Sunday Links for November 6, 2011

Hang on, folks. I’ve been collecting links for about a month now without posting a Sunday Links column, so this is going to be a long one. Grab a cup of coffee and a peanut butter cookie and get ready for a happy ride.

At the World Fantasy Convention – which I attended, with great joy, and blogged about for Fantasy Literature (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3), the World Fantasy Awards were announced during the banquet. (And all that stuff they say about Connie Willis being a terrific toastmaster? Absolutely true.) (And I’m glad I had this advice about how to attend a convention when you’re an introvert. I tried one party, but no one said a word to me, and I left quickly. Sigh. Too shy for my own good sometimes, aren’t I? And yes, I know that’s hard to believe.)

The winners of the British Fantasy Awards have been announced. These prizes have engendered a fair bit of controversy – see here -- so much so that the winner of the best novel award, Sam Stone, returned her prize.

We’ve only just gotten past Halloween, but already the year’s best lists are starting up. Here’s the Publishers Weekly list.

If you don’t want recommendations from the professional reviewers, why not ask authors what books they’re recommending these days? In one of their famous mindmelds, that’s exactly what SFSignal did. There is much great reading to be found here.

Nicki Leone ponders a question often asked of her: why do you keep books you’ve already read? Her answer seems exactly right to me, and echoes my own reasoning. Nicki writes so well, though, that you’ll have fun getting to the answer even though it seems obvious.

If you’re not following the Los Angeles Review of Books, you should be. This column about the works of J.G. Ballard is both entertaining and erudite. The monthly crime column is excellent. The table of contents is here. But beware: if you start reading, you may not stop until you’ve read everything – and by then there will be more.

Another cite to add to your “favorites,” but only if you like being challenged, intrigued, and a bit freaked out everyday: Weird Fiction Review. One of the greatest things about this cite, the newest venture from Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, is that it will offer new translations of weird fiction previously only available in other languages. I’ve long felt that we here in America don’t get nearly enough of other cultures in any other diet except our culinary one, and even then it’s usually ersatz. So bend your mind and read some cool stuff. You can even use your tentacles to operate your mouse.

Amazon has launched a new borrowing program for its Prime members. I’ve been Prime for a few years now (that free two-day delivery is terrific!), so I’ve borrowed my first book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which I’ve wanted to read for a while (my nephew James is wild about the trilogy), but which is always checked out of my library. I might feel guilty about it if it weren’t that I spend hundreds of dollars on new books every month, and patronize my public library very heavily as well – but readers, I’m very curious what you think about this.

That said, if I ever write a novel or memoir or anything else, I want to see it in hard copy from a traditional publisher. Why? Because I don’t want to have to mess around with anything other than the writing and selling of a book, that’s why. I’m happy to let the experts take care of the editing, the proofing, marketing and publicizing (though I do understand that writers have to take care of a lot of marketing and publicizing themselves these days; it would sure help to have expert guidance, wouldn’t it?). Ursula Vernon agrees with me, and she’s actually a published writer. So you can make more money publishing your own ebooks? Good luck!

One place where publishing your own ebooks makes sense, though is the backlist: those books you originally had published by traditional means, but are now out of print and unavailable to those readers who have only now discovered you. For that, Book View Café seems to be the way to go. This cite is a great resource. It’s hard to believe that so much of Vonda McIntyre’s work, for instance, is out of print – really, no Dreamsnake? That’s insane – and it’s great that it’s available this way.

If you prefer to get those back-listed books between hard covers, try Basement Full of Books. This website matches you up directly with the author to purchase that author’s books, often signed. It’s a great idea – good for both writers and readers.

Both those websites are a good argument against the supposed “need” for book piracy, by the way. The whole notion that piracy is a response to a need not met by publishers is just goofy. Personally, I don’t know why anyone would download a pirated copy of anything just because of the possible danger that worms and viruses carried on the pirated copy could wreck your computer. It’s not worth it.

I don’t often get pitches from public relations companies to post something completely irrelevant – Reading the Leaves is much too small a blog for that, and I’m lucky if I even get the occasional email about a new book. But there are bloggers out there who get far too much irrelevant crap from publicists who don’t pay attention. And that’s okay, too, so long as they know how to deal with it when someone reminds them that they’re sending irrelevant crap to people who don’t care. But when they respond in the nastiest possible way, well, then hell hath no fury. I so enjoyed reading this episode of an interchange between Jose and The Bloggess that I had to share it. And if the time ever comes when I need a publicist, remind me not to choose the company that took her on.

And in case you’re worried about me after that post, keep in mind that crazy people make better bloggers.

The death of the book has been predicted for so long now that I’ve come to dismiss the predictions – at least, when I’m not being scared to death by them. But one type of book does seem to be disappearing: the mass market paperback. I thought it was the trade paperback that was the culprit, but apparently that only put the MMPB down; it took the ebook to finish it off.

Readers of this blog know that I’m big on small presses. In fact, at the World Fantasy Convention last week, I purchased books only from small presses: Prime Books, Night Shade Books and EDGE (oh, and what joy there was in this house when those boxes arrived!). Since then, I’ve purchased a book from Centipede Press, and gotten a new magazine from Unstuck Books. io9 points out that some of the best outlets for horror and dark fantasy are the small presses, including Tachyon and Subterranean, both of which should also be familiar to my readers (linking to a Washington Post story by critic Michael Dirda, which you need to read in full if you really want to see your “books to read” list grow). You’ll find some excellent books from these presses that would otherwise go unpublished.

