Frogs of Fantasy

bromeliad frogFor my money, Sir Terry Pratchett is the greatest fantasy author ever. That includes Tolkien, Verne, Wells, Burroughs, and Howard. (Martin isn’t even in this conversation to my mind, but then neither is Lucas.) Pratchett’s work has incredible social relevance. His keen sense of people, his deft hand with humor, and his ability to weave a rich, textured story as engaging as it is fantastic, gives his work a substance that sticks to the soul.

A recurring theme in Pratchett is the power — and the reality — of belief. Is Superman real? Or Sherlock Holmes? If millions believe in them, if so many stories are told about them, how can they not be real? One might say the same of all the gods we worship.

There’s also the bit about the frogs.

Those familiar with Terry Pratchett know that he passed away last March after a long journey down early-onset Alzheimer’s. Fans mourned the loss of such a wonderful voice. Many bloggers (myself included) expressed the joy of knowing his work and the pain and sorrow of his passing.

Terry Pratchett 2I reread his Discworld novels every few years or so. They’re rich enough for that. Almost like poetry or music (or the Bible for many): there is so much there that it never gets old. Not unlike how visiting a favorite place never gets old.

Normally it would be another year or so before I repeated that wonderful journey, but his death seemed to call for a full memorial reading — a process I’ve just begun. This time, the road began on the outskirts beyond the borders of Discworld, in the suburbs of his other work.

The path actually began with a good friend of his, Neil Gaiman, and it started in kind of a funny way. A bit more than a year ago an artist-blogger I follow did a post about Gaiman’s American Gods. I like Gaiman’s work a lot, and I’ve been meaning to get and read that one, so I saved the post as a reminder.

Then, last month, I’m starting some spring cleaning and, lo and behold, I discover I already own the book (and obviously must have read it). Reading sounded a lot more interesting than spring cleaning (but almost anything does), so I curled up on the couch with it and dug in.

American GodsAmerican Gods is a modern-day mythological romp through a landscape where all the gods we humans invent actually do exist. As humans, in various ages, and from various directions, came to America they brought with them the older, elder gods — the terrible blood sacrifice gods from our dim past.

They’re here, all of them, but these gods have lost power — lost belief — in these modern times, and new gods grow strong as we worship technology, commerce, and media.

American Gods is a tale of belief and worship and a war between the old and the new. It concerns a man, called Shadow, a pair of gods, named Odin and Loki, a large multi-cultural pantheon of other gods old and new, and a dead wife who keeps turning up just when most needed. There’s also a secret plot just to keep things really interesting.

If you love Pratchett’s work, you’ll love American Gods (and, I would think, Gaiman’s work in general — the authors share a kinship of sensibility). The novel won both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, and is — in a word — outstanding.

Gaiman’s novel (which I enjoyed so thoroughly that I plan to re-read it very soon in more analytical fashion and perhaps do a full post on someday) led naturally to the idea of re-reading a delightful work Pratchett and Gaiman wrote together.

Good OmensGood Omens; The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.

That’s the title, although most just call it Good Omens.

It’s a comedy about the end of the world — The Apocalypse — the final battle between the forces of Heaven and the forces of Hell. It’s about the anti-Christ, who is an eleven-year-old boy, named Adam, and his small gang of three friends and his hell-hound (a small friendly mutt, named Dog).

It’s about an angel and a demon who have been friends since the beginning of time on Earth (that is: 4004 BC). It’s about how humans are so fiendishly ingenious they give Hell ideas rather than the other way around.

It’s about Anathema Device, a distant descendent of Agnes Nutter (a witch), one of the only seers in history whose prophecies were all 100% nice and accurate. (It’s about how “nice” used to mean “precise.”) It’s about what it’s like to know all the important things about your future before they happen (and that the world will end very soon), and what it’s like to not have that burden any longer.

It’s about the four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse (although they ride motorcycles now), secret  Tibetan tunnels, the rising of Atlantis, visiting aliens with beneficent messages for mankind, what remains of the ancient profession of Witch Hunter, and why — in the end — neither side can be allowed to win.

And it is about the power of belief. And what we believe in.

Good Omens was a perfect segue into Pratchett’s world. For one thing, one of his best characters, DEATH, appears in the novel (as HIMSELF). It’s also an interesting contrast to American Gods where the gods are created through the agency of human belief.

In Good Omens, Heaven and Hell follow the more traditional model of being supernatural agencies, albeit as seen through the ironic, humor-filled eyes of Gaiman and Pratchett. It’s a deeply delightful and satisfying book!

Johnny MaxwellThe Johnny Maxwell Trilogy is not a trilogy in the sense of being a single tale told in three novel-sized acts. It’s three thematically distinct stories involving the same character, Johnny Maxwell, his gang of three friends, and a power of imagination (that is: belief) so strong it carries the world along in its wake.

These come from Pratchett’s “young adult” work, although (as with all his stories) there is much on an adult level.

In the first tale, Only You Can Save Mankind, Johnny is playing a shoot-em up alien space invaders computer game when he gets a message from the invaders: “We wish to talk.”

It turns out that the aliens are tired of dying and invading and only wish to return home.  They beg  Johnny for safe passage; they say only he can save mankind and return them to Earth. (It turns out all races call their home planet “Earth,” their home star “The Sun,” and refer to themselves as “mankind.”)

As Johnny eventually accepts the role of Savior of Mankind and leads the fleet away towards the Border of Game Space, the attacking aliens vanish from that video game throughout the world. Players are greeted with only empty space filled with stars.

(In point of fact, space is not filled with stars. It’s mostly filled with Nothing.)

In Johnny and the Dead, Johnny discovers that life continues after death (but they’re not “ghosts”). The dead, who’ve been waiting patiently (or not) for Judgement Day discover they don’t have to stay docilely where they were planted, but have freedoms and powers undreamed of.

Johnny and the BombThe plot tension in this one comes from the small cemetery in Johnny’s small town being sold in order to develop a large office building, so Johnny and his friends attempt to save it.

Lastly, Johnny and the Bomb (not “The Bomb” so much as “a bomb”) is a time-travel story complete with killing your grandfather and ending up down the wrong leg of the “trousers of time.”

It’s a time travel story as only Terry Pratchett could write it, and in some ways it’s the gem of the three. Which isn’t to say the other two don’t shine brightly; all three are delightful reads, even (perhaps even especially) for adults.

