Showing posts from 2012

After a Long Hiatus, Symbol Systems

Sorry for the long empty space there. School, while being inspirational, doesn't always leave me with enough time to type out these musings. My subject for today could take up several posts, but I'm going to keep it brief. This semester, I read John Granger's How Harry Cast His Spell , a book on the alchemical and Christian imagery and symbolism in the Harry Potter books. In the last few weeks, I've been reading Michael Ward's book Planet Narnia , in which he examines the use of medieval cosmology (specifically the seven planets) in the Narniad. Both of these books have sparked my imagination and introduced me to systems of symbols and images that I hadn't encountered in such detail, if at all, before. One of Ward's sentences particularly grabbed my attention: "Imaginative writers are allowed—indeed, expected— to adopt symbol systems..."* By symbol system Ward seems to mean an overarching groups of symbols which pervade an author's works, rem

Let's Talk About Gaiman

Recently, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about Neil Gaiman's script for the film Beowulf . Personally, I avoided the film as soon as I heard about the changes, specifically that Grendel was Hrothgar's bastard child with Grendel's mother and the dragon was the same for Beowulf. Furthermore, Beowulf is portrayed as a lying, boasting fraud. I'm just not okay with that. This friend (to return to my opening point) said: " Didn't have to read more than a few pages into Neil Gaiman's script of Beowulf to conclude it's a rotter - but then it completely violates the very thing Tolkien believed made Beowulf powerful. Bad form, dude. Bad form." I had to agree with her, but then, I also felt I needed to read Tolkien's essay on Beowulf , which I had been interested in since I first read the long poem in high school (yes, I was one of those freaks who liked it in high school). Inevitably, the conversation (through another of her friends) led to wh

Ray Bradbury and Dustfinger

Current Reads: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke                         The View from the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier                         Mountain of Black Glass by Tad Williams Current Writing Projects: Thesis material, currently a story titled "A Young Man with Grassy Arms" Ray Bradbury passed away this week. This is probably the second or third time I can remember an author whose works I love to read passing away (the last was Brian Jacques, and if I remember correctly Madeleine L'Engle was in there somewhere as well). What makes this even more sad, scary or possibly frightening is the fact that in my large stack of thesis reading material this summer there sit four books of his short stories for me to read, study and subsume. I don't believe in coincidences, especially where authors are concerned. I sat on my couch for a good fifteen minutes trying to tell myself that this most definitely was not in any of the Bradbury stories I had read. But it sho

Lots of Merlin

Current Reads: Otherland Vol. 3: Mountain of Black Glass by Tad Williams                         Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich Current Writing Projects: Thesis work, focusing on the introduction for the next few weeks The first bit of news I want to share is this: SOMEDAY , that mysterious series-opening novel I mentioned in my first post on this blog, has reached the end of its first full draft. This has been an effort three years in the making, and it is far from over (I imagine at least two more drafts will be necessary). However, in a sort of celebratory mood, I am planning on going through a massive reading list of Arthurian books, some old friends and some new ones recommended by people I know over the years. Here is my starting list: The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth (the relevant parts anyway) Le Morte D'Arthur by Thomas Malory The Idylls of the King by Lord Tennyson The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper The Crystal Cave by M

Shallow Villainy Does not a Good Story Make

Current Reads:  Orsinian Tales by Ursula K. Le Guin                          Attack of the Copula Spiders by Douglas Glover                          Sabriel by Garth Nix Current writing projects: Same as last time This weekend I watched the film The Legend of Zorro  with Antonio Banderas for the first time. I have not seen the first film with Banderas as Zorro, but I enjoyed watching the old black-and-white Disney series Zorro  in reruns when I was a kid and I thought I would give this newer version of Zorro a try. What I found was unsurprisingly a fun action movie with lots of sword fighting and acrobatics and a decent storyline. My issue with the film was its secondary villain, the one who opens the film: Jacob McGivens (whose name I had to look up because I don't ever remember hearing it in the film itself). This man appears at the start of the film with a brand of a cross scarred into his face and shouting that he is there to "Do the Lord's work," a

"Some Content not Appropriate for Children" -- Does It Really Improve the Text?

Current Reads: Orsinian Tales by Ursula K. Le Guin                         Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice                         Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins Current Writing Projects: Various thesis work including my craft introduction and a short story being reworked as a triptych of flash fiction (yeah, it blew my mind too when I thought of it) It's been over a month since my last update. Sorry for that, but school gets crazy in the last month of the semester and then there's the post-semester desire to do nothing for a very long time (which I've kept contained to less than a week so far). A week or two back, I came across this quotation in an interview with Steven Moffat (the guy who now heads production of the British sci-fi series Doctor Who and BBC's modern Sherlock Holmes adaptation) regarding the difference between writing for an audience with children and an audience without: Writing for adults often means just increasing the sweari

Rules on the Use of Magic (Or Guidelines, Anyway)

A quick post to gather my thoughts and the thoughts of others on the subject. Laws on magic: Nesbitian laws (as stated by Brian Attebery): What is wished for must be paid for. In a growing number of fantasies, this is written out in some form of “Magic has a price.” Every magical act sends ripples of consequences out to the ends of the world. Magic tends toward chaos unless checked by patterns of word or number. Brandon Sanderson’s Laws of Magic: An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic. (Sanderson uses this to delineate “hard” “soft” and “middle ground” magic, based on the level of explanation and understanding given to the reader in the text.) Limits > Powers, meaning that what limits a person’s powers makes that character more interesting than the possibly limitless powers would. Sanderson cites Superman’s weakness to Kryptonite as an example. Expand what you already have before you add somet

Magical Realism and Fantasy

Current Reads: Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (for class)                              After the King edited by Martin H. Greenberg                              Walking with Frodo by Sarah Arthur Current Writing Projects: SOMEDAY , various short stories Once again, my classes are inspiring me to put thoughts down on the page. Magical realism - what is it? What makes it different from fantasy? How do you know if something is or isn't magical realism? Furthermore, how does one write magical realism? These are some of the questions I have been mulling over this semester, both because of class and because of my own curiosity. Before this semester, I held the opinion that magical realism was just another way of saying fantasy, only written either a) in another language (as Terry Pratchett claims) or b) in a fashion atypical of the fantasy genre. I still hold this opinion somewhat, but I have refined it and made it less reactionary. Here is how I have come to de

Opening Sentences

Current Reads: The House of the Spirits by Isabelle Allende (for class)                         Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link (for class)                         After the King edited by Martin H. Greenberg                         Walking with Frodo by Sarah Arthur Current Writing Projects: SOMEDAY , first novel in a quartet about a young wizard named Merlin (no, not that Merlin)                                      "My Friend the Fish," a short story for class in imitation of Kelly Link, mentioned above                                      Various other short stories, some class assignments and some not This Week's Writing Thoughts and Advice: Since I am in a really great writing workshop this semester, I will probably channel a lot of that advice into this blog for the foreseeable future. This week we discussed opening sentences in stories. They have a lot of power, or at least they should. Your first sentence should immediately hook your reader into t