Just a rough list of the e-book issues I can think of. And, I should say up top here that I’m pretty much addicted to my Kindle. So this isn’t an attack on e-books (which — a lot of of those are taking the form of nostalgia, right? like when we went from cassettes to CDs?). At the same time, I see nothing wrong with the already-proven technology of the paper book; I’m fairly addicted to them as well. And, yes, a lot of times this pro/con argument, it’s eviling up e-books in defense of brick & mortar bookstores, yes? So I discount most of those. I’m all for bookstores, of course, but I’m also all for the on-line retailers, or direct-purchasing from the press itself (makes them more money). Anyway, enough preamble:
Category Archives: select
not based on a true story
So I read more fiction than non-fiction. It’s a moral failing, I know: I prefer the make-believe. Too, though, I mean I write fiction. Makes sense to read it, yeah? Where else am I going to learn technique, cue into little narrative shuffles this or that writer pulled off, all that? To take it a little further, if I want to be part of the ‘dialogue’ of fiction, then I need to be listening to what the other writers are saying. But this starts to feel like rationalization just real fast. Really, with me, I think it’s just that contemporary non-fiction doesn’t deal much in werewolves or aliens or zombies, all elements I think pretty vital to a good story (here’s the recipe: alien werewolf beams down to earth, dies, then comes back as a zombie. sprinkle liberally with laser guns and cool music). Which is itself probably just a leftover from the fifth grade, when stories were or at least had the poetential to be cool, whereas essays were inherently boring, as they felt just a suspiciously lot like learning. Nevermind that, if there was a girl on the cover, the chances of her wearing a chain mail bikini were exceedingly low.
In Five Words or Less:
Boring title, good movie.
In More than Five Words, with /
In 1998, Sam Raimi adapted Scott Smith’s debut sensation A Simple Plan (1993) for us, and, though a lot of the narrator’s nuances were lost in the compression, still, Smith had written a strong enough dramatic spine that his story survived the transition, and made Paramount some money. Ten years later, now, Ron Howard has adapted Smith’s sophomore novel The Ruins to the screen, and though he didn’t have a Billy Bob Thornton to anchor the cast, still, the finished product is perhaps even more compelling. Not to slight Howard here either, but it’s really Smith that deserves the credit for this, as The Ruins, though a largely ‘internal’ novel (as was A Simple Plan—it was Hank’s desperate rationalizing which led us to identify with him), owes a lot more to Aristotle’s rules of drama than most novels on the shelf: it’s got unity of place (one hill); unity of time (three days); and economy of character (six).
Though The Long Trial of Nolan Dugatti‘s not officially released until early September, it looks to be slipping through Amazon already. And that seems to me to be a good time to explain it a bit. Or, not explain it, but explain around it. And not like this, but with this running journal-thing (my first ever) I kept for the seventy-two hours it took me to write it. That Three-Day Novel Contest, yep. Which, if I could find a way to make a living doing one of those every weekend, then I guess I’d do pretty well for about a year, at which point I’d of course have to die. Anyway, the week after that contest, I read this journal-thing, and my knee-jerk reaction — pretending, say, I was reading a journal-thing somebody else had been keeping — was that something wasn’t right. At some very fundamental level. And also I kind of knew that I shouldn’t show to this to anybody.