An underlying theme in these is the question of what’s really going on. Is this all in Johnny’s head, does his imagination create reality, is this all in his head, or does he lack the filters most people have that prevent us from seeing the wonder that’s really there? According the Pratchett, the answer to those questions is yes.

The last stop today is another trilogy that, while again containing distinct stories, also has an overall arc. The three stories comprise a larger story. The third volume, in particular, explains the ending of the second volume by following characters who leave on a quest in that middle story. The first story, to some extent, stands alone, although it does leave some threads dangling.

The BromeliadThe Bromeliad Trilogy (known in the UK as The Nome Trilogy) is about a race of four-inch tall beings — the Nomes.

The first novel, Truckers, starts with a small band of Nomes who’ve been trying to survive in the English countryside on what they can hunt and forage. Badgers, foxes, cats, weather and starvation have reduced their numbers to a size too small for the band to continue, so they sneak aboard a truck hoping to find a better place.

They end up in The Store, Arnold Bros. (est. 1905), where they meet a group of thousands of Nomes who’ve been living very successfully beneath the floorboards, and in the walls, of a large old-fashioned goods store. These Nomes don’t even really believe Outside exists, so the arrival of outsiders is rather a shock.

It turns out that Arnold Bros. (est. 1905) is about to be demolished. “Everything Must Go!” Some of the forward-thinking Nomes decide the only hope is to steal and drive a truck to some place they can live and be safe. (As an aside, these stories appear to take place in the same part of England as the Johnny Maxwell stories.)

Bromeliad-DiggersThe second novel, Diggers, continues the story and — unlike most trilogy second acts — gets to the ending. The third one, Wings, as I mentioned, follows the adventures of a small band of Nomes who effect the ending of the second book.

Despite Terry Pratchett being the greatest fantasy writer ever, these stores aren’t what you’d call fantasy. The Nomes turn out to be a race of aliens who were stranded here eons ago when their landing craft failed. Their mother spaceship patiently waits, buried on the moon. For 15,000 years.

Their ultimate goal is to return to the stars, and the trilogy is really a work of straight science fiction, not fantasy. And as with most good fiction, let alone science fiction, it’s really about us.

What about the frogs? If you’re a fan of Randall Munroe’s outstanding xkcd web comic, you may already know about the frogs. In the xkcd comic commemorating Pratchett’s death, Munroe quoted the bit about the frogs.

You see, the bit about the frogs is really what Pratchett is all about. He dares and encourages and teases us to look outside our little safe flower, whether that safe flower be our minds or our places in the universe. Pratchett was a frog who saw beyond the petals.

Here’s the bit:xkcd-1498

“I read about them in a book,” she said. “There’s this place, you see. Called South America. And there are these hills where it’s hot and rains all the time, and in the rain forests there are these very tall trees and right in the top branches of the trees there are these, like, great big flowers called bromeliads and water gets into the flowers and makes little pools and there’s a type of frog that lays eggs in the pools and tadpoles hatch and grow into new frogs that lays eggs in the pools and tadpoles hatch and grow into new frogs and these little frogs live their whole lives in the flowers right at the top of the trees and don’t even know about the ground and the world is full of things like that and now I know about them and I’m never ever going to be able to see them, and then you,” she gulped for breath, “want me to come and live with you in a hole and wash your socks!”

The world outside the flower. It’s in the Nome stories; it’s in the Johnny stories; it’s everywhere in Pratchett’s work. It’s his enduring gift to us. A gift rich in humor and keen observation.

The best fantasy (or call it fantastic Truth) there ever was.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

84 responses to “Frogs of Fantasy

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Computer Geeks who know about network protocol and are fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books will appreciate how users on the Reddit site organized a memorial to Pratchett by arranging to add the following http header to the site’s responses:

    X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett

    Read Pratchett’s Discworld novel Going Postal to understand just how totally awesomely utterly cool that is!

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I have to admit that I’ve never gotten into Pratchett, although I’ve heard mountains of good stuff about his work. I’ll have to correct that one day.

    You must be a lightning fast reader. It seems like you reread a lot of stuff. I barely have time to read things the first time.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Pratchett has one of those rare writers who’s blessed with writing skill on several levels, an incredible imagination, and keen observational skills (plus he seems to know a lot of stuff). He delivers the goods in so many ways. There really aren’t that many authors I reread regularly. I’ve read Dune several (maybe four times) and LotR maybe six times. There’s a few others, but Pratchett’s work? I’m sure I’m up to eight or more on most of the Discworld books — certainly on the older ones that have been out for a while (I’ve been reading Pratchett for very nearly as long as he’s been writing).

      As for the rereading in general, I’m no speed reader, but I do read voraciously and often. I typically read during my lunch breaks, for instance, and it’s not uncommon to spend a whole day reading. Now that I’m retired, of course, there’s a lot more time for reading!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “Now that I’m retired, of course, there’s a lot more time for reading!”

        Something I’m very much looking forward to, although I’m still several years away.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I gotta admit… I’m one of those who just loves being retired. Not having to constantly answer (dumb) questions alone has made life sweeter. Not being responsible for crucial systems alone is sweeter. Not being part of the corporate rat race and all the insane BS that comes with it… that’s worth it in spades. (Although why a load of spades would have great value, I’m not quite sure.)

        And then there’s the way that the clock and the calendar just kinda don’t matter anymore. That’s sweet, too. 😀

    • rung2diotimasladder

      “You must be a lightning fast reader. It seems like you reread a lot of stuff. I barely have time to read things the first time.”

      Well, he took the words out of my mouth! I think the only fiction I’ve ever re-read is Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Ilyitch”, but one’s really short.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Aren’t both you and Mike interested in writing novels of your own? How do you study the work of others if not by rereading?

        Maybe I’m the one that should be impressed that you guys apparently get everything you need on the first read. It usually takes me at least two to analyze any novel or film. Once to get the plot and phrases, and a second time to see how those things are put together given the plot.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        I’m just lazy. You’re right, I should be reading and re-reading, but I spend way too much of my time farting around.

