WIR #19: Under the Dome

Under the DomeKing, Stephen. Under the Dome. New York: Scribner. Copyright © 2009 Stephen King.

Stephen King's Under the Dome web site:
http://promo.simonandschuster.com/underthedome/

Stephen King's web site:
http://www.stephenking.com/


There is no blurb for this book, neither on the back cover nor on the dust jacket flaps. King's big enough, I guess, that he needs no blurbs. Nevertheless, I found the following description at his publisher's web site:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens -- town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out.

At 1072 pages (1069, really, since it begins on p. 3) this is a monster of a book. Paging through it, though, I see the type isn't small (another 'failing' of the last book I read by C. S. Lewis), that there is a generous amount of white space on each page, and that many of the chapters appear to be fairly short. This could very well be a quick read. We shall see.

WIR #18: That Hideous Strength

That Hideous StrengthLewis, C. S. That Hideous Strength. New York: Collier Books. Copyright © 1946 C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis web sites:
http://www.cslewis.com/
http://www.cslewis.org/
Into the Wardrobe


I know full well the saying that one should not judge a book by its cover, but when the covers of the first two books in this series are reflective of their content but the cover of this one is not, I could not help but be disappointed. I'd hoped for a similar sort of adventure on the surface of the Moon, but what I got was a book set entirely in an English village. It's true that King Arthur does play a role in this story, but it wasn't a terribly large role, and neither was he really central to the story. (EDIT: Actually, when I think back on it, King Arthur was central to the ending, but he doesn't appear until late in the book and his role seems contrived to me.)

In addition to the disappointment of the cover, Lewis's prose in this volume had monstrous paragraphs that made for heavy, slow reading, despite Time magazine's praise that it was a "well-written, fast-paced satirical fantasy." Further, there were happenings at the end of the book that seemed tacked on instead of integral to the plot; very disappointing. Lewis's point in this novel wasn't lost on me, especially the role King Arthur played, but his role felt very unlike King Arthur. I think the problem is that Lewis was trying to fit a pagan into a Christian hole — as much as many Christians like to hold up Arthur as Christian-like, because of the virtues he is imbued with in the legend, that very legend is about as Christian as Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, in which there is little to no mention made of Christianity (even in this story much is made of it being Christian because Scrooge "repents of his evil," but his repentence is brought about by ghosts and by the fear of not being remembered after death and has nothing to do with Christ or turning to Christ). Context is king.

Generally speaking, I like Lewis's work, both his fiction and his non-fiction, but this one did not impress me. It makes me think that the subject of his book, The Abolition of Man, was probably better left and better handled in a non-fiction format.

Digital Voice Recorder

Olympus VN-6200 PCI like tax-refunds because they allow me to splurge. No extravagant splurging this year, however. Not while I'm still unemployed. I have been wanting to buy myself a digital voice recorder for some time, though, so yesterday I went shopping.

I originally purchased the Sony ICD-PX720 Digital Voice Recorder with PC Link at the local Best Buy. I thought it was cross-platform compatible since it records messages in MP3 format. Not hardly. When I got home and used it, it recorded messages just fine, but I couldn't transfer the files to my laptop. File transfer, I learned, required Sony's proprietary software, which was included, but was not Macintosh compatible (it wasn't even Windows 7 compatible, in fact, until just recently). This was more than annoying and on discovering it, I immediately set about doing more in-depth research than I had done prior to going to Best Buy.

During my earlier trip to Best Buy, I discovered that they carried only two brands of digital voice recorders (which surprised me): Sony and Olympus. In my research, I discovered that the Olympus model pictured here (VN-6200 PC) was, indeed, Mac-compatible. So, today, I returned to Best Buy and exchanged the Sony for the Olympus.

Once home, I removed it from its packaging, installed the batteries, did a quick read of the instructions, recorded a message, plugged it into my Mac, and, lo and behold, it appeared on my desktop just as if it were an external hard drive. The files are recorded in WMA format, a Windows-format, but Apple's QuickTime can easily read WMA files, and, indeed, I was able to play the recorded file quite easily on my wee iBook.

Because it appears as a removable hard disk on my computer I can also store other files on its disk, as well: photos, music, whatever. However, the headphone jack is monaural, which means that it doesn't do stereo. You'll get audio in only the left ear with stereo headphones/earphones. (Adapter plugs allow audio to be heard in both ears with stereo headphones/earphones and are available at places like Radio Shack. Olympus also offers dual monaural earphones as an accessory.) Obviously, this digital voice recorder isn't meant to double as an MP3 player, and I'm fine with that; I've got an iPod. I do, however, like that I can store other things on its 1GB internal disk.

This is meant to replace my old micro-cassette recorder; I'd used it to record thoughts and story ideas while driving. My phone (made by Nokia), I've learned, can record and store voice recordings, but it will store only 1 hour of audio. It's also very inconvenient for in-car use due to the menus that have to be navigated. With this Olympus digital voice recorder, I simply press the record button and start talking. For me, that's perfect.



Specifications — Frequency Response/Recording Time:
HQ Mode — 200-13,000Hz / 70h 55m
SP Mode — 200-7,000Hz / 139h 35m
LP Mode — 200-3,000Hz / 444h

The frequency response in long-play (LP) mode is more than adequate for voice recordings — phone lines have a bandwidth of 4,000Hz.

File management is another handy feature of this voice recorder: It has five file folders, and up to 200 files can be stored in each.

The Alchemist

Well, I have redone my short story "The Alchemist." The new and expanded version now stands at 768 words (actual), 820 words (Printer's Rule or white-space). I have submitted it to Flash Fiction Online, which the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has qualified as a professional market (as seen here). The auto-response from Flash Fiction Online's server (I was able to submit the story via e-mail) says that their response time is 2-3 months.

I now have two short stories in the mail and my editing of a third, "The Limnades," continues. I am also giving thought to editing a fourth short story, "Familiar Stranger," which like "Moon-Shadow," also received a handwritten rejection from George Scithers.

WIR #—: Realms of Fantasy

ROF-1004Realms of Fantasy. April 2010, vol. 16, no. 2.
Copyright © 2010 Tir Na Nog Press.

Web site:
http://www.rofmag.com/


I'd renewed my subscription to Realms of Fantasy soon after I learned that they were back in print, but my subscription fell through the cracks somewhere and I had to contact their subscription department to make sure that I received the issues I'd paid for. When they realized their mistake, they corrected the error and said that they'd send me the February issue for free. When it arrived, I discovered that I'd been sent the February issue for last year. I didn't want to miss this year's February issue, however, because I'd learned that it contained the Harlan Ellison story I mentioned in my previous post and Ellison is a damned good writer. So, I hightailed it to Barnes & Noble and bought the February issue. Today, the first issue in my new subscription arrived.

