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


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.