        I didn’t know Mike was writing a novel?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I know for a (personally tested) fact that farting and reading simultaneously are entirely possible. 😄

        I could be wrong, but it I thought I recalled Mike mentioning having a novel. But then there’s kind of a truism that most bloggers are wannabe novelists. 🙂

      • rung2diotimasladder

        I guess we’ll have to ask him!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        We on the comment thread he started, so he should be getting notifications on our conversation. Mike? Gotcher ears on?

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        LOLS! Mike “has” a novel is a bit strong. I wrote a Nanowrimo novel a few years back, but while it was a learning experience, I doubt I’ll ever try to publish it. Several times I felt like the story would have been made immeasurably better if I could’ve have taken a week to research something, but you can’t do that in Nanowrimo, so it’s a flawed creation in many ways. Although it did tell me that I could do it once I put my mind to it.

        I have been kicking around another prospective novel for a while now. But lately I’ve been thinking that short stories might be a better place to start. I’m actually thinking about a possible one involving some of the AI concepts we’ve been discussing.

        Tina, I’m totally there on the laziness. Ideally, I should read novels multiple times, taking notes and reverse-outlining. But I don’t have it in me to do all that. Since the Nanowrimo effort, I do pay a lot more attention to how writers achieve certain things though.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s often said that one of the hardest parts of writing is the blank page, so having even a flawed novel is a great start. Editing, revising, improving, and polishing, are all (at least in my experience) much easier tasks. They can actually be fun, since you’re working with something rather than trying to come up with something.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        That’s definitely been my experience in many things, including every proposal or college paper I ever wrote.

        But the Nanowrimo novel has structural problems that would require a rewrite from the ground up. I made the mistake of having multiple threads in an interstellar setting without FTL, which made coordination among those threads crucial and complicated. Given the tight time constraints, that turned out to be a mistake, at least for a first effort.

        I’m glad I did it, and ideas from that novel (notably the overall universe) would likely show up in other works I might do, but it itself will likely never see the light of day.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Are you familiar with the famous Fred Brooks quote (from The Mythical Man Month): “Be prepared to throw the first one away. You will anyway.” I’ve found that to be more true of code, but I’ve had it happen with other forms of writing. You just end up too far down the wrong road and have no choice but to “take it from the top.”

        I’ve called it “seeing the shape of the problem.” Sometimes you have to actually create something before you can really see how well your solution works.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I am familiar with that quote (and the book, which I read decades ago). A lot of wisdom there by someone who knew what he was talking about. It’s amazing how little that sentiment has actually penetrated IT culture.

        I definitely know a lot more about writing a novel after the first attempt. And many people warned me that the first thing I wrote would have to be thrown away. I’m hoping the second thing doesn’t have to be, but that may be one of my motivations to look at short stories for a while. The prospect of writing several 5000-10,000 word throwaways feels a lot less daunting than a couple more 50,000-100,000 word throwaways.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It is amazing how a book about software project management written in the 1960s manages to be relevant still today. Some of it is a bit dated, but it’s one of those books you wish every manager read and understood.

        One of my bedtime books is a collection of David Brin short stories and novelettes. In one of his remarks pages he talks about how short stories, novelettes, and novellas, are a saving grace of SF. Very few venues publish short works by unknowns, but the SF genre has many that do. Issac Asimov’s magazine was famous for launching several careers, for instance. And, of course, many of the now well-known folks started there, too.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        The SF short story market is a major benefit. SF seems to be unique in retaining that type of market. But, as I mentioned to Tina, the self publishing industry might bring it back in other genres.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Indeed. In fact, given all the blogs devoted to posting fiction, it already has on some level. The concern is the ‘wheat and chaff’ problem (which has been growing in the music field as well). It’s hard to find the wheat amid the mountains of chaff. Worse, it’s hard for the wheat to get recognized and discovered!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        That is a problem. Until recently, I was thinking self publishing was the way to go. But I’m less confident of that now, at least for someone who has no published credentials yet. I’m disappointed that Amazon hasn’t come up with a better rating system for the good stuff to float to the top.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s one of the strange consequences of internet technology. Everyone is a content producer now.

        Another aspect of that I find interesting is how photography used to be something kind of special — an artform — but with everyone carrying not just a still camera, but a video camera, photography has become as common as blades of grass (and generally about as interesting).

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Mike, how could I not know that you wrote fiction? And you did Nanowrimo? That’s really balls to the wall! It is a great way to just get things started though. If it weren’t a flawed creation (or if you didn’t consider it a flawed creation) that would be really strange. Maybe time for a second draft? (There’s that saying: Writing is rewriting.)

        I’ve considered doing it just for that sort of writing experience, but I’m always working on this same novel. I think it’s been two years now. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish, or if I’ll just keep tweaking and tweaking until I go insane. Right now I’m still in major overhaul stages, reconsidering endings, taking out characters, changing characters. It’s all fun though.

        I hear you say you’re not interested in publishing it, but if you’d like to get a critique of any of your work anyway, feel free to send it to me. I’d love to read it. rung2diotimasladder@gmail. I understand if you don’t want to show it to anyone, especially online people.

        With that prospective novel, how’s that going? Are you abandoning it or just trying to figure out where it’s going?

        Short stories are a good thing to do while you’re working on a novel. A lot of writers have this thing about focusing on one work, but I prefer to mix things up. I find it all feeds off of each other. Have you started a short story? I have a few weird ones that I’ve used just to get into the Tucson Festival of Books contest, but I haven’t done much with them since. (I’m so unbelievably lazy when it comes to that.)

        I’m actually still working on this Anathem novel. I haven’t read in so long! I read more as a child than I do now. Pretty pathetic.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Thanks Tina! I do recommend Nanowrimo to anyone who needs to break that novel barrier. It pretty much works as advertised.

        I’m grateful for the critique offer. I may take you up on it for the short story attempt(s). The Nano novel itself has too many issues, to the extent that I find it embarrassing. Some of it came from it being a first attempt, but a lot came from the mad Nano rush to put down at least 1700 words a night. I’m grateful to Nanowrimo for the mental breakthrough, but it’s not a way I could work on a regular basis.

        The prospective novel is really just outlining and notes at this point. It takes place in roughly the same universe as the Nano novel, but is far less ambitious in its aims.

        I actually want to do short stories first for two reasons. One is that a lot of established sci-fi authors recommend them as a good place to get noticed. (This reportedly is not true for most other genres, which is unfortunate, although the self publishing wave may be changing that.) Second, and at this point much more important, is to give myself smaller bite sized chunks to learn more about the page to page craft of writing. (I actually don’t really *want* to be noticed until (unless?) I’ve been through that.)