This issue contains the following stories:

  • Just Another Word, by Carrie Vaughn
  • Hanuman's Bridge, by Euan Harvey
  • The Hag Queen's Curse, by M. K. Hobson
  • A Close Personal Relationship, by Thomas Marcinko
  • The Fortuitous Meeting of Gerard van Oost and Oludara, by Christopher Kastensmidt

I'll be reading these over the next two or three days.

The Alchemist

"The Alchemist," I may have mentioned before, is a drabble, a story of only 100 words. The market for such a story, from what I've seen, is extremely limited. If I've any hope of selling this story, I think I'll have to expand it to at least 500 words. The nature of the story gives me concern, though, whether it would work at a longer length.

Back when I was reading Damon Knight's Creating Short Fiction, I ordered a couple of volumes he recommended in the appendix to his book. One such tome was W. Somerset Maugham's Tellers of Tales: 100 Short Stories from the United States, England, France, Russia, and Germany. As I was browsing Maugham's introduction to this anthology last night, I came across a most interesting passage:

The competent writer can write a story in a couple of thousand words as easily as he can write one in ten thousand. But he chooses a different story or treats it in a different way. Guy de Maupassant wrote one of his most celebrated tales, The Legacy, twice over, once in a few hundred words for a newspaper and the second time in several thousand for a magazine; both are published in the collected edition of his works, and I think no one can read the two versions without admitting that in the first there is not a word too little and in the second not a word too much.

— Tellers of Tales. Maugham, W. Somerset. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1939. p. xv.

I know that many a writer has taken a short story of theirs published in a magazine and later expanded it into a novel, but this is the first I've ever read of a writer penning the same short story in two different lengths and keeping it still a short story, and, not surprisingly, it was of some consolation to me to learn this. It gives me hope for "The Alchemist" at a longer length.

Also interesting, I thought, was the passage preceding the above as it speaks directly to the notion of whether writers write for love, for money, or for both, and was uttered nearly 70 years ago:

Now I must interrupt myself to tell the reader something about literary composition of which, so far as I know, the critics, whose duty it is doubtless to guide and instruct him, have neglected to apprise him. The writer has in him the desire to create, but he has also the desire to place before readers the result of his labour and the desire (a harmless one with which the reader is not concerned) to earn his bread and butter. On the whole he finds it possible to direct his creative gifts into the channels that will enable him to satisfy these desires. At the risk of shocking the reader who thinks the writer's inspiration should be uninfluenced by practical considerations, I must further tell him that writers quite naturally find themselves impelled to write the sort of things for which there is a demand. When plays in verse might bring an author fame and fortune it would probably have been difficult to find a young man of literary bent who had not among his papers a tragedy in five acts. I think it would occur to few young men to write one now. Today they write plays in prose, novels and short stories. The possibility of publication, the exigencies of editors, that is to say their notion of what their readers want, have a great influence on the kind of work that at a particular time is produced. So, when magazines flourish which have room for stories of considerable length, stories of that length are written; when on the other hand newspapers publish fiction, but can give it no more than a small space, stories to fill that space are supplied. There is nothing disgraceful in this. [here the quote cited above appears] The point I want to make is this: the nature of the vehicle whereby the writer approaches his public is one of the conventions he has to accept, and on the whole he finds that he can do this without any violence to his own inclinations.

— Tellers of Tales. pp. xiv-xv.

In other words, little has changed in the nearly three-quarters of a century that have passed since Maugham wrote these words. He makes no distinction between writers of the literary persuasion or writers of the commercial persuasion. Why do so? All want to write, whether they pen stories for pulp magazines or the hoity-toity literati, and, more importantly, all want to eat. It's important to note that the writers of the day, particularly those anthologized in this volume — Honoré de Balzac, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Gustave Flaubert, Thomas Hardy, Guy de Maupassant, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, E. M. Forster, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway among others — were really quite popular in their day and could have been considered just as commercial as their pulp peers. (This is really no different than the observation that classical music was the rock 'n' roll of its day.) The sole difference for those whose pretentious airs have their noses stuck firmly in the stratosphere is that what they would otherwise consider to be crass Maugham has stated with an unmistakable elegance. Elegant or not, however, it all boils down to writers writing for a buck.

Extraordinary Goof

I was just reading a fascinating post at Canadian writer Robert J. Sawyer's blog on self-publishing. Sawyer's argument in response to a writer who chose to go the self-publishing route was spot on . . . until he cited Carl Sagan's oft-quoted quip, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." Pardon me, but BULLSHIT!

The measure of proof for any claim is the same regardless whether the claim is extraordinary or not. EDIT: The fact is, no one knows how much proof is required for any claim and that's where the problem lies with this quote: it makes an unwarranted assumption about the evidence before the investigation has even begun. Sagan's quip is nothing more than grandiloquent hockey-puck, and is about as logical as a screendoor on a submarine.

Now, nautical screendoors aside, I don't doubt that Sawyer's entire argument is waterproof from top to bottom, but proof is proof, period.¹ If I claim to be a wolfman, then the proof of my claim is no more extraordinary than the proof that a caterpillar will turn into a butterfly. I had better show forth the necessary metamorphosis or shut up. This is not extraordinary proof. It is simply the proof required, and grandiloquence be damned.

I hope you'll pardon this outburst, but I've come to loathe that idiotic quip.

¹ Some proofs, when they are first demonstrated, no doubt appear to be extraordinary, as when, for example, Copernicus claimed that the Earth orbited the Sun and not vice versa, simply because of the nature of the previous assumptions. Copernicus' claim would've been as boring as pitting an abacus operator against a super-computer if the discoveries of the ancients hadn't been cloaked in the obscurity of the Dark Ages that followed themPythagoras, in 540 B.C.E., proved that the Earth is a sphere (and there is evidence that other cultures knew this even before the ancient Greeks); Aristarchus of Samos, 310-230 B.C.E., believed that the Earth went around the Sun. The fact is, proof is proof. Logically, there are not different levels or forms of proof. Either something can be proven, or it cannot. Period. There is nothing extraordinary about it. Therefore, to say "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" is not only pretentious, it also implies a double-standard, even if one doesn't mean to do so.

WIR #—: Realms of Fantasy

ROF-1002Realms of Fantasy. February 2010, vol. 16, no. 1.
Copyright © 2010 Tir Na Nog Press.

Web site:
http://www.rofmag.com/


I recently purchased the Feb 2010 issue. Included in this issue is a short story by the marvelous Harlan Ellison. It's titled "How Interesting: a Tiny Man." Cool story.

There are four other stories in this issue:

  • Mister Oak, by Leah Bobet
  • The Demon of Hochgarten, by Euan Harvey
  • Mélanie, by Aliette de Bodard
  • The Unknown God, by Ann Leckie

I plan to read all these over the next day or two.

Moon-Shadow

"Moon-Shadow" is in the mail. I'd said that I'd have it in the mail no later than Monday, but I'd forgotten that yesterday was a Federal Holiday. No matter. The story is now in the mail. I've sent it to Zoetrope: All-Story.

