The Momentum Blog
Posted November 27, 2013 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
Recently I finished reading John Safran’s new true crime book Murder in Mississippi, and like most in the genre, it was clear that the bulk of the narrative is there to clear up what happened, who was involved, and why. Ultimately, it’s a search for truth.
What else resonates with this book and other true crime stories, is that the more you look the less you know. Safran comments that if he visits a town and interviews one person, he leaves that town with a very clear, definite idea of the place, of the incident, and of the person that he met. However, if he stayed just a day longer, or talked for a bit more, or to someone else, that definite idea suddenly becomes less clear. The more he looks, the less he knows.
While this is patently obvious in the sense that one does need to investigate further in order to understand the complexity, it does reveal the goal of a story: tell the truth.
Is this true in other styles of writing, other genres?
It’s often said that writers starting out should write what they know.
It’s also said that writing what you know is crap, that writing fiction is clearly about writing unknowns.
I like to think it comes from a bit of both. For example, you can write about what you know and then start to creep into territories that are yet to be found. Imbue and extend the known world into undiscovered countries. Or, write about something completely different and distinct from yourself, but then enrich it with details and sensibilities brought from your own parallel experiences. So, either way, whether you’re starting with what you know or what you don’t know, you seem to end up in the same place.
This is where the truth comes in. Somewhere, in the middle of what you know and what you don’t know, there’s the truth. And that’s the story.
‘To read fiction means to play a game by which we give sense to the immensity of things that happened, are happening, or will happen in the actual world. By reading narrative we escape the anxiety that attacks us when we try to say something true about the world. This is the consoling function of narrative – the reason people tell stories, and have told stories from the beginning of time.’
So stories are told in order to get at the truth. This is the glorious nature of fiction for me. By the concoction of a fiction, of a lie, we get to a truth. By obfuscation and masquerading, we reveal.
The writer is allowed to lie and deceive the reader, take them somewhere that doesn’t actually exist. But then, by the end, the truth is revealed. We were talking about the real world all along; we were writing and reading about fictions, and all the while a growing realisation occurs. The real world has changed, we see it differently now, a truth – no matter how small or how large – has been revealed.
For Safran, and I assume any investigation into a known event, the more you know the less you’re certain.We all know Oswald shot Kennedy. Or do we? Maybe he did, but why? Maybe he had help, but who? Life doesn’t fit itself into three acts, or developed arcs, or moments of revelation. We aren’t all on a hero’s quest. We don’t all cross thresholds from ordinary worlds into extraordinary worlds, charged with creating our own mythology. The more we look at life, the less it is a story.
Story is rather the way we can look at life and understand it. Make sense of the disorder and discontinuous moments. We rely on pattern recognition to read, to communicate, to recognise and interact in our daily lives – the use of narrative is merely another pattern we overlay in order to get to an understanding.
The emergence and reliance on tropes and archetypes, genre and style is evidence enough that we can – as readers or writers – take a gathering of events and orchestrate them into a fashion, a pattern, that makes them coherent. The more we sift through the confusion, the more we explore the complexities, the more we can make sense of the uncertainty.
So write what you know. Write what you don’t know. Write both. It doesn’t matter. Somewhere in the middle is the truth, and that’s worth aiming for. Never one to dress up the facts, Hemingway said that ‘all you have to do is write one true sentence, write the truest sentence you know.’ Whatever that might be, it’s worth trying to find out.Tagged: advice, fiction, genre, true crime, writers, writing
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Posted November 12, 2013 by Dirk Strasser
This post first appeared at www.dirkstrasser.com
Many people have said to me that my name sounds like a fantasy writer’s name, asking me if it’s my actual name. Garth Nix also often gets asked the same question. In both mine and Garth’s case, they are our real names, but it makes me wonder what it is that makes a name sound like it belongs to a fantasy writer?
Names are funny things. I recently discovered that Eddie Perfect is the Australian performer/writer’s real name. I was absolutely convinced it was a stage name. As he says, though: ”If I was willing to change it, I’d have gone all the way to F..king–Brilliant. Hyphenated.”
So, what is it that makes a name sound like a fantasy writer’s? My guess is that the letters “J” and “R” have something to do with it: J R R Tolkien, J K Rowling, George R R Martin. There aren’t any initials in “Dirk Strasser”, but there are three Rs.
I once had the venerable science fiction author and editor, Algis Budrys, comment in a rejection letter to me “Mmm, with a name like ‘Dirk Strasser’, I would have thought you’d be South African.” And I would have thought maybe someone with the name “Algis Budrys” shouldn’t really be commenting on other writer’s names.
