Tag Archives: literature

Writing Year in Review

writing, colleen anderson, Dagan Books, The Book with No End, horror, dark fantasy

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr.

Well, it’s time to reflect on my year before I run off for the New Year’s celebrations. I did start the year with the three-month Apocalypse Diet, which I blogged about. It was an interesting experiment and I didn’t have to eat brains or truly battle zombies.

This year I was determined to write more and send out more. I can say I had a record year for submissions and rejections, and maybe even for acceptances. In some ways I call this my bridesmaid year, as in always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I think I had a record number of stories held for final selection or shortlisted, but in the end did not make the cut. In some ways this is more painful, yet encouraging. So that this is not hyperbole I’ll give a list of those places where my stories and poems were held past the first reading:

  • Writers of the Future honorable mention for Monstrous Aberrations
  • Friends of Merril fiction contest (one of ten shortlisted) for The Ties That Bind
  • Aurora Award nominee (poetry) A Good Catch
  • Punchnell’s (literary fiction)
  • Pedestal Magazine (poetry)
  • New Quarterly (poetry & literary fiction)
  • Gulf Coast (poetry)
  • Tesseracts 16 (fiction)
  • Whitefish Review (poetry)
  • Stupefying Stories (fiction)
  • Dark Faith 2 (fiction)
  • Penumbra–Dreams issue (fiction)
  • Scape (fiction)
  • Plasma Frequency (fiction)
  • Abyss & Apex (fiction)
  • Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (fiction)
  • Horror World anthology (fiction)

But…it was also a year for acceptances and works published, though in the end I’ll see most of these out next year. The first four were published and the rest are out next year I hope.

writing, publishing, cover design, art concepts, cover art, book covers

Embers Amongst the Fallen available through Smashwords

  • Mermaid (poem) in Polu Texni
  • Legend (poem) in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly
  • Queen of Heaven an Earth (poem) in Eternal Haunted Summer
  • The Brown Woman (fiction) in Over the Brink from Third Flatiron Publishing
  • Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood (fiction) in Deep Cuts
  • The Highest Price (fiction) in Heathen Oracle: Artifacts and Relics
  • P is for Phartouche: The Blade (fiction) in Demonologica Biblica (Britain)
  • The Book With No End (fiction) in Bibliotheca Fantastica
  • Gingerbread People (fiction) in Chilling Tales 2
  • Lady of the Bleeding Heart (fiction) in Fantastic Frontiers 2
  • Tower of Strength (fiction) in Irony of Survival, Zharmae Publishing
  • Visitation (poem) in Bull Spec (I hope next year…it’s been 2 years now)

My goal was to get at least 12 items accepted and while Visitation was accepted previously, as was Gingerbread People I believe, I think I ha a pretty good year of near acceptances. While it’s disappointing on one side it means my writing is getting closer. I’ve also identified one of my issues. I put in too much backstory up front and now that I know this, I can try to chop frugally.

Carolyn Clink and I edited and chose some fine poems for Chizine. I also drove out to Calgary and attended theconvention When Words Collide, where I read a bit of fiction an poetry, and was asked by Brian Hades to co-edit Tesseracts 17 with Steve Vernon. We’re working our way through many stories right now.

Steve Vernon, Tesseracts 17, Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF

Nova Scotian Steve Vernon will be co-editing Tesseract 17, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction.

I also flew to Toronto and did a poetry reading at the Art Bar Poetry Reading Series and thank them for inviting me. I attended the Specfic Colloquium and World Fantasy Con. I met some new writers and had a blast visiting old friends Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory of Chizine Publications an getting to know some new people. Another project started to germinate there but I can’t mention it yet until we have more details to make sure it’s happening.

I almost forgot but I also self-published a collection of my reprint stories, Embers Amongst the Fallen. It is available through smashwords and Amazon.com. I also put up two erotic stories under T.C. Calligari. I plan to put up the rest of them in the new year and get a bit more speculative fiction up. Should you have read a copy, please leave a review on those sites as well as Goodreads.

As well, I hosted a specfic cocktail party for writers an it was a success. I’m trying to build community here in

erotic, spanking, fetish, erotic fiction, T.C. Calligari, writing, short stories

Not hard to guess what this one is about.