Conflict Modulation

I promised earlier to write about what I've called 'conflict modulation' and to explain my use of the term 'modulation’ and its application to the concept of conflict in fiction.

I'll start by apologizing for the technical term. When I read about what Jack Heffron, in his Writer's Idea Book, called 'one-note wonders,' internally I compared it to my training in telecommunications. Despite the differences (my understanding of 'modulation' being highly technical versus Heffron's idea of 'one-note wonders') the definition of the word still applies.

Let's start by looking at the definition of 'modulate':

mod•u•late (moj′ ə lāt′, mod′ yə–), v., -lat•ed, -lat•ing.v.t. 1. to regulate by or adjust to a certain measure or proportion; soften; tone down. 2. to adapt (the voice) to the circumstances. 3. Music. a. to attune to a certain pitch or key. b. to vary the volume of (tone). 4. Radio. to cause the amplitude, frequency, phase, or intensity of (a carrier wave) to vary in accordance with a sound wave or other signal. —v.i. 5. Radio. to modulate a carrier wave. 6. Music. to pass from one key to another. [< L modulā(us) measured, regulated (ptp. of modulārī).]
—The Random House College Dictionary, Revised Edition. New York: Random House. Copyright © 1979 by Random House, Inc. p. 858

My Air Force training speaks to definitions 4 and 5, and definition 4 addresses amplitude modulation (the AM band on your car radio), frequency modulation (the FM band), and phase modulation, all of which I’m familiar with. (I’ve no idea what intensity modulation is.) That, however, is by-the-bye. I’m more concerned with definition 1, although I do take issue with 'soften; tone done,' because modulation can go in the other direction. These speak to the circumstance of calming a person who is all a-dither, who has raised their voice and who is clearly upset, and you tell them either to 'calm down' or to 'tone down your voice' or, if you’re well-spoken and are wont to display your vocabulary, to 'please modulate your voice.' What’s really being requested is that the person re-modulate their voice, as our voices are always being modulated. Someone who, when upset, does not raise their voice, is said to speak in well-modulated tones, which proves my point. We are always modulating our voice, taking it from barely discernible whispers to friendly conversational tones to booming yells to ear-piercing screams. If you'll pardon another technical digression, since this form of modulation doesn't involve what in amplitude or frequency modulation is called 'beating one frequency against another,' but rather involves the constriction or the loosening of one's vocal chords, perhaps this is a form of intensity modulation.

In any event, what happens with modulation with respect to fictional conflict is an increase in intensity or pitch as the story develops.

I'd like here to inject a quick definition of 'conflict' as it applies to fiction. Conflict is not slam-bang action. A barroom brawl is the result of a conflict, not the conflict itself. Fist fights are the basest form of conflict. Conflict in fiction is more a contest of wills: Character Republican wants to be President of the United States; character Democrat wants the same. Character Republican therefore employs tactics to discredit and cast aspersions upon his opponent. Character Democrat does much the same. That's conflict.

Now, let's talk about modulation: We have our basic conflict, character Republican racing against character Democrat for the highest office in the land. Character Republican throws out the charge that character Democrat committed adultery thrice in the two years previous and if a man can't be faithful to his wife, how can we expect him to be faithful to his country? The conflict still exists, but it has changed. It has been modulated: Character Democrat now must defend himself against Republican's charges, which he does, but his defense is feeble.

Let's modulate it again: Character Democrat's feeble defense has caused his standing in the public's eye to be severely damaged. He must now resort to damage control while still launching more attacks against character Republican. His attacks seem lame, however, an attempt to deflect attention away from his infidelity.

Let's modulate it a third time: His wife, learning the truth of the charges (thanks to media dogs) is feverish and is threatening divorce. To her, his defense is no defense at all. Character Democrat must now continue his race for the presidency while dealing with the media dogs who refuse to bury the adultery bone and while dealing with a frantic wife.

Let's modulate it one last time: Without his knowledge, character Democrat's wife not only goes through with her threat to file for divorce, she also takes to the talk show circuit on television, and now character Democrat feels that his chances for election have completely evaporated. Etc, etc, etc.

You'll notice that I chose to focus on just one presidential candidate. Fiction does this. Character Democrat is clearly the main character in this story concocted to demonstrate conflict modulation, and the reader will worry whether or not character Democrat will achieve his goal.

As you can see, 'modulation' is somewhat synonymous with what has long been called 'plot complications.' Complications imply that new problems arise as the story develops, but they are different from what I mean by 'conflict modulation.' Complications give rise to the modulation. In fact, complications are necessary for modulation to exist. In a story where the conflict never changes, you have Jack Heffron's 'one-tone wonders,' stories with no conflict modulation. Basically, we never learn anything new about the nature of the conflict because no new complications arise. The result is the reader also never learns anything new about the characters. When a new complication arises, the basic conflict is still the same, but it changes and because it changes the characters' reactions change. Think of a song you like, or a symphony, where you hear the music (or even the singer) repeating the same refrain, and then the pitch changes and the refrain, although it is still the same, is now sung/played in a different key. That's modulation and that is essentially what happens when a story is well-modulated: new complications raise the conflict to a different key, intensifying the conflict and worrying the reader all the more. The writer is not striking the same note all the time.

Heffron had used an example that struck a chord with me, helping me to relate what he was saying to something I already knew, and my understanding expanded. His example harmonized with my experience. This is why an aspiring writer should read as many books on writing fiction as possible. On one level, the rote learning will eventually drill the lessons deep into the neophyte's skull, and on another level the neophyte will sooner or later encounter a writer whose instruction is in concord with his experience.

WIR #18: That Hideous Strength

That Hideous StrengthLewis, C. S. That Hideous Strength. New York: Collier Books. Copyright © 1946 C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis web sites:
http://www.cslewis.com/
http://www.cslewis.org/
Into the Wardrobe


I am now reading That Hideous Strength. I've read the first two volumes in this trilogy once or twice before, but never this one. Why? I'm not sure. There have been times when I've started to read a book but could not finish it only to find that years later, when I started it again, I was not only able to finished it but came away from it thinking that it was one of the best books I had ever read. That experience has led me to believe that I've not been able to read them the first time around because I was not yet ready for them. Perhaps that is the case with That Hideous Strength, as well. We shall see. I've heard that Lewis makes use of Arthurian mythology in this book, and that alone makes me think that I'll enjoy it as I'm a fan of the King Arthur legend. The title of Chapter 7, "The Pendragon," seems to verify this.

The blurb reads:

In this last book of the Space Trilogy, which begins with Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, the remarkable Dr. Ransom makes his way through a tale of devilry peopled with megalomaniacs, superior beings from other planets, and creators of dangerous scientific experiments. As he wrestles with the battle between science and ethics, Dr. Ransom takes readers on a journey of suspense, mystery, and challenging arguments.

