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May 28th, 2010

11:42 pm: Rant on loyalty
This is partially about loyalty and partially about the characterization of traitors. Because I wanted it to be.

When loyalty is (and isn’t) a virtue )

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December 18th, 2009

10:18 am: Rant on flawed characters (again)
Characters in most novels, of course, have to have flaws. Novels exist where they don’t, but often the character is either boringly idealized or part of a historical and cultural context that doesn’t exist in most twenty-first-century Western countries any longer. (Characters like Herman Melville’s Billy Budd and George Eliot’s Eppie are also meant to serve a specific allegorical purpose that’s rare for modern fantasy novels). But it’s also possible to make a character too flawed, or to add only “charming” quirks that don’t actually impact a character’s life in any discernible way. I’m sure you can think of at least one protagonist whose only fault was being too generous, or too kind-hearted. (I will never get back the hours of my life which I wasted reading The Wayfarer Redemption).

Here, then, are some (more) ideas about adding flaws to characters and what to do once you have them.

Read more... )

A rant on loyalty is probably next.

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December 7th, 2009

07:15 pm: More book reviews
More books I finished recently, this time reading for my dissertation.

George Meredith, One of Our Conquerors )

Janet Browne, Voyaging and The Power of Place )

Anna K. Nardo, George Eliot’s Dialogue With John Milton )

Current Mood: amused
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December 2nd, 2009

07:38 pm: Signal boost
Winterfox on LJ asked me to link to this post about a friend of hers who is facing eviction. This is what Winterfox says about it, since she explains the situation better than I can:

A friend of mine, shuju_the_red ( is facing eviction if she can't gather $2,500 within a few days. She lives in the Philippines and this amount is very, very hefty for her; combined that with the fact that she had to bribe the police to get her mother out of a military camp not long ago--it cost her $10,000--she's severely hard-pressed to dredge up more money right now.

My own journal has limited exposure and I was hoping you might be willing to link to my friend's entry detailing Ju's circumstances, because every cent will help.

December 1st, 2009

08:39 pm: Rant on avoiding a villain monologue
I’m sorry to have been gone so long. Major health issues as well as writer’s block on the rants meant that I had little to post. While I think I’ll be posting more regularly again, I can’t promise it.


This rant brought to you by Magic Bites, an urban fantasy novel that I read recently and liked well enough—with the exception of one major irritant. I bet you can guess right now what it is.

This is a temptation, yes, but there is a difference between feeling it and giving in to it )

Villain monologues irritate me for the same reason that idiot plots do: there’s no reason for them to exist, not when you have so many interesting tricks to avoid them.

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April 28th, 2008

10:05 pm: Book review post for April (part 1)
Haven’t done one of these in a long time, so I’ve got a lot of novels to cover; I’ll do another post sometime soon.


George Meredith, One of Our Conquerors )

Justine Larbalestier, Magic or Madness )

Elizabeth Bear, Dust )

Tanith Lee, A Heroine of the World )

March 2nd, 2008

09:14 pm: Writing character clash stories
In the past, I’ve written rants about how I like stories where the plot forms naturally from the clash of characters’ personalities, as opposed to characters compelled against their wills by an outside force (destiny, a prophecy, the gods, unspeakably evil and inhuman villains, etc.) But how, exactly, do you achieve a character clash story? Especially when it’s so much easier to steal a set of tropes and plot devices from a famous or archetypal story and just use them instead?

Here are some ways )

February 24th, 2008

05:41 pm: Kage Baker, Race, and Gender (contains mild spoilers for the Company series)
It's bothersome. I already bought all ten books in the Company series, and I really do like the style of humor and the narrative drive behind the plot, so you'd think I'd zip right through them. But I'm stuck in the ninth one.

Brief introduction to the Company series )

Race and gender issues )

It's too bad, because I really do like the plot in these books. It moves along! It's connected! It's complex and ties back to itself! (I value that all the more because it's one of the qualities I read epic fantasy for, but other qualities inherent to the epic fantasy genre keep me from liking those books now). But the race and gender politics bother me to the point that I haven't felt like picking up Gods and Pawns in a week- and since I'm in the middle of a story where Mendoza and a white male character investigate the secrets of a native Bolivian tribe, I'm not really sure I want to finish.

January 14th, 2008

04:30 pm: How to let your protagonist make mistakes
The title should be descriptive enough in and of itself, but just in case: I’ve said an awful lot about how authors should allow their protagonists to make mistakes more often and not simply know “intuitively” or “somehow” what the right thing to do is. But I appreciate that a protagonist who does so can look awfully stupid.