        On sci-fi reading, I’m currently in the last book of the Quantum Thief trilogy, which I’ll likely do a post on when I’m done. I’m splitting my reading time between that and Unger and Smolin’s ‘The Singular Universe’ book, which may eventually spawn several posts.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        How do you do all this and work at the same time? Dude. So jealous of your productivity.

        Yes! Send me anything you’d like. Don’t worry about sending something really polished, unless you feel you’d get more out of it that way. I tend to submit my crappiest work to my writing group so I can get help on it. (I learned it’s not a good idea to do that for a formal writing workshop critique. You can actually get published by making connections that way. Of course, I found out about that after I submitted the worst chapter of my novel instead of the short story that got me into the workshop.)

        I totally get what you mean about learning the craft before getting noticed. I feel the same way about it. So much so that I wonder if I’ll ever publish!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Well, as much as I’d like to revel in your idealization of me, you should know that I fart around a lot myself. The Nano novel was in Nov, 2012, and I haven’t done much substantive on the fiction front since then, although my interest in doing something has grown lately.

        I actually started my blog in Nov, 2013, partly out of frustration with the moderation on some of the sites I commented at, but also partly to make up for not doing Nano that year, or pretty much anything of substance since the Nano novel.

        Maybe I should get involved in a writer workshop. If nothing else, the expectations from others might spur me to do something. Of course, then there’d be less time for farting around. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Personally, I’m a huge fan of farting around! 😉

      • rung2diotimasladder

        A writer’s workshop is a great idea. That was where I started off. I wasn’t sure that there would be much available here in Tucson, but once I started looking, I found there’s a lot going on here. And oddly, most of it revolves around this woman who teaches writing at a community college. That’s another place I would recommend looking into. It wasn’t anything I thought it would be. (That class was way better than any of my writing classes at a liberal arts college, and it was only $200 for the whole semester.) But even just a weekend writer’s workshop can give you connections and more knowledge of where to go for something that meets on a regular basis. I’ve had my group for two years now, and someone inevitably says, “Oh this month’s been crazy. I wouldn’t have written this without y’all.” Deadlines and expectations definitely work.

        But like I said, you can always send things to me and I’d be happy to read them. But of course, farting around is always good stuff!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Thanks again, and I may indeed take you up on that offer. The conversation yesterday inspired me to do an outline last night of the short story I was kicking around, so maybe I’ll actually write it.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Awesome! “Do it, do it, do it…” 🙂

        I’ve never done an outline of a short story, but only because it never occurs to me. I’ve heard a lot of advice about outlines—do them, don’t do them, etc. I figure, do whatever works. Good luck on your writing venture!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Thanks. It’s very much an individual thing. I don’t always do them, but I’ve found that putting thoughts down on paper can flush out incoherence, such as why character A did action X or was in place Y, etc. On the Nano novel, I did outlines, but didn’t stick to them rigidly as the characters and story developed.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        You’re so logical! Surprise surprise. 🙂

        I usually just think up someone totally unlike me and try to think of things that person would say and how he’d say it. The whole idea for my current novel came on a hike when I imagined a professor giving this ludicrous lecture in his head. You know, like when you’re lying awake at night thinking of all the things you wish you had said? That’s what this was, and in his mind he was attempting to reach out to normal people and drop the academic tone, but even in his head he failed to do so. The lecture was about the failure of philosophy and academia.

        Another one was a meth addict sign flipper. (I got that idea from a newspaper article about a guy here in Tucson whom you see on the street corners all the time. The real guy’s story was drugs, prison, redemption through Christ, then he started a sign flipping business.) My version of the story was very different, but I wanted to try something like that. That voice was really hard to write. I had a ton of people read it and tell me it sounded academic. (I was working on the novel at the same time.) I had to rewrite it so many times, but it was an interesting exercise. I love trying to write in different voices.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        That’s an excellent character driven approach. One thing I wasn’t at all happy with my Nano novel on were the characters. Again, I made the setting so strange that I complicated it far beyond what a beginning writer probably should have done. (Not that the short story I’m toying with will be much easier on that front.)

        I have a tendency to think in terms of cool scenes and interesting concepts, then trying to weave together a story to incorporate them. Somewhere, I read that stories can be primarily character driven, plot driven, or milieu driven. A lot of sci-fi and fantasy falls into the milieu driven mode. Although successful stories seem to incorporate all of them.

        On writing with different voices, it seems to be really hard to avoid sliding into a mode where all of your characters sound like the author, even for successful ones. In his later sci-fi career, most of Isaac Asimov’s major characters sounded like Isaac Asimov. Of course, Asimov was an interesting enough person that books of Asimov talking and debating with himself were award winning bestsellers.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        A technique that always sounded useful to me was to make multiple “dialog passes.” Put yourself in the mindset of character A and go through it focusing on character A’s dialog (only). Be character A on a journey through the plot. Then go back and do it with character B (usually on a different day). Do that for all the major characters with speaking roles.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        That sounds like it would be effective, albeit with a lot of work. Speaking as a reader, it usually doesn’t bother me too much when characters sound like various facets of the author. For instance, many of John Scalzi’s characters sound like John Scalzi, but I still enjoy his books. Now that I think about it, there aren’t too many authors (at least in the SF&F genre) that manage to avoid that situation completely. (Although there are exceptions.) I’ve also noticed it in many general fiction books.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It’s a skill that not many writers seem to have in great measure. (One of the things that Quentin Tarantino is regarded for is his dialog.)

        And taking this back to the post’s topic, Terry Prachett also has very well-developed voices for his characters. One of many things that makes him such a superior author.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Sorry for the off topic stream Wyrd. Sounds like we could learn a lot by reading Prachett.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        No need to apologize! I’ve been enjoying eavesdropping on the conversation! 🙂

        In baseball they talk about a “five-tool player” — a guy who can do it all: hit, hit for power, run fast, field well, and throw hard and accurately. As a writer, Pratchett is, so to speak, a “five-tool player.” Memorable characters, interesting ideas and set ups, keen observer and reporter of the human condition, laugh-out-loud humorist and satirist, and a deft skill with language and metaphor that takes my breath away every time I read him.