The full title of the book is That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups, and the title is inspired by a quote from Sir David Lyndsay, from Ane Dialog, wherein he is describing the Tower of Babel:

The shadow of that hyddeous strength sax myle and more it is of length.


This be the English of Chaucer and there is much of that I don't understand. In this quote, clearly "sax myle" modifies "shadow," but I've no damned idea what it means. That doesn't preclude my liking this quote, not least because of the marvelous and archaic spelling of "hyddeous."

Lewis, in the introductory paragraph in his preface, gives justification for his calling this a "fairy-tale":

I have called this a fairy-tale in the hope that no one who dislikes fantasy may be misled by the first two chapters into reading further, and then complain of his disappointment. If you ask why — intending to write about magicians, devils, pantomime animals, and planetary angels — I nevertheless begin with such hum-drum scenes and persons, I reply that I am following the traditional fairy-tale. We do not always notice its method, because the cottages, castles, woodcutters, and petty kings with which a fairy-tale opens have become for us as remote as the witches and ogres to which it proceeds. But they were not remote at all to the men who made and first enjoyed the stories. They were, indeed, more realistic and commonplace than Bracton College is to me: for many German peasants had actually met cruel stepmothers, whereas I have never, in any university, come across a college like Bracton. This is a "tall story" about devilry, though it has behind it a serious "point" which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man. In the story, the outer rim of that devilry had to be shown touching the life of some ordinary and respectable profession. I selected my own profession, not, of course, because I think fellows of colleges more likely to be thus corrupted than anyone else, but because my own is the only profession I know well enough to write about. A very small university is imagined because that has certain conveniences for fiction. Edgestow has no resemblance, save for its smallness, to Durham — a university with which the only connection I have had was entirely pleasant.

And there you have it, and thus I begin.

WIR #17: Perelandra

PerelandraLewis, C. S. Perelandra. New York: Collier Books. Copyright © 1944 C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis web sites:
http://www.cslewis.com/
http://www.cslewis.org/
Into the Wardrobe


I have now finished reading Perelandra and near the end of the book there is what I think is a fascinating passage. The narrator of the book, who happens to be C. S. Lewis himself (yes, he made himself something of a character in his own novel, but only as someone to whom the story was told), is relating to the reader something told him by Elwin Ransom, the book's main character. Each planet in the solar system have Oyarsas. (Oyarsa, in Out of the Silent Planet, is revealed to be not so much an alien-appearing and an alien-sounding name as it is a name that can be seen to have roots in an ancient Tellurian language (Tellurian being another way to say Gaian or Terran or 'of Earth'; Gaia is the Greek goddess of the Earth; Tellus, the Roman goddess, is the word from which we get Tellurian), and, actually, I'd wager that Lewis would say that the Tellurian word has alien roots, or, perhaps, heavenly roots. In brief, an Oyarsa might also be called the archangel of a planet. Ransom is relating to Lewis his perception of Malacandra, which is the planet Mars, as well as the name of the Oyarsa of that planet, and of Perelandra, the planet Venus, and also the name of Venus' Oyarsa. The passage to which I refer is this:

[Ransom] has said that Malacandra was like rhythm and Perelandra like melody. He has said that Malacandra affected him like a quantitative, Perelandra like an accentual, metre. He thinks that the first held in his hand something like a spear, but the hands of the other were open, with the palms towards him. But I don't know that any of these attempts has helped me much. At all events what Ransom saw at that moment was the real meaning of gender. Everyone must sometimes have wondered why in nearly all tongues certain inanimate objects are masculine and others feminine. What is masculine about a mountain or feminine about certain trees? Ransom has cured me of believing that this is a purely morphological phenomenon, depending on the form of the word. Still less is gender an imaginative extension of sex. Our ancestors did not make mountains masculine because they projected male characteristics into them. The real process is reverse. Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. Sex is, in fact, merely the adaptation to organic life of a fundamental polarity which divides all created beings. Female sex is simply one of the things that have feminine gender; there are many others, and Masculine and Feminine meet us on planes of reality where male and female would be simply meaningless. Masculine is not attenuated male, nor feminine attenuated female. On the contrary, the male and female of organic creatures are rather faint and blurred reflections of masculine and feminine. Their reproductive functions, their differences in strength and size, partly exhibit, but partly also confuse and misrepresent, the real polarity. All this Ransom saw, as it were, with his own eyes. The two white creatures were sexless. But he of Malacandra was masculine (not male); she of Perelandra was feminine (not female).

Lewis addresses here something that I have always wondered about myself: Why do languages have gender? Some have said that English lacks gender in the same way that it exists in other languages, such as Spanish, French, or Portuguese, yet this is not true. To wit:

bachelor (masc.)/spinster (fem.)
boar (masc.)/sow (fem.)
drake (masc.)/duck (fem.)
lion (masc.)/lioness (fem.)
hero (masc.)/heroine (fem.)
boy (masc.)/girl (fem.)
actor (masc.)/actress (fem.)
administrator (masc.)/administratrix (fem.)
benefactor (masc.)/benefactress (fem.)
executor (masc.)/executrix (fem.)

Now, the real difference is that in English two things can be easily seen: First, the distinction of masculine and feminine seems to apply only to living things. Second, the -ess and -trix and -ine suffixes show forth the influence of French on English (English is a Germanic language, but the Norman invasion of England resulted in more than just war and the compilation of the Domesday Book, in which my family is listed, by the way).

Not all living things, real or imagined, have masculine or feminine forms, either. Boor, clown, satyr, and squire, for example, do not have feminine partners. Similarly, amazon, brunette, dame, dowager, milliner, shrew, virago, all being feminine, have no masculine forms.

Once, not too terribly long ago, editress was a female editor, doctress a female doctor, and mediatrix a female mediator, but these have all fallen out of use. The -ster suffix, as in spinster, once signified the feminine, as, for example, seamster and songster, but it has since come to mean the opposite and often denotes a profession, as in drugster and teamster. Now, however, -stress signifies the feminine: seamstress and songstress; and -ster can be either belittling or have a derogatory connotation: gamester, rimester, trickster.

The -ess, ine, and -trix endings should not be thought to be universally feminine. Clearly, address, mattress, success, doctrine, marine, quarantine, cicatrix, and matrix haven't gender. English, in many ways, is a mishmash of languages: hunter and shepherd are Anglo-Saxon, and so are clearly Germanic, but huntress and shepherdess are words with Anglo-Saxon roots married to French suffixes.

In all of this, though, it is clear that English does not say that chair is feminine and must have a feminine article. And yet . . . do we not think of nature and of earth as feminine? Mother Nature? Mother Earth? Gaia, the ancient Greek goddess, is both Earth and goddess. When it storms, do we not still, sometimes, think of it in male terms, if only because of the influence, also, of Greek mythology (Zeus) and of Norse (Thor)? Do we not also speak of Brother Sun and Sister Moon? So, gender still persists in English, even in the inanimate.

