Thursday, October 31, 2013

Artist and Art

Ender's Game comes out this weekend. I'm not going to post a link, not going to post a picture, nothing. No traffic to it. No help at all. I hope it flops spectacularly and is held up as one of the biggest failures in cinematic history. I'm not really thinking that's going to happen, but my fingers are still crossed. It's not that I don't like the product, though. Probably I would. I loved the book as a youth when I first read it, and over the five or eight following years I read it and its two immediate sequels many times. I liked it so much I read almost all of the author's other stuff: the Prentice Alvin series (started good, got bogged down in complications, still don't know if it's been finished); the Homecoming Saga (good stuff, I thought); the short fiction, the minor works. Again, no links. If you're interested, you can find it. My problem isn't with the product. My problem is with the creator.

Orson Scott Card is a gifted writer and a bigot. He produces amazing fiction (with problematic messages) and is apparently a wonderful teacher and mentor to scores of writers past and present. But he's also racist, homophobic, and has advocated the violent overthrow of the nation if things don't go the way his narrow-minded creed would prefer. This creates a problem, of course. There's the art (which is good) and the artist (who is bad.) How do you separate them?

There isn't one answer. Some people can't divorce the two in any way, and once they find out a creator is a bad human being, they drop all connection to everything that's been produced by that person. Some people can completely remove such concerns from their mind; they aren't friends with people like Card, they just read his books. But of course it's more complicated than that. When an artist has money and influence, they can use it to shape discourse. Card certainly has done so; he is a notable political donor to his pet causes, and further he tithes to his church which then used its money to support...the same causes. So when you decide that you can buy a Card book, or see a movie that he's getting paid for (even if the payment's already been made, there are a great number of Ender books, and he'll get more money for each if they're made), you're giving his personal opinions (the ones you think everyone is entitled to, most likely) political power.

Which is why I'm not linking to his books. Not buying anything he produces, though I've greatly enjoyed much of his stuff when I was younger and knew no better. Why I'm not going to see the movie, though it promises to be lovely and possible even good; and why I'm advocating not seeing it to everyone I can.

He's not the only one of course: Roman Polanski is a child rapist who fled the nation to avoid charges; I don't watch his stuff; Woody Allen has a problematic relationship with his ex stepchildren, who allege a great number of things against him, and one of whom he married (apparently happily) when she was barely an adult and he was forty years older; I don't much care for his movies, so he's easy to avoid, and the issues are more tangled with him in any case. It's of course easier when the person is dead. There are hundreds of horrible people who produced great work (Leni Reifenstahl was quite probably a Nazi, and certainly something of a racist, but she made beautiful movies and took amazing photos, and fortunately, she's dead now) and it's possible, once they've left the mortal coil, to consume it without much issue. Because to me the problem is, and always will be, validating the person. When you give Card money, you validate him; and further, he spends it to make the world run the way he wants it to. When you support a Polanski movie, you tacitly accept that because he's talented it's okay he drugged and raped a 13 year old and fled prosecution. When you watch a Woody Allen flick, you put yourself in the gray area of supporting what is obviously a man who desires only much younger women, but does he desire them too young? Well, it's hard to say, and so that's up to you. But awareness is important.

Everyone has to draw their own lines, of course. Here, or there, or way over there, but they are drawn, even if you don't mean to. Mine are pretty strict, though they're fallible. I don't spend a lot of time investigating every person involved with every project. Nor should you, really. But if you find out that some raging jerk is benefiting from the art, and you still go to see it even if you disagree with that benefit, you're a bit of a raging jerk yourself, don't you think?

Happy Halloween!

I am dressing up as nothing, because I have to work tonight. But whatever tricks you perpetrate and whatever treats you snatch, have a good time with it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Signed Books

Hey, are you a person who likes signed books? Especially ones signed by the person who wrote them? Sure you are. And as I've got a book coming out, and know how to sign my name, I can be of assistance.

