Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Books Week

Several of the (mostly agent) blogs that I follow have been hyping up this week, "Banned Books Week", and I think that it is my responsibility to say a thing or two.

Before I do, however, I want to note that I think others will ultimately say it better. As such, I am going to add some links at the end of this post. If you stumble across a particularly riveting article, please add it in comments.


In this, the Information Age, the act of censorship in and of itself is counter-intuitive to every other social movement. I know pre-teen children that are being issued laptop computers (with wireless internet), as part of their curriculum.

The phenomenon of social media encourages the exchange of information. Status updates on facebook, myspace. GPS locators built into smart phone technology. A day spent in the local library is now replaced with five minutes on Google.

Every social movement suggests, "We can share with the world more than anyone should ever want to know." Society has evolved to embrace that, in all aspects, from sports and games and hobbies and entertainment to politics and medicine and ecological issues. You are not alone, even if you sit by yourself in front of a computer. The world is at your fingertips.

Is this dangerous? Yes, it is.

But so is censorship. Moreso, in fact.

Freedom of information, of the exchange of ideas, suggests only one thing - that others may listen. It is conducive to an environment where people with wicked and evil ideas may gather together to wage philosophical, economical and societal terrorism on the unexpectant masses.

Then again, in the same stroke, lies the ability for people who have survived or suffered, who face very personal grief, terror and tragedy in their lives, who feel so very alone to reach out and find others - and to learn, indeed, that they are not alone.

Somewhere in the middle, within our nature as a social animal, technology has furthered what has been the case since before the recorded history of man - that we seek approval and acceptance, the birth of cities rose from communities of commonality, and in the 21st century we are linked to each other in ways that were only previously imagined.

In books. In stories. Written recordings of what was originally oral history, passed from parent to child, philosopher to student, king to warrior to farmer. Variations on those themes and ideas, as science and evolution and history all teaches us more of ourselves and more of our past and broadens new ideas towards our collective future.

Censorship cannot be allowed. It is a tyrant's tool, an ancient failure brought forward, when ideas were so powerful that they could create revolutions in thoughts and beliefs. It is an act of fear.

Some many others will write about freedom, about amendments. Those are valid reasons, but they are not mine. I will present to you a universal truth, that does not require legislation.

Friend or foe, if I take the time to teach you my beliefs, I assume you have the ability to understand it. Sheep or lion, it makes no matter who or what you are. Society now does this on the grand scale, we covet information, we respond as a society to knowledge and wisdom.

We live the life that the ancient sages could have only dreamed, but with this one fatal flaw.

Censorship suggests an illogical belief, that you, the reader do not know how to think. Censorship is someone taking your hand and saying, "You may think this, this or this - but not that, oh no. Let me take that from you."

Censorship is putting a cover on an electrical outlet, because you are a child who does not know to not stick your finger in there.

I do not believe in this.

I believe that too much time and effort is spent in telling people what to think. All this information, the task itself is impossible.

It is now time, friends, to tell people HOW to think. To let them decide for themselves. To not treat people as children or horses, blinding their eyes from the frightening realities of the world they live in.

Teach people that all stories have value, all opinions have value, and the wise can turn a critical eye without blinders and decide for themselves what is right - based upon their beliefs.

Do you gain more satisfaction from being followed blindly, by those cowered in fear and ignorance - or would it be better to know that those who follow your beliefs know exactly what's out there, and have made a critical decision made with full knowledge of their options?

I choose the latter. Censorship chooses the former. I will take an educated and wide-eyed decision. I will choose the critical thinker over the fearful faithful.

For the love of humanity, use this opportunity to teach people HOW to think, to make their own decisions and stop deluding yourself into thinking that in this Age of Information, that you can hide ANYTHING from the masses. You can't. You're foolish to try, and you insult everyone in the process.

In the Age of Information, can we spend no effort in teaching people HOW to think critically? How is it so politically correct to cherish the individual, to treat everyone as equal with one hand, but then take away their ability to make their own critical choices with another?

Faith remains after beliefs are manifested. But you must give people the tools by which to construct beliefs that are true to the world they live in.

People are NOT too stupid to make their own choices. Censorship suggests they are, and for that reason alone, it shames me to know it still takes place.

~ Bill, Coyote.


American Library Association

Banned Books.com

Tahereh will review her favorite banned book, Sep 30.

Agent Janet Reid (aka Query Shark).

Agent Suzie Townsend and a couple of banned book reviews here.

Banned Book Review Week Excitement, ala The Rejectionist.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Video: Research, News - Killer Giant Squid

SyFy network has a new show called Beast Legends, in which a team of people digitally recreate, through science and legend, some of the mythical creatures.