It would seem, then, that Lewis's statement — Gender is a reality, and a more fundamental reality than sex. — contains real pith and insight. His first book, Out of the Silent Planet, takes place on Mars (Malacandra). His second, Perelandra, takes place on Venus. He makes much use of gender and mythology in these two books. The last volume, That Hideous Strength, which I shall be reading next, seems to take place on the Moon, however.

Weekly Writing Progress (Feb 7 – 13)

Moon-Shadow: 5,430 (finished editing)
Current Writing Streak: 0 days
Longest Writing Streak: 19 days
Weekly Total (Feb 7 – 13): 0
February Monthly Total: 7,359
Grand Total: 53,177 (21.27% of 250,000)

I've averaged 1,399.39 words per day for the year. (For the week, I've averaged 0.0 words per day.) My daily totals for this week:

Sunnandæg - day off
Mónandæg - edited "Moon-Shadow"
Tiwesdæg - edited "Moon-Shadow"
Wódnesdæg - edited "Moon-Shadow"
Þunresdæg - edited "Moon-Shadow"
Frígadæg - edited "Moon-Shadow"
Sæternesdæg - edited "Moon-Shadow"; edited "The Limnades"; edited "The Alchemist"

No writing got done this past week, but I spent a lot of time editing "Moon-Shadow."

I'm now editing "The Limnades," as well as an older story, a piece of flash fiction barely 100 words long called "The Alchemist."

Moon-Shadow

"Moon-Shadow" is now done. When I started editing it, it was 6,170 words long. I moved a scene at the end of the story closer to the beginning; I changed a few words here and there, finding better, more accurate ways to express things; I freaked when I saw the number of exclamation points that littered this story and then I hunted them down and exterminated as many of them as possible; I fixed a problem with the story's timeline; and I added passages that, I think, added to the main characters, rounding them out more fully.

The story now stands at 5,430 words, 740 words lighter. I think it's ripped, the best I can make it.

A few weeks back, I drew up a list of nearly 40 markets, all publishers of science fiction (soft, hard, and dark), fantasy (including dark fantasy, sword & sorcery, and magic realism), horror, speculative fiction, weird, paranormal, or supernatural, or any combination of those genres. Out of those 40 markets, 10 appear to publish the sort of fiction that is and is as long as "Moon-Shadow." Some are online markets, some are print. Some are considered by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to be professional markets (paying a minimum 5¢ USD/word, and a minimum $50 USD/story), some, although they are paying markets, the SFWA regard as semi-pro markets. Some have response times of a week or less, some have response times that range from 1-5 months. Assuming that I end up submitting the story to all these markets and then have to find more, it could be another 14-20 months before I have to think about that. There are, of course, a lot more markets than that for my fiction; this is just a starting point.

The markets on this list, in order of the highest paying to the lowest (along with what I could potentially earn from them for this story), are:

  1. Zoetrope: All Story (pro; print & online)— $1200
  2. Glimmer Train (semi-pro; print — Glimmer Train is something of a literary magazine and also something of an on-going competition; they charge a $20 reading fee) — $700
  3. Heliotrope (semi-pro; print) — $543
  4. Fantasy & Science Fiction (pro; print) — $489
  5. Clarkesworld (pro; online) — $471
  6. Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (pro; online) — $326
  7. Realms of Fantasy (pro; print) — $326
  8. Fantasy Magazine (pro; online) — $272
  9. Strange Horizons (pro; online) — $272
  10. Weird Tales (semi-pro; print) — $217

The pay rates vary, as you can see, and, really, the only way to compare them, I think, is to calculate what they'd pay for this story. No matter how crass it may sound, it strikes me that the best strategy is to start with the highest paying market and to work my way down, regardless whether the market is pro or semi-pro. This will earn me the most money, regardless whether the market is pro or semi-pro. The only advantage to publication in pro markets is that three short story publications garner eligibility for an SFWA membership. I'm wanting to earn as much from this endeavor as possible, and I'm sure that eventually I'll earn enough pro credits to be able to claim an SFWA membership.

This story goes in the mail no later than this Monday.

Pages

I learned recently that Blogger has added a feature called "Pages." What is "Pages"? It is a feature that allows you to create static, stand-alone pages, such as an "About Me" page. These are pages that either aren't changed at all, or aren't changed often. If you have a blog for your business on Blogger, for example, you could create a page with a map and directions to help your customers find your location. Blogger allows you to create as many as ten of these static, stand-alone pages.

I've just created my first such page, my bio page, and I hope to create more, too, as my writing career develops. To that end, I've moved the RSS subscription links to the sidebar on the right, and will post links to my "Pages" in the menu bar above.

Moon-Shadow

Today, I kept Smith-Barney in mind. I did things . . . the old-fashioned way. (Pardon my reference to an old investment group.) I pulled out my scissors and tape and went to town on this manuscript, cutting things up, rearranging bits and pieces, taping them together in a different order. Sounds more like mutilation than editing, doesn't it? This is how editing used to be — should be! (you're welcome to disagree) — done. Before the advent of the personal computer, writers used scissors and glue — where do you think the phrase "cut and paste" comes from? — and then, later, scissors and tape. I forget where I read it, but someone in one of my books on writing fully advocates doing all of your editing the old-fashioned way, and I rather agree with the idea. Print up your manuscript, pull out your blue pencil, your scissors, and a roll of tape, and have at it!

What's to be gained by doing things . . . the old-fashioned way? Why not do it all on a computer? Computers offer convenience and I think many mistake convenience for efficiency. When you're editing a long manuscript, it's better and more efficient to be able to see — and read! — multiple pages at a time. My wide-screen monitor allows me to see two full pages at once. Considering that I've currently got six pages of a twenty-six page manuscript spread out on my desk before me, trying to figure out where to cut one scene so that I can move it to a spot earlier in the story, no computer monitor will help with this situation, a situation that isn't at all uncommon, by the way. I'd have to have three wide-screen monitors, and I'm not about to do that. Nosirree! That's neither efficient nor economical.

There's much to be said for doing things . . . the old-fashioned way. Once you're done with the old-fashioned way, then you use your computer for the convenience it offers you, by utilizing the convenience of it's electronic "cut and paste" to reassemble your ragtag looking manuscript. After you've done that, however, the manuscript has to be reprinted, reread, and, possibly, rearranged again. Wash, rinse, and repeat.

Yup. There's much to be said for doing things . . . the old-fashioned way.

WIR #13: The Writer's Idea Book

The Writer's Idea BookHeffron Jack. The Writer's Idea Book. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books. Copyright © 2000, by Jack Heffron.



