Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Your Guide to Free Ebooks

Pierpont-Morgan Library
The internet is a great resource for readers, and I take advantage of it as often as I can. Copyright Law is a complex animal, but basically, anything published before 1923 is no longer in copyright in America--and many later works never had their copyright renewed. In countries like Canada and Australia, copyright does not extend as far back as it does in America. And whenever works do go out of copyright, there are armies of fans, readers, and academics out there who take the time to scan, edit, and put them up online for our enjoyment, readable on tablets, ereaders, or plain old computer screens. Here are a few of the resources available online for free, public domain ebooks.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Exploring Ideas Through Fiction

A good book is one that makes us think--about ourselves, and about our world. Even in genre works, like sci fi, fantasy, and horror, the author still explores ideas about what it means to be human: love, hatred, trust, belief, war, disease--plus uncountable others. Even if an author doesn't intend to send a message in their work, the way that they present their characters and their setting will include certain assumptions and judgments about life.

There is no way to escape these themes, any more than writers can escape characters, plots, or words, so it is important for us to consider how we want to use them--and how they are used by authors we read. There are a number of ways to present and explore these themes in books, some more effective than others. So, in order from least to best, here are the different methods authors use to present ideas in their works:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Worldbuilding: Bakker vs. Harrison

Wm. Timlin - The Seven Sisters

In my ongoing exploration of worldbuilding, I've gotten a great deal of inspiration from the observations of writers like Harrison, Le Guin, and Moorcock. Harrison's essays in particular helped me to put voice to my concerns about the worldbuilding obsession, my attempt to understand how it operates, and what purpose it serves. Yet, I've found relatively few writers able to write eloquently on worldbuilding's behalf, which is unfortunate, because it makes the issue feel one-sided. Of course, if it is as Harrison says, and the worldbuilding urge comes out of a desire for control, simplification, rote memorization, and authority, then it would make sense that individuals who are on the side of worldbuilding would not tend to be theorists, questioners, and underminers, searching for reasons.

I had heard that author R. Scott Bakker's response to Harrison (in this interview) was precisely the well-constructed, pro-worldbuilding manifesto I had been looking for--but unfortunately, far from presenting his own theory of the utility and purpose of worldbuilding, the response quickly devolves into a disappointing 'us vs. them' distraction, the tired old narrative of the Average Joe tilting at Ivory Towers, attacking Harrison's person and motives without ever presenting a clear refutation of his views.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Your Guide to Terrible Goodreads Comments

So, you'd like to write a terrible comment on Goodreads. Well, you're in luck! For years, I have been a contentious critic on that very site, and have written some its the most popularly unpopular reviews. I have received comments so terrible, so nonsensical, so patently self-loathing, so incoherent that they were most likely written by a super-intelligent dog who escaped from a science lab and has decided to take his revenge on humanity for making him the only creature trapped in the throes of an existential crisis despite the fact that he can reach his own groin with his tongue. 

At least for the rest of us, we can imagine that there is some wonderful thing that, if we were capable of it, would erase all self-doubt and disappointment--only he is cursed with the awareness that, despite having experienced the ultimate act of narcissistic pleasure, the hollow feeling remains. I have also received much worse comments, which could only have been the result of concentrated, multilayered human stupidity, but those are the rare ones--the vast majority of bad comments are made up of some combination of the following list.

Monday, March 9, 2015

I'm Back

Doré - Angelica Meets the Hermit
It's been more than a year I've been away--which is a lot of time to think things over, to sit and stew, to write numerous drafts of reviews and posts that just end up sitting in the vault, unread. At first it was nice to be away, to have a break--it was like graduation all over again: suddenly, no one's waiting for me to write papers, nor am I waiting for a response. It's peaceful, but there's still that itch in the back of the mind, the old voice, the old habit, continuing on no matter how you ignore it.

I do want to thank all the people who have supported me, all along--even without any response from me, the comments keep rolling in, the friend requests show up fresh in my inbox each day, and the (mostly) kind and supportive messages are as numerous as ever. It reminds me that I have not only a responsibility to myself, but also to my work, to the conversations I've started that are still going on out there--but it turns out you can't just come back from nowhere, not that easily, and especially not when the reason you left hasn't gotten any better.