Thursday, December 27, 2007

Stereotyping as a stereotype

I joined an interesting conversation at my usual hangout on-line. As it turned out we were chatting, quite literally so, about character creation, and one of the participants had problems with female characters. The troubleshooting soon turned into a topic of stereotypes.

Even though this particular article is about gender it could be used for any labelling of a common occurrence. We even touched slightly upon the matter of culture possibly being a case of stereotyping. Now, be aware that I'm pushing forward my own thoughts and reasoning here. What makes sense to me could be an utter lie to someone else. Also bear in mind that this is a article about stereotyping, not about the stereotypes mentioned.

Back to the topic in question. Problems with creating female characters. There is a stereotype, or at least an archetype, to begin with. No matter how much we would like to argue that each person is a unique individual there was never much of a problem accepting the concept of a female character. From there goes that it should be equally easy to grasp the concept of a male character. That, in turn, should have us accepting that we do indeed play around with stereotypes far more easily than many of us believe.

The interesting here isn't if there is an implicit femaleness or not. What is worth taking note of is that there is an expectation of an expectation. What I mean with this is that we tend to expect others to be prejudiced, or at least to simplify reality by attaching labels to it. We, you and me, are of course far too tolerant, knowledgeable, understanding or intellectually advanced to fall into that trap. Or maybe not, even if it hurts to apply the negative to ourselves. Anyway, as a writer we cater for a reader. An average reader at that. At least if we aim at commercial writing. We write for a stereotypical reader of the stereotypical kind of writing we produce, and for that very reason we adapt our writing to handle expectations. Those expectations are in itself models of the real expectations. We simplify and use templates, no matter if we are aware of them or not.

I believe that this simplifying can be put to good use for a writer. In order to create the unique we need to be aware of the template. We don't have to agree with it, but we ought to recognize it and respect that the reason for the template is that it makes people comfortable because the familiar is comfortable. At the other hand, if we want a character to make a short appearance then it makes sense to stick to the stereotype unless we want to place ourselves in a situation where we need to explain the deviation from a stereotype. Mind you, the stereotype doesn't have to be true. This is not a matter of truth or right. It is only a matter of accepting a stereotype for what it is -- an oversimplification that has its grounds in an overall truth, a partial truth, a false prejudice or a mix of them all.

Now for the header. Falling back to stereotypes whenever a character has a very minor role in the story is, of course, a stereotype in itself. The less we see of a character the more we expect him or her to lack original individuality. There you have a useful stereotype if any.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New project

Rather unsurprisingly there are news of Peter Jackson adapting Bilbo to the white screen. Two films with the usually absurd budget, but after the success with the ring trilogy maybe the budget isn't as absurd after all. Especially as fantasy as a genre seems to be associated with children's literature, and Bilbo should fit right in there, hefty body count notwithstanding.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

First reviews

And now the very first reviews of Arn, the movie, are out. I have found one in Aftonbladet and another in GP.

The first gave the film a pretty average review, main complaint being that it was too compact a representation of the trilogy on which it is based. The latter went more in the line of kill, main and destroy, as in kill the producers, main the actors and destroy the copies of the film.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Arn

And now the most expensive production in Swedish film history hits the white screen. Arn, a historical, albeit with fictive main characters, novel has been adapted for visual consumption.

News can be found at DN and of course SF, Svensk Filmindustri.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Potter mania is over -- almost

I found this little gem in DN.

Apparently Rowling is about to publish another Potter book, if publish is the right word. Seven copies total, all handwritten and all but one gifts to people involved with the other books. The seventh copy is to be auctioned for charity purposes.

Title: The Tales of Beedle The Bard.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Terry Pratchett

Seems to have come down with some bad luck according to Daily Mail and Paul Kidby.

Thanks to a fellow member at Forward Motion for finding the information.

All in all Pratchett seems to take it more like a Twoflower than a Rincewind.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

On science fiction and fantasy

I found this article which ties in nicely with my reflections on Swedish fantasy earlier.

Interesting to see how the author makes the claim that while fantasy is well received it is considered children's literature. I see a shadow of Rowling lurking in the corridors.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A classic read

What can you say?

Here it is.

Everything you didn't know that you needed to know to be in the know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An interesting read

This post is basically just a link to what I found to be an interesting read.

As Abraham states, the definitions are his, and so we are all free to disagree with him. However, as he also points out, in order to have a conversation about a topic it is important to agree upon the content of definitions, even if we don't agree with it, so as to enable us to talk about the same thing.

It is, after all, quite simple. I define the basic short distance as a metre, but you disagree because you feel more comfortable with a foot. As long as we both stick to using one definition, no matter how much we disagree with it, we can have a sensible conversation about distance travelled by horse in a given type of terrain. If we do not, well then at least one of us is three times removed from a viable reality.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Back to square one

I've come to realize that the weave needs to be told from the beginning. At least from the beginning of this particular story, which means I have to revisit The Taleweaver once more. Of course an edit, no matter how major, will be insufficient, and so I find myself facing a total rewrite of a story I abandoned well over two years ago. Do I find this daunting? Yes. Do I find it abhorrent? No.

There was a reason I began a story where I once did, and another that I chose to tell the story I told. That reason carried over into Frays in the Weave, and was explored further there. Still, Frays depends too heavily on Taleweaver to be told independently. Too many causes remain unclear for any reader unfamiliar with the abandoned story, and too many effects make no sense for such a reader. The reason being they aren't seen as effects at all, but rather has events free from the laws of causality, something that was never meant to be.

Now, do I retell the old story in new words? No. That would place me in the very same dead-end which caused me to drop the story in the first place. Do I write an entirely new story? No. That wouldn't solve the problems with Frays.

I believe I need to tell the story around the story. That I need to shrink the original story to the degree where it becomes but one small, albeit important, piece in a larger puzzle. That I by doing so can create a new story which incorporates the old and introduces a new, a more vivid and enchanting one, that will properly pave the grounds for Frays. Frays needing a rewrite as well notwithstanding, but that, as they say, is a later problem.

There are characters and events in Taleweaver that starved for want of attention, and nourishing them should better explain and make believe the characters, the events, and the world shaped from their interaction, both in Taleweaver as well as in Frays.

I believed I wove, but with but one strong strand all I did was to string myself a rope. Rather than making a noose I will untwine it, save the strands that can be reused, spin new ones of my imagination and make another attempt to weave.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Spekulative fiction in Sweden

In an article Johan A points out some aspects of the problematic life speculative fiction has to endure in Sweden.

In as much as new titles in these genres are covered by our media at all they tend to be regarded as children's books, or possibly YA. Considering the enormous popularity of the Harry Potter books this tendency has by now become cemented here. Adult fantasy is like those white spots on old maps where be dragons.

Add that the so called literary elite in Sweden has decided that speculative fiction is not proper literature at all, but rather a sub-standard substitute for proper literature. Pulp fiction of the original meaning. They prefer not to be reminded of sub-standard authors like George Orwell, H G Wells, Aldous Huxley, William Golding and Doris Lessing, which should go a long way towards exemplifying the enormous difference with which the genre is looked upon by English and Swedish eyes. Ironically enough the Nobel Prize is a Swedish prize.

However, one problem with the article is that the author tries to prove that adult fantasy in Sweden is on the verge of dying because Swedish publishers are vary of placing their money in that field. Nothing could be further from the truth. With over 80% of the population labeled as knowing English, speculative fiction lives a healthy life here. Speculative fiction written in Swedish, or even translated into Swedish, well that is another matter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another downer

What is it with returning to old acquaintances? Brave New World. Another classic, another downer, and this time in a favorite genre of mine.

The core is still as fantastically dystopian as I recall, but now I see how dated the novel is. The total absence of POV-discipline doesn't help neither. Head-hopping galore.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Diminishing pleasure

I returned to Jane Eyre after a quarter of a century. Sad to say the novel didn't age well in my mind.

Of course I am aware that the work is over a century and a half old, and I know that I need to take the peculiarities of that time in stride. Still, arcane social ideals and ethnocentrism typical of the age apart, the style of the novel was what turned me away. Repeated breaking of the fourth wall and undisciplined use of tense apparently have become something I really dislike, and this is a pity as I recall liking the novel very much when I read it first.