When I read book reviews at Amazon (or anyplace online, for that matter), I've the habit of reading the reviews with the lowest rating first. It's a strange logic, I'll admit, but it's one that has entertained me, as well as saved me both time and money. It's been my experience that the reviews with the most meat are those in the middle or, sometimes, those that are the most critical.

Too many 5-star reviews say nothing more than "I love it," providing me with no incentive to buy the book. Many 1-star reviews do the same saying only "This sucks," but often their criticisms are more humorous and, thus, also more entertaining. Now you can see why I also find some entertainment value to starting at the bottom and working my way up when reading reviews.

And then there are the reviews that criticize and excoriate the entire book on a single point. Unless it's something major, I discount these entirely. I don't expect any book to be perfect, but I do want to know what, if anything, is wrong with it. I guess this means that I look for reasons to not buy a book, when I'm shopping online. There's your explanation for why this method saves me money.

How does it save me time? Simple: Unless a book is undeniably terrible, so that the number of its bad reviews equal or outnumber the number of good reviews, the number of bad reviews are almost always less than the number of good reviews. Thus, I have less to read and I save time.

One review of this book was written by a reader who confessed to being a writer of science fiction or fantasy. Basically, someone like myself. They praised the book for its many prompts, which number more than 400, but criticized the book because its prompts didn't involve the fantastic, saying that it was too geared toward the "literary." I discounted this review, but it stuck in my memory such that I thought it worth mentioning in this blog post.

Why did I think it worth mentioning? Simply put, at the most basic level a book's genre is irrelevant. No doubt some science fiction and fantasy fans are now raising a ruckus over this comment. Even fans of science fiction or fantasy read their favourite genres not only because of their fantastic elements, but also because of the people who populate them. In fact, no matter what the genre, the story people are the primary reason fiction is read. We want to read about people caught in some predicament, not only to learn how they solve the problem but also to learn how they are changed by it.

It's been said that the science in science fiction must to be integral to the plot such that the story would fall apart without it. As true as this is, no science fiction tale would be a story without people in a predicament. The science in science fiction is integral only when it is tied to the predicament, but it's the people's actions and reactions in response to that predicament that make the story. With fantasy, the same is true, but magic or the fantastic are integral to the predicament. The attributes that define a story as science fiction or fantasy are the trappings of genre, not the essence of story. (What I am saying contrasts slightly with E. M. Forster's definitions of story — the response to the endless droning of "And then what happened? And then what happened?" — and plot — which provides us with motivation, emotion, and the answer(s) to the question Why? — in Aspects of the Novel.)

The essence of story, people in a predicament, is true of any story regardless of its genre. Therefore, that reviewer's response to Heffron's book showed that their understanding of science fiction, fantasy, and story was completely awry, and until that is resolved any attempt they make at publication will go unsatisfied.

Heffron's book clearly does not cater to genre, and with good reason. This is why one is best advised to read every book on writing one can find, no matter which genre the book services, if one wishes to learn as much as possible about writing publishable fiction. Better still, read a lot, write a lot. Better than that, become a fiction engineer: read a lot, take apart what you've read, then put it all back together by writing a lot. This is what how-to books try to do: they take stories apart to show you all their nuts-and-bolts to try to show you how it all fits together. One inevitable fault of any how-to book, however, is the difficulty of communicating and demonstrating the holistic nature of fiction. Looking at and analyzing one attribute, description, for example, doesn't do justice to a sentence or a paragraph that seamlessly incorporates description, narration, characterization, and any number of other attributes of fiction.

That said, this book is divided into four parts:

  1. Bending and Stretching — Comprised of chapters 1-4, this part of the book focuses on the most basic and common advice such as if you want to write, you must write (it's amazing the number of people who can't seem to get beyond this most basic idea) and it is best to have a certain time frame set aside for writing (writing, like tennis, requires regular practice if one is to become any good at it). Heffron also addresses the idea that some find it difficult to write, which is a valid point. Writing easily or with difficulty has no bearing whatsoever on the quality of your output. What you write with ease could very well be unpublishable flotsam just as much as what you write with difficulty could be best-seller material. Heffron addresses that ugly beast Procrastination, the Victim mentality, the unproductive habit of talking your stories into non-existence, as well as one's internal critic and one's internal judge. Too, the subject of making lists, freewriting, brainstorming, automatic writing, clustering, and other creative techniques are covered, albeit superficially. There are entire books devoted to some of these subjects — there are several books on clustering alone, for example — if one is so inclined to delve deeper into these techniques.

  2. Exploring — This section makes up the bulk of the book, covering chapters 5-17 (96 pages). Probably my favourite bit of advice found in this section is the following:

    Knowing what to write (...) involves knowing yourself. You will write with passion if you write about topics and people close to your heart. (...) a friend told me he wanted to be a writer but was struggling. He'[d] been a cop for more than fifteen years but was tired of the job. (...) In a few years he [w]ould retire with a full pension, which he planned to use to support himself while he knocked out novels. Crime novels. He has the experience, we agreed. (...) But the pages of what I read were dull, larded with technical jargon and accoutrements of police work. They were weak on plot and character. He clearly was not engaged by the stories. One night while we were talking about how to make his stories more interesting, we drifted to the subject of his collection of beer memorabilia. As he discussed the old beer bottles and vintage advertisements that filled his house, his eyes lit up. He was clearly engaged. We agreed that maybe he was writing about something he didn't really like — police work — (...). He should try, instead, to write about beer stuff. He did, and he has since published several excellent articles in trade magazines.

    The point is that the cliché about writing what you know is wrong. Instead, write about what you like.
    —The Writer's Idea Book, pp. 52-53.

    In many ways, that's a good summary of this section of the book, getting to know yourself so that you write about what you like. In so doing, your passion will gleam brightly through your writing. Sounds like a good point at which to quote Polonius' advice to his son Laertes in Shakespeare's HamletThis above all: to thine own self be true — despite Polonius' self-satisfaction with his own worldliness and his obvious hypocrisy.

    In fact, this section, "Exploring," is all about exploring self, memories, family, places (you've lived or where you've never been), and more.

  3. Finding Form — Chapters 18–25 make up this section, and I quite enjoyed it. Chapter 19, "Folks Like You," for example, covers characterization. Chapter 20, "The Shape of Things to Come," covers the shape of fiction (makes me think of another book in my library devoted entirely to this subject, Making Shapely Fiction, by Jerome Stern). One chapter in this section is devoted to First Person point of view, and it also discusses why this particular viewpoint is often misunderstood and misused, despite being the one to which most neophytes gravitate.