Vancouver and I’ll be hosting another one at the end of January or early February. I’m also looking for the right venue to see if we can spring the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, which happens monthly in Toronto. We’re hoping to launch it in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver in April so I’m looking for the right type of bar for a Wednesday evening.

I and continued to write and read. For my holidays (ending tomorrow, alas) I decided to catch up on Tesseracts reading, but also get working on that novel I’ve been working on for ten years. Yes, ten years! I watched all of Game of Thrones seasons one and two to inspire me and then hunkered down. By tomorrow I will have completed the story arc for one of three viewpoint characters, and I’ll have half of my chapters written. This is good considering how slow it’s been up until now. I have a deadline of April to finish the first draft and hopefully the rewrite. Then it’s off to the agent and editor who expressed interest nearly two years ago. Yes, I’m stupid.

writing, anthologies, speculative fiction, books, fantasy, poetry, SF, Aurora Awards

When it comes to writing and reading, just do it! Creative Commons: Eric Guiomar

Doing this review helps when I begin to think of all those rejections I’ve received, and that the stories that were shortlisted or received honorable mentions won’t sell anywhere, or that what I consider are my best three-four stories also won’t sell. But then, some of my stories, that I thought were good have taken ten years to sell. There is hope and maybe I’ll look at those four again and see if there is too much up front for all of them.

The main thing is to persevere and not get depressed. I’ve wanted to edit an anthology for a long time and now I’m doing it. I’m hitting some of my goals and therefore are setting new ones. To all of you who write, edit or read, continue doing so. Support writers and buy books and magazines. Give your input, give your reviews. We all need each other. So have a great new year. May it be productive and fulfilling and may all your endeavors bring you success.

Happy New Year! Creative commons: Flickr Champagne Toast

Happy New Year! Creative commons: Flickr Champagne Toast

3 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing Update: Toronto

writing, colleen anderson, Dagan Books, The Book with No End, horror, dark fantasy

I’m having a writerly vacation in Toronto, with readings, colloquium and convention. Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, flickr

This will be a short post. I’m in Toronto, where the winds were deadly yesterday.

I attended the Specfic Colloquium on Sunday, held at the Gladstone Hotel and put on by the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. Guest speakers included Robert Runte, Rob Shearman, Karen Lowachee, Peter Watts, Scott Bakker and Helen Marshall. These speakers are all published writers as well as giving insights into different aspects of being human or “Beyond Human” which was the theme for the day. This is the third colloquium and it makes me think we could do the same out west. The lectures made me think, which they’re designed to do, as well as made me curious about the authors’ works. If you live in and around Toronto, check out next year’s colloquium.

Tonight I’ll be reading at the Art Bar Poetry Series at the Pauper’s Pub on Bloor St. Yes, it’s poetry and I’m going to read

World Fantasy Award, writing, fantasy, conventions

The World Fantasy Award is an image of H.P. Lovecraft. There is some controversy about the image as Lovecraft was a known racist.

mostly speculative poetry since it’s the night before Hallowe’en. There are two other featured readers so this should be a lot of fun. Poems and pints, what more could  one need?

Wednesday night is the Halloween party at Bakka Phoenix for attendees of the World Fantasy Convention. I have never been to this famous science fiction bookstore so it will be a treat and some pre-mingling with people. I have to remember not to go crazy and buy too many books as I have a luggage allowance for the flight.

Thursday will kick off the convention. I will be doing a reading on Saturday at 5:30 and will read “The Book with No End” being launched in Bibliotheca Fantastica by Dagan Books. Their launch party is before my reading from 2-4 pm. Chizine Publications will also be having a party on Saturday evening around 9 pm. There are other parties as well, as well as readings and panels. You have to be a member of the convention to attend any of these but it’s always a great event. Northern Gothic and Urban Fantasy is this year’s theme. On Sunday is the World Fantasy Awards banquet. Chizine is up for a special award professional. Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi have created a great imprint with high quality books. The authors have been up for awards and receive many great reviews, which stands for the expertise of the titles selected.

