Welcome to the H II Regions, a weekly compilation of SF, publishing and political news. Blurbs are short this week–apologies. Don’t forget to grab the first issue of season two if you missed it. Onward:
Humble bundles have become quite popular on the internet, with countless video game iterations and some music initiatives. Finally, unsurprisingly, ebooks are getting into the humble bundle. Six days left on it and be sure to investigate the unlockable section–includes two Penny Arcade books! Nice.
Four Suns, One Planet
Interesting compilation coming in December of African SF, compiled by Ivor Hartmann. At the link, you can find a background provided by Mr. Hartmann, as well as the thoughts that went into the creation of the anthology. Looking forward to picking it up; now I just have to remember when December rolls around….
Price of Knowledge
Videos / classes have started going up on Marginal Revolution University, although so far all the videos I’ve watched have been decidedly old hat. The good news here is that they’re not presuming the audience’s knowledge; if all you have is a desire to learn about development economics, you can start here. I suppose another good piece of news is that I apparently already had a basic understanding of development economics. The most recent lesson, water economics, is more unfamiliar to me and thus very exciting (duh, considering the topic of The Million). So far so good. I’ll update again in a few weeks when we’re a substantial way through the course.
This seems to be a burgeoning trend on writing blogs; while most trends and listmaking I find easy to resist, this is one of the topics that I feel I must give in. At the very least, it might make this project seem a little more human. So with hat tips to Justin Landon and Aidan Moher, here we go. [Disclaimer: If this looks like a certain reddit comment, that's because it is. After writing it on reddit, I realized it would transpose well here.]
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K Dick
- Ulysses, James Joyce
Dick and Joyce do some of the most impressive reality/fantasy transitions anyone has ever written, which I occasionally work into my own writing. My novels in general are very concerned with how people perceive the world around them, and how that perception is separated from reality, so learning and practicing from Joyce & Dick is tremendously useful.
Joyce is also awe-inspiring at internal dialogue, which I use frequently. He rarely sets thoughts off as separate from physical action; so the front half of a sentence might describe what’s happening and the second half might describe the character’s internal response to that action. It’s a dizzying mix of reality and perception.
Finally, Dick wrote the most personable, character-centric science fiction I’ve ever read. All SF authors should strive to emulate that, because at the end of the day, readers are interested in the character’s journey. All the spaceship battles in the world won’t save boring characters.
- The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
- The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco is incredible at overloading you with information, and yet somehow it always feels relevant. (Except for one four-page stretch in “The Name of the Rose” when he described in painful detail the etchings on a wooden door.) Barbara Kingsolver works similarly but with a better editor: she’s master of the important detail. It never feels odd or weird when she sticks in a telling detail, and I loved it (in the one book of hers I read). I try to find a middle ground between the two.
Infusing painstaking detail in my stories has been a recent addition to my style. Until a couple years ago, I would turn my nose up at the idea–being more concerned with action than specifics. Partly because I’d seen so many boring details in books, so I figured who cares? Why would I do that? But these two authors demonstrate that the details can be critical. As long as any given detail is either illuminating or character-building, it serves a useful purpose. I try to make them do both at once.
- The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal
So you can see the duality of my writing: an array of information from reality and then the internal processing of that information by my characters. How does Stendhal fit in? When I read his free-flowing style, it was the first time I ever read someone who wrote in any way similar to me–we had the exact same sense of what would be interesting in a story. And he had a perfect balance of action, interpersonal drama, and sympathetic characters.
I live to join all these influences in one book. With my own little dash of poetical flourish, hopefully I’m creating a unique style that’s evocative, enjoyable, and intelligent.
- The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot
- How to Have Theory in an Epidemic, Paula Treichler
- Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton
Welcome to the beginning of Cosmic Vinegar volume 2! Newest issue features another review essay, combined with chapter 17 of The Million, which continues the adventures of Nike and her friends. This is also a great time to pick up the Season One compilation if you haven’t yet. But don’t fret: You can dive into Season Two without much foreknowledge. (It’ll catch up with you someday….)
Cosmic Vinegar, volume 2 issue 1
PDF for your computers and printers
MOBI for your kindles
EPUB for your everything else
The art here is by Valeriya Volkova, a wonderful artist I met courtesy of reddit. Visit her site and check out her other work, it’s wonderful. I’m really excited about the reviews this month as well–one story is by the insightful and playful Lavie Tidhar, and another by newcomer Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Please check out the stories in addition to reading the review; they’re both quite good and will get you thinking. (The review page has links.)
Finally, in chapter 17 of The Million, we’re introduced to the second season story arc. New problems, familiar friends, same old brash water saleswoman. If you’ve been curious about how exactly they get all the ice/water down to the planets, well, get to reading! This season gets all up in that.