I'm finding the show to be a little corny, but it's interesting in terms of the information they work with.

Recently, (episode 2) they recreated the Kraken myth, relying primarily upon their (spoiler alert) discovery of giant squid scientific factoids.

Aside, SyFy producers, you blew it on the "armor". An underwater predator that large will be capable of diving to such depths that their skin will have evolved into something very incredible, and believable. Sharkskin isn't armor, but it ain't no joke. Etc.

Getting info on the giant squid was difficult, as the animals are very elusive. Until now. (cue dramatic music)

As reported in the Express online paper, Humboldt squids are attacking fishermen and devouring fishing stocks.

Two Mexican fishermen were recently dragged from their boats and chewed so badly that their bodies could not be identified even by their own families.

No wonder the giant squid are called “diablos rojos” – red devils.


Marine biologists wear chain-mail to protect themselves from creatures that can measure 8ft, weigh 100lb and carry an armoury of more than 40,000 fearsome teeth along two “attack” tentacles.

The creatures have another eight “legs” for grasping and swimming and can reach speeds of more than 15mph.

(Ironically, or poetically, this story came from reading Dinosaur Comics. Comics are your friend, people.)

Now if you watched the SyFy episode, you would have learned that there's practically no footage of giant squids, due to their swimming depths and general intelligence. But I managed to find a little video to show you.

A tiny one, alas. (Which is amusing to consider that three feet is tiny. Such a cynic I am.)

If you're not in a hurry, there's a nice 13 minute documentary that's far more detailed here. Imbedding was disabled, so you'll have to clicky clicky.

To be able to explore these things, it's almost worth it to create a race of creatures that can breathe underw... hmm. Okay, back to work for me. ;-)

Truth is stranger than fiction, yes?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Writer's Report

Pace was down this week. It wasn't so much that life got in the way, it's moreso that I let it. If it is my intention to be a writer, I'm going to have to learn to live with Crohn's Disease, and keep writing in spite of "uncomfortable" days. Additionally, even *I* watched some football on Sunday with friends, then there were some family things that required my time.

Mostly just distractions that pushed at the heart of what I'm facing. I have two critical scenes that were pivotal in steering towards the events of the climax. I've had some misgivings about my characters and those are starting to show up now. Glancing up, I see that my word count may come in a bit high for what the story is. I managed to do one of the scenes, and the other is staring at me like a homeless guy in a downtown crosswalk.

The food for thought, this week, is that when you're facing difficulties, it is easier to find reasons not to write. I certainly didn't have to spend an hour watching the Fox Fall Party Webcast, in spite of my eager anticipation for season 7 of House. The misconception is that the scenes have to be great - and they don't - they just have to get written.

Rule # 4: Write now, Edit later. (I may have mentioned this last week, huh?)

So my answer has been to break up my routine, which I started on Monday, and it seems to be working. Previous to now, I had one writing session per day, and that session would go until I concluded a scene, a chapter, whatever my daily goal was. It was never about word count, it was about completing it in bits and pieces.

Mostly, that works for me. However, this week I've started two writing sessions a day. The first is 250 words or thereabouts, early in the day, before my internal editor comes online. The second, in the evenings, picks up where that left off and finishes the scene, and keeps going until I'm out of brain juice.

I share that with you because I know Brian and Luna are writing as well. And the following is for your benefit, too.

Rather randomly, I glanced over at the Suvudu thread of unread posts, found something that caught my eye, and that led to another blog, which led me to Jim Butcher's Live Journal, which he hasn't updated in over two years.

I haven't read the Dresden Files (yet), for which he is more well known, but I am doing a reread of his Codex Alera next month. It's not a bad epic tale, and I think more people should learn about it.

Butcher's LJ has only about 15 posts, and most of those are to do with craft. Oddly, many of his suggestions are ones that I was already doing (particularly where concerned the "Great Swampy Middle"), but there were plenty of things I haven't paid enough attention to. Well worth the couple hours (or less), it took to read through his advice.

Aside, I know it's been quiet here lately. I'm holding off until I recapture my pace, before I post the few things I've set aside for now. I'm sure you understand.

Raine, I know, has started a new job and other things going on in her household, plus I think she told me the last book she read wasn't worth a review. Gotta love that. Once she gets her schedule settled, I'm sure she'll be back in action.

This is a picture of my favorite dog, Rocky, who belongs to some friends of mine. He is a male Bull Boxer.

What I'm doing is showing the size of his gigantic melon-sized head by holding it next to a regulation size tennis ball.

Big, monstrous dogs make me happy, and they're fun to write. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Video: Research - Squirrels vs the World

Well, I'm a little behind on my word count this week, so my latest review will have to wait. In the meantime, I would like to share a couple of squirrel videos.

