Friday, August 20, 2010

Inspiration

"The most isolated man in the world" This article is a fascinating story about a man presumed to be the last survivor of an uncontacted tribe in Amazonian Brazil. You have to wonder how he sees these same events, what purpose the pits inside his huts serve, what the markings he makes on trees mean.

I'm reminded of Vargas Llosas' El Hablador, which is a novel about someone who leaves "civilization" to become the storyteller of the Machiguengua. What stories would this man tell? And how would those stories be different from the ones he would have heard before the destruction of his village and the rest of his tribe?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Short Fiction Tuesday

We missed this last week, didn't we? I, that is...

I love Bruce Holland Rogers' series of teaching/example pairs in Flash Fiction Online, where he has an essay about a particular flash fiction approach or advice and then has a story (or two) to illustrate what he means. The most recent was on the prose sonnet, which I thought would be fun to try sometime. Then I went back and found that I'd missed his essay on the prose villanelle, and the accompanying story, "Border Crossing" is stunningly beautiful. The repetition is just enough to give the piece unity, while the variations on those themes really deepens the whole thing. Besides, crossing borders is just a rich theme that brings all kinds of layers into the story.

On the theme of missing something when it first came out, I somehow neglected to check in at Clarkesworld when the August issue came up. It includes a Valente story, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time," which rather beautifully weaves together alternating sections of mythic, creation-type stories told with playfully scientific language on the one hand and seemingly autobiographical stories about a science fiction writer on the other.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ghazal

I just discovered this poetic form yesterday. There are good summaries of it on Poets.org (primarily on the English-language adaptation of the form) and Wikipedia (on the world-wide tradition). It's a fun form. I like the feel that the rhyme/refrain gives to the couplets.

So what do I do? I stayed up late (or...a little later than I'd intended to stay up, anyway) to throw together one, scribbling it onto a notecard. It came together nicely. I completely replaced one couplet this morning as I typed it up, which made it considerably better, and I posted it at a couple of critiquing sites, so I might easily be revising it again. But I think it definitely has good potential, even as is. Funny how a short story can take days of agonizing (I enjoy the process...but it can still be tedious at times) to get to that same point of feeling nearly ready.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Gigantism's appeal: Sensawunda

Continuing this series of posts on why I find myself drawn to story settings that are abnormally large--giant factories, giant castles, giant trees, giant cities, anything beyond comprehension. This is, I think, the big reason I'm drawn to this, and it's the fantasy counterpart to science fiction's sensawunda. Actually, reading that wikipedia article, perhaps it's more akin to the Gothic numinous, but I didn't think it's paired with fear in this case, as that article implies for the numinous. It's not Lovecraft's incomprehensible deities, but there's still a sense of something beyond understanding. There is a certain wrong-ness to it, which is something I'm intending to look into more in my next post in this series, but there's a sense of wonder too, a sense of dawning comprehension of the sheer size of...things. It's the sense of standing at the foot of a snow-capped mountain, at the edge of the Grand Canyon, on the ocean shore on a clear day. A sense of awe, I guess...except with that undercurrent of wrong-ness, which at the very least undermines the mystical leanings of this sense of wonder/awe/numinous. I'll say more about that next time.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Short Fiction Wednesday

A pair of stories this week from other ezines, which I don't always remember to read when new issues come out: ChiZine and Lightspeed.

Patricia Russo's "Turning, or Turning" manages to play on the zombie-story sense of humans changing into something else without actually being a zombie story. The sense of feeling left out that the protagonist feels is perfectly handled, the description of this non-zombie change (and Alberico's reaction to it) is engaging, and the ending adds the right kind of open-ended closure to the story. I'll admit that I was somewhat ambivalent about the story at first, as too much of a zombie story even if it's not (exactly) one...but the story won me over as I continued.

And then there's Catherynne Valente's "How to Become a Mars Overlord" which is beautiful. I'm biased, in that I've rarely read something of Valente's that I haven't fully enjoyed, but the concept of the many Marses, the inventiveness of the various overlords in history, and of course the melodic prose all combine to make memorable story. It's rather more fantastical that I was actually expecting to see in Lightspeed--science-fictional as well, of course, but more of a mythic, fantastical feel to the tone and mood of the story. Just an observation, though I'd say that it's a good thing that the new zine is casting a wide net. It certainly makes me want to do a better job of remembering to check for new stories there. And I definitely see this story as one I'll return to at the end of the year--it ought to at least be in the conversation of awards and Best-of lists.