Monday, September 27, 2010

Theory Train and Dying of Suspense

I've recently gotten involved with a brainchild of a friend of mine; starting an ezine. It's coalesced, over the past few weeks, into Theory Train, an online literary magazine specializing in poetry and speculative fiction. As the second literary magazine I've been involved in - the other being Island Writer, and different in being a print magazine, and local - I feel not completely adrift in helping launch it. It's exciting, and interesting, looking into the myriad factors of it. We lucked out in a major way in that another of the people involved with setting it up is able to provide us free hosting and a domain name. And now we have the basic infrastructure set up, so it's just a matter, now, of drumming up submissions, advertising, drumming up advertising on our site, sorting and selecting from submissions, and getting the magazine itself together. Oh, plus registering it with the Canadian ISBN Service System. No big deal, right?

At least we have until December.

And while I can wait for that, and enjoy the time we have until crunch time, I'm currently caught up in anticipation for the results of this contest. It's been going on all summer; a round every two weeks, and I've made it to the final round, going for the championship. All of the entries have been in since last night, and, even though not much time has passed, I'm incredibly anxious for the results. A fun sort of anxiety, in that I'm up against a formidable opponent who won in one category while I won in another, and I know we both put a lot of effort forth. But I want to know! Really, it's so inconvenient, the judge (also, coincidentally, Theory Train's webmaster) having a life outside of judging the writing contest.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trying to be Less Wrong

I recently discovered the blog Less Wrong, written collectively by a number of interesting people. I found it through a writing project of Eliezer Yudkowsky's. The whole idea of approaching human rationality as a sort of extended humanitarian science experiment fascinates me. The power of it is really evident in Yudkowsky's, where his characters actually examine how and why they think; it gives them a depth of character, and makes reading about their adventures linear in a compelling way. They do things because of a trackable train of thought that follows logical processes, not because of magic or unarticulated ideals. How much more interesting, then, for real people to model the same behavior.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beautiful Red

I just finished reading Beautiful Red by Darusha Whem. Whem has made it available in hardcover, numerous electronic text, and audio form; the latter two available free under Creative Commons licensing. The new-wave distribution ideology suits the subject matter; in the future, corporations literally run everything, and everyone is plugged into the everywherenet - the new internet - by skull-implanted chips.

Well, almost everyone. The story follows Jack as she runs into a group that is radically against machine integration. It's a fascinating look at how reliant we are on technology; some of the imagery really hit home for me. People on the street slack-jawed and vacant as they log into their virtual worlds - how different is that from staring intently at a smartphone?

The story was hauntingly real, and the world was such that, aside from a few incidental heinous crimes, I would love to live there.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

True Stories

Lynne Van Luven came to speak to the Victoria Writers' Society last night about Creative Non-fiction and how it's thriving on the Island. She mentioned how many people are branching into it; Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier, both noted local poets, have written creative non-fiction now, and more and more fiction writers are adding creative non-fiction to their repertoire as well.

True stories have become more compelling to us as a culture. It's taken a long time for In Cold Blood to seep into our collective consciousness, and many more solid works have come along, with that strange panache of the fantastical actually happening. It's leaked into movies, as well - 21 followed the dated adventures of the MIT blackjack team, Middlemen followed turn-of-the millenium pornographers, The Social Network follows Mark Zuckerberg's still-expanding supernova.

In that way, creative non-fiction is becoming more immediate; there's less of a time lapse between doing something and writing about it. The plethora of information and stories of every kind available now means we have to write it down, quickly, to remember any of it, need to tell the story to ourselves to make it true.

As terrifying as the comparison is, the rise of creative non-fiction is parallel to scripted reality television. Subjectivevtrue stories allow for a more developed voice than we sometimes have access to in our immediate lives. We can relive, and mock, our own esprit de staircase.

Creative non-fiction is an interesting world, spanning everything from travel writing to memoir, and it was a fascinating talk by Lynne Van Luven.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Fourth Wall

I'm in a contest where the latest prompt is breaking the fourth wall.

Conveniently, in the anthology Stories which I read on my recent trip, there are several examples of fourth-wall-breaking stories. But, without exception, they broke it internally; a woman asking her boyfriend to stop writing her into stories as she was losing bits of herself in them, a man who was offered the choice between staying in his adventure story or living as a peasant in the real world. It worked really well, and is the way I've seen it work. Breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience is never something I've seen work all that well in a static medium like books and comics.

It's somehow much less jarring if the layers of reality are internal to the story, so that's the route I'm going to try to go.