  4. Assessing and Developing — This section of the book — chapters 26-29 — had my mind spinning a mile a minute with everything that I was learning. Imagine, if you can, reading a book on writing, being fully conscious of what you're reading, comprehending it all in its entirety, and at the same time taking two stories that you've written and folding them, bending them, cutting out this bit, adding in that thing, unscrewing this scene, and lubricating . . . well, I'll stop there. No need to risk lewd allusions, eh? "What's at Stake?", the title of Chapter 26, should tell you exactly what it's all about, if you've read any number of books on writing. Chapter 27, "Sitting Still," covers not only the "What if?" question, but addresses also stories that are "one-note wonders." That is, stories whose scenes are naught more than endless repetitions of the same conflict. In essence, they have no modulation. (Sorry for the technical term. Internally I'm comparing this to my Air Force training on the maintenance and repair of microwave radios and their associated multiplexers. If that term — modulation — confuses you, don't worry. I've already started planning a post to explain it.)

With such a long and detailed post it should be obvious that I liked this book. I did not attempt any of the 400+ prompts, but I might try a few later. This book has certainly helped me to expand my understanding of writing fiction, and I'm sure it can do the same for you, too.

Moon-Shadow

Looks like we're in for more snow starting later today. By late tomorrow afternoon, they're calling for us to receive upwards of another foot (30,4 cms) of snow on top of the two-and-a-half feet (76,2 cms) we received this past weekend. The county plows finally got to our street and, as usual, dumped a huge pile of the stuff onto the front of our driveway. More shoveling. Yay.

Moving on, while taking another look at the story this morning I found some things I had completely missed yesterday: too many adverbs, seriously, and too damned many exclamation points! I was surprised at my liberal use of exclamation points. That's not my usual style.

There is one scene that has always bothered me. It's close to the end of the story and it has problems that have given me difficulty figuring out how to fix them. Today, I happened upon a solution. It involved a blue pencil and lots of deletion. A little rewriting, too, but more deletion than rewriting.

Moon-Shadow

I've been working on "Moon-Shadow," a short story of mine. In addition to the notes given me by my beta reader, I've found several problems with it myself. I've some ideas how to fix them, but I think it will take a little longer than I anticipated (this requires more than just a spell check). The real difficulty isn't so much with the transitions that will be required as it will be with the re-shaping of scenes near the end, as well as tightening up the writing. As it currently stands, the story is just under 6500 words. I'm certain that I can increase the possibility of selling this story by cutting it by at least 500 words, if not more. Why? Based on my market research, I've noticed that the majority of the stories in the magazines I'd like to sell to most are in the range of 5000-6000 words. Further, even at 6000 words, a couple of possible magazines will be eliminated from my list of prospects since they don't buy anything longer than 4000 words.

This is the story I sent to Weird Tales a couple of years ago. The story about which George Scithers, in his handwritten rejection, said "Good. Just not irresistible." I can now see why he said this. I shouldn't've waited so long to do what I'm doing now, though. However, I refuse to bear any regrets. They'll profit me nothing. Lesson learned. I shall finish editing this story, making it stronger — I know I can; I know the edits I have in mind will make it stronger — and then in the mail it goes!

EDIT – 1412 EDT: I've incorporated a lot of minor changes — a couple of spelling errors, one misuse of a verb (namely, the annoying verb lay; I'd used lain when I should have used laid), rephrasing some sentences that needed rephrasing (either because they were awkward or because I found a better, more accurate way to put things). There are some major changes (mentioned above) that still need to be done, however, to make this story a more consistent and cohesive whole — some involve inconsistencies with time, for example, others will require either the complete deletion or rewriting of scenes near the end of the story.

WIR #17: Perelandra

PerelandraLewis, C. S. Perelandra. New York: Collier Books. Copyright © 1944 C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis web sites:
http://www.cslewis.com/
http://www.cslewis.org/
Into the Wardrobe


I have just finished reading Out of the Silent Planet and now move on to read Perelandra, the second volume in this series. Nonetheless, in the background I will be reading Out of the Silent Planet a second time, to finish up my outlining of it.

As with Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis includes in this a small preface in which he writes:

This story can be read by itself but is also a sequel to Out of the Silent Planet in which some account was given of Ransom's adventures in Mars — or, as its inhabitants call it, Malacandra. All the human characters in this book are purely fictitious and none of them is allegorical.

I find this interesting for a few reasons.

First, Lewis has created a trilogy in the fashion that I think trilogies ought to be created, each volume a standalone book yet connected.

Second, he writes "none of them is allegorical," which is very much correct yet many today would write "none of them are allegorical." None means "not one" and so takes the third person singular form of the verb (I am = 1st pers; you are = 2nd pers; he/she/it/one is = 3rd pers).

Third, Lewis was a contemporary of J. R. R. Tolkien — both were members of a group called The Inklings, in fact — and here Lewis makes note that this book is not allegorical (many Christians are wont to turn anything written by a Christian into allegory; a hideous practice, if you ask me). Lewis was not entirely averse to allegory. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the first volume in his Chronicles of Narnia contains a little allegory, but there is very little in the whole series of seven books that is allegorical. In fact, as I recall, Lewis said (wrote) himself that the history of Narnia was written not as allegory, but as he imagined it would be if that world had actually existed. Many Christians (and non-Christians, as well) of my acquaintance are also wont to turn Tolkien's Lord of the Rings into allegory, which is highly insulting given what Tolkien himself wrote in the introduction to Lord of the Rings. To wit:

As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical. [GDT's NOTE: Tolkien's language on this matter becomes even stronger later on.] As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches; but its main theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as the link between it and The Hobbit. The crucial chapter, 'The Shadow of the Past', is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster [GDT's NOTE: he refers here to the assumption that parts of LOTR are allegorical to WWII], and from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same lines, if that disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.

The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. (...)

Other arrangements could be devised according to the tastes or views of those who like allegory or topical reference. But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. [GDT's NOTE: all emphasis here has been added] I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

The upshot of this is that Tolkien had to have disliked Lewis's use of allegory in the Chronicles of Narnia, despite Lewis's obvious restraint. In fact, there was much that Tolkien did dislike about the Chronicles and because of that we very nearly did not have them to enjoy them. Thank goodness, Lewis didn't listen to Tolkien! I don't dislike allegory quite as much as Tolkien, but neither am I an ardent fan of it.

That said, I give you the blurb to the non-allegorical sequel to Out of the Silent Planet:

This second book in the Space Trilogy, which begins with Out of the Silent Planet and ends with That Hideous Strength, is a sharp sophisticated fantasy that deals with an old problem — temptation — in a new world — Perelandra. The great Dr. Ransom takes on a battle with evil after Perelandra is invaded by the Devil's agent. The outcome of this titantic struggle will determine whether those on the planet face the ascension to perfection or will follow an older world to corruption.

Probably I should mention why I wanted to go on at such length about allegory, and especially about Lewis's note at the beginning of this book. Simply put, it is all too easy to equate the story of Perelandra with the creation story in the book of Genesis in the Bible, even despite Lewis's claim to the contrary. The important difference, of course, is the outcome of the story in Genesis and the outcome of the story in Lewis's Perelandra. Nevertheless, many are content to deceive themselves and fall prey to the temptation that is central to Perelandra's theme.