I doubt I’ll get to post much else this week as I’m trying to finish a story by tomorrow and then will be busy with the con. This is a week of writing related events and I wish I could do this all of the time. Some day, maybe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, Writing

Writing: Speculative Fiction Tropes

writing, anthologies, speculative fiction, Edge Publishing, short stories

From Tesseracts 15, Edge Publications.

Steve Vernon and I have started reading some of the submissions for Tesseracts 17. This is a yearly anthology of speculative fiction, usually by Canadians, those living in Canada and expats. The theme this year is “Speculations: From Coast to Coast to Coast.” We’re trying to highlight fiction and poetry from all provinces and territories, but quality will be the prime criteria.

Another thing to mention: Know, and I mean really know (don’t just presume you know) what proper manuscript format is. It’s not single spaced, it’s not a block of text with no indents, it’s not tabbing across the page instead of hitting “Enter” to move to a new paragraph, it’s not using the space bar instead of the Tab key, it’s not justifying both sides, it’s not using bizarre fonts. We haven’t received all these errors yet, but we have received most of them. If you’re not sure what proper manuscript format is, go to William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format for short stories. You can’t go wrong if you do this.

As in many genres of writing, speculative fiction has some popular tropes. If you write something in a familiar trope (a common or overused device), then you have to make sure it has a unique twist or that the language sings. We’re at the beginning of the submission window so stories are only trickling in right now, but here are a few tropes I’ve seen here and at other times when editing.This isn’t saying they’re bad, but if you’re writing a story that hits any of the ones I’m about to mention, make sure they’re really good and have something new to tell.

  • vampires–yes they have been done to death (haha!), and I’ve done a few myself so what is new about this version?
    tropes, fiction, writing, publishing, hero's journey, good vs evil

    Luke, I am your trope. Star Wars is a classic good vs evil but it’s more than that.

  • the underdog wins the day–it doesn’t matter if it’s Jack and the Beanstalk, the geeky computer nerd, the scrawny barbarian or an actual dog; it better be good and/or truly funny (and humor isn’t easy to write).
  • transformations–I was a human and turned into something else, I was something else and became human. Sometimes the metamorphosis is fascinating but it’s not the full story. I’ve written a few of these myself. The outer conflict is what the body goes through; the inner conflict is the psyche and these tales need both. How does a transformation change the protagonist and the world?
  • ghost story–the dead haunt us in different ways or commune among themselves. What’s new with your spook?
  • visiting your past/future–whether it’s time travel, a shamanic journey or body transferral, you better be doing more than just avoiding yourself so you don’t cancel you.
  • Eureka! I’ve discovered/invented it–Is the discovery the main story or should it be a tale of what happened after it was used?
  • the secret garden/the world beyond–whether you (you, meaning the character) create it, find it or can’t get back to it, how does it impact on you and your world beyond Alice in Wonderland?
  • the magic being–whether a genie, an angel, the devil you know or the robot you don’t, it’s not about their difference so much as it is about you react to them and integrate or destroy them.
  • descent into madness–is it Dante’s inferno, or just your sick twisted mind? Maybe we’ll never know but it better be entertaining.
  • the quest or journey–hi ho, hi ho it’s adventuring we go.
  • the altered world–something in the character’s world has changed. Do they survive, adapt or be consumed?
short fiction, collection, Embers Amongst the Fallen, speculative fiction, reprints

Embers Amongst the Fallen will be out in print by the end of October.

I’m sure other tropes will come to mind but that’s all I can think of now. However the thing to note is that it’s not bad to use a trope. It’s better to use it consciously so that you can make sure you manipulate it away from a tales that’s been done too often. Here’s another: good triumphs over evil. This is almost a primal human hope and we like stories that uplift, but the world isn’t so cut and dried and stories with nuances can be more enlightening, thought-provoking and entertaining.