In a sense I guess my personal development as a reader mirrors the development of authors as a group these last 150 years.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Swedish event

One of the few literary events in Sweden that claims world status has just made the news. This year's Nobel Prize winner is Doris Lessing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In case anyone managed to miss

The author known as Robert Jordan is dead.

I guess I'm the last of latecomers to flag this event.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On thee and thou

A fun piece of knowledge for an avid reader of fantasy. Thee, thou and thine are popular in stock fantasy. They are, apparently, almost always incorrectly used.

Even though Wikipedia should be used with care, this article conforms with the literature I have available.

Primarily used to denote familiarity, or by a superior to an inferior, the usage of these words in fantasy becomes rather hilarious. Rather than use the formal 'you' our heroes deliberately insult kings, queens and fair ladies all around them.

I can only quote Sir Edward Coke: "I thou thee, thou traitor!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ME, or it finally makes sense

I'm studying, among other things, a little bit of how English has changed as a language over the centuries.

Finally the atrocious spelling starts to make sense. Middle English, when current spelling was phonetic spelling. Sure, that's a simplification, but still.

Of course the spelling is still as atrocious, but at least I'm starting to understand why.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why a shovel is better than a bulldozer

When you have the need to get rid of a little dirt, use a shovel and not a bulldozer.

Other wise the result can be appalling as SFWA found out. Now it should be noted that, for example, Jerry Pournelle believes that bulldozers are indeed viable replacements for shovels. The problem with that stance is that you attract far too visible problems, just as John Scalzi noted. Needless to say this sorry affair has made the blogosphere, which is bad enough, but also into Slashdot, which is just about as bad as it can possibly be for genre SF/F.

That is why, when your hands ache from using the shovel, you should still abstain from powering that bulldozer up.

Shakespearean sonnets

Just read one. Peculiar one.

She looks like a goat, walks like a goat, bleats like a goat and smells like a goat, and still I love her.

Now, which sonnet is it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Planning

Planning, profiling and disposition. Bea is preparing for interviews and I have just finished moving all questionnaire answers to a digital format. Isn't it great fun writing non-fic? Eh?

Marking up chapters and creating sub hierarchies, but not a single word of content yet. This is a far cry from the writing I am used to from the last four years. All in all it very much resembles the way I had to put words to paper during my days in IT.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Non-fiction

Is what I am going to write for the near future. Not because I have always dreamt of writing non-fiction and neither because I suddenly found a fountain of wealth. It is all a side effect of the championships in the card game we play. The main gamer's organisation in Sweden hired our club to write a handbook in running this type of events, and as both Bea and I have rather extensive experience in the area we agreed to the task.

It is definitely a paid for writing project, but our non-profit organisation is the recipient of the money, so I am not entirely sure that it counts as a writing credit. Well, it is a job that needs to be done, and honestly, someone ought to have written this several years ago, so I guess I could just as well, be one half of that someone.

One rather funny aspect of it all is that the sum allocated for this is more or less dead on the average advance for a new writer in speculative fiction, an eye opener in itself.

Monday, August 13, 2007

On the market of short stories

Another blogger, author and (I believe) editor has an article and a suggestion. Heeding it might just be a good thing for us aspiring writers, and published writers for that matter as well.

Redirection

I see from my statistics that a few of you come here in search for information on the European Championships in V:TES held the first weekend of August. Heading over to ec2007.blogspot.com should give you the information you want.

For the rest of you, I'm still slightly comatose from a week of games. A few days more and I should have caught up with documentation and much needed sleep, and after that I'll reactivate both my regular writing as well as this blog.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Busy elsewhere

For a stiff week I'll be rather busy with the EC.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Neat Potter sales

US sales at 8.3 million copies the first 24 hours according to this article in DN. I also read in an old fashioned paper newspaper that British sales were almost 3 million copies sold during the first 24 hours. Back here in Sweden the book has sold out.

Minor madness

Just added an RSS feed for this blog. http://feeds.feedburner.com/twl

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

More Potter madness

Reading an article in DN I saw how the Potter fever has struck Sweden as well.

The book will e released at 1 am, which corresponds to midnight UK time, and there are book stores which will be open at that time.

Several stores plan to lose money on their initial sales of the last book in the series. Prices have been cut to below half of the recommended one.

All this for a YA book in a foreign language. That says something about how widely spread basic mastery of English is in Sweden.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Characters and words

I just noticed a minor, yet interesting, difference between Sweden and the English world. Places asking for short stories here in Sweden give the maximum length in characters whereas the English speaking counterparts give them in words.

I wonder about the reason for this peculiar difference, not that it matters much for practical purposes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Plotting the good lie

Your hero triumphs over his his/her antagonist, or fails horribly. No matter what, in a story the conflict should be resolved within scope of the conflict itself. That is good story telling. An example of not so good story telling would be a deus ex machinae resolution.

You probably recognize this and acknowledge it as well, as do I. Still, this is only a matter the good lie. Herein lies an interesting conflict. Where character focus has shown a tendency to go as far as making realistic characters more important than interesting characters the same can not be said for plot. Realistically the unexpected, the god in the machine, happens all too often. Still, you know that the reader will be aghast if the last chapter ends with the hero or villain getting killed accidentally in a car crash.

Episodes should lead to episodes which lead to a resolution, and the as sudden as late introduction of an event, outside the scope of the story, which takes it into a totally different direction is not popular.

So we force the plot to stay within the boundaries of the good story, telling the reader the good lie. Obviously the same should be done with characters. Plotting the good lie has to be followed by telling the good lie in order to give the reader a good read. In fantasy character and plot need to be lied well; setting to a certain extent less so.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The truth

The truth, the realistic truth or the experienced truth? That is the question -- for a writer at least.

The truth is absolute. It is the kind of objective truth we seldom encounter, and in as much as it is there at all to begin with it is also rather uninteresting.

The realistic truth is the objective sounding version we agree to accept, either by embracing it or by being dragged screaming and fighting until we face it. It is, however, not the truth. The realistic truth can be truthful or an outright lie, but it has the ring of truth to it, and we tend to accept it as such for that reason. It is also one of the tools of the trade for a writer needing to suspend disbelief.

The experienced truth is the one each one of you take for granted and makes each one of you roar in frustration when you are faced with it in another. At least that frustration comes in full strength when that other person doesn't share your experience of truth. The experienced truth is also the only one that matters. It is what the realistic truth becomes if ruefully accepted or the one it already is when embraced. It is the version you believe in, for whatever reason, valid or not.

The experienced truth is also the most interesting one for authors willing to face their own darker sides in order to write a better story.
It is the kind of truth that makes us assume that dictatorships spew out propaganda and democracies provide objective information.
It is the version of the truth that has been manipulated whenever a great book comes with a great message, because great messages are always manipulations of the truth, and no one is interested in the truth.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Realistic characters

I've been following, and participating, in an on-line discussion on books. A specified series of books in this case, but I'll abstain from identifying it.

People have exchanged opinions about the contents; mostly about characters and their corresponding characterisation. Whereas one set of opinions complain about characters so boring to read about that the plot dies the other side states that characters must be realistically depicted, and if the plot suffers as a result, then so be it.

Now I'm admittedly subjective, advocating plot before character as I do, but it would seem that non-writing readers tend to prefer the fun story over fantastic characters.

It should be noted, however, that readers of speculative fiction are to a great extent writers themselves. By writers I include anyone writing stories no matter whether they have a publishing history or not. The group of people who talk about writing but seldom put words to paper is even larger.

Again I see how the modern mantra of character above all gets in the way of an enjoyable story to read. Flat world with a generic plot is all fine as long as the author concentrates on creating a very small number of fantastic characters. You see, the current vogue is that there be only one main character. At least according to tips on writing from professionals and semi professionals.

Strangely enough the titles with a multitude of characters, where it is debatable if a main character can be identified at all, continue to book the slots for best sellers. It would seem that readers aren't as easily educated as writers and continue to shop for the fun story where action and pace require several viewpoints from which to see the story unfolding -- and with them the need for several characters. With several characters come, to a certain extent, the need for economy, which in turn translates into thinner depictions and more unrealistic portraits. There is little room for navel gazing when the plot needs to move forward.

