Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - Another Pointless Lit List

This time it's the best 100 first lines in novels, compiled by the American Book Review. I'm pleased to see Gibson's "The sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." all the way up there at #30, just ahead of a few people named Dostoevsky, Beckett, Woolf and Vonnegut.

Check it out.

(via SF Signal)

Cavan blogged at 10:26 PM | 0 comments

Monday, January 30, 2006 - On Reading The Classics

A recent discussion in Melly's comment thread got me thinking about the necessity of writers reading the classics. I always say that reading is an absolute necessity if a writer wants to advance their craft, but that doesn't mean that everyone has to go back to school and become an English major. Obviously.

There are, however, a few valuable things about taking an English degree. First, you're exposed to a lot of new ways to take apart a novel and to read for subtext. This only does good things for one's writing. Second, you're exposed to a lot of literature you probably wouldn't have read otherwise - the contemporary literature I've read in school has been uniformly excellent and introduced me to a lot of my now-favourite authors.

That said, when you're reading the classics (and you read classics about 75% of the time, at least), it's sometimes difficult not to feel a sense of disconnection with the literature, thanks largely to the cultural differences between the audiences of today and the audience that the works were written for. As a result, I tend not to be able to bring anything back to my own writing after reading the classics. In fact, the only one that's ever done anything for me is Crime and Punishment and I read that on my own time two summers ago (well, that and Frankenstein, which I've read for three separate classes, but that's just a fantastic book).

For those of you who are writers and lamenting the fact that you never took an English Lit degree, then, let this be your consolation - you didn't miss that much. Actually, you were probably off doing something practical with your lives that did more for your writing than my sitting around and reading "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" for the millionth time. In fact, maybe I'm the envious one.

Cavan blogged at 9:12 AM | 4 comments

Saturday, January 28, 2006 - Apodis Anthology Update

In case I forgot to mention (and I'm 100% sure that I did), the Apodis anthology has continued to progress. The latest news is that the book now officially has a title - Goodbye, Darwin. Additionally, cover design is underway and I think that'll come out rather nicely.

That said, we're still looking for more submissions, now including reprints and stories of up to 12,000 words, so spread the word if you know of any SF writers.

Cavan blogged at 7:09 PM | 1 comments

Friday, January 27, 2006 - Flash Fiction

I'm working on a piece of flash fiction at the moment (for those of you who don't know, that's a short story of less than a thousand words). Personally, I find it one of the most difficult genres to write in, since word choice and placement assumes such an important place. I've gone through it a number of times, tightening things up, re-writing sentences, just to get a feel for how I might change it for the better.

Frankly, I've found it a pretty enjoyable experience, which is somewhat surprising, since a) I've never written flash fiction before and b) I don't much like reading it, either. However, it seems to me that writing flash fiction is a lot like writing poetry - every word counts. There just isn't room for anything unnecessary. I'd like to say that I'll be making a habit of it, but I probably won't, since I don't have that many ideas that are fit for writing flash. Still, it's been a good opportunity to grow as a writer.

What's your experience with flash fiction (either reading it or writing it) been like?

Cavan blogged at 5:56 PM | 6 comments

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - Blog Exchange Experiment Results

The Ultimate Blog Exchange Experiment has come to an end. Does that mean it'll be the last experiment of its kind? Of course not - I already have something new lined up.

If you're not familiar with the experiment, I signed this blog up with BlogExplosion, a blog exchange. On a blog exchange, users visit other blogs (also signed up with exchange) to gain credits. Usually, for every few blogs they visit, they gain one credit. This credit is then transformed into one visit from another person surfing the exchange, trying to gain credits for their own blog. However, if you don't have time to surf, you can also buy credits. For $130 US, you can buy 25,000 credits on BlogExplosion, which is, of course, equal to 25,000 hits on your blog. This is exactly what I did. During the time I had these credits, I kept track of my comment volume, page hits, and my Technorati links.

Anyhow, the conclusion I've drawn from the experiment is as follows...

As one might expect, from what I've discovered over the course of eighteen weeks, blog exchanges have little to no effect on the long term popularity of a blog, and I'm leaning a lot closer to no.

