Weekly Recap – the two days late edition

So much happened last week I couldn’t get it out into a blog in time for Monday.

I became the sheriff of the small Pacific Northwest town of Eureka and have had to shepherd the kooky citizens of that burg and deal with the hidden top secret government think tank located there.

Um – or wait – that is Jack Carter from the tv show Eureka which I spent the weekend watching.

Other items of note: Mom had me over for dinner with my brother on Monday night.  marinated pork tenderloin, rice, corn on the cob and Agi Sushi.  Plus leftovers to take home.  Delicious!  We had four whole people back from vacation for gaming on Friday.  A marvelous game of Stronghold was held.  It was Stef and I versus Pauly and Tim.  We were defense and the aggressively natured duo were the attackers.  It was  a consistently tense game.  I think it came down to the final assault.  If we had held them off for one more round, we would have won.  As it was, they earned their victory at 11 victory points to our 9.  In that final round they completed the “ritual” victory, breached our first gate and breached our walls once.

That is pretty much it.

This week is back to school!  Good luck to all the teachers.  Good luck to all the parents.  Good luck to all the students.  I’m sure all the folks I know will have a great year.

There were also some friends of mine who have had some difficulties in the last week.  They are in my thoughts and prayers.

I hope that was worth the wait!

Writer Responsibility

So a friend said to me, on Friday, that he was done with George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series.  The reason he gave was that Martin isn’t fair to his readers.  (My words – I could have the sentiment wrong.)  That is an interesting statement that I’d like to explore.  Partly because I responded flippantly to its utterance.

The first idea to look at is if there is a contract (social not legal) between an author and the readers.  That is pretty tricky.  Mostly I’d say there isn’t, but there is a little.  Writing is mostly a solitary pursuit.  An author writes and, perhaps, a reader reads.  The two actions are separate and inherently different.  From what I’ve read a writer generally has an exemplar reader in mind when they create.  It might be themselves – writing a book they’d like to read.  It might be a family member or a friend.  It might be no one in particular, but just an imaginary person who they think wold enjoy the work.  But what it isn’t is the reader.  And for good fiction it isn’t a type of reader either.  Writing for a type of person produces marketing not literature.  Or maybe Micheal Bay movies.  So I’d say that certainly the author has not betrayed you if you are dissatisfied with their work.

But, what about writing within a genre?  Genres have rules much like a haiku has rules.  If you break them what you have produced is not longer a haiku.  Even more to the point within a series the writer has created an expectation that what comes after will resemble what comes before.

Of course the strictures of genre fiction aren’t nearly as inflexible as the structure of a haiku.  It is said that there are only a few master plots. (I’ve heard as few as two – Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk – to a number around 20.)  Within those limitations it is how an author build character and mood, or uses suspense and style that makes one book different from another.

Now there is a reason why within a genre there are rules.  The most popular and successful works within the genre adhere pretty closely to those rules.  For instance, the differences between Harry Potter and The Once and Future King are pretty vast, but there are a lot of similarities too.  Breaking from them might be satisfying to an author but will usually end up alienating many of the readers.

On the other hand, it is the tweaking of those conventions that some readers look for.  Ever wonder why movie critics dislike most of the good movies?  They’ve seen it before because they’ve seen a million movies.  They either go back to the source of an idea – an idea that may seem raw and unsophisticated now – or they laud what is different because it is different.

Readers grow the same way.  Using the word growth is misleading here – maybe change is better.  Certainly within fantasy I am most intrigued by what is different – Stephenson, Mieville and Martin rank at the top of my must read list, because, in large part, I’m not sure what to expect next from them.  Of course neither a reader nor an author should thus expect to enjoy everything they encounter.  And if an author is playing fair with their readers they will announce fairly early on that this work will be circumventing certain conventions.

Which comes to a third way the author could betray the reader.  They could cause the reader to think they are delivering one thing and instead deliver another.  I felt this way about the latest Dresden novel.  I thought I was promised a murder mystery, but that was only a sideline and instead there was a novel about coming to terms with guilt.  I read a post lately by an author, Daniel Abraham, who felt exactly that sort of betrayal from Stephenson.  Let me find it: here.

I’d certainly say that if you encounter that it would seem to be a betrayal of the relationship between the reader and the writer.  I’ve read Cryptonomicon and didn’t have that same issue, but I can certainly see Abraham’s point.

