Month: May 2012

Genre wars

Mostly when I think about genre classification, I think the distinctions are not really worthy of discussion. Too many blurred lines. Poor Mr Banks, for example, forced to gain or shed an M., depending on the book. Same author, same mind. Right now, I’m happily reading Jennifer Egan’s Black Box as a twitter feed from The New Yorker. There’s definite science fiction, techno, thriller aspects there. And it’s wonderful literary writing.
Sometimes I feel something like this cartoon by Tom Gauld:

But, every now and then, I feel embarrassed, apologetic, shy about my love of spec fiction and my desire to write something beautiful and literary and yet full of robots, magic, time travel and portents (or a similar mix!)
Lev Grossman’s recent article in Time has some very interesting points to make about genre. I love his idea of plot as a meaningful literary device. I am intrigued by his categorisation of literary fiction as a genre. Typified by an intense interest in the psychology of the characters, perhaps? (having just read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom) Although as soon as I write that I think: unfair. What about Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire, a literary fantasy if ever there was one, and very preoccupied with character psychology and interactions. I do think Grossman is right to say criticism has failed genre writing. It will be interesting to see if it ever catches up.
Ursula LeGuin advocates another approach altogether and she makes some good points.
But finally, some Kurt Vonnegut wisdom:
The arts are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.
And what else really matters?



I read a very enjoyable short story over the weekend which, as a side note, suggested that arty/creative people were more emotionally complex than, well, their everyday counterparts. I’ve been mentally protesting this idea ever since and so listened with interest to Dr. Nancy Andreasen on Radio National. I’m very drawn to her research which posits a cognitive style for the creative thinker with a highly developed capacity to form original associative links. Creative thinkers in both the arts and the sciences. She gave some wonderful descriptions of physicists lost in thought and reaching, intuitively, for solutions. Have to admit that one of her studies showed a link between mood disorders (manic depression and depression) and creativity. Although the subjects of this study were exclusively writers. Not quite sure what to make of that!

And now, because it’s hard to be depressed when The Doctor is around, a bit of fan fiction, or perhaps fan puppetry:
The Doctor Puppet


Seek stillness in movement. I think this line has a place in my current book, Tombstones This picture reminds me a little of one of the characters, William, a cyborg scientist.

But the picture is, of course, a still from Daniel Crooks’ Static No. 12.


Threads from my cyberspace travels:
Supermoon. Beautiful photos abound. Also beautiful are these colour-coded maps of the planets, moons and asteroids created from spacecraft and telescope information. These two are Ganymede and Venus

Over at io9, I found Adam WarRock’s When the Winter Comes rap. (based, of course, on the Song of Fire and Ice)
I also found Zen Pencils’ wonderful illustrations.

Writers: For those of you who like to meet pain head on, try the Rejection Generator Project. But for others who just need a helping hand to improve their writing, then McSweeneys has some (reasonably) useful advice from Colin Nissan. Or, if nothing will flow, try a little Book Spine Poetry.
Unfortunately, the poetry at our house is a little repetitive.

Yes, my box of books has arrived! If you’re feeling lucky (and live in Australia) put your name down, very quickly, on the Goodreads giveaway.