Sunday, April 27, 2008

Remember: We're All In This Alone.

Current Reading: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Inspirational Quote: "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend on reading it." -- Julius Henry (Groucho) Marx.

Writing's a solitary pursuit. You never know if you're doing it right until you hand it to a reader. If you're lucky, that reader is knowledgeable, experienced and honest enough to tell you where your work sucks. Then you take it away and make it better.

That's where critique groups come in. I belong to a face-to-face group, and I'm grateful for their feedback. However, although they're honest and fairly knowledgeable, none of them are experienced (well, one is e-published, but a lot of e-publishing lacks the stringent editorial control that paper publishing possesses). My previous group consisted of a scriptwriter and a playwright. They were both honest and experienced, but not very knowledgeable when it came to SF/F (nor was I much good for them, I'm afraid). The one before that consisted almost entirely of elderly ladies. They made great brownies and pies, but they were too busy being nice to be honest. Their most useful feedback was "I don't get it."

Good face-to-face groups are hard to find here in the hinterlands of Ontario.
I've recently joined Critters, the massive on-line speculative fiction critique group. It has the advantage of being readily available any time, having lots of members writing in my chosen genre, and promising a wealth of feedback from readers at all points within the novice-professional spectrum. On the other hand, I'm worried the membership requirements are a little stiff for my available time (a 300wd critique each week), and I don't know if this is a decision based on a bona-fide need, or if it's a counter to my own insecurity ("I'll never be good enough!"), or even a good-looking excuse to avoid actually writing.

Regardless, this will be an interesting experiment. I can't wait to see what quality of work comes my way for critique, and what quality of critique comes back on my work.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Book Report: Coyote Frontier by Allen Steele

The last of the Coyote series, a trilogy about the colonization of a distant planet.

An amazing spread of characters populate the book, some new to Coyote, some from among the first and second colonists. Every one of them is shown as flawed and human, although the size of the book and the number of characters (many have the spotlight at some point) limit the amount of depth in their portrayal. The large cast shows how living on a new world affects people of different backgrounds, strengths and dreams. Not all are likable, but all are sympathetic.

The main plot follows the complications that arise when the independent people of Coyote once again make contact with Earth. This time, a new development allows regular, instantaneous traffic between the two worlds. The people of Earth, which is now in the last stages of environmental collapse, again take a proprietary view of the new world and this leads to conflict at several levels. The book explores the impact of environmental change, domestic abuse, capitalism, and the economics and politics of scarcity on various characters.

I found it a gripping read because of its realism. The characters are believable, the science (both social and physical) first rate, and the events filled with genuine tension. I read the final fifty pages in one sitting because I could not bear to leave Coyote before I found out how everything ended.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moderate Expectations

Current Reading: Coyote Frontier by Allen Steele.

Inspirational Quote: "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force." -- Dorothy Parker.

So, what is Ithaka?

It's a personal blog, which means that if you're looking for anything more interesting than observations, opinions and commentary from my individual perspective, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you. Of course, given the scope of the world-wide web and the popularity of blogging, odds are good that any information I might provide has already been supplied and discussed. Any opinion I hold has probably already been proclaimed and defended. It is possible that I will do these things more eloquently. It is equally possible that I will not. Life's a crap shoot.

If you're looking for details about my life (why on Earth would you do that?), I have to disappoint you again. I could blog about my life, but I doubt it is interesting enough to hold your attention. Sometimes it is barely interesting enough to hold mine.

Instead, herewith, my thoughts on writing, popular science, current events and anything else that strikes with sufficient force as to require expression. Once in a while, I will try to be funny.

My plan, at this point, is to write entries weekly. We'll see how well that goes.

In the news:

Miley Cyrus has a book deal. It's going to be a memoir. Although I imagine she's had more happen in her fifteen years than I've had happen in over forty, this is one I won't be picking up. Of course, I'm thirty years out of her target demographic so it's not like anyone's going to notice.

Evil Editor celebrates two years of query and opening critiques, although that doesn't describe all he does. Nor does it give any indication how much fun it is to read his blog. If you're a writer, hoping to be published, and you're not reading EE, then you should. Happy anniversary, EE.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Sound of Silence

Current Reading: Coyote Frontier by Allen Steele.

Hmm. Blog's been up for a week now and I haven't posted a thing.
It seems that the most effective way to silence someone is to give them a voice.