Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Practicality of Ebooks

Having recently moved house, I find myself again and even more enamored of ebooks. In whittling away my belongings (I swear, they self-propagate when I'm not looking), I got rid of a banker's box and more worth of books - and this had been over the course of two years where I was specifically trying not to collect books, after two recent purges (one to a bookstore, one to the free books shelf in our laundry room), and taking a big stack of them to my new place.

Some of the ones I kept I've read already, some I don't know if I ever will, but I held on to them because they were gifts or signed or both.

If they'd all been ebooks (there's nothing wrong with electronic signatures and dedications), it would have been much easier to keep them all. Just disconnect my ereader, move some files to the cloud if I'm running out of storage, and never delete anything I like ever again.

My mom has a rather impressive and oppressive collection of cookbooks, too. She's been slowly going through them and whittling them away, but likes to have them around for reference. Ebooks would be perfect: available to leaf through when uninspired and searchable when locating that half-remembered recipe. And then they wouldn't be littering every flat surface when I come over for dinner!

There's nothing quite as nice as delicately poring over a hardcover with color inserts from the 1930s, but for condo living or frequent moving, ebooks are the only practical way to go.

An additional note: next week, I'll be vacationing in Florida, so my friend Patrick Thunstrom has agreed to provide a guest post.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts on YA

YA is in some ways an easy genre, as there are some universal experiences and themes: Life is hard and no one understands and everything is so confusing.

I've recognized it as a truth in genre for a while, having watched friends dither about majors and colleges and coming out, but it's been coming home rather unpleasantly recently. It is deeply embarrassing to find oneself whining like a sitcom teen about how the world is so complicated, especially when one has been part of the working world for a few years.

But there's no dire pressure to grow up: I'm unattached and unfettered by debt or partner or children, so there's not much to do but dither. There's starting to be more fiction aimed particularly at my age group of aimless 20-somethings, things like Jeph Jacques Questionable Content, about us only in a more interesting world, things like the Machine of Death anthologies, people in general, but given at least one certainty: the method of their death.

Not new themes, but new vehicles and voices, which makes them a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Therapy Writing

It's a hugely extolled field, from what I've encountered, lauded as a way to recapture lost power and to work through issues. The general theory is that we lay bare our pain on page, purging ourselves of it.

Which is all very well for what it is, and can be helpful on a personal level. But then we encounter therapy writing pushed as literature: not necessarily because of the literary merit, but because it is 'raw' or 'honest.'

Therapy writing doesn't necessarily make for good literature, which is a point often overlooked. This is our rawest self, so of course it should be wonderful. Because we are so attached, it can be difficult to get the perspective necessary for editing, which means the end product will often be less than sparkling. No amount of emotional honesty makes up for dull writing, when it's being presented to an audience expected to read out of enjoyment (which is everyone).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Factors in World-Building

I grew up in the Cariboo, a region of central British Columbia whose economy centers around forestry, ranching, and tourism. These are important things to know about the Cariboo, as they shape life there. As a member of the community there, I planted trees, owned cowboy boots with real cow-shit on them, and was in the Billy Barker Days parade more years than I wasn't (and, going to their site to link it here, saw that my kindergarten teacher won first prize).

With my mom involved in several facets of the community and my dad involved in cycling, the dog sled races, the local paper, and the local news station while he was there, I grew up enmeshed in a small town, even though Quesnel has all of thirty thousand people.

For me, this led to several important facts, in no particular order:

-I have ridden a draft horse.
-I have been outside in -52 degrees Celsius
-I never want to be outside in -52 degrees Celsius ever again
-I can name five types of salmon off the top of my head
-I pay attention, in stories, to how sensibly a city is brought about.

This is especially important in speculative fiction and fantasy, where the worlds are more likely to be completely separate from our own, but also in literary or mainstream fiction. If your city is in the middle of a desert, with no obvious water supply, it will ruin the whole story for me. If your small town is surrounded by impassable mountains and no one could get in until a tunnel was blasted through and there is no apparent wealth (mineral or vegetable or animal) there, why does anyone live there in the first place?

Similarly, how does the town run? In large cities, this can be mostly excused, as they find ways to perpetuate long after the original reason is gone. In small towns, though, where a single industry can be the beating heart of the town, what is the industry? Does it have one? Having also spent time in the Midwest, I'll accept farming as an answer, now, though grudgingly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Finding one's voice is made much of all over. We want our writing to speak from us as people, but us made sparkling and witty and insightful, with a thin veneer of fiction if that's what we write. Some writers I know retreat to cabins at the beach to be isolated and more easily themselves, some take Hemingway's approach and drink, some outline from their dreams as closest to their concepts and isolate themselves with orchestras to hammer them into shape.

For me, it's in large part a matter of balancing the things I want to say with the way I want to portray my characters, as I largely write fiction. I try to consider the ways in which their thinking would differ from mine.

Most of my characters, for example, do not read quite as much non-fiction as I do, or at least not for fun, so they don't have the wide general knowledge I do. Or they don't value reading at all. But a voice that disdains reading isn't quite the voice I want to write with, thus the careful balance.

I've mentioned other points of consideration before, relating to gender and the construction of a character's world. But having writing sound like mine is another point, and one that changes as I do and becomes more or less important in certain kinds of writing.