So there is a thing as too much character after all. At least in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More critting

I'm doing a few crits, slowly admittedly, and jumping between languages is starting to have me see why some things work in English but not at all in Swedish. Scope and bombastic seems to be two easily identifiable themes.

I assume I'll learn more as I go along, but as of now I have only managed to see these two stylistic details that work better in English.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Slow Monday

A mere three of us meeting up for the weekly pubgame. Exactly one too few. Well, it is part of summer and has been every year. Pity that it's been raining more or less constantly the last two weeks. That is not part of a usual summer here.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Götheborg

Ships from the age of sails are a not too uncommon feature of today's fantasy.



Götheborg, a replica of an East India sail ship, was a fantasy of her own. Here she's back home in Göteborg after a return trip to China.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Deadline met

So I did deliver the short story with a few hours to go.

A more down to earth approach took the language and sound of the story in a more preferred direction. Swedish doesn't lend itself well to the bombastic, much less so than English. I don't know exactly why, but I believe it has something to do with our language being developed with lots and lots of nature and very few people around.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Midsummer

The midsummer's weekend has come and gone. All in all a enjoyable experience, even though the midsummer's day was a rainy one.
We got a party tent, erected it and held the party inside while raindrops kept hammering down. Midsummer and people here is a special thing. It is like being outdoors in one wan or another is mandatory. Well, luckily enough Saturday and Sunday turned out to be two lazy days in the sum just perfect for some barbecuing and chatting.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Slow writing

One stag night, one wedding, the hottest days in sixty years, day care closing for summer and planning for midsummer haven't helped my writing. I manage shorter paragraphs of changes and outlining, and the occasional sketch for a future idea. Still, all in all, I haven't put many words to paper this month.

Two weeks from now I have another deadline for a short story, but at least I'm pretty clear about the story by now. Remains to put it down on paper, but I doubt I'll start that work until after midsummer.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Incluing

Yep, that was the correct spelling of the word incluing. I found this little gem at Absolute Write. In one of the forums to be more exact.

So, do we prefer incluing rather than infodumping? I think we do, to a certain degree. Sometimes a solid chunk of data feels good. There's no absolute truth here. Still, on average having the setting and its peculiarities sprinkled into the story in such a way that we don't realise we have been given information until after we read the passage is indeed elegant.

More Swedish sales

Another article, this time in SvD.

More numbers:

Audio books market 185 million crowns

Non-fiction 825 million

Fiction 904 million

The Swedish total market is estimated at seven billion.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Swedish sales

This article in GP is an interesting exercise in numbers.

We're enjoying an all time high in sold fiction. Sales totalled 1.9 billion crowns, somewhere around $280 million or so.

Keep in mind that numbers below only concerns titles printed in Sweden. The direct import of English (as in the language) titles are as high as 20% of all mass-market paperback sales according to information I have read earlier. Unfortunately I can't quote those as they came from a printed excerpt which I have since forgotten where it came from originally.

The total number of titles last year was 4278, down by 2.2%. That number includes non-fiction, translations and audio-books. The last category increasing its percentages by 89% in the number of titles and 20% in revenues.

4278 titles. Almost one for every 2000 persons living in Sweden.

More Potter

There is an interview with Daniel Radcliffe in today's DN.

This is mostly about the actor even though the interviewer makes more than a few attempts to merge the actor with the character.

All in all a rather cute summing up the past year's Potter hysteria and some questions about Radcliffe's planned future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On blogs on books

In a long article in SvD Lina Kalmteg makes a comparision between literary blogs in English (USA) and Swedish.

No, that wasn't entirely true. She refers to how critical voices have been raised in the US against blogs as the only sources of literary reviews. In Sweden some blogs have come to be just another part of the public room for conversations on literature. The voices here, including those of professionals from the publishing industry, be they publishers, authors or reviewers, are in general positive.

Blogs supposedly fill a slightly different function than reviews in newspapers. The latter don't invite to a conversation whereas blogs do.

Warning!

It would seem some of the less appealing facets of US publishing has reached naive little Sweden. This article in DN tells of a publisher demanding money from the author.

Those of you familiar with the US publishing industry probably hear the warning sirens wailing by now. Sadly enough you're right. This is a local version of Publish America, including never releasing the rights back to the author, never printing more than a few token copies. The possible difference possibly being that the Swedish scammers charge a hefty upfront fee. Prices quoted vary from 2000 to 6000 US dollars up to the unhappy fool who has dished out in the order of 35000 US dollars for nothing.

The name of the "company" is Härjedalen litteratur och text (HLT).

The sheer extent of our local naivete shows in extracts from interviews done with people from our publishing industry. They show surprise and express ignorance of this peculiar type of publishing model.

Bad, very bad.

Dictionary

There is a new dictionary for SF according to this article in DN.

Titled Brave New Words it should appeal to readers of speculative fiction. The subtitle is The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction and it is indeed published by Oxford University Press.

Monday, June 11, 2007

On genre

I found this little gem thanks to AR Yngve.

A fun article on what defines a genre and divides from another. Five elements of writing and what priority they are given.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Feeling a bit lazy

Or maybe I was merely born thoroughly lazy. Who knows?

I've spent another day in the sun with my daughter. Well, mostly in the sun, anyway. The streets have been crammed with sun starved northerners, and with some kind of medical convention going on the usual splash of English is being heard on the streets in a way that has me thinking of late July rather than early June.

Apart from enjoying summer and the company of my daughter I've also had time to indulge in reading book after book. Wonderful, and awful. There is so much good fantasy out there, and so much, well, not so good. Unfortunately too much of the latter come from the hands of well known authors, including the occasional atrocious writing.

I can give one review at least. If you plan to read David Edding's last quadrology -- don't.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Still enjoying the novelty

Spent yet another wonderful day in the sun. Yesterday was our rather recently instituted national day.



Coming back home from a picnic in the park we passed one of my waterholes.



It is situated dead center in the main street for thirsty tourists and us locals as well.



Just prior to taking those last steps home we headed to another place for a beer and a bit to eat. With ample help from my daughter I got this amazing shot of her.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Even more reviews of fantasy in Swedish

There has to be some kind of Potter-effect going on here.

Today another reviews popped up in DN. This time it is Ursula K Le Guin has her latest, Gifts, given a very positive review. Literary experts in Sweden should start frothing in rage soon, and their deceased predecessors turning wildly in their graves.

What is the world coming to? Should this continue fantasy might even receive the status of literaure over here. Strange days.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

This is more like it

And finally summer arrived for real.



We spent most of the day in Liseberg, an amusement park in Gothenburg. Should you ever visit the city during summer I can recommend it for children of all ages.
No, I did not try this stunt by remote. It is my wife doing the honours behind the camera.
The main reason for perspectives being so strange is the location. Amusement park. You do the math.



Partial of Götaplatsen. The single monumental square in Gothenburg. Normally a shot from where I stand would be directed at the center piece statue.



Instead I took that photo from a slightly different angle.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Maybe summer after all

Now when it is officially summer here we peer out through our windows in hopes of watching anything but grey skies and rain wet streets.

My window shows me partially blue skies. So maybe, just maybe, we will get some proper summer here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Another contest

After a long delay I finally sent a submission to the short story contest with a deadline today. A flash rather than a proper short, as I realised yesterday that the story I was writing simply didn't cut it. Now, don't you start reading any words of mine that this flash would do, because I didn't write that.

Sometimes we simply have to give up a path taken and return back. The story I wrote in Swedish might have worked in English, but the languages are simply too different to be used for the same tale. Things like melody and rhythm differ, as do vocabulary of course, In the end what is pleasant for they eye and your mouth, when you silently whisper the story in your head, in one language becomes clunky and unwieldy in another.

We'll see what happens.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Another literary world to explore

I thought it was funny when I dumped a short note here about experiencing the world of an author. But why wait over a hundred years?

Florida, USA, plans to host a theme park based on, you guessed it, Harry Potter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Head like jelly

Spent the day with my daughter outdoors in a drizzling rain. That translates into half good -- she loved it and I, well, didn't love it as much. It also translated into a happily sleeping kid and a father too tired to think straight. Not the best of situations for finishing up that short story which deadline looms closer and closer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Another string of reviews of fantasy

This time by Kajsa Öberg-Lindsten in the newspaper GP.