I’d like to see some stories come in that take place in the past or far future, on a different world, have a different culture, in a time other than now or medieval, steampunk, cyberpunk, etc. We’ve received a few but I’m hoping for true diversity

Just to compare, my reprint collection Embers Amongst the Fallen, which has 14 reprinted stories and two new ones breaks down into the following statistics (of course some of the tales could fit in more than one category):

  • four vampire tales (the future, an alternate world, the past, and in India)
  • five tales of transformation (which was part of the original title)
  • four magic beings
  • one journey
  • two altered worlds

I’d be interested to see how others would categorize my tales. Sometimes a tale can be a journey and a transformation in an altered world, but which trope influences the story the most?

Here’s a bonus, also on tropes. One Thousand and One Parsecs

5 Comments

Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: Of Poetry Slams and Deathmatches

vitriol, writing, writing contest, flame wars, bad attitude, literary snobs

Dodge quickly. Creative Commons: queereka.com

Back in the good ole days, I used to attend poetry slams. A slam then was two people being pitted against each other, where they would read the poem, the audience would cheer and the one with the most cheers would advance to the next round. I eventually stopped going to them for the following reasons:

  • the slam had little to do with the merit of the poem
  • people brought their friends who would just cheer for their friends: my friends refused to come to poetry events
  • a bad poem read with upward inflections at the end of every line would wow the crowd
  • writing is hard; everyone should be applauded just for going to the effort to do it well

While slams did give every Tomasina, Dick or writer to read their works, the slams weren’t always great. I hear they’re better now but I haven’t visited one in a long time. The part I always disliked about a slam and which drove me away, was that a very good poet, who might not be experienced at reading well, would be raked and scraped over the coals by the nasty, mad dog crowd.

Years later, I presume those slams go on but we now have a dearth of social media so there are websites and webzines and all sorts of places to showcase your work. One such magazine, Broken Pencil, has fiction, poetry and nonfiction. It’s trendy, it’s Canadian and it’s trying to generate more page views. One way of doing this is to make sure part of your site isn’t static, that it’s ever changing, and the best way to do this is to get viewers with new content. Broken Pencil is sponsoring a Deathmatch on their site where two stories and their authors are pitted against each other. The audience weighs in with comments and can vote once per hour. The winner goes on to be pitted against another writer. There is a $20 fee to enter this contest, thus generating money for the magazine. The editors choose the top eight stories to be torn apart in the Deathmatch.

A noble enough endeavor and magazines have tried various ways to fundraise for a while. I was familiar with Broken Pencil but not the Deathmatch. A friend has a friend in the contest so I popped in to read both stories, make a comment and vote. It turns out you can vote once an hour. What stunned me was the level of some of the commenters. Presumably a lot of these people are the literati but the language  and juvenile attitude left me wondering. After all, we’re talking literary, right?  Broken Pencil touts themselves as indie and audacious. One newspaper reported that “This is definitely not a contest for sensitive writer types. If you can’t handle the thought of your short story being smacked down by online voters, then you’ll want to stay well clear of this one. Think Literary Survivor. On an island. Surrounded by a sea of sharks.”
– Jennifer Moss, The Vancouver Sun

Hmm, a Literary Survivor show; it almost seems an oxymoron. In Broken Pencil’s own words:

Since 2008, Broken Pencil: the magazine of zine culture and the independent arts, has been running one of the world’s most audacious short story contests. In the Deathmatch short story contest, the top eight entrants as selected by Broken Pencil are pitted against each other two by two. The winning story is decided by Broken Pencil readers themselves, through a vote on the official magazine website. Each week, two stories will be pitted against each other in the online arena, where anyone and everyone can read them and vote on which one deserves to reign supreme. The authors will be in constant communication with their audience through a blog which they can use to hype up their own story, or trash-talk their opponent’s writing.

Trash -talk? Really? That’s what we come to, obnoxious reality TV shows and pumped up melodrama for the sake of feeding the hyenas in the coliseum? Is the lowest common denominator really the way to go? I once did a poetry slam in a fake boxing ring, but there were judges and we didn’t verbally bludgeon the other entrants. Here are some samples of Canada’s great(?) writing minds voicing their comments, or at their friends’ and enemies’ comments.

  • Samantha, you absolutely suck at writing.
  • She means her bowels. His words move her bowels.
  • Claire didn’t complain when your piece of shit story was winning.
  • didn’t sammie have slanty enough eyes to get into U of T
  • Turd smear.

