ellenkushner: (gargoyle close)
George Saunders:

I’d make the case that the whole fictional thrill has to do with this idea of the reader and the writer closely tracking, if you will. Like one of those motorcycle sidecars: when the writer leans left, the reader does too. You don’t want your reader three blocks away, unaware that you are leaning. You want her right there with you, so that even an added comma makes a difference. And I think building that motorcycle has to do with that very odd moment when the writer “imagines” his reader—i.e., imagines where the reader “is” at that precise point in the story. This is more of a feeling thing than an analytical thing, but all that is good about fiction depends on this extrapolation. Which is pretty insane, when you think of it. The writer, in order to proceed, is theoretically trying to predict where his complex skein of language and image has left his reader, who he has likely never met and who is actually thousands of readers. Yikes! Better we should do something easier, like join the circus.

As far as “considering the reader”—I’m sure it’s different for every writer. But for me, yes, I am always considering the reader. Although this is admittedly kind of odd: Which reader? On what day? In what mood? For me, that “reader” is actually just me, if I had never read the story before. That is, I’m trying to read/edit as if I have no existing knowledge of the story, no investment in it, no sense of what Herculean effort went into writing page 23, no pretensions as to why the dull patch on page 4 is important for the fireworks that will happen on page 714. I’m essentially just trying to impersonate a first-time reader, who picks up the story and has to decide, at every point, whether to keep going.
ellenkushner: (EK:  Twelfth Night)
ALSO:  Really want to be well enough to go down to Soho Digital Gallery tonight to help celebrate the great writer Carol Emshwiller's 90th Birthday TODAY!

Matt Cheney's put together a website about/for her, The Carol Emshwiller Project, and all day today many writers & friends - including China Mieville - are posting Birthday Greetings.  Come and join the party, and leave a post for Carol! 

I'd met her when she was Guest of Honor at Wiscon a few years ago - and when we moved back to NYC, we'd sometimes sit together at the Friday Author Lunches Ms. Datlow curates here in a noisy restaurant with great fries.   Carol's hearing is poor, now, so it's torture for her - but she gamely shows up when she can, sits at one end and talks to the person next to her.  Her eyes are incredibly bright - and she becomes, if possible, even more animated when she talks about the cabin in the California mountains where she spends the summer hiking.  Although I know she's a favorite of Gavin Grant & Kelly Link at Small Beer Press, I hadn't read her latest novels - but I was riveted when she read aloud at KGB her trickster story, "God Clown,"  from Datlow/Windling's COYOTE ROAD.  And then, best of all - I found out she lives in my cousin Debra's building on E. 15th Street!  Same building.  Really.  Same apartment, too (and let's not talk about how a family of 4 has squoze themselves into a 1-BR for 20 years) - only Carol's  is 10 floors up, and has a terrific view.  We try to visit her every time we drop by the cousins' - and I think they know now who the delicate-seeming, wiry little woman in jeans & hiking boots (them NY streets is tough!)  they meet in the mailroom is.

New York City's celebration of Carol Emshwiller continues Monday in Green Point, Brooklyn.  But wherever you are, drop by online & wish her a happy - and then go read her work.
ellenkushner: (EK:  Twelfth Night)
So on my birthday last week Delia & I flew to Denver with Terri Windling, who was to be one of the 3 Guests of Honor at the Sirens Conference in Vail.  They loaded us all onto a bus to Vail, and I watched the land turn to mountains covered with pine trees, dotted with bright yellow-leaved aspens.  It just got more and more magic.  And my cell phone kept ringing as various family members called to wish me a happy, and had to endure me going, "Oh, look! Buffalo!" or "wait - I think there's snow on those peaks!"