Two Swedish original novels and three translations. It is a bit peculiar how the reviewer sees five male protagonists out of five possible as a way to adapt to the market.

Had it been Science Fiction I might have understood the idea, but claiming that the authors need to adapt their fantasy novels to a male readership is more than slightly peculiar considering the vast amount of female readers of that genre.

A set of choppy reviews is ended by politicising feminist roles versus male ones. We have the usual rant about all men depicted as knights in shining armour and all women as stupid, goodlooking or motherly, submissive wenches.

In the end the review itself manages to become more stereotyped and clichéd than genre fantasy has ever been accused of.

Erkateren, summer 1642

Mindwalker, mindwalker walking my mind. So pretty and shiny those golden eyes. Beautiful hair and those lovely hands. Wonderful one get out of my head! I can't sleep I can't wake. You have stolen my dreams. Please walk elsewhere and leave me alone! I promise I'll worship I promise so please!

Yes, yes, whatever you say. I'll do your command as long as it's not thought inside my mind, so yes, yes if that's what you want I'll do it for you if you just leave me alone. Please leave my head! I can't be two inside here, please!

A chair and a table, will that be enough? Thank you, thank you, thank...


#

Neritan turned her eyes away from the farmer dangling from his ceiling. Unthinking now he was of no concern to her, but there was still more to be gleaned and she needed to know. She turned her attention to the housewife bound and gagged in a chair. Another mind to be walked, to promise and threaten. She would get the secret still, and if not from this woman, before she screamed herself to death, then more lived in the village. All sleeping and dreaming in a night not as quiet as Neritan led them to believe.

It took some effort to force them all to stay dreaming, but she reveled in making it look effortless, even if no one but she was there to admire her skill.

She bent over the woman and placed long, slender hands over a sobbing face. She loved her hands, wonderful hands. She didn't really need to touch before walking a mind, but it felt so good, so very good.

Smiling, Neritan gave the woman a stare, scaring her into silence. The sobbing was ungraceful. Shortlives were ungraceful, and yet they had the audacity to call themselves humans. A disgrace as well.

She pushed, hard, and was inside the meaty, soft complexity shortlives called a mind. Nothing like the brilliant metal sheen and order of true human thoughts. Then she started walking, delving deeper among secrets and forgotten memories. Dirty threats and broken promises, and it was astonishing how much filth the shortlives managed to amass in a mere thirty or forty years. She took a shortcut through a few layers of hidden emotions, hidden by an almost overwhelming sensation of raw fear and disgust at not being alone, and there something lay dormant.

Neritan spat with frustration. Not the secret as such, just a trail ending with another villager. She withdrew, but not until she had created a recess of guilt and self loathing.

She unbound the woman and left into the night. The housewife was asleep now, and first thing come morning she would hang herself aghast at having murdered her own husband. A giggle dropped from Neritan's lips. So good, she was so good at knowing how the shortlives thought, and she had such wonderful hands.

Race for Potter

According to this article in DN between 150 and 200 K copies of the English print have been ordered by Swedish bookstores.

Most authors would be happy to see one of their books sell a total of those numbers.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Reviews of fantasy in Swedish media

Wow!

And it is basically positive. Ying Toijer-Nilsson has written a review of Ursula K Le Guin translated into Swedish. Whereas sales of Swedish original fantasy is abysmal the translated counterpart lives a healthy life.

New deadline

Only three days left to finish that story I have to send in for the first competition. Well, why sit back and enjoy the days when I can stress instead?

At least I'm done writing to order for the time being.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

At least it looks like summer

Fantasy is partially about illusion, but we do not need to enter the realm of the fantastic to experience illusions.

Just look at these shots from Slottskogen, the main park in Gothenburg, and at least pretend it's proper summer. The park used to be royal hunting grounds a few hundred years ago.



Fun for the kids.



The smell of barbecue spread across the lawn.



Linnegatan, named after the recently celebrated Swedish botanist, ends at Slottsskogen, but the greenery continues nonetheless.



Having spent a few hours in the park I really wanted a beer.

On time is not early enough

Just like films novels have release dates. Just like with films publishers may or may not become quite irate should a distributor release a novel too early. This seems to be exactly what has happened here.

Food chains Ica and Coop have dumped the last (being dead it is unlikely that there will be any more books by the author) novel by Stieg Larsson. As we are talking crime here, with close to 300 K copies of the novel printed, this is a major release in Sweden but it would have been a big one on any market. His previous books in the same series are up to a total of around 800 K copies sold.

So, this is enough to make book store owners pissed off, mildly put. Less known to the Swedish players is that this episode echoes disturbingly like the English speaking markets where food chains and supermarkets stacking up with huge amounts of copies of a minimum amount of titles. Good for sales, bad for writers and, in the long run, a disaster for book stores. Squeezed in between cheese and sausage the next best seller is unlikely to come with attached personnel who can help a customers with tips. To be frank, the personnel is unlikely to be familiar with the concept of reading at all, but with so small a number of titles it may not be needed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cavalry and no fun

Sometimes you think, and sometimes you simply don't think enough.

I have since long decided that Keen, the empire where most of the events occur in the novel I am writing currently, has a military structure based on horse power. Cavalry and dragoons mostly. So far so good.

Now, imagine a powerful state with horses in abundance. Horse drawn carriages, uniformed riders, farmers on horse -- and not a single horse race. No chariots speeding down the race way to the thunder of a cheering audience. No riders fighting for a sack stuffed with cloth which has to be thrown into a basket. Nothing.

Why? Because sports and leisure seldom furthers plot, and so the people I depict become automations who never cry themselves silly over some favourite team. And they are no longer people. Just background on two legs.

That said I am not planning to make myself three full chapters of horse racing. I just need to be aware of what people want and need. Aware enough to throw in the odd comment from time to time, or to set a conversation to the backdrop of, well, fun.

Writing for readers

Sounds like a peculiar notion, doesn't it? In act it is. According to the literary elite writing for readers is the sign of the rank amateur, the writer lacking in ability or even the functionally illiterate. Real writers only write for writers.

Does anyone wonder why so called real writing needs subsidiaries? The morons producing the unreadable cry out their despairing protestations about the need for culture, as if incoherent random letters should constitute culture. For some reason it is important to remember that if a novel sells then it can not be culture, because the words that someone actually wants to read must be bad words indeed. Idiots!

See Ulrika Kärnborg's commentary on a similar vein in DN.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Subgenre or crossgenre

I quit giving the genre of my writing much thought after I accepted that a definition may be dated and still valid. When asked I answer science fantasy. Think spaceships and wizards in the same story and you're pretty close.

That said, if I land my work with a publisher they're going to stuff it wherever they see fit anyway, and from that day on it is going to belong to whatever genre they decided was the proper one.

Anyway, when I browse the book cases of my favourite book store, which happens to be SF bokhandeln, a local player, I find lots of SF and lots of fantasy, but the true cross genre that once was labelled science fantasy is absent. Or at least absent as far as I am concerned.

You see, when I think science fantasy I think fantasy with strong elements of SF in it. That is what I write and it is also the main reason I don't find it in the shelves. SF with strong elements of fantasy in it is more common. At least if it includes sound and moving pictures. More or less all science fiction TV-series released the last quarter of a century fall solidly in the cross genre called science fantasy.

Zaps one space ship across the screen, blasts one energy gun in the corner, arrives technicians who talk made up techno language in the background and you think you are watching SF. Halfway into any season you have seen gods, wizards, ghosts or whatever you would normally associate with other brands of speculative fiction, but it doesn't registrate as cross genre. We have become so used to this blend that we tend to think of it as natural -- as long as it moves and sounds. I am not so sure about those who exclusively read SF.

As for my linking to a book store here. Either you know the treatment speculative fiction gets in Sweden, and you understand why we need to protect outlets of these genres from extinction, or you don't. If you don't. Think somewhere lower on the ladder than smut. Literary experts here are prone to praise pornography's literary value as long as speculative fiction takes a beating.

Is this a rant? Of course it is.

Modern definition of fantasy on-line

In case you had missed it then the world of the ring, J R R Tolkien's Midgard, is available as an on-line game. Reviews are available in Swedish as well as English. Probably in several other languages I don't care about as well.

