Kate Wilhelm, author of many of science fiction's seminal books and stories (e.g. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang), would have been a titan in the field if she had only written; but Wilhelm's prodigious authorly accomplishments are matched by her influence on the generations of writers trained in the Clarion Workshops, which she co-founded with Robin Scott Wilson and her husband Damon Knight. Read the rest
Karl Stefanovic: "The Daily Mail has a long, despicable track record of denigrating women, of ridiculing women, of objectifying women."
A London tabloid, the Daily Mail has become wildly successful on the web over the last decade. Beyond the bigotry, its practices (nakedly untrue and plagiarized stories, amateurish editing of photographs, comical yet effective exportation of British tabloid stock stories to new markets) put it at the heart of everything that's gone wrong with news, yet place it almost beyond criticism.
It revels in the fact it has no real credibility, because that sort of thinking only matters to people who remember. But the magic of Daily Mail content is that it's about the world it creates for readers to sink into now, the drug of gossip without the moderation of truth or memory. Today water causes cancer. Tomorrow it cures it.
Most tabloid writers I've met hate their audience: think of the empty, smirking contempt of a character from a Richard Curtis comedy. I'd say it was a British thing, because it's the sneer talk that the marginally middle-class have for working-class people who make more money than them (think: drunks writing for plumbers) but the formula was internationalized so fast and so well it can hardly be that.
Stefanovic famously revealed in an interview that he wore the same suit every day for a year without anyone remarking upon it, unlike female colleagues who receive criticism if they repeat an outfit even twice. Read the rest
Umberto Eco, the Italian philosopher, writer and semiotics professor, is dead at 84, reports the BBC.
Eco is most famous as the author of elaborate historical novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, but my favorite is his book of shorts, Misreadings.
From it, here is his summary of the Bible, presented as an internal memo at a publishing house written by an editor rejecting the manuscript.
Read the rest
I must say that the first few hundred pages of this manuscript really hooked me. Action-packed, they have everything today's reader wants in a good story. Sex (lots of it, including adultery, sodomy, incest), also murder, war, massacres, and so on.
The Sodom and Gomorrah chapter, with the tranvestites putting the make on the angels, is worthy of Rabelais; the Noah stories are pure Jules Verne; the escape from Egypt cries out to be turned into a major motion picture . . . In other words, a real blockbuster, very well structured, with plenty of twists, full of invention, with just the right amount of piety, and never lapsing into tragedy.
But as I kept on reading, I realized that this is actually an anthology, involving several writers, with many--too many--stretches of poetry, and passages that are downright mawkish and boring, and jeremiads that make no sense.
The end result is a monster omnibus. It seems to have something for everybody, but ends up appealing to nobody. And acquiring the rights from all these different authors will mean big headaches, unless the editor takes care of that himself.
Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin founded Scratch Magazine, a born-digital publication that tells writers what they're worth and how the publishing industry sausage-making factory actually works. Jane has an extensive background as an editor, and may be best known for her decade at Writer's Digest. Manjula is a freelance writer, whose work has appeared widely in places like Modern Farmer, San Francisco Weekly, and our own The Magazine, in which she wrote about musician and producer John Vanderslice.
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Crime novelist Elmore Leonard, a master of modern noir, died today. He was 87. From his 2001 essay, "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle,"that appeared in the New York Times:
5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.Elmore Leonard's author page on Amazon
6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.'' This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ''suddenly'' tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
David Rakoff, best known as a storyteller, author, and a regular contributor to the radio programs "This American Life" and "Fresh Air," has died of cancer. The news first appeared on the website Third Beat. Rakoff wrote beautifully about the experience of going through treatment here, in the New York Times.
In his lifetime, Vidal received the National Book Award, wrote many novels, short stories, plays and essays. He was a political activist, and received the most votes of any Democrat in more than 50 years when he ran as a Democratic candidate for Congress in upstate New York. Vidal's The City and the Pillar was one of the first American novels to present homosexuality in a direct manner, and outraged many at the time.