To say something positive, I will mention that having a significant number of people reading and commenting on your blog (even if it is via a blog exchange) makes blogging a much more rewarding experience. So, if you're willing to plug a lot of time (or money) into a blog exchange, you'll certainly be rewarded with a more active blog. Just don't expect too many of these people to stick around longer than the mandatory thirty seconds they need to spend on your site.

You can see full results, with all the details, in a PDF file on the left sidebar.

Cavan blogged at 6:08 PM | 3 comments

Monday, January 23, 2006 - Election

Today's election day here in Canada and I, for one, will be voting. Unfortunately, that means I have to bus home on my break, vote, and then bus back to school again, which is kind of aggravating. Anyhow, at the moment, the Conservatives (right-wingers, for you Americans) appear poised to win, and they probably will. That bothers me, since I tend to reside as far left as one can go, but I'll take solace in that they probably won't have a majority government and, therefore, won't be able to pass whatever crazy-ass-backwards laws they want.

To tie today's events into fiction, though, I wonder about a writer's responsibility regarding politics. Science fiction has always been a rather political genre, simply because most of it takes place in the future. As a result, SF writers must always be on the lookout for today's trends, in order to see how things might shape up down the road. Politics, being a major underpinning of society, is (not surprisingly) often the subject of these extrapolations.

Therefore, I wonder: Is it necessary for the writer (most specifically the SF writer) to have a solid grasp on the politics of today? Furthermore, does a writer's political views have a place in the fiction that they write? Obviously, this varies within each subgenre, since the importance of politics varies accordingly, but let's assume that we're talking about a place where it is important.

Cavan blogged at 9:56 AM | 2 comments

Friday, January 20, 2006 - Open Thread

I've been sick lately and, as such, haven't had the brain power to come up with any sufficiently interesting posts. As a result, consider this thread open until I feel better. Comment away!

Suggested topic: What's the superior pizza? Deep dish or thin crust.

Cavan blogged at 4:56 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - Google Sex

My blog is sexier than your blog. So...you know...nyah, nyah.

Actually, I'd been noticing a significant number of people who'd just typed "sex" into search engines and, somehow, had ended up here. And, I do mean significant - we're talking about 20% of all hits.

Turns out, they're going to this post, which has landed at #127 on Yahoo when someone searches for sex (couldn't find it on Google). Doesn't sound impressive? Well, it's #127 out of 434 million.

So, in an effort to continue the sexiness I give you this picture from me on Hallowe'en, dressed up as Screech from Saved By The Bell. We couldn't spray paint all of the clown wig due to logistical difficulties, and besides, the smell of the paint was making me woozy anyway.

Can you believe I found that shirt for just $5 at Value Village? Neither can I. Actually, what I can't believe is that those pants were actually owned by my girlfriend, though she'd last worn them as pyjamas when she was twelve, so I decided not to be rash and break up with her. The coolest thing was that they totally looked like Screech's clown pants when I stood up.

Anyhow, that'll teach people to come to my blog looking for freaky sex pics. For everyone else, my apologies for offending your eyes.

Cavan blogged at 4:45 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - Curses!


So, there it is. Out in the open. This morning, I was browsing around a few markets, looking for a possible reprint market for "Between Eternities". Problem is, a lot of SF markets aren't interested in your story if it has a few curse words in it. Now, this is an editor's prerogative, I understand that; they have a specific target audience in mind and, if they think cursing will alienate their target audience, they're well within they're rights not to allow it in submissions.

The experience, however, reminds me of an argument that I'd like to refute. An old high school English teacher and a good friend of mine are both of the opinion that swearing doesn't have a place in literature, namely because it's the job of an author to convey things in an eloquent manner. Put more simply, a writer should never have to lower themselves to the level of having to write "fuck" on account of there always being a better word or phrase.

They're wrong. Not only that, but they're wrong on both counts. First off, "fuck", in a literary sense, is a fantastic word. Find me a word with a better ability to emotionally engage the reader and I'll never write another sentence again. If I have a choice between writing a description of a character's mental anguish or writing a scene where a character screams "fuck" at the top of their lungs, I'll take the latter. It's a simple tell vs. show proposition.