The Sirens folk were terrific.  We had many fine meals & conversations with other GoH's Holly Black & Marie Brennan, conference Fairy Godmother Sherwood Smith (yes, I know you're all on LJ - step forward & identify yourselves & your adorable monikers!) and other authors, readers & young reprobates.  To my delight, our Random House editor for Welcome to Bordertown, Mallory Loehr, was there - she's Tamora Pierce's editor, but at the last minute Tammy couldn't make it, and so I had to step in and do my poor best for what was to have been the "Mallory & Tammy Show!" - talking about the relationship between editor & author (joined by Delia, who's both).  I hope we did some good, or were, at least, entertaining.  I also did a brief version of my Thomas the Rhymer live performance, complete with singing the ballads . . . that's when I found out that the altitude was, indeed, having its effect!  --I'd thought that drinking lots of water & living a virtuous life would stave off the Altitude Sickness everyone'd warned me about.  But when I was unable to get through my little mouthmusic showpiece, "...Nobody, Only Cunnla!" without stopping to catch my breath in the middle of a line, I knew I had somehow not lived quite as virtu-- had somehow not managed to drink enough water, after all.

People were, nonetheless, very kind, and their comments served to remind me that I really must put up a list of Recommended Ballad Recordings on my website's Thomas page.  (Someone remind me!)

So on the bus early Sunday morning back to the airport, I saw snow!  Dustings on the pine trees as we passed them by!  And then we came down through the Pass, and there was no snow, and we checked our bags & had some lunch & got on the litttle plane & got off in Tucson, where it is 88 degrees & sunny & dry & I am altogether happy to be here with nothing to do for 24 hours but sit and rest (and update my LJ). Tomorrow we're going to visit Joanna Russ, who just moved into a nice Assisted Living home, and wants to show it off & feed us.  And, yes, it is still the thrill of my young lifetime to get the occasional postcard from her.  She is one of our great mothers.  (And if you've never heard of her or haven't read her work, go celebrate Coming Out Day by doing something truly great & good, and tracking it down & reading it!  Sure you can send one more Tweet about being supportive, or come out to the checkout guy at Wal-Mart - but honor our mothers by noticing that they lived & worked so that we can do it, ourselves, today.)
ellenkushner: (SWORDSPINT)
Suzy McKee Charnas' THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY is my favorite vampire fiction, period: a complex, elegant work for grownups. I was really happy to see [livejournal.com profile] oracne invited her to Guest Post about a new vampire story forthcoming in TEETH (!!! - it's a YA vamp anthology that includes stories I really like by Delia & me & a host of rather intimidating others).

This artwork by [livejournal.com profile] coppervale  makes me swoon.

Oh, and speaking of interviews & YA anthologies:  I just did a nice interview with Charles Tan over at SF Signal site about my story "The Children of Cadmus" in the new (and splendid) Datlow/Windling antho, THE BEASTLY BRIDE:  TALES OF THE ANIMAL PEOPLE *(cover & interior illo's by Charles Vess) - and the SFSignal interview also posted images from the childhood book of mine that inspired the story.  Cool.

Tan is interviewing every single author from that anthology - they're all listed here.

*...Not a single review has mentioned my story so far - I think they must find it baffling or offputting.  But wait!  I see an Amazon reviewer liked it!  Phew.
ellenkushner: (gargoyle)
"The worst thing about becoming a published author was that, inexplicably, it did not make all my problems go away. Walking into Barnes & Noble and seeing my name on a book jacket was exciting, of course, but when I left the store the thought filling my head was not Gee, now my life is perfect but Why didn't the cute cashier fall in love with me as I purchased my own book? Am I fat? Or could he just see that I'm a bad person?"
ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
The generosity of fantasy author Laurie J. Marks' friends & extended community is staggering.

 Terri Windling just donated an original painting to [livejournal.com profile] debsliverlovers ,  the auction to raise funds for Laurie's wife's liver transplant.  [livejournal.com profile] elisem is offering both a custom jewelry piece and a basic wireworking class. (Go here to see the nice things Elise has to say about Laurie & Deb.)  Fellow-fantasist [livejournal.com profile] naomikritzer will write you an original story!  And my first Sound & Spirit assistant, the divine Titilayo Ngwenya, offers an album of her glorious songs, Beware the Short Hair Girl (I remember when she was writing some of them, after work in a cafe in Harvard Square!) . . . .

So many wonderful things, so much talent, so many generous hearts - my own offerings (2 so far, more to come) have already fallen back a page!  Thank you all, so very very much.  The auction runs through May 23, so keep offering, and keep bidding!
ellenkushner: (Bessie McNicol)
Bel Kaufman is the granddaughter of the great Yiddish writer, Sholem Aleichem*.  She was speaking at a lovely little reading down at the Cornelia Cafe in the Village this evening.