        I wasn’t exaggerating when I said he was the best Fantasy writer, ever, bar none.

        Here’s another little tasty bit of his writing; a bit I bookmarked for future contemplation and enjoyment:

        There is a night that never comes to an end…

        The clock of the world turns under its own shadow. Midnight is a moving place, hurtling around the planet at a thousand miles an hour like a dark knife, cutting slices of daily bread off the endless loaf of Time.

        Time passes everywhere. But days and nights are little local things that happen only to people who stay in one place. If you go fast enough, you can overtake the clock…

        ~Terry Pratchett, Johnny and the Dead

        The man could sure spin a phrase.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        So true about the voice of the author. I noticed that about all my voices, with the exception of the meth addict. But that one took a lot of work to get my voice out of there!

        I was given the advice to nail the voice. Once you have that, write with the expectation that you’re just going to have to cut a lot later. I was also told to just keep going, without looking back to edit. I can’t do that, personally. I do try to keep things moving forward and I’m comfortable with that to some extent, but I can’t stop myself from re-reading what I just wrote in order to move forward. I figure everyone has their own approaches to writing, and there are no hard and fast rules.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        After hearing different artists talk about their vastly different working styles, I’m convinced it’s strictly a matter of finding what works for you. There’s no formula or prescription for success, just things to try.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Very true. I find if something’s not working, try something else. The toolbox approach!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        And when that doesn’t work… drink. Heavily. 😄

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Just about every piece of advice I’ve ever read has said that, that everyone has to find their own methods. From what I’ve read, it’s fairly common for authors to reread and edit what they wrote the previous day, just prior to starting that day’s writing.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        One I always got a kick out of: Dashiell Hammett (author of The Maltese Falcon, the Thin Man stories, and the Continental Op stories) supposedly stopped for the day in the middle of a sentence. This gave him something to do immediately upon resuming work the next day. Kind of a kick start thing.

        I liked the idea so much I sometimes use in my own (coding) work or even reading. Just stop in the middle, and you have an easy way to get going next time.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I’m actually a fan of Hammett’s style of writing: sparse and fast moving, which isn’t too unusual for mystery writers. I’ve read that mystery readership is ten times sci-fi readership. I suspect at least part of that is the prevalent writing styles in the two genres.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The ten-time ratio doesn’t surprise me at all. The mystery genre is much older (perhaps as old as storytelling) and — for most — more accessible. Sherlock Holmes (late 1800s, early 1900s) was such a huge success in London the character became a millstone around A.C. Doyle’s neck. He considered his Sherlock stories frivolous and beneath him and wanted to write “serious” works (all of which history has forgotten 🙂 ).

        Writing styles in all genres are so varied that I would think the content and nature of the stories (and the degree to which they’re perceived as mainstream) is what mainly accounts for the difference in popularity. Science fiction (a late comer to society as was science) was for geeks and nerds until Lucas broke it open with Star Wars (1977, 1980, 1983). Pretty much everyone I know who reads fiction enjoys some form of mystery or detective or crime stories.

        OTOH, the original Star Trek (1966-1969) struggled to get on the air, struggled to stay on the air, and only went three seasons (the third one only because of a massive letter-writing campaign by a small group of devoted fans).

        In the same way that science spawned SF, I wonder if the explosion of technology (plus Lucas) has a lot to do with the explosion of popular SF. You can compare ST:TOS with ST:TNG (seven seasons, 1987-1994) to see how the genre had grown (and the clear effect Lucas had — all three Star Wars films were out by then).

        Even then, SF wasn’t a lock. Babylon 5 (1994-1998) struggled with low popularity throughout its five seasons and nearly didn’t get its last one. (Or, for that matter, Firefly (2002), another great SF series that tragically failed big time.) Even today there is still a geek-nerd tinge to SF air.

        It would be interesting to compare the number of SF TV shows and movies to non-SF TV shows and movies since, say, 2000. We have an entire cable channel devoted to SF now! Depending on how you define “SF fan” it’s quite possible that 10:1 ratio is no longer correct. I have a sense that shelf space in book stores is roughly equal between the two genres.

        It might also be interesting to refactor the numbers explicitly counting all forms of fantasy. An awful lot of people loved LotR or Narnia or fantasy tales in general. All children love fairy tales, so if you opened the definition very broadly that 10:1 ratio might change. (And there are SF-mysteries… how do we count those? 🙂 )

        Something else just occurred to me… Who’s even writing good mysteries anymore? Elmore Leonard died in 2013. P.D. James died just last year. Robert Parker died in 2000 (that one was a big loss to me, although I’m a big fan of Leonard’s work as well). Robert Ludlum (who gave us Jason Bourne) died in 2001. Tony Hillerman died in 2008 (another major bummer for me; love his books). Doyle, Chesterton, Christie, Chandler, Sayers, and Hammett, are long gone as are both Ross and John MacDonald. And Rex Stout (creator of Nero Wolfe).

        Sara Paretsky is still around (but will anyone ever believe V.I. really is on to some crime she’s spotted? — at what point do they finally go, “Well, she’s always been right before…”) and so is Sue Grafton (as much as I lust after Kinsey Millhone, those novels are pretty fluffy, and kind of formulaic, mysteries). But with Parker, Leonard, and Hillerman, gone, that’s a big fraction of the mystery authors I follow!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Heh, definitely should do all my writing just after I wake up. It’s when I’m most prolific! 🙂

        Meant to mention this regarding Hammett: Sam Spade is, of course, a classic (and it’s a favorite movie of mine), and the Thin Man books and movies are also really high on my ranking (I really love the first two or three movies, but they got a bit silly after that), but the idea of a character (the Continental Op) whose name you never find out is pure genius.

        Robert Parker paid homage to that idea with his Spenser character. We never find out what his first name is (over the course of 40 novels).

        Parker is closer to Chandler in style, and Spenser is modeled after Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe. (If you’re not familiar with Parker, I highly recommend him. If you like Hammett, I’m pretty sure you’d like Parker.) The Chandler estate asked Parker to complete Chandler’s unfinished novel (Poodle Springs). Parker also wrote a sequel to Chandler’s The Big SleepPerchance to Dream.

