offer me a job writing comics, I will entertain all reasonable offers.

(And, yeah, I know comics are even harder to break into than prose fiction. I’m hopeful, not clueless. Not totally clueless, at least.)

27
Apr
09

Diana’s sunday quickie–fave fantasy character

I’ve been mulling over this one all day (and I’ve been traveling most of the day, so I’ve far too much time to do nothing but think!) and I’ve been having an awful time pinning a favorite down. I thought briefly of shocking the sensibilities of the purist SF/F fans and naming Eve Dallas from J.D. Robb’s In Death books as my favorite character, but then I remembered that it was supposed to be fantasy, and those books barely even give a passing nod to science fiction, so probably don’t qualify. (Though she is an awesome character, and I’m quite addicted to the series!)

Unfortunately, I just don’t think I can pin it down to one particular character that I ❤ more than any other. So, I’m going to cheat:

My fave fantasy character is the entire modern kick-ass heroine archetype that has become so popular in urban fantasy and paranormal romance.  Even when the kick-assiness is way over the top, I still love to read it because it’s just so awesome to see female characters who are comfortable with being strong and capable.

Tough Chicks Rock!

27
Apr
09

Nora’s Sunday Quickie: Fave Fantasy Chara

So this week’s Sunday Quickie challenge is to mention our favorite character from recent fantasy, and why we ❤ them so.

Mine is Temeraire. Temeraire isn’t human; he’s a dragon, from Naomi Novik’s awesome alternate-history fantasy series, starting with His Majesty’s Dragon. The story — a deliberate pastiche of Patrick O’Brian’s novels — is set in a world in which, for whatever reason, huge dragons exist alongside humanity in every corner of the globe, serving as military force and Great Leveler between societies which, in our world, were imbalanced by technology, etc. The dragons, however, are fully as intelligent as human beings, and as the story follows young Temeraire from hatching to adulthood, he rightly begins to question why he and his fellow dragons are treated like chattel. The story tackles this and other complex questions, which makes the series far richer and more engaging than just any old romp with dragons.

But it’s Temeraire’s personality that keeps me reading, I have to admit. His devotion to Laurence — his human captain and best friend — his saucy attitude towards the idiots in charge of Britain’s military, his cleverness and lust for learning… how can I not love him? He goes mad over books. I go mad over books! He loves shiny jewels and fine architecture! So do I! He loves advanced theoretical math! Um. Well. I like algebra and geometry? Anyway, clearly we’re soulmates!

(This was a tossup, I should note, between Temeraire and Iskierka.)

26
Apr
09

Greg’s Sunday quickie – Characters

I’ll forgive a writer many things, but if I don’t get along with their protagonist, it’s over. It’s kind of like embarking on a long road trip with a stranger. Say we start out on Santa Monica Beach and head east. If we’ve reached Las Vegas and they’ve got their feet on the dashboard, picking their toes while singing along with Toby Keith, I’m booting them out in front of Treasure Island.

I always hope I’ll love the protagonist. I hope the way they approach problems makes sense to me. Or surprises me, and not because I’m surprised at how stupid they are. They don’t have to be perfect people, but they have to have enough admirable qualities that I won’t want to impale them on a cactus by the time we hit the Grand Canyon.

I recently made the acquaintance of Mau, the only survivor of a devastating tidal wave in Terry Pratchett’s Nation.  I came late to Pratchett. Not being a great fan of comic fantasy, I was pleasantly surprised to discover in him a writer who is not only funny, but also humane and wise. Through Mau, Pratchett tells the story of what it might be like if everything you knew and loved were literally swept away, and you had to reassemble your world one piece at a time. You had to learn to survive open seas. You had to figure out how to overcome the cruel indifference of nature and the unnecessary evil of other people. You had to rediscover not just what you believed, but what deserved your belief.

Watching Mau courageously face these challenges was a pleasure. I liked him, and I’m glad we met.

26
Apr
09

Margaret’s Sunday Quickie: Tiffany!

Favorite character from books I’ve read recently (not counting re-reads)?  Um.  As Rachel says above, this is something very subject to change depending on the day, the phase of the moon, what I had for lunch today…yeah.  Heck, some of this varies because I’m only now catching up on certain books; I hadn’t ever read the Vorkosigan series until a couple of years ago, and now I want to build a shrine to Cordelia.  

However, I’m going to go with Tiffany Aching, from Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, and Wintersmith.  Tiffany’s just starting out as a witch and has to deal with stolen (borrowed!) sheep, missing baron’s sons, small blue drunken fighting pictsies, and incursions from Fairyland — but to sum it up like that ignores so much of the elements that make the books wonderful.   She’s clear-eyed, intelligent, strong-willed — and stubborn, very sure of her own intelligence, and capable of making huge mistakes.  And she’s growing up, through the course of the books.  I love reading about her, wincing when I recognize some part of my history in hers (using big words despite not knowing how to pronounce them? check) and cheering for her as she learns the hardest parts — not of magic, which is comparatively easy, but of living in the world and caring for it.  