But she's also the author of Up the Down Staircase, one of the few books I owned as a teenager, so I read it over and over again, and loved it. And I got to tell her so - and to figuratively go back and tell my teenage self, "Guess you you get to meet when you're grown up!"  (Since it was an evening devoted to her grandfather & his work, she wasn't expecting anyone to mention hers.  You should have seen how her already radiant face brightened when I mentioned her book!)


*Yes, it does mean "Peace be with you," or, more colloquially, "Hi, there!"  It was his pen name, kind of like "Mark Twain."  His "Tevye the Dairyman" stories are what Fiddler on the Roof was based on.  She told wonderful stories of him, including that when she was small he told her to hold his hand tight when they went out, because "the tighter I held onto his hand, the better he wrote!"  She is the only living person left who knew him.  She is about to be 99!  And has a wonderful voice, a wonderful presence . . . . Suddenly living to 99 doesn't look like such a bum deal.
ellenkushner: (*Simon van Alphen by Nicolaes Maes)
No, really, I insist. If you're near NYC, see Liz Duffy Adams' play "Or," if you possibly can. It's about a woman who wants to be a famous writer, and theatre people, and kings with deliciously long hair, and language and gender. See?

Tix are $20 if you turn up 1 hr before the show (and there are still seats.) The NYTimes loved it, and was not wrong to mention Stoppard in the review, I think. If you can't go - or you need encouraging - Ms. Adams has kindly given me permission to print her Prologue
here: )

See? As [livejournal.com profile] deliasherman said; written for us!
ellenkushner: (Default)
My love for the Israeli writer David Grossman is great. Ever since I discovered his novel See Under: Love, I have considered him a personal pet of mine - even though I have not read enough of his other work. (Kelly Link did give me a copy of his YA novel The ZigZag Kid, which is terrific.) My love is renewed as I read his essay about Bruno Schultz in a recent New Yorker, and came upon this (a reflection on being a first novelist - or, as we say in the specfic field, a "young writer"):

A new writer is sometimes like a new baby in the family. He arrives from the unknown, and his family has to find a way to connect with him, to make him a little less "dangerous" in his newness and mystery. The relatives lean over the infant's crib, peer at him closely, and say, "Look, look, he has Uncle Jacob's nose! His chin is exactly like Aunt Malka's! Something similar happens when you first become an author. Everyone rushes to tell you who has influenced you, from whom you have learned, and, of course, from whom you have stolen.
ellenkushner: (Latvian THOMAS)
How much would you pay to hear
Peter S. Beagle read you
The Last Unicorn or A Fine & Private Place
aloud?


Yeah. I know.

There are also sample free downloads. And lots more stuff.

ADDED: Some folks have commented that they've had trouble with this site. See [livejournal.com profile] connorfc's comments, below, on what's going on & how to contact him directly for satisfaction.
ellenkushner: (SWORDSPINT)
How I love the big little interstitial con in Burlington in July! This will be its 20th year, and I have barely missed a single one. This year's Readercon Guests of Honor will be Elizabeth Hand, Greer Gilman, and . . . yes, there's always a Memorial Guest: Hope Mirrlees. While filling out various forms, I came across their Participants Page, listing every author signed up so far - which may be enough to get you there all on its own! - but the Mirrlees bio is absolute Essence of Readercon. Sign up if you want to spend a weekend with people who think like this:

It's been said of the Velvet Underground that they only sold 500 records, but that everyone who purchased a copy started a band. The VU of fantasy is unquestionably Hope Mirrlees, whose sole fantasy novel Lud-in-the-Mist (1926) has slowly grown in reputation from obscure oddity to full-blown classic. Since its reappearance in print in 1970 in Lin Carter's Ballantine Adult Fantasy line it has become a huge influence on a generation of fantasists, including Joanna Russ, Neil Gaiman, past Readercon GoH Michael Swanwick and both of this year's Guests of Honor. Mirrlees (1887–1978) led a fascinating life (see Swanwick's "The Lady Who Wrote Lud-in-the-Mist") that is well worth exploring, but we will of course focus most of our attention on her sui generis masterpiece. If you haven't already encountered this taproot text of modern fantasy, now is the time!
ellenkushner: (Default)
My dear sweet Michael Swanwick sent me this photo, with a note: Hi, Ellen. I was in Edinburgh recently and noticed a slate in the walk in front of the Writers Museum. So I took a pic and it is attached.