        Parker is, hands down, my favorite mystery-detective author. His death was up there with Pratchett’s in terms of personal loss. No more Spenser! No more Discworld! WAH!!! 😦

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Wow, you’ve done a lot more reading in the mystery genre than I’ve ever contemplated doing. I’ve read the ACD Sherlock Holmes, some of Hammett’s stuff, and a little bit else here and there, but nothing like what you described. Even Hammett I discovered when I curious about the book ‘Red Harvest’ that ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ was partially inspired by. (It was total lagniappe to discover that he was the author of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ and Thin Man books.)

        I do think the writing styles make a difference. John Scalzi has said that he frequently hears from people who don’t like literary sci-fi, but who do like his books, and I think his easy approachable style is one of the main reasons.

        On movies and TV, I think there’s always been a demand for sci-fi, but it was rarely met due to the expense. CG technology seems to have dramatically mitigated that. I think that’s why we’re seeing an explosion of sci-fi and fantasy movies and shows.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’ve been reading the mystery and science fiction genres as long as I’ve been picking my own reading material! It’s kind of spoiled me in that ordinary human fiction (with no SF or mystery elements) tends to bore me. Human drama. Meh. I live in world filled with that constant crap; I read, in large part, to escape it!

        There’s no doubt writing style affects popularity of individual authors, but I can’t see how it has anything to do with an entire genre. Both the mystery and SF genres have the full spectrum of writing styles — as does fiction in general. (One of the things that fascinates me about SF is how it’s really a meta-genre. Within SF you can find all other genres: action, tight human drama, mystery, political, sexy (even porn), police procedural, all forms of comedy, even westerns!)

        Likewise, the mystery genre also has a fairly broad spectrum of writing styles. Elmore Leonard, for example, writes some of the most unique, interesting dialog I’ve ever read. (When John Travolta came on board for Get Shorty, he insisted the writers go back to using Leonard’s dialog untouched (they’d “modernized” it). Using that dialog is a big part of what makes that film a classic.) (Quentin Taratino’s Jackie Brown (which I think may be his best) is also based on a Leonard novel, Rum Punch. I highly recommend both the film and the novel! That goes double for Get Shorty!)

        Compare that to Grafton or Block, whose writing style is light and breezy.

        On movies and TV, I think there’s always been a demand for sci-fi…

        Post-Lucas, perhaps, but science fiction was poorly regarded (even disdained) in the earlier days. It’s hard to over-estimate the effect that Star Wars had. It really did change the landscape. Remember, for example, how Roddenberry had to sell Star Trek to the network as “Wagon Train… to the stars.”

        We had Twilight Zone and Outer Limits as about the only serious SF other than some movies (Forbidden Planet, Day the Earth Stood Still, and a handful of others). Many of the movies were decidedly “B” movies. Lost in Space was pretty goofy, and Man From U.N.C.L.E. dabbled in some light-hearted SF in its later seasons. There was Time Tunnel and some kid shows (Fireball XL-5, for example), but as an avid SF reader, the TV and movie landscape was pretty barren.

        CGI has certainly enabled some very nice visuals, but 2001, Silent Running, and so much of what Ray Harryhausen did show that the lack of CGI wasn’t really the impediment. (For that matter, Outer Limits and Twilight Zone did outstanding shows with no budget and very little in the way of special effects.) There are even those who argue that CGI has had a negative effect in creating movies that are little more than “eye candy” for ignorant groundlings.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On writing styles, maybe it’s just the books I’ve been reading in the last several years, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m not as detail oriented as the average hard sci-fi reader. Some of it might also have to do with the fact that a book supposedly can’t sell anymore unless it has at least 300 pages.

        I well remember the pre-Star Wars situation with sci-fi in the 70s. Still, there was a fair amount of stuff: Planet of the Apes, The Six Million Dollar Man, Space 1999, Westworld, Futureworld, Logan’s Run, etc. That said, being a sci-fi fan during that time meant taking what you could get of the meager offerings.

        But I still think the paucity of content was related to the costs. Star Wars convinced a lot of studio execs that the costs were worth it, to some extent. It did bring in a raft of low quality movies, but you have to remember that a lof of the sparse sci-fi before SW wasn’t of the best quality anyway. (Think of esteemed classics like ‘Mars Needs Women’.) And movies like Alien probably wouldn’t have happened without SW. Anyway, it felt like the rush faded in a few years, albeit never back to the pre-SW levels.

        But the availability of CG does seem like it has caused a substantial upswing in recent years. That, and studios seem willing to spend a lot more money these days. The amount of sci-fi on TV alone, even compared to the 90s, seems a lot higher.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “But I still think the paucity of content was related to the costs.”

        Not as much as you might think (as you point out yourself, SF movies and TV shows did exist). The cost of making a film is always high, but if studios think they can make back whatever the cost is, they will spend the money. Cameron’s Titanic (1997) cost 200 MM, but brought in over two-billion. Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with a budget of 30 MM, was the most expensive animated movie made up to then. But it brought in over 300 MM, so it was basically a win for the studio.

        “Star Wars convinced a lot of studio execs that the costs were worth it, to some extent.”

        Yep, and not just to some extent. Firstly, it was a world-wide phenomenon (with huge merchandising opportunities)! Secondly, it put SF in the mainstream and showed execs that SF films could be giant money-makers. Thirdly, Lucas showed just what was possible with existing technology (with the promise of even greater things as technology progressed).

        Star Wars had a lot of model and optical work, but not much of what we think of as CGI. Yoda, remember, was a puppet. The budget for SW in 1977 was 11 MM, but it brought back 775 MM (and that’s just the box office, not the merchandising or various novels or the other movies).

        In comparison, Logan’s Run cost 9 MM and brought in 25 MM. Planet of the Apes cost 5.8 MM and brought in 33.4 MM (which profit is why there were sequels). Westworld cost 1.25 MM and brought in 10 MM (which, again, is why there was a sequel).

        “And movies like Alien probably wouldn’t have happened without SW.”

        Yep. Exactly my point. You really can’t underestimate the effect it had on the SF landscape. (Alien is another example of how you don’t need CGI to make an awesome SF film. So is 2001.)

        “But the availability of CG does seem like it has caused a substantial upswing in recent years.”