Do people with fantasy writer-type names naturally drift towards fantasy writing? That would be a bit spooky. Maybe there’s a prophecy thing happening.
What if a John Smith wants to turn his hand at fantasy? One solution is to add some initials: John R R Smith works. But I think there’s a better solution for turning an ordinary name into a fantasy writers’ name – add an exotic sounding middle name.
John Tiberius Smith does the trick, as does Jane Aphrodite Smith. It’s just a matter of trawling through enough history and mythology to get the right combination.
Not everyone has been fortunate to have been given fantasy writer names by their parents. For those of you that haven’t, well, you’re just a google search away from your destiny.authors, books of ascension, dirk strasser, fantasy, genre, pseudonyms, writers, writing
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Posted October 18, 2013 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
There’s a section within William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition where the protagonist is on her computer, sifting through posts on a message board. It runs as follows:
She automatically clicks Reload, and his response is already there:
Where are you? nt.
London. Working. nt.
And all of this is hugely comforting. Psychological prophylaxis, evidently.
The phone rings, beside the Cube, mirror-world rings she finds unnerving at the best of times. She hesitates, then answers.
There are a countless number of these throughout the book, where the character of Cayce juggles multiple strands of communication, flipping instantly from a text-based conversation on the internet to one on a phone. What I found fascinating as I read it was how rare it is to see someone effortlessly weaving in multiple strands of communication without drawing too much attention to it.
There are anachronisms throughout Pattern Recognition, which is to be expected, given that it was written in 2003. Given that so much of the plot is based around information and communication carried across the internet, and that the internet of 2002/3 is a vastly different landscape to the internet of 2013, it makes it quite fun to read the now-antiquated shorthand that dotted the forums ten years ago, the searching for crucial plot points in a web browser’s history, and the fact that all the characters in the book are obsessed with discovering the source of anonymous video clips on the internet. It’s almost quaint.
But I guess that’s the point now. Technology is so pervasive these days, and so ingrained into our daily routines and communications that it’s logical to include it in such a normal, effortless way as Gibson does. The problem is that is changes so readily that even a story written two years ago instead of ten will quickly appear outdated in how it references our use of technology.
Gone are the days where anything technology-related in the plot is farmed out to the token hacker character (otherwise the velociraptors will eat us) or that a character’s affinity for technology becomes the driving force for the plot (we can’t always rely on Sandra Bullock to save us from the internet).
Anyone uses technology these days. Everyone. It’s practically banal. So do we include phones and tablets and wifi and whatever else we invent tomorrow in our stories?
It’s not such a problem if the genre demands it. But what if it’s a story where technology is not necessarily inherent to the traditions of its genre? Can you make an iPhone romantic?
Use of contemporary technology can make a story relevant and effective for its immediate audience. Douglas Coupland’s early novels Generation X, Shampoo Planet and Microserfs all went a long way towards defining a large section of early 1990s culture, particularly in the proliferation, usage and inundation of rapidly developing technology.
And there’s the benefit – I think – for featuring technology in stories: it makes them immediate.
But the exponentially evolving path of technology these days has meant that the window of that immediacy grows ever shorter. Coupland’s more recent novels have failed to strike as much of a relevance to a 21st century audience as they did to a late-20th century audience. Or maybe they did, but they then quickly became out of date.
In the 1999 film The Insider, Al Pacino’s character ropes Russell Crowe’s whistleblower into an interview through a series of unanswered phone calls, fax machine notes and answering machine messages. It’s ridiculously dramatic in the steps their protracted conversation negotiate. It’s also ridiculously ‘90s.
Technology quickly becomes laughable as it becomes obsolete. There is the potential a story can live or die by this, in the sense that unintentionally jarring and comical references occur out of nowhere.
So do we avoid technology, if it’s not needed? That seems almost odder, given how infected we are with it these days. How much we do seem to need it.
Maybe it’s just that awkward middle ground, the time that occurs between a book being shockingly relevant and now, and it becoming quaint and nostalgic. Maybe that’s it. If we’re daring enough to throw in iPhones and Twitter and Facebook and whatever else we’ll use to generate and communicate information in the future, if we risk a brief period of obsolescence, we can eventually reach that time when a reader gets to look back fondly at the way things were and see with fresh eyes how far we’ve come, just like in Pattern Recognition.Tagged: communication, digital, genre, technology, William Gibson, writing
Posted September 27, 2013 by Alex Christie
The perils of reading outside your comfort zone is a topic I’ve come across on a few book blogs and I thought I would add my two cents.