How lovely it is to have old friends!
ellenkushner: (gargoyle)
I've loved the work of Damon Runyon for years - maybe even before I saw Guys & Dolls (5 times) at summer camp. I cited his Broadway underworld characters as an influence on Swordspoint, which only made sense to a few (are you one of them?). Some years ago I pulled out my battered old copy (my dad's originally) of Runyon short stories for Delia, and she was so enchanted that she read me nearly all of them aloud. I know. You haven't lived til you've heard her Nicely-Nicely Jones. So much did she love that guy that she put him in her nice little kid novel, Changeling: the Producer of Broadway is, in fact, a (magical) Runyon character.

Now that Broadway's reviving Guys & Dolls, the New Yorker's published a terrific piece by Adam Gopnik on him, which neatly nails both Runyon's appeal and his technique - which has almost everything to do with language: "Like Wodehouse, whom he in some ways resembles, Runyon inherited a comedy of morals and turned it into a comedy of sounds, language playing for its own sake." The narrator of my coming-out-any-year-now story, "The Duke of Riverside," is my attempt to do a Riverside Runyon voice: "the unchanging, perpetually nameless and anxious-eager Narrator, with his warily formal diction and his cautious good manners.... The Narrator is, crucially, one of the lowest-status figures in Runyon’s bicameral world, where the petty hustlers and horseplayers who haunt Lindy’s by day are set against their sinister opposites, hit men and gangsters, who mostly hail from Brooklyn and Harlem and arrive at night." (and now that I've read this article, I'm not at all sure I succeeded, and it is taking all my strength - and Delia's iron advice - not to demand that Ellen Datlow give me the ms. back so I can rewrite it....).

Also: don't miss Delia's more than somewhat excellent post on pitching your novel to editors (or, I would add, not boring someone silly when they politely ask you what your book's about. Just sayin').
ellenkushner: (Default)
Justine Larbalestier is offering a month's worth of Writing Advice Questions on her wonderful blog, but clearly was stumped when someone asked her to talk about pacing. She wisely punted and asked a bunch of innocent colleagues to provide her with their answers. At first I was stumped, too, but then I thought, Come on, Kushner! You actually do know about pacing. You just aren't sure how to explain it.

Neither was anyone else (except Cory Doctorow, who has a perfect one-liner for everything). But we all gamely tried, and the answers are illuminating, enlightening, entertaining, and maybe even useful. Over here. Oh, and also LJ syndicated here..
ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
I thought it was just a joke - but I"m finding out in NYC how many of my Jewish friends take the ritual of going out for a movie & Chinese food on Christmas Day very seriously . . . . My cousin Paul, who's going to visit his son on his Junior (H.S.) year abroad in a small town in northern France (where young Jon has been living with the only Jewish family in town, and whooping it up as the Cool American Kid who plays drums) seems deeply distressed at the prospect (Eurovision + Foie Gras = just not the same, eh?) . . . . So for everyone who can't make it to the flix, or who just needs a little Holiday Cheer, I recommend the Simien Mountain Fox production of Elizabeth Wein's beautiful and twisted novel The Winter Prince (stills from the someday-to-be-made, ah, blockbuster).

We just watched the movie Casanova (2005) and found it utterly charming: fabulous costumes, sexist University lecturers, con games with multiple identities, girl with occasional sword, big keystone scene of Venetian masked ball with fireworks (and Georgette Heyer-like chase scene in which someone says, "We can escape on my barge!" and the director actually left in the bit where the horse-drawn actress mutters, "This is the last time I travel coach" . . . what's not to like? (And could I have that green dressing gown, please?)

Oh, and Geoff Ryman has a new short story up on Tor.com, "The Film-makers of Mars." Gorgeous.

And, behind my back, [livejournal.com profile] deliasherman has just posted a "review" of my Klezmer Nutcracker, and some stellar Advice to Young Writers.

