There’s always room for another story

And there’s lots of room for just—I hate to say hack writing—I guess ordinary storytelling is really what I mean. There’s always room for another story. There’s always room for another tune, right? Nobody can write too many tunes. So if you have stories to tell and can tell them competently, then somebody will want to hear it if you tell it well at all. To believe that there is somebody who wants to hear that story is the kind of confidence a writer has to have when they’re in the period of learning their craft and not selling stuff and not really knowing what they’re doing.

Ursula K le Guin, Interview Magazine

Read the the whole thing. It’s great.

Life round-up April – May 2014

Books

April was all about mysteries. I started by re-reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894). The stories are still enjoyable, but they no longer have the hold they had in my teens, when just one would set me off on a Sherlock Holmes reading frenzy. After that, I moved onto The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) by Agatha Christie. This is the first story featuring Hercule Poirot (because I like to do things in order).  Then I read the much more contemporary Blue Monday (2011) by Nicci French, which is the first in the Frieda Klein series and was recommended to me by @Gherkinette on twitter. It’s smart, easy to read, not overly violent and I really like the psychotherapist detective. To give myself a break from the mysteries, I also read American Primitive (1983) by Mary Oliver and it was lovely.

In May I finished the wicked, subversive Lolly Willowes (1926), by Sylvia Townsend-Warner, and Hilary Mantel’s life-affirming Fludd (1989). Although these are very different books, they both offer stories about transformation and the importance of owning your life. In non-fiction, I read Andrew Martin’s Ghoul Britannia: Notes from a Haunted Isle (2009) because I’m interested in our cultural fascination with ghosts. It’s an amusing take on the development of the ghost story, but it felt a bit underdeveloped and the text was full of editing mistakes.

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Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars (1956)

A billion years after the fall of the galactic empire, the city of Diaspar alone survives on the desert of a world that Earth has become.  Its people are all but immortal, their every need catered for by the city’s mysterious central computer. Living untroubled, decadent lives of leisure for hundreds of years, they then rest for hundreds more in the computer banks, until they are called forth again from the Halls of Creation. These people fear only one thing and that is the possibility of leaving the city.

Alvin is one of only a handful of “Uniques” to emerge from the Halls of Creation, a new being with no past life in Diaspar. He differs from his peers in one other crucial way; he’s desperate to find a way out of the city.  Alvin’s friends are appalled, but he gains some assistance from the city’s Jester, Khedron, a person created by the computer to keep the city from becoming too stagnant.

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The 10 stories that got me into reading science fiction

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on the sofa with my Mum watching re-runs of Dr Who, Blake’s 7 and the original Star Trek.  I’m not sure if she knew I was paying attention, what with Blake’s 7 hardly being suitable viewing for a five year-old.  A few years later I was into Star Trek: The Next Generation and Quantum Leap and would try and get away with staying up late to watch The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits reboots. Then it was The X-Files, Babylon 5 and all the rest of those 90s shows.

Considering how much science fiction I watched on television, I was surprisingly slow to start reading the genre.  When I did eventually come to the literature of science fiction, it was through reading short stories and this is a list of the ones that have stayed with me.

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Gardner Dozois (ed.), Best New SF7 (1992)

If the stories in 2008’s Mammoth Book of SF 21 were particularly concerned with death, annihilation and endings, the overarching theme in this collection from 1992 seems to be a questioning of the relationship between concepts of nature and normality.  Some of the best stories collected here look into the ways in which nature, as a concept, is mediated to us through narratives and then go on to interrogate the role played by science in constructing these narratives.

Take Ian R. Macleod’s ‘Grownups’, which is one of the most unsettling science fiction stories I’ve ever read. Its world looks a lot like ours, but it’s different in one crucial way; in order to become a “grown up”, all adolescents must undergo a terrifying and painful maturation process.  Once they have grown up, they can get married and have children. Each marriage includes not just a man and a woman, but a third person, known as an “uncle”, and it is the uncle who bears the children.  Two of the young people decide that they don’t want to grow-up and attempt to avoid the process altogether.  Macleod manipulates our assumptions masterfully in this story and the ending packs one heck of a punch.  It’s an allegory about the terrors of growing up, but I think it’s also about childbirth, a painful and dangerous experience that’s considered natural in our society, but which might look horrific and terrifying to an alien with a different reproductive process.  And how often do adults respond to their daughters’ fears about childbirth by telling them they’ll understand when they grow up? I’ll never forget it.

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End of Winter Culture round-up

First some reading material, a list of 100 Books by black women  and the  impressive (if slightly daunting) prospect that is the The Lesbrary Good Reads Project.

Some Writing wisdom from Toni Morrison and here she is again being completely awesome in an interview.

I was pleased to see lesbian writer, Sarah Schulman, getting her latest book reviewed in a non LGBT publication.

Lesbian.com featured an interview with brilliant lesbian poet Staceyann Chin

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