We all have a comfort zone that we like to stick to in our lives whether we are aware of it or not. Some of us like to break out of it from time to time on holidays, bungy jumping or in relationships, but we rarely think about our reading habits in relation to our comfort zone.
Often I have found myself in a reading rut, starved for a good book and I have come to realise that I’ve generally always stuck to a certain type of book. This phenomenon is similar to your friend who is always dating the wrong kind of girl/guy for them – they are constantly seduced by the initial connection and often let down by their own choices. Breaking out of your reading comfort zone is analogous to finding a really cute, lovely guy for a summer fling: it’s refreshing, it’s invigorating and when you get back to your usual dating circles, you’re ready to give it all another go. Reading something really different can have the same effect, leaving you with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Even better, if you’re a writer of any kind, widening your reading habits will make you a better wordsmith. Making sure you’re not limited to one genre or author will help you get a better understanding of how writers construct their stories and the techniques they use to better express them. If you’re a sci-fi nut, why not pick up a romance? Moreover, don’t limit yourself to just one form of literature, break out of your fiction routine by picking up a memoir, a short story, a book of poetry or a history book. It’s important to remind yourself that an author’s skills aren’t necessarily specific to their subject; you may be inspired!
Lastly, whether you’re a reader, a writer, or both, reading things outside of your comfort zone stimulates your brain. Whether consciously or unconsciously, you’re exposing yourself to new ideas, new words and new ways of thinking, and there’s no doubt that acquiring knowledge and learning about the world keeps those little grey cells active! I guarantee you’ll feel more creative and ultimately be more productive.
P.S. You may suddenly be able to fill in those crossword clues your missing or win a game of Trivial Pursuit- you never know!Tagged: Books, genre, reading
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Posted September 24, 2013 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
After lamenting the lack of monster books on our shelves, I thought I’d turn to another stock character that seems to be missing in action when it comes to the books we read and the books we (might) write.
Why are there no superhero novels?
Now I realise that there are some. Every now and then we’re treated to a book that utilises the superhero character and it takes us by surprise. These, though, are usually different to the traditional superhero, in that the stories are either literary inversions of the superhero mythos (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay), wish-fulfillment coming-of-age narratives (The Cartographer), or are those ensconced in another genre already to not necessarily define themselves as a superhero story (Jumper). They’re not superheroes in the way that we now familiarise ourselves with the term.
It’s odd, though. It seems to be a character-type and genre ripe for longer written narratives. Given how pervasive and all-consuming superheroes have become in cinema in the last decade – which in turn has boosted the resurgence in the comics original and new, animations, TV shows – it really is surprising that it’s a character that seems resistant to making the leap onto the pages of a book.
I’m hard pressed to think of another hugely dominant stock character, genre or subgenre that has as much difficulty transcending the boundaries of its original medium.
The adaptation of comics into cinema is a logical step. The mediums share so much of a common language in visual storytelling that the ongoing obsession with comic book superheroes broadcasting their origin stories to audiences through cinema screens is really an inevitable result. It was always going to happen.
It might have taken a few years and quite a few missteps before mainstream cinema found the right formula, but now that Marvel and DC have it, there’s no way they’re letting go. Here there’s an established audience that is migrating with the character from comics to films, so there’s a guaranteed baseline of earnings, and that’s before any walk-in audience is even factored into the equation. The bigger the original character, the bigger the star you hire to play them, the bigger the director you get to reinvent them, the bigger the earnings. Multiply the superheroes, multiply the earnings, you end up with The Avengers.
So why not books?
I can’t quite see Batman or Superman going through another incarnation in a 250-page novel. That would run the risk of becoming too much like a novelisation. Less credibility, less desire from an author to try creating a narrative around a pre-existing character. But we all understand superheroes, we all understand how they work and how they function in narratives, surely there’s a genre ripe for the picking then? One that could sustain a brand new superhero in a different medium?
The more I think about it, the more it does seem odd that it’s not attempted more by writers. Those in love with the character-type are in a position to add to the legions with their own creation, complete with his or her own origin story, psychological complex, jettisoned family life and desire to fight for good and for truth and for the 21st century way.
Or those sick of the endless origin stories, the flimsy psychologies, the procession of reinventions upon reimaginings, sick of the Muscle-Clads and the Buxom Superiors, sick of the stereotypes and regression, those sick of it all in the traditional mediums can finally take a stand and write their own superhero. Write a superhero that exists in their own world, in their own way, who can stand on a milk-crate, lean out an open window and cry out that they’re a mad-as-hell superhero, and they’re not going to take it anymore.
