Writer’s Mail 4/5/2010
by Kimberly Simmons
“I get a lot of letters from people. They say ‘I want to be a writer. What should I do?’ I tell them to stop writing to me and to get on with it.” – Ruth Rendell
Fifth Tuesday draws ’ em
Twenty-three TWS writers and guests crowded into Booked for Murder Tuesday evening to enjoy what our Fifth Tuesdays are known for: good food and good fun shared with good friends.
Twelve stories came in for the “Night in the Bookstore” writing challenge, including one contributed by our host, Sara Barnes who owns Booked for Murder. Sara also served as “da judge”. She read all the stories ahead of time – a blind read, no names attached to the stories – looking for the one that moved her most.
Her selection? John Schneller’s “Word War III”. Said Sara, “It made me laugh.”
Our next Fifth Tuesday is June 29. Put it on your calendar. Second-and-fourth group hosts.
Imitation Is the Sincerest Form Of Flattery
Some people plagiarize while others light-heartedly copy. Some of these are well-known satires such as some of the jokes in Terry Pratchett’s funny fantasy. You can’t read through his books without tripping over some sort of obscure reference to classic fantasy, Shakespeare, and many other well-aimed jabs. Just as it takes a steady hand to trace it takes a sharp mind to parody.
Who says good writing can’t extend to rap? Many people, probably and I know I’m one of them. A rapper from my home state of New Hampshire proved me wrong this week, creating an excellent parody of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind”, “Granite State of Mind” produced by Super Secret Project. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX7nQrCgALM There is one swearword, although the author is considering removing it. (Imagine that, a rap song with only one swear word.) The word occurs at seconds 42 through 44, for those who would rather mute it. Other than that it’s a silly, well-written piece of music and I urge you to check it out.
We Kid Because We Love
Speaking of parodies and satire, the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is absolutely flying off the shelves. And now another hilarious horror is coming to the bookshelves, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Steve Hockensmith has been asked to be write prequel to the wildly successful first book. Despite many people’s misgivings (including my father’s) it is said that Jane Austen’s work goes well with horror. Mostly because it is so funny. The entire interview with Hockensmith can be found here, http://shelf-life.ew.com/2010/03/25/talking-undeath-with-steve-hockensmith-author-of-the-pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-prequel/
Here there be zombies.
Making Up Words
n. A person who is interested in and sympathetic to the goals of radical Islam, but who is not a member of a radical group. Also: ji-hobbyist.
‘Jihobbyists‘ are people drawn to the online theater of violent jihad, becoming increasingly radical as they delve deeper into Web forums. Colleen LaRose, also known as ‘Jihad Jane,’ is an example of this threat, according to counterterrorism experts.
—Michael B. Farrell, The Christian Science Monitor, March 19, 2010
The same holds true whether it’s a group of “jihobbyists” praising the latest attack by Muslim extremists or the tiny weirdo fringe that thinks Timothy McVeigh was justified in blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Here Come the Vooks
Anne Rice Vook Debuts; Company Plans Over 500 Titles in 2010
Bestselling novelist Anne Rice launches her inaugural vook today, a multimedia version of her 1984 vampire story, The Master of Rampling Gate.”
To find out more, we caught up with Vook CEO Brad Inman–who said the company has more than 500 titles planned for 2010. According to Inman, the company shot between six and eight hours of footage for the Rice vook, including a New Orleans tour with her son, Rice interviews, and expert commentary.
The company recently secured $2.5M in seed funding, and he shared some upcoming projects: “We will be releasing a vook for Seth Godin’s Unleashing the Ideavirus next week, which we’re thrilled about. We have also just released “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” which includes beautiful videos about Lewis Carroll and the Oxford community that inspired him to write this classic tale. We think that people are really going to enjoy it, especially as enthusiasm grows around this story with the Tim Burton movie coming out on Friday.”
Inman added some advice about video length: “While I think that video content and length will always depend first and foremost on the text, it seems that, generally speaking, shorter videos are better suited for our vooks. 1 to 2 minute videos are long enough to provide context or illustration to the text while still being short enough to keep the reader’s attention and interest. I also think that much of our audience is used to browsing YouTube or watching quick clips on the internet, so a short form video is something we know they are willing to embrace. However, Vook as a concept and a company is still very new, and we’ll continue to experiment with length and content.”
“One thing I’m very excited about is the new possibilities that the iPad will introduce for Vook. The larger screen will only continue to enhance our authors’ words and filmmakers’ videos, and we’re still exploring how to best display those stories,” he concluded. By Jason Boog on 10:23 AM
Margaret Atwood in Madison
Did you know that Earth Day’s founder was from Wisconsin? It’s true. Also, Margaret Atwood, author of A Handmaid’s Tale and many other books and pieces of fiction, will be speaking at 11:30 am on April 31. The Earth Day conference is at Monona Terrace. Here is a link to the web site where you can look up the schedule and register for the conference.