Secondly, the job of an author is not to convey things in the most eloquent manner possible. Not all writing is eloquent, nor is it supposed to be. The job of an author is to write about their subject matter with the greatest degree of emotional truth. If your characters are real, then, in my opinion, you've done your job as a writer. Like it or not, a lot of real people swear. Should this portion of speech be excised from writing simply because of political correctness? I should hope not.

Furthermore, for anyone who believes that eloquence and cursing are mutually exclusive, I give you the Earl of Rochester's much-anthologized "The Imperfect Enjoyment". Fuck isn't even the most offensive word here, yet I've studied this poem in three different university courses, over three hundred years after it was published.

Over the years, I've been told a number of times by people that they didn't like my writing because of the cursing. When I asked them if they could go into some more detail on what they didn't like, the response I received in most cases amounted to the notion that the very fact that cursing was present necessarily made my story a bad one. So, I suppose my friend and high school teacher aren't alone in their views.

Opinions, anyone?

Cavan blogged at 6:13 PM | 4 comments

Monday, January 16, 2006 - New Playlist

I decided Cavan Radio was greatly in need of a new playlist, so here it is. Total runtime: 33:34

1. Stars - Your Ex-Lover Is Dead: A Toronto band that now calls Montreal and Quebec's Eastern Townships home, Stars is notable for having two lead singers. As a result, the chamber pop band does a lot of great duets. This one is probably my favourite.
2. The Pernice Brothers - Water Ban: More mellow indie pop from Joe Pernice.
3. The Jessica Fletchers - Summer Holiday And Me: This Norwegian band is the best thing to happen to 60s guitar pop since...well, the 60s. If you like The Kinks, you'll dig this tune.
4. Sahara Hotnights - No Big Deal: Everyone likes hot Swedish girls. These hot Swedish girls definitely know how to rock out and frequently drawn comparisons to The Donnas. However, their sound (at least on the album this song is from) leans more towards punk.
5. Fountains of Wayne - Lost In Space: An enjoyable power pop tune.
6. Death Cab For Cutie - I Will Follow: Apparently, all the kids are listening to Death Cab and, for once, they demonstrate some taste. This simple acoustic tune isn't exactly representative of the band's style, but it's terrific nonetheless.
7. Greg Summerlin - Going All The Way: Alright, the guy can't sing worth beans, and his lyrics aren't going to wow anyone, but he sure knows how to write a catchy song.
8. The Dandy Warhols - Every Day Should Be A Holiday: The Dandies doing what they do best - mixing silly electronica with groovy pop songs.
9. Jason Falkner - Author Unknown: It's tough to find an indie pop rocker more revered than Falkner and this song is a good indication why.
10. Third Eye Blind - 1000 Julys: One of my favourite mainstream bands from the 90s. This is a great rock song.

Cavan blogged at 3:40 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 15, 2006 - First Lines

Spent most of today reading for school (Pamela, if anyone's read it, is one hell of a difficult novel to slog through - I'm going at a rate of about twenty-five pages an hour, and it's about 500 pages in total). Anyhow, I did manage to carve out some time to start the first short story of 2006, the first line being:

At least the sex had been good.

I think it's my best one-line hook ever. Hopefully it'll turn into something. Anyone else want to share their favourite hooks?

Cavan blogged at 11:11 PM | 0 comments

- Lulu Titlescorer

If you've not seen this nifty little tool from Lulu, it's worth checking out. It tells you the percent chance your title has of becoming a bestseller. My results:

Blurred Line - 35.9%
Glistening Edges and Right Angles - 69%
Archive - 45.6%

Hmm...maybe I should stick with GERA? Check it out.

Cavan blogged at 10:36 AM | 2 comments

Saturday, January 14, 2006 - Glimpse of Archive

I'm swamped with reading today, so in lieu of an actual post, I thought I'd post what I have so far with Archive.

This will probably be of interest only to people who read Blurred Line, since it gives a good indication of what I meant when I said that Archive will have the same plot as BL, with some significantly different plot points. Anyhow, so far I've got an intro, the first chapter and a little bit of the second chapter. Enjoy (well, try to, anyway - it's entirely unedited).