The adaptation of what is arguably the defining work of fantasy seems to have received generally good reviews. So, here's the opportunity -- if reading through a book is too much then running through one is another way of experiencing a little bit of the magic Tolkien created.

Potter news for our corner

November 21 the Swedish translation of the seventh and last of the Harry Potter books will hit the local market according to this article in DN.

The Potter books deserve their very own special status, if not for their outstanding quality, then at least for their outstanding sales. There isn't anything coming close in the fields of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Just a reminder...

... of what we all ought to do more often. At least those of you who are wired the way I am.



It will be proper summer soon. Repeat after me: it will be proper summer soon.

And, in passing, hi guys, smile to the camera.

Experience your books

This is just hilarious!

Why read your Dickens when you can experience him first, well second, -hand.

One wonders, the world shudders and I'm shaking with laughter.

The need for the taboo

I sat browsing through some statistics a while ago. Enough time for me to forget the sources. Anyway.

In the US sexuality is bad, dangerous and will most probably make society go down in flames, so naturally the best selling genre is romance. I'm not an avid reader of romance, but the little I read sure is steaming with TABOO.

In Sweden violence is bad, dangerous and will most probably make society go down in flames, so naturally the best selling genre is crime. I do read some crime, and you can bet there is an abundance of TABOO there.

Should we take this as a proof that the best way to create a huge local market is to make certain the topic is socially unacceptable?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Need a platform?

Several persons in the publishing industry have said that you need a platform in order to get a non-fiction title published for a larger market.

Platform is, simply put, fame. Either ordinary, everyday fame of the kind that makes you recognize a name when you hear it, or fame relevant for the field in which you are writing.

Or, you could borrow a platform. Never having heard of the newspaper before I verified the news at DN.

Important splash in a small pond

Sweden is without doubt a literary pond, and a small one at that, lying off the literary waterways of the world. Still, a few authors made their names known to an international audience, and occasionally a moron gained those fifteen minutes of infamy.

Zapping through the net I came upon this piece of news from DN. Yes, that article is in Swedish. Just get used to that melodic language of ours.

There is a similarity to the Simon & Shuster idiocy here. Studentlitteratur, a Swedish non-fiction publisher, just lost their case in court over here. A quarter of a century ago two authors signed with them, but the book in question has seen mediocre sales, and they wanted out.
Studentlitteratur noted the lack of an exit clause and required the neat sum of aproximately $700 000 to let go of a title that didn't sell.
The court decided in favour of the authors and the publisher was left with paying all legal costs.
Let us hope it is contagious.

Waiting for summer, remembering spring

After giving us record temperatures for most of the first months this year weather seems to have recalled that statistical average needs levelling to be, well, statistical average.

Even though the colours around me speak of late May, the need for heavy clothes disagrees. In fact it feels more like April, and that had me grabbing for a few photos from that month.



There is this brittle quality to the greenery before leaves take on their summer's shape.



Cherry blossoming, nordic style.



White, not pink like in Japan.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

When historical fiction becomes fantasy

According to this article in DN, one of Sweden's main newspapers, the Swedish production company SF has ditched out SEK 200 M, approximately 30 M dollars, to adapt a historically debatable but highly popular novel to the screen.
That would make it the most expensive movie production ever in Sweden.

Hubris gets a face. Getting that money back surely must require magic of the higher school.

Why we genre writers should stop obsessing

You're happily hacking away on your story, and given a revision or fifteen it will be a enjoyable read as well. Now, however, close to those last two chapters you're stuck. While you wrote it something must have happened, and it is no longer pure fantasy.
Horror of all horrors. To define it you now need to define its sub-genre.

Science fantasy?
Romantic fantasy?
Historical fantasy?
Paranormal thriller?

The questions echo and you spend, first only the evenings, and then whole days searching for that elusive, absolute truth about your work. And in the meanwhile very little is written. It is as if the search for truth smothered the breath of fiction.

There is only one thing left to do: stop obsessing!

A different kind of writing

It was some time since I last wrote to order. I had almost forgotten how utterly boring that can be, and an academic essay, even at the lowest possible level, is still writing to order.

At best I get to argue my position on a given topic, at worst there's an absolute truth that must be adhered to. I this case I have the option to void the topic where there is only one politically acceptable truth, and thus I still get to argue my case.

Well, it's good exercise if nothing else. Non-fiction is a totally different beast than fiction. And I did get the pleasure of seeing things from a different perspective. At some 600 words a piece those essays will force me to brevity, but I know people who find writing those pages a daunting task. The difference in opinion? One quarter of a million words of manuscript written.

Monday, May 21, 2007

For crying out loud -- works

At least this time. The reactions to Simon & Shuster's contractual stunt were foreseeable, and loud. As several players in the publishing industry, namely those who are labelled literary agents joined in the outcry it seems that Simon & Shuster have remedied their previous position.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crap contract

It would seem that Simon and Shuster is doing a Mickey Mouse in reverse so to say. Sign their standard contract and, for all practical purposes, you've just lost your copyright to your own work.

That's crap.

There goes another one

Yet one more of the high traffic blogs for writers is closing its doors. This time it's Miss Snark Central shutting down operations.

It seems when this kind of operation attracts enough interest it slowly drains the interest of the provider. Too time consuming I believe, and eventually the well runs dry, and what started as a fun thing is simply no longer any fun.

As she would have said: wtf, crap.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Doing something, doing something else

Alas I didn't make it among the select few in the poetry for novelization contest. Well, it was fun to join the fray.

At the time being I'm polishing a flash I wrote in a slightly different tone than my usual writing. That means it's soon time to grab a firm hold of my laptop and start getting serious with the two Swedish short stories I need to have finished quite soon.

That leaves little time for my novel, but I'm learning so much now I'm not too sad to see it on a back burner for a while. I can see new flaws that were invisible to me earlier, and the least I need is to start sending out a proposal that is more flawed than absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Some shots from Japan

Why don't I just further the misconception that strangers just love to watch family photographies detailing mundane events they have never seen?

So here we go.



The master supervising her dominions at my relatives.




The traditional way to have your meals during a visit to an onzen, that would be bathing in hot spring water for those of you who have the sensibility not to know, is to eat in your room.
The picture is shot very early on during the dinner. More courses will arrive, some I suspect to be heated at the table.





The mandatory tourist shot. Taken at a temple dedicated to a couple of heroes from history or myth, or maybe a mix of them both.



Lastly a photo taken at my relative's home. Yes, that is a temple. They are a priest family.

Frantic week

The second week of kiddie absence turned out to be a frantic writing experience. Some editing, work on two shorts in Swedish, a couple of pieces of flash and of course preparations for a few exams I plan to pass as I signed up for them earlier this year.

My daughter returned Saturday with my wife in tow, even though I'm certain Bea would describe it as being the other way around, but being the wife in question her point of view is of course skewed and highly subjective. Simone, that would be the daughter superior, flashed me a big grin, switched off her interest and started rummaging around for a snack. Jet lagged was something she forgot all about, and not until 3.30 am did she recall what her mental clock was. Don't we love parenthood?

These last mornings she's allowed me to sleep almost to six o'clock in the morning, and it is with some certainty I believe that my wife is grinning silently at the prospect of being the width of Sweden apart for a few days while she recovers a semblance of proper sleep.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

To learn something every day

I had those snapshots, stills from my world I just needed to get out of my head and down on paper. Nothing really edited, which you can see if you drag them up from the archives here.

And now I find out there are markets for this kind of work. I guess I'll simply polish those snippets and put them out on a market I didn't know existed prior to dumping them here. Just so that they have a chance to pass the formal requests for first publishing rights should anyone bite that hook. And if they bounce enough times I can always push them out in this venue to get a bit of scalding telling me exactly why they got rejected in the first place.

And yes, yes, I know. Those two stills already out here are disqualified, and for that very reason I won't put anything up here that lies in the submission pipeline.

Getting mauled

After having written a stiff 1k on the second short story I went to our weekly pubgame to play some VTES.

I got mauled, badly.