From the Desk of Kimberly Simmons
Inspiration. How do you get it? For me it’s usually music. During scenes filled with drama I enjoy listening to contemporary pop. Action is usually instrumental, often video game tracks or techno. Fantasy scenes with ancient ruins usually call for Disney accompaniment (Lion King and Tarzan) and the Lord of the Rings soundtrack by Howard Shore.
However, oddly enough, when writing sci-fi I find that Lady GaGa has to be rocking out in my playlist. Not sure why yet, but it seems to be working okay so far. I’ll often surf Youtube looking for songs I haven’t heard yet that correspond with the beat and general feel of an upcoming scene.
As a consequence I’ve had Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley stuck in my head for several days. “Never gonna run around and desert you~!”
Texts Without Context
Published March 17, 2010
In his deliberately provocative — and deeply nihilistic — new book, “Reality Hunger,” the onetime novelist David Shields asserts that fiction “has never seemed less central to the culture’s sense of itself.” He says he’s “bored by out-and-out fabrication, by myself and others; bored by invented plots and invented characters” and much more interested in confession and “reality-based art.” His own book can be taken as Exhibit A in what he calls “recombinant” or appropriation art.
Mr. Shields’s book consists of 618 fragments, including hundreds of quotations taken from other writers like Philip Roth, Joan Didion and Saul Bellow — quotations that Mr. Shields, 53, has taken out of context and in some cases, he says, “also revised, at least a little — for the sake of compression, consistency or whim.” He only acknowledges the source of these quotations in an appendix, which he says his publishers’ lawyers insisted he add.
“Who owns the words?” Mr. Shields asks in a passage that is itself an unacknowledged reworking of remarks by the cyberpunk author William Gibson. “Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do — all of us — though not all of us know it yet. Reality cannot be copyrighted.”
Mr. Shields’s pasted-together book and defense of appropriation underscore the contentious issues of copyright, intellectual property and plagiarism that have become prominent in a world in which the Internet makes copying and recycling as simple as pressing a couple of buttons. In fact, the dynamics of the Web, as the artist and computer scientist Jaron Lanier observes in another new book, are encouraging “authors, journalists, musicians and artists” to “treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind.”
It’s not just a question of how these “content producers” are supposed to make a living or finance their endeavors, however, or why they ought to allow other people to pick apart their work and filch choice excerpts. Nor is it simply a question of experts and professionals being challenged by an increasingly democratized marketplace. It’s also a question, as Mr. Lanier, 49, astutely points out in his new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” of how online collectivism, social networking and popular software designs are changing the way people think and process information, a question of what becomes of originality and imagination in a world that prizes “metaness” and regards the mash-up as “more important than the sources who were mashed.”
Mr. Lanier’s book, which makes an impassioned case for “a digital humanism,” is only one of many recent volumes to take a hard but judicious look at some of the consequences of new technology and Web 2.0. Among them are several prescient books by Cass Sunstein, 55, which explore the effects of the Internet on public discourse; Farhad Manjoo’s “True Enough,” which examines how new technologies are promoting the cultural ascendancy of belief over fact; “The Cult of the Amateur,” by Andrew Keen, which argues that Web 2.0 is creating a “digital forest of mediocrity” and substituting ill-informed speculation for genuine expertise; and Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” (coming in June), which suggests that increased Internet use is rewiring our brains, impairing our ability to think deeply and creatively even as it improves our ability to multitask.
Unlike “Digital Barbarism,” Mark Helprin’s shrill 2009 attack on copyright abolitionists, these books are not the work of Luddites or technophobes. Mr. Lanier is a Silicon Valley veteran and a pioneer in the development of virtual reality; Mr. Manjoo, 31, is Slate’s technology columnist; Mr. Keen is a technology entrepreneur; and Mr. Sunstein is a Harvard Law School professor who now heads the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Rather, these authors’ books are nuanced ruminations on some of the unreckoned consequences of technological change — books that stand as insightful counterweights to early techno-utopian works like Esther Dyson’s “Release 2.0” and Nicholas Negroponte’s “Being Digital,” which took an almost Pollyannaish view of the Web and its capacity to empower users.
The whole article can be view here, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/books/21mash.html?emc=eta1
The Last Word…
“You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the words that sing, they soar and descend…I bow to them…I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite them, I melt them…I love words so much…Everything exists in words.” – Pablo Neruda (via Susan Golant)