Then there is one final way to look at it.  Maybe a person just doesn’t like it.  Maybe, as Martin’s books do, they spend an inordinate amount of time in showing the actions and motivations of cruel and evil people.  Maybe, the book seems to relish in the suffering of its characters.  I can relate to that – I can’t watch reality tv for exactly that reason – it seems to be like watching a car wreck.  But in fiction I feel the opposite.  My favorite genre would be film noir which pretty much always ends in a tragedy that the protagonist brings about on themselves.  And that same criticism could certainly be leveled at Martin and be very hard to defend.

Here the betrayal isn’t dishonest – the book might be doing what it says it will on the cover, but the betrayal is still felt since the reader leaves the experience feeling – hmm violated is too strong a word, but I can’t think of another, so just dial violated down do a less extreme meaning.

In the end, what it comes down to is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to like something just because others do.  Hmm, no that is a lousy in the end.  Scrub that.  Try this:

The relationship between a reader and a book is between the words on the page and the way they influence the reader, but it isn’t between the reader and the writer.  There are lots of reasons to dislike a book.  It could be badly written.  It could be morally offensive.  Or it might just nor be your thing.  My high school english teacher used to tell us that we weren’t allowed to say that a piece of classic literature sucked.  The novel/play/whatever had been proven throughout the generations.  That may be true, but that still doesn’t mean that I need to like it.

And Martin is fair from writing the next War and Peace or Hamlet.

A Canticle for Leibowitz – A Review

I like this book.  I recommend you should read it.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter J. Miller is a post-apocalyptic tale with radiation and mutants and craggy, barren wastes, but is nothing like the image my words are currently conveying.

St. Leibowitz is the founder of a monastery dedicated to preserving knowledge after a nuclear cataclysm.  The novel is divided into three books each set hundreds of years after Leibowitz and each other.  The books show the gradual renewal of mankind.  They depict the life and happenings with the monastery.  But mostly they portray lives with hope, despair, foolishness, courage and faith.

This is also a book about miracles.

It is a pure form of science fiction asking what does humanity look like after it has tried to destroy itself.

I posted a list early this week of fantasy and science fiction novels.  More than any other list, this one contained more books which I had read, but it also had many which I hadn’t.  Canticle was the highest ranked that I had never encountered.  It should be ranked higher.

Worst Bus Trip Ever

so I signed onto the Internet to register my disgust throughout the world.

Nearly 2 hours long.  We did the tour.  I’d probably be in a better mood if my bladder hadn’t informed me of its fullness about 20 minutes into the trip…  why didn’t I go before we left?

THe bus was filled with talkers.  Nice people.  All very friendly.  But they never stop talking.There were conversations about how KISS is the best band ever, different patent ideas, poor purchases made at Princess Auto… the list goes on.

“uh huh,” I’d contribute.  At first I was reading my book, but than the pressure mounted and I needed to focus on it.  The friendly people on the bus took the opportunity to loop me into the conversations.

“Yep, that is a good idea,” I’d add.  I’d be thinking, “20 more blocks until home.”

Then we drove right by my place.

See we had a pickup at the U of A hospital who was going to the Callingwood Mall.  All drivers avoid the Whitemud like the plague – it is just something they do.  So we took 107 avenue coming West.  But dispatch assumed he driver would be on the Whitemud so had it scheduled: hospital, Callingwood, me.

We come down 107.  20 blocks, 10 blocks – we are past Stony Plain on 170th.   5 blocks.  Vroom and we are by my turnoff.  Traffic southbound on 170 is a nightmare.

Talk, talk, talk.  Think desert.  Think drought.  Think the empty vacuum of space.

I didn’t realize what was happening.  I thought maybe there was another pickup at the mall who needed to go to near my place.  So I didn’t complain as we inched down the street.     Once we are past the mall, I ask, but by then it is too late to turn around.

We complete the drop-off and come back home.

Talk.  Talk.  Talk.

“Sure.  I can see that,” I add during the appropriate break in conversation looking for my input.

Finally home!  I am so excited I hit the wrong direction on the elevator button.

I’ve been home now for 10 minutes.  I have vented now both my spleen and my bladder and I feel much better!

What we need here is some poetry…

The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee,
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee;
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb
He is meek, and He is mild,
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

William Blake

Tuesday

Um.. Tuesday – the name derives from the Norse god, Tyr.  Tiw being an alternate form of Tyr and the day literally being Tiw’s Day.  Tyr was used because it is a Norse war god – most Latin based laguages use the Roman god Mars – such as Mardi in French.

I have nothing to say today.

I started reading a new book today – last night maybe.  It is awesome.

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh!  I just thought of this major problem I have.  For my birthday Mom bought me new bedding.  (Sad, but true.)  Anyway, the sheets are slippery.  Every morning as I throw off the covers they slide right off the bed.  Gah.  Gah I say.

The trials and tribulations of my life.  🙂