It would certainly make a change from all the chosen-one plots that seem to be clogging up the store shelves, in that there’s a clear distinction between a hero in a literary sense, and a superhero in a comic sense. From the origins as an inked image of a character with speech-bubble dialogue, to a Sunday-morning cartoon on TV, to a character defined by a major studio and a major actor, the superhero is ready for another reinvention.
Writers and artists have always tried to mould the superhero to their own devices, whether continuing or enhancing or bucking the trend. The superhero as a character is strong enough to withstand the journey into a story that relies not on the drawings, nor on the acting or the effects, but on the strength of a writer’s prose. Prose that fights for truth, fights for justice, or maybe just prose that likes to watch the words burn.
Tagged: comics, film, genre, novels. books, superheroes, writing
Posted August 27, 2013 by Mark
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently spoke about an upcoming implosion in Hollywood, predicting that a string of $200 million blockbusters would fail and that would spell the end of the blockbuster era. If they’re right, soon we’ll be in an entertainment landscape where better, smaller films dominate, rather than a handful of uber-budget franchises.
What I want to argue isn’t that Spielberg and Lucas are wrong, but that the era of the blockbuster has already ended, and that we are in a new and more frightening era – the Age of the Franchise.
Are franchise movies and blockbusters the same thing? No, even though one gave rise to the other. The main difference in my definition is that a blockbuster is a film in which there is a clear beginning, middle and end. It’s a film that dominates the box office over a sustained period of time. It’s a film that only has a sequel if the box office justifies it. And many blockbusters weren’t blockbusters until after their release date. Examples of blockbusters: Jaws, Star Wars, Independence Day, Jurassic Park.
A franchise movie is a different beast. Franchise movies are made with the express purpose of getting not just one, but several sequels. More often than not it comes from source material, such as comic books, novel series, television or older movies. The franchise movie dominates the box office for a brief, intense, period before being pushed aside by the next franchise film. Rather than a sustained box office run, franchise movies make the bulk of their money in the first three to ten days of release. These are movies that have guaranteed box office. Examples of franchise films: Any Marvel film, Transformers, Harry Potter, etc.
It used to be the rule that sequels were all about diminishing returns. The first movie would make the most money, and the sequels less and less. A three film series was the best anyone could hope for, and if a fourth movie went into production, it was almost embarrassing, and usually direct to video (of course there are exceptions such as the Star Trek series). Now, the first movie is pretty much a marketing campaign for the sequels, with a follow-up only deemed successful if it significantly out-grosses the previous film. This has already been taken to its logical conclusion with the Iron Man movies, Thor and Captain America essentially being expensive ads for The Avengers.
So if the blockbuster era is bookended by Star Wars movies, the franchise era is bookended by Harry Potter and, well, who knows? Maybe Batman v Superman?
Tagged: films, genre, Harry Potter, movies, star wars
Posted July 3, 2013 by Mark
Not having a lot of time to watch TV these days means I have to be pretty selective with what I watch. And that can make me a lot less forgiving when a series begins to lose its spark. So I wanted to come up with a few ways to determine whether a series should be given up on.
1. You finish the first season and there’s no potential
Sometimes a good TV series doesn’t find its feet until the second, or even third season (think most incarnations of Star Trek or, if you have a life, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation). Sometimes all the elements for greatness are there, but they just need time to gel. Other times, none of the elements of greatness are there and you should run, screaming.
2. There’s a really awful, awful season
I’m looking at you, Red Dwarf season 7! This is the kind of season that changes characters, shifts tone, dicks with the format. Usually accompanied by the departure of some of the creative forces behind the show.
3. Two bad seasons in a row
*cough* Dexter *cough* Sometimes a show loses steam, and that’s ok. So long as the story is still progressing, there are still good performances and the occasional moment that reminds you why you started watching, then you can bring yourself to stick with it. But don’t be too forgiving, life is short.
4. The main character leaves but the show keeps going
Remember when David Duchovny sort of left The X-Files and they replaced him with the T-1000? I don’t. It took a bit of therapy and a lot of hypnosis, but I really don’t.
5. You don’t really like it, you’re just watching to get closure
Lost syndrome. The show started with an intriguing premise but after a few seasons it was clear that the showrunners either had no idea where they were going, or were trying to stretch it out for as long as the show had good ratings. As it turns out, both were true.
What are your TV deal breakers? And what shows have you given up watching?
