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/


And this book I finished probably 10 minutes ago. Let's see. How long did it take me? I started it on February 27 and a quick calculation tells me that it took 27 days. If I didn't have other things taking up my time, I'm sure I could've read it faster. I know I could've. I read Tolstoy's War and Peace, a 1,500 page monster, in 30 days, after all. Does that really matter, though? Not a whit!

What about the story? What did I think? It was entertaining, but it was political, too. The characterizations of certain story people were, for lack of a better way of putting it, heavy-handed enough to recognize who they were modeled after in the real world, but sufficiently different enough that I don't think King will suffer any legal ramifications. Events at the end, now that I think about them more, appear to have similarities to, well, 9/11, to be blunt. But I'm not bothered by what I think are the obvious politics of the book. Furthermore, it's as stupid to think that such things are necessarily reflective of King's own politics or beliefs as it was for others to think that when, in a previous book, King had a character kicking a dog to death he was giving a whole-hearted endorsement of animal cruelty.

The story is as entertaining as any King story ever is. It's a driving story, one that never lets up until the very last pages, which certainly isn't an easy task over the space of 1000+ pages. I will say, however, that I don't think it's one of his better stories. Many think that The Stand is his masterpiece, his magnum opus. Personally, I'm more fond of 'Salem's Lot, but I'm also a fan of vampire stories anyway. Since just about everything King has written has been turned into a movie, I've no doubt that in a couple of years we'll see advertisements promoting the movie based on this book. Meanwhile, if you're not interested in shelling out $35 for the hardcover, you can always wait for the paperback.

On a slightly different note, I'm not going to rush into starting on a new book just yet. I'm still outlining C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, but that's only because I went weeks before starting to read it a second time to draw up the outline — it's the second of six books that I plan to read and outline, remember? — and I'm now getting into J. V. Jones's The Barbed Coil (I've only read the first two chapters so far, and I'd like to devote time to just one book at the moment).

WIR #20: Games People Play

Games People PlayBerne, Eric, M.D. Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. New York: Ballantine Books. Copyright © 1964 by Eric Berne. Copyright renewed 1992 by Ellen Berne, Eric Berne, Peter Berne, and Terence Berne

Eric Berne's web site:
http://www.ericberne.com/


I finished this a couple of hours ago. It's rich. It's difficult and it's easy. It's not the sort of thing that can be mastered, let alone understood, after just one reading. If I might quote again Kurt Vonnegut Jr's summation of this book:

An important book . . . a brilliant, amusing, and clear catalogue of the psychological theatricals that human beings play over and over again. The good Doctor has provided story lines that hacks will not exhaust in the next 10,000 years.

It wasn't until after I had finished this book, when discussing it with a writer friend, that I remembered that Vonnegut was a humorist, albeit that his humor was black. In light of that, his use of the term "hacks" takes on an entirely different aura, especially in the context of a comment that is inaugurated with "An important book . . . a brilliant, amusing, and clear catalogue . . . ." Just as important, I think, is Jack M. Bickham's endorsement of this psychological theory.

These "games" that people play are a source of many conflicts and, conflict being the central fire that fuels fiction, it would be foolish to hurl epithets such as "psycho-babble" at Berne's work.

A good book, and definitely one worth reading several times, to gain a more thorough understanding of these "games" so that they can be played by characters in the fictional arena.

WIR #22: The Barbed Coil

The Barbed CoilJones, J. V. The Barbed Coil. New York: Warner Books. Copyright © 1997 by J. V. Jones.

J. V. Jones's web site:
http://jvj.com/

J. V. Jones's journal:
http://jvj.com/journal.html


Several years back I read J. V. Jones's Book of Words trilogy, and soon after that I purchased The Barbed Coil. This, however, is the first time I've decided to read it. Jones, according to her bio at the back of the book, is the daughter of a pub owner in Liverpool, although she now lives in San Diego, California.