Education

Jul. 8th, 2008 03:57 pm
ellenkushner: (Default)
("Posted" from the porch steps of the Brooksville Public Library - closed, but blessedly wi-fi'd)

Here in Maine with no instant internet to check for mail and links, I am thrown back on the entertainment of my younger days: reading articles in the paper and magazines. And I realize that this is where I got much of my "liberal arts" education. As a teen, sprawled out on the floor of the family den (no, we weren't a Pride of Lions - the room that wasn't the livingroom, which contained the TV, was called the den) I'd pore over the Arts section of the Sunday NYTimes, which was mostly about theater then, with just a couple of pages devoted to Movies. A critic would explain his opinions in the context of other plays he'd seen, and so I'd learn about them, too. Ditto the Book Review section (which had a lot more fiction reviews); if I hadn't read a book (and mostly I hadn't) I'd read about it.

Fortunately, we brought up with us some of the New Yorker magazines I never have time to read at home (clearly because I'm on the internet all the damn' time. And not reading lengthy articles, either. I hate reading long text of any kind online. Not just hard on the eyes, but the posture's all wrong. Long articles must be read while one is sprawled in a chair sideways, preferably with a piece of fruit in hand - or with elbows propped on a table, paper catching occasional dribbled bits of sandwich. I can sit for a long time with that.

So I've just read Adam Gopnik's piece in the June 9&16 issue on G. K. Chesterton. And now I know not only how he fits in with Shaw (and Borges), but about the "two great tectonic shifts in English writing": 18c - Addison & Steele turned "the stop-and-start Elizabethan-Stuart prose" into "smooth, Latinate, elegantly wrought ironic style" [ohhhh! so that's why they're important! No one ever explained that to me] with "every sentence crafted like a sword and loaded like a cannon," to be replaced after WWI with "a new form of aerodynamic prose" making "what had seeming charming and obviously theatrical twenty years before... sound like puff and noise." Well. That explains a lot.

Gopnik also tackles Chesterton's dire anti-Semitism - also picking up the context of his Victorian Medieval Fantasy in the light of William Morris's - reminds me of how Georgette Heyer's perfect imaginary Regency owed much to her Edwardian childhood - but delivers positively Chestertonian zingers when discussing Ch's famous writing stemming from his conversion to Catholicism: "[N]obody has to argue so strenuously for what he actually believes. Nobody gets up on a soapbox, and shouts about the comfort of his sofa and chairs . . . Chesterton writing about the Church is like someone who ha just made his first trip to the pst office. Look, it delivers letters for the tiny price of a stamp! You write an address on a label, and they will sent it...literally anywhere you like...!"

Chesterton is also, clearly, the anti-Interstitialist, saying, "All my life I have loved edges; and the boundary line that brings one thing sharply against another." But he also wrote, ""'My country, right or wrong . . . is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.'"

The whole article is probably online somewhere. If you find it, post the link.
ellenkushner: (Default)
World Fantasy was fantastic - seems like a million years ago! I was pretty low-energy because of my cold, so I missed all the parties, but at least I got to have quiet quality time with lots of old friends from all over who came together at WFC, including Sharon Shinn (St Louis), Guy Kay (Toronto), Caroline Stevermer (Mpls), Lisa Tuttle (Scotland), and a host of other notables I hope I didn't infect with anything other than banter. It's amazing to me that these are now names to conjure with; we were all puppies together not so long ago. I must say I do like the folks who are puppies now. Good people all around; a fine family to belong to.

I was blown away by a panel featuring Betty Ballantine, founder - with late husband Ian - of Bantam Books and then of Ballantine, the original publishers of LOTR and the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line. When the moderator was taking questions, I stood up and thanked her for creating my entire generation of fantasists. There's no question but that we would not exist without the inspiration those books provided, both aesthetically and practically. I mean, there we were, young and impressionable - first they give us Tolkien & James Branch Cabell & E.R. Eddison et al . . . and then Peter S. Beagle & Joy Chant, so we know this stuff isn't just written by Dead Guys . . . . Tom Doherty, who had been her sales manager, was also very impressive about the biz. It was an amazing slice of history; I hope someone else has written the panel up somewhere more thoroughly than I ever will.

I hated to leave on Saturday afternoon, but needs must. Lots more after this )
See ya in Kalamazoo.

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