Tagged: genre, list, science fiction, series, tv
Posted June 1, 2013 by Tehani Wessely
In less than two weeks, I’m heading to Melbourne for Continuum 9, a speculative fiction convention. It will be my third Australian spec fic event this year (I also attended Conflux, this year’s Natcon, in Canberra in April, and the Aurealis Awards last in mid-May), which is pretty exciting, especially considering I only made it to one for the entire of 2012 (the Aurealis Awards), and I might yet make it to another, GenreCon in Brisbane in October!
You’ve not heard of Continuum? What about Swancon (Western Australia’s annual convention)? Or Conflux (in Canberra)? If we’re lucky in Australia, we usually get two to three fan-run conventions a year, which average 200-400 members, depending on location. The Natcon usually garners the most interest, and is hosted by a different convention city each year. There have been less frequent or one-off conventions in Hobart (Thylacon), Adelaide (Conjecture) and Brisbane (Conjure), but Melbourne (which also has an occasional Convergence, run by a different fan-group to Continuum), Perth and Canberra have been the most prolific, in the past decade or so. Sydney hasn’t hosted a Natcon in over 20 years! (come on, Sydney fans, take one for the team!).
Events such as SupaNova and Oz Comic Con get a lot of publicity, with their big name media guests, cheap entry fees and massive numbers. Continuum and its cousins receive far less fanfare, and tend towards literary guests (Natcon international guests of honour in the past couple of decades have included Anne McCaffrey, Harlan Ellison, George R. R Martin, Michael Whelan, Terry Pratchett, Robert Jordan, Kim Stanley Robinson, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Robin Hobb, Robert Silverberg, Anne Bishop, Cory Doctorow, Julie E. Czerneda, Ellen Datlow, Justina Robson, Kelly Link and Nalo Hopkinson – you may have heard of some of them…). But I would rather attend one of the smaller, volunteer-run conventions over a huge media one any day.
Why? Simply put, conventions of Continuum are much more friendly – you have an opportunity to meet people, indulge in conversations, and frequently, hang out with the guests on a really informal level. The membership fee might be higher than SupaNova, but it’s generally all-inclusive, with Masquerade Balls, Awards events and Guest of Honour speeches mainstays of the programming, alongside widely varied programming and plenty of time to chat with friends new and old.
I’ve been attending these sorts of events since 2002; there is a big group of people I consider good friends, and a number of people I work with, who I almost exclusively only see at conventions. Of course, with social networking I get to interact with them much more regularly, but nothing beats the face to face reality! I always come home from conventions buzzing with creative drive, spawned from a weekend of engagement with creative types from all over Australia (and beyond), germinating new projects and the seeds of future ideas for weeks to follow. If you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy in all its incarnations (writing, reading, publishing, tv, film, books, anime, cosplay, the works!), I recommend checking out one of the local events – they’re great!
Tehani Wessely is an editor, publisher, teacher librarian and mum, not always in that order. You can find her on Twitter at @editormum75 or at fablecroft.com.auConventions, genre, speculative fiction, Tehani Wessely
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Posted November 9, 2012 by Anne
Second podcast! We’re totally on a roll. In this episode we discuss the epic Genre versus Literature battle to the death in the wake of the inaugural GenreCon Australia, then we make fun of Joel for being such a gadget nerd. Also Mark outnerds himself in the recommendations. Enjoy.
Topic 1 - What we read: Genre v Lit
Arthur Krystal’s Easy Writers: Guilty pleasures without guilt in May in The New Yorker laid down the theory that the divide between genre and literary fiction is becoming less clear, and some genre fiction is now being afforded “literary” status.
Lev Grossman in Time April 2012 responded with an article entitles Literary Revolution in the Supermarket Aisle: Genre fiction is disruptive technology, challenging the idea that literary fiction should be regarded as “superior” to genre fiction. He basically lays down the theory that literary fiction is itself a genre with certain tried and true tropes that every book identified as such follows.
Krystal then responded to Lev Grossman with It’s genre, not that there’s anything wrong with that! in October, which had Joel absolutely apoplectic with rage, and convinced us that it was worth discussing.
Interesting look at horror in The Guardian recently with Horror: a genre literally doomed to hell?
*note – The Ian McEwan novel that was released the year before he won the Booker for Amsterdam was Enduring Love, not On Chesil Beach (which was actually released a decade later). To my enduring shame, I completely forgot about Enduring Love, which is actually one of my favourite McEwan books. Golf clap.
