Archive for July, 2010

Alvin Maker and the hazards of the long series

In recent years fantasy series, possibly spurred on by The Wheel of Time, seem to be getting longer, and I have no problem with that. I love the depth these series offer, I love the twists and turns they can take, and I love having a next book and a next book and a next book to look forward to. But it’s pretty clear there are hazards involved, and I’m not just talking about dying before the series is done.

Any book a writer writes reflects where there mind is at the time they write it, and of course minds change over time. Plus, sometimes in writing you come up with an idea that seems really good in your head, but when you try to put it into story form, it just doesn’t work they way you thought it would. (I had an idea for a story about a dedicated Cubs fan who becomes convinced that the team loses every time he tunes into or goes to a game, so he deliberately avoids all broadcasts, and the team starts winning and is World Series bound, so his lifelong dream is coming true, but if he engages it in any way, he’ll ruin it. Felt great when I thought about it–even sounds good to me as a write it out–but I’ve never been able to get it to work on paper).

Which brings us to Orson Scott Card’s Tales of Alvin Maker. Continue reading

Craziness and Inception

This will be short to keep it spoiler free, but to follow up on the recent Craziness and Holding the Center post, Inception certainly gets crazier as it goes along, but it has a very definite center, which helps it work. It was a fine movie!

Craziness and holding the center

My general policy is, I like crazy books. Give me a bizarre plot description that has me going “Wha?” in shock, and there’s a good chance I’ll be giving you my money.

I’ve been heard to say “The weirder, the better,” which explains my undying affection for Perdido Street Station and House on the Rock, but I’ve been rethinking that phrase lately, mainly due to John Burdett’s The Godfather of Kathmandu. The first few chapters were great–dizzy pace, weird goings-on (a grisly murder, a police official who thinks The Godfather is a blueprint for life, a lama who’s pushing smack and using telepathy), everything I treasure. But then I got about halfway through and realized I wasn’t picking up the book with the excitement I had at first. It wasn’t that the book had gotten more normal, but that its weirdness hadn’t cohered in any direction or gained any momentum. If I wanted piles of weirdness without any real drive, I’d read Tom Robbins.

I don’t think I’m overly demanding. I love both Winter’s Tale and One Hundred Years of Solitude, and heaven knows these are books not known for their strong narrative drive. But what they have is a center–in Winter’s Tale, it’s the relationship between Peter Lake and Beverly Penn; in One Hundred Years of Solitude it’s the village of Macondo and the dancing around and through his theme that Garciá Márquez does (for a similar but shorter and even more plotless weaving dance, check out Robert Coover’s Briar Rose and take time to wonder how any relationships last). You have to be grounded in something, and to me, The Godfather of Kathmandu didn’t have that. And in the end, that’s the greatest weakness of House on the Rock–it’s a spectacle and a wonder, but you’ll break your brain trying to figure what it’s all about, which leaves you with the vague suspicion that it’s not about anything. I like weirdness, but I suppose I don’t believe it’s an end in and of itself.

What format do you like?

I was just taking a look at various stats, at it seems that the various downloadable formats (Kindle, ePub, and PDF) have surpassed page views of  “A Short Flight from a Tall Tree” by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. That seems to indicate a clear preference–for longer posts, like the “Ghosts of Love” story, would people prefer to keep having those options? I plan on assembling all of Ghosts of Abana into a longer PDF-Kindle-ePub document eventually, but I can do the pieces too if that’s how people would like to see them.

Dexter A. Prowley’s Ghosts of Abana: Ghosts of Love

[need an overview of Ghosts of Abana? Don’t miss the Foreword!]

Ghosts of Love

In this chapter, we will look at ghosts whose sole reason for returning to the living is their attachment to another individual. These types of ghosts are among the most common in existence, if not the most common. The registers of ghostly lore spill over with tales of dead lovers returning to be with their spouse or significant other, or to wreak vengeance upon those who caused their untimely separation from their beloved. Clearly, romantic attachments are powerful.

The Promenade Ghost

Identity: Edmund Dowd, wealthy banker. Died 1948.

Location: The Wall of Notable Citizens, along the DeJong Promenade, northern Mephistopolis

Demeanor: Dejected, rueful. Generally too lost in sorrow to engage observers.

Encounter potential:  ***

Harm potential:  *

Educational potential:  ***

Edmund Dowd was a prominent banker in post-World War II Abana. He seemed to have everything: a successful career, a beautiful wife, and a spectacular home. He was known as an influential man and wielded no small amount of influence in financial and political circles. However, he suffered from the insecurity of the inordinately fortunate and began to mistrust his own good luck. As a result, he managed to convince himself that his wife, Bridget, was unfaithful to him.

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Dexter A. Prowley’s Ghosts of Abana: Foreword

Starting today, I’m posting the collected works of Dexter A. Prowley, the most illustrious ghost hunter and parapsychologist in the great city of Abana. We’ll start with his foreword; tomorrow, look for chapter 1: Ghosts of Love!

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Foreword

The city of Abana has long been known as one of the most haunted cities in America. Most rankings place it fourth behind New York, New Orleans, and Duluth.

What sets our city apart from (and, in my opinion, above) these others is the activity and scope of our native ghosts. Other cities may have, in the course of their history, more reported ghosts; I believe Abana leads the nation in terms of active hauntings. Moreover, our hauntings encompass nearly every variety of spectral activity known to parapsychology. From vengeful poltergeists to brooding specters to jovial sprites, Abana has everything.

I intend, at some point, to present a comprehensive guide to all apparitions, past and present, in Abana and its surrounding environs. This is not that volume, as I have not yet obtained the time or resources to fully investigate and document the vast number of reported ghosts in my city.

In some respects, however, a comprehensive volume might have been simpler than the present work, since, for this volume, I had to select which stories I would recount and which would not. I created several principles to guide the selection process, and chose stories that met some, if not all, of the following guidelines.

Continue reading

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