(It probably says something about me that one of my all-time favorite characters is Granny Weatherwax.)

19
Apr
09

Nora’s Sunday Quickie: Favorite References

As an epic fantasy writer, I’m fascinated by the ways societies develop, rise, and fall, and the ways that people react to all these stages. So my favorite references include The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (I think we’re up to IV now), because it literally catalogs the vast array of psychological types and personality variants that make up the people of any society. Also, I like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, despite some misgivings; it’s still good research, and an interesting analysis of how some societies reach technological/resource dominance, or fall apart from stupid decision-making despite this dominance. By the same token, I’m fond of A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn — not only is it the first history text I’ve ever enjoyed reading, but it’s an interesting examination of how perspective skews reality; history truly is written (and heavily revised) by the victors.

This kind of stuff is the epitomy of epic fantasy, IMO; Tolkien’s Mordor was based on the German war machine, after all. So how better to develop fantasy ideas than to examine all the ways in which reality can be interpreted and reinterpreted, individually and on the “big picture” scale?

On a more personal level, I’m fascinated by how people resist oppression within restrictive societies. This means I read a lot of books about and autobiographies of revolutionaries, but also weirder stuff. For example, I like Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden — a nonfiction collection of women’s sexual fantasies, written at the height of the Sexual Revolution (1973). Seriously racy, and controversial even today. But it’s also an interesting examination of what repression does to the human psyche — how people naturally yearn for B when they’ve been taught their whole lives to want A and C.

I ref mythology too, and have read Hamilton’s book and the usual. I’m fond of Richard Cavendish’s Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia because it contains gorgeous color panels of artwork depicting the various pantheons and cosmologies of different cultures. But I’ve made a conscious effort to step beyond the usual Greco-Roman and Northern European mythologies that these books tend to concentrate on. It’s hard to find good scholarly material on other mythologies in English; unfortunately, time and experience have shown that Western scholars often “get it wrong” when summarizing and analyzing non-Western stuff, for various reasons. So when I can, I try to find the myths of other cultures as primary sources, though usually in translated form. Most recently I’ve read The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales, collected by Diane Wolkstein. I also seek out storytellers, even when I can’t understand them; one of my favorite travel experiences was listening to an old Italian storyteller in the common room of a quaint old medieval-looking inn, on a recent trip to Sicily. Had no clue what he was saying, but the way he said it was a work of art in itself. More recently I got to hear a storytelling competition by Navajo children “on the rez” in Chinle, AZ — and man, those kids were fierce. Hope some of them grow up to become writers.

(Why is it that I never manage to do these Quickies quickly??)

19
Apr
09

Greg’s Sunday Quickie – My favorite reference book

Being essentially lazy, my favorite reference source is my blog, where I can throw out any random question and have someone much smarter than I provide the answer in the comments. Failing that, there’s always Wikipedia.

But as for books, I relied on the Eddas for NORSE CODE, both the Younger Edda (or Prose Edda) by the 13th Century Icelandic poet, Snorri Sturluson, and the Elder Edda (or Poetic Edda). The Eddas gave me armor against any readers claiming I got the myths wrong, because even these supposedly official versions can’t agree on how things went down back when the gods were tromping about.

Right now I’m writing what I’m calling my “Los Angeles book,” and I find myself often turning to Los Angeles A to Z: An Encycolpedia of the City and County. Scored it in hardcover for $1.50! It’s great for flipping pages and coming up with ideas for settings. You really can’t come across the entry for the Angel Flight funicular and not want to have a scene set there.

19
Apr
09

Margaret’s Sunday Quickie: Reference

Well, Tim already took the book that immediately came to mind for the question of useful nonfiction: Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, though I find an older version much more useful.  The newer ones I found were all abridged — and there is nothing, nothing so frustrating as finding that the fascinating cross-reference you were caught by is one of the entries that got chucked.  The entries often serve as a jumping-off point for story ideas for me; I’ll have to go do in-depth research, but it’s good for sparking that first fragment.  I still love that it’s got several entries on famous frauds.

I’m away from home at the moment, so I can’t do what I usually do for questions like this: go and check my shelves for what I’ve forgotten.  But I do remember that the Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology — both volumes — was an excellent source not just for old theories of magic, but for how people interact in this world — the paranoia of hidden knowledge, the vying for status as who was the true possessor of the Secret, and so on. 

And then there’s the Internet as a reference tool, but I’m not sure that it counts as nonfiction.