Topic 2 - Devices: how we read
Joel got his new Paperwhite last week and now that he’s had enough time to fall completely and utterly in love with it, it is probably time to talk about reading technology.
Mark’s Recommendation Star Wars Expanded UniverseAmazon, Arthur Krystal, author, Books, devices, digital publishing, DRM, ebooks, ereading, fiction, genre, iPad Mini, john birmingham, Kindle, Lev Grossman, literary fiction, memoir, non-fiction, podcast, podmentum, publishing, reading, review, romance, star wars, The Silent History, writing
Posted November 1, 2012 by John Birmingham
So, today is the day that Stalin’s Hammer: Rome drops into the e-book shops. Or at least it does everywhere but America. I found out about two weeks ago that my US publisher wants to hold on to the title until January or February next year. Originally they were even looking at holding it back until midyear, but my sad face changed their mind.
It’s still not ideal. When we sat down to plan how we’d approach the e-book market, the guys at Momentum and I agreed that there were a couple of minimum conditions we needed to meet. A price so low there was no barrier to purchase. At $2.99 I think we’ve done that. No DRM so that readers could store and carry their copy of the book however they damn well pleased. Tick. And simultaneous global release, so that somebody sitting on their couch in, say, Kansas City, Missouri, would have no reason to be pissed because they can see the book is available, but not for them. This is one of the main drivers of piracy.
“Well, I wanted to give those assholes my money, but they refused, so…”
To buy Stalin’s Hammer: Rome, click through for your choice of retailers via the book page.authors, digital publishing, digital rights management, DRM, ebooks, ereading, fiction, genre, john birmingham, pricing, reading, self-publishing, Stalin's Hammer, territorial restrictions, writing
Posted August 9, 2012 by Emilia Bresciani
I wrote The Raw Scent of Vanilla as a memoir through the lens of magic realism. In Latin America, where the genre of magic realism originated, daily life is imbued with what many would call ‘raw magic’. It’s all a product of sacrifice and sorrows, Catholic ceremonies, Andean mysticism, Amazonian animism and, an spicy imagination that come to affect daily reality. In the end, the view of life becomes almost multidimensional. Spirits are alive, the dead become companions, curses cause diseases and shamans work their magic. In other words, magic realism is not only a genre of literature, but a way of viewing life. As a writer born in Peru, it is natural for me to also look at life under such colourful lens.
But what is magic realism, the literary genre? It has a number of definitions. For me who learned from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, magic realism is simply realism with a twist. In the genre of fantasy, the world is created with different rules; in realism the world is shaped by conventional wisdom. In magic realism however, one or two elements in the story break the rules and disrupt the fabric of realism. The rupture is the result of imbuing reality with added meaning or symbolism. It also occurs by creating a twist in the reality. How we present the twist is up to the writer as I did with this memoir
It may be that some people believe that a memoir cannot be written with the plume of magic realism because it deals with facts. True, a memoir is a collection ‘real’ moments in life experienced by an individual who has a story to tell. But this factualism can be done through a narrative that reflects feelings, dreams, conflicts and aspirations. Our dreams can add colour to our narrative. Our feelings give meaning to our life allowing us to interpret it. For example, I chose to give meaning to my pain by looking at how my ancestors’ culture dealt with tragedy, and how this view affected my reaction to it. In the process I learned how tragedy was transforming my life. Time of course helped. It was the effect of time that allowed for the transformation to occur. Time provided the distance, and distance revealed the meaning.
Maybe not all of us need to find meaning in life. And that is fine. For me, writing the way I did was beneficial because I could make meaning of my ancestors’ story. Interpreting their story the way I did allowed me to deal with the painful events that took place in my life. At the same time, writing under the lens of magic realism allowed me to unleash my creativity and reach planes I never thought I could. The process filled me with excitement and delight. This, I believe, is the magic of life.
Emilia Bresciani was a television journalist before her husband was tragically killed, and she became the prime suspect in the murder investigation. Her memoir is an account of her life around the tragedy. Read more here.Tagged: digital publishing, ebooks, fantasy, fiction, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, genre, magic realism, memoir, reading, writing
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Posted July 19, 2012 by Anne
I’ve recently become utterly obsessed with old pulp fiction novel covers thanks to this website, and am now on a mission to convince Joel that all of our book covers should resemble pulp novels from the 1950s. So in the spirit of my crusade, here are my purely hypothetical suggestions for some of the existing books on our list.
Okay yes I know this is from the opposite pole but just pretend that polar bear is a penguin.