And now to work on November!
Welcome to the H II Regions, a weekly compilation of SF, publishing and political news. Don’t miss the free e-book of The Million! New issue this FRIDAY. What am I doing reading news articles? Short news then–back to work!
Life on Europa
Totally awesome news about the relationship between Europa’s ice crust and a probable massive lake beneath. While the article leads with the news about the lake, it seems that the lake was already proposed to exist; what’s important here is how it possibly interacts with the surface, greatly increasing chances for life to begin and biology to take its course. Short article, worth the news update. [Red Orbit]
…is the word this article claims we can use about Philip K Dick in the same way we would use kafkaesque. All right, if you say so. I like this article almost as much for its page layout as for its topic; but I am biased toward anything about Philip K Dick because he’s one of my absolute highest (writer) role models. Simply reading this:
(Anyone who’s read much of the 8,000-page Exegesis Dick left behind after his death, as I spent a year doing, knows that his restless skepticism and humility kept him from ever settling on a single philosophical system.)
and I know why I can’t get enough of the guy. It’s narcissistic, but he sounds exactly like me. And then:
That’s the essence of Dick. He claims love against a backdrop of its impossibility. He claims connection and empathy against a demonstrated nihilism.
and I know why I love the guy. Because he won’t submit to established belief systems (religious, political, economic) but he will submit to human connection. Fucking great. The article discusses how most Dick fans (ha) go through a binge, reading as many of his books as possible–which isn’t too hard because they’re all fairly short and pulpy. I’ve never done that. Instead, I read about one a year. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because I want to always keep that door open, of “love against a backdrop of its impossibility.” [the Verge]
Welcome to the H II Regions, a weekly compilation of SF, publishing and political news. Don’t miss the free e-book of The Million! New issue of the magazine in t-minus 9 days.
Useful take on how the spirit of occupy is a response to society’s contemporary view of art.
[F]unding for the arts by the state has been targeted mercilessly by the prophets of austerity. The underlying premise is not complicated: Good art, they tell us smugly, pays for itself. It does not require support from the taxpayer. Any art that does is an elaborate indulgence. At the first sign of trouble, the arts can be thrown overboard as surplus to requirements, and once it has divested itself of their burden, ‘civilisation’ (if it still deserves the name) will roll on without any particular discomfort. The idea that the arts and the people who create them are necessary for a society’s health and survival—more necessary than, say, commodities brokers—is slowly, painfully slipping away, replaced by… whatever sells.
A radical change in upcoming plot for The Million plus a headcold and my birthday have conspired to keep me from writing much about what I’m reading this week. Here’s a brief rundown. T-minus two weeks til October 2012 issue!
“The Lie Factory: How politics became a business” is the big New Yorker piece going around about the growth of political consulting / advertising. Interesting, horrifying, etc.
“V for Vile” is a thought-provoking essay laying into V for Vendetta, explicating its various fascist, misogynistic, and manipulative goals. You may not agree with all of it or even most of it, but you will agree that it changes your interpretation of a classic graphic novels.
Just finished The Prague Cemetery and I found this interview to be useful. Especially:
Paris Review: What is it about forgery that interests you? It is a running theme throughout so much of your work.
Umberto Eco: I have been interested in it for at least thirty or forty years, in part because I am a scholar of the problems of language and communication. And to lie is a typical human activity, sometimes more important than telling the truth. Because of lies we can produce and invent a possible world. And in order to understand whether something is a language or not, you have to see whether it can be used to lie. If so, it’s a language. A dog steals your food and hides, but he does not tell you it was another dog.
I was interested in the Protocols not only because is it an important forgery, but because of the tragedy that it contributed to. It was in 1921 that the Times of London proved that they were fake. And after that they were more and more believed and published everywhere. So I was interested by such a phenomenon. Why were they so successful? The answer is that they were not creating new ideas. They were reinforcing previous prejudices.
Definitely one of the aspects I love most about Eco’s works is the focus on communication’s complexity; truth and fiction are deeply intertwined and two of the defining characteristics of humans. Plus, as a fiction writer, I find myself lying a lot. The quest for veracity is a largely thankless task; “knowing” something for certain is all but impossible–but you must do your damnedest to discover when someone has lied to you, if only so they can’t take advantage of you.
Welcome to the H II Regions, a weekly compilation of SF, publishing and political news. Don’t miss the free e-book of The Million! Also, you can now like us on Facebook and see what we’re reading on Pinboard.
I don’t study this issue, but I am interested in seeing how free, online education progresses–we have free courses from Yale and Stanford, some from MIT, and of course there’s Khan Academy. The big news here is that GMU economists Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok have opened the doors to their free education site, Marginal Revolution University. The first course will cover development economics.