Weekly Writing Progress (Jan 31 - Feb 6)

Headless and Shoulders Above the Rest
Headless and Shoulders Above the Rest,
Photo © 2010 G D Townshende
We got dumped on! Thirty inches of snow (76,2 cms). What you see to the left is one of several photos I took once the storm was over. If you click on the name I've given the photo, then you can take a look at the few photos that I chose to upload to my Flickr account.

We're still digging ourselves out; half the driveway has been shoveled and it's very likely that we won't see a county snow plow come down our street for another day or two. It's a good thing a trip was made to the supermarket on Thursday. It was a regularly scheduled shopping trip, however, and not part of the pre-storm rush. I'm always amazed at the number of people who rush to the store when something like this happens. Tells me that too many people have only 3, maybe 4 days worth of food on hand. Not very wise, if you ask me. We always buy 1-2 weeks worth of food when we go to the supermarket.

Anyway, enough chitchat. Time for this past week's numbers:

Humblebee: 96,736 (finished)
Current Writing Streak: 0 days
Longest Writing Streak: 19 days
Weekly Total (Jan 31 – Feb 6): 7,359
January Monthly Total: 45,818
February Monthly Total: 7,359
Grand Total: 53,177 (21.27% of 250,000)

I've averaged 1,661.78 words per day for the year. (For the week, I've averaged 1,226.5 words per day.) My daily totals for this week:

Sunnandæg - day off
Mónandæg - 1,703
Tiwesdæg - 1,560
Wódnesdæg - 1,569
Þunresdæg - 1,621
Frígadæg - 906
Sæternesdæg - (see below)

As I stated earlier, the first draft of Humblebee is now completed. My beta reader has read my short stories "Moon-Shadow" and "The Limnades" and emailed me her notes. I've taken care of some of her suggestions, but not all. So, my plan is to get these done and in the mail. With those needing to be taken care of, and snow still to be shoveled off the driveway, and a novel freshly finished, I think I'm going to take just a couple of days off from writing. I'm well ahead of schedule on my goal to write 250,000 words for the year.

Humblebee

The first draft of Humblebee is now completed. It is 96,736 words. (Longest story I've ever written. Prior to this, the longest was about 70,000-75,000 words.) Time to set it aside, and to get to work on something else.

First order of business, finish editing my short stories "Moon-Shadow" and "The Limnades" so that I can get them in the mail.

WIR #16: Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent PlanetLewis, C. S. Out of the Silent Planet. New York: Collier Books. Copyright © 1939 C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis web sites:
http://www.cslewis.com/
http://www.cslewis.org/
Into the Wardrobe


This wonderful book, which I have read multiple times, was originally written in 1938. Clive Staples Lewis is another of my favourite authors. Like Aldous Huxley, Lewis's death on 22 November 1963, was overshadowed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Out of the Silent Planet is the second of the six novels that I plan to outline, so I will be spending more time with this book than I have with others. At 160 pages, however, it is a relatively short book.

Therefore, the blurb:

In this first book of the Space Trilogy, which is continued in Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, the remarkable Dr. Ransom is kidnapped and taken on a space ship to the eerie red planet of Malacandra. There he escapes and goes on the run, endangering his life and his chances of ever returning to Earth. First published in 1943, this amazingly credible tour de force continues to delight and intrigue all readers.

I rather like the note C. S. Lewis has at the beginning of this book:
NOTE: Certain slighting references to earlier stories of this type which will be found in the following pages have been put there for purely dramatic purposes. The author would be sorry if any reader supposed he was too stupid to have enjoyed Mr. H. G. Wells's fantasies or too ungrateful to acknowledge his debt to them.

WIR #14: Tehanu

TehanuLe Guin, Ursula K. Tehanu. New York: Bantam Spectra. Copyright © 1990 by Inter-Vivos Trust for the Le Guin Children.

Ursula K. Le Guin's web site:
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/


I finished reading Tehanu just a few minutes ago. One of the things I've always liked about this book is that it has a character in it — a minor character, mind you — named Townsend.

Love this book. Just love it.

WIR #15: To The Ends of the Earth

Ends of the EarthHarwood, Jeremy. To The Ends of the Earth: 100 Maps That Changed the World. Cincinnati, Ohio: F+W Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2006 by Marshall Editions.



I've several books in my library on a plethora of subjects, from maps to mythologies of various cultures to superstitions to different periods of history (mediæval, Celtic, Victorian England, et al), and more. It's all a mishmash of various things that interest me. This book is just one volume from that subsection of my personal library.

Therefore, the blurb:

So how can maps — mere pictures on paper or impressions in clay — change the world? Since the earliest maps were offered up as prayers for protection of the land, humankind has understood their power to do more than convey geographical realities. Ancient Egyptian mapmakers directed dead souls to the afterlife, while medieval churchmen use mappae mundi to preach the Christian faith. In the 21st century, scientists use maps to warn us of climate change and to show the spread of disease.

Maps have been used to help in the discovery of new worlds, to direct the eager tourist, and to speed the commuter's journey. Who could find their way through London's Underground network without Harry Beck's famous map? How could the conquistadors have overcome the Aztec Empire without the mastery of cartographic knowledge? Mapped territories can be understood, controlled, profited from.

Maps have long been agents in changing the physical landscape. Maps help in the construction of canals, railroads, and roads. City plans, such as Sir Christopher Wren's map of London after the Great Fire, change the urban landscape. John Mitchell's map of North America was used by the American and British negotiators in 1782–3 to define the boundaries of the United States, shaping the nation right up to the present day.

Through history, mapmakers have played on our instinctive belief in the truth of maps. Maps have been used as powerful propaganda, from Agrippa's map of the Roman Empire to Hitler's map of the Austrian Anschluss. Borders can be moved, names can be changed, features can be omitted. Maps have changed our world — and they will shape our future.

With such a fascinating and delicious and idea-sparking description, how could I not resist buying this volume?

WIR #14: Tehanu

TehanuLe Guin, Ursula K. Tehanu. New York: Bantam Spectra. Copyright © 1990 by Inter-Vivos Trust for the Le Guin Children.

Ursula K. Le Guin's web site:
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/


I finished reading The Farthest Shore last night, and I now read Tehanu.

The blurb:

Once she'd been a priestess, quest-companion to a powerful mage, a student of high magic. Then she gave it all up to be a farmer's wife on Gont, content to lead a simple life. But Tenar was not born to live her days in peace, away from great events. A dying wizard and an abused child were the first to call her back to the path she had abandoned. For the end of the adventure beckoned and Tenar would be there along with the dragons, mages, and the young king himself to share in the unforgettable fate of the kingdom known as Earthsea.

I know that I've offered little in comment on these books as I've been reading them. It should suffice that Le Guin is one of my favourite authors and that I've read these books multiple times. No further commentary is needed.