Yes, squirrels.

The first one is a bit lengthy, I'm afraid. But you can watch it for a minute and get the idea.

This second one, (and pardon the cheesy music background, but the original video wouldn't imbed), is something I saw on Nat Geo. The squirrel is protecting its babies in a nearby den from a gopher snake. Don't give up too early (after about 2:30, there is nothing but snake) on this one, as the squirrel wins and keeps going, but it ends up in a draw.

Again, I say truth is stranger than fiction.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Worldbuilding vs "Nerdism" (nerdism, seriously?)

Larry, over at OF Blog of the Fallen, is a bit of a literary elitist. That's a compliment, Larry. I read his blog because he represents that end of the scale, and he reminds me of some of the overly bright folks I used to socialize with.

This morning he resurrected an old argument from 2007, which you can see and research here.

It's a lovely discussion, and me only one cup of coffee into the day. You see, I am absolutely the fan of "world building" (i.e., secondary world creation) and it is an inherent aspect of my work-in-progress. Yes, I have maps, and languages and gods and tigers, oh my!

Why? Because I'm a nerd? Maybe. Anyway, here's something from an old Larry post that caught my eye...

Sounds more like a weak and twisted version of studying history, without the desire of those that do study history to apply that knowledge toward a greater understanding of ourselves. ~
Larry, 2007

Let's talk about that. I'll be the first to admit that history wasn't a strong subject while I was in school, all that bloody memorization of dates didn't work for me.

Yes, the appeal of Tolkien's Middle Earth, of tabletop gaming, of online gaming was the immersion into a secondary world that I could know and understand and participate in on some level. That cracked the egg, if you will, into giving me more interest in human history. The enjoyment gained from that level of immersion allowed me to step up to historical fiction, in books and movies.

For example, yes, "300" was not really historically accurate, but damn it was fun to watch. After that, reading Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield was far more enjoyable (and slightly more accurate). It didn't feel like I was back in high school, slipping notes to the hot spanish girl in the mini skirt while pretending to pay attention, while the teacher droned on and on.

After reading George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, I looked up some material on the War of the Roses, and the Hundred Years War, from which the fiction is influenced.

Isn't that the point of fiction? To draw relevance in a way that is spectacular, if not inherently more digestible by virtue of it being fiction? Storytelling, from an ancestry of the oral tradition to our modern day usage has always served a dual function of entertainment and communication.

Good worldbuilding will not only immerse, it will inspire. Humans just aren't that original, and you aren't going to find a political or military event in all of fiction that hasn't been documented somewhere.

So what if it's 300 Dwarves against 100k Goblins beneath a mountain somewhere? Maybe that'll make you think of the Spartans, and next thing you know you're exploring your Greek roots.

Some immersion will be pure escapism, and that's fine. Who are we to judge what the individual reader gets from a story?

What is it that a story should achieve, exactly? Good prose gives appreciation for the beauty of language. Good dialogue allows the opportunity to savor the human condition in the exchange of words, whether they be witty, humorous, profound or provocative. Good characterization and growth allows the reader to relate, to understand, to empathize in order to gain a greater understanding of the self.

There is no story without setting - so why not make the setting incredible, educational, inspirational? How many castles, swords, mountains, valleys and oceans do you have to read about before you find the urge to explore your own world?

All of this is very nerdy, hmm? Maybe it is (but nerdism, as a phrase, makes me giggle). So what, I'm a nerd. You don't break 150k words on any sort of writing unless you are, methinks.

I don't think that info dumps are helpful, as that's a reminder of why school was sometimes boring. I believe in the power of prose, the magic of language, and I think dialogue should be true to the characters, and the characters should be true to themselves. The story is what matters, and the story should take you somewhere, and bring you back. Communicate and entertain.

I do have an agenda in my own writing, my own secondary world creation and perhaps it is jaded by the role my education has had on me; I suspect that's not only natural, but redundant as a statement.

I'm fascinated by ancient cultures, and how they were honed by their geography, their challenges, the geology of the land itself. My story(-ies) takes place in a secondary world with parallels to cultures that never did meet in our history, and yes my (secondary) purpose is to show how much humans were affected by where they ended up, and what they had to endure.

Why? Why not? If setting is going to be created anyway for the purpose of weaving a tale, why not make it something valuable in and of itself? So long as I don't overpower the narrative with my shiny creation, what's the problem, exactly? It's not making me a bad person for studying Neolithic cultures, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, the Roman Empire, the Incas, et al.

If the passion I've found in the discovery of the secrets of the earth, from people to plants to animals to geology can translate to my readers, to a desire for them to find their own place in the Universe, then I consider I've gone above and beyond in my role as a writer.