So a while back, I started a list like this but it got all out of hand, yeah, turned into that House of Fiction thing, which was really just a version of this other post, I suppose. When all I really wanted was something short, to pin up by my monitor, help me keep it between the lines, all that. Except of course writing ‘rules,’ I mean, Vonnegut‘s laid them down, Elmore Leonard‘s done it, Twain‘s got them, Palahniuk‘s messed around with it, and Orwell has too, and of course Stephen King has. And then there’s stuff like this, and this, and this, and this, and this, and of course this, and I agree with just about all of it (except the bad talk about mutants; sand mutants rule), even down to stealing some of them (‘incorporating’), but still, I guess, am either vain enough or blind enough — and I’m thinking vanity and blindness aren’t that unrelated, really — to think that I have to have my own list. Maybe just for me, for that little empty space by my monitor. Something like this:
Third installments of a franchise the audience is in love with are very difficult to pull off. Nobody says Alien3 or Return of the Jedi or the third Scream are their favorites of the series, right? Even Godfather III, as good as it might be, is overshadowed by the first two. Granted, by the third installment, the success of the original and its sequel have given this latest incarnation a serious budget to work with, and all the marketing is in place, and some of the principal actors are probably even still signed on, but—for this sequel to the sequel to capture instead of divide the audience, it has to walk such a tightrope of formula and originality; it has to do what the original did and find a way of doing it which isn’t tired. This is why the two follow-ups to The Matrix, while pretty brilliant in their own right, at all levels—story continuity, effects, series escalation—still paled in comparison to the original. What The Matrix did, which just blew the audience away, was show how this reality we’d bought into was a construct. The next two installments could no longer surprise us with that, but instead had to assume it, and try to pull the carpet out in some other, more subtle way. In fact, the only ‘third’ that might have done for the audience what the original did was Friday the 13th’s, the one where Jason got his mask. Which Terminator 3, following the unapologetic slashers Terminator and Terminator 2 were, might should have paid a little attention to*. But yeah, I know: without James Cameron’s story sense, that is, with him saying the story was already told, what else could have happened, right? I mean, Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines, what it is essentially is an extension of everything Cameron laid down in the first two installments. So how could it have gone wrong?
What I wrote after (finally) reading Ben Marcus’s piece in Harper’s on Jonathan Franzen and experimental fiction
[ the title and the whole piece here may not make much sense–it may not anyway–without cueing into TheValve.org, which, it looks like, may have the orignial Marcus article in PDF ]
Just what is experimental fiction, then?
The easiest definition for experimental or innovative or non-conventional fiction is fiction that, both at armslength and upon closer inspection, doesn’t look or read at all like standard, mainstream, commercial fiction. A more biased definition would be ‘fiction that takes chances.’ The other side of that, of course, would be ‘fiction that doesn’t sell.’ Take them both together, and what you have is ‘Fiction that plays enough with form or language or narrative syntax that, quite often, it loses the audience altogether.’ The ‘innovative’ writer’s response to this will often be that it’s not their job to spoonfeed their story out in easily digestible bites—that the real corruption here is an audience that feels entitled to ‘easy’ stories; the ‘mainstream’ writers will counter that, really, it’s not all that hard to make your story difficult to swallow. The hard part, actually, is making it not only edible, but sweet enough that the reader will want more and more.
So a while back a friend i was borrowing DVDs from asked what horror he might need to have a somewhat complete collection. I told him I’d pen him a list sooner or later. Only just now remembering this. And, yeah, two disclaimers before I even start here: 1) I’m surely forgetting as many as I’m remembering, and 2) my tastes of course kind of dictate what I remember, what I don’t. And I love slashers. Too, I started out trying to have just ten movies per decade, but, really, any deeper than 1970 and my record gets more than spotty (again, taste: Nosferatu and The Golem and Caligari and White Zombie and all those were neat and important and pretty much shaped everything to come, but still, I’d rather watch all the stuff they influenced). So I lumped the fifties and sixties together, still barely made ten there. But then the seventies and eighties, I was having to leave so much out. Anyway, no, I haven’t checked all these dates. Just kind of dartboarding them where looks good. And yeah, I’d guess I’ll go back in, edit this a bit. But of course post any obvious misses as comments; I’ll try to float them up into the main thing. And, yeah, I could make this complete just by cracking DEMON THEORY open, but I’m trying hard not to even look at it until it’s real–until it shows up leaning against my storm door. Anyway, what I came up with during what few commercials THE COLBERT REPORT had:
The best place to hide from an axe-weilding maniac is with your back pressed up against a wooden door you’re pretty sure is both solid and impenetrable. This is because that maniac who’s after you, his first strike with the axe will nearly always be from two to six inches from the left side of your face, thus allowing you both to know exactly where she or he is, and thus escape into the next room, and getting the maniac’s axe caught in the door long enough for you to make that escape. As for why these maniacs strike the door to the left of your head instead of your right, there’s at least two theories: