Iain Pears’ Arcadia

I recently read Arcadia, by Iain Pears. It’s a good book, a great book even, but I still have mixed feelings about it.

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Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Three interlocking worlds. Four people looking for answers. But who controls the future—or the past?

In 1960s Oxford, Professor Henry Lytten is attempting to write a fantasy novel that forgoes the magic of his predecessors, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He finds an unlikely confidante in his quick-witted, inquisitive young neighbor Rosie. One day, while chasing Lytten’s cat, Rosie encounters a doorway in his cellar. She steps through and finds herself in an idyllic, pastoral land where Storytellers are revered above all others. There she meets a young man who is about to embark on a quest of his ownand may be the one chance Rosie has of returning home. These breathtaking adventures ultimately intertwine with the story of an eccentric psychomathematician whose breakthrough discovery will affect all of these different lives and worlds.

Dazzlingly inventive and deeply satisfying, Arcadia tests the boundaries of storytelling and asks: If the past can change the future, then might the future also indelibly alter the past?

It’s got a dystopic future, a Narnia-like pastoral land, and 1960’s England – all the best things – rolled into one story. The way you are introduced to the effect of a character’s choices before you see the action occur is clever. The way the narrative coils in upon itself as you read is brilliant.

But – but – I spent the whole time thinking, “I’m not smart enough to read this book,” and wishing I could read it in one go rather than in bits and parts in between all the other things I have to do. Arcadia is a book that demands things of you. Your time, your undivided attention. And that’s not bad, in case I’m making it sound bad. But, if you’re going to read it, do it when you have a solid block of time to devote to it. It’s not a book to pick up for 15 minutes on your break, or for half an hour before bed.

Interestingly, the book was written to be read as an app for iPhone and iPad. You can read the ten strands of the narrative separately and each is a complete story. You can read bits of each – whatever you like. I think this format would have better fit my needs and made the experience more enjoyable.

Should you read it? Absolutely. At first it sounds like a weird kitchen-sink mish-mash of sci-fi and fantasy, but it absolutely works in the end.

 

Three Doctor Who Episodes That Need to Exist, But Don’t

1. Death of River Song.

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When I saw this, I was kind of horrified but they make a good case and I do love me a good closed loop. Via io9. http://io9.com/5972259/10-science-fiction-tv-characters-we-hope-will-die-in-2013?tag=superlist

2. The Time War.

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We know very little about the time war, so it could likely take up an entire season to flesh out. All we really know is that after attempting the Ultimate Sanction, Paul McGann’s very brief (and kinda hot) Doctor seals the Time Lords away in a time lock, and flees, very likely dying in the process. We never see this, but the intense, emotional doctor we end up with is a testament to the traumatic nature of this event. Via topless robot. http://www.toplessrobot.com/2012/12/5_reasons_why_making_a_great_doctor_who_video_game.php?page=2

3. The Doctor Meets Arthur Dent.

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Douglas Adams and Doctor Who are a natural match (for obvious reasons). Adams’ whacked-out H2G2 characters would make and awesome foil for the Ninth Doctor, who alternates between broody intensity and light sarcasm. Referenced in the Christmas Invasion.

Am I the only one who does this? What’s on your Doctor Who wish list? Lemme know…

Names and Nuance, or Why I Shouldn’t Name My Characters Penny, Chip, and Used Napkin

So that book thing. I’m writing it, I swear. I’ve done a fair bit of planning at this point, and the plot has an actual direction. Not a full-on ‘first X, then Y, the Z,’ direction, but more ‘walk that way until you see the big tree and then head toward the river and just walk until you get there.’ I even know how it ends, more or less (!). Which for me is good.

Apropos of nothing, I am also the kind of person who puts a bunch of ingredients in a pot and cooks it ‘until it’s done’.

I’ve figured out what most of the characters look like, and their general personalities. But they are missing something important.

Their names:

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Words have power. They let us travel out of the past and talk to the future. Names are especially powerful. When our characters are chloroformed and pinned to the board, names are the neatly typed labels underneath. We all know about published authors, and how they craft names that reflect the personality and destiny of their characters, so I’m not going to rehash that here…

What I’m saying is my characters need names!

My female lead has an entire real name: Tallulah Frances Pigeon, or Frankie. Awesome, quirky, resonant with who and what her character turns out to be.

My male lead, John Farutto, has a placeholder name.  A great number of my male characters start as Johns. Plus a last name vaguely reminiscent of a famous literary character. In this case, Frodo. It’s okay for now, but I don’t like the idea of having to go back over thousands of words worth of writing making sure I’ve excised all the placeholder names once the damn thing is written.

Yeah, I suck. But I’ve been through my baby name book a dozen times, and gone to naming websites and whaterever, but I can’t find him a name that fits.

I also need a name for the main antagonist, who is an albino fairy. And who lures humans to Undermount with her bewitching pulp fiction. Give me the benefit of the doubt on that one.

I’ve gotten to the point where I want to name them all Penny, Chip, and Used Napkin.

So, here’s where you come in: what strategies do you guys/gals use to name your characters?

I think I am seriously over-thinking this all…if this keeps up I still may name them Penny, Chip, and Used Napkin.

Who is stupid enough to think this would work? From John Scalzi’s Whatever Blog…

Whatever

Namely, this dude, who uploaded to Amazon Kindle Store under his own name a bunch of science fiction works by others, including myself, CJ Cherryh, and Robert Heinlein. I’d note that in my case, in addition to ripping me off, he’s also ripping off Bob Eggleton, who did the inside art for the story. A bunch of scathing one-star reviews would be nice.

I will of course be filing a DMCA claim against this schmuck with Amazon in short order (as should all the folks or estates affected), but in the meantime mocking this dude for being stupid enough to think he could get away with this is the order of the day.

Also, Amazon: A little more oversight of Kindle submission process would be lovely.

update: Looks like they were taken down by Amazon. Thanks, you wide river, you!

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Flash Friday Guest Edition

Writing and I are ‘on a break’. So this week’s flash fiction is from Ms. Creepy-Lovely herself (no, not Amanda Palmer, but close. Sooo close), Sile Englert.

Fish and Chips

Her words are stream of consciousness. Sensible, nonsensical, prying into my white world. I know you, you’re Annie. You’re that girl from high school, right? You had red hair, though. Red’s not my favourite colour. Do you remember my favourite colour, Annie? She says I have Annie’s eyes. Then she gets angry, grabs my arms and makes me face her, yelling that I’d better give them back or she’s going to tell. I wonder sometimes whether she’s putting it all on. Nobody could really be that… could they? But she’d have to be an absolute genius to pull off the fountain of words that spews from her mouth hour after hour. More thoughts than could ever fit in anyone’s head, so they have to get out. What I think would happen if I ever really opened my mouth. She’s here, in my room again, without permission, without knocking. She wants to borrow a hammer and some nails. In this place where we are barely allowed pens and pencils and have to eat with plastic knives and forks. She explains. For a collage she’s made. About to hang it on the wall in front of the nurse’s station. That’ll fuck’em, won’t it, Annie? Show them what’s what. What. What. What? What are you talking about? About all this, this is crazy town. I just need nails and snails and pails and—fuck! Her face scrunches up in something that looks like pain; the words keep coming but they’re muffled by her fists grinding at her mouth.  I just want her out. But her words keep coming. Short and long, up and down the syllables spill like the blood that follows the exacto-blade at your wrist. I understand. The words: they pour. Spew. Dribble. Drop. Flow. Bleed. Just bleed. Her words bleed all over my room and fill it up over the blankets on the bed so that I’m forced to wade through them. Shut up, my thoughts are begging, shut up, but she keeps going. How much I look like Annie and aren’t I Annie and do I remember that Science teacher from high school? Mr. Robles. Remember him, Annie? He used to pace the room when he talked, like this, see, back and forth and back and forth and tapped his fingers on his belt buckle like this, see, like this, tap tap tap, tap tap tap. I flinch. I don’t have a hammer. Please, get out of my room. The constant flow of sound makes me nervous, uncomfortable. Scared, sometimes, so unpredictable. No way to know what direction she’ll go in next or how many directions at once. Who she’ll be or even who you’ll be. It’s exhausting. The nurse comes in at some point. And the little rainbow of powders are mixing with my blood and sneaking through my veins like when someone dumps chemicals in an unspoiled river. Almost unspoiled. Feel my eyes drooping. Standing up too long. In front of my bed, defensive, guarding my space but for too long and now my wrist is throbbing. I cradle it to my chest, silently coddling the infection and the bandages slowly soaking with green pussing liquid over days. What did you do to your arm, Elaine? Now I am Elaine. Alright then. The same thing that you did to yours, I say, and I grab at her wrist, encircling it with pale fingers that feel suddenly strong. I tear the bandage off my own, with barely a wince when it rips away sick skin that had stubbornly started to heal. I pull her arm until it’s parallel with mine, a mirror image of damage that leaves one side aged and allows the other its youth. And I hold out the wound that looks as though it could very likely heal into this woman’s own scar. I’m not Annie, I said. I’m not Elaine. I’m here because I’m as crazy as you are. Now get out of my room. Fuck, she yelled, fuck you. Fuck you anyway, Annie. You were always such a bitch in high school. I’m going back to my knitting. I’m going down to the river to go fishing. Do you know any good place around here to go fishing? I really like fish and chips, they never seem to serve that in here. I sigh. Drop my arm to my side where it scrapes painfully on the stiff, white pyjama pants. They serve fish and chips every Wednesday at five-thirty.

 

2-Day Poetry Madness

I just finished CV2’s 2-Day Poem Contest with 26 whole minutes to go. They give you 10 random words and you have to make them into a poem in 48 hours. In between running a birthday party and tending to sick kidlets. Or whatever *your* life throws at you.

My no-doubt stellar piece of writing is off to be judged for what seems like way too long for someone with compulsive checking behaviours.

But here’s last year’s entry, for anyone who is interested:

American Can

Here treacle time flows over uniformed days in succession.
Living by rote,
there is no chance to wonder who benefits from compulsive down-looking deference.
But bleached bone factory carcass tells the story
for anyone who can hear above the booming voice of Industry
now only wind and pigeon quibble.

While disenfranchised rock-throwers mar the face of their abandonment
with twenty years of tiny rebellion,
the once-window cascade crunches green now underfoot
with scraggly chicory sticks and gravel glass.
Turn away and put up an umbrella against the rain –
there is nothing left here to save.

Today’s Official Best Thing Ever (Tm)

Gender swapped Harry Potter = Best. Thing. Ever.

http://maaria.deviantart.com/#/d4mr2vl

Harriet sez, “I’m a pretty girl…”

I wish I was this talented. And sometimes wishes come true.

Once I was in the shower and thought, “Gee I wish we had a new shower head.” Less than an hour later there was a knock on the door, and it was some guy from the local hydroelectric supplier handing out free water saving shower heads.  Wish granted!

If only this worked when I wished for money, or world domination…