Read it.

Cavan blogged at 4:37 PM | 2 comments

Thursday, January 12, 2006 - On Getting Into the Groove

I tend to writes in short spurts. For me, there are fifteen minute works at break, hour long breaks at school, and sessions at home that seldom last any longer than a half hour. This isn't a matter of a lack on inspiration. Actually, it has a lot more to do with my schedule.

I'm not going to write a "how to find time to write" post, because - let's face it, despite our best intents, sometimes it's impossible to find the time. Sometimes, after a long day at work usually, I don't even have any interest in writing. I'd rather turn my brain off and drown myself in Seinfeld reruns. So, with all these distractions, how are we to settle into any sort of writing groove?

For me, it has a lot to do with working writing into my daily routine. Now, to clarify, I should note that when I say "writing", I don't actually mean the act of writing itself. Personally, I find writing to be an experience that takes some investment. I have to be psyched up to write and in the mindset of the story in order to get anything down on the page at all. This takes a little bit of time, and yet, here I am, mentioning how I tend to write in fifteen minute spurts. Let me explain - when I work writing into my daily routine, what I really mean is that I work the periphery of writing into my daily routine. Generally, this means planning. Planning is exactly that - a plan. It can be changed later, so I never feel as if I need to pay a huge amount of attention to it. Sometimes I can plan a scene, or sometimes something as simple as a description of an object or a piece of dialogue. It doesn't matter. What does matter, though, is that it keeps me in the mindset of my story. This is something I try to do for five minutes every morning after I wake up. When I get down to these fifteen minute writing sessions on my break at work, then, I'm already psyched up and, moreover, because I started thinking about the story in the morning, chances are I've continued to do so throughout the day.

Before I started doing this, I'd often go days at a time without writing anything, just because my schedule didn't sync up for me. This often led to a feeling of disconnectedness in my writing (especially visible in Blurred Line). Now, even though on occasion I still go for days without writing, this disconnectedness isn't quite so prevalent.

So, if finding the time to write is one of your problems, don't worry about it. Just remember to keep thinking about it.

Entirely unrelated note: Watched an amazing movie today that I wanted to recommend to everyone.

Cavan blogged at 10:12 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, January 11, 2006 - Playing the James Frey Game

So, I figure people have already invented their own James Frey games, whereby one embellishes points about themselves in order to write a bestselling autobiography.

If you're not familiar with James Frey, he wrote a memoir called A Million Little Pieces, which was the second best-selling book of the year, probably the highest-profile Oprah Book Club selection ever, and hailed for its honest and unflinching look at a junkie's arrest and vomit-filled life. Well, turns out it was pretty much all a lie.

I figure that now I'll write my own memoir, only to make it a bestseller like Frey's, I'll have to embellish a few things.

Fact: I keep a plastic owl on my balcony to scare off pigeons.
Embellishment: I keep a human corpse on my balcony to scare off pigeons.

Fact: I met my girlfriend, also a student, in high school.
Embellishment: I met my girlfriend, a crack-whore, at an orgy.

Fact: I work in data entry.
Embellishment: I'm a world-reknowned hacker.

Fact: The last time someone made a crack about my receding hairline, I responded with a self-deprecating joke.
Embellishment: The last time someone made a crack about my receding hairline, I killed them.

Fact: I once was three days late on my rent.
Embellishment: I once was three months late on my rent, got evicted and had to live on the street, where I participated in a series of hobo knife fights to defend my turf.

Fact: I get drunk about once every two months.
Embellishment: I get sober about once every two months.

Fact: I take vitamins in the morning.
Embellishment: I do meth in the morning.

Fact: I once hopped the curb while driving.
Embellishment: I once hopped the curb while driving, ran into a cop, got beaten down by policemen, and was arrested on a bunch of different counts, thanks to the fact that I had cocaine in the car. (Oh, wait, Frey already used this one.)