The blurb:

A ring that seeks blood instantly transports young Tessa McCamfrey to a realm where pictures and patterns hold vast magics; where a sorcerous crown — the Barbed Coil — can reweave destiny; where a mad king is using the crown to conquer an ancient land. And somehow Tessa, aided by two men whose pasts entwine with her own, must master a pattern of ancient powers before the Barbed Coil ravages the fate of a world....

WIR #21: A Fine Night for Dying

A Fine Night For DyingHiggins, Jack. A Fine Night for Dying. New York: Berkley Books. Copyright © 1969 by Martin Fallon.

Jack Higgins at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Higgins


Not too bad a book. Quick read. Well-paced. Higgins's prose is clean, well-pruned, and definitely without affectation. Good stuff.

Dreams of Decadence

I learned today that Tir Na Nog Press, the pulishers of Realms of Fantasy, are putting out a new magazine called Dreams of Decadence: Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. I'm not much into the Paranormal Romance subgenre of fantasy, but I do like Urban Fantasy (think of Neil Gaiman's novel Neverwhere, Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, and Charles de Lint's Newford series). In fact, a good deal of my most recent fantasy stories fall well within that particular subgenre — really weird stuff happening in an otherwise everyday setting in the city.

The Alchemist

Well, it appears that Flash Fiction Online has rejected "The Alchemist." I received the email yesterday. It was a very brief email, too. To wit:

Thank you for your submission to Flash Fiction Online. Unfortunately, I'm going to pass on "The Alchemist."

We appreciate your interest in our magazine.

Regards,

Ah well. Today, I will be sending this out to the next market on the list I drew up for this story weeks ago. It's now been submitted to Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. Per their web site, they can take upwards of three months to respond.

WIR #21: A Fine Night for Dying

A Fine Night For DyingHiggins, Jack. A Fine Night for Dying. New York: Berkley Books. Copyright © 1969 by Martin Fallon.

Jack Higgins at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Higgins


Out of want for something to read while waiting for some maintenance to be done on my car (oil change, flushing of the brake system, ignition coil recall), because I knew it would take a couple of hours, I pulled this book off of one of my shelves because it looked like a book I could get through rather quickly. I've never read anything by Higgins before, but I've heard much good about his work. This is a book originally purchased by my mother.

The name under which this book is published, Jack Higgins, and the name under which it is copyrighted, Martin Fallon, are both pen-names for writer Harry Patterson. Higgins is undoubtedly best known for his novel The Eagle Has Landed, but he has written many more; more than 60, in fact.

The blurb:

Weighted down by chain, the body of gangland boss Harvey Preston is dragged out of the English Channel in a fisherman's net. British Intelligence suspects a connection with a minor cross-channel smuggling ring, and sends dogged undercover agent Paul Chavasse to find answers.

Chevasse soon discovers that this is no small-time operation — it reaches throughout the world and leads to the doors of some very ruthless and powerful men. Men who aren't about to let Chevasse interfere with the delivery of their precious cargo . . .

The Future of Publishing



This is a video by the UK branch of Dorling Kindersley Books. Very creative and absolutely interesting, probably the most important thing to keep in mind as you watch this is that both perspectives are true.

An Update

Well, this has been a most interesting experience, and as with the old Chinese curse my use of "interesting" doesn't mean "interesting good." Since this blog's scope isn't meant to extend beyond my writing, I've chosen to detail what happened in my personal blog. If you're interested, you can find the post here.

An Apology

Sorry for the lack of blog posts recently. I've been busy in so many ways, not the least of which involves a recent health concern (nothing too serious, I don't think — I'm still waiting on test results — but it was enough to derail me for a couple of days). I hope to get back to blogging regularly soon.

