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Tuesday, March 20th, 2007
9:37 pm - Six ways of using the insider
Now that the reading for my exams is finally letting up a bit, I can write another rant!

The “insider” in the title of this post means someone who’s a native member of the culture/world you’re writing about, or at least familiar with it. A common worldbuilding trick in fantasy is to bring a visitor, a sheltered innocent, or sometimes a complete alien, as in modern-day people crossing over from Earth, into the picture so you have someone who will ask questions about aspects of the culture and can be Explained At. But outsiders have problems, too, the most pernicious of which is limiting the stories you can tell. Using the other half of the equation and telling fantasy stories with insiders is very far from impossible. And no, it does not need to involve the characters telling each other in monologues what they should have known already.

Here are ways of doing itCollapse )

I’m open to suggestions about what to do next.

current mood: hyper

(81 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Sunday, February 18th, 2007
9:22 pm - Casual worldbuilding
This rant is similar to others I’ve done—particularly in that it’s a means of getting around long infodumps—but I hope it’ll help to contribute to a sense of a detailed, living world and culture (or cultures!) on a level other than philosophy and metaphysics. After all, not all your characters will be given to those kinds of abstractions, and others will have no opportunity to come into contact with them, and your world might lack the printing press, academies of philosophy, and other easy ways to transfer them. Yet those characters are still part of the story and in contact with your created culture and world, and ideas can exist outside theories.

So here are some ways they might existCollapse )

Maybe the next rant can be on the history of cultures. If so, it is entirely the fault of that last point.

current mood: happy

(92 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007
9:40 pm - Gender-equal societies
A few people asked for a rant on gender-equal societies. Like the rant on domestic fantasy, this is much more of a ‘how-to’: considerations that might help you, rather than “Lord, I am so sick of this” (though there’s a bit of that). I’ve read relatively few gender-equal fantasies in comparison to fantasies where one gender is dominant, though, so, like domestic fantasy, attitudes towards this kind of fantasy are more my targets than the books themselves.

A disclaimer of sortsCollapse )

The rantCollapse )

I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten, and I’m sure I have biases showing through here I’m not aware of. I hope some of these are still useful, given that.

current mood: hopeful

(149 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Saturday, February 10th, 2007
8:52 pm - Rant on domestic fantasy
This is part rant, part how-to. One reason I think not very much domestic fantasy is written is the sheer lack of models; it’s much easier to walk the paths of, say, the save-the-world plot because there’s so much of it out there to show you how to do it.

But I think there should be more domestic fantasy, because I like itCollapse )

I think there should be more of this kind of writing, if only because it would vary the deeper parts of fantasy novels—plot structure and pacing, for example—as well as the kinds of events and protagonists available.

current mood: happy

(108 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007
11:10 pm - Ten ways of managing angst
I didn’t intend to write another rant this soon, but this one just kind of tumbled out.

It’s got to be thereCollapse )

...My, that one got bitchy.

current mood: ranty

(89 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007
10:28 pm - Ten ways of making all-powerful, unique protagonists tolerable
I don’t think it’s easy, mind. But it can be done.

Read more...Collapse )

For the record, I still think stories without all-powerful, unsurpassable characters are much more interesting, and I prefer protagonists who have qualities that every character could have, only magnified by the events of the story or their pasts.

current mood: bouncy

(55 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Sunday, January 28th, 2007
8:48 pm - All the small things
Inspired by a comment renakazur made in the last rant, about work being one of those things many fantasy authors don’t like to talk about because they think it doesn’t advance the plot. I took that as a challenge.

Six ways noticing small things can advance the plotCollapse )

Unquestioning obedience to any dictate of writing can result in stale conventionality, and I think that’s what often happens when authors just assume that, “Well, there’s no way to make an interesting story out of work/food/cleaning/servants’ lives/domesticity.” It’s true that certain individual situations won’t work; on the other hand, parties, magic, destinies, swordplay, and royals’ lives are not a guaranteed success either. Working with these materials might force an author to stretch her wings a bit.

current mood: cheerful

(65 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Monday, January 22nd, 2007
8:35 pm - Competency and work
The title of this one is the barest excuse to go on a ramble about several topics that interest me.