There is more and there is more that is intelligent and thoughtful, talking about what works or doesn’t in each story. There are a couple of literary trolls, full of themselves and big on seeing their words constantly on the page. They can of course ruin it for everyone. Sure it’s a contest, even slam style, and not everyone wins, but mud flinging and puerile attitudes doesn’t make me think literary. It’s not cutting edge; it’s overdone. Reading some of the Deathmatch comments has convinced me that like those poetry slams of old, I won’t be entering any time soon. It’s a neat idea but it’s too bad some people think it has to be like reality TV. Broken Pencil deserves some kudos for trying something new and as this creature evolves, it will either crawl from the chrysalis beautiful and dynamic, or roll in in the filth, a distorted and deformed thing. If you plan to enter this contest in the future then there are only two types of spines to have: either change yours for one of steel or rip it out.

3 Comments

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, Publishing, Writing

Writing: Ray Bradbury, Sexy

Once upon a time I was a child reading whatever I could get my hands on. I did the classic flashlight-under-the-covers thing (now it would be a laptop) and read read read. Nancy Drew, Norse myths, fairy tales, you name it. My mother’s fiction books and eventually my brother’s books, which were Heinlein, Clarke, Herbert. But I was also reading Edgar Allan Poe.

ComicCon, San Diego, photo by Sophia Quach

At least I tell myself this but I wonder now how many stories I actually read of Poe’s. I think it might have only been a few but they resonated so strongly that the imagery of the words stuck in my head. At ten I was reading many of these books. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, as well as The Dosadi Experiment and The Green Brain by Frank Herbert. Ray Bradbury (pictured left) was a short story man in many ways and I read the collection called The Illustrated Man when I was about 12. It had creepy stories and I remember them keenly. Even if I didn’t remember the story I remembered the feeling and I have to say that the atmosphere was so strong that probably Bradbury influenced my writing in way that Herbert and Heinlein did not. I read them. They did SF, and showed future worlds and places. But it was Bradbury who dug into the psyche of people. His stories were never quite horror, though often horrific.

Many of his stories were made into movies or TV shows and in the era of The Twilight Zone (which consequently had many of the young up and coming actors in the shows), his style fit right in. In fact several of his stories were made into The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The (New) Twilight Zone episodes. As well, there was a Ray Bradbury Presents TV show with numerous episodes. To say the man is prolific is an understatement.

Two of his most lyrical titles are I Sing the Body Electric (I love that, and think it one of the best titles of all time) and Something Wicked This Way Comes. I have not read these but they were both made into movies, which I did see. As well, Fahrenheit 451 was probably one of his most famous books and movies. He is considered one of the great minds in American literature and has written several stories under every letter of the alphabet. And at the ripe age of 90, the man is still writing. The following links list all of his stories, and the other media in which his work has appeared, such as plays, movies, episodes.

Last year, in 2009, another collection of his stories came out, We’ll Always Have Paris and most of these stories were written that year.

We'll Always Have Paris

Ray Bradbury has a strong spark of being a creator who is unceasing. I guess it’s no wonder that there is now a song that has come out, done tongue in cheek and slightly naughty. I’m sure that Ray Bradbury has seen it and has had a good laugh. And writing this, I’m getting a hankering to read some Bradbury, which really spurred me into writing, and that I haven’t read in a long time. So I think I’m going to go out and buy We’ll Always Have Paris. And now, feast your ears on this song F**k Me, Ray Bradbury
which looks at the sexy side of being a writer. An homage of a different sort for one of our greatest writers.


Ray Bradbury Stories

Bradbury Media

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, memories, movies, people, Publishing, science fiction, sex, Writing

Writing: Selling Poetry

I was asked if you can actually sell poetry. Yes, there are many places that will pay. And believe me, I’ve bounced my stories and poems around a million places. I could show you reams of rejections. This is the real world: those of us who write speculative fiction (fantasy, SF, horror stories or poems) are always trying to get the great rates of 5 cents a word. That’s a pro rate for all sorts of notoriety and pro status.