Cavan blogged at 4:39 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - IMPORTANT! Reader Poll

If you're a first time visitor, or this is your millionth trip here, I don't care - I need everyone who stops by and sees this post to fill out a quick questionnaire for the purposes of my Ultimate Blog Exchange Experiment, which has wrapped up.

What do you get out of it? Well, besides the fact that you'll be helping Blog Exchange users everywhere by giving me more accurate results for my experiment, you'll also get a healthy dose of karmic goodness, so that the next time around you don't have to come back as a tapeworm.

Please leave a comment with your answers. Thanks very much!

1. How did you first come across this blog?

2. Is this your first visit to this blog? If no, how long have you been visiting this blog and how often do you visit it?

3. Are you a member of any blog exchange services? (ie. BlogExplosion, Blog Soldiers) If yes, how often do you use them?

4. If you have visited this blog before, what prompted you to return? If this is your first visit, is there anything that would bring you back for another visit?

5. How do you find new blogs to read? Please list the following in order from best source for new blogs to worst - Blog Exchanges, Google/Search Engines, Technorati, Links from other blog's sidebars/blogrolls, Links from other blog's posts.

Cavan blogged at 9:34 AM | 6 comments

Monday, January 09, 2006 - Blog Maintenance/Blog Experiment

Lately I've been feeling that my movie reviews have been overwhelming the rest of my blog, so they've been shipped off all by their lonesome to somewhere infinitely less desirable. Still, if you were into the reviews, you can still check them out here. You'll also notice that movies now have a place on my sidebar, so you'll be able to see whenever a new review is up on that site.

Slightly more interesting news is that of The Ultimate Blog Exchange Experiment which, after eighteen weeks (soon to be nineteen), is finally wrapping up. It still has a few days to go yet, but afterwards I'll be asking some questions of my readers to see how they came across this blog. So, you know, if you're not the kind who likes to put their hand up in class, be warned.

Cavan blogged at 9:34 AM | 3 comments

Sunday, January 08, 2006 - Nicola Griffith Interview

Last year, I picked up Griffith's Nebula Award winning novel, Slow River, and was very impressed with it. Turns out, though, that the SFWA were the only people who liked it. I was somewhat disturbed by the fact that people slammed the book for a) not being SF and b) being nothing more than lesbian pornography. Both of these points are entirely ridiculous. I'm not sure when sex became taboo in literature and, frankly, just because a story is character-driven doesn't mean it's not SF.

Anyway, I ended up with a lot of respect for Griffith. The book is a bold, intelligent piece of literary SF. Her recent interview at Strange Horizons only furthers this respect. I hadn't heard about her immigration problems and had no idea that she'd been diagnosed with MS, which makes her achievements all the more laudable.

One reason I'm instantly inclined to like Griffith is because she has the drive to use SF to push boundaries. She says, "I want to put together a collection of other people's stories that really play with gender, seriously fuck with it, using fiction that will cut like edged weapons, which give the reader a real frisson of excitement and transgression. It will be SF—because that's where all the best fiction like this comes from."

That'd be a great inspirational note for me - "Write fiction that'll cut like edged weapons". Sweet. Go read the interview.

Cavan blogged at 11:00 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, January 07, 2006 - Writer Chic?

(Warning: Objects in image are cooler than they appear. I was just taking pictures in low light. And that's not my hair, it's a hat. And that creepy glowing thing down by legs? Cat.)

So, the other day I was out shopping for jeans (all of mine are starting to look the worse for wear). Just for kicks, I went into one store that's way out of my price range, just to see if they had any post-Boxing Week sale clearance. Unfortunately, their jean selection was pretty much non-existant, but I had time to browse around for a few minutes while my girlfriend tried some things on. While I was waiting, I saw this really nice jacket. I've always wanted a jacket I could wear casually, since I think it's a good look. Of course, the ticket price was $250. Then I saw the sale price - $125. Then I saw the clearance price - $80. I figured that the fates were smiling on me, so I tried on both of the two sizes they had left and, fortunately, one fit like a glove, so I made the most extravagant fashion related purchase of my life (but I rationalized it because I'd just sold an iPod on eBay for $100 a few days earlier).