Read more... )

December 13th, 2007

11:04 am: Rant on anti-heroes
A few people asked for a rant on anti-heroes. This is a collection of thoughts loosely organized around that topic.

So if you have a morally ambiguous protagonist… )

November 27th, 2007

09:18 pm: Seven more things heroines/female protagonists can do
The title of the rant explains itself, I think. I’ve put “more” in there because I’ve written rants in the past about different ways to diversify female characters, and slashed heroines/female protagonists because of the unfortunate connotation that “heroine” sometimes has.

A lot of these are probably common sense, but still )

November 20th, 2007

10:32 am: I has a feminist science fiction class!
A while ago, I proposed a feminist science fiction class at the university where I'm studying next semester. I didn't know if they'd actually accept it, as most of the women's literature classes focus on historical periods instead, but I thought it couldn't hurt to try.

They accepted it!

Next semester I will be teaching:

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
Woman on the Edge of Time, Marge Piercy
The Two of Them, Joanna Russ
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, James Tiptree, Jr.
Bloodchild and Other Stories, Octavia Butler
Daughters of Earth, ed. by Justine Larbaleister (this is a collection of both stories and critical essays about the stories).

I know some of the supplementary material I'll be adding to the class, like the two essays LeGuin wrote about gender in The Left Hand of Darkness and her short story "Winter's King," set in the same world. I'm looking forwards to finding more essays, well-written blog entries, and so on (though the class is mostly about older SF, I'd like to encourage my students to take a look at the online feminist SF community).

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be more than happy to look at them.

Current Mood: jubilant

November 15th, 2007

08:40 pm: Book reviews: Bear and Monette, Morgan
Another attempt to clear some of the enormous backlog. Maybe shorter and more frequent posts will work for me, instead of trying to do them all at once.

Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette, A Companion to Wolves )

Richard K. Mogan, Black Man/Thirteen )

November 1st, 2007

04:08 pm: Even though I'm not officially participating in NaNo (because I'm not sure I'd be able to keep up the pace), I am writing a novel during November. It will all be public, because I want it that way, and will have a Creative Commons License put on it. Here is the first chapter of Fortune Favors the Bold.

Current Mood: cheerful

October 20th, 2007

10:06 pm: My thoughts on Acacia, let me show them to you.
Beware, as this post has mild spoilers for Acacia by David Anthony Durham.

Alas, I think I am giving up on Acacia. It's not a bad book, and it has a multiracial world and at least one seriously cool religious concept that I'm impressed with. But I think I've just grown too disenchanted with epic fantasy to have the kind of patience a book like this demands- especially when I don't particularly like any of the characters, and not enough time is spent in their viewpoints to interest me in them. Also, Thirteen has caught my attention to the point where it's hard to want to read anything else right now.

Thoughts on why I no longer feel like reading epic fantasy )

It's odd, because I do still love secondary-world fantasy more than urban fantasy. But I think I've been lucky enough to find authors who are doing something a bit different with the concepts I like, and I've also changed my reading patterns to include a lot more science fiction lately, so I'm not noticing the real lack a dose of tolerable epic fantasy once would have left in my world.

Current Mood: thoughtful

October 16th, 2007

03:50 pm: Not a Good Idea #345
Trying to read Richard K. Morgan's Thirteen, David Anthony Durham's Acacia*, Ian McDonald's Brasyl, and Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union all at the same time. Genres are, in order: next-century dystopia (to give you an idea, Morgan's version of the US is called Jesusland); epic fantasy (complete with infodumping and repetition that makes me roll my eyes, though I like some of the characters and basic ideas); mixture of historical novel, contemporary novel, and near-future SF novel, all set in Brazil (these three strands intertwine with one another, and not all the important words are in the glossary, even though the glossary claims they are there); and alternate history (the biggest Jewish community formed in the Alaskan Panhandle, not in Israel, which collapsed).

Unfortunately, they all came into the library for me at the same time, and I only have two weeks to read them. As well as grade and write and do all the other stuff that comprises my life.


*How lazy am I? This lazy: I couldn't remember Durham's middle name, so I typed it into Google as I was writing this post instead of walking to the book which is less than ten feet away.

Current Mood: cheerful

October 3rd, 2007

05:33 pm: Quick book review
Just a quick book review; there are many, many more coming if I ever get back up to speed. *looks in despair at enormous piles of books, both read and unread*

Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch )

Current Mood: feminist

September 30th, 2007

10:11 am: The legal system, punishments, judgment, and "justice"
This is a questionnaire format more than anything else. I seem to be blocked on writing regular rants, so we’ll see how this works.

Read more... )

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