In “literature” (said with one’s nose in the air), there are small press magazines, often but not always supported by universities. Some pay pittances but often you’re paid between $25-40 a printed page for stories and anywhere from $25-100 for a poem. Truly, when I started submitting I didn’t think I’d ever get $100 for a poem and it’s now the highest I’ve been paid. Interestingly the other two high points were $50 for poems in the Canadian Stars as Seen anthology, mainly because editor Sandra Kasturi is a consummate poet herself and probably haggled for that amount.

The second amount was, ironically, also speculative, my first real pro sale in Amazing Stories (when it still existed) at $36 US. It’s the sale that got me into SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) as a semi pro. You need three sales to be full pro and even though I’ve sold stories since, it’s mostly to the Canadian markets and hence not “recognized” as pro for lower rates that don’t convert to 5 cents or the once 3 cents a word. Not to mention, SFWA decided that poetry doesn’t count anymore, falling into the mainstream troglodyte thinking that poetry isn’t real writing and doesn’t take as much work. Yet to write a poem can take many days. You can become a full member in HWA (Horror Writers of America) on poetry alone.

 The more common rate for poetry is between $5-$20 a poem. You won’t get rich selling it. You might not get people to your reading. There is still an odd idea that poetry is unfathomable and read in a monotone. Also called “Spoken Word” poetry is like a really short play or soliloquy. It’s dramatic, fairly succinct and plays on words and images.

There are many markets for poetry and the best place to find a comprehensive list is to go to http://www.duotrope.com and search. You can specify romantic, cowboy or fantasy poetry to name a few and if you’re willing to go with a market that pays a token or a pro fee. It is most important to read the guidelines. If the magazine says we don’t take rhyming poems, then don’t send them rhyming poems. If they detest chicken poems don’t send them any. All you’ll do is annoy the editors. They see a lot of submissions. Know your markets and know your field. Practicing writing and reading published poetry will give you and idea of what styles are liked by different publications, and help hone your skills. If you like a poem, why do you like it? Analyse it to figure out what works. Is it a turn of phrase, an image, a word? Trying writing some verse to the poem to get a sense of the author’s style.

Never believe that you can improve. And submit. Receive your rejection with good grace and then submit elsewhere. Every time I send out a poem I look it over, tweak it and then send it out. Sometimes I’ve sold a poem (and it’s been shortlisted or nominated for an award) that I wrote up to ten years ago. Poems don’t go stale and you can improve them. Selecting poetry is very subjective so what one editor loves another will hate. Keep trying and you’ll start to sell some. It’s all about perseverance in your craft and in submitting your works.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, poetry, Publishing, Writing

Art Olympics

Well shiver my timbers and call me a dumbbell. The other day I talked about “Video Gaming as an Olympic Sport” and facetiously suggested a few new ones including writing a novel and caricature drawing. Well, who knew, but there were once art Olympics, or art contest at the Olympics. Total surprise to me but the founder of the modern Olympics, the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin had a vision which included art.

The artistic competitions were hotly debated and contested, getting off to a rocky start for Sweden in 1912. Only 35 entries were received. The categories for art were: sculpture, architecture, literature, painting and music. Not all categories were filled and gold, silver and bronze medals were not awarded in all. All art pieces could not have been previously published (though there were exceptions for architecture) and all had to relate to sports in some way.

Due to excuses of funding problems or note enough time, the next art Olympics were in 1920, then for the years of 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936 and 1948. The art categories sometimes had subcategories such as prints, paintings and water colors/drawings for the painting section, but it could vary from one Olympics to the next. After the initial entries of 35 pieces in 1912, there were usually over a thousand, and thousands of people viewed the exhibits.

The biggest problem was that the Olympics state that athletes must be of amateur status and it was contended that the artists were professionals. The art Olympics were canceled but the Cultural Olympiad took their place in 1956, showcasing various artistic forms in conjunction with the Olympics. I didn’t know there was a special name for the festivals and to tell the truth I’ve never heard of the Cultural Olympiad. But then I’ve never been to the Olympics and considering the Olympic committee’s penchant for branding, of course there is a Cultural Olympiad.