There is a science to building the decks you play with, and there is another for picking your opposition for the day. I can safely say I failed horribly at the latter. Oh well, that's life. Maybe next week.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Strange writing

I'm punching words onto paper, or rather into my hard drive to be exact, and there is the strangest of sensations haunting me as I read them back to myself.

For me fantasy and SF has become identical to novels written in English. It's not something I even bother thinking about, but this spring I noticed two calls for short stories written in Swedish. Two contests, and I simply couldn't let go of the opportunity to write in my own native language. So I do, and those words read stranger than fiction to me.

Poetry is one thing. I'm used to see my own creations in the language I think and live with, but a developing story? Strange indeed.

But I continue to hammer down those words, and I wait for them to echo in a melody I can recognise even though they're created using a different instrument.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Being behind on the news again

Yes, I've seen this one floating around for a while now, but maybe one of you have managed to miss it.
If you enjoy your genre fantasy novels with a smirk on your lips, then this is a humorous way to waste ten minutes or so. I don't agree on all points, but, yeah, scoring too many points could possibly be bad for your story. Especially if they are of the bad kind of points.

Critters and crits

I've been adding quite a few more members to our crit circle, and it would seem we're reaching stage one of critical mass.
Always an active submission in the pipeline.
Stage two would be when there is always an active submission of any member's preferred genre, but it will take some time before we reach those numbers.

In the meanwhile I have also submitted a few crits, an activity that some call a time thief but I believe are hours well invested in my future writing.
Analysing someone's text is perhaps the best teacher when it comes to identifying weaknesses, tendencies and strengths in your own writing.

I know some of my fellow writers frown on crit circles. They're bad. They're limiting the artistic soul of the writer, shackling creativity and an evil crutch only the unable needs.
I disagree.
Quite frankly I think those arguments are bullshit and the kind of narrow minded vitriol the sign of an embittered moron caught in stagnation.
Others still frown upon the circles because the activity takes too much time. I disagree, but that is an argument I have nothing but respect for.

We are humans.
Only by measuring our dreams and deeds against those of others can we truly find our future. The day we stop only our deeds are left, and others will measure theirs against them, and they will be surpassed, because we are human, and it is in our nature to change and develop.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

All alone in the light

With my wife and daughter just departed for Japan I plan to use the time for as much un interrupted writing as possible. The only thing standing in the way would be the light, the glorious light and warmth only a northern late spring can carry.
This is the time to venture outdoors and watch sun starved people drinking sunlight like refugees gathered around an oasis. I can infuse my characters with hope and newfound determination, something which leaves me with limited parts of my manuscript to work with. Still, two weeks only allows for so much editing, and I guess it can't hurt to run through the parts where optimism runs rampant in my story.
Well, enough of blogging. It's time to drink some sun and water a few characters.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Valborg

The title is the name for today. At least in Swedish. Last of April is traditionally a day of bonfires. However, here in Gothenburg, Valborg has become associated more with a university than anything else. For about a century freshmen attending the university of technology have taken to the streets in a caravan of wagons, each a show depicting some event during the years that passed.
Around a quarter of a million line the streets, climb trees or simply gather in open windows and balconies to watch the spectacle. I guess this is the fun part, the part we like to brag about. Sadly enough as traditional a part follows -- binge drinking.
Well, I refused to become downcast by this. Like most of my fellow people here I'll watch the greeting of spring, enjoy what promises to be a sunny but cold day and simply turn a blind eye to the disgrace trailing the festivities.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Moronic dangers

I just read one of the potentially most dangerous suggestions I have ever seen. Unsurprisingly it comes from our big neighbour in the west.

If you believe that this is no big deal I ask you to reconsider. It is fully viable to create a piece of software that I allow anyone to use in order to be allowed to install a trojan on anybody's computer. Malicious trojans are the least of the problems here. State produced trojans are a much greater concern.

Poetry for novels

That didn't make sense, or did it?

I joined a small contest for reasons that were made clear earlier.

So, there you see, a direct link between poetry and novels.

Being behind on the news

This blogger has given a response to what was expressed here.

Note that the second article is not written by the man with the strong opinions, but merely published. That also translates into: Don't kill the messenger.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Insensitive bastard or artistic soul

I wonder which of these archetypes has an easier time to become published. The former ought, according to my prejudice, have a harder time to express feelings. So maybe the written result isn't as good as it can be. The latter, however, should have an equally hard time to cope with rejections and requests for changes.

Well, this was me thinking in writing. I don't have an answer, and I don't even know if there is an absolute answer.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sitting critting

How to spend a sunny Friday when the skies scream at you to go out. Indoors, critting pieces of text submitted by fellow writers.

Well, I'm mostly done with that part now, and while the skies call for me the outdoors temperature definitely does not. Neither does the wind. As is all too usual this time of the year a sunny spring day can be deceptive. Deceptively lovely to look at -- from a distance. In reality it's cold as winter, but that doesn't stop sun starved northerners from scrambling to the streets and gazing up at the bleak sun while they pretend that it is a warm and lovely day.

And I? I'm indoors, sitting critting.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And up

As temperatures reverted back to wintry conditions last week my mood went downhill as well. Now spring has returned in full force, even with a weekend that gave us summer's days.

A laptop, a beer garden, a wireless network and a problem -- that's where I am at the moment. Something in the story grates on me, but I can't fully grasp wherein the problem lies. Something about the lack of integration between plot lines does ring a bell, but there has to be more to it than that. Oh well, I'm hammering away again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Down and done

Submissions done, Easter down, ECQ done and I'm down. Down with a nasty cold that is. Just great. When spring finally arrives here in full strength I have to sit indoors.
Bah. Rant.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Filled days

The last week the so called real life has taken a firm grip of me. Well, that is only partially an excuse. Temperatures well above normal and long sunny days could possibly have something to do with it as well, but that is merely a theory.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

One sweep down

Manuscript swept once for spelling errors and other glaring language errors. I still have the rewriting ahead of me though. Anyway, with the scheduled tasks done I'll be able to dedicate more time to my writing, or editing if you prefer.

Locally weather has taken a turn for the better. By that I mean that we're breaking all temperature records since they started documenting temperature during the 19th century. And one can feel it. Apart from freezing nights the weather outdoors resembles late April rather than Mars.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The joys of a working laptop

Marvellous timing. Less than two days left until an exam I need to attend, and after that I can spend more time with my writing. And I've got a working laptop. That's truly good news for me.

Did I say I'm satisfied?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tag, you're it.

Or something like that.

It would seem I've been targeted by some pretty harmless version of the old chain letters. As usual it involves exponential growth, which obviously invalidates the entire concept pretty soon.

Well, as it's aimed at increasing traffic to blogs, why not?

Write six peculiar facts about yourself, send the message on to six bloggers and link back, preferably to the post in question and dive for cover. Ok, the last part isn't actually part of the concept, but it seems to be a good move.

I was targeted by a Swedish fellow writer, so I'll keep it within the family so to say. The poor sods are as follows:

Hello Mag, you're it, as are Gab, Cat, Hud and Kon (yes I know you prefer Neko). Now there's a strange way of counting to six, but as you can see I have problems with nametags using more than three letters. *grin*

As for peculiarities of mine:

1) I can conveniently forget how to count to six, as seen above.
2) Five by six. Always five by six. Play V:TES or fail to understand.
3) Chats to the left. I guess that takes using Firefox to get.
4) I don't write in my native tongue.
5) I outline but seldom keep to the outline
6) Plot is king. Repeat after me: plot is king. And you really need to be a writer to understand why that is something peculiar.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Trying out the new cards

I tried a few of the new cards during our weekly pub game. One construction worked exceedingly well. Not saying I made a particularly well designed deck, but the cards came as needed and in the end I fielded a juggernaut.

Other games saw my decks crushed, which is as it should be. Still, it looks promising for this little expansion.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fun Pre-release

The Sword of Caine mini expansion promises to be a fun addition to the game I favour. It's yet another step in the direction of promoting the combat aspect of the game, something I'm only happy to see.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Reading "good" literature

And it was boring beyond belief.

I've been consuming the kind of literature that receives accolades but few readers. Depressed characters committed to depressing actions in a depressing environment struggle through a bleak everyday reality where they are too cowardly to openly express their political agenda. I guess it's supposed to be a realistic description of the small man's indignation over an unfair world, but most of all it's a realistic admission of being guilty of all and every prejudice concerning literary fiction.