Glen Duncan, whose latest book, The Last Werewolf, I had just purchased, made me sorry I’d spent my hard-earned money on his work when I read his review of Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Zone One. “A literary novelist writing a genre novel is like an intellectual dating a porn star.” Really? Please. io9’s response to this nonsense is a better rant than anything I could possibly come up with, so I hereby adopt that rant and incorporate it herein as if fully set forth. (Uh oh, it makes me so mad that the legalese comes out. Watch out!) io9 goes on in a different post to point out that the distinction between genre fiction and so-called “literary” fiction becomes more meaningless by the day.

Realms of Fantasy really seems to be on the ropes this time. Will a white knight surface yet again? Wish I could undertake that role, but alas, I have neither the time nor the money. How about you?

How’s your vocabulary? Did you know that these ten words came from science, not science fiction? I knew about “robotics,” but that’s about it.

It looks like robots may soon be writing some of those news articles you can find scattered around the Web – you know, like the ones that show up on your AOL mail page when you first open it up. It doesn’t seem likely they could do much worse than what is churned out for little pay and with little interest already, but it still seems a shame.

I’ve never tried NaNoWriMo, and this year is no exception. The idea of writing a novel in one short month makes my brain short circuit. But if I ever decide to give it a try, I’ll be glad to have these pointers from Chuck Wendig.

Maybe this shorter project is more up my alley: composing a poem from book titles. Cool!

Very definitely not cool is The Write Agenda, a website that appears to be out to destroy the very handy resource, Writers Beware. Why? It seems that the “write agenda” is to stop Writers Beware from telling the truth about organizations that seek to exploit those who are desperate to get published. Be careful out there, writers. Not every watchdog is really a watchdog.

I’ve printed out this prayer for writers and posted it in my study. It seems likely to be quite effective.

Yes, Halloween is over for this year. We had some marvelous trick-or-treaters here at our new home; such a treat after years of buying candy and having no costumed wonders show up at our door. I think my favorite was the babe-in-arms dressed as a pumpkin. It’s never too soon to start planning next year’s costume, though. I like the idea of geeky costumes. Since I own a merlot-colored turtleneck, I may just go as Carl Sagan in 2012.

One of the best things about THE SIMPSONS is that you can find jokes for smart people in just about every episode. Here’s a guide to literary references in THE SIMPSONS.

Some good news about television, as if the new series ONCE UPON A TIME and GRIMM weren’t enough for you: Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is set to become a TV series. I’ll watch.

I won’t be watching any more of TERRA NOVA, though. I didn’t get past the first hour of the premiere. But the Evil Monkey critiques it much better than I could here.

I was speaking of “weird” up above, and while this doesn’t quite fit in the same category, it certainly makes you look at the world a bit differently. Why would these photos be sexually if they featured scantily clad women instead of men? (Actually, I think some of them might be pretty hot if the men were scantily clad, but there, as ever, we women can ogle men only if they’re fully dressed. Damn it all, anyway!)

In case you were wondering about the gay lifestyle – you know, the one that Republicans claim is ruining America? – a gay man helpfully explains how it all works, right down to the Gay Agenda.

And here’s some pretty to close out the week: unexpected silhouettes. I think Alex from Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange might be my favorite.

A lot of links.

I'll read Leone's article in a moment but I think if you're a reader then the books you read say something about you. I'm thinking about your recent move and having to move your millions of books. There is a lot of identity in those boxes. For me, keeping the books I've read means I enjoyed the book and would consider reading it again or loaning it to a friend. My library is a tangible way for me to call up memories and organize thoughts about a book a genre or some broader topic.

I don't get the Amazon borrowing thing. I just don't get it.

I'm glad the MMPB is going away. That really doesn't bother me for a host of reasons. When I first heard about The Magicians tv show I was excited. I can't imagine how it will work but I can't wait to find out.

I don't have anything to support my feeling, but I never would have guessed you were shy.


Starting at the bottom: "shy" is perhaps too strong a word. "Introvert" is probably better. It uses up a lot of my energy to interact with other people, even people I know; working a cold room is really tough and exhausting, but I can do it. It's just that there are few activities that seem to me to beat the experience of sitting in my own home reading a good book.

I like your notion of a library telling others who you are. Most of the time these days, though, people only notice quantity (if they notice anything; Fred said that at the end of teaching career, students would walk into his office and not even notice that he had thousands of books covering all the walls), not the actual books themselves. I can't remember the last time someone lingered over one of my bookcases, exclaiming over different titles.

Thanks for reading and commenting, Chad. I'll try to be around here a bit more regularly!

The Breakout!

What if I recommend a host of the most deplorable book ever assembled, and then you read your way though the awesomely horrible collection of bad. I think that would make you more social by driving you out of the house--possibly your mind--(probably to seedy bars where people are very talkative when engaged) to talk about how bad your day was because you can't find anything decent to read. Actually, I don't think anyone deserves that...

To an extent all real readers are introverts; it's not a very socially engaging experience and, for me at least, part of the quality of a good reading sessions comes from the reader/author intimacy. That said, I'm currently reading Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow for the first time and all I want to do is talk about it.

The Looney Bin

Chad, I'm afraid that wouldn't send me out to talk to people, but straight to the loony bin. Bad books when I have so many good books in this house just waiting for me to get to them? Yes, that would drive me insane.

I know what you mean about Ragtime -- I read it more than 30 years ago, but still remember loving it -- and when I read good books, I like to talk to people about them. Hence my reviewing. For me, that's pretty much talk enough, except for the occasional convention.

I just learned that the Thanksgiving I thought was going to be a family gathering of six or seven is in fact going to be a massive party that will apparently involve plates on laps with a buffet, and maybe no turkey. Given what I've just said about hating crowds, you can understand, I suspect, that I'm feeling disappointed. Since it's family (plus crowd), I can't even change plans and go to Portland and spend Thanksgiving Day in Powell's after all. Sigh.

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