        Of course it has (certainly in the last decade or so with low-cost hardware and increasingly better software), but without the modern interest in SF, that wouldn’t matter. It would be used for animating tornadoes or creating gorgeous backdrops for westerns or (and this is what I’m waiting for) new movies starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. CGI is an enabler, but it’s not the cause.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Yeah, I can’t get started without doing that. Sometimes I don’t go further than editing what I wrote before, but other times it sparks me in a new direction.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I think if you’re doing that daily, or at least on a regular basis, then you’re headed for success. I keep telling myself that I should so something every day, whether it’s writing prose, outlining, character profiles, or research. The problem is that I can do all kinds of farting around and tell myself that I’m doing research 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’ve always liked how sometimes authors talk about how they intended one destiny for their characters, but the characters as written demanded a different one.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        LOL. Yeah, authors love to talk about how the characters tell them things.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        One hopes they all mean it as a metaphor for creating a complex work (of art, in this case) that turns out to not quite be right and, thus, a revision is necessary to make it right.

        I’ve found that a common phenomenon in computer programming where my first solution doesn’t quite fit the problem just right. But it takes that first attempt to really explore and see the “shape” of the problem. It’s one thing to imagine a solution, but often quite another to actually explore it (let alone implement it).

        In the literature for computer programming, there is a very famous statement: “Be prepared to throw the first one away. You will anyway.” (Fred Brooks in The Mythical Man Month)

        I would well imagine that applies to any kind of writing.

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Yeah, that sounds about right! As they say, writing is rewriting. It’s hard for writers to let go of that first draft, but it gets easier with time. And by that I mean it in a twofold way: experienced writers get used to it, and putting something away for a while then rereading it often reveals that it’s not as good as you thought it was.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, the whole coming back to something is really helpful. I really should do that with posts, but I have a tendency to treat them as much more off-the-cuff (although it depends a little on the post).

      • rung2diotimasladder

        Yeah, I think of blogging as rough draft territory for the most part, with certain exceptions (like Heidegger posts where I’m sure to foul things up if I submit my first draft.)

  • Lisa.smestad@minneapolismn.us

    And will you wear he lilac in May for memory? I also plan on eating a boiled egg. 😉

  • siriusbizinus

    I think Roddenberry would be up on my list of fantasy (Star Trek is very clever Science Fantasy). I also like Verne and Wells, and Tolkien belongs there more for his style rather than his substance. Also, Lloyd Alexander ought to be a bigger giant of fantasy, and C.S. Lewis also belongs there.

    Pratchett is a writer I wish I read more of. I’ve read Good Omens, and that’s it of him. Most of the reason why I’ve avoided him is because of Neil Gaiman, which is unfair to Sir Terry. I suppose I’ll need to pop by my older brother’s to thieve his copies of Discworld.

    As for Gaiman, I personally do not like any of his work that I’ve read.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’m not in any way denying that there are other fantasy writers or that they don’t, or didn’t, do great work! I’m just saying Pratchett is the best there ever was (in my opinion).

      (I’m not sure Roddenberry belongs on that list. I don’t consider Star Trek as fantasy or Roddenberry an author. He created the series (which makes him a god to me), but he didn’t write many of the scripts (and often collaborated). Considering some of the best writing was in ST:TNG after he died, it’s hard for me to give him full credit as an author.)

      Pratchett’s kinda got it all: very well-structured stories, a tasty way of writing, engaging characters and ideas, amazing depth and texture, excellent laugh-out-loud humor, and outstanding ideas. He delivers on so many levels, whereas others often excel in just some. Tolkien is a good example: Tons of amazing stuff, songs, made up languages and scripts, a deep historical background,… but not much in the way of real humor or keen social observation.

      What do you not like about Gaiman? Have you ever read his Sandman graphic novel series?

      • siriusbizinus

        I have read Sandman, actually (though it was more than a decade ago). It was a decent series. Personally, I’m more of an Alan Moore fan.

        You’re right about Roddenberry in the sense that he did not write as much, but he did have an active hand in keeping the scripts on point. Star Trek does have fantastic elements, enough so that it blurs the line at least.

        And I agree about Tolkien. His claim to fame is more of being able to craft a modern version of Beowulf. Martin is very much like him. The difference is that Martin’s devils are in the small details, while Tolkien has a grander narrative.

        Their deficiencies are why I like both authors, but I don’t feel motivated to re-read their stories.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        We’re in an area of personal definitions, so there’s no right or wrong, just how one sees it.

        That said, Roddenberry (who, as I said, I revere as the Father of Star Trek) seems in a separate category to me. Particularly if you restrict yourself to ST:TOS, you can make a very strong argument that Star Trek was Roddenberry’s, no question about it. But it was also Dorothy Fontana’s and Gene L. Coon’s and (to a much lesser extent) Shatners, Nimoy’s, Kelly’s, and Doohan’s (“and the rest” 🙂 ). Television and film is such a collaborative art that I see it in a different way than I do literate works by single authors.

        Whatever else, Discworld, Middle Earth, Narnia, all the fantasy worlds, are strictly individual works. To me that’s a significant difference.

        That said, for me the real trump card is that Star Trek just isn’t Fantasy — not in the science fiction sense of the word. If fact, to my eyes it’s hard SF. Granted, it’s not very good hard SF — too much “particle of the week” and too lax about the science — but it places itself squarely in our reality and claims use of our physics. Star Trek assumes it’s what our future turns out (or could turn out) to be. To me that’s the very definition of hard SF.

        To be honest, I think I finished with Tolkien shortly after college (having read LotR several times by then). Rereading it as an adult was more to have a fresh reference point for the movies. It’s possible I might reread it once more, but I don’t feel a strong urge there.

        It might be fun to reread The Hobbit just to remind myself how not the movie it is. (I have a friend who, once all three are available, wants to edit all three into a single film containing only the actual parts from the book. He figures that those three bloated and ridiculous movies would likely make one normal-length film that way. And wouldn’t be such shocking travesties to those who know the original material and aren’t impressed with the BS.)

        I can’t really discuss Martin. Never read him, and have no interest in reading him. I saw the first two seasons of GoT and didn’t care for it. Not into the Medieval period, not into “interestingly evil” characters, not into the intrigue and backstabbing of royals and other assorted asshats, not into the R-rated obligatory nudity of cable, not particularly into dragons or magic (of which there was damn little of in the first two seasons), and most definitely not into the casual extreme violence that permeates media today. It doesn’t seem to offer anything I’m interested in. [shrug]

        Maybe when they get to the part where the aliens land and shoot them all with lasers… 😄

      • siriusbizinus

        I think the GoT shows have ruined the books; I wholeheartedly agree that nudity and gore are placed in premium cable just as an “the excuse” for paying extra for it. If the show would have toned that down, it could get more to the rich world Martin had built.