Just get a hold of University Bookstore in Seattle and order a copy of my book, and in the comments line note you'd like it signed. They'll put it aside until I stop in (which I do all the time) and I'll sign it. Then it'll ship out to you the next day. Pro-tip: free shipping in the USA with a big enough online order. Superpro-tip: free shipping on all book orders if you call the store direct, instead of using the internet (it's very remotely like the secret menu at In-and-Out, only less interesting, I guess?)

So that's a thing, starting on the 5th of November.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rereads: Foiled, Failed, Defeated

When I was a youth, 99% of what I read was fantasy and science fiction. We didn't have the most money, so any such book that came into the house, I'd read over and over for years. In this occasional series, I take up some of those old and treasured titles and give them a read after fifteen or twenty years to see how I feel about them now.

It may be that I'm worn out on epic fantasy. It may be that I'm just confronted with things of greater interest, and it's just too long. Or it may be that I had little taste when I was younger (already established, I know). Whatever the reason, I just could not finish The Eye of the World.

I tried. Mightily I strove against the monster. Clocking in at 685 pages, it's the biggest of the rereads I've done so far, though it's the smallest in the series that it's part of, The Wheel of Time.

I first read the book in late 1990; I was in college, at the University of Washington, and there was a little bookstore (a branch of the University Bookstore) on campus in the student union building. Nick DiMartino was and still is the bookbuyer for that branch, and he had at the time a very broad selection of fantasy, which included the first two books of Robert Jordan's epic. The second one had just come out, and I bought and read both of them in short order.

How amazing they were. Grand scale, epic scope, magic and monsters and dark powers and secret organizations all places in a huge and seemingly well developed world. And really, all of that was true. Was true, though. The fantasy genre has moved on, building on what Jordan made, and now he seems a little quaint, a little out of touch. There's too much bloat in even the first book (let alone books eight or nine or ten, which drive crazy even devoted fans, and caused me to give up on them a decade ago). There's too many characters. A good thing, you would think: making the world real. But in my real world, I don't know the name of my barrista most often, or my bank teller. If I see their nametag, I don't remember it. Most people just aren't that important to our lives, and certainly not to our narratives (such as they might be). Jordan made a point of giving names to a great many people, including some who got only a line or two (out of 685 pages!) and who would never turn up again. Names, names, names, a parade of them. As to that world, it's actually weird and silly and doesn't make much sense, but even I can admit, there's a lot of it, and it's developed as all hell. Just: stupidly, mostly.

from, which is awesome, really it is.

I won't even get into his gender politics, which are ridiculous; or the fact that the series was supposed to be much shorter than it was (that latter doesn't impact the first book, which reads very much like the first book of a trilogy); or the fact that he tossed everything into a blender to come up with the craziest melange of stuff in the fiction of his time.

I'll just say it was too much. Too slow, too burdensome, too many characters, too many story lines, too much of everything. And yet, in my head, this book was the best of the lot, and suffered from those problems the least; I cannot imagine what I'd think of book nine at this point. My mind won't wrap around it.

With the publication of the last book-as-three-books, I thought I'd finally get around to reading the series again and finishing it, but sadly, I'm certain now that's never going to happen. I have fond memories of it, and I ran the roleplaying game version for a year and change with great delight, but I can't picture any circumstance when I would dive back into these again. They're not for me any longer.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Come Back To The Sea

The incredible just published one of my stories, Come Back to the Sea, a moody, creepy story about a girl and her friend and their fun times by the beach. Half of that description was true. Read it to figure out which.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Andrew Wylie Interview

An excellent and delightfully worded interview with a literary agent great--he represents Rushdie and Roth and Amis and the estate of Nabakov and so on. Read it here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Portland and Back

Whew. The husband and I are both somewhat sickly at the moment (just colds, but they're dragging on and on) which didn't stop us from making a day and a half trip down to Portland. Not just because it was booked, and we're terribly frugal and wouldn't let a booking go by without serious cause, but because my publisher was sending me there to sign things.