Am I ranting? Of course I am.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Critting while waiting

Well, that's what I do now that everyday duties are cleared.

Being unable pick a seat without finding AC has been a stunt, but critting I can do from home. Even though giving crits is part of the writing process for me it doesn't require the undisturbed double hour or so. Said double hour is not an option with a small daughter wreaking havoc in the home if unchecked.

Well, this was rambling, I know. I just hate the absence of a decent laptop.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

And even more on breaking the law

This time I will look at the local law. By this I mean the law as it is seen by the local population. Again social norms and taboos are included in the concept of law. Please bear in mind that in this context a law that forbids adult men from drinking water between Friday sundown and Saturday morning is not outlandish by any means. It's a local law.

Again we can divide the law into categories.

Formal laws that most everyone agree are good.

Informal laws considered good.

Formal laws mostly considered oppressive (bad).

Informal laws a large minority consider oppressive (bad).

In fiction your 'good guys' break the first two at great risk of being ostracised by the reader. Well, that might seem like a strange word, but if a reader drops the book never to read it again and tells anyone listening that it is a bad read said book just lost a few readers. And rumours do grow wings.

The problem here lies in making two things clear to the reader. One I have touched upon earlier, namely that the reader needs to know why and when a local (fictional) law differs from the reader's local law. The second is a compelling reason to continue to read about a 'hero' committing such a crime.

Villains are more or less assumed to either break the first two kinds of laws or at least to adhere to the latter two rigidly. At least if we as writers want the easy way out.

A 'hero' breaking the latter two usually gives the reader a feeling of the good fight against injustice. Again we are talking simple stereotypes.

The maybe all too easy solution is to have the last two types of laws mirror outdated and cruel laws from history. A possibly more dangerous trap is when the law broken belong to group 1 or 2 in the fictional world but in 3 or 4 in the world of the reader. All too often the story falls flat or becomes inconsistent.

I will most probably return to this topic or a similar one later, but this article should be the last of its kind for a while.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

More on the abstraction of breaking the law

I'll continue my thoughts about breaking the law. This time I'll concentrate on the concept of law and what it translates into when we write speculative fiction. Remember that I include unwritten rules of society in the concept of law. By this definition you break a law when you refuse to accept a handshake in today's western world.

First of all, the law isn't what you and I think it is, and it's just what we think it is. How do we combine these two contrary statements? I'll try by giving a couple of examples.

Beating a small child to death. That violates the law. Even in cultures where small children have been left to die of exposure the active action of killing the child seems to have been abhorrent. In the cases where a formal law has allowed for such an action literature still presents the deed as a violation of a greater law. In other words the formal law becomes unlawful. Most of us would agree on that the act is unlawful no matter what culture we belong to.

Eating food of a certain type. Here we enter the realm of cultural differences. Here I chose to lump together culture and religion for the sake of simplicity. We're usually aware of the existence of those rules, and quite a few of us adhere to one or more of these. The age at which an individual can safely be introduced to the two most basic aspects of life is another such example. Procreation and death.

Having a specific haircut or clothes of a certain color. Sleeping with your feet to the east. Reading books after sunset. Immersing yourself in water on Saturdays. Some of these examples have been clear violations of existing laws and others I simply made up.

We could call the first group, of which I gave only one example, is the universal law. A generic human law that is shared by all cultures. The second group are laws we can understand. We have them but they do not, or vice versa. The third is the collection that simply seem strange and outlandish.

It's important to understand that the second and third group are really the same. What seems peculiar to us is natural or at least understandable for those familiar with it. The opposite also applies.

That opposite is what we tend to handle when we write speculative fiction. Equality between the sexes or ethnic origins, democracy, freedom of speech and somewhat equal laws for all people are all perfect examples of outrageous and dangerous concepts. Thus they are all a clear breach of the law. Or at least could be. "God told me so in my dreams," gets you behind bars today in the western world, but would have been a perfectly sensible reason for a massacre in another setting.

Perfectly sensible means that the character breaking the law can't expect much understanding from the society where that law has been violated. Perfectly sensible also means that the perpetrator should normally feels a sense of wrong unless that person already is at odds with that aspect of society. Perfectly sensible means perfectly sensible now, where now is the time when the law was broken.

Laws aren't written in stone. In fact a surprising number of laws change in the course of a single generation. As humans are humans there's no reason all laws should stay the same for thousands of years.

Well, I think I'll leave the topic for now. There will be reasons to return to it again.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The abstraction of breaking the law

I don't think I'll finish this piece of rambling in one go, but that really only gives me a perfect reason to write more here.

The title really highlights the topic. The law is abstract, but we tend to see the act of breaking the law as something concrete. This is in itself an interesting topic, but not one I'll cover here. I'll focus on the concept of the abstract and the law and the genre I write in -- Science Fiction / Fantasy.

By law I mean any legal framework that is accepted as law. It may be conventions, social norms, fear of persecution or the kind of written law we westerners take for granted these days. Thus breaking the law may not have any formal effects, but the offender might become ostracized anyway. It is the law as far as a general feeling of something bad happening if you break it.

I also have to point out that laws differ. We know that. We may not agree with a different set of laws elsewhere, but we still accept that they are laws there, at least given the wider definition of law I used above.

This is not about right or wrong laws. Try to keep this in mind. You don't need to approve of a legal system to accept that it is in place. Might makes right is one legal system that most of us would frown upon, but it is still a legal system that has been widely used, and arguably is still commonly used.

When writing SFF we need to remind ourselves of this. We create worlds populated with people, and those people live in a context. You may want to call it culture, and you would be correct in doing so. A culture have restrictions as well as opportunities. Those restrictions could be grouped under the term of law as used here. As a writer I'm obliged to provide my reader with a law that the reader can understand. Not like, not accept but understand.

Comes the abstraction of breaking the law. A character takes an action, or refuses to take an action, and thus breaks the law. This would only create a realistic situation if that law happened to be something the reader can relate to. By relate to I mean in terms of what the law is. If the act doesn't offend a social sensitivity the reader would recognize then no law is broken. Beat up a small child; we can relate to that. Commit burglary; again we can see why it would be a bad thing to do. Recite a poem; now we enter into the shadow zone, but we still know of repressive places where it could be unwise. Take a bath between noon and sundown; and we definitely stepped into the area that is marked with white on the map. We can't relate and the abstraction no longer does its work.

What doesn't feel like breaking the law can't be breaking the law. Something will remain lacking in the emotional communication between writer and reader unless this is rectified. Unless the reader has been given a reason to accept that in the alternate reality where the story takes place this is the law, then acting against it will be either a non-event or, possibly even worse, an obvious choice that requires no afterthought.

If I as the writer fail to convene the law to the reader in a convincing way then that law has no foundation in the story, and breaking the law has no real place in the story. How many times haven't we read a story that is based on a character breaking the law for the better good? How many times have we read a story where that character feels honestly bad about doing what we automatically assume is good?

I'll return later with more ways to make breaking the law an act of abstraction.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Problems with computer

My laptop doesn't like me any longer. More to thew point, it doesn't like AC any longer, which makes using it a bit difficult. The remaining battery I have left in it will have to be saved for a final backup.

Oh well, that's life. Not really what I needed for my editing.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Rich from SFF?

Plan to get rich from writing SFF? Just have a look at the reality of one who's made it.

Back in normality

From the relative strangeness of Japan back to a snowy Sweden. Time is still playing merry hell with my sleeping habits, but the jetlag is slowly loosening its grip over me.

Editing has been slow. So, back to work.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Japan in February



Another picture from my relatives'. Taken with the old bell tower and a neighbor's house as a backdrop.




Bonsai are trees that will never grow to full size. I guess there could be natural reasons...




... and man-made.




A modern but traditional Japanese room. A showcase from a local museum.




Setting a table 101.




The small island of Takeshima giving it's name to the onsen we visited.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A view from the garden



This is what it looks like from the entrance to where my relatives live.

On chairs and tables

This old style Japanese house is a killer for anyone wanting to write on a computer. No chairs to speak of and definitely nothing even remotely looking like a proper desk.

