April 7th, 2008


Go Read This Story

I wanted to point to The 21st Century Isobel Down, by Stacy Sinclair, on Fantasy Magazine this week. I like stories that manage to be funny and sharp and interesting all at the same time, and this does that well. It's also a feminist story, which I like, because I see a lot of stories where the female protagonist just gets pushed around by fate and then a guy comes along and rescues her. Sometimes he's a vampire, sometimes he's not.  He is invariably taller than she is.

I've been doing some looking at the stories I've been picking versus Sean's picks -- we're finishing up with the backlog of stories he had already acquired, so some of my picks are starting to appear.  I think we share an appreciation for literary language and style used to good effect on a strong story -- it's like a delicious sugary glaze over the meaty goodness.  A number of the stories we have coming up are what I'd consider political (beyond the sense that everything is political :p) and I think that's my inclination, and I'm also trying to keep us from getting too dreary and dank and goth girl.

I've also been thinking about what makes a story right for us.  This weekend I was going through the slush and hit one story that was perfectly reasonable on one level - a hero meets a difficulty and overcomes it, then there's a twist at the end. And that's fine and dandy, but it reminded me of something Connie Willis said, that fiction teaches us to be human. For me, a good fantasy story does that -- the story is not just about the action, the running around waving swords or spells or magic flutes, but about the human experience, about what happens when we love something too much, too little, or too differently, for example. Sinclair's story is in part about being female in the 21st century, even while it's also about a woman being romantically pursued by an advertising icon. And it says something interesting about that experience, even while it's entertaining the reader with quick and clever humor.

Little work on the novel this weekend (although some!) --mainly I'm finishing up this study guide for a course on terrorism. I also watched Jupiter's Darling, a 1955 film starring Esther Williams as a Roman girl who likes to swim a lot at the time that Hannibal was attaching Rome. I hadn't realized the strenuous lengths to which Esther Williams movies worked to get Esther Williams into the water. First, there was a bizarre scene where she's swimming underwater in her backyard pool, when a grotto opens up, she swims in, and finds herself swim-dancing with some rather creepy animated statues. I mean, creepy. Would you want an over-sized mostly naked Greek statue complete with plaster-of-plaster wig of curls swimming after you while making it clear that sweet sweet lovins are on its mind? For some (including me) that might be the stuff of nightmare. Then there's a scene where she teaches Hannibal how to swim.  And THEN, there is a fabulous chase scene that goes something like this: she drives her horse-drawn chariot off a cliff into a lake, swims away, is pursued by four Carthaginian swimming soldiers (oh, by the way, apparently in the 1950s people could hold their breath for ten minutes at a time while dancing in the water) on a meandering tour of the lake bottom that includes a brief foray through a sunken ship while they shoot arrows underwater at her. It was AWESOME. Plus there were lots of elephants, but none that swam.


a swallowship in full sail

1500 words down on the novel, and Chapter 25 finished.  I think there will end up being more than 30 chapters, when all is told -- as I've been going through smoothing the succession of scenes into smoothness, a lot of excess has built up -- Chapter 28 has 14 scenes right now, for example, which is too many, and I want to go back and put the embedded story, "Narrative of a Beast's Life", in starting earlier.  The light at the end of the tunnel continues to glimmer. Going to go snag some lunch, and then do some terrorism.
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