        Even that doesn’t cure my overall disappointment with GoT, though. Martin’s books have built a very detailed world, perhaps even more detailed than Tolkien’s. But what he hasn’t done is tie his overall story to the human condition. It seems his characters are afloat on a tumultuous sea, kind of like how the plot goes in NCIS: LA. It feels fabricated and fake.

        I completely agree with you on The Hobbit. Although I skipped the second movie, I was able to get into the third without any problems (which is a HUGE problem). Added to that, I couldn’t take the movie seriously. Dwarves on rams that weren’t anywhere else in the film? I felt like I was watching an Old Spice commercial.

        The whole affair reminds me of a different prequel trilogy, set in a galaxy far, far away…

        At any rate, before I rant about Science Fiction, I’d like to get back to fantasy. I do highly recommend Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain for young readers. If you’re ever asked on what is good fantasy for kids, you can’t go wrong with it. The stories are great, the characters are inspiring and rich, and the world is wondrous.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “But what [Martin] hasn’t done is tie his overall story to the human condition.”

        That may be why many call him a “hack” — tying fiction to the human condition is really the difference between good (or great) fiction and just some interesting words with which to while away the hours.

        Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with just whiling away the hours. We all need some of that in our lives!

        “…like how the plot goes in NCIS: LA. It feels fabricated and fake.”

        ROFL! Yes, good example. I stopped following that show a couple of months ago, and I realized the other night I don’t miss it at all.

        “Although I skipped the second [Hobbit] movie, I was able to get into the third without any problems (which is a HUGE problem).”

        ROFL (again)! Yeah, the whole end sequence is fabrication, and not just fabrication, but really idiotic fabrication. All that running around to start the furnaces and use the gold… ends up having no effect whatsoever.

        Just how stupid does Peter Jackson think people are?

        Oh, wait. Don’t answer that.

        “The whole affair reminds me of a different prequel trilogy,…”

        Mos Def. And now we have two fantasy directors who made excellent (even ground-breaking) trilogies (one of which changed the SF movie landscape forever) and who then went on to create another trilogy of pure unadulterated worthless crap.

        Did I ever share with you what comedian (and SF geek) Brian Posehn once said about that other trilogy?

        “It’s like waking up in the middle of the night and discovering that your favorite uncle has come into your bedroom and put his penis on your face.”

        The sense of violation is that extreme.

        “If you’re ever asked on what is good fantasy for kids, you can’t go wrong with [Chronicles of Prydain].”

        I’ll file it away for reference, but, so far, number of times I’ve been asked that question: zero. 😀

        BTW: I meant to respond to your mention of Alan Moore. I’m a fan of his, too. Watchmen is one of two works that changed the comic landscape forever. (Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns being the other.) I thought Zack Snyder blew the doors off with the movie version (which I think is even better than the gnovel in some respects).

        I also have really enjoyed the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. What a great idea! It’s fun trying to catch all the literary references! (Pity about the movie.)

  • E.D.

    nice post – i liked your description of T.P. I only read one of his books – but remember he had a brilliant sense of the magic and the bizarre. Nowadays i read but little having turned to you tubes for entertainment. My new find is Bernie Sanders – God Bless America ah!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I have to admit that I’ve come to like YouTube, although for me it’s all the great educational stuff. I love the lectures by workers in their field on physics, philosophy, and mathematics.

      Bernie Sanders the politician? Yeah, he’s pretty cool. Who I really like is Elizabeth Warren. I remember when she was an awkward, stage-frightened, financial expert talking head that sometimes appeared on various talking head shows (so-called “news” programs). Over time she got used to being on camera, and these days she totally rocks her appearances. She was on Jon Stewart just recently; great appearance!

      I totally want Elizabeth Warren for President! That would be so awesome!

  • E.D.

    might add, i have been away – seems a little dead on word press. perhaps bloggers are giving up??? – I can’t say my blog interests me at the moment. I feel like i a talking to myself. Did i have this conversation before? I guess so. huh! eve

    p.s. seriously though, there has to be big change in the USA – and although i would not vote for anyone in UK, I would vote for Bernie, if in your shoes..

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’ve heard it said that blogging might be dying out. WordPress seems to be orienting more towards those who post in “Instagram” or “Facebook” fashion… that is to say, copiers of the content of others or those who mostly just post photographs of their lunch or selfies. What I’ve heard called “long form” blogging — that is, people who actually write stuff intended to be read and considered — seems to be in decline.

      I would vote for Bernie, for sure.

      • E.D.

        sad, but well I find it hard to read on line anyway, so blogging was always a challange for me… I shall post my little bits and pieces for myself anyway.. thanks.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        The word “blog” comes from “web log” and originally that’s really all “blogs” were — online diaries of a sort. I definitely see mine as, in part, just my chance to scribble on the interweb wall and leave a piece of me behind. (Given that I have no children, it’s about all I can leave behind!)

      • E.D.

        most of the people that used to blog that i knew have gone.. oh well.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        It is interesting to have seen bloggers come and go. Two that I followed when I first started here are still posting, but most of them aren’t. A few have even deleted their blogs! (One of them died of cancer. 😦 )

  • reocochran

    Feeling a little sad that I prefer history mixed into fiction, detective stories and sometimes romance but not so much science fiction. I am glad you told me about this amazing author. So sad he had early onset of Alzheimer’s and the world lost a fine writer too early. Thanks for this interesting post. I looked at the covers and found them fascinating. Maybe someday my taste buds will change and I will come back to here, remembering your suggestions!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      You never know, although from what I’ve seen, most folks either get into SF early or never. I’ve tried many times to get adults interested, and so far failed every time. Just seems to be something folks go for or not. Kinda like anchovies on pizza, maybe.

  • ~ Sadie ~

    Damn WS – not a big Sci-Fi reader, but now you’ve got me wanting to read American Gods and Good Omens – like I don’t have enough stuff I need to tend to 🙂 Thanks for that, my friend!!

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