I love competent peopleCollapse )

Once again, no idea what the next rant will be about.

current mood: bitchy

(90 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Saturday, January 20th, 2007
8:07 pm - Lists as of right now
I'll probably still have to make changes, as these are works-in-progress, incorporating changes suggested by my chair but not yet finalized by her, and I still have two committee members who need to approve them. But, as of right now, these are what my lists look like.

HistoricalCollapse )

Topical ListCollapse )

So I read them, write rationales for them, and then I'm tested over them. But, luckily, it seems I'll have extra time for the oral exam, which is basically defending the prospectus for my dissertation.

I've been warned the dissertation is what kills people, because most graduate students have plenty of experience writing seminar papers but none writing a book-length manuscript. And this is where I have the advantage of a lot of people, because if there is one thing that does not intimidate me, it's the thought of writing a lot.

(20 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Thursday, January 18th, 2007
10:47 am - The Victorian list so far
Thank you very much to everyone who made suggestions on the last post about Victorian novels concerning gender! This is far from a final copy, as I haven't yet met with my professor, but it was the one I sent to her to consider. It's balanced as far as I can make it between canonical works which I can't ignore, canonical female writers, canonical male writers doing works that relate to gender, and little-known or little-studied female writers.

Read more...Collapse )

(65 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Saturday, January 13th, 2007
9:32 am - Kind of an odd question, but here we go!
My committee chair has informed me that my list of Victorian primary sources has to change and have a different theme, so I've chosen to focus it more on gender. However, there are a few major authors out there where I haven't read enough of their work to decide which book would work best.

Can anyone tell me which novel of Dickens's they perceive as having the most to do with gender? Currently, my candidate for that list is Bleak House, which has a female narrator- part of the time- and mother/daughter themes, but that's mainly because, other than that, I've only read A Tale of Two Cities.

Likewise, I have read zero Trollope novels. Based on what some friends who took a course in his work this semester are saying, I'm thinking I'll go with The Eustace Diamonds, since I know a female character plays a strong role in that. If you have a favorite where the gender themes are stronger, though, could you recommend it here, please?

Thank you in advance!

current mood: busy

(65 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
11:17 pm - Review of Perdido Street Station
So, I just finished Perdido Street Station

In some ways I am surprised that I like this book so muchCollapse )

current mood: happy

(35 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Sunday, January 7th, 2007
2:06 pm - Avoiding gimmick-worlds
This is one of those things that fermented in the back of my head for a while, and now demands a rant.

One culture, one language, one system of magic- one boring worldCollapse )

Don’t know what I’ll do next, as that one came out of nowhere.

current mood: cranky

(89 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Thursday, January 4th, 2007
11:51 pm - More book reviews
These are not going to be in any particular order, because most of the time I didn’t date them. I’m also not including most of the literary criticism I read, because it’s hard to summarize and makes little sense outside of the research I’m doing.

Barry Lopez, Arctic DreamsCollapse )

Edward Abbey, Desert SolitaireCollapse )

Steven Brust, DzurCollapse )

Ursula K. LeGuin, Always Coming HomeCollapse )

Lynn Merrill, The Romance of Victorian Natural HistoryCollapse )

Raymond Williams, The Country and the CityCollapse )

Sarah Monette, MélusineCollapse )

Megan Whalen Turner, The ThiefCollapse )

Currently reading: Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville, which is a book that I’ve stalled on before and which I’ve now decided has to be attacked, rather like a literary criticism book, so that’s what I’m doing.

current mood: bouncy

(31 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007
11:43 pm - Ways of extending sympathy
This is a kind of a cross between an essay on characterizing secondary characters—most of the time, the author has a stronger commitment to characterizing her main character(s)/protagonist(s), so I don’t think as much help is needed—and adopting a certain attitude towards characters when writing. Obviously, this attitude is one I find congenial. It won’t work for all stories, let alone all writers. But since I seem to be obsessed with it lately, I thought I’d write a rant about it.