(By things, I mean Advanced Reader's Copies of Engines of the Broken World, henceforth [should it come up again] ARCs)

We boarded the Bolt Bus southward. I can kind of recommend it, if it's in your area (the Northeast, the Northwest, and very soon expanding to California's more notable throughways.) It was fast, efficient, terribly cheap--that's the bits I can recommend easily. It was also, despite possessing very new buses, not particularly comfortable. There's something about the angle of the seats, and there's not quite enough padding, and there's no really good way to get completely relaxed. It didn't seem like a big deal at first but by the end of the ride it was bothersome. Not bad enough to make me regret twelve dollar tickets, mind you. Just something to keep in mind.

For the second time we put up in the Mark Spencer Hotel, which is kind of a dream destination. Cookies. Wine. In-suite kitchens. I would live there if it was possible. It helps, too, that it's right downtown, a block from Powell's, which if you don't know, you must learn.

Powell's is called the City of Books, and it's definitely just that. Filling an entire city block, it's split up in a bunch of color-coded rooms (Rose and Red and Gold and so on) that are each as big as a bookstore might normally be. I have worked for many years in a good sized bookstore that would vanish into Powell's and might not be noticed by a casual visitor if that happened. You can drift through it for hours without even necessarily finding what you're looking for (that would be mostly your own fault; it's there, whatever it is you're seeking, but probably you got distracted. Or lost. That's a valid problem, getting lost there.) So we went there three or so times, for varying length visits. Short, each of them, but that's because I'm easily fatigued by too many books.

Which made it odd to cab over to a hotel out by the airport and go to the PNBA annual conference, a thing that I attended last year as a judge for a prize committee, and this year as an author. PNBA (the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association) is a friendly group of book store owners, workers and friends (authors, publisher reps, editors, etc.) who meet once per year for a weekend of books, books, books, and some more books, possibly with some wine and/or breakfast thrown in. My publisher got an invite to have me come and sign ARCs there (yes! I got to use it again!), and I wasn't about to say no. I mingled and spoke with this person and that, and then sat at a table next to other authors also signing and practiced my signature. It needs the practice, by the way. But they took almost all the ARCs (again!) my publisher had sent, and I bagged up the handful of leftovers and now have them to give away myself as needed, and then I went to meet up with the husband in town once more and have some lunch at a delightful theater where he had filled up his time with a documentary (20 Feet From Stardom, he recommends it if that's of interest at all.)

Bolt Bus back to Seattle in the gloaming, and we spent all of yesterday just napping. Colds and too much travel in too short a time. But we're improving now.

Anyway. It was fun, and I'm very grateful that Henry Holt/Macmillan sent me down there. I'd do it again in an instant.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

So much rain

Seattle is a place that most people think of as rainy, but that's not really true. It's cloudy a whole lot (way too much, really) and drizzle falls reasonably often, occasionally exerting itself to become scattered showers, and once in while really powering up in order to qualify as a good downpour.

September usually gets about an inch and a half of rain. The tail end of summer, it's normally warm and ray and blue skied and pleasant. And it was for most of the start of the month. But the end...well, that was something else. This year, we got close to seven inches of rain, and most of that fell in the last five days of the month. On Saturday, we had more rain than we normally get in the entire 30 days, 1.71 inches.

There's flood watches and warnings in the surrounding areas, and I keep seeing pictures that people are posting of cars up their doors in puddles grown into ponds, of parking lots that are small lakes, of streets become streams. It's not very bad, really: just interesting photos, and a few people in a little bit of trouble, some pretty minor flooding overall. Lucky, that.

I am, in many ways, rather more fortunate even than most: I live on a hill in the center of the city, one that's paved over and bound down by apartment buildings and streets and sidewalks and offices. The rain all runs away downhill from us, and we don't end up with mudslides or falling cliffs or anything. Just wet.

I'm hoping for a drier October, and it will most likely happen, but it might seem wetter. More days of rain, even if there's only sprinkles, give an impression of precipitation all out of keeping with reality. Which is probably how most folks end up thinking of Seattle as rainy in the first place.