Thanks to Andrew Nette for the inspiration. You should follow him on twitter, he is tops.Tagged: cover design, covers, digital publishing, ebooks, genre, pulp fiction, pulp novels
Posted May 16, 2012 by Anne
“Are traditional publishers starting to realise that publishing first, and perhaps only, in digital format is a legitimate business practice? Possibly. A few of the big publishers have announced digital only lists recently, usually in genre fiction or wrapped around some kind of self-publishing initiative.
There’s also a good deal of experimentation happening around publishing e-book exclusive shorter novels and non-fiction off-cuts, and of course a welter of digital imprints focused on re-discovering the backlist. But even so these still seem to be exceptions to the rule. The general view seems to be that proper publishers should focus on proper print books, and while they are happy to use digital to reach some other destination (build sales, break a new author, road-test), it is not yet the goal in itself. But a high profile digital list backed by a big publisher with some big titles could radically re-write the landscape.
For starters, removing the safety net of print will sharpen publishers’ digital skills. As Joel Naoum, who runs Pan Macmillan Australia’s digital-only imprint Momentum, suggests in this blog, being digital-only will allow publishers to demonstrate an expertise in an area otherwise dominated by Amazon and those attention-grabbing indie heroes. It will also allow publishers to tap into that growing body of authors who appear to work better in e-book format than print. Most importantly, though, it will demonstrate that we are focused on the content rather than the medium, and the most effective ways of getting that content to readers, rather than how that content fits our perception about how a publisher publishes.”
Sign up to the FutureBook newsletter here.Tagged: digital publishing, FutureBook, genre, self-publishing, The Bookseller
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Posted May 14, 2012 by John Birmingham
I just e-mailed off a draft of the manuscript for Stalin’s Hammer: Rome. That’s the working title I’m going with for now. I got this idea that Stalin’s Hammer will play itself out over half a dozen books, most of which will be set in a different city, hence the subtitles.
I’m not going to get into any spoilers or even much in the way of detail about Rome. It still needs a fair bit of work, being only a first draft, and even more importantly being my first attempt at standalone e-book. It’s been kind of fascinating the ‘challenges’ that the new format has thrown up. Mostly in terms of structure and pacing.
Some things never change, however. Making stuff up and blowing stuff up is always great fun. One of the really interesting things I’ve had to grapple with in this project is ‘the shape of things to come’. Just where have technology and society developed on both sides of the Iron Curtain in the 10 years since the end of the war?
Again, no spoilers from me, but I did see this great piece in Wired the other day about the future of the Israeli Air Force. I’ll clip in the paragraph below:
“Nano drones that an infantryman can pull out of his pocket; helicopters piloted by robots who extract wounded soldiers from the battlefield; micro satellites on demand; large spy balloons in the upper reaches of the stratosphere; virtual training with a helmet from your office; algorithms that resolve pilots’ ethical dilemmas (so they won’t have to deal with those pesky war crimes tribunals); and farming out code to a network of high school kids.”
I can remember when I was plotting out the first part of Weapons of Choice how much time I spent poring over stories like this. It was partly what motivated me to write the book in the first place, the idea of mashing up old and new tech together.
I doubt that will be seeing many nano drones, even in The Zone. Ten years is just a bit too short an horizon to pull off a technological acceleration like that. But given how much military and civilian technology and information came through Manning Pope’s wormhole, and given that the world has had 10 years of relative peace and prosperity to exploit them, I’m fairly confident there would be some quite massive leaps forward over the original timeline. Even if it’s only a leap into, say, the 1970s.axis of time, ebooks, genre, john birmingham, nano drones, technology, weapons, weapons of choice, wired, writing
Posted May 8, 2012 by Simon Brown
Like a lot of my work, the Chronicles of Kydan started with an idea that fermented in my brain over many years before the story itself started to jell. The original idea was to set a fantasy in a society crossing over from the medieval period to the renaissance. This meant including changes especially in learning (the development of evidence-based scientific research), technology (the use of firearms, for example) and politics (the slow evolution from monarchical-style governments to oligarchies and then republics).
I knew it was the first of these that would present the greatest difficulty, since fantasies traditionally include a good wallop of magic, something diametrically opposed to science. The first challenge was to invent a system of magic I hoped would be unique, internally consistent and provide its own narrative drive. Hundreds of fantasy novels have dealt with the cost of magic, but in most cases these had always seemed to be one of two kinds: you pay in karma (or some spiritual equivalent) or you pay physically (usually through exhaustion). Instead, I wanted magic to have a strong emotional cost, and developed the idea that magic users would have to sacrifice something they loved to access the source of magical power – the Sefid. The greater the sacrifice, the greater the power available.