Fear not, though - this isn't just a shopping story. Once I had the whole ensemble together, I was pretty pleased with the results (this picture doesn't really do the jacket justice - but trust me, when I put it on, I look like a sexy bitch). Now, one of the first things that come to mind for me when I'm wearing any particular outfit is something along the lines of "What is this saying about me?". Narcissistic, maybe, but I like to think that it has more to do with being aware of the image you're presenting to the world (I'd also suggest that it's because writers are self-reflective types by nature, but that's fodder for another conversation).

Anyhow, this has all been a roundabout way of breaching the topic of fashion in fiction (but also I just wanted to brag about the really great deal I got). The clothes my characters wear is never something that becomes exceedingly important to me and sometimes I don't bother mentioning it at all. However, it's a tool that I use more often than I notice. For example, I can pick out at least three instances in the first nine pages of Archive where I use fashion to describe characters. In fact, at one point, I notice that I've described a character entirely by what he's wearing, instead of what he looks like.

Although a person's appearance is extremely important to who they are - and literature is peppered with examples of this (Richard III, anyone?), I think mentioning a character's fashion choice can be equally as important, because it's how they choose to appear, insofar as one can affect a change of their appearance.

Anyone else have an opinion? Is a character's fashion choice important or irrelevant?

Cavan blogged at 8:44 PM | 5 comments

Friday, January 06, 2006 - Book Buying Revolution

I like to buy books. To some extent, this comes from the fact that, seeing as how I want to make a living off writing one day, I should probably dole out some cash to other writers, to make sure they keep getting paid. Mostly, though, it's because the idea of having to part with a fantastic book disturbs me to the very core. On a pretty regular basis, I'll flip open a book I enjoyed and try to remember what made it so enjoyable. This activity, though it might seem a little silly, has definitely had an impact on my writing.

The problem, of course, is that I'm a university student, and books are expensive. This really limits the amount I can buy. So, imagine how beside myself I was the other day when I got the best book deal of my life.

I was putting The Beach back on the shelf, when a bookmark fell out of it. A bookmark for a site called BookCloseouts.com. Now, my girlfriend bought the book for me from the "Used" section off Amazon, so I figured it must've come from that site. The bookmark had a $5 off coupon when you spent $35 or more. So, I figured I'd check it out. The prices were rock bottom. I was amazed. I figured that, with all the books I'd added to my shopping cart, that the shipping costs would be prohibitive, like $5 a book or something like that. Nope, it was $5 for the whole order.

Let me give you a rundown of what I bought:

Solaris - Stanislaw Lem (Trade Paperback)
1984 - George Orwell (Mass Market Paperback)
City Come A-Walkin - John Shirley (Trade Paperback)
Northern Suns - Various Authors (Trade Paperback)
The Crime Studio - Steve Aylett (Trade Paperback)
Vurt - Jeff Noon (Trade Paperback)
A Blade of Grass - Lewis DeSoto (Trade Paperback)
Deafening - Frances Itani (Hardcover)
Dog Soldiers - Robert Stone (Trade Paperback)
Eastern Standard Tribe - Cory Doctorow (Hardcover)
Schismatrix Plus - Bruce Sterling (Trade Paperback)

For the record, that's eight trade paperbacks, one mass market, and two hardcovers. That's about as many books as I can afford to buy in one year. Now, before I astonish everybody with the final price, let me mention that these are new books. Not used or damaged books (though they do sell some damaged stuff at an even steeper discounts), but entirely new inventory that was returned to the publisher for credit. Now, if we tally up what I'd have spent on those books at Amazon, it comes to $98 US, and I'd have one less book thanks to Northern Suns being unavailable.

So, what did I pay for this massive order of books? After taxes and shipping, my grand total was $53 US. When it comes down to it, that's basically 50% off the cheapest prices you can find.

They're selection isn't perfect, but it's still pretty expansive when you consider that these are all books from print runs that didn't sell well enough. I mean, 1984 was one of the top 200 best selling books in 2005.

Unless I really, desperately want a copy of a specific book, I can't see myself going back to Amazon. Because, I mean...wow. Go there. Purchase.

