Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pictures of Inspiration

Current Reading: Best New Fantasy, ed. by Sean Wallace

Inspirational Quote: "No thinking - that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is... to write, not to think!" -- William Forrester (Sean Connery).

I guess it's not that odd, given that all films must begin life as a story that someone writes, how many movies have writers as main characters. Writers are told to write what they know, and one thing they certainly know is how to be a writer.

There exist some films which I've found inspiring. They didn't teach me anything. I didn't walk away from them being a better writer, but they did make me feel like becoming a better writer. They gave me a little motivational boost. Their titles are below.

Are there some movies or films that have inspired or motivated you (I think in terms of writing, but anything will do)?

Finding Forrester
The Dead Poets Society

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Things I Find Amusing

Current Reading: Best New Fantasy, ed. by Sean Wallace

Inspirational Quote: The Carson/Johnson Law of Human Behavior: 80% of all questions that begin with the word 'why' can be answered with the simple sentence 'People are stupid.'

I saw a real-estate sales sign on my way home this afternoon that said, "reduced," but the house looked the same size it always had.

Like most modern homes, we have a cordless telephone in addition to the one wired directly to our telephone jack. We like the convenience of being able to take and make our calls from anywhere in the house instead of always needing to be within cord's-length of the main set. Penelope just made a call to her mother over the cordless and has settled in for a long conversation three feet from the wall phone.

The Whole Story

Current Reading: Best New Fantasy, ed. by Sean Wallace

Inspirational Quote: "To understand all is to forgive all." -- Various, possibly Buddah or a French Proverb.

Only crazy people confuse reality with written fiction. There are lots of reasons why this is so, but they all boil down to the fact that written fiction presents a world idealized and abstracted and without all the contradictions and surprises that make up normal human existence.

In reality we never know the whole story.

An example: a Toronto woman is held in Kenya despite numerous protestations and reams of evidence that she is a Canadian citizen. It's a horror story that has a happy ending, or at least an ending in which the mistake was cleared up although the victim is certainly not happy. One wonders what prompted representatives from the Canadian High Commission to look at all that evidence and deny the identity of the woman in front of them.

They have yet to be publicly identified. They have yet to tell their story, but I don't think what people tell us is all of the truth anyway. I don't think people can know all of their own truth. People tell us what they think happened, a thought shaped as much by their own perceptions, fears and beliefs as by the actual facts. If I've uncovered any truth about human behavior is this: all of us act the way we do for one reason -- it seems like a good idea at the time. Whoever those officials were, they had what they believed to be sufficient reason, within their own minds, to doubt Suaad Hagi Mohamud was who she said.

They were wrong.

Why they concluded what they did is something we'll never really know. We'll never understand. The mistake seems pretty obvious to us, so much so that one wonders if there weren't some nefarous motive behind this case of misidentity. But it only seems obvious because we can't be there, in their minds, following their trains of thought, knowing what they knew or believed they knew.

Written fiction gives us a world of understandable human beings. We can enter their minds, follow their thoughts, understand why they reach the conclusions they do about the world around them. We can understand fictional characters in ways we simply can't understand real people, not even those with whom we share a life. Between the covers of a book, we are allowed to understand.

In the real world, Ms. Mohamud is taking steps to obtain what she believes is justice, or as much justice as is allowable by law. We'll never know if the result is truly just, or if it's only what the people who make the decision on her suit believe to be just.

We'll never know the whole story.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Current Reading: Work-related documentation. Sigh.

Inspirational Quote: "Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it" -- Robert Frost

I see Ann and Victoria have survived another legal challenge to their work, and come out laughing. That's always good news.

I have this to say about the Google Books settlement: No. Also: Hell no. Authors should get paid for their work so long as they or their heirs can collect. The digital age has created an environment where a book can still be available (in print) even though no printed copies of it are currenly available.

I've almost completed another draft of the Magnus Somnium. Yay me. I think, when I've finished, I'm going to buy myself a new desk chair. This one sucks.

And now, Ithaka reviewed by two true professionals...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Report: Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

I haven't read much Gaiman. I caught his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens (the nice and accurate prophesies of Agnes Nutter, witch) a number of years ago, but I've never read more than a single issue of Sandman (it was good, though). I'm beginning to think I ought to start reading more of his work. His latest, the Graveyard Book, is a multiple award-winner.

Anansi Boys is the story of a timid and uninteresting man who discovers his father was the African trickster god Anansi, and that he has a brother who inherited the god powers. Their meeting sets in motion a terrible case of sibling rivalry and a plot to settle a vendetta as old as the world.

It's a strange book, mixing humor with dark fantasy that borders on horror (although I didn't find myself the least bit scared by it) and Gaiman has a flair for pointing out the absurdity of human behavior that made me laugh several times. This is a told tale, and the narrator intrudes several times, especially during the denouement, which took me out of the in-the-moment immersion I enjoy in a book. On the other hand, since the book is also about stories, the intrusive presence of a narrator is a necessary bit of thematic reflection.

The characters are entertaining, each having depths and unexpected quirks that provide a sense of verisimilitude. The plot moves quickly, with plenty of twists, and the themes could not be larger than the nature of stories and the place of people in them.

Neil Gaiman's Home

Ulysses Rating: 3 - I enjoyed this.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Current Reading: Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman

Inspirational Quote: "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world." -- Arthur Schopenhauer

I love flying. Penelope hates flying with me because I have to have the window seat and tend to pout when I don't get my way (women get a free child with every husband married). I don't care if there's nothing to see but clouds. I have to see them. If there's some interesting stuff, like lakes and rivers and mountains and cities and other planes (waaay down there), I can stare out the window for hours.

That I'm an acrophobe tends to complicate things a bit. Most of me knows that I'm fairly safe, surround by several tons of fuselage and the latest in operational safety gear. Unfortunately, the part of me that's afraid doesn't realize all that stuff prevents me from just falling out of the plane.

The first few moments are difficult, when the wheels leave the tarmac and everything starts to recede. It's also tough when the plane banks within the first few thousand feet. After that, though, there's a weird moment during the ascent when my perspective changes. Things just seem to go from being close enough to kill me to being too far away to worry about. The view becomes about as scary as a big ol' Google Map.

I was reminded of this on Saturday when a friend took me up in a two-seater ultralight with Plexiglas doors.I spent twenty minutes 2000' over my town.

He offered me the stick. I declined. Although I was comfortable enough to rubberneck constantly, I had a death-grip on the harness straps and only let go to take a few very fast snapshots.

It was a beautiful sight: Patches of forest separated fields scalloped into patterns by farm equipment. The river, much of it hidden at ground level by trees, winding its way through the countryside with its islands and coves and sand bars. The roads, trying hard to run straight and never quite succeeding as the land forced compromises on it.

The interesting, generic observation I got out of all that was how much a simple change of perspective alters our view of both ourselves and the world around us.

I'm never alone. I'm always part of something, if not a group of people, then a place.

And if I'm not seeing something beautiful, it's because I'm not looking the right way.