An intellect vast and warm and sympatheticCollapse )

One of my favorite moments in the books I read this past year is the one where George Eliot, in the middle of Middlemarch, shifts from the perspective of her heroine, Dorothea, to that of her much older and cramp-minded husband, Casaubon:

“ONE morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea -- but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage? I protest against all our interest, all our effort at understanding being given to the young skins that look blooming in spite of trouble; for these too will get faded, and will know the older and more eating griefs which we are helping to neglect. In spite of the blinking eyes and white moles objectionable to Celia, and the want of muscular curve which was morally painful to Sir James, Mr Casaubon had an intense consciousness within him, and was spiritually a-hungered like the rest of us.”

Eliot understood something about sympathy, and how to extend it everywhere.

current mood: happy

(39 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006
11:37 pm - Ten things you can do in the middles of novels
This, of course, depends on the techniques you use—outlining as opposed to not outlining, structuring by chapters or scenes, whether the story’s episodic or not, how many viewpoints you’re using and what kind they are—but I’m hoping that the sheer variety of suggestions here can offer at least one that crosses boundaries.

Ten things that may help in the middle of a novelCollapse )

So there you are. Full of my own prejudices, but I’ve tried to admit them—you may have noticed the propensity to think of stories as animals—and I hope that it didn’t drag in the middle.

current mood: cheerful

(40 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Thursday, December 21st, 2006
11:32 am - Rules to read by
Just what the title says. Things I tend to do when reading.

Not in any particular orderCollapse )

So. How do you read?

current mood: bouncy

(97 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006
10:05 am - This might be a fun game to play
Currently, I'm wondering about characters in fantasy novels you've read who have really unusual occupations- not necessarily for their world, but for the fantasy genre in general. Tell me if you know one!

Rules of the game:

-Has to be secondary-world fantasy. It's way too easy to find characters in urban fantasy who are lawyers, bouncers, etc., because the modern world's jobs are usually more detailed because familiar to the authors. If it's crossover fantasy, the character's job should actually be important in the fantasy world (instead of their being, say, a secretary on Earth but a mage in the fantasy world).
-No wizards, priests, psychics, soldiers/warriors, thieves, assassins, musicians, kings/queens/princes/princesses, evil henchmen, courtiers, farmers, people whose main occupation is running from the Dark Lord and trying to survive, or apprentices to these people- if that's the main focus of what they do. If the wizard is a wizard on the side but spends most of his time hunting narwhals, this would count. Likewise a gem-cutter who does a little farming.
-It can be a secondary character, but it should be a fairly important one; thus, the quirky monkey-trainer who appears for three pages in Kay's A Song for Arbonne does not count.
-This is NOT necessarily a recommendations list, just a list of odd jobs.

The list I can think of off the top of my headCollapse )

I know I've read more- they just aren't coming to me right now. Anyone got more?

current mood: curious

(191 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Sunday, December 17th, 2006
7:12 pm - Cohering a hero
Or “pulling all the damn stuff together.” Part matching the protagonist with the background of her world, part making her seem like a real person…that kind of thing.

Cool traits actually joined togetherCollapse )

(I actually think it’s far more fascinating to create a character out of traits that almost anybody can have rather than “Because it’s cool,” which is probably why I’m so in favor of ordinary, limited heroes).

current mood: annoyed

(38 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

Friday, December 15th, 2006
9:42 pm - Belated book review post, part 1
This goes back to books I was reading in July. Some of these I waited to write anything about because I thought I needed extra time to understand them, but by this point, if I’m still in a state of confusion, I’m probably going to remain there. And there will be more posts coming.

Liz Williams, Nine Layers of SkyCollapse )

Naomi Novik, TemeraireCollapse )

Rikki Rooksby, A.C. Swinburne: A Poet’s LifeCollapse )

M. L. Rosenthal, Running to Paradise: Yeats’s Poetic ArtCollapse )

W. H. Hudson, Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical ForestCollapse )

Elizabeth Bear, Blood & Iron: A Novel of the Promethean AgeCollapse )

Current books in progress: Megan Whalen Turner, The Thief; Dana Phillips, The Truth of Ecology; Gilbert White, A Natural History of Selborne.

(33 startled dragons | Sing to the dragons)

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