Cavan blogged at 10:12 PM | 1 comments

- The Woodsman

Due to the subject matter, this probably isn't the kind of film you'll watch more than once, but I'd definitely recommend seeing it that one time. Kevin Bacon turns in a spellbinding performance - one of the best I've ever scene. Bacon won't win an Oscar (that'll go to Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote, and I can't begrudge him that - Hoffman's the best actor in Hollywood), but he certainly deserves one. Bacon plays a convicted child molester and manages to elicit sympathy for his character and repulse the audience, sometimes in the same scene. It's a truly masterful performance. The supporting cast isn't bad either - Kyra Sedgwick is excellent as his love interest, as is Mos Def in a brief appearance as the detective watching Bacon's every move. Highly recommended. My grade: A-

Synopsis: A pedophile returns to his hometown after 12 years in prison and attempts to start a new life. (via Imdb)

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.2 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.4 (via Imdb)

Director: Nicole Kassell
Writers: Nicole Kassell and Steven Fechter, based on Fechter's play
Stars: Kevin Bacon (Mystic River), Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer"), Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality), Mos Def (The Italian Job), Eve (Barbershop), Hannah Pilkes

Useless Trivia: The part of Mary Kay, played by Eve, was originally intended for a 45 year old white male. She was recommended for the part by Kevin Bacon, and was hired without a single audition.

Cavan blogged at 5:47 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, January 05, 2006 - The Beach

I wasn't holding out much hope for this book, after it took me about two weeks to muddle my way through the fifty pages. Nothing about the narrator or the writing had done anything to draw me in. Unless a book is truly awful, I never put it down before page 100, and I'm glad I kept going with this one.

The Beach (later turned into a Leonardo DiCaprio movie that, apparently, doesn't stay true to the novel at all) follows a young British backpacker named Richard, who spends a night at a guest house in Thailand. The man in the next room commits suicide, leaving Richard a map to a place known only as "The Beach" - an Eden untouched by tourists. With a French couple he befriends, Richard sets off to find The Beach. When they do reach it, the place seems idyllic, but soon, of course, thing turn bad.

I read this book as dystopian fiction, since the dystopic undercurrents are visible, even when Richard, Francoise, and Etienne have been accepted on the island and are spending their days relaxing in paradise. When author Garland moves these dystopic elements to the forefront, the book really takes off, becoming a page-turner of the highest quality. The reason that this book works so well as dystopic fiction, though, is that Garland draws you into the society of the beach in a way that he never does with his characters. Richard is a fine lead, but it's really the beach that is the most fascinating character here.

This gets my official recommended read stamp. Check it out.

Cavan blogged at 9:36 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - Backstory Woes

Some advice, as I take off my editor's hat for the day...

Backstory is not story. For most writers, this is one of the first things you learn, just after "Show, don't tell". Except, that is, for SF writers. Quite a number of the Apodis submissions I've been reading lately have piled on the backstory pretty thickly. Considering, that these are short stories, if you've got 1000 words or more of backstory, you've got a problem.

Backstory doesn't engage. Therefore, if you spend the first fifth of your short story failing to engage the reader, your story has probably failed as a whole, because the reader likely won't stick around to finish it.

Another problem with backstory, this one specific to SF, is that 99 times out of 100, they read like history textbooks. A war here, an economic downturn there, maybe a scientific discovery or two, and so on. Let me lay something out here, for all those who haven't learned it yet: No one cares about your backstory. Sure, it might have been painstakingly crafted, it might be the most in-depth thing ever created. Doesn't matter. No one cares. Readers are engaged by characters, not by history lessons. The history textbook that makes the NY Times bestseller list is a seldom-seen animal.

This, of course, isn't to say that you can't have backstory. With many SF stories, you need it. However, at no time should you ever infodump a backstory in its entirety onto the reader. Let me make a bad analogy here and compare writing backstory to salt. Sprinkle it around here and there and you've got a tasty meal, dump it in one or two big piles and you're probably going to gag.