So, art is no longer an Olympic sport, alas. Video gaming could possibly become one, but I doubt it. But if you’re at all interested in being part of the artistic Olympiad for Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics then you can check it out here: http://www.vancouver2010.com/en/CultureEducation/CulturalOlympiad/ArtistRegistry/Guidelines

And below is a database of all countries, medals and Olympic sports, including the art Olympics should you like to see who won. Nazi Germany won quite a few in 1936 Berlin Olympics. Somehow not a surprise. I’ll still dream of writing haiku, villanelles, sonnets and plays at Olympic speed and wiles.

http://www.databaseolympics.com/games/gamessport.htm?g=10&sp=ART&enum=130

http://www.databaseolympics.com/sport/sporteventlist.htm?sp=ART

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, history, news, sports, Writing

Genre vs Literary Works

Now that movie technology has advanced, movie makers create worlds with all manner of special effects. There are a great number of fantastical, science fictional works. There is the whole gamut of superhero movies from the various comic books. And then there are movies based on books. Back in the sixties, science fiction movies went way out on a limb when 2001: A Space Odyssey was filmed. And then there was Bladerunner, based off of P.K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (an awesome title by the way). There were many others, which ran the range of B and lower–the Godzillas and Blob and other somewhat campy horror flicks.

And then came Star Wars, an epic story with star spanning special effects. Full steam ahead and there are many movies now out at the same time. For example, right now we have Hell Boy II, Dark Knight, Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Mummy III, to name a few. So, a lot of these are good fun and not particularly deep. Hollywood does love to turn speculative fiction into only eye and mind candy. When you look at the evolution of speculative (SF, fantasy, horror) novels, we’ve gone from bug-eyed aliens to very complex stories and worlds that look at the human condition, ethical and moral tales and what-ifs of future technologies.

On top of covering a host of possibilities with humanity, an author has to often create a viable, believable world that works. It must still follow rules and must be shown enough to paint dimensions so the reader can see it. This is of course, much easier in a movie, and yes a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe even five thousand. Good speculative writing is not for the faint of heart, nor for the undisciplined and uneducated.

All of these skills that one must learn for speculative writing apply for any type of writing. Know your market, which means read, read, read. Then write, write, write and learn and perfect. This never stops, ever. I tend to lump all the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror and even the myths of long ago under the umbrella term of speculative. In reality, anything that is not considered a history or telling of true life events, is in fact speculative.

Now the truly interesting thing is that a speculative writer can write science fiction and it will be looked down the long narrow noses of literary academics and called “genre” (said with nose in the air, as if smelling bad, and with an English accent). But a literary writer can write something that is speculative fiction and it will be praised and lauded and given awards. Case in point; Margaret Atwood has written two speculative novels (at least that I’ve read): Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale. They are sometimes claimed to not be speculative, or speculative but not science fiction, getting to the fine hair splitting of genre names. But she takes those technologies and does a what-if into the future. That is indeed speculative and even science fiction.

When I was slowly progressing toward a degree in Creative Writing at UBC, one had to specialize in three areas: I chose short fiction, children’s fiction and poetry. In my kiddy lit class, the instructor didn’t like it when we wrote anything to do with fantastical worlds. She said they didn’t sell that well. Well, Ms Alderson, are you eating your hat after the fame of Harry Potter? This attitude was reflected throughout the department. However, George McWhirter who was the department head, and the only person worth his weight in gold, understood that writing well came first and what you wrote came second. He was not of the opinion expressed in The Boston Globe: “[T]he genre of the comic book is an anemic vein for novelists to mine, lest they squander their brilliance.” Ow.

A champion for blending or removing the snobbery borders between genres (or lowbrow and highbrow as some put it) is Michael Chabon. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. For his most recent book The Yiddish Policemen’s Union he was award the Nebula and the Campbell Awards. He was purported as saying the SF related Nebula meant more to him than getting the Pulitzer.

Perhaps with such writers as champions, we’ll see “genre” fiction being treated as writing and not drivel, where the best of all writing will rise to the top and more “genre” works will be nominated for awards. I’m not holding my breath…yet.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, Publishing, science fiction, Writing