I have to resort to sitting with my laptop in my knee, back against a wall, and for a Swede that's murder. Still, a little bit of editing has been possible, but I'm far behind my schedule.

At least some scenery can be converted into something usable for my world.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Arrived

Head's mushy and my sense of time is shot to kingdom come. Give me another day or two and I'll wake when the sun says it's morning.

Kansai in mid February isn't much warmer than the Gothenburg I'm used to, but I had been warned beforehand. At least it isn't raining.

Wireless router set up, which this should be proof of, and I'm ready to go. This way I'll be able to do some work from the temple stairs should the weather allow.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Japan

Tomorrow I'm off for a week. Not off as in off from the web, but I'll leave wintry Sweden behind and arrive at an equally wintry Japan. With some luck I'll find myself with details and themes to help me along with my editing. With some luck I'll find myself editing.

Oh well, I'll take a change of scenery for what it is -- a change of scenery.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Editing and outlining

I never thought that editing an outlining would get in the way of each other, but here I stand.

The current book needs to be a self contained story with only minor problems left unsolved. I'd prefer the next one to take off where this one ends in a natural way. That requires that those minor problems grow into the main conflict that needs to be solved.

Timing.

How do I allow the current story to run its course to a satisfying end that still lends itself to a continuation in the form of another book?

Timing.

It's a matter of lying to the reader without lying to the reader. A contradiction in terms it may seem, but that's really not the case. I need to create an end where the reader feels that one story has come to its logical end, or at least to a perceived satisfying end. I also need to leave it open to a potential continuation that would essentially be a new story, or, in reality, a perceived new story.
It's a little bit like creating one story where Napoleon is victorious and then writing another where the French fights a losing war. Two stories and yet one. Lying to the reader without lying to the reader. All in all it's a matter of timing.

The task has turned out more difficult than I had imagined, but it is still but a task, and those are to be done.

Eventually.

When I understand where the magic moment in mine can be found.

Timing.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tournament February

Went so so.

Brought my slightly polished !Ventrue bleed/vote -deck.

Made final round without too much problems but the final itself was a dead end.

It's definitely time to start developing a few new decks.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Critting

The main crit circle I'm a member of is stacking up on members.

Crit circle?

It's basically a number of people who submit texts and read other submitters' text. Said reading done with a critical eye.
In my case this is done on the net, but a circle could be people meeting weekly in a coffee shop. The form is less important than the purpose.

We help each other, or at least aim to help each other, to become better writers. The method is reading and commenting read text. I ways it looks like text analyses done as part of an education, but in this case it's a matter of reading texts that are unfinished.
Read and give an opinion, or several. How did I like it? Did the language appeal to me? Did I approve of how a character came through. Did I happen to notice that a technical application doesn't work the way it was described because I happen to work as a rocket engineer? And so on and so forth.

My personal experience is that it's recommended for most anyone writing. There are numerous dangers inherent though.
Read, think and decide.

Google is a good place to search for information.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Learning the tools

Phonetics.

Is that a foul word or merely the term for a field of linguistics?
I sometimes wonder.

Well, end of rant.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A cold in the warmth

Temperature has bounced up and down the last weeks, and with it so has our inner juices. It seems most everyone has caught a cold.

When your head feels like it's padded with cotton from the inside and all you want to do is to sleep, and then sleep some more, neither writing nor editing is the first that comes to your mind.
I've spent more time over my nose than over my manuscript.

Hopefully this spell will pass soon. I really, really dislike being sick.

Still, it's given me some time to think of the changes that I need to do. The more I think of it the better an idea it seems to allow for a location to become a character in its own right. No, not by adding sentience to it, but to treat a place, in as much as it's possible, as a person.
One major weakness my writing suffers from is the lack of world come alive to the reader. This way I'll be forced to rectify that.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Edit running

Well, I survived that first day, which is more than my first chapter did.

Prologue and Prelude saw only minor changes. There wasn't really all that much to do as neither of them belonged to the eternal exposition kind of pre stories that are all too usual.

But chapter one. Oh dear. Well it gave me the momentum I needed to start once upon a time, and now it gives me the momentum needed to start fixing up what needs fixing up right from the beginning.
In that sense I suspect I ought to be grateful.

A new main character will be added as well. If writing world is my current main weakness then what better way than to give world a character of its own. Or maybe I should say of her own. I have, after all, decided to make her female in my book.

More ramblings later.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Scalpel time

February.

I'm cutting and shredding, mangling and saving. I am, in short, editing.

Chunks of text ripped out and discarded, other chunks ripped out and reused and some simply left where they are as I deem them good enough.

Editing.

The beginning of the book, or rather the beginning of chapter one had to go. I'll reuse most of it, but not as a beginning. In fact chapters 1, 3 and 4 need rewriting. A lot I can salvage, but even the parts I reuse need polishing.

Editing.

Changing the words, throwing some out and inserting new ones create changes to the entire story. I can see repercussions rippling ahead of me, and I'm not entirely certain I like it, but it has to be done.

Editing.

What I had planned as a two and a half month's worth of work will more likely take four full months to complete. After that? Beta readers. After that? More editing.

At least I have started this part of the process. I'll feel more familiar with it as the days pass by. Ripping and shredding will take a routine of its own. I know that, but I'm not there yet.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rodent of death

What can you say?

A rodent of death, or something.

Make sure to swallow whatever you were chewing before reading this.

Alpha read

The quarantine is over.

After a month in the virtual drawer I picked up my alpha version and read it. Story holds, and that was my main concern. It's also about as badly written as I feared, but only parts of it. Large chunks work as they should, which is more than I had hoped for.

Now we enter pre beta. Two or three month's worth of editing and I should have a beta. Well, rewriting if I want to be honest. Editing is by far too mild an expression for what needs to be done.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

EC 2007

I've made a blog dedicated to the 2007 European Championship in V:TES.

Storyline

Well, the header refers to the card game I enjoy and not my writing.

We ran the Gothenburg V:TES storyline tournament earlier today. Interesting.
I personally performed abysmally, but I don't think that invalidates the deck I'm tuning. I believe it's more a matter of weight rather than if an idea is good.
In my case I'm probably too light on votes.

Stealthy !Tor are more fun to play than I had assumed.

Well, I'll tweak the deck a little more before I give it another try.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Look, snow!



Yup, as I wrote.

Sad fact is it's already melting away. I made sure to run out and grab this piece of proof that we had indeed seen a moment of winter here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Winter?

Winter!

It's arrived. With snow and everything.

For a while I thought we wouldn't get one at all this time. Rainy days followed windy ones, with the exception of those that were rainy and windy.
Now? Snow, biting cold in the air and it crackles whenever you take a step.

So, it probably won't last for long, but at least I will know that we had a proper winter here, even if only for a few days.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Autumn 1641, Verd

Autumn 1641, Verd

And what happens now? Armed outworlders in Keen, but they didn't look like soldiers. Thugs really, like the scum in the Free Inquisition.

Kandaren shook his head and rode on. In pursuit of sorts, but no rider could ever hope to catch up with outworlder glider wagons. No magic, he was sure of that. The wagons never ceased to function when they passed his staff master, and nothing magical worked close to the black staffs. They were so powerful that staff masters weren't allowed inside the city walls.

Madness! Pillars of the Holy Inquisition and they're never allowed inside the imperial capital. Will never be. He grinned at the irony. We hunt down anyone wielding the forbidden arts and the very city I call home lives and dies with that magic.

He had lied once before to save a life. He could lie to himself to shield the illusion. Belief, there had to be some kind of belief, or he would lose faith and so would his men. They didn't deserve that.

And that belief was what kept him on the paved highway to Roadbreak. Not that they would be able to change anything, not even carry a message, because farwriters were faster even than outworlder gliders. But it would make a difference that the inquisition cared. No matter what happened the people living along the highway had to see men in red and black, because if the Holy Inquisition didn't care then who did?

Ho rode and waved his men to follow him. Waved for them to believe a lie. That they would make a change. One squadron armed with crossbows and sabers.

He sighed as he rested in his saddle. Soon the rhythmical clattering of hooves against white stone lulled him to an uneasy sleep, and he dreamed, and he laughed in his sleep. Maybe they would matter. In a way.