Cavan blogged at 4:45 PM | 3 comments

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - King Kong

I don't think it'll surprise anyone when I say that Peter Jackson's King Kong is just as advertised - it's a truly epic movie. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it's perfect, and I'm a little surprised by all of the accolades it's getting. Still, Kong is a spectacular experience in the theater and, contrary to what some critics have been saying, the three hours passed by pretty quickly for me. The only spot where Jackson makes a misstep with the pacing is during the climactic Empire State Building scene, where things just drag on a bit too long. Other than that, the special effect scenes were fantastic - a scene where Kong takes on three dinosaurs is so over-the-top that it makes for one of the best parts of the movie. In the rare moments where the pace slows down a little, Kong is still fun to watch, thanks to a Andy Serkis' surprisingly convincing performance as an ape (LotR fans will remember that Serkis also attached a bucket full of sensors to his body to play Gollum). Oh, but if the thought of very large, disgusting insects crawling all over you is the stuff of your nightmares, you might want to go with someone who has already watched it, so you can be told when to cover your eyes. My grade: B+

Synopsis: In 1933 New York, an overly ambitious movie producer coerces his cast and hired ship crew to travel to mysterious Skull Island, where they encounter Kong, a giant ape who is immediately smitten with leading lady Ann Darrow. (via Imdb)

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.7 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.9 (via Imdb)

Director: Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings)
Writers: Fran Walsh (The Lord of the Rings), Philippa Boyens (The Lord of the Rings) and Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings)
Stars: Naomi Watts (The Ring), Jack Black (The School of Rock), Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Colin Hanks (Orange County), Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings), Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist), Evan Parke (The Cider House Rules), Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Kyle Chandler ("Early Edition")

Useless Trivia: Appearing as the pilots and gunners who attack Kong atop the Empire State Building are director Peter Jackson, Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont, Lord of the Rings producer Rick Porras, Lord of the Rings stuntman Rodney Cook and Rick Baker, who played Kong in the 1976 remake.

Cavan blogged at 1:25 PM | 2 comments

Monday, January 02, 2006 - A Look Ahead to 2006

Generally, I'm not much for resolutions, or goals, or any of that sort of thing. I like to do what I enjoy doing, and hope it turns into something of worth, which has worked decently well for me so far (in that I'm relatively satisfied with my life at the moment).

That said, I do have a number of goals for 2006 regarding my writing, as I'd really like to treat this as the year to "get serious" about it. So, for 2006, here's what I'd like to accomplish:

1. Finish writing Archive (the fusion of BL and GERA). I'm expecting this to top out at ninety or a hundred thousand words, so it'll be by far the longest piece of writing I've taken on. If I can finish it inside a year, I'll be incredibly pleased with myself.
2. Finish writing Mass Romantic. This'll probably happen whenever I get bored/stuck with Archive. After I finish it, I'll probably just post it up on my website for everybody's enjoyment.
3. Write and publish at least five short stories. Fleshing out my publishing credits is probably my biggest ambition for the year. Plus, I find it unbelievably cool whenever I get paid for writing something.
4. Publish at least one of these stories with a professional market. Frankly, if I don't get a story accepted for publication at Strange Horizons this year, I won't be able to consider 2006 a complete success. I've already received two very nice, "you're good, keep working at it" rejections from them, so I think this year is the year to break through.
5. Wearing my editor's hat, I'd like to publish at least three novels with Apodis. There's already one tentative publication, so I'm likely a third of the way to my goal right now.

I also have some more 2006 goals that'll only happen if I get really ambitious (or quit work, drop out of school and devote all of my time to writing):

1. Complete editing of Archive and send it off to a traditional novel publisher - most likely the Canadian outfit Edge. Having some sort of feedback on my novel, to let me know how far along I am in my development and to show me how much further I have to go, is something that's really important to me. Realistically, however, this might be more of a 2007 goal.
2. Publish at least two stories professionally. This officially qualifies me for membership in SF Canada (our equivalent of the SFWA - it has some pretty high profile members, like Cory Doctorow, Charles de Lint, Nalo Hopkinson and Spider Robinson). If I get three pieces published professionally, that'll make me eligible for SFWA membership, which is the organization in which every SF writer geek wants to be a card-carrying member.

Anyone else have some specific writing goals?

Cavan blogged at 11:41 AM | 3 comments


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