I now had a good basis for a society structured specifically to allow its ruling family – the Kevlerens – access to the Sefid, a structure than institutionalised a form of slavery. It also allowed me to introduce the grammarians, researchers who investigated the Sefid scientifically, which in turn allowed me to introduce academics who were interested in exploring ways the effects of magic might be reproduced naturally through technology, engineering and evidence-based research.
Although not my original intention, as I wrote the Chronicles of Kydan I found myself interested in showing how a relatively free society using science and technology could challenge an empire based on magic and tyranny. The trick was not to preach, but to provide both sides of the conflict with valid reasons for doing the things they do, and to present characters on both sides of the conflict that were sympathetic (if not always likeable) and interesting.
Ultimately, I think the Chronicles allowed me a good deal more freedom to explore issues than I expected – a gratifying result of the societies and magic system created for the story – without losing the energy and pace that should be the hallmarks of adult fantasy.
Chronicles of Kydan, fantasy, genre, writing
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Posted May 4, 2012 by Anne
Head on over to Dark Matter for Nathan M Farrugia‘s thoughts on reading and writing in genre fiction. While you’re there have a look at their competition page – they’re giving away a copy of The Chimera Vector.
“There’s something about crossing genres that scares people. No one knows quite what to do with them, how to sell them, how to market them, how to read them. So it’s strange in a way for me to write The Chimera Vector. It’s a thriller that’s science fiction but isn’t. I guess you could say it’s a techno-thriller that teeters on the edge of sci-fi.”
Read on here.
For more on The Chimera Vector, step this way.Tagged: competition, fiction, genre, reading, techno-thriller, thriller, writing
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Posted April 27, 2012 by Anne
NB would have had Patrick Bateman AGAIN but he’s not a villain he is actually a hero. Or an anti-hero. But not a villain.
Cersei Lannister – A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
Although her hotness is pretty much undone by the fact that she’s a fundamentally horrible person.
Mara Jade- The Thrawn Trilogy, Timothy Zahn
These Star Wars expanded universe novels feature a foxy redhead Jedi who wants to kill Luke Skywalker.
HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
Let’s face it, we all find technology a little bit sexy.
Lady Macbeth – Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Hmmm, I do seem to have a type.
Grendel’s Mother – Beowulf
Because she was played by Angelina Jolie in the movie.
Victoria – Twilight, Stephanie Meyer
Effie Trinket – Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Chopper Read – From the Inside, Mark “Chopper” Read
The Triffids – The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
Plants are hot. I’m not weird for thinking it.Tagged: favourites, genre, hottest, Patrick Bateman, reading, romance, villains
Posted April 23, 2012 by Anne
Over the weekend the lovely Stephanie from Read in a Single Sitting posted an interview with our publisher Joel Naoum – all the way from Argentina, no less. We thought it was so comprehensive that it deserves a special mention here.
“Publisher Joel Naoum says that this risk-taking approach is exactly what underscores the imprint’s market position: Momentum provides an opportunity to “try something a bit bold” in an industry that is known for being reactive and risk-averse.
Read more here.
Joel on ebooks and genre:
“But though Naoum emphasises Momentum’s progressive editorial approach, a quick assessment of its current list shows that this approach stems from some solid market research. The imprint’s titles largely fall into genres that have a tradition of strong sales in the ebook market: romance, fantasy, and biography, for example.
“These are all genres that readers actively seek out,” says Naoum. “These aren’t hobbyist readers who might only read a book or two a year.”
Of course, there’s more to it than the bottom line: Naoum is very clear that Momentum is working with projects that it believes in rather than cynically chasing budget dollars.
“Fantasy is something I love, but I’m in the happy situation where it also sells well online,” he says. “We do also have some autobiographies of well-known people–Chopper Read’s books, the Lindy Chamberlain autobiography, but they’re timely and a part of the Australian culture.”
Naoum adds that these books will resonate with the audience, rather than being a book for a book’s sake.
“They’re books that people want to read, so I don’t think we’ll be flooding the market with crap just because we can.”
Momentum is also seeking to fill some notable gaps in the Australian market, with romance in particular being a focus.
“There’s a very vibrant romance writing scene in Australia. At the moment these authors are getting snapped up by overseas romance publishers, some of which don’t even have a presence in Australia.”
Read more here.
Thanks to Damien Kelly for the post title inspiration!Tagged: digital publishing, ebooks, fantasy, genre, reading, romance, workflow