WIR #20: Games People Play

Games People PlayBerne, Eric, M.D. Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. New York: Ballantine Books. Copyright © 1964 by Eric Berne. Copyright renewed 1992 by Ellen Berne, Eric Berne, Peter Berne, and Terence Berne

Eric Berne's web site:
http://www.ericberne.com/


In one of Jack M. Bickham's books, he recommends a couple of pscyhology books. Eric Berne's Games People Play is one of them. The full title of the book is Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. I've been wanting to read and to learn more about characterization and this is the first of several such books that I plan to read over the next few weeks: I own the second book recommended by Bickham, as well as three other books whose focus is characters/characterization in fiction, one of which is written by a psychotherapist who also makes use of Berne's famed theory of Transactional Analysis.

Other writers have commented on Berne's book, as well, including the veritable Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, who, in Life Magazine, wrote:

An important book. . . a brilliant, amusing, and clear catalogue of the psychological theatricals that human beings play over and over again. The good Doctor has provided story lines that hacks will not exhaust in the next 10,000 years.

Dr. Berne himself is quoted as saying:

Therapy should be like a poker game. In other words, the result is what counts. . . . You either win or you lose. . . . You've got to know what's happening in each hand. . . . A lot of the game depends on getting to know the other guys and what they are doing. So maybe what I'm saying is that big words are hiding the reality of what's going on between people.

On the back cover of the book, the following question is asked:

HOW MANY OF THESE "SECRET GAMES"
DO YOU PLAY EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE?

IFWY (If it weren't for you) • Sweetheart • Threadbare
• Harried • Alcoholic • Rapo • Debtor • Schlemiel
• Uproar • SWYMD (See what you made me do)
• Corner • The Stocking Game • Wooden Leg • Cavalier

Of Dr. Berne himself, the blurb on the back tells us:

Dr. Eric Berne, as the originator of transactional analysis, attained recognition for developing one of the most innovative approaches to modern psychotherapy. In his writings and teachings, Dr. Berne outlined the principles of his system in such works as Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy, The Structure and Dynamics of Organizations and Groups, Principles of Group Treatment, A Layman's Guide to Psychiatry, and What Do You Say After You Say Hello? Before his death in 1970, he was a practicing psychiatrist in California and held many important posts in psychiatric professional organizations and clinics.

Although I haven't done so, I've read that some writers recommend subscribing to Psychology Today for the insights it can offer into people and why they do the crazy things that they do. I've even known pastors of quite conservative Protestant churches subscribing to this magazine, as well, and not just for the purpose of bashing what many fondly call "pscyho-babble."

I think I'm going to enjoy reading this.

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.



It's taken me nearly a month to read this book, which is ridiculous. Nonetheless, I have found it constantly fascinating, from learning about primitive maps made millennia ago (from as late as 600 B.C.E. to as early as 10,000 B.C.E.) to maps made during the height of classical Greece to Mediæval maps, as well as the different purposes to which maps have been put to use, whether religious, political, or propaganda.

As it is a fairly recent book — published in 2006 — I trust that the information in it is reasonably accurate, and for that reason I found something I read in its closing pages to be quite enlightening. In a sub-section titled "Demography," the author writes:

What demography is now indicating, however, is that, contrary to expectations, world population growth is actually slowing and may well eventually come to a virtual standstill. It is now expected to peak at 9 billion by 2070. This contradicts previously held theories, which in part can be traced back to the great British economist Thomas Malthus (1766–1834), who proposed that, rather than the proliferation of weapons, the major threat to global stability was uncontrolled population growth and a consequent outstripping of planetary resources.

It's fascinating that that old idea is at least 175 years old. Wikipedia, in the section titled "Rate of Increase," in their article on "World Population," echoes the idea that world population could reach equilibrium, attributing it to a United Nations statement in 2006, although the date at which equilibrium will occur is different:

In 2006, the United Nations stated that the rate of population growth is diminishing due to the demographic transition. If this trend continues, the rate of growth may diminish to zero, concurrent with a world population plateau of 9.2 billion, in 2050